Saturday, 31 October 2015

Wedding Weekend

We had a lovely time at the family wedding this weekend.  We headed up to Yorkshire on Wednesday and spent the night and next day with OH's nephew and his family.  There was a lovely Halloween party for the children awaiting us when we got there with Apple Bobbing, Spin the Bottle, Who am I? and other activities, which the children really enjoyed.

The following day we managed a look around Ilkley and I checked out Otley too, whilst LB went to watch a theatre production with the children and OH went on a bike ride, both places were new to me, which made it interesting.  I do admit to buying a few bits in Oxfam, which was a bit naughty, but not a great expense.

On Thursday afternoon, we headed to our hotel for the wedding the following day. We had a nice but very inexpensive hotel room, I didn't take any photos to put on the blog, nor did I of the wedding, as it was a private family affair, but we were treated to a vintage bus ride to the wedding and then on to the reception.  There followed lots of food, drink and dancing and a very enjoyable time was had by all.

The next day (Saturday) after breakfast, we all headed off in our different directions.  In our case back to London, as it was Halloween and LB was meeting up with her friends to go out Trick or Treating and have a Halloween sleepover. She hates to miss it.

Back in London, and for OH and me it was lovely just relax for the evening in our own home, (me watching Strictly of course) punctuated only by a few spooky visitors.  I'd bought some sweets just in case to hand out to any creepy callers.

I'm looking forward to November.  No more Stoptober and Christmas on the not too distant horizon.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

October Favourites

This month I haven't got many favourites to share, (mainly on account of not buying much this month due to Stoptopber) but the ones I do have, I've really enjoyed this month.  The first one I could be accused of blowing my own trumpet over, as it is something I made, but I'm going to do it anyway, as I've really enjoyed using it this month.  It is my homemade peppermint lip balm.  I can't take full credit, as the recipe wasn't my own, but I made a couple of small containers of this a couple of weeks ago as an experiment really, and for the last week or so I've been using it every day under my lipstick. I love putting this on in a morning as I get a slight tingle from it's mintiness, (this might not appeal to everyone, but I like it)  it goes on great under my lipstick and it's keeping my lips lovely and moist as the weather cools down.

Favourite number two this month has been this lovely liquer drink I was bought for my birthday.  I love a glass of this of an evening.  Very creamy and indulgent.  Not so sure my waistline is enjoying it quite so much, as it's probably expanded and is feeling a bit tighter in my clothing since I got it.

My next favourite this October has been the TV show Obsessive, Compulsive Cleaners on Channel 4 on Tuesdays at 8pm.  I missed the first three or four episodes of this new series, but now I've started watching it, I look forward to the week's episode.  It helps motivate me to pull my finger out and get cleaning.  So much so that I'm thinking of buying a steam cleaner that I saw used on the show last week.  Does anyone have one and would they recommend it?

Another favourite this month is a music one, namely The Staves, who we got to see live this month, as part of Radio 6's week of live music recordings at Maida Vale studios.  I particularly liked this song that they performed during their session.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Garden Clean Up

Last weekend, my good intentions to tidy up the garden, just didn't come to fruition, which is so often the way of an expert procastinator like myself.  Everytime I looked out of the patio doors whilst sat at my kitchen table, there was a guilt ridden reminder of my inability to apply myself to the task and get it done.

This weekend, however, was a different matter.  LB, having had a sleepover with her friends the night before, was happily ensconsed with them in her bedroom, OH was out on a lengthy dog walk with the resident hound and I took the opportunity to get out into the garden and at least get started on putting it to bed for the winter.

The blighted tomato plants were looking particularly depressing and just needed clearing so that I could pull the cover back over the greenhouse and safely tuck my succulents away for the winterl.

The runner beans and sweet peas also needed clearing and although the bean plants were still thriving, they were no longer offering up any pods and were blocking access to the garden, so it was time to go.

In addition, the decking was strewn with leaves and taking on a very neglected demeanor.

