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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. 

Making extra money with a lodger 

It’s been a busy week at work trying to get lots of jobs done as I am off all next week. Most of this will be spent decorating. There is a lot to do but we are hoping to finish it. We are making our small dining room into a sitting room so that we can start advertising for a lodger. If they have a bedroom and their own lounge they won’t impact quite so much on our space. We will obviously have to share the bathroom and kitchen.

I hope we will find someone nice! We generally enjoy having our short term language students but if we don’t we know they are only here for s few weeks. A lodger is a whole new ball game and I admit to feeling nervous. 

The bedroom is in quite good shape but the sitting room can be very cold in the winter so we will be using insulating wallpaper, putting foil behind the radiator, getting lots of rugs for the floor and buying thermal curtain linings. 

We will also need to decorate and insulate the downstairs loo but I don’t know if that will be achieved this week. We shall see!

Have you had a lodger? What are your tips?

Everything in the garden…

…is a little overgrown and the weeds are doing great. Still, it still looks good I think and it’s a pleasure sitting out in the sun to eat now that the weather is so warm. I quite like a wild looking garden!

It kind of sums up my life: I live on the edge! On the edge of being tidy and on the edge of being bankrupt 😊😊. I would love more time and money to improve the garden and the house generally, but it ain’t happening right now and I am pretty happy with what I have. 

Holding back those pesky weeds

I am lucky and better off than so many people. We own most of the house, I have the wonderful Mr Shoestring propping me up at all times, a secure job and three beautiful daughters. 

The sun is shining and the flowers look great alongside those pesky  weeds!

Upskilling to improve your prospects and keep the grey matter working 

One of the big regrets of my life is not going to university and getting a degree. I kept putting it off and before I knew it I had a husband and a mortgage! It most definitely restricted me in my working life. I went into magazine publishing but found it difficult to move on as everyone wanted a graduate, even though I had experience. Later, when I had children, I wanted to become a teacher, but 4 years of study wasn’t financially viable. If I had got a degree it would have been just a year.

I did feel the benefit of study later though. I became a yoga teacher which was a useful source of income when my children were small (and also proved to be the saviour of my sanity!). When I struggled  to find an office job I enrolled in the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) with my local Learning Shop and started getting interviews straight away. I got a part time job with the local council which eventually led to the job I have now. 

I really believe that, to improve your chances of getting the best possible career and giving yourself more options and choices, you need to get trained and qualified. 

But if you have little money, what to do? If you are unemployed or on a low income the first place to go is your local learning shop (most towns have them). They will tell you about all the courses available to you, many of which will be at a hugely reduced cost and some could even be free. They tend to focus on English, maths, IT and employability skills and can also give careers advice.

You should also check out your local adult education centre. These are great for vocational courses such as hairdressing, beauty and complementary therapies. These are very expensive normally (£1000 plus) but a fraction of the full price if you are on a qualifying benefit.

There are also loads of free courses online. Just google it. For example, I have been exploring www.futurelearn.com, where I can learn Dutch, how to start a business or – a great one for this blog – Financial Planning and Budgeting. I have sent my daughter this site as they have useful looking courses on cv writing, applying for jobs and interview techniques. 

Older people can explore the University of the Third Age which offers subjects as diverse as history, yoga and singing. The members share their hobbies and skills and become teachers as well as learners, not for qualification but just for fun.

I now take as many opportunities to learn as I can, and encourage my daughters to get all qualifications possible. Do you do any learning and how has it benefitted you?

My best cheap and easy dinners

June and July have been financially taxing months, with seven family birthdays, including my daughter’s 21st, a new car which had then to be taxed and insured, and our recent holiday to Wales. I had money put by for all of these things but now I have completely used up my reserve and need to start saving straight away. So I am tightening the belt!

Fortunately I have some language students booked in over the next six weeks and yesterday I sold 4 dresses in one day on eBay – kerching! It will all help but I need to stop any inessential spending and stretch the groceries as well. I always revert back to a few cheap and easy dinners when I am saving money. These are my top ten:

Jacket potatoes with tuna and salad or veg from the garden.

Chick pea curry and rice.

Omelettes filled with cheese and whatever is sitting in the fridge – I often have mushrooms or sweetcorn lurking that need to be used up.

Vegetable bake – again this uses up the veg in the fridge or freezer. I add cheese sauce to cooked veg, cover with cheese and breadcrumbs and stick it under the grill to brown, or I might stick some cooked sliced potatoes on top and out it in the oven.

Liver and bacon casserole. I enjoyed this Hairy Bikers one recently.

Sausages and mash – easy comfort food. I use Aldi sausages and serve with beans or peas.

Macaroni cheese. I will add bacon to this if I have any.

Red dragon pie from my old Vegetarian Kitchen cookbook by Sarah Brown. I found it online here. It’s not quite so quick so I would make this at the weekend rather than after work. It’s really tasty!

Smoky chicken and chick peas, recipe here.

Vegetable paella or risotto. This Slimming World one is nice.

What are your go to cheap and easy dinners?

Mr S to the rescue

  I went to Aldi to do the weekly shop on Saturday. I always get there as they open at the weekend. If you don’t you can’t get in the car park! The stores aren’t huge but I think all the car parks are too small. This isn’t helped when a massive delivery lorry turns up and takes up half the car park, which seems to happen quite often!

They had some lovely plants in there and I couldn’t resist. They are so cheap! I also found a solar  hurricane lamp for a friend’s birthday, but when I got it home we liked it so much we decided to keep it and go back and get a few more as presents. Of course when we got there it was absolute bedlam!

