Wednesday 30 November 2011

Lazy Cleaning

I would never describe cleaning as an enjoyable activity. I find it boring and repetitive. The kind of cleaning I like is where you set it up, go away & do something far more interesting instead & then return to nonchalantly wipe the offending item which then glitters as if by magic.

Yesterday I spotted this decanter (minus the stopper) in a junk shop. The decanter was extremely filthy both inside and out so the owner of the shop only charged me 85p. After I had given it a good wash I set about cleaning the inside- the lazy way!

I poured about 1-2cm of vinegar in and a small handful of rice. Every time I go past the sink I give the decanter a good shake & swirl. The rice is acting as an abrasive and the vinegar is speeding the whole process up. It's already looking quite sparkly.

Now all I need to find is a stopper that fits...

Sunday 27 November 2011

Thrifty Limoncello

Yes, you read the title correctly...

Removing the wax; see,

Limoncello is very lovely but very expensive.  Imagine my joy when I discovered a recipe in the Asda freebie magazine...

Here's what I did;

I put 200 ml water & 500g sugar (they said caster, I had granulated- it still worked) in a pan & stirred over a low heat until all the sugar had dissolved.

Then I added the fine peelings from 6 lemons & brought it all to the boil, reduced heat & simmered for 15 mins. The smell at this stage was incredible!

Next, the juice from the 6 bald lemons was added. The syrup was returned to the boil, then simmered for 5 mins.

I left it to cool for 15 mins then added a litre of vodka & transferred to a jar (well 2 jars but I only photographed one).

I will turn/gently shake the jars every day...According to the recipe it will be ready to sample in 2 weeks time, I shall let you know how it tastes!

I think my present giving this year might be Limoncello based!

Friday 25 November 2011

Good News x5...

The fridge-freezer repair man rang up to say there's been a cancellation & he'll see us on Tuesday afternoon.

I've finished my job application.

I've picked the Backlane Notebook Challenge bunch of flowers for this week. (Does anybody admit to remembering these school milk bottles from the 1970s? My parents found this one in their garden)

Winter Iris

I've found a recipe for Limoncello (& I will be sharing it!)

...And it is Friday...have a lovely weekend!

Thursday 24 November 2011

A pool of water and stunned silence...

We were totally unprepared for the fridge-freezer to stop working.

Oblivious I had gone off to work as usual. On my return there was a stressed Mr TH trying to hold a sensible work phone call with a client whilst frantically waving a mop at me!

Serious mopping, wiping & suitably annoyed facial expressions followed.

The frozen food is now safely stashed in an old freezer in the shed. (Thankfully we had a spare freezer that had been donated to us.) The fridge contents were a bit more tricky, they had to be wrapped in cool bags & put in the non working freezer with ice packs.

Over the next few days we will be eating an awful lot of strange meals rustled up from whatever needs to be eaten...

I liked our fridge-freezer, it worked well & did it's job (apart from the time it defrosted itself whilst we were abroad & NOW- of course!)

Having drowned our sorrow with a well deserved cuppa we rang the repair shop. We were told that it'd be at least 2 weeks for the spare parts to arrive & it would be cheaper to buy a new one than to repair it. We were suitably deflated. A frustrating afternoon was spent trudging round shops looking at new fridge freezers.

They are either so tall that I cannot physically reach the top shelf (& it's not that I'm particularly short) or they have additions that we just don't want or need (huge fridge, tiny freezer, ice cube dispenser, water chiller, huge salad tray, massive drawer for meat & cheese). The only one that we both really liked was 64 cm wide: 4 cm wider than the available space in our kitchen.

We have gone back to Plan A. We will wince, sigh, & pay the price of a new fridge-freezer to get our old one repaired.

In a strange way, I'm quite looking forward to the challenge of living without a fridge for 2 weeks (as long as the temperature outside continues to get colder). Mr TH pointed out that we've also chosen a pretty green option from the landfill point of view & our old fridge, when it's mended, will still be A-rated...

Then out of the blue I received an intriguing comment from Knitsofacto. I popped over to her blog to see what it was all about & to my delight discovered that she'd given me a versatile blogger award. Stunned surprise & silence followed!

