Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Roadkill fox and pet mince.

Well Dave's parents have departed, so its back to normal this week.

Today I thought that  I would tell you a bit more about how we feed the four hounds without breaking the bank.
Not like this:
A couple of years ago Dave found a roadkill fox whilst out walking the dogs.
He decided to put it in a carrier bag which he had with him for dog poo-no dog poo in it though.Well, it's what anyone would do isn't it?
He told me that he felt quite conspicuous walking home as however he arranged it the brush kept sticking out. It was quite a large fox.

On getting it home-I must stress that I WAS AT WORK AND KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THIS-he cut off the head and tail, skinned and gutted it, and boiled it up......in my best saucepan.
With Bisto. I kid you not.

I don't think he's right in the head.
Unfortunately he hadn't been drinking when this was taken.

Anyway, he cooked it up with a view to getting a couple of dog dinners out of it but for whatever reason the dogs wouldn't have anything to do with it. Now this is unheard of as our dogs will eat virtually anything, and have never been known to refuse any type of meat.  Perhaps it's because it was one of their own kind.
Dave tells me that he resorted to putting pieces of fox meat in their mouths but they just dropped it and walked away.

Of course Dave had to try it.
He reports that it didn't taste of chicken, but was the colour of chicken thigh meat. He describes the flavour as 'flowery'. In the dim distant past, he has also tried a rook. I can't remember what the occasion was now.

He has also tried eating the crispy bits on one of those large 'roasted' knuckle bones for dogs that you get from Wilkinson's. I had made fish pie the same day, which isn't one of his favourites.
Unsurprisingly he felt sick the next day and cited the smoked haddock as the culprit, claiming that he could never bear to eat fish pie again. He only admitted several months later that it was probably the dog bone.

So now the basis of their diet is 'pet mince' which we buy from a good local butcher-W Roch James in Haverfordwest. It comes in 1lb bags which cost around 55p each. They butcher whole carcasses there so I'm guessing that it consists of all the inedible, gibletty bits. Whatever it is it certainly looks good quality. No doubt Dave's had a bag or two on the sly-I daren't ask.

3-4 bags of mince are boiled up with pearl barley and whatever veg we have to hand-usually carrots and cabbage, maybe swede or sprouts if I'm feeling exotic. I usually put a couple of cloves of garlic in with it too and simmer until the barley's cooked-around 40 minutes.
Should've done this for Dave's parents...
Once cooked and cooled any excess fat is taken off the top. The fat is saved and mixed with bird seed to make fat balls for the birds.
The 'stew' is served, mixed with oats, old bread or mixer. We feed them twice a day and one bowl of stew lasts around 3 days.

We never throw away a chicken carcass without boiling it up for the dogs first. We had roast chicken on Sunday so today the carcass was covered in water and simmered for around 30 minutes.

Once cool the meat was taken off the bones and added back to the stock. This will make another 1 or 2 dog dinners.
We occasionally give them tinned food, but find it poor value, especially if you look at the % of meat listed in the ingredients, but if we do, we give them Butchers Tripe as that seems to be better value than most of the others.

Sometimes they have a small amount of liver, but we have to be careful how much they have as it is prone to giving them the runs. It also gives them wind and the house ends up smelling like a drain. Dave tends to join in which doesn't help.
They also like fish (to be honest the only thing I've found that they don't like is HP Sauce, gherkins and fox ) and so sometimes they have Glenryck tinned pilchards with tomato sauce
Their meals are always rounded off with a small amount of diluted full fat milk.

Lucifer our 11 year old  lurcher relaxing after her tea.
So that's what they have and considering that there's four of them, they really don't cost much to feed. We estimate around £1 per day maximum, for all four. They also have hide chews and occasionally lamb or beef bones. And I may be guilty of giving them the odd custard cream....

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Yorkshire puds and wet washing.

Dinner today was roast chicken, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweetcorn, roast parsnips, roast Jerusalem artichokes, gravy and Yorkshire Pudding.
Now for some reason I make terrible Yorkshire Puddings. I know the fundamentals like getting the fat really hot, and not opening the oven door and have tried various recipes, with similar results.
Mine are leaden at best and sometimes, especially when I do one large one, you might not guess what its meant to be. It ends up looking like a flat, pale, doughy, greasy, sponge and is impossible to remove from the tin.

Dave claims to like it and says that it's very 'substantial', but I think he's just trying to put on a brave face.

So with this in mind, coupled with the fact that we have visitors staying, I thought that I would spare everyones blushes, swallow my principles and buy some ready made YP's. 
I got them from Aldi and I think that they were on offer at 49p, but are normally 59p. They're very small, but really tasty and not too dry or brittle. Definitely recommended for those of us lacking in the Yorkshire Pudding department and reasonably priced, although obviously not as cheap as homemade.

This washing has been on the line since Friday morning.
I strive for the whitest whites in the village
As you can see its all looking a bit bedraggled, and its also sopping wet. We've had nothing but heavy winds and rain since it went out.
I believe that once washing has been hung out its not coming back in unless it is more dry than it was when it was hung out. Otherwise the whole tedious business has been a complete waste of time. So it can look as forlorn and windswept as it likes, but its not coming in yet. In fact I'm quite surprised that it's still there to be honest. 

I've heard that some people rewash their washing if it has been rained on.
I cannot understand this. It seems like a totally totally irrational thing to do, unless you live somewhere riddled with industrial levels of air pollution. More importantly, it doesn't make financial sense.
But then some people, especially some women I've come across, are inordinately proud of their 'whites'...and prone to 'showing off' with laundry.
You must have come across them, who knows, perhaps you are one.
You can smell the Lenor on them from ten feet, they wash everything after just one use/wear, they frequently do 'boil washes', they run the machine with only a few items in it, and when you walk past their house the air is filled with the scent of the latest washing powder, 'Madagascan Henbane and Wild Ermine Pup' or suchlike. Often they're slightly deaf due to being subjected to long periods of 'spin cycle'.

