A very useful birthday present

Hello Friends,

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I had a lovely present from Edie and Bee.  Here it is:

2015-01-08 18.53.40And I’ve been doing lots of cooking already.  Here are some traybakes I made for work (we always bring cake in on our birthday to share)

IMGP4087And here are some cakes I made for our book club, a Victoria sponge and a coffee and walnut cake:

2015-01-27 19.51.44I have had a lot of fun from this birthday present.  These are the best sort – yes it’s another item of ‘stuff’ but it’s being used.  I have been through my cook books again, and two which I have not used in years have gone to the charity shop.  This is going to be the test for things from now on – do I use it? Do I love it?  If not, off it goes.

What has been your most useful birthday or Christmas present?

Until next time, Tawney x

Sale bargains

Hello Friends,

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I am not a great fan of shopping as a leisure activity.  I prefer to plan to shop when I need something, rather than drift aimlessly round because I have nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

I’ve never been to the sales to join in with the crush of people on Boxing Day.  What I have found is that if you hang on until the end of the sales, you can walk around without being trampled on and find bargains sometimes at 70% off.  I still have a list of what I need at the time, but if I can’t find it, I walk away.  This time we couldn’t find a coat for Edie – she is quite slenderly built and a size 8, so it can be a challenge finding something which doesn’t look like a sack.

On my list I had a new pair of shoes for work, a new work blouse and I am gradually replacing my old summer T shirts which have shrunk.  While I’m not doing too badly for my age, the cropped T shirt look doesn’t work quite so well now.

I found a pink and white  stripey T shirt reduced from £15 to £3, a shirt at half price at £10, and a pair of the shoes which cost £44, reduced from £150.  I am particularly pleased with the shoes – they are just plain black shoes with leather uppers and soles which means they can be repaired over and over and will hopefully last for years.  OH buys one pair of good quality leather shoes about every 10 years and has them repaired until they fall apart.

How do you tackle the sales?  Have you picked up any bargains this time?

Until next time, Tawney x

Deep de-cluttering

Hello Friends,

I’ve had some time off work over the last few weeks and I’m taking the opportunity to have a bit more of a clear out.  My aim is to create a calmer home where I don’t spend my life looking for things all the time.

I am aware that I have been guilty of shuffling things around the house, when in fact, much of it needs to go.  I’m now looking at the ‘stuff’ in a different way and asking myself if I really need it.  Here are some of the things I have finally let go:

  • bags of small scraps of material
  • broken shoes and torn jeans belonging to all of us
  • several packs of plain postcards and lined revision cards.  I vaguely remember buying these when I did my Masters degree seven years ago – I am not going to need them again.

This has meant challenging my beliefs about why I’m holding on to stuff and giving myself permission to let it go.  Hanging on to the cards is pointless.  They are just taking up space in a folder.  Each time I’ve gone the folder to look for something else they all fall out.  If I need any more I will buy some.

This kind of de-cluttering is going to take quite a while.  We’ve got loads of stuff which we just walk past every day and it’s got to go.  The key is going to be just picking one small thing, like a folder or a shelf, examining every item and making sure I finish it.

What are the things that you find hardest to let go of when you are de-cluttering?

Until next time, Tawney x

Resolutions for next Christmas – maybe do a bit less

Hello Friends,

Over the last couple of years I’ve challenged myself to try new things with cooking and decorating for Christmas.  Last year I made a Christmas cake for the first time ever and cooked a ham.  I also made a garland for the mantelpiece in the playroom and a wreath for the front door.

This year I decided to add making home made ice cream and cinnamon buns to the list.  The results have been variable.

I realised last weekend that although I’ve enjoyed the creative side of trying new recipes, I’ve ended up making life more complicated – not what my life on Frugal Hill is meant to be.  Each new thing has been added to the list of things I MUST DO every Christmas.

I’ve also done far more running around after other people than was perhaps good for me (a 6 hour drive from Derbyshire to London and back finished me off for Christmas day).

