... because life's too short to do anything ALL the time . Creativity and positivity are my "hiraeth"

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Spread a little love...

There are many worrying trends in todays stressful times. I've noticed recently that a lot of usually delightful peeps have been going a little overboard on the WWW, in full view of the entire global community.

I recently used the saying "didn't your mother ever tell you not to air your dirty laundry in public" twice one day. I know sometimes if feels good when we're full of our self-righteous selves to let off a bit of steam in public, but it really can come back to bit you on the bum.

Internet etiquette has a purpose. Protecting our sore bits. Your ex might be a cow who's trying to kick you out of your jointly bought house, but can you honestly say that you could trust every single person you're friends with on Facebook with your intimate secrets? I certainly couldn't.

Lively topical debate is one thing. Mud slinging and insulting is NOT the way forward. I've today been seriously called a "terrorist" for my disagreeing with the opinion of someone who's sense of self importance has got a little out of hand. That's just not cricket.

It really doesn't pay to get too far up your own (or anyone else's) bum. Being not nice about someone in public can only ever be a bad thing. The old adage "if you don't have anything nice to say ..." might be a cliche and old fashioned, but it goes a long way to protecting you. Can you be sure your next boss/partner/squeeze/best friend isn't reading what you've written?

Rule 1- Don't write anything that could be used against you. It probably will be.
Rule 2- Don't tell the world what you would only tell your best friends in person.
Rule 3- Don't get all above yourself and above your station. It's all a bit of fun. Don't take things too seriously, it REALLY makes you look like a bit of a ...

Serendipity Strikes Again!

I have a new job. I'm really looking forward to it.

I had to go down to the office to pay for my CRB check on Friday (I get it refunded but I have to pay for it initially. I don't mind that.) so I go to the cash point to withdraw the money to pay for it. It's £36. I'm aware that I'm wondering if they'll have change in the office, so I draw out £40. If only I had £1 more in my purse I could give them the right money.

What's that I see on the floor shinning in the sun? It's only a £1 coin! I've clearly taken it that this job is meant to be. I'm going to love it!

That's a pretty good start for a Friday morning. How could I possibly have guessed it could get any better? Although there really was one point where I actually thought that the day had gone completely pear shaped as a result of my serendipity.

So this is how the rest of the day panned out:

Well, what happened was ....

Megan and I were due to be going to the Kerrang! tour gig in Cardiff last Friday to see The Blackout! (my favourite) All Time Low, Young Guns and My Passion. She asked if we could take some of her friends, one of whom was coming up from Swansea for the evening and staying at ours. After a drama getting the tickets as they were sold out really quickly, we had them about 6 weeks ago.

Kane came up from Swansea on the train on Friday. Sometime after leaving the train on Friday he managed to loose his wallet which contained £50 and his ticket.

Even though I love the Blackout!, there was no way I could have him not go to the gig so I gave him my ticket. I was cooking them some tea in the kitchen listening to Greg and sulking secretly because I wasn't going to the gig. Then his show finished and he said "right I'll be taking some calls for 20 mins now" so I thought I'd phone in. All I was hoping is that he could get Sara Cox to mention about it on the air in the hope of getting the ticket back.

He put me on to the PR lady of the Blackout! and she put me on the guest list. When we got there I discovered that I had 4 VIP passes too so we got to meet everybody too! I have to talk to Greg again on Monday and talk about it - of course I'll be plugging the blog, I've also saved the two funniest stories of the night for the show on Monday!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Every Little Helps...?


So, they've finally lost it. Tesco have today banned shoppers from wearing their pyjamas in their (24 hour) store.

Exactly where do they draw the distinction between nightwear and day wear because I frequently see people negotiating the aisles wearing considerably less than I do in bed. I know an awful lot of greengrocers who'd be more than happy for you to browse their store wearing your pyjamas, a Superted costume, or a black bin bag. Whatever takes your fancy.

So their own power has finally tipped the fine balance between capitalist greed and utter insanity.

It's perfectly acceptable for Tesco to hold deserving charities to ransom in the name of "ethical shopping", but a pair of flannelet drawstring trousers is clearly far more offensive. "Buy any of these products in store now and we'll donate 5p (Ooo) to Muscular Dystrophy"

In essence what they are saying is "That means you can feel less guilty about not doing as much as you'd like for charity, you think "Ooo Tesco; what an ethical international conglomerate I don't feel quite as bad about the decline of the small trader or loss of popularity of the high street" and the charity, (deserving, underfunded and worth it's weight in gold) who are in no position to argue about where their funding comes from, benefit from shoppers increasing Tesco profits instead of Asda."

At least Dick Turpin had the common decency to have a horse and wear a mask.

Never again will I set foot in a Tesco, they can shove their Clubcard up their @rse, and by the way, I'm sat sitting here typing this furiously in my flannelet nightie, dressing gown and slippers and if anyone has a problem with that, I suggest a call to the Tesco recruitment hotline.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Lack of Connectivity Creates Connectedness. Fact.

Managing to save myself another £7 per month today was a great thing. Managing to do it without changing from my existing ISP is even better, but it does make you think. If you have to threaten to leave their services in order to get the best deal, why can't they give you that deal in the first place. Crap. Now I sound like that old Alliance and Leicester advert. It is annoying though.

So the existing ISP is taking over the role of the current TSP (if it's ever called that) and sending me a free wireless modem for my troubles. Fabulous, as a new one to buy was £50. They promised that it would be posted out to me today. But I must be honest, I can't help but feel a little sad about it

The thing is, since we've had limited Internet capabilities, I seem to have a lot less to do on a daily basis. To add to that, the Teenager is hanging around us more, instead of engrossed in Facebook/Myspace/Bebo/MSN which is really kinda nice. Every time I want to speak to her, I just ask her, instead of texting her (she's also been sans mobile credit at the same time. I know. EVIL MUM!) or hollering up the stairs to her.

