Thursday, 31 October 2013

Catching Up

After our weekend away I spent most of this week catching up on emails, post, work, blogging, housework, unpacking and any other jobs.  Thank goodness it is half term is all I can say, and our days are free to spend as we please, more or less.  

One of the first things I did was to send off my Approved Food order for this month, as we are now here to take delivery of it.  I also took advantage of an Amazon Local offer of two tickets to a Festive Fair in Islington in December for just £5, which I thought was good value.  It should be nice to wander around and buy a few last minute presents and soak up the atmosphere of this event in the run up to Christmas.

With no school routine I've been able to take the dog out a little later and Little Bird has been joining me on occasions.  It's nice to have the company and time to chat to each other. 

I've caught up on watching Saturday's Strictly on iPlayer.  We watched the French version whilst away, which was a little different as they include contemporary dance and also do fusions of two dances.  Good though.

I've also returned to my classes to work off the patisserie and Little Bird came too and went for a swim. 

The pumpkin has been carved, the Halloween cakes made (lots of blood and goo),

and the treat bags filled.  We are all set now.  Little Bird is going to a friend's house for a little gathering on Halloween before heading out with their mum trick or treating.  I think I'm going to use the opportunity, to catch up with the ironing.  Fun filled life I lead!

I've really enjoyed the last couple of days, just taking life at our own pace before the madness of term time starts up again next week.  I'm going to savour the rest of the week too.  How's your week been?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Holiday En France - Part 3

Day three of our short holiday in France started with a lovely breakfast.  OH took the dog out and brought back some lovely bread and croissants which we ate with ham and cheese.  We had boiled eggs too, which was a treat.  As it was Sunday we headed to  Berck Ville to go to the market held there on a Sunday morning.  We went  there specifically for me to buy some fabric for my business as there is a stall there which sells French fabrics that I had bought from the previous year.  I was specifically looking for Christmas fabrics, but unfortunately this year they were not available this early, but I did find some non-Christmas alternatives that were very beautiful. 

From there we returned to Le Touquet and Little Bird and OH headed to the Water Park for a few hours whilst I took the dog through the Pine tree walk along the front. 

On our way back to the apartment we got drenched in a downpour, but apart from this it was a lovely walk.  There was a bike and run competition going on in the sand dunes nearby, so there were lots of people around both participating and watching the event.

When the dog and I got back to the apartment we just chilled for an hour or two.  I caught up with a bit of blog hopping for Mum's Virtual Tea Party and then OH and Little Bird returned and we had a lovely salad for a late lunch with French patisserie for dessert, which was a lovely treat.

By this time the weather had started to take a turn for the worst, so we didn't manage to get out again for the rest of the day apart from to walk the dog.  Unfortunately, we didn't manage to climb the lighthouse nearby which might have been nice,
as it didn't appear to be open on the Sunday.  Instead, we just chilled out in our apartment reading, spending time on the computer and watching TV before having supper and getting an early night.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Holiday En France - Part 2

Following on from our accommodation crisis on our first night in France whereby the key was not left where we were told it would be and we had to find alternative accommodation, this situation was not resolved the following day when OH left myself and Little Bird at the market in Boulogne and went back to try to sort it out.  Here's a picture of the busy market on Saturday morning.

The result of the accommodation crisis was that  OH had a heated exchange with the company when the key was left in a place where we could not find it.  They refused to acknowledge our difficulties in finding it and the fact that there was no lighting and no number on the door of the apartment.  They would not give us the key without paying up front which we were, of course, not prepared to do.  I just hope they have the common decency to return the deposit this week.

As a consequence of the above, we were very disappointed by our treatment and left in Boulogne with a dog, a child and without accommodation.  We sat outside one of the brasseries in the Market place and checked out a new apartment using the free Wifi.  There was a pet friendly apartment available in Le Touquet 30 miles away, so we headed there to book in person.  Again there was a slight misunderstanding as we went to a different apartment block run by the same company first, without realising it, and received very little help or polite understanding from staff there, which was disappointing as on a previous stay there we had found them very accommodating.

We were eventually directed to the correct apartments and were booked in by a very helpful lady who restored our faith in humanity.  We unloaded the car and settled into our new apartment which was very basic, but we didn't care as had we not been able to book it we would have almost given up the will to live and come home.  Once settled in, we sat down to our roterie chicken and potatoes bought at the market.  Once we'd eaten we felt so much better and it felt like our holiday had started proper.

Later that afternoon we wandered into the town. I had a wander around the shops and bought this beautiful calendar from my favourite stationery and book shop for just a few euros.

I also got this card

and present for the puppy who's first birthday it was in a couple of days time.  OH and Little Bird meanwhile headed to the beach with the puppy, who by all accounts had a wonderful time in the sea and on the sand dunes.  Here's a picture of the lovely beach and the sand dunes at Le Touquet.

