Thursday, 31 January 2013

How I'd Come Down If I Went Up In The World

If my fortunes  were to change and I became super-rich overnight I'd probably leap at the chance of having a house built to my own unique design.  And to disprove the point that money can't buy happiness I would definitely incorporate a version of this amazing  youth preserving, joy giving slide/staircase combo into its structure.

Maybe my own would be a little funkier and less traditional  than Scott Jones' slide/staircase combo.  I'm thinking colour, metal and smooth slippery reinforced glass rather than austere and traditional mahogany.  Perhaps it could be much longer and housed in a tube that could encircle the entire building.  For now though, I'll just have to make do with my traditional 13 step straight run stairway.   Does anyone want to join me in sliding down the bannisters?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Dangly Make Number One

Even though I decided not to make any New Year's resolutions this year, I always want to be making more stuff.  So secretly deep down I'd like to finish a crafting project every month.  It looks like February is already the bag as I'm off on a weekend  printmaking course with Red Mel.  If you'd have asked me at the end of December I'd have said that that knuckling down to creativity in January would be tricky.  After all I had a very disorganised study to clear.

How wrong I was!  Once my workspace was spin, span and ordered I was off, though not in a way where I reverted to old bad habits.   I now tackle one thing at a time rather than having a plethora of half baked projects on the go all at once.  There's a shelf assigned where I keep the stuff needed just for the thing I'm working on.  Everything else is be tucked out of eyesight and temptation's way.

Yay! I've found a strategy that seems to work.  Last year I bought a couple of simple ceramic birds in a charity shop for £1.50.  Loosely inspired by Kirstie Allsopp's decoupage birdie  I thought I'd create something similar but decorated with mosaic rather than paper. My lovely robin, that Louis has caught me talking to affectionately, is the result.  And he's completely complete just before the first month of the year is over.

In the preliminary stages of construction, he was lucky to survive as I nearly threw it against the wall in frustration.   I usually use  PVA glue to stick mosaic tiles to their backing but this surface was too smooth and curvy for them to stay in place and they sort of dribbled off. That gravity thing is a bugger! Yet once I'd cracked open the superglue everything went tickety boo except  for a minor hiccup.  Now I have a pair of good quality Richardson scissors whose blades have inexpicably been welded together with the stuff.  Any suggestions to rescue them will be gratefully received.

By the way, birdie's beak was fashioned out of Fimo.  The poor dear's original one would have been nearly buried due to the thickness of the tiles.  For some reason that old joke about toothless budgies sucking seed is coming to mind.   Scrap Fimo was also used to make a seal for a hole in the bird's base which I then tiled over.   I'm kind of chuffed that the only expenditure that I incurred was £1.19 on a packet of white grout to which I added colour with a splash of Quink Ink.  All the other materials were things that I used up from around the house.

I toyed with the idea of making wire legs but don't really have flat surfaces available for displaying any more ornaments.  So I've made a hanger out of strong beading wire which is hidden away under the grout. There's a mad idea brewing, a sort of an all year round Christmas tree with lights, on which I can display crafts in different media, It would be like a 3D homage to a sampler but whackier.

Now what next?  There's another identically shaped bird that could well become a kingfisher.  Do I keep the mosaic stuff out to hand or shall I pack it all away for later on in the year and instead dig out the sewing machine and rustle up something fabric related just to ring the changes?   I promise you though, that in the meantime, there will be no posts about half made stuff.  You'll only see what I decided to do next once my work is done and dusted!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Why the Growly Voice?

Both me and Louis had a rare day off sick yesterday because over the weekend we shared  a D&V bug. Lou suffered symptoms at one end of the body whereas my own particular  bout of seasonal loveliness manifested itself at the other!  Enough said but it's  rather a good job that we have two toilets in the house.  On Monday we still felt queasy so didn't feel too guilty about staying at home for the 48 hour period that you're supposed to after being struck down by this particular kind of lurgy.   Safe and sensible advice indeed.  We don't want to spread our vile germs around a school and a hospital after all.

When I phoned up work to let them know that I wouldn't be in, I think I sounded quite perky.  My voice was its normal tone. That's because my throat muscles have in no way been affected  by gastro-intestinal problems.  So I'm at a loss to understand those folks, normally men, who call into the office, their gravelly and broken speech suggestive of having developed  laryngitis alongside anything else that might be ailing them, even if it happens to be a broken toe!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Striving for Fifty Percent

Photo: David Smith
As far as I can work out there are three main groups of frugalistas/thrifters.  At one end of the spectrum there are those, for whom penny pinching becomes an obsession.  This is rarely due to Scrooge-like miserliness.  Some are merely have the sheer determination to achieve a monetary goal such as paying off debt or a mortgage as quickly as possible.  Others want to stretch a very basic income to fund a particular enthusiasm  Of course, in these hard times, there are many who do not actively choose to live like this but do so out of pure necessity with little or nothing left over for fun and frivolity.

