Saturday, 27 April 2013

Weekend Catch Up

Ah me, I had sooo much packed in this weekend, something(s) had to go. Feeling a bit over tired and hormonal so did the sensible thing for a change and downscaled my long to do list. Prioritise that's the key. 

Not that cake should be the most important thing, as I'm still on a mission to get fitter and slimmer, sooner rather than later. But this little almond and cherry loaf used up some bits and pieces that were getting near their sell by date, which is a good thing no? Plus it is made with olive oil low fat spread and not butter, and I will only have a little. Whereas the mister who loves his cake, will scoff most of it and work off the calories, no problem.  Please note my cake is served on a dainty vintage plate, and my Earl Grey and vanilla tea is in my favourite Agatha Christie mug. The mister has to have his cake and tea served on something more robust, seen at the back of the pic here, as he has been known to dash down fine china and break it into very small pieces.

Made some progress in the garden, which is towards the top of my priority list. The mister has done all the heavy work. On the plus side that entitles him to more cake, obvs.

Hanging baskets done
Hedge borders planted round veg beds

Lavender prettiness for our seating area

Some corners weeded and tidied

A start made on planting up the huge border at the back of our garden
Didn't get to attend the charity fashion show last night nor the Jukebox event at Brighton racecourse today. But will be going to a friend's birthday party later on after I have made lean turkey lasagne for our supper. Then tomorrow a few more chores and a vintage sewing workshop in the afternoon, just me going to that. I expect the mister will carry on with planting seeds in the veg beds and eating cake, he's such a help.

If you're staying at home tomorrow don't miss Margaret Rutherford as Miss. Marple in 'Murder at the Gallop', on Film 4 at 2.50pm.

As usual her real life hubby Stringer Davis plays her gentleman friend Mr. Stringer.

I love everything about this film, the signature tune especially. I'd like it played at my funeral, as I'm departing, so to speak. Not for me 'Stairway to Heaven', thank you very much.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Start of my Season

The start of the British 'Summer' Season for the toffs amongst us usually means the beginning of several months of high jinks and japes, with lashings of champagne and cucumber sandwiches.

image via furinsider .com
For us mere mortals it means getting out into our gardens and sorting out the mess the British Winter has left behind. Mr S&P and I are also trying to establish some sort of framework for our garden. At the end of last year we had enough money to put some decorative fencing up towards the back of the garden, which hides all the piles of wood, gravel, rubbish to be burnt etc. We also cleared a large border in front of the panels in readiness for planting. It has been covered all Winter to keep it weed free, yesterday we removed the cover, so we've got to get a wiggle on now to get it planted. We have some plants which are from cuttings we took last year and we also bagged a few small plants from Freecycle. I think unfortunately we will have to buy the rest.

We also want to create a pretty seating area at the back to make the most of the summer sun this year.

This afternoon we will be planting over 70 small bare root Lonicera Nitida to form a neat surround for our newly created raised vegetable beds.

Then there is the red brick pathway to finish off, bricks courtesy of Freecycle again. Hurrah for that noble institution.

Then clear out all the waterlogged plants and remove the mouldy table cover, rub the furniture down and repaint, then we will be ready to sit out with a nice drink or two. Let's hope Winter is not back upon us before then.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Bella Italia

Florence was a fabulous experience as ever, but absolutely heaving with tourists. A great place for a wee break in the sun even so. I can recommend our hotel, very close to the centre but very quiet, especially at the back of the hotel where we had an impressive view of the Santa Croce and Duomo.

The Welcome Coolness of the Santa Maria Novella Perfumery 

Giardino di Boboli

Prohibitively expensive antique shops, shame.

Martini (Iconic sign in distance)

and Oh so beautiful churches

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Calling All Scrimpy Bloggers - 30 Ways to Save £1.

Money Supermarket are running a 'competition' to find the best 1,000 money saving tips. They are calling on all bloggers to supply them with their own best top 30. There are prizes and cash incentives for participants

Here are mine.

