All posts by lookingglass12

About lookingglass12

Mum to one little boy, chef, crafter, wife....

Pipers Farm – a Review

I haven’t done a review on here in a long time, but thought I may as well do one for Pipers Farm – sorry, no photos of the finished meals, they didn’t last long enough…

I’ve looked for an online butcher for a long time. As a former chef, if I’m going to pay top whack for a chicken or pork joint, I want free-range meat and want to know where it’s been raised. I get my pork & lamb from a small holding not too far from me, and I have blogged about them before, but I hadn’t found any online butcher for poultry that I wanted to try until I found Pipers Farm in November.

They get their meat from a group of farms in the south-west that raise all their animals free-range without any added feed. This time, as my son wanted duck for Christmas dinner, I was originally looking at just getting a duck, but then added a whole chicken too. Then I saw the packs of chicken hearts and chicken livers and had to get some – I love both but have never seen packs of chicken hearts for sale in the UK before.

I decided to get some duck legs as well – we love crispy duck and I can get the pancakes from an asian food store so… I got 10. I started to look at the rest of Piper’s Meat’s website and saw venison too. I ordered some venison shank and some hearts but they were out of venison heart. I convinced my hubby and son to try beef heart a while ago, and they really liked it, so figured they’d try venison too. I was about to check out when I saw that they had beef bones – I make stock all the time but haven’t seen beef bones for sale to the public so got several kilos.

The order came on the day it was supposed to, in 2 boxes with ice packs and wool insulation. I unpacked it and everything looked really good. It’s all packed individually so I kept out 2 duck legs; it turned out that the cold packing is so good that they were mostly already frozen so we had them the following night for dinner. I packed everything in the freezer except some of the bones to make stock and those 2 duck legs.

I roasted them after rubbing them in 5 spice powder and they were delicious, a good size too. They had lots of flavour and not a huge amount of fat – some duck seems to be all fatty skin and not a lot of meat. I kept the fat for roasting potatoes.

The beef bones actually had a good amount of beef on them still, one looked like a mini beef shortrib! I made a ‘white’ beef stock (I didn’t roast the bones first) with about half of the bones and it made about 5L of stock after simmering with lots of veg – onion, carrot, leek, garlic, celery and bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley, thyme. The longer you simmer stock for the better and this simmered for almost 24 hours. I had taken the meat off the bones at around 5 hours and had our cat begging me for it while I was still stripping the bones – he had some while it was still quite hot. I use this meat for the cat as a treat but also for risottos (chicken) and soups, depending on the meat. I froze most of the stock but we had asian noodle soup first… a good stock makes a good soup.

We had the duck roasted for Christmas as my son wanted; I stuffed it with an apricot & prune bread stuffing which helped stretch the meat a little. Alongside were roasted potatoes, brussels sprouts and carrots, roasted parsnips, gravy made from the juices in the pan. The duck came out with crisp skin (I only pricked it with a fork and sprinkled salt on it) and with most of the fat rendered off. There was a great depth of flavour in the meat and gravy and a 2.5KG duck made 6 meat portions + the bones for stock for another meal or 2. You don’t need huge portions of meat when it’s this good – savour it and enjoy, don’t gobble it down, no matter how tempted you are!

Last night I roasted the whole chicken and it was packed with flavour and not bland at all – and you get the neck, heart, giblets and liver with both the while duck and chicken. I roast them well seasoned with salt & pepper wrapped in foil and eat them before the rest of the meal is done, they were gorgeous. (Hubby and son don’t like liver or the neck so I get them). Yes, I could roast them for the gravy but I’d rather eat them. There’s a higher meat:bone ratio on a chicken than a duck and I use the bones for stock – I’ll probably get 9-10 meals out of this chicken once I’ve made the stock.

I will definitely be ordering again from Piper’s Meats – we have loved each piece of meat we’ve tried. I also like that you can keep the packaging – the boxes, wool insulation & icepacks and then send them back once you have had 5 orders. We accidentally reused our boxes and I plan on using the wool insulation so won’t be sending the packaging from this order back, but probably will for other orders.

