Monday, 31 October 2011

Autumnal fun for free!

So what do you do when it's sunny but cold, the leaves are falling & you have a spare day?

I am a bit of an Andy Goldsworthy fan (& so is my Dad). A few years ago we decided to have a go at some environmental sculpture ourselves. We dressed up warmly, took plenty of good things to eat & some bits of board from my Dad's shed. I think my Mum thought we'd both gone a bit mad.

We chose a large piece of woodland, checked with the forest ranger & set to work...

It was much harder than it looked. First there was the decision of what to make & then how to make it.

Precision was difficult to achieve...
Apart from occasional squirrels giving us inquisitive looks, we went unnoticed all day long...

OK, so we were basically playing but it was a brilliant day & I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like a freebie.

When I was a child I would have loved this sort of thing. It's the woodland equivalent of sandcastles but without the gritty sandwiches for lunch.

Might it, perhaps, encourage some winter-haters (Emma!?) to get wrapped up & produce their own Goldsworthy project?

Later that evening when we'd warmed up we did wonder if anybody would ever find our pieces of art (& what they would think)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Making Winter

During the week there were lots of fireworks in my neighbourhood to celebrate the festival of Diwali (Wednesday 26th October). Next Saturday, 5th November, it's Bonfire/Guy Fawkes Night, so there will be a weekend of fireworks & the lingering, pungent smell of cordite in the air.

At this time of year, there's nothing quite like curling up in front of a real fire, the fabulous smell of wood smoke accompanied by the crackle & hiss of the burning logs...(especially if you're in the North Eastern States of America at the moment!)

& then there's my 'fire'...

My 'pretend' fire has fairy lights rather than the real deal but I like to imagine...(Looking on the bright side, at least I don't have to clean it out...)

Emma over at silverpebble has a real fire & she loves her fire.

With the UK clock change, night starts an hour earlier this evening. So a fire themed tutorial seemed a good way to start our Making Winter Project. We were so inspired by a post from pebbledash that we got to work (& had great fun) making some firelighters...

I am hopeful that this may be the start of Emma's conversion from winter hater to winter lover...

To find out more pop over there now...

If you'd like to join us, please grab the button & add it to your side bar...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Excitement of the Non-Thrifty Variety

Mr TH returned from New York bearing extremely exciting news...

On Tuesday we are going away for 8 days on a mystery holiday. Here are the facts that I've been told so far;
  • I need a passport
  • There is a short flight involved 
  • I need to pack a range of clothes (some smart some comfy)
  • Potentially, it may be a bit warmer than the UK (then again, it may not)
  • During the holiday we will stay in 3 places.
  • I need some shoes for walking around all day (not walking boots though)
  • I can take my swimming costume if I want to but he doesn't know if I'll need it.
I am very, very (overly) excited.  I have never, ever been on a mystery holiday before. My mind is working overtime...but I'm also trying hard not to solve the mystery as I'm thrilled by the idea of a surprise...& relieved that it'll be the end of Buy Nothing New Month so I don't have to feel too guilty about potential holiday purchases. (Mr TH has assured me that he booked it way back before the month had even started)

I am a lucky woman!

P.S. & another bit of good news...there's also the Making Winter Project

Thursday, 27 October 2011

It was all going so well...

The news is bad. My Buy Nothing New Month challenge took a turn (nose dive) for the worse over the weekend. It was nothing frivolous or nice or exciting or even interesting...

Some late night revellers, en route to the city railway station, decided to break as many wing mirrors as possible. Our passenger side wing mirror fell victim & was snapped from it's folding knuckle. It was bouncing around rather pathetically by 2 springs when I drove the car. (I am trying hard not to think bad thoughts & I'm trying hard not to send hexes).

I had 3 choices, live without the wing mirror until November, drive to a breakers yard 30 miles away to get a second hand one or buy a new one a mile away.

Living in a city full of cyclists, wing mirrors are essential.

Very grudgingly, I bought a new one & had it fitted first thing the following morning. (At least I saved about half a day & some petrol money, potentially £20 according to the petrol calculation at the bottom of google map directions...)

I do not feel good about it, I would have preferred to get a second-hand one but I constantly worry about potential cyclist related accidents & I needed to use the car that same afternoon.

I'm still trying to decide which I find the most annoying;

having bought something new,
someone breaking the wing mirror.

P.S. a bit of good news...there's the Making Winter Project to look forward to...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What do you think of winter?

Do you dislike winter, are you dreading the season ahead? Emma over at silverpebble has hated winter for years...

Me, well I love it! For ages I've been trying to get Emma to learn to love winter, to embrace winter wholeheartedly. So far, I have failed dismally...

I see sparkling, glistening trees, Emma sees cold feet and runny noses...

