Monday, 20 October 2014

Easy bread making

Welcome to new follower Gravyyard (I like your name).

My bread maker broke during the summer, the tiny clip which holds the paddle in had snapped.  We  unsuccessfully tried mend it ourselves,  in the end I contacted Morphy Richards who told me I would have to pay £20 for a whole new bucket and paddle.  I was half hoping that they would sell me a replacement clip - oh well, it was worth asking.  I won't buy a new bucket, at least not yet, as there is nothing wrong with my arms and hands so back to the old fashioned way.  It turns out that this is not only good exercise but rather therapeutic.  I make a cup of tea and put on an audio book and before I know it the dough is done.

We always use wholemeal flour.  It is slightly more expensive but I think it tastes nicer, healthier, and in my experience is easier and less problematic.   This is a simple, fool-proof recipe for anyone who has never tried bread making before.  I also use this recipe for pizza making.   This will do either 2 pizza bases or 1 pizza 1 garlic bread.  Today I'm making 8 bread buns for sandwiches. 

3 cups of wholemeal flour                       38p
1 and 1/4 cups of luke warm water
1/2 sachet of dried yeast *                      3p
1 and 1/2 tsp sugar                                 3p
1 and 1/4 tsp salt                                    1p
2 tblsp oil (any oil that you have)             10p
                                                          =  55p for 8 medium size buns
(There is of course the cost of cooking.  I always bake the bread when the oven is on for other things around dinner time.  I don't tend to put the oven on for just 1 thing.)

* Most recipes suggest a whole sachet of yeast.  This has always caused over rising for me and it has spilt over into the bread machine.  I halved the amount of yeast and this worked perfectly - it is just habit for me now.  Cheaper and more reliable.

Throw it all into a bowl and mix with a spoon.  Form it into a loose dough with your hands.  Turn out onto a board and begin kneading.  This process usually takes about 10 minutes and I do time myself.  The dough should be slightly tacky when kneading and leave a light film on your hands - don't be tempted to add more flour this is normal.  After 10 minutes if the dough looks soft and smooth it's probably done.  It may feel a little sweaty and might squeak when kneading.  This is a good sign.

I then put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a cut open, clean plastic bread bag and covered with a tea towel to keep in the warmth.  It needs to rise to double its size.  The time it takes depends on how warm the room is.  If I am in a hurry I speed this process up by putting the dough in a ceramic bowl on top of my mini oven which is put on the lowest temperature.  Or..if you have a double oven the bottom one can go on lowest setting and dough can be placed in the top (always covered).  I started this early so I will just leave it until it has risen.

When it has risen I 'knock it back' kneading for a further 5-10 minutes.  I cut and shape the dough into buns, place on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet.  Cover again and leave to rise to double their size.  These are ready to bake when the oven goes on.  I bake them at 220 degrees/GM 7 in the middle of the oven. For a bit.....

I consider bread making an economy - if you have the time.  But also homemade bread is nicer than shop bought bread, particular when fresh out of the oven. They do freeze well - of course - so they can be done as a batch and used later on.  Fresh dough can be frozen if you need it to be handy at busy times (I do this all the time for pizza dough).  Just remember to put it in a large container or big bag because as it defrosts it will rise and expand.

Have a happy Monday everyone.  For mums, dads, children, teachers - final push until half term! I can't wait.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Week 6 budget update + Shine

Yay! I have a new follower. Welcome to Lisamaywalters.

A bit of an odd day yesterday as I was home alone.  Quite unusual and was left drumming my fingers, I considered loafing but I caught up with some jobs around the house.  I did a cupboard and freezer stock check, added up my receipts and checked the spread sheets (I'm a complete nerd when it comes to finances).  It has been incredibly mild in Yorkshire so no heating needed, windows and doors open and washing on the line.

Over the past few weeks I have taken part in an online focus group for Audible.  As they are paying me handsomely for my time I have thrown myself into it and gave as many well thought opinions as I could.  As a result I had an email from the market research company wanting me to record a video which will be shown at Audible HQ next week.  If they are going to pay me I wanted to do my best and spent an hour (or two) trying to get it just right - deary me - it became quite stressful  - I have a new respect for youtubers.  I still wasn't happy with the final result, too many ums and errs and ahs.  It seems I have the habit of moving around a lot when I speak and using my arms to express what I am trying to say, I hope they don't find it too annoying.

We finished the evening off with a movie and snacks (yes I am still on a diet but let myself off at the weekend).  We watched *Shine* which is on the iplayer (I think today is the last day).  DH and I first saw this when it came out in the 90's and became one of our favourites.  I didn't have children then, but watching now I have two of my own made it even more poignant.  DD cried at the end, she flung her arms around me and told me she had the best parents ever (it's nice to be told that now and again from a primary source ;0) .  I think it's lovely that she has such empathy towards other people and their life struggles and is able to appreciate what she has at such a young age.  I have known some hard hearted negative-vibe merchants in my time and wonder how they get through the day....but I guess they have life struggles of their own.

