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.

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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

D is for Disposable

Day 4 of the A – Z Blogging Challenge

Today’s society relies far too heavily on the use of disposable items. We are the throwaway society that i talked about on Day One, A is for Action, and it can’t all be solved with the use of Beeswax Wraps no matter how much i love mine.

It’s not just the obvious plastic utensils, paper plates at parties, takeaway containers when we fancy a proper fish and chip supper etc, it is in just about everything we do and everything we use.

We don’t get things mended anymore. It is just so much easier to go and buy a new item to replace one that is broken or torn and yet there is, quite often, so much life left in an item if it’s just given a little bit of TLC.

I am a qualified seamstress. I first used a sewing machine back in my secondary school in the 80’s and have rarely been without one since. I feel bereft when I am without access to one. I know that makes me sound sad. On top of my day job i also take in alterations and repairs for clothing but the value of this occupation has diminished considerably over the last decade or two. Generally, it is not considered as a costly thing to do. I have lost count of the amount of times i have been asked,

‘Can you just replace this zip?’

And i take a look at the pair of jeans. I know how much of the waistband i have to unpick, how many belt loops have to be taken off, how difficult it is to get the old zip out through three rows of stitching without damaging the surrounding fabric, inserting the new zip and then replacing the belt loops individually into the replaced waistband. Oh, and not forgetting that i  am usually expected to go and buy the new zip as well, it is rare that the customer brings one with them so add on the fuel and the time to get to the shops and back. Online shopping is not often particularly good for this type of service, or maybe i’m just too picky…

And so i reply,

‘Yes, i can do that. It will take me about an hour to an hour and a half. I charge £10 an hour plus the cost of the zip which will be around a fiver. So, between £15 and £20. Is that ok?’

And the customer says,

‘Twenty quid? It’s only a zip. I can get a new pair for that!’

And so we have the definition of the disposable society.

It is quite often cheaper to throw it away and buy a new pair of jeans than it is to get the old ones repaired. They go into landfill and the clothing shop owners who make and buy in mega bulk and sell at mega cheap prices are rubbing their hands all the way to the bank.

I’m not saying we should all stop buying from these places, although i do believe that, in some cases, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a £2.50 T shirt to not shrink in the first couple of washes – my tip, buy a bigger size to account for it, believe me, it will fit perfect after a few spins in the washing machine – but i do think we need to take a bit of time to consider our purchases and what we throw away. Sometimes, just a little bit of thought can save us an awful lot of money.

And it’s amazing what you can do with a pair of old jeans…

Have a happy day,

Anita x

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???

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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

 

The A to Z Blog Challenge

Have you ever heard of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?

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Nope?

I hadn’t either until a couple of days ago and then i thought,

‘Well, that might be fun.’

Then i found that the done thing was to not only write a blog post on each day of the month, but it should also revolve around a theme.

‘Oh,’ i thought, ‘that makes it a bit more difficult. Still might be fun though, what theme shall i do?’

And lo, i asked my trusty Facebook friends what they thought would be a good fit for me to theme up a month of blog posts in extremely short notice and the reply was:

‘Crafts.’

I should have guessed that really, most of my Facebook posts are to do with my crafty hobbies. However, while i was on  a thinking roll, i thought again (i was getting a headache by now with all this cogitating) and i figured i could maybe go one step further than that. My crafting these days has centred around a more thrifty, planet, money saving type of focus (as my previous posts have talked about) and so i have decided to construct an A-Z list around this.

Now, apparently it was to be the big theme reveal last week, which obviously i missed because i didn’t know it existed, but never one to let an opportunity slide, i’m going to do one anyway so…

Wait for it….

The Theme for the A-Z April blog challenge is:

Make Do and Mend: Reuse; Recycle and Spend Less.

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This will also incorporate a few crafts along the way, just to keep my hand in like….

There, that was worth waiting for wasn’t it!

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

No spend year – The ground rules part one

8th January.

What am I doing this for/what do I want to achieve?

