Sunday, 31 May 2015

Monthly Reading - May

I've done lots more reading this month and the book pile is going down very nicely. The first book I read this month was this fictional title, another one by Winifred Holtby.

Set in the Yorkshire Dales, I must admit that I found this book pretty hard going most of the time. I also found it quite hard to develop any sympathy for many of the characters. I think I had this problem with the last book that I read by this author.  By the end of the book, I was a little more sympathetic to the main character, who was wrongly accused of something by the local community in which she lived, which made life very difficult for her.

This book did remind me of how sometimes in small communities, gossip and incorrect assumptions made by others, can make life very difficult for people and made me grateful that I now live in a very large city, although having said this, people are by no means exempt from the same treatment by doing so.  Although overall it was an okay read, I'm not sure I will be looking out for any more by this author in the near future.

The second book I read this month was this one by Dr Jana Klauer, as I have mentioned already in another post.  A very interesting book about diet and lifestyle, which has inspired me and made me think about aspects of my nutrition, that I haven't paid attention to before now.

I read this book concurrent with reading this book by Leo Babauta on the subject of minimalism and living with less.

I received this book for Christmas or my Birthday a year or so ago, having requested it from OH, but have only now got around to reading it, as I was trying to get my reading pile down and there was a preponderance of fiction in it, which I focused on first.  It was the second of two books by the same author that I have read recently. The first was a very slim volume on the same subject.  This book was, however, more detailed in expressing his ideas about living with less.

I enjoyed reading it, but did find the book quite extreme with regard to his ideas about having a clear workspace and keeping everything online, rather than having papers filed away in other areas of your home.  Personally I find this idea quite frightening, as I would hate to lose some things, should there be a problem with getting access to them online.  I know there are ways of circumventing this, but I am not familiar enough with them to fully commit to this approach.

As I got further into the book, I did start enjoying it more and he did suggest some good ways of simplifying your life, stuff and commitments, to enable you to spend more time doing what is truly important, rather than filling your life with commitments and tasks that you simply do not enjoy.

On a completely different subject, the final book I completed this month was this book.

It is a book about the demise of the middle classes in our society and how they have found themselves squeezed from both sides by austerity measures, wage cuts, reduced job security and the pressure/competition to get a good education for their children.  This book may not appeal to some people, but I always find such books about social class fascinating.  It is quite a thick book and there is a lot of information to disseminate, but sometimes I do enjoy a good, thought provoking read.

The author, himself a self-confessed member of the middle class, takes us on a journey to discover how the middle classes in this country are finding themselves increasingly in debt and under pressure to be able to afford/maintain their lifestyles. It has some interesting stories in there, such as what really happened in the scandal surrounding the near collapse of Lloyds of London insurance brokers back in the 1980's and how hundreds of middle class families who were invited to be 'names' on the register, were driven to financial ruin by what subsequently happened. 

Likewise, it tackles the issue of pensions in one chapter and how they have been eroded by both legislation, the financial sector taking an ever larger cut of the profits and the phasing out of final salary schemes, which has left many middle class families facing potentially difficult financial futures on retirement.

You may or may not have any sympathy with middle class woes, but this did make very interesting reading. Finally this month, I started reading 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd, which was recommended to me by Penny at The Hen House.

I've had this book sat in my pile for a long time too, but I was really pleased to finally get around to reading it and I am finding it a really great book.  Set in the southern states of  the US, around the time of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, it tells the story of a young motherless girl and her housekeeper, who are forced to flee the racism and violence of their small southern town and initially find refuge with a family of bee keepers. I've only got a couple of chapters left to read, but have really enjoyed reading this book.  Thanks Penny, for the recommendation.

My book pile is now looking decidedly small.  It's gone from this

to this

in the last 18 months and I'm hoping to finish reading the remainder in June. I've then got another two bookshelves full, that I need to work my way through.  At least removing the pile from the side of my bed will make the bedroom look a little less cluttered and a little more restful.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Making Liquid Hand Soap

The other day I decided to try my hand at another frugal activity, namely the making of some liquid hand soap.  Having just ordered a bottle of organic hand soap from an online store and paying £3 for it, I decided that there must be a cheaper way to wash my hands at the kitchen sink, so I decided to have a pootle around YouTube for some inspiration.

I came across lots of videos that demonstrated how to make liquid hand soap very simply and easily from just one bar of soap.  Most of the videos did use a particular US brand of 'magic' soap, which I happened to have a couple of bars of, as I had bought them as part of my switch to more natural products. The other main ingredient was distilled water, which I also had a couple of bottles of, which I had previously used in my iron, but which were now not needed as my iron had broken.

I fished them out  from the back of the under sink cupboard, and along with the bar of soap I set to work to try it out for myself.

Firstly, I grated the bar of soap, using a regular grater that we use for cheese.  Then I boiled up 2 litres of distilled water in an old enamel casserole dish, and added the grated soap to the water once boiling.  I had to keep the heat on for a while until all of the soap flakes had melted, but once they had, I took it off the heat and left it for at least 12 hours to cool. Apparently, you must leave it untouched or you can spoil the consistency of the resulting soap. Here's a picture of what the soap looked like after it had melted into the water.

And here's a photo of what it looked like the next day.

When I went back to the liquid soap, I was pleased to see that it had thickened up quite considerably. It was a bit lumpy and gloopy, but I took the hand blender to it, as I had seen in the videos, to smooth it out and then decanted some of it into a glass soap dispenser and into glass bottles to keep for future use.  I must admit that even after blending it was still a bit gloopy, but I don't mind too much and was pretty pleased with the results.

This was a very quick and easy process and I wouldn't hesitate to try it again.  I used an almond scented soap on this occasion, as it was the nicer smelling of the two that I had bought.  Apparently, you can also add two tablespoons of vegetable glycerine to this concoction to improve the consistency, but in another video I watched it stated that this wasn't strictly necessary, so I left it out.

Two and a half bottles of liquid hand soap from 1 bar of soap which cost £2.80 and two x 1 litre bottles of distilled water which cost £1 each.  I think that was pretty good value.  I'll let you know how I get on using it and how it keeps.

For anyone interested, perhaps my favourite video pertaining to the use of this liquid soap, was this one whereby you could use it to make 12 different household and beauty products.  The insect repellent, foaming hand soap and the laundry liquid particularly interested me and I may be trying these in the near future.

