Thursday, 31 December 2015

The pictures that made 2015

Like many other people on Blog-world at the end of each year  I go back and look for some photos that tell the story of our year.

 Here are just a few from 2015 

Crocuses in the kitchen early in the year

March and our first holiday for nearly 3 years, we climbed to the highest point on Exmoor
My 60th Birthday
Fresh from the poly-tunnel and garden in April

The arrival of the skip to clear the rubbish ready for putting the smallholding up for sale

Our eldest getting married in May

We bought a bargain caravan - off ebay for cheap holidays
Real frog meets stone frog in the garden sink-pond

The pest who pinched the walnuts

Townend my favourite NT house in the Lake District
End of an era, after 23 years, the very  last things that we put out for sale
The article in the East Anglian Daily Times that found us our buyer
The early Christmas family get together and our son-in-law and eldest daughter who are the parents to be next June

That was our year.

This year I found looking back very difficult, life seems upside down, so much has changed, there is much unknown ahead. We didn't know at the start of 2015 just how many health problems were going to appear or how serious they seem to be.
Financially it was a good year, my unexpected pension payout, the campsite income, selling our surplus at 3 car boot sales and the yard sale all boosted our income in a year when Col wasn't able to do the odd jobbing.
The garden was good in most parts and I have made a store of jams and chutneys to see us through the next couple of years.
We will have a new member of the family in June 2016 when our first Grandchild is due, which is exciting but I'm sad that we will have moved away from the smallholding and future grandchildren will never know what was here  and  that we kept goats and sheep and had all the fruit trees etc.
Then  our son and fiancee will be getting married in December  so that's another thing to look forward to
but we thought we would  have an opportunity to travel once we moved, but with illness - who knows. In March we climbed Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor but at the moment Col hasn't got enough energy for more than a short walk on level ground.
We don't know how we'll like living in town or if it's too big a change. Strangely our living costs will be more for a 2 bed bungalow in Ipswich than for our 4 bed home in the country - will we manage? Will our savings last until pension time.
As I said- upside down, topsy turvey and unsettling.

I'm struggling with blogging at the moment, there isn't much to write about here, whatever I mentioned over Christmas seemed to need justifying to someone in comments which gets a bit tedious or perhaps I'm feeling particularly sensitive.
So maybe I'll take a short break from blogging, perhaps for just a few days or maybe until  we know what Col's treatment will be. He has a bone marrow test mid month to confirm the diagnosis of  C.L.L ( Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia ) and then we will know what happens next.

Expect me when you see me!

Monday, 28 December 2015

The days after Christmas

Christmas day was mainly wet so  on  Boxing day, which was bright we took the opportunity to pop down to Aldeburgh for a quick burst of sea air. The wind was very strong and the waves were crashing on the beach and rolling along the coast,

a new bank of shingle had appeared and the sea had gouged out  shingle several metres further inland than normal  in one area. We didn't walk far but then went back to the car through the town which was heaving with people as all the posh chain shops - Crew, Joules and Fatface were open with sales happening. Of course we joined in the madness, dashing from shop to shop and coming out with carrier bags full of clothes.................................. No we didn't. We just came home.

I decided  to watch the series Dickensian, despite Col saying that the trailer  looked like a Victorian episode of Eastenders. The first two half-hour parts were on Boxing day and I enjoyed watching, though I could do with a Dickens Who's Who to tell me which characters were from which books as I only knew the people from Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist.
A new series of Still Open All Hours started, still as gently funny as the old series with Ronnie Barker.

It was back to wet,wet, wet on Sunday - grey and drizzley all day but extremely mild. I stripped the chicken bits off the carcass, made stock,cooked some veg and made a couple of chicken pies and popped them in the freezer. We ate more of the ham and Christmas cake and with Col still having no energy we had another lazy day. Back to back war films and then in the evening it was the next two episodes of Dickensian.

Thanks for all the comments yesterday.
 I haven't got much to post about at the moment so I'll be back in a few days.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

On Christmas spending and other stuff

Supposedly, average household spending for Christmas this year is over  £800. That means for all those like that family on The Eat Well For Less programme last week who were spending £1400 on food alone there are many, many, more spending much less and going by another programme(that I didn't see) where the extremely rich spend over £1,500 just on Christmas Crackers there are some people spending way, way more. There are also many people who dread the arrival of their credit card bill in January because they know they spent so much on the card for Christmas that they will be paying for it for half the year.

Happily our spending was well below average and all paid for up-front. Even with buying presents for three children and their 3 partners (who I like to treat all the same), 1 Dad, 1 brother, 2 sisters, 2 brothers-in-law, 1 niece, 2 nephews and a few friends I cut spending by £150 on 2014's spend.

If your normal food shop is full of treats, extras and expensive foods then buying even more special things for Christmas must cost a fortune. The joy of  our simple life is that treats for Christmas can be pence rather than £s. So the extras that are not usually seen in my shopping trolley were a bag of watercress, satsumas, bananas and condensed milk for the banoffee, some different cheeses, a 45p bottle of tonic water is my Christmas tipple, unusual fruit juices ( have you ever tried Welch's white grape, apple and pear juice - it's delicious), some fresh double cream and liquerice allsorts for Col. I had a £6 off £40 spend till-voucher from Tesco that needed using before Christmas so as my Christmas extras wouldn't have come to that amount I got some of January's shop a few days early, cat food, caster sugar, butter, a few other bits and the total was enough so that I could use the voucher. My 5p savings from throughout the year paid for a nice big ham and 2 small chickens - cheaper from our butchers than one larger one of the same weight - only four people meat eating on Christmas day so it would have been stupid to have had anything bigger.

