dear diary >> in the craft room

Finished at last!

The little dress for Sweetie with a knitted top and soft printed baby corduroy for the skirt. I hadn’t been able to find a pattern in the shops or online that had a knitted bodice and fabric skirt and then I came across this little book in The Works.

I had to alter it a bit at the back to make it a fastening bodice (the back bodice on the pattern is in one piece and slips over the head – but I wasn’t sure it was going to be easy to do that so split the bodice into two halves and added a button and buttonhole band. The sleeve head too didn’t work out with their instructions but I managed to rectify this by decreasing on every other row which in effect made the sleeve head longer and fit the armhole better.

With the gloomy weather I have been struggling to do the hand sewing to finish the dress. At first it was meant for her birthday last November, but that didn’t happen. Never mind, I thought, I will finish it and give it to her for Christmas……but then we had to go and attend to the cottage roof unexpectedly and the dress had to be put on one side. This week has been the first opportunity to get back to it.

Yesterday we picked up the table and chairs, it was a fine sunny day which helped, and amazingly all the packages fit into the car with just enough room to spare for a couple of small Ikea purchases (for more improvements which I will mention another time). DH assembled the table and unboxed all the chairs. This morning we put our old pine farmhouse table into the boot of the car and took it round to my brothers house. He already has some very nice farmhouse style chairs so our old chairs will go to whoever would like them, we will try the local charities and maybe Facebook Marketplace. We have had them for 45 years and we didn’t buy them in the first place they were left for us in the first house we bought. In fact I have never had any new dining chairs so it was nice to be able to choose my own. The ones we had have served us well though and been recovered a number of times over the years to match our changing decor.

Everything seemed to be going well, even my daughter’s problem that she informed us about in an urgent phone call on Monday has resolved, but then we hit another car problem in addition to the automatic brake not kicking in when it should and the engine warning light coming on after going through every little puddle (unavoidable at the moment with all this rain). Today DH went to refill the screen wash in his car. At first he struggled to get the bonnet to open….once open he put in the screen wash but then couldn’t get the bonnet to fasten properly no matter what he did! He phoned our usual garage but he is really busy and can’t even look at it until Monday when we will be in North Yorkshire visiting mum and daughter. DH had no option other than to have another look at it himself and eventually after a few more attempts managed to get it closed but it will need some attention and maybe a new catch. Presumably the nice garage man will add it to the list!

I keep feeling really ‘off colour’ at the moment…it could be stress…too many problems bombarding us! I need a few days of calm.

dear diary >> improving

The weather is certainly improving as I write this post but it is not the topic I am about to talk about. Regular readers might remember my chosen focus word for this year is improvement. I have really taken the word on board and somehow it seems much more manageable than words that I have chosen in the past and then, like a New Year’s resolution, sadly neglected., I am quite excited and committed to this word already.

My idea is to consistently make the tiniest and simplest of improvements across all the different areas of my life and each one, no matter how small or how insignificant, will be an improvement on what I had before.

So here are a few improvements that I have been working on this week:-

The treasury – I am sure that, like many readers and bloggers, costcutting is at the top of everyone’s agenda. With prices rising sharply and the £1 in our pockets buying so much less it is becomming a matter of urgency that I both curb our spending and look where I can to make savings. Big savings.

Smartshop (Sainsbury’s scanner shopping), offers good discounts for nectar card holders using the hand held scanner (this is not the same as the individual self scan checkouts). DH collects up these offers (whilst I do the main shopping that we take to the normal checkout); first he goes and finds the items that are reduced on my card and goes around again to find the ones on his card – although it is the same nectar account the card numbers end in a different number and we are sent different offers. Here is the receipt from last week – we took advantage of 8 offers on my nectar card, the actual price an ordinary shopper would pay by going through the manned checkout would have been £18.70.

We paid £13.28 by using the scanner – a huge saving of £5.42 for items we would be buying anyway, plus we collect the nectar points on top some of which have extra points. The muesli alone had a saving of £1.05 per box so we bought three boxes to stock up.

I have had a flurry of coupons recently too – some more useful than others. The M&S coupons for £7 being the most worthwhile and their offer of a free bar of chocolate a bonus.

In the post on Saturday arrived a letter from Dobbies to say they have given me a free upgrade to their Dobbies Plus card for one year. This entitles me to a free cup of tea and coffee each month, 10% off all plants, bulbs and seeds, a special birthday treat and 2 points for every £1 spent. Normally you pay £12 for the year to have this card – I wouldn’t pay to have it but I have no objection to it being free for the moment. Every little helps if it avoids paying full price for anything.

Of course the biggest challenge is to avoid temptation and not buy anything we don’t really need. Going to the shops less is a good way of avoiding tempatation!

