Thursday, 28 February 2013

Sew More So Good

Well, it seems to have been an age since I made any clothes myself at home.  Almost a year I would say.  What with building work going on in the house, the Olympics, holidays and redecorating rooms in our house, I just haven't really found the time, space or inspiration lately.

The other day though, I was looking through a case full of spring/summer clothes, put away since last year  and I realised that I really don't have many nice things to wear this spring/summer.  There were a few old faithful items, that I keep on wearing year after year, that I can't actually bear to part with and a few items that I really don't know if I want to wear again this year, so they may get sent to the charity shop.  Other than that, there are some clothes in my wardrobe that I can wear in any season, but overall the situation was pretty dire really and I don't have an awful lot of money to go out and buy lots of new things.

Spurred on by the severity of the situation, and the fact that the workroom has now been finished, I had no excuse not to get on with a spot of dressmaking, so I finally put scissors to fabric and started a new project, by cutting out the pieces for a lovely spring Paisley print skirt.  I intended to make this last year when paisley was hot on the catwalk but never got around to it,  hopefully though, I'll still get away with it this season.

The skirt itself is from a pattern I have used quite a few times using different fabrics, a simple A-line skirt, but it is quite flattering on and easy to wear, and I really wanted to use this fabric as I've had it a while.  It is a thickish stretch polycotton and it has a lovely bright white background with a colourful large paisley print all over it.

A few hours later and I had at least one new item for my summer wardrobe.  Now, I just have to decide which pattern and fabric to use for the next project.  Wish me luck!

Here's a photo of the finished skirt. I'm quite looking forward to wearing it.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

On Your Bike

I got back on my bicycle yesterday, for the first time in months.  It was a case of having to really, as my other half needed the car for an appointment, and I had to go to another part of the borough for a doctor's appointment.  It was the best option, so out came the bike.

I was a bit reluctant secretly, but once I got going I really enjoyed myself and got to the doctor's in super quick time without having to struggle to find a parking space.  It got me thinking that I should take my bike out more often and ride to the gym, but probably not until the weather gets a bit better. 

Yes, I'm afraid I'm one of those fair weather cyclist types.  Sad I know but it's a six mile round trip to the gym and I'm afraid that I don't want to be soaking wet through before I get there, as well as soaking wet with sweat when I leave.  Most of the journey to the gym is along canal paths or through the park, which isn't too bad.  I am a bit nervous cycling on the road, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, as it makes you more cautious and careful.  Being a car driver too, makes me extra cautious and aware of dangers.  I never assume a car driver has seen me and is going to do what you might think they are.  I also do not cycle through red lights and try to cycle according to the highway code.

I have on occasion, been known to do my weekly shop on the bike, using two panniers to carry as much as I can.  Invariably, however, I tend to buy too much to fit in the panniers and then struggle home trying to balance a bag on the handle bars too, which is never a good idea.  (Don't try this at home!)  I don't tend to go too far from home on my bike though, and mainly stay around the East End, where I live.  I admire those who brave cycling in the City or Central London, but it is not for me, as the traffic is just too off putting.

When I think about it, (probably best not to) I probably don't look that dignified as I'm cycling around, but I'm not too worried.  Here in London, cycling is so popular that you are more likely to be considered strange if you don't cycle about town.  My main reason for doing so, is that it is great to get out and about in the fresh air, not hanging around waiting for or couped up on trains or buses, and the added bonus is that my thighs and bottom always get much firmer and more toned when I cycle regularly.  It is a very frugal mode of transport too, as it doesn't cost a penny, so what better way to get from A to B and  get in shape at the same time.  I just wish I had the stamina to stick to it all year round and not just in the warmer months.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Reflections on a Frugal(ish) February

Well, with just a few days left until we are into March, I thought I would reflect on how well (or badly) I had stuck to my New Year aims this month. 

I have strived to be as careful as possible with regard to spending, and have continued to make a daily record of money spent.  So far this year, I have managed to achieve 13 no spend days, out of the 50 I set myself for the year, so I am easily on target to date.

I have paid quite a bit more than the minimum off my credit cards again this month, but still have some way to go to pay them off entirely.  I figure that it might be June before they are cleared, but any earlier would be a bonus.  Spending on them, however, has been significantly less, due to the January sales being well and truly over, and through deliberate efforts to avoid temptation.  I've really only used my card for Approved Food orders.

The month, however, has not been entirely indulgence free, and I have treated myself to a few extras, mainly for the new workroom, but also a few bits of clothing and shoes for myself and my daughter, so I could have done much better.   Sometimes though, a few treats go a long way to making frugal living bearable.

On a more positive note, I have been trying hard to use up food in the cupboards before buying more and I took lots of food from our fridge and cupboards with us on holiday, so we only had to buy a few essentials when we got there.  This meant that our spending whilst away was minimal. At this point in the month, I miraculously still have some money left in my account, so that is a definite improvement on January and far less dispiriting.  There are a couple of things, however, such as getting new lenses put in some new glasses frames and getting my hair recoloured, that I have been putting off and I do desperately need to attend to soon, but they will possibly have to wait just a little bit longer.

How has your February been?  Have you managed to keep on track, if you had any particular aims in mind that is?  What are you hoping to achieve in March?

For me, March is going to be all about getting the garden tidy, putting up my greenhouse and getting started with sowing and planting up the allotment, weather permitting.  I also want to continue decluttering the house and eventually free up our dining room, as we have family visiting in April and need to use this room as an extra bedroom for their visit.  All of this should keep me busy and should have the added advantage of keeping me away from the shops too, but we'll see what happens!

Monday, 25 February 2013

A Few Thoughts On Fashion

Maybe it's because Fashion Week has been upon us, but when I started this blog, I recall describing myself as someone who is interested in fashion, but to date I haven't really created a post yet on this subject, so I thought I should start somewhere and would do this by posting about what fashion means to me.

I'm not fashion obsessed or any kind of expert fashionista, whatever this word means, but I do like to think that I take a healthy interest in clothes, looking presentable and feeling good about myself and it is to this end that I am interested in fashion.  I don't slavishly follow the new trends on the catwalk, but do like to flick through the odd copy of Vogue and see what is happening in the fashion world.

