Thanksgiving Astra's way :)

I've never celebrated Thanksgiving before, well, once when I was 14 in Bermuda on a working trip... Anyway it's not something that I was brought up with or ever taught about. As an adult I have developed quite a respect for this american tradition, I love the idea of taking a few days to celebrate with the people you love, everything you have to be thankful for.

Al and I have decided that we are going to start celebrating Thanksgiving! Next year we'll host our first party/dinner/evening of festivities! Im excited, I hope it looks something like this, but inside since we're Irish :)

For this year my Thanksgiving will take the form of a little note -

I'm thankful for my place in the world, I love who I am and where I am in my life.
I'm thankful that our cat Cara is getting better :)
I'm thankful that Al and I both have secure jobs that enable us to save for our dream.
I'm thankful we have no debt.
I'm thankful for our lovely home thats easy to keep cosy and warm.
I'm thankful for my good health, after being ill for a few days, I'm so thankful it rarely happens.
I'm especially thankful for my husband, our brilliant marriage and every single kiss, 'i love you', laugh and shared smile.

I could go on for hours but I'll leave it there lol, did you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, in any way?

Surprise veg!

In April this year we had to move house quite suddenly, it was a real shame because we had done a lot of gardening and all round preparation for the season ahead at our old place. The thing I was sad about leaving the most was a large square raised bed I'd made by hand from scrap wood, it had taken me about a week, I loved it and was so proud of how well it turned out. I had layered compost, sand, dead leaves etc to make a rich soil base for the mixture of onions and carrots I planted, they were looking so promising when we left but all too small to pick.

We've been back a couple of times and seen it totally overgrown, I figured there mustn't be much under the weeds. How wrong I was!! We are cat sitting for the owners (Al's parents) this week and thought we'd have a dig around, after 7 months of total neglect this is what nature (and my loving preparation and planting) provided...

I'd say about 2kg carrots and 1kg onions!

Aren't they perfect, with all their imperfections :)

So tonight we feast on 40p lamb, free carrots, cabbage (reduced down to 10p) and gravy that's home made - with flour the old fashioned way! I'm so happy!

This is saving for our dream in style and appreciating the small things - just what we're about!

Hope you all are enjoying your weekends :)

P.S are you noticing a pattern with my saturdays? Not that I'm complaining!

Bargain buys and childish humour!

I think Saturdays are fast becoming my happy day :)

This Saturday was brilliant, Al and I headed into town for a bit of shopping, it was chilly and there was a definite air of christmas excitement. We started by doing our rounds of the charity shops and they didn't disappoint, I found another Jamie Oliver cookbook in the same shop! A beautiful little casserole dish and a cool glass jar for our kitchen collection - all in perfect condition and for crazy prices, I'm so chuffed!

Then we split up for a wee while to do some secret shopping. I got one thing for Al, can't say what because he likes to read my blog, sweet hey? Hi baby, I love you! he-he

We stopped for diesel on the way home, he pumped and I went to pay, while I was in the shop waiting in line (he was still pumping) I locked the car with the clicker, husband looks around like 'thats weird', I start giggling and click it again, and again, he looks at the car confused and I crack up laughing in the shop, then he see's me and cracks up too! So the two of us are laughing hysterically and no one else knows why, we must have looked mental!

I love our childish sense of humour, how we can find joy and laughter in the dullest situations and how after 5 years of being together we are still best friends, closer than ever and happier than we thought possible :)

Anyone else having happy Saturdays lately?

Astra xx

Some of the ways we save for our dream.

Our mission is to save a lot each month so that when we buy a home/land we will have a substantial deposit, get a low interest rate mortgage, be able to pay it off in 10 years then live debt free after that. Ambitious I know, but we are ambitious people and we'll make it happen :)

We worked out when the reduced items come out at our local supermarket (friday 7pm) and it saves us a fortune! We buy meat and just freeze it straight away, other items are usually fine for a few days. We also bulk buy, when something we use a lot of or buy regularly is on a really good deal we stock up, no point paying full price next month. The 800g mayo you see below was £1.62 usually £3.15! It's one of the few expensive brand names we do shell out for so when I saw this deal I was so excited. The meat is an amazing deal - each packet was £4 now 40p (only use by tomorrow) and lamb is my favorite too!