It didn't take long to make a difference.  After just two hours it was a whole other story.  The green house was looking snug in it's winter jacket, The table cleared of dead plants, which were replaced by a bit of colour in the form of a box of still flowering (just) red geraniums.  The decking was swept and cleared and generally looked a lot more cared for.

There's still more work to do.  I still need to remove the grow bags from the greenhouse, but am waiting until I've cut down the diseased apple tree, as the soil from them will go where it is currently standing. I did start on cutting down said apple tree, but ran out of space in the brown bin and required the assistance of OH's brute strength and expertise with a hand saw, so we will finish this job another time.

I also still need to sweep down the side of the house, where there are still lots of leaves, but more will be added yet when they drop, so if I don't get around to doing this for a few weeks at least I might only have to do it the once.  The end of the garden will be tackled later, once I've got the end closest to the house in shape.

It's looking a lot less guilt inducing now, and when I gaze out of the window, as I do multiple times per day,  it makes me grateful to have such a small and easily maintained garden.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A Trip Up The West End

Today, we spent the afternoon shopping in the West End.  Well, OH did anyway, as it was for him that we made the trip.  He didn't have a suit to wear for a wedding we're attending next week, so we needed to make a mercy dash into town.

Unfortunately, his last suit was eaten by moths after a very extensive infestation in his wardrobe.  He wasn't happy.  The moths did actually do him a favour though, as he was never convinced by his last suit and has since lost quite a lot of weight due to all the cycling he's been doing in the last couple of years, so he was happy to treat himself to a new good quality suit, heavily marked down from Paul Smith's Sale Shop off New Bond Street.

Sometimes, you just know that buying a quality suit is going to pay for itself over and over and running his own business as he does, it will definitely get some wear and lend itself to creating a good impression in a work capacity too.  Inspite of subsequently looking elsewhere, everything else we saw paled into insignificance and we hot footed it straight back to the Paul Smith Sale Shop, to buy the one we'd seen originally.

He was very happy with his new suit and I was pleased that he had bought British. Needless to say, it won't be kept in his wardrobe, but will be given a home in his office to avoid a repeat of what happened to the last one.

In the process of looking around for alternatives, I managed to get LB her first proper bra from John Lewis, courtesy of the £20 gift card I was given last week when the collection of my shopping was delayed.  She needed it to wear with the dress her father bought her to wear for the wedding.

I did splash out on a new styling wand for me, mainly because I thought I probably needed to get my act together and do something with my hair on the day.  It is also something that LB has wanted for a while though, so even if I don't use it too often, I'm sure she'll get good use out of it.  We need to do a practice run on my hair before the day though, to see how it looks once curled.  Should be fun.

Town was packed, as you might imagine, but we were in and out within 3 or 4 hours.  We took the car and got lucky bagging a free parking space not far from where we wanted to be.  The worst thing was the traffic. Hopefully, we won't need to go into town again until we do our once yearly trip for Christmas shopping in November or December.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Liquid Hand Soap Making - Part 2

Back in May, I posted about how after watching some YouTube videos on the subject, I decided to make some liquid hand soap from a bar of castille soap and ended up with two and a half  bottles of the stuff for hand washing, shower gel, etc.

Fast forward four months and my stash of almond scented liquid soap eventually ran out. It worked well as a shower gel, but was sometimes a little gloopy and hard to actually get out of the bottle, so I decided that I would probably just use it as hand wash if I ever made it again. It did keep pretty well though.

When I came to the end of my supply in September, I still had a bought natural hand wash in the cupboard, which cost me £3 and which I went on to use, but a couple of weeks in and I'm not really particularly impressed by it. It is supposed to be grapefruit scented, but doesn't smell of anything much and just doesn't foam up as well as the homemade stuff, so doesn't feel as satisfying when I use it.  As a consequence, I've decided to make some more homemade hand soap.