My theory is that by hanging out washing it has been made public for all to see and pass judgement on, and so grubby looking washing, or washing that has been on the line for a few days reflects badly on whoever is responsible, a bit like dingy nets or arson. Hence the fiercely competitive approach to laundry adopted by some.

Call me slatternly but as long as its fairly clean and smells better than before it was washed I'm not too bothered about what it looks like, whether its been rained on, or whether its been on the line so long I've outgrown it.........

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Airbeds, puncture repair 'Outfits' and dogs with static.

Just a quick one today as Dave's parents have landed.
An update on the sealant and plasters airbed puncture remedy. It doesn't work. Bet that came as a surprise to you...
Now years ago I would just have driven into the nearest town (35 miles round trip), and gone to somewhere like Argos, and bought another one. Obviously I wanted to avoid that expense so yesterday I went to the tiny local shop in the next village, in the hope of finding a puncture repair kit (or 'Outfit' as it says on the tin).
I was pleased to say that they had one, and it cost just £1.35. This shop always come up trumps, and unlike a lot of small local shops, always charge a fair price.
So Dave was duly dispatched to repair the hole and a very good job he has done. I was a bit sceptical as with us two and the four dogs, the total weight that it would have to bear is around 30 stone, but it has held up.
The dogs never sleep well on the airbed (neither do we though).
I think that they are a bit perturbed by the wobbly feel of it, and the 'flock' wallpaper effect covering seems to make their fur develop a lot of static, which in turn makes them a little skittish.
Stronger than it looks. Still bloody uncomfortable though!
We could try leaving them downstairs to sleep in the kitchen, but then no-one would get any sleep as they would howl all night. Believe me, we've tried it....

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Four Dogs in a Bed.

Here is a picture of tonight's dinner. It consists of sausages(Lidl), bacon(Iceland), eggs(Lidl), beans(Tesco), along with  fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast.
Dave likes a tray, so that's his on the right.

It strikes me that a fry up is a meal that feels like a treat, but is actually fairly economical. Occasionally we have it for Sunday lunch instead of a roast and you can further embellish it with stuff like black pudding or oatcakes (the soft sort), to make it more memorable. Neither of us eat breakfast, so if we didn't have that sort of thing for dinner we'd never have it at all.

We seem to be having a fry up every week at the moment and its because of Channel 4's Four in a Bed.
If you don't  know it, its a show that gives B & B owners the opportunity to stay at and rate, each others establishments. It charts their stay including the breakfast, which is usually cooked.
Although having said that, one of this weeks contestants, Danny 'Lambo'opted to serve fruit and croissants and other cold offerings as he said he often had models stay and apparently they didn't like a fry up...

So each evening we watch it and unsurprisingly, by about Wednesday one us will mention that we fancy a fry up for dinner. Quelle surprise.

I've considered doing B & B, but we only have one bed, and the dogs like to sleep in it, which might put some guests off. Also we are a bit anti-social, and tend to go to bed before 9pm and get up before 5am. And then there's the toilet flushing regime...

Talking of overnight guests, today we've been in a flurry of activity in preparation for the arrival of Dave's parents tomorrow.
I wish we could be 'take us as you find us' types, but we just can't. The windows have been done, bathrooms scrubbed, skirting cleaned, mirrors polished and the dogs have all been groomed and had their teeth cleaned.

One blot on the landscape is that the airbed has developed a slow puncture, which Dave has tried to remedy with bathroom sealant and plasters.
I think it'll be fine as long as we don't lie on it...
I'll let you know if it works.... 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Noodle Madness and tinned tuna tantrums.

For some reason when I was shopping last week, I decided to buy 4 packs of Tesco Value Chicken flavoured noodles. Now I haven't bought instant noodles for years and this is quite out of character. In fact I'm not keen on any type of noodles. To me they have a smell reminiscent of wet washing that's been stored in a shed for a couple of days with a muddy Labrador.

I think that the price of 11p a pack may have triggered my purchase (although Value pasta works out cheaper). Perhaps subconsciously I wanted to investigate cheap noodles as they may turn out to be a valuable and economical addition to our diet now that I'm not earning...You hear about students surviving on noodles for years don't you?
Dave says they taste about as chickeny as a clean pair of his pants, and less chickeny than a dirty pair.
Once rehydrated, the thing that struck me about them was how insubstantial yet calorific they are. The 65g pack yields only about 2-3 tablespoons of noodles-fair enough for 11p, but they contain a whopping 260 calories.  That's a lot of calories for not a lot of food.
But then I realised that its a similar calorific value as most pasta type products, although the noodles are higher in fat. It just seemed insubstantial as it was portion controlled at 65g.
The recommended pasta portion size is similar-I think its around 75g. No doubt if I cooked up 75g of pasta it would look equally pathetic.
Dave and I normally share a 500g bag between us.....

I heard someone say on the radio yesterday that in order to measure how much dried spaghetti you need for a meal you should have an amount that is the same thickness as your thumb. I have particularly puny, stunted hands so for me, that would be about 13 strands-hardly worth the bother.

Anyway, I think that its fundamentally wrong to have the size of your dinner dictated by how big your thumbs are.

