Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Frivolous acquisitions

I got a couple of lovely things in a charity shop today. This Whittard's cup and saucer was £3 and the wooden necklace was £1.50. They're both so bright, unusual and very 'me', I love them. I'm sipping herbal tea happily from the cup and wearing the necklace, like I child who's just got something new. 

I've been looking for a new bag to replace my worn old one. It had to be just right and I've been looking for a while without seeing anything that took my fancy. But yesterday in my lunch break I saw 'The One'. I did a very female thing and stood there staring at it lovingly then rushed in, fiddled with it, tried it on infront of a mirror and we clicked. I was already about to be late back from my break but things like that don't matter where true bag love is concerned. So I bought it then legged it back to work and did my best to sidle in unobtrusively. It's the same fabric I saw some bags made of  in a Cath Kidston shop and which I loved but which were all more that I'd ever dream of spending on a handbag. This one's a knock off and a fraction of the price but seems very sturdy non the less.

I suppose it's frittering but when it's things that really are beautiful to me or that I need - and not just bought 'because it's there and I'm bored' - I think it's worth it. I like saving money but I also like being surrounded by things I enjoy using and looking at.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Weekend activities

Activity 1 was wondering what these shoots growing in a container in my yard were. I hadn't planted anything and couldn't think what was in there last year. I gently dug them up and found that they were from a bulb of garlic, which must have been a clove of garlic I planted last year but missed when I dug up it's brethren. I was totally chuffed because I was annoyed at myself for forgetting to plant any in November so it could get ready to grow over Winter, and now along comes this surprise garlic. I've separated it into cloves and replanted it.

Activity 2 was listing about 36 items on Amazon. I started off putting a couple of dvds on, then had a rootle round in the attic and found a mass of other stuff to go on. Four things have sold so far giving me a current total of £24 after postage, woo hoo!

Activity 3 was staring at this wall in my living room and wondering what to do with it. I don't want this room to be brown and cream any more but can't think of how to repaint it. I'd like something fresh and light and more lively than brown. I'd like to get rid of the rock formation as it takes up masses of space (it continues into the corner to the left and completely fills it) and just isn't my thing. But our house is rented so we're stuck with it. And whist I'm on the subject, how the hell has my mantelpiece got so cluttered? Where does it come from? It's a mystery to me. Also, no amount of repotting, trimming, feeding or loving attention seems to make any difference to the state of this scratty looking peace lilly in the boarded up fireplace. I've had it for years and now it just seems intent on withering up and dying.

Activity 4 was making a cafetiere cosy out of little squares and it just not looking quite right to me. You can't really tell from the photo but it's pretty wonky and I just don't think it's going to work, though I like how the little blocks of colour look. Hmmmm, this one's for pondering.

It was a relaxing and enjoyable weekend of pottering. What pottering have you been up to lately?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Three Simple Pleasures

Three simple pleasures to share with you today.

 A bowl of hyacinth bulbs just starting to put out shoots: 

A bunch of bright yellow daffodils on the coffee table: 

A big basket full of yarn waiting to be made into something:

What have been your simple pleasures today?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Spring is (sort of) in the air

The warmer weather this last week has got me thinking of Spring and for the first time this year I've been considering what to plant in the garden. My garden is a yard so every Spring and Summer I fill it with as many containers as I can and it makes it feel like a proper garden, especially when the veg starts to grow. I've been pondering what to plant and so far have decided on a few old favourites but am now excitedly choosing what new things to try. The ones I plant every year are spring onions, garlic, salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, sweet peas, nasturtiums and marigolds, wildflowers (good for the patch of stoney ground and the bees love them) plus some herbs on the kitchen window sil. My first experiment is...

...mushrooms. From Poundland, believe it or not. I've wanted to grow them for a while but the big kits are quite expensive and I just didn't want to grow that many. This one's very small but good for having a go with. Mr CB hates mushrooms and is a little disturbed by the idea of having them growing in the house. Even more so when I suggested putting them under the bed for the first 6 days because they need somewhere warm to get started, and the bedroom's the warmest room. Maybe I shouldn't have started by saying "How would you feel about me putting the spoors under the bed to germinate?"

I've started the mushrooms off and sewn parsley, coriander and basil. I'm investigating the possibility of growing butternut squash in a very large container and have got some seeds for mini bell peppers, tomatoes and spring onions. All seeds in Wilkinsons are 3 for 2 and in my experience they're good seeds. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy planning it all and sewing seeds.

