Monthly Archives: September 2009

The great clothes debate

During the last year (what with all the financial doom and gloom) there has been a lot of talk in the press and on the street about changing our approach to buying clothes. The argument seems to be in favour of buying fewer items but of higher quality that will last longer. Fundamentally I agree with this philosophy and have been trying to steer my thinking in this direction. Less, I would have to generally agree, is more.

I’ve poddled around on various websites and peeked in a few clothes shops, however, and I keep hitting a barrier. My trouble is, these ‘quality’ items seem to be a bit high maintenance. Hand washing, dry cleaning and so on. At heart I am a machine wash, fuss free kind of gal. I don’t want to freak out that I’ve spilt coffee on my perfect silk blouse that cost £90. And yes – to me £90 for a shirt is very fancy indeed. I am not remotely designer orientated. If I had £100 to spend on clothes and no more for a few months then I would actually much rather get 2 or 3 items than just one perfect thing. I know we ought to be throwing less stuff away, I know that any kind of manufacturing (clothes included) is damaging to the environment and so on. I know all of these things. And yet, I would rather have a couple of items that cost around £20-£40 that will update the basics in my wardrobe than one new top or pair of trousers that I would have to wear again and again and again until I am sick to death of it and be running back and forth to the dry cleaners.

What do you think? Have you discovered any clothes shopping wisdom through trial and error? Can you recommend any shops that sell good quality, ethically sourced items at a reasonable price?!

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Categories: Budget beauty | 7 Comments

Carrot and Coriander soup

I made another batch of soup last night  – it is fantastic! I took some to work today and attracted a small crowd of people brandishing spoons who wanted a ‘go’.  I didn’t get around the taking a photo but it is a lovely golden colour and the flavour is just gorgeous. This one can be frozen so is great for batch cooking and is a total doddle to make.

CARROT & CORIANDER SOUP

Ingredients

  • 450g carrots, chopped (roughly a standard supermarket ‘bag’. I had just under and it turned out fine)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves (sliced/crushed) or 1 teaspoon garlic puree
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 1.5 pints vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried coriander
  • Salt and pepper

You will need a large saucepan and a hand held blender or a food processor

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in the pan and add the onion and garlic. Soften over heat.
  • Over a low heat, add the flour and mix thoroughly.
  • Add the stock bit by bit, stirring until blended.
  • Add the carrots and coriander. Bring the soup to the boil and then  lower the heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste.
  • Blend the soup thoroughly until it takes on a smooth, even consistency.

If you’ve never made soup before you’ve really got to give this one a go. It couldn’t be easier and tastes great. If you like carrots that is.

If anyone tries it out, let me know how you get on. Also, I love collecting recipes for good basics to go in my folder so if you’ve got a good soup recipe, let me know! There’s going to be a lot of soup action over the next few weeks…

Categories: Recipes | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Soup Season

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Soup season is upon us once more. I’m a real soup fan and find that it is not only a great way of upping my vegetable consumption but that it is also very cheap to make. Soup makes an ideal packed lunch, either in a flask or heated up at work. After catching my first cold last week I am determined to make an effort to build my immune system up with plenty of veg. I really want to make it through winter without round after round of coughs, colds and sore throats! I should add, however, that I’m not talking about diet soups here. I use butter. I use olive oil. Whatever makes it taste good! In my book, it is still healthy – much more so than a supermarket sandwich or something similar which has virtually no nutritional value.

I sometimes dither about whether or not to include recipes here. However, I’ve decided to start a Shoestring Food page (see at top) just in case anyone is looking for some basic, non-complicated ideas on a low (ish) budget. I’ve kicked off my own soup season with:

LEEK & POTATO SOUP

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 350g potatoes, chopped
  • 4 leeks, chopped
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 300 ml milk
  • salt and pepper

You’ll need a large pan, a large bowl and a hand held blender or a food processor

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in the pan, then add the onion, leeks and vegetables. Give it a good stir.
  • Pop the lid on the pan and then leave them to sweat for 15 minutes. Give them an occasional stir.
  • Add the vegetable stock, bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat. Leave this to simmer until the vegetables are cooked, which should take around 15 minutes.
  • Take pan off the heat and add the milk. Pour contents into bowl and puree using the hand held belder or use your food processor.
  • Return the soup to the pan and season then gently heat through.

