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


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:

Tuna sandwiches followed by apple and blackberry crumble

Tomato pasta sauce with sausage

Beef casserole with dumplings and couscous

Chicken risotto

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!


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!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Simple Pleasures

Well that's weird - the post I wrote on Wednesday night has disappeared from my blog.  I noticed others have been having trouble with their posts as well.  If I remember right it was a project update, so I'll just do another late. It'll be useful for me to see how on-track I am with things.

Today I went to the flea market and round the charity shops. I spent a bit more money than I wanted to, but have bought some lovely stuff, including some craft magazines from the 1970's.  I'm going to spend the rest of the evening flicking through them - heaven!  I'll do some photos of everything tomorrow.

When I got home I went in the shower and I noticed how much better it felt now I no longer jump in every day.  I just seem to appreciate it more.  That started me off thinking about simple pleasures and I wrote a little list in my notebook  I find thats serves as a useful reminder of all the things we do have, instead of  dwelling on what we don't have.

Anyway, these are a few of my simple pleasures - the stuff that makes me feel happy inside.
  • A hot shower (when it's not an every day occurance)
  • Lying in the bath reading a good book
  • A converstaion with Karly, my 4 year old granddaughter
  • Playing chase with Rusty, my dog
  • Watching the antics of the blackbirds through the kitchen window
  • Eating raspberries straight from the bush
  • Seeing my seeds germinate
  • A pot of Lapsang tea in my vintage crockery
  • Afternoon tea with home made scones or cake
  • A leisurely Sunday afternoon spent lying on the sofa reading a book or watching an old film
  • A walk down to the lake to feed the ducks and swans
  • Mint tea from the garden on a hot day
  • Looking through old photos and reliving some happy memories
  • An evening spent watching back-to-back episodes of a favourite TV series on DVD
  • An evening spent watching Patrick Swayze 'dirty dancing'
  • Walking in the rain when I know I don't have to
  • Experimenting with making something new from stuff that would otherwise have been thrown out
  • Writing - a few notes in my diary or gratitude book or a few paragraphs of a short story
If we can slow down and appreciate the little things we'll realise how rich we actually are.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Projects update

This is where I want to be, all snuggled up and fast asleep.

Alas, it's 2.30am and sleep alludes me.  The dog is having a kip on my bed instead.

So I thought I'd have a cup of tea and do an update on my projects.  I've finished all my dishcloths and washcloths.  The dishcloths in particular are fabulous.  They seem to have a scrubbing action that you don't get with the ones you buy (not the cheap ones, anyway).  I did 5, which seemed the right amount.  Now to see how long they last.

I've knitted one sock and started on the second.  I just made ankle socks because I prefer them (and it saves on yarn!).  The yarn comes with a 10 year guarantee and I've been very good at cutting my toenails lately.

I've hemmed a few wee cloths (but if I keep on drinking all this tea I'm gonna be needing an awful lot more!).  I was wondering if I had any other material in the house to use for the cloths,instead of buying it. and then I thought about my kitchen towels.  A while back I replaced the handtowels I use in the bathroom and relegated the old ones to the kitchen for hand drying.  I had the idea that these would be more useful if I cut them in half to make smaller ones.  Then I'd have more than I needed and the excess could be cut up for the wee cloths and face cleaning cloths.  So I've spend a little time this week cutting and hemming them.  A good reminder of my new 'frugal mantra' - "always have a good think about what you aleady have in the house before you go out and buy something new".

One good idea leads to another and I thought "I could do the same with my hand towels in the bathroom, put half of them away, and they'd last me longer"!  Much easier to wash too. A future project.

This is one of a pair of legwarmers I've knit.

I haven't yet got round to sewing the buttons on the other one but no hurry as legwarmers aren't exactly summer clothing!  In the winter I love to wear long jumpers or short sweater dresses with warm thick tights - they're so comfy.  So I knit the legwarmers as an extra layer to keep my legs even toastier.  They're done in an acrylic yarn as I had some to use up but would have been warmer in a wool mix.

So, currently I'm prioritising knitting the socks and hemming the cloths.  Small steps I suppose.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Thoughts on violence

At the weekend my eldest son was attacked and now has a broken eye socket and broken jaw.  He can barely see or talk and can't eat.  He can't work and has no income because he's self employed.  He's back at the hospital again in a couple of days whilst they decide if his injuries need to be operated on.  He's probably lucky there were others there to stop it going any further - his friend tried to stop it and ended up with his finger being bitten down to the bone.

