Getting organised and decluttering

The key to a lot of people living in a small house is organisation. I have to stand a bit of mess as I live with a very untidy family, and I don’t want to get all anal about it. I have been to friends’ houses where I was terrified about leaving a cushion out of place or creasing a hand towel. I want everybody to be relaxed but at the same time I don’t want to be falling over unnecessary mess and clutter. Regular decluttering helps.

imageUsing baskets

Over the years I have found that baskets on shelves are a good cost effective means of containing and hiding any clutter. I am brutal about getting rid of things I no longer use and know I am unlikely to find a need for in the future. Mr Shoestring hates this as he is a bit of a hoarder. He gets nervous when I go into decluttering mode!

I have mentioned before that my second daughter is back for the summer after her first year at university and has arrived with lots of belongings from her digs. Those items she doesn’t need to access daily have been packed off to her dad’s as he has a spare room, but there are still a lot of things!

imageA bit of rationalisation

A crucial part of my plan to keep my finances on track is to have foreign students to stay. We have another one coming in two weeks and hopefully a long term one arriving in September. This means that sometimes darling daughters 2 and 3 have to share a bedroom! We need to get organised so that DD2 can slip seamlessly back and forth.

So I am badgering them both to rationalise their clothes and belongings with a good bit of  decluttering. We currently have about 8 binliners full of items we will sell at a boot sale later in the summer, but there will be more.

I spent yesterday evening sorting the room out and trying to use every available bit of space effectively, and it is coming together. We will get there!

Are you a hoarder or the house proud type? Or like me, somewhere in between?

If you can’t stand the heat …

imageIt is so hot! I don’t like to complain as I love the sunshine, but I am feeling a little frazzled after a day in a very hot office where, for some inexplicable reason, there are two radiators that have been stuck on for weeks and it seems there isn’t a heating engineer in Essex who can sort it out!

imageSo I  came straight home, shed the office shoes in favour of my flip flops,  and went outside to rescue my plants and water the pots and the greenhouse.

I think tonight’s plan of action is to sit in the garden with a couple of nice cold beers from the fridge. I should go to the gym but I can’t face it.

Don’t curse me if you are sitting looking at the rain! What’s the weather like where you are?

Easy Banana Muffins

black bananasI love these! And I have some very over ripe bananas sitting looking at me accusingly. No one is going to eat them now, but they will eat banana muffins, so, a job for later. This makes a large batch so that you can freeze some for lunchboxes, etc. If you don’t want to do that, halve the ingredients.

500g self-raising flour
125g sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 medium bananas, mashed
240ml milk
160ml oil
2 eggs
Cake cases

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (gas mark 4). Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Then start to slowly whisk in the milk, oil and egg until well combined. Finally, fold in the mashed banana and combine well. Spoon the mix into your cake cases and bake for around 15 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.

These are lovely warm, but equally nice cold. However, you can reheat them for about 15 seconds in the microwave.

Brown Rice and Mediterranean Vegetables

Another chuck it together healthy tea. We had this brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables with baked chicken but it is a perfectly good veggie supper with grated cheese stirred in.

brown rice and Mediterranean vegetablesI am still using up the huge courgettes I got in Sainsbury’s! I like the flavour soy sauce adds to these.

Brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables

Serves 6

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
I green pepper, chopped
1 large or 2 small courgette, diced
100g mushrooms, sliced
325g brown rice, cooked with a veg stock cube
600g (1.5 cans) chopped tomatoes
2tbsp chopped parsley (or 2tsp dried mixed herbs)
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheddar to top (optional)

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the courgettes, mushrooms and pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the parsley and soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve your brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables with a good sprinkling of grated cheese.

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We were out getting the best from our RHS membership today. Once it finally stopped raining the sun came out and it was boiling, so we took a drive to Hyde Hall Gardens in Runwell in Essex.

This is the fourth time we have been this year and it has been fantastic to see the garden changing and developing through the seasons. This is one of the four main RHS gardens and we are lucky to have it half an hour’s drive from home. It never fails to inspire!

rose2

Quick and easy pasta with bacon and vegetables

This was tonight’s supper and was thrown together from what I could find in the kitchen. I am trying to keep the fat content of our food as low as possible so grilled the bacon and just added a small amount of grated cheddar.

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Serves 6

500g pasta, cooked
250g bacon, grilled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large courgette, cut into cubes
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp Marigold vegetable stock
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese to top

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the courgette and mushrooms and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir, then add the stock powder and dried herbs and mix together well. Finally, chop up the cooked bacon and add to the sauce. Season to taste. Cover
and simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the cooked pasta. Serve with a little grated cheese and a green salad.

imageI got the lettuce straight from the garden – you don’t get any fresher than that!