Thursday, 28 June 2012

Making, mending, decluttering

My home and head are in major need of de-cluttering. My home's such a mess I feel unsettled and uncomfortable when I'm there, which gets me stressed and tired out. I read this article ages ago and adopted the approach of doing 5 minutes of de-cluttering a day and it worked well until I fell back into old habits. I slipped when winter came along and I didn't want to do anything but hide under a blanket on the sofa so it's about time I got started again and caught up. As an incentive I'm going to track my own progress here so I can see how much I've done when I look back. So, to begin:
Boxes in the bottom of the wardrobe = 1 bag to donate, 1/2 bag for the bin.
Bathroom basket = handful of old nail polishes, old packaging.
Jewellery box = handful of jewellery I've not worn for an age.
Pile of crap at the bottom of the wardrobe = 2 bags to donate, one bag for the bin.
A few minutes here and there has made a noticeable difference already, if only my good intentions stick. Flushed with success I also mended some clothes that had been on the mending pile for a tad too long and made a batch of easy curry paste - one for tea and three for the freezer. I know it's just a start but getting a few things done has made me feel more on top of things.

Later; editing this to add that I've just read Frugal Queen's post 'Deep cleansing with a financial fast' and it sums up the kind of organisation I'm after - organising my space and my mind by cutting out the crap in terms of what I buy and hoard.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Radish of Happiness

Ta da! I pulled up the first radish of the year this morning, washed it, ate it and it was yummy. With all the bad weather I'd forgotten that it's Summer, the time for things to grow, so I was surprised when I saw that many of the first radishes are ready to come up.

After nipping to the corner shop for supplies and finding the radish I made bacon butties and coffee which we ate in bed, and crocheted whilst the wind blew and rain lashed the window. Mmmm, lovely.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Happiness and cheesecake

Mr CB made a HUGE cheesecake for a friend and I got to help by testing the mixture then licking the whisk, spatula and bowl afterwards. Here's the approximate recipe (because he made it up), currently being dictated to me.

For the base:

14 to 16 digestive biscuits (value brand work fine for this)

100g butter

1 tbsp caster sugar

For the topping:

1/4 pint double cream

A generous splash of vanilla essence (added to taste)

600g soft cheese (this is exactly 3 packs of Tesco Everyday Value cream cheese) - be sure to drain any moisture off the top.

10 tbsp icing sugar

1/2 bar of melted dark cooking chocolate


Put biscuits into a large sandwich bag and (I quote) "twat very hard with a rolling pin" until they're all crumbs. Melt the butter and mix with the caster sugar. Add the crushed biscuits and use your hands to mix together. Squish it all into a loose bottomed cake tin. Put it in the freezer for 1/ 2 hour to harden and make it easier to apply the topping.

Add the vanilla to the cream then whip. Add the cheese and sift in the icing sugar, beat together until is forms "one smooth, even, creamy blob". Using a spatula dollop it onto the base and spread it evenly.

Melt the cooking chocolate and drizzle liberally over the topping so that it looks like a chocolaty Jackson Pollock.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Rainbow things

Here's the New Thing I was working on yesterday and finished today. I was lucky enough to be given a Kindle at the weekend as it was an unwanted gift. The cover was pretty bulky so I decided what it really needed was a stripy crocheted one.

I used DK yarn from my stash and a button that I bought in a big, cheap pack from The Bead and Button Company on Amazon. I made a foundation chain of 22 with a 4mm hook, worked 3 rows in each colour and kept going until it fit around the Kindle. I could have done with making it 2 or 3 stitches wider as it's a tight fit, bit it will probably stretch. 

I love using stash yarn, it feels like getting something for free! It was simple to make, cost next to nothing and has bought some rainbow stripes into the world.

There were more rainbows today in the form of these cute little windmills, 3 for £1 in the pound shop. Once the high winds have died down they'll be taking up residence in the pots in my garden and will add a little colour to tide me over until the flowers start blooming.

I hope the grey weather isn't getting you down and that  you're finding little rainbows too.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Simple happy things today

1) Spending my lunch break getting deeply absorbed in a book rather than wandering around the shops

2) Feeding the ducks at Tarnfield Park (which was deserted because of the dull, windy weather) after work and spotting this little family huddled on the bank:

3) Sitting in the warm car, drinking a flask of coffee and watching planes take off:

4) Crocheting a New Thing (terrible light right now so no pic yet) and chatting with Mr CB whilst he plays a computer game.

5) Gathering together lots of pictures on Pinterest to pander to my current fixation on pink and turquoise.

6)  A G&T with lots of ice within easy reach.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Splashing out

The bank holiday has seen me splashing out in style on a raspberry plant. I wanted to grow some perennial fruit and got excited when I did a little research and found out that some varieties of raspberry can be grown in containers. So I got a very healthy looking raspberry plant, a cheap one of those big, flexible rubber buckets (which I cut holes in the bottom of) and a big bag of compost and potted it up. It cost £14 altogether and I'll be very happy with this if it pays me back well with fruit. 

The plant is called Autumn Bliss and, you've guessed it, is an Autumn fruiting so should produce some fruit this year. I'm excited about trying out a new crop and will be guarding it from pests and diseases with my life.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Me indulging in cute pictures

Today we invested in a big bag of Tesco value carrots and visited some donkey's and horses. We were met by this adorable sight, a baby donkey with it's mum.

