Monthly Archives: February 2014

Reflections: Things Falling Apart

Mirror 1Well, I can’t believe I’m two months in to my Frugally Fabulous Year!  Time is marching swiftly forward and guess what?  I’m still somewhat withering around my sewing machine at the moment.  Those ace clothes are NOT going to sew themselves!  Luckily, for me, I have the wonderful Laura Strutt here – not personally but in book form, to show me the ropes and I’ve been looking forward to settling down and overcoming my fears for a very long time now!  I guess February just ran away with me…

What with the chaotic wonderment that was #MidsBlogMeet, our #CraftBlogClub challenge, Mr J’s Birthday, the arrival of Mortal Instruments from Lovefilm AND about 6 other writing and crafting WIPs – I have barely had time to sit down and think about my sewing machine, let alone fathom my fears.

The trouble is, whilst I’ve been busy with life this month, everything else is starting to fall apart; the buttons on my coat have nearly all fallen off, my oven gloves have seen much better days, my slippers are cracking on the soles and my wardrobe is starting to look somewhat lacklustre.  It’s time to face the music!

Wardrobe 2On the other hand….a good Tweeple Buddy asked me the other day about how I might track my savings through my Frugally Fabulous Year?  It got me thinking about how I could do this – without boring the pants off my readers with facts, figures and somewhat personal accounting!  It’s tough – the majority of our money comes from Mr J’s earnings and, whilst we are trying to live frugally, we are also paying off debt.  The good news?  My final payment from my previous job FINALLY arrived this month and has allowed me to pay off a debt I incurred whilst I ran Miss Berry’s.  It feels amazing to have that relief wash over me – I can only imagine what the end of my Frugally Fabulous Year will look like!  I spent just £8 on cosmetics this month – extremely frugal in comparison to an average of £20-30 when I was working full time.  But perhaps I need to start monitoring even more closely?    For now…here are my Frugal Tips for tracking your savings!

1. Budgeting

Mr J is not big on financial budgeting, but I see it as a necessity to ensure we know exactly what we have coming in and going out each month.  I don’t always profess to be as meticulous as I should be – but I’m definitely getting there.  In particular, setting yourself a food/entertainment/travel budget for the month is a great way to really monitor how you’re spending and also look at how/where you can save.

2. Change Your Ways?

Whilst we are on the subject of food budgeting, this is one of the areas I am really looking at saving.  For ease, I have often booked one to two online shopping deliveries a month, whilst stocking up on fresh produce at our local greengrocer’s.  Recently, I’ve turned my weekly shops into several smaller shops, where I can, whilst really looking at where I can make the best savings.  Ok, so carrying my shopping can be a bit of a drag, but I’m saving about £10 a month on delivery costs.  Plus, shopping with smaller, cheaper brands or local suppliers has also meant a saving of almost £12 a week (yup, I’m becoming THAT person) – which translates roughly to a saving of £624 over a year – that’s some festival tickets and a chunk of the ‘Swedish Dream’ right there!  I have already started to draw relationships between Money and Convenience, it seems if you are serious about saving money, convenience has to go out the window!

receipt reflections3. Don’t Be Loyal to Brands, They Aren’t Loyal To You

When I was pregnant, like most people, I stood in the middle of Boots baby aisle, completely befuddled by the sheer amount of branding, products and general colours being thrown at me.  I have always prided myself on keeping things to a good, but necessary minimum – I’m not easily sold on baby gadgets especially – the trick is to sort through what you need and what you don’t!  It’s easy to get bombarded with constant 3 for 2 offers and discounts – the new parent market especially is a hive of activity for offer emails, special events and what not.  But in making your purchases, no matter how ‘loyal’ you think a brand is, remember that all they really want is your money (I see Johnson and Johnson, I think ‘Johnson and Formaldehyde’)!  Clever advertising can go a long way to make you feel you are missing something important by not making that purchase, but the truth is you can most probably go without it – or at least go without the last minute eye-catching add-ons and special offers.

4. Don’t Turn Your Advantage Points Into Disadvantage Points

All that aside, if you shop religiously at one place, get all your cosmetics from Boots or drink all your coffees in one coffee house, then make sure their loyalty cards ARE working for you.  These days, most big names are offering a loyalty card at practically every paying counter you head to.  Prior to having D, I picked up loyalty cards for Starbucks, Holland and Barrett and Waterstones – to name a few.  Well almost a year on these cards remain redundant in my wallet, they’re not worth the space they take up and they certainly don’t encourage me to want to spend any more with these companies.  Now I’m probably not the best to judge, being that the whole point of my Frugally Fabulous Year is to NOT shop on the High Street, but it seems to me that if you do shop with one shop, you might as well make sure you get the very best of their offers and points benefits.  Why not have a look through the loyalty cards you have stashed in your wallet?  Have you got cards that are encouraging you to spend more than you should in places you know you shouldn’t?  Do you have loyalty cards that could work much harder for you?  This will take all of five minutes, but could save you a little bit of cash money AND make sure you are shopping in the RIGHT places for you!

