Sunday, 2 February 2014

31 Days of Cheapness

I found a great frugal food website the other day: Cheap Family Recipes, and I'm really excited to share it with you!

The authors of this site have provided meal plans and shopping lists for incredibly cheap family eating. They claim that, if you follow the meal plans and shop wisely, you can feed a family of four for a month, for about £100. The recipes look tasty and well balanced, and they have two plans on offer: the vegan version, and a version that includes meat. They also offer the whole thing FOR FREE. I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I am rather excited to give this a try. Starting tomorrow, I will be following the Cheap Family Recipes 'option two' vegan meal plan for 31 days.
Bean Curry (pic taken from http://www.cheap-family-recipes.org.uk)
Now, a few disclaimers. The prices on Cheap Family Recipes were calculated in 2010. Prices have gone up exponentially since then, pretty much everywhere. So I am under no illusion whatsoever that this will be quite as cheap as they're claiming. BUT the principle is still sound. The recipes still use very cheap ingredients so I'm interested to see how cheap it'll be to eat like this in 2014.
Onion Tarte Tatin (pic taken from http://www.cheap-family-recipes.org.uk)
 Also, I am not feeding a whole family with this plan, as I am only carrying out this experiment on myself this time. So I have cut all the quantities down to single-person amounts, except where it's something I need for everybody in the house anyway (like potatoes), where I've just bought in bulk like I always do. I'm not sure yet how much it's all costing, mainly because I already had half the required items in my cupboard anyway, but I''ll work it out and put a list up soon.
Red Pepper Pasta (pic taken from http://www.cheap-family-recipes.org.uk)
I'm also keen to see what happens to my body if I start following this plan. I need to go completely vegan again because of the effect dairy has on my skin (Psoriasis, spots and what not) and lungs (asthma), but I've been struggling to drop the last few non-vegan things I eat at the moment, because it's just easier to grab something convenient than make the effort to make a 'proper' vegan meal (and I can't afford ready made vegan convenience food, which is super expensive). I'm also interested to see if it will affect my weight. I'm pretty much smack bang in the middle of the healthy range if you go by my BMI, so it doesn't really matter if I stay there or even put on a little bit here and there. But I eat way too much junk food, which obviously will not be part of this new menu plan, so I won't be surprised if I lose a few pounds over the next month. If that happens, that's okay. As long as it's not more than a stone I'll still count as healthy.

Watch this space for updates!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Cheap vegan cream of celery and potato soup

I shot myself in the foot by saying I'd get back to blogging soon didn't I? Pretty much as soon as I posted that, I came down with the mother of all nasty viruses (thanks to my germ incubator of a child) and was flat on my back for AGES. Today is the first day I am even vaguely able to think about looking at a computer screen without my head splitting in half! Anyway, I wanted to share this soup which I made the other day in a rare lucid moment between coughing and sneezing and passing out on the couch like some sort of zombie. Due to being ill, I had been neglecting the grocery shopping and my fridge was rather empty. So I invented this quick and easy comfort food with whatever I could find.... cream of celery and potato soup!


Chop, and throw into a pan:
One head of celery, one onion (I only had red ones, which was fine except it made the soup a bit grey looking. If you want green soup, use normal onions instead). Three cloves of garlic (this was me trying to kill my virus. You might want to use less). One potato. Add enough vegetable stock to just about cover the contents of the pan, bring to the boil then simmer it until everything has gone soft. Pour in about half a cup of soya milk (if you're not vegan you can use cow's milk instead). If you like it lumpy, heat through and serve. Otherwise blitz it up with a stick blender. This made enough for two big bowls of really thick soup. I had mine with hedgehog bread and it was really tasty!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year from Glitter Mountain

Wow... it's been a pretty long time since I blogged hasn't it? 7 months and not a peep!!

2013 was a bit of a mess, unfortunately. We had a whole ton of bad luck: money, health, work, and a death in the family. I pretty much quit the internet while I was trying to deal with it all... there's only so much one person can handle, after all. But I'm back now and quite surprised to see I still have some subscribers! Thanks for being so patient ^_^

I have lots to show you. Watch this space!!


