Thursday, 28 February 2013

Planning to Dig for Victory

It's not as if we are cut off from all the countries from which we import food by patrolling submarines these days, it's far easier to buy organic food, plus there are 178 types of salad available if you search on Asda online groceries. So why am I planning to dig for victory and what is this victory of which I speak?

Victory Against Idleness.
All too often I find myself sitting in front of the fire, leisurely perusing Giles and Sue Live The Good Life with a large cup of coffee, while outside, our cosy homestead, the year is passing and nothing has happened in the garden. There are certain gardening windows of opportunity I don't want to miss this year because I've got my head buried in a book and no bulbs buried in the garden. 

A call to action is Planting Plans for Your Kitchen Garden: How to Create a Vegetable, Herb and Fruit Garden in Easy Stages  by Holly Farrell (£14.99, How to Books) which is about the most comprehensive guide to planning a garden I have come across. Whether you are looking to garden as a family, want veg through the year, or would like to use your garden produce for jam-making and baking, there is a plan in this book for you. Farrell devotes the first section of Planting Plans for Your Kitchen Garden to helping readers assess their garden - the soil, the amount of space, sun and shelter - and what they want to get out of it. She even provides a specific plan for a garden with a clay soil like mine.

Victory Against Ignorance.
Most of the vegetables I have grown in the past five years have been prime examples of Survival of the Fittest. Successes have more been a matter of luck than judgement. It's a waste of time and seed to attempt gardening without any kind of knowledge. 

Farrell includes just the right amount of detail about identifying and removing weeds, successful composting and preparing beds- perhaps I can grow more than rhubarb and gooseberries, if I follow her advice to improve our clay soil. Neither does she include endless off-putting descriptions of What Can Go Wrong, with pages of nasty photos of carrot fly and aphids. 

Carrot-fly, by the way, does not have to be a foregone conclusion. British-bred Carrot ‘Flyaway’ was developed especially for its resistance to Carrot Root Fly making it less susceptible to attack than many other varieties. A naturally very sweet tasting variety with smooth skinned, blunt ended roots and a good orange skin and root colour; seeds are available from Thompson and Morgan here.

From The Farm Blog Hop Victory Against Want.
We are completely spoiled for choice in all aspects of our lives, from the racks and racks of clothes we find in high street stores every season to the huge supermarket aisles devoted to cereals. No-one needs 27 types of washing-up liquid to choose from, and nine kinds of children's toothpaste. Eating seasonally means we eat what is available when it is at its best, rather than strawberries all year round, just because we fancy them for pudding. Growing our own will help us focus on what we need to eat, rather than what we simply want.

Victory Against Disease.
Apart from the health benefits of eating more vegetables and fruit, especially organically grown and freshly picked from the garden, I think that this project will help manage my depression. It's a purposeful, constructive activity which takes place in the open air and offers opportunity for physical exercise and stress relief. 

Farrell includes a module of scented and medicinal herbs - lavender, lemon thyme, bergamot, lemon verbena, feverfew, lemon balm, chamomile and peppermint, which are "the most suitable for home remedies and tea-making": an element I would like to bring to my garden this year. I have lavender bushes already, and have been sent a packet of chamomile seeds by Thompson and Morgan, so that's a good start. 

Victory Against Squalor.
Our garden is not at its best at this time of year, but it would hardly win any trophies in peak condition. I would like to inject some colour and beauty into our living space. Module 25 - Annual Cut Flowers - is the one I am interested in here. It features "easy-to-grow, traditional cottage garden cut flowers that are less common in the shops": sweet peas, cosmos, bullwort, cleome, scabious, and cornflowers. 

The first two on this list have been kindly sent to me by Thompson and Morgan, so there are no excuses! "All these annuals are cut-and-come-again", says Farrell, "providing very British posies all summer." The garden must not be a waste of space but there is no reason why it cannot look good and be useful at the same time. 

Beveridge would be proud.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

What passes for fun in a family business

One thing your working hours are NOT, when you're self-employed, is regular. This can be an excellent thing. The King was able to take a day  off to go sledging with the kids one Snow Day last month, for example. Having this flexibility is a bonus for the whole family, especially if anyone is ill. 

