Upcycling project: a new bench for free

upcyclingWe have finally got round to putting the last coat of paint on our rescued garden bench. You may remember that we came across this bench outside a neighbour’s house a few months ago. The frame seemed quite sturdy but some of the slats on the seat had broken.

upcyclingMr S is pretty handy and always saves bits of wood in case he needs them so it was easy to repair. I gave it a good rub down and found some undercoat in the shed. I did have to buy the top coat: I decided on some Homebase paint in a lovely pale green for £12 and, two coats later, it has come up a treat!
Ok, so it wasn’t quite free, but £12 for a very nice, solid piece of furniture is pretty good value.
I am now debating whether to paint my charity shop wooden table and chairs the same colour. These cost me £30, which I thought was pretty good, although two of the chairs need some repair and I am waiting for Mr S to work his magic on them.

Reusing my old wellies

upcyclingI am pretty pleased with the garden at the moment, although as ever there is so much to do! I have re-used my willies as a planter and I think they look cute.

We are away this week, house and dog sitting for friends, so won’t be able to do much gardening. It feels like a holiday as it is a beautiful big house with a hot tub. Sadly I will still have to go to work this week so perhaps not quite a holiday, but I will use that tub! We spent the morning at home in the garden then came over to walk the dog and chill in the tub and it was very relaxing! I’m not sure I would use it enough to justify buying one but it is fun for a change.

Whatever you were up to I hope you had a lovely bank holiday Monday!

Happy birthday Mr S

  We had a nice weekend for Mr S’s birthday. Our French student obligingly went to London for the weekend leaving us free and not needing to rush back for mealtimes. We bought tickets for the National Garden Show at Hylands Park in Chelmsford and luckily the weather held out.  We took lots of pics!

   

  

   It wasn’t exactly the Chelsea Flower Show, but it was interesting to look at the fabulous floral displays as well as getting the chance to see some of the interior of  the house itself. It is very grand with huge grounds. There were some bargains on the plant stalls as well so we did give in and buy a few.

  We were treated to an Indian takeaway by friends in the evening so it was all quite pleasant and restful. We cycled over and wobbled back. I don’t think prosecco and curry is good for my cycling skills!

Many years ago I trained as a reflexologist. Lately I have been thinking of taking it up again so have been reading up and practising to develop my skills. Mr S is pleased as he enjoys a good foot rub! I am finding it fascinating . As with everything else, my trouble is fitting it all in. I will let you know as I progress. 

Who else is interested in complementary therapies?

School’s out – forever!

Wow! Another busy week! Frustratingly though I don’t appear to have achieved much 😀.

Our new French student arrived on Sunday. He has proved really friendly and easy to host. He doesn’t eat breakfast, insists on helping me when he is here (the other night he mopped the floor!), goes out most nights and will be away in London the whole weekend.  He has also hit it off with my middle daughter, who has just finished university so has been home a lot. She has given him a list of the less obvious bits of London to visit and he, in return, has given her a contact at Vogue Magazine – she is desperate to get into fashion journalism so if that comes to anything it will be amazing.

 

Last day of school forever!

My other daughter is up to her eyes in A level revision so is stressed and tired. She officially left school yesterday, although will be in and out still for the next month for the exams. She works really hard and deserves to do well. It is tough for these youngsters though – so much competition for decent university places and good jobs.

Thankfully my eldest daughter is past all that and seems to be enjoying her job. She also moved into a new flat at the weekend. It isn’t very big but it has all she needs and is right in town. She was living with her dad but needed her own space.

So my children are all now adults and school is over! It is a weird feeling after so many years!

 We spent the morning on Sunday planting out the runner beans and brassica on the veggie patch and the tomatoes in the greenhouse. There is still lots to do so we will doubtless be out there again this weekend at some point. Not on Saturday though as there is a flower show locally so I have booked tickets. We will have lunch there and are meeting friends for a take away in the evening since its Mr Shoestring’s birthday.

There is always so much to do it seems. I started painting our reclaimed bench the week before last but still haven’t found time for the last coat. I will do that on Sunday too! Day of rest? Don’t think so 😀.

Boot sale bonanza and some charity shop bargains too

wigwam

Weed free bed and wigwam

Thanks to everyone who has clicked through to Approved Food from my link the other day – I have had nearly 100 clicks! No orders yet though.