Then, late this summer, we came up with a cunning plan...a plan that would change Emma's view of winter forever (& be good fun at the same time!)

The idea is that we shall immerse ourselves fully in Making Winter. We shall try out lots of winter related crafts (as thrifty as possible from my perspective) & aim to showcase all the wonderful things that winter has to offer. And Emma, well, she just has to be persuaded to love winter!

The Mystery of this strange collection will all be revealed when Emma hosts the first tutorial on Sunday 30th October.

The worm juice was a present & not part of the activities...(thankfully!)
We chose this day as it is when the UK wakes up in GMT, having changed the clocks back an hour during the night. (Suddenly, getting dark by 5pm is a real shock to the system!)

In our Making Winter project, there will be;

  • tutorials (We are hoping to run joint tutorials every month until the weather warms up)
  • lots of blog hops
  • a flickr pool, sharing images guaranteed to cheer up the most hardened of winter-haters
  • mosaics of beautiful images
  • a huge giveaway in January (date to be confirmed)

Maybe you need to be convinced about the wonders of winter, or maybe you can help me persuade Emma how amazing winter can be. 
(Maybe you're basking in sunshine on the other side of the world & need a bit of cooling down...)

Either way, please cut & paste the button to your side bar, add a link & join us in our dual project,

Making Winter 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Fish on a Dish

To celebrate Mr TH's return from New York, I raided the freezer for this...

It's our very last piece of smoked fish from Richardson's Smoke House in Orford. We visited Orford a few months ago & stumbled across the smokehouse completely by chance. There was so much choice that we decided to try out lots of different fish. (We also bought a smoked ham hock that turned out to be absolutely delicious)

We proudly thought we'd discovered some hidden gem but when, on our return home, I looked it up on the Internet we found out that Nigel Slater had got there before us...oh well!

The fish is so wonderful that all I did was steam it.

A return trip to Orford is called for...This time we'll combine it with a visit to Orford Ness too.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Emergency Plum Tart

Oh yes I'll bring dessert along, no problem...

Then I promptly forgot until about 5pm on the actual day. 

Thankfully, courtesy of my Mum, I have a freezer full of plums. There was some puff pastry in the fridge (bought as I haven't yet mastered the art or inclination to make puff pastry) So dessert would be plum & pastry based...

I rolled the pastry out.

I crimped the edges so that they stood up. I pricked the base.

I rummaged in the food cupboard & found a tin of ratafia biscuits that were mainly broken, I helped destroy them further with the end of the rolling pin. I added some nutmeg & cinnamon.

I sprinkled the crushed, spiced biscuits over the pastry base.

Anxiously looking at the time, I grabbed some frozen plum halves from the freezer (I put the bag inside another & bashed it on the patio a few times to loosen the halves)

Finally a sprinkle of yet more nutmeg, cinnamon & bit of brown sugar. (If there had been sliced almonds in the cupboard, I'd have sprinkled those too)

In the oven for about 15-20 minutes. The smell wafting through the house was wonderful. The plum juice had been absorbed by the crushed biscuits. The plum skins were slightly blistered & wrinkled. The pastry edges were golden brown. The only remaining challenge was to transport it to dinner without sneaking a taste first...

Not particularly thrifty (apart from the free plums, thanks Mum) but very, very tasty!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage is so beautiful, it not only tastes wonderful but looks great too. Each time I cut one open I find myself momentarily mesmerized by all those purple folds

I finely sliced half the cabbage so that I could make my favourite red cabbage recipe.

I put the slices (from half a medium red cabbage) in a large pan and then added;

3 fl oz Vinegar (I use cider or wine vinegar)
Juice & grated rind of an orange
1 oz Butter
1-2 oz Sugar (I tend to add 1 oz of sugar)
A large bay leaf
(I always add a handful of sultanas too)

I cooked it on a medium heat for 1 hour. As it cooked, the house filled with the smell of Christmas (I sometimes add a cinnamon stick if I really want to go for the festive aroma).

The resulting cabbage was soft, sweet, tangy & glossy with a red purple liquid. A friend came over & we ate it with mustardy mashed potatoes, sausages & onion gravy. It was real winter food for a cold day. It also freezes well in portion sized bags- beware the defrosting process as it can get a bit 'purple'!

A big thank you to Anne who wrote the recipe down for me on a scrap of paper when I stayed in her Lincolnshire farmhouse some 15 years ago.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


...with some long lost friends? 

Yes, in a way...

Purple shoes that I bought & wore in the late 1980s then put in a box & neglected for 20 years...

Yesterday, the sun shone but the temperature seemed to drop. I succumbed & put the central heating on.  It was, I decided, time to get out the winter clothes.

Before I met Mr TH I had 2 wardrobes & a chest of drawers full of all my clothes. I knew where everything was, there was no confusion.

