Sunday, 31 January 2016

A Semi-Productive Saturday

Saturday, here was a chilled affair. In the morning OH went out with the dog, and LB was at rehearsals for her school production, so I had the house to myself for a couple of hours which is always nice.

I did what I often do and caught up on YouTube videos whilst emptying the ironing basket, in my nightie! I like mornings like this and it's the only morning I don't have to be up and out with the dog, so I relish it.

After putting the laundry away, I got ready.  LB came home and then went out again, shopping with some friends from Primary school.  I was pleased for her as she's had a rough week at school.  Some so-called 'friends' have been making her life miserable this week which has been upsetting.  It was good for her morale to go out with some different friends and have a nice time.

OH and I headed out to a lovely cafe up on the high street for lunch, as a treat.  My lunch was halloumi, spinach and poached eggs on sour dough toast, with a lovely little side salad.  I didn't take a photo as I find it embarrassing photographing my food in a busy cafe.  Very tasty and filling though.

We bumped into a neighbour on the way, who is doing us the favour of taking LB's old single bed off our hands for his daughter.  This will clear the bed out of the spare room, ready to accommodate our bed when our new one arrives soon. It saves us a Give and Take run with it or a call to the council to collect it. It is a nice bed though and in pretty good condition, so hopefully it will serve them well.

The afternoon was spent doing a few more domestic tasks, although not in the kitchen.  I wasn't in the mood for any more deep cleaning. Instead, I swept the front path, which was caked in leaves, swept and mopped through the hall, which was muddy, hoovered the stairs/landings and a couple of the bedrooms, and then I cleared out all of the rubbish that's been building up in the car since Christmas.

The latter is one of those jobs that I've meant to do every time I've got into it, but didn't have a carrier bag to put the rubbish into, so it got left. For the first time ever, I've now put a couple of rolled up re-usuable bags and a few plastic carrier bags into a pocket in the back of the car, so there's always one there when I need one. Call me Mrs Proactive!

A late afternoon/evening dog walk and then Spag Bol for tea, followed by a night in in front of the TV watching The Killing on a box set we've borrowed from someone at the gym. Not highly exciting, but satisfying in lots of small ways.

It's always the small things that make it a good day, don't you think?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Living With Less Stuff - January 2016

As mentioned in my last Getting Tough on Stuff post of 2015, I've renamed my decluttering challenge for 2016 and the series will now be given the title 'Living With Less Stuff'.  I've also tried to keep it real this year, and due to the amount of items decluttered last year (over 1250), I have lowered the total I am aiming to declutter this year to at least 500 items, which equates to about 42 items per month. If I manage more, then that's great, but I didn't want to get too ambitious and not be able to achieve the target.

This year's challenge got off to a brilliant start this month, as a total of 135 items got donated or put aside for donation. Fortunately for me, there was a Give and Take event towards the end of the month and most of the donations went there, which helped to clear some much needed space in my sewing room.

Here's what it looked like last week

and here's the room now.

It's looking so much better.  I could even get access and do some cleaning of shelves and skirtings last Sunday, when most of the room got a bit of a spring clean.  There are still a few small areas to tackle, but I will do those when I get the chance.

The box left in the centre is the more valuable/collectable items I need to take to the charity shop and there's also a bag of books behind it to take to the Little Free Library.

Some other decluttering news was that OH donated a full drum kit to the school this month.  It was bought for LB one Christmas, but she never took to playing it.  The school were very glad of it and it felt good to donate it within the local community, so it can be used by other children. He was just glad to free up some space in his office, where it had resided for the last few years.

I think we learned a big lesson there, about trying too hard to encourage LB in a particular musical direction.  Turns out it's singing that she enjoys most and you don't need an instrument to do that (apart from your voice).

I'm now really looking forward to the delivery of our new bed in the next week or so, as this will encourage me to go through all the things I am currently keeping under our bed and in other parts of our bedroom, and get a bit more ruthless.  I'd like the bedroom to be as uncluttered as I can possibly make it, to aid sleep mainly, but also because we may be having some work done in there at some point this year.

I'm also aiming to completely empty one side of the linen cupboard on the landing, in order to give a permanent home to the vacuum cleaner, which currently generally ends up kicking around in front of it, on one of the other landings or in one of the rooms.

It's a small thing, but it will make a big difference to me, as invariably it causes the landings/rooms to look cluttered, plus I'm frightened that someone will end up tripping over it and falling down the stairs.

Slow, but steady progress towards a life of living with less stuff. I'll be back with another update next month.

Friday, 29 January 2016

The Big Spring Clean Begins

This Thursday, tax return done, I decided to start work on a big spring clean of the house.

I deployed Sophia's method (as mentioned in a previous blog post) and set the timer for one hour, with the aim of cleaning the main kitchen windowsill above the sink. It was very dusty and I had been wanting to tackle it for quite a while.

Surprisingly, it took the full hour, as I had to remove everything, clean the sill and windows and wash all the ceramics, before returning them to the sill.  I also took the time to clean the leaves of some of the plants, which were very dusty. They looked a lot better for it though.

Shiny leaves

I then left it at that, thinking I might do another hour the following day and go through the house at a steady pace, deep cleaning for an hour a day over the next few weeks.

Later in the evening, however, there wasn't much on the TV, so determined to get into every nook and cranny, I decided to clean the cupboard tops in the kitchen.

I wanted to tackle this job first, as it hasn't been done for a couple of years and they were filthy. I also wanted to start the deep clean from the top down, so as not to re-dirty lower areas by cleaning the tops later. I didn't set the alarm for this job, as I just wanted to get it done however long it took. Out came the stepladders and up I went.

Here's a picture of what they looked like before I started, covered in a thick layer of dust and grime. (Please excuse the fact that we only painted part way along here)

It took quite a bit of elbow grease, especially the ones closest to the cooker, due to the fact that grease from cooking had deposited itself here along with the dust. Eventually though, I got them all done.

Here's a picture of my now clean cupboard tops.

So much better.  If we ever refurbish this kitchen, I would definitely like floor to ceiling cupboards with inaccessible tops, as this was a thoroughly horrible job. It will be interesting to see how quickly dust accumulates here and whether if I wipe them down more regularly, how much easier it might make the job.

I'm keeping a written record of what and when things get cleaned this time around, so that I can start to form some sort of regular cleaning routine, one of this year's aims.

For tomorrow's hour of cleaning, it's the turn of the fridge top, cooker hood and wall racks.  Wish me luck.  I'll keep you posted on progress.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


After a whole month of procrastination, and with 4 days left to go until the final submission date, I finally completed my tax return yesterday and submitted it.  I'd holed myself up for the last two days, determined to get it done, before any last minute rush crashes the system.

It's late for me this year, but I just couldn't work up any enthusiasm for it.  I kept receiving reminders from the HMRC by email, as it got nearer the date, which finally made me knuckle down.

To try to prevent repeating the same scenario next year, I have already worked out my return for next year, bar the two months or so that are left of this financial year.  I'll just have to update the figures once April comes around and I'll be ready to submit it.  It's a great relief to know that I've already done most of the work for next year's return and won't have it hanging over me like it has this January.

Once I get into the flow, I really enjoy messing about with figures, putting my paperwork in order and organising everything.  I do love the feeling that comes with having everything in order, but clearing my mind and the table to get down to business just defeats me sometimes.

I haven't actually traded on eBay at all so far this year.  The lead in to Christmas was so intense and busy that I just needed to take a step back from it and get on with other things at home.  Once I've got on top of the housework later this week, I'll start thinking about setting up some new listings and get back to it.  I figure that if people are anything like me, they don't have much money to spend in January either, which was another reason for not trading.