Sometimes - especially towards the end of a project - the King will have to ratchet up his working hours. This can often mean returning to the workshop in the evenings, missing tea or the kids' bath-time, or having to work at weekends. Last time the King had a large workload looming, we decided to come up with a creative solution to the problem. Painting 14 doors (both sides) with egg shell is a time-consuming but not especially skilled job; one that would be made much quicker if there were two painters, not just the King. We had the kids to think about, though. They couldn't really join in with a professional job - could we keep them happy for an afternoon in a chilly workshop, while we painted doors like billy-o? 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dip your toe into the soapy waters of DIY Laundry Powder

I have a cautious attitude to risk. Whilst I am keen to blow the frugal bugle, to learn new skills and experiment with chemicals, I do not want to create a vat of laundry powder that has debatable cleaning abilities. 

When researching recipes for laundry powder on simple savings, I encountered two problems: 
1. Most recipes included Oxyclean (or equivalent), a stain removing powder which I don't use. It seemed foolish to go out and buy a new product especially to make some frugal laundry powder. 
2. Most recipes were super-sized, creating large amounts of hitherto neither tried-nor-tested powder. A high-risk money-saving strategy.

Eventually I came across a recipe for which I already had all the ingredients in my kitchen. I decided to go cautious and cut the amounts down significantly. That way I wouldn't have to produce five cups of grated soap only to find that the resulting laundry powder was about as successful as my first attempt at dish soap.

If you would like to dip your toe into the soapy waters of home-made laundry powder, here's what I did. For Cautious Laundry Powder, you will need:

Monday, 25 February 2013

Fee-free alternatives to Ebay

Since the last couple of books I sold on Ebay went for just 99p each, I've been looking at ways to  raise a little more cash when decluttering this Spring. Although I have car-booted and table-topped before, I found this was a lot of work for not much financial gain; I would rather sell things online, from the comfort of my own home. 

Originally MusicMagpie was a place to sell old CDs, DVDs and Games. You type the item's bar-code into the website, and MusicMagpie comes up with an offer, typically about 50p per CD. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Neaten Eyebrows with Rags and Lolly Sticks

Eyebrow shaping can make a big difference to your overall look - it's one of the quickest and cheapest ways to smarten yourself up and pull yourself together in a groomed kind of way. There's no point in taking time over eyeliner and mascara if your eyebrows are shouting "wilful neglect".

I KNOW all this but I still keep putting off sorting my eyebrows out, even though (in order to save £7) I do it in the "comfort" of my own home. Truth be told, it can be quite fiddly and uncomfortable, but with the method I show in this post, I've always had good results, which last at least four weeks. Like the gym, you feel better afterwards. 

Saturday, 23 February 2013

What belongs in a Sisterhood Sewing Box

One of the things I like best about my life at the moment is not having to do any exams or homework, something that ruled my existence between the ages of 11 and 21. After being hothoused through the education system, I am now devoid of any ambition or competitive nature and find goal-setting demotivating. Don't even TALK to me about goals having to be Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timed. 

Consequently, I was surprised to find that the merit badges offered by Mary Jane's Farmgirl Sisterhood were something I actually wanted to try. Perhaps this is because you can pick what badges you want to aim for, and do them in your own time. You are not competing against anyone else and it also makes you consider other skills and areas of knowledge which are currently unfamiliar. Apron-making, for example, is something I have never bothered with before, but now I'm working on one with a sash and gathers, and mighty purdy it is too.

Each merit badge is separated into three levels of difficulty. The one I tried first was Beginner's level "Sew Wonderful", which is a sort of preparation for getting into stitching and crafting. You have to provide evidence to show your achievement, in the form of photos and text (my text is in italics below)  There are also merit badges which your children can work towards, something which I am going to introduce to my two once Secundus is old enough (you have to be six).

What you have to do for this part of the "Sew Wonderful" badge is: Put together a beginner’s sewing kit with a homemade pin keeper. Include:

o Several different colors of thread. I have a separate tin with a dozen spools of thread inside. I have also bought woolly nylon thread, which I have used when sewing stretch jersey.

o Buttons. I have a vintage tin of buttons which my son likes playing with. The tin is too big to fit in my sewing box, and has about 200 buttons inside.

o Scissors. I have some sewing scissors and pinking shears, both of which are only used for sewing.

o Needles. These are kept in a homemade needle case, which was one of the first things I ever made myself.

o Straight pins. Kept in my homemade pincushion. I made the pincushion about five years ago. I used some old blue jean material for the bottom and the material from one of my son’s baby vests for the top. It feels like an heirloom even though it is very simple.

o Safety pins. I didn’t have any of these so I bought some on Ebay.

o Also to be found in my sewing kit are a quick unpicker, a tape measure, embroidery threads, a darning mushroom which I have yet to use, elastic, and balls of fabric ready to make a rag rug.

