Monday, 30 December 2013

The Great Household and Cleaning Challenge - Month 4

It's month 4 on this challenge, instigated by yours truly, to spend only £125 in a year, on all household and cleaning products and I think I might have bitten off far more than I can chew with this one.

This month I have spent exactly £16.95 which has once again gone over the monthly budget of £10.42.  This continues to mean, of course,  that I am still way behind budget overall, having spent £76.30/£125 in just 4 months.

On the plus side, I don't think there is anything too expensive (save toilet rolls) that needs purchasing next month and I'm using up the small stash in my under sink cupboard and creating a bit more space in there which is all good.  I did a good and thorough house clean just before Christmas, so I did use up quite a few  products which I needed to replace in my Christmas shop, but having purchased these before Christmas, so that I didn't run out of anything, there is little that I now need to buy next month.  In addition, I have almost finally weaned myself off using multi-surface wipes, that cost far more than good old rags, washing up liquid and disinfectant.  I did buy and use one pack in my Christmas shop, but this was because I was fast running out of time to finish the cleaning and they are quick to use if you only have minutes to clean the toilet and other areas before your guests arrive.  I intend to resist the urge to buy them in future, but I  don't rule out the possibility of the odd pack sneaking into my trolley from time to time, as they can be very handy for some jobs especially when you have pets.

Here's what my expenditure went on this month:

Toilet Rolls x 36 - £5  +  x 4  - 67p (Extras so I didn't run out over Christmas)

Kitchen Roll x 6 - 99p

Turkey foil - £1

Laundry Liquid Capsules x 20 - £3.99

Black Bin Liners x 15 - £1.49  - I seem to go through an awful lot of these, but I did a bit of major throwing out this month which necessitated using a few more than usual.  We do only throw out one bag of rubbish a week normally might I add, honest.

Smart Price Asda Brillo type pads - 44p

Toilet Cleaner x 2 - £1.50

Multisurface Wipes x 50 - £1

Asda Washing Up Liquid - 87p


The fact that we are away from home for a few days in the lead up to the New Year will, of course, help the budget next month (although not the budget of our hosts I regret to say).  Not one to be easily defeated, I'm looking forward to resuming the challenge when we return home in the New Year and hoping to actually come in under budget for the first time next month, if this is humanly possible.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Getting Away From It All

Saturday, we left London and headed off, bound for Yorkshire to visit relatives and friends for New Year.  We were supposed to be leaving the day before, but decided to stay in London an extra day, just to have a bit more time to ourselves to do as we pleased.  Friday was a good day.  After a couple of hours sales shopping, I spent the afternoon catching up on lots of paperwork and blog reading/writing, so that I didn't have it all to come back to in the New Year.  I had a bit of last minute wrapping, packing and tidying around to do too, so we could get an early start on Saturday morning and I wouldn't come back to a mess.

Driving out of London is always a strangely enjoyable experience.  The further away we get, the more the stresses and strains of everyday life here seem to lift from your shoulders, leading you to feel more relaxed and able to think about life in a different way, with a bit of distance between you and it.  I love watching the landscape change the further north we get and to feel a sense of open space unfolding before me.  Ever since we've lived in London we've always found time away therapeutic and replenishing for the soul.  Our visits to Yorkshire used to be more frequent, but in recent years have become fewer as OH has settled into a different way of working in London that does not involve a daily commute.  It has made a remarkable difference.

It's also good to get away before New Year, to allow ourselves time and space to reflect on the year that has just passed and to think about the coming year and what we want to achieve therein.  In the past year we've had quite a comfortable existence, both of us working from home.  I'm not sure what this year will bring.  I'd like to get out and do another course, develop an existing or learn a completely new skill.  Last year, for the first time in a few years, I didn't do a single one, save a couple of half day free workshops organised by our local library and I did miss learning new things, so I might indulge myself at some point in the coming year.

Firstly, however, I really want to get a grip on my home this year.  Sometimes it just seems to slide out of my grasp and become messy and cluttered, so a bit more de-cluttering is the order of the day once again.  I will be posting more on this subject in a later post.  Other than these two things and a couple of financial goals that I am planning to go into more detail about in another post, I haven't got any major plans for the coming year as yet, but who knows, a couple of days away and I might return inspired to do something radical!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Braving the Post Christmas Sales

Yesterday, Little Bird and I ventured out to our local mall to do a spot of bargain hunting in the post Christmas sales.  I know that many people can think of nothing worse than to go shopping after all the Christmas excess, but for me this is the time when I start thinking about presents and things I need for next Christmas, when they are offered at very good prices in the sales.

It was about 11am when we ventured out and although it was a bit late when we got to the mall, it wasn't too busy, so we managed to get around to a few shops very easily.  We had to queue a couple of times, but the queues weren't too long, although Little Bird did complain a little. 

First stop was Boots.  I love Boots when there's a sale after Christmas as I always get quite a few gift sets to give as birthday presents through the year and for Christmas presents next year.  Things like hand creams and other toiletries keep very well until opened, and then usually last 24 months once opened, so I have no qualms about getting these things early and at a good price.  I always go for good brands such as Joules, Laura Ashley, FC UK, Ted Baker or similar so that those receiving them feel like they are getting something special and of good quality.  I also look for little stocking fillers or things that can be given as teacher gifts or birthday gifts for Little Bird's friends when their birthdays come around later in the year.  You can much better quality gifts this way than your budget might allow otherwise.

Another shop I always go to in the sales is M&S.  They too reduce lots of things by 50% or more at this time of year.  I usually get all of next year's Christmas cards here as they are such good quality and I got another box of  advent crackers to fill for Little Bird, as these worked really well this year as I put them on the tree once it was up and I didn't have to buy any normal crackers at all, save for ones I fill myself as place settings on the dinner table.  I also managed to get myself a sports bra at a really good price here which was on my wish list next year, and a really good quality frying pan, as ours needed replacing.

We also visited a couple of other stores and managed to get a couple of gifts for specific family members' birthday or Christmas presents, so all in all we had a really good shopping trip.  I did spend a bit of money, but the things I bought will all be used, will make super presents or were things I was going to buy in the New Year anyway, without necessarily getting a discount, so I was very happy.  I will probably pop back in a week or so when prices have been slashed further to get rid of the last few items and see if there is anything else that might be suitable.  I do this type of shopping trip in the sales to make my money go as far as possible, and judging by the thousands of people out shopping by the time we left the mall two hours later, an awful lot of people are shopping this way too these days.

Friday, 27 December 2013

£100 Per Year Beauty Challenge - Month 6

It's now the end of month six on this challenge, instigated by El on A Thrifty Mrs blog, to spend only £100 in a year on beauty products.  To aide me in this challenge, as allowed in the conditions set out by El,  I have aimed to utilise items I have in a rather large and cumbersome stash that I had accumulated and was taking up far too much space cluttering up my bedroom and bathroom, before buying any extra products, which I have been doing as far as possible.

This last month has been a pretty straightforward one.  I had a few different things to buy at the beginning of the month that I had completely run out of and couldn't do without, but towards the end of the month I did panic and buy some more tinted moisturiser (which was on offer), as I wasn't sure if I'd run out over the Christmas period.