I know it comes as no surprise to realise how much connection is lost when you introduce a TV to the living room, but I must admit the amount of Teenager contact improvement without the Internet was unprecedented.

I've topped up her phone a bit now, which means she has contact with her friends now through text and Facebook. Haven't seen her since.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Big Freeze

2nd handmade present of the year delivered and successfully accepted. My beaded note book went down a treat. I must be honest, it really was lovely.

So the usual suspects had a night out in Cardiff last night and what a good night it was. The club, however, left a bit to be desired. It's a new build, so you'd expect fairly decent standards, but it was SOOO cold in there, even when we left for the night! Of course, sods law dictated that I just took a dress jacket rather than a warm one.

I was glad to be wearing that jacket though, and those trousers. I must be honest I feel like I've cheated and got new clothes as I haven't been able to fit into half of my wardrobe for over a year. SO now I feel like I've got a new set of clothes. But enough weight loss gloating.

In discussions with the husband this afternoon we've established that clearing a patch of land big enough for me to have my veg patch should be relatively easy, so veggie patch it is. Right now, this is kind of my focus as I'm "between projects". Going to do a bit of gardening research tonight I think. And quite a bit of lying down to get over my "hang over" and dancing injuries!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Crime and Punishment

It's not all denial and punishment in our house. I've had a naughty food treat or two tonight.

I've been on a brilliant weight loss programme since a couple of weeks before Christmas and I've done really well on it (Slimming World). As a result, I've had a few hours off today and had chips from our friendly neighbourhood chip van, and some lovely Cadbury's (soon to be Kraft) chocolate squares, yum. I'm not sure my SW teacher would approve, but I feel it's important to go over your Syns every now and then to give your system a bit of a boost. And it keeps morale up.

Apart from Christmas day, this has been the only real time off I've had. I can't say the plan is difficult, it certainly isn't, but a treat is nice and oh so enjoyable when you have it. That got me thinking about the parallels between my weight loss plan and my consumerism plan.

In order to get yourself out of bad "consumption" habits, you have to be a bit dramatic. This, however is not the hard bit. The hard bit comes when the dramatic period is over and normal habits are relatively free to resume.

In order to cleanse myself of marketing propaganda, I'm resisting giving into it until I've "lost the excess weight". If, however, I embark upon a marathon spending spree on the 2nd of January 2011, it'll all be in vain.

As I was discussing with the lovely "Butterknowlian" lady this afternoon, nothing is bad - in moderation. It's all about balance. The trick is to not be ruled and governed by your treats, and treats should not be a staple, they should be just that. Planned, budgeted for and enjoyed.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Serendipity Rules O.K.

I'm going to have to retract some of yesterday's rant.

It's been weeks now I've been needing to buy a new data cable for my phone but for some reason I just didn't get around to it. Always thinking "I'll just give the old one a few days to turn back up" which, of course it never did.

So I'm very glad something made me do it yesterday. I don't know what though. Usually my tightwaddness would override my need for it and my complete abhorrence of the amount of money I'd already spent would have stopped me. But it didn't.

If I hadn't bought that data cable yesterday I would not be talking to you now. My modem has died. Well and truly, so I'll now be relying on the good old fashioned mobile phone to keep me blogging for a couple of days.

A good result too today. Just had a gorgeous meal with one half of my family and was talking about my new mini-greenhouse (kitchen windowsill). My Stepmother offered me the use of half of her greenhouse. Now that's an offer I cannot refuse. I'm going to need to do some research now to decide what to plant in it. I reckon a combination of half a greenhouse and a load of raised tubs in my yard will do us just about fine.

I'm thinking peppers, corn on the cob, chillies ...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

There's Always Someone Waiting to Help You Part With Your Cash.

Usually, I find, they appear to be approximately 15 years old.

I had to pop into Wilkinson's today to buy some hard backed note books. These are going to be cunningly transformed into beautiful beaded fabric covered gorgeous gifts. The recipients will be able to remove the inner book too, so it will last for years. While in Wilkinsons, I decided that it was time to look at the growing of my veggies for the year. Stores are now starting to get in their gardening stocks. I bought 3 packets of seeds, tomatoes, leeks and onions, all ready to be planted now. I made a gorgeous mess in the kitchen potting them in used egg boxes and I now keep running to the window sill to see if they've sprouted yet. Come on! You've been in for 3 1/2 hours now!

As suggested by the delicious Sara off of www.morethanbubbles.co.uk (do you like my shameless plugging Sara?) I have also "planted" some apple seeds in kitchen towel and a jar like we all did in school. These mini apple trees (Sainsbury's own brand Braeburn, since we've had the food Co-op snowed off for a couple of weeks) may well end up as gorgeous gifts, complete with a photographed "birth diary" to go with them! What a fab idea! Someone else suggested the little trees but that was the first time I'd heard of the Birth Diary.

So, after spending £7.50 on my supplies in Wilkinsons (I looked for little independent traders to buy these things from but I had no choice but to use Wilkinsons) and I was fairly happy with that. Then, said 15 year old needed a hair cut (in fairness, she doesn't have it done very often and she really did need one) so that £7.50 goes up to just under £30. Then, apparently a scientific calculator was needed by the same teenager, total up to £34, and then I had to buy a new data cable for my phone/PC connection as my other one is no where to be found.

That's £44. And I really don't have a great deal to show for it, but on the plus side, the teenager is incredibly happy, and I now don't live in fear of loosing all my data in a freak phone loosing accident. I'll get on with my beading then.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Happy Half Birthday to my Mum and Myself. I forget every year!

Early one morning, a Farmer goes into his field to feed his cows. He's distraught to find that they're all frozen completely solid. "Oh no" he thinks out loud "what on earth am I going to do?". With that, as if by magic, an elderly lady appears near by. "Anything I can help with?" she asks. "No, I don't think so, but thank you. All my cows are frozen solid". "That's no problem" she says and walks over to one of them. She drapes her arms around the cow, and the Farmer looks on in amazement as all the cows defrost before his eyes.

