Monday, 27 April 2020

Changing Times

As lockdown continues many of us have  adapted to this new way of life quite well. My neighbour was painting his front  fences yesterday and shouted over as I brought the mower out to do the grass verge at the front of the bungalow. The council mow it once every 5 weeks but it's so full of weeds it drives me mad. 

The neighbour was saying he loves this new way of life a sentiment I've heard a lot recently. Although he misses his grandchildren and can't wait to see them there are many things he wouldn't change which includes  working from home.  Shopping by himself is quick and easy as he  gets there as they open, straight in and out , job done. He said his trip to B&Q was well organised by the shop and he even managed to purchase fence paint in a colour his wife approved of. ( I'm not getting into the necessity argument) 
I've just completed my third grocery shop since lockdown and I'm getting pretty good at making things last the fortnight or longer and using the groceries in the best order (more about that another day).  I did have to go to 3 shops this time but I was extremely lucky and only queued at one for less than 2 minutes the others I walked straight into.
Lidl was positively empty and I got some really healthy cucumber and courgette plants to compliment my homegrown seedlings. There are 3 cucumber seedlings in one pot and 4 courgette seedlings in the other so great value at £1.36 a pot.
As I am still unable to get hold of any flour,  I decided to experiment with oats. I placed 200g of porridge oats in my nutribullet and whizzed it up for a minute which produced a flour similar to wholemeal.  I then set about making 12 small scones. I added a tad more baking powder as the flour had more fibre but it produced lovely scones albeit crumbly. Something I will do again. My next experiment will be pastry using oat flour.

This new way of life is making some reassess their lives. Some of us are just honing skills we already possessed. I'm enjoying the slower pace which includes an hour lie down every afternoon listening to my audio book. YES, I'm missing family but some of the changes I've made will remain in place after lock down.  Has lockdown changed things for you? 
The postman brought a much needed hug from our granddaughter. Love it. Bye for now. T x 

Monday, 20 April 2020

Jackanory, I want to tell you a story

Do you remember the TV program where various TV  stars  read stories out loud with lots of great sound effects and various voices. I loved this program as a child. Well I want to tell you a story.

My phoned pinged into life Wednesday teatime last week, as I looked at the screen of my mobile I quickly realised it was my solicitor. The email asked me to confirm if I was in agreement to get the completion of the house sale by Friday. Yikes less then 48 hours away! I quickly replied yes I could complete everything I needed to, so it was down to her now.

I went to bed feeling nonplussed, after all  I'd been in this position before and it all ended in nothing.

The next morning my mobile rang I didn't recognise the number but with lots of people working from home I thought I would answer. It was the next door  neighbour to my empty rental property. 'I don't want to worry you but you have someone living in your garden in a tent. I've climbed over the fence this morning, dismantled the tent and thrown it behind your shed. I suggest you call the police as who ever they are, appear to be coming late at night and leaving early in the morning.'

I thanked him and said we'd be over later. I quickly explained to hubby what was happening before ringing 101 the non emergency police line for advice. The police handler said it's a civil matter, not a police matter, I'd have to deal with it myself.

Later that afternoon we packed the car with quilts, pillows,  a flask and some snacks to stake out the property overnight and catch the vagrant living in my garden.

As we drove to the property my phone pinged into life again. An email from my solicitor confirmed the funds were in place and the house would complete tomorrow! Just my bloody luck the sale is on and I've got some low life living in my garden.

As we  pulled into the drive my heart was racing,  hubby said 'leave everything in the car. You unlock and I'll go straight through to the garden.' As I unlocked the front door hubby pushed past heading straight for the kitchen and patio doors. Just as he stepped outside a head popped over the fence. 'I chucked the tent behind your shed'. Said my neighbour. I could hear the him telling hubby about another neighbours CCTV that captured my drive way and could possibly show the comings and goings of said vagrant.

I had in the meantime picked up the post from the hall floor and was sorting through the various letters and junk mail. Most were actually for the new owners from their mortgage suppliers etc. But there was one odd one there.

As I opened the letter and read it a huge smile appeared on my face and I actually started to giggle. I walked to the patio doors and garden where the neighbour was still waffling on about the person living in my garden.

He spotted me giggling and stopped what he was doing. Hubby looked at me too. 'I think I can shed some light on the whole thing.' I said holding up the letter. 'This is from the neighbour at the end of the drive. She's asked for her tent back that has blown into the garden overnight'. Hubby laughed, the neighbour on the other hand got embarrassed and said ' But it hasn't been windy!.....Well at least you get to sleep in your own bed tonight.' I confirmed the sale was going ahead and thanked him for his help.

