Monday, 31 March 2014

Monthly Round Up - March

March has been a good month.  I've paid off my credit cards again this month and they now seem to have far less on them from month to month, on account of my spending less, which leaves a bit more room in the budget for the odd treat or day out with spending money, such as the one I had at the Knitting and Stitching Show this month.   I've continued to pay money off my overdraft, which is going down gradually.  I've also managed to make the money I have last well this month and have not been financially stretched as the month came to a close, which is a first for me. 

I've stuck to the menu plan pretty closely and used up more of the things from the overflow cupboard.  I managed to use all the frozen items and halve the remaining items on the list from my February Food Challenge.  Anything still on it will get used up eventually, especially now that I'm onto it and trying to include dishes using the items in my menu planning, so that challenge has come to an end.

April might be a little more expensive with Easter on the horizon, but I don't have any birthdays to speak of, that require expenditure.  I do have the expense of renewing a passport for Little Bird, but I think there is plenty of room in the budget for this.  I also need to pay for her trampolining lessons, but again there should be enough for this too, as they aren't too expensive.

I have finally got around to doing some dressmaking in the last couple of days, which has been really satisfying (post to follow), and I will hopefully be making more garments in April if I manage to find the time.   I also managed to complete a couple of other projects this month, which has reduced the list somewhat.  Sorting through my wardrobe and sewing room has also meant that I have created a 'to make' pile with fabrics and dressmaking patterns ready to go , so I'm hoping next month will be much more productive.

I managed to get all the jobs done at the allotment that I needed to this month and sowed some seeds at home in the greenhouse, although only a few have actually germinated thus far.  Having sorted through all my seeds and put them in date of sowing order, I will have some more to sow next month once the weather warms up a little more.

The house got a good de-clutter and clean, on account of having some guests to stay this last weekend.  It feels good to get on top of things for once and have some breathing space for pursuing some of my other interests.  

Finally, the challenges I have been joining in with have continued to help motivate me to complete tasks and read books, which in turn often results in yet more clutter being re-purposed or leaving the house, which has also been very satisfying.  I'm hoping I can keep up the momentum into April.

I hope you had a good month too.  Have you got any plans for the coming month?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Project 52 - Week 13 - Making a Dog Pillow for the Car

This week, finding the time to complete a project for this challenge has been a bit difficult, so as a consequence, I decided to complete this small project, that I've had in mind to do for a few weeks now.  I made a quilt for the dog's travel cage in the car a while back, but it was a little small and thin, and had a tendency to slide around the cage with the dog on it when we go around corners and roundabouts.  Lately, we've taken to taking the cushion out of her basket in the kitchen and putting that in the back of the car, but it's a bit of a pain to be honest, as we often forget it and have to come back in for it before we can set off.

The other day, whilst tidying the sewing room/spare bedroom, I came across a piece of fabric that was the ideal size for covering a pillow, which is what I decided I would use to make a new dog cushion.  I then cut another similar sized piece of cotton from a recycled table cloth, before sewing them both together and then to an old pillow from the spare bed, that really needed throwing out.  As it won't be seen inside this cover, it was perfect for being repurposed for this project.  It took about half an hour to complete and here is the finished result which can just be thrown into the washing machine when it gets dirty.

This is the front

and this is the back.

I think you'll agree that the dog should enjoy sitting on this cushion in the car.  I'd climb into the cage myself and snuggle up in it if I could.  An added advantage is that this is another zero waste project, that has saved something going into landfill at some point, so it's great from this point of view too.

Joining in with Dreamer from Living a Slow and Simple Life in her Project 52 Challenge to complete a task a week for a year.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Great Household and Cleaning Challenge - Month 7

This month hasn't been too bad on this challenge, but I was hoping to spend less, because I'd bought this month's toilet rolls in last month's budget and thus make up a bit of lost ground.  It didn't quite work out like that though.  I spent £9.55 this month.

The overall total now stands at £116.22/£125 with 5 months still left to run so I'm desperately running out of funds.  Unless I find an alternative and free source of toilet rolls (back to the old newspaper? - not likely), this challenge will soon be coming to an end, but I'm determined to eek it out to the bitter end, which will definitely be sooner rather than later. and thank goodness for that.

This month's spending was on the following:

Kitchen Roll x 4 - £1.39
Disinfectant - 30p
Washing Up Liquid - 59p
Matches x 3 large boxes - 99p
Black Bin Liners x 20 - £1.49
Toilet Rolls x 4 £1.79 - With visitors arriving this weekend I needed to top up.
Laundry Liquid - £3 - This was a bit of a bug bear, but I finally succumbed to a branded laundry liquid after trying to wash some muddy jeans twice with the soap nuts and them still not coming clean.  Even one wash with the branded laundry liquid didn't do the job in a full wash, so I'm putting them in on their own to try to get them clean.