It was annoying this year to have to buy parsnips and Brussels sprouts, our parsnips are about the size of a small golf ball and are rotting in the ground, while the B sprouts had a bad attack of white fly and never recovered. I have been picking a few but such poor quality I decided to get a stalk of sprouts for £1.50 from the local nursery, while there I also bought a few large Naval oranges - my favourites and much nicer than smaller ones in Tesco.

 I always cook the ham early Christmas eve so that we can have some for dinner and then for Christmas day tea and for several days afterwards. We will eat it with pasta and leeks in a sauce, with chutney or mustard in sandwiches,with potatoes and veg and maybe with egg and chips until it's gone.

Most of our Christmas present spending is for our children and their partners. They have things from their wish lists, vouchers or  money. For sisters and brothers-in-law this year I did hampers with home made chutneys, relishes, jam, marmalade, Dundee cake, raspberry vinegar, spiced nuts and included a bottle of red wine and ingredients for making mulled wine. Col's dad also had a box with some home made and some bought bits of food. Brother had some drill-bits he wanted. Nephews and niece had money as I've no idea what they like.My main aim in all present buying is to give something useful. I hate the thought that I've given something that will be unwrapped and then donated to a charity shop at the first opportunity - and I HATE tat! I'm also equally glad when we get useful gifts - Col's brother asked us what we would like and we said pairs of pants for Col and postage stamps for me - boring to some I'm sure, but useful for us on our living-on-savings regime.

Another thought - When did it become THE thing to have smoked salmon etc for Christmas day breakfast or to stock a cupboard with every conceivable type of alcoholic drink imaginable? Neither of which we've ever done. Does drinking all that booze make you happier or just poorer?

AND finally, by special request from Jennie, here is the picture of the 26 books that made up my Christmas presents from Col, sister-in-law, son and daughter.

The crime collections on the right are new books from Book People that I bought as my present from Colin, as are the 3 by Maureen Jennings. Most of the others were purchases off my Amazon wish list ( often for 1p which is probably how I ended up with so many!), made up of books to add to collections that I've not read yet, WWII books and ideas from other blog writers. How lucky am I?. All these will come in very useful if ever we get the chance to move to our hovel in a part of the country where ordering library books isn't free.

Thanks to Mrs G, Cornelia, Sooze, Marlene Sheila, Sadie, Mrs L.H. Jennie, Jan, Deborah, My shabbychic, Tracy, Simon jamcake and KCs court for comments yesterday.

Back Tomorrow
P.S. If ever I should mention in future posts how dry it is in Suffolk and how difficult to get things to grow, please remind me about the poor folk of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria where Christmas and New year and several months of 2016 have been and will be completely ruined by the days of continuous rain and flooding. I'm not sure anyone can prepare for that extreme rainfall.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Santa came to Knodishall

We had a good Christmas Day, quiet, uneventful, plenty to eat, lots of chat about this and that, a game of His and Hers Logo, in which Rachel, Ally and I decided the girls questions were much much harder than the boys questions but thanks to Col, Brian and Martin getting muddled over the difference between a Cream Horn and a open Tart ( Ha Ha) us girls won by one question. Success!

We unwrapped pressies and various family  brought me a total of 26 - you read that right - 26 books from my wish list, with everybody wondering where on earth we will put them in our little bungalow and me assuring them that shelves full of books will make excellent insulation. Our eldest got Col a new phone which he will struggle with for days as it's touch screen and  his fingers are not very accurate. I had a new bigger A-Z book to copy my old Book of Books read 1971 -2015 into. As the old book contains several 1000 titles, it will take me a while to copy them all over - keep me busy for days - or weeks. Col had an Elvis CD - I shall leave the house when he plays that! From Penny Pincher penfriends came all sorts of gifts ranging from a scented sachet to some material for making a cushion. Thank you everyone.

My favourite thing about the days after a family Christmas is all the left-over food, which may sound odd but it means that for the next week I don't need to think about " what shall we have for dinner". After 36 years of marriage it's not the actual cooking dinner that I get fed up with but the thinking about what to cook.

Right, Col is watching a canal-boat DVD that I found for him and I shall go and put the kettle on and find the first of the leftovers for lunch  - a ham salad roll and some banoffee I think.

Thank you to everyone for all the good wishes for a Happy Christmas. I hope your day was as nice as ours.

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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Advent 24 - All doors open

Christmas Eve and door 24 on the National Trust advent calendar has been opened.On the back it explains where each photo is taken. It's been a good calendar, nice and Christmassy.

Door 24 is willow reindeer outside the NT property of Wallington in Northumberland.

As I didn't want to have to venture to the shops today I went to Tesco early yesterday morning, left home at 8.45, not much traffic on the road then going down the hill into Saxmundham there were cars queueing to get into Waitrose carpark. I turned into Tesco carpark and it was also almost jam-packed - everyone had decided to dash out early. Inside was heaving with people loading trollies as if the world was ending. I didn't need much and they had loads of staff working - all tills open - and I was in and out in half an hour so home by just after 9.30. Col was surprised to see me so soon, I was just glad to be home out of the mayhem.

