Friday, 30 November 2012

There is Felt and Felt

Wow! I must have been thoroughly taken by last month's felting course. For blow me down, I've cracked on and completed a project using one of the products of my labour in, what is for me, super quick time!  I've backed my goldfish panel onto grey wool felt using a random length long stitch and made up a much needed cushion for the day bed in the lounge.

What I've realised is that most felt available is pretty crap.  It's thin, gets bobbly easily and is made from man made fibres.  What I wanted to set off my merino felt piece properly was gorgeous fabric that would last so I splashed out on a beautiful piece of grey pure wool felt from the aptly named wool felt company.  It was more than six times the cost of the acrylic stuff that I found in a haberdashery shop in Brighton but boy, was it worth it.  It's taken my home accessory out of the realm of faddy fashion accessory that'll look tatty in no time and turned it into a hardwearing heirloom!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Lord Lummy!

What is this  mystery  object that I spotted for the bargain price of £1.50 whilst perusing the wares in the charity shops of Totnes this week?  I took Mr Metrosexual with me to make the final purchase for moral support.  'What if I get there and am disappointed because it doesn't look at all like a willy' he said as we made the trip over.  'Don't worry, it does!' I asserted.  Ideas about its function please but remember no abject filth.  Mama and Nana Lovelygrey read this blog!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Unpaid and Frazzled

This is what's taking up all my spare time at the moment but at three thirty on Sunday I'll be able to heave a great big sigh of relief.  But until then there's plenty of keep me out of the trouble that I so long to be in.  Lucky dip presents to wrap, signs to be hammered in along the approach roads to the town, a visit to the cash and carry and of course decorating the hall over the weekend and clearing up after the big event.  It's making me tired thinking about it.  Oh, hang on I was completely knackered already and must muster some inner reserves from deep within.

I've taken a long close look at my volunteering as it's been stressing me this year.  And this should never be.  Something has to give.  The Scout fundraising will stay but I'm hopping off the PTA committee.  What I'd like to do is some work for organisations that don't involve my own child on a more ad-hoc basis.  A bit of conservation maybe?  I'll see what the local volunteer bureau have to offer in 2013.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Forces of Darkness at Lovelygrey Cottage

Not one but three major bits of stuff have given up the ghost in Lovelygrey Cottage over the space of just three or four days.  I've already sourced a replacement for the vacuum cleaner, a recently serviced Dyson DC02 on Ebay for a rather respectable £10.50.  But now my 20 year old plus sewing machine has died and gone to heaven, courtesy of an irreplaceable perished plastic cog.  More spectacularly, without even the merest sniff of hot rumpy pumpy action, my bed  collapsed in the middle of the night.  Papa Lovelygrey kindly put legs to raise my futon bed to an acceptable height for a middle aged woman.  Alas,  I was unable to challenge the rules of Newtonian physics.  The forces exerted on the frame were all wrong causing one of the rather substantial main struts to snap in two.  The moral of this story?  Don't think that you can get the better of natural laws!

Anyway my hoover bargain has got me thinking and I've set myself a challenge that I, and my fellow thrifters know is highly achievable.  Can I replace all three items for less than a hundred quid?

Monday, 26 November 2012

A Weekend With The Goggle Box

Having stocked up with eggs the night before you'll be pleased to know that I managed to navigate 'Buy Nothing Day' on Saturday successfully though not without the inevitable Lovelygrey hiccup.   I ran out of milk at about midday after using my final half pint to make a rather wonderful macaroni cheese.  The rest of the day I was confined to using the powdered stuff that I save for breadmaking in my tea.  It just wasn't the same.

I'd figured on a more active weekend, a long awaited Church of Craft with Red Mel and Naomi and a bit of wholesome exercise.  But alas Red Mel was poorly and I too succumbed to a tummy bug on Saturday evening.  Plus the weather was atrocious with flood warnings everywhere. So, to counter my normal super active lifestyle, it seemed rather a good idea to snuggle under my granny blanket and take in rather a lot of telly.

Now TV watching gets some negative press, as does fatty food and alcoholic beverages.  But everything in moderation is my motto even though sometimes  I'll save up those treats and have them all in one go!  My squared eyed weekend was a revelation.  I dipped my toes into Hebburn and laughed my way through the whole series, got up to date with Series 2 of The Hour and caught the latest episode of Kirsty's Vintage Home.  I've suffered inspiration overload for  money saving with ideas aplenty from a week's worth of Mrs Moneypenny's SuperScrimpers.  And thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi's Meditteranean Feast  I got my appetite back.  This region's cuisine has to be my favourite.