The big bills...
Rent - always the same but we love our home, so don't mind paying for it each month. Electricity - we are just sensible with it. Internet and phone deal - we regularly check we are getting the best deal, they change so often its really worth it (mobiles are just PAYG). Car Insurance - same as Internet we change up nearly every year and haggle down the phone! Car Tax and running - we own a small clio so tax is really cheap. It's a diesel and we share it, only having one car can be an inconvenience but its so worth it for the money we save.

The wee bills...
We write it all down, on a notepad in the kitchen, one page for each week and it really helps us. From that we can see if we are on track for our monthly targets or if we've spent a lot and need to cut back next week etc.

So those are some of the things that help us reach our savings target each month, nothing ground breaking lol but they work for us :) I will say that we are not in high wage brackets by any means and we are not scrimpers, we are savers. We do treat ourselves, we go out, we put the heat on when its cold enough and we use lights at night. We don't believe in sacrificing or struggling now for something in the future, we believe in happiness today while doing what we can to ensure a secure, comfortable future :)

If your on the same page/journey and have any tips to share I'd love to hear them 

Astra xx

Have you ever tasted the intriguing mixture of spicy chilli and smooth sweet chocolate?

For anyone who doesn't know, my husband is the Chilli Ninja :) His blog is all about no nonsense chilli growing, it has brilliant photos, information on different varieties and our personal recipes (I am a huge chilli wimp so don't worry if you are too, you'll still love them!).

So at the weekend we decided to collaborate and make chocolate chilli cake, this is how we got on.

Cake icing is very serious business you know!

See the cute carnation in my scarf? That was from Al, I love his romantic side :) 

If you want the recipe (highly recommended) head over to his blog The cake recipe is the same one we used for our wedding cakes, just with fresh chilli :)

A quick update on my Pre School bake sale for Children in need - BRILLIANT! We have sold out of everything, every day! The kids have loved it and we all have had tonnes of fun :) The big finale is tomorrow with chocolate cakes, more lemon cakes because they were amazing, and gingerbread Pudsey's. I'll be interested to see how much money we raised, but I don't think it'll be a huge amount as all our prices were very reasonable - 25p, 30p etc still, every penny counts!

My happy Saturday

Woke up about 9 o'clock, went back to sleep till about 11 - perfect way to start the day :)

Stayed in my fluffy PJ's on the sofa while I read all the blogs I follow, Cara purring at my side. Read some good articles about writing and blogging from the heart, felt inspired :)

Got dressed at about 4 o'clock, and nope I'm not embarrassed to admit that!

Listened to music while searching for land for sale, found 2 intriguing properties in our area, we might go and look just in case one is perfect... We're not ready to buy yet but I love looking and I know if we saw the perfect place it would all work out for us.

Did some baking with hubby, one item will have its own post - an awesome new recipe, made bread for the week, a banana loaf and a veggie packed bolognese for dinner. I love baking with him it's so much fun and he tidies up as we go along - such a bonus!

Scales Al's granny used back in the day, I'm all metric so they hold an ivy plant now, about 1lb!

The banana loaf before baking.

The veggie packed bolognese (before the tinned tomatoes)

Watched some 24 over dinner, bathed Cara's face (she has allergies that make her skin flare up), made a new to-do list. The hubby made me my new favicon, what do you think? My opinion, cute to the max! :)

Now I'm going to drink tea, sample our baking and head off to bed.

I love days like these at home with my husband, spent doing just what we feel like doing at the time. I am so happy right now, I love my weekends, I love my life!

Bake sale next week!

My Pre School class are doing a bake sale next week to raise money for Children in need, I can't wait, it's gonna be such a fun week! 

I love baking and cooking and so do 3yr olds so we are going all out - baking 2 different things each day. I am making some full size chocolate cakes at home (my wedding cake recipe as seen here :) I love that I made my own wedding cakes!) and Patrice's mum (Patrice works in the Pre School with me) is a professional cake maker, she is kindly donating some fancy buns too and all of it will be displayed in the entrance hall of our nursery.

