Love a bake off!

I was disappointed that I didn’t have time to bake any cakes for the Macmillan coffee morning at work today. Luckily others did! We also had a bake off competition and the quality of the cakes was tremendous.

Bake off entrants

I did buy a few nice ones to contribute along with a couple of raffle prizes. They had some bargain boxes of chocolates in the little Sainsburys near me so I grabbed a couple. I went in at exactly the right time as they had some great yellow stickered bargains in there too.  Asparagus and sugar snap peas, which I love but are usually too expensive, plus a sandwich, salad and fruit for my and DD3’s lunch today. It would have been hard to make it cheaper. 

Having said that I have spent a fortune on cakes but I don’t mind as it is in a good cause. My waistline might disagree! I will have to work it off in the garden at the weekend. Anyone else joining in with Macmillan today?

50 top tips to save you money

I was really interested to read that to celebrate its 50th birthday the Daily Mail’s finance section has published 50 money saving tips to make you richer

Many I have come across before, but I didn’t know about the police auctions website, Bumblebee Auctions, so will be checking that out later. I had a quick peek and it seems a good place to get a decent bicycle! I also wasn’t aware that online prices can change according to the day of the week and they you are more likely to find a bargain on a Monday! I thought the point about using pound shops was valid. Not everything is cheaper and it is easy to come out with a huge basket of ‘bargains’ rather than the one or two items you originally went in for.

Point 47 is interesting. There are organisations that can find missing money you may have forgotten about in old savings accounts and pensions. I am 100% sure I would not forget but others would!

I think this is a good article and worth a read.

Interesting comments on my last post about charity collections at work and some different perspectives. It seems to be a slightly thorny subject and not as cut and dried as I thought!

Moroccan rice with chicken and sausage

What to cook when you have just returned from holiday and don’t have much food in? A search of the freezer found a couple of small chicken breasts and 4 sausages. In the fridge we had onions, peppers and a few slightly wrinkled mushrooms. I thought I would make a kind of poor man’s paella, but only had normal rice, so came up with this! It serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are.

10 oz rice
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper, any colour, chopped
100g chopped mushrooms
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
Vegetable or chicken stock cube
4tsp Moroccan seasoning (I used the Asda one)
2 chicken breasts, sliced
4 sausages, chopped into chunks
Olive or vegetable oil
2tsp dried mixed herbs

Cook the rice in boiling water with the stock cube. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the chicken, sausage and onions, frying gently until the meat is almost cooked through. Put the garlic, mushrooms, pepper and Moroccan seasoning in the pan and fry for another five minutes or so. Add the canned tomatoes, mixed herbs and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook through. Drain the rice and add to the pan. Stir well and serve with a green vegetable and maybe some crusty bread. 

We were tired when we got back from Devon yesterday, so it was great to find my eldest daughter, who had been looking after the cats, had kept the house tidy and made us all dinner. I still had a ton of laundry to do today though! Luckily the forecast rain didn’t materialise so at least some is dry. Work tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to the 100’s of emails I will find in my inbox, but that’s the price to be paid for my holiday! Have a good week. 

Clovelly: A little Devon gem

Beautiful Covelly

clovellySix 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!

clovellyWe 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.

clovellyMeeting the donkeys

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.

clovellySo, 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.

Ilfracombe: Glorious sunshine in Devon 


Ilfracombe

IlfracombeWhat a difference a day makes

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!

IlfracombeI am writing this on the sand at Tunnels Beaches, a private Victorian beach in Ilfracombe 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.

Ilfracombe

IlfracombeIlfracombe charity shops

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 love Ilfracombe and hope to come back here. This is a beautiful Devon town and I recommend it. You can find more information about the area here.

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!

Devon: Beach walks and charity shops

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.

The statue Verity in 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 in Devon 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!Devon - Ilfracombe

It has been quite bright today and this evening the sun has been shining here in Devon. 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!

DevonThe 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!

Keeping fit and getting motivated

keeping fitHaving 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!

Not enough exercise

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! My fitness is really important to me. When I exercise I feel better mentally as well as physically.

Do you keep fit? How do you stay motivated?

Feeling overwhelmed? Break the tasks into bite sized chunks

I have struggled to find time to blog this week. I am still recovering from my week off, catching up at work and trying to do the jobs at home I couldn’t do because we were decorating.

The house needs a really good clean, I have a pile of ironing and the garden is a huge mess. There is more work out there than we can manage in the next few days so I will attempt the little and often approach. This works well for me when I am feeling overwhelmed. I break things into bite sized chunks and prioritise what needs doing first! At the moment it is the cleaning. We have a student coming in Sunday so the house needs to look spic and span and I also need to plan the week’s meals and do a food shop.

At the weekend I will do a couple of hours in the front garden as that is the most neglected.

I haven’t been to the gym for weeks or done any yoga so I need to find time to look after myself too.  So I am going to clean the sitting room and hall tonight and then do an hour’s yoga.

In the meantime DD3 has helped out by cooking a huge tuna pasta bake that will do for tonight and tomorrow so I don’t need to do any cooking!