Gas and electricity usage (success)

I’ve just completed two years of monitoring my gas and electricity usage by taking regular meter readings. I’m really pleased that despite all the very cold weather I used slightly less electricity in 2010 than in 2009 and only 2 units more of gas. This is mainly due to being much more vigilant about reducing consumption last summer, which left me with a bit of leeway for the extra heating I needed during December.

My supplier isn’t the cheapest, but nor are they the most expensive. They have committed to keeping their tariffs the same until March and their customer service is much better than some I’ve had dealings with, so for now I’m not thinking of changing, though I will review it again when their prices do increase.

I increased my direct debits a couple of months ago in expectation of a price rise, but it now seems that it wasn’t necessary so I may be able to claim back a small credit later in the year. Which is a good incentive for carrying on with my efforts to reduce my gas and electricity consumption.


Not really a New Year's resolution…

… because I quite often decide that I will not start any new sewing or knitting projects until I’ve finished all work in progress, but it’s nearly New Year, so I might as well recycle that objective (again). My current list includes the following:

Finish socks for sister-in-law – started early December. One done, second just begun.
Finish tweed bag – pattern devised, cut out and ready to sew.
Make 3 pairs of trousers – fabrics bought at least two years ago. Complicated by wanting to make the pattern for them from an old pair of trousers that are too small for me.
Make 4 pairs of socks – yarn bought autumn 2010.
Knit cardigan – yarn bought summer 2010.
Make blinds for kitchen – materials at least 3 years old.
Remake curtains for living room – curtains from last house (I moved 5 years ago!) need relining and shortening. Need new curtain track.
Make proper door curtains – use materials from stash.
Make 2-3 cushion covers – use materials from stash.
Make up cross stitch card kit.
Make owl mini-tapestry.
Make completed mini-tapestries into pin cushions.

So, ignoring the loud guffaws issuing from my dearest friends who know only too well my talent for procrastination, I will focus on two things. Firstly my budget plans for 2011 require utmost restraint on the “buying things on a whim” front, secondly I have already made some progress lately on the “getting things finished” front by making myself do 20-40 minutes work on something (almost) every day.

Doing a bit every day is relatively easy when it comes to small portable projects like sock knitting. It’s not as easy with bigger tasks such as curtain-making because I don’t have a dedicated workspace and it drives me nuts having stuff all over the kitchen table if I’m ill for a few days and progress falters. Still, it will be interesting to see what I can achieve if I keep on doing about half an hour’s work on the list every day.


Fridge hygiene

It’s been nice to have few days of reasonable energy levels enabling me to get on with a few non-essential tasks. Well, maybe cleaning out the fridge is an essential task for some people, but I seem to have a blind spot for the crumbs, dribbles and splodges that accumulate in there. I suppose my mind is on food rather than dirt when I open the fridge door and my brain adjusts accordingly.

Anyway the accumulated muck penetrated even my sturdy visual defences over Christmas, so I did the deed this afternoon and now have a clean shiny place to store my perishable food. It might be teeming with invisible germs, of course, but it looks good and I am glowing with smug virtuousness.


Making plans

It started raining at dusk and the light sprinkling of snow we had overnight has been washed away. I shan’t miss it. So far I’ve coped pretty well with the unusually cold weather and we’ve got off lightly here compared to other parts of the country, but I’ve become aware that there’s more I could do to ensure that I can endure a long icy spell in comfort.

Top of my list is improving my curtains. My current “window dressings” leave a lot to be desired in the aesthetic department as well as being less than adequate as insulation. I do have double glazing, but well-insulated and properly fitting curtains will help a lot towards keeping the house warmer without increasing my energy bills.

I already have quite a lot of what I need to make better window coverings, so I don’t need to spend much money on them – I just need to find some time and motivation…


A little bit of summer

Can you believe that a friend gave me this orchid on 25th July?! I’ve never had one before, but I must be doing something right to have kept it going so long. Or maybe they are just completely idiot-proof…

When the weather got cold most of the flowers began to droop, but there are still four perfect blooms left and I’m hoping they’ll last a while longer.

I’ve had much pleasure from the orchid’s serene beauty these past months. This afternoon, caught in a beam of welcome sunlight, it recalled me to the day of warmth and laughter that I received it.


Keeping o-so-cosey

Despite what the “make do and mend” magazine articles say I find that old wool blankets are as elusive in charity shops as unwanted cashmere cardigans, so I snapped up this lovely specimen as soon as I set eyes on it. It cost a mere £1.50, but I’d have paid more just for the irresistible name.

I reckon it’s 1940s or 50s, but Google hasn’t been of any help in the matter. Still it’s almost certainly about the same vintage as me! It’s in excellent condition for it’s age, so much nicer than synthetic fleece, and makes a lovely extra layer on my bed during the cold weather.


Lipstick vine?

About thirty years ago I went to dinner at a shared house a friend had just moved into. One of her new housemates had a plant that I really liked and I asked for a cutting. It proved easy to grow and over the years I have taken many cuttings to give away and for myself. Goodness knows how many generations have preceded the plants I have now.

The plant will grow enormous given time, a sunny spot and an occasional drink of water, even in a fairly small pot. The biggest one I ever had trailed all the way down my stepladder which made a handy improvised plant stand in the bay window of my bedroom one summer. For years I had no idea what it might be called until I encountered some similar looking plants in the glasshouses at Wisley (or was it Kew?) which were identified as lipstick vines.

I’ve still not seen another plant exactly like this one with it’s exotic-looking flowers, but I think it’s a lipstick vine. Not that it matters really, to me it’s an old friend that I’ve had enormous pleasure from over the years and intend to enjoy for many more. It’s actual identity doesn’t really matter (but if you do happen to know…).