Wednesday 30 September 2020

I Was Left Unsupervised ...

Have you ever suddenly done something without even really considering the fact that you are actually doing, it or the changes it will bring.

I have ... quite a few times in my life.

A spur of the minute decision, a quick Google and life takes a whole new direction.

'You'll live to regret it!'  has been a refrain I've heard over and over, and do you know what ... I have never regretted any of my spur of the moment decisions.  They have been life changing and brought some fantastic new places and people into my life.

Last week I did it again, and I am inches away from being able to tell you all about it.  Let's just say if things go the way they seem to be going the Van will be no more and I will be truly static ... only this time without wheels.  

Can you tell I'm itching to spill the beans, can you, can you ... oooh the suspense is as bad for me as it is for you, that's why I'm sharing it the load.  😄

As soon as I know, you'll know.

Sue xx

Tuesday 29 September 2020

The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste


I didn't know that today was the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste ... gosh what a mouthful ... and I wonder who decides on these days?

Anyway as I am about to head home to Wales for a couple of days, before I had even found out about today's 'title' I had already set too this morning to turn all the bits of food left over in the fridge into things that will keep better until my return, which has turned out to be very in-keeping with todays ethos.

An onion, a bunch of spring onions, some garlic, a sad lonely carrot and about half a lettuce went into the soup make along with some water, a good grind of black pepper and some stock powder.  Thirty minutes later I had over a litre of soup.  I'll have some for lunch and maybe see if I can squeeze some into the freezer ready for my return.

Currently in the oven is this tray of onions, tomatoes and peppers, along with a few cloves of garlic, a dash of oil and some dried herbs.  This, once it's roasted long and slow, will be whizzed into a nice pasta sauce.  Although as there is no room in the freezer it might have to travel with me tomorrow.

While I had the garlic out I decided to break up all the bulbs and put the cloves into a bag to go in the freezer.  It lasts ages in the freezer and the good thing about doing this apart from there being no mouldy old garlic to throw away, is that when you get a clove or two out to use, the skins slip off so easily.

I hate the very thought of food waste and I can honestly say that I rarely waste food ... perhaps just one or two items a year, and even then I kick myself for it.

What would your top tip be for avoiding food waste?

Sue xx

Sunday 27 September 2020

Something in the Pipeline ... and my Rainy Day Box

So there's something new in the pipeline and to say I'm excited would be an understatement.  I'll tell you all about it when everything is finalised.  There's a bit of paperwork to be done, but once everything is signed, sealed and delivered I can let you know.  

We haven't sold the house - don't get too excited!!

Just before all this kicked off an email had pinged onto my phone offering me £4.50 off a £30 shop at Sainsbury's this week.  I only needed a few things really mostly fruit and veg but it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up ... I know ... that's exactly what they want you to think!!  But I thought, I can still make good use of an extra £4.50.

So I decided I would put together another 'Brexit Box', just a few cans and dried things that I can pack away and leave packed away if necessary for a rainy, Brexit-y, Covid-y day.  The earliest date on things I have put into the box is late 2021 so there will be no worries about things going out of date before I have chance to use them.

I added a couple of things that I had picked up from Aldi that I didn't really need now or for a while and it filled the box neatly.

I think I'll just call it my Rainy Day Box  😀

It will be handy that it's all neatly packed in a box if everything comes to pass anyway.

Sue xx

Friday 25 September 2020

Getting Back to Normal After a Challenge ... with a Vengeance

This week at the Van as been all about getting back into my stride, back to 'normal' after a week on really restrictive but satisfying eating.  It seems I go straight back to the basics when I'm let loose, I started with a couple of breakfasts of just toast and spread.  These are my favourites, I buy the little Seeded Warburtons loaves or their Aldi equivalent when I'm here at the Van as the toaster is just so little, large slices just don't fit in ... note to self: check the size of the next toaster you buy ... you watch, this diddy little thing will last for years now just to annoy me 🤣🤣

Either of these two spreads suit me just fine, I just buy whichever one is on offer at the time I need some.  I like it just as it is or topped with some homemade marmalade for breakfast.

The little toaster in question with my lunch for today, a simple meal of beans on toast.   I'm just using the last of a little Quinoa loaf that I got from Booths here.  It was very tasty, especially topped with half a tin of beans ... and also fits neatly into the toaster.