I am a great believer in having your own sense of style, and of wearing things that you like, that you feel good in and that flatter you.  I also believe, rightfully or not, that it is important to make an effort with your appearance on a daily basis, if only for your own self-esteem.  Just because I work from home or am a stay at home mum, doesn't mean that I slop around not caring what I look like.  I must admit to feeling slightly irritated when people say to me, with surprise in their tone quite often, that I look smart, as if I do nothing to merit making the effort.  Call me oversensitive but talk about a backhanded compliment!

I used to be quite interested in fashion and clothes when I was younger, and then somehow I lost interest for a while and lost my way and I have many photos to prove how awful I looked through these years, but more recently I feel that I have found my way back to a place where I feel a lot happier with myself.  It has taken a long time getting there, so I really don't want to slip back again, as I feel so much better for it.

I know that personal appearance isn't everything, and that it is what is inside a person and strength of character that is important, but unfortunately in this world, not everyone shares this view, and many people do judge you on your appearance, whether you like it or not.  I don't like it, and therefore try to give people as little opportunity as possible to do it, frankly speaking.

Don't get me wrong, I am no perfectly coiffed, immaculately dressed clotheshorse, as I neither have the time nor the money.  Much of my week is spent in my gym clothes, but on the days that I don't go to the gym, and when not in workout clothes, I do like to look at least half decent, dress in an interesting and coordinated way and at least wear a little makeup, lipstick being an absolute essential.

Neither am I particularly slim, but I have come to accept my size and try to make the most of myself.  I work out regularly, try to eat healthily - salads most days for lunch (although I'm sure people don't believe me when I tell them this!), eat lots of fruit and I keep an eye on fat and sugar contents of foods.  I do of course indulge in treats, which I feel the exercise allows me to do, whilst maintaining my weight.  Without actually saying what my size is, I am no longer the size 10 or 12 of my youth, but I don't think that this should preclude me from looking my best.  I'm not dead yet, thankfully, so I refuse to give up trying to live and dress well.

This can prove difficult on a limited budget, however,  and as I don't have a huge walk-in wardrobe of clothes, and don't even buy new clothes that often, it is not without it's problems.   I do therefore, try to look after the clothes I do have, by washing and storing them carefully, and wearing them all, but none too often, so they stay looking good longer.  I also try to invest where I do, in classic(ish) styles, prints or colours that will last several seasons and I am not averse to being a little eccentric in combining prints and colours that fashion magazines might advise against.

To me, fashion is not about dos and don'ts, it is about having fun and doing what feels and looks right to you.  Yes, we may make a few mistakes but that just makes us human.   In future posts, I will drag some of my favourites out of my wardrobe and post pictures.  I hope you enjoy these but don't be expecting any expensive labels or couture, much as I'd love to have a wardrobe full of them!  I will also show you some of the items I like to wear that I have made or bought in a charity shops or jumble sales, and share with you other aspects of my personal approach to fashion.  These posts, however, are not prescriptive, as I wouldn't presume to speak for anyone else, but if anyone finds anything I have to say on the subject useful or interesting, then I am happy that I might have helped or entertained them in some way.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Back to Reality

After our lovely stay in Camber, we packed up,  cleaned up after ourselves, and returned to London and reality.  It was, however, genuinely lovely to get home to all things familiar.  I had left the house in a clean and tidy state, fortunately, as there is nothing more depressing than returning home to caked on food on dirty dishes in the sink, or having to unravel your home before unpacking from your holiday.  I always make a point of leaving the house how I want to find it when I get back, even if it means flying around for the last few hours before setting off.  It drives my other half mad, as he always has to practically tear me away from cleaning the house, to get going on our journey and it does sometimes cause me to forget the odd essential thing. 

I think it stems from a particular occasion we went out on a daytrip to the beach one Sunday, and were happily sat on the beach enjoying ourselves, when we were telephoned by a neighbour to say our house had been burgled, and the police were waiting for us.  We dashed back home terrified at what we'd find.   Because we'd gone out in a rush, we'd left the house a bit untidy and when the police asked what had been taken, it was hard to tell because of the mess we'd left.  Ever since I've always tidied around before leaving, although we have had better security features fitted since.

Using this strategy also means that all I have to do when I get home is to get some bread and milk, put the kettle on, unpack the dirty washing, put it in the machine to wash, have a cup of tea whilst opening any post and I'm almost back on top of things, which is especially good if you've had a long and tiring journey.  If I'm really organised, I even do my washing whilst away and come back with a suitcase full of clean clothes that only need ironing.  This time, however, I didn't manage to figure out where the washing machine actually was until we were leaving.  Don't ask! 

Do you have any particular routines that you follow when you go away, that make your return much easier?

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Daytripping Yeh!

As the last in a series of posts about our recent short break in East Sussex, I thought I'd tell you about  a couple of trips out and about we made to various places in the surrounding area.  One was to the lovely historic town of Rye, which was just a few miles down the road from Camber.  As my other half was feeling laid low with a cold for part of the holiday, we had a gentle mooch around the town for an hour or so one afternoon.  There are lots of interesting things to do in Rye, as there is a Castle Museum, Art Gallery and Heritage Centre, plus a weekly market on a Thursday, I believe, although we didn't visit on this particular day.

As we had the puppy with us, we were somewhat limited in terms of taking in the cultural aspects of the town and settled for a walk around the lovely mix of independent shops in this historic Cinque Port Antient town.  If, like me, you are a lover of all things antique and vintage, you too would probably enjoy browsing around the wonderful shops here.  Unfortunately on this visit, I didn't have a lot of money to spend, as it was nearing the end of the month, so I restrained myself and didn't actually buy anything, but I would definitely recommend it as a place to visit if you are the vicinity.

Another trip out that we made was back over the border into Kent, to the beautiful community of Dungeness.  Again a few miles from Camber.  It you've never been here before, it is like taking a step back to a simpler time.  It co-exists alongside one of the UK's nuclear power stations, and is an eerily beautiful spot, with simple but beautiful wooden dwellings.  Many have gardens made in the shingle that surround them, there is a lighthouse and the smallest of steam powered railways that loops its way around this lovely spot.

