Thursday, 30 January 2014

Pears and poems...

Do you like my new bowl? Hand thrown, beautiful glazes; blues, greens and rusts. Five pounds. Bargain. I found it yesterday after doing my Wednesday round trip to walk Archie who is on a two month holiday 'up North' with my Mum and Dad. There's a post somewhere with gorgeous puppy photo's (he's an English Cocker Spaniel). He's much bigger now but still cute. He really doesn't get the difference between paddling in the sea and paddling in a muddy puddle, and his under carriage and fluffy legs are completely white bless him.

It's a sixty mile round trip so I coincide it with other things; sometimes a trip to the huge junk and antique place which is half way between home and where Archie is. M&D live on the edge of a nice little market town and it has a quaint little Oxfam book shop which is immaculately laid out and maintained. On this trip I managed to get a few more of the key volumes on Ella's 'A' Level English Literature reading list. I wish I'd taken this subject instead of Pure and Applied Maths, it would have been so much more useful and interesting I'm sure. Needless to say I got distracted and spent the afternoon reading the selected poems of John Betjeman...

...and eating pears.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Recycling wool blankets...

The upside of returning after Christmas and finding the airing cupboard contents soggy from a dripping boiler is finding all sorts of treasures I'd long forgotten about. Dog owners will know that old towels and old blankets need to be in plentiful supply. I always look out for a dog blanket box in the corner of charity shops. Our ladies in Age UK must have a number of dog lovers among them because they not only have a dog blanket box but also bowls, leads, collars, outfits... H and R wouldn't be seen dead in an 'outfit' unless of course it was a neoprene surfing suit which would really be quite practical given the number of hours in a day they spend submerged in cold water.

Anyway, back to the blankets. I unearthed two lovely wool blankets in cream, which I had previously bought for the dogs. I gave them a good shake and washed each on the wool setting which doesn't appear to have shrunk them at all. They were deemed far too good for the dogs and yet not quite big enough for our superkingsize bed. I had in mind various crafty projects but in the end I decided that our cushion collection was looking decidedly tatty and uncoordinated. Now, cushion making is not my favourite thing to do. I am not a whizz with all things textile, and I was once banned from sewing classes at school (I think I covered that in a previous post) but... I can now wind and thread a bobbin which is a pretty big achievement methinks.

We have a number of large cushion pads, some of which had lost their 'oomph' so I put two of those together inside some of the new covers. Shown above is the back view; I used that magic envelope type construction which requires no zips or buttons or ties of any sort. I was quite surprised my sewing machine went through so many layers of blanket.

I quite like them plain but they probably need embellishing in some way. I don't fancy the large appliqué shapes that are all over the place and I don't fancy anything crochet. I will wait until inspiration strikes. I have received a compliment of the rarest kind. It came from E who is not usually one to compliment anything or anyone. I quote, 'these are good'. Woah. I nearly fainted. Actually they've been a devil to photograph, they look so much better in real life. I made five altogether. Two each for the sofas and one for J's favourite tv watching armchair. They are very warm to lie back against.

A very thrifty project because they cost £2 per blanket (I used two) and I've got enough left over to make two more or perhaps make other things, like embellishments or a cat bed or several smaller cushions which perhaps I could dip dye... now there's an idea.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

a rainy afternoon...

I've made some progress on my picture weaving, though I remain daunted by the thought of doing the trees. It's the perfect rainy afternoon activity having rushed around all morning buying last minute birthday gifts, packing sleepover bags and taking a teenage boy off to his friend's for the night....

...and it's certainly raining. I set off with the dogs in a sleeveless coat with blue skies above and not even a hint of grey. By the time I'd crossed four fields and we'd done the quick dip in the stream it was totally dark grey. We hot footed it to the village hall and texted for a lift home! No sense in getting drenched when M is only building kitchen cupboards. I'm glad I did ask to be picked up, we had overhead thunder and lightning too.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Picture weaving...

