Monday, 31 December 2012


It's that time of year when we all examine our navels.  Mine is clean and devoid of blue/grey fluff.  But how has my metaphorical belly button been in the last year?

Well, I thought that 2011, with  its episode of life threatening illness, was difficult.  But 2012 has turned out to be a toughie too.  I knew that marital separation wouldn't exactly be a breeze but there's been lots going on in the background that has added and added to stress levels.  Now I've stopped for a couple of weeks I've realised just how much tension has built up over the last 365 days.  Things have to change in 2013.

There's no big list of resolutions.  Instead I'm going to focus on getting the basics right for a couple of months; healthy eating, good sleep, exercise and maintaining work-life balance. Then once I'm back on track I can see what other stuff can be added into the mix!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

For Nana Lovelygrey!

In a weird, weird way this picture reminds me of Lou because he too sticks out his tongue when concentrating.  Luckily that's where the similarity ends.  He isn't yet balding, and, unlike his mum, does not suffer the inconvenience of being a leftie in a right handed world.

But I digress from today's topic. I've just discovered the Guardian's online crosswords and they're giving my brain a little teasing over my morning cuppa.  I'm sharing the link as a thank you to Nana Lovelygrey who reads my blog diligently and as such contributes towards my perky looking stats.  She loves a puzzle and I hope that there are others out there who also might like a nudge in the direction of a free bit of fun.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

More Clues!

Well, here I am transported to my childhood hometown, via the hour long traffic jam past Stonehenge on the A303.    No matter, for now I am in the UK's property hotspot, Southend-on-Sea where house prices have soared faster than everywhere else in the last year.  Everyone wants to live by the seaside, me included!

I reckon that this is a good time to disclose a few more facts about my imminent property purchase which yes, is also a coastal haunt.   Working in the prosperous South Hams blinded me to the fact that I could afford to live my dream of sauntering out of my front door and down to the coast with a cuppa.   And I don't have to resort to residing in the motorhome to do so.

So yes, my lovelies, I'm buying my own pad by the sea for I am more myself when I have ozone coursing through my veins.   The good news is that it's light, airy and spacious with plenty of room to swing any cat that might be passing, even a burly one.  It even has dedicated space for crafting.   There's sea views from the top floor and it's just a short wander down to a pictoresque harbour in a thriving community.   The baddish news?  Well, due to its geography I won't be able to move in immediately as it would disrupt Louis' schooling.  So for the first few years it will be rented out and bring in a steady income to offset my own rental costs.

More  titbits  in another post.  At exchange I'll  let you in on the location of my own potential property hotspot.     I'll also  give details of how  I've saved thousands of pounds in buying costs and the steps that I'll be taking  to make sure that being a landlord doesn't turn into a loss making nightmare!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Weird Pinkie!

I don't think that my size 7 hoofs would appeal to any foot fetishists out there.  When I used to walk barefoot around the office during hot summers one of my colleagues nicknamed me 'The Velociraptor! However, they're possibly of interest to podiatry students and those who need to illustrate a cautionary tale about what happens if you wear stupid shoes - even for a short period in your life.

It wasn't easy to find a name for my weird nail that grows upwards instead lying flat on my little toe but at last I've tracked it down.  It's called a 'ski jump' nail.  Try putting varnish on that!  The reason it's like that?  Well, apparently the nail bed follows the shape of the underlying bone which also curves upwards in a shape that would have Eddie the Eagle raring to go.

Those of you who are even slightly observant might notice that other things are awry.  That great big bruise on my big toe?  That's where I dropped my motorhome gas bottle on our summer jaunt in August.  When I did it the cussin' could be heard half way across France.  It's gradually moving upwards but I reckon I've got it as a bodily feature for another year.  That curvy fourth digit isn't conforming to its natural god given shape either.  It was deformed in my youth by unsuitable footwear.