On the day that we visited it was bitterly cold and getting dark, so cold and grey in fact that I couldn't take a decent photograph to share it's beauty.  I remember reading about it in Derek Jarman's book about the wonderful garden he created when he lived here, and being completely fascinated by the place.  Visiting in person was no disappointment.  I am just sorry that the weather was so unrelenting, as I would have liked to linger longer and take a long walk on the shingle with the puppy, take a ride on the steam train and even drop into the pub for a drink. (Unfortunately it was closed on the day we visited).  Never mind, I've already made a mental note to visit again, possibly in the summer months and see it in the sunshine.  Above is a copy of a 1930's postcard advertising the railway, that I bought in the local cafe.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Charity Shop Tales 3

My latest charity shop trawl occurred when we spent a few days away this week on a little half-term holiday.  On one of the days, we ventured to Bexhill on Sea and Hastings and whilst there, I was able to have a little browse around a few charity/second hand shops.  I didn't spend an awful lot of money.  Perhaps £12 or so, but I enjoyed myself in the process.

In the first shop in Bexhill, where we stopped off for some lunch, I bought this lovely picture of The Sacre Coeur in Paris for £1.50.  I think it is similar in style to the Paris picture I have hung on the wall of my new workroom, so it will most probably be hung in there too.  From the same shop I also bought this vintage collander which was £1.

Later, on the way back, we stopped off in Hastings.  We have been here before on a couple of occasions, and I remembered enjoying some of the lovely antique and bric a brac shops in the Old part of town. Whilst my partner checked out the new Jerwood Art Gallery,  I paid one of them a return visit, it was aptly called Ron's Rummage and was a wonderful old shop that you could spend hours rummaging around in.  Unfortunately, I didn't have long as my daughter was outside with the puppy, so I just bought a few lovely items at very reasonable prices.  I bought this red/black lacquer-type tray for £1.65, two pairs of plastic knitting needles for 50 pence, a vintage tile, which I intend to back with felt and use as a pot stand or coaster on my desk for £4, a pretty wooden blotter for £2, a Royal Mail Mint Stamp set of 20th Century Women of Achievement for £1, a couple of sewing needle cases and a knitting gauge for £1.

I must admit that the things I tend to purchase these days tend to be either pretty small or very practical, so as not to clutter up the house any more than necessary.  I  have several ongoing collections of small items which I add to, such as stamps, knitting needles and gauges, sewing paraphernalia, etc.  Such items take up little room in the house, but allow me to indulge myself occasionally.

Earlier in the day, I had strolled around the streets of Hastings with the puppy, whilst my partner and daughter played crazy golf.   I had a giggle to myself when I saw this sign in a shop window, so I just had to take a photo and share it.  Quite a thought for the day!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Getting Out of the City

As much as I love living in London, it is great when we get the chance to escape the hustle and bustle for  a few days, which is what we've done this week.  As it was half term, we packed up the car, puppy and all, and headed off for a few days at the coast.  We were staying near Camber Sands in East Sussex and arrived at our lovely apartment to find a lovely yummy handmade chocolate cake, biscuits, artisan apple juice and milk in the fridge.  Very thoughtful.

For those of you who have never been, it has a beautiful unspoilt sandy beach and wonderful sand dunes for the puppy to cavort in, although dune jumping is not allowed according to the beach signs!

Dogs are allowed on the lovely beach from October to April, so long as you pick up after them, which goes without saying in my book, so it was perfect. (This photo was taken on a cloudy day so please excuse the quality).


We headed out to the beach first thing on our first morning and the puppy loved it.   The sea, the sand, the shells, the seaweed (particularly the seaweed) and the sea air.   She was in puppy heaven.  It was so lovely to see her enjoying herself in a completely different environment from her usual one in London.  It was also wonderful for us too, to just escape our usual daily life and patterns of behaviour, and truly relax in and explore less familiar surroundings.  As I write this, puppy is lying asleep in her basket, dreaming noisily,  sporadically emitting little yelps.  Hopefully they are pleasant dreams of the beach!

As we drove out of London in the car, I got to thinking what a busy couple of months we've had so far this year, and what we have managed to achieve in that time, and felt glad just to be able to rest, reflect and recouperate and just concentrate on us being together and enjoying lovely family times.  Sometimes, it is too easy to spend your time at home thinking what you must do, need to do or should do, rather than just being spontaneous and enjoying spending time with your loved ones.  Without all the usual paraphenalia and distractions around you, you can just slow down, be content and enjoy one another's company.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Workroom Reveal

Well, it is finally finished and I am thrilled.  At last a space in the house for me, to breathe, make, house all my bits and pieces and feel creative inspiration.  I just need to get on and do some creating now.

It is a little later being finished than planned, as guests who were supposed to be visiting this weekend, couldn't make it, so the deadline got put back a week (we have a family visitor next weekend).  As a consequence, we took our time and didn't push ourselves too hard to get on with it.  I must admit though, that I am very happy with the outcome.  As you can see from the photographs, almost all my fabrics are now housed neatly in storage boxes (to prevent fading) in the one room, as are my sewing/crafting books and other materials, so they are very easy to access whenever I get a creative urge.  I have a desk at which to sew, think, do accounts and work on the computer, with the sewing machine and overlocker neatly packed underneath and basic materials and accessories on the shelves in front.

This picture is taken at night with the work lamp and floral fairy lights on, followed by daylight pictures.  The room is lovely and bright in the daytime when the sun comes flooding in.  These photos don't really do this justice.


The wicker storage box turned out quite nice in the end and now houses my wool fabrics.  It still needs a bit of braid around the edges of the lid but I'm happy with the result.  I used a vintage cotton fabric I've had for a while, that I was waiting to find the right project for.

There's a bit of a Lost and Found/French theme going on on the mantel piece.  My daughter no longer wanted the Barbie doll, but I thought she was so pretty and remembered her dad buying it for her on a business trip to Germany, so I didn't want to give her away. She now has pride of place.  The Tour cyclists I bought for my other half on a trip to France, but he didn't really want them in his new businesslike office, so they are forming a pelaton here under a picture of Paris and next to a pretty floral calendar I bought for a few euros in France on our last visit. (More in another post).  Even the floral twinkly lights bought a few years ago for my daughter's birthday party, were left languishing unused in the back of a cupboard, so I thought I'd get them out so that they could add a bit of sparkle to the room.

Betty the dressmaker's/shop dummy (see previous post on this subject) has taken up her preferred spot, to the side of the fireplace, and is in a particularly patriotic mood today for the grand reveal, wearing a corsage I made but never actually got around to wearing myself.  She has a good view of all the comings and goings from there.

