Saturday, 31 May 2014

Mind My Spending in May Round Up

May has been a bit of a disorganised month financially.  Although I was supposed to be Minding My Spending to pay more money off my overdraft, I did still indulge in a few very small treats here and there for both myself and Little Bird, which wasn't strictly within the rules of the challenge.

I did manage to pay an extra £100 over and above my regular £100 per month payment off my overdraft though, which was good, but it did mean I was struggling towards the end of the month, with little money to spend.  This is something that I haven't experienced for a couple of months since I paid off my credit cards and I have to say I didn't enjoy it that much.  I'm pleased that this was just a one off this month and not a regular on going challenge.  I think I prefer to take my time paying off my overdraft over the year and make it more manageable that way.  I may do another one month challenge of this kind later in the year, but not for a few months that's for sure.

I  finally sent off for Little Bird's new passport this month, which has been on my to do list since the beginning of the year, the £55 cost of which was put on my credit card and will be paid off next month.  I didn't get around to making my usual Food bank donation though this month I'm afraid,  a combination of finances being tight and also not remembering to buy the extra food when I was out shopping, so I will be donating twice as much next month instead.

I've had to spend quite a bit of money on presents this month, with three birthdays requiring presents including OH's, so this has accounted for quite a lot of any disposable income I had, but apart from this most of what I've spent money on has been food, beauty, household items, and some parking vouchers for the gym.

I'm looking forward to getting back to normal in June.  I do have some credit card purchases to pay off, but not withstanding this, it should be a slightly more comfortable month financially than this one has been, as there aren't many presents to buy (save for Father's Day, of course) or any extra things to pay out for.

With regard to no spend days, I managed to achieve 8 no spend days this month, which now brings my current total to 39, so I am not far adrift from the target I set myself of 100 for the year.  I think that my financial challenge for next month is going to be to try to get myself back on target and really try to reach 50 no spend days by the halfway point in the year.

I had a letter from the bank this month, wanting to close one of my savings accounts because I don't use it.  It got me thinking.  I don't really want to close it, so I think I might actually start putting money aside for a rainy day, which is a new departure for me.  Maybe not huge amounts to start with, just £20 or £30 per month, but it all adds up and moves me towards being in a more positive financial place.

Friday, 30 May 2014

I is for..........Infestation

Hmm, not a particularly nice subject for my A-Z post this morning, but an apt one as we still seem to have a bit of a clothes moth infestation.  We first noticed the problem a few months back when a woollen duffel coat in OH's wardrobe was swiftly thrown out, after discovering it was acting as a moth-filled breeding ground.  A few other items also had to be thrown out including OH's only suit, as they had received some damage, but as neither of us had any cashmere or many pure wool clothes in his wardrobe, the damage was reasonably limited.

The wardrobe was cleaned out and I managed to acquire a moth attracting sticky trap on eBay, which I duly place in the wardrobe.  Now, I'm not a great fan of this type of trap, not a nice death for any creature and I especially won't use them for rodents, as I've heard stories of them biting their feet off to get free, but I wasn't sure what else would do the trick.  It just wasn't acceptable to have the little blighters living in the house and potentially munching away on fabrics I had in the sewing room, or clothes for that matter.

The sticky trap worked reasonably well, judging by the number of dead moths that found themselves attached to it, but some were escaping into the bedroom and beyond.  I hung a few homemade lavender bags and essential oil soaked cardboard tags in the wardrobe too, as I'd read they didn't like the smell of lavender and sure enough it did make them active enough to kill a few.  I've spent weeks now swatting them as and when, which isn't pleasant I know.  I don't like to kill any creature if I can help it, but don't really have any other option.

Last week, I decided that further action was needed, so I popped up to our local hardware store to see if they had anything that might help.  I picked up a bag of napthelene mothballs to put in the wardrobe and managed to get a spray to kill any odd moths I see flying around.  I also ordered more sticky pads from eBay, but made sure I bought a supply this time, as I think I was a little naïve to think one would suffice.  Hopefully, I might be able to get to grips with the problem now that I'm suitably armed. 

Does anyone have any advice for getting rid of clothes moths?

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living blog in blogging using the alphabet backwards.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

£100 A Year Beauty Challenge - Month 11

I don't know what happened this month, but I got a bit carried away, perhaps because the end is in sight.  One month to go until this challenge is over and I'm looking forward to it and possibly a subsequent binge at Boots.  (Only joking!)

