Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Years Eve Dress

Looking back on my sewing from this year I see I haven't been as productive as I have previously. I did make a good start at the beginning of the year with fabric I had bought for my birthday but I didn't keep it up throughout the year.

One of the reasons for this being that I had decided I would not buy fabric out of habit, that I would try to recycle fabric and also that I had enough clothes.  I did make a couple of items that took a lot of time then got zero wear.  The black blouse I made here did not look great on, I did not like the short style or the fabric I chose but sometimes this just happens!

 I have noticed some gaps in my wardrobe mainly being tops to go with jeans that I wear a lot, I will be making more of these in the new year and I nearly started one today but the fabric I had was a large piece so needed to be a dress really.

I have made many of the same style of dress because I like to get use out of what I make.  There is a reason we buy or make much of the same stuff and that is usually because we know what suits us. Sometimes going for something just for a change means it sits unworn in our wardrobe.

Now although I made this today it is not actually for New Year to wear as we wont be going out. We don't usually go out as it's not something we do anyway but it will get worn during the day and can be layered.

I used an existing dress to get an idea of size, measured shoulder to elbow for the sleeve length, tried on as I sewed etc.

I always find it is so much quicker without a pattern, even with the trying on.  The skirt is a wide rectangle with seams at each side which I pleat into the bodice by pinning first.

When I have stitched the shoulder and side seams of the bodice I always try on and pin where the darts will go.

I have got lots of bits of fabric that are not quite big enough to make clothes and also quite a lot of my husbands shirts which are no longer fit for wear but have some good usable fabric on them so I may be attempting  more patchwork in future.  I have done a little on cushion covers but I have seen some amazing designs so I might try something new rather than just making it up as I go.
 I hope you all have a good new year.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Frugal Five this Week

I haven't done this for a while so I thought I should get back into the habit as it keeps me on track. It also gives you opportunities throughout the week to look for ways to save which is always a good idea for your pocket and the planet.

First off is card making, I really need to do more in advance so that birthdays and so on stop creeping up on me so I am on that this week and here are a couple I made for friends birthdays last week.

Next is food bargains,  we really have been better this year at not wasting so much food and I have to say I no longer have a load to throw out of the fridge when we have been shopping.  I think this is mainly due to always checking before we go out and making extra for the freezer.  This past week I have had two meals from the freezer that were a result of freezing the left over portion.  This comes in useful as I am often eating differently to the rest of the family ( due to the GF) so cooking just for me can be a pain.
We always check out the reduced section and this week we have got asparagus for 28p.

Citrus drink for 15p, we don't often buy pop but the children like it occasionally. We usually stick to dilute.
We bought a couple of bottles of this and it is really nice, not too sweet, from Asda.

I also got a 2.5kg bag of potatoes for 10p, a pineapple for 10p and three peppers for 49p.  All of these items were perfectly fine so it really is worth checking the reduced goods.

My next saving this week is  exercising, now for the past couple of years I have a swim card.  This did give me a good deal on savings while I was using it, I used to go two to three times a week and the yearly fee cost me less than if I went once a week.  However I let my membership lapse earlier this year as I was no longer enjoying going.
The timings when swim club wasn't on were awkward, there were a few times the showers were not working, when it was open to public it was getting very busy and you couldn't swim properly without getting stressed argh! The list goes on so I stopped.
I do think it's important to exercise so in addition to walking my dogs I do pilates from home using online videos and more recently this fabulous workout I found at  sweatybetty it is great you alternate intense exercise with a cardio and is well worth a look.  There is loads you can find for free, I'm not saying I will not use the pool ever again I'm just not going to tie in to a membership or make it a weekly must do.

Frugal  saving number four is my 2016 Diary which is the same as last year only with new inserts which can be found and printed here I used this last year and as you only use a bit of your diary most of the time what is the point in paying loads for a new one.  I find it is the notebook pages that get most use so just get one of your notebooks and add some diary inserts to the front or back section.
I tend to stick mine in along with a motivational picture, then add a book mark of a paperclip for the month we are on.

