Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Crafting for the Frugal

This year I finally got around to making a couple of things I usually have to buy each time Christmas comes around.

Each year I buy a Christmas tablecloth. Just a cheap disposable one that gets thrown away afterwards. It costs £2 each time though so I decided to make one from material that will get used every Christmas.


A tablecloth is among the easiest things to make ever. I bought 2 metres of material for £12 and then hemmed it with pins along all four sides. Then I quickly machine sewed around all the edges.


I'm really pleased with how it looks and I'm already planning to add a table runner and maybe napkins next year.

My second thing to make was a reusable wreath for our front door. We usually buy one for about £9 from the local florist but this year I decided to make one. I had a look around online and decided on a pom pom wreath in traditional Christmas colours.


I bought some red and green wool for £3 a ball plus some ridiculously fluffy snow-like white wool for £2 a ball. I gathered some scissors and cardboard for making up the pom poms.


 I'd bought this polystyrene wreath in Hobby Lobby when we were in America last August but I've seen them in craft shops over here too. Cover it with wool to hide the polystyrene look of it.


Then just make lots of pompoms, as many as you can before it becomes tedious! I got bored of it quite quickly but JD came to the rescue to help me out and we got most of them done together.


Add the pom poms to the wreath by tying them on with the wool you used to finish off each pom pom.




I'm pleased with how it looks and it was made for roughly £10 (a bit less because there's loads of wool left) so about the cost of a usual wreath that lasts one Christmas. Plus our wreath is unique.

I feel very frugal ^_^

Have a lovely Christmas everyone xx

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 38: Queen Alexandra's Sandwich

Alexandra was married to Edward VII making her the Queen of Great Britain. After moving here from Denmark she's said to have enjoyed this sandwich made up of her favourite foods.

Recipe here ---> Queen Alexandra's Sandwich

To start with you make up some mustard butter using butter, mustard and a dash of lemon juice. Spread it on some bread.


 Add tongue slices.


 Add the chicken. This is a poached chicken breast cut up in mayonnaise with salt, pepper and a bit of hot sauce.


 Next add cress.


 Cut off the crusts and cut into tiny dainty triangles.


 Here's a sandwich we made but left the crusts on for comparison.


This was a surprisingly great sandwich. We both a felt a little weird eating the tongue (especially since it's got the tongue shapes to remind you) but it tasted good. The mayo chicken was a lovely texture and moistened the sandwich. The mustard butter added a delicious flavour. As expected the cress added nothing to the sandwich except a slightly fancy overtone. The sandwich was actually way better with no crusts and I wished I'd de-crusted both sandwiches :D

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 4

Probably won't do a Saturday Sandwich next week since it's Christmas but we'll be back making sandwiches in the New Year. Happy Christmas everyone xx

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our Dream of Downsizing

JD and I would love a smaller house.

It's not something most people aspire to in fact I'd say it's the norm for most families to want a bigger house. They feel they've outgrown the house they're in (usually because of the amount of possessions the average family has so they run out of storage space) or they want to move up the property ladder. It's what we're all ingrained to want in this material world. A bigger house, a bigger car, more possessions etc etc. Having a big house shows people what a success your life has been. A bigger house usually means a bigger mortgage and having to work more though.

What we'd love to be able to do is to save up and build our own small house. It'd be great to have no rent or mortgage to pay. We'd get solar panels and a windmill to help with energy costs too. We'd reduce our possessions down to accommodate the downsizing and take pleasure in having less stuff.

A small house would be easier to maintain, there would be less housework and  it'd be easier to heat a smaller space in the winter. Which would make it better for the environment, less energy used to heat it but also less energy used in building it with less materials used etc.

In case you're wondering exactly how small of a house we want you can read this story about a couple who built their own small house: http://news.distractify.com/abby-s-marino/itty-bitty-house/?v=1



What we love about a house like this is that no space is wasted in it. There are cupboards everywhere and areas for different things are only just as big as you need. It's perfect. Lots of bigger houses have wasted space. It's a particular dislike of JD's that houses all have fireplaces/chimneys which aren't used but take up space from rooms the chimney goes through.