We all met up again later at the Mini golf and then headed off to a restaurant for dinner before doing a bit of food shopping and then retiring for the evening to our apartment.

It hadn't been a great start to our little holiday, but at least eventually we were able to relax and start to enjoy it.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Great Household and Cleaning Challenge - Month 2

Another month, another challenge.  I do like a good challenge to try to keep my spending in check.  This particular challenge I made up myself and it is to keep any household and cleaning product expenditure to under £125 for the year.

I must admit that I really am not doing too well on this challenge and fear I may fail abysmally within 6 months, but I'll carry on and see how far I can stretch the budget.  Last month, I had a whopping £26.52 spend which in the first month was not good although some of the things I bought should last me a good couple of months.  This month, I also haven't fared too well, but at least expenditure was only £1.60 over budget coming in at £14.10 for the month.

This sum was spent on the following:

Toilet Rolls x 36 - £5.85 - We seem to be using pretty much the same amount each month and I have now managed to source a slightly cheaper alternative from Poundstretcher, namely 36 rolls for £5 so from next month I will be purchasing these.  I know it only means a saving of 85p per month, but over the 10 months left of this challenge that will equate to £8.50 which is quite a large part of the budget.

Disinfectant - 30p

Freezer bags - 63p

Black Bin Bags x 10 £1

Washing up liquid - £1

Firelighters x 3 Boxes - £2.07 - As it is getting colder, I bought a few boxes of these when we went up to Yorkshire as I haven't found them anywhere in London cheaper than these.

Fabric Conditioner - £1-35 - I didn't shop around for the cheapest alternative for this item this month, which I will endeavour to do in the future.

Biodegradable Food Waste Bags x 20 - £1.90 - I completely ran out of these and didn't know how to get a supply for free from the Council, so bought some.  I have, however, now got a web address to order them from the Recycling Team, so I hopefully won't need to pay for them again.

Total expenditure 2/12 months in is £40.62/£125.  I've got a long way to go with this one and a steep non-spending curve ahead.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Fancy a Cuppa?

I'm joining Mum from Mum's Simply Living for her Virtual Tea Party today. 
Here comes Mrs Overall with the tea tray.  Be warned ladies and gentlemen, it's a little rude risqué in parts, but very funny!   Please don't watch if you are easily offended.   (There's always one person who tries to lower the tone of any gathering). 

I never went to see this musical, but it sounds like it might have been fun.
Comic genius and national treasure.
 I once sold a vintage overall on eBay.  I got a very bizarre message from the man who bought it.  Needless to say I didn't reply.

We're having sandwiches here today and they are some of my all time favourites.  Crusts cut off, of course, and nothing but the best white sliced bread. (Weightwatchers Danish).

There's the following to choose from: 

Egg and Cress

Reduced fat Brie and Spiced Cranberry Chutney

Smoked Ham and Dijon Mustard

The washi tape found another use.  Which would you choose, if any?

No fancy teas for me.  I like my English Breakfast tea too much.   A good old cup of Typhoo will do nicely thank you.  In a pretty china cup.

Do you take your own teabags when you go abroad?  You just can't get a decent cup otherwise. 

Mini chocolate eclairs for afters, courtesy of Mr Lidl.  I might have watched the GBBO every week religiously, but I'm a pretty hopeless baker.  I thought that by buying small ones I'd eat less. Unfortunately, I've since realised it doesn't work out that way.  How many do you think equate to one big one? 

Vintage table cloth and lots of mismatched vintage china in evidence.  I'm attempting a kind of weight conscious, make do and mend tea party.

 Thanks to Mum for organizing the tea party.   Hope you're all having a very lovely day.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Beauty Challenge - Month 4

October has been a very good month on the Beauty Challenge front.  For any readers not familiar with this challenge, I am joining in with El of AThrifty Mrs and trying to keep spending on beauty products to £100 or less for a whole year.

Just by way of explanation, I did start this challenge with a whole stash of products that I had collected over the last couple of years and which needed using up, and it is partly this that is making this challenge as manageable as it has been so far.  All toiletries, dental care, make up, perfume, etc. are included in this challenge.  If, however, these things are given to you as gifts, then this is acceptable under the rules of the challenge. 

Talking of gifts, my birthday fell in October, so I did manage to receive some lovely gifts for use on this challenge, which included a new bottle of Coco Chanel, a couple of autumnal wine coloured lipsticks, some lovely L'Occitane hand and foot creams that I blogged about in a previous post, and some Bodyshop Pink Grapefruit perfume, soap and lip balm.  In fact, I did incredibly well on the smellies front this birthday which was really useful as I was fast running out of perfume to wear and didn't know if I'd last until Christmas.  In addition, I really wanted some new darker red coloured lipsticks for the autumn/winter, so I was very happy.

