Friday 28 February 2014

V is for Visiting the Allotment

Yesterday, I finally got myself to the allotment to do some work on my plot.  I had visited it a couple of weeks ago to check out what state it was in, but  I didn't actually set foot on it.

Anyway, Thursday afternoon was a lovely bright sunny afternoon, perfect for the allotment and a welcome break in the rainy weather.  The ground was still pretty wet, so it probably wasn't the best time to go, but I just wanted to get started and get some seeds and onion sets into the ground.

As I walked up to the site, I noticed a great big pile of lovely rich compost that had recently been delivered by the council.

I made a mental note to put some on my plot, but unfortunately didn't get the time on this occasion.  I might have to return this weekend, before it all disappears.  As I  approached the gate to the site, there was a fox on the path.  He saw me and ran off down the path , but as I got to my plot I managed to get a quick (but not very good) photo of him, before he disappeared out of the site.

The plot looked like this when I arrived. 

Not too bad.  A few dead plants left over from the end of the last growing season and a few weeds, but nothing too serious.  I started with a bit of weeding and then decided to dig over the whole (or virtually all) of the plot.  The soil was a bit wet so stuck to the fork a lot, but I managed to work my way around the plot.  The only bits I didn't get to were the strawberry patch and the herb patch, which I'll have to do another day.  It looked a lot better for it though.  I was pleased with my hard work and it feels so good to get it done.

A couple of hours digging, tidying the plot and securing the raised bed sides which were all flattened by the weather, then I sowed some onion sets, broad bean seeds and some early salad seeds before coming home.  Here's a couple of pictures of what it looked like afterwards.


A definite improvement and I managed to come home with a few turnips too, which will help to make a nice stew or casserole next week.

I'm looking forward to the new growing season.

Joining in with Mum from Mum's Simply Living blog posting in the Alphabet Backwards challenge.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Charity Shop Tales 14

A couple of weeks ago, in my last post of this kind, I noted how my charity shop shopping had really slowed off of late, that is, until the very next day, when I went to drop off some bags at another local charity shop.  I had a quick look in the corner where the fabrics usually are, (I can never resist) and I saw something that I've been hoping to find for ages.  I'm afraid that as a consequence, I just had to buy it.

I have been wanting to make a beanbag for Little Bird's bedroom for a while now, out of an old homemade bedroom curtain.  The fabric has been sat in my sewing 'to do' pile for months, waiting for me to sew it into a large cushion cover, which I was then going to fill.  I'd been waiting until I had enough money to buy some filling, which can cost anything from £15 upwards, to get a sufficient amount.  So when I saw a beanbag in the charity shop as I did the drop, I just had to buy it, as it solved my filling problem for less than half the cost, as it was marked up at only £6.  I'm not posting a picture, as the beanbag itself isn't much to look at, but it won't be seen anyway.  I'll do a separate post and reveal when I've actually made the bean bag cover.

Whilst I was at the till, I noticed a basket of vintage sewing patterns, so, of course I had to have a look.  I ended up coming away with two of those too.  Here they are:

This one I bought for the French knickers/pants.  Little Bird loves to sleep in shorts in the summer, so I thought I might try to make her some.  I'll have to scale down the sizing for the pants as the pattern is a bit large for her, but I'm sure this can be done.   The slips are pretty too though and I may even make one for me at some point.

The second pattern was for these A-line skirts made up of three panels front and back and a side zip.  I have a wool DKNY skirt, bought from a charity shop, that is made in a similar design and it is quite flattering especially when worn with boots, so I'm thinking of making one of these for myself at some point.  I'll probably make it a slightly longer length than in the pattern though. 

Both patterns cost 50p each.  The skirt pattern was uncut and I was pleased to note, that although the slip and pants pattern was cut, all the pieces appeared to be present, more especially for the pants.

So a pretty lucky visit to the charity shop, possibly the Great Cosmic Supply Company was at work for me on this occasion, (Dreamer, if you're reading this, I remember this from your brilliant post and link - it's saved on my favourites bar),  although I did come back with 'stuff' that takes up more space than the things I actually took there!

Wednesday 26 February 2014

£100 a Year Spending on Beauty Products Challenge - Month 8

Month 8 of this challenge, and after overspending last month, I was hoping to get back on track this month.  Alas, it was not to be, my willpower failed me in Boots and I succumbed to a Buy One Get One Half Price deal on some dry shampoo, for those bad hair days!  I'd been without any for a few months and my hair has been particularly annoying lately, so I just found this offer too hard to resist.  Other than this major lapse, the month was pretty straightforward.  If only I'd just bought one can and not two!

Anyway, no point crying over dry shampoo, in total this month I spent £11.14, which was over the £8.33 monthly expenditure needed to stay within the £100 per year budget for this challenge.  This takes my total after Month 8 to £71.06/£100, so I have just under £29 to last me 4 months.  Definitely need to tighten my belt again for sure, but it is still possible, I think.

Here's what I bought this month:
Dove Roll On Deodourant x 2 - £2.58 - Bought from Approved Food.  I'm using my last bottle so needed to get some more to see me through this challenge.

Distilled Witchhazel - £1.93 - My regular toner needed restocking this month.

Baptiste Dry Shampoo x 2 - £4.49 - My BOGOHP downfall this month, but it is great to have some again and I definitely shouldn't need to buy any more during this challenge.

