Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait for Good Things to End Up in the Charity Shops

Sometimes it's worth counting your blessings.

In what seems like a bit of a bad news story, OH and I find ourselves to be a very lucky couple indeed. Our wedding venue has been sold to a local college and anyone who had planned an event there after 30th June has been told they need to find somewhere else. That's 50 disappointed couples. some of them only have a few weeks to find somewhere else.

I feel blessed to live in a town that has so many great amenities. I know a lot of people moan about the number of charity shops and pound shops in the town, but they have been an absolute lifeline for me as I try to source everything from stationery to decorations to items for my jewelled wedding bouquet.

And as OH's parents are unable to make the wedding, we are having the ceremony videoed. We had looked at getting a tripod for the camera, but they were too expensive, even secondhand. But yesterday, OH managed to find the exact right one in a Cancer Research shop for £5!!

I love this shop - it always has great quality clothes in it. Sorry, this is an old pic, the store has had a bit of a spruce and looks very inviting now.

And we have sourced some very cheap packs of photo frames from the 99P Store to decorate the tables with. As we are having characters to denote tables rather than numbers, this will be useful... although some of the fellas do look very similar.

J M Barrie

H G Wells
Arthur Conan Doyle

Can you imagine if that's your game of Guess Who?

"Do they have a moustache?"


"Is it H G Wells?"

"No. My go. Do they have a moustache?"


"Yay! Is it Lewis Carroll?"

"...I hate you, you know."

Some compromises are having to be made. We are having a friend who is a professional photographer do official photographs at mates' rates, but in addition to that we wanted to have fun cameras on the tables. I've suggested instead that we ask our friends for access to their photos via Facebook, which we could print out ourselves for our album.

But over to you - what brilliant charity shop/pound shop finds have you made recently?

Monday, 29 April 2013

Wedding Crafts: Look what I did!

Wedding craft progress so far:

Due to a couple of completely independant crises - all involving completely independant episodes of crafting - my Saturday night of girlie crafting turned into just me, a packet of custard creams, some rosé wine and a box set of Ashes to Ashes. Gotta love Gene Hunt!

Here, table planner in progress, stage 1. The place cards are all done and so is the box for cards. My place cards all feature an eminent Victorian or Edwardian and something associated with them and are stamped on the back with a wedding glasses stamp that we had bought for another project. I found a pack of A4 cards in Poundland for  - £1 (duh). Plenty to last for other crafting projects.

In fact Northampton's infamous variety of cheap shops have helped enormously.  Thanks to a tip off on Money Saving Expert I picked up a pack of CDs for a quid in Poundland for recording our ceremony music.

Here's the table planner a little further on (not quite finished). Some of the spaces have now been cut out for a red background to show through. Yet to be added are more devoré bits, trailing fronds and liana picked out in gold and (if I can find them) stick on bling.

Can you spot the various themes? Hardest I imagine will be the one for the top table, which is the actress Ellen Terry, who was a bit of a muse for Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, as well as a friend to Lewis Carroll when she was a child, and later again after he deemed her respectable enough company (she ran away from the aging, stuffy husband that she was married to aged 16, the painter George Frederick Watts, and ran away to live in sin with Edward Godwin, who designed our town's beautiful Guildhall!). See theatre stage light scalloping, chains (representing her character Margaret in Faust) ending in pigtail-like tassles, cherubim, a Puck, and a couple of little frogs, of which she was quite fond.

