J is for Junk

Day 10 of the A to Z blogging challenge

There is an age old saying of one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and i really enjoy finding treasure of my own amongst other peoples junk.

Bins

I’ll admit, i’m not quite brave enough to go skip diving in someone’s front garden, but give me a charity shop or a car boot and i can be quite pleasurably entertained for a fair while. Basically, i just love a bargain and what can become of junk once you utilise your crafty skills quite often leaves other people calling you a fibber when you say what it used to be.

charity-clip-art

My first go to shelf in the charity shops is the books which admittedly don’t get up cycled because, well, what else would you do with a good book apart from read it…although i am tempted to try and make one of those little coffee tables out of old books that are then glued together into a seemingly random and haphazard pile…watch this space for that one…

book table  Not my photo, but really cute eh?

My second go to shelf, or rather, rack, is of the curtains, sheets and duvets. Not for my house, i don’t need anymore of those items, the ones i have are perfectly good for at least another few years, but because they are a gold mine for fabric. Have you ever looked at how much fabric there actually is in a double bed size duvet cover?  This fabric i use in all sorts of ways.

  • I have previously stated that i am a qualified seamstress. If i’m attempting to make a new garment that i haven’t made before and i think the fit may be a bit tricky then i will make a ‘muslin.’ It is a trial garment in a cheap fabric where it doesn’t matter if there are mistakes in it or if it doesn’t fit quite right because you can then use this to alter the fit before you cut into your expensive final fabric. Believe me, it’s very depressing to find out that something doesn’t fit after you’ve made up a jacket using three metres of fabric that cost £20 a metre…A cheap sheet or cover that only cost a couple of quid is perfect for this.
  • They are also good for patchwork, cushion covers, bags.
  • Reupholstering stools, chairs, sofa’s etc.
  • Using as dust sheets when you are decorating.
  • Building tents in the garden with the kids or grandkids.

In my mind, if you have a good length of fabric then you can turn your hand to making anything look good.

And unique.

Next, i will have a quick perusal of the clothing, again, mainly looking for fabric opportunities (i get most of my denim in this way) although i’m not averse to getting some clothing for myself if i see a bargain. I picked up an Animal hoodie the other day. Barely worn, retail in a shop is around the £40 mark and this one was written up at £4.50.

No way was that sucker staying there, and i really don’t care either that it was two sizes too big.

Finally, i will have a quick look at the games. We are great believers in this household of family games nights and, although we have our old favourites, we like to try something different. It can, however, work out a bit expensive to keep buying a new game every time all the family can get together, but it is often in these shops that you can find something a bit different to the supermarket specials. We have had great fun with a game called Hummbug where you have to get across the board before your opponents by picking a card and having to guess what song is being hummed. Admittedly, we had to adapt the rules a bit to suit us because my sons didn’t really know much of the 60’s era, but isn’t that also the beauty of the games night? Just having a laugh and making it work for you?

hummbug--family-game-night-free-uk

Let me know what your favourite section of charity shopping is and what you look for. I’m always open to new ideas.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

 

I is for Internet

Day 9 of the A – Z blog challenge.

The internet can be a major help as you strive towards a make do and mend lifestyle. Not least because a simple Google search can tell you how to make and mend just about anything that takes your fancy.

Obviously Youtube is the place to start with any type of new craft or DIY skill that you may find yourself lacking in.

  • I have fixed my dishwasher when it wouldn’t drain properly – had to take the drain section to pieces and found a piece of glass blocking it. As this was on Christmas Day it would have been a while before an engineer could come and fix it for me at i don’t want to think about what cost.
  • I have taught myself the finer points of crochet.
  • I have learnt how to reattach the zipper of a zip after it comes off the teeth in your hand when you are altering a wedding dress… ooo, that was not a good moment i can tell you…
  • I have found the songs i require to teach singing and signing sessions at work as well as finding some that are really not quite so suitable – but fun all the same.
  • I have found out what some never used (and probably never will be) sewing machine feet were meant to be used for after i found a random bag of them lurking at the bottom of my sewing box.
  • I have learnt jewellery making techniques i didn’t have before.
  • I have learnt how to work with Fimo – made some minion keyrings, they were really cute and friends and family loved them.

