Lovely day at the country show

We had a fantastic day out at the Countess of Warwick’s Country Show at Little Easton in west Essex. What an absolute gem of a place and a really excellent traditional show set in the beautiful Essex countryside. There was a great live band, vintage cars and tractors, livestock, dog shows, more food than you could eat in a life time and a horticultural show – I am a sucker for these! I love the displays of veg, cakes and jams proudly displaying their winning rosettes!



It was just what we needed – a respite from the past week’s DIY efforts to get us into the next working week.

I have been offered another student from Sunday – a bit last minute and it means we will have to leave completing the downstairs loo, but the money will help pay for the new curtains so I couldn’t say no 😀. 

I will get on eBay and find some bargains!

Blood, sweat and tears

You wouldn’t believe the amount of work that went into making this:

…look like this:

Just a plain little cream room. It looks as if we have simply applied a bit of paint when in fact we had to sort the electrics, rip off and replace the skirting boards, pull off the old paper , paint the woodwork and ceiling and, the bit that took all the time, put up the thermal lining paper. The best part was painting the walls at the end! 

I need to get the curtains and thermal linings and some suitable curtain poles. Mr S will put these up and the shelves will go back on the walls. Then we can advertise for the lodger. 

This is what the cats did to the last lot of wallpaper. If this happens again I swear I will cry! We are going to put some plastic panels on the walls to protect them, and in the meantime have piled some paint pots against the corners they like to scratch.


We still haven’t finished the toilet. We thought we would and could have done it today but we really needed a day out before going back to work tomorrow. Will report back on that! 

I hope you had a lovely bank holiday if you are in England. Back to reality and work tomorrow 😀.

Slowly but surely on our DIY journey

We are making slow but steady progress decorating the lodger’s sitting room and downstairs loo. It has been exhausting in the heat this week. 

I finally started papering the walls yesterday whilst Mr S fitted the new skirting boards. The papering is taking ages and is so hard to do! I am using a thick thermal wall covering. It is great when you have a flat wall with nothing to cut around. However, I started with the loo – a tiny room with toilet, sink and lots of pipe work. What a nightmare! You cannot cut the paper to shape in situ as you usually would. This stuff bends, creases and breaks if you attempt that. You have to measure every obstacle and cut it too shape before you stick it to the wall! No mean feat. I would have ripped my hair out if it wasn’t covered in wallpaper paste!

Add to that the feeling of working in a small oven due to the heatwave and you get the picture!

Before…

…and after!

On the plus side it really covers all the lumps and bumps and the walls in there are really terrible. The improvement is remarkable. I still have a bit to finish today then I can get on with the big room, which should be a lot easier and Mr S will be able to help me today. 

Hopefully when the winter comes we will reap the rewards of our hard work with warmer rooms and no mould. 

We were so exhausted at the end of the day that Mr S treated us both to fish and chips with a huge mug of tea. I needed it. Back to the grind now. We will get there!

 Project lodger

Well, we would choose the hottest week of the year to decide on a bit of DIY! Exhausted already but we need to get the rooms done so that we can advertise for a lodger.

So far we have removed all of the old wallpaper, repaired the walls, painted the ceilings and pulled off the rubbish old skirting boards. This prep time takes so long.

A work in progress

We met a lady in B&Q as we were buying the insulating wallpaper. She said she had tried it and it worked well, but it was easily damaged once up and you only had to lean against it to leave a mark. I am worried about this now, but more about the cats scratching it up the moment it is in place! We are going to put protective Perspex near the back door as this is where they really like to scratch. However, there will be some time when it is drying and then when it is painted where there will be no protection. I will be very annoyed with them if they wreck it immediately!

We are still eating from the fridge, freezer and larder. I have bought cat food, bread, ham, cat food and fruit this week but very little else. I am quite pleased that after a day doing DIY we haven’t given in to a ready meal or takeaway. It would’ve been so easy to do it. 

Yesterday we had Quorn bolognese (not the best – I’m not a big fan of Quorn but it needed using up) and today we had Jamie’s Hit and Run Chicken Tray Bake, which has become a favourite (recipe here). Tomorrow will be omelettes and chips with a tomato salad  as they are now coming thick and fast in the greenhouse. Thursday will probably be chickpea curry.

I will eventually go shopping but as I spent a lot of money in B&Q today I will try to put it off for as long as I possibly can!

Locked out and lessons learned

Bit of a nightmare end to our day today. We all rushed out this morning inadvertently leaving my keys in the door on the inside, so when Mr S tried to open it to let us all back in he couldn’t get the keys in! 

Because we are quite security conscious the only open window was the bathroom and we are all too big to squeeze in there. Panic!!

Having said that we have now realised it is so easy to break into this house if you leave the windows locked just a tiny bit open. Mr S got up a ladder and used a screwdriver to push the handles up and finally climb in. What a relief.

Two lessons learned. Do not rush out of the door without the keys and shut the windows properly and lock them!

We actually had a nice afternoon visiting my parents for lunch, where we did a bit of blackberrying. I love foraging. We got another big potful to put in the freezer. Food for free is my favourite type 😊.

My parents’ cute garden

My mum also picked up a great steamer for me at the boot sale. This is a good way to cook your veg. Cheaper, as you only use one ring, and the vegetables retain more vitamins when steamed.

