The madness of Christmas Food shopping in the UK.

Its time for our Annual Feeding frenzy….


All week I have been reading from online friends how they hate the mad dash of the supermarket food shop and that many have done it early and are feeling pleased and relieved. The weather has turned stormy today and so many of us are now safe at home with well stocked fridges, freezers and larders.  I did my final supermarket shop in a quiet Newhaven Sainsburys  on Friday morning thank goodness and my main vegies last Wednesday to supplement the root veg  from Dymock farm shop safely stashed in the garage.

So when I woke up this morning and saw on TV that today is the day for the ‘big shop’ I began to think about why we put ourselves through it all? The supermarkets are closed for just one day and lets face it there will be convenience stores and garage shops open on the big day if anything has been forgotten. I have just been into Seaford to pay a bill and was amazed to see some of customers  struggling into  Morrisons today are the  elderly using walking trollies. I have to ask myself why they choose to go there today? Through the window I could see it was heaving with queues 10 deep by 11am.


There was even a queue at the local butchers –probably because people were collecting turkeys etc. I then realised why the butcher told me to go yesterday –a Sunday to collect my small piece of steak  and sausagemeat.  In fact many of the town shops were open yesterday even the charity shops so I hope they did well with last minute bargain hunters.




So after the frenzy of all this food shopping – I cant remember how many pigs in blankets they said on TV Asda alone were expecting to sell;  the nation will settle down to eat and drink their way through an excess of  food shopping. I hope that many of those shoppers will have put something decent in the Food Bank baskets that are appearing in most of the big shops now and spare a though for those with only processed food for their Christmas dinner or none at all.

Sadly on the day after Boxing Day , much of this food will be consigned to the bin uneaten along with the turkey carcass which is no longer made into soup or curry in many households (I can see my late dad doing that now and me sighing over the apple and sultanas that went into Anglo Indian curry!) A new frenzy will be in place – sale shopping- either online or another expedition to the shops. The following week the food buying frenzy  will all happen again as people restock up for New Years parties.

For me the key questions to ask are;

  1. Did I stick to the list and avoid the BOGOFs when I knew they would not get eaten?
  2. Did I plan the meals and only buy what we really needed?
  3. Did I spread out the treats throughout the week so nobody got indigestion and felt ill!?
  4. Is there  got nothing  left over or wasted?.
  5. Have I kept a record of the menus and shopping?- easy on OneNote or Evernote for future years?


I wish  this to be reflected across the nation  and  the true spirit of Christmas  food  sharing   to prevail.


Me with a Sports injury? You are having a laugh!

If anyone had told me a couple of weeks ago I would get a sports injury I would have said you are having a laugh. If anyone had told me I could get one from walking I would have laughed even louder. My dear departed dad simply would not have believed that I – the most unsporty person in the world could succumb to this.
After 15 months of walking alternate days and then nearly every day and raising my distance from a mile to 2-3 usually I am dismayed to find that this has proved too stressful for my knees. When I was teaching I used them for far more hours than I do now; walking round my classroom all day long with countless trips up and down those stairs. So why has this happened now I have to time to enjoy the countryside, clouds and seascape when I go out for an hour every afternoon?
To cut a long story short I felt my knee give way and start to hurt when I was walking by the river in Dusseldorf a couple of weeks ago and after trying to ignore it and rest it I finally went to see the doc. It turns out I have sprained a ligament and now have to take anti- inflammatory meds (NSAIDS) for a month plus wear a support when I walk at slow pace only. No more Leslie Sansone speedy walks for me then at the moment. Grump!
So off I go to Boots where I wait for 20 minutes for my prescription and then a nice woman takes me into the booth to measure me for the support. She saw the bruise on my other knee and got confused as that one is fine! I turned out to be size medium 13 plus inches all round. The support is not supplied on the NHS which is a bit off but luckily they were on offer. It is not exactly attractive either!

My very elegant (not) knee support

My very elegant (not) knee support

I now feel sorry for all the proper sports people who have to wear these things as they really pinch and are very uncomfortable and that’s even before you try and walk in them. SO….have just been for my first walk with a very bad grace , trying to avoid hills and inclines which left me strolling round bungalow land in the afternoon gloom. Not my usual uplifting walk by the sea. I suppose I will get used to it- it’s a case of having to as I am only half way through this months walking challenge (65 miles if anyone wants to know) which is the longest one I have ever tried.
I am not giving up though. I am still planning a long walk on Boxing Day back home from Tide Mills.