Apart from the books photographed for yesterdays post, there are also some children's Christmas books packed away waiting the move, one that I hope we still have is the book of the poem which of course had to be read on Christmas eve. Just in case it's been a while since you read it - here it is

Add caption

I'm now off to cook a ham, make a vegetarian quiche, a biscuit base for a desert and wrap some bacon around the chipolatas.
I  hope Santa fills your stocking with lovely things
Back Tomorrow, briefly

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Advent photo 23 - Christmas books

Almost at the end of the Advent photos and in the absence of lovely snowy scenes I'm dredging the barrel to find something Christmassy to photograph.

So, here we have my pile of Christmas books. They live from one year to another on top of the bookshelves,
but will be moving with us, although the shelves are fixed and staying here.
The books have been gathered from charity shops and second-hand book sales over the years. Some are children's books and many are books with snippets of information about various aspects of Christmas - they came in handy when I compiled quizzes for the Suffolk Smallholders Newsletter. Lots of ideas for making food gifts or decorating cakes in some. If you've never read Jilly Cooper - How to survive Christmas, I can recommend it to make you smile. A Suffolk Christmas is one of a series produced to cover many of the counties of England. Unplug The Christmas Machine comes from the States from Amazon many years ago.
After taking the photo The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems stayed off the shelves to be looked at last night and I came across a poem by John Betjeman that I hadn't seen before.

Here are just 4 lines from the poem Advent 1955
..........................We raise the price of things in shops
                          We give plain boxes fancy tops
                           And lines which traders cannot sell
                           Thus parcell'd go extremely well.........................
So nothing changes! 

The jigsaw puzzle is finished just in time to be cleared away, all 1000 pieces present and correct - you can never be 100% sure when buying secondhand.
If my friend doesn't want it, we will probably put it back on Ebay.

I have been BAD - I bought myself some books from The Book People as my Christmas present from Col and have read one already! Well I had(!) to because I also bought the same set of 3 for a friend for Christmas and I needed to check they were OK. They were an author I'd not come across before  (from Canada- though born in England- writing books set in this country) but as they are crime fiction set in WWII I knew they were just right for my friend. The set of 3 were £4.99 and the author is Maureen Jennings. The first in the series is Season of Darkness. I can't say it was the best written book I've ever read -a few American-isms -  but saying that I did enjoy it and it's quite fat so took me several evenings to read. The 4th is due out next August and she has also written another historical mystery series set in Canada. My friend doesn't read this blog - she says- so I've not given the game away!

Back with the last of the advent photos tomorrow

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Advent 22 Honey roasted spiced nuts for the hampers

We have another very windy day today but very mild again, I had a search for snowdrops but none here yet  but we have got some primroses out already.

Thank you for all the comments yesterday about Strictly and Greenery.

By posting about what I've been making to put in the hampers for our 2 sisters and brothers-in-law I've totally spoiled the surprise for my sister who does read this, (sorry L! and hope your cold has gone) Col's sister reads only rarely so she's probably not seen any of the contents.

Here's one more thing I made - Honey roasted spiced nuts 
These are exceedingly more-ish and it was a wonder any of them got into the bags for the hampers.
To make them I just put some runny honey in a bowl and added a little cumin,coriander,paprika and chili powder. Stirred in the nuts and spread them on baking parchment on a baking sheet. They had 10 minutes in a fairly hot oven,stirred them round and then another 10 minutes(though 5 minutes would have been better!)

I've enjoyed making things to fill the two baskets and thought I would do the same next year but of course we won't have the garden and all the wonderful fruit  BUT looking on the bright side I will have access to cheap stuff off Ipswich market and from Aldi and Asda.

Our estate agent rang our buyers to see if they knew about a moving date yet and it seems it will be mid March as they have to wait for access for some of the money they need. The weather men keep saying we are more likely to get snow at Easter than Christmas and Easter will be the weekend after moving so I rather hope they are not right.

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Monday, 21 December 2015

Advent 21 -Greenery and candles

Today is St Thomas' Day and as the rhyme says
" St Thomas Grey, St Thomas Grey, longest night and shortest day"
so the winter solstice is here and this is my day to  bring in  some bits of green stuff from the garden and to start lighting a few candles each day. We have rosemary, bay and the relation of holly that doesn't have prickles, we have a variegated holly too but what few berries it had have long gone. Then there are some light green conifer bits for contrast. My flower arranging is the shove it in a jug method but it does cheer the house up a little.

 I forgot to mention the Strictly Come Dancing final. I was, as they say, " gobsmacked" when they announced the winner as I thought Kevin and Kellie were sure to win after their 2 perfect scores. I've been voting for Jay -so cute!-  all along ( it's free on line - I'm not daft enough to use my mobile!) so I was pleased that he had won. How will we survive without Strictly 'til next September ( joking folks) and we will have to go back to watching Look East at 6.30 as well.
We didn't bother with Sports Personality Of The Year. but wasn't surprised to hear that Andy Murray won it - such a shame that he talks all in one boring sounding tone when being interviewed, I bet he's not like that when talking to friends.

This morning I've been bread making as we were getting a bit low and also pulled the insides out of 2 pheasants that we were given yesterday. We'll have Mrs for dinner tonight and Mr who was a bit bigger will go in the freezer. Our local cock pheasant has so far avoided all 3 shoots they have had in the nearest woods, which is handy as he clears up all the seed that the great-tits chuck out of the seed feeder. I moaned at him this morning as he was outside shouting just as it got light.
It was a nice bright morning but the wind is getting up as I write and there is rain on the way, luckily  my washing went out at 8 and was dry by noon. Once again we have missed out on all the heavy rain in Wales and Cumbria and although it is a bit colder today still no where near the norm for December.