I think there should be a national craft kit amnesty. I confess I have a few. I came across this one on a recent sort out. It was given to E quite a few years back when she was the perfect age to try it. It had come from a friend's attic and the musty smell put her off a bit. Years later and the smell seems to have worn off a bit.

It was totally untouched inside. Little bundles of 100% wool and a chunky needle stored on a piece of red felt. I'm pretty sure that would be 100% acrylic and a plastic needle these days.

Here's a glimpse of what it should end up looking like. A landscape with trees in lovely 70s colours.

Since E is more into music than craft these days I thought I might as well have a go myself. Craft kits were the best gifts ever for me as a child but I don't remember trying picture weaving. I've done the straight lines, so far so good. I'll let you know how I get on with the more complicated shaping bits.

Naturally I am sidetracked with this when I have several rather more pressing crochet projects to finish. A baby boy blanket, J's blanket and several small projects. Let's hope this is the year of finishing off!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Food glorious food..

After my rather unexpected hospital stay a couple of years ago I ended up with all sorts of issues with food. Certain things made me feel extremely nauseous, others made me rush to the bathroom (yes, too much info I know). In some ways I'm glad I reached crisis point after ten years of feeling pretty rubbish with no apparent reason. Without putting myself through more invasive tests and rounds of specialists etc. I'm simply left with the art of listening to my body.

I started by cutting out all the food that was giving me a headache, nausea etc. It took six months for things to settle down. It was a period of experimentation. I cut out dairy and gluten and as much sugar as I could. It was quite drastic. I've never really been radical when it comes to healthy eating.

Almost immediately the headaches and nausea disappeared. After two years of following this pretty strict diet I felt fantastic. Two years seems to have also been the point at which I began to get seriously cheesed off with not being able to eat... well cheese among other things. I started to have very small nibble of things that I had on my 'no' list. This led to bigger nibbles and a temporary abandonment of my general food rules and all the symptoms returned. Itchy skin, sparkly dots in my eyes, foggy memory, tiredness, headaches, nausea etc.

I like to blame the kitchen disarray for my 'blip'. At times it is so chaotic. Tomorrow is going to be one of those chaotic days. M is finally devoting an entire day to fit the butler sink. He's not doing it because we need one, he's doing it to make me shut up about it. I call it project management.

Anyway, after Christmas I resolved to sort myself out. It's a right royal pain in the backside but it's the only way forward. Life could be worse. Thank goodness for our organic veg box. Probably our only extravagance at the moment. This week it came with blood oranges. I've never had these before. They taste like orangey grapefruit, very tasty.

I've also been busy making homemade falafel. If you've never tried it, the recipe is on the bbc good food website. It's very simple and the main ingredient is chick peas, very healthy. I had a salad with it and humus, which is also easy to make.

So, I'm back on the straight and narrow and feel much better. I need to keep busy so I don't think about all the food I can't have. I've been sorting out my wardrobe and also trying to turn Jake's bedroom from a toy filled kids room into a teenager's den. The wardrobe was a walk in the park compared to J's room!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A frosty walk...

Pretty chilly here today. I always take the dogs out earlier than usual if there's a frost. My theory is that I slip and slide in the mud a lot less than usual and they come back cleaner. The mud was certainly crunchy under foot this morning.

Riley hasn't worked out what frozen puddles look like. He runs over them like a spider on roller skates. Harvey is clearly more blessed in the brains department.

I love this dogwood growing in a huge clump beside the horse paddocks.

Plenty of mature oak trees too. It's a lovely walk. I've settled for doing the same route most days. It ends with the rinse cycle...

Only today Harvey wasn't that impressed with the temperature and watched Riley run like a mad thing through the water.

Go on, get in, just briefly... Who me? You gotta be kidding.

Is that eau de fox poo? Outta my way.

Quite nice to come back home, make a large mug of tea and dabble with a little crochet. I've made a few 'electronic scrap book' pages using a free app. That was the easy bit, now all I need to do is try the ideas out.