I think mainly I want to achieve better health, both mentally and physically, and less waste. I’m being selfish here, I mean less financial waste by me. I need to prioritise what is a need and what is a want. Things I need to live comfortably are not the same as things I would like to enable me to live comfortably.

Ultimately I would like to see my savings increase rather than decrease and the only way to do this is to stop spending money on things that I don’t actually need, no matter how ‘nice’ it would be to have them. It would also be nice to pay off what is left of the mortgage early, this would be possible through overpayment of the monthly term and would secure my future nicely. A bit more thought before I open my purse may go a bit of the way to achieving this. After all, I am a crafty person (in the craft sense, not the way you were thinking) and can turn my hand to a fair few methods of repairing rather than throwing away and buying new. My workshop is also overflowing with fabrics and craft stuff. A true crafter never throws anything away, and yes, I truly fit this mould. It’s not all old stuff either, when dressmaking I have a habit of buying an extra metre of fabric in case I go wrong and need more. I rarely go wrong, I always have fabric left over.

This has to change.

I have to change.

Am I up to the challenge?

You betcha!

rambo thumbs up

My rules for a no spend, make do and mend year:

1) Food.

I need food. And I am fussy about some food, especially my coffee. So, I will still buy food – although by not buying food I guess I could lose that extra stone…tempting idea, but no, I will still buy food. I will also still buy nice coffee,  Own brand smart price doesn’t quite cut it for me where the coffee is concerned. I will make some concessions though. I will bulk cook and freeze down into smaller portions so that I am less likely to buy ready meals or takeaways on my way home from work. After raising three boys, all with hearty appetites I always used to cook large meals and there was rarely anything left. However, as they have grown and flown the nest I so lovingly made for them, I often eat alone in the evenings and can’t be bothered to cook a proper meal just for me. There is probably a bit of Freudian philosophy in there as well, something to do with not feeling myself to be worthy of a proper meal whereas others are, but I won’t go there just now. Suffice it to say that I am worthy, I’m just tired and lazy after a full day at work to warrant going to the effort that cooking a fresh meal from scratch requires.

And have you noticed how it is more expensive to buy for one person than it is to buy for a family? I swear shops are out to penalise the people who live on their own, or in my case, eat at home alone because the son who does live with me works opposite hours so we tend to meet in passing. I can however, buy a large joint of meat intended for a family, slow cook it so it falls apart and then separate it into equal portions and freeze to eat at a later date. Usually with a handy bag of microwave cookable rice…

I am a bugger for buying coffee out. But I don’t need to and it will stop. It’s going to be hard though as I often go out with the people I support at work and we will visit a coffee shop where they can learn essential social skills. It doesn’t feel right sitting there without a coffee myself but the cost of those coffees add up.

Generally, i would have one per day, five days a week.

On average a latte is around £2.50 a cup which would be £12.50 a week. I get 6 weeks holidays a year so times that £12.50 by 46 weeks and you get to £575.00 per year. That’s a lot of coffee, but hold on, I’ve not finished. Next door to my work is a rather nice coffee shop where, if you are a local and bring your own mug in for a takeaway coffee, they will sell you one for just a quid. It’s only a quid right? I have got into a rather nasty habit of nipping in there first thing every morning for a latte to start the working day with. Very tasty. Now, £1.00 times 5 days equals £5.00. Didn’t need to use the calculator for that one. Go me! But, times that fiver by 46 (back on the calculator) and you get to £230.00. Add that £230.00 to the previous £575.00 and you get a grand total of £805.00 per year just on takeaway and sit in coffees! That is a ridiculous amount to spend and now that I have worked that out, I can see where I can save money immediately.

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2) Medication and Health needs.

This is where I can’t compromise. Luckily, I enjoy good health and do not need any regular medication. However, if I need it, I will pay for it. I can’t save money on supplements either because I don’t believe you need them as long as you follow a varied, reasonably healthy diet. Do health needs also encompass fitness and exercise? I guess it does really, so I can sort of compromise here. No gym or exercise classes for me (phew, that’s a relief, always feel guilty for not going to the gym). There are many ways of keeping fit for free and I have two dogs. There is no excuse to waste money here.