Thank you Knitsofacto, I'm genuinely surprised & pleased & very flattered that you chose me... & especially thrilled that it's this week of all weeks because I needed some good news after the fridge-freezer disaster!

Since all I seem to be capable of thinking about this week are fridge-freezers & a job application I will bask in the glory for now...I'm also having trouble thinking of any quirks that I'm willing to admit to in public...& looking at all the lovely blogs in my side bar & I couldn't whittle my favourites down to just 5...

Sunday 20 November 2011

Stir up Sunday

Tradition says that this is the day to make your Christmas puddings. I already have 2 leftover from last year (we were given three!) so I made my Christmas cake instead...

I normally follow(ish) the Delia recipe which involves soaking fruit overnight. I do a mix of tea & Quince Brandy (I was given a carrier bag full of quinces a few years ago & made lots of Quince Brandy). I tend to add more liquid than Delia because I like my cake really moist rather than dry.

I added apricots, figs and cranberries too...

I also like my cake to be quite spicy so I add ground mace and ground cardamom in addition to the other spices Delia recommends.

When it comes to wrapping the cake up I'm much more obedient & follow Delia's word precisely. The utter ridiculousness of the resulting parcel never fails to make me laugh...

I love the fact that you have to give a huge chunk of the day over to Stir up Sunday, the fiddliness of the cake wrapping, the 4-5 hours in the oven, the huge pile of washing up afterwards...

I shall feed/pickle my cake with additional servings of Quince Brandy every week between now & Christmas.  (Christmas is only 5 weeks today...!)

Thursday 17 November 2011


Geraniums have been on my mind today...

I have a 'thing' about geraniums (pelargoniums) As far as I'm concerned, the louder & more ridiculous the better! The smell of their leaves is wonderful & instantly transports me back to my grandparents' greenhouse...

A few years ago I started to over-winter my geraniums. I used to over-winter them before but kept forgetting & having to start from scratch again & again & again... Last winter, I was a bit worried but they survived despite the very low temperatures (We recorded a relatively warm -10 degrees centigrade in our garden last year, elsewhere in the city is was lower)

Around October I keep an eye on the weather & as soon as it starts to drop I prune them back hard & put them in the shed, (I have a very tiny shed/cupboard/lean-to with a clear corrugated plastic roof & plenty of cobwebs)

The Geraniums will live here all winter, with a very occasional drop of water but on the whole pretty dry soil, until spring when I will pot them up with new compost & lots of feed ready for another year of flowering.

As for the prunings, some I plant on & keep inside the house (in case of shed-disaster). I couldn't bear to remove all the leaves just yet so will hold on for few more days...

I put the flowers in make-shift vases, (old medicine cup & tea glass) to meet my weekly challenge inspired by Backlane Notebook.

Yet somehow they look at a bit too garish in this subtle autumn light...

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Getting in (& out) of a Tangle...

Yesterday evening, I managed to achieve half of a long held ambition. I can sew but I have never been able to knit or crochet.  Emma also wanted to learn to crochet & so an evening was set aside for a crash course...

The brave person who taught us the basics was Notsogranny. Despite my ineptitude with the hook & the wool & the order to do things in & frequent knots & quite a bit of frustration on my part, I did, eventually manage to crochet a 4 sided shape.

This is my very first attempt!

As the evening went on & I had been fortified with wine & Emma's delicious apple cake, I started to get the hang of it & then got a bit carried away...

I have a big bag of inherited wool & numerous crochet hooks. Now that I know what to do with them I shall continue to practise.

If there is anybody in the Cambridge, Suffolk area who wants to learn how to crochet, I can wholeheartedly recommend one very patient teacher!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Every time you spend a pound...

Thank you to Pomona, who sent me a pack of these wonderful cards as a result of reading my post on Thrifty v, Ethical.

I shall be thinking very carefully before any spending goes on now!

Sunday 13 November 2011

New Challenge

I've realised that I like a challenge & seeing Backlane Notebook's latest post inspired me to join in. Each week she is going to pick herself a mini bouquet from her garden or hedgerow. I really liked this idea because it's both thrifty and beautiful at the same time.