"Are you an angel?" he enquires of the old lady. "No, no. Not at all. I'm Thora Herd".

It's amazing how the inspiration to write this blog comes to me. Although the topic of consumer liberation is a broad one, it's quite a feat to write something that respects the effort people put in to reading this. Come on, admit it, you laughed at the joke! It's arrival in my inbox gave me the boost I needed to put fingers to keys today.

I've been sort of wafting around this evening waiting for the gift of words to be given to me. I know that being stressed about not having anything to write is the very worst thing that you could allow to happen but I must admit I was getting a little anxious. Then it dawned on me - the answer was staring me in the face.

I'm very fortunate in my family that we all appreciate a certain amount of silence. I however appreciate it more than most. I read a book recently that I picked up for £1 and, in my opinion it's worth that many times over. It's called "In praise of the art of slow" by Carl Honore.


The book talks about the need of modern culture to be doing ten things at the same time and the withdrawal symptoms we feel if we can't do all we want to. I can really identify with that recently with the computer problems I've had. Generally, while rambling I have Facebook, Twitter and MSN all on at the same time, my emails get routed through to my phone and it'll be flashing with texts and emails by the side of me and all this is going on while I'm talking to goodness knows how many people, and, of course, the telly's on too. That's a bit mad, really, isn't it?

The book talks about "sensory overload" which is really interesting, I think. Everywhere you look there's marketing, design, technology, things that are all craving our attention. Even as I type this I have 7 icons at the bottom of my screen wanting me to use them, adverts, messages. It's all mind boggling and we get so overloaded we forget exactly who we are and instead get mixed up with the assimilated information. I bet your car radio comes on automatically when you turn the key. Mine does.

A couple of times a week in our house, sometimes more, sometimes less, we cut out a lot of the sensory stimulation. The telly goes off, the computer stays shut and we just enjoy the quiet. It's actually really nice to not be distracted and just to simply "be". Try making a car journey in deliberate silence. It's a lovely relaxing experience. And there endeth the sermon for tonight!

Monday, 18 January 2010

I'm only 33 years old and I'm NOT a PC

So, the pesky virus had absolutely not left me. I don't suppose I can really complain too much - it's the only virus I've contracted that couldn't be sorted out with a dose of Amoxycillin.

You're going to think I'm sad now. No, I know, I know, it's hard to believe, but you are.

Been thinking about Christmas. No, not reminiscing about the glorious snow covered week we spent in the North East, but thinking about the way off Christmas 2010. Well I have to, don't I? I can't leave knocking up all these gorgeous time and effort rich goodies for my friends and family until November. Especially as, where possible, I'll be growing produce to cook with, jam, pickle and bake for these gorgeous morsels.

So right now, it's all about gardening. I need to think now, action soon, harvest later and deliver later again. I'm going to do a bit more growing this year, last years produce was VERY effective, so there'll be more this year. People who've been to my house know about our land. We've very nicely got half a hillside, but, sadly, it's a bit, erm - wild. I'm going to have to either clear a bit of it (doubtful) or invest/beg/borrow/steal some vessels that resemble dustbins, (more likely) to grow my produce in the yard (the vessels need to be as high sided as dustbins due to the leg cocking range of my large Labrador. Don't fancy that on my carrots. If anyone has any vessels I may liberate, I'd be very grateful. Could also be multiple big deep tubs; one to plant in, one to raise up off the floor).

I've written a list of who I have to have a gift for, both birthday and Christmas, and what I'm going to make for each of them. I've not been too ambitious, I've kept it simple, I can always become a bit more elaborate later. I now have a colossal "to make" list that, if started on sooner rather than later, will all come together nicely. I'm sorry to say that there aren't going to be any surprises for Birthdays or Christmases this year. The cyber world of weirdos that seem to find my inane ramblings of vague interest will know about my intended gifts at the same time as the recipient. Sorry about that.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Some people think I'm barking - I prefer to call it "creative"

I don't drink or smoke so, I can't get snobbish about a good bottle of wine or cigar (although I actively encourage a certain amount of snobbery over such things) but I seem to have gotten a bit snobbish over tea and coffee. Well everyone has to have their vice, don't they?
I don't know if this is because of my non-boozing/puffing lifestyle that my taste buds are a little more sensitive but I can't stand cheap coffee or tea. I never used to be this much of a snob about it. The reaction of pleasure on my face was both unhealthy and surprising, even to me, when I discovered an individually wrapped Twinning's Every Day tea bag, stolen from my last stay in a hotel.
I've recently donated 2 bags of coffee (I'm not giving up my jars) because I couldn't bear them and seem to have been through every single brand known to man. I can find only 3 or 4 instant coffees that I can drink, the rest of them taste of bloomin' chicory.I detest chicory.Yuk.
As a result, I have been drinking rather a lot of filter coffee (sometimes, I don't fancy even the ones I can drink) and I have noticed a distinct drop in temperature during the steeping period. I got my crochet hooks out and knocked up a little cafetiere warmer. Well, I figured, if you're going to need something as kitsch as a cafetiere warmer it should be fabulous, and seeing as my tea cosy is the most wonderful thing ever known to man, it had some competition. I found my tea cosy behind my Step Mother's drawers (ooo er) in her kitchen, left there accidentally by the previous (elderly) occupants. It's a crocheted Owl, with space for the spout and handle and he's gorgeous. I'm going to make a crochet toilet roll dolly next. Everyone needs one of them in their life, don't they?
Speaking of snobbery, which I do like to talk about, I must tell you this anecdote:
A good friend was telling me about a very fancy event she goes to every year. She has two very good friends who, for the benefit of the exercise, will be called Emma and Dawn. Emma and Dawn are also good friends, Emma being totally loaded and Emma not so, but trying very hard to create the impression that she is equally as blessed.
Everyone arrived at the event last year and Dawn says to Emma "You look amazing, that dress is fabulous?" then loudly whispers "where did you get it?". Emma replies "ooo yes. very much so! It's from a little known designer called Miss Evie!" Dawn thinks and says "yes, I've heard of her, she's very well thought of, isn't she? I think Victoria Beckham wears some of hers."