To be honest, I have struggled for the last six months with various cheap laundry products and not been particularly happy with their effectiveness, so I finally decided I'd had enough and bought some branded laundry liquid, with the added bonus of it having a lovely fragrance.  I know there are many arguments, ecological and otherwise about using products with less chemicals, but I just wanted something that did the job well.  I'm still going to use the soap balls, as they are good for washing less heavily soiled items, such as clothes that need freshening, rather than cleaning, but for things such as towels whereby it is nice to have a fragrance too, I'm sticking to branded laundry liquid from now on.  If I've learned nothing else from this challenge, I have learned the value of this.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Alphabet Blogging - R is for ..........Ready (as we'll ever be)

After a busy week cleaning the house from top to bottom, we are finally ready for the arrival of our visitors this weekend.    The spare bedroom/sewing room has been thinned out, aired and cleaned, there's been quite a bit of de-cluttering going on everywhere and the rest of the house has had a good spring clean too.  I took a car load of items to the charity shop yesterday which felt good.  Its great to know the house is clean, tidy, and free of more 'stuff' and as a consequence life feels a little lighter.

We now hopefully have a relaxing weekend of museum visiting, shopping and strolling around the markets ahead of us.  I'm looking forward to it.  Living in London, we don't always get around to making the most of it, so when we have visitors, it's a good excuse to get out and about and visit some favourite haunts.  I've even got a bit of money left in the budget to treat myself a little.

Have a good weekend whatever you're doing.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The £100 Per Year Beauty Challenge - Month 9

I can't quite believe that there are now only 3 months to go on this challenge.  It seems to have gone by so fast.  Must be the old 'time flies when you're having fun' saying in action.

This month has been quite quiet on the beauty front, merely replacing a few things that have run out over the course of the month.  Just one extra purchase, which wasn't really essential, but which I was curious to try.  There's always something.  Oh, and one mistake which you'll read about in a minute.

This month I have spent the very restrained sum of £5.48 which is well under budget and takes the running total to £76.54/£100 with just 3 months remaining.  Money was spent on the following this month:

Tissues  x 15 packs of 10 - 99p
Cotton Wool Pads x 2 packs of 50 - £1
Conditioner  360ml - £2 - This was actually supposed to be shampoo, but unfortunately I picked up the wrong bottle from the shelf in the supermarket, so I've now got 3 bottles of conditioner to use and no shampoo!  Great.  Anyway, as a result, in order not to push the budget by buying some shampoo, I decided it was a good opportunity to use up all those small sample/hotel/travel bottles that I had lurking in my stash.  Some are better than others, but they need using up, so now is as good a time as any.
BB Cream - £1.49 - This was the only extra purchase this month, which was on offer with Approved Foods, so I popped one on my order.  I must admit I haven't even tried it on my skin yet, as I'm still using my Nivea Tinted Moisturiser.  I need to give it a go before that runs out, just in case I need to buy some more.

I'm starting to think that it might be nice when this challenge ends, not to have a budget any more and be able to treat myself from time to time.  I picked up a Grapefruit Eau de Cologne Spray in T K Maxx the other day which I wanted to try, but then remembered that at £9.99 it just wouldn't fit into the budget so put it back.  Not really a hardship in the scheme of things, so I can't complain, but I think I can see me having a little binge when the challenge is finally over.  Maybe treat myself to a new inexpensive perfume or lipstick, although currently my lipsticks are getting used up, which is no bad thing.

I'll have to start thinking of the things I might treat myself to when this challenge ends.  Number one is a perfume from Lidl for £3.99 that I've heard good reviews of in the media.  It's supposed to be as good as Chanel on a Lidl budget.  Sounds fine to me for daily use.  If I can fit it into my £100 per year budget I might even indulge whilst still on the challenge, it could be an end of the challenge treat if there's enough spending power left.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Earring Revamp

Last Friday, I took delivery of some kidney shaped earring fastenings that I had ordered from eBay.  I love these fastenings and have used them on several pairs of earrings in the past to create a dangly earring with a secure fastening.  Lately though, these earrings have been looking a bit worse for wear and the silver colour has worn off the fastenings with repeated wear and cleaning using surgical spirit, so I decided to order some more and give them a revamp.

I paid about £2 for 40, which is far more than I need and very inexpensive, as this included postage.  Once they had arrived I set about attaching them to my earrings.  Here's a few of them.

There's the lips. 

I love these as they are just so kitsch.  I often get admiring comments about these earrings.  I can't remember where I got the charms, eBay, I think.

Then there's the bows, which are cute too.

The spotted beads which I made up myself using another triangular fastening many years ago.

And finally there's the hearts.  Great for wearing on Valentine's Day.

I had a look around to see what new earrings I could make using them and made the following:

My current favourites are these green drops. (I'm wearing them today).   Ideally, they need a gold coloured kidney fastening, but I'm happy to make do with the silver.

