Monday, 1 September 2014

Food For Free


You can keep your woolly cardis, damp mornings, dark nights, bastard massive spiders and celebrity dancing shows, for me the best thing about Autumn is free food.


Our sprawling garden and the one attached to the empty parental home (where these photos were taken) are an almost endless source of wild blackberries, pears and apples.


I'm outside most mornings, picking up the windfalls and foraging in the undergrowth.


Muffins, flapjacks, pies and crumbles have been on the menu for weeks now.


 The freezer is stuffed full with tubs of wild berries, double bagged to prevent freezer burn, whilst the coal house is almost bursting with wooden crates of apples individually wrapped in newspaper.


We had a bit of a do on Friday night and my home-made spicy blackberry chutney (the original recipe taken from the Good Food website) went down like a house on fire. So much so that I've had to make more today.


You'll need:
500g blackberries
140g caster sugar 
140g red onions, sliced 
2 tbsp Dijon mustard 
3 tbsp peeled and chopped fresh root ginger
150ml white wine vinegar

I doubled up on the ingredients, substituting the caster sugar for granulated, white onions for red and English mustard for Dijon).


1.Combine all ingredients, except the vinegar, in a large saucepan, stirring over a medium heat until the blackberries start to burst.
2.Season with salt and pepper, add the vinegar and allow the mixture to simmer uncovered.
3. The chutney is ready when thick enough to drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and it remains clean for a few seconds.

(The website stated a 10 minute cooking time but it took at least 40 minutes before the chutney reached the correct consistency.)


4. Remove from the heat, cool and transfer to a sterilised jar, sealing immediately. Leave for a week before eating. Best served with cheese, crackers, lashings of booze and riotous company.


Beth, you mentioned drying herbs when you commented on my last blog post. This strange contraption in the fireplace is our solution, bought from a car boot sale for pennies ages ago. Branches of oregano, thyme and rosemary, harvested from our kitchen garden, have been cleaned, wrapped up in a brown paper bag (punched with holes) and tied up with string. In a month or so they'll be ready to add Summer flavour to our roasted veggies.

Wearing: 1970s Van Allen cotton maxi (eBay, 2008), Vintage lace shawl (Charity shop, 2011), Hush Puppies boots (Car boot sale, 2012)
As I'm in full domestic goddess mode I'd better go and crack on with some cleaning before I revert back my usual slatternly ways.

See you soon.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Mean Green Drying Machine



This post isn't very rock and roll but I'm so excited about my new toy that I just had to share.


Over the past month I seem to have spent too much time rushing down the garden in the rain to rescue the washing from the clothes line and most afternoons tripping over the clothes airer and swearing. Fed up with my constant whingeing, Jon grabbed a pen and started sketching something mysterious on the back of an old envelope. 



Fast forward a couple of days and this was hanging in the utility room, made entirely from bits Jon had lying around, with the exception of the six mop handles purchased from Wednesday's car boot sale for £1 each, which shaved around £10 off the cost from not buying dowel.

Old School Laundry on Make A Gif

Using the rope pulley, I just need to lower the rack to my height, fully load it with washing, hoist it back into position and leave it to its own devices. No stubbed toes, bruised hips or swearing.

Wearing: vintage rose print cotton maxi (snaffled from the Kinky Melon storeroom), denim waistcoat (had for at least 15 years)
When I wasn't day dreaming about Morrissey I paid just enough attention to my O Level physics class to know that warm air rises so the never ending laundry pile not only dries quickly but my biceps get a good old work out at the same time. Multi-tasking magic!


And with that pleasant little distraction I'd better get back to ironing my stock in readiness for tomorrow's vintage fair.

See you soon!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Mid Week Rant: Mind Your Own Business


When Curtise forwarded me a link to this post I thought I'd slipped into a coma and woken up in the 1980s. 

In this day and age do we really need to be advised to wear "slenderising" dresses and to disguise our ageing necks with £100 skin cream if we want to succeed professionally? Will our businesses fail if we look a bit flabby? Will the customers go elsewhere if they detect a hint of a wrinkly neck? Man, it was bad enough 20 years ago when I got a warning for wearing a trouser suit and advised to make more of an effort with my make-up so I looked "more feminine".