My crap tin opener
I've just had a tinned tuna sandwich for my lunch and found the whole business quite trying.
Last time we needed a tin opener I decided to invest in a 'good' one as I've only ever had ones that are temperamental at best. So we got this Kuhn Rikon one. Its Swiss and according to the packaging 'Bloody Marvellous'. It cost about £8.   
I can't get it to work. Dave can, and is prone to showing off with it, but he's in bed sleeping off a night shift and probably wouldn't appreciate being woken up to open a can of tuna.

Perhaps it's due to my underdeveloped thumbs....

When I finally managed to get the lid off, I had a right job trying to drain the brine off without getting it all over my hands. I also managed to drop half of the tuna down the sink...still put it in my sandwich though.
Finally, whilst eating the sandwich I felt something wet running down my arm. Tuna juice. I knew I hadn't drained it properly as the bread had an unusual 'squelchy' quality. The tuna juice had run down to my elbows and my cardigan sleeves now smell of fish.
That 'no-drain' tuna seems really pricey compared to normal stuff (which also seems really pricey to me), but perhaps it's worth it, just to avoid fishy sleeves?

Thought I would update you on the Strawberry wine kit that cost under £2.
As you can see it has cleared really well, despite my reservations about the seeds. I haven't tasted yet but it will probably need 'racking off' before I do as it has a lot of sludge in the bottom. Even I prefer my drink sludgeless. I've come a long way since my Swede wine days...
It certainly looks the part. Perhaps on tasting it will become apparent why it was so cheap.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Fru-tilities, flushings and flasks.

Today I thought that I would let you know about some of my water and electricity money saving efforts.

Firstly, water. We are on a water meter....which has made a big difference to how we use it.
For instance there's that problem with what to do with the cold water that comes through while you're waiting for the water to get hot.
Well, in the winter we fill the kettle with the cold water, and if it's still cold, fill up something else, like a jug. This then gets used later to fill the kettle.
In the summer I have a large bucket by the sink and the cold water goes into that and I use it for watering the garden.
We rarely have baths. I seem to be the only woman who hates a bath. If media portrayals are to be believed most women seem to love languishing in the bath for hours, reading, sipping wine, eating chocolate, lighting candles and generally looking like they've had their drink spiked.
There's been a big rise in 'pampering' type activities in the last few years. I don't think we had 'pampering' in the Seventies, although there was that family employed by Imperial Leather, who all took a big, foamy, bath together while on board a luxury spaceship or something.
Anyway,  I hate baths and always have done. Once I'm in I can't wait to get out and they leave me cold, wet and strangely itchy.
Can I get out now?
 The only time that our bath is used is when it's time for the dogs to be bathed. Having said this Dave has recently been running a pilot to trial a new way of dog washing. This involves both he and a dog (one dog at a time), getting in the shower instead. He says that it's easier on his back that way and the dog has less opportunity to escape and run amok. Not sure about the scratches on the shower tray or the legality of being found naked in the shower with a greyhound though...

But what I think is the very best way to save water is to stop flushing the toilet after just a wee. In this house, several wee's are done before we flush. I think that it's so wasteful to do a wee of a few hundred millilitres and then use around 9 litres of clean water to get rid of it.
Build up gently if you find the idea distasteful. Perhaps just flush after every other wee...?
You will know when the toilet needs flushing. In our case the dogs start to show an unhealthy desire to get into the bathroom, and when they do, they stare into the bowl, as if expecting something to leap out at them. It's quite unnerving actually. 

If you don't like the yellow hue, those toilet block things make the water stay green or blue longer. I will be popping one of those in the cistern when Daves' parents arrive this weekend, just to be polite.
Where the magic happens.

One step too far with water saving is to reuse your hot water bottle water for making a drink. Don't. In retrospect I should have known that it wouldn't taste very nice, and that's a perfectly good teabag wasted.

Currently our water bill is about £240 a year so there is definitely room for improvement, but I'm working on that.

Regarding electricity, my habits have changed a lot over the years, due to the price increases. I love fairy lights, and used to have loads on in the house in the '90's. Now I turn them off when a room isn't occupied, which is more sensible and far less of a fire hazard, but not as pretty.
Also everything that possibly can be turned off at the wall, is, and as I've mentioned previously, I don't like turning the oven on unless it is full.

One thing that has made a big difference to the electricity bill is the 'Two Flask Method'.
The kettle is usually full (due to saving the cold water whilst waiting for it to get hot ), so when it's boiled the excess boiling water is poured into the flasks for later use. I know that it is recommended that you only boil what you need, but we never seemed to be able to perfect that skill and this alternative works well for us.
Obviously, they are from charity shops. I think they've seen a fair bit of rambling action.
We have been paying £40 a month for electricity and sometimes used over that amount, and so been in 'debit'. When the most recent statement came a couple of weeks ago we were £27 in credit. I think that this is partly due to the Two Flask System, even taking into account that it was the  bill for the summer period, so we didn't have the lights on as much..
However, despite being in credit they still saw fit to increase the monthly payment to £42!

We don't have mains gas so other than the water and electricity the only other utility is oil. As the tank has just been filled up we won't have to think about that for a while... 

Just wanted to say that despite my zeal for saving money, I just cannot get on with energy saving light bulbs. I find the light they give off is dingy, gloomy and depressing.  Unless anyone can recommend a good one I shall steer clear of those for as long as possible....hang the expense!


Monday, 21 November 2011

Faffing for England (or Wales).

Today, I have been wrapping Christmas presents. I enjoy Christmas a lot, but find the task of wrapping presents strangely irritating. I will quite happily faff around making fiddly things like Scotch Eggs, chocolate Brazil's or vol au vents, but when it involves paper, scissors and sticky tape, the mist descends. I get in a bit of a mess and rush to finish the job quickly. The end results look like they've been kicked round the house.

