Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A £60 Amazon voucher giveaway...

As a blogger, I get offered the chance to collaborate with many different companies and websites. I usually decline as many of these do not fit in with my 'eco, frugal, simple' mantra. I'm joining in with this one however, because I know that £60 worth of Amazon vouchers could make a real difference to someone out there's Christmas.

A boy drumming with a crowd of children drumming behind him.
An activity funded by Sense,
the UK charity for deaf blind children and adults

As for my part of the deal (£60 of Amazon vouchers for me, too) I'm opting to donate them to Sense, a national UK charity that supports and campaigns for children and adults who are deaf blind. They offer specialist services, community resource centres, living options, one-to-one support, children's support, short breaks and fun groups as well as advice on issues relating to dual sensory impairment. My late Mother-in-law barely had two pennies to rub together for most of her life but still supported many charities including Sense, which was one of her favourites; it was an easy decision to allow them to benefit from a blog affiliation on my part.

What do you have to do to be in with a chance of winning the vouchers? You have to take a short shopping quiz - click here - (and it is really short - 60 seconds tops) to find out your personal shopping style. (You're all welcome to do the quiz but the giveaway itself is only open to UK readers). ">Barclaycard and Brunel University have collaborated to research the modern way in which we shop and how UK shoppers can now be defined into four new shopping tribes. The online quiz will identify whether you are a Bargain Hunter Gatherer, a Screen Saver, a Profit Prophet or a High Street Pounder!

The shopping quiz -
what kind of shopper are you!

I took the quiz and apparently I'm the latter - a High Street Pounder. That'll be because I answered that I do much of my shopping locally and am on first name terms with many of our local shopkeepers. Remember that our high street is not a big city high street full of big high street names. The kind of pounding the streets that I do is in and out of our local Co-op, a quick browse of the three local charity shops, and popping in for a chat with the owner of the local antique/bric-a-brac shop (as featured on Celebrity Antique Road Trip yesterday) or my friends in the book shop! 

My local high street in Corsham (image from MJ Church's website)

Once you have taken the quiz, please leave a comment on this blog post or on the blog's Facebook page and share your own shopping style. I will let the giveaway run until 7pm on Saturday 30 November when I will choose a winner at random. Please come back to find out if you have been lucky on Sunday. If you are the lucky winner, you will need to contact me by email so I can send you the voucher codes. To ensure that I can contact you it would help if you are a blog subscriber or follower.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A grateful Food Waste Friday

Unsurprisingly keeping on top of food waste has not been a big priority over the last few weeks. When you're grieving and organising a funeral, food and food waste are the last things you're bothered about. Thank heavens for beans on toast, pasta, Wetherspoon's pubs and their Monday main course deals, and good old fish and chips. 

And thank heavens for friends and family who have phoned, called round, sent cards, emails and text messages with just the right sentiment at just the right time. Who have loaned us a motley assortment of items including shoulders to cry on, homeopathic expertise, a carpet shampooer, an extra cat basket (in which to carry the rescue chickens home, of course) and a front drive for guests to park on. Who have sent beautiful flowers and left plants on the doorstep. 

And as for the food? We barely needed to lift a finger and a funeral feast fit for royalty appeared, as neighbours and friends bore plates and platters of savoury and sweet, family brought cake all the way from Devon, and even more cake appeared mysteriously on the doorstep. No food waste this week - we've lived almost entirely from leftover cake! 

And thank heavens for purring kitty cats who seem to know just when you could most do with a soft cat sitting on your lap (and who have knocked the sympathy cards off the dresser on a daily basis).

Thank you all, real people and real cats and all you blog people too, for all your support. We're truly grateful.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A return to blogging...

I've had a prolonged absence from the blog. At half term my dear, dear Mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. When you lose a loved one like that the world falls apart and the long lists of practicalities to be dealt with consume any remaining emotional energy. My joie de vivre and certainly my zest for writing and blogging disappeared. 

But amid the sadness and the tears and the readjustment and all the organising and sorting and endless paperwork we have shared some happy moments too.

Last weekend we were working through a mammoth pre-funeral to-do list. The get-together after the funeral was to be held at our home so you can imagine the kind of things on the list: 

hoover entire house
clean bathroom
bake cakes
go shopping

On our list there was also:

pick up chickens between 2.45pm and 3.30pm on Saturday

That didn't mean chickens for eating at the buffet. Oh no, that meant live chickens for restocking our flock. I'm overstating it slightly - our flock had dwindled this summer to a sole surviving chicken, Yoko. I wrote about our dilemma of what to do with a lonely, non-laying chicken here. The many thoughtful comments on that blog post helped us reach the decision to find her some friends quickly before she became too cold on her owny own in the hen house. 

Where better to find feathered friends for Yoko than to look to the British Hen Welfare Trust? They're a national charity who find homes for commercial laying hens destined for slaughter. The whole process couldn't have been easier. A quick phone call reserved us four chickens at the next collection day (which take place every 6-8 weeks I think) and it transpired that the nearest pick-up point was near Malmesbury, only about 8 miles from where we live.

When the time came, collecting four ex-caged hens felt absolutely the right pre-funeral thing to be doing. Nana had known all about the plans for the new chickens before she died, and as a great animal lover she would have hated the thought of our four reserved chickens left with no home to go to. And we'd have been letting poor Yoko down too.

We were prepared for the chickens to need some rehabilitation; we were warned that they wouldn't be accustomed to night and day, or walking on the earth, or weather conditions but although I'd seen pictures on other blogs and in the media, nothing can prepare you for seeing a run full of girls in this sorry state. The kids were shocked, "Their bellies look like the chicken you'd see in the fridge in a supermarket..." We were shocked. Battery farming may have ended in Britain but it's clear that intensive factory farming hasn't.

Peggy, one of our baldest chickens.

Happily, our new girls have settled in quickly. There was some initial bullying from Yoko which made us angry, "We got these hens to keep YOU company! Don't you think they've been through enough already without you picking on them!" we shouted at her, and she soon got the message. We put out several feeding stations, so Yoko didn't have to worry about them eating her food, and after one night of keeping them separate in the hen house, they came down to breakfast like old friends. Hopefully they'll feather up soon to withstand the predicted cold weather.

Much better than eating chicken at a funeral wake is talking about chickens and the superiority of free range eggs. The vicar may have been used to this topic of conversation and beat a hasty retreat after his sandwich and cake, but not all our visitors were so lucky in escaping a trip to the chicken coop. Nana often likened her youngest son (known as Husband here on the blog) to Tom in The Good Life. I think she would have approved.