Thursday, 21 February 2013

Hair Today

I haven't had my hair cut professionally for years, and I have NEVER had it coloured professionally despite the fact I haven't seen my natural colour since I was 15! It has been various shades over the years, from goth black to vibrant red and just about everything in between. I didn't have the luxury, as a teenager, of the fantastic range of colours my daughters enjoy today (think pink, purple, blue, green, you name it, they've tried it) but I did pretty well. I didn't like my natural colour very much and rather derisively described it as 'dead rat brown' if anyone asked, but these days I'm honest enough to admit that I dye it simply to hide the grey.

It's not that I mind grey hair, I don't have a problem with getting older - it comes to all of us in the end - and if I were to wake up one morning to find my hair a uniform silvery colour I don't think I'd mind too much. It's this inbetweeny stage I don't like, those random grey hairs that streak the brown in a disorderly fashion. Maybe one day, when the grey outweighs the dark, I'll give up on the dye but until then I'll spend a few pounds every 6 weeks or so in the name of vanity.

Money has been a bit tighter of late and hair dye was something that kept getting pushed off the bottom of my list. I like my hair to look OK, but when it comes right down to it I'm not so vane that I'm going to skimp on food or electricity for the sake of doing my roots and so it was that those roots got longer and longer and the grey more and more obvious and that didn't make me very happy at all. I felt I couldn't really justify spending money out on dye but when it started to make me miserable...
.... that 2" stripe of grey down the middle of my head had to go!
I've never really bothered with the more expensive hair colours you find on the shelves these days unless they are on offer, I usually spend about £4 or £5, and to be honest I've not noticed any real difference in quality regardless of price...except perhaps that the cheaper ones don't smell as nice but are often better at covering grey.
This time I couldn't afford my usual colour but the sinking feeling I got each morning when I looked in the mirror prompted me to give one I found in Poundland a go. I wasn't really expecting much, not for a pound. The colour wasn't as rich, or red, as I'd have liked but I thought 'what the heck? It will cover my grey and if I can afford a decent colour in a couple of weeks I can always do it again.'
And this was the result.
It's a bit darker than I wanted. It looks OK in the sun, or under bright lights, but on a dull day -to my eyes- it looks almost black and my goth days are long gone! lol
It'll do, I thought, until I can get something better. But then I realised how soft it felt, how silky smooth....was this really my hair??? And then, without any prompting, hubby said how much he liked the colour, how it really suited me!
So now there are three boxes of pound shop hair dye sitting in my cupboard, and I shall stock up on a couple more next week. No more grey roots for me.
Now, I just have to take about an inch of dead ends off and it'll look just as good as the days when I used to sip G&T's in a salon in Covent Garden as a glamourous stylist snipped and smoothed my locks for almost £100 of my hard earned cash!
£1 or £100? It's an easy choice.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Disappearing Biscuits

Firstly, let me apologise. There should have been photo's to go with this post but I have to admit to us having been greedy little piggies who devoured a whole plate of biscuits before I remembered to get my camera out! Oooops!

Hubby often gets a bit of a sweet tooth and anything even remotely looking like it might contain sugar, when he's in one of those moods, doesn't stand a chance. I, on the other hand am usually much more restrained, especially after having lost so much weight last year. I have absolutely NO intention of allowing that two stone to creep back on, but yesterday was just one of those days.

We were curled up yesterday evening watching TV when hubby uttered those fateful words, 'Is there anything sweet to eat?' I could, probably should, have suggested apples, or bananas, but where's the fun in that? You see I like baking, I love baking in fact. I don't think I'm ever happier than when I'm in my kitchen with my mixing bowl so it doesn't take very much before I'm offering to make cakes or muffins or a batch of biscuits...

Last night I turned to one of the very first recipes I ever learnt, taught to me by my Grandma as I stood on a stool in her kitchen. If I remember rightly it's from her old Be-Ro recipe book, almost everything my Grandma made came from that little book and with good reason. Unlike so many recipes today they are simple, basic even, requiring very few ingredients which in turn usually made them inexpensive. And that's what we all want right? Something tasty which doesn't cost a lot to make.
So here is the recipe for Melting Moments - originally, I think, from the Be-Ro book but given to me by my Grandma and I've been making these with success for over 40 years. They are lovely crunchy biscuits that keep well in an air tight container for about a week (if they last that long ;) )
5oz SR Flour
3oz Sugar
2 1/2 oz margarine
1 1/2 oz lard
half an egg * this always annoys me - what am I supposed to do with the other half? I often double the quantities so I can use a full egg if I'm not likely to use it up elsewhere.
1tsp vanilla essence (I often don't bother with this)
Rolled oats or dessicated coconut
Cream together the fats and sugar and then beat in egg and the vanilla essence.
Stir in the flour and mix well.
With wet hands form mixture into balls and coat with either oats or coconut.
Place on a greased baking sheet and press slightly.
bake at gas mark 3-4 or 350-375 F (haven't got C listed and I'm not sure what the conversion is)
the recipe says it makes around 40 but I always make them larger and make 20 or so. They'd be very tiny (bite sized) if you did 40.
This time I didn't bother with the oats or coconut and instead melted a bar of chocolate we'd had in the fridge for a while to coat them with when they had cooled. Just that little bit of chocolate made it seem like a really decadent treat.
I'll have to be especially good for the rest of the week now (and I did go out for a run this morning) but sometimes its nice to be a bit over indulgent.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


It's Shrove Tuesday. Pancake Day. And I forgot.

