Thursday, 8 September 2011

Heritage Open Days

In England this weekend it's Heritage Open Days where many historical buildings open their doors to the public for free and lots of other events such as walks, exhibitions and talks are organised.  We've been attending these for several years now and found some real hidden gems.  This year we've booked a walk around a local town to discover some of its history, a tour around the Palace Green in Durham and a medieval hospital and we're also planning a visit to an Arts and Crafts church and an Edwardian Quaker House.  If we've time we'll also visit a medieval church in Durham and some old craft workshops.  Hopefully I'll be able to take some photos and put them on here - I'm especially keen to take some of the interior of the Arts and Crafts church, but I'm not sure if it's allowed.

I've also found a couple of free courses run by the WEA, that begin this month and run for 10 weeks. Firstly, I saw a course about the Romans in the North of England and Wales, then looking through the booklet a little further I came across a textile design course.  This is right up my street as it includes rag rug making and silk painting as well as othe textile crafts.  Hope they're not full up!

Off to bed now, as I've had a very busy day and I'm falling asleep at the laptop.  Early start for Durham tomorrow :)

Friday, 2 September 2011

First steps

Well, now I'm free at last :)  Last Friday was such an emotional day and I was by no means the only one who cried for half the afternoon!  I had such a wonderful send-off from all my workmates.  I'll treasure the cards, the touching poem that was written about me and the fantastic presents I got.  The choccies are already well gone though :)  The little ones in the nursery made me a card with a drawing of a caterpiller and butterfly and lovely blue skies - I love that best of all.

I've found it hard to get my head round the fact that I no longer work there.  My brain still thinks I'm just having a few days off and everything will be back to 'normal' soon.  I was meant to be having a rest for a couple of weeks but so far I seem to be very busy.  It's great to have the time to do all those neglected jobs around the house and I'm looking forward to finally using those tins of paint I've had stashed away for what seems like forever!  The day after I finished work I got up and decided to rearrange the living room furniture to try and make a more cosy space.  I'm wanting to make some room for a reading chair.  It was quite a job as some of my furniture is very heavy.  Then the next day I got up and decided I didn't like it so I rearranged it all again!  And the next day, and the day after that......

My head's full of ideas and stuff I want to do and it feels a bit confusing at the minute.  Making the house cosy, clearing the garden, researching self employment opportunities,getting exercise, making stuff in the kitchen, foraging, craftwork, organising, stocking the larder, etc, etc.  Help! I need to spend some time thinking about priorities and introduce things gradually and not feel like I have to do everything at once. Otherwise I'm going to end up in a right muddle.

But my first week has gone fairly well.  Some tense moments when I have to explain to Iain (again) that I 'don't want to spend my money on that anymore'. Sometimes I don't think he really 'gets' it, that it's not about denying my myself, it's about spending the money I have on the things that I get pleasure from. It's life enhancing, not self denial.  'Cutting out the crap' sums it up I suppose!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Goodbyes

Only 2 working days to go.  Yippee! I said goodbye to one of my work mates last week as she's was going off on holiday, and we were both a little choked.  I guess Friday will be very emotional as there's so many people to say goodbye to. Tomorrow we are all off to another Children's Centre for a hog roast lunch with gateau to follow.  It's expected that 'lunch' will last for most of the afternoon :-)  Then Friday we are all bringing food in for a buffet lunch at the Children's Centre where I work. 

There are 3 of us leaving at the same time and with all the re-organisation that's going on at the minute it's a very unsettling time for those who're staying on.  All the Admin staff have been given 118 notices and have to apply for new posts, not necessarily where they are working now and not necessarily at the same pay grade.  I'm glad I decided on redundancy as I had picked up bits of information here and there and had already guessed that this was going to happen.  I really feel for those whose futures are so uncertain - not that mine is any different, but at least that was my choice!

There are a few things about the job that I'll miss (apart from the lovely people I work with).  The Children's Centre is in a beautiful location, poised on the top of a cliff and overlooking working docks.  I can look out of the window and watch foreign boats coming in with their cargo and  fishermen on the pier.  On stormy days it's wonderful to watch the waves crashing over the top of the lighthouse and on sunny days I can just walk down a set of steps and I'm on the beach. 

But what I'll miss the most is the joy that the children bring.  Watching them grow from babies into toddlers full of character and then really grown-up pre-schoolers.  From the little boy who's never seen without his hat and has something different that he 'must show me' almost every day, to the toddler who gives me the cutest smile and blows me a kiss, they all make my day and I'll miss their company.

So, although I'm glad I'm moving on to a new stage in my life, it's a time for reflection this week

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mobile phones and haircuts



Several jobs to do this week. 
  • Cancel my rent direct debit as I intend to pay it weekly at the rent office - the walk there and back will do me good. 
  • Send away for a Tesco PAYG sim card (4p texts).
  • End my mobile phone contract and pay for the unlock code.
  • Downgrade my cable to the most basic phone and broadband package.
The mobile contract is only £8.50 a month but I don't use it much so PAYG will still save a little money.  I can't understand people who pay stupid amounts of money for monthly phone contracts.  Judging by the conversations I'm forced to overhear every day they're paying vast amounts of money just to talk absolute bollocks to their mates.  Has anyone else noticed the phenomenum of what appears to be mobile phone addiction in young women these days?  I took particular notice when I was travelling on the metro last weekend and I was hard pushed to find a young female who wasn't frantically texting away.  Whether they were with boyfriends or other female friends there was very little interaction going on as they were all too busy with their phones.  Madness.

I gave myself another haircut yesterday as it was getting very long.  Same method as before, tie in a ponytail at the top of my head and cut across for a layered style.  Then neaten the feathering at the sides and chip into it a little.  I cut a good 4 inches off this time. No photo yet as my camera battery needs charging up. It doesn't look too bad, but I might visit the hairdressers soon as it hasn't had a proffessional cut for about a year.  Apart from the cost, I just hate going to the hairdressers.  I only ever have a dry cut because I can't bear having them washing and styling my hair.  I once went to Toni and Guy and the cut was fabulous, but wouldn't go again because it took them so long to wash, cut and style it.  I was in there for about 2 hours! To me it's not a pampering luxury, it's like a punishment!

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Boleyn Inheritance

This weekend I'll be lost in Tudor times.  I'm 100 pages into this book:

and I'm loving it.  I've been transported back to the court of the tryrannical Henry VIII at the time of his marriages to Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.  The story is told from the viewpoint of Anne, Katherine, and Jane Boleyn (sister-in-law of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn).  Phillipa Gregory is a superb writer with the ability to really bring history alive, and I love the fact that the tale is told from the perspective of the 3 women.  What dangerous times they were.  I can't put this book down so I'm expecting that not much housework will be done this weekend and I'll be spending a fair few hours curled up on the sofa reading :)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

It's not a bargain if you don't need it

Normally when I walk through the shopping centre on my way to the supermarket I don't take any notice of what temptations the shops have placed in their windows to try and part me from my money.  But yesterday lunchtime it was hard to ignore the crowd of women standing around a stall which was piled high with handbags.  Looking closer I saw the signs saying "All handbags £5". 

Now, handbags are a particular weakness of mine.  In my less frugal past I've returned home many a time with what I declare to be "a bargain handbag", only to have Iain say sarcastically  "yeah, cos you REALLY needed another handbag".  For most women it's shoes, but I find it so hard to find a pair that don't make my feet ache that shoe shopping doesn't thrill be at all.  The beauty of handbags is that they don't have to fit you.