Most of the presents are for members of Daves' family. His parents are coming to stay this weekend and they bring our Christmas presents from Dave's family with them. When they leave they take our presents to them, back to the Midlands. So they need to be wrapped and labelled and ready to go.
And of course I have ran out of paper...so the job isn't finished yet.
If the present is in the bag you don't have to wrap it, right?

As you can see I have used a lot of 'gift bags', saved from last year of course. I think some of them may be enjoying their third or fourth year of Christmas service, but unless they are really tatty I wouldn't dream of throwing them away. And if anyone is shallow enough to be offended by a used gift bag, they need to get a grip.

Whenever we give presents they tend to be:
1.Something that you can eat.
2.Something that you can drink.
3.Something you can spend ie.a voucher.

Unless someone makes a particular request for something other than the above we don't tend to deviate from that rule. Except where children are concerned, as I believe that alcohol is bad for them. I think that if you can eat it, drink it or spend it, it is less likely to be a 'token' gift-one that doesn't really serve any purpose and is just a waste of money.

Years ago I always used to buy presents as I stupidly believed that vouchers may show a lack of thought and therefore offend. As Christmas drew closer and I became increasingly panicked I have been known to resort to those overpriced department store gift packs containing personalised golf tees, radios that you can listen to in the shower, mugs that change colour, Teas of the World sets or singing socks and suchlike. Just so that I could get that present marked as 'bought' and out of the way.

I don't seem to have achieved much today, and seem to have spent the day 'butterflying' from task to task, without actually doing anything properly. I'm normally very focused and get jobs done, sorted, and out of the way-Bish-Bash-Bosh style. But not today.
I'm being plagued with 'technical' problems, even with the Blog, which is slowing me down a lot. The irritating thing is that I suspect that these 'issues' could be easily remedied by your average teenager...

The pantry needs a good clear out. As you can see its a mess and I don't really know what's in it anymore. My stock rotation system has gone out of the window and I can't claim that I haven't the time to tidy it.
I will crack on with it soon and post a picture once it's all nicely regimented.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Porkage Pie in the Remoska, cheese and an oddly dressed person in the woods.

Today I was planning to make Cottage Pie for dinner. Dave was tasked with the job of getting the mince out of the freezer yesterday. When I came to make it today I found that he had got pork mince rather than beef mince out, so Porkage Pie it is.

Unsurprisingly I think that it is wildly extravagant to turn on the oven for one dish and so this is when my Remoska comes in handy.
I don't like to boast but I am the proud owner of three. I bought the big one new, but the medium and small ones are charity shop finds that cost about £1 each.
The Three Remoskas
If you haven't heard of them they are basically a self contained mini oven and the heat comes from the lid. You cannot adjust the fiercely hot temperature, so it's no good for things that need slow cooking, but perfect for stuff like this and things like bread, roasting chickens, lasagna, fish fingers etc.
Here's the finished pie. One thing with the Remoska is that they seem to get hotter than my oven so the food really is molten when it's done. Experience has taught me that this needs to sit for for 5-10 minutes before we try and approach it.

The listing period for the item that I am trying to sell on EBay is almost up, and nothing has happened. No bids or anything. I don't even know whether anyone has looked at it. I'm not hopeful of a last minute rush of bidders and I must admit that I am bit cheesed off.
I might have to rethink my plan to make money by online selling.

Talking of cheese, we had a spot of cheese related excitement yesterday. We went to a nearby town in search of cheese as we had ran out and had a look in a small supermarket that we don't normally go in. Anyway, what should we find but our favourite cheese Colliers at the very attractive price of 99p for 250g.

It's not a cheap cheese, but some things are worth paying extra for. It's really strong, or as our Australian friends say, 'bitey'.
Tesco's currently sell it at about £3.50 for 400g. We bought 6 packs, and there were plenty left. As you can see it was originally £1.99, but I think that it was reduced as the expiry date is November. Needless to say we don't take much notice of 'use by' dates and suchlike in our house.

Finally, I thought that I'd mention that Dave has just returned from walking the dogs and tells me that he has just seen a chap we vaguely know, in the woods. Nothing odd with that you think. Well there isn't except that Dave insists that this person was wearing slip-on shoes, a pair of tights and a blazer. 
That's it. 
Nothing else.

Friday, 18 November 2011

'I am a cider drinker, I drinks it all of the day'

You've got to love The Wurzels haven't you? No? That's just me then....

Today, in true Wurzel fashion we have been making cider for Christmas. We tend to use our various home brews as Christmas presents, whether they like it or not. This year we are obviously trying to keep Christmas costs to a minimum, so are giving away a lot of booze. In order to keep our stock levels up, another cider making session was required.

Occasionally, for instance if someone gives us windfalls, we make cider from apples. Usually though we use apple juice. A few weeks ago apple juice was half price in Lidl, so we stocked up.
I think that it was something like 56p for 1.5 litres.
So 19 litres of juice and 3 litres of hot water are mixed with 1.6kg of sugar and a sachet of Champagne yeast.
It is left to ferment in a warm place for about a week.
As our house is quite cold a 'reptile heater'-a wand-like device for keeping our cold-blooded friends happy-is dropped into the brew.
After about a week it is bottled. We use old 1 litre tonic, or any other fizzy drink bottles.
You need to have a secondary fermentation and in order for that to take place, as you bottle the cider you also need to add a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. The secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and this is what gives the cider it's 'fizz' and strength.
The bottles are left in a warmish place (in our case its on top of the boiler), for another week or so, until the bottles feel 'tight' when squeezed.

It is then ready to drink, and I think perfectly drinkable, but I must admit that it's nicer if left for a couple of weeks. Waiting also diminishes its' laxative effects, but if you're a bit bunged up, go for it.

