Sunday, 9 November 2014

I need a time turner!

If anyone invents one of these it will make them an instant millionaire!

For those not in the know, a time turner is a device from the Harry Potter films which Hermione uses to go to extra classes at school by turning back time and attending 2 classes at once! Its used to great effect in the 3rd film! 
Anyhow, my life at the moment seems to jump from one thing to the next which just time to breathe in between. 
I teach (albeit part time), and reforms in education over the last few years have left most teachers at breaking point in terms of workload. I won't bore you, but most teachers are having a miserable time.

Crafting has had to be put on a back burner for me, and I only do things which are essential. I've even (gasp) given away things I've not even had chance to photograph, which in terms of blogging, and also in terms of keeping a log of what I've made, is pretty dire!

I've made mostly cakes over the past 6 months (my absense from Blogger!) and I'm excited to share them, but I never get the chance to sit down and actually blog! So I'm challenging myself to spend just 1 hour a week getting back up to date with my blogging, so be prepared for a weekly cake hit! I can't remember the last time I sat down and made a card, probably about 3 months ago :(

Anyway, for the time being, if anyone hears of, or happens to invent a time turner, please let me know!!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Wallace and Gromit Were-Rabbit Birthday Cake

I have been terrible at updating my blog recently, but I needed to share this.

My lovely Monkey turned 5 recently, and he requested a Curse of the Were-rabbit cake, as he LOVES Wallace and Gromit. Now the only problem with 4/5 year olds, is that they believe that whatever they ask for can be magically created (and I always try my best to magically create!).

So here is the cake.

Gromit and Wallaces' head are both modelling chocolate (which I made, and I'll post the details and photos later) and the rest is fondant. The cake (at Monkeys' request) was Vanilla sponge, strawberry jam and chocolate buttercream.
I want to add more photos to this post when I get round to it!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Final day Living Below the Line

Yesterday was day 5 of Living of Below the Line.
Having been quite strict at the start of the 5 days we found we had a reasonable amount left to play around with. Now if you are very strict with the rules of Living Below the Line you should only have £1 worth of food each day. That means you can't eat 25p for first 4 days and then £4 on the last day. However, this wasn't an intentional thing, it just happened that we had extra on the last day. I suppose for those people living in poverty they wouldn't be eating up leftovers on day 5, I guess they'd be pleased to have stretched their limited budget a little further and that they'd have more to spend the following week.
An example of this was lunch. We had our luxury item, a pack of sausages, to eat, and we also had 2 eggs leftover. This meant both me and dear hubby were able to have a fried egg and sausage sandwich for lunch. Which was delicious!
Realistically I could have had either the egg OR the sausages, not had both together.

My sister in law (SIL) and her fiance came to visit, which was lovely. We had to warn them that we would still be Living Below the Line, but they offered to sneak off if they needed food.
We went out for a little walk and some geocaching. If you haven't done this its super fun, you get the GPS coordinates of some item someone has left and you go find it. Some are boxes you can put a small token in and write your name on a log book to say you found it, some are tiny and can only fit in a tiny piece of paper for names. My SIL has the app on her phone and we found 5 at Rivington Reservoir, there were a few more, but the battery on her phone was dying, not to mention EJ was getting grumpy.
Going out was a challenge because we would normally stop off for icecream or a cup of tea, but we didn't have any funds, so instead we took some squash in a bottle and the last few custard creams.

When we got home for tea we were having the left over bolognese, and I defrosted some bolognese from the freezer for SIL and future Brother in Law (BIL), so we could eat together.
Pudding was pancakes, a definite favourite all around.

Monkey enjoying his pancake.

One thing I've realised today is that having friends or family round, or showing hospitality to people costs.
We take for granted that we can invite people round for a meal, for a brew, for a meeting, and that we'll have food/drink for them.
 Almost every week at our bible study group we meet at our house, and often have cake or biscuits. This week we couldn't even offer a drink other than water. Now obviously everyone who came was fully supportive of what we're doing and didn't mind at all, but imagine if you had people coming round and you couldn't afford anything for them. What would you say/do? Find an excuse to postpone or just not offer anything? If you struggled to make ends meet how would you feel if your kids wanted a friend round for dinner? A work friend who has 3 kids told me she regularly has 7 kids round for tea. How can you do this if you're struggling to even feed yourself?