Spring - bring it on.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Finding the balance

My frugal drive has fallen to pieces since the start of 2012. By the standards of most people I've not gone crazy with my spending, but I'm not happy with it myself. My problem has always been Frittering; spending a pound (or two, or three...) on bits and pieces that I don't really need or want. It's all built up little by little and really it's not the amount I've spent that's the issue for me (I've not over spent or made myself skint), it's the attitude, the habit. Last year I got really good at saying 'No' to myself and what a difference it made. My resistance to spending on silly little things increased dramatically. On the other hand it got to the point where, at times, I felt like I was really missing out and living pretty shabbily. So I suppose the point of all this really is that I've learnt that I need to find a balance between wasting money and spending nothing at all. I want to find the sweet spot where I don't fritter money away but where I also don't feel like I'm depriving myself of all the fun. When I was being full on frugal I felt guilty over little things I love like a cup of coffee and a cake in my favourite cake shop at a weekend, a new lipstick or some yarn. Lately I've enjoyed myself more and not felt guilty about it but at the same time I've not felt fully in control of my spending, and there have been plenty of times in the past two months where I've definitely wasted money that I could have done with using for something else.
So here's my plan:

1) I'll go back to writing down everything I spend. Knowing that it would have to go in the book made a big difference to my spending last year.

2) Re-assess my overall budget to update myself on what I have and where it goes.

3) Open a long put off savings account for a mortgage; it's a long, long way off given our financial situation, but a house of our own is something me and Mr CB both long for. I'll be sure to have the money transferred to savings just after I get paid too - if it's not in my everyday account I won't be able to spend it.

4) Household inventory; last year I went through groceries, toiletries, clothes and craft stuff to get an idea of what I had already. At the time I discovered food cupboard and frozen groceries to make 13 meals and enough stashed toiletries to last for months, not to mention yarn I didn't even know I had. Looking at the clutter in my house I think it could be similar this time too.

5) Avoid cheap chain stores. Too much temptation to buy something cheaply made for instant gratification only to find it falling apart after a few wears. So I think I need to get into the mind set of I either buy it from a charity shop (which also has the advantage of the thrill of the hunt and money going to a good cause) or save up for a good quality version.

That's a good start for the thrifty side of things but I think I'm going to have to work on my attitude towards money in general in order to find the balance - not to worry about it all the time and miss out on things I love doing but not to waste it.

Have you got any favourite frugal tips? Or advice on striking the balance? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, it's something I'm interested in and I find a lot of inspiration for beautiful but thrifty living on people's blogs.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Hooky fun

A friend who runs a coffee shop ('Flavour' in Forest Row, Sussex) asked me last night if I was able to knit/crochet some little cakes to hide around her shop. Cue hooky inspiration! Here are the results of last night's yarn fun. I've never really had the urge to crochet food, but I'm rather fond of these two and enjoyed working out a pattern for them.

Come out from behind there, I want to take a picture!

And you too...

Awww, that's better

Sunday, 12 February 2012

From Cold To Cosy

It's been a fun weekend, starting with a spa in Knaresborough with a Living Social voucher, then chips for lunch and a stroll through the castle and by the river.

We got reeeeeeeeelly cold so then we bought a fabulous and over the top cake each from Hirsts bakery and went home to warm up.

Ahhhhh, lovely.

Oh, and I also checked my rewards total on the Valued Opinions survey site and found out I'd accumulated £10 which I redeemed on an Amazon voucher and used it to buy an embroidery book I'd had on my wish list, which felt like getting it for free. Bonus!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Winter Sunshine

Hello, not many words today but lots of pictures to share...

... progress on my ripple cushion cover (bad light for photos but I'm enjoying it so much I just had to):

...a charity shop bargain; this chunky bracelet of crimson rose shaped beads was only 50p at the weekend. I'm really enjoying red at the moment:

... happy horses, ponies, donkies and mules from a Sunday stroll at Hope Pastures:

Mr CB looks very content here

Happy donkey

Mr CB knows I don't pose well for photos so springs them on my when I don't expect it so he gets good ones

A small pony scratching it's bum
...and a couple of snowy, frozen canal pictures too:

I hope you're enjoying the Winter sunshine too and keeping warm and toasty.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Crochet show off time

First in today's crochet line up is this rainbow cafetiere cosy, modelled by my much loved cafetiere, posing with my spotty milk jug and favourite cups.

This is the set up in our bedroom every Sunday when it's lazing in bed time, and a cosy is a must as it keeps the coffee hot for a second cup. I made this one up as I went along, trying it on the cafetiere from time to time. It's made out of stashed acrylic so I feel like it was free! As it happens I've made it a tad too large - I could have done with a couple of rows less, but I'll know for if I fancy making another one. (However I spell it, 'cafetiere' looks wrong. I've looked it up in a dictionary, spelled it right...and it still looks wrong. And I've just spelled dictionary wrong. Twice. Good old auto spell checker)

Second up is this little wrist bag that I made to take to a friends wedding, as I wanted something small and unobtrusive. It's made out of dish cloth cotton from the stash and is just big enough for my digital camera, room key and lipstick.

