Wednesday 30 October 2013

Raindrops, Roses, and Autumn Leaves...

Remember I posted the other week that we were off to a wedding? Well it was quite the most excellent weekend! We started with the short flight from Stansted up to Edinburgh, and had the Saturday exploring that wonderful city which is always a treat.

We dodged rainshowers and wandered - along Princes Street and around its wonderful gardens...

...and then we found a few of our favourite pubs - not difficult as there are so many fantastic ones! I even found my favourite Oban whisky in one, which was an added bonus! The following morning we returned to the airport to collect a cute little white Vauxhall Corsa which was to be our chariot for the day, and with MrEH at the wheel we headed North! We did get distracted at the Forth Crossing - I can't possibly go past that amazing structure without getting the camera out...

Wonderful isn't it? We detoured to stop at South Queensferry where there is a little beach, when the tide's out, that means you can walk right underneath the bridge. I've seen it from the road bridge before, and been across it on trains many times, but walking that close to it was a new experience - fantastic! We had a good wander about, and walked out on the little jetty you can see on the right of the picture above, and then, finally, headed north again towards Dunkeld, where my lovely friend Fay and her fiance were having their wedding.

We were there as helpers as well as guests - absolutely the way things should be in a "Handmade Wedding" - and our first job was a good old stomp about with the lovely Peedie & Haggis. MrEH shot off at a run with Haggis (who always has energy that needs dispersal) and Peedie gave me a look that simply said "I hope you don't expect ME to behave like that!" before we followed at a more sedate pace! Back to settle the dogs, then, and on with our other task for the day - that being to take lots of photos! (Well what else?!)  some you will already have seen on Fay's blog no doubt, so I'll just share a few of my favourites if I may...

Remember Fay mentioning their £10- bunch of Fairtrade roses? And the borrowed fairy lights? I think this shot shows both off rather nicely...

...and look - table runners and foraged table decorations all in evidence here. The vibrancy of the colours there could actually be a good indicator of the whole day - bright, vivid, and fun!

With photos of the decorative stuff all taken, and frocks changed into, off we whizzed to the beautiful forest of The Hermitage just up the road - a very special place this, and one which myself and MrEH are determined to visit again now! Naturally Fay's bouquet also contained all the autumnal colour you might expect, and came in quite handy to hide behind, too...

...whoever knew that wedding flowers could double up as hide 'n' seek props eh? Even a beautiful blushing bride needs a hiding place from time to time! She did indeed look gorgeous too - from her red wellies to her fabulous frock (vintage, naturally...well, Charity shop anyway!) our lovely lady just glowed with happiness ALL day. The Groom didn't let the side down either - dashing in his kilt, and the young adults also were stunning and handsome in turn.

From the forest we returned to the wonderful Birnam Arts Centre for some of this....

...and rather a lot of this...

...and a whole load of dancing, and chatter, and music, and fun!

What a truly magical day we all had - and almost entirely provided by the love and skills of a group of people many of whom started the day as strangers and ended it as friends - with wellie boots, and sushi, and pink fizz, and a wondrous forest, in common. Truly "Handmade with Love".

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, your Bride & Groom, Mr & Mrs McB...

May the best you've ever seen
Be the worst you'll ever see;
May a moose ne'er leave yer girnal
Wi' a teardrop in his e'e.
May ye aye keep hale and hearty
Till ye're auld enough tae dee,
May ye aye be just as happy
As I wish ye aye tae be.

Robyn xx

Monday 28 October 2013

Stormy Weather!

We do like a bit of weather, don't we! You know what they say, if you want to pick a "safe" topic of conversation with someone in the UK, you can't go wrong with Health & Weather! Sure enough wherever you go you can always hear folk talking....well, no, let's be honest, moaning....about the weather - it's too hot, too cold, too wet, not enough rain.....but of course it's always "good for the garden" isn't it, so that's alright then! The last few days the media, Twitter and general conversation have been dominated by what some have been describing as a "SuperStorm" which has swept across the southern and eastern parts of the UK. Sounds scary that doesn't it - and quite understandably people have indeed been quite terrified by it. The truth of it is somewhat more dull and ordinary - a severe patch of low pressure causing stronger than average winds - some possibly gusting to hurricane-force - across Southern mainland Britain and offlying islands. You can see why the media went for the rather catchier (if not terrifically accurate!) "SuperStorm", can't you!