I could feel the excitement rising in me as I walked over to the stall.  I was drawn immediately to a wonderful purple and silver zebra printed bag ( yes, I know I have no taste).  Then a lovely dark red one.  At £5 each I could afford both of them!!  Luckily the madness didn't last.  "Do you need a handbag?", I asked myself.  Answer "no".  "And how will owning these two handbags enhance your life?"  Answer, "not one little bit - my life will not be improved in any way".  And I bet most of the women surrounding the stall didn't need another handbag either, but plenty were buying because it was 'such a bargain'.  I've learned the hard way that it's not a bargain if you don't need it - it's just £10 wasted.  It's getting easier to just walk away and save my cash for something I'll really get pleasure from.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The prices see-saw

Has anyone else noticed the volatility of supermarket basic brand prices lately?  They seem to change from week to week.  Cornflakes have doubled in price this week whereas toothpaste is down from 30p to 19p.  Toilet roll has risen to 60p and given the poor quality of it there are definitely better bargains to be had elsewhere. 

I’ve noticed that all the supermarkets seem to follow suit when it comes to price changes of their basic brands.  If one lowers or raises the price of an item then they all tend to. At the minute they all seem to have lowered the price of baby toiletries and bargain prices can be had on baby shampoo, lotion, baby bath and nappy bags.  If you have the time and the inclination you can use this volatility to your advantage of course - stockpile when things are cheap.  Iain seems to think I'm a little deranged because I have 8 bottles of baby shampoo, 8 deodorants, 9 bottles of baby lotion, 6 tubes of toothpaste and 14 toothbrushes stashed away in a box under the bed.  But its all stuff that I'll use and when prices have risen again I'll be sitting smug (and no doubt moving on to the next thing to stockpile!)

Prices have changed again just in the past 2 days since I did the beginning of this post.  Toilet roll is now up to 70p, cornflakes halved again in price, and the baby lotion and shampoo is now at the unbelievable price of 9p!  They'll be paying you to take the stuff away next (if only!).  Incidently, I just love the baby shampoo - my hair has never felt so soft.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Getting back into the swing of things

I’ve been having a bit of a mental block lately as regards this blog – hence the lack of posts.  I think, because I had a bit of a gap when I was too busy to post I just lost my momentum. But this is my diary and it’s important to me to record what I’m doing and how it’s all going.  So, after a short interlude I’m ready to put word to paper again – or should that be fingers to keyboard?      

I certainly haven’t lost any momentum in my path towards changing my life.  Things are progressing at a steady rate and I feel myself getting a little further forward with every day that passes. Only 10 working days left in this job after today, and the last day will be just a token appearance and a little party with workmates.  It feels so exciting but scary at the same time.  I’m flying by the seat of my pants a little as I just don’t know what lies ahead.  I’ve managed to secure a few hours work a week delivering leaflets for a small business and I’m looking forward to spending working time outdoors and being more active.  Yes, even in the bad weather!  I still need more work but I have some plans and I’m hoping to be able to sell some of my craftwork at fairs and via the internet.  Bringing in a little money whilst doing something enjoyable.

Actually, I’m probably going to be very busy in the coming months.  I’ll finally be able to get around to decorating the last couple of rooms in my house and I’ve also promised Iain I’ll spend a couple of days a week helping to sort out his flat.  Then there’s the garden to overhaul and get ready for planting in the spring. For fun times I have a couple of trips away planned – a visit to Germany to stay with an old friend and a get-together in Manchester with friends from all over the country.  Sooo looking forward to both of these!

Well, that’s me updated a little.  Now I can have a catch-up with some of my favourite blogs and find out what everyone else has been doing.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A boring budgeting post

Oh dear, I haven't posted for 2 weeks now - I've just been so busy I can't seem to find the time.  So many blog posts from everyone else to catch up with too!

So what have I been doing for the past 2 weeks?  Mainly organising and budgeting tasks, interspersed with house cleaning and gardening - the weeds finally wore me down.  I had a few oustanding things to sort out regarding my budget which had become urgent - as it's only 2 more paydays till my redundancy kicks in, I need to make sure I'm prepared. 

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I got rid of 2 direct debits that I could do without and also spent some time researching gas and electric prices to see if I could save some money.  I wanted a fixed tariff as my budget won't cope well with unexpected increases.  Luckily, the cheapest for me was my current supplier so not much effort involved just to switch tariffs.  It'll work out £80 a year cheaper than my current tariff if I use the same amount of gas and electric as I did last year.  Next step is to look at usage and get it down further.  I spend more on electric than gas and I find this hard to cut down out.  Gas is easy - just don't switch the heating on!  It works out at £331 for gas and £437 for electric a year on the new tariff with mycurrent consumption.  I'm sure there's penty of scope for reduction there - I just need to figure out how!

The only direct debits I'll be keeping are my gas, electric and broadband payments, and that's only because it saves me money.  I'll walk down to the housing association every week to pay my rent and house insurance and into town once a month to pay the council tax.  I've asked for a payment card so I can pay off my next TV licence in weekly installments and I've ended the contract on my mobile phone and am changing to PAYG.  I had set up direct debits originally because I was short on time, but I really don't like companies having access to my account - mistakes are made and they can leave you short of money.

Two more things left to sort out - I need to open a new current account (proving to be a problem) and also a savings account.  Bank accounts are a pain in the bum.  Why do you need a driving licence or a passport to apply for one?  I know it's a Government requirement but it seems awfully socially exclusive to me. Luckily I'm applying for a passport (haven't had one for about 10 years) for my visit to Germany to see my friend, Roger. 
autumn,Baden-Wurttemberg,castles,forests,forts,Germany,Hohenzollern,iStockphoto,kultur,landmarks,landscapes,mountains,panoramic,scenics,schloss,nature,historic
 Roll on September and the start of my new life :o)

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A load of rubbish


A compactor working on the daily waste cell



I just watched a news item that Iain recorded for me last week about the Governments u-turn on forcing weekly bin collections.  It really angers me when people refuse to take responsibility for the rubbish they're producing and sending to landfill.  There was a man on this news item whose bin was being collected by the local council every fortnight and he was paying to have another bin collected every fortnight by a private company as he was producing so much waste.  Maggots, and bin bags left on the street that were ripped open by dogs were his excuses.

At no point did it seem to occur to him that he was responsible for any of this.  That maybe he ought to look at what he was throwing out and try and reduce it so he didn't fill his bin up and have to resort to using bin bags as well.  The official word on maggots is they need longer than 2 weeks to hatch.  I'm not sure about that, but I do know he must be getting them because he has food waste in his bin.  Some food waste is unavoidable, but it shouldn't be much and if it's well wrapped up there shouldn't be a problem.  Again, people refusing to alter their behaviour and take responsibility. 

I'd be quite happy to change to fortnightly bin collections - it makes sense to me to collect the rubbish one week and the recycling the next.  The Refuse Collectors usually put next door's rubbish together with mine every week so they only have one bin to haul up the road!  I try to be aware of excess packaging and not bring it into the house in the first place.  I recycle whatever the council collects in the recycle bin.  Food waste is minimal - I'm the only person in the house who ever leaves food on the plate and either Iain or the dog finishes it off for me!  Other stuff is re-used or taken to the charity shop or finds another home somewhere.  Last Christmas we didn't have our bins collected for nearly 3 weeks.  Ours wasn't even full.  One house across the street had 15 bin liners full of rubbish standing alongside their bin (yes, I stood and counted them, I couldn't help it!) and there are only 3 of them in the family!