I spent the rather large sum of £13.61 this month, which was way above the monthly budget of around £8 and used up virtually the whole of the rest of the budget for the year, as last month I had a total of £16.44 left to last the final two months.  This takes the total spent so far this year to £97.17/£100, leaving just £2.83 to last me the final month.  It'll be a close run thing.  I'm hoping that no unexpected purchases arise or I'm in trouble.

Expenditure this month was on the following:

Shampoo x 2 - £4.76  -  I didn't start using the first bottle until part way through the month, as I was still using up hotel freebies, but it was being used by the rest of the household.  It's now virtually empty, so I bought another bottle the other day, whilst it was half price in Tesco, as it will definitely be needed next month. 

Blemish Stick - £3.99 - My blemish stick was virtually run down this month, so I purchased a new one in readiness for when it ran out which it did the other day.  Usually, I buy 3 for the price of two when there's an offer on in Boots or I buy them with my Boots points so they don't actually cost me anything, but as I didn't have enough points and the budget wouldn't stretch to buying more than one, it seemed an expensive option.

Johnson's Facial Day Fluid - £1.49 - I bought this as part of my order from Approved Food in readiness for when my current Johnson's moisturiser runs out, (possibly within the next month), so it was a case of stockpiling again, which was a bit naughty really, but hard to resist.

Nivea Facial Foam Wash - 99p -  I did the same with this item, bought from Approved Food to use when my current bottle runs out, but to be honest this won't get used within the challenge, as I am currently using a facial bar I got free from a hotel in the US, which seems to be lasting ages and I still have 3/4 of a bottle of another facial wash to use, so I definitely could have saved my money here, but it seemed a bargain so I indulged.

Hairspray - 70p -  Ran out of this, so had no option but to buy some more.  Unfortunately, the can I purchased has a really unpleasant smell.  I thought about taking it back to ASDA as I've never had this problem before, but to be honest I just can't be bothered, so I'm using it anyway and hoping no-one notices.

Madame Glamour 'Suddenly' Perfume - £1.99 - This item is one that I've been wanting to treat myself to for quite a while now and it came on half price offer one weekend at Lidl, so I bought my end of challenge treat a little early.  There's been lots of media hype about this perfume, which was supposed to smell and last like a Chanel perfume, but I should perhaps have tried the scent on first, only there didn't seem to be a tester, as when I got it home I wasn't at all keen on the smell of it on me.  I'm using it for now on a daily basis, but as soon as it's finished, it will be back to the real Chanel for me I'm afraid.

Cotton Pads - 49p - Ran out of these everyday essentials this month, so needed to restock.  I should now have enough to see me through the rest of this challenge.

As far as the rest of the challenge goes, I'm still working my way through a few freebie hotel conditioners and various other samples that I have and there is still quite a bit left in my stash (partly because I've bought things whilst on the challenge that I haven't used yet).  I'll be posting a final photo of what's left next month when I do a final post.  Wish me luck lasting the month on £2.83.  I should hopefully be able to do it, as I'm stocked up on most things that I use regularly, but I will still need to be careful.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Another Useful Find

Walking the dog the other morning, it teemed with rain from the minute I got to the end of the street to the minute I came back.  By way of compensation, as I was just coming back down our street I saw these shoe storage racks, left outside one of the houses down the road.  As I only had 100 yards to go, I thought I'd take them home with me and see if I could make use of them.

Now I know I'm always saying that our house is already too full, but I have a bit of  shoe problem in the bottom of my wardrobe, in that I've got too many shoes/sandals and not enough room for them.

Get rid of some, I hear you say, and yes, I probably should, but some I just can't seem to part with, as they've served me so well and I always think I might still wear them on the odd occasion.  Anyway, when I saw these I thought they might be a solution to my current problem, which is shoes piled on top of one another in the bottom of the wardrobe, flattening each other.

I promised myself that I would try these and if they didn't work as a solution, I would put them back outside for someone else to take or take them to the charity shop.

They were in good clean condition, so I didn't have to do anything with them and I took them straight up to my bedroom, where I proceeded to sort through and rearrange all the shoes in my wardrobe.  I tried a few different ways of using them, but ended up with this solution as it worked the best for me and to be honest looked the neatest solution.

I made sure that the shoes I wear the very least are the ones tucked away on the rack at the bottom of the wardrobe as these are hardest to access and the shoes I wear most are to the front and on the top rack.  I'm pretty pleased with the result as it means my shoes will now be better cared for and not just thrown in the bottom of the wardrobe when I take them off and yes, there are still a couple of pairs stacked on top of one another, but these are just my trainers and they get bashed about enough at the gym anyway.  Another frugal solution to make everyday life easier and better organised.  Mrs Receptacle strikes again!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Bank Holiday Weekend at Home

This Bank Holiday, which marked the beginning of Half Term for Little Bird, we stayed at home, which was fine by us.  We're quite happy pottering about at home of late, sometimes you can find yourself going out or going away just for the sake of it and not enjoying it as a consequence.  On the last Bank Holiday, we ventured out to a nearby forest to walk the dog, only to find that both large car parks were completely full and we couldn't get access, obviously everyone else had had the exact same idea.  No chance of that this Bank Holiday, as we didn't really go anywhere of note.