What's more those presenters at Channel 4 have produced their own scrapbooks of ideas on the website.  Rather than dulling my brain and turning it to mush, my head is buzzing with ideas.  A weekend of slobbing about isn't too damaging after all!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Unctuous Beefy Stew - With Dumplings Of Course!

God bless those food photographers who make every dish mouthwateringly delicious even if it is a naturally brown and gloopy concoction.  Maybe I could do with a few tips from them and reckon that this article that I've just found might have made my latest creation look a little more appetising.  Never mind! You'll have to trust me that this was absolutely scrummy and just right for these cold waterlogged days that seem to have set in at the moment.

'So what's the recipe?' you may be asking.  Well, there isn't really a precise one.  This stew and previous variations are just thrown together and shoved in the slow cooker to cook on high for the day.  But I'll give you an idea of how it's conjured up.

1.  Take 500g of stewing steak.  Mine was a pack of the Aberdeen Angus meat that I got from the reduced section at the Coop and had been lurking in my freezer for a couple of months.  Brown it in a little oil with a couple of sliced onions.  You can vary the number of these according to taste. Pop in the pot with those pan juices.
2.  Whilst the meat is browning you might as well make the dumplings.  Put 8oz of self raising flour, 4oz of beef suet and salt in the food processor.  Add water until the mixture starts to bind together.  Roll into balls and set aside.  Do not, and I repeat do not, ever use vegetable suet.  It's pants and causes the dumplings to become hard little bullets rather than fluffy clouds of lushness.
3.  Now add  veggies chopped to gob size.  Mushrooms, root veg,  pepper, aubergine and potato all work.  Anything that isn't green really is the rule.  This was made on a day that the fridge was a bit sparse so there's carrot and one of those lovely  squash that I impulsed purchased a while back.  On occasions I've also added leftover baked beans.
 4.  Now the important bit.  You're going to be adding liquid in a minute so to avoid runny insipidness, something needs to soak up that moisture effectively.  Lentils, rice and other pulses will all do the trick but I add a couple of handfuls of that old fashioned favourite, pearl barley that really has become rather trendy these days.
5.  Add a tin of squished plum tomatoes (cheaper than the chopped ones), a couple of beef stock cubes, a good squirt of tomato puree, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and whatever robust dried herb takes your fancy.  Thyme, rosemary or sage are all good on their own or in combination.  Cover everything with hot water from the kettle and pop the dumplings on top.
6.  Cook for at least 8 hours.
And there you have it.  A meal for four greedy people or two with leftovers for the next day.  I can pretty much guarantee though that there'll be no dumplings left by the time second helpings come along!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bendy Bus; Bendy Boy!

Photo: Arriva 436
God bless those public transport enthusiasts for they are extraordinarily enthusiastic about cataloging their passion!  So, when I was looking for a picture for today's post and turned to 'bendy bus' on Wikipedia, I had a wealth of shots to choose from.  The world was my oyster or maybe my Oyster Card as in the end I played safe and settled on this rather nice red Transport for London number from the town of my birth.

My breaking news is not that I have decided to become a bus spotter outside the times when I need to catch one.  Then, as public transport users know, they are often as rare as rocking horse droppings.  No, my news today is far more significant.  In the week Louis had an assessment, the results of which are a big leap ahead in helping him overcome the challenges faced by having Specific Learning Differences.   And I'm proud to say that it was a member of my own profession who was instrumental in coming up with the goods!

Rather than being dyspraxic, my lovely son is super bendy because of hyper mobile joints. It accounts for why writing is difficult for him as he has a floppy thumb that doesn't support his pen properly.   The assessment demonstrated that when  he consciously tries to grip harder his hand hurt within a short period of time.  Rosie, the paediatric occupational therapist, explained that all this  floppiness  also affects   his ability to gauge where his body parts are in space so he has to move around to give himself sensory feedback.  The result?  The fidgety, clumsy and non attentive behaviour that his parents and teachers find so difficult.   But these  nubby problems can be solved.   Generally weight bearing through the joints will help Louis' development so that there will be less issues as he gets older.  I'll share what we come up with as we go along.  Furthermore his teacher is also being offered a visit by Rosie to his school to help him and his teachers get to grips with what might be helpful in the educational environment. At last this may be the breakthrough that we need where his needs are taken really seriously and I am not just seen as a neurotic middle class parent, as has been insinuated in the past!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Behind the Scenes

