Monday, 30 November 2020

Quilting Tales

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I love to quilt. I'm not a machine quilter, I'm afraid, much as I'd love to be, because I don't really have the skills to make anything but a very simple quilt on a machine. Maybe one day I'll take a course and develop some skills, but in the meantime, my quilting often tends to be of the hand stitched variety, often using paper piecing.

The quilt I'm currently working on, started as a machine project during the last lockdown, mainly to make use of an old single quilt that I didn't want to put into landfill. I often use them as the wadding, which makes the quilts very thick and warm, great for snuggling under in the winter months, whilst watching TV. The only problem with this is that sewing machines often don't like to stitch through thick layers of duvets and I therefore often end up hand stitching the quilted rows.  Here's a picture of this current project:

It's not too far from being finished, but my motivation is seriously lacking at the moment, due to the fact that hand stitching the rows takes a lot of time and effort to handle the quilt and make the stitching neat. 

Most of the fabrics used to make this quilt formed part of my vintage Laura Ashley fabric collection. I've collected various prints over the years, mainly ditsy ones, buying them on eBay and squirrelling them away.  The last lockdown, however, taught me that it was probably about time I did something useful with them, hence how this quilt came about. I'm looking forward to finishing it and putting it into use in our living room.  The colours should complement the decor and I think it's quite pretty in a simple kind of way.

On Sunday morning, I woke up and felt inspired to drag out yet another quilt project that I had started during the last lockdown.  This one was for a certain canine member of our household, to put in their basket. I'd started sewing it on my machine and was going to attempt a machine made quilt, but as my machine is not currently working, I've decided to resort to the paper piecing method.

There are a few things I like about this method -

- it's an occupation that costs nothing, but produces a wonderfully practical heirloom item, that can be used for years and very easily washed.

- it's a method my mum used to use when she had the time to quilt and it keeps me connected to the memory of that.

- it uses up lots of scrap paper, of which I have a ton, after ripping all the unused pages out of LB's old school exercise books before discarding them.

- I can work on it whilst watching TV in an evening and don't have to work in the sewing room.

- I find hand stitching on small pieces, very therapeutic and don't really care how long it takes, as it's the process that I enjoy and the satisfaction that comes when you finally finish it.

In order to convert the making of this quilt  to a paper piecing process, I had first to make a cardboard template for the paper pieces.  This was very easy, as I already had a template for the fabric pieces and just needed to make one slightly smaller all around.

The pieces in this quilt are brick shaped I guess and cut from dog or duck print fabrics, plus some other plain and spotted fabrics thrown in. Again, I'd bought these fabrics on eBay years ago, with the intention of making something for the dog, but had never got around to it until now. As she's now 8 years old, I can't hang around much longer or she won't get to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Anyway, here's a picture of some of the blocks I've already machine sewn, to give you some idea of how it is taking shape.  It's quite cute. I've stuck to dark colours as they are much more practical for a dog quilt.

Sunday morning was spent cutting out all the paper pieces I needed, which I thoroughly enjoyed and Sunday evening was spent pinning them to the fabric pieces whilst watching His Dark Materials and The Crown. I managed to get them all tacked too by the end of the evening, so now they are ready to hand sew together. A thoroughly pleasurable way to spend the many autumn/winter evenings to come.

It may sound terribly sad, but it's helping to give me a sense of purpose at this difficult time, when it's hard to see when normality will ever return.  In addition, as we are staying in London for Christmas, it will more than keep me occupied for the duration. Sometimes, having a pleasurable future goal can really help get you through the difficult days.

I'll keep you posted with progress.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

A Bit of Ebay Auditing

This is probably a bit of a contradictory post considering a recent post was concerned with being frugal, but whilst poking around on eBay the other day, after having purchased yet more items (a couple of used books this time), I decided to have a look back over this year and audit how much I'd actually spent on the site. I was just curious, as I use the site a lot and buy lots of different things, from clothes and accessories to DIY bits and pieces, craft bits, furniture, a bike and accessories, etc., etc.

I decided to focus my efforts on what I'd spent in the last year on three categories - Clothes and accessories, Home/Garden/DIY and the final category was what I'd spent on Covid related purchases for my own personal use. 

Here's what I found:

Clothing and Accessories - I spent a whopping £368.05 on clothing and accessories this year on eBay. That's quite a lot.  This included 4 pairs of footwear, 19 items of clothing and 16 items which I'd class as accessories, ranging from socks or tights, scarves to jewellery, mostly brooches and some of these purchases were for multiples bought as one item, which I haven't included in the figure. Interesting.

I have to admit that some of the purchases didn't actually turn out to be what I expected, which is always a risk when buying things online and some I've even subsequently donated, as I'll never wear them. I am, however, trying to be more careful about buying clothing, as it is very difficult to know if you'll like it when it arrives.  Many things I've bought this year I really love though and am very happy with, I'd say probably 80%.

Home/DIY/Garden - I spent an even larger sum on items for our home and garden and to assist me in DIY projects over lockdown this year. The total came to £383.92. I'd say that the proportion of things I was happy with, was far higher in this category, although I did purchase the odd thing that was totally unsuitable or not as described - less than 10% I'd say. Quite a lot of money spent though. Most of it was spent on things to accessorise our rooms after redecoration, for storage or for DIY projects. 

Broken down this included three items of furniture or parts for furniture, 17 items used to accessorise or for home decor, including anything from photo frames, ornaments, candlesticks, plant pots, front door furniture, etc., 11 items used for DIY projects including mounts for framing photos or prints, ribbons, cords, paint, polish, a clock mechanism, staples for my staple gun, plus a few others. In addition, a couple of items were bought for storage and the same for the garden. A very eclectic mix of things.

