Tag Archive | Homemade presents

Good Friends & A ‘Blackfly Brew’ Trial

Last weekend we invited some very good friends over for the evening and we had a wonderful time catching up, over homemade pizza’s and puddings.

A Homemade Lemon Merangue Pie

A Homemade Lemon Merangue Pie

A long time ago we all met in a large office and became good friends very quickly as we shared the same sense of humour and fun outlook on life.  We went on lots of holidays together, days out and spent many evenings laughing until our bellys ached.

We all met our partners, but that didn’t stop us as the group just got bigger and even when we all left our work place we kept in touch…..but then children came along and sadly, as often happens, we did seem to drift apart – however, one person did keep in contact with each and everyone of us……my good friend Helen, who passed away two years ago.

We all met up again at her funeral and we have thankfully stayed in touch since…..it seems to me that this was a ‘parting gift’ to us all from our wonderful friend Helen.  So Helen if you are looking down on us, thank you for this.




In My Kitchen Garden this week:


I’m very proud to say that my kitchen garden is now producing crops.

Besides the lettuce, chives and radishes we have been picking for a while now, I have now started to pick mangetout daily:

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And my first peas are ready for picking….but unfortunately they didn’t make it to the table as it’s become a tradition in our house to eat the first peas straight out of the pod…..there really isn’t anything that tastes as lovely:

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I have also been picking broad beans, but unfortunately with my decorating last week some of them became a bit too large.  However, as I tend to cook them and puree them up for spag bogs, curries etc (as Mr Thrift doesn’t like them), it really won’t matter.


I froze the broad beans by blanching them for two minutes before ‘open freezing’ on a tray:


I also picked the first fruit from my small kitchen garden….a few blackcurrants and gooseberries which my daughter ate.  The plants are very young and I think it will be a while before they will give me a large crop, but I am pleased I got something this year:


And yes, that time of year is finally upon us……courgette time!  As usual we all look forward to the first courgette and we always fry it up and use it in an omolette….(I know we will be fed up with them again soon like everyone else, but for the moment we will enjoy them).


(By the way, there is a post I wrote here that talks about ways to use up hundreds of courgettes, if anyone is interested).


A Blackfly Brew & Bird Damage:


This week I have noticed a couple of pests in my small kitchen garden.  The first was ‘birds’.  I had covered my climbing peas in environmesh to stop the ‘pea moth’ and also the birds.  Birds were always a nuisence at my allotment eating most things.  As they particularly love the tops of pea shoots, I covered them without thinking.  However, I didn’t cover my dwarf peas and they seemed to be ok, so I became complacent, thinking that I wouldn’t have a problem in my back garden…

Yesterday I saw a bird fly off as I approached my kitchen garden and I then found bird damage on my lettuces, but luckily I had caught it early.  You can see the tears on the outside leaf in the photo below (which incidentally it looks different to slug damage):


So I covered my lettuces so the birds can’t do any more damage:



Another pest I found this week was blackfly on my courgettes:


Now I’ve got to be honest, I don’t usually bother treating my courgettes for blackfly as they are usually big and strong enough to survive it without effecting the amount I harvest and also the ladybirds usually come to my rescue and have a feast…but I wanted to try something new out this year:

I had recently read about a home made ‘All Purpose Organic Pesticide’ that ‘Eco Snippets’ had published and I thought I would have a go.  You can find the orginal recipe here.

This is what the website says about it:

“It can be used on a variety of insects that live in the dirt or on the plants including worms, mites and other parasites.

This entire pesticide will eventually break down and be reduced to nothing, so it is OK to eat any herbs or vegetables that are growing. This is mainly intended for indoor use, but there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work outdoors as well”


So this is how I made my ‘Black fly Brew:

(I halved the original recipe as it seemed to be a hugh amount to make in one go)



  • 2 ¼ litres of warm water
  • 1 onion
  • 2 small hot peppers (I couldn’t find jalapeno peppers)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid soap (I used my ‘soap nut’ liquid as it’s natural)


First I roughly chopped the onion, peppers and garlic and placed them in a bowl:


I then used a stick blender to puree them into a thick paste:


I added the puree to the warm water and left them to ‘stew’ for 20 minutes:


I strained the brew through an old piece of material and I then gave the remaining paste a squeeze (with rubber gloves on) to remove all the juices:


I then added the liquid soap and gave it a stir:


I poured the liquid into a spray bottle and the remaining into a spare plastic bottle and labled them well:

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Apparently this liquid keeps for two weeks in the fridge.


It says on their website to use the spray every 4-5 days and it takes about 3 or 4 treatments to work….so I went out and sprayed one of my two plants straight away.


The ‘EcoSnippets’ website says:

“Try to get all over the plant including the stem and under the leaves. Spray the soil as well so that the top of it is wet.

What this liquid does is make every part of the plant that it touches unpalatable to the insect. The water evaporates and leaves behind the odor and flavor. It smells and tastes gross and they won’t eat it. When they won’t eat anymore, they eventually starve. The liquid will not kill the insects on contact, so do not get upset if you see increased activity after the application. They’re simply struggling to find something to eat”


I will monitor both my courgette plants and report the results back to you in a couple of weeks.



