Friday, 30 March 2012

Honcho Poncho

The wacky Austrian embroidered cardie that I bought in the autumn has become such a favourite and gets so many compliments every time that I wear it, even from complete strangers in the street.  So I thought I'd go back on  Ebay and search for more vintage knitwear to  tide me colourfully  and originally through several springs/summers to come.  This is what I found that met the bill, which, to my delight, arrived yesterday.

I'm thinking of passing this gorgeous hooded poncho off as one I've make myself - a small-ish white lie to compensate for my woeful lack of crocheting and knitting skills which I blame on being left handed.  This is so reminiscent of those granny blankets made out of scrap wool that I've long coveted and it'll be just the thing, man, to get me into a hippy-ish vibe when the festival season starts shortly.    I reckon too that I'll look wildly romantic wearing it to stay cosy when beachcombing  on windswept Breton beaches!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Luddite's Gym

I've been absent for a couple of days and, from my stats,  it looks like others have been staying away from their computers and making the most of the unseasonal hot weather.  It's not all been lounging around in the sunshine at Lovelygrey cottage.  I've been busy, busy, busy.

Forget the electrical gadgets.  Who needs a Flymo and a tumble drier.  With their manual equivalents I've had a full workout walking up and down the garden, lifting and carrying, bending and stretching and pushing and pulling.   Phew!  Who needs expensive health club membership.  Just replace it with grafting.  I've saved even more money than that spent on electricity too.  My 'brand new' lawnmower was just £12, a steal from Ebay.

In the process of cutting the grass under my own steam, I've  been a proper good Samaritan and  saved a life too!  Who knows what would have happened to this little fella if I'd used a turbo strimmer? It doesn't bear thinking about.   Instead he was uncovered by gently rotating blades.   At first  I wasn't sure if I'd come across a real dead animal or, Eugh!  even worse, an unwrapped tampon. You can imagine this rather grubby creature was picked up very gingerly as a consequence.  However, with the aid of a dob of washing up liquid this little raccoon's true cuteness has been revealed again.  He's washed and scrubbed up nicely all ready for life on the finger of  his new small boy owner!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Not Another Pay Increase!

Jerome van Oostrom @

We're coming up to the season where the public sector are accustomed to receiving a pay rise but for the second year running our salaries have been frozen so that the government can claw back the money that their bank chummers have squandered.    But fear not my friends in the NHS, emergency services and local government.  All is not lost. For Lovelygrey has, for the third time, come up with some ideas that, by using a few  in combination, should yield a tidy sum.  However be warned! It'll be nowhere near the 'performance related' bonuses enjoyed by those in the financial sector.
  •  Bulk buy the small things in life that don't impinge on living space when stashed away.  Toothbrush heads for example.  I've just bought twelve on Ebay for less than £6 when compared to the current price for four at Boots of £11.  That's the special offer price mind.
  • Be selective about buying insurance products.  Home and contents - yes but product replacement and dental?  Maybe you'd be better off self insuring.  That's saving for a rainy day in old language.
  • Broken spectacles can be mended by yourself with a teeny screwdriver or by your optician for a few pounds if there's more complex repairs to be done.  Much cheaper than replacement spectacles.
  • And onto another type of glasses.  If you're a klutz buy budget glassware.  Don't waste your money on cut glass extravaganzas that you know are just going to meet a earth shattering end on the kitchen tiles.
  • I've mentioned before that its wise to shop seasonally for food.   However try to un-synch seasonal purchases with the festival occasion to which they relate.
  • Don't take kids/blokes shopping. Lou's list of essential for the new home included a  shiatsu massage chair and a cupcake decorating kit.
  • Take advantage of free trials but remember to cancel them before the due date.
  • Get in the habit of bartering - you won't always win but remember there's no harm in asking.
  • Don't pay for parking!
  • Buy things that are more expensive but last longer.  Except for white T shirts if you're a klutz or not the best at sorting out laundry.
  • Buy quality items things that are secondhand that are the same price as new cheap equivalents.  They'll be more pleasurable to use but are likely to last longer.
  • For a cheap kiddie treat let them go wild with a pound in a pound shop!...
  • ....or plan day trips that are free or benefit from special offers.  
  • Make sure that you're claiming all the benefits and allowances that you can and review this state of affair annually.  This is especially important if your income is decreasing in relative terms.
  • Buy collection only items on Ebay and arrange couriers yourself for some real bargain furniture and homeware deals.  My lovely wardrobe was one of these which was delivered by a driver that I arranged myself through sites like Shiply or Anyvan
  • Never a lender or borrower be?  Well not if you trust someone enough.   Lend or borrow money to/from a friend/relative and benefit from beneficial savings and borrowers rates agreed between yourselves.
  • Persuade friends to contribute towards a buffet rather than eating out.
  • Use that freezer space to store those best before bargains.
  • Be travel savvy. Book your own itineraries rather than using a package to save +++
  • Get in the habit of switching savvies and utilities.  After all saving a few pounds here and there several times over equates to a pay rise of a percentage point or more!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sound,Vision and Sellafield

