Mediterranean Chicken Pasta with Chorizo

I am keeping the holiday feeling going tonight with some Mediterranean ingredients from Aldi! The chorizo adds so much flavour, and is really delicious. It only cost £1.49 for 170g, and I will use the rest later in the week.

image

Serves 4-6

300g pasta bows
2 chicken breasts, sliced
Large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Large red pepper, chopped
1.5 cans chopped tomatoes or passata (600g)
1 heaped tsp mixed herbs
85g chopped chorizo
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onions, garlic and chicken breasts until the chicken is more or less cooked on both sides. Add the pepper and cook for minutes or so then add the tomatoes, herbs and chorizo. Season to taste. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and mix with the sauce, and serve with some grated cheese and a nice green salad.

This was easy to make, which I needed today as I was unpacking and catching up with laundry. It’s good to be back and I even got the sun today, so can’t complain 🙂

How to quit the rat race

imageWell I don’t have the answer yet…but, as ever, being on holiday raises certain questions. Mostly, how do I manage getting up at 6 every day, working full time, running a house, doing a second job teaching yoga and a third taking in students? When I get the opportunity to sit and refect on this I don’t know how I do it , but I do know that it all takes its toll and that being away I am already sleeping better and the (sorry if this is TMI) my IBS symptoms that were dreadful in the last few weeks have all but disappeared.

Almost everyone I know is on the same relentless hamster wheel of just running to keep up with themselves. I bet you are too!

I may not be able to go on holiday to recharge very often but I can find more ways to relax and take time out. That is my new resolve! Yoga on the beach is a good start.

Another project to tick off the list :-)

The weather has been so fab here in Essex. We managed another day sorting out the garden yesterday. My project was sorting out the flower beds in the front garden. They were so full of weeds! I filled up 4 compost bags full – our heap was choc-a-bloc, so I will donate them to the Council waste collection. Me weeding

One of the beds before weeding...

One of the beds before weeding…

The beds look a bit empty now there are no weeds, although I planted some summer bulbs and have some seeds on the go to fill them up.

pre weeding

Another disaster area…

Looking better!

Looking better!

Mr Shoestring had a productive day too. First he titivated the sheds – not sure if you can see from the pic but he added some fancy edging. He just needs to add a door to the new shed and it is complete. It is a work of art!

Fancy sheds and newly rotovated veggie patch

Fancy sheds and newly rotovated veggie patch

Then he tried out the rotovator that his neighbour donated.

Mr Rotovator!

Mr Rotovator!

So I reckon that’s another two projects done! 🙂

Woodbridge: A Message from the Suffolk Tourist Board

I am an Essex girl, but live very close to the Suffolk border and absolutely love to venture into some of the beautiful market towns: Woodbridge, Bury St Edmunds, Saxmundham, Lavenham, Clare, Long Melford – I could go on! They are all lovely interesting little towns and well worth a drive out if you aren’t too far away.

A trip to Woodbridge

Yesterday, we decided to take a trip to Woodbridge. What a beautiful place. It is sited on the River Deben, close the Anglo Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo. You can walk past all the little boats along the quay to see the tide mill, which is the last working tide mill in the UK. There are lots of nice shops and cafes, including some great (but pricey) charity shops. We went in them all!

Woodbridge

Woodbridge

Woodbridge

WoodbridgeSt Mary’s church is worth walking to – it is a lovely building and there is often something going on inside it. The cottages that overlook it must have one of the best views in town. We had a peep in the estate agents window, but you don’t get much for your money if you want a character cottage in Woodbridge. That will have to wait for my lottery win I think.

Mr S was also rather impressed with Woodbridge town hall, which is a super old building in the centre of town. We took some good pics. Enjoy – and if you are ever in Suffolk, take a detour!

Ratatouille

imageI don’t usually make ratatouille out of courgette season. In the summer I always have a glut so it regularly appears on my meal plans. However they were very reasonably priced in Aldi and they also had some delicious looking red peppers so we had this for dinner last night served with rice and topped with grated cheddar. Healthy, yummy and still good value. I vary this and never use a recipe; however this is roughly what I included last night.

