Archive for the 'home' Category

Clean and green

November 7th, 2012

When I was 12, I was certain that one day I would go off to the Amazon to save the rainforest, or stop a whaling ship, or something. Needless to say I clearly was wrong in the predictions I had about my life.  My current job is managing a network of advice centres on behalf of the Citizens Advice Bureau, and is as stressful as it sounds, the amount of eczema on my hands being testament to that.  I don’t teach as much as I used to, either because the classes aren’t running due to lack of numbers, or mainly because I don’t seem to have the time or energy to do 2 or 3 classes per week on top of working full time.  Over time I have realised that I need to simplify my life, slow down a little bit and take care not just of those I love, but myself and my home and my bit of the environment.  I’m de-cluttering (hell, I sooo need to keep doing that!) and organising, trying to regain my love of cooking, enjoying the simple things like crocheting blankets to welcome new additions to the world, and have less stress both in my head and on my body, whilst trading a little more lightly on the planet.

One of the things I realised , and has been a good thing to come out of having itchy, sore,  unsightly (and frequently quite painful) eczema on my hands is the amount of chemicals that we use in our homes that affect us and the environment.  After cleaning the bathroom recently with a spray made by a well known UK manufacturer, I could barely breathe, my sinuses were so sore at the amount of perfume and chemicals that were in it.  The state of my hands was appalling too, even though most of the time when I am cleaning I use gloves. Cleaning the kitchen was the same.   Something had to change; I don’t remember my family using that many products when I was a child, our home was always scrupulously clean  but wasn’t filled with harsh chemicals.  I remember my mother knowing all sorts of things to use to remove stains, washing dishes with soda rather than washing up liquid, cleaning windows with vinegar and newspaper way before it became “fashionable” to do it the old fashioned way.  So I started to think about making my own cleaning products.  I know that out there are a hundred and one ways you can use the most random of things to clean (like banana skins to polish shoes), but in all honesty I don’t have either the time or the head space to be that green.   I do, however want to be able to use products like I have been doing efficiently but know what goes into them, and not suffer any ill effects afterwards.  So I did a bit of research.

The main ingredients that everyone seems to recommend are:

  • Bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Borax
  • Vinegar (distilled white, not malt!)
  • Lemons
  • Castile soap (which is made from olive oil)
  • Essential oils

All of which I can get locally, don’t cost much (apart from the essential oils, but I already have a few of those) and will enable me to make lots and lots of cleaning products really quite cheaply.  I also decided to get myself some new bottles that could be re-used (I ordered mine from here as they were the cheapest I found in the UK with no minimum order) although as bottles become free (I’m not going to throw away what I have, that wouldn’t be very green, although I don’t have much to use up) I will start to clean them and use them too.

I found lots of recipes online from lots of different sites, so I thought I would collect the ones I have been trying here as a printable PDF of Thrifty and green cleaning recipes for you – as I try out new recipes I will add to them and update them.

The ones I really like are the shower spray (I usually use Method cleaners, which is great, environmentally friendly but not cheap) – my washing up liquid was orange scented, so to add to it I added a couple of drops of orange Essential Oil too, and my shower after doing a quick wipe round sparkled and smelled great.  I also love the linen spray – I used it to freshen up the curtains in our dining room and it smells lovely.  I think next time I will try orange flower water (get it at your supermarkets in the baking section) and some orange essential oil to mix it up a bit, or maybe rosewater and patchouli…..? And the Lemon and lime clean everything spray.  I have also tried the Bergamot laundry booster which smells gorgeous and is much, much cheaper than buying the usual oxygen releasing cleaners (and better for your skin too), and have put this in a cleaned up tub of the previous sort.

These don’t take long to make (I spent about half an hour making lotions and potions, and quite enjoyed it) so it’s no excuse to say that you don’t have the time to do it and buying products is quicker and cheaper!  I got my bicarb from the pound shop, the vinegar was super cheap in Wilcos, or local supermarkets/ shops.  We’re lucky in Nottingham to have a stall on the indoor market called Aladdin’s cave that stocks all the dry goods, including Borax, alongside all sorts of hardware, crockery, roasting dishes, and random bits like you find in Lakeland, only much, much cheaper.  The whole stall smells of moth balls and carbolic soap though, so if you don’t like the smell, I wouldn’t visit!  If you want to find Castille soap most health food shops sell it, or you can find it online.  Once you have things bought, you’ll be able to make lots of these cleaning products for a long time, so its much more economical in the long run.

As with everything there are some warnings as these ingredients, although common household items, are still chemicals.  Borax (or as is usual to get in the UK, Borax substitute) can irritate your skin, so wear gloves.  Essential oils are strong, and some are not recommended for use if you are pregnant, so be wary when you’re using them. Strong acids like in the lemon and lime cleaner whilst will kill germs and smells will also damage marble, if you have any.  And remember to label your bottles!

On the whole, I now feel that I can clean without burning my sinuses, it will damage the environment less and cost less, so my home and self are going to be much better off for it. So whilst I am not saving the Amazonian rain forest, I do feel that I can do my little bit to minimise my impact on the environment, keeping both my 12 year old and 36 year old selves happy.

Have you tried making your own cleaning products at all?  If you have any recipes or tips drop me a line or add a comment to share!

Reasons to be cheerful

June 25th, 2009


Two – my first ripe strawberries…


Well I think I found more than one, two, three yesterday afternoon. Was feeling a bit out of sorts with myself, annoyed at a certain staff member making bitchy nasty comments about me, to me and behind my back (don’t worry – I have started keeping a diary of them so I can take out a grievance on her – just biding my time, or as my parents would have said, given them enough rope to hang themselves with!) and just MEH! Anyway, after being whisked out of the office and given a lift home by Vicky and Jez I decided to sit out in the garden and sort myself out.
My garden is a source of both delight and frustration for me. Delight that I have a secluded and pretty large outdoor space, frustration that the snails and slugs seem to devour anything pretty I plant within hours, that the weeds triple overnight (they never seem to get eaten by the snails though…) and a huge mess of a pile of chipped slate tiles. Goodness knows who decided it would be a good idea, but over time this blob shape has had foxes having a good old root round and pulling up the membrane underneath, and it’s covered in weeds. Planning to get rid of the slate (if anyone in the Nottinghamshire area would like some please feel free to email me and collect it!) and spread what I can’t get rid of around some of the rest of the garden, and then get some turf so it goes back to being grass again.
For all the frustration though, doing a bit of digging, putting some alpines I bought in the rockery around the pond, putting some more (so far slug un- munched) sweet peas in, was just he tonic. That and finding the first ripe strawberries, and my first (odd shaped) tomato on my plants.I then pulled one of the patio chairs under my Laburnum and enjoyed the sunshine. So a garden, the company of 2 cute (and slightly deranged) kitties did me rightly x

My sewing room

April 21st, 2008

Or to give this post another title, what I did all day Saturday. Do you remember me bleating on about tidying up my loosly titled “sewng room” ages ago? Well, I did try and tidy it up, but it got into just the same sort of state pretty quickly afterwards. I think I have been annoying David a little bit (and rightly so) as I have been bringing down armfuls of fabric for cutting things out, and using the sewing machine he bought me for my birthday on the dining room table.. whilst my “sewing room” looks like a junkyard.

Well, this is a product of a long day whilst David had some of the lads over to play with tiny fighting men. Just me, lots of Diet Coke and my iPod belting out cheezy tracks.
I actually feel so much better for doing it (cue lots of “I told you so you slovenly wench” kind of looks) and I really don’t ever want it to get into that state again.

I even sorted out my sewing threads, and managed to fit a few of them on my sewing reel rack I treated myself to from Studio Husqvarna in their sale a while ago. Being ever practical (ha!) I have put on my pretty vintage wooden sewing reels rather than my spools of thread, but I will use them more for hand sewing not machining. I have even sorted out my machine bobbins and thrown out (gasp) bits that were old, manky and a bit battered.
The pile of facecloths that are on the table are actually for working on, not me running out of steam towards the end of the day (I did..) so I didn’t put them away. I also think it’s interesting seeing other people’s workspaces. I get teased at work for having a messy desk, but I know where everything is at least. I have worked with some people with a very tidy desk who still couldn’t find things. What kind of crafter are you? Do you have your own space or corner? Neat or messy?
Can’t say that anywhere else in the house looks better, but one step at a time eh? x x

Pond life…

April 4th, 2008

This seems to be my latest fascination – the pond in my garden. When we were looking round the house one of the main things after initially walking round was having a look at the garden. Our landlady Christine is very relaxed and sounded really happy that I wanted to make the garden look nice. it’s been bugging me all winter that it was a mess, but slowly I am starting to bring some sense of order to it. I have loads of bulbs that aren’t growing that I will get rid of, and after much debate have decided to lift some slate that was laid in a rather randm fashion over a bit of what was once the lawn and grass it. Christine also told us that the frogs came back to the pond each year, so I have been keeping me eyes peeled for signs of life for a while. The frogs were back about a month ago, but the last few days have seen a real flurry of activity, culminating in a large amount of frog spawn appearing yesterday. There seems to be 4 frogs in there, and as we dicovered a couple of days ago, newts too. I need to get some more oxygenating plants in there, and would love a waterlily. Vicky has also offered me some of her snails too, so I shall see if they can clean things up a bit for me in there. Maybe I need to get a life, but I keep wondering over to the window to have a look and see what’s hapening in the pond (our garden is level with the cellar so we get a great view from our dining room window). I once saw David Bellamy (a childhood hero) going on about spring being nature’s orgy – everything getting out there and reproducing. Well, as a testament to much frog watching, I can certainly agree with that!


March 8th, 2008

That definately has to be one of my favourite words. Blossom. Just saying it makes me happy (although that probably tells you rather a lot about me…). I love, love , love this time of year – the trees are getting all dressed up ready for the main event – summer. Before that they are a bit like debutantes, all in fluffy, frothy meringue – like dresses waiting to be asked to dance. I love the fact that the garden is slowly waking up – each day on my way to work I pass a garden with a flowering currant bush in, and I have seen it starting to show buds, then become greener, and now has very little pink flowers on it. Kinda reminds me a bit of the Secret Garden, and a little bit of the scene in The Time Machine (the original, not the Guy Pearce remake) where he sees the passing of time in the shop window opposite his workshop…

I also found out that the little rhyme my dad used to say to me that I blogged about here was actually Winnie the Pooh, so to mark that, another favourite pooh-ism I love is “”I wonder what Piglet is doing,” thought Pooh.
“I wish I were there to be doing it, too.”

I am off to work in a bit, so whatever you get up to, have fun x

This is where I shame myself

January 18th, 2008

By showing you pictures of my loosely titled sewing room. I say loosely as there’s not much sewing going on in there at all at the minute. Or, judging from the pictures, will be ever!I had to take pictured to kind of shame myself into some sort of action really. Since before the new year, like many people I have been feeling tired and run down and generally unmotivated. Well I am only just managing to drag myself out of it now.

There are a couple of things that have spurred me on – the fact that at my slimming club last week we worked it out that it’s 31 weeks til the wedding – aargh I have so much to do! That doesn’t seem long at all to get myself organised. And reading other people’s blogs. So many people out there would love to have a space, or as Virginia Woolf put it, a room of one’s own for them to create and feel inspired, and generally have fun sticking and glueing and stitching. I, being the ungrateful wretch that I am have that space and even though the clutter in there is of epic proportions the room is a really good size, not that you would know it, but it’s unusable in it’s present state.I have been using the fact that I am still unpacking and haven’t got a huge amount of storage space for the stuff I have. But that’s poor. I am just slack, and I have to own that. I have booked space at a local craft fair starting in May, and I am already ploughing my way through a load of stuff I want to make for it, but I also have some lovely fabric I would like to make some skirts from, and although I have 2 fully functioning machines I can’t use them. I can barely see them.
So, after finishing loads of stuff off at work this week, my main plan for the weekend it to gut the room and make it a space where I feel inspired. I may make some curtains. I need to put up the pretty indian hooks I have for me to hang stuff on. I need to hang pictures (the only thing on the walls at the minute is a needlepoint picture my mother did years ago – it was hung as soon as I moved in as David was worried it would get broken, and it’s very precious to me). I have some gorgeous craft books and art books (comes from having a degree in History of Art) that I would like to be able to pick off a shelf and read. If I could be bothered it would be nice to paint the room a nice aqua colour (the colour my first sewing room was) as the landlady doesn’t mind at all.

The only thing preventing that is me.