This time, however, I decided to use up the jar of hotel soaps I'd collected previously and see if I could make a liquid soap from them. They are just sat in the jar and are not really being used now that I use more natural products. I wanted to use the jar for other purposes, so I thought I'd experiment a little and see if liquid soap can be made from any soap, not just castille soap, as I'd been led to believe. I figured it would be a good way to use them up, as my hands aren't particularly sensitive and I just can't bring myself to just throw them out, as it would seem wasteful.

I set about grating and weighing the numerous small soaps we'd collected on our travels. Being small bars, they were a lot easier to grate than a larger bar and this part of the process took a lot less time and effort and I was able to do it as I searched YouTube for more homemade recipes. Here's the result.

Having grated all this soap I found I had 6.8 oz in weight.  As one bar, such as that that I used last time I did this task, weighed 5 oz, I had a larger amount to try to make into liquid soap.  In spite of this, I used the same amount water this time (2 litres), in an attempt to try to get a better consistency. I used once boiled water from the kettle in this instance, instead of buying distilled water, so it will be interesting to see if this has repercussions in terms of how it keeps and works.

As before, I boiled the water in a pan and when it was boiling I added the grated soap and kept it on a low heat until it had all dissolved.   As I had grated it to a finer consistency, most of the soap melted instantly, but there were a few rogue shavings that refused to dissolve, so I kept stirring the mixture on a low heat until they did so.  The mixture looked like this at this point.  It was slightly darker in colour than the last batch, due to a couple of the soaps being slightly coloured.

Once the soaps had all been dissolved in the water, I then took it off the heat and left it with a lid over it for over 12 hours overnight to thicken up. Apparently, it is important not to stir or mess with the mixture whilst cooling or this can lead to separation.  I must also mention that using these soaps seemed to cause quite strong fumes in my kitchen and I needed to open a window to allow them to escape, as it was causing me to get a slight headache.  Something to bear in mind if anyone wanted to attempt anything similar.  I don't recall this happening the last time I made liquid soap.

The next morning when I came back to it it looked this.

I was pretty happy to see that it had indeed thickened up overnight. The lines you can see in the surface were made with the pan lid edge.  I set about blending it with a stick blender until it was the type of consistency I wanted.  This batch was a much better consistency, definitely thicker and creamier, as opposed to a little gloopy, so I think using a lower water to soap ratio did work.  I then funneled it into clean bottles again and here they are filled with liquid soap.

As the soaps used were all different fragrances, probably the most pungent being sandalwood, the end result is a kind of sandalwood scent, but this is okay for a hand soap to use at the kitchen sink. With hindsight, it probably would have been better not to include this and another coloured soap, but I'll put it down to experience. It was an interesting experiment to show that you can do this with soaps other than castille soaps.

I'll let you know how this batch keeps.  If it does keep well, then I will not be discouraged from using any type of soap and ordinary pre-boiled water in this process in the future, as the results will hopefully be very similar and it is a lot less expensive, giving you 3 or more months' worth of liquid soap and shower gel for next to nothing. I will be trying this soap in the shower and decanted some into the smallest bottle for this purpose as the consistency seemed so much better.  I'll see how I get on with it.

Friday, 23 October 2015

A Strange Week with a Business Focus

It's been a funny old week this week.  There's been ups and downs, disagreements, altered plans, unpleasant surprises, disappointments, and some good stuff too, might I add.  Just the regular stuff of life I guess.

To take my mind off things, my main focus has been on trying to boost sales and find new revenue streams for my small business.  Things have been going reasonably well and seasonal sales have been improving slightly on last year, which was my best year yet, so I can't grumble.

I cannot, however, sit on my laurels, as has been demonstrated this week, as there are always new sellers coming to the market, with new ideas and products and lower prices, so I have to make sure I'm offering value for money and something a little bit different from other sellers.  I find it challenging in a good way, as it forces me to get a bit more creative.