Monday, 24 March 2014


Sunday, we had a lovely day doing just as we pleased and doing the jobs we needed and wanted to do.  I started the day off by having a long lie in as I had slept badly the night before and wasn't at my usual class as it was fully booked up.  I laid in bed reading a book which I'm really enjoying, until that is, I saw that it was nearly 10 am and thought I'd better get out of bed and do something useful. 

Once up and about I caught up on a bit of housework and some online reading and then later we headed out.  Me to the allotment in the car and OH, Little Bird and the dog on foot to the same destination, where they met me later.  The plot wasn't in too bad a shape after I'd tidied it up a few weeks ago.  A few things had gone to seed so I removed them and dug up some weeds from the foot paths, which I now need to cover with weed suppressant fabric and wood chips.

I was pleased to see that some salad seeds I'd sown on my last visit were germinating,


and the onion sets were sprouting. 

When OH got there, he put my First Early potato tubers in for me, as I never quite plant them right when I do it.  I didn't buy as many this year, so we just created one main row and some short off shoots.  It felt good to tick that one off my to do list.  Especially as they'll be inspecting the plots in the next week, to make sure they've been cultivated.

When we got back, we had some lunch and then I spent the afternoon catching up on some blogging, and watching a couple of TV programmes I'd recorded, whilst OH and Little Bird went for a swim.  Later, I took the dog for a walk and then after supper had a lovely soak in a nice hot bath.  I always treat myself to this after a visit to the allotment, as it helps gets the soil out from under my fingernails.

I do love an easy going Sunday.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Project 52 - Week 12 - Sorting and Sifting My Wardrobe - Part 2

I posted earlier in the week about how I'd started to sort and sift my wardrobe for the coming months, taking out most of the winter woollies, ready for getting my summer clothes out of storage.  I managed to sort through the winter clothes quite quickly and pack them away into storage until next year.  I've still got coats, shoes/boots and jumpers to sort through and pack away, but as most of these aren't in my wardrobe, they're not strictly included in this post.  They will be tackled at a later date.

For those of you who didn't catch my first post, the wardrobe started off looking like this.

It was then reduced to this, with lots of lovely empty hangers.

It didn't stay like that for long, as once I'd got all the summer clothes out of storage, it filled up again pretty quickly.

It felt good to get the job done and there appears to be a bit more colour in evidence.  It's one of those seasonal must do's, to clear out any unworn or tired items that you're not going to wear any more, and make room for things you really like wearing.  Also when I get my summer clothes out, it's like having a whole new wardrobe of clothes to choose from.

I've also sorted through all of my handbags on the top shelf too and made them all easily accessible for when I want a change and just need to grab one, fill it and go.  Hopefully, this way I might use some of them more often than I currently do.  Here they are lined up ready for action.

I'm not so optimistic as to go over completely to summer clothes and therefore I'm  keeping a few sweaters back in case we get some chilly days in the next couple of months, but for all intents and purposes I'm ready to go.  Bring on the sunshine.

In carrying out this task, I did manage to put quite a few items aside for taking to the charity shop and I had a bit of good news this week about the remaining eBay items I listed a few weeks ago, as they all sold.   This has removed more unused 'stuff' from the house and provided a small amount of income too which is very satisfying.

I still have more clothes to sort, sift and store,  namely the contents of the chests of drawers, the coat rack and the shoe basket.  I was hoping to reduce the amount of storage bags/suitcases that I keep stored seasonal clothing in this time around, but unfortunately because winter boots, jumpers, coats, etc. take up more room physically than summer t-shirts, etc., I haven't been able to reduce these, but  haven't increased them either, so that is something at least.

The shoe basket sort and sift is another item on my 'to do list' for Project 52, so I will post another week on my progress in this task, when I eventually get around to it.

In doing this task, I am joining in with Dreamer of Living A Slow And Simple Life in carrying out task a week for a year, in her 52 Projects Challenge.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

On the Subject of Hoarding

I've got an admission to make, that I have a bit of an obsession at the moment, with a series of programmes on CBS Reality Channel, about extreme hoarders in the US.  I'm recording them via a series link, as they are on daily, and I'm gradually finding time to watch them.  I've mentioned before that I have mild hoarding tendencies or have had in the past as I can get quite sentimental about some items, but in recent years I have managed to get them under some sort of control and gradually minimise the urge to buy more and more 'stuff'.  I still sometimes have the odd lapse, but where I do buy anything, I try to make sure that it is either something small or something that I will definitely use or wear.

I'm finding most of the episodes very interesting, save for the ones where people hoard animals, which I enjoy less.  I can empathise with the fact that animals can be very good companions, and I could see myself with a guinea pig village if I had a spare outbuilding, but I've always found pets to be a very big responsibility, not to mention expense and some of the animals in some of the programmes don't always appear to be very well looked after, which I find a bit distressing.  Not that I'm making judgements,  it is very difficult to tell from an edited TV programme, just what is the real reality.