I have been assembling a workbox for the past five years, but without any guidelines. Working towards this badge has made me tidy up and organise all my sewing things, and realise that there are some I have yet to use. This made me want to look into learning new skills such as embroidery and darning. It is also much easier to find everything now.

Blogging While Waiting
Essentially, the above list works as a guide for anyone who wants to start sewing but is not sure of the tools she will need, and doesn't have anyone nearby to ask. We don't all belong to a Quilting B, and this is where Mary Jane's Farmgirl Sisterhood has such a valuable part to play. I am, therefore, very proud to show you my first certificate from the Sisterhood (and not a SMART goal in sight).  

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Tips and Tricks for a Paperless Home Organiser

A paperless system is the natural choice for anyone who – like me – is wedded to their laptop. As Mystie Winckler – the pioneer in digital home management – points out “If you have a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop, why not use them to their full potential? Why multiply tools with heavy, clumsy paper binders if you have the gadgets?” She, like I, has yet to create a household notebook which is anywhere near the high standards of beauty and utility embraced by William Morris and Pinterest, and this can create a certain amount of dissatisfaction and frustration; perhaps it would be perfect if only I had put lace on the spine too...

“What the digital version lacks in cuteness, however, it makes up for in accessibility and versatility,” says Winckler. You don’t need litres of ink, and half the trees in Sweden to print out a paper organiser, not to mention the time it will take to do this. “You can keep many more lists, much more information (which is) easier to find, all while taking up less space” than a printable version."

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Last-minute half term bargains to entertain the kids.

Looking for some last minute inspiration to entertain the kids this half term? Look no further! The members at HotUKDeals have been scouring the web to discover and share great family deals this half term weekend.

If you live in the South and the sun is shining, then Monkey World in Dorset makes a great day out with the kids. Made famous by the ITV programme ‘Monkey Business’, the centre takes in chimpanzees and other primates from all over the world who have been abused. Until this Friday 22nd February, members have discovered that kids can get a £1 ticket if they bring a blanket or towel for the primates, accompanied by a full paying adult. You also feel good for helping out a rescue centre too! You can find more details here.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Low Spend Ways to Turn Your Day Around

"When you're down and troubled | And you need a helping hand" as the James Taylor song goes, sometimes you just need a morale boost. Now, I'm not suggesting, readers, that anything as minor and relatively flippant as the following suggestions will "brighten your darkest night" or help you through a breaking-down relationship or bereavement. But when something goes wrong and you want to stop it from ruining your day (I'm talking someone shouting at you for delivering a local election leaflet to their house, a crazy electricity bill, burned-out saucepans, that kind of thing) here are some low spend Pick-Me-Ups that have worked for me. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Slim Jim Jams

Buxom I ain't, and my legs are neither long nor lovely, but one thing I do have is a waist. I wouldn't go so far to call my figure "hour-glass", because that gives the impression I am Marilyn Monroe. Maybe Egg Timer would be more precise. I am forever wearing jeans which fit reasonably on the hip and thigh and then gape like a fool around my waist. Same goes for tops and shirts. As Cal Patch notes in The Bust DIY Guide to Life, "too many shirts have unflatteringly straight side seams, causing the wearer to look like she has no waist at all. What a waste!" 

Encouraged by Patch's statement that it's "easy to create a more fitted shape by changing the side seams," I decided to see what I could do. But this is Mumtopia. No messing about with my essential black long-sleeved tops this early in the game. I remembered a baggy set of pyjamas, now two sizes too large, and decided to see what I could do to improve the fit, rather than buy the lovely gingham pair I'd seen in Marks and Spencers. Perhaps I would feel graceful and trim, rather than saggy and lumpy as a result. If you'd like to alter a boxy blouse or shirt, here's what to do:

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

'Twas the Night before Valentine's

'Twas the night before Valentine's, and all through the house
All you could hear was the click of a mouse.
The King was re-planning a kitchen with care,
In hopes that a contract soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While library book stories still danced in their heads.
And I in my ‘kerchief was trying to plan,
A special St V Day for me and my man.