Dave reckons that the strength is about 9%. I just know that it is very strong indeed.

Daves' just poured himself a glass and is settling down to watch his Jethro-The Cornish Ambassador video again, accompanied by a Scotch Egg. Now that's a cheap and sophisticated Friday night in.

What's not to like?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Scotch Egg anyone?

I am a bit of a Div when it comes to technology. In fact I am rubbish at it. Rather recklessly, I thought that as I am on the computer a lot at the moment it would be nice to be 'wireless'. With help from the people on  MSE Forums  I have been able to:

1-Ascertain that my laptop 'does' wireless.
2-Get a new wireless router from my ISP.

The router arrived today and it was all going really well until I tried to connect to the wireless network or some such. Computer says 'No'.
It is so frustrating trying to do something when you haven't a clue what you are doing. We didn't get taught computers, or 'IT' in my day. You may find it hard to believe, but I am entirely self-taught.

So my  visions of me typing away on the sofa in front of the fire this evening have come to nothing and I'm sat by the phone connection in the unheated dining room.

Talking of education I was in my local supermarket this morning along with several groups of school children.
I was amazed at the amount of food and drink that they were buying. Expensive stuff too. Posh energy drinks (personally if something is blue, I don't swallow it), massive bags of crisps, hot chickens, hot pies and sausage rolls, packets of biscuits and, rather oddly I thought, several packets of Scotch Eggs. And each kid had handfuls of stuff. I also noticed that they much preferred to use the Self Service checkouts. Not sure why, perhaps it's trendy.

Firstly, how much must this cost and how do the parents afford it? Secondly, why weren't they at lessons? and thirdly, are they really that hungry?

One of these and you won't be wanting any hot chicken
Anyway, I was struck by how uninspiring the manufactured  Scotch Eggs looked, so when I got home I cooked up a batch. I coated them with oats as I couldn't be bothered to make breadcrumbs, but I think they look quite splendid. They are huge and heavy and taste like an eggy faggot, (faggots are one of my favourite foods so anything a bit faggotty is fine by me).

Maybe I should look into setting up a Scotch Egg stall near the supermarket. Who knows, perhaps I could  relieve the kiddies of a few of those tenners they seem to have so many of....?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cheap and Proud.

I have always been careful with money, even when I was earning. As a result I have tried many cheap products, some good, some bad. 
I thought that today I would mention two products that are cheap-possibly the cheapest of their type-and good. 

The first is the iconic Tesco Value Toothbrush:
These retail in my local at 10p for two. What else could you buy two of for 10p?
Even if you can come up with something,  I bet it won't clean your teeth.
The bristles even stand up to Dave, who will regularly spend over 5 minutes in a frenzy of tooth brushing and spitting.
They last well, although we normally change brushes after 4-6 weeks (the old brushes then get used for the dogs teeth...).  I think that the design has a functional, Soviet era quality.

My second brilliant cheap product is this:
Simply Colour hair dye, made by Mellor & Russell and sold by Wilkinson's.....for £1.

Now I have an unnatural, some have said, Sasquatch-like amount of hair. It's grey and grows faster than Japanese Knotweed. As I do not yet feel ready to embrace my inner 'Humpty Frumpty', I need to dye my hair every 3 weeks.
Needless to say, due to the cost (and the fact that I hate going to the hairdressers) I have never had my hair dyed professionally and have always done it myself.
I have spent years wasting £5+ a box on dyes that did no better a job than this one. I will admit that the gloves with the pricier dye were more 'Casualty' and the cheap dye has no conditioner, but I can live with that. This dye covers the grey, despite the fact that I water it down a bit to make it go further.
Other than dipping your head into a slurry pit I can't think of a cheaper way to hide those greys.

In fact I used it this morning and here I am, grey-less, sharing a beanbag with my elderly whippet, Frank.
I have to admit I envy his shiny, golden locks..
Don't worry, the dye hasn't made my hair (or face) go like that. I always look like Slash until I've straightened it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Lady Luck-have I done something to offend you?

I have been doing a lot of online competitions recently. The aim being to win a bit of money, or items that I can sell, or things that we can eat, thereby avoiding the need to work for someone else. So far I have won 2 egg cups....

Over the last two weeks  I must  have done over 50 a day.  I enjoy doing them, but it would be nice to win something worth more than £2.50. Even if I managed to sell the egg cups (don't talk to me about EBay...), the profit would only just about cover the price of 4 litres of milk, 5kg of potatos' or electricity for a day. I won't dwell on it as it is all a bit depressing.

On a lighter note, here is a picture of Daves' dinner.
It consists of leftover lasagna, leftover pasta twirls with tuna and olives, leftover leeks and leftover sweetcorn.

This is what happens when you put it a a bowl, microwave it and eat it...

You start to look like Michael Winner, or Kirky from Coronation Street. Not good.

This morning Dave came home from work accompanied by a roadkill rabbit that he found on the drive home. I took a picture, and tried to get its 'best' side, but it is still a little gory, so I will leave that one out. Dave has always had a penchant for picking up roadkill. I'm not keen at all, but the dogs enjoy a bit of rabbit from time to time. But it's free, free range and organic-ish.
I believe that it has been paunched, skinned and cleaned and is currently sleeping in the freezer.
Dave keeps moaning about not being able to get the smell of rabbit off his hands... 


Monday, 14 November 2011

I'm just jogging. I won't hurt you.

A quick update on the work situation. I didn't go in. When I handed in my resignation a comment was made that has been bothering me ever since. I decided to e mail management regarding my concerns rather than waste petrol and time driving in, 'discussing' it, then leaving and driving straight back home (I wouldn't have been staying). This I duly did this morning, and I am now unemployed since last Friday.

