A little Devon gem

Six days is really not enough time to get to know this area – there is so much to see and do. We are going home tomorrow though so the packing has commenced!

We had another beautiful sunny day today and drove to a little harbour village called Clovelly. We picked up a leaflet promising ‘steep, cobbled streets tumbling down past gleaming white cottages to the tiny, deep blue harbour’. We hadn’t clicked that it was a privately owned place and you had to pay though! It was £7 each but it was worth the price and we were there much of the day.

It was really hilly! A great workout for the leg muscles. We treated ourselves to delicious pasties from one of the cafes for lunch, followed later in the afternoon by a cream tea – well, it was our last day. Back to healthy eating when we get home I think.

Mr S and the girls were particularly taken with the resident donkeys. I enjoyed the craft shops and had a nice chat with the owner of a silk and fabric shop who had done a TV programme with Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsopp and had lots of photos of them on the wall to prove it. He also told us how the community had recently ‘yarn-bombed’ the village to raise money for the local air ambulance. I Googled some images and found these from Louise  @lickle_cottage_life. It looked like a lovely event. I really must learn to crochet! A challenge for the winter months maybe.

So, back to reality tomorrow. We shall take it in turns to drive back and relieve DD1 of her cat sitting duties.  I hope the weather stays nice so we can rescue the garden from the neglect it has suffered in the last few weeks. 

Glorious sunshine in Devon 


The weather has been getting better and better here in Devon and today it is glorious – sunshine and blue skies. We could be in the Mediterranean. We have come back to Ilfracombe as it was rather grey and wet when we came on Monday. What a difference! 

I am writing this on the sand at Tunnels Beaches, a private Victorian beach accessed by a series of hand carved tunnels. There are two tidal swimming pools, but the sea is too cold for me to do more than paddle. It is very quaint and interesting, especially the etiquette guides on the way in which made us giggle.

We have been packing up picnics and flasks and mainly eating at home. Tonight, however, we will push the boat out and have a restaurant meal. We walked past a little place called Starters, a kind of English version of a tapas bar. The food smelled so delicious we immediately booked a table. Let’s hope it tastes as good. There are few things that annoy me more than a poor restaurant meal when I have stretched my budget to eat out as a treat.

We had another quick look around the town centre – it is a lovely little place full of independent shops. We even found a couple more charity shops. I have found two pairs of almost new flat pumps for work for £2 each, an M&S cardigan in immaculate condition (£5 but I reckon it would have cost £25 new) and a lovely black dress, again M&S, for £3.50. The girls have also found a few bargains 😀. I think we are a funny bunch as we head straight for the charity shops wherever we go!

I must try to finish my frugal recipes page as it seems to be popular and my stats have increased dramatically. Frugal food is clearly a popular subject for many of us.

I hope the weather is fine where you are. I shall pop on again tomorrow. 

Frugal recipes!

As I am on holiday and have some time and energy to spare, I have started something I have wanted to do for ages and collected some of the recipes I have featured on  the blog over the years in one place. You can find the page at the top. It is a work in progress so I will add a few more over the next few days. I hadn’t realised there were so many! So if you ar stuck for frugal inspiration, take a look.

It was such an interesting exercise as it meant revisiting some old blog posts. This site acts as a diary for me and I loved going through the old memories and pictures. It is a great hobby in this respect and I always enjoy comments and advice from readers.

Just a short post this morning as we are off out to RHS Rosemoor and out to the cinema tonight to see Bridget Jones’ Baby. See you later!

Beach walks and charity shops in Devon

We are in North Devon! I wish I could say we are bathed in sunshine but that’s not quite the picture. It drizzled most of the day yesterday. We made the best if it and donned our raincoats to visit the historic pannier market in Barnstaple. It was rather disappointing. I suppose they don’t have the most interesting stalls there in a Monday morning and there was little of interest to any of us. We cheered ourselves up with a delicious cream tea with local clotted cream and then drove up to Ilfracombe. 

