Thursday, 31 January 2013

Unearthing Treasures

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit of a hoarder and lover of quirky/cute/kitsch vintage items.  If I see them in a charity shop or car boot sale, I have great difficulty in resisting their purchase.  I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite finds.

Whilst sorting through some of my daughter's things when clearing out her old bedroom the other day, I came across these lovely paper scrapbooking pictures and just had to post a picture.  They are so cute and colourful.  In all honesty, I can't claim that I found these, as they were given to my daughter by her Grandma.  I'm not sure if they are new or vintage, but they are obviously vintage style at the very least.  Whatever they are they definitely are really sweet.

I bought this lovely little book from a car boot sale for 50p.  I'm not sure if it belonged to the guy I bought it from, but I suspect it did by his scrutiny of me as I bought it.  Perhaps he was a bit reluctant to part with it when it came to it.  I can't blame him as it is a really sweet book full of lovely stories and illustrations from the 1950's.  It has come to a good home though and it is definitely appreciated.


This is one of my alltime favourite finds.  Kewpie dolls are so sweet.  I almost want to buy an actual doll and dress it up.  This paper doll book is full of lots of little dresses to cut out and dress your cardboard Kewpie doll in.  Trouble is, I just don't have the heart to cut into it and play with it.  The amazing thing about it is it cost me just 25p in a charity shop, whilst on a visit to relatives up north.

Finally, I picked up this perpetual calendar in a charity shop here in London.  It cost £4.50 or thereabouts,  but I was happy to spend my money on it as it is so adorable and of course, perpetually useful. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Getting To Grips with the House

Well, due to feeling a bit broke this week, and therefore being unable to go out and about to my usual haunts, I decided to turn my attention inwards towards my much neglected home, which was in desperate need of a bit of a clean.  I don't clean religiously every week, but tend to do it when people come to visit/stay or when the level of cleanliness starts to bother me.  Having a new puppy, I do need to mop the floors using a disinfectant a bit more regularly, but I am not too precious about the house being spotless at all times.  I tidy around on a daily basis, picking up and relocating things constantly, but I do like to give the place a good overhaul from time to time.

On this particular occasion, I decided to start with the living room, probably because it is furthest from where the puppy was laid sleeping in the kitchen (I took her for a longish walk in the morning to tire her out in readiness).  This room, being directly above our basement extension, is still collecting dust from the building work so I gave it a good dust, hoover and mop. (We have wooden floors, which is very useful, especially with a puppy!)  I was quite ashamed at how long it had been since I had moved the large sofa and cleaned underneath it.  Anyway, I removed the sofa covers too, as they needed a wash, which I will do as soon as I've got space to dry them.

From there, I gave the hall and stairs down to the kitchen a good hoover and mop too and then cleaned the downstairs cloakroom, wiped down my kitchen cupboard doors and worktops, bleached my sinks and mopped the kitchen floor, hung out some washing, put some more in the machine and finally finished by taking on the contents of the ironing basket.   I didn't get it all done but there's always tomorrow.  I try to wait until my partner takes the puppy out for a walk as she trys to bite the steam hose of my iron, which is not good. 

With all of the above done I feel a lot better, less distracted by the grime and clutter, and better still, it cost nothing but my time and the cleaning products, and I probably worked off a few calories in the process.  There's something very satisfying and therapeutic about getting your house in order.  Upstairs, however, can wait for another day.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Longest Month

Well, January is receding rapidly and I can't quite believe that the month is coming to an end so soon.  On the one hand it seems to have passed in a flash and on the other, in financial terms, it has seemed like the longest month ever.  In the final week of the month I have completely spent up and will need to eke out this week without spending any money.  

I did a final bit of food shopping today with the bit of money I had left, which along with what we have in the cupboards and the meat in the freezer, means that we will eat well enough.  I guess it's just the thought of having no money that is a little depressing.   I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling this way at this time of the month.  I guess I just need to alter the way I view my situation and look upon it as a positive challenge to enjoy the rest of the week inspite of it.

On the plus side, I have been quite frugal this month and have managed to pay quite large sums off my credit cards, whilst minimising spending on them.  I'm looking forward to February as I will hopefully be able to make further inroads into paying them off and be a little closer to becoming free from debt.

In addition, my no spend days have totalled 8 so far this year, which is almost a fifth of the goal I set myself of 50 for the year.  I should hopefully squeeze a few more in this week too before the month ends.  So perhaps I shouldn't feel too bad and focus instead on the positive steps I've made this month towards achieving my goals.

How has your January been?  Have you managed to make progress towards your goals this month?

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Allotment Beckons

This weekend I paid my first visit of the year to my allotment.  Not to do any work, just to see how it had fared over the festive season and the wintry conditions.  With the snow now virtually melted and the temperatures back to a reasonable 10 degrees centigrade, I thought I would pop down there and see if any work was necessary.

Before Christmas I made the effort to clear the plot, cover it with compost and re-cover the paths with woodchip, as it was getting decidedly untidy.  It took about 50 wheelbarrow trips to and from the compost and chippings heaps which was pretty exhausting and repetitive, but worth it knowing that the plot would benefit from the hard work.  I also sowed broad beans, onions and garlic so they could overwinter.

It is not a large plot.  Plots in London are so sought after that often only small plots are allocated.  It is probably half the size of my last plot, which itself was half the size of what might be considered a full plot of 10 rod.  So, it is probably a quarter of the size of many plots around the country, although I realise that there are probably many variations nationwide in terms of plot size.

Anyway, it's a small plot, which suits me as it is possible for me to manage it myself as my partner is not particularly interested in helping me to tend it.  I can cycle to it along a canal tow path, which is a lovely ride on a nice sunny day.  I love to check out all the narrow boats moored along the canal which many people in London (and other parts of the country) choose to live in.  I quite envy the simplicity of life in a narrowboat and not being able to accrue much clutter because your accomodation just won't facilitate it.  It never fails to amaze me how resourceful people are who live in small spaces.

I digress.  Back to the allotment. So, I visited this weekend, and took a few pictures to show you my plot in winter.  You can see the newly woodchipped paths and the rich dark compost added to the beds.  The boards separating the beds have seen better days and need completely replacing but I'm struggling on with them for the moment.

There are a few crops currently growing:

Some lovely lettuce leaves which seem to have survived the snow but are looking a little bedraggled.  I must go back and harvest them before frosts completely destroy them.

Some spinach which is also looking a bit worse for wear after the snow.

Some broad beans which are growing well and which I must remember to nip the tips out of to help prevent black fly infestation.

There are onions and garlic which have now sent up shoots.

There is lovely dark green kale, some of which has been reduced to mere stalks by the birds and some which seems to have been left alone although not visible in these photos.

There are carrots overwintering.

