Sunday, 30 June 2013


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Allotment Corner

Saturday, and I made my way to the allotment again for a couple of hours.  There was only really harvesting to do as there is still no room to plant out anything else or sow any seeds.   I harvested a week's worth of lettuce.  There's probably another weeks worth left at the allotment so I will need to sow some more.

I dug up a few potato plants to give us enough potatoes to last the week,

and harvested a good crop of strawberries. 

I was particularly pleased at this as this is the first decent crop I have had since acquiring this allotment about 4 years ago.  There was still plenty left on the plants too.

I also harvested some broad beans,

but left quite a lot until they have grown a bit bigger. 

I planted out the couple of sweetcorn plants I'd bought at the school fete the day before.  I cut a few artichoke heads from the plant as they were weighing it down to the ground, before I proceeded to give the plants that needed it a really good watering and liquid feed.  The plot itself is still looking a bit mad.  I took a few pictures this visit.

These hollyhocks will be flowering soon.
When I got home I washed all the fruit and vegetables ready for use, (this is the least enjoyable part of growing your own veg, but a small price to pay) put the artichoke heads in water in a vase to decorate the living room and had a lovely big salad for lunch.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Catching Up and Preparations for the School Fete

Well, Thursday and Friday this week were spent catching up with jobs that needed doing both in and outside the house.  Firstly, some rhubarb had been sat on the side slowly going rubbery and needed cooking up into jam.  I bought myself a muslin cloth from our local discount store (they stock everything in there and very reasonably priced too) and set about making the jam.  I always just boil it up with a liberal sprinkle of sugar and hope for the best.  Rhubarb seems to have quite a high pectin level so seemed to jellify quite quickly, probably after 10-15 minutes or so.  I heated my jars up in the oven to sterilise them for 10 minutes and then set about trying to sieve the jam through the muslin to eradicate all the stringy bits of rhubarb.

After a few minutes of not much progress, I gave up.  The potential waste of the rhubarb pulp was upsetting me too much, so I decided just to put it in the jars as it was.  Texture is good.  I popped the waxed paper on top and on went the lids.  I used my French preserve jars for this, whose lids are like a flexible plastic, put on some homemade labels et voila!

Next on the agenda were a few jobs in the garden.  I had also bought some compost at the discount store and just needed to pot up some tomato plants for the school summer fete.  I also needed to put a couple more tomato plants into a grow bag I already had in the greenhouse and plant some fennel plants (now looking a bit worse for wear) into the borders in the garden.  It did feel good to get these jobs done as they had been nagging at me for a couple of weeks, but I just couldn't muster up the enthusiasm.  I need a good deadline sometimes and as the fete was on Friday, it was the push I needed to just do it.  I also potted up a few English Marigolds for the fete too and swept up the decking leaving the garden looking a lot tidier. 

I must just share this photo of my Philadelphus/Mock Orange plant, which after about four years of waiting (so worth it) is finally in full flower, looking magnificent and smelling heavenly.  It blends perfectly with next door's pale pink rose too.

Next job on the list was Jolly Jam Jars for the school fete again.  I had been collecting together lots of bits and pieces to fill the jam jars with, namely chocolate, lollipops, toys, makeup, bubbles, stickers, etc.   I made four for girls and three for boys and one for the grown ups which was filled with fabric and other small sewing bits and pieces.  I popped fabric jam covers on the top and sticky labels on the side and they were ready to go.  These sell for £1 each and are really popular.  I have even been known to buy one myself when one year I found one full of fabrics and ribbons.
The fete itself was on Friday afternoon and after a morning spent baking jam tarts and making popcorn which I then bagged up, it was time to go over and help set up.
I completely forgot to take my camera with me so there are no photos I'm afraid but the fete was held outside in the playground between showers.  (We were very lucky with the weather).  I helped to man the book stall and there were vast amounts of books donated.  Even by the end there were loads left which I then had the back breaking job of wheelbarrowing back into the school building.
Anyway, the fete itself seemed to go well.  I bought a couple of cups of Pimms early on to sustain me and at only £1 per cup it was considerably cheaper than Wimbledon.  I also bought a few plants, namely another Johnson's Blue geranium for the garden at home, an alchemilla mollis (to go with the one I bought in the Yorkshire Dales), a Verbena bonariensis (ditto) and a couple of sweetcorn plants.
I did also buy a few books which at 3 for £1 they were very reasonable.  I couldn't find any fictional reading books that I fancied reading, but I did find a great M&S book about slow cooking
with some fabulous recipes in it.  I also found a book about simple knitting projects for the home in which a knitted throw took my eye and I might even venture to make one some time soon.


