Sunday 31 March 2013

March Money Matters

This month seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye.  I've been pretty good really, not going over my budget.  I did however, have the major expense of getting my hair done, but it had been 8 months since I'd been to the hairdresser's, so it was long overdue.  I  got it coloured and cut for £85 which was half the normal cost and didn't require the usual 50 mile round trip.

I also got some lenses put in my new glasses frames too, which cost me £80, but I really needed a new pair as I need to start wearing them more and give my eyes a rest from contacts, on the orders of my optician.  Who am I to argue.  I have been wearing them quite a bit though, at least a couple of days per week so it has definitely been worth it. 

I paid quite a large sum off one of my credit cards this month and I paid more than the minimum off my other credit card this month too, but there's still a bit of a way to go to pay them off completely.

Spending on these credit cards was mostly limited to Approved Food orders once again (of which I placed two) and few other purchases.  One of these was some parking vouchers for the car park at the gym, which works out at 30p per visit if I order them on-line, or £1 per visit otherwise, so they do save me quite a bit of money.  Another was a shoe dye I bought on eBay to dye a pair of shoes navy, so I can wear them this summer.  (More in another post).  The last were a couple of on-line purchases of some new wellington boots for my daughter, as she had outgrown hers and a rain mac for me for the spring.  A bit of an indulgence, but a necessary one.  The wellies were reduced in the Joules sale, and the continuing bad weather this month meant that I couldn't put off buying her some until next year, as she needed some weatherproof footwear.  The rain mac for me was bought in the Boden sale and is necessary for when I'm walking the dog as carrying an umbrella is not really practical.  Too many things to hold on to - lead, dog bags, treats, ball, etc.  I'm hoping it will be useful if we get any rainy weather this spring or summer.  Not that I'm trying to tempt fate or anything.

Aside from the above expenditure, I did treat myself and my daughter to a few inexpensive items of clothing for the spring from this month, a new handbag, plus a few other bits and pieces over the month, including some charity shop buys.  I did, however, save myself some money on clothes, by making a skirt or two for spring/summer, each of which didn't cost more than a few pounds.  I also made a new laundry basket for my daughter's bedroom which cost nothing but a couple of hours of my time.

My No Spend Days total currently stands at 22, so I am still well on target for my 50 for the year.  How was your March?  Did you manage to stick to your budget?

Easter Greetings

I hope you are all having a fabulous Easter. 


I thought I would just share this really cute vintage postcard with you, that I found at a car boot sale.


I just love the way they added colour to photographs before the advent of colour film, don't you?

Saturday 30 March 2013

A Spot of Decluttering

I have a cupboard in my hallway, just outside of my kitchen door.  It is an old pine cupboard with a lovely pine door.   I love this cupboard.  It is like an extension of my kitchen.  I use it to store crockery that I don't use often, but don't have room for in the kitchen, plus various other bits and pieces such as vases, tablecloths, etc.  I have had numerous discussions with my partner about knocking it out altogether, which he would like to do, especially when we had the basement renovated recently, as it is right next to the door to this new room.  I insisted that I would not tolerate him getting rid of it.  Sometimes a girl just has to put her foot down.

It used to contain some of the many fabrics I've collected over the years, but now these have all been relocated to the workroom/spare bedroom freeing up a bit of space.  It was one of those cupboards that if you opened the door you would be in danger of something falling out on top of you.  Some things have on occasions, but the other day I had an urge to clear it out and reorganise it.  It stemmed from wanting to change the fabric on the door.  The old fabric was looking tired and baggy, and I had found a lovely vintage piece that I couldn't think what else to do with, so with staple gun in hand I put it on instead.  I rather like it.


This is what the inside of the cupboard looks like now after it's makeover. 

Yes, I know it still looks a bit of a jumble sale, but you can probably imagine what it looked like before, if this is the after.  (I forgot to take a picture).  I got a real sense of satisfaction from this little task.  Next up is to sort out the shoe basket next to it, which currently looks like this.

Wish me luck!

Friday 29 March 2013

Making Use of Things - A New Homemade Laundry Basket

A few months ago we renovated our daughter's bedroom.  It didn't cost a lot as we used mostly what we already had.  I covered an old Ikea desk with an oilcloth like fabric that I got from Ikea for £1 or £2 per meter  (I can't actually remember how much it cost).  The desk had lots of scratches and pen marks on it that just would not scrub off so I gave it a makeover with this fabric and a staple gun.  It looked okay.  I had a little bit of the fabric left over and promised my daughter I would make her a laundry basket for her room.  There wasn't quite enough of it to be honest, so I had to add some co-ordinating fabric to it, which I happened to uncover when I did a fabric sort out the other day.

It took a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon and was a bit made up as I went along, but the finished result is below.  I had a basic frame to hang it on.  I can't remember where I got it but I think it was originally from Ikea too.  I probably picked it up in the street after someone had thrown it out and thought I'd make good use of it.  Finally I have.

It's far from the most perfect example and the straps over the frame could have been made a bit more carefully, but I was a bit short on time, so I cut a few corners.  They attach by velcro so the bag can be taken off.   I was pretty happy with the result though and now my daughter's bedroom is marginally tidier as her clothes get put in here instead of thrown in the corner or left on the floor.  It all co-ordinates nicely too and didn't cost a penny which is the best thing of all.  I just have to remember to empty it regularly now.