And finally there are the perennials; artichokes, herbs, strawberries, rhubarb, horseradish and a gooseberry bush.

The back of the plot has always been a little wild and gets very overgrown with nettles, comfrey, and bindweed during the summer months as the growth on the other side of the fence rarely gets cut back and creeps in.  I try to keep on top of it but sometimes it does get the better of me.

There are some flowers on there that provide a bit of colour in the spring and summer, mostly just Forget-me-nots, English marigolds and Hollyhocks which self seed or come back year after year.

The old chicken manure buckets down the end are what I use to brew comfrey juice to feed the vegetables as they grow.  It is so simple to just cut the comfrey leaves and place them in the buckets to rot down, dilute with water, siphon off the juice and use to water the plants.  I also use these leaves to speed up decomposition in the compost bin too, as they decompose very quickly and help the contents of the bin along a bit.

So there you are, allotment laid bare. (Literally!)  I'll post throughout the coming seasons and you will see how it changes at different times of the year.  Don't expect a neat and orderly plot as I am not really that kind of allotmenteer.  It tends to be a bit ad hoc with things getting sown in gaps that arise.  I always look forward to the new growing season but sometimes things don't always go as planned.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

More Free Magazines and Workroom Update

As previously mentioned in other blog postings, I now receive several magazines through the post for free each month, as they were subscribed to using my Tesco clubcard vouchers.  Yesterday, just in time for the weekend, two more arrived, namely Prima and Making.

The Making magazine came with a Quick Makes supplement which contains 6 quick projects to make in no time at all.   A couple of these gave me some inspiration for some projects that I might attempt in the next few weeks.  One was for some wall art for my daughter's bedroom, and the other was for some pretty envelopes made from wallpaper.  Being a bit of a magpie, I just happen to have some vintage Laura Ashley wall paper hanging around in a cupboard which would be ideal for this project.  I have made some small envelopes in the past using wrapping paper which are ideal for giving small gifts such as earrings, jewellery or giftcards, so I may make some more or make a different shaped envelope this time.   I will post my attempts at these projects when they are finished.

Along with the Prima magazine came a free dressmaking pattern, which this month was for a pretty batwing dress, which I am definitely going to attempt.   I like the old 1980's batwing sleeve look and can remember my sister making and wearing them the first time around.  I will probably have to wait until I've got the workroom organised, but hopefully that shouldn't be too long.

Talking of the workroom, I did a bit more decluttering in there yesterday morning, in readiness for it's renovation.  In addition, my partner finally got around to putting the Christmas decorations back in the loft, so that has made more of a dent in the clutter.  Small steps, but they're all taking us in the right direction.  I'll post a before picture for the renovation when most of the junk has finally been removed and we're ready to get on with the decorating.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to relaxing over the weekend and reading my magazines.  Hope you have a good weekend.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Charity Shop Tales

Yesterday, whilst out and about getting a tag for our new puppy,  I paid an impromptu visit to one of my favourite charity shops, which is not far from my home.  I'm quite a regular visitor to some of the charity shops in my area but this shop I like because it often has some really nice things for sale in it.  I've bought many clothes from here in the past, including a DKNY wool skirt for £6, a Top Shop khaki jacket which I wear all the time, for £6 and various other lovely things both vintage and sometimes new, which I have worn numerous times.

In addition, I have often bought lots of small sewing items from this particular shop, such as vintage wooden reels of thread, unused cards of vintage buttons, zips, vintage sewing patterns and vintage plastic knitting needles.  I love to have a good rummage and the shop is old fashioned in it's layout and facilitates this wonderfully well.  It is always very busy in this shop, so it is obviously a well known haunt of regular charity shop shoppers.

On this occasion, I spent a grand total of £8, which might seem a lot but with it I bought a merino wool vintage sleeveless black cardigan which will look great over a stripy top with a belt fastened around it, for £4, 3 pairs of colourful vintage plastic knitting needles, which I collect, for £1 per pair, a guide book to being a Goddess which I've borrowed from the library before and enjoyed reading, but am happy to own for the princely sum of 70p because it has a lovely flocked cover, and finally, a vintage sewing pattern for a dress which I'm hoping to make a skirt from when I get the chance.  Below is a photo of some of these items:

There's something so fabulously random about charity shops, in that you just never know what you might come across on any visit.  Sometimes, it seems that something was just sitting there waiting for you personally to walk in and buy it.  Maybe that's going a bit far, but many times I've been thinking to myself that I want or need something and that exact thing has been there in the charity shop when I've walked in and it has saved me scouring high street shops to find it. 

Many people, I realise, would never dream of buying anything from a charity shop, for whatever reason, or perhaps would not want to be seen in one, whilst not passing judgement in any way, I do find this attitude quite puzzling.  In fact, in recent years, it has almost become more acceptable to shop in them than on the high street, so I have no qualms about it at all.  I actually find it quite a liberating experience, as if you are selective, quite often what you buy can be of much better quality than the clothes now offered for sale in high street stores, and there is little chance of ever seeing anyone wearing the same thing in the same way. Even if something needs washing or mending in some small way, if I like it, and think it is worth the money, I am more than happy to buy it with the added knowledge that the money I'm spending is in some small way helping someone else.

What do you think about shopping in charity shops?  Do you enjoy it or do you prefer to buy things new elsewhere?  Do you think they are a good place to visit, if only to take all those things you no longer want?

Friday, 25 January 2013

Reader's Corner

Well, this photo shows the pile of books by my bedside, from which I need to choose my next read.  It's a bit of a mixed bunch, most are quite old titles that I have picked up in charity shops, library sales or car boot sales, but all are either by authors I enjoy or seemed an interesting read from the details on the book jacket.

After the busyness of the last few weeks I'm in the mood for something funny and a little frivolous for my next read.  Not sure there's much there, but I'm sure something will hit the spot.   Which one would you choose?  Probably none I realise, but isn't that just the wonderful thing about books.  We all like different things and there's something for everyone out there.

On the subject of books, when we tried and failed to visit an exhibition at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly the year before last, we stumbled across the book store Hatchards.  If you've never heard of them check them out on line.  It's a lovely old book shop and sells signed copies of books which make great presents for birthdays and Christmas.  I don't know why, but I was amazed and delighted that you didn't have to pay extra for a signed copy, which really endeared them to me.  I think it was reassuring to find that not everyone in this world wants to make more money out of you than necessary.

Anyway, as it was just before Christmas, I asked my partner if he would kindly buy me a lovely signed copy of a Celia Birtwell Textiles book (pictured below), which he duly did, whilst I bought a signed Rob Ryan book for a friend.  She was really pleased with it and the signature made it extra special. 