The rest of the money I had with me was spent on some new items of school uniform for my daughter to wear next year. The school were selling them in time for the new uniform being introduced in September.  I'm gradually getting myself organised after six years of not having to worry about uniforms for school.  It is good preparation for Secondary school though, where uniform has always been compulsory.

After a long and pretty exhausting afternoon I ventured home.  Luckily I had prepared beef stew and dumplings for dinner and all I had to do was heat up the stew and add the dumplings then eat it. A quick catch up with what was going on with the tennis and a brief watch of Glastonbury whilst doing a bit more patchwork followed, and thus ended a very busy week.  I'm glad it's the weekend tomorrow as I need a rest.

Friday, 28 June 2013

A Wonderful Day at Wimbledon

Whilst not wanting to bore you about Wimbledon our visit on Tuesday was just fab.  We got there a little later than anticipated as we walked up the hill from the train station.  It was interesting to pass through Wimbledon village.  A very pretty place.  Most of the shops were getting into the spirit of the event with tennis balls in the shop window displays everywhere.


We missed the players warming up on the practice courts when the gates open at 10.30am, but did get there early enough to catch some play from some of the younger and unseeded players on the outdoor courts. 

It was good to note that the age of chivalry is not dead yet, although this young man looks like he's shading himself from the sun, not the player.

Wimbledon just wouldn't be Wimbledon with out this particular brand of squash.  Does anyone remember the adverts from the 1970's?  Makes you feel thirsty just looking at them on a warm day.
As 1pm approached we headed towards Centre Court

I was very kindly escorted to my seat by a very nice gentleman from the Royal Navy.  It made me feel very special even though he and other members of the armed forces did the same for many of the visitors.

Our seats were great, far better than the previous year with great views of the action.  We thoroughly enjoyed watching the first two matches seeing  Serena Williams (she's warming up here, hence the jacket).

Then Novak Djokovic who was given a bit of a run for his money in the second set, but is a seriously classy player.

We then ventured out to the outer courts again, but sadly the match I was wanting to catch had just finished, Alexandr Dolgopolov had won in three straight sets.  I just managed to catch him coming off court which was rather exciting, before heading off to Murray Mound where we saw Laura Robson's match point on the big screen. I then made my way over to Court 17 to watch another young player from Bulgaria, namely Grigor Dimitrov (who also happens to be Maria Sharapova's current beau).

I watched a few games of his match before we headed back into Centre Court once again to watch David Ferrer.

We had a fabulous day, some pretty expensive Pimms (but it was worth it) and very little to spoil it, save for a couple of invasions of my personal space, one by a child which is completely forgiveable  and one by a grown man who really should know better.

On the way home it was a lovely last treat to stumble upon the Gold postbox outside the grounds, painted in celebration of Andy Murray's Olympic Gold last year.

If you like watching tennis and you ever get the chance to go to Wimbledon, do take it, it has got to be one of the best days out on the sporting calendar.  I will definitely by applying for tickets in the ballot next year and if I'm lucky enough it will become a regular yearly outing.

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Well, I  signed up with Pinterest at the weekend, after first getting my daughter to show me how to join Instagram, then finding it wasn't suitable for me as I don't have a phone with an internet connection.  So fast forward to Sunday morning and I spent two hours exploring the various pins and boards, liking some and repinning others.  It is frightening how much time you can lose on this site, in the process of seeking inspiration.  I've heard a lot of bloggers talk about it and say much the same thing, but it is a very interesting concept and a very useful tool, especially if you are into fashion or crafts of various kinds.

There are so many inspiring pins out there to give you a nudge in the right direction when you feel like getting a bit creative.  It's also quite useful for more practical purposes such as finding good storage solutions for your home or design features for your home or garden.   If you haven't already been on there, take a look and see what you think.  It seems pretty easy to use although I don't quite understand everything about it yet.