I spent £8.27 this month, just under the monthly budget of £8.33, so have now spent £49.06/£100 in total and am still on track with this challenge.  Expenditure this month was on the following:

Cotton wool pads x 50 - 65p

Hairspray - 70p

Distilled Witch hazel (used as a toner) - £1.93

Shampoo - £1

Pack of 10 small handbag packs of tissues - £1

Nivea Tinted Moisturiser - £2.99

I have received a few extra products for Christmas so far although there may be a couple more to come, or not.  I got a lovely Rose Body Butter, some delish Chanel No. 5 body lotion (from OH - Good man!) and some lovely Laura Ashley perfume which I am looking forward to wearing.  I've been very lucky and these items will be added to my stash and should help me to hopefully continue to stay on target with this challenge.

There are a couple of things that are running low at the moment, but hopefully I might still be able to do better next month and my stash is still steadily going down which is very satisfying indeed and is freeing up more space at home.  In particular using my stash of soaps instead of buying shower gels has been great in this respect.  I think I might continue to use soaps when this challenge has ended. as it is far more economical.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Day - The Aftermath

We had a lovely Christmas Day and enjoyed the company of our guests.  We received some lovely gifts.  Our guests are now on their way home and we are spending the rest of the day doing exactly what we feel like doing when we feel like doing it, which is just lovely. 

The Christmas dinner came together well.  It is the first time I have cooked one for guests, so I was very pleased.  We had a relaxing day save for the poor puppy being taken ill again and I spent last night nursing her, so today I am a bit of a mess and will be returning to bed at some point to get some sleep.  She had a very bad night.  She's drinking now though and sleeping soundly, so I'm hoping that she is recovering slowly.

We have heaps of food left.  I've not really honed my Christmas food shopping skills, through lack of practice really, as we usually travel to stay with others.  I'm sure it will all get eaten eventually.  We are eating exactly what we want, when we want today.  I am not cooking.  I'm having a day off.

This afternoon I've caught up on two episodes of Nashville which was sheer bliss.  As I speak OH is charging my new Smartphone, a present from him.   I will now be able to blog read on the go which is a thoroughly exciting prospect.  I have my new headphones to listen to music on my phone, enough chocolates to last well into January and lots of great books to get stuck into at some point.  Don't you just love Christmas!

I hope everyone out there also had a wonderful Christmas Day, spending time with their nearest and dearest. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Few Final Touches and a Last Reveal Before Christmas

The cleaning has all been done, the guests have arrived (and are out walking the dog with OH)  I've now recovered from the last minute preparations and have added a few finishing touches to our Christmas decorations.  Ribbons were threaded through the Ikea gingerbread ready to hang on the tree.




I also had a go at making my own Christmas pot pourri from citrus fruit and cinnamon sticks.  The smells wafting out of the oven whilst doing this were amazing might I add.



Just in time for Christmas I have also finally finished my hand sewn lap quilt.  It's taken me probably six months from start to finish, but I've really enjoyed making it.  Part of it was done on our travels to the US this year, where I prepared many of the pieces whilst travelling around in the camper van.  It will always remind me of a very special holiday.

I had a tricky time machining the front, back and wadding together as it slipped a little despite using a thinner wadding than I've used previously, so it didn't turn out quite as perfect as I'd have liked, but isn't that just like life.  I'm really pleased with the finished result though and look forward to snuggling under it to watch TV should we get some very cold weather this winter. (Although the new wood burner is doing a fab job of keeping the house a lot warmer).  Here's a final couple of pictures of the quilt.

 
 


I gave up on the rag wreath as it wasn't turning out half as nice as the one I'd made previously.  I've decide to save the Christmas fabric scraps for the diamond Christmas quilt and stick with the fabric wreath I already have.  There'll be no more making this year as from this point on I'm going to relax and enjoy the festive season. 

I'd just like to say that I hope that everyone who reads this and who has been reading my blog this year has a wonderful festive season.  I will still be reading blogs over the festive period when I get the chance, but will not be posting everyday as we will be moving around quite a bit and won't necessarily have internet access.  I will, however, post a few pre-written blog posts as and when I get the chance.  I look forward to resuming blogging properly in the New Year, but until then


MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR
 
 
and thank you so much for reading, commenting and supporting me in my blogging efforts in 2013.  Blog on.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Comfort and Joy by India Knight - A Review

I've just finished reading this book which I really enjoyed and thought I'd do a quick review.   I remember it coming out a few years ago and liked the sound of it, but I rarely buy new books unless they are bought for me as presents for Christmas and birthdays.

I think I bought this one from a charity shop or jumble sale (it was probably someone else's Christmas present) and it has sat in my book pile for at least a year.  I meant to read it last Christmas as it has a Christmas theme running through it, but never got around to it, so this Christmas I was determined to pick it up and read it.

I've read the odd non-fiction book by India Knight who is a journalist, and writes a column in the Sunday Times.  Her style of writing is intelligent and witty, but this is the first novel of hers I've actually read.

The book begins with her main character out shopping on Oxford Street just before Christmas whereby she decides to stop off in a hotel bar for a drink, to indulge herself for once.  She meets a handsome stranger who comes to sit by her.   She's married (currently to her second husband), has three children (two from her first, one from her second marriage), and although reasonably happy, when she returns home and later has guests around for the evening, everything promptly starts to unravel.

The book itself is split into three consecutive Christmases.  This the first.  By the second, she has separated from her second husband and is seeing the man she met in the hotel bar, though not in any serious way.  This Christmas her blended family once again gets together at Christmas, hosted by herself once again, and the focus is more about her past, her childhood and Christmases past whereby you get to see more of how the personality and character of the book's main character is formed.

This book is essentially a novel about blended families.  It is interesting, warm and promotes the idea that with a bit of good sense and careful thought, families can ride the storm of divorce and separation and still produce well adjusted children that are sane and happy and able to move on and enjoy life.

In the final Christmas of the book, the main character rings the changes at Christmas and organises a Christmas abroad in Morocco, for herself and her extended/blended family.  (I personally found this chapter interesting as we went to Morocco just after Christmas a couple of years ago, so I could relate to it in that sense.)  This particular Christmas, things aren't going quite so smoothly with her new relationship, but she is determined to enjoy her first Christmas abroad whereby not having to cook for everyone allows her to relax and take a long hard look around her at the special people in her life and all she has that is positive.

This is a good book, if difficult to read at times, as relationship difficulties are hard to face up to, especially at Christmas and negotiating the sensibilities of others can be hard to do, but negotiate them she does, in a very grown up way, whilst managing to endear all or most of the characters to you.

I'm pleased I finally read it and look forward to reading a couple of other books I have waiting by the same author.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sunday Surprises

Today, was the day that OH had planned a surprise for me and was taking us all out for the day as a pre-Christmas family treat.  He had been very secretive and I had no idea what he had organised and Little Bird wasn't giving anything away, except to say that I'd love it.

After my last aerobics class until the New Year, I came home, jumped in the shower, got myself ready and we headed out.  When OH mentioned that we'd be catching the District line I had my first clue and immediately knew that we weren't heading into central London, but were going to Kensington instead.  I still didn't know where exactly.  I thought perhaps Harrods or somewhere similar.

Once we got out of the tube and got in a cab to the restaurant I got another clue when I heard the cabbie mention something about the 'new gallery', but it wasn't until we entered Hyde Park that it struck that we were having lunch in the restaurant of the newly opened Serpentine Magazine gallery, converted at great expense from an old gunpowder store.  This amused me, as I knew it was a place that OH himself was keen to visit, but I didn't mind this as it was a great space and we had a lovely lunch there.  I had some sushi, which I rarely get to eat as no-one else in our household likes it, followed by a baby beetroot and goat's cheese salad dish both of which were superb.  Here's a picture of the restaurant.  Apologies in advance for the incredibly bad photography as my camera batteries had virtually run out I realised later.