5. Make Yourself a Joy Jar!

Once you’ve done the hard work – if you find you save a little bit – be it £1 or £10, why not physically take that money out and pop it in a ‘Joy Jar’? joy jar Here’s one I made earlier!  I think there is a lot to be said, psychologically, for being able to see, in the flesh, just how much money you are saving.  Once the jar is full, you can pop it in a savings account, sort yourself out with a much-longed for treat or p**s it up the wall, it really is up to you!  I intend to start using my jar to physically chart how much money I save each month – why not do the same?

Well, it is with a fondness that I bid my Frugal February adieu…it’s been wonderful, full of love, lust and knitting needle clicking – I shall see you on the other side in March, which wil undoubtedly be one of the most special months for me this year!

Stay Peachy x

 

 

Frugally Mummy

DaisyandmeOK, so I don’t often take part in some of the tagging posts that I see going around my Blogging Tweeples, but when I was tagged TWICE in the recent Mummy Tag; once by the lovely Blogger Mumma and again by Caroline, I thought I ought to put my best mummy-feet forward!  So here’s a little bit about my life as Frugally Mumma Peachy!  I do hope you enjoy!

1. Are you a stay at home mum or a working mum?

So I’m lucky enough to say I’m a bit of both!  I left my old job to concentrate on both being a rock ‘n’ roll mama and also fulfilling my own dreams of becoming an author/freelance writer.  It’s tough juggling everything as D is so much bigger and aware now, so most of my work is done either in the evenings or on a rare day when Mr J takes her for the day.  I’m busy beavering away on a piece for submission at the moment and I’ve started making some more exciting plans for expansion too – watch this space!

2. Would you have it any other way?

Nope, definitely not.  I think each family works very differently, I can’t stand this ongoing battle between working mums and stay-at-home mums. My previous industry was not geared up for ‘family-friendly’ working hours, neither did I enjoy it – I saw having D as a chance to re-focus my own direction and also enjoy being a Mum – I’m very grateful for the way things have worked, so far.
3. Do you co-sleep?

No.  There is the odd occasion during particularly tough teething episodes or rough nights, when D has stayed in with us for a couple of hours, but we are very lucky in that her sleep pattern developed fairly quickly and she’s always been very comfortable in her own nursery – she moved in there at 4 months.

4. What is your one must have item for your baby?

That’s a very difficult question!  Aside from the necessities I would always recommend a bouncing chair or Jumperoo when they are a little older.  We were bought a bouncing chair, which we used all the time when D was tiny.  cotThe Jumperoo was borrowed and practically saved our lives when D got a little more active!  They can be quite expensive though, so in true Frugally Peachy fashion, I’d recommend a good hunt on Gumtree or eBay, as the payout for a brand new jumperoo can’t be justified for the amount of time they are using them!
5. How many kids do you plan on having?

Ummmmm I’m not sure.  I’m in no rush to have any more, mostly because I want to enjoy the first few years of D – babies grow and change at such a rate, it’s important to me that I don’t miss out on all the little things.  I am an only child myself, so I think a brother or sister for D would be lovely eventually, but I’m in no way ready for any more at the moment!

6. Date night? How many nights per month?

Up until recently, 0 nights per month!  Mr J works full time and also works as a musician on several projects.  With that in mind plus the work I’m doing, time together is scarce!  I think spending time together is very important, it’s just hard to come by in our household!

7. Your child’s favourite show?

We don’t watch a lot of TV, but D really seems to love Pajanimals!  She really reacts to them and it’s become part of the wind-down night time routine.  I, however, find them irritating!
8. Name one thing you bought before having your baby that you’ve never used?

You’ll be pretty unsurprised to hear that we took the advice of lots of other parents and didn’t go mad with gadgets and gizmos before D arrived!  The only thing I notably spent a lot of money on was her 6-9 month wardrobe – far too many clothes and not enough hours in the day to wear them!

9. Your child’s favourite food?

I’m lucky that D will eat pretty much anything and has a HUGE appetite!  She loves pasta, fish pie and casserole.  As a snack she loves raisins too – but never, EVER try to open the packet for her – she’s Little Miss Independent!

10. How many cars does your family have?

Technically one, but it’s a run-around for Mr J’s gigging – I can’t drive so I tend to walk anywhere I need to go!