Whats all the fuss about Christmas Markets?

I always thought that going to a Christmas Market meant you got on a coach and spent hours going to Germany until a day out last winter with some friends in Birmingham meant we had to struggle through one to get to the Museum where we were visiting the Saxon Hoard. All I recall is the smell of fast food and chips…. Another friend went off on the Eurostar sipping champagne to an event in Bruges, those little huts on the Southbank in London were expanding all over the place and suddenly Christmas markets were everywhere.



The little huts even included toilets- supervised of course -only portaloos in Belfast

This year we were going to Dusseldorf on business at the end of November and when I did my research I found- yes- the Christmas markets would be just outside the hotel and all over the city. As soon as it started to get dark off we went to explore. Dusseldorf is an affluent city and my first thought was how expensive it was to buy ornaments, nativities and table decorations. Clearly the Germans spend a lot on Christmas.



The stalls were beautifully laid out in Dusseldorf




Other potential gifts were more reasonable but best value of all was the snacks and drinks. Clearly for many locals this was their reason to be there- meeting friends after work for some spiced gluhwein and kartoffelpuffer or bratwurst. Filling food for a chilly night. The next day I took a walk by the river where a Ferris wheel had been put up and many of the cafes and bars had extensions under cover so that more socialising could take place in the evenings and weekends. Special river boat trips were going to be on as well. I would have liked to do one of those though I would not have got sunburn as on my last visit.



Very pricy Table centres and candles

The following weekend I found myself in a very busy Belfast visiting a friend and lo and behold an enormous Christmas Market was taking place in front of the City Hall. Although santa was there in his grotto, This market was a bit different because as well as the gifts it was a mecca for foodies being full of gastronomic delights. We tasted and bought cheese (cheddar with jalapeno mmm) but resisted the huge range of Italian chocolate, French fruit tarts, Turkish delight, artisan cakes and breads from all over the world and sweeties piled high. We could not decide between spiced ginger wine , cider or gluhwein and a vast range of street food. I am not a fan of bratwurst so I was tempted by the wild boar as opposed to kangaroo, springbok or zebra but the stall was rammed so we went elsewhere for some skinny soup!
So- have you been to a Christmas market this year? Was it just a social event with friends or did you buy anything? What do you think about them- gimmick to part us with our money or an event to promote the Christmas spirit.






Eat less Move more- Walking for Health


Back in August 2012 when I decided to do something about the weight I had gained this century and which was threatening to continue to increase now I was no longer running round after a bunch of school children all day; I knew I needed to do some exercise as well as reduce my cheese and wine intake.  Apart from dancing I have never enjoyed physical movement or sport and a brief experiment with Zumba the previous winter had shown me my  physical limitations. I hate swimming and would make sure I only walked to the village or post-box as little as possible.I turned 60 in March 2012 and no way did I want an unhealthy retirement. After all I am a baby boomer!

It soon became clear from the logs of my friends on Myfitnesspal  (MFP) that walking at a moderate to brisk pace was popular.  I was not the only one who did not want to go to a gym or start something I would not fit into my lifestyle for ever so walking was what I decided to do.  I knew that for heart health I should try to take 30 minutes exercise a day. So Initially I walked a one mile round trip to a farther postbox than usual and it took me 25 minutes. I would come back hot and exhausted and have to sit down for half an hour to recover .  Gradually I built this distance up until I was walking to the village via the nature reserve and finally I proudly made it to Sainsburys and back- 2 miles plus.