Yes, you've seen it before, the nightmare that was the corporate whore.
Only someone who hasn't been forced to follow a corporate dress code would advocate wearing a pencil skirt to work. Fitted, tailored clothes might be all very well for posing for photos, catching taxis and acting out power dressing fantasies in the bedroom but for real working women they're not only impractical but, certainly in my case, draw unwelcome attention to your body, which in a professional capacity ain't much fun. Try keeping your cool when the managing director brushes your arse every time you top up his Sancerre or your male kitchen staff hold up pseudo ice skating score cards behind your back when you pop into the kitchen to check their work . In 1991 I got indecently assaulted on my way to work whilst wearing my hideous uniform. I know sex crimes are generally hate driven rather than through uncontrollable lust but I still blame that fecking skirt. With that hideous pencil-shaped nonsense restricting my knees, I couldn't even run away from my attacker. Take it from me, wearing clothes you hate can traumatise you for life.


Just wear what you think is right. You either work for yourself or were awarded your job on merit which means you're an intelligent human being who doesn't need the advice of a stranger to get dressed in the morning.


This was today's business attire,
.......naturally accessed by some bad ass rule-breaking, jingly jangly jewellery.

My working day included a 8am trip to the car boot sale, three loads of washing & pricing and ironing my stock for Moseley on Sunday. Practical (waterproof boots, non trailing in the grass hemlines, necessary for fields and walking to the washing line), modest (shorts prevent inadvertent knicker flashing when rummaging), noticeable (Jon can't lose me amongst the greige car booters, the sellers remember me and offer discounted rates).




More business. Now they're all washed, ironed, scrubbed and sorted here's Monday's flea market finds.



And, the pièce de résistance, my high priestess of hippy 1970s maxi coat.

Me-made psychedelic playsuit (seen HERE), 1960s fringed suede jerkin (Second to None, Walsall, 2010), beaten up leather cowboy boots (car boot sale on Sunday), 1970s tooled leather bag (Car boot sale this morning), Native American pendant (50p, car boot sale, 2010)
Now what on earth shall I wear to work on Sunday? I can guarantee it won't be understated or in the least bit current!

See you soon.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Flea Bitten


Tights, boots, coat and a hat. It can only mean one thing, its the August Bank Holiday.
Its not unusual, this was me a year ago, at the Upton festival,  in a fake fur coat with thermal leggings hidden under my maxi.


I've been living in the UK for the best part of 48 years and if inclement weather stopped play I'd have become a hermit years ago.

Wearing: 1960s leather coat (courtesy of Sarah Jane), Vintage Welsh Tweed cap (British Heart Foundation), 1970s PVC bag (Miss Simmonds Says), Dolcis leather boots (PDSA charity shop), Vintage Liberty of London silk scarf (Bargain bin in a vintage shop, £1)

So with my hair stuffed in my cap (tweed is waterproof and a lot less hassle than carrying a brolly) and my water resistant leather coat & PVC tote I was ready to face whatever the heavens threw at me.


Today's destination was our first ever visit to the Malvern Flea and Collectors Market, an hour's drive away in the county of Worcestershire, with a start time of 7.30am. Held monthly, there's usually around 350 traders indoors and out but the torrential rain understandably put many of the outdoors stallholders off.


The variety of stuff on offer is staggering, from high end antiques, Victoriana, jewellery, taxidermy, industrial salvage, art and mid-century home wares to tables of £1 bric-a-brac and general tat.


I didn't dare ask the price of the monkey.


This chap's van was a work of art in itself.


Don't ask.


Fat Lava, stuffed owls, dead foxes, Whitefriars glass and a 1960s stereogram, everything one could ever need to furnish a home.


There were a handful of vintage clothes sellers, one lady had a clearance mountain piled high on the floor, ripe for a rummage and being largely ignored by the other shoppers. Me, I dropped to my hands and knees excitedly throwing my finds into Jon's open arms. A snooty woman with a teenage daughter remarked that she had to move as the smell of old clothes were making her feel sick. I wasn't sure if she was referring to me or the rummage pile but wasn't too bothered, it meant I could carry on unhindered.

Wearing: 1960s psychedelic mini dress (Ebay, 2011), Turquoise opaques (Darling Curtise)

Look at what I got! Its like the 1970s never ended. There's minis, midis, maxis, bags, patchwork prints, lurex, velvet, lace, gingham, waistcoats, frills, polka dots, ruffles and fabric galore (the cat was already mine).