This isn’t supermarket meat – think of buying this meat as an alternative to eating out in a restaurant. You’d pay more for bog-standard pizza for 3 at a chain restaurant than the chicken and all the sides cost. All told, the roast chicken dinner was just over £20 and while this is a pricy meal for 3 eating at home, once it’s stretched over 2 meals and balanced out by the much cheaper meals I make regularly – pasta bolognese, pesto pasta, noodle soups, jacket potatoes etc. it’s actually not that expensive. I know not everyone can afford this, or think they can, but if you do a little thinking about what you eat and go for better quality meat less often it’s doable.

Pipers Farm currently have a 15% off sale on until Jan 11, so if you are thinking of ordering, go for it!

New Year Plans 2020

Well, we all know I haven’t really blogged much in 2019. It’s hard to do long-term, as anyone who has a blog will know. I struggled with coming up with posts and also the time to write properly so didn’t write many at all. I suspect this year will be similar, but I will try!

I am making big changes to my little handmade business this year. I’ve seen so many businesses come and go on Etsy and on Facebook. People think, oh, I can make that, and charge less, all these businesses are ripping people off! So they start off with knit baby hats or buying in cheap glasses and pre-cut vinyls or MDF shapes, and charge materials x 2. They don’t factor in all their expenses – electricity, packaging, paypal fees (if they aren’t insisting on being paid by Friends & Family), insurance (if they even have it), doing accounts, time spent packaging and going to the PO… the list is almost endless.

But what they really don’t factor in is their time and wear & tear on their bodies. This is a huge issue to take into account – if someone is working every hour they are awake just to sell £4 items that take 30 minutes to make, they will be wrecking their health, relationships with significant others, children, other family and friends. When they finally sit down to do their taxes they’ll spend hours sorting them out to realise that they’ve made very little for 40+ hour weeks and could have made more flipping burgers at McDonalds 16 hours a week. So they disappear after a few months or a year. And then more take their place. It’s a whole other blog post on people valuing handmade items and being willing to pay properly for someone’s time and skills…

These “pop-up” handmade businesses who often aren’t trading legally anyway, underprice and undercut other handmade businesses instead of figuring out that long-term businesses charge what they do to be sustainable and are not ripping people off – handmade items should cost more than mass-produced! So I have been getting fewer and fewer orders for keepsake cushions, knit scarves & cowls as well as photo props which used to be my best sellers – the last are boobs, uteruses and placentas and they still sell pretty well.

Ever since I made 150 uteruses & placentas for a wholesale order in 3.5 months, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I would have to slow down because my hands wouldn’t put up with knitting 10 hours a day anymore. And that time is now. If you have been reading my Facebook business page over the past year, you’ll see there are lots of posts of me saying “my hands are bothering me again today, so I have to take it easy” or similar.

I have made fewer items this year, and it’s frustrating when you are used to making a certain amount and you just can’t anymore. I am phasing out items in all my shops on Etsy – Green Living Co Looking Glass Design, and Anatomical Knits by LGD, Ebay and Amazon. I will be focusing on items I like to make, using up my current craft supplies for other items and once they are made and sold, that’s it. I will be doing more sewing and the knitting will be less of a focus. I’d like to knit for me and my family more.

I will also be starting a job working for someone else for the first time in 8 years. Partly because of the changes in the handmade industry but also other factors like politics and the environment – we need to make do and mend, reuse already made materials and items much more and pushing newly made items that aren’t eco-friendly or aren’t environmentally consciously made in some way doesn’t feel like the right thing to do anymore.

One thing that will be staying open is the Green Living Co Etsy shop and more upcycled and more items made from repurposed materials will be available this year. I’ll keep you posted as much as I can about what items are being phased out and what will be added to all my shops. Below are some of the items still available!

Blue Scrubbies
Peach Scarf Strap
Buckwheat Hulls

Mustard & Black Drawstring Bag

Snickerdoodles

I think it’s a snicker doodle kind of day…

Through The Looking Glass

These are my favourite cookie. I could eat the whole batch, so I rarely make them. However…. Son’s school has a cookbook fundraiser and they’ve asked for 1 from each family. This will be ours.

They are a plain cookie, but that’s an understatement. They are soft in the middle, and rolled in cinnamon sugar,so they are crisp on the outside, and should be a little wrinkled.

Ready to eat

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1.5 cups caster sugar
2 eggs
2.75 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Method: Preheat oven to 160’C. Cream butter and sugar together, then add in eggs one at a time. Add in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, and mix until it all comes together. Roll into walnut-sized (1″) balls and chill for 5- 10 minutes. I…

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Ebay, Ebay, Ebay

I’ve been selling on Ebay for almost 15 years now – both as a private seller and as a business. I’ve had great transactions and bad ones. I’ve left glowing feedback and not-so-glowing feedback.