I do, however, find watching these programmes quite inspiring, as the psychologists and organisers very kindly and gently try to help the afflicted, whilst trying to identify the underlying reasons for their behaviour, and bring some normality back to their somewhat chaotic lives.  I have to admit I find these programmes therapeutic too, as after each programme I watch, I wander off and purge another part of the house to free us of 'stuff' I/we no longer want or need.  It seems to be working, as the house is so much less cluttered than it was 3 months ago.  I don't know what I will use to inspire me when the series ends!

Part of the reason for the sudden interest, is that we are having guests coming to stay in a week's time, so I'm trying to get a grip on the house, to enable me to give it a good spring clean in time for their arrival.  The sewing room/spare bedroom is the main room left to tackle, with piles of fabric everywhere, that I have laid out intending to use for various projects I have in my head.

This morning, I decided to start to tackle this room.  I tidied away as many stray items as I could and then decided to sort through all of my sewing patterns and there must be 70+ of them.  I pulled out any that I fancy making in the next 6 months, and any that I am never likely to make, so that the latter could be sent to the charity shop.  I probably got rid of about 10, which wasn't great, but it was progress at least.   I then matched the fabrics from the piles to the sewing patterns and created one big 'to make' pile, which makes a lot more sense of the mess.  Most of the remaining fabrics were then tidied away in drawers and other storage containers out of sight. 

There's still a bit of tidying left to do, but I'll tackle that another time.  I find that sometimes when you get stuck, as I have today, as to where you're going to put everything, if you walk away, think about it for a while and then go back to it, it can all fall into place in your mind at least where everything should eventually go.  That's my theory anyway and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Alphabet Blogging - S is for ......Stripping (No, not that kind)

Today was a big day for our little dog, if only she knew it.  OH had booked her in to have her coat stripped for the first time.  We were all a bit nervous about it and what she would look like afterwards.

She's been scratching a lot lately and I know she hasn't got fleas, because we've treated her and if she had I would get bitten, which I always did as a child when we had cats.  OH thought that getting her stripped might relieve her skin irritation, which has been getting worse for a while now and the groomer seemed to agree.

We took her along to the grooming salon, filled with other dogs.  She didn't have a clue as to what was going on.  We had to sign the usual disclaimers, in case of a reaction to the process.  Hopefully, this won't be a problem.

Being a Cairn Terrier, she has a coat that doesn't really moult, so she can get quite hot in the summer months.  We were advised by her breeders that stripping would be necessary, but this is the first time we had taken her.  After staying for a few minutes to see how she took to the process, we left her in the capable hands of the groomers (the process takes 2 to 2 and half hours).

When we took her in she looked like this.  Our lovely scruffy little dog.

When we collected her she looked like this.
Bless her. It wasn't actually as short as I was expecting and thankfully, she didn't seem to mind having it done.   I think she was a little bit shocked, but she soon perked up.  It's like having a new dog, only a tidy looking one.  I want to ruffle her fur up and make her look more scruffy.
I think she might need to wear her wool coat on walks for a couple of weeks if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Joining in with Mum from Mum's Simply Living blog, posting using the Backwards Alphabet.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Charity Shop Tales 15

Today, I had to head out into our main local shopping street, on account of picking up my shoes and boots from the shoe repairers (they look great, but did cost even more than I expected) and because I needed to visit the Post Office.  Whilst out, I decided to treat myself to a little look in a couple of my favourite charity shops. 

In the first, I didn't have a lot of money in my purse (£3.50 only), so I didn't buy much, but I couldn't resist this book by Plum Sykes to add to my reading pile. 

I also spotted this little Knitting Pattern Book,

which has some very sweet patterns in it to make cushions.  On leafing through it, I particularly liked this cute spotted one

and this sweet heart cushion.

Finally, I bought this unused piece of Arthur Sanderson fabric with a tropical bird print. 

I thought it was lovely.  I have a bit of a tendency to collect Sanderson fabrics that take my fancy.  Anyway, all three came to £2 in total, so I was very happy to purchase them.

I then moved on to my other favourite charity shop, which is not far from my home.  This shop accepts cards for purchases over £5, so I had a good look around to see if there was enough to interest me, to make it worthwhile using my debit card.

I found a few items of clothing I liked, but after trying them on, three out of the four didn't really look too good on.  This Next jacket appealed to me, however, possibly because it was grey and white striped, the right size (more or less) and was brand new with tags still attached.  It seemed perfect as a summer jacket, that I can just throw on when it's too chilly to go without one.  It was priced at £8, but I noticed it was originally £45, so I didn't mind paying this for it.