Serves 6-8

4 medium courgettes, sliced
2 onions, chopped (as I had red and white I used one of each)
3 fat cloves of garlic
2 chopped peppers – I used one green and one red
2 tbsp olive oil
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
1 vegetable stock cube

Heat the oil and sweat the onions and garlic for 5 minutes until soft. Add the courgettes and peppers for a further five minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and add the crumbled stock cube. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes and serve.

Three of us ate this for dinner yesterday, myself and DD1 had it again for lunch today, and me and Mr S will have it tomorrow with some baked chicken thighs. No complaints from the family either – in the midst of the summer glut they flinch when they see courgettes on their dinner plates in various guises 🙂

The Liebster Award

liebster-awardI am very excited that one of my fellow bloggers, the lovely Mona over at Small Things Good , has kindly nominated my blog for a Liebster Award.

Here is a bit of background to the award – basically it is aimed at promoting undiscovered bloggers like myself!

The word “Liebster” originates from the German word “liebste” which means “dearest”. The origin of this award is unknown, although several posts have suggested a German blog. The rules of this award have changed over the years although the underlying goal remains the same: to bring attention to blogs that have not been discovered yet. In 2010, the rule was to pick 3-5 blogs that have less than 3,000 readers but recently, you list 10 blogs with less than 200 subscribers. It is quite a dramatic difference, but for the better.

The Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
  2. Show off your award on your blog (in a post, widget, etc.).
  3. Answer 10 questions given to you by your nominee.
  4. Create 10 questions of your own.
  5. Nominate 5-10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
  6. And of course, tell them about it and provide a link back to your website so that they can know more about the award!

Here are the questions I answered:

  1. What was the driving force that led you to start your blog? I was, and still am, struggling with money and realised that I felt so much better when I took control of my expenditure. Frugality became a hobby rather than just a necessity. The blog was partly to share my experiences of being a frugalista and partly to give myself encouragement and renewed determination to keep going!
  2. Chicken or Fish?  It has to be fish! I love it. However, day to day I eat more chicken because it is cheaper.
  3. If you could meet any famous person, recent or past, who would you want to meet? Gandhi, or failing that, Jason Isaacs 😉
  4. If you could know the exact moment you were going to die, would you want to? Why? Lord, no! It would make me anxious to be aware of my impending doom! Would anyone say yes?
  5. What is your favorite thing to blog about? Anything and everything, mostly with a frugal theme. But sometimes I am inspired by a particular event, so will blog about that.
  6. Sweet or savoury? Can’t I have both? I love chocolate! However, if I have to choose it would be savoury.
  7. If you had to choose one meal to eat, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Really good sausages with creamy mash, vegetables and gravy. I think if I chose something fussy I would get bored more quickly.
  8. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate, preferably very dark with a touch of ginger.
  9. Tell me 5 random things about yourself. I spent 7 months on a kibbutz in Israel and had my 21st birthday there. I am a qualified yoga teacher.  I once nearly drowned doing white water rafting in New Zealand. My nickname is Chickenlady because I used to keep chickens and now have a collection of china, cloth and metal chickens. I dream of owning a VW camper van.
  10. Cake or Pie? Cake, obviously! I love baking too,

My 10 questions to the bloggers I give the Liebster Award to are:

Why did you start your blog?
What are your hobbies? 
Trip of a lifetime, where would you go?
Who would be your top 4 guests, dead or alive, at your dream dinner party?
Which do you prefer for an evening out – clubbing it or a meal in a restaurant?
Sweet or savoury?
What would your dream career be?
Who is your celebrity crush?
What is your favourite season and why?
What is your one all-time favorite food? 

It’s hard to know exactly how many followers some blogs have as they don’t always say! Anyway, I nominate:

http://sweetblondieblueeyes.blogspot.co.uk/; http://frugalinsuffolk.blogspot.co.uk/; http://dreamer-dreamingofasimplelife.blogspot.co.uk/; http://ourlifeinacaravan.blogspot.co.uk/

Please check out their blogs!