Friday, 29 May 2015

More (Relatively) Frugal Fun in the Half Term Holidays

Another activity that Little Bird decided she wanted to try this half term was making some pistachio and dark chocolate French macarons.  It was in part for her French homework and in part out of curiosity to make some. She found a recipe online and on a planned trip to ASDA to get some bits of shopping we needed, we picked up the ingredients that we didn't already have, namely quark and pistachio nuts.

I call this a relatively frugal activity in the title of this post, as the pistachio nuts weren't that frugal at £4 per bag, although not all of them were actually needed.

When we got home Little Bird got to work making the macarons.  She did pretty well, although some of the outer shells cracked very easily and they did end up being a little large, but for a first attempt I think she did great.

Here's a picture of some of her finished macarons.  I think to get them the green colour of the ones that you buy in the shops that you must have to use a food colouring, which she didn't on this occasion.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Taking Stock

The other morning as I was getting washed, it occurred to me that it's been over a month since I embarked on this new natural beauty quest and change in eating habits, moving towards a more natural and organic diet/beauty regime.

I guess this has become my new obsession, but this makes it sound like it is just a fad and it's not. I am totally committed to it and I'm not intending to revert back any time soon. It's like a switch has just flicked on, that I don't intend to switch off, unless financial circumstances should dictate, that is.

I'm still using up a few stashed beauty products that don't fall into the category of natural/organic, mainly because I don't like waste. Each time I use another one up, it's quite exciting, moving towards using all natural products in my regime. The odd unused toiletry/makeup item I may either pass on to Little Bird, who hasn't yet fully come onboard, (but I'm hoping that somewhere along the line she may be influenced and follow suit) or I may donate a couple of unused items to the charity shop, if I don't get around to using them soon.

Likewise, I'm using up items in the food cupboards and gradually replacing them with organic alternatives or just not replacing them in some cases.  I'm trying to slowly introduce more smoothies, nuts, seeds and healthy foods, eat a little less meat and pay more attention to portion sizes all round.  I can't say I have seen any immediate effect, but these things can take time.  I am not dieting, so I don't really expect any drastic weight loss.

As I run out of specific products, I look for replacements. I'm finding more and more sources of these, as I look around online and in the shops, which is very encouraging.  I've found a few bloggers and YouTubers that are inspiring me on a daily basis and I enjoy reading their blogs and watching their videos.

I've also been reading another very interesting book on diet and nutrition, from which I have had another small epiphany of sorts about my eating habits and nutritional status. The book in question is this book by Dr. Jana Klauer .

The author is a medical doctor in the US who has worked closely with obese patients in Park Avenue, New York to try to help them to lose weight and instigate healthier ways of living. It's been sat in my book pile for probably a year now and I've just got around to reading it.

It is basically a diet and healthy eating plan, but one based on cutting back on sugary snacks and processed food and one which at it's heart points out the importance of healthy eating, exercise and an adequate calcium intake to enable the body to better metabolise food and burn fat and to help patients achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Like with Chopra's book, this book, which does have some similarities in that it too suggests eating fresh and organic foods over processed and frozen, highlights another very interesting area, which has immediately resonated with me, namely that of calcuim intake. I think I have probably always had a low intake of calcium.  I don't eat a lot of cheese, drink a lot of milk, or eat other calcium containing foods and I am sure that I must be taking in far short of the recommended 1200mg per day of calcium that is supposedly required by an adult (In the US).  I think here the normal recommended amount is 800mg (according to my bottle of supplements), but don't quote me on this.

I'd been thinking lately of using Spirulina, asuper food to help add calcium to my diet, as I have always had problems with my teeth and nails, and think I may have been deficient for a long time. Reading this book, however, has made me realise the importance of this particular mineral to my metabolism, as unbeknown to me it apparently aides the metabolism of fat.

As a consequence, I am now starting to take calcium and vitamin D supplements, as much of the calcium we do ingest does not get absorbed by the body unless vitamin D is also present, as this vitamin is required for absorption.  It is very early days, but it feels like the right thing to be doing, especially as I age and bone density becomes more of an issue.  The supplements I am taking at present are very inexpensive and available from the supermarket, as well as health food outlets, pharmacies, etc.  I am also trying to eat more dairy products to ingest more calcium this way too, although trying to stick to lower fat versions as suggested in this book.

I  have now also started taking the Maca powder for hormonal balance and energy, which I find very palatable, as it has a slightly malty taste and I usually add it to yoghurt or smoothies. I'm hoping that by taking it before I hit the menopause I might be able to minimise any hormonal imbalances and symptoms. We'll just have to see what happens.

This whole process of instigating healthy changes is ongoing, and is a veritable minefield.  There are constant health warnings about various food products which can become very confusing, so I continnue to try to eat everything in moderation, although I am trying to steer away from highly processed white carbs where possible.

There may be other things yet, which I find out about, that might necessitate the instigation of more changes.  I am finding that my cravings for sweet things are reducing, although I do allow myself a little organic chocolate here and there if I feel the need.  You've got to still eat the things that you enjoy, but instead of eating a whole bar, I will limit myself (usually) to a few small squares.  I find it does help me keep motivated.

The whole process, however, with regard to taking charge of my own health is long overdue. Sometimes in life it is easy just to plod along, completely oblivious to what your body needs and not even know that we are just not providing it from our diet or lifestyles. Sometimes, books can provide knowledge that can just nudge us in the right direction.  I'm hoping that this is the case in this instance.

Disclaimer:  Please note that in writing this post, I am NOT advocating that anyone reading should take any of the above supplements. Indeed, some of these are not recommended for some people, especially those prone to kidney stones or for persons who are under 12 years old, pregnant or hoping to get pregnant in the near future.  Please consider carefully and consult your own doctor or health professional if necessary, before taking any health supplements.  In addition, my taking of these supplements does not mean that I am not always trying to eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet, which is the obvious ideal.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A Day Out on Oxford Street

On Tuesday, Little Bird and I headed off on the bus for a day out on Oxford Street.  I can't remember the last time we've had a girly shopping day in town together, perhaps 7 or 8 months ago I think. Little Bird was very excited, as OH had given her some money to spend and she had written a list of lots of small things that she wanted to buy with her money.

We caught the bus, which does take a good hour or so, from where we live, but we don't mind so much as it is all part of the day out.

When we got to town, we set off down Oxford Street.  First stop was Primark at the top end near Tottenham Court Road.  Little Bird bought herself some pretty neon lights from here to decorate her bedroom Tumbler-style and a pretty sunflower headband, which looked very cute.

