Monday, 29 February 2016

Fruit Smoothie Heaven

Sunday evening, and I was washing and putting all the fruit I'd bought that morning from Lidl in the fruit bowl and it struck me that we eat a mountain of fruit every week.  I must spend £15 or so on fruit every week.  Sometimes, I think we eat too much, considering the amount of sugar it has in it, but I guess that there are worse vices to have.

Anyway, I got to remembering that I had a tub full of frozen red berries in the freezer, that had been sat there for at least six months.  I'd been meaning to get into juicing or smoothie making for weeks, but just never get around to it.  Anyway, I got some of the frozen fruit out and decided that I was going to start there and then.

I decided to start with a smoothie. Here's what I put in it:

A handful of frozen red berries
1 sliced banana
50ml milk
One heaped tablespoon vanilla yoghurt
1 teaspoon chia seeds
Half a teaspoon of Maca Powder.

I whizzed it all up with a stick blender and here's a picture of the resulting smoothie.

It was lovely.  I popped it in one of these little milk bottles, four of which I bought expressly for the purpose from Home Bargains for £1.49. They are the perfect size and force me to sip it slowly through a straw.  (I'm currently trying to work my way through a stack of these that are lying dormant in the cupboard). I'm hoping that it's the start of a new and healthier habit.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

A Bit of a Pamper Night and A New to Me Cleaning Recipe Fail!

After a couple of days knuckling down and doing some work on my small business, I'm feeling a lot happier. I managed to prepare, photograph and list all of the things I needed to, and although I haven't had any sales as yet, I'm optimistic that things will start moving again soon.  In any case, I can't sell anything if I don't have it listed, so at least I've made a move in the right direction.

The day after doing the above, I got an email from eBay telling me I've been trading in my current business for four years now.  Goodness, how time flies. It doesn't seem that long ago that I started things up from scratch.

To celebrate getting everything done, I decided to have a nice soak in the bath and a bit of a pamper session. I ran myself a lovely bath, filled with bubbles and home made bath salts and soaked for a while. It was very relaxing, spoilt only by the fact that I didn't have any home made bath bombs to put in it, as I'd used the last one a few weeks ago.

Afterwards I settled down to a spot of patchwork, followed by indulging myself by making some hot chocolate, which is something I rarely do.

I hadn't slept well the previous night and had ended up removing myself to the sofa downstairs, where I managed to fall asleep instantly. Sometimes just a change of room does the trick, but due to the fact that we gave away the single bed in the spare room, I couldn't move into there for the night.

In any case, the hot chocolate and warm bath seemed to prevent the same thing happening that night, so I felt a lot better after a good night's sleep.

The following day, due to the fact that I'd run out of bath bombs, I decided to make some more and whilst I had the ingredients out, I thought I'd try my hand at another natural recipe I'd found on Pinterest recently, this time a cleaning product, namely toilet bombs.

They work on a similar principle to bath bombs, but are useful for popping in the toilet bowl to freshen it up.  They are made from just three ingredients; bicarbonate of soda, citric acid and essential oil of your choice.

Unfortunately, these didn't turn out so well, as I don't think I added enough essential oil and they didn't clump together into solid forms in the ice cube tray, that could be put in a jar. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Rather than waste the resulting mixture, I decided to just put it into a mason jar and leave it in the downstairs toilet with a scoop, so that I can put a couple of scoops down the toilet as and when required.

Not quite so Pinterest worthy, but waste not, want not.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Perfect Parcel

Yesterday, the one day OH was out and I was out with the dog, the postman attempted to deliver a parcel for me.  Typical.  It got sent back to the depot, so this morning I hot footed it down there to collect it, as I knew what the parcel was going to be and I was pretty excited about it.

Although February was a no spend month on anything but essentials, as usual, I had succumbed to a really good deal that had landed in my inbox.

I've actually done pretty well this month for not spending on inessentials, most of my purchases were for things such as food, household products, etc. In this case, however, I didn't really mind spending on this purchase, as it will keep me stocked up on organic beauty products for quite a while.

The offer in question was a set of Organic Surge products.  There were eight products in the set for the amazing price of £25 (including postage).  No way was I going to miss out on this deal. Here's a picture of what was in the set.

It included a Sweet Blossom Body Cream (150ml),  Brightening Hot Cloth Cleanser (75ml), Refreshing Face Wash (95ml), Extra Care Replenishing Facial Oil (30ml), Extra Care Ultra Light Oil Control Lotion (50ml), Extra Care Intensive Smoothing Serum (30ml), Comforting Hand and Nail Cream (75ml) and Reviving Eye Gel (15ml).

In total, the set was worth £103. As I'm currently using a couple of products from this brand, namely a day cream and bath foam, and really like them, I  just couldn't resist trying some more of their products. They are a Scottish organic beauty brand, based in Wick, Scotland and their products I find are really good quality, have lovely packaging and the products are very reasonably priced.

I'm really excited about using these products, and any I don't fancy using myself, I can always give away as gifts.  Sometimes, breaking a no spend is definitely worth it, particularly so in this case.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Back to Work

After a couple of months hiatus from selling on eBay, a couple of small fee payments loom and consequently I need to accrue some funds in my Paypal account, in order to meet the payments coming out of my business account over the next few months.

The intensity of trading in the lead up to Christmas was such that I felt  I needed a complete break afterwards, not that I'm complaining, as business was very good.  However, two months has been long enough and if I want to keep the business ticking over, I need to get back to it and put some time and effort into it.   I have some ideas for some new listings, which will take a little bit of preparation work, but I feel ready to get stuck in again.