Well, what a humdinger of a day that I've had, busy from the start when I'm usually having a leisurely cup of tea and blogging in bed.  There's a lot going on in my life at the moment but I'm not revealing anything this evening. Instead I'm going to put my feet up with a nice glass of beer and watch a bit of telly.  And I'll leave you with my equivalent of a safety curtain.  Something to look at before the show maybe?  Food for thought,in the form  of an ad from days gone by that serves as a reminder that it's not only shoes and bags that are subject to the whims of fashion.  Tastes in body morphology are just as fickle too!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Buy Nothing Day: 24th November

You might notice today that my title is plain and simple with none of my trademark cheesy puns, obscurity that befits cryptic crosswords or my favourite, those double entendres that would make Sid James or his younger counterpart Daniel Craig proud.  It's really a reminder to myself to participate in this event, which should be a must in everyone's calendar, properly this year.  My efforts two years ago, to spend nothing on the assigned day ended woefully with a grocery emergency and last year it looks like this important event in the calendar passed me by altogether.

So I'm going to make a much better effort this year starting with giving you lot  advance notice.  Make sure that you've got milk in (or in my case eggs!) and enjoy a whole day of well, anything at all really.  It's up to you to choose.  Anything that is apart from shopping in all the various guises that it takes these days!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Meter Madness Part 1

For nine months until last week I had a key meter for my electricity, installed just a week or so before I moved into Lovelygrey Cottage.  Something to do with the former spendthrift tenants not paying their bills methinks. It's been a right royal palaver getting it converted back to a normal one where I can pay by direct debit and choose the best joint tariff for my combined fuel costs.  I'll share the story which isn't quite yet over when all the time consuming to-ings and fro-ings have finally been done and dusted.

So for three quarters of a year I've been using power, frequently concerned that it could go off if the credit on the meter runs out.  It happened just the once but not really because of lack of vigilance on my part. Again I'll save the details for later for I am feeling super mysterious today!

In spite of the inconvenience I think the experience has had a knock on effect on making me more frugal with electricity usage.  A sudden burst of domestic activity using those household appliances could make the figures on that meter spiral downwards.  And then there's those teeny tiny seepages of power happening in the background due to stuff on standby.  Barely perceptible when I was paying straight out of my bank account but plain to see with the figures in front of me.

Although I've found topping up my key really inconvenient I think, in hindsight, that the experience has been useful.  I have cut down excessive consumption as a consequence and also had the dubious pleasure of experiencing how some of the poorest in society, who are the most likely to pay for power this way, are left in a situation where they have no option to choose anything other than standard tariffs and are stuck with paying some of the highest utility prices in the country.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

If My Nineteen Year Old Self Could See Me Now.....

...she'd be angry and disappointed.  Why?  Well  things haven't quite turned out the way she expected.  Here's a few examples.

  • I don't live in a humongous pad with lots of servants to clear up after me, just a small comfortable place I call home that I don't even own!
  • There's not a gloriously good looking bloke in tow helping all those staff.  Hell, there isn't a man at all! AND I am rather embarrassed about my younger self's penchant for ultra pretty boys like the young Gary Numan or Morton Harkett. They'd have to be a bit more rough, ready with a penchant for dressing in outdoor gear if they did make it over the step these days.
  • She'd think I've let myself go.  I haven't kept up dyeing my hair and there's no even a hint of the gothic black eyeliner that used to creep down my cheeks.
  • I've also got a bit fat after too many bits of body have recently gone wrong. What do you know that's the least of my worries.  After a year like the last I'm just glad to be alive.
  • A good night is most likely to be spent at home with a book and a cuppa or watching a good programme on the telly.  Most likely I'll follow that with an early night.  It's not about endless strings of nights partying until dawn.
  • My job hasn't got the status that she expected and my ambition has waned.  But hell, aside from the current NHS shennanigans, I'm happy with my interesting and worthwhile work!
  • I'm also satisfied with a salary that she would have view as a pittance even though it seems plenty to me.
  • My fashion sense can be dodgy...Take those Crocs for example..
  • And as for music...Pah!  There's some  stuff that she would have never have listened to as the NME scorned it - like Queen and far too much folk and blues.  
  • I get pleasure from not having much in my rubbish bin and minimising food waste.
  • Mostly I find shopping a drag unless it's in charity shops.
  • I've come round to the idea that a diet of wine and chocolate isn't ideal.
  • I've grown out of that adolescent trait of seeing my parents as low-life and actually enjoy spending time with my family.
It doesn't look like I've achieved my dreams then.  But hey I've changed.  And my forty seven year old self is far more contented than that nineteen year old image of myself would ever be. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

One for a Wheelie Dealer

I reckon a lot of my regular readers must be like minded souls so at least some of them in the UK must be glued to the inspirational George Clarke's Amazing Spaces on Channel 4.  A wealth of ideas about compact living indeed.  For me I think my favourite space featured was the home transformed from a disused underground public toilet.  Trust me if you didn't catch the show.  It's way, way better than it sounds.