The next couple of items I bought, I couldn't believe my luck.  They were in a box underneath one of the dress rails along with some other similar items, pieces of leather to be more exact.  I had a good look through and decided to buy two pieces.  This large one, which is a reddish brown, slightly darker than the photos suggest and big enough to make a handbag! 


It cost just £1.  After watching the contestants sew with leather on Tuesday's Sewing Bee, it seemed an opportunity not to miss.  The second piece was a lot smaller and unfortunately, where the sticker is attached to the leather, this part is not usable, as the sticker has marked it, but there's still enough to make a small zip purse and maybe a pair or two of earrings and a cuff bracelet.

It's very thick though, so I would probably have to sew it by hand.  This piece cost 50p.  Both were definitely worth buying.

Last, but not least, whilst at the counter I had a look through some buttons displayed in a basket and decided to buy these two cards to add to my stash too, at just 30p each card. 

I was really happy with these purchases and very pleased that I'd popped in.  I'll let you know what I make from the leather, when I eventually get around to using it.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Making Things Last

Whilst sorting my wardrobe the other day I came across an old favourite pair of black suede shoes.  (Please excuse their dusty appearance and rather grubby looking inners.)

I haven't worn them so much this year, firstly, because I haven't worn skirts very often and these shoes are great to wear with a skirt, and secondly, because of this split in one of the soles.

I bought these shoes at a jumble sale or charity shop for just £1 and they are one of the most comfortable pairs I've ever had.  Just the right height (I don't get along too well with high heels and find ballet flats just too flat that they aren't actually flattering) and a quite wide fitting, so no nipping or rubbing.  They are one of the only pairs of black shoes I own, so are really useful as a consequence.  They may not be the most fashionable pair, but I really like them and all those 80's styles are sneaking back into fashion these days.  I remember wearing tassled loafers as school shoes and they're all the rage again.

Anyway, as I don't yet want to part with them, I thought I'd take them to the shoe repairers and see if there was anything they could do.  As I paid so little for them, and enjoy wearing them so much, I don't mind paying to get them repaired, even if it costs up to £10, which it invariably does, because I couldn't buy another pair for that money.  I had them re-heeled last year (I did it up north where it was a little cheaper), but this time around I'll have to get them repaired here. 

I must admit that I really enjoy going into the shoe repair shop.  They always look incredibly busy with lots of shoes in various stages or repair.  It's encouraging to know that people are making the most of their belongings and looking after them more carefully these days.  I like to watch the guys working whilst I'm waiting, it reminds me of the old cobblers shop in our village growing up as a child.  It used to fascinate me.   I loved the smell of the glues and the leather and watching the cobbler attach the heels and soles to the shoes.

I also found another pair of brown suede boots that I thought I'd try to get repaired.  Again, these are an old favourite pair, super comfy, a sort of cowboy boot style with a low heel.

They're great for throwing on when I need to take the dog for a walk around the park.  The problem with these, is that they have a moulded heel and not one that can be removed and replaced, so I'm not sure if they're salvageable.  I could hear a rattling sound when I was wearing them the other day.  Turns out lots of small pieces of gravel had got up through the small hole pictured and into the heel itself and were rattling around as I walked. 

Time to get them repaired I think, if I can that is.  I'll get back to you and let you know how I got on.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sorting and Sifting My Wardrobe - Part 1

With the advent of some warmer spring weather I felt inspired to tackle my far too cluttered wardrobe and see if I could give it a good sort and sift.  I remember doing this last year as spring approached.  I needed to put some winter things away until next year and make room for the spring/summer clothes I keep in storage over the winter, as well as get rid of anything I'm just not wearing anymore or no longer wish to keep.  So, on Sunday night I started the process.  Here's a picture of my wardrobe, full of autumn/winter clothes. (Apologies about the quality of the photograph, it was taken in artificial light)

I must admit that I do have quite a lot of old favourites in my wardrobe that I just don't like parting with, but I think there comes a time when you do just have to say your good byes and move on.  At least that is what I'm telling myself, to help me be a bit more ruthless this time around.

I used to shop quite a lot in charity shops for clothes and have bought many an item that I have had good wear from.  Some items, however, very rarely see the light of day and it is these items that I am going to try to focus on sending back to the charity shop.

I do seem to have an abundance of jackets, most of which never get worn for one reason or another, lots of skirts that I used to wear more, but haven't worn so much this winter, many of which I still want to keep as they fit well and I find them very comfortable to wear.  There are a few, however, that don't fit so well and I'm afraid it's time to say au revoir to these.

Many of these items I have now packed away until next autumn, as they are quite heavy and unlikely to get worn from here on in, others I am keeping in the wardrobe, as they are a little more versatile and I can wear them over the summer too.  I'm looking to reduce the amount of clothes and shoes I put in seasonal storage, as I've noticed in recent years that the amount has increased, causing the storage bags and suitcase I use to store them, to clutter up other parts of the house.  Something that I'd like to resolve if possible.