It's been nice having a break and spending a bit of time on my home and other projects, and I realise that I'm fortunate to be able to do so, but it's also nice to earn a bit of money and feel productive. So, for the next couple of days, my priority is going to be setting up some new listings for my small business and the preparation that entails.  As a consequence, things may be a little quiet here on the blog for a few days, but I'll still be reading and will be back shortly.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Eat Right For Your Blood Type Revisited

A few weeks ago, I posted about this book, by Dr Peter D'Adamo and Catherine Whitney.

The premise of the book is to eat according to your blood type for optimum health and weight control. When I last posted, having quickly read this book, I was convinced I was O blood type, who are the original meat eating hunter gatherer type. However, having recently received an appointment from the Blood Donation Service, I now realise that I am in actuality an A blood type, which most definitely changes things.

So what should Type A's eat.  Well, according to the book, they should largely eat a vegetarian diet, or at least not eat red meats, as these are not easily digested by their bodies, due to low levels of stomach acid and as a consequence get stored as fat.

In addition, dairy products should be largely avoided, as these too are not easily digested and provoke insulin reactions, which slow the metabolism, although goat's milk and cheeses are acceptable.  Other common foods to be avoided are bananas, kidney beans, tomatoes, potatoes of all kinds, vinegars and wheat in excess, especially wholegrains (surprisingly).

What is recommended for this blood type is eating soya products which aid digestion, metabolise quickly and optimise the immune function, vegetables and vegetable oils which aid efficient metabolism and prevent fluid retention, pineapples to increase intestinal mobility and calorie utilisation and peanuts for cancer fighting lectins. (as type A's are unfortunately biologically predisposed to heart disease, cancer and diabetes).

The other night, I re-read the book again in light of my clarified blood type and noted down all the highly beneficial foods for Type A's, the neutral foods and the foods to avoid.  I'm trying to skew some of our food shopping towards this list where possible.

For instance, last week I purchased goats milk and butter for my use, and found them to be hardly different from normal butter and milk (in tea and on toast in anycase), so these items will definitely be bought from now on.  I am relieved that I will be able to make rice puddings with the milk and other sweet dishes, so that I won't have to give up some of my favourite desserts.

Greek style yoghurts are acceptable to Type A's, but not other types of yoghurts, so my yoghurt maker will be making these for me in future. Some other dairy products are acceptable, i.e. feta cheese, goats cheese, mozarella, etc., but within limits.

Other highly beneficial foods and drinks include lentils, black/pinto/aduki/black-eyed beans, nuts and nut butters (save for brazil, cashew and pistachio), buckwheat, rice cakes, rye flour, oat flour, herbal teas such as camomile and green tea, coffee and red wine.  Many other foods and drinks are at least neutral, so can be consumed without causing harm to health.

Finally, dietary supplements recommended include vitamin C, vitamin B12 and calcium amongst others and recommended exercise includes yoga, dance, aerobics (low impact) amongst others.

Once again, I may have to make a few changes to my current eating regime, but it is great to know that I can still eat avocados and some wheat when I wish to, and there are types of alcohol that I don't have to avoid. It does state that meats such as turkey or chicken can be consumed, along with fish, so I intend to cook with turkey mince from hereon in, where necessary.  I have also purchased some turkey sausages and will be interested to know how these taste once cooked.

I feel a lot happier trying to eat according to this plan.  There are some things that I love, that are recommended that I avoid, i.e. oranges, black tea, distilled spirits, tomatoes, potatoes, but many of the foods to avoid, I hardly eat anyway, so they won't really be a big loss.  In addition, I have been trying to reduce our consumption of red meat for a few months, so I shall just continue in this vein.

It will be interesting to see how I get on, as with a strong family history of breast cancer and approaching the menopause, I feel it might benefit me to follow this eating plan.  I'll keep you posted if I have any positive results from it.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Thursday at Home and a Spot of Recipe Organisation

Thursday this week, I spent an enjoyable day at home.  After spending a couple of days going out and about with LB during half term, she was busy with school production rehearsals and going out with her friends on Thursday.

I, myself, was due to go out in the afternoon to a blood donation session, but the fact that I had a cold sore,  meant that I had to cancel and make a new appointment in a couple of months time, so I decided to make good use of the time it afforded me, to do a few bits around the house.

The first job I decided to do was to empty the ironing basket. I'm managing to keep on top of washing and ironing, especially now I've got my bullet journal going, as I keep factoring it into my daily tasks, which in turn makes me do it more regularly and not let it pile up.

Once I'd finished, I decided to complete a task I'd started the night before.  In the process of deep cleaning the kitchen cupboards, I'd come across my old recipe folder, full of lots of cuttings from magazines and recipe cards from supermarkets.  It was completely bulging and I hardly ever go in it, as the sight of it and the thought of wading through it just puts me off.

The night before I  had sifted through all of the magazine recipes and thrown out any I didn't think I'd ever make, or that other members of our household would never eat. This had left  me with a much smaller pile of really good recipes, that I needed to do something with.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not a person who gets particularly excited over cook books.  I own a few, but hardly ever use them, save for a very trusty old Delia Smith cook book.

On a week to week basis, I have some traditional signature dishes that I tend to roll out regularly, but don't often add new recipes to my repertoire, although I have added a few in recent years.  I do, however, collect interesting ones when I see them in magazines, ever hopeful that I might get a bit creative in kitchen.