We wandered on down Oxford Street and I was lured into Holland and Barrett by some half price dried dates on offer in the window.  This particular store was a revelation to me.  There was a pick and mix nut/seed bar, make up concessions where you could test out the natural make up brands and perfume testers too.  I enjoyed trying some of the products I'd seen on line and in my local store, but hadn't been able to smell/test.  It was very informative, as I found the texture or smell of some of the products just didn't cut it with me, so I will know now not to buy them.

I indulged in a couple of food items and a new essential oil for our bath bomb making, in a grapefruit scent, which I'm hoping will come in useful when I also try my hand a soy candle making at some point in the near future.  It was on offer at half the normal price so I only paid £2.49 for it which was pretty good.  I also picked up their Healthy magazine whilst I was there, as I find it quite an informative read.  I'll definitely be heading back there when next in town, to test out more products.

A couple more stops were at Muji, where I found myself admiring their perspex storage solutions (but didn't buy any) and Tiger, where I did purchase a pack of bra extenders, which will help extend the life of my sports bras, as the hooks tend to get pulled out of shape due to their heavy usage and  a pack of bra clips for converting the straps of my normal bras when wearing racer back vests.  Both of these cost just £1 but should come in very useful.

After this we were just about spent up, so we headed to John Lewis, where I used my latest voucher to get a free pot of tea and piece of cake and Little Bird had a hot chocolate and helped me to eat the cake.  I stopped by a few perfume testers on the way out to try out some different and new to me brands, as I'm desperate for a new perfume, but not having much luck finding a natural/organic one, as the scents don't seem to linger for very long on me.  I may have to stick to traditional perfumes in this regard, if I can't find a suitable alternative.  Smelling less than savoury, we then caught the bus home.

Who says a day out shopping in town means spending lots of money.  We managed it on a budget and had a good time too.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Fun Begins - Making Bath Bombs

The first inexpensive activity that Little Bird and I decided to partake of this half term, was to make some homemade bath bombs.  This fitted in well with my new natural beauty obsession and it was something that both Little Bird and I had wanted to try for quite a while.  Who needs to go spend money at Lush when you can DIY?

I found a recipe that I had written down ages ago, whilst sorting through some old notebooks and realised that I had virtually all of the ingredients already in my cupboards.  Some of which were out of date for food related purposes, so they were perfect to experiment with on a first attempt.  I did have to go out and buy a 1kg bag of epsom salts for £3.99 and a small 70ml bottle of almond oil for £1.35 at the local chemist, both of which will be sufficient to make many more of these bath bombs or simply use as a relaxing bath soak.

Here's the recipe we followed.

2 Tablespoons Baking Soda/Powder
1 Tablespoon Citric Acid
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch/Cornflour
1 Tablespoon Epsom Salts
1/4 Teaspoon Castor/Almond Oil
3/4 Teaspoon Water
2 Drops of Food Colouring
6-8 Drops of Essential Oil (We used Lavender)
Dried Lavender/Petals/Herbs (for decoration)

This recipe was supposed to be sufficient to make 2 small bath bombs.

Little Bird did most of the work mixing the dry ingredients first and adding the food colouring to them. She did this by hand, wearing plastic gloves.  I mixed the oil/water/essential oil together in a separate small bowl and then this was added and mixed in bit by bit to the dry ingredients (apparently to avoid some sort of reaction with the citric acid), before the mixture was was spooned into silicone cup cake cases and tamped down firmly.

Here's a photo of the bombs after we'd finished making them.  We forgot to mix in the lavender, so added it to the top as decoration.

The bombs were then left to set for 24 hours before use.

After my visit to the allotment on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, I tried one out in the bath. Here's a little video of one fizzing away.  (Please excuse my grunting 'yes' in answer to a question from Little Bird)

It was certainly nice and soothing on all my nettle stings and the almond oil made my skin feel lovely and soft.  They were a bit crumbly when I took them out of the silicone cases, so I might look for another recipe to try, or just make them in paper cupcake cases, so that you don't need to take them out until you use them.

They would make great homemade Christmas presents, especially if made in pretty fabric cases/wrapped in pretty tissue paper and popped into a mason jar.  I'll be interested to try some different combinations of essential oils, colours and shapes in the future.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Bank Holiday Monday and Another Allotment Visit

Bank Holiday Monday here was a quiet one.  I was booked into a Zumba class at the gym at 10am, so I was up early, and out with the dog on our usual Monday morning walk.  The difference was it was lovely and quiet, no children on their way to school and people hurrying off to work.  I found this book that had been left outside a house on our route and brought it home, as it sounded like a good read. (If a bit sad)

I bumped into another dog walker I hadn't seen for a long time, she'd found a new job and was out much earlier these days.  It was good to catch up and see her lovely dog.

The class was good and I headed off to Lidl afterwards to do my weekly shop.  No, I haven't completely fallen off the organic wagon, but funds are so diminished this week, that I just can't afford to buy organic groceries.  Almost all of the meat we'll be eating is organic and is what I have left over from previous shops this month, having been put in the freezer and some of the dairy products we will be using will be organic, but as far as fruit and veg and other things are concerned it was back to good old Lidl and our local green grocer's, until next week, when funds will be available again. Buying and eating organic is definitely a luxury and sometimes it's just not affordable, especially when my monthly budgeting has gone to pot. I made sure that I put lots of fruit and healthy options in the trolley though, so we'll still be eating healthy.

I had a lovely big salad for lunch and then in the afternoon, I made a much needed visit to the allotment.  I had some homegrown sweetpea, cucumber and sweetcorn (bought) plants ready to go in

and there were some lettuces there that needed transplanting.

Here's the sight that awaited me when I got there.  As you can see the comfrey and nettles around the edge of the plot had grown up since my last visit.  I was forced to tackle them in the back right hand corner, as I couldn't find my gardening tools until I did. They were buried underneath all the growth.

It didn't take too long to do and looked a lot better when I'd finished, but I did get nettled up to the eyeballs and there's still lots more to do.  Baby steps.

I put the sweet corn and cucumber plants in and then turned my attention to the lettuce.The seedlings were looking good and ready to transplant so I replanted them all over the plot.

Some of them look a bit bedraggled in this photo, but they should perk up and grow to full size once they settle in.  At least now they have the room to grow. I couldn't find any room to put in the sweet peas, so they came back home with me.  I'll have to plant them in the garden somewhere.

It felt great to make a bit more progress.  Here's a final picture that I took before I left.  It's looking well cultivated this year for a change.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Sunday Day Trip to Brighton

This Bank Holiday weekend, we decided that we would have a day out for a change.  I can't remember the last time we did this on a weekend, as we all have different activities that we normally do on one day or another on the weekend, so there never seems to be an opportunity, unless we're staying away from home.