The costs in renovating the room were minimal.  Approximately £50 on paint, £25 on storage and soft furnishings, plus the cost of the blind when I find one the right size.  Pretty thrifty in my opinion and worth every penny.

There are a few minor details still to be attended to such as to find a blind or curtain and a waste bin, but I think I can manage for now without either.  We may have to just hang some fabric or a curtain up at the window for our visitor, but with all the boxes of fabric in the room it shouldn't be a problem to find some!  Other than that and a bit of touching up in various places and a repaint of the black of fire surround at some point, it is done and I can now start to enjoy it.  I guess I will now need to reveal the things I make.  No pressure there then.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Quick Spaghetti Bolognese

This recipe is for my quick spaghetti bolognese.  It is very simple to make and quite frugal.

300g beef mince
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 courgette
8-10 button mushrooms
Squirt of Tomato Puree
1 Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
Pinch of Ground Black Pepper
A splash of  Red Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon of Sugar
250g Wholewheat Spaghetti

I start by putting the mince in a large frying pan with a little olive oil until browned.  I  then add the vegetables after dicing them, the mushrooms being the last to be added.  Heat them all through with the mince until they start to soften before adding the pinch of pepper, tomato puree, vinegar, and tin of chopped tomatoes.  Leave to simmer for 10 minutes or so, adding half a teaspoon of sugar to take the acidic edge from the added tomatoes and vinegar, giving a lovely sweet bolognese sauce.

Whilst the sauce is being left to simmer, I put the kettle on and boil some water to cook the spaghetti.  I use wholemeal spaghetti so it takes a little longer to cook but is high in fibre.  Before adding the spaghetti to the pan, I do a Jamie Oliver twist, and then drop the spaghetti in.  (I call it this because I saw him doing it on TV once and tried it).  It does seem to help the spaghetti to soften  and smoothly drop into the pan once the water is added.  You basically twist the top of the handful of spaghetti in one direction whilst at the same time twisting the bottom of the spaghetti in the opposite direction and then drop it in the empty pan before adding the boiling water on top.  Here's a picture of how it looks when dropped in.

Once the spaghetti is cooked, I just taste it to tell whether or not it is, I drain it and serve with the sauce on top and a grating of Parmesan cheese.  This recipe should serve 3-4 people depending on portion size.  Here's a picture of the finished dish. (Please excuse the smear of sauce around the edge of the dish).

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Quick Trip to B & Q

Yesterday afternoon, I had to make a quick visit to B&Q to return the blind I bought the other day as it was too wide.  I got a refund and then just had to look for another small item, which in the end was out of stock.  On my way out, I happened upon some clip frames on sale for 20p each and a white stand up picture frame for 20p too.  I'm afraid I indulged and bought the lot.  Four clip frames and 1 other frame for £1.  A complete bargain, I just couldn't argue with that. 

After my brief visit to B&Q, I had to pop across to Asda for a few bits and pieces and ended up buying a couple more storage boxes for my fabrics.  When I got back I sorted through some more and easily filled them.  It suddenly occurred to me that I have a completely ridiculous amount, and that perhaps I should think about letting go of some or at least using some of it. You will see what I am talking about when I reveal the new workroom and you can see how many boxes of fabric are in there on the shelves.  I have, however, almost totally curbed my habit of buying more fabric towards my collection, which is a very good thing indeed in the circumstances. 

Perhaps, a change of soft furnishings is required, or some serious gift crafting necessary to lighten the load.  I do tend to make most of my own cushion covers and have been known to make them and give them away as gifts.  I just couldn't bear to pay £25 or even £50 for a cushion that I could run up in minutes for few pounds.  Maybe some new table runners would be nice, especially for the living and dining rooms,  a nice fabric covered pinboard or a cushion cover for the puppy's travel cage.  More new clothes are always welcome too, especially with Spring around the corner. Well, that's a few ideas to be getting on with for now. Watch this space.

Just by way of an update, here's what I did with the clipframes.  Two I used for my daughter's Monster High Photocards to add a bit more interest to her room. 

The other two I used to display a couple of postcards that I really like.  One is 3 Indian children or deities, not sure which, which was sent to me when I made a purchase from a company on eBay, and which has been on my fridge door ever since as I just love the cute figures and the bright colours.  The second is this really sweet vintage postcard I picked up in a car boot sale up north before Christmas.  It is a little boy in a uniform with a bunch of pink roses and the words:

Many Happy Returns

I do not wish thee wealth alone,
For wealth may pass away;
But I hope that every happiness
Will greet your Natal day.

I've never heard it called that before, but it does date from 1912!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Vintage Teatowel Titters

Whilst sorting through some of my collection of vintage linens the other day I couldn't help but smile at these tea towels I found amongst them. 

The first is a promisary note as follows:

'The Bank of Good Resolutions
I promise to do the
Washing up
One Day sometime
for the sake of peace and quiet
signed A B Smith
Henpecked Husband'.

Perhaps nowadays it would be more appropriate for him to load and unload the dishwasher.

The second is this sweet Welsh Rarebit tea towel, which gives you the recipe and instructions for making 'proper' Welsh Rarebit. (I always just thought it was cheese on toast with a splash of Worcestershire Sauce - shows my ignorance!)

Anyway, the recipe is as follows:

2oz grated cheese
1 teaspoon of vinegar
half a teaspoon of dry mustard
half an ounce of margarine
1 teaspoon of milk
Salt and pepper

Method of cooking:

1.  Heat milk and margarine in saucepan.
Add cheese.  Heat slowly until melted.  Add seasoning.
2.  Spread on rounds of toast.  Place under grill until golden brown.

Sounds yummy!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Garden Clean Up

It's Saturday morning, was my turn to get up and feed the puppy and I'm sat here looking at the garden as I write this post, and it's looking pretty cluttered and messy.  There are plant pots and children's toys scattered around under the trampoline waiting to be cleaned and put away or thrown away, possibly from a couple of summers ago.

With having builders in all last summer, I didn't really get out there too much and keep on top of the garden.  In addition, many of the plants that we had out front had to be moved into the back garden to allow the builders to dig the lightwell for the basement.  As a consequence, the borders are looking untidy and a little overgrown in places.

I still need to clear away the grow bags from last summer's tomatoes and the wooden staging they were grown on needs chopping up for firewood and replacing with my new mini greenhouse, which I was given to me as a gift for Christmas this year.

