Sunday, 29 September 2013

Winter List 2013

It's that time of year again..

Learn to play 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' on the ukelele because I still haven't done it yet
Visit Westonbirt Arboretum. I have to do it every year. It's a thing
Make hot cider
And mulled wine
Make more winter foods, soups, stews, crumbles and pies etc
Try and fix the conservatory roof before the worst of the weather sets in
Prune conservatory plants
Tidy shed
Tidy vegetable patch (weed and mulch)
Cut grass one last time
Wash all windows in house
Wash curtains
Insulate front door
Bleed radiators
Add winter stuff to car
Pull out extra blankets from attic and wash
Make a cover for my hot water bottle. No sniggering at the back please
Make some mittens for Alessi
Make a snood for me
Revamp parka coat
Alter tweed coat
Collect a butt load of conkers. Not for spiders this year, but for Alessi to play with.
Summer clothes back in to the attic, winter stuff back down
Fix granny square blanket. I didn't do it last year and it's a mess
Get organised for Christmas early.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Make Do and Mend

I wrote a post just over a month ago detailing why my penny pinching efforts had come to a screeching halt. The washing machine ended up costing us more than we'd been quoted and that minor car repair I mentioned? Let's just say my savings account took a battering and we now own a new (to us) car. I could cry.

So now not only has the penny pinching got to start up again, but I also need to get a damned sight more creative with ways to not spend any money at all. That's why I'm jumping on the make do and mend bandwagon. It's not just about nostalgia, but in this case, necessity too.
Our house is old and there always seems to be something that needs replacing or fixing in it. My clothes are becoming very tatty, but I can't justify buying a whole new wardrobe either. A good old fashioned 'make do and mend' approach is exactly what I need right now.

Recently we were going to buy one of the those clothes tidy things to the tune of £20. Why? The rail we'd fitted into our make-shift closet was bowing in the middle. Rather than have the weight rip it out of the wall, we thought a clothes tidy would be a good investment. Right now though even a cheap one seems like an extravagance.
So instead of forking out more money, I delved about in the shed and pulled out a piece of wood I'd used to make the old chicken run.

Before, our clothes rail looked like this:

And after cutting, sanding and painting the pole, it now looks like this:

Bish, bash, bosh. Job Done. A small and modest start to my new 'making do' habit, but one I'm proud of nonetheless. As I've said, our house is old and my clothes are tatty so there will be plenty more to come I'm sure.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Children's Non-Slip Socks Tutorial

Actually this DIY is so ridiculously simple that it's more of a tip than a tutorial. 
Alessi has to wear non slip socks at nursery and when she first started we found it really hard to find cheap ones. I knew I could make my own, but just never got around to buying the fabric paint needed. Luckily when we went to Wales a few weeks ago, my Mum was having a craft supplies clear out and had some bottles of fabric paint going spare. Needless to say I snaffled them up! Now Alessi has all the non-slip socks she could need.

To make your own you will need 1) socks and 2) fabric paint. That's it. Then get painting! You don't have to be creative, anything will do. As long as there's enough paint on the soles to give the wearer some traction on slippery services. Dots or zig-zags are perfect - and easy.

Et voila! One tip though. Don't let your toddler 'inspect' your work until it's properly dry, (second sock from left). It won't look quite the same. But you knew that

Friday, 13 September 2013

2013 - Year of the toddler

Last year was The Year of the Slug. This year, rather than slugs, it seemed appropriate to give the pest title to none other than my daughter. She got into everything. Everything. It was hard enough to get things started in the first place what with the late appearance of spring, but really it was the first time she'd been able to explore outside properly since she learnt to walk. So explore it she did.

Plants were trampled on, handfuls of soil were grabbed and thrown into the air. Curious fingers picked and pulled at seedlings and even my mini greenhouse seemed like a good climbing frame.
It got to the point where spending even brief periods of time in the garden with Alessi was becoming stressful rather than fun. I knew I didn't want to spend my time running around after her constantly saying no this and no that. Most of all I wanted the garden to be somewhere I could relax and watch her play and explore to her heart's content. So I gave up. I ditched anything high maintenance and left the garden to it's own devices. Sadly, this meant also having to re-home the chickens. They wanted to roam the garden which I used to let them do during the spring and summer months, but I didn't want Alessi playing in and picking up chicken poo either. Luckily at the same time a friend of ours was looking to get herself some chickens so she took them on and I honestly think they were happier for it. Maybe when Alessi is a little older we'll look to get some more,but for the meantime it was the best thing to do. I do miss them though.

Anyway, back to the veggies. Here's what worked (and what didn't) this year plus tips in blue for my own reference, so that I know what to do differently next year..

  • Pumpkins - plant in the sunniest spot, they love it there
  • Strawberries - hanging baskets are a winner, copper tape will keep the more determined slugs and snails at bay. Will need watering twice daily in hot weather though
  • Salad leaves - don't bother with raised beds, they're too much of a lure for a toddler who likes to play with soil. Sow directly into the veggie patch and don't be precious when it comes to spacing seedlings.

