Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Bedroom Tax...

There has been a lot of talk recently - partly due to the general state of the economy and rising food and fuel costs and partly due to the Government introduction of the so-called Bedroom Tax - about how many people are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.

Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland has even undertaken an experiment living on just £18 a week - which the amount she says some of constituents will have to manage on once the Bedroom Tax comes into force.  You can see her week of video diaries here .

Whilst I commend her for trying to raise awareness of the issue, I think it's pretty plain to see that she is NOT used to having to think so carefully about what she spends her money on! No, you can't have fresh coffee or quality steak or fish for dinner every night but then how many people can afford to that anyway?

This Bedroom Tax won't affect us - we are struggling to pay a mortgage and keep hold of our home and do not receive any kind of housing benefit. Our combined income is minimal so we do get Working and Child Tax credits to top us up but even so I have way less than £18 per head to feed my family each week (probably more like £13.50 a head). I think the same is true for many working families.Yes it's hard, but not THAT hard. With a bit of careful shopping and planning it is perfectly possible to eat a healthy and varied diet on a small budget. Cooking from fresh instead of relying on packets (and in the wake of the recent horse meat scandal that is an even better idea), using the freezer and learning to bake - it's amazing what you can do with flour, sugar, margarine and eggs - all help.

I know there are many people out there who already live frugal lives, who do their best to feed their families a healthy diet, who scrimp and save for little treats and who will be losing out once this 'tax' comes in. It IS unfair that families who have lived in their home for many years or even decades will feel that they are being forced to move out and leave behind their memories.

My grandparents, had they been alive today, would have been affected - they lived in their 3 bedroom council house for best part of 40 years, raised three kids and had grandkids to stay on a regular basis. But would they would be deemed to be under-occupying and forced to move to a one bed property - assuming one was available - or pay the difference out of their state pension? And here is the crux of the matter. It's all well and good telling people they can no longer live in their 3 bedroom terrace and have to down-size to make room for other needy families but are the smaller properties actually available? And if there aren't any properties available, how many people will struggle on until they default on their rent and lose their homes anyway?

Many people will be facing a stark choice - either learn to manage on next to nothing or find themselves on the street.

I would be interested to see how the Government will deal with the inevitable increase in those finding themselves without any bedrooms at all . . .

added - I have since found out that my grandparents would not have been asked to leave their house as those over 63 are exempted from the 'bedroom tax'. Which is something I suppose . . .

Monday, February 25, 2013

Magpie Monday - Clearing out the cellar

It's been a while since my last Magpie Monday post but I have had a bumper crop of finds this week so I thought it would be nice to share.

On Saturday we went over to the Shambles in Newent - it was a bit sad as after our three year lease ended last September we decided to close the motorbike shop and concentrate on the original premises in Coleford. The cellar beneath the shop had accrued all sorts of junk and needed clearing and the landlord had given us some grace as it was a lot of work but it was time to take the bull by the horns and finish the job . . .

But, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and we uncovered some little gems leftover from the building's previous incarnation as a 'Museum of Victorian Life' hiding underneath the junk just begging for some love!

Check out this beauty!  It needs a damn good clean, maybe a coat of paint (i'm thinking white or maybe pale green) and a new top but it would have been skipped had I not grabbed it! I have no idea how old it is - I know a lot of the 'Victoriana' in the museum was made for the museum and 'aged' - but quite frankly I don't care! I love all the little details and I can't wait to turn it into the conversation piece it deserves to be.

   I also found a wooden curtain pole with lovely ornate finials and these giant brass curtain rings. One of the finials and the pole itself were split so I rescued the other finial to add to my collection of 'interesting wooden things' (yes, really) 
I really don't know what to do with the curtain rings - they could make a very impressive bangle stack!

Also I came across a number of bevelled mirrors. Unfortunately most of them were cracked or badly chipped but I did manage to salvage this one. (Please ignore me/yucky conservatory roof - ooo look, cute kitten! )  It's quite large and I haven't decided where it's actually going to go. I suspect it may be too heavy for our rubbish plasterboard internal walls which narrows possible hanging places down a bit. I'll let you know on that one.

But that's not all. My local hospice charity shop turned a couple of absolute bargains this week.

A lovely grey wool skirt off the £1 rail. Not for wearing but lots of gorgeous pure wool fabric to play with. I am thinking lavender hearts and birds with prety pastel ribbon and mother of pearl button trim (keep an eye on my Folksy shop if you like the sound of that!)  Maybe a bag and purse and, if there is enough a hat for the Little Man.

opaque white vase/bowl/goblet/Holy Grail type thingy

This was 25p. That's right. 25p. It had to come home with me. I have no idea what it's actual purpose is but I'm absolutely sure it will get used as a prop in my product photos . . .
 (if anyone actually does know what it's true purpose is, please tell)

linking up with Missie Lizzie's Magpie Monday

Me and My Shadow

Friday, February 22, 2013

Folksy Friday :: What's New Pussycat?