In great swathes of the UK, the people living there are used to winds of the strength we were forecast, and more. The scottish islands for example - the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland - have winds of steady 40mph and gusts to 65mph and stronger on a regular basis right through the winter. That is far in excess of what was forecast for much of London and the South East. If you want proof of this, I give you the fact that they have almost NO trees on most of these islands - no, they haven't all blown down and killed people, they don't suit those areas so they are simply not planted, for the most part. Those that are are of a type that suit the conditions, and they are planted densely, in plantation form. Common sense is used.

Spot any trees?!
A few years ago in a serious storm on the Hebrides a family of 5 were swept away as they crossed a causeway having left their home in fear of rising floodwaters. Winds that night peaked at 124mph in the area they were travelling through, and waves crashing over the causeway simply washed the car away. They stood not a chance. The four younger members of the family - husband, wife, two small children - had only recently moved to the area, and were renovating a cottage in an area notorious for serious flooding. The grandfather who also lost his life was a long term resident of the Islands and really should have known the risk - but faced with the panic of a Four and a Six year old, and their parents, his own home on the other side of the causeway must have seemed like a sanctuary. We have no idea of knowing the thought processes but clearly the decision was very, very wrong. Since then the Causeways have all been reinforced, and in the worst weather they are closed completely until the worst has passed. We visited the islands just a few months later and spoke with locals who were still deeply shocked by the whole thing. "We lost our fence, and the greenhouse. Oh and my daughter's house lost its roof, but those things can be repaired, we've got off lightly really" one lady said to me. There was just an overwhelming sadness for the family - nobody said "Oh well they were warned" or "they shouldn't have been out in it". There were no overtones of "serves them right" - it was just quietly accepted that yes, there had been warnings, and no, they shouldn't have been out, but that they were doing what they thought was the safest thing for them at the time, and that the outcome was tragic. Sadly down here and 8 years on and I've been reading some truly awful comments on twitter regarding a chap who sadly lost his life this morning - suggestions that effectively he got what was coming to him as "it's simple ppl were warned NOT to travel " said one kindhearted soul... At this point there had been no publicity about what this poor chap did for a living - he could have been a Policeman, Fireman or Doctor for all these folk knew. Callousness like that, and uninformed at that, is something I find extremely hard to swallow - I have no problem with someone disagreeing with my views, but that's beyond belief, especially in a public arena where his family could happen upon it. I've voted with my feet and used the block button. A friend told me that she'd seen people complaining on Facebook complaining that "it wasn't much of a storm" and saying that was a "disappointment" - yes, seriously!

Remember "There's going to be a bit of wind, but if people are sensible it shouldn't disrupt life too much" doesn't sell papers - look carefully at the facts of a situation like this and make up your own mind - don't get swept along on a tide of media-whipped excitement. Serious weather conditions are not something we have to encounter all that often on mainland Britain (thank goodness!), and certainly not in the South, when something serious does come along it's really not a cause of excitement, and certainly shouldn't be gloried in or looked on as just a good excuse for a day off work!



My Frugal Friday post. Posted via Blogpress on Friday....and now vanished altogether! What a swizz! And after I was singing the praises of that particular app too!

If you happen to find a stray, lost, post drifting about the inter-ether, please send it back to me!


Wednesday 23 October 2013

Tweet Tweet!

Nope, not birds this time - well after all we're not birdwatchers you know! This time I'm going to talk about Twitter - that well known "micro-blogging" site where you can say whatever is on your mind, so long as it doesn't take more than 140 characters...

