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A Cheap Pair Of Curtains & A Harvest

Yet again it has been wet and miserable this week……the slugs are having a party in my kitchen garden!

But as I write my blog today the sun is shining beautifully, so I have taken advantage of this and hung out two loads of washing.  My daughters think I am mad when I sit watching my washing blowing in the wind …… watching it always makes me feel so ‘grounded’ as though life is somehow ok when my washing is out ….. daft I know.

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The last lot of laundry liquid that I made seems to have lasted me ages, but soon I will have to make some more.

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As it’s been wet this week I spent a bit of time in my greenhouse tying up my tomatoes and removing any side shoots.

I also nipped off the tops of my plants as they have all reached the roof of my greenhouse.  I then removed a few of their lower leaves so the air could circulate and the sun can get to the tomatoes to ripen them.

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I also tied my cucumbers to new string supports that I tied to my roof….hopefully they will grow along the string and produce even more cucumbers (you can just about see the string and cucumbers growing in the left corner in the photo below):

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I then put two plastic bottles that I had cut in half, into the compost next to the cucumber plants.  Cucumbers easily die when the compost around the stem is too wet (stem rot) and as it has been damp in the greenhouse (as we haven’t had much sun) I have been concerned that my cucumbers would sucumb to this.  When I now water, the water bottles allow the water to drain to the roots of the plants instead of sitting on the surface of the compost:

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I also continued to tie up the melon plants I have been growing in the greenhouse as well:

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So the greenhouse looks a lot neater now and I am so looking forward to the first tomatoes ripening.

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This weeks harvest:

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I started the week by picking my last spring cabbage.  The cabbage looked lovely on the outside but there was a fair bit of slug damage inside, however we had a meal from it and I managed to make some coleslaw with the remainder so it wasn’t that bad:

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I will be planting my curly kale next week in the space that is left in my brassica bed.

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This week the strawberries have been ripening well and they taste so lovely:

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 Most of the strawberries didn’t last more than five minutes before we all ate them.  However a few did make it into strawberry and chocolate pancakes that my daughters made….

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I have also been picking broadbeans (a variety called aquadulce) that I sowed in January:

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Normally I ‘pinch off’ the top three or four inches off each plant as soon as the beans start to form, as usually this is when I always see blackfly on the plants (blackfly love the soft growth at the top).  This year I left the plants as there really was no sign of blackfly and still there is no sign and the plants look so healthy….this is very unusual:

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My courgette plant has produced one more courgette……hopefully if the weather warms up I will get more.  However the courgette was quickly used in an omelette with the broadbeans and it was really tasty:

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The other squashes in my garden (patty pans and pumpkins) are also sulking in the wet weather too, however the butternut squash that I planted in a big pot is doing great and I have one butternut squash that is growing bigger each day:

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I also pulled up a few small onions this week to use as spring onions.  When I planted my onions out I spaced them very closely so I could pull them up and eat the thinnings, while the remainder could continue to grow to full size:

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And this week the first gooseberries were ready to pick.  I laughed at my eldest daughter when she ate one, as she said they were so sour……..she used to eat gooseberries like sweets and obviously her taste has changed as she has got older…..this happened to me as I grew older too.

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As it’s the beginning of July now, I decided to pull a few more stalks of rhubarb up.  I won’t pull any more stalks up this year now, so the plants can build their energy up again ready for next year:

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And finally this week in the garden I noticed my second early potatoes were starting to flower, so I decided to have a root around to see what I could find and I found these:

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These are a variety called ‘Marfona’ and my goodness they were delicious….but we always love the first potatoes of the year in our house!

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So all in all it was a good week for harvesting produce from my kitchen garden and homegrown fruit and vegetables always taste better than shop bought fruit and vegetables.

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This week in the home:

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I don’t know if you remember, but back in August / September last year my dad was throwing out two garden chairs and I asked him if I could have them as there wasn’t much wrong with them.

  I decided to go to a car boot sale to look for some cheap curtain material to cover the seat pads as they had marks on them.  I found some curtains for £3 which I was very pleased with:

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For one reason or another I didn’t get around to re-covering the seat pads and at Christmas I even used one of the curtains to cover a plastic box, so I could stand the Christmas tree on it:

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This week I finally decided to get the material out again and I realised that the curtains would actually fit across the bay window in our front room and the colour also matched the room too (though the curtains were far too long so they would need altering).  I have been looking for a pair of cheap curtains for this room since ever since I decorated it last summer, as our existing curtains were fifteen years old and VERY faded in places.

At the bottom of the ‘car boot’ curtains was some white paint, which is why they sold them so cheaply.  So I decided to get my sewing machine out and have a go at altering them.  The curtains were lined so I had to unpick the linning first and alter this as well as the curtain material:

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I have got to be honested, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I made it up as I went along….but it worked!