Minions

  • I’ve tried yoga – it wasn’t successful – don’t do a downward dog with a loose bra on. It doesn’t work. Invest in a sports bra. Or don’t have boobs.
  • I’ve been entertained by funny animal videos, ever seen a hedgehog being fed a treat? It’s hilarious, go find it, you won’t be disappointed.
  • I could probably continue ad infinitum, no person could possibly live long enough to watch everything that is available….

As well as Youtube, there is good old Google itself. The answer to every question in the universe plus a few that have never been asked before. Probably.

It is no longer necessary to have a costly encyclopaedia in the house, the internet can get you the answer to that query before you’d have had chance to open the first page. Although it may take a while for you to find the actual piece of information you were looking for. The trawl through the sites can rake up some stuff you never wanted to know though…or see…

Shopping is where the internet really saves you money though. Sites such as Ebay and Amazon are gradually taking their toll on the traditional high street while those seeking individual hand made items can use sites such as Etsy or Not on The High Street as well as many others in order to show their unique identity.

On top of this there is the possibility of having your supermarket shopping delivered. I believe this does save you a lot of money, even after factoring the delivery cost, by you not actually having to visit the shop yourself. You have your meal plan for the week, you have your shopping list to facilitate your planning and you buy just what is on the list because you aren’t physically in the shop to see all the special offers and impulse buys that the supermarket is trying to tempt you with. On top of that, there is the fact that you have no transport costs to get you there and back. You save on shoe leather from not walking around the shop. You don’t get stressed out by the amount of people blocking your way as they chat to that friend they haven’t seen for absolutely ages right in front of the milk aisle. This means that your diet also stays safe as you don’t reach for that huge bar of chocolate that is sitting conveniently by the check out, just crying out your name, as your reward for having to go through that hell week in and week out…

Or is that just me?

Finally, we have education.

I could not go to university when i first left school. I wasn’t actually even allowed to attend college, i had to go straight into work to start earning a wage as soon as my legal schooling days were over. Admittedly, i had no strong aspirations for any particular career, i didn’t know what i wanted to do so i didn’t put up any fight either.

Years later, when i did decide i wanted to further my education i was married and had children. I went to evening classes at the local college but that was never going to improve my career prospects. When my marriage failed, i had even more need to gain some qualifications but even less ability to go to a university to get them when i had three boys to feed, clothe, house and keep warm.

I turned to the Open University. I could stay at home, go to work and gain a degree at the same time. It wasn’t easy. Trying to fit study hours in was excruciating at times, but the flexibility of study and the range of study materials and peer/tutor support available was second to none. My first degree, a BSC Hons in Health and Social Care was sort of my introduction to computing that wasn’t being beaten at space invaders by my brother in the late 1980’s. This was in the early 2000’s and was delivered by a combination of online support and snail mail assignment postings.

 

My second degree, an Open BA, was in the 2010’s ish,  and was mainly delivered online.

Graduation Torquay 2014-15

They’ve grown a bit haven’t they!

I am currently three quarters of the way through a Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree with the Open University and it is completely delivered online.

With the increase in technology i have gone from no hoper, straight out of school and into the local factory where her mum worked to a person who can hold her own, live independently and believe in herself and her abilities. I could not have come anywhere near that without the internet and the ability to study at home without racking up tens of thousands of pounds in student fees and living costs.

So the internet is amazing at helping you save money in so many ways.

Have a happy day,

Anita x

 

 

G is for Grow your Own

Day 7 of the A to Z blogging Challenge

There is something really satisfying about going out to your garden and picking fruit, veg or herbs and bringing it back into the kitchen to put straight into your meal or preserving it for later use.