While hubby collected fish and chips, I gave the grass a quick cut and took the necessary meter readings.  We ate our meal in the garden and drank a good luck toast of cola before saying goodbye to a house I've owned for almost 10 years. It was bought as  my pension pot, using the £50k my father left me. I used it  as the  deposit on the new build after he died in 2010. I had to pay the  £79k mortgage off in  6 years due to the limited time on the mortgage deal due to my age. Obviously working full time and  getting a rental income helped but it was hard at times and of course the taxman needed paying too.

So yes it's been a relief in more ways than one to get rid of the house. Its served me well and I've been lucky with my tenants and rising house prices.

Now I have a healthy bank balance and  can't leave the house!!


Bye for now. Tx

Saturday, 18 April 2020

GOOD Things Times THREE

We all like to see things that make our hearts and souls brighter and a little lighter, especially in these scary times.  Receiving  good news when everything around us seems to be full of doom and gloom is an absolute tonic. When I saw these images on  the net it really lifted my spirits. To think these wild animals are enjoying us humans not driving cars, not going out and not making  so much pollution and noise. The first photo is lions sleeping on the roads in South Africa during lockdown , the second is of deer on an eerily quiet housing estate in Harold Hill, Nr Romford.  

 My friend sent me photos of staff on her ward with my scrub bags they had chosen. Apparently they were very grateful. I'm more grateful to them for the work they are doing. 

And finally...… house sale went through yesterday.  It was very hectic as I only heard by email at teatime on Wednesday that they wanted to complete Friday. My solicitor pulled out all the stops to get the job done and she phoned at 11:30am yesterday to say the money was going into my bank account.  PHEW!

Bye for now.Tx

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Out of Date

After watching The Great British Bake Off Stand Up To Cancer last week I craved Iced Fingers.  I checked the ingredients on line and although I didn't have strong white flour I did have plain flour.  I even had yeast albeit almost 4 years out of date! As I have an aversion to shopping due to the current situation and the lack of yeast in shops,   I thought I'd test a small amount first so as not to waste any ingredients.  I placed half a teaspoon of dried yeast in a cup with sugar and warm water, 
after a couple of hours in a warm place it was bubbling away so I knew it was alive! The following day I made iced fingers, thank heavens I halved the recipe because while they were OK with jam and cream initiaafter  a couple of days they went very hard. I didn't want to waste the five I had left so I sliced them up and made them into bread and butter pudding. It was nice despite being over cooked and we had it as a dessert with custard for a couple of evenings. 

Thank heavens for my nutribullet, I can put granulated sugar into the cup, Whizz it up and  make it into caster sugar, or icing sugar. I also make oat flour from porridge oats for my banana pancakes. 

Lots of seeds are sprouting and I'm really looking forward to growing again after not doing anything last year due to renovations etc. I'm not growing the variety of things I have before as I have a smaller garden since moving to the bungalow. But I will make every inch count. So far I've sown, runner beans, dwarf beans, peas, cucumber, courgettes, tomatoes, peppers and a couple of butternut squash. I don't have a greenhouse here so I'm going to buy a plastic walk in one for this year.  

Since retiring 3.5 years ago I don't rush to get out of bed in the mornings. I normally get up and make a cuppa then return to bed where I read the news, blogs and other media bits and pieces. Sometimes I don't get out of bed until 9:30 but once I'm up I'm normally on the go continuously. There's always something to do besides the normal housework, cooking and walking Bertie. 

I've been looking at Pinterest for ideas for Christmas presents that I could possibly make for my girlfriends and family. I haven't found anything yet but there are some incredibly clever people and  some amazing stuff on there.
I did get a few ideas for card making especially male cards which are always harder. I'm quite short of cardmaking paraphernalia and the straight blade of my cutting machine recently broke making things harder. But in the spirit of 'use it up'  I've managed to cobble some cards together from the limited supplies I have. My great niece is 18 next month and my grandson 12 so I will make her cards at some point this week. Bye for now. Tx 

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Store Cupboard Meals

In the spirit of 'use it up' I made some mixed bean chilli. Half a large onion and pepper sauted until soft in a small amount of oil. Then I added  some left over sweetcorn and a tin of mixed beans that had been rinsed, drained before adding to the pan together with 25g of red lentils. I had  half a sachet of chilli mix left, this was mixed with water and a dessert spoon of tom puree and seasoned before adding to the other ingredients. This was left on a low simmer for 30 minutes. I decided to freeze as the flavours will deepen and we can either have with rice or baked potatoes.