When into my inbox an e-book arrived,
To my own mouse to click on "download me" I dived. 
Away to the e-book I flew like a flash,
And got so inspired I came out in a rash. 

The Ultimate Date Night Book was its name:
Gave ideas for dating and made them a game.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Road Trip, A Spa Night and a Spouse Sleepover.

With plenty of downloadable print-outs to make 
Your invites and labels and cartons for cake.
A scorecard for Olympics, a Kissathon sheet,
Even a Cleaning Date, keeping things neat. 

Now readers, a party planner I am not. 
At special occasions I feel put on the spot. 
And housework or children can get in the way
Of Romantic Occasions like Valentine's Day.

As I scrolled through two hundred plus pages all told,
There were some date nights that left me quite cold. 
But others I studied and so, one by one,
I compiled a list of Him and Me Fun.

And then, in a twinkling, I knew what to do
After twelve years married, I needn't feel blue 
If we hadn't arranged a dirty weekend,
I'd be sharing my bed with my very best friend.

Just one day, the 14th, just a card and no flowers,
And after all he will be out working all hours.
But it could mark the start of a change in our habits.
With date nights each month, we'd be at it like ..

You know you're Homesteady when...

1. Your Amazon/ Ebay order just arrived and it contained a Hot-Iron Transfer Pencil, some fleece material with rockets on it, and some safety pins. You were pleased.

2. You are wearing some kind of headgear - be it a headscarf, hairband or hat - while reading this, and possibly gloves.

3. You have more in common with some of the members of MaryJane's Farmgirl Sisterhood than with your next-door neighbours.

4. You possess measuring cups and/or a slow cooker and you're not afraid to use them.

5. You'd rather copy out cards for your recipe box than watch TV.

6. You gave the postman a homemade biscuit last week.

7. Gingham or polkadot, you can't decide.

8. Your woodburner does at least two of the following : heat the house, heat water and cook food.

9. You can understand why Mrs Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe wanted to take her sewing machine with her, when on the run from The White Witch.

10. Haybox cooking doesn't seem so crazy after all. 

If you ticked even just a couple of the above, you are well on your way to becoming Homesteady, and that, readers, is a Good Thing. However, you may find yourself out of step with other mums, and under pressure to conform. How alternative your lifestyle becomes is up to you, but I have found nothing more pleasurable than meeting the challenges of frugal living in a suburban environment, backed up by a warm circle of friends who probably think I'm a little eccentric but, like my children, haven't disowned me yet. I have a friend with whom I can discuss embroidery and another friend who shares my determination to beat the supermarkets at their own game, for example, and for additional wisdom and support I have the Mary Jane's FarmgirlSisterhood

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Finding an Afterschool Routine

Guest post by Jennifer Tankersley

Leaving homework, dinner schedules, and bedtimes to chance has a tendency to create chaos and frustration during possibly the only family time of the day. Establishing a routine does not have to mean never allowing for flexibility, but it gives parents and children alike the feeling of comfort that comes from knowing what is expected.

Children may begin to receive homework assignments as early as Kindergarten. Oftentimes in these early educational years, it falls to the parents to motivate children to finish their homework. Even in the later part of a child’s education, he or she may need structure and guidance. Some families choose the time directly after school to get homework done for the day. Others feel it may be better to allow children to decompress after a long day of concentration and constant social interaction. Should a child complete homework before or after dinner? The answer to that question depends upon the dinner, extracurricular activities, and bed times for each family. Determine which times are best for your child to sit down to homework. Once a routine is established, there should be less fighting about getting it done, fewer homework assignments turned in late, and happier parents and children.

A dinner schedule that works for the whole family is beneficial to everyone. Predictable meal times will encourage children to refrain from ruining their appetite with snacking. Children and parents should work together to put dinner on the table for a family meal. For some families that might mean one person either cooks or picks up food on the way home. Someone else then sets the table, and another family member fills drink cups.

Bedtime is another aspect of the afterschool routine that should be consistent. Younger students require more supervision and earlier bedtimes. Whether you incorporate a time for reading together or alone, children will benefit from an opportunity to lie quietly and cultivate the habit and skill of reading for pleasure.