I've promised myself to try to cut down any waste from my business and focus on trying to use more recyclable packaging this year. Going are the poly postal bags, once I've used what I have left, I won't be ordering anymore, and in come plain white paper envelopes. (The fabric will still be packed and protected in cello bags inside the envelope, just in case the parcels get wet!) I'm also cutting back on some other needless waste such as business cards, which really aren't necessary for my small business.

In addition, for the past couple of years I've been focussing on selling stock I already have instead of buying in new stock and I'm going to do the same this year.  I may buy some new stock, to keep things fresh, but I'm being very careful to buy only what I think will sell well and quickly.  That is the most difficult part of selling on line - buying right and at the right price - as it is a very competitive market place, as I've mentioned in the past.

Hopefully, by next week, I'll have found my work mojo again and will get back to business. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the freedom of not having to think about my tax return again for another year and indulge in a bit of daydreaming about what I can now do with my time for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Loving on YouTube Right Now

Following on from my Loving on TV post yesterday, I thought I would do a post about some of the YouTube channels that I've been particularly enjoying watching lately.

The first channel is Sophia's channel at My Great Challenge.  I've mentioned her channel before with regard to the DIY projects she attempts, but this month as well as continuing with her Bathroom Makeover challenge, she has made a series of One Hour Cleaning videos to show what can be achieved if you set aside an hour here and there to do a bit of cleaning.

I might use this type of system in the new cleaning routine I'm trying to instigate.  Setting myself a time limit to do what I can within, can seem a lot less overwhelming than spending prolonged periods totally blitzing a room from top to bottom.

Sophia speeds up the process for the purpose of the video, so the videos aren't in fact all that long, but I love watching these to get a bit of inspiration and motivation for tackling areas of the house that really need it.

I particularly liked her recent One Hour Kitchen Cleaning Video (especially watching the dog licking the dirty plates in the dishwasher - cute!) and her husband coming in covered in snow after she'd finished.  Just so typical of family life.

She's funny and I really like her gutsy, down to earth attitude. Check out some of her room makeover videos too, she's really not frightened to get stuck into DIY.

The second channel that I've been enjoying this January is Kristy's channel at The Former Mrs Jones. She is a  follower of Dave Ramsey's Live Live Like No-one Else budget management programme and has been on a No Spend Month during January.

She also posts cleaning videos, grocery haul videos and other videos about the family's daily life.  I enjoy her videos as she is really unaffected and has a really positive attitude towards living a frugal lifestyle.

Another channel that I've really been enjoying lately, a UK one this time, has been Mikhaila's channel at Diary of a Spendaholic.  A self-confessed makeup and clothes hoarder, she has been posting a series of decluttering videos this January and has gone through several rooms in her house, trying to declutter at least 10 items from each one.

We all need a bit of encouragement from time to time to keep the decluttering process going and I've found some of her videos have inspired me to go and declutter a few more things.

Hop over onto YouTube and check out these channels, I hope you find some of their videos provide you with inspiration too.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Loving on TV Lately

Now, we're in the depths of winter (yes I know, it doesn't feel a lot like winter this year), I've been watching a bit more TV of an evening.  It has helped that there has been some pretty good programming lately. (For a change)  Here are a few of my current favourites:

War and Peace, BBC1 Sunday at 9pm

Although I'm not always a fan of Sunday Evening historic television dramas, this six part series really grabbed me from the start.  It may be because it is set in a country other than here, but I am loving the quality of this production and watch with interest the fates of Pierre, Natasha, Andre and Marie amongst others.  The presence of some completely vile characters makes it such compulsive viewing.

Shetland  BBC1 Friday 9pm

I'm finding myself enjoying this series of this Scottish Crime drama set on the Shetland Isles. The setting is beautiful and the storyline interesting.

How To Diet Well  Channel 4, Monday 8pm

This series, now finished, has been really interesting to watch, as it tests out various diets on the market on willing volunteers.  Some were quite ridiculous, whilst others seemed pretty doable. Although I'm not a great fan of dieting, I'm always interested in seeing how other people do it, especially when they get good results.

Silent Witness BBC1 Monday/Tuesday 9pm

I am really loving this series, which I have watched in the past, but not religiously.  I've suddenly, however, become an avid fan and the fact that each storyline is spread over two nights, means that there is something worth watching most nights of the week, if only for an hour.  This means that the hand sewing is coming along nicely, which is an added bonus.

And there's more to come,  as Vera returns to the screen this Sunday.  I love this crime drama with the indomitable Brenda Blethyn.  Really looking forward to watching it again, although I might have to put it on a series link recording if it clashes with War and Peace.

Have you been enjoying any particular TV programmes lately?

Monday, 25 January 2016

LB's Wardrobe Rejuvenation Begins

As intended in my New Year Aims this year, this month I have made a start on rejuvenating LB's wardrobe.  I was aided and abetted by the sales and although it meant spending a little more than I wanted to on my cards this month, it made sense to take advantage of the really good sale prices and I managed to find her some great items that she is really happy with. (The balances will get paid straight off next month!)

Thus far, I have replenished her stock of black jersey leggings, a staple of her wardrobe.  They're useful both for general wear and for PE at school.  I initially bought her two pairs from H&M (her favourite brand) and then when an item I ordered for myself in the sales didn't fit, I returned it and exchanged it for another two pairs.

I also bought her a new pair of black tracksuit bottoms, which can also can be worn in school for PE and outside of school for lounge wear.  I ended up liking these myself and treated myself (from my Christmas gift money) to two pairs in my size, to wear to the gym in winter, as they are thicker than my usual hareem pants. In addition, I purchased some new underwear for her which was badly needed.  I opted for slightly more expensive items this time, which I'm hoping will last much longer and wear better.

I did also buy some non-clothing items for her wardrobe, namely new felt covered coat hangers. The ones she was using were children's sized coat hangers and just weren't big enough to hold her clothes any longer, causing them to slip off and drop on the floor in a crumpled heap.  (Very irritating after I've taken the time to iron them).  Two packs of 10 at £3.50 each and this problem should now be resolved, and a lot of frustration avoided from now on.  The old wooden coat hangers, all 25 of them, have now been added to the donation pile and will be sent to the charity shop, where they can either use them, or sell them.

My final purchases this sale season for LB's wardrobe were from ASOS, where I was able to purchase some lovely and moreover, inexpensive skater skirts and a button front denim skirt which she loves.  She currently only has her school skirts to wear, which she sometimes wears out of school, so she was super happy with these and loves wearing them.  It's nice to see her enjoying her new clothes and I was happy because she can now save her school skirts for school use only.

Funds for any further purchases have now dried up for this month, but I may purchase a  couple more items next month, if I can afford to.  The purchases I've made already, however, will go a long way towards making her wardrobe work much better for her.  It's been a while since I've spent money on clothes for her, but it feels good to now treat her to some new items.

In addition to my purchases, she has also purchased a sweater with her birthday/Christmas money and has received two pairs of trainers as birthday/Christmas gifts, so she is now pretty sorted on the footwear front for the time being.  I do still need to re-heel her school shoes (again!!) and at some point buy her a couple of new school shirts, which I will try to do next month.

I'm now well on my way to fulfilling this particular aim for 2016, although as the seasons progress, there may be more purchases necessary.  Just part and parcel of having a now not so small person in the family who is still growing.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Another Give and Take Event

Saturday was the day of another local Give and Take Event, where you donate any unwanted household/kitchen items, books, clothes, etc. and local people can take them away for free.  As stated in the marketing for the event, it's like a jumble sale without any money changing hands.

As mentioned in my post the other day, I had 3 boxes and two carrier bags full of unwanted items (plus a child's bike) that we've gathered together over the last couple of months, that I took along to this event.