It's a bit of a marmite thing isn't it - the world seems to be divided between those that love it, and those that hate it with a passion bordering on fear - you know the ones, they call it things like "Twatter" as though by being disparaging they can ward off any possible contamination. I'm firmly in the first camp though - if I was going to be forced at gunpoint, today, right now (far fetched I know, but work with me on this) to step away totally from either Facebook or Twitter, I'd be scrabbling for the "delete account" button on my FB profile in seconds. Twitter has so many advantages - the greatest of which must surely be that 140 character limit. Why? Well quite simply, because PEOPLE CAN WHINGE LESS! Oh sure, there are still some that will manage it, but it is, in some ways, less annoying. FB has become synonymous for people using it for attention seeking, for "poor me" cries, for posting that they are "Terribly upset, I can't even begin to say" in a bid to get their "friends" to virtually gather round and ask what's wrong, at which point they will respond with something like "I've emailed you!" to the chosen few - well if you don't want to talk about it, don't bloody well write it on an effectively public messaging platform then! Don't even think about using your own status to have a moan about such things though will you - if you do you'll have several people huffily say "Do you mean ME?!" (they don't think for a second you do, although 9 times out of 10 they are precisely the ones you were meaning!) and another handful of friends who are clearly racking their brains to think what they might have said (those are the ones who would never even for a moment have popped into your head in connection with such "me me me!" behaviour, of course!).

I've found all manner of fun on Twitter - from complete and utter kindred spirits to some absolutely fantastic photographers. It's a great platform for sharing photos, for getting a quick laugh at a bad joke, for keeping up with peoples lives in little chunks. It's revolutionised sites like "Doglost" - if Fido goes missing now the message can be got out around the local area before you've even got your first handwritten sign taped to a lamp-post. It's great for promoting things like blogs too - I've found a number of excellent blogs to follow via people re-tweeting stuff, and even by people following me. others occasionally find my stuff useful too it seems - the Gnat Display team, based near us in North Weald, Essex, are currently using a photo of mine that I took in the summer as their header pic...

Followers is another dividing factor it seems. Some folk seem determined to amass as many as possible, and are willing to follow thousands of folk in the hope that they will follow back. Others follow, then unfollow when they realise you're not going to join their party (usually because you have NO interest in what they have to say!). Personally I'm unfussed about numbers - I follow those whose tweets I'm interested in (private individuals) or whose services are of use. One chap who describes himself as one of the "busiest sports broadcasters in the UK" uses numbers of followers to ridicule people who dare to criticise his somewhat shouty commentary style, in a "your three followers will enjoy that" sort of way. He seems to have forgotten that the person he's ridiculing's three followers are actually interested in what that person has to say, whereas his thousands of them follow him mainly in the hope of a bit of interesting news! Nasty, rude and certainly not big or clever, that sort of approach I would say.

Do you tweet? How about Facebook? Do you prefer one or the other? Why not add your Twitter ID if you have one to your comment! And if you refuse to do ANY form of social media, why is that? (And had realised that blogs are social media too, hadn't you!)


Sunday 20 October 2013


This weekend we will be "Up North" attending the wedding of a very special friend - some of you may have read about it on another blog - it's codenamed Welliefest! Kudos to this lady and her fiance, they've organised the wedding THEY want, at a price they're happy with, and they've made it into a properly eco-friendly non-throwaway event too. We're extremely happy to be up there celebrating it with them.

"Everyone loves a good wedding" is the phrase isn't it - and while I'm sure there are a fair number of grumpsters out there ready to say "well I don't!" for the most part it's true - if you're walking past the local Register office on a saturday afternoon and a bride & groom are just emerging, most of us are going to stop to look, and say "Ahhh!". We've been lucky to attend a few over the years, and each and every one has been special in its own way. There was our own, of course....

I think the smiles say it all, really!

My youngest cousin married in 2007 - and this was when I first twigged that an album of candid photographs captured on the day made a great wedding present for someone. One of the things we were most grateful for from our own wedding was the number of people who got additional copies made of their photos (pre the ease of digital of course). Sometimes when you're standing to the side, watching the formal stuff going on, you can get the shots that the official photographer simply can't be in the right place for...

I've been to a "welliefest" type wedding before - although the couple concerned (MrEH's brother & his wife) didn't bill it as such (personally I think they missed a trick there) and that too provided some great options for those candid shots - we did a small photobook for my Parents-in-Law from that one as well as the main one for the couple themselves.

