Monday 29 December 2014

A belated, but Merry Christmas!

Happy December!

How time flies when you are having fun.

I am currently cooking a joint of ham in the slow cooker, simmering a pan of pudding rice on the hob and listening to the sound of my bread maker, which is busily competing with the washing machine.  Right now, I am sat in my cosy chair, with a glass of red wine, thinking what 2014 has given us and what I would like from 2015 whilst perusing the forums that I follow online.

I've taken on a second job in October and it has proved a great thing so far.  I won't lie, it's hard work managing that on top of a normal full time job, husband & children, horses , dog and a house.  However the thought of owing our own piece of heaven (or a bit of countryside in the North East of England as it's also known) is worth the hard work and more.  Some nights have seen me working until 2:30am and getting up at 6:30am but I am coping and dare I say it, enjoying it!  A couple of hundred extra a month is very welcome :)

2015 is going to be the best year yet.  It will see us making great strides into paying off the loan meaning we're ready to start looking for our farm.  It will be the year of make do and mend and really getting back to basics.

Starting off with repairing a pair of jodhpurs that have seen better days and were destined for the bin. 

I am off work until Friday and even then it's just from home for a couple of hours.  I am just settling down and enjoying my time off and it's lovely.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Happy November!

I'm back :)  We've been extremely busy with one thing and another, so I thought it was time to dust the blog off and provide an update!

The out-house as it was once known, in my last post, is now fondly referred to as the downstairs loo!  GH has done a fabulous job on turning the cold, damp and down-right awful outhouse into a sleek, practical and tidy downstairs loo room.  A huge pat on the back for him!

GH has also taken up learning to play the guitar so this has now taken up residence in our living room.  It actually adds a warmth to the room.  We've had the log burner on regularly now the nights are colder (despite the days being mild here in the North East) and I feel we're on the turn to Winter now as the temperature this morning had dropped dramatically compared to previous nights.  This means tonight will see us digging out the scarf and glove sets for the kids to put in their school bags.

I've taken on a second job which so far is proving fabulous.  I work from home a couple of times a week typing up documents for a company and they pay me.  The wage isn't great but I don't care.  Every penny will go towards overpaying the car loan which I took out March last year.  It was over 5 years and the idea is to over pay it and get this down to 2017 (or sooner?) so we can get on with buying the farm!  GH bought a car last year too and he will pay his (family) loan off at the same time.  That will leave us loan free to purchase our dream.

My mind is turning to Christmas now.  I've already bought quite a few gifts and I need to sort through them - a weekend job.  I'm planning on making a few homemade gifts and putting them in as the stocking fillers this year.  A hamper of 2 for the kids and my parents, a few personalised items from the internet for those who don't appreciate homemade and hopefully we're done.

I love getting organised!

Sunday 14 September 2014

Decorating the outhouse!

This weekend has been a doing weekend.   I like those type!

We've started decorating the downstairs toilet.  Granted, we were forced into it because of a leak, however we grasped it with both hands and thought about the best way to get this done so that we won't have to do anything (other than routine clean of course!!) before we put it up for sale in 3.5 years time. 

It's more of an semi outhouse as it's at the back of our utility and has no heating.  The kids use it when playing in the garden, wellies and all, and it we have posh guests they can go upstairs!

Here's what it looked like in 2007 on the day we moved in:
Previous owner kindly left all you see ?!?!
It's seen a few iterations since then however this will be its final with us.  We're tiling the whole thing and putting a new suite in it.  Then I can just spray it down and wash it as I need to.

GH has been working hard on it today - he's ripped out the old suite which was put in never to come out again!  The floor's been levelled and the tiles for the floor have gone down.  Sounds easy?  Harder than it sounds :)

More updates and current pics tomorrow.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Frugal home cooking and knowing what you eat

In an attempt to continue to save the pennies and keep September as a low spend month, I've plunged into home cooking and baking again.  The kids are well into it too so it's been a family effort (GH does the taste test).

So far we have the plum jam as pictured previously, which is going down a treat and in an effort to know what we eat I've been using the bread maker for home made bread.  It is gorgeous!  Tonight I have taken a recipe from Frugal Queen's blog and adapted it with what I had in.  It was the fish and rice one and it was lovely.  Thanks to her for that.

We've also done some jam tarts, ice lollies and crumbles.  It is so rewarding to use foraged fruits and pantry items to produce lovely meals. 

