Category Archives: Celebrations

Showing love on a budget ❤️ 

A friend told me proudly how her lovely son had taken her to London on Mother’s Day, with tea in a posh hotel, followed by some sightseeing and a meal in the evening. He is clearly a kind and generous son who loves his Mum, but it must have cost a fortune!

As I said in yesterday’s post, I had the loveliest Mother’s Day but I am sure it cost a fraction of the price of my friend’s day. It got me thinking. It is easy to have fun and show somebody that you love them without breaking the budget.  With a bit of planning and creativity you can help friends and family celebrate any event without them thinking you are a cheapskate!

Bake a cake: give a home made cake, cookies or sweets. This works for birthdays, anniversaries,  Christmas, house warmings – even weddings if you are an ace baker and offer to make the wedding cake as your present, as my friend did for me. 

Make your own gift: if you knit, sew, paint, make soap or candles or even if you grow stuff, many people appreciate a thoughtful home spun present. How about a hamper of home grown produce, a couple of pots of delicious home made jam or some potted plants grown from seeds or cuttings?

Keep a present box: It is also useful to buy gifts on offer and keep a present box so you always have a present to give. The January sales are great for this when retailers are keen to shift excess stock after Christmas.

If you are seriously skint, offer a service: gardening, babysitting, grass cutting, car cleaning. Design a voucher and put it in a card,then make sure you keep your promise! This works well if your child wants to offer a present for a relative.

Host a meal: have your loved one round for a special meal. Get out the best tablecloth and china, put flowers or candles on the table and don’t let them wash up!

Take a tour: have a look in the tourist information centre for the free attractions locally and take your loved one on a guided tour . Pack a flask and a posh picnic for a midday break: salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones and cream, hummus and crudités, etc, and perhaps even a bottle of fizz.

Have a date night: if the celebration is for your other half, cook a meal and add a massage and/or a film.

Spend your points: I love collecting Boots Advantage Card points to spend on gifts, but you can do the same with your Sainsbury’s Nectar Card or Tesco Club Card.

There are so many ways to show you care that don’t involve spending much money and won’t break the bank. For me, the thought really does count!

Such a perfect day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mummies out there! It was a gorgeous spring day here today and I was desperate to get out and do some tidying up and to plant some little shrubs we picked up in B&M last weekend. They are quite good for plants. They don’t have a huge range but what they do have is very reasonably priced. We decided on a hebe and an azalea. At £4 each they were a massive bargain.

Whilst we were out fighting with the weeds, cutting stuff back and mowing the lawn, my daughters were making a delicious roast beef lunch. We were so ready for this after a few hours in the garden. We had it with a £5 bottle of cava from Lidl and strawberries for pudding. They even cleaned it all up. Fantastic! What a lovely bunch of girls.


Mr S found a very pretty Portmerion tea set in the charity shop on Friday for £25. We looked on eBay and found the teapot alone going for £75! This lot has to be sold on as we could make a handy profit. I should start getting up early and perusing the bootsales soon to see what else I can find to sell on. This could be a useful bit of extra income. 

We went to visit Mum and dad yesterday. He is quite frail and tired still but this isn’t surprising as he has undergone a serious bit of surgery. It’s hard to keep him out of his garden on a sunny day but we need to for now. I will try to get round to help in the week.

What could be better than sunshine, fresh air, exercise, home cooked food and family? It was a perfect day to set me up for a busy week. Mother’s Day or not, I hope you had a super Sunday.

Food with a purpose

Following my blog about the classic Mennonite cook book More-With-Less Cookbook (World Community Cookbooks), I have discovered a really interesting site called Mennonite Girls Can Cook. I am impressed with the recipes! Lots of delicious sounding, straightforward and frugal food such as apple slab pies, great northern beans with sausage, mushroom scrambled egg bake and cookie sheet chocolate bars. Lots of the recipes are ‘for a crowd’ so plenty of scope to batch cook and freeze if you are just feeding the family. I can see myself trying a lot of these out!

This is what they say:

We are a group of ten women who share recipes and our faith, with a purpose, inspiring hospitality while using our resources to help needy people around the world.   Mennonite Girls Can Cook is more than just recipes. We encourage you to think about HOSPITALITY versus entertaining. Our hope is that you find the joy in BLESSING versus impressing.  Our recipes are about taking God’s bounty, and co-creating the goodness from God’s creation into something that we can use to bless family, friends and those who need a caring meal.  We take everyday ingredients to make recipes which will nourish, provide energy and delight our taste buds. No matter which way you look at it, wonderful things happen when we gather around the table. While sharing a meal, relationships are nurtured, encouragement and fellowship can be offered and a place of refuge is provided for those who have had a stressful day.