So how did we end the 5 days? Unbelievably we had some food left:
 800ml of milk (mainly because Monkey and hubby didn't have breakfast)
 1/3 jar of jam (10p)
 1/2 a loaf of bread (23p)
 3 yogurts (24p)
 500g Cornflakes (28p)
1/2 banana (5p)
4 portions of lentil soup (40p)
So £1.30 worth. Don't worry it won't be wasted. I froze the soup in portions so I can take them to work, and the rest is gradually being used now.

I enjoyed my breakfast this morning immensely. A cup of tea and toast with butter. This few days has been a real challenge, but mentally as much as anything. I have found it really humbling to think again about just how much we have, and hopefully it will have had a lasting effect.

I heard a great song yesterday on UCB, called Do Something which I thought was very significant for what we'd just been doing. I just wanted to share the lyrics:

"I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how'd we ever get so far down
How's it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, "God, why don't You do something?"
Well, I just couldn't bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, "God, why don't You do something?"

He said, "I did, I created you"

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it's time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It's not enough to do nothing
It's time for us to do something

I'm so tired of talking
About how we are God's hands and feet
But it's easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It's alright, "somebody else will do something"
Well, I don't know about you
But I'm sick and tired of life with no desire
I don't want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
"I'm gonna do something"

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill (shine shine, shine shine)
But we're never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won't stand still 
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it's time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It's not enough to do nothing
It's time for us to do something"

 Matthew West - Do Something Lyrics 

If you'd like to Do Something you could donate to help those in extreme poverty here.
Thanks for reading about our Live Below the Line journey. I'll post one more follow up post tomorrow!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Day 4 - The end is near-ish

So we're now on day 4 of Living Below the Line.
Today I wasn't particularly hungry, thankfully, but I'm still missing my cup of tea!
This morning when having cuddles with Monkey he told me in a sad voice "I missed turkey meatballs yesterday for dinner at school.". I explained that they would be on the menu again soon, but he seemed so disappointed. After 3 days straight of jam sandwiches for lunch I thought perhaps he was tiring of the challenge. I asked him if he'd like school dinners today instead of his packed lunch, and he said he would. So today he got to have fish and chips for lunch!
I went shopping for the final few bits for the week this morning. I'd already counted the money we would need for our second loaf of the week, and we still had £1 left. Me and dear hubby talked through the options
a) buy some frivolous sweets/treats
b) buy some extra fruit and veg
c) buy something tasty to compliment what we already had

After much consideration, and in accordance with the 'rules' which say you have to buy things outright, it worked out that our main 3 realistic options were
a) a pack of 4 chocolate bars for £1 (crunchie/mars/snickers/kitkats etc)
b) a bag of funsize apples 89p
c) a pack of sausages 99p
Nestle Kit Kat Chunky Bars (4x48g)
£1 Asda
Ashfield Farm Cumberland Sausages (8 per pack - 454g)
99p Aldi
Orchard Fresh Funsize Apples (9)
89p Aldi

Monkey, although he loves sweets, isn't a fan of chocolate, and to be fair, neither am I. So option 1 was off the table. The funsize apples were the healthy option, and had we bought them earlier in the week (to be honest I didn't realise you could get a bag of apples for 89p until today!) they would have been great, but with only 2 days to go I decided we would get the sausages ( which Monkey LOVES) and have sausage sandwiches tomorrow for lunch.

Whilst searching online, and canvassing my facebook friends for their opinions of what we should get with our £1 I made 2 startling discoveries.
1) is AMAZING and helps you find everything you need and compare the prices of the main supermarkets so easily
2) You can get 20 (yes 20!) frozen sausages for 99p from both Asda and Aldi

I think next year (ha ha, I'm already talking about next year! don't telly my dear hubby!) we'll base some meals around sausages, because Monkey does love them, and they do work out so cheap.

I also managed to concoct a lovely smoothie for Monkey when he got home from school using 1/2 of our last banana. Because Monkey hasn't been eating cornflakes we've ended up with some extra milk, so I thought I'd make good use of it.
It was basically 1/2 banana , 250ml milk and 1 tbsp fruit jam to sweeten, blitzed in a liquidiser. It was yummy, and quite healthy too!