Friday we went to a garden party / festival and it was quite fun - I've never been to one before and won't hurry back, but it was nice enough. 

I am also finding that as soon as I'm getting organised, things start unravelling just as quickly!  So this weekend has so far been spent trying to get outstanding jobs done and organising as much as possible for next week and then the aim is to stay organised!!!

Our jam tarts with home made plum jam

Grace chilling with the chicken Jess (Jess is moulting a lot at the moment)

Shot from our festival

Happy Saturday everyone

Tuesday 9 September 2014

The nights are feeling Autumnal but the days are still bright...

The days are starting to get that little bit shorter.  When gorgeous husband is getting up for work it's no longer bright daylight and night time is still lingering.  The chickens are taking themselves to bed earlier and earlier which means we need to start locking them up earlier in case the pesky fox makes his way around.  The curtains are getting closed for the first time in months and I'm remembering where the draughts are in the house!  It's lovely to see and be a part of - starting to wrap up warm and snuggled in the house and see the summer coats shedding from the animals to make way for their winter furs. 

Following the jam making session at the weekend the great news is I have jam at the consistency it's supposed to be and the other great news is it tastes like jam!  It's a tiny bit sweet but could be so much worse - this one is plums as I'd not been back for the brambles when I had time to make it.  Now, what to do with 12 jars of sweet plum jam!!  I see a jam tart session coming on.

Biggest load of plum jam you've ever seen!

Stones from the plums taken out at boiling point as per Good Housekeeping
I've had some (more) thinking time lately - the only me time I get is in my shower after a long day so I relish this time....  I'm wanting to try and cut out, even more than we already do, the junk food that's in our lives.  Over the last couple of years, we've cut down all ready meal type items such as frozen pizza or heat up Indian meals - we literally have one every 6 months or so and that's through emergency type situations and we eat very few jar sauces - one every couple of months.  So I would like to continue and build on this effort. 

I have made our own bread on and off so will make extra effort to make this again.  The aim is to eat things knowing what's in them and that mostly have been provided by nature.  Obviously there are limits here but it's a good starting point!

We've had some lovely days at the farm to balance out the long days at work.  It pays the bills that will eventually mean we can afford that farm!
Our new friend who's appeared out of no where

The kids pampering a very lucky pony

Friday 5 September 2014

Almost done

Well we've almost made it through another week.

This afternoon/evening shall see me trying to make a new jam, inspired by a post from notjustgreenfingers' blog.  My first attempt was a disaster through overboiling the jam however that hasn't put me off!  I now have some tips from notjustgreenfingers' comments and so my gorgeous husband has picked me some plums from our tree and I have my sugar so I'm ready to go!  We're going bramble picking again on Saturday but I can't wait that long (yes a day I know!) so plum it is.

If we're going to aim to be self sufficient one day then I need to at least get jam right :D

The other night on the way to the livery yard (a 10 minute drive from home, everything's 10 minutes from our house lol) I had to stop and take a picture.  As I keep saying, I love this time of year and this is just one of the sights I love to see.



It's been a busy few days but we're getting a little routine going on so I'm hoping to stay fresh and focussed and keeping this blog is a lovely way of recording our lives and talking about our plans for the future.

Even GH mentioned our 4 year plan to someone the other day so I suspect he's a tiny bit excited too!

Happy Friday everyone.


Tuesday 2 September 2014

A Long Tuesday

Tuesday's are NOT my favourite day of the week!  It's a long day at work.  Plus I'm working 8-10 tonight so I'm taking 5 minutes to myself to update the blog. 

Last night my son (4) and I made a cake using the foraged blackberries and it was gorgeous!  Then I made some jam and it was a disaster!!! It turned out to be rock hard lump!  I'm guessing I overcooked it!  I'll try again at the weekend when we get our next lot.

I've also got plums and apples from the garden so need to find something to do with them. 

The kids are both at school now and loving it and we're back into the swing of work again.  As I keep reminding us both.....it pays the bills in the mean time!

Sunday 31 August 2014

New beginnings

A new school term, a new month, changing seasons, changes at work and the start of a new week has me feeling thoughtful.  I feel grateful and appreciative for what I have, positive about the present and giddy like a school girl when I think of our country plan future.  I am compelled to get organised in every aspect of life.  Now....... I've been here before and because I usually jump into trying to do too much at once, it all dies a death rather quickly!

