28 January 2016

Soup du Jour

Well, when I posted the soup pic yesterday, I was so hungry that I went in search of something to make a big pan of soup with. Have I mentioned that I totally love soup? :-) My fridge is looking very empty at the moment. It's not pay day until Friday and I'm trying to cut back on how much I spend. I'm also trying to empty the fridge so that now my new freezer has finally arrived (YAY!!!), I can de-frost my little fridge/freezer and give it a good clean. The bottom drawer is frozen shut and if I pull it, I'm sure it will break. I retrieved some chicken thighs that I had bought when they were on special offer and I added them to a pan of carrots, sweet potatoes, a very sorry looking half a cabbage, and the last bits of frozen sweetcorn from a bag in the freezer. I also added a couple of chicken stock cubes and a handful of my favourite garlic and herb stuffing mix, it gives a nice creaminess to the soup. 

I'm working a long shift tomorrow and luckily, there is plenty of soup for me to take to work in my food flask for my lunch and after my totally mad impulse purchase of a gazillion bread rolls yesterday, I have more than enough delicious bread for dipping in my soup.

Cute new freezer just waiting to be filled with yummy food :-)

Oh and thank you to everyone who left comments and have kindly shed some light on my dwindling follower numbers. I have lost 5 in total so far and I'm quite upset. 

Please don't delete anymore Mr Blogger Controller :-(

27 January 2016

Deja Vu

Well, I have clearly offended some people because I have lost 3 readers in 1 week! I don't know what it is that I said but whatever it was I'm sad to I have lost some of you. Anyway, It's now Wednesday and I have a distinct feeling of deja vu because once again, I'm sat at home waiting for my freezer to materialise. I really hope it arrives today because I got some more bargain bread rolls last night and I have nowhere to put them!!

My little furry friend seems to be a regular on my garden gatepost now, he's been back every day to have a nibble at the bird seed that I have been putting out. I managed to get a better picture of him or her once my camera batteries had charged. 

Taken with my awesome zoom lens, this is how far he was away. 

Please excuse the hideous state of my garden and patio. The weather has been totally foul and I am a self confessed fair-weather gardener. I can't wait for spring to arrive so I can get out there and start sorting it out. Still, the birds and squirrels don't seem to mind. 

One good thing about all this awful weather is that I get to legitimately eat as much soup and I want. Winter is soup time in my house. I just can't get enough of it. Whatever I have in the fridge goes into the soup of the day and yesterday, that happened to be cauliflower and broccoli cheese! Oh my goodness, it was totally delicious. I made a big dish full of cauli and broccoli cheese a couple of days ago and there was loads left. My tiny freezer is still stuffed to the brim so I couldn't freeze the leftovers so I popped it into my soup pan, added some milk and a chicken stock cube and some extra broccoli that I had left in the fridge that was looking decidedly limp and I simmered it very gently for about 20 minutes. I then whizzed it with my stick blender. It was totally delicious and was lovely and cheesy. Quite possibly my favourite soup of this winter. I am going to have to make it again very soon. 

The only problem with whizzing things with the stick blender is that all the soups end up looking the same :-)

22 January 2016

Rant Alert! ...... Total Lack of Customer Service

If you have ever watched "The Big Bang Theory" on TV, you will no doubt be familiar with the Sheldon Cooper list of Mortal enemies. Well this morning I decided to start my own list! Topping the list at the moment is my catalogue. In the ongoing saga of the non-delivery of my freezer, yesterday, I rang the delivery company directly. They were very helpful and told me that I could arrange a delivery for any day next week and that once I had my work rota I could ring them back and get it sorted. They then told me something very interesting. That the freezer had never been booked in to be delivered on the 20th, the delivery date had been sent to them by the catalogue and had always been meant to be delivered on the 22nd. This was confirmed yesterday by a text I received form the catalogue telling me that my freezer was scheduled for delivery today (the 22nd). Someone at the catalogue lied to me and told me that the reason it didn't get delivered on the 20th was that it didn't arrive at the couriers in time, it seems what actually happened is that someone at the catalogue messed up and sent the wrong delivery date to the courier! In future, don't fob me off or lie to me and pass the buck, hold your hands up and say I made a mistake and will do whatever it takes to sort out the situation. I would have more respect for them if they did that. So, they are number one on my mortal enemies list!