Hairspray - 70p - Hooray, I used up the really inexpensive and ineffective stuff I bought last time and replaced it with some slightly more expensive, but much more effective supermarket branded hairspray which was actually in stock this month.  (Must be a very popular choice as it had been out of stock in two separate stores last month).

Pantene Shampoo £1.44 - We completely ran out this month, so I couldn't avoid buying this.

Total Monthly Expenditure - £11.14

I did promise a photo of what was left of my stash this month, so here's a before and after.

This is the stash when I started this challenge, which as you can see was quite extensive, hence my success so far.  I'd been squirrelling more and more stuff away for a while and it was getting a little silly.

And here is how the stash stands now.

At least it all fits in one photo now, well almost, as I do have some hotel freebies and samples to use up too, as shown here, which may come in handy if I start to run out of things towards the end of this challenge.
I was given a set of 4 soaps for Valentine's day this month, which did boost the stash a little more, but was very welcome as I was down to my last two soaps and I don't think OH would want to wash with violet scented soap, so it was probably a good thing.   I must admit that one full unused tube of face wash was given to the charity shop, as I didn't like the feel of it on my skin and another face wash and the facial wipes I gave to Little Bird to use, which did help reduce the pile a bit.    Everything else missing from the second photo I/we have either used or are using now.

There is a definite preponderance of hand and body lotions, face creams and hair conditioner, so I won't be needing to buy any of these items for a good while.  I'm definitely going to try harder next month to come under budget and get back on track.  Fingers crossed. (Purse shut is probably more appropriate!)

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Catch Up Tuesday - Again

Tuesday is the day of the week that I try to get on top of all those jobs such as banking, paying bills, work, washing, housework, paperwork, etc. etc. and after spending a week away in the Yorkshire Dales, I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed by it all, (especially the washing) now thatwe have returned.  I guess there's a price to pay for everything in life.

I did a bit of a catch up with regard to blogging yesterday, in between food shopping and trips to the gym for myself and Little Bird's trampolining class, and I spent some time preparing some posts for later this week.  Having done this, it  freed me to make the most of today and get on with some other jobs that need my attention.  I figured that if I just got on and got all this 'stuff' or as much of it as possible done, I might be able to enjoy myself a little towards the end of the week and perhaps even do some sewing. 

(I am now in receipt of the correct needles for my sewing machine, having ordered incorrect ones initially.  I thought I had a different brand of machine to the one I actually have - just shows how much notice I pay to such things.  Anyway, what I hope are the correct needles have now arrived and I'm hoping that my machine will now work properly once again and I can get on with some half finished projects.)

So, today was spent packing and sending off parcels, followed by making some fruit jellies,  crème brulees, a lovely fruit smoothie for me, to perk me up, and later a sausage casserole for dinner.  I kept the grocery shop simple this week on account of it being the last week of the month, so the treats/desserts I made should keep us going for the rest of the week/month.

(Talking of grocery shopping, I was secretly proud of myself in Lidl yesterday, as the new bakery was finally up and running in my usual branch and I managed to ignore it completely on my way around.  Partly, because I had a limited amount of money to spend on the groceries and partly because we have had far too many treats on our holiday and we need to get back to normal eating habits.  I can't, however, promise that I won't sometimes be tempted to buy some freshly baked cakes or croissants on my weekly visit to the store.  I have usually just finished my Zumba class when I visit,  so it would be a great pity to undo any good done in exercising, by eating more calories than I've burned off, straight away afterwards.  If I keep reminding myself of this it might just work and put me off.)

Anyway, the remainder of the day was spent, washing up, tidying up the kitchen, a little bit of gardening (more in another post) and tackling the mountain of washing and ironing.  I must admit that I hadn't yet unpacked the dirty washing following our return on Sunday, preferring to ignore it until today.  I could have done some washing whilst we were away, but to be honest I decided I was on holiday and didn't, so it serves me right that I'm facing a huge pile now.

All in all I've had a pretty productive day, even though I didn't get everything done that I wanted to.  I bought my fruit and vegetables from a local market stall and the greengrocers, managing to only create a bit of polythene waste from the cucumbers plus a few paper bags and carrier bags, which will be either recycled or reused.   I was also pleased to note that the items I put up for sale on eBay ended today, with three out of the five selling.  The two that remained unsold have been automatically re-listed by eBay for free, so hopefully they will sell next week.  Tomorrow, will now be spent sending more parcels off, but at least it will have earned me a little bit of extra money, some of which I am planning to spend on a welly mending kit, as one of my wellies has sprung a leak!

Monday 24 February 2014

The Winter of Breaking Bad

I think that this winter will be remembered by us as the Winter of Breaking Bad.  Most nights we light the wood burner and settle down to watch a couple of episodes on Netflix.  It wasn't always this way.  It started with OH wanting to watch it, so he decided to subscribe to Netflix for the purpose.  I was hoping that I would be able to watch the current series of Nashville too, as I thought that this was on Netflix, but it wasn't unfortunately.  Anyway, OH started watching the series and was hooked from the first few episodes.

He particularly liked that most of the action took place in the desert in New Mexico and this reminded him of our holiday in the US last year, where we hired a camper and drove through the Nevada desert from Las Vegas to Palm Springs in California.