It's not something that would be practical for right now because of our kids. Maybe we'll wait and plan to have a home like this when the kids are older and moved out. Or maybe we'll have a slightly bigger house for a family version, still smaller than most family homes.

For now it's just a dream but one day we hope it becomes our reality.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 37: Confit Duck Sandwich

I didn't really want to post this sandwich up because it was a disaster but disasters happen and so they should be documented along with the rest :D

To start with today is Sunday, we forgot to take the duck out of the freezer for one thing and also neither of us checked the recipe which tells you to give the duck a salt rub and leave for 24 hours...oops!

So, we decided to have the sandwich on Sunday instead. We should have just abandoned it then and realised fate was against us.

Here's the recipe for you to try and may you have more luck with than us --> Confit Duck Sandwich

Ingredients: Duck legs, duck fat, bread rolls, salt, thyme, garlic and watercress


 JD made and applied the salt rub. Then we left it covered in the fridge overnight.


 We melted the duck fat in a pan and poured it over the duck legs. The salt rub is removed first. It goes in the oven at ...oh actually I just checked this and this is why it went wrong. We put it in at 225C but that was the Faranheit temperature. It should've been in at 110C which makes more sense since you cook it for 3 hours. Crap!

Anyway, not surprisingly our duck burned and the meat was all crispy and shrivelled up instead of soft and tender like it was meant to be.


 We only had enough meat for one sandwich so we added watercress and gave it a try.


 It was terrible. The meat was too crunchy to eat and it was unbearably salty too. We're not going to rate this sandwich since it'd be unfair to. We didn't taste the sandwich as it was meant to be. We'll do it again at some point instead.

Coming up next week: Queen Alexandra's Sandwich

Monday, December 8, 2014

Nudity and The Human Condition

Recently, a woman at Claridge's, a luxury hotel in London, was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby. If you're in England and have any media exposure you've probably heard about it, if you haven't here's a link. There are some absolutely uninteresting debates going on about that (in the sense that I can't believe we haven't moved past it as a society), but it got me thinking about something else when someone on the radio was quoted as saying "It's one of the most natural things there is." I agree with that, certainly. Being naked is also one of the most natural things there is. Simply having exposed breasts, nevermind feeding a baby with them, is perfectly natural. You might think I'm going to say something like "So just because something is natural doesn't mean you should do it in public," but in fact, I'm going to say completely the opposite of that.

 A body is something that everybody has. Whether you're rich or poor, black or white, in the southern hemisphere or northern, you've got a body. Everybody has the right to be proud of their body. Until we're a few years old, we get to enjoy that right. After that though, we're forced to cover up their bodies. Most children do not take kindly to that at first, as I'm sure most parents know. Children want to continue being naked, they want to enjoy their natural right to pride in their body.

The world we live in says your body is not good. You have to cover it up. Hide it away. The hidden message to all children when we introduce them to our civilized world and clothe them is that their bodies are dirty, possibly dangerous, and absolutely bad; this explains why so many adults have those ideas - they've had that hidden message given to them over a lifetime. The fact that the message is hidden is what makes it particularly effective. Every days, billions of people clothe themselves even when there's no legitimate need to protect them from the elements. As far as they know, there is no message, it's just what people do.

 Yet, if you look clearly and closely, the message is obvious. Your body is not fit to be seen. The only bodies most people see are their own, those on TV, in movies, and magazines. We all tend to be overly critical of ourselves, and the bodies we see in media are, of course, fake. It doesn't take anything more than that for physical self-esteem to plummet. We feel that way about our bodies, and we raise our children to feel that way simply by clothing them as we clothe ourselves. We have not enjoyed our natural right to our bodies, we have given it up in the name of civilization.

Those who say that breastfeeding is natural so it should be allowed are absolutely right, but they don't know just how far their argument goes if carried to its logical conclusion. Nearly any argument in favor of breastfeeding will also include such things as public nudity, yet the same people campaigning in favor of breastfeeding would not dream of campaigning for the right to bare all. They have made the connection between breastfeeding and our very nature, but have not yet made that connection between our bodies and our nature.