I did include one other lipstick in my spending on beauty products this month, which was one from Lidl in Very Berry, as it looked such a lovely colour.  I quite like it on too and it was pretty inexpensive at less than half the price of one's I'd normally buy.  I also treated myself to a Marie Claire magazine this month and received this free Subtle Violet L'Occitane hand cream worth £8 with it to add to my stash.

Here's the list of expenditure this month and you will see that I have easily come in under budget for once, which is a great relief and has put me right back on track with this challenge after a shaky start.

1   Shower Cream 500ml - 99p - Yes I know, I said I wasn't going to buy shower gel any longer and instead use the many soaps I have in my stash, but I decided to buy it for other members of the household to use, as I didn't think it fair for them not to be able to use it whilst I was on this challenge.  As I used it once I have included it in my expenditure.

2  Distilled Witchhazel - £1.93 - Well, the lovely Lancôme toner that Penny from The Hen House sent me has finally run out, and I had to go back to using my tried and trusty distilled witch hazel.

3  Cotton Wool Pads - 65p -  Ran out as I use these daily.

4  Very Berry Lipstick - £1.99 - A bit of an indulgence.  I'm even considering buying the nail varnish to match next month if the budget goes well.  A bit of a treat to keep me motivated.

Total monthly spend was £5.56 which is my best month yet and well below the £8.33 I should be able to spend on this challenge each month.

This leaves my total spending this year after 4 months at £34.31 which is just 99p over budget, so I am right back in the game.  Hooray.

I'm hoping that next month will continue in a similar vein.  I'm definitely getting more into the swing of it and really cutting things down to the bare minimum now. (Well, almost!)

Friday, 25 October 2013

A Weekend 'En France' - Part 1

This evening, we set off to spend what we hoped would be a relaxing weekend in France.  We weren't travelling far into France, but had booked to stay in an apartment on the outskirts of Boulogne.  There were two main reasons for the trip, one was to try out our puppy's Pet Passport and see how it worked in practice and the other was to do a big Christmas shop for wine and other items at the wonderful hypermarket near Boulogne that we have visited in the past.

The day started with OH taking the puppy to the vet to get a worming treatment, required for travel, or rather for return to the UK after our trip.  This went smoothly.  Whilst they were out I took the opportunity to clean the kitchen and mop the floors without the dog attacking the sweeping brush, mop, etc.  I then spent the rest of the day packing, organising currency and tying up loose ends. 

We eventually got away at about 4.15 pm to catch the Eurotunnel train with ourselves, the dog and the corresponding luggage all safely packed into the car.  We hit traffic 10 minutes later and took 45 minutes to get out of London itself and en route.  By now we were thinking we were going to miss the train and starting to worry.    In spite of an urgent petrol/toilet stop we did finally make it with minutes to spare.  We then got pulled over for a security check, before finally boarding the train.

The journey across the Channel was simple.  No problems to report.  Once on the other side of the Channel we stopped off to get a few bits for breakfast from a service station.  It took us all of 15-20 minutes to reach our destination once in France.

We had been told that because we were arriving late, the key would be left under the carpet outside the apartment.  This may sound simple and straightforward, but when there is no number on the apartment, no carpet outside it when you think you've found the right one and more seriously, no key and it is 9.45 pm and you are in a foreign country with a child and a dog and no emergency contact number, you soon realise that you are in a bit of a pickle.

I think I tempted fate when I said to OH on the way, that I always feel relaxed when in we're in France.  On this particular occasion I had to literally eat those words.  Short of breaking into the apartment we thought was ours, we had no option but to move on and try to find somewhere else to stay for the night and return the next day.

An hour later, we were gratefully checked in to the Hotel La Matelot in Boulogne.  It is directly opposite Nausicaa, the Aquarium.  It genuinely was the first hotel we tried and a very nice one at that.  We felt incredibly lucky, not to mention relieved to have found alternative accommodation in our situation.  It wasn't cheap, however, but at 10pm on a Friday night with nowhere to sleep, we didn't really care.  Here's a few photos:

Our double,

the put-me-up they kindly put up for Little Bird.

Even the dog felt a bit more relaxed on her first adventure abroad.  Here she is lounging on her new travel quilt made by me this week. 

OH took her for a walk on the beach whilst Little Bird and I settled into our room.  OH and I later got ourselves a stiff drink from the bar.  We needed it to relieve the stress.  We now just have to face the perpetrators of this horrendous cock up tomorrow.  Wish us luck.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bargain Christmas Shopping

Today, I headed out to my nearest Morrisons.  I had read on that they had 1L bottles of Baileys Original Cream on offer today, for £9 per bottle.  An offer not to be missed.  I was in the store at 11.30 am which was as early as I could get there.  I saw a lovely lady with a bottle in her trolley, so I asked her where she'd found it.  There was a huge pallet in the back corner of the store so I headed straight there.  I was going to get a few bottles for Christmas presents and one for us to use, but the offer was limited to 2 per customer so I was only able to get one for us and one for a gift.  I didn't mind though as I got an alternative present for the person concerned, which I'll tell you about in a moment. 