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Collecting

The next topic is Collecting and we are supposed to talk about the things we collect. Well sad to say, I am a total hoarder and always have been. When I was a child I always had at least 4 or 5 different collections on the go, Dolphins, My Little Ponies, books, Tigers, little horse ornaments and god knows what else and my room was pretty hard to move around in or find anything because of all the stuff I used to collect and keep. Now I'm older I have had to try and keep my hoarding instincts under control so that my house won't be completely swamped with things!! I still permit myself a few things though, because at the end of the day they make me happy and it would be a sad world if I deprived myself completely! One thing I have collected for years is paper weights. I have about 30 of them dotted around the house and they are beautiful. But my main thing is...
Make up and nail polish!
I'm sure it is no surprise to anybody who knows me or who has been reading this blog for any length of time, that my main collection is nail polish. I also collect lipsticks and eyeshadows (the picture above is my eyeshadow collection). It may, however, be a surprise to some of you that there is a really good reason WHY I collect these things. When my son was born, for the first three years of his life I suffered from severe post natal depression and post natal psychosis. Life was very dark and hopeless back then, since I hid my condition and it went undiagnosed and untreated for a very long time and I didn't get any help until the child was three years old. Nail polish, and then make up, was actually what saved me in the end, or at least it was the first step in my recovery. My sister in law was staying with us, and one day she painted her nails, then offered me the bottle to do mine too. I had not worn even a scrap of make up for longer than I could remember - but out of politeness I took the bottle and painted my toenails. It felt so weird having something about me feel pretty for once. But it also felt good. So the next day I did my fingernails too. And then I tried a little make up, and then I did something with my hair for a change, and then I bought some new clothes and suddenly I felt like a human being again for the first time in three long years. I have collected nail polish, and to a lesser extent make up, ever since then - and I always will, because it reminds me that I am important too and deserve to look nice and have nice things. Nearly all of my stash is drugstore or mid range; I have very little high end stuff because as nice as it is to have a drawer full of Chanel or Dior, I find it hard to justify the amount they cost when finances are tight.
 I have two Helmers, one for polish, the other for make up, and I spend soooo much time just rearranging the things in them, taking them out, looking at them, having a little play with this colour and that, it's so therapeutic and it makes me really happy.

What about you - what do you collect and why?

Book Love

Today's next topic is Book Love.

Now I have to say that nowadays as a full time employee, mum, wife and blogger, I don't get much time for reading any more, and when I do it has to be on a Kindle because allergies have made it hard for me to keep paper books in the house any more -sob-. But as a child and in my teens and early twenties I was a total book addict. I never had a book out of my hand and if I had nothing to read I felt physically deprived. I remember once when I was a child and sitting on the loo, I couldn't even last the few minutes until I got out of the bathroom so I sat there reading the back of the toilet roll packet just for something to read!! I didn't know back then but this was actually a side effect of having Dyscalculia which I have had all my life... dyscalculics tend to compensate for having learning difficulties with numbers, by being really good with reading and words instead, and boy did I over compensate!! I especially loved fantasy books, sci fi, and also the classics which I found in a local book shop for cheap and had a whole collection of them. I had hundreds of books and loved them all. It's hard to pick out favourites from all the books I love or have loved but here are two of special significance to me: the first 'proper' book I ever read, and my favourite book as a child.
The first 'grown up' book I remember reading is Watership Down. I could read by the time I was 4 years old. Partly because of my dyscalculia, partly because I was rather precocious back then anyway, and partly because my mother disapproved of the new system of Phonics they were teaching at the time and therefore she made darn sure I could already read before I started school. At the age of 4 I was reading more fluently than most people twice my age and once I started school they just didn't know what to do with me. At 5, given the 'Roger Red Hat' book learn-to-read series everyone else in my class at school was reading, I finished them all in less than a week. After a bit of consternation and trying to make me read other books for kids my age (which all lasted me about 5 minutes before I was back asking for something else to do), the teachers just gave up and let me pick whatever I wanted from the top class' book shelf. I chose Watership Down, which everybody thought was waaaaaay too hard even for me. I finished it in three weeks flat and all the teachers pretty much fainted lol. They let me keep the book and I still have it today and love it even now.
The Swiss Family Robinson was my favourite book for years as a child. Dad picked it up in a charity shop and gave it to me as it was one he'd been fond of as a boy. I absolutely loved it and pretty much read the ink off the pages. I loved the stories of desert island life, the way they survived in the wilderness and made themselves such a lovely home from sheer resourcefulness that in the end when rescuers arrived, they decided to stay there rather than leave. When I was older I saw the movie and I HATED it. Hollywood-ised to death, it was nothing like the book... gone were the fascinating tales of survival and the intricate details of how they'd designed this that or the other gadget to make butter or string, made their own fishing nets, or how they protected their little farm area from wild animals. Instead they'd been replaced by cheesy shmaltz and stupid scenes of brothers (who in the book had been decent and sensible) suddenly turned into hormone crazed idiots, fighting over who gets to dance with the girl (why do they have to bring sex into everything??). Even now the movie gives me rage just to think about it. I consider it pretty much the worst movie I have ever seen, just because of how far removed it was from my childhood memories of this lovely story and part of the reason why I rarely watch a movie that's based on a book unless I have already read the book first and seen what it was really supposed to be like!