I had to wait for OH to get back from an out of town dog walk, before I could head off, so I spent most of the morning sweeping through the house, as so much mud gets brought in from dog walks. I washed up, put some washing on and tidied around trying to thin out the kitchen worktops and put things away that I had been ignoring for weeks, but which were unnecessarily cluttering the house up. It felt very satisfying.

This month's event was taking place at the furthest edge of the borough, so I had to use the sat nav to find my way there, but it wasn't too tricky to find this time, unlike some I've been to.

It wasn't, however, very easy to drop off the items, as there was absolutely no parking available and I had to double park to unload.  As a consequence, I didn't get to go around myself this time and see if there was anything I wanted to take home with me, but it's probably just as well as I'm trying to reduce the stuff we've got, not acquire more.

It also occurred to me on the way home that I really should take some photographs from an event one time and post them here on the blog, to give a more visual idea of these events, which I really like and think are a wonderful idea.  I may try that next time I go to one where I get the chance to walk around myself.

Once home, it did feel good to get all of the boxes and bags out of the house.  Having made some space in the sewing room, I was inspired to finally get the ladders out and OH put the Christmas bags back in the loft and some of the plastic tubs back on the shelves.

We now have room to dismantle the single bed, ready to donate that to the next event in the borough and free up the space for our current bed to be moved into this room when our new bed arrives.

It's like being on a merry go round here sometimes, but I find by constantly moving things around, you eventually do find just the right spot for everything and when you do it makes life so much easier and run so much smoother.  I'm almost there, but not quite.

Anyway, the remainder of Saturday afternoon was spent tidying around the sewing room and then I spent a couple of hours doing some quilting. I'm super broke, it being the last week of January, so making something from nothing is the best thing I can think of to do with my time this week.  The Christmas quilt is coming along well and I'm hoping to have it all but finished by the end of the month.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Procrastinating Again and a New Eating Regime

This week, I've indulged in a lot of procrastination.  My tax return is due to be filed online and I just can't get into the right frame of mind to do it.  It didn't help that I found an interesting book in the Little Free Library, whilst walking the dog.  It was this one.

I've been watching a diet programme on TV for the last couple of weeks.  It's called How to Lose Weight Well and it showcases lots of different diets, by getting volunteers who want to lose weight to follow them for either a week, six weeks or four months.

This week one of the diets featured was the Eat Right Diet, where one of the 'Shape Shifters' or six week dieters, had to follow this diet and eat according to their blood type.  Hats off to her, she lost over a stone in six weeks, which was pretty impressive.

Now, I'm not looking to go on a diet, although I would like to lose the weight I put on over Christmas and a bit more if I can, before I hit the big 50, but when I saw this book I thought I'd give it a read. The rest of the morning was then just about given over to it, once I got my nose in it.

I think I know my blood type, but might need to double check it when I next go to give blood next month.  If I'm right, I might just have to forgo a couple of my favourite foods according to this book. It was very interesting reading indeed and made a whole lot of sense (don't they always).  It's less of a diet book and more of a book about eating for optimum health, weight loss supposedly being a by product of eating right for your blood type.

I've made lists of the suggested highly beneficial foods, neutral foods (allowable foods in small doses that have no real benefit nor any real detriment) and foods to avoid, and I'm going to use it to guide my eating for the next few weeks and see how I go.  I may not stick strictly to it, but I'm going to do my best and see how I feel. I did pick up a few bits during the week to assist me in my new regime, but will probably phase it in gradually, as I use up what we already have in.

The main things I potentially need to forgo are acidic foods such as oranges/vinegars and wheat based foods such as bread and pasta, mainly to help increase my metabolic rate, because my blood type supposedly doesn't metabolise these things well. I can opt for gluten free options, but I don't actually eat a whole lot of bread anyway. My breakfasts at the moment, however, are largely wheat based, so I need to make some changes there.  Reading the book has inspired me to get back to eating my chia seeds with almond milk again, which I haven't touched so far this year, so if nothing better comes of it, then that alone is a good thing. It helps that OH is happy to go along with some of the changes, i.e. cutting out gluten, as he is trying to lose weight for his cycling and thinks he might benefit from this too.

According to my blood type, I should also be partaking of intense aerobic exercise 3-4 times per week, which I currently already do, so I seem to be part way there already, just a few tweaks to the diet.  Apparently, this is the way my blood type responds best to stress, which goes directly to muscles and needs to be released via exercise.  This in turn helps to control weight, help balance emotions and maintain a strong self image, all of which I already knew and the reasons why I do exercise regularly already.

This eating system is also supposed to improve thyroid function which tends to be slow in my blood type and as I have been diagnosed with a hypoactive thyroid, this seems to fit well with my medical history.  I was rather surprised to note how many things I currently eat that are potentially slowing down my metabolism/thyroid function or impairing calorie utilisation.

It will be interesting to see what happens if I follow this system. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Starting to Clear the Backlog

The last few months have seen a definite increase in the amount of junk that has accumulated in my sewing room, rendering the room virtually unusable. Most of the space is once again taken up by the ongoing donation pile.

I don't think I've taken any items to the charity shop or a Give and Take since October last year, so the room is looking incredibly cluttered.

It hasn't helped that I still haven't returned the Christmas decorations to the loft.  Anyway, here's a picture so you can see the damage;

The other night I began to make some inroads into tidying this room.  The main reason for doing this is threefold.

One - I want Christmas to be packed away until next year.

Two - We're moving a double bed in here when our new bed comes and I need some space to put it.

Three - There is a Give and Take in the borough on Saturday and I'm intending to take most of the donation pile there.

It also didn't help that I had to take everything off the bed at the weekend, so we could use the two single mattresses on it for LB's Birthday sleepover.  They and the bed will be donated too, once the new bed arrives. One came from our rented house and the other was LB's, along with the bed.

Once they were back in place, I could put a few things on the bed temporarily and free a bit of floor space.  Most of the things on the bed are plastic storage boxes, that need to go back on the shelf, but can't until the Christmas decorations are back in the loft, as they block access to the hatch. The mess is all interconnected and just needs unravelling.

I started by sorting through the boxes of stuff for donation and pulled out a box full of slightly better quality or newer stuff that I want to donate to the charity shop. Then, I pulled out a bag full of books I want to put in the Little Free Library.  The rest is going to the Give and Take, along with an old bike of LB's which is in the garden.

I still have some work to do on tidying up some fabric scraps left over from the Christmas rush on eBay, and once I've trimmed and bagged these up, I can put them away until later in the year, which will clear more space.

I had also pulled out lots of fabrics that I was going to use for Furoshiki purposes. These can go back to where I got them from and I can pull them out as and when I need them, instead of leaving them in piles everywhere.

This was the room after a little bit of reorganisation.  A very slight improvement, but much better organised, even though it doesn't look like it. I'll post again when I've done some actual clearing and putting away (as opposed to moving things around that is!) and have really made a difference.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

One Down, Nine to Go - Project 10 Pan

The above title does of course refer to the Project 10 Pan challenge that I set myself towards the end of last year.  It has taken six weeks, but I have finally finished using one of the ten beauty items that I am focusing on using up in this project.

The item in question is the Clinique chubby stick lipstick pictured here.

I have been using it virtually daily for the past six weeks, and although it didn't have much left to it, as can be attested to by the photograph, it still took a good long while to use up completely.

I must admit that focussing on this project has made me realise how long many things actually last and how few beauty items you actually need to own.  I guess most of us do like a bit of choice and so often buy more than one lipstick, for example, which is what the cosmetic companies rely on in their clever marketing and by constantly bringing out new ranges and colours.