Friday, 15 January 2010

... I said TIPS!

After a brief but quite long enough thank you spell of being offline, thanks to a pesky virus (I may not have gotten rid of) I'm going to pick up where I left off.

Let's see...my tips. I wonder if we can turn this into our own "tip directory"? Feel free to add comments, and good tips, I'll incorporate into the blog at a later date and put labels on so we can all find them again.

1) JB and myself have already discussed this, my favourite tip. Instead of wasting money on expensive products like Cillit Bang or Mr Muscle, soak your baking trays, cooking racks, Pyrex, saucepans (anything WITHOUT TEFLON - this tip does not apply to non stick) in laundry powder/liquid/liquitabs. There's very little that bad boy won't remove. Use it for the inside of your oven too, but remember to rinse well or your Victoria Sponge will taste of black lotus flower and orchid or some such nonsense. Bio washing stuff works best (enzymes) but non bio will do well.
2) A doubler for you. Invest in a really good pair of rubber washing up gloves. I like "Busy Bees" ones. Tough as old boots but incredibly gentle also. When you're getting ready to wash up, smother your hands in hand cream before you put them in the gloves. The warmth, motion and pressure aids absorption of the cream and leaves hand soft and silky. When you've finished washing up, with your gloves on,, wash your gloved hands in hand soap and dry them thoroughly. This will prolong the life of your gloves and make using them a much nicer experience.
3) Got a jacuzzi bath? Me neither. If you ever do, though, the best way to clean the jets and pipes through is to run the bath over the jets with warm water, then chuck in half a dozen dishwasher tablets dissolved in hot water. Turn the jacuzzi bit on, then stand and watch for a bit, or go and have a cup of tea.
4) Prolong the life of your hairbrushes by pulling out the hair using a tweezers and scarp scissors to free it up. Run good hot water in the sink, pour in some shampoo like bubble bath and leave for an hour. Then, in the water, vigorously rub two brushes together and you'll be surprised at how good they come up.
5) Use lemon juice on your hands to get rid of the smell of garlic after cooking.
6) Invest less that £1 on a bottle of cheap eye make up remover. It re moistens dried out face wipes, cools tired eyes, stretches out the life of a mascara several times over, and, believe it or not, it removes eye make up.
7) Instead of running your car for 20 minutes before you need it defrosted, fill a hot water bottle and throw it (obviously sealed) on the dash board. That'll thaw your windscreen out but make sure it's not too hot or it could crack your windscreen or scald you.
8) Instead of buying one person you love a present this year, why not make one? It's Valentine's day soon, we'll be getting creative for that!!!
9) To get the most out of your jam/marmalde far, zap them in the microwave for a few seconds on low. Hey presto - another serving or two!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Well, I finished the art folder bag for Meg, she's even quite pleased with it. Managed to squeeze a few sequins on it too! The old bed sheet was one that Husband used to have for his single military bed he'd have to take if he was on a course. It had barely been used, so now, it has a purpose in life. There's loads of fabric left too for other things so I might knock up a little tote bag to match it and she can put some of her other art stuff in.

My "to fix" pile is huge, so I've made a start on getting it down. I reckon there's 10 items of clothes that are currently un-wearable but with a little time and effort will be more than useful. I did a little research a while ago about how to rectify a brassiere with the wire poking out. Since then, I've saved myself a fortune by investing a little bit of time and effort and sewn some elastic of the correct color over the seam hole. If you stitch it, it just comes through again, but if you double some elastic and stitch it all the way around, it'll hold for ever.

I've found my most favourite book in the world, ever. It's an old book, not sure exactly how old exactly but I'm going to do a couple of posts about it in the next few days. It's called "Every Woman's Enquire Within". Basically a textbook for Ladies to offer advice and guidance on how to get through life. I've never really paid it the attention it deserves and there's never been a better time than right now. I'll be talking a lot about that book over the coming months, and I have a few ideas for something similar myself.

Tomorrow is all about tips. Money saving, house keeping, time saving, any tips really. We all love them, don't we?

I'm a big fan of Radio broadcasting, not just when I'm on it, believe it or not, and I was stitching the offending brassiere and catching up on a few podcasts I subscribe to. Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" is one of them. The Minister (I think the Podcast is a few days old now) was talking about Christianity being misrepresented when people say that "money is the root off all evil". The actual correct biblical quotation is that "the love of money is the root of all evil". Very few people would come out and say that they believe that money will buy them true happiness but so many people act as if that is the case. I think we're all guilty of that a little bit, aren't we?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Circular Movements

Well I'm rather proud of myself today. Megs keeps getting a trapped nerve from carrying her art folder to school and back. It is rather large, so I offered to make her a bag to put it in.

Of course, if had to be the correct colour (black), so, with the aid of a black cotton single bed sheet, I knocked her one up. If I do say so, it's rather good. Photos to follow. I begged her to let me bead it, and we've come to an agreement - "OK, but NOT TOO MAD!". I'm not entirely sure I can keep up my end of the bargain!

I spent twenty minutes this afternoon on the phone to a friend who is a fellow craft nut. It's an unlikely friendship as she used to teach me Home Economics in school. My first sewing machine was threaded under her supervision as was the baking of my first rock cake.

Reflecting on this I realised just how much has gone full circle. In my Grandmother's day, they had little choice than to live in a "make do and mend" culture. My Mother's generation rebelled quite the opposite way, and now, here I am trying to recapture the spirit of conscience and war time thrift.