One of my friends has the right idea – she cooks lasagne on Christmas day :-)

My resolutions for next Christmas are as follows:

  • Children returning from university catch the train home
  • Children returning from abroad fly to Manchester if they want a lift, or travel home by train if they fly to London
  • One meat option and one vegetarian option only will be provided for Christmas lunch and Boxing Day.
  • One pudding option only for Christmas lunch + bought ice cream
  •  No cinnamon buns or home made ice cream – that was a big mistake
  • Christmas cards will be posted / delivered by the end of the first week in December or not at all.
  • I will no longer read round robin letters of more than 1 page – 8 pages in tiny type about people I’ve never heard of is of absolutely no interest to me and will go straight in the recycling.
  • Everything must be bought online – no more grim Saturday afternoons in shopping malls.

Have you managed to simplify Christmas?  How have you managed it?

Until next time, Tawney x

Plum tree mini disaster

Hello Friends,

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas.  We’ve had a bit of an odd one.

Both OH and I were ill on Christmas day.  The girls got together and made a shepherds pie, but as they switched the oven on it blew up tripping out the electrics.  We’ve had this oven for around 5 years.  It has been very unreliable, and OH had fixed it 3 times previously.  We decided that if it broke down again, we would buy a new one.

At first things didn’t look good with no ovens available for delivery until into the new year.  However, after a bit of searching and phoning around, OH found an oven in Sheffield and the shop was open on Boxing Day.  We knew it was going to snow in the evening, so he headed off early afternoon.  We managed to get a good deal on the oven – it is a ‘B’ grade one which means it isn’t perfect.  In this case it is a scratch on the handle which is practically invisible, but saved us over £70.

OH got back before the snow started, put the oven in, and we decided we would have our Christmas dinner on Saturday.

It started snowing in the early evening on Boxing Day and just kept on falling. Bee went out with her friends but phoned us around half past midnight to say she couldn’t get up our road due to a fallen tree across it.  OH and I got up and went to find her – it was incredibly spooky as it was still snowing and we could hear branches and trees falling in the woods all the way down the road.

We found Bee and helped her round the tree.  When we got back to the house, we had a quick look at our trees and found that one of our plum trees had fallen.  We couldn’t see much at night, but the following morning it became clear that one tree had fallen and another had sheared off part way down.  All over the area, there are trees down and fallen branches.  It’s really strange, it’s as if the snow fall was so heavy and sudden that many trees just couldn’t cope with it. 2014-12-27 08.16.19We’re not going to be able to do much with sorting the trees out until the snow has melted.  I love our plum trees, they look beautiful in the spring and we have had so much wonderful fruit from them.  I am hoping that we will be able to cut away the fallen branches and that they will rejuvenate from the trunks lower down.

Has anybody out there any ideas about the best way to deal with damaged fruit trees?  Will we be able to save them?

Until next time, Tawney x

Useful Christmas presents

Hello Friends,

Well we are nearly there with the Christmas shopping.  There has been a bit of a theme with this year’s presents: we seem to be going back to giving presents that are ‘needed’ rather than just ‘stuff’.  And we all know pretty much what we are going to get.

OH will be getting new Workmate.  His gave up the ghost in the summer after 30+ years, so it didn’t owe us anything.  Bee has asked for things which will help with her course, such as a geology hammer and a GPS thing.  I’m not entirely sure what kind of GPS thing she is after, so I’m going to wait until she comes home in just over a week to check exactly what she wants.

Edie is slightly trickier.  She is coming home for a couple of weeks, and won’t want to be taking a huge amount of things back on the plane with her.  However, she dropped her laptop within 2 days of arriving in Tashkent, so one of her presents is a replacement keyboard which OH will fit when she comes home.

My birthday is very close to Christmas.  I don’t usually like presents which cover both, simply because I don’t like my birthday to get lost.  This year, however, OH has built me up a new bike.  I will post about it soon, because it’s been done in a very cost effective way.  Luckily OH is into cycling and knows how to do this.  As this is something much bigger than I would normally have, I don’t mind at all that it’s covering both celebrations!  It will also have a lot of use – if it ever stops raining.