Thursday 28 March 2013


Well, it was fabulous yesterday morning to come downstairs and see the sun shining.  It made me feel a whole lot better and inspired me to get on and do things.  First up it was off to school to take my daughter and then for a walk with the dog.  Once back I headed off to one of my regular exercise classes which was great. 

From there I had to pop to the vet's to get some flea treatments for the puppy.  She has one which treats her for lungworm as well as numerous other worms and lice, but it is pretty expensive - over £25 for 3 treatments.   I don't mind paying this for peace of mind as she has recently taken to eating the odd snail in the garden and sometimes I just don't get to her in time to stop her.   A consequence of this behaviour can be lungworm, which can be fatal, so  I don't want to take any chances with her health in this regard.

After leaving the vet's I went to exchange my new red handbag, as the zip had broken.  In actual fact it broke a few days ago, but I struggled on with it as it kept righting itself.   Eventually I decided that if it came open and I didn't notice, then someone might just take my purse and that would be a disaster, so I decided to return it and get another one.  The one I ended up getting was also red, but a different brand and had a plastic as opposed to a metal zip like the old one, as the metal teeth seemed to be the cause of the problem.  The new bag is a different style, but still holds all my many bits and pieces.  In fact, it ticks more of the boxes I look for in a bag as it has more internal zipped pockets (I like to keep my purse in one so I know exactly where it is when I go into my bag for it), and looked better when carried over the shoulder than the previous one.  It cost the same amount of money so I did a straight swap.  I'm hoping this one lasts a little longer.  Here's a picture or two.  I particularly like the fact that you get a small purse like bag with a wrist strap with it, which you can use on those days when you don't have a lot to carry with you.  Two for the price of one.  I can't argue with that.


By the time I'd done a bit of grocery shopping in Asda and had some lunch, I had to rush out to a concert at the school.  I actually really enjoyed it as some of the songs they sang I really liked.   They've got a new Music teacher who is very enthusiastic.   I particularly liked one song called Seasons of Love, which by coincidence, I heard for the first time earlier this week when my aerobics instructor played it as a cool down in class. I believe it's from a 90's Broadway Musical called Rent.  Check it out on YouTube if you get the chance, it's a great song.  I would link to it but am not sure how to.

Tonight, I've spent catching up after being out virtually all day.  Supper over, chores done and I can get on with a few computer based tasks such as sending an email to send to my sister in Australia,  a couple of replies to blog comments, writing this blog post and then finally with glass of wine in hand catching up on blog reading.  A relaxing end to the day.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

An Afternoon Shopping En Famille

Well, last weekend we did a pretty rare thing for us as a family in that we spent Saturday afternoon shopping together at the local Westfield Shopping Mall.  We tend to avoid weekend shopping here as it is just so busy as to render it torturous.   The weather was pretty awful though and my other half was in desperate need of some new clothes and very rarely goes clothes shopping.  As a consequence I do like to go with him and assist him (i.e. make sure I like what he buys) and my daughter always likes a shopping trip for whatever reason.

By the time we got there at around 2.30 pm it was absolutely packed full of people.  First stop was good old John Lewis.  I so like to pay a visit to this store when I come shopping here as it is just so civilised to walk around and shop in.  Whilst my other half and daughter disappeared off to the menswear department, I hovered around the shoe and bag department, trying on various shoes.  There were a few pairs that I quite liked, mostly in navy blue, but I'm thinking of dyeing a pair I already have navy, so I may hang on and see how that goes before committing myself to a new pair.

After having enjoyed a lone mooch, I made my way to menswear, where my other half had found a pair of trousers he liked and then swiftly found another pair and we were off to the homeware department to find a new knife block with knives.  We couldn't find one we liked, so headed off for a drink in a nearby Tapas bar, before carrying on down the mall to a couple of shops my daughter wanted to visit.  I managed to help myself to a squirt of a rather nice perfume in the beauty department, Guerlain's Le Petit Robe Noir, which has a very sweet but strong scent.  I might bear it in mind when I'm next looking for a new perfume. 

On to M&S for more clothes shopping for OH, who found a couple more items before we headed home, his shopping more or less done for another year or so, or until I can drag him out again.  By this time we were all feeling a bit grumpy, well us girls were anyway, and we couldn't wait to get out of there.    Perhaps it was because the focus of the shopping was all on someone else and not us.  I'm not in a hurry to return on a weekend again.  Call me selfish, but give me a 10 am visit during the week anyday and a little money in my purse to spend on me. 

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Poster Inspired Project

I made a quick trip to Ikea a couple of weeks ago to get some picture frames for my partner's office.  Whilst there, I picked up a frame for my workroom, to hang a poster I got at the V&A a few years ago, when I visited a quilting exhibition.

When I got home I put the poster in the mount, removed all the protective film on the perspex and it was ready for my partner to hang on the wall above the bed.  Here's a photo of what it looks like now my partner has kindly hung it in place.  I have a couple more posters I'd like to hang from a couple of fashion exhibitions I've been to, but they will have to wait until I have some spare cash for the frame.

(Apologies for the quality of the photo here.)  This particular quilt was one of a selection by quilt artist Natasha Kerr that were featured in the exhibition.