Col went for Drinks and Nibbles at the second home that had the HUGE food delivery, but he said there wasn't much sign of tons of food. All the people from all the second homes and big landowners from all around were there but as he got  a lift  with our elderly friend who had to get back to his wife, he had an excuse not to stay long. (She's the lady who was in Norwich hospital for months and Col drove our friend there a few times. She is home now but not really very well, they are managing without help despite him being over 80 and having to get her up ready to go to dialysis at 7am, 3 times a week).

Thanks for all the comments yesterday -  So it wasn't just my blog where the followers vanished - Phew. But having gone down there is a new follower so hello to Lin and welcome back to Deb- who also lost followers at the weekend.

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Advent 20 - Viscum Album + where have they gone?

Something odd happening over on the followers pictures yesterday. It was 334 at the beginning of the day then later 9 people had un-followed  and it was down to 325 - very strange but Bye Bye - whoever you were!...........wonder what I said to upset them,surely not my mention of going to chapel?

 When we move I won't miss living near the pylons but I will miss getting Gridline through the post. It's the magazine posted out 4 times a year  by The National Grid to landowners who have pylons or wires on their land. It's free and also has some interesting articles in it.
This time there was  a piece about Mistletoe - Viscum Album. I always used to buy some each year but haven't done for several years now. When we had it I would always squidge some berries onto our oldest apple tree in the hope it would  start to grow there. Of course it never did. We rarely see any growing around here, it's probably too dry but it grows profusely in the old orchards of Herefordshire, Worcestershire,Gloucestershire and Somerset. Tenbury Wells is one of the main centres of growing and harvesting and they have a festival and auctions in early December each year. - Maybe another thing to add to the places to visit.
 Mistletoe was worshipped by the Druids as a symbol of fertility and because it was considered a pagan plant it was banned by the early Christian Church. It is poisonous if used in excess but has been used in herbal remedies for centuries and can still be bought as a herb tea - don't fancy it myself.

 Our elderly friend  was up at the second home across the fields to see the owners ( he checks the house when they are not there......... 40 weeks of the year!). It's owned by a lawyer from London. While he was there they had a Waitrose delivery for Christmas. They are staying there for 10 days before flying out to South Africa to see the cricket. The WHOLE van was their stuff!!
How the other half live!

Will You be the 1 millionth page view today?

Back tomorrow
(Hope no-one else vanishes from the followers bar) 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Advent 19 - A Hyacinth

This hyacinth in a pot was bought at a late Autumn sale at the Methodist chapel for 50p. I re-potted it and added some moss and it's been included in the box of gifts for Col's Dad.

Years ago I always bought some hyacinths and did the planting/wrapping/keeping in the dark thing before bringing them in for Christmas. Then one year they all got eaten by mice or something and I've not bothered since. It was only after I had biked home again after buying 1 hyacinth that I thought ......why on earth didn't I get one or two for us

We went to a funeral yesterday. Col's uncle, who was almost 80, had been ill for a while after a stroke and then the dreaded dementia crept in too. It was a sad time but at the same time a lovely funeral (if that doesn't sound too weird). Col's Aunt and Uncle had been baptised into the church family of Wetherden Baptist church in the mid 1990's and by a very strange co-incidence that isn't really a coincidence, Wetherden Baptist church is where I went to Sunday School and Youth groups ( F.O.Y. or Fellowship of Youth) all through the 1960's between the ages of 7 and 15. It was a proper funeral where the people who spoke really knew Col's Uncle, and the chapel was packed out with people who had known him at various times in his life. Unlike some funerals where there are hymns but no one is used to singing, yesterday there were so many chapel people there that the hymns sounded wonderful. Col caught up with his cousins who are all much younger than him and their families. I caught up with people who I knew from Chapel all those years ago and reminisced with the youth leader back then about the time we got stuck in the snow after going to a bible quiz at Hadleigh chapel.
 My Mum and Step-Dad are buried there too so I popped a tiny Christmas tree on Mum's grave while we were there. We saw other members of Col's family who we won't see until after Christmas so that was nice too. It was lovely to see they have a new young pastor, in his 30s with a young family, quite a rare thing.

I'm looking forward to the Strictly final tonight, but I've no idea who will win.

Many thanks for comments yesterday. I sometimes think I mustn't keep mentioning all Col's nasty health things, that wasn't what this blog was supposed to be about, but it's difficult not to when it seems to be taking up so much time. Someone said they liked my blog as it was like chatting over the garden fence which I liked the sound of so I'll just keep chatting about what's happening and apologise if it's a bit tedious.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

Advent 18 The pre Christmas jigsaw puzzle.

I loved jigsaw puzzles when I was a child but haven't done many recently until this time last year when I found this lovely colourful Christmas shopping puzzle in the sale down at Friston. It kept me out of mischief during the 2 weeks before Christmas and I decided to look out for another puzzle during the year but  promptly forgot. Then I spotted this one secondhand on eBay while searching for wartime magazines for a Christmas present ( didn't find the magazines ) and thought it looked a good one to do. It's coming along nicely. I don't know if my friend who likes WWII books and magazines does puzzles but I'll offer it to her when I've finished it.

This was taken a few days ago, now I'm getting to the sky/cobbles/brickwork bits - not so easy

Col had the final part of the camera investigations done yesterday, while they were doing it they did another scan too to check on something else that might be causing the blood count problems. Hopefully we will hear the results soon.

We've just noticed that I'm rapidly approaching 1 million page views - Good grief, who knew so many people would want to read about a quiet thrifty life in Suffolk.