I sell mainly on eBay, and it's a very competitive market.  I know that sometimes eBay does get a bad press and some people don't like it, and I myself do have the odd negative experience when buying, but on the whole I do find it a great place to trade. I don't necessarily sell at the very cheapest prices, , but I do like to think I provide good value, a good prompt service and that my customers are happy. It also provides me with lots of different challenges which I relish.

This week, for example, I have noticed that sales have dropped off a little compared to previous weeks and this may be because we are approaching the end of the month and people don't have any spare cash, but it also may be that new sellers with cheaper prices have come into the market and I have lost sales through this, which is disappointing, but it's life. At times like this I always look around at what other sellers are doing and think of ways that I can make changes to improve sales.

At first, I was a bit worried, I wondered and still do wonder if my sales will continue, but they are still trickling in, so I'm a little reassured.  I'm still trying to counter competition by being innovative where I can and introducing new products that no-one else is selling.  You can't always just lower your prices and get into a price war, as who knows what each seller's buying price is, it can vary depending on volumes.  I also don't believe in selling things at a loss just to keep selling, unless it's a case of wanting to sell off old stock.  That isn't really the point of being in business to me.

Having said all of this, I do like selling on eBay, and my customers are great.  I also come across some great sellers too, as I like to trade with other eBayers and support other business and individual sellers within the eBay community. It is also a very convenient place to buy and sell, as most things get sent from and delivered to my front door.  I do of course shop outside of eBay for some things, which helps me to offer things that are new and not replicated hundreds of times over.

Selling online also has the added advantage of not having the overheads that I might otherwise have, if I sold any other way and in addition, to be able to do the work from my kitchen table and spare bedroom is also a very important bonus.  I would never have imagined that I could be doing this 15 years ago, when I used to wish I could have my own shop and run my own business.  How things have changed, and for the better in many ways.

It also amazes me how my sales reach the farthest flung corners of the UK and I am constantly amazed, from a buying point of view, at how even the most difficult thing to track down in your local vicinity, can be found with a very quick search.

This is not an out and out advert for eBay, but I do appreciate it as a market place and I thought a post on what I do on a daily basis, might be of interest to some people out there, who might have considered this as a possible venture.  It might not make me a millionaire, but it has certainly been an adventure for me and one I'm still enjoying.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A Bit of a Shopping Fiasco

Monday morning, and I was feeling a bit pleased with myself, as I was looking forward to NOT having to do a big food shop.  I'd decided to order my groceries online over the weekend and collect them from the supermarket myself, so I didn't get all the plastic bags you inevitably get with an online grocery order if you forget to tick the no bags box.

Did I mention the fact I'd got £16 off my shop, using a voucher I'd received through the post, which was just too good to miss out on.  I should have known that it wouldn't be so easy.

I went to my usual class at the gym, met up with a couple of friends there that I hadn't seen in a few weeks and we stopped back to have a good catch up which was great.  I dropped my repeat prescription (thyroid tablets) in at the doctors on my way to pick up the shopping, as I was running desperately low and so when I got to the supermarket at 12.45, I was well within my 12-9pm collection slot and just expecting my order to be brought down to customer services and I'd be on my way.

The only thing was, they didn't seem to have any knowledge of my order and it certainly wasn't ready.  I waited a while, not really knowing what was going on, and then a member of staff came out and it transpired that the order was still being picked.  I must admit I was a little irritated and starting to think I'd have to come back which was very inconvenient.  Anyway, the lady dealing with my order assured me it would be ready within the next half an hour, so I was happy to wait.  Even happier when she offered me a £20 voucher for my inconvenience and happier still when the lady on the customer service desk topped this up with a complimentary bottle of Cava.

I spent the time idly reading blog posts on my phone and when I ran out of those, I did a bit of people watching and had a free cup of tea.

Forty five minutes later and my shopping was ready, albeit with a few substitutions, but by this time I didn't care, as I was just relieved to be able to get my shopping and go, once it had all been put through the till, that is.

