Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Make your own April 29, 2007

Filed under: Sewing — lauravw @ 7:56 pm

Project one with the sewing machine went well: two cushion covers with zips, both of which look good. (I hope to sort out pictures soon but am busy at the moment and so a bit behind on things.)

I ordered a copy of Sew What! Skirts from Amazon and am really pleased with it. I wanted a book about how to make my own skirts, and this one had a lot of recommendations.  The cover makes it look a bit dated, but it’s a fairly recent book. While I haven’t made anything from it yet (it only arrived a few days ago!), from the pages of it that I have read, I’m feeling pretty confident about getting started on making an a-line skirt for myself. I like how the projects are not too strictly prescribed – it leaves a lot of room for your own imagination and knowledge of what would suit you – and the tone of the writing is very friendly, which is welcoming after last weekend, when I struggled with my Readers’ Digest sewing book (a great book, but full of words that are not yet in my vocabulary).


House work April 21, 2007

Filed under: Interiors — lauravw @ 9:21 pm

We’ve quietly been getting on with improvements to our house this year – when we moved in in December 2005, we had a lot to do and worked quickly to do it. We’re more tired now, and so things are moving more slowly but still surely. Andy is working on the garden, with help from a friend who is making our patio a nice place to be, and my attention is now fixed on the living room.

Currently it’s not the most exciting place to be: we inherited creamy/yellow walls (which are inoffensive enough), office-style vertical blinds (which depress me), and a sandy-coloured carpet. The carpet is mostly OK, except for one area where it is missing – and overall it’s a bit on the grubby side. There used to be an ugly stone platform that someone had build to house their TV – Andy promptly removed that when we moved in because we had a plasterer coming to do some work and so could get them to fix the walls afterward – but that still left a few square feet of no carpet. Our strategy to hide this hole in the carpet has been to obscure it with floor cushions, which has worked quite well but is no good for the long term.

There’s also a not very nice gas fire, a brown tiled hearth (again, not very nice), and a wooden fireplace/mantlepiece which is cheap and not so great. Replacing the fire and hearth is not on our agenda at the moment, but we’re getting the room decorated in a few weeks and so will get the wooden fireplace painted white to disguise the fact that the wood it’s made from is cheap.

I’m looking at getting a new carpet for the room at the moment. I had considered a wood-effect laminate floor, but we had a disaster with our kitchen floor last year and so that has soured us on laminate floors and made us a little cautious. I’ve seen some nice solid-coloured carpets that have some texture to them – a sort of waffle-like embossing. Originally I had been looking at rugs for the room, but it slowly dawned on me that I was doing that because the carpet is something that needs hiding – and the rugs I liked cost almost as much as a carpet, so I may as well do things properly.

I’ve also been looking at window coverings. The room looks out onto the street, so we want something that will prevent people looking in on us while we watch Dr Who. It’s also a bay window, which complicates things further. If money was no object, I would love to have interior window shutters – but our budget cannot stretch that far. I’m thinking I’ll get curtains and some sort of sheer fabric that I can hang as a blind. I’d not been having much luck finding a suitable fabric until I ventured into a cheap-looking curtain shop in Nottingham last week. They have a print on a cream background that comprises coloured circles in shades of greyish brown, navy blue, and dusky lilac. And it’s inexpensive! Hurrah!

One piece in my little puzzle was completed today: a new sofa is about to be ordered. We have a two-seater sofa and an armchair that belonged to my parents in tne 1980s. They are still OK, and a good colour for us, but they won’t last forever, and it’s not ideal having to sit on the floor as soon as we have more than one guests visit us. So, I’ve been looking for a second two-seater sofa, and have finally found one. I had looked in the usual places (Ikea, Ikea andIkea – and some other stores, honestly!) but not found the right thing at the right price – or at the right size, because it’s not a big room. But my mum suggested Sofa Workshop, a place I had studiously avoided because I knew I’d find something I liked but thought that all their stuff was way out of my budget. Happily, I was wrong – I’ve found a little sofa I like (Carrie, in mocha) that comes in a lovely range of fabrics, and is in my budget (it’s in the sale at the moment). The downside is that they make to order, so it will be a few months until it arrives, but I’m in no rush. The store assistant was very nice and patient, and I’d recommend having a look in there if you’re in the market for a sofa. I’m looking forward to having a new place to sit!