Did you see the Greg Wallace last night (with his silly grin) and the programme about cutting food waste and costs at Christmas - how did they find that family? Totally OTT. Or are their families like that all round the country.

Thank you for comments about Christmas cards and jumble sales yesterday.

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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Advent 17 3D decoupage cards

The 17th picture in Advent
Some  3D decoupage Christmas cards.

 I made these for our children and partners. I would like to make all the Christmas cards I send but on the other hand I like to support a charity by buying charity cards from a charity shop in their January sales. I've got a draw full of Christmas bits and bobs for card making right ready for the time when I can't afford to buy ready made! Not sure if that makes me frugal or foolish? related to this.............
 A question I've been pondering for many years when queueing up for jumble sales. - Are the people who do NOT go to Jumble sales rich so they don't need to OR are they rich because they don't!

I'm not keen on this mild weather we are having, it doesn't seem at all right for December.  I biked down to Friston to post a card and came back sweltering as if it were June. The temperature on the thermometer on the outside of the kitchen window as we were doing the dishes yesterday lunchtime was 15.5C, more like May. I was listening to Radio 4 early yesterday morning and, because it was Jim Naughtie's last day on the Today programme they were speaking to someone living in the highest village in Scotland ( presumably Jim N has some connection with the place) anyway, it is  cut off by snow more often than anywhere else, but even though they had had snow already it had now gone and very mild with no chance of skiing - disappointing for the man who owns the ski centre there!

Welcome to Lisa, follower number 334. Hello hope you enjoy reading. Thank you for all the comments yesterday.

Just 7 pictures to go to finish my advent photos posts, which is a good thing as I'm running out of ideas.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Advent 16 = Small presents already sent and messages to penfriends

Picture 16 of my advent photos for you is a pile of small presents.
 I've written before about my Penny Pincher Penfriends.  We all used to subscribe to The Penny Pincher Paper which was privately published monthly by John and Irma Mustoe in the 1990's. They appeared on TV in a series called Scrimpers presented by the actor Ray Brooks ( Not Superscrimpers which was more recent) which was on TV in the mid 1990s followed this with a Book and the monthly newsletter. I wrote for the paper for a couple of years ( no pay sadly!) and when they retired a few of us who had subscribed or written for it managed to keep in touch. We've been taking it in turns to write a letter for nearly 15 years now and we do little Christmas presents for everyone  They've probably all arrived by now I hope.

I'm feeling guilty because I've failed to send cards to D in Michigan and P in Canada - whoops. If you are reading.... HAPPY CHRISTMAS to you both and to your families! My other penfriend W lives on a windy Scottish Island and a present and long overdue letter was sent that way a few days back, I hope it gets there as their ferry and planes keep being cancelled due to the awful weather. I received a letter and gift from W    (Thank you W, had to smile at L having to eat bought marmalade because you sold all the homemade! )

Honestly, what a hopeless penfriend I am! Using the blog instead of writing. Tut Tut

Thank you once again for the good wishes in comments, very much appreciated.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Advent 15 Christmas Fairs

We live between 2 villages and each  has a Christmas fair to go to. The first is the Cancer Research Sale in Knodishall village hall  on the last Saturday in November. It's always well supported and they have a huge prize drawer, a table of bits and bobs, books and then other village charities have their own stalls there too. They also have mulled wine and mini mince pies - for free! Very Festive and packed full of people.

I biked down and came home with a basket for a hamper -50p. 6 gold crackers- £1. Old Spice After Shave for Col's dads Christmas hamper - 50p. Some tiny heart shaped candles for someones Christmas  present - 50p and the River Cottage Veg book for £1.
 They raised over £3,000. Of course I didn't win a price in the draw - never do.

On the other hand, it was the Christmas fair in aid of the village hall in  Friston last Saturday and it's so sad to see how it has shrunk since we came to live here. Just  a few elderly ladies with a few donated items for sale and some cakes. 20  years ago it would be packed out with people, holly,  mistletoe,cakes,crafts and decorations for sale. I didn't buy anything or take any photos - too depressing and once again didn't win a price in the draw!

Knodishall is a thriving village with a primary school, church, playgroup, chapel, pub, shop and village hall. Friston is closer to the up-market seaside resort of Aldeburgh and is two-thirds second/ holiday homes and even though several new homes have been built they've almost all been sold to be used as second homes or to be let as holiday homes. There is a church, pub ( open and shut several times over the last 15 years -open again at the moment) and the village hall and that's it. I've said before that I'm the only person who uses the library van when it stops there, it seems to be a dying village and at this time of year when the holiday cottages are empty it already looks dead.

Thank you for comments yesterday and Welcome to Frugal Fingers and sumdayiwillc,  new followers, blogger won't let me see if you have a blog today so let me know if you have.

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Monday, 14 December 2015

Advent Photos 14 - Christmas family get together

Thank you to everyone for the good wishes yesterday. It is a shame our first grandchild will be all the way down in Surrey but without campsite and smallholding ties we will be able to go and stay close by in our caravan. Poor H and J have had a worrying two weeks as there could have been a problem with baby and lots of tests were done, we are hoping and praying that everything will be OK. Our eldest H is 35, already 10 years older than I was was when we had her ( I had all three by age 32) but I guess lots of couples have to wait so much longer to get themselves established with job and house before thinking about a family nowadays.