Little Bird had a sleepover at a friend's house on Saturday night, so OH and I got a rare and much appreciated grown up night out.  We ventured to the new Tapas restaurant that opened up down the road a week ago and OH had a belated Birthday treat.  The food was good.  I do love being able to try a bit of lots of small dishes, as opposed to eating one dish of the same food.

We then headed out to a music venue to listen to some live music, which made a lovely change.  This happens so rarely for us, as we don't have a babysitter or any family living nearby, so when it does, we really don't mind the expense and just savour the chance to go out together and do something grown up.

Sunday, and we were both a bit worse for wear after our night out.  I'd booked a class at the gym, but had to get up early so I could walk the dog before I went.  No rest for the wicked.  The afternoon passed by in a bit of a blur as I was busy in the garden taking out a couple of trees, hanging out washing and then visiting the allotment whilst Little Bird and OH went off to Swimming Club.  By Sunday night we were exhausted, but felt we'd had a productive day so it was a happy tiredness.

Monday, as it was raining for the main part of the day we were very happy to spend the day mostly at home, bar a couple of dog walks and Zumba/trampoline classes.  I spent some of the day doing some work and listing the odd unwanted item on eBay.   I also managed to finally get to the bottom of the ironing basket, whilst catching up with recorded TV programmes and then cooked us a roast dinner.   To round off our Bank Holiday weekend we made some popcorn and paid to view a great film on the digibox - The Butler.  It was really good. 

I am now looking forward to the Half Term week ahead, with most of the main jobs finally out of the way, I can spend some precious time with Little Bird and we can go off and do whatever we please.  I hope everyone had a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Allotment Tales

Sunday, during the Bank Holiday Weekend, I finally managed another visit to the allotment.  I desperately needed to go, as the pots of climbing beans I'd bought from the shop up the road, were starting to climb up the kitchen cabinets.  Well, almost.

Before heading off, I fished out some canes from the garden shed in readiness and then proceeded to forget to take them.  I was so annoyed with myself when I realised.  Luckily for me, I bumped into a very nice fellow allotmenteer at the gate, who very kindly offered to lend me some, which really got me out of a tight spot.  Thank you S.

Anyway, I proceeded to my plot, which looked a bit overgrown to say the least.  Everything had grown so much because of the alternating hot and wet weather.  Fortunately, there wasn't much weeding to do as I'd done it on my previous visit and very few had grown back.

The chard and spinach had bolted and was subsequently removed, so that I could finally get my beans in.  I was worried that the roots would be too tangled to separate them, but I managed okay and only a few got damaged in the process.  The proof will be in whether they grow I guess.  There must have been at least 15 in each of the two pots which was great value for £1 each.
Here's a picture of some of them transplanted.  I transplanted some more lettuce seedlings out next to them too.
I was pleased to see that the lettuce seedlings I had transplanted on my last visit had survived and were becoming more established.
You can start to get an idea what these lettuces will look like from the one front right, which is a single plant and is starting to fill out.

The strawberries were starting to ripen.  I picked a handful and enjoyed eating them.  Hopefully there will be a decent amount to harvest on my next visit.

The rhubarb isn't doing so well this year.  Maybe I harvested too much of it last year.  Never mind, with only me eating it I'm not too worried.  I'll let it replenish itself this year.  The gooseberries had already disappeared, as they seem to do every year.   Birds, I assume.

There was lots of lovely floral interest.  The Johnson's Blue geraniums were starting to flower.  I just love these.

The sage plants were flowering too, in amongst the mint which has gone mad, and were looking very pretty.

The chives bore their lovely little pompom-like flowers, which I think look so beautiful and the potatoes were flowering too.  They needed banking up, but I didn't have the time on this visit.

I almost had a near disaster when I trod on my camera whilst it was face down on the woodchip path.  It sustained a bit of damage to the lens shutters, but thankfully still works perfectly.  Silly girl.
It was good to get caught up a bit.  I sowed a few seeds here and there and harvested some rocket before leaving, some of which we had for dinner that evening. It was a bit flea beetle damaged, but tasted just fine.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Project 52 - Week 21- Embellishing a T-shirt to Hide Bleach Spots

A couple of months ago, I made the mistake of spring cleaning the house, before the arrival of some family visitors, whilst wearing a virtually brand new top and an old favourite skirt.  Such was the whirling dervish that was me that day, I didn't realise until our guests arrived and I stopped cleaning, that I had got several bleach spots on both the top and the skirt.  I was pretty annoyed with myself.