Sewing machines part 3

Filed under: Sewing — lauravw @ 8:48 pm

I finally made a decision about which sewing machine to buy: the Elna 2600. I found that the Janome machine and the Elna were very similar, but when I tested them out the Elna one seemed to run very smoothly.

I took custody of  the new machine on Thursday and found it relatively straightforward to get everything set up. I tested out many of the stitches on scraps of fabric (note to self: buy more thread!), and now am keen to get started on a real project. First up are two cushion covers for our guest bedroom – I plan to make these tomorrow, and will let you know how the machine performs.


More on money April 17, 2007

Filed under: money — lauravw @ 3:18 pm

After I posted about money management advice, I remembered a couple more important things that are essential to making your money go further.

One is complaining about things: if you’re not happy with a product or service, you should tell the relevant company about it. In England many people are too polite to make a fuss, but you don’t have to be impolite to get the standard of service you deserve and are paying for. This is particularly relevant if you travel by train – next time your train is last and you’re stuck sitting at the station waiting for it to arrive, go and ask for a copy of the train company’s complaint form. In most cases they are postage paid, so if you have a pen with you, you can get the form filled in and posted en route. You are entitled to compensation depending on the conditions of carriage of the train company responsible for that journey – last year I had a bad run of journeys with delays, football hooligans and other inconveniences, and I got compensation every time I wrote to complain.

The other thing to bear in mind is that if you don’t ask you don’t get. To put it another way: it’s always worth asking. I recently bought a dining table and was upset to see that soon afterward it was reduced by £60. At this point it had not yet been delivered, so I rang the shop in question and asked them if I could have it at the discounted price – and they said yes.

And if you’re in the UK and have paid bank charges for things like an overdrawn account in the last four years, make sure you’re claiming them back.


Easter nests April 8, 2007

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 8:27 pm

Easter nestsJust in case you have a lot of chocolate lurking around your place now, it’s not too late to make easter nests out of it.

You need (and these are rough quantities, just chuck in whatever you have):

  • 3-4 Mars bars (which I understand are called Milky Ways in the US, which is misleading since we have Milky Way bars in the UK but they are more like what Americans think of as a Three Musketeers bar. It’s a confusing planet.) Snickers would also work, as would a lot of other things.
  • About 70-90 grams of butter.
  • Mini eggs – at least one bag (you will eat the leftovers).
  • And then about 120-150 grams of cereal – Rice Crispies, Corn Flakes, or what have you.

In a pan, melt the butter with the chocolate bars (chop the bars up a bit to speed things up). When they are gooey, mix in the cereal – add as much cereal as you can while still making sure that every little bit gets covered in chocolate. Arrange the resulting mess in cup cake cases, top with some mini eggs and refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.

Once Easter’s over and done with, you can make these in a brownie pan and cover them with melted chocolate and sprinkles.


Feeling foolish April 1, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauravw @ 1:39 pm

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone! Hope you didn’t fall for anything too serious. I have been enjoying reading about the good old spaghetti harvest programme that the BBC broadcast in the fifties, and also this one where someone pretended they had found the mummified remains of a fairy somewhere in Derbyshire.

Updated to add: And also, look out for the zombies in Brisbane! (And I’d like to mention that if you are in Brisbane, it’s the spiders I’d be wary of.) This comment from the end of the story is great: “This should be made illegal immediately as it is incredibly irresponsible. Do they not realize that be desensitizing the population to zombie attacks, by crying ‘wolf’, they are making it easier for the human race to be wiped out the day real zombies march the streets?”