As it was a glorious morning on Sunday I decided to go to a boot sale. I really needed some new (to me) clothes, so I went with a bit of money and an eye for a bargain.  The weather had brought out the genuine boot-salers so it wasn’t just traders – this always means there is hope of finding some good stuff and I wasn’t disappointed. I found several nice tops, a couple of cardigans, a summer skirt, a gorgeous long Monsoon dress for £2, some extremely comfortable leather sandals and a nice pair of jeans that fitted perfectly. The lady who sold me these for £2 told me she had paid £200 for them originally. “What? £200 for a pair of jeans????”, I said,  although I resisted the urge to tell her she was stark raving mad. Apparently they are a brand called Seven which is a famous designer brand. Famous designer con more like….still, I don’t mind, they are nice jeans and well worth 200 pennies 🙂 .

I spent even more time in the garden when I got back – there is so much to do at this time of year. I love pottering though. It is quite annoying how work gets in the way of my gardening, even if it is mainly weeding at the moment!

sofa

Bargain second-hand sofa

I managed to get some more bargains on the way back from work yesterday. As I was passing the hospice shop I saw what looked like a wooden garden table and chairs – so I did a swift U-turn and went in. They were a bit disappointing as two of the chairs were a bit cracked and they were asking £80 which I thought was way too much. Whilst I was there I went to look at the sofas. I have been on the look out for a decent 3-seater for ages and they had a nice comfy cream one for £75, which I decided to buy. I mentioned to the lady serving me about the table and she came out to have a look with me, then said I could have the lot for £30. I thought this was reasonable and I am sure Mr S will be able to patch them up.

Rubbed down, primed and ready for some colour...

Rubbed down, primed and ready for some colour…

I have spent lots of money this week but I have some put by, and these were things I really needed so it isn’t a problem. If I think about how much my purchases would have been new….well, I wouldn’t have been able to afford many of them at all. I love second-hand!

I have been working on the collapsed bench we found outside our neighbour’s house. It has been repaired by Mr S, and I have rubbed it down and primed it. Now I just need to decide on the colour and find paint at a decent price and it will be ready for the next lot of sunshine.

 

A frugal Indian dinner party

home made indianI mentioned previously that I was having the girls round at the weekend. I don’t do dinner parties much as it always seems to cost so much even when I try really hard to be thrifty. When you have guests you feel you need to give them a treat with three courses, plus there is wine to buy of course.

Well, this time I think I have cracked it. I made three Indian inspired dishes, one of my own recipes smoky chicken and chickpeas (not exactly Indian since the main spice is smoked paprika, but it went well with the other dishes); a tarka dhal recipe that I found on the Internet (on Jamie Oliver’s site but not one of his recipes) and one from the book I found in the charity shop the other day, Save with Jamie, for sag aloo. I can’t find that anywhere on the web so here it is:

1 onion
2 ripe tomatoes
half a bunch fresh coriander
2 heaped tbsp rogan josh curry paste
oil
1.2kg potatoes, cut into 3cm chunks
4 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chilli
2 tsp cumin seeds
300g frozen spinach

Peel the onion and blitz with the tomatoes, coriander stalks and curry paste in a food processor until combined, then spoon into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium heat with a lug of oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the potatoes with some salt and pepper. Pour in enough water to come half way up the potatoes, bring to the boil then simmer with a lid on for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the heat up a bit for another 15-20 minutes until the potatoes start to get crispy and golden. Meanwhile make a flavoured oil called a temper. Peel the garlic and finely slice with the chilli, place in a small pan and fry with the cumin seeds and a good lug of oil and until golden, then take off the heat. When the potatoes are reading stir the spinach into the pan and cook for around 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Serve the sag aloo drizzled with the temper with the coriander leaves scattered on top.

Because I made this the evening before, I stirred the temper in rather than serving it on top. It was really nice!

sag alooThe food went down very well and I had lots of compliments. It also fed far more that the 6 of us, so we have been eating it most of the weekend. The starter was poppadums from Aldi with mango chutney and a simple raita made from yogurt mixed with chopped mint and grated cucumber. Because I was at work all day I didn’t have time to make a pudding, so the non frugal part of the meal was a lemon tart from Sainsbury’s with some ice cream.  I also bought two  bottles of wine but I didn’t really need to since everybody brought a bottle as well.

beehiveIt was a success and a very good way to feed a crowd cheaply. I think the quantity I made would have fed 10 easily.