Now I have to share a wardrobe. This means a seasonal shifting of clothes. Inevitably, there are casualties, clothes that get forgotten or moved at the wrong time. Then again, it is like meeting up with old friends & reacquainting yourself all over again. 

Sometimes there are very simple questions that need to be asked...

Why have I got 6 almost identical red jumpers?

Now there are 3 piles of clothing: one to go to the charity shop, one to be remodelled when the sewing machine returns from ‘surgery’ & another of rediscovered clothes that I have neatly folded or hung up in the wardrobe.

Buy Nothing New Month has certainly helped me to look at my clothes in a different, more creative way. I seem much more willing to adapt & remodel clothes. Maybe I'm starting to think about what is actually needed rather than just what is wanted.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Pride Before a Fall

Up until today, Buy Nothing New Month, had been going pretty well. I'd been feeling very smug so had gone for the extreme version & vowed to buy necessities only (food, medical, travel). When contemplating a purchase, I carefully considered the questions posed by the website;
  • Do I really need this? 
  • What is its life cycle? What went into making it (time, labour, resources)
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Where did it come from? How did it get here?
  • What is its environmental and social impact?
  • Who benefits from the purchase? What will it do for me?
  • What's in it? Who made it?
Then today my sewing machine died. It had been 'clunking' for a while & I had ignored it, put my head in the sand & hoped that it'd just magically get better all by itself.

It won't.

A sewing machine cannot be classified as food or travel or medical (unless you include sanity?)

There followed about 30 seconds of anguish during which I reviewed the questions above & persuaded myself that spending money on a repair is acceptable & is within the 'rules'.  (The alternative was using my mother-in-law's sewing machine that Mr TH mended & now only stitches in zig-zag..)

I phoned the repair man.

I'm taking my machine over to him this afternoon...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Home Alone

Every October, Mr TH sets off to New York for ten days of exhibition work. The house seems very, very quiet & still so I...

Cauliflower cheese with real white sauce (not soya milk sauce)

  • stock pile films that I want to watch
  • use all my old china that can only be handwashed (all bargains from junk shops, Victorian transfer mug above was £1)
  • eat everything that I love & Mr TH dislikes (a week of real white sauce on everything, first up is cauliflower cheese)
  • play my favourite music very loud
  • lie full length on the sofa
  • put an extra blanket on the bed & take a hot water bottle to bed too (still haven't felt the need to put the heating on yet so am feeling very smug)
  • spend the weekend in antique/junk shops (mustn't forget Buy Nothing New Month though!)
  • make a very long list of everything I intend to do...
  • pack the dishwasher my way

Not that I don't do these things when he's here you understand (except the dishwasher which he always re-packs). I just wallow in them when he's not. 

But ten days is more than enough wallowing for me...

P.S. Thank you for all your comments on Mystery. I admit that the Worm Juice was a bit of a red herring (it was actually a present for Emma, Lucky her eh?) The rest of the mystery will be revealed on Sunday 30th October- UK clock change day...

Friday, 14 October 2011


I'm off to Emma's today. Since last night it's been on my mind & I've been adding things to the pile to take with me...

You're probably wondering what on earth we're planning for the day... (Clue, bag contains grated beeswax)

Any ideas?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Purple Dilemma

I have a dilemma, not a major one but a small and very insignificant one that is proving to be far too hard for me to solve. It involves an un-ironed t-shirt, here it is...

As you can see it is not a particularly special t-shirt. It has not lasted well, it is now rather misshapen & reveals far too much of my midriff (not a good look I can assure you! Why don't they make t-shirts longer?). So why do I find it so hard to recycle/upcycle a purple, misshapen t-shirt?

Usually, when any clothing made of t-shirt material has reached the end of it's life, I take a pair of scissors to it & turn it into rags for the kitchen/workshop rag bag (we're trying to be 'green' & avoid using kitchen roll).

Recently I've been restoring a 1950s sewing box that I was given so I've been through lots of rags in order to apply white spirit to the sanded surfaces.

I needed more rags so found & cut up a t-shirt that hadn't recovered from the elderberry cordial making session a month or so ago.

Then I remembered the purple t-shirt...I dug it out from the bottom of the ironing pile.

The scissors hovered, I was ready to make that first cut

but I just couldn't do it!


It's because I just love the colour, I have other purple t-shirts but none are this colour, this powdery-washed-out-wonderful-purple colour.  I don't fully understand it but each time I see this colour (not often) I kind of melt & go all gooey. It is, I agree, totally ridiculous! The last time I saw this colour was here- a pair of shoes on Etsy (thankfully not my size-still being good in Buy Nothing New Month!)

So the t-shirt has been hidden back at the bottom of the ironing pile- safe for now...

