Friday, 22 September 2017

I only went for bin bags

I had to pop to Marks & Spencer's a few days ago to get some bin bags for a friend (she likes their lemon scented ones). I didn't manage to get there until evening, and was so glad I did as I bagged some whopping bargains....

I can't remember the exact amount, but it was around £26 of food, and I paid £2.50! It was nice to try things that I wouldn't normally buy, and some were yummy but some things were just ok, but seeing as most items were only 10-30p I wasn't bothered. Something that surprised me were the apple slices and peanut butter - delicious!

The best buy was the turkey mince. I found a recipe on Pinterest for turkey burgers, which involved putting a pat of butter inside each burger (as turkey can dry out when cooked) and OH said they were nice (being vegetarian I have to take his word for it). 

Can't complain - four homemade turkey burgers for 35p. Think I'll have to pop out for bin bags more often!


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Wyevale bargains and a chocolate prize

We had to pop to Worcester today so whilst we were there I decided to pop into Wyevale. A few weeks ago the packets of seeds were half price, so I was hoping it was now time for the annual 50p clearance. Yippee, it was!!

All of the vegetable and herb seed packets were 50p. I would never normally buy seed mats as a) they are more expensive than a 'normal' packet of seeds, and b) it's just lazy! But for 50p I couldn't resist a few. The colourful cauliflowers look amazing, imagine those on your plate. The cactus seeds were picked by Big Girl. Her room is full of cactus plants that she buys really cheaply from the car boot from a man who grows them as a hobby. They take years to grow, then he sells them for a few pounds, but he says it keeps him amused. So even though she gets them really cheap, Big Girl would like to have a go at growing them herself, and at 50p for a packet of 30 seeds it's worth a try. 

I also got a few Christmas presents for children in the family. The build your own mini greenhouse, with cress, coleus and sunflower seeds to grow was £12 before. I checked with someone before I put them in the trolley, as I couldn't believe they would be reduced so much, but they were 50p too. I also got them a Grow Your Own pizza topping (basil and tomato), and sunflowers. Each box has a mini board game to play too. So a great present for two children, worth £33 altogether cost just £2!

I couldn't resist adding up all the seeds, including the ones above. Total real cost £62.51 - cost me £7. Happy me!
I don't think I need any more courgette seeds any time soon. This is what I got from one plant yesterday...

I put the 50p there just to show how GiNoRmOuS these babies are. Luckily I've discovered a lovely recipe for courgette and cheddar quiche. I also grabbed some tomatoes whilst I was in the garden. This is just a few, there are loads more ready. 

You may have spotted some split ones in there, which usually happens due to infrequent watering. The plants dry out, then get a good watering and the tomatoes swell and split. I really want to install an automatic watering system. I've put one out the front for the window baskets and having the plants watered twice a day has made a huge difference. They look gorgeous. 

Back to bargains, I also got a huge chrysanthemum for just £2. It was a bit squashed on one side but looks great squeezed in next to the asters I grew from seed...

The reason for popping to Worcester was to pick up a prize that Little Boy won a few weeks ago. That chap is one lucky boy, he always seems to win stuff! When we were at St Peters garden centre a few weeks ago there was a competition running to celebrate National Honey Bee day. Little people had to find the honey bee images hidden around the garden centre, and write down the name of the plant they were by. As usual when you enter a competition you think you'll have a go but won't win, but I was pleasantly surprised when I had a phone call saying that Little Boy's name had been chosen and he'd won! I thought it was only a chocolate making kit, but when we got there it was wrapped up with some honeybee chocolates, a bag of flying saucer sweets, a biscuit dinosaur (not sure how those two link in with bees?) and the box of Make Your Own Chocolate bee lollipops. 

The only problem is he keeps winning everything. He has just entered a colouring competition to win £150 worth of Playmobil. I only posted it this morning, and he's just asked when we can go to the shop to get his toys. He has to learn unfortunately that you don't win everything. Maybe I should get him to pick some lottery numbers, seeing as he seems to be so lucky!

Speak soon

Friday, 25 August 2017

Floral distraction

Do you ever get distracted in the garden? I went out after tea last night, to check on the seedlings growing in the greenhouse. As I stepped in I noticed the secateurs on the side, so decided whilst I was out there to cut some flowers for the house. About 45 minutes later, after picking and deadheading, I had this...

You have to excuse the awful photo quality, it was nearly 9pm and I took this in the utility. The vase on the right is full of amaranthus. I've called it the Sideshow Bob arrangement 😄 (if you've ever watched the Simpsons you'll get it). The vase of flowers at the back just has an assortment of flowers in it, including cosmos, crocosmia, rudbeckia, antirrhinum, and nicotiana. It just goes to show you don't need a huge garden to have a constant supply of fresh flowers for the house. It's not very clear in picture but there are a few bits of greenery sticking out of the top - they are actually bird seed which the birds have spilt when feeding, and I left it to grow! I knew it would come in useful one day. 
The two small arrangements were a last minute add on, one for Big Girl's room, one for Little Boy's room. 
And after all that, when I finally came in and sat down, I realised I had forgotten to do what I actually went out for - check on the seedlings! I must do that today, and maybe some weeding whilst I'm out there...


