Becca Jane St Clair

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Being Winter Ready

Are you ready for Winter?

If you live in the UK, there are some claims that parts of the country could see snow in mid-October. It’s a bit of an ambiguous comment considering the UK includes Scotland, and it’s quite likely for it to snow there early in the season, and oh look, it did. But with last week’s record-breaking highs followed by this week’s bitterly cold wind, you never know what will happen with the weather.

So it’s time to get out the wool caps and start preparing yourself and your home for Winter.

As most of you know, Tim and I live in half of a farmhouse built in the 1800s. While we have nice thick walls for insulating purposes, it also can get quite draughty. We don’t have central heating and rely on a fireplace in the living room for heat, and electric oil-filled radiators in the other rooms, along with a halogen heater (which I use a lot in the living room when the fire isn’t lit) and a gas heater in the bathroom. Last year, Tim and I picked up some Stormguard Secondary Glazing from B&Q and it really made a difference in the living room, bathroom, and spare room. This year, we purchased two kits so we can hopefully get all the windows (except for the kitchen) sealed. The reason we won’t seal the kitchen is because it acts as a vent for the hob, and the kitchen will get warm enough from cooking.

When it got cold last year, we started shoving old towels and dressing gowns (US: robes) around the bottom of the front door and the living room door. It really helped to keep the warm air in the house. I even shoved a mitten inside the letter slot overnight because I could feel a draft coming through it! This year, I plan to make some draught excluders from last year’s winter tights (checking carefully to make sure there are no holes first) and some sand. I will post a tutorial within the next few weeks.

We also will be closing off rooms in our house to keep the warmth where we need it. This year, we aren’t having a guest at Christmastime (I’m very sad about this, but there’s nothing we can do about it), so we plan on leaving the door to the spare room shut. The cat will be mad at losing her favourite sleeping spot, but she’ll get over it. We also will be keeping our bedroom door shut during the day to try to keep as much of the heat in as possible.

Years ago, Tim purchased an all-seasons duvet from Debenhams. It is a two-part duvet with a thin duvet for Summer use, a thicker duvet for Autumn/Early Spring use, and you snap the two together to make a thick, warm, Winter duvet. It sure is nice and cozy to snuggle down under the thick duvet with our heated mattress pad.

Obviously, I’ll also be bringing out the thermal undergarments, and I’ve actually been wearing some of the tops this week already. Last year I couldn’t find tops in my size, so I just wore regular camisoles. I was in Marks and Spencers a few weeks ago and I discovered they sell ladies thermal tops up to a size 22, so I now have 2 camisole/sleeveless tops, and 2 long sleeved tops to go along with my 2 pairs of thermal pants I bought last year. I also wore tights under my trousers nearly every day last Winter, so I’ve already stocked up on a few pairs of weather sensor tights. They claim to “keep your body temperature regulated”. I’m not really sure if they work or not, but they were soft and comfortable. I’ll also soon start shopping for some thick slipper socks to wear around the house, as I’m not an indoor shoe-wearer. My mom sent me a pair of bootie-style slippers, so that will help, too. Last year, Primark sold mock uggs for a fiver. The boots were pretty useless when we had loads of snow, but they also doubled up as slipper-boots for the house. I bought a pair of boots at New Look towards the end of the season on a recommendation from my SIL, but I’ll keep a pair of Primark boots in reserve just in case I get soaked.

Other than getting the house and my wardrobe ready, I also have to think about the kitchen and cooking. Last year, we had a snow storm that had our car stuck in the driveway and the only shops we were able to get to were the corner Spar or the Cost Cutters – both of which ran out of bread and milk faster than they could get it delivered. Tesco also cancelled one of my deliveries due to the snow, so we started to run out of food options until my MIL’s friend took her to Tesco in their 4×4 (US: SUV) and she was able to pick us up a few items. This year, I’m going to try to be more prepared.

I have a bread machine, so when the Spar ran out of bread last year, out came the machine. It’s not brilliant bread for toasting, but it will do. Milk was the bigger issue, and at one point we had to resort to powdered skim milk for our tea (gross) for a half day while we waited for the Spar to get in a milk delivery. We are going to fix this problem this year by keeping a few boxes of UHT milk in the pantry. We take UHT milk with us when we go camping, and while it’s not something we would sit and drink a glass of, it’s fine for tea or a bowl of cereal, and it’s shelf-stable, so it doesn’t need refrigeration until it’s opened.

