Make do

Decorative recycling

I can’t remember if I’ve ever blogged about two of my very favourite pendants before…

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I bought the one on the left from Etsy about 4 years ago. It wasn’t very expensive and neither was the postage considering that it came all the way from the US. It is a recycled games tile with a vintage stamp lacquered on to the front. I’ve seen similar things since (though not as pretty as mine) but when I bought it it was completely unlike anything ‘out there’. The other pendant is also from the US funnily enough. A very lovely American friend of mine bought it for me at a craft fair. It is made from a piece of broken china. I’ve worn both of these in the last week in a further effort to make good use of everything I have.

My favourite plate got broken at the weekend. I confess to being really quite gutted about it. I had hankered after it for a long time and eventually bought it. It was a ridiculous amount to spend on one plate (£14.95 from Emma Bridgewater) but – do you know – I enjoyed that plate every single time I used it. It is – was -part of my daughters home landscape – ‘Mummy’s chicken plate’. I’ve kept the pieces with a vague hope that I might be able to team it with some other broken ceramics and fashion one of those plant pots that you used to see all the time. I can’t let go!

Husband offered to buy me a new one (he was the one wot done it) but the design has been discontinued. The only place I could find one was ebay and that was £29.95. I’d never dare use a plate that cost £30! Boo. I really, really loved the pattern.  Would a replacement be the same? Or should I/Husband splash out and get another ‘special’ plate in a totally different design? And why should I need a special flippin’ plate anyway? I;ve got perfectly good tea plates. Hmmm. I’ll let you know if I come to any conclusions!

Broken crockery aside, my daughter and I are still struck down with the lurgie. It’s been here for two weeks and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. I would really like to be able to say the letter ‘m’ again. I miss it.  I had to make arrangements over the phone at work today for things taking place in May. Except no-one knew what I was on about as even I could tell that ‘Id Bay, id BAY!!’ sounds very little like ‘In May’. Grrrr.

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Categories: Frugal ideas, Make do | Leave a comment

Mini jars and movies

I pinched this teeny jam jar when we were out having a cream tea a few months ago. It is the perfect size to fill up with salad dressing and take to work in my packed lunch box.

You can’t really tell from the photo but this jar is smaller than the usual little jars and I took a real shine to it! I thought I might as well take it home and re-use it rather than let it go in the bin.

You might remember that I downgraded my package from Lovefilm a while back, saving £5 a month. At the time there weren’t many films out that we really wanted to watch so it seemed like 4 discs a month would be enough.  It turned out they weren’t! Almost straightaway I missed being able to order any old film I felt like once I remembered that they were rationed (for the extra £5 we can rent an unlimited number of films). I realised how much I liked being able to watch lots of different films and the really good TV series and that when I heard about a new film coming out, knowing I’d be able to watch it as soon as it came out on DVD. It also never seems a ‘waste’ to rent an older DVD. Last week I was in the library and spotted The Ruby In The Smoke which was adapted from the Sally Lockheart series by Philip Pullman. I loved this series of four books and had been wanting to see the two that got made into films. I really enjoyed the DVD and my first thought was to add the next one to my LoveFilm list. My second thought was the realisation that I already had quite a few DVDs on the list and so I might not get to see it for a couple of months! I can afford the extra £5 a month so I went ahead and changed back to my original package where we can have unlimted DVDs and two discs at home at any one time. Long, cold, dark evenings are not so far away and it is good to know we’ll have a bit of entertainment lined up!

When you are living on a tight budget you do end up questioning every penny. However, sometimes it is worth loosening the purse strings, particularly when you can get such a lot out of a little bit of cash!

Categories: Frugal ideas, Make do, Shoestring Fun | 5 Comments

Make your own personalised ‘art’!

You might remember that I was excited a couple of months ago as I found some wrapping paper that I thought I could frame and hang as a print in our bedroom. Annoyingly, when I got home I realised that the pattern went ‘up’ instead of ‘across’ and it wouldn’t work. Instead I decided to decorate some ‘old-school’ luggage tags that I bought a long time ago with a similar project in mind.

We already had a frame with a mount that we bought in IKEA years ago. It has displayed several different prints in several locations around our home over the last few years. It was just the right size to display 8 of these tags. You don’t have to be able to draw or paint to create something personalised.

I decorated the 8 tags in lots of different ways including a scanned copy of a map showing our favourite holiday spot, pressed flowers from the garden of my childhood home and other bits and bobs that mean something to us.

