Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sickness & a new car

So this week we have been busy getting a new car and being ill!  I started with a cold last weekend, by Tuesday my nose was just streaming and sore throat too.  Wednesday I felt much better and there was no sign of my partner getting a cold or little L ........ I was wrong.
Wednesday afternoon after a busy morning at playgroup little L kept sneezing and sure enough Wednesday night she didn't sleep as her nose was streaming.  She ended up in mummy's bed poor other half downstairs on the sofa and no sleep for me as she woke up every hour. 

So the end of the week has been full of sleepless nights.  Last night she was coughing a lot poor thing.  Anyway I'm sure by tomorrow she will be feeling better.
Aside from that I got a new car (well new to me!).  We have been struggling since having little L as we both have small cars and two adults, a baby, baby seat, pram and a large dog don't fit into a two door hatchback!?  So this week I waved a very sad goodbye to my honda civic (sadly it might end up going to car heaven (scrap yard)) and hello to a huge MPV definitely not fast or good for my street cred (ugh Catherine you don't have any). 
So goodbye youth hello practical.  It will be good for camping, days out, taking our bikes out, carting wood etc and it was a bargain.

This ......
to this omg!
Hope you are all having a good weekend x

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Simple pinafore dress

I bought this pattern ages ago at the Knitting and stitching show in Harrogate last November (If you've never been I'd definitely recommend it).  I kept meaning to have a go with it but you know concentration, sewing machine and small baby do not go well together.  And I just can't start a sewing project at night.  I can knit, crochet in the evening but not sewing.  So the other day I had a look at the pattern and managed to cut out my pieces whilst little L was awake.  The pattern is so easy just two pieces of material.  It is an Emma Garry pattern Reversible Pinny (there are some lovely things on her website have a look and get ready for the serious I wants I needs). 
 Ideally use two contrasting fabrics and then the dress is reversible.  But I didn't have two so I used plain white cotton for the lining.  I had bought a selection of outer fabrics - a bright red flowery, a cute vintage rose and a blue animals print.  I chose the animals as I thought it would go well with navy leggings or jeans which she seems to be wearing a lot and the others I will make in the bigger size.
I traced the pattern onto some greaseproof paper and then pinned it to my fabric and cut out the two pieces.  Then I pinned them together and stitched them.  Easy and it looked good.  I nearly went ahead and finished it that night but I had a little niggly feeling that I should try it on little L to check that it fit.  So the next day I tried it on a tired baby after we got back from playgroup.  And she really didn't like it but then I realised a pin was sticking in her neck (naughty mummy!).  It didn't fit at all.  So I turned it inside out and made the straps and neck opening bigger.  Still didn't fit so then I attached buttons and get me I used the fancy nancy automatic button hole foot on my machine!! 
It still doesn't fit hence no photo of it on.  The size was 2 and she is only 16 mths.  The armholes are just too tight.  Shame as it looks lovely.  I will make another as I have the pattern in size 3 but I'm not convinced that would be big enough. 
This would be nice in lightweight corduroy or a nice christmassy material? 
Bye for now x

Friday, 21 September 2012

Green tomato chutney

The tomatoes this year were a big disappointment.  Hardly any ripened and the ones that did were tiny.  I always seem to leave planting tomato plants too late but usually that just means a glut of them in August and September.  This year was no exception I did plant them late but these weren't going to ripen and the few that did didn't taste that good.  So I decided to give up on them and pick all the green ones.  I ended up with about 1 kg and thought after my success with the jam making I would try chutney.  The recipe looked easy.
I chopped up the tomatoes and onions, sprinkled them with a teaspoon of salt and left for 24 hrs.  This got rid of lots of moisture (for half a day I let them stand in the colander and it kept dripping).  I'm glad I did this otherwise I would have been cooking it all day to reduce it.
The onions, tomatoes, sultanas, black pepper, chillies, garlic, ginger and vinegar went into a pan to boil for 10 mins then I added the sugar and simmered the mixture for probably 2 hours. 
The whole house smells of vinegar, the fumes were awful but eventually it was thick and ready to bottle.  Three jars of chutney.  I did try it a couple times whilst making it and I'm not sure I liked it but to be honest my head was so full of vinegar fumes that that was all I could taste.
I will give it a proper try and it can always be binned.  I won't make this again.  Jam making is definitely easier!
PS Since my last post about should we do the fire we have started it.  As of yesterday I now have no gas fire just a hole instead!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

To spend or not?

