The Countess of Warwick’s Country Show, Essex

A great day out at the Countess of Warwick’s Country ShowCountess of Warwick's 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!

Countess of Warwick's Country Show
Countess of Warwick's Country Show


Countess of Warwick's Country ShowIt was just what we needed – a respite from the past week’s DIY efforts to get us into the next working week. The band at Countess of Warwick’s Country Show played for hours, giving us an excuse to sit in the sunshine and drink Prosecco!

Countess of Warwick's Country ShowThe Countess of Warwick’s Country Show is an annual event held over the August bank holiday. If you get the opportunity to go, do! It is a fabulous day out for the whole family. We will be there next year!

Frugal DIY (Blood, sweat and tears)

We are getting there with our frugal DIY efforts. 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!

We have managed to do this on a tiny budget – we are great at frugal DIY!

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 – although you may have been doing your own frugal DIY. Back to reality and work tomorrow 😀.

Frugal DIY: Slowly but surely gets the job done

frugal DIY - thermal lining paperWe 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!

frugal DIY

Before…

frugal DIY

…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!

 Frugal DIY: Project lodger

Frugal DIY with thermal wallpaper

Well, we would choose the hottest week of the year to decide on a bit of frugal 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 need to make the room much warmer so have decided on thermal insulating wallpaper. We met a lady in B&Q as we were buying it. 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!

If the wallpaper works it will be a proper bit of frugal DIY. It’s not expensive to buy and will save money on our heating bills, hopefully.

In other news

We are still eating from the fridge, freezer and larder. I have bought cat food, bread, ham 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!

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 a 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?

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!

Everything in the garden…

…is a little overgrown and the weeds are doing great. Still, it still looks good I think and it’s a pleasure sitting out in the sun to eat now that the weather is so warm. I quite like a wild looking garden!

It kind of sums up my life: I live on the edge! On the edge of being tidy and on the edge of being bankrupt 😊😊. I would love more time and money to improve the garden and the house generally, but it ain’t happening right now and I am pretty happy with what I have.

Holding back those pesky weeds

I am lucky and better off than so many people. We own most of the house, I have the wonderful Mr Shoestring propping me up at all times, a secure job and three beautiful daughters.

The sun is shining and the flowers look great alongside those pesky  weeds!

Reducing plastic waste and saving money on toiletries

reducing plastic waste

Almond oil makes a good cleanser and moisturiser

A while ago I blogged about trying to reduce plastic waste.. I knew that this could save me money too, and it has! I focused on my toiletries and stopped buying handwash and shower gel, instead reverting to good old fashioned bars of soap.

Reducing plastic waste with shampoo bars

I began buying solid shampoo bars from Lush. These aren’t that cheap to buy at around £6.50 a bar, but they do last a long time. I am on my second bar since April and think it will last me another couple of months. I like them! I did try a solid conditioner bar but this was not a success. It didn’t feel like it was doing anything. They are a good way of reducing plastic waste as they come packaged just in paper.

I also tried almond oil purchased in a glass bottle but it made my hair rather lank. I am back to cheap conditioner in plastic bottles and still looking for a decent alternative that isn’t expensive. I know you can use vinegar to get a good shine but my hair is dry so I need a bit of moisture.

reducing plastic waste

The solid deodorant has so far lasted 3 months

Almond oil

The almond oil has proved a decent cleanser and I also use it as a body lotion. Mine cost £2.50 for 250ml from a shop in Hackney.

My solid deodorant, again from Lush, has been a huge success and looks as if it will last at least 6 months. It really works and I use it on my feet too so no more expensive aerosol sprays. Mine is based on bicarbonate of soda but they have others. I’m not sure they would work as well.

I have explored other items sold in glass or metal containers which look nice but are far too expensive for me. They tend to be hand made or luxury items. What a shame the mass producers don’t think about their environmental footprint when producing and packaging their goods.

Any more ideas?