Anyway, I wasn't really that interested in watching the series at all at first.  I caught the odd episode here and there, but I could take or leave it. OH would duly try to fill me in on what had happened between the episodes I watched.  More recently, however, I've caught the bug and most nights now we settle down in front of the TV (me with my Christmas lap quilt in hand) and watch it.   Sometimes not getting to bed until well after midnight.  We were deep into series 4, with the only the last few episodes to come when series 5 suddenly popped up, which was a nice surprise.  We weren't complaining, as we thought that the show was finishing after series 4 and we would soon have finished watching.

It's a great series.  I'd read about it on several blogs, but I wasn't sure it was something I would like.  How wrong I was?  It's pretty nasty in parts, probably not to everyone's taste, and very funny in others, but so well written.  We're half way through series 5 now, which I believe is the final series.  I must admit that I have enjoyed this series less than previous ones.    Has anyone else out there been watching this show?  (Please don't let slip what happens if you have been watching.)

Sunday 23 February 2014

Project 52 - Week 8/Make Something Every Month 2014 - February - Knitting a New Snood

I'm running a bit late today on account of travelling back home to London from Yorkshire and wanting to photograph this project when I got home. This is a relatively new project, not on my existing to do list, on account of the fact that I only bought the wool for this a few weeks ago.  I chose to do it this week as it was something I could take away with me to Yorkshire and complete whilst we were away from home. 

I do like a nice snood and have quite a few, but they are mostly made of jersey and really only for use in warmer weather.  I like the fact that they stay put around your neck and don't choke you or unravel, but just add a bit of interest to an outfit.  In cold weather they are perfect for keeping out the chills and snuggling into on a freezing cold day.  As soon as I saw this wool I wanted to make one using it.  It's a lovely dark grey yarn and is a polyacrylic/new wool/alpaca wool mix and is lovely and chunky.  I've not done much knitting with a chunky wool before, so I was interested to see how I got on with it, but I found it great to knit with. 

I basically cast on 22 stitches and knitted a long garter stitch scarf using the four 50g balls in the pack (£3.99 from Lidl) and 7 1/2 mm needles.  I've got very basic knitting skills so I kept it simple.  I knitted up approximately one ball per night whilst we were away, so it took me a few days to complete and then sewed the ends in and the ends of the scarf together using leftover lengths of the wool.  Luckily, there was just enough wool for it to be the perfect length for a snood.  I used an existing wool snood, (I made by sewing together the ends of a lambs wool scarf I picked up at a jumble sale) as a measure for the length needed.  I'm looking forward to wearing it whilst out with the dog this week. 

Here's a photo taken of the finished article modelled by the beautiful Betty, my dressmaker's dummy.   (I don't like to use that word to describe her as it sounds insulting, but can't think of an alternative at this moment in time).

I was hoping that I'd have enough wool to make a pair of matching wrist warmers, but I didn't unfortunately.  Instead, I used a lovely ball of aqua blue chunky acrylic I bought whilst in Richmond for this purpose and managed to finish these too whilst away. 

I'm afraid that as we're now nearing the end of February, once again I am using this project as a combined one for both February's make in my Make Something Every Month in 2014 challenge and the Project 52 challenge created by Dreamer at Living a Slow and Simple Life to try to complete a must do task every week for a year.  Hope you don't mind.

Friday 21 February 2014

W is for Waste (Zero)

I blogged a while ago about this book by Bea Johnson that I received as a gift this Christmas,

in which she writes about how to make your life as waste free as possible and although I really enjoyed the book and it made me want to reduce our waste and consumption, I must admit that so far this year I have done little in actuality to achieve this aim.

I have made some very small changes.

I have been packing up Little Bird's lunch in a plastic lunch box most days, thus virtually avoiding the use of  sandwich bags at all and if it weren't for the fact that I use these for separating out and freezing bulk meat purchases in individual meal portion sizes, I would try not to buy them at all.  I guess I could achieve the same result by using freezer proof cartons or boxes, so I might consider saving butter tubs, and other recycling waste for this purpose and fill these with meat instead, which will also help cut down on recycling.

I am also making small changes to the stationery I use for my business, to make it more recyclable, and I always try to use the reverse side of paper and use the scrap paper from the printer in OH's office for quilting or writing shopping lists, but again these are very things which have very limited impact. 

I realise that probably the majority of our waste comes from food packaging and it is in this area that I really need to pay some serious attention to my habits.  I just haven't made enough effort so far this year and I think it is time to change.  When I return to London from this half-term break I need to set about making more of an effort in this regard, and I think that the first way that I am going to try to do this is to use our local greengrocers a lot more.  Although I already try to refuse plastic bags in the supermarkets and put fruit and vegetables straight into the trolley, I can make improvements in  this department, as some things are more inexpensive or do come pre-packaged, such as nets of oranges and pre-packed cherry tomatoes.

We're very fortunate in that we do have a very good local greengrocer and if I take my basket and bags I can easily buy most of my fruit and vegetables there, without acquiring hardly any packaging at all and without the raised eyebrows you sometimes encounter elsewhere when you refuse to use the plastic bags.  Where I do need bags, i.e. baby tomatoes/grapes, I can use paper bags too, which are more much more easily recyclable and don't cause fruit to sweat.  I sometimes use local market stalls too, where you can buy by the bowl which can then be tipped into your bag and I will continue to do this, as I can avoid packaging this way too.   In addition, by making a concerted effort to do these things more often I am also putting more money into the local economy, which I think is another important reason for doing it.