With the spirit of small being beautiful well and truly alive let me show you this object that is so worth lusting over.  It reminds me a little of my own Quechua 4.2 tent but this one has wheels and was way more pricey.  When it was being manufactured that is.  Sadly, the brilliantly conceived Opera wasn't viable for production to be sustained although hope is not lost.  The inventors are looking for international investors who might bring the product back to life again.  Now if I had a few bucks to spare I'd be tempted but the purse strings are tight in Lovelygrey Cottage at the current time.  I'd love to see them on the road again.  So, as a final shot today,  let me tempt any venture capitalists out there with a view of this origami-like amazing space to whet their spending appetites!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

This Needs to Stop Now!

You would have to have had your head buried like an ostrich, perhaps blindfolded and wearing headphones playing Motorhead at the same time, for all the latest news about child abuse at the BBC.  Likewise any story with a sniff of an animal welfare slant can make national news, There's been one this week about about meat and eggs  used in NHS kitchens not meeting animal welfare standards. Quite right too!  But let me tell you that there's something far worse going on in hospitals and care settings up and down the land.  Frail older people with dementias and other diseases which mean that they cannot advocate for themselves are regularly suffering horrendous abuse.  And all of our need to be shouting from the rooftops when we see it. If there is anything that the general public can learn from the Jimmy Savile case, turning a blind eye to abuse is no longer acceptable.

Take for example my friend's father,  who she found in a hospital bed wedged against metal cotsides with a call bell cord around his neck.    Or the home where I found another old gentleman in an unmade bed in a suite of rooms  that looked like a drug addicts den.  He was confined there, not allowed to leave even at mealtimes, as he 'upset' other residents and paid for the privilege too!  The list could go on and on but it saddens me too much to recount stories from myself and my colleagues, all which were passed onto safeguarding teams to investigate.   I know that these are not rare isolated incidents because of the frequency with which we come across them at work.  I glean further evidence to back up my belief that this is widespread from the horror stories that are often recounted  to me someone finds out that I work in older adult mental health serves.  There is some extraordinarily good care out there that would be fit for my mum or dad if ever they were in the unfortunate position of needing it but this should be the absolute norm.  At the moment, I would be very vigilant if any member of my family was in a predicament that lead to hospitalisation or residential placement.

I know that there has been increased publicity about these goings on over the last few years.  But I wonder if change would be accelerating at a much faster rate if the victims were fluffier and cuter like children or puppies rather than people whose illnesses can render them unattractive in appearance and behaviour.   Let's hope that it takes much less than twenty or thirty years for this abuse to become entirely unacceptable.  And report it if you see or hear of it, even if it takes a good ninety minutes, like it did for me the other day,  in a dreadful fiasco involving both Birmingham City and Staffordshire County Councils to find someone to take responsibility and record my concerns.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Thwarted Art Theft? Mystery Solved!

I have two very beautiful charcoal nudes hung in my dining room, a gift from my talented brother who drew them in life classes.  They're not really sepia tinged but with my limited photographic expertise, it was the only way I could capture an image that didn't have annoying reflections. Anyway, yesterday I came home and was surprised to see that they were propped against the wall. Mildly concerned that the burglar who'd taken them down in preparation for loading into his van was still in the house,  I looked around for signs of other things out of place.  However nothing struck me as suspicious.  The instantaneous idea that they'd been knocked off the wall during an earth tremor was also rejected in spite of being in close vicinity of  a fair few fault lines that cause the occasional minor Devonian rumble.

'Do you know who put my nudie lady pictures on the floor?'  I asked Louis who, at that moment came barging through the front door.  'Yes', he stated categorically. 'I did. They were putting me off doing my homework.  Don't you know I'm only nine?  I shouldn't have to be  looking at things like that!'

Friday, 16 November 2012

To Me With Love xxx

I've nearly ditched all those 'To Do' lists that I used to swear by.  They ruled my life for a good few years and gosh, I even recommended some of them to you lot.  Most of the things I need to do don't really have to be written down to be remembered.  It was just a bit of a mad ritual as they inhabit my head anyway.  The time saved in scribbling  means that there are extra minutes to crack on with.