Here's the 'with a Vengeance' bit of today's post title.

I went to Aldi for a good mooch about the shops, I don't go out to the shops much now, but when I do I am preferring Aldi for most things and they have the very safe 'traffic lights' system in place so it's easy to know whether the store is busy inside.  Gosh this week they had so many vegan goodies that I have never tried ... including lots of sweets and I think that after a whole week of nothing sweet at all I may have gone a bit mad!!

When I'm fancying a sweet I usually buy these Candy Kittens from Booths, but at £1 a bag and as you can see that's just 54g, they are a bit pricy.  The new Aldi version are 89p for a whopping 120g ... that's much more like it.

I transferred as many of the sweets as would fit into an empty jar ... it's much safer that way, if I open a small bag I tend to chomp my way through them all just so I can throw the wrapper away, in a jar one or two sweets should suffice ... should  😄

And while I was transferring things,., I put my new little net of garlic bulbs into the little garlic box I bought last weekend.  They look satisfying good in there.

Sue xx

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Feedback ... and Car Boot Bargains

Alan came to the Van with Mavis much later than usual this weekend as we had a house viewing at 1.30pm on Saturday.  He thought the couple were quite elderly to be thinking about buying a smallholding, both at least in their seventies, but he was buoyed up by their excitement and the things they said and arrived feeling very optimistic.  He read them wrong ... I think men do that more so than women ... we got feedback from the estate agent yesterday telling us that although they thought the house and everything we had done to the place was wonderful, it was all just much too close to the road.  

Oh well, there's nothing we can do about that ... we only bought the place because we were assured the road would be moving, but after three years of floods that plan has pretty much been scrapped by the Highways Agency.  So up to now with our viewings we have had two 'too close to the road', two saying we were too small and one saying we were too big, one lady who said absolutely nothing about it, oh and one offering us £80,000 under the asking price as that's all she could afford.

To take our minds off everything in Wales and to enjoy the sunshine while it lasted we went to the Bilsborrow car boot sale on Sunday.  The dogs came and had a good walk, Alan mooched about and had a bacon bun, I had a coffee ... ooh coffee 💖  

If you read my other blog you'll understand that one  🤣

But I managed to get a few bargains.  Two stainless steel dogs bowls to go in the cars, the larger one for Alan's stonking big Audi boot was 50p and the small one to replace the dish I have in my little Fiat 500 was 20p.  The boot space is a good size for me, it fits three shopping bags side by side but having a smaller bowl will help my emergency bag of car and dog related things stay a bit slimmer.

The basket I just absolutely loved.  It is a genuine vintage one, something I used to sell lots of in my shops and I thought it would be good for display or even to store fruit or veg in.  So even at £8 I thought I had a bargain.

The hand-creams were in a fancy box and were just £1 for the six.  I go through so much hand-cream, and even more so these days when my skin dries out with all this hand sanitiser we have to rub in whenever we are out and about.

The little crocheted knee blanket was new and the whole stall was full of them, so someone had been working very hard.  Mine was just £4, all that work and wool for £4!!  It's going to to keep Suky snuggly in the Van over Winter and I'm sure she'll appreciate it when the nights get even colder than they have been over the last few days.

And finally this, I spied it in amongst all sorts of detritus on a guys stall and knew I just had to have it.  It was £2.  I think it's quite old as it just feels 'right', but whatever, it is just lovely and had to be mine.  A quick clean and a wipe with some oil and  it looks lovely.

So I spent a total of £15.70 and I think I have some lovely things to show for it.  

Sue xx

Monday 21 September 2020

Solitude Matters

It is most definitely the air that I breathe

I love my own company

I love my own space

I need my own time

And I know it


Monday 14 September 2020

Leaving You With Memes

All this week I will be blogging daily on my other blog

 Posting each morning about my food and thoughts while I am doing the Ration Challenge.  I've been joining in with thousands of other people all over the UK raising money for food and important supplies for Syrian refugees during this difficult time.  Because as well as having to cope with the hardship of day to day life of living in refugees camps this year they also have Covid-19 to contend with just like we do ... but with few of the things that we have to help keep infection away.  Limited handwashing, limited medical help, limited and sometimes non-existent lots of things that we take for granted.