The skirt was unfortunately past redemption, as the spots were spread over various parts of it, so I'm afraid it was with regret and great reluctance that it went in the bin.  The top was virtually new, I'd only worn it once.  It wasn't an expensive one, bought from Primark, but I did like it and wanted to keep it and carry on wearing it.

Not wanting to look too shabby, and buoyed by the fact that there were only a couple of bleach spots, which were in the centre at the front, I hit on the idea of putting an applique over them.  Here's a very bad photograph of the bleach spots.

I don't generally wear embellished or appliqued tops, but in this instance I didn't have much choice.  I searched through my applique templates and found one of a swallow which I hadn't yet used on anything I'd made.  I found a suitable fabric and set about making an applique patch. 

Not content with just adding the applique patch, I also decided to make a little bow from some ribbon I had in my sewing room and added that too. 

Here's the finished result. 

I am pretty happy with it, though I would have preferred to keep the top plain.  At least this way I can still wear it and it now looks a little more individual.

Joining in with Dreamer at Living a Slow and Simple Life in carrying out a must do task a week for a year.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Zero Waste Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble

This morning as I was checking out what was in the fridge, in the process of writing a shopping list for next week, I came across some rhubarb I'd harvested from the allotment on my last visit a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately, some of it was starting to go off, so I thought I'd better use it.  I re-washed it and cut off any 'off' bits and there was just enough to make a few small crumbles with.

Looking in the kitchen cupboards, I also found the remains of a stem ginger cake, that I'd got with my last Approved Food order.  It tasted very strongly of ginger and as a consequence no-one apart from me would eat it.  I ate as much as I could, but there was still about half of it left and by now it had gone completely stale.  I hung on to it, as I had an idea that if I whizzed it up in the blender to make cake crumbs, I could use it as a crumble topping.  I must admit that it was so hard I thought I was going to break the blade of my hand blender, but by doing it gradually bit by bit, I managed to make a nice crumbly mix.  I've seen ginger and rhubarb used together quite often in recipes, so I was interested to give it a try and see if I could make my small individual rhubarb crumbles a little more interesting. (I'm the only one who eats rhubarb too, so I make small individual crumbles with it).  In addition, I absolutely hate to waste anything, so I wanted to use it if I could.

Here's a picture of the crumbles before baking them for 20 minutes. 

The ginger cake gives them a much better colour than the usually pale coloured crumble mix, although I did mix in part of an opened packet that was also lurking in the cupboard.

After baking they looked like this.

The leftover ginger crumble mix was popped into the freezer for use at a later date, and for the record, they were extremely tasty, so I will definitely be making them again.

Friday, 23 May 2014

J is for...............Jobs, jobs and more jobs

This week has been all about getting various household jobs done.  I'd been neglecting the ironing since the weather turned warmer, as I couldn't face ironing when it was scorching hot outside, so this week I've been faced with an ironing basket mountain, in part caused by everything drying quickly on the washing line during the hot spell.   I did as much of it as I could, whilst catching up with recorded shows on the TV to make it more enjoyable.  I've been watching a series of programmes called The First Georgians with Lucy Worsley which has been very interesting and have also been following Monty Don's Crafts series, which this week was about weaving.  I was very impressed by the work of those who took part.  It's amazing to watch cloth take shape on the loom.    

I've also been trying to get on top of other housework before the half term holiday.  I must admit I'm a tad slovenly in the housework department, as I find there are far too many other things I would rather do, so it often gets left until I can stand it no more and just have to do it.  (I'm talking about the hoovering and dusting here).  The other day, as Little Bird had a friend coming round after school, I thought I'd better make an effort and hoovered through the house, tidying Little Bird's bedroom and other parts of the house as I went.   As a consequence, it's not been a particularly exciting week, but it felt better to get the jobs done.  I just wish I could commit to a regular cleaning routine.  Maybe one day I'll get around to it. 

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living Blog in posting using the alphabet backwards.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Little Sewing Project - Peter Pan Collars

The other day whilst I was looking online at items in La Redoute's flash sale, I was admiring tops with Peter Pan collars.  I just think that they are so cute.  Not wanting to spend any money buying new clothes, I decided to try to make a Peter Pan collar myself that could be worn with a number of outfits, from this vintage pattern that I've had for a while.