But the odd aide-memoire is still required although most are much more transitory.  For instance did you know that you can email stuff to the same web address that your sending it from?  It's an ideal way to create reminders and carry around documents that you need on the move

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Skyfalling Sid

Photo:  British Cinema Greats
A quickie today but I'm sure its going to give a lot of you food for thought, though not in a highbrow cerebral way.   At work we were talking about the latest James Bond movie and moved on  to thinking about Daniel Craig.  Inevitably lots of oohing and aahing ensued from certain female members of staff who will remain nameless.  After all we do not want the full force of the NHS's equality and diversity team to fall upon them for their lack of political correctness.

Strange creature that I am, I do not go with the view that Daniel Craig is a complete and utter sex symbol even when he was wearing 'those trunks'.  I'm more of the opinion that, as observed, by Barbie Nurse's very own Ken that he bears an uncanny resemblance to Sid James.  It's was different to find shots of the two actors to demonstrate this likeness.  You'll have to go on an Internet search of your own if you want to do more research.  Never say this blog isn't interactive!  Our favourite 'Carry On' actor always seemed to be photographed sporting a gaping grin whereas Danny boy keeps his mouth closed.  Perhaps that's because he's all too aware of his resemblance to Sid?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Mouldy Cheese and Sour Milk Scones

Each lot of finished fruit and veg, emptied food packet and leftovers made good give me a tingle of pleasure, although not in a mucky 'Fifty Shades of Grey' kind of way.  I'll 'fess up to the occasional bit of food waste, a mildewy carrot or bit of leftover cream say, but it's a rare event that something is binned rather than eaten these days.  Apparently the household in the UK throws away fifty pounds worth of uneaten food a month and I'm certainly nowhere near this horrendous figure.  It's definitely way less than a fiver's worth and decreasing all the time as I get more and more canny.

Anyway I'm well proud of my latest creation made of stuff that wouldn't have passed muster as edible in 99% of homes.  My batch of scones were superlative, though I say so myself, even though they were made from a couple of ingredients that had nearly sprouted legs and could have marched themselves to the bin.  To replicate my amazing recipe take:

225g self raising flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
2oz butter  (in hindsight that was out of date too!)
7 tbsp of smelly past its sell by milk  (trust me your granny would have done the same thing)
4oz-ish grated vintage cheddar - and by vintage I mean mingon and covered with mould.  After a bit of thought I cut this off and didn't use it
Way more smoked paprika than you would have thought was required.  The lid fell off the jar` but trust me it worked!

1.  Heat oven to Gas Mark 7 or 220 degrees
2.  Blitz all ingredients together in food processor until clumped.
3. Roll out dough to an inch thick on a floured work surface, cut into circles with a glass jar and bake on an oiled tray for fifteen minutes.

Result: Amazing lush rounds of golden, red tinged loveliness that my kid has wolfed down despite his hatred of spicy food!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Caution to the Wind? Nah!

Whoopee! My tiny Ebay business is up and running again.  Events of the past year meant that I put selling on hold, concentrating  on homemaking and building a new life as a singleton. But now I'm dreaming of a life outside the crumbling NHS so dabbling in entrepreneurship isn't a bad thing.  And, of course, I could do with the cash!

I wondered about diversifying and selling a wider range of goods and had a punt at buying some stuff other than jewellery.  It was difficult to part with this gorgeous 1960s Midwinter teapot with its design by Peter Scott but it made nearly three times what I paid for it.  However a punt on a couple of lovely party frocks has not paid off at all.  A beautiful silk mix beaded gown didn't sell for its starting price of 99p and I made a loss on another even though fourteen people were watching my auction by its end. I could throw good money after bad and see if I have better luck next time but I don't have funds to chuck about and really can't be assed to experiment further.

Even the thrill of making a profit on the teapot was subdued by the fact that I absolutely loathe and desist wrapping. With the bigger items there's plenty of that to do before they are popped in the post and there's the added worry that they'll break before reaching their destination .  So it's back to exclusively selling small sparkly things that can be slipped fuss free into a gift bag and padded envelope. Playing safe and sticking to what I know that I can sell for a profit and ship quickly is oh so totally boring but for now, it seems the best bet.

Monday, 12 November 2012

God Bless That Gorilla!

These are my good sturdy black biker boots bought nine years ago in TK Maxx for thirty quid when Louis was just a babe in arms - or rather one of those nifty slings.  They've been a winter wardrobe staple for nine years worn with leggings and both short and long woolly skirts.  After nine years of such loyal service surely they deserve to be put out to pasture?   And don't you think that I too deserve a little retail therapy as a reward for for choosing something so cheaply that has given me such long service?

Pah!  Not a bit of it!  Boots are made for walking not languishing lethargically in an unloved state in the bottom of a wardrobe.  And I got this pair as they were perfect; beautiful quality, the right shape and size of heel, colour, fit and length.  So I'm not going to let them go that easily.  I've effected a repair with the wonderfully named Gorilla Glue, dampening each surface as per the instructions and smearing them with a super thin layer of stickiness.  Then I left them to fix wedged under the bed leg for the day to provide the weight required to set.