11. Weight gain before, during and after pregnancy and now.

I gained a few pounds through my pregnancy and I’ve worked hard to try and lose the weight since D was born.  I do, however, love food and I try not to get hung up on it.  All I will say is that I have a vintage 1960s black leather pencil skirt – an eBay bargain, hanging up outside my wardrobe to keep me motivated!
12. Dream holiday with your kids?

Have I mentioned my dream family road trip to Sweden yet?? No??? Oh…pull up a chair!
13. Dream holiday without your kids?

I’d love to go to Las Vegas – purely for the surreal-ness of it all…and the Elvis-mania

14. How has your life changed since having your baby?

In just about every way possible!  It’s the strangest thing having a little person completely dependent on you, but the best at the same time.  My lifestyle has done a complete 360 degree turn in the last two years – I’m excited to see where it goes in the future!
15. Finish the sentence.. ‘It melts my heart to see..’

That’s difficult to narrow down – right now I love watching D start to interact with other babies and children, as her awareness grows she’s really becoming her own person and that’s lovely to watch.

16. Where do you shop for your kids?

Well, now I’m completing my Frugally Fabulous Year challenge – I tend to find some excellent bits on eBay and also our local charity shops.  H&M are probably my favourite shop for children – such great quality and good prices!

IMG_20130510_13210417. Favourite make up and skincare products?

At the moment, I’m using a some fab Weleda products, given out at our #midsblogmeet but I think my must-have make-up items are probably Benefit High Beam, Mac’s Cockney Red Lipstick and Bourjois concealer and powder.

18. Huggies or Pampers?

Neither – I find own brand products work exceptionally well!

19. Have you always wanted kids?

Yes, I didn’t really start feeling maternal until I hit about 22 – they have always been in my plan but I very much enjoyed the career girl/party girl years first!

20. Best part about being a mum?

What’s not to love about having a lovely little human to hang around with – Daisy is an absolute joy and I love being her Mum!

Did you enjoy reading this?  Well…let me tell you, I’ve been lucky enough to be nominated in the MAD Blog Awards!  I’m super happy as it came as a real shock BUT I still need your nominations to make it to the final of each nominated category.  If you like reading Frugally Peachy – then you have until March 14th to nip over and cast your votes, should you think I’m worthy!

 

MAD Blog Awards

Stay Peachy x

The Great #MidsBlogMeet

Malt Cross Birds Eye

Well, this weekend just gone has been a bit of an amazing blur!  I’m currently sat with a cupcake and a cuppa, basking in the success of our FIRST EVER Midlands Blogger’s Meet (#MidsBlogMeet).  What a lovely time we had, meetiing lovely people we have only had ‘social media’ conversations with for however long, relaxing in one of the best venues Nottingham has to offer and generally having a great time!

What started off as a tweety query, became something that myself and co-host Kelly from To Become Mum organised and arranged for bloggers from in and around the Midlands area.  With a mixture of Lifestyle and Mum bloggers coming along to the event, we wanted to provide something informal, child-friendly where possible, with a few lovely surprises for our attendees.

After a huge amount of interest from fellow bloggers, we had 16 wonderful bloggers in attendance on the day, a great mixture of mummy bloggers, make-up and lifestyle bloggers.  We decided on Nottingham as a great central location for our bloggers, who were travelling from as far as Lincoln, Stoke and Sheffield.  Malt Cross BuffetAfter much deliberation (we are a little spoilt for quirky, brilliant cafe bars in the city), I decided to go with The Malt Cross, a central cafe bar steeped in historical architecture, with a friendly and relaxed vibe.  It has to be said that The Malt Cross really delivered what we were looking for – they put on a fabulous bespoke buffet for us, catered for the children who attended on the day and left us to our own devices as the bar was open for business around us.  We started out at around 11am (after some frantic cupcake boxing and goody bag-arranging by Kelly and myself) with a very friendly introduction – ‘hello’ stickers were provided (you can take Twitter out the girls, but you can’t take the girls out of Twitter) and we had a bit of a general mingling session before we did our first *PRIZE DRAW* at about 11.45am – and a huge congratulations to Cate from Me Add Three on winning the first prize from Mama Baby Bliss.

Our rather beautiful buffet was then served, giving us time to talk all things blogging a little more.  It’s always daunting walking into a room full of virtual strangers (or not, as the case may be), but we really felt everyone made a fantastic effort to mix and chat to people who were nothing more than a tiny avatar and what’s better for bonding than a selection of some of the best homemade food in The Midlands??!

Body Shop Close Up

The highlight of the afternoon, were the surprise guests we had arranged for our attendees; Sophie and Autumn from our local Body Shop, came to talk to the group about current and upcoming products; which made for quite an interesting chat.  Gone are the days of White Musk miniatures and Body Butters, we were able to try some of the fantastic creams and serums on offer and EVERYONE including the children, enjoyed trying the new Hair Chalks that give you an instant dipdye!  Not only that, The Body Shop gave us an exclusive discount offer – which meant the majority of our group marched off to our local to take advantage of the offer.