As part of my ongoing 'simplify, declutter and live without things I don't really need plan' I've decided this year to resist all crochet magazines. In fact all magazines. I wouldn't like to hazard a guess at how much they cost last year. I had a subscription to Simply Crochet and a gift subscription to Country Living. The latter is due to run out and I've cancelled the crochet one. I've got a gift subscription to Crochet World, which was a Christmas present so that will be my only magazine this year and it's bi-monthly so that's even better. My theory is that I am more likely to get round to making something from it rather than have an overwhelming choice monthly with the likes of Inside Crochet, Crochet Today, Simply Crochet...

I have of course got a plentiful supply of back copies should I need patterns for particular items. I've already got last years January issues lying around and they feel quite new really, with projects I'd forgotten about.

Which brings me to another resolution for this year; I'd really like to rely less on patterns. I know that I can create my own (my bobble-slippered mice are completely my own pattern) and it would be nice to share some too, though don't hold me to that - I'm still trying to decipher the rough notes I made when I created the mouse.

Meanwhile, another cup of tea I think... in my half finished kitchen, with a background odour of damp dog. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Taking the plunge..

A quick round up of just a few crochet projects of 2013. Yes I know it's a bit later than most for the 'review' post. It seemed appropriate to put a few photographs together in light of what I've just signed up for... a craft stall at the cricket club fundraiser. I do have plenty of time to make some stock. It's in September!

I've never done a craft stall with crochet items, just the thought is nerve wracking. Will they be good enough and how the hell can you make a profit from something that takes so long? I may have to refer to my book '30 Minute Crochet' for ideas.

I've been looking back over the last years worth of photographs trying to figure out whether there's anything worth producing a few of. The little oatmeal cardigan with the square yoke was an enjoyable make. I could cope with making a few more of those.

Toys are always fun to make the parts of, but not so fun sewing them all together. J's indoor football (from a baby pattern) was only twelve hexagons and I could just hope that people buy them for babies rather than twelve year olds who kick them round the house until they fall apart.

If I aim for one woolly item per week I could probably fill a 6x2' table and add in a few of the vintage toys I've been collecting for this kind of event.

My burnt fingers are on the mend. The dressings are off. It's been much quicker to heal than I expected. Still a bit sore when I knock them, which is often. I'm going to try to crochet today.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Thrifting...and risotto...

On our recent wood gathering expedition we took a detour to one of my favourite small towns for charity shops (there's 8 in total!) M is pretty understanding and cooperates willingly as long as he can buy a coffee and newspaper and sit it out in a cafe.

I'm pretty certain there have been meetings and notices from head offices over the Christmas period because they all seem to have put their prices up. I mean, who buys shirts at £14 from a charity shop? No thank you Oxfam. I did however spend the highest figure I've ever spent in a charity shop for the above little beauties. Eight whole pounds, but they are totally new, never worn and black and white converse hi tops have been on my wish list for quite a while. Actually, it is here I must make a confession. They've been on J's wish list too. He takes a nine and whilst I am an eight, I like my Converse one size bigger. So I unashamedly said we'd share them! Actually I think he's had a bit of a growth spurt lately if his school trousers are anything to go by (perfect a month ago and now swimming two inches above his ankles) so maybe his feet have grown too.

We've been making the microwaveable gf sponge pudding quite often. M couldn't quite believe that we didn't own a proper pudding basin. Could have something to do with the fact that I'm no Nigella. New ones seem to be about £5 which I refused to let him pay knowing that I could pick them up easily for much less. We are now a two pudding basin family and for just £1.50.

The next purchase is slightly at odds with my taste in colour. I'm really not a bright red sort of person, though I did really like my £1 vintage suitcase and use it for the odd night away, so it made sense to snap up the little red vintage vanity case for £3.99 too. Seen here on top.

The lovely old lady, who might have donated it by the sounds of things, wanted to know whether it was for decoration or to use. Decoration!? I totally intend to use it. These suitcases were made to last.