Unfortunately, we don't have a weigh store nearby like the one I encountered in Richmond, not that I am aware of anyway, where I could buy dry goods by weight, taking my own packaging or storage containers, so I'm not going to be able to do much in this regard, but I could definitely try to bake more instead of buying convenient over packaged food items, and I could also buy larger packs of things we use regularly, cutting down on waste this way.  I'm not a great or very confident baker, but maybe with a bit of practice I might improve and actually start to enjoy it, as well as save on waste and money too.

I'm still saving my soap ends and they are collecting nicely.  I use my toiletries and cleaning products to the last drop even diluting the last bit of hand wash or washing up liquid to get it all out of the bottle.  I recycle my glass jars for Jolly Jam Jars for the school fete, storage or jam making, and all raw vegetable peelings, teabags, eggshells are composted in the garden.  I keep a bottle of cold tap water chilling in the fridge for squash to avoid running the tap more often than necessary or buying bottled water, I recycle t-shirts and other jersey clothes that are too scruffy to be donated to charity into dishcloths, I refill hand wash bottles and upcycle old items to reuse wherever I can.  I try to do as much as I can to utilise things economically, but I'm sure there's a lot more I could try to do.  It's good to keep thinking about ways you can improve and make small changes to your lifestyle, to prevent the creation of unnecessary waste. 

My expectations of myself in attaining Zero Waste are realistic, however.  If I could reduce our weekly waste by half,  to just half a black bin liner each week, plus half a bag of recycling, I would be incredibly happy indeed and I am working towards this goal by the end of the year.  One step at a time and take it from there.  Some weeks we probably are going to have more waste than others, especially at Christmas, birthdays or other holiday times, but ideally I would like to keep it down even at these times.

If anyone has any useful tips and would like to share them, I'd be very happy to hear them and will try to put them into practice if they are practical for us as a family, to help cut down on our waste creation.

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living to create weekly posts based on the alphabet read backwards.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Walking in Swaledale and an Afternoon in Richmond

Firstly, a big thank you to those of you who kindly wished us well on our half term break.  I'll try not to be too much of a bore in my posts this week.  The first day of our break in the Yorkshire Dales we set out to take the dog for a walk along the River Swale, which was flowing just down the hill from where we were staying.  It was a bit muddy under foot, but we had a lovely walk and the dog was in her element.  She spent most of the time with her head stuck down rabbit holes as the photos can attest to.  It was quite difficult to catch her in the process, but I just about managed it a couple of times.  Luckily she didn't manage to find a rabbit.

There were some pretty scenic sights (pity the photography wasn't so good)

and the mist rolling over the hills was amazing to see. 

There is something so beautiful about this part of the country that just keeps us coming back time and again.  We've stayed in several of the dales over the last few years; Arkengarthdale, Coverdale and Swaledale .  All have their own unique beauty.

After a couple of hours walking, we made our way back to the cottage where bacon sandwiches were in order for lunch.  By now it seemed that rain had set in for the afternoon, so we made the most of it and drove into Richmond, one of the nearest Market towns.  I did a bit of food shopping, whilst OH bought himself some new wellies and some thermal gloves.  Richmond is one of our favourite Yorkshire towns.  It is small and compact and is built mainly around the market square and has just about everything you could possibly want - a great cinema, swimming pool, mini golf, interesting shops, supermarkets, market (although not today) and the castle of course.  We have visited on many occasions whenever we've stayed in these parts. 

I always like to visit the weigh store where you can buy virtually anything by weight.  I just got some pudding rice for supper one evening, but I love these shops and wish I could find one closer to home, as it would be very useful in helping me to reduce our household waste.  I also had great fun checking out the Yorkshire Trading store, as being a local chain, we don't get these in London and they sell almost everything you could possibly want including fabric, wool, sewing and crafting supplies, outdoor and indoor clothing, pet items, gardening items, etc. etc.  I could have spent hours in there looking around, but sadly I couldn't as I was meeting up with OH and didn't want to take too long. 

I bought a couple of small, but necessary things that I had been on the lookout for for a while, namely a 71cm zip that I need to replace the broken zip on a favourite jacket of mine.  I'm hoping it's the right size as I didn't have the exact measurements.  I kind of measured it against myself to gage how long my coat, which is at home, is.  Not exactly scientific,  but fingers crossed. I also bought a  fireplace tool set as we needed a new one.  The brush on ours has worn right down and is now unusable and the tongs recently broke too.  I'd tried to buy one in B&Q near where we live, the other day, but they didn't seem to have them, so I was pleased to find a set here.  It should tuck nicely down the side of the wood burner too.  Finally, I did treat myself to this lovely cotton bee print ribbon at £1 per 2.5m roll  and a ball of this lovely chunky 100g ball of acrylic wool for £1.75 to make a pair of wrist warmers, both of which were just so pretty and reasonably priced that I just couldn't resist.

Once we'd done the necessary shopping, we headed back to the cottage for dinner which was Toad in the Hole made with Swaledale sausages, followed by one of my favourites when I'm in Yorkshire, namely Yorkshire curd cheese tart.  This is the last remaining piece, which I'm saving for another day.  I'm afraid the photo doesn't really do it justice, but it was very tasty.

It always reminds me of my childhood, as my mum used to bring them home regularly for tea.  You can take a girl out of Yorkshire, but you can't take Yorkshire out of the girl.


