Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Creative Home Acre Hop #22

It's time to link up your posts at the Creative Home Acre Hop hosted by Andrea from Opulent CottageKathy from Creative Home ExpressionsMary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s KitchenMe, (Alison, from MumtopiaManuela from A Cultivated Nestand Lisa Lynn from The Self Sufficient HomeAcre!)

With so many co-hosts, that means that when you link up your posts each week, they will be viewed by even more people! Each host will be sharing her own picks for Featured Bloggers. This gives everyone a better chance of being featured and increases your exposure to new readers. Be sure to check all of our blogs to see if you were featured!

Which is the Featured Post this week?



Thursday, 27 June 2013

Welcoming Enforced Simplicity

Something GREAT happens when this is what you wake up to every morning: 


The simple lifestyle that I have read about for so many years - ever since picking up Home Ecology in a charity shop on holiday in 1991- the downshifting mindset that I have tried so hard to attain, it simply falls into your lap. When you sleep next to a saw like this one and your wardrobe (a quarter full) is covered by blue tarp, plus there is a six foot high gap in your bedroom wall, dust-sheets at the windows, and the garden is half-covered with rubble sacks, you have no option but to simplify.

We have spent the past two or three months packing our belongings into boxes and storing them in the King's workshop, just so that we have space in which to work and to help prevent everything getting ruined by the inevitable soot and plaster dust that accompanies a loft conversion. Clothes, shoes, books, ornaments, pictures, toiletries, camping equipment, that kind of thing. In addition, we donated over half a dozen sacks of unwanted items to Shelter and Save the Children. We are now at the point where, not only do we not miss or hanker after the items we have boxed up, we don't even KNOW what is IN the boxes. I know my wedding dress is in one of them, okay, but essentially we are managing perfectly well without about two-thirds of what we own. 

No-one is going without. The children are going to school in (fairly) clean uniform every day, and I have worn about three different outfits over the past month, not including overalls. Meals are still eaten at our big dining table and showers have become something to really look forward to. All of a sudden, the King and I have a particular affinity with miners.

Our usual routine continues amidst the planks and plaster board; we just have very dirty feet at the end of each day. We still have our beds, which bring us great comfort and excellent sleep, mainly because we are physically worn out but not stressed. My little garden is serving us well; being able to pick fresh lettuce and - today, strawberries! - has been a lovely, if small, link with nature. Even though it is Wimbledon fortnight, rain has held off most days, which has meant I can get washing done, we are only traipsing dust (not mud) through the house, and we are able to take breaks from the sawing and drilling in the fresh air.

Having a carried half a trailer-load of breaks down to ground floor this week, and a similar amount of lath and plaster, I have some sense of what the housing crisis must've been like in The Blitz. Just a wall's worth of bricks or a ceiling's worth of plaster is a mess to be reckoned with. To have your whole home reduced to that kind of rubble by enemy bombers, and worse, to lose loved ones amongst the debris, is barely imaginable.

It has done us good already to have fewer choices, less space and minimal possessions. Already this month, we have celebrated in our ability to work as a team and to meet the physical challenges with muscles we didn't know we had. We have thanked our children for their patience and ability to amuse themselves (sometimes) and cope with continual change. What becomes important is rest/ sleep, food, and a shower. These basics, and each other, are all we need.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

10 Ways to Save Money in the Magazine Minefield

A nice cuppa and a magazine: the perfect pick-me-up whatever time of day or year it is. But magazines are pricey items and they can have a negative knock-on effect. 

The plethora of glossy adverts may convince you to splash out on something you didn't know existed before flicking through articles like "30 anti-ageing products for Spring Skin" or "100 ways to simplify your life". 

Envy can be generated by celebs and their beautiful homes/ bodies/ partners. In short, you may suddenly find yourself mildly discontented with your lot and feel that you have to buy this season's lash growth-promoting mascara/ colour-changing kettle/ toenail extensions etc. 

The celebrity worship/ destruction aspect of many women's magazines is one reason why I don't have them in the house. The cover stories shrieking about cellulite, and crowing about crow's feet, the back-stabbing and false flattery... it reminds me of my days at secondary school. Most of the photographs inside and on the cover convey a mixture of messages that I don't think are appropriate for my children. 



Even if the glossies are struck off the list, I'm still drawn in by the craft titles and the more homely, less "I married my twin's murderer" magazines, like Essentials and Prima. Then there's the whole Vintage phenomenon - vintage decor, vintage looks, re-inactments... Don't get me started on the "But Mum, there's a FREE GIFT!" children's titles! Here are my cheap tricks for making your way through the magazine minefield. 


1. Swap or share magazines with friends, especially if you like the same kind of titles. Perhaps you can buy one magazine in April and your friend will get May's edition.

2. Buy them second-hand. This is possible via auction sites, charity shops, stalls at garden fetes etc. Even if the magazine is a year out of date, it will in all likelihood be perfectly readable, and probably only cost about 50p.