But how can that be?  To my mother's dismay I have forever been a sensible shoe type of girl.  Clumpy she would say.  And therein lies the problem.  When I was young the normally sensible Mama Lovelygrey refused to buy me party shoes unless they were very high and pointy.  I succumbed just twice to this idiocy but no matter.  The damage was done.  'Pride feels no pain' she stated as she also pushed her own feet into impossibly cramped shoe beds.  I'm begging to differ here!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Post Christmas Peace

I think a day to myself at home alone is what I've needed for a very long time.  Littl'un is at his Dad's house no doubt chucking himself around whilst playing his new Xbox 360 Kinect games whilst I, on the other hand, luxuriate in glorious silence.  I've had a leisurely bath, read a book, supped cuppas and  marvelled at the blue sky that appears between those heavy showers that seem to have become the norm for the southwestern reaches of the UK. I feel like the Henry Thoreau of Devon but  British, female and I don't live in a wood.

I thought  I'd show you one of my tree decorations today.  It's made by one of my relatives, Crafty Tash who, if my recollection serves me right, stamped self hardening clay and then painted it when it had dried out.  Proof that handmade beauties don't have to take hours and hours to make.  Its message seems to fit the bill nicely today.  Let's hope that I can schedule a few more of these quieter moments into 2013 and beyond!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Mimicking Miranda!

My festive frolicking has been curtailed a little by a nine year old laid low with a stinking cold and my own emergent early symptoms.  Let's hope that a lovely glass of red wine might keep those lurgies at bay!  No comments from bright sparks please how alcoholic beverages may not be good for my immune system, recommending weird and wonderful, tried and tested natural remedies instead.  La! la! la!  My fingers are in my ears and I'm not listening to you. Now pass that Cabernet!

Along with the vast majority of the British public I've been indulging in a bit of seasonal telly watching.  For the first time I selflessly sat through an episode of  'Strictly' the height of cheesy viewing and found myself involuntarily enjoying it, though not enough to become a regular viewer.  Do you know that Papa Lovelygrey lived near Brucie as a boy and the local youngsters took the mick out of him for his penchant for tap dancing.  Now  I wonder who got the last laugh.

Finally, I've found something pant wettingly exciting on the British airways for this evening that I'm actually looking forward to.  The first episode of Miranda Series 3 is being screened on the BBC!  I'm sure the character is modelled on me as I am one of the clumsiest people alive, my life can sometimes seem like a charade and I do admit to fancying Gary, who in real life has a beautiful svelte wife rather than being attracted to us more rotund members of the female species.  But the main proof is that I'm a complete wet blanket when  it comes to coping with staying up late.  I so related to the episode in Series 2 where Miranda transformed into a complete wreck after staying up all night to match the staying power of  a younger woman.   As such I'm a little perplexed.  Why is tonight's offering being screened at 9 o' clock?  It will extend way past my usual bedtime!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Santa's Audit

Merry Christmas one and all! Now I know the important thing is, depending on our perspective,  that it is a religious festival, or a time for focusing on our friends and families.  It shouldn't be about consumer excess but you try getting that message across to the kids.  What they're all looking forward to, of course, is the presents.

So here's Louis' stocking that Santa Lovelygrey filled shortly after he went to bed last night.  Hanging it outside the bedroom door is, to my mind,  far better than the traditional end of the bed arrangement, a scenario that leaves frazzled parents staying up until the early hours of the morning waiting for hyped up offspring to doze off.  There's another bag of bigger goodies that's appeared under our tree too.

But was my hundred pound budget adhered to?  Thanks to Poundland, charity shops  and a three for two deal on toys at Tesco the answer is a resounding yes.  There's lots of that tat beloved of the younger age group as well as a lovely box of Lego, a bundle of vintage comic books and a strange flying saucer contraption.  And the thing poking out of the stocking?  Well, that's  the cocktail shaker Louis requested, kindly donated free of charge by a friend who had one lurking unused in the back of a cupboard.  Now the thorny question coming to my mind is whether we should stick to non alcoholic concoctions or teach a nine year old a skill that will hold him in good stead into his adult life - How to mix the perfect vodka martini for his mum?

Monday, 24 December 2012

Papa Lovelygrey's Sarfend Cream

When I rose at 7:40am there were nineteen things on my To Do List.  Writing this blog, lovely readers, is the seventh thing I've tackled from it.  We've rushed into Newton Abbot to collect a parcel, I've made a couple of call that can't wait until after Christmas, defrosting is underway and there's a stew in the slow cooker for tonight.  Did I say that I was on annual leave?