Anyway on to my budget

Groceries     £78.59/£65
Over budget but I have a full freezer.  We don't need anymore main meals or tins.  I was studying the receipt and it is a Homebargains toiletries shop that has pushed me over my budget.  These things will last at least another month.  I try not to go in very often because it tempts me into buying things I don't need.  Every few weeks I stock up with shampoo, conditioner, deodrant, bleach, loo rolls, toothpaste, floss etc.

Petrol           £15/ £15
Did this easily this week as the weather hasn't been too bad so we have walked and cycled.
Misc            £19.25/£20
This was for our wedding anniversay lunch.  This is money well spent.  It was a lovely day and I think wedding anniversaries are worth celebrating.  

Christmas fund £55 (really need to start working on this - might think of some ways to bring some extra cash in between now and December)

Anyway, hope you are all having a lovely weekend whatever you are doing.  I am going to try and do some recipes next week, need to get organised and have my camera at hand to take pics.  I'm in the mood for bread making.   

Friday, 17 October 2014

Friday chuckles

Sorry I haven't blogged for a few days, there just hasn't been enough time.  I was going to do some recipes this week, but my camera hasn't been in the right place at the right time. I'm sure it grows legs...

So I thought I would share a few of my things on my Pinterest which are my go to when I want to have a little chuckle...completely lazy I know but enjoy anyway!

Dump A Day Attack Of The Funny Animals - 24 Pics

Come On! I Can't Even Read!The difference between dogs and cats.Sure, checking. - ImgurWhen stubbornness refused to be told what to do. | 22 Times When Vandalism Won ROTFL! For more funny animals pics with captions visit Kitteh is impatient.
Have a lovely weekend and normal blogging back tommorow.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

19 years and never a cross word....

Cute dogs and the monkeys that love them.Today is our wedding anniversary we have been happily married for 19 years.  I put on my new dress and DH took the afternoon off work so we could have lunch together.  We have a 25% discount with the Gourmet Society card which came free with Family and Friends railcard.  So we drove out to  a country pub, sat by a roaring fire, ate a delicious meal, came home and watched The IT Crowd snuggled up on the settee eating chocolates.  A perfect day.  Tonight we will open a bottle of bubbly and watch a movie together.

I have come to the firm conclusion that the secret to a happy marriage is being able to laugh together..... DH and I laugh a lot. 

 Audrey Hepburn quote//

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue


Good evening everyone.  How was your Monday?  It has been so dark and drizzly today, I had my fairy lights on for the first time this autumn, they really brighten up a room on a day like this. My lovely friend came round for a coffee and chat today, just what I needed after a very hectic weekend. Everyone could do with a friend like Helen, always positive and upbeat about life, she's a good listener and always sees the best in people. 

I also finished a book today so thought I would do a quick review as it gave me plenty to think about.  The Phantom of Fifth Avenue is a biography of Huguette Clark who was the daughter of a very wealthy copper magnate, Charles Clark.  She died in 2011 at the age of 104.  This in itself is an amazing feat, but what really makes Huguette's story remarkable is that she spent much of her life as a recluse, dying in a rather ordinary hospital room which she had lived for 20 years despite being a multi-millionaire and owning several beautiful mansions.  Her properties were kept in order by paid staff even though none of them had ever met their employer. 

I remember reading about Huguette's death when she died and was curious as to why she chose to live in such seclusion and ordinary-ness when she was wealthy beyond most people's wildest dreams, and could have lived a life of luxury and decadence. I am also interested in reclusive people, as I think I have a tendancy towards it and wonder why some people just cannot cope in society.

The first thing that struck me is how unhealthy it is to raise a child whilst being one of the richest families in America.  The family became obsessed with the idea that people will only be interested in their money, that most people are out to cheat them or manipulate them for financial gain (this was drummed into Huguette from a very young age - do not trust anyone!).  It was also difficult for her to have a normal childhood being over protected and neglected at the same time.  Her parents travelled a lot on business and to attend society functions, leaving the children with servants for months at a time.  They also became obsessed with hygiene after her sister died.  Visitors became few because of the fear of infection and the house needed to be constantly cleaned and disinfected (can you imagine keeping those huge mansions sterile?).  Huguette developed a lifelong fear of disease and death, which is why I think she chose to live her last 20 years in a hospital regardless of being relatively healthy.