I am not religious, but I do appreciate their message – ‘think about BLESSING versus impressing’, and the simple pleasures to be found in sitting round a table and eating with others. If you prefer a cookbook rather than a website they have some that you can buy: Mennonite Girls Can Cook
and Bread for the Journey: Meditations and Recipes to Nourish the Soul, from the Authors of Mennonite Girls Can Cook being two of them. They donate all proceeds to the work their community does. So, using the cookery books make you feel good twice!

I won’t be trying the sweet recipes until I am eating sugar again. It has been easy to give up so far, but it is only day two :).

Until tomorrow…

Increasing my waistline and a lack of time management 

Sorry I have been so quiet of late. I have been using all my spare time to prepare for a job interview. Between that, work and Christmas prep there’s been very little time for much else. The interview went ok I think. I should find out next week whether I am successful. 

I am trying to catch up now. Last night I did the usual weekly shop at Lidl then went to Sainsbury’s for some Christmas bits and somebody’s leaving present at work. I didn’t get in until 8.15 then had to go out half an hour later to collect DD3 from work. 

I had just enough time for a quick cuppa and a bit of cold quiche, and to feed the cats who were looking very unimpressed at having to wait so long for their dinner.

This morning I was writing Christmas cards for colleagues in my car before I got in! I haven’t had the chance to do any that should be posted and have a busy weekend  ahead so Lord knows when I will find time. 

Today we have our Christmas buffet at work. I brought in some chopped veg and hummus and I’m glad I did as it was mainly pastry items like sausage rolls and lots of crisps – a veritable carb fest! I am eating out tonight as well with the management team from work. Oh well, the diet can wait until after Christmas.

Tomorrow will be my chance to check I have bought everything for Christmas and clean through the house and have a nice quiet night in. We are off to my sister’s for a gathering on Sunday as they will be away at Christmas. 

Next week I need to wrap all the gifts and plan the food shop. Thank goodness I have the week off between Christmas and the New Year.

I have rarely felt so disorganised for Christmas. I generally start in September and start wrapping and writing cards as December arrives. Better organisation should be my New Year’s resolution I think! How are your plans going for the festive season?

Taking the early train on the hottest day

Today I took the early train to London with all the bleary eyed commuters (not grumpy though; today is a beautiful day and, since we get so few of those they were mostly happy!). 

Me and my girl


I am not a big fan of the city: too busy, too frantic and fast paced, too dirty for me. But today was a big day. Darling daughter no 2’s graduation day! They only allow two people to the ceremony, so I was accompanied by her lovely boyfriend, with everyone else joining us for a celebratory lunch afterwards. They drove down and parked near her shared house in Hackney as that was cheaper than the train for three of them.

Hats off!

 The ceremony was interesting, not too long so that it got dull, but long enough and with adequate pomp and ceremony to feel special. Then it was lots of pix in the baking sun – our hottest day of the year so far at 34 degrees – and a glass of fizz in the hall. 
 I loved seeing all the graduates in their gowns – very Harry Potter-esque!

My girl and her gorgeous boyfriend

We had a lovely lunch at a Turkish restaurant in Hackney. It was perfect light Mediterranean food for such a hot day and good value at around £10 each for a main course. I had dolma (cheese and rice stuffed courgettes and pepper) which was really tasty. I am going to look out a recipe.

We drove back in very heavy traffic and we were all sweating buckets by the time we arrived home. I am currently wilting in front of a fan on the sofa. Still, we have storms forecast for tonight so I suppose I should enjoy the sun while it is here!

A fabulous birthday in Constable Country

  I booked the day off work today. I thought we could have a day out  and use a voucher my daughters gave us for  Christmas at a very fine restaurant at Dedham in Suffolk called the Boathouse. We wouldn’t normally splash out and spend £60 on a meal out ever! I just couldn’t justify it. However, it was lovely food in a very pretty building with views over the river and an absolute treat since we didn’t have to pay.
  Dedham is a delightful old fashioned little place and the area is famous for several landmarks and views painted by the artist John Constable. We didn’t look round the little shops today but instead had a walk along the river to Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House, both the subject of Constable’s artwork. It was a beautiful sunny day and I think it did us good to walk off all the calories from dinner. I hate to think how much weight I will have put on this week!
    The girls bought me some products I was after from Lush for my birthday. Since I am still attempting to cut down on plastic waste I thought I would try solid shampoo and conditioner bars and a natural deodorant. They all came wrapped in recyclable paper and smell divine. Reviews I have read say they last for ages so I am hoping they will be good value for money. Toiletries can be so expensive! I haven’t tried them yet but will let you know if they are any good. 

Back to work and reality tomorrow as it is a really busy time. Back in a couple of days!

Sixty years of wedded bliss – plus moving towards less plastic waste

It’s another weekend!! How on earth did that happen? And a busy one to boot – I have  DD2 back from university with her boyfriend and we are all over to my sister’s for a family party to celebrate my parents’ diamond anniversary. Sixty years! I am so proud of them. 
  Family dos are always noisy affairs as I am one of four children, we each have our own kids and they bring along assorted boyfriends as well. We haven’t managed to give my parents any great grandchildren yet but I expect they will arrive at some point!

