Thursday, 28 February 2013

New garden bed, stage 2

Today I enjoyed some gorgeous weather, it was sunny, warm and just lovely. I got some gardening done and it was a pleasure to be outdoors again in the sun, long may it last.
The bed that I put into the middle of my lawn, the one that looks like a whale which you can see on a recent post moved onto stage 2 today. I added a rose arch and a rose and clematis to climb over the arch. I didn't spend much on the arch though, they range in price from £9.99 to £200 so it is hard to know if you are getting value for money. I went, not for the absolute cheapest, but a relatively cheap one all the same at £25. It looks nice and I am looking forward to seeing flowers hanging from it.

Rather like the bed, it looks a little random at the moment, but you have to imagine it with flowers dripping from it and the bed with some tall plants and flowers seperating the two halves of grass.

The rose is a Phyllis Bide, pale pink, and the clematis is a Perle d'azur - sky blue.  Both planted. Let the growing commence.

Monday, 25 February 2013

How to stretch a portion into 3

I have read a lot of blog posts recently on how much the price of meat has gone up. I have to admit that I had not noticed, simply because through January and February I have barely shopped, it has been a store cupboard 8 weeks and gradually the stock of my freezer has been reducing. I am, however getting lower and soon I will have to brave the supermarket again. Consequently I have barely spent anything on food recently, which is lovely.
So with all this in mind I went to my trusty freezer list to see what was in there and among other things I found that I had a portion of beef stew that I made a few months ago. I thought that it would be a good idea to make this stretch a bit more, so armed with my new pastry skills I decided to put it into a small pie. What a good idea this was. One portion of stew put with pastry makes 3 portions of stew.

So yesterday's lunch was a third of the pie, some oven chips (I wanted mash really, but I have run out of potatoes), peas and gravy, with some of my home made pickled red cabbage and pickled onions.

In future, when I make a casserole, I will try to make a pie out of one of the portions.

Other news is that my 20 year old oven has given up the ghost. The mini top oven is still working but cooks very very badly, hence the slightly overdone pastry. Not good when you cook a lot. Luckily, my sister is throwing away a perfectly good oven as she is having a new kitchen, so being me, I have swooped in there and nabbed it. It is a slightly different height than mine (integrated) but the same width, so it will fit in the space with room on the top. A bit of carpentry should sort that out. Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that nothing else gives up working. My broken bath, by the way, is working perfectly ok for showers with some heavy duty gaffa tape. This stuff works like a dream and there are no leaks so far and I haven't had to replace any tape yet. Should do me for a few months.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

From tiny seeds.....

All the seeds that I sowed at the beginning of February have germinated and are beginning to reach for the sky, some faster than others. In a week or two I will start the second lot of seeds to germinate.

Meanwhile, this is what I have got:

Lobelia, Crystal Palace variety (you can just see my greenhouse in the background there)

Some leeks, only just appearing.

One tray of sweet peas, standing tall and even like a regiment.

Half of this tray is filled with delphinium, pacific giants and the other half with sweet william.

Some more sweet peas, in pots this time.

This next week will see me starting tomatoes and cucumbers, squash and yet more flowers, among other things.

Friday, 22 February 2013

New flower bed

Hello all,
I'm constantly apologizing for my lack of posts lately, but, truly, I haven't really had much inspiration of late, the muse has not been with me as they say.
There has been some lovely weather finally and what a treat that has been. However, as I got out there today to do some gardening, it started snowing  - again! Oh well, some gloves on, a thick jumper and all was well. It hasn't stuck.
So I took the plunge and put spade into lawn. There is something about digging a new bed in the middle of lawn that feel quite scary, but I went with the power of my convictions and went for it anyway. It was a record for my stony soil, I managed to complete the bed in 3 and a half hours and, although it looks stark and a little weird at the moment, I am imagining it full of flowers later this year, with my stepping stone path on the far side of it.

By the way, look into the bottom end of my garden.

The result of 14 hours of hard labour.

Take care.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A rather strange meal and some baking.