This post is not sponsored by the way.  Just giving my honest opinion and experience.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Six Month Review of Financial Progress

Way, way back in January in an effort to get my finances on a better footing, I devised a financial plan for myself for the coming year, based on my approximate income, which tends to stay pretty static.  In January I had calculated what I had spent in various areas in the previous year, namely food, clothes, presents and miscellaneous and from that I calculated what I wanted to spend in each of these categories this year factoring some reductions in some areas where I thought spending was a bit high.  I did this in the hope of keeping within my budget and also allowing any savings made to be paid off my credit cards which I hope to clear completely this year.

As I keep a written record of all my expenditure on a daily basis, this allows me to make year on year comparisons and as we are now just about six full months through the year, I decided to do a few calculations the other day and see how I'm doing to date.  It made very interesting reading and was even a bit worrying in some respects.

By way of a summary, I am just about on target to meet my overall forecast expenditure according to income, but the amount of money spent in the different categories has varied.  In some categories such as food, I am way below what I allowed myself and that is without taking into consideration that the food growing part of the year which is still to come in the next few months, so hopefully my food expenditure will fall yet further below what I forecast, which is obviously a good thing.

On the other hand however, in categories such as clothes, miscellaneous and presents I seem to have almost hit the target and in some cases gone beyond suggesting that some of the food monies have been displaced into other areas.  To some extent I did expect this, as having acquired a puppy, there has been quite a bit of expenditure on her, in terms of the things she needs such as pet food, vet bills, toys, etc. which will account for some of the added expenditure.  In addition, things such as buying new glasses and getting a new passport will also have added to this figure and was not taken into account when the forecast was made.  Other figures such as clothes are a little harder to calculate, as I have used a slightly different system of recording daily expenditure which does not break down what I spend on myself and my daughter into such specific categories.  A bit of an oversight, but I do think that I have definitely gone way beyond what I forecast.

As a consequence of these anomalies, I haven't paid as much off my credit cards as I probably should have done and have actually had to put some things on them at times when expenses have come at just the wrong time of the month and cash has not been available.  In order to meet my goal of paying off my credit cards fully this year, I am therefore going to have to refocus my efforts in this direction for the remainder of the year and try to stop indulging in multiple small purchases which very soon add up to a lot more than I realise and divert me from the path of achieving the goals I have set.

It has taken me just a couple of hours to make these calculations, and whilst I try not to be too obsessive about it, I think it has been time well spent to redirect and focus my efforts for the remainder of the year.  Does anyone else out there have any financial goals they are hoping to meet this year and if so, how are you doing?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Wimbledon Here We Come

Today we are off to Wimbledon and we're pretty excited as you can imagine.  Childcare has been arranged, as has a dog walker for the puppy and we are free to enjoy the delights of Centre Court. With our £45 tickets, we will be watching three of the world's highest seeded players (albeit from a distance I expect), namely Serena Williams (USA), Novak Djokovic (SRB) and  David Ferrer (ESP) seeded 1,1 and 4 respectively.  How lucky are we?

Last year I went on exactly the same day of the competition and was fortunate enough to watch Andy Murray (GBR) and Rafael Nadal (ESP) and had a thoroughly enjoyable day on my very first visit to Wimbledon.  (I was sad to hear of Rafa's shock exit from the tournament yesterday, and whilst not wanting to take away the achievement of his opponent feel he must have used up most of his energies winning the French Open in fabulous style a few weeks ago). This year, I'm going with my OH on his first visit to Wimbledon and we are really looking forward to it.

I have printed off the schedule of play for the day and can't wait to spend the first few hours wandering around the outside courts watching the various players and spotting the odd really famous one.  I've highlighted the matches I'd really like to take a look at on the outer courts and might have to sneak out of Centre Court to steal a look at some of them.

I'm hoping to take some photos whilst I'm there, but to be honest, it is on days like this that I wish I had a better camera.  I will leave you, however, with a few photos from last year of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (FRA) on the practice courts.


And a couple of Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) seeded 26, an interesting young player I would like to watch again this year.

I don't think I'll be winning any awards for my photography anytime soon, but at least now you know what I mean when I say I'd like a better camera.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Managing Month End

Well, it's nearing the end of the month and in my case this always means a sharp tightening of the belt and careful managing with what money I have left.  As a consequence, this week's shop had to be small as I had just over £20 left to buy food for the week.  Fortunately, through buying things on offer when I saw them, I have a freezer which is pretty well stocked with meat, fish, frozen vegetables and breakfast items (i.e. crumpets, potato cakes, etc.), a vegetable drawer with enough carrots, parsnips, courgette and onions to last and cupboards with quite a lot of tinned and dry foods to get us through the week. 

