Saturday, 28 March 2020

Pizza!

Over the years, I think that I may have mentioned our annual attempt at growing tomatoes.  We don’t grow a lot, just two or three plants.  Last year, we had a bumper crop so I made several tubs of tomato sauce and shoved them in the freezer.  We used one tub last weekend over pasta, and it was lush!  It was so tasty that I immediately started planning to make pizza for dinner on Friday night.  Since my pizza recipe is straightforward, I thought I’d share it with you.  

At it’s most basic, this recipe produces two “Neapolitan Pizzas” of dough + sauce + mozzarella for £1.80 and feeds 4.  It takes 3 hours.

Start with the dough.  This comes from an edition of Self magazine, that I purchased in (probably) 1992.   It is so simple that it didn’t take me long to internalise the recipe.  I have made this hundreds of times.   Please read the notes at the bottom before proceeding.

Pizza Dough - makes 2, 12-inch pizzas (approximate cost 20p)

Ingredients

2.5 cups of flour (yes, two and a half measuring cups)
1 cup tap water
1 sachet or two teaspoons of easy bake yeast
1 teaspoon olive oil (can be left out)
2 pizza trays (or see note 5 below)

Method

  1. Hand method:  Take off your rings.  Place your flour into a large bowl.  Scatter over the yeast, then make a well in the centre and pour in the water.  Coat your hands with the olive oil, allowing the excess to drip into the mixture.  Using your fingers, fold the flour into the water.  Continue until you have a smooth dough.
  2. Food processor method:  combine all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and process until a ball of dough is formed.  Turn the dough out into a large bowl.
  3. Both methods:  if the dough is too sticky at this point, kneed in a little extra flour.  If too dry, kneed in a tablespoon or two more water.
  4. Drape a clean tea towel over the bowl, and place it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.  While waiting, make your tomato sauce.
  5. Take off your rings.  Using your hands, knock back the dough.  (Give it a good thump, then kneed for a minute or two.). Cover and leave in a warm place for another hour.
  6. Knock back your dough again then divide it into two halves.  Form each half into a ball. 
  7. Scatter flour over your work surface and rub into your rolling pin.  Place the first ball of dough into the centre of your work surface and roll it out until it is a) circular, and b) fits your pizza tray.  Carefully lift it onto your pizza tray.  Repeat with the other ball.
  8. At this point, put your oven on to preheat at 240C.  Allow the dough to rise for a further 20 minutes, before covering with toppings.  Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.
  9.  Top your pizzas and bake at 240C for 10-12 minutes.  Serve.

Notes:-

  1. You might have noticed, that I keep telling you to take off your rings.  Yeast dough can be incredibly sticky and hard to remove from your hands.  You don’t want it caught up in your rings.  If you do get coated in dough, soak your hands in water and wash well until the damn stuff comes off.  Don’t be tempted to wipe if off on a towel, because it’ll harden to cement.  (I learnt this the hard way.)
  2. To help stop the dough sticking to you hands, drizzle a small amount of olive oil into the palm of one hand and rub over both palms and your fingers.  They will be greasy.
  3. Only baking for one or two?  The dough freezes well.  At the end of step 6, lightly grease the inside of a freezer bag, drop in one of the balls of dough and freeze.  Remember to label the bag first.
  4. No rolling pin?  Use an empty wine bottle or any similar shaped, tall, round, glass bottle.  Remove the label first.
  5. No pizza tray?  Or only one?  You could use a flat cookie tray and form a lip around the edge of your pizza, to keep the toppings inside.  Alternatively, if you only have one tray, you could leave the second half to rise again as a ball of dough, while the first one is cooking, but that will mean a two-part meal.
Now for the sauce.  This is based on one from Delia Smith (aka St Delia of the Kitchen) but it’s not in the book that I thought it came from.  The flour is to stop it separating and to help thicken it.  (Tomato sauces have a tendency to separate and split.). It freezes well.

