Archive | December 2013

Radio Leicester And A Happy New Year

Just a quick post to say I was on Radio Leicester yesterday if anyone fancies having a listen.

I also got to meet Rebecca Bryers who works behind the scenes, which was lovely as I have spoken to her many times but never met her.

I took in my Microwave Chocolate Sponge, which is so so quick and easy to make and it’s actually the most looked at recipe on my blog (you can find the recipe here).  It also costs only £1.05 to make, which is an added bonus.

Ed Stagg (another radio Leicester presenter) also joined them for a fun taste test.

You can hear the interview here  (it starts at approximately 2 hours and 7 minutes into the program).



#### Don’t forget I will be back on Friday 10th January 2013 ####

At New Year I think about what I would like to do or change over the coming year.  I realise that Rome wasn’t built in a day and habits take at least 28 days to break (or so they say).

I often read comments on blogs where people say they would like to live a more simple life by cooking from scratch, gardening etc. etc. but just don’t know where to start.  If you are one of these people reading this today, then my suggestion to you is to start with a cup of coffee and read about some of the things that you think would add to a more simple life (everyone of us is different and there are no rights or wrongs).  Pick one or two things that appeal to you and have a go.  At first it will seem like a lot of effort, but soon it becomes second nature and you will enjoy it.

I now live a simple life, without the need to compare myself with the ‘Jones’ anymore and I can honestly say I love my life today and I feel so blessed to live the way I do.



Thank you for your continued support over the last year.  I especially love to hear your views and comments, so please keep them coming.

I hope you all have a Happy and Content New Year!

Merry Christmas And My ‘Twelve Tips Of Christmas’

#### I will be back on Friday 10th January 2013 ####

Enjoy your New Year!



Over the weekend my dad and step mum came for a Christmas dinner.  I thought it would be nice for them to have a few Christmas treats with the meal.


I made some Christmas crackers for the meal and each cracker had a little present inside, a joke and a hat that I made.  You can read how I make our Christmas crackers here.  I love homemade crackers as you can tailor the presents or even the jokes to the person you give them to.

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My eldest daughters also iced the Christmas cake, putting marzipan underneath it.  It’s the first time she has ever iced a cake and I’m so proud of her as she did a great job.  She even made some icing snowmen and presents to put on top with Santa and his cottage.  My youngest daughter stuck them all on the top of the icing:


My eldest daughter also made some holly, but unfortunately there just wasn’t anymore room on the cake.


The Christmas pudding that I made back in November went down well.  We lit the the pudding before we ate it as usual:


I made some mince pies for us all to eat with coffee after our meal.  If you need a recipe for mincepies there is a good one here to use….these mincepies freeze really well too.


I’ve got to say we ate so much and felt like we couldn’t eat again for a week!


Important Santa Message:

Just before I carry on, this is a reminder to anyone with small children.  You can ‘track Santa’ delivering his presents all around the world on Christmas Eve by using this website.  My daughters had hours of excited fun watching him go from country to country when they were smaller.  It’s a free site so it’s really worth a look.



My Twelve Tips Of Christmas:

I try to think of Christmas dinner as just a posh ‘Sunday Roast’, as this way I don’t get stressed about cooking it.  As it’s nearly Christmas day I decided to write some tips to help with cooking a Christmas dinner.

So below are my ‘Twelve Tips Of Christmas’ .




Remember that Christmas Dinner is just a ‘posh’ Sunday roast.  If you have never cooked a Sunday roast dinner before, then don’t be afraid to ask your guests for help.  You will find they will not only be happy to help, but it also gives ‘grumpy’ relatives no excuse to moan about the meal.

If you have a frozen turkey, make sure it has fully defrosted ready for Christmas day.


Don’t make the classic mistake of finding that your roasting tin is not big enough for your turkey…check before.


Try and plan a starter that you can make the day before.  Soup is easy to make on Christmas Eve and it reheats quickly the next day.
There is a nice rec
ipe for Spicy Parsnip Soup here.  