I have made collars of this type before a couple of years ago, whilst studying for a City and Guilds in Fashion, but they were used in a display and I forgot to collect them, so I never got them back.  I do have one, which I made to go with a skirt I made in the same fabric.  Here's a picture.  I even made the cuffs to match, but I've never worn them.


Anyway, I went up to the sewing room and pulled out some fabric from my scrap drawer that I thought would be suitable and cut the collar pieces out.  I didn't make it exactly like the pattern or the one's I'd made previously,  instead adapting the pattern slightly to make a more simple version.  It fastened with a hook and eye at the front, which can be a little fiddly to fasten, but I could alter this if I did have difficulty with it.  Here's was the result. 

Anyway, I then remembered why I haven't worn the first collar very much, namely because the hook detaches itself from the eye and it falls off, so I thought I'd better come up with a better solution.  I decided to put a small button on and make a fabric loop which I sewed into one side.  This was a much more secure method.  Here's the result of the changes I made. 

It's not actually been ironed yet, is by no means perfect (I forgot to add the fusible interlining making it a little flimsy) and was done in a bit of a hurry on a whim, but I think it's quite sweet and will be nice to wear with a plain t-shirt to give it a bit of extra interest.  I wear a lot of navy in the summer, so hopefully it might get some wear.  Now I just need to alter the original one in a similar way and I might wear that one more often too.

As a consequence of the simplicity of making this item, I'm thinking of making a few in different fabrics and I might even make one from some leather scraps I have, but I'm not sure if I'm quite brave enough for that.  The other good thing about this, is that it uses very little fabric and you could make one with probably less than a quarter of a meter which makes it very inexpensive and a great way to use up various scraps of leftover fabric and create lots of different looks at the same time.

Monday, 19 May 2014

It's All About the Garden

I'm afraid my posts have a pretty heavy bias towards gardening at the moment, but with the gorgeous weather, it's been the obvious thing to be getting on with.

Today, as it was another super hot day - 27 degrees as I left the gym - I ventured out again this afternoon, but only as far as the greenhouse.  A couple of  tomato plants were getting to a good size and needed potting up into grow bags.  After a popping a couple of grow bags into my trolley at the supermarket this afternoon, I came home to get the greenhouse in order.

I was pleasantly surprised when I popped my head in, to see that some tomato and cucumber seeds I sewed last week had germinated overnight.  This was quite exciting.  Small things and all that.

My tiny greenhouse is great and fits perfectly into it's spot outside the back door, but obviously space is limited.  I've been keeping my succulents in there until the weather warmed up, but I think they can safely be put outside now.  Good job really, as I need the space to take the shelving out and get the tomato plants and grow bags in.

The greenhouse is just deep enough to plant a couple of tomato plants in each side.  As I only had two of a reasonable size for the moment, I just commandeered one half of the greenhouse and the shelves on the other side could still be used for the seedlings and seeds that I'd sown last week.  I put bottomless pots into the grow bag and planted the tomato plants into them, topping up with extra compost so that it gives the roots as much room as possible to grow.  Here are the ones I planted in the grow bags today.  These were some I bought from a guy selling them out of the boot of his car for 50p each.  Mine haven't got much beyond their starting blocks before being munched by snails.  Fingers crossed I'll manage to grow at least another two for the other side.

I watered them in and fed them for the first time.  Another small job done.  It's all progress.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Project 52 - Week 20 - Footstool Makeover

Mrs Womble Strikes Again!

The other week whilst out walking the dog, just as I was on the homeward stretch, I came across this item that someone had thrown out.  I recognised it as the frame from an IKEA footstool. (Please excuse the state of the kitchen floor, it needs re-sanding and varnishing!)

It was minus it's cushion, a bit dirty and looked like it had been used as a coffee table, but was sound in terms of it's structure.  Not put off by it's current state, I decided to take it home with me as I intended to give it a makeover.  OH had been suggesting for a while that we could do with a foot rest in the living room and this fitted the bill perfectly, with a bit of elbow grease cleaning, painting it and making a cushion for it.

As soon as I got home out came the latex gloves, bleach and disinfectant and I gave it a good brush down with an old nail brush.  It came up quite nice. 

Over the next few days, I gave it a quick sanding over, painted it with the grey paint I used for the blanket box, devised a foot cushion out of an old pillow and some vintage fabric, to match some of my sofa cushions, and then sewed some Velcro to the back of the cushion.  The Velcro was the only item I had to purchase for this makeover and was just £1 for far more than I needed from the market.  Here's the finished result. 