Afterschool routines may change from year to year and from family to family as there are many factors involved such as age, siblings, and parents’ work schedules. Maintaining a consistent and reliable routine will give your child a feeling of stability during the formative years of his or her youth.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Make Your Own Fun: Make Your Own Dish Soap

It takes a fair amount of organisation to have all the elements necessary to make frugal dish soap. Frequently I have found that I have all the ingredients to-hand but no container large enough to store the final product. Or I have been banking on the lemon that's nestled in the bottom of the fruit bowl for a fortnight, only to find it has been sacrificed to G and Ts.

So when Prima was off school last week recovering from an ear infection and not quite poorly enough to listen to Roald Dahl audiobooks any longer, I was happy to note that our washing-up liquid bottle was looking pretty empty. It would be like homeschooling, I thought. We would measure ingredients out, discuss boiling points, squeeze lemons and estimate the resulting juice. I would amaze Prima with my penny-pinching skills and she would decipher my handwriting and be entertained by the fact that grated soap looks like cheese. We would be kept busy AND create something useful for the home.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Will you Sign the Sewist's Creed?

I have nearly finished making a pair of trousers for Prima and they are so wrong. The side seam of one leg has a seam allowance that is somehow triple that of the other leg's. Prima will pretend they fit fine but they are a far cry from the leggings I had in mind. They are navy with white stripes and are likely to become pyjamas at best. I will never get my Sewing Merit Badge at this rate. 

Although I am pleased with the side pocket I have fashioned (a first for me) I have now put the offending garment aside before I try to cut any more corners or misjudge any other measurements and will continue when I am in a more patient frame of mind. In the meantime, I have created a Sewist's Creed. Feel free to print out and sign.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Haircuts for a Snip

We don't often get that "just stepped out of a salon" feeling in our house, because none of us GO to the salon. Now that the King is no longer "in the public eye" and only has band saws and morticers for company during the day, I cut his hair, either with clippers or with my Proper Hairdressing Scissors. Prima and Secundus also have their hair done "dans la cuisine", and since it has always been this way, they don't make very much fuss, but, like reading or weeding, you have to catch them in the right mood, however scruffy they look.

Home hair cuts save our family around £10 a month. I have never had any lessons, and I have just read in February's Book of the Month [The Complete Tightwad Gazette (Amy Dacyczyn, $19.99, Random House)] that my technique could be improved somewhat, but the results are usually passable. I will be cutting my family's hair for as long as I can get away with it, and yes - the King cuts my hair too. This was easier when my hair was about an inch long all over, but being a carpenter, he is good with angles and measurements.

Getting it done by a college student is also an option (very cheap and they are always supervised). I did treat myself to a real haircut in a local salon before Christmas. I felt like a million dollars straight afterwards but the next morning, the photo-ready style had gone, never to return in quite the same way, whatever I tried to do with Fructis Style Wax.  

To cut your family's hair, you will need:
1. To have googled "how to cut hair", read up on it in Dacyczyn's book, or at least have some clue where to start. Begin with a trim, no drastic re-styles first time round.

2. A pair of sharp scissors that are used for nothing else but cutting hair (you don't want sellotape stuck to the blades).

3. A tea-towel fastened behind the neck with a clothes peg, protecting the clothes from hair-clippings, or a proper velcro-fastening cape.

4. A conditioning spray (Schwarzkopf do one, or you can make your own if you have a spray bottle - 1 part hair conditioner to 3 parts water). This is good for getting tangles out.

5. Comb and hairbrush.

6. Sellotape for cutting fringe straight across. Lay a strip of sellotape across the fringe and cut along the hair above the sellotape. No-one likes this, but you do get a straight fringe and not too much hair falling in your eyes. 

7. Some means of distraction for your child, such as your husband reading The Hobbit aloud or a couple of episodes of Octonauts on bbc i-player (optional)

I have had particular success when I make the kitchen into a pretend hair salon, with music on the stereo, offers of drinks and nibbles, putting hand-cream on for the customer, taking his/her "coat" and asking about holiday destinations this year etc. That's not something the King asks for very often though. ;)

Finally, never laugh at the results of your haircutting experiments. As with most things in life, quit while you are ahead. Always know that hair will grow back. Tell your children it looks smart and lovely. Since these photos were taken, Prima and Secundus have had several compliments about their haircuts and are proud to say their mummy is their stylist! 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Low Cost Larking about with Loaves

I have been the proud owner of two bread making machines and both of them churned out bread with the texture of rained-on Leeds bricks (see left). Dense and obstinate, my loaves were difficult to cut once you got to the bit where the machine's paddle had been, and were never crumbly on the inside or crusty on the outside like proper baker's bread.