In my excitement, I forgot to reclaim my £1 parking charge at the till.  I promised myself I would pop back into the store on returning to my car, after doing a bit of shopping elsewhere, but didn't have the time when it came to it.  Never mind, just a £21 saving then.  Definitely not to be sniffed at.  The offer is supposed to be on whilst stocks last, but it seemed to be selling well today.  If you have a Morrison's near you and you're partial to a glass of Baileys and ice at Christmas, get yourself down there pronto for some early Christmas savings.

After shopping at Morrisons, I headed to the Body Shop as I needed to return some items I'd bought online and exchange them for a different fragrance.  The moral of the story being don't order anything if you haven't smelt it first!  Whilst there I picked up a few other items I needed that weren't available online and that I needed to complete a few Christmas gifts.  I managed to find a 40% off voucher on and I printed it off and took it in.  It was applicable to full priced and sale price items and valid until 27th October.   As a consequence, I got a lovely set of 3 handbag sized hand creams on sale at £8 down from £12, for just £4.80 as a Christmas gift for someone.   A complete bargain.  I'd got one of these hand creams for free on a voucher code a month ago, so I know how nice they are too.

I also managed to get this lovely roll of wrapping tape from Wilko for just £1. 

I used it to decorate a couple of tea lights.  I had to trim it a bit as it is a wider tape than washi tape, but they look quite sweet.

I also bought these lovely paper chains from Poundland for, you've guessed, just £1.  They're really sweet too.

As you can see I've been doing a bit of Christmas shopping to spread the cost of the festive season.  There are bargains to be had out there to help spread the cost if you start early.  How is your Christmas shopping coming along?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Mystery of the Disappearing Milk Bottles

We've been having our milk delivered for 5 or 6 years now, ever since we moved into our current property.  I really enjoy the convenience of having it delivered even though it is a little more expensive, as I can tailor delivery to our weekly usage and as a result we vary rarely run out of milk.  Until recently that is.

In recent months, incidents of disappearing milk bottles (full ones) have escalated from outside our property and sadly I've come to the conclusion that it is no longer viable to have it delivered, due to the dishonesty of certain person(s) who feel(s) that we are fair game to steal from on a regular basis.

There is only so long you can keep turning a blind eyeand when two full bottles disappeared last Friday followed by another full bottle today, I have finally decided to cancel my order.  Unfortunately, due to our front garden being reconfigured due to having a basement extension and light well built, it is a lot more difficult to hide the bottles behind a plant pot so the only option left is cancelling my order.

It may be a very desperate person who is stealing our milk, but taking half of the milk we have delivered in a week is just a bit too much of a liberty to be honest.  It almost feels very personal.  Call me uncharitable, but I really can't go on subsidising someone else's grocery bill unwillingly.  It is a completely different matter should I choose to donate to a needy cause. 

I've thought about setting up a camera just out of curiosity, to see who it is, or staking out one morning after the milk is delivered at 5.30am, but to be honest I really don't know if it is worth it and I might get a nasty surprise if it turns out to be someone we know, so I'm just going to remove the supply and the obvious temptation for them.  Sad and disappointing though it is, as I've had a good service all these years, maybe it is time for a change.  What would you do in this situation?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Doggy Travel Tales

Our puppy who is a year old this week, now has her very own pet passport.  We went to the vet's a while back now to get her immunised against rabies and get her passport.  She already has a microchip and now just needs whatever other treatments necessary by any country we want to take her to in the EU.

As half term is approaching, as is Christmas and we haven't been across the channel for a year and a half now, we are thinking of popping over to France for a few days to do a big supermarket shop, have a few days away and for me to do a little shopping for my business.  We're hoping to take the puppy on her new passport, but I am a little nervous in case all doesn't go to plan.  The thing is we'll have to try it at some point so maybe now is as good an opportunity as ever.

I was surprised when we got the passport that the writing inside the passport must be in blue ink, not black, which is the usual for official documents, otherwise I was told you would not be allowed to travel.  I'm not sure of the rationale for this, but I'm not going to argue.  We just need to put a photo in there now, but I don't think this is compulsory.

We are very lucky as she travels well in the car so the journey which will only be to Calais, Boulogne or Le Touquet will not be a problem for her.  We will probably go via Eurostar so that she's not left alone in the hold of the ferry whilst it sails.

It cost us £113 or thereabouts for the passport, but she will need regular boosters of the rabies vaccine every few years and whatever treatments are required by any country we take her to, before we can travel.  This will of course cost more as it will have to be done by the vet, but it will be so worth it to be able to take her away with us. 

As a consequence of the above, my most pressing job this week is to research what is needed and then arrange for her to have the necessary treatments at the vets.  I'm excited, but also quite anxious about this venture. We'll just have to see how it goes.  Wish me luck.