Tomato Sauce (approximate cost 65p)

Ingredients

1 onion, finely chopped (10p)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (5p)
2x400g cans chopped tomatoes (or the equivalent of home grown). (50p)
1 heaped teaspoon of flour
1 teaspoon dried basil
I-2 teaspoons muscovardo sugar
Possible splash lemon juice or vinegar
1 tablespoon oil

Method

  1. In a decent sized saucepan, heat the oil over a low heat and gently fry the onion until it turns clear and glassy.  Stir in the garlic and fry for a minute or two longer.
  2. Scatter over the flour.  Stir well to ensure everything is covered.
  3. Pour in both tins of tomatoes, stirring continuously and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and stir in the basil and one teaspoon of sugar.  
  4. Simmer until very thick. (This may take 20-30 minutes.) 
  5. Taste the sauce.  Is it too sweet?  Or too sour?  If too sweet, stir in a splash of lemon juice (from a bottle).  If too sour, stir in the second teaspoon of sugar.
  6. Allow to cool before spreading thinly on your pizza base.
Note: you may have sauce left over.  Don’t be tempted to pour it onto the pizzas - it will make for a watery, soggy pizza and your toppings will slide off.







Suggested Toppings

Scatter any combination of the following over your pizza:-

2 x Mozzarella balls, grated  (90p)
100g cheddar, grated (34p) - add to the mozzarella
1 can anchovies, drained (70p)
Sliced pepperoni or salami or chorizo or ham
Thinly sliced mushrooms and/or peppers
Thinly sliced olives
Leftover oven roasted sliced veg (peppers, mushrooms, onions)

Once, baked, the results should look like this.  




Yum!!

- Pam

Monday, 23 March 2020

On with the Motley

Today is a special anniversary.  20 years ago, today, I joined the discussion boards of The Motley Fool.  The Fool has played quite a big part in making me who I am today: tech savvy; an investor; a knitter again (I’d given up in the ‘90’s).  I’ve made friends through it; discovered new places; learned how other people live and how other countries operate (tax, politics, etc).  The members of the Fool taught me to budget and how to put the “living” into Living Below Your Means (aka LBYM).  Their posts gave me a window into their lives, before Blogs became a thing and long before Facebook.  For all of that, I say “thank you”.  Yes, I am a Fool and so are they.

All of the above brings me to what I want to say today.  I think that we’re witnessing the start of the next Great Depression and we will need the wise counsel of the Fools more than ever.  No, it’s not because the stock market has crashed (the FTSE100 is down over 2,000 points).   It will be the unintentional consequence of The Big Shutdown that we’re experiencing in Europe:  everyone working from home who can;  flights cancelled;  schools closed;  hotels, pubs, clubs and restaurants shut;  shops closing their doors and hoping that their online business will keep them afloat.  All concerts and live performances have been cancelled.  So many lives are already disrupted and it will just get worse.  The British Government has stepped up for regular employees - if you are furloughed, you will get 80% of your regular salary*, paid for by a government grant - but if you are a zero hours employee or self-employed, as I write you are only entitled to the most basic of benefits (£92/week).

In all this, my thoughts turn to what we can do to help. I worry about how bad it will get and how many people will suffer.  I’ve already fundraised for the local soup kitchen and the food bank**, but I want to do more.   Since I am a Fool and a cook, I have decided that I will create a collection of recipes of really cheap meals, based on four principles:-

  1. Tasty
  2. Filling
  3. Nutritious
  4. Less than £2 for an entire meal

They will be posted here on the Blog, since it’s free to access, and possibly compiled into a PDF.  That will be my big task for 2020. 

- Pam




* There is an upper limit in the £2,500/month.

** How is it that, in the 21st century, people are relying on soup kitchens and food banks, institutions which disappeared during the majority of the 20th century.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

March update

Good morning.  How are you?  How are you coping with the Covid-19 “plague” driven madness?  I am gobsmacked by the things that people are panic buying - why bottled water? (Covid-19 is not a waterborne disease.)  Why toilet paper? (Nor does it cause diarrhoea.)  I have ventured into the supermarket a couple of times over the last month and they are chaos!

We’re well.  Haven’t been struck by a cold since before Christmas.  I’m a little worried about my choir’s concert being called off next weekend, but it’s wait-and-see at the moment.  (The committee sent out an email yesterday.). Oh and having got fed up of chanting “Happy Birthday to Me!” when washing my hands, I’ve swapped to chorus of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair” from South Pacific.