I particularly like the quilt or hanging pictured on this poster, and would like to try some kind of quilt project involving the transfer of photographic images onto fabric, a kind of family tree wall hanging or quilt.  This aspect of the exhibition I found incredibly inspiring and soon after I bought some iron on transfer sheets to photocopy photographs onto before ironing them on to fabric.  I haven't set about making it yet though.  Maybe in another 3 years time.  Only joking.

I figured that this might be a nice project to bring photos of those dear to me into use in daily life.  Imagine wrapping yourself up in a lap quilt made up of photos of your loved ones.   It would be like getting a big hug from them, especially if they are no longer with you.  It would also be something that I could then pass on to my daughter, as a family heirloom, and would make a lovely gift to send to my sisters in Australia and Yorkshire. 

Monday 25 March 2013

Beauty Routines

I've never really been someone who has had a strict beauty routine.  My adherence to such a thing has been very sporadic and hit and miss at best.  In the last few years however, I have taken a little more care of my skin and have actually stuck to using a moisturiser for the first time in my life.  Foolish, I know, for not doing this years before, but I never liked the feel of moisturiser on my face as it tended to make it feel oily, so I never bothered.  I simply used a facial wash, which varied according to what I could find.  I used Tesco's own brand for many years and still do occasionally.  I would follow this up with using Distilled Witchhazel as a toner and that was basically it.  To a large extent it still is, but I have now added in a moisturiser at long last and wish I had done it many years ago.

I think I began when I was in my thirties and thought,  hang on, I should be doing something to at least try to preserve some semblence of youth.  It was around the time that Boots Protect and Perfect serums hit the market and caused a bit of a stir, so I decided to give it a go once the fuss had died down and I could get my hands on some.  I found it really light and easy to use and moisturising sort of snook into my routine. 

I only added regular hand cream use to my routine in recent years and now really enjoy applying it every day.  I probably should do it more, after every handwash, but never remember to be honest.  I do love it though when you go the lavatory in some big stores and they have lovely expensive handcreams there by the basin for customers to use after they've washed their hands.  It feels like such luxury compared to your average public toilet.  I now make a beeline for the nice department stores when I'm in London and need the toilet, as it seems so much more civilised.

Back to the subject of moisturisers, since I started moisturising, I've used various brands as I can't always afford to spend a lot.  I am currently using a moisturising fluid I bought from Approved Foods, believe it or not.   It's a de-identified brand, possibly a supermarket brand, but it is light  and it feels fresh on my skin.   It  contains witchhazel and tea tree essential oil, which is one of the reasons I like it.  Before trying this I had bought some more of the Boots range for older skin, but unfortunately I found it made me break out when I used it, so I had to find an alternative and not wanting to waste large sums in the process opted for some inexpensive items from AF.  This particular one was markedly less expensive  at 2 for £1.50 or something similar and I love it. Sadly it is no longer in stock so  I've since bought various brands from Approved foods to try and am working my way through them.  To be honest I haven't found one I don't like yet which is fantastic, considering that when I tried a sample from a very famous French fashion house, that came free in a magazine the other day, my skin felt dreadful and sticky.

I've recently been reading quite a few blogs where writers review beauty products and the book I'm reading at the moment called 'Grown up Glamour' also reviews various very popular beauty products for the more mature skin shall we say.  Another New Day is a great blog for beauty reviews and I am starting to take more interest now.  Probably like shutting the stable door and all that but better late than never, to quote another cliche.  I like the feeling that it gives me to look after myself a little now.  I think if you are good to yourself you feel better in yourself and  it does show in your appearance, so I do try to make a bit more effort these days and am learning to look after myself more and more.  Next addition to my beauty routine I think will be an eye cream as I notice that I have lots of fine lines under my eyes.  I'm currently, as of today, trying a sample REN product which feels and smells very nice.  Twenty years of smoking probably didn't help in this regard, but for the past 10 years I've been smoke free and would probably look a lot worse if I hadn't given up, so I'm thankful for small mercies.

Do you have a particular beauty routine that you follow on a daily basis?

Sunday 24 March 2013

A Girl's Best Friend

As promised in a previous post,  this is a post about the contents of my new handbag.  I've seen this done by other bloggers and have enjoyed seeing what they carry around with them on a daily basis.  I'm probably not going to blow your mind or cause intense excitement, but here goes anyway.

My new bag, which I bought the other week, is quite a bit larger than I've been in the habit of carrying for a number of years.  The thing is, I got to the point where everything I wanted with me as I go out and about, just would not fit into my previous handbag, so I indulged in a larger one.  Here it is in a gloriously bright shade of red to match my lipstick, quite blingy for me really, but I like it.

It has a couple of pockets on one side, a zipped pocket on the other, phone pocket inside and zipped compartment inside too.

In the front two pockets I keep things that I need to grab quickly when out and about.  In one I keep  my Oyster card for travel on public transport in London, a tube map and my Fisher Space Pen (it's supposed to work anywhere including upside down).  In the other I have my sunglasses (not that they're getting much use at the moment), a Kirsty Alsop tape measure (a gift from my sister in Australia) and some sweeteners for when I stop for a coffee anywhere.

The back zipped pocket contains a packet of tissues.  I never like to carry anything too valuable in outside pockets in case of pickpocketing.  Having had my handbag stolen in a burglary, I've very aware of the possiblity that there may be thieves in my midst.  It sounds cynical and untrusting, but I guess living in a big crowded city, it is just a hazard of everyday life.