It's only a plastic covered one, but will fit exactly into the space and be great for growing a few tomato plants in and raising some seedlings this spring, to sow at the allotment and give to the school for the summer fete.  I'm looking forward to getting it put up, as I haven't had a proper place to grow seedlings since my lovely old grotty lean-to was demolished a couple of years ago.  It was a wreck, but was the perfect place to hide away and sow/pot on my plants and it was relatively warm in there too.  It was my haven really, and I haven't had the same interest in sowing and gardening since it went and new patio doors and decking took its place when we renovated the kitchen.

As a consequence of the above, and the fact that the more pressing indoor renovations are almost complete, plus the fact that I need to get some plants ready to put in at the allotment,  I'm now starting to move my focus outside and looking forward to having a really good clear up.  The fact that the puppy is now a regular user of the garden is another factor.   We currently have this temporary barricade to prevent her getting into next doors garden but this looks rather unsightly and the chicken wire dog proofing desperately needs extending beyond this point.

Talking of the puppy, she's currently out there having a stand off with next door's cat who is cleverly sat on top of the fence well out of reach, but close enough to be a source of torment. 

The puppy is in a feisty mood too, as she's just had her breakfast, hence why I put her out there, as she was trying to chew everything in sight.  She's now chewing my plants - excuse me for just a moment! 

Disaster averted, but I guess it is something I will have to get used to.  Anyway, enough of me rambling on, time to get some work done.  I'll post pictures of the hopefully tidy garden when the work is finished.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Workroom Update

The workroom/spare bedroom is nearing completion and I'm getting very excited.  So much so that I treated myself to a new worklamp the other day.  I've promised myself one of these since I saw a similar one in the John Lewis Sale over Christmas.  The only problem was it was £68 in the sale, so I held off.  I'm glad I did, because I saw this one in B&Q for £30 and couldn't resist it.  I felt a bit pressured as it was the only one left in this colour, which I really liked, so I took the plunge and bought it.  I don't regret it though.  I had one of these lamps many years ago and I think I took it to the charity shop or sold it at a car boot when I upped and moved to London.  I've regretted it in recent years.

Back to the workroom, the feature wall colour has been chosen, bought and applied and the other walls, skirting boards and fireplace have now been refreshed.  The eggshelling of the shelves is all that is left to do before we can put the room back together and hang the new blind and lampshade, bought yesterday for £18, for both.   I also bought four plastic storage boxes for £10, to house all my fabrics on the shelves, so I spent last night sorting through them all and filling the boxes so they are all ready to go into the room.

I have also continued  restoring the woven storage bin and now just have to cover it with a fabric, when I can decide which one to use and get my other half to apply the hinges for me.  I can't say it is a supremely professional job, but I think it looks okay considering it has cost so little.   I'm hoping the room will be light and fresh and inspiring so that it will help me to feel creative again, as I have got out of the habit of doing much sewing for quite a while now.  Having said that, I did do a bit of mending the other night, if that counts.

Talking of light and fresh, I bought my first bunch of flowers this year, the other day, and I think they look beautiful in this red enamel coffee pot.  Daffodils, simple but effective.  It feels like spring is on it's way now.  There was even a bit of sunshine and blue sky yesterday!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

More Freecycle Adventures

Once again, on the way home from the school run yesterday, and outside the same house as before, I found this Lloyd Loom-type storage box and promptly brought it home with me, much to the embarrasment of my daughter, who ran off ahead pretending I was nothing to do with her!  (Thanks again to the householders for your generosity).

As you can see from the photos, it's condition is a little worse for wear, but I think I can do something with it and turn it into some useful storage for the workroom/spare bedroom.

The lid has seen much better days and had two layers of vintage fabric covering some old wool wadding.  Some of the beading was missing and the wooden lid looks like it might need replacing, but I might be able to reuse it if I'm careful with it.  The inside, however, looks pretty solid and clean, so a coat of paint or two and I'm sure it will look great.

A bit of paint, some new or the old wadding, a piece of fabric and a length of beading and I should be able to make it like new.  I set to straight away and gave it a coat of pale grey paint.  (I know grey again, but I do like it).  It's starting to look better already.  I'll post later with a picture of the finished article.

Oh, and by the way,


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

An Unexpected Business Expense

The other day, I decided to do some banking for my business and pay some more money off my business credit card.   It doesn't have a large balance, but I'm working towards paying it off from whatever earnings I make, and then paying back a small loan I made to the business from my own personal finances, in setting it up and buying initial stock and equipment.  On making the payment I noticed that the balance had not gone down by as much as I thought it should have, considering the payments I've made recently.

I looked but just couldn't see why the balance hadn't reduced, so I ended up ringing the bank, as I'm always cautious about fraud and wanted to make sure none had been perpetrated.  I spoke to a very nice young lady on the telephone, who informed me that an annual fee of £30 or so had been added to the card recently, which was the reason for the balance remaining higher than expected.  Apparently my free business credit card period of one year had expired, and I am now required to pay an annual fee for the priviledge of having the card.  I'm not complaining as such, as I am sure this is just how it works for businesses all over the country and I was probably warned about it when I opened the account a year ago, but had forgotten.  It is useful to have a card to make purchases for the business, so I guess it is just an expense that I will have to get used to and accomodate in my accounting.

Following on from this I took the opportunity whilst on the telephone to ask a few questions about what charges I might have to pay when my free business banking expires in six months time.  Luckily no annual fee applies and I will just be charged for cheque and cash withdrawals and deposits.  This doesn't seem so bad as I rarely utilise such facilities, so I was duly reassured.

If anyone out there is thinking of starting a business, be aware that the banks will try to make some money from your efforts at some point in the proceedings, but I guess they are a business too.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Approved Food Delivery

I know that a lot bloggers and readers out there already place orders with this online grocery company, but to the uninitiated, it is a great place to pick up lots of famous brands at reduced prices.  I received an order this week and I know it may sound a little sad, but I always find it quite exciting to get a parcel delivered and to unpack it.  The puppy likes it too, as she likes to chew all the packaging.