Looking forward to coming back with many more wellie-related shots from the weekend - and most importantly, Fay & Mr F, we wish you all the very best for not only today, but for the rest of your lives together. Love you both! xx


Friday 18 October 2013

Frugal Friday

Looking at websites like MoneySavingExpert and their associated forums, one of the first things that becomes apparent to many people are the number of folk out there going out and doing things but seemingly paying very little for them. I'm not talking about the obvious "free stuff" like going for walks, visiting museums etc, but actually going to events and taking part in things where others have paid, or paid far more, to participate.

The first rule of this is if planning on doing something that does cost, book at the optimum time to get what you want for the best price. With train travel, for example, 12 weeks ahead of the date you want to travel you need to be glued to the internet watching for the ticket-release. The very cheapest tickets go quickly so if you want - for example, to travel to Scotland on the sleeper for £30, you'll need to be one of the first FOUR people to book for your chosen journey and route. Booking ahead for events often gets you a cheaper price than buying your ticket on the day, although you do have to watch for things like booking fees.

Of course there are other ways of reducing the cost of your train travel - we've spoken before about Megabus, who offer train & coach tickets all over the UK starting from just £1.50. They work by purchasing tickets on routes where there is always spare capacity - and as a result of this they get the tickets 6 weeks or so ahead - so if you've missed the 12 week optimum window, there's still a chance of a cheapie! You can reduce the cost of these tickets still further by converting Clubcard points into vouchers to redeem against travel - £5 worth of CC points gets you £10 travel - halving the cost of whatever you're booking. This same method works well with Red Spotted Hanky - although you frequently find "Free Credit" codes with them too - most recently through MoneySavingExpert.

It's not just travel that you can get for free or cut price - a few years ago we spent the day at Silverstone for a day of motor racing - absolutely free. This was part of the "World Series by Renault" - a series of events held annually across Europe with free tickets available on application. I was sent details as a result of being a Renault car driver, but anyone could apply online. Currently this isn't taking place on any UK circuits, but I imagine there's a good chance of it returning in the future - a great way of getting to see racing at some of the iconic tracks for a fraction of the price of F1.

Our Good Food Show tickets also come at a vastly reduced cost - there are many standard offers available for tickets at 20% discount, 25% discount or even buy one get a second half price, but for the real bargain you have to turn your attention back to those supermarket loyalty points! Our pair of tickets for the show this year have cost us £7.50 of Clubcard points each - so £15 for the two, and yet the cheapest full priced tickets available online are over £20! EACH! Consider that we would have gone anyway, and that the best deal we've seen elsewhere so far as has been 25% off, that indicates a saving of at least £15. That's before you take account of the fact that we don't spend extra in "that" supermarket to get extra points, so effectively it's free money anyway.

Also effectively free to us is spending an entire WEEK at the Great British Beer festival every year - by volunteering to work. Staff get accommodation provided, free beer, and subsidised food - although the work is VERY hard, there really is a job there that anyone can do, so if you're a CAMRA member, what's stopping you? Other events you can attend for free by volunteering include music festivals and airshows. Cut price tickets for local attractions like steam railways (Great for kids, and BIG kids) are often available through Groupon and similar sites. Many museums that charge for entry allow people in free for the final hour or so of the day - pick your favourite and work round it a section at a time!

Remember, if you want to do something first find out if you can do it, or something close to it, for free. Failing that can you do it at a substantial discount. You'll be amazed what's out there!


Tuesday 15 October 2013


"What's your favourite season?" is a question that seems to come up every now and then. Hmmm....Winter maybe - beautiful snowy lanscapes, clear views where later in the year nothing can be seen through trees, scarves, gloves and hats, and the feeling of snuggling up under a couple of nice heavy duvets on a chilly night... Or Spring maybe? The first signs of new life, the woods over the way to us taking on their first tinges of green, the first mornings where the bathroom doesn't feel absolutely FREEZING, lighter jackets but still cool enough to wear scarves.... Oh, but Summer - summer is just fantastic, no? Warm weather, not having to bother to take a coat, SUNSHINE, flowers out everywhere.... And then of course there's Autumn. All that colour, the crunchiness of leaves underfoot, beautiful sunsets and stunning sunrises...the colour - Oh, I've already mentioned the colour? Crisp mornings with wisps of mist hanging low over the countryside.

