Friday, 28 August 2009

Make do and Mend

Well this week things have really taken off on the thrifty living front.

We had The Observer this weekend with an extract from the fabulously useful Mend It! 400 Easy Repairs by Sian Berry.

Then this morning, BBC Radio 4's Today programme featured the soon-to-be-published modern version of Make Do and Mend from John Lewis and asked listeners to share their own ideas for thrifty living. Here at Make it and Mend it Towers we've risen to the challenge and have been busy on Twitter, tweeting our own tips and suggestions in response. Here's one of our tweets:

r4today RT @makeitandmendit: clean dark wood floors with water that five tea bags have been soaked in. Polishes beautifully and darkens scuff marks

It seems every time we open a magazine, a newspaper or turn on the TV
or the radio there's something about living more frugally and thriftily. It definitely seems we've reached a tipping point in the public consciousness.

All of this is great, but there's a much more positive side to making and mending. You may start off down this path because you're short of a bob or two but most people find they actually like it! It's not so much about sacrifice, compromise or "making do" but more about the sense of achievement and self-efficacy that comes from making your own stuff rather than flashing a credit card.

When the recession eventually ends, you may have more cash in your pocket and security in your job, but we're sure once you've tried your hand at making and mending you'll find it becomes pretty addictive!
Clare Flynn

Monday, 24 August 2009

Stuffed courgette flowers

I am such an advocate of growing courgettes (zucchini).

As well as providing a plentiful crop over several months, the plants with their huge leaves and big yellow flowers also look fine in a flower border.

I have been enjoying griddling the courgettes and serving themwith some lemon juice - or layering them with a bit of chopped mint and some ricotta cheese and lemon juice. Then I came across a recipe using similar ingredients for stuffed courgette flowers.

I used to love having these when I lived in Italy but had never tried to make them before. I gave it a try this weekend and really loved them. You simply open the flowers out, checking for any unwanted insects, then stuff them with some ricotta mixed with grated Parmesan and chopped mint leaves. The easiest way is to role the mixture into a little tube shape then push it into the open flower and twist closed afterwards.

The batter couldn't be easier - just mix self-raising flower with fizzy water and dip the flowers into the batter - it should be the consistency of single cream.

Get your oil very hot and then drop the flowers in gently and fry till golden

Absolutely delicious.

>> Share your recipes for home grown produce on the Make it and Mend it Forum

Clare Flynn

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

London Shop’s Sale Based on Summer Temperatures

London Shop’s Sale Based on Summer Temperatures: "


London’s Social Suicide boutique on Ganton Street is offering sale prices on apparel based on how hot it is from day to day in London. They have a sign posted in the shop which displays the temperature, and savings. Obviously the time to visit is at the peak of a heat wave, but the promotion is a distinctive take on retail sales that are happening everywhere.


[via it's nice that]

[photos via it's nice that, black knave]

By Dave Pinter | © PSFK, 2009. |
Article Link |
Comments | More stories in: Environmental, Retail and , ,
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Monday, 17 August 2009

Make your own rain

Just wanted to share this little video with you all

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Cheap days out with the kids

1. Go to the woods
Your local woods, especially those run by the Forestry Commission, can play host to a great day out. Try Alice Holt Forest - there's so much to do! You can walk, cycle, play or just have a picnic in these lovely woods. Experience life in the trees with Go Ape, take a relaxing break in the café and finish your visit with a quiet stroll in one of the more remote parts of the Forest.
If you don’t mind spending some money there is theatre in Alice Holt Forest as well. Chapterhouse Theatre Company will be there on Friday 14th August with an open-air production of the classic favourite, Cinderella. You're welcome to have a picnic in the performance area before the show. Kids are invited to come in fancy dress and the show starts at 5.30pm.
For more details
Check out what your local forests are putting on by visiting

2. Go to the theatre

Kids Week - Children aged 5-16 years old can see over 28 dazzling shows for free, as long as they are accompanied by an adult paying full price.
As well as all the amazing shows on offer, Kids Week are sorting out a whole raft of free linked activities and workshops. Children can peek backstage, learn to dance, sing with the cast and enjoy exclusive post show Q & As
Hurry - booking for Kids Week is open for performances 14-28 August
For more details go to

3. Go to a local park

Heaton Park in Manchester, a council-run park with a great Animal Centre, two dedicated children’s play areas that provide a range of activities for children aged from 3 years up to 14 years is a good example. There’s loads to do here, including tram rides, pitch and putt and rowing boats.