Then at the other extreme there are those who, financially do not have a care in the world but see themselves as thrifty because they like to bag a bargain.  Lidl at Dartmouth is full of them, whooping enthusiastically whilst filling the trollies with cheap lobsters and luscious continental chocolate, and then loading up the Merc after going through the till.  This group will seek out a free upgrade on a luxury cruise or proudly sport their Manolo Sputniks, or whatever they're called, bought for a fraction of the price that a friend paid.  Don't for a moment think I'm slagging this lot off here.  I take my hat off to anyone who thinks about how their pounds and pennies are spent,  especially if they don't need to at all.

At the very high risk of mixing metaphors, I'm firmly camped out with the lot in the middle.  My household income is slightly above the average which means that even after expensive rental costs there's some money to spare.  This is why I decided that my 2013 rules should encompass a clause stating that 50% of things I bought should be locally supplied.    A little more expensive maybe but lets use a bit of cash that's surplus to basic needs to fuel the economy for smaller businesses rather than the fat cats.   Hence the picture of my lovely friendly family run shop and post office in our village of Liverton.   It's a proper store which has a good selection of basics and a bit more at reasonable prices. I went the other day for milk and mushroom and ended up impulsively purchasing a beautiful bunch of purple sprouting broccoli and a couple of big fat cheese scones.

From a bag of an envelope type of mental calculation,  have to admit that my 50% rule is probably not being adhered right now.  It's just too easy to pop into a supermarket where everything is to hand.  I'm going to need a long hard look at how to achieve this.  Instead of it being an immediate course of action, lets make this a tricky target to be accomplishing by the end of the year.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Just Finished Reading: Capital

The fact that I'm regularly reading again after a long pause is a good sign.  I finished Smut by Alan Bennett over the Christmas break but can't review that here.  Mama Lovelygrey was beside herself with moral indignation  just after reading the book's jacket.  I have to admit that it's two stories were a lot more saucy than my innocent old mum could have handled!

Then I finished The Edible Woman,  the first novel by Margaret Atwood which I'd had on the go for a few months. I'll be honest and admit that I didn't like this book enough to devour it, like I did with her later published works. However, I didn't detest it enough to cast it to one side either.  Now, a few weeks on I can't remember very much about it at all.

Capital though by John Lanchester is a completely different kettle of fish  altogether.  I'd heard the author talking about his new novel on BBC Radio 4's Loose Ends and thought it sounded right up my street.  And by Jiminy, it was at the local library so I didn't have to sneak out and buy it, breaking my 2013 rules in the process.

In 2007 a card drops through each letterbox of a 'typical' street in London with the message 'We Want What You Have'.  The story that unfolds explores the lives of the people living and working on Pepys Road and what they really do possess.   Ultimately the mystery of who is sending the messages is, of course, solved.  Perhaps it appeals because my nosey side often wonders about what goes on in the homes of others.   Those seemingly identical facades on our estates house people with very different experiences within their walls.

I see that Capital is the number 1 bestseller in the fiction category at Amazon. And for those of you with a Kindle who live in England, it costs only 20p to download.  An absolute bargain!  For me though it's time to get my copy back to the library.  Let's hope the next borrower gets as much pleasure from it as I did.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Off Piste Purchases

I said that I'd 'fess up to any purchases that weren't food and petrol to keep me on the straight and narrow of spending.  I'm pleased to say that 'The Rules' for 2013 have not been broken.  No charity shop clothes, no books or any of the other stuff.  I'm especially pleased to have kept to my no lone drinking pledge as there's nothing nicer after a particularly stressful day at work than to curl up with a glass of white or red.  Now I just reach for the PG Tips instead!

So what have I bought that hasn't sent me to jail without passing go because of being 'legal'.  Well there's a clothes brush and battery charger for the motorhome.  Every so often I find that there's something, like these items,  that falls into the category of stuff that would have been lying around in my former marital home but I'd forgotten to buy when moving in.    I replaced my bathroom scales as my old ones kept coming up with an error message even after I'd changed the battery.  And then I broke a measuring jug and got a new one from Asda.  It was 35p, but as they say on the advert, 'Every little helps'.  Whilst there I bought a set of storage containers in their sale for £3 which have been jolly useful in helping  my study to remain spick and span.

And then there's this lovely crocheted blanket, my latest Ebay find.  The birdie cushion is one of my creations, finished a couple of years ago.  It sets it off nicely.   My latest heirloom wasn't cheap, with postage it came to just over seventy pounds, but it's king sized and pure wool.  More importantly it stops me embarking on another craft journey where I spend shiploads on courses, equipment and materials.  My blankie buying days are now done.  I now have sufficient to allow anyone who visits to keep toasty warm.  My guests can now snuggle on their own if they're reluctant to hunker down with me under the first granny knit that I purchased!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Costa Arse Over Tit

Do you remember the gorgeous gilet that I bought three months back?  Well, it's been out of service for the last month after I had a slippy accident.  Nothing that drying the mud completely and then attacking it with a clothes brush hasn't sorted out without the expense of a trip to the dry cleaners that I suspect many people would have made in a similar scenario.