Afterwards, we wandered around the new gallery which had a Jake and Dino Chapman exhibition on.  If you're not familiar with these guys, they are not for the faint-hearted and some of their artwork some people might find disturbing.  I've got to admit that we came out chuckling to ourselves, particularly after watching part of a film playing in the gallery, but nevertheless having thoroughly enjoyed it.  It probably wasn't that suitable viewing for Little Bird though, but she didn't seem too traumatised.

Anyway, that was only part of the day.  The next and main surprise was still to come, only it was no longer a surprise as the cat had been let out of the bag over lunch.  We were going to the Royal Albert Hall to see this show. 





Knowing how much I liked Strictly and despite hating it himself with a passion, he'd booked tickets.  A completely selfless action.

We walked through Hyde Park, past the striking Prince Albert memorial and headed into the venue.

 
 


The show itself was very Christmassy, lots of Christmas carol singing, guest singers, some lovely dancing and of course some joking around by Anton.  We were informed at the beginning of the show that the gorgeous Erin Boag is currently five and a half months pregnant, which of course could partly explain why she hasn't been on the show this year and caused the audience to give her a huge cheer.  She danced beautifully throughout, with her usual elegance and style, perhaps doing a few less lifts than she might normally have done. but looked as glamorous as ever in some superbly sparkly dresses.

We came home after our lovely day out to a wonderful welcome home from our doggie, who had obviously missed us and was really pleased to see us.  This is not a common occurrence with her might I add, as she is a stubbornly independent minded dog, but it was just the icing on the cake of our super day.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Staying Put

This year for the first time in probably 4 or 5 years, we are staying put for Christmas and spending it at home in London.  We'd almost forgotten what the city is like once the mass exodus of people out of the capital happens in the few days before, as we've been part of it for the past few years.  Already it is lovely and quiet in our street, with many households having already left.  I'm sure many more will be leaving in the next few days too.

The good thing about staying in London at Christmas, is that it feels like you have it all to yourself, although not quite, but in comparison to what it is like normally.  You can usually drive around the city without too many traffic queues.  It's like a different place entirely.

Today, I've spent most of the day cleaning parts of the kitchen.  Wiping down window sills, washing all the bits and pieces that adorn them and cleaning the inside of the windows.  I'm making a start with the edges of the room.  It's already starting to look much better.  The worktops are not so cluttered and the kitchen table has just a few last bits on it that will get squirreled away when our guests come .  It's making me feel a little uneasy, as I'm so used to it being quite messy and cluttered, it doesn't quite feel right somehow, but I'm sure I'll get used to it and OH is very happy.  There's something reassuring and comforting about being surrounded by 'stuff'. (Not in everyone's eyes I realise).  Must be the hoarder in me.  There's still the majority of the deep clean to do, but I don't want to do it too early and then have to do it again in a couple of days time so I'm leaving it as late as possible.

I actually cleaned the oven this morning and okay, it's not spotless, but the fact that I know it has been cleaned is, psychologically in my book, as good as it being spotless.  I've still to defrost the freezer and clean out the fridge which I'm hoping to do tomorrow ready for our Christmas food shop on Monday.  We're still eating our way through the contents at the moment, but there's not much left now.

I console myself after all this hard work, with the fact that we will have a lovely clean house to come back to after we go away for the New Year and that come January there should be no domestic tasks to distract me from getting on with my tax return!

As far as tomorrow goes, I am at my last aerobics class in the morning, after which I will be doing no exercise save dog walking for two whole weeks.  I will be desperate to get back to it after that.  In the afternoon there is a Christmas market up the road and OH has planned a surprise for me which I believe involves going into town.  Not sure what it is, he's being very secretive and has sworn Little Bird to secrecy too.  I'm not good with surprises so I might have to prise a few clues out of them to make sure that I dress appropriately.  I'll let you know once the proverbial cat is out of the bag.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Spot of Pottering

Today, I'm having a lovely day pottering about doing this and that.  Thinning out the kitchen clutter before a deep clean tomorrow, rehoming all the detritus that builds up over the weeks.  It's been driving OH mad recently and I do have to admit that it has been particularly bad in the lead up to Christmas.

Yesterday, I did a deep clean of Little Bird's bedroom.  It was in a particularly bad state but I got to grips with it eventually although it did take most of the day.  She thinks it feels a bit bare now.  Well, tough.  It's staying that way for a few weeks as her grandparents will be sleeping in there over Christmas. 

I had to venture out to the school for Little Bird's Christmas concert which was good.  It was her last one at this school, which was quite poignant.  Anyway, she came home with me and helped me finish off the last bit of sorting.  We went through everything with a dose of salts and quite a lot got thrown away, quite a lot put in the box for the Charity shop and some kept back for selling on eBay.  It felt incredibly good to get that job out of the way and good to get rid of a few things as she'll be getting plenty more for Christmas and we need some room for it.  I just need to keep on top of it on a daily basis now and maybe do a quick tidy and a bit of furniture moving and bed making on Christmas Eve and it will be set.

Today the focus has moved to the kitchen and my kitchen table office which I am slowly packing away as it is not going to be used again until the New Year.  I'm looking forward to everything being cleared and clean.  It will be a good way to start the New Year.  Little Bird finishes school at 2pm today so I'm going to take her with me to take the boxes and bags to the charity shop and then do a few errands in town.

I've also managed to spend a little time on my hand sewn lap quilt today and have now pinned the front, back and wadding together.  I can't wait to sew them on the machine.  It's quite exciting that it is finally coming together.  More in another post when I'm done.  If I do get them sewn together today, then I will have a couple of evenings to hand sew the binding around it and it might even be done by Christmas.  Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Last Minute Late Night Shopping and a Sickly Dog

Last night we ventured out to our local large shopping mall for a bit of last minute late night shopping.  It's the only chance OH gets really, as he's too busy working during the day, and weekends are a big no no as it gets too crowded.

I didn't have a lot of shopping left to do, I just needed one small gift for someone, so I went off my way and OH and Little Bird went another and we met up later.  I made sure I checked my finances before I ventured out and found I had no money left to spend either, so I made sure not to buy any extras at the last minute.  It was a good move.

OH did give me a little money to get myself a couple of things I wanted from him.  As a consequence I popped into Primark and bought my third and final pair of Supersoft skinnies in purple this time.  I've been meaning to get this pair for ages, but didn't have any spare money at the moment.  I also bought a casual top too.  Luckily they had some tills for 3 items or less so I didn't have to wait in a huge queue and was out of the store quickly.  Perfect.

Two hours later and we're on our way home thankfully.   The dog had been a bit ill tonight and I was worried about leaving her.  She'd vomited a few times earlier in the day.  When we got in she was okay, but not looking good as she had just vomited again.  OH scooped her up and sat her on his lap for a couple of hours and then he slept downstairs to keep an eye on her all night.  She had several more vomiting incidents, but by the morning was looking a bit better (OH wasn't looking too good though).  She managed to drink some water and eat a little which was a good sign.  I'm hoping she's on the mend.  She's still not got too much energy though so I didn't need to take her out this morning.  As a consequence I've had quite a leisurely morning as Little Bird also took herself off to school.