I really enjoyed making it and dug into the stash again to make these two, hopefully to sell on Etsy (more on that once I've got stuff to sell and worked out what I'm doing!)

I'm besotted by the humble granny square (you may have guessed from previous posts!) and wanted to find a way to wear that particular stitch pattern. I came up with this shrug based on Attic24's Granny Stripe blanket pattern. Shaping the arms was a bit of a clumsy process but it doesn't show now it's sewn up. I really like how it's got a collar which I didn't expect it to have - it's just there because it's a stiffish, thick fabric and it can be folded back on itself quite firmly. It's made from one of those big 400g balls of aran wool/acrylic yarn that I love so much. I think it took about 200g of the yarn.

Currently in progress is another thing inspired by a pattern on the Attic24 blog, this time the Neat Ripple Pattern .  I was looking at gorgeous, bright home furnishings yesterday that were out of my budget and was filled with want, want, want. So I came home, my head full of colourful ideas, and - you guessed it - raided the stash. I'm using the ripple pattern (which, by the way, is seriously addictive) to make covers for one of the long cushions at either end of my sofa. I might make two or I might make a different cover for the other cushion. The colours are coming out of the box they're all in more or less at random so it could be an opportunity to pair up some unexpected colours.

One last little trinket I made was a pair of little hearts for a gift. I forgot to take a picture before I gave them away, but they really were cute and very fast to whip up, so here's a link to Little Heart Plushy which is a great straightforward pattern. I should confess that I really struggled until I realised that in American crochet patterns 'sc' (single crochet) is the same as 'dc' (double crochet) in British crochet patterns. How did I not know this before?! After that crochet made much more sense!

In November I started a blanket as a wedding present for my friend who got married at the end of January. That blanket was not meant to be thanks to me really, really underestimating how much yarn I'd need for it. There were 9 colours in the blanket and when I got about 1/3 of the way through I realised I would need more of all of them. No problem for 8 of the colours but as for the 9th...well...just before Christmas I checked that I'd be able to get more if I needed it. I found plenty of places selling it online so I wasn't concerned. But when I went back to look for it in my hour of need it was nowhere to been seen. Nowhere. This yarn had evaporated, it had ceased to be, it was extinct. 


The blanket was ripped back and re-born in the form of my friend, the granny square. Here's one of them, I'm making 16 altogether and that yarn in the middle of the square is the extinct yarn. In the end I made up a hamper as a wedding present for my friend, the blanket will probably be their Christmas present at this rate!

So that's my month of crochet. I'm finding it challenging and lots of fun, and there are so many possibilities for it that I want to explore. I'm trying to figure out how to make a larger granny stripe garment like a cardigan. In the meantime I'm enjoying the ripples and granny squares immensely and just can't put my hook down.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Back after a brief absence

I've not blogged for over two months and I think that needs a bit of explaining, as I certainly didn't intend to stop posting. In a nutshell, Winter came along and cut me down in my stride mood wise. In the time that had elapsed since last Winter I'd managed to push all thoughts of Winter induced depression to the back of my mind so, like every year, it took me unawares and, frankly, I've felt crap. I lost interest in all the things I enjoy doing, like knitting, baking, cooking and blogging too; it all just seemed too hard and I was tired all the time. I've been experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder for much of my 20's but this is the first year where it's got bad enough to force me to see that it affects my life in a big way every Winter. It's more than just feeling fed up and tired because it's cold and dark outside; with SAD you just don't want to leave the house and everything seems so hard to do

Things started to look up when I looked on the MIND website and found this helpful page on SAD, which immediately made me feel less alone with it. Understanding what causes it made it feel like something I could do something about. I started off by getting a daylight lamp (this one). It was £40 and worth every penny; I have it on for an hour to an hour and a half each evening and it's given me a boost, I don't feel wiped out all the time. I've been sleeping much, much better since using the lamp and that's had a very positive impact. I'm also looking at my eating habits and eating more healthily, and have taken the pressure off myself to be as active and busy in Winter as in the lighter months.

If you are experiencing SAD I really recommend checking out the MIND website for starters, and remember that it's not just you, you're not alone and that there's help available that can make a big difference.

Another thing that's helped is crochet. I found it impossible to make anything more complicated than granny squares when I was feeling really low,but making them kept me occupied. Then I got drawn in to the possibilities of it and it snowballed. It's kept me focused and interested in something, and I've been crocheting my little heart out for the past month. But more about that, with lots of showing off pics at the weekend, when I can take pictures in daylight. This time there won't be such a big gap between posts!