Here is my update on my 20 20’s:-

1. Knit 20 balls of yarn (that's between 3 & 5 jumpers worth). 4/20 - This hasn’t moved much because I had to rip out and reknit the jumper that I’m creating, since I screwed up the above-waist increases.  (Only ripped down to the waist.  Am now, finally, on the shoulders). The fourth ball used up was on a pair of socks.   
2. 20 minutes a day learning French (via Duolingo and TinyCards) for 20 weeks. Not started yet.  Modified to 20 weeks.
3. 20 minutes exercise a day for 20 weeks.
4. Read 20 books. 2/20.  False Value, by Ben Arronovich (the latest in the Rivers of London series).  People Like Us: Margaret Thatcher and Me, by Caroline Slocock (a memoir of Caroline’s time as a civil servant in Downing Street.  Fascinating.).
5. Try 20 new dinner recipes
6. 20 gardening sessions
7. Explore 20 new places 1/20 - the cathedral at Bayeux
8. Attend 20 "shows" (concerts/plays/films/BBC recordings/exhibitions) 3/20 - Frank Skinner’s “Showbiz”.  The News Quiz.  The Troy exhibition at the British Museum.
9. Do the 2020 Fashion On The Ration Challenge and keep within the coupon count. 17/66 coupons used.  (Bought a trouser suit.)
10. Phone family/friends to chat 20 times (I'm hopeless on the phone). 2/20
11. Lose 20lbs
12. Mend 20 items of clothing (yes, that includes sewing on buttons and taking up hems) 2/20 - hemmed trousers from a suit purchased in 2018 (I’d only worn the skirt and jacket, not the trousers).  Mended the pockets of a different suit jacket, bringing that suit back into rotation.
13. Declutter 20 items
14. Run 20 miles (but not all at once)
15. Save 20 x £20 out of my “allowance”(£400)
16. Make 20 site visits for work, earning mileage 20 times (it goes to the car fund).  28/20.  I have one more week of my commitment in the Huntingdon office - I’m handing over the job to the new starter -  then it’s back to normal and no claimable mileage.
17. Write 20 blog posts.  5/20 
18. Log 10,000 steps on my Fitbit on 20 or more days (harder to do than it sounds). 3/20:  11.1.20 10505 steps, 22.2.20 10603 steps, 7.3.20 13527 steps 
19. Have a party in the summer and invite at least 20 friends
20. Watch at least 20 programs that have been on the DVR since 2018.  0/20

- Pam

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Update on my goals



Hi!  How are things with you?  I’m working too hard - I’m covering a full time role on one of the Highways contracts we have at work, while still trying to do parts of my real job and live my life.  It’s not fun and it involves a lot of mileage.  Here’s the update on my goals for 2020:-

1. Knit 20 balls of yarn (that's between 3 & 5 jumpers worth). 3/20
2. 20 minutes a day learning French (via Duolingo and TinyCards)
3. 20 minutes exercise a day for 20 weeks.
4. Read 20 books. Still on my first book, “People like us” by Caroline Slocock.
5. Try 20 new dinner recipes
6. 20 gardening sessions
7. Explore 20 new places 1/20 - We were in France over New Year and toured the cathedral at Bayeux
8. Attend 20 "shows" (concerts/plays/films/BBC recordings) 2/20 - Frank Skinner and, yesterday, the recording of BBC’s News Quiz
9. Do the 2020 Fashion On The Ration Challenge and keep within the coupon count 0/60
10. Phone family/friends to chat 20 times (I'm hopeless on the phone)
11. Lose 20lbs
12. Mend 20 items of clothing (yes, that includes sewing on buttons and taking up hems)
13. Declutter 20 items
14. Run 20 miles (but not all at once)
15. Save 20 x £20 out of my “allowance”(£400)
16. Make 20 site visits for work, earning mileage 20 times (it goes to the car fund).  13/20
17. Write 20 blog posts (in 2019, I haven't managed one yet)  4/20 - including this one
18. Log 10,000 steps on my Fitbit on 20 or more days (harder to do than it sounds). 1/20
19. Have a party in the summer and invite at least 20 friends
20. Watch at least 20 programs that have been on the DVR since 2018
21. Post on TMF at least 20 times.  5/20

As you can see, I’ve made a start.  Wonder how I’ll do in February??