Prepare your vegetables the day before.  Peel potatoes, squashes, carrots, parsnips and they will be fine kept in water overnight. Some washed and prepared vegetables can just be kept in plastic food bags overnight in the fridge e.g. Brussel sprouts, cabbages, swede, cauliflower florets and broccoli, etc.


Consider using a steamer to cook your vegetables if you have one.  It is more economical as you can cook more than one type of vegetable at a time, which also means you can cook a larger selection of vegetables.


Before Christmas day, decide what time you want to eat your Christmas dinner and then work out what time you need to put your turkey in the oven.  Work out all your other timings too e.g. plan what time you need to par-boil your roast potatoes, cook your vegetables etc. and write it down, so you have nothing to worry about on Christmas day.  


Lay the table the night before, so it’s one less thing to do on Christmas day.


Don’t forget that if you are cooking larger volumes of vegetables than you are used to cooking, then they may take longer to cook.  If your vegetables are cooked too early, keep them in the saucepan with a lid on – it’s surprising how long they stay warm for.


If you want to warm your plates up and you have no room left in your oven, fill the sink with hot water and submerge the plates for a few minutes.  Take them out and dry them ready to serve your dinner.  Or you can put them in your dishwasher and run a ‘quick cycle’ (but do make sure they will be ready for when you need them),


Your food will stay warm for longer if you put it on your table in serving dishes with lids.  It also looks more festive too on Christmas day.


To avoid the skin on your turkey shriveling as it cools, baste the turkey as soon as it comes out of the oven.


If you aren’t lucky enough to have a double oven, cover your turkey when it is cooked with foil and a couple of tea towels. Leave it in a warm place while you roast your potatoes, (it will easily stay hot for an hour) and it will help the turkey retain moisture.


I hope these tips help.


I have decided to take a small break over Christmas, so I can spend time with my family.  I’m sure you will understand.

I will be back on Friday 10th January 2013



Just before I finish writing…..

Don’t forget that you can buy all next year’s wrapping paper, Christmas cards and even your Christmas pudding for 2014 in the January sales.  There are usually nice gift sets etc. that you can buy cheaply and store for birthday presents throughout the year.

We bought our artificial Christmas tree seventeen years ago in the sales after Christmas, for a fraction of the price it should have been and it still looks as good as new today.

However, please remember that “a bargain is only a bargain if you wanted in the first place”, so take a list with you and stick to it.

Don’t forget that the on-line shops have their sales starting on Boxing Day and some even start on Christmas day!



And finally…

Our Christmas’s now are cheaper than all our Christmas’s past, but I can honestly say they are also better.  I think that homemade Christmas’s come from the heart and give lovely memories in years to come.

Thank you for your support over the last year and I hope Santa brings you everything you dream of for Christmas.



Love from Mrs Thrift

A Yule Log Recipe And Homemade Hampers/Decorations

This week has been another busy week, but I have really enjoyed it.

Mr Thrift was having a ‘get together lunch’ at work and everyone needed to take something for a buffet.  A couple of people had asked him to take in another pumpkin and orange cake, so on Tuesday I made one:


I was very pleased to say it all went very quickly.

The recipe is here if anyone is interested.

They also judged the Christmas jumper competition (the proceeds were going to the Rainbows charity) and the jumper I made my husband last week won, which made me chuckle.

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Apparently they all enjoyed the Christmas chocolates that I had sewn on the back.


I also started to make up my hampers for my family too.  I had bought little bits and bobs for them over the year, tailoring the gifts to each family.  I also added some homemade jams and chutneys (though not as many as last year due to the builders being here).

I used tissue paper circles (cut out using a saucer) and raffier ribbon to tie the tissue paper over the jars.  I think it always looks nice this way.