Number two on my list is my mobile phone company. I haven't had any mobile phone signal inside my house for 2 days now. I usually get the basic coverage for phone calls and texts but nothing fancy like 3G and 4G because of the rural location of my house and I accept that. I understand the limitations and I only ever use my phone for calls and texts. I checked on the live checker and found out they were working on a mast in my area and that it was being fixed but I wanted to find out when this was likely to be. I went to their website and started an online chat with a "guru". I use this term very loosely because the guy was a moron. Despite telling him about the mast being under repair and that if I go just down the road to a different mast area my phone works just fine, he did a "check" and determined that it was my sim card that wasn't working and that I needed a new one. Strike one!! 
I then phoned customer services and after pressing numerous option buttons and listening to 5 minutes-worth of hideous "muzac" I explained the situation to a bloke who said he would need to send me a notification to my phone with a number on it to verify security!!! I asked how this was possible when I had no signal and could do absolutely nothing with my phone, except maybe use it as a hockey puck, but he insisted it would work. He then sounded most confused when said notification failed to materialise on my phone. By this time I practically foaming at the mouth and I asked to speak to someone else. Sadly, all he could offer were the "gurus" again so, I said goodbye, hung up and re-dialled in the hope of getting someone with at least two brain cells! Strike two!! 
This time I got what sounded like a stroppy teenager who proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that ...... and this is a direct quote ...... "it's because you live in a bad reception area. It's not our fault, it's in your terms and conditions that we don't guarantee service 100% of the time" All I wanted to know was if the mast was going to be fixed soon! Strike three!!!!! 
I did eventually get out of miss stroppy-pants that it should be fixed within 24 hours but I'm not convinced I actually believe her!

When did it become so difficult to speak to someone who can actually help and when did the people who work in customer services become so un-bloody-helpful? I'm now totally frazzled and I'm going to go and lie down in a dark room somewhere and re-group before I go to work ........ oh joy!!!

20 January 2016

Sunshine, Snowdrops and A Freezer-Shaped Hole

It's been gloriously sunny today down here in Cornwall. Cold and crisp but beautiful blue skies and lots of sunshine. Unfortunately, I have had to stay in all day waiting for my freezer. I wish the delivery people would at least give you an idea of when they will be arriving. Some companies now text you on the morning of delivery and give you an hour window for when they will be there but not these guys. They will deliver any time between 7.30am and 9pm ...... not helpful at all. Still, I guess I can't complain too much, I'm really looking forward to stocking it with lots of delicious food so I'm sure it will be worth it in the end. 

I did nip out and snap a few pictures with my iPad. I was a bit annoyed actually because the one day that all my camera batteries were dead, I had a cute little fluffy visitor munching away on the bird food that I had put out. It's a terrible picture, the sun was in the wrong place, the gate post was too far away for me to zoom properly with my iPad and I was trying to take the picture sneakily around the door curtain so I didn't frighten it away. David Bailey I am not lol.

He was very cute though. 

I also took a few snaps of these beautiful snowdrops in the hedgerows down the lane where I live.

They're really gorgeous 


mine aren't!!

Mine are short, stumpy and teeny-tiny. Very bizarre because last year they were normal sized, delicately drooping snowdrops. I have no idea what happened to them. I've never seen anything like it before. They're about 2 inches tall and look like they're in bud, despite the fact they're so small. 

Anyone have any ideas as to why??

And even worse ...... it's 3.30pm and I still have a freezer shaped hole in my hallway! 