- Pam

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Frugal Friday on Saturday - Housekeeping and the Grocery Bill

On MSE, someone mentioned that they were struggling to get their food bill down  and wondered how others managed to stick to such a low budget for two adults. I was thinking about this when I was soaking kidney beans yesterday, so I thought I’d elaborate a little on how we do it.  Our full housekeeping budget is:-

£120 - MSE Grocery Challenge/general groceries/Farm shop & supermarket shopping
£ 40 - Meat Fund (spent irregularly at the butcher’s and Costco 
£ 40 - Bulk Fund (used for Costco spends, WingYip and booze)
£ 20 - Christmas (for the goose (£107 last year), tree, chocolates, etc)
£ 10 - Garden Fund
——-
£230
====

That’s £60 up from when I started my blog in 2007.  (I think groceries were £100, Meat and Bulk were £30 each, Christmas £10 and we didn’t have a garden fund, back then.)

We eat really well:  plenty of home-made curries, stir-fries, stews, risotto, pasta, the odd roast, some vegetarian dishes.  For a stew, I’ll use about 300g of meat, plus onions, garlic, carrots, maybe peppers, and a (pre-cooked, dried) pulse or broad beans from the freezer.   I don’t do a lot of “meat and two veg” because, frankly, I find that boring.  

Most meals give 4 portions.  For portion control, I dish up the next day’s lunches as the same time as our dinner ( prevents my DH eating a second portion). 

A big secret is planning.  I don’t mean meal-planning, which I do rather badly. (I tend to stand in front of the fridge/freezer after dinner and think “what have we got in?  What needs to be used up?  What haven’t we eaten lately?”, when considering what we’ll eat for dinner the next day.). It’s about thinking ahead and cooking for more than one meal at a time - those kidney beans that I mentioned?  That was for three meals; two 400g portions are now in the freezer.   I’ll do the same with chickpeas, mung beans, black-eyed beans - dried the dried pulses we have in stock.  Since most of my recipes start “fry onion with garlic, add mushrooms”, I’ll cook up double quantities and freeze the second portion as “Base”, for those days when I’m time poor.

It’s also about thinking of the meal possibilities when you purchase meat.  A roast chicken is dinner one night (the legs), Chinese the next (one breast), then risotto (the other meat) on the third night, plus stock.  A 1kg package of cooking bacon from L!dl costs £1.39, will be split into 4 and  one portion can make any of the following:  Cuban Black Bean Stew, Breakfast Pie, Tuna Lasagne, regular Lasagne, “Bacon & Egg McMuff!ns”, Coq au Vin, etc.

Some of it is about buying in bulk, so I’d suggest you put £5-£10 a month aside for buying good storage containers.  (I use Lock-n-Lock; they aren’t cheap but are critter-proof and water-tight.).   Once you have those, save the cash for a large pressure cooker, in which to cook your pulses.

I only have one type of flour in stock - the bread flour sold as “chapatti” or “Atta” flour, which comes in 10kg bags and costs between £3 and £4 a bag.   It gets used for everything that needs flour: bread cakes (add 1tsp baking powder per cup to make “self-raising”); pastry; pancakes;  Toad in the Hole, etc.  A 2kg bag of kidney beans costs around £3.50, which equates to about 15p a can (NB each 400g can gives 250g cooked beans).   That bag of beans will last us at least 4-6 months. 

HTH

- Pam

Friday, 24 January 2020

Making the best use of what you have

It occurs to me regularly that one of the leading principles of frugality is making the best use of what you already have, rather than constantly chasing the “next big thing”.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking IT gadgets, houses, cars or clothes; if your jeans are perfectly serviceable, why waste the money replacing them?  Don’t waste money on unnecessary spending.