You can buy their signed copies on line and there is a list of current signed titles available on their website.   You do have to pay for postage or can choose to collect from the store if you travel into London on occasions.   I always have a look on there before I buy a book for someone, in case the one I'm buying is on their signed titles list.  One day they may be very collectable.  You just never know.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Free To Do As I Please Day

In celebration of having finally submitted my tax return yesterday, I am declaring today a Free To Do As You Please Day.  Having said that, I'm not totally free to do as I please, as there are a few errands I need to make for the dog/child/business, but for the first time this year I feel that I can spend a day more or less doing things that please me, which is a treat indeed.   In reality, I will probably do some work, housework, shopping for essentials, etc. but the difference is that it will be my choice and not because I have some looming deadline.  Bliss.

On account of being virtually couped up in the house for one reason or another for two weeks now,  I decided to treat myself to a trip to a local market.  This particular market is a proper East End market with lots of stalls selling all manner of things set out along the high street.  I go there quite regularly as there are a myriad of fabric shops down the street that I like to mooch around and I am often tempted to spend more than I intended to.  In addition, there's a Sainsbury's and a Wilko's which is always good for household items or toiletries.

On this particular visit I was quite careful to try to stick to only buying things that we need.  I did however treat myself to two items of clothing from my favourite second hand clothes stall.  They were in fact new, as they still had tags attached.  One was a navy/white striped t-shirt from M&S which will be great for wearing in the spring with a pretty scarf and the other was a spotted grey wool mix Topshop skirt which I can wear for the remainder of the winter.  The two together cost £5 so I was happy to count this as my promised treat for £5. (See yesterday's post) I did also treat myself to this book for  £1 which sounded like a good light read.

Most of the remaining items I bought were things for the dog, food, household and toiletry items we needed, but I couldn't resist buying these two t-shirts for £5 for my daughter from Saisnbury's.  They were such good value, will be great for when the weather warms up and were such pretty prints.

I did however succeed in  avoiding my usual fabric shop haunts, mainly because I only get two hours free parking, but also because I have so much fabric that I still need to use before I buy anymore.  I finished off the trip with one last small treat.  Sushi for lunch.  It was delicious and more so because I don't eat it that often.  I enjoyed this jaunt although it was of the shopping variety - a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do, sometimes!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Tax Return Terror

If you are or have been self-employed and are somewhat disorganised like myself, you too may have experienced the terror of the looming tax return at this time of year.   On-line self assessment returns must be submitted by 31st January or you can face a £100 penalty, so once the Christmas and New Year festivities are over, it tends to loiter in the back of one's mind, nagging you and tugging at you until you finally sit down and start working on it.

I myself don't have a particularly complicated tax return to submit, and only started my current enterprise earlier this year, so there is not really much of a tax return to file, but still, it has to be done and yesterday, with only 10 days to go, (quite good for me but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone), I actually sat down and started work on it.  As always it feels great to make a start even if I haven't yet finished.

What I have managed to do, however, is to completely re-organise all the accounts and paperwork for my business into some sort of order, which should make next year's return, which will be more complex, much easier.  I'm hoping to possibly even start on it some time soon and not leave it to the last minute.  We'll see what happens.

Anyway,  I spent the whole day on it, on and off, with papers covering the kitchen table and the printer working ten to the dozen to print off a written record of invoices and payments received.  If you are doing the same at the moment..........GOOD LUCK! 

To help me along, I've given myself a treat part way through, a Turkish Delight Chocolate Bar, and I'm promising myself a further treat when I have eventually finished and can get back out into the real world.  Maybe a trip to one or two of my favourite charity shops might be nice, with perhaps £5 to spend on whatever I like. (It's all I can afford at the moment!)  Doesn't sound like much of a treat but I haven't done it in such a while that I really am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Zumba Heaven and A Few Small Extra Spends

After a week stuck at home, it was absolute heaven to get back to my Zumba Class yesterday morning.  I wasn't sure if I could manage it, as I'm still not feeling 100% but in all actuality it felt great to let off some steam after being couped up all week.  Anyone thinking of taking up some exercise, give it a go, it is such fun and the music is great.

Anyway, after the class, I popped into a nearby Lidl to get a few bits I hadn't got with my weekly shop a couple of days ago.  Trouble is this turned into a slightly bigger shop than I planned, but I consoled myself with the fact that it will all get eaten, and should last us all for a while.  Useful, especially with the weather as it is.

In general, when I do a supermarket shop I always take a list and try rigidly to stick to it to avoid throwing lots of extras in.  I hate waste and cannot stand throwing food away so try to make the absolute most of everything I buy.  In all honesty, the shopping today was all my normal kind of food and household things, which we had completely run out of over the last week or so, so I haven't been especially spendthrift.

I did, however, throw a couple of small extra things that caught my eye, into the trolley, one of which was this lovely pair of snowboarding gloves that I bought for my daughter for only £3.49. 

I thought they would serve her well during snowball fights with her friends down the street and she had been complaining of not having any gloves without holes (thanks to our puppy), so these should be ideal for protecting her little fingers from all manner of things.  She tried them on the way home from school, was very happy with them and said they were very warm.  Hopefully, mum did good.

The only other item I threw in was a Tea Tree Foaming Facial Wash for 99p, which smells lovely.  I am looking forward to trying it.   I think I deserve a little treat every now and then, especially when tomorrow I need to work on my tax return!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Bedroom Reveal

I thought I would just post a few pictures of my daughter's newly renovated bedroom, complete with the finished rag rug.  It still needs a few finishing touches such as new blinds, some artwork and a few other bits and pieces but is just about there and it is nice to see my daughter spending more time in her room and enjoying the space.

Here's the before again:

And here's the after shots:

I must apologise as I keep forgetting to rotate the photos before uploading them.  I must remember in future.

As you can see the room doesn't have a wardrobe so I have made one using a wooden curtain pole and it has been attached to the underneath of the shelves (which were made by my partner for what was his home office).   We've done this in previous bedrooms as it meant that clothes could be hung in the alcoves to the side of a chimney breast and works quite well as it is more rigid and stable than a mobile dress rail, but doesn't take up a huge amount of space as a wardrobe would, leaving little room for a desk and all the other shelves for her things.  Plus it has saved us the expense of ever buying one.

For now it looks lovely and tidy, but I know it won't stay that way for long!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Slow Down Sunday

Well, this week has been a little frantic towards the end after a slow start due to being unwell.  In the latter part of the week we've managed to virtually finish renovating the new bedroom for our daughter in time for her birthday party and it seems to have been well received by her and her friends alike.  It didn't cost a whole lot of money, approximately £50 on paint and a few soft furnishings.  I do still need to buy some new co-ordinating blinds at a cost of £25 approximately, make a laundry basket using some fabric and a frame I already have, and sort through more of her belongings and sift out what she no longer wants to hold onto and send the rest to the charity shop, so as a consequence there may be a few more storage solutions to be found in the next few weeks, but for now it feels like the job is just about done.

