Saturday, 30 April 2011

Making Dog Food

I'm loving these 4 day weekends! Yesterday I had a lovely quiet day to myself, pottering around on the internet, reading, sewing, knitting and watching a couple of episodes of a new TV programme I found - "Make Do and Mend". It's on every afternoon, channel 4.
I also tried my hand at making my own dog food and dog biscuits.  I got the recipes from a blog I follow:  I used pigs liver in place of the mince in the original recipe as I thought it would be more nutritional, but it was soooo disgusting - slimy and stinky and I had to hold it in my hands to cut it up with the kitchen scissors.  Urgh!  And it kept slipping through my fingers! But the rest was easy - just chopping a few veg and weighing out barley, rice and pasta.

It doesn't look too tasty but Rusty, my dog, loved it.  He definately seemed to prefer it to the tinned stuff he normally has and the bonus for me was that it worked out cheaper - about £2 for 6 evening meals - and no heavy tins to carry from the shop. 

Here he is looking all contented, eating his hide chew.  I've only had him for a couple of years and I'm not sure how old he is.  All I said was "It might be nice to have a dog" and two days later my son brought him home as someone was sending him to the dog pound because they were fed up with him.  He's such a lovely dog although he can be a little insecure.  I'm told he started off life in one of the roughest streets in Newcastle and has been passed on twice since then so that could explain it. 

The dog biscuits were not such a success.

Rusty did eventually eat some this morning but not until he'd 'buried' them in several different places around the house!  I found one down the back of the sofa, two in my bed (!!), and another between the folds of the duvet he lies on in my bedroom! Maybe I'll have another think on them.

Tomorrow I'm hopefully off to the book fair at Tynemouth Station so will take a few photos to put up here.

Now I'm off to soak in the bath with my book.  A weekly treat!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Scone Anyone?

My internet went down on Friday and couldn’t be repaired till today so I’ve been unable to post.  Didn’t make it to the antiques fair either because I had to wait in for the engineer on Monday.  So no new Netsuke for me.  In fact, I had a bit of a lazy weekend as I had picked up a virus from my son and felt too tired and achy to do anything more than potter around.  Never mind, it was an ideal opportunity to indulge myself by putting my feet up and reading.

Usually I don’t have much time to read other than on the bus to and from work, and for 10 minutes or so when I go to bed.  So I normally have 2 books on the go at once – my ‘bus book’ and my ‘bed book’.  The bus book obviously has to be quite light so I can carry it around!  I’ve stopped buying fiction.  I make a note of books I want to read, check out the city library’s online catalogue and order them to be picked up at my local library.  If it’s on the shelf of another library it costs nothing to do this.  As well as the cost, it also means I don’t have a house full of novels that I can’t bear to part with even though I know I’ll never read them again!

This is my ‘bed book’ at the minute, lent to me by my manager at work (and good friend).  It’s set in medieval England at the time of Stephen and Matilda.

At over a thousand pages it’s heavy even for bedtime reading and I’m expecting to have quite muscular arms by the time I finish it!  Last night I only managed 3 pages before I fell asleep (with the book still in my hands!).  At that rate it’ll take me years to get to the end!

I also spent some time sorting out bits of paper I'd collected to put into my various notebooks - this is my knitting projects book where I write down any ideas I have, yarn details, pattern alterations etc and also stick in pictures that inspire me.

And I made scones.

Actually, it was a cheat.  I used scone mix from a catering pack that I bought mega cheaply from  They were having a' buy one get two free' sale at the time so I have loads of the stuff in the cupboard. We'll be well sick of scones by the time I get through it all! I added some bicarb as the mix was past its best before date and the raising agent probably wasn’t as effective, and a handful of dried fruit.  Cost about 25p altogether. They lasted about 15 minutes so we're obviously not sick of scones yet!

I’ve also been doing a little research into using less toilet roll/kitchen roll/paper hankies – sounds like the height of meanness but the alternatives make much more sense.  More to follow…


The TV programme 'Superscrimpers' has become 'must watch TV' in my house over the past few weeks.  Not because of the frugal tips and ideas but because I can't wait to see each week what the chosen family will be wasting their money on.  They are unbelievable!  How can you have an income of over £100,000 a year and be overspending every month!?  Or what about the couple who wanted to save to buy their own home but couldn't find the money - and yet the wife was spending about £300 a month on buying clothes on the internet and paying extortionate heating bills to save her the bother of putting a cardigan on!