Just thinking about it makes me so angry and I keep wanting to hurt the person who did this as much as he's hurt my son.  Thoughts like that disturb me.  Does this make me exactly the same as him?  Am I really saying 'violence is okay if the other person deserves it'?  Or 'it's okay to use violence against someone who's violent themselves'? But I guess having those feelings and actually carrying them out are two different things.  I hate violence, don't know how anyone could enjoy beating up someone else and not really caring whether they kill that person or not.  And how must it feel to bite through someones finger?!  It makes me feel so sick.  I hate that we have to live amongst people like this who just don't care about the lives of anyone else.

The same thing will have happened up and down the country to lots of other mothers sons (and daughters) last weekend and many will have fared much worse than my son.

Why?  Well it's nothing new I suppose. There have always been people like this and there always will be.  But I'd like to know what makes some people so uncaring of other human or animal life.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Just Chilling Out

Can't seem to get my backside into gear today.  I blame Ken Follett.  I'm a third of the way through his book, 'Pillars of the Earth', and all I want to do this afternoon is lie on the sofa reading some more.  It's very compelling.

I have managed to clean the kitchen and put dinner in the slow cooker -  inbetween reading.  Dinner is soup made from a half price ham shank I bought and I'll stick some dumplings in later.  That knocked down the carrot mountain a little!

I had my boyfriend and son believing that the dog food I'd made was actually our dinner for that night - liver casserole.  Both of them seemed a bit depressed at the thought of eating it- Iain even went so far as to say it looked like vomit - "Look. It's even got carrots in it!".  Yes dear, everything has carrots in it lately!

I borrowed 'Kirstie's Home Made Home' from the library the other day and I'm really taken with the idea of making a rag rug.  It'll be a while before I start though as I need to collect some rags first.  There wasn't enough in the book to make me want to buy it, but still a nice read.  I'll need to make a list of all my projects as there's so much I want to do.  I need to learn patience!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Front Jungle

I finally managed to do a job that's been irritating me for ages now - cutting down the elders that were growing in the front garden.  I still need to dig them out but at least it looks a bit tidier.  Because I live in the corner house of a square I have the tiniest triangle of garden and yet I still can't find the time or energy to keep it tidy!  So much to do....

The worst of the two elders.  I wish my blackcurrant and raspberries grew this quickly!

View from the front.  Shocking!  And just look at that dandelion in the path! This has definately shamed me into tidying it up!

From the corner of my eye I can spot that nosey beggar across the road watching me from his living room window, probably wondering why I'm taking photos of this mess!

Eventually I plan to plant some rhubarb in here.  I did put one in last year but I think I planted the crown too low and it didn't grow at all.

In the back garden the clematis along the side fence is threatening to take over the planet.  It does look lovely when it comes into flower but it's in need of some serious pruning.  It's enveloped a fir tree at the back and a hideous shrub, the name of which I've forgotten, at the front.  I don't like the fir tree either so they're both coming out eventually.  Ideally I'd like to take some cuttings and start again with this clematis.  We reckon it's about 20 - 30 years old and it's very bare and woody at the base.

Veg growing just doesn't seem to be happening this year.  I'm really struggling to find the time.  By the time I get in from work on an evening, have tea and clear away it's 8.30pm and I'm too tired to start working in the garden.  I will at least try and sow some salad leaves though - that doesn't take much effort and it saves a fortune.

Speaking of veg, this is what's left of the mountain of carrots I ordered from Asda 10 days ago.

 I pressed the button twice by mistake. Even once was a lot of carrots!  So far we've had them in casseroles, bolognaise sauce, chilli, soup, and steamed with some chicken and an omlette.  And the dog's had them too in his home made food - several times.  We're all sick of carrots and are liable to turn orange if these last much longer!  Carrot and coriander soup and carrot cake are next on the menu!

Fun With Carrier Bags

I had a lot of fun yesterday playing around with making yarn from carrier bags and knitting and crocheting with it.  Most people use the yarn to make shopping bags, but I have enough of those for the time being so I'm trying to think of other uses for it.  First I thought of pan scrubbers, but that didn't work too well.  Coasters?  I have plenty at the minute.  I use this furry knitted one all the time as it soaks up any tea I might spill and it doubles up as a duster  - if the coffee table or the laptop are looking a bit dusty I just give them a swipe with the coaster!