But still I could do more.  I need to get my compost up and running again for a start.  I'll be looking at ways I can reduce my rubbish  even further from now on.  Landfill is limited and so are resouces.  We shouldn't be squandering them


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Wish List again

Just a quick addition to the wish list:

10.  Snog Les McKeown (Bay City Rollers)!



I'd just popped over to his Facebook page and it suddenly struck me, this really should go on the list as it's something I've wanted to do since I was 14 ;o)

Twenty Wishes

My decision to spend this weekend catching up with the housework turned out to be a good one given the weather we've had today.  It's rained constanly and heavily so I havn't been outside at all.  Still, the gardens needed it - my weeds will be having a nice little spurt of growth now!  Have you noticed how, if you don't water your plants they die but the same never happens to the weeds?  Pity.

I'd decided to spend most of the day in my bedroom, mainly tidying up and sorting thing out as it's become very messy of late.  I still haven't finished as I need to sort out the underbed storage boxes (which are full of cheap stockpiled food) and a box full of books.  So thats tomorrows job.  I did change the bedding though, so I have lovely clean sheets to look forward to tonight.

I have to admit to lazing around a bit this morning though, finishing off the book I've been reading on the bus to work.


It was a bit of a predictable book but still very enjoyable.  A book about friendship and changing ones life - very uplifting, and the sort of book that makes you feel good.  I'm so soppy, I had tears in my eyes at the end, but they were happy tears.  It's about a group of 4 widows who decide to each write a list of 20 wishes - things they had always wanted to do but never got round to.  The story follows them as they set about trying to make some of the wishes come true, and in doing so, change their lives around.

I was really attracted to the idea of making a list of wishes - that's what made me pick the book - so I've been thinking about what I would put on a wish list.  I dont have 20 yet, but I do have a few.

My Wish List (in no particular order)
1.  Go round the fleamarket in Lille
2.  Visit an old friend who lives in Germany
3.  Have a short story published
4.  Learn tablet weaving
5.  Keep chickens
6.  Live in a period cottage in a beautiful village (I didn't say my wishes were all going to be attainable!)
7.  Have a get-together with some old friends I haven't seen in a while.  Make sure we keep in touch.
8.  See Aerosmith live

I'm going to make a folder for my list and compile pictures and information to spur me on - just like they did in the book!  I sound like a child of 10.

I confess, I love making lists.  I might compile some other lists - books I've always wanted to read,  places I'd like to visit.... I could even make a list of lists I need to make!  Okay, that was a step too far :o)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Vintage

This post is linked to Rhonda's blog at http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/ as part of her regular Friday feature 'On My Mind'.

Today I'm celebrating my love of vintage by posting a couple of photos of recent buys.




 A 1930's teacup and saucer bought for £1.50 at the fleamarket.  This is my favourite era and is probably a big influence on the way I live my life now.  People's needs were simpler and they were satisfied with so much less.  They didn't judge the success of their lives on how many possessions they could accumulate.  Family and friends were more important than consumerism.  They had no need to be constantly throwing out perfectly good clothes and household items because they'd seen something newer they wanted - items were looked after and kept for years because they had more sense than to waste what money they had.  Yes, this was a time of great deprivation for some but it's the general ethos I'm thinking about. There was no pressure to spend hundreds of pounds on a childs birthday party or a teenagers 'prom night', expensive Christmas presents or 'designer' clothes.  There was no need for several cars per family, or to spend thousand of pounds on a wedding.  Are people any happier today because they spend money on stuff like this?  Personally, I think the pressure to do so causes a lot of stress.

My next item is from the 1970's. A long necklace made of different coloured stones.





I was a teenager in the 1970's so this evokes a lot of happy memories for me.  It was great time to be a teenager.  We had a lot more freedom than previous generations of kids and yet none of the pressures of consumerism that subsequent generations of teenagers have.  I feel sorry for todays teenagers with their long lists of expensive, and constantly changing, 'must have' items.

So, that's my take on vintage.  I love it because one little item can transport you back to another time.  It can be a time you remember fondly, or a time you fantasise about.  As I drink my afternoon tea or wear my necklace I can ponder over who owned it previously and what their lives were like, and take myself back in time.  I can have the best of both worlds - the benefits of living in the 21st century with nostalgia thrown in.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Cultivating patience

Looks like my energy is returning now, since the ‘cold from hell’.  Yesterday I managed to do two loads of washing and hang them out to dry, did a pile of ironing, got tea ready in the slow cooker and checked through the cupboards, fridge and freezer to make a shopping list for the fortnight.  All before I left the house at 8.45am for work.  Then I made dog food when I got in at 7pm. I was quite pleased with myself as I’ve been coming in from work and just collapsing on the couch lately! 

It’s hard sometimes, to lead a frugal life when you’re out of the house for 10 and a half hours a day. There are so many things I’d like to be doing, but never seem to have time or energy for.  Sometimes I have days when I come in from work and can’t be bothered to cook from scratch or think what to do with the leftovers, or I want the easy and quick way to clean the house. Iain always says not to be too hard on myself and just give in when I have to, and I’ll have time enough soon to accomplish all I want.  But I find it hard to make compromises.  I have a vision of the life I want to be living, and I want it to be doing it all now.

Patience is something I need to learn.  Patience means serenity, slowing down, enjoying the moment, taking your time to get things right and accepting you can't change your life or achieve your goals overnight. Patience means taking the time to properly read the instructions on your box of wax strips before you apply them to your armpit :o)

I am getting better at it (most of the time). 


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Experimenting

Blogging from work again - naughty.  Only 11 weeks to go now till my redundancy.  56 days.  Not that I'm counting or anything :o)

Since last Thursday I've been experimenting with washing my hair in a new way - with baking soda instead of shampoo.  I read about it on Wednesday night and lots of people were recommending it.  Apparantly it makes your hair more manageable and softer and generally leaves it in much better condition than shampoo and conditioner.  My hair is very fine and the roots get oily quickly so I was attracted by the testimonials of those whose fine hair now had much more body and was no longer limp and lifeless.  Most people find it takes their hair a couple of weeks to settle down after starting this regime and it will be oily to start with.

After 6 days my hair is definately thicker, but I'm struggling to cope with the oiliness and I've resorted to tying it up in a pony tail every day because it won't style well.  However, it is a lovely thick ponytail!  The thickness is what I've loved about this, as well as the way the comb just glides through after washing, but to be honest I'm not sure if I'm going to carry on with it at the minute.  I'm just not happy going to work with greasy hair.  I would like to give it another go later though.

For anyone who would like to try it, this what I did. I mixed a heaped tablespoon of baking soda with 8fl oz warm water and used about a quarter of this to wash my hair, concentrating on the roots. I did find it difficult to disperse throughout my hair though - I think a spray bottle would be best.

There's also a recipe for conditioner so I think that'll be this weeks experiment. I find a lot of conditioners weigh my hair down, but I need something at least on the ends as my hair is long.  The recipe stated 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar in 8 fl oz water, spray onto hair and rinse off.  I suppose any vinegar would do, but I do have cider vinegar in the house as I use it as a remedy for my gallstones (a teaspoon mixed with apple juice).