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I have a big roll of cellophane that I bought last year on the internet for a bargain price and I’m sure it will last me years.  I use this to wrap the hampers, tying it with Christmas ribbons:

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Last year my sister gave me her basket back as she didn’t have room for it in the house, so this year I thought it would be a good idea to add a little note in each basket that said:

“I would really like you to find a use for this basket, however if you can’t please return it to me and I’ll refill it with goodies for you next Christmas”

I thought that this way the baskets won’t end up in the rubbish bin or charity shop if they don’t want them and it will save me money next year, as I won’t have to buy them again (which certainly helps me) and it’s better for the environment to recycle them too.


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Remember the oranges that I left on my radiator to dry for a week or two?…I’m pleased to say that the oranges dried really well on the radiator, without the need to put them in the oven.  I put a little hole in each one when they were nearly dry so I could thread some wire or ribbon through it.


I sprayed some twigs with a cheap gold spray that I bought last year from Wilkinsons and then decorated them with holly, cones and the dried oranges and finished it with the battery lights from my husbands ‘Christmas Jumper’ and some ribbons.

I was very pleased with how it turned out (though for some reason it doesn’t look so good in the photo’s below):

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I put it in our old dinning room which we will decorate after Christmas now the old fireplace has been fitted.  It makes the room look really Christmassy.



I also made some individual cakes for Mr Thift’s work colleagues as a gift for Christmas.  I used my muffin recipe here and piped icing on the top using this recipe.

I managed to get some single cake cases to put them in and I was very pleased with the overall result:

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Another job I did was to make some White Chocolate, Apricot and Brandy Truffles for my dad as a surprise (he really loves them).  The recipe is here.  I can’t wait to give them to him at the weekend.

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A Christmas Chocolate Yule Log

We love a Yule Log for Christmas in our family and it’s now a family tradition to argue over the end piece.  I used to buy them until my daughter became dairy intolerant.  It was then I realised how easy and cheap they are to make if you just know how.

I have searched the internet and found a couple of shop bought Yule Logs to compare the prices to mine.  The first I found was a kit to ‘make your own’ Yule Log and it costs £1.50 to buy.  To make it you need to add:  1 medium egg, 80ml cold water, 80g softened unsalted butter, 100ml double cream and some greaseproof paper.  After reading the instructions, I felt you may as well make it from scratch but I suppose that is just my opinion.


I also found a Finest Chocolate log for £3.00:

log 2I have worked out how much the ingredients cost me for my Chocolate Yule Log and it totalled £1.45 for the ingredients plus the grease proof paper that I used.  I used ‘Pure’ margarine to make the butter icing dairy free for my daughter, but normally I would use butter or soft margarine to do this.  I think for £1.45 it is definately worth making.  This is how I make it:



A Christmas Chocolate Yule Log Recipe:


Greaseproof paper

Olive oil or marg for greasing

3 eggs

75g caster sugar

75g self-raising flour

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Icing sugar for dusting


For the icing you will need:

300g icing sugar

150g butter or margarine

1 tablespoon cocoa powder


Preheat your oven Gas 4 / 180C /350F.

Lightly grease a baking tray 9inch x 12 inch


Line it with greaseproof paper, snipping the corners so the papers lies properly without creasing and then grease the paper

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Put the caster sugar and eggs into a bowl and whisk for a few minutes

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Keep whisking until the mixture turns from a yellow colour to a soft  creamy white colour and if you make a figure of eight on the top of your mixture, it will stay visable for a second or two (you can just see this on the right hand picture below)

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Sieve the flour and cocoa into the bowl


and fold them into the egg and sugar mixture until it’s all combined

(to ‘fold in’ just keep turning the mixture over without mixing it so the air stays in)

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Pour it into your greased baking sheet and spread the mixture to the edges


Bake for 8 minutes only

(if you over bake the sponge will crack when you try to roll it).

While it is baking, spread out a piece of greasproof paper and dust with icing sugar


Take the sponge out of the oven and immeadiately turn it out onto the greaseproof paper and peel off the old greaseproof paper


Sprinkle some more icing sugar over the sponge and quickly lay some more greaseproof paper over the top of the sponge.

Using the bottom piece of paper, roll up the sponge with the top piece of paper inside the sponge:

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Leave it to cool still rolled up.