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Few Mini Makes

I've been tinkering about this weekend doing some little tiny projects that have been in the back of my mind for a while.  I've been collecting different rolls of washi and other patterned tapes in recent months and had 19 last time Little Bird counted. 

They are so small and pretty and easy to pick up here and there when sensibly priced and they don't take up too much room either.  I bought quite a few in the US in their supermarkets as they were very inexpensive.  A few more I've bought here in Wilko and work out at less than £1 per roll.  Anyway, I haven't really been putting them to good use so I scoured Pinterest the other day and saw a couple of small projects that really appealed and I decided to have a go at them.

The first one inspired this card for a niece to congratulate her on passing her driving test.  The card itself was a notecard that I added the washi bunting to, to make it look a bit more special.  I hope she likes it.

The second mini project was to decorate these very ordinary tea lights and make them look a little special and co-ordinate with the décor in different rooms.  They almost look too pretty to light now.

I also completed the jar of doggy treats inspired by a free hand out from Hobbycraft.  I used a jar I bought from Ikea for £1.25 and filled it with some of her favourite biscuits.  I decorated it with some Christmas ribbon and made the tag from some pretty card I had in the craft box.  I'll probably stick a bow on the top nearer the time and that's one present sorted, that has cost very little.  At least I know she will eat these treats, which isn't always the case with shop bought gifts and stockings, so they won't get wasted.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

A Weekend at Home

We had a quiet weekend at home this weekend, which made a nice change after going away last weekend.  I had terrible trouble getting to sleep on Friday night, as I had a myriad of things going through my head. 

We are in the process of applying for Secondary School places for Little Bird and the application needs to be completed on line in the next week or two.  Good luck to any other parents out there going through the same process.  I was also thinking about half term and hopefully our trip to France and what I need to do to make sure our pup's pet passport is valid and she is fit to travel.  In addition, I had lots of ideas for quilts and other things I want to make going through my head, as well as thinking about Christmas planning, the housework that currently needs doing, what I need to do in the garden this weekend, etc. etc.

I eventually dropped off to sleep at around 3am, so woke late on Saturday feeling a bit groggy.  As I was lying in bed the idea for another project popped into my head, a quilt for the dog, to put in her travel cage in the car, so I jumped out of bed to sort out the best fabric to use.  I then proceeded to get started on it, as well as continuing with a quilt I'd started the day before for Little Bird,  and that took care of the next couple of hours.  It probably didn't endear me to the neighbours, mind you, using my sewing machine at 9.15 am.   I just hope they weren't having a lie in.

By the time I'd finished what I could do on the machine, OH was back from a dog walk and made us a lovely fry up for brunch which was a reasonably rare, but very welcome treat.  I feel an overwhelming sense of time flying past at the moment and I just don't seem to be keeping on top of things.  It's only going to get worse as we get nearer to Christmas too, so I feel an urgent need to do as much as I can now but don't seem to be getting very far.  It's very frustrating.

Anyway the rest of Saturday was spent catching up with things on line, starting on the school application, doing some household chores, a bit of work, a dog walk, watching Strictly of course, and then finally I started to watch a movie called Rent on YouTube, that this song comes from.  This is the recent Glee version in memory of Cory, or Finn as he was known in the series.  A beautiful song.  I've posted about it in the past.  I got half way through the movie before it was time for bed so will need to finish watching it some other time.

How's your weekend been so far?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A Crafty Day Out

Little Bird was off school on Thursday due to industrial action so I decided that we'd head out on a little girly shopping trip to our nearest Hobbycraft store.  Now Little Bird is mad about crafts, so I knew she would just love this outing, as she has never been to a Hobbycraft store.  I have only ever been once before when she was very small and I decided to do a spot of cardmaking.  It didn't last though and I just haven't been back until now.

The particular store we visited has opened up fairly recently and when we've passed we've both been a bit curious, so we decided to take a look.  I was pleasantly surprised once inside at how much choice they had in there.  There were aisles and aisles of all things crafty and Christmassy to mooch around.  I saw lots of lovely things to inspire me, but as I'm half way through Stoptober I had to be very careful not to go too mad.

In the end I did buy a few things.  I bought this make your own cracker kit to make 6 Christmas crackers for £4, which I thought was very reasonable.  It includes snaps, paper hats and jokes and you just put your own gifts in.  Perfect for decorating the dinner table on Christmas Day and will allow me to personalise the gifts for ourselves and our guests.  Pretty too.

I also bought a white ink pad for £2 for stamping some snowflakes on to gift tags and paper.  I just need to find a stamp now as I didn't see one in there, but I'm currently watching one on eBay, so fingers crossed. 

The other two items I bought were both for Little Bird.  One was a pack of polymer clay in a particular colour that she has wanted for a while and the other was this great little book of polymer clay projects which I am going to give her for Christmas to inspire her.  It has some great little projects inside it and it was reduced to £4.99 from £10.99.