I'm going to start some more cleaning today to get the house ready for our visitors and this afternoon there's a performance at the school.  I'm looking forward to the end of the week and no more school for a few weeks.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Chaos

The last couple of days have been a bit hectic sending off the last few cards and parcels so they get to their destinations on time.

Today, I decided that I just HAD to go and get my hair done.  You know that feeling when the state of it gets desperate and you just can't stand it any longer.  Well that was me so I was up and out with the dog extra early so I could get to the salon as early as possible before a queue formed.  You can't book where I go, you just turn up and wait until a stylist is free.  Strange system, but it works for me.

Anyway, I had about a 40 minute wait but was armed with a cup of tea and a book to read which I managed to finish whilst I was there, so it wasn't too bad.  I was out of there by about 1.30pm feeling like I'd returned to the ranks of the human race.  I then did a quick bit of Christmas shopping before heading home.  It was very busy in the shopping centre.  It made me glad that I've done most of my shopping.  I didn't want to hang around.

When I got home we'd had a delivery of an armchair that we'd ordered for OH's dad to sit on when they come to us for Christmas.  We have to admit that we weren't exactly bowled over by it.  It was a bit of a last minute buy, it was one of the only ones we could get delivered before Christmas and probably wouldn't have been our choice, but it has saved us rushing round at the last minute looking for a second hand one and it wasn't too expensive.  I hope it will be comfortable enough for him when he gets here.

This evening I caught up with a bit of blog reading before making the dinner.  I'm trying to use up everything in the freezer this week so I deliberately bought very little meat in this week's food shop.  We're probably going to have a real mixed bag of meals this week.  Last night it was Spam fritters for me (I love them now and again, they remind me of school dinners) and a Cornish pasty for OH, tonight it's Quorn spaghetti bolognaise and later in the week we'll be having beef stew and dumplings.  I think we're out for tea tomorrow night as we're going to do a bit of last minute late night shopping.  I'm hoping to eek the food out until Christmas Eve.  I can see pasta and egg and chips being on the menu too and possibly beans on toast or bacon and bean casserole.  To be honest though we'll be eating such rich and calorie laden food over Christmas, that it's quite nice to keep it simple for the few days leading up.

Tonight, I'm going to do a bit of work on my  hand sewn quilt.  I just need to add the appliques, attach the wadding and backing and then hand bind it and it will be finished.  I finished sewing all the block squares together last night whilst watching Kirstie's Crafty Christmas and Liberty of London (I've loved this little series).  A super indulgent evening of TV for anyone who likes making.  Talking of which, I also caught most of the Sewing Bee Christmas Special the other evening which was also quite good. 

Did anyone else enjoy any of these programmes or has everyone been too busy getting ready for Christmas?

Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas Quilted/Padded Table Runner Reveal

A few weeks ago I decided to set about attempting to make a padded/quilted runner to go on the dinner table over Christmas and protect it from any hot dishes that might be put on it during our forthcoming Christmas dinner.  I had lots of Christmas fabric and had been meaning to use it for a project for quite a while, but hadn't come up with one. 

I measured the table before I started, to make sure I made it the right length and then eventually set about making it, using several different panels of fabric for the front and one single fabric for the back with co-ordinating binding.   This made it reversible.   It is quite thickly padded as I used the same wadding I had used for some single quilts I'd made recently, but this should serve to protect our  table well from any heat damage.

We'll be eating Christmas dinner in our newly refurbished basement, which is OH's office, as it has a lovely large oak table in it with plenty of room around it, underfloor heating and is only a few steps down from the kitchen.  We've not actually eaten a meal down there yet, so it is actually quite exciting.

Once I'd sown together the runner, wadding and binding I added Christmas tree print ribbon and some fabric appliques in the shape of Christmas trees to make the runner a bit more interesting.  It probably would have been better to do this latter job before sewing it all together, but it was a bit of an afterthought and wasn't too difficult to do in retrospect.  I was quite pleased with the effect.  I hand stitched around each small Christmas tree to add definition and added a little ribbon bow.  It's not the most accomplished piece, but is very practical and should serve it's purpose well on the day.  Here's a few pictures of the finished project.  It was a bit long to get it all in one photo so I've taken several photos.





 
This shows the back.
 
 


My next reveal will hopefully be the Christmas rag wreath that I'm in the process of making.  Here's a picture of one I made last year which is hung on our living room door, just to give you an idea of how they turn out.  It's a bit of a mish mash of colours, but I quite like it.  It cost nothing to make as I fashioned it out of a metal coat hanger bent into a circle.  It was also quite satisfying to use up scraps of fabric that might otherwise get thrown away.



Is anyone else making anything this Christmas?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Getting there...

The Christmas tree is up and decorated.  I've been a bit understated with the decorations on it this year.  Little Bird's Angel sits atop, another toddler art group make, made from a polystyrene cup, silver foil, felt, tissue paper, etc.  It's very sweet but is deteriorating as the years go by.  I don't know how many more Christmases she'll manage to do the job, she may need to go into early retirement to preserve her good looks.  She has a little friend who normally shares the load, but she got mauled by the dog this year, unfortunately.  The first of many of her Christmas casualties I suspect.

 
 

There is no tinsel and no glass baubles, as I have visions of the dog pulling it over.  It's got a bit of an animal and reindeer theme going on though and the remainder of Little Bird's Advent Crackers have been added to it's branches.

The artificial Christmas wreath is now securely tied to the front door.  I love this wreath and have had it for quite a few years now.  It's pretty simple, just a few fir cones and foliage, but I like the greyish tones.  Doggy is guarding it carefully and looking suitably gruff.  I've told her she's got to earn her keep around here.
 
 

My Christmas mug and plate are out of storage.  They don't match of course, but then nothing really does in our house.  Perfect for tea and mince pies.  The ones I made yesterday have already disappeared. 



I almost feel ready for Christmas now, although there is still lots to do.  Cleaning mainly. 

I've sent off for a few last minute stocking fillers for the dog today.  A new leather collar, some LED lights for the dark nights and some paw balm for her little cracked pads.  She will of course be getting a few edible treats and a toy as well.  They were all things she needed anyway, so I don't feel too extravagant.

We ventured out into the madness that is the shops this afternoon, only to a local retail park, but were pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as mobbed with Christmas shoppers as we expected.  We even managed to do a bit of Christmas shopping.  Fancy that! 

OH is finally dragging me into the modern era by insisting on buying me a Smart phone for Christmas, so we went to check them out.  I saw one I liked which was very reasonably priced.  I'm not into 'the latest thing', but I  must admit that although I've resisted thus far, I am secretly looking forward to being able to go online whilst out and about and take photos with my phone.  It might take a little while for me to get to grips with it though, as I'm a terrible technophobe.

Anyway, I hope your weekend has been a good one!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Christmas Decorations at Last

After a relatively lazy day yesterday recharging my batteries, as Penny from The Hen House so kindly put it, today I sprang into action and started work cleaning up the living room and 2nd reception room so that I could get the decorations out and up.  It was pretty filthy, not because I'm a total slob, but because since I last deep cleaned a month ago we had had a wood burner fitted and the chimneys swept and there was a layer of ash/soot covering everything in the room.

It took the almost the full day to give it another good old clean, but once it was done I was able to get the tree up and a few decorations out to make it feel a bit more Christmassy.  I still need to decorate the tree, but I figure that's the easy bit and I can do that whilst watching Strictly tonight. 

With the help of Little Bird and OH we managed to get into the last few nooks and crannies, get rid of any cobwebs, take the glass globe lampshades down and clean them and I also cleaned the inside of the windows too.  It felt so good to get it done.