We particularly wanted to see Damian Hurst’s statue, Verity. Even in the gloom it looked magnificent on the harbour but is rather disturbing – a huge naked and pregnant woman, holding her sword proudly above her head but with the scales of justice behind her. Most disconcertingly, the skin and muscles on one side are stripped back to reveal her skull and the baby curled up in her womb. Opinion is apparently divided locally but we liked her. We liked Ilfracombe altogether actually and will go back on a nicer day. We had a walk through the town centre in the rain dodging from charity shop to charity shop and picked up a few bargains on the way. This is typical of us – the girls love a bargain just as we do!

It has been quite bright today and this evening the sun has been shining. We spent the day at Croyde Bay just up the road from our little wooden chalet. It was lovely. We had a good hike up to Baggy Point and a picnic on the beach, then drove to Braunton and hit the charity shops again. More bargains!

The chalet itself is perfect, on a very quiet and well maintained site. It is cosy but large enough for the four of us for the week and much better than a tent on those rainy days! I love not having to get up early for work, taking each day as it comes and spending a bit of time with the family. Tomorrow the plan is to visit RHS Rosemoor. We are members so will only have to pay for the girls to get in. We are hoping for a little more sun but will plan for all eventualities, as ever!

Holiday preparations: brollies or sun cream?

What is going on with this great British weather? One day we have a heat wave and the next it is torrential rain and floods! As I sit here the sky is grey and threatening and it is blowing a gale. This is a shame as tomorrow we are driving en famille down to Devon to stay in a little chalet near the coast. I hope we don’t get this weather all week!

We shall make the best of it anyway, and take raincoats and boots as well as our swimming stuff and sun cream in case the sun returns.

I feel like I need a rest – I have been so tired this week. Work is relentlessly busy , which keeps it interesting (and I would hate to be bored) but there isn’t much time to pause and reflect. I plan to have lots of sleep,read some books,  get outside to walk as much as possible and do a bit of yoga, although I’m not sure how much space we will have with four of us in a chalet!

Lola is pretty relaxed about the whole thing

The cats will be taken care of by DD1, who is coming to stay with her boyfriend for a week. We prefer this. I don’t like leaving them in a cattery – they would hate it and it would be expensive for the three of them.

Our Italian student leaves today. She may be the last we have if we manage to find a suitable lodger. We have a few bits to finish such as the curtains going up in the lodger’s sitting room and a bit of painting in the bedroom and it will be ready. I will get it on www.spareroom.com in the next month.

Today I need to get up, get the cleaning and packing done and tidy up the greenhouse. We still have cucumbers but the tomatoes are finishing. On the veg patch the runner beans have finished but the chard looks fabulous and there are still a couple of courgettes. I have quite a few beetroots as well which need to be made into soup for the freezer, but that will have to wait until we get home now.

My next blog post should be from the beautiful Devon countryside somewhere near Ilfracombe. I can’t wait!

A walk on the beautiful Essex coast


I believe that many people have a rather warped view of Essex. The old Essex girl stereotypes, reinforced on the tv by TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex – I don’t recommend it) might paint a view of the county and is inhabitants that most of us don’t recognise and definitely don’t aspire to. In actual fact there is so much more to this area. It is very beautiful, has a fabulous coastline and you don’t in reality see that many orange people with ridiculously white teeth and huge hair!

We went exploring the coast near us on Sunday. It was a glorious September day so we took a trip to Walton on the Naze to visit the brand new Essex WildlifeTrust visitor centre. The beach there looked stunning so we took a walk before having a cup of tea in the cafe.

There also happened to be a classic car show in the town which of course we couldn’t resist. I loved the vintage camper vans. Look at the interior – gorgeous!

We have become members of the Wildlife Trust again and will be exploring their sites all over the county. Let’s hope we don’t spot any TOWIE wildlife en route 😀.

More reasons to love Aldi

Well, you know I am a huge fan of the discount supermarkets, especially Aldi, since that is my nearest one (although Lidl is coming soon and will actually be even closer). Yesterday I did a week’s shop for 3-4 of us for a week for £55. I didn’t need all that much as I had done a big shop the week before. As I had a shorter list I allowed myself to look at some of the interesting bits and bobs in the central aisles. 

One of the things that caught my eye was a Sweet Freedom Choc Shots bottle, basically liquid chocolate made with no sugar. It is sweetened with fruit juice. Yesterday we had it on ice cream for dessert and before bed I made some hot chocolate. It was delicious. There is a fruit syrup version that I think would be lovely on porridge so I will look out for that. It is vegan, gluten free and suitable for diabetics. 