That's it for Book Love for me. How about you? Which books did you love as a child?


Travel Dreams

Morning, sweeties!

So having caught right up with the blog every day in May challenge, I wound up with a killer headache that lasted two days and BINGO, I'm behind again. It was so annoying, but my head hurt too much to even look at a computer screen.

Never mind though because both of the topics I've missed are fairly short ones, so rather than ignore them I'm going to catch up all over again. First up is Travel Dreams : if you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? This is quite a hard one since there's a lot of places I would love to visit, however if I had to pick just one it would be the place I love so much, I even have it as my blogger user picture:
Barbados
The Caribbean! I have always wanted to go there, ever since I was a child. I've always been kind of cold blooded - I'm cold pretty much all the time, and the UK leaves quite a lot to be desired when it comes to hot and sunny weather for most of the year - so anywhere that's tropical and warm sounds like my idea of heaven.
One day when I was about 10 my mum and I were talking about what it would be like to live somewhere warmer than the UK, and if so which sort of place would we prefer. She said that there were dry heat places like deserts, and tropical places where it was more humid, and so on. We looked at pictures of different hot places and when I saw photographs of the Caribbean islands I thought they were the most beautiful places I'd ever seen. Ever since then I've been entranced by all things Caribbean! The landscape... the food... the people... the music... even now a Caribbean accent leaves me weak at the knees. Though I have never actually been there I have promised myself I will go one day, though I'll probably have to win the lottery first to afford the plane fare!

How about you - where would you love to go?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Favourite Social Media Channel

Day 9 of the BEDM challenge and this time we have to talk about our favourite social media channel!