Our new little friend went up in the doorway to guide us home. 



He's quite sweet.  And our dearest old friend came out to visit us once more. 




Little Bird and I made him at an art group when she was a toddler, from modrock and scrunched up newspaper with twigs for horns.  I just love him.  I think I might do a less is more theme this year and keep it quite simple.  Just a few old favourites.  Less to take down in the New Year.  There's still quite a bit to do but at least I've made a good start.

Later I made my first batch of mince tarts with snowflake tops.  Some got a rather heavier dusting of 'snow' than others.



Friday, 13 December 2013

A Kick Back Friday

Friday was a strange day.  I was in a strange mood.  I don't know where this week went but today I felt like doing something a little bit indulgent.  I spent most of the morning walking the dog and then cycling on a semi flat tyre to the doctors for a routine blood test, so by the time I got back, half the day had disappeared. 

I made myself some lunch and then thought about starting to tidy up the living room so that I could get some decorations up, but I took one look at all the dust and decided not to bother.  I just wasn't in the right frame of mind and I need OH to move and hang a couple of things for me before I give it a good going over, so I left it.

Whilst in the living room I spotted my hand stitched quilt still waiting for me to sew the remaining few nine block squares onto it.  It lured me onto the sofa where I spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with it whilst watching 3 recorded back to back episodes of Nashville.  Such indulgence without even spending any money.  Sweet.

Here's a live track taken from the series sung by one of the actors at the Grand Ole Opry in the US.



I do love this US series.  The music is fab.  I've missed quite a lot of episodes as I only got into it when we were on the flight to Las Vegas this summer and  I watched a couple of episodes, but luckily the plot didn't seem to have moved on that much so I was able to get back into it quite easily.  I do love a bit of country music too which is an added incentive to watch it.  This admission probably makes me sound a bit strange, but I don't care.  Anyway a blissful afternoon was had.  Just what I needed.  And the quilt is coming along nicely.  I might even go so far as to try and finish it before Christmas!  No reveal just yet but as soon as it's done I'll post some pictures. 

Does anyone else ever feel like just kicking back and doing something totally selfish every now and again?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Winter Wonderland

This morning when I headed out with the dog it was a veritable winter wonderland.  There'd been a hard frost over night and everything had a lovely glistening white coating.  It was pretty foggy too, so much so that at times I could hardly see very far ahead of me.  It made walking the dog a bit spooky and I picked my route carefully.  You could hear voices, but couldn't see the people they were emanating from.  It was beautiful though.

On account of it being so cold, I put the dog's new coat on.  It's a little blue wool one I bought for her last year, but it was far too big to use then.  It still is a little on the large side, but I didn't know exactly how big she was going to grow when she was a tiny puppy.  She does look cute in it. 

OH wasn't very happy.  He doesn't think that dogs need a coat and refused to use it on his walks with the dog.  To be honest I can see his point, but I do like to molly coddle her sometimes and she's just so darn cute in it, I just couldn't resist.  My argument is that she loses so much heat through her little pads when the ground is so cold, that any heat that you can keep in her is a good thing.  I'm only going to use it on really cold days because to be honest she wasn't that struck with it herself.  She soon forgot that she had it on though and it didn't hinder her walk any.

I didn't manage to take any pictures this morning, so I got her to model it again (reluctantly) for me tonight when I took her around the block.  Aaahhh!  (Please excuse the cobweb behind the front door!)

 
Anyway, on the Christmas front, today hasn't been too bad.  I've managed to finish the rest of my Christmas gift wrapping and I've taken delivery of a present for OH that I wasn't sure was going to arrive before Christmas, so that was a plus.  I now really need to focus on cleaning the house and putting up the tree, the decorations and stringing up the Christmas cards that are starting to arrive.

I hope your Christmas preparations are coming along nicely.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Spot of Gift Wrapping

On account of the piles of stuff (presents mostly) cluttering up our bedroom, I've spent much of this afternoon doing a spot of Christmas gift wrapping.  I managed to get most presents for everyone apart from OH and Little Bird wrapped, save for a few stragglers here and there and a couple still to be bought.  They are now all nicely packed away in a large strong bag ready to take Up North when we eventually go. 

I used some lovely new wrapping paper (amongst others) that I bought from IKEA this morning.  It's a red and white candy stripe and was a bargain having been reduced to £1.25 for 15m.  I ended up buying two rolls as I can always use it for wrapping birthday presents too. 


I also got a few gift boxes reduced to 45p each which are great for wrapping items of clothing or other awkwardly shaped items.

Whilst at IKEA I couldn't resist buying some of their gingerbread shapes for hanging on the Christmas tree.  At 90p for 10 you could hardly make them cheaper than that, and they're a lot less hassle too, especially in the busy run up to Christmas. 


To be honest I doubt that they'll last very long on the tree anyway, between me, the dog and Little Bird.  They've made them in hearts and stars this year which makes a change from the usual hearts that I've bought in the past.  I just need to thread them with ribbon and they're ready to go.

Talking of hearts, I couldn't resist this little heart-shaped succulent plant they were selling, to add to my growing collection, the one on the left in the picture in the white pot. 


It's my latest obsession.  Here they all are on my kitchen windowsill.  I've been picking them up here and there at school/church fetes, Lidl, B&Q,  and now IKEA, over the last few months.  I need to find them their own little spot.  I've got my eye on a place, but just haven't got around to reorganising it for them all.  The Christmas Cactus I bought from Lidl the other day is now starting to flower and is beautiful. 



Anyway, I didn't go too mad in IKEA today, in fact I ended up returning one item I'd bought straight away as it was damaged and I decided I didn't really need it anyway.  I bought a couple of items for LB to go with some things I've bought her for Christmas and that was it really.  I find myself quite selective in IKEA these days.  Gone are the days when I'm happy to fill a trolley.  We've got enough 'stuff' as it is plus I don't have the money at the moment too of course.

Tonight I've been roasting some chestnuts on our new wood burner after buying some at a local market today whilst out and about.  It always reminds me of being a child and the many nights I spent sat in front of our solid fuel fire waiting for the chestnut to be done so that I could eat them.  Happy days.  I had to try it out and I must say that it does a fabulous job.   It's the first time I've been able to roast them properly since then.


You do, of course, have to remember to take them off when they're done.  I ended up leaving them on there a little too long and they were a bit burnt.  They still got eaten though.  Waste not want not. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Making a Christmas Stocking

Tonight, I decided to do a bit of making.  I've been caught up with other tasks of late and have sadly neglected doing anything creative, although I have various projects on the go all at different stages of completion.

The project I decided to complete tonight was a new one, namely making a Christmas stocking for Little Bird, as she doesn't have one at present.  As there's only a couple of weeks to go I thought I'd better get a move on and make one.  I caught a glimpse of one I liked when out and about shopping the other week, but at £20 I couldn't justify spending that much when there is so much else to pay for around Christmas time, so I decided to make my own version.

It was a good choice of  project for using up lots of left over pieces of festive looking fabric too.  I made it in a similar vein to my recent quilting efforts in that I machine sewed lots of fabric strips together until I had enough to cut out one large stocking shape from it.



For the back I cut out another stocking shape in one of the fabrics used and  I then cut out another two stocking shapes in a plain fabric for the lining. 



