Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Decking the halls

I picked up these lovely decorations yesterday from the Cancer Research shop - all of this for £1! There were lots more, but I thought I would leave some for the other bargain hunters. The decorations are all made of wood and metal, which matches my objective this year of not buying anything plastic. (Unfortunately the decorations came in plastic wrappers).

My other objective was to have some sort of mantlepiece - I've longed to have a proper fireplace since I moved to this house 18 years ago . We have an ugly old fashioned gas fire and a back boiler, which both need to be replaced but finances have not allowed - there are so many things that have taken priority over the years, but after seeing what wonderful decorations other people have blogged, I gave my self a kick up the proverbial and bought this beauty on EBay. Its basically just a wooden mantleshelf, purely cosmetic, but somewhere for me to put my candles and a bit of holly. (Yes I know that's not holly, it's laurel, but I will go out and see what I can pick at the weekend - maybe some berries too). When I have properly decorated my new mantlepiece I will proudly display a photo, watch this space.....

How's this for rustic decorations:

I made these from some twigs and scaps of knitting wool. I plan to make some more, maybe paint them or use gold paint.

Finally, here's a picture of our tree. Over the years we have had so many different colour schemes, but most of our favourite decorations are white, silver and gold, so the majority of the other colours I gave away on Freecycle. Many of these are wood, glass or metal (though I do still have some plastic ones). There are also a few hand knitted ones (stockings, candy canes and so on).
I'm off to do some Christmas shopping and to drive to the west country to deliver gifts and to pick up my daughter from University.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

I knitted this hot water bottle cover for my sister using some wool from my stash - it's a Christmas present, which I must post in the next couple of days.

This is just about the only preparation I have done for Christmas so far, other than put up the tree. I am so envious of The Nester and the 150+ bloggers who have posted pictures of their beautiful garlands. I don't have a fireplace, or anywhere to put up a garland, and have been searching EBay for a fire surround, but I might just resort to a shelf, so that I can put some candles and pine cones.

I've neglected my blog recently - here are a couple of recent highlights in my life:
  • A visit to the Country Living Christmas Fair in November - my daughter met me in London and we had a lovely afternoon...

  • My son and I had a short holiday in Herefordshire and stayed in a lovely barn conversion, and had a really enjoyable day Llama-trekking

Thursday, 5 June 2008


I haven't been a very good blogger lately, though I have been keeping up with all the lovely blogs I regularly read. So many people manage to post every day, or at least a few times a week, but I never seem to have enough time lately.

These lovely poppies are growing in my garden - some of them are almost as big as peonies, and are a lovely range of colours. There are quite a few flowers in bud and it will be interesting to see if there are any other shades of mauve or pink.

I received this lovely bag from my Shopping Tote swap partner Sandra. It has lovely hand embroidered flowers on it. Thanks Sandra, I love it!

I have been avidly watching Springwatch and enjoying it so much. I don't know which birds are my favourite, but you've got to love Crane School! Brilliant.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Back after a long absence...

My last post was over a month ago and there have been various illnesses in the family which I won't go into detail about, but things have settled down a bit now and I am catching up with myself and getting life back to normal. Sorry for the long absence ....

I finished the hot water bottle cover for my daughter I mentioned last time, and have started another one for my sister.

I knitted this without a pattern, just used a hot water bottle to judge the size. I made one of these once before using chunky wool and it turned out very well, but this wool was different as it has a varied texture which made for a lumpy finish. My daughter was happy with it, so that's the main thing!

My washing machine broke down a few weeks ago and I've been struggling without for a time, but had a new machine delivered today. I was very torn about buying a new appliance while trying hard to be more frugal, but the new machine has an "A" rating which means I will save both electricity and water so overall I don't feel quite so guilty. What I especially like about this new machine is that it has a 30 minute cycle which is so quick compared to my old one. The old machine had had its fair share of repairs and was not particularly energy efficient. Since the delivery men left the new machine has been put through its paces several times in an attempt to catch up with several weeks worth of accumulated laundry. I did as much as I could by hand, but wouldn't even try to wash jeans or towels by hand!