3. If you are friendly with the receptionist at your dentist, or your hairdresser, or anywhere else that has magazines in a waiting area, perhaps you can ask if you might have a particular magazine once it is finished with each month. 



4. Look out for trial subscriptions such as those by Magazine Subscriptions co.uk. I bought the King three issues of Empire for just £1 recently, as a gift. The cover price is normally £3.99 per issue. Just don't forget to cancel the direct debit before the trial period is up.

5. Go though all your old magazines, cut out the pages/ articles/ recipes etc you want to refer to again, and keep them in a display book (one of those plastic-covered books with 80 or so clear pockets). This way you can create your own magazine which can be updated in future, and you can recycle all your back issues, saving space.


6. Your favourite magazine probably has a website. Try reading that for free instead. E-books can be incredibly cheap and informative (have a look at my bookshelf of recommended reads here). Or stick with blogs - there are thousands of entertaining sites out there covering every subject you can name. 


7. Make the most of the magazines you do buy. Enter the competitions (as long as it is free!), clip the coupons, use the free gift, and send in readers' tips - often you get paid £25 if your letter or idea is printed. 


8. If you are really keen on a particular publication, and buy an issue nearly every month, it will probably save you money to subscribe. Do this via a website like Top Cashback, and you will get cash back on your purchase as well. I never subscribe to a magazine for more than one year consecutively though, because I have noticed that the same type of stories come up each season. So, only be loyal for a year, then switch to an alternative read.


9. Some publications will be available to read for free at your local library.

10. Head over to amazon and buy a second-hand paperback instead - they are often better value for money and have a lower "eye candy" quotient. 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Get linkin'

It's time to link up your posts at the Creative Home Acre Hop hosted by Andrea from Opulent CottageKathy from Creative Home ExpressionsMary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s KitchenMe, (Alison, from MumtopiaManuela from A Cultivated Nestand Lisa Lynn from The Self Sufficient HomeAcre!)

That means that when you link up your posts each week, they will be viewed by even more people! Each host will be sharing her own picks for Featured Bloggers. This gives everyone a better chance of being featured and increases your exposure to new readers. Be sure to check all of our blogs to see if you were featured!

Please note that we have made a slight change to our requirements. Please link up no more than 3 posts per blog each week. Thanks!

Which is the Featured Post this week?



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Finish the Chores or Enjoy the Sunshine? Do both!

June is bustin' out all over, to quote Carousel, and, since sunshine and warmth are fairly uncommon in North England, we Brits like to take advantage of good weather whenever possible. 

"Our house looks normal on the outside", said Secundus as our loft conversion began a fortnight ago, "but inside it is tumbledown." He ain't wrong. There are a number of domestic tasks which it is difficult to achieve, or not worth doing, when most surfaces are covered with plaster dust and/ or soot. My solution was to take the housework outside and let the sunshine into what is left of my cleaning routine; here are a few chores that lend themselves well to the outdoors, as long as you don't care what the neighbours think.



Monday, 17 June 2013

A Lesson in a Loft

The King and I spent most of the weekend in the roof. Not in a Shallow Grave kind of way. In a "Let's take up the boarding, remove the loft insulation, hack out the old floor and take it to the tip" kind of way. 

We wore protective suits and breathing masks, which did, after about five minutes, make me think how hard it must have been for all those wartime parents to ensure that their children put their gas masks on and did it properly. Wearing a breathing mask and working in a confined space at the top of the house is hot work, but it has at least proved to me I am not claustrophobic.

Plaster-boarding a ceiling  is convivial in comparison, even if each board does weigh 25kg (more than a third of my bodyweight). Removing lath and plastic with a reciprocating saw is less chatty work: more Grin and Bear it, and try not to bang your head on the rafters.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

It's that time again...

It's that time again! I just thought I'd come down the ladder from our roofspace (where we are stripping out the lath and plaster floor of our loft) and let you know it is time to link up your posts at the Creative Home Acre Hop hosted by Andrea from Opulent CottageKathy from Creative Home ExpressionsMary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s KitchenMe, Alison, from MumtopiaManuela from A Cultivated Nestand Lisa Lynn from The Self Sufficient HomeAcre!)

That means that when you link up your posts each week, they will be viewed by even more people! Each host will be sharing her own picks for Featured Bloggers. This gives everyone a better chance of being featured and increases your exposure to new readers. Be sure to check all of our blogs to see if you were featured!

Please note that we have made a slight change to our requirements. Please link up no more than 3 posts per blog each week. Thanks!

Which is the Featured Post this week?



Monday, 10 June 2013

Prepare and Survive #1: DIY Building Works

When your bedroom looks like this, because you too are doing a loft conversion with your husband then you have my sympathy. It will all be worth it in the end.


Here are a few tips to help out when any kind of domestic chaos descends. 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Protective gloves, Pinny and a Penchant for Weeds



It's not everybody who approaches a patch of nettles in a community garden with gusto, thinking "Hey, I can use these on my hair", but I like to do things a little differently here in Mumtopia.