I’ve been making leek and potato soup for years but I’ve only just cottoned on to the sweating process. It really does make a difference. This recipe makes 6-7 portions. I’m not sure what the ‘proper’ guidelines are but I tend to find that soup made with dairy lasts in the fridge for around two days, while soup containing no dairy lasts for three.

If anyone feels like contributing any shoestring recipes please feel free and I’ll add them to my page!

Categories: Frugal food, Recipes | 11 Comments

Sunday sunshine

I went to my favourite cafe today. It’s not often you get a view like this with your morning coffee (or a mug of coffee for £1 for that matter)…

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I woke up and the sun was shining and I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

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If only every Sunday could be like this (and if only every day could be Sunday)…

Categories: Shoestring Fun | 2 Comments

An award

 The lovely Mo over at Get Stuff Done has nomiated me for an award. Thanks Mo! These are for you – xxxx.

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The rules are: Thank the person who nominated you. Copy the logo to your blog (or at least into the acceptance post). Link to the person who nominated you. List 7 things about yourself people may find interesting. Make your own 7 nominations. Post links to those 7. Leave each a comment on their blog to let them know you nominated them.

So. 7 things about me…

  1. When I was little I wanted to be a private detective. This decision was heavily influenced by the likes of Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy and Fatty and the Five Find-Outers. I had a tube of invisible ink. When you wrote on paper nothing showed up until you put it under the grill. So cool.
  2. Yesterday I pre-ordered Audrey Niffenegger’s new book ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’. I can’t wait.
  3. While ordering the above on Amazon I also had a giant hissy fit. I’ve been making notes on an idea for a novel for a while and discovered that someone has already done it. Almost exactly. I hate it when this happens.
  4. I met and married Husband in four months.
  5. I think Mr Rochester could take Mr Darcy in a fight.
  6. I am literally counting the days until ‘New Moon’ is out at the cinemas (20th November).
  7. My appendix burst on the eve of my 25th birthday. I’d been moaning about turning 25 and wondered if it was some kind of cosmic force saying ‘Okay. You can stop at 24.’. I haven’t complained about my age since.

And here are my seven nominations for the Kreativ Blogger Award:

  1. Being More Through Having Less : How Renia manages to do so much decluttering and organising while also turning her balcony into an amazing garden on top of having three children I’ll never know!
  2. Recessionista : There is nothing this woman doesn’t know about how to get a bargain on the high street…
  3. Making Good Use : Not only does she make gorgeous things and find beautiful fabrics but she also makes me hungry (the plum jam springs to mind)
  4. Shopaholly : The only person that can make me laugh myself sick over a knitted ski mask. I was also very taken with her idea for a Christmas savings box and, oh, loads of other things…
  5. The Book It List : Yipee! A really good book blog with a sense of humour – love it.
  6. My Pretty Pennies : MPP is creative with money and always cheerful and optimistic even in the face of adversity
  7. The Lean Times : for the lovely pics and the good ideas! 

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Categories: Ramblings | 4 Comments

Projects 4 & 5: Bathrooms and bottles

Husband occasionally makes sloe gin. While this is great (and it is), I find that the empty bottles get in the way. They have come to reside on the floor in the kitchen and have been driving me mad as the kitchen is small and space is very limited. We have a very long, deep windowsill in our bedroom. On Husband’s side tends to be a mad collection of things including wage slips, books, various tools and so on. I cleared it all away last week when I was finishing the painting and have been contemplating how to use this space. Since the bottles are ‘his’, I’ve given them a good clean and put them on the windowsill. Not exactly a conventional bit of bedroom decoration but they look quite nice and at least they are out of the way, ready to be used at some point in the future!

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I’ve also given the bathroom ceiling a final coat of paint, which is incredibly dull but needed to be done.