This is very important to me so rather than spread myself too thinly by posting on both blogs all week, instead each day on here I will post a simple meme, one that means a lot to me, that speaks to me about how I feel, and sometimes I know how lots of you feel too.

And nothing to do with refugees or Covid-19 ... this is a meme-only zone for one week.

Sue xx

Thursday 10 September 2020

A Hussy of a Pussy

Just look at these two cuties  💖

But Ginger is a hussy of a pussy, one minute he's snuggling up in bed with Mavis ... only to be disturbed when Mum towers over them to take a photo ...

... and then the next day he's snoozing away with Suky!!

Has anyone else tried these grapes yet.  I got mine from Aldi, but I believe they are also available from Marks and Sparks, andno doubt other places as well but shops do like to say that they are exclusive with things don't they.

Anyway do you think they taste like Cotton Candy, or Candy Floss as we call it in the UK?  I get it every now and then but then they just taste like rather weird grapes the rest of the time.  They are nothing special anyway, so if you haven't tried them yet  I wouldn't rush out to get some specially.

Sue xx

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Slowly Forwards

I need to slow  things myself down.

For this week at least I need to take each day as it comes and move forward more slowly, stop almost buying houses for instance!!  Easy to say, harder to do.  I'm an Aries, impulsive, decisive, always on the go and always wanting to achieve more from myself.  For the next few days I am going to wind myself down, sit still for longer, and be in nature more, walk more slowly ... Suky will approve of that one.  Slow things to a crawl.

I have an important Challenge coming up starting on Sunday and I need to conserve energy and strength for a week living on the smallest of rations.  There's no point in wearing myself to a mental frazzle this week and then being comatose on the sofa for the majority of next week.  

I remember all too well the brain fog that descended when I did the same Challenge last year.  On the Facebook group we nicknamed it 'rice brain'  ... it is a real thing.  Carb overload and extremely limited fresh stuff does that to you, but you know it's worth every minute when the money we raise helps so many people for so long after the Challenge ends.

I want to be inventive, incisive and interesting with my recipes ... not that easy when your entire larder consists of:

1.92 kg  White Rice
290g  Red Lentils
85g  Dried Chickpeas
1 400g tin of Kidney Beans
400g White Plain Flour
330mls  Vegetable Oil

... and the extras I have earnt through sponsorship levels ;

170g  Onions
12g  Peanut Butter
One 330ml  Smoothie
1  £3 in value bonus item (to be eaten in one sitting)
2 teaspoons of coffee

I've not mentioned it much on this blog as it's all taking place over on my Challenge Blog, which I know a lot of you read and I don't want to be repeating myself and boring you all too much  😉

But HERE IS my fundraising page, where you can see what I've raised up to now and read the messages from some of the people who have donated.  And the link to my other blog is as always on the sidebar, it's under the heading My Challenge Blog and is called Challenging MyselfYou can just click on this link or the little Ration Challenge picture to get there.

Now I'm off to make myself a cup of coffee ... I am in the process of decaffeinating myself and after a little blip over the weekend I am once again heading in the right direction.  I'm doing quite well it's almost 11am and I've only had one half normal and half decaf coffee up to now!!  By Thursday night I will be on completely decaf and then I'll start really reducing the number of coffees even more and get used to drinking plain water. a bit more  Hopefully this will mean no headaches for me this year ... just  'rice brain'  🤣🤣

Sue xx

Monday 7 September 2020

Backing Off ... This Time

So I went to view the little house on Friday afternoon.

It was small, much smaller than it appeared on the estate agents particular ... just how do they manage to make rooms look so big in such a small space ... and although I would have needed to do quite a bit of work to it ... skimmed all the ceilings, taken down a wall, put in a new kitchen and completely redecorated and re-floored throughout, I thought it would be worth it to have such a nice little home in exactly the right place.  I loved the cuteness of it, the size of the rooms and the totality of floor space, and I loved what I could see that I could make it into.

I put in an asking price offer the next day, but not in time to be able to stop the viewing that was about to go ahead.  The young man that viewed it also put in an offer just over the asking price and after a little bit of a bidding war my offer was accepted.