How can these people not know what they're overspending on and what they can cut back on to save money?  It's just so obvious!

The woman who was on last week really puzzled me though.  How could she be paying credit card payments of £350 a month when she was only earning £8000 a year?  Maybe she could have given us all some tips as to how she kept her essential living expenses so low that she could afford her 'shopping hobby'!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Don't bin it - curry it!

Well, it looks like the trip to the beach is off.  Whilst the rest of the country is sweltering, those of us living on the North East coast are basking in some serious sea fog!  It's been pretty damp and chilly out there.

Asda was heaving when I went to buy toilet rolls during my lunchbreak yesterday.  People are buying so much food!  Not to mention those whose trolleys were filled with several large packs of lager and bottles of coke.  Hopefully they were planning on having friends round and not drinking it all themselves! 

I haven't done a proper supermarket shop for a week or so as I'm trying to live off the food we have in rather than buy more. Yesterday I cobbled together a vegetable curry which everyone devoured (and one person went back and ate the leftovers which were meant to go in the freezer for another meal!)

I used a cauliflower bought for 35p at the end of the day, a courgette that had been in the bottom of the fridge for a while, a large onion and the solitary potato in the cupboard (that was sprouting better than the seed ones I'm chitting on the windowsill).  Half a 280g jar of madras curry paste (another internet bargain), big squirt of tomato puree and about 600ml chicken stock.  Bunged it all in the slow cooker and just left it to its own devices till we were ready to eat.  Thickened it up with a paste made of flour and water (I used to buy cornflour but when I ran out I found that any old flour does the trick).  Served with brown rice. 

Warning !  This was HOT!  A third of the jar of curry paste next time I think!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Ooooh, a 4 day weekend coming up!  I’m so looking forward to some extra time off.  I really need to do a tidy in the garden – grass cut and dandelions chopped at the very least.  Plenty of jobs to finish off in the house too.  But I’m not going to worry too much about that.  The sun will be shining (apparantly) so I’m hoping to make the most of it with some outdoor pursuits.

Having said that, there’s an antiques fair on Bank Holiday Monday that I’d like to go to.  I don’t always buy anything (it needs to be cheap and I have to love it!) but I enjoy having a look around, spotting stuff from my favourite eras and learning a little about them.  The stall holders are usually very friendly and you can learn a lot from them. 

Last time we went I bought these two lovely little Japanese netsuke for £1.50 each (haggling the stall holder down of course!).

So I’m hoping I’ll be able to add to my ‘collection’.  This is always a joke in our house as I’m told “two objects don’t make a collection”!  Anyway, I think they’re beautiful.  They were originally toggles securing little pouches and other objects which would hang from kimonos (as there were no pockets in kimonos of course!)

If the weather's really good I may have a trip to the beach.  If I go on Saturday then I can pop in the charity shops and yarn shop on the walk down - double the fun! 

This week all I've done is knit dishcloths whilst watching telly.  I've just been too tired for anything else when I get home from work.  So far I have 4 from the one ball of cotton and I'm on with a 5th.  I think that'll do, then I'll change over to knitting washcloths! 

Monday, 18 April 2011

"You'll end up looking like Andy Pipkin...."

Yesterday I decided to try something new - cutting my own hair.  I've always cut my own fringe, sometimes succesfully and other times...... well, at least it grows quick!  Anyway, I googled "cutting your own hair" and came across several sites, one of which suggested tieing it all up in a ponytail at the top of your head and cutting across it, ending up with layers.  Well, as my hair is long and layered I thought that might work and it sounded so simple (if a little mad).

So I did the ponytail - it needs to be right at the top of your head in line with your ears - and with scissors in hand, headed upstairs.  It was at this point that my boyfriend, Iain, started to panic.  "You're not really going to do that are you?  You'll end up looking like like Andy Pipkin (the character in Little Britain with the huge baldspot surrounded by straggly long hair)!!" 

