Thursday, 30 April 2020

It's Finally Happening.....

On Monday morning I was super excited. It feels a bit odd in the circumstances to say so, but the reason was that OH had finally decided to begin to re-decorate the house.  Yippee.  After years of gently prodding him, he has made a start on the dining room/second reception room and I can't wait for the results.

We haven't decorated the reception rooms since we moved into this house 12 years or so ago.  A very long time, during which they've been knocked about by kids, pets. bikes and general daily use. As a consequence, they are looking very shoddy. To be honest, he's starting with probably the most difficult room really, as it houses both of our book and record collections on the shelves on one wall. The room also has some quite ornate coving which takes time to paint. 

I will be helping, of course, but I'm not so good at all the prep work that goes into decorating.  When it comes to the painting I'll definitely be mucking in.

Knowing he was going to start on Monday, I got up that morning and after finishing my morning routine, I went straight downstairs and removed and packed away any breakable items and other superfluous items from the room, ready for him to get started. It looks quite bare, but I kind of like it with no bits and pieces in it.  Here's a couple of pictures of the room emptied (save for books, etc.)before he started work:

I think we're going to introduce at least one wall of colour in this room, as it's all white at the moment.  Not sure what colour yet, but I am looking forward to choosing. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Weekly Project Update

I have to say that last week really went by in a flash, which was an improvement on the week before, which seemed longer somehow.  Does anyone else feel like time is speeding up as we progress through lockdown.  It's probably consciousness that it's going to end at some point and I'll be going back to work. I think it helped that I was working on a new project or two.  I do feel like I was a lot more productive, sorting out both my wardrobe and also getting started on decluttering the sewing room.

It was Tuesday really, before I got back in there, as the Monday was spent doing a small local shop, sorting laundry and getting up to date with the ironing. I did a bit of work in there most days and made good progress. I have now sorted through every piece of fabric I own and made decisions about whether to keep or donate it.

I have organised the remaining fabric very systematically too, so I know exactly where to find different types and makes. I have colour co-ordinated all my quilting fabric to make it easier to see what colour quilts to make. It was originally organised like this, but I then messed it up pulling things out and not putting them back in the right place, so it's good to get them organised again.

I also washed down the shelves on both sides of the alcoves ready to put things back onto them. I now just need to paint the two small sets of drawers that I'm going to use, before I can complete the sewing tool side of the room.

The bed is still a complete mess, mainly because it has lots of tinned food, toiletries and bulk bought cleaning products, etc. on it, that I bought before lockdown. I'm working my way through them, but it will be a while before we use them all up. There's also lots of old quilts and pillows on the bed and I need to decide what I'm going to do with them. I may make eiderdowns out of one or more of the single quilts, like the one I just finished.  This shouldn't take as long though, as the shorter width of the quilt makes it much easier to hand quilt, if this is even necessary.

These type of quilts always come in useful for snuggling up on the sofa in the winter and I need a warmer single quilt for the times I end up sleeping on the sofa. I get insomnia quite a bit and usually go downstairs to sleep, to avoid waking OH. The living room sofa is super comfortable and I usually drop off to sleep on it within minutes, but the quilts currently on there don't quite keep me warm enough in the winter. Single quilts are also good because they can be washed at home in the machine and I have an empty blanket box in the living room that I can store them all in when not in use. Besides, they help to use up the ridiculous amount of fabric I own and I get to enjoy seeing it in use, instead of it being stuck in a drawer.

I emptied the aforementioned blanket box in the living room last week too. It only contained a few knitting yarns and a couple of small projects I'd started, but not finished.  As a consequence, I finished off one of the projects, namely this knitted clothes hanger padded cover.

I just needed to sew it onto the hanger and finish off the loose ends.  It was a good project for using us very small end balls of wool. It's quite cute and colourful. I also decluttered the yarn too, and found that after re-organising the fabric drawers in the sewing room, I now had a spare drawer in which to house any yarn I wanted to keep.

I also spent time last week working on a final unfinished quilt project, mainly whilst watching TV, so now it is ready to attach to the woollen blanket I am using as wadding and then to the backing fabric which I've cut from an old quilt cover, so progress was made here too. I'm determined not to start any new craft projects until this one is finished.

Obviously, due to the above activities, the piles of items to donate is growing and this still has to be housed in the sewing room until local charity shops re-open. I doubt there'll be another Give and Take for a long time, so some of it may be there for a good while, but I can't help that.  Ideally, it would be great to free up the bed at some point, so that I could sleep on it on the nights I have difficulty getting to sleep, but I've managed thus far without it, so I can manage a bit longer.  Luckily, no one's been to stay for a while and they aren't likely to for the foreseeable, so it's not imperative that it gets cleared immediately.

I'm enjoying getting the room into some sort of order though, it is well overdue and makes the room feel much less overwhelming. I'll post a picture or another video when the room has progressed to a point that you'll see a difference.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

All Change Again

My routine during lockdown has changed a little once again.  Just more minor tweaks really, nothing serious. I'm still reading for 30 minutes or more in bed, followed by a few arm exercises with weights, but I am trying to add extra stretches and exercises to my morning 10 minute mat workout.

I have also added a little meditation exercise, whereby I lie on my back and put my legs up against the wardrobe doors and stay in that position for five whole minutes to get the blood circulating in my body. I read somewhere that it was beneficial and it's nice to give yourself five minutes in the morning to think about what you want to just not think about anything at all.

I'm afraid I've lapsed with regard to Joe Wick's workout on the dog walk, I just got out of the habit and don't feel inclined to get back into it.  It was good for a while, but who knows, I might go back to it, as I am feeling more lethargic now I don't do it.

After lunch is the time I do some decluttering or crafting usually. Now I've finished a couple of projects, I've tended to use the time to spend in the sewing room, going through all of my craft stash with a fine tooth comb. I'm almost on top of that now, just the items under the bed to go through.  I desperately need some chalk paint to paint the storage boxes to progress in here. I can feel a trip to B&Q coming on sometime very soon as we need some other things urgently too.

I've also currently come to an impasse with regard to crafting, as I've been helping a neighbour to complete a short voluntary sewing project, which I'm currently focusing on. More in another post.

My afternoon TV watching has changed very slightly too, as Jamie's cooking programme has finished and has been replaced by Kirsty's craft one.  I watch this, but not as avidly. I have, however, now taken to watching Escape to the Chateau DIY at 4pm, so whatever I'm doing, I down tools and put it on. I loved it, after watching a few episodes on YouTube. It makes me laugh that now Brits aren't satisfied to just buy a house in France, they want to buy a Chateau with all that entails.  It's pretty fascinating though and I like to see how they restore the buildings, decorate the rooms and make new lives for themselves in another country. It's a bit of escapism from reality really.

