When we are home, the girls like to curl up in their rooms like snails, with their electric heaters on. I am trying to find a way to entice them back into the dining room of an afternoon and evening, where there is a fire on anyway, to save electricity. There hasn't been much space in the dining room, because it is a dining room, and has a table taking up most of the available real estate. Today I got Posy to help me move the table lengthways which leaves a good space in front of the fire to perch next to the dog. Then I needed something nice to sit on there. Tempted to run out and buy a little vintage armchair. But no, can't do that. So I wandered around the house until I spied the ottoman in the corner of my room that The Girl had left here when she went to live in a small cupboard of an apartment in the big city. No doubt one day when she finds a slightly larger house she might want it back, but in the meantime, it is perfect in front of the fire. I am so happy to have made our space bigger and refurnished it without spending a cent. Now, to see if my cunning plan works.
Matt the builder put up a shelf for me in the laundry, made from spare decking planks. I am so very happy about this, as my old shelf was tiny and too high up for me to reach. It cost me half an hour of builder time, but no materials, as the planks were left over and he re-used the brackets. Now, I challenge any woman out there to refute this statement - the way to a woman's heart is more shelves. Really, It's What Women Want. I generously shared this information with Matt in case he ever needs to impress his girlfriend. I mean, more than he already does.
Here is another project. One of Paul's friends owns a little vintage second-hand shop which is gorgeous and delightful. She bought a set of lovely little chairs at auction and gave Paul the two broken ones, which he gave to me because they don't fit in his shed. Some of the dowels holding the legs together are broken, as is the rush seating. They would be perfect in front of the fire if they were mended, so I am going to sit and look at them for a while until I think of a way to do it without spending any money. I know it can be done. One thought is to cut out the rush seat and put in an upholstered wooden chair pad. My granny used to re-upholster her chairs all the time. I think this might be a good starter project.. any thoughts welcome.
After two years of being totally uninterested, Rosy and Posy have started lighting the fire for me. The catalyst was Paul the fire master telling me that using too much paper to start a fire causes lots of ash, as paper has clay in it.. who knew? So we decided to try and start the fire using only two sheets of our small local paper. I didn't think it could be done, and that was all the challenge the girls needed. They are now totally on top of fire making with minimum paper starters. We are using up lots of twigs instead from our summer fruit tree prunings and the girls have learnt a new skill. We also use walnut shells for firestarters, very effective as they generally still contain a little bit of walnut, and pine cones that come to us from various places, including my mum, who picks them up on her walks and brings me a bagful every now and then. Thanks, Mum:)
Posy made us hot chocolate for a morning in front of the fire treat. She heats up milk on the stove and adds this chocolate syrup which is cheap and wickedly delicious. Secret ingredient is a pinch of chilli powder for an extra hit of heat and warmth.
Paul has been making absolutely wonderful and divine sourdough bread every few days from the starter that my friend Peter gave me a few weeks ago. I killed my starter, so Paul gave me some more. Did I detect a note of smugness at all? Anyway, I am sitting here willing the starter to double in size today so that I can finally get cracking on a loaf of my own. Meanwhile, I have been baking my usual, with (gasp!) storebought yeast. The humiliation..
The rosehips that Katherine and I picked last weekend are bubbling away on the stove to turn into rosehip syrup, and I have been stewing up lots of roadside apples to turn them into apple sauce, which I stashed in pots in the freezer, although Posy keeps sneaking them out and eating them. I figure there are lots of worse things thirteen year olds could be being sneaky about.. By the way, rosehip syrup, though simple to make, is very messy, and makes the kitchen look like a murder has recently taken place. Squashed up boiled rosehips look very... visceral.
Tell me about the green and thrifty adventures at your place this week. I love your stories:)
Later: Benson-the-sneaky-puppy decides that the ottoman is clearly meant for him.