Some of the recipes had been tried and tested and had the air of use about them, others I've never tried yet. Anyway, I decided I would glue all of the ones I wanted to keep into a kind of home made recipe book, to make them easier to flick through. I cut them all down, keeping a picture, where possible, found an old scrap notebook and a Pritt stick and I was away.  It was so therapeutic.

It is much easier to sift out the recipes I want to keep these days, as we have decided to cut down the amount of red meat we eat, which ruled out lots of recipes.  I did keep a few red meat ones, but more with a view to using white meat, such as turkey or chicken, in it's place.

I thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so it took, cutting and gluing.  It was like being back in the Brownies or at school.  Very old style scrap booking, but very refreshing.  I was pleased with the results too.  I now have a book of recipes I like the look of,  that I can flick through in minutes.

I stuck the savoury recipes in the front and dessert recipes in the back, leaving blank pages in the middle, so that I could add any more I find to either section.  There's no index or anything, but I don't mind just flicking though them all when I'm looking for inspiration.

Whilst I was in a recipe organising mood, I also sorted through all of the free supermarket recipe cards that I'd picked up over the years and removed any duplicates or any that weren't going to get used too.  I now just need a small A5 plastic wallet and a new A5 box file to keep them in and that's my whole recipe collection sorted.

Hopefully, I might now make better use of them and not be put off by the jumbled mess that they used to be and having them sorted should also eventually free up space in the cupboard too.  Here's the results, much tidier and better organised.

Another small, but very satisfying job completed.  I just hope it helps improve my cooking skills!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Another Bedroom Blitz with Books

The other day, I took a look back through some old posts of mine, to remind myself of what I was doing this time last year.  The main project I had under way was my Bedroom Blitz.

It had taken me over a year to complete, after initially recognizing the need back in May 2013.  At the time it had become a dumping ground, especially when we had our basement refurbished to accommodate OH's office.

Here's a couple of pictures of it from that time.  Pretty depressing. It looks like I was a bit of a hoarder, or maybe I just hadn't found the right place for everything after all the upheaval.

Once the blitz was finished it looked like this on my side of the room.

Fast forward a year to the picture above and not a lot has changed, save that the corner is starting to get cluttered up again and the beauty station looks a bit of a mess. With our new bed arriving in three weeks (yeah, we've finally been given a date), I thought I'd go through this room again, to clean it in readiness and with a view to simplifying it further.

I've got my eye on a piece of furniture to replace the beauty station, but it's for sale on eBay, so I don't know if I'll be successful in obtaining it. It's the same design as the wardrobe and one of the chest or drawers. It would be great if I could get it at a reasonable price, as it would fit perfectly in the space between the windows.  It would mean a little trip deep into Kent, but we could make a day out out of it.

The bedroom project will run concurrently with spring cleaning the kitchen, so progress might be slower there than it would otherwise have been. I have been sifting through things periodically in the past year. Many scarves, clothes, bags and pieces of costume jewellery have been donated, plus numerous books read and donated.

When I did the last blitz, I counted that I had 90 books in the room, that were waiting to be read.  I thought I'd count them up again a year on.  There were 80, including the one one I'm currently reading. I did buy quite a few late last year from Poundland, received 3 for Christmas and have picked up a fair few from both Little Free Libraries, not to mention those I've borrowed from the local library in the last year, which have slowed progress reading what was already there. I'll be avoiding buying any more this year, but I can't promise that if I see any good ones on the shelves in Poundland, I won't break my resolve.

Talking of books from Poundland, I've just finished reading one of the ones I bought last year called 'The Age of Miracles'.  It's interesting.  Set in California, it's a fictional account of what happens to a family, community, country, the natural world, when time literally slows down and days become a little longer every day.

It tells the story of a kind of ecological apocalypse, where the birds, trees, plants all die, radiation seeps through causing people to only venture out during the dark hours and the end of the world is considered to be near.  Everyday life as inhabitants know it, starts to change quite dramatically. Strangely, I really enjoyed this book, although the story it tells is rather a disturbing one to contemplate. It just goes to show that sometimes it is definitely worth a gamble, as it certainly turned out to be more than worth the £1 I paid for it.  I'll now be passing it on to the Little Free Library for others to enjoy.

I'll keep you posted on the bedroom clean up progress.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Patchwork Update (3)

I couldn't resist doing another Patchwork Update, as due to my cold last week, the tiny hexy table runner is coming along a treat.  I just can't seem to resist adding a little more to it every night. Here's a photo of what it looks like now.

And here's where it's going to reside when it's finished.  You can see that it isn't that far off being big enough for this dresser, which is where I'm going to use it.

Progress only seems to be slowed down by the need to keep making more of the hexies in both fabric and paper, and baste them together. It's a bizarre mismatch of different prints, not to everyone's taste I'll admit, but I like the complete randomness of it.

I have started to remove some of the paper from the inner hexies that have already been sewn together, which does make it less structured, so I have decided that I will reinforce the patchwork once it is finished, with some black iron-on interfacing.  This should also prevent any holes emerging in the near future too.

I've made the runner quite narrow to begin with, but will probably add a row or two to the outside edge, before backing it with a co-ordinating fabric, to make it reversible.

I'll do a final post when it is finished.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Kitchen Spring Cleaning Resumes

Following on from my last post on the subject of my kitchen spring cleaning, I made a bit more progress on the kitchen, before coming down with a cold last week which halted my progress for a full week.