I've also knocked up an old favourite drink that my dear Dad, Papa Lovelygrey,  used to make at Christmas.  It's ideal for using up leftover whiskey, Camp Coffee and condensed milk!  Oh okay, you might have to pop out and buy some of the more unusual ingredients that don't feature in my list of store cupboard essentials.  But it's oh so worth it, to make Southend-on-Sea's answer to Bailey's Irish Cream that's just as nice and much less than half the price.

So after hunting around Asda for those elusive products of yesteryear, take a 350ml pot of single cream  (not the two you see here!), a generous wine glass of cheap whiskey, a tin of condensed milk, a lidful of vanilla essence and 2tsp of Camp Coffee, blitz it all with the hand blender.  Pour into a storage bottle and pop this elixir of Essex into the fridge. There's other recipes for this around on the Internet which talk about a shelf life for this product but believe me, in my house, it never stays around long enough to go off.

Apologies to all for the crappiness of my photos today.  I didn't realise that they're were lacking until after I'd downloaded them.  But hey, this is Lovelygrey Cottage not the home of one of those perfect Christmas hosts that you see on TV.  Sometimes there's no time for cosmetic niceties.  Right, onto task number eight.  There are toilets to clean!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Brian May of Pot Plants?

In the spirit of going gently on myself I had a day off blogging yesterday because there was too much else to do.  I could go all Christmassy but my own preparations and celebrations really aren't very different to everyone else's.  Instead I'll share the touching story of Mr Anonymous from Guyana's pot plant.

Until three or four months ago, he languished on a shelf in our office, not Mr AfG  that is, but 'Brian' in case there's any confusion. To tell the truth,  I hadn't even noticed him.  Then Mr AfG decided to lavish some TLC which consists of lots of direct sunlight, correct watering, early morning morale boosting chats and leaf stroking.  All that attention has yielded a thriving specimen, which we believe from a bit of research is related to Tradescantia, the dubiously nicknamed Wandering Jew plant.   I wonder what the equality and diversity bods might have to say about that.

Anyway I think that this plant is the spit of the guitarist from Queen and in an attempt to conjure up some cheesy puns I've been trawling through Wiki's list of the group's songs.  But alas  this was in vain.  The best I can do is 'I'm going slightly mad' which is pretty darn poor.  Perhaps a reader will have a better idea.  Mr AfG takes umbrage with the fact that I've given the plant a male name as he's insistent it's a girl.  So out of respect for his wishes I've renamed named 'her'.   So gather round and admire the Anita Dobson of pot plants!   Mr AfG  has said that I can take a cutting in the New Year as long as I ask her permission.  My hopes are high that by giving it the same considerate treatment I'll be able to grow my own little Brian!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Dear Santa.....

......May I have one of those metal things that you put ice in and  mix drinks for the grown ups.  Could I also have all the bottles that I need to go with it?

Lots of Love

Aged 9

PS from Mum:  This is for real. He really has asked for this!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

2013: The Rules

Here's something from my recent trip to the home of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, a glorious driftwood boat by Kirsty Elson  whose website is a wealth of highly covetable reclaimed and hand crafted objects.  But alas, 'Chucky Boat' is off limits for me.  For I have decided to start my spending plan for 2013 early.  In doing so I'll avoid the temptation of all those Christmas and New Year Sales.

So here's a spending that is completely off limits for the next 387 days.
Blimey!  So what is allowed then.   Well, quite a bit really.  Lovely food, presents for Louis and others, holidays,socialising, craft courses and  pictures and wallhangings to fill some empty gaps. But I'll make sure that at least 50% of stuff that is not on the forbidden list is sourced from local suppliers.  And I'll consider secondhand and recycled goods before new items.

So what's all this is aid of.  Well, with a new house purchase around the corner, I'm hoping that at least £3000 can be saved that can go towards mortgage overpayments.   And time, usually spent trawling shops and car boot sales may be used for more productive purposes.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Three More Days to Go!

I'm surfacing late at the moment.  It was seven this morning when I left the land of Nod after a night where there was at least one long wakeful period.   These spells of insomnia come and go but leave me shattered.  And there's a touch of inevitability about them. They occur when I'm busy, busy, busy and there's too much going on in the old noggin.