This is the beach where it happened, at Shoeburyness, the easternmost part of the borough of Southend-on-Sea.  It's dead gorgeous and has an peaceful ambiance that's poles apart from the 'Golden Mile' of amusement arcades and razzmatazz a few miles further west along the coast.  'East Beach' is kosher public territory but this stretch of sand to its right?  Well, I'm not so sure.  Even though the Internet indicates it's a no-go area for the public, military land.  But the signage at its boundary is ambiguous, so Lou and I decided to have a poke around.

Perhaps the lack of a proper path down to the sand is a giveaway to whether you're supposed to be there or not.  Whoosh! I went over and got covered from top to toe in sticky reddish mud.  Hence today's title.  Any chance of sneaking my way into the life of the bloke in the covetable £600K modernist apartment who watched our antics with interest was out of the question.  Those types with swanky designer pads don't normally go for the mudlark look, especially in image conscious Essex.

this is Louis' booty from our trip.  Great big hulking bits of metal which must have reduced my mpg consumption on the trip back to Devon.  I hope they're just debris from wrecks. However given that the military heritage of the area and the fact that explosives are periodically dug up by unsuspecting bait diggers, I wouldn't be surprised if I returned home one day to find the side of the house blown away!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Pandora or Puss?

A friend of mine received this as a gift, a much coveted Pandora charm bracelet.  This mass produced leather and silver item retails for a cool £40!  After raw materials and minimal labour costs are taken into account, I reckon the purchaser paid rather a large fraction of his money over merely for branding.

I don't get why the tradename 'Pandora' is used either.  What's that all about?  According to the legend, when Pandora opened her box, a wedding present from Zeus, she let out into the world all the evils that it had been packed with.  Oh, and hope as well which is a good thing.  But I wouldn't want my brand to be associated with disease and poverty as well.

Let me show you something on Etsy that's handcrafted, made from the same materials that can be further personalised with charms and costs a similar amount.  And if this is not your bag there's plenty more unique pieces to choose from made by artisans around the globe.  To me something unique like this would be far more precious than a mass produced must have!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Back in the Swing: Intermittent Fasting

Isn't today's picture, courtesy of Microsoft, with it's patchworky, whimisical, folky feel lovely?  It could be me, in my teenage years before the old bonce turned its trademark grey.  Or maybe not.  I was going through my  adolescent angst period then and probably didn't look this carefree so often.

It won't come as a surprise to learn that I came off the intermittent fasting wagon just before Christmas.  With all that festive fayre it seemed rude not to. And now?  Well, I still haven't returned to my 5:2 diet yet.  Maybe it's this extended cold snap we've had.  I feel hungrier and perhaps my body is telling me that food as daily fuel is required.  I'm well aware too that this could  just be a feeble excuse.

Anyhow.....I'll get back to it in a couple of weeks.  Ultimately it's a way of eating that suits me, once I'm in the swing of things and join fellow foodie Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall who likes it too!  Another great benefit is that it cuts food costs.  Less calories to buy of course, duh!  And now I'm well on the road to getting the other basics for a healthier life right  it's starting to seem that there's an awful lot more time available, perhaps even enough to knock up some delicious restricted calorie recipes to tempt me back!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A Serious Injury In The Eyes of A Nine Year Old

This is the hand of Louis. On the way across from his Dad's house over the road yesterday he fell over and arrived at my door whining.  The tiny graze was trying to do its best to bleed but frankly was struggling at first base.

'It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!' he exclaimed.  And then to emphasise the point a little further, just  in case I hadn't heard the first few dozen times 'It hurts!'  I tried to give the matter the gravitas that he thought it deserved.

'Oh sweetie, that's look's dreadful! Come up to the bathroom and I'll give it a nice wash for you'.

What followed was  a fifteen minute tussle to persuade him to have the cut  gently cleansed whilst he jigged around in a resistive way.  'Aaaaah, it really stings!': 'No,no,no  you're really hurting me now'.   This ploy was effected just in case a Social Services child protection officer was within a ten radius to hear his screams.  I was silently thinking that anthrax might be a little easier to treat.

'Do you know what the name Louis means?' I asked him.

'Wuse?' he ventured. He was surprised to hear that it's actually 'Brave Warrior'.

After the entire pallaver was over Louis turned round to me and stated,  'I don't think you know what real pain is'.

'Oh but I most definitely do,' I replied, citing childbirth, a torn cruciate ligament and 2011's major medical emergency as pithy examples.  Louis looked at me pittingly.

'No.' he said witheringly as he held out his newly plastered hand. 'This is real agony.'

So it's official.  Boy pain is far worse than anything women could experience ever!