By way of a catch up, I had cleaned the cupboard tops (filthy job), the main kitchen window sill and windows, and progressed to cleaning the cooker hood, back splash and walls around the cooker. I also cleaned the top of the fridge and had a good go at the cooker itself.

It was at this point, after slicing my finger on a particularly sharp edge on the cooker door and struggling to remove some of the grime inside the cooker, that I decided I need Brillo pads back in my life.

I stopped using them six months or so ago, but I do find myself missing their scrubbing power, especially when it comes to baked on food. They went back on my shopping list and my pans are coming up a lot cleaner and with a lot less effort again.

I digress, so last week I was finding it hard to motivate myself to get back into kitchen cleaning mode.  I distracted myself by blitzing the bathroom upstairs and then I blitzed the toilet downstairs.

Saturday evening, feeling a little guilty at not getting on with the kitchen and having started to watch some videos by Jen on her channel 'How Jen Does It' on YouTube, I rolled up my sleeves and decided to deep clean the fridge.

It was a good time as it wasn't too full.  I generally begin the weekly shopping on a Sunday morning, after I've been to the gym, so we had used most of the food in there through the week.  I set the timer for 1 hour and got started whilst the YouTube videos played in the background to help keep me motivated.

It took a little over an hour, but by the time the buzzer went off, I was so far on with it and had just two door shelves left to clean, that I continued on until the job was done.  It feels great to get another big kitchen job done.  I was pretty thorough and even de-gunked the folds in the rubber seals.  I can't get the fridge looking like new any more.  At over 15 years old, it's completely beyond that, but I can make it look as good as I possibly can.

Here's a few pictures of the results.

Next week, I'm hoping to continue with the Kitchen Spring Clean and tackle the insides and door fronts of some of the cupboards.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 15 February 2016

All Change

It's been a strange start to the year this year, I feel like I've been slow to get moving and get productive, but I seem to be getting more into my stride as the year progresses.

It's mainly felt strange for me, because I've made a few changes to my normal routine, which I've more or less kept to for at least the last two years, some of it longer.

I'm talking about my fitness routine here, largely. I used to go to classes every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday mornings and Monday and Friday evenings, but there were a couple of the classes that I struggled to motivate myself to get to, namely Wednesday morning and Friday evening.

The former because the class didn't really appeal, (no disrespect intended to the instructor, who was lovely) and the latter because it involved driving across the east end of London at rush hour on a Friday evening. Sometimes I got caught in traffic and never got there and it always caused a bit of stress, as OH had to get back in time from walking the dog, so I could go.

Anyway, I've now stopped going to these two classes, and have found classes that I really enjoy on Thursday morning and Saturday morning. They are both Zumba classes with the same instructor and the footwork is quite challenging, so I'm having to really concentrate to pick it up.  Turns out I needed a good challenge to keep my interest.

Another benefit of these classes is that they are closer to home at a different centre, so I don't have to use parking vouchers to park my car, as I have a resident's permit to park around the corner.  This makes it a little less expensive and quicker to get to. Although the money isn't an issue, it's good to not have to order the parking tickets on line quite so often.

I'm now just about getting used to the new classes, a few people say hello, which is nice and I know one lady from a time when I used to go to the Saturday class a few years ago, when it had a different instructor. It's strange  not to see the people from the other centre quite so often, but I still see them on Mondays and Sundays and keep in touch.

I've also temporarily stopped going to the class on Monday evening, as I used to go with LB who had a trampolining lesson at the same time. As she's now given up these classes, although initially I still went, I've cut down how often I go and picked up an extra class in the morning instead.  I still like this class a lot and might go back to it occasionally, but for now the new routine seems to be working well and has breathed a breath of fresh air into my week.

I don't know what the consequences will be for my waistline yet, but we all need a bit of a change sometimes to keep us motivated.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Loving Lately

In honour of it being Valentine's day today, I thought I'd do another of these posts as there are a few different things that I've been loving lately. Some food, some YouTubers, some items of clothing or places that I've been shopping lately.

The first thing has been halloumi cheese.  I've never bought it before, but have eaten it a couple of times in restaurants or round at friends' houses and after having some in a Turkish restaurant a few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and buy some. I got a lower fat version and fried a couple of slices (without oil), then chopped them up into small pieces and added them to a salad.  Very tasty. I'll definitely be  buying this more regularly from now on.

The second food related thing was a recipe I followed to make some 'Happy Pantry Slice' for OH for Valentines day.  I used lots of different things I had in pantry i.e oats, flour, butter, raisins, goji berries, dates, honey, chia seeds and combined them all according to Sophie's recipe found here.

I knew this recipe was a keeper the first time I made it.  Here's a picture of the resulting slice, chopped and bagged up, with some left over for the rest of us.  I really must get into the habit of making things like this more often.

One other food item we've all been loving lately is rye bread.  I've started buying it every week instead of normal bread due to it being lower in gluten.  I was surprised when LB and OH liked it. I rarely eat bread, so I don't eat too much of it, but they seem happy for me to continue buying it. The one we like most is by The Village Bakery and is sold at Sainsbury's.  I do still buy one loaf of wholemeal bread per week, but mostly everyone eats the rye and it is very tasty.

I've also been loving a couple of new to me YouTubers, who I've started following recently. Cookie who posts videos about her raw food diet on Reach4Raw is a lovely cheerful soul, who is on an ongoing journey to lose weight and get fitter and healthier.  She has a lovely sweet and positive personality and I enjoy her videos. It is interesting to watch her progress and find out more about her unorthodox lifestyle as a full-time house sitter, composer of music and vlogger, amongst many other talents she seems to be endowed with.