I suppose it's hard for me to reach a conclusion with this, simply because it's complicated and I'm also going against a lot of messages that society has built into me, which is a difficult thing to do. I'll just finish by saying that I believe enjoying our bodies and being proud of them is a big part of our humanity, and giving that up is giving up a lot. Maybe it's something to think about. What do you think?

- JD

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 36: Ploughman's Sandwich

I don't want to sound like the Hairy Bikers (especially since my Dad says I look like one of them) but Ooh I love a Ploughman's. It used to always be my pub food of choice whenever I got the chance to have one. I haven't had one for years though. A Ploughman's Lunch usually consists of bread, ham, cheese, pickle, apple and if you're lucky a bit of pork pie too.

Now to experience it all in sandwich form! :)

Ingredients: bread, ham, cheese, apple, sandwich pickle, mayo, spring onions and lettuce.


 Aw yeah, the best bit. Branston pickle on one slice of bread and mayo on the other.


 Layer up the sandwich with ham and cheese slices then add a layer of finely sliced apple.


 Next some chopped spring onions.


 Finish off with lettuce.


Serve with some pickled onions.

The best thing about this sandwich was JD's face when he bit into a pickled onion. He's had them before but only the sweeter silverskin ones and these were really strong. The sandwich was good and had lots of my favourite sandwich components in it. The Branston pickle was the strongest taste and had a nice chunky texture too. The apple didn't add much and I felt actual onion instead of spring onions would've been better.  It was a nice sandwich though and we both enjoyed it.

Ratings: JD - 2, Emma - 3

Coming up next Saturday - Confit Duck Sandwich

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Cost of Christmas


I just clicked on a news article that claimed the average spend on presents per child this Christmas will be about £312. That led to me reading a forum thread on NetMums where they discussed it. Lots of people said they spent less that £312 and plenty admitted they spent that or more each Christmas.

I read the comments for about half an hour and as expected with most internet discussions...it turned hostile. Parents who spent less judged the ones that spent more and vice versa. It seemed every parent thought that what they spent was the right amount.

And it is, under the right circumstances. Apparently 47% of parents feel pressured to spend more than they can afford. Often leading to credit card/loan debt that has to be paid off for several months after Christmas. As parents the urge is strong to spoil your children and to give them a 'perfect' Christmas whether you can afford to or not. I've occasionally worried we don't spend enough money on our kids at Christmas but who's to say how much is enough. Do you really need to 'spoil' your kids with presents to create happiness.

I have a general feeling that Christmas is too commercial. It's all about presents with adverts urging you to show someone you love them with diamonds, perfume, Ipads etc. If you have teenagers it's more pressure. We're made to feel that teenagers need the latest mobile, laptop or games console to keep up with their friends.

We've always spent the same on presents for Christmas whether we have more or less in the bank than usual. £50 per person for me, JD, Leigh and Erin plus £10-15 per other person we buy for. I feel that by most people's standards we don't spend very much. But with that money we manage to buy 6-7 things for each of the kids and something nice for everyone else. I sometimes make the odd present to keep the cost down and buy in the sales where possible.

I feel the thoughtfulness of the gift is what matters, not the expense of it. Everyone in our family gets presents off everyone else at Christmas time too so over-spending seems unnecessary.

We could afford to spend more but I feel I don't want to. Once you set the bar higher with kids you have to keep the level high or risk disappointment. I'd worry that spending a lot of money on them at Christmas would set them up for a life feeling like they deserve to have a lot of money spent on them. A feeling of entitlement. I want my kids to feel grateful for what they get instead of feeling ungrateful and expecting more.

That's just my opinion though and I imagine some parents will read this and just think we're stingy. Whatever anyone spends at Christmas-time is their business and I don't feel judgemental about it. I just wish everyone only spent what they could afford so there didn't have to be debt from buying too much.

Anyway, I love buying presents for Christmas and because I buy quite early I'm often impatient to give the present to see if the recipient likes it. I've already finished wrapping everything so now I have to wait for Christmas to come, argh!

Do you feel Christmas is a time to indulge children or are you more frugal like us? :D