Monday, 21 January 2013

A Nice Clean Knob

Guess what I was doing at the weekend?  A few of the muckier minded among you may thing that I've got myself a fastidious new boyfriend but no chance!  There's no way I'm ready to share my life or living space for an extended period of time with any bloke except the little one.   Also if I was,  I wouldn't have a clue, except by using my acute sense of smell, of the state of his bits early on in a relationship.   So for anyone who's here because they've  found me on Google after searching for something completely different,  you're definitely in the wrong place.  You're very welcome to stay but bear in mind I'm a more puritanical than you'd hope to find.

No, what I want to talk about today is something far more satisfying - cleaning!  Actually I jest.  I hate housework but as I love a pristine house and don't have enough money to employ 'a lady that does', it has to be tackled.  My store cleaning products is relatively small - bleach, a multipurpose squirter, white vinegar, furniture polish, some cream cleaner  and biological washing powder tablets.

The last item is used sparingly, though, I hasten to add, not for laundering.  As I'm biological myself I find the residual enzymes in them make me itch though they're great for stubborn grease and stain removal.  Just dilute a tablet in hot water in the sink, stick your dirty knobs in there for about half an hour with the ironwork from the hob and the removable bits from the inside of the dishwasher.  After a quick rinse off you'll have grease free appliance perfection! 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Playing with the Shadows

Afternoon all! I'm having a lovely busy weekend but there's nothing of my own to show you at the moment.   However, I do want to bring the joy of artistic endeavour into your lives so I thought I'd share a piece of work by Raymond Crowe, an Aussie who calls himself an unusualist.  Every home should have one!

Extensive research - okay about ninety seconds - has revealed that Raymond is in no way related to the lush looking, but allegedly behaviourally challenged, Russell Crowe.  I'm sure the famous actor would have been  known as a more well rounded guy  had he have been brought up in the environs of someone zany enough to become adept at ventriloquism, shadow puppetry, magic and something called jacket dancing.  Lord knows what that is but I bet it would have sorted old Russ out.  Then again he might have gone off to be an overseas charity worker or something and I'd have never had the image of him in his gladiator suit to conjure up smutty thoughts!

Anyway enough of that!  Let's move onto the main nub of this post.  Just click on the video link below to see shadow puppetry of the highest order!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Hey Up!

It's that Lovelygrey again backtracking on things she said she's going to do.  Here she is less than a month in from making up 'The Rules' that were going to govern her spending into 2013 and now she's at home drinking beer on her tod.

But hang on a minute!  Look at the packaging of this Bavaria beer.  It's 0% alcohol.  Ha!,  my resolve is intact but there are moments when I get fed up of cuppas, squash, water, juice and fizzy pop and need something more adult and well - beery!

Now most of the alcohol free beers I've tasted before are revolting.  I'm including some big names in there too, like Beck's Blue, which has some good write ups but I loathe it.  This one though is far more acceptable.  When cold it's almost indistinguishable from those German lagers we know and love.  A slight hint of sweetness might be the thing that gives it away.  But hey that's not too bad and this comes from a woman who refuses to drink tea if it's been stirred with a sugary spoon.  I've just thought of another obvious giveaway too.  You can drink shedloads of the stuff without turning into a jibbering wreck and telling everyone that you love them.

There's a financial incentive too to choosing my latest choice of beverage.  They sell it in ASDA for £1 for four bottles.  For the mathematically challenged among you that's just a bargain 25p each!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

No Connection

The guilt pangs that post Christmas excesses bring mean that it’s prime time from health club recruitment.  Round here there’s all sorts of offers available to lure the unsuspecting blubberbuster into handing over  a big fat monthly sum in the form of a direct debit.  With no intention of signing on any dotted line, Mr Metrosexual, Barbie Doll and I went swimming at a swanky spa for a fiver last night.  To top off a cheap night out I came armed with a bag of stuff from the fridge.  Being careful not to let Mr Metrosexual see the mouldy edges I cut off a red pepper, I cooked huevos alla flamenco, Spanish Eggs as it’s known to Anglophiles, for him and his partner Ruff Stew.  I must post that recipe at some time.  It’s a good’un!

And so it’s just after 6am and I find myself tucked up cosily in Mr Metrosexual’s spare room.   Even though I desperately need a wee I’m crossing my legs as  I’m trying not to wake the sleeping beauties next door.  What’s more this is a Luddite neighbourhood.  There’s no Internet connection within range.  Mr Metrosexual is himself one of the few people under pensionable age who doesn’t have a computer in his home.  What’s more, my phone, which I can use as a dongle, is in the lounge.  To retrieve it would also disturb ‘mein hosts.  There’s no option but to work offline.

And how liberating that’s been!  Instead of being tempted off in every direction by all that the World Wide Web has to offer, I’ve been left distraction free.  Before writing this, I’ve added a few words to the novel and jotted down a few ideas for a scheme I’m brewing.  I might never have done this on a normal, wireless assisted day.   Might I deliberately disconnect myself from the Internet in the future.  Well, it’s a thought.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Joke

Q:  How do you turn a duck into a soul singer?
A:  Put it in the microwave until it's Bill Withers!