No freezer yet.

And here's an update on the freezer ...... it didn't arrive! I am so furious I can barely string a coherent thought together. I rang the catalogue and I was fobbed off with the explanation that it didn't arrive at the couriers on time. What a load of rubbish. I ordered it a week ago where is it coming from? MARS???? I was then informed that it's going to be another week! I am beyond annoyed. I won't be ordering anything from them ever again. They really don't give a damn about customer service. Anyway, rant over. I did consider cancelling the order but I need the freezer and if I buy it though them I can pay interest free over 3 months. Worth doing so I can spread the cost but that's it. I'm done with them. They're useless!

18 January 2016

Crock Pot Meatballs

I'm still cracking on with my thrifty, money-saving meals and when I did my weekly shop last week, I bought a pack of meatballs for the princely sum of £2.49 for 12. A great price and the only problem I have with them is that they're too big. I like to be able to eat them in one mouthful and these are just way too big so I chopped them in half and re-rolled them into little dinky bite-sized ones so instead of 12 I ended up with 24 of them. I then browned the little meatballs in a pan with little rice bran oil and some garlic, I added a tin of tomatoes, a dollop of pesto, either red or green, whichever you have in the fridge, a splash of red wine a beef stock cube, I like the Aldi ones I think they have a lovely taste but whichever you prefer is just fine, and a sprinkling of Mediterranean herbs. I then added a splash of hot water and tipped the whole lot into the crock pot. 

Dinky little bite-sized meatballs

Now just tip the whole lot into the crock pot.

I turned the crock pot onto high and left it to get on with cooking my supper while I got on with some much needed sitting!!! I'm feeling decidedly under the weather at the moment, I have an ear infection and I'm very, very deaf in that ear, I ache all over and I have a headache. I just hope I'm not coming down with the flu. I really don't have time to be ill so, today was definitely a day to be sitting on the sofa drinking tea, watching TV snuggled under a blanket and doing my best to think healthy, healing thoughts. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be working because despite the pain killers, I'm still feeling rotten.

Anyway, at least my supper was good, in fact it was quite delicious. I finished it off in the oven for 20 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid that was in it and I might have overdone it a bit and reduced a little too much but it was delicious nevertheless. I'm kinda making this whole crock pot thing up as I go along. Getting the amount of liquid right seems to be the biggest challenge because I don't have recipes to follow but I seem to be doing ok and the whole meal only cost about £3.30. I even have a couple of portions left over to put in my new freezer, which is being delivered on Wednesday, I can't wait. At the moment, my little freezer is stuffed to the brim and I only just managed to squeeze in the two portions of meatballs I made today. Is it weird to be so excited about a freezer?

14 January 2016

Spend to Save

Yesterday, the first of my two days off this week, was frenzy of house cleaning and organising. I'm trying to get the house back under control after the Christmas holidays and for some reason, I'm not having much success. The house doesn't seem to want to co-operate at the moment and after a whole day of tidying, de-cluttering and moving things back to their rightful place, it actually looks worse than when I first started. I find this is sometimes the way and I try not to let it bother me and just keep plodding on but for some reason, this time, I am very impatient to get it sorted quickly. I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to start a little Etsy sewing business this year and I can only do that when the house is clean and tidy and mess free. I find it impossible to work if the house is untidy because at the back of my mind, I know the mess is there and in order for my creativity not to be strangled, I have to know there isn't anything else I should be doing. Weird, I know, but there you have it. Today will be another day of cleaning and hopefully, by the end of today, the house will be clean and tidy and I can start planning what I am going to create. 

I also mentioned in a previous post that I felt that I needed to be more efficient with my time and that I had already made a start on this by cooking my main evening meal in my crock pot, saving me time and effort that I could be devoting to other things. I also mentioned that I needed to save money and work my way to becoming debt-free so it might be a bit of a surprise that in order to do just that, I actually went out and spent £120!