'Blue, Blue Electric Blue
Is the colour of my room
Where I will live
Blue, blue'.

Ah! David Bowie, you are so cool, just like the colour that you've sung about purports to be.   Funnily enough though, I've accidentally fallen into adopting lots of blue colour schemes in my new home and it turns out they aren't as half chilly as you'd image them to be.

Today Lou and I spent time that befits a sunny day on the beach but we made a detour inland to Bovey Tracey to drop off   mail from the previous tenants to the letting agents. I wonder how many letters from bailiffs were in the stack?  Anyway whilst there we popped into the Devon Guild of Crafts   where the latest exhibition is entitled 'Blue'.  For those who like to follow the links here's another suitably themed tune from Eiffel 65 which provided the soundtrack on the car radio on my first trip to Yellowstone.

I'm not usually drawn to traditional ceramics but I was taken by this Royal Worcester platter by Paul Scott.  How many other willow pattern type plates have you seen with a picture of Sellafield nuclear power station.  There again the artist is Cumbrian and if you live up there you're bound to get fed up with all that breathtaking wilderness and yearn for a bit of industrialism. Lou and I were inspired to design our own plates  which we added to the wall displaying work by other competitors. Mine is the one with the Pisces theme and Lou's is the brooding design with clouds.  How blooming arty are we?  Lets hope that the judges appreciate our genius and award me the mug and Louis the craft kit that go to the best over and under 18 competitors!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Getting Stuck In

Us ex-urbanistas can move to the country and barely get to grips with what rural life is really about.   Okay we might buy our fashion wellies and bake the odd cake to enter into the village show but we don't really get properly stuck in on our modern housing estates on the edge of villages.

But today Louis and I visited my friend who lives on a  proper Dartmoor hill farm.  Katie had promised us 'lambs coming out of sheep's bottoms' for 'tis the season of new life.  Unfortunately the birthing experience passed us by but we did get to help out tending the livestock.   Here's Lou waiting to herd the sheep into the barn away from the peckish foxes who take a nibble from the youngsters if they stay out overnight.

Here you go.  I promised a few days ago that I'd try to be less camera shy so here I am biting the bullet.  This is me and Lou with  'No 5' who proved the most tricky to capture.  He was finally scooped up and joined us for a photoshoot,  complete with rustic old tractor, before being reunited with his mum in a pen full of his mates.

As well as feeding the sheep and cows Louis got to play a bit and discover the pleasures of climbing hay bales. It brought back memories of scrabbling in a barn when I went fruit picking at Tiptree,  the  Essex jam making capital, as a kid.  Nobby the spaniel joined in too. Lou's a bit wary of dogs because of their licky, jumpy tendencies but he made friends with this chap quite quickly.

Onto the reward for all that hard work.  A cream tea in the farmhouse and some eggs covered in the  poo of the flluffy white chickens from whence they came!  We had to collect them for ourselves though.    Louis provided the distraction by feeding the hens whilst I stole our half dozen from their homes.  Shameless! The astute will notice that there's one missing from the box which we donated to Mr Lovelygrey for tomorrow's breakfast.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Downsided to Dinky

Louis' best chummer Henry came to tea last night.  He's the son of an ex-Navy officer and lives with his parents and two sisters in a rural pile the size of a planet.

 'Excuse me,' he said 'I don't like to be rude...'

I'll pause here. Last time Louis started a sentence like this he told me that I had a great big bottom!   I braced myself for what was to come.

'....but isn't your house a bit small?'

Phew! that wasn't too bad at all.  My new home IS on the dinky side.  Of course, there is the fact that I'd be unlikely to afford rent for anything bigger.  But even if my fortunes change I'm not sure I'd upsize again - unless Mr Right and this ten children come along!  For now though here's some random thoughts-tips about making the adjustment to life with a much smaller floor area than you've been used to.