I bought a piece of pale grey card which I stuck the tags to (in two lines of four) and then popped it into the frame. The thing that took the most time was deciding what to put on each tag! Once I figured it out, I printed out any text required using a typewriter style font as I thought it fitted with the look of the old fashioned luggage tags. I then printed the document and cut out each word or phrase and stuck it on the corresponding tag. One of the great things about this is that none of it has to be perfectly neat or straight – a bit of wobble makes it look even better! Since I already had the frame, the tags, a printer, a sheet of A4 paper and some ink, the only thing I had to buy was the card which I bought for pence in a local stationery shop.

I think something like this would make a really great present, picking a theme like holidays you’ve had, special dates or a just variety of things as I’ve done. This would probably go down well with anyone who likes the stuff from Not On The High Street! And that’s another thing off the ‘house’ list…

Categories: home improvements, Make do | 1 Comment

The ‘make do’ work wardrobe

When I used to spend more money more often on clothes, a lot of the things I bought were specifically for work. There’s no getting away from it; if you have a job where you have to look smart and don’t get supplied with a uniform then you have to make sure you look the part out of your own funds. Laura over at Move To Portugal also recently blogged about getting a capsule work wardrobe on the go.

You might remember a couple of months ago I spent some time getting my old work clothes out of storage, sorting through what I should keep, washing and ironing them etc. At the time I thought I would probably need some new things but, as the weeks go on, it seems I really don’t. Perhaps, I should point out that I had a few new things prior to going back…

Firstly there was the pair of black sandals which can be worn either at work or home (and which I blogged about at the time). Secondly there was a pair of black trousers which I bought in February. I got them from Gap online. They were on sale and I also used codes to get free delivery and a further 15% discount! I have worn them a lot. I have a couple of pairs of black trousers that are in okayish condition from pre-pregnancy but I definitely needed a ‘smart’ pair. Lastly, Husband treated me to a simple black linen skirt from the Tu range at Sainsbury’s. I didn’t have any work skirts at all so it is great, plus I would happily wear it outside work if I felt so inclined (good luck shoe-horning me out of my jeans though).

It seems that these three items are going to be enough to get me comfortably through the rest of the season. This is one of the great things about only being in the office a couple of days a week – I can get away with a much, much smaller work wardrobe. This really helps keep costs down and also – I need less storage space for it all! I’ll have to check through my supplies again when the weather gets colder (let’s not think about that now) but, for now, I’m all set!

Categories: Budget beauty, Make do | 3 Comments

Use it!

Do you ever find yourself saving things up for no good reason? A nice notepad? A scarf? The ‘posh’ pasta you bought? I do this all the time but I’m trying to stop it. When you spend a lot of energy trying to declutter and simplify your home, hoarding things for ‘best’ seems somewhat counterproductive.

I guess we all hoard different things. I have a huge collection of notepads. It has been slowly going down since I started this blog as I very rarely buy one these days. However, as everyone knows I love stationery I tend to get given a lot (which I love!). I’m trying to make sure I actually use them rather than have a huge stash of notepads to be used for something important. The one in the photo was bought for me by my BF earlier this year. Rather than saving it I’ve been using it to write my weekly meal plans – it makes what is generally a dull job a lot nicer! Some years ago now we went to New York and I bought a gorgeous hardback notepad from the Guggenheim. It sat on the bookshelf unused for years because I always felt I should use it for something signifigant. Then I decided to just use it. When I started my ‘Declutter 10’ series I used it to list the 10 items I had managed to declutter that week. Now I’ve got it back out for my DIY 5 step programme to record what I manage to get done each week.

I also seem to have a huge stash of body lotion, comprised mainly from gift sets that I have been given over the years. I hardly ever use lotion. I think that by the end of a bath or shower I just can’t be bothered. But…it is just sat there, taking up space, not being used and my skin could probably use a bit of pampering. I’ve taken a tub of lotion out of the bathroom and brought it downstairs so I can actually see it. I don’t remember/ feel compelled to use it every day but once or twice a week I’ll slap a bit on while I’m reading or watching TV.

I’ll be trying to think of others things I’m hoarding for no good reason and get cracking on actually using them! After all, if the money has already been spent you might as well get some use out of it!

Categories: Make do | 8 Comments

The 5 step programme

No, I’m not in an anonymous group dealing with some kind of addiction (though starting getting my house ready and then not seeing it through could possibly be argued as being some kind of disorder). I’ve just been thinking about what I can do to get the ball rolling and have decided (because I like these mini goals) that I am going to take 5 proactive steps each week towards getting ready to go on the market and making our home ‘work’ better (which is all the same thing really). I’ll try and report on this each week until a) it’s all finished or b) I lose steam again…!