I might make up my first batch tonight and I'll report back the results next week. If it works that'll be one more thing I can make myself and therefore one less thing to buy - I'm whittling them down bit by bit!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

No longer a wax virgin

Yesterday I had a trip to the fleamarket and while I was there I thought I'd price up razor blades (as you do when you're at the fleamarket!) They were even more expensive than I remembered, but when I called in the Pound Shop later I saw they were selling a good brand name of wax.  So for that price I thought I might as well give it a go.  You never know, it might be the answer to my disposable razors problem. Seems like a bit of a faff to me, but it's not like I'd have to do it very often.

So there I was this morning, in my bedroom, wax at the ready and inspecting hair growth to decide where to test it.  Legs?  Hmm, not a lot of hair there actually.  Armpits then?  Pretty much the same.  It dawned on me that maybe I was being a bit obsessive about hair removal.  I thought you were supposed to get hairier as you get older?  The opposite seems to be happening in my case.

Anyway, I'd bought some wax so I had to try it - that's just the way my mind works.  I settled on my armpits as being the best bet (stupid, stupid!).  Warm the wax strip between your hands it said.  Ok, easy enough.  Now take the backing strip off and stick it on your skin.  Again, simple.  Next step, pull the wax strip off quickly whilst holding your skin taut.  If you don't hold your skin taut you may leave some wax residue or tear some of your skin off.  What?! Why didn't I read that first?!!  How am I supposed to hold my armpit skin taut when that hand won't reach and the other hand will be busy ripping the wax off?!  I decide all I can do is stretch my arm up as high as I can and that will pull the skin taut enough.  Wrong!  I ripped the wax strip off and most of the wax was left behind on my armpit.

My first thought was to try and wash it off, so I ran downstairs (still holding my arm out above my head as I'd discovered if I tried to put it down my armpit was glueing itself stuck!).  What a fantastic way to start the day, standing naked in the kitchen, arm above your head, waiting for the kettle to boil so you can have some warm water to wash a wax residue from your armpit!  And why did I think the wax would suddenly dissolve in warm water?  It didn't of course.  So, back upstairs to try something else, towel stuck under my armpit so I could put my arm down, as by now it was going numb.  A quick inspection in front of the mirror revealed that the hair under my armpits was now joined by bits of terry towelling stuck to my skin by the wax.

I had one other idea and desperately hoped it would work - I would use more of the backing strips and keep trying to rip the wax off.  It took several goes, but I finally managed to get most of it off.  However it was still a bit sticky so I thought, moisturisation might help.  Well, here's a tip for you - never apply baby lotion to your newly waxed armpit!  Ouch, that stung!

The only thing I was thankful for was that I had tested the wax on my armpit instead of going straight for my bikini line, which was what I was really wanted to use it on!  My armpit is still smarting tonight. Wax? You can keep it.  I'd rather be hairy!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Keeping the toiletries budget down

When I got my shopping last week I decide to explore the 'basics' range a little further.  I already buy the fishfingers and teabags (I didn't expect to like them but now don't buy any other brands) as well as stuff like baked beans, tinned spaghetti, tinned tomatoes, pasta and other basics, but apart from soap and toothpaste, I'd not really tried much in the way of toiletries.  As this is one of the areas I'm looking at to reduce spending, I thought I'd give a few things a try.

This is what I bought


Shampoo
Baby Lotion
Razors
Bubble Bath
Nappy bags

The nappy bags aren't exactly in the 'toiletries' category for me as I wanted to use them as dog poo bags!  I have started following the advice of Ilona at   http://meanqueen-lifeaftermoney.blogspot.com/    and use all the plastic bags I already have e.g. bread bags, cereal liners etc, but still I need to supplement these.  My dog can poo for England - I've never known a dog poo so much!  Anyway, these bags are thin (as expected) but no thinner than the packs dedicated to 'poo picking up' that I buy from the Pound Shop and at 9p for 100 I'll definately be buying them again.  You'll be pleased to hear that I'm not going to demonstrate their use with a photo!

The bubble bath I bought for use as hand wash.  For as long time now I've been refilling a pump bottle with economy shower gel and using that as handwash, but this is even cheaper at 18p for a litre bottle.  I can't comment yet as I haven't had a chance to try it.  I'm sure it won't be as moisturising as proper handwash, but hopefully it will be good enough.

I've tried the shampoo and it's adequate for my oily hair - I use some basics conditioner on the dry ends anyway - but if you had dry hair you'd need something more moisturising I think.  You need to use a little more, but it's still excellant value at  22p for a litre bottle.                   . 

The baby lotion was fantastic!  I can't believe the price  - 11p for 500ml.  This is now my body lotion and it's great for taking my makeup off as well.  Stings if you get it in your eyes though so not so good for removal of eye makeup.  I'm wondering how long it's been at this cheap price?  I might stockpile a few bottles just in case.  It also left my hands feeling soft, but I still prefer my aqueous cream as a hand lotion.

Finally, the razors.  I have to admit, these don't sit well with me.  There's no denying they're a cheap form of hair removal, but I can't think it's right to manufacture a product and throw it away after a few uses.  I'm going to have to do a rethink and find another method.  The blades for re-useable razors are so exspensive but maybe I can find a cheaper supply on the market and find out how to make them last longer.  Creams and wax are too much of a faff and I don't want an electric razor.  Yes, I know leaving the hair would be the cheapest option but I'm not ready for that yet!

So, a couple of good new buys and a couple of 'maybe's' to keep the budget down.  I'm currently looing at my toiletries and cleaning budgets to see if I can reduce them, so I'll be posting more on that later.

A couple of books

For a while now I've meant to recommend this book:

'The Only Way is Up' by Carole Mathews.

It's a novel, telling how a wealthy family, husband working in the City, lost everything they owned when the husband was fired.  They were rehoused in a council house in a poor neighbourhood where they had to start from scrach to rebuild their lives.  Carole Mathews is so funny she had me laughing out loud in parts - the episode of the Brazillian wax on the kitchen table was hilarious.  Through ups and downs the family learn that there are more important things in life than money and how family and friends mean more than wealth and possessions.  When I'd finished it I wanted to start all over again.  I'll definately be looking out for more of her books.

I've also been reading this:

I'm probably the last person in the world to have read it - it seems like everyone else I know has already been there!

It took me a while to get into, but it came with so many recommendations from friends that I persevered and I have to say I eventually loved it.  I have to wait to borrow the other two books in the series though as they're out on loan.  One of the hazards of being a cheapskate and borrowing books from the library rather than buying them!

I have a couple of craft books out on loan too, and I'm afraid I've been a bit naughty and photocopied a couple of projects out of them on the copier at work.  I know you're allowed to copy a certain percentage of a book or magazine but I'm not sure how much.  As it was only a few pages I wanted to keep, it wasn't worth buying the books, but I have done that previously if a library book was so good it warrented buying as a reference book.  It's a good way to try before you buy.

I only hope we can keep our public libraries open, with all the cutbacks at the minute.  I don't think our local one is used all that much, which is a shame.  Losing yourself in a good book is a much better way to spend some time than watching endless hours of rubbishy telly I think.  And all for free!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Patchwork obsession?

Posting from work today, so it'll just be a quick one.