  • Think motorhome, caravan or those ridiculous IKEA photoshots where six smiley people are living in an area the size of a toilet without killing each other.   Think storage, storage when you're kitting the new pad out.  Choose furniture with hidden nooks and crannies to stow stuff away to compensate for the lack of the space that you've been used to. 
  • Galley type kitchens are the dogs!  Loads of cupboards and you don't have to walk miles and miles every time you need another ingredient or put the washing up away.
  • There's not so much worktop space though so appliances that used to be to hand in the much bigger kitchen at Lovelygrey Villa have to be stowed away otherwise there'd be no room to cook.
  • 100% open plan living needs to go out of the window.  There need to be spaces that you can shut yourself away from the rest of the hords.  
  • Accept that the place will look untidier much more quickly.  The upside is that it'll spruce up nicely in much less time too.
  • Of course it goes without saying that overheads such as heating, lighting should be much cheaper.  I'm astounded that the £50 credit on the electricity meter that was there when I moved in on the 1st February hasn't yet been topped up.
  • You don't need so much stuff to make a house look like a home. In fact with too much, it'll look like a junkyard.
I hadn't planned for Louis using the lounge as his near exclusive chillout zone rather than retiring to his uber-cool bedroom with his mates.  But ho-hum!  Here's my adult space - a little conservatory which doubles as my sanctuary and well lit craft room.  Did Sally, Henry's mum, share his reservations about my lack of space. Did she heck.

'This is lovely' she said, feet up with a glass of wine. 'You won't have to spend all your spare time cleaning like I do!'

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Using the Veg That Hadn't Grown Legs

The kitchen at Lovelygrey cottage is slowly turning into the hive of activity that I want it to be.  There's already plenty of evidence of past batch cooking in the freezer - fish pie, savoury mince and Spanish rice along with chicken stock from the carcass remaining after a roast and two tubs of homemade ice cream.  The breadmaker's lost its cherry and on most mornings the hob is fired up to prepare a batch of popcorn for Louis to take to school as his mid morning snack.    I am having to get to grips though with the quantities of food needed for a smaller household of me and a half time child.

As a consequence I overdid it on veg purchase so decided to use them up and make a slow  cooked stew that greeted me when I arrived home from work  yesterday.  It really involved quite limited effort whilst drinking my first cuppa of the day.

  • I sliced an onion, chopped one of those long red peppers and crushed a couple of cloves of garlic and let them sweat in olive oil in a covered saute pan whilst I ransacked the fridge for further goodies.
  • I threw away the half butternut squash that I'd planned to use because furry veg don't a nice meal make. Ditto a few remaining chestnut mushrooms that nearly walked themselves to the bin.
  • There was chorizo - over half a 200 gramme sausage of it from Lidl and it was as right as rain!  So, I took off the skin, cut it into squares and added it to the pan so its oil could diffuse into the veg and impart its rich smoky flavour.  Hark at her!
  • Next I peeled and diced a couple of carrots and a potato ready to add to the pot.
  • Oh I forgot!  It's a good job that I don't write recipe books. On Sunday I soaked 100g chickpeas and then cooked them on Sunday night so I'd be all prepared.  But I was on the phone to my bro' and they boiled dry and burned!  Nigella, I am not.  So I had to soak another batch and cook them whilst sweating the onions.
  • Finally the assemblage in the slow cooker.  In went the softened onion-y stuff and chorizo with all the pan juices, chickpeas and other veg along with a pint of chicken stock (alas made with a cube as I'd forgotten to get the stuff out of the freezer), a tin of tomatoes, salt, pepper, dried thyme and a couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika.  Oh yes and I squeezed in a lemon that was just on the cusp of being past its sell by date.
So voila!  An near empty fridge ready for the contents of the first veg box that I've ordered here and a pot of tasty loveliness waiting for me when I arrived home. I served it with homemade tortilla chips made out of wraps cut into triangles and lightly fried in a little sunflower oil.  It was delishush - the spelling of a dyslexic eight year old that beats the proper way hands down.  And you haven't just got my word for it.  My friend who came for supper had three portions!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

An Example of Clear Labelling

A quick one today as I'm busy.  After professing that I rarely go out early in the week I'm out on the razz tonight with the peeps from work so must be off soon.  However I thought I'd share this picture with you that I found in my quest to get super organised and clearing out my Email files.  This South African plane with its helpful labelling that is  flown by the  airline Kulula made me smile.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Lovelygrey's Little Luxuries

My move to singledom has made a big difference to my finances.   Most critically, until I find a home to buy, there's rent to be paid whereas before the joint mortgage was fully offset by savings.  Ouch!  it's  a biggie.  These first couple of months have been expensive ones buying everything I need to set up a home without resorting to raiding the former marital pile  and leaving it looking destitute.  After all, my son lives there with his Dad for half the week so it needs to still feel like home to him.