I stocked up on cereals last week and need no household products or toiletries so all I do need are fruit, some vegetables and salad, yoghurts, ham, cheese, butter, orange juice and bread, which if I shop carefully, I should be able to get for the money I have left.  Any extras and treats bar what we have already in the house, will have to wait until next month now.

It's a good excuse really to try to clear the fridge, freezer and cupboards of foods that have been lurking there for quite a while unused.  For example, I have a trifle mix in the cupboard and fruit in the freezer, which has been sat there for over 3 months waiting for me to make the trifle, so this week I will be doing just that.  I am rather relieved now that I did overspend on food at the beginning of this month, as it is helpful to still have some of the food in the house as the month comes to an end.

I have now done my weekly shop at Lidl and thankfully I did manage to get everything on my list for the sum of £22.22, which was a relief.  We should eat as well as we do in any other week so none of us should suffer at all.  I might just have to be a little more creative which is no bad thing.

I am aware that there are people in this country as well as in other parts of the world who aren't sure where their next meal is coming from, so I feel it is really important to appreciate what we have and not waste food.  We try to use up all our shopping and not buy too much fresh food so that it doesn't go off in the fridge by the end of the week.  In addition I try to make just enough of every meal to feed us all.  Any leftovers are either given to the dog if they are suitable, put in the fridge or frozen for use another day.  Any vegetables looking tired still get used, but are chopped up and put in a stew or casserole, as after 2-3 hours cooking you cannot possibly tell how fresh they were to start with anyway.  Peelings are composted in the garden and any other cooked or non-compostable at home food waste is taken by the council weekly and turned into compost too, so we are quite fortunate in this regard.

As decided  earlier in the month, we made a contribution to our local food bank this month and hope to continue doing so in the future.  It didn't cost a huge amount of money, and it is surprising how large a box of food you can buy for £5 or so if you are careful and considered about it.  Please note, I deliberately did not buy supermarket value items either, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so.  Our local food bank provide a list of the most useful types of items to buy and I just about stuck to it although a few items weren't on the list, so I hope they can by used.  I hope the food I bought will be useful to someone out there who might be struggling to make ends meet.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Allotment Corner

As I am regularly visiting my allotment now the weather is getting better, I have decided to make a regular weekly post called Allotment Corner.  I will try to post this weekly, but it may be slightly intermittent dependent upon how regularly I manage to get there. So here goes.

This week's trip to the allotment was on Saturday afternoon.  With daughter dropped off at a party for the entire afternoon and OH watching the rugby I sloped off to indulge myself in a bit of horticulture.  It was great for once not to be too constrained by time.  I had up to 3 and a half hours to spend there if I wanted to which felt like a luxury.  I took four courgette plants with me that were desperate to be planted out and a tomato plant.  I also took some pretty awful looking sweetcorn I'd bought at our local discount store up the road, but which had deteriorated markedly since buying them, due to my neglect.  I also took various seeds to sow if I got the chance.

When I arrived at my plot an incredibly mangey looking fox was curled up in the corner.  It didn't seem phased by my arrival at first and just eyeballed me, but then sped off through the fence.  I set to on the plot.  I was desperate for some lettuce at home so started off by harvesting a few heads.  I really need to use these up as they are getting past their best now.  I took as many as I could get in a bowl in the fridge and left about another week's worth in the ground.  Hopefully they will still be okay next week.

Next I did some clearing and cleared the remainder of the forget me knots to make room for my courgette plants.  I dug the ground over and put two of them in as well as the sweetcorn plants which weren't spaced very well due to the lack of space at the moment for planting things out, but never mind as they might not even survive.

I did a bit of weeding, harvested some rhubarb as it was taking over again.  I still haven't finished eating the last lot I harvested so this lot might just be used for jam or jelly if I put my mind to it.  I have made jam before but don't sieve it and I'm the only one who ends up eating it because the stringy bits put everyone else off.  It's really tasty though.  This time I'm going to try to sieve it through muslin or something and make a jelly or clear jam which might have a wider appeal.