One revamped footstool.  If I can find some foam at a later date, I may make a more structured cushion for it, but for now this pillow will suffice and we can put our feet up at the end of a busy and tiring day.  I had to test it out, of course. 

(Please excuse the mud splattered jeans - the result of a dog walk!)

Joining in with Dreamer at Living a Slow and Simple Life in completing one task a week for a year.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Funny Old Friday

Friday was a funny day.  It started off normally enough.  The usual dog walk, a bit of blog reading and paperwork, and then I retired to the sewing room to do a bit of work on my double eiderdown/quilt.  In the process of this, I decided to start on a quick new project to use up some more fabric and scraps I had in the sewing room.  I needed another table runner for the living room, as the one currently in use needed washing and I had nothing to replace it with.

I knew I had lots of strips of fabrics left over from making some living room cushion covers and various other projects, so I decided to make a table runner from them.  I laid them out on the bed and then started sewing the strips together.  I didn't do them particularly neatly I might add, so it was a bit thrown together. 

Part way through OH dragged me off up the road to a café for lunch.  Working from home with no commuting costs or lunches to buy, he likes to treat himself to a lunch out once or twice a week and our high street has lots of new and interesting cafes opening every week it seems at the moment.

When we arrived at our choice of café, a lady informed us that she was recording a programme for Woman's Hour on Radio 4 and would we mind if our voices might appear on the programme.  Assuming it would just be background noise, we agreed and disappeared upstairs onto the roof terrace for lunch.  We both ordered a lovely salad, Horseradish potato salad with chorizo.  It was really interesting food, not a combination I'd ever tried before and we swiftly ate every morsel. 

The journalist from Radio 4 had by this time worked her way upstairs to the terrace and was interviewing a couple of mums and their children on the table next to us.  It was quite amusing as just at this point a group of secondary school kids who had gathered on the street below outside of a fast food outlet were cussing and cajoling each other in the way that teenagers do and making rather a lot of noise with their banter.

Unperturbed by the noise, the lady journalist carried on with her interview and eventually came over to our table and recorded a short conversation with us about the café, it is a café with an interesting community based concept at the heart of it and is situated in an old converted public toilet block.  I'm not sure we were interesting enough to be featured on the eventual broadcasting, but I'll be listening out next week for the broadcast, just to see if we avoided the sound cutting room floor.

Anyway, excitement over, we returned home via the bakery and the hardware store where OH bought us a couple of buns, a grapevine for the garden for only £6

and me a couple of pots of runner beans to put in at the allotment. (Mine didn't germinate).

Great value for £1 per pot, with 10 or 12 plants in each.  I'm looking forward to planting the grapevine as I've not grown one before and it's a black grape variety, which are my favourite type.  I'm hoping it will climb up or along the new fence in the garden and possibly over the small shed.  We'll see. 

Once home, I ventured back up to the sewing room and finished the table runner.  It's not the best example of a well finished article, but looks quite nice in situ and did use up lots of leftover bits of fabric, so I'm not too disappointed with it.

K is for ........Kitchen Table

This is the view from my kitchen table. 

I seem to spend many hours sat here these days, working online, doing paperwork, eating, drinking, daydreaming, reading and writing blog posts.  It's not a bad view as views go.  Could be a lot worse, no view at all.

Yesterday was glorious.  The sun shone, the sky was blue, the whites were out on the line being bleached by the sun's rays.  The only trouble was that most of the jobs I had to do involved being inside.  Typical. 

I did, however, relish the moments I was able to feel the heat on my face, as I hung out and gathered in the washing or strolled to the post box, and I looked forward to an afternoon dog walk for a change.  OH had done my morning stint, whilst I had gone back to bed for an hour, following two nights of very little sleep.  I think the ironing might have to wait until another day.  It seems sacrilegious to spend such glorious weather sweating over a hot iron.

Little Bird finished her final SATS test yesterday.  It had been a week of her going off to school early to spend time in the breakfast club with her friends, before her tests started each day.  Breakfast was varied and plentiful by all accounts and supplied free by the school to help the Year 6 children with concentration during the tests.  A great idea I thought. 

We've been very proud of her attitude of late.  She has, of her own accord, been revising in the weeks leading up to the tests, by practising on past papers.  She has really taken responsibility for her learning and it has been lovely to see.  She really deserves to do well, whatever the actual outcome.  Whilst we are proud of her self discipline, we are also slightly regretful that at such a tender age she is having to sit these tests, but that isn't something we have much control over and I guess it is good experience for her future in secondary school.  The pressure starts ever younger these days.

I managed to catch up on quite few jobs yesterday, mainly paperwork and financial stuff.  I've let quite a few things slip over the last week or two and really needed to get stuck in and do some catching up.