Yesterday I used half a tin of new potatoes and half a tin of sweetcorn.  in a chicken & mustard dish I grabbed from the freezer. The other half will be roasted ready to go with the very simple french bread pizza. Place the sliced part baked french stick in oven for 5 minutes, the top with half a jar of salsa, tomato slices,  pepper, mushrooms and cheese.
Next place  one third of a tin of pineapple chunks in a dish, add sliced apple and orange. Voila ...Simple fruit salad. The remaining pineapple went in the freezer, some more will go into fruit salad and the rest will become  pineapple sponge cake later in the week.  

Tins, jars and packets all come in very handy. I've noticed a few out of date bits and pieces while I've been going through the cupboards that I will be looking to use up asap.

25 scubs bags have gone to Colchester hospital today. I will be making some more later this week. Bye for now. Tx

Friday, 10 April 2020

LIFE but not as I know it

Well I bit the bullet and went shopping yesterday, 3 days before my 3 week deadline but  I didn't want to get caught up in any Easter rush, especially as the shops are shut Sunday.  As I pulled up in Asda carpark at 2pm I could see the queue snaking around the building. I grabbed a trolley from a carpark bay and joined the end, positioning myself 2 meters away from the person in front.

A  women and young boy joined shortly after. I became very conscious of him coughing and fidgeting behind me, at no point did he cover his mouth, nor did she ask him to. I realise it's not always possible to shop alone but I ran out of sympathy when the father got out of his  car and walked towards us, he was coughing too and spitting, he then handed  some money to the women before returning to his car. Why put the child in further danger if he's already poorly. She knew I was uncomfortable and said loudly 'poor daddy has given you his chest infection'. Hopefully we'll be better soon.

I kept moving further forward, I was wearing sun glasses and a snood over my nose and mouth but I  couldn't wait to be allowed into shop and away from them. Following the arrows I managed to find most things and I even picked up some YS mince for £1.12. I'm an in and out person anyway and I'm even quicker now!

Things have certainly changed since the pandemic was announced and the subsequent lockdown which made it even more surreal.  I know one thing for sure I'll be sticking to my shopping once every 2-3 weeks even when things get back to 'normal'. I felt very uncomfortable and once I got home everything was wiped over, I stripped off placing my clothes in the wash, showered and changed. Extreme....maybe but I'm not taking chances, I'm asthmatic and  the stats for the over 60's death speak for themselves!

Later, hubby asked me why I hadn't managed to pick something up.......I think the glare I gave him said it all. I explained that he hasn't ventured into any public place for over a month and therefore has no idea  how alien and scary it feels.

To our surprise our only granddaughter sent us a lovely picture and letter yesterday through the post, saying she was missing us. She enclosed a stamp for us to reply so we didn't need to go to the shop, thereby keeping safe.  I made wrote a letter and placed it in a card I made before  popping it in the post, I know she's really looking forward to opening her first letter.
The tape I've ordered for the NHS scrubs bags I'm making has gone missing in the post. So I've raised a complaint through Ebay and low and behold 5 more 'not received' feedbacks have popped up. So I'll be claiming my money back. A lady on the For Love Of Scrubs page gave me details of  someone who has stock and I contacted them. Fingers crossed it comes Saturday,  then I can get the bags to Colchester hospital on Sunday via my  nurse friend.

I'm having a break from sewing this weekend, I aim to get out in the garden and do some crafting. Murphys law, the weather is brilliant, unlike the  usual Easter break and we can't go anywhere!! What's your plans for the weekend? Bye for now. TX

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

A Closer Look at Finances

I have been chipping away at my ISA  since retiring 3.5 years ago and I still have just under 2.5 years before I get my state pension. Interest rates don't look like they're going to get better anytime soon,   so I've been giving our household spending a financial review, especially as I'm paying for an empty property that I can't sell until the COVID 19 restrictions are lifted. I will not be entitled to any Council Tax relief or financial help of any description because I fall into an area that hasn't been covered by any guidelines. I'm not asking for sympathy,  it is what it is, a unique  situation. I know it could be worse, one couple who's moving period was staggered, had already moved into their new house. Their old property was due to exchange and complete  a month or so later but the buyers suddenly backed out.  They have been left with 2 homes, 2 mortgages and two lots of Council Tax etc.

The estate agent called the same day as Mr  Johnson announced his 'HOUSEHOLD RESTRICTIONS' to say the couple still want my house and their mortgage has been reinstated. I've since found out a time limit has been put on all mortgage offers from his lender and it has  as plans to increase future  loan to property ratios to 40-60.  So with the sale looking increasingly unlikely and the possibility of getting tenants in a distant dream, I'm going to have to tighten my belt for the foreseeable. 