The point of this story.  Well, I'd read a post on Caroline Hiron's blog a day or so before, about the demise of customer services in this country and had found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with her. She did point out there were still some exceptions, however, and I have to say that Waitrose, you are one of them, as although it was pretty inconvenient, you certainly made up for it in terms of your generosity and the staff members that dealt with my plight, were nothing but helpful and apologetic. It was reassuring to know that some companies do care about their customers when things go wrong and go out of their way to compensate them.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Stoptober Update - Half Way Mark

As it's now half way through the month of October, I thought I'd do a quick update about where I am in terms of my Stoptober challenge. The aim this month was to avoid any expenditure save for essential groceries, toiletries and household products.

I started off the month by sending off a large order to Ethical Superstore for some organic food cupboard staples i.e. rice, flour, pasta, pasta sauces, tinned goods, agave syrup, sugar, a few toiletries and a 5L bottle of eco toilet cleaner.  As I now have bulk sized washing up liquid, washing liquid and toilet cleaner, there's now not much I am likely to need with regard to household products for quite a while. In addition, due to the size of my order, which I incidentally got 20% off, I got free delivery, which definitely made it worthwhile placing it.

I also placed an order with Approved Foods at the beginning of the month, for more of the same.  I haven't placed an order with them for a few months now, since their delivery prices went up to £5.99. I'd been waiting for a free delivery offer, but none was forthcoming.  Anyway, there was a voucher code for 10% off your purchases with AF on Money Saving Expert at the beginning of the month, which I used to reduce postage to £1.99 and made it worth placing an order on this occasion. In this order I managed to bag some of our dog's favourite dry food and some dog biscuits, plus more cupboard staples, snacks and some other food and drinks.

As a consequence of the above orders, my cupboards were looking pretty full and hence the first few weekly shops weren't too large and were done mostly at Tesco and Lidl, as they kindly supplied me with vouchers for £3 or £4 off £30 plus spends (Tesco) and £5 off a £40 spend (Lidl). At least by shopping at Tesco I am adding to my clubcard points, which should enable me to re-order a couple of free magazine subscriptions next year.

As part of Stoptober, for the first time ever, I've given myself a finite budget for food and another for toiletries, pet care and household products this month and as I have spent money on these things, I have deducted expenditure from the total allocated. It's an experiment to see how I get on with a new budgeting system and seems to be working well enough so far, although I have gone over on the toiletry/household budget already (probably due to over stocking on several items).

I'm still well within on the food budget though and the one remaining shop this month, shouldn't require me to buy too much food as we will only need enough to last a couple of days. Hopefully, using this new system might mean that I start to take more control of our monthly budget and it might even lead to a gradual reduction of it over time.

It will help that we are going away for a few days during half term, towards the end of the month, to attend a family wedding and visit family, so staying within the food budget shouldn't be too difficult.

So, Stoptober has gone reasonably well so far, but I do have a bit of a confession to make, namely that I have been doing a little Christmas shopping in the last couple of weeks, using my credit cards (which get paid off in full every month).  I saw a few sale bargains I couldn't resist, whilst out and about the other weekend and also decided to get a few other bits and pieces for presents, in an attempt at getting a head start on this year's gift buying.

It does feel good to get a few presents bought and put away and I'm trying to convince myself that they are essential purchases, in that I would have to purchase them at some point between now and Christmas anyway.  I have been good in terms of purchasing things for myself though, this month. I'll let you know how I get on with the remainder of the challenge in my final Stoptober post at the end of the month.

Monday, 19 October 2015

My Natural Beauty Product Making Kit

On Friday morning, having got on top of most of my chores the day before, I decided to do a quick re-organisation of my natural beauty product making kit.  It had been growing since I decided to start to make some of my own beauty products a few months ago and was starting to spill out of the basket and box I'd allocated to it, making my cupboard in the hallway look a bit untidy.