Entertainment: cheap or free stuff to do

Now that the weather is improving a little and my daffodils are coming out, I am feeling inspired to get out and about and come out of my winter hibernation. However, as usual, lack of funds mean I can’t just have big days out, go shopping, visit pubs and restaurants or go to the theatre. This has made me think about free stuff to do. There are many cheap or free forms of entertainment.

Cheap or free stuff to do

A trip to the cinema is a rare treat for me. I generally wait until the films I like are available on DVD, then rent them. However, Orange customers can get two for one with the famous Orange Wednesdays. I’m not an Orange customer, but DD1 is – I wonder if she fancies taking her old mum out?

Even cheaper: we enjoy a ‘cinema night’. Borrow a DVD from the library, watch a film you have recorded or make use of your Netflix subscription if you have it. Pop some corn or make some cheap snacks. Easy.

Pack up a picnic and head for the hills. If we have a day out anywhere, Mr Shoestring and I always take a flask and sandwiches – whatever the weather. It saves so much money and also means no queuing in crowded cafes for over-priced food of variable quality.

A trip to the country park

Check the country parks in your area. In Essex we are blessed with some great open spaces, great for a family walk (see here). It’s easy to find where yours are at your local Tourist Information Centre.

Alternatively, just go for a walk where you live. We tend to whizz by the streets in our local area in the car. You get a whole new viewpoint on foot.

Go for a cycle. Fresh air, exercise and entertainment in one!free stuff to do

Use the Tourist Centre to find out if there are any free museums or other attractions in your town. We have a free to enter toy museum and an old church converted to a natural history museum. They frequently host school holiday activities as well.

Pot luck supper

It is a real treat to dine out and if I had the money I would do it more. But it is expensive! I enjoy having friends and family over for food. A pot luck supper is best for penny pinchers. Everybody brings a dish and something to drink. In my experience you end up with fabulous food and relaxed company. No one has been slaving over a hot stove all day nor is anybody worrying about the bill.

There are hundreds of channels on satellite TV and most of us watch about 10 of them. Get a Freeview box instead.

I love musicals and stage shows and if money was no object I would regularly see a West End show. However, this is expensive! Instead, for an occasional treat, check out what’s on at your local theatre. At ours there is a local youth theatre group that puts on fantastic musicals once a year. We also have an arts centre based in an old church that seems to be the place for big names to try out their acts before they go on tour. Recent appearances included Phil Jupitus and Jo Brand for £15 a ticket.

Have a date night

Have ‘date nights’ with your partner rather than expensive restaurant visits. Make it special with candle light, and proper three course dinner, a bottle of wine and some soft music. If possible pack the kids off to a friend or relative so that you have quality time together without spending lots of money. We did this for Valentine’s but I plan to do this more often for no reason at all 🙂

Dig out your old board games and packs of cards, and play! It is good to go low tech and get away from electronic games once in a while.

Visit your relatives. Family are an under-rated form of entertainment.

Do some gardening! OK, for many this may feel more like work, but I love it so it is entertainment as well.

So, what do you do for fun that doesn’t cost the earth (clean suggestions only please!)? What are your recommendations for cheap or free stuff to do?

 

A project

Mr Shoestring found me a lovely little chair for the student/lodger room. I plan to rub it down, paint and distress it and then wax it. If it looks good at the end I will do the same to a big old pine chest of drawers that I have in there. It is a nice solid bit of furniture but it is a bit shabby, if I’m honest, and not shabby chic!

imageSo, two more projects for my 52 projects challenge. Life is so busy I will be happy if I manage 25 projects by the end of the year.

Worked flat out yesterday getting the student’s room ready and giving the house a thorough clean. By the end of that I was too shattered to blog!

I will do an update when I have painted my little chair.

In the meantime I am off to make a fruit cake and crumble to welcome our visitor. I do like to make sure they are well fed!