I bought this cute little chest freezer. It's the right size to fit into a gap I have in the hall, in fact it could have been made for it, it's big enough to store enough food for one person and it was a bargain at £120 including delivery. Now, I know that I could probably have gotten a second hand one for a lot less but this one is from the catalogue that I have. It's interest free if you pay it off over 3 months so it won't cost me any more, it was in the sale and was reduced by just over £55 and I can have it delivered on a day of my choice to fit in around my days off. I do have a fridge freezer in my kitchen but the drawers aren't particularly big and it's full to the brim and I have found that I'm missing out on bargains in the shops because I have nowhere to store them. A small chest freezer seemed like the obvious solution and so I bit the bullet and ordered it. It's being delivered next week so I can start stocking up on food bargains when I see them and it will also be perfect for freezing and storing the fruit and vegetables I will be growing this year. I really quite like the feeling of being organised. Long may it last :-)

11 January 2016

A Bit Of Dilemma

You probably remember a few weeks ago that I introduced you to my new chicken who we named Katniss Everdene. Well, this morning at 6.30am, she was re-christened Harriet, as is Harriet Houdini! At about 6.20am, Metro, my old collie decided that he needed to go out and just as I was bringing him back inside, in the pitch black, I could see a pair of eyes looking at me from the top of the fence and a what looked like a black vulture perched, waiting to pounce. Now, having just woken up I couldn't be sure whether or not I was seeing things and with my sense of self-preservation somewhat dulled by the fact I was still half asleep, I popped Metro back inside, grabbed my torch and went off to see what it was. 

To my astonishment it was my new chicken. She had somehow managed to escape from her house and run and was roosting on the fence looking quite bedraggled and very sorry for herself. After 15 minutes of trying everything to entice her close enough to catch her, she finally hopped into the hallway and I managed to shut the door behind her and grab her. I gave her a quick check over and once again grabbed my torch to take her back outside to her house. Although it was dark, I couldn't see any obvious way that she could have escaped and this is not the first time I have woken up to find one or more of my chickens loose on the lawn. We have a lot of foxes around here so I am always concious of their safety and although I would love to let them be totally free range, I don't think they would last very long, which is why we built them a nice big run that gets moved around often so they have lots of nice grass to scratch about on. 

Here is my dilemma. I actually think someone might be letting them out. I don't want to accuse anyone because I have no proof but for the life of me, I can't fathom how the chickens keep getting out. 

Harriet Houdini who looked suspiciously like a vulture sitting on the fence at 6.30am this morning in the pitch black!!

I checked the chicken house and run in daylight and I still don't know how she escaped. I will be making extra sure that when I shut them up at night that they're well secured and I am seriously considering getting CCTV. I just don't like the idea of someone creeping around on my front lawn terrorising my chickens during the night but then again, I don't know whether I'm just overreacting. What do you think?? 

10 January 2016

Crock Pot Sunday Lunch

Today I have a rare Sunday off. I hate working Sundays but sadly, that's the price you pay for having a job in retail. Although I would love to have a lazy day lounging around watching gardening programmes and cookery programmes, which, in my opinion, is what Sundays should be all about, today is all about getting the house back into some sort of order after the Christmas holidays. It's chaos here and when the house gets out of control like this, it makes me slightly nuts and I become obsessed with getting it back under control. 

I also like to cook a Sunday lunch. Even though it's just for me, Sunday doesn't seem quite right without at least some sort of special lunchtime meal. Today, my domestic-ninja-house-taming is going to take up most of my time so I decided that I would cook my lunch in the slow cooker. Ingenious eh :-)

I grabbed loads of veg from my newly-reinstated weekly shop, which were all on special offer at 39p per pack from my local supermarket and I added some defrosted, stuffed, rolled "things" (sorry, no idea what they're called) of lamb that were excellent value at £2.36 for 2, weighing in at just over half a kilo in weight and I chopped them up and chucked the whole lot into the crock pot with some hot beef stock. I popped on the lid and I'm now off to go and do some more cleaning. In 4 or 5 hours, my delicious lunch, or supper, depending on how long it takes me to get control of the house again will be beckoning me with it's enticing wafts of lamb and I can stop and have a well earned rest. 