Finally my last item is my library books, I have had some great ones this year not all of which have been listed.  Irma Voth was a recent favourite, I am currently reading  How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think . I did not hit my target of a book a week but then some of them were much bigger and heavier reading than others.  I have also bought a few which I now think were unnecessary although not expensive but as I really can get most stuff from the library it is sometimes just impatience. This is something I will keep a check on in the new year, I do like to own favourites, but rarely read them again so maybe I need to start and photograph them along with a few notes and just keep this in a file? 
So there they are, my minor savings. Has anyone else still managed to have some frugal successes during the Christmas week?

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Gluten Free Christmas Cake

I know this post is a bit overdue but then I was a bit overdue making this! Never mind you can eat cake any time you certainly don't need a special day. I got a recipe for a Christmas cake from this blog Frugal feeding and then had to modify it a bit to make it gluten free, less sweet and just a bit different but other than that it formed my base.
I am really pleased with it and it is a definite step up from the Baileys cake I made a couple of weeks ago, so yes you guessed it,  I used baileys again but this time the Aldi version.

Here is the cake...
It filled the tin and had a lovely smell as it baked.

It held its shape well when sliced.

So after refusing treats at peoples houses this last few weeks I am very pleased with this!

Most important it tastes great, I really appreciate now when things come out well after all the disasters I've had with the GF flour.

So here is the recipe and like I said I got the original recipe from Frugal feeding but altered it to meet my needs.  Thanks to Nick for the original recipe. (Nick put sherry and orange juice in his)

Gluten Free Christmas Cake 

500g of mixed fruit
200ml Baileys (or Aldi Irish cream)
200g Bertoli spread
100g brown sugar
1tbsp Golden Syrup
3 free range eggs
200g GF plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2tsp mixed spice
100g ground almonds
100ml soya milk ( or your own preferred)


Heat oven to 150c, place mixed fruit, Baileys, Bertoli, milk, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Heat gently and stir until spread is melted and allow ingredients to combine a little, remove from the heat. Beat the eggs in a jug, add almonds and spice to pan and stir, mix in the eggs then sift in the flour and baking powder and give it a quick stir through so all is combined but don't over do it. Pour into your lined tin (mine was a 2lb loaf) and cook for 1h 50 minutes.

Now I bought myself a GF fruit cake from Asda a couple of weeks ago, it cost me £2.50 and was a pitiful size, probably a fifth of the size of this one.  So I need to give myself a kick the next time I feel like wasting money like that!

So like I said, I know this is a bit late in the day for your Christmas celebrations but if you have been missing out on the treats and feel like giving it a go it is really easy, tasty and  good value.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Gluten Free Almond Slice with Chia Seeds

 I love almond slice and this is something I have missed since being unable to eat regular cake.  My mum always used to buy the little Mr Kipling ones and although they do not fill much of a gap I did love those little cakes.
This morning as I was up early again with the puppy (he still does not understand weekends!) I thought I would have a go at my own version of it.
I didn't want it to be too sweet as it was going to have jam on it, that would be sugar enough.  I also wanted to look at alternatives to using xantham gum, I'm not a fan of that stuff, I know it will be in the shop bought gluten free items we buy but I would rather avoid it.

Now I read that you can use chia seeds if you soak them in water first, I have these in the cupboard and they are so good for you.  If you don't have any you may need to substitute an extra egg white but I would recommend getting the chia seeds, they are expensive but you only need a small amount.
The recipe was an experiment as most of my food is but I like the end result, it is also quite guilt free due to the goodies inside.  If you were to used fresh fruit like strawberries or peaches on top instead of jam it wouldn't be naughty at all!
Now I had to taste this slice (for quality control of course) at 9.00 this morning! Oh so nice, people just do not get how exciting cake is unless they usually have to go without.