4. Go to the beach

The British weather is pretty miserable for some of us this summer, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the beach. Just accept it's going to be wet and grab some waterproofs and a picnic and head on down to your nearest beach for some fun and games.
When preparing a wet weather picnic, think about taking some warm food. Sausages and baked beans can be kept warm in wide mouth flasks and homemade soup with chunky bread always go down well. And of course don’t forget the trusty flask of hot chocolate.

5. Go to Covent Garden

‘The Kids Are Alright’ – two weeks of top entertainment and special offers for children of all ages, set in the historic surroundings of Covent Garden’s Piazza, runs from Monday 10th – Sunday 23rd August.
The Piazza becomes a kids’ playground, complete with sandpit, ball pit, face painters, balloon modellers, as well as juggling and plate-spinning workshops from Covent Garden’s very own street performers.
Meanwhile, budding chefs can get messily creative with icing and silver balls as they get stuck into cupcake decorating classes and chocolate making tutorials on food market days (Thursday 13th and Thursday 20th August).
For more details go to

6. Visit a museum

Most museums run a free entry scheme and can be a great day out. Have a look and see what your local museum has to offer.
For a fantastic free day out in York visit the award winning
North Yorkshire National Railway Museum, home to some of the world’s railway legends including Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive, the iconic Japanese Bullet Train and the Chinese locomotive, one of the largest steam engines ever built in Britain and You can even learn how to control signals.
With daily demonstrations, loads of interactive exhibits, a special event programme and FREE museum admission, enjoy action-packed fun for the whole family.
For more details go to

7. Go stargazing

targazing makes a great trip out with the children and you'll be amazed how patient they can be. My own children used to spend hours waiting patiently to see a shooting star and August is the month to see shooting stars. During the Perseid showers in mid August you can usually guarantee to see comets and shooting stars and if you're lucky enough to live right up north you might get even a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.
It's a fun night out and you could incorporate it into a nighttime barbecue with stories and campfire songs. Just make sure you dress warmly and take a blanket.
>>How to make a homemade barbecue for your campfire

8. Find out how television works at the BBC

The BBC run tours all over the country – what does your local television centre offer?
The CBBC Interactive Tour lets you have a go behind the scenes! You can visit the Blue Peter Garden, a dressing room, take a peek into some of the studios at Television Centre and then have your photo taken by the Prank Patrol Car. If you are ready to be challenged by the bravest warrior of them all, take part in the
Raven game and then become 'Diddy Dick and Dom'!
The CBBC Interactive Tour is aimed at children aged from 7 to 12 years old and lasts one and a half to two hours. All children must be accompanied by an adult.
For more details go to

9. Go foraging for your dinner

Unleash your hidden hunter. Get out into the countryside or parks and riverbanks and go looking for your dinner. Children love picking blackberries and will spend hours searching for tasty morsels. All along the lanes and towpaths you can find an abundant supply of wild garlic, blackberries, sloes and other delicious goodies.

To add to the fun you can always go home and make your own jam with your ill gotten gains.

NB. Two words of warning - go to your local library and borrow a book on foraging so that you know that what you're eating is safe. And avoid foraging for mushrooms unless you really know what you are doing! For some top tips on foraging try

>>For some top tips for jam making
>>How to make strawberry jam

10. Visit the Bank of England

We all know what the banks have been up to lately, but do your children? Do they know where money comes from? The Bank of England Museum tells the story of the Bank from its foundation in 1694 to its modern role of keeping inflation low, issuing banknotes and working to keep the financial system stable. Interactive displays with graphics and video help explain these many and varied roles.
Did you know that
Kenneth Grahame, the author of Wind in the Willows, worked at the Bank of England for thirty years? He became Secretary in 1898 and remained in that position until 1908. Little known details of the famous author’s Bank career can be found in one of the Museum displays. During August the museum are running MASKerade where children are encouraged to step into the roles of Ratty, Mole, Badger or Toad and colour their own mask of one of the well-known characters from ‘The Wind in the Willows’
MASKerade runs between 20 July - 28 August - 10.30am - 4.00pm

For more ideas for free days out try visiting these sites


Friday, 7 August 2009

Recycing News Flash!

Recycle now are giving away free and discounted compost bins in certain areas. I tried getting one for myself and it came out at £10 which is still cheap, but some areas are completely free. It's dead simple to order and there's no credit card registration etc. just sign up!

Apparently there's also a free or discounted caddy per household included in your order. The caddy is for organic kitchen waste and it's an easy way to carry your waste to your compost bin. It includes a carry handle and close fitting lid

Sounds like a great offer, so visit the site now and enter your postcode to find out if you qualify.


