Tuesday, 30 June 2015


At the beginning of the year, I boldly stated that we would attempt to get rid of 1000 items from our house, either by donating, selling or throwing away (after recycling!).

We hardly did anything at the beginning of the year:

January = 36
February = 10
March = 3
April = 0
May = 0
June = 119

As you can see, April and May were desert months where other things were happening, family needs, bad backs etc. You just cannot move in an attic with a bad back!

However, most of June DB brought things down from the attic, for us both to decide on what to do with them. Just when he got started his back became painful again. Thank goodness for Chiropractic treatment yesterday!

I am being particularly brave in getting rid of most craft items as well as all the items from my BA and MA courses that we just don't want. Where they can be recycled they will be, sold if they can be, after that - binned!

We are not going to reach 1000 by the end of the year but if we get even 1/3rd or 1/2 of that figure, it will be good. Less stuff is always good:)

Monday, 29 June 2015

Pride cometh...

Before more hard work!

There we were, pleased with ourselves on how quickly and healthily, we had managed to stack our logs. Then I read on line on how alder needs a longer drying time. As you can imagine, we wished we had read it before stacking!

Anyhow, we spent a good part of yesterday, un-stacking and re-stacking the logs to separate out the alder as much as possible. The odd one or two got missed as you can see below (Alder, on the right, turns more and more orange as the oxygen gets to it:
There was also a load of logs in the garage that were too fat for our burner and they needed splitting using the log splitter (a very good buy!). One or two also needed cutting in half afterwards as they were too long as well.

Eventually, it was all finished and we now have 3 and 3/4's of the main log store filled up ready to dry out over the summer. The logs which are hidden behind the hessian trellis on the left, are from last year and are already dry and ready to use:
DB after lunch, spent a little time sorting out the kindling store, making a lot more room. We just need to top up the pine cone box (one or two carrier bags should do it) and that side of our winter preparations are under way.

We are careful using the logs, not lighting the wood burner until 4pm usually. If not, we would probably need 3 cubic metres of wood. We would just about be able to store the extra but if it comes too it, will do so as it would warm us up more and cheaper than using oil.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Fruit Crumble Cake

Feeling the need of some cake, I looked at Nigel Slater's recipe for Gooseberry Crumble Cake, which can be found here

My gooseberries are not quite ready so I used still frozen damsons and blackberries. Here is the almond sponge in the tin ready for its top layer of fruit:

Topped with the still frozen fruit:

Then the crumble topping:

And cooled after baking:
 It sank a little in the middle but that could have been the fruit being frozen (and I did test it with a skewer which came out clean!).

The almond cake is lovely and would make a nice cake by itself. The crumble for the first day was crisp and crunchy but after being in a tin overnight, had gone soft but was still nice.

All in all, a good cake.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A few years later...

The back garden needed all it fences replacing so we decided to revamp the whole thing again. The lawn was removed and the turf stacked once again. A pond was dug into the back left corner:
Above is the same pond but from across the garden. Looking towards the garage and the gravel and raised garden are gone:
Finally, it turned into this - looking towards the pond from the right of the house:
Here is the same again a month later looking from the left of the house straight on:

Final one, looking towards the garage:
It stayed like this for about 8 or so years before a lot of the lawn was dug up to give us 6" tall, very large L shaped vegetable beds.

Eventually, I was finding it more difficult to bend or kneel to garden so the lawn was removed, the wood from the raised beds was sawn up for logs, new wood was used to give us high raised bed, which is what we have today. You can check it out on the Vegetable Garden tab above.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Hair and Winter Preparations

I bought a bar of olive and coconut soap, SLS and Paraben free, grated and diluted it to make some shampoo for my hair. It felt fine using it, although there was no lather which I thought a little strange. Did my usual rinse with apple cider vinegar followed by water.

Combing it through it felt very different and very heavy. I dried it slightly and it was obvious something was not right. It was flat, lifeless and slightly greasy to the touch:

Thinking I hadn't rinsed it enough, I rinsed it again, still no different so I shampooed it using my normal shampoo - ah, that is better. It felt soft and shiny and manageable again!

