Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great minds think alike...


I've just been catching up on some other blogs and see that Jeff and Joyce have invited other people to become contributors to their Nitty Gritty blog. As mentioned below I have been planning on posting similar information here anyway so I've signed up. See here for further details if you're interested.


Finally. The end of the month. I'm not broke anymore. Well, at least not for at least a couple of days. Although it's been a short month it has felt like one of the longest ever and I am glad I've gotten paid again. I had a few unexpected expenses this month so I really want to add that money back into my savings. I like to have a bit of a cushion and although I don't ever seem to manage more than a few hundred (and not the six months salary that's recommended), I hate not having that little bit of money in the bank for emergencies.

I'm ditching all the unused chemical cleaners still left in my house this month. I've been trying to use them up but it could take years (I used to be a big exponent of the buy loads when they're on special offer style of shopping). So, instead I am going to bring what's left down to the recycle depot where they also accept hazardous substances (paint and car batteries are about the only things I usually see there). So, this month I'll have a little bit more of a spend on some more eco-friendly products. I already have ecover and Lilly's toilet cleaner, ecover washing up liquid and generally use e-cloths and very hot water with a few drops of tea tree oil for cleaning the kitchen and the floors. I'll buy some kind of eco-friendly spray cleaner as there is a new girl moving into the house and I don't know her feelings about all things green so it seems easier to have something resembling a "conventional" cleaner around for her to use. I'm also going to stock up on things like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for future use myself.

Otherwise I have budgeted money to buy a new pair of trousers for work. Badly needed and I can't put it off any longer telling myself that I'll lose weight and fit into the smaller ones I have. That'll probably happen by the end of this summer but I need something to wear now before the one pair of trousers I have suitable for work at the moment fall apart. I have a €75 voucher for Clery's department store which one of my bosses gave to my for Christmas. I'm going to check there for trousers first but if they don't have anything suitable I'm going to head for their kitchen department and see if I can spot something useful (and fun) for myself. In which case I'll head to Marks and Spencer or Evans for my trousers.

This month I'm going to do my best to start tracking the cost of things properly and not just my spending. So I hope to start posting the cost of various meals, similar to Jeff and Joyce from Low Mileage Food's Nitty Gritty. This weekend I was supposed to go away but can't as the friend I was to visit has a family illness to deal with. So I've invited some friends over for fondue instead. Haven't done any this winter at all and can't think of anything better to satisfy my cheese tooth for the next few months (I want to try and cut way back on cheese over the next while). Am off to ring the bakery now to see if they'll keep me some bread on Friday as it's usually best to use day-old bread for fondue.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Free stuff and new neighbours

Earlier this week I was passing by the house five doors down from me and noticed that beside the skip in their front garden (they moved in a couple of months ago and have been renovating the house) was a nice, clean looking pallet. On Thursday evening the pallet was on top of the now full skip. But the light in the house was also on. As the skip was in the front garden with the gate closed and as the pallet had been just beside, rather than on the skip I hadn't felt comfortable just helping myself earlier in the week. Now was my chance. I rang the bell and a very nice woman, about the same age I am I would say (and whose name I had forgotten before I even got home that evening!), came out. She was more than happy for me to take the pallet and delighted somebody would be using it rather than it just getting dumped. I now have a front for the composter I started making months ago and which has stayed just a heap between two pallets. However, coming into spring and knowing there'll be a lot of grass added to it over the coming months I really needed to get it finished. So this pallet came along at an ideal time. And, it fits perfectly lengthways across the front what I've already done - if I had tried to measure this on purpose I'm not sure I could have done it so well.

I just need to fashion some stakes to hold the front pallet in place and next week will get something to use as a "lid" and it'll be finished.

I'm very glad I stopped and introduced myself. Living in Dublin, people tend to keep themselves to themselves and, it seems to be even worse that I only rent - people assume you'll be moving on soon I think and so are less inclined to make an effort to get to know you. My immediate next door neighbours moved in a couple of months after I did and are very interested in the idea of getting to know their neighbours and made a big effort to introduce themselves when they moved in. I'm not sure we'll ever be very good friends but it's lovely to be able to chat over the garden fence occasionally. When my car was stolen the neighbours from a couple of houses down (both elderly couples) also came over to speak to me when they saw me outside and commiserate and assure me they'd never heard of anything like that happening on the road before. It is nice to at least know a few people well enough to pass the time of day when you meet on the road. I try to always say good morning/hello etc. if I bump into anyone coming out of their house - eventually maybe I'll get to know them too and if not, it's still nice to smile and say hello.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Updated links