I've worked out that just over half of my income goes on bills leaving me with a reasonable sum over.  From April onwards I'm setting myself a daily budget.  This will leave me with a savings pot in case of a rainy day and money to pursue my usual travels in the UK, France and beyond.

Now for me, everyday spending is pretty much limited to food, petrol and all those things that bringing up a child involves.  Boy is he expensive even though he isn't over indulged!  Loads of those items of expenditure shown on budget planners just don't apply though.  My car is a  bargain lease from the NHS so the cost of that is debited directly from my salary and covers road tax, maintenance, breakdown cover, tyres and insurance.  Then there's other things that other people spend money on - haircuts, make up, interest repayments, pets, cigarettes, magazines and newspapers.  None of these apply.  I rarely eat out or even go for a coffee but I'm lucky enough to be able to afford to do so when the occasion arises if I avoid choosing the lobster or fillet steak with extra sauce from the menu.  I'm even keeping to my pledge to buy no more than one item of clothing a month.  Since January all I've bought is a pair of ski salopettes because my bottom was a little too big to fit into my old ones :{

So there'll be a little left over for those little luxuries to help me appreciate the fruits of my labour on
 a regular basis.  The squirt of perfume, a bottle of wine in the fridge and a bar of Green and Black's butterscotch chocolate in the cupboard.  They're all pretty conventional treats.  But my other?  The fortnightly trip to the car wash! Okay I could roll up my sleeves and get out the bucket -just like I used to.   But I hate the job and it often got delayed resulting in a filthy car which I loathe even more.  It's not green or thrifty but for me, that four pounds per fortnight, or just over a hundred pounds a year, is money well spent!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Catching Thoughts

The old noggin has been busier than usual. With the house move,  a change of job and the new routine that involves, Louis' SpLD diagnosis and the poorly leg it's not surprising.   A while back I thought I'd loosen the leash that is my 'To Do' list but life goes a bit tits up without comprehensively noting down things to tick off.   Now I'm reigning in those mutts that are my ideas, deadlines and just everyday chores that need doing even more strictly than before.

So why is there a tied up stick man, rather than a dog, illustrating this post you may well ask? Well I'm being liberal with my use of metaphor.  Also one of my friends on Facebook posted about a site called that looks really cool.  I'd like to try it - but not know.  In a mo Louis will arrive for his breakfast, there's homework to supervise and a snack to prepare.  I can't go to work naked bar a dressing gown, there's this post to finish and a washload to hang out.  Oh! and a friend is coming to tea tonight so I need to sort out what we're going to eat.....but I want to catch the thought that I'd like to create my own little person, so I'm adding him to my 'To Do' list of ideas before he gets forgotten and never created - boo hoo!

Let's start with my less hi-tech trapping devices.   Here's a recent charity shop purchase that now lives in the lounge - a little box with drawers contain note sized pieces of paper that can be refill with scrap cut to size once its contents have run out.  There's all manner of notebooks and post it pads in other rooms too but in the kitchen I've come up with another tool that's also nigh on as old as the hills......

My mini - blackboard complete with chalk - ideal for jotting down my shopping needs and anything else that takes my fancy.  Along with food stuffs at the moment, I'm also finding that there are 'essential' kitchen gadgets missing from my battery just when I'm halfway through a recipe!

Let's move on to the 1960s so I'm reliably informed.  For it was then that the whiteboard was invented.  This is mainly to hold my bigger ideas - those that would need multiple entries on that final 'To Do' list. Here we have all the things that needed to be done at work - in spider diagram form.  It's soon to be replaced by the things I need to do to relaunch my tiny Ebay business.

And finally we're up to date and move into the electronic area. I've been hunting for a replacement for the trusty 'Outlook To Do List' that was on my windows based phone and searched far and wide for something that I could use on my laptop too.   There's an  amazing array of stuff but I balked at paying money for the privilege of having something to helped me say to 'Remember the Milk' on multiple devices.