Most of the contents of my bag are in the big internal compartment.  They include my new Primark spotted makeup bag, the contents of which are as pictured.

I now carry concealer, mascara, lipstick and eyeliner, a red nail varnish and emery board, eye palette, mirror, tweezers, hand wash, hand cream, paracetamol and plasters.  It's great to carry a spare set of makeup, as sometimes it just perks you up to touch it up when you've been out and about all day and feel a bit washed out.  I've never really done this before so I must admit that I often forget to through not having created this habit over the years.  Perhaps the only thing I need to add is a small sewing kit for on the move repairs and snipping of threads.  I might make one of these for myself and add it in.  I also sometimes add a perfume if I'm going anywhere special to top up through the day when I remember.

Other items I carry are a reusable shopping bag, filofax, glasses case, handbag sized hairspray, parking vouchers for the gym, sugar free chewing gum and mints (essential for 1 hour bus journeys into town).

This little guy is always hung on the handle outside complete with bags in case of emergencies.  Not very chic but he's cute.
Last but not least there's my essentials - purse (from M&S in the sale last year), keys (complete with bottle opener and trolley coin keyrings) and phone. (Not a very fancy one as you can see - my partner's cast off).
Dependent on the weather or my plans I may add in a book, umbrella, camera, snack, bottle of water or other extra as required.
So as you can see, everything but the kitchen sink, virtually.  Dib Dob, I do like to be prepared.  You can tell I was a Brownie/Guide in my youth.

Saturday 23 March 2013

The Great Fabric Sort Out

Inspired by watching the last episode of a series about compulsive obsessive hoarders and cleaners, and due to the fact that, as I may have mentioned before,  I have a ridiculous amount of fabric tucked away in various places in our house, I set about sorting some more of it out this week.  Most of it had been organised and placed in storage boxes in my workroom, when it was finally finished, but there was still one corner that I hadn't managed to tackle, so I set about doing just that.

In the corner of the living room, I had a blanket box packed full of fabric, wool and various other bits and pieces.  With a couple of hours to spare one day, I went through it and pulled out all of it's contents, sorting them into different piles. 

There was a pile of fabric I no longer wanted, some I had already used for small projects and others I  could not imagine making into anything whatsoever.  This will be bagged up and sent off to a charity shop in the near future.  Hopefully someone will be able to make good use of it.  There was a pile to sell on ebay.  This only had one item in it.  There was a pile of various bits and pieces to be relocated to the workroom.   There was a pile of fabrics that I wanted to make into clothes or utilise for other projects.  This pile was quite big and was later dutifully carried upstairs and is now sat in the workroom waiting for work to begin.  Finally, there was a last pile, which were fabrics that I liked, but couldn't think of an immediate use for, so these went back in the blanket box.  The box itself, however, had half as much inside it once I'd finished, which is a kind of progress.

The pile of fabric transferred to the workroom awaiting transformation looks like this. As you can see there are quite a number of different fabrics in the pile of varying size and composition. The fabrics  types range from cotton, polyester, needlecord, cotton lawn  to cotton sateen, stretch cotton, jersey, etc.  Some I find more challenging to work with than others, and some will definitely require me to get my overlocker working properly to finish edges and prevent fraying.

To start the ball rolling, later the same day, I went through my patterns again to try to match up fabrics with patterns and I managed to figure out a potential use for quite a few of the fabrics.   I did make a start tonight, by making a rayon scarf out of an old vintage fabric and I also prepared a couple more pieces of fabric to be made into scarves too.   I then cut out one paper pattern in readiness for my next project which is a skirt (again), but from a pattern I haven't yet used, which is always quite exciting.

From the rest of the pile I intend to make a dress or possibly two, another skirt or two, at least one top, a beanbag and a cushion cover for my daughter's bedroom.  I think that is plenty to be going on with.

I will feel a great sense of satisfaction when I finally take the fabric I no longer want and some other items currently clogging up the top of the linen cupboard on the landing, to the charity shop, and I hope that they will make some money from it.  Here's a picture of the things that need to be given away.  I'll try to take them next week as this will create some room for moving things from the dining room to a temporary place whilst we have family staying.  Sometimes life is like a game of musical chairs, moving things from one place to another before finding just the right spot.

Friday 22 March 2013

More Hornsea Clappison Favourites

Following on from my recent post about John Clappison, I thought I would post again and show you my absolute favourite examples of some of his work.  These are some of his muramic wall plaques and there were quite a few different designs made for a few years during the 1970's. 

I just have these 5 and I almost can't afford to buy any more as they fetch quite a price at auction now.  The larger ones are attached to a hessian like fabric and framed in a dark wooden frame, whilst the smaller ones are attached to a dark coloured wood.  The colourful glazed muramic pieces are like jewels and I just find them so appealing, they are similar to the muramic pieces embedded in the pin dishes posted previously.  The quirky designs show the humour in John Clappison's work.  I intend to hang these on a wall somewhere, but I am a little nervous that they might fall off and break.  There are very minor chips here and there and discolouration of the wood and they are probably not to everyone's taste, but I just like them because they make me smile.