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I also made a couple of tie backs with the material that I had cut off (making sure I didn’t use the bit that had paint on) and I’m really pleased with these too:

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So for £4.55 (£3 for the curtains and £1.55 for the thread) we now have a nearly new pair of good quality, lined curtains that will hopefully last quite a few years and I did this with just a few basic sewing skill.

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So nearly everything in the room is second hand – the TV, the TV cabinet, the nest of tables, the lamps, the pictures, the cabinet, the settee and now the curtains.  It just goes to show that you don’t have to spend lots of money to furnish a room nicely.  Our room my not be everyones cup of tea, but it’s homely and we love it ……though we are still saving up for a new carpet to finish the room off!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

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How To Avoid The Pea Moth & How to Harden Off Plants

I wanted to start today by saying a big ‘thank you’ to everyone that reads my blog and for all the lovely comments I receive each week.  It really is the comments that spur me on to continue writing.

Things changed in the ‘Thrift’ household when I gave my four allotments up last year, however your comments gave me the confidence to continue blogging about my new ‘kitchen garden’.

My blog will never win awards, but as long as people are reading and enjoying it, I will continue to write.

Thank you.

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This Week:

The weather has gone from one extreme to the other over the last week or so….from hail and snow to hot, sunny days.  On Sunday morning I walked my dog early to avoid the heat and even then it was warm enough to walk around in short sleeves:

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I always think the park looks beautiful in the early morning and I love to hear the birds sing at this time of the day…. they sing so loudly, as though they are excited about the day ahead.

I noticed the bluebells looking stunning in the dabbled shade under the trees and the ‘Cytisus scoparius’ (common broom) looking equally as impressive, in amongst the hawthorns that are in blossom at the moment:

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I felt blessed to be walking around the park at this time of day on my own, as it felt magical.  I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be there and have the time to stop and enjoy it.

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However the park looked completely different on Wednesday after twenty four hours of rain, but it still looked beautiful:

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In My Garden This Week:

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As it has been warm this week I decided it was time to start to ‘harden off’ some of my frost tender plants that have been sitting in my greenhouse, by moving them in my colder ‘mini greenhouses’.

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“Hardening off” your plants allows them to adapt to outside conditions before they are planted in their final positions.  There are two ways to do this:

1) Put your plants in a cold frame and gradually open the window of the cold frame more each day until it is fully opened or

2) Put your plants outside for an hour or two for the first day and then gradually increase the time they spend outside each day afterwards.

The RHS suggest that hardening off plants properly takes approximately two to three weeks.

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This week I also started to put some of my homegrown bedding plants into pots so they can grow on and look pretty in the summer.  I used marigolds and dwarf dahlias:

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I also made up a couple of hanging baskets with the cherry tomato plants that I grew from seed:

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As with everything else, I will harden them off gradually and I will be bringing them back inside my greenhouse every night until all the risk of frost has passed.  This is usually the end of May in Leicester, however I am still very careful to watch the weather forecast even then, as a few years ago I lost all  of my outdoor tomato plants at my allotment in the first week of June!

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This week I removed the glass from my climbing peas that I planted out in April, as they are now growing well:

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I tied some garden string around them to give a bit of support to help them climb.  I also draped some environmesh over the plants to stop the birds from eating them and give a bit of protection fron the pea moth (though I didn’t have quite enough to cover the sides, but it worked well like this last year):

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 “Adult pea moths lays their eggs in May, June and July on pea plants.  Their caterpillars feed on the seeds that develop inside the pea pods and then drop to the ground in late summer to pupate……this is a good reason to rotate your pea crops each year.

You can reduce the damage of the pea moth by covering your plants with environmesh or fleece”

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The tomatoes that I planted in my greenhouse are growing well now and I am continually ‘pinching off’ the side shoots that are appearing between the main stems and leaves….you can see in the before and after photos below:

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The seeds that I sowed last week have started to germinate and I have moved them from my kitchen into my greenhouse to ‘grow on’ for a week or two before I also start to ‘harden them off’ ready to plant later this month:

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I noticed this week that the first geraniums are starting to bloom in my hanging baskets:

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And elsewhere in the garden the dwarf wallflowers that I sowed last year are giving a good display….

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….together with the two dicentras (bleeding hearts) that I replanted after finding them growing recently in my border (though I haven’t a clue how they got there):

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 And finally in my garden my Azalea is beginning to flower.  My dad gave this plant to me when it was tiny – it came ‘free’ with some plants he ordered and he didn’t want it.  Over the last few years it has really flowered well:

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This Week In The Home:

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There is not much to tell you about this week except I have spent time altering the length of a new pair of curtains that my dad brought for his front room……unfortunately they were fifteen inches too long!…. (I’m not sure why he decided to buy this length of curtain).

