Monday, 27 February 2012

No Food Week :: No Food Fortnight?

We did it! We survived No Food Week. Apart from the little chocolate-coated slip up with the Cadbury Splats on Tuesday, for which I added an extra day to the challenge, no food for consumption at home (food for consumption while out and about was excluded from the challenge) was purchased in the entire week from the evening of Friday 17th Feb til the evening of Saturday 25th Feb with the exception of:
1 bunch of grapes
8 bananas

That's it. Pretty phenomenal, eh? And we haven't had to resort to any strange lunch or dinner combos like ice lollies and chips, or marmalade on Tuc crackers. With fridge, freezer and cupboard food we have enjoyed in the last eight days such delights as: a roast chicken dinner, tuna pasta bake, roast belly of pork, a bacon, sausage and fried egg brunch, jacket potatoes, bubble and squeak. I've made two loaves in the bread maker, things that have been squirrelled away in the freezer and forgotten about have been eaten (2 tubs of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, for example), yet more things that have languished unloved in the larder cupboard have been consumed (the packet of Aunt Bessie's sage & onion stuffing went down a treat with the roast chicken last night), and instead of just buying more and more packets of foodstuffs that we already have plenty of (crackers and biscuits, for example), we are eating our way through the stockpile.

And still there is more, so much so that I've decided to extend No Food Week into No Food Fortnight. The only difference is that fresh salad and vegetables, as well as fresh fruit, can now be purchased. Yesterday hubby bought:
6 bananas
2 apples
2 punnets of strawberries (very unseasonal, but DC loves them)
1 bag salad leaves

And today I've asked my mum to pick up an orange pepper and some cherry plum tomatoes.

Can we do it? Five more days to go. The freezer and larder cupboard are still full; the fridge is looking a little bare, but I think we can make it. Oooo, I do love a challenge!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Confined to Barracks and 'No Food' Update

A little bit of background. We've kept chickens for a few years now; we got the first lot (Rita, Mavis and Deirdre) in 2006, but had to rehome them when we went travelling in January 2008. When we came back from our seven months away we lived in a rental house for six months, so couldn't keep more chooks, but as soon as we bought our next house in 2009 it was back to chicken-keeping with Audrey, Gayle and Sarah-Luv. Unfortunately, Audrey turned out to be Alf and so had to go back to whence s/he came and Sarah-Luv dropped dead in the run one day, quite unexpectedly. So we were left with single solitary Gayle. Since we knew we would be moving again fairly soon, we didn't want to get any more chooks til after we were settled in our new place, so Gayle remained an only-chicken for a while. Then we moved down to Somerset and bought her two new playmates - Fizz and Betty.

Gayle is the white chook on the left, with Fizz being the red/brown one and Betty the black/grey one.

While the house was being renovated and we lived in a rental property round the corner, the three chooks lived in their Omlet Eglu happily in the garden as we couldn't let them free range when the major building work was going on. We also discovered that we couldn't trust them not to make a bid to escape from the confines of the garden once the major work was done but the builders were still on site; one day there was a knock on the door of our rental house - our neighbours from the 'new' house had popped round to tell us that the chickens were wandering merrily in the road outside the house (luckily it's not a busy road), oblivious to all attempts to herd them back to safety.

Then the time came for us to finally move into the 'new' house which meant we were there all the time to keep an eye on the chooks and ward off any bids for freedom. The three girls were given free run of the entire garden (but locked away safely in their Eglu at night), and very happy they were too. However, we weren't quite so chuffed at the amount of poo they felt the need to deposit all over our lovely new patio.

So, last weekend we took some action. We moved the Eglu from it's spot behind the espalier apple tree at the back/middle of the garden (which you can just about see behind a pile of abandoned old fence panels) and, with a little help from DC (who brought his CD player...) and with some netting from Omlet, hubby built them a lovely run by the woodshed and confined them to barracks. Now we are all happy - the chooks have plenty of room to roam, and plenty of earth to scratch around in, we have a poo-free patio and, due to the nature of the netting, the run is nicely disguised behind the apple trees. Can you see it?! Please excuse the mess in the rest of the garden - an awful lot of wood/old fence panels are awaiting the saw so they can become kindling/firewood to keep us toasty
Update on 'no food week'; I stumbled at a chocolate-covered hurdle on Tuesday. I was at the Mall in Bristol with my Mum and saw these on offer.My intention in buying them was that we would eat some when we stopped for coffee which would have meant they didn't count since they would come under the heading of 'food bought to be consumed while out and about'. However, when we stopped for coffee we bought cake so the Splats didn't get eaten and instead came home with us. In order to make up for my lapse, 'no food week' has been extended by a day to end on Saturday evening instead of Friday evening. There is even talk of seeing if we can get to Monday, thus making ten days without buying any food (except fresh fruit.) Also, it doesn't count, does it, if someone else (ie my mum) buys a cake for us?!?