I'm sure my routine will change again in coming weeks, as programmes change and other projects come to the fore, but the routine is seeing me through this time and helping to keep my head above water. What helps you to keep sane?

Monday, 27 April 2020

Greening Up

After what seems like a long time, our small city garden is gradually greening up. All the bushes and trees now seem to be bursting into leaf.  It's a joy to behold.

The foxgloves and forget-me-nots that I moved out of one of our raised vegetable beds  a few weeks ago and planted into one of the side borders to make a woodland corner are doing me justice. The foxgloves are just about to start flowering.  I think and hope that they are white foxgloves, but I'm not quite certain just yet.

The forget-me-nots were well worth keeping and are providing some much needed flowers and a little bit of colour in various places.  We don't actually have many flowering shrubs in our garden currently, so the few that we do get, I appreciate.

I just love it when our garden gets wild and bushy, as it's more of a private little oasis.

There's a  couple of purple alluims poking through the geraniums in this border, getting ready to burst forth.

Even my Mulberry tree is looking a lot happier in it's new big pot.  They can take 7 years to fruit, so I'm not holding my breath.

And finally the lavender and sage which was looking so pathetic a few weeks ago, that I was contemplating removing them, have perked up considerably and I'm pleased that I didn't.

Oh, what I wouldn't give for a no expense spared trip to a garden centre right now or even just a car boot sale with plant stalls!

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Another Shopping Trip

Well, it had been nearly 3 weeks since I'd done a grocery shop and the freezer and fridge were starting to look very empty, so on Thursday last, it was time to do another food shop. I always feel a bit anxious these days going out to the supermarket and don't really relish it, but it had to be done.

I did as last time and got up early at 7am. This is early during lockdown, as I don't normally surface until 9-9.30am after having read for an hour, but today I had to skip reading in bed, floor exercises and dog walking and head off to avoid any queues.

I went to the same huge out of town supermarket. The traffic didn't seem as busy this time, which is always good, especially when you haven't been driving around for a couple of weeks.  The last thing you want is white van man on your tail hassling you.

The store didn't look too busy when I got there, as there wasn't really a queue.  Why is it though, that people who have completed their shop and are waiting for someone to bring the car round stand, bags and all right near the entrance and hinder people coming into the store, especially when social distancing is required?

Gloved and masked up, I cleaned my trolley handle and went in. It didn't get much better. Inside, it was busier than the last time I'd visited and although I was now fully familiar with the one way system and adhered to it carefully, many other people still didn't. I wanted to tell them, but didn't. It's not my job and I didn't want to get into any arguments, but members of staff possibly could, if only to keep things running smoothly and safely. Some shoppers and others came scarily close at times. I'm still reeling from the horror of it all. (OK, I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but when you've been safely tucked up at home for a few weeks, it does feel very scary to venture out to busy places).

Eventually, I got all the way around and managed to get most of what we needed, save for just nuts and dates, which I find to be super expensive in supermarkets. I'll have to try to go to Lidl or Home Bargains for those at some point. I did manage to buy something I've wanted for ages though today, namely some thin elastic for making face masks.  I've got lots of thick elastic, but it makes your ears stick out, so this will be ideal and I'll be making lots before I venture back to work, as they'll be needed for public transport for the foreseeable. This 4 meter pack should make at least 8 or 10.

I also realised this time around, that I'd jumped the social distancing queue last time I'd come to the store and gone straight to a till. I'd wondered why so many people were queueing up when tills were empty. Durrgh! Luckily, no-one seemed to complain. By the time I'd finished this time, the queue had gone right down and I got straight on a till anyway, which was good.

On the way home, I decided to check out what stores were open in the same or nearby locations. Poundland, Card Factory and Boots were the only stores open on this particular huge retail park site. Nearby on a different big retail park Sainsburys, Halfords, Pets At Home and B&Q were all open.  I headed over to Pets at Home to see if they still did dog grooming, as our dog desperately needs stripping now the weather is getting hot, but alas they weren't doing it during lockdown.

B&Q is useful though, as we'd like to do a bit of decorating at some point and need a few garden things.  I saw someone coming out with plants and was very tempted to go in and try to buy some chalk paint for my sewing room projects, until I saw the queue of 6 or 7 people waiting.  Not a long queue I admit, but longer than I wanted to stand in.  I may go back another day, as it's probably the closest one to us that has now re-opened.

It was good to get home and put all the shopping away, knowing I don't need to do that again for 3 weeks at least. It was probably the most expensive shop I've ever done in one go, but I did buy two of quite a few things, to last us a couple of weeks.

How are you finding Lockdown shopping excursions? I get the impression that most people go shopping every week or more than once a week, just by the small amounts that they buy, but I like to minimize trips and only go out once every few weeks to do a big shop, then top up occasionally buying fresh essentials locally. How do you do it?

Friday, 24 April 2020

Some Positives From Lockdown

It has to be said that physical Lockdown thus far hasn't been too difficult for us as a family. I think because we are quite a homely kind of family, it hasn't been too bad.  We live 180 miles away from other family members anyway, so are pretty independent and used to long periods of not seeing them.  In addition, aside from our various hobbies and friends made through them, we're not great socialisers, so staying home hasn't really been a struggle for us either (save for LB who is much more extroverted, but even she has been coping well with the change).

Financially, it's been a bit more challenging, as OH works for himself and has seen work dry up virtually over the past month. He's had a few ongoing jobs to continue working on, but no new jobs, save for one potential one this week, which is perhaps a sign that we are slowly coming out of the immediate crisis and people are starting to look to the future.

As I work part-time, 18 hours per week and have been furloughed on 80% of my salary, things have been a little tight, meaning that there is no extra cash for treats or non-essentials. This hasn't been so difficult, as there isn't really that much that I need and it has made me appreciate that I have plenty already.

In addition, staying home everyday, you don't exactly need much.  New clothes and accessories are useless to fight against a virus, unless you need them to protect you in a working setting. When everyone's staying home, there is already enough stuff in our spaces and adding to it buying furniture and other home accessories can and make conditions even more cramped, so this hasn't been too hard.

I think the hardest thing for me is not having spare cash to make donations to help causes related to the virus. I've made physical donations of work goggles for the local hospital, food for a local food bank and arts and crafts materials for a local charity working with families, but I just don't have any spare cash to donate money at the moment.