But there's light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm off work for a fortnight at the end of the week, the first absence of length since August.  Shall I use the time to engage in revelry of a massive kind and deplete those energy resources even further?  Maybe the quiet-ish time that I've got planned is going to be a much better way of see out the Old and bringing in the New.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Everyday Story of Frisky Farming Folk

This is a heartfelt plea to the producers of the Archers, that long running BBC Radio 4 Soap.  Please could the characters stop sowing their wild oats on the airwaves and instead concentrate their effects on improving the crop yield in the the fields around Ambridge?  The programme that started its life in the '50s as a means of disseminating information to farmers now seems to be a cauldron of muckiness and innuendo  that make Carry On films seem like arthouse productions.

Now, regular readers will be aware that I'm no Mary Whitehouse.  As such I'm not adverse to a bit of smut but it's the toe curling awfulness of  execution of the scenes in the Archers that I object to, not the principle.   If there are radio awards for bad sex in 2012 the series could win them several times over  As if Chris and Alice's huffings and puffings  in the forge earlier this year weren't bad enough, I've now been subjected to both the  lustful groans from Lillian and saucy talk from Mike and  pregnant Vicky all rolled together in one fearful episode.    Bring back the advice about removing stones from hoofed feet or  tips on how to win a ploughing contest that those producers of old envisaged!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Babar Baubles

It is my firm belief that Christmas trees should not be swathed according to the latest trend. Instead  their decor needs to evolve as the years goes by. Trinkets rediscovered from their storage box in the loft  are able to take their rightful place alongside one or two new carefully chosen or made dangly companions.  There is no place for the whims of fashion in this special annual ritual.

My new guise as a singleton has left me bereft of baubles. those collected over a twenty one year old period that used to jostle for branches have been left in my former marital home.  So, I have to start afresh, a situation that it is pretty much a metaphor for 2012.

So this year's tree has a far sparser minimalist feel to that I've been used to.  There's a few decorations that I bought from the craft stalls at the Scout Fayre, a bit of tinsel of course, a star for the top and  lights.  White twinkly ones would have been my aesthetic preference but Louis wanted blue and hey! its not a life or death choice so I succombed to nine year old fancies.

And I'm making these  paper baubles aided by a tutorial from the Guardian.  Easy-peasy and effective but definitely not for those who regard destroying books as a mortal sin.  I may be condemned to bookworm hell for cutting up two mini Babar books and a compendium of nursery rhymes but I'll take my chances.  The chosen victims of the sharp scissors were tatty cheapies from the charity shop.  It's not like they were first editions or anything.

I'm hoping that my childhood inspired trinkets will be robust enough to last for many Christmases to come.  Who knows what homemade goodies will join them over the years. These little parcels are guaranteed not to make it past Twelfth Night.  Their survival to Christmas Eve could even be threatened.  They're my take on tree chocs.  No low cocoa content nasties here.  Each little foil wrapped present contains a treat sized bar of Green and Blacks!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Question for the US?

As in the run up to every Christmas, Louis is really, really bugging me at the moment.  I blame the school where the hype for the festive season starts in November.  But I am truly thankful, that unlike parents at Sandy Hook  in Connecticut, I still have a kid to annoy the hell out of me until the 25th of this month and  on a regular basis for many years to come.

Now gun crime is rare as rocking horse dropping in most areas of the UK and I'm going to cite a piece of wholly unscientific evidence from my profession as proof.  In my twelve years of practice as an occupational therapist I've come across one person that I've treated as a consequence of a bullet wound, a guy out hunting who'd accidentally shot himself in the leg.  Contrast this to the experience of  a friend who went to work in a hospital in a quiet part of the States who found that dealing with injuries caused in this way was a matter of routine.

So I'm asking the people of America, a country that I know and love to bits,  'Do you really need your liberal gun laws when there is so much tragedy associated with preserving this right?' And to all those parents, who will no longer be tearing their hair out as the season of peace and goodwill gets rather too exciting for the little people, my heart goes out to you.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Billy No Best Mates

I've been rejoicing lately that I don't have a clique of friends with whom I do the majority of my socialising.   My mates are a diverse bunch, and a few of them are scattered across the globe.  Some are work colleagues that  I see almost daily but there will come a time when this will not be so.  I'll  get together with others quite regularly and then there are those who go on and off the radar.  Months or years go by and then they pop up again and we'll spend time together, hours or even a couple of weeks away on holiday.