I cooked a strange curry last night. It was actually rather nice although it could have gone either way.
I started by wondering what I could do with the last portion of the Christmas beef and some yoghurt that was nearing it's end and curry seemed the obvious choice. So I set to, frying an onion because I like the onions to be very soft in a curry.
I suppose my mistake was that I didn't check the ingredients before I started cooking, because first I found that I had a lot less beef than I thought left. what should I do? I added 3 slices of gammon that were also in the freezer. Gammon and beef curry? odd for sure. So I duly defrosted them and added them to the onions and added my curry spices and a can of tomatoes. Now for the yoghurt. Mistake number 2 - the yoghurt had gone off! I was cross, firstly because I hate to waste any food and secondly, because I like a creamy curry best. So a hunt around the fridge and cupboard unearthed a tin of coconut milk. It will do,and so the curry evolved into something else. In it went with some chilli flakes and some green beans from the freezer that I wanted to use up.
Funny how very odd mixes can end up being delicious.

I know this looks like an especially unattractive photo - everything I seem to snap at night comes out weirdly orange. But it was tasty, believe me.

Other stuff I made yesterday included a treacle tart with some pastry I had left over from a pie. Another Mary Berry recipe. And with the tiny amount of pastry left after that I did 4 mini custard tarts.

Finally, as the oven was on, some chilli, cheesy biscuits with the sum total of my home grown chilli peppers in them.

 All delicious.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Pretty nice bread and butter pud

Making my own bread, when there is just me can mean that I get an excess. I usually freezer any that is going stale and then at a later stage, when I have enough, bake it in a really really low oven and then put it through a processor as bread crumbs (considering I just saw a tiny pack of breadcrumbs in the supermarket priced at £1.99 I can't quite believe that anyone would pay that ever!).
However, I was watching the Mary Berry story on tv the other day and I thought that I would have a go at bread and butter pudding. I a, usually fairly disappointed with a bread and butter pudding but I now know that it was because I was given a 'bad' one in the past. This was delicious, frugal and really nice. I used margerine rather than butter - simply because I had some and was short of butter at that moment, and I didn't use cream, again, because i didn't have any and also, using semi skimmed milk instead makes it healthier. Even without these 'luxeries' it was delicious.

Just before it went in the oven, seemed to neglect to take an 'after' pic.

Mary Berry's bread and butter pudding.

For the custard

Preparation method
1.     You will need an ovenproof dish about 2½-3 pint/1.4-1.7 litres volume (18 x 23 x 5 cm/7 x 9 x 2 in).
2.     Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and use some of the melted butter to grease the dish.
3.     Combine the dried fruit, sugar, lemon zest and spice together in a bowl and toss to mix well.
4.     Cut each bread slice into three strips. Take sufficient slices to cover the base of the dish and dip one side of each one in melted butter. Lay them in the dish, buttered-side down. Sprinkle with half the dried fruit mixture. Repeat the layering, laying the bread strips buttered-side up. Lay the third and final layer of bread strips on top, buttered-side up.
5.     For the custard, beat together the eggs, cream and milk in a bowl and pour it over the pudding. Sprinkle with demerara sugar, and then leave to stand for about one hour if time allows.
6.     Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and crisp and the pudding slightly puffed up. Serve hot, or there are some who insist that it is delicious cold!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Snow came again yesterday and I got stuck in, unable to drive again. I had to go to Bacup so decided to walk it instead, an hour each way. Was very enjoyable although I have a sore foot now as walking a long way in wellies is never great for the feet.
I was worried I was going to get stuck in again today, because I was planning on visiting my father but there seems to have been a steady melt all night and I think that I will be fine, although driving over the Pennine hills is alway a bit hairy in bad conditions.
I know I said that I had finished with the seed buying, but over the weekend I found a shop selling off a lot of their seeds for 10p a packet so couldn't resist. Bought some hollyhocks which I will put down in a couple of months, these won't flower until Summer 2014 but they are such a lovely flower, it is worth the wait. I bought some echinacea seeds, candytuft (no idea what these are, but they look like pretty pink flowers) and 1 pack had in it night scented stock,  sweet alyssum and lavender seed - not bad for 10p. I've never attempted to grow lavender from seed and imagine it is a very slow process, but it is worth a try. Can never resist a bargain.
I can envisage my windowsills being very full over the next 3 months.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Preparing for the unexpected - or not in my case.

