Friday, 31 January 2014

Celebrating Chinese New Year

This sensational image was on a favourite blog of mine, reminding me that the Chinese New Year starts today. The year of the horse.

Of course that led me to wander through the web world for quite some time, finding out all about the Chinese zodiac. Fascinating stuff.
I'm a fire monkey and the mister is an earth monkey. We are very compatible. Phew.

This little fella is really a snow monkey, but I think we share an attitude as well as monkey genes.

Fire monkeys are very strong, durable, successful, smart and a good friend and parent. If I'm all of those things I'm a very happy monkey. Check out if you are a monkey face too here.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Faux Taxidermy

I bought this gorgeous craft book with some Christmas pennies and find it very inspirational. I've missed the boat now for some of the seasonal projects but I am determined to make some polar bears for Christmas 2014. They are irresistible.

The designer behind the Tilda brand is a very talented young Norwegian girl called Tonne Finnanger. There are a number of books in the range which are all very seductive. We know how those big colour craft pictures draw us in don't we? But this book does have some full size patterns as well, which are very helpful.

So helpful and seductive that my friend Anita felt compelled to try her hand at making one of the iconic Tilda dolls. I think she has turned out very well. Anita went to a recommended materials supplier which in hindsight we decided probably wasn't necessary. Using substitute materials would have reduced the cost of the doll quite dramatically.

I understand making dolly was time consuming and the knitting pattern was a little problematic but the result makes it so worthwhile. She's an absolute picture.

Meanwhile I've been trying my hand at a bit of faux taxidermy. I've always wanted to have a stag's head on the chimney breast above the fireplace in our drawing room. Something like this.

This beauty is from a company in Scotland called Deeside Knitwits.

After some Internet searching for a form to use as a base, I changed my mind and opted for a ram's head instead. Which is now complete and up in the drawing room but not on the chimney breast as it clashed rather with the wallpaper.

I knitted the covers for the horns and the Fair Isle neck piece from oddments of wool. The fabric pieces I got from Freecycle apart from the Welsh tapestry nose and ear backs, they're from an old handbag. The eyes are vintage bone buttons and the creamy faux fur around the base of the horns was removed from my old Monsoon granny slippers before I threw them out last year.

I'm super pleased with it. Friends that have seen it keep asking me what its name is. I'm darned if I know, it's definitely not Gordon. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Money Off Voucher for M&S

I don't often go shopping at 'proper' shops, but had to this week to get some new bras. It really was about time. No really. I always shop at good ole Marks, not entirely sure why, but I do. Especially as I'm always slightly disappointed by the range of unpadded bras, perhaps I should venture further in my undergarment quest?

They must have had about 50 different designs but only about 10% without padding. I spoke to a very nice lady who was stocking up, about the lack of choice and she said that most bras are now padded because women don't like anyone to see their nipples. Ah me, I thought, and not for the first time this week, the world is going mad.

Anyhow I managed to pick out a few. As I was leaving the changing room the assistant gave me a money off voucher. £5.00 off when you spend £35.00 or more on clothing, lingerie, beauty and homeware. I used it for my purchase but the nice girl on the till gave the voucher back to me and said it can be used again in store and online.

So I thought it would be worth posting the code on my blog in case anyone is thinking of ordering from M&S online, as it would probably cover postage costs if nothing else. The only thing is 29th January is the last day it can be used which is tomorrow.

Here goes anyway AF8M-52YZ7B-7NPHEA.

Hope it works for ya.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Looking at Familiar Things Differently

The mister and I only live about 30 minutes from the sea, Brighton, Seaford and yes Eastbourne. Most of the time Brighton is a bit too busy and noisy for my liking. Seaford is nice, free parking right along side the beach, some interesting shops and quite a few Chazzas. But we rarely go to Eastbourne, as I always think of it as a bit fuddy duddy.

We fancied a walk on Sunday and with no local historic houses and gardens open I suggested we go to Eastbourne. I'm not sure why it popped into my head but I'm glad it did. The weather was perfect, sunny and fresh.

We took a long brisk walk along the esplanade.