Talking of health needs, all this thinking gives me a headache…

I shall continue this rule setting dreckly…

Have a happy day

Anita x

A no spend birthday treat

Blog number two for my no spend, make do and mend year

 

31st December 2017.

I’m not going out tonight. My New Year’s Eve party invitations must have got lost in the post and I’m too excited about my London trip to care about the start of another New Year. It’s just the ticking of a time bomb after all. Although if I get one more flashing, round robin ‘happy new year, you are so special to me’ message in my messenger inbox from someone who hasn’t bothered to personally contact me in the last twelve months (or longer) I’m going to bloody scream!

My evening has been spent packing, I have been instructed that the clothes I wore to David’s 20th birthday back in November will be suitable, luckily they fold well. I have also tried to forego the necessity of spending money in the buffet car on the train by making ham and spiced apple chutney (my recipe) sandwiches and cooking up some frozen sausage rolls and cocktail sausages. The challenge may not have started properly, but I don’t need to waste money do I!

1st January 2018.

I’m on the train. London bound!

Sandwiches going down a treat, eldest son, Ben, is delicately snoring beside me catching up on the sleep he missed due to his rather excessively late night last night. He is obviously not as well organised as I am. So far, I haven’t spent a single penny, unless you count the diesel I used to drive us to the station. It being New Year’s day and the fact that my middle son, Michael, wouldn’t have slept off enough of his alcohol intake from last night to be able to get behind a steering wheel, I opted to drive into my place of work which is about a mile from the train station. Ben and I would walk from there. He was up for it as well, probably another reason why he is now snoring gently away – as I write, I have a lovely view of his lack of tonsils. I live in a tiny hamlet where there are no buses on bank holidays or Sundays (and the rest of the week can be a bit intermittent), the price of a taxi for the ten miles was just ridiculous. Still, look on the bright side, the exercise was good – if knackering, it is a really steep hill up to the station – and I got my 5,000 daily step target on my fitbit sorted before eleven am.

2nd January 2018.

I’m now 50 years old.

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I don’t feel it. I don’t know where all those years have gone. I am however, so thankful that I have made it to this lofty age with only minimal scrapes and bruises to show for it. Many of my school friends haven’t made it this far, and a lot of those who did are suffering and in pain. In my mind, it doesn’t matter who knows my age, it really is just a number and every one that I am lucky enough to be given is a bonus.

Philosophy over, I got presents!!! Best of all being tickets to go to The London Palladium to watch Dick Whittington tonight. It’s starring a whole gamut of stars, Julian Clary, Nigel Havers, Diversity, Elaine Paige, Gary Wilmot and Paul Zerdin are headlining and I am so excited. The last time I saw a London show was my first ever musical. It was ‘Annie’ in, I cannot remember which theatre, in the West End and it was a school trip when I was about fourteen. It was a reward for the school choir for learning the Faure Requiem in Latin. No, I can’t sing very well, but it was fun pretending, especially when with a load of others so my own voice couldn’t be heard. There’s probably some more philosophy hiding in there somewhere.

I also received a bottle of Moet Chandon, a silver bracelet, a few CD’s and some chocolates among a few other items but, what the hell…I’m going to the Panto at the London Palladium!!!

presents flat lay

Don’t think the no spend thing is going to work today, definitely a good idea to wait until I’m home.

5th January 2018.

I’m home. Dick Whittington was amazing, Julian Clary was hilarious, Nigel Havers was ridiculously funny, Gary Wilmot did the weirdest song about the London Underground ever and I will never know how he managed to learn it, Diversity were astounding and Elaine Paige has certainly not suffered any loss of voice as she has got older. She can still blow the roof off with those awesome pipes of hers. The costume budget must have been more than I get paid in at least a couple of years and the special effects? Mind-blowing.