Looks like the rest of today will be spent chained to the washing machine - no change there then!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday and Judith's Hat Attack.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Charity Shop Tourism - Chazzing in the Black Country



Fire up the camper! We haven't been charity shopping (aka chazzing) since Tuesday.


Today took us to the Black Country town of Halesowen, which, according to the Doomsday Book, was once larger than Birmingham. During the Industrial Revolution Halesowen was famed for its coal mining as well as its nail and iron industry and, at its peak in 1919 had 130 working coal mines.


Plenty of the original Norman architecture is still evident at St John the Baptist church which stands on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church in the centre of the town and there's a Medieval cross in the churchyard.


But enough of the history. According to The Charity Retail Association's website there are 7 charity shops in Halesowen town centre and that's good enough for us. (We found eight!)


First up there's Shelter. Dresses with peplum waists, visible zips, studded collars and Ikat & bird prints - the racks are groaning under the amount of them. At between £2.50 - £4.50 the prices weren't bad if high street fashion is your thing. I spotted a tatty vinyl Kelly bag labelled "Vintage" and priced at £15 and left empty-handed.


Even the sale at the Sally Army didn't tempt us. Jon spotted a chunky 1960s Icelandic knit for £4 but it was so filthy it should have carried a health warning. 


I couldn't tell you about prices in here because the stock was so uninspiring that I didn't look at a single tag. Jon went through the huge pile of £1 vinyl albums but the only ones of any interest were already in our collection.


The bric-a-brac shelf in Acorns was good, a lovely 1950s yellow ceramic 6 person tea set for £14.50 and a selection of 1960s coffee pots for a very reasonable £2.99 but they weren't for us. I did make one purchase, though.

A suitably bright and groovy 1970s nylon maxi skirt. Acorns had a "three for two" clothing promotion but it was the only thing in the remotest bit interesting, the rest of the stock was a sad 1990s time warp of Next bias cut dresses and polyester work trousers.


Cancer UK was full of nutters gazing blankly at the bric-a-brac shelves, muttering to themselves and blocking the aisles. There were quite a few nursing home dresses in here, 100% polyester with a zip front and the deceased owner's name scribbled on the collar in marker pen which always make me feel sad.  I spotted a lovely set of boxed 1960s Ravenscroft glasses for £6 but I've already got far more than I need.


We bought this Orkney Island tweed trilby 


...and a rather sweet '80s St Michael leather belt (which I was about to write off as knock-off Radley until I examined it further).


The Beacon Centre for the Blind was another shop with annoying customers, chatting between themselves with their coats chucked over the rails and their shopping bags cluttering up the aisles. A polite excuse me please failed to make an impact but a shoulder barge and I'm sorry, I didn't see you there soon did. The shop had an initially tempting basket of linen for 40p an item, sometimes a good source of funky fabric for patchwork, but everything was a bit wishy washy and twee.


I managed to find a couple of pretty, hand rolled scarves which are getting to be quite scarce in chazzas and when they do crop up they're usually marked up at more than I'd sell them for.


I won't be selling this one, though. A gloriously tacky souvenir scarf to add to my ever growing Spanish collection.


I clocked the striped dress in the window from across the road 'cos I can spot vintage at 100 yards. The lady at the till had a queue of customers to deal with but I jumped to the front, smiled sweetly and asked if it would be okay to take the dress off the mannequin and she was fine. You snooze, you lose!


Here it is. A cute 1970s Kittiwake beach dress, strangely marked up at a fraction of the price of the ASOS and H&M dresses, not that I'm complaining!


This type of local charity shop can go either way, sometimes the tattier ones are filled with amazing vintage pieces at silly prices but this one wasn't, just overpriced rubbish, unfortunately. Other than a couple of interesting paperbacks there wasn't anything for us here.

What we wore: Jon: 1970s wool blazer, military shirt, Topman skinnies, 1970s Doc Martens (all car booted or charity shopped) Me: Vintage Indian embroidered maxi dress (Belonged to Sabine's Mum in the 1960s), Indian chappals & beaded peacock bag (jumble sales)
My friend Romy posed by a blue wall recently so when I saw this one outside the main shopping centre I thought we'd do the same, which bemused the passing shoppers no end.

Halesowen. Our verdict? Entertaining for an hour or so. Not so much for the charity shops, more for the higher than is normal amount of weird people and downright nutters. 


I've been far too virtuous this week what with all the sewing, cleaning & cooking. Time to kick off the chappals, dial a curry and bust open the rum. Cheers!

See you soon!