There was one particular vintage dress in my wardrobe (pictured above), that I bought on eBay a  few years ago.  I've been thinking about this dress for quite a while now.  It's a beautiful dress with a striking print.  It fits quite well but I don't like how I look in it and as a consequence I just haven't ever worn it and I'm not sure that I ever will.  I am seriously considering seeing if I can sell it via our local vintage shop, which stocks lots of similar items of clothing or alternatively even use the fabric to make something I will wear.  It is such a pity for such a beautiful fabric to hang unused in the wardrobe when it could be worn and enjoyed.  I must admit that I am verging on the latter approach and trying to think what I could make with the fabric.

An hour later and I have a bag full of things to send to the charity shop, a pile to go into storage and I'm almost finished sorting through the winter clothes.  Here's what the wardrobe looks like now.

Lots of lovely empty hangers. 

Next on the agenda is getting out the summer clothes storage bags.  There's two of them, plus a  large suitcase that I keep on top of the wardrobe.  I'll post again when I've sorted through all of these items.  It usually involves a lot of trying on of the clothes to check they still fit me and that I still like them and want to wear them.  Wish me luck

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Project 52 - Week 11 - Start Making Seed Cakes to Feed the Birds

This week has flown by so quickly and I must admit that I haven't really properly focused on completing things on my to do list, so today I needed to think of something quite simple that I could complete in time to post.  This task is something that I've been meaning to do for a while. 

Inspired by Penny at The Hen House, as I've read her blog post on this, and by the fact that I always have a bowl in the fridge which I fill with left over fat from cooking, to prevent it going down the sink. 

In the past, I have tended to either throw waste fat in the waste to go to landfill or lately, put it in the food waste for recycling into compost.  As I'm not sure how easy it is to recycle a large lump of fat into compost, I've decided that this idea is a much better option and if it brings lots of lovely birds into the garden, even better.  It's also another tiny step on my Zero Waste journey.

I bought some bird seed whilst out grocery shopping the other day, £1.49 for 1kg from Tesco, but I'm sure you can probably buy it cheaper from other sources. 

I used some small foil trays as moulds, that I salvaged when tidying out the baking drawer last week and put them aside for the purpose.

The fat looks pretty disgusting.

I melted the fat over the hob in an old baking tray and poured it into a bowl along with the bird seed before spooning it into the moulds.

In this batch I was able to make about 8 cakes from a pudding bowl full of fat and half a bag of seed.  I then put them in the fridge to set, after which I will be cutting them out of the mould with a butter knife and skewering them so that I can feed string through the hole and hang them.  They're not quite solid yet, but are getting there I hope.

I'm pleased with the results so far and will post when I get them strung up.  Thank you Penny for the inspiration.   I look forward to seeing if they get eaten and by whom.

Joining in with Dreamer at Living a Slow and Simple Life in trying to complete a task a week in the Project 52 challenge.

Friday, 14 March 2014

T is for .... Trying

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again ..........................or so the saying goes.

Well, after unravelling my bunting once I got home from the knitting and stitching show, I decided to try and make it again, sans errors.  Originally, I hadn't put the holes in to pass the ribbon through, which you did by knitting two together and taking the yarn over, a knitting skill I've never tried before.

So, armed with my bamboo needles, ball of wool, the pattern and a recorded programme about hoarding on the TV, I gave it another try.  Initially, I got it wrong again, by managing to somehow pick up an extra stitch where I shouldn't and therefore filling in one of the holes, but on my second attempt it worked, much to my delight.

I continued on with the bunting flag until I realised that I hadn't put the rubbish out ready for collection in the morning (it was 11pm by now), so had to rush around the house emptying bins and bagging up recycling before heading to bed.

So, here's a picture of where I'm at with it at the moment.  It's not perfect, but it's taking shape slowly and I'm happy with it. 

Here's a close up of the holes.

Determination + effort (trying) = success (or moderate success).
Joining in with Mum from Mum's Simply Living blog posting using the Backwards Alphabet

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A Day Out At The Spring Knitting And Stitching Show

Today, I had a lovely day out at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia in Kensington.  I'd never been to Olympia before, so I had to plan my journey, which actually wasn't too complicated, as I could catch a train from near where I live.

I arrived at around 11am and joined the long queue to get in which moved very quickly and then there I was in amongst all those lovely, lovely stalls selling anything and everything you could possibly think of relating to knitting, stitching and lots of other crafts too.

The first stall I went to was just full of lots of lovely accessories and other bits and pieces, so it was difficult not to indulge in some new fangled pom pom makers that I'd seen Kirstie Alsopp use on one of her craft programs on TV and which looked so simple to use. 