A couple of the other items on the list of 10 are nearing their end, so I'll post again when more
progress has been made.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

My New Best Cleaning Friend

A couple of years ago, when I was ordering regularly from Approved Foods, I ordered what I thought were a couple of bottles of regular handwash at a knockdown price of 50p each.  When they actually arrived they were in fact alcohol based hand disinfectant, of the kind you find on a hospital ward!

Needless to say, these two bottles have been kicking around the kitchen ever since and haven't really been used all that much.  I keep one in the downstairs toilet and use it occasionally, as there is no sink in there, but usually I go and wash my hands at the kitchen sink.

Anyway, I've been wanting to find a use for them and can't really bring myself to throw them out.  I know they're not the most eco-friendly product, so I don't want to put them down the sink.

Fast forward a couple of years and I did use them once to clean my hands before changing a dressing on OH's shoulder recently and I attempted to use some in a homemade spray on deodorant, which needless to say, didn't work at all.

Then whilst taking a look at Pinterest I came upon an article entitled 20 uses for Rubbing Alcohol. Well, one of the ingredients of this hand disinfectant is rubbing alcohol, namely Isopropyl Alcohol, so I figured it would probably work in a similar way.

Reading the list, it was interesting to note that it had quite a few uses:

Removing sticky residue from labels
Cutting through grease (i.e. on the top of the cooker hood)
Removing scuff marks from floors
De-icing windscreens and helping to prevent them frosting up
Removing permanent marker
Cleaning jewellery
Cleaning mirrors
Making stainless steel sparkle
Deodorising shoes
Sterilising scissors/tweezers, etc.
Getting rid of onion smells from hands, etc.
Cleaning white boards
Tick removal!!
Cleaning smartphones


Well, guess who is my new best cleaning friend.  I put some in a spray bottle and tried it on a stubborn scuff mark on our kitchen cupboards that had been annoying me for ages.  I'd tried various cleaners on it and not been able to budge it a bit. It took a bit of elbow grease, but here's the before:

and the after.

Like new. I also used it to remove some pen marks from one of the drawer fronts too, but didn't photograph these. I then tried it on the cooker hood and got very quick results with the minimum of elbow grease.

It's now earned it's place in the under sink cupboard.  I'll be trying some more of the above uses out out in the near future.

Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Monday, 18 January 2016

This Weekend

It's been a busy weekend this weekend.  Friday started with a visit to the dentist and another filling. It worked out well for me, as I was due to have two fillings done together, at a cost of £180, but luckily the dentist decided that another single filling was more important, so it cost just £90 instead this visit.

The higher bill has thus been put off until next month, which suited my finances much better and which will be my final treatment for now. The dentist also did a bit of cleaning around some of my teeth and removed some stains I was concerned about, so I came away with them looking a whole lot better which was nice.

On Friday evening we were invited round to the house of some friends for dinner, which made a lovely change.  We had a nice evening catching up on each others' news, but it did end up being quite a late night.

Saturday morning, and as posted about yesterday, we headed off to buy a new bed, followed by taking the dog on a country walk and then came home so that I could clean up the house, ready for LB's friends descending for her birthday sleep over.

I wasn't feeling too well by the evening and retired to bed for an hour at one point, just very tired and lethargic.  I couldn't really put my finger on what was wrong with me.  Anyway, I woke up feeling just fine on Sunday and after walking the dog, I headed off to my class at the gym.

Sunday afternoon was a case of getting the house back in order after all the girls had left and then I did my usual of spending the afternoon ironing, whilst catching up on the YouTubers I follow.

Aside from actually doing stuff this weekend, we made a fundamental decision about the garden, which at the moment is a muddy quagmire.  We were going to replace the grass (mud) with artificial grass this year, but have now decided to re-landscape the garden entirely and do away with the grass altogether.

LB is growing up so fast and hardly ever uses the garden anymore, so the dog is the main user now and she just runs up and down and around it. She would do this whether there was grass there or not. Anyway, we've now decided that we're going to build some raised beds to grow veggies at home and gravel or mulch the paths between.  The dog can then run around these and not bring lots of mud into the house.

It's a decision I've put off for years, as I did like a small lawn, but to be honest it just doesn't suit our current lifestyle, and a raised bed garden would be so much more practical for us now.  Having made the decision, I am really looking forward to getting it done.

It will most likely mean giving up my allotment once the beds are in place and growing everything I want to at home, but I will keep it for this growing season, until the garden here is completed.  This will be very liberating and will simplify life for me quite a lot, as I will no longer have to make time to visit the plot.  It will be sad after 10 years of allotmenteering to give it up, but it's something I've been thinking about for a couple of years now, and I think I am finally ready to move on to gardening pastures new.

I'll keep you posted on progress with the project, as and when it happens.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Bed Hunting

This weekend, we finally ventured out to look for a new bed. I had been nagging OH about getting a new bed for months, as I am having difficulty sleeping on our current mattress, due to some springs poking through and the fact that it seems to dip towards the edges, giving me the sensation of falling out of bed. In addition, the mattress is too small, being just a double and we really need at least a king sized bed.

We've been using the current mattress, which is an inexpensive IKEA one, since we emptied our old house, which we rented out for 4 years before selling it 5 years ago. Previous to that it had been used by our tenants for 4 years, rendering it about 9 years old. (They were a nice group of girls, hence, why we didn't mind using it ourselves)  Consequently, I think it has just about had it's day, but we will keep it and use it in the spare room for the time being.

We haven't bought a bed for ourselves in nearly 20 years and I had set my heart on a divan bed this time around.  I didn't want a space under the bed that allows dust to gather and requires me to hoover and mop there regularly.  I know I probably will still need to do this occasionally with a divan, but not as often.  I also, however, did need some storage, as I do keep a few things under the bed and was eyeing up a bed with both divan drawers plus a lift up mattress with ottoman storage space underneath.  I 'd seen a particular bed I liked in a magazine, so on Saturday morning we went along to the store in question to check it out.

OH did his usual of giving it a good thorough inspection, drawers, gas pistons, slats and all, to the astonishment of the salesman.  I thought he was going to refuse to buy it, but he just had reservations about the drawers, which to be honest didn't seem particularly robust and might not stand up to regular use for storing linen, which is what I had in mind. We finally decided to buy the same bed, but without the drawers and with a deeper ottoman storage space.

Divan base chosen, we then went about trying out all the mattresses to find one we liked.  We differed somewhat in our preferences.  OH favoured the Tempur Memory Foam type mattresses, whilst I preferred the more traditional pocket sprung type. Eventually we agreed on the latter, with a wool filling, so I was very happy, especially as it is made of much more natural and recyclable fibres. We didn't go too mad and the bed and mattress were very reasonably priced.

We finished our shopping trip by treating ourselves to new pillows, in this respect we could each indulge our respective preferences, he a memory foam one and I a goose feather and down one, and having also helped ourselves to a coffee and free cookies whilst shopping, we left happy with our morning's purchases. Incidentally, I also managed to get another £50 off the sale prices, with a voucher I'd saved from the magazine, so we effectively got free delivery.

Talking of delivery, it is due arrive in 3-4 weeks time and I can't wait.  In the meantime, I have already ordered a new Egyptian Cotton Quilt cover set and I intend to buy some good quality mattress and pillow protectors and really do it properly for once in our lives.  If we can't do it now, we never will.

I'll post photos when the bed arrives and I've organised the storage underneath it. Call me strange, but I'm really excited about getting it and being able to reorganise storage in the bedroom on account of it and hopefully simplify our lives a little, not to mention get a better night's sleep.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Unfinished Patchwork Projects Update - Part 1

For the past 2-3 years, I've been working on two very different quilt projects; one a Christmas themed lap quilt made with leftover small pieces of Christmas fabric, which I made as a way of using up fabric scraps, of which I had many, and the other a big thick king sized quilt for our bed.

