Mad March: giving the gift that suits everyone?

March is so busy with birthdays – some long-established and a new one due to arrive in the month, as well as Mother’s day in couple of weeks, so I’ve had to start early on getting the month organised (although we’re already a week into it)!  Minor achievement is that I actually finished a little something today, which I’ve put over on the project calendar – a phone cosy as part of the gift for a good friend, so that’s one thing down and about six more to go!

A cosy with love

Seriously, it has to be said though that because we need to be pretty frugal I’m trying to balance between home-made gifts and things that people actually want / need / have asked for and to be honest sometimes it can be a little hard to achieve the balance needed.   There’s lots of inspiration out there (I’m aiming to build a blog list of inspiration to share at some point) but I’m intrigued as to how others of the frugal fraternity manage to give the ideal gift that suits the occasion and recipients’ tastes, needs and wishes along with suiting your own pocket (especially when that pocket’s a little empty).

I’m lucky to be able to knit so many of my gifts take a knitted form – today’s phone cosy being yet another example, and I do have some crafty leanings, which I think helps.  I’m also a bit of a perfectionist so I don’t want to give anything that is of below ‘shop-bought’ quality and I pay special attention to this when I am making things – I figure that what I’m not putting into the present in terms of ‘fiscal’ cost, I more than make up for in time and care.  But how far can this go when producing things for others who may not be of the same mind-set?  My friends and family are all understanding of my change of circumstances, but is a home-made / frugally-sourced gift possible for every occasion and every person?  Of course, necessity being the mother of invention or such, my last question is something like a challenge really, so to all of you out there – is it really possible?  Obviously I’m going to end up following this challenge as the year progresses and perhaps at sometime I’ll sort out an overview of the inspiration and ideas I’ve gathered, but I’m genuinely interested to know how (and if) others manage to achieve a balance with frugal gift-giving!

[Post script:  I’ve decided to add a post-script to each post to give an added insight into this life.  The post-script will always be a brief description into what’s going on as I’m writing the post.  Tonight’s ditty has been scribed to a background of my husband marking books whilst singing ‘I walk the line’ along with Johnny Cash on Spotify and intermittently throwing chocolate wrappers at me (I’m not allowed to eat it 😦  ), whilst both dogs scratch their a***s and try to catch the wrappers!  Who needs gifts anyway, when you have all this …?]

Save £223 – and make a ‘Killing’ of your own!

One of the little tasks that I have successfully completed whilst being a bit laid up and poorly is a bit of quiet knitting – of the Killing kind! 🙂


The original look!

Even without a TV we have managed to catch up (just about) with the national trend of all things Danish – namely The Killing – not only a ripping good yarn but also some knitted good yarn in the form of Sarah Lund’s gorgeous sweater (first series).  So, I was doubly smitten, not only because I love a good ‘whodunnit’  but also because I know a good warm sweater when I see it (this house is freezing, remember?).  Initially, I thought the sweater might be just the sort of thing to appear in the shops thanks to the whole merchandising mentality that goes alongside anything even vaguely popular!  However, imagine my horror (or is it just naivete?) when my investigations revealed that the sweater’s sold as an exclusive little designer number costing approximately €280 – that’s about £233!  Now this may be a worthwhile investment in the spirit of having a lovely designer jumper to be worn as a statement piece, but is not a worthwhile one in the spirit of both frugality and keeping myself warm – we’re talking getting one of the smaller windows double-glazed for that kind of money!

So, I found myself muttering that whole knitter’s mantra, the one that goes “I could knit that myself for a fraction of the cost” … and before I knew it, it had become a project for the 2012 calendar!

I raided the internet and came up with the Nordic patterning, thanks to the knitters of Ravelry for pointing me in the direction of the kind folk who have developed a whole website dedicated to the sweater itself (yes, I couldn’t believe it either); raided my jumpers to find one that I could copy the sizing from and finally raided my yarn stash to find something suitable to knit it in – all this raiding, those ancient Danes would have been proud!


The finished sweater!

Ok, mine’s red with white, largely because I am too clumsy to wear white, plus I had some lovely chunky red in my stash, and mine’s long – to keep as much of me warm as possible, so it’s not really a replica sweater, more of a tribute!  The main thing though, is that it’s actually warm as well as a fun frugal knit, using about a tenner’s worth of yarn.  Ok, I didn’t use top quality yarn which I’m sure the original sweater does, and I’m not factoring in the time spent making it (not as long as you’d think though because it’s chunky yarn on big needles) but I’m pleased with it all the same!