We're incredibly lucky in our town and the surrounding countryside - although the town is a new Town it's been built with open spaces and colour as an integral part of the design. Autumn is probably the best time to see it - it's a positive pleasure to walk around at this time of year with every colour from green through yellow and orange, to deep, dark red.

Is there a better time of year than autumn to go walking? I'm not sure there is. Not too cold, and yet not so warm that you get all hot and sticky within minutes.

The ground might be a bit sticky and slippy but nothing that ordinary walking boots are going to get phased by - I'm happy to wear wellies when gardening, but I'd have to be honest and confess I'm not a huge fan of walking any distance in them. Leaves getting stuck to the mud is a bit annoying though - that I'll grant you.

Then there's nature's harvest of course - where gardens tend to be more productive through the summer months, the countryside is in its element just about now. In the last few weeks we've gathered rosehips, haws, blackberries, plums, crabapples, sloes, elderberries and walnuts. Oh, and a Hazelnut. Not a great year for those. With just the addition of some sugar and some time, we've now got jars of jams, jellies, syrups and sauces, and a freezer loaded with fruit to take us through the winter months.

It all looks so stunning too - vibrant reds, glossy blacks, and the finished products from the deep purple blackberry jam to the beautiful delicate pale pink of the rosehip syrup. Just as marvellous lined up in the cupboard as awaiting harvest in the countryside.

So - which is my favourite season? Hmmm....can I get back to you on that? Better still - which is YOURS?


Sunday 13 October 2013

Photos rediscovered...

For years I used Webshots for online photo galleries - until last year, when with relatively little notice, they changed to a new format and deleted all the photos that had been on there for years. There were apparently a couple of emails sent out warning people of this but in common with many others I never saw these - the first I knew of it was when I logged in to drop some photos in there one day only to find that they - and all my others - had disappeared. Thankfully everything I had there was also backed up elsewhere - I'm pretty careful about backing up - as a general rule the photos on the laptop get backed up both to the PC and to an external hard drive too, and the PC gets backed up to the external drive.  I also leave the "decent" pics on memory cards too - rather than formatting and using cards again, once my 8gb cards are full I store them and start a new one. Obviously I also have the website, but I only put a tiny selection of the shots I take up there - it's not really for storage.

As a result of the demise of Webshots I've been investigating Flickr again. I've had a Flickr account for years, but as you used to have to pay to get a practical and useable account (Flickr Pro) I never made that much use of it. Now though it's changed - offering a full terabyte of storage, and lots of great ways to organise your photos too. As well as appearing on your main photostream photos can also be placed into "sets", and then those sets can be organised into "collections" too - so for example each years Hebrides trip has its own set, and then those are combined together into a collection too. As I add another year's photos, I just create the set, then drag the set into the collection - easy!

The good thing about all this has been finding photos I'd long since forgotten about lurking about - some of them *might* have made it to the blog before, and they're probably on my website somewhere, but I rarely seem to look back over other stuff that's on the computers. We do transfer holiday stuff into photobooks - the modern day equivalent of photo albums I guess, but we've even got slack about those over the last couple of years. That's the sad side of the digital age I guess - the number of shots just sitting on peoples hard drives gathering virtual dust.

If you'd like to take a look at the stuff I have on Flickr, then I can be found by clicking THIS LINK - while you're there why not take a wander about and see what other people have in their albums - there is some truly awesome photography on there, just see where your mouse takes you!


Friday 11 October 2013

Frugal Friday

One ongoing theme of frugal or simple living is making the most of everything you have - whether that is by looking after your clothes and caring for your belongings, extracting every last squeeze of toothpaste from the tube or getting the best value from your money by keeping your eye out for bargains on the things you use regularly. Shopping seasonally is also a part of that - it makes sense to buy what is in season as a general rule - it will be fresher, taste better, have traveled less miles and probably be cheaper too.