When it is cool, you can freeze it at this stage and defrost and ice it later

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To Ice It:

Mix the icing sugar, marg and cocoa in a bowl until it is fully combined (this can be hard work at first)

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Fill a jug with piping hot water and add a few knifes, as this helps the butter icing spread if you keep swapping the knifes.


Unroll your sponge and spread a thin layer of icing over it

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Roll the sponge up again using the greaseproof paper to help


Spread the butter icing all over the rolled up sponge.  Leave it as it is or make log patterns with a fork or use a knife to make ‘spiky’ patterns by lifting the knife up quickly from the icing

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Decorate with whatever you have


Sprinkle with icing sugar for ‘snow’




Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

A Perfect Christmas

This weekend I have been busy making Mr Thrift a ‘Christmas Jumper’.  They are having a competition to raise money in aid of the Rainbows charity.  He didn’t have a jumper so I converted an old one by using the felt from a ‘pound shop’ Christmas stocking, some old baubles, tinsel and cheap chocolates.  I also bought some cheap battery lights from Wilkinsons to add to the effect.  I chuckled all the way through making it.  You can’t see very well on the photo, but it actually says “Ho Ho Ho” on the front of it:

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Our old fire place was fitted into the front room on Saturday and we are very pleased with it.  This meant that we could finally put our Christmas tree up on Sunday.  After Christmas we need to concentrate on decorating this room, but for now it feels like Christmas has begun for us.



This made me once again think about my perfect Christmas.

When I think of Christmas I have a warm glow inside.  I imagine children with smiles on their faces, beautiful decorations and a wonderful turkey with all the trimmings.  I can hear ‘White Christmas’ playing in the background, while family and friends all sit around laughing and chatting with a glass of mulled wine in their hand.  What perfection!…

….but this never happens.

It’s the television and magazines that make us believe that this perfect world exists and in reality this rarely ever happens.  Unfortunately, this usually puts people under pressure to achieve this imaginary world and they end up feeling disappointed and disheartened as it’s almost impossible to live up to these unrealistic expectations.

 ‘Real life’ for most people is a Christmas dinner that isn’t ready when you want it to be, kids running round madly as they are over excited and for some people it can even be friends or relatives coming round, who they don’t even like….sound familiar?  We put so many pressures on ourselves that no wonder we don’t achieve the perfect Christmas.


Last years homemade Christmas Crackers

I like to concentrate on what is ‘real life’ at Christmas, I refuse to be drawn into this ‘imaginary’ perfect world.

I like to enjoy my Christmas too, so all year I plan towards it so nothing is rushed at the end.  Every single thing I do from wrapping presents to cooking the Christmas dinner is planned so I can enjoy it.  I have found that if I don’t plan things, I tend to try and achieve too much and then I end up feeling stressed and unhappy.


Home made truffles

I also try very hard to remember that nothing is ever perfect and things do go wrong.   For example, I know it will be unrealistic for my teenage girls not to argue over the Christmas period so I won’t expect this. I’m also sure my Christmas dinner won’t all be ready at the same time, but it doesn’t matter.  If everything was perfect, life would be boring.

It’s how we deal with the not so perfect things that matter, if we laugh about things and keep them in proportion, they are easier to deal with.

Homemade Hampers

Homemade Hampers


So for anyone out there that is running around, trying desperately to achieve the unrealistic Christmas that we see in the adverts, please stop and remember that this is not reality and you certainly don’t need to try and achieve it.

Maybe then you will begin to enjoy it and look back for the first time in January and say

“it really was a perfect Christmas”.

Last years Christmas dinner table

Last years Christmas dinner table


Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

Christmas Decorations In The ‘Thrift’ Household

This week has been a lovely, creative week for me, but very busy.


I started off by making my laundry liquid as I had ran out of the shop bought box that I had to buy when the builders were here.

Incidentally, I never use the amount it says to use on the box, I only ever use half the amount to make it last longer and it always washes well and this saves me money.