That's all you're going to get from me today, a silly joke for you to share if it made you titter.  I woke  late and am devoid of any other inspiration. And there's no chance of blogging tonight because I'm out with the gang.

Oh, and you get a picture of Bill Withers. I always thought that he was a white fella with a big beard.  Isn't it funny how wrong our imagination can be!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Spring Cleaned Room, Spring Cleaned Head

I've just left a message on Mum's blog  as she was reviewing how well she kept her New Year's resolutions in 2012 reminding her that I didn't make any.  Too many targets and goals are major stressors for me so I've cut back on lists, both in my head and wherever else I used to put them.  Instead I'm focusing on one or two things at a time, setting myself a generous deadline to get the job down..

Now I'm a messy mare but like to live in a pristine environment.  This mismatch can cause its own heap of inner turmoil too.  My study has been a no go pit for some time;  it looked like I was a contender for one of those programmes where a psychologist sorts out a severe hoarding habit.    Note the nifty use of the semi colon here.  I think I'm getting it!

So at the beginning of January I gave myself the task of spring cleaning my work space and assigned a leisurely month to do it.  By the 6th of this month it was done!  It's a pleasure to work in here now and I can put my finger on whatever I need in an instant because I know where everything is.  Louis' just asked for some squared paper.  'There you go son'.  It's with all the other stationery goods.

Time to move on more life enhancing tasks.  There's two projects to complete before my skiing holiday at half term.  I'll tell you about them when they're all done and dusted!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Hannibal Lector's Pork and Carrot Pasta

Apologies to all you vegans and veggies out there.  This post definitely isn't for you.  Neither is it for those who are even vaguely squeamish. But for the extreme thifter who isn't adverse to getting their protein from a bit of human flesh this may be right up your street.

I've made a version of this recipe before but I think the book from whence it came is back in my former marital home.  So this is my take on it, tailored to stretch three chipolatas that were left in the fridge into a meal to feed both of us.

Here's the ingredients for the pasta sauce which look fairly innocuous at this stage.  There's a chopped onion, a garlic clove, a carrot, dried thyme, meat from the three deskinned sausages, fifteen cherry tomatoes, tomato puree and about a third of a jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil that had been languishing at the back of the fridge for a while. I'm sure that a tin of tomatoes could be a substitute for the large three ingredients but I was on a 'using up' mission.    You'll also need, surprise surprise, pasta and a mugful of chicken stock made with a cube.  So here's the method that evolved.

  1.  Fry the onion and crushed garlic in a pan with olive oil .
  2.  Pop a pan of salted water onto boil..  
  3. Next grate the carrot.  Whilst doing this don't forget to catch your finger on the blades in the process to add some of that much needed extra protein.  There are only three small sausages after all.
  4. Rush up to the bathroom whilst dripping blood everywhere for a plaster.  Waste about three because the packets aren't made easy for an injured singleton to open on their own.
  5. Calmly add the carrot, a bit of finger and sausage meat to the pan.  Squish around with a spatula.
  6. Clean up blood dripping onto  the hob and floor and repeat step 4.
  7. Blitz tomatoe-y ingredients with about a teaspoon of thyme.  Here my preference would have been for sage.  It goes so nicely with human flesh.  But alas, there was none in the store cupboard.
  8. Add pulpy goo to the pan with the stock.
  9. Put the pasta on to cook.  I prefer penne to catch the sauce but it's up to you and the contents of your store cupboard what you use.
  10. Once the pasta is al-dente, or a bit softer, as is the preference in our house because we are plebs, drain it and mix it through the sauce.
  11. Serve topped with grated parmesan.  In performing this step you may add a little more finger to taste!

NB:  Human flesh optional!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Stack in Staffordshire

Little by little, step by step I'm starting to get the basics of life right.  My sleep has improved, my diet is getting healthier and occasionally I slip in a meditative state.  What I'm really the most proud of is that the reintroduction of regular exercise is going well.  In a week where I've returned to work after a break and the nights are long and dark I've managed a swim and two walks of over an hour's duration.  This is an achievement indeed after months where, due to pesky hormonal activity,  I was too tired to do very much at all in my spare time.

Today's walk was up in the Midlands as Lou and I were there for the weekend visiting friends.  Just thirty minutes  away from the hustle and bustle Birmingham there's a beautiful landscape to discover.  You just need a couple of  peeps with  local knowledge as guides and Bob's your uncle!

Pooley Country Park is a landscape that wouldn't have existed without the  mining activity which used to go on there.  The pools were created as a consequence of subsidence and the gurt big hill that this sculpture is on is an old slag heap!  I promise that the area is a lot more beautiful than it sounds.  This sculpture was commissioned by the council and was met with mumblings and grumblings from disgruntled residents who don't share my love of modern art and especially the costs of commissioning it.  Gold leaf: Buried Sunlight cost £110,000 and I'm not even sure that the artists,Dalziel and Scullion, have used colons correctly.  Surely it's name should be grammatically correct for that price!