Our next big DIY project is to renovate what was our daughter's bedroom and turn it into our spare room/my work room.  I'm really looking forward to this as it is me that will benefit most from this renovation.  I know that sounds selfish, but after six months of having builders working on our house to create a basement office for my partner to work from, followed by the bedroom renovation for my daughter, I am looking forward to having a little space I can use just for myself, before some guests arrive in mid February.  Once again, it is not a huge job, just a case of refreshing wall and woodwork paintwork and reconfiguring what we already have, so I'm hoping it will not cost too much in financial terms, although it may take us a while to do it. In all probability our guests will be the first to use the room in it's new incarnation, which is fine, but after that it will hopefully be a space for me to get on with projects I've been meaning to do for an age now.  I will post before and after pictures on later posts.

After all the mayhem of finishing this project in time, today, I have had a lovely Slow Down Sunday where the madness has slowed down to a manageable level and I have been able to sit back and relax a little and enjoy not having to go anywhere or do anything unless I wanted to.  We have spent a lovely afternoon in front of an open fire watching Mary Poppins.  I have all but finished the rag rug which I will post a picture of tomorrow along with a reveal of the newly renovated bedroom.  I've done my weekly shop, so if the snow outside persists we should be okay for a good few days and I'm cooking lamb chops for dinner.  A nice relaxing end to a challenging week.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Magazine Freebies and Seed Giveaway

Well yesterday I received February's copy of Grow It magazine through the post.  I receive this every month since subscribing for free using my Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have already, through my subscription, received a packet of tomato seeds to sew this spring, but this month's issue included even more.  A pack of five different early sowing varieties of vegetable seeds:  Carrot 'Early Nantes 2' (1000), Tomato 'Gartenperle' ( a small tumbling variety that look lovely and might be worth trying in a hanging basket this year)(10), Radish 'Rougette (140)', Onion 'Bedfordshire Champion '(100) and Salad leaves 'Winter Blend' (300) which can be grown in the winter months.

I probably won't use the onion seeds, as I have sown some onion and garlic sets already in my allotment in November, as the garlic needs frost to develop its multiple cloves, but all the rest will be  sown as soon as weather allows.  In total I think there are 1550 seeds in this pack which is great value when it has cost me absolutely nothing. 

If you would like the onion seeds, there's 100 in the pack,  I am happy to forward them on to someone, just drop me an email with your address (UK only I'm afraid) and the first address I receive I will send them off to with sowing instructions from the magazine.  Please note that your address will not be passed on to any third party but used solely to post these seeds out to.

In addition, I received a couple of seed catalogues to leaf through in the warm and cosy comfort of my own home and daydream over, plus the magazine to read of course.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Keeping Warm - The Thrifty Way

Well, now the weather has turned very cold, keeping warm without spending too much money on the heating is paramount.  Since we've had our basement renovated the whole house has been less draughty and keeps the heat in much better but we still make every effort to be careful and not profligate over using the central heating.

We tend to use it for a couple of hours in the morning to warm up the house and then the thermostat automatically switches it on if the temperature goes below 17 degrees centigrade.  In reality it maybe comes on a couple of times during the day for short periods.  My partner manages this meticulously as he hates spending money he doesn't have to.

This morning, before the snow started laying too thickly, he was out in the cold chopping up the remains of a couple of wooden doors taken out of the house during the building work.  These doors weren't really good enough to pass on to anyone else, so they have become firewood and will keep the fire going for the next few weeks.

We use the open fire in our living room every evening after dinner and it keeps us warm enough until bed time.  We use a bit of smokeless coal to get it started and then tend to top up with firewood when we have it.  It is a luxury I really enjoy during the autumn/winter.  Nothing beats being sat in front of it crafting or watching tv and relaxing on an evening.  It is the heart of the home at this time of year.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Winter Warmer

Well, as the weather has turned colder, and due to the fact that I have been ill for a few days and have hardly set foot outside so have not been able to shop this week, tonight's meal, which is one of my favourites, is not quite what it would be normally, but will still hopefully be tasty and warming in this cold spell.

I've loved good old Beef Stew and Dumplings since I was a child when it was a regular meal all year round.  I'm not the best cook, but I always enjoy making this and it is so simple, anyone could do it.

Normally, I would make this stew with the following ingredients:

1 onion
2 chopped carrots
2 or 3 chopped potatoes
diced beef
2 beef stock cubes crumbled in
10-12 button mushrooms
a splash of Worcestershire sauce
some green beans cut into smallish pieces or frozen peas
enough  hot water to cover all the ingredients in the casserole dish.

Initially, I tend to sear the diced beef in a little oil with the onions first and then add the rest of the ingredients before putting it all into the oven at 200 degrees for approx. 2.5 to 3 hours until the beef is lovely and tender.  I'm sure you could do this in a slow cooker too but I haven't had as good results when I've tried it.  Check on it and stir every half hour or so to make sure it is evenly cooked.

Half an hour before it is due to come out, add some dumplings.  I make my dumplings with:

4 oz self-raising flour
2oz vegetable suet (less calories than beef - I bought 1kg from Approved Foods for £1 I think)
A pinch of salt. 

Mix in enough water to make a nice dough, not too stiff but not too sloppy. (Sorry this is not very specific, I tend to take the bowl over to the cold tap and add in a little at a time until I get the right consistency).

I divide this mixture into 4 pieces and place each into the top of the stew but you could make as few or as many as you like.  I then return the stew to the oven for the last half hour.  You can turn them over after 15 minutes to get them slightly crusty on both sides if you like.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

Then serve.  This will serve 2-4 people depending on the portion size.  I will either serve with vegetables or we just eat as is or perhaps with some bread.

Not a sophisticated meal, but very enjoyable. 

Due to the lack of vegetables in my fridge and cupboards today, I have made it with two large new potatoes, one large onion, a splash of worcestershire sauce and mushroom ketchup and some frozen peas. A bit short on vegetables but I'm hoping it will still taste as good. In addition the only flour I had in my cupboard was wholemeal self-raising, so the dumplings probably have a little more colour than normal.

So, here's the finished result, and it was very tasty.

I realise that 3 hours in the oven means you have to start this meal early to avoid eating late and that such a long time in the oven can be expensive.  To make it more economical you could always use the time in the oven to bake other things at the same time.  This meal all fits in one casserole dish, which might leave enough space to cook or bake other things that could perhaps be frozen or used the following evening.

You can of course vary this recipe using any root vegetables.  I use whatever I have from turnip, parsnip, kohl rhabi, etc.  It is a good way to use up all those vegetables languishing at the bottom of the fridge.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sad to See You Go

I've just found out that ROSSPA, an online discount grocery delivery company, that I recently received my first order of groceries from, has sadly now ceased trading.  The order I received was for quite a large amount of meat which I currently have in my freezer and which has been of a very good quality.  I was looking forward to placing future orders with them in the future.