Not to be outdone, I re-read my information to find out I had missed the bit about soap and hard water not working well as a shampoo as the hard water lets the soap leave a residue on the hair, ah well. I read more, went on-line and ordered some SLS and Paraben free shampoo, not at all cheap but we shall see!

We had our winter delivery of 2 cubic metres of hardwood delivered this week:
It is hard to gauge how much it is so DB kindly stood in front of it:
Still doesn't look much but it is when you have to shift it! We got a 10% discount as it is newly sawn wood and hasn't finished drying out. That is fine by us, although it makes it a little heavy to shift. When we finally get some good weather, the Hessian fronts will be removed off the logs stores to allow it to dry out further and it will be fine by the time winter comes.

We managed to move it though, me by wheelbarrow and DB stacking for the most part, in about 40 minutes. There are a few in the garage that we need to use the log splitter on. As we always borrow the wheelbarrow from our neighbour, we give him 10 logs as a thank you even though he always says not to.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Updates and front garden

I have now updated our menu for the past week. This week the poppies in the front garden have finished to be replaced by the double pale pink peonies, blue geraniums and roses:
Mind you the rain is putting paid to the top lot of peonies as the blooms are rotting on the plant, so annoying. They make wonderful cut flowers and scent the front room lovely for a day or so, after that, it is not so pleasant!

The white scentless roses also seem to suffer a similar fate although they don't rot in situ, the outer leaves shrivel to a brown colour which ruins the look of them.

I have just totted up the food and toiletry spending for last month and it came to £119.17, so we do seem to be sticking to our new target of £120 all in rather than the previous £160. That is good as it means £40 into the savings each month which can only be a good thing.

Despite spending less, I am still managing to buy one or two extra things each week for the spare food cupboard.This week it was a packet of couscous.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Back in the day

First of all, well done to Andy Murray for winning your 4th Queen's tennis title!

We have been living here for just over 28 years and in that time, both the front and back gardens have seen some big changes.

The back garden for instance, had a few large leylandii type things along the back fence along with an oversized coal bunker and a huge 12' x 10' shed. The rest was mainly tatty lawn and a reasonably sized patio which had a wall built around it. All in all, utilitarian though not very nice, but at least something to work with!

When DS was around 2, we decided to dig it all up, except the raised bed in front of the garage and turn it into a seaside garden so he could have sand and water to play with and in. Herewith 3 pictures from left to right of the back garden, or most of it:

The shed, coal bunker, big trees and bushes, lawn and patio have all gone. The turf was stacked to rot down into compost, everything else that could be useful was saved.

I thought I had taken a picture of it in progress but can't find it. Anyhow, 11 years later, here is how it matured and looked just before ripping it apart again:
The lawn reached around to the left and had a nice brick edge to it to help mowing the lawn. It went almost up to the back of the house, bar 5', which I used as a small vegetable bed. In summer DS would play out there, we would play croquet on the lawn, his sandpit and paddling pool went on the gravel area and it was also used to play boules. Great times but he was growing up!

Friday, 19 June 2015


I remember when my parents in law were alive, visiting them and noticing how much 'stuff' they had nearby where they sat. I found it amazing and wondered how annoying it must be to shift it all for polishing.

We have always had occasional tables, usual a 'nest' of three, the spare ones tucked away to be brought out, along with coasters when we had visitors. The top one sat in front of the middle of the settee to be shared between us.

I used to be ultra tidy and couldn't imagine being like that. Now, I have a table nearby and DB uses an area close to him. A table no longer sits in front of the settee, instead, TV magazines and remote controls actually sit in the gap between us on the settee!

I have gone from this:
To this:
Believe me when I say the above picture is quite tidy! Have you noticed any of these changes creeping into your way of living?

Have a lovely weekend everyone. I am busy watching the tennis and quite enjoying it so far.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I have stopped...

Using hair conditioner! Yep for more than a year now, I have been washing my hair then using about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, in a pint or so of water followed by a couple of jugs of water to rinse it off.