People who know me know that I'm a proud W.I. member, as is my Grandmother. My Mother isn't quite as keen. Although very crafty (in more ways than one!), my Mother isn't really a W.I. sort, but I am working on her! In lots of respects, it seems I have more in common with my Grandmother's generation than my Mothers.

I remember years ago, Wilkinsons in Blackwood was the Co-Op. Then it was replaced with something else, now, I do some shopping for my Grandmother in the Co-op in Newbridge. Sewing implements I used to mess with as a child are being donated to me by my Grandmother, and it feels REALLY good to see things I've not laid eyes on for 25 years or more.

Interaction between generations is essential and it's important that skills are passed down for generations to come. It makes us more resourceful, but, I think, even more importantly, it makes us feel like we belong.

Monday, 11 January 2010

You can keep the "Rat Race" - give me the valleys any day!

I think everyone's bosses must have been on the phone to them all weekend warning them to ge their butts into work. A 20 min car journey to the studio took over an hour and a half and I must admit I was like the hulk by the end of it.

Everything had gone wrong. I knew my phone, containing all the details of my appointment, was in my bag when I left the house but it miraculously wasn't there when I got in the car. I couldn't (and still can't find) the charger for the "cat-nab" as my Grandmother calls it, Husbands phone is the most unuseable piece of technology I've come across and it was nearly out of battery.

Very fortunately, I've never met such a lot of warm friendly people in all my life and I felt instantly at ease and welcome. I didn't swear, I didn't stutter, I didn't clam up. And I've had some amazing comments since then, very flattering (any more, please direct them to my agent :-> ) so all's well that ended well. And they even want me to go back, which, truth be told, I'm jolly pleased about.

After all that excitement before 10 am, if I'm honest, I wimped out. I totally did. Husband needed to go to the car part shop for boys stuff I don't pretend to understand and to our local town bank.

I didn't want a cup of coffee in the non-franchised cafe, which is most unusual, and I wasn't especially keen on wandering about a store or high street where I couldn't buy anything even if I wanted to, so, I stayed in the car. Twice.

All the excitement had drained me of mental energy, I think, so the ability to use one's willpower was impaired. I must admit that it made me a little more aware of the force driving us to purchase things. Paul McKenna calls it "emotional spending" and I think I know what he means. Resisting marketing propaganda is one thing when you're all you can be, but look how vulnerable to it we can become by something as simple as a horrendous journey and an unusual meeting.

Had I not been on a shopping ban, I'm acutely aware that a trip to the bank would have resulted in "ooo I just want to look in this shop a second" and "I'll just pop into such and such for some something or other" and come out with 5 things you didn't go in for, and, truth be told, probably don't need.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

Respekt, init?

So I was glad to go out for "lunch", albeit primarily liquid, for the big birthday celebrations yesterday as I had to get out of the house. I was about to start eating my own hands.

The Royal "We" popped to the supermarket yesterday morning and braved the rushes of people expecting South Wales to resemble Antarctica for several months. Still, it never hurts to be prepared. I was very much impressed with the Scouts on their winter camp that BBC News 24 were showing having a whale of a time in the snow. A great bit of PR for the Scouts, I thought and lets face it, the youngsters could do a lot worse than enrol in one of Baden-Powells troops. My Sister-in-Law runs a Guide troop (I think they're called "troops") and I think it's a very good thing for our youngsters. The modern twists on traditional skills are fantastic and I think any opportunity for interaction and skill sharing between generations is a massively important thing. Should be compulsory, I think.

In said supermarket (stay with me) I picked up a lovely big ham joint. That'll keep us going for a while, I thought.

So, yesterday lunchtime, I set it to cook in the slow cooker (best invention known to man - or woman) with two colour onions, a couple of cloves of garlic and the left over from New Year wine and beer. Just the stuff that had been started and not finished. That was what got me thinking about respect. I think the people less fortunate than ourselves and the people struggling to feed families on rations had an awful lot more of it than us.

It would have been very easy for me to pour the wine dregs down the Belfast sink and chuck out the bottles for recycling, or worse, in the refuse. But I put it to one side and treated it with some respect. In turn, it gave me a ham joint so utterlyscrumptious that I had to leave the house to get away from the delicious stink. Getting it out of the pot at 9 o'clock last night was an issue, though. I knew it was succulent, so I stuck my biggest knife right through the middle of it, blunt end up, and attempted to lift it out onto a plate.

20 minutes later I finished picking pieces of ham out of my hair after the blunt edge of the knife slid through the incredibly tender meat and showered me with it. (Of course I ate it! You would too!).

But there's still more respect I can give it, so I turn off the slow cooker and leave the yummy juice to cool overnight in a freezing cold kitchen. In the morning, then, I can easily move the fat off the top with a big spoon and then it's into ice cube bags and the freezer for the most yummy and usable stock in the world.

It's really easy to just chuck stuff away without much regard for where it's going. Chucking stuff "away" doesn't mean that it disappears off the face of the earth. It just becomes someone else's problem. The term "disposable culture" has been overused by many dreadful politicians but it's a mindset that's very difficult to get out of. I've been doing a lot of intricate bead work over the last few days and have found myself cursing if two of my sequins are stuck together and I only notice after I've sen them on. I want every single tiny beautiful sparkly one of them to be used to it's very full potential. I think this might mean that I either have Tourettes or my sense of respect might be coming back.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Carrier Bag Envy

Birthday present for Batty delivered. Result; even better than expected. Not many people get their birthday surprise spoiled by a national newspaper. But then I've never been asked to tell a national newspaper what gift I've got any of my bezzie mates for their birthdays either. And not that many of the bezzie mates have ever bought ME flowers on THEIR birthday to say thank you for their present. All of those things have happened in the last week.

I was secretly hoping to receive for some flowers, not that it's a regular occurrence (although I should say that my husband is rather good in the flower department), but I didn't think I could really put the purchasing of flowers down on the "essentials" list. I was hoping for them so that I could photograph them to use them for my handmade birthday cards. Now I can. And, as usual, they're not the usual sort of flowers that one would photograph for cards. Which usually means that they'll turn out weirdly better than expected.