The biggest surprise was the change in my mind-set.  I began to purposely look for a reason to do that walk most days and made sure I needed something from the village. On days I did not I explored the private roads around my home and watched the building of several houses in the following months.  If one of my online pals logged she had done a walk that morning I was incentivised to do one myself and mid-afternoon off I would go. I explored paths I had never known about in the 10 years I had lived there. All through Autumn 2012 I was walking between 20-30 miles a month and I did some longer 5-6 mile walks round London with another RL  friend. When the weather got bad a  MFP friend told me about Leslie Sansone online walking programmes so I checked these out on You Tube. They are Ok when there is ice on the ground or torrential rain but I would rather walk outside.20131015_154518

By the time I moved to Seaford in August 2013 I was  walking most days. It might only have been a couple of miles but it all mounted up and most importantly it no longer felt like a chore- I really looked forward to it.  The 30-40 miles a month I had been walking earlier in the year had stretched to more than 50 and if I did not walk every day I felt something was missing.  3 months on I have some great new walking circuits established. Who could fail to be uplifted by the chance to walk by the sea? I have ventured further afield to the Cuckmere valley and there are many more great places here I can explore on foot.  My goal now is to increase my monthly distance beyond 60 miles a month and make sure I walk every day. The online distance  challenges my friends have introduced me too are helping enormously as is logging these walks with Map my Walk. I could never have imagined that I would have walked nearly 600 miles in 15 months.  I have more energy and stamina and  am so thankful to all those who have encouraged me.

Oh and did I mention I have lost more than 2 stone in weight? But that’s another story

A very different beach scape South Africa West Coast

I love the cliffs in Sussex and my new life by the English Channel but I also love this place and want to share it with you:

I am lucky in that my next birthday will be spent here!

Sanderling Beach House- a view to chill for

After a week sweltering in the Winelands we wanted to get some R and R somewhere cooler so we could just chill and relax. I do not usually choose self catering cottages having had some bad UK experiences but this was something quite different for half the price and had been recommended by some South African friends. Situated on the west Coast looking at the Atlantic Ocean a new spacious whitewashed cottage with 3  large bedrooms all with ensuites or a bathroom next door ; toilet paper and hand soap dispenser provided (take note UK rentals), lovely white bedding, lots of pillows, towels provided (though we needed our own for the beach of course) large windows making them airy (though there are central fans if you need them). I also smiled to see hot water bottles in the bedside drawers clearly it is not always summer in South Africa as I know from experience at other times of the year.

The kitchen is fantastic, marble worktops with everything you can think of provided:  plenty of serving and baking dishes,  large oven ,a dishwasher, washing machine and coffee maker too. A big fridge/freezer soon got filled with lots of goodies from the Spar in Leiplaak down the road (for Spar think large supermarket not those convenience stores we have in the UK) The quality of the meat and fish we were able to buy was amazing and there was a large range of seasonal fruit and vegetables available. They also sell the briquettes you need for the ubiquitous ‘braii’.

Sanderling has large one of these on the large covered verandah (stoep) at the  rear and there we sat eating the spoils of our Spar trip and wine from the previous week’s explorations whilst enjoying an uninterrupted view of the sea , spotting seals and dolphins and various small birds in the fynbos and bird table where we left our crusts. Much later when the sun had gone down and the Starscape appeared (The Milky Way is mesmerising) we moved indoors to the  imposing full height living area and relaxed on the sofas to watch a film. The owners have thoughtfully left a large collection on DVD and a book selection as well as board games.  There is an open fire for the winter (and another upstairs in the master bedroom)  but when we were there a rock kestrel was raising her family in the chimney pot! In the mornings I drank my coffee  on the front verandah and watched the world go by (not that there was much to see except the birds and the fynbos amongst the small number of cottages)and  wondered what it is like in Spring when the flowers come out in carpets.

During our stay we walked miles on the sands, where as a child I would have loved to build sandcastles,  the sanderlings scuttling in and out of the water just ahead of us. We paddled and collected shells and  though  we saw others  body boarding in the breakers we had the place virtually to ourselves most of the time.  The water here is said to be 3 degrees warmer than at Langebaan.   One morning some locals took a fishing boat out-big event! For keen birders the Rocher Pan reserve is about 5km away and home to many  more species. We ate out on the Berg River in Velddrif a few times- some quirky places to say the least (and not the trendy crowd like Paternoster thank goodness) but we watched Pied Kingfishers dive bombing for food and the pelicans hang out there too.  At some times of the year a flock of flamingos comes to the salt pan- and their pinkness never ceases to surprise me.There are a couple of salt producers there and we visited and bought savoury salt from  Khoisan Trading .I also packed a large bag of their lavender bath salts in my case- it burst as I forgot to put it in a plastic bag- enough said except lovely smelling clothes . Other people hired boats to go on the river but I am just too lazy for that! My other souvenir was a jar of jam from the   ‘Mini Mark’ in the Village, home made by the owner Betty who seems to stock everything you might have forgotten.

