Big mouth

I must admit, recently I’ve fallen out of love with blogging. I felt like I had nothing new to contribute to The Domestic Storyteller. My writing confidence was ebbing away. My ideas for articles seemed insignificant. My poor camera has been on its last legs and my heart wasn’t in posts with no pictures.

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But alas, there is a new dawn on the horizon, a new age approaching with a newcomer. Thanks to the marvellous Mr Argos, I am now the proud owner of this stunning camera. It’s the fanciest electrical item I’ve ever been lucky enough to own. I’m not one for the latest phone or other such gadgets, but not having a fully functional camera was like losing a limb. I would normally take so many photos, both for blog purposes and otherwise. I consider photos to be a real treasure, either kept electronically on a laptop, or printed out in a physical copy. It’s a joy to be able to indulge my passion for photography once more. I hope to show you the products of my new camera, as soon as the cable arrives to connect it with the laptop.

With my trusty sidekick, I feel more secure in posting to my blog. I find myself conjuring ideas about the various topics previously discussed, and some shiny new ones thrown in to boot. I’m entering such a transitional stage in my life that I would really like to record it in order to reminisce in the future. I want to get back into regular posting because ultimately, I’ve still got so much more to say.

And so we keep on writing

I have attended my last formal class at University. In truth, it was a tad disappointing. My lecturer was forced to cover another class, so we were permitted to leave after only half an hour. A shame, but I did spend the next couple of hours chatting with dear friends.

Although classes have finished, my University experience isn’t over yet. I have two assignments to be submitted after the Easter break. This period after Easter will also be filled with lots of social events. Graduation takes place in October, so it will be autumn by the time I close this particular chapter.

But, until then, I have plenty to be getting on with. Now we are on holidays, I can increase the intensity of my job search. I need to have the guarantee of secure employment before I can commit to a new home. I can admit, I’m very much looking forward to living by myself for awhile. As much as I adore my housemates, the thought of having an entire kitchen to myself can only be compared to paradise. I cannot comment on long term plans, as there are too many ifs and buts to contend with. As it stands currently, I’m seeking a suitable job and flat to allow me to remain close to the chap. Yes, moving to the parental home is the most lucrative option, financially. But I know in my heart of hearts that such living arrangements would make me miserable.

So I’m taking the difficult route, but this path isn’t foreign to me. I know I can take all of the knowledge I’ve gathered at University, academic and domestic, and employ it correctly during the next stage. The margins and budget might be smaller, but hopefully, my happiness should be greater. I plan on making the next chapter just as successful as its predecessor.

Cheap and cheerful

The end of my time at University is creeping ever closer, but I’m not fretful. As much as I’ve enjoyed myself throughout these past three years, I know it’s time to move on to the next stage. The job hunt has begun in earnest and I’ve started browsing online for affordable flats. Those are my most important objectives for this summer; income and shelter. I’m trying to remain within budget for the remaining months I have left in Winchester, as it would stand me in good stead to have money in the pot when I move on. I have saved over the years, so money for deposits and preliminary rents is not a primary concern. But I know I will need cash to furnish my new place, buy suitable uniform for my new job and possible travel expenses too.

In order to keep adding to this saving fund, I’m trying to make my money last as long as possible. The food shop is controlled, but not so much that I’m missing out on vital nutrients. I have cut down on other areas of my life as I see fit. I’ve been relying on the library rather than buying (albeit second hand) books. I try to only buy one magazine a month, not four! And I’ve taken a long hard look at my cosmetics box.

I’m not one for make-up. I probably don’t spend more than £5 a year on the stuff. But I do like my hair products. I could spend a fiver on a bottle of shampoo quite readily. I decided this would be a good area to reassess, so I spent a grand total of 49p on this beauty.

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I went for the baby shampoo, as I thought it would be more sensitive for my hair. I have long, thick hair so I was interested to see how this Basics bottle would hold up to my normal brands. I have been genuinely impressed. My hair is just as shiny as previously, and stays looking fresh until my next shower. You do have to use more of the product than I would normally, but for the price, it’s no hardship. I was comfortable using the Basics baby shampoo because of its against animal testing logo. It was clear that care had been taken with this product, and I appreciated that. It’s made me think about what other branded cosmetics I use, and whether I truly need to replace them when the supplies run out.

 

What value range beauty supplies do you use? Any tips for a recent convert?

The wanderer returneth

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see the WordPress “New Post” interface on my computer screen. It feels like it’s been too long, which of course it has. I handed in my completed dissertation on time and to the best of my ability. I shall bear that in mind when I finally receive the mark back - I know that I tried my best. Since then, my attention has been occupied with other assignments, as well as various social outings to celebrate such a momentous stage of my University life. That life will soon be over, but I’m determined to fully enjoy my last few months as a student.

This was just a quick post to announce my return to the blogging world. I shall now proceed to browse around various blogs and catch up on all that I have missed. I may not be able to leave comments on every single post, but I will be reading through the archives to familiarise myself with my favourite sites.

Hopefully, I shall return to more frequents posting as soon as possible. It feels good to be back in the saddle.

The best course of action.

Important decisions are not easy to make. If something’s worth doing, it’s going to take both time and effort to complete it properly. The art of balancing is what I think University life is all about. It’s a complex period of negotiating your time between work, play, family and friends. The past two and a half years of my learning here at Winchester all culminate in a final assignment that is worth the biggest proportion of the final grade. The dreaded d-word: dissertation.