>>For more great ideas on recycling

>>A new lexicon for recycling

Making rosehip syrup for the first time

I posted a wartime recipe for rosehip syrup on the MIAMI website and as I am the proud owner of a large rambling rose that every year is laden with hips, I decided I had to follow my own advice and give making rosehip syrup a go.

This time last year, my Friend Clare O'Brien stood in my garden and said "What fantastic rosehips - you must make some rosehip syrup!". I looked at her scornfully and replied "If Shirley Conran said life's too short to stuff a mushroom, then it's certainly too short for making rosehip syrup!" And here I am a year later eating my words.

Putting aside childhood memories of being given rosehip syrup on a spoon (it was always much nicer than syrup of figs, cod liver oil or liquid paraffin (vomit!) which were the other occasional remedies that tortured my childhood days) I decided to have a go today. I've been told it's great added to a glass of chilled white wine, like a Kir, as a refreshing cordial or poured onto some ice cream - that has to make it worth a try.

I spent the best part of half an hour up a stepladder, getting the hips down from the rose tree. I trimmed each hip, removing the hairy beards. I later realised I didn't need to do this as the whole mixture gets strained several times during the cooking process. It was nonetheless strangely satisfying. I was accompanied by a rather nice selection of classical piano music as I worked.

My kitchen now smells absolutely gorgeous - the strained liquid is bubbling away in the background as I write this.

My top tips for other would-be rose-hippers
  1. I didn't wholly rely on the wartime recipe but flipped between this and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's from the Guardian - which was very similar. I followed the wartime quantities but allowed the boiled mixture to stand for HFW's recommended half hour rather than the 10 minutes suggested by the old Ministry of Food
  2. I couldn't manage to get any muslin or jelly bags locally - but I found a pair of tights was more than adequate to the task! TOP TIP!
  3. Last but not least - please learn from me! I am almost done and have just realised I have no small bottles to decant the syrup into. Large ones are not a good idea as the mixture only lasts a short time once opened. Doh!
Clare Flynn

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Take a leaf out of this superhero’s book!

You may have noticed already, but we love guerrilla gardeners and this one is no exception.

Covered in green foliage and resembling something from a Sci Fi movie, the self-styled Human Shrub, first emerged earlier this year when he protested againstColchester council’s plan to turf over the rose beds as a means of saving money. His protests were successful and the council reversed its decision to tear out and grass over one in five roadside flowerbeds in Colchester.

Since then the Human Shrub spends his free time replacing weeds with flowers to transform dormant plant containers, but don’t worry this doesn’t affect his family life as Colchester’s very own superhero doesn’t work alone, he brings his wife to work as well.

The husband and wife duo struck again this weekend when they organised a party of volunteer gardeners to descend on a scruffy patch of land to spruce up it up by weeding and planting donated shrubs and flowers.

Brilliant stuff!

>> Fancy helping the Human Shrub? To find out more join him on Facebook

Tell us about your own guerilla gardening plans on the Make it and Mend it Forum

Sunday, 2 August 2009

More grounds for drinking coffee!

As long as you don't over-indulge on the caffeine, there are some good reasons here for drinking a bit of coffee, as we have some top tips for using up your coffee grounds.

Use it to fertilise your plants
Coffee is full of nutrients and especially benefits plants that like acid soil: roses, evergreens, camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and witch hazel. Otherwise if you want to add nutrients for other plants, just add the grounds to your compost heap.

Clean the fireplace
The old trick of sprinkling water on ashes works even better with coffee as you have the additional benefit of a pleasant smell. Just shake your wet grounds over the ashes in the grate before you sweep it out. It will be easier to gather the ash and the dust won't spread all round the room and give you a coughing fit!

Deodorise the fridge or freezer
Whilst most of us know that bicarbonate of soda is great for absorbing smells, if you get a really bad smell then some drastic additional action is needed to mask the smell as well as absorb it. Workmen finishing off a job at my house, switched my fridge freezer off by mistake when I was away and I came home to the worst stench imaginable. A couple of bowls of coffee grounds finally did the trick for me - and drinking the coffee to produce the grounds helped calm my temper!

Make an anti-cellulte body scrub
Anne Caborn's wonderful body scrub made from coffee grounds can help you tackle that cellulite. You can use her easy recipe before you jump in the shower.
>> Find this and other great home-made pampering tips in her piece on our website.

>> See also Weird and Wonderful Ways to Nourish your Garden - this was based on suggestions from our Twitter community.

If you have any other ideas for using your old grounds please let us know.