I understand that the Cottage is pretty well booked out for the next few weeks but you can look on Facebook for their page to see more amazing photos such as the sunsets  and local wildlife or for their web page on WordPress

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A Lidl bit of Love –Alternative to the Big Boys


As I am currently disenchanted with the big boy local supermarkets  (yes that means you Sainsburys , Tesco and Morrisions) I decided to respond to a catalogue that came with The Sunday Times (yes that middle class missive we can spend hours reading at the weekend rather than doing chores or getting out for  a walk) The catalogue was for all things Lidl…the store we loved to hate when it proposed building a tin can monstrosity in our previous Surrey  surburbia.  I was also tempted by some biscuits I had eaten at a coffee morning recently … They came from the local branch and were very good indeed; as well as encouraged by others who said the fresh produce was good quality and  value.

So off I trekked to the Newhaven Industrial Estate with my list of pickles (thought they would be good being a European brand) and Christmas goodies based on marzipan and ginger as seen in the catalogue.

My first challenge was to find a pound coin for the trolley then undeterred I set off to check out the aisles. Mysterious brands of tea coffee etc but no porridge oats -clearly not popular in Europe.

As had been suggested the fresh veggies were very reasonable but not as much choice as I am used to and some things prepacked in bigger sizes than I wanted , but did buy a nice big swede for £1 which is probably half the price of Sainsburys. Butter, cheese and milk all seemed cheaper , bacon was a no go as not marked British so I could only assume this was not the High welfare I wanted. Also bought some large jars of passata which Sainsburys simply does not stock despite my moaning tweets.

However the stars of the store were the Christmas goodies, mini stollens, ginger cookies dipped in chocolate and a whole range of pickles at very good prices.  I also bought a big pack of uncooked  frozen Greenland prawns  so I am all set for some Christmas love now. Incidentally if we were keen on vension I would buy the controversial  reindeer steaks too!



Nearly fell at the last fence on checkout when I discovered you have to pay cash or debit card- no credit cards allowed here. Probably a good thing meaning customers can only buy what they can really afford.

Will I go again- yes when I run out of pickles but sadly they do not have the range of things I want to eat  such as whole wheat  pasta, ryvita and nut milks ( nor Persil non bio for my sensitive skinned partner!)

In the meantime I will spread my custom and love  around the butcher, fishmonger and  Co-op which are within walking distance and  drive to the  nearest farm stall / visit Sainsbury’s a couple of times a month.  I am fortunate that I have time to go to this trouble, it would be so much easier to get it all from one place.



Wasting Bread (Not) Packed lunch solution?


Bread is Britain’s most wasted food  32% of bread purchased by UK households is dumped when it could be eaten, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) figures show. 80 % of this is the cheap sliced white made by the Chorleywood method.

When I started my waste monitoring I was aware there would be one item going in the bin which I felt bad about. My partner rarely finishes his loaf (it being something I do not eat) and if there is a new one it went out to the birds. However in Seaford anything  like that put out  for birds is a signal for seagulls to descend and attracting them is the last thing we want.

Then light dawned. Since we have moved here and visited the café by The Martello Tower I discovered my partner loves bread pudding! Now even when I was a child and my dear Great Uncle Dennis made it this was something I never liked the texture of.  So there was my solution.  I froze the bread ends for a couple of weeks and used them to make the bread pudding. As I was using spelt  and rye bread  this is a very special bread pudding. However any old bread will do!

Recipe takes a mere 15 minutes to prepare plus the soaking time

Put the following in a large bowl

250g bread ends torn up      300g mixed dried fruit              1 heaped tsp mixed spice

Pour over   300ml milk and scrunch up the bread

Add 70g soft brown  sugar, 1 large beaten egg and the juice of a lemon (optional) , mix well and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

Finally add 50g melted butter, combine and press into a well oiled small roasting tin or square tin

Sprinkle with a table spoon of brown sugar.

Bake at  180 C /160 fan oven for 90 minutes until firm If it gets a bit brown cover with foil.

Let it cool before slicing into squares.

My first effort lasted all of 4 days…..

Now wouldn’t it be great if  lots of our left over bread could be made into bread pudding for packed lunches?  Maybe I should start a campaign….