I tend to order every few weeks and there are certain items, which if available, I order on a regular basis.  I'm not opposed to trying new things though or different brands from my usual.  I get quite a few things that I can put in my daughter's packed lunch box, such as cereal bars/fruit bars and snacks/drinks, popcorn for those nights in watching a movie, goods in tins, bottles or jars such as jam, custard, sauces, oils, drinks which I store in my kitchen cupboards until we use them.  I often also indulge in some lovely chocolate and crisp treats as I've mentioned in a previous blog post, but do try to limit this somewhat.  You can see from the photo that I did indulge in some of these on this occasion, namely some Galaxy Counters at 2 pouches for £1 and some Phileas Fogg crisps at £1.20 for two large bags of Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar flavour.  (I promise not to eat them all at once).

In this particular order I bought quite a few packs of Delifrance petit pains which are preservative free and part baked and can be baked in the oven in a few minutes.  There were four packs of 4 for £1.  Perfect for hot dogs or when we want crusty bread with a meal.  In addition I bought a tub of  Swedish gingerbread heart-shaped thins, ideal for Valentines day gifts and a box of 10 tropical fruit juice drinks for packed lunches which cost £1.99 and will make a change from the standard orange or apple juice.

Toiletries, I have also found to be very good value from Approved Food; deodorants, moisturisers, facial washes, cotton pads, toothpaste, toothbrushes,  mouthwash, soaps, and even tampons.  I'm currently working through my stocks of these but am still partial to trying new products that come online all the time such as some anti-wrinkle serum and eye cream that were on offer this week.  At 75p per 30ml tube I couldn't resist giving them a try.  I also bought a couple of Face UK facial washes at 2 for £1.

If you haven't already tried this company yet, I would recommend them.  Please note however, if you are averse to anything out of date, make sure you check the best before date before ordering, as many items are close to or past this date.  Some, however, still have many months to go in this respect. The first order with the company usually offers free delivery if over £30 or so, afterwhich it costs £5.25 delivery for the first 25kg of products ordered.  Believe me this postage cost can very often be recouped on account of some of the amazing bargains they sometimes have on offer.  I have bought cases of 18 or 20 breakfast/cereal bars for a couple of pounds as I did this order, when you can pay the same amount for 5 or 6 bars in the supermarket.  In addition you can pay by paypal which I prefer to do.

An added benefit of any Approved Food delivery is the packaging, as the products are usually very well wrapped inside boxes and bubble wrap.  In turn this comes in very useful for sending things off through the post, boxing up breakables if moving house, or just using the cardboard boxes for taking things to the charity shop or to keep the weeds down on your allotment during the winter.    I have enough to keep me going for a good while.  I also like the phrase that is written on the bottom of the delivery box, it makes me smile.

Please note that the above comments are my own thoughts and feelings with regard to this company, and I am not in anyway paid to express them, but am just sharing my own personal experience of the company with anyone who cares to read this post.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Simple Chilli Con Carne

One of the staple dishes that I cook regularly for our household and is a Chilli Con Carne.  It was my sister, who now lives in Australia, that gave me the recipe for this dish and I've been cooking it ever since.   I have, however, altered the recipe slightly to make it a bit more frugal.  (She used two tins of tomatoes and two tins of kidney beans and no peppers).

The following ingredients are what I usually use:

300g Beef Mince
1 large onion diced
1 green or red pepper diced
1 tin of kidney beans drained
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
A squirt of tomato puree
Pinch of pepper
1.5 teaspoons of chilli powder
A splash of Worcester Sauce

I start off by frying the mince in a large saucepan with a little olive or vegetable oil until browned.  I then add the diced onion and pepper and heat for a little longer until these have softened before adding the tinned tomatoes, drained kidney beans, pinch of pepper, tomato puree, Worcester sauce and chilli powder.  I then simmer this for 30 minutes while I cook the rice, before serving with a little grated parmesan on top.

For the rice, I use a mug full of basmati rice to two mug fulls of boiling water.   The rice should be rinsed under cold water first for the best results but I must admit I rarely do this.   I bring this to a boil and then immediately put the pan lid on and move it on to the lowest heat possible for approximately 20-30 minutes, until all the water has soaked into the rice and it is nice and fluffy. 

This method of cooking rice was taught to me by a friend I met when my daughter was young.  Prior to this, I always had difficulty getting rice to be a nice consistency and not sticky or undercooked.  I do, however, use brown basmati rice, which may take a little longer than white to cook.   

I realise that everyone has a different idea of how to cook rice, but I have found this method very useful and the rice seems to cook just right.

This recipe usually makes 4 portions of mild chilli, which my daughter can eat, but if you like your chilli hotter, you can add chopped fresh chilli peppers or more chilli powder to taste. You could also make a vegetarian version of this dish using Quorn mince.

As there are only 3 of us, I tend to put one portion of the chilli, minus rice, in the freezer to have with a baked potato on an evening when I need a quick meal that takes little cooking.  It can be easily defrosted and then reheated in the microwave.

Here is a picture of the finished dish.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Weekend Freebies & Seed Giveaway

This weekend has been a productive one in many ways.  Aside from getting rid of some rubbish in the community skip, I have got rid of some more bits and pieces via the local Give and Take Day, acquired a few bits by the same token, received some free seeds with one of my free monthly magazines and we have made progress with decorating what will be my new workroom.  None of it costing anything apart from the cost of the paint.

The Give and Take Day was interesting.  In case you didn't read my post last week when I mentioned it, I will explain.  The council recycling department hold these events every few months in our borough.  At an allotted time you take things you no longer want and they all get put out on tables rather like a jumble sale.  Then at a later time, they open the doors and anyone can come in and continue to give but can also take anything they see that might be useful to them, absolutely free.  It's a kind of Saturday Swap Shop.  (Takes me back to Noel Edmonds on a Saturday morning - I'm showing my age now).  Anyway, I took along the last few bits of toys and other items from renovating my daughter's bedroom which were gratefully received and hopefully they will have found a new home.  The bag included about 10 pairs of 3D glasses from trips to the cinema.  Someone may want them, as at our local cinema, it is optional as to whether you purchase them, so you can take your own and save a pound or so.  Thirteen pairs, however, was a touch excessive to keep, so I just kept a few and gave away the rest.

I had a good look around whilst I was there, but as I was quite late, I think a lot that might have been good had gone.  I did however manage to salvage a few bits and pieces from what was left.

Here is a vintage cotton curtain (no marks or tears I  can see), some pretty floral fabric offcuts (useful for quilting when I eventually get around to it) and some unused lightweight  iron-on interfacing which is always useful if, like me, you like dressmaking.