Meanwhile, look at the side of my first kitchen unit! Woohoo. Love it. This is the double one that will sit underneath the island worktop. Just needs a coat of clear wax, a base and doors. M works at the speed of a snail. Though to be fair, I did cut his working hours by suggesting a nice risotto tonight knowing he would never trust me to make it.

Finally, a rubbish photo but one that gives the general idea. This is one of the floor joists sanded and coated with clear wax. No colour applied because it is pitch pine which is a good deep colour anyway. Four of these joined side by side will create our worktops. If I hadn't been forced to do traditional girl subjects at school (home economics and textiles) I could be building this kitchen too! As it is, I'm chief wood stacker (piles of wood with spacers in warm locations next to radiators) dog walker and tea maker. Actually I feel we've made some progress in our marriage as of today; M admitted this morning that I make a very good project manager. This was when I narrowly diverted a woodworking disaster as he was building the first unit without allowing a cavity for the back panel. We've had plenty of similar occasions. Even M recognised that it was a rare occasion when he is prepared to acknowledge I'm right. Just so long as I keep complimenting his risotto all will remain balanced!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Where there's muck there's brass...

Taps! Oh my, this is serious progress. These were green with grunge, almost mossy. We waded through lots more mud and leaky portacabins and finally dug up this retro pair of taps. If truth be told, we had in mind a mixer tap but when we saw these it was love at first sight. A bargain at £20 compared to the ones we'd seen which were already polished up. Another £60 for a bit of elbow grease? No thank you.

Talking of elbow grease, I now have an 'after' photo of the sink. It came from an old school and still had quite a bit of purple paint on it. The plug hole seems to be brass which is nice. We thought it was literally made of rust and might need replacing.

You can see it is perched on a strong wooden unit that M made yesterday. It weighs a tonne so it took a bit of huffing and puffing to get it up there.

I've picked out all of the nails from the stool and given it a wash down. M will repair the missing spindles at a later stage. I don't want him doing jobs like that when there's a whole kitchen to be built!

A nearby pub is being demolished and the very friendly demolition guys are putting timber to one side for us to collect tomorrow. They salvage all the metal and usually burn the wood! The are floor boards, roof timbers, panelling... how criminal to burn it all!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


I'm having a run of silly accidents lately. First I dropped a large metal sign on my toes. Across the bridge of my big toes actually and that hurt quite a lot. Then I managed to rip a  finger nail from the skin underneath. Last night I tried to rescue a ribbon of plastic that had fallen on a burning candle which was very stupid actually because the flame was working its way up the ribbon extremely fast. It resulted in molten plastic attaching itself to my fingers. I've never had such a nasty burn. It all went white and blistered up. After an hour and a half of searing pain we went to A&E who said we should have come straight away and with cling film on the fingers. The rather large dressings stay on for 48 hours then I go and have them changed. I don't think I'll be doing any crochet for a week or so, and M is fully resigned to making the tea for now.

It's funny how people react to such situations. M always assumes the role of fully qualified and experienced doctor. This annoys me intensely. J just wants to gawp at the gory stuff. E throws looks which suggest that anyone injured is surely going to die. Meanwhile, I feel like the only sane one who has to make the decisions around here, namely when to phone the NHS helpline thing. Thankfully once the decisions are made M is pretty good at making light of the situation, cracking jokes and taking your mind off it. It was a quiet night at A&E too, just a couple of drunks and a few others. I felt a bit of a twit sitting there with my fingers in a cup of cold water though!

Monday, 13 January 2014

salvage yard shopping...

We popped a bread mix into the breadmaker this morning and went off in search of a butler sink. We discussed sizes and tap mountings and plumbing parts and most importantly, budget. I suggested we be patient and not buy the first one we see if it was battered and chipped.

