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Friday news and a finished blanket…

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It’s been a bit of a week here at Holly Cottage. I woke up on Monday with a terrible sore throat which has progressed into a rotten cold during the week..so am feeling more than a tad fed up and sorry for myself…

We have also lost two of our lovely chickens during the last week, the first (one of our younger chickens) to a respiratory infection, and despite a visit to the vets and antibiotics for all the hens we were unable to save her. Then another suddenly went downhill with different symptoms, but by the time we realised she was egg bound, we only had a few hours before she too faded away. So upsetting. We’ve kept chickens for over two years now and have never lost one, so to lose two in a week has been really sad.

Anyway, on to more cheerful things….! I am cheering myself up today with this wonderful bunch of daffodils…only £2 and part of that is donated to Marie Curie…aren’t they gorgeous?

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I’ve also finished the small ripple blanket that I started last week for my brother..

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It’s not huge, just big enough to snuggle under while watching TV.

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But I think it will do the job…

Hope you are all having a lovely Friday..it’s snowing here at the moment so I think all thoughts of venturing out are going to be put on hold and a day on the sofa doing some hooky and watching TV is in order!

Nikki x

Using up……using again….

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I couldn’t resist these hyacinths in the supermarket this weekend, I know it’s not very frugal to spend a fiver on two pots, but I eased my conscience by telling myself I can plant them out in the garden after they have bloomed and they will flower again and again each year – so…quite a good use of a fiver really!

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I didn’t have any plant pots suitable for indoors so I used these giant tea cups to pop them into. I have seen this done before on the internet but have always wondered about watering them and drainage, but I guess if I just keep them moist they should be ok. Don’t you think?

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I also dragged my stash out of the cupboard this weekend…..I am sure those balls of yarn multiply behind closed doors!

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I visited my brother this weekend who was suffering from man flu. Perched on the back of his sofa was what was supposed to be a blanket…honestly, it was no thicker than a duster and certainly not suitable for snuggling under to watch the TV! Hence my dragging out the stash to see if I had anything I could make up into a blanket for him.

I decided a ripple would be a little more “manly” than my normal granny square blankets so set to work…

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Not my “normal” pinks, blues and greens so wasn’t quite sure at first, but now I have done a bit more I think it will be fine…and certainly better and more useful than what he already has!

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What are you using up your stash to make?

Nikki x

A Busy Weekend Crafting

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This weekend seemed to whizz by and before I knew where I was it was Monday morning again. I had thought that I hadn’t really achieved much in terms of crafting this weekend, but I think that was because I didn’t have any large blocks of time for crocheting, rather I snatched an hour here and there, but they do all add up I suppose.

A large chunk of the weekend was spent painting some bedroom furniture for a client using Annie Sloan Old White paint. I do love this paint and am so glad I discovered it – it is so versatile and cuts painting time down enormously. Before I had always used Farrow and Ball or Laura Ashley paints for furniture, and I’m sure I will again if the shade required dictates it, but for now I am an Annie Sloan convert!

I will post some photos of the furniture when it is all finished, but it is at the waxing stage at the moment and scattered everywhere waiting to be buffed.

I ordered an Annie Sloan book too which arrived today “Creating the French Look” – I must admit that I ordered it in a bit of a hurry and was hoping that it would give me some inspiration for new furniture projects – I’m saving it for bedtime when I can sit back with a large cup of tea and drink in all the lovely photos.

I had such lovely comments and emails about my little lap blanket, that I decided as I have plenty of yarn left over that I would start another, in the same colours, but with a different pattern for the blocks…what do you think? There’s something so soothing about creating all those little squares (not so soothing when you have to sew in all the ends you haven’t managed to catch behind the stitches though!)

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I made a quick dash visit to my sister’s as well yesterday as I had a little flower headband I had crocheted for my little great niece who is just about 4 months old now. She looked adorable wearing it but I got to thinking that in this cold weather a little beanie would be more appropriate! So when I got home I raided my stash and whipped up this little hat for her….

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I didn’t follow a pattern as such, I just knew that it needed to measure 7.5 inches across and 5.5 inches high so made it up as I went along. The flower though is loosely based on Lucy at Attic 24’s Flower thought didn’t do as many petal rounds as Lucy did as the hat was quite tiny.

I hope my little great niece (and her Mummy) like it…might make one for myself if the weather gets any colder!

Nikki x

Super Frugal Soup

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Inspired by Sue at Our New Life in The Country, and her dilemma about what to cook with her leftover onions, I was reminded of one of my favourite frugal soup recipes.