I've added a few more blogs to my list which I've been reading recently. There is another blog I'd be interested to hear comments on from anyone whose so inclined. It's a very basic one I helped a friend set up with only a few entries but it's some pictures he has done. I know very little about art - I tend to view it as "I like" or "I don't like" so it's hard for me to have any meaningful conversation with this guy if he wants to get into technique etc. If anyone has anything to offer let me know and I'll pass the comments on - or post directly on his blog and he'll see for himself. I like some of these and others just do nothing for me. It's here

Knitting projects

Completed so far:

1 giant scarf for SisterNo.1's birthday in October - stocking stitch with 10 lines garter stitch at each end. Made using (must check what type of wool again)

1 long but ordinary width "mistake rib scarf" for my brother - doesn't look at all like the one in the shop did but I like it nonetheless. Made using 4 balls of black Debbie Bliss cashmerino chunky and 7mm needles.

And my latest, the scarf which was the project for the knitting class I went to. Isn't it pretty?

It's garter stitch but with a slip-stitch at the beginning of each line (except the one or two lines I forgot and just knit as normal!) which makes a nice finish I think. It also has a knitted rose - I will be making more of these I think and can see a pair of circular needles in my future. The rose is made up by knitting a row and then knitting each subsequent row while increasing every stitch. It makes a lovely ruffle and you wind it up and put a stitch in the bottom to hold in in place as a rose. Or, if you make a really big one you have a lovely ruffle scarf. For this scarf I used 3 balls of Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran and 5mm needles. The rose is Debbie Bliss cashmerino chunky with one row of the scarf yarn to finish it. I'm sending this scarf to a friend in Germany who had a birthday a couple of weeks ago (thought I'd finish it in time, should have known better) and who, coincidentially, also started knitting recently and is going to classes. In Germany though, or at least in the place she's learning, you're not allowed to knit until you can crochet. I'd like to learn to crochet too.

1 hat for SisterNo.4 (who lost it less than a week later)

1 hat for my brother.

3 more for my nieces and nephew in France although SisterNo.3 (their mum) told me to remember my nephew has a very big head and I overcompensated and made his way too big. SisNo.3 has adopted it though so no waste. I've since made another one for him but think I've overcompensated the other way and made it too small this time. I'll send it anyway and bring wool with me in April when I visit so I can make one while I'm there that will actually fit him.

1 hat for BroInLawNo.4 and am just about to start another one to replace the one his wife lost. They're off travelling the world though and heading to Sydney for a year next week so I don't think there's much hurry in getting these to them. Actually, I might just send this to France as well and my nephew can have his choice. Here are the two of them together:

These hats have all been made using Sirdar Denim which is 60% acrylic, 25% cotton and just 15% wool. I just bought the pattern without thinking about what I'd need to make them. I still have one ball of this left to make a replacement hat for SisNo4. However, if possible, in future I'm going to try and stick to more/mostly natural fibres.

With that in mind I bought a ball of Noro 100% wool in shades of green/blue/brown. However when I was knitting it I hated the feel of it and found it very scratchy. I also found it very uneven as parts are very thick and some parts very thin, almost threadlike. I didn't like the way it looked really. I ended up just knitting a big square in garter stitch and not really knowing what to do. I decided to make a handbag and that it would be nice felted and bought some round wooden handles and another ball of wool. This is what I ended up with (before and after sewing it up pictures):

I have learned since that what I did should technically be called fulling, not felting but at any rate I think I need to try running it through another machine wash as it's not quite felt-like yet. After that I'll sew the handles on. This is for another friend's birthday present.

After all that, my brother insists that I should knit something for myself and I'm considering trying a jumper. SisNo.4 bought me a book in the States for my birthday called Hot Knits. There's one really interesting looking jumper I think I'll try - it's a kind of vertical rib pattern and is knit in one by starting at one sleeve. And it's a big, sloppy, comfy looking kind of jumper. I don't really do fitted styles. I don't fully understand the pattern but I'm going to bring it to the wool shop soon and ask for their advice. It's knit using Rowan Big Wool which is about €6 a ball and it needs about 14 balls so I'll need to save up for this one. I'm going to check out wool shops when I'm in France and see if it's any cheaper over there. And then I need to give some serious thought to the yarn I buy and where it's coming from, how it's made etc. to try and make good choices in future.

P.S. First time adding photos to blog so hopefully it has worked and won't go on to dozens of pages!!!

Friday, February 16, 2007


Thanks to a link from somewhere (I'll be very good and update things like this soon I promise) I found the Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim. Had to wait for January payday but carried the seed catalogue around with me for about two weeks beforehand trying to decide what to buy without completely breaking the bank (which is, as always, very fragile). Great excitement this morning as I went to the post office to pick up a parcel and realised it was from the Organic Centre. One packet of seeds was quite big and wouldn't fit through my letterbox so I had to go and pick it up. I was so curious about what it was that I opened it in the sorting office, realised what it was, let a little squeak and a very Bill-and-Ted-like "Excellent!" out of me. Oh well, at least I made a postal worker smile at seven o'clock this morning!