I also got some magic eraser sponges. I had seen these before but the Aldi ones were cheap enough to be worth a try. They work well with minimal effort and got a load of dirty marks off the wall in the hallway where we chuck our shoes in a basket. The pix show before and after. I will be interested to see if they really do work on ovens and tougher jobs.

DD3 had her first driving lesson yesterday which she was very excited about. The instructor said she was a natural and they seem to have driven for miles. I bought her four lessons to say well done on her A level results and her dad did the same. After that she is on her own so let’s hope she gets a job soon!

Keeping fit and getting motivated

Having said it was feeling cooler and autumnal a few days ago, we are now back in heat wave mode! The weather is most bizarre!

My Italian student is loving it. This afternoon they are off to Cambridge and have a beautiful day for a visit to that fine city – she won’t need to take her umbrella!

I am suffering with back ache at the moment. I know the cause – not enough exercise! This is the problem with a sedentary office job. It is so important to move and stretch often. As a yoga teacher I know this, so I get annoyed with myself when I don’t practice what I preach. I will do a session tonight.

It is easy to make the excuse of not having time but it is a bit feeble. I had time to watch Bake Off last night! It is important to invest in my health. My manager runs marathons every few months and is constantly training. If she can find time to stay fit so can I. It is all about motivation and priorities!

Do you keep fit? How do you stay motivated?

Autumn is on its way – and Christmas! 

It suddenly felt very autumnal as September arrived here in Essex, with lots of rain and winds that have bought some leaves down. Our Italian student has already realised that it is wise to carry an umbrella at all times! Still, we had a good summer so I am not complaining. 

The student is very sweet and seems older than 16. Hopefully she won’t worry me too much! However, she hates vegetables! She will eat peas and carrots but that is it. I use a lot of vegetables in casseroles etc so she will have to pick them out. We have sausages and mash tonight so she should be fine with that.

There are so many jobs to do in the garden. Luckily the student is spending most of the weekend in London so we will have time to get on with them. My neighbour cheekily commented on how untidy the front garden was looking! It’s not that bad! So much garden and so little time. I shall invite him to help if he says anything again. It’s ok for him as he is semi retired.

We did 45 minutes weeding on Sunday before the student arrived and that made a difference. Little and often is the way to go.

This weather. Is my cue to start thinking about Christmas. Yes, I know! But it soon creeps up and I like to spread the cost and I hate the last minute rush. I don’t really enjoy shopping either so little and often works for me here too!

Anyone else planning Christmas? Got the sprouts on yet? 😀😀😀

Exhausted of colchester

I did a ton of jobs yesterday – I was shattered by teatime and had to collapse and watch tv in bed for a bit 😀.

I was in Aldi for 8, and home to start a deep clean of the house. Every room got a good going over, including the windows, skirtings and floors. We don’t have many carpets and the floors are mainly wood. Mr S has just been helping out with a house clearance and one of the things he saved for me was a steam mop. I am quite pleased with it. It cleaned quickly and well and dried much faster than when I use my old mop and bucket. A bonus is that it just used water, so no floor cleaner or chemicals needed.

Mr S has put some strips of plastic on the walls of our freshly decorated room by the back door where the cats love to scratch. I would rather not have them there but they look better than ripped up wallpaper.

They don’t usually scratch by the French doors but to be in the safe side I have out a big plant there. It is a money plant that desperately needed repotting anyway. I used a tester pot of green emulsion on it to tie it in with the green and cream theme. Quite pleased with that!

Our quick easy and frugal vegan tea was mushroom chasseur from A Girl Called Jack with crusty bread. It was delicious and I will definitely make it again. This really is one of my favourite recipe books and I recommend it. I signed up for Jack’s new one, Cooking on a Bootstrap, through Kickstarter, a crowd funding organisation. It was supposed to be published in May but no sign yet. I wish Jack would hurry up as I am hopeful this book will be another winner. 
We were so hungry I didn’t think to get a pic of the chasseur!

I am having Sunday lie in as I type this but we have a language student coming at lunchtime so I had better get going. I might even get a bit of weeding done before we have to collect her. Happy Sunday everyone!