I collected the two Battys from the train station after their marathon sale busting shopping spree. Of course, as they bundled their many bags into the car, they were begging for forgiveness. I must be honest I did feel a pang of jealousy at all the lovely bags, despite not knowing their contents. The boots (the main reason for the trip) were placed on the holy feet before I'd even pulled off. As I was told of the wondrous bargains (and some of them really were wondrous) I must admit that in order to suppress the envy I smothered it with smugness. I don't need any of that stuff, I didn't have to go out all day slip sliding around our Capital spending money I don't have on stuff I don't really want.

My fabulous friend I talked of yesterday told me that she doesn't like the sales because the retailers don't treat the items with nearly as much respect as they do when the items are full price. That's a really good point, isn't it, actually? All the reduced stuff is chucked in tote bins, thrown on rails. But hey, if some one's offering you the chance to buy something you've been after for ages at a really reduced price ... It's just a shame that they have to present that way. Maybe it's some psychological trick to make us feel like we are at a jumble sale and more likely to part with our hard earned cash?

So that's the key, really, isn't it? It's only a bargain if you really want/need it in the first place. The sales are wonderful if you're going for something or things in particular. Batty #2 bought dramatically reduced trainers for her kids because they needed trainers; the other ones were getting too small = bargain. Batty #1 had been eyeing up these fabulous boots for 9 months at least; craved them, saved for them; got 60% off the price = bargain. There's a lot to be said for the sales and who on earth am I to say don't go? The truth is, in this year of evaluation (which is kind of how I'm looking at it) that I might take the opportunity to decide what I might buy in the sales next year, if anything.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Inspiration from York

Just got off the phone to a very good and lovely friend of ours who, believe it or not, is NOT ON FACEBOOK. I know.

I was discussing the old bloggeroonie with her, not being in the know, and I told her that my thoughts for today were about not keeping stuff for best, but using it loving it and enjoying it.

It's strange how topics can evoke anecdotes and reactions from people. Jen, my fabulous friend, was telling me of a time in the summer when she was in a department store in Stockholm with her Mum having a little browse around. They came across a sign on the wall in the store in beautifully crafted metal letters. The sign said "unless it's necessary, don't get it. If it's necessary, make it beautiful"

I like that saying. Jen was telling me also about how when the family moved from a lovely big house to a gorgeous but tiny cottage. She had no choice but to have a good old sort out. Jen was saying that ever since, she's used all her "best" stuff for everyday, transforming the experience of living in her home overnight. Her Mum was also inspired by the sign, having a similar good old sort out and keeping only the "best" stuff. She's never looked back since.

Mentioning the same thing to my Nana, she went out rummaging in the kitchen cupboards and produced 3 bottles of booze. Dubonet, Harvey's Bristol Cream and a Courvoisier. She told me that these bottles, complete with dust and peeling labels were gifts to my Grampa. My Grandpa has very sadly been dead for twenty years! She'd always kept them for best and now they're probably gone sour.

Talking of booze, we've got a lovely bottle of Veuve Clicquot in the fridge. Had it for ages. My favourite Champagne ever. We meant to open it for new year, as Steve said "good friends, good times, good Champagne", but we totally forgot. So now, I will create an event to open it for. You should never wait for an occasion to open a good bottle of wine. You should create an occasion to open it, I once heard and I think that's quite right.

We don't need to keep things for Sunday best anymore. We're not on rations, there's no war on. We should use and love and enjoy ALL our lovely things. While I'm at home, I use my suitcases to store less used items. About two years ago, maybe more, I fell in love with a white fake fur cape style jacket which has since been stored in said suitcase. Not expensive, it was from Peacocks, I think, but very nice and very luxurious. Never worn it, until now. It's actually warmer than an awful lot of my coats (coats and jackets I can't help hoarding, I'm afraid) and much more use able. I've worn it today with my jeans and wellies, and do you know what, I loved it. It made me feel fabulous and added an element of luxury to an otherwise distinctly average day. What have you got stashed away for best that could brighten your Monday morning?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Justice Fingers. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Given that when I spoke to the Western Mail picture desk this morning at half eleven and they had only just picked up the photos, I didn't think that we'd be in the paper today.

So it's a good job as him indoors picked up the wrong paper! Not being used to our "bloody trogg papers" he asked the (obviously brainless) shop assistant if he had the Western Mail and she said "yer, thas it!" So he brought it home. It's very nice though. Lots of nice pictures of snow.

So I was putting my face on this morning (no, sadly I don't get up in the morning looking THIS good) and was thinking about money saving.

I noticed that my mascara was going really thick and my foundation is running out. I don't really fancy a trip to the Body Shop just yet. So, thinking it would probably be a little better than the warm water championed by Jackie magazine in the '80s, I let 6 drips of liquid eye make up remover in the barrel, gave it a shake and left it in the sun to "cook". Hey presto - it's like a new mascara. That's a saving of about £7 in one go. So then, the foundation got it. It's not quite so easy to do, the foundation, but It's turned out ok. Good actually. Not many of us lucky ladies needs thick coverage (not all the time anyway) so I got a Little shallow pot with a lid, cut the end off my foundation and squeezed every last bit out. Into that I gave a squeeze of my favourite daily moisturiser and a good mix around. Alright, the coverage won't be quite so good, and it certainly won't last forever (the Mascara pretty much will) but it's increased it's life expectancy by 100%. I'm not sure about Aldi's ethical and environmental policies (must check that out) but the foundation is from there and I've been buying Aldi foundation for about 2 years nos. £2.79, I think it is, and you really can't beat it. It's got great coverage, great consistency and it's certainly as good as anything you can buy off the stands in Boots.

Aldi also sell their version of YSL Touch Eclat. It's exactly the bloomin' same as the YSL one, even looks the same but the pen is silver not gold. Again, about £3? You really can't argue.