I also decided to dig up a couple of potato plants to see how they were doing.  The potatoes that came out were lovely  and a reasonable size for earlies, but I think they need a week or two longer to get a bit bigger.  I also pulled up a garlic bulb, but it was the same story.  The broad beans have now set quite well but were not quite big enough to harvest.  Maybe another week and they'll be ready.  I also harvested a few strawberries which had not actually ripened fully.  I decided to harvest them though as often they disappear, presumably being eaten by the birds so I wanted to at least try a few this year which I will ripen fully at home.  I tasted a couple and they were really nice.

Finally before leaving I planted out the remaining courgettes where I could and the tomato plant, harvested a few shallots and some spinach, and sowed a few seeds of turnips, beetroot, kale and rainbow chard before coming home.  I admired this blue hardy geranium which looked lovely.  I bought it at the school summer fair a couple of years ago and put it in the plot to fill in a bit of space last year.  It has really thrived and I think I might separate it out and bring some plants back home to put in the garden.  It's a beauty.

This was my total haul from this visit which will help to keep us going for a while.

I might struggle to get to the plot next week as I've got a busy week coming up what with my daughter's Sports Day and school trip, the School Summer Fair, Wimbledon, plus all the usual stuff, so it was as well that I managed to spend some time there this visit.  The plot is still looking a bit triffid-like, but once the potatoes and broad beans come out in the next couple of weeks there will be a marked difference.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Patchwork Project Number 2

I have finally started my second and much larger patchwork project, I say finally, because the cut  squares have been sat in my 'to do' basket for 6 months waiting for me to feel inspired enough to start sewing them together.  After deciding to hand sew the quilt instead of machine sew it, I have made a start by attaching paper to the back of some squares and tacking it into place.  It is so relaxing to do it as I watch TV on an evening, it's almost become addictive.

I am then sewing the squares into nine square blocks before later attaching them together to make the quilt.  Here are some pictures of the blocks I've sewn already and some cut squares waiting to be done. 

I'm going to include some larger panels in the centre of the quilt with appliqued fabric shapes attached, which will be revealed in due course.  All of the fabric I'm using so far is what I have at home, so hopefully it will cost very little to make.  Some of the fabrics are slightly heavier as I anticipate it being used more in the autumn/winter/spring and as you can see the colours are quite wintery and dark.  I would say that maroon is the dominant colour, but there are a few brights added in to lift it a little.  I already have an old quilt cover to back it with, but I figure that stage is a long way in the future.   I'm not entirely sure how it will pan out yet or quite how large I will make it as it depends on the amount of fabric I have and whether or not I get fed up and make it smaller, but I will keep you posted on it's progress.

Friday, 21 June 2013

A Thursday Shopping Trip

Yesterday, I had to go out to complete a few errands, the main one being to get some passport photos taken as I have an appointment at the Passport Office in Victoria tomorrow to get a new passport.  I've had to arrange an appointment as we go in away in a few weeks and need to get a visa beforehand, so I had to have the passport as soon as possible.  It's costing me an extra £20 or so but it will mean the application will be safely delivered to the Passport Office by me and the passport itself will be delivered to me at home in 7 days.  As my partner's last passport went astray in the post and he had to do a last minute dash to Peterborough to get a new one the day before travelling abroad, I didn't want to take any chances.  In any case this should leave plenty of time to make the rest of our travel arrangements.  It is an expense I didn't count on this month as I had completely forgotten that it was running out this year, so I will probably have to put it on my credit card and pay it off next month as it isn't something I can choose not to do for now. 

Anyway, I racked my brains to think of where there is a passport photo machine, where I could also tie the visit in with other errands I had to do.  It meant a 5 or 6 mile drive out of London, but it is one I'd have to do at some point anyway and it did cross a few things off my to do list this week so I didn't mind.  The only problem was it was close to a large TK Maxx store which is always a temptation and this instance was no exception.  I just couldn't resist taking a look.

I don't know about anyone else, but I can spend hours in TK Maxx and I literally did.  I always like to have a good look around all the clearance items as you can often get some great bargains if you look hard enough and I must admit that I did. 

I started by having a good look around the ground floor and the handbags and toiletries and then I wandered over to the shoe department and I saw these lovely K-Swiss trainers.   At £22 they were a great price for new branded trainers.