Not only did I completely forget that today I had the perfect excuse for throwing caution to the wind, ignoring the diet and pigging out on yummy pancakes, but I failed to ensure I had the bare essentials in the kitchen cupboards. I have no lemon juice, I'm eeking out what little milk we have for teas and coffees (If I have to drink black coffee tomorrow morning I will not be a happy bunny), and without even thinking, I fried the last two eggs for hubby's breakfast this morning.

I have quite a reputation for being able to rustle something up from nothing but I don't think even I could manage to make pancakes without eggs and milk!

I love pancake day. I love pancakes and I'm absolutely gutted that I won't be indulging today along with everyone else. There's nothing to stop me having pancakes tomorrow of course, and I shall, but it's not the same. It's not that I go in for the whole Lent thing, I'm not Christian so it doesn't really apply, but I do love traditions and well, it's traditional. I remember making pancakes with my Grandma when I was only very small (I had to stand on a stool to reach the table) and her explaining what it was all about. I remember (friendly) arguments raging about the 'right' way to eat a pancake, rolled up or flat (Granddad said rolled was better, Grandma said that was greedy and they lasted longer and you felt you had more if it was flat on the plate). Then there was the debate about lemon. Mum insisted on lemon and sugar, Dad would spread his with butter and sugar! As a child I didn't mind either way although these days I lean towards the lemon option. Although having said that... chocolate, bananas, whipped cream, strawberries, caramel, nuts, long as it's sweet I think it's safe to say it goes well with a pancake ;)
But all this talk of pancakes is making me hungry, and very cross with myself for being so forgetful so I'm off to make a shepherd's pie and dream of indulging tomorrow. You all enjoy your pancakes today, I've got the pleasure still to come.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Water, Water, Every Where, But Can't Afford to Drink

I'm at war with my water company, at least that's what it feels like. Never before, in all my years, have I encountered a company so difficult to deal with so, petty and pig headed. Yes, pig headed! I have been too, I suppose, although I admit that only grudgingly. They have brought out the very worst in me, but now I'm throwing in the towel. We are at a kind of stalemate where both parties can perhaps walk away pretending victory with dignity intact. At least that's what I'm telling myself. I'm tired of fighting now. I just want it paid, gone, forgotten.
I had NEVER had a problem with a water bill before I moved to Cornwall. Water bills were something I barely gave a moments thought to, they dropped through the letter box, were paid, and that was that. No problem. They were small bills, almost insignificant bills, compared to others we had to deal with. At times our water bills were so low that our landlords were even happy to include it with our rent and we didn't even have to think about it at all. It's fair to say that although I was always careful with my water usage, I did so purely because of environmental concerns not financial ones.
We considered many things when we were making the decision to relocate. We discussed the impact of a big drop in income, we talked about how we'd cope with a slower pace of life after living life at 100 mph for so long. We debated the consequences of being further away from our families, and even looked at differences between local health trusts but never, never ever, not once, did we think about if we'd be able to afford our water bill! And yet on more than one occasion since we moved here that has been a factor in those 'did we do the right thing?' conversations. There have even been times, on my darker days I admit, when I've even considered moving away just to rid myself of the dreaded, demon water company.
I'm not going to go into detail here (mainly because it would probably bore you, but also because just thinking about it sends my blood pressure sky high) but an unexpectedly high (and, I still maintain, incorrect) bill, coupled with a change to six monthly billing which meant I didn't know there was a problem until it was too late (convenient that) resulted in having to pay by instalments instead of paying the bill outright each time as we always had. Now this wouldn't have been a problem if the instalments hadn't been set at a level we couldn't possibly afford (being based on the high bill). The problem with paying by instalment is you aren't just paying the bill you've just received but are also paying towards the next one.
And so began a spiral of missed payments, arguments, negotiations, threats of court action and bully boy tactics. Every offer of payment I made was refused and countered with an impossibly high demand. I am absolutely convinced that I could offer them the sun, the moon and the stars only for them to come back with a demand for the space station and proof of life on Mars too!

Eventually, in desperation, I wrote a long letter, not offering this time but telling them exactly what I would be paying and when and much to my surprise I got a very different letter in reply. It ignored many of my points and yes, still demanded more than I had said I would be paying, but it was considerably less than previously (maybe suggesting I open a vein had an impact. lol) It's more than I wanted to be paying BUT with a bit of juggling it is manageable. Phew.

The letter also confirmed what I had long suspected, I've managed to bring our water consumption down to a fantastically low level. We are now using less than they would expect for a single person household (without feeling like we're suffering at all, honest) at a cost of approx £5 per week. Now for anyone in other parts of the country with cheaper water bills that might not seem something to shout about (my step daughter runs two deep baths a day and spends less than that- and yes I am jealous!) but anyone who lives in the south west region will know what an amazing achievement that is. I swear it would be cheaper to have liquid gold flowing from our taps ;)

There is a big debt to clear, it's going to take time, but finally I feel it's achievable.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

NOT a Fun Way to Save Money

Uggghh. I feel terrible. I've felt terrible for over a week now. It started with a migraine (with a cold thrown in for good measure) then progressed with a delightful little tummy bug, only to see the return of my migraine (cruelly just as I thought I was starting to feel better) for the last few days. It's on it's way out now (I hope) but I still feel grotty and washed out.

On the bright side, as a result of feeling like death warmed up, I've barely dragged myself out of bed so I've been nice and warm without having to put the heating on and I really haven't felt like eating very much at all (it's been soup and rice pudding for the most part).

It's been a very inexpensive week but I have to say, on reflection, that there are nicer ways to save money.

Now, I'm making a mug of hot chocolate and going back to bed. Fingers crossed I'll feel much better in the morning.