For me it is the freshness of it and the fact that, apart from the initial outlay of seeds and equipment, it is free.

I know that i am lucky though, i live in the middle of Cornwall, UK, and i have a garden. It’s not very big – a veg plot is out of the question, as is a proper greenhouse – but it is big enough for a few fruit bushes, some pots and a small plastic grow house type thing that i have to anchor against the wooden fence to prevent it blowing away in the wind.

I also live on top of a very big hill. It gets a tad windy up here. To say the least. But it does look really cute in the snow (apart from the collapsed washing line – you’ll be pleased to know that i have fixed that, not bought a new one).

I remember as a child, my parents had a massive garden. They weren’t rich, council houses down here traditionally have huge gardens. My dad used half of it as a vegetable plot, the other half was lawned. We had five apple trees – 3 cooking apple and 2 eating apple – and could never get through all the apples they produced. My parents did do a rather good, rather potent job of making apple wine with it- although not as potent as their rice wine, boy, would that blow your head off – but it was criminal to see the wastage each year lying on the ground.

Dad used to grow so many vegetables that we didn’t have to buy very much at all. Potatoes, runner beans, onions, shallots (his pickled onions are still revered today in certain circles – i try to emulate them, but i don’t think i come close), carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber…all the old favourites back in the 70’s and 80’s. My biggest memory though is of sitting in the garden, hiding amongst the leafy greenery of the pea plants as they stood  tall, shielding me from the onlooking, beady eyes in the house and popping those juicy pods, stuffing the fresh peas into my mouth as fast as i could before i got caught. It really wasn’t as much fun at harvest time when i had to help pick and shell all of them to go in the freezer though.

peas1-lead_t640

My garden now doesn’t have any pea bushes sadly. But it does have redcurrant, cranberry, black currant, raspberry and gooseberry plants permanently planted into my fruit bed. In outside pots i grow my strawberries (they run rampant if grown in beds), mint (which also grows rampant if their roots aren’t contained), chives, parsley, potatoes and rhubarb.

home grown spuds

In the conservatory (which is also my sewing studio) i usually go for a tomato plant and a few chilli and pepper plants.

Conservatory

As i said, i know that i am lucky to have a garden at all, there are times that i wish that it was a bit bigger, but, in all honesty, i probably wouldn’t have the time to dedicate to it properly if i did. That is one of the reasons i don’t apply for an allotment, but if that is an option that is open to you, then go for it.

Believe me though, you can’t beat the taste of home grown, or the satisfaction of adding your own fresh food to your cooking repertoire. If you have room for a few pots, try some chilli’s or peppers. Pick them straight off the plant, quick wash and dry with a paper towel, freeze on a baking tray (so they don’t stick together) and then pop them into a container in the freezer. You’ll have more than enough to spice up your dishes all year long. Or make some Sweet Chilli Jam (this is the recipe i use) and give it as part of a homemade Christmas hamper (more about that in a later post). Your friends and family will be begging for more.

And it saves you money.

Big bonus!

Have a happy day.

Anita x

F is for Freezing

Day 6 of the A -Z Blogging Challenge

By freezing i don’t mean literally sitting wrapped in blankets with icicles hanging off your nose. I’m really not that mean…well, not all the time anyway.

freezing person

I mean F is for Freezing your Food.

This has to be one of the biggest areas where wastage occurs and money can be saved.

I have always been a skint single mum. I have raised my three sons to adulthood almost single handed from the ages of 7, 5 and 3. They are currently 24, 22 and 20. I’ll be honest, i have no idea how i didn’t break them in the process, but we got there somehow and they are now my best friends.

But anyway, bringing them up and keeping their stomachs full was a pretty major task and one that i like to think i have excelled at, and that is mostly down to the canny use of the humble freezer and home cooking.