I haven't done much work on either quilt for over a year, but in the last couple of weeks I have started to pick up the Christmas lap quilt again and make progress.  I'd virtually done all of the small hand patchwork piecing, and needed to do some work on making and attaching a border, backing it, filling it, quilting it and binding it, so there was still a lot of work to do.

I have finally got around to making a start on the border, which is pinned in place and now just needs sewing on the machine.  It feels good to be finally moving it on.  I also found some fabric for the backing and cut it to size (more or less), so that once I have added the border, I can attach the filling and backing and then start on some actual quilting.  I'm not sure if I'll be doing this by hand or machine.

Here's a picture of this quilt with the border loosely pinned in place, along with the backing fabric I've chosen to use.  The border fabric was a piece that I had in my stash, left over from making a Christmas stocking for LB and the backing fabric was some I bought for my business, but won't be selling.

I'm really looking forward to getting this quilt finished, and it will be a lot easier to finish than the larger one. It might be a bit late for this Christmas, but at least I might have it finished for next Christmas!

With regard to the big quilt for our bedroom, it has been folded up and sat on the ottoman at the end of our bed for nearly two years now, as I still have 8 rows of hand quilting to do on it.  This might not sound like much, but it is quite a lot of work, as each row tends to take a couple of hours to do, due to the sheer size and weight of the quilt.  I then need to finish it off with some binding, which I will also do by hand, again due to the thickness of the quilt. I am having to use a very thick waxed cotton, to make it strong enough, one that will not fit through my sewing machine.

This is definitely going to be a very roasty quilt, as it was made using an old duvet as filling. If the weather turns very cold in the next week or so, I might finally be inspired to get it finished and use it.
Below is a picture of it as it is at present.  It is a seriously heavyweight quilt and if we get cold, it could be used as it is, but I would prefer to finish it.  There is no way we will remain cold with this on the bed.

Hopefully, now I'm getting back to working on these unfinished projects, I will be able to report on progress over the next few months and will keep you posted.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Loving Lately

This year, I've decided that instead of posting regular monthly favourites posts, I'm going to make a series of 'Loving Lately' posts about new to me items that I'm really enjoying using or wearing. The main reason for this is that I intend to buy less this year, so I may not have new things every month that I can post about.

Due to receiving a few Christmas presents, I have a few things this month that I am loving, the first one being this wireless mouse.

I know that many people already use them, but I always used the mousepad on the laptop, and as  I am rather heavy handed and was causing it to jam up, OH gave me a wired mouse to use to prolong it's life.  The wired mouse was okay, but I did sometimes get in a tangle and it was one more wire to take with us when we went away.  OH has now set up this new mouse for me and I'm away and loving it.  It does use one AA battery which needs replacing yearly, but as we have lots of rechargeable ones, this isn't too much of an extra outlay or inconvenience.  I'm gradually dragging myself into the future with regard to technology.  Another small step for some and a giant leap for me and I no longer need a mouse mat which is an added bonus.

The next thing I'm loving lately is this dental floss from Radius.  I bought it from Naturisimo along with a second reel of silk floss that I will be trying next.  I find it very easy to use after trying to use a plastic tape type of floss, recommended by my dentist. This felt softer and gentler on my gums, however, it is quite fibrous, as it is made from a natural substance.  Although this particular floss isn't biodegradable, the silk one is, and both are vegan and natural, so I am happier using them, than some well known dental brands.  It is slightly more expensive at £3.99 for a 50m reel, but I am happy to pay that to avoid the discomfort I felt with other brands and to have the knowledge that they are natural products and the silk at least is biodegradable.

Another Christmas gift that I'm loving lately is my Easiyo yoghurt maker. I've finally got around to using it this week as mentioned in another post and have made 2 litres of yoghurt so far.  I've just ordered some low fat flavours, to create more and healthier choices than the full fat sachets I had. This is the mini version which seems to be only available at Lakeland.  The mini sachets seem to only be available here too, but I'm going to use larger sachets and divide them into two pots.  I'm thinking I should actually have gone for the larger version now, but I'm happy to use this one, so that nothing goes to waste.  Here's a picture of the latest yoghurt I made - strawberry flavour.

Finally, my last item is this book that I borrowed from the library before Christmas.

It is written by the Gandy Brothers and tells the story of how they and their siblings were orphaned in the Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004.  It is a very interesting book that recalls their life before, during and after this devastating catastrophic event and how it influenced their decision to create their own social enterprise business, Gandys, a company making rubber flip flops, the sale of which helps support a home for orphans in Sri Lanka.

I didn't actually get to read much of this over the Christmas break, as I'd hoped as I was finishing another book I had started. but came back to it on New Year's Day.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would certainly recommend it. Definitely a thought provoking and inspiring book and it was fascinating to read about how they built their brand from scratch.  As I have a pair of these flip flops, I can also vouch for what a good product they are, as they are very comfortable to wear.

I'll be back again soon with more things I'm loving lately.

Homemade Stick Deodourant

This morning, I ran out of the natural stick deodorant that I bought in the US last year.  It's useful for wearing when I do a class at the gym, as it seems to work well when I get all hot and sweaty.

As I'm on a no spend month with regard to toiletries, buying a natural deodorant stick was out of the question, so it seemed as good a time as any to try and make one myself.  Besides, it could also act as my natural beauty make for January.

I had kept one of OH's empty deodorant stick containers to reuse and I washed mine out ready to use again, so I decided to make two, which meant I wouldn't need to make any more for a while.

I checked out a couple of recipes from YouTube.  One was by Ela Gale, who suggested the following recipe;

2 tbsp coconut oil 
2 tbsp shea butter 
1 tsp sodium bicarbonate/baking soda
3 tbsp cornstarch/bentonite clay (I used 2tbsp cornstarch and 1 tbsp bentonite clay)
1tsp white beeswax
15 drops essential oil of your choice

I melted the coconut oil. shea butter and beeswax in a bain marie. I added 1/4 tsp of vitamin E oil, as this acts as a preservative and helps it keep for longer.  I used peppermint oil in this batch and it made just about enough to make one full stick, plus a bit left over.  

Once melted and the dry ingredients gradually added, I poured it into the stick container and left it in the fridge to set.  I should have made sure to tap it down, as it did sink a little after a while and I could have topped it up with the extra little bit left over, It didn't really matter, however, as it still made a good long stick.

As I had another container, I decided to use up a cornstarch/grapefruit essential oil natural dry shampoo mixture I had made a while back, as I very rarely use it and didn't want to waste it. I used another recipe to make this batch, which will allow me to compare results.

1 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
8 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp vitamin E oil
10 drops Grapefruit essential oil

I actually halved this recipe, as it seemed a lot, but then found I hadn't made enough, so it only half filled the container once I'd tamped it down by tapping it on the worktop to get any air bubbles out. I then left it in the fridge for a couple of hours to set. When it was set, I just twisted it up to the top to use it. It just means it won't last quite as long.  I will double it back up to the above recipe if I make it again.

I was pretty pleased at how easy it was to make.  It can cost anywhere from £5 to £10 to buy a natural deodorant and this didn't cost me anything, as I had all of the ingredients already.  I won't hesitate to make it again, providing it works well.  I just need to test it and make sure it works effectively.

Here's a photo of the sticks once poured

and here's another of them once set and twisted up ready to use. The small tub I will probably use with a lolly stick or small spatula for travelling or if I run out. There was a problem with the blue stick as much of the mixture just dropped to the bottom and won't push up, so the actual stick is only a couple of inches deep, which is a bit of a waste, but I will still use it.  I just might not reuse the container.  I now just need to label them with a sticker or some washi tape and I'm all set.