I do intend to donate to some causes at some point, I just need to see how it goes. My last month's salary was in full, but I had large credit card bills from previous spending to pay off, plus I bought extra food and other items, so no cash was left over. This coming month's salary, paid out next week, will be my first month on furlough and I don't know how much I will receive as yet, but if there is spare money at the end of the month, I will make some donations here and there to help people struggling during lockdown. This should be easier, as I have hardly spent anything on my credit cards this last month, save for ordering a handful of things online. I guess the most important contribution is staying home and not catching or spreading the virus, which we definitely have been doing.

Anyway, onto the positives, which are the reason for this post. It's occurred to me that aside from the obvious positive of being able to spend unlimited time with the ones you love, there have been several other positives that I have taken from being on Lockdown.

1) Slowing down - This is a major one for me.  The last three years since I started my job working in a charity shop, have been pretty busy.  Work is relentless with an unending stream of stuff coming through the doors to be priced and resold. I've put 100%+ into everyday at work to try to be as efficient as possible and raise as much as I can for the charity, sometimes to my own physical and mental detriment. Being able to take a step back and just breathe, without worrying about targets, volumes of donations, shop performance, etc. has been very beneficial. That's not to say that I haven't thought about what it will be like when we go back.  I think about it a lot and how it might be and how we can build the business back up and recoup at least some of the money lost during lockdown. But these thoughts have been thought whilst walking the dog or doing other tasks with no time constraints, which is a great priviledge.

2) Sorting out my home and garden - This has also been a big positive. Starting with doing some jobs in the garden, then coming into the home and completing long neglected quilting projects and doing a thorough declutter of my sewing room has been very therapeutic. It will enable me to return to work feeling like I have my life a bit more under control, which frees me to give everything I can to my job when I'm there.

3) Being resourceful in a crisis - I think most people on Lockdown will have benefitted from this positive. It is a good feeling to know that you have coped in a crisis and provided for your family and used your resources as economically as possible.  This will help us all going forward, to know what we are capable of and that we can cope and cope well. Granted things could have been a lot worse in terms of availability of food and other items, but even so we have coped with shortages of some things and got creative to find solutions.

4) Having time to re-connect with your self - This sounds a bit alternative, but what I mean is that having time at home to sort through my sewing room in particular, has put me back in touch with the person I was before I started my current job. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but I also enjoyed doing a lot of creative hobbies from quilting to making my own clothes before I started it and I have been just too exhausted on my days off in the last few years, to even think about creative projects, let alone do any. It has been lovely and almost meditative to have the time to work on long neglected projects and once they are all completed, I will have the opportunity to move on and start new and exciting ones.

5) Not needing to dress up - Staying at home has meant that I haven't needed to dress up each day to go out and face the world.  My track pants and t-shirts have been in high demand. I might have worn jeans a couple of times, but the rest of the time these have been my daily uniform and it's been a complete relief from angsting over what to wear each day. That's not to say that I don't look forward to a time when I can get a little dressed up again. I could still do it if I really wanted to, but I'm very happy not to for the time being.

6) Reading more - I've loved the fact that I can stay in bed for an hour each morning and read. My 'To Read' bookshelf (non-fiction only) has suffered as a consequence, but this in itself is a positive, making more space become available in my home if nothing else. What is the use of books sat unread. I've really enjoyed reading some of the books I've accumulated over the last year and thinking about the ideas they offer up to the world. Some have even inspired me to get stuck into projects around my home and filled me with vigour to return to my job feeling even more positive about it.

7) Eating Less - Despite not being able to exercise as vigorously as I normally do at gym classes and dance classes, my weight has remained pretty stable for the past month.  I think this is partly because I haven't been so exhausted and felt the need to cram calories into my body on my days off, and partly because I've gone back to eating salads again after a six month or so abstention. I think the nice weather has helped and been a contributing factor. Being unable to go to classes has been one of the hardest things for me as they were both social, as well as exercise and I miss that. I haven't been able to afford online classes that have been devised either, but hopefully at some point I might be able to  as this will help the teachers who are self employed and rely on the income.  Also, it doesn't seem like I will be able to return to physical classes for a long time either with social distancing remaining in place for the remainder of the year,  so online or reduced size classes will need to fill the gap. It will be interesting to see how gyms and dance schools further adapt to accommodate the changes required by the virus.

8) Thinking Time - Another very important positive of Lockdown has been the time it has given you to think about how you live your life, what your priorities are and what you choose to do with your time and money. I wonder how many people will not want to return to working in the office, or even their jobs at all, having spent time at home with their families. I wonder if people will spend their money in totally different ways, having been unable to shop for inessentials for the duration. The whole landscape of work and consumerism may change in coming years. Talk of staggering work starting times to avoid rush hours sounds quite interesting too. It does seem ridiculous that millions of people crowd into major cities at the same time to go to work, causing severe congestion and overcrowding. (This change may actually be detrimental to me, because I start slightly later than many offices in central London and don't quite get caught up in the main rush hour, so it might make transport busier at times I use it). Maybe it takes such a crisis for us to finally think about our working day and whether we are as efficient as we might be by way of it's current set up.

I'm just hoping that our enforced return to a kind of simplicity will result in a better world.  What do you think?

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Uninvited Guests and a Doggy Recipe

On Friday night, after starting work on decluttering and reorganising my sewing room, I came downstairs to look for a table runner to put under my sewing machine. I opened the cupboard in the hallway to get to the table linen, only to see a huge black spider looking very at home inside a small pot.  I quickly closed the door and thought better of it and headed off to bed.

The next morning, I asked OH to remove the spider (sorry, I just can't do it), which he duly did, finding a new home for it in the wood shed. I was now free to reach past where it was to get to my linens.

When I did, however, I instantly realised that something wasn't quite right. There were lots of little poops in a dish that sat on top of them and I realised that we had an uninvited guest. I put on some plastic gloves and pulled out all of the linen. Much of it had dirty mouse urine stained patches on it and one item had even been nibbled.  The little guy had really made himself at home.

(Many of the items were pretty vintage linen that I really liked, so I was disappointed to see what had happened to it. I put the dirty linen into the washing machine and thankfully the dirty marks did come out, and it has all now been ironed and a new home found, away from pesky rodents.)

I proceeded to take out everything remaining on the shelf and wash it down. I washed and disinfected any items that had been contaminated and then returned everything to the cupboard. I couldn't see any signs of the mouse anywhere else in the cupboard, so assumed he'd moved on or maybe even been caught at some point, which is just as well, as I keep my lockdown stash of chocolate here.  I made sure to put it in a tin to prevent mouse access, in case he did decide to return and got on with the rest of my day.