Meal planning – one improvement I am making in the kitchen is to adjust my winter menus so that I make more meals that can be cooked on the hob such as lentil stew, curry, chickpea and rice – this way I don’t have the oven on as often which will hopefully reduce the electricity bills. I do like baked potatoes in the winter (well anytime really) so at the weekend with some potatoes baking in the oven I made a batch of pastry and baked a selection of quiche bases for the freezer whilst the oven was on. Today we had ratatouille and baked potatoes and again whilst the potatoes were baking I made a batch of chocolate sponge mixture and filled four sandwich tins. They are all in the freezer now and I feel quite pleased with myself for making the effort.

Health – such an important area of my life now as I am heading towards another major birthday (still a couple of years to go yet).

It often feels like an uphill struggle to keep relatively healthy as creaks and groans appear daily and the inevitable sagging has set in – so I need all the help I can get. Adding a little more nutritional value to my diet without resorting to buying expensive supplements is hopefully going to improve my health – so I was delighted to find these packets of milled mixed seeds and nuts in Sainsbury’s containing ground Flaxseeds, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts (13%), Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Almonds (10%), Chia Seeds providing Vitamin E, Fibre and Omega 3. I sprinkle a good two dessertspoonfuls of the mix over my bowl of spelt flakes each morning, but you can use it on pasta or crumbles to make a crunchy topping. An instant easy healthy improvement.

Housekeeping – I have a few spots around the house that need just a little bit of love and attention. Nothing major, just a tiny adjustment – a task that may only take me minutes to complete. I am searching them out and one by one will be addressing each issue. It might be a messy drawer or a plant that needs reviving or an item that needs to be kept in a better place.

Today it was this hand sanitiser in the bathroom. Since the pandemic this bottle of Carex handgel has stood on our bathroom shelf for use both by us and visitors alike. It has always bothered me since the day it took up residence – a rather unattractive plastic bottle and not one I really want on show. I noticed in Tesco they were still selling these little soap dispensers at £4, I bought a couple when we first got the caravan for handsoap. So now I have poured the hand sanitiser into the new container and voila such an immediate improvement.

In the garden – the outside is another area that often needs a bit of attention. The long trough at the front of our house was looking a bit dull since the pansies all keeled over and lost the will to live. So for a few pounds in the sale at the local garden centre I bought 3 lovely cyclamen in pots for a splash of winter colour (I have left them in the pots and sunk them into the compost) so they will lift out easily when I want to replace them with some spring bulbs.

A large tray of lemon polyanthus was on sale too and I have dotted these about the garden and put a few in the tub beside the front door. Another of my little improvements.

Tomorrow we are looking to collect the new dining table from Leeds, weather permitting. The new table will be a big improvement to the kitchen.

Have a good day everyone x

dear diary >> a play day

We have been home only a few days and already we are in great demand. I agreed to have Master Freddie all day yesterday from 8am -5pm so it was a long day. I had planned to finish the unpacking and the final bits to put away, so that has been put on hold now and I ‘ll get it done over the weekend – well we won’t be venturing out anywhere in this weather.

We had a great day though they are so cute at this age (he is just 3) and it is amazing how much they learn, and how much they copy. We did some water play with doggie and duckie (two tiny nail brushes in the shape of a blue dog and a yellow duck) that he became attached to when we looked after him during the Covid lockdown. Everytime he comes to play he searches them out and I get a small washing up bowl and fill it with water and he will play for hours.

We had a bit of a ‘crafternoon’ after lunch. His mum had sent a packet of coloured tissue paper circles and his tiny plastic scissors so we showed him how to fold the circles up and cut shapes out of them to make flowers and a kind of paper doyley like making snowflakes. We all made some but then what to do with them? After a little thought I had the idea to attach a piece of fishing wire to each circle and hang them on a paper band as a mobile.

I thought it looked quite effective hanging in our window moving in the draught. He has taken it home to show mummy – I am sure she will be delighted.

Once he had gone we whipped all the toys away, made some tea then collapsed on the sofa.

I am now trying to get my head into gear and plan for next week. We have had a call to say our new dining table and chairs have arrived – my brother is having our old pine farmhouse table. I will miss it – it has history marks all over it but it has always been too big for our little dining area and now the kitchen area is a little bigger and the dining area a little smaller we decided we would get something that would allow us more room but would be extendable when required.

We have to give the warehouse 24 hours notice before we collect the new table and chairs. We are not even sure if everything will fit in the back of our estate car and might mean two journey’s to Birstall near Leeds, but we will save £140.00 delivery charges (the table and chairs would have been delivered separately from the warehouse at £70 each delivery as we ordered the table long before the chairs) and that is a big saving for us at the moment.

I also intend to get going on finishing a few craft projects and start thinking about Easter cards. I don’t send many but I do like to make my own. I have more tablemats to make and the patchwork quilt that I began 2 years ago might get a look in again – I found some more fabrics to add to the ones leftover from my daughter’s wedding bunting.

All in all I am hoping for a productive week and I might even be lucky with getting some washing out on the line.

dear diary >> home again, home again

Well no, I haven’t quite done the jiggety jig, rather I have been making a big mess. I knew that if we delayed coming home by a day or two I would have to make my friend’s anniversary card in a hurry, so after a good night’s sleep on Tuesday night (we were both zonked from the travelling and slept like logs) I was up bright and early to put away some of the unpacking and then began on the card.