What I like about this arrangement is that there are a group of people who I reckon that I could rely on to be there practically and emotionally for me when times are hard even if they are half way across the globe.  I hope that they know that I provide the same service for them!   But this is a 'no strings attached' arrangement.  They're free to do what they want with who they want at any time at all.  The green eyed goddess never rears her head because they're doing something with someone else.

Friday, 14 December 2012

If It's Too Good to Be True?

Right the house buying updates are going to get a bit boring now as I'm going to have to involve those men in suits, the financiers who'll give me a mortgage and a legal bod to see the process through from start to finish.  Yawn!  Somehow thrifty living seems much more interesting when you're saving a few pence doing something with clothes pegs or sticky backed plastic.  But I'm going to have to cover this because potentially there's three figure sum savings to be had.  Enough indeed for a ferry crossing to Brittany in 2013.  That's got to be worth it.

I was told excitedly by 'Model Student', my much loved protegee who sadly left her clinical placement yesterday, that she had paid just £600 for her conveyancing costs.  Six hundred quid!  Surely it's just a matter of a bit of form filling?  Could I do it myself and even treat us to a cabin upgrade as well?

Let me say upfront that I didn't even contemplate this. I've got enough stress in my life without plummeting myself into unknown legal territory.  There's an excellent website The Advisory give impartial advice for home movers that has an article setting out the pros and cons of DIY conveyancing if you're in the same boat.  Instead I've turned to online businesses rather than the high street as it seems that there is a considerable saving to be had by letting somewhere I'll never meet tackle the work.  Some of these faceless dudes are even  advertising a rate of £99 plus VAT.

In the end I've gone with a company costing three times this amount but half Model Students bargain price. I haven't thrown caution to the wind and been swayed exclusively by price but read reviews before making my choice.  A 'No Sale, No Fee' agreement also was a deciding factor.   I'll let you know at completion if my still ultra cheap legal fees were, in fact too good to be true and divulge the name of the chosen firm whatever the result!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thought for the Day: Always Expect the Unexpected!

Here's a picture doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment that I thought I'd share.  It made me smile and I hope that it will remind my fellow control freaks out there that you can't engineer everything precisely!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

No More Bowls

Following on from yesterday,  where I scared one reader, Andrea, into thinking that I might be contemplating naturism, I'm going to share another of  my weakness which is going to be off-limits for 2013.  I will not be buying ceramics, glass or anything else that has to sit on a shelf or other flat surface.  There are good practical reasons for this in that I have run out of space to display them.  But I must say that it's a darned shame that this resolution comes just when I've fallen  hopelessly in love with another craftman's work

I popped into the Devon Guild of Crafts for their Make Exhibition on Sunday  and found these dishes by David Ashby, a potter who hails from up North,  to be right up my street.  They're witty, beautifully crafted and the colour palate is sublime.   There were mugs too but darn it! I've got enough of those as well.

So for now I'll just have to use them as a design source for something that I will make myself. I'll take inspiration from them when I go on my next felting course with Rosy Tydeman sometime in the New Year.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

2013: No More Clothes!!!!!!

I just lurve Seasalt clothing and because of that avoid their Totnes shop like the plague on my lunchtime forays up Fore Street.  There's a danger that I could go mad in there and buy half the stock. Not a good idea when I want to maintain my travelling lifestyle of the four holidays a year that I've become accustomed to. And buy the house of my dreams as well. Thriftiness is all about making informed choices and prioritising spending on the things that personally matter the most.

This season I've been a good girl and resisted.this Cornish retailer's wanton charms...until now.  The knitwear is reduced at the moment.  So I've treated myself to this early Christmas present that  I've coveted since my last naughty visit which I just knew would expose me to unbearable temptation.  It will go so well with all my nautically striped clothing and the understated motif is much nicer than all those ironic yuletide knits.

But that's seriously  it now.  No more sale buying, charity shop rummages, Ebay bargains, fabric for Mama Lovelygrey to rustle up my own designerwear or sneaky clothing purchases in any shape or form, online or in person.     This year has been expensive what with moving house and all.  So,  I'm currently drawing up a list of spending that will be totally off limits in 2013  with a view to replenishing the piggy bank and making some serious overpayments on the new mortgage!