I have a massive stash of acryllic double knit that I need to use up, so I thought I might use it to make some pom pom bunting.  They were very reasonably priced on this stall too, as I've seen them elsewhere for a lot more money.  I also got some lovely ribbon to label my hand knitted projects

and a lovely inexpensive ring casing, which I bought so that Little Bird could make me a dress ring with her polymer clay.  (She was quite thrilled at the prospect).

I had a good look around all the stalls.  There were some beautiful fabrics on sale at very reasonable prices, but to be honest it was just so busy that it was hard to get to the front of some stalls to get served, so I didn't really indulge in much fabric buying.  I did buy a couple of lovely grey spotted fat quarters, for a possible future patchwork project, but that was all.

This visit, I made a point of sitting down to watch one of the demonstrations on the stage.  It was a lovely project for a paper cut style felt cushion/pin cushion, which I enjoyed.  Then, after stopping off for a sandwich and a cup of tea, I joined in one of the free workshops to learn to knit bunting.  It was great.  You were taught how to knit and then decrease down to the point to make the triangular shape of the bunting flags, so I learnt some new knitting skills that I'd never practiced before.  You were also kindly given your bamboo needles, ball of wool and simple how to knit instructions to take home, which were really useful for future reference.  I didn't manage to finish my bunting triangle in the time allocated, as it was only half an hour, and have since unravelled it, as I had made a mistake early on, so I'm going to try to do it again at home and make a better job of it.  You can get the gist from this picture on the pattern.

I met a very nice lady in the workshop, who also gave me another pattern, to knit a very simple ruffled scarf.  I later purchased an appropriate ball of wool and I'm going to try do follow it at some point in the near future, so expect a post on the subject!

After stumbling out of one knitting workshop, I came upon another gathering of knitters and asked what they were doing.  They were knitting links for a chain of knitting, to decorate the knitting tent at a forthcoming music festival called the Wilderness festival.  I couldn't resist joining in, as it was only six stitches wide and however long required to make a link.  There was some gorgeous ultra chunky mohair and big 15mm needles, so I plumped for these and knitted this alternating between rows of garter stitch and purl stitch.  (I've not used purl stitch for years, so I was pleased to try it again.)

I loved working with this type of wool and would love to knit an ultra chunky blanket if I can ever find/afford some, or I may even knit some strips of fabric together into a blanket, cushion panel or rug.  I purchased these 15mm fixed circular needles for just this purpose. 

Whilst knitting the link, I managed to find out how to knit moss stitch, which I've seen and really like the effect of, but didn't know how to knit, so that should be useful for me to practice in future.

As you can probably tell, I found lots of inspiration at this show, from the stalls and the people I met and interacted with.  It's just amazing what you can learn from other people and I'm now seriously thinking of taking some kind of knitting course to further improve my skills. 

Elsewhere at the show, I loved this use of fabric on an umbrella frame, decorating a stall selling fabric. 

I also got inspired by lots of other ways to use narrow strips of fabric, either by sewing them together or knitting or weaving them into practical, usable items.   Imagine recycling clothing in this way, how zero waste would that be.

There was an exhibition of fashion by schools and colleges and a patchwork exhibition too, to wander around, plus other workshops you could pay to enter and other free demonstrations and workshops to watch or take part in.  Plenty for everyone to see and do.  If you like knitting and sewing, this is a super show to attend.  Just be prepared for the crowds and to part with some money, as there are so many tempting things on sale.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Tuesday at Home and A Change in My Exercise Routine

This post is a little bit rambling, but then life is a bit like that sometimes, so here goes.  Yesterday, I spent most of the day at home doing various bits and pieces.  I say most, but I did take the dog for a long 2 hour walk in the morning, on which I managed to squeeze in a few tasks such as returning some out of date drugs to the pharmacy, to be disposed of safely and popping into the doctor's with a prescription.  It felt good to get home knowing I'd crossed two things off my to do list for the week already.

Once home, I settled into spending the day pottering around the house.  OH had gone out in the car, so I couldn't do some bits I needed to do, that necessitated my having the car.  I did, however, manage to finally expose the bottom of the washing basket, which I haven't done for a good few weeks now and I'm definitely getting there with the ironing.  I waded through  a massive pile of shredding that has been building up under the sink, another tick off the list, and also did a bit of outstanding work before settling down to soup for lunch.

In the afternoon, I almost finished replacing the broken zip on a jacket of mine.  I bought the zip when we were in the Yorkshire Dales and hadn't measured the length of the original.  It was a bit long, which I had feared, but luckily with a bit of unpicking of seams, pinning and tacking into place, I managed to fit it okay, without it looking too much of a dog's dinner.   I need this jacket now the weather is getting better, as it is quite light for wearing in the spring, so it was vital I got a move on with it.  I now just need to sew it in place on the machine.  Fingers crossed.  I was pretty happy with the result of my work so far and if it extends the life of it, I will be even more happy.