A lot of sensible frugal people prepare themselves financially for emergencies by putting a little away for such eventualities. Others are not in position to do so because they are already living on a shoestring. Yesterday I discovered why it is sensible to try and put a little away in a savings account for such emergencies.
I got in my shower, which is over the bath and what happened do you think? The bath cracked under my 13 stone 9 weight. Now, as you know, I was not overly fond of my bathroom, but I wasn't expecting to suddenly find myself in the position of HAVING to do it, and no, I hadn't got that emergency fund up and sorted yet. So I now find myself with a cracked sink AND a cracked bath. The cracked sink I have been getting away with because I am careful, but there is not much you can do with a cracked bath, the water just runs out.
So today I went pricing up new bathroom suites. The loo is ok, but in a particularly lurid shade of green and as a deal on suites means that you get a discount (also I can't face having a green toilet and white sink and bath) I have priced what I need to replace at approximately £350, inclusive of all taps and delivery. Not a bad price I have to admit, but not great when you don't actually have it. This includes a steel bath rather than acrylic.
Now I am faced with options. Option number 1 is of course to borrow the money by buying on a credit card or taking an payment plan. As far as I am concerned, this is NOT an option. I refuse to get myself in debt over it.
So option two is to see if I can do a temporary fix with a bit of gaffa tape regularly replaced and very careful cleaning after every shower.
Option 3 is to leave it and shower at my friends house where possible, have regular washes and save save save.
Having thought it through, I have decided on a mixture of option 2 and 3. It's a bit sad to have a gaffa taped bath but I can live with it. The real decision comes as to whether to buy, replace and make do, or to actually use the opportunity to fully do the bathroom, tiles, floors, the lot. It needs doing (even though i was hoping to have a couple of years to wait) and as I will do most of the work (if not all) myself it seems sensible to save for the tiles as well - flooring can come at the end another time. The problem with not doing the tiling at the same time is that it will need doing at some point and I have never thought that doing half a job then the other half at a different time pays, as you end up undoing half the first job.
Well, my hand has been forced and now I have a new and urgent project to save up for. Meanwhile, I hope I don't get too whiffy, haha.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Seeds Seeds Seeds

Thank you all for your kind wishes for my dad yesterday, much appreciated.

I am having a well earned weekend of pottering about now and as February is here and Spring is approaching I have been fully turning my attention to seeds. This is such an exciting time of the year, deciding what I want to grow.

I have been collecting seeds over the last few months, bought a few, was given a few, had a few left over from last year and suddenly, how many do I have?!? A huge amount, far too many probably. Oh well. very exciting.

Trying to sort them out

The first thing was to sort them out - this is easier said than done. I started by trying to put them into order of planting, but this became complicated too quickly as some had short windows of opportunity for planting and some had long and I could not decide.
So then I ordered them firstly into flowers and veg categories and then took aside anything that wanted to go in seed trays this month. That was sweet peas, leeks, lobelia and sweet william. I then had a category for seeds that went direct into the ground outside later in the year and one for seeds that went in between March and April. Sorted. Of course, I am bound to forget what's what in a months time and will end up doing the whole process again. Good job I have an organised soul, I love it.

My dad has always religiously put his sweet peas in pots on the 1st February and so I was a day late and did 2nd. I have saved some back to put straight outside in April for a later flowering. Happily it is a lovely sunny day here today to potter about outside.

This summer I am going to get myself very organised and collect the seeds from the garden wherever I can to keep for next year.I got a bit overwhelmed last year and kind of missed the opportunity.

Do any of you keen gardeners have seed ordering techniques?

Friday, 1 February 2013

Normal service will resume.

Hello everyone,

Sorry about my lack of posts this last week, my dad went to hospital to have a quadruple bypass and so I have been rather caught up. All is well and he is home and recovering now.

I have come home for the weekend and am just looking into the possibility of greenhouses for a bit of fun.