Monday, 10 December 2012

£100 Challenge: £69.50 Left But......

....I've changed my mind as is the perogative of every man, woman and child out there!   And beasts too for that matter.  Good news for any fickle moggies out there!

A couple of weeks ago I set myself the task of buying replacement bedframe, sewing machine and vacuum cleaner for a mere £100.  A day into the challenge two items had been ticked off the list.  My lovely 'new' Dyson DC03 was secured from Ebay for a mere snippet over a tenner. Then the question posed to my work colleagues 'Does anyone out there have a sewing machine that they don't want anymore' yielded this hardworking beauty.  I beat up the asking price of a tenner to twenty pounds in fairness to the seller, a process that bargain hunting Louis finds totally inconceivable.

Now it would be very easy to buy a bed for less than the remaining £69.50.  There's a lovely iron one in Plymouth on Ebay at the moment with an asking price of fifty quid.  But I've been having a good, hard think and decided that with limited storage  what I'd really like is an ottoman bed.  Then I'll have a home for all my camping gear which is currently house in random places including the motorhome.   As the proposed Lovelygrey home doesn't have a loft my need for clever hidey holes just won't go away spending the extra now might just be a good long term investment.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Railly Good Gift

The newspapers are full of ideas for Christmas gifts at the moment but I think I'll pass on the Lion Dung Cat Repellent that I spotted in the Telegraph.  I don't go much on the moustache doormat recommended by the Independent either. Isn't there enough tat in the world already?

One thing has caught my eye in passing  though. It could be the ideal solution  for friends and family with wanderlust or for those who need a gentle nudge in direction of greener and more sustainable living.  Did you know that for the humble price of £26 you can buy a railcard for seniors, students or those who regularly travel with kids as a gift card?  A  year's entitlement to a third off all adult fares and 60% reduction in ticket prices for children means that the cost of journey's when booked early is cheaper than filling up the car with petrol.  And less CO2 emission too!  That's got to be better than the ubiquitous Christmas jumper or a novelty pair of Christmas socks. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Snuggly Sleep Forever

I think about death perhaps a little more than the average Josephine Public because of the nature of my work that brings me into contact with people at the end of their natural life.  For many, I privately jump for joy when they are released from the tortured state that dementia can sometimes bring.

And I contemplated my own journey away from this mortal coil briefly when very poorly last year.  I wasn't  the only one.  Louis asked  if he could turn me into a mummy if I died.  I blamed the school and their Egyptian themed term for that  rather bizarre request.

I've no intention of departing this earth in the near future. There's far too much that I want to do down here.  But if I did have to go up to my cloud in the sky I'd like to be wrapped in this cosy cocoon by local feltmaker Bellacouche.  So much cosier than a coffin..  And as I discovered in a pop up shop in Totnes yesterday, they make tea cosies too!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Lidly Didly

Lidl is foodie heaven at the moment.  No wonder it was busy. It's so mesmerising that I forgot the plain flour that I went in for and bought this lot instead.  There's a bit of an anti-pasti meat platter and sweet toothed thing  going on.  And there's more to tempt.  Lobster, quail, scallops, cocoa, continental cheeses, dusted nuts fine-ish wines......the list goes on and on.  I almost succombed to the Siberian reindeer steaks but realised that spending could get well and truly out of  control so stopped.  I may have to try them out when I go back for my flour!

There was one more purchase that was not as impulsive or  barking mad as it might initially seem.  When it comes to perfume I'm normally a Chanel girl.  No 19 or Cristalle Eau Verte are my favoured smellies and my current bottle only has a week or two's life in it.    So I was intrigued by signs in the store highlighting the fact that the naffly named 'Madame Glamour' had surpassed Chanel in sniff tests where it was likened to Coco Mademoiselle.  Were those 'guinea pigs' blinkered and does it, in reality, smell like a rat's armpit after a couple of hours of wear.   No it doesn't.  It last for ages and is bloody lovely.  A high accolade indeed from a previous fragrance snob.  The downside?  Well, the packaging isn't exactly high end but for £3.99 vs. my usual £50 spend, I'm happy to put up with it.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Fingers Crossed

Now I've said before that things have been bubbling on behind the scenes in my busy little life that have made it even more hectic than usual.  Today, because of   excitement overload of the highest order, I cannot stop myself from making a partial disclosure about one of these.  The story will unwind as events unfold and hopefully come to fruition early in 2013.