Gluten Free Almond Slice with Chia Seeds

3oz self raising Gluten Free Flour
3oz ground almonds
1oz sugar & 1tsp golden syrup
4oz  Bertolli spread (or any olive spread)
11/2 tbsp chia seeds soaked in 2 tbsp of cold water
2 tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence
100ml soya milk
flaked almonds for top
strawberry jam

Cream the sugars and the spread in a bowl, then beat in the eggs (add a tiny amount of flour as you do this) set aside the flaked almonds for the top then sift in all the dry ingredients, next add the milk, chia seeds and vanilla essence then fold in gently. Do not over work it. Finally pour into a lined dish or tray, it should be runny, cook on 200 for 20 minutes. 
My dish was 20cm by 25cm the only reason I used that one is I only a have a few and I use the same ones for many dishes. If you use a smaller dish then your slice will be deeper but I think an Almond Slice is supposed to be a bit flatter.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Recycled Christmas

We ventured out today despite the rubbish weather and went to Wentworth Garden Centre we didn't really need anything it's just not that far and I do love to go and look at all the Christmas decorations.  They were gorgeous and as I was looking at the silver and white selection my husband said 'oh are you finally thinking about changing the colour scheme on the tree?' Well no I'm not and I  really don't see why I would, I mean how fed up can you get with something that is only up for a couple of weeks a year?  Also if I was I certainly wouldn't be buying them on the run up to Christmas.

My current decorations have been used for  the last eight years maybe more. I remember buying them from Matalan after Christmas in the sale and they were ridiculously cheap, if not I wouldn't have bought them as I was quite happy with the red and gold I had before.
So the ones I have now are gold, orange and purple they are biggest at the bottom and gradually get smaller. I love them and complete with gold tinsel they cost about £8.00 for the lot and fill a 7 ft tree!

The ones we were looking at in the garden centre today were gorgeous but they were between £2- £4 per bauble! Let me tell you the queues were long in the Christmas  shop so many people did not find this expensive but that is ok my focus is on how I manage my money. 
  Another decoration that I love that comes out again and again is this little Christmas village that lights up, it used to go on a coffee table but  it sits in front of the fire now and it is very cosy to look at.
I think it looks better in real life, the flash on the camera spoils the effect.

I have a star on my tree that my 16 year old made in Y1 and a couple of baubles at the bottom that they painted when they were tiny. These things did not cost a lot but they are very special I don't think we need to be updating Christmas do you? It should be recycled every year.  
If I did ever need to start again with the decor I would hope that  I could make or purchase it all as frugally as possible.  Some of the best rooms I have seen online have been done with such style,  a lot of imagination and creativity but not cost.

I would recommend looking at the gorgeous Christmas decorations of  junkaholique in fact look at the whole blog, I also love her work shed.  She has lovely touches around her home that spring from recycled items, nature and handmade.  I think these are always the best sources and you get a unique feel. She has some snow scenes in jars which I may have to have a go at, I have some jars I have saved, I was thinking I might use oasis so I can preserve the greenery though, I will have to look around and see what I can find.

We don't have a lot of people to buy for as we all opted out years ago (the family members that is) we buy for the children and a couple of friends and that's it. A  lot less stressful, the wrapping I do use is usually recycled gift bags and we have a few Christmas boxes that we have used for the boys stuff for years now. We carefully fold them down and put them away for the following year. We have had the odd roll of paper but we try not to go over board, beautifully wrapping something for it to be thrown in the rubbish really bothers me. I would urge everyone to use gift bags if they can as people often keep and re-use these. 
There are plenty of ideas on eco wrapping out there and a few here on inhabitat 

Yesterday a quick look in the charity shop resulted in this CD (yes I still buy CD's )

£1 bargain! Some really good tracks on here.

Another Shift Dress

The dress I made today is from the free New Look pattern I got with Sew magazine last month. It is very similar to the scuba dress I made bu...