Today, it looks like it's going to be more of the same.  Yippee.  Restored by a good night's sleep I'm off on my usual dog walk this morning.  Have a lovely day and enjoy the sunshine!

Joining in with Mum from Mum's Simply Living in blogging utilising the alphabet backwards.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Market Visit

On Tuesday this week, I headed off to a local market to buy some Velcro for a project I was working on (more in a later post).  Whilst at the haberdashery stall,  (a great little stall that I always visit if I need odd bits and pieces) as well as buying the Velcro I needed, I couldn't resist buying a few zips for cushion making - I think I got 5 for £1.40 and some universal needles for my sewing machine to use with both leather and jersey.  Each pack was just £1, with three leather point needles in one, perfect to use on a piece of leather I bought in a CS a few weeks ago, and 5 ball point needles in the other for working on knit fabrics.  Great value.

(Bad photo, sorry!)

I wandered up and down the market, bought some fruit and vegetables from one of the many stalls and then came across this dress on a second hand stall for just £3.  It's a Betty Jackson dress,

made for Debenhams, which was my size and in good condition.  It was a bit of a steal and proved a irresistable.  It's very autumnal in flavour and the print reminds me of vintage dress fabric from the 1950's.

It had belt loops, but no belt, so I added this lovely wide soft leather belt I often wear with another Betty Jackson dress I found in a charity shop.  The lining of the dress is a bit damaged, but I might just remove it.  I loved the zip detail near the shoulders. 

I can see myself wearing this with a long sleeved black t-shirt underneath and possibly with black leggings/tights and boots in the autumn.  I don't wear dresses that often, but sometimes when you want to dress up a little they are great.

As I'm on a Mind My Spending in May challenge I was a bit naughty as I also bought a couple of metres of this lovely navy and white jersey fabric which I'm hoping to use for a top and a snood.

At £4 in total it was quite inexpensive, but naughty none-the-less.  I ran the snood up in a matter of minutes when I got home and am pleased with it. 

The top may take a bit longer to get around to.

Fortunately for me, my favourite book seller wasn't at the market on this occasion or the damage could have been much worse.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Another Sunday Afternoon in the Garden

This Sunday afternoon was another one spent in the garden and the greenhouse.  It was a bit blustery, but I was itching to get a couple of jobs done.  Job one was to put a few plants in one of the beds in front of our new fence.  Here's what it looked liked before, as demonstrated in my post about our garden makeover.

We'd got the gardeners to remove a peach tree from this spot as it was getting too large for it's position  close to the house and it also succumbed to peach leaf curl every year which was very unsightly.  It was time for it to go I'm afraid.  There were a few roots left in the soil after the gardeners left so OH offered to dig them out for me which he duly did.  Once removed I could start to plant it up a bit.
The first plant I put in was this small olive tree. 
I'd bought it for OH one birthday and it was currently in a pot on the decking.  By getting it into the soil it would be able to establish and hopefully grow a bit bigger.  It would also free up the pot to sow some carrot seeds into after my last lot got eaten by snails.  In turn this cleared out another planter and meant less clutter on the decking.
Alongside the olive tree in the pot were a few nasturtiums that had self seeded from last year.  Not wanting to throw them out I put them back in the bed around the olive tree as they will add a bit of colour when they flower later in the summer. 
I also put this bush in.  It had been moved from in front of the trampoline where the fence was built and needed a new home.  It had just started growing back after being cut right down for the first time.  It too will provide a bit of colour from it's stems and leaves.
One last little plant I put in was this little geranium that I had hanging around on the potting bench.  It was so pretty that I put it I a little corner pot of it's own.  I'm not sure if it's a wild variety or a cultivated one but it is very delicate so deserved a special place all to itself.
This border is still an on-going project and may be subject to more additions or changes, but for now  at least it had a bit of interest going on.   Once I'd put in the plants I had already, I decided to do some seed sowing into the other border on the other side of the gate. I sowed lots of wildflower and insect attracting flower seeds to give the border some colour in the summer months.  We'll see what happens there as I don't normally sow seeds direct into the borders like this but it was a quick, inexpensive and hopefully colourful temporary solution, until I consider what I want to put there permanently.
As for seed sowing in the greenhouse, all I had to show for my last attempt was a couple of small tomato seedlings and one other seedling which I'm unsure of what it actually is, as the name washed off the label.  It will be a nice surprise if it survives the snails.
As it was now a bit later in the growing season, I sowed some courgettes, cucumbers, some flowers, and a later variety of tomatoes.  Fingers crossed I have better luck this time or it will be a trip to the garden centre to buy some vegetable plants for the allotment when my potatoes have been dug up.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Garden Makeover

As I mentioned in a previous post, the other week we had some landscape gardeners in to do some work on our small city garden.  We'd been having problems with the dog running up and down the garden barking uncontrollably, upsetting the neighbours and wearing a muddy path through the small lawn.