I'll let you know how I get on with them.  I have read quite a few reports of people having a reaction to baking soda.  I haven't as yet, but it could still happen.  If you do, I wouldn't recommend either of these recipes, but you could try to make the first one without the baking soda, as there is much less in this recipe.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Birthday Girl

This week it was LB's 13th birthday. It's  hard to believe how quickly that has come around.  It seems like yesterday that she was a gorgeous little toddler.  I understand now, when people talk about enjoying their childhood, as before you know it they're all grown up.  It's true.

She had a couple of friends round on the night of her birthday to watch a new TV series that was starting on Netflix and is having a big sleepover here with 6 friends on Saturday evening.  Needless to say, I'll be spending much of the rest of the week cleaning the house in readiness. I'm not sure where they're all going to sleep, but I'm sure they'll work it out between themselves.

I've bought the hot chocolate and popcorn.  Just need to get some ice cream and Coca Cola and we'll probably order in pizza for them all as a treat.  At least there's no party bags anymore, which is one headache I don't miss.

LB has now got to the age where although she enjoys opening some gifts, she is happy to receive money to spend herself, so at this time of year she tends to have more cash to spend than I do.  I'm sure a shopping trip will feature at some point in the near future, as she's still got vouchers and cash from Christmas to spend.  Oh to be young and have no responsibilities.

Talking of Christmas cash, I had a little splurge myself on Monday at TK Maxx, as I had some Christmas gift money to spend myself.  I treated myself to some chunky bamboo socks, a new black zip around purse, some green cable Hunter wellie socks (so I've got a spare pair when my others are in the wash) and a few other bits and pieces that cost very little.  I also bought a big high necked sweater from H&M in the sale for £10, which should come in handy as the weather is due to change imminently.

There wasn't really much that I needed.  I still have £10 left to spend, but will save it for when I see something I really need.

Once all the birthday celebrations are over, I will finally get around to filing my tax return!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Making Yoghurt

Over the past couple of days, I've finally got around to using the new kitchen gadget that I received for Christmas, a mini EasiYo yoghurt maker, bought from Lakeland.

We eat quite a lot of yoghurt in our house, OH especially likes it and I enjoy French set type yoghurts. Buying them, however, does seem to incur quite a bit of waste, especially if the pots aren't thick enough plastic to recycle or the lids aren't foil, so when I saw this option, I thought it might be a good way of minimising waste and recycling.

OH bought me the new mini size which makes 500g of yoghurt at a time, as I thought the 1 litre size might be a bit big for us. He also bought me a couple of extra jars that I requested.  I started off using some vanilla yoghurt sachets, which were very tasty if a touch sweet, but set nicely and the 500g pot full was gone within 24 hours, mainly due to me eating most of it with fruit.

Next, I tried making the strawberry flavour, which proved quite popular with OH.   It takes less than 500mls of tepid water and probably the same of boiling water to make a pot and although I can't honestly say that it works out cheaper than store bought yoghurt, so far I'm pretty happy with the results.

I would say that the main inconveniences are  having to leave the water out on the side to cool down to room temperature before using it and having to leave it overnight to set, but neither of these put me off using it and it is really easy to use. I would definitely recommend it.

It is made by a company from New Zealand and the yoghurt produced is gluten free, contains live lactive cultures which are good for digestive health and is a good source of calcium.

I'm now looking forward to sourcing some different flavours to try when my current supply runs out, as I know there are lots of flavours available and some low fat options too. Does anyone else have one of these, and do you use it regularly? Also, can you recommend any of the flavours?

PLEASE NOTE that this is NOT  a sponsored post and I am NOT receiving any kind of renumeration for writing this post.  I am simply describing my experience of using a product that has been bought by ourselves for our domestic use.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Re-usable Tote Hack

Ever since the Government introduced the charge for plastic bags, I've found myself actually  using them more not less.  The main reason for this is that I didn't have a reusable tote that folded up nice and small and fitted easily in my handbag.

I did buy one on eBay, but it was a very cheap (i.e. £2) nylon one that very soon developed a hole in the bottom seam rendering it useless.

Ever since, for the last 6 weeks or so, I've been meaning to mend it, so that I can pop it in my bag and not be caught short, but just haven't got around to it. Consequently, we've paid for numerous plastic bags over the Christmas period and each time it has really irritated me.

Anyway, the other day, I decided to take a look on Pinterest for patterns showing you how to make a foldable tote bag and whilst in the process I came across a great hack for any existing ones I have. All you need is a small piece of thick elastic 6" long.

Fold the elastic in half and sew the open ends to the inside of the top of an existing tote, right next to one of the handles, making sure the loop points downwards and thus tucks inside the tote bag when you are using it.  I sewed the elastic in by hand, back stitching and going over it twice for strength.

To fold up the tote, tuck the handles inside, then fold both sides in towards the middle 2" at a time until they meet and form one long roll.  Then roll it up from the bottom of the tote until you reach the top, pull out the elastic and loop it over rolled up tote bag.  It should keep it firmly rolled up whilst in your bag and if you can put it in a separate pocket, even better.

I now finally have a strong foldable tote to take with me for those unexpected purchases outside of my weekly shop and it didn't cost me a penny.  I'm now going to adapt any other fabric totes I can find around the house.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Twelfth Night Tweaking

Last night, being Twelfth Night, was OH's favourite night of the year. More or less as soon as the Christmas decorations go up, he is looking forward to the day they come down.

To make him suffer for being such a grouch, I never take them down until the last possible moment. I'm nice like that. Although I didn't actually have many up this year, he still couldn't contain his excitement at them being put away.

It didn't take long to pack everything away, so whilst I was putting them back in their storage bags, I decided to do another cull. Quite a few more things went onto the donation pile.

I live in hope that one day I'll get back to just 3 storage bags; one for wrapping items, one for tree decorations and one for my wreath, but for the moment they are spilling over into a 4th storage bag.  I have reduced what is going back into it this year though, so I'm going in the right direction.

Whilst pottering about, I also decided to do a good sort through of the regular birthday wrapping bag. It's been a bit of a mess for a while now.  A few more things got added to the donation pile and a few items just got binned.  I'm going to make a point of using up as much of the rest as I can this year and keep things to a minimum.

I'm not going to buy any more rolls of wrapping paper, as they take too long to use up and I'm usually bored of the design before I've used it all.  Instead, I will buy packs of sheets or gift bags as I need them or use fabric from my stash for wrapping.  I did uncover a useful template for making small gift bags in the process of this task, so I must remember to use it when I need one.

Eventually, I think I might just stick to using brown paper/ribbon/string and do away with the necessity for a wrapping bag altogether.  It would make life much simpler and less cluttered.  It would also be fun to stamp designs on brown paper, to personalise it for whomever's birthday it is.

I feel like I'm gradually getting the house back to it's normal state. There's still a few clearing up jobs left to do in the sewing room, after a busy few months selling on eBay, but once they're done, Christmas will be completely packed away. (Until I start to prepare stock again in six months time!).

Next job on my list, is a bit of a spring clean, as everything is looking a bit grubby and dusty. It will feel good to let a bit of fresh air into the house.  I'll keep you posted on progress.

Online Sale Shopping

As I've mentioned before in my blog posts, when we return to London after visiting friends and family at Christmas, having been largely deprived of chances to do any sale shopping, I often take a look at what is on offer in the January sales online.  This was my main task last week and I placed several orders, mainly for items that will make great gifts next Christmas.