(Talking of extending the life of things, I took delivery of my welly glue the other day and mended a couple of tears in a pair of wellies.  It seems to have worked okay, but I haven't road tested them by going through a puddle or anything yet.  At a cost of only a few pounds, it was well worth it to have hopefully extended their life too.)

Later, I prepared a beef stew for dinner and cooked up some meat for the dog.  When OH finally came in, it was decided that I would take Little Bird to her swimming lesson in the evening (usually he does the honours and goes for a swim himself), so I found myself venturing out once again.  I must admit I wasn't really in the mood, but someone needed to go and OH was far too busy. 

To pass the time whilst the lesson was taking place, I popped into Primark nearby (always a big mistake) and came out with a pair of trousers and a couple of storage bags for myself  and a few things for Little Bird to be put away for Christmas.  I know it's incredibly early, but I do like to shop over the course of the year to spread the cost of Christmas and  these were things that would be fine for next year.  It's been my first real indulgence this month and wasn't actually a huge one, so I don't feel too bad about it.  To be perfectly honest, I just haven't really been in the mood to spend much money at all so far this month, which has been a really good thing.  It means that I will have a bit of spending money for when I go to the Knitting and Stitching Show later this week.  Perhaps it will all change from here on in.  Let's hope not.

Today, I'm trying out a new Zumba class at a different leisure centre, as I couldn't get into my normal aerobics class on account of it being fully booked up.  This is getting to be a much more common occurrence lately, as it's getting very busy down at the gym.  It doesn't help that I can't seem to book online, so have to rely on booking in person or over the phone (when it is eventually answered).  It can be a bit frustrating, but there's not a lot I can do about it.   Fortunately, I have a membership that covers my use of a large number of leisure centres all over London, so I've started to look at classes in other centres as an alternative and to add a bit more variety to my week. 

I'm looking forward to trying a new class.   It's good to mix things up from time to time and I've been attending the same classes week in week out for a long time now.  I'm also trying a new class on Saturday morning, which I've been meaning to try for a couple of months.  Sometimes, I just need a good kick up the back side to get around to doing these things, and not getting into some of my usual classes gave me just that.  I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Waste Not Want Not and a Baking Drawer De-clutter

Sunday morning I found myself melting chocolate and making crispy buns. 

As a consequence of buying a different brand of cereal for Little Bird, which she didn't like, there was almost a full box languishing in the cupboard not being used.  As I don't eat cereal very often, preferring muffins, crumpets or potato cakes for breakfast, and OH prefers Bran Flakes and Fruit and Fibre (healthy man), and as I don't like to waste food, I decided to use said cereal and make some chocolaty treats.  Not very imaginative I know, but they were super easy and I haven't made them in a while.  (I do sometimes make these at Easter using Shredded Wheat (more nest-like) and top them with chicks and eggs.)

Using half the cereal and half the chocolate I'd bought, I made lots of crunchy treats to see us through the week.

That's one way to get it eaten!  There's also plenty left to make some more next week, when hopefully I'll be left with more space in the cupboard, without having unnecessarily wasted any food. 

Whilst on the subject of baking, not really an area of expertise for me, I thought I'd share a great little idea with you for storing bun cases, that I saw on Pinterest.  They are kept very neat and tidy in a jam jar.  Here's a picture of mine.  It keeps them in one place, saves them spilling all over the baking drawer and you can clearly see what you've got, which saves buying more when you really don't need them.

All this talk of baking gave me the sudden urge to de-clutter the baking drawer, in the hope of inspiring me to bake more.  Here is what it looked like before I started.
Quite tidy underneath, but lots of things randomly thrown back in on the top.  It's a lovely deep drawer which is really useful, but I find I can never keep it tidy for long as there's far too much in it.  (Probably, because a lot of it never gets used)  There's duplicate bags of flour and boxes of icing sugar, some items I've never used and are not likely to, plus those few things that I need quite regularly, but still have to root around to find which is quite annoying.  If it gets too untidy, things fall out of the back of the drawer and stop me closing it.  It's a fine line.
I decided that I needed to be a bit ruthless.  I'd tidied it a while ago and got rid of quite a few things, but there was still more that could go.  As you can see from the next photograph I earn my name around here as Mrs Receptacle as I often like to put things inside of things inside of things.  If you know what I mean.  It does work though to keep things in order, but is probably a side of my personality that OH finds most scary.
Eventually with a bit of effort, the drawer was in a lot better order.  Still a bit cluttered, but I know that most of the things I use regularly are within easy reach and don't require my delving into the depths.  Maybe when I get around to using up some of the duplicates, or just using some of the things in here full stop, there will be a bit more room.  I live in hope.  Here's the finished result anyway.
Continuing with my kitchen de-cluttering, with the aim of making it a clutter free zone.