First of all, hello to anyone who has just joined me.  I'm having problems with Blogger - it won't let me access my list of followers, so I don't know who you are!  Neither can I access the button to follow anyone else's blog.  No doubt it will right itself eventually and then I can get round to everyone.

I'm still feeling rough with this cold, which isn't normal, so I've booked a visit to the docs for Wednesday.  In the meantime I'm just trying to get plenty of sleep because I feel worn out.  I've never had a cold last this long before.

My eldest son called this morning and gave me a lift into work, so I took the opportunity to ask him for any old shirts he had.  His reply was,  "I haven't any I'm getting rid of.  I tend to wear them till they fall apart these days!"  Times are obviously hard!  I remember when he thought nothing of spending £70 on a shirt and he had to have new clothes every week.  Seems like he's wised up as he's gotten older.  He said he could spare one for me though when I told him about the quilt.

I must have patchwork fabric on the brain at the minute - I keep looking at people in the street and thinking "Ooh, that shirt/dress/whatever would look lovely in my quilt".  I even did it to a work colleague this afternoon!

The crochet granny squares are coming along well.  I might be ready to try doing multi-coloured ones now.  It's the thought of all those yarn ends to sew in that puts me off!

I still have another hour at work, then it's off home and a quick visit to the library before settling down for the evening.  Still not sorted the laptop - I'll be taking it back to the shop tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Laptop problems

I'm having big problems with my laptop today.  It started to do wierd things this afternoon and then the keypad stopped working.  I've spent ages fiddling about with it but it's still not working.  I've only had it a couple of months so it looks like it might have to go back.  I just hope it's not a virus. This evening I'm on my old laptop, which is so slow it's taken me 30 minutes to get it up and running and onto my blog!  No photos today because it'll take me all night to set that up.

I've been thinking some more about the patchwork quilt.  It's important to me that it's made from re-purposed fabric and that I don't buy new if possible.  I also wanted to have something of my mum in there, so intended to ask her for a discarded item of clothing.  But then I thought, wouldn't it be lovely to have fabric in there from all my family and friends.  That would make it even more special.  A quilt of memories I suppose. I've also had a kind offer of fabric from a fellow blogger, coincidentally also called Denise.  And the feed sacks?  I may treat myself and buy one, or a piece of one.  It's cheap enough for a small piece, and would give me a lot of pleasure.

I think I'll try the method where you cut out paper shapes and tack your fabric round them as that sounds like it'll be easier to achieve accuracy.  Boring job,cutting out the paper shapes I suppose, but I could always do them when I'm covering reception at work  and it's quiet :-)  That'll be every evening then!

On a totally different note,  Dr Who has really rocked my world tonight.  Fantastic episode, and the suprise ending - never saw that coming!  Looking forward to the rest of the series in the autumn.  I don't watch much telly, but but I love my sci-fi. 

Friday, 3 June 2011

Quilting and feedsacks

Help!  I'm having to tear myself away from looking at American vintage feedsack fabric for sale on the internet!  The prints are so wonderful, so evocative of the 1930's and 40's.  I want some!

Why the feedsack obsession?  Well, I'm planning to make a patchwork quilt.  I thought a simple pattern, probably just a combination of squares, and it would be really relaxing to handstitch them together whilst I'm listening to the radio.  I'm keen on making the quilt from re-purposed fabric rather than buying new, but don't have any old clothes that are suitable.  I tried the charity shops yesterday but there was nothing at a price I wanted to pay.  Never mind, I'll keep looking because it'll take a while to accumulate enough fabric when I'm only considering second hand.

Then I came across some American photos and patterns for vintage quilts, some of which were made from feedsacks.  I'd never heard of these before, but apparantly all dried goods came in these fabric sacks which eventually became made from highly patterned material.  During the depression and afterwards, these were collected by poor families as 'free fabric' from which to make clothing and quilts.  I'm loving the small sprigged flower patterns I've seen and would dearly love to make my quilt from them.  They just take me back to simpler - albeit, harder - times.

But, back to reality, I cannot afford to make my quilt from feedsacks so I will just have to want.  Ironic though, that fabric that was once used by poorer people because it was free is now too expensive for me to buy!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

On my mind - my garden

This post is part of the  Friday photo feature by  Rhonda Jean at http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/.  The idea is to post a photo, every Friday, which illustrates something that you are thinking about today.
 
Today I am thinking about my garden.
 

It'll be time to prune this clematis soon and I don't want to miss the opportunity again, this year.  I feel quite overwhelmed by the garden at the minute, but I have big plans for the future.  After August I'll have much more time to spend in here and I'm going to completely overhaul it.  I have plans for a soft fruit garden as well as raised beds for vegetables and extending the' herb garden'.  I need to make as much use of the space as possible, so I'll be growing tomatoes in baskets on the fences and I'm researching what will grow in the semi-shaded spot at the side of the house.  The weeds grow pretty well here, so I'm sure there must be some vegetables that will!

I've grown a few vegetables in previous years but I want to expand this so I'm growing a sizeable amount of what I eat.  I fell quite excited at the prospect of finally getting it all under control and productive.  If only I could have chickens as well!
 
 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

At the cinema

I have a new hero - Thor! 


I went to see the film last night. I only went because I promised Iain I'd go with him (he's a Marvel addict).  We sat at the back of the cinema, me with a tube of Lockets in my hand, trying to time my nose blowing with noisy parts of the film and wishing it was over so I could go home to bed. The adverts went on forever.  But a few minutes into the film and I was hooked.  I need more!

On the way home Iain said,  "Now you know why Thor was my favourite Marvel character when I was growing up".  To which I replied, "Yeah, cos he's really sexy!".  I don't think that was the right answer....







Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Payday at last

Hurrah!  It's payday!  Downside of this is that I have to do an online shopping order today.  The online order is mainly to cover the heavy or bulky stuff such as dog food, long life milk, toilet rolls etc. but as I'm paying for delivery I usually get other shopping as well.  So now I have to check the cupboards, make a rough menu plan to cover the next 2 weeks and sort out what I need to buy.  

Money has been tight this past week so I know I've run out of a few basics. Rusty has had weetabix (or rather, the supermarkets basics version of weetabix) for his morning meal for the past 3 days as I've run out of his usual complete food.  I'm nearly out of mixer as well so yesterday he had the ends of the bread, baked in the oven (whilst I was cooking other stuff) and mixed with his wet food.

I also ran out of the lo-salt I normally buy.  No salt is not an option for me - I used to be a salt freak and have cut it down considerably for the sake of my health, but I need a little taste of it with some meals.  So, for the first time in years I bought a tub of ordinary salt and just used a tiny shake of it.  I'll add lo-salt to the order and use up the rest of the real salt for cleaning and facescrubs.

If there's one thing that being short of money does, it's focus the mind into looking for alternatives and not wasting anything.  I'm amazed when I hear how much food the average family bins each year - something like £600 worth!  Some people must be throwing away much more than that because they're throwing away my share of that as well as their own!

More simple pleasures

For how many days can a person be constantly blowing their nose?  I'm into day 5 now and my head still feels thick.  I'm wondering if I might have made it worse with excessive use of the Vick's inhaler thingy?  I think I'd better just leave it alone now and let it run it's course naturally!

Yesterday was a wet and miserable one.  I caught the bus to Morrisons to get some milk and bread and it was packed full of people going into town. Not my idea of fun on a wet bank holiday Monday.  I had other plans.  I thought I'd spend the day learning something new - how to crochet granny squares.  Simple for some people, but not for me.  I struggle with crochet - I can't seem to get the tension right - and it's something that I want to spend more time getting to grips with. 