Now, before we start, I have to tell you I am no Delia or Nigella…I’m not great at following recipes, preferring rather to make them up as I go along! So bearing that in mind here is my “recipe” for my Chicken, Onion and lentil soup (without any chicken but with the aid of chicken stock or stock cubes!). I did warn you! 🙂

You will need:

1 onion
Red lentils (I tend to use 3 part water to 1 part lentils, but it will depend on what consistency of soup you like)
Chicken stock or stock cubes (I use 3 cubes)
Water

That’s it……(apart from chilli powder to give it a bit of a kick)

Put the lentils water and chopped raw onion in a large soup pan or pot and bring to the boil.
Once the soup is boiling turn down the heat and simmer for about 45 mins, stirring regularly otherwise it will stick!
Add in chilli powder (the amount will depend on how spicy you like your soup …add it in in very small quantities until you get your desired taste)

That is it! As you can see…super easy and super frugal, but incredibly filling and tasty.

We normally eat it with just chunks of warm homemade bread, but you could easily grate so e cheese on top or add so e croutons if you wanted to.

Also, don’t worry if you make too much, the leftovers can always be frozen or used as a base or bulking agent for a warming casserole.

P.s. I haven’t suddenly become a professional photographer…this is a stock photo as I wanted to post the recipe today but haven’t got time to make the soup!

What are your super frugal recipes?

Nikki

Blanket Tah Dah and Frugal Furniture

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I’ve long been a fan of the super talented Lucy at Attic 24, in fact it was Lucy’s blog that inspired me a couple of years ago to teach myself to crochet. I loved her gorgeous blankets and wanted some of my own so set about learning how to crochet granny squares with the help of her blog and the wonderful YouTube.

My latest blanket, which I mentioned in my last post is now complete – it is more of a lap-blanket size, easy to fold up on the back of the sofa, and handy to snuggle under on damp dark days like today has been.

So, here it is…my latest creation…

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Can you see one of my little dogs just peeking out from underneath…who just wouldn’t budge for me to take the photo? 🙂

I’m going to start on another blanket of the same size for my other sofa, but although I will be using the same colour way it will really be more for my lovely other half to use so am thinking it might need to be a little more masculine….perhaps with solid squares? I’ll see…maybe I will experiment and post a photo and see what you think?

On to our other recent project. I had a lovely oak dining room table and chairs, but the chairs were too modern for my liking (the dining set was bought several years before I moved to my little Victorian cottage) and really didn’t fit in with my current furniture.

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We heard about a local household and furniture auction being held at the Ardingly Showground in Sussex not far from where we live and decided to go and have a look to see if we could find some suitable replacements. We were lucky and found 6 mahogany chairs with some rather ugly brown seats…we bid on them and managed to win all six for just £60!

Here is one of the seats before we started our makeover…

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We used a Laura Ashley eggshell on the chairs after much sugar-soaping and cleaning and a light sanding. Next I needed to find some fabric and decided that it would be nice to use the same Laura Ashley fabric that I have on the scatter cushions on my sofa (all EBay finds). As luck would have it this was around Christmas time and Laura Ashely had an online sale on some of their fabrics so I was able to bag a metre for just £15 instead of £30! By careful placement and cutting I was able to cover all 6 from the metre of fabric…

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Next we painted the legs and underside of the table, just leaving the top unpainted…

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And voila!….our new table and chairs for just £90!….except it wasn’t….a friend’s daughter heard I was looking to get rid of my old dining chairs and gave me £60 for them, so in fact my six new chairs cost me just £15 (and some time!)

I’ve got a couple more frugal furniture projects to show you next time, would love to hear about anything similar you might have done..

Nikki

Hijacked by Pinterest….

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I have been very remiss recently in keeping my blog updated but if I were to tell you that I was momentarily hijacked, seduced and kidnapped by Pinterest I am hoping that it might just strike a familiar chord with you?

I have never known a website (apart maybe for Facebook!) which can literally steal hours of your day without you noticing! If you haven’t yet ventured into the world of Pinterest, then do…it took me a little while to get going but once I did, I couldn’t stop! I haven’t been spending all my time on Pinterest though…I have completed a couple of renovation projects on furniture and have just finished sewing up my latest little lap blanket from these squares

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I’m always daunted when I see those piles….

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Bit it’s never as bad as you imagine…especially with lots of cups of tea and a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey!

I’ll be back very soon to show you the finished blanket and the furniture projects that I have been working on

See you soon,

Nikki

Edited….for those of you who have asked my Pinterest name is Nikkira …please don’t forget to let me have your names so I can visit you on Pinterest!

