Oops. Really should have checked the recipe.

Hello Friends,

I’m a bit behind with the sloe gin again this autumn.  I’ve had the sloes in the freezer for about 3 weeks.  It will be ready for Christmas – just.

This afternoon I sat in the kitchen pricking away at the sloes.  I’d got my jars lined up and the sugar and gin.  I make sloe gin every year, so I didn’t bother to check the recipe and happily put 450g sugar into the jar along with 450g sloes and a bottle of gin.  It looked a bit full, but I just carried on an shook it up.

I then had a thought that may it would be a good idea to check the recipe.  Unfortunately I’ve used double the amount of sugar…

Oh well.  We’ll just have to see how it turns out.  Luckily I’ve only made one batch so far, so I will make sure I put the right amount of sugar in the other two.

Has anybody out there made sloe gin with too much sugar?  How did it turn out?

Until next time, Tawney x

Autumn Harvest

Hello Friends,

It’s that time of year again where everything is coming in all at once.  My mini greenhouse and three raised beds have done very well.  I experimented with several different varieties of tomatoes and it has been great fun to find yellow, orange and purple tomatoes in the greenhouse as well as red ones.

IMG_0085The cucumbers were also a success.  I grew little ones and they were very tasty.  We’ve had loads of runner beans too.  The only things which didn’t do well were the courgettes.  I didn’t get a single one and I think it is because I grew them in full sunlight.  I will have to think about where I can put them next year.

We’ve had a good crop of plums and I’ve made some jam and am going to bottle the remainder.  I picked some sloes yesterday and need to get on with making some sloe gin for Christmas.  I’ve put a load of blackberries in the freezer ready to make jam later on when I have some spare time.

I would like to try and grow a bit more next year and put some more veg beds in and sort some fruit out.  I’ve got a couple of blackcurrant bushes which aren’t in a very good place, and the rhubarb I thought was dead has come back to life, but needs moving too.

How did your growing go this year?

Until next time,

Tawney x

My clutter weakness

Hello Friends,

I’ve had to do a lot of clearing and tidying in a very short space of time as we have had some visitors to stay recently.  I find letting go of clothes relatively easy, but when it comes to books, they have to be prised out of my hands.

By chance I went to a church book sale the other week.  I wasn’t expecting very much, but it was amazing – a huge room packed with books, all laid out neatly and sorted by subject.  I belong to a book club, and I always look out to borrow or pick up book club books as cheaply as I can.  On the biography table I spotted these three:

2015-09-09 21.56.21The Clare Balding book is on our book club list for this year, so I picked it up, along with the other two which I have wanted to read for a while.  Total cost?  £1.50.  So I got a frugal bargain, but I am going to have to pass them on when I have read them so I don’t add to the book clutter.

The other thing I did recently with one eye on the piles of books was to buy a Kobo when it was on offer.  Again, I’ve bought a couple of book club books when they were reduced, and at least they are out there in the ether somewhere.

What is your clutter weakness?

Until next time, Tawney

Home grown veggies again

Hello Friends,

I didn’t grow anything last year as everything was a bit hectic.  This year I’ve just stuck to a few plants and it’s not gone too badly.

Here are some of the veggies I picked this morning.

2015-08-28 08.30.05The tomatoes are just starting to ripen, and I’m glad I’ve tried different colours and varieties.  The cucumbers have just finished, and the runner beans are in full flow.  The one big failure this year has been courgettes.  I think the raised beds are actually exposed to too much sun – I didn’t have much luck when I grew them before, so I will try and move them somewhere else next year.

Our plum trees are also about to produce a bumper crop.  You might remember that two of them snapped in half during a heavy snow fall on Boxing Day.  They are now growing again from where they snapped off and I’ve had a few plums already – they taste delicious.

Over the winter I want to sort out some more raised beds and think about what else I could grow.  It’s all about experimenting to see what will work.

Have you had lots of veg from your garden this year?

Until next time, Tawney x

There is already so much stuff out there…

Hello Friends,

We have visitors at the moment, friends of Bee and Edie.  We haven’t had people to stay for a while, and this has necessitated a huge clear up and clear out.

Both the girls went through their rooms and cleared them thoroughly.  I got caught up in this as well, and you suddenly get to a point where you realise you have just got too much stuff you don’t love or use and it has got to go.

Bit blurry, but you get the idea

Bit blurry, but you get the idea

This is the second load which filled the boot and went to the charity shop.  I am following my friend Piglet’s advice and as soon as I have a bag of stuff, it goes in the back of the car and then then next time I am in town with the car, I take it straight to the charity shop.

While I was unloading last week and going into and out of the charity shop, I realised just how much stuff is already out there that could be recycled and reused at relatively little cost.  It might mean a bit of extra work to hunt things out, and you can’t decide ‘I want X’ and then just go and get it.  I am also thinking of getting my sewing machine out of retirement so I can alter things I buy from charity shops.  Bee is brilliant at this, she can make something out of nothing and has made hangings and cushion covers as well as altering clothes.

There are some things I do have trouble finding in charity shops – I’ve never found a pair of trousers simply because I am tall with long legs.  Where I’ve been successful over the years is with tops, jumpers, cardigans, coats, books and crockery.

Are you finding more of the things you buy in charity shops?

Until next time, Tawney x

When old stuff does come in handy

Hello Friends,

If you have followed my blog for a while you will know that I have an ongoing battle with clutter.  I still find it hard to let go of things in case they ‘will come in handy’.

At the moment I’m in training for my first ever 5k.  It’s a bit out of my comfort zone, but afer a bit of a shaky start I have been going out 3 times a week every week to run along the canal, running a little bit further every week.  I’m beginning to enjoy this as there is always something to see.

