Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone and happy 100th post!

Four year old Small has had fun going out 'trick or treating' for the first time.  He nearly made it last year but chickened out at the last minute.  This year he's had a ball.

Pumpkin Jack O'Lanterns
We put the pumpkin Jack O'Lanterns out at our house, then he got dressed ready to go out.

Mr Skeleton Man
Ready to go trick or treating
The haul
He was very good and very polite, remembering his thank you's.  Which is more than can be said for some of the kids that knocked on our door.  Those that did remember got a very loud, cheerful "You're welcome" from Small, much to some people's amusement.  It makes me a happy mummy though that he's got good manners!

I hope you all had a fun Halloween (or managed to avoid it if it's not your thing!).

Until next time. x

Silent e freebie

We're working on the silent e, also known as bossy e and magic e, at the moment.  I've put together a couple of practice sheets for Small to work on.  Other home educators may find these sheets useful and I've made them available to download.

I hope you find them useful.

Until next time. x

Monday, 28 October 2013

Math games and signs

Evening all.

I sometimes think that as homeschoolers, we don't appear to "do" very much, which is far from the truth.  In fact we are learning from the moment we get up until we go to bed and I've no doubt we cram far more into our day than many kids will do in a week at school.

Today is no exception and we've had a busy day, playing lots of maths and literacy games.  That's one of the best parts of learning at this age (4); games that teach and kids that learn while they're playing, yet don't necessarily realise it.

Some of our games today included cut and stick counting/sequencing, with both numbers from 1-20 and sequencing in 10s up to 100.  We also played dice games, first with one die and colouring in the corresponding number, and then with two dice, adding the total, then colouring the right number.

Later, we played several domino games and completed some domino worksheets.  If you want to get your own freebie copies of all the math sheets we used today, head on over to the wonderful Moffatt Girls TPT shop.

We also played a digraph literacy game I bought from Angelina GrimesGraeme's TPT Shop.  This game is the "sh" and "ch" digraphs, and not only does it improve reading, there are opportunities for handwriting practice as well.  If I can find the time, I might also create a graphing exercise so we can incorporate math into our reading and literacy.

Meanwhile, housemate painted me a sign for the allotment.  My favourite colour is purple, and so the name is somewhat of a play on words.  Isn't it lovely?

Allotment sign
I do hope you are all safe and well, and that UK readers in particular haven't suffered too much from the storms that have been battering the south of the country.

Until next time. x

Sunday, 27 October 2013

In the bag

Since I started shopping at Aldi, and staying away from the supermarkets that dish out free plastic carrier bags, my supply of bin liners has greatly diminished and my carrier bag holder is rather redundant!  While I don't exactly begrudge paying the 3p per bag that Aldi charges for its carriers, I try to remember to take my own shopping bags with me as it's silly to pay for bags when you don't have to.

Hand made shoppers
Although we haven't had the howling gales and torrential rain that was promised, and it's actually been a gloriously sunny if windy day, I decided to stay in today and use up a tiny bit of my fabric stash by making some more shoppers.

The stripy cotton canvas has been in my stash for ages and it seemed ideal for shopping bags.  I'll end up with three out of the piece of fabric I had, but so far have finished only two.  They're easy to make and look better with a lining.

Make the outer bag and box the corners.  I made my boxes 5" as this allows a nice wide base that's ideal for 4pt milk bottles.

Make a lining from whatever fabric you want - this was some that was in a 50p bundle I bought from Abakhan.

Turn your outer bag right side out and stitch your handles onto it.  I stitch over, back stitch and restitch over the handle parts for added strength.

Keeping the outer bag right side out, put it inside the lining which should be wrong side out.  Stitch around the top, leaving a gap between one set of handles so you can turn the bag through.  It will look like the photo below before you turn it ...

and like this during the turning process.

Pull it all through and then tuck the lining, which is now the right way out, inside the outer bag.  Press the top seam, folding under the "gap" bits to make a nice even edge.  Top stitch all around the bag, closing the gap, ending with a nice neat finish.

Et voila!  A nice, strong, attractive shopping bag that will last for ages.

Until next time. x

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A move around

A very busy day today as I've spent most of the day moving furniture, hoovering and tidying up in the kids bedroom.  The bunk beds were getting very cold against the outside wall, so with winter coming I decided to relocate it to the inside wall.  A pain in the backside because the door won't fully open, but at least it will be warmer for them.

Needless to say I'm exhausted after all that, so I'm enjoying an evening catching up with some programmes recorded earlier in the week.  Thankfully the promised gales and torrential rain have missed us so far, although housemate's mother phoned to say it was raining so hard at her place (around 50 miles away) the raindrops were bouncing about 2ft into the air on impact.

As I don't have any photos to show for my efforts today, I'm posting a picture which, I think, was taken by housemate's son.  I found it on a camera card I hadn't used in a while and the photos on it aren't mine, so I'm guessing I lent him the card.  I vaguely remember this path being in the woods near Langsett reservoir.