Covid 19 - I thought it would be interesting to see what things I bought on eBay that were Covid related too. This total came to £87.33, mostly spent on PPE, but this did also include a 5 litre bottle of hand sanitiser that I bought for work, but wasn't suitable, as it couldn't be used by asthmatics, so I had to keep it for us to use. It will last us for the forseeable and way beyond, but was an expensive mistake at £20, all because I didn't read the label in the photograph properly and it wasn't mentioned in the listing, which was annoying.

This figure, however, did not include the bike I bought to get to work post-lockdown. Adding this in and the various bits of cycling clothing and paraphanalia I bought elsewhere, it would come to nearly £250. Super interesting to work out these additional costs this year. Initially, I bought very expensive masks on eBay, just as the crisis was building up and when it was difficult to get hold of them. I subsequently bought less expensive masks on Amazon and elsewhere. 

(There were a few other things I've purchased on eBay over the year, which didn't fall into the above categories, so the final figure will be maybe £100 or so more than the totals added together, but the majority were included)

A bit of an eye opener, but one I thought might be interesting to post about. It does make you question your online buying habits when you are confronted with the evidence of your shopping history. 

Overall, though, I am pretty happy with what I spent, save for a few things that I really wish I hadn't purchased. My experiences this year, have taught me to be much more careful buying clothing, especially vintage clothing and I have seriously curbed that urge online as a consequence. I think going forward, I'm going to be a lot more careful though and try to spend a lot less. 

I think being at home and unable to get to shops for much of the year, has led me to shop on eBay much more than I ordinarily would. At least, with eBay, small companies and individuals benefit from your purchases, and it is nice to know that you are giving extra life to something that someone else no longer wants.  

Do you ever audit your online spending?

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Week 3 Lockdown 2

I can't believe that we've got to the end of Week 3 of this lockdown already.  It's been a bit of a mixed week. Time has gone so quickly, and I still don't feel like I've achieved all that much. This week, I began to feel the pressure to get stuff done before I go back to work. I wanted to at least to break the back of decorating the hall and then be able to clean up the house and get the Christmas decorations up before returning to work, so it was time to really knuckle down. 

However, things didn't really go as planned. I continued to try to paint the inside of the vestibule cupboard, with little success. After trying a coat of the lighter coloured emulsion paint that I'd bought, I wasn't happy with that finish either and after more trial and error, I've decided to use a completely different paint. 

I ordered some tester pots from Little Greene for one wall in the downstairs part of the hall. Both of the colours I got samples for were quite dark, but whichever paint we choose, is going to replace a dark colour already on the wall in this part of the house, so I know the space can take it. I decided that whichever we choose, I would buy a bigger pot of it and re-paint the inside of the cupboard with it, so that there's some continuity.

The problem with the cupboard is, that it is very rough and uneven inside on both the walls and woodwork and I don't want to spend time filling, sanding, etc. as it doesn't really get seen that much. The very dark matt paint that I'm intending to use, seems to help disguise the flaws, whereas the light coloured paint and the eggshell paint with it's slight sheen, seem to make them more obvious. I now have to wait until we have made a decision and then I will need to order and take delivery of the wall colour before I can finish the cupboard. Sometimes the simplest jobs take much longer than you anticipate. Hence, the hall may not actually get finished before I go back to work.

Anyway, here's a before shot of the cupboard before I started, just to give you some idea of what I'm dealing with. I know it's just a cupboard, but I'd like to do it to a standard that I'm happy with.


On Saturday, OH was able to join me and do a bit more decorating and he finished sanding all the walls and also sanded all the woodwork on the banister and skirtings. I will now be able to start painting them, just as soon as he has finished painting the walls and ceilings. This will not be until next week though, as progress is slow.

On Monday, I managed to be a bit more productive and finally went over to the glass shop to order some glass for a photo portrait of my grandfather. I'd mounted it during the last lockdown and measured it for glass, but just hadn't got around to getting any. Anyway, the glass cost £9 and after putting everything in the frame, it's now up on the sewing room wall, which is very satisfying. It brings back childhood memories of my mother's bedroom, as it always hung on the wall there. One more thing crossed off the list.

On Monday this week, I also got back to working on a quilt. It was one that I started during the last lockdown. I decided to hand stitch the quilted rows, as my sewing machine is not working again. It took 2 hours to stitch just one row, which was a bit laborious, but only 5 more to go before it's finished. I'm going to try to do one per day, so that I can finish it before I go back to work.

Talking of which, on Monday it was announced that non-essential shops will be opening after this lockdown ends, regardless of tiers, so I will definitely be going back to work next week. I then received an email from work asking us to return to work next Tuesday 1st December to prepare the shop for opening on Wednesday 2nd December.  This means I only have a few days left of this lockdown and this applies a little more pressure to get everything done, but maybe I need it.

Unfortunately, LB got some bad news on Monday, namely that she's going to be made redundant from her part time job working as a waitress in a pub. She was disappointed, but she's had a good run and been paid all through the last lockdown, so she's been very lucky. It might be difficult for her to find another job at the moment though, but hopefully by Easter things might be more back to normal and she might find something.

In view of the current Covid figures up north where our families live, OH cancelled our cottage booking for Christmas, as it's one of the worst affected places in the country at the moment. If we do go it just adds another household to the mix, so it's probably best we don't. We'd been thinking about cancelling anyway, and had until next week to take advantage of free cancellation. I'm not sure we'd even have been able to travel up, due to restrictions as they will be in Tier 3,  so our movements will also be very restricted. I will probably need to work right up to Christmas and straight after anyway, especially since we've just lost a month's worth of revenue.