Long time, no blogging!

I can’t believe that a whole year has passed since I was last in action with this blog – it’s not that I haven’t wanted to ‘stay in touch’, it’s just that life has overtaken things for a bit.  Because the twist and turns on the slippery slope of life have meant a few complications, not least health-wise, a year on it now appears more important than ever to get to grips with our down-shift and it seems useful to try to record this in some way to share info with family and friends from afar!

So, there’s no way I can really catch everyone up with the highs and lows of the last year apart from to say that we are all a little older but little farther on with any of the down-shift at all – The Quest still continues!  I’ll just have to jump in from here with keeping everything up to date with our on-going attempts at frugality = fun, downshift = more time, less hassles; simple = less stressful!

So, where to start?  Just generally getting the blog in order I guess, so today I’ve started off with an update on our Tree Year participation, with a page on this blog now dedicated to our trees which, along with the dogs, are proving to be the most reliable and calming influences our lives at the moment (and considerably less smelly than the dogs, it has to be said)!   It seems apt to start with the trees, something to do with idioms about oaks and acorns, I guess, makes it a good enough place to start.  Hope everyone’s fine 🙂 X

On-going growing, all older, wiser and shrugging off whatever the weather of life throws at us 🙂

13th …. a funny old day!

Well, 13th it may be but that’s not why the date’s important, that’s more to do with the fact that today’s our first anniversary, so you could say the 13th is a lucky omen for us …or so we thought!

🙂  Gentle morning, saw off the eldest Boo-bunny who has been visiting this weekend, unwrapped a few lovely gifts from family, including wine, literature and a fun framed photo of the two of us that my mum had sneakily taken a couple of weeks ago, just after I had shaved Himself’s head and before I came off my previous medication which puffed me up significantly: we look  like a pair of grinning bowling balls, albeit affectionate ones!

Anyway, then we got ourselves ready for a romantic lunch date that Himself had booked for us.   Now, as I’m not really so good for going out lately, I wanted to make the proper effort, so having thus organised myself I wasn’t too keen (or overly able) to walk to the designated restaurant (particularly as the weather is spectacularly rubbish).   So, Himself kindly volunteered to drive, leaving only a debate over where best to park: his suggestion being a pub car park behind real ale pub two streets away (selection criteria:  (a) real ale pub (b) he has big umbrella); my idea being  the municipal sea-front car park sort of opposite venue (selection criteria (a) had made effort with hair and did not desire re-styling by weather (b) his umbrella is not nearly as big or effective as he thinks! (c) council sent us letter saying that because we pay for privilege of parking outside our own house, we could use local permit to park in said car park for free).  Needless to say, charm won the day so we parked in the lovely free car park, had great dinner and ambled back to car basking in the warmth of each other’s company.   There it was, waiting for us, the £50 parking ticket, politely stashed under the wiper so it couldn’t blow away. 😦   Hmmm.

🙂    We decided to cheer ourselves up with a plan to recapture the romance of dinner time by popping into M & S on way home to use the last of our wedding vouchers to treat ourselves to some deli-nibbles for picnic tea, thus avoiding cooking all day (very rare treat).   Having gathered some goodies, we then went to the checkout, Himself scowling at everyone, whilst I smiled whimsically at the small child wedged into the trolley in front, who was scrutinising our shopping.

Now, bear in mind our town is not one of the cultural, social or economic high-spots of the country.   The last spontaneous conversation we had with a random child was when we were approached in the doctor’s waiting room by a small unkempt waif who waved a book at us as she parked herself next to us,announcing “read it to me, I can’t read.”    Her mother carried on with her very important text messaging throughout this exchange, and indeed through the whole story-telling process.   Luckily we know we are fully CRB checked!

So I have to say I was more than a little backfooted when today’s little one (seriously no older than three) checked out the contents on our section of the cashier’s conveyor belt and nodded favourably towards our chosen crackers.  “They’re nice, I like those” she stated.  I smiled warmly, “they’re to have with our cheese – do you like them with cheese?”  She gave me a steely, superior look and replied wearily, “they’ve got cheese in them, you eat them with olives”, before turning round to her mother and demanding for her bottle of Perrier water to be opened.  However mum and evidently Gran, were disputing with the cashier over the validity of money-off vouchers.   Gran caught our eye in a friendly way and nodded to the next cashier along, who was vacant (in all senses, it appeared, as she was apparently removing her own eyelashes).  “You’ll want to move along” Gran said, knowingly “we’re likely to be some time.”