Anyway I like both the art and the concept.  Each segment is in the shape of a beech leaf and the thousands of pieces represent the enormous amount of plant matter that went to make up the fuel reserves on the site.  It's just a pity that I'm now back in Devon.  It would have been great to return tomorrow to see what this golden tower would look like in the forecasted snowscape.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Ditch the Fruit Bowl

Here's my own fruit bowl that was bought for a snip from, yes, a charity shop.  I think I paid £3.50 for it. Mama Lovelygrey marvels at it.  She likes a bit of woodcarving herself, see this link if you're interested, and she's dead impressed that the whole thing - stand, handle, everything - is carved from just one flat piece of apple shaped wood!

Anyway, it's become redundant for the time-being, as a fruit bowl at least. For I've discovered that all my five a day essentials keep better in the fridge.  I had a pear yesterday that I bought over three weeks ago that was perfectly ripe and delicious.  Imagine how that might have been if I'd kept it at room temperature for that long. It would have been liquid by now, acquired mates in the form of insect life and would have been dragging its other fruity friends down with it!

I was inspired to write this post on hearing the news that over half of the world's food production is wasted.  A terrible figure!  Let's hope it contributes in a teeny tiny way to cutting this figure.  And to help you implement it yourself, here's  a link to an article written by people that seem far more expert on the matter than me!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Extreme Thrifting!

The story on the BBC website relating how  there are still 13,202 monochrome TV licences in force in the UK  caught my fancy yesterday.  There's me thinking that they didn't even exist anymore in this world of 3D HD and whatever other D manufacturers think of next!   But if you  have an extreme passion for old black and white movies,  crave the totally retro experience in your home AND want to save yourself nearly £100 per year in the bargain,  this is the extreme thrifting tip that you've been waiting for!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

There's a Flake at Stake

'Don't reward your child with sweets' is a piece of advice that I seem to remember from the child rearing gurus.  Presumably it was given to prevent our offspring turning into blubbery Bernard Manning lookalikes by the age of twelve.  But Louis is as thin as a rake and frankly, confectionery is one of the only things that incentivises him.

We've been going through a patch of tricky behaviour recently.  Being the mum of an only child, I am not sure if it's related to the SpLD diagnosis or just a general kid thing, but Louis has real problems in gauging if I am serious when telling him off. Even when I'm exhibiting unmistakable signs of incandescent rage like turning as purple as Barney that excruciatingly annoying dinosaur, it's lost on him.  We've tried lots of things including a hand signal to show that I'm serious.  That worked in the past but its effectiveness is wearing off.

So then we come on to punishment if he's overstepped the mark. Latterly he's adopted a blase approach to anything I've thrown at him.  'You might as well take all this as well.' he stated, whilst emptying his piggy bank, after I withdrew pocket money.  But I think that I've come up with a plan that he's engaged with and that might make a difference.  And sorry Supernannies everywhere but my scheme involves chocolate, though only eaten at specific times to minimise the impact of any behavioural problems that sugar ingestion may cause.

We now have a sweet tin each.  When Louis is good he is rewarded by moving things across to his tin.  If he misbehaves I can take sweets away.  Whilst in my tin there is a danger that a much anticipated choccy bar could 'disappear'.  I am punished by sweet removal if I swear or drive in a wriggly way,  acts that I committed simultaneously on the way home last night.   Sh*t!  Loss of two sweets including a viciously fought over Flake!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Damn my Decluttering Habit!

Now I don't have a lot of magazines lying around  as I'm really rather good, not only at blowing my own trumpet but of ridding my home of things that lie untouched for any period of time.   But if I did I'd hanker after this nifty storage solution that I stumbled upon that can be had by coughing up some wonga and sending it off to a German company called  Of course, any nifty crafters with impossibly small bottoms might  want to knock up their own version.  I'm seeing a pile of National Geographic Magazines with a zany '50s print cushion atop.  Or for those of us blessed with more amply proportioned buttocks, how about copies of the more generously proportioned Financial Times, its pink pages topped with a comfy monochrome seat?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


You can know things superficially or you can really KNOW them. I've had a revelation, not quite on the scale of olden days prophets  but it's a pretty big one.  Thankfully my awakening isn't of a quasi-religious kind.  I'm not going off to follow a small, but wise monkey god on a remote Indonesian island who demands that I worship him butt naked, dressed in only a fruity garland.  No, what has really dawned on me is that there are only twenty four hours in the day and therefore a finite amount of time to do things. Wow!

With this knowledge I've decided to pare back what I do to the absolute essentials, leaving gaps for the other things.    I wondered if this would make my life less frantic and ultimately more productive. But there's a rub.  Yesterday I decided to put this technique to the test but after feeding me and Lou, childcare, a bit of household stuff, work, putting diesel in the car and paperwork there was no time left.  Not a  sausage, not even a small cocktail one on a stick.