But I can only leave FB as a seller if my items on my business account are being seen and ordered. I had a ‘basic shop’ as a free 2 month promotion for July & August. I ended up in the hospital on Aug 27 so I shut my shop on Ebay so I didn’t get orders I couldn’t fulfill. I had no idea that this would cause a lot of wasted time and grief for me because the shop shut on Aug 31, there was no way to turn the listings back ‘on’.

Basketweave Cowl

I thought that as the shop has shut that the listings had been active on Ebay and I was just lucky not to get any orders. I was wrong. The listings were still invisible – and I didn’t realise for almost 2 weeks when I couldn’t find one of my listings in search, I can’t remember what I was doing at the time. Even brand new listings weren’t being seen! I then got on ebay webchat and was told that she had ‘blank revised’ all my listings and give it up to 24 hours to ‘re-index’ the listings. I know when I edit a listing the listing changes immediately and I’ve never had one disappear for 24 hours. But I waited.

Nothing happened. I webchatted again & was told the same thing. On day 4 I got Ebay to call me. The Rep (Rep 1) on the phone decided to pass the issue onto Tech support and it would be 48-72 hours but she would call me back. She didn’t. I got them to call me again 72 hours later.

Oval Scrubbies

That rep said that she couldn’t see what Tech told Rep 1 and that the other rep must be on a day off and that she would have Rep 1 call me the next day and if that didn’t happen, Rep 2 would. Neither did. Another call the day after that and again, no Rep 1. Rep 3 told me he could send in another ticket but it would be another 48-72 hour wait. Lovely.

Rectangular Jute Scrubber
Rectangular Jute Scrubber

Yesterday Rep 1 emailed me a form email. Even lovelier. But it turns out that she was sick, Ebay customer support have no way of passing on issues with accounts if the rep dealing with it is sick for a week, and there was a very simple way to sort out my account – open a basic shop again. Why this wasn’t done behind the scenes and sorted last week, I don’t know. It’s not as if they actually gave me the free shop for another month as they removed it off my account as soon as the shop was taken out of holiday mode by the webchat rep. BTW, never use ‘as a courtesy, we won’t charge you £30 to fix XXX’ when XXX isn’t the customer’s fault…

Peach Scarf Strap
Mustard & Black Drawstring Bag

So, my ebay listings are now available to buy and I’ve put as many as I can on sale for 1 week, do take a look! All the items in the photos are on sale!

More Little Zipped Bags

Yup, here you go, more zipped bags. I have 24 made now made and 13 more to go… I said before I had a lot! lol

Each one will be listed on Etsy, Amazon & Ebay so you can use whichever platform you prefer if you want one – I’d love it if you did! Even after almost 8 years in business I still give a little excited ‘ooh’ when I get an order notification on my phone. At least when my phone decides to give a notification; it’s rather temperamental… (As an update, although these bags have all been listed on Ebay, there is a glitch of some kind and none of my ebay listings can be seen right now. I’m on ‘webchat’ with them daily to try to sort it… with no luck.)

Some are in new fabrics, and others aren’t. Because I have resewn these from some I purchased from a business that was shutting down for health reasons, but that weren’t made to my exacting standards, I decided to remake them – they were and are – different sizes. All are now lined with white polycotton or polyester fabrics, and some have a keyring attached (some I forgot to add it, oops!).

I’ll add links as they get listed – yes, there are lots of bags! Even if there are 2 of the same fabric, they will be different sizes and most likely have a different colour zip – the last ones will all have white zips. Which is your favourite?

Pink Stars Bags available here – Amazon & Etsy

Cupcakes Bags available here – Amazon and Etsy

Christmas Bags are available here –Amazon and Etsy

Scottie Dog Bag is available here – Amazon & Etsy

Yellow Dotty Bags are here – Amazon & Etsy

Animal Print Bags are here – amazon & Etsy

Dachshunds Bags are here – Amazon & Etsy

Orange Dotty Bags are available here – Amazon and Etsy

This Summer…

You know when you’d go back to school & get the teacher asking you “What did you do last summer?” Here’s my answer.