I prefer to wash our laundry using my homemade laundry liquid as I know what goes into it and it is really really easy to make.  It only takes 10-15 minutes to make up a batch and it lasts for weeks.  It is great for every day washing and the last time I worked it out a few months ago, it cost me approximately £1.75 to make and I managed to get 71 washes out of it.  This works out at a staggering 2.5p per wash….the supermarkets can’t beat that!


I’ve stored my laundry liquid in old ‘pop’ bottles as they fit nicely under my new sink.

You can find the recipe I use for my laundry liquid here.


I nipped into the supermarket as well this week and found a lonely pack of bananas in the ‘whoopsie’ aisle for 10p.  They were all nice and yellow except a couple which had started to turn brown (which was probably why no one wanted them)… so I bought them.

After we ate the yellow ones, I made a lovely banana cake with the others.  You can find the recipe I used here.

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I’ve also finally got round to writing and sending my Christmas cards.  I bought my cards in the 2011 New Year sales, for a fraction of the price that they were before Christmas.  They don’t take up much space and it saves me a bit of money.

To save time, I have a Christmas card list that I print off from my computer every year.  The list tells me exactly who I need to send Christmas cards to and if I have any extra people to send cards to I just update the list ready for the next year.  It makes writing the cards so much easier.


I also made some strawberry jam this week ready for my hampers.  I didn’t get chance to make it over the summer as I was packing things away ready for the building work, so all my fruit was washed and put straight into the freezer.  I am hoping to make some other things for my hampers during the next week as well.

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I started to put up the Christmas decorations this week too (except the tree, as we are still waiting for our fireplace to be installed).  Our old faithful cheap and cheerful door wreath was looking a bit sad as it had lost it cones, so I replaced them with some more and it looks much better now:


I hung up our trusty old garland along our stairs too.  I bought this approximately fifiteen years ago from Wilkinsons and it still looks as good as new and makes the hall look lovely and Christmassy when you first come in the house:



Also this week, I continued using my bargain charity shop material that I used to make my curtains and my kitchen Roman blind.  For those reading this that don’t know, it only cost me £16 for 10 meters (a piece four meters long and another piece that was six meters long) and it was brand new, never used…I still can’t get over what a bargain it was, I suppose one mans rubbish is another mans gold.

I have now re-covered our old (and stained) seat pads for the chairs around our table and I am really pleased with the result:

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And I have managed to make a table cloth and eight napkins out of the remainder of the material.  So I am very pleased as my kitchen looks very co-ordinated now and I don’t think anyone would know that the whole lot cost me just £26 to make (£16 for the material and heading tape and a further £10 for all the other bits,  for the Roman blind and for the cotton).



With some of the little off-cuts I still had left, I made some bows for my Christmas table wreath.  They were really easy to make, I just followed  some instructions that I found on ‘You Tube’  here.  I think they turned out well:



I love Christmas decorations that are made out of things that you can pick from your garden at this time of year, so I went out into mine to collect some holly, bay and conifer leaves.

While I was there I noticed there are some lovely sights in the garden at this time of the year:

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I even discovered that our Lavatera still has flowers on and my Vinca has a flush of flowers on too:

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I made a couple of ‘sprays’ with some of the bits I collected and tied them with a spare ‘off cut’ of material I had and hung them in my kitchen.  I was very pleased with the result (especially as it cost me nothing to make them):

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I then began to make my Christmas Table Wreath.

I openly admit that I’m not very good at flower arranging.  In fact, I was the only Brownie that just ‘scraped’ a flower arranging badge due to ‘Brown Owl’ stepping in and rearranging it all for me.  My arrangement was so bad.

Last year I made my first table wreath and I was very proud of it and couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. So this week I made this years wreath.