On Tuesday, I decided to spend a last day in the garden. I had a couple of small jobs still to do, both at the front and back and a bit more leaf sweeping. I wanted to get it all done in time for the brown bin collection due on Wednesday morning. In addition, once it was done, I could focus on cleaning the house, as I would no longer be tramping dirt in and out.

In order to make sure that I have enough time to get the whole house cleaned before going back to work, I started on the cleaning on Wednesday. With the main dust inducing decorating work done in the hall, it should stay relatively clean, so on Wednesday morning I started by cleaning the living room. I haven't given it a thorough clean since the last lockdown, so it was long overdue. It didn't take too long, but looked so much better. Now I can at least get the Christmas tree up at the weekend, if nothing else.

Looking ahead to Week 4 of lockdown, it is now going to be focused on cleaning, painting, sewing and putting up the Xmas decorations. I need to really focus hard to get everything I want to do done. I will let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Cherryz Online Haul

After seeing a few Cherryz hauls on YouTube over the last couple of weeks, I was curious as to what the site was actually like and decided to take a look myself. Not being able to visit Poundland during lockdown, as I don't think it's open (I might be wrong here), being able to shop from a similar online shop appealed.

I initially started to take a look on my computer without downloading the app, but was kind of tricked into downloading the app in order to get free delivery, which I didn't actually get. It was like the Amazon Prime trial -  you get a free trial for a month followed by paying £12 per year for free delivery, so I didn't use it, in case I forget to cancel it.  Anyway, downloading the app on my computer was pretty straightforward and it did enable me to get a 15% discount on my first order. I'm not sure if this was offered if you don't download the app though.

I had a good scroll through and managed to spend over £40. I have to admit that half of this was on just two items that I bought with Christmas in mind. 

The order was delivered 4 days later and came with lovely Cherryz branded tissue paper on top and only brown paper to fill the box out.  No annoying unnecessary packaging, which was good.

One of the above mentioned Christmas items was a perfume for me, namely Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea with Cherry Blossom. It cost £10 for 100ml, which I thought was quite reasonable. I usually use the original Green Tea perfume, but I'm running out, so I got this one for OH to give me for Xmas. I was a bit worried that I might not like the scent, but on receiving it, I found that it doesn't actually smell that different from the original, so I was happy with it.

The second item I bought with Christmas in mind was a set of 200 Warm White outdoor fairy lights with a timer that allows you to time them to come on for 6 hours per day/evening. They appealed because they are battery operated (4 x AA batteries), so no wires or plug in and I've wanted some lights for our little real Xmas tree on the decking for a while. They were probably a bit more than I would have liked to pay for them, but I'm really hoping that they will be well worth the price for the convenience. These cost £10 too.

Other than these things, most of what I bought were food or household items. Mainly snacks and treats, but some staples too. Here's some pictures of the other things I ordered:

Snacks and treats

Miscellaneous food and household items

Other items

Delivery cost £3, which is reasonable enough, but I did save over £6.50 with the 15% off my first order offer, which more than covered it. Delivery was within 3 to 5 days and the order did arrive in this time, but you can pay more and get it delivered the next day. Not something I would really ever do on a discount site, as it contradicts the frugality of using a discount site.

In addition, when you order from the site, you are given 2 reward points for every £1 you spend, which can then be exchanged for free reward items, which are a selection of items that are also on sale on the site. I assume they change all the time. You can use the points up on your next order I think. I gained 76 reward points, which would have got me the choice of one a few things from the site, which is an added bonus. Not sure if they'll still be offered if I order again, but then again, there might be something I like better.

I would recommend giving the site a try, even if only for the discount on your first order. Only one item in the order was incorrect, the calendar.  What was sent was not what I ordered, but this may have been because they had run out of the one I ordered. I would place an order again in the future.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Making Some Christmas Aprons

During the first lockdown, I did quite a bit of sewing and made various things, including some aprons to wear at work when I'm sorting and pricing donations. They were easy to make, along with their matching drawstring bags, which make them easy to throw in the washing machine when I get home from work at the end of the day.

Whilst being furloughed for the month of November, it was on my list to make a few more, this time from my stash of Christmas fabrics, both to cheer myself up and to get into the Christmas spirit for when I return to work in December. It's a great use of the fabric, that I probably wouldn't otherwise use, and if they raise a smile at work, then it will have been well worth it.

I set about making them one afternoon the other week. I wasn't feeling the decorating and just wanted to do something different. I began by using one of the aprons I had previously made as a template. I changed the new aprons slightly, making them shorter (knee length) and not so wide, as they didn't need to go down past my knees or wrap half way around my back.  This used much less fabric, which was good, as some pieces of fabric that I wanted to use, weren't quite big enough to make them in the original size. I also didn't bother to make any pockets to put on the front, as in reality, I just don't use them.

I cut out 6 aprons in all, from six different fabrics and pinned the edges ready to sew, either by hand, or on my machine if I could get it working again. I also cut enough fabric to make a small matching drawstring bag for each of them. I was then going to order some cotton tape on eBay for the ties, neck strap and drawstrings, until I accidentally came across some cotton Christmas tape that I already had in my stash that was perfect for the job and needed using for something. 

It was a day or so before I got back to them and could progress, I had to try to get my sewing machine working again. It was a job I wasn't looking forward to, as I'd got quite frustrated with it the last time I'd tried to use it, whilst making a new quilt. After changing the thread and testing out the machine, I was pleased to find that it was working okay, so proceeded to sew the drawstring bags and then the aprons themselves. 