 I could do with some little household baskets for putting bits and bobs in, so that might work.  Also maybe small bags to hang on the wall for storage?  A belt?  Jewellery?  It's so easy to make the yarn and quite addictive.  I'll try and do a tutorial later when someone's here to take photos.

I also had a walk to Morrisons in the afternoon.  I'm lucky in that I have both Morrisons and Sainsburys within walking distance (20mins and 40 mins).  Also Lidls, but the walk is not so nice.  Morrisons is via a path which used to be a railway, across a small field and then through a beautiful park that used to be the garden to a big Georgian House. 

Through this archway there's an orchard on the left.  It's open during the summer and you can go in and pick blackcurrants, raspberries and herbs.  There are also strawberries and apple and pear trees but they don't do so well.  When the raspberries are in season I can't walk past, I always have to go in and eat some!

There are steps here leading through the trees down to what was once a man-made water course.

This is the view at the bottom of the path, looking towards the water course.

Standing in the same position and looking the other way.  There's still water at this side!  I head along here for Morrisons, which is the building you can just see at the top of the picture behind the trees.  The back of the old house is to the left but I didn't take a photo,  Also to the right used there are the remnants of a waterfall.

I love this park.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Wee Cloths and other unmentionables

A few days a go I mentioned that a comment on another blog had set me off thinking about reuseable cloths instead of kitchen roll, toilet paper, disposable cloths etc.  The original comment was regarding 'wee cloths' - which means just what it says, to be used instead of toilet paper!  I thought about it a little and it sounded more comfortable than using toilet paper, which has a tendancy to shred, so I  googled it to get more information on washing, hygiene etc. 

This led me to websites which sold reuseable sanitary pads and pant liners and I thought, "what a great idea!".  I've always hated the fact that the ones we buy are full of chemicals that can irritate and these reuseable ones looked so comfortable.  Also very expensive.  So I wondered if I could make them myself, what kinds of fabric could I use and were they cost effective and the fabrics readily available?  I found this fantastic website which had all the information you could need http://www.clothpads.org/.  I have some old fleece pyjamas that I can use but other materials might have to be bought.  Nevertheless, I think this will be very cost effective, should reduce the amount of natural resouces I use and rubbish I produce and it's less to have to go out and buy on regular basis - plus it sounds very comfortable too!

After that I took the idea of reuseable and ran with it - most of my ideas were very obvious but I'd never given it any thought before.

So, here's my list of projects I'm working on:

  • Cloths to clean my glasses with - much better for the lenses than using toilet paper!
  • Washable cloths for taking my makeup off with, instead of using throwaway wipes
  • Cotton hankies instead of disposable ones/toilet paper (unless I have a cold of course!)
  • A supply of rags - old tshirts etc-  for wiping up messes
  • Wee cloths (much to Iains disgust, I've decided to give this one a go!)
  • Cloth pantyliners (again, to the disgust of Iain!)
I've already cut up some old t-shirts to use as rags and I used one particularly soft one to make cleaning cloths for my glasses.

I made two like this and hemmed them so they wouldn't fray in the wash.

These are the old flannels cut into quarters and ready to be hemmed for use as the dreaded 'wee cloths'!

I may have to buy some cheap flannels to cut up and use as make-up cloths as I don't think I have anything else suitable, but I'm looking for some old shirts to make hankies with.

And finally, one of the benefits of all this reuseable stuff is that I'll be using hardly any toilet paper!  I could probably even manage on loo roll purloined from public toilets!  Only joking - but I have actually known a couple of people who did this - never bought loo roll at all! 

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Day Out at Tynemouth

Here are a few photos from the book fair on Sunday. It takes place 4 times a year on the metro station concourse but every weekend there is a fleamarket/crafts market and once a month a farmers market.  I used to go every couple of weeks or so, but I reckon I enjoy it more if I don’t do it so often.  That way there’s always new stuff to see.

The book fair was on the west concourse and the fleamarket squashes into the east concourse for that day.  Even less space than usual for them this week as part of the station was roped off  because of renovations.  It’s a beautiful Victorian station and I’m glad they’ve finally been able to secure the funding to renovate it.

