Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Little Something for the Weekend (Luxury weekend breakfast)

I love my weekends and I want to make them special!

During the week I tend to grab a quick cup of instant coffee before I head off for work and if the mid morning hunger pangs bite I might just succumb to a luke warm bacon sarnie from the school cafe.
So, with time permitting at the weekend, I like to make breakfast a much more luxurious affair. Maybe not on both mornings, but it's nice to indulge on at least one of the mornings.
An example of a weekend breakfast is:

A cafetiere of fresh coffee
A slice of home made bread freshly toasted and spread with butter 
Scrambled free range egg with smoked salmon

There are one or two things that I do which for me raise this breakfast into the truly luxurious category.

The bread - this has to be decent, preferably home made bread. None of that airy white fluffy stuff that passes for bread so often.

(I never use margarine - it has no place in my house)

Scrambled egg- the eggs must be free range. I also like my eggs scrambled the traditional way in a pan (with butter!) rather than microwaved, and rather than add milk I like to add just a touch of cream.

Okay, I know what you are thinking - "no way is that frugal!!!"


...I disagree.

My bread is homemade (see this post)

While I do insist on butter, I will buy the cheapest I can find.

From an animal welfare standpoint I just will not buy anything less than free range eggs.

Cream - I add this when I have some left from a recipe during the week. This is often single cream which is less than 50p for a small pot and I find you only need a dessertspoon full to enrich the egg.

Smoked salmon - this was some of a reduced pack of hot smoked salmon from Lidl, but failing the opportunity for reduced smoked salmon, ASDA do smoked salmon offcuts for 99p which will stretch for quite a few servings of scrambled egg.

The calorie count - ooh well that's a whole other game and hey it is only once a week!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Faith, Hope & Charity Christmas Swap

I just had to pop in and show you all the lovely goodies that Rebecca from Crivens Cottage sent me when we were partnered up in Lakota's  Christmas swap.

The most snuggly scarf in jewel bright seasonal colours, just right for keeping me snug and warm during my long commutes.

A fabulous Merry Christmas Garland 

Two of the most fantastic smelling bathbomb cupcakes each decorated with a sprig of holly - seriously I wish this blog had smellavision, they are divine!

Four beautifully crafted felt baubles now taking pride of place on my tree.

The most wonderful enameled brass bangle & a pair of brilliant dangly earrings set with black stones, both are so me!

Rebecca has obviously researched my blog well to put together a swap that is so suited to my tastes.

As is usual for me I totally forgot to take any piccies of what I sent to Rebecca until it was all wrapped and packed, by which time I wasn't about to unpack it all.

Luckily for me you can pop over to Rebecca's blog and see photographs of what I sent in her blog post.

A big thank you to Lakota for organising another fab swap and to Rebecca for being such a lovely swap partner.


Saturday, 8 December 2012

A Little Something for the Weekend (Bespoke Bookmark Tutorial)

Number two of my weekend posts into injecting a little frugal luxury into life.

Do you know someone who loves books?

I'm sure you do, so here's a quick cheap and nifty little gift that could be just the perfect stocking filler.

Best of all being handmade, this is a custom made gift that can be tailored to suit the recipient...

...and even better while the gift is bespoke, the cost certaintly isn't.

(I'm going to apologise for the poor quality of the photographs in advance, my camera recently died and I got my old camera out but forgot how to adjust the settings!)

I made this bookmark as a stocking filler for my eldest daughter, she who has a penchant for all things gothic.

To fit with her personality I chose a black ribbon with copper tone ribbon ends. I set off one end with a black beaded drop that was actually from an old earring. The other end I added an ornate key charm.

I'm sure that you can see how easy it would be to customise these to the personality and taste of the recipient. Indeed I also made one of these for a recent swap using a cream satin ribbon and adding cream/gold bead detail and a vintage dress charm. Unfortunately my camera died at the time so I was unable to take any pictures before sending it off.

You will need:
A pair of pliers
Two ribbon crimp ends
Two dangly bits of your choice
Two jump rings
Approx 34cm ribbon the same width as your crimp ends

(You can source all the bits and pieces that you will need on good old Ebay.)