I didn't intend to look for some trainers, honestly, but as I was in the shoe department I thought I'd have a look and saw these and a couple of other pairs.  I tried the various pairs on, but these just felt the most comfortable and the red clearance label did just tip me in their direction. I've never actually had any of this brand before so I hope they perform well as I need them to last at least a year.  In mitigation for this indulgence, I do desperately need a new pair as my current ones have taken a real battering in the last year and aren't as supportive on my ankles as they used to be.  I'll probably keep the old ones for out and about on the bike, but for down the gym the new ones will be adorning my feet from now on.  I'm really pleased with them and can't wait to start wearing them.

After finding the trainers, I moved on upstairs where the home wares and books, etc. are located.  I was initially looking for storage solutions for the bedroom, but didn't really find any.    However, in the stationery/book clearance aisle I found a few lovely things, the first of which were these beautiful note cards.  They were reduced to £2 as the box was damaged, and there were supposed to be 40 of them in the box of various really pretty designs as you can see from the photo.  I counted them when I got home (sad I know) and there were actually 48 cards and 70 envelopes so I think that a couple of boxes had been merged.  I'm really not complaining though.  They will be great for thank you notes, birthday invites for my daughter or other craft projects even.

In addition, I saw this pack of 24 lovely craft strings in 12 different colours for £4.  I have a few uses in mind for them so was happy to pay less than half the original price of £10.  It works out at approximately 40 pence per roll which for 5 yards is pretty good.  They will look great tied to buff tags for gift wrapping and I may even make some small scale bunting with them.

I also bought this book by Delia Smith.  I don't often buy cook books or even get them as presents for Christmas, but this one just really appealed to me.  Perhaps it was the word 'Frugal' in the title or maybe it was because it was one of Delia's. 

I've already got one Delia cook book, namely her Complete Cookery Course and it has been a real treasure over the years and is definitely the most used cook book I own.  I do like her no-nonsense approach to the subject.  This is a re-issue with illustrations, of a book she wrote in the 1970's and it is still very relevant today.  I loved the sound of some of the recipes such as Sausages Boulangere, Navarin of Lamb and Poor Man's Cassoulet.  I also like the fact that she has used lots of cheaper cuts of meat that I wouldn't traditionally use, and I'm hoping it might encourage me to explore these types of meat in the future.  It's a lovely book and cost the princely sum of £3.  How could I not buy it?

So, they were my main indulgences, but I did buy a couple of other presents that I needed to get for a friend of my daughter's and some bras for me, but a girl needs to retain a bit of mystery so I won't show them here.  I think I was quite restrained and stuck to mainly things I needed, although I could very easily have spent a few hundred pounds in there.  In another life perhaps. Gone are the days when I was working full time and I used to fill a trolley with all manner of things I liked and not worry about the cost.  Probably a good thing really.  How much stuff do we really need.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Garden Freebies

Whilst walking the dog on Monday morning last week, I happened upon a large plastic planter left on the pavement outside of a house, along with lots of garden rubbish.  It was sat inside another the same, full of detritus to be thrown away, so I assumed it was being thrown out.  I carried on my way a few yards with the puppy and then I thought of how it could be really useful for something at home, so I headed back and lifted the other planter off it and took it home with me.  If I have misappropriated it I apologise now, but I'm pretty sure it was unwanted. 

It was the perfect container for growing on some lettuce seedlings I have had sitting in the green house for a while now.   Later the same afternoon when I had a bit of time to spare, I set to filling the planter with compost and planting out some of the lettuce seedlings.   I should have planted them out  a while ago now, but here's a picture of them planted up in the new container.  They are settling in nicely and I'm hoping they will eventually provide us with some lovely large curly lettuces.   Thank you, to whomever threw it out, rest assured it will be put to good use.

Fast forward to Friday of the same week and my monthly issue of Grow It magazine dropped onto the doormat.  Once again, as has been the case most months since I subscribed using my Tesco clubcard vouchers last year, it contained five different varieties of seeds that can be sown now.  This issue the seeds were Late Summer Sowers and included beetroot (Choggia) 60 seeds, cabbage (Greyhound) 100 seeds, kholrabi (Purple Delicacy) 30 seeds, lettuce (Mesclun Mix) 200 seeds and spinach (Matador) 165 seeds. 