Apologies to Sandy ex-pat who asked for photos of our meal, we completely forgot but here are a few from later when we had collapsed in front of the TV. Sorry about the quality, every photo editing site I've tried uses Adobe Flash player and what ever I do Adobe Flash Player just will not stay connected on my computer and crashes. It's so annoying.
Our son in law dad to be and our eldest the mum to be ( chopped off Daughter in law to be)
A thorn between 2 roses - Col between our girls, H had already slipped into PJs due to the bump!

Our 6 foot something archaeologist son, who was experimenting with something our youngest ( who works at the opticians) was saying about eyesight being better when viewed through a tiny pinhole. Our youngest has the worst eyesight of all of us so it's a jolly good job she does work at the opticians and gets almost all her glasses for free!

Daughter in law to be avoiding looking at camera!

Our youngest daughters partner - future son in law also trying to avoid the camera

Thank you again for all the congrats yesterday, just need to find out what Col's health problem is now. 2 more hospital visits this week. We know the way there blindfolded!

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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Advent 13 Red House Christmas Barn

A few years ago one of the local farms planted 100s of Christmas trees and  opened up a barn for Christmas with decorations for sale. We hadn't been round for a couple of years so we popped down to look with our son and daughter in law to be. It's expanded a bit and was heaving with people looking round. Some lovely things but what a price. I came away empty handed.
This farm is also a duck fattening farm the rest of the year, with huge sheds, noise and lights we can see through the hedge at the top of our field, even though it's half a mile away.

We had a good time yesterday with our Christmas gathering of all 3 children and partners. The table cloth remained clean so I didn't need to strangle anyone! Our eldest and her husband are off back to Surrey later and then away in Devon for Christmas leaving us with the news that, God willing, I will be Nana Sue from June next year! Yippee do!

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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Advent 12 The Christmas table cloth and 35 quick questions

Our eldest daughter surprised me with this present of a Christmas table cloth last year, of course the table was already laid so today is the first time it has been unwrapped.

 It looks lovely on the table - but maybe I should iron it first!

 I shall strangle the first person to spill gravy/wine/custard over it!

Thanks for all the lovely comments and good wishes yesterday, I didn't get round to replying to all so will just explain that Ipswich isn't a huge town compared to some, it has a population of about 135,000. I'm not sure we will save a lot of outgoings moving there because it's gas/electric for heating and Council tax is more in towns too but it will make life easier for the time being. Col has more appointments at hospital next week to try to track down what's wrong. Plus I forgot to say there is also an Asda within a mile of the bungalow and we hope to exchange contracts at the end of February or early March.

Dawn at Doing it for ourselves had a link to someone's list of questions, as they were short and I had 5 minutes I've joined in. Just highlight and copy them if you want to join in too.
1)  Do you like blue cheese?
      Yes please. any cheese. All cheese!

2)  Have you ever smoked?
      Yes, but not many a day . stopped 30+ years ago

3)  Do you own a gun?  
      No, I'm English!

4)  What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite?
     What is Kool aid?
5)  Do you get nervous before dental appointments?

6)  What do you think of hot dogs?
7)  What's your favorite Christmas movie?
      Never watched any

8)  What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
      Coffee or drinking chocolate

9)  Can you do push-ups?
      No much too decrepit!

10)  What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
        I  wear 3 wedding rings - only 1 is mine!

11)  What's your favorite hobby?

12)  Do you have A.D.D.?
        What is ADD?

13)  Do you wear glasses or contacts?
        Glasses for reading etc

14)  What's your middle name?

15)  What are your thoughts at this moment?
        Must stop fiddling about in Blogland!

16)  Name 3 drinks you regularly consume.
        Coffee/drinking choc/water

17)  What is a current worry of yours?
        When Col will get diagnosed and get sorted

18)  What do you currently hate?

19)  Where is your favorite place to be?

20)  What do you plan on doing on New Year's Eve this year?
        Being at home probably in bed

21)  To where would you like to travel?
        Nowhere at the moment

22)  Name three people you think will do this questionnaire on their
        No idea

23)  Do you own slippers?
        No, not furry things, I wear slip on sandals indoors

24)  What color shirt are you wearing?
        Navy Blue

25)  Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
        Never tried but don't fancy them

26)  Can you whistle?
        Yes very loudly with 4 fingers and without any fingers! 

27)  What is your favorite color?
        Don't have one

28)  What songs do you sing in the shower?
        I don't

29)  Would you be a pirate?

30)  What's in your pocket right now?
        No pockets

31)  What's the last thing that made you laugh?
        Have I got News for you is on TV
32)  What vehicle do you drive?
        Hyundai Tucson

33)  What's the worst injury you've ever had?
        Not an injury as such but I had a kidney removed 30 years ago

34)  Do you love where you live?
        I've enjoyed living here but now on the move

35)  Would you change your first name if you could?
        There are too many Sue's, so YES but to what??

There, 35 quick questions and even quicker answers.

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Friday, 11 December 2015

Advent 11 Christmas Dresser + house news

All the things that are normally on my kitchen "dresser" ( it's really just shelves on a chest of drawers) have come off, been wrapped in newspaper and stored in a box or put in the kitchen cupboard.
The dresser has been decked, but looks a bit sparse in places, maybe I'll fish some tinsel out of the decorations box. I could add some greenery but it would all die before Christmas. Anyone remember two years ago when I took a picture of the dresser and had put the blocks as MERRY CHRITSMAS and even after Cro asked if I'd been on the cooking sherry, it still took me several minutes looking to see what was wrong- it was so funny- (I'm easily amused!) I left the blocks wrong all through Christmas just to see if any visitors noticed.