They used to stand on my kitchen windowsill so I could admire them daily, as I washed up or worked at the sink.  When I put them away whilst the builders were working here, I missed them, and when I got them out again, it was like being reunited with old friends, such was my fondness for them.  I know they are only things, and things don't really matter when push comes to shove, but I just really like them.

Do you have any collections that you really enjoy?

Thursday 21 March 2013

New Glasses and Charity Shop Tales 6

One day last week I had to go and pick up my new glasses from the opticians after having some lenses put in.  I needed a new pair as the optician has advised me to wear my contact lenses less and rest my eyes, because they are getting a bit bloodshot with wearing my lenses too often and too long.  The glasses I had I really didn't like wearing.  (It didn't help that my partner said I looked 10 years older in them!)  Anyway, the new glasses were great, but I hadn't had my hair coloured when I bought the frames, so they didn't look quite as I remembered them, due to my new lightened hair.  No matter, I will get used to them.  Here's a picture of them.  They are Gok Wan frames which cost £15 from our local market, possibly ex-display, I'm not sure.   The lenses though cost substantially more.

After leaving the opticians, I popped into Primark once again and came away with a few  bits and pieces  to wear in the summer.  I only spent £6 on 3 pairs of  earrings and this red spotted scarf which I really like and will probably wear and wear. 

After indulging in Primark,  I honestly didn't really intend going into a charity shop, in fact, I managed to resist the urge to go into one on the main street, but it was whilst on my walk home that I succumbed to temptation, as I had time to kill before the school run.  I  popped into a favourite charity shop near to where I live and oh boy, was I glad I did.

Waiting just for me was this lovely skirt from Boden.


I think it was from their autumn/winter collection. The fabric is just fabulous and gorgeous and I can't wait to wear it this spring with tights and boots, but could probably get away with wearing it all year round. It couldn't have been more perfect for me and I just couldn't believe my luck.   I just could never justify paying what this would have cost new, and I remember admiring it in the Boden catalogue last year.  It was priced at £3 too, which was amazing.  It needed a bit of an iron but apart from that was in great condition. 

Needless to say, the skirt was swiftly removed from the rack and taken to the till, along with this lovely cotton fabric that I spotted. 

There were two pieces of the same design, probably intended for curtains but never used.  Each piece was priced very keenly at £2 for what looks like 3m of fabric, so I just had to buy them both and I think I may make a skirt with one of them.  The other may actually become some new cushion covers and a table runner for the dining room, for when we finally reclaim it from being our current junk room. I love the print as it looks so retro.  I might make a tablecloth with it too.  The possiblities are limitless almost.

So, for not too much money and a bit of effort to come on my part, I've acquired the equivalent of at least another two pieces in my new spring/summer wardrobe, plus a few accessories to go with them.  I was one very happy lady.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

A Tuesday Trip To.......

The Ideal Home Show at Earl's Court.  Here's how it looked as you approached from the tube station.

I managed to get a couple of free tickets to the show via Martin Lewis's Money Saving Expert website and as I live in London and it would only cost me the price of a tube ticket I decided to give it a go and roped a friend in for a day out.

When I've been to these type of shows in the past, you are usually greeted with a goody bag containing at least a magazine or newspaper, a few vouchers and a few drink or food samples.  It was disappointing to note that you had to pay £5 for the show guide to receive this.  I don't know what the contents were, because I didn't buy one. It seems that the recession has taken its toll on even these kind of events.

When we got inside there was a full floor of stalls selling and demonstrating all manner of household, beauty, clothing, garden and food products.  We watched a few demonstrations.  One of a food slicing mandolin was particularly impressive, and would convince anyone that their life wasn't complete without one.  I must admit I was sorely tempted, but the £20 price tag was just a bit out of my league for a gadget that would probably get put in a cupboard and forgotten, even though it seemed to do amazing things.

On we went into the show and then ventured downstairs to where the show homes were.  We queued for a while to get into The Prince's House which had been done in conjunction between The Prince's Foundation and House Beautiful magazine.  It was very beautifully done, but unfortunately someone should have told them that the minute you stepped in, the aroma of fox urine hung in the air.  Living in London this is a familiar smell due to the proliferation of urban foxes, especially if you leave your wellies outside and then bring them in to a warm house.  As the afternoon wore on the smell seemed to get stronger and as we later watched a fashion show on the stage next door we could even smell fox from there.  It must have been on a plant in the planting outside the house.  Perhaps I should have enlightened them, but surely it would have been obvious, unless they had become completely inured to it.

We stopped for a coffee and drank it as we watched Joe Swift deliver a talk on small gardens which was entertaining and enjoyable and then had some lunch before wandering  around some more show houses and gardens and stands at the show.

There were a few things I liked, such as these hanging insect hotels displayed in one of the gardens, made from old garden sieves.  I thought them a super idea and a great use for these vintage garden tools.

I also particularly liked this herb garden which inspired me to try to rearrange the herbs in my garden at home.  I'll post later on my progress.

I liked this chevron wallpaper in one of the show house bathrooms, although it is very bold and does make you feel a little dizzy.

I also liked this kitchen in another show house.
There were some lovely woodburning stoves on a couple of stands too which were worth a look at.  We fancy getting one for our dining room at some point.  But do you know what, I think my ideal home is the one I have and the one that I was very glad to get back to, after a pretty exhausting but interesting day.