So that's that-onwards and upwards.

As an indication of my dedication to the cause of achieving supreme fitness, I thought that I would show you a picture of me this morning, resplendent in my running regalia. And looking like a right plonker.
No, the dog isn't stuffed....
Yes, I really do go out looking like this, but usually before 7am, so not many poor souls are around to witness it. Once again, I wasn't arrested and did another whole mile. Some days it takes me longer to get into my kit, than the actual run itself...

This is a picture of some mushrooms that have been lying around in the fridge for about 3 weeks.

I know of people who would view them as a health hazard. They went a bit slimy several days ago, so I put some kitchen roll underneath them. They have developed dark, slightly sticky patches and the stalks had become a bit wizened. But they smelt okay, so today they were sauteed in butter with garlic and made into a very tasty omelet. I think that the flavour was better and more pronounced due to the "ageing" process.
If anyone has any manky old mushrooms that they are about to bin, please think again. They taste better than they look.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

How hard can it be?

I have spent the last 4 hours trying to list an item on EBay. This is my first ever attempt, and may reap me £3 in profit, if I am very lucky. I thought that it was meant to be fairly easy. Okay, so I spent half the time  trying to upload free photos from JPeg and Photobucket, but even so, I am not finding EBay the easiest tool with which to make money. If anyone out there has any tips, or can point me inthe direction of an 'Ebay for Idiots' type guide, please go ahead.

Tomorrow I am back at work, which I am not looking forward to.

Thought that I would post this picture of the view from my house. I have lived with much worse views in my time, and at this moment, I am grateful for its timelessness and tranquility.
and a picture of two freebies that I got via Martin Lewis's Money Saving Expert Forum.  After a day slogging on EBay, what can be better than free booze.......?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Just the $4.3 million then...

Whilst browsing the Daily Mail online (I know-it's not big and it's not clever, but at least I haven't spent money on it), I came across a news item about a crap photograph of a river, some sky and some grass, selling for $4.3 million. I did post a link to the feature, but then read that it's illegal to do that, so here's some info on Wikipedia - Its the 3rd picture down on the right.
I find this an amazing story. I cannot fathom why anyone would pay more than the price of a packet of Custard Creams (economy range) for it, let alone 4.3 Big Ones. Is the buyer sure that they can sell it on when they get bored with it  (I'd guess at about 5 minutes after they get it out of the carrier bag)?  I think they have made a big mistake and I hope that they have a 'cooling off' period during which they can return it. I strongly urge them to keep the receipt.  

If anyone wants to buy this photo the cost is a mere £500.
I thought that I would show you how the sub-£2 kit for Strawberry wine is getting on. Here it is languishing on our boiler, along with a few other ferments, Daves' dog walking hat and several grubby towels. It has calmed down a lot and is now just gently fizzing. One thing that I find quite strange about it is that it is FULL of strawberry seeds-'Fibre Rich booze'-perhaps that's one for the health conscious alcoholics amongst us. I find that the balloons 'air locks' add a definite comedy edge to the demijohns, but perhaps that's just me.

As we are tight (and getting tighter due to my pending unemployment), we don't go out much and spend most evenings watching TV.
Last night Dave and I watched all four episodes of Channel 4's fantastic drama, Top Boy.
It was some of the best (and most depressing) TV that I have seen for years. I spent my first 28 years living in some really grim parts of Coventry, but Top Boy made those areas look like Butlins (well, perhaps not that bad. I had an enforced stay of 5 nights at Butlins in Minehead in 1995-not pretty...).  The acting was brilliant by all concerned and some of the actors were children-how do they get so talented so quickly? Why am I not 'gifted'?
By the way, I knew that the dog was dead meat about 15 minutes in........

As you can probably tell I've reached the bit on 'How to add links' in my 'Blogging for Spanners' book, and so have added a couple. Hope they work.....

Friday, 11 November 2011

Christmas is coming, my arse is getting fat.....

I don't know whether its my age or:

Regularly drinking too much alcohol
Then taking 6 chocolate digestives up to bed with me
And a thick slice of bread with lots of butter and Tate and Lyles' Golden Syrup
Then waking up the next day a bit hungover and starving
And eating stuff like fried egg sandwiches and crisps, at two hour intervals, all day
And not moving much
And getting a bit depressed
And having a drink
And a biscuit
And so it goes on..... 

But strangely I seem to be putting on a bit of weight.....? 

Obviously paying to exercise is out of the question, and I'm not one for group exercising  (I'm a bit antisocial) so I will 'up' my jogging and 'down' my alcohol intake.
I have jogged, very slowly, a few times a week for the last 16 years. In the past I have got up to doing aver 25 miles a week, and then dropped down to nothing for weeks. But it has remained a constant. I am currently jogging about 4 miles a week, but that clearly isn't enough (what a surprise...), so I will aim to increase it. This will be a lot easier in two weeks when my notice period is up, but I can make a start now.
Would make another portion as long as you're not too keen on fish
It doesn't help that this was yesterdays dinner, but we are on 'holiday' and so threw caution to the wind and got some fish and chips from a chip shop renowned for it's massive portions. We bought a small portion of chips (we asked for 'large' but the assistant assured us that 'small' would be fine, and he was right) and two medium fish. This came to £7.80 and once Dave and I had eaten our fill, (we both have very healthy appetites) this was left-almost another portion, in my book.
The last time we had fish and chips it was in July, for my birthday. We went to a different chip shop and had a pot of mushy peas and a pot of curry sauce as well, but that came to over £15, so guess which Chippy we'll go to next time? (If there is a next time, what with me giving up work and that...)
No doubt Dave will polish off the leftovers for lunch today.