Visiting the farm shop recently we really noticed "seasonality" in action. A huge pile of corn-cobs sitting outside, on offer for 10 for £1.80 - at that price they work out cheaper and far tastier than buying the corn in tins - simply cut it off the cobs by holding the cob upright against a chopping board and running the knife down - the sharper your knife the easier and quicker this is. I then blanch it in boiling water for a minute or so, drain and once cooled, freeze it loose on baking-parchment lined trays. It then gets transferred to a sturdy freezer bag - in fact you could re-use old bags from other frozen veg, just re-label them first if they're opaque! By loose freezing like this it means you can easily tip out just the amount you want each time, saving waste.

More seasonal vegetable bargains acquired recently - a huge marrow which has been a component part of a LOT of meals since, cauliflowers (regular white and one of those stunning romanesco ones) and some of the little onions usually used for pickling. Add these together and you get a) a surplus, and b) PICCALILLI!  We threw in the last carrot from the fridge too, and in a moment of inspiration Mr EH recalled that nasturtium seeds go well in it, so he dashed outside and found.....2! Oh dear! Everything was chopped into bite sized pieces (no, not the nasturtium seeds obviously!) and salted and left overnight to draw out the excess moisture.

The following night we mixed cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cumin & coriander...

...together with a little vinegar, then added it to the rest of the quantity of vinegar which had been set to boil in a large pan, with the additional of some sugar & honey.A little stirring later and we had our sauce ready for the veggies...

A brief stir to coat the veggies and it was ready for jarring up. We sterilise our jars by setting them in the washing up bowl and pouring boiling water over. The jam-funnel, ladle and any spoons we plan to use get that treatment too, and fingers crossed (tightly) so far we've never had any issues.

This batch made 5 jars, several of which will get given away as gifts, probably. There was still more cauliflower to use too so a dinner of cauliflower & pasta cheese saw that off - perfect autumn/winter food!
Also in the spirit of making the most of things was our Sunday joint this week - a small bacon joint, supermarket bought, unusually for us, but UK in origin. Half of it was used for our Sunday dinner - boiled until tender, and then the water from the bacon used to cook potatoes and cabbage. The remainder went into meals on Monday and Tuesday nights, with the last chunk being chopped up and added to veggies and rice to create This Wee Lass Eats... inspired Special Fried rice. No pictures, sorry, we were too busy eating it and saying Yum! £3.70 lump of meat = 4 meals. That'll do for me!


Thursday 10 October 2013

Universal Truths....(probably*)

The one day you walk the dog without a "poo bag" in your pocket is the day that the dog will choose to stop for its business right in front of the bus-stop queue.

There are more people driving like idiots on a Wednesday than any other day of the week.

If you do something because you think it will impress others, rather than because "it suits you", then it will be obvious to everyone that you're not comfortable with it.

Bacon cooking is the smell most likely to make a vegetarian wonder whether they did the right thing by giving up meat.

There are not so many red cars on the road as there used to be.

Everything expands to fill the space available for it with the exception of money in your purse.

A small child will always choose the quietest moment possible to say the embarrassing thing they've been storing up VERY loudly.

You never forget anything entirely unimportant.

If you're going to slip and fall, there is NEVER nobody watching.

If you do slip and fall, none of the people watching will bother to check if you're OK.

You never find out about the traffic jam until you're already stuck in it.

The most annoying thing on the road is the overhead sign telling you your speed is limited to 40mph, when you're crawling along at 20mph.

The second most annoying thing is obeying the overhead sign telling you to limit your speed to 40mph, on an absolutely clear road, with everyone whizzing past you.

If a horse is going to throw you off, it will always search out a patch of nettles to deposit you into if at all possible.

The shot you delete by accident from the camera memory card will always have been better than it's apparently identical partner, that you left behind.

That thing that you think is a secret a) probably isn't and b)  nine times out of ten those you're "not telling" wouldn't care anyway!

A cat that's allowed to sleep on your bed will immediately claim it as HER bed, and will then proceed to lie right where you want to put your legs, and refuse to budge.

Coats, Jackets, tailored trousers : Buy the best you can afford

Smart shoes & boots : buy what fits, and is comfortable

Basic tee-shirts & tops, and knickers : Buy cheap & replace often

Your feet will not, in the long run, thank you for walking long distances in unsupportive footwear, no matter how cute or trendy.

Take a coat. No, really. You'll just be cold otherwise.

