Sunday, 14 July 2013

RIP My Beautiful Mother

I know that it has been a while since I last posted, but things have been difficult of late and time has just ran away with itself.

This post is a tribute to my beautiful mother Catherine Barrow, who sadly passed away yesterday.

It was not unexpected and her last few years of life had been incredibly difficult for her, though she bore her increasing disabilities with great dignity and strength. Despite that my heart is still breaking.

Catherine Barrow 3/5/1935 - 13/07/2013

Love you mam x

Monday, 27 May 2013

A "forbidden" day out.

Family time today!

We took middle daughter and granddaughter for a day out to The Forbidden Corner near Middleham in The Yorkshire Dales.

The website describes this place as "a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises  created within a four acre garden in the heart of Tupgill Park and the Yorkshire Dales." It's quite difficult to explain much more about this attraction, especially as saying too much about it may spoil the experience for those who have yet to visit. Suffice to say that if you haven't been there, it is definitely worth it.

We were last there when my girls were young and having fond memories my daughter couldn't wait to take her own daughter to experience this unique place.

 We had a lovely day and although she found a few of the experiences in her words "a little bit scary" Flic survived the experience to return another day.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Back on Track????

I can't believe that I didn't post for the whole of April! 
Life has been sooo busy. 

Despite saying that I wouldn't take on another full time supply post I was persuaded to take on a four week position with a year 6 class in the run up to their SATs and have now been persuaded to stay on till the end of term.

No sooner had I returned to working full time and my mam was rushed into hospital. She is severely disabled and although I don't want to go into details her stay in hospital ended up being quite distressing for both her and the family so much so that we felt the need to take her home to be cared for. As a consequence my sister who is her main carer and also holds down a full time job has had to take on even more responsibility as she lives in the same street as mam and is the only one living close by. As my brother lives over 200 miles away he cannot help and so although it is a 60 mile round trip I have been trying to get through as often as possible, but it has meant little time for much else.

I've missed blogging though. I enjoy "chatting" to my readers and in turn following their blogs and reading about their to-ings and fro-ings, there's a great sense of "community" that develops here in blogland.

With that in mind I'm determined to get back on the blogging track, and getting back that lovely spirit caring and sharing that exists between bloggers.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Make do and Mend - Recovered Computer Chair.

My poor computer chair!

It gets a lot of wear, and it shows.

It is still perfectly functional and it's certainly comfy enough, after all I do spend an awful lot of time sitting in it. I was therefore unwilling to even contemplate spending cash on a new one, so a little renovation seemed in order.

Way back in my early blogging days I posted  here and here about a huge Indian patchwork throw which I bought as a wall hanging, but was much too big.

Despite having used some of it to make a table runner and some to cover my dining chairs, there was still plenty left so I decided to use it to recover the chair.

First job was deconstruction. The back is held onto the seat by the arms so removal of eight screws et voila - ready to go.

I used my trusty seam ripper to remove the vinyl panel from the back of the top part of the chair then just stretched the fabric over the front and stapled with heavy duty staples to the back. I then restapled the vinyl panel back on to cover the raw edges of the new fabric. (Not sure I'm making sense here, but hey ho!)
I then recovered the seat by placing it upside down on my fabric and stretching and stapling to the underside.

Replacement of the arms secured the two halves together and ... refurbished computer chair.

I have to say I absolutely love how it has turned out.

The bonus is that  the "wall hanging" is finally reduced to the size I originally envisaged, only problem is I bought it for behind our bed and it is so long ago now that we have something else there that we are quite happy with.  Now where can I hang an ethnic Indian wall hanging? Hmmm.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Four Happy Things...

...a very happy blogswap!

I was paired with Ellie from Feltabulous.

The rules were simple, put together a parcel of four happy things.
  • One handmade.
  • One vintage, retro or kitsch.
  • One in a favourite colour.
  • One thing from childhood.
What an amazing partner Ellie was, just look what she sent me!

Four pretty parcels inside of which was ...

A lovely spring like card and...

  • A handmade felt heart, made with wool from Ellie's sister's sheep. It is absolutely gorgeous.
  • For favourite colour another handmade item, a beautiful macrame bracelet using agate, sodalite, fire agate, lapis lazuli, aventurine, quartzite and a polymer clay bead. 
How talented is Ellie?

  • For an item from childhood Ellie sent me Iced Gems and Lindt Bunnies. Whenever I used to visit my Aunt Mary she always used to give me Iced Gems so they definitely brought back childhood memories, and Lindt chocolate is one of my favourites so I was delighted with the bunnies.
  •  The vintage item was the fabulous plate. I literally gave a little squeal when I opened this, I absolutely adore it.
 Oh four very happy things indeed!!

Now to see what I sent Ellie I'm afraid I'll have to send you off to visit her blog post on the swap because as  usual I forgot all about taking any photographs until I had already wrapped everything up ready for the post. 

Linda xxx

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Tips for booking budget holiday accomodation.