Finally, the good folk at EBay have kindly informed me that this weekend it will cost me nothing to list items for sale. Now, I have never done this before, and am quite nervous at the prospect, but I need to make money and so will have a go. I shall let you know how I get on. I mean, how hard can it be? 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Frustrated by Gremlins

Well I wanted to post yesterday but couldn't as whenever I tried to upload some photo's, I got the message "USB Device not recognised" . I am finding this an ongoing problem which has only started since I began this blog. So I spent a lot of time yesterday trawling the Internet for answers and trying various fixes, with varying degrees of success. The computer has been off at the plug all night and this morning I was able to get a couple of photo's uploaded before it started playing up again...

Yesterday I made some "Savoury Pinwheels" using the puff pastry that I got from Lidl last week.

I rolled it out thinly and spread it with pesto and mustard, then sprinkled on some cheese and paprika.
Rolled it up and sliced at 1cm intervals.
And baked at 180 C for about 20 minutes.

They tasted lovely and cost around £1.50 in total. Obviously these types of things are available to buy in the shops but from my experience they don't really taste of much and cost more than £1.50. In the past I have spent a small fortune on "party foods", and the lack of taste seems to be an ongoing issue with a lot of them. I notice that they are creeping into the shops now that the "Christmas Party Season" is almost upon us (do many people hold "Christmas Parties"?). I can only imagine the amount of profit that manufacturers and retailers must make on this type of thing. Perhaps I could branch out into the "Party Nibbles" market?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The mean streets....of Carmarthen.

Today Dave and I decided to venture to our nearest urban settlement, which is Carmarthen. Its a good 30 miles each way, so fairly costly in petrol, but we like to go every few weeks and have a look around. We didn't buy much, mainly because charity shops have got so expensive. I cannot believe that people pay the prices that they mark stuff up at.

Had a dilemma in Wilkinsons as they had several 2 litre containers of milk reduced to 10p as it's "Use By" date was today. We decided against it, as unlike a lot of things milk does tend to "go off" when it says its going to "go off". I think that we would find it all a bit too stressful, what with the carrots and everything....

I used the toilets in Marks and Spencer and was bemused by their new hand dryers which force you to stand there with your fingers pointing down and splayed out like Tommy Cooper. We didn't witness any gangland violence in the Big City (well, medium town), but in Poundland heard a mother remark loudly and emphatically to her friend that her son, who was stood there, "Is soooo f***ing thick". Nice.

I have decided that one of the ways in which I shall try and make money is by selling things on EBay. I have never done this before, although I have bought plenty in the past. I think that I may start with this pair of trainers:-
They look much nicer in real life than in the picture-I shall have to brush up on my photography techniques before trying to sell them. I know that loads of people use Ebay to make money, so I figure that it really cannot be that difficult.
Still ploughing through the cooked carrots. I threw a load out on the lawn this morning, hoping that the birds would eat them. They didn't. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Mouldy curtains and carrots.

Well, I'm a bit cheesed off today as there's been a soft furnishings-related mishap. We have some large, heavy curtains in the front room that we had made to measure several years ago. Last week I noticed that they had black mould growing on the bottom 6 inches or so of the lining, so something needed to be done. We have had them cleaned previously at the dry cleaners, but that cost around £30, so, you've guessed it, we put them in the washing machine......on 30 degrees.  Well they've come up nice and clean, but lost about 6 inches in length!
The sofa is usually in front of them so it's not that obvious, but the French doors that they cover are really draughty, and now that they don't reach the floor the curtains won't be excluding many draughts. I'm toying with the idea of finding some matching/contrasting fabric and sewing it on to make up the length, but then that might just look a bit crap....So, I suppose that the lesson I have learnt here is that not all money saving ideas are good ideas.

The Michael Jackson of the curtain world....
 On a lighter note I thought that I would post a picture of 6kg of cold boiled carrots:-

These are as a result of our carrot wine making activities. I'm not quite sure what we can do with them as we have no freezer room at all. The dogs are having some in their food, but can't have too many as they will get the runs. I may try putting some out for the birds tomorrow-bird poo always looks runny so they will probably be okay. Even though the carrots cost less than £2 I cannot bring myself to just bin them.....

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Lidl, and a lot of root vegetables.

We went into our local town again today in order to take advantage of Lidls' "Weekend Offers". We don't usually go in on a Saturday as we tend to go in on a Friday, and there is the petrol to think of (it's 15 miles each way). This week I was lured in as they had half price beef mince -£1.09 per 500g pack, carrots at 29p per kg and dark chocolate at 29p for 100g. The chocolate is minimum 50% cocoa solids and not bad. So in we went.
WHY DOESN'T LIDL HAVE BASKETS!!!? This drives me mad-we didn't want a trolley, and they only have massive ones anyway, and then you have to faff around for a pound coin. This lack of baskets led to a minor domestic spat in the veg aisle as Dave and I were juggling 6 packs of mince, the chocolate, some milk, 6kg of carrots, a bag of King Edwards, a cabbage, a large box of their version of Weetabix and three packs of frozen puff pastry. It was like the climax of "Crackerjack!". Anyway, I'm sure that they must lose sales from people who want to buy more stuff, but can't carry it.
Dave thinks that it is fine to put the intended purchases in our shopping bags, but I feel distinctly shifty when doing this. It doesn't "feel" right and I expect to be arrested at any point, which spoils my shopping experience and makes me a bit "jumpy". He said that he has not yet reached the point where he feels the need to steal half price mince but I wanted to go and get a trolley. In the end we put the stuff in our bags but at the checkout I felt the need to shake the bags out and show them to the completely disinterested checkout operator.....