This Sunday, however, OH was still recovering from a very nasty virus, so he didn't go cycling, as he usually would, and I couldn't get into my usual class at the gym, so we headed out of town.  We got up extra early to avoid the traffic, and by 8.45 am we were all in the car (dog included) and on the road and made it to Brighton in just over an hour, which was much less time than we had expected.

We drove right into the centre of Brighton and parked in the Laines Car Park, which although expensive, was very handy for the sea front, pier and the shops in The Laines. We hadn't been to Brighton for over 10 years, since Little Bird was a baby. I'm not sure why, as there is plenty to do and see there, save that we tended to go to places with a sandy beach on the Kent or Essex coast when she was small.

We started off with a little mooch around some of the Laines, before heading out onto the promenade. It was lovely and sunny when we first got there with not a cloud in sight, but very soon the cloud came over and it was quite grey and overcast. We were glad we got out early, as we were able to appreciate the best part of the day.

First stop was a short walk down to the water's edge, so that Little Bird could have a paddle.  I'm afraid I tried to take a photo but it didn't come out.  I managed to take this one of the Pier though, but we didn't go down there as dogs weren't allowed.

Instead, Little Bird and OH had a game of Crazy Golf on the seafront, and I sat with the dog and had a nice cup of tea and read the weekend newspapers.

By the time they'd finished their round of golf, we were all pretty hungry, so we headed back into town and found a lovely little Bistro where we sat outside and had a lovely cooked breakfast.  No photo here either, I really don't like to take photos of my food wherever I go.  It was very nice though, not too much food, all cooked very nicely and reasonably priced too.

This was followed by a wander around the narrow little lanes full of small shops and a quick look at the Brighton Pavillion, before heading back to London.  By the time we left, it was 1.30 pm.  (We left so early to avoid an even pricier stay in the car park and we had seen most of what we feasibly could with the dog in tow).  As it was the Brighton Festival this weekend and the Brighton Fringe, there were lots of street entertainers to watch as we wandered around and it was a good atmosphere out and about, if a little busy.

As we drove out of the car park, I found myself not envying the long queue of cars waiting to get a space in the car park and was thankful we'd come early in the day. We were home by 3.30 pm and although we had a lovely day out, I wasn't sorry to come home.  It made me remember why we so rarely brave the Bank Holiday crowds at the seaside.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Very Lean Week

This week is going to have to be a very, very, lean one, due to the fact that I have spent far too much money this month and need to really eek it out this week, to claw back some of the overspend.  It has been totally my own fault and I am in no way asking for any sympathy, as I frankly don't deserve any.  When I look at what I have purchased, there were some inessential things in there, that I could certainly have done without.  Quite a few purchases, however, were gifts and could not really be avoided, nor would I want to, it's just how things fell.

I think I went just a little bit mad on the organic/natural food front and spent way too much money in my initial enthusiasm for changing things up.  Some of it is still in the cupboard and freezer and will definitely come in useful this week.

As you have probably gathered by now, especially if you've been reading my blog for a while, once I get an idea in my head, I have to go jump right in there and throw myself into it, instead of a gradual movement in the chosen direction. I'm pretty impulsive and not the most patient/considered person on the planet, but it will balance itself out eventually, when the initial novelty wears off and I get my bearings proper.  I think I have just made several rather big changes in a very short space of time, and I can't deny that it has set me back financially in the short term, but will hopefully reap benefits for us all in the long term.

It's half term this week and I am definitely ready for it. Little Bird got back from her 3 day camping trip yesterday afternoon and was feeling very tired. She was most definitely looking forward to having a shower and sleeping in her own bed again.

We haven't really got any firm plans for half term week. We're just aiming to chill at home, with no fixed routine and not have to go anywhere for more than a day or at all, unless we really want to, as we have spent every half term/school holiday so far this year, travelling up to Yorkshire or elsewhere. We're certainly overdue a staycation.  We have a couple of possible day trips planned, but it depends on how OH is feeling, as he's had a nasty virus all this week and hasn't felt up to doing anything at all.  Hopefully, he'll be recovered by next week.

Inexpensive fun will definitely have to be the order of the day though, so I will need to get my thinking head on.

Friday, 22 May 2015

More Kitchen Decluttering

Hot on the heels of doing some cleaning in the kitchen on Tuesday afternoon/evening, I cracked on again on Wednesday and decided to tackle the cupboards under sink. Here's a before picture for once, of both cupboards.

As you can see, I do have at least one bulk household item under here, which takes up quite a bit of room, but I'm steadily working my way through it, before I replace it with a more eco friendly alternative. I'd used up a few products in the last week cleaning other parts of the house, but there was still some duplication in here, which will get used as and when.

I took everything out and relocated the odd thing to the bathroom, so that it was out and I would remember to use it.  I thought about replacing the toilet brushes in the bathroom and downstairs toilets, but the thing is with buying very cheap plastic toilet brushes from IKEA i.e. 70p ones, is that it is far too easy to replace them and throw the old ones away, when you don't really need to.  I won't be buying any more for a good while, as I still have spares for each toilet in the cupboard, that I will use when the current ones are finally beyond redemption.

I folded all of the dish cloths I'd cut from old clothes, into a neat pile, and discovered I had a new pack of dishcloths and dusters I really don't need, so I'm donating these to the food bank.  I found a couple of things I don't want, but can't donate, so I'm going to put them outside the house for anyone to take and I also found a couple of small items to donate to the CS in here too.

I rediscovered some jasmine incense oil for using in my oil burner, so that was taken out and I am going to start using it again, as I also found a heap of tea lights that need using up.  It's quite a heady scent, so you don't need to burn it for long or it can be a bit overwhelming.  I may look out for other scents I can also use.

Most of the rest of what was in the cupboard got put back after a good clean of the shelves.  I did move a few things to the front to remind me to use them up in the next few weeks and then I moved on to the second cupboard.

This cupboard was also given a good clean out and I was going to complete the pile of shredding, which would make the cupboard look a lot more tidy, but the paper had somehow got wet, a possible leak I suspect which I got OH onto.  I relocated a couple of items to this cupboard, where I can see them and I also removed a couple of items, which I am putting outside to see if anyone will take them, as I don't need them and they were things that can't really be donated.  A bit of a move around in here and things fitted in a lot better which was good.