Along with being unwilling to marry (she did marry but it was short lived) she was  unable to trust friends and family - fearing she would be taken advantage of. In her latter years it is certain she was taken advantage of  as she became more vulnerable and increasingly dependent on just a handful of people to help with her daily needs. How someone can work in the caring profession and take advantage of a vulnerable patient is beyond me.  Who needs money that badly that they would go to the lengths that her nurse did? To accept cheques worth millions of pounds, jewellery, property and cars?  And how much does one person need before they feel they have enough and no longer need to treat someone as a cash point?

This is an historically fascinating book, but also tells us a lot about human nature.  Huguette had a need to be cared for and loved above money and power, to have a healthy trust with the people she shared her life with and be taught a balanced view of risk vs pleasure.  If there is ever a tale that describes how money does not bring us happiness this has to be it.  Yes she lived to nearly 105 but for almost 80 of those years she lived behind closed doors, hyper-vigilant and anxious.  She lived her life through her doll and dolls house collection because the real world was just too scary for her.  It also spoke to me about human greed.  The people that were supposed to care for her were always after more and more...

Huguette was also a talented artist but was never really taken seriously possibly because of the 'rich girl' perception of her.  I wonder if she had been able to make a name for herself in her own right because of her own talent and merit, things would have been different. Her self worth may not have been determined by her net worth.

Painting by Huguette Clark

The book made me feel sad and I wish I had known her, I wish better people were looking out for her.  It also made me realise that I never want to be very rich as much as I never want to be very poor. It reminded me of the things children need most  money cannot buy and that I would rather live a short life to the full than a very long one shut up in a small hospital room.  RIP beautiful Huguette.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Budget Update week 5 (+ slow cooker rice pudding)

Good morning everyone.  Hope you are having a nice weekend.  Weather has been mixed here and definitely getting colder.  It feels more like autumn now.  I've been so busy last few days I didn't have time to post.  DH took the day off on Friday and we did some jobs around the house.  We also went shopping together which is quite a rare event for us as one of us is usually looking after our son.  We had both M&S and Sainsburys vouchers burning a hole in our wallets so we decided to a weeks shopping using these, plus some nectar points, plus a till spit which meant our shopping bill for the week only came to £22. 

We took the kids to York for the day yesterday, DS and DH went to the National Railway Museum (free) whilst DD and myself met up with my sister.  We went to a closing down sale which was selling off designer clothes for next to nothing (literally cheaper than Primark).  The quality was akin to White Stuff or Fat Face so I bought a few bits for me and DD for next spring (2 waistcoats, 2 dresses came to £20). 


Groceries       £22.45/£65
Petrol            £15/£15
Misc              £20/£20

Christmas fund £15
Total Christmas fund £55

Rice Pudding in the slow cooker 

I did this last week as I saw some pudding rice and just wanted to give it a go.  My mum always made her own rice pudding, I never remember her opening a tin - everything was always made from scratch.  It was delicious and knocked spots off anything you could buy in the shops.  Not healthy but definitely comfort food as the weather turns cold. (Apologies for lack of pictures, I did take some but they seem to have disappeared, I wonder if I deleted them by mistake!)

150 g pudding rice  30p
150 g sugar 12p
1 tin of evaporated milk (like carnation) 65p
2 pints of milk    25p
sprinkle of either cinnamon or nutmeg  5p

cooking time 4 hours 10p

Method chuck it all in and leave it for 4 hours on slow. This does the equivalent to 5 tins of rice pudding - I measured it out and works out at 29p at tin. It freezes well. I know you can buy value rice pud for 15p but this recipe is in a league of its own for taste. 

I served with foraged blackberries.

Apologies for pic quality.

Have a lovely Sunday and I hope you are all well.  Welcome to all followers, I will spend some time this morning looking  at your blogs and finding out what you have been up to. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

My Priorities...

I had written this post a few days ago, but noticed that there were a lot of similar post on other people's blogs so I wasn't going to bother.  But actually I think it might be useful for me to think about what our priorities are and how we spend our money.

I love reading other people's blogs.  I particular enjoy reading different perspectives of money, how people spend it, how they save it, what their future plans are. What they can live without, what they can't, what lengths will people go to in order to save a pound or two.  It is interesting because ultimately we are all different, we may all have the want to save money but none of us are the same.

Many people survive amazingly on a very low income, their priorities are staying nourished, keeping a roof over their heads and staying warm.  It is not a choice, it is the way it has to be. Then there are those on two good wages, making sensible, well planned decisions and choices about how to spend their money.  Yes they are well off, but it is equally fascinating and valuable to see how they stretch their income to create their dreams and future goals.

We are somewhere inbetween.  We have 1 very good wage coming in, plus a small wage of my own.  We have more than enough money for the basics, plus a few luxuries (holidays, a car etc) and still have money left over.  I am very grateful for that, I know how good life is.  But that doesn't mean I am going waste what we have.

Here is a list of what we spend our money on.