The remainder of the day was about other furry friends.  I needed to cook up some offal for the dog. Although I no longer eat meat, our dog has eaten meat from being a puppy, so I  can't expect her to suddenly stop.  I regularly buy offal, which I combine with vegetables and cook for her.  She loves it.  Chicken livers, lamb hearts and beef liver to be exact. Things that often people don't actually eat much anymore, but the dog devours like there's no tomorrow. They are super flavoursome to her and I feel that if an animal has to die to be eaten, then the least we can do is make use of every little part.

It's a task that takes a little while, as all the meat has to be cut up into small chunks, along with the vegetables, which on this occasion were carrots, courgettes and frozen peas. Then they all get cooked up in batches and bagged up, before being put in the freezer. I usually make up 4 or 5 batches and she gets a bag a week, which usually lasts a couple of days and then she reverts to tinned and dry dog food for the rest of the week.

It's a very messy task too and I have to thoroughly clean up afterwards and make sure the surfaces are disinfected properly, but it's worth it because she's so happy when she receives it.

Here's the resulting food:

Dog stew. It looks quite tasty, but I wouldn't personally want to try it.

Do you cook anything special for your pets?

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Spring/Summer Wardrobe Changeover

Saturday morning, I woke up and decided it was time to carry out a Spring/Summer wardrobe changeover. I've not been wearing any thick jumpers for weeks now and my wardrobe was rammed full of things I'm just not wearing at the moment and am unlikely to wear once lockdown eventually ends.

As a consequence, out came the vacupak bags from under the bed containing my summer wardrobe and each item was examined as to whether it was still something I would wear or not. To be honest, not very much that came out of the bags went into the wardrobe, as this time last year, I wasn't wearing vintage clothing, so a lot of the things I decided to donate, as I would be unlikely to wear them again. In addition, many I'd had for years and hadn't been wearing for a long time either.

I went through the wardrobe and pulled out the heavier items.  It's surprising how much room this made and was just what was needed to free things up a bit. It didn't take too long and I'm now ready to face the warmer weather, once circumstances allow, that is. Here's what my spring/summer wardrobe now looks like:

Having done this, I then decided to go downstairs and remove any winter coats from the coat rack in the hallway.  Some needed to be washed before being donated. Others I packed away until next year.  This made a significant difference to the space, as going from lots of thick bulky coats to a few lighter jackets and raincoats was very liberating.

I did need to buy a new to me spring/summer coat, something like a black mac or short trench coat that will be smart to wear for work, and I have subsequently ordered one from eBay, so I am looking forward to receiving that.  Apart from this, there isn't really anything I need for the time being, which is a nice feeling.

I also went through the shoes in the wardrobe and donated any I haven't worn for a long time or would be unlikely to wear, then packed away the more wintery ones that I won't wear over the summer. I combed the house for winter scarves, hats, gloves, etc. and they too got packed away. 

As I'm still wearing track pants and t-shirts for the duration of lockdown, there was no actual hurry to get the changeover done, but it does feel good to have done it and feel ready for the weather to come.

Have you made the transition to a spring/summer wardrobe yet?

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Phase Two of Lockdown

Well, I haven't written a new post in a few days, I've just been publishing previously penned ones. I have to admit that in the last couple of days I've been feeling a bit low. Maybe it was the absorbtion of terrible news on a daily basis taking it's toll, the thought of another three weeks of lockdown, plus the constant feeling of being completely helpless and useless, but I took a couple of days to get things into perspective and now I'm back feeling a lot better.

I've decided that I'm now going into Phase Two of Lockdown and I am going to get more productive. I was inspired by the book I'm currently reading, called Second Hand, by Adam Mintner. It's basically a book about excess stuff and how a whole global industry has developed to deal with it worldwide.  Initially, it focuses on what happens to all the stuff that we throw out or send to charity shops and where it ends up in the world.  It is very interesting and it has at last motivated me to tackle the sewing room of doom which is currently awash with stuff, much of it stuff I will never use.

At the moment, this room is a bit piecemeal and ad hoc. I want to streamline it to make it a more appealing place to be.  It has become a dumping ground in the last few years, since I've been working and not had the time to craft and sew, so I want to try to bring the space back to life again and make it somewhere that I want to go and work on craft projects.

Anyway, on Friday night after supper, as there was very little on the TV, I decided to go upstairs and get stuck in. It was pretty onerous, as there was fabric and stuff everywhere.

I began by clearing a space in front of the fireplace. My intention was to put a bookcase from LB's room here, that she no longer wanted.  I couldn't bring myself to throw it out, so found room for it here and transferred all of my sewing and craft books from the alcove shelves onto it, so that they would be easily accessible. 

This also freed up some alcove shelves to hold all of my boxes of fabric on one side of the room, which in turn freed up room on the shelves on the other side of the fireplace to get a bit creative with all my sewing and craft notions.

I intend to put these two small sets of drawers (that LB has also discarded) on these shelves, once I've painted them with some chalk paint, to make them a little prettier. I intend to use them for pens, pencils, scissors, craft tools, stamps, etc. and have a really well organised craft/sewing space.

I spent a bit of time tidying and clearing the area around my sewing machine, removing anything that didn't need to be there. This created more space for just sewing, which should make life easier.

I also went through a few drawers full of fabric and decided to declutter some of the ones that I am unlikely to use.  I filled a whole box with fabric, which I'll probably take to a Give and Take event later in the year. I'm sure I'll fill another box before I've finished going through it all.

The fabric I decided to keep I divided into soft furnishing fabric and dressmaking fabric and gave each a separate drawer.  There is still a drawer to go through full of quilting fabric, but I imagine that I might keep most of what is in there for future use, as I am still quilting.

At 11pm I called it a day and went to bed, happy that I'd made a start and feeling like I now had some sort of sense of purpose over the coming few weeks.  I can't control what's going on out there, but I can control what I decide to do to make my home environment a better place, so I maybe I just need to focus on that for a while. Sometimes, that's all you need to change your mind set and lift you out of a dip. I'm hoping it will sustain me for the next week or so at least.

I didn't take a before picture I got stuck in, but here's a short video of how things stand now with a lot of work still left to do. It was impossible to show you what I'm dealing with in a picture alone.

I will show you the difference when it's finally done:

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Lockdown Stomping Grounds

I thought I'd do a post today about my regular stomping grounds during lockdown.  To be honest, we're very fortunate where we live in London, to be only a 15-20 minute or less walk from some great open green spaces.

One that I visit regularly is like a green. It used to be just that, flat and green but it has been landscaped a little in recent years, with mounds, a big rock and a community orchard. It runs alongside a busy road, but if you go to the back of the green there's lots of space and it's safer to let your dog off the lead. This is probably a 20 minute walk from our house.