I followed up cleaning out these cupboards by cleaning out the wine rack which accumulates dirt very quickly, as it is open and cleaned all the cupboard and dishwasher fronts. This completed another corner of the kitchen.  Here's a picture of the results.  Not a whole lot of difference, but a whole lot cleaner and a bit more organised.

The last couple of areas I have left to clean and declutter are the remainder of the kitchen cupboards and drawers, most of which I've already been through, and just need to clean, the broom cupboard, the window sills and the top of the fridge.  I'm hoping to get most of it completed this week while Little Bird is away and then it is over and done with.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

A Bit of a Jumble Sale

Last year, Little Bird joined in with our local neighbourhood Jumble Trail, whereby on a specified day households in the area can set up table top sales outside their house.

Jumble Trail organises this event and formulates a map of where each participant will be, provides flyers and posters that you can print off and put up in your window or distribute locally and publishes the map on line, so people interested in going along, can print it off and shop the table tops of all those taking part on the day.

There is a £5 donation required to cover the cost of this.  When I checked the website, there were already 109 participants signed up in our area and since registering, I get emails every time someone new signs up to our local event.  This is apparently the third year of the event locally.

It  was pretty successful in our area last year with 40+ participants taking part and Little Bird enjoyed joining in.  Because it is held on the day of our local weekly market, this means that there is often quite a lot of footfall which is good. When I saw the poster for this year's event, which is taking place here on 14th June, I immediately asked Little Bird if she wanted to take part, which she said she did. Last year, a school friend of hers, who lives next door took part, so together they set up their stalls and enjoyed earning a little bit of extra cash on their doorstep.

This is also a great way for us to try to re-home the proceeds of this month's decluttering. Although, much of it was taken to the Give and Take event last month, there is still a box full of books, Little Bird's old bike and DS console, OH's old Black and Decker Workmate, some pottery that I'd earmarked for donation, spare plants grown for the allotment, homemade cakes/biscuits/popcorn and lemonade, plus various other bits and pieces that we no longer want. It's a fun way to get rid of unwanted items and it certainly beats getting up at a ridiculously early hour on the weekend and humping it all to a car boot.

Do they have this event in your neighbourhood? Visit for more details to see if there is an event going on near you.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A Change of Plan

Tuesday afternoon, I was planning on wrapping up some parcels ready to send off, but instead got sidetracked into making more progress on the kitchen declutter, which was long overdue.

I had been sifting through different cupboards and shelves on and off over the weekend, but it was the crumbs that had accumulated in the cutlery drawer that were the final straw.  I couldn't stand seeing them every time I opened the drawer (the cutlery drawer is directly below the bread/cutting board) and I just had to do something about them.

In the end, I decided to clean the corner of the kitchen from the fridge to the bread bin.  This included the spice racks and pan cupboard, that I had previously decluttered, the cutlery/crockery drawers, the oven/hob/utensil rack and finally I had a good sort out and clean of the baking drawer.  In between all of this, I cooked us up a Shepherd's pie for supper.

I must admit that I got myself a bit frayed around the edges, trying to do too much at once, but once it was all done, it felt good.

Here's a picture of the corner I tackled, once it was done.  For the moment, I can't really get this area any more minimal than it is now, as everything remaining here gets used regularly and is where we can find and reach it easily.  I could put certain things in cupboards, but then there is the question of finding room for them all, but to be honest I'm fine with them out for ease of use.

You'll notice that the cooker hood is nice and shiny clean.  It felt good to remove the accumulated layer of grease from here.  The extract filters are currently in the dishwasher awaiting a clean too.

Probably the worst part of the job was cleaning out the baking drawer. I'm not really into baking all that much, but Little Bird does like to have a go every now and then and bless her, she's not the tidiest, so it was looking a bit of a mess with lots of spilt flour.  I managed to spill even more in the process, but the finished result was pleasing, if still a little messy.

I did actually throw out a couple of old bags of flour, as there were small insects crawling around in the bottom of the drawer and in the flour, which in any case was very old and out of date.  I'll replace it with some new flour, when I need it.  I few small bits and pieces got added to the CS box too, to add to the monthly total which is definitely mounting up this month.

Finally, I'll leave you with a picture of my now lovely and clean cutlery drawer, which has removed a daily irritation from my life.  Yes it is still rather full, but we do use virtually everything in here and I really don't know a safe way of throwing away old knives, so I tend to just keep them all.  

Something else will no doubt start to irritate me now and motivate me to clean another part of the kitchen.

Slow progress, but progress never the less.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Today, has been all about laundry and birthdays.  The former, because Little Bird is heading off for a couple of nights camping on a school trip and I'm trying to make sure everything she needs is washed and ready to go.

Little Bird seems to be struggling at school at the moment, in relation to friendship groups. Turns out the friends she initially got together with aren't being that friendly towards her at the moment, so she's feeling a bit lost and sidelined I think.  We're obviously trying to support her and are just pleased that she can talk to us about it.

Hopefully, she will have a good trip away and thankfully she is sharing her tent with different girls, so there shouldn't be any awkwardness. It's easy to forget how difficult it is to make new friends when you start at a new school.  I feel for her, but trust that it will come right eventually and that she'll make some kind friends.

May seems to be all about birthdays. OH's birthday is coming up this week, his dad's birthday was last week, my nephew in Australia has his birthday at the beginning of June, followed shortly afterwards by his mother's 50th.

Needless to say, I have had and have to come, quite a bit of expense on presents, postage, cards, etc.  I must admit that I am trying extend my new found eco-friendlyish shopping habits to presents too, as much as possible, so chocolate tends to be G&B or fairtrade and toiletries as natural as possible and cruelty free.  I hope that they will be well received.  I'm going to continue in the same vein for Christmas this year too, as much as I can.  There's such a plethora of suitable products out there these days to choose from.  Here's a sneaky peak at what I bought my sister.  As far as I know, she doesn't read my blog, so I'm pretty sure she won't see it.

This afternoon is going to be all about getting everything wrapped and written ready for giving and posting.  I had to pop out into town to collect a parcel I'd ordered online from M&S, part present for my sister, part a couple of things I needed to buy. I also picked up a birthday cake for OH and a few sweets for Little Bird to take away with her on her trip.  You've got to have a bit of a midnight feast on a school trip, don't you?

Whilst out, I got caught in a hailstorm.  I'm hoping the weather isn't going to be like this for the camping trip.  Now safely back at home, I'm going to have a nice cup of tea and get wrapping. What's your Tuesday been like?