Each year once Christmas is over, my thoughts turn to a summer break. There are several reasons for this:
  1. It cheers me up. Planning for summer during one of the gloomiest months of the year reaffirms that winter will come to an end soon.
  2. The best bargains get booked up quickly. Working in education this is doubly important as I can only book during school holidays when prices tend to be at their height.
  3. It gives me plenty of time to budget for the accomodation and travel costs.
  4.  It also gives me time to consider menu planning and to buy any bits and pieces we need gradually week by week.
Now I'm not looking here at booking anything flash or extravagant but we do like to get away for a week each summer, for us this time is important to recharge the batteries so to speak. We tend to only book one week, we do self catering, we don't go abroad.

My first tip is to set a budget and decide who the accommodation is for and when you need it.  This year I set the budget at £300. For this I needed holiday accommodation for 4 (middle daughter and granddaughter are once again coming with us), so a minimum of two bedrooms and somewhere child friendly with a fenced garden area. I need it  for one week during the school summer holidays (so basically either last week in July or in August). 

Secondly decide roughly the area that you want to go - fairly easy for us as we love Scotland, so that narrows it down a bit. This year we decided that we weren't too fussed about where in Scotland and so the choice was largely governed by availability. 

Armed with this basic information search google for "self catering" followed by the name of the area you want to go to.

We prefer our holidays to be somewhere quiet and peaceful so we tend to look for accommodation on farms or in the countryside, but decide what suits your family and look accordingly. For example if you want activities for the children you might consider caravan parks.

When there were only two of us we found this lovely one bedroomed cottage on a pier in the centre of Stromness, Orkney - only £230 for a week in August 2009 (I have checked and this year it's still a reasonable £265)

I did find a real gem on the Isle of Mull, our favourite Scottish isle. A two bedroomed modern caravan with amazing views and only 10 minutes walk from Tobermory. At only £275 for a week in August a real bargain, it went on the shortlist but with the addition of ferry costs around £100, I decided to look for something on the mainland. 

The caravan we booked on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
 Two years ago I posted about a holiday caravan that we booked on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. So that was a possibility but we really wanted to go somewhere we hadn't been before. We have spent a couple of autumn weekends near Stranraer and have always said we would like to explore that area further, so I did a google search for there. 

After a bit of searching I think we turned up trumps with this delightful cottage.

Front of the cottage.

Once you find your ideal accommodation book immediately. Most require a deposit to secure the booking, usually around about £50. The balance is usually due between 4 & 6 weeks before the holiday commences. You will generally not be sent a reminder, so make sure you mark this date on your calendar and pay by then.

Now is generally a good time to consider transport to and from your holiday accommodation. If you need to book ferries make sure they are booked early as popular sailings can and do get fully booked.

Work out a budget - how many weeks till you need to pay the balance? How much will travel cost? It is easiest to put by a little each payday than have to pull out a lump sum all at once.

Likewise, especially if self catering consider adding one or two items a week to your food shopping so that you have a mini stockpile of things you need to take with you.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Easy Peasy Low Fat Banana Loaf.

A friend of mine gave me this recipe for a low fat banana loaf. There is no fat at all in the recipe and I was a little skeptical that it would work, but faced with three of the most manky bananas' in history and a pathological hatred of wasting food, I decided to give it a go.

I needn't have worried - it was yummy.

So much so, it was almost gone before I remembered to take a photograph!


  • 8oz Self raising flour (The original recipe specified wholemeal but I was out of wholemeal at the time)
  • 3oz Brown sugar
  • 3 Mashed ripe bananas' ( I can testify here that even totally black mushy bananas will work well)
  • 2 Beaten eggs
  • 1tsp Baking powder
  • A handful of fruit (optional) I added chopped walnuts and they worked well.
Mix bananas and eggs together. Add flour, sugar and baking powder. Put into a lined 1lb loaf tin and bake at 180 for 40 mins.

Thats it!! 
Easy Peasy!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Hobgoblin Pies

Fear not however the hobgoblin in these pies isn't of the faery  persuasion, but is a reference to the Hobgoblin real ale lurking within their rich gravy.

In winter I like my food to be of the hearty variety and these pies are certainly that. In these cost conscious days it is also important that we all make the most of every scrap of food and stretch expensive meat as far as we can.

By any other name these are steak and ale pies.

Just after Christmas I cooked just over 1/2lb skirt steak with onions, carrots, water, herbs and hobgoblin ale in the slow cooker. ( I used just under 1/2 a can of ale - the rest? - Cooks perk ; D )I made four small individual pies using shortcrust pastry and although there was enough filling for a fifth pie I ran out of pastry so I popped the last portion in the freezer.

Two of the first four pies were eaten as a main evening meal with roast potatoes and mushy peas. The other two were taken to work for lunches.

So that left the final albeit somewhat small portion in the freezer. This was duly defrosted and eked out with a small diced cooked potato (just nuked for 5 minutes in the microwave) and a handful of frozen peas. With the added veggies I was able to divide it between two individual pie dishes. I then decided to top each dish off with a suet crust. I chose a suet crust because it was easy to make just enough for the two pies. I used 2oz of self raising flour and 1oz suet, mixed with just enough water to make a pastry which was divided into two and each piece rolled to just cover the top of the pie dishes.