In My Home This Week:


I have had a relatively quiet week in the house after all my decorating last week, but I did want to mention a couple of things.  After our friends visit at the weekend, we had half a tub of mascopone left over and my eldest daughter decided she would use it so it didn’t go to waste (she obviously takes after me).   So she made a pasta sauce using tomatoes and mascopone and fried some courgettes, mangetout, onion and garlic and added it to the sauce:

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She then served it with salad dressed with olive oil, lemon and salt and it was delicious!


She also decided to make some biscuits for her teachers at school, to say thank you for helping her during her first year of ‘A’ levels.  She made shortbread biscuits and then covered a an old sweet tub to make it look pretty and this was the result:


I think this present is far nicer than any shop bought present that you could give and as I always say:

“A homemade present is from the heart, not just from your bank account”

I was very proud of her and I think she now deserves her title of ‘Ms Thrift’.


Also this week Judy (our rescue dog) has not had a good week and has gone backwards a little bit with her training, but I am working on this with Steven Havers, our trainer and I am hoping it is just a ‘blip’.  However, she is still doing well overall and fitting in our family nicely at home.


Judy asleep with her ball

Judy asleep with her ball


That’s enough for now, I will be back again next Friday as usual.

Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope you have a good week!

How To Beat Christmas Financial Stress

At the end of last week, the weather turned rather chilly and my coat came out again after a long, warm summer.  My daughters started to complain it was cold without the central heating on (while sitting at home wearing only T-shirts) and I noticed that the nights are drawing in.

Autumn is really here and I know this, as it’s my birthday today and Mr Thrift and I usually spend a couple of hours walking in the park.  Unfortunately today, it’s been wet and miserable so we didn’t go.  There are such beautiful views to be found at this time of year, when the leaves turn a wonderful array of autumn colours and then begin to fall to the ground, we will definately go another day instead, when it is dry.

I didn’t have a cake today due to the building work, but I thought I would remember the cake my girls made for me last year which tasted lovely:


Unfortunately, at this time of year the shops start to turn their attentions to…dare I say it?….Christmas.

Every high street shop you visit has the beginnings of their Christmas displays, enticing you to spend, spend, spend.  They give the impression that the ‘more you spend, the more you love your family’.

 There are also strategically placed images of smiling friends in big woolly jumpers, exchanging gifts in front of an open fire with glasses of mulled wine in their hands.  It’s lovely to be with friends at Christmas and the image reminds me that I also need to buy them expensive presents?  After all, if I don’t they just won’t socialise with me anymore and they will gossip behind my back.

Is this true?…….NO!  This is just what the shops want us to believe so they sell more and make a bigger profit, it’s as simple as that.


It’s not just the shops that put pressure on us to spend more money near to Christmas.  Listening to other people talking about what presents they are buying, where they are going, what they are even cooking on Christmas day, makes you feel like rushing out and buying the same.  It’s very easy to feel inadequate at this time of year as the biggest problem with Christmas is people get caught up in the social expectations of the whole thing.  It is too easy to purchase everything on your credit card and then have a miserable new year when your bill arrives.

A Homemade Christmas Pudding

A Homemade Christmas Pudding

This is why I plan for Christmas throughout the year and when everyone is rushing about feeling stressed, I am enjoying the festivities.


How I do My Christmas Shopping:

We have a Christmas present budget and we stick to it. We save the money for Christmas presents the year before we need to buy them.  This way, we know exactly what our Christmas budget is, when we plan our present list on the 1st January each year.

I have a list of names that I carry in my handbag, which I update each time I buy a present.  I know exactly how much money I have to spend on each person and who I have or have not already bought for.  This way I can buy presents in the January and summer sales and get more for my money, or buy a special gift that I know will be loved, when I see it.

Some people may think this is excessive and feel that they couldn’t do this, but it works for us.  We have two large families and this year alone, we have 36 family members and close friends to buy for.  A few years ago it was more than this, but we decided to stop buying for children when they reached 18 years old, as it was costing far too much money.  We felt terrible at first telling our friends and relatives this and yes, we did get one or two people that didn’t understand, but I think that said more about them than us.

Homemade Gifts are so special as alot of time and thought have gone into making them.

Homemade Gifts are so special as a lot of time and thought has gone into making them.

If you aren’t as organised as me, you can still write at list and work out a budget, after all, there is still October, November and December to save towards it and next year you could budget from January so you can spread the cost over twelve months.


I love Christmas as it a great time to ‘catch up’ with friends and spend time together as a family.  It’s about having family traditions that are special, as they only happen once a year.

Our decorations are also special.  Even though they come out year after year, they have so many memories attached to them.  I also love beautiful decorations that have been made, by spending next to nothing using materials from the garden.


I love to see my family enjoying a Christmas dinner, knowing that everything has been cooked from scratch and all the vegetables have been home grown.

It’s the simple things that make Christmas special to me, not how expensive a present is.

Handmade dishcloths

Handmade dishcloths


So if you are worrying about the cost of Christmas 2013, please remember the time you spend together with family and friends is far more important than the amount of money you pay for their present.

Presents are used or tossed aside within a few months, but memories of times spent together will last forever.

Homemade Mince Pies

Homemade Mince Pies

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday.