The lost art of writing letters (and baking)

I have to admit, I am something of a post geek. I get enormously excited when a letter or postcard drops through my letterbox. I love sending packages, letters and presents and knowing the pleasure the person the other end will get from receiving it. Since I've moved into the new house my passion for post has increased - seeing the Postman walk up our front garden, and feeling the weight of post on the doormat as I push open the door after a long day at work makes me all kinds of happy. Since we've moved out of the city centre, and a forty minute drive from all my friends, there's just something about living in a new area and a new town that makes me want to make that walk to the village post office and send something - to old friends, or new ones.

One of my goals for this year has been to send more letters and packages. When I wrote this I had in mind that I would send cards, photos and little gifts to friends and family. And whilst I have been doing this, I've also discovered several websites where you can do the same, but to people you don't already know. My favourite so far is http://sendsomething.net, where you can set up a profile, put your likes and dislikes, and search the profiles of other people to find something to send. I have already sent two postcards, and received a postcard and a lovely letter and some assorted ephemera from a girl in the US.

Letter sent from someone lovely on sendsomething.net,
and a postcard from a friend

Before I started delving into the online world of sending post to people you don't know, I had never heard of mail art. Mail art is basically sending art through the post - usually via beautifully decorated, illustrated or collaged envelopes.  I pinched the below examples from Bianca's Tumblr 'Fuck Yeah Mail'.  Bianca also has a lovely blog where she posts her own amazing mail art.  All of the below are from a project called Mail Me Art, who has held exhibitions and published books of mail art.

Now, I absolutely cannot draw or paint, but I wanted to get a slice of the pretty envelope pie, so I've been furiously gathering bits and bobs to send and to decorate my post - envelopes, stickers, cute sellotapes and postcards. The craft room now even has it's own mail drawer...

I have also signed up to a website called Postcrossing; a sort of postcard swap website that means you can send and receive postcards from all around the world. I've made some of my own postcards on Moo.com so I can get involved.

Are any of you post enthusiasts? Or do you prefer 'electronic communication'? Also, if you fancy sending me some post or receiving something from me, just drop me an email and let me know.

As you will probably all know by now, one of my other loves, is baking and cooking, and I have been baking up a storm this week to say thankyou to my friends at work for buying me a lovely 'new home' card and Ikea voucher.  I made mint aero cupcakes from this recipe ....

And also a very, very naughty but utterly delicious chocolate cake from this recipe.  Yum!

Finally, I'm going to finish off this post with an apology. Today I moved into my new study/craft room and so I am writing this sat at a desk, in a comfy chair, looking out on the front garden.  However, prior to this (and since our move), my laptop was in the utility room and I could only use it if I crammed myself into a space between the washing machine and the cupboards. Because of this I have been a little bit absent from Blogger and I have missed out on lots of your posts and haven't been able to comment. But don't worry - I am back with a vengeance and looking forward to catching up on what I missed! Thanks for being patient with me :)

My week in pictures

Sorry for the photo overload, but it's been a very busy week! 

[1] This was on our first night in the new house, we sat in Ikea Poang chairs and ate pizza on our laps watching Spaced on Tom's Mac. At this point our plans for the next day were to pull up the carpet and lay the laminate floor, little did we know that lovely wood flooring lay beneath!

[2] This is us halfway through varnishing the floor so you can see the difference in colour. We had to make a little walkway so we could still get to the kitchen whilst the rest was drying!

[3] I have been making little purchases for the house here and there to jazz up some of the rooms that need less doing to them. This enamel jug was a buy from EBay.

[4] My Mum came over on Saturday and helped me unpack what will be the 'craft room'.  I'm also using it for all my bookshelves and here it is so far with some of my books unpacked.

[5] The craft room has a window box on the outside so I planted some tulips as I like the idea of being able to see them through the window as they flower (wow, I actually sound about 50!)

[6] Another enamel jug, this time a present from my Mum after I spotted it on her website.

[7] A lovely bunch of flowers from my first visitor - my friend Nicole, who came on Wednesday evening for more pizza!

[8] Another present - this lovely little birdie arrived in a card from my parents' neighbours.

[9] Last year Tom and I went to End of the Road festival and had an amazing time - would recommend it to anyone! One of our highlights was the Pie Minister food stand so we were over the moon to discover these in our local Sainsbury's.

[10] This is me wondering whether to stop straightening my hair; this is what it looks like unstraightened, like a big wavy mess! I do like the idea of not damaging it with 100 degree heat every day though!

[11] On Sunday my parents and Tom's parents met for the first time and we had a late lunch in our new local pub. I wolfed down my main course (fish and chips) too fast for photos but paused momentarily to take a snap of my yummy pecan pie for dessert.