Place one end of your ribbon into the open crimp end and then press closed using your pliers if necessary.

Repeat on the other end.

Open a jump ring and use to attach one of your dangly bits to one of the ribbon ends.

Repeat at the other end.

That's It!!!

Keeping the place in my favourite cookery book.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A Little Something for the Weekend (Frugal Artisan Bread)

The first in a series of weekend posts about injecting a little frugal luxury into everyday living.

Frugal Artisan Bread

Oooh I love nice bread.

A lovely organic artisan loaf, fresh from the oven, a luxury item I'm sure you'll agree.

Unfortunately it usually comes with a hefty luxury price tag as well, that just doesn't fit with the notion of frugality.

Similar loaves are priced at £2.50 and upwards!

Luxury - Yes.
Frugal - No.

Unless you make your own.

Now I know what you're thinking - "Uhhh No!! - too complicated!" or  "I don't have the time"

Well let me tell you - this will be one of the easiest, peasiest loaves of bread that you ever did make.
There's no kneading, you don't need a bread-maker and if anything it's probably easier than using a bread-maker.

It will take time (about 24hours), but it won't take YOUR time. (Well no more than 5 or 10 minutes of it.)

Take three cups of plain flour (I like organic, but no doubt cheaper with non organic - you pays your money and takes your choice.)

Put into a large bowl and add 2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of dried fast action yeast.

Give a little stir, then add 1 1/2 cups of water. Now to get the temperature of the water right I always use 1/2 boiling water to 1/2 cold water.

Give it a stir with a wooden spoon.

It will be a very soft loose dough - not at all like normal bread dough. Cover it with cling film and leave it at room temperature for at least 18 hours. Yes I did say 18 hours. I left mine for 24 hours.

Slowly your dough will rise and eventually double in size. after 18-24 hrs (it is very forgiving, timings do not need to be exact) prepare a board by sprinkling liberally with flour.

Remove the cling film - don't throw it away yet - and scoop the dough out onto your prepared board, shaping it into a cob shape as you do so. It helps to flour your hands liberally at this point the dough is very soft. Cover with the cling film.

Set your oven to the highest setting it will go and place within the oven a covered casserole dish. An enameled cast iron casserole is preferable, but any covered casserole dish should work. After 30 minutes take the casserole dish out of the oven and remove the lid. Remove the cling film from the bread dough, flour your hands and quickly pick up the lump of dough and dump it into the hot casserole.

Put the lid on and pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes. remove the lid and return to the oven for an extra 15 minutes.

Result - a beautiful organic artisan loaf with minimal effort.

My organic flout cost £1 and will make 3 loaves so 33p for the flour. 
1 hour's use of an electric oven approx 35p
Cost of yeast and salt approx 10p

So overall cost 78p.

Obviously cheaper if you decide to use non organic flour and if you also make use of the oven to either cook more than one loaf at a time or to cook something else with the bread.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Let's have a bit of frugal luxury!

Frugal AND luxury in the same phrase???

Well according to one online dictionary frugal is defined as:

Practicing or marked by economy, as in the expenditure of money or the use of material resources.

And luxury is defined as:

  Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.

Sooo... in my way of thinking it is quite possible to have something that is condusive to pleasure and comfort whilst still being economical in the use of resources.

I'm thinking... 

...snuggling on a squishy sofa under a cosy quilt on a cold winters day.
... climbing into bed between freshly laundered sheets.
...a lovely hot relaxing bath.

Oh there are so many things that can be defined as luxury without a huge wasteful expenditure of cash.

I'm all for frugal living, but let's not confuse frugal with cheap and, or miserley. 
Oh no! 
Frugal should be positive. 
Frugal should allow luxury.  
Frugal should be luxurious!

In fact , my opinion is that by living frugally and making sure that we make the best and most efficient use of our resources we enable ourselves to live more luxurious lives, not less.

Another definition of luxury that I found online described it as:

Something expensive or hard to obtain.


Luxury does not have to be either expensive or hard to obtain.