My scalp has always been so itchy and I had a near permanent storm of skin coming off whenever I scratched or the wind blew. I have mild dermatitis on my scalp And it was getting embarrassing. I just itched all day and was well and truly fed up.

I had tried shampoo from the doctor, over the counter, dandruff shampoo, baby shampoo etc, all to no avail. It probably doesn't help that I have highlights done every 12 weeks or so, though they are put on using a cap so the dye doesn't get on my scalp - uncomfortable but necessary in my case.

My hairdresser frowns at using vinegar but for me, it has brought my itchiness down to around 10% of what it used to be and I am happy with that. To be honest, it is at its worse after she washes and conditions my hair after colouring it! About 2 washes later, using vinegar, it all calms down again.

I also use a special shampoo for a dry scalp which seems to help as when I use another shampoo just in case my scalp is better, off it goes again.

After shampooing, my hair feels like it does for everyone else pre conditioner, but after the vinegar and rinsing water, it feels smooth and silky. Apparently vinegar helps close the scales on each strand of hair. I usually let it dry on its own but occasionally use a dryer. I rarely have tangles and it just feels great.

At its worst, I could peel of what felt like huge pieces of skin but in reality were less than 1cm which left my scalp very sore, now, I don't seem to suffer from that so I am sticking with it.

Herewith some photographs although the colour on my hair seems odd, don't know why:

It might not look very shiny as it was a dull morning when the photographs were taken but it is and so soft!

Now I have that side of hair washing sorted out, I want to get rid of using shampoo as well (I have tried soda, too harsh for me). Most people seem to talk about using 100% pure soap so I shall have to investigate that side of shampooing and see how it goes.

I am really trying to get rid of all chemicals in my hair routine (apart from the hairdresser visiting). Home is cleaned with simple home made products (apart from polish which I need to look at). It has to be better for us and our home and more importantly, the environment.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Trying new things

I have updated our menu list from last week.

Whilst away helping DS and DDiL get their house ready for selling, they made us a meal of Nacho's and other things. We had never tried them before and they were lovely. We bought a pack - not over cheap - and used half of it:
It was very nice although it really needed maybe 15 minutes in the other rather than the 10 minutes stated. We served it with some home made salads and mint yoghurt and really enjoyed it.

Now my task will be to try and make the salsa side of it and try making the nacho element from baked corn tortillas.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Using twice

The other day, I needed an orange for a salad but individually they cost 30p whereas a bag of 6 cost 99p - no choice there then. After peeling it using one of those orange peeler gadgets you used to get given years ago when attending a T-p-e-w-r plastics party, I was about to put the skins into the compost bin when I had one of those light bulb moments - why not remove and save the outer zest, to freeze for later use:

Here it is just removed from the freezer, broken up and back in the freezer:
It smells wonderful and as it fills up, will give me lots of zest for baking or cooking with.

Monday, 15 June 2015

One of the things I like

About being frugal is any money saved can be used for whatever it is needed for. It might be to allow you to eat, pay a bill, go on holiday, put into an emergency fund, or in this case, save towards something. First of all though, a warm welcome to Jackie Connelly via Bloglovin.

I already have a sewing machine but it is one of those things I was persuaded to buy at a stitching show, many years ago, back in the day when money was no problem. You know the kind of machine, an all powerful, singing and dancing type that quite frankly, drives me nuts.  I have never been able to fully get to grips with its bobbin winding. I know, such a simply thing yet I get so irate by the nth attempt that I simply cannot enjoy sewing and usually give up. DB always has to come and do it and that cheeses me off even more:(

I was going to sell it to raise the funds needed to get a simpler machine but because of its power, it will come in handy for tackling big projects - bobbin winding notwithstanding:(, such as putting together and sewing through all the layers of a quilt. Also, DDiL will be able to use it for big projects as well.

Anyhow, now we are using less money on food, I have been saving the difference every month, along with any other titbits and finally had enough saved to go and buy another one.

We have a sewing machine centre quite near us and whilst out the other day, DB suggested we go have a look as he was getting quite fed up of wading through the blue air at home generated by me in the sewing room!