While I wouldn't say I'm completely obsessed with social media, it definitely plays a big part in my life. There are so many channels now and so many people use at least one of them - friends, family, colleagues and so on - that it's hard not to be influenced by social media in some way these days. Probably my most used of the social media channels is Facebook. Once upon a time I actually used MySpace instead, but over time it became more populated by young teenagers, bands etc and it wasn't the same any more. Not that there's anything wrong with teens or bands, but I am neither of those things and whilst I do like music, that's not all I'm into. So I went and checked out Facebook and the rest is history.
Facebook has a special place in my life because through it I have got back in touch with a lot of old friends, family members, people I used to go to school with, people who live too far away from me to visit, and so on - since I have a bit of a phobia of talking on the telephone, and have never been too good at writing letters, there are many people who I probably wouldn't have had anywhere near as good a relationship with if I hadn't been able to do it this way. I even met one of my closest friends through Facebook; she was a friend of a friend and we added each other because of that and the rest was history. Facebook has also been a lifeline for me during those times when I've had little or no social life otherwise; when I've had no money, or was too busy taking care of a newborn to leave the house, or for some other reason that got in the way of me having a life beyond just work and home. These were times when I could have been incredibly lonely, but because of Facebook I was able to stay in touch with people and feel reassured that someone still cared about my existence (and likewise I've been able to do the same for other people too). I like how you can put as much or as little effort in as you want, be that long messages on each other's statuses or walls, or just a simple 'like' of a picture or something that somebody's shared, letting them know that you've seen it and you think it's cool (man do I wish they would have a dislike button too though). I value likes as much as actual messages, it only takes a second to click 'like' but it still lets the person know you're there and you're thinking of them in some way. I use Facebook as my ranting post, soap box, a platform for sharing triumphs and successes, and a way of recording important moments in my life. I put loads of photographs on there, which means not only do my friends and family get to see them, but also I can look back through them and through old statuses and what not and feel nostalgic/proud/sentimental/amused etc over each of the things I've done and seen. It's a bit like an electronic scrapbook of my life... I have always been AWFUL at keeping diaries and journals, and organising photographs, but now that Facebook exists, it does all of that for me. If I could only pick one type of social media, it would probably be Facebook.
Lucky for me I don't have to stick to just the one though! Next up in my list of favourites is Twitter. I have to say that for the longest time I didn't really get on with Twitter. Unlike Facebook, hardly any of my 'real life' friends are on there, so when I first started I didn't really have anyone to talk to and there isn't exactly a 'find me some random people to make friends with' button either lol.  But I persevered, starting off by following celebrities and then finding people who also liked those celebrities, and then on to bloggers and other interests of mine. Once you've got a few friends you add more from amongst their friends too and it soon grows. Twitter is, for me, primarily a place I interact with the blogging community (both directly and also by clicking on bloggers' links to their latest posts), find out what's new and exciting in the world of nail polish, cosmetics and fashion, and to a lesser extent, keep tabs on what my favourite celebrities are doing. Unlike Facebook, most of my friends on Twitter are people I have never met in 'real life', but I have been able to get to know some really great people, with similar interests to me, who I probably would never have come into contact with otherwise.
A more recent addition to my list has been Instagram. I used to hear about this photographic social media thing that people had on iPhones and wonder what all the fuss was about; when they brought it out on Android phones I had to give it a try just out of interest and nosiness lol. Initially I thought it was a bit of a boring gimmick but again that was because I didn't have many people to follow at first. Once I'd followed a few people I quickly became hooked; I just love seeing those little snapshots of people's lives and sharing a few of my own too :)

That's about it for me; I know there's tons more (Google+, Foursquare, Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube and all the rest) but really I try and limit it to just these three as I don't have time to spend on keeping that many things going. I can easily lose whole evenings just on Facebook alone and I try not to let social media swallow up my entire life, which could happen quite easily if I tried to do everything! Also I try to remember that social media has a dark side. As well as the fact it can easily steal all of your spare time if you let it (time I should be spending with my family!) the internet is full of creeps and weirdos.  Sad but true, bad people have access to social media too!  Because of this I have my own personal set of social media rules that I follow at all times - most of it is common sense but I will list them here anyway as it is so important to protect yourself when online these days.

1. Use privacy settings correctly. Most of them are set by default to 'open', that is every man and his dog can see what you're doing and saying and uploading. This is fine if all you're doing is talking about how great your latest lipstick purchase is, but not so much if it's something more personal. If you're not OK with random and possibly dodgy strangers seeing that picture of you in your bikini, those settings are going to have to change.

2. Limit the amount of personal information you share, especially if you have chosen to have slightly more relaxed privacy settings that allow strangers to see your activities, or if some of your friends are actually people you don't really know. People have been burgled because they told the world exactly where they lived, then put up statuses letting the world know they were off to work and wouldn't be back for x number of hours.

3. DAMAGE LIMITATION. Watch what you say, do and upload - some things just have no place in social media, and for good reason. Even once you have your privacy settings right, you can still come unstuck and once it's out there, you can't always get it back. Sometimes people get hacked. Sometimes sites change the privacy settings without warning. Sometimes one of your so called friends turns out to be a troll or a gossip monger and before you know it you're in trouble because you said something and it was taken the wrong way, or passed on to someone you didn't want to share it with. I try always to look at what I'm doing and saying and imagine what might happen if that picture got into the wrong hands or if the wrong pair of eyes saw what I'd written. I don't like the answer, then I just don't put it on the internet!