Then during the congratulatory phone call from the estate agent I found out that the young man was a first time buyer, eager to get on the property ladder.  I was working on the hillside on our smallholding in Wales putting the Veggie Patch 'to bed for the Winter' and neatening everything up ready for our next viewing during all this negotiation.  After all the excitement of bidding was over and my phone was back in my pocket, my old blue gardening gloves were back on and I continued to weed and prune, trim and dig ... my mind raced.  

Between us we already own two properties and the thought of stopping someone being able to get on the housing ladder at a good price-point, possibly the only one he could afford troubled my conscience.  I kept coming back to the same conclusion.

Yesterday I emailed the agent withdrawing my offer, and apologising for wasting her and the home owners time.  I hope the young man successfully gets this house and no-one else comes into competition with him.

I just couldn't be the one responsible for stopping someone else realising their dreams.  It might happen again in the future, and next time I'll probably be harder-hearted, because it's a funny fickle world this housing property market and there are always winners and losers.  But this time in a strange way I feel like as much of a winner as I hope the young first time buyer does.

Sue xx

Thursday 3 September 2020

Taking a Chance

I decided to take a chance yesterday 😃

A while ago I said I wasn't going to even begin looking for my new home until we had sold the smallholding in Wales and had the money in the bank ... and then yesterday into my email inbox with a loud ping dropped the most perfect little house on Zoopla.

It's in exactly the right location and in a quiet cul-de-sac, it's just the right size and has parking for two cars and most importantly of all a nice little garden for Suky ... well it could be a nice little garden if I can find any earth under all the stones and shingle to lay a little lawn.  There are a few little shrubs to start me off, and raised beds could be put all around the edges.

I've booked a viewing for tomorrow afternoon and Alan has already looked into raising a short-term mortgage on our Welsh house, which would be paid back in full just as soon as we sell.  If it proves to be the one, it will change all our plans considerably.

One thing it wouldn't change would be the name of this blog, because it's still going to be a small and simple life ... as the Van is 432 square feet and the house is just 476 square feet, two floors but still only 44 square feet bigger in total !!

Sue xx

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Walking into Autumn ... and Trapping the Sunshine

After a weekend of not enjoying her walks, suddenly yesterday Suky found her stride again.  

We wandered along the high bank that comes between the flood defence field over the river from the caravan park, and the mixed area of skips, hardstanding and general detritus that a caravan park throws up over to our right.

It doesn't sound like a good walk does it, but it's good if you keep your eyes on the nature and greenery all around you, watch the sheep through the gap in the trees ahead and the horses in the field and stables beyond the skips, ignoring the deserted steps, fridge-freezers and various caravan parts that litter the ground waiting to be enough to be collected for scrap metal, or called into service in some unexpected way by the campsites brilliant handyman. 

Suky loves it when it's just the two of us and lots of delightful doggy smells, she runs ahead then stops and sinks her face into the long grass burying her face in the smells that she loves so much.  Dogs can pick up so much from the scents around them and to see her enjoying herself makes me smile as I catch up and then overtake.

Two minutes later she streams past me again, her little curly tail waggling away in her happy rush to find the next delicious odour on her adventure.  We took our time and as I stood and took some photos and drank in the fresh air and blue skies it was on my mind that Summer is over.  Best to enjoy any patch of blue sky that comes our way and really make the most of it.

So when we got back to the Van I watered the houseplants ... Van plants? ... and put them out on the decking for them to soak up some sunshine for a few hours.

Later in the day the regular coolness came back. 

The nights have been drawing in quickly for the past week or so, and each evening I go round the Van closing the curtains on the shady side and making sure the curtains on the side that catches the evening sun are wide open.  As soon as the sun dips low in the sky all the curtains are drawn and for a while the Van fells cosy and warm.

 I've only succumbed to the central heating a couple of times, usually in the morning and only for an hour or so even then.  Free heat is good heat so trapping any warmth from the sun is good, once again this year I have had a gas bottle that has lasted me far longer than is usual.  So each morning my shower feels like a game of Russian Roulette ... will this be the day that I get the drenching in ice cold water as the gas runs out and the boiler switches off?

I've been lucky up to now ... but how long this luck will last I have no idea.

Sue xx