I did make a couple of purchases aside from a drink and lunch. I treat myself to a couple of  large lavender plants to replace the woody ones I removed from the garden recently and a lovely white hydrangea. They were very reasonably priced and it was nice to give some business to someone at the show.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

At the Moment I'm Reading......

I've just finished reading this book called 'The Secret Shopper's Revenge' by Kate Harrison and it has turned out to be a really enjoyable read.  I really enjoyed picking it up and reading a few chapters at a time, last thing at night or first thing in a morning.

If you've ever felt that you've been treated a bit shabbily in a store, or alternatively been grateful to find staff  especially helpful and knowledgable, without being pushy or giving you the hard sell, you will appreciate some of the characters and scenarios in this book.

The three main characters,  having fallen upon hard times, due to circumstances beyond their control, find themselves working as secret shoppers, employed by the elusive Charlie.  They are paid to shop and  record  the unpleasant and cruel behaviour exhibited by some store employees, as well as the wonderful service they receive from other more thoughtful and caring members of store staff.  In between shopping missions, the book follows the trials and tribulations of their everyday life, their efforts to rebuild their lives and get back in control.

This is the first book I've read by this author, but I am thoroughly enjoyed it.  I bought this in a charity shop for 95p, so if you see a copy on your travels or in the library and you like this sort of lighthearted but astutely observed fiction, then give it a go as it is quite entertaining.  In addition, reading it helps satisfy one's own yearnings to shop, which I have to admit to from time to time, (Note recent posts), by proxy.  I wonder if I can get a job doing this.  Only joking!

Monday 18 March 2013

More Frugal Fashion Makes

One Saturday morning, a couple of weeks ago now, I was rummaging around in our dining room, looking to see what else I could relocate, to clear some of the detritus that has gathered there since the building work, and I happened upon some fabric that I bought last summer for about £3, from a stall at our local market. I remembered that I wanted to make a skirt with it, although I was tempted to make a lovely cushion cover.  Inspired by re-discovering it, I hot footed it up to my workroom and set about transforming it into a simple pencil skirt.

I'd already earmarked a pattern to use to make a pencil skirt, which I'd got free with Prima magazine a few months ago, so I cut it out and it just fitted on the piece of fabric with very little to spare.   The fabric itself is a stretch cotton sateen with a striking vintage-looking floral pattern.  I'm not sure if it is a vintage fabric or not but as soon as I saw it I just loved it.  It would have made a gorgeous cushion cover, but I decided on something a little more adventurous so that I could wear it.  I figured that if and when I do get bored of it and no longer want to wear it, I will still be able make said cushion cover by reusing the fabric, rather than throwing it away or giving it to the charity shop.

I had to make a few adjustments to the pattern, as I only had a normal zip and not a concealed zip.  I also took the split out, as I'm not a fan of sewing them and as the fabric had a stretch across the grain I thought that I might get away with not having a split.   I also lengthened it a little so it is below as opposed to on the knee as I prefer this length.  Finally,  I added internal facings to the waist area and dispensed with lining for this particular skirt, as the fabric is quite thick and I find skirt linings quite annoying sometimes as they ride up or hang below the hemline if the fabric shrinks.

The making of it progressed slowly bit by bit as time allowed over the next week or so, and now finally I can post a photo of the finished skirt.   This makes another item for my new spring wardrobe.  Roll on spring so that I can wear it without freezing to death.

I've already got another project in mind using the same pattern, but with a different fabric that I bought for £1.50.   I'll post a picture when I've completed it.  Does anyone else out there make their own clothes or are thinking about starting?  I must admit that I am not completely self-taught, but have attended various dressmaking classes over the last few years to build up my confidence.  In fact, I usually like to attend a class when making something I've never made before, as if I get into difficulty with a pattern, there is a tutor on hand to help you out.  In addition, it is interesting to meet others interested in making their own clothes.

The local libraries in a neighbouring borough to where I live, regularly put on courses and I have attended quite a few.  Unfortunately, this term the course I was interested in was  fully booked, so I haven't been able to attend, but I may try to enrol on a course starting after Easter if there are any spaces.  It's usually only for a couple of hours a week, but it enables me to try to make an item that I might not otherwise try to make at home on my own.  The courses themselves work out at about £5 per week, which I am happy to pay for the tuition, and is less than the cost of one exercise class at the gym, so I think it is really good value.  No wonder they are fully booked!

Sunday 17 March 2013

Allotment Matters

Well, with the budget for March well and truly blown by my hair cut and colour, new glasses and other indulgences, the remainder of March is going to have to be very frugal indeed.  With little money left to spend on anything but food for the family and essentials only, I have absolutely no excuse not to get on and clear the garden and get the allotment planted up before inspections start at the end of the month.  Weather allowing that is.  I had it in mind to go on Saturday, as I had a more or less free day, but didn't count on it raining all morning.  My partner said it was forecast rain all weekend, save for Saturday afternoon, so we headed off there later that day, as soon as it had dried off a bit. 

It isn't ideal weather to be at the allotment, straight after rain as the soil is wet and you probably do more harm than good, but as I didn't really have much choice and I am running out of time to get the plot up to scratch,  I decided to go anyway.  So with a tray of chitted seed potatoes and my camera to record the results, I paid a visit to the allotment and started in earnest to cultivate it.