  I thought my 15 year old Miele dishwasher had finally bitten the dust on Saturday as it started making a terrible grinding noise. I bought it in the sale and even then it cost £450 but it has been brilliant for a long time.  Mr S came to the rescue though and pulled some bits apart and found a prune stone -it must have got into the works somehow! It works fine now 😀. I could have spent £100 getting an engineer out but I probably would have just scrapped it as it is so old. Every household needs a Mr Shoestring!

He also repaired two garden chairs I got as a set from the charity shop. The table and two of the chairs are solid but the other two were slightly damaged. Now we have a full set and just need the sunshine back.

Honestly, he is a gem 😀😀. Hope he doesn’t read this – don’t want his head expanding!

School’s out – forever!

  Wow! Another busy week! Frustratingly though I don’t appear to have achieved much 😀.

Our new French student arrived on Sunday. He has proved really friendly and easy to host. He doesn’t eat breakfast, insists on helping me when he is here (the other night he mopped the floor!), goes out most nights and will be away in London the whole weekend.  He has also hit it off with my middle daughter, who has just finished university so has been home a lot. She has given him a list of the less obvious bits of London to visit and he, in return, has given her a contact at Vogue Magazine – she is desperate to get into fashion journalism so if that comes to anything it will be amazing. 

 

Last day of school forever!

 My other daughter is up to her eyes in A level revision so is stressed and tired. She officially left school yesterday, although will be in and out still for the next month for the exams. She works really hard and deserves to do well. It is tough for these youngsters though – so much competition for decent university places and good jobs. 

Thankfully my eldest daughter is past all that and seems to be enjoying her job. She also moved into a new flat at the weekend. It isn’t very big but it has all she needs and is right in town. She was living with her dad but needed her own space.

So my children are all now adults and school is over! It is a weird feeling after so many years!

  We spent the morning on Sunday planting out the runner beans and brassica on the veggie patch and the tomatoes in the greenhouse. There is still lots to do so we will doubtless be out there again this weekend at some point. Not on Saturday though as there is a flower show locally so I have booked tickets. We will have lunch there and are meeting friends for a take away in the evening since its Mr Shoestring’s birthday.

There is always so much to do it seems. I started painting our reclaimed bench the week before last but still haven’t found time for the last coat. I will do that on Sunday too! Day of rest? Don’t think so 😀.

Bootstrap cooking

I am trying to eek out this week’s groceries by being creative and using things up. It’s good to do this every now and then as it makes me look properly at what is in my freezer and cupboards and use ingredients that have been hanging about a bit. I am lucky that we still have broccoli, spinach and chard in the garden too so I haven’t had to buy much veg. I did pop out to get milk from the local Co-op yesterday though and picked up parsnips and peppers reduced to half price. I will make a spicy parsnip soup for lunch today.
  I don’t have much meat though so we are eating more vegetarian dishes. The other night I made a stew out of pretty much everything we had in the fridge: celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, mushrooms, peas and garlic with a tin of tomatoes, brown lentils, dried herbs and some vegetable stock. It was lovely with brown rice and a bit of grated cheese. I do like easy, no fuss dinners when I have been at work all day.

Last night we had some chicken thighs from the freezer in chicken chasseur as I had red wine that was a bit old for drinking but fine for cooking. I always use the recipe from A Girl Called Jack. This is one of my favourite cookbooks ever. I have the second one but it doesn’t appeal to me as much. I have also signed up for her third which was crowd funded through Kickstarter. I should receive a signed limited edition copy for my money next month some time. I know Jack has become a vegan on the last few months so it will be interesting to see how this affects the recipes on offer. It wasn’t billed as a vegan cookbook but I don’t mind as lots of meat makes cooking more expensive. It is called Cooking on a Bootstrap. 

As with anything related to Jack Monroe there is an interesting story behind the use of crowd funding to get the book out. It will actually come out with a ‘proper’ publisher in 2017. You can read about the saga  at https://cookingonabootstrap.com

Off to the garden now as I have more seeds to start for the garden. Happy Sunday!

Happy Easter and welcome to my new site!

I have moved my site over to what I am told is a more flexible version of WordPress. At the moment it is a work in progress so the appearance might change every now and again as I experiment. Truth be told, I am not a techie and it is all Greek to me! Save me to your favourites 😀.

Boot sale bargains

I dragged Mr S up early and out to the boot sale this morning. It was freezing, but the sun eventually came out and it was nice when we managed to get out of the wind. The first boot sale was disappointing with very few traders. I found a couple of items but we decided to move on fairly quickly. The second sale was much better – still fairly small scale but it is the start of the season.

More bargains!

I found a nice pair of yoga pants, a warm hooded jumper, some brand new wooly tights and a very pretty lacey cornflower blue jumper from next. I also picked up some lovely dresses to sell on eBay.
 Boot sales are great for plants too. I bought some primroses – you can’t go wrong at 50p a pot. I would have got some fruit and veg too as it was excellent value but we already have plenty. No point in buying bargains if they go to waste.
We arrived home just as the rain came down, thank goodness. We did have some fine weather on Good Friday and we managed to do some work on the garden. I hit the weeds before they got established! I will plant a few more seeds next weekend.

We are off to my mum and dad’s to have Sunday lunch cooked for us now. It’s so lovely to have a four day weekend. I could do with that every week – how productive I would be!

Have a lovely Easter Sunday whatever you are doing and whatever the weather.