So I was thinking whilst drinking my coffee this afternoon about my attitude to money and spending.  Living on a budget and frugally can sometimes be a curse (of course it is rubbish having no money).  Over the last 8 years whilst me and the other have lived together we have had periods where we had enough money and again periods where money has been tight.  And now we are definitely in the money tight period as we only have his wage and we have moved house just 8 months ago and the bills are more here.  Even when we had two wages we were always saving hard to move house and relocate to a area with higher house prices.  But more importantly to eventually be able to start a family and for me to not go back to work and look after baby myself.  But all this saving and thinking hard about money actually sometimes makes it impossible to spend any.
Take our old house, we lived there for seven years with rubbish single glazed windows and that house was soooo cold.  We had ice on the inside of the windows in winter (OK we didn't have the heating on tons because we didn't want to spend lots on gas).  After little L was born we were dreading the winter with a small baby in a freezing house and so after a lot of debating we priced up have new double glazing throughout the house and it wasn't as much as we thought.  We got a great family firm to do it and couldn't have been more pleased with the job.  It really was a lot warmer, no drafts etc and to top it off we accepted an offer on the house whilst the windows were being fit (yes so we actually bought the buyers new windows!).  Afterwards and since moving I have thought why didn't we just have the work done sooner??  But somehow being warm is a luxury we have long since accepted we can't afford.
Now in our new house we are considering putting a multifuel stove in and taking the gas fire out.  With a good quality stove and we will have to get a HETAs approved engineer to fit it (not because we can't do it but to be covered with insurance etc for the mortgage) and also there is a chance we may need a chimney liner.  So the costs seem to be spiralling a little.  We have the money saved but somehow being warm is a luxury and I just can't decide whether to go ahead, as that money is presently part of the emergency/ rainy day fund.  Other people just spend money left right and centre but me and lots of you out there scrutinise every purchase and spend.
So yes sometimes being (a human calculator) tight/sensible with money is a curse!    

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Home made wine

There are only 104 days until Christmas (15 weeks) yeah I can't wait.  But that did get me thinking about money etc so I decided to get some home made wine on the go with the hope that it will be ready by Christmas.  I first had a go with home brewing about five years ago after chatting with a friend at work who had made allsorts of concoctions and the idea of free alcohol sold it to me straight away.
Now don't be fooled its never going to taste like blossom hill but it is drinkable and some is even quite nice.  Over the years I have made
- elderflower champagne - easy to do but didn't taste like champagne but a nice fizzy drink
- elderflower wine - not so nice had to drink with lemonade and then gave up threw it out
- elderberry wine - lovely rich colour and nice wine but quite potent
- apple wine - not so nice
- damson wine - lovely and fruity easy to drink
- sloe wine - not as nice as damson just use the sloes for sloe gin it is easier
- And lots of kits mainly from Wilkinson's
So I haven't made any wine since before little L was born so I decided to try an easy cheap wine made with red grape concentrate. There it is bubbling away in the kitchen.  I didn't know where else to put it as upstairs is freezing except for little L's bedroom which gets sun during the day but her bedroom was a definite no no.  So for now it can just sit there in the kitchen.  I will top it up with water in a few weeks. 
And I am going to buy a kit for Black Cherry I think and get that started too.  The kits are about £8 plus about 50p worth of sugar so roughly  £1.50 per bottle which is cheap I think.   I'd quite like to make some sloe gin but apparently there are hardly any sloes about this year and gin is pretty expensive to buy. 
Has anyone else had a go at making wine before and what recipes do you use?
Bye for now x

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A new old basket

Last Sunday we had a trip to Preston to join in with the Guild celebrations.  On Saturday and Sunday they had a Vintage weekend in Avenham Park.  There was lots to see and lots of stall oh I wish I had some pennies.  It was mad busy and really hot but we had a really good day with my sisters and their families and my parents. 
Little L had chance to show off her cute new shoes!
And on the way out I spotted a basket for sale and after a bit of haggling it was mine.  I wanted an old traditional basket to put my knitting in to stop it getting tangled up and to be able to quickly put it out of reach from little fingers.
I decided to line it as it was too snaggy for knitting as it was.  So I chose this material mainly because I had lots of it.
I cut a template for the bottom of the basket and then a rectangle for the sides.  I measured around the top of the basket and added an inch for hems and roughly measured the depth of the basket and added a couple of inches to turn over at the top.  I stitched the short ends of the rectangle, to give a tube of fabric.  Then I pinned it to the base oval of fabric.  I pinned it first on the four flat sides of the oval and then gathered and pinned folds into the corners or curvy edges.  It sounds complicated but it wasn't.  I was doing it at fifty miles an hour with one eye on little L and I managed it.  
Then I cut a slit down either side for the handles and hemmed it (sorry forgot to take photos).  Then I stitched a channel around the top.  I threaded some thin elastic through the channel and around the handles to hold the lining in place.
Done, not bad for a couple of hours and it will do the job.  I had to put a little band of material on the handle because there is a crack in the handle which I just had to put some gaffer tape around.
Hope you have all had good weekends. 
Bye for now x