Well. It’s been ‘fun’. As always Looking Glass gets slower over the summer and I expect that. When my son was younger I would use the time to do things with him and go places, have playdates etc and not worry too much about sales.

This summer, I thought it would be different – son was away for 3 weeks (eek!) and I had PLANS. Yes, PLANS all in capitals in my head with a to-do list as long as my arm. Then reality kicked in. We needed a new fence and finally were able to get one. I decided that I could take the old one down myself and asked a neighbour to help and we got it down in about 3 days. This isn’t a big fence, but this was in the first week of July in a heat wave and the £($(£*$£f72y posts had to be dug out – and boy, did that take forever. We had a shovel, crowbar, breaking bar and a sledgehammer and there were a few we’d have cheerfully used dynamite on because the concrete was so stubborn.

The skip – a large one – was parked on my neighbour’s drive for a few days longer than I’d have liked (them too, I’m sure) but it eventually went. The company I hired to put up the new fence also went and even faster. I fired them after 1 day because the work they did was so shoddy. The fence posts they put up came out again in less than 10 minutes each – the concrete they made up was like fruit crumble topping and the posts just lifted out.

wobbly fence
cracked concrete
post hole after post lifted out

To get the fence up before Sept. meant that I had to do it. In the heat, with my neighbour who helped take it down (he’s not the one living on the other side of the fence). We are both perfectionists (he used to make medieval armour)and both of us slightly decrepit so there was lots of “don’t fuss!”, “watch your knee!” & “watch your back!”.

Then… the neighbour who is on the other side of that property boundary & who had been consulted about the fence got shirty about it even though he had been consulted about when/the height/how it was going to be put up etc.
Hence more trips to the fencing place to get more materials and gravel boards to raise up the height. One Saturday, this neighbour decided to pull off one of the panels at the front & damaged 2. This is criminal damage, he was seen and then subsequently denied it – there is no corroboration so that’s that, the police can’t do anything. He’s refusing to allow us onto the property to finish or paint the fence after we told them they were no longer allowed to paint their side — but waited a week to kick us off the property so we could get most of the fence up (and start to paint) & we were still on their rented property to do so. Yes, we had permission to be there up til then.

So I have a 90% done fence with 3 panels missing; it’s half-painted on the other side from my garden. And that’s how it’s going to stay as they are refusing mediation via either the police or the housing association they rent from. I have PLANS to sort this that will not involve going on the property. So endeth July.

redone fence
redone fence 2
redone fence 3

In August the fence painting started. Because of my back I can’t paint all day, and the weather wasn’t fully co-operative anyway (rain) so it was sort of ‘how many panels can I repaint, and can I manage to do a first coat on another before I need to stop?’ kind of painting. We’ve got most of our side done in a moss green which I like more than I thought I would. My hands began to really ache though so the last day we painted it was just son and hubby to give me a rest. And I got more of a rest than I bargained for.

We also bought IKEA furniture – we desperately needed more storage and son needed a dresser that could hold his clothes, he’s been using the same one since he was 5 and it was tiny. They came, all 18 boxes… and we started to put that together when we weren’t painting the fence. Son really has enjoyed it. Hubby hates it. None of it is finished after 3 weeks as I ended up in hospital with pancreatitis. I do not recommend! I was in the hospital for 6 days and self-discharged as the air beds were killing my back – I spent the last night there on the chair by the bed with a heat pad or TENS machine on.

I’m still recovering, had to shut my shops for 2 weeks, and have no idea when I will start to get orders again. I’m taking it easy and am not pushing myself this week. If I had to grade this summer it would get a “D”.

Did you have anything ‘interesting’ happen this summer? Did you enjoy yourself, or did you have a disastrous summer like we did?

More Jute Scrubbies!

This time these jute scrubbies are…. coloured! I have 4 colours to choose from – red, green, blue and a sage green (I think that’s my favourite!)

Rectangular Scrubbies
Oval Scrubbies

I have had all the jute scrubbies tested – some liked them more than others but it was down more to what they were used to rather than any issues with how well they worked. Men seemed to find them a little small, so I will sort out a large option too.

Red Scrubbies
Green Scrubbies

They were tested on dishes, floors, baths, countertops, painting easels, tiles, pots and pans… you get the idea. They worked well, washed up easily (I sometimes put mine in the dishwasher if there isn’t going to be a towel