Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dig For Victory #6: Keeping Chickens in a Small Garden

If you've ever hankered after the Good Life but are unsure whether you have enough space, Anne Perdeaux, animal expert and author of A Family Guide To Keeping Chickens: How to choose and care for your first chickens shows how keeping chickens in a small garden is possible. Not only does Perdeaux take readers through each stage of the process  - from planning and preparing for your first chickens and understanding their behaviour, to dealing with parasites and predators -  she even includes fun activities to engage children with the idea of keeping chickens. Over to Annie:

"Gardens are getting smaller, while outdoor living becomes more popular. The garden may already be accommodating toys, a barbecue, even some flowers – and chickens may seem an impossible dream.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

What's Your Money-Saving Style?

1. Your idea of a good value meal is...
a) Orange Wednesdays at Pizza Express
b) Grasshopper, rabbit, deer, armadillo
c) Creamy fish pie
d) Mushroom stew

2. Your favourite functional item in the house is...
a) used to access the internet
b) the woodburner
c) the slowcooker
d) the sewing machine

3. To earn extra money, you would consider...
a) mystery shopping
b) selling craft items, such as homemade candles
c) ebaying
d) being an Avon lady

Monday, 27 January 2014

Poorly Boy mp3 Player Pouch

Secundus was a bit off-colour at the weekend, the rain was lashing down as always, and we were all gathered together by the wood burner in quiet contemplation. Quieter than usual because Prima and Secundus were listening to audiobooks on the mp3 players they had received from the Yorkites at Christmas. Prima, while making cross stitch bracelets, was part way through the His Dark Materials trilogy, and Secundus was enjoying one of the Harry Potter books, expertly read by Stephen Fry. The King was gripped by his latest Jack Reacher novel and I was perusing my collection of craft books. 

As with anything involving headphones, much untangling of wires was required prior to pressing play, and indeed, any time a child moved, and I had noticed Secundus absently swinging the mp3 player as he listened, or twirling the cables in his fingers. This is a particular problem if Secundus has no pockets in his trousers and the mp3 player is left hanging, doomed to trail around after him all over the house. To avoid actual damage to the cables and the chaos that would no doubt ensue if the mp3 player no longer functioned as it should, I decided to rustle up a little carrier for these highly prized electrical items. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Why bother sewing for your kids?

Earlier this month, I made Secundus a hot water bottle cover and "showcased" it online. Most friends liked its cheery snowman motif and the fact that it had cost me nothing, but one comment stuck with me: "You have too much time on your hands!".

Readers, I am a sensitive soul when it comes to my "career", and this throw-away remark got me thinking once more about Proper Jobs and Decent Salaries. "Is it really worth making things for the Evacuees?" I asked myself. "If I had a reasonable income, I could go out and buy them what they want."

I'm not getting on THAT bus, readers. Working mums. Dual incomes. Disposable Income. It's a debate for another time. But there are many good reasons why sewing things for your family is an excellent thing:

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Frugal Bugle #6: Double Duty Beauty

1. "Push your cuticles back daily using a flannel in the shower" says Lucy Tobin in Ausperity (a stylish and entertaining guide to the secrets of a prosperous life on an austerity budget), occasionally rubbing in your hair conditioner to soften and nourish your cuticles and save on manicures." If you've got some conditioner you don't like, or doesn't suit your hair, by the way, you can always use it as fabric conditioner.

2. Dry Shampoo helps to refresh dull and lifeless hair between washes with no water required. Buy one suitable for your hair colour - brunettes will love Cocoa Brownie dry shampoo from Superdrug - and this will disguise roots til your next hair appointment. Cocoa Brownie is quick and easy to use and has a sweet and floral fragrance as well as helping my DIY hair dye last a little longer by (temporarily) covering up greys. Lucy Tobin also recommends colour-depositing shampoos and conditioners used on a weekly basis to keep hair colour stronger for longer.

3. Jenny Hullah at Wills and Parker Hair Salon says "Gloss colours are generally less expensive than permanent hair colours and give hair loads more shine and condition and are fine to use if u only need to cover a small amount of grey or non at all. In the salon you would save £15 having gloss rather than permanent. Fringe trims are free in our salon also, so put away your kitchen scissors!" 

4. Fancy a spa break but don't have the money or time? Create your own home spa experience by using top notch products from the leading spas. SENSPA, the multi award winning natural spa in the UK's New Forest has just brought out a body therapy range to "leave your body glowing, your mind renewed and your soul soothed". Stocked exclusively by Waitrose, SENSPA's products combine a fusion of Eastern and Western extracts and reflect their philosophy of keeping things simple. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

10 Steps to a Successful Letter of Complaint

Smug enough for ya?!
1. If possible, address the Customer Services Manager by name, otherwise go for "Dear sir or madam". 

2. Start with an email (it's free and quicker) and then go for paper if you get no joy. Keep a copy of what you send.

3. State the item, purchase date, order no. etc. Make sure you are feeling clear and not full of rage before you start writing the main part of the letter.

4. Be brief and to the point, but polite in your opening gambit. "The above item has developed a fault. I have spent the last two hours trying to organise for its repair/ replacement."

Friday, 10 January 2014

Cheer Up Hot Water Bottle Cover

I was pretty lonely yesterday. The Evacuees had gone back to school on Monday, and the reality of Not Having a Proper Job (and not wanting one, incidentally) once more began to sink in. When I was depressed, I couldn't wait for Prima and Secundus to start lessons again, but this year, I really miss them.

Refusing to sink, I decided to keep myself as busy as possible. To mop is better than to mope. Making a fish pie for tea, and an apple and berry crumble for afters, lifted my spirits, as did finding time for some crafting in the afternoon.

I managed to make this hot water bottle cover for Secundus before the afternoon school run. Based on a project in Make It and Mend It, it took about an hour, cost nothing, cheered me up and made him happy too.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Poldark's Lemony Lentils

Another recipe from the excellent Robin Ellis, Lemony Lentils serves four and would make a perfect accompaniment to the Spicy Grilled Chicken Breast featured last month. The publishers have kindly allowed me to reproduce this extract from Robin's latest book, Healthy Eating for Life, which contains over a hundred simple and tasty recipes in the Mediterranean style and is available in paperback tomorrow. 

I love this recipe for its fresh, zesty taste, and the fact that it finally gives me something brilliant to do with the jar of red lentils sitting forlornly in my kitchen cupboard. 

"This recipe is hands-on for the first half hour or so, as it builds in the taste. Then it chugs along on a low heat for 50 minutes as the lentils dissolve and the dal forms. The finish involves sautéing a small amount of onion, garlic and dried red pepper to stir into the mix to lift it. We ate it recently as an accompaniment to the Spicy Grilled Chicken Breast. It is adapted from a recipe in Ismail Merchant’s excellent and quirky cookbook Indian Cuisine.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Do More and Save Money in 2014

It's January, it's Tax Return time, and for many of us, money has never been tighter. I couldn't start the new year without passing on a few Mumtopian thrifty tips.

1. Get Out More.
Stop watching television (it'll only make you hanker after more stuff or compare your lifestyle unfavourably with those of the rich and famous) and go outside. Wrap up warm, and find a way to spend an afternoon for free.

If you're not in the house, you're not paying for heating and lighting (or constant kettle boiling if you have a coffee habit like mine)! Take along a drink and snacks, and see where you end up. Follow footpaths, explore parts of your neighbourhood, find somewhere new. 

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