We had one each of these served with roast potatoes, popped into the oven to cook at the same time as the pies and some stir fried cabbage. 

So from 1/2lb of stewing beef, that's 6 pies or three hearty meals for two.

How do you stretch your ingredients?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Not just a load of old lentils!

I love lentil soup.

Delicious, savoury & warming as well as cheap and easy to make.

You need:
  • A chopped onion
  • A slice of bacon chopped - this is optional, but I had a lone slice of smoked bacon lurking in the fridge, and I do find that smoked bacon adds a certain something to lentil soup.
  • A small carrot diced. My carrot is in matchsticks but that's because I "rescued" it from leftover salad that we had last night!
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of marigold vegetable stock powder. (This is my favourite substitute for real stock, but feel free to use any stock cube)
  • A couple of big handfuls of red lentils rinsed well. (I think there is probably about 8oz lentils)

Fry off the bacon, carrots and onions in a teaspoon or so of oil. Add the lentils, stock powder and two pints water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils have turned to mush - about 20-30 minutes. At this point you can either serve as is or for a smoother soup give it a whiz with a stick blender.

Told you it was easy!

I have on occasion been known to just chuck the lot in the pan together without bothering to do the saute bit first and it still turns out OK. When I am using bacon however I like to brown any fat on the bacon first as I can't abide eating bits of white fat!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snowy day = heartwarming breakfast. Mmm

On days like these...

Food needs to be hearty, warming and above all comforting, so what better way to start the day than with a bowl of steaming hot creamy porridge.

Porridge must be one of the cheapest breakfasts you can make whether you use rolled oats or oatmeal. I had stoneground oatmeal left over from making raspberry cranachan  during the now largely forgotton summer, so that is what I used. I made my porridge with water then topped it off with creamy whole milk and a generous dollop of honey - Yumm

The list of things you can add to porridge is endless, but here are just a few ideas:
  • Mashed up banana, if you're trying to lose weight you may find that you don't need any added sugar with this one!
  • Grated or diced fresh apple, or stewed apple.
  • Blueberries.
  • Strawberries .. in fact any fruit you can think of!!
  • Golden syrup
  • Cream - golden syrup or honey and cream is my all time favourite.
  • Peanut butter
  • Spices especially cinnamon or nutmeg with apple.
  • Hazelnuts, again I like these chopped and added with a little diced apple and cinnamon.
How do you eat yours?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Frugal Roast Dinner

Thank you for the get well soon wishes on my previous post. At last I can say that I feel recovered and ready for the challenge of a New Year.

No resolutions this year, but lots of plans some of which I will be revealing in the weeks to come.

One of my plans is to get a real grip on frugal living this year and I have begun as I mean to go on, serving this delicious but frugal roast dinner on Sunday.


The meat was a piece of belly pork - a very frugal cut. Many people don't like belly pork as  it can be a little fatty, but if you choose carefully you can usually select a piece with thick layers of meat and thinner layers of fat. Long slow cooking will also render out most of the fat leaving just succulent, moist and very tasty meat. I have a rosemary bush growing at the front of my house so made a marinade for the pork of rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt and black pepper, crushing them all together in my mortar and pestle then rubbing the resulting mush into all the cut surfaces of the meat. I then left it for 3 hours before cooking to allow the flavours time to penetrate through the meat. I removed the crackling from the meat about 30 minutes before the end of cooking and put it back in the oven on a tray of it's own just to make sure it was all nice and crispy.

As the oven was on anyway for the meat I also cooked the vegetables in there. The potatoes were placed around the meat for the last 40 minutes of cooking time so roasted in the flavoursome pork fat. The carrot and parsnip "fries" was an idea I gleaned from Pinterest just matchsticks of carrot and parsnip tossed in a little oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 15 - 20 minutes. They used up a few wrinkly carrots and parsnips that were languishing at the bottom of the veg basket.  Peas were microwaved for 2 minutes from frozen.

The yorkshire puddings were homemade, but had been frozen from a previous meal. I find it uneconomical to make less than a full tray of 12 yorkshire puds at a time, but now there are only two of us I freeze the surplus for other meals.
The apple & rosemary sauce was made from a lone wrinkly apple, just peeled, diced and popped in a saucepan with a little apple juice and a bit of chopped rosemary. Simmered for about 5 minutes then removed from the heat and mashed up with a tiny knob of butter.  We only used half of it and the leftover sauce was popped in the freezer for another day.

There was enough pork left over to provide sandwiches for lunches too, so all in all a veritable frugal feast!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Feeling Better - Blogging Hopefully Resumes!

I'd like to say that I've been too busy over the festive period to blog.

Unfortunately that's not true. I say unfortunately because I caught one of those rather nasty bugs that is currently doing the rounds way back on the 14th December and it seems to have taken up residence.

I am gradually beginning to feel better, but it has been one of those winter nasties that really floors you and seems to hang around for an age.

I have managed to soldier on through some of the festivities, but sleepless nights and general malaise have left little energy for much beyond vegetating as much as possible.

I feel as if I have eventually turned a corner though and and recovery is in sight, so I am looking forward to an increase in energy and a fresh start to blogging.
I'll be back!!!

Linda xxx
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