The fleamarket/craft market.

The book fair.

First stop is always a cuppa at the tea stall – Iain will not move until he’s had his tea!  Then a quick look round the fleamarket and craft stalls before heading over the other side for the books.

I noticed the fashion at the minute seems to be for shabby chic housewares and vintage clothing and jewellery.  Have to admit I love vintage jewellery, but nothing I wanted to buy today.  A few vintage knitting and crochet patterns, but again none took my fancy.  Last time I was here everyone was going mad for cupcakes and several stalls were selling them.  None today, so I guess the cupcake craze is over!  I find it fascinating (as well as daft!) the way everyone seems to follow these ‘fads’ and then they all move on to the next one.  

I did make one purchase here – I now have a new netsuke for my ‘collection’! 

 It's very different from my other two - it's made of wood -  but I've seen some lovely wood animal, bird and reptile netsuke so maybe I'll start two collections!

The book fair turned out to be not so good – sometimes there are lots of books that take my fancy and other times nothing.  I always visit the stall that raises funds for the rabbit sanctuary (info here: http://www.pipkinrabbitrescue.org/) and I at least make a donation.  This time they had a pile of knitting magazines so I bought three for 60p each.

The other two purchases I made were an Art Nouveau cross stitch book for £1 and a biography of Vera Brittain for 25p.  The cross stitch motifs might be useful for making gifts.

When we’d finished we went into town intending to walk up to the castle and along the coast for a while as there are some beautiful views.

But after we'd stopped for another cuppa it was getting late so we left it for another day. 

Georgian houses along the main street.

Art Deco flats - taken from the back of the metro station.  I think this was probably a 1930's factory.
Close-up of the gargoyles on the old church.  I love gargoyles.

Changing trains at South Gosforth.

Long journey home on the metro and bus - almost 2 hours!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Budgeting and Nightmares

I had a dreadful nightmare last night involving hiding out and being surrounded by dozens of flesh eating zombies.  Had to get up and make a cup of tea to calm my heart rate down!  I knew I would suffer for watching The Walking Dead on telly!!  Result - very tired today and still thinking zombies!

I took some photos when I went to the book fair on Sunday but haven't had time to upload them yet.  Hopefully I'll get that done by the end of the week. 

My focus this week has been on budgeting and bringing down the bills, so I've been examining my outgoings to see what I can happily do without and what I can get cheaper.  My broadband, TV and home phone costs are more than I want to pay and whilst I'm quite happy to do without the cable channels I need the broadband and landline for future income possibilities.  So I've been looking for the best offers and then I'll ring my supplier and see if they can match it.  Otherwise, I'll be changing. My gas and electric cheap tariff has just ended so I've been doing some research to find the cheapest supplier and if there's any cashback offers to be had.  Then finally my mobile.  I have a very cheap tariff at the minute but I don't use the mobile much so I'll be ending the contract and buying a PAYG sim card for the phone instead. 

One expense I find hard to lower are charity donations.  At the moment I have one monthly direct debit to a charity and I make one off donations to others. I've decided to keep the direct debit whilst I'm still working because I can afford it and charities are having a hard time at the minute (I worked for one till I was TUPE'd across to the local authority 2 years ago).  When my income drops I'll end this and will instead offer my time - part time working will mean more of this to spend!  I'm really looking forward to doing some voluntary work - it's important, to put something back into the community I think.  I used to volunteer at the local primary school and I loved doing it.

One off donations will be scaled down but will always be a part of my budget as I think we can all afford a little to help.  One thing I like to do is make a donation to a homeless charity at Christmas and I fund this by doing without something myself over the Christmas period.  I could afford just to give the donation, but I think the doing without bit acts as as reminder about how wasteful we are at the time of year and how others could make so much better use of that money.

Well, that sounded very serious and sermonising, didn't it?!  But we're all individuals and others will have a different take on this.

Workwise, I have a few courses coming up that I hope will be useful for my future plans. I'm very lucky, in that, because of all the restructuring and redundancies, the council I work for has put together a fantastic package of courses and workshops to help people affected.  So far I've signed up for a finance workshop, one on self employment and another on carreer change.  I also fancied the 'handling stress' course because you get to practice some relaxation techniquques - useful for when zombies strike in the middle of the night!