A second YouTuber I've recently subscribed to is Jen and her channel How Jen Does it.  There's lots of cleaning videos, really useful organisational tips, dollar tree organisation hauls as well as recipes and other videos.  Good for motivating you to do those jobs that don't really appeal as she breaks them down into 15 minute tasks.

Similar to Jen, I've been loving shopping at the UK's equivalent of Dollar Tree, namely Poundland lately, especially now one has opened up quite near to where I live.  I'm always popping in and looking to see if they've got any new lines.  I have to admit that a few organisational items have been finding their way into my basket.

I've also been enjoying the benefits of shopping at UK supermarket Sainsbury's lately, as they have been issuing lots of nice points vouchers at the till every week, which have quickly been adding up and allowing me to get £5 or £10 off my grocery shopping, almost every week.  I also like Sainsbury's as they have a very good range of organic foods, which makes them almost a one stop shop for me.

My final like has been my slimmer belt that I bought from TK Maxx the other week for £4.99.  It's a wide neoprene belt that you wear when you exercise and is purported to enhance your workout and smooth out lumps and bumps amongst other things. I've found it very comfortable to wear on the couple of occasions I've worn it to date.  It does seem to get me perspiring in the area of my waistline, so I'm hoping it's doing some good and will help melt a few pounds in that area.  Worth a try anyway.

Well, that's it for now, quite an exhaustive list really.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Digging In

Friday, marked my first visit to the allotment this year.  We'd had several consecutive bright and dry days, which had allowed the ground to become easier to dig, so I decided to use the window of opportunity to get in there and get digging.

I'd pretty much cleared the plot back in December when I last visited, but had left a pile of plant debris in the middle of the plot and had only managed to find time to dig over one bed.  The first job was clearing the pile and putting it in the compost, so that I could properly get stuck in.

I'm afraid I forgot to take the camera, and there was no point taking photos on my phone, as I can't download them, so there are no accompanying photos to this post, but I'll make sure to take it on my next visit.

I got most of the plot weeded and dug over in the hour and a half that I was there and sowed some broad bean and parsnip seeds.  By the time I'd done all that, it was starting to get dark, so I headed home.

I'm trying to enjoy this season on the plot as much as I can, as it may be my last, if we get the garden at home set up for growing vegetables that is.  I'm trying not to think of it as a chore, but something enjoyable, and it is, it's just that leaving the comfort of home to go there, is sometimes hard to motivate myself to do.

I've made a start anyway, and as a bonus I dug up a few potatoes that had been left in the ground over winter. They look okay to eat, which is even better.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Bathroom Spring Clean

Thursday afternoon, I decided to tackle another spring cleaning job. Although I was part way through spring cleaning the kitchen, the bathroom was looking particularly grimy and desperately needed cleaning, so as it is a small room, I thought I'd go the whole hog and deep clean it.

I decided to take a slightly different approach on this occasion, inspired by a video I'd seen recently, whereby they suggested taking everything out of the room, to facilitate giving it a good clean.  I took everything from the shelves, windowsill, bath side and put them all outside on the landing.

This then gave me a lovely empty room to get started on, with no obstacles.  The only things left in there were cleaning products and tools.

(Apologies for the dark image above, as I didn't have the light on before I started, nor the flash on my camera)

I then got cleaning.  It took a couple of hours in all, but I started at the top, cleared away any cobwebs and then applied cleaner to the tiles from top to bottom.  I cleaned the grout between the tiles, sink, bath, toilet, shower screen, windows/sill and shelves and then started to put everything back, cleaning everything first, of course.

By the time I'd finished the whole room was sparkling clean.  In fact, I don't think I have managed to make it feel this clean since we refurbished it 6 years ago. It felt very satisfying indeed.

The system of removing everything did work quite well, as I didn't need to move things around to get to surfaces.  I will definitely use it again.

Here's some pictures of the finished results. (With lighting this time!)

One room down, I'll be back with another kitchen spring cleaning post soon.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Bullet Journal Stickers and Storage

Following on from my post about my efforts to bullet point journal on a budget, I just thought I would bring you up to date on some more stickers I made the other day and some small changes I've made to my journal to make it work better for me.

Here are some pictures of the new stickers. They cover a range of activities that I might do throughout any one week. i.e. gym classes, washing, ironing, grocery shopping, banking, allotment visits, what's for dinner, dog walking, cleaning, decluttering, birthdays to be remembered, TV programmes to watch/record, current weight, holidays, etc. etc.

I already had the sheets of small blank stickers that I use for my business, so I just had to print onto them. Nil spend here.

The later ones I did, I  began to print two or even three images on to each sticker, so I could get more for my money and I'll just cut them to the size I want.  These have cost very little to make and should keep me going for a good while now.

I also did a bit of rearranging of the journal itself, in that the post its, with tasks that need to be done each week are now stuck to the inside of the cover until they are allocated to a particular day, and I added a post it pad to write down any grocery items we run out of, as a way of starting off my week's grocery shopping list.

In addition, at the back I have added post it lists of large tasks that need doing this year, things that I need to buy when funds allow, and things I'd like to make this year (including any other stickers I need to print) and I will incorporate these tasks and purchases into the journal as time and finances allow.

Here's a picture of a page from yesterday, so you can get an idea of how I will use the planner on a day to day basis.  The stickers have sufficient room on them to get a little more specific about time/nature of task, etc. (Yes, I did really spend that much on my shopping trip, but most of it was on gifts and food!)