Monday, 14 August 2017

Lounge ceiling down

A completely irrelevant photo to start off, but the rest aren't very pretty ones so I thought I'd include this! The sweet peas in the garden are going mad, we can't keep up with picking them. But I'm not complaining, as we get pots and pots of lovely flowers to dot around the house. 

Right, back to the subject of this post. The children went for a day out with my sister on Saturday, so how to make the most of a child free day? What should we do - a romantic day out? A relaxing day in? No, we knocked down the ceiling in the lounge!! Well it needed doing sometime soon, to put in new electrics upstairs, and to add some sound proof insulation between the lounge and the bedrooms. Far easier to do it without little people in the way. 

The room once emptied of stuff...

The sofa had to stay in with a dust sheet on as it was a nightmare to squeeze through the door when we got it. The brick fireplace and corner unit had to go, as I discovered a lovely tv corner unit on Pinterest to go in its place - I just need to persuade OH to make one for me. I've also spotted a gorgeous flame effect gas fire with a stone surround but it will be a very far in the future purchase as there are LOTS of other more important things to buy first. 
Big Girl wanted to keep the brick cabinet as she really likes it (but then she likes woodchip wallpaper and anaglypta too, I think she was born in the wrong era!) and she got her way for now, because as we lifted the wooden top off we discovered it must have been installed when the house was built as there are no floorboards underneath. It's a big hole straight down under the house! At some point soon  all the floorboards have to come up in here when we put in insulation, so when that's done we will add a floor in that bit and the bricks can come out. 

The view below is looking from the lounge, through the dining room and into the new garden room. The old patio doors that went out to the conservatory are still in, so we can use that room as a dust free place to store everything from the lounge. Once all the messy work is finished we can rip them out and it will be more free flowing and open. 

And here it is once the ceiling is down, certainly makes it a lot darker in there...

Work in progress...

As the bricks above the fireplace came down we realised that the plaster behind was loose so that all had to come down too. 
And this is what it is like when we'd finished. Rather rustic looking but at least all the visible dust and mess has gone. By the way it's Little Boy watching Paw Patrol on the tv, not me - honest!

Do you know what the best part of the day was? Having a shower! Don't you just love it when you get filthy dusty and dirty, and how lovely it feels when you wash it all off and put clean clothes on. Then we collapsed on the sofa with a pizza and chips, a beer for OH and a big cup of tea for me!
So it was a hard, dusty, dirty day but it's one more big job crossed off the to do list. 

Speak soon

Monday, 19 June 2017

First proper harvest of the year

We've been harvesting lettuce from the greenhouse for a while, but this weekend we harvested our first  'proper' veg - a courgette! It was delicious, they are so much firmer when freshly picked than the ones you get from the supermarket. Big Girl and I had it sliced and grilled with sliced red pepper and halloumi in a burger bun, with chips and salad. 
I'm not new to veg growing, we had a 30m x 30m veg garden in New Zealand and grew everything from carrots to giant water melons. The problem is it was so big an area we spent more time keeping on top of the weeds than actual planting. So it's quite nice now to have a little garden big enough to have some spare space to grow a few fruit/veg but also small enough to maintain. 

Lots of perfect shiny red cherries, unfortunately it is an ornamental cherry tree, so the fruits are tiny, about a fifth of the size of a normal cherry....

A raspberry bush, bought for a few pounds from Morrisons. It struggled in the first year, but seems to be improving with time. Okay, it wouldn't win any beauty contests but they taste good so that's all that matters. I won't be making raspberry jam any time soon but I get one or two fruits when I pass by. 

A dwarf apple tree, Fiesta (Red Pippin) bought recently from a plant nursery sale. I didn't know until I got home though that it needed a pollinating partner. It had about six small apples on it when I got it, now there is only one left....

I have several planters with strawberries in them. I decided to inter plant the strawberries in this one with lobelia, with the idea it may confuse the birds and they won't notice the strawberries. Seems to be working so far, as it isn't netted and we don't seem to be losing any. 

Another Morrisons buy, this time a blueberry bush. There's quite a decent crop this year, let's hope we beat the birds to these too...

I like a cottage garden planting style, intermingling flowers with veg. In this spot I have put in some courgettes, lettuce and a Brussels sprout plant amongst the sunflowers and achilleas....

Update - it's been a few weeks since I wrote this blog post, and with the bit of rain we have had lately the plants have shot up...

The courgette plants are exploding, I think if you stood still and watched you would actually see the courgettes growing! I picked these on the weekend...

Now just five days later I popped outside to take some photos and spotted this...

In New Zealand we had pigs and chickens who would happily polish off the surplus courgettes, over here I just have to donate them to any passing friends/family/neighbours. If I get desperate I even hand them over to any visiting workmen, meter readers... I think I need to buy a spiralizer, like this one. Courgette noodles sound quite tasty, and apparently only need boiling for 20 seconds!

The tomatoes are ripening nicely in the greenhouse, though the plants don't seem as full of fruits as recent years, and on some of the trusses the fruit seems quite spaced out.

More strawberries...