I think about this principle a lot, usually when I’m pottering around the kitchen or getting dressed in the morning for work.  I’m still wearing suits purchased  over decade ago.  Admittedly, fashion has been kind over the last two decades - no massive shoulder pads or exaggerated silhouettes - but, beyond stretch jeans, I’ve been ignoring fashion for years. My clothing purchases are driven by a) when something wears out, b) my size - I am fatter than I was in 2008 - and c) the capsule wardrobe concept, where I try to ensure everything goes with everything-else, for maximum wearability.

On the house front, our fridge-freezer died in August 2018 and the replacement annoys me because, while having the same exterior dimensions, the freezer section is smaller and less flexible than the old one.  It is thicker walled and better insulated, but the shelf positions are fixed, with no alternate slots, and there are fewer shelves in the door.  It holds about 20% less than the old freezer as a result.  In order to freeze the goose we purchased at Christmas, I had to remove one shelf and stand the goose up vertically, carefully packing everything else around it.

The goose is an excellent example of making the best use of what you have. We were away at Christmas but when we finally cook it, we’ll harvest 1-2kg of cooking fat, 2-ish litres of goose stock and enough meat for 4 meals.  Nothing is wasted.

- Pam

Friday, 3 January 2020

Fashion on the Ration vs Yarn Addiction

I mentioned in my last post that I’m doing Fashion On The Ration again this year.  My big weakness isn’t clothes, it’s yarn.  I have a stash of humongous proportions, so I don’t need any more yarn, but I still managed to blow 40+ coupons on it last year.  Seriously, I bought so much yarn that I lost count!  Some of it was one-off-specials, the sort of thing you find at shows but don’t see every day:  Tweed Valley Clotted Cream 4-ply; some Poledale sock yarn.  I bought a jumper’s worth of each.  There’s no excuse for the rest:  12 x 100g balls of Regia sock yarn, in three different shades of grey (it was a really good price, though); plus several assorted skeins of sock wool, which has now been turned into socks. 

My plan for this year is to knit up at least 20 balls of yarn from stash AND NOT BUY ANY.  Right now, I’m knitting another Blanche Too, from Susan Crawford Vintage.  The first one was out of Debbie Bliss’ Wool of the Andes; this one is out of Debbie Bliss Pure Silk DK, which I’ve had in the stash since I worked in the centre of Reading in 2006 (I bought it in the sale at John Lewis).  I’m almost up to the armpits and started the year on skein 3.  Now on skein 4; it should take another 4 skeins, so that’ll be 6 off the target by the time I’ve finished.

I’ll update the sidebars in a moment.

- Pam

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Goals for 2020

A very clever person on MSE has devised a “20 in 2020 Challenge.  I’m joining in and have set the following goals for 2020:-
  1. Knit 20 balls of yarn (that's between 3 & 5 jumpers worth)
  2. 20 minutes a day learning French (via Duolingo and TinyCards)
  3. 20 minutes exercise a day for 20 weeks
  4. Read 20 books
  5. Try 20 new dinner recipes
  6. 20 gardening sessions
  7. Explore 20 new places
  8. Attend 20 "shows" (concerts/plays/films/BBC recordings)
  9. Do the 2020 Fashion On The Ration Challenge and keep within the coupon count
  10. Phone family/friends to chat 20 times (I'm hopeless on the phone)
  11. Lose 20lbs
  12. Mend 20 items of clothing (yes, that includes sewing on buttons and taking up hems)
  13. Declutter 20 items
  14. Run 20 miles (but not all at once)
  15. Save 20 x £20 out of my “allowance”(£400)
  16. Make 20 site visits for work, earning mileage 20 times (it goes to the car fund)
  17. Write 20 blog posts (in 2019, I haven't managed one yet)
  18. Log 10,000 steps on my Fitbit on 20 or more days (harder to do than it sounds)
  19. Have a party in the summer and invite at least 20 friends
  20. Watch at least 20 programs that have been on the DVR since 2018
And a special goal, number 21:  Post on TMF 20 times in 2020.  I owe that website a hell of a lot and I’d like to keep it alive.

Care to join me?