Our nearest salvage yard is only a small place with most things looking past their best and everything a bit wet and mouldy. The perfect sink was sitting in the entrance so we thought it would be ridiculously expensive. I let M go in to the little shack (office) to do the negotiating. £25. Wow! About a third of what I'd thought we'd have to pay, and M negotiated a fiver off his original price of £30. As it happened we spent the fiver on a solid wood stool which had seen better days and was missing two spindles, which m can easily repair.

Underneath this ridiculous attempt at upholstering a seat is a lovely wooden seat. It's not particularly old but it's very solid and looks lived in. It's going to get a thorough clean, light sanding and wax finish.

With a bit of luck I could have a plumbed in sink within a week. Happy days.

modern rustic...

One thing is for sure... I never take the easy routes in life, but that's not to say it's always a negative thing. The kitchen is proving to be one of those occasions I wish would just hurry up and be over. I want to get on and bake cakes for heavens sake!

We recently had a family day out to IKEA. We are now the proud owners of a family card and M likes to make use of it. He can hardly believe we have been paying for tea and coffee when all this time it's been free with a family card.

When the children were small we often went to IKEA for a day out. Easy parking, play areas, cheap food, cheap art supplies, and they were happy with whatever pocket sized cuddly toy was going at the time to befriend on the way home. They are now as tall as me and teenagers but some things never change. We still came home with a new friend each. Alfred and Brocolli are the new members of the family. You really have to have been to Ikea to know what the heck I am talking about.

Neither M or I have been very enthusiastic about any of the kitchens we have seen, including those in DIY stores and private kitchen companies. We ended up in IKEA because the planning tools were user friendly and they've been voted best value for money. When we first started knocking through we had no idea what kind of kitchen we wanted but we did talk of styles that would really be more at home in a cottage, farmhouse, barn, warehouse... not a bungalow! However, there are some homes that defy the outer shell and reflect the personality of the owners regardless.

When I first met M I was much more of an eco warrior, recycler, make do and mender... I had notebooks stuffed with great 'up-cycling' ideas long before they started using the word. Somehow, in the drive to be 'sensible' and act my age, the scaffolding plank and house-brick bookcases have fallen by the wayside (you should have seen the look on the faces of the removal men when they loaded up crates of bricks and my precious planks!). My mismatched junk shop armchairs have been unceremoniously dumped, my toolchest coffee tables used for tools (oh the horror) and oh hell, I've become boring and middle aged.

All of this was discussed at length on the hour and a bit long journey home from IKEA and we've decided to go with what my heart desires and try and make a new kitchen using entirely reclaimed timber. Hooray for scaffolding planks I say! It will be our version of the above ideas according to the stuff we've got and the space we have. I feel much happier knowing that we won't be buying new appliances just because we wanted them to be integral or hidden. I feel much happier recycling the twenty or so brushed steel handles that we salvaged from the old kitchen. I feel extremely happy to have an excuse to go rummaging about in salvage yards for a butler sink and to auctions for some random wooden stools. I'm pretty happy that we can bash it about a bit and not worry, and that the dogs can't wreck it, or the cat for that matter.

As an experiment M has put one unit together and I love it. I'll take a photo when it has doors and handles affixed. M loves the challenge of woodwork and finds it therapeutic after some of the gruelling court cases his work involves. Just as well because it will take him quite a while!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Microwaveable gluten free jam sponge...

As I was writing yesterday's post it suddenly occurred to me that we could be doing more with the microwave oven whilst we are without a conventional oven. We've come to think of microwaves as heating up quickly devices rather than cooking devices.

M had a vague recollection of a jam sponge that could be cooked in the microwave using the 4, 4, 4, 2 rule. No idea what that is actually, something to do with ounces. Ounces? I prefer metric.

With less than half an hour to go before taking the children to cricket training he decided to throw all the ingredients together and try it out. We used self raising gluten free flour and dairy free butter (sunflower spread) and homemade plum jam watered down a little because it was quite thick.

I thought I'd share the recipe...