I find I’m getting to a weird point with all of this. It is quite easy to find tidying/decluttering projects but I need to get on with the big, boring stuff too. Trying to persuade Husband to part with things is surprisingly difficult. I’ll give you an example. Our sideboard is entirely consumed by technology that doesn’t work properly. Our stereo stopped being able to play CDs over a year ago. Then a friend of ours was moving abroad and gave Husband his old PC. The PC is ancient and riddled with viruses and will only perform a couple of functions. However. Husband has discovered a way of rigging it up to the stereo so you can put a CD into the PC which is then connected to the stereo so it will play. I find this completely ridiculous. We hardly ever play CDs now, except through the laptop or in the car because it is such hassle. I argue that we should just buy a cheap stereo and get rid of the rest of it. He argues that it works fine and we should wait until we can afford a decent stereo. While I see his point, I just don’t see when we are going to have a few hundred pounds that we wouldn’t rather spend on something else. I’ll let you know if I manage to make any progress!

Categories: Decluttering, home improvements | 8 Comments

Projects 1,2 & 3 of 50: Off to a good start!

I got started yesterday with the ’50 Home Improvements’ project by organising a funny little corner we have…

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…halfway up the stairs. This alcove is a magnet for dust and clutter. All kinds of odds and ends seem to end up here. I often seem to sling things in this corner that need to go upstairs and then forget about them. I’ve been ignoring it for a while. I threw out a lot of old videos (we don’t have a video player anymore so most of them are fairly pointless) and gave the whole area a good clean. Then I neatly stashed some of our DVDs into the storage boxes, moved all of the bits and bobs to the top shelf to make room for some of my vast collection of books. I think the woodwork needs to be repainted but that will be a project for another day. At some point I’m going to re-organise my entire book collection and I might relocate my ‘to read’ shelf to this alcove.

Next up, I had a go at my make-up collection again. Although I had a good clear out earlier this year I still had far too much and some of it was a bit old – a cull was in order. I have a large quantity of eyeshadow but never seem to have it all to hand so I bought this rather lovely box…

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…for the princely sum of £3 (Paperchase). It is much easier to see what I’ve got, having my collection in a box rather than a make-up bag.

Today I decided to tackle the carpet on the stairs, of which we have two flights. They are very narrow, twisting and difficult to hoover properly. However, I tackled both flights with the smallest attachment so I could get right into the corners. They have become quite marked – something had got spilt on one and a friend’s dog kindly peed on, not one, but three stairs. Even though we tried to clean it up once we realised what had happened (after they had left and it had almost dried) there were still marks. I’ve mixed a very tiny amount of clothes wash  with some warm water and have given all of the marks a good scrub with a clean cloth. The carpet is only two years old so I’m hoping that will have done the trick. I’ll have to wait until it dries to be sure…

Categories: Decluttering, home improvements | 4 Comments

50 Home Improvements

I said I’d set myself a few goals as and when needed. Well, I think it is needed right now. I feel like I am being buried alive by my house. Despite continual decluttering efforts this year (and believe me, there have been many, many sessions), complete crap keeps crawling out of the woodwork. It is leaking out from underneath my sofa, from inside cupboards, out of drawers – I feel like I’m in a horror movie with bad special effects. Not to mention the fact that trying to finish our redecoration project has practically ground to a halt over summer (though I did get a lot done on the bedroom this week).

So. What to do? The One Hundred Day challenge seemed to work pretty well for me, in terms of getting on top of my finances and getting things sorted out (see the page at the top if you’re interested). Hence I’ve been thinking along those lines and have come up with…

50 Home Improvements

Okay – it doesn’t have a jazzy/original/interesting name. But then there isn’t anything particularly jazzy/original/interesting about what has to be done either. The objectives of this project are:

  • To finally, completely declutter the whole place (seriously – I don’t understand where it is all coming from. I hardly buy anything these days!).
  • To finish the redecoration. This will include everything from painting, getting new carpet laid, getting doors replaced, and generally making it look nice.
  • To get around to fixing things. We have random broken stuff around the place crying out for attention.
  • To find ways to simplify and get organised. I hate not being able to find stuff or not having a place to put things away. Anything that makes things more straightfoward and less time consuming can go in this category.