I then put the sewn together lining stocking inside the turned out outer stocking so that the right side of the lining fabric formed the inside of the stocking and the right side of the outer stocking was on the outside (I know this sounds confusing but bear with me).   I then sewed the two stockings together around the top.  I  used some more of the lining fabric to bind the top and cover the stitching, which I attached by hand.   I also added a loop of contrasting fabric at the back to thread a ribbon through and ironed on a little bird (for Little Bird) for decoration. 


She was really pleased with it and it is plenty big enough for a few stocking fillers from Santa.  Here is the finished article hung from the door handle.

 
As you can see it isn't the perfect stocking shape, it's a bit square toed on account of me rushing it a little, but once it's been filled with a few bits and pieces I think it will look a lot better.   I was pretty pleased with it though as it cost me nothing but my time as I had all the materials to hand. 
 
It also had an added benefit in that it got me back in the sewing room where I completed another project that I have been meaning to finish for a while, but just couldn't motivate myself to do, namely the padded table runner.  I'll do another reveal shortly.  So two items ticked off my Christmas to do list making me a very happy bunny.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

A Working Saturday

This Saturday I've had a busy and productive day at home working on my small business. Parcelling up and sending out orders, preparing and buying stock,  post-Christmas planning and generally giving some much needed thought and attention to things that I don't always get the chance to do during the week.  I know it's the weekend, but in running a small business work can spill over into the weekend sometimes, especially in the run up to Christmas, which is always a busy time.  I think I've made progress though,  and am ready for the week ahead whatever that may bring.

In between working, I've been doing a spot of housework here and there; ironing, washing up, hanging out and putting away washing/dishes so that hopefully I will be ready to hit the ground running next week.  The good thing is, that I haven't spent any money, (save for in a business sense, which is separate) so another no spend day has been achieved. 

I did of course make time for a spot of Strictly watching tonight and I finished knitting another pair of fingerless gloves in a different colour.  Tomorrow, we're hopefully having an afternoon out, so it was good to get everything that need doing done today.  Hope you all had a good Saturday.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Book Review - Consumed by Harry Wallop

I've just finished reading this book by journalist Harry Wallop.  It's full title being Consumed - How Shopping Fed the Class System and it is a book that does what it says on the cover.  It documents how in todays consumerist British society, we are all becoming determined and categorised by the what and where of how we consume.

He begins the book in the introduction by describing what he considers to be newly developing social categories in our modern consumerist nation.  According to Wallop the social class system in Britain is still alive and kicking, albeit a little more complex and focussed more on consumption than income and occupation.

I'm finding this quite an amusing read.  I must admit that I am a sucker for any book that documents the snobbish nuances of our nation.  Whether we like/acknowledge it or not, our everyday lives are often steeped in snobbery, if we could but admit it.  It is the British way.  Regardless of the many claims that we are now a classless society, snobbery and class divisions are still prevalent, whether it relates to the food we eat or refuse to eat, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, the technology we use or the supermarket we shop at.  Wallop suggests that this is maybe not such a bad thing as it is this snobbery that motivates social aspiration and has led to a certain degree of democratisation in our society.

I can relate to much of what Wallop talks about in this book, although I am a little uncomfortable about the creation of more categories that encourage sweeping generalisations about people.   I can, however, see that it is a useful tool when exploring a very complex social issue such as class in today's society when many of the traditional occupations no longer exist or are much smaller in number.   As Wallop himself concedes, most people will probably identify with one or more of his categories and he invites the reader to identify which category/ies most accurately describes them.  I must admit that I can relate to at least a couple of the categories, but what someone else's perception of me might be, well that would be a whole other matter.

In subsequent chapters of the book, Wallop goes on to consider in more detail how his categorisations have been created by the clever marketing stragegies of some of the large consumer corporations who have specifically targeted particular sections of society to sell their brands and goods to.  He also provides evidence to back up his ideas by way of exploring consumer behaviour and attitudes, taking us through the various chapters on the subjects of food, family, property, home, clothes, education, holidays, leisure and work.  He constantly moves back and forward in time to demonstrate the differences between the categorisation of class in the 1950's and beyond and his propositions about class in present day Britain.  He highlights the often hypocritical views and behaviours of his suggested social groups/classes, including the one that he himself admits to belonging to.

I have really enjoyed reading this book and although I don't necessarily agree with some of what it purports, this did not spoil my enjoyment of it.  Wallop cleverly examines and shines a light on the class system he believes is prevalent in Britain today.  As I'm sure is the same for most people, I have often personally been on the receiving end of various snobbish attitudes, whether they have taken the form of a dismissive look or action or an out and out thinly disguised insult or put down, slipped into a conversation.  Call me paranoid, but many people are incredibly accomplished at these, in my experience.  I console myself with the thought that being too sharp can easily lead you to cut yourself at some point.

Anyway, if like me, you like this sort of read, I would definitely recommend it.  It did make me chuckle in places and it does make you think about your consumer choices and what motivates them, which is no bad thing.  What it won't do, however, is change where I shop.  I'll still be going to Lidl and Asda most weeks for my grocery shop.  I will still visit Charity shops and buy goods online from well known to me brands that I like.  I shop to please myself and obtain value for money, not to impress other people or be associated to any particular social elite. (Or at least that's what I like to think - I could of course be deceiving myself!)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Bloggy Meet Up and a New Installation

The last couple of days have been a bit hectic.  Things have got busy on the work front as I've received lots of orders in the lead up to Christmas and have been busy getting them sent out to customers as well as sending off all our Christmas cards to relatives and friends far and near.

Today, I was up at the crack of dawn, literally, to get across town to catch a train to Winchester, where I'd been invited to a Bloggy Meet up by the lovely Penny at The Hen House.  First it was a bus to Bank, then the 'Drain' or tube from Bank to Waterloo, followed by a train to Winchester.  The first part of the journey was the worst.  Just getting across London at rush hour is tricky and something I haven't had to negotiate for a good 15 years, believe it or not, since I was a student.  I forgot how busy it is at this time of the day with everyone rushing to get to work.

Anyway, I managed to paint my nails and read a few pages of a new book on the train and then met up with Penny and her daughter and another blogger Alix and we all headed into town.  It was lovely to meet her in person, although I was pretty nervous as I'd never arranged to meet up with another blogger before.  It might not have shown Penny, but I was.  I tend to talk a lot when I'm nervous so I apologise if I was a bit too chatty.  We all went for a coffee and a chat before heading to the Christmas Market at the Cathedral for a look around.  We had a lovely leisurely stroll around the town and it's shops too, I even managed to pick up the odd Christmas present, followed by a lovely lunch at the pub.  I had to head back quite early (3 pm) to get back to London before the rush hour began again but I had  a super day out and everyone made me feel really at ease which was greatly appreciated.   Thank you Penny, Alix and Jess for the good company.  With all the chatting I completely forgot to take any photos of course, but I think Penny might be posting one at some point.

When I got in, I immediately felt the benefit of our latest installation.  A coal burning stove.  Here it is fully fitted.  It had been installed in my absence and it was nice to come home to it all up and running, complete with required carbon monoxide monitor.  It's not a new stove as it was given to us by OH's father on our last visit to Yorkshire after they replaced theirs for a larger one, but it works perfectly and is a good size for our second reception room.

 
We're hoping it might even save us some money on fuel, as currently our open fireplace is far less efficient with much more heat being lost up the chimney.  As you can see we do need to do a bit of repainting around the stove, but hopefully this will get done before Christmas.  Already the puppy/dog has become well acquainted with it and has claimed the warmest place in the house.  She's no fool.
 