So, where does this leave me.  There's always today and this week to plan for (in that we've always got so many things to do) and Christmas is coming up.  Now, sorry to those who don't like to hear of Christmas in September but I do -  I like to budget and get presents early (yes already have some) and then plan, plan, plan. 

December see's Neville arrive.  He's the elf who comes to stay with us and is extremely mischievous.  I need to find out when to make the Christmas cake - isn't there something called Stir it up Sunday or such?  I also would like to compile a list of all Christmas related activities that I'd like to do and which my family would like to do.  The only catch is it needs to be cheap or free, of course, oh and something we can keep doing when we get a farm. 

Back in the present day and I've joined the lovely Sue from ournewlifeinthecountry.blogspot.co.uk in her No Spend/ Low Spend challenge for September.  Ours won't be No spend but low would be fantastic.  I'll keep this in mind as I plan the week.

Sorry this post has been jumping from one thought to another - I told you I was feeling thoughtful.

Here's Neville me and my son from Christmas last year:

York Dec, 2013





A busy Sunday!

I feel like I've met myself coming backwards today. 

We had a lovely morning at the yard with the horses where my gorgeous little boy spent some quality time with the little pony who loved the attention.
Practicing braiding (that's what he calls it)
A quick grocery shop and change of clothes later then we were off to lunch at my Father in Law's which was lovely and a free meal!!  Then I couldn't put it off any longer, we had to go to town.  I hate town.  I hate shopping, being cramped in with all sorts of people and of course I hate spending money.  Ha!  Well, hate is a strong word but you get the jist.

We spoke briefly to gorgeous husband's father about our dreams - just to mention a local farm that came for sale and how we'd like to go for something one day.  He was quite dismissive about it - not nastily, just that it'd probably never happen in our world to people like us.  I, of course, know differently!

2018 will be our year, watch this space. If not before :)  Take care.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Changing seasons...

I love this time of year.  One of the reasons I love living in the UK is to see and feel the seasons change.  The last few weeks have seen some leaves starting to drop from a few of the trees, the mornings have a nip in the air and leave me pulling the covers over me to stay warm, the blackberries have ripened and the apples are ready to be picked from our apple tree.  It's so nice to take time out and chill sometimes, soaking in what's around you and concentrating on what's important to you.  Take care.
Our son running ahead enjoying the fresh air

A busy couple of days

Well, we made it through the first working week after our holidays!

After a quiet meal at a local pub last night, we were up early this morning raring to go.  The chickens wondered what was happening when they were out so early and after a quick breakfast Mother and Daughter headed off to the farm to see the horses.  (The farm one day will be just outside our back door.)

We had a lovely morning riding, mucking out, grooming and catching up with friends.  Grace, our daughter, was practicing for the Christmas (show jumping) show which sounds a long time away but will be upon us in a flash!

Then it was home for lunch before heading out to collect some logs we'd spotted that had been dumped.  A nice spot by hubby means we will have free heat to supplement our coal for a little while yet.

Then the surprise of the day - we thought the chickens had stopped laying eggs due to the crazy weather we've been having here.  My daughter went to check on them and spotted something outside their hen house - on investigation  - she found a pile of eggs!  They've taken to laying in a new and secret spot instead of where they've laid for years!  Maybe it won't be Roast Chicken for lunch tomorrow after all!

We've now just collapsed in the arm chairs totally shattered after an afternoon spent Geocaching.  We did 10 in total and foraged 2 tubs of blackberries whilst we were out.  Well worth it I'd say. 

Even if we don't live on a farm just yet, we can still enjoy the countryside and forage for free food.  Perfect.

The stash!

Rosie, one of the suspects.


Thursday 28 August 2014

Flowers and wine!

Yesterday saw hubby and my 9th wedding anniversary.  He bought me a lovely bunch of flowers and a fantastic card.  We received 6(!!!) bottles of wine from my parents and a box of chocs from my lovely Nanna.  Our daughter made us such a sweet card too.  Here's a quick pic of the windowsill in my kitchen before I'd taken the flowers out and displayed them properly.  The ones on the right are from a lovely lady who left work today to say she will miss me.  Spoilt rotten?!