I'm all for injecting little nuggets of luxury into my life wherever possible, it's what makes life's journey pleasurable.  So I thought I'd take the opportunity that blogging provides to do a little series of posts about my little frugal luxuries.

The things I do and create that inject a feeling of luxury or indulgence, but fit within the definition of economy of expenditure and resources.

So each weekend I will be posting "A Little Something for the Weekend"  beginning tomorrow with a post about this deliciously luxurious...

...artisan bread.

See you then. 


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

All aboard for The Polar Express!!!

 On Sunday evening my daughter, granddaughter and myself were booked on The Polar Express!!!! 

We live only yards away from Frosterley Station on The Weardale Railway line, and this year they are running The Polar Express.

The train ride is inspired by the book by Chris Van Allsburg and of course the film, it has previously only been available in America.  

The ride begins at Stanhope Station only 2 miles from my house, where we picked up our tickets. 
We wore our Jim Jams of course!

Once we were on our way the ticket collector punched the tickets...

...singing chefs' entertained and delivered hot chocolate and cookies.

There was a great deal of jollity and fun as we wound our way through the night to the North Pole, where we picked up the big man himself!!!

Santa gave each child their own special bell.

Flic declared "I can hear it! I believe!!"

We had a magical time. Flic's face was a picture, so full of wonder!

Yes it was a bit expensive, and to critical adult eyes there were one or two things that could have been improved on but the reaction of my granddaughter and the obvious awe and amazement that she experienced throughout the whole trip made it priceless.

Linda xxx

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Bustle Skirt at Whitby Goth Weekend

Eleanore my eldest daughter invited me to go to Whitby for the day during the recent Goth weekend.

Initially I was sceptical. I worried I'd look like mutton dressed as lamb, but she persuaded me that there were people of all ages who loved dressing up for the Goth weekends, and she assured me I'd love the stalls and the shopping.


off we went. 

I didn't regret it, she was right. There were people of all ages in the most wonderful costumes.

I did love the wares on sale too and bought myself a Deco style clock ...


wait for it...

a Top Hat!!!

Well I had to didn't I???  Eleanore and her friend both had on the most splendid top hats.

 Eleanore in her hat...

...and her friend Rachel in hers.

Don't the girls look amazing?
 Eleanore (the one in the blue) made the skirt that she wore. The picture really doesn't do it justice, it had three layers of gorgeous bustle at the back all trimmed with black lace, she looked amazing, as did her lovely friend.

Eleanore's boyfriend also accompanied us and Dave was dragged along as designated driver, but neither of them could be persuaded to dress for the occasion. They did both enjoy perusing the custom car show however.

You can make out Dave's reflection in this car as he takes the photograph.

And there's Stu, Eleanore's boyfriend in the background wearing the band hoodie and camo trousers.

They ended up in the pub, where we joined them after our little shopping expedition for a pint or three of real ale.

I really enjoyed the day out, so much so we are all planning on going again in April and I'm already planning my outfit.

Linda xxx

Monday, 5 November 2012

Halloween swap

The lovely Blueberry Heart organised a Haunting Halloween Swap and partnered me with a brilliant swap partner Crafty Helen.

Helen sent me a fabulous parcel of Halloween goodies.

There were pumpkin goodies galore:

  • Lanterns both paper and glass
  • Beautifully made pumpkin bunting
  • A very cute knitted pumpkin pincushion
  • A wooden pumpkin decorated happy halloween sign.
  • Pumpkin tablecloth
  • Pumpkin spice yankee tart.

If that wasn't enough:
  • A selection of halloween ribbons
  • Beaded heart
  • Cupcake toppers
  • Halloween cupcake stand
  • Gel window decoration.
 It was such a fab parcel and cheered me up no end, so big thank yous to both Helen and Blueberry Heart.

I was so busy I forgot to take any photographs of what I sent to Helen, but she has posted about the swap here.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Blog o'clock!

Ooh long past time for a blog post!

Life's been so busy and tiring, I have spent what seems like every waking minute either working or thinking about work, and quite a lot of sleeping time dreaming about it too.