 
The rest of this evening has been spent catching up with work, housework, putting out the rubbish and recycling for collection tomorrow, catching up with the day's news and gearing up for Little Bird's School Christmas Fair tomorrow. 
 
 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Jolly Jam Jars

It's that time of year again and the call has gone out from Little Bird's school for items for the Christmas Fete.  One of my favourite things to do is to make up some Jolly Jam Jars.

These are simply jam jars filled with toys, sweets, blowers, balloons, etc. and are generally sold for £1 each.  The stall is very popular and they usually sell out quite quickly.  Sometimes there's even a jar or two for the adults.  I might even make up a few sewing jars myself for the grown ups.

As the school fete is just 2 days away, I've been organised this year and have been buying the odd thing on shopping trips and have gradually built up various bits and pieces to fill them.  To be honest, by the time you've finished you can easily spend £1 per jar, even shopping at the 99p store for multipacks of small toys, but it is all in a good cause and only once a year (well, twice if you count the summer fair too).  It is also a useful idea for children's party bags if you have a Christmas party or even for birthday parties and the jars don't cost anything as they've been saved from the recycling for the purpose.

I'm donating a few jars again this year and here's one I finished earlier topped off with covers and labels. 



I don't really expect them not to be opened until 25th December.  Maybe 25 seconds is more realistic.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Getting Ready for Christmas

This weekend the Christmas decorations came down from the loft.  All packed in my lovely Lakeland storage solutions. I've mentioned before that my nick name at home is Mrs Receptacle.  I like everything to have it's own place and storage solution.  Although if you saw our house you might disagree as it isn't the most tidy house on the planet.  Organised chaos perhaps. 

These storage solutions, however, are actually incredibly useful.  I bought them a few years ago and they keep everything together and neatly stored away for the year.  They're pretty too.  I had a look the other day on Lakeland's website and they don't seem to sell them anymore, which is a pity as they have been great.  Maybe they didn't sell well. 

Anyway, there's a round one which is just the right size for my wreath and a couple of other bits I slot into the middle of it to store away. 


A long one for rolls of wrapping paper, tags, ribbons, etc.,

 
 

and then a large rectangular box for everything else. 


I must admit that I've accumulated more bits and pieces over the last few years and I can now fill another box too, but this year I'm going to have a good sort out and give away anything we no longer use and see if I can get everything into the three containers.  I tend to leave Christmas cards out so I can send them off before the box comes out of storage, or at least write them in readiness as sometimes we don't get it down until much later in December.  We're quite organised this year.  OH bought a new stepladder this weekend so we could get access to the loft again.

Little Bird got quite excited at the idea of the decorations coming out of storage, only to be deflated when we told her they weren't going up for another week or two.  I want to have a good sort through first and make sure there's nothing else we need or that I'm not duplicating anything.  When do your decorations come out and go up?

Monday, 2 December 2013

A Busy Sunday

This Sunday was a busy one.  It started with my usual class at the gym which I always enjoy.  Little Bird came along and went for a swim whilst I was in my class.  We stopped off at a garage on the way home so OH could fill up the car, check the tyres and he also did a quick car wash which was desperately needed.

When we got home I did a bit of catching up with some work and then we decided to get our small stand alone freezer out of the shed where it's been stored for the past year, as I want to defrost our freezer but can't seem to empty it completely.  We thought it might also be useful to have in the house in the run up to Christmas to store food in, as our fridge freezer doesn't have a large capacity.  To get it out we had to virtually empty the shed and then put everything (or almost everything) back.  I decided to get rid of a few bits whilst I was in there.

After sorting through the shed I decided to tidy the garden a bit.  It was long overdue.  I dug over one of the borders, took the odd plant out that was dying or past it's best and then swept up lots of leaves from our decking.  It looked a whole lot better for it.  It's got that bare winter look again.  I just have the other border to tidy and then I can leave it for the winter.

I then had to have a quick shower and change before we took Little Bird to meet up with her school choir at a local Christmas market.  It was sweet to see her up there singing.  We stopped off for a fish and chips  takeaway supper on the way home as a treat.

Sunday night I spent putting the finishing touches (i.e. addresses) on my Christmas cards ready to send them out tomorrow.  There's a few to go abroad so I need to send them off.  I always feel so much better when they're safely in the post and I don't have to worry about getting them done.   I then needed to catch up with various jobs before the new week started, before settling down to watch David Dimbleby's Britain at Sea.  I hope your weekend was a good one.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

November Round Up

Now it is officially December and the first day of Advent I have decided to get into the Christmas spirit with a Christmassy background.  I know Ponsettias aren't to everybody's taste but I love them. 

With November drawn to a close it's that time again to take a look at what I've achieved with regard to my personal and financial goals this month.  The month has passed pretty quickly and it's been a straightforward stay at home month for us, save for a few outings to a couple of events, where I have spent a little money.

I've continued to pay the balance off one credit card this month and am in the process of paying another chunk off the other one, hopefully leaving myself in a position to pay both off next month.  I may need to spend on them a little in December to buy the remainder of the Christmas presents I need to get, but if I do the balances will be paid off in January and I will then use the cards for internet purchases only and hopefully not to pay for things I do not have the cash to pay for, with the exception of emergencies of course.

It is a close run thing achieving this goal as the expense of Christmas and after school clubs for next term are looming, just as I'm approaching the final hurdle.  I feel a bit like I'm firefighting in a financial sense, but hopefully next year will bring a new considered and careful approach to spending and finances.

No nonsense November has gone reasonably well.  Yes, I have still spent on a few non-essentials, namely some wellies, some second hand books, some socks and washi tapes, but on the whole I've been pretty disciplined for me.  I've spent many a day at home crafting, doing housework or spending time on my business avoiding the urge to go out and spend any money and as a consequence I have managed to finish a few projects and start a few more at no cost due to already having the materials necessary.

I've managed another 10 No Spend days this month taking my yearly total to 80 so far and I have now extended my yearly target by another five and am aiming for 85 for the year.  I am trying to be realistic with this new total, as  December is going to involve quite a bit of spending, on the remaining presents to be bought and food shopping for the festive holiday, so I'm not going to give myself an unrealistic target.  If I manage more then that is great, if not, I can feel secure in the knowledge that I have far exceeded the 50 I originally set myself for the year, and the 38 I managed last year.

I've had a good month on the Beauty Challenge front and not so good a month on the Household Challenge front and have stuck to my menu plan once again this month.  Towards the end of the month I've been trying to use up food in the freezer and cupboards, partly to minimise spending and partly to empty the freezer so that I can defrost it before Christmas.  Other than the spending mentioned already, I have confined any spending to Christmas provisions and Christmas presents.

Unfortunately, I have had to cancel my milk delivery this month after 7 years, due to the fact that it was regularly getting taken from the doorstep. (Sadly, one of my neighbours is now suffering this problem I'm afraid, as the perpetrator has moved on to someone else).  This somewhat took the convenience out of having it delivered.  Having finally decided to cancel I am back to buying milk at the supermarket and quite surprised at how inexpensive it is compared to delivery, so I guess that is a kind of silver lining.  I did like having it delivered though and it was helping to provide employment for someone, which is why I continued for so long.