I had an idea of what I wanted to do but anything to do with crafting and a mess forms around me with surprising speed. I decided on something simple, but obviously homemade and personalised to them. I chose a piece of pink handmade paper from my scrap box and this rather pretty heart stamp that I bought years ago. I stamped the paper with embossing ink and then sprinked on some antique white and gold powder. I love it when you apply the heat tool and the powder changes very quickly into this textured surface. I then outlined the heart with a gold ink pen and cut it out and placed it onto the front of a trifold card with a few foam pads. I then added the stamped greeting in gold ink.

Inside I printed the greeting and added a lovely little picture I had taken of them on their wedding day 20 years ago. It was their 2nd marriage and a beautiful sunny February day. What a good job it wasn’t yesterday’s appalling rain and wind. I cut out tiny hearts from some gold Washi tape to stick the printed sheets in place.

The ribbon, which was another scrap threads through a slot in the back and when the card is folded it ties around the front.

The first practise heart I had made on white paper I used as a gift tag for the little posy of flowers I bought and wrapped in a sheet of gold tissue paper.

After making and delivering the card and flowers we had to go out for some shopping. Our vegetable fridge was bare – in fact I had switched it off before we went away and DH busied himself cleaning the inside …well he did offer and I wasn’t going to refuse him.

It was quite busy in Sainsbury’s but we didn’t need a lot. DH went off with a separate trolley to scoop up all the personalised Smartshop offers with a scanner and I picked up a few other offers from the shelves. The rapeseed oil we use for cooking was reduced by a £1 and …….I stocked up with enough fruit and veg to cover a week’s meals.

My box of washing powder is nearly empty and I will have extra bedding from the caravan to wash this week so I have been on the look out for a good deal on the Persil non bio washing powder, which I use as it doesn’t irritate my skin. They had some of those mega boxes of 130 washes for £14 (ouch) on the aisle that displays large bulk items supposedly cheaper. However, we had just received a leaflet through our door from Farm Foods offering the same powder and size – 2 for £25 and the leaflet also has coupons on it for £2 off if you spend £25 or over making the two boxes £23. So this seemed a better buy and made each box only £11.50. A bit of an outlay of course, but 260 washes is going to last me a very long time and if stored well it doesn’t go off.

So after we had finished at Sainsbury’s we drove round the corner to the large Farm Foods shop to pick some up. I have never been in there before, mainly because they tend to sell everything we don’t eat – a lot of ready made processed foods and it was stacked high with packs of coke and other fizzy drinks that we don’t drink. We found the Persil and paid our £23. When we returned home I had a quick Google and couldn’t find the same size boxes any cheaper anywhere else….unless anyone out there knows better.

I have been thinking long and hard about where we can make economies in our household budget. With prices rising and yesterday’s news that inflation is running at 5.5% our pound will not buy as much as it did.

Of course the biggest money saving economy is to not buy anything….not be tempted into things I don’t really need (I might want them but don’t need them). After this the things I do need to buy must be at the cheapest possible price or items that will last a very long time as sometimes cheap is not the most effective if it is of inferior quality and breaks or wears out so quickly it has to be replaced.

Where food is concerened I could probably more than halve the budget if we didn’t buy organic foods and fruit and veg but I am a big believer in not using pesticides or chemical fertilisers and I would rather eat less but still buy organic as I feel it is important in the bigger picture of sustainability. So organic stays and I will have to spend more time searching out offers and gearing my menus to the veg that is on offer and in season.

Whilst we were away we had the heating set so low it was just above frost protection so the heating would come on if it reached a certain temperature if it got really cold. I can tell you the house was cold when we arrived home and out came the hot water bottle and an extra blanket on the bed. It will be interesting to see what this month’s fuel bills are after two weeks of hardly running the boiler, no showers or cooking etc.

I bought a bag of Pentland Javelin seed potatoes from the garden centre in Stranraer. They are so much cheaper up there and I like to support them as over the years their little business is shrinking and maybe in danger of closing like the one further up the road in Ballantrae and soon there will be nowhere local near the cottage to go. I need to place them into the egg trays to chit as soon as I can.

Today we have our hair appointments, we go together now since the pandemic started, it does save on fuel costs and means that we are the only ones in her tiny shop. Our hairdresser has been very cautious all through the pandemic when she has been allowed to open and continued to wear a mask, as we do, even when the option had been relaxed.

This morning will be tidying, menu planning and some paperwork – I had planned to do this tomorrow but I had a phone call from my elder daughter last night, who lives nearby, to ask if we could look after master Freddie on Friday. Well I wasn’t going to say no…it is always a joy to have him. I daresay with the next storm approaching it will be too windy to go out which will be a shame.

I have had a peep outside this morning but can’t see any damage from last night’s gales but I have not heard from Scotland yet – our caravan could have been swept off its anchoring points and be floating in the sea! I just hope the new kitchen roof is still in place!

Have a good day everyone.

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