In September I took on a one term supply teaching assignment at a Secondary School entailing a 60 mile a day round commute.

Now I don't know if it's me getting older, the commute (beautiful but over desolate moorland roads), or the stressful nature of the job (imminent OFSTED - that actually happened this week) but I have never felt so utterley shattered by a job in my life. Maybe it's the combination of all three.

What it has done is made me take stock of what I want at this stage in my life. Up till now I have still been looking for another permanent full time teaching job, maybe another head of department role. 

No more.

These words "At the time I earnt more money than anyone else I knew but hated every minute of my existence and was a nightmare to be around. The bravest and best thing I ever did was to admit enough was enough, clear my desk, resign and reclaim my life." in this post by Vix really struck a chord and her follow up post where she said "Every morning I wake up I still thank whoever's up there for giving me the guts to escape that life and just be me." even more so.

I have made my decision that this will be the last full time, long term supply I will take on, come Christmas I will be free and will only accept short term or daily work. We have never remortgaged so our monthly repayment is a pittance and we have no outstanding debts. The children are all grown and have fled the nest so now it's time for me and what I want to do, and I want to start living my life and escape the life of a wage slave.

When the dreaded OFSTED call came earlier this week (for those of you not in the field of education, the school is informed at lunch time the day before the OFSTED visit). Lunch was immediately cut short and I was at school until 10:40 that night and back again at 7am the next morning with a sleepless night in between. As it happened I was observed by the lead inspector and received glowing feedback which prompted the head of department to ask if I would reconsider applying for the job on a permanent basis...

... no way!!!!

I have made my decision - I want my life back. I am increasingly disenchanted with our education system, I find myself feeling that like in the Pink Floyd song I am expected to put bricks in the wall - that's not what I went into teaching to do. I hate this culture of league tables and "corporate" teaching - stop the (education) world, I want to get off!

Hopefully I will soon have time for the things I want to enjoy in life - the simple things ...

... more blogging,
lunch with old friends,
picking my granddaughter up from school and making tea together,
charity shopping,
spending time on my allotment...



Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Orkney Part 2 - (Peedie Bits)

Well almost autumn now, there is a definite nip in the air morning and evening and the nights are beginning to close in. I'm consoling myself with memories of my week in Orkney and thought I'd share a few of them with you.

In Kirkwall...

Britain’s most northerly Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral known as the 'Light in the North' was founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald, in honour of his uncle St Magnus.

The Earl's Palace

Built by Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney, one of the most tyrannical noblemen in Scottish history using forced labour to quarry and ship in the stone. 

The earlier Bishop's Palace.

 Both a little less than palatial now!

In Stromness where we stayed... boats in the harbour.

 At the Brough of Birsay an uninhabited tidal island off the north west coast of The Mainland of Orkney...

Flic exploring the remains of a Norse settlement.

Flic and her granddad exploring scarily high clifftops.

I hate heights and wouldn't go within 100 yards of the edge of the cliffs, just watching from a distance gave me the jitters!

And elsewhere in Orkney ...

One of the houses at Skara Brae.

Skara Brae is the best preserved group of prehistoric houses in Western Europe.

Uncovered by a storm in 1850, it is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and provides a remarkable picture of life around 5,000 years ago. 

The Ring of Brodgar.

The stone ring was built in a true circle, almost 104 metres wide. Although it is thought to have originally contained 60 megaliths, today, only 27 stones remain.

In Orkney "peedie" means "small" or "little" and I've only shown you a fraction of the places we visited, to be honest we visited far to many places to mention, hence the "peedie bits" in the title of this post. My memories of our holiday though will stay with me for a long time and are sure to cheer me up as the days grow shorter.

Linda xxx

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Orkney Odyssey - The Journey

Here I am to bore enthrall you with tales of our recent Orkney Adventure.

Once again we were lucky enough to be accompanied by middle daughter and our lovely granddaughter Felicity (Flic).

Although we live in the North of England the drive to Gills Bay for the ferry to Orkney is just over 400 miles and especially with a little one in tow, it is just not possible to drive the whole distance in one day and meet the ferry deadline.