So, now you can see how bad it is.
Anyone who knows me knows I am not, shall we say, the tidiest person you will ever meet. But this, even for me, takes the biscuit. And I shouldn’t have biscuits on my diet!
I will report backafter I have ploughed through the quagmire of crud that is my room to hopefully show you some lovely pictures of my “studio” next week. New room, new name. I may even have a giveaway, a kind of Pay it forward for spring cleaning to to speak, so I will let you know about that x

Oh, and I have another tip for you – try not to shut your finger in a car door - it makes it look like this, and slows your crochet down….xoxo

I’m still here (just!)

October 22nd, 2007

Just popping by again – things have been so so busy recently that I haven’t had time to stop. David moved into the new place this weekend (I am moving in on 9th Nov – too much to do and too little time to do it in) and what a disaster that was. Friday David found that someone had cloned his bank account details and managed to gamble away a lot of money – our wedding money at that. The police and the bank are in charge of it now, so fingers crossed and we may get it back. Otherwise it will be a very cheap wedding!….Good job there was just enough money to pay for the removal van. Just.
Then the bed didn’t get delivered – the van driver from the shop we bought the bed from had crashed the van, and so was unable to pick our bed from the manufacturer due to the delays in getting his replacement van, so we spent the night on the sofa, freezing cos the gas meter had run out of credit and we hadn’t been sent a card to get more on. The bed was delivered on Saturday, but it’s not our bed base – we ordered a 4 drawer divan, and since they couldn’t collect it due to the van crash, we had our mattress delivered, and a base borrowed from the shop, which means we still have to keep it wrapped in plastic until they can devliver the one that’s ours…..Then the gas and electric saga – the previous tenants had built up a lot of debt with Powergen, and the company had fitted meters 2 weeks before they moved out. So not only did we speak to some real idiots in call centres (now David has worked in a lot of call centres, I am not making sweeping generalisations about them..) that were incredibly unhelpful. It will cost us more using meters as we would then pay almost £5 per week more in standing charges, as well as the inconvenience of having to go into the cellar to add credit. Then after having £20 gas swallowed up in a day we discovered we were calibrated to pay the previous tenants’ debts…. Then Powergen would like to charge us £50 per meter to have them removed, as well as having a credit check. I think we will be switching providers very soon.
And today the landlady told us the washing machine had leaked into the cellar as the pipe we fitted yesterday wasn’t tight enough….

I am going to go now as I feel another minor crisis coming on again. I have my first craft fair on Saturday and so I need to have a massive “making up” session this week so I have enough to sell. I will pop back again at some point next week and let you know what state I am in then! xoxo