I then proceeded to cut the cotton tape to the right lengths and pin it to the aprons, ready to machine stitch on. Later that evening, whilst watching TV, I threaded the tape through the drawstring bags and then all I needed to do was to stitch the tapes onto the aprons and give them all an iron and they were all set to go. This last bit of stitching, I did in part on my machine, which subsequently stopped working and then the last few done by hand.  This took a bit longer, but I quite enjoy hand stitching.

They are by no means perfect, but will do the job and it was a very satisfying little project that at least is now completed, ready for when I return to work. Here's a few pictures of the finished aprons and bags:

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Keeping It Frugal (Or Trying To)

As mentioned in the blurb on my blog, I do consider myself to be a frugal blogger and I am always trying to live as frugally as I can, although I haven't really posted much about my frugal endeavours in recent months.

During the last couple of weeks, I've managed to save a bit of money by returning to grocery shopping at Lidl, instead of Tesco, who I favoured during and after the first lockdown, as they had a super huge store that I felt safer shopping in. Since then, I discovered a newly opened Lidl store that was convenient to use and I decided to start shopping there. I think this has saved quite a bit of money, as they are very competitive on price. 

In addition, last week, whilst shopping in Lidl, I was encouraged to sign up for the new Lidl Plus app on my phone. It only actually saved me 27p on the day I signed up, but my shop qualified me for a £2 off coupon on my next shop.  It was only valid for a week, however, so the following week, needing to do a top up shop, I intended to use it, but unfortunately, on the day I was due to use it, the car went into the garage for an MOT and some other work and it had to stay in overnight, so I missed the window of opportunity and lost the saving.  Anyway, the following day I was finally able to do the shop, which then qualified me for a £10 off coupon, as I'd then spent more than £200 in one month. Once again, it's only valid for a week, but I will definitely make sure that I use that one when I do a my next shop.  In addition, I seem to have been awarded £2 off at the till, plus a further £1.04 in savings and then I won a 25p off coupon using the digital scratch card they send you every time you shop. Not bad savings in just one week. The app does seem to encourage you to shop there every week in order to use your coupons, but if you do anyway, it's no big deal.

On the subject of supermarkets, I have also received £16 in vouchers to spend at Tesco, as a result of accumulating club card points through shopping with them a lot in recent months. I'll also be using these on my next shop, as invariably I can't always get everything I want from Lidl and need to get the rest from Tesco.

I'm not solely loyal to Lidl and Tesco, I also occasionally shop at Waitrose, which I did last weekend, as I needed to drop my Operation Christmas Child Box off at a shop in the mall, that was still open for Click and Collect. Whilst I was there, I picked up a few bits we needed for the weekend from Waitrose. I made sure to make it worth my while by getting a newspaper for OH, which you can get free with your Waitrose card, if you spend more than £10. As newspapers are £2-£3 these days, this was definitely worth the saving. Whilst there, I also picked up the John Lewis At Home magazine for free. As it was the Christmas edition, I enjoyed reading through it at the weekend and getting into the Christmas spirit a bit more. It was a lot less expensive option than buying a Christmas interiors magazines that cost around £5.99 each, but I might still treat myself to one at some point, as a festive indulgence.

Other savings I've made recently, have been on an order from an online discount shop called Cherryz, that I'd seen several people post videos about on YouTube. It's a kind of online Pound shop, although it does sell more expensive items too, and as I can't visit the pound shop at the moment, due to lockdown restrictions, I thought I'd scratch the itch by giving it a try. I got a 15% discount off my first order which was certainly worth having. I'm still waiting for the order to arrive, but a post will be coming shortly about my haul from them. It was mainly groceries and household products, with a few extras thrown in.

Finally, one non-grocery saving I made in the last couple of weeks was on eBay. A recent new thing on the site, has been for eBay to offer discounts on listings that you watch, presumably to encourage you to go ahead and buy, and the other day I was offered a £10 discount on an item I was watching, which I promptly accepted. I think eBay actually give you the discount rather than the seller. I'm not 100% sure, but whomever, a discount is always welcome. The item arrived yesterday and I'm very happy with it, as it was something I'd been looking to buy for a while. It will be featured in a forthcoming post.

Not the most exciting frugal measures I know, as they mostly involve grocery shopping, but every saving means more money in my pocket, which is all good. Have you managed to save money on anything recently or are you waiting for Black Friday?

More Random Ebay Purchases

As anyone whose been reading my blog for a while will know, I'm very partial to buying things on eBay. I used to be an eBay seller and enjoyed selling on eBay, but now I work in a charity shop, there is a conflict of interest with regard to selling online, so to make things simple I stopped and now just buy on eBay.

In recent months, I've posted a few times about the random things that I've bought, particularly through the last lockdown, but I've continued to buy things during the time the restrictions were lifted, mainly because I was looking for new decor for our living room.

Like many people, I've been making it feel cosy since we redecorated during the last lockdown and I decided that it needed a bit of a new look, so out went all the old random photo frames that we've had for 20 years, plus the random items on the mantel piece and in came a few vintage but new to me things that I really like and want to live with.

I began by buying a few gold coloured photo frames to blend with the gilt picture frames that were already in the room, and which I liked and wanted to keep. 