Red gift wrap covers a free cardboard box to collect our cards. I hunted high and low for suitable paper and couldn't find any in the pound shops, so went to the reliable W H Smiths. For two large rolls, this cost £2.99, but I only used half of one roll. You can pay £5-8 for plain boxes that still need to be decorated, and some people pay a lot more, so this is a much more frugal effort.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I started making the favours. This is part one - A New Hope - or, strawberry white chocolate stormtroopers - just a few drops of strawberry essence in basic white chocolate. As you can see, the force is not strong with some of them. Due to time restrictions, and only having 6 stormtrooper moulds to work from, I also made use of old chocolate trays, which produced some unusually shaped chocolates. The truffle ganache ones will be made later this week as they will involve cream and will need to be kept refridgerated as long as possible. I sourced some cellophane wrap and ribbon which would have only cost about a fiver to package the lot, but OH thought he would help me out a few weeks ago and got proper boxes from Hobbycraft, which, as all crafters know, is more about the 'hobby' and less about the 'craft', and not so blooming cheap either. Still, he got to try one of the rejects and pronounced it "Mmmmmm delicious!", so that's all good.
But now we really have run out of money... everything else we still have to pay for is going to be on plastic. Austere times ahead...
And so phase one of frugaldom proper begins... to be continued.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The final countdown...

Reader, I am marrying him in 9 days' time!

...and money is running out (what's with the present participle there - it's gone!). Luckily, I have some wonderful friends who are helping me to achieve what will be a wonderful wedding day - undoubtedly!

I'm also using a bit of money savvy.

I'm going home tonight with a bag of orange and white packaging for making handmade chocolate favours this weekend and next week (got to make the ones with cream a bit closer to the day).

Sorry cocoa purists... but I'm adding a bit of froo froo to the basics so it should all be wonderful anyway.

For the table planner and name cards, I'm taking inspiration from a number of emminent Victorian and Edwardians, and keeping it elementary:

And for the card post box, I'm going a bit Blue Peter! Can you still buy crepe paper anywhere? I may have to settle for newspaper and a small pot of red gloss...

While my OH is out being a stag this weekend, I'm opening up my house to friends who wouldn't mind popping in for biscuits, tea, and cutting and sticking things. There's a lot to do and I really would appreciate a hand.

Alas, I've let the fitness slip a little as I've been so busy, so no parkrunning this week...but maybe next week for their first year party.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Do You do Date Night?

OH and I are going to be spending forever together as Mr and Mrs very soon, but like many couples nowadays we're already living together as life partners.

We decided a few months ago that we should do a 'date night' each week: time consciously chosen to be spent in each other's  company. It's amazing how you can spend hours alone with each other but just end up staring at the telly. It's not good for the bum, the brain, the soul - or the heart.

Some date nights of extreme frugaldom will need to be planned in for after the wedding, but we're already applying some mantras: never pay full price if you can help it; dare to try something different.

The Date

Through a friend at work, OH got a great offer for theatre tickets. Some theatres offer great discounts to some associations, or for special preview nights. We were thrilled to be able to go and see a preview of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

This was a great production, directed by Gary Sefton (we saw his also brilliant production of A Christmas Carol), with some great comic performances. As you might expect with 500 year old humour, there's also a bit of nuddiness and scatalogy, but it's all fine. ;-P

As an avid theatre-goer, I really wouldn't mind paying full price to see this brilliant production... it was just an extra lovely bonus to get excellent tickets for less than half the cheap seat prices. It's not an opportunity that's going to come along too often - I think our next bit of theatre may be a bit of am dram, but as an am drammer myself, I know these can often be excellent too! (shush).

The Dinner

Of course, we needed to eat too! But why pay full price when, with a little planning, you can get a great deal? There are a few good restaurants near the theatre, and some do pre-theatre early bird offers. I checked to see what vouchers were available online and got one for Pizza Express, Monday-Thursday, 5pm-7.30pm, 25% off main meals (excluding calzones).

Well, on hearing that calzones were excepted, this placed the idea in OH's head that this was what he really wanted to have. No calzones - denied! But he went for a classic Pollo ad Astra pizza instead  - chicken, sweet peppadew peppers, red onions, mozzarella, tomato, cajun spices and garlic oil. I went for the Gorgonzola and Pancetta Leggera - with chilli, rosemary and leeks on a crispy Roman base and a dressed rocket salad middle (under 500 calories - got to think of the dress!). We both agreed that the pizzas we had were utterly gorgeous. And did they taste better for being discounted? Do you know, I think they did.