I can't wait to sow the purple kholrabi as I love this vegetable.  It is super easy to grow and is great in casseroles, stews, etc. in the autumn/winter.  I must admit that I have had more than my money's worth from this particular subscription and I don't think I've bought any seeds whatsoever this year.  I really am impressed with it and may subscribe again next year if I have enough vouchers.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Patchwork Cushion Reveal

I've mentioned the patchwork cushion that I've been making in various blog posts since I started it back in  May.  Well, today I have finally finished it.  It is going to live in our bedroom on the wicker chair so I made it in shades of grey to match the decor.  I used the same fabrics as for my patchwork workshop lavender cushion, which has found a home in my underwear drawer.  Some fabrics were cut from items of clothing worn by my daughter when she was small, one was Laura Ashley vintage that I had bought on eBay a while ago now and some was new and bought locally specifically to finish the project.

Today, after much stitching, unpicking and re- stitching, I finally fitted a zip and sewed up the sides to complete it.  The zip wasn't grey unfortunately, as I didn't have one long enough, but never mind as it isn't that visible.   I didn't want to go out and buy one specially when I had a huge stash at home that needed using, that I'd picked up in charity shops and market stalls.

So, here it is.  I'm quite pleased with the finished result, especially because I know how much time, love and effort went into it.

Here's a close-up of the fabrics used.
It's not perfect and some of the stitching is a little visible but isn't that one of the lovely things about handmade items.  It gives it it's uniqueness.

It has been quite a long process making it, which has made me question whether or not to make a quilt or throw next, but I did enjoy it.  I figure that if I don't pressure myself to finish by any specific date, I might just enjoy a project that I can just pick up and do a bit of here and there whilst watching TV.  I do actually find it very satisfying to hand sew as I feel a greater sense of ownership, but it is very time consuming.  I guess not everything can be done quickly so it might help me develop more patience.

I think with this next patchwork project I will use larger pieces of fabric and use squares instead of hexagons for a change and see how it goes.  I have some ready cut that I was going to machine sew, but now I think I'd actually prefer to hand sew them together, so I am going to get started on this soon.  I'll keep you posted periodically.

It was good to get back to my sewing machine.  Whilst there I also started on another small project that I'd been meaning to do for a while, namely making a beanbag or floor cushion for my daughter's bedroom.  I used an old curtain and sewed up two sides ready to fill.  Bean bag filling is quite expensive so I may look for second hand beanbags in charity shops and use their filling, or alternatively find a large floor cushion to put inside.  I'll post when I've finished it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Easy Sunday

Sunday this weekend we had a lazy easy day on the whole.  After opening his Father's Day presents and cards; wine, coffee, dark chocolate, and a book, my OH headed off to the gym for some well deserved time to look after himself, whilst my daughter and I headed out for a long walk with the dog.

The previous afternoon whilst I'd been out at the Jumble Sale, OH had re-barked the corner of the garden, put up some bamboo fencing and assembled the new trampoline which arrived this week and was a vast improvement on the old one.  It was green and a lot more subtle, blending in with the garden foliage a lot better.  Here's a photo.

When we all got back, OH then headed out again with our daughter to go swimming, whilst I pottered in the garden.  I ended up emptying the contents of the compost bin all around the borders, a job I'd been meaning to do for a while and potted up a box plant I'd bought from a neighbour for £1, and which I'm thinking of trying to do some topiary on. 

I also planted some tomatoes into a grow bag in the greenhouse and then watered and fed all the plants. 

As a consequence we are now very much on top of the garden with only very minor things left to do such as planting out a few more border plants at some point and a few more tomato plants in grow bags when there is room in the greenhouse.  I treated myself by picking one of these lovely David Austin roses and bringing it inside.

I also cut a few of these climbing roses that tumble over our fence from next door's bush.  The stems are so short that I had to put them in a Babycham glass.  They are a beautiful shade of pale pink.

Lunch was a good old bacon sandwich and a cup of tea and as it was raining by now we settled down to watch the first episode of BBC 2's The Rise of the Continents - Africa - on iPlayer.  Fascinating stuff.  I can't wait to see the episode tonight on Australia.  How was your Sunday?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Jumble Sale Jaunt at the Hospice Summer Fete

Some of the regular dates in my calendar are the jumble sales and fetes held at our local hospice.  They are great events attended by hundreds of people, where you can find some amazing bargains amongst the donations given to the hospice, with all your money going to a very worthy cause.  The queue to get in stretches right down the street so I tend to aim to get there half an hour after it starts to avoid queuing.   I like to support these events, but it is not for the feint hearted as I will explain later.  This Saturday was the turn of the Summer Fete, which along with stalls selling all manner of things, raffles, tombolas, bottle stall, etc., there was also the usual Jumble sale in the basement.