After I altered them I decided to ring around a couple of well known shops to see how much they would charge for altering curtain lengths, just out of curiosity……I was quoted £35 by one and £40 by another!  It’s amazing how much you can save by learning a few basic sewing skills.

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After altering the curtains I took them to my dad’s home and hung them up for him….but unfortunately they weren’t really wide enough either (which I didn’t realise before as dad had given me the measurements).  This meant I couldn’t gather them up very much at the top, but I did my best.  However, they didn’t look too bad in the end and dad seemed very pleased with them …. and that is all that matters!

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That’s it for today.  Thank you for reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  Have a great week!

A Chicken and Parsnip Stew & A Fruit Loaf Recipe

I thought I would start today by letting you know that Judy, (our lovely rescue dog) has made a full recovery after her illness last week and she is back to her normal, cheeky ways.

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We all absolutely love Judy to bits and I am so glad we didn’t give up on her like the previous three owners did.  Though I have got to be honest, when our previous ‘dog behavourist’ told us she was untrainable last February, we were very close to giving up….she had so many problems e.g. barked all the time at home, barked and lunged at dogs, people, cars, bikes, lorries, washing machine, birds etc. etc.

Nearly a year later, she still has one or two things she doesn’t like, but she is getting so much better as time goes by, thanks to our wonderful dog trainer Steven Havers.

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Curtains for my daughter:

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I’m not sure if you remember a couple of months ago I decorated my youngest daughter’s bedroom.  I struggled to find any ready made curtains that she liked, to finish off the bedroom.  So in desparation I took her to a material shop and she found some fabric she liked, so I bought it promising to make her curtains after Christmas.

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The curtain material and new furniture in her bedroom was a present for her birthday and Christmas, but because of this I was a bit concerned that she wasn’t going to have many presents to actually open on Christmas day.  So during December, while she was at school I worked really hard to make the curtains so I could wrap them up for her to open on Christmas day.

She was very surprised when she unwrapped them and I must say I am very proud of them now they are up:

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I also had a bit of material left so I managed to make a couple of cushions for her too, which I also wrapped up for her to open on Christmas day:

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Over the Christmas holidays I decided it was time to catch up with one or two jobs that I had been putting off…..

  I started by clearing our loft and it was amazing how much rubbish we had up there.  I have since sold one or two bits on ebay and given away some other things…..but most of it was thrown away.  But the attic looks better now.

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I also went through my bills folder…..again there was a lot in there that I didn’t need to keep.  Myself and Mr Thrift looked at every bill we pay to see if we could possibly reduce it….unfortunately we are quite ‘bill savvy’ so we didn’t manage to make any savings, but it’s good to check every so often.

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Over the Christmas period myself and Mr Thrift surprisingly managed to buy lots of ‘whoopsies’ ….for some reason we seemed to be in the supermarket when they reduced their produce to ridicuously low prices.  So over Christmas I froze whatever I could and my freezers were bursting:

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The last photo shows the ready cooked beetroot that was reduced.  My dad sometimes buys this and pickles it, but as I already have pickled beetroot in my pantry I decided to cut it up and freeze it on a tray.  When it was frozen I put it in a bag and this way it is easy to take a few slices out at a time to defrost for sandwiches.

I also used the reduced parsnips and Chicken drumsticks in a chicken and parsnip stew which I cooked in my slow cooker.  By cooking it in the slow cooker you find that the chicken ‘falls off’ the bones easily and tastes so moist:

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Chicken and Parsnip Stew:

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6-8 chicken drumsticks or thighs

2 onions peeled and roughly chopped

4 -6 medium parsnips peeled and chopped into chunks

Hot Chicken stock to cover

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Put all the ingredients into a slow cooker making sure the hot stock covers the ingredients.

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Cook on ‘low’ for approximately 8 hours

Serve with vegetables of your choice:

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This week…

This week at home I decided to use up the mixed fruit that I had left over in my pantry.  I decided to make a fruit loaf (which I absolutely love).  It’s really easy to make in a bread maker and I used my bread slicer to cut it into nice thin slices.  This loaf freezes well so you can take a couple of slices out to defrost when required:

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A Fruit Loaf Recipe:

1 teaspoon of Fast Action Dried Yeast

400g Strong White Flour

2 teaspoon Granulated Sugar

75g margarine or butter

½ teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Mixed Spice

2 Eggs

110ml Water

110ml Milk

300g Mixed Dried Fruit

 

Add all the above ingredients into a breadmaker EXCEPT the mixed fruit.

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Set your breadmaker to a ‘Basic bake loaf’ with raisens and add the mixed fruit when the breadmaker tells you too (that is approx. 47 mins after the start in mine but you will need to refer to your own manual).