She has now become a devoted fan of Hobbycraft and would like vouchers to spend there for her birthday.  I was pretty impressed too, although not by the price of some things i.e. cotton fabric at £12 per metre, nice though it was.  There was a great baking aisle too, with lots of different coloured fondant icing which Little Bird loved.  I think she might be getting into Sugarcraft/Cake decorating next.  We were both interested to see that they run workshops in the holidays for children, which might be worth checking out in the future if one comes up that really appeals to her.

Anyway, having dragged ourselves away, we then popped into Pets at Home next door.  I've not been to one of their stores either for a while, not since we had our guinea pigs 4 or 5 years ago.  We had a bit of a drool over the guinea pigs in there.  We so love those little creatures, but I can't see them lasting 10 minutes with a terrier in the house.  They had some cute Christmas stockings and gifts for pets and I must admit that I did indulge in a squeaky Christmas pudding for the puppy's stocking which only cost £1, but is super cute.  I also got inspiration for another gift for her in Hobbycraft, namely these lovely jars of pet treats, which I am going to make up myself using a small Kilner jar.

Our final stop was the IKEA nearby for lunch and to check out the fabric department.  Lunch out is always a nice treat and very reasonably priced there.  We were both able to have fish and chips, a dessert each and a refillable drink for £10 and that was without the IKEA Family discount, as I'm not a member.  I was very impressed with a new dessert they had on the menu.  A very welcome introduction.  It was a rosehip panna cotta and it was delish.  I would have taken a photo, but didn't have my camera with me.  Little Bird tried another new addition to the dessert menu,  rice pudding in a glass with jam on top.  It was very creamy and quite nice, but not quite sweet enough for our taste.  It did get eaten though.  

It was pretty busy in there with lots of families with children also having a day out whilst the schools were shut.  After a quick mooch around the store, we came home and took the dog for a nice long walk on the marshes together, which was a lovely end to an enjoyable day.

Please note that I have NOT been sponsored by any store in the writing of the above post.  Any opinions offered are my own, that I have decided to share with readers.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Getting Ready for Christmas - Part 3 - Food and Drink

Being the only family members living outside of Yorkshire, for the past few years we have visited relatives for Christmas, so that Little Bird could see and spend time with her cousins on Christmas Day and they could open their presents together.  This year, however, we are doing Christmas differently and staying at home in London for Christmas Day, for the first time in a number of years.  As a consequence, either myself or OH, will be making our Christmas Dinner, which we are looking forward to, and I will need to plan my Christmas food shopping carefully.

In addition, we are having some members of the family to stay with us for Christmas Day this year which is the first time this has happened since we moved to London nearly 20 years ago, so Christmas day this year will be a bit special and a bit more challenging.

When we do stay home for Christmas, or even if we go to relatives and take various things with us to make a contribution, I try to spread the cost by buying the odd item each week in the few months leading up to Christmas.  I usually start with biscuits for cheese, chocolates, snacks, Christmas puddings, pickles, alcohol and other things that will keep a long time.  I do have to be a little careful though as I found out to my cost last year, when I collected together lots of things only to have a mouse infestation destroy much of it, and I had to start again.  This year, I am being extra careful how I store things, keeping them in rodent-proof cupboards, not just in boxes around the house.

We're not sure yet exactly what we'll be eating for Christmas dinner this year.  We are not particularly fond of turkey, so we may have lamb or some other joint.  As we don't have a very large cooker, and shelf space is pretty limited, it is going to be very interesting to see if we can cook a decent Christmas meal for 6 people in it, without too much stress or any major culinary disasters.  All the usual problems everyone usually faces at Christmas I imagine, but which we have been spared up until now.  Plans can change at the last minute, however, so I'm not stressing about it too much just yet, but am slowly gathering bits and pieces together week by week in readiness.  The fresher items will need to be shopped for closer to the time, but it will be fun to go out in the preceding few days and get all the remaining things we need, as it is something that we so rarely do.  I may try making a detailed plan for the meal itself, with timings for the vegetables, etc., just to make life a little easier on the day.

Whatever happens, our Christmas meal will be quite simple and unfussy.  It may be rack or leg of lamb with roast potatoes, vegetables and a few festive extras thrown in, such as the obligatory pigs in blankets, stuffing and sprouts.  It will probably be accompanied by a Cava, sparkling wine or maybe even a bottle of Champagne and followed by a traditional Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. Nothing radical or out of the ordinary.  The main thing is that we will be sitting down to eat together  and hopefully enjoying each others' company and the food and drink.  It really is the simple things that count for us at Christmas.

Later in the day we will probably have salad and sandwiches (note I'm avoiding the term buffet), should we feel hungry again with olives, bread, cheese, pickles, ham, pork pie.  All very traditional, but very nice at this time of year and settle down in front of the fire and watch TV or play games such as Bingo, Bananagrams or whatever other games take our fancy on the day, like thousands of other households across the country.