1. Don't guesstimate quantities when you're cooking or making fresh coffee, or indeed adding fabric softener to your wash. By using a measure or scoop you will find the best amount for the job and won't waste extra ingredients or product unnecessarily.
2. Use large pretty wallpaper samples or old vintage scarves to wrap presents. Brown paper carrier bags are also good turned inside out to cover parcels.
3. Look out for new and unused items in charity shops. After Christmas especially there are loads of good quality bath and beauty sets that can be recycled as birthday presents. But do check they are still sealed and in date.
4. Jumble sales are good sources for fabrics for patchwork and also yarn. Woolly items can be unpicked and  the yarn reused - they did it all the time during the war to ring the changes.
5. If you see a good deal on everyday items, buy a few extra but don't overstock. It ties up your funds, takes up space, and items can go off before they are used, this includes toiletries.
6. Use reward cards and loyalty cards but not slavishly. Always analyse what is on offer elsewhere.
7. Don't accept supermarket prices on face value. For example tomatoes can be sold price per kilo, price per pound or by number in packet. Decide what you would like, then convert the measurement to one common denominator by using the supermarket scales. You will then have a clear indicator of true price.
8. When following recipes substitute similar ingredients that you already have rather than buying extras - herbs and vegetables can easily be interchanged. Have the confidence to develop and tweak recipes. Make notes about what works.
9. Invest in a slow cooker. Not only does it use less energy but you can use cheaper cuts of meat and your food will be tremendously flavoured. Cook double the amount and freeze second helping for another time.
10. Don't be afraid to experiment where food is concerned. If you have leftovers and you don't think you can use them up in time, freeze them. Even small amounts like wine and meat juices can be frozen and used in sauces at a later date.
11. Don't compost the ends and outer layers of onions, celery leaves, carrot ends, wilting herbs and their stems. Pop them in a bag and freeze. You can add to the bag as and when, then when you need to make a stock you're not wasting whole veg. You can also do this with chicken bones.
12. Eat more vegetarian meals and use beans and pulses. Use dried not tinned as they are much cheaper. Make sure you follow the cooking instructions though.
13. If you like spicy and curried food buy an already mixed blend of spices (like garam masala) rather than lots of individual spices. They cost more and can lose their flavour and intensity if kept for a while.
14. If you like the idea of raising your own livestock or keeping chickens but do not have the space find a partner who does and share the cost of raising and looking after them, then reap the benefits together.
15. Sign up to newsletters from suppliers or companies you are interested in. You will be the first to know about offers. That's how I learnt about the free three month Arts Council pass, which will be valid until the end of this July.
16. Share your knowledge about thrift with others, they will reciprocate. Always ask friends and neighbours when you are looking to have work done, they usually know someone local who is good value. This also keeps the money flowing in your local area.
17. Sign up to other thrifty blogging websites as they might come across something you've missed. Like this competition.
18. Check out local venues for days out and events that are free to local residents on production of proof of address.
19. If you're travelling to London by train for the day you can get 2 for 1 entry on loads of attractions, just produce your rail ticket when paying for admission.
20. Don't buy new book titles order them through your library and be the first to read them for a reservation fee of 80p.
21. Or if you like lots of fiction organise a book swap with friends and neighbours. You could add a small fee and donate to a book charity.
22. If your tee shirts are in good material order but faded, collect a batch of them and dye them - it will give them a new lease of life.
23. If you like expensive magazines buddy up with a friend and take out a subscription each to a favourite mag. You can swap after you have read them, so you will be getting the mags at a quarter of the cost. You might also get a free gift with your subscription. I recently got a pair of real pearl earrings with my 'The Lady' subscription.
24. If you don't have funds to buy glossy magazines, check out the best of the supermarket ones. Morrison's is every bit as good as the high street ones and it is free. Also, Waitrose will discount their magazine to zero if you have a 'My Waitrose' card. At my branch you can also help yourself to a free tea or coffee without making a purchase. Great for taking on the train.
25. Don't buy small versions of toiletries for holidays they work out very expensive. Either just take your larger bottles half empty or decant what you need for the first few days then supplement your requirements with the hotels free toiletries. Keep the free shower caps they make good food covers.
26. Organise a clothes and accessories swap with friends and work colleagues for a new look.
27. Don't just switch energy suppliers, take advantage of off peak tariffs like economy 7.
28. Buy large items and household furniture secondhand on Ebay and use the 'collection only' app that you can find on Money Saving Expert. You can often find a real bargain and you won't pay postage or have far to travel and in some cases they will deliver for a small fee. I bagged a solid oak Edwardian fire surround for £4.99.
29. Don't forget to sign up to your local Freecycle group where you can give and receive stuff for free. You could extend this idea yourself and offer to swap skills and help with your friends and neighbours. For example swap babysitting for a haircut, car washing for eggs etc.
30. Try not to rush into buying, plan ahead, a little research here and there may reap great rewards. The three elements for successful thrifting and saving money are effort, imagination and creativity.

And just for a bit of fun, enter some free competitions there are always loads on-line. Someone has to win it may as well be you. if you don't like what you win gift it or sell it.

British Red Cross Shop Wedding Event

Hello chums, I'm back from my short break, did you miss me? Good, I missed you too.
So, straight in with some thrifty news for all of you lovely people looking to organise a sensational stylish cost sensitive (cheap) vintage wedding.
The British Red Cross are hosting a wedding event which has been sponsored by Vivienne Westwood and David Fielden. This could be your chance to pick up a dream designer dress at just a fraction of the price.