I watched  a few tutorials on You Tube and tried to crochet along with them but I still didn't feel happy with what I'd created. There appear to be several different ways to crochet granny squares.  Finally, I tried putting bits from 3 different tutorials together and ended up with a set of instructions that I was happy with.



These are the start of a bedspread I want to make to use up my odds and ends of yarn.  Long way to go.  I still haven't got the tension right, but I reckon I might crack it by the time I've made a bedspreads worth of squares!

Crocheting was interspersed with watching the birds through the kitchen window.  They are so fascinating.  Two sparrows were eating dandelion seeds and they kept perching on the stems, which would then keel over with their weight.  A female blackbird kept toing and froing with material for the nest she's building in the bushes at the back of the garden.  I've just put some of my yarn ends out in the garden in the hope she might be able to make use of them. Meanwhile, Mr Blackbird was just lazing around watching her.  Or maybe he was watching out for her to make sure she was safe?  He ended up having a fight with another male blackbird who had the nerve to try and encroach on his territory!

No sign of the thrushes today, but I took these photos of them through the window on Saturday. 


 The birds love to perch on these recycle boxes that I usually grow my potatoes in.  I've sown some sunflowers which will hopefully keep the sparrows well fed with seeds later in the year and I have a plentiful supply of slugs and snails for the thrushes!

I used to wonder what people saw in bird watching.  But now I've allowed myself to slow down and take more notice of, and appreciate, what's going on around me I realise what simple pleasures I've been missing out on.

So, there you go.  My alternative afternoon to trudging around town shopping.  And it didn't cost me a penny!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Drowning under a sea of clutter and dust

Well, not much is being done this weekend as I'm still feeling rough.  I'm just pottering around doing bits and pieces and lots of reading and listening to the radio. I don't need any shopping but I promised Iain I'd walk to the garage with him this afternoon as he needs a couple of things.  The fresh air and exercise should do me good.

Whenever I'm feeling under the weather I seem to focus on how untidy/dirty the house is and it gets me down a bit.  Must be some phsycological thing, but I haven't figured it out yet!  Anyway, this hit me on Friday night so I decided to tackle a room at a time, each weekend,  and do a little extra cleaning and decluttering.  This weekend I've started on the living room.  Nothing very energetic yet.  I decluttered and washed down my sideboard so it now looks like this:


I was too embarassed to take a 'before' photo, as it was groaning under the weight of all these papers together with other bits and pieces.



Here you can see they're bagged up and I'm sorting through them bit by bit. Every time I do this I promise myself that I'll file my correspondance etc on a weekly basis so it never gets this bad again.  But still it happens - we're 5 months into the year and I have yet to start my 2011 file!

There were piles of magazines all over the room so I made use of the cardboard racks I found stuffed beside the bookcase, and made a tidy little magazine corner on top of my bedroom drawers.

 Not a permanent solution but it keeps them tidy till I can sort through them for articles I want to keep.

The corners of the room are hoovered, the fireplace and TV are cleaned and I feel much calmer.  Our surroundings have such a big impact on our mood and wellbeing.  I'll never be a minimalist person and there'll always be some clutter and dust somewhere, but there are limits and I've reached mine right now!

I think I deserve a coffee and a few pages of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' now, before I start on the pile of tat on the living room table!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Glad the working week is done

I've been feeling a bit under the weather these past couple of days.  I've caught the cold that's doing the rounds at work at the minute.  Two days of sore throat and then all bunged up and headachey.  Wednesday night it was so bad I got up at 3am and searched the house for a lemsip.  Someone else seems to have used them all so I had to make do with a Beechams powder, a tablespoon of honey and a cup of tea.  So glad we've got a long weekend off work so I can lounge around and recover. This morning I was up at 5am and fell asleep on the bus going into work.  It's just as well I don't drive!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Skint

I thought Blogger had fixed the ‘comments’ problem but I can’t even comment on my own blog at the minute.  I just keep going round in circles so I’ve given up.

This week I’ve made a mistake – I miscalculated the days and thought I would be paid tomorrow.  Unfortunately payday is not till next Tuesday.  I’d worked out how much money I’d need till Friday then lent my remaining money out.  So now I’m skint!

I did a quick inventory of what food was in the fridge/freezer/cupboards/under the bed and devised a menu plan for the next few days to minimise spending.  Luckily I have chicken and stewing steak, sausages, rice, couscous, pasta and various sauces.  So this it for the next few days:

Tonight
Tuna sandwiches followed by apple and blackberry crumble

Friday
Tomato pasta sauce with sausage

Saturday
Beef casserole with dumplings and couscous

Sunday
Chicken risotto

Monday
Beef and butterbean curry and rice

Just need to buy a couple of onions and we’re sorted.  Plenty of cereals for breakfast and soups for lunches.

I’m running out of dried food for the dog so I’ll bake him some snacks tomorrow night to tide him over.  Plenty of tinned and frozen homemade food for his evening meals.

Can’t believe I made such a stupid mistake though!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Charity shopping

I love browsing around charity shops - you never know what you might find.  Some days there's nothing of interest and other days you might unearth a little gem.  Today I had a walk up to the animal rescue charity shop during my lunch break at work in the hope of finding some buttons for a purse I'm making.  It's one of those places where everything is a jumble and you need to have a good rake around.

I found these lovely silver coloured buttons with pearl coloured centres, for 30p

 I only needed 2 so I'll have to find a use for the other 3

There were loads of old knitting patterns but mainly from the 1980's.  Also, a basket of machine knitting yarn oddments on cones.  I bought this purple (my favourite colour) cone for 40p



I've spent the evening winding some of it into a ball while I was watching telly.  I've wound off about 50grams and I've still got loads left.  The thinness of the yarn means it'll go a long way.  I have a pattern for crochet fingerless gloves that'll be just right for this and maybe a skinny scarf too.

I also bought these needlecraft magazines for £1.



I haven't had a chance to look through them properly yet so I may take them to bed for a bit read.  There were a few more of them so I'll have to go back another day.  Also some dolls house magazines, cross stitch patterns and magazines and other needlework magazines.  I might need a few visits!

I was enjoying myself so much I was late back to work!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A Dye Job

Finally got round to dyeing my hair today. 



On a budget I might be, but there are some things I can't do without and hairdye is one of them!  The grey hairs just get on my nerves.  I've given up dyeing my hair in the kitchen, ever since the time I dyed it red, splashed it all down the kitchen cupboards and had to repaint them!  Now I do it in the bathroom, like all sensible people, and, since the accident with the floor tiles, I also cover the floor now.

In the true spirit of frugalism, I washed the vinyl gloves that came with the pack and pegged them on the washing line to dry.  They're bound to come in useful for something.  So that makes me feel much better - I might have spent £6 on hair dye but at least I got a pair of rubber gloves for free.  Sometimes I think I'm mad!

Shopping - then and now

Yesterday's trip into town set me off thinking about how much shopping and our spending habits have changed.