I finished my shopping tote for my swap partner... I posted it off to Australia a while back but I haven't heard from my swap partner yet so I hope she has received it by now. Here's a photo (which I hope won't spoil the surprise if it hasn't arrived yet!)

Sorry the photo is a bit dark, it's a cream linen fabric with blue and green pattern, lined in calico. I was going to have a go at making the bag that uses a normal plastic carrier as a template, but it looked a bit challenging. I might tackle it sometime soon and I'll show the results if its a success!

Friday, 14 March 2008

A Day in My Life - 14 March 2008

Little Jenny Wren is going to write every month about her day to day life and has invited other bloggers to join in. I've signed up, at least to do one, as I am lazy about posting, though I always manage to read lots of other people's blogs and post a few comments.

So here goes, this was my day today...

Woke up at around 5.50am, my alarm is set for 6.00am but I usually wake up before it turns on. The radio comes on rather than an buzzer (though I do have a back up alarm clock that goes off at 6.27 (don't ask why 6.27 rather than 6.30! Just one of those things) but rarely need it. The radio station I mainly listen to is Radio 4 but in the morning from 6-9 its the Today programme, which is a really smug, self congratulatory news programme. The women presenters particularly annoy me (Sarah Montague and Carolyn Quinn) and I frequently get so irritated with the programme's style and content that I turn the radio off. Depending on how early I wake up, I sometimes read for a while, but this morning the house felt cold and I just stayed snuggled under the covers until about 6.15 then went to investigate why it was so cold. The heating was on, but for some reason the hot water tank and some of the radiators were luke warm rather than hot. I switched the hot water tank over to the immersion heater so that there would be hot water for a shower and while I waited for it to warm up I went down to put the kettle on for tea and to let the rabbits out and to feed them. This morning they had a big handful of hay, a big scoop of dry food, a carrot and half an apple chopped up. I changed their three litter trays (one inside their house and two outside). The litter trays are such an easy way to keep them clean, I just empty the used ones in the compost bin as I just use newspaper for a liner and straw and it all composts really easily.

After a cup of tea it was back upstairs into the shower and get dressed. Today I wore a navy blouse and navy trousers and a cream cardigan. I wash my hair everyday, so I had a quick blow dry then back downstairs. My son goes to college and he'd already got up and got ready so he was just about to leave though he said he didn't feel very well. Both my children hardly missed any school through illness, and would never take a day off school/college/university/work unless genuinely too ill to work.

I then made myself some lunch (today was a cheese and tomato roll, banana and pear) to take to work. I quickly ate some plain Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of nuts and dried fruit then suddenly remembered I had to feed the tortoises. We are looking after two tortoises for a week or so while their owner is away. I felt a bit panicked because I remembered how cold the house was, and these are tropical tortoises that need warm temperatures, but fortunately I've got an electric heater set up on a timer so they weren't cold! Today's food was a few cape gooseberries (physalis) and some strawberries.

Then I set off - today I had to go to Witham, which is about 10 miles away from my house, to carry out a risk assessment of a school crossing patrol site. Today's site was one that has not been manned for a long time, so I needed to count traffic and pedestrian movements at the busiest time of the day (in this case from 8.30 - 9.00) to see if it is worth keeping the site. In half an hour a couple of hundred cars passed the site, but only two people crossed the road. We will probably abandon this site.

I then headed to my office. I don't have an allocated parking space, but my line manager lets me use his sometimes as he often catches the train to work. It sounds lazy, but it takes me about 15 minutes to walk from the car park to the office and this is just too far to walk there and back. I'm not a fast walker, and I'm usually carrying a briefcase, as well as a handbag, my lunch, knitting or a book etc, so most days after I've done a site visit I will drive home and cycle into the office - it takes me less than 15 minutes and it's a much pleasanter journey, and I can put all my bags in my bike basket. Today, as I had to go out on site again in the afternoon, I drove into town and parked and walked to the office. I spent a couple of hours writing up notes of site visits, dealing with emails and phone messages, then had to complete my staff appraisal form with my manager. We have to do this every year in order to get our pay progression. I think the less I say about this the better as I feel it is just a paper exercise....