Tuesday 18 February 2014

Back in the Yorkshire Dales

After a five hour journey from London, and a quick stop off in the pretty village of Reeth to get a few essential provisions, we eventually found our way to what will be our home for the next week.  It's a lovely stone cottage in Swaledale, with gorgeous flagstone floors, a bit cold at the moment but I'm hoping they warm up a little, (so glad I brought my slippers!),

lovely big open fireplace,

and in a lovely remote position looking out over the fields and hillsides.  This was the view from the front of the cottage.

You can see the snow capped hills in the distance.  We've brought the sledge in case we get more snow, although it doesn't appear to be forecast.   We've never stayed here in the depths of winter before.

As soon as we got unloaded and got inside OH got the fire going, whilst I did some unpacking of clothes and food.   I'd brought almost enough for the whole week, but will need to buy some meat, fruit and veg at some point.

Once we'd got settled in, next on the agenda was testing out the WiFi, which as you might have already guessed worked perfectly and then I was able to catch up with reading some blogs whilst OH took our very excited dog for a walk down the hillside before it got dark.  She loves coming away with us and as we have no near neighbours here, if she does decide to bark it won't bother anyone too much. 

For our first supper it was a simple meal of pasta with a tomato sauce and Peshwari naan breads.   Perfect after a long journey and when you need something quick and to get used to a new hob and oven.  We then settled down to watch the Winter Olympics followed by the Baftas,  during which I started my new knitting project and began to truly relax in our new rural surroundings.  I'm looking forward to getting out there into the beautiful Yorkshire countryside and breathing in some lovely fresh country air.

Monday 17 February 2014

Heading Off for Half Term

Thank goodness it's half term. (I imagine that most of the teachers country wide are saying the exact same thing).   A week with no routine, no early morning starts and no school uniforms or packed lunches to get ready.  Little Bird has had a week of assessments this week and OH has been particularly busy of late,  so this half term we're heading off to Yorkshire for the week to stay in the Dales.  I'm packing up as much food from our cupboards as I can to keep costs to a minimum and so that if we do get snowed in, we'll have plenty to keep us going if we can't get to the shops.

We're all in need of the break from the hustle and bustle of London life, especially OH, who really deserves some time away from work.  When you work from your own home as he does, it is hard to get completely away from it, and so physically removing yourself is sometimes the only way.

We're looking forward to lots of country walks with the dog (weather allowing), a bit of mooching around some Yorkshire Market towns and possibly visiting a few relatives on our travels.  I'm taking plenty to entertain myself in case we are snowed in.  A knitting project, my Christmas hand sewn quilt, books, magazines and games, and if the WiFi is up and running, I will still be blogging and reading of course.

Sunday 16 February 2014

52 Projects - Week 7 - Listing Some Items on Ebay to Make Some Extra Cash

This weekend, spurred on by zero listing fees on eBay, I decided to list some items that have been sat in my sewing room since Christmas, after I had a good sort out of Little Bird's bedroom.  They are mostly clothes of hers, that she has outgrown, but hardly worn and doesn't really like (I suspect), so consequently are in very good condition.

I do make a point of only selling items on eBay that are in immaculate condition, as over the years I've purchased quite a few items that were a bit worse for wear when they arrived, but looked much better in the photograph.  (I have bought many things over the years that have been in fab condition too).  As a consequence, to avoid disappointing others and receiving negative feedback I try to make sure that anything I sell is something that I wouldn't mind receiving myself.  

A few of the items I'm selling are popular brands such as Boden or Joules, so I'm hoping that they will sell well and provide me with a little extra cash which I can put towards the overdraft or use to buy other necessary things.  I'll let you know how I get on.

Joining in with Dreamer from Mum's Simply Living in her 52 Projects challenge, to complete a task a week in order to clear the backlog of all those niggly little jobs that have been overlooked for ages.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Take One Cardigan

The other day after being inspired by my weekly feed from Pinterest, I decided to complete a project that I had added to my Likes folder a while ago.  As a regular trawler of charity shops and a keen sewing enthusiast, I have lots and lots of different buttons, that generally sit in a jar on my sewing room shelves doing very little.  This project was a perfect way of both using some of them and jazzing up an already pretty jazzy cardigan from M&S, that I haven't worn for a while.

I raked through my jar of loose buttons, and picked out as many colourful and interesting small buttons as I could, and then proceeded to sew them between the button holes on my cardigan front. (I must admit that I did initially waste an hour sewing them between the buttons themselves on the wrong part of the button stand, and was almost at the bottom before I realised - Silly woman!).  Anyway, after removing them and sewing them onto the correct side I was quite happy with the results and I am looking forward to wearing this cardigan again now. 

Here's a picture of the finished makeover:

Friday 14 February 2014

X is for XxX - Kisses and Love for Valentines Day

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living, devising weekly posts based around the alphabet backwards. 
This weeks letter is X which stands for XxXxX.

 Lots of kisses and love to everyone out there in blog land this Valentines Day.  Hope you all have a lovely Valentine's day and if you don't have a love interest then why not show yourself some love this Valentine's Day by taking it easy or treating yourself in whatever way your budget allows, be it a cream cake or a new red lipstick.