Hope you're all keeping warm and dry.

Until next time. x

Friday, 25 October 2013


Following on from yesterday's rather silly looking gate and posts, the allotment now has some fencing.  Part of it has been made of pallets, as I want to incorporate them into what will become one of the new sheds.  The other side of the gate has been fenced off using what was left lying around.  It's not brilliant, but will suffice for now and at least it makes the lottie look a little less abandoned than it did previously.  It says ownership!

There's still a lot of rubbish to clear away, but it's definite progress.

Money spent on fence to date = £0

Until next time. x

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Who locked the gate?

The poor allotment has been sadly neglected lately, and with a glorious day today it seemed an opportune moment to go down there and get something done.  I've not been totally idle as I have cleared an area of concrete I discovered in amongst the overgrowth, and this is intended to form the base of the chicken shed.  I have the shed parts and just need to enlist a little help from Mr Neighbour to move them from his allotment to mine.

Today the beginnings of the fence across the front of the lottie took shape, with two posts and a gate now in situ.  They look rather ridiculous at the moment, but the idea is to continue the rest of the fence with pallets and, where needed, some chicken wire to finish it off.

I did move the fallen down old shed base to see what was underneath, with a mind to dig it over and turn it into a bed as, having been covered up for so long, it was one of the few parts that's weed free!  Unfortunately, whoever had the plot before me had dug a lot of hardcore or something into the ground so it's not a suitable growing site.  Fortunately, because of the hardcore, it will make a good base for a new shed.

Other parts of the lottie are now covered to suppress weed growth in preparation for next year's growing season and in amongst the weeds and long grass I've found a good patch of strawberries which will need transplanting to another bed.

I hope today's weather has been kind to you as I believe it's been rather rough and wild, especially over on the west coast.

Until next time. x

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Lovely flowers

Just a very quick post tonight as I'm knackered and not long out of bed, but before I go I wanted to share a photo of the lovely bunch of flowers I was given today as a "thank you" for taking photos at a friend's wedding.  Sorry about all the school-type stuff (posters, pencil cases etc) in the background - my dining table doubles as Small's work area and the walls are covered in educational stuff!

These certainly brightened my day, and I hope they brighten yours too.  And I must say hello and welcome to some lovely new followers, I hope you enjoy my random musings!

A lovely bouquet with my favourite colours
Until next time. x

Friday, 18 October 2013

How to beena

One of my lovely readers asked if I'd share my "beena" recipes but, the trouble is, I don't really use precise recipes for most of my cooking/making.  I've always been a bit of a "pot luck" type of cook who throws things together.  If they work, great.  If they don't, they end up on the compost heap!

Homemade cordial

What I tend to do when making cordials is to 3/4 fill my largest saucepan, which is 2.5l capacity, with fruit and add enough water to just come up to the top of the fruit.  Obviously if you have a larger pan, you'll be able to add more fruit than I can but, whatever the capacity, don't fill more than 3/4 full.  I don't weigh the fruit beforehand as it's the end quantity of liquid that determines how much sugar I need to add, not the initial weight of the fruit.

I bring the pan to a boil then turn right down and simmer for as long as it takes for the fruit to disintegrate.  Some fruit is quicker than others, and fruits like blackberry or raspberry benefit from a bit of help from a potato masher.  Forty-five minutes is usually enough for even the most stubborn of fruits!

Once cooked, I strain the whole mixture through a jelly bag so all the "bits" stay in the bag, and what's left is a nice clear liquid in the bowl.  If you haven't got a purpose-made jelly bag, make one out of a large square of muslin (pre-boil it first to sterilise).  Drape the cloth over your bowl (I use my large mixing bowl), dump the contents of the pan into the muslin, then gather up all four corners and tie the "bag" with string.  You can then tie the other end of the string to a handle on an upper cupboard (keeping your bowl underneath!) and let the liquid to drip through.  Allow a minimum of 2 hours, although overnight is better.

I measure the amount of liquid I've collected, and as a general rule of thumb, measure out 400g of sugar to each 1000ml of liquid.  Heat the liquid in the pan until it's almost reached boiling point, turn down the heat, then slowly add the sugar and stir until it's all dissolved.  At this point a taste is compulsory :)  If the juice is to your taste, you don't need to add any more sugar.  If it isn't sweet enough, add more sugar in 50g increments until it's more to your liking.  Provided all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture sweet enough, it's ready to bottle.  Use pretty much as you would commercial "beena" and serve diluted to taste.

You'll need to pre-do the bottles and sterilise them before filling.  Do this by giving them a thorough wash, then drying them in an oven set at 100C for at least 10 minutes.  I leave mine in the oven until I'm ready to bottle.

And that's how I beena!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Not that cold

Returning home last night in decidedly autumnal weather with a wind-chill that made it feel positively cold, it was nice to open the door and realise just how cosy the house actually is inside.  Several of the neighbours, admittedly elderly ones, have said they've already had to resort to putting on the central heating since it dropped cold, and I can understand that the older we get the more we feel the cold.