As with the rice pudding, it's really doesn't look very appetising when it first starts cooking but watch this space to see just how amazingly it turns out. Will update later so you can all have a look. Total cost, about £3.20 for the whole lot. Add some Yorkshire puddings, hardly any cost at all and a thrifty, delicious Sunday lunch for next to nothing. My kind of cooking :-)

9 January 2016

New Year Financial Overhaul and a Sneaky Peek

The other day, I had a rare day off with nothing to do and no one to look after. Everyone who was here for the holidays had left, there was nothing to do that couldn't wait ..... housework can definitely wait ..... so it was time to tackle a pressing matter that I really needed to confront but something I have been putting off for way too long. This year, I need to take control of my finances. I need to get things sorted so that in 3 years time, when there is the very real possibility that my life will be turned completely upside down, I will be financially prepared for whatever happens. After adding up everything I owe on my credit cards and my catalogue, the figure was slightly unsettling but not catastrophic and after much number crunching, pencil chewing and page crumpling, the hope is that I will be able to pay most of it off within the next 18 months.

It sounds like a terribly long time and although I was a bit taken aback by the actual amount of debt that I have managed to racked up without really noticing, it's not the end of the world and fortunately, it is very do-able. It will, however, mean tightening my belt quite considerably and going back to the pre-wage thriftiness that I used to take such pride in. Something that has slipped badly over the last few months as my spending power increased along with my pay packet. So, it's back to basics, to a weekly food shop of fresh ingredients to cook meals from scratch, no junk food, no splurging on frivolous things, no wine unless it's a special occasion and I will need to keep a tight reign on my purse strings until I can get my bills right down. It's going to be tough but I'm sure it's going to be fine.

I have already started budgeting again and keeping an eye on my spending but in my budget I have allowed for a bit of a splurge in February. It's my birthday in February and my eldest daughter, her husband and my cutie-pie grandson are coming to stay for a few days and bringing my lovely mum with them. I really can't wait to get my hands on his cute little pudgy-ness and I'm so looking forward to it. It will be fantastic to be able to go out and about with them all and have them spend time down here. Also, just before they arrive, on the day after my birthday, I'm off on a little trip. I was thoroughly spoilt over Christmas and amongst all the lovely presents I got from my daughters, I received a little hand-made ticket from my youngest daughter and it was this ....

I'm off to Venice. I haven't had a holiday in 16 years because, logistically, thanks to my menagerie, making arrangements to go going anywhere is an operation of military proportions, let alone to go on holiday for four days but it's all taken care of and my daughter and I are going to Venice :-) 

February is going to be an amazing month.

6 January 2016

Crock Pot Rice Pudding

When I started my job a few months ago, I quickly realised that if I was ever going to find the time to do things like eat, sleep and have any kind of a life in between work, the house and the animals, I would rapidly have to become a super-organised-domestic-ninja type person who can not only multi task but, ideally, one who can make it seem effortless at the same time ....... you know, like a swan, that glides along the lake serenely and effortlessly while paddling like billy-oh under the surface. So, I did the only thing I could think of at the time that might streamline the cooking process and I bought a slow cooker. The idea being that I could pop everything into the slow cooker before I went to work, during which it would bubble gently away and upon my return, I would be greeted by enticing aromas wafting from the kitchen.

After much searching and after getting thoroughly tutted at by numerous annoyed staff members in various shops throughout Cornwall for opening boxes to see just how big a 5 ltr crock pot actually is, I managed to find one that was one-person sized. No mean feat let me tell you because the vast majority of them look like something you could quite comfortably bath a baby in! Most of them are, quite frankly, gigantic and not to put too fine a point on things, I probably couldn't afford to fill it with all the ingredients it would take to cook a meal of those gargantuan proportions, not to mention the fact I would be eating said meal for the better part of a week!