How To Make An Easy Christmas Wreath:


I bought an oasis ring from Wilkinson last month for approx. £4.50

I used bits of old ribbon last year and material bows as above this year

Pine cones from my local park

Shrubs from the garden

(I used conifer and bay this year and Viburnum tinus last year)

Large paper clips or florist’s wire)


I started by soaking the oasis ring upside down in water for about 5 minutes, until the bubbles stopped coming out of it.  I have read that you should not press the oasis ring down, as this will cause air bubbles to enter the foam, creating dry spots.


I cut the foliage in lengths of approximately 10cm and striped the leaves so there was about 4cm of stem to push into the oasis.


I layered the shrubs into the oasis by pushing the stems in at a slight angle, starting at the bottom.


I kept building the foliage up, so eventually the oasis couldn’t be seen.


Use big paper clips stretched out or florists wire to secure the ribbons and the pine cones to the oasis.


I have read that it is best to mist the wreath with water each day so it doesn’t dry out

(I’ve got to admit I didn’t do it last year and my wreath lasted ages).


I’m very pleased with my table wreath again this year and as an extra bonus, the bows match my table cloth.


Finally this week, I sliced some oranges to make ‘old fashioned’ Christmas decorations.  I put the slices on a piece of greaseproof paper and then put it on the top of my radiator.  I have read that they will dry this way without having to use your oven, so I thought I will give it a try.

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I’ll let you know how I get on with them and if it works.


Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

My ‘Forever House’

I love receiving comments on my blog, as I feel it’s a way that like minded people can connect with each other.

Today I thought I would talk about something that ‘Sol’ said in a comment over the weekend.    We were talking about kitchens and she mentioned that she would like a brand new kitchen when she moves into her ‘forever house’.

I think the term ‘forever house’ is lovely and I have never heard it called that before.   To me it conjures up an image of a home that is cosy and comfortable to be in, that welcomes visitors readily.  I want our house to be that home.

Our house when we purchased it in 2002

Our house when we purchased it in 2002


I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have never really settled in my house, though I haven’t been able to put my finger on why?  At one stage, I even wrote down a list of what I would look for in a house if we moved and found this house has all of those things.

So for the past last eleven years on and off, we have talked about moving, but we couldn’t really afford to move again.  Also this house is so practical for Mr Thrift’s work, my allotments and walking to town and also my family are all settled here too and don’t want to move again.

So over the years we have scrimped and saved and have improved the house.  We started with double glazing, as most of the windows wouldn’t shut or open and then we replaced our central heating system (radiators and all) as it had an old back boiler and a one pipe system which was very inefficient and didn’t heat the house properly.   We then went on to replace our rotting wooden fascias and rusting guttering.


Our garden last summer

So after all of this, it really wouldn’t have made sense to move house.  So that is why we decided to finally spend some money on something cosmetic (our kitchen) in the hope it would make me feel better….

And I do feel better, as I absolutely love my new kitchen area and I enjoy spending time in it.  I especially love to cook when I have my family sitting and chatting with me in the same room.

Our Sunday Roast

Our Sunday Roast


I really enjoyed making the curtains too for the new kitchen, especially as it only cost me £16 for the material.  Over the last few days I have also had a go at making a roman blind for the kitchen window, using the same material so it would match our curtains.  It’s my first attempt at a Roman blind and I must say, my head was spinning at times while figuring out how to do it (I guessed some bits), but thanks to ‘You Tube’, I managed it:


So my next job is to cover my old seat pads with the same material, so they match too.  I’m not sure if I’ll manage it, but I’ll have fun trying.

I am really enjoying finally making our house a home..

Every piece of wallpaper, every carpet,etc. in our house, was chosen by someone else and now the kitchen is finally something of our own….maybe this is why I haven’t settled before?

  After receiving ‘Sol’s’ comment over the weekend, I thought again about our house and finally realised I am beginning to think of this house as somewhere I can finally settle in and it is now becoming my ‘forever house’. 


Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

£300 Saved And 19 Sleeps Until Santa

Yes, I’m sorry to bring this news to you (just in case you didn’t know it already), but there are only nineteen sleeps until Santa visits.