Hair need a conditioning treatment? Slap a load of your fave conditioner on your dry bonce, comb it through and wander around the house for half an hour. Posing in the mirror pretending you're one of the girls off of the "Addicted to Love" video is an optional added extra (I personally think it makes the conditioner work better too (",) )then jump in the shower; it's not a bit less conditioning than all the expensive treatments on the shelf in Superdrug.

Lots of ladies are getting excited about the Clothes Swap Party. If anyone hasn't been invited, make sure you join my "all my lady friends" group on Facebook - the rules of the swap are on the group profile page. Ooo and before I forget, thank you very much to everyone who has messaged/text/phoned/poked me to say they're loving the blog. I really appreciate every one, THANK YOU!

Well, I think tonight I'm going to watch that "Red Dahlia" thing that finished last night. I've been on for ages to buy a Sky+ box, but I've since realised it's a lot better to use the benefit of the iplayer facilities and be a bit organised...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Photographs, Teenagers and Old Pants

I accidentally (?) sent a few emails out yesterday to a few places telling them about my blog. I expected them all to say a great big fat nowt, but I got a telephone call from the Western Mail last night who are apparently running a story on it tomorrow. Oh. Well, I don't suppose it'll be the first time I'll have been on page three, waahey! (Mum; just for the benefit of the tape, it actually WILL BE the first time I've been on page three!)

So I have a nice long chat with a friendly if bemused reporter who clearly thinks I'm insane, and he asks me loads of stuff which I know (thanks to my extensive media training in previous lives) that an awful lot of it is going to get taken out of context.

This morning, for example... this is what happens: Just had the Western Mail on the phone again, they asked to speak to Meg. I shouted for her and made sure I said to her "don't say ANYTHING bad!" this is how the end I heard of the conversation went:

"Yes, that's me"
"Fine thanks - how are you?"
"Well I think she's completely lost her mind and she keeps sewing sequins on old pants..."

You can see where I'm coming from! Just for the record. it may appear to the untrained eye that I am sewing sequins on to old pants, but in actual fact, as I stated on Facebook last night, I'm sewing sequins and intricate bead work on to some good (clean, hardly worn) boxer shorts so that I can wear them as pyjamas! I will be doing vest to match (no it won't be made out of my bedroom curtains or anything. (Ooo, actually...)

In anticipation of the Western Mail misrepresenting what I'm on about (I'm really REALLY sorry if I'm wrong and they do a corking job) I thought I'd write the rules of my year and my project:

1 - The aim of my year is to not purchase any "things" that I/we do not need.
2 - This is for the purposes of rejecting consumerism and getting back control of spending what little money I have.
3 - As result of this, I anticipate saving a bit of money and I don't know what we'll do with what I do save. I'd like to say we'd put it towards having a honeymoon, but in reality it'll probably pay the gas bill.
4 - When purchasing things that I have to purchase, I will seek to support small businesses, the businesses of my friends and family and local businesses before international conglomerates and, where there is a realistic option to, purchase organic/free range/fair trade/ethically sourced products.
5 - My Husband and Daughter are humouring me and my madness as usual. What they do with their money is entirely up to them but I will encourage them to follow my principles, but they won't always do it.
6 - I am not doing it to make any massive political statement, preaching or social commentary, I just want to live a less of a consumer obligated lifestyle and tread a bit more lightly on the earth, making changes where I can. I'd also like to save a few quid
7 - I intend to utilise my craft skills and abilities to give thoughtful, time served personal gifts for Christmas/birthdays wherever possible and to create home grown/crafted items to REALLY express to people that they are important in my life.
8 - I have extended my "make do and mend" ethos to ensure that I never feel I'm missing out on anything and not going without anything. I also plan to look after the lovely things I already have better so that I appreciate, use and love them more.
8 - I intend to fully utilise all the resources I already have; unread books, unworn clothes, unused make-up and toiletries before considering any other purchase as I'm pretty sure we've all got enough to last us a year stashed away.
9 - I do not have any problem whatsoever with people treating themselves, buying nice things, replacing the car etc. but I'd just like people to think about things a bit more rather than keeping up with the Joneses (Sorry Julie!). I'd like people to be happy with who they are and what they already have and not be totally at the mercy of "because we're worth it" culture.
10 - So there!

That's quite enough of my ranting, for now anyway! I'm off to do my hair for the photographer who apparently is still coming out today! We already have 12 inches of snow though so I'm not holding my breath. Back to my sequins and old pants...

Just to end on a slightly lighter note...

What do you call a Judge with no thumbs?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Money Saving Tips?

This here washing powder is probably one of the best buys you can make. It's from Aldi, less than £3 and so concentrated you only need two scoops - I use the scoops that come in the Vanish stain remover pots so what's that about 50ml? It's a 2.5kg bag! How many washes is that, boffins? It's good for the planet, good for your purse and it's actually really effective - even smells nice.

So let's talk about saving money. "Frugality" some like to call it, my Brother in law calls it "careful" it but I prefer to call it "tighter than a duck's bum".

I'm interested to know what we already know between us. I know one lady, mentioning no names (Jade), who has more tips that you could shake a stick at!

What's the best money saving tip you know?

I thought yesterday was cold turkey!

My Step Mother (aka mad blonde) has had a Hospital appointment today so I've been drafted in to look after her shop. I'm actually quite glad of this as the last few times she's asked me I've had other things on so I've not been able to help.

I don't really mind being surrounded by lovely things in her shop. Part of my drive to lead a more "soul-full" existence is to support small businesses, local businesses and the businesses of my friends and family, so should I NEED to purchase something (a gift or an item one really shouldn't be without, e.g. kecks or anti stink spray) I have some options.