My cute little slow cooker.

Anyway, dinky little crock pot acquired, I set about finding some delicious recipes to make in the expectation that this super cute little gadget would transform my life. This involved many, many happy hours searching Pinterest for delicious looking recipes for everything from chicken casserole to rice pudding and crock pot chocolate brownies ..... I kid you not! I couldn't wait to get started. I have made an amazing lamb tagine, a truly fantastic chicken soup and an absolutely delicious chilli with chunks of steak which were meltingly tender but, until now, I havn't tackled anything sweet. This morning, I decided that it was finally time to be brave and cook something different so I decided to make some rice pudding. I put 1 cup of pudding rice, 4 cups of milk and half a cup of vanilla sugar with a little extra vanilla for depth of flavour, into the slow cooker and turned it on. I am now sitting waiting to see what happens. 

I will update this post when the rice pudding is done, it's looking a bit pathetic at the moment but I have my fingers crossed that it will get better :-)

The flecks are little bits of vanilla from my home-made vanilla sugar.

Well here's a bit of an update,

After 3 hours in the slow cooker, the rice is soft, the rice pudding is creamy and delicious, it didn't spill over the side of the pan like it usually does when I make rice pudding, leaving me with a sticky solid mess to chisel off both the pan and the oven and even though it was made with semi skimmed milk it tastes every bit as good as the full fat version. I will definitely be making this again.

4 January 2016

Spoke Too Soon!

Well, isn't that just typical. In my last post, I was just saying how we were lucky that we hadn't had any flooding this year and lo-and-behold, by 9am this was the sight that met me when I went to feed the llamas. A big old mess in the field which appeared between 8.30am when I checked the boys and 9am when I carried their bucket of food through to the field. Luckily, the llamas were safe in the side of the field which doesn't flood.

                                 River before                                                              After

                               Pond before                                                                        after

But despite the hideous flooding, in the hedgerow I found these ....... daffodils in January!!

2 January 2016

2016 ....... Bring it on!

Here's wishing a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to everyone out there in Blogland

Well, it's 2016. Wow!! It's come around so fast I can't believe it. Things were very hectic in the run up to Christmas. I was working lots of extra hours at my job which although slightly inconvenient time-wise, cash-flow wise it was a lovely boost to the flagging bank balance and helped Christmas go much more smoothly and with a lot less stress. In true Christmas disaster fashion, the water pump that brings our water up from the well in the garden decided to pump it's last a week before Christmas, on a Friday evening no less, which prompted frantic phone calls to plumbers and a weekend without water ..... not fun but luckily, fixed in time for Christmas. 

The weather, the same as everywhere in the UK, has been awful. Luckily, although very wet and windy we were fortunate enough not to have had any flooding in the field this year and apart from a dead tree stump being blown over, we seem to have come through the past couple of weeks relatively unscathed (fingers crossed, touch wood or whatever good luck charm is used around the world). Having watched the devastation elsewhere in the country, I'm very thankful for that but feel for the poor people who lost everything not once but twice over the holidays. Christmas itself was quiet as was the New Year and although I had the "joy" of working both New Years Eve and New Years Day, I was lucky enough to have three days off over Christmas when I was thoroughly spoilt by my lovely daughters and had lots of amazing presents. And now, here we are. A new year and a new start.

So peeps, what are your New Year resolutions?? 

I have only one. 

To figure out what I want in my life, both personally and professionally and to take the first steps towards getting it. I'm going to be taking time to really think about things, how I want them to be and how I can make that happen. I have given up alcohol for January after totally over-indulging during the festivities and I am going to be watching my diet for the next few weeks to drop a few pounds before a little trip I will be taking in February :-) I can't wait to tell you about it.