Monday, 20 February 2012

For Art's Sake

We are finally getting round to banging a few more nails in walls and hanging up some pictures. And it makes such a difference. I'm quite taken aback each time I walk past one of the spaces which is now adorned with a a piece of "art" (used in the loosest sense of the word.) It makes the house feel much more homely and lived in.

Firstly, in the hallway we have this wonderful personalised print from Betsey Benn at Not on the High Street. This was a 40th birthday gift (even though I'm actually only 34...) from my fabulous friends L & B. I'll admit to shedding a couple of tears when I unwrapped it, because it is just so brilliant and thoughtful and sums up our friendship in a few sentences. And now I can admire it everyday and it brings a little smile to my face when I remember the occasions/places/times to which the words refer. If you're looking for a special gift for someone, I would thoroughly recommend one of these.

Round the corner and into the dining area we have this handsome chap who was originally hanging in the snug til he was displaced by the bookcase. Hubby & I brought the poster back from a trip to Copenhagen for New Year in 2003/04 and he has hung in all of our houses ever since. On into the living area and we have this lovely painting that we brought back from Morocco in 2006 (I think?), having watched the artist at work in the main sqaure (Jemaa al-Fnaa) in Marrakech. The photo doesn't really do it justice, especially with the reflection. And on the opposite wall is a painting by a friend (and former lodger) of ours (again, apologies for the poor photo due to reflection.)He was living in New Zealand at the time and when hubby and I were over there travelling in 2005 we stayed with him and his then girlfriend in Wellington for a few nights. This particular painting was going to be in an exhibition so hubby and I secretly arranged with the girlfriend to buy it so that on the opening night it could have one of those little red dots stuck on it and our friend would, hopefully, be very chuffed. However, the tables were turned on us when our friend instead sent us the picture as a wedding gift.

A little further along the wall is a limited edition print by Mackenzie Thorpe which I bought for hubby back in 2004 as an engagement gift. One, two, three, ahhhhhh!
I love how all of our pictures remind us of places that we have visited and things we have done.

Last but not least, let us not forget DC; I decided to pin up some flash cards on his wall since they were just sitting in box in his toy cupboard not being looked at. We bought these Lisa DeJohn cards from the fabulous shop at the Victoria and Albert museum when hubby and I had a child-free trip to London last April for a friend's wedding. Even though we were child-free, we still thought about the little blighter and couldn't come home without a gift for him. Sopsters, aren't we?

I love the colours and the simplicity of the pictures.However, there are a few creatures that I'm slightly puzzled by. Apparently there are for age 3+, but I'm wondering just how old he will have to be before DC starts saying "A is for Ant, B is for Blackbird... and N is quite obviously for Narwhal, Mummy!"Not to mention V...And X...Still, at least they are generating more interest than when they were left in the box inside the toy cupboard. F is for Fox has already been taken off the wall by DC and is currently missing in action; and last night when I went to tuck the little chap into bed he was snuggled up clutching A is for Ant which he must have leant out of his cot to grab hold of.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

No Food Week

Yesterday evening hubby issued me with a challenge. As we struggled yet again to cram one more thing into the already overflowing freezer, and as I worried over the sell-by/use-by dates of all the food in the fridge, hubby suggested that I try to go for an entire week without buying any food. Say wha'?!?

I love me some shopping. I especially love me some food shopping because the money for it comes out of the 'housekeeping' account that hubby tops up, so it doesn't really hurt my meagre bank balance. But even I can see that we really don't need any more food right now. Our cupboards, fridge and freezer are fit to bursting. So I happily accepted the challenge. The only exception to the 'buy no food for a week' (other than eating out, which is still allowed) is fresh fruit. Yep, that's it. The odd banana and a bunch of grapes, nothing else. We have milk delivered by the milkman so that doesn't count, the veg/ salad drawers in the fridge are full, and there's lots of bread, crumpets, muffins, etc in the freezer. We also have a bread maker and all the necessary ingredients to make our own. So, no excuses.

It's now Saturday evening, I've managed 24 hours so far and it's all going to plan. In fact I've not spent money on anything at all since we didn't even leave the house today - that must be the way forward!

Monday, 13 February 2012

So Good We Named It Twice

When we bought our 'new' place back in August 2010 it came complete with a name which suited the house down to the ground - ugly inside, ugly outside and an ugly name to boot. It wasn't called anything remotely acceptable or relevant like Church View, Village End, Ugly 1970s House, The Money Pit, etc. No, instead we were landed with the delightful moniker of


Nice, huh? There were two things that always came to my mind when I thought about or, shudder, had to say out loud this dreadful name. (Even worse, whenever people asked for our house name or number I always, without fail, had to spell A-R-E-O-S-A, and pretty much always repeat 'no, that's E-O-S-A'.) Anyway, back to those two things that sprang to my mind:

1) Ponderosa - the name of the ranch in the 1970s 'cowboy' TV programme Bonanza
Ponderosa, incidentally, is Latin for heavy, weighty or significant (ie pnderous) - not exactly the stuff that dream homes are made of.