Am I the only strange person out there who gets all gooey over a colour?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Rose Water

I love the smell of roses. As a child I tried to make rose perfume as a present for my Mum's birthday. I systematically picked the most fragrant rose petals to be found in her garden & carefully added them to a jam jar of tap water. Two weeks later there was a jar of yellowish, scummy, not so fragrant 'perfume'. I don't really recall my Mum's reaction! (This is what I should have done...)

A very confused rose in our chilly October garden...

On the whole, rose perfumed products tend to smell fake to me. The intense smell of essential rose oil is amazing but the prices put me off. I think that the next best thing is rose water. It is a by-product from the essential oil process, it's much cheaper & it smells wonderful!

I get my rose water from the shop at the end of the road. It's about £2-£3 for 330ml.  I use it in lots of different ways. Here are my top ten...

10. Added to meringues (replace 1 egg white with 1 teaspoon rosewater & 1 teaspoon water)

9. Folded into whipped cream (really good with strawberries)

8. Sometimes I splosh it into the ironing water (only for my clothes- Mr TH isn't as keen!)

7. Add it to smoothies (no recipe here, just whatever potential is lurking in the fridge/freezer)

6. I add it to white wine & soda (it's also good with fizzy water & cucumber)

5. On a really hot day add a few cap fulls to a small spray dispenser & use as a facial spray (or the rest of the year as a toner- add a bit of Witch hazel too if wanted)

4. For decadence a few cap fulls in a warm bath is wonderful (sometimes I do a 'Cleopatra' & add a paste of water & milk powder too)
3. I put about 2-3 teaspoons of rose water & the same of honey on about 6-8 sticks of chopped rhubarb to roast it (the combination is so good that I can no longer cook rhubarb any other way)

2. If I want an instant smile or pick-me-up, I unscrew the cap & just inhale...

1. My most regular use of rose water is to mix with a teaspoon of ground almonds to make a facial scrub. I think it's much better than commercial scrubs because it isn't too abrasive, it moisturises your skin, it smells wonderful, I know exactly what's in it & it tastes good too.

Even with all these uses, a bottle tends to last me about 4-6 months.

This winter I'm going to try making Turkish Delight flavoured with rose water. I have the recipe ready & fully intend to get started one cold, damp evening.

What do you use rose water for?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Plastic Recycling

Plastic recycling is confusing. For a start there's all the different recycling numbers stamped on the plastic & then you have to figure out where to take each piece to recycle it. In addition to this every geographical area seems to have a totally different attitude towards plastic recycling. Our bin men will collect plastic bottles to recycle but not plastic containers or stretchy plastic.

At the moment we're trying to shop locally & reduce our supermarket shop to a bulk buy every few weeks. So our increasingly less frequent trips to the supermarket now involve trying to remember to take...
  • the shopping list (we have one on the side of the fridge so that the person who uses the last of something adds it to the list)
  • our own bags (easy as we leave them in the boot of the car)
  • the bag of plastic containers to recycle
  • the bag of stretchy plastic to recycle
  • the empty washing-up-liquid bottles to refill if we're going past the place that does refills.

large milk ice cube

Recently these bags of milk have been on special offer in all the local supermarkets so we bought lots & froze them. Then an accompanying jug (jug-it) was being heavily 'encouraged'. We deliberated but when, back in July, it was on special offer at 1p, we caved in & bought it.

The idea is that you put the plastic bag of milk in, secure with a clip thingy & then pierce it with the plunger thingy. Mr TH is pretty good at this, I am terrible. When I assemble the jug-it, milk sprays everywhere, I get annoyed & have to resort to decanting all of it into a real jug.

My Granny milk jug cover

But, I know that I am still saving packaging & money as the plastic bag can be washed & recycled.

Recycling all of our plastic where possible, has also made us realise just how much plastic rubbish we accumulate every few weeks. 

So my next aim is to reduce our plastic waste even more (& learn how to put a bag of milk in a jug-it!)...

Friday, 7 October 2011

Sewing Marathon

Right at the end of September it was September Niece's birthday. Thankfully, she loved the doll.

Inspired by the success (or driven by the guilt of having been to a fabric-end-of-roll-sale last week & being seduced by fuchsia pink woollen fabric & some similar turquoise woolliness & some black & white...- a woman can never have too many little wool skirts to wear with woolly tights in a British winter...) I decided to get creative with my fabric stash.

I made a fabric cover for a notebook

& another with the trimmings from Emma's curtains

& another one with a fancy bookmark thingy

& then a mouse (still needs eyes & whiskers...)

& a few lavender bags

& then my coffee had gone cold so I made a little jacket for it...

& another for it's brother

(are cafetieres male or female or am I just going a bit doolally?)
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