I've just discovered that Google is indeed my friend.  The 'To List' within GMail is just as powerful as the one I've been used to.  I can have multiple lists, set due dates and automatically set tasks to repeat.  Like shaving legs which, to his amazement, Mr Metrosexual discovered was actually an item in my 'Personal' list that is scheduled weekly   So now all is organised and with my newly trimmed silky pins I'm about to trot forwards into my future hyper-organised world!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Leopards, Spots and All That

I've been mulling over whether us humans, in our guise of metaphorical leopards, can change our spots.  Externally of course it's entirely possible to undergo an entire external makover as Gok Wan is often keen to demonstrate.  Incidentally,  did any other girlies out there decide, like Scary Secretary and me, that you fancied him after watching  'Made in China' programme on Channel 4 last week? Okay he may be a 'Chinese Homo' (his own description) but that body, his wonderful dress sense and his sense of humour did it for us.  We're sure all his affirmation about being gay are just a cover that lets a thoroughly straight man get away with grabbing women's boobs on TV.

The saying, though, refers to the inability for us to undergo inner transformation and I have to say that there are some rigid blighters out there.  But as a therapist, I have to hold dear the hope that change is possible and indeed I've seen it in myself.  In the last four years I've gone from being  over anxious and  self critical to a much more laid back individual.   I've accepted the idea that sometimes things don't always go to plan but I'm much more inclined to give things a try to see what happens.   Monumental cock ups do occasionally occur adopting this new approach but the rewards and opportunities far outweigh these.  So I urge others out there who could do with a psychological or emotional overhaul to take hold of the spotty big cat within and see if you can turn him stripey!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Woo Hoo - I'm Two!

I was going through old posts doing a bit of research last night and I suddenly realised that today is the second anniversary of when I started blogging.  So  I've awarded myself a little on-line pictorial celebration which includes a cake that one of those bling bling TV gypsies would sneer at due to its minuscule size.  I'd like there to be a Black and Decker workmate in one of the parcels too.

It was with trepidation that I started the project - to unleash the inner writer that I always knew that I had in me. In those early days I couldn't have imagined that I'd come up with 700+ topics to write about.  The first fifteen seemed monumental.  Recently I've ditched my initial aim of a daily post.  Occasionally events, dear boy, make that difficult and at other times - well there seem to be far more enjoyable or important things to do than sitting at a computer.

So what do I want to offer you for year three?  Lots more craft than of late,  tales of whacky travels both real and imagined, innovative thrifty ideas and giving a  little more exposure to the real Lovelygrey. Gulp!  I'm going to have to learn not to gurn when a lens comes my way and overcome my extreme camera shyness!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Stopping the Weasel Popping

What an obscure title.  You'll have to work  out from Wikipedia why I used it!

I reckon I owe you guys an update on yesterday's post. The night  passed without drama.  All quiet on the South Western front as it were.  No posse of men arrived to break into my new home and remove my electrical goods for sale by auction.  This morning I spoke to a very nice(!) bailiff who confirmed that he wouldn't be seizing my chattels to pay the debts of the last tenant.  Hurrah!  Back to my usual habit of leaving the doors unlocked so the neighbourhood kids can come and go when playing with Louis.

How do people get into this position in the first place?  Well, perhaps it's not entirely their fault.  The marketeers are very sneaky these days in persuading the unsuspecting to spend beyond their means.   There's too much choice out there.  Take the supermarket for example.   So many goods are promoted on the basis that they save time for the busy housewife.   But often the efficiencies achieved are negligible in return for the high price paid.  Take the following examples which have been chosen as the alternative low cost solutions take a matter of minutes more and don't require advanced cheffing skills.

Three packs of salted microwave popcorn weighing 270g in total costs £1.99 in Sainsburys.  Compare this to a 500g of popping corn for 69p.  Just cover the base of a lightly oiled saucepan with the kernels and put the lid on. Heat and shake and wait to hear those kernels exploding.   Lou and I worked it out that a snack sized bowl, seasoned with Maldon Seasalt can be made in a couple of minutes for the princely sum of about 3p!
Jus-rol's current TV ad was, indeed, the inspiration for this post.  The idea of topping a sheet of puff pastry to make a quick meal is superb.  I know because I've been doing this for years. The variations are endless...mozarella and tomato with herbs, roasted vegetables with chunks of feta, caramelized onion and anchovy.... I could go on and on.  Just take note. The ready rolled sheets sheets are on special offer in Tesco for £1.00 at the moment.  But they weigh 320g and £1.10 buys a 500g block that just needs the attention of a rolling pin.. Even better - Tesco own brand puff pastry comes in a 1kg pack at the bargain price of £2.