Making It (my book of the month for June) inspired me to try a herbal hair rinse containing sage, mint and nettle. All are known for the benefits they bring to your hair and scalp and are growing in the community garden near our homestead. The latter leaves, of course, must be harvested when wearing rubber gloves. Sage, like rosemary, is supposed to darken hair over time, and mint adds a bit of zing. I forgot to take my pinny off when I went out picking nettles, which made one poor dog-walking man look rather frightened.
After confusing local residents with your rubber gloves, home-sewn pinny and penchant for weeds, return home with around a handful each of sage, mint and nettle leaves and put them in a saucepan with sufficient boiling water to cover. Boil for a few minutes and be unimpressed by the rather pungent odour. Allow to cool and decant into a large jar. This will keep for about a week and can be used as a leave-in hair rinse (you may want to warm it through slightly before pouring it over your head).

Thursday, 6 June 2013

6 Things to Take on a Simple Summer Break

1. Tools. Although seaside spades are fine for children, to make real sandcastle progress, take along a full-size spade. We found one in the garage of our holiday cottage and took it down to the beach each day. It was metal and lethal in the wrong hands, but it sure made quick work of castle moats. We actually took an AXE on holiday this time, for cutting up driftwood to take back and burn on the cottage's stove.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Done Meal Planning? Try Meal Linking!

Food prices are rising all the time and yet in this country alone, 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink are currently thrown away every year. Hardly the Home Front, is it? Homesteaders who cook for families on a daily basis are trying to get the most out of the products we buy and save money where possible. The key to this, according to one busy UK mother, is not only menu planning, but meal linking.

The No-Waste Meal Planner by Becky Thorn, is a book that inspired me to try three new recipes in two days - an unprecedented feat. Thorn shows you how to link your meals from one day to another so that you can shop economically but cook deliciously and use up any leftover ingredients that might otherwise have been abandoned at the back of your fridge. 

So what is a meal chain? Here's an example from The No-Waste Meal Planner:

The Roast Chicken to Margarita chain
Roast chicken – use the carcass to make a stock and the leftover chicken meat to make Chicken Risotto – use leftover risotto plus salami, mozzarella and passata to make Arancini with tomato sauce – use the leftover salami, mozzarella and passatta to make Pizza Margerita. Four meals, all linked, and no wasted ingredients.

Thorn's ideas are revolutionary to me, but she writes in a very encouraging, straightforward way and includes shopping lists for each of her meal chains. It's also easy to adapt her recipes and cross from one mail chain to another, which is what I did with my first step into meal linking. 



Ginger biscuits were first on the list. These turned out bigger and flatter than I'd expected but went down well with Secundus in particular. As I had some rhubarb from Mrs Forward's allotment, and some summer fruits which had been ignored for several months in the freezer, my next challenge was to make a fruit crumble, incorporating some broken up ginger snaps into the crumble topping. I don't even LIKE fruit, and I loved this crumble. Prima had third helpings. 

Lastly on my oh-so-healthy foray into meal chains, the King had had a bad day at work so I made some Rocky Road, using broken biscuits from the bottom of the biscuit barrel and, yes, another ginger snap. All of the other ingredients were already in my kitchen cupboards, but if yours need stocking up, Thorn includes good advice about that too.

The best thing about Thorn's book is that it challenges us to think outside the (grocery) box, stop doing the same old dishes and experiment with ingredients. Not only do we get to try new recipes and ways of doing things, but we cut down waste and costs at the same time. All the things I made were treats but they cost very little and are healthier, and more substantial, than bought versions. Thorn has even got me thinking, for the first time in nearly 13 years of marriage, of doing a Sunday roast, so wide-ranging are the permutations of a joint of meat. In this kitchen, that is truly revolutionary.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Make a summer holiday memento



A summer holiday memento can be created for all-year-round pleasure, with only a handful of pebbles, shells, pinecones, driftwood and other finds, placed on a round, flat tray or platter. Light three or four candles and let the summer memories drift back. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Simple Summer Living and Giving

It's not a fear of flying that makes me go on holiday in the United Kingdom rather than abroad. It's indignation at the cost of a passport, automatic avoidance of anything requiring more than one form of transport/currency, keenness to stay away from crowds, traffic and the holiday conveyer belt, and a general belief that, if you pick the right place to go, this small island can rival even the most popular tourist destinations overseas.


We got so much out of our week-long vacation. Even though it only took two-and-a-half hours to drive to our self-catering cottage, it felt like a world away. And yet, because it is a place we have returned to most summers since Prima and Secundus were born, it has a lovely familiarity for us all. Best of all, the beach is vast, unspoilt, often deserted, overlooked only by sand-dunes and a castle, and within walking distance.

This year I wanted to give something back to the place that had offered our family such a haven, or least in the wider sense, make sure someone other than us and my parents got something out of it. Here are a few ways we can all give back when we are away this summer:

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