Monday, 18 May 2015

Zero Waste Changes

Following on from my exploration of ways to reduce waste in our household on YouTube, I've already begun to make small changes at home to reduce the amount that ends up in the bin. My progress so far has been a bit hit and miss.  I've made positive changes to my shopping behaviour and then I've made mistakes when I haven't been thinking so clearly.  For example, I did a few bits of shopping at Lidl this morning after leaving the gym. I picked quite a few items up in the fruit and vegetable section, and then thought better of it, as I could get the same items from a local shop without any plastic packaging.

I then stopped off at said shop on the way home and did just that, although some, but fewer items still did have packaging. I then decided to use the last £1.50 in my purse to purchase some sweetcorn seedlings for the allotment, that I'd been coveting in another local shop every time I walk past with the dog. It wasn't until I got back to the car that I could have kicked myself, for buying things grown in polystyrene strips.

At least if they'd been in pots I could have reused them, but these tend to need to be broken open to separate the plants properly and then go into landfill where they don't break down easily. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. I'll just have to be a bit more mindful in future or make a point of growing them from seed myself. They were good value though, as there were 10 plants in total, which works out at 15p each.

When I got home, there had just been a delivery for OH. It was a birthday present for him from some friends. Unfortunately, it was a duplication of something I had already ordered for him, but was awaiting delivery of, save it was a superior version, so my version will have to be returned once it finally arrives. It was a nice gesture though and they were spot on with getting him something he wanted.  I was very impressed by the packaging by Amazon too. The item was wrapped in a cloth bag, tied with a ribbon and protected just by scrunched up paper which is easily recyclable.  Here's a picture.

I suspect they may have chosen this method of wrapping, but as I've not ordered something for gift wrapping, I'm not sure what the actual options are when you do. I will no doubt use this bag for something, once it has been opened and the contents taken out.

Whilst at home this afternoon, I was also due a delivery, namely my supermarket online grocery order. I've placed a couple of orders online lately, just to take advantage of a free bottle of champagne with the first order and £20 off a second order. I've decided that I won't be continuing with this way of shopping, however, as it irritates me when they deliver them in plastic carrier bags, albeit large ones. I sometimes wish they'd bring back the old cardboard box deliveries I can remember as a child from local shops.

The bags themselves will get re-used to line or collect rubbish in the bins around the house on bin collection day, but I can normally avoid collecting any, by using my own re-usable bags, which I will go back to using when I go to the store to buy my groceries from next week. I also want to start shopping around a bit more in the coming weeks and not relying on supermarkets, so we'll see how that goes.

Whilst  waiting for my grocery order to arrive, I popped up to the sewing room to facilitate another small zero waste change I'd come across on YouTube. I had some scraps of cotton/flannel fabric in my scrap fabric trug, left over from making a quilt and I found an old flannel baby sheet that was Little Bird's when she was a baby.  I decided to cut them into squares, sew the edges together using a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine and hey presto, reusable cotton makeup pads created.

They're lovely and soft and as I made a good dozen or so, I should get away with washing them once a week and still having enough left to continue to use them until the washed ones are dry and ready to use again. I can also use one side in the morning and the reverse on an evening, to get even more use from each pad before putting them in the wash.

I do need to buy a mesh bag for use when I wash them, but these cost just a pound or so and will be a one time purchase, but will help keep all the pads together in the machine and stop them getting lost or stuck in the door.

Whilst looking to buy the above on eBay last night, I also came across some bamboo natural toothbrushes, which didn't cost much more than a normal plastic toothbrush, so I've ordered one to try it out and see if I like it. It has natural bristles and a bamboo handle, so is completely biodegradable and therefore much more sustainable than plastic toothbrushes. I'll let you know how I get on with it.

I'm becoming much more interested in bamboo these days, particularly bamboo clothing, since getting (buying myself) a couple of pairs of bamboo socks for Christmas. They are some of my favourite pairs and are so soft and warm.  I understand from one website I was looking at that bamboo is a much more sustainable fabric, as it grows well without the need for chemicals and is much easier to harvest than cotton, but can still be made into a lovely soft fabric which also has antibacterial properties. I'll definitely be looking out for things made with this fabric in the future. I'm even thinking of buying some bamboo socks for OH for his birthday (instead of the duplicated present), as he goes through lots of pairs, in the hope that they may last a little longer than cotton ones. They are a little more expensive than normal socks, but if they last longer it is probably worth it from the point of view of avoiding waste and getting more wear. Has anyone else ever worn or bought bamboo clothing?

So a mixed bag today, but tomorrow is another day and it's something that I'll keep working on, now that I've finally put my mind to it.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A Very Quiet Weekend

This weekend has been a very quiet one, not that I'm complaining. Little Bird spent Friday night and most of Saturday sleeping over at her friend's house, then her friend came back and stayed here on Saturday night, but apart from this we didn't go far or do much of interest.  Sometimes, however, when there's not much going on you find your own entertainment, and on this particular occasion, the weekend has been productive in a whole other way.

Today, whilst watching one of the regular YouTubers that I watch called hannahyep, I was guided to to a couple of really interesting channels that I've not seen before, so I spent a while catching up on past videos that have been uploaded on these channels.  The main subject of many of the videos was Zero Waste.  I've mentioned it a few times here on my blog and been intending to reduce our waste for over a year now, but you know what, I've not really succeeded so far.

After watching quite a harrowing video I then found on YouTube about how plastic is changing the face of the world and particularly the oceans, called Inside the Garbage of the World, I've definitely found more resolve to tackle the zero waste issue in our household.  This video almost brought me to tears, to think about the damage that is being done in the oceans by plastic waste, that is affecting the wildlife and getting into the foodchain.  If this doesn't make you think about reducing your waste and use of plastics in particular, then I don't know what will.  It's a long video, but if you have the time and inclination to watch it, it is so worth it.

Thankfully, after watching this video, I started looking around at other videos about zero waste and was pleasantly surprised about how much information is out there on YouTube.  Some of the channels are relatively new and haven't really posted many videos on the subject yet, but I've subscribed to a few and will hopefully be able to pick up lots of tips on how to shop/live more zero waste than we are doing at present.  I feel ready to really start to tackle this issue now that our dietary changes are taking hold and becoming more a routine part of daily life.

If anybody is interested, here's the names of a few channels with Zero Waste videos that might interest you.

Trash is for Tossers
Andrea Sanders
*All Things Homespun*
Love Raw Vegan
Zero Waste Home - This is Bea Johnson's channel and although she hasn't uploaded for a while there are some interesting videos to watch here, which illustrate how a zero waste lifestyle works in practice.