Tesco finest garlic infused olive oil. Yum!  Just the thing to drizzle on pizza or pasta and a snip at £2.49 for 250ml.  But wait.  I'm not sure of the exact price but didn't I pay the same price, or it might have been less, for a litre bottle of Lidl's Extra Virgin Primadonna Olive Oil?  Couldn't I just infuse a bit of oil with some garlic?  Yes it's easy-peasy.  Just refrigerate and be mindful of safe storage just so botulism stays at bay.

50p will buy you a 225g bag of diced onions from Tesco.  An absolute bargain?  Not when you consider that a kilo of  the loose brown variety will set you back 76p a kilo.  It wouldn't take long for the savings to add up to buy a decent chopping knife if you don't have one already!

Good looking men normally don't do it for me.  But when I heard George Clooney's  on Desert Island Discs I was a temporary  convert to the Prince Charming look because of the pinko leftie philosophy that he espoused.  How wrong can you be!  He then shattered my dreams by becoming an ambassador for Nestle.

They, like other coffee purveyors produce  'pods' to feed expensive machinery that produces an overpriced cup of caffeinated fix.  Do yourself a financial favour.  Resort to old style techology and buy a cafetiere and old style filter coffee instead.  Fairtrade preferably.
Waitrose 'Cook's Ingredients' croutons - Hmm! Shouldn't a kitchen savyy connoisseur be able to heat some oil, crush some garlic and add some cubes of bread to the pan to rustle their own gourmet soup  accompaniments within a couple of minutes? This surely will cost far less than £1.29 for 100g charged by Waitrose for a similar product.

Uncle Ben's Express Basmati - £1.64 for 250g at Asda.  Ready in two minutes in the microwave.  But £5.92 buys 4kg of the store's own brand rice that can be cooked from scratch with the same level of effort.  So it takes longer.  But is twenty minutes so long to wait for more than a 400% cost saving?

Sainsbury's Basics 125g batter mix seems a snip at 15p.  But it's not such a bargain when you consider that a 1.5kg bag of flour with the same economy branding costs 69p. Granted that the mix doesn't need milk or salt  but an egg or two still needs to be added to produce those Yorkshire puddings or pancakes.

Cute little boxes of raisins for kid's lunch boxes cost about four times as much as the equivalent weight from a larger bag.  Food packaged as 'snack packs' always seem to have a horrendous mark up.   Get out those tubs and containers and make up your own portions!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

It's Not My Telly You're After!

Well this is an interesting position to be in.  Here I am spending a quiet Saturday evening with a cuppa, watching an episode of SuperScrimpers via Channel 4 on Demand and waiting for the bailiffs to arrive at Lovelygrey Cottage.  Gulp!  So how did this diametrically opposed duo of activities come about?

Although my spending in the last few weeks might seem profligate at first sight you have to take into account that I’ve been setting up home virtually from scratch.  I’m bound to be forking out more than usual.   Once this initial splurge is over I’ve got a budget to stick to that doesn’t look too onerous at all.  But are the heavies coming round because I’ve stretched those purse strings and went one vintage wardrobe too far ?

You’ll be pleased to hear that I’m not the spendthrift  that the debt collectors are after.   I'm a girl who likes a quiet life and being chased by my creditors is not the way I'd want to spend my life.  No, a previous resident seemed to have scarpered leaving a car crash of financial problems in her wake.   Perhaps she was  like the girl on the programme who spent £8,5000 on accessories last year.   Who knows.  Anyway  I’ve already warded off one company employed to recoup some funds and today I’ve just come home to a notice to say that goods are going to be seized this evening.

 Luckily a bit of Internet research shows that these boys are from a reputable company and should go away without taking my lovely new telly with them once they’ve established I’m not the person that they’re after.   This may account for the fact that the number of locks and chains on the front door are commensurate with those needed in Moss Side rather than a peaceful Devon village with a negligible crime problem.  Normally the Yale lock suffices.   But tonight I'll take no chances and before I hunker down, all those home security devices will be put to good use!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Not Your Type?

I don't understand those of you out there who are computer literate but tolerate crawling around the keyboard at the speed of a slug.  Way back,  I borrowed a portable typewriter in a vinyl case, bought a 'Teach Yourself' book and spent a very productive fortnight  learning to touch type. It's a skill that's served me so, so, well over the years. And it saves people having to decipher my messy scrawl  that might have come in handy  if I'd become the doctor that Papa Lovelygrey would have liked me to be.