So what was todays menu for me?

Breakfast - Banana and cornflakes 20p
Yummy fried rice!
Lunch - Leftover Fried Rice 23p
Dinner - Spaghetti Bolognese  (Basic recipe here, but slightly tweaked) 47p
Snacks - Piece of toast, custard cream and pack of crisps 10p
Total £1.00

Please consider donating here, the target for this years Global Poverty Project is £1 million, and we're half way there. Anything you can give would be welcome.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

3 is the magic number!

So we're over half way through, and for me today has been the hardest day. By the end of my teaching day I was HUNGRY, I can't remember the last time I was actually hungry. When I got home I had a yogurt and 2 custard creams to put me on to dinner.

I was really looking forward to tonight's dinner, fried rice, one of my favourite dishes! I'd boiled the rice last night so it would be nicely chilled before frying, and so when I got back from work I could just whack it in the pan. It was delicious! I posted the recipe last year here, but have slightly tweaked it, and its great (and only 30p a portion!) so I'll do another one.

Fried Rice - Serves 4
500g Smart Price easy cook rice
150g Smart Price frozen mince
250g frozen mixed vegetables
1 tsp mild curry powder
1 Tesco beef stock cube
2 eggs

1. Boil the rice, drain and cool (chill if possible).
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large wok and fry the defrosted mince with 1 tsp curry powder.
3. Add chilled rice and fry for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile cook mixed vegetables in the microwave or boil in pan and then drain.
5. Add mixed vegetables to rice and continue to fry
6. Beat the 2 eggs and then make into a rough omelette in a frying pan and then chop and add to the rice.
7. Chop the stock cube finely and sprinkle over the rice to season.
Dinner is served!

Monkey was excited that we had pancakes for pudding, and I managed to make the value batter stretch to 14 small pancakes! I was stuffed after my fried rice, so I saved mine for later on, as I knew I'd probably be peckish.
I'm surprised about being hungry though, because the portions we're having are quite good, I'm assuming it must be because the amount of protein we're getting is lower than it should be.

We still have £1 of the budget left, and me and my dear hubby were trying to decide what we should spend it on. Should it be something for a treat, perhaps some icecream, or a bar of chocolate or packet of sweets, or should we try and use it sensibly and buy some fruit? What do you think?

PS. I apologise for the lack of photos, I will try and take some more tomorrow, as I know it makes for a boring post without!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Day Two - Living Below the Line

A quick update for today.

Unfortunately Monkeys opinion of the cornflakes hadn't changed this morning, and so I offered him a yogurt for breakfast instead, which he enjoyed. Even though he had to have the same lunch as yesterday he didn't seem to mind, but I'm sure he'd grow tired very quickly of jam sandwiches every day!

This lunchtime I hosted a lovely Live Below the Line lunch at work, 14 of my colleagues enjoyed (they really did!) some lentil soup and donated £26 for Tearfund. I meant to take some photos, but I completely forgot! Today has been hard at work though because I really wanted a cup of tea, but had to cope with hot water instead.

Tonight I went for a run, and although I felt quite sluggish to start with (probably due to quite a low calorie day so far) I actually ran quite well. Last nights curry and rice must have made a good carb store.
I decided to go on to calculate my calorie intake for today. Unfortunately its well below the 2000 calories recommended, and even if I was on a diet, its only just enough to be acceptable, as below 1100 calories can put your body in fast mode, and muscle mass may start to break down.

Here's my breakdown for today

I'm not sure what I could do to possibly get it anywhere near 2000 calories on this budget, I think I probably had enough money left today to afford a few more custard creams, but that's not really healthy calories!

Tonight I boiled the rice for tomorrows fried rice for tea, as it cooks best when its been chilled first.I'm looking forward to some pancakes tomorrow night too, as it Monkey.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Day One done

So we managed our first day of living on £1 each without too many hiccups.

The main issue we seem to have is that Monkey has deemed the own brand cornflakes a no go!
I chose the cornflakes over the porridge in the end as I thought it would be better for him, but apparently not.
This could be an issue, but I'll try him again tomorrow morning and see what he thinks.

