Our cheap and cheerful Xmas

Here is what we are planning for our own Christmas. As we are in rental (again), we have not unpacked all the decorations, so it's down to a smallish artificial tree and other random bits and pieces scattered all over the kitchen diner and hung on the banister of the staircase (a wooden nativity, a soft Santa with fake pine reindeers, sundry candles, tinsel garlands and ceramic festive figurines).

I got a tiny tree from a charity shop to sit on the huge TV (my partner is hoping it will die soon so he can buy an ultra slim one, but it's still working well so we are stuck with the 45kg monster).

Some decorations are hanging in the lounge, partially hiding the mound of boxes we cannot squeeze in the garage (click here for photo of our wall of shame).

As mentioned previously we are going for an Italian menu. We are finalising it but these are the options:

Smoked salmon
Affettati (slices of Parma ham, Bresaola and salami)
Duck pate' served with toasted chunks of bread

Ravioli with ragu (meaty sauce)
Roast beef in wine sauce with fried carrots


Other dishes that didn't make it include: Russian salad (insalata russa), cappelletti in brodo (stuffed pasta in broth), brasato al barolo (sliced roast beef with Barolo wine sauce), capon (fattened castrated cock), panettone farcito (stuffed panettone with all sort of goodies), castagnaccio (chestnut pudding), panna cotta. These are all traditional dishes in northern Italy.


Recycled Christmas - be jolly and green

Do you remember that hat I knitted recently? Well, the white yarn was recycled from a cute hoodie wrap, outgrown by my daughter. If you see this post for the first time, scroll down and you will find the pattern for the hat.

I have been kindly included in a green carnival and was fascinated by the contributions, which are creative, beautiful and ecofriendly. Click here and enjoy!

Happy Celebrations!


Cambridge Cheapskate's day

Just over 15 months ago I used to be a London Cheapskate and ran a website about cheap and cheerful (or indeed free) things to do in London. Then I was a Rugby downsizer, as my income took a hit as soon as I left London and started to work from home. Now I'm back to Cheapskate status, my income is still low (thanks a bunch credit crunch), but I'm hoping that living in a city will unlock some monetary opportunities.

But I disgress, I'm posting to share a very satisfying afternoon that cost me nothing, except leg power. I strapped my daughter in her stroller and pushed all the way to St Giles Church in Castle Street and we visited the Festival of Trees (click here for details), which is free, although I gave Michela some coins to put in the donation box. The trees, decked by local organisations are magical - Michela loved the one where most of the decorations are knitted, including a lovely nativity at its feet.

Then we crossed the road to visit Kettle's Yard's house and gallery. These are both free, but do visit their site before you go as they have unusual opening hours. The house is wonderful, full of art, with the books and objects of the previous owner in display. You cannot touch the objects but you can sit on the wonderful chairs and banquettes throughout. If you go with a small child, the house has lots of steps, so it's best if she/he is in a sling or if she/he can walk.

The gallery has changing exhibitions and they often have free events such as concerts and talks.

From there we walked into the centre, it's a lovely stroll and at one point you walk on a Bridge over the Cam and can stop to watch the slow progress of the punts.

At the Lion Yard shopping centre, we visited the newly refurbished library, which has a great children's section. Michela sat at a tiny table for a while and started drawing with the crayons, played with the fittings (there is a cute train with wagons full of books and some ducks made of fabric) then I read her a few books.

On the way back she fell asleep, exhausted, no doubt by all the stimulation. What a lovely day and it didn't cost a penny (except donation to the church, which is optional)!