Even closer, about 10-15 minutes walk away, is probably the biggest open space, which is Hackney Marshes. This is vast and is famous for being a very popular place where local football teams play their matches on a Sunday morning. It has multiple football pitches on it, as well as cricket pitches for the summer and rugby pitches, along with changing pavilions for both, and is well used by the surrounding communities.  I never venture there with the dog on a Sunday morning, for example, as it is just too busy, but at the moment there are obviously no team games being played there, save for families kicking a ball about.

Here's a couple of pictures of this vast urban oasis. I was stood almost in the middle and took one photo of each end, which gives you an idea of how big this space is.

The van in this picture is not on a road, that is way beyond, it is on the marsh itself, as the council are doing work to a cycle path that crosses the marshes here. The buildings in the background are in Stratford, where the 2012 Olympics were held.

The dog can run about freely here and there are also woodland walks and river/canal side walks around it's edges, to offer a bit of variety.

It's very popular with professional dog walkers, who bring van loads of their charges to be walked here. It has obviously been pretty busy recently, more so in the afternoons, but there's room for everyone if people are considerate.

I feel lucky to have such a resource on my doorstep, especially in our current situation.

Another open green space that I regularly walk to is behind our local Ice Arena and Horse Stables.

The hangar like building in the distance is the ice arena.  Some celebs practice here for the Dancing on Ice show. I saw Jade Goody's ex Jeff in the car park here once,when he was on the show.

Behind the previous field is another huge field and from there you can walk down a path alongside fields of horses that belong to the local horse stables.

I like this path, as it is not that well known.  I only discovered it in the last year or so. Even this path has been much busier lately though, but luckily it is wide enough to keep a good couple of meters apart when passing others. It's a little further away from our house, probably 20-30 minutes walk, but it's worth it to get away from urbanity. The horses being here, make you feel like you could almost be in the countryside. When I took this photo, though, there were swarms of small flies all along the path, I had to turn back and go another way that day.

I used to be able to take the car and park near the stables for free and walk, but the gates have now been locked to prevent people from driving in, which is fair enough.  On Mother's Day weekend, when the lockdown started, I counted 40 people in about a 30-50 square meter area near here, so I can understand why they did this.

Our local park, above, which is 5 minutes away, is also very nice, but gets very congested at some times of the day. I can usually find a way through the gaps, but sometimes with all the cycles coming through, it can be a bit precarious with a dog. I tend to walk on the grass, well away from the footpaths when I go through the park, which is much less busy and much safer for the dog.

The park is split into two main halves divided by a busy road, so we can venture to either half of the park, depending on how we feel.  This photo is the other half across the road which tends to be a bit quieter and is a bigger space.

All of the above spaces and some I haven't even mentioned here, mean that there are multiple different walks we can do on any given day, which is very fortuitous.  To be honest, if we didn't have our dog, we would probably never even venture to explore the surrounding area so much, so we are pretty priviledged really.

I think this whole crisis has probably meant that many people have come to appreciate the open/ public spaces in their vicinity.  Recently, I've even noticed that there is less litter than usual everywhere, which is unusual considering the warm weather, but I don't know if this is because people are being more responsible or the usual litterers are not coming out.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed a trip through our local open spaces. Not as built up as you might think London would be. Not where we live anyway, thankfully. We're still only 20 or 30 minutes from Central London by car on a good day. Obviously, during a normal weekday rush hour this would take a lot longer.

Have you been enjoying the open spaces around where you live recently?

Completing Some Longstanding Sewing Projects

I mentioned in a post the other week, that due to the lockdown, I've gone back and picked up some quilting projects that I haven't touched for years, literally.

The first project I picked up and have now finally completed, was this itsy bitsy hexagon patchwork table runner.  I looked back in some of my old posts to try to discover when I started it and it was in August or October of 2014.  Can you believe it? It has been sat in my sewing basket unfinished for 6 years now.

To be honest, the top was virtually finished when I picked it up again.  I just needed to make and attach a few more tiny hexies to the outer rows and then it could be sewn to some backing fabric and it was finished.

It looks much less mind bogglingly kaleidoscopic once you place items on top of it.

This was probably the easiest of my outstanding projects to finish and now it's finally finished, I'm actually quite pleased with it.  I love that I managed to use up lots of small fabric scraps to make it. Many of the fabrics remind me of different times and projects, so I like it from that point of view as well.

The second longstanding quilting project that I've picked up again recently, was this lovely chunky double quilt. I think I started it as far back as 2013. It is filled using an old duvet that we didn't need anymore, so instead of throwing it out, I made it into an eiderdown/quilt.

Because of the thickness of the quilt, however, I was never able to sew it together on a machine, so the quilting of the back, front and duvet together had to be done solely by hand.  Each line of stitching took approximately one and a half to two hours to complete.

It has been sat unfinished for over 6 years now, but by sewing one line per day for the last week or so, I've finally managed to finish the quilting and then hand sew the binding around the edges.

During the last 6 years, it has lain on the bed in my sewing room and on many occasions I've slept under it, unfinished.  I can vouch for how warm and comfortable it is.  Unfortunately, some of the fabrics have faded a bit as a consequence, but I'm not too bothered, as this just gives it a bit more of a lived in and loved feel.

I'm relieved to have finally finished it though. It was a marathon project. The only issue it has, is that it's so thick that I can't wash it in our washing machine and will have to take it to the launderette, where they've got a much bigger machine I can wash it in.  I'll probably do so some time before next winter, just to make it feel even softer and cosier.

There's still one more quilt project that I need to finish, but I'm still working on that one and will post again when I've finished it.

Have you managed to finish any longstanding projects this lockdown?

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Lockdown Reading

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been utilising the time at home during lockdown to do some reading. To be honest, my reading started a couple of weeks before, when I had a few weeks of annual leave to use up, so I got quite a few books read.  I tend to just read for an hour in a morning whilst still in bed, or occasionally last thing at night, if I go to bed early.

Here's a photo of some of the books I've recently finished:

All of these non-fiction books were very interesting, but I particularly liked The Energy Glut, as it discussed the fact that we have too much energy in developed countries and that using less of it would benefit us in many ways, i.e. less traffic on the roads, less destruction of the environment, less obesity and generally less stuff cluttering up our lives. I had a lot of sympathy with the views of the writer and it was a relatively quick and easy read, but had a refreshing point of view.

Enough, similarly discussed the issue of at what point do we consider we have/do enough of various things in life, i.e. food, possessions, work, travel, etc.