But once I had it in my head I had to try it, even if just once, and I figured if I messed it up I could just tie it back and visit the hairdresser.  "Well just cut off a little bit.  Quarter of and inch maybe" said Iain.  I agreed, whilst mentalling debating whether to cut off 2 or 3 inches.

It was a lot harder than I thought!  Ever tried looking through a mirror to cut your hair?  The scissors kept going the wrong way as I tried to position them and when tied in a ponytail even my fine hair is quite thick to cut through.  The pontail wouldn't stay straight and kept curlling over to the left between my fingers so I had to do a lot of extra cutting on the left side to get it straight.  Quite a tussle.  But I did it and it worked.

Have had to resort to taking my own photo through the mirror as there's no-one else in to help!

And a close up of the same photo.

So, not a  fantastic cut, but good enough.  So that's another thing I can now do myself.  I reckon I can cut hairdresser visits down to one a year and manage the rest of the time by doing it myself.  Not an ideal solution though - I think finding a hairdresser I could barter with would be best.  Skill swapping.  Wonder if I can find a local hairdresser who'd like some knitted dishcloths.............?!!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Knit One, Purl One

Knitting is one of my favourite hobbies.  The rhythm of the needles seems to soothe me and I love the way I can make whatever I want in the colours that I love.  Sewing up the finished pieces is another story and sometimes they can be hanging around for quite a while before I get round to doing them!  Generally I buy yarn on special offer if I can and my local yarn shop, Kemps, is always full of bargains.  You can check them out online at

I've been trying dish/washcloth knitting as they last longer than the ones you buy so less to buy and less to go to landfill.

 This one is a washcloth, knitted in 4ply cotton. The colour was discontinued stock and cost me 99p for a 100g ball.  I could make at least 4 washcloths from this.  It worked well - this is my favourite.

This second one is knit in bamboo - again discontinued yarn, cost 69p and I made 2 cloths with it.  They were intended for washcloths as they felt so soft, but once wet they were so rough I thought they'd take my skin off!  So, dishcloths/floor cloths I think!

The third one is double knitting cotton and probably to be used as a dishcloth.  I love my pink washcloth so much I think I'll just use that yarn for knitting the rest.  Plenty more upstairs in my stockpile!

I'm also going to try knitting socks, although I'm not so good at knitting in the round with 4 double pointed needles..  I seem to have needles all over the place and get in a bit of a tangle!  But I hole so many socks I thought if I knitted them they'd be more hardwearing and I could darn them and they'd last me longer.  Cutting my toenails more often would help too of course - my boyfriend complains they're like veloceraptors claws sometimes! 

Well that's a couple of the ways knitting will play a part in my aim of  becoming more self sufficient.  Not very exciting, but definately functional.  I'll put up pictures of the prettier stuff later.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Quite a good day at work today.  Started off badly when I woke up and thought it was Friday, not Thursday! But good news from my Programme Manager - the late shifts are likely to be stopping shortly so that means I get my evenings back.  Also, more free leeks and rhubarb from our lovely Caretaker!  Still have some veg left in the fridge despite the soup on Tuesday, the sweet and sour veg on Wednesday and the beef stew tonight.  Serves me right for being lazy and ordering loads of veg from Asda to save the effort of carrying it home as when we need it.  Lesson learnt!  They won't go to waste though - the peppers will freeze once they're sliced and I'll use them in chilli or pasta sauce and I'll make a batch of soup for the freezer with the root veg. 