I don’t seriously think that everything will get done in 50 steps. Most of the ’50’ will be small things, like finding an hour here and there to sort out a weird corner or paint a shelf. If I can do these things regularly then I should make some real headway. I just need to get going. I’m not giving myself a deadline – I’m just going to make a conscious effort to do 50 things.

You might wonder what this has to do with living on a shoestring…

  • Knowing what you have: If you are making an effort to buy less stuff it is really important that you really know (and have easy access to) the stuff you already have. It is easy to think that you don’t have a brown belt/evening bag/mixing bowl when actually you do – it has just been buried behind other crap for so long you forgot you had it/thought you must have thrown it away. If you are on a limited budget, for whatever reason, it is too big a waste to spend what you’ve got on things you already have versions of. Never mind the fact that you can actually use and enjoy the stuff you’ve already got.
  • A simpler life: Part of spending less can sometimes go hand in hand with wanting a simpler life. In my book, having everything organised is the key to simplicity. Less is more, less is more.
  • Time: A bit like the above really. If everything is sorted out and easy to do, you can concentrate on doing more interesting things with your time than bloody housework.
  • Enjoying home: I don’t know about you, but in a sense Husband and I are trapped where we are. We tried to sell but it didn’t happen. The housing market is so crazy right now, we’ve decided to give up and stay put for another couple of years. This was a difficult decision to make because we are really ready to go and our flat is really too small. However. We are staying. So we might as well do everything we can afford to do to make it as nice as possible to live here. Being on a budget often means being at home more, whether we’re having dinner and movie in instead of out or having friends over. Also, any improvements (even small ones like making an area look bigger by rearranging things) are a good investment in time and money if it means someone is more likely to buy it at some point in the future.

I’ll be starting tomorrow…

Categories: Decluttering, home improvements | 4 Comments

Plodding on

I really didn’t feel like continuing with the bedroom today but I eventually got around to having a go at it. Husband and I managed to put the curtain poles and the curtains back up (though not in the second bedroom – I developed a case of fingers-in-the-ears la la la). I then replaced the old lampshades with the new ones and finished sorting through my summer clothes. I bought a big plastic box to go under the bed in IKEA on Monday and away went all of the skirts, summer shoes and so on. I tried not linger on why this only seemed to free up one drawer…

I also sorted out the other things live under the bed and everything is now neatly folded and tucked away. I also cleared the tops of the wardrobes and put everything in small storage boxes and baskets. It looks a lot neater now.

I didn’t have the energy for doing the fiddly bits, like putting up the new picture and so on. Another day perhaps. At least the foundation is there for when the mood strikes. From a decluttering point of view, I managed to throw quite a few things away, have put a binliner full of stuff to be taken to the dump tomorrow and also a bag full of beads and accessories for the charity shop.

I also decided to tackle the two large jars that have sat, covered in dust, in the corner of our living room for years. They had a lot of change in the them as well as things like receipts from 2006. As you have probably guessed, I tend to ignore these jars. I got out my change bags and counted it all up – £11! Actually, there’s more left in the jar but I ran out of bags. I’ll be taking a trip to the bank on Monday to get them changed up…

Categories: Decluttering, home improvements | Leave a comment

Painting done

Well, I’ve finished the painting in the bedroom though I really ought to have painted the windowsill in the second bedroom while I was at it. We still haven’t put our curtains back up since a few months ago when our windows were replaced. It is getting ridiculous.

Can I just say that I really, really, really hate painting? I hate the mess and the disruption. Everything is in the middle of the room, waiting for the woodwork to dry. I finished the last patch on one wall (that I missed last time – it got dark!), the edges of the ceiling and then painted the skirting boards, the shelf, the window sill, the mirror frame, the door frame and the window frame. I wish I could just tidy everything away but I doubt it will be properly dry until the morning. Big grrrr.

Add this to the fact that I am clearly coming down with a cold and my chest feels raw and you’ve got the perfect recipe for one extremely grumpy woman…

Categories: home improvements | 1 Comment

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