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A perfect day

I haven’t finished work yet (very soon though!), but I only work three days a week so I was off on Thursday.

I woke up to Eli chattering and climbing on me (he often ends up in our bed at some point in the night at the moment).

The house and kitchen were a bit messy after my three work days (which are always a bit manic) but it was OK as I had lots of time to deal with it, and a little helper who likes to get involved.

I hadn’t planned in or scheduled too much – I’m trying to avoid overscheduling and make a conscious effort to slow down our pace of life at the moment. So instead, we pottered about tidying upstairs and then having breakfast. I had a shower and got Eli dressed. I wasn’t in a rush so I didn’t feel impatient when he dawdled and wanted to do things himself, and it showed – there wasn’t a single tantrum, not even during nappy changing, when I took my time and made him giggle by blowing raspberries on his belly.

Just before 10, we left the house and drove to the library (it is walking distance, but I wanted to shop in the fruit and veg shop after instead of Tesco, and they are too far from one another to walk with a toddler and get back for toddler lunchtime). I parked up the street and let Eli walk down beside me – he’s getting so good at walking holding my hand now and we went at his pace, stopping to point at the roadworks and buses.

After we changed our books, we headed over to do our shopping. My favourite new routine is to park in Lidl then walk down to Roots and Fruits on Great Western Road before going back to get the rest of the shopping in Lidl. It was a sunny day and I was really conscious of how peaceful and calm I felt as we walked – something that doesn’t always happen as a busy working mum (or indeed as a busy stay at home mum). The girl working in Roots and Fruits was charmed by Eli happily taking a munch out of raw broccoli. carrot and peppers as I paid.

While Eli napped after our shared lunch, I cleaned the kitchen, cleaned out the chicken coop, hung out washing, generally tidied up, and sat and read my library book for a while – bliss.

Eli and I played together lots that afternoon, reading all his new library books, playing tickle-chase and he helped me set the table for dinner.

Dave was home a little earlier than normal and we all hung out in garden in the sun for a good bit before dinner. I even got to read a bit more of my book while Dave played with Eli (Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter, if you’re interested).

I had plenty of time to make a healthy dinner, which we ate together (salmon, veg and new potatoes – went down well with all three of us). We could then chill out in the evening after I quickly did the dinner dishes and Dave put Eli to bed.

It was pretty much a perfect day 🙂

Another version of this day

In a parallel universe somewhere, I worked that day. I was on a phased return to full-time hours when I handed in my notice, and would have been up to at least four days a week by now if I hadn’t left.

What would that alternative day have looked like?

I would have been woken by my alarm about 40 minutes before we actually got up (less sleep = grumpy mum!).

One of us would have been rushing about getting Eli ready while the other then drove him to the childminder’s. He would have eaten breakfast and lunch there, while I’d have eaten them at work.

I wouldn’t have gotten home til nearly 6.

One of us would have had to pick Eli up while the other threw together some kind of dinner in a messy kitchen.

After Eli was in bed, one of us would have had to go to Tesco to pick up the shopping, or else we’d have had to make time to do it over the weekend (instead of the family stuff we might otherwise do).

We’d have had to use the rest of the evening to clean the house, clean the chicken run, and the washing would have been hung indoors instead of being dried on the line during the sunny afternoon. Afterwards we’d have crashed out in front of the TV exhausted no doubt.

I don’t think I’d have had time to read any of my book (actually I wouldn’t have had the book at all as I wouldn’t have gone to the library)… and I’m sure we wouldn’t have played in the garden in the sunshine before dinner.

Thursday really drove home to me how lucky I am to be taking some time out of work. To spend time with my son, and to slow down and simplify our lives. And not just me – Dave agreed his evening would have looked very different if I’d been at work.

I’m mindful that not everyone who wants to stay at home has the choice due to finances or other situations. I feel so lucky and grateful that I do, and angry too at the way caring is undervalued in our society (both parenting and other forms of caring).