Everyone in the family, to their great credit, pretended to like Mummy's Homemade Bread for about a year.

I enjoyed the feeling that I could make my own bread, that - if we ran out -we didn't have to go and buy a cardboard-tasting loaf from the corner shop for £1.80, and that the kitchen smelled like a bakery most mornings, but I didn't enjoy the actual bread.

Both bread-making machines ended up back on freecycle from whence they came and the loaves lark came to an end. Yet, earlier this week I found myself toying with the idea of having another try. I joined Which? on a month's trial subscription for £1 in a bid to discover the perfect bread machine (Panasonic SD-2501 got top marks with 73%, which is probably an "A" if you are doing A-levels these days). On realising that said machine would set me back nearly £130, I thought twice.

One of the things I dislike about baking is the feeling of the mixture between my fingers (call me crazy), and also the uncertainty I have about how long I should be mixing or kneading. I didn't want to risk a major investment and face the possibility of another year of brick-like bread, but I did want to be a bit more homesteady where baking was concerned.

Recalling that I had a packet of ciabatta bread mix in the kitchen cupboard, I decided to give it a bash. Yes, it was six months out of date, but it was worth a go, and ciabatta would be a good accompaniment to the evening meal. When I say "evening meal", I mean "soup". I had olive oil, I had warm water from the pan on top of the stove, and I had enough time. Plus, now we have a woodburner, I even had a warm place in the house to let the dough rise.

Certainly, opening a packet bread mix, adding water and oil, and using a handheld mixer with dough hooks (far cheaper than a bread machine) is somewhat remote from the original floury elbows of the classic baker, but my point is, that it was a step in the right direction. Typically, I would expect myself to create a beautiful artisan green olive and walnut focaccia from scratch, not succeed and then never bother making bread again. Instead, I decided to "cheat", take the easy option and see what happened, knowing that not much effort or money had been spent. If it worked well: fine, I would do it "properly" next time, with flour, salt etc. If not: meh, the mix was out of date anyway.

It worked okay. Good enough that I'm a little more confident in my dough hooks' ability to knead dough and that I'll try again next week. But I won't be parting with £130 any time soon, Mr Panasonic.

Online Bread Making Class

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How to start wearing 1940s style

80-s does 40's with a
shirtwaist top and pleated skirt.

Guest post by Debbie Wells of Vintage Dancer

I have a ten month old girl who I absolutely adore which is why on most days, she is better dressed then I am. It is much more fun to shop for her and coordinate outfits with hair bows and all that fun stuff that goes along with having a baby girl then it is to dress myself. The only exception to my lack of dress is with my vintage costume collection. I have an entire room dedicated to housing me and my husband’s vintage clothing. Truthfully most of it is not genuine vintage. I am a thrift store addict (aka charity shops.) I LOVE to save money as much as I LOVE to be creative with my costuming. Instead of the $150 vintage dress I find an 80-does-40s or 70s-does-20s look-a-like dress and alter it, accessorize it, or just plain ignore the modern parts of it until think  it looks genuinely vintage. I will share with you a few of my secrets using my current favorite era the 1940's.

80s does 40's peplum top dress
The 1940's are a great era to re-create with thrift store clothing. Most thrift store clothes are circa 1980's and 1990's which is when there was a 1940's fashion revival. I can comb through the racks of dresses and find about ten or so that look 40's. The key style is the shirtwaist dress with collar and buttons half way or all the way down the front. Skirts can be A-line or long and pleated. It's a classic 40's dress style that hasn't gone out of fashion since. The other common style of dress is the peplum top dress and or two piece blouse and skirt.  These are in style right now so you can shop at a new store instead of a thrift store if you prefer. The only thing to avoid with new dresses is the shorter lengths. Vintage 40's dresses came down to just below your knees. Anything shorter will instantly look too modern.