The stickers may seem a bit trivial and unnecessary, but they help to make it more fun and should help hold my interest, besides making it more colourful.

After looking further into bullet journalling on Pinterest and YouTube, I realise that my system is not exactly as suggested on, but even here they encourage you to find a way that works for you and this is hopefully what works for me. 

I was inspired by one video on bulletjournal's YouTube channel to find a piece of hair elastic and use it to help attach a pen to the journal. Here's a picture of how I used it.

In addition, being Mrs Receptacle (as my OH calls me), I've decided to keep all of the stickers in this plastic concertina file that I bought in Target in the US last year when we were on holiday.  I knew I'd find a use for it at some point.  It only cost $1 in the dollar section.

I won't be spending any more money on this hobby/project for now, as I'm going to try use up the craft supplies and washi tapes I own already, when completing each day.

It should work out to be a good way of keeping a record of past menu plans, appointments, weight measurements, birthdays and gifts bought, holidays, allotment visits, bills paid, etc., which can sometimes prove useful.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Wednesday Wandering/Decluttering

This Wednesday afternoon found me wandering around our local behemoth shopping mall for three hours.  It's not my favourite place, so I don't go all that often, only when I have to these days, and usually during the week when it is a bit quieter.

I had a sandwich for lunch at home and then took the bus as usual to avoid paying the ridiculous parking charges and so that I could stay as long as I needed to.  I thought about going on my bike, but the things I had to get there were bulky and probably wouldn't fit in my pannier bag, so the bus it was.

On this occasion, the reason I went was to pick up an on-line order from John Lewis.  Although I'm on a No Spend Month, save for essentials, I ordered mattress and pillow case protectors for our new bed, which is due to be delivered sometime soon. (I hope!)

I say sometime soon, as it's almost 4 weeks now and we haven't heard a peep.  I think the 3-4 week estimate we were given was a bit on the conservative side and suspect we might be waiting a while yet.

Anyhow, I considered the mattress protector and pillow protectors to be essential, as I want to take as much care as I can of this bed and our new pillows, from the start. (It does help somewhat that LB has grown up and is no longer prone to climbing into bed with us and having 'accidents' - I hope she doesn't read this).

Anyway, I digress, so the main purpose of visiting the mall was the order collection, but also to buy some yoghurt mixes from Lakeland.

I have come to realise, since receiving my mini EasiYo yoghurt maker as a gift for Christmas, that the mixes for this particular model are only available in store at Lakeland or on-line on their website (incurring postage costs). I have tried to use the larger packs that are sold in various places, but the yoghurt doesn't set when I do this. Hence, I am reduced to having to visit Lakeland every once in a while, to stock up. Fortunately for me, I'm not that into cooking/baking, so I didn't even look around the rest of the shop.

There wasn't really too much else I needed from my shopping trip, save for a small Valentine gift for OH, a birthday present for a friend and one for a relative of OH's.  I took a look around, but didn't see anything that fitted the bill for the latter two, so left it as they weren't urgent.  I did, however, find a couple of things for me that weren't on my list, and my good intentions went out of the window, but I did limit my spend to no more than £20, which I thought was quite restrained.

I did also buy a couple more items of underwear for LB.  I have taken to buying better quality and adding a couple of items at a time to her collection.  It seems to be paying off, as they wear a lot better than the ones I used to buy, so in the long run I should have to buy less.

I came away feeling quite exhausted, but relieved that I'd been pretty good and hadn't spent too much, which is always a positive.  For the £20, I bought three items that I will definitely use - a pair of joggers for loungewear, a watch and a slimmer belt for wearing at the gym to enhance my workouts.

When I got home, I made us a lasagne for dinner and later found that I had an urge to do a bit of decluttering. (Possibly a tiny bit guilt induced:]) I had a few items in mind that I wanted to donate. I've decided to set myself the weekly goal of spending 10 minutes finding/gathering things that can be donated, as part of my ongoing commitment to simplifying our lives.

This week's effort rendered 30 items for donation, as I decided to donate a whole set of 20 Children's Encyclopedia Britannicas that resided in LB's room. I bought them for a few pounds at a Car Boot Sale a good few years ago, but I have to admit that she has rarely even looked at them and does all her homework research on-line or in the library.  It was time for them to go, and she was perfectly happy to free up a shelf in order to 'Tumblerize' it. A few other books joined them on the pile, making the task well worth the effort.

I'm not sure what I'll find to donate next week, but I have a whole week to think about it.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Bullet Point Journalling on a Tiny Budget

I've been reading a few blogs and watching a few videos on YouTube lately, where journalling, planners and bullet point journals have featured, and it's made me want to join in and do something similar myself.

However, being on a budget during a No Spend (save on essentials) month, I couldn't afford to go the whole hog and buy myself a planner, but didn't want this to stop me having a little bit of fun in this regard, so I looked around for a suitable note book or diary I could purchase, that would cost very little.

Whilst in Home Bargains the other day I came across this little note book.

I thought it was quite pretty and it had a waterproof plastic cover (that can be removed, but I thought I'd keep it in place to protect the notebook) and which also creates pockets in the front and back. It's small enough to fit in my handbag if necessary, but big enough to write my daily lists and reminders in.

Inside, on each page is there is a place for the date to be written, half a page of lines and half a page of blank paper.  It occurred to me that it might be useful as a kind of journal and at 49p it was a total bargain.

In the same store I saw this pack of different shaped, colourful post its that could be used with it for 99p, so I bought them too.