Eating animals I've mentioned before in another post. It was a difficult read in that some of the situations it described, of animals being very cruelly treated, made it very hard to stomach, but it has reinforced my determination not to eat meat.

Finally, Effective Altruism discussed the idea of only donating to projects that are the most effective at what they do, and also considered the issue of choosing a career which brings about the most good in the world. Interestingly, it argued that in lots of situations it was more effective to work at any well paid job that facilitated the ability to give financially to effective charitable organisations, than to work at an altruistic job i.e. doctor, etc.

It argued that some of the most effective organisations that are making the most difference in the world are often relatively small and unknown and focus on small specific areas and problems, such as deworming, providing malaria nets or even directly giving cash to people and that these charities provide better life expectancy and health and educational outcomes in affected countries than many better known charitable endeavours. It was an interesting read, especially as someone who works in the charity sector.

Below is another pile of books that I am still working my way through.

I have already read The Obstacle is the Way.  This was a very quick and enjoyable read and talks about how we can turn obstacles we face in life into positives and how they can propel us to a better future. It focused a lot on the works of the Stoic philosophers such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, as well as including lots of interesting stories about very famous people such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart and other very famous names that have done amazing things throughout history, despite having to overcome very large obstacles placed in their way. Definitely worth a read and it has definitely whetted my appetite for more reading of the Stoics' philosophies.

The Challenge of Affluence is more of a research based book about the challenges that we face in affluent developed societies.  It is quite a difficult read with lots of tables, graphs, research data. I've started it, but then set it aside for some lighter reads.

At the moment I'm reading The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker (not pictured here)in the hope it might inspire me to get to grips with decluttering the sewing room. I'll let you know about the other books in the pile once I've read them.

What are you reading during lockdown?

Monday, 13 April 2020

Clearing the Garden Dumping Ground

Last Sunday, seeing as the weather was lovely, I asked OH if he would help me to overhaul the end of the garden, which in recent years has become a bit of a dumping ground.

For anyone new to my blog, the fencing around this area was built by some garden landscapers to enclose my daughter's trampoline, which it did for several years.  Now 17, she no longer really uses the garden much, so a couple of years ago we took the trampoline out and gave it to some neighbours for their children.  This left a big circular space.

For a few years, we haven't really done anything with it.  It did house a mini green house and potting table for a while, but these items gradually rusted and rotted away and last year I cleared them out intending to make over this part of the garden.

As with many plans, they don't actually come to fruition when you intend them to and it got left. Bits and pieces that used to be housed in the greenhouse got left here and the only household member to enjoy the space was the dog.

Here's a picture of the area before we started work on it:

We'd previously put a few pavers down to stop foxes burrowing underneath and as a base for the mini greenhouse, but we intended to reuse them to create a different look in this part of the garden.

OH set to work pulling up all the pavers and setting them aside, whilst I removed all the clutter that had accumulated and tried to find it all a new home elsewhere.

Once the pavers were removed OH dug trenches down each side in order to foxproof this part of the garden with chicken wire.  They often dig tunnels under the fences, and we wanted to prevent this.

Our intention here is to create planting strips along each fence, in which we intend to grow some tall bamboo plants and create a leafy secluded little seating area. Obviously, with lockdown, it might be difficult to complete this project right now, but getting started on a sunny day, seemed like a good idea.

The dog enjoyed digging along with OH and trying to stick her nose through the fence into the garden at the back (Hence the hole!). She loves it when we work out in the garden with her. As you can see, she is heavily invested in this corner of the garden, hence her appearance in this photograph.

With a bit of work and no expense, it now looks much better:

This part of the garden is lovely and shady in the afternoons, partly on account of the palm tree closeby.  I think that considering we did this transformation with only what we had to hand, it looks okay. Much tidier and usable in any case.

This is probably as far as we can get for now, until we can buy some bamboo plants, more pavers and more willow panels to go on the back fence, but even so, it's much improved. I'll post again when the transformation is eventually completed.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Easter Clean Up

Usually at Easter, if I'm not working, we would be travelling to see family up in Yorkshire. As there was no chance of that this year, I decided to dig in and do some cleaning in the house. I did a deep clean a month or so ago, when I had some annual leave just before the lockdown, and then did another clean maybe a couple of weeks ago, but after watching a TV programme this week called How Clean is Your House during Lockdown? I figured that I'd better get cleaning again and make it a more regular occurrence.

The programme focussed on areas of high traffic and touching, where particles of the virus could be harboured and suggested that you should clean these areas at least daily and possibly several times a day. I have to admit that I haven't been so conscientious in the last couple of weeks, mainly because we have hardly been out anywhere, save to walk the dog and the occasional shopping trip, but that is no excuse, as any time you leave the house you can bring the virus in with you.

Anyway on Saturday morning, I got up determined to tackle the house.  This time I focused on all of those areas that the programme had suggested should be tackled. I figured that if I gave everything a good initial clean, then I could start a daily wipe down every night before bed, of the main things that need keeping clean i.e. light and other switches, door handles, toilets, sinks and taps, etc.

Thinking about this methodical sort of daily cleaning routine reminded me of the Flylady System that I tried to follow a few years ago in 2017. I'm afraid that as soon as I got a paid job, the system fell by the wayside, but Lockdown is a perfect opportunity to re-boot the system in some respects, for the duration.

I started at the top of the house in the bathroom, our bedroom and the sewing room, which I haven't really cleaned for a while as it doesn't get much use in an average week. As I'm currently spending more time in there, I did a bit more of a clean, although it was difficult to deep clean in there as it is currently very cluttered. I did make sure to clean all switches, even on my sewing machine, which I've been using lately.

Fortunately, LB had spent two whole days this week re-organising and cleaning her bedroom, so that was one room I didn't have to tackle, so I skipped past and down the stairs into the hallway. I made sure to clean the banisters and then the door furniture both inside and out, plus the thermostat and light switches.

I took a break for lunch and then resumed in the Living Room/Dining Room, paying particular attention to the TV, light switches, remote controls, door handles, basically anything we touch a lot that is either plastic or a hard surface. I vacuumed and mopped as I went too.

Finally, was the job of cleaning the downstairs vestibule, toilet and kitchen.  In the kitchen, I paid particular attention to cupboard door handles, the oven, dishwasher and fridge handles, light switches again and worktops.

In toilets and bathrooms, I made sure to clean bottles containing cleaning products and toiletries, the flush buttons of the toilets, the handle of the toilet brush, light cords and door handles. All things that get touched very regularly, and which going forward I intend to clean on a daily or every other day basis.