Yesterday, just as I was leaving work, I had an offer accepted on a house.  Not just  a bog standard abode I'll have you know, but somewhere that will make a home that it would be hard to beat even in my wildest dreams!  Airy, spacious,  characterful and in the location that I never thought that I could afford, all at a bargain price.  It's not a wreck either.  The marquee floors are stripped and the marble work surfaces for perfect pastry have already been installed.

So, to avoid being gazumped by all my readers, that's all I'm saying at the moment.  If I tell you where it is you might all want it!  What I will start to share is the financial process of home buying in a thrifty way and saving on fees, mortgages and future tax bills.  There's thousands to be saved here.  And later on, when the sale is further down the line I'll let you know where it is that I'm going to live where its possible to buy into a super chic lifestyle on a budget!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Luxury of a Pile of Books

I treated myself yesterday to a  backbreaking  wealth of ideas that was well worth lugging to the car.  A little bit of self help, some gorgeous morsels to knock up in the kitchen, lots of crafts and one of the funniest books I've pondered over for a long time. Cool Camping is veritable eye candy indeed but  there's no way I'm going to be lugging a milk churn across a festival site just in case I need to put out my bonfire. The turntable too, for my cool vinyl can stay at home as well.  Ray Mears would have a fit at all this malarkey.  There's not even a whiff of Cath Kidston on his watch.

This pile of thrill generating loveliness would have cost a fortune on Amazon, even if I had resorted to the marketplace where there are bargains to be had.  But because my spree took place in the local library my pounds have  stayed firmly in my pocket.  Except for that twenty two pence fine because I took a book back a day late in spite of the online reminders.  Oops!  As for those  wild impulsive choices that might not turn out to be so good as they looked on the shelf, they won't be cluttering up Lovelygrey Cottage but will be winging their way back to the communal shelves at the end of the borrowing period.  Who knows? Some hapless bloke out there may  find packing strawberry lip gloss in his camp grooming kit really turns out to be a life changing experience!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Santa's Thrifty Little Helper: 10 Tips for Seasonal Savings

'Tis the season to be jolly!'  So jolly I will be.  But ending up broke and in debt after all the festive shenanigans isn't going to make me utter a cheerful Ho, ho, ho!'.  Boo hoo hoo! might be more appropriate if this were the case.  After all I've got the balance of a skiing holiday to pay in January.  So in the spirit of Christmas thrift past and present here's ten ideas for super savings at this time of year that I'm sharing with you.
  • Declare present amnesties with other adults.   Or do that Secret Santa thing.  But make sure that you research your 'victim' properly and choose something that they really,really want.  (A Spice Girl CD perhaps!)
  • Forgoing gifts just isn't an option for the kids but stick to strict budgets for their gifts.  Mine's been one hundred notes for the last couple of years for Louis.  The link shows how I managed this in 2011.  I'll be displaying this year's stash when my spending is over.
  • If you need to use public transport book early and choose your travel times carefully.  There's offpeak moments to be had during those peak period if you are flexible with time of day travelled.
  • Plan a menu and stick to it.   Make each member of the family responsible for bringing a course for all of those important meals.  Apparently I am the hors d'oeuvre queen this year!
  •  Don't overbuy and extend the festive season for days and days.  You really don't need a ton of cheese and chocs.  Both your waistline and pocket will thank you for this.
  • Unless you're a wine connoisseur, stick to budget booze.  Save the good bottles for days when they can individually be savoured alongside simpler fare.
  • Pick your panto carefully.  The prices vary enormously.  Look for super cheap am-dram events in a community hall near you or take advantage of the cut price dress rehearsal and charity performances in the big theatres that occur just before the main run.
  • Use the same decorations each year.  Add to your stash by making homemade or fete bought heirlooms that will last a lifetime.  And deck the halls with bows of holly and other greenery clipped from a wood near you!
  • Send cards second class rather than first.  A tip that used to save pennies but now with extortionate postal rates its a real money saver.
  • Skimp on wrapping paper and use newsprint, magazines and brown parcel wrap bedecked with a festive bow instead.  The look is far more sophisticated than you might think.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Loving Myself Up

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Mark 12:31
Today's post is based on the second commandment of Jesus.  'Blimey!' you might be thinking.  'What's up with her.  We've don't usually have religious stuff spouting forth from the realms of 'lovely grey day'.  My own faith beliefs are complex and were formed out of the experience of being involved in that particularly nasty breed of evangelical churches, prevalent in the 1980s, where teachings about the all encompassing love of God were  all mixed up with an over zealous emphasis on hellfire and damnation for a range of sins which could be as minor as wearing jeans.  It was all too much for an overactive adolescent mind and  left me, and a number of others that I've met, damaged for years.