[12] One of my serious weaknesses is for Nando's. Tom and I took a trip into Bournemouth today and went for lunch here - I don't eat much meat so I have a huge pile of peri peri chips, perinaise sauce and halloumi cheese. Just looking at that photo I could eat that again now!

[13] One of our stops on our shopping trip was Home Sense - does anyone else have one of these near them? It's the home store of TK Maxx but it one huge shop, and oh my, I wanted to buy everything in there! They had so many lovely things, especially lots of lovely summery things for the garden. I can't wait till we've finished our garden and I can invest in garden furniture, plastic cups and plates, bunting and paper lanterns. I was very good on this occasion and only succumbed to this United Colours of Benetton pitcher (perfect for Pimms!) and a book of cupcake recipes.

[14] It was a long journey home due to a traffic accident so this is me with my feet up on the dash playing with my new Picture Show iPhone app.

[15] Tomorrow is my last day at home before I go back to work and I've planned to make some cakes to take into work to thank my team for their moving card and Ikea voucher.  This is my fully stocked baking cupboard, ready for making the Good Food Ultimate Chocolate Cake and Mint Chocolate Cupcakes.  I will post some snaps when they're all made!

[16] This is a sort of 'after' photo from the first one - the wood floor is now all varnished and we've even moved some furniture in. Phew - we have been busy!

Our new home

So removal day has now been and gone and I am so excited to say that we are finally in our new home.  It is such a strange and exciting feeling to be walking around a three bedroom house and thinking 'this is all mine!' Of course, the reason we were able to afford a three bedroom house is because the decor was pretty appalling and a lot of the DIY work that had been previously done was mostly a bit of a botched job.  Luckily, Tom and I have a week off together to get a headstart on the things that needed to be done to make the house a bit more bearable - i.e, see you later green carpets, textured wallpaper and 70s light fittings.

We made a start on the living room immediately, stripping all the wallpaper...

 ... sanding the walls and putting a first coat of paint on.

The builders came this morning to stabilise the floor in the living room this morning, and we were thrilled to find out when they stripped the carpet away, that underneath there was really lovely original wood flooring. So despite having bought an absolute ton of laminate, that is now lying dormant in the hall as we prepare to sand and varnish the floor to bring it back to its former glory.  

I can't wait to show you all what it looks like when it's all done.  I hope you don't me sharing these 'before' photos - I'm sure to some it will be a bit boring so I'll try and intersperse these type of posts with other ones.  Not outfit posts though, unless you want to see me in a very fetching set of all in one painting overalls! Haha.

A new chapter

As you will all probably know, as it's all I've been banging on about for the last few months, this weekend is my last weekend in the flat before I move house on Tuesday.  The flat is now strewn with packing materials and boxes and I've been furiously sorting through things to keep and things to throw away.  Before I worked in my current job I worked for the photography store Jessops, and as a result, I've amassed boxes and boxes full of negatives, photographs and photo discs, most of which I sorted through this morning.  Because this move will bring me to a new chapter in my life it felt quite poignant and apt to be looking through images of previous chapters - old friends, old boyfriends, previous places I've lived.  I even pulled out some photos of the first flat I bought and remembered how I felt on that first day of moving in; like I had something that was all mine; that feeling of true independence and ownership.

image from weheartit
If someone had told me a year ago that this time this year I would have just bought a house with the most lovely, kind person I have ever met, I just would have laughed.  I would have laughed because firstly, a year? To meet someone, fall in love, and buy your first house? I don't think so.  Secondly because this wasn't at all what I was looking for.  I was happy with my independence and my priority was to do well at work and pursue my career.  I guess it's true what they say that you don't know what you're looking for until you find it. Anyway, enough gush - I guess I just feel thoughtful and nostalgic, and at the same time, so impossibly excited for our new home.

from pretty zoo
I decided to have a break from packing earlier and do some photoshopping as I love the idea of having some new address cards to send out, I did the first and wasn't sure about it so I did the second for a bit of a laugh and funnily enough I quite like it, it looks just like me and Tom!

On a final note, I was a bit naughty today and bought a dress online from Dorothy Perkins.  I had spied it in Glamour magazine and loved it, so when the lovely Sarah from A Million Dresses announced today that DP were having a 30% off dresses sale, and that their 20% off code still worked (DPGLAM20) I couldn't resist picking it up - especially for a bargainous £28.  Perfect for all those garden parties I'll be holding in the summer!

Hope you're all having lovely weekends!