It was glorious here on Saturday so I spent the whole day in the garden. I could happily do that every day – maybe I should retrain as a gardener? Mind you, I hate the cold, so I would end up as a fair weather gardener and starve in the winter. I rescued my currant bushes from the bindweed (this is the bane of my life), I weeded my small wild flower garden ready to add sweet peas to the wigwam when they are ready, repotted my geraniums and rescued an old bee hive Mr S had abandoned at the bottom of the garden to display them on. I was shattered!

I still managed to get up for the boot sale but that is another story and my next blog post…

Would you eat food beyond its best before date? Check out Approved Food

I haven’t ordered much from Approved Food lately. There is too much temptation in the form of chocolate, crisps and cakes and I have been watching my weight! I had a quick look yesterday and they have some great prices though so I will do an order over the weekend. I focus on store cupboard staples and timesavers such as casserole mixes and curry sauces for when I’m in a rush, pasta and rice, condiments, tinned fruit and veg, etc. Today they have on offer Heinz ketchup for 89p instead of £1.75, Hellman’s mayonnaise for 59p instead of £1.69, 20 small Lindt chocolate bunnies for £2 and 2 500g bags of fusilli for £1. So cheap!! They will all go in my basket, even the Lindt bunnies, since it would be rude not to. They even have toilet rolls and gifts on there, although why they would have a best before date is beyond me!

approved foodI have always liked the principle behind Approved Food; they sell short dated food near or beyond their best before dates but still perfectly good to eat. If they didn’t sell these products  they might end up in the bin, which in my view is a criminal waste of perfectly good food. If you click through and sign up for an account using my link I get a small commission in the way of credits to spend with the company, so if you are interested please use it and I will be very appreciative! The delivery cost for a box is £5.99 so I always get as much as possible – this still allows for massive savings on my grocery bill.

Approved Food Link

The weather has finally remembered it is spring!.It is gorgeous and sunny here. Shame I have to go to work as I would love to potter around my garden. There is still so much to do at this time of year.  I will have to make do with a walk at lunchtime.

I have friends for dinner tomorrow so I  have to do all the preparation tonight. It will be a busy night. I am making three different curries – my chicken and chickpea one here: http://www.shoestringcottage.com/?p=2960, a lentil dahl and saag aloo, so this shouldn’t break the bank. Lots of pulses and vegetables. I hope you are having some nice weather wherever you are in the world. Enjoy your day!

 

 

 

Saving £££s in my garden

  What an unexpectedly sunny weekend it has turned out to be here in Essex. Today it is due to rain all day but then it is a bank holiday Monday!

  
  We didn’t have anything much planned. I was  looking for a bit of down time as work is always so busy and I find I get tired a lot. As ever I was busy here instead, but at least some of that was in the garden. There is so much going on and I love being outside in the sun.

I potted on all of the tomatoes and cucumbers – and there are a lot of plants so that took a while. Mr S planted out the broad beans and mowed the lawns and we both did masses of weeding. There are still so many jobs to do! I love it and wish I had a bit more time to spend out there. 

 

Tidier, but it needs more flowers and colour!

 We both have garden vouchers so I think we will hit the garden centre to spend them today. All that weeding has shown gaps that need filling. We need some more flowers and colour. When I was in Home Bargains last month I picked up some shrubs for just a couple of pounds each, including a beautiful bright pink azalea. I wish I had bought more now so will try to swing by there too and see what they have. 

You don’t need to spend a lot of money in the garden. You can grow plants from seeds and cuttings for pennies, and exchange them with friends. You can use any old containers for your flowers and don’t need fancy pots from the garden centre at £30 a pop. I have an old pair of wellies in the shed that will be planted up with some cheap bedding plants from Aldi as soon as I get a spare minute or two. Yesterday some  yogurt and cream pots were used to pot on my young plants whilst others were cut into strips and reused as plant labels.

  We make our own compost too from all the teabags, egg shells, fruit and veg peelings from the kitchen plus lawn trimmings and old plant matter from outside. I let the bin men collect the weeds  in the kerbside compost collection as I don’t want any seed heads finding their way back in the soil. 

We save so much money from growing some of our own food and gardening in this way.

  Taking of saving money, remember the broken bench we retrieved from outside a neighbour’s house the other week? Mr S repaired it and it is ready for me to rub down and paint. I am thinking a pale green colour. I will search for something suitable and get cracking next weekend.

I hope you enjoying the bank holiday whatever you are doing.