A quarter of a century later and it's Louis' turn to teach those digits to tap away at an lightning pace. It was one of the recommendations in the report that Christy, the educational psychologist prepared for him to compensate for his difficulties with writing and spelling. Of course, tuition has taken a hi-tech turn and there's a myriad of software solutions.   The good news is that this isn't something that you have to throw money out.  There's plenty of free resources out there.

Tried and tested by Lou comes the BBC's Dance Mat Typing .  It must be fun as it hasn't been too onerous to persuade him to persevere with the twelve part course.  He's advanced to lesson six out of twelve and tells me that he now knows how to type  p and q with his pinkies.  School are supplementing this learning with their own lessons for a small group of lads with similar difficulties.  And it seems Louis home study is paying dividends...slowly.   For this week he proudly came home with a speed typing certificate.  With his breakneck speed of four words a minute, he's easily the best in the class!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Days Out in Devon: Cockington Court

I nearly forgot to blog about this trip out that we made a weekend or so ago.  Time flies when you're enjoying yourself ...or not.  Today's been a pig of all days.  Not a cute little Babe-like piglet either but a great big Yorkshire bruiser that Yahoo has just told me is the biggest of all the breeds.

Anyway,  I've been hankering to visit Cockington Court, an olde worlde place in the heart of Torbay for sometime now to see its craft studios, ancient church and gardens.  And winter turned out to be a good place to go.   It's the type of place that would be groaning with grockles come the warmer summer months.  One of its attractive features  is that it costs now't to visit  and would have fitted nicely into my post about free places in South Devon  that I rustled up last year.  Beware the gent's toilets though.  Louis' friend Niall reported that they smelt worse than the Gorilla House at Paignton Zoo!

My friend Maire (that's pronounced Moira to all those non Irish souls out there) and I took our boys.  To keep them entertained we forked out a fiver for a Murder Mystery Treasure Trail set in the grounds.  Here they are in Cockington Church looking for clues to let them know which suspects to eliminate.  This was another smelly place, this time the aroma of damp pervaded the air. It wasn't so pungent to  detractv from the beauty of this ancient building.

The booklet is produced by a company called Treasure Trails  and a brief perusal of their website shows that they've produced millions and zillions of others for places all over the UK.    Well, okay I exaggerate - there's about five hundred - even one we could try when we visit Nana and Grandpa Lovelygrey in Southend-on-Sea next time.   Obviously  I'd prefer a trip out to be entirely free but when you compare the cost to  family admission charges to the majority of  attractions these represent good value in terms of money and the explorational fun to be had.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Lit up Like the Blackpool Illuminations

Here's a question for all you parents out there.  How do you stop kids traipsing around the house leaving every light on without resorting to drastic measures?  Like turning the electrics off at the fuse box and giving everyone headtorches, removing all lightbulbs  or even using strait jackets on offspring to restrict their arm movement so they can't reach all those lovely tempting switches.

Louis is a particularly pesky culprit here.  Every morning I hear him wriggling out of his bunk bed and then click, click, click.  Every bulb on the top floor of the house comes alive until a grumpy Mama, who's not at her best first thing, hauls herself out of bed and extinguishes those in unoccupied rooms.  I've now given my son the choice.  Either we can spend money on illuminating the whole place or the money saved can be used to indulge our love of holidaying, sometimes to places where lighting displays far surpass those that can be achieved in a small semi on a housing estate in Devon!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Makeovers Required!

Funnily enough,  I didn't complete a creative project per se in February but I did turn a house into a home.  Does that count?
However not all my secondhand/recycled furniture purchases are entirely how I want them at the moment.  Many need a revamp so it's time to get out the sandpaper, paint and sewing machine and spruce them up so I'll treasure them for the rest of my days.

Take this chair for instance, one of two that goes with a melamine topped table that's taken pride of place in the crafting zone in the conservatory. Perfectly functional but decidedly lacklustre at the moment.   Come next week I guarantee the pair are going to be objects of desire for you shabby chicsters out there!

It may look as if I've been a busy and innovative and upcycled this pallet into a coffee table myself.  But hey, I cheated and bought it for a relative song on Ebay.  Funky shops have these priced, sometimes upwards of £200!  What it needs though is a big fat foam filled cushion on top so it doubles as a footstool.