We passed a lot of like minded people, all ages, all sizes, all enjoying the sun and fresh air. It felt like a real treat. The flower beds look well tended, the cafes were busy, everywhere looked clean, tidy and well maintained. I saw Eastbourne with new eyes. And when we discovered the adorable vintage beach side chalets to rent we were enchanted. So we fantasised awhile about how lovely it would be to rent one for a season. We could pop down at weekends and Summer evenings. We could eat on the beach, swim in the sea, walk down to the bandstand for evening concerts, oh how glorious it would be. Suddenly I'm in love with Eastbourne, who'd have thunk it?

Chatting over a very reasonably priced afternoon tea in the uber kitsch Victorian Tea Rooms on the pier, we came back down to earth a bit. Usual concern, funds.

But a girl can dream eh? 

Monday, 20 January 2014

No More Waste. No More Excess.

I haven't made any specific new year resolutions as such, I just feel I need to be doing a bit more of the same but with some added gusto. Healthy eating, that means saying no a bit more to those little extra delicious morsels perceived as 'treats'. Exercising regularly, which I enjoy and now have a bit more time for. And generally being more mindful about what I do with my time. In support of this I want to concentrate on reducing my overall consumption of material things, aiming for nil waste and a bit more wealth creation. Again by not spending unnecessarily and working hard.

One of the things that has fired my enthusiasm is this commendable Danish restaurant Rub and Stub. It's described as a food waste concept restaurant. All the ingredients they cook with are regarded as food waste by the food industry and would normally just be thrown out. The volunteer chef in this short film explains Denmark throws away over 1/2 million tons of food a year, a huge waste of resources and money. The thriving restaurant also channels it's profits into worthwhile projects in Africa. I am truly full of admiration for these folk.

No minute gone comes ever back again,
take heed and see ye nothing do in vain.                                          

Friday, 17 January 2014

Free Vitamin E Face Cream

I've mentioned this loyalty card before. By collecting points every time I shop it does actually provide me with quite a few free toiletries over the year.

Last week though Superdrug emailed to say I could collect a free 50ml tube of their SPF 15 Vitamin E rich moisturiser. No purchase required, a completely free bonus.

Well I was down there straight ways. We all love a freebie after all.
I have to say it's been a bit of a revelation. I actually prefer it to the more expensive brand I've been using for some time. So I'm gonna switch and continue to save more money through the years to come. Whilst hopefully looking increasingly more dewy and youthful.

Take my advice and get along to your nearest Superdrug whilst the offer holds. If you don't have a beautycard sign up there and then and claim your free moisturiser. You won't see any info up in store, just take it along to the check out and it's free when they scan your beautycard.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Super Easy Bread Making

It really doesn't come any easier than this. I made this irish soda bread a couple of weeks ago and it was so tasty and quick to make I thought I should let you all know about it. The recipe calls for a mix of flours but I just used the economy Morrison's strong white flour and it was just dandy. Buttermilk is another ingredient but I substituted skimmed milk and low fat Greek yoghurt from Lidl. Did I mention this was a super thrifty recipe too?


795 g strong white flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
680ml approx buttermilk

I used 500g of flour and rounded the other ingredients down, but then I do love to muck about with recipes.


1. Sift flour, salt and soda into a large bowl. Stir in enough buttermilk to mix to a firm dough.

2. Turn dough onto floured surface, (it is really really sticky so put some flour on your hands too), knead until just smooth. Shape dough into a 20cm round, place on a greased oven tray.

3. Cut 1cm deep slashes in the dough in a cross shape (like quarters) , brush with a little milk. Bake in a moderate oven about 50 mins. Lift onto wire rack to cool.

I estimate this cost me about 60p. If I had bought it in an 'artisan' bakery it would have been nearer £3.00.

Happy baking everyone.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Throbbing Lemon

I had hoped to burst into 2014 with all the vim and verve of a strictly cum-do-dah finalist. Alas I was stopped in my cha-cha tracks by a fiercely throbbing lemon. Not as in the case of Jeeves and Wooster with a cracking idea but rather a cluster of migraines.

image via
Yes I know you probably thought I was living the high life in the West Indies over the festive season and New Year. Oh how I wish that had been the case, sadly not

But let's not dwell on the unfortunate episode, onward and upward. I'll be back soon with a cracking soda bread recipe which is both economical, super easy and delicious.