Lots on offer including shoes from Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo, beautiful hats, corsetry and outfits for all the family.

It's being held at 67 Old Church St, London, SW3. Call them for more information 020-7376 7300.

image via

image via 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Transmission Interruption

I'm not going to be able to post for about a week. I hope I can count on you all still being there when I return.

Mary Boleyn's Breakfast

I'm dipping into this book at the moment to find out a little more about Mary Boleyn. I have to say I'm not finding it thrilling or even informative, in fact I'm finding it a bit of a let down. There are lots of paragraphs that start 'Mary Boleyn probably ....... Mary Boleyn might have...... We don't know but it is likely Mary Boleyn .....

Still I did read one thing last night that was QI. "Breakfast in those days was served early, at six or seven o'clock, and consisted of meat or pottage (broth), bread and ale. Dinner-the main meal of the day was usually eaten late in the morning, and the Boleyns might well have followed the fashion to remain at table until two or three in the afternoon. Supper, a lighter repast, was at five or six o'clock".
So pretty much scoffing all day, just how Mr S&P likes it, he would have made a great Tudor.

The Lady magazine recently featured 'The Joy of Breakfast' which explored the extraordinary breakfasts that helped make history.

I'm not sure how the enormous breakfast that Elvis used to eat shaped history but it certainly shaped him.

Six large eggs cooked in butter and salt, one pound of bacon, half a pound of sausages, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches, the latter presumably being 'his pudding'.

Churchill, good ole boy, enjoyed a staggeringly alcoholic breakfast. A bottle of Pol Roger before settling down to a brace of cold snipe and a pint of port. Can this be true I wonder?
Famously and often quoted he said "My wife and I tried two or three times in the last 40 years to have breakfast together. It was so disagreeable we had to stop". Perhaps she was nagging him about his booze intake? I can't think cold snipe was the culprit.

The prize for the most bonkers start to the day goes to Hunter S Thompson.
He had strict ideas about what to eat in the morning 'whether or not I have been to bed'. He recommended four bloody Mary's to start with, followed by two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes (whatever they are), a half pound of corned beef hash with diced chillies, a Spanish omelette, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon, a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine.
Fortunately he liked to breakfast alone, as he also favoured eating al fresco and in the nude.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Costume Jewellery - Desirable Paste and Glass

Diamonds are the business aren't they? I can't ever imagine a woman opening up a black velvet lined box seeing some sparkly gems and saying, "what did you buy these for, what were you thinking"?
Liz Taylor had her share and then some. I must say of all the images I have seen of her wearing various knockout jewels, my favourite is this 'home' film of her receiving this set from her then husband Mike Todd, the love of her life.

Costume jewellery can be pretty amazing too and vintage bling can often be better than the 'real' thing in terms of quality of workmanship and materials. The designs were often more innovative than their precious counterparts which in many cases relied on the intrinsic value of materials used for desirability.

The Duchess of Windsor enjoyed wearing both faux and genuine pieces. I suspect that the very fact she was wearing something made it look like the real McCoy, and if it wasn't it would immediately become very fashionable and go up in value anyway by association. Win win situation.

This was also true for Butler and Wilson, their jewellery was favoured by Diana, Princess of Wales.

These little fellows are the only Butler and Wilson I own. I saw them in Vogue magazine, many years ago and had to have them. You can't see from my bad photo but they are covered in pave diamante and are very sweet. My ardent feminism at that time obviously didn't stretch to cover accessories.

Just the name of Schiaparelli sounds so romantic and of it's time a big name in the couture world from the early 1920s, her fashion house trained Givenchy and Cardin. Her main sources of inspiration for her fabulous jewellery pieces were the forms of nature and Surrealism, which really appeals to me but her signature colour was shocking pink. I much prefer the subtlety of these pale green and pink Lucite earrings and brooch set.

I'm not really a costume jewellery 'collector', I don't have the funds, but sometimes things catch my eye. Just recently these Ruby Slipper earrings were a must buy after seeing the real thing at the V&A Hollywood Costume exhibition.

And this very 1980s( Elizabethan revival?) brooch designed by Monty Don no less, has been with me for many a moon.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Spring Crafts

Enough of thrift, time for some craft. This amazing looking wall mounted sheep's head takes needle felting to a whole new level, don't you agree? It wouldn't have looked out of place at the recent London exhibition celebrating all things wool, Wool House.
The lady who made this fantastic piece is blogging here. You can see some more images of this work and some of her very cute Dachshund, Higgins, who gets up to all sorts of mischief.

If you have been inspired by the new TV programme The Great British Sewing Bee, there are some very nice small Spring sewing projects over here . Like this T shirt bag and oil cloth lunch bag, a bit different from the norm methinks.