When I got there, as expected, the soil was very wet and very heavy, so took a bit of turning over.  I decided to dig out the herb corner as the mint was getting too invasive and I wanted to put the potatoes along the bottom of the plot.  I think I will create a herb patch in a container at home by the back door, where I can get at it easily.

I also transplanted all the lettuce that had overwintered to another spot, again to clear the way for the potatoes.  My partner kindly came over, after walking the dog, to help put the chitted seed potatoes in.  He did this beautifully, as you can see from these photos.  It was nice to get some help too.

Beyond the potatoes are some garlic and shallots, sown in late autumn.  They are a bit spindly at the moment but will hopefully fill out a bit and put on some growth when the weather improves.
Next to the potatoes are the broad beans I sowed last year and doing quite well.  I pinched out the tips to prevent black fly attacking them in spring.

Here's the bed I transferred the lettuces to.  Most of them are quite small but will hopefully expand as the weather warms up.  I'm surprised they survived the winter at all really.  Beyond are lots of forget- me-nots which I will probably dig up as they get quite invasive.  I'll leave some clumps in though, as they are pretty.  Beyond them are two artichoke plants which grow huge come the summer with lovely big heads, that if I leave on to flower, the bees love.  Sometimes I use them as cut flowers.


Finally, my fruit bed by the compost bin, where there is a huge crown or two of rhubarb.  The stalks are just starting to push up out of the ground although you can't really see this from the photograph.  I get lots of rhubarb from these plants.  The strawberry plants pictured here look a bit straggly but will also hopefully put on growth soon.  I transferred a couple of blackcurrant plants into here, but they look like twigs so probably aren't easily visible.  I now have most of my fruit in one corner.

It looked pretty well cultivated by the time we'd finished.  There is another bed along the right hand side by the fence to dig over and plant up with beans, salad, parsnips, beetroot, etc.  I'll have to try to get down there this week to do that, but I came away feeling relieved that for the most part it is looking a lot better, and most of the hard work had been done.  I just have to keep on top of it now.

Saturday 16 March 2013

A New Handbag, a Book Swap and a Big Thank You

Yesterday, after going to the pub the night before to celebrate the birthday of one of the mums at school, I was feeling a bit worse for wear.  Having taken the dog for a lovely long walk in the brisk air to clear the cobwebs, I had to go out to get some blinds for my daughter's bedroom, which I'd reserved, plus a few other bits.  Whilst I was out and about I decided to treat myself to a new handbag for the summer.  I went for quite a bold colour - red - as I'd like to get some red shoes or sandals when I find some that I like and I tend to wear a lot of red, white or navy in the spring or summer, so I thought red would go with all of these colours.

I also went for quite a large bag as my current handbag seemed to be bursting at the seams with glasses, sunglasses, camera, purse, umbrella, etc. etc. etc.  I'm not sure how I'll get on with it as I am used to a more compact handbag, but we'll see.  The handbag itself is quite slouchy, with several pockets on the inside and outside for all my bits and pieces.  It can be carried over the shoulder, across the body or by the handles.  Here's a couple of pictures.

It cost £25, which I thought was pretty reasonable.  Obviously it isn't leather for that price, but much as I'd like a leather one, I also prefer not to spend more than £50 on a handbag.  It has a leather look about it though, which is good enough for me.  In the next week or so I'm going to follow the lead of some other bloggers and do a post about what I carry around with me in my handbag on a daily basis.  I don't know about you, but women's handbags fascinate me and have done ever since I was a child and used to love exploring my mother's handbag contents.  Obviously I'm not going to go into too much personal detail, it will just be a bit of fun.

I digress again.  I bought the bag from TK Maxx and whilst there I couldn't help but also buy a few clearance items.  I bought these 8 V&A notecards inspired by 1950's fabric for just £1.  They are very cheerful and great for thank you or other notes you might want to send to people.  I also bought these adorable striped paper straws for 50p.  They reminded me of the straws I used to use as a child, which tended to go a bit soggy after  drinking through them.  The last item I bought was this book by Gretchen Rubin called 'Happier at Home'.  I had read several blog posts that have said really positive things about her books, so I thought I would buy this one and see what I thought.  (I'll keep you posted - literally).  The book is a hardback and was reduced to £6 which is more than I usually pay for a book, but it looked just the kind of book I like to read so I splashed out.

When I got home, I went to collect my daughter from school and there was a book swap for World Book Week to attend, which had been postponed from the previous week.  I thought it was just for children's books, but there was a table or two of books for grown ups, so I had a browse.  The teachers were trying to encourage everyone to take as many books away with them as they could, but as my unread book pile is in danger of toppling over I only really wanted these two things, this book called 'Cupcakes at Carrington's' and February's issue of Tatler magazine.

I must admit that Tatler is not a magazine I normally read, but it looked to have good fashion content and it was a lovely treat at end the week to flick through it knowing that I hadn't had to pay the £4.10 it would have cost me if I'd bought it.  Not wanting to sound ungrateful, but to be honest I found it was aimed at a far wealthier reader than myself, as everything featured seemed to be hugely expensive.   I enjoyed the fashion and home spreads though.  A bit of escapism is good sometimes and it's interesting to try new things and see how 'the other half' lives once in a while, especially if it is free.

