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!

Being frugal is not being mean!

We have a monthly dress down collection at work for a different charity each time. Most people give a pound. If it is a charity close to their heart some give more. Very few people seem to have an issue with this easy form of fundraising. However, once in a while there will be the odd person. We had a man who never joined in the dress down and if you rattled the jar at him he would loudly point this out and refuse to donate. Another young girl (on a full time salary and living with her parents) would dress down but tell you she couldn’t give any money as she was ‘saving her pennies’. 

I am always a bit disappointed with this attitude. I am saving my pennies (literally! I’m doing the penny challenge) but I’m not such a tightwad that I can’t give a little money to charity. That’s not frugality, it’s downright meanness!

This is the confusion some people have with the concept of frugality. It isn’t about being mean, sitting Scrooge like in the parlour counting coins. It is about making the most of what you have, recognising your financial limitations and living the best life you can without going into debt.

It is about appreciating people and experiences rather than things, enjoying spending time with friends and family rather than trying to find fulfilment through shopping, forgetting trying to keep up with the Jones’s and realising that simplicity and frugality can make you happier than a new car and a big pile of credit card bills.

Yesterday a young man who had a very difficult period during his teenage years, when he was thrown out by his parents and helped by the local charity we were  collecting for, put £10 in the pot. He doesn’t have much spare cash but he understood the value of giving back, which was quite heartening. 

Anyway, lecture over and off my soapbox. Have a good day!

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.

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 😀.