And of course, not everyone would choose to go down this path, and lots of parents love their jobs and can structure their lives so their weekdays aren’t too hectic. Just because this is right for us doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

But for us, right now – I’m thankful for the reminder that I’ve made the right decision. Not just for Eli, but for all of us.

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Hello again :)

Um…wow! What a long time it’s been since I’ve been here! I did the odd Facebook post last summer, but I’ve really missed writing here for the last few years

What’s been going on?

There have been LOTS of changes in our lives since January 2015 (when I last posted, eeek!). Most importantly – we have a son 🙂 Eli William Dunlop was born in December 2015 and is now only a couple of months off his second birthday. Being a mum is the hardest, but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done (which is such a cliche but really there is no other way to say it).

When I was pregnant we bought our first house and left our tiny kitchen which had featured here so many times. Our (not so new anymore) house has a much bigger kitchen, room for an actual dining table and, you guys, we have a GARDEN. With a greenhouse, vegetable patch, mature fruit tress and bushes, and CHICKENS. Three lovely ladies called Agnes, Martha and Betty.

Dave has also changed his career. Having been a manager in the care field for a few years, he’s decided to retrain and is now a smart meter fitter, which he loves and is much better for his mental health.

Another big change

So we have another big change coming our way, and it’s that I’m currently working out my notice period at my job, having been back from maternity leave part-time for about nine months.  My last day is next Wednesday and then I’ll officially be a stay at home mum 🙂 

I can’t wait to spend every day with this gorgeous wee face, but of course making this decision has some financial ramifications which mean that budgeting/frugality is definitely forefront in our minds at the moment – a big part of the reason I’m looking at this blog again. 

Since Eli started eating solid food last spring, I’ve enjoyed cooking for him so much I started up a new blog, www.babyledbites.co.uk, which I write at on and off. I hope to keep writing here on cooking for babies and toddlers much more regularly, but life’s changed a lot for me of late and I’ve been craving somewhere I can write more widely on all the things going through my head. 

Rather than start a third blog, I’ve decided to revive this one and (fingers crossed) run it alongside Baby Led Bites, since I should have a bit more free time once I finish up at work at the end of this month.  

Now I know that Chilli Sage and Lemon was pretty much focused on frugal cooking before, but as I said, I’d like to widen the focus a bit. I’ll still be writing about frugality but won’t limit this to just cooking (although this will remain a big focus – but a lot of cooking content may go on Baby Led Bites instead). I’ll also be writing a bit about gardening, knitting, eco-friendly/green living and minimalism, simplicity and motherhood in general – basically anything that catches my interest! 

 

 

Ham joint and meal prep

I know lots of people struggle with cooking after work, which is why it’s always a great idea to do some batch cooking and prep work when you have the time to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen. Tonight, I cooked the gammon joint I bought at the weekend for dinner tonight and prepped it for the next few meals.

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First I boiled the gammon joint – well, I actually cooked it in the pressure cooker for around 25 minutes, then smothered in mustard and a little maple syrup (no honey left) and roasted in the oven for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I roasted some carrots, parsnips and swede, and made some creamy mash to go with it.

For the sauce, I reduced down the ham stock made by boiling the ham (with the peelings from the veg chucked in while it bubbled away) for a bit. Once it had cooked away, I melted some butter in a small saucepan, added a spoonful of flour to make a paste and thinned with a couple of ladlefuls of the ham stock. I cooked it, whisking regularly, until thickened, then added wholegrain mustard and cream. Delicious 🙂

After dinner I had the following leftovers to work with:

  • About half the cream & mustard sauce
  • A small portion of mash and a tiny handful of roasted veg from dinner
  • Just short of 500g potatoes cooked in their skins (I’d cooked extra on purpose and put them aside before making the mash for dinner)
  • Most of the joint of ham
  • The leftover stock from cooking the ham

Here’s what I did with it:

  • I made gnocchi using a double batch of this recipe but with added defrosted and chopped spinach. My one fear is the gnocchi will fall apart because I added too much spinach, but I’m sure it’ll be nice anyway 😉 I froze half of it and left half in the fridge for later on in the week.
  • I sliced half the ham thinly. The sliced ham was individually bagged into 11 sandwich-sized portions, which will do Dave for the rest of the month (he had ham sandwiches 2-3x a week).
  • The rest of the ham I cut into small cubes. I used some of this with cooked pasta and cooked frozen sweetcorn, spring onion, mayo, a little of the leftover sauce for the ham and mustard to make two days worth of pasta salad for Dave’s lunches. The rest of the ham has been frozen to be added to pie fillings, fried rice or whatever else might come up.
  • Withe stock, I just boiled right down til really concentrated, then poured into an ice-cube tray to freeze as homemade stock cubes
  • Finally, there was a little bit of mash and veg left from dinner, so I mashed it all together with some of the ham cubes to make a potato cake and fried, to have as my own lunch with the rest of the leftover sauce and some salad tomorrow.

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So that’s what I’ve been up to this evening. Bit tired now after spending half the evening in the kitchen but it was definitely worth it to be organised 🙂

Does anyone else prep food for the freezer, or make their lunches in advance? I hate not having lunch ready the night before because otherwise it’s a total rush to make them in the morning.

Christmas mincemeat

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So many of you’ll have read the title and started to freak out. Relax. I KNOW it’s not even close to Christmas yet. I’m not saying you need to run out and make the mincemeat right now. But if you’re like me and find that as soon as the weather starts to get crisp and cold, and you dig out your winter boots, you start getting a craving to make lovely Christmas food, this is for you (I haven’t eaten any yet though: it really is too early for that!).

If you’re also like me in that you’re making homemade gifts, this works really nicely in a hamper. I’ll try and share this year’s recipes early enough that you have time to follow along. Because nothing’s more annoying than finding a perfect recipe for homemade chutney or limoncello two weeks before Christmas, then finding out it needs to age for six to be edible 😉

Christmas mincemeat

I’m not going to share the recipe here, because I pretty much used Frugal Queen’s recipe exactly – which is an expertly frugalised version of a Delia classic. Literally the only change I make is that the suet I can get hold of comes in 200g packs, not 250g, so I just use that. It always works fine and keeps just as long (I didn’t make any last year because I had enough from the previous year). And suet’s just fat, so no harm done by reducing it a smidge, eh? I also use veggie suet rather than beef, but you can make your own call on that one.

Like Froogs, I refuse to go out and buy a bottle of brandy just to use six tablespoons in this recipe, but I’ve used both gin and vodka before and can report success with both, so just dig out whatever strong booze needs used up.

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It’s so easy to make mincemeat – I literally just bung all the ingredients in the oven and slow cook – so if you get a moment this autumn I recommend checking out the recipe. You can give the mincemeat as gifts or use it to make mince pies. My favourite way to make mince pies is to use puff pastry squares and fold over to make pinwheels – I’ll have to blog these later on in the year 😉

Have you started making anything for Christmas yet? What’s your favourite festive treat?

Chocolate, banana and nut butter milkshake

photo (54)I had this milkshake for breakfast at 7.45 this morning and, no joke, I was full enough to last until I had my lunch just after 1pm. Not bad for a liquid breakfast. And despite the fact that it sounds like a dessert, this shake isn’t actually too bad for you. You can always half the quantities if you just want it as a snack. I also find milkshakes handy because if I’m running late I can chuck them in my water bottle and drink them on the bus 🙂

The oats help fill you up and thicken the milkshake, but you can’t taste them. They do add a slightly different texture than an all fruit smoothie, but I liked it – use an extra banana if you’d prefer to skip it. Oats do contain lots of fibre and slowly release their energy, preventing blood sugar spikes, plus they add a little extra protein to the shake compared with using another banana.

Cocoa powder gives the shake a nice chocolately flavour and you can vary the amount – I used two tablespoons but if you don’t want it to be quite so intensely chocolatey, one or one and a half might work better. My one complaint would be that the nut flavour is quite subtly, so up this to two tablespoons if you like.