I have always batch cooked as well as buying reduced, on the date goods and frozen them. It is only in recent years though that i have acquired, in my opinion, my biggest money and time saving options which i still use regularly even though i am now down to only one son living at home and i really wish that i had known about them when the boys were younger.

The slow cooker and the soup maker. They both make large amounts, without much effort (i work full time and am studying for a Masters degree, i don’t have much spare time) and with virtually fool proof results.

I also find that if i am home alone for my evening meal, i quite often can’t be bothered to cook for one and that is when i reach for rubbish food or the cake cupboard. Having the ability to take out a home cooked frozen meal and just add some sort of carbs to it suits both me and my purse admirably.

The soup maker makes approximately four bowls of soup in about 20 minutes. At the weekend, i gather up whatever veg are lying forgotten in the bottom of my fridge, rough chop it, add a stock cube and some seasoning and press go. I then portion the finished soup into four plastic containers (the reusable kind) and pop them into the freezer. Soup for lunch for most of the working week sorted. Butternut squash and sweet potato with a bit of paprika is a particular favourite of mine but i quite often end up with random taste experiences such as ham, sweetcorn and mushroom, mushroom and carrot, leek and parsnip….and of course, just random vegetable soup…although it usually has mushrooms in it, i like mushrooms…

As for the slow cooker? I can give you any number of meat or vegetable dishes that can be cooked and then separated into containers and frozen for consumption on another date, but I have yet to find anybody else who knows that you can cook perfect jacket potatoes in a slow cooker. Just prick them, wrap them in foil as you would for the oven and bung them on low for about 8 hours. Bearing in mind that the slow cooker uses approximately the same amount of electricity as a normal light bulb that is not as excessive as it sounds. You then come home from work to yummy jacket spuds and all you need to sort out is the filling. My other trick with this is to cook a whole big bag’s worth and freeze in pairs what i don’t eat that evening. Then i just need to put them in the microwave the next time i want one or two for my tea, or i can take them straight to work to heat there. The possibilities are endless and have you seen the price of those frozen jackets in the supermarkets? Bet mine taste nicer.

Only thing to remember is to not freeze them still in the foil…it’s a bugger to pick it off a frozen spud, don’t say you weren’t warned!

Have a happy day.

Anita x

E is for Economics

Day 5 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

 

According to the British Dictionary the definition of Economics is ‘the social science concerned with the production and consumption of goods and services and the analysis of the commercial activities of a society.’ 

Or to put it in my way, making sure you don’t go broke by buying stuff you can’t afford.

‘It makes sound economic sense’ is a phrase that i have often heard although i will admit to not always adhering to the message.

I’m not going to sit here and preach about what you should or shouldn’t buy, you are the one in control of your purse strings and you are the one who decides whether to open it or keep it shut. But all i am going to ask is that you think before you make that final decision to purchase.

And the only thought that i ask you to consider is the one i mentioned above: Does it make sense?

Particularly if you have to go into debt to be able to afford it.

Look into whether you can afford the repayments. What the interest rate is? How long will you be paying for it? How much will the item have depreciated in value by the time you have paid it off? How much will it cost you in total if you do buy it on credit?

How confident are you that you will still be earning the amount you currently do for the length of the borrowing term?

Will you actually use it? Do you actually need it?

When you have answered these questions, then you will have your answer as to whether it makes sense or not and can make a rational decision whether to sign on the proverbial dotted line, or flash the plastic numerous times, forgetting the purchases almost immediately and then panicking when the bill comes in two months time.

Better still, leave the plastic at home, odds are, if you have to go back to the shop a few days later then the impulse will have passed and more than likely you don’t buy it anyway.

never-spend-your-money-before-you-have-earned-it-quote-1

My dad always told me to live within my means. Earn it first and save up for the big stuff. I’m no hero, i didn’t always do as he said and i learnt from my mistakes.

He also told me to always reverse park into a parking space because you never know what pillock will have blocked you in while you were away from your car. I have always listened to that advice and been thankful for it many, many times.