I realise that many people might balk at the thought of shopping for next Christmas when the decorations are still up, but I always find that this saves me lots of time and money in the run up to Christmas the following year.

For a start, I have all the cards and wrap I need as early as possible and I can get on with writing and sending them and wrapping the gifts I've already bought. I avoid food gifts due to use before dates and take care to buy clothing gifts a little larger for children, to allow for growth over the year.  This way, I can get some lovely quality branded clothes and accessories, that always seem to be greatly appreciated when opened, which is really what keeps me doing it.

This year has been no exception and I've already crossed a few items off my present buying list for Christmas 2016.  Having checked out all of the websites I prefer, i.e. John Lewis, Boden, Joules, H&M, ASOS and eBay (there are good branded outlet stores on there) and ordered the things that I felt would make suitable gifts, I have now finished my online sale shopping for this period and can now get on with getting back into a normal routine. (Bar waiting for the parcels to arrive!)

This system does make January an expensive month, but top loading the expense at the beginning of the year, means less pressure on finances towards the end of the year as Christmas draws near and less necessity to hit the shops when they are very crowded.  I will probably add to the stash as we progress through the year, but only if a good offer presents itself.

In addition to helping make me better prepared, doing this also has the added advantage of scratching any itch to buy things for myself, that I don't need, in the January sales. Buying for others is virtually as satisfying as buying things for myself and as I need to buy these gifts for others anyway at some point in the year, getting them at a good price is a much more frugal and satisfying way of doing it.

Having said this, in the process I did indulge in a just a couple of inexpensive items for myself and a few things for LB too, the latter though, being part of my plan to rejuvenate her wardrobe this year. Have you done any sale shopping this January?  Or do you keep well away from the shops or online shops at this time of year?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Winter Capsule Wardrobe

As promised a few weeks ago, I thought I would publish a post about my current Winter Capsule Wardrobe as I had already photographed quite a few of the items contained in it and managed to upload them to the post before I lost my photos when the laptop hard drive failed.

I haven't stuck to a particular number of items of clothing and there are more than are pictured here, but these are the main items I will be wearing now the cold weather has finally arrived.  I haven't photographed all the items as some are pretty uninteresting, but the main performers are amongst those listed here.

1) Black Skinny Jeans (ASDA) - A bit faded and grey now, but still good to use on days when I'm at home and doing little more than walking the dog.

2) Black Skinny Canvas Jeans (Primark) -  Still nice and dark, so better for wearing when I'm out and about or going out in an evening.

3) Black Collarless Zip Up Wool Coat - Bought last winter and perfect for days out or smarter wear in cold weather.

4) Black Monki Parka Coat - Love this coat for wrapping up warm on cold winter days, especially when out with the dog.

5)  Black Leather Touch Screen Gloves - For smarter wear.

6)  Black Barts Woolly Bobble Hat - Dog walking essential

7)  Black Leather Chelsea ankle boots - From ASOS.  I love these and wear them to go out in and for casual daily wear.

8)  Black Knee Length Leather boots - Also from ASOS.  Replaced my old knee length boots.  Great for wearing with dresses and skirts in the winter.

9)  Grey Oversized Turtle Necked Sweater from H&M. - Very roasty for very cold days. I wore this a lot on our recent visit to Yorkshire.

10)  Maroon Slash Necked Sweater - A Primark purchase this year. I love wearing this for day wear, as it is very roomy and slouchy and adds a bit of colour to an otherwise quite bland wardrobe. (It is already getting a bit bobbly though)

11) Black Zip Back Sweaters (2) - From Primark.  I bought two of these a couple of years ago, as I liked them so much.  These are my mainstay go to sweaters in cold weather, worn with a t-shirt underneath and with a scarf or snood.  I also have 1 in grey that I also wear.  Great to throw on with jeans for a casual day look.

12) Black Ribbed Zip Back Sweater - Primark again. Thicker than the ones above and great to wear layered with jeans and a long top.

13) Black ASOS Backpack - My current favourite everyday hand bag.

14)  Teal Suede Fringed Brogues from Clarks - I must admit I haven't worn these much yet, but am hoping to get a lot more wear out of them.

15) Navy Leather Tote - From Gap.  Perfect for travelling and when I need a smart shopper or a change of clothes at the gym.

16) Black Leather Biker boots - These I wear with jeans for knocking around in when I'm doing errands.  They currently need a good clean, as I've walked the dog in them a few times this autumn and they're a bit of a mess. The picture is of them when new.

17) Three pairs of cigarette pants - One a navy/black print, one plain black and one grey/black/silver brocade - I wear these on days when I need to be a bit smarter or my jeans are in the wash.  I also wear these year round.

18)  Large Tan PU Clutch Bag - Bought from Pull & Bear whilst on holiday in Tenerife.  For evenings out/weddings/etc.  Rare occasions, in other words!

19) Small Animal Print PU Cross Body Bag - For those occasions when I don't want to carry much with me.

20) Grey Lace Pencil Skirt - For days when I want to look a little more feminine.

21)  Black Crepe Sleeveless Shirt Dress - From ASOS.  This is what I wear for special occasions, i.e. the recent wedding with my black lace top underneath (so I don't have to expose my upper arms and shoulders) and a belt to gather it in. It can be worn without a top underneath and without a belt in warmer weather.

22) Black Lace Crop Top - From H&M, for wearing under sleeveless dress or over a vest top.  (Please note I don't bare my midriff by wearing this on it's own)

24) Peopletree Grey Striped Organic Jersey Dress - I've worn this a couple of times since buying it, so I am looking forward to getting a lot more wear out of it.  It is a nice item to wear in winter with a cardigan/sweater, tights and boots. 

25) Braintree Organic Hemp/Cotton Slouchy Pocket Front Sweater - Great with jeans and long sleeved thermal tops.  (Must be long sleeved tops, as the hemp feels a bit itchy!)

26) Braintree Organic Denim Skirt - I like to wear this with sweaters, tights and boots.

27) Peopletree Organic Cotton Jersey Teal Tube Pencil Skirt - A bargain buy bought new on eBay.  Nice worn with ankle boots and tights and a big sweater.

28) Slouchy Grey Tracksuit Pants with PU Trim - Another Primark purchase.  I love wearing these with a long jumper or t-shirt, on a day when I just want to slouch around at home or when the most I do is pop out to the shops.

29)  Black Leather Skinny Belt - From ASOS

30)  Black Leather Jeans Belt

The remainder of my clothes are mostly t-shirts, long sleeved thermal jersey t-shirts, scarves and the odd smarter t-shirt/top that I keep in the wardrobe, but don't wear too often.  Quite a practical wardrobe, not particularly glamorous, but then I don't live a glamorous lifestyle.  A bit lacking in colour and sparkle, but maybe one day I'll get a bit braver or maybe I won't.

I'm pretty happy with the changes I've made this year.  There's a lot less items that never get worn. There is still more reducing to do of a few items not listed here, but I'm working on it.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Christmas Sale Shopping/Gifting

As usual, being away over the Christmas period and moreover staying in quite a rural area, I usually don't really get to do much Christmas sale shopping.  I did, however, manage to dip a little toe in the water and visit a couple of favoured shops, mainly to buy some reduced Christmas items for next year, and a couple of gifts to give for upcoming birthdays.

It was, however, mostly a case of buying Christmas cards for close family members, gift boxes/bags, some kraft paper bows and tags, and jute ribbon for wrapping gifts next year.  I avoided buying any wrapping paper, as I still have several rolls left over from this year that should suffice and I'm definitely going for a more natural and recyclable theme next year.

I have already decided, after reading a few blog posts on my return, that I am going to run up some fabric gift bags for wrapping gifts next year and for reuse after that. They can easily be washed and ironed ready for re-use.