When I was a teenager we had little money.  Although we had enough for the basics in life and we were certainly well fed, always warm, decently clothed and had enough left over for a holiday every summer, we didn't have loads of surplus money.  We didn't have enough excess cash so that we could afford to go into town every Saturday and amuse ourselves trawling round the shops seeing what we could spend it on.  More importantly, there was no such thing as a credit card.  Our family was never in debt, and we saved up for big purchases. Not that I can remember there being many of them, as  household items weren't replaced until they had worn out . I was sleeping on a wartime utility bed over 30 years after the war had ended!

Most families lived like this and we certainly never felt poor or deprived.  We just knew as children that there was a finite amount of money and if mum said there wasn't enough for something we wanted then that was it.  Saturday afternoons were spent shopping for the necessities, in individual shops rather than the supermarket, then often a visit to my aunties house for tea.

Shops at the time reflected the lack of disposable income people had.  New and different stock did not arrive weekly, instead it changed by season.  You could go into a clothes shop, spot something you wanted, and know they would would still be stocking it in several weeks time, so you had time to save up for it.

These days, because people shop every week, the stock needs to reflect this.  If you see something you like you better buy it now because chances are it'll be gone and replaced by something else next week!  It's a  very clever marketing trick by retailers.  Create a sense of urgency. Magazines have been created which seem to exist purely to encourage constant spending on material goods.  All those monthly 'homes' magazines and 'celebrity' weeklies, fostering the idea of a lifestyle which we must all attain  - constantly buying, throwing away and renewing  our clothes and household goods.  How can this ever make anyone truly happy?  As I've said before, going down this path means you can't possibly be satisfied because there's always something new you must have.

I know it sounds a cliche, but life was simpler in the past, and so were our needs. And this, I suppose, is what I'm trying to get back to.  Material goods aren't important, it's things such as family, friends and leisure time that bring true happiness.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Shopping hell and radio heaven

Today I had to go to Primark.  I don't enjoy going to Primark but I promised Iain I'd help him pick some new jeans.  Primark is okay if you go at 9am.  At 1pm it was jam packed and the noise of screaming children in their pushchairs and their mothers shouting at them to shut up was overwhelming. This really bugs me.  Your children are screaming because it's boring to be sitting in a pushchair all day whilst you're induldging in your shopping hobby.  And, it must be quite scary to be a small child in a pushchair in a crowded place like that where everyone and everything is towering over you.  I also hate to see the current fad of  mothers ignoring their children while they sit texting and facebooking on their phones, but thats another story. I digress.

The only good thing about the Primark expedition was that, as a 'thank you' I got this fab ring:



The snake's head hasn't come out very clear in the photo.

Also these 2 charms for my bracelet:



I collect anything 'dragonfly', but mainly dragonfly jewellery and I've been given some lovely pieces for birthdays and Chrismas's.

Primark was followed by an argument in the market when I announced my intention of buying some dress net to make panscrubbers with.  Some very scathing comments were made so I gave up and I'll be going back later for it when I'm on my own!

I cheered up when I went past Maplins window though, and saw the solar panel kit they had in for £250.  A lot of money, but maybe worth it to generate some of my own electricity.  When I got home, I did some calculations and it wasn't good.  It would take me 19 years at todays figures to even recoup the initial outlay.  So I'd be 71 by the time I started to make a profit from it!

A bit of a mixed bag today then.  I'm off to listen to some vintage radio on the internet.  A glass of wine and Hancocks Half Hour should just about see me right.  I don't know how anyone can actually enjoy shopping!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Bargains at Morrisons

My kettle broke a couple of days ago so I've been boiling pans of water on the electric cooker for hot drinks and washing up.  Given the amount of tea and coffee thats drunk in this house, it's probably a bit too much wear and tear on the cooker to keep doing this.  Probably not cost effective either.

So, I decided to pop out to Morrisons this afternoon to buy a new one.  I only ever buy cheap kettles because I've tried more expensive ones and they haven't lasted me any longer.  The only other thing I needed to buy was a loaf of bread.  Had to check for reduced price bargains while I was there though, and it was a bumper day today.  I bought 2 kilos of jersey potatoes, 1.5 kilos new potatoes, romaine lettuce, 4 pears, 4 peaches, 12 malted grain buns, 6 macaroni cheese's and 2 big packets of wafer thin chicken (which Rusty will eat!), 3 packets of Quorn spicy 'beef' slices  All for £2.60! 

It's ages since I had some good bargains at the supermarket.  We used to score every week, but more and more people are wiseing up to this now.  Iain is no good at it, he hangs back politely, but I just dive in.  It makes me laugh sometimes though, when I see people fighting over the reduced price stuff and their trolleys are filled full of crap they don't need to buy.  I just want to say to them, if they didn't buy all those crisps, biscuits, fizzy pop and inflated price ready prepared stuff, they'd save far more money than they do by getting a few reduced price bargains!

I also called in at the library to see what craft books they had and I ended up with a beginners guide to patchwork and a book of quick crochet projects.  I've been fancying trying my hand at patchwork again.  I made a couple of cushion covers years ago, but it's one of those things that have gone by the wayside as time has become more scarce.

Rusty had a good day too.  I cooked him some dog food made with liver, which he loves, then he ate my son's pizza crusts out of the bin and half a slice of weetabix cake that Iain gave him, and finally, an indegestion tablet that Iain dropped on the floor!  I reckon he might be needing it after that lot!

Oh, and the kettle?  Well, I couldn't carry it home cos my bags were too heavy with the reduced price stuff!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

'Cheap' isn't always the most cost effective option

I'm blogging from my bed tonight. Rather sad that I have nothing better to do in bed than type away at a laptop! And not very good for relaxation either I suppose.

Today I've been coveting sheepskin slippers - like these.


They look so cosy, I can just imagine sinking my feet into them on a freezing cold winters day.  Rather expensive for slippers though, at £35.

Even toastier were these at £39:


I can't believe I've been contemplating paying this much for a pair of slippers!  'That's not frugal!', I hear you say.  Well, sometimes buying the cheapest option works out more expensive in the long run. If stuff isn't well made it doesn't last long and has to be replaced more often.

One decision I made earlier was to knit my own socks.  I know I can buy socks for less than a pound a pair whereas knitting my own will cost me 3 or 4 times that.  But the cheap ones I buy just don't last.  My home made ones should last at least 4 times longer and will be more comfortable.  When they finally wear out that will just be one pair of socks going to landfill instead of 4.  Same with the knitted dishcloths and washcloths.  Cheaper in the long run and less going to landfill.

Cheap knickers are as bad as cheap socks I've found.  My everyday (cheap basic) knickers need replacing and I've only had them 3 months, whereas my more expensive weekend ones are as good as new and I've had them a lot longer (and no, I have no idea why I have 'weekday' and 'weekend' knickers either!)  I have to admit I've been thinking along the same lines as Ilona at
 http://meanqueen-lifeaftermoney.blogspot.com/ and I've been eying up mens boxer shorts as replacements!

So, back to the lovely cosy slippers.  Are they cost effective?  Well, I think I'm just trying to justify buying them really.  They'd need to last 8 years to be cost effective for me!  I guess it's 'bye bye cosy slippers'.  Unless I treated myself with Christmas and birthday money.  Is that cheating...........?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

It can't be bedtime already

I don't know where the evening's gone.  I just looked at the clock and it's nearly time to retire to bed with Ken Follett. I only have about a hundred pages left to read and I'll be quite sad when I'm finished.  Every night I go into my little medieval world and hope it all turns out well for the cathedral builder and his family and the Prior, as well as hoping the evil Earl gets his just deserts!  I've always loved the medieval period but this book really brings it to life.