- Pam

Monday, 3 December 2018

Have an Adventure - part 1, Visiting Hobbits

Last week, before we came to New Zealand, we went to see Simon Reeve, talking about his life, his adventures and his latest book   Simon is lovely bloke, very friendly and kind, exactly the guy you see in his BBC documentaries.  The big takeaway I have from Simon’s talk is set out to have adventures.  Don’t just drift through life, letting it pass you by.  Go to the unusual places; take the risk that you might be uncomfortable; see things that your friends haven’t. 





In some respects, that’s how I’m trying to live this holiday, having adventures.  Sunday, we braved the heights and went up the Skytower in the centre of Auckland.  The view is amazing.







As are the windows in the floor of the viewing tower and in the floor of the lifts.  Although the glass is very strong and thick, you can’t help but try to not walk on it.





Monday, we went a beachside cafe at Takapuna, to have lunch with our friends.   We weren’t the only ones enjoying the food.





Everywhere we go, the sparrows are fearless.  They even entered the cottage in Rotorua.





Tuesday, we went on a winery tour on Waiheke Island, taking the ferry across Auckland Harbour from the iconic Ferry Building.  The nicest of the wines were at Casito Miro, where the photo below was taken.  We bought a bottle of their fortified “Madame Rouge”.   (Alas, the bottle is now empty...)




Wednesday, we drove to Rotorua via Matamata and a place straight out of fantasy.







Yes.  We visited Hobbiton.  First constructed for Lord of the Rings, the 12 acre site sits in the middle of a working sheep and cattle farm.  The original film set was temporary and the farmer was surprised when people started knocking on his door asking to visit the Hobbit holes, soon after the film’s release.   At that point, they only had 4 Hobbit holes remaining out of 30+.  When Peter Jackson went back to film The Hobbit, this time they made the holes permanent.





Hobbiton is well worth the cost of the tour.  We spent hours there, had lunch, did the tour, had a drink in the Green Dragon Inn and took a gazillion photos.  It is a fairytale oasis and it is virtually impossible to chose one photo to sum it all up.





- Pam. (Rotorua will have to wait for another post.)

Sunday, 25 November 2018

On my travels

Greetings from Auckland, New Zealand.  We arrived on Thursday, to attend a friend’s wedding.   





The wedding was lovely.  The bride is very charming and they look very happy together.  I hope to get to know her a little before we leave NZ.  The venue was right beside Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.  





Somewhere today, I saw a quote “Auckland: Sydney for Beginners”.  That’s a put-down and it’s just not true.  Auckland is city, proud to stand on her own two feet and not live in anyone-else’s shadow.  The harbour is spectacular and dominated by a small volcanic island in the middle.  It’s called Rangitoto Island and known as “the big baby”.




This is the worst trip so far that I’ve had for jet lag.  We flew London to Singapore, Singapore to Sydney, then Sydney to Auckland.  I was fine in Sydney, but we were delayed for 3 hours  and that meant not arriving in Auckland until nearly 4pm, which seems to have thrown me entirely off kilter.  I’m still waking up in the mornings feeling like a zombie.  Today is the first day that I’ve felt hungry for breakfast, but now I could nap again.  (It’s 9.30am, for goodness sake!)

We’re off shortly to meet up with the bride and groom in an hour.  Tomorrow, we’re doing a winery tour and Wednesday, we’ll be off to Hobbiton, Rotorua and further adventures.

- Pam

Friday, 28 September 2018

Starting over

Hello.  Yes, it’s been a long time.  I’ve had very little internet time since I started that job in March.  They didn’t allow access to personal emails - not even at lunchtime - so I used my “internet time” at home for any email that needed a response.  I could go online and shop until I was broke but I couldn’t access my emails..  Not any more.  I finished there on Friday.   I’d completed the role I’d been taken on to do and was beginning to have to ask around for work (which, as you know, I hate).  I resigned on my terms, not theirs.  I’m going back to the Swedes, to rejoin the project that I left in March.