I will be making sure that we have plenty of nice drinks to suit everyone so that we can have a tipple on the day and just relax.  Baileys, brandy, gin, vodka, whisky, wine, soft drinks and a few beers thrown in should just about do it.  These will have to be budgeted for and bought over the next few months as they can work out pretty expensive.  I may just get small bottles of some spirits, as we're not big drinkers, but it is nice to have a selection on offer. Whatever is left, it will eventually get drunk by us at some point, so it won't go to waste.

What I do like about Christmas Day in London is that it tends to be quite relaxed.  No rushing around, as we don't need to go anywhere.  We can get up and have a relaxed breakfast followed by a walk in the morning with the dog, before or after opening a few presents.   It's so wonderfully quiet in London at Christmas, as many people have left the city to go and visit relatives, so it always feels a very different place.  It will be nice for relatives to visit at this time and enjoy of the quietness that is so unusual.  The other advantage is that if you do forget to buy something for the Christmas dinner, there are always small local shops open, so you can usually buy it at the last moment.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Quilt Number 1 - Finally Finished

I have finally finished my first attempt at quilting and I am quite pleased with the results.  Since attending the Knitting and Stitching Show last week, I've been itching to get my hands on it again and finish it off.  As we were away at the weekend I've had to wait until this week and have been doing a bit every day, finally finishing it yesterday evening.  It is perhaps more like an old fashioned eiderdown than many quilts you see because of it's very simple design and thick wadding.  I quite like that though.  It makes it nice and snuggly.  The corners aren't the best, but they were the best I could do.  I slept with it on my half of the bed last night and it was lovely and roasty.  Pity it wasn't a double.


It was very simple to make for a first quilt which was important so that it didn't put me off.  Far from it.  I seem to have got a bit of a bug for it and have already sorted out some fabric ready to make another similar one for Little Bird in colours to match her bedroom. It's going to be a surprise and I'm going to try to finish it for Christmas or at the latest her birthday in January.  Here are the fabrics I'm using for Little Bird's quilt.  Most are new and unused but the odd one is recycled from a sheet or duvet cover.  The floral one is going to be the backing and the rest the front.  I'm not sure what I'm using to bind it yet.

I'm also now planning on making a padded table runner for use on the dinner table on Christmas Day, but don't worry, I'm not going to use such thick wadding for this project.  These are the fabrics I'm planning to use for this.

I'm hoping I will have time to do all of these things and finish my hand sewn lap quilt that I have already started.  I'm going to have my work cut out, but now that the weather is not so good,  I am quite happy to spend the odd rainy afternoon working on such projects as I did today, work allowing.

I'll keep you posted as I finish each project.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tuesday Catch Up

Yesterday, as is so often the case on a Tuesday, was a bit of a catch up day, especially after being away at the weekend.  The ironing basket was full of clean clothes, the washing basket was full of dirty clothes and the sink was full of dirty pots.  I worked my way through the former and the latter, but still have quite a bit of washing to catch up on.  I'm struggling to dry things now the weather has turned and I have to dry them indoors.  It takes so long and the washing basket fills up quicker than I can empty it.

I've also been having a spot more bother with viruses on my laptop, so I  had a bit of catching up to do online too, after OH managed to clear it once again.  I think I've located the source, which seems to be a blog I've been reading recently, so I've removed my reading list from my profile so no-one else is guided there by it, as I don't know how to remove it from my blogger list.  If anyone knows how to do this please let me know.  I may be wrong, but on two occasions a virus has downloaded and appeared whilst I've been reading it and the last virus was quite a sinister one that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  Luckily OH managed to Google a solution, to enable us to remove it, so normality has been restored. It has however, severely undermined my trust in some of the blogs out there.  A cautionary tale.

As well as getting on with a bit of work yesteday, I also managed to find a half hour or so to attach a bit of binding to my quilt/eiderdown.  I've used one of the same fabrics that I had already used in the quilt itself, as I found more of it stored away.  I've still got quite a bit more to do as I am sewing it on by hand, but am doing a bit here and there when I have time to spare.  I'm thoroughly enjoying it though and looking forward to snuggling under it on cold nights. Talking of which, it almost feels cold enough to add a blanket to the bed already, which I must remember to do very soon.

Little Bird has a day off school later this week due to industrial action at the school, so I'm trying to get on top of things at home so that we can go out or do something together on the day.  Not sure what yet, but it will be nice to spend the day together.  Whilst not getting into the politics of it all, which I don't actually know too much about and therefore cannot make any comment, I must admit that we are very fortunate working from home, that this does not cause too much disruption for us, but I realise this is not the case for many working families who will probably have to take time off work to look after their children.  It has to be remembered, however, that we are very fortunate in this country, that we do live in a democracy, and it is every worker's right to take industrial action, should it be deemed necessary.  God forbid that it should be any other way.
Changing the subject completely, Stoptober is coming along nicely and I'm getting used to not spending too much money.   Two weeks in now, and I am ticking the meals off the meal plan I devised and due to my birthday last week and all the lovely presents I received, I'm not feeling too deprived.  I'm hoping the month continues along similar lines and I haven't tempted fate here and don't have a mad splurge or a fiscal emergency at any point in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Quick Car Boot Visit

Whenever we go up north, I always try to fit in a visit to my favourite Car Boot Sale. Due to the fact that it has quite a lot of indoor pitches, it is open virtually year round which suits me to a tee.  It was particularly useful this weekend because on Sunday morning the rain was coming down very heavily and I knew there would be no or very few outside stalls to mooch around.