Weekend Pottering

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It’s been much of a stay at home weekend this weekend. I have been pottering. Pottering down the garden to let the girls out to scratch about in the garden…

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Pottering in the kitchen….

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this was the beginning of my preparation for a yummy fish pie that we had for tea last night. I have to confess that I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture of the finished pie…but it Was decidedly delicious…even if I do say so myself!

I served it with thick slices of home baked granary bread and lots of butter..

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Today, I have baked some more bread and put a warming chicken casserole in the slow cooker for our dinner later..

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Now I am off out to my “shed” which is being redecorated and repurposed as a new office for me. When I first started my business it was run from this shed/office for a few years until we had too many staff to fit in it (and there was an overspill back into the house on the dining room table!) at which time the decision was taken to take “proper” office space elsewhere.

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If we take a peep inside you will see that it’s currently being painted out and at the moment has what is going to be my desk in bits, being painted …

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I will bring you the finished article (and office) in another post!

Once I have finished another coat it will be back indoors for me and a bit more of this…

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Have a lovely Sunday,

Nikki x

Downshifting

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….I’ve made a big work change in my life recently in that I have sold my interest in the business I created over 6 years ago now. For too many years I have been working flat-out, non-stop with all that running business brings – staff, cashflow, deadlines, always trying to stay one step ahead of the competition. Then one day I realised that I was working so hard, I didn’t have time to enjoy the things that I love. Wow.,.. that was a shock…I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before. It was time.

The plan is that I will still work in the business…but part time. Which will give me the best of both worlds…continuing to work in the business I created AND having the time to give to the people I love, the things I love doing and the home I love.

I will have time for this…

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And this…

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However, changes like this come with their own “little” downsides….in that I won’t be quite as well off financially as I was before, BUT I will be a whole lot better off emotionally 🙂

However, this hasn’t been a quick decision for me…you see for a long time I have wanted to slow down, have more time to do the things that really interest me. One of these is for myself and Mr Holly Cottage to be much more self-sufficient than we currently are. At the moment our only nod to self-sufficiency is keeping our hens. But there is so much more that I would like to do, and so much more that I am sure I can do but just haven’t had the time to do up till now. So the adventure starts.

I have been researching this more self-sufficient way of life on t’internet and have found two amazing blogs which you may like to take a look at. The first is Frugal Queen This is written by an amazing lady called Jane who has paid off an amazing amount of debt (both credit card and mortgage debt) by just doing things differently. When I found her blog I spent almost two whole days reading it from start to finish! She too wanted a more simple life. Note that I say “simple” rather than “easy”. It has taken Jane an inordinate amount of effort to achieve all that she has – but I am guessing she would tell you she wouldn’t have it any other way. Because, she is now living her life on HER terms.

The other blog is written by a retired lady and can be found at Down to Earth. This blog also has a brilliant forum attached to it where you can register and join a community of people all looking to live a more simple life and to keep more of what they earn.

Both of these blogs have all the information, tips and advice that you could need to start your journey to a more simple (and frugal) way of living. Go have a look – you won’t be sorry!

If you know of any other blogs about frugal or simple living that you have found useful, please do leave a comment with the link to them…thank you x

Rainy Weekend = Hooky Heaven!

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A rainy weekend is the perfect excuse to snuggle on the sofa and raid your yarn stash!

I recently bought Nicki Trench’s fabulous book “Cute and Easy Crochet” – if you are a fan of Nicki’s then this book is a must! I decided yesterday that I had been drooling over her gorgeous projects for long enough and it was high time I used some of my stash to begin a new project.

But….what to make?……Did I want this gorgeous bag?

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Or with Easter looming maybe I could gift all of my friends with a half dozen eggs from our chickens complete with their own little cosies?

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aren’t they gorgeous!?

I couldn’t decide but in the end chose her Camellia Blanket. BUT …having costed this out using the wool she recommended it was WAY beyond my budget and I figured that as I already had some Amy Butler Belle Organic (which I had got at less than half price!) I would use this as a base and then all I had to do was buy a couple of new balls to complete some of the flowers. So I ended up with mainly Rowan Amy Butler Belle Organic Aran in Zinc (which is a little darker than the silvery grey that the blanket in the book is made with and the flower squares would be made with a mix of Amy Butler and Debbie Bliss.

It wasn’t till I was tipping the required yarn into my WIP bag that I realised that the colours were a beautiful match for it!

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I’ve only completed a few of the squares so far, but I think they will be ok – I’ve never tried a “flower” square before but it’s not so hard once you get the hang of it.

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This is Nicki’s book if you are tempted to treat yourself!

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Hope you are all managing to get some hooky time this Sunday!

Nikki x