When I got them home, I decided that perhaps the best way of using this notebook would be to make it into a kind of bullet point journal, whereby I write in it the essential things I have to do on any one day, as a way of prioritising them and give them a box to tick off as I do them.

Additional tasks that need doing during the week, which I'm not sure on which day I'll  be doing them, I'm going to write on post its and keep inside the note book so they don't get forgotten, until I add them to the respective day list when I've completed them and ticked them off.

I'm hoping that by using this book, I can incorporate all of my daily lists, i.e. to do list, menu plan, etc. into one book and one place to look, so I'm not scrabbling around looking for small bits of paper that I've written them on.

It's not looking particularly colourful, as I haven't got all of my washi tapes out yet, nor made all of the stickers I want to make, but I'm hoping to jazz it up a bit on a daily basis.

I've already made these small stickers on the computer for TV programmes I want to watch, to remind me not to miss them.

Last night, it was Vera that I wanted to catch up on, as we recorded it on Sunday night.

I'm hoping to make some more stickers like these, to represent dog walks, cleaning, food shopping, gym classes, birthdays, holidays, allotment visits, etc,  so it should get more interesting as I get those made.

Making them myself on the computer, using clip art and sheets of small labels, means that they cost virtually nothing and just make each day look a little more interesting than just writing what I've done.

Here's a great video on Khila's YouTube Channel,  to show how similar stickers can be made.

I'm hoping that I can keep up with using this journal and I'll let you know how I get on..

Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Slow Week

It's been a bit of a slow week here. Since visiting the dentist on Tuesday for my last session off treatment, I came down with a cold and haven't been feeling so great.  As a consequence, the spring cleaning got put on hold for the week.  It was all I could do to just keep on top of the washing, ironing, dog walking and other day to day domestic tasks.

All I've managed this week, aside from the above tasks, is to send off a birthday gift and some cards and sit and do a bit of patchwork each night, so at least that is coming along nicely and I've hopefully not offended anyone by forgetting their birthday.

I have also managed to blag some more free Ideal Home Show tickets for the March show at Olympia here in London, and find us some decent and well priced holiday accommodation in Tenerife over Easter.

We are staying with OH's sister and her husband for a week, mainly so OH can do some serious cycling training before an event he is taking part in, in France in April, but also for a much needed spring break in the sunshine.

Saturday night, LB was staying over at a friend's house for a Birthday sleepover, but as I was still not feeling 100%, we decided not to have a grown up night out and instead had a quiet night at home, watching several back to back episodes of The Killing on DVD. I've got over my initial unease with regard to this programme and am now quite enjoying the first series.  With the wind raging outside, it was definitely a good decision.

I'm hoping that in the coming week I'll start feeling a lot better and I will resume being a bit more productive.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Quilting Update (2)

Since posting about my unfinished quilting projects the other week, I have made quite a bit of progress on the Christmas quilt. In fact, I've finished it.

Due to my tendency to procrastinate when I've got something important to do (that darned tax return again!), I knuckled down and finished this project.  It's not perfect and there are a few puckers here and there, but I'm happy enough with it.

As it is only for our own personal use whilst watching TV, I'm not too worried about it being too polished. I enjoy the fact it looks hand made and that you can see that time and love has been put into it.

As you can see from the above photo, quite a bit of work has gone into hand piecing each of the large diamonds together from smaller diamonds.

This project has definitely been a good exercise in making something from seemingly unusable scraps of fabric.  From this point of view, it is an interesting example of what you can actually make from really quite small offcuts, that might otherwise just get thrown away.

Here's the quilted quilt as it is now.  The binding (pinned on here) has subsequently been sewn on by hand and I am finally able to use it at last.

I'm now concentrating on another project that I forgot to mention in my previous post, another small scrap quilting project that I started a year or so ago, namely my tiny hexy quilt project.

Once again, this was a project where I wanted to use up some small fabric scraps rather than throw them away. I love the effect of sewing the tiny hexies together, they are just so cute.

I'm not sure at this stage what I'm actually making this into, I'm thinking perhaps a bed/table runner, as I don't want to make it too big, due to the fact that there is an awful lot of work involved in making it into a large project.  It is gradually growing in size, as I've taken to doing a bit of work on it recently, whilst watching TV.

It's a bit random in it's design, but the process is quite therapeutic. Here's a picture of where I'm at with it at the moment. I left the coaster in the picture so you could get an idea of it's actual size.  You can see that there is lots more to do to make it into anything usable.

I'll post again when I've made significant progress.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Curtailing and Curating Collections

This Wednesday, I decided to do a bit of re-organising in the sewing room. With our new bed due any week, I wanted to clear as much room as possible for when we move our double bed back in here.

The main thing I needed to do was to swap over some fabrics from one small ottoman storage chest to a slightly narrower one from our room, so that I could move it to another position in the room, thus making space for the larger bed.

Fortunately, the swap went to plan and everything fitted in the respective chests.  I swapped them over and found a new spot for each. I then decided to tidy some fabrics away, that I'd got out to use for Furoshiki, or present wrapping with fabric, and also sort out some scraps I needed for a quilt project I'm working on.

I'd been thinking about minimising my vintage linen collection for a while, so I decided to go ahead and do this at the same time and see if there were any items I was happy to part with.

Most of this collection will be kept under the double bed when it is moved in here, and I'm currently of the mindset that the fewer I keep the better.  I sifted through the two storage boxes and the under bed storage bag that house them and assessed almost every item as to whether I wanted to keep it.

Quite a lot got put onto the donation pile, I think probably about 40-50 items, some of them were a little stained, some I will never use and some I just wasn't too keen on and were just not to my taste any more.

The whole collection didn't really cost me very much, as many of the pieces were bought from jumble sales or car boot sales for pence, so I didn't feel too bad letting some of it go.  In any case, the items were just sitting in boxes not being used, so it's got to be better to let them go and let someone else make use of them.

Having  said this, I did still keep a lot.  The under bed storage bag is still full of sheets and pillow cases, although not quite as bursting at the seams as it was.

My table linens were reduced to half a small box, that I managed to fit on the shelves, and the under bed storage box contains a very pretty vintage single eiderdown and a couple of pillow cases. These could be used if anyone sleeps on the sofa at some point.

Although I loved collecting these things, there comes a time when you realise that a collection is not really serving any useful purpose. I could try to sell them on eBay, but I just don't want the hassle, so they're going to the charity shop.

Thankfully, I'm currently out of the habit of collecting things, which is good news from a decluttering point of view and I really don't want to get back into the habit any time soon. So, it was quite a satisfying day, feeling able to part with yet more belongings with no regrets and the room is now ready to accommodate the bed when our new one arrives.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Poundland Splurge

Despite my post the other day, in which I talked about keeping a lid on spending this month, I do have a bit of an admission to make.  I have had a bit of a splurge in Poundland recently and I managed to spend £20 in total.

I was quite surprised when I got to the till, that I'd spent quite so much, but I hadn't been in the store for a few weeks and there were a few new lines that I just couldn't resist.

A few of the things I bought were small gifts for Valentine's Day. I'm sticking to small, practical or consumable items when it comes to Valentines gifts.  Not very romantic, but at least not wasteful.

Firstly, I bought a couple of cards. Call me stingy, but I'm not big into spending large sums on cards that generally get tossed after the day in question, and I find the selection in Poundland to be pretty good.  You do have to be a bit selective, but it is pretty easy to find decent cards to send for most occasions there.

I also saw this pretty heart-shaped acrylic make-up storage solution for LB.  She's looking for storage solutions for her bedroom at the moment, so when I saw this I thought it would be perfect for her.

(I also bought an acrylic nail varnish storage container for me too, as these cost at least £5 anywhere else, so this was a complete bargain.  I don't have many nail polishes either, so the size is perfect)

Another small gift I bought for LB were these photograph corners.

I bought her some for her birthday too in a different design.  They are great for photo albums, scrap booking, journals and planners and they have a few designs to choose from.  You get two sheets of 24 per pack.  I've bought some for myself in the past too, as I'm intending to sort out my photographs at some point and will use them for this.

The dog didn't get ignored in terms of Valentine's gifts.  She got a pack of these heart-shaped treats, which she likes.  I will probably buy her a ball she likes from the local pet shop.  (She had one and loved it, but lost it on a walk)

Finally, on a Valentine's theme, I bought this lovely heart decorated string to decorate parcels.  It's really sweet and could potentially be re-used year after year.  I've already got lots of wrapping paper I can use, so I'm virtually sorted now.

I also bought a few food items in my haul and some more necessary toiletries, as well as  a couple more storage solutions for LB, which I'm hoping she will like, namely these small, but very sturdy white plastic baskets.

I bought a grey one for myself for undersink cupboard organisation. I've already put it to use, to hold those smaller items that usually fall between other larger items or get lost at the back of the cupboard. I may go back for a couple more for using in my food cupboards, for packet mixes and similar items.

A bit of a splurge, but definitely on items I think were worth buying. I really do enjoy shopping in our local Poundland, as if you look very carefully, you can find some really good quality items in there that can really do the job you need them to do.

Does anyone else enjoy shopping here?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Just When You Think You've Done All You Can....

On Sunday morning, LB and I headed out with the dog early, so we could get to the gym on time for my class. At the start of the walk, we came across this, sat on the wall outside someone's house.

I assumed it had been left for anyone to take, as it is a regular sight locally, to see things left outside the front of houses, that people no longer want.

As you can see from the photographs, it was in very good condition, almost like new.  Just a bit of dust and dirt here and there, nothing that wouldn't wipe off with a wet cloth.

As it was raining and we wouldn't be passing that way later, I took it with me and continued on the dog walk. I got a few strange looks carrying it around, but I don't let that worry me too much.

When I got it home, I cleaned it up a little and decided I'd use it to replace the beaten up metal suspension file, that I keep various odds and ends of paperwork in. I've wanted to replace it for a while, but didn't want to spend the £20 or more it costs for a new one.

Only a few weeks prior, in the lead up to Christmas, I had gone through the old file, sorted/labelled all the paperwork and thought I'd got it down to as little as possible. However, when it came to transferring everything over to the new file, there was quite a bit too much to put in it, without making it bulge somewhat. As I thought this was likely to prevent it lasting a reasonable amount of time, I decided to have another good sort through of my paperwork and try to remove any more unnecessary documentation.

Well, it's surprising how much more you can make yourself throw away when you need to.  I managed to recycle a whole pile of paper, shred quite a bit more and got it down to far less than I thought possible. Happily, everything now fits comfortably in the new concertina file, which is incidentally a lot lighter and easier to carry around the house, should I need to and it forced me do some unexpected decluttering to boot.  Result.

Talking of paper decluttering, Courtney Carver posted an interesting blog post yesterday on just this subject.  Here's the link.