 Whatever you do today, enjoy it and spread the love.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Charity Shop Tales 13

It's been approximately 3 months now since I've done one of these posts.  I think with Christmas and paying off my credit cards I just haven't had any spare cash to spend, so I've almost completely curbed my habit of shopping in charity shops, although not quite, as old habits do die hard and it is all in a good cause. 

From time to time, I do still pay the odd favourite local charity shop a visit if I'm passing and last week was a case in point.   I was in town (the town centre of the borough in which we live) and I couldn't help popping into one of my all time favourite charity shops.  It was in danger of having to close not long ago, due to the rent being increased, but thankfully got a reprieve, so whenever I'm in the vicinity during opening hours, I do like to go in and take a look.  I didn't have a lot of money in my purse, but the few pounds I did have I was happy to put into the coffers of a local charity.

As is often the case when you have a few spare pounds, you can't actually find anything that suits and this sadly was the case on this occasion.  My book pile is almost toppling over so I resisted my usual urge to buy a couple of books. 
They had some interesting vintage clothes in there this visit, but sadly they were very small sizes and wouldn't have come anywhere near my frame.  Shame.  I consoled myself, as always, by being drawn like a magnet to the tins/baskets of sewing paraphernalia/fabric and came away with a couple of bits and pieces. 

First, was this piece of vintage fabric, which looks like it has been cut from the hem of a dress.  I really liked the colours and the print on it and as I already have some similar fabric from the same era, I'm thinking of using them together in some sort of patchwork project.  Not sure quite how yet.  I need to give it a bit more thought.  I think it's a kind of Tricel type synthetic fabric from the 1950's/60's even, so it's not the easiest to work with, but I'd like to do something with it as the print is so striking.

I also bought a couple more unused reels of vintage cotton in pink/purple colours as pictured.   They still had the original wraps on.  I can never resist these.  They will be added to my basket of cotton and will hopefully be used at some point.  All three items together cost me £1, which was very inexpensive and just goes show that small pleasures can still be found and don't have to cost too much.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

February Food Challenge - Catchup

This challenge is one that I've set myself to try to use up food we had in our cupboards and freezer, that had been hanging around for a while and just wasn't getting used.  I did a full stocktake and compiled a list of all the foods that needed using up in my original post for this challenge, and there was quite a lot of it I have to admit.  I altered my menu plan for the month accordingly, taking account of what we had already and I have been trying to buy only what I need from the menu plan. 

I have made some inroads into the list and have used the following in the last couple of weeks:

One pack of Crème Brulee Mix -  I didn't realise, but there were actually two sachets in each pack, so I had to make these twice to use one pack (shame!)  and there's still another pack to use at some point.  Not bad value for 99p though.  I added 200g of Weightwatchers reduced fat cream and 350ml semi-skimmed milk to make 4 of these from each sachet in the pack and they were actually really nice and a real treat for us all.

One pack of scone mix - I made 15 small scones from this pack by just adding some milk.  They weren't anything special, but with a bit of butter and jam made a lovely treat with a cup of tea.

One pack of Fajita seasoning. - I forgot to take a photo of our chicken fajitas, but they were very yummy and added a bit of variety to the menu plan.

One large frozen turkey - I roasted this last weekend (apologies for the poor quality photograph) and then used the leftovers for several meals over the next few days. 

This was my turkey leg,  and a whopper it was too.

Four from a pack of 12 frozen stuffing balls - eaten with the Turkey roast.

It was turkey curry last night with the last of the frozen naan breads and brown rice.  I used a sachet of the Ainsley Harriot Indian and Curried Lentil Chickpea Pan Soup and one packet of Tikka Masala seasoning mix- to make the turkey curry.  The pan soup on it's own didn't taste curry-like enough so I popped the seasoning mix in too which had the desired effect. It was very nice.

There's still half of the turkey left, in spite of eating it in sandwiches with mayonnaise and cranberry chutney for the last two days lunches, so I'll be making a turkey tagine later in the week using another pan soup mix and some Morrocan spices and will be eating it with some of the cous cous needing to be used.

I also used half the pack of trifle sponges, along with some of the frozen mixed berries and a sachet of raspberry jelly to make a trifle.  I added some custard and whipped cream  and sprinkles to finish.  I also made some mixed berry individual jellies which I didn't take a photo of, but which make a nice low calorie dessert.

One pack of Weightwatchers Double Choc Chip cookie mix also got used by Little Bird who made these up and they were a nice treat as we don't get biscuits in too often -  although as you can probably tell, we do like sweet things in this household.

Various other bits and pieces have also been used.  I finally got around to making some yummy butter popcorn for Little Bird's packed lunches and attempted a bit of a bento box style approach, to make them a bit more interesting for her.  I'm going to try to do this more often in future.

I used one of the money off vouchers for Morrison's when I did a shop there last week, to get £5 off a £40 spend.  Subsequently, however, I have decided to only use a couple of the remaining vouchers, as the amount you need to spend to actually get the benefit of the money off, only encourages me to spend more than I need to.  This seems to me to defeat the object, so I am back to shopping at Lidl and Asda, unless I need enough food and non-food items in one shop to match the total needed to use the vouchers.