Saving money on food

Because I can be quite frugal, and because my finances are tighter than ever, I am always looking for easy ways that I can save money without making major lifestyle changes.  One expense that was the first to go when I started being more stingy was buying lunch when on my lunchbreak at work.  Until a few months ago I was buying sandwiches, crisps, and usually something sweet from either the local shop or the sandwich trolley at a cost of about £4 a day; which works out at a massive £80 a month! I resolved to change this, not only to save me some pennies, but also to find some healthier and more varied ideas for lunches.

from anotherlunch.com
Instead, these days, every week I do a small shop for things to take to work and keep in the cupboard; usually things like packets of nuts and dried fruit to pick at, a box of cereal, a multipack of crisps and some low fat yoghurts. This usually costs about £6 or £7.

On top of this, I usually try and prepare the night before by cooking something to take into work the next day.  I also recently bought a set of Ikea lunchboxes to take various things in to work in.  Here is one of my lunches this week - a jacket potato with cottage cheese.

Warmed up in the microwave with a knob of butter it is absolutely yum and a right treat at work! I also like to take in pasta or salads (and also a big fan of super noodles - they may have a bit of a student-y reputation, but a big bowl of noodles is so filling, and a bargain at about 50p a packet).

These days, even including all the snacks and the fact that I buy breakfast cereals to eat at my desk, I usually spend about £10 a week on lunches - half what I was doing before.  Result!

One thing I have refused to give up on is my love for eating out.  I have also managed to make lots of savings in this area by being savvy about where I eat out and always checking for vouchers and offers before.  There is a little bit of stigma concerned with whipping out a voucher after dinner, but it is always outweighed by the satisfaction I feel from getting a bargain meal! My two favourite sites for vouchers and offers are Money Saving Expert and vouchercloud.  Pizza Express and Slug and Lettuce always have vouchers knocking around, and Slug and Lettuce do a half price Mondays where everything on the menu is half price, meaning you can get their ultimate platter (snapped by me below) for about a fiver! Nom!

I hope this was of interest to some people.  I want to start including more informative 'tips' style posts in my blogging so please do let me know if you find this interesting, or if you prefer my usual 'dear diary' type posts!


Tyneham village, car park idiots and Ikea treats

I'm sorry that I have let a week elapse between my last blog; it has been such a busy week with work yet again, and then this weekend was another busy weekend. After our long weekend away last weekend I had visions of two lazy days around the house - DVDs, takeaway and long bubble baths... but when my other half invited me down to Weymouth to stay with his parents' for the weekend I was tempted away from my plans of R&R by the promise of sea air... and dinner out and a roast dinner the next day!

On Saturday I managed to tick off one of my 2011 goals by paying a visit to Tyneham Village.  Tyneham is a ghost village in south Dorset - left this way during the 2nd World War when the MOD commandeered the village, moved everyone out and used it for firing ranges, as they still do today. Most of the buildings are all ruined now....

... but the schoolhouse was maintained, and you can still see the children's names on their pegs, the work on their desks, and their schoolroom. I'm sure some of you are thinking I sound like a right boring old person going and visiting abandoned towns then I'm sorry but I love things like that! So interesting walking around all the ruins and wondering who lived there, and what happened to the children at the school.

The people of Tyneham must have been devastated to move out as a short walk from their village was this amazing beach! 

And here is Tom with his adorable little nephew in his woolly outfit!

If you follow me on Twitter you will know that after my lovely weekend away we came back to Southampton on Sunday to find my ultimate pet hate - someone parked in my parking space. When I bought the flat it came with an allocated space, with a big number 39 painted on it for anyone who wasn't sure who it belonged to. Sadly, some people still have the attitude of 'there's no car in it now so I'll just park in it' - which absolutely grinds my gears! Worse still, the car parked in it was one that had been left in my neighbour's space for a week last week, meaning they racked up seven angry notes by the time they moved it! Unfortunately they moved it into my space on Saturday and left it there until this evening - meaning we had to pay to park today! When Tom went down to leave the third note the girl was getting into her car, and told Tom she needed somewhere to park as she was a student living in the halls next door! She saw nothing wrong with parking in people's spaces saying she'd 'only left it there a few days'.... ARGH. Is there anything like this that really gets you going? I would also file this one next to drivers who drive in the outside lane up a traffic queue and then push in.

Oh, by the way - despite Tom's advice that it probably wasn't the wisest place to move her car to, this is where the girl left it this time... Unlucky if that's your garage!

It is now one day and one week until I move from a little one bedroom flat in the city centre to a three bedroom house in the country (sort of) with the boy. So naturally we paid a little visit to Ikea this evening to size up some things we might like to buy when we move in - the answer, of course, being everything! We bought a few little bits, my favourite being a slice of their yummy Daim (dime?) cake in the cafe. NOM!