What happened?  Mid-August, we had a fridge disaster - it died -  so I had to work from home while waiting for the replacement to be delivered.  Part way through the day,  I got a text message from my old project manager:  would you consider coming back?  His timing was perfect.  I was sitting there thinking “I’ve got nothing to do when I finish this....”.  My response was “Possibly” and it snowballed from there.  There were a couple of contributing factors - I watched one of my colleagues cringe in fear when dealing with one of the bosses and I do not want to work in a place where that happens - and, at several points due to the lack of work, I half expected to be told that I didn’t have a job after my current holiday (Normandy this week) or the one we’ve got booked in November (New Zealand for a wedding).   This has nothing to do with my immediate line manager.  Resigning to him felt like kicking a puppy.  He’s a nice guy and I like him a lot.

The final straw, however, was SAP.  Frankly, I don’t like it.  As finance systems go, it’s probably cheaper to implement than Oracle, but it’s far less flexible and far less user friendly.  It might be ok for factories producing widgets, but it’s quite clumsy for companies selling their labour in time based projects and using percentage complete as their basis for recognising revenue.  It’s also bloody annoying.  There are multiple system standard “reports” (layouts really) that are common to all SAP users everywhere, but not one that lists the vendors names and numbers beside their purchase invoices.  Believe me, I tried everything.  The best I could do was obtain the vendor number in SAP, download to Excel and do a v-lookup to a list of vendors.  This is basic information and you can’t extract it from the system in an easy to analyse format.  

I start back at the Swedes on Monday.  I will be a contractor again, but that’s OK.  I can deal with the administrivia now.   I’m rejoining The Project and will be spending at least half my week sitting in a portacabin in a highways depot.  My plan for Monday is to arrive laden with chocolate chip cookies, knock on the portacabin door and go “Hi Dad.  I’m home!”.  :o)

- Pam

Thursday, 28 June 2018

On the Road Again

Another evening; another hotel.  

I’m sure I’ve started a blog post with that line before.  I’m travelling for work, visiting the SAP project team in their home office and staying in a nearby hotel.  It’s cut-over weekend and I’m down here until all the data is loaded.

Tonight’s hotel is yet another example of why I prefer either owner-run hotels with lots of character or the big, commercial chains like Premier Inn, where at least you always know what you’re going to get.  You may remember a weird hotel I stayed at in Manchester in March 2016:  so modern and trendy that there was no wall between the bathroom and the bedroom.  









Ring any bells?  To be honest, I can’t remember if I posted my grumble about that hotel here or on Facebook.  At least it had space, even if you could watch the tv from the shower. 

This hotel is worse.  When I stay in a hotel, I usually play a game with myself:  how would I furnish/decorate my room if it was converted into a studio flat.  The modular chain hotels are usually best for that game since their rooms are usually quite well thought out. If you ever want to convert a Holiday Inn into studio flats, I’m you’re woman.  I’d keep the bathroom where it is, put wardrobes along the wall by the door and, on the wall that backs onto the bathroom/faces the main roo. I’d build a small U-shaped kitchen less than 2 metres deep.  Throw in a sofa that converts to a bed, a small table with chairs  and plenty of shelves and, bingo, you have a space you can live in.

Not in tonight’s hotel.  It is another over-decorated, modern room, small and rather oppressive.  They have squeezed as much into it as possible,  There is nowhere to put my open suitcase if I don’t want to use the bed.  In the worst possible sense,  someone let an interior decorator loose.


At least, this time, there’s a divider between the bedroom and the bathroom, even if it does dominate the room.



I’ve just had  room service*, which I ordered over an hour ago.  It took 5 minutes to figure out how to place my order on the smart-phone-gadget the room has instead of a phone.  Call room service?  Only if you know which symbol to hit.  Naturally, the tray did not fit onto the one-and-only table top.



This was the best I could do.  That white thing at the back is a Dyson fan.  Why do you need a fan in an air conditioned room???  (The other side is a Tassimo coffee machine.)

Please God, I don’t get nightmares from the stripes!

- Pam

* Yes, I ordered room service.  England were playing** in the World Cup and, of course, I wanted to watch.  Also, the bar/restaurant downstairs were heaving.  Was it worth it?  No.  I’d have had a better meal in the Subway down the street.  Only the G&T was worth the wait.