If you're wondering what we will do with 6kg of carrots, so am I. The plan is to use them to make wine, but you only use the water that the carrots were boiled in, not the actual carrots. We won't waste them but have no freezer room now that we have bought all that mince.
Dave contemplating the chances of finding another comedy carrot.
Then to Morrisons again where I noticed that all the swedes where 50p, regardless of size. Dave was duly dispatched to find the largest one. I suggested that he whittled it down to about 5 likely contenders, and then take them to the scales situated by the bananas in order to find a winner. Rather churlishly he refused to do this. 

Finally I thought that I would show you a picture of last nights dinner. We are lucky enough to have a multi fuel burner in the living room and when its lit I use it to cook/reheat food whenever practical. Last night it was chicken curry which tasted lovely and also tasted very authentic, largely down to the vast amount of oil I used when making it.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Now thats what I call Value!

This passes for excitement around here. Dave was chopping up carrots for the dogs' "stew" ( a mix of dog mince from the butcher, vegetables and barley), when he happened upon this comedy gem....
The carrots were about 76p for 2kg, and I know it's not Christ or anything, (more Stephen Fry I think), but we found it funny.  Stephen was spared the pot. I wonder whether people would pay to see Carrot Stephen?

Today we went to a "charity warehouse", where items are offered-not for sale, but for a donation. We go regularly and have got (and given) some good stuff. Today I picked up a very small and old looking glass bottle and stopper. I thought that I might use it for salad dressing. I also got a very old looking  "cosy". I'm not sure whats it is meant to "cosy" as it doesn't have any holes for handle and spout so it can't be for a teapot. What caught my eye was the design of a chick in a cart whipping a chick pulling the cart, with a chick bringing up the rear. I think that must be fairly unique and wonder what kind of mind thought that one up.
Then we went to Morrisons and Dave found a "Strawberry Wine" kit in the bit where they sell dented cans and suchlike (needless to say we always look there). It was reduced from £7.99 to £1.98, and being very keen homebrewers and homedrinkers, we snapped it up. Dave is busy getting it going as I speak. I shall post some photos of it tomorrow.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Strange days indeed...

Bit of an odd one today, went into work, and sensed a definite "change" in the way some colleagues were with me. I get the feeling that  I am viewed by some as a bit of a pariah-not really sure why. Perhaps its because I have handed in my notice and stated my reason as simply being unhappy in the job. I suppose those who are remaining in the job are showing their support for the organisation by being slightly "cool" towards me. I've probably been guilty of it myself. Never mind, I'm off this week and then just 8 more shifts left.

On the subject of saving money, Dave decided to trim our Bedlington terrier, Monty, today. Anyone familiar with the breed will know that their poodle-like coat needs regular trimming. A lot of people use a professional dog groomer, who will charge at least a tenner. Well not in this house Girlfriend! I enclose a photo of Monty with freshly trimmed Barnet.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Just 9 to go....

Another shift done, just 9 to go now. I am lucky in that Dave and I have a weeks leave next week. When I return it will be for just two weeks (I only work Monday to Thursday). As I mentioned previously, my job is already being advertised (via Jobcentre website), and so far we have had over 40 requests for an application form. One mans' meat is another mans' poison.....and whoever gets the job may leave a vacancy that may appeal to me. Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery. 

In the front room, once it's dark we normally have fairy lights and the standard lamp on. We have decided to economise and just have fairy lights on (plus the TV), unless we are eating. For some reason neither of us likes eating what we cannot see (despite my having cooked it, so there aren't going to be any surprises, except the odd hair. I shed a lot.). So this evening as soon as I had finished my fish and vegetables the light went off. Then Dave decided to have yet more steak and kidney pudding (he has a high boredom threshold), and so the light went on again, but as soon as he had finished, off it went. He went on to have a slice of bread and jam, but bravely decided to eat it without the aid of a standard lamp . We have agreed to eat before it gets dark when we are off work next week.

Again no heating as although it isn't warm it isn't really cold either. So I've got four layers on again, Dave is modelling the Slanket, and the four dogs are each covered in a blanket. I enclose a picture of Dave in his Slanket (with a glass of homebrewed cider, or a "pint of Rough" as we like to call it). Please note the standard lamp is "orf".
I have no idea why his left arm is in the air.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The wheels have been set in motion...pensive is the word

Right, so I have given my letter of resignation to my manager-the wheels have been set in motion and the forthcoming vacancy is being advertised. I got the customary comments like "We'll be sorry to see you go", and "Have you got another job?"-er, no... I'm glad that the decision has been made, but can't help feeling nervous about the future. Have just watched a programme on local TV describing the difficulties that some people are having in finding employment in my area. There is no disputing the fact that my timing is not the greatest.

With regards to money saving I am sat here wearing an elderly vest, a cardigan, a body warmer and a holey fleece on top, rather than turning on the heating. As I have just had my dinner, I'm fairly warm, and as Dave is going to work soon and I'm always in bed early, there isn't really any point in turning on the heating.

My dinner was Tesco Value white fish fillets-the frozen ones, (£1.85 for just over 500g and not bad-I get about 3 single meals out if them), cauliflower, peas and carrots and instant cheese sauce. Dave had his dinner this morning (he works nights). He had left over home made steak and kidney pudding, leftover lentil dhal, leftover sweetcorn bread-are you sensing a theme here? and leftover plum crumble.

The way the cooking works in our house is that I cook a large amount when making dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we eat the leftovers until the following Thursday (or I have my fish and veg). Any that is left gets frozen.

I have taken a photo of the steak and kidney pudding as I am quite proud of it, but now that it is half eaten its a bit sorry looking.
"Full of solid nourishment".