Feeling blessed

The engraved wine glass I got for GH

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Odd Jobs and a happy dog

Yesterday I was eased gently back into work after 2 amazing weeks off.  That meant I didn't have to start until 2 ish but it also meant I had to work until 10.  I am lucky enough to do some of my work from home so depite having to work until 10, I didn't have to get dressed up to do it!

At lunch time we had a meander out with our dog and he happily sniffed away at every knook and cranny going.  He has to be kept on a lead when we walk locally as there's no free running area where I'd dare let him off.  That didn't stop him smiling though :)
Smiling dog!
Last night, Gorgeous Husband was busy updating his man cave which is the (almost) recently converted loft.  He's bought a desk for up there and last night was busy putting it together - he even read the instructions!
Gorgeous husband in his element
He's spoilt me as he had put a blind up in the kitchen the day before so that finishes the kitchen window dressings now and it feels a bit more complete.
Before
After
 Tonight will see us celebrating our 9th Wedding Anniversary - relaxing with a bottle of wine by the roaring fire (I know it's not that cold, but it sets a scene) and maybe watching a film....bliss!

Nobody wake me...

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Summer holiday memories

Well today marks the official end of my summer holiday.  I've had 2 lovely weeks off with the kids and my Gorgeous Husband.  We also had the Bank Holiday snuck in there too, shhh, don't tell anyone.  GH is back to work today (he leaves at 5:30 ish and is a butcher) and I'm working from home from 2-10 (American time zone hours today - will explain one day). 

What a fantastic 2 weeks it's been too.  I've loved every minute of it!  The first 3 days it was just me and the kids so we went to the local park, play areas and to the horses.  The horses are around 10 minute drive away at the moment.  Then my hubby joined us and we had a trip to Cadbury's World in Birmingham and Chester Zoo.  We stayed over a night at both places, with a night or 2 at home in between to break it up.  The days spent at home saw us Geocaching which is our new found favourite family hobby (meaning the dog comes too) along with trips to the park and a day trip to Whitby (crabbing) which was SO much fun.
Our beautiful daughter and her cheeky pony, Sonic.
3 hour walk, stopping off for refreshments.  Filthy!

Arriving at Cadbury's World, too excited!

Stunning Whitby views from the car park

Little and Large crabs (all went back in safely)

Our son enjoying the Whitby views (and he's only 4!)

The fantastic Inn Keeper's Lodge at Chester - highly recommended

A walk along the canal at Chester




On one of our many walks out we went brambling (picking wild blackberries if the word isn't familiar) and came home with quite a bounty considering many of them aren't ripe yet.  I immediately set to work on the "must make" apple and bramble crumble which was divine.  Next on the list is apple and bramble cake/loaf, then some jams to see us through the winter to go with our porridge, yum.

Brambles and apples - free food (foraged and from our on tree)
Yum - thoroughly enjoyed
On a foody note, we are a family who love our food.  I try to cook everything from scratch but it's not always possible with working full time, having the animals and kids etc so of course the odd take away sneaks in or frozen pizza which is all part of getting the balance.  We love the great outdoors as you may have picked up on and would prefer to be outside given the chance however you will also see in coming posts that we try and make home life as cosy and comfortable as possible too.

If you've stumbled across our blog, welcome and I hope you follow us as our journey unfolds and opens up into the wonderful world of blogging.  Thanks, Tracy x

Monday 25 August 2014

An Introduction..

Welcome to our blog.  We hope you enjoy reading it and spend some time with us over the coming months and years as we develop our plans and follow our dreams.

"We" is myself, my husband, daughter and son (7 & 4), our dog, our chickens, our horses, tarantula and fish....I think that's it. 

The blog title sums up what we are aiming for and the blog is intended to follow our escapades, as we dream and put these dreams into action.  It's a long time off yet but that's not stopping us preparing.

Today, we live in an area I guess would be described as sub-urban, and though we're on a busy road, we're not townies either.  We have countryside 10 minutes drive away (if that) and town is the same in the other direction.  To be fair, we have the best of both worlds, however, especially with the ways things are going with our economy and government (not something I intend to write about!), we would like to have our own piece of heaven and be at one with nature, surrounded by our own animals and home grown crops (maybe even home produced wine & ale)  One day.....for now, our new mugs from Whitby are keeping the dream alive  :)




Snowdrops, Projects & the Moon! Week 4 - 22-28 Jan

The third week of the year saw yet more changes to the weather.  We have had a lot of rain this week and combined with the wind from the 2 s...