** They lost to Belgium.  

Monday, 7 May 2018

Bibs-n-bobs

To bring you up-to-date with my life would be nigh-on impossible.  However, there are a few things I can share, so here goes.

I started a new job in March.  I’d been with the last company for 18 months and there was no hope of a permanent role emerging.  To be honest, much as I like certain people - and most people are lovely - I long ago reached the conclusion that I did not want to work there. For most of the last 18 months, I didn’t have a role - I never knew what I’d be working on from one day to the next.   I joined a project but kept getting hauled back into the forecast process.  Last summer, I started job hunting.  I had a few interviews, but nothing came of them.   It was only in the autumn that I was allowed to settle into the project and, in November, I decided that I’d stick things out until the project was finished. I stopped job hunting.  Naturally, that’s when things started happening.  My new employer found me via LinkedIn - they approached me.  It’s a 12 month, fixed term contract and I’m staff for the duration, not a contractor.

(I promise to write chapter and verse on what I’ve learned as a contractor over the last 18 months, but not tonight.  I started writing this post 2 months ago, so time to get it published.)

The new job is helping a business unit with their SAP implementation.  I’m not part of “the project”; I belong to the business’ finance team.  I’ve done the odd bit of “Finance” - balance sheet recs and the like - but my main focus has been on collating data for the Full Dress Rehearsal and Go-Live.  On Wednesday, I’m off for two days of UAT training, followed by another two next week.  It’s not end-user training, just enough familiarisation with the system to get through the User Acceptance Testing scripts but, as far as I’m concerned it’s wonderful.  I’m getting trained!  And I will be participating in UAT testing, which will help me familiarise myself with the system further.   

The Project team are aware of my precarious position as not-quite-staff and have promised me that I’ll do the full suite of end-user training.   That’s very kind of them.  While I was a JD Edwards One World trainer for 4 years and an Oracle end user for 10 years,  I’ve never touched SAP.  The chance to get another string to my bow, cannot be sneezed at.

- Pam

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Starting again

Hello.  Is there anyone out there?  I haven’t blogged in ages, so I can’t blame you if you were wondering whether I’d fallen off the face of the earth.  It’s not that I don’t want to blog - I do!  I still write posts in my head - they just don’t make it to the screen.  There’s being a contractor to moan about.  There’s the saga of job hunting to tell you about. Plus the MSc, I want to pursue.  Also, there are new recipes to share.  I have some yarn-related items to show off AND I have a couple of adventures to share...  

I don’t even read blogs very often anymore.   Last week was the first time I read the Yarn Harlot in years.  (Did you know Stephanie’s a grandmother?!!!). 

I got out of the habit.  I lost my voice.  I used to write blogs on Friday afternoons, in my old job when we finished work at Friday lunchtime.  Or I’d write them in my lunch break - but I’ve never had the privacy to do that in my current place of employment.   Anyway, no more excuses.  I’m going to try to get back into the habit.  I need a sounding board and you’re it.  Thank you for being there for me.

- Pip. (How are you?  What has been happening in your life?)

Saturday, 4 November 2017

My Turn

Lucky here.  I have an announcement to make.  Look:




Wait for it.



Don’t believe it?




Yes!  I’m over 100,000 miles old!

This happened last month but, as you’re aware, Pam and I weren’t getting along very well, so I couldn’t ask her for access to the Blog.  I’m sorry I was grumpy.  The deer hurt my nose - my Skoda badge is depressed by at least 5 degrees.  

As for the tyre.....  At least we found a new garage to look after me, as the result of that incident.  Since Pam changed jobs, I can no longer get to MOT City to be serviced and the replacements weren’t that good.  (MOT City looked after me, Frank and the Toy.  They are award winning for good reason: excellent service and good value for money.  Pam used to walk to work from there.).   These new people were recommended by the RAC man who came to change my wheel.  He said that they service his wife’s car.  They’re about 2 miles away from home.  So far, they’ve replace the locking-wheel-nut on all my wheels (it was missing, which is why we phoned the RAC), done my big service and glued down Frank’s loose trim.  I will see them again.

- Lucky