2015-07-17 18.45.33Today it has been raining heavily.  I was determined to go out running, and so I dug out my oldest T shirt, my oldest joggers (which have holes in them) and my very old mac which should have been chucked years ago.  It leaks like a sieve, but everything did the job.  This was a case where I was glad I had kept some tatty old things which it didn’t matter if they got wet and muddy – everything just got dumped in the wash.

What do you keep ‘just in case’ that you find yourself using?

Until next time, Tawney x

Boomerang kids

Hello Friends,

Edie came home from Uzbekistan last week.  Her year living as an ex-pat teaching assistant is over.  She’s having a few weeks off and will then be looking for a permanent job.  She’s now pretty fluent in Russian and wants to use her languages, so we hope she will find something before too long.

Until then, she is back home living with us.  It’s all a bit odd after 5 years away, but there isn’t any other choice until she finds work which will pay the rent.  It never occurred to me that we would have the kids boomerang back to us, but we are learning to adjust, helped by the fact Edie makes brilliant cakes.

OH and I discussed the other day whether we might be able to help a bit towards a house deposit.  We always said that when the girls finished university, we wouldn’t be able to contribute any further as we want to retire before we are 80.  Now we are not so sure – it’s trying to balance wanting to stop working with trying to help the girls.  Luckily neither wants to settle down yet.  I think Edie might well work abroad again, so there is time to do a bit of saving.

So we are going to carry on living as frugally as we can and saving – whether it goes towards letting us retire a bit earlier or a house deposit remains to be seen.

Have your adult children returned home to live?  How did you find it?

Until next time, Tawney x

Shopping is boring

Hello Friends,

I’ve somehow or other got dragged into running a 5k in October.  I do a fair bit of cycling, but I’m not really a runner.  I’ve had to start very slowly.

I’ve got two pairs of very old (10 years +) tracksuit bottoms.  They are comfy, but now have holes in them.  The event I’ve entered in is called ‘Run or Dye’ and you get blasted with colour all round so I will be wearing a pair for that after which they will go in the bin.  What I did realise was that I could probably treat myself to a new pair of joggers after 10 years.

I’ve been putting off going shopping for joggers because I just couldn’t face it and have had a lot on recently.  Yesterday I decided to get on with it and headed off to the shops armed with some M & S vouchers.  I’m always amazed at the way people walk round zombie like on a Saturday afternoon clutching bags of stuff.  I can’t get my head round shopping as a leisure activity.  It’s just boring, boring, boring.

Luckily I found some joggers in my size (not always easy as I’m quite tall) and my vouchers covered the cost.  As soon as I’d bought them, I was straight out and home again, no hanging about.

What do you think of shopping as a ‘leisure activity’?

Until next time, Tawney x

Growing again

Hello Friends,

Last year I didn’t grow any veg.  I just couldn’t fit it all in.  This year I decided I would make time, but I would limit myself just to a few types of my favourite vegetables.

I bought a few packets of seeds, but somehow time passed, and before I knew it, we were into May with nothing planted.  One of my friends mentioned that a local garden centre had vegetable plants.  I know this isn’t the most frugal way to do it, but if I was going to grow anything, then this was going to be my only chance.

I bought six different tomato plants, including some yellow and orange varieties.  When I last went to France, I remember walking into the equivalent of our mini supermarkets and being met by a fabulous display of tomatoes of all different sizes and colours.  I’ve not seen anything similar here: the choice seems to be large red or mini red.  I also picked up some purple sprouting brocoli, a couple of courgettes, cucumbers and some leeks.

A couple of days later I went round to a friend’s house and in exchange for a donation to the Nepal earthquake fund, I obtained some brussel sprouts plants.  Then a friend offered me some spare runner beans, tomatoes and a courgette.  In no time at all, I suddenly had all my veg.

Here are the tomato plants, which are now growing vigorously.

2015-06-18 11.53.28And here are the sprouts and psb which have really got going.

2015-06-18 11.53.50The other thing which I have been please to see in the last few weeks are our plum trees which are beginning to sprout again.  You might remember that it snowed heavily on boxing day and a number of branches snapped off.  We weren’t sure if the trees would survive, but it now looks as if they are going to be ok.

2015-06-18 11.52.36How is your veg growing?

Until next time, Tawney x

Rescuing a cooking disaster

Hello Friends,

I always try to avoid wasting food.  We have a veg box once a fortnight and I base most of our  meals around it.  I’ve got better at planning ahead and cooking double amounts and then freezing for a later date.

None of this stops me having the odd cooking disaster though.  A couple of weeks ago we had a cauliflower in the veg box.  Cauliflower is one of those vegetables I never quite know what to do with.  If Bee is home I make her cauliflower cheese.  On its own, it can be a bit anaemic.  So I rummaged around for a recipe and found one.  Basically, it was cauliflower cooked with pine nuts and raisins and then mixed with pasta…..hmmm.  OH liked it, but it just wasn’t my thing.  I had so much of the stuff, I had two boxes of it in the freezer.

I did think about binning it, but then had the idea of tarting it up a bit to make it edible.  Tonight’s tea was due to be a meat curry which I made earlier in the week.  I took one of the boxes out of the freezer and added three very ripe tomatoesl, a teaspoon of curry powder and some warm water and heated it through.


We had it with our meat curry and some rice, and although I say it myself, it was completely transformed and very tasty.  Now I wonder what I can do with the other box?

What dishes have you been able to rescue, and how did you do it?

Until next time, Tawney x