So where do I go in December?  Closer to debt freedom I hope.  There are some last minute presents to buy for some family members and OH and I will be required to pay for Little Birds trampolining classes which are due again and any after school clubs I sign her up for next year, which will be somewhat unplanned for as I forgot about them.  Other than these, it will be all systems go getting what we need for Christmas/Boxing Day meals.  I've been buying a few bits and pieces over the last few months, but the real expense starts now with meat and other foods we might want to eat.  I have put a few pounds on an Asda savers card in the last few months, but to be honest didn't manage a lot.  Maybe £20 or so, but this will still come in handy for last minute buys. I think I will continue with this idea in the New Year though as it will help me be a bit more organised for Christmas next year.

I've now planned our meals in the weeks leading up to Christmas and I'm sticking to very ordinary homely fayre so that our Christmas meal will feel special and not just every day.  I will still be donating to the Food Bank next month and am hoping to include a few Christmassy items in the donation, but without overspending too much.  I have placed my Approved Food order and am awaiting delivery, so that should help to keep the food costs down a little.

I must admit that I am almost looking forward to January already, and a relatively normal month again without any Christmas pressures, but I'm not going to let them spoil Christmas for me.  I just have to remember to cut my clothes according to my cloth and not let myself overspend.  I think that is probably the most difficult thing for me about Christmas.  I hope all your Christmas shopping and preparations are coming along okay?



Saturday, 30 November 2013

Church and School Christmas Fetes

Today heralded one of my yearly traditions at Christmas, namely, visiting a local church Christmas fete.  I've been going since Little Bird was small taking her with me.  We don't actually attend this church, but at Christmas time I've always made a point of supporting them by attending the fete.  It has remained very much unchanged in the past 7 or 8 years that we have been going. which is somewhat reassuring in a constantly gentrifying East London.   

This year was slightly different as I went alone.   Little Bird didn't really want to go so instead she went to the park with OH to walk the dog.  One of my main reasons for attending this fete, apart from supporting a good cause, is that the vicar's wife makes a mean Quince Jelly and I like to stock up for the year as I never see it for sale anywhere else.  I bought 3 small jars this year at £1.50 per jar, but these will probably last me the year as we have only just started using the last jar that I bought last year.  It's the most scrumptious stuff.  I tend to eat it on a scone or hot cross bun, but you can eat it with cheese and biscuits too.

 
Having purchased the Quince jelly I was then free to wander around and check out the other stalls.  I bought a couple of pots of succulents as I want to get a collection of these together.  At £1 per pot with 3 plants in each they were good value.  There were a couple of small Aloe Vera plants in with them which I was pleased about.  A very useful plant.
 
 
I bought a couple more paperbacks to add to the ever growing pile,
 
 
and a set of four new Gisela Graham dark green linen/cotton napkins for £1.50 which will come in very handy for Xmas lunch and a few inexpensive stocking fillers, which I won't show here in case anyone who is going to receive them is reading this.
 
I stayed for a cup of tea and a mince pie (my first of the season), went on the tombola and the bottle stall and then came away.
 
Next stop was a local school fete.  It wasn't my daughter's school, but as it was close by, I thought I would pop in and support them too.  Here there were lots of lovely craft, jewellery and vintage stalls selling lots of lovely things.  I bought a couple of bits that were for me really, namely some vintage plastic holly for 10p (not to everyone's taste, but I love it), a lovely little brand new bamboo business card holder for 50p,
 
 
 and finally a little treat, to add to my collection of Scottie dog brooches, this little vintage lapel pin.  He's such a cutie.  (Sorry, it's not a great photo)
 
 
My final purchase was this lovely vintage cotton Christmas handkerchief.
 
 
Having spent what was in my purse we all came home.  Tomorrow, we're visiting a Christmas market where Little Bird is singing with the school choir.  I might have to restrain myself from buying anything else. 
 
 
 


Friday, 29 November 2013

The Great Household and Cleaning Product Challenge - Month 3

As you might have guessed I am still struggling with this challenge and finding it hard to keep within a sensible budget.  For anyone not familiar, a few months ago I set myself the challenge of trying to spend no more than £125 in a year on household and cleaning products.  It's turning out to be quite a difficult challenge to do.  This month I succumbed to a very good offer on the Approved Food website that I couldn't ignore, and although I hadn't run out of the items concerned, it does mean that I have a good supply of the same for a large part of the coming year.

In total I spent £18.73 this month, which was £8.31 over my monthly budget, on top of being over budget for the previous two months of the challenge, so I'm not doing too well.  I have now spent  £59.75/£125 in just 3 months on this challenge so I have a long way to go to get back on budget.

Spending this month consisted of the following purchases:

Branded Dishwasher Tablets x 110 £9.99 - This was the offer I succumbed to from Approved Foods which makes the tablets less than 10p each and should last for approximately one third of the remainder of the year, so after my last disaster purchasing dishwasher tabs from Lidl and being overcharged, it was difficult to ignore.

Toilet Rolls x 36 £5 - I bought these from Poundstretcher.  Two packs of 18 for £5.  These are the cheapest I have found anywhere.  They almost lasted the entire month but not quite.  I'm not sure if this was because we stayed home the whole month and a couple of us had upset stomachs this month (sorry I know that is too much information) or whether there was slightly less on each roll but either way they still turned out to be more cost effective so I will be returning to purchase them again next month.

Value Disinfectant 30p - I bought this thinking I had almost run out only to find another full bottle in the cupboard when I got home.  Luckily it wasn't a very expensive duplication.

Black Bin Bags x 15 £1.49 - I went through the 10 pack I bought last month quite quickly due to using a few for garden waste that needed to go to the tip when I did some pruning and tidying up.  In addition, I sometimes have to double bag the rubbish if the foxes rip the bags open or they split.

Toilet Bleach 69p - Ran out of this in one of our toilets so bought another for the convenience of having one in each bathroom for ease of use.

Washing Up Liquid 59p -  Completely ran out after also using mini bottle brought home from hotel stay in US.

Smart Price Toilet Rolls x 4 67p - Well it was either a mercy dash to Asda or sharing one toilet roll between two bathrooms for the last day of this month's challenge, so the mercy dash it was.

As you can see if I hadn't bought the dishwasher tablets and duplicated the disinfectant I would have been well within budget, so hopefully if I'm not distracted by another bargain offer or make any more duplications next month I should be able to keep within budget for a change.  This is bearing in mind Christmas, whereby a few extra bags of rubbish will materialise, extra guests means extra toilet paper usage and some turkey foil will be required.  If I do manage a relatively inexpensive month however, I can start to get back on track I hope.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A New Patchwork Project

As you might have guessed by now, I tend to have lots of different sewing projects on the go at any one time.  I'm currently in the process of making several things; a hand stitched patchwork throw for the sofa, a machine stitched padded Christmas table runner  (almost finished), a Christmas rag wreath and now I've started work on yet another Christmas project, but one which will not be finished for months.  It might not even be ready for a couple more Christmases, but is a great way to use up lots of small scraps of Christmas fabric that I have left over.

The project is to make a large hand stitched Christmas throw, probably for our bed or maybe for TV watching.  It could actually even become a table cloth I guess.  I'm using small diamond shapes, and when I first started on this I intended making them into stars, but have since changed my mind and am going to make them into larger diamond shapes which all fit together nicely to make a sort of harlequin effect. 

It really is going to be a long haul project, mainly because of the small size of all the individual pieces, but I don't mind that as it is nice to have something that I can work on whenever I feel like it and that will travel pretty easily when we go on holiday or away for a weekend.  Here's a picture of the pieces for the first two diamond blocks I've hand basted.  I think it might turn out quite nice by the time it's finished.  What do you think?