Lunch time, I whizzed out for a few minutes to get a bunch of daffodils (my favourite flowers and the local market sells 5 bunches for £2.00) and to have a poke around in the Oxfam shop. I picked up a nice piece of material for .99p which I may use for the shopping tote swap I've signed up for at down-to-earth.

This afternoon's site visit was in Billericay, which is only about 12 miles away. Some days I have to drive 30 or 40 miles each way to get to a site, but this only took me half an hour. Our crossing patrol ladies and men are great - they do a very difficult job and they are really special people. I do hate to see inconsiderate drivers and the way they behave to our patrols. People parking on the school keep clear markings, speeding, failing to stop even though they've been signalled to do so... There are a lot of selfish people out there, but the patrols take it all in their stride and are out there whatever the weather.

I drove back towards home, but the traffic was horrendous, so I decided instead of sitting in a queue of traffic I would pop into Lidl. It's not a shop I generally go to, but I got some real bargains from the fruit and vegetable section - red onions for 20p, 1 kg carrots for 55p and a mango for 23p. Amazing! I must go there more often. The carrots will be great for the rabbits, and for us too, and the mango will be great for the tortoises (if I don't eat it all myself!). I usually only shop for food once a week at the most, so this was not a big shopping trip, and I didn't really need much. I could have got quite a few more things, but I resisted the temptation!

When I got home it was about 5.50pm so I turned on the computer to catch up with emails and reading blogs. I usually listen to music when I have the computer on. This week I've had a few new CDs arrive that I'd bought either on EBay or from Amazon. I do like a bargain and the CDs I bought this week each cost less than £4 (one was only .75p) though of course there is also the cost of postage, but even so none came to more than £6.00. I drive a lot for work and find music more relaxing when driving than radio but I do get bored listening to the same stuff over and over. I probably won't buy any more CDs for a few months, and these should keep me going for a while. While catching up with my favourite blogs I saw a post at Belinda's place about Earth Hour and have signed up for it, and I will see if I can get the County Council to join up too. As they employ over 20,000 people it might make all the difference.

I fed the rabbits - fresh water, a scoop of dry food and some greens and then shut them up for the night. Then I phoned my mum for a chat. She's hoping to come up for a visit Easter weekend so we were arranging that.

When my son got home from college he still wasn't feeling well and went straight up to bed. He's got a sore throat and feels achy. He didn't even feel like eating any dinner, so I won't bother to cook tonight. I've just been snacking on yogurt and nuts, and might have some salsa and tortilla chips. Not very healthy I know, but I don't really like cooking for one.


I had that salsa, and a cup of tea, then my younger sister phoned and we chatted for about an hour (maybe longer).


So here we are at the end of the day. It's now just after 10 and I think I might turn on the TV to watch the news and do a bit of knitting - my daughter wanted me to make her a hot water bottle cover and I've nearly finished it. I'd better hurry up, it's nearly spring!

I'll probably go to bed around midnight, maybe read for a while before I go to sleep.

Not a particularly exciting day, but doing this has been fun. I've visited a couple of the other blogs that signed up for this. It's interesting to get a little window into other people's day; we all have such different lives and experiences. This has been a typical day for me, the way I currently live, but one day I'd like to be able to record a day filled with gardening, growing my own vegetables, baking bread and finding time to be creative.

If you got this far, thanks for reading! I'm posting this now, but I do have a couple of photos to add and will do that tomorrow, but it's been a long day!


Saturday Morning Note: I've added a few photos to make this post more interesting (not so sure that a shot of the inside of my compost bin is all that special but you know what I mean!).

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Valentine Swap

The doorbell rang this morning and look what I got:

A lovely selection of goodies from my swap partner Blossom in Lucy's Valentine Swap - after I'd take a photo of this pretty bag, the gorgeous knitting wool, a lovely green FQ and of course some delicious chocs, I discovered these hidden in the pocket of the bag...

two cute little buttons, a little wooden koala and a tiny golden angel. Thank you Leigh - everything is wonderful. I hope your parcel arrives soon (and that you enjoy opening my swap items as much as I enjoyed yours and that the Aussie customs don't have a problem with anything I sent!).