Mortgage (obviously) gets top priority.  We are overpaying on this to try and save on interest.
Council tax and water rates
Home insurance
Lfe insurance

Holidays -  We try and go away every year, always to the British coast.  We shop around and get the best deal possible, paid in full.  Spending money is saved. We haven't been abroad for 20 years and none of us are that fussed about it.  We like hiking, coastal walks and exploring.  Me and DD go away together for a weekend once a year.  We get cheap train tickets which are issued 12 weeks in advance  and use laterooms to get a basic hotel room.  School trips are always paid for as I think it is important.

Car - We drive one 10 year old small run around.  We paid £5000 for it 6 years ago with cash.  We will keep running it until it needs scrapping.  It has served us well so far and very cheap to run. We are walkers/cyclists so only use it when absolutely necessary so about £60 pm on petrol, £20 PM insurance, £20 PM tax, £30ish PM service MOT plus maintenanc.  We rarely pay for parking as there is nothing wrong with our legs. 

Clothes - Neither me nor DH are bothered about fancy clothes.  We wear practical clothes and have a small selection of posh things for evenings out.  DH wants cheap stuff for work and the odd nice evening shirt.  They don't get replaced until they are shabby.  I am happy to buy clothes from charity shops or have my sister's handmedowns ;0)  I have a pair of boots for winter, walking boots, and a pair of summer shoes - that's all. The boots get re-cobbled until they cannot be repaired. I spend much more on shoes than I would on clothes as I expect them to last for years.  I buy the kids new clothes and shoes as and when they need them, it is a bit of an unknown quantity but they want for nothing.  Neither of them are fashion victims, thank goodness. 

Going out - This used to be a priority for us when the kids were little.  As they grow we don't feel the need for a break as much as we did. We enjoy our movie nights together with the kids.  We do go out every now and then, mainly on special occasions or to the theatre with friends.  It is not high up on our priorities but we enjoy it when it happens.

Gadgets and subscriptions - We all have cheap second hand laptops that my DH pimps to make them useable.  I have a very old phone which I have had for probably 10 years. This costs me £8 a month on contract.  DH's is free from work and DD had one bought for her birthday (grandparents) and credits it with her own spending money.  We don't have SKY packages or anything like that, it would be a complete waste on us.  We have broadband and telephone (£22).  We do have a Netflix account for £5.99 - definitely good value for us and my personal luxury is an Audible subscription of £7.99. This is cheaper than therapy. DH pays badminton subscription of £5 a month (very cheap and is good exercise and socially valuable).

Gas and Electric - £100 PM We try to be careful with this and do our best to use as little as possible, we are definitely an extra jumper family and we are active.  The heating never goes on during the day as we keep busy, but if it is cold enough it will go on for an hour or two in the evening and an hour in the morning.  We do a lot of cooking via the slow cooker plus our mini oven, we all have showers everyday, tumble dryer is for emergency use only.  We always shop round for the cheapest tariff and use cashback sites when we change suppliers.

Hair - None of us go to the hairdresser.  DH gets a buzz cut and I trim the children's (both long).  I trim and dye my own hair. Henna dye works out at £16ish for the year.

Toiletries - All our toiletries are from discount stores, we do like certain brands but always shop for the best price possible and stock up if it is cheap.  I do like expensive make-up but I use it sparingly and is bought with birthday and Christmas money. 

Food - Last year after keeping every receipt and a running total over 12 months it averaged out at £76 PW.  This includes toiletries and anything to clean the house.  I know this isn't particularly frugal, but I don't think it is bad either.  I cook everything from scratch, we eat vegetarian several times a week, we don't eat a lot of rubbish in between meals, we eat a lot of fruit, veg and pulses, we don't waste anything, I plan carefully and shop around (we are lucky enough to have access to most of the supermarkets), I cost everything out as I am preparing it. I also do surveys which pay me in Sainsbury's vouchers as well as M&S vouchers we get from our credit card (paid of in full every month).

House maintenance - We have a nice house, we keep it clean and tidy, but we don't keep changing furniture or buying new stuff.  Most of the furniture we have has been given to us over the years or bought cheaply and refurbished.  Our bed is new (we bought a very expensive bed as we expect it to last a lifetime) and our sofas were new (again we didn't skimp because we expect them to last for 20+ years, they are 8 years old and still look like new). Good quality paint is a must as it looks better for longer (cheap paint is a false economy).

We have a some savings for an emergency fund but have never needed it yet.

I think that is it?  There are many areas we could cut back, but at the moment I don't think we need to.  I think we have a good balance on being careful, making the most of what we have and enjoying life. I know we are lucky to have these choices. 

(P.S. SAM - I am going to do a rice pudding recipe tomorrow.  I have already done the pics but have lost my camera)