1. Buying a magazine: ‘A magazine?!’ I hear you cry. Yup, a magazine – one focusing on interiors. I am desperately in need of fresh inspiration. I decided that there is no point trying to make this place look super smart in that very catalogue-ish, hotelesque kind of way. It won’t work here – it is too quirky and odd. What is needs is a bit of a rustic vibe (we live in a country/seaside town after all). Thus decided I was pleased to see that Ideal Home have published a ‘Country Issue’ this month. I promptly bought it and got a loads of ideas. Good start…

2. Decluttering: Yup, more of that. I’ve put aside 22 books to take to the charity shop on my lunch break after seeing if anyone at work wants a rummage first. I’m getting better at not hoarding books. My collection still runs into the hundreds (and hundreds) but I’m trying to be more ruthless about getting rid of books I didn’t really love, persistently skip over when I’m trying to find something to read or probably wouldn’t read again. I also added a weird little pot to the charity shop bag. It was a gift about 8 years ago. We don’t see the people who gave it to us anymore and it doesn’t really ‘go’ anywhere. Maybe it will be just right for someone else.

3. Shopping at home: I’ve decided to try and make a bit of a feature of the (extremely oddly proportioned) ‘mantlepiece’ in our bedroom. It isn’t really a mantlepiece. I mean, it clearly was one but it has been filled in and there is no chimney. And it looks like it has been cut in half and separated. I told you this place was odd. Anyway, I saw a collection of things in the magazine and decided to see what I already had that I could make a similar arrangement of (all in off white). I found a little lantern (that I will probably paint at some point) and an unused candle in a little dish. They are now randomly placed on the mantlepiece awaiting further developments!

4. Shopping in the shops: To add to the decorations/finishing touches in the bedroom I bought a very gorgeous hanging tealight holder (can’t describe it – will take a photo at some point) for £7.49, an old-fashioned metal candleholder with a ‘flower’ base (which I also can’t describe) for £5.99 and a little boat for £5.99 – all items in off white thus helping me to start creating a ‘look’. Total spend £19.47 which I think is pretty good for the above haul!

5. A make-do print: I have an ongoing battle, trying to find a print that I can hang over the mantlepiece in our bedroom. Nothing seems to work. I really wanted something a bit folk arty but I just can’t find anything. Anyway, I already have an old IKEA frame with a mount so I went to a local gift shop today and bought a pretty piece of wrapping paper in the right sort of colours for £1.75. I’m hoping it will look right once framed. The frame also needs to be painted but, if it looks good, I should be able to get something hanging over the mantlepiece for under £2!

I’ve really got to keep at it and get everything done. Onwards and upwards…

Categories: Decluttering, home improvements, Make do | 3 Comments

Project ‘re-love’: a summery bracelet

Don’t think I’d forgotten my little project to ‘re-love’ (ie fall in love all over again) with things I already own, thus sparing me from parting with my pennies and pounds in the shops. I’ve just been busy. I’ve also been busy loving the bag from my last post on this subject. I could write a little ode to it. But I’ll save myself the time and spare you all. I will say, though, that after doing my two days in the office, I transfer all of my things from my work bag to my ‘re-loved’ bag and feel a giddy sense of joy. Firstly because I’m home for the rest of the week and secondly because, well, I really love that bag.

Anyway, next up to be loved again is the bracelet in the photo above. I bought it about 3 or 4 years ago. It is by Pilgrim – a jewellery brand that I enjoy and have, er, something of a collection of. A local shop that stocked Pilgrim used to have two sales a year and sold off the last seasons stock really, really cheaply. As in way cheaper than online. I think this bracelet was getting on for £30 originally and I paid less than £10 for it. The photo (taken, like all of the others over the last few months, on my phone) isn’t great but it is a really pretty bracelet. I remember buying it, thinking it would be a great summer accessory and would look good with white linen. What I didn’t factor in, of course, is that I tend to get really aggravated by bracelets and bangles. However, I’ve been wearing it all day and have really enjoyed seeing it glinting away at my wrist. I think bracelets are less annoying when you’re not doing paperwork in an office where they keep clattering against your desk. Anyway, I have only worn this a few times and not at all for over a year so it is definitely like having something new!

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Re-love project: A ‘new’ handbag

In a bid to entice myself away from buying new ‘stuff’ I’ve decided to try to make the most of the things I already have – the type of things that I am generally tempted to part with my cash over. Every week or two I’m going to pick one thing that I haven’t used much/used for ages etc, dust it off and remind myself why I bought it in the first place. I’m going to ‘re-love’ it all over again. And just generally enjoy it really!