Before I go I'd just like to say a big THANK YOU to BadPenny over at The Hen House  for your very kind and neighbourly mention in your post today.  If you've popped over from BadPenny's blog I'd like to say a big HELLO and WELCOME and I hope you call back again in the future.  Thank you BadPenny, for being a lovely, kind neighbour in blogland.  In creating this post you have also motivated me to create a link which I have never done before on my blog, but now knowing how easy it is I won't hesitate to do it again. 

Friday 15 March 2013

Putting Things to Good Use

I like to make good use of things, which is probably why I find it incredibly hard to throw anything out, as I can always think of some way of potentially using it in the future.  I don't really want to become a serial hoarder though with stuff bursting out of every cupboard and drawer, but sometimes I do think I'm in danger of this.

When I sorted through the shed the other day I found a couple of things that I thought I could put to good use.  One was a basket rack to put on the front of my bike.  I remember the wire basket that attached to this, the handle of  which subsequently (don't ask me how) got stuck in the spokes of my bike and very nearly caused me to have a nasty accident.  Needless to say that got thrown away but I kept the frame that hangs over the handle bars for some reason. 

On rediscovering the frame I had a vague idea that I could create a lidded basket for the front of my bike, that would be an ideal size for my handbag.  The basket was in my workroom being used to keep a few bits and pieces in, but once I'd relocated them I attached it to the frame and I now have a basket on the front of my bike.  It is not exactly stylish or anything, but is great for when I want to use the bike without carrying panniers around with me or don't want to ride with my bag swinging about over my shoulder.  It will also be useful as it will make more room in the panniers should I venture to do the shopping on my bike.

A second cycling item I found in the shed was a mud guard for the back of the bike, to prevent mud getting sprayed up your back when you are riding around in wet weather.  (Not that I do that much cycling in wet weather but I may do at some point in the future especially if I've got a mudguard fitted!).  I'm hoping it will just fit beneath my pannier rack and if it does I may as well make use of it, otherwise it is going to the charity shop.

There was also an old tool box in the shed that my other half wanted to throw out.  'No' I said 'don't throw it out.  I will find a use for it.' and sure enough I have.  I gave it a lick of paint and have now filled it with my seeds ready for sowing, which were previously divided between two or three containers.  Now they're all housed in one creating a lot less clutter.  No wonder my partner affectionately calls me 'Mrs Receptacle' as I like to have a receptacle for everything.

I also found this old Habitat Oak bathroom cabinet with a crack in the mirror where it attached to the cabinet.  My partner removed the mirror and fixings and I am now using it as a shelf in my workroom, to house some more Hornsea collectibles.  I'm hoping to get it fixed to the wall at some point so there is less chance of  it getting knocked over and damaging the pottery.

Do you like to find new uses for things?

Thursday 14 March 2013

Seeing Spots and Charity Shop Tales 5

I ventured into our local neighbourhood charity shop on my way to the library the other day.  It isn't a charity shop that I visit very regularly, although it is one of the nearest to where I live.  I just tend to go to some more regularly than others.  Anyway,  I had a good look around but I didn't have much money in my purse, maybe £5 or £6 which did limit me somewhat.

I was tempted by a 1960's/70's fabric duvet cover in yellows but decided instead on a couple of sewing patterns at £1 each and a necklace and earrings set for Red Nose Day on Friday for £2.  They  were from Claire's accessories, sold this year for Red Nose Day.  They were superbly kitsch but I do love a bit of kitsch, and you've got to get into the spirit of it a little is what I say.  Anyway, someone must have bought them and then changed their mind about them, as they were still attached to the card, which is good, as not only will Comic Relief have benefited, but so will our local charity shop.  I'm intending to wear the earrings, once cleaned, and my daughter has already reserved the necklace to wear on Friday.  I just need to bake some buns now for the school cake sale.  That will be interesting!


The first sewing pattern I decided to buy was this pattern for a dress.  I like the straight dress on the left.  I particularly like it's high neck and pretty sleeves and fancy that it might be quite simple to make.   Alternatively, I could make a top which might be nice for the summer.  Luckily the pattern is completely uncut, so I will be able to make it in my size.  I just need to dig out some fabrics now and see what I might be able to use.  Thinking about it, I do have a lovely navy/white small spotted lightweight cotton fabric, which might be ideal if I have enough of it.

The second pattern was for some shorts/trousers of various lengths.  Unfortunately the trouser pattern had been cut to a size smaller than I would need, but I could try to enlarge the pattern or cut the fabric pieces bigger if I wanted to make them.  The knee length shorts however are rather nice, and the pattern for them is uncut so I could make them in any size and they would be great for the summer in a nice fabric.  I could also probably just lengthen them to make trousers too which might be easier.  I've never made trousers before, but have seen others make them, and I do know that they can be a bit tricky to get a good fit.


As you can see, I didn't spend an awful lot on this charity shop visit which is good.  I did however, treat myself to a couple of spotty things in Primark last week when I was passing.  The first was this spotted navy/cream  neoprene makeup bag with patent red edging, which I just love.  It was £3 and is just lovely and cheerful.  I just wish they did a handbag in this colour combination.


The second is this red/white spotted cotton shopping bag to carry around in my handbag this summer.  This cost £1.50. (Please excuse the terrible photo, I took this at night with the lights on, and the creases,  it has been folded up in my bag)   I suppose I could have made myself one, but doubt if I could even get the fabric for that price, let alone the effort involved.