100g self raising flour
100g margarine
100g sugar
2 eggs
2 dessert spoons of jam or lemon curd or chocolate spread or get the idea.

Throw it all in a mixing bowl and use an electric whisk until smooth. Place mix in a greased two pint pudding bowl. Cover with cling film and puncture once in the middle. Microwave on full power for five minutes. Stand for two minutes then turn upside down onto a plate.

It did look rather anaemic compared to an oven baked sponge but it tastes absolutely wonderful. I'm guessing that you'd get a slightly more raised sponge if you use ordinary self raising rather than gluten free flour. This is a sponge I could serve the children without them knowing it was gluten free.

A ten minute pudding! Success.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Domestic bliss...

Progress with the kitchen is slow and we are still trying to survive without an oven. Whilst it is frustrating it has also been enlightening. We have two amazing pieces of equipment that are seeing us through. A slow cooker and a bread machine. Admittedly we could carry on buying bread but it wouldn't be half as much fun nor as tasty, not to mention how much cheaper it is to make it at home.

The bread maker came to us in a flurry of other cast offs, I assume because we now have a larger kitchen. M made the first loaf a while ago and it was eaten and appreciated, but since he spent what seemed like a whole day reading the manual I was rather put off having a go myself. I've since discovered that with the ready mixes for bread machines it's just a question of throwing it all in with a bit of water and sometimes oil and pressing one button. Three hours later and with the house smelling like a bakery, one deliciously fresh loaf of bread.

Even Jake wanted me to talk him through the instructions 'just in case he ever needed to make one by himself'. 

Not so easy was locating a gluten free bead mix for breadmakers. I orderd a triple pack of Mrs Crimbles from Amazon in the end. Our bread maker does not have a gf programme but we found a site that suggested using the 'sweet' cycle. The bread that resulted is certainly edible (see below) but I feel it could be improved, so I will probably try the next pack on a different programme.

We've mislaid the manual but when it turns up it will no doubt have recipes that will mean we don't even have to buy the bread mixes, though at 80p for a huge loaf it's already economical.

Yesterday we had a fantastic winter warming chicken stew. I did it myself, a rare occasion indeed. Tonight we have a sausage casserole slowly cooking; m's creation before he want to work. I've been reading our slow cooker cook book and there is even a recipe for lemon sponge cake can you believe? You make the mix, put it in a bowl and stand it in water in the slow cooker. A bit like those steamed puddings you cook in the tin. I remember a chocolate one boiling dry and exploding all over our kitchen ceiling when we were kids. Mum trying to do too many things at once!

Oh and did you spot my fabulous Downton Abbey egg rack in the background there? As seen in Mrs Patmore's kitchen no less. Holds two dozen eggs. M said it was a b****r to make. Me and my clever ideas huh?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Back to normal...

Woohoo! The kids are back at school, with much moaning. Well from E really. She took this photo on her last dog walk. A clever perspective since Harvey and Riley are impossible to photograph mid walk any other way. As you can see, plenty of mud. I did the same walk today and ended with a good long splash in the stream (the dogs not me). They came home bedraggled but happy. I lined their crates with warm towels and they hopped in to them right next to the radiator and were so worn out and content that they missed the postman. Poor chap, if he has to deliver a parcel he calls out, 'are they under control?' Oh yes, they are chained up with huge thick chains, no need to worry... Little does he know that there is a wooden gate just propped against the door frame which would take little effort to knock down. If they did they might lick him to death!

Monday, 6 January 2014

One step closer...

Things have been getting to us lately. The kitchen. It's a dirty word round here. Literally too. Dust, dust and more dust. It gets everywhere.

M has not enjoyed the process of tiling the floor, in fact he aches so much he took it upon himself to count the tiles he'd laid just so he can say, 'that's 168 tiles I've laid, no wonder I'm aching!'

The above pic is when all the appliances had to be shoved into the middle of the room. The whole floor is now complete and our temporary layout is back once more; with a bit of swearing though, because I had the audacity to suggest we retrieve a small piece of old worktop from my workshop so that we don't have to use the top of the washing machine as a work surface. You'd have thought I'd asked him to lay another 168 tiles!