I've been discussing the possibility of getting rid of Sky and reinstating the Humax Freesat box that we had 8 years ago with hubby. Every year they say I can have my package for the same reduced price but then there is a price increase. I can get all demand channels through my modern TV and I could pay a small subscription for Netflix or Now TV, so that alone would be £19 a month. I also know I can do better with the household consumption of water and energy. Firstly I'll reinstate the washing up bowl, I could do with a new one but it can wait. Once I've started growing my own food again, I can use the cold water that is normally wasted as you wait  for hot feed to water my plants and flush the loo. I worked it out its almost 6 pints of water wasted before the hot feed comes through.    The water butts will be reinstated, seeds have been sown and an area of the garden prepped ready for planting. I've adjusted some of the temperatures on my Hive heating programmer and reduced the timings on sessions by 15 minutes. Every little will helps. 

The energy companies have stated 'Power Cuts' are on the cards as a result of the drastic shortage of engineers. So I've downloaded some films to my tablet and we will just have to retire to bed should it happen in the evening. I do have a gas hob and lighter to hand should we need hot water etc.

Food prices will rise, its inevitable as production levels are hit, so there will not be one iota of waste. But first I will use this lockdown  period  to 'Use It Up'. All food in the  freezers, fridge and cupboards will be utilised. We eat healthily and I don't scrimp on fruit or veg and this shall continue. I'm not worried about clothes shopping at all, again I will use what I have, after all there is no where to go except the lounge, bathroom,  bedroom or garden!

I certainly believe this lockdown period will make some people realise where they waste an awful lot of their money. It isn't their household bills causing debt, it's their lifestyle. 

One thing I am missing is the app 'Mysupermarket' since it ceased operating.  Food price comparisons are much  more complicated.  Apparently, the company are concentrating on the business market now which is a shame.  But I'll still be seeking out bargains and YS savings when food shops return to something like  normal. Bye for now. TX

Friday, 3 April 2020

Use It Up

Some of my fridge and cupboard supplies are dwindling and I've still got another 11 days before I really want to go out shopping. So in the spirit of 'use it up' today I made a couple of Corned beef hash meals.

I used one large onion out of the 6 I have left. This was sliced using my
mandolin and sauted  in a small amount of oil. Three chopped cloves of garlic was added. Once everything was golden I added a tin of corned beef.  I boiled 3 large potatoes and the last chunk of butternut squash in a pan,  once soft I mashed them  with some mayonnaise, as I'm getting low on spread. This was added to the corned beef mixture, together with a dessert spoon of tomato sauce, you need to give it a good beat and season. I had half a tin of baked beans in fridge that went into the bottom of 2 pyrex dishes. The mixture was piled on top and grated cheddar added.

Next I used half a smaller onion, a chunk of cabbage and the last 2 carrots to make a big bowl of coleslaw. I added a small bit of red pepper to give it some additional colour.

I have a crust less quiche I made yesterday and 6-7 prepared meals in the freezer that need using so I have tubs for my next batch cook,  so I think I'll make it through without having to go to the shops early.

The fruit bowl has been filled for the last time. There was a couple of sad specimens so I chopped them up and added them to a   quick fruit salad, together with half a tin of peaches and a small bag of blackberries from the freezer. I often freeze the remains of a tin so it doesn't waste. Bye for now. Tx

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The good and bad

The current Covid 19 situation has certainly brought out the best and unfortunately worst behaviour in people.

I was so angered by the photos of food waste found by refuse collectors around the country. Perfectly ripe bananas, unopened bread, potatoes and tinned food. What an absolute disgrace. I wish these people could be named and shamed, afterall they've taken food out of the mouths of people.

Two farmers posted photos of their dead sheep and lambs on Facebook, killed by peoples dogs walking their pets unleashed around farmland. A situation that was and is totally unnecessary. Hubby and I have noticed  interlopers on our daily walks. Unfortunately we've also noticed that they believe because they are on farmland they don't have to pick up after their dogs. And some of those that do, actually fling the bags  into the trees or bushes. CRAZY .....

With regard to my last post, I initially tried to buy a sewing machine from Argos but the nearest one thats open is 26 miles. Only those inside a Sainsburys are trading, so I put out a plea on FaceBook selling  page.  I was contacted by 2 people, one lady had a brand new machine still boxed and would let me have it for £40. Another lady offered me one for nothing.  She was pretty certain it still worked and said it was her way of contributing to the cause. So I accepted her offer as it was close to home. We haven't met face to face as the machine was left in a bag on her drive. But when this is all over I would love to shake her hand, give her some flowers and thank her properly.

Once home I washed it down and did some trial runs as it's a little different to any machines I've used. It works perfectly and I've started making my kit bags. I'm awaiting the delivery of a roll of herringbone tape and the scrub cap pattern.

I'm  using up bed linen and bits of material I have in the loft etc. All donations will be laundered by the hospitals before distribution. Back soon. Tx