From behind me, Himself put a hand defensively on his till-bound deli-delights, inexplicably posturing (I swear if he wasn’t fully decked in outdoor-wear, he’d have hoiked the old waistband) as he explained tersely: “we’re alright here, we’ve put our shopping out.”

Gran’s friendly look waned and her eyes narrowed to that steely superior glare that had clearly been passed down the generations to the youngest: “I’m only saying …..”   I didn’t have to turn around to know that Himself was doing pretty much the same glare of his own.  His hand stayed on his cheesy stuffed mini-peppers and he used his firmest classroom voice: “we’ll wait in line.”    They held each other in an eye lock whilst the cashier shrugged and rang her bell again for supervisory assistance and the mum caught me with a conspiratorial “what are they like” glance and offered to the assistant: “well leave it then, I’ll just pay it”.  It was the cashier’s turn to pass a steely, superior glare: “I’ve rung the bell.   We need to check it because if these codes are wrong we’ll have a problem with everyone.”   The mum’s glance to me evolved to apologetic whilst Gran’s steely superiority was now tinged with smugness!   I gathered up all the items I could and tottered round to eyelash lady, bestowing them upon her.   Himself tutted audibly, gathered up the rest and followed me around so that we could actually pay up before the picnic curled up!

“What was that all about?”  I asked him as we wandered back to the car.

He shrugged like one of the kids “I thought she was trying to control me” he offered, a reference we both know is based on the ghost of ex-wife past: not really a happy anniversary moment!

🙂    We arrived back home to be enthusiastically greeted by our adoring hairy smelly ones and more cards.    Once I got upstairs to take my boots off, I sat wearily on the bed, still chatting with himself to transform the negative issues arising from that M & S moment into a positive perspective  on the lines of how lucky we are to not have that issue between us etc,  only to hear a crunch as I sat down!  Yup, the framed photo so carefully unwrapped in the bedroom this morning was still on the bed and now sported one crack clean across the glass, and I’m not kidding, right between the two of us!   I grimaced at him and again he shrugged: “is that seven years bad luck like a mirror?” he asked 😦  D’oh!

🙂 So, the rest of the day has been spent with Himself brooding whilst watching six nations and reapplying for his own job (yes, that time of year again but hey, what multi-tasking) and myself composing a grovelling letter to the local parking and highways pen pusher.  Of course we do have the delights of the picnic still to look forward to and I’m hoping that watching all that one on one field action might put Himself in the mood for a little rucking and rolling of our own later on, but all in all, it’s been a funny old day!

A small reprieve for the woodlands!

An update to the Great Woodland Sell-off Crisis: partly in recognition to the massive “don’t touch our woodlands” petition and widespread deep feeling about the issue, the government have put their current sell-off plans on hold for a few months!

Of course, there’s no breath holding going on: it’s likely that in the wake of the very recent high level and high-profile indignation at the government’s determination to consign a whole other civic asset to history- libraries, that they are just keeping their head down for a moment in the hope that we’ll all go away so they can get on with decimating everything we hold dear!   However,the more folk that sign the petition between now and when they press play on the process again, the better, because they are still going at full throttle to change the law that actually paves the way to the sell-off, so anything that can be done to continue to try to defend our country heritage should still be done in the meantime.   If you’d like to sign the petition, or find out more about the campaign, please follow this link to the 38 Degrees website! There, and you thought Himself’d chopped up my soap box for kindling!  Thanks for listening! 🙂

Better late than never!

Crikey, just realised this is my first post in February: clearly I’ve lapsed slightly on the whole postaday challenge, still it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy, would it?