As always I plan ahead as this saves money and avoids a last minute panic. I do my Christmas shopping throughout the year, picking up bargains etc in the sales, so I can get more for my money.  This does take some planning as obviously we needed the money in the first place to be able to buy the presents.  So in the ‘Thrift’ household we actually save for birthdays and Christmas presents each and every month throughout the year, so I can buy something that will be just perfect for someone, when I see it.

I carry a list in my handbag of exactly who I need to buy presents for and an exact budget for each present.  This way I never duplicate presents or go over budget.


One of the final things I have bought, came in the post this week and I thought I would show you as I am really pleased with what I have received:

I found an offer for a calender from an on-line company called ‘Photoworld’. I down-loaded some of my allotment photographs and they produced a calender with them on.  I managed to get three calenders for £13.74, which I think is a bargain!

I must say though, I didn’t think they would be up to much as they were so cheap, but they were brilliant.  I even managed to get my ‘Notjustgreenfingers’ logo on the front.  A few years ago we made calenders by printing off our photographs and I’m sure they cost us more money to make after buying the photopaper and ink etc.



Family Traditions

One of our family traditions is to put the Christmas tree up on the 1st December.  Unfortunately due to building work, our Christmas tree isn’t up yet and I have two teenage daughters complaining about this daily.

  Our builders are coming back shortly to install our old gas fire from the old back room, into our front room.  We only bought the fire and fire surround approximately four years ago, so we wanted to reuse it as the fire we have in the front room was installed in 1975!

As the builders need to knock a larger hole into the chimney breast, we think it would be daft to put the tree up now as it would get covered in dust.  So we will all have to wait a little bit longer here.

Our tree last year

Our tree last year


Another tradition we usually do on the 1st December (which I’m pleased to say we have done this year), is to hang our Advent calender up.

When I grew up, we had just one calendar that we used year after year.  It didn’t have chocolates, it just had a different ‘window’ that you opened each day, but my sisters and I loved that calender.  On the 15th December it had a large ‘barrel’ that opened and revealed Santa telling us it was only ten days until Christmas and every Christmas we would argue about who would open this door…I can’t imagine children would even bother with an advent calender without chocolates these days!


When my first daughter was born, one my sisters made an Advent calendar as a present for us.  She stitched little pockets on it so we could pop a sweet into it each day for the children.  It really is beautiful and still looks as good as new today.

At first we would put a chocolate in each pocket, which they opened each day leading up to Christmas, but as they became a little older, we put a piece of paper in each pocket instead.  The paper had a really easy ‘clue’ written on it, which helped them to find where I had hidden the chocolates each day.  The children had such fun finding them, in fact when they had their friends to play, they too would join in with the clues.  I would buy chocolate coins and put them in a ‘Treasure Chest’ for them to find.

As my daughters got older, the clues got harder to reflect their age and now instead, I put a brainteaser in each pocket that they have to solve before they can have a chocolate.  I now also use dairy free chocolates for my youngest daughter.

My teenagers still love our advent calender.



This Week In The Thrift Household:

I wanted to tell you about something I made this week that I am very proud of.  Last month, we searched high and low for some curtains to fit our french doors in our new kitchen.  Unfortunately, we discovered you can’t buy ready made curtains quite that large.

We visited various shops and found that the curtain material was very expensive, but we did find it wasn’t too much more money to have the shops make the curtains up for you.  We looked at lots of different materials at different shops and found that with lining, they would be approximately £300!….this amazed me…do people really pay this amount for curtains?

I decided to visit the market for material and make the curtains myself, but after working out how much material I needed, ensuring I had enough for the pattern repeats, lining and header tape,  it still would have worked out approximately £200 to make!

So I hit the charity shops in desperation.  I spent the morning looking at old, faded curtains which just wouldn’t do for my new kitchen and I was beginning to feel like we had no choice but to save up for the material off the market……until I went into the last charity shop I could think of and found this….


Six meters of unused gold material, lining and header tape for just £10…I thought I was seeing things.  I knew this wasn’t enough material to make the curtains, but I remembered I still had my cream curtains from my old backroom window which are still perfect (even though they are 11 years old) and I decided I could maybe do something with both the gold material and the old cream curtains.