If the thing you're doing makes you feel uncomfortable with yourself, just stop.

There is a HUGE difference between "I can't afford..." and "I choose not to afford..."

Just because something has a trendy label, that doesn't make you better than other folk for wearing it.

A "Things To Do" list never has nothing on it...

Slamming the drawer of a filing cabinet in anger simply ensures that it will bounce back at you with twice the force. (No, not me!)

Speaking with someone "terribly" well spoken on the telephone ensures that within seconds you sound like you're trying to do a poor imitation of a posh person, at which point their voice gains a slight "are they taking the P*** out of me?" note.

*some of them may be more observation, than fact, based! ;-)

Go on then - what are yours?


Tuesday 8 October 2013

The garden in June...

I wrote the bones of this post a while ago, and inserted the photos, and then forgot completely to do anything else with it. Poor neglected blog post! It's interesting looking back - at the potatoes for example, which grew like anything in their "sack" planter...

Mad eh? And the ones planted in the garden are going just as crazy too - surprisingly from such a small area we got masses of tatties from them!

The front still has plenty of colour from the pots we planted up a while ago...this was how they looked back in June, and they got, if anything, even more colourful after that, too.

...remember we had no idea what colours we were planting in most of these - the stuff was all bought cheap, rescued from certain death, and crammed into the pots any old how - come out looking quite decent in the circumstances, eh?!  Also at the front our Sweet Peas climbed all over the railings, and the Nasturtiums after initially getting destroyed by blackfly have sprung back with a vengeance and are currently making a bid for the sky, I think, the rate they are climbing!

At the other side, things are a little more calm and sedate -

...see that blue? That's the most beautiful, delicate Geranium which MrEH chose a few years ago - he rarely expresses any firm wishes on particular plants, but this one he did, and I'm very glad of it as it's fabulous, and must be incredibly happy as it spreads itself further every year! It's "reclining" a bit in this photo after a day of heavy rain.  Elsewhere things get less phased by the weather - the Sage I scalped in the winter as it was getting too big for its boots (and our garden) was flowering away happily

- I do like a useful plant!  Also flowering away happily over that side was the Clematis...

...what a beauty, eh? We do have issues keeping Clematis's alive so I'm very pleased that this one has settled down so happily. I talked about both that and our Gooseberries when they first started showing Signs of Life back in March - and the Gooseberries produced a small but tasty crop - which we were delighted with as it was their first year! Another thing flowering as I wrote was the little rose also mentioned in that post - look... you can see the flowers are just as striking as the leaves!


Sunday 6 October 2013

Tai's story...

Back in 2007 I spent half the speedway season as track photographer at our local track, Rye House. Among the riders who turned out for the Rockets that season was this chap...

...Young British rider Tai Woffinden.  He'd made his debut riding for Scunthorpe in the lowest division, at the time called the Conference League, the season before, and was still riding for them as well as in the Premier League for Rye House during the 2007 season. At just 16 he was already making a lot of people sit up and take notice - and his results showed why, as he was consistently winning races and beating riders with far more experience.

He regularly partnered Rockets rider Tommy Allen and the pair of them became a formidable partnership for the home side:

We saw that a lot!  Never shy of popping a good wheelie when he'd won a race either, our Tai. Even at that stage he had a keen understanding of "what worked" - and as he approached along the home straight on one wheel, he'd actively seek out the camera...

Even when turning out for Scunthorpe in the Conference League fixture against Rye Houses's "Raiders" he got a great reception from the home support. Always happy to sign autographs or have photos taken, awnd with a keen sense of fun, the fans had absolutely taken him to their hearts and the small matter of him riding for the opposition wasn't going to change that!

Towards the end of the season Rye staged the Conference league rider's championship, and Tai represented Scunthorpe. Nobody was greatly surprised when he went through the card, scoring a faultless 15 point maximum and emerging a well deserved winner.

Tai's career has continued on an upward trajectory since. This season he was granted a place in the sport's premier event, the Grand Prix series, and in spite of twice breaking his collarbone in the course of the season, last night he stood atop the podium and received a rather larger and more valuable trophy than that pictured above. Well done Tai - British speedway is VERY proud of you!


Friday 4 October 2013

Frugal friday...