So, what have I been doing all evening?  Er....I don't know really!  Someone must've put the clock forward a couple of hours when I wasn't looking!  I've spent some time reading through back posts on Rhonda Jean's blog at  http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/.  This lady talks so much sense.  I only hope I can turn my life around to achieve the same degree of happiness and contentment.  Today I went back to work after a few days off and I was anything but serene!  Still, only 15 weeks to go now :o)

Monday, 16 May 2011

It's a Complicated Business

I was gobsmacked when I came across Andrex 'Subtle and Sylish' loo roll the other day. Described as "A little touch of contemporary style" and "A little thing to make your home your own", personally  I would describe it as 'the latest con to get you to part with more of your money for a basic product'!  It's consumerism gone mad - it's only toilet paper for goodness sake! 
I had to see what else they were offering.  Buying toilet paper is a complicated business!  Do I go for the fun of 'Puppy on a Roll'?  Or 'Aloe Vera' as my skin is obviously too delicate to come into contact with un-moisturised paper?  But wait!  Maybe it would be better to go for 'Quilts' with it's "plush layers of tissue to give the softness of quilts" (easier to block the toilet up with if you ask me!)   And what is it with all these people who claim their bottoms are too sensitive to cope with 'ordinary' loo roll?  Is it some kind of status symbol I'm not aware of?!

And then there's the ultimate in luxury - 'Shea Butter', with 'enriched sheets, scented inner core and luxurious dark brown packaging, designed to give you a fabulous feeling'!!  The packaging is coming off straight away anyway!  Finally, do I sacrifice all this comfort for the satisfaction of knowing my loo roll blends in with my bathroom decor to give 'just the right finishing touch', and buy the 'Naturals' range?

Well, obviously I do none of this.  I'm just not that gullible!

Crafting

I'd just gotten myself all excited (sad person that I am) at the prospect of  knitting some creations with video tape, when I start to hear stories about stuff on the tapes that are harmful.  Cobalt and chromium mainly.  Carcinogenic apparantly. 

Well, that's my fun spoilt - I had ideas about mixing the tape with various different yarns, and all for free because no-one wants video tape any more.  Ah, well, back to the plastic bags.  I haven't even explored all the possibilities with them yet.  I'm annoyed because Iain bought round 2 turquoise plastic bags and then put rubbish in one of them! How dare he squander my craft materials!  I managed to salvage the other one though.

I've found a really cool pattern and video tutorial for a bracelet made by crocheting around ring pulls. You can find it here:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZLz62lDSck&feature=channel_video_title

Now I need to get my son to drink 12 cans of lager (that won't be difficult!)

This is one of the patterns from the Golden Hands magazine.


The woman looks like she just threw on that dogs blanket before going out, but I love the girl's short, one colour version. I might make that in black or dark purple for myself.   Velvet ribbon would be good - it might actually be velvet in the pattern. The big bunched hood makes it look so Georgian.

Close up of the fastening:


 I'll put up some more pictures as I go through them. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Charity Shopping

Wednesdays post seems to have re-appeared so I don't know what was going on there.  Saves me doing another project update, anyway.

As I mentioned, yesterday I had a fab day going round the charity shops and the fleamarket.  This particular fleamarket is held every Friday so I don't often get the chance to go as I'm usually at work.  Iain came with me but he's never been keen on it since the time we found the second hand vibrator on one of the stalls!  He won't rummage through any boxes as he's frightened what he might put his hands on!

No vibrators today thank goodness, intead I found these gems:


A pile of Golden Hands magazines from the 1970's!  At a cost of only £1 for 3, I wish I could have bought them all. Unfortunately, I couldn't carry them.  I'm tempted to take another days annual leave next Friday though, in the hope that the rest of them will still be there.

I found a new charity shop, which wasn't strictly speaking a charity.  It was set up to give employment to adults with learning difficulties.  They work alongside the local re-cycle centre and stock the shop with items people have thrown out as well as donations. But the best thing about this shop was that they took things just a little bit further.  Textiles that weren't good enough for resale were taken apart and used to make yarn to knit bags with. You could buy the finished bags or balls of the scrap yarn to make your own. All buttons, zips and other trimmings were taken off and resold. It's great to see stuff being recycled like this.  I had a wonderful time rummaging through all the bits and pieces and I'll definately be coming here next time I need buttons, zips, curtain tape etc. 

They had some lovely textiles and vintage clothing and accessories.  I was tempted by loads of stuff, including a 1930's pink glass dressing table set with a perfume bottle and various trinket jars on a tray and a pair of pale green embriodered satin pillowcases.

I settled for a laced up top for £3- purple and velvet, what could be nicer?! I would have pictured me wearing it, but unforunately it gapes horribly across my chest!  So, until I lose some more weight I'll have to take out the laces and use it as a cardigan.

I also bought this skinny scarf at 50p - reminiscent of the art deco era, I thought.



Some pretty vinatge hankies (although I don't think they're all that old).



And I had a good rummage through some vintage knitting patterns and came out with these:


A booklet, probably from the early 1960's, which included this dress:



I think it would look lovely knit short, in a bright colour, with a wide waist belt, to wear with thick black tights or leggings.  Maybe do 3/4 length sleeves somehow?

Also a 1980's booklet.  I've pictured the top I particularly like.  I think I'd knit it with a scoop front as well as a scoop back.



In another shop I spotted some flanelette sheets for £1.50 that would have been useful for cutting up to use for the backs or insides of the pantyliners I intend to make.  I meant to go back for them at the end of the day, but misjudged the time and unfortunately they'd shut.

Nearly forgot, I bought this piece of material (it's roughly 1.8 metres square) for £1.50:

I have no idea what I'll use it for but I'm sure I'll think of something eventually.  I thought the pink feathers were so pretty.
All in all, a good days rummaging.  And I even got 6 Galaxy eggs for a pound on the market so I had plenty of piggery for the weekend!  Won't help me fit into the purple velvet top though....

A Messy Hair Day

I was trying out a new hairstyle yesterday - messy!



The photos have turned out a bit blurry - they were much clearer on the camera.  Never mind.

As we were expecting showers I thought it was a waste of time straightening it so I just scrunched it up and let it dry naturally.  Then when the rain came I could just scrunch it up again!  It also has the added benefit of disguising any imperfections in my hair cutting technique, so I might try this more often!

Today I decided to get rid of the packet of sweet shortcrust pastry I bought for 20p and shoved in the freezer.  So I made these:

The filling is apple puree, one of the jars I bought cheap on the internet.  We ate a couple while they were still warm and they were very more-ish.

I also bunged a couple of weetabix cakes in the oven whilst I was cooking a chicken.


The patches on the top are sugar.  I sprinkle a teaspoon on to make the cake taste sweeter and that means I can cut down on the sugar actually inside the cake.  They aren't made with fat or eggs - just weetabix, flour, dried fruit, sugar, cinnamon and milk.  I sliced them and put some in the freezer to keep for later.

The chicken will make us 3 meals and a soup and Rusty will eat any scrappy bits.  Tonight we had the breast sliced, with mashed potato, mixed veg and gravy, then I pulled the rest of the meat off and froze it for later.  I also froze the carcass as I couldn't be bothered to make stock with it tonight.

Tomorrow I'm having a day off from cooking.  We'll be having fish fingers for tea!