Catch up

October 5th, 2007

I do seem to be neglecting my blog of late. Actually it is one of many, many things I seem to be neglecting of late. I don’t honestly know where the time is going recently – think it’s all being spent at work. Thank you all so much for your positive comments – they are appreciated, and when I wrote I was having a bit of a rough week of things. I had made the decision when I started this that it would be purely about craty type things, but inevitably other bits, like life itself, get in the way (how inconvenient!).
Things have settled down to a slower yet at the same time frantic pace. David and I viewed a house last week which was woodchip hell – the owners/previous tenants had put woodchip EVERYWHERE – and I mean, they had even put a tasteful (?!) panel of it on the doors and painted them to match the room. What tipped me over the edge (literally – don’t think the estate agent was best pleased with me that day) was the ceiling fans in every room (we live in the UK for pity’s sake – it’s never THAT warm to warrant celing fans…) and the delightful 70′s dark green shag pile in the bathroom that had been use to create a “sunken bath” effect, complete with clashing wall tiles and polystyrene ceiling tiles which I am sure are illegal now as they are such a fire risk……………… Needlesss to say we despaired after that. I then called on the off chance a small ad and arranged to view last Friday, when we were viewing another property via an agency. The agency property was another disaster, and it was only nosiness that made me look upstairs! Can I just say, that all boy rooms smell if they are living on their own. Don’t know how they do it, but it smelt like a school changing room in that house!!
The 2nd property, however was lovely and we have put our deposit down for it. It’s a 1930′s semi in a nice leafy suburb – far better than anything I have ever lived in since leaving home! Neutral decor, wooden floors, and hug rooms – just the ticket. The nice thing is the smallest room, which isn’t by any standards small, has laminate flooring which is ideal since it will be my sewing room/ craft room/ place I can store all my junk. Then at least if I drop pins on the floor they will stay where they fall, rather than get stuck between the floor boards and stab me or the cats in the foot. The garden is lovely and the landlady is happy for me to grow veg in it (have always wanted a vegetable patch) and she was encouraging me when I said I wanted to have a composter. It even has a pond, which although isn’t any more than a foot or so deep, I am paranoid that the cats will fall into and drown. I am thinking of putting things up the sides, or raising the floor of it, as it has no fish in it to my knowledge, but is a haven for frogs.
The one downside to the house is the lack of original features. The kitchen is lovely and brand new, and you can see where the Aga would have been. The floors look nice as they are stained dark brown and have the original stairs and bannisters in, and that’s about it really. The fire is a really modern one, and the door has had the stained glass removed and replaces, and whoever has had the house for a while built in a porch thing that covers up the original doorway, which is a real shame, but since we are only renting it, I am OK with it all.
Not done much craft wise recently as I haven’t had the time or energy, but I did pick up some vintage postcards in London the other week from a stall in Islington, near the Angel tube station.I have another meeting down there before Christmas so I am hoping to go back there again. I bought these to use as bases for some stuff for Pinky and Boo – bags and aprons.
I have my first public sale in a few weeks – I am taking along a variety of things, and I have realised how much time I need to spend on the making up – aargh! May be a small stall at this rate, but I will let you know nearer the time – if anyone is in the area then drop by – Saturday 27th October, Brinsley, Nottinghamshire – it’s near Eastwood, which if anyone is into English literature, was the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence. If you want to drop by, I can email you directions. Then what isn’t sold, I will stick on Etsy for Christmas.

Better go and do some work now – Thanks to Faye for passing on the Nice matters award – I hadn’t forgotten, and will get myself sorted out soon to nominate some more people!

Have a good weekend xoxo

Just popping by…

September 25th, 2007

Feels like ages since I have posted anything, and feels like I have been doing nothing but work recently, but I didn’t come here to moan too much. Just get my thoughts down a little.
It’s been a rough day at work – I run a small project that supports parents and carers of disabled children, and as I expected at some point to happen, one of the children we have been helping has died. Sounds cynical to say I expected it, I mean that when you are working with disabled children and children with special needs, you know their life expectancy isn’t the same as everyone else’s, but it still came as a shock. The family have had it so hard, and all she could say at this time when she must be in such pain was thanks for the volunteer she had and the support they gave her – bless her. Then the other families we are working with are all being failed in one way or another by the system (which is what our project supports them to get through) and it’s so frustrating when you visit families that yes, may not be the most conventional family around, but works as a unit and the kids are loved and looked after. Made me really question my own values and why I am passionate about doing what I do. Also made me question my own “problems” and put them into perspective.

Trying to find somewhere to live at the minute and it’s proving a more difficult task than I thought originally. I have been sharing a house with Rachel since we both graduated from uni in 1997, and there have been realy good times, and we have supported each other through the really, really bad times, so it will be very strange, to say the very least, to live with someone else. Even if that someone else is the guy I have been prattling on about getting married to next year.
My work history is one of working with vulnerable people in way, shape or form, and without wanting to sound rude, I don’t want to live in some of the areas I have worked in in the past – high crmie areas and lots of anti social behaviour. Estate agents must hate me as I phone up about a property that has inevitably been advertised after it has been let, and the alternatives are not going down too well – “No, I know that there are 2 dealers living down that street” or “no thanks – that area isn’t safe for me to walk back from work at night on my own …” kind of things. 10 years ago when Rach and I moved to Nottingham we had no idea where we were and we could have got stuck with anything. I have worked across Nottingham now for those 10 years, and I know where is nice and where isn’t. No wonder they think I am awkward.