For my creative writing degree, this takes the form of the opening chapters of a novel, alongside an essay describing your own writing process. It matters, this piece of writing. It’s a daunting prospect to a novice writer like myself. 10,000 words seems impossible right now. So I’ve made the decision to focus entirely on my dissertation. I need to put in 100% effort if I want to achieve the grades I think I’m capable of.

I will be taking a blogging break commencing now. I shall hopefully return by mid-March, once the dissertation deadline has passed. I hope my kind followers will stick with me through this break. I’m not leaving my blog permanently, just for a short time to concentrate solely on my degree. I’m sure you understand.

Best wishes to you all.

Rebecca’s Recipes: Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry

It was mid-morning on Saturday. A late breakfast meant that lunch was some way off in the distance, but I still wanted to be in the kitchen. I planned to bake. But to start my kitchen adventure, I made a batch of one of my favourite meals. I make Sweet Potato Curry normally once a fortnight. Most of the time, I add red lentils, but I have been known to add a can of chickpeas instead. The wonderful thing about this dish is its available options. I always add an additional vegetable to the sweet potato base. Most of the time, it’s either carrot or parsnip. For this batch, I added finely sliced broccoli stalk. I aim for no food wastage in this house! Plus, I think the stalk has the strongest taste, in a good way. It takes a fair amount of cooking though, which is why I sliced it thinly.

This made three portions for my freezer drawer. I would imagine it would serve two for dinner.

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Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 sweet potato, diced

1 broccoli stalk, finely sliced

2tsp curry paste (I use Patak’s Tikka Masala paste)

500ml vegetable stock

60g red split lentils

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1) Sweat the onion until it is soft.

2) Turn up the heat and add the other vegetables. Keep stirring on the high heat until the vegetables take on some colour.

3) Add the curry paste and stir through.

4) Add the stock and bring to the boil.

5) Add the red split lentil, turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

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Whilst my curry was bubbling away nicely, I was browsing through a recipe book. My housemate entered the kitchen and asked if I was baking. I said I was thinking about making rock buns.

“Well, I’ve got some brown bananas upstairs if you can make use of them.”

Naturally, I nearly bit her hand off. The rock buns will have to wait for another day, because there is only one thing to make when your housemate hands you four, perfectly good, very ripe bananas – Happy Dance Muffins!

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It was pleasant to spend a couple of hours pottering around the kitchen. It was also good to see the culmination of my efforts. The freezer drawer is looking very healthy now I must say. The same can’t be said for the cake tin. The muffins seem to be disappearing rapidly, but the smile on my face isn’t going anywhere. Banana muffins make me too happy!

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Do let me know if you try out either recipe, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Frugal Fridays #18 – Online Grocery Shopping

I would deem my recent online shop with Asda to have been a success. I stayed within my budget, I selected a range of good value products and everything arrived without a hitch. After this experience, I would say that a large, online shop at the start of each month is beneficial to those of us living a thrifty lifestyle. I’ve compiled a post featuring my top five reasons for this. I do hope someone out there finds it useful.

Efficiency; You get what you need and only what you need. As long as you can resist clicking onto certain sections, the lure of temptation is far less. It’s a lot easier to ignore the siren song of unnecessary products when there are out of sight, compared to being blindingly apparent throughout conventional supermarkets.

Sticking to a budget; When I did my Asda shop, I was pleased to see a running total as I added each item into my electronic trolley. After I factored in the delivery cost, I had a clear view of my budget and how close I was to reaching it with each purchase. It was also easy to remove any items I no longer required, instead of walking across the store to return them.

Comparing items; I always want to get the best deals possible. By seeing the items on screen, I could judge which ones where the best value. I didn’t have to traipse up and down the aisles, squinting to see the £ per kg labels. For me, it also helps that I could see the ingredients list at a glance, rather than scouring the packet for the information I need.

Time-saving; All of the above points help to save time. Now, I’m normally willing to sacrifice a couple of hours to get a good job done. But by having access to all of the information, alongside a running total, my shop took less time than browsing a supermarket with a calculator in hand.

Also, it would have taken me two trips to my local supermarket to buy the same amount of groceries I did online. I don’t drive and I couldn’t physically carry £30 worth of produce. No time was spent travelling to and from the supermarket.

Variety; Like I mentioned, I don’t drive, so I’m somewhat limited to my choice of supermarkets. There is the big Sainsbury’s and . . . well, that’s it in practical walking distance. I could get a bus to get to Waitrose or Tesco, but by the time I’ve paid for a return bus fare, it’s more than the delivery cost from Asda.

By shopping online, I was able to get a variety of products. I’ve mostly relied on Sainsbury’s for the past two years, so it was pleasant to get some different items. I was delighted to see how reasonable Asda’s vast range of Free From products is. I’ve never had gluten-free cous cous before!

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There are, naturally, downsides to online shopping.

  • At Asda, you have to spend a minimum of £25 plus delivery, which is a considerable outlay.
  • You don’t get to browse reduced stock.
  • You don’t get to choose your own loose fruit or veg, so you are reliant on the integrity of the shopper.
  • Substitutions are offered in place of certain unavailable items. I was lucky this week, receiving 4 pints of milk instead of the 2 I ordered. But I have seen this go the other way.

Overall, I think a substantial top-up shop at the beginning of the month is a good idea. It gives you a chance to fill the cupboards with supplies you can fall back on towards the end of the month. Shopping online every week is out of my price range and my needs. I don’t get through £25 groceries every week. But I can see how this would be a valid option for families.

What do you think of online shopping? Yay, or nay?