I pulled everything out that was relevant and re-organised my shelves a little to be able to allocate a full shelf to these products, in the hope that if they are kept all in one place and easily accessible, I would be able get on with attempting to make more products.

I'm afraid I didn't take before pictures, as I just got stuck in, but here's the shelf afterwards.

Everything did just about fit in in a reasonably organised manner and is now to hand all in one place, which does make life a little easier, as I can pick a recipe, go to the cupboard and get all the ingredients and I'm away.

As you can see, the ingredients are all out on the shelf and are grouped together according to what they are, more or less, i.e. powders, butters, salts, essential oils etc.

The basket contains all the empty receptacles I've been collecting to re-purpose for making my own products.  A few items have been bought specially, but for the most part they are recycled from things I have used up and removed labels from.

The white box (which incidentally was the box I kept LB's baby toiletries in when she was born) now holds lots of packaging products, much of which I am reusing after receiving them in various beauty boxes and delivery boxes.  A few of the more decorative things I have bought to try to make any homemade gifts more appealing.  Sometimes I think that the packaging can make all the difference in getting people to actually appreciate and try something homemade.

Finally, in this jar I'm collecting together lots of end bits of soy wax candles I use, so that I can melt them all down together and make a new candle at some point.  It might be a bit of a mix of smells when it eventually gets made, but hopefully in a good way.

I was reasonably happy with the end result, although I will no doubt tweak it at some point, and hopefully it will spur me on to get creating more products.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Mindless Vandalism

I decided to take another look in the new Little Free Library as I was passing on my dog walk the other morning. Needless to say I was disappointed when I discovered that it had already fallen victim to some mindless vandalism. The perspex sheet in the door had been smashed through leaving jagged edges exposed.  (At least it wasn't glass)

I guess some moron didn't appreciate the organiser's efforts to provide a resource for sharing knowledge/culture and a sense of community spirit. Shame on them.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Wardrobe Audit Tags

The other day when we were out and about, I came across a great idea for keeping a tab on how often you wear the things in your wardrobe.

It was a set of tags on which you write down the last time you wore an item, had it dry cleaned, washed it, etc. I didn't take a photograph, because they were placed right by the till and I would have felt silly. When I got home I checked out similar ideas on Pinterest, but the only one I could come up with was this one, which is apparently by Anthropology.

apparel tags | anthropologie:

I thought these were a genius idea, but didn't want to spend £4 or more on a set, so I decided to do my own hack.  Here's what I came up with.

From my point of view, I was only really interested in knowing how often I wear an item.  I don't have many dry clean only garments and I don't care about documenting what goes with what, so I decided to make them very simple with the name of the garment and then create a tally for each time I wore them.

I had lots of buff tags that I needed to find a use for and this was the perfect project for them. I wrote a brief description of each garment on them and then strung them with some fancy string from my craft supplies and hung them to the relevant coat hanger.

I also hung a pen from some string just inside the wardrobe door, so I could reach for it when I get dressed and put a mark against each item I wear as I get dressed.  This will hopefully encourage me not to forget and as well as being a visual reminder, it meant that I didn't have to hunt around for a pen.

As I was doing this hack immediately after getting caught up on my ironing,  most of my clothes were in there, but I tried to make tags for every item of clothing I could think of that I had, including those that might be in the wash.  Anything I'd worn in the last week I gave a mark, as I have actually worn some little worn things this week for a change. I also made a few spare blank tags for items that I might have forgotten or that might get added in the near future.

It sounds a lot of faff, but it only took about an hour to set up the whole system. I just have to make sure I stick to using it.  Even if I only use it for items I'm thinking of getting rid of because I rarely wear them, it could help me when it comes to my next wardrobe edit.

One of the most satisfying things about this project was to have an excuse to use some of my craft supplies, which otherwise might not get an airing.  After all, that's what I bought them for.

Friday, 16 October 2015

A New Haircut and Other stories.