Maybe i should have listened to his economic advice earlier……

And no, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t my dad…

But my dad was my hero…

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Have a happy day.

Anita x

Reference

British online dictionary, Economics, Available at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/economics?s=t

 

C is for Crafts

Day Three of the A -Z Blogging Challenge

Well, that’s a shocker isn’t it! I guess me being me, i couldn’t do anything different than crafts for the letter C. But how do they tie in with the theme of Make Do and Mend, Reuse, Recycle and Spend Less? I mean, have you seen the cost of craft supplies???

Shock emoji

I have lots of crafty skills and hobbies, my main one being that of hiding behind a sewing machine and losing myself in the flow of the fabric as it glides under the needle. When i wake from my reverie i am usually quite chuffed to discover i have a complete new garment in my hand. Can i call that C for Couture? I am also known for playing around with Crochet hooks, Cooking, Cameras, Clay (well Fimo but that doesn’t start with C) and Jewellery Making (sorry, couldn’t think of a related C word for that so gave up) and i feel that every single one of these has helped me to save a lot of money over the years. Quite a few of these i will be talking about in later posts during this month so for today i am going with the Craft of Crochet. The picture is my current work in progress, an ordinary granny square blanket made from all the odds and ends and scraps/almost finished balls of wool i have lying around here. My youngest son has already bagsied it for his bed when it’s finished.

Scrap blanket

Many, many years ago a close friend was pregnant with her first child and i wanted to make something special for her. I decided it would be nice for her to have a white baby shawl but i had no idea how to make one. My mum had tried teaching me to knit but although i grasped the underlying principles, with her being left handed and me being right handed it wasn’t much of a success. I can sort of knit now, but i much prefer one needle to two, it works up quicker to get the finished result – just call me impatient, on this subject it would be true.

I took a trip into the local library and borrowed a book to teach me how to crochet. Yes, this was in the 1980’s, before the internet properly existed and most definitely before the explosion in Youtube tutorials. In this way i managed to create an OK granny square shawl, it wasn’t perfect and it wouldn’t lie flat, but i was delighted with it, and my friend said she was too. I tried several granny square blankets after that but found that i had to keep to small squares and stitch them together if i wanted them to lie flat. Eventually i put away my trusty hook and stopped doing them because i just didn’t know what i was doing wrong and knew nobody who could tell me. Unfortunately, as this was the 80’s and digital cameras were also not around, there are no photo’s of my works of art.

Fast forward to about two years ago when i was having a random conversation with another friend while i was at work when she said that i needed to chain the corners.

‘Chain the corners?’ I said, ‘is that all i’m doing wrong? I need to just chain three around each corner?’

I went home, dug a crochet hook out from my discarded (and well buried in the cupboard of ‘he who goes in might not come out alive’ ) wool bag along with an ancient ball of wool and gave it a go.

Would you believe it?

Tadah!!

A fully flat square that just got bigger and bigger and bigger. I then went onto Youtube (i can highly recommend the Bella-Coco tutorials) and taught myself more, and then i subscribed to a crochet teaching magazine and i was off.

‘But Make do and Mend!’ I hear you shout.

‘Wool is not cheap!’ I hear you cry.

‘How is this Reuse and Recycle?’ I hear your tirade as you beat the air with your tightly clenched fists.

(Ok, i might have got a bit carried away there).

But yes, crochet is brilliant for reusable items; for making do with what you have or, as with yesterday’s beeswax wraps, for making from scratch in order to save money in the long run.

In my kitchen i have crocheted cotton dishcloths which are so much better to use than the J cloths that used to go in the bin, my cloths go in the boil wash with the tea towels.

Dishcloth

In my bathroom i have cotton crocheted flannels and bath pouf’s (the second photo was all Christmas presents for the females in my family – needless to say, their bathrooms are also full of my hand crocheted goodies).