A lot of folk seem to be doing "Stoptober" challenges, and SFT is continuing her "Stretch It Out" for the month of October as well. "That Supermarket" have sent me a load of "£4 off when you spend £40" vouchers, which is most kind of them, but I'll not be using many of them! We do need a new paper shredder for getting rid of personal documents etc, and I have a voucher for a saving off electrical products too, so I may be able to combine the two in that spend...

My plans for the month are to continue to stash as much money from the food budget away as I can in our Clubcard Plus account. In spite of taking some cash out of it for spending money at Ludlow we were chuffed that we'd still managed to spend under our grocery budget last month - you might remember that the CC+ is where we save a good chunk of our holiday spending money so the more we can amass in there the less we have to save by other means!

Sunset at Sidinish, North Uist
Last weekend was distinctly frugal - and about time too after the last few weeks! I worked an additional day on the Friday, the Saturday was a combination of foraging (rosehips, crab apples, blackberries and quinces) and rugby, via a trip to the farm shop for the bulk of our shopping.  Sunday we popped to the fairly-local outlet shopping place as I have worn through the soles of my trainers (which I use all the time for walking - they're super-supportive and far lighter than my walking boots for pavement based walks) so they needed replacement. I've had my moneys worth from them - they've done me for 18 months and goodness knows how many miles, and in any event they were free from a lovely friend in the first place - thanks Cheri! I found a pair which fitted me well for £38 - a fraction of the price I would have paid for them on the high street no doubt.  Other than the trainers the only personal money I spent all weekend was £1.65 for a half pint of beer at Brentwood Rugby Club - bargain!

Harlow Saints - 2011
The rest of our Sunday was spent cooking - a crumble to use the last of the apples we brought back from Devon, along with the blackberries we foraged on saturday, extra crumble topping was whizzed up at the same time and has been frozen for future use. Also muffins for Mr EH's breakfasts, and flapjacks for mine, and a big slow-cooked pot of lamb stew - which stretched the neck of lamb we got when we bought the whole lamb into 4 meals. I also cooked a root-vegetable bake - we had assorted root veggies needing used after our purchases at Ludlow, so I julienned beetroot, swede, potato and carrot and layered them up, doused them in cream & milk mixed, topped with cheese and breadcrumbs, and threw them in the oven while the muffins cooked - a large one did a meal on its own for one night in the week, and the two smaller ones accompanied sausages.  I love weekends like that when I cook up a storm and pack the fridge with meals for the rest of the week - it makes life so easy when you get home after a long day!

Crab Apples...
The other "Frugal win" this week was hitting £250 in our "Virtual Sealed pot" savings account. This is purely from stashing away the odd pennies and pounds from our current accounts. When I started saving like that I had no real ideas what to spend it on, but now we've decided that we're wanting to squeeze in an extra Hebrides trip in 2014 - so it will be put towards that. A great incentive to save more, too!


Wednesday 2 October 2013

Looking back.....January

Last year I did a "Look back over my year" post at New year, and had awful problems working out which photos to include! As it rather seems as though we've done even MORE this year, I thought I'd break it down to one month per post, and pic out some of my favourite shots for whatever reason, over the year...(August's going to be fun!)

Starting at the beginning (well where else?) January saw a couple of trip round London with the camera in tow. I went for a good look at the Battle of Britain Memorial...

This is another work by the sculptor Paul Day - who is also responsible for the fabulous "Meeting Place" sculpture at St Pancras Station.

I also managed to grab a couple of days working up in the City of London - and used my lunchbreaks to good effect wandering along the Embankment...finding both fish...

...and fowl...

The final weekend of the month saw us heading up to Manchester for the National Winter Ales Festival. Bizarrely this was my first visit to Manchester so as well as spending the day at the festival on the Saturday we made some time to explore...

Very proud of it's velodrome is Manchester - there are bicycles everywhere!

A fab fountain in the city centre...

...and the most amazing and varied architecture. You hear a lot of negative stuff about Manchester, but I liked it - the people were friendly, the public transport seemed to work well (in spite of some truly awful weather on the Saturday in particular) and parts of the city are fantastic to look around. We'll be back!