We were supported by some fantastic brands at our event, with more exciting prize giveaways and blog opportunities from Poddle Pod and Tommy Tippee – congratulations to Lauren from Life of Miley, Ellie from The Mummy Diary and Kelly from Writings, Ramblings and Reviews for their wins on the day!  We had one final huge prize bundle; featuring some fab Pregnancy and Mummy prizes, gifts from Weleda, a Body Shop gift set, prizes donated from the lovely attendee Iris at Baked By Me amongst others.  The lucky winner of our huge prize bundle was Sarah from Seriously Shallow – who apparently ‘never won anything’ – here’s hoping she picked up a lottery ticket that night!

Our Lovely Prize Winners!

After a few more drinks and a few last words from everyone, we handed out some wonderful goody bags with some fab products donated by Weleda, Bake It Yourself by Neff, some amazing chocolate moulds from Iris plus some sweet goodies from Swizzels Matlow.  In typical baking-addict style, I whipped up some cupcakes for everyone too to take away with them – plus one to snaffle back to mine!

I can’t begin to thank everyone who came along to the meet, for showing their support for our event.  It was wonderful to meet some of the bloggers I regularly ‘talk to’, in the flesh and spend some time with like-minded folks.  Miss BerrysThe Malt Cross dudes were incredibly supportive of our day, the food was gorgeous and we were so lucky to have some fantastic brands backing our event.  The day was a fantastic success and we have already had interest in organising something else in the future.  It was such a great introduction to planning and organising a meet-up, though we would probably look at organising a ticketed event in the future – we won’t dwell on that!

Here are the names and blog addresses of our first #MidsBlogMeet  – if you’re looking for some new, diverse blogs to read then look no further!

NAME                                      BLOG                                                                                TWITTER HANDLE

Kelly O’Hanlon (Host) www.tobecomemum.blogspot.co.uk ToBecomeMum
Emma Berry (Host) www.frugallypeachy.co.uk LivePeachy
Samantha Schofield www.createitsamantha.blogspot.com CreateitSam
Sue Barsby http://thegeriatricmother.wordpress.com Basfordian
Laura Candlin www.unlovedbutton.blogspot.com UnlovedButton
Amanda Wright www.amandainateacup.blogspot.com amandainateacup
Sally www.rainydayfaces.com RainyDayFaces
Kelly Brett http://writingsramblingsandreviews.wordpress.com/ MoolBoots
Laura Strong http://chickywiggle.blogspot.co.uk/ chickywiggle
Cate Elder http://meaddthree.blogspot.co.uk/ meaddthree
Emma Tustian www.bubbablueandme.com  etusty
Iris Choo www.bakedbyme.net  Bakedbymeuk
Lauren   www.lifeofmiley.com lifeofmileyx
Ellie Aindow www.themummydiary.co.uk mummydiary
Sarah Athow-Frost www.seriouslyshallow.blogspot.co.uk soshallow
Bel Smith www.journeysaremydiary.com DontLetMeFade

So let me finish by saying how much I enjoyed mingling with the locals on Saturday and getting to know the people behind the blogs – I look forward to seeing you all again soon and keeping up with your blogs!  If you wrote a blog post on our meet – why not come and link up below?!

Stay Peachy x

 

The HOSTS

Come Join Us

The Frugal Kitchen: Easy Butternut and Leek Risotto

risotto finishedTesting and trying new recipes is one of my favourite things to do.  I love rustling up savoury and, of course, sweet treats for us to try and cooking healthily has taken on a new dimension with the babe to feed too.

I have been thinking of a ‘Frugal Kitchen Essentials’ Post, as I ‘think’ I’ve managed to really cut back on our food spending and cook delicious food on a budget.  I say ‘I think’, I am the only one who has judged this so far!

One thing I am forever keeping stocked, is butternut squash.  I love cooking and roasting the stuff, blending it up in soup form and, if you like your veg, it’s great for going a long long way in the kitchen.  It’s a great cupboard staple for the winter months, is very low in calories and very high in Anti-Oxidants, Vitamin A and Vitamin B-6.  For between £1-2, depending on where you food shop, a large Butternut Squash can be a great base for 2 or even 3 meals……such as this one.  Today I thought I’d share my recipe for an easy Butternut and Leek Risotto!

butternut heavenrisotto close upIngredients (to serve 4):

1/3 Large Butternut Squash – skin removed and diced

1 Leek – chopped finely

1 Onion – chopped finely

1 Pint Chicken or Vegetable Stock

About 100g Arborio Risotto Rice

50g grated cheese.