Yesterday, was a pretty busy day, but by the time I sat down at the computer to write this post, I felt like I'd achieved quite a lot.

The first job of the day, after walking the dog, was to get my hair cut. Once again I ventured out to a local Supercuts, which luckily wasn't busy, so I only had a 10 minute wait.  I'd got to the stage with my hair whereby I just had to get it cut.  I think it might have been 8 or 9 months since I'd had it cut and coloured and it was looking like straw.  I'm trying to grow out bleached highlights and go back to my natural light brown hair colour, to give my hair a rest from the stress for a while and my purse a rest from the expense.

The hairdresser who cut my hair was particularly chatty, but inspite of this I came away, for the first time in ages, with a cut that I actually quite liked.  I looked human again, in a good way and it's amazing what a mental lift you can get just from having your hair chopped off. I realise having said this, that by tomorrow I'll probably be looking like Wurzel Gummage again.  At least I will know, however, that my hair is in infinitely better condition and should be easier to style, especially with a wedding to attend in the next couple of weeks, which was the main reason that I succumbed to the haircut during Stoptober.

Anyway, hair done I headed home to get on with everything else I had to do.  Due to spending most of the weekend out of the house, I'd got behind on chores and needed to catch up.  I spent most of the rest of the afternoon doing a few bits of work and then gradually gravitated toward the ironing, cooking dinner, washing up, putting away two baskets full of ironed clothes and then emptying all the bins ready for collection tomorrow.  Gosh did it feel good to get to that last task.  I could then sit down, do a couple of tasks online ending the day with a bit of leisurely blog reading.

I now feel like I've broken the back of it, and I can hopefully find time tomorrow for an overdue allotment visit and completion of  a few other bits and pieces on my 'to do list'.  I'm hoping to tackle the back garden this weekend, whilst LB is out with her friends, and get it tidied up before winter. The old tomato and bean plants need clearing, the greenhouse needs sweeping out and recovering and I might even start to tackle the Shed of Doom which is full of things that I need to declutter.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

A Birthday Day Out in London

As mentioned in a previous post, it was my birthday last week and on Sunday, we decided to cancel our usual commitments and go out for the day into Central London. We left the dog with the dog trainer for the day, so we didn't have to worry about her and set off quite early so that we could get parked for free in town.

First stop was an exhibition that I wanted to see at the Fashion and Textile museum in Bermondsey, called Liberty in Fashion.  It was an exhibition about the store, it's style and it's distinctive influence in the world of fashion over the decades.  Here's a few photos.

In addition to the Liberty exhibition, there was a small exhibition of the work of CollierCampbell, namely Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, sisters who designed many beautiful fabrics for Liberty and others in the 1960's and 70's.  

This was my favourite part of the exhibition, as I've been a fan of their work for several years now.  It was so lovely to see so many examples of the beautiful fabrics that they designed.

Next we took a walk along the South Bank, and after stopping for lunch, a mooch around the book stalls under Waterloo Bridge (a favourite haunt from our student days)

and the obligatory ice cream on a sunny afternoon,

we caught a boat back down river and paid a visit to the Shard.

Although we didn't pay to go right up to the viewing platform at the very top, (it costs £25 each) we did take in the amazing views from the 34th floor lounge. (We weren't admitted to the bar on the 52nd floor on account of LB being with us)

We then had a drink in a pub, before eventually making our way home.

It was a lovely day out, the sun was shining, we took in the sights, sounds and smells of the city and promised ourselves we would make an effort to come into town more often.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A Few Practical Birthday Presents

This birthday, I couldn't really think of anything I really wanted or needed when it came to giving OH and LB ideas for gifts to buy me.  It's getting increasingly difficult as I get older.  If I want something I buy it and it's come to seem such a waste of money to me, to receive expensive luxuries just because it's my birthday. As a consequence, the presents I got were pretty random really.