I then moved on to buying a few new things for the mantel piece, the first of which were these brass herons that I just love. We often see herons on the canals and rivers around where we live, so they seemed a fitting choice. They are lovely and shiny, more so than they look in this photo and look lovely against the blue paint on the wall which is actually darker than it appears in the photos on account of the flash. I bought one from an eBay seller and then went back and bought the second from the same seller. They are a pair after all and are meant to be together, so after being parted for a week or so, they were eventually reunited. I probably paid a bit more doing it that way, but I don't care as I really like them. (Please excuse the dust and dirt in these photos, the room needs a good clean, but there's no point until we've finished decorating the hall as we're still generating more dust)

I also bought a few vintage brass candlesticks for the mantle piece. One was from a car boot sale for £1.50, but the others were all from eBay. I think I paid about £16 for them in all. I went for the open barley twist ones as I really like the design.

Next, I turned my attention to adding some greenery to the living room.  I'm not that good with houseplants, but I wanted to give it a go. It's nice having living things in your home that you can care for, but I have to admit that the whole regular watering thing is a big learning curve for me and I have to try hard to remember to do it. To accommodate the plants, I've recently bought a variety of vintage copper and brass pots, mostly from visits to car boot sales. At one, I bought the smaller copper and brass ones pictured, plus a copper tray and a small brass door knob (not pictured) all for £5. Total bargain.  Car boot sales rock! It's just a pity that the season for them has ended.

The largest pot I bought was on eBay. I say pot, but it's actually a vintage copper coal scuttle that will fit a very large plant. I'm not sure the plant that is in there at the moment will be staying in there, I may buy a big palm or cheese plant instead.  It wasn't particularly cheap, but worth the £40 or so I paid for it, as I really like it.

In my next Random Ebay Purchases post, I'll show you what I've bought on eBay in recent months for when we redecorate the hallway. They are mostly small inexpensive items, but I can't wait to put them into use.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Week 2 Lockdown 2

During the second week of this second lockdown, we finally turned our attention to working on projects indoors. I'd put it off for a week, preferring to spend time outside in the garden whilst the weather was dry and bright and it's probably a good thing I did, as it was windy and rainy for the most part of the second week.

I think I avoided work inside because I knew that this was where most of what we need to get done is concentrated. Re-decorating the hallway and stairs is a big job and is going to be quite disruptive, but it's as good a time as any to do it, so we just needed to get stuck in.

The paintwork in the hallway is currently a disgrace and it's very embarrassing that we've let it get into such a state. It was last decorated before we had the basement built out in 2012, but what with builders coming and going and bikes coming in and out, it's taken some knocks over the last 8 years, hence where we are today.  It would be good to get it done in time for Christmas and have a nice refreshed entrance to the house, not that anyone is coming to visit, but purely for our own pleasure and enjoyment.

As mentioned in my last lockdown post, I did as intended and tried to begin by painting the inside of the cupboard in the downstairs part of the hallway, as this was something I could do without OH's help. This cupboard houses a multitude of things, including sports equipment, the ingredients I use for making natural toiletries and candles, plus a few other things that all needed to be temporarily relocated. 

The walls and insides of the cupboard had never actually been painted by us, since moving into the house over 12 years ago and they were covered with flaking yellow paint, so my first job was to sand it down a bit and then prime all of the surfaces inside the cupboard ready to paint them.

On Friday 13th, primer applied and dried, I then attempted to apply the first coat of the interiors paint I had bought for the job. This was where I ran into difficulty, as the paint I'd bought which was an eggshell, didn't seem to go on to the primed surface very well. In addition, it turned out to be far too dark a colour and wasn't really what I had expected it to be. At this point I admitted defeat and gave up for the day, or at least until I could get hold of some different paint, believing fate was conspiring against me on such a troublesome date.

It wasn't a great start to the week, which left me feeling a bit useless and demoralised, until Saturday, when OH was able to join in and start prepping the walls, i.e. filling in cracks and dents ready to get on with the painting. As he is still busy working during the week, he can only do decorating on the weekend and it was such a relief once he got started. 

He began working in the entrance hall and the lower ground part of hallway, as these will be the easiest parts to decorate, due to there being no high ceilings in this section.  The upstairs part is more tricky and will involve getting on long ladders and moving furniture from the top landing, so this will be done at a later date, once the lower levels have been completed.

The prepping process is always a slow one and for most of the week, things stayed as OH had left them. I tried again to paint the inside of the cupboard, with a bit more success.  The paint I bought is a bit too light this time, so we may add a darker paint to it and darken it a bit for the final coat.

As a consequence, I got very distracted and a bit frustrated with regard to the decorating this week and sought other things to occupy me on some afternoons (i.e. sewing - more in a future post). I'm hoping next week will see a bit more progress.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Loving Right Now - The Lockdown Edition

I haven't done a favourites type post for a very long time, but watching a favourites video on YouTube the other day inspired me to make one. So here goes.

One of my very favourite things at the moment, is the limited series that OH and I have been watching on Netflix this last week or so. It's called The Queen's Gambit and is about a young female chess player in the US in the 1960's. It may sound like a strange subject matter, but it is so engaging, well made and just a really great watch. If you're looking around Netflix for something to watch, I'd highly recommend it, even if you really don't like the game of chess. The 60's fashion and decor make it worth the watch. We've just got the last of the seven episodes left to watch tonight, before we move on to watching the new series of The Crown. Can't wait to watch it, but I'll be gutted that we've finished the series and hoping for a second one.

Next on my list of things I'm really enjoying at the moment, is Boots Witch Hazel and Tea Tree Day Moisturiser.  I've always used witch hazel on my face for many years, usually distilled, as a toner after washing my face in the morning. Since the start of the pandemic, however, after having experienced problems with maskne, I started to use a witch hazel blemish gel instead of a moisturiser, in order to calm my skin down and reduce any blemishes and it's worked so well. Having run out of that one, the one I'm currently using is the one above from Boots and it's very soothing. I think that wearing less make up has also helped, particularly not wearing face powder, especially when I'm wearing a mask all day at work. I certainly think that the gel and moisturiser have contributed to keeping my skin a lot clearer in recent weeks, which is all I can ask for.