First up is the handbag above. First off, this is a bad photo that does pretty much nothing for its subject but it was pretty much impossible to get take a photo using my mobile phone that could capture it at the right angle. The photo isn’t important though. I bought this bag last year in Zara. It was the first weekend of my maternity leave, 3 weeks before my due date – 5 weeks before Baby actually arrived. I had gone into ‘town’ to pick up a last few bits and bobs and I think I had it in my head that I wanted to buy a non ‘Mum’ related something for myself. This probably goes right against the grain of many thrifters – I didn’t ‘need’ it and it was definitely a ‘treat’. I did very much enjoy buying it and using it for about a month before it got replaced by the changing bag! However, I did note when I bought it that it was a practical purchase; the bag is very roomy and has a long strap so I can wear it across my body when my arms are full.

A few days ago I pulled it out of a storage box and decided to use it for at least a week (except for when I’m going to work). Never mind a week – I’m going to be using it for AGES. I love this bag. I think I love it more than when I bought it. It can fit everything I need for both Baby and me when we’re out and about. And it looks lovely (I’m not joking. The photo doesn’t do anything for it at all). I feel like I’ve bought a new bag. Except I haven’t. It was right there the whole time. This little project to ‘re-love’ my stuff is off to a good start…

Categories: Make do | 6 Comments

Day 2: shirts and shoes

After sorting through my shoes yesterday I decided I’d better give the remaining pairs a good polish. I keep all of our shoes polishing equipment in a pretty IKEA storage box so I always know where to find it! I can’t remember the last time I polished a pair of shoes having lived in casual shoes and boots for the last year. I don’t even know if I can still walk in heels (it’s like riding a bike, right?). Anyhow, nearly all of them have cleaned up as good as new (just one pair look a bit on the ropey side but they’ll have to do a bit longer).

I’ve mentioned before I have massive problems trying to find shoes that will stay on my feet (there has to be an ankle strap or I’m doomed). My supply of summer shoes is seriously pathetic – I’m not going to get away without buying a pair. I’ve been eyeing up a couple of flat strappy sandals on the Next website. I’ve ordered a few pairs so I can try them on (and send the rest back!) and am hoping that there will be a pair that will be okay for both work and home.

I’ve also started rummaging through my old work clothes. I must have binned a load last year because there wasn’t as much as I had remembered. Even so, I managed to fill another bag to go to the charity shop. Some of those shirts and tops were seven years old. No-one can say I don’t get good wear out of clothes! In a sense, the fewer items the better. I don’t like dithering about in the morning, trying to decide what to wear for work. The only thing I seem to really be lacking is a smart ‘work’ cardigan to go over short sleeved shirts and tops. I’m sure I used to have at least one but there you go. All of the clothes smelt really musty so I put the first load on this morning.

So that’s two things done for today – shoe polishing and clothes sorting/washing!

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Wardrobe, voucher and pasta inspiration

Another bit of mix and match action from my maternity basics and stock of accessories to come up with something new. I love this silk butterfly scarf and don’t wear it nearly often enough. It goes with a lot of things but I was feeling the monochrome vibe today hence…

My small collection of bracelets and bangles are largely neglected but, as I’ve been trying to make an effort to get use out of what I’ve got, I’ve been wearing them a bit more often. This large silver bangle, a gift from the Christmas before last, has been worn quite a few times in the last few weeks and seems to go with a lot of things.

I’m planning a big shop on Friday. I generally do one big shop a month and then a smaller weekly shop but I haven’t really done this since Christmas when my job and wages changed. However, I received some good Tesco Clubcard vouchers over the weekend so I’m going to make the most of them!

Speaking of vouchers, I’ve started looking into various deals online. Through Google I found a host of restaurant offers and a couple of weekends ago we went to ASK with a voucher printed from the internet. It was either £10 or £12 (I can’t remember now!) for a three course meal. The menu that applied to the offer was small but the four of us all easily found something we liked and had a gorgeous meal for really very little. When we paid they also gave us a voucher detailing their current offer – 2 main meals for the price of one from Sunday to Thursday. Since we don’t have the opportunity to go during the week (we live too far away) I posted the voucher to a friend who lived nearby, just on the off chance that she might like it. I saw her at the weekend and she told me she had actually used it! I don’t know why but this really pleased me…sharing the voucher love maybe! A very small amount of investigation online revealed lots of similar vouchers and deals so we’ll be doing this again before long.

Now I’m off to dig out my pasta recipe book – I’m fairly sure it survived the book cull. I haven’t made pasta much recently (I’ve got tired of my usual recipes) and yet it offers a great base for some shoestring meals so I’m hoping to find a few fresh ideas…

Categories: Make do | 5 Comments

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