The 'Aladdin's Cave' basement is always a bit of a crush, but an absolute must to visit.  This is where most of the donated clothes, shoes, bags, linens and bric-a-brac are laid out and it is my absolute favourite part.  My first port of call is always the linen and there are large bins to wade through which is great fun.  It can get a bit fraught, but I just take my time and don't get involved in the pushing and shoving.  People buy trolley, suitcase and bin bags full of clothes, sheets, curtains, etc. and so there is always a plethora of bags, cases and shopping trolleys to negotiate to get to the stall which can be tricky.  It is not for everyone I realise, but I've always found it quite good fun.

Upstairs in the main building it is usually a bit more civilised with a furniture stall, quality clothes/shoes stall, jewellery stall and book stall, so I always have a walk around and see what I can find.  I try to limit myself by taking a set amount of money with me, maybe £10 or £20 maximum and when it is gone it is time to go home.  Sometimes I don't even spend it all, but I usually come back with at least a few items.

This year was no exception.  I was a bit late getting there for various reasons and it had been underway for an hour by the time arrived, but it didn't really make too much difference.  I'm sure I probably missed some amazing things, but what you don't see doesn't hurt.  As usual I made my way to the linens first where I only found a few things this time, but hopefully all of them will be useful.  I found this lovely Laura Ashley round cushion with cover.  I paid £2 for this and a couple of other items, which was really good value.  It is a little worn and faded on one side but in good clean condition, so I might cut the cover up to use for patchwork and make another cover for the cushion which is a nice plump, clean, feather filled one.

With it I bought this lovely linen embroidered tray cloth and a quilted pan/pot stand with chickens and chicks on it.  I don't think either of these things have been used as they were in immaculate condition, bar a few creases.

I also bought a couple of other things on this stall, namely this pretty blue floral pillow case and some dark grey linen fabric which looked like it had been cut from the bottom of a new pair of curtains.  It will be perfect to back my patchwork cushion and some other new cushion covers I need to make for the living room.  They cost 50p for the two.
Next, I ventured into the marquee, where just inside the door was a lovely sewing/knitting/craft stall.  I found so many things here that I just couldn't resist.  Here's a picture of all the things I bought.
There was a tub of cottons for £1.50.  They probably aren't the best quality and are only 100 yard reels, but for 10p each or less they will get used at some point and were good value.  I also bought 5 bobbins for my sewing machine, all filled with cotton and costing 10p each too.  The 3 pairs of knitting needles were 30 pence per pair and will be added to my collection.  The two sewing patterns and the really cute cross stitch bird cost £1.10 altogether. 
I later ventured inside the main building and had a good look around the book stall.  I know I have a pile of books waiting to be read, but I really just cannot resist a good book if I see one and at 3 for £1 I found quite a few.  I did start off looking for a travel guide, but they had one for virtually every destination but the one I wanted, so I will keep looking.  I did, however, find the following books which I bought.
These two little books were great.  They are directories of shops in Paris which sell handmade goods and vintage/antique items.  The photographs in them are lovely and very inspirational.  The Made by Hand one is by Pia Jane Bijkerk an Australian stylist whose work I have read about on a couple of blogs in recent months.  Who knows, maybe I will even get to Paris sometime soon and visit some of the shops referred to.

I bought these two fiction books which looked like a good read and then finally bought these last two books which appealed as they include lots of tips on how to save money and live more frugally.

I bought a few other things not pictured here too and still had change from the £20 I took with me, as well as putting £5 on my travel card for bus fares (although it didn't cost this much to get there - £2.60 there and back). The £3 I had left in my pocket when I left didn't stay there long, however, as when I got off the bus I walked past one of my favourite charity shops on the way home and saw a lovely 3 stranded necklace in the window.  I went in to have a look and ended up buying it and another for £2.50.

I had a lovely and fun afternoon though, didn't spend too much money, and came home with quite a few lovely and useful things.  What more can a girl ask for?