So we set off early Friday morning, driving up to Jedburgh for a stop at the Tollhouse Cafe for breakfast. Then it was onwards and upwards for a lunchtime comfort break at Pitlochry before the final push to our overnight B & B at Netherton Farm just north of Inverness.

I can't recommend this B & B highly enough. The lady who owns the farm, Romay was so kind and helpful. We were greeted with a tour of her lovely home, then tea outside overlooking beautiful countryside. There were free range hens running about and beautiful old breed pigs for Flic to greet. We had an evening meal in the Culbokie Inn, a short stroll from the B & B, then back for some relaxation and reading before bed time.

The view at sunset from our bedroom window.

Next morning after a hearty breakfast, we set off for the last leg of the journey to the Ferry. We stopped a couple of times along the way including a very interesting visit to the Laidhay Croft Museum and the lovely little cafe next door for fantastic home made cake.

Onwards and upwards we climbed, right up to John O'Groats. I would like to be kind to John O'Groats, really I would, but truth to be told, if you had traveled there specifically, you might be left wondering if it was worth the effort. Despite new building work, most of the places are empty and there is a rather sad, dejected feeling about the whole place. We however were only there to pass a little time until we were due at the ferry terminal a few miles along the road.

Our ferry journey was on the Pentalina a purpose built catamaran. 

The MV Pentalina moored at St Margaret's Hope.

Whilst waiting for the ferry we were enthralled by a group of seals basking on nearby rocks.

Seals at Gill's Bay.

Then just before the ferry appeared there was a bit of a commotion with people looking out to sea and pointing. We trained the binoculars towards a black spot in the water and there was what looked like a shark! Once we were on the ferry itself one of the seasoned ferry workers told us that indeed it was a basking shark - Flic was so excited, not only had she seen real seals but also a shark!

After what did indeed seem like an epic journey we finally arrived in Orkney a mere 34 hours after leaving home!

To be continued...

Linda xxx

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Back From my Holidays & The All Things British Swap

Yup folks - I'm back!

I've been away sunning enjoying myself in Orkney, where a great time was had by all but...

I'm going to save the details for a later post. 

This is because before I went I took part in LaaLaa's "All Things British Swap".

My swap partner was Lisa from Kandipandi's Pad.

What a fabulous swap partner she was too, sending me a fantastic and very generous parcel of Britishness.

Before I even opened the parcel I was delighted by the quirky packing tape that Lisa had used.

Isn't it wonderful?

Inside the box were oodles of parcels all beautifully wrapped in the most fabulous Union Jack wrapping paper.

Love the wrapping paper.

It just so happened that my dear granddaughter Felicity was with me at the time, and now being five  and going into Year 1 after the holidays (as we are constantly reminded), she has been learning all about the Union Jack at school. The opening of the box was greeted with excited squeals of  "Wow it's the Union Jack nana, can I open them?" So of course she had to help.

Such concentration.

Oh what fabulous goodies were in those parcels!!!

And that's not all of it!

So many beautiful things, and many of them lovingly handmade, including a gorgeous beaded bracelet and earring set, a beautifully crafted Union Jack brooch and the most utterly fabulous - words cannot describe how lovely this is - sewing pouch. Lisa has photographed this so much better than I did, do pop over to her post about the swap and see her photographs of the pouch to really appreciate how wonderful it is.

There was also this "Made in England" tea towel.

And last but certainly not least was a fabulous Past Times Celtic Nightdress - this brought an absolute gasp of delight as I opened it. Drooling through Past Times catalogues this is something I have long coveted, it is gorgeous.

Photograph from Kandipandi's Pad

Felicity summed it up "Wow what a lot of presents you have got nana, you are very lucky."

And so I am - well and truly spoiled by my swap partner. Thank you Lisa.

Now what did I send Lisa?


I made the tea cosy, tea cup pincushion and Alice in Wonderland charm bracelet.

Alice in Wonderland charm bracelet.

Tea cup pin cushion.
Back soon with tales of Orkney.

Linda xxx
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