Once you find a dress it's time to add a pair of shoes. 1940s shoe style are wedges, Mary Jane’s, and peep toes (in style now.) What makes these style look more 40's and less modern is the chunky heels and thick straps. 1940's shoes were sturdy and practical. I love them because I don't feel like I am going to lose my balance like I do walking on thin heels. 1940's colors were a bit on the drab side- black, grey, tan, blue. But if your dress is full of spring time color your shoes should match.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Co-hosting the Money $aving Monday Blog Hop - come and join me!

Today I am co-hosting my very first blog hop: Money Saving Monday. It would be great if you could find a post on your blog that you can link up. Co-hosting is something I've never done before so I'm hoping it all goes smoothly and you'll come and join in.

No Thumbs, no Frills, no Spend Oven Mitts

It's the King who makes pizza in our house and consequently, our oven mitts are often copiously decorated with homemade pizza sauce. Since they need washing at least once a week, I decided to try and make an alternative set of oven mitts, using our existing ones as a template. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Raising the Bar : Frugal Liquid Soap

Soap making is an art, and a risky one, because it involves lye, and is associated with the word "caustic". But liquid soap, fashioned out of a bar and a few other ingredients is a whole different ball game. Inspired by the recipes found in The Cottage Mama's DIY Guide and on the Simple Savings website, I was determined to transform a 12p bar of soap into a container of liquid soap that would be at home on the shelves of Lush, but that could also double-up as a body wash or dish detergent. 


One bar of soap. Ideally something fabulous like Castile soap, but I used Asda smartprice soap which has MADE IN ENGLAND stamped on the back and costs 35p for three bars. Probably it is the same type they have at Leeds Prison. The main point is, it needs to be soap, not full of moisturisers like a Dove Beauty Bar.

2 tsps liquid glycerine. This was, wonder of wonders, in our baking cupboard already.

4 Evening Primrose Oil Capsules

Essential Oil/s. I used May Chang

Boiled water in the ratio of 1 oz soap to 2 cups of water.

A large container to store your liquid soap in. I used a clean six pint container of milk.

A funnel.

A soap dispenser (can be an old one, washed out). 


1. Using a cheese grater, grate the bar of soap into a large pan. Lose the will to live.

2. Take four Evening Primrose Capsules and prick them with a pin. Squeeze the oil out gently until you have about 2 tsps of oil. Alternatively you could use Vitamin E oil. Add this to the soap shavings. 

3. Combine the soap shavings, liquid glycerene and water in a pan. If you have 4 oz of soap, you will need 8 cups of boiled water. Heat the mixture on the stove, stirring until all the soap is melted and it just looks like soapy water. Start to wonder if this is all going to work.

4. Remove the soap mixture from the heat and allow it to cool a little.

5. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a large, clean container, in which you can store your soap mixture overnight. Mark the container accordingly so it doesn't get thrown away by your husband or consumed by your children. Keep it in a safe place and make sure the lid is on properly. 

6. The next day, dash to your soap container and be pleasantly surprised that the mixture is nice and thick, just like proper handwash. (If it is too gloopy, you can use a handmixer and mix in more water.)

7. Congratulating yourself on your miserly ways, pour the soap mixture into an empty soap dispenser, using a funnel. Add a few drops of the essential oil into the soap dispenser too. That way you can make each batch a different scent. I'm going to do a lavender version next time. 

8. There should be plenty of soap mixture left over in your large container for future use, so store it upright somewhere out of the way. Actually the mixture doesn't smell too bad on its on - even the Prison Soap which is absolutely bog-standard - so if you were to use an Olive Oil soap, it would probably be fine without essential oils or Evening Primrose.

9. Laugh heartily when you think of the money you've saved and the fun you've had and position your new liquid soap on the bathroom basin, waiting for your husband to exclaim how brilliant and clever you are. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

How to Deal with Frugal Tip Overload

One of the problems I encounter when trying to live a frugal life is that I get overwhelmed by information. There is a bottomless pit of tips out there, most of which are haphazardly saved in my bookmarks on Chrome, never to be referred to again. I have lost count of the newsletters I have signed up to and blogs I follow, all which offer money-saving expertise. Don't get me started on forums.

All this information collating is time-consuming. It's easy to collect tips on container gardening,  re-purposing nylons and 4,790 uses for white vinegar; it's much harder to put them into practise. Plus it's a never-ending path. There's always another better, cheaper storage solution, or a prettier-looking printable organiser to download. 

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