I have the jouyous task of a mountain of ironing to look forward to this afternoon. I actually don't raelly mind this too much as it gives me an option to see where I may be lacking in the wardrobe department and where I need to focus my attention. The leggings are getting darned today too as I wanted to wear them. Wish I'd warn my wellies, actually, as the snow is coming down quite heavily in Pontypool. I also intend to get some photos on here this afternoon and start collecting up my black fabrics for dyeing. My crochet work has been a little neglected too... where on earth am I going to find the time?!?!

The Food Co-op I help run is back on this week so I'm looking forward to that and must get my order in and I can't wait to eat the rest of the yummy Syn free (I'm doing Slimming World) curry I had last night. My community groups are moving forward too so if anyone (I know you don't all live close) would like to get involved with a reading or craft/make do and mend group, send me a mail. Is there anyone out there who could make me a good poster for my reading group? I should've submitted it by now!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Ooops - I got a new bag! But I didn't buy it or ask for it, so that's ok!

I've never had mixed feelings about a new handbag before! Like I said though, I didn't ask for it or buy it so I didn't really have a choice. It was a late Christmas present that my lovely husband had forgotten to give me - what a shame! It's a lovely Jack Skeleton one too...standby for photos! I kind of feel a bit guilty about it though - I wasn't planning anything new; even if it was a fabulous gift.

Today was my first real cold turkey test. I had to go to town to pick up something (unavoidable) for my daughter and walking through town thinking to myself "even if I see something totally life changing for £5 I just can't but it". I found myself craving things I rarely buy anyway, like crap ornaments...and well, everything! It was actually very difficult and I wasn't expecting that. I had money in my pocket and that was where it was staying! I was guiltily peeping in through windows and gazing longingly at total tat...a very odd experience, quite sad actually, isn't it?
My purchase of two reels of cotton for my sewing machine and an iron on patch to give strength to my darned leggings didn't really "scratch the itch". Just goes to show how vulnerable we are when around shops, eh? Give it a go if you're brave enough!

Had a couple of ideas today about some events I'm going to host for the benefit of all my (probably lady) friends, so stand by for details on that. I wonder what tommorow will bring?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Laziness and productiveness combined. Hhmmmm.

So today I have been mostly cleaning out my laptop. Those of you that know my family will know that I've not seen my laptop for six months (teenagers!) so it's not entirely coincidental that I start my blog on New Year's day seeing as the new laptop was received by the offending teenage article(love ya Meg!) courtesy of St Nick. It took me a few days to get used to having it back in all it's green sparkliness...well, it's a bit grubby now actually. Where did I put my "how to clean things" encyclopedia (again, those who know my family know I'm NOT joking about that bit!)?

I'm needing to get some stuff sorted out today, so I'll be brief. Got some meetings set up this week about my "Make Do and Mend" craft group I'm setting up and my Book Club that's in it's infancy. I haven't mentioned books yet. Books are NOT covered by the "essentials" category in my brief. I have an entire personal library of books, 1/3 of which at least are unread. These will be my entertainment for the year and then hopefully I can pass them on. I may get desperate though and let out a plea for "book parcels"!!

On removing the leggings which took up most of yesterday's blog, I discovered considerably more hole-age. Darning is going to have to take place sooner than I would have like and I'm not entirely sure if it's going to be successful. I may have to consider a patch. My mother always told me (well, she didn't actually, I probably told her, but hey, lets not split hairs) that a good contrast is better than a bad match.This philosophy has treated me well over the years, so, what do we think to a canary yellow patch on the crotch of my black leggings?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The "to fix" pile is getting bigger already

In true beginning of a new year form, I decided to give the old wardrobe a bit of a spring clean. In fairness, it was more of an accident than a decision - I made so much of a mess in there I kind of had no choice. I didn't plan on throwing anything out but there were a few things that got put on the "charity shop" pile. Nothing exciting; I think there's more to go really.

I rediscovered my favourite leggings (haven't seen them in months) but was gutted when I discovered a hole. It's one of those thread bare ones too; it'll take a lot of fixing. Thinking about prolonging the life of said leggings, I've decided to invest a few pounds sprucing up my black items by running a black dye through them. Dylon do these great machine packs (sometimes you can pick them up on offer in Wilkinsons) and you don't need to put salt or anything with them. Just chuck them in the drum and run your usual programme, so, over the next few days I'll gather up all my black vests, cardigans, skinnys etc. so I can run it all through together. I reckon that'll be the equivalent of buying a whole new set of black essentials. I wonder what else I could rejuvenate?

"Cleaning out the closet", in the words of the great bard Marshall Mathers esq., has saved me some money on "stuff" already too. As you'll all know, the family have recently become the proud parents of a lovely caravan. Me, being the awkward type, cannot bear sleeping in "maggot" sleeping bags so I was going to have to purchase a new rectangular one. Guess what I found in the cupboard today? A little 80's style, but I'm sure I can rejuvenate it. I also found an entire set of bathroom towels I had forgotten about. Thanks to Mr and Mrs Dylon, they will shortly be in the perfect matching shade too. Who'd have thought it, eh?

Friday, 1 January 2010

First Blogging!!! Kinda sounds a bit rude to me ....

So... here I am. Blogging. Really thought this would never happen! As it stands currently, no one is following my blog, which makes it an awful lot easier to write, but I suppose defeats the purpose.

Well it's day 1, and I've both ruined my "no buying things" rule and made a majorly sensible investment I was planning on saving for. My plan A was to save up and purchase an all singing/all dancing Brother sewing machine for the purposes of freeing myself from the shackles of corporate marketing mind control. As it turns out, my Stepmother "found" her all singing/all dancing Brother sewing machine. She had recently purchased a new one (and has been cursing me for "borrowing" the original when it was actually burried under the stairs) and due to a bit of uncanny timing on my part, has allowed me to purchase the surplus. She very kindly has also allowed me to liberate some delightful vintage dressmaking fabrics and a carrier bag full of gorgeous sequins and beads (see photo attached!), so who knows what I'll be making out of that.

To be honest, I'm so excited about the posibilities I can barely think straight ...