And finally, pumpkins! Big Girl planted these, and they are shooting up. She planted them near a pile of rocks, as we thought the pumpkins might like the heat from the rocks to help them grow. Now they are growing though I am beginning to think it may have been a mistake - will the pumpkins just grow to fit the space, and have rock shaped dents in them? I think I may sit them on a bit of foam or something similar to give their bottoms a bit of protection. 

So that's what is growing in the garden at the moment. Plenty to keep me busy in the kitchen. 

Speak soon, lots to tell you!

What's in the box?

A knock on the door the other day  - a parcel for me! It was quite large so I couldn't think what it could possibly be. The delivery driver read out the name of the sender, nope that doesn't ring a bell. Then he read out the customs slip which describes the contents of the parcel - two mugs. Nope, still not remembering. I explained I enter a lot of competitions, so maybe I had won something. 

So what was inside this big box with all the packaging? Three little bags of buttons!
I ordered them online a few weeks ago for Big Girl for a Christmas stocking. Coming from China I was dubious of the quality as they were quite cheap, but I was really pleased with them. They were a good quality and a great range of colours and styles. I'd love to get some more for myself, but I'm very anti excessive packaging, and this was taking it to extremes. I guess they were making sure there were no damages, but I think a decent Jiffy bag would be fine for a bag of buttons. 

Well at least the box was put to good use - a lounge full of comfy armchairs and a sofa, and Little Boy decided to sit in the box to watch telly!

Friday, 16 June 2017

A scary skeleton surprise

When we were living in New Zealand I missed going to the local auctions. I have only recently got back into viewing them. Unfortunately I couldn't make the latest one in person, so had to leave bids. One thing I bid on was a rather large box of Halloween bits and pieces, which I won for the grand sum of £15. I was sure the children would like all of it, but the main thing I was interested in were the two large metal pumpkins, with a little door in the back so you put a candle inside. I do like the fun of carving a real pumpkin, but they do end up a soggy, smelly mess on your doorstep after about a week. This way I get all the fun and none of the mess! They are brand new, still had a label on, and will look handsome either side of the door come October time....

The rest of the stuff was packed into a large cardboard box. I had rooted through a bit of the top layer, but it was so tangled up I couldn't get to the bottom of it. I couldn't wait to pick Little Boy up from nursery so he could help unpack our box of goodies....

Here's what was inside - 

Three large, scary skeletons, who's eyes glow red and they scream and moan when you press a button. Little Boy was rather scared of them at first, but now we can't get him to leave them alone. He liked pressing the button to scare visitors. I think come Halloween we need to stack up on spare batteries!

Five black cloaked skeletons, and a blonde (?) skeleton....

Five big broomsticks, and five child size ones. One of the big ones still had a £6.99 price tag on it....

Two 'Happy Halloween' banners....

Two large cardboard skeletons....

A rather smiley glow in the dark skeleton, wearing some of the pumpkin and glow in the dark skull tinsel (there was a box full of this)....

Five spiders, three of which wiggle around when you pull the cord....

Eight witches hats (two adult and six child size), and two trick or treat bowls guarded by a rather cross skeleton, who leaps forward and tells you 'hands off my sweets' and other sayings when you go to take a sweet from the bowl....

And finally, two cauldrons full of Halloween garlands and tinsel, three tea light holders and a box of tea lights....

So we are well stocked up for Halloween, maybe a Halloween party is called for?! I think maybe I might sell some at a car boot and recoup my outlay, then we can enjoy the rest for free!


Rubble to the tip trips

Now the outside of the house is virtually finished, we can concentrate on the inside. Next job on the list was to knock down the wall that was the front of the house, but is now taking up room in our lounge. We could have had another grab hire but that would have meant weeks of rubble piled on our drive until we had enough to justify the cost, so we decided to take it to the tip ourselves. Seeing as OH has a van, and we don't have a permit for it for the tip, it was down to my poor car to be the workhorse. 
It doesn't look like there is much in the boot, but it was sure heavy, and so it took many, many, many trips to get rid of a whole wall. Good job the tip is just a few minutes down the road. 

OH stayed at home, knocking down the wall brick by brick, then passing them through the window to me. We had to take our time and do it carefully as we still had all our stuff in the lounge and didn't want it covered in dust! I had the job of heaving it all into the car then heaving it all out the other end. I was worn out by the end of the day. 

The photo below shows OH in the extension part. It looks tiny, but once the inside wall was taken down it made a huge difference to the sense of space in the lounge. 

My reward for all the lifting and sweating was a freebie! On one of trips I pulled up to the rubble skip and saw this perched on top. As long as you don't actually get in the skip they turn a blind eye if something decides to 'fall into your car'. So this beauty came home with me. Absolutely nothing wrong with it, just needed a bit of a clean. 

Planted up with a grass and some huecheras it now stands guard at the front door with my other blue pot (which incidentally also came from the tip, but that one was a different tip where they sell stuff, cost me £2 if I remember). I just have to set up the self watering system then they will all look after themselves. 

It's Fathers Day this weekend, supposed to be the hottest day of the year! Hope all you fathers out there have a fab day.