Sadly, when I read tonight on Frugaldom's blog, where I initally heard of them, that they have now ceased trading, I was shocked and disappointed.  I was obviously a bit of a latecomer to their service but did have a very positive experience of it.

I'm sure there are many other disappointed customers out there.  I would just like to say thank you to ROSSPA for the order I did receive.  I was impressed with their service and am sorry that their business has closed down.  Another victim of this seemingly never ending recession.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Getting back out there

Well, after  a day spent in bed feeling dreadful it is truly great to be back on my feet (literally) and it does make you realise the importance of good health. 

I tried to make the most of my sick bed by catching up with reading, and other small computer based tasks when I felt well enough but there's only so much you can actually do whilst laid in bed.

Spurred on by being back on my feet I've managed to completely empty my ironing basket this morning which always feels great and was getting towards mountainous proportions.  I just have to put everything away now. 

Do many people still iron?  I know that a lot of the mums at school no longer iron but I do like the feel of putting on ironed clothes in the morning.  I guess it is very time consuming and many things do lose their creases in the dryer.  I don't actually have a dryer though, as I dry everything on the line when weather allows or on the clothes horse inside at other times.  The only problem with this approach is that you do need quite a few clothes so that you don't run out, especially if like me  you don't get around to doing the ironing too often or have to wait a couple of days for clothes to dry properly in winter. 

I guess I was brought up watching my mum iron on an evening when she got home from work and I enjoyed helping her when I could.  It's only in the last few years that I've finally stopped ironing pants, underpants and socks and that was a wrench at first. Sad really?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Missing My Puppy

Well, today I've unfortunately fallen victim to some kind of lurgy.  Not sure if it is food poisoning (we ate out last night) or some sort of gastric flu bug.  I went to bed and woke up this morning with the room spinning madly and feeling terribly nauseous if I so much as moved my head, so I'm having to spend the day in bed which is very unusual for me and very frustrating.  As a consequence, I'm mssing the snow outside and due to the fact that our puppy cannot yet climb stairs as she is too small, I am missing her mischievous company.

To compensate me I have decided to post her photograph which I didn't manage to do in a previous post about her.  So here she is in her huge floral dog bed and I can now cheer myself up by looking at her.  (Apologies for the photo not being rotated.)


Just as I was creating this post my partner brought her up to see me for a very quick visit.  What a huge tonic it was.  I think perhaps a move to the sofa might be necessary.  Anyway I'm passing the time reading lots of lovely blog posts so it could be worse.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Grey Matter

If you've taken a look at my blog before you might notice that I have had a little bit of a dabble in redesigning it.  Colourwise anyway, and it is now a lovely shade of grey.  Grey to many people may seem pretty dull and boring but I have a bit of a fascination for it at the moment.  It feels cosy and familiar in my living room in any case.

Fireplace grey.

Chair and cushion grey. (A bit crumpled too)

Picture frames grey. (Apologies for the quality of this photo)

Grey in the woolly blanket.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

DIY Weekend

Well, this morning I would usually be going to my Brazilian Dance class but today, as I didn't book it and doubt there's any space left, I went to a class last night and am going to one tomorrow, and as yesterday I got the spare room ready to start renovating, I'm giving it a miss and we're all getting on with some DIY instead.  After I've finished this post of course.

I'm posting a before photo now so you have some idea what the room looked like before starting work.  It doesn't really look like it needs too much doing, which it doesn't, just a freshen up with some white paint on a couple of walls and shelves and some colour adding to the other two walls to brighten it up a bit. The room has been used as a home office as well as a spare room for the past two years and has taken some wear and tear.  The colour has now been chosen; purple - in case the rag rug wasn't a clue.  I now just need to go out and buy the paint and we're in business.  So here's the before:

You'll see that I've piled all that was left in the room in the centre.  This will all be covered with a large decorator's sheet and we'll work around it, as we just don't have the space at the moment to move it all around.  Most of it will go in the spare room/my work room, currently my daughter's room, when her things are moved into here and is mostly my sewing paraphenalia.

It's a kind of extra birthday present and we're hoping to finish it in time for her friends coming for her party next weekend.  Then they can all hang out up there.  Better get on with it then.

Friday, 11 January 2013

First No Spend Day of 2013

Well, I know it isn't really a big deal in the scheme of things, but small milestones are often the most satisfying and yesterday was my first no spend day this year. 

I won't bore you with the details of every one, but the first of the year is often a difficult one for me because I seem to have a lot of birthdays to buy for in the first two weeks of January, both here and abroad.   This year I've also had to pay for a few things for the puppy and then there is the sale shopping that I like to do a little of to save money later in the year.

So I'm off the mark and it feels good. One down, forty-nine to go.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Rag Rug Project

For a month or so now I have been in the process of making a rag rug for my daughter's new bedroom, which she will be moving into once we get what is our current spare room renovated for her.  It is a bigger room and she desperately needs more space as she gets older and her current bedroom has now been outgrown.

I got the idea for a rag rug from a combination of blog reading and it featuring on Kirsty's Vintage Home programme on tv.  As a consequence I decided to have a go myself as it looked quite easy.  I wasn't sure where to get the hessian required for the project but stumbled across a hessian garden sack for sale in Lidl and so bought that for £4 and cut it up to use for the rug.  It has worked out quite well so far although I still have quite a bit of work to do to finish it and am currently running out of fabric as it has used far more than I thought it would to complete the work so far.  It is quite a large rug as I used one whole side of the sack.

The fabric used has mostly been old quilt covers or polycotton sheeting fabric, which has been purchased from eBay, jumble sales or secondhand and has been quite inexpensive.  I realise that the whole point of a rag rug is to use rags you have to hand, my daughter however, did have a specific colour palette in mind, which out of my vast collection of fabric, I had none of.  Perhaps dyeing other fabrics might have been a thriftier option, lets call it a learning curve.

My daughter and partner were both quite sceptical at first but as it has developed they have admitted to being pleasantly surprised at how it is turning out.  It is not an intricate design but I think it looks quite nice and would happily step out of my bed onto it every morning.  Here's a photo what it looks like at the moment which will give you some idea of what it will be like when it is finished.  (Apologies for the quality of the picture but it has been quite a leap for me to actually post one.  Speaking as a relative technophobe, I'm grateful that I've actually managed to work out how to do it.)