I even cleaned the vacuum cleaner after I'd finished, so that it would be clean for the next person to use it and I threw my trainers in the washing machine.  I have decided that they are the only shoes I'm going to wear during lockdown, mainly because they are so versatile. I can exercise in them on dog walks, go out shopping in them and then throw them in the washing machine when I come in.

It may seem excessive, but it seems to me that with time on my hands at home, I have no excuse not to be vigilant for the virus. The least I can do is to try to keep it at bay.

When I stopped for lunch, I got out my old Flylady Control Journal and devised a new evening routine to take account of the essential daily cleaning tasks that I consider necessary during the pandemic. It was interesting to see some of the motivational quotes I'd copied and clipped into the file.  They were so appropriate. Although I have no control over what is going on outside of my house, I do have some control over what happens inside it from now on.

In any case, it felt good to get the house in order, now I can enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend .
Do you have a Lockdown cleaning routine?

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Growing Things

After posting a picture of some seedlings emerging the other day, I've been shocked how quickly lots of things that OH sewed last week have suddenly sprung into life. As a consequence, I thought I'd do a little post about what we're currently growing.

OH keeps most of his seedlings on the windowsill in the kitchen and then puts them out in the mini greenhouse during days when it's warm, returning them to the windowsill at night. Almost all
of them have now germinated and they are doing pretty well.

There's kale, two types of kohl rabi, courgettes, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and French dwarf and climbing beans.  Here are some pictures from a couple of days ago:

More lettuce has been sown into the raised bed in the garden. This is just starting to germinate, but only just. It's not actually visible in a photograph so I didn't take one.

The allotment currently looks like this:

OH has planted the potato tubers and some shallots, the latter of which are just showing some green shoots. He's also got asparagus growing, but as he only planted it last year, we can't really harvest much of it this season. Other than that there is a gooseberry plant, a blackcurrant and some strawberries.

The rhubarb is doing well, as usual.  I'm going to cut this from time to time and leave it outside the gate for anyone passing to take. I'll wear gloves when I do so. You can see the dog having a drink, as we'd called in after a long walk.

The raspberry canes are also doing well. They look like they are going to provide lots of lovely fruit later in the year. I've noticed at least a dozen new canes growing out of the ground this year compared to last.

On the allotment What's App group chat, everyone has agreed to have a pumpkin and dahlia growing competition this year. I've decided to enter the dahlia competition, as I have some dahlias that normally grow on my plot, so long as they grow back this year. It's something to aim for.

At least with the growing season upon us, there's plenty to do to keep us busy. I even managed to buy some sunflower seeds at the supermarket this week. No vegetable seeds available, just flowers. I guess because of our exceptional circumstances, everyone is probably trying to grow some food themselves this year. The sunflower seeds came home with me, as OH likes to grow them, plus they provide good amounts of food for the birds and other creatures.

That's about all to report for now.  What are you growing this year?

Friday, 10 April 2020

A Sleepless Night and an Online Order

Last Wednesday, I had a really good day, managed to get into a bit of a routine and felt productive for probably the first time since the lockdown started. It therefore came as a surprise to me, when I just couldn't sleep that night and started feeling very anxious, about food amongst other things.

I don't think it helped that I'd attempted to go to the supermarket the day before, but two large supermarkets had had ridiculously long queues outside of them, snaking around their car parks, so I'd turned the car around and come home and I went to local small shops instead to get what we needed, or most of what we needed.

Whilst tossing and turning and thinking about all of this, the idea to check out Approved Food's website popped into my head. So, I got up and headed downstairs.  I logged onto their website and proceeded to put an order together. To be honest, it didn't really reassure me all that much, because I was surprised to see there was much less food on sale on the site than there usually is, obviously because lots of people have been buying it. I also looked around on other sites I've used before to buy food and they had very little in stock too.

Anyway, I got an order together, mainly for snacks, chocolate, dog treats, passata, sugar, biscuits, wholemeal wraps, tomato ketchup, cereal, baked beans and some whiskey for OH. I qualified for free delivery, so paid and was mildly reassured that some food would be finding it's way to us in the next few days.

I went back to bed and went to sleep.  A couple of days later I got an email to say that it could take up to 8 days for the order to arrive.  Fair enough, I figured, in the circumstances, so a supermarket shop would be necessary afterall. 

I did that shop this week on Tuesday and it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. It felt better to know that we had everything we needed again for a good few weeks, save for staples like milk, bread, fruit and salad which we will continue to need to replenish regularly locally.

Yesterday, my Approved Food order arrived, which was now a bonus.  Here's a picture:

It's very snack heavy, but then those are the things we tend to eat up quickly, and everything else are things we use regularly, so that's a good thing. The Shredded Wheat minis where a master stroke as I'll be using those for my Easter nests topped with mini eggs bought on a recent shop.

It's going to be a strange Easter this year, but we'll celebrate it in our own small ways.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Tweaking the Daily Routine

I posted the other week about getting into a new routine now we're on lockdown. Not everyone likes routine, but I do. It doesn't have to be rigid, but I like to have certain things to do to structure my day.

As days turn into weeks on lockdown, I've been gradually tweaking my routine, bit by bit.

Here's the current routine;

Wake up and read in bed for an hour.
Get up, washed and dressed and then do some arm exercises with weights.
Have breakfast and check out what's new online.
Take the dog for a walk and try to do Joe Wick's PE lesson for the day.  I only do the upright exercises, as I'm on the move with the dog and sometimes the grass is wet.
Lunch and a bit of blog reading/writing.
Do any washing that needs doing and hang it out.
Two hours of work on unfinished sewing projects.
Watch Jamie Oliver and get inspired to cook something for supper.
Wash up whilst cooking supper.
One or two hours of TV before bed.

Some days, I don't manage to stick to the routine. Other things get added in or missed out depending on what I feel compelled to do, i.e. ironing, cleaning, gardening, online dance classes, etc.

On Tuesday this week, for example, I got up early and decided to go and do a proper full on supermarket shop, while OH took the dog out.  That meant that I didn't do Joe's lesson that day, as it's always busier in the parks on an afternoon dog walk, so I don't bother.

Yesterday, I didn't do the dog walk in the morning again either, as OH took the dog and walked her whilst on an errand to pick up some medication for her from the vet's. Once again, I didn't get to do Joe's lesson, as I prefer doing it in the open air and it's just not the same doing it in the house. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)

Besides, I had a pyjama day (the first to date) and got lost down a Pinterest rabbit hole for most of the day. I decided to do some work on organising my pin boards and delete any pins that were no longer relevant or interesting to me. One board had 1200+ pins on it.  I managed to halve that, but my computer was so slow, that by the end of the day I'd had enough and gave up for the time being.