In addition, after watching some YouTube videos on Furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping using fabric, I am intending to use up some of my vast fabric stash to make Furoshiki wraps and get creative with wrapping using this system. It feels like quite an exciting departure for me and it will still allow the recipient the excitement of unwrapping the gift.

As I already have a stack of Christmas and other fabric, I should be able to do this throughout the year and it will help me use the fabric, which is otherwise just taking up precious storage space.  I will still be using some wrapping paper, for gifts to people outside of our small family unit, but for most of our presents, I will definitely be attempting to reduce waste substantially.

Talking of presents, I received some lovely presents this Christmas, most of which I asked for.  A mini yoghurt maker to avoid all of the packaging that goes with buying yoghurts every week, a couple of books relating to living simply, some socks, chocolate, vegan perfume and a wireless mouse that I'm using whilst typing this post.

I was very happy with these gifts and am looking forward to making good use of them.  We also received some lovely handmade gifts from friends.  I really liked them and loved that they were hand made. Most other gifts we received were consumable or recyclable which is perfect.

I myself didn't get around to making as many homemade gifts as I wanted to this year, as the jars I had ordered to put them in didn't arrive, but I did give a couple of homemade lip balms and a paw balm away as gifts. Hopefully they will get used.

As it is LB's birthday next week, I am now in the throws of organising any gifts I might be giving her. (Most were purchased before Christmas).  January is always a busy month for birthdays in this household, so I've had to buy a whole bunch of cards today.  I've just realised how expensive it now is to post cards to Australia, where my sister lives.  It's her son's birthday next week and it will now cost over £2 to send a single card.  I was pretty shocked, but will be sending it all the same.  As he is now over the age of 21 and is working, this will be the first year that I don't send a present.  I hope he doesn't mind too much.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Getting Tough on Stuff 2015 - December - The Final Tally

Just a quick final post on this challenge to Donate 1000 Items from our home in 2015.  The total for December was relatively small, compared with previous months, just 35 items set aside for the charity shop or the next Give and Take event.  Added to the total at the end of November which was 1258, this makes for a pretty respectable yearly total of 1293.  Better than I had hoped for when I started out on this project, which is great.

The pile for donation, has definitely noticeably grown again recently and with no Give and Take events over the last month or so, I really need one to be announced soon, in order to enable me to donate all of the things gathered over the last few months. It has now become one of my main ways of donating, but I do still take items to the charity shop from time to time.

As mentioned in my New Year Aims post, I am continuing with a similar challenge this year.  I may give it a different name, such as - Living with Less Stuff in 2016 - and I will continue to post my progress every month.

In spite of everything that I donated in the past year, I am still surprised at how much more we have, than we actually need and use, so the 500 item total I am giving myself for 2016 should be pretty easily achievable.

I've already started work on this year's challenge this weekend, as there were a few items I had in mind, that I no longer wished to keep. My wardrobe is gradually being whittled down to a managable size, which is a blessed relief and is making life much easier on a daily basis.  There's still a way to go with everything else though.

If anyone else is thinking of doing something similar and fancies joining me, let me know, as it is a great motivator hearing how others are doing on a month by month basis.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

January No Buy Challenge - Toiletries

To kick start the New Year, I have decided to set myself a challenge, one that involves NOT buying any toiletries for the month of January.

As 2015 came to a close, I found myself spending an inordinate amount far too much money on toiletries and natural beauty products, overstocking by far too much, so in order to rectify the situation, I thought I'd try to spend a whole month without buying anything at all.

As well as hopefully helping me to kick my recent habit of spending money in this area, the ban will also help to ensure that I use up the products that I have already purchased and which have caused me go over budget in this area for the last three consecutive months.

So, what is currently in my stash? Aside from what I am currently using on a daily basis, I have the following new, unopened products waiting to be used:

1 Peppermint Hand Soap
1 Bottle of Urtekam Nordic Birch Shampoo
1 Bottle of Urtekam Nordic Birch Conditioner
1 Tube of Timotei Organic Conditioner
2 Bottles of Sarakan Anti-Plaque Mouth Wash
1 30m Reel of Silk Dental Floss
2 200ml Bottles of Distilled Witch Hazel
1 Bottle of Organic Surge Nourishing Rose Day Cream
2 Bamboo Toothbrushes
1 Tube of Neal's Yard Geranium and Orange Body Lotion
1 Tube of Dr Bronner Peppermint Lip Balm
1 Pacifica Stellar Gaze Mineral Mascara in Brown
1 Tube of Madara Brighening Peel Mask
1 Bottle of Skin Blossom Reviving Eye Cream
1 Small Tube of The Organic Pharmacy Antioxidant Lip Balm
1 Pacifica Nude Eye Liner
1 Pacifica Roll on French Lilac Eau de Cologne
1 Alva Organic Blemish Stick
1 50ml tube of The Organic Pharmacy Calendula Hand Cream
1 Bottle of Yardley English Bluebell Eau de Cologne (a Christmas gift)

Here's a photo of most of the stash.

(Please note that this photo was taken before I started to have problems uploading photos and some of the products pictured are currently in use and some additional items have been added)

Hmm, quite a lot when you see it written down and in a photo. I tend to buy products well before finishing the current one I'm using, especially where I buy them online or can get a good deal on buying 3 for the price of 2. (i.e. dental products)  If it is something I use regularly, then I will overstock to save money, time and postage costs .

A few of the above items have been free with magazines, some were brought back from the US in August/September and not yet used, the odd one came in a beauty box or was a gift, but otherwise I think it is safe to say I've been doing a little compulsive over-shopping in this area, so I need to take back control.

If I do run out of anything essential i.e. toothpaste (which incidentally I haven't stocked up on before beginning this challenge, as the brand I use didn't have an offer on), I may purchase one more tube to see me through the month, as it is something that I really can't go without. In addition, if OH and LB need something that I do not use, I will repurchase it for them, as I don't feel it is fair to inflict this blog challenge on them.

I do also have my stash of ingredients in the cupboard that I can use to make whatever products I need to, so the challenge might also encourage me to get making some more home made cosmetics and beauty products.

I'll keep you posted on progress.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Home to See in the New Year

After nine nights away up in Yorkshire, we returned home on New Year's Eve to see in the New Year at home.

OH needed to be back for a hospital appointment regarding his broken collar bone, but we were ready and happy to come home and settle back into our own house and resume our everyday lives.

We had a lovely Christmas and really enjoyed visiting family.  Hiring the cottage made all the difference, as we had time and a space of our own to relax in and spend time with friends. We had lovely dog walks at the beach and in the East Yorkshire countryside, visited the breathtaking Flamborough Head and generally relaxed and enjoyed our time together and with others.

Consequently, it wasn't quite so fraught as usual, with us travelling around trying to visit everyone in the space of just a few days.

The last couple of nights we spent staying with family in North Yorkshire, which was a nice end to the visit, whereby LB got to spend lots of time playing and hanging out with her cousins.

Once back home, I did some of the unpacking, walked the dog, made a visit to the supermarket to stock up on food for the following few days and we ate a very simple plate of pasta for supper.  It is so nice to get back to eating normal everyday food after all the excess of Christmas.  I know it doesn't have to be that way, but invariably it is.

The rest of New Year's Eve was spent having a family Netflix film night with popcorn, for OH and LB and a long soak in the bath for me. After quite a few years of living in London, we no longer relish going out or to see the fireworks, as we've done it several times, and a night at home is good enough for us, especially after being away.

I've got no plans for the next few days, save for dog walks, domestic tasks, thinking about the coming year and doing exactly as I please.  I'm looking forward to it.  I hope your New Year's Eve was a good one and the year to come better still.