The project itself has taken quite a while to reach the stage that it is at now, but I have quite enjoyed it as it has been quite therapeutic to work on something quite simple whilst watching tv on an evening.  I fashioned a rugging tool for pushing the fabric through the hessian by cutting one leg off a dolly peg and fashioning a point on the other, so it cost me nothing.  I must admit though that I did buy a small tool for cutting the fabric to size on eBay, which cost just a few pounds, but has been very useful.  I'm hoping to finish it in the next few weeks in time to go in her new room.  It is very soft underfoot and I'm hoping it wears reasonably well, if she doesn't like it it's going in my bedroom.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Working from Home

I can't speak for everyone who works from home, but for me, getting back into a rhythm after the Christmas holidays often proves very difficult and this year in particular, for a number of reasons.  I'm not wingeing (honestly!) but between the puppy, my child's birthday looming, my tax return due at the end of the month and the fact that the house seems disorganised after the building work I'm finding it hard to focus and just get on with it.  I am grateful that I work for myself and can allow other things to get in the way but it really is not good for business.  Perhaps I should just stop blaming everything else, pull my socks up and just get on with it.

I'm slowly getting organised in that the puppy seems a lot more settled and has now seen the local vet and had it's booster jab and flea treatment,  the presents for my daughter's birthday have just about all been wrapped in readiness - there's just a small outing for a few of her friends to now organise and a card and cake to buy or make, my library books have been renewed until the end of the month thankfully as two of the books are to help me complete my tax return, prescriptions have been handed in to the doctors, my cupboards and freezer have been filled by my recent order from ROSSPA and I'm gradually catching up with the mound of washing and ironing from the festive period.

Please accept my apologies that this post has been a completely self indulgent act of getting my head together during a particularly chaotic week.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Reading List

I love to read, but life sometimes allows little time for this pleasure.  I do, however, try to make time for this particular activity, but don't always manage it on a daily basis.  I tend to read either first thing in a morning when I wake up, last thing at night before going to sleep or sometimes I take a book with me if going on a train or for an appointment where I know I will be just sat twiddling my thumbs for 10 minutes or longer.

Whilst I admire the technology and mimimalist potential of an e-reader, I do like to read books.  I enjoy the turning of the pages, being able to pick them off the shelf and dip in and out easily, searching for them in charity shops and car boot sales and wrapping them to give as gifts.  In addition, for many of us, so much of our lives is now spent sat at the computer that it is nice to not use it for some activities.  Besides this I do worry about the consequences of too much computer use on my eyesight.

I currently have a pile of books at my bedside waiting to be read.  I have collected them over the past 6 months at charity shops, library sales, ebay, discount bookshops and a few have been gifts.  As a consequence I really don't need to buy another book for probably another six months unless one jumps out at me from a shelf somewhere that I really can't pass up.

I am currently reading a book which was an International Best Seller in the 1990's.  You might think that this book would be very dated and totally irrelevant to life today but far from it.  It is a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach called 'Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy' and is a guide to understanding how the simple, joyful pleasures of life which cost little or nothing can bring pleasure, harmony and a sense of fulfilment to our lives every day.  It encourages development of one's authentic self and living an authentic life.  As such is it just as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.

When reading blogs it seems to me that more and more people seem to be casting aside or simply can no longer afford to pursue the consumerist lifestyle that the advertising industry encourages, and in doing so seem to be seeking a more authentic existence being grateful for what they have rather than  constantly aspiring to own the next best thing.   This book is about following this path in life and how it can lead to a sense of harmony and creativity.

I am almost at the end of  this book.  It is the second I have read by this author and I have another two still to read.  After reading the first, which is a more recent publication (2010) and is called 'Peace and Plenty - Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity' which I found in a discount shop for £1 and really enjoyed, I sought out earlier titles on ebay and bought 3 for around £8.  She has a beautiful positive style of writing which I find easy to read, with a strong sense of the spiritual.  Her books also tend to be easy to dip in and out of if you find you have little time to read.

Talking of books, I need to go, I have some due back at the library today.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Hello to Tippi

Well, yesterday was a very special and exciting day for our household.  After several years of deliberation we finally succumbed to our desire to get a dog.  After a short trip to a breeder we are now the very happy owners of an adorable 10 week old Cairn Terrier pup we've called Tippi after Tippi Hedren in the Hitchcock film 'The Birds'.

She is gorgeous and seems to have a lovely sweet nature when she's not trying to chew our fingers off.  It's difficult to describe her without being able to post a photo (still not worked it out) but think of a very small Toto in the Wizard of Oz and you won't be far wrong.  At this very moment she is curled up asleep in her oversized Joules dog bed (she'll grow into it!).  It was a purchase I couldn't resist in the sales and a bargain at just £20, reduced from £47.  She's so tiny that even a very short walk down the street tires her out.  I'm sure she won't be so easily satisfied for long but we're looking forward to some nice long country walks when she's a bit older.  I'm not so much enjoying the toilet training though, but I'm sure it will come together soon enough.

Talking of the Wizard of Oz and The Birds, we had the pleasure of a visit to the V&A in Kensington just prior to New Year with some friends who were visiting.  We went to see an exhibition of Hollywood Costumes on until the end of this month.  In it was an outfit worn by Tippi Hedren along with interviews of her, Alfred Hitchcock and the costume designer as well as the costume worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and many others including costumes worn by Spiderman, Catwoman, Batman, Audrey and Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and many others.  It's well worth a visit but we found it extremely busy when we went which did affect our enjoyment of it slightly.

I'm quite a recent convert to the charms of the V&A and have only scratched the surface of the exhibits in there.  We also visited a newly opened room devoted to furniture and it's production which was very interesting.  We had a lovely lunch in their beautiful restaurant.  I had a duck in plum sauce wrap with beetroot salad.  It was divine.  Their shop is stocked with wonderful things but I managed to resist the urge to spend any money in their on this occasion.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Twelfth Night

I know that lots of people like to take down their Christmas decorations as soon as Boxing day is over (my partner would love to) but I'm afraid that I am a bit of a traditionalist and like to take them down on 12th night.  So today is the day.   I used to take down the decorations and then go out to a 12th night celebration at a local museum called the Geffrye Museum in East London.  There you are given a glass of wine, a piece of 12th night cake and come together to sing carols for the last time this festive season.  It makes a nice finale to the festive season. 

I haven't been to this event for the past few years and didn't make it again this year but if you like that sort of thing or you think you would enjoy a look around this Museum of Domestic Interiors then look them up on the internet the next time you are planning a trip to London.  It's free and is a great place to visit, especially at Christmas.  It is largely made up of a series of rooms each of which is decorated in the style of a different period and it has several other seperate exhibitions on throughout the year.  I often go there enfamille in the lead up to Christmas for an evening of carol singing, craft workshops and to see the period festive decorations adorning each room.  It also has a nice restaurant overlooking a beautiful garden, the latter opening from April to October.  For anyone with children it does great workshops for children in the school holidays which are well run and free.  It's one of my favourite places in London.