  • Courgettes - move to a sunnier spot and don't accidentally plant one in a hanging basket along with the strawberries. *Ahem*
  • Onions - don't bother. Grow garlic instead.
  • Beetroot - don't bother with these either
  • Spring onions - ..or these
  • Sweet peppers - Start growing early, in February and stagger the seed sowing. Treat for spider mite from day one.
  • Sweet Potatoes - Don't bother trying to grow roots by sitting in water. You'll wait for months for a tiny tap root that will eventually give up and die. These things need a long time to grow so ignore what the online advice says and just chit like you would a regular potato. 

  • Anything grown in the conservatory - Treat for spider mite as soon as the first buds appear. Don't ever try bug spray again! Stick with chemical free solutions and keep spritzing. As soon as signs appear on leaves, cut them off straight away and be brutal if need be. They will grow back. 
  • Nettle plant feed - Making plant food with nettles was a great idea. Leaving it in a bucket to 'brew' and then forgetting about it for FOUR months was not. The stuff stinks after six weeks. Four months and the smell will linger for days.

So that's it. The lesson to be learnt here is Hell hath no fury like a curious toddler interrupted during a game of 'chuck the seedlings'. Next year I might just stick with a paddling pool for her and a giant glass of Pimms for me. Lovely.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Gone To The Dogs

This weekend we once again threw a bunch of stuff in the car and drove down the motorway to visit family. This time it was the turn of Dan's folks, most specifically his mum who was celebrating her birthday with a big family get together at the dog tracks.

I've never been before so I wasn't sure what to expect and if I'm honest I'm a little disappointed we didn't see any Del Trotter types in flat caps and sheep skin jackets.
If anything I saw a lot of bright young things who wouldn't have looked out of place in a John Newman video and a bunch of very fast dogs.

I didn't put any actual bets on. I just played along which was just as well really. The first dog I chose (merely because his name was Sparkle Bluebell) came in last. And it didn't get much better after that.
On this particular race, I went with King Lenny. Who lost. Also, I have no idea what 'tricast' means.
I have to confess I don't really get gambling and if it weren't for the chips, cider and friends, I may have been pretty bored after a race or two.

But there were a lot of people there to talk to and the races were fun if you didn't take them too seriously. To the nutter in the corner who screamed bloody murder while everyone else slowly backed away...I'm looking at you.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

It's Wales baby!

Many of you will know already (because I wouldn't shut up about it), that I went home to Wales last week for a long overdue break. We also nipped up to the Lake District for a wedding beforehand so there was a lot of driving involved. By the time we got home I was sick of being stuck in the car, sick of motorways and sick of listening to Baby Jack on loop to keep Alessi entertained. It was all worth it though.

The weather was a nice surprise. The sun shone the entire time so we were able to do so much more than I'd hoped. I even managed to tick off a few things from my Summer Bucket List.

We went for a ride on the Aberystwyth steam train which runs past my Dad's house. It was lovely to see the valley from a different perspective and Alessi absolutely loved it! You know when dogs hang out of car windows? Well that.

 I see you

 See what I mean? Dog out of a car window. :)

We had chips by the sea. Lots of salt and vinegar of course.

 Apart from having to chuck water to scare off all the pigeons, our chippy lunch was uninterrupted and lovely.

I got to play with Alessi on the beach. Dan hates what passes for sand on Aberystwyth beach, but my gravel loving daughter was like a pig in mud. So 'nuh nuh' to you Mr Bliss.

And my mum took a photo of the three of us so we have a family picture now. Too bad I hate it. This is our take on the awkward family portrait.

But we also got to do some unplanned things too. Dad took me up in a very pink helicopter which I had a good laugh at. It was pretty cloudy, but the view was still breathtaking and the freedom of being able to say "let's go over there...oooh what's that? Let's go have a look" was pretty amazing. Dan kept his feet firmly on the ground with Alessi and before I got in the helicopter, asked if it was ok to marry again if I died.

 The higher we went, the flatter everything looked until it all started to resemble a big, green, patchwork quilt.

 Taking a sneaky picture of me and Dad. He was very amused.

On our last day at Dad's we went down to the 'pebble beach' where we spent a happy hour chucking stones in to the river until it got too hot. Alessi absolutely loved it and cried when we had to leave.

A nappy, wellies, some stones and a river makes for a very happy Pip

The whole weekend was well needed. It made me realise what a country girl I am at heart. As soon as we arrive and I'm allowed to wander about again I start to feel less anxious and more 'me'.
Growing up in this place probably hasn't helped my hermit style ways, but at this point in my life I'm past caring about how outgoing I am - or not as the case may be.
And it was so wonderful to see just how much Alessi loved being outside too. She got upset each time she had to stop playing and come back into the house and hated leaving the river.
That's my girl. 

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