S&P to taste

Method:

In a steaming pan, place your diced butternut squash and leave to steam, with the lid on for about 20-25 mins.

In a frying pan, heat up a dash of oil and pop your onions in to soften, but not brown.  Meanwhile, boil some water and mix your stock, keep in a sauce pan over a low heat to keep the stock at a good temperature.

When the onions are softened, add your arborio rice to the pan and allow to fry for a minute or so.  Slowly, add your stock and keep stirring the rice until the liquid condenses.  Keep repeating this process, until the rice begins to absorb and soften.  Taste test – the rice should be soft but with a slight bite to it.

When the butternut has been steaming for about 20 minutes, add the chopped leeks and replace lid for a further 5 minutes.  When the vegetables are soft and cooked through, remove from the steaming pan and add to the rice mixture – add the final bit of stock, Herbs, Salt and Pepper to taste and the Grated Cheese and allow to cook for a few minutes until all combined.

Serve either on its own or with some indulgent warm bread for a cosy, evening supper!

This is a great evening meal and costs less than £3 for something nutritious, warming and great for adults and kids.  Steaming the butternut squash and leeks also help to keep more of the nutrients where they should be plus, leaving the seasoning until last, means you can put some aside for your little one!

daisy risottoSo there you have it, a simple meal from The Frugal Kitchen and one I rely on time and again.  Do you have any great Butternut recipes to share??

Stay Peachy x

#MidsBlogMeet is TOMORROW!

#midsblogmeet flyer

It’s TOMORROW!!! I can’t believe after months of planning and putting everything in place, we will be meeting some lovely people from the Blogosphere at The Malt Cross!  I’ve got a quite a few last minute bits to finish up today – but I can’t wait to meet everyone and I really hope you enjoy what Kelly and I have put together!

If you are local to the Midlands and would like to come along – you’re more than welcome!  Drop me an email at missemmaberry@gmail.com to reserve a place!

Have a wonderful Friday people and Stay Peachy x

#CraftBlogClub – Q&A Session with Rascal and Roses

craftblogclub badgeWell, with our current #CraftBlogClub upcycling challenge well under way – I Re-Love You – I felt we needed a little Q&A session about furniture restoration. I, for one, would LOVE to get more clued up on upholstery and furniture upcycling; I have about a million pieces of furniture that I want to re-love and I feel a little clueless about where to start!

Let’s face it – upcycling perfectly good pieces of furniture is a little scary for the novice. So I was so pleased when Verity from Rascal and Roses, offered to do a Q&A session on furniture restoration.

If you have a spare few moments, I would strongly suggest heading over to Verity’s blog and looking at some of her wonderful creations. I first came across Verity quite a few months back, when we were both contributing to the same online magazine. She’s one of the original #CraftBlogClub babes and I was delighted for her to share some of her expert advice, especially as I’m attempting a furniture upcycle for this month’s challenge. And it HAS to be amazing!

It seems as if the whole world is going crazy for Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. And why the heck not? Annie’s genius invention requires little to no prep on wood and can even produce lasting, great looking results on even modern, plastic trimmed furniture. It’s worth checking out a couple of tutorials on finishing with soft wax, but this paint looks pretty fail-safe for novice furniture ruiner restorer.  Annie Sloan paint comes in some absolutely gorgeous colours, and make perfect base colours for vintage-inspired creations! What are you waiting for?  Go marvel at Annie’s website right now!

#CraftBlogClub chat was full of fabulous ideas and Verity gave us some brilliant advice – a glue and staple gun are now on my crafty wishlist! We talked stencilling, upholstery and I would strongly recommend keeping up to date with Verity’s posts, as her work is spot-on and she knows her stuff!

I hope our Q&A session was helpful – each week we try to rotate areas of crafty interest and I thought this chat was particularly useful for our ‘I Re-Love You’ Challenge.  I guess all that remains is to see how I get on with transforming this…….

blanket box WIPStay Crafty! x

The Great British Budget – From The Heart, For The Wallet

Join the Great British Budget ChallengeWell, we are nearly a month into the Great British Budget challenge, nearly two into my Frugally Fabulous Year and I thought I’d reflect a little on how I’m doing and, more to the point, how I got here.

Everyone’s financial journey starts somewhere.  I grew up in a single-parent family, money wasn’t something we talked about in great detail but I knew how things were.  We didn’t have a car, we had a lovely little house and I never felt I wanted for anything.  My Mum was truly inspirational as someone who balanced part-time work with full-time Motherhood.  We had wonderful holidays, trips and, above all, a very happy time of it.  Our family has roots deep in memories and experiences, less so things.  I really feel this has shaped my view of the sort of Mum I want to be to my daughter.