I knitted this Autobot design facecloth for my son - he's a big Transformers fan. I found the pattern here (thanks Enid). Now he wants a Decepticon one to match. I may have to work out a pattern for myself as I can't find one anywhere on the internet.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Bramble and Clover

Here's a photo I took today of my two beautiful rabbits - aren't they lovely? That's Bramble on the left and Clover on the right.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to anyone who drops by here. I don't know if I have many readers, (probably not) but apologies for the long silence. I find December a bit stressful with family birthdays and Christmas preparations, but that's all behind us now (though the credit card bills will be rolling in shortly!).

My main aim for 2008 is to declutter and simplify both my home and my life. I have made a really good start - in fact I started before Christmas. While we were putting up the Christmas tree and a few other decorations I was amazed at how much Christmas stuff we have accumulated over the years. I'm not particularly fashion conscious about colours etc, but our excess was mainly due to the transition over the years from Christmas decorations for young children (the unbreakable type) to more fragile items. I sorted out everything that I couldn't bear to part with (some things have a sentimental value, such as some pieces my Dad bought us the year before he died). The rest I boxed up and posted on Freecycle and I am happy to say everything found a new home.

That got me started and over the past couple of weeks I have been Freecycling and Charity Shopping everything in sight! I even put up some old games and toys etc on EBay and amazingly almost everything sold. I am in the process of clearing out my attic and hope to have everything organised and sorted by next weekend. It's cold up there and space is limited so I can only manage brief sessions, but I have been bringing down assorted boxes of accumulated junk and finding new homes for most of it. I am trying really hard not to send anything to landfill and equally resisting the urge to keep things for sentimental reasons, but it's very difficult. I used to watch the TV series "The Life Laundry" and although I'm not as obsessive as most of the people they helped, I do have a problem with throwing things away. I always think "someone else could use this" but invariably it gets stuffed in a cupboard, in the attic or out in the shed and gets forgotten about until things are rediscovered when I'm looking for something else.

I don't have a list of new year resolutions as resolutions are notoriously hard to keep but these are the main issues I want to concentrate on in 2008:

- Finish clearing all the junk out of the attic.

- Dejunk the shed and the garage.

- Reorganise the way I clean my house so I spend less time doing housework and more time relaxing.

- I want to change the way I shop for food so as to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging and also buying only the amount of food we need so I never end up throwing away any food at all. I'd also like to change the way I cook to include making extra portions that can be frozen or refridgerated to be eaten on another day so I use less fuel for cooking.

Speaking of extra portions, I have used this recipe for Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne several times, but I have adapted it by using fresh spinach (stirfried for a minute in a little olive oil) and topped it with bechamel sauce with a little strong flavoured grated cheese stirred in instead of the parmesan. I also substituted pine nuts for the walnuts. When I made this recipe I found I had too much to fill our dish and made two individual portions as well which were popped in the freezer for another day.

I didn't take a photo of the lasagne, but I did take some of my mincemeat and mince pies. I used Delia Smith's recipe for mincemeat that I cut out of a magazine about 15 years ago, but I split it into two batches. One has suet in (I use the vegetarian sort) and one has no suet. The suet batch keeps for a few months but the non suet batch was used straight away (and has slightly fewer calories!). A couple of extra tablespoons of brandy in the no-suet batch made up for the lack of maturing time! I haven't given the recipe for the mincemeat as it's really a Christmas thing, but if anyone reading this wants the recipe I could type it up for you. PS: For any non-UK readers, mincemeat doesn't contain meat, it's just dried fruit, apples, sugar and spices - though originally the recipes did contain ground up meat and animal fat.

This is how the mincemeat looks before it goes into the oven for three hours

If you look closely you can see the suet mincemeat at the back and the "fat free" version at the front.

Here's the first batch just out of the oven - I think I made about 5 dozen all together, some with "open" lids cut out with different shaped cookie cutters; we had stars and Christmas trees as well as these playing card cut outs. There's nothing like a homemade mince pie!