Anyway, I digress. So the decorations need to come down and as I am sat here I am putting off the inevitable.  I did want to share with you a couple of my favourite decorations before they get put away for another year but I can't seem to get any photos to upload so maybe next year, assuming I've figured out how to do it by then!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Spending Less

As this was one of my main aims for 2013 and as I am just a frugal Yorkshire girl at heart I thought I would create a post about the ways that I try to spend less.  The following are some of the ways I try to spend less on a day to day basis:

Shop at Lidl

For several years now Lidl has been my supermarket of choice as it offers great value and good quality across the store.  The actual experience may not feel as enjoyable to some as cruising the aisles of some of the larger more upmarket supermarkets but to me this is a small price that I am happy to pay to make savings.  For a start, the simple layout of the store and the fact that it doesn't have a huge choice of brands and price ranges available means that you don't get drawn into the usual supermarket tricks of displaying the most profitable items at eye level and the cheaper brands in some obscure place.  They have one own brand range generally, and some other non-Lidl branded items, although they do now stock more luxury own brand products if you are looking for something a bit more special.

In addition, the comparably few ranges and brands helps me personally stick to the basics, which at Lidl, I find to be on a par in quality terms with supermarkets on the continent.  This prevents me overspending and picking up lots of unneccessary extras that are not only bad for my waistline but also for my pocket.  We have become so happy and acclimatised to shopping here that goods bought from other supermarkets often just don't hit the mark.

(A tip for gardeners out there - I have grown some amazing lettuces over the years using Lidl seeds which cost about 30p per pack)

Gradually as the recession has taken hold in the last five years more and more people we know have begun shopping there, to a point where now when we visit family and friends we find that almost everyone we know now shops there regularly, without any prompting from us.  Presumably this is through necessity and their own realisation that they sell good quality products.  I would recommend the store to anyone wanting to save some money on groceries. 

Online Discount Grocery Stores

Another way to save money on groceries I have recently discovered by reading blogs is to use online discount grocery stores such as Approved Foods and ROSSPA.  I am a recent convert to these websites and have just placed my first order with the latter so am waiting to see how that works out for me.  I have placed several orders with Approved Foods and find the service they provide to be excellent.  It is tempting however sometimes to order too much and not have enough room in your cupboards so I am trying to be careful in this regard.  I like the fact that new items are listed on the site daily and sometimes you have to be quick before they sell out.

The most frustrating thing I find is when I place an order and then the next day something I really use regularly and would really want comes on but is sold out by the time I need to place an order again.  Such is life I guess.  Items tend to come around again sometimes though. 

Although many of the products are beyond their best before date and some are brands I have never heard of,  I have found that there are few I have ordered that I would not reorder.   You can also tick a box to show only goods that are within date which I think is a really useful feature.  I believe that the postage charge of £5.25 is waived on your first order but even after this the convenience and savings can still make this worth paying as they have occasional amazing and irresistable offers on some items.  The lucky box where you pay £1 and get a lucky box of goods worth at least £4.99 is great fun too when it is available.  It's like having a go on a grocery lucky dip.  You never know what you might get in it.

It's hard to say how much I am saving using this site because I don't really analyse it but their prices for many things are cheaper than I've seen anywhere which enables you to enjoy treats you might not otherwise indulge in.  (Not so great for your waistline however, as I found to my cost after my first few orders.  I now try to avoid some of the chocolates and crisps as much as possible!)

Loyalty Cards

I know that many people do not like to use loyalty card schemes when shopping but I am happy to collect points for pounds spent to use on some of the little luxuries in life.  I don't have a whole raft of loyalty cards but 2 or 3 that I use reasonably regularly such as Tesco clubcard, Boots and Sainsbury's Nectarcard.  I must admit that as I do most of my shopping at Lidl I don't always collect huge amounts of points but I have collected enoughTesco points to secure 3 magazine subscriptions this year for Prima, Making and Grow it Magazines. 

I have subscribed to Prima in this way for several years now, primarily as you receive a free sewing pattern with each issue which I can then use to make clothes, time permitting.  You do have to opt in now by calling the publisher and asking for the patterns to be included with the magazine but this is just a quick phone call and is very straightforward.  Grow it Magazine is a gardening magazine which often comes with a free packet of seeds.  I've already received a pack of tomato seeds to sow later this year.  Making is a craft magazine and I  am always happy to receive inspiration through the letterbox.  Better still they all get delivered and I don't have to go searching for and spending money on magazines or worry about missing an issue.  I have also used the points to give magazine subscriptions as gifts at Christmas which means that the gift lasts all year.

My Boots loyalty card is also useful for occasionally being able to get free products using the points.  I shop at Boots mainly for the make up range I use regularly which also often has a free gift offer if you buy 3 products and these free gifts of makeup palettes, makeup bags, etc. I then often use as small stocking fillers at Christmas.

I must admit that the Nectar card gets very little use as there isn't really a Sainsbury's very close by but I have in the past used the points to get dvd's for Xmas presents.  I would earn more points if I could get eBay to accept my nectar card for purchases on their site.  Mental note to try to get this sorted for this year.

Sale Shopping

I do love a trip to the sales but I do tend to be very practical and try not to get tempted by much of the stuff on offer that I do not need.  I am also quite selective about which sales I go to as I prefer certain stores where I can get quality brands. 

The main store sales I attend are Marks and Spencers, Boots and John Lewis.  I must make a very sad admission that I have already started my Xmas shopping for next year in this year's sales.  I won't go into much detail but have managed to buy some lovely gifts at a fraction of the price that comparative things will be in the lead up to Christmas next year.  I adopted the same approach last year and continued to shop for Xmas throughout the year so that by December I had very little shopping left to do and didn't need to face the hourdes in the shops.  This also helped me to spread the cost of Christmas.   I did venture out a couple of times, however, as it is nice to get caught up in the atmosphere in the weeks before Christmas.

Marks and Spencers I particularly like as towards the tail end of their sale they slash prices to a quarter or less and I have often picked up great items of good quality that last for years.

Ebay and Online Shopping

I regularly buy and sell on eBay.  If you shop with care you can get exactly what you want and have it delivered to your door much cheaper than if you went out searching for it in the shops.  I try to use eBay for buying very specific items I can compare prices on or obscure items that it is hard to find to save time looking.   Any money I earn selling things I no longer need or want I keep in my account and use it to buy items on eBay or elsewhere on line using Paypal.  I like to give business to ordinary people trying to make some money as well as the eBay businesses that I believe provide a service to people all over the world.   I do hear negative things said about it and sometimes purchases can be disappointing but overall I think it is an amazing tool and especially useful for those people who collect, don't live near shops and to whom it would be a car or bus journey to get what they need.