In this week's Folksy Friday I am celebrating all things cat. I hope you enjoy my selection.

If you want to see more feline fancies please visit my pinterest board here

1 Cat & Mouse linocut, JDBee; 2 Cat & Mouse silk applique cushion, Liz Foster Designs
3 Azure Blue bicycle bell, Claire la Secretaire 4 Siamese Cat Amigurumi pattern, Little Owls Hut
5 Sleeping Cat plate, Illustrator Stephanie Hosmer 6 Cat Necklace, Hand Over Your Fairy Cakes

Happy Friday xx

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear spammers . . .

Go away!


I am getting tired of logging in to my blogger dashboard, seeing that I have 10 comments for moderation and finding every single one of them is some gobbledygook, very badly translated from whichever language is your native one (it certainly isn't English), that bears absolutely no relevance to the post you have chosen to contaminate and ends with a link to your website that wishes to sell me cheap (fake) makeup/sunglasses/bags/cigarettes or, worse, inviting me to 'enlarge my manhood' (stop sniggering at the back there!), lighten my skin or get rid of my acne scars forever.

I work hard on my blog. I like to think I write well and I take care to include content I think others might be interested in. I spend a lot of time choosing the right images to illustrate my posts - 99% of them are my own photographs which I edit to look their best. I value every single one of my readers and love getting their point of view which is why I have comments enabled and why I don't use CAPTCHA coz I know just how annoying that is. I build up relationships with regular readers, some have even become friends. I am pretty certain none of them really want fake cigarettes either . . .

I'm glad that Blogger's own inbuilt spam defences work well and send most of it directly to the spam folder. It's smart enough to recognise most other types of spam to. In fact pretty much any comment with a link in it goes into my 'awaiting moderation' folder and most are swiftly deleted.

So it's very rare that any spam makes it onto my actual blog.

Which makes me wonder why you actually do it. I mean, do you really think any self-respecting blogger will allow that spam to sit there undeleted? And if it does get missed do you really think anyone would actually click on your link?

Does ANYBODY ever click on a spam link?


There is one upside - my stats (page hits) look pretty good (and however much we say we don't care about that, we do really don't we?) but as with everything it's quality rather than quantity that counts. 400 hits a day is amazing (for me). It's shame that 300 of those are from sources that have 'xxx' or 'adultblog' in the address!

I want to keep writing and sharing my life, my passions,  my makes, my pictures and my random ramblings but I really wish that those of you who wish to use my blog as a platform for your own (probably illegal) money spinning schemes would just bog off.

no love,

Me x

* If you blog, do you get plagued with spam comments too? Is it a sign that our blogs are doing ok and ranking well and we should just put up? I would love to hear your thoughts (and I may even add some of the spam comments - without the spam link - that come through for this post too, just to illustrate my point)


This post has been linked up to Mummy Barrow's fab 'Ranty Friday' 
Please click on the badge above to read more ranty posts :-)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Half term - Cathedral, Craft, Cats and Colour

I know many of you are having half term holidays right now but ours was last week. I like half terms so much better than the main holidays. A week out of the routine is just long enough for us both to recharge our batteries - it's amazing what difference not having to set the alarm makes.
Not that we slept in very much later, mind you, but it is nice not having to rush out of bed!

I really wanted to take the Little Man to visit a castle, as that is what he has been learning about at school. There are several good ones locally - Chepstow, Raglan and Goodrich are all wonderful to visit - but it is just too early in the year for them to be open. I think we may have to save that trip for Easter or maybe summer hols.
Instead we had a mooch around Gloucester Cathedral (you know - where they filmed bits of Harry Potter ;-) ) Little Man just loved it and it I loved seeing him gazing around in awe.

Later in the week we went to my mum and dads for a few days.

I always like going to my parents place for a little break. I like not having to run around and do everything. I like eating big meals together as a family. As someone who normally does supermarket shop online for delivery, I love that we can spend three hours in a big supermarket mooching around looking at the clothes and magazines (my dad's not so keen on this one, neither does he relish the Ikea trip - which I am saving for next visit ;-) ). I love that there is usually a cat in every room I go into. I love that I get a cup of tea in (sofa) bed every morning. I love watching the Little Man interacting with Grandma and Grandad, and this time he had some fun with his little cousins too. Most of all I love that I can spend all day looking at crafty magazines and knitting while Little Man does colouring or chases round the garden with the dog, or goes for a walk with his Uncle and the dog down by the canal, leaving me to enjoy the peace for a while . . .

 My mums house is full of stuff - whilst not *technically* a hoarder, she is certainly a collector of a great many things! Pretty china, ornaments and books are everywhere. Then there are projects both she and my dad are working on and finished articles are dotted around the house. They love to knit and needlepoint/cross stitch. Their walls are covered in beautiful pictures and samplers, the conservatory furniture is draped with hand knitted throws and made comfy with tapestry cushions. It's all so very inspiring!