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Enjoy it!

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In the garden this week:

This week in the garden I dug up my parsnips.  This is the first time I have grown a crop in this area so I wasn’t sure what they would be like….but they weren’t too bad (though most of them were a lot smaller than the ones I used to grow at the allotment -probably due to the condition of my soil):

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Parsnips next to a 30 cm ruler

Unfortunately some of the parsnips suffered from parsnip canker:

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“Parsnip Canker is a fungus that causes orange, brown, purple or black coloured rot, which usually starts at the top of the root.

I have read that the fungus is caused by drought, over-rich soil or damage to the crown, BUT I have also read that it is worse in wet, pooly drained soils as well”

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As you can see in my photo above, if the canker isn’t too bad the parsnip under the skin is usually fine to cook and eat.

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To avoid canker:

  • Rotate your crops
  • Don’t manure your soil before growing parsnips
  • Improve your drainage
  • Grow resistant varieties such as ‘Albion’or Hollow Crown

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As I had too many parsnips to eat in one go, I peeled and chopped them and then froze them on a tray (without blanching them).  When they were frozen I took them off the tray and bagged them up.

When I next cook a Sunday lunch I will roast them from frozen.

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Finally this week I brought my seed potatoes.  I chose my usual ‘Marfona’ which is a second early and ‘Desiree’ which is a red main crop potato.  I also brought some ‘picasso’ to plant in my mother in laws garden, which are an early main crop.

All the potatoes are now ‘chitting’ in our bedroom…..very romantic!

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That’s it for this week.

  Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good week!

 

A Bedroom Makeover And Taking Stock Ready For Winter

This last week I have spent some time at home, rather than at the allotment due to the rain.  Hopefully the wet weather will make the soil easier to work now, as it has been so dry recently and the soil has been rock hard.

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I have used this time to do one or two overdue jobs at home and one such job was to replace my daughters bed.

For the last few years my daughter has had a high riser bed, with a wardrobe and a desk underneath.  My wonderful, generous friend gave it to us for free and it has been fantastic, but my daughter is now sixteen and wanted a more ‘grown up’ bedroom.

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So I spent a day taking it down and trying to find someone else who would like it, as it was in really good condition.  I knew no one who wanted it, so I rang a few charity shops that take furniture and I was amazed that none of them would take it as it was dismantled (even though I explained it wouldn’t come out of the bedroom if it wasn’t dismantled).

I then decided to put in on Freecycle and it was collected quickly.  This is what their website says:

“The worldwide Freecycle Network is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It’s a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them. Our goal is to keep usable items out of landfills. By using what we already have on this earth, we reduce consumerism, manufacture fewer goods, and lessen the impact on the earth. Another benefit of using Freecycle is that it encourages us to get rid of junk that we no longer need and promote community involvement in the process.

There are now 581 Groups spread across the country, with 3,708,994 members!”

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My daughters bedroom is very small, but cosy.  I bought a cheap bed (which incidentally I had to replace the slats to strengthen it using old slats from another old bed) and a cheap canvas wardrobe.  I didn’t want to decorate at this time so I gave the curtains and nets a good wash and wiped the paintwork down.  I think the bedroom now looks lovely and my daughter is very pleased with it.

I made the quilt and curtains about five years ago and they are slightly faded but I think they still look good.  The bed and wardrobe came to approximately £120, which I don’t think is bad for a bedroom makeover and after a little alteration to the bed, I think it will last for years:

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 As a last ‘touch’ I put up a couple of strings of butterfly fairy lights around the picture rail.  I found the lights in the gardening ‘clearance’ section in Wilkinsons and managed to buy two sets for £5 and the bedroom looks beautiful now in the evening when the lights are twinkling.

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Taking stock ready for winter:

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This week has also given me time to take stock of what crops I have preserved or stored and those I still have growing at my allotment.  I now have an up todate list of what exactly is in my three freezers…

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… and what I have growing ready to use at my allotment and stored crops like potatoes, onions and apples:

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I have also moved my winter squashes into my greenhouse so they can ‘cure’ with a bit of protection from the frost (they will be moved inside my house soon for the winter).

By leaving the squashes in the sun to ‘cure’, the skin will harden and the squashes will store for longer. Move them inside when frosts are due.

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I also know exactly what is still growing at my allotment and will soon be ready to harvest e.g. brussells, leeks, parsnips and winter salads etc.

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And I know which of my last summer crops that need to be eaten up soon:

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I now have a list of exactly what I want to be growing on my allotment next year and I have been saving seed accordingly:

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And I managed to buy lots of seeds in the Wilkinson 75% off sale this week:

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So it has been a week of organising, but it has been nice to be inside while it has been so miserable outside.

Hopefully the weather will be better next week.

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday.

Have a good week!

£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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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….

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.