I also like Christine's Kobzeff's channel.  She lives in Hawaii and talks about her slow living, vegan lifestyle and vegan beauty.  Her beauty and makeup decluttering video was very informative about who is and isn't actually cruelty free, in relation to some of the big cosmetic companies.

I hope you enjoy watching some of these videos and find them as informative as I did.

Friday, 15 May 2015

A Rainy Day Spent Indoors

Thursday was a very wet day here, in fact, it rained almost all day.  It was so wet, that aside from taking the dog out for a walk, I spent the day indoors at home, catching up on some housework.  I was hoping to get to the allotment again, but the weather rendered the task impossible.

I started the day off by putting away laundry and then coming downstairs to unload the dishwasher. After breakfast I emptied all the bins, and put out the refuse and recycling, ready for collection first thing on Friday. Life always feel a bit lighter when all the rubbish leaves the house, and more so this week as Little Bird had been having quite a clearout, so some of the rubbish was stuff she had thrown away.  She's more than a little influenced by Tumbler at the moment, and I'm not complaining, as she is taking a sudden interest in getting (and keeping) her room nice and tidy for the first time ever. (Yay!)

Next, it was time to put on some more washing before heading out with the dog. Half of the hour and a half walk we had, we managed before the rain set in, for the remainder, it rained but not too heavily, so we were both glad to get back to a dry and warm house.

By the time we got home, it wasn't far short of lunch time, so I caught up on reading a few blogs and watching a few YouTube videos before making a lovely salad for lunch.

After lunch, I headed upstairs to clean the bathroom.  It was great to finally use up some old household products and start using some of the new, more natural ones I'd bought a few weeks ago. The downstairs toilet got a clean too and I hoovered the stairs where I'd tramped in some wet grass.

Next, I hung out the laundry indoors and put on another small load consisting of some bath mats, before setting about making dinner.

Having washed up any dinner pots that needed it, I set about ordering next week's grocery shopping online to take advantage of a pretty good offer for my first couple of on-line orders. I did the same last week and got a free bottle of champagne, which I may save for Christmas or give away as a gift. This week it was £20 off my order.

We don't need quite so much food this coming week, as Little Bird will be away for 3 days on a school trip, so I added on some household cleaning products that I needed and a gift for my sister's 50th birthday, which I am posting to her in Australia.  Next week, the order is being delivered for free, (I collected it this week) so I'm hoping it will be complete as I am quite new to online grocery shopping.

Later in the evening, I did a bit more of the kitchen declutter.  I went through my spice rack and threw out any old spices I no longer use and which have sat unused for several years, having lost their potency.  I also went through my main food cupboard and threw out any out of date items or put aside a couple of unopened in date items that we wont use to go to the food bank.  I washed up all the spice pots ready to decant some other regularly used spices into too.  I felt like I finally made some more progress with this project, doing little bits of decluttering as I went. The kitchen still needs a good clean and some of the cupboards still need a bit more decluttering, but I'm slowly but surely getting on with it.

Rainy days do have their advantages.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Naturisimo - Exciting Deliveries.

A little while ago, whilst looking for some natural and organic beauty products, I came across the website, who stock a great range of natural and organic beauty products and make up.  After perusing the site, I couldn't help myself but place an order for a couple of items that I've been looking at buying for a while.

The first item was a charcoal grey eyeliner by Beauty Without Cruelty, and at £6 wasn't much more expensive than many regular beauty brands.  It has become a regular in my daily makeup routine, so I'm very happy with this purchase.   I also ordered a small Burt's Bees Grapefruit scented lip and hand balm gift set for just £4, as a small present for someone and lastly I ordered some Maca Powder for myself, which I had heard about on a YouTube video. I believe it is a health food supplement that can be put into smoothies and juices or on cereals and is good for balancing hormones and providing an energy boost.  As I am approaching the menopause, (sorry, TMI here I realise) I bought this to help me with regard to any hormonal changes I might experience in the coming years. I have started using this in the last couple of days and find it very palatable when mixed into a smoothie or yoghurt with fruit.  Delivery was free, which was an added bonus and there was also a code to get an extra 10% off at checkout.

The service from this company was excellent and within a couple of days my order had arrived by post and was packed safely and securely with no damage to any of the items. I couldn't recommend them highly enough.  I liked that it came by Royal Mail too, as if we weren't in, I could collect it from the depot down the road and not have to rearrange delivery, and also, I wouldn't have to feel bad that I'm causing a courier to have to re-deliver.  (I'm aware that for individual self-employed couriers, margins are very tight, and I don't want to cost them money to effect delivery).

In addition, this company allows you to purchase a limited number of product samples from them if you wish to, to try out certain products that they stock before buying the full size.  This is really useful in my opinion, as without these, it is very hard to tell what might suit your skin and natural/organic  products can be quite expensive and hard to source in the shops and try out first.

The next day, the same company sent me an email, offering me the chance to buy a beauty box from them for £9.95 including postage.  Call me a pushover, and inspite of my disappointment over a previous beauty box, I'm afraid I couldn't resist this offer, as all of the contents were natural/organic beauty and makeup products and it offered me a perfect opportunity to try some of these completely new to me brands, which are quite expensive to buy full price.  With an additional 10% off and free delivery, the box cost just £8.96, which was an absolute steal.  Two days later it arrived and this is it.

The box itself was lovely.  Simple, black, with just a logo on the front.  Very easy to just put a label over it and use it for gift giving.  This is what was inside, I was so excited.

There were a couple of products from Jane Iredale, a US mineral cosmetics company.  One was a sample black mascara in a cute little tube.  I'd never seen mascara packaged like this before.  Perfect for one's handbag.

Similarly small and compact, was a sample of lip and cheek stain from the same range.  It wasn't in a colour that I would probably use, but even if I just use it as a balm to prime under other lipsticks, I'm quite happy.  It was so dinky. I photographed it next to a 10p piece so that you can see how small it is. Cute.

There was also a full size lip tint from Inika, an Australian organics brand.  This was a nude coloured, shimmery pink. Again, not what I would normally use, but it was interesting to try it.  It has a distinctly minty taste to it which was nice.  I'd prefer a darker/reddish colour myself, but I may use this as nude lipsticks are quite fashionable, especially come the summer months.


In addition to these products, there was also a full-sized kabuki brush which is 100% synthetic, i.e. cruelty free and will be great for applying powder or blusher or even some of the tinted moisturising fluid samples that also came in this box.