As you can see I've made a start, but I do need to get a bit more serious about this challenge as there is still a huge amount of food to use up.   We're away in Yorkshire next week, but I'm going to take as much of the food as possible with us, to try to use whilst we're away. I think it will definitely take me more than one month to completely use up the food on the list, so maybe I can save money on food shopping for two or even three months consecutively.  I'll post again at the end of the month to update on further progress.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

A Walk to the Allotment

It's getting to that time of year when I need to start thinking about doing some work at the allotment for the coming growing season.  I can't quite get on with it yet as with all the rain the ground is just too wet, but I was curious to see what state my plot was in so I decided to take the dog on an extra long walk on Friday morning and check it out.

My allotment is a good few miles away along the canal.  I don't normally take the dog on such a long walk, but I fancied a change from our normal dog walking routine and wanted to kill two birds with one stone so to speak.  In the end we had a lovely walk, my knee doesn't quite seem to think so, might I add, but I'm sure it will recover.

I didn't go onto the plot, as I'm not sure that dogs are allowed on there.  Instead I went right up to the fence, as my plot is in the corner of the site, and took a look and some photos through the fence.  The raised beds were looking a little worse for wear, but it wasn't as bad as I expected.  There were even some things that had overwintered well and that I could pick and use, namely some kale, some rainbow chard and some spinach. 

The garlic cloves I planted back in the autumn were also growing well too.

I've got my onion sets, early lettuce, broad bean seeds and potato tubers bought and ready to go in.  I've just got to wait until the ground dries out and warms up a little, so I don't cause more harm than good.  I'm looking forward to a dryer spell of weather now, if we ever get it that is!

Monday 10 February 2014

The Week That Was

It was a  strange week last week, with a mix of good and not so good happenings.  Whilst not wanting to sound negative, included in the latter were a missed hospital appointment that we never knew we had, a trip with Little Bird to the A&E (nothing too serious thankfully), missed classes at the gym due to them being fully booked, Little Bird missing swimming classes due to an injury sustained at school, Little Bird feeling the need to depart from the debating club and my sustaining a knee injury whilst walking the dog, to name but a few.   I realise that we are still very lucky, our house was not flooded, we have food to put on the table and we are all in good health, but it has been quite a week and one I was definitely glad to see the back of.  I was relieved to get to the weekend, which was thankfully incident free.

After spending a pretty lazy Saturday at home (other than catching up with the ironing), Sunday was quite a bit busier.  In spite of my knee injury, I managed a class at the gym in the morning, followed by an afternoon washing the dog basket and blankets,  thoroughly hoovering and mopping the floors of the hall, stairs and landing, tidying the sprawling shoe basket and cleaning the downstairs toilet. It's a nice feeling knowing I've deodourised the doggy smells and put the downstairs to rights.

After walking the dog, we settled down to roast turkey with all the trimmings.  This was a frozen turkey left over from Christmas that needed using up.  I'd bought it with the intention of cooking it on Christmas day and then we decided to buy a fresh one.  I'm looking forward to making various dishes with the leftovers, which should feed us for much of this week.  It's like Christmas all over again, especially as I made a trifle this weekend too, in an attempt to use up what I had in the cupboards.

After a bit of a random week, I'm looking forward to starting a new week.  My shopping and to do lists have been written, my menu plan sorted and having caught up on all my jobs, I will hopefully have freed up some time to get on with lots of other things I didn't get done last week.  Hoping for a more or less normal week this week.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday 9 February 2014

52 Projects - Making a Pinboard for the Sewing Room - Week 6

For quite a while now I've been wanting to make some sort of pin board to attach all those little bits and pieces to and give me inspiration when I'm in the sewing room trying to get crafty.  A couple of months ago now I bought this largish piece of chipboard from B&Q which cost about £6 I think (can't quite remember)

with the intention of covering it with wadding and fabric, but after a search on Pinterest the other night, I decided to approach the project in a slightly different way.

As previously mentioned, I was going to make a fabric covered, ribbon pin board where items are tucked behind lengths of ribbon criss-crossing the board, but when I saw some alternative ideas pinned I decided to just paint the chip board to match the feature wall, as we still had some paint left, and nail  clips and a string of pegs across the board instead, to hold all those pictures, postcards, photos I want to display.  The nature of the chip board, being so hard and difficult to pin into with drawing pins, meant I needed clips suspended on nails which would allow me to change or add to the display without having to constantly get the hammer out and make lots more holes in the board.  Any other spaces that need filling I intend to use washi tape to tape things to the board, hoping of course, that it doesn't peel the paint off.

Anyway, whilst out at our local mall the other day, I bought a couple of large bulldog clips and several smaller bulldog clips from WH Smith.  They weren't very expensive and cost me about £4 in total and once the paint had dried on the chipboard I nailed them on as securely as I could.  I then raided OH's tool/nail cupboard and found some small screw-in eyes to tie a string across the board, from which I could suspend things, using some tiny wooden pegs I'd bought very inexpensively a year or so ago.   I also decorated the pin board with some white lace I had in my supplies, staple gunning it on for an added bit of decoration.

Once I'd finished, I added lots of bits and pieces to it.  Most are reminders to me to do things, such as go to more exhibitions (i.e. tickets/booklets from great exhibitions I've been to in the past), buttons I'd like to use,

stamps I'd like to do something with, leather/fabric I'd like to make something from, kits or patterns I'd like to use. 

I also threw in a few little drawings done by Little Bird when she was small.  She's always an inspiration. 

I really like the finished effect.  Here's a picture of the full board.

Joining in with Dreamer at Living a Slow and Simple Life in her 52 Projects challenge where the aim is to complete a task a week that you've been meaning to do for an age.  This task wasn't on my original list posted at the beginning of the challenge, but is one I have subsequently remembered I wanted to do and added to the list. 