The result?  Well it's not really going to come as a surprise.  After all they weren't going to turn into a frog or anything.  I'm not a magician.  No, I've got a repaired  boots that, after a bit of a polish, will be ready to step out again with its counterpart for another few thousand miles.  Maybe they'll last me another nine years when Louis might be at university!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Brilliant Bargain for Budding Scientists

Just very occasionally one of those 'rare as rocking horse droppings' metaphorical  free lunches comes along - even though established wisdom states that there is no such thing.  And I think I've found one today whilst scanning the web pages from today's Observer,  a pant wettingly exciting offer from top universities in the world! Do you fancy studying a course at Stamford, Dukes or maybe Edinburgh?   Well, just investigate Udacity and Coursera, sign up for one of their courses and get learning at degree level.  It won't cost you a bean, unlike those preposterously priced programmes which are now the norm at UK universities!

Currently it seems that the emphasis is on pure and applied science courses so they're likely to appeal to those who hanker to don a lab coat and safety goggles.  However there are a few offerings for those with a more arty farty or philosophical bent.  And this is an evolving idea for promoting learning for all. Who knows how it might grow and grow and give traditional and increasingly expensive traditional ways of learning a run for their money in the near future!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Murmurations to Die For

I wish that this video was mine but alas I've stolen it from YouTube.  Despite the best laid plans of mice, men and mad OTs, I am camera-less as my back up battery is as dead as a dodo, a flightless bird that couldn't murmurate if it tried!

My ideas for this trip to Brighton included visiting the famous sights, a bit of vintage shopping and lots of eating, drinking and merriment whilst catching up with family.  Little was I to know that I was going to realise one of my ornithological dreams and see one of these fantastic starling formations off the end of the pier!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Fancy a Good Read?

A good day yesterday seeing the sights in this seaside city. The Royal Pavillion, of course got a look in and I had a wander down here.  As a Southend girl, used to jaunts down the longest pier in the world, I found Brighton's version a bit stubby!

Anyway this is a cultural city so I thought I'd mention a favourite author of mine who hails from these parts.  Aha you thought that I was going to say Grahame Greene didn't you?  But no,  Patrick Hamilton gets my vote for his dark brooding style of writing about psychopaths, prostitutes and other miscreants.  Try the  Gorse Trilogy set in the city if you're stuck for a good read!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

In Bed With Janet!

Yay!   I had a teensy bit of leave that I didn't need to use up on our travels in school holidays.  So I decided to treat myself to a mini-break and go someone in Britain that I'd ne'er visited before.

After work yesterday evening I headed off and arrived  in a place that I've never visited before.  I've got Janet, my sister in law, in tow for company and we're visiting my niece and her boyfriend who live way up a big hill where we've parked the car - for free of course.  Don't want to waste pounds that can be spent far more meaningfully on having a good time!

Now we can't afford anywhere fancy so I'm making up for a youth that should have been spent travelling around the world and inter railing. In those days though I was too timid for the challenge.   We're in a hostel and it ain't half bad.  A bathroom outside the door, an attic room to ourselves, use of a kitchen, breakfast included and all for the bargain price of  £100 each in one of the most expensive cities in the UK.

So where are we?  Brighton of course!  And this is not some photo I've nicked off the Internet.  It really and truly is the view from our window.  Kipps Hostel  is slap bang in the centre of the city right opposite the Royal Pavillion.  It couldn't get any better.  Even the posh Grand doesn't have this vista.

So what to do, what to do.  Well, there's plenty to see, a plethora of charity shops and a friend to catch up with after more than twenty years. So let's get up out of bed, off that computer, have some tea and toast and get going!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Better than A Bubbly Bath?

For some reason having a hot bath doesn't  relax me at all.  I like the idea in principle but when it come to the crunch I get all hot and bothered.  Instead of languishing in  soapy lather for hours I'm leaping out of there in about five minutes. That's a bit of a waste of water now I'm on a meter.  Floatation tanks work better as  a stressbuster except  when I came the nearest ever to having a proper real live  panic attack in one.  The therapist forgot that I was in it and I was left there for a good hour over my intended session time wondering  if I'd taken leave of my senses and lost control of time.