My garden is a typical city garden, small, walled & nowhere near a hedgerow. This is going to be a challenge that may require some large doses of creative thinking on my part!

Saturday 12 November 2011

Mystery Tour Part 2

We returned from our mystery tour on Thursday. We started off in Cordoba then went to...

Granada to see the palaces & gardens of the Alhambra.

They were stunning...

Mr TH had arranged for my birthday evening to be spent on a night tour of the Moorish Palace. I was pretty speechless & totally overwhelmed...

Thursday 10 November 2011

Thrifty v. Ethical

Thank you so much for all your support & kind comments on my Buy Nothing New Month challenge & frustrations. Calico Kate asked if the experience had changed how I thought about purchasing...

Yes, I think it has but I've been left with a nagging concern...

Is it possible to be both thrifty and ethical?

The dictionary didn't have the answer but it did tell me that;

Thrifty means- carefully managing money/resources, frugality

Ethical means- conforming to accepted standards of conduct & morality

Some clarity had been offered but no real answer (especially on the ethical front- that just added more confusion)

In a recent post from the Non-Consumer Advocate  (thanks for the tip Sue!), there was an interesting link to a New York Times article entitled Eco meets the Economy. It was good to know that other people were thinking like me & battling with a similar dilemma.

Then, a few weeks ago, I watched a programme where the presenter was dressing a woman in new clothes & shoes from the high street, a complete new outfit for just £50. Yes, that is thrifty but is it ethical?

I don't often get wound up & annoyed (actually that's not true I often find myself shouting at the radio these days but that's in the privacy of my own home) but seeing that programme really got me thinking...

I want to be both thrifty & ethical. Sometimes it's hard to be both at the same time, compromise is needed. A middle path has to be sought, a personal line has to be drawn. After lots of ongoing discussion with Mr TH we have started to draw our line...

To be more thrifty, we will;
  • think before we buy (do we really need to buy it?)
  • buy in bulk where possible (& reasonable) to reduce costs
  • grow more of our own vegetables
  • try to re-use/recycle/mend more
  • try to reduce costs on travel where possible, by walking, bicycling or using public transport rather than the car

To be more ethical, we will;
  • buy local &/or seasonal produce wherever possible
  • try to buy fairtrade (or equivalent) when buying imported goods
  • only buy fairtrade (or equivalent) when buying luxury goods (coffee, chocolate, etc...) 
  • try to ensure that sweatshop labour has not been involved in the manufacturing process of any new clothes (I know that this can be difficult to do- I think I need to spend a few hours doing some research online for this one...)
  • buy meat from our local butcher because we know that is local, ethically sourced & it tastes really good (but it is more expensive so we will therefore eat less of it)
  • buy fish that has been ethically caught & is not endangered 
  • try to further reduce the amount of rubbish we are responsible for in landfill
Gratuitous picture of coffee and chocolate...

This is where we have drawn our line. We are well aware that we will frequently encounter clashes between thrift & ethics...I don't know how we'll get on but we're going to do our best!

Sunday 6 November 2011

Houses for Bugs

A few years ago we were lucky enough to be given a bottle of port in a fancy wooden box. The port didn't last long (it was very nice) but what to do with the wooden case?

A bug house of course!

Being extra thrifty I only used garden canes that were splitting & at the very end of their useful life. The rest of the tubes were made up with prunings from the garden (sunflower stems proved especially good- the sunflower heads were hung up for the birds to feast on)

Friday 4 November 2011

Autumn Colour

Just before I went away, I spent a few hours doing a mini tidy-up in the garden.

To be honest not much tidying up was done as I spent far too much time admiring the last of the autumn colour

& marvelling as those colours glowed when the sun shone through them.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Simple Things

Inspired by the wonderful photographs over at simplethings, I have started to look at my surroundings differently...

Here are just some...

of the many wonderful...

pavements in the old city of Cordoba.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Surprise Holiday Destination

The first stop on my mystery tour has turned out to be...

Cordoba in Andalusia, Spain.

We are staying opposite the walls of this ancient mosque. Our bathroom window frames a line of decorative crenellations.

It is warm & there are too many wonderful dishes of tapas to be tasted & too much local wine to be sampled.

Mr TH is basking in well deserved glory...
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