When the Christmas things are put away I won't bother to put the other stuff back, we'll lift the shelves off the chest of drawers and put them out of the way until we move.

I had an exciting time yesterday - easily excited too! because I went shopping in Ipswich, hadn't been to the town centre for ages.Col had yet another hospital appointment (and this is the man who'd never been in hospital until he was 56) - this time a follow up echo-cardigraph after the 'hardly a heart attack'  in October '14. No restrictions on him driving so he was able to drop me off in town for a couple of hours and pick me up afterwards. I didn't have time to go far round the town but it's always interesting to see which shops have gone and what's arrived. I did more Christmas shopping and  found all sorts of things for around a £1 so we can have a lucky dip pressie thing when all 3 children and partners are here on Saturday for our get together. Poundland had some decent Christmas Crackers for £4. I usually make some but, thinking we might have moved before Christmas decided not to bother. Then I thought we can't have a family Christmas meal together without crackers and paper hats.
Best of all, in the second charity shop I went into I found a 'new' coat for £7. I had 2 coats both miles too big that went to car-boot sales in the summer, which left me with just a short thin old lady's fleece jacket and a couple of old fleeces that I wear round here. This new one is also just a fleece but it's a bit longer, with black and white checks, belt and a hoodie not so old lady-ish I think.

It's going to be much easier for me to find bargains in town next year because after all the indecision, looking round, changing plans and faffing about we have found a 2 bed detached bungalow in Ipswich. It's on an estate in one of the older parts of town so not so squashed  in as some of the newer estates. It's just got a small garden which if we later let the bungalow will be OK. With a garage for Col's workshop, a shed to store stuff, no work needed (hopefully) except updating carpets and paintwork sometime and plenty of room for the caravan and car AND  less than half the price of what we are selling this place for. Best thing is it's within quarter  of a mile from an Aldi and a few  other shops including 2 charity shops, the doctors is even nearer and half a mile to the library. Just 3 miles round the ring road to the hospital and frequent buses into the town centre. It will be so different to the last 23 years here but perhaps that's a good thing. A complete change. If after a year, when we've done a bit of caravan touring, we find we don't like being in town we'll let it out and find somewhere else. I was counting up where I've lived for my 60 years. I've spent 43 years in small hamlets, 5 years in a small town and 12 years in villages, time for big(ish) town life!

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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Advent 10 The once a year purchase

  This is our once a year purchase and it was £4 this year - Good Grief

Yesterday Col was at hospital for another part of the camera thing that he couldn't have done before. They found nothing, so more tests will need doing to find out why he is aneamic and therefore lacking in energy - more waiting. We seem to have got used to waiting over the last couple of months, with life just ticking along gently. Yesterday my waiting a couple of hours to drive him home was OK because I found  the Christmas Radio Times in  Smiths  to look at. I spotted a few special editions of regular quiz programmes which will be entertaining and the things I mentioned in yesterdays post, I'll be getting out the highlighter pen soon. After describing the Dickensian series to Col  we saw a trailer for it and he said it looks like a Victorian Soap and as it's written by one of the Eastenders writers he may well be right - maybe we won't be watching that after all.

Also yesterday I wrote about the 100th book I've read this year and some people have ordered it - Oh dear what a responsibility, what if they've bought it and then hate it, I shall be worrying for ages!

Welcome to new follower Sarah AKA Fishcake Random at The Frugal Handmade Home, have a look at her blog to see what the elves get up to every night!

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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Advent photo 9 = 5ps for meat + the 100th book read.

All year round every 5p that comes into the house has gone in this tin, a few 10ps went in too and it has now been tipped out and counted, bagged up and taken to the bank. A Grand total of   £17.70p  towards the Christmas meat. Also in the tin was a dime, a quarter dollar and ½ a French Franc! Harumph - that means we were cheated out of 20p by people paying for things from the gate sales. I've added these coins to a whole lot of odd foreign money that we've collected over the years despite the fact we've not stepped outside our country.

Have you caught the BBC's Christmas programme trailer? I guess The Radio Times for Christmas is out any day now. I'm looking forward to Sherlock set in the 1890's, The Christmas Call the Midwife and a series that starts on Boxing Day where 25 of Dickens's characters are mixed up together- sounds curious. Oh, and the Strictly Christmas special of course - by the way, how the heck did Helen and Aljaz get into the bottom two and then chucked out.......who on earth is voting for Anton and Katie? Talking TV, I'll not be watching The Worlds Most Expensive Christmas on Channel 4 next week but have enjoyed seeing the lovely Josh Groban singing twice on different programmes, his album Awake is one of my favourites.

Ta dah! Book number 100 has been added to my separate page. It was the 16th in the Hawkenlye series by Alys Clare. These are historical crime and mystery set around an abbey in Medieval Kent on the edge of The Great forest, where there are people who are still pagan and there is always a little bit of the weird thrown in. I love them. She has also written a series set in the fens in the 11th century.

Thanks for comments yesterday
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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Advent 8

 We don't bother with many Christmas decorations anymore, mainly because when the house was extended and altered, quite a lot was re-plastered and I didn't want drawing pins stuck in everywhere, also a lot of our decorations were 30 years old, extremely tatty and only suitable for the dustbin.
We still have a tree, it used to be  a real one until all the ones we had got eaten by deer or grew too big, now a cheap thing from B&Q. Normally this goes up on the weekend before Christmas and comes down well  before Jan1st.(Bah Humbug!).
  This year our family are here mid month so we've put the tree up already.I've gone silver and red for 2015 because I felt sorry for the silver bits that hadn't been out of the box for years!