In 2012, we were hit with the news that little Daisy was on her way.  We had no savings, we were just about to move into our own rented place and I was reluctantly heading back into full-time work, knowing full well that this was not a long term option, once the babe was here.  Like most people our age, Mr J and I carried a little debt.  Mine was the result of a failed and not-thought-out business model, a struggle to live a balanced life in London and almost ten years of being in over-worked and under-paid managerial positions.  That’s not a sob story, that’s how it was. newborn Daisy It struck me, as I knew I was growing a little, helpless human being inside me, that talk of savings and pensions were a thing of the past, something our parents had been encouraged to do, not our own generation of credit cards, student loans and ‘living for the moment’.  Pensions were not readily on offer in our jobs; our peers and circle of friends lived like we did, from day to day, with little thought to a financial future.  I didn’t take on either challenge because I was poor with money, it was more about learning to budget and contribute to a secure future, in whatever way I can.

Being pregnant completely changed my outlook on things.  If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll be aware how adamant I was about not returning to my former work.  I realised that it was time to wake up and put dreams into action, my life-long dreams of being a WAHM, an author, a freelance writer and an all-round creative home-bird!  With Daisy’s arrival, came the arrival of a fresh start.  And with that fresh start, came the need to clean up financially and start looking to the future.  This means clearing ALL our debts, seriously looking at pension plans and saving money for ourselves and our family.  I have dreams of saving for a family trip to Sweden, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that before (about a million times in less than two months)

As part of the Great British Budget, I signed up to use Money Hub; a great financial tool set up by the lovely people over at Your Wealth, to help you track your money, savings, expenditure and budgeting, by inputting your annual income, assets etc.  The great thing about this tool, is that you can use it as much or as little as you like.  Premium members can link the tool to their accounts so it does the hard work for them, or you can simply sign up for an account and create a budget that works for you.

So far, since joining the Great British Budget, I’ve stuck to my monthly food budget, have even geeked-out and completed price-comparison shops to see just how much I’m saving by changing my food-shopping habits (more on this later – you lucky lot) and I’ll be ending my Frugal February just within budget.  Using Money Hub has, so far, helped me to see exactly what money I have and exactly where each penny is going – for someone who isn’t good with figures, it has helped me to look realistically at the bigger picture and see where I can improve our financial status each month.  Depressing as it sounds, teaching yourself the ‘spreadsheet’ side of frugal is a necessity when it comes to clearing debts and Money Hub has been a wonderful tool in helping me .  I look forward to seeing where it takes me over the next year!  And I hope you’ll continue to read about my journey!

me black and whiteStay Peachy x

DISCLAIMER: As a Great British Budget Panellist, I was offered the chance to try Money Hub for free, though the tool has both free and paid-for options.  All opinions are my own and I was not paid for this post.

Frugally Inspired: I Don’t Know How She Does It…

Off on a little town adventure

Off on a little town adventure

This week, I decided to make my first visit to town in nearly two months.  Out of necessity, nothing else.  I could no longer avoid paying some cheques into my bank account and, now that she is officially ‘cruising’, D needs some sort of shoes.  I say ‘cruising'; that girl is scaling playgroup halls and the entire length of our house faster than a hungry animal looking for lunch.

The weather aside, I hate shopping in town.  I hate feeling like a second-class citizen because I have to manoeuvre a pram and I hate dealing with small aisles, miniscule shop doorways and small-minded people.  A trip to town has to be planned, meticulously, lists made and shopping completed in the absolute smallest fraction of time possible.  So, for a frugally fabulous non-shopper, I feel I have quite the right attitude to a shopping trip to ensure success with my challenge!

Still, we picked up some lovely little pre-walkers for Daisy from Next – reasonable and not too sickeningly glitzy, then after a few errands we popped to Waterstones to give D her lunch and peruse the craft section in spectacular masochistic fashion.  When it comes to missing shopping – I don’t miss clothing, I barely remember the last time I spent time looking at cosmetics, but I’m a book-a-holic!daisy feet  Books are my addiction and I usually find it nigh-on impossible to leave without at least one shiny purchase!  I can’t even say I’m into the teccy Kindle stage of reading – and for someone who is looking into self-publishing this may well have to be a relationship that blossoms in the near future!  Still, out we walked, heads high (and soaked from the rain) with just one teeny tiny pop-up book for D, with some Christmas money she was given.  Go me!

The thing is, people often say ‘I don’t know how you do it’, when I tell them the premise of my year without shopping.  I’m not too sure how to answer; there are a thousand reasons I have become so resilient to the ‘wonders’ of shopping that, just 6 weeks in, town trips like the one I braved this week, seem so alien to me already.  Here’s how I *THINK* I’m handling it!