2) I can't even really say it out loud on here, so bear with me, and fill in the blanks: Hairy Ar*ehole. Yes, that's what our beloved house name made me think of. Fear not, I won't add any images for this one.

There's also a sort of number 3, since a friend of mine pointed out that we were just one letter away from areola (again, no images); coupled with number 2, that's probably only a good thing if you are a p0rn site.

Soooo, it wasn't long before we started thinking about a new name for our new house; in fact, we thought we'd come up with the perfect one over a year ago and I even had a slate sign made for hubby's birthday. We were to be the very fancy 'Springfield House' after hubby's beloved football team's former ground. Except that slate sign is now languishing in a dusty corner since we found out there was already a 'Springfield' in the village (anyone want to buy an unused, but slightly personalised slate sign?!) Just as there is also a Greenway (after Agatha Christie's home), which was our second choice, and a Church View (since we look out on the church tower) which also made it onto our list of possibles.

So we had to continue racking our brains and throwing possible names out there. Were there any particular features of the house/garden that we could choose? We have a part-walled garden from the time when the land the house was built on was the kitchen garden for the village's manor house - but there are already a High Walls (since re-named as it happens) and a Wall End. There are no trees/shrubs in the garden that we could take a name from, or if there are, we are unable to identify them since we hacked the entire garden back to bare earth and roots. What about the local wildlife, could that inspire us? Nope, 'fraid not. So, what about something that had a meaning for us personally? We toyed with the idea of 'New House' as that is what DC calls it; I suggested 'York House' or '(Upper) West House' in deference to our love of New York; and there was even talk of 'Brigan House' from the very twee marrying of Bristol (where I'm from) and Wigan (hubby's home town). But in the end we settled on, drum roll, please (but don't get too excited)...


Firstly, it's a nod to New York (where we got married) and secondly there is a village nearby with that name, so it suits the area too. Yes, I know it's not overly exciting, but it's got to be better that the previous name. Hopefully, I won't have to spell it out to people too often. And, best of all, it doesn't conjure up an image of hairy-ar*ed cowboys everytime I say it.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Would You Be So Kind As To Indulge Me For a Moment?

I just wanted to share this photo with you. I snapped it on Saturday evening with my iPhone, so it's not super-fancy or anything, but I absolutely love it. My two boys and George, the bear who goes everywhere with Darling Child, having a cuddle on the sofa.

I was inspired by Soulemama's "This Moment" idea, but you're not supposed to add any words to explain the photo and I can't help but witter on a bit to tell you (and to remind me)who/what/where. So this is my "Moment; with Words".

Monday, 6 February 2012

New Cath on the Block

Isn't it typical? You live somewhere (or within a 30 minute drive of somewhere) for 21 years (OMG, was it really that long?) and then you move away. And what happens within seven months of you moving from somewhere? Cath Kidston goes and opens up a shop there. Yes, there, right there, there in that place where you would have been just a 15 minute (brisk) walk away. Yes, that's right, just a short walk away from your very own Cath Kidston shop. Except now you live more like a two-hour (and that's if you drive rather faster than you should all the way and don't get stuck behind a caravan on the A303) drive away. Well, thanks for that, Cath.

But, let's not get bitter. Really I should be used to it. When we lived in Henley there was ne'er a Cath in sight; then we moved to Reading and Cath opened up in Marlow. No we've moved to deepest Zummerzet and Cath's gone and opened in Reading.

Anyway, back to not being bitter. Before Christmas I was able to pay my first visit to my 'not local anymore' Cath shop (apologies for several somewhat unseasonal photos), and a couple of weeks ago I went back for a second look.And it didn't disappoint. Set over two floorsthis store really makes the most of the site, although downstairs does feel rather crowded in comparison to the lighter, airier and more open upstairs which has been dedicated to the fabric, wallpaper, and more 'haberdashery' side of Cath. Isn't that wooden display cabinet just fabulous? I think it would look rather at home chez nous.While downstairs the front of the store is given over to bags and clothesmoving through to homewares (these bowls are on my wish list)and on to towels, toiletries plus pretty stuff for children and babies.
And the shop looks just as good from the outside as it does inside - cosy and inviting and giving me serious heart palpitations over all the spotty and floral 'stuff' that I want (but most definitely don't need.)

And a close up of that Antique Rose standard lamp, which absolutely MUST come and live at our house.

I went through a phase of being a bit fed up with Cath - she seemed to be putting her mark on anything and everything (Cath Kidston travel sweets anyone?!), and I also had a couple of poor quality items from her (such as a dodgy umbrella that wouldn't stay open in even the slightest gust of wind), but I'm back into the CK groove at the moment, as witnessed when Darling Child and I venture out together and the back of the pram is laden down with 1) my CK green spot handbag; 2) my CK green spot print wallet; 3) DC's CK cowboy print nappy bag (no longer used for nappies, but still a very handy bag to have); 4) DC's CK aeroplane print rucksack; 5) the CK iPad cover which hubby bought me for Christmas. Yep, we look like a right pair of CK addicts.