We don’t usually eat processed food, but I started a small “stockpile” within the past few weeks as a “just in case”. My mini stockpile includes cooking ingredients like pasta, passata, and canned tomatoes as well as tins of hoops, ravioli, and macaroni cheese. If we run into a situation where there isn’t anything to eat in the fridge, we will have a few meals we can make from the tinned food, and it doubles as “emergency food” for those times when we have been out all day and I’m too tired to cook or days I’m not feeling well and should save us from ordering pizza or going down to the chippy. I also have a few containers of “just add hot water” soups and noodles. It’s not brilliant, but it will see us through a snow storm. All I have been doing is adding an extra few tins to my weekly grocery shop, particularly if something was on offer.

I also have to consider the possibility of the electricity going out, as ours went out several times last Winter. Assuming we can get it up and running, this won’t be a problem for us as we will have the coal-fired Esse stove working. If we don’t get the Esse working, then we will have a combination of whatever can be cooked over/in the fireplace and the use of our single burner gas camping stove. Last year I also purchased toasting forks for the fireplace for cooking sausages or toasting crumpets.

Lighting-wise, we have loads of torches (US: Flashlights) and some strings of battery-operated fairy lights we purchased at IKEA last year for a railway project. I grabbed two strands last year while my mom was visiting and the electricity went out and strung one around the bannister to see for going up the steps, and it worked wonders. I even took the strands camping and used one as a night light so when I got up in the middle of the night I didn’t have to fumble for a torch. I also tend to load up on candles – both the tall tapers and tea lights. A tea light in a jar can provide enough light to use the loo, and a group of them can be used to read by. The extra plus of a candle is that the flame will help to raise the temperature in the room, too. When I ran out of candle holders for the tapers last year, I pulled empty bottles out of the recycling bin. The mouth was just the perfect size for a candle, just melt some wax around the lip first to secure the candle. We also keep a battery operated radio under the sink, and I’ve used it to have some noise around if Tim was away at work, but it also works for leaving on a local radio station to get updates. We have an inverter in our camping supplies that will convert a car cigarette lighter to a regular plug just in case we need to charge a phone.

Because our electricity tends to go out at random moments, we keep torches accessible everywhere and I started collecting wind-up torches from the places we visited to cut down on needing batteries. When I was staying in a static caravan last summer (2010), I used two wind-up torches to read by in my bedroom so I didn’t need to use the overhead lighting, so they are pretty bright!

The single-burner camping stove means we can still heat up the small tins of food, too. I can get very creative when I need to, and if you get a large enough pot, you can peel the label off a few cans, put the opened cans in the pot, fill the pot with water, and cook two cans at once.

I know a lot of this sounds crazy, but I like to be prepared. I don’t want to wind up in a situation where we’re freezing and hungry and I don’t think anything I’m doing is too extreme.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Clean Your Flasks…with Denture Cleaner?

I had a problem. Tim and I have stainless steel flasks we use for carrying around tea when we are out and about. And of course, we have milk in our tea in the flasks. You can imagine where this is going, I’m sure.

Yes, I forgot about emptying the flasks the time before last. I dumped them outside and discovered we had made tea-flavoured cottage cheese (no, I was not about to eat it!), and left a film on the inside and bottom of the flasks. I thought I had cleaned them out, but the next time I made tea in them, my husband complained that it tasted funny.

I searched google to find a way to clean out my flask, and after wading through many sites about how to clean your hip flask, I was getting no where. I changed my search term to “clean steel Thermos”, even though ours aren’t Thermos brand flasks, and found several e-how articles. I tried the following:

-bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and hot water
-fill it halfway with white vinegar and top off with hot water
-mix hydrogen peroxide with bicarbonate of soda
-soak with regular dish soap

And nothing worked, so I went to a favourite LJ community of mine, Hip Domestic. I got lots of solutions that either didn’t make sense to me or that I didn’t have the supplies for, and then jackmaybenimble came forward with a great soloution – Steradent.

She instructed me to put the Steradent into the flasks (with water) and then to use pebbles. She suggested glass pebbles like the kind you can get to put in vases, but I just grabbed a handful of pea shingle from outside and washed them off. Seal up the flask and then shake. The combination of the fizzy Steradent tablet and the rocks act like an agitator to help scrape off the inside.

And you know what? Both flasks look brand new. I’m going to give them a re-wash to make sure all the Steradent is out, but there isn’t even a stain on the bottom! All the filmy stuff that was clinging to the sides of the flasks is gone, and we’re confident we will have tasty tea tomorrow!

Why isn’t this stuff listed on a cleaning website?

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