I Walk Everywhere – Except in the Direction of Town – Bus trips are infrequent and unnecessary where we live, so I tend to enjoy walking to most places – parks, groups, the sorting office – you name it, we walk it!  I grew up without a family car, so walking has always been inherent to my lifestyle.  Nottingham has a lot of beauty about it – I love exercising the right to walk for no reason at all sometimes, so destinations are not important, town is a million miles away from us, in my head, I don’t NEED to walk there, when we have parks, charity shop caverns and beauty spots right on our doorstep.

Plans, Plans, Plans – I’m never without plans in operation.  It is a strong belief, held by us crafty folk that we thrive in chaotic environments and, though I’d sometimes like my life to be a little more structured, I spend almost all my free time writing, crafting, reading and PLANNING!  Right now – I have about 6 books in my head, at least 10 craft projects and a huge mountain to overcome, in the form of mastering my sewing machine.  Not to mention a cruising 11 month old, who loves nothing more than snuggling with Mummy and reading.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, all these projects make me happier than shopping, so I devote 100% of my energy to it.

The Importance of My Mum Mafia – As D isn’t going to nursery, I think developing her sociability is really important, so playgroups, singing and swimming are something we frequent as much as we can.  I also know how important it is to hang with other mums and I am very lucky to have a small group of mums, my Mum Mafia, that I regularly hang out with.  We all take in turns to host tea and cake mornings, who all have similar likes, dislikes, fears, morbid fascinations to me and who I can be entertained by/entertain, without spending ANY MONEY- unless I’m whipping up a cake or need some emergency milk.  These ladies are invaluable to me, I love spending time with them putting the world to rights in the comfort of our own homes – time well spent with excellent company and not a Starbucks label in sight!

Charity Shopping with a Difference – I tend to limit my trips to our local row of charity shops – mainly because I’m on pretty much first name terms with them.  Since starting my challenge, inspired by some of the lovely crafty tweeps I interact with, I’ve stopped looking so much for ‘clothing’ and more for FABRIC – which has opened up a whole new world of projects and excitement for me!  I took an awesome trip with my friend on Saturday and got this amazing HAUL for under £16 – a velvet top that needs some serious sleeve-love, a Joan Holloway-esque graphic print dress that needs a bit of tapering AND a tartan smock that’s about 4 sizes too big BUT with some tapering, a new neckline and a contrast colour, looks to swift become my favourite dress of 2014!  Watch this space for more…

charity shop haul 1

Crave It?  Then Make It – Fancy a creamy hot chocolate or some cheeky chips?  Fancy trying your hand at a posh roast?  Good, then make it!  As an avid cooker/baker/ kitchen dweller, I love challenging myself in the kitchen and, though I don’t profess to be the best, I like to be adventurous with every day ingredients and make replacements for my favourite treats.  A more creative kitchen means you appreciate takeaways even less – because the truth is, you are more than capable of making something better.

Don’t Forget The Ordinary Moments – Not everyday has to be a spectacular display of creative living.  I’m my own worst enemy for this – I always have a to-do list as long as my arm and I’m not happy if it doesn’t all get done in 24 hours.  Living frugally does mean you learn to bask in the ordinary moments.  I take as much pleasure in half an hour reading my book on my new, comfy, wicker chair (It’s a WIP), or getting down and playing with D and her teaset, as I would shopping or any of the other stuff.  Your children grow every day and it’s a privilege to watch D growing into such a lovely, cheeky, funny little girl – those are the important moments, the ordinary pieces that make up the patchwork of your family life.

So there you have it, not rocket science I suppose, but a little glimpse into life in the frugal lane…

Stay Peachy x

Frugally Ever After: Knitted Intarsia Heart Square

knitting bag

Having always been an avid knitter, I wanted my Frugally Fabulous Year challenge to push my creativity and learn new skills in the knitting department as well as sewing!

I’ve become fairly accomplished at knitting, through teaching myself how to read patterns and frequenting a knitting club, many years ago, in Bath.  Last Christmas, I had great success selling these handknitted gnomes (I’m taking orders all year round for them this year too – please drop me an email if you’re interested) and this year, I wanted to try some new knitting styles and really challenge my abilities, to create new and interesting bits and pieces for the home.

One knitting method I have never tried is Intarsia, a simple form of working with blocks of colours in knitting.  I love the idea of creating motifs and wanted to give it a try.  I came up with the idea of trying a simple knit square with a heart motif – another possible idea for a Frugally Ever After gift, this Valentine.  I think the idea of making a patchwork ‘memory throw’, starting with this heart as a central point, that charts special occasions and moments in our family life is a really special idea and a perfect crafty way to say ‘I Love You and I Love Us’.