Saturday 8 February 2014

A Day in Margate and a Visit to the Turner Contemporary Gallery

Last Sunday we spent a lovely day in the seaside town of Margate in Kent.  We've visited a few times over the years and had some lovely summer days on the lovely sandy beach there.  We used to take Little Bird when she was small as she enjoyed the trampolines, swing boats and the sea water swimming pool on the beach, and of course the amusements along the front.

When we mentioned to someone that we were going there, we were told in no uncertain terms that it wasn't a very nice place (to put it politely).  We happen to disagree.  We've always found Margate to be a very nice place.  A lovely traditional seaside town.  It may not be as quaint and gentrified as Whitstable or Broadstairs, but it has it's own charms and merits and with the building of the new Turner Contemporary Gallery, we were keen to return and check it out.

We arrived at around 11.30 am and took a walk along the beach with the dog for an hour.  It was a lovely sunny day with bright blue skies.  The dog loved running up and down the beach chasing after a ball she found.  It was fun watching the tide come right up into the little harbour which it did very quickly.

I noticed that on the far side of the harbour around from the new gallery there were some bars and cafe's which I haven't noticed before.  They may or may not have been new and I apologise if they have been there a while and I've just never noticed them, but to me it seemed like there seemed to be some signs of regeneration going on in the town, which I imagine could be a good thing for the people who live there.


We were pleased to find that the Turner gallery (pictured above) was completely free to enter and we went in and had a look around.  There were some fabulous bronze sculptures in the foyer.  Without wanting to diminish the works, they reminded me of the old Weebles (the toys that wobbled but never fell down).  I always wanted these as a child, but never did get them for some reason.  (I digress)  There was also a very impressive display of work by 11-18 year olds from local secondary schools.  Some amazing work from people of such a young age.  It was very inspiring.

After going upstairs in the impressive enormous lift (big enough to hold 100 people!), we took a look around the main exhibitions of a modernist American artist and, of course, JMW Turner.  We then took a look in the lovely shop (some beautiful things in there), and then stopped for a drink in the café, before getting back to the dog who was patiently waiting in the car for us.

Whilst OH moved the car, as parking was a little expensive near the gallery, Little Bird and I took a mooch down the front and popped into an interesting little second hand shop.  There were some lovely things in there, but I just came away with a few new spools of cotton.  They cost £1 for 3 and they always come in handy or can be used for basting if they don't match any project I'm doing colour wise.  That's another great thing about Margate.  They have some super interesting little shops to look around, which always makes a visit enjoyable.

We had a great day in Margate and will be returning again, possibly to visit other exhibitions and use the beach in the summer, although dogs aren't allowed on the main beach from May to September.  We might have to look around for a beach where we can take her in the summer.  If anyone knows one in the area, please let me know.

Friday 7 February 2014

Y is for Yellow

A very short post today.  I treated myself to a little pot of spring cheer the other day.  These little tete-a-tete narcissi just hit the spot in terms of giving indoors a little lift and didn't break the bank.

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living blog attempting a series of posts utilising the alphabet backwards.

Thursday 6 February 2014

Last Week

Last week, I had a pretty good week, despite the weather being dire.  As a consequence, I spent quite a bit of time at home getting on with things I've been meaning to do for a while. 

I finished sewing the strips together for the front of my double quilt/eiderdown.  Here's a picture. 

I was quite happy with the results so far.  I still need to wash the old duvet I'm using for wadding and sort out the back before I can sew it all together.  Unfortunately, I cut some strips from the vintage sheet I was going to use and it ended up not being big enough.  Silly thing to do really, but I found another sheet that was big enough in my vintage linen collection, so I'm going to use that instead.  Better to use it than it just be stored under the bed.

In addition, I started work on some lavender bags for OH's wardrobe which had a moth infestation.  It's a good way to use up some of the many fabric scraps I have and I already have some lavender to put inside, so it won't cost any more money. I'll probably make a few extra ones for my clothes drawers too, as I sorted out a whole pile of fabric to use.  I may also make some for small extra gifts next Christmas if all goes well, but I will probably do those nearer the time so that the lavender scent doesn't wear off in the mean time.

In addition to the sewing, I also had a good week sorting out my 'desk' at the kitchen table.  From time to time it gets increasingly cluttered and looks very messy, which can be a bit off putting if we have visitors.  I decided to invest, from my business funds, in a lovely little set of drawers from IKEA to hide it all away, so the kitchen feels much tidier on a day to day basis.  Here's what it used to look like before I got the drawers. 

Everything was visible, with some things piled on top of others, so it was a bit of a cluttered hotch potch.  Now, it looks like this

and is much preferable and so much more functional too.  The other good thing is that as it is on castors, I can just wheel it all into another room if we have visitors, completely out of view, so we can use the table properly.

Most of what I use on a daily basis is now tidied away out of view, but still within easy reach.  The little unit cost £45, which is quite an expense for a tiny business, but I think it was worth it.  Sometimes you do need to separate work and home as much as possible to keep the clutter down and everybody happy.

Finally, I managed to get some more free tickets to the Ideal Home Show at Earl's Court in March, via Money Saving Expert, so that will be another inexpensive day out which I'm quite looking forward to.  All in all a pretty productive week.