And here it is all tuckered out and having a nap:

The gift of carrots was much appreciated by mother donkey, who came galloping across the field as soon as she sensed that her preferred treat was nearby. Here's a close up of the pretty creature:

Then we met a lamb who I think must have been hand reared because it came trotting up to us and had a long and happy fuss through the fence.

A simple, cheap (cost = one bag of carrots costing £1) and fun afternoon out, full of "Awwwwww."

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Step by Step Cookery

I got an excellent cook book yesterday whilst charity shopping. For just 50p I got 1970's treasure - "Step by step cookery" by Marguerite Patten, published by Hamlyn. The edition I've got was published in 1977 and is packed with several hundred recipes, ranging from unusual canap├ęs to a vast array of steamed puddings, preserves, casseroles, sweets and pretty much everything else. It gives detailed steps (often with pictures) for different preparation methods and has clear diagrams for things like wrapping a pudding bowl and how best to use cheap cuts of meat.

The 70's recipes are frequently bizarre and you've got to love that. Add in the full colour pictures of such unusual concoctions as prawn and grapefruit salad starter and savoury sandwich gateaux (it really is a gateaux made of sandwiches)and it's both fascinating and very useful. It even tells the reader how to make a good cup of tea.

I love how different this book is from modern cook books. Many of the recipes have completely gone out of fashion and as a result it provides a whole new range of recipes that a totally unfamiliar. 

But my Favourite thing about the book is that it has a recipe for vol-au-vaunts and all the mysterious, gooey filling I remember from the wedding buffets of my childhood. I finally know what the creamy mushroom, chicken and salmon fillings are made of and can re-create them at home. Actually, I can't wait and am looking forward to turning out a bank holiday batch straight away.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Catching up

Well, after another lapse into non-blogging laziness I've turned up again, having given the blog a bit of a refreshing make over. So, time for a swift catch up.

I got transferred from a temporary contract (that had been running for over 2 1/2 years) to a permanent one. So relieved! Mr CB's income's still very low as business is so slow so it makes a big difference to our peace of mind to know that my income's stable and ongoing.

We're now the proud co-owners of a set of ladders. A couple of friends needed some for decorating and so did we so we split the cost and brought a set between us. This means we now have no excuse for not getting on with choosing colours and getting started.

I made Mr CB cringe slightly when I bought my new toys for the house and garden - a long handled brush and pan and a spray bottle, both in the brightest of bright pinks. Seeing as house work has to be done I may as well have bright coloured tools to use.

The garden isn't as packed full of pots as it usually is at this time of year, the bad weather has delayed the planting. But I've got spring onions, garlic, strawberries, salad leaves, radishes and lots of flower shoots. I've found on the internet that raspberries can be grown in large tubs so I'm looking forward to having a go, but more on that later when I've got the plants. I'm also looking into Autumn/Winter planting so I can have some early flowers next year and maybe some food growing over winter.

I'm trying to battle the huge amount of greenfly that have descended on everything by spraying them with washing up liquid in a (bright pink!) spray bottle with water. So far so good, and I'm pleased because I won't use harsh chemicals, especially where food plants are concerned. The snails however are causing problems. There are so many this year! They've biting the heads off my seedlings and causing snaily havoc all over the place and I don't know what to do about them. 

I'm planning on getting a compost bin, it seems like a waste not to get one. The cheapest I've seen is this one in Wilkinsons for £20 so I'll get it soon and start composting at last. Free compost!

I was very excited when I went to the library last week and found a book called 'Back to Front' which is about growing food in the front gardens of back to back houses. It's full of useful information and local contacts to help people grow food cheaply in their front yards, and it's inspired me to try some different things, like the raspberries, and to use the shady bits of my yard I havn't used before by choosing the right plants. The Back to Front website is down at the moment but if it starts up again I'll post a link because they really do provide all the info you need for growing stuff in a small yard or garden.

Since last posting I've finished a knitted sweater and a crocheted blanket, and have been working on socks and two good sized baby blankets. I love the blanket and still aren't sick of granny squares!

In other news...
I've found bargains galore, including 3 Alfred Meakin bowls for £1.80:

A set of 4 crystal wine glasses in excellent condition for £2:

Also an unexpected bargain in the form of:

Tesco Everyday Value Baby Shampoo for 9p. 


I'd read good reviews of it and for that much it had to be worth trying. So far so good - very gentle on my hair, thick, lathers nicely and leaves my hair feeling clean, which is all I could ask for. I recommend trying it for yourself - for 9p if you don't like it you could always use it up by using it as hand wash liquid for delicate clothing or even for cleaning with.

Aside from bargain hunting I've been on some trips out (visited Durham for the first time and it's lovely) and have been trying to make my lunch breaks more interesting. Two of my lunch times last week took me to the Leeds Art gallery where I really enjoyed looking at an exhibition of Fiona Rae's paintings (her website is here).

We go in search of our Dream... - Fiona Rae

So that was a bit of a catch up on all the things I meant to post about at the time but didn't. 

Tata for now,