The grouting still needs a bit of tidying up but all tools have left the building which is fantastic as we had more tools in the kitchen than crockery.

IKEA here we come! The kitchen needs to be ordered now and although we are aware that it will take weeks to arrive we have plenty to do in the meantime. I'm a great believer in fate. What will be will be. M wants an island and I'm hankering after a long farm house table instead. He will probably win on account of us needing the cupboards and drawers that will go under the island.

Hopefully some time this year I will have the 'after' photos to go with they 'before's'. Can't wait.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Small but beautiful...

I've been having a few adventures with blogger and passwords. Having hunted through and sorted out my bureau and various bookshelves and assorted drawers of miscellaneous sketch pads and notebooks I finally had a lightbulb moment in the small hours of this morning and located the small white notebook that contained all my passwords. Turns out it wasn't the password I was entering incorrectly it was the email address. Anyway, this is why I haven't been able to change things in my blog sidebar including my reading list.

This tatty little collection of pocket sized books has recently been reunited (after aforementioned notebook hunt) and I'm sure there are a few more tucked away somewhere. It all started when I bought Larkrise to Candleford, which I've read twice now and enjoyed thoroughly. I wonder who has the lucky job of finding literary gems to dramatise on TV? In this case the book has so much more detail than the television version.

Since then I've 'rescued' these tatty little volumes whenever I've spotted them. They often have inscriptions or names written inside. It's wonderful to think that a small book was given as a romantic gift... like this one...

The inscription inside makes me wonder whether they got married and lived happily ever after, or whether historical events got in the way...

Although it's tempting to read my favourite for a third time I think I might revisit Silas Marner by George Eliot which I didn't enjoy when we studied it for 'O' Level English. I'm hoping I will like it better now. If all else fails I will start The House with the Green Shutters by go George Douglas which I liked the look of for no other reason than the catchy title!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New candles...

It's a funny old time of year, the New Year. For me it's often about slight changes rather than huge resolutions. On my long dog walks I get quite a bit of thinking time and I've reflected, yet again, on how difficult it is to truly live the simple life that I want to live with people who don't necessarily share the same views or values. M goes along with most things but it isn't in his heart, as it is in mine.

I've got no qualms about continuing to live without new clothing. Seeking out treasures is far more entertaining and satisfying than buying new. I'm switching to cotton hankies this year and I can't believe I haven't done so before now. The children were not supportive when I first used one in front of them and were repulsed by the idea that my hankies would be washed at the same time as their (filthy socks) washing.

I've started the New Year by having a huge clear out of the airing cupboard and managed to fill two sacks for charity. It wasn't exactly a choice to sort it out. Our boiler was steadily dripping away while we were away for Christmas.

The large bag of rags I discovered are now replacing kitchen wipes and kitchen towel. Don't tell the kids but they are in amongst their washing too!

It's not all dirty rags here though. I dug out all my candle ends and left over bits and despite having a fancy double boiler thing and various candle moulds (somewhere) I decided to jump straight in and use what was lying around ie. one empty candle tin and one empty glass candle container. I've got a whole packet of candlewick somewhere too but I used the wick from a broken dinner candle instead.

It's quite fun making candles and these are scented too. They dip in the middle when they are drying so you have to keep a little melted wax back to top up. It only takes one or two top ups. You can layer the colours too if you let them cool in between pourings. I tend to use a penny and a small piece of blu tack to keep the wick anchored to the bottom of the container.

We may not have a working oven yet but the newly knocked through kitchen is a hive of activity. Mingled with the smell of scented candles is the smell of freshly baked Ciabatta. We've decided to put our breadmaker to good use and keep a stock of bread mixes in the cupboard. They cost 80p as opposed to nearly double that for a family loaf. We just need to source a gf mix and I will be very happy.