Plus that, maybe I’m being picky but I have an idea of what we need in what will be our first home together – I need somewhere with a garden (I am using the cats as an excuse for that, but have made no secret about wanting to have a vegetable patch…), and I need somewhere to store all my stuff. David’s all consuming hobby (as mine is various crafts) is Warhammer – tiny fighting men basically. Not my bag, but I hardly have room to criticize when I could out granny most grandmothers! So we are ideally looking for somewhere we can have a room each, a guest room (in case anyone wants to stop over) and a bedroom/living room for us. We are viewing one tomorrow and I almost don’t want to hope for it to be nice, cos I don’t want it to fall through if it is. We really liked one a couple of weeks ago – was bigger and more expensive than we wanted but literally ticked all the boxes and felt right, and I really wanted it. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t work out though and she used the excuse of the cats and a 12 month tenancy being too long for her (!) but it took almost a week for her to let us know, in which time we missed out on looking at other properties. If this is what it is like renting I now see why it’s difficult to buy. Aargh!
Anyway, I am hoping that things will settle down for a change – I have a busy day tomorrow, but we have the viewing in the afternoon then it’s the craft group, which will feel like a real rest.

Sorry to moan so much – I really do have a lot that I am grateful for and getting it down (on virtual paper) has helped me see that. Hopefully next time I have the chance to post I will know where I will be living! xx

Karma, and a corner of my nest

August 15th, 2007

Do any of you out there watch “My name is Earl”? I do – love the programme – Randy is my favourite – would like to go out drinking with him, but that is by the by. Reading everyone’s lovely comments, and thinking about how lucky I have been got me thinking about Karma. I try to do good things for people, and live my life by reasonable standards, and I really think it has been paying off with the kindness and opportunities I have been given. It must be the weather or my hormones at the minute but I am feeling very loved -up, and reading your comments has been a lovely boost to my days – thank you x

As I was ranting in an earlier post about living in rented accomodation, I thought I would share the one corner of my home I don’t mind people seeing. It’s one of the only areas myself and my housemate can control what it looks like, and we are very different. My old room in the other house was the attic, and was huge and kinda odd shaped, which I liked. This room is about half the size of my other one, in fact is the same size as the one I used to have as a sewing room. I decided to cover up the grey walls (why – WHY would anyone paint a bedroom mid grey?) with a lovely turquoise colour, and teamed it with a curtain panel made from an old cutwork tablecloth, and some 50′s curtains I adapted. With all my furniture either being vintage dark wood or painted Lloyd Loom stuff, it looks lovely. Apart from the mess. The photo’s are carefully taken to not show the mess, but we won’t go into that …

If you don’t like clutter, look away now. You can still see some!

Here’s my dressing table – with all my pictures, trinkets and bits that I have built up over the years.I have hooks at the side raided from an old wardrobe to hand my necklaces on. The picture in the middle in the wooden frame is one my dad took at a day out at Swanland, a village outside Hull, where I grew up. It was a favourite day out for us for years, and was one of my dad’s favourite pictures. I will take post the picture itself at another time, when I get my head around using the scanner.
This is a picture I took when I was 13 at Brimham Rocks in North Yorkshire – gorgeous place. After my dad died I put the photo in this frame for my mam, and it used to sit on her bedside cabinet. I love it as it has such happy memories for me. The doily it is sat on is one from a set that my housemate’s mum, Madelaine bought me – so pretty with Irish crochet roses on it. Next to it is my Wishing Troll, waiting to be picked up and wished on.

This mirror sits above the fireplace – it was my parents, and my dad got it from a mate of his in the 60′s. We had it painted gold, and it weighs a ton as it’s plaster. Managed to get the same one slightly smaller for £3 once in a charity shop, and I painted them both silver and highlighted with silver leaf. Much better.The fireplace in mine and Rach’s rooms were boarded up, and hadn’t been cleaned in about 50 years. The carpet was also covering up the lovely green tiles that form the hearth, which we cut away – such a shame to cover them up when they are so pretty. The fans are ones I collected years ago – have some really lovely and very old ones. They are sitting in some cups that were given to me by a family friend when I was little, to use with my dolls – they have cherry blossom stems painted on them.

This tapestry hangs above my bed – my mam did it years ago, and my dad made the frame for it. I have another much larger tapestry that my mam made and dad framed but as yet I have nowhere to put it. I will find a place for it soon though.

Anyway, I realised just how long my posts have been and so I will keep this for me, a relatively short one, and leave you with a picture of the riple baby blanket I finished the other day, on my bargain wicker chair (£5 including home delivery! I have seen these for £40, so I was very lucky, and glad I snapped it up when I did). This picture was taken just before it started raining, so it was a quick dash inside with chair, blanket and cats!