Are you moving towards giving ‘useful’ presents as opposed to ‘stuff’?

Until next time, Tawney x

Playing the supermarkets at their own game for Christmas

Hello Friends,

I don’t believe it!  I lost the internet connection just as I was about to hit preview and I’ve lost the entire contents of the post…never mind, I will try again.

We usually have a few treats over Christmas including biscuits.  Today I popped into the supermarket after work and picked up a couple of packets which were on offer at £5 for the two. Then I stopped.  Partly this was because the selections were a bit top heavy on the chocolate side.  I am allergic to chocolate (really) and while I don’t mind others eating it, I like there to be a bit of balance.  Partly this was also because I wondered if I could find something similar for better value further round the store.

I made my way to the biscuit aisle and on the bottom shelf (surprise, surprise) were some packet of biscuits which not only had  a more balanced selection but also only cost £2.

I read somewhere the other day about shops charging 20% extra for ‘gift packs’.  I’ve certainly found this in the past.  I often buy a normal pack of say, shower gels, and split them up to make my own gift packs.

What tricks have you found shops playing at this time of year?

Until next time, Tawney x

De-stressing Christmas

Hello Friends,

Following on from my last post, I have decided that I am not going to do the stress thing with Christmas this year.  In previous years I have tried to do too much and be perfect.  So this year it is all going to be much simpler.

First of all, I’m going to do as much of my Christmas shopping online as I can.  I’m planning to do this in the next couple of weeks so everything will be with us well before Christmas.  I am going to stay away from town centres and malls, there are better ways to spend my time other than wandering aimlessly trying to think of something to buy people.  Luckily Edie and Bee have told me what they want, so I can get on with doing this.

I also need to manage my time in the run up to Christmas carefully.  Some years I have reached Christmas feeling completely frazzled – that isn’t going to happen this time.  There are some things I want to do (playing with the orchestra, making a Christmas cake, collecting Edie from the airport when she comes home) and I have carefully planned these so I’m not trying to cram too much in.

How are you planning the run up to Christmas?

Until next time, Tawney x

Just one job

Hello Friends,

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was clearing up Edie’s room by picking up three things every time I went in there.  I’m now applying the same principle to the landing, and that is looking a bit less cluttered.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been tied up doing stuff, but one thing I have suddenly discovered is that it’s better if I just focus on one thing at a time.  So last weekend, I set myself the goal of cutting a bit more of the hedge in front of the kitchen.  This has been a bit of a tough job – the hedge is full of ivy, and I didn’t cut it back properly last year.  My only job for last Sunday was getting to grips with it, and I did.  There’s another section I need to do but that can wait until another time.

At the weekend I just set myself a few tasks: a quick clean and tidy up round the house, sorting some magazines out and on Sunday, pruning an out of control rambling rose.  It seems that by trying to do less, I’m achieving more.  I am coming to the conclusion that I probably need to try and do less.  There are some things I’m going to have to put to one side – will I ever make those Roman blinds? Or a Christmas table runner?  The answer is not until I prioritise some time to do this.

Have you scaled back on the things you have been trying to do?  Have you found things are working better as a result?

Until next time, Tawney x

Autumn jobs

Hello Friends,

If you are in the UK I hope you are enjoying the lovely warm sunny weather we are having at the moment.

Yesterday OH and I went for a walk over the hills near here.

2014-09-27 12.09.10Having had a day out enjoying ourselves, I had to get down to a few outstanding jobs today.  We need to do a bit of house maintenance before the winter.  One of the downsides about living where we do is that it can be difficult to get hold of things without either ordering them off the internet or a 30- 40 minute car journey.

I don’t enjoy going shopping much but today I forced myself to get in the car and head off to a DIY shed for some paint, sandpaper, brushes and a new shower curtain.  After lunch I set about painting the french doors in the kitchen.  It didn’t take as long as I thought it would and now I know they are ready for the winter.  We still have some window frames to do so I hope the warm weather will hold for a bit longer.

What autumn jobs have you been doing lately?

Until next time, Tawney x