I'll continue my time and motion over the next week.  Today looks fractionally better.  At least I've had time for a morning cuppa and to blog. Yesterday I'd scheduled ahead and didn't even do that.  If this is a consistent pattern then life needs even more of a radical rethink than I thought.  I'll keep you posted!

Monday, 7 January 2013

This Is What I Should Have Had

My attempt to treat myself on Saturday night backfired.  The only money I spent all weekend was £7.50 on a very disappointing Chinese takeaway because I'd been out and felt too tired for any hot kitchen action.  I'd was hankering for Salt and Pepper Squid but alas, it wasn't on the menu.  So instead I settled for King Prawns with Mixed Vegetable in a Honey Sauce.  Sauce my arse!  It was more like ladleful  of stock made with chicken Oxo sweetened with a bit of sugar that did nothing to invigorate the sad selection of veggies.  Gok would be have been very cross.  I won't name the offending business as I'd never been there before.  Who knows they may have just been having an off moment with their wok.  Needless to say though, I won't be going back.

What I should have done was mustered up a bit of energy and made this  colourful, never to be repeated, panful of loveliness a day earlier.  It's  a stir fry of everything fresh and delicious that I had in my fridge.  The first portion was chucked into a tortilla to make my own version of a chimichanga.  The remaining bowlful that's sitting in my fridge will be used up in whatever way takes my fancy over the next couple of days, an eggy creation perhaps or maybe a side dish with some sausages. No, I think I've thought of the perfect use for these leftovers.  I'll have it with a honey sauce with some defrosted prawns!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Colons and Colons

Photo: Anatomist90
As I dislike learning by rote, anatomy and physiology never floated my boat  during  my time as an occupational therapy student.   And so it was when I presented myself with today's picture, a transverse section across the abdomen, that I mistook this person's right kidney for a rather large poo.  Thank goodness  that I never had an inclination to become a surgeon.   Who knows what I would have whipped out if I didn't have my glasses and some helpful annotation to guide me!

1 want to talk about colons today but not the ones that are a  feature of the human digestive tract.  No, I'm talking about that tricky little punctuation mark and its close relative, the semi-colon, a half brother in the grammatical world maybe?   Even though I was subjected to an ultra-orthodox 1970s  education, where  sentence analysis and construction was a key theme during English lessons, I've never used them.  Their purpose passed me by.  Until now that is.

I've 'stumbled upon' a brilliantly useful section of the University of Bristol's website which isn't at all highbrow and academic.  It makes understanding grammar and punctuation crystal clear.  Not only does it describe how to use the colon, semi-colon and other tricky nuance of the English language correctly, there are little exercises to test your learning.  So now I have it sussed here's some sentences that show off my new found skill.

Here's a colon introducing an idea....

There is one important thing that you need to know about the kidney:  To the inexpert eye it can look like faecal matter on a CT scan.

....a list.....

The abdomen contains a number of important organs: the kidneys, liver, small intestine, colon and major blood vessels.

...and to introduce quoted material.

Lovelygrey often remembered the words of her anatomy lecturer:  'Never, ever go anywhere near an operating theatre!'

The semi-colon can be used to make sense of complicated lists...

In the abdomen there are a number of important organs including the kidneys, part of the renal system; the small intestine and colon, part of the digestive system; the liver, important to the endocrine system and major blood vessels.

..and to separate closely related independent themes.

There are colons and colons; they are different beasties altogether!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Thought for the Day: Stripped Bare

This little line drawing is an analogy of my life at the moment.  It was only when I stopped rushing around and had some lazy time over Christmas that I realised how 2012 had left me sapped of energy.  It seems that all my metaphorical  leaves have fallen off like those of the  blooming poinsettas that I returned to Devon to find languishing in my living room.

Being a perky soul though I don't see this picture as gloomy but as a symbolic of renaissance. The tree is still alive and all it needs is a little basic nurturing to return it to a state of vigorous regrowth!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Passing Pigs, Icy Penguins, Apple Catching Panties and a Public Apology to Paul!

Mmmmm....I think that's enough  Ps in the today's title!  It occurred to me that a few of you out there might have got the wrong end oof the stick yesterday and thought  I'd given up extraneous spending over the Christmas period altogether.  So to avoid the charge of porky pie telling hypocrite  I thought I'd come clean and 'fess up on all £11.98 of my extraneous purchases..  None of these are, I hasten to add, on my 2013 forbidden list.

  • Pass the Pigs Game:  Stocking up the empty drawer where I hide away presents for Louis' Christmas and  birthday. New on Amazon, a questionable snip at £11.99.  My purchase, albeit of an older edition of the game, was just 99p in the Mind shop in Leigh-on-Sea.
  • A half hearted ice cube tray hunt was unsuccessful on Christmas Eve so I was pleased to find a silicon one for 99p that produces mini ice sculptures of penguins.   This timely find was again  in a charity shop.  
  • Bum Warming Apple Catchers:  Simiiar to Sloggies but just three pairs for a fiver in Primark.   I snapped up two packs to top up a rather depleted looking knicker drawer. 
It's occured to me that sharing all my purchases beyond fuel, food and frugal frollicking with friend may be a good idea to keep spending in check.  After all, if I have to come clean about acquisitions they've got to be worth having.  We'll see how this goes.  And on an entirely different note....