DD3 has had a good week. She got very decent A level results and a new job on the same day. She starts tomorrow and has a few months to decide whether this is actually a gap year before university or whether to become a full time career girl. This has to be her choice but I am hoping she will go to uni. We shall see. 

I hope your day wasn’t quite so interesting. Decorating starts tomorrow so I will do some before, during and after shots as we go. Wish us luck!

Making extra money with a lodger 

It’s been a busy week at work trying to get lots of jobs done as I am off all next week. Most of this will be spent decorating. There is a lot to do but we are hoping to finish it. We are making our small dining room into a sitting room so that we can start advertising for a lodger. If they have a bedroom and their own lounge they won’t impact quite so much on our space. We will obviously have to share the bathroom and kitchen.

I hope we will find someone nice! We generally enjoy having our short term language students but if we don’t we know they are only here for s few weeks. A lodger is a whole new ball game and I admit to feeling nervous. 

The bedroom is in quite good shape but the sitting room can be very cold in the winter so we will be using insulating wallpaper, putting foil behind the radiator, getting lots of rugs for the floor and buying thermal curtain linings. 

We will also need to decorate and insulate the downstairs loo but I don’t know if that will be achieved this week. We shall see!

Have you had a lodger? What are your tips?

Foraging and the fruits of our labours

I saw our students off this morning before work. They were perfectly pleasant but it’s always good to get the house back to ourselves and not to be tied. If we want egg on toast in front of the TV instead of a proper dinner we can! We don’t do it often and I tend to cook but it’s nice to have the option! The money is so handy and most of it has gone into the savings for our holiday in September. 

We seem to have quite a lot of food in the house at the moment so we will be eating from the stores until payday, although I will need to pop into Asda for fruit and cat food on my way back from work in the next couple of days. 

I know I am sad but I was so excited to find loads of fruit on the plum tree tonight – it doesn’t take much to make me happy 😜. It is three years old and last year it produced one plum which the birds ate. We have about 20 on there currently, not ripe yet. I hope they taste nice when they are ready. I am still picking blueberries as we have had a bumper crop this year.  They are delicious and so good for you. 

I plan to drag Mr S out foraging for blackberries this weekend. If I can fill the freezer  we will be able to eat pies and crumbles all winter, which we love with custard. Plus a friend has told me where there are lots of plums ready for scrumping. Maybe I won’t buy too much fruit from Asda!

Any good foraging where you are?

Another day, another walk

We thought we would have to take our students out somewhere today as they have had no organised activities this weekend. We wouldn’t have minded, but it turned out that they had arranged to meet their friends in the park in town so we dropped them there and drove out to a pretty little village called Fingringhoe, a few miles outside Colchester. We walked to the next village, Rowhedge, which lies on the banks of the River Colne, via some small country footpaths and had half a cider in the pub before walking back. It was lovely, such a nice part of North Essex.

We enjoy Sunday afternoon walks, but it may not have appealed quite so much to two teenage boys 😊. I’m sure they preferred football and flirting with the girls in the park!

It’s a lovely evening here in Essex. Now I am cooking roast pork with veg from the garden and Yorkshires. Let’s see what they make of those. They have been very easy to feed and have good appetites so I don’t anticipate any complaints…

Early start, busy day

Yesterday I blogged about starting a penny jar to create a nest egg. I have already been chucking my coppers into an old sweet jar for a while  but not in any structured way. I spent about an hour counting my penny jar this morning and had over £15 to kick off my penny savings plan. A good start! I have bagged it up but won’t take it to the bank just yet. It occurred to me that you couldn’t really wait until the end of 12 months to bank all your coins – if you had managed to save £670 you would need a wheelbarrow pulled by a donkey to get it to the bank!! I will transfer it to a savings account as I hit £30 or so I think.

I woke up at 5 this morning – why do I always have to do this at the weekend? I gave up trying to get back to sleep and got out of bed at 6. It was lovely actually, so peaceful in the garden. I gave everything a water, hung the washing out then went in to do a yoga session whilst everyone else was still snoozing. 

We walked to the park this afternoon to meet up with some of the other students and their host families. It was quite pleasant sitting in the sunshine chatting whilst the students played football.

I am feeling a bit shattered now though! We are having chicken with olives for tea. I found the recipe in a magazine  and will post it if it’s any good. It smells nice. After tea I can see myself collapsing on the bed with a glass of wine. I need an early night!

Find a penny, pick it up…

I have been thinking of other ways to put money aside and have started the penny challenge. You can find lots of information about this online. It seems everyone is at it!

I already have a penny jar. Every now and then, when the coppers are making my purse heavy, I chuck them in the jar. So the first thing I need to do is take them out and count them.

The aim is to add a penny on day one, two on day two, three the next day, increasing the amount you place in the jar each day by 1p. If you do this for a year you will save around £670. The most you will add to the pot on any single day will be £3.60. Some folk calculate the weekly amount and save weekly in case they don’t have the change. Others start with the £3.65 amount and work backwards. I am skint right now but have plans that will bring in a little more income so I am starting with a penny.

You can see a really good table showing exactly how this works plus a great explanation from Saving Mummy’s Pennies here.

It’s not entirely painless. At midpoint in the year  the total monthly amount will be £43.26 and as you reach your total you will be putting aside £90. However it does provide structure and gets you into the savings habit. 

It would be good to start this on Boxing Day to save for the following Christmas. I am starting today to add to my general savings rather than for a specific goal. I like to have a contingency fund.

Has anyone else attempted this? How did you get on?