Another beauty/hair product that I've been enjoying lately, is a satin pillow case that I bought from TK Maxx a few weeks ago. I'd seen lots of adverts about Blissy silk pillow cases on Pinterest and in other places and about how they were a beauty must have. Despite the fact that I don't usually fall for this kind of advertising, when I saw this, I just thought I'd give it a try. Why not? After all it only cost £5.99 and is supposed to help your hair more than anything, but I've found that I just love sleeping with this on my pillow. It's so smooth and cool. The colour of this particular one (cream) doesn't actually go with my bedding, but I have just ordered some black ones on eBay and I'm hoping that I will like them just as much. They were two for £6.49. All of them are the kind that zip closed rather than the envelope type. I don't know whether they actually benefit my skin or not, but I do just like the feel of the satin against my face, it feels like a bit of luxury during these troubled times. Who doesn't need a bit of that at the moment?

Talking of which, I have developed a bit of a guilty secret since the beginning of the pandemic. I've become  a fan of the GC, yes Gemma Collins, from the Only Way is Essex.  Although I very rarely ever watched that programme, I have found myself loving her recent Diva series.  Yes, she's outrageous, but I love that about her. I think she's a comedy genius. I'm even following her on Instagram. Her current catchphrase 'I'm Claustrophobic Darren' (Day - her friend) or 'Boris' is just so funny and apt. She's been cheering me up during the dark days of lockdown and I look forward to seeing her Christmas special. In addition, she's a very beautiful curvy lady and I like to see her doing well selling her own range of products online and appearing on TV enjoying herself. I actually find her quite inspiring, mainly because she doesn't seem to give a damn about what people think.  Go girl with that self belief, I think we could all do with a bit of it.

Finally, there's one last thing that I'm loving at the moment, namely lighting candles. I'd fallen out of the habit of lighting candles around the house over the last few years, but despite not using them, I seem to have amassed quite a collection in my cupboard. I've received them as gifts, bought them discounted from TK Maxx or bought a few from work that had been donated. Anyway, I decided to get them out and start burning them and I've been really enjoying it. What can be more cosy in these autumn months, than sitting down and lighting a candle during the long dark nights. I'm gradually working my way through the autumnal/wintery scents, saving the more Christmassy ones for a few weeks time and the more spring like scents for next year.

What have you been loving lately?

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Week 1 Lockdown 2

I started this second lockdown by posting fairly egularly about what I was getting up to and how I was trying to make the most of the furlough by trying to get on top of things at home. I've since decided that a weekly post might be better, as some days I'm productive, some days not so much. So, here goes for Week 1.

This first week of lockdown has most definitely been about the garden. I don't know why, but I was just drawn to spending time out there. I started off just generally tidying things up a bit, cutting back climbers and sweeping up leaves. This then progressed to a mighty prune of our fruit trees, which was long overdue, but which caused us to create 6 big bags of garden waste, plus our brown bin, which I filled first. I also created the same number of bags of leaves for rotting down for leaf mulch which will go back on the garden in 6 months or so.

As a consequence, I had to book a slot at our local recycling centre, which has remained open, so that we could drop it all off. Some of the branches that we cut off the cherry tree, OH cut up for logs, which we will dry out over the next year and use at some point in the future, but the rest went into the garden waste at the recycling centre.

I thought about starting other jobs in between stints in the garden, but couldn't motivate myself. Between bouts of ironing (I had a huge ironing pile to catch up on), I kept going back out into the garden, doing a bit more each time, as there were still a few small things to do, once the main cutting back and pruning had been done. 

I decided to pot on a new mimosa tree I bought during the last lockdown, as it was getting a bit tall for it's pot and kept blowing over in the wind. I moved a small maple tree that I'd also bought during the last lockdown, but which hadn't really thrived in the position I planted it. Hopefully it will enjoy it's new position in a sunny border.

I planted out some ferns I'd bought over the last few months, put in some bulbs I bought a few weeks ago, cleaned out the greenhouse, washed all the dirty plant pots and generally got into every corner of the garden and cleared debris that had built up over a couple of years. It felt very satisfying.

By the time that I'd done all that, there was very little left to do bar sweeping up some more leaves here and there as they drop so I could finally step away from the garden. It was a relief to get finished, as we can now more or less forget about our outside spaces for the rest of the autumn/winter and now turn our attention to the inside of the house.

I'm hoping that in the next few weeks we can get the hall decorated, or at least get started with it and I'm going to make a start myself on the wooden cupboard in the vestibule (the downstairs part of the hall next to the kitchen). The inside of the cupboard is probably the only part of the house that remained untouched since we bought it and needs priming and painting. It's a job I've been wanting to do for a good few years, but I only bought the paint for it a few weeks ago. I'm quite looking forward to doing some painting again. I'll keep you posted with progress.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Lockdown - Day Three and Four

No post on day 2 of lockdown, because it wasn't really a very productive day. I managed a few very small re-organising and tidying tasks around the house, ordered a few bits I needed from eBay and did some laundry, but not much else really got done. I thought about starting another big indoor project, but didn't, as I wanted to get the garden finished before moving indoors, so it was a bit of a wasted day really, but it was good to have some down time too. 