They included this one off purchase of May's Vegan Kind beauty box, which I'd asked OH to buy me a few weeks ago. Included in this box were the following;

This Syphoto Total Protection Serum, which I'd tried a sample of and liked,

a full size Green Frog Botanic geranium and peppermint body wash,

a Crazy Rumours tinted lip balm,

a highlighting stick

and some Z-kin skincare samples.  I was quite pleased with the contents. Pretty good value for money for the £18.15 it cost, which included postage.

I also received this lovely book from OH, which will hopefully come in useful when it comes to making more of my own beauty products, along with some Sweet Orange essential oil from LB to add to my growing kit.

I also received some bottles of spirits from OH, which makes me sound like a bit of a lush, but I'm not. I just like the occasional gin or vodka and we'd run out of both. I also persuaded him to buy me this new drink that was being promoted in John Lewis.

It's called Coole Swan and is a white chocolate equivalent of Baileys.  A bit pricier, but very tasty. They mixed it with something green and minty in store to make a minty cocktail, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was.  It needs to be kept in the fridge, but that's fine by me.  I'm partial to drinking a nice glug of this over ice, especially now the nights are drawing in.  It makes me feel all snug, cosy and warm inside. A bit fattening, being made from real cream, so I do try to limit myself.

I also received a lovely surprise present by post from a friend, namely this electric propagator. I've never had one before and am not quite sure how to use it, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. Hopefully it will help me raise better plants for the allotment and garden next year.

Mostly consumable gifts this year, which is all good.  I think I might be turning into one of those people who is very difficult to buy a present for.  I don't quite know how that happened.  Having said that, I'm always grateful for and appreciative of any gift that I receive and loved everything I received this year.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Another Little Free Library

The other morning whilst walking the dog, I came across another Little Free Library in our neighbourhood. It seems to have recently appeared next to this community garden that has been built on some unused land alongside some garages on a local estate.

As I walk the dog near here every week, it will be a very convenient resource, both to borrow from and donate any unwanted books.  I took a look in it whilst I was passing.  To be honest there were a few books we already had or that I had read, and not really many that appealed to me. I did take this one which looked vaguely interesting. We'll see.

I liked the little quote on the top of the library box.  'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need'.

I can see me stopping at this little library on a regular basis from now on.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Making Some Peppermint Lip Balm

It's been a while since I made any homemade cosmetics/toiletries using the stash of ingredients I bought a couple of months ago.  I had every intention of making some things over the summer holidays, but as with many good intentions, they don't always materialise into action.

This week, however, inspired by Nina from Shalom Mama and her free ebook on Natural Gift Ideas, after downloading it, I couldn't wait to try out one of her recipes and it was probably one of the simplest recipes I've found yet.

I did deviate from the amounts used in Nina's recipe, as I wanted just one or two pots and not 8, to try it out, so I just used a teaspoon of coconut oil, a teaspoon of beeswax pellets and 5 or 6 drops of peppermint essential oil.

The coconut oil and beeswax were melted over a bain marie and then once taken off the heat, the essential oil was added to the mixture and then everything was mixed together before being poured into some little pots I had kept from some natural beauty product samples, and left to set.  The whole process probably took just 10 minutes.  Here's the result.

Two small pots of peppermint lip balm that feels wonderfully tingly on the lips.  Couldn't be simpler. I'm seriously thinking of making some of these as gifts this Christmas.

I think my efforts must have spurred on LB too, as when I got up the following morning, she too had been busy making her own natural Grapefruit Lip Scrub, which looked very pretty and tasted pretty nice too.

She used a recipe from YouTube, not sure which one, but it included the following.

1 and a half tablespoons of Granulated sugar
1 tsp Coconut oil
Half a teaspoon of coarse sea salt
A few drops of red food colouring
3-4 drops Grapefruit essential oil

Mix together and put into a lidded container.  Rub over lips to remove any dry skin.

This recipe made this small jar, plus a bit left over that we used for trying it out.