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

We're jamming

Well I am anyway.  So one of the trees in our garden which looked pretty rubbish, straggly and old has turned out to be useful, so it can stay.  Greengage plums no less.  I love plums preferably Victoria plums and tend to eat them straight from my parents tree in their garden, as does our great big dog (the dog also helps herself to fresh tomatoes from Dad's greenhouse).  So I sent my other taller half up the ladders yesterday and what a crop we got.  Shame as there are tons still left but the branches are just too high.

Washed and ready to start (we have the same amount again which I put in the freezer).
I had a look at a few recipes on line and decided to just keep it simple and do 1kg plums to 1kg sugar.  As the fruit was ripe I took the time to de-stone and quarter them before I put them in the pan.  I've never made jam before (well I helped my mum once when I was little) so it was a bit of an experiment but I got a few tips from my mum and little L was busy with her Daddy (don't think small child, molten fruit and stressed mummy mix well).
I was instructed to heat the fruit (no water or sugar) until it was nice and soft like stewed fruit (this took some time and do keep stirring or it might burn).  Then add the sugar and keep stirring to dissolve it and then crank the heat up.  I had already put some saucers in the fridge to chill ready for testing the jam.  So I turned it up to the second to highest setting on our stove and let it bubble away for at least 5 minutes then started to test it (drip a blob onto cold saucer and see if it sets or a skin forms on it).  By this point I was absolutely boiling it was like a sauna in the kitchen and the jam just wouldn't set.  So I held my nerve and whacked it up to full heat for a few minutes.  It started to go a bit brown and I thought it was burning but I tested it and it had set.... phew turn the heat off.
Next bottling... a spoon no the jam is going everywhere, a ladle no still going everywhere.....hhmmm I know a funnel made from cutting up a tonic bottle.  Yep this worked until it started to bend with the heat and I poured molten jam down my hand arghhhhhhhhh yes that hurt.  Anyway eventually I got it in the jam jars and it tasted good.  A messy job though, the kitchen looked a wreck there was jam on the floor (from my burning hand incident), jam on the side, the cooker, numerous saucers and spoons, my arm, my trousers and the phone (I had to make an emergency call for advice).
I think before I make the next batch I will treat myself to a jam funnel and maybe a thermometer.  The jam cost 30p per jar in sugar and who knows the cost of the gas (probably £5 knowing my luck) so it is cheaper I think as decent jam especially better flavours are £1.50-2 a jar.  Next time I won't boil it as much to start (so there are some lumps left in it) and I will be quicker to turn it up to the max so it shouldn't take as much gas.
So much fun, burnt hand, kitchen a mess and a mini facial at the same time but at least we have jam.
Bye for now x

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Gates painted!

I'd had about 5 days without a paint brush in my hand and was starting to get withdrawal so I decided to do a bit of painting.  We have wrought iron gates on the driveway (sounds post doesn't it ... its not) they aren't those automatic ones ...shame.  Anyway they were looking pretty rubbish, rusty, red and black.  So I had some black metal paint and bought some primer from Wilko only £5 so definitely a bargain DIY job. 
I lifted gate number one into the garage and started off getting rid of all the rust and flaky paint.  Unfortunately the only wire brush I had was perfectly sized for a borrower so it was slow going.  Used sand paper as well.  Some before shots
And after a couple of days of doing a bit when a spare minute arose I thought enough get the paint out.  The primer went on really easy.  I did get covered in it and in my hair too but that was more trying to balance an unwieldy gate, covered in paint and with one finger.  The second gate wasn't as rusty so didn't take as much preparation and this time lesson learned I positioned it a bit better with wood blocks under it so not as much paint got on me. 
To cover all the red oxide took two coats of black.  The first coat took the time (about an hour per gate), the second coat was a lot quicker and job done.  They look much better and will last longer.  Ideally I would have used a matt black paint but I had a full tin of black gloss for metal so couldn't justify buying more paint.  So another job done to cross off the huge to do list.
Must go and do something useful like tidy the front room as we are getting a man round to look at our chimney tonight for a solid fuel stove.  Maybe this year we won't freeze. 
Bye for now x  
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