This doesn't detract from the fact that Jesus, and yes others like the Buddha, Mohammed and other renowned teachers through the ages, have come up with some truly wise words.  Like the text above which is all too often cut off in its prime.  'Love thy neighbour' is advice of a high order indeed but this love for others needs to be coupled with self love to be truly empowering.

I often gently remind those frazzled carers that I come across in my job that they need to be looking after themselves in order to remain fit and healthy enough physically and mentally to be able to continue the tasks of looking after their loved ones with dementia.  Well, now I need to take a good old spoonful of my own medicine and heed two thousand year old wisdom too.   As I said before, volunteering has left me frazzled  and now the Scout Fayre is done and dusted I'm taking stock and giving myself a big dose of self lurve!

Fitting in all that stuff working for others has taken its toll and has meant healthy eating,  regular exercise and mindful contemplation have all gone to pot.   So, in order to rectify matters, a veg box has been ordered,  the running shoes have been dusted off and my meditation stool is at the ready.  I've got a truly relaxing fortnight long Christmas break coming up which I'm absolutely not going to fill up with mega-loads of commitments.  And I'm hoping that this will get me back on the straight and narrow of achieving that balance where practical self love is on an equal footing to that aimed at others.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Look Away Squidward! Calamari Perfected

Attention all seafood lovers! Do you realise that calamari fritti is a doddle to make.  Since discovering this life changing fact about a month ago,  this  snack has now become part of my regular homemade repertoire.  As Asda's freezer section has bags of squid tubes for a rather reasonable £4 they've taken their place proudly with baked beans, garlic, onions and rice as a valued store cupboard ingredient.

The Guardian, that trusty rag of pinko lefties everywhere, has been running a series of articles about cooking various dishes perfectly. They take a whole bunch of recipes from different renowned sources and then combine them to make the ultimate version.  You can follow the recipe that they suggest  which is rather good.  The slacker amongst you might  just like to pare it down and make Lovelygrey's less faffy version.

I just cut squid into half inch rounds, pat with kitchen towel until dry-ish and then dip in a mixture of half and half  of well seasoned plain flour and cornflour.  The luscious rings of loveliness are then fried until light brown in my smallest pan with about two inches of  hot sunflower oil in its bottom, drained on kitchen towel and then served with a bit more sea salt and whatever I've got in the fridge that might vaguely compliment them.  Lemon is a given, but this days little mouthfuls of plum cherry tomato complement the salty crunchiness nicely.

I leave the oil to cool in the pan and then strain in through a muslin.  It then can be reused again for a good couple of weeks worth of shallow frying.  This makes me wonder if so little oil is used,that this tasty meze staple might even be regarded as a low fat snack(!)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Exposed!: Mr Anonymous from Guyana

Ye protest too much Mr Anonymous from Guyana.  'Don't take a picture of me for your blog' he said, and then proceeded to pose with a cheeky grin. I have taken this as consent!

Here's he is, pictured with Svelte Support, our wonderful weight watching community worker, as he was the instigator of a shared 'Wellbeing' lunch at work.  We all brought contributions, mostly homemade. There were scotch eggs, coffee and walnut cake, vegetable pakoras, fruit salad, frittata, fatless sponge and cheese scones.  The list goes on and on.  My own offering? A celeriac soup which bubbled away in my slow cooker pot for the morning.  Here's the easy-peasy recipe.

As well as being a brilliant sharing experience there was enough food over for another  hearty lunch each.  I even squeezed a mug of soup out of the pitiful remnants in the fridge that were left on the third day.  And now the Social Services team are begging to join us too the next time.  Could this become a hospital wide event in a few months time?