The tinted moisturiser samples, of which there were three in the box, were great, and will be really useful to enable me to try some natural brands.  Two were by Madara, a Latvian natural/organic beauty brand. One in each of two colourways, Sun Flower Golden Beige and Moon Flower Rose Beige, so I will be interested to try these or even possibly mix them to get the right shade for me.

The third was a sample of Green People Age Defy Tinted Moisturiser with SPF15 in Creme Light, which coincidentally, whilst searching for natural beauty products, had ended up on my list of potential things to buy, so I was really happy to receive this.

Apart from the colours of the lip products, this box was perfect and such great value.  I don't know if I'll be offered one again, or if they are starting a subscription service, but this box is so much more down my street and came along at just the right time.

Please note that I have NOT been sponsored to write this post.  I am just describing my experience of a company I have bought products from and whose service was very good, in the hope that it might help others looking for similar products.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Enearthing My Sewing Mojo - Making a Kimono

For months now, my sewing mojo seems to have got lost in the ether and I've had absolutely no interest in finding it.  After reading quite a few blog posts this week, however, where other bloggers have been busy making clothes, I kind of got to thinking about how I'd done very little dressmaking in particular, since I made a skirt back in September, for the One Pattern, One Week challenge.

Being in the mood to declutter, and knowing that I have a room filled with fabric that needs using up, I finally ventured into my sewing room on Friday afternoon and took a look at my patterns, with a view to finding a particular pattern I knew I had for a kimono.

I found said pattern, which had come free with my Prima magazine subscription and seeing how simple it was, I decided  to have a go at it and took a good look through my fabric to see if I had anything suitable to make it with.

The only really suitable fabric I could find that I had enough of, was this vintage varuna wool type fabric, which I think I picked up in a charity shop several years ago.  I like the print and it is really soft and drapes so beautifully. I was originally thinking I might make a dress with it.

The thing is, I very rarely wear dresses these days, but the thought of making a kimono with it really appealed somehow. I know it's not the usual kimono fabric, as it is quite a bit heavier than kimonos I've seen in the shops, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway, as it might be useful to have one to wear on cool days or evenings. The fact that it has so many colours in it, means that it will go with lots of different things.

Anyway, I went ahead and cut out the pattern and then the fabric pieces and started to sew it all together. It wasn't too difficult, but I think I cut it out incorrectly, as when it came to matching the front and back pieces, it took a while to get it right.  It did come right in the end though.

I just had the sleeves left to hem, when I unexpectedly had to go out, so I finished it off on Saturday afternoon.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out and it was good to make something other than a skirt for a change.  Here's a picture of the finished garment.

I've taken a few other patterns out, along with more fabric, in the hope that it might inspire me to make a couple more things.  I've found a couple of cocoon dresses/tops that I'd like to have a go at, using some jersey-like fabric and also a different pattern for a skirt that looks very easy to make.  It will be great to inject my summer wardrobe with a couple interesting prints and add a couple of new pieces, whilst using up some fabric and without the necessity to spend any money.

I may also make a kimono or two for Little Bird, as she really likes them and has been asking me to buy her one for a while now.  I just need to shop my stash and find some fabric that she likes.  I'll keep you posted on progress.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

More Allotment Tales

It had been a couple of weeks since my last visit to the allotment, partly due to going away over the Bank Holiday weekend and getting out of my usual routine, so I was a bit concerned on entering the site on Sunday afternoon, as to what would await me, especially since we'd had quite a bit of rain and sunshine since my last visit and our garden had suddenly burst into life.  I was expecting the same at the allotment with lots of weed clearing needed.

When I got to the plot, the sight that met me wasn't too onerous.  The onions were coming along nicely,

as were the broad beans.  I nipped out the tender tips to prevent them getting attacked by blackfly and to make the plants stronger and healthier.  I always worry when I do this, but it invariably helps cropping and pest resistance.  I think I caught them just in time as the odd blackfly was starting to gather.

The lettuce seedlings need planting out around the plot.

I haven't had much luck this year germinating my favourite red curly lettuce.  I need to sow  another batch with some fresh seeds, but these lettuces do go to seed very quickly when the weather gets hot so I may not bother and just manage with the green this year.  Actually, I think what I may do, is sow some in a pot at home in the garden where I can keep a closer eye on them and use them before they go to seed.

The potatoes are doing well and could do with banking up when I get the chance.

The suede, turnip and purple sprouting broccolli have germinated too, which is all good. (It's hard to see from this photograph I'm afraid as the seedlings are so small).

I did a little weeding before coming away and picked a bunch of mint which is rampant towards the back of the plot.  I was limited as to what I could do, as I had come straight from the garden centre and didn't have all my usual tools with me.  It wasn't as bad as  I'd expected though which was a relief.  I'll pop back in the week and do more.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Sunday in the Garden

Sunday for me, was all about the garden, the allotment and food growing.  The weather was great and I couldn't go to my usual Sunday morning class as it was full and some of the roads were blocked due to a local half marathon going on. I decided to stay put and potter outside, getting a few jobs done in the process.

A few weeks ago, I sowed quite a few seeds in readiness for planting out at the allotment.  Progress with regard to germination, however, was a bit slow and definitely a bit hit and miss in places, probably due to some of the seeds being a bit old, but I thought I'd try them anyway.

The early successes were the cucumbers, fennel and sweet peas which were some of the first to germinate.  As you can see these are progressing nicely (and a couple of chilli seeds in front are now starting to germinate too).

The African marigolds also germinated well.

The same couldn't be said, however, of the pots to the left of them which were nasturtiums, but these were definitely old seeds, so I'm not too surprised.

The next disaster areas were the sunflowers and courgettes.  Still not a sign, so I don't think these will now germinate.  It's a bit disappointing, but again, the seeds must have been too old.

My main concern was the tomato seedlings, which took the longest time to come through, but happily they are now coming up in abundance. They've still got a long way to go, but at least they're here now.  (The leafy plant is a small lemon balm I potted up).

Not to be deterred, on Sunday morning I proceeded to sow some runner bean, french bean and pea seeds into the cardboard toilet roll tubes I'd saved for the job.  It makes separating them out and keeping the roots in tact much easier.

I then popped to the garden centre, as I needed some bamboo canes to give to someone at the allotment who had lent me some last year, I needed new ones too myself, but they weren't very expensive.  Whilst there, I also bought some sweet pepper and more courgette seeds. Hopefully I'll have better luck with these.  As organic vegetables are so expensive, I'm determined to grow more of my own this year.

I do think that maybe a decluttering of the seed box is in order to give myself a better chance at success in this regard.