The shake benefits from a tiny bit of forward prep the night before, but nothing too time-consuming. Just think how organised you’ll feel the next day having your breakfast part-prepped 😉

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Chocolate, banana and nut butter milkshake

30g porridge oats
1/2 pint milk (I used whole, but you can use whatever you like, including non-dairy milks if you prefer)
1 banana
1-2 tbsp cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp nut butter (I used homemade cashew & peanut butter, but normally peanut butter works too)

The night before:

Peel and cut your banana into chunks. Chuck in a food bag or tub and put in the freezer. Add your oats to your milk in another tub and stick in the fridge overnight.

The next morning:

Put the oaty milk into your blender and whizz briefly until the oats are blended in. Add the other ingredients and blend until well mixed. You may want to add the cocoa powder a spoonful at a time, to taste.

Mealplan and Spending Update 27/07

It’s Commonwealth Games time here in Glasgow! Have been really enjoying the buzz the last few days and we have tickets to three events next week, so can’t wait for that 🙂

After a weekend where I barely saw the inside of my flat – including tickets to a performance of a Shakespeare play in the Botanic gardens, a night out, a visit to my parents and going to a strongwoman competition to support a friend who was competing – it’s a miracle I actually got any kind of mealplan done, but I even managed to order a delivery from Asda too! There was much divergence from the mealplan last week by the way due to some last minute plan changes, so some of the meals in this week’s are recycled. Hopefully we get around to actually eating them this week 😉

Mealplan

Sun 27 – chicken & vegetable curry with rice

Mon 28 – breaded fish, chips and veg

Tues 29 – chickpea and pepper stew with bulgur wheat

Wed 30 – some kind of pasta

Thurs 31 – veggie chilli with rice

Fri 1 – pork and apple burgers with coleslaw

Sat 2 – not planned yet in case we end up going out, but probably some kind of chicken dish if not

Spending Update (£69.03 / £175)

delivery £5.50

fruit & veg £14.61
smartprice carrots 2kg £1.18
white cabbage 1.4kg 80p
maris piper potatoes 2.5kg £2
smartprice lemons 500g 85p
bananas x6 70p
cherry tomatoes 525g £1.20
celery 50p
smartprice peppers 700g £1.50
frozen spinach 1kg £1.39
smartprice frozen sweetcorn 1kg 99p
strawberries 700g £2.50
florette salad leaves £1

meat & fish £8.69
free range whole chicken 1.75kg £8.69

dairy & eggs £2
greek yoghurt £1
whole milk 4 pints £1

general £24.41
cola 2ltr 4pk x3 £4.95
cola 250ml 12pk x2 £4.80
black peppercorns 200g £2.38
smartprice mayonnaise 40p
veg stock cubes 40p
beef stock cubes 40p
coarse grain mustard 48p
smartprice tinned tomatoes x4 £1.24
granulated sugar 2kg £1.55
smartprice spaghetti 20p
smartprice penne pasta 29p
udon noodles £1.20
roasted red peppers $1.40
cashew nuts 200g £1.72
mccoys crisps 6pk x2 £2
bulgur wheat £1.08

household £12.15
smartprice cat litter x3 £4.65
triple velvet toilet roll 16pk £5
bin bags 30pk £2.50
antibacterial spray £1
smartprice kitchen roll 4pk £1.39

A weekend away

I wanted to post a recipe today but time has gotten away with me. Even though I was off work today. I went for a run in the park, tidied up, packed, then got on a bus for four hours, finally arriving at a tiny village next to the sea where my mother in law fed me a fillet steak and a massive salad and Dave and I got to watch the sun set perched on a rock in the sea with vodkas in our hands.

Tomorrow we’re going to a wedding but I promise I’ll be back on Sunday with an update on my spending and mealplans.

Meanwhile, here’s the view from Dave’s mum’s house:

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