  I recently blogged about how I was looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste I produce. It feels difficult to achieve when you shop in a supermarket. Everything is wrapped and double wrapped and it’s hard to purchase liquid items in glass bottles and jars these days. One of my followers, Sue, asked if I had heard of Splosh, a company with the genius idea of reducing plastic waste by selling their products as refills.  

I hadn’t so I decided to investigate and get a few products to try. You can initially buy a bottle of, say washing detergent, but you use this bottle again and again by ordering a refills. These come as small soluble concentrated sachets that you mix with water.

I have started with washing up liquid and fabric conditioner. I have yet to use them so a full review will follow!

Have a great weekend everyone!

A year of celebrations

This week it was my youngest daughter’s 18th birthday.  All my children are now adults! I guess that makes me officially old. 😀

Tonight, to celebrate, she is having a dozen girlfriends over for dinner. I   am head chef, of course. I am doing a  of dips and crudités, olives, feta cheese and tortilla crisps, followed by spaghetti bolognese, with a dessert of birthday cake and fruit salad. Now that they are all 18 they can wash it down with some cava!

  The birthday cake is a deep dish of delicious chocolatey-ness made by my work colleague, Claire. When you open the box you are hit by the aroma of sugar and cocoa and it is making my mouth water as I type. Claire, being a baking genius, has surrounded it with the thinnest sheets of chocolate sprayed with edible gold. My daughter’s photo has been converted to sugar icing too. It is a masterpiece!

I know I will have a house full of shrieking and squiffy teenage girls, but I would rather that than they launch themselves on a nightclub in town. 

This year will be one of celebrations for my family, so I have a feeling I will be asking Claire to make another cake or two. I have my parents’ diamond wedding, my second daughter’s 21st, my nephew’s 21st (born within two weeks of each other) and another nephew’s 30th. 

We are a large family, busy and scattered, so it’s great to have these occasions that bring us all together.

Wish me luck – I have a busy day ahead!

We wish you a merry Christmas!

  I started writing this sitting in the Aldi car park ready to whizz round and get my Christmas shop as soon as they opened. I hate the stress of crowds and don’t really enjoy shopping of any kind (apart from the charity shops!) so I planned to be round and out as the rest of the world was waking up. They opened officially at 8, but let me in at 7.45 so I was done and dusted by 8.30. 

 

This lot should keep us going!

 Then it was home for a quick tidy up and to make a few preparations for tomorrow’s feast. We are having duck as it’s just me and Mr S and we are keeping it simple and delicious. The girls will be round tonight so I will drag the board games out of the cupboard. They will all stay for breakfast, have dinner with their dad then be back for tea.
I am off for a nice hot bath then I will crack open the chocolates and chill. 

Have a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it. If not, enjoy the quiet!

Ho ho ho! Christmas is coming

Ok don’t pelt me with rotten eggs. I know it’s only 2nd October. However, if you don’t want to end up with a huge credit card bill Christmas should be planned for. It comes at the same time every year, so it shouldn’t really be a nasty surprise to your wallet!

I am actually behind where I was last year. I usually buy small bargain presents and stocking fillers as I  go through the year but the few I have found have been instantly used as birthday presents by the family. I also usually have lots more in the kitty, but my car has been troublesome and expensive and eaten a chunk of my Christmas budget.

Even so, I have made a start on my shopping  and will try to get as much done as I  can way before the rush. My sister couldn’t believe it when I asked for ideas for presents for her kids in September! I have bought a couple of Mary Berry cookery books as presents from Aldi. Lovely looking recipes at a bargain price!
   
 I stopped buying for the adults in my family a few years ago. We are a large family and it’s just too expensive. Instead we do Secret Santa and this works well. We buy for children in full time education; once they leave school or university they join in with Secret Santa. I buy for my daughters and ask for ideas. They have a £50 budget and on top of that I buy small gifts such as socks, underwear, books and toiletries.

Most of our Christmas food comes from Aldi. They do a lovely range of treats at Christmas. If we are at home what we eat will be very traditional. It’s just a fancy roast after all, so doesn’t need to cost a fortune. I have made my pudding in the past but find it more economical to buy Aldi’s luxury pud rather than fork out on lots of ingredients. Christmas cake rarely gets eaten,so I will make a fancy cake as a treat, like a gooey chocolate one.

I have wrapping paper and cards put away that I purchased last year in the sales. Always a good tip! I keep and recycle gift bags so I never need to buy those.

I use the same artificial tree I have had for  years along with ancient decorations! I don’t spend a fortune and keep the decor simple. I might cut some holly to put in a couple of big vases. I expect the kitten to destroy any display fairly quickly and I can’t see the tree lasting long…

Anyone else planning Christmas? Is it a source of joy or anxiety? Any tips for a frugal festive season?