The Post-Theatre Drinks

A beautiful night should not end too soon, and so we decamped to The Wig and Pen. The Wig and Pen is lush, but a little pricey. It's clean, bright, and comfortable, with a great range of real ales, ciders, spirits, wines, and jolly nice food. Again, though, why pay full price? Not when we have CAMRA* membership! That's 10% off and everything's bright and reasonable again. At the pub we bumped into a friend who'd been to a play rehearsal of his own... so that's one am dram play we have pencilled in for a future date night.

*It's well-worth joining CAMRA if you are a real ale or cider fan. It's not just beer in pubs and supermarkets that gets discounted, as there are lots of member offers.


Amazingly, we managed to save just under £45 on our night out... it wasn't exactly a free night out, so has to be considered as a special treat, but it was still practically half-price.

What Would I Do Differently?

Despite what you may infer from the above, I would actually say that to save even more money it's worth resolving to drink less, or not drink at all. Alcohol takes the edge off your inhibitions, weakens the purse strings... and makes you lazily decide to get a taxi home instead of walking. Also, why always do the same thing? Do you really need a half-time ice cream?

So, next time...

1. Going am dram... as a member of the group I can buy  concessionary tickets, so even cheaper.
2. Taking bottled water/pop
3. Walking to the venue - and back!
4. Choose an awkward mid-run weeknight so not tempted to follow the cast back to the pub for post-gig drinks.
5. Either have a slow-cooker meal ready for after the show. Or have just one post-gig drink, maybe.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

On Being Crap

Sorry for the lack of posting... things have been crazy busy over the last few weeks. I keep adding to the huge pile of wedding stuff and things are not finalised.

I'm a little... stressed.

Effects of wedding-based stress have been varied. I keep falling asleep... does anyone else do this when they are feeling the pressure? I have become a 'snooze' monster when it comes to getting up at the time I've set my alarm for. I am failing to read my books on the bus, waking up just in time to get off. I can't handle staying up late most of the time. I managed at a party last night, but three attempts to watch Poltergeist which we recorded last week have resulted in failure. I am crap at being energised.

Did I mention paranoia? At least I hope that's what it is... I am crap at feeling confident.

My greenhouse is still broken. And I still haven't sorted out the kitchen tap. I am being crap at being organised - which is not me at all. And crap at DIY - which is.

I'm crap at being wholly frugal at the minute. Weddings can do that. I mean, I was very happy about my £35 dress, but all the little bits for the day are adding up. It makes me feel a bit wibbly when I think about how far into my new married life I'm going to be by the time I get to put all my plans into effect, because I will need to keep going as I am to manage the finances.

I am crap at not bursting into tears about how crap I am being.

And my dad's dog died on Friday. Poor Dylan... he was old and fat and wheezy and warty. He wasn't coping well with a chest infection and his heart was too weak to cope. I don't like typing the truth, so let's just say he 'went to live on a farm', which is what old dogs do after they've been to the vets one last time.
Dylan as a pup with an amusing toy   

But I've achieved these things:
  • I'm getting fit! Frugally! I asked on Facebook for some recommendations for free fitness apps for the Android, and a load of people recommended My Fitness Pal. I can't recommend it enough. It helps me log my food, tells me off if I haven't been eating enough and encourages me to get active - as I can log that too for extra things to eat. I've been doing the 30 Day Shred, though I won't be able to make the full 3o days before my wedding. Just a week in and it's helping me lose pounds, get toned and improve my strength. I can now do proper push-ups - like a man! Not many, granted... but I'm pretty sure without that I wouldn't have been able to open that old jar of Marmite yesterday. Jillian Michaels shouting at you... it works!

  • I've managed to make more crafts this month - like the knitted bangle and puppet card I made for a friend's birthday. I even decorated the gift box to make it more birthday-ish.
I may be a big ball of stress, but I am really appreciating spending time with friends... they are helping me through this.