As an extra bonus when I went to pay, the lady in the shop came out with another four meters of the gold material from the back of the shop.  Obviously someone was going to make curtains and then changed their mind. So I got ten meters of brand new gold material (in two pieces), lining material and header tape all for £16…now I think that is a real bargain!

When I matched my old cream curtains with the new gold material I was really pleased to see that the patterns on both are very similar as they are both quite regal:

SAM_7748 SAM_7708

I have worked out that I have enough material for the curtains, cushion covers, roman blind for the window over my sink and I think I have enough for a table cloth as well.

What a lucky find it was!

I looked at two toned curtain images on the internet, just to make sure my idea would look ok and then I sent my old curtains to the drycleaners (courtesy of Tesco vouchers) .  I then nervously set to work.


I am lucky as I have an old sewing machine which I use from time to time.  I learnt a small amount about sewing a school, but mostly I make things up as I go a long.

I scutinised my old cream curtains to see how they were made (as they were good quality when I bought them) and made sure I worked in the same way….and here is the result.



Let me know what you think?  I’m really pleased as they match my kitchen and I’ve saved us nearly £300….Mr Thrift is very pleased with this.


Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In December

When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed the information to be in one place, so I could look it up easily. However, I found I had to search for lots of little bits of information, scattered between internet sites and books. It used to take me a long time to find the information I needed.

I thought it would be useful to have this information altogether in one place. So for the benefit of the UK gardeners, I write a list of things to be done each month and any useful information I can think of.

It is worth remembering that different parts of the UK have different weather conditions e.g. the last frost is expected earlier in the south than the north. Therefore, this is a general guide.



Rain and wind are common in December and there is usually only a few days with some sun.  There are plenty of frosts and fog can occur when the wind drops.

It is said that cold setting in at the end of December can indicate a long hard winter, however a cold period at the beginning of the month rarely lasts.



Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Brussels, kale, cabbages, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, cauliflowers, swedes, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, winter radish, hardy lettuces, corn salad, land cress and winter purslane.



Vegetables and salads to sow or plant:

Winter hardy broadbeans can be sown undercover and garlic can be planted in milder areas if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

Rhubarb can be divided now and replanted and bare rooted fruit trees and bushes can be planted now  if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.



Jobs to do:

Carry on with your winter digging providing the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.


Dig in manure and compost to areas where it is needed, to enrich the soil.

Continue to collect fallen leaves to make leaf mould.


Lift root vegetables for winter storage.

Cover beds with black plastic to suppress weeds and help to warm your soil ready for early crops next year e.g. shallots.

Have a general tidy up of your allotment shed.

Continue to prune fruit trees and bushes (except cherries and plums) unless the weather has turned very cold.

Don’t forget to feed the birds and top up water for them to drink.

Keep removing any yellow fallen leaves around your brassicas as these can harbor pests.

Order any seeds for the coming year and plan next year’s crop rotation.

Earth up brussel sprout stems if they have become unsteady.

Check to make sure your nets are secure, to stop pigeons from eating your brassicas.


Weed and mulch around established fruit trees.

Prune grapevines now the leaves have fallen and before the sap starts to rise again.

Clean and sharpen your tools.

Check tree ties and supporting wires around your plot.

Continue to fill your runnerbean trenches with old peelings.


Check the fruit and vegetables that you have stored.  Remember that one bad fruit or vegetable can destroy the whole crop if you don’t remove it quick enough.

Bullfinches love the newly forming buds, especially on gooseberries, apple, pears and plums.  If you have had a problem in the past then nets are the only solution.

If you have peaches and nectarines, spray with a copper fungicide to protect them against peach leaf curl and erect a rain proof cover over them to stop the rain from spreading the spores.



December pests and diseases:

Mice and rats love to dig up and eat newly planted broad beans and garlic.

Slugs can still be a problem even in December.



I hope this information has been helpful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.