Louis' Stompa bunkbed came at a bargain price of £99 and came complete with desk shelves.  This compares so favourably with the new retail price of around £850 that I danced a jig when I found it.  So what if the upholstery on the sleepover bed is ripped?   I'm pretty sure that by forking out less than £25 on fabric, I'll have a new looking piece of furniture that my son's going to be delighted with.

And my bed!   A bit too studenty at the moment with its lowdown but really good quality futon base. I'm getting too old to sleep so near to floor level so it could do with a set of legs.   I'm hankering too for a huge padded upholstered headboard which I'm sure that would be mine if a bedding store wrestled a significant number of spoodidoodilies away from me.  But armed with a remnant, some plywood, foam and a staple gun - who knows what I could create?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Thought for the Day: Contemplating Tails

The office gang and I like to think we're still young but who are we trying to kid?  The majority of us are in our forties and fifties with a couple of sextuagenerians thrown in for good measure.  As we're all pretty vain there's a general pervasive belief that we look fairly good for our years.  But the signs of ageing are creeping up.  Most of us like an early night with cocoa, slippers and all that jazz.  Our attitudes towards the habits of the 'yoof' of the day too are starting to put us firmly in the class of old fogies.

For example, we're rather astounded by all the fussing and grooming that goes on, especially down in Generation Y's nether regions.  Now in my day a daily lick and a polish with a soapy flannel was all that was involved in keeping our lady gardens in tip top shade supplemented with a bit of bikini line trimming for those of us waterbabes out there.  Now though there's apparently a plethora of adornments that can be had.  Jewellery, couture short, plastic surgery and curly hair design and yes, even multicoloured  stick on wigs or merkins for those who fancy a change from going completely bare. Or who are a bit cold maybe?   Falsely we believed that all this pubic preening was the preserve of just the minority.   However Posh Friend's midwife friend has advised her that it's rare to come across a 'growler' these days!

But I've gone waaaay off track from today's subject,  a hypothetical look at style and one for you to ponder over a little.  If human's had a tail would clothing have, a) a slit so the tail could swing bareskinned or b), a tube of fabric to hide our extra appendage and keep it warm and toastie.  Then again it might be that us 'oldies' would swathe us in tweed whilst the adventurous young things out there would wear theirs naked and proud with just the odd tattoo or piece of body art to demonstrate their cool uniqueness.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Free Funky Fifties Sideboard Fiasco

Well the little Lovelygrey abode is now up and running and I'll be sharing some piccies of my new nest soon. I proud to say all but one piece of furniture has been sourced secondhand and I haven't made a trip to that big Scandinavian edifice so beloved of new homemakers.

I nearly, nearly got a free sideboard yesterday lunchtime.  It was outside a reclaimed furniture shop where I've bought a bookcase for Louis.  It'll need revamping sharpish as it's painted pink and purple and that will not do as far as an eight year old machismo lad goes.  But on the way in I spied a sideboard just like this one that I found on Ebay that was being bid for hotly when I started this post.  'How much is that sideboard outside' I asked the salesman.  'Oh you can have that for nothing. We can't sell them. 'Really?' I said 'I give you a tenner for it, at least.   'No, we'll bring it to you.  Just slip the delivery bloke a fiver or something'.

I skipped back to the car in as jaunty a way as my leg would allow.  Just as I was leaving a fellow with a pallet truck was moving my treasured free find with a sack trolley, back inside to keep it safe or so I thought.  However, just as I pulled up into the car park at work I got a call on my mobile.  It was the chap at the furniture store.

'Hi I've just gone out to get your sideboard and it's disappeared!'.  Plucked from my hands by a stealthy skip picking type. Peed off as  I was, I'm just hoping that it's an omen and another even more suitable one will land in my lap shortly.  Free of charge of course!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

All Quiet on the (South) Western Front

Howdy all you folks out there. How Brokeback Mountain is this picture!  I realise that I've been a little mute over the last week and that's not like me at all, no sirree!

Now some of you might think that I've been kipping in a hammock under the stars for the last week or so but how wrong you'd be.  I've just been too darned busy to blog.   Setting up my new home, catching up with work, mothering my boy.  And chasing doctors.  Not in a searching for romance kind of way you have to understand.  Those medics are far too suave and smooth for me.  No, I've been pestering them to look at my poorly knee and finally have a fracture clinic appointment for tomorrow.  Hopefully my days of being Hopalong Cassidy will be at an end shortly.

So now I'm back in the saddle, as it were, with lots of ideas for new posts.  And after today I promise I'll steer away from the bad cowboy metaphors.