Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Dead hedges

1 year old dead hedge in early spring. Soon plants will grow through and hide it from view.

When we first moved here one of the essentials on my shopping list was a fairly heavy duty shredder. The garden had been so neglected that almost every plant inside of its one acre size required pruning. This shredder saw a huge amount of use for the first year. I didn't use it at all in the second.
Why? Well, it was noisy. Heavy. And slightly scary :-) I also hated to see the timber wasted even though it was often small twigs.
Needing privacy along one side of the garden I proceeded to make a dead hedge. It was an experiment. Much of the prunings that year found their way into that hedge, building up a row of privacy between us and the large garden gateway past which many people would walk on a sunny weekend. This worked, I no longer feel on display whilst working in the garden.
My premise was that I could use the wood as kindling in the future. If I didn't it wouldn't be a disaster as the prunings would simple rot back into the earth whilst providing a great habitat for the wildlife.

Two years later here I am, starting to clear out one of the dead hedges. The wood is brittle and snaps easily. It is being used as kindling. The shredder is sold.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Snack bags

Buying snacks is expensive. You can save money by purchasing a larger bag... but somehow that larger bag doesn't seem to last any longer than a small one.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pile of ziplock food bags. My intention was to split up larger packs of sweets/chocolate/nuts into more sensible portions, around 100 calories each. This has been a brilliant ideas! It has educated all of us in just how small a portion 100 calories is. In practice many of the bags have been 110-120 calories due to sizes of items eg small twix bar, but this doesn't bother me too much.

I have learnt that every item has to have it's own bag even if it is already wrapped in packaging. The process of unzipping the bag adds a delay that allows you to reconsider if you really want it - this doesn't really work for my boys but it does for me. 100 calories of peanuts is just enough. You don't get many sweets for 100 calories. I am saving money too!

One unlooked for bonus is that my partner is also happy to use these with the result of him consuming much less. Before he would have polished off a large packet of peanuts without being aware of it. Also, with him snacking less I think about snacking less often. Win, win.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Willow sprouts

My willow cuttings are sprouting! This is a photo of the most developed but they are all showing good signs of growth. After my previous experience of only a few cuttings rooting (and then those getting pulled out by children) I didn't have high expectations but now I'm over the moon.

This post shows how they looked when they first arrived

Friday, 26 April 2013

St George's day

Flay made by my son
We seem to have done St George's day in a big way this year. We started the week with my boys taking part in a St George's day parade through our local town followed by a fun day, organised by the scouts.

At our local home education group I decided to use the flag as my inspiration and ran up some flags using an old sheet, tearing it into rectangles and sewing a simple channel along one side. These were decorated by all of the children using felt tips. The designs were both colourful and inspirational... but I didn't think to take any photos. The one above was the only flag left over so my eldest son decided to use it for his den.

That evening we enjoyed roast beef (pot roast as it was a fairly cheap joint) followed by golden syrup suet pudding with custard. Ginger beer was appreciated by all.

What does St George's day mean for me? Not very much to be honest. It is a festival based on a catholic saint so has very little resonance for me. But as the patron saint of England it is a good time to appreciate our country and what we produce. I have heard it argued that the fact that St George was not English makes him a good person to represent the multi-culturalism within our nation. For us as a family it usually simply means that there is roast beef, that most traditional of English meals, and locally produced beer on the table. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


One of the hardest things to get to grips with in this garden is it's overall design. I've given it a couple years to talk to me, make sense. It doesn't. So, this hedge is going to go. It is a yew hedge, it seems like such a shame to take it down but it doesn't add anything to the overall structure. It is also wonky! What you can see in the picture above is a straight section that then curves towards us and stops at the tree. There is another section that is going to stay but get lopped to reduce the height by half to allow more light in.

I'm still pondering, but about 99% sure that it is going to happen. It will probably be replaced with another hedge in time, possibly a rose hedge. But not in quite the same place.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Meal replacement plans

I feel a bit mixed about these, my head tells me that they are a waste of money and I'm better off eating 'proper' food. But they are convenient for cutting down on my food intake, the rules are simple and give me no leeway for sneaking in the odd extra few thousand calories.