What else works?  Well, a bit of meditation  wine in moderation, reading,  massage, comedy, being swathed in fluffy stuff, lying with the sun on my face and a nice cuppa.  I'm coming up with a list after a particularly stressful couple of days and it's as good a time as any to remind myself that there are things that damp down my overactive mind at its most agitated.  So when  trying to find an idea for a post for today I was pleased to find what is purported to be the most relaxing piece of music ever; Weightless by Marconi Union that was created in collaboration with sound therapists. I'm happy to say that it does the trick for me  so will definitely be something  that I'll be adding to my stress busting toolkit.  Follow the link and discover whether it takes you off into a sea of calm or is my own equivalent of a Radox bath!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Posh Peelings

This is Salty Dog, one of my closest friends.  Not that we live in each other's pockets mind you.  I only see her a couple of times a year.  She spends the rest of her childless existence sailing the high seas in the Carribean and the Med and only makes brief sojourns back to Devon every six months or so. Me, I volunteer for the PTA and sew badges on cub uniforms.  I'm sure that you'll agree that's far more piratical and rebel rousing.

The various jobs that Salty Dog has had on boats include slaving away in the galley. catering for posh American people who give her enormous tips for the privilege. So when she came to supper she was all too keen to help with the cooking.  Now I thought that I'm not all that wasteful when it comes to food but she showed me how to take thrifty eating to a new and unexpectedly delicious level.  She washed and shallow fried my vegetable peelings and sprinkled them with seasalt to make a tasty and nutritious pre-dinner snack that she'd served to those seafaring guests.  And why not?  Most of the goodness is reputedly in the skin of fruit and veg after all..  Goodness knows what she's doing with the carrot peel in the sieve here though.  Dangling it over a pan of boiling chickpeas is not part of the  procedure.  Then again, I'd had a couple of cook's glasses of wine when I took the picture and failed to notice that she was doing something strange.

For those of you who want to take this idea further, follow this link.  You may never see fruit and veg food 'waste' in the same light ever again!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Scary Stitches

Now the details of my felting course are going to fall off the end of my weekly posts today and it would be nice to say that I'd done a whole lot more crafting.  Have I heck!  As usual there's been too much else to do, which has including resurrecting my Tiny Business, this time secondhand finds other than jewellery.

But I thought I'd show you something creative to brighten your day.  What's more it's something that I'm not tempted to reproduce myself.  I'll leave that to all you clever souls who're a dab hand with the knitting needles.  It's not my thing - too slow and I always had a problem with tension.  Plus the fact that I'm left handed which  makes initially enthusiastic teachers shy away and rush for the gin  once the immensity of the task in hand dawns upon them.

Anyway, I spotted these brilliant knits in the Guardian the other day.  I normally like to ask permission before I use other people's photos but I thought that if I gave the article and the book a plug then I might not get into too much trouble.  There's plenty of time between now and next Halloween to get cracking and produce all the scary things Hannah Simpson's Evil Knits: 20 Projects That Go Bump in the Night.  There are freak show finger puppets, a Kracken tentacle and, of course, a voodoo doll to tempt.  But my personal favourite?  Well it has to be this shrunken head in a jar!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Don't Take Your Son to the Car Boot Sale Mother

My house has turned into a tip, the peace has been shattered and there are far too many lights on.   And I'm loving it.   Why?  Because Louis has returned from a week away in Greece with his dad.

Foolishly I allowed him to sleep in my bed last night.  How a nine year old can take up so much space and manage to kick me in the head in the middle of the night is beyond my reasoning power. For the second Sunday in a row I didn't have a lie-in.  To make the best of a bad lot we headed early off to the car boot sale in Newton Abbot to snaffle some bargains.

I loved this charming Portuguese hand painted plate was just about to proffer the one pound asking price when boof! my son started to haggle for it.  He cheekily agreed on fifty pence.  'Can I buy  it off you?' I pleaded.  'We'll talk about that at home' he replied.

Anyway now it's mine although not without a tussle.  I beat him down from a ridiculously high starting offer of a tenner, stuck to my guns and got it for two pounds.  That's still 100% more than the price I could have paid if I'd have been a bit quicker than my wheeling dealing son.  Serves me right for encouraging entrepreneurial skills at such a tender age!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Thought for the Day: There May Never Be a Rainy Day

A fair few of the people who arrive at this site come from the frugal, thrifty community. Instead of finding a kindred spirit finding innovative ways  to save every penny they'll instead discover a seemingly wayward spender. Impulse clothes purchases, meals out, running a motorhome, skiing, posh perfume, luxury nosh and art acquisitions have all been featured  Tut tut,. I don't know.   It might make some wonder.  Shouldn't lovelygreyday be a shopping blog instead?