I was looking round the garden last night and it's lovely to see everything starting to come to life.  The blackcurrant bush I bought as a twig last year is coming along great, despite still being in a pot until I get the fruit garden sorted.  You can see the blossom starting so hopefully I'll have fruit this year. Likewise the raspberry - this has thrown up suckers so I have free plants to pot up.  Strawberries have also given me lots of free plants and the little alpine strawberries that I thought the winter had seen off are alive and bursting into growth. Herbs are also doing well, the mint is coming up again so lots of mint tea to look forward to later.  I'm hoping to get some photos up this weekend.  I'm not sure what I'll be sowing this year so maybe a little planning and organising to do at the weekend.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Work, Money and Leisure

A post by Meanqeen on her blog today set me off thinking about my philosophy as regards work and money.  The point of my downshifting is to weed out the unnecessary and spend more of my time and money doing what I enjoy. Too many of us spend all week doing a job we don't particularly like and yet waste the money we earn buying stuff we don't need.  If we think about it, buying all this stuff doesn't even make us happy - happiness can't be bought from the High Street or the supermarket.  And what about the effect all this buying and throwing away is having on the planet? 
Quite often we're having to spend money on ready made or prepared food, labour saving devices or certain services because we don't have time anymore to do it ourselves - we're too busy working.  You might love your job, but there's still no point  wasting hard earned money on stuff you don't need when you could be spending it on something worthwhile.

I already have a  list of stuff I no longer buy but I'll be looking more closely at my spending now and seeing what else I can eliminate or make for myself and enjoy doing it.  Not much point in growing your own food for instance if gardening bores you..  Might as well buy your veg and spend your valuable time doing something else.

It's not about depriving myself, it's about making the most of my time and money, not wasting either, and freeing up both for the things I want to do.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A Tiring Day

Not much time to do anything this evening.  Late finish at work and a no show bus meant I didn't even eat till  after 8pm.  Tea tonight was rhubarb crumble with free rhubarb from our Caretaker at work.  He brings in lots of stuff from his allotment and even bakes us rhubarb crumble and banana cakes sometimes.  I'll definitely miss him when I finish work! 

I managed to burn the crumble as I haven't got used to my new cooker yet.  Scraped the burnt top off and I got away with it - well, no-one complained!  Lots of veg hanging around in the fridge that need using up so I might put some soup in the slow cooker before I go to work tomorrow and we'll have that with dumplings for tea.  Just various mixed root veg, leeks (donated by John again!) lentils, barley, maybe some dried beans and chicken stock cubes (another cheap Internet purchase - I probably have a couple of hundred of them!).

Still no luck with the photos.  Bought a card reader but can't get it to work on my laptop.  Pity, as I was looking forward to putting up some photos tonight.  I'll try again tomorrow when I have more time. Too tired to even think tonight  so I'm off to bed with my book now.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Maybe I Just Need A Bigger House

What a beautiful day.  I should have been making the most of the fine weather and done some work in the garden but I ended up sorting through my clothes to put away my winter stuff.  I'd bought a couple of those storage bags that you suck the air out of with the vacuum cleaner and I was impatient to try them out!  They worked quite well so I'll buy another couple for the winter bedding.

I need all the storage space I can get at the minute as one of my budgeting strategies this year is to stockpile food, toiletries etc when they're on special offer.  Now I'm running out of space to put the stuff!  I've been using a couple of internet sites that sell food on or past it's best before date - perfectly good to eat as we really only need to be concerned with "use before" dates.  My elderly neighbour took one parcel in and we had to empty it into bags in her hallway as the box was too heavy to lift.  Now she thinks I'm a strange woman with a cup-a-soup and couscous addiction.  Good job she didn't take in the parcel that arrived 2 days later with the 72 packets of Thai red curry sauce in it!

Hoping to put some photos up here soon as a blog without photos is a boring read I think.  Just having a slight technology problem at the minute.  I'm using the camera on my phone for the time being and it doesn't have a usb lead like my old one.  I think I need a card reader - I'll ask someone who's more savvy than me.

Monday, 4 April 2011

A New Start

Okay, where to begin? Well, my redundancy is only 5 months away now and hopefully it will herald the beginning of a new way of living for me.  A while ago I realised that I'd become bogged down with work and personal responsibilities and the life I was living wasn't making me very happy.  I wanted to slow down and re-think what was important to me.  I love to create - making stuff thrills me - and I hate waste, the throwaway culture of always having to have something new.  So, this will be my diary of how I change my life around, create more of what I need myself and have fun doing it!  I only intend to work part time in the future so my income will be low, but I'll have much more time to pursue my hobbies, work on making myself as self sufficient as I can, and just being able to slow down and enjoy some new experiences.

Life is looking up!