I am using the Tesco version (simply because it is cheaper) as a jump start for my weight loss program. I have two tins that should take me through the first two weeks, I suspect that this will be sufficient for my needs. This period will allow my body to adjust to eating less without the temptation of adding just a little bit more food to my plate every meal.

Just for fun, here are my pro's and con's:

I get to drink milkshake twice a day
I don't need to think about what I'm eating throughout the day
After the first few days of being hungry my appetite shrinks
It is very convenient
Convenient is great.
My children get jealous.

It never mixes properly
Looks appetising but the taste is 'off'
Texture is slimy
I don't like the flavour of artificial sweeteners
It just seems wrong.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Slow worm

Slow worm
Yesterday, whilst mowing, I stumbled across this creature. Having never seen one before I thought that it was probably a grass snake and called my boys to have a good look. A little googling later I discovered my mistake, it is a slow worm. Fairly common but rarely sighted. The fact that we found this one indicates that there are probably a lot more around which is good news as they love to eat slugs and snails, the nemeses of gardeners.

The plural of nemesis is nemeses. I would never have got that right without a dictionary!

Popping candy

I recently found this in the baking aisle of our local supermarket and I'm loving it. A small amount tipped into a ramekin allows me to enjoy it, one tiny piece at a time. Each bit will crackle away in the mouth filling it with sugary sweetness for several minutes.

A great way to treat myself when I have the munchies whilst consuming but a few calories.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A time for doing

Three weeks ago, fed up with waiting for it to warm up, I treated myself to some large thick socks and two pairs of thin leggings for layering under my jeans. The idea was that I would stop lamenting about how cold it is and start doing stuff again because I am ready to do stuff again. As is the way of these things they have been used for less than a week thanks to the return (finally!) of our usual, mild weather.

I also made another decision, with me feeling warmer it is time to tackle my weight. I have successfully lost weight twice in the past (weight loss story can be found here) and, when everything is going well, it is actually not hard at all. But trying to lose weight when I'm stressed, being pulled in many directions at once or even just feeling a bit low does not work. My life is not perfect now but neither is it bad. The small changes that I've been making over the past few months have given me a better sense of worth and I feel pride in what I have achieved.

There are many diets to choose from, I know from experience that I will hop and change ideas from time to time, the trick is not to get bored.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


When it comes to having fun there isn't much that can beat blowing bubbles.

A warm clear day that isn't too dry is just about perfect. I always have mixture and wands tucked away though they haven't seen the light of day for over a year. My boys were very happy to find them again.

Have you ever tried to take photo's of bubbles? Hard to do! 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Wardrobe review: black skirt

Here's another of my favourites, a drapey, floaty black skirt. The panels are sewn diagonally on the bias and it is just lovely and flirty to wear. Unfortunately as I'm short it hits me mid calf again. This skirt is so lovely that I've worn it regardless of it's less than flattering length but I've always intended to do something with it.
And that something was to simply cut it off at the waist. A stretch of elastic later and I have a more flattering knee length skirt which still swishes beautifully.
Previous posts:

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Spring has sprung

Spring is actually here! For the first time this year I have been able to go outside and have not been chased immediately back into the house by the bitter cold wind. 

I felt able to dawdle and explore the garden, finding little gems such as this adorable pale primrose hiding in our hedge. There are other primroses in my garden but their petals seem a suspiciously garish yellow, not the delicate light touch of our native.

 My main lawn is still taken over by large boxy clumps of narcissi but now other flowers are making themselves known too.

My compost area is more usable thanks to an extended path. Unfortunately the ground is still too claggy to remove all the nettles and I suspect that I won't have much time to devote to this now that we are, finally, warming up so they may just get smothered with compost and black plastic for a year.

The warmth even drew my youngest out into the garden for a bit of archery practise.

It rained, the sun shone and the breeze blew gently but warm. A typical British day. Nice to have one of these again. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Wardrobe review: blue skirt

I love this skirt. I like how it drapes and the strange diagonal shift in stripes on it. Unfortunately this skirt doesn't love me. The length of it hits me on the fattest part on my calves, every time I've worn it I've felt very matronly. I don't want to make it shorter as it won't suit this style so I've had to go longer instead.
Finding the correct fabric was never going to be an option so instead I dived into my ribbon stash and found a length of fat lace. Cutting this in half along it's length gave me enough to go all the way around the bottom of the skirt.
Having done this I have to ask, will I actually wear this? I think that I will. The frill adds just enough length and silliness to remove this from the matron category. Success!
Previous post: Wardrobe review

Friday, 12 April 2013

Happy Day

What a lovely day it was today. Sure, we had some rain, we had some grey moments but I also saw a lot of blue sky and plenty of sunshine.