When I think about how long this lockdown is, it's potentially only 28 days long, which isn't really that long, compared to the one in March and I suspect that it will go by super fast, so I do really need to make the most of it.  There is already talk that the rates of infection in London are dropping, so I'm sure they'll want us back at work in December, but I guess only time will tell.

Anyway, day 3 was a lot more productive. Whilst OH took the dog out for a walk in Epping Forest on Saturday morning, I got straight out into the garden and did more pruning and tidying down the other end of the garden. By the time OH got back and had had lunch, I had just about done all that I could without his help, so it was then time to tackle the pruning of the overgrown fruit trees. 

Whilst I stopped for some lunch, OH proceeded to empty the compost from our hot bin onto the raised beds, which was another job done and then I was ready to help direct him in the pruning and more importantly hold the ladder, of course.

It was a tricky job, as we hadn't done a proper job of it for a few years and many of the branches had grown very tall and unruly, but within an hour or so it was done and the trees were looking so much better.  We were pretty brutal and removed a lot of the branches, but it had to be done as they were getting way too big for our small city garden and I'm hoping they'll be better for it. 

We managed to finish the pruning just before the light went and then I had to take the dog out. We weren't out to long because of fireworks scaring her home again.  When I got in I found out that the US election had been called and Biden had won. Probably why so many fireworks were going off on November 7th or maybe people were just celebrating Bonfire Night on the weekend.

It felt so good to get the pruning done, partly because the trees are on the boundary with our neighbours property and I'm always conscious that they may be a nuisance to them. The branches that we cut off still needed to be cut up, but that was a job for day 4 of lockdown.

Day 4 of lockdown dawned and I came downstairs to the sight of the tree massacre in the garden. Maybe we were a bit brutal after all.  Anyway, it was too late to worry about it as there was a massive pile of branches was piled high on the decking outside the back door. waiting to be cut up. Once I'd taken the dog for a walk, I got to work on this and cut down the thinner branches and filled up several bags full of them, ready to take to the tip.  The thicker branches were left for OH to saw, some of which we might season in the shed and burn on the log burner next year.

The final job of the day was to sweep up the leaves again, this time the ones that had come off the fruit trees and when this job was done I downed tools for the day.

There are still a few small jobs to do out in the garden, such as washing dirty plant pots, planting some bulbs/planting out some ferns I bought a few months ago, tidying the greenhouse and sweeping the leaves from the front light well and path, but these jobs are relatively small and easily done in comparison and I can tackle them on my own at anytime in the next few weeks.

Tomorrow, I think I may start some household cleaning, starting in the bathroom. I was going to do it yesterday, but LB was planning to dye her hair, so I thought it was better to wait until she'd finished or I would end up cleaning it twice.

On the subject of cleaning, I've just finished reading a small book I bought from work, written by a Buddhist monk, which is about cleaning your house and looking after your possessions and how this can help purify your heart and keep you healthy and feeling positive. It was a good little read and I do think that when your house is clean, you feel much more positive about your life and self, so to some extent I do agree with this point of view. 

Hopefully, by the end of lockdown, I will have worked my way through the whole house and will feel much better, as everything seems to get a bit out of control when I'm at work and I find it hard to keep on top of things.

Hope you're having a productive lockdown, or not, if you are happy to take it easy and enjoy the break from normal routines. I am planning on doing a bit of that myself at some point.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Day One of Lockdown

As mentioned in a previous post, I wasn't 100% happy going into lockdown for a second time, but today I decided to start off the time at home in a positive way, doing something that I really enjoy, but haven't done for a while.

It was one of those lovely crisp winter days.  A bit cold, but dry and sunny with a clear sky. As a consequence, when I returned from walking the dog, I decided to spend the day in the garden and it was fab. 

I haven't spent much time in the garden this year, for a few reasons:

1 - the heat in the spring/summer lockdown was too hot for me most of the time, so I preferred to stay indoors.

2 - there were always lots of neighbours out in their gardens and I like it best when I'm out there alone and can't hear anyone in surrounding gardens. 

3 - since lockdown ended, on my days off I've been way too tired to do anything so physical as gardening.

So, on account of the above, the garden has been a bit neglected this year if I'm honest. That made it all the more satisfying to get out there on day one of lockdown. It made me realise what I love about gardening and what I've been missing this year. It cleared my head completely and getting out there and getting absorbed in the task made the day pass really quickly too. I stayed out until it was too dark to do anymore then headed inside to have a lovely bath and prepare some supper.

It was mainly a case of cutting things back, sweeping up leaves and just general tidying around all the pots on the decking and down the side return today. In the process, I managed to collect a few bags of leaves to rot down into leaf mulch, which will be useful for the allotment next year and I redistributed the compost from some container potatoes and tomato plants onto the beds. I know this isn't recommended, but I've always done this and it's never caused any problems.

There's still a couple of places that I need to tidy, but which involved heavy lifting, such as behind/inside the greenhouse and there's still lots of pruning that I need OH's help with, as many branches will need severing with a saw, whilst standing on a ladder! We're planning on being quite ruthless this year, as the fruit trees have got way too big and I'm also planning to dig out some old established plants that have gone past their best. I'm hoping, weather allowing, that we can do some of it this weekend and get somewhere towards putting the garden to bed for the winter.

As the garden in winter isn't really very interesting, I haven't taken any photos, but rest assured it looks better than before I started.

How was your first day in lockdown?

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Lockdown 2 Eve

It's been a strange week so far. What with the announcement of a second lockdown and the looming US Presidential election, which seems to be the focus of attention with regard to world news.