So…..here is my first square!  I cast on 44 stitches and knitted 44 rows on 4mm needles.  I roughly sketched a heart design on graph paper and basically increased my row of red stitches by one on each side, to get the shape of the heart. intarsia heart finished I had this lovely blue yarn, stashed away at the bottom of the pile and a tiny red double knitting ball that I’d never used.  The colours go so vividly together.  The heart is far from perfect – indicative of my own, I’m sure; but I was really proud of my first attempt, that I decided to leave it as it was, ready to be stitched up to whatever else I may make in the coming year!  I plan to work with new textures and pattern ideas using simply Fairisle and Cable Knit methods, alongside other quirky Intarsia designs and mood colours.  I’m lucky that Mr J really appreciates handmade gifts and loves adding to our handmade home with some of my Frugally Fabulous ideas!  This Valentine’s Day…why not get your needles out give a loved one a little piece of you!

I’ve learnt the hard way that preparation is everything when it comes to Intarsia and making mini yarn balls is probably the way forward.  You know me – renegade crafter by name AND nature.  I was more concerned with remembering to twist the yarn in place and work from the right end of the yarn – not to mention engrossed in catching up with some of my TV faves; so I made sure to cut out a few yarn guiders from an old cereal box, ready for my next square.

intarsia heart closeI’m working on another knitted WIP at the moment, ready for a very special unveiling in March!  Trying out Intarsia has given me so many ideas for this one, I can’t wait to share it with you all.  I also can’t wait to update you on the Memory Throw as I make progress with it throughout the year.  Fingers crossed, by Christmas, we will have a colourful throw of haphazard designs and quirky memories, to snuggle under!

Stay Peachy x

 

 

Frugally Ever After: Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Cupcake FinishedWhat’s life without a little sweet treat every now and then?  I might have been treating us all with a little too much sweetness of late…BUT here’s another lovely recipe and an idea for The Big V.  I’ve been trying to watch the cals this year and, to be honest, I’m missing baking something chronic!  So, with Mr J’s Birthday at the start of the month, I took this as perfect timing to try a new recipe – inspired by old-fashioned movie dates, teamed with a love of a good cupcake! I give you…Salted Caramel Cupcakes!

The sponge is a basic recipe I use for all my cupcakes and cakes.  It’s light, fluffy and easy to add to – not to mention the use of simple ingredients makes them relatively cheap as well.  For this recipe,  I’ve used tinned caramel and added my own rock salt for a really nice, contrasting tang; you can of course make your own caramel too, but tinned caramel is sold in most large supermarkets costing £1.59 for one tub.  These are a great twist on the old caramel popcorn taste – so I’ve tied them in with the idea of a stay-in movie date!  Fancy giving them a go??

Ingredients (to make 12)

For the Sponge:

280g Golden Caster Sugar

240g Self Raising Flour

80g Soft Salted Butter

1 tsp Natural Vanilla Extract

240g Semi Skimmed Milk

2 Large Eggs

Pinch of Salt (optional)

Approximate 100g Tinned Caramel

For the Frosting:

500g Icing Sugar

140g Soft Salted Butter

Approx 35-40g Tinned Caramel

25ml Semi Skimmed Milk

Pinch of Salt

(Remaining Tinned Caramel for drizzling)

Method

Preheat an oven to 160 C (approximately 150 C for a fan) and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases.

In a mixing bowl, using a food mixer, whisk the sugar, flour, pinch of salt and butter, until combined into a breadcrumb consistency.

Cupcakes CollageIn a separate bowl, mix the eggs, milk and vanilla extract and pour, slowly, into the dry mix.  Mix until combined and smooth.

Using a scoop or deep spoon, fill each cupcake case about 1 third full.  Then spoon about a teaspoon of the tinned caramel into each case, finishing by filling the cases with the rest of the cake mix.  The cases should be about 2/3 full.  Pop in the oven for 15-18 mins, remove when the cakes are golden brown and springy to touch.  Oh, and they pass the knife test! Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

To make the frosting, use the food mixer to beat the icing sugar and butter together until sandy-textured with no big lumps.  In a jug, mix the milk and tinned caramel and slowly add to the icing mixture, combining until the icing is creamy but can stand stiff in peaks.

Once the cakes have cooled, use a piping bag and medium nozzle to pipe the icing on each cake.  Using a smaller, writing nozzle, pour the remaining tinned caramel into a separate bag and drizzle lightly over each cake – don’t be too precious about this, perfection isn’t necessary!  Finish by sprinkling with a little salt (rock salt adds a wonderful crunch).

Serve in retro candystripe tubs with a choice of your all time favourite movies!!  Snuggle on the sofa and eat to your heart’s content!  This Frugal Valentines Day, it really is the little things!

Stay Peachy x