London Palladium stage

I didn’t go overboard with the spending though. Mainly because it was my birthday and nobody would let me buy anything, which was unexpected but welcome. I had a cooked breakfast from a really nice café opposite Paddington station before boarding the train which meant I wasn’t hungry all the way back and I refrained from buying myself a coffee from the buffet car on the way home. I stuck to the bottle of water I bought on the way to the station so wasn’t I ultra good?

breakfast

 

Gold star to Anita please, I do like sparkly things.

 

Today is a happy day.

Anita. x

A no spend/make do and mend year

I’ve been keeping this quiet for the last six weeks but i have decided to go public and use my blog as my motivation to stick to my goals. There is so much waste in the world and i am just as guilty as most people of adding to it. I’m not doing it just for altruistic reasons though, i’m doing it for my own peace of mind, my own benefit and to improve my own bank balance. See, not altruistic, totally selfish.

betty its all aboout me  Anyway, here is where the story began back at the end of December. I’ve been keeping the diary ever since but it would be too much to put into one blog post, crikey, even i would get bored of my writing if i had to wade through all of that in one go! So, to catch up, it will be a few days at a time and then as and when i make an entry.

I’m hoping to succeed. I hope that you will join me on my journey.

Have a happy day.

Anita.x

29th December 2017

Today I had an epiphany. I was standing in Next, surveying the sheer weight of the sales rails and I pulled out a rather nice grey checked shirt in brushed cotton. It was just my style. Long sleeved and long bodied, perfect for wearing to work and enabling me to bend over a wheelchair without revealing the dreaded builder’s backside. It’s not a look that I particularly relish others getting a peek of. And, now this is the best bit…the shirt was half price! Absolute bargain, total steal, that really should have been the clincher. I should have grabbed that sucker, elbowed my way past the elderly lady trying to decide between a peephole bra (don’t go there, it’s not a pretty vision) and a more conservative version and gone straight to the till, no, I don’t need a bag thankyou, my car’s outside…

But instead, something rather strange happened instead. As I stood my ground against the rather pushy, blonde haired, stiletto heeled buxom wench that was trying to get in front of MY RAIL, I had a vision of my bedroom. More specifically, the four door wardrobe already groaning with so many clothes that I have to open the door very gingerly to ensure nothing falls out. If it does, I may not be seen again for weeks. I am ashamed to say that there are some impulse buys in there that are still adorned with their price labels and have therefore never yet been worn. There are others that are a size 10 and no longer fit but I’m sure I’ll lose that stone and a half one day and then I will get into them. It’s not totally inconceivable is it? Who am I kidding? I’’d have to starve for at least six months to lose that and I happen to think that life is far too short to deny myself cake.

It’s still a waste though. I have so many clothes that I never wear, and it’s not all because they are too small and I can’t bear to part with them, just in case. I am one of those people who saves things for best. The problem is, I don’t actually know when best is? I rarely go out anywhere special to warrant having any best clothes and I wear jeans for work.

My epiphany? I put that shirt back on the rail, turned and walked out of the shop empty handed.

My buy nothing new, make do and mend year had begun.

 

30th December 2017

Well, that challenge didn’t last long. I went into The Edinburgh Woollen Mill today and they had reduced the price of a Country Rose tunic top that I have had my eye on for a few weeks. Well, I just couldn’t resist it. And, technically, as I was paying for it with my left over Love To Shop vouchers that I didn’t spend in the lead up to Christmas, does it count as spending at all? It probably does, I could have used them in Iceland and restocked the freezer with Slimming World meals for one (with an eye to actually losing that extra one and a half stone and fitting into those size tens again) but it wouldn’t have been half so much fun.

Anyway, as it’s my 50th birthday on the second of January and the boys have collected together to send me to London for I know not what reason yet – I sort of love surprises, but the control freak in me is really going ballistic right now – then to start the challenge now would be just a tad foolhardy. So, I have decided on a period of reflection. I need to work out some groundrules of what I can and cannot buy during this period of deprivation, sorry, read that as restructuralisation of my lifestyle, and the challenge proper will begin on January the fourth 2018 when I return home.

 

Have a happy day.

Anita. x