For lunch at school Monkey normally has a school dinner, which costs £2.05 a day. When you look at that in the light of £1 a day it seems really quite a lot, but I don't think its too bad really. I did give him the choice as to whether he would have a packed lunch, as I was prepared to cut him out of this part of the challenge, but he seemed quite keen to try a packed lunch. Unfortunately the only thing I could send him with was a jam sandwich, pack of crisps and 2 custard creams.
The juice bottle is just one I refill with cheap squash!

  I would have sent a banana too, but he ate one for breakfast instead of the cornflakes! I had a terrible thought once I'd packed his lunchbox, that some schools are super strict, and they have people checking the nutritional value of the lunches. I feared my meager offering may not meet their approval, but since I didn't get a call from the school I'll assume they didn't check!
I mentioned last year that its ridiculous that a pack of crisps is 1/4 of the price of an apple, and I will say it again. I'm thankful that my son gets fruit as a snack at school every day for free.

This year has made me really appreciate how important free school meals are for some families, but I'm also aware that some people who are living on an extremely tight budget and working don't meet the criteria for free school meals.

Todays menu for me consisted of

Breakfast: 40g Cornflakes = 8p
Lunch: Lentil soup,  bread and 2 custard creams = 23p
Dinner: Butternut squash curry and rice = 41p
A cherry yogurt = 8p
Supper: A slice of toast with Jam = 4p

Total 84p

I'm looking forward to tomorrows lunch at work getting my colleagues involved, and hopefully getting some more donations!

Here's a picture of Monkey enjoying his curry! You can find the recipe here from last year.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Shopping Below the Line

So today I finished off the shopping for our 5 days living below the line.
Here is Monkey with our rations!

Here's what we got

Corn Flakes 46
Milk 85
Jam 29
Rice 40
Pasta 20
Frozen mince beef 140
Sweetcorn 35
Yellow split peas 70
squash drink 42
Mixed veg 89
Loaf of Bread x 2 94
Egg 100
Banana 46
Yogurt  x 8 66
Custard Creams 35
Crisps x 12 66
Stock cubes 20
Tin chickpeas 39
Chopped Toms x 3 93
1 kg onions 75
Butternut squash 89
Pancakes x 2 30
Total £13.49

Wow, you might think, we can spoil ourselves with £1.51! But we still have to count oil, garlic, spices, salt and pepper in, and sugar and lemon juice when we have pancakes, so that will take it up to about £14. The last £1 will be our emergency pound in case we need more milk, and I may even splash out on an orange or apple for James!
Tonight I've been making the lentil soup for the week, and have even convinced some of my colleagues to take part on Wednesday lunch, so will have more soup to make tomorrow night to feed another 12 people!
I'm off to eat a slice of my nieces birthday cake, and enjoy a brew, as it will be my last for 5 days! 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Live Below the Line 2014 - Preparations

Well the time has come again to Live Below the Line. The Line being the poverty line.

1.2 Billion people around the world live below the line every day, suffering from extreme poverty and existing on less than the equivalent of £1 (US $1.25).

Last year we decided to do this quite last minute, but as we live quite frugally anyway I found it not too bad planning our 5 day menu. The challenge this year was coping with inflation, and a much more astute child!
I explained to the Monkey (who is now 4) that we would be eating differently this week. I also broke the news that he wouldn't be allowed any apple juice, or treats/sweets for the week, as we were doing a challenge to live like people in other countries who don't have as much as we do. His response "I want that day to be over!", my response "its 5 days!".

 I had a very detailed spreadsheet from last year, which I was updating, and I'm surprised how many things have gone up in price. All the staple items (bread, milk etc) are the same, but others have jumped up. A pack of Asda Smart Price fresh mince beef and pork was £1.40 last year for 500g, this year its £1.82. Yellow split lentils were 58p for 500g , this year they're 70p. These small differences really add up when you're counting every penny. I've had to cut a few things off this year, we won't be enjoying bread and butter pudding, but we can stretch to a couple of pancakes one night!

We should be doing it Monday to Friday, but it's our church Mens night on Monday, and they're going out for curry, so we're postponing and doing it Tuesday to Saturday instead. We are fortunate that we can choose when we live below the line, some people don't have a choice.

I hope you will follow our journey, and consider sponsoring us as we support Tearfund.