I'm always a little wary of places like this as they can try foisting you off with whatever they need to shift but I took my time and we have been into them before for supplies. I said what I needed and he started me off with a simple machine before showing me another one that did a little bit more but which also came with some great quilting gadgets, free!

However, although I was tempted by said machine and gadgets, in the end I chose the first one he showed me as it just felt better. Anyway, if necessary, I can save and buy gadgets if really needed.

My, how we change with age, I would have been swayed by gadgets once upon a time. Anyhow, the one I went for is a Brother Innov Is 10A.

It has a neat push button to sew but also comes with a foot pedal if I prefer. I think sewing with a button will take a bit of time to get used to but once out the package, I sat down to fill a bobbin and it just did it, no problems and within a short time, was merrily practising sewing with it.

DB had to help with the automatic needle threader as we thought it was broken. It was our fault though, although the needle looked up but it wasn't fully up, once we realised our mistake it was fine.

Physically, it is smaller and lighter but does have a metal rather than a plastic 'skeleton'. If it works as fine as it did first time, I shall be very pleased and already feel far more relaxed even thinking about sewing!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Some things are struggling...

The tomatoes and peppers are not happy. The rise in daytime temperatures means that the peppers can no longer be in the conservatory as it reaches 40C in there. They have been moved outside into my mini greenhouse or even out of there on warmer days:
The night time temperatures are dire, dropping below 8C most nights, far too cold for tomatoes without any protection. So every night I have to put fleece around the tomatoes and take it off every morning:

As for my leeks. They were sown direct into a nursery bed but after several weeks are so skinny that yesterday I pulled them up and transplanted them into raised pots - how odd is that?:
Ah well, can but hope it gets better but the forecast for the next 10 days or so doesn't seem much better regarding night time temperatures. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Some things are growing...

Two out of the four raised vegetable beds are growing nicely. Bed 3 has 8 tubers of potatoes growing very nicely:
Bed 3 has 3 rows of crimson flowered broad beans, a few peas and a few radish:

However, beds 1 and 4 are not doing so well. Below, bed 1 has some nice lettuces, radish and a few peas, but everything else is either failing to germinate or germinating very sparsely and they are new seeds!:
The smaller bed 4 has beetroot and spinach in. The first lot of spinach went to seed and now a second and third batch are trying to grow. The first sowing of beetroot failed although it was older seed. The second and third batch are thinking about it!:
I haven't done anything different to normal so am putting it down to the rubbish weather. One vegetable that so far is growing well, is the courgette:
The container has loads of manure and other feed in it. The yellow is a patty pan type and the one on the right looks like it will be growing small green cricket ball sized courgettes. Time will tell.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

What a difference

Firstly, a warm welcome to Clemcat via Bloglovin.

The front garden has really come on since last week:
The pink peonies at the top are just beginning to open. We have 4 of them and the ones at the top open first, then the 2 in the middle next followed by the 4th, just in front of the window and almost in the shade. They originally came from my mother in laws garden in Birkenhead before she was widowed and we had to move her.

Here are a few more flowers - the 2 clematis growing either side of the window although I think there is still a later one to open intertwined in the pale one:

One of many oriental poppy plants:
Getting back from family research, I baked us some bread and shortbread, changing 1oz of flour for 1oz of cocoa:

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ryton Organic Gardens Part II

There were lots of gardens to look at, some of which were quite weedy but I know a lot of people who like me, garden organically. They don't mind the weeds but I do and try to compensate for the lack of them with a diverse supply of flowers etc for the wildlife!

Herewith some of them. In the compost area DB is looking at the results of decorating your compost bin:
A large array of bins to look at and think about:
The Cuban Garden area:

The original 'All Muck and Magic Garden' from the 1970's:
Geoff Hamilton's Paradise Garden:
A lovely flower, I thought it was a variation on the Corncockle, it has similar leaves and habit. It turned out to be the flower of salsify. I have grown Scorzonera to eat and left it to flower where it produces a similar but yellow flower. 
I also bought 4 packets of seeds which I left behind:( Anyhow, several emails later, they had found them and agreed to post them to me so that was nice.