In addition, I came away with this old grey box file (a bit shabby but I will use it to house some of my accounts), a book of William Morris quotes (some of which I may use on the blog from time to time), a 'Funny Face' video with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire (which is just the thing for those afternoons when all you want to do is curl up with an old film) and a few old maps of England (which I might use for map art, bookmarks, gift tags, wrapping paper, etc.).

Finally, I also took a few pieces of vinyl; a soundtrack LP to Mary Poppins, a Burt Baccarat LP and some Latin/Mexican LP's to hone my Zumba moves.  I also took this vintage tablecloth which looks unused, of Melbourne, Australia as I collect vintage linens.

The great thing was that everything (LP's aside) neatly fitted into the box file, so I didn't look too greedy nor feel like I was bringing a whole lot of stuff back into the house.  I'm looking forward to unearthing the turntable, once we've reclaimed our dining room, and listening to the albums, but it might be some time yet.

Anyway, I felt like I'd been reasonably restrained considering everything was free, so it was nice to come home and find my Grow It magazine waiting for me with yet more free seeds.  This time they were 5 high-yielding favourites including a green cabbage, cauliflower, jalapeno peppers, spring onions and  a high yielding tomato.

I doubt if I will use the 80 cauliflower seeds as I find brassicas tricky to grow, and I still have 100 onion seeds I won't be using, so if anyone wants them please drop me a message with your address and I will send them off to you.  (Sorry, UK only.)  Please rest assured that your address will only be used for the purpose of sending the seeds and in no way will be passed on to any third party.

I hope your weekend was a good one!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Community Skip

Sometimes, there are advantages to walking your dog early on a Saturday morning.  This morning was a prime example.  Saturdays in London always seem to get off to a slow start.  The traffic is probably the quietest it is all week as most people seem to have a lie in and a relaxed start to the weekend.

The necessity to walk our puppy after it's breakfast led me out on a lovely quiet Saturday morning.  We had a nice walk around our local park, which is just down the road and then sauntered back home.  On reaching the corner to turn into our street we spotted it.  The community skip.  It had miraculously appeared hours earlier and even more miraculously it was still virtually empty.  So, I promptly hot footed it home to tell my partner, so we could get rid of lots of junk currently cluttering up our house and garden.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, our borough has no public amentity tip, and as a consequence, the council have to take away all rubbish, otherwise it tends to get dumped in the streets surreptitiously in the dark hours of the night.  To be honest they do a pretty good job considering.  An added bonus of this system to encourage people to get rid of rubbish responsibly is that periodically, I think it is every few months or so, the council place a skip in certain locations, (the top of our street being one, fortunately), so that residents can dispose of any items they can't put in their refuse bags. As we had quite a few things left over from the clearing of my daughter's old room, an old rug eaten by moths and hamsters, a broken lawn mower and various other bits and pieces that we need to get rid of, it was an ideal opportunity to take advantage of this useful service.

An hour later and all said things have now been placed in the community skip.   Our load is feeling suitably lightened and we can now relax and enjoy our weekend.

Charity Shop Tales 2

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since my last charity shop excursion, so I was getting definite withdrawal symptoms.  (I've decided to number my posts about my charity shop visits from now on so that I can keep track of how often I visit them and hopefully keep my habit in check.)  Anyway, when I was walking the puppy the other day, I took a short detour to look in the window of another of my favourite charity shops. Big mistake.  I hadn't visited this particular shop since before Christmas, so I immediately felt the urge to pay a visit. 

The following day, enroute to the Post Office to send off some parcels,  I diverted (due to traffic congestion) to park nearby and decided to pop in and take a look.  I didn't spend a lot, honestly,  just £2.25, which got me 4 books, including two on dog training and puppy care (very pertinent at the moment), a book on learning to be happy which looked interesting and an India Knight book about idiot-proof dieting. Although I'm not on a diet, I like her style of writing and have read books of hers in the past, so thought it might be an amusing read.

I also bought this for the puppy.  I thought it was cute and colourful and it didn't remind me of an animal, so felt it was easier to give her.  I just can't give her any of my daughter's unwanted soft toys as it seems so cruel to allow them be savaged by a puppy. This little guy was new,  had been handknitted and cost a mere 50p.  I didn't tell the lady behind the counter what I wanted it
for, I hasten to add, in case she'd knitted it and was offended.

Later, on my way to the Post Office, I had to pass one of my other alltime favourite charity shops, so I popped in there too where I spent another £2 on a couple more books.   One was by Joan Collins called 'The World According to Joan' and the other was another book by Giselle Scanlon called The Goddess Experience with a lovely gold cover with a blue tit on it.  (It precedes the book I bought on my last excursion).  I also picked up a few knitting bits and pieces which I collect.

Here are some of the books I bought.

So, my bedside book pile gets ever higher.  I just need to find the time to read them all now.

Before I go here's a photo of the puppy and her new 'friend'!

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Lady

One other purchase I made on my shopping trip the other day was this magazine, The Lady.  I couldn't resist the image on the cover and some of the articles featured sounded quite interesting.

I don't know if you've ever read this magazine, but for £2.50 per issue it is pretty good value.  It has, perhaps, got a bit of  reputation for being a magazine for the older lady.

I had a bit of a spell of reading this regularly when Rachel Johnson, Boris, the Mayor of London's sister took the helm for a year or so.  Did you see the tv programme about her editorship?  It was quite interesting and amusing.  Anyway, you may disagree, but I think she did a pretty good job of making it more appealing to women of all ages and I would recommend anyone to take a look as there are lots of interesting, grown up articles in it and is not sex or celebrity obsessed like some magazines you see on the newsstand.

There are a few things I found particularly interesting in this issue, namely the History of Hair article all about hairstyles throughout the ages, an article on tree houses and articles on ways to stay healthy and look 10 years younger  (I wish!).  The classifieds always lure me in too.  I find them fascinating and they are quite useful for finding holiday accomodation.  Next time you're in the newsagents and you see a copy on the shelf, take a look and see what you think.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Plastic Jar

Following on from today's post, I just wanted to share the use I have put the big plastic jar to.  It was just the perfect size to hold all my cotton reels.  I've been picking them up in charity shops and boot sales for a while now and have amassed quite a collection.  They fitted perfectly in the jar and there's just a few regularly used ones left over to keep on my reel rack.