I have received the following but won't be starting seedlings yet. I need to give my new housemate time to move in (first weekend of March) before breaking the news to her that for the first month or so she's living with me, the kitchen will have a lot of seed trays and pots around it.

Phacelia tanacetifolia - this is a green manure which I'll plant straight out into the two beds I'm trying to create to grow salads in. They were cardboarded and had topsoil and some compost added around October and I hope to have this growing and dug in in plenty of time to plant out seedlings towards the beginning of summer. It's described as "a feast for bees. The bright blue flowers have an amazing sweet fragrance. Green manure plant, weed suppressor. Annual. Suitable as cut flowers." Sounds even better than I thought and I really hope it lives up to expectations.

Pea - Ambassador - "excellent semi leafless variety for easy picking. Largely self supporting, tasty and tolerant of bad weather. Resistance to mildew and fusarium".

Tomato - Tumbler - "Bush tomato which is the most popular for hanging baskets and containers. Up to 2 kg of small tasty fruits per plant".

Tomato - yellow brandywine (I ordered just brandywine but got this substituted) - "yellow version of this famous tomato regarded by many as the best flavoured. For use in the greenhosue or outdoors. Very tasty fruits and high yielding crops from vigourous plants."

Tomato - St. Pierre (who could choose just one type of anything?) - "traditional and tasty large French heirloom variety. For use outside or under glass".

Herb - borage - "beautiful blue flowered bee plant with edible flowers. Young leaves can also be used chopped in salads. Harvest leaves any time, flowers when fully open."

Perpetual spinach - "high quality tasty leaf beet spinach which can provide valuable greens throughout the winter. Does not readily run to seed."

Lettuce - baby leaf mix - "excellent mix of specially developed varieties for baby leaf production".

Courgette - Nero di Milano - "dark green lightly mottled fruits up to 20cm in length with fine taste. Originates from Italy."

Courgette - Yellow Straightneck - "early maturing yellow courgette widely grown around the world. Bush habit and yellow, slightly knobbly fruits which are easy to see for picking."

Scallion - Guardsman - "very strong growing spring onion especially suitable for autumn crops, but useful all year. Erect stiff leaves and well blanched for a lovely mild flavour."

Am looking forward to recording my progress with this lot as the year progresses.

Back again

Well, nearly two months after my last post I thought I'd better start again or I may never get back to it. It has been a tough two months due to a mixture of things not least of which was having to live with a housemate from hell. Thankfully she is moving out at the end of the month. I am trying not to let this experience sour me on living where I am at the moment (nor affect my relationship with the couple who own the house) but it has a bit. I'm just trying to be patient now and wait a couple of months to see if I am able to settle in again after she's gone. As a result of the various goings-on my landlady asked me to move a good bit of stuff from the common areas which rankled more than a bit. I had already cleared a good bit of space but the landlady hasn't been in the house for a while and although her husband has most of the space I cleared wasn't visible i.e. in cupboards and drawers. I arranged with a friend to stow some boxes in her attic and moved more books off the bookcase downstairs and up to my room. Added to the atmosphere in the house over the last few months, this moving of stuff has left me feeling quite unsettled and a bit like a stranger in my own home but hopefully the next person to move in will be a bit more reasonable and I'll start to feel at home again. I'm trying not to bear a grudge against my landlady and her hubby as I feel they are just overreacting a bit to a fairly unfounded complaint. It's not so much that I object to having to move my things (although I do a bit) - it's the fact that I have lived there for over a year and a half and feel if they had a problem with the way I keep the place, they should have mentioned it before. However, I'm going to try not to mention the topic again as I don't want to keep dwelling on it. If I'm not settled in a few months, I'll move. There are precious few advantages to renting but at least if you get stuck somewhere you don't like, it's easy enough to move (finding somewhere nice isn't that easy but it's possible!).
I'm hoping to post a lot over the next while to get up to date with various projects I have managed to get through or start over the last few weeks. As the days brighten (I left work on time at 5.30 on Wednesday and it wasn't dark!) I hope that'll help me get back to a more positive place too.
I've spent a lot of time online over the last couple of months but have been mainly reading blogs and discussion boards with a bit of posting on those. I have to say that reading about ordinary, (relatively) sane people in this mad, mad world has really helped to keep me going so thanks to everyone. I'll be updating my links shortly too as there are some more blogs I've found which I am enjoying too.