What a difference sunshine makes to how I feel. I'm suddenly motivated to do stuff, have fun and be creative. I have ideas sparking off all over the place and it's hard to pin them all down. I want to do everything at once.

A good day for doing.

You might have noticed that I've not been posting recently. After last months regular posting I'm taking time away from the computer. I'll be back!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Wardrobe review

Sunday was cold. I knew that I ought to get out into the garden but I just couldn't face being cold. So, casting my mind around for a job that wasn't too taxing my eyes fell upon my wardrobe. This was something I had been putting off for a while but a perfect task for now.
pink top with new straps
What I wear daily is a pretty boring uniform dictated by living in a cold house. I could turn the heating on more often but since moving here we have had surprisingly few sniffles and I'm sure that this is partially down to not using central heating all the time. The result is that I tend to live in jeans, several jersey tops and a fleece. Not a great look but warm.
How would I like to dress? I think that this is really a post for another day but I would like to wear skirts more often and I really ought to find another option to my boring fleeces, they really don't flatter anybody. But with no money to invest in my wardrobe I have to make the best of what I have.
What do I have? On the plus side everything in my wardrobe fits me. I do have clothes put away in a suitcase that would fit if I lost a stone or two but as I haven't they don't really count for now. I pulled out everything that I don't wear regularly to assess why and considered how to improve them, stuck a post it note on with the details and moved on to the next item. By the time I finished I had a small pile of clothing to work on. There was only one item to donate to the charity shop so I count this as a success.
New buttons on my cardi
Whilst most pieces required the sewing machine I was able to pull out two items that were quick and simple jobs. The first is a pink summer top that has had very little wear, partially due to temperature but mainly because it had silly skinny straps that usually only look good on young girls. It also conveniently had a waist tie that was completely superfluous - one of those that you loosely tie at the back and just looks a bit silly whilst fabric bunches above and below. It took only a moment to cut these off and sew them onto the top as new straps. I did consider sewing in some snaps for holding bra straps but I decided to hold off for now and see how much wear it gets.

The second was a charity shop find blue wool cardigan that has a lovely shape when worn. The only problem was that it had some nasty brass buttons down the front. I have been intending to change these for years but somehow never got around to it. Now I have. It's good to have a useable, flattering top to wear.

Eventually I would like my wardrobe to be full of clothing that I can layer with rather than rely on my fleeces. That time will come but for now I will stay warm.

Monday, 1 April 2013

March review and April planning

How did I do with my March goals? I think that I succeeded from the point of view of putting family first again for a while. Not always but often enough. Here were my more specific goals:

Home & garden: Complete the decor in the front room. Clear out my craft room.
Complete! Well, sort of. The front room is decorated but not really furnished. The craft room is much better but I really must start using up my junk.

Wellbeing: Post on blog 4 times a week
Yep, I did this! I'm not sure if I'm going to worry about posting quite so continuously but it definitely helped me feel that things were back on track.

Health & Fitness: rediscover yoga
Not yet...

Celebrations: My partners birthday. 11th Commonwealth day. 17th St Patricks. 10th Mothering Sunday. 20th Spring Equinox.
Another tick here. St Patricks was ignored but as we're not Irish that's not a big deal!

Arts & Crafts: Explore art with different materials with my children
We certainly looked at wax crayons!

Self learning: I need to focus on doing rather than planning.
Mixed success here but I did manage to finish off a few things that had been ticking over too long.

And for April?
The pendulum swings back to me again. This month could be tough!
Home & garden: Get into the garden everyday, even if it's just a walk.
Wellbeing: No romantic fiction.
Health & Fitness: Plan meals for healthy eating.
Celebrations: Easter (though almost over)! St Georges Day
Arts & Crafts: Sketch a little something everyday.
Self learning: Limit shopping budget.