So, today I thought I'd give you my philosophy on spending.  It'll have to be quick though because I want to get out and hit the charity shops!!!!  My work involves encountering  far more personal crisis than most.  I'm all too aware that ordinary people's best laid plans can be ruined at the drop of a hat by sudden illness, accident or other catastrophic event.  I think others in healthcare are all too aware of this too.  It may be why nurses have a reputation for partying harder than most.  So whilst I budget ahead and save when I can,  I also spend some of my money on things that I enjoy on an ongoing basis.  And to help fund this I scimp on stuff that I  personally view  as unnecessary -  haircuts, make up, heating the house when I'm not in it, designer stuff for a nine year old.  Each of us will have our own unique list. This spending vs. saving balances seems a pragmatic stance.  There may never be the envisaged rainy day or super sunny ones either!

Friday, 2 November 2012

You Choose!

Right! its November so the well organised among you have my permission to seriously think of Christmas and finish off the shopping that you've been doing all year before the masses start their orgy of reckless spending.  If you're stuck for a present for a little'un, let me suggest  'You Choose! ', a book that provided entertainment for Lou and me for many years.  There's a myriad of  scenarios where you have to make your preferred choice.  I'm not explaining this very well so let me show you what I mean based on the pages from the book.  But instead of using the zany illustrations from the book to help me imagine having anything I wanted here are the photos of my true life objects of desire!

If I could go anywhere it would be around the World of course but I'd make a special stop off at Easter Island.

Q:  Who would I like for family and friends
A:  Well the ones I've got already will do quite nicely but if I had to choose another, maybe they'd be someone who's  a great cook, made me laugh and helped me to dress gorgeously.

I'd choose a home like this Art-Deco one in Brixham that is on the market for the meagre price of £600K.

Photo: Floatguru

There would definitely be a floatation tank in it.

My preferred transport would a motorhome of course.  This Burstner Ixeo IT666 would do rather nicely!

When I got hungry there would  be chocolate, ice cream and perhaps a blooming great assiette de fruits de mer - delivered by a high speed service from Brittany of course.

What would I wear?  Blimey this was harder than I thought!  I think that it would pretty much be the same, mostly secondhand stuff sourced from Ebay and charity shops but with the odd bit of couture thrown in!  Like this divine Caroline Walker evening dress.

And for shoes, how about these kangaroo stilts. They'd go well with the dress!

And to top it all off the hat would have to be pure Carmen Miranda.

Photo: Diliff

The book encourages me to get myself a pet....or two or three or more. Let's just be content with a colony of koala and a eucalyptus grove outside the '30s home.

Ideal job?  Well I'm getting past the stage in my life where career ambition is paramount.  Perhaps employment as a hammock tester would be taxing enough!

Photo: Soljaguar

And what would I do for fun.  Well,all the things I do now; travelling, craft, seeing friends, reading, skiing,walking etc etc. I might try new things like scuba diving too.

Photo: Charlie Brewer

And finally when it was time for beddie byes I would have to be rocked to sleep by the waves in the berth of a boat.

So now.  What would you choose?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Perfect Bag?

For years I've been on a mission to find the ultimate stowage that works for me.  After experimenting with all sorts of handbags, rucksacks and things to organise the crap out of me, I've come to a conclusion.  I'm never going to keep a bag tidy and  more pockets just means that I've got many extra places to search for my phone, eye drops or whatever it is was I chucked in it earlier.  The simple Seasalt whale bag that I spotted on a wander around town a couple of years ago which was bought for me by Louise Tiplady, stonecarver extraordinaire and all round good egg, has been put into service for the last few months.  One large compartment with a single place to rummage for stuff.  Perfect!

The only problem is that it's hessian and not that robust. So I want to retire it and keep it as a decorative piece before it falls apart and looks really manky.  During a mooch around the charity shops in Plymouth I think I've found the ideal replacement made by a Australian company called Skipping Girl.  They sell these cute totes that are knitted from plastic yarn.  Even the lovely rope straps that are just the right length to carry on the shoulder, are covered with plastic tubing.  My lovely wave bag is just the right size for my lunch, purse, phone, camera, umbrella, my new felt pencil case and other odds and sods.  It's extremely robust and can be wiped down under the tap if it gets mucky.  Which I guarantee it will.  Mama Lovelygrey can tell you that I am a dirt magnet and could look grimy in three seconds as a child even if I was standing still and didn't touch anything.

These bags sell for $120 Australian dollars, the equivalent of about seventy five of your English pounds.  But the cost of this designer priced beauty to me? Just £4.  You can pick them up mega cheaply on Ebay too although not at the moment.  I've bought  up the entire UK stock.  Another in a different colourway for myself and two more to give as presents to friends!