We contemplated getting rid of the lawn altogether and completely redesigning the garden, but we do like having grass in our garden and the borders have some lovely shrubs in them that we really like.  In the end, we decided to get the lawn re-turfed and wooden edging put in and control the dog's access to it more effectively. 

To do this, we had some fencing built across the garden separating the grass from the decking so that we could let the dog out on the decking without her being able to access the grass.  We also had a proper fence built around the trampoline, as the dog used to get underneath and was difficult to catch.  We also had a diseased tree removed and the stepping stones properly set into the lawn.  After just over a day's work by the gardener's, the job was done and it looks so different.  This was the garden before the work started.

This photograph was actually taken last spring, but the garden was essentially still virtually the same.
This is how it looks now.

The fences do look a little conspicuous, being so new, but we know they'll weather and blend in a little more given time and some thoughtful planting either side of them.  It is having the desired effect of keeping the dog a little more in check.  At least we no longer have to chase her around the bushes when she starts running around barking.  Although she seemed a little put out at first, it has meant that she is getting more time in the garden and is calmer as a consequence, which is all good so far.

The other main difference to the garden, has been OH's installation of bamboo fencing panels to cover the trellis that was originally separating our garden from the neighbours'.  Our reason for erecting this was that the dog would bark when she saw next door's cats come out of the cat flap or saw our neighbours emerging from their back door.  It wasn't an ideal situation.  Now her view is obscured, we're hoping she'll be a little less reactive and we are also relishing having a lot more privacy too.  It took OH most of last Saturday to put up the fencing and wire it all together, but we are quite pleased with the outcome.

All that is left to do now, is to plant up the spaces on this side of the fence, as these have been more or less cleared after the fence was put in.  I'm quite excited by the prospect of replanting these beds, as I will be able to introduce some new plants and also plant out some of the things we currently have in pots, which should give the decking a slightly less cluttered feel.

Following that, there is just the matter of the borders to reorganise.  They have become quite crowded in places, as things have grown outwards and upwards and consequently need thinning out a little.  As I can't actually go on the grass for a few weeks, I'm leaving this job for later in the summer or possibly even the autumn. 

It probably wouldn't be everyone's choice, but hopefully, the garden will now be a much more practical space for us and we will be able to take better care of the grass and keep it looking it's best.  I'll keep you posted as work progresses.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Project 52 - Week 19 - Re-Covering the Roof of Our Small Shed

We have a small shed in our garden, one of two sheds we own, and we use it to store logs, kindling and coal for our open fire and wood burner.  We've had it a good 12 -15 years and brought it from our first house when we sold it.  Like many people, we like to look after our belongings and get as much use out of them as possible and we are loathe to get rid of things if they can still serve a purpose.  Lately, this shed been looking a bit worse for wear though.  Here's a picture.

Ivy was growing through the slats and it needed a few repairs.  The main problem was the roofing felt which as you can see from the following photos needed replacing.
Last Bank Holiday Monday, whilst we were working in the garden and OH was putting up new fence panels to cover the trellis that divides our garden from the neighbours', I decided to get on and repair it.  I got some new felt from the garden centre.  It cost approximately £20 for a roll of 10m of the value brand roofing felt, which we then used to replace it.  I say we, because I can't honestly say it was all my work.  It was a team effort, so I hope this is allowed under the rules of the challenge. 
I stripped the old felt off and took out as many of the old nails and tacks as I could, brushed the whole shed down, as it was covered in sawdust and cobwebs and then OH  applied the felt to the roof and did a few simple repairs to the shed.  He actually applied two layers of felt for extra strength.  It felt great to repair it and it should keep going for a few more years now.  I was very happy with the result.  In fact it almost looked like a new shed.  Well, not quite.
Here's an after photograph. 
 After finishing the shed there was plenty left on the roll of roofing felt, so I asked OH if he would use some to cover my potting bench.  It was looking very worse for wear too.  I prepped it ready for him to do the deed.  It probably isn't the ideal thing to use, but will hopefully help preserve it for a little longer and there's even enough left over to re-cover the roof of our other shed when it is needed.  Here's a before and after of the potting bench.
 A couple of very useful tasks completed (with help) in Dreamer's 52 Projects challenge to complete a task a week for a year.