Now I am back home and the Little Man is back at school. Right now the sun is shining (although we have been threatened with more snow later in the week!) The primulas are looking colourful, the bulbs are all coming up and I am expecting a parcel from Abakhan any day now so I can start my Creative Budget project for Easter.

Spring is definitely in the air!!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Meet DJ - the newest member of our family

You may remember I lost my beloved kitty (and friend) last year. I still miss her like crazy but 18 years in another creature's company is a long time...

We talked about getting another cat but neither of us were in a hurry. We talked about what kind of cat we would like - I was certain I didn't want a long haired cat (all that extra grooming/matted fur and uber fur balls etc - no thanks). We both really liked the idea of a tabby cat. We talked about how nice it would be to have a female and maybe let her have some kittens (which we would keep or re home with family) so that the Little Man could witness the wonder of birth. Although we both knew that there were plenty of cats out there needing homes already and adding more kitten to the pool was not the most responsible thing we could do.

Most of all we were adamant that we were not 'replacing' Ron but adding to our family and as such we would all go to the rescue centre/Cats Protection League together to choose...

Well that's what we intended to do. However fate decided differently.

On the morning of January 14th a friend posted on Facebook that she had found 2 tiny kittens in a bag abandoned on the side of the road. She couldn't keep them herself so put out an appeal for someone who could home and care for them. Well I couldn't just ignore it. 6 hours later (after kittens had been checked over by vet and vet had approved of new carers) one teeny, tiny, extremely vocal bundle of fur was riding home in a borrowed cat box...

Meet DJ

Isn't he adorable?

The vet said both kittens were malnourished and needed a lot of care as they were, technically, too young to be away from their mother (she guessed at around 7 weeks) but their overall health was good. Our kitten has a crooked tail where it had been broken at some point in his short life, but it doesn't seem to bother him.  What they both needed more than anything else was warmth, love and to feel safe again.
 He didn't waste any time making himself at home...

I love his unusual fur - at first glance he is a black and white moggy but a closer look at his fur shows that there is a good peppering of lighter brown fur and longer white hairs in his coat (what did I say about NOT wanting a long haired cat . . .? ) It makes him look a bit dusty - hence the name Dusty Jake or DJ for short.

He is very playful - as you would expect with a kitten at this age - and is still learning to control his claws! 
He has developed a habit of running up my legs and back to perch on my shoulder. It's very cute but also very painful so we are trying to curb that one (any suggestions on kitten training gratefully received!)  He has virtually destroyed this old waste paper basket. The day we got him, Little Man gave up his Gruffalo toy to keep DJ company so he didn't miss his kitten sibling.  Gruffalo is the perfect size for kitten to practise his pouncing and clawing techniques. Needless to say poor Gruffalo may have preferred a life of calm quiet oblivion in the bottom of the toy box! (as for me, well the scratches on my hands/arms/legs/belly/back/face will heal. In time . . .)

He has become my little buddy - I think he thinks I'm his mummy - and follows me around everywhere. His favourite place to be is perched on my shoulder or draped around my neck. That will be interesting once he grows into his (huge) paws!  He has also developed a fascination with my sewing machine! He is also happy to pose for photographs and has already modelled for one of my tutorials.

Gazing wistfully outside - I can't wait until the weather warms up a bit and we can spend some time in the garden.

After a less than brilliant start to life, DJ has well and truly settled in to life on Mount Pleasant. 

And we are more than happy to have him here. 

If you can give a cat a loving home please contact your local Cat's Protection League or vet who can give you details of animal shelters/rescue centres who are desperately looking for homes for abandoned animals.

And if you find yourself in a position with an animal you can no longer care for/provide a home for please PLEASE contact your vet or animal shelter to re-home them. There is no excuse for simply abandoning an animal - young or old.  DJ and his sibling were fortunate to be found when they were, having spent the coldest night of the year outside they were lucky to be alive. I expect there are hundreds more who aren't so lucky.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Pin it to WIn it! - A Crafty Competition from Abakhan

As I mentioned in my previous post those lovely folks over at Abakhan have finally got themselves on Pinterest - you can follow them here - and to celebrate they have launched a brand new competition.

Follow the instructions below and you could win yourself a £20 voucher to spend on any Abakhan goodies you like!

Easy peasy - who doesn't love spending hours browsing and pinning lovely crafty goodness, or is that just me? 

So what are you waiting for? There is a huge range of crafting essentials to be found on their website from knitting, crochet and felting to patchwork, toy making and clothes patterns. There are plenty of children's crafty things too - fabric paints (we used them to make a fab 'Retro Rocket' softie here), funky foam, Fimo modelling clay and lovely sew-your-own kits.  The only trouble you might have is choosing products for only ONE project!

Good luck!

ps - If you don't have a Pinterest account already, it's very easy to set up. Just be warned it will suck away the hours like nothing else . . .   (in the nicest possible way :-) )

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