In my small world, Monday was spent getting a few bits from B&Q to see us through lockdown, i.e. paint and other decorating bits, and smokeless coal, in case we need or want to fire up the wood burner. I expected it to be busier out, but it wasn't too bad which I was thankful for.

Today, I woke up at 6am and couldn't bring myself to go downstairs to see what was happening with regard to the election.  Then OH came back to bed saying it was very close, so I had an early breakfast and took a look. I wish I hadn't and went back to bed, then I tried to avoid it for most of the rest of the day.

I worked my final day at work for the forseeable yesterday. I spent most of it packing boxes of stock to send to our online hub for listing through lockdown.

Our shop is definitely closing and we're all being furloughed.  We did have a choice to continue working from the shop to sell online only, but it was questionable whether we'd make back our salaries and overheads doing that, although many shops are attempting it. We could also have worked to sell online from the Online hub for our area, but it is so far from where I live, I wouldn't be able to cycle there and it would probably take 90 minutes each way on public transport. Given the choice, I opted for furlough. I can't say I'm 100% happy about it, but neither was I happy at the thought of travelling across to the other side of London on public transport, when I've spent the last four months cycling into Central London to avoid it. I can't help but feel a bit guilty though, but I've made my choice and I just have to get on with it. I'm very lucky to have had a choice at all.

Instead, I have decided that I will probably sacrifice some of my leave for the remainder of the year, to give something back to the charity I work for and be more available to make money for the remainder of the financial year. After all, how much more time do I need to take off this year and carrying lots of leave over to next year will create more work pressure through absences. I'm not sure what my fellow shop managers are doing in this regard, but I'm more than happy to give some time back. 

This time around, I don't feel the overwhelming sense of panic and then relief that I felt when the last lockdown was announced, probably because we have a sense of what will happen over the next few weeks. I just feel a bit sad. Sad for all charities and businesses that are going to lose so much money in the lead up to Christmas this year. Sad for everyone who is going to be isolated and unable to see their friends and loved ones. Sad for all those who are going to suffer anxiety and financial hardship during lockdown.

One small positive, was that my last day at work yesterday was super busy and our takings were really up, which was great.  We put as many games, jigsaws, gifts and other items into the shop as we could and it paid off.  Many people started their Christmas shopping, just in case, and spent lots of money with us. I'm hoping it's been the same today and I just pray that we'll be open again at the beginning of December and that the threat will have receded somewhat by then.

In the meantime, I just need to get my head down at home, get on with the tasks that need doing and at least feel like I've made good use of my time.

Today, I have to admit that I haven't achieved very much at all. It has been spent recovering from work yesterday, reflecting on the situation we find ourselves in (which isn't very useful really, but feels necessary), getting a few last minute bits of shopping and picking up my prescription from the chemist. I will start looking forward and getting stuck into my tasks from tomorrow.

How are you feeling about lockdown this time around?  Do you have any plans about how you will spend your time?

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Post Half Term Catch Up

I thought I'd do a bit of a catch up after our break up north. We had a lovely long weekend and felt much better for getting out of London for a few days, especially now, in the light of another lockdown.

We managed a good few walks on the beach to blow away the cobwebs, which the dog absolutely loved. I got to go to a car boot sale and bought lots of lovely brass and copper items that I've been wanting to find for weeks now, mainly planters for the living room.

Before we left, I made sure to leave the cottage very clean and went around stripping beds and disinfecting all surfaces, light switches, door handles, taps, etc. as requested by the owner and before we knew it we were back in London.

I've now been back at work two days and yesterday, I was very surprised when my Manager asked me if I'd seen the news and told me about the possible lockdown happening. It was a strange day waiting to hear what the Prime Minister had to say and now it seems I have two more days at work this week before we are in lockdown again.

I'm not quite sure if we'll be expected to sell online during lockdown, but it looks like that may not be allowed, in which case, I've potentially got a month at home in which to get on top of the house and do some more decorating and other projects that have just been left, as I got busy at work and didn't have the energy.

Luckily, I did a two weekly shop on Friday, just before the announcement and so I don't have to brave the supermarket when everyone is panic buying for the lockdown. I may try a visit to B&Q to get some wood and smokeless coal for the woodburner, plus potentially some paint and anything else we might need to decorate the hall.

It's disappointing for our Charity that we may have to close the doors again, especially in the lead up to Christmas, and when we were starting to build up our volunteer team and sales again, but there's not a lot we can do about it. I feel for some of our volunteers, who live alone and are not looking forward to being isolated again. It seems that 2020 has just been a disastrous year all round really.

In view of this, I'm just going to make the most of this lockdown and try to enjoy it, which I didn't manage to do during the last one.  It will be good to take time to finish part done projects, start new ones, tidy up the garden, decorate the hall (or part of it), clean the whole house in time for putting up Christmas decorations and do a bit more decluttering. It's amazing how many jobs have built up over the last four months, that I just haven't had the energy to tackle. I've potentially got no excuses now. I'm also going to take time to just be and relax, watch some TV, read and recover from the busyness of the last few months. 

I'll miss cycling to work, as it's the only exercise I've been getting, but the break from it should also be good too, as it can be quite gruelling, especially when it rains, which it has done on both journeys to work this week.  It's not felt great to start the day with a drenching. I'll try and do some cycle rides with OH and LB during lockdown instead, on different cycle routes around where I live.

As far as Christmas is concerned, I've done most of my Xmas shopping, save for the main presents I need to get for LB and OH, which I will probably be able to get online, although competition for things might be tough again. Even if I don't manage to get them, it won't be the end of the world.

All the above might change, however, once we find out whether we are required to continue working, listing online during lockdown, but I'll let you know the outcome of that one.