Here's a photo of the jar filled and ready to go in my workroom when it is finished.

Hooray for Freecyclers

One of the things that I love about living in London, and it is probably true of other places too, is when very kind people leave things they no longer want or need, outside their houses for other people to take.  I've often been tempted to take things home with me or go back with the car to get something, but mostly, I just resist the urge, unless it is something I really can make good use of.

The other afternoon, on returning from the school run, (well, short stroll actually) I saw this lovely large plastic jar outside a house on the main road and decided to snaffle it up immediately.  Not much of a find you might think, but I have a very specific use in mind.  (More later).  It is very clean, no gunk inside or messy remnants of sticky labels on it.  I was sorely tempted to also remove a lovely pine console table with two drawers but as I couldn't carry it and our house is already full to the rafters, I resisted and left it for someone else.  A quick clean and my jar will be ready for use.  Thank you to the householder.  Rest assured your jar will be put to good use.

Often, things are left outside because people don't have a car to take them to the tip or charity shop, or don't even know where the nearest tip is, as our borough doesn't have one and the council have to collect all large items.  I like the idea of freecycling without having to go through the official procedures of Freecycle itself, which don't get me wrong, is a fabulous idea.

Later this week, I am going to a Give or Take Day at a local school, organised by our local council.  It is a great idea whereby you go along at an allotted time and give things you no longer need.  Later at a second allotted time you can go and can take away things you see there that might be useful to you.  I have acquired a few books and other things at these events, and it is amazing to see the really nice things given, that people who get there early come out with.  I'll let you know how I get on in a future post.

Anyway, back to freecycling.  The other week I came across this lovely little wooden storage unit outside a house down our street and picked it up and brought it home.

It was very clean and looked like it had hardly been used.  It has now been customised with stickers and has pride of place on my daughter's desk in her new bedroom and is a great depository for her bits and pieces.  If it was yours, thank you very much, it has found a new home and is much appreciated.

From the other side of the equation, it is very useful to be able to put things you no longer want outside on the street and within a few minutes sometimes, they have been taken, relieving you of the necessity of finding a new home for them.  It can, however, on the other hand, work against you if you are not careful, as I found out to my cost when my milk bottle holder disappeared one night and I was forced to buy a new one.  I suspect it was taken by someone collecting metal but there wasn't really much metal to it.  Probably a genuine mistake as it was a little tatty.  I can't complain too much,  we have benefitted from this service by having our old washing machines and other appliances taken away for us, and this has saved us the hassle of disposing of them ourselves!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Bit of A Splurge and Olympic Memories

Yesterday I needed to head up to our local behemoth shopping mall to get some puppy food from Waitrose.  (I know, I know, it sounds like a real pampered pooch already).  I had been giving her some puppy food I'd bought from Approved Foods, but their stocks ran out so I had to go back to the Waitrose variety that she had initially. Our nearest Waitrose is in the shopping mall built on the Olympic Park.

It's very strange going back past the park, it all seems so depressing after the thrilling summer we had last year going to Olympic and Paralympic events.  It is once again a building site.  Most of the temporary buildings have now been removed and the land is being dug over and redesigned to make into a new legacy park called the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I think it is due to reopen in July this year.  I'm quite looking forward to going back into the park itself, as it will be great to take our bikes and the puppy.

Anyway, it's a bit sad to pass through now the games are over and we always think back to what a great time we had and what an exciting summer holidays it was for all of us.  Living so close we just had to make the most of it and got to quite a few events including the closing ceremony to the Paralympic games at which Coldplay and Rhianna featured.  It was a super end to a fabulous few weeks.  Needless to say I'm now paying for the tickets, which I had to put on my credit cards, but it was completely worth it and a chance in a lifetime for us, so I don't regret it at all.

Back to the shopping.  As I mentioned, I had to get the puppy food and it is pretty difficult in such a place to just go to one shop and leave, so I did end up looking in a few other shops and buying a few things.

I must admit I do find shopping malls quite overwhelming these days, so tend to stick to the shops I know, usually the inexpensive ones where I can do as little damage as possible to my bank balance.  I also try to make sure I don't shop for longer than the 2 hour free parking you get.  This does limit me from spending too much or looking around too much, so I do apply a strategy to such an outing.

On this visit I did actually go into a shop I've never been to before, called Beauty Base, as they had a whole range of lipsticks advertised in the window at 99p each.  Needless to say before I left I had bought these 3 - Matte Strawberry, Matte Berry Ice, and Matte Cranberry Red.  (The photo doesn't show them in this order, I mixed up the lids and now don't know which is which!)

You might have realised by now that I like a matte lipstick and as I was down to my last one with only a small amount left on the one in my handbag, I did really need to stock up.  I also wanted to introduce a few different colours into my pallette as I tend to go for a bright red, but fancied some deeper tones.   Since getting home and trying them out, I must admit that you do get what you pay for and they don't quite give the coverage of more expensive lipsticks, but they will be fine for everyday use.

My next stop was Primark.  I used to really like Primark when I first moved to London 15 years ago.  The quality of the clothes was pretty good and there weren't that many stores in this country then.  I remember buying some things and wearing them for ages until they completely wore out.    In more recent years I rarely find much that I like, but I still like to look as you can sometimes get some absolute gems. Having said that, I did buy a few things for my daughter, some jeans and a t-shirt. (Bit of a spotty theme going on there).  As she has no school uniform at her school, (until this September) I have to make sure she has plenty of things to wear each day because her everyday clothes get worn on a daily basis.

I picked up a floaty grey top for me too, but will probably wear it with a long sleeved T-shirt or a vest underneath as it has a hospital gown type opening at the back.  I also indulged in a couple of really pretty tea towels for £1.20 each which I thought were a real steal.  I had seen these posted on Streetcomber's blog so when I saw them in there, I couldn't resist indulging in a little Valentine's gift to myself.

Talking of gifts, I did need to buy a couple of gifts, one a small gift for a neighbour's husband who is quite unwell in hospital.  It is a small treat for when he's feeling a little better.

The other,  a few Easter gifts to send to my sister and her boys in Australia.  The Cadbury's chocolate over there doesn't taste the same, as it has anti-melting additives, so I always send them a box of  Cadbury's eggs and chocolate as a taste of home.

I had a bit of a splurge didn't I?   Not too much collateral damage and a few jobs done.  Sometimes you've just got to do it.