So, news, views and updates:

  • Re: my post on Woodland sell-off: our local MP voted to sell them all: how is that representing the constituents (I guess I’d be even more cross if I had actually voted for her)!  So, I have sent a strongly worded email based on the mildly worded email suggested by 38 Degrees.   Himself did similar, seriously, we sat like Mr. and Mrs. Angry sounding off into the ether: what a team!  (team of what I’m not quite sure though)!
  • Managed to grab a walk in the sunshine today with youngest Boo-bunny and the dogs.   Not only did we get what felt like the first spring-like day of the year, but we also spotted crocuses and snowdrops in the little park we frequent!  Of course I forgot to take the camera, so can’t post a pic but health and weather permitting will try to do that tomorrow!
  • Little action in respect of allotment although lots of conversations involving online garden porn and seed catalogues.  Even less action on the hard standing at the bottom of the garden, although we’re getting a few bits done in the main garden (must take photos).
  • Seamus has started cocking his leg.   Apparently this means he’s matured enough for a little operation.  Himself insists that he could do the op himself with a couple of bricks, but I assume he’s joking as I anxiously put aside every pound coin I get (only £109 more to go)!   It seems a shame really, Seamus has only just grown the pair and here we are plotting their swift removal!   Provisionally booked in for April (in the hope of saving up by then) so look forward to some colourful posting then!
  • Project calendar is also not up to date, I know .. all work in progress!

Feeling jaded?

Feeling more than a little jaded, although had a lovely walk with Himself and pooches in the park today, very cold though, so have come home with a very natural and somewhat hearty glow!   Wearing an old, sorry, shouldn’t that be ‘vintage‘ Laura Ashley dress, so really looking the part of a hale and hearty country wench!  At least, that’s what Himself keeps suggesting, either that or my ears are bad again and it was something about me looking like a whale and warty!

Anyway, speaking of glowing chops, I happened across this a couple of days ago: freebie of Olay’s latest ward-off-the-advancing-years-slap.  Thought it might make a downshift-friendly change to my beauty routine (which mostly involves rubbing leftover porridge onto my face)!   Hopefully someone else can make use of it – the freebie that is, not my dubious (but cheap) skin-care routine!

Project calendar 2011

Ok, bit behind with getting these up too!    Week 3s fingerless crochet gloves are now over on the project calendar page, for anyone who is (a) interested (b) wants a laugh at my inability to write down a coherent pattern!    Hopefully you will be a visual person like me and be able to work off the basic idea and the photo!

This entry was posted on January 29, 2011, in Uncategorized. 1 Comment

Funny old week …

It’s been a funny old week!  The writing front’s taking off a bit, but I’m finding it exhausting just keeping up with the little bits I have so far!

Negative niggles:

😦    the pay for freelance writing is a bit rubbish, at least in this getting started phase!  I’m gratified that J K Rowling and Jackie Wilson both went through this poorly paid article writing phase, but I am well aware that they actually had genuine talent that paid off in the end!

😦   my poor Boo-bubby was sacked for taking time off work with his poor broken nose, even though he begged his GP not to sign him off.  He was given a ‘fit for work’note that said he could do a max of 3 hours a day until his stitches came out,which he did and they fired him for his work not getting done!   He’s not been there long enough to have any kind of redress with them and of course there’s no union support, so it’s all a bit pants for him.

😦  Himself is still suffering from nibbled spuds.

😦  I have to start saving up for a small procedure on Seamus – he is suddenly finding me incredibly attractive – although I have to credit him with being a gentleman and at least trying to lick my right ear first, giving me just enough time to remove myself:  actually, sounds like Himself has been teaching him some moves (mostly to the same effect)!

On the positive side, because there is always a positive side:

🙂  We found that the farm shop that sells the chitty spuds also sells coal a lot cheaper than getting it from our local garage (we can’t get a coal merchant delivery because there’s nowhere to store it).

🙂  Date night was moved to Thursday night for reasons to do with school being closed on Friday so Himself’s weekend started early.   It was a good night – there was a little garden porn, sorry, planning but this only featured for a short time as it really lost its way once Himself announced that he wants to incorporate an arbour into his design.   Since my ears aren’t best (even with regular dog-saliva rinses)  I thought he was talking about a harbour, you know, with boats (Himself is a Gravesend boy, so it was an easy mistake as he would actually say  ‘arbour for harbour) so we were at crossed purposes for a bit of a time – I really couldn’t see how he expected to build one himself, although the garden’s sufficiently wet that it might just be necessary at some point!   Anyway, eventually we agreed that he’d been talking about a structure around which to grow a creeper, to mark the break between the two sections of garden: these are currently the bit too wet to grow anything on and the bit too concrete to grow anything on, with both doubling as dog loo!   So, eventually there will be a bit to relax in, then a rose-covered walk through to the bit with raised beds and all manner of hearty greens and flowers growing,whilst of course the dogs will be pooping and scooping as they go!    Ah yes, the power of positive thinking!