......Paul, you were right.  Even though it's a completly stupid idea and I still feel that I was entirely justified to rule it out as a figment of your creative imagination,  there was indeed a tank with two crocodiles in it at the Rayleigh nightclub.  The likes of Culture Club and Depech Mode played there in the 1980s.  Deepest apologies for doubting you  Big Sis xxxx

Thursday, 3 January 2013

What I Haven't Bought!

It's a miracle that those no-spend rules that I set for myself about a fortnight ago haven't been broken for I've indulged in a little real and virtual window shopping.  Sob!  Here's what had to stay on the shop shelves.

  • The lovely lambswool Seasalt Ensign jumper, down 50% in this Cornish retailer's sale to just £35.  Let's just stick with their yacht jumper that I bought earlier when I want to conjure up a nautical look.
  • A gorgeous midnight blue velvet Per Una dress in a charity shop for £9.99 rejected because it would have broken those rules but also because I already have a similar maroon dress which I've only had the opportunity to wear once.

  • This dish by the Cornish fused glass artist Jo Downs  banned because I have no further surfaces for it to sit on.  She does make lovely sea themed wall hangings to commission though......
  • A Poole-esque '60s dish in Oxfam, that in earlier times would have been snapped up like a shot, was also vetoed for the same reason!

  • I'd hoped that this tome by Mr F-W might have come my way for Christmas but alas! I didn't hint hard enough.  So, it had to be bypassed on a trip to WH Smith where Louis went to pick up a 2013 Beano Annual for the bargain price of £1.99.

As for my other no-go categories - kitchen gadgets, shop bought lunches, lone tippling juice, crafting stuff, cards and gift wrap - I've survived a fortnight temptation free.  Perhaps another update will be in order when I return to Devon and get back to a normal working life where there are entirely different retail settings and scenarios that could potentially lure me in!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

In the Footsteps of Angelina?

Most of my trips back to my childhood home town of Southend-on-Sea  take in a  little amble along its iconic pleasure pier which is the longest in the entire world!  It's a lovely bracing 1.3 mile walk that goes out nearly as far as the busy shipping lanes that lead up the Thames to the Port of London. The vistas from this unique vantage point are spectacular.  Distant industrial landscapes, maritime to-ings and fro-ings and a panoramic view of  about seven or eight miles of the South East Essex shoreline.
It seemed fitting that my brother should take his girlfriend down the pier on her inaugural trip to Southend, just to show her that Essex isn't just about jellied eels and tanning salons.  Louis and I tagged along as gooseberries to the loved up couple.  Of course there are always disagreements when siblings get together.  Paul insisted that a bear lived in a cage in Southchurch Park, our local haunt when we were kids.  I pooh-poohed the idea as a figment of  an overactive artistic imagination.   Although he was wrong in the detail there was a black bear, a boy one that was confusingly called Lulu, who was housed in the early '70s in Chalkwell Park at the other end of the borough, after being rescued from a boat on the Thames.  I'm not sure whether being prodded by a bunch of grubby kids was a better deal than a life for the poor animal than a life out on the high seas.

Since Paul's returned to Norfolk I've found that he might have been spinning me another yarn conceived in his creative noggin.  He was absolutely adamant that Angelina Jolie had eaten in the now defunct pop up restaurant at the pier head that was conceived as part of Jamie and Jimmy's Food Fight.  Now I've combed the Internet looking for evidence of this but no trace!  What I have found though is the name of the artist who created these wonderful mosaics that epitomise views from the pier and are displayed in its ticket office.  He's called Paul Siggins and he has a  studio  in nearby Leigh-on-Sea.   It's just a pity that these beautiful works are not displayed to their best effect and are hidden away behind racks of cards and souvenirs in the gift shop.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Loss of Resolve on Resolutions

Picture: Bookshelf Porn
Happy New Year to one and all!  This year I celebrated the transition from 2012 to 2013 with yet another whimper rather than a bang as I was  tucked up contentedly in a cosy bed way before midnight.  Let's hope that there will be lots of opportunities to stay up beyond my usual bedtime later in the year at other times that might feel  much less prescriptive and more spontaneous than during this enforced period of festivities.

It was just yesterday I wrote about going easy on myself and not making resolutions.   However I've nearly done an about turn and  jacked in my one day vow  after seeing  the poll topper  of  a LA fitness survey of two thousand people.  The most popular pledge this year wasn't those old chestnuts like losing weight or giving up smoking although  both of these took their place in the Top 40. No, the number one spot went to the absolutely splendiferous self promise to  'Read More Books'.  Now there's an easy life enhancing idea that I could sign up too!