In between, I did manage to do some weights and floor exercises, do my daily sewing time, and most other things on the list, just in a completely different order. (Save for the dog walk - OH did a double dog walk. He'd taken the day off work and had been gardening and chilling.)

Today, I'm looking forward to getting back to my 'normal' routine, as not having done much exercise for a couple of days has left me feeling a bit lethargic. I don't like going out to the park in the afternoons when it's really busy, as people don't always keep their distance when they pass you and it unnerves me.  Mornings are much better, as there's fewer people out and about.

It was the same story when I went to the supermarket this week. I deliberately went to a very large store, with wider aisles and a one way system of moving through the store. I wore a mask and gloves, cleaned the trolley handle on my way in, tried to keep two meters away and basically did everything I could to be safe, but still people came really close to me at times. The store wasn't even really that busy, as I went early, but there you go. It does sometimes make me wonder if people have any idea how serious the situation really is.

Anyway, it was a relief to do a food shop and know that I don't need to go back again for at least a couple of weeks. I fear I'm becoming a little agrophobic with all this staying in, but maybe that's just how it's going to be for the duration.

Are you getting into new routines, or do you like every day to be different?

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Styling My Vintage Wardrobe - Separates

As promised, the other day I decided to have a go at creating a vintage styling post.  I often show things that I buy, but not always how I would wear them, so I thought I'd create a few outfits from the separates in my wardrobe, to give you some idea of the kind of vintage style I like to wear on a daily basis.

By way of a disclaimer, I haven't actually worn all of the following outfits outside of the house. I have worn similar combinations of some and I have actually worn some, but not all. You will, however, get an idea of the way that I like to wear my vintage and non vintage clothes.

So here goes.

The first outfit is one that I have worn before.  In fact, this was the outfit I wore on my very first visit to a Swing Dance event.  I didn't have many vintage clothes at the time, but I liked this outfit and can remember taking great care getting ready that day. I still do like this combination and will probably wear it again sometime. It is super comfortable for dancing and I think the shirt is really pretty.

Using the same skirt, I put together another outfit.  I considered wearing this outfit the last time I went to a dance event, but changed my mind and wore a dress instead.  The top is actually a dress that I bought from H&M a while back and have probably only worn a couple of times.  I think I prefer it as a top though, the sleeves are flouncy and pretty.  I combined it with a lovely vintage floral scarf  and a wide belt for this look.

I'm a bit of a lover of a wrap skirt, so sticking with this theme, here's another look incorporating one. This leopard print wrap skirt was bought new on eBay for £7 or so.  I really like it and it looks cute combined with this blouse I bought from Monki for £8. Although neither item is actually vintage, together they create a vintage style look.

The next look is a little more colourful. I combined a red silk blouse with this striped H&M sweater that I bought in a charity shop in Hastings a month ago. I added the red belt, also from a CS and combined them with my pinstriped button front skirt.

Talking of stripes, I bought this next skirt on eBay a few months ago.  It is from Marks and Spencer's and is a modern skirt, but I thought the bow detail to the front gave it a slightly vintage feel and I like anything that is striped.  It goes great with this lovely grey tie neck jumper from Mango. It's really comfortable to wear and I often combine it with different black tops too.

Whoever said blue and green should never be seen?  I've never held much store by this saying. I think they go together great. In this look, I combined a green pussy bow blouse with a blue and green circle skirt, blue cardigan and a favourite green vintage brooch.  I think it looks pretty cute.

Next, is a brown and green combination.  I bought the skirt from my new favourite Second Hand Shop, as mentioned in a previous post.  It cost £2.50, but was much longer and didn't fit well on the waist, so I basically cut the waist off and created a new elasticated waist, making it shorter as I did so. The photograph isn't too clear, but it is A-line in style and brown with a green check running through it. I paired it with another green pussy bow blouse I bought in a Charity shop in Rye and a cute brown vintage look sweater. I would definitely wear this look for work and I think in total this outfit cost less than £10.

My final look, is the lovely cream blouse I bought recently at Mile End Vintage, combined with a checked skirt I bought for £5 from Primark of all places.  I really like this combination.  I threw in a neck scarf,  also from Mile End Vintage, to add a bit of colour and interest and quite like the effect.

So, that was a look at how I style some separates.  I have, of course, got lots more combinations that I wear, but it is difficult to style trousers on my mannequin, so I couldn't really show you the combinations I wear with the few pairs of trousers I have.

I may do another post of some of my vintage dresses, but they don't really involve a great deal of styling, save for adding a few small accessories. I hope you enjoyed this little look into my wardrobe and how I like to wear things.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Clear the Pantry Tray Bake

Disclaimer:  I am no baker - but you know when you just need something sweet and crunchy to munch with a cup of tea. If you've run out of biscuits, this might just be the recipe for you.

I don't really keep biscuits in the house, even during lockdown, mainly to stop me unnecessarily munching them and consuming unnecessary calories, but from time to time I do find myself craving something sweet and in the absence of any cake or chocolate, I've been baking this tray bake to keep our taste buds happy.

It's a very interchangeable recipe, I basically just throw in what I have in the cupboards and what I don't have I miss out.  Obviously oats, butter, sugar and flour are pretty essential, but everything else can really be substituted. It's super quick to make too and you don't need to dirty lots of pots either.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup of oats
half a cup of dessicated coconut
half a cup of plain flour
half a cup of wholemeal flour
half a cup of sugar
quarter cup of castor sugar
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons of boiling water
1 tablespoon of honey
125g of butter
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
handful of dried fruit
100g of quality chocolate for topping

Combine dry ingredients.
Melt butter and honey in saucepan on low heat.
Mix bicarb and hot water and add to butter mix, then stir well.
Add wet to dry ingredients and combine.
Add chia seeds, fruit, nuts etc. and mix.
Press into lined tin.
Cook at 180 degrees for 20 minutes
Melt chocolate and drizzle/spread over bake and smooth.

Today, for example, I didn't have coconut, either flour, bicarb or chocolate and I wanted to use up some brown sugar that I don't ordinarily use.

So, instead of the above flours I used self raising flour. I used brown sugar instead of castor and granulated, baking powder instead of bicarb and I added 1tbsp cocoa powder to the dry mix, instead of putting chocolate on the top. It's a great way to use up pantry/dry goods you don't ordinarily have a use for.

Here's how it turned out:

It tastes better than it looks and will keep us going for a few days, without having used much of anything that is essential in the cupboards. 

What have you been baking during lockdown?