That said yesterday's announcement that energy companies are putting up their prices yet again will surely have more people thinking twice before they crank up that thermostat.  My own is already set at 17 degrees, which means the heating won't automatically come on unless the temperature inside the house drops to 17 or below.  A lot of other neighbours will spend the winter in t-shirts and shorts, with the heating turned on full blast, but not this frugal person.  I wouldn't want to anyway and I couldn't afford to!

It must be a little colder today as the heating did switch itself on this morning, and I immediately turned it off again.  It's not that cold and the heating doesn't need to be on.  Instead it's time to dig out the woolly jumpers and socks, fill the hot water bottle to cuddle and time to look out the quilts and knitted blankets we cosy up under when the days, and evenings, are colder.

I'm determined to keep the monthly direct debit for gas and electricity the same despite the price increases, and if that means using even less than ever so be it.

What steps do you take to cut down your fuel bills?

Until next time.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

What to do with a glut of tomatoes

After a somewhat disastrous start to the tomato growing season, the slugs and snails ate all my grown from seed plants, the bought in plants have produced quite well.  Albeit rather later in the year than I would have hoped, I managed to get a few pounds of ripe tomatoes off the five plants I purchased.  As always with home grown produce they all turned in pretty much at the same time.

Dilemma.  What do I do with lots of ripe tomatoes?  There are only so many tomato, cheese and tomato, ham and tomato, etc sandwiches a girl can eat before tomatoes become very boring.  Solution?  A recipe for red tomato chutney.

I've never made chutney before today, but I have to say I'm very pleased with the results.  I now have two recycled bolognese sauce jars full of chutney.

Homemade red tomato chutney

1kg of tomatoes, skinned
500g apple; peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
a shake of dried parsley
a shake of dried mixed herbs
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp mustard seeds, dry roasted
8 fl oz water
3/4 pt of malt vinegar
1lb Demerara sugar

Put tomatoes, apple, onions, garlic and water into a lidded pan and simmer until the tomatoes have pulped down.  This took about half an hour.  You can either throw your spices right in, which I did, or put them in a little muslin bag and tie this to the pan handle.  If you do the latter, remove the bag before you put in your vinegar and sugar.

Add the vinegar and sugar, and simmer without a lid until you have a nice chutney consistency.  It's ready to bottle when you can clearly see the base of the pan when you drag your wooden spoon across it.  Depending on how deep your mixture is, this glimpse might only last a nano-second!  Turn off heat, allow to cool a little, and bottle.

Once bottled and cooled, put your jars of chutney away to mature for at least a few weeks.  Chutney, like wine, is one of those things that tends to improve with age.

Money spent = £0 as I already had all the ingredients.

Until next time. x

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Poorly puss

So much for not spending money this month.  When I got up this morning I was greeted by the cat who was looking much the worse for wear and whose usually white neck fur was covered in blood.  Needless to say, a trip to the vets followed shortly afterwards.

It seems poor puss had probably lost a fight with another cat, been bitten and had incurred an abscess which had now burst.  The good news (according to the vet) is that because it had burst, he was well on the way to healing himself.  Cats are good at that, apparently.  Thankfully, all he needed was an antibiotic injection and that was the best news of all as I'd been dreading having to try and get tablets down him.  He's not the friendliest of cats and is as liable to bite if he's touched.

What wasn't such good news was the bill.  An expense I could have done without, but thankfully I had some money put by for emergencies and this was definitely one of those.

Money spent on anything else so far this month = £0

Until next time. x

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

It's Stoptober time

Evening All.

For those who don't know, it's Stoptober time.  No, I'm not referring to the NHS stop smoking campaign, but the stop spending efforts those of us who live frugally will be making this month.  So far, it's going well and apart from the mortgage payment which went out this morning, not a penny was spent today.

Small has a new calendar and word wall to play with learn from.  The former has a Halloween theme, and the latter focuses on words beginning with the CH blend.  He loves filling in the calendar page each morning, followed by reading through his words.  We usually change the word wall every 10 days or so.

This month's calendar and our word wall
I've been busy cooking up more free hedgerow produce that I picked yesterday, and a lovely 3/4 bottle of "Blackbeena" - a blackberry cordial that we all enjoy - was the result.  Sealed by virtue of being bottled hot, my cordials are stored in the cool, dark understairs cupboard and will see us through the winter.  Once opened, they're kept in the fridge.

"Blackbeena" cordial
Lastly, a nice surprise for housemate.  Neighbour lady had been telling us she'd had quite a lot of "double yolker" eggs from their new hens, who are in their first string of egg laying.  Housemate had commented that he hadn't seen one for years.  Knock-knock this evening, and she handed me this beauty which she assured me is one of the coveted "doubles".  It's huge.  More the size of a duck egg than a hen egg, and for the hen's sake I can only be thankful eggs come out soft-ish.  Otherwise, mega ouch!

Over to you!  What free produce have you collected from the hedgerow this year?

Until next time. x