When we got there I was actually quite surprised at how many cars were in the car park.  We had a good look around, well I did anyway.  It's not OH's favourite thing to do on a Sunday morning, but he did come along so I can't grumble.

I didn't spend too much as it is Stoptober, but it is nice to support the stallholders who had turned out on such a miserable day weather wise as well as treat myself to a few small things.

Firstly, I bought this big bunch of wallflowers for just £1.  I think there are about a dozen plants here and they are quite well established (if a bit mudsplattered).  I just need to plant them now in the garden and look forward to them flowering in the spring.

I bought 3 books for 30p each to add to my stack.  I bought the Christmassy titles because they will be nice to read in the next few months in the build up to the festive season.  I also bought another Sophie Kinsella book, as I tend to find them an enjoyable read.
I bought this pair of plastic knitting needles for 50p to add to my collection
and I couldn't resist buying a couple of very reasonably priced small pieces of Hornsea Pottery as I collect this too.
Little bird also got a book, the dog got lots of dog treats and OH bought us lots of kindling and logs for the fire this autumn/winter, which at £1.50 per bag, can't be bought for anywhere near as little as this in London. 
Needless to say we came back to London loaded down with things, which is usually the case,  including these lovely flowers I was given for my birthday
and these lovely L'Occitane hand and foot creams which will definitely help me in the Beauty Challenge stakes.

We were also kindly supplied with a bag of coal, some tomatoes, cooking and eating apples and a log burner to install in our dining room, which will be wonderful once we get it put in.  All in all we had a great weekend if a little busy and fraught at times due to the dog being a little over excited at being away from home and our need to see as many family members and friends as we could.

Monday, 14 October 2013

All The Fun of the Fair

This weekend we travelled up north to stay with family and to visit Hull Fair.  For anybody who has never heard of Hull Fair it is a huge travelling fair that comes to Hull every October, on the nearest Friday to 11th October and stays for 10 days approximately.  It is a very popular event on the calendar in this city and is attended by many thousands of people every night.

I believe it is one of the largest fairs in Europe and usually travels there from Nottingham Goose Fair.  There are lots and lots of rides, from the small rides for very young children to the really scary big rides for older children and adults, plus everything in between.  It is such an exciting event for children and adults alike if truth be known, and as it comes just once every year it is looked forward to and relished. (Dreaded by some too I imagine).

Here in London we seem to have small fairs in the parks here every couple of months during the summer and to be honest they stop having any appeal after a while, but this fair is different because it is one of the only ones of it's kind and you have to wait the whole year for it.

I used to visit every year as a child, first with my parents and then with friends once I hit my teens.  It was a really special event, made more special because it was usually in town the week of my birthday.  The sights, sounds, smells of Hull Fair just stay with you.

We haven't been for a couple of years with Little Bird, so this year we decided to travel up and go once again.  We arranged to meet up with friends and family and have a wander around.  We didn't go on a whole lot of rides as I'm a bit of a scaredy cat to be honest.  The older I get, the worse I get too.  I'd go on anything as a teenager, but these days I'm a little more selective and some of the rides have got a whole lot scarier too.  OH is better and goes on quite a few, but even he draws the line at some.

It was a lovely evening,  and brought back so many memories of visits in my youth.  In these difficult times it is great to see so many families enjoying themselves at such an event and the prices of most of the rides were reassuringly reasonable.

I took a few photos just to give you feel for the atmosphere of the fair.

The Helter Skelter

The Big Wheel.

The Log Flume
These are very high swings suspended from a pillar of lights. (We didn't go on this ride but it looked fabulous).

The Dodgems of course, just the best fun.

The Dive Bombers (I loved these as a teenager).
There were stalls galore of food and other goods.  We had to have the traditional pattie and chips from Bob Carvers.  Got to be done I'm afraid.
It's a mashed potato and herb pattie in breadcrumbs.  A well known local delicacy!
Little Bird had to have some candy floss too of course.  Here's a picture of it being made.
There were the usual stalls selling coconuts, pomegranites, cinder toffee, toffee apples, nougat.....
and brandy snap of course, but it had to be Wright & Co., they have been making brandy snap for the fair for many years.
Even though it was raining it didn't diminish our enjoyment.  It just wouldn't be Hull Fair without the rain and besides we're a pretty hardy lot.