And on my dressing table, for make up removal and facial cleansing i have cotton crochet scrubbie pads that leave my face feeling so much cleaner and fresher than cotton wool pads ever did. They go in the wash to be used again and again and again.

Yes, the wool isn’t cheap, but it’s a darn sight cheaper in the long run than buying all those disposable products. And better for the environment. Believe me, until you have cleansed with a crocheted scrubbie, you really don’t know how clean your face can feel – yep, even better than with the cream with annihilated apricot stones in!

I am generally quite popular when friends and family have babies……

So, crochet can be time consuming and i think we can agree that wool isn’t cheap, but in the long run, i find it a satisfying hobby that i can sit and do while i watch telly in the evenings. I have awesome, unique accessories and blankets throughout my house – i even have a pair of crocheted baby converse booties dangling from my mirror in my car.

Booties-2

 

The ultimate point about it though, is that i get to pretend i’m a wizardess, wave a pointy magic stick around and make amazing things happen with it…

Have a happy day.

Anita x

Oh, and most of my crafty goodness can be found on Facebook at Baby Dreams Stitchery

 

B is for Beeswax Wraps

The A to Z Blogging Challenge

A recent discovery in my bid for a more sustainable lifestyle are Beeswax wraps. I am so totally in love with these!

Beeswax wraps-2

I take a packed lunch with me every day to work. Quite often this consists of home made soup which i make in batches and freeze in reusable plastic containers that i can then put straight into the microwave. However, when i have had a lazy weekend which involved me not getting around to making said soup i revert to the good old favourite of a sandwich which would then be put into a plastic sandwich bag. This piece of plastic would then go in the bin once i had eaten my lunch. In my hunt for a more planet and purse friendly option i came across these. If looked after properly, they can be reused again and again, they are chemical free and the perfect alternative to cling film, sandwich bags and foil.

What makes them so amazing? They use the heat of your hands to fold around anything, i have recently seen them referred to as ‘self cling fabric’ as well.

And the cleaning? You just wash them in hot soapy water with your normal dishes – not the dishwasher though, that is too hot, and will make the beeswax melt. Similarly, these cannot be used in the microwave (i just bung a plate on top of any bowls etc). It is also recommended that you don’t use them for raw meat because of the risk of contamination through not being able to clean them at an incredibly hot temperature.

On my search for these i also looked out how to make them and where to source the ingredients, mainly because i have a fabric stash a mile high that needs to be used up. The ones in the photos are wraps i made myself and when my next delivery of beeswax arrives i will be having some up for sale on my ETSY page and my Facebook page, both of which are called Baby Dreams Stitchery. So keep an eye out here over the next week for some fab designs – don’t you think the Minnie Mouse one is adorable? That particular one is currently sitting in my fridge covering half a tin of mushy peas…but i have a fair bit of that fabric left to make more. I also have some pretty funky vintage Paddington Bear earmarked for this project as well, although i don’t have much of this fabric left so there won’t be very many made.

So, as far as i am concerned, beeswax wraps are the bees knees. They have resulted in a considerable drop in the amount of single use plastic i use in the house (that tin of mushy peas would previously have had a sandwich bag pulled over the top) and my family are gradually nicking the ones i have made faster than i can make them – the ones for Baby Dreams Stitchery will be hidden from their prying eyes and thieving fingers…

For those of you who are vegetarian, it is also possible to get soya wraps which are purported to work in a similar way, but i cannot comment on these as i have not researched them…yet…

Check back tomorrow to discover what my C is going to be in this alphabet challenge and seriously take a look at making the switch to beeswax or soya wraps, i mean, how much clingfilm and how many sandwich bags do you get through in a year????? I bet you’d be horrified if you stopped to work it out.

A quick google search has told me that in 2017 there were 260 official working days in the year… i’ll let you carry on with the math from there as only you know how much single use plastic you use in each lunchbox for your family…

the-scream-edvard-munch

Feel free to let me know your answer…

And above all,

Have a happy day.

Anita. x