Fingers crossed the parents are tempted by our tasty treats and feeling generous with their hard earned cash... We are trying to cater for the adults too, not just kiddie treats in the hope they'll buy to take home, not just to let the kids eat in the car! I think it's gonna be a massive success - chocolate popcorn, Pudsey cookies, assortment of buns, cakes and chilli chocolate brownies just to name a few! All made with love and joy :)

What are you doing for children in need? If your not up to much yourself I hope you'll be able to support a fundraising effort in your kids school/local area -

Driving across South Africa

Since posting a few of our  Cape Town photos I've been trying to choose less than a hundred of our road-trip ones! We drove from East London to Cape Town on the main roads then back on the minor inland roads over 3 weeks staying in hostels and B&B's. We didn't have a set plan or time frame, we just woke up, looked at the maps and decided where we wanted to go that day, it was brilliant, such an adventure.

Jeffery's Bay at sunrise.

The happiest I've ever been at that crazy hour in the morning!

I can't over emphasize how 'in the middle of nowhere' these people were, I hope they
didn't have to wait to long... During our road-trip we passed so many hitch hikers and I felt
bad every time, but we had decided at the start that we wouldn't, we don't do it in
 Ireland so it seemed silly to start in Africa...

Wreck at Cape Agulhas, the very bottom tip of Africa, it was quite cool
 to stand looking out knowing the whole continent is behind you, other than
that it was quite an anti-climax after Cape Point...

I loved the way in a few hours you can go from this,

to this,

but that's Route 62 for ya!

Al picked me the sweetest tiny desert flowers, they were so
dry they lasted days on the dash board

Monkey world, a 12 acre enclosure for rescue monkeys and apes that can't be
re-released to the wild. This guys used to be a pet, his name is Atlas and he is beautiful,
I'd suggest looking at this picture big, I wish I knew what story his eyes were telling me. 

A windy day at St.Francis 

We stayed for about an hour on the rocks just watching these massive waves, so powerful!

Orange country, we bought some from a lovely wee family just down the road,
I often wonder about them too...

Happy kids, everywhere we went.

This is the lil' car that took us on our trip, it was brilliant,
except the time that the heat got stuck on... Funny memories though!

Making this post has made me so excited about our next road-trip, our honeymoon to Paris :) :) :)

Date in the park

On sunday we went for a wee date in the park :) The weather last weekend was amazing (on Monday too actually) so we wanted to take advantage. We took a picnic and went to explore Lady Dixon park, we have been to it before ages ago but not in Autumn, the Japanese garden looked stunning.

This is my favorite tree in the world, one day I'll have one in my dream garden :)
I brought a leaf home to press.
Japanese garden.
This tree has smaller leaves than my favorite and they're bright yellow
 but they are both the same shape and look lovely together
so I should probably have one of these in my dream garden too :)
Collecting pine cones for winter decorations.
I thought the colours on this tree were amazing.
We took some time to hang out in a really cool tree, I have a small fascination
with trees if you haven't noticed by now lol!

I also did some very ungraceful climbing which resulted in even more ungraceful pictures but I'll spare you those!

We sat in the sun and people watched while we ate our picnic, it was lovely. We looked at old couples and wondered what we'll be like at their age, it's hard to imagine how much history we'll have, how much we will have experienced together and how much more we'll love each other because of it. I look forward to it all :)

Reminiscing about Cape Town 2009

I've been following closely Saving for travels' blog these last few weeks and it's made me think of all the traveling I've done, what amazing memories I have of exploring other cultures and countries.

I've decided I'm going to show a little glimpses of our past travels and adventures on my blog. Partly because I believe what you have experienced in life helps define who you are and on this blog I do want to put across the real me. Mostly though I thinks it's because I love looking through our iphoto albums and reminiscing :)

When I look at photos of us on our adventures it reminds me that we always do what we say we will. We figure out what we want, what our dreams are, then we make it happen. It makes me feel so confident and sure that all our dreams for the future will come true. When I look at photos of us in South Africa it is such a big reminder that together we can achieve anything :)

Cape Point guessing which country was 'that way'
My hubby (fiance at the time) - cracking me up as usual 
The photographer
At the top of Table Mountain
Robben Island, I wish everyone in the world could
visit there and meet the people we met.  It's by far the most
inspiring and moving place I've ever visited.
Cape Town from Robben Island.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
The Biscuit Mill Market.
We were so happy to be in SA for Nelson Mandela's Birthday,
the love was everywhere. We took part in a 'knit-a-thon' to make
blankets for local people in need. 
Leaving Cape Town was a bit sad but our road-trip was
just getting started :)

mmmm wimpy tea... I miss that tea!

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