And - gasps in astonishment - I bought a new star for the top for £1.50! (The old one was a willow thing free from a Christmas magazine about 15 years ago and bits had snapped and unraveled). Everything else on the tree is several years old and quite a few secondhand - I've not contributed much to the Chinese economy this year!

Son and future daughter in law are really into Christmas decorations so will think this is a really poor show!

Here's another link back to an old post written in January when I made a list of things to remember for this years festivities. I said I would be looking for another dessert recipe - something that could be made and frozen well in advance - well, that never happened so today I'll be making the Chocolate Meringue Gateau again. As it's deliciously wicked I don't think it matters.

Thanks for comments yesterday and also welcome to Barbara, a new follower from Dorset I think.

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Joining in with Julie's Scrapbook where you can see other advent photos

Monday, 7 December 2015

Advent 7 Christmas stamps

The 7th  picture on my special advent calendar is the Christmas stamps
I like to send Christmas cards with Christmas stamps, so these are now attached to yesterdays cards and off in the post around the country.

Sorry it's such a short post today, there is absolutely Nothing happening here to mention at the moment.

Thanks for comments yesterday
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Sunday, 6 December 2015

Advent 6 Christmas cards and a good book

Picture number 6 on Sue's specially for you Advent calendar, is the most boring of the whole 24!
Envelopes full of cards waiting to be sealed and sent. I left them un-sealed in case I could add our new address. But now I'll get them in the post and sent and drop the ones for relatives in the Ipswich area into one of the Scout Post boxes in town. Several of the Scout groups do this now covering quite a wide area, they charge 25p each, so less than half the Royal Mail.

Because the weather yesterday was so windy I stayed in and got a whole book read. It was this one and probably not a good one to read if you are trying decide where to move to, I felt even more unsettled than I was before!
I didn't know anything about Margaret Forster before reading this as I'd never read any of her other writing, I didn't even know her husband is Hunter Davies although I have read some of his books about walking and countryside. My Life In Houses is about all the homes she has lived in and how they affected her life.The ending is quite poignant as she has a cancer with no cure. A review of this book in The Guardian would have put me off, so it's a good thing I didn't see it before I read the book. They seem to say that as a person wealthy enough to own two houses and spending a year avoiding tax in Portugal she shouldn't have whinged about builders and sitting tenants - which she does, but I enjoyed a peep into a lifestyle so different to our own.

I added the last book I read ( before the one above)- a short Christmas Novella by Anne Perry - to my List of Books Read 2015 and counted up- 98 books read so far this year with 3 weeks left - Blimey! So with this one it's now 99. I'd never before  counted up how many books I read in a year and am astonished, imagine if I had bought everything I read, we'd be bankrupt!

I do feel for the people who have been flooded out of their homes in Cumbria etc. What a shock just 3 weeks before Christmas. The weather here has been windy but otherwise not too bad and my only inconvenience has been having to peg the washing on the line with extra pegs on everything.

Welcome to another new follower - number 329, another Sue. - "Hello - good name!" and thanks for comments yesterday. ( No I hadn't posted about Christmas Tree festival last year and thank you everyone who hopes we can sort the house thing soon, I hope so too)

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Saturday, 5 December 2015

Advent 5 and A Day Out.........

..........House Hunting.

 As you know, we are selling the smallholding and campsite because of Col's health problems, we've been here 23 years, we want less responsibility and a chance to visit some places in the UK we've not been to before........... and we had a plan............
 Plan A was to buy something cheap in our old home town of Stowmarket in Mid Suffolk, prepare it for renting out while living in it and having a year doing some travelling with the caravan and then decide where to live after that.
Plan B - after Cols newest health problems and the horrible journey into Ipswich was to buy something closer to Ipswich hospital even though it would cost a bit more more. The problem with this plan is the only thing available at the moment at the right price was a small semi-detached bungalow needing a lot of work and would Col be fit enough to do it?
Plan C was to go and have a look at a couple of places In Stowmarket - in other words going back to plan A! The problem with plan C/A is that there isn't much for sale in Stowmarket either. We looked at a two bedroom detached bungalow in a quiet area, but with no garden, that needs some work and a semi-detached 3 bed house on a newer estate that was actually smaller than the 2 bed bungalow.
Plan D - heavens knows!

Anyway while we were in Stowmarket  I wanted to go and look at the Christmas tree festival in the church.
There were over a hundred trees all decorated in different ways by groups,organisations and individuals and it was brilliant. I hadn't got my big camera with me so just a couple of photos that aren't very good, but you can get a glimpse of what we saw

On the end of each pew was a Christmas tree decoration and the church were selling kits to make these but they were £10 each. So when I came home I googled"Christmas Tree decoration from milk bottle top"s and found with THIS 
plus loads of photos like this one below, they looked very good on the church pews

The strangest thing about being back in Stow - 44 years after I was at school there - was that we were shown round one of the houses by a man who turned out to be the nephew of someone who was in the same class as me all through Grammar school.
Apart from making me feel incredibly ancient it was a very odd coincidence.

It seems we are in for a stormy weekend, the sky here this morning was pink/red so shepherds take warning! and it's already very windy. I thought about biking to Leiston for a Christmas fair but don't fancy the up-hill head wind journey home again.

Thanks for comments yesterday, I hope if you try the veg pie you think it's OK.

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