I also like to do some Online sale shopping, particularly at this time of year as some brands have some great savings on children's clothing, particularly La Redoute, Joules and Boden.  I never buy these latter brands full price as I just cannot afford to.  I am however happy to buy them at a reduced price in their online sales and have done this for the past two years. I don't worry too much about whether it's the latest style as I believe in having my own sense of style and not relying on what the fashion industry dictates.  In addition if you buy quite a few things in the sale then you justify the postage costs.

Charity Shops, Car Boot Sales and Jumble Sales

This method of reducing spending may not appeal to some of you which is fine.  Each to their own.  I, however, enjoy a good rummage with the best of them.  A large percentage of my spending is done in charity shops, car boots and jumble sales.  The added benefit apart from saving money is knowing that your money is going to a good cause and helping others and that you are reusing things that otherwise might find their way into landfill when still perfectly usable.

There are certain charity shops, jumble sales and car boots that I frequent on a reasonably regular basis when the urge takes me.  I must admit to having a slight compulsion in this department but have become adept at managing it in the last year as our house was too full and just could not accommodate much more.  I usually take a set amount of money with me such as £5 or £10 or £20 at most and limit myself to spending no more than that amount, often I come back and don't even manage to spend much at all.  I have found some real bargains over the years including numerous vintage dresses that I enjoy wearing and people almost always comment upon when I do wear them.  Another example was that I managed to buy a hardly used swingball game for £5 at a car boot last year which would have cost £20 or more in the shops to replace ours that had been worn out.  This are just a few examples of many over the years and as such are the reason why I keep returning quite apart from it being a pleasurable way to shop as you just never know what you might find.

Gym Membership

Many people may disagree with this as a way to save money but for me it works out brilliantly.   I pay about £50 per month for my gym membership and it is worth it's weight in gold.  It gets me out of the house which when you work from home is crucial, keeps me fit which enhances my life and how I feel about myself, and cuts the cost of classes if you go regularly.  For example, I can attend as many classes as I want, swim and use the gym on or off peak for this sum.  I only really use it for classes but I regularly attend 4-6 classes a week so these work out at about £2.50 each which would be hard to beat anywhere else in London.  I didn't always get so much value out of my membership but in the last year or so I have started attending more new classes to get the best out of it and it has really paid off.

So there you are, just a few ways I try to spend less in everyday life.  Nothing complicated in there and I'm sure there are lots more ways I could save even more which I am finding out about reading some of the many blogs out there.  Some I probably will never try but some I will give a go and see how they suit me.

This has been quite a long post I realise and I hope I haven't bored you all too much.  Apologies for the lack of photos.  I'm working on it.  My camera is not great but I will endeavour to post some photos in the near future.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Year Ahead

I'm not really a person who makes reams of New Years Resolutions but I do like to give myself some loose goals to aim for.  They tend to be financial goals such as cutting down spending in certain areas or paying off debts on credit cards, etc.  I don't always meet them and the fact that they are loose means I don't beat myself up about it.  This year I'm aiming to:

  • Pay off my credit cards (again!)
  • Spend less where possible.
  • Have at least 50 no spend days (inspired by several of the blogs I've been reading) - I managed 35 last year without really trying too hard so thought I'd be a bit more ambitious (but only a bit!)  If I manage more that's great, but 50 is about one per week which I think I can manage happily.
  • Declutter our house.  After having had building work carried out for six months of last year our house is a mess with stuff everywhere.  Now the building work has just about finished it is time to get my house in order, literally.
  • Create a work room in our spare room where I can store all my projects, get organised and run my small business from.
  • Utilise my allotment to it's full potential.
This last item hasn't been achieved in the last couple of years as other things have got in the way of me working as much on it as I could have.  Sometimes life and the weather have a way of conspiring to get in the way of our good intentions and I need to get back to gardening and growing things as I do really enjoy it and I miss the home grown salads that I used to grow and that used to save me a fortune on bought salads.  I had to wait 4 years to get this plot, so I do really appreciate how lucky I am to have it living in London.   At a very nominal cost and a bike ride away, it is a lovely place to spend some time and get some exercise out in the fresh air. 

Talking about gardening I mentioned in my last post how I no longer grew Johnny Jump Up on my new allotment.  Well, by chance when sorting through some seeds last night I came across an old packet of seeds I must have harvested a few years ago from my old allotment and I am going to sew them and see if they will grow so that I can have them on my current allotment.  I have missed that little flower.  You may know it by one of its other names - , viola tricolour, heartsease, love in idleness, wild pansy, johnny jump up.  It has lots of names for such a small flower.

Anyway, I digress.  Back on the subject of the year ahead I also hope to carry on exercising regularly which I do at present.  Not with the aim of losing weight specifically.  Don't get me wrong I would happily drop a stone or two but am quite happy with my current size as all my clothes fit me. I like to exercise so I  at least stay the same and don't gain weight and also for the physical and mental benefits I get from it.  My exercise of choice has always been aerobics and more recently Zumba classes as they are both social, energetic and good fun.  I would recommend anyone to try it if you want to get fit.  I know it takes a lot to muster up the courage to go to that first class but stick with it and it is worth it. I've had two weeks away from it this Christmas and I'm itching to get back to it tomorrow which reminds me I need to go and book into my class.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Year New Venture

Hi there,

By way of introduction, I have been reading blogs for the last couple of months and have really enjoyed myself.  As a consequence, I have decided to embark on a new venture this year and blog myself.  I can't promise it will be wildly exciting or hilariously funny (it may be for the wrong reasons) as I am completely new to blog creation, but hopefully you might find some of my postings vaguely interesting and entertaining.

For anyone who doesn't know, the name of my blog comes from one of the names for the wild pansy, which is a tiny viola like flower that grows in the wild and that grew with vigour on my first allotment.  A beautiful little flower whose seed pods burst open and throw it's seeds out, self-sowing season after season.  Some may consider it a weed but I loved it.  Sadly, I no longer rent my first allotment and as a consequence no longer see this beautiful little flower profusely flourishing from year to year but it's beauty stays with me.

This blog, however, is not one solely about allotments.  They may figure on occasion as I am still an allotmenteer, but my interests are wide and variable.  I love dressmaking/crafts, reading, dance of all kinds, gardening, fashion,  homemaking, running my own small business from home, practicing economic elegance (or being thrifty), and generally enjoying life living in London (even if sometimes wishing I could move to the country).

I've lived here for 15 years or so now after moving down from the North of England and enjoy the variety it offers.  I live with my partner and child and work from home so that I can be there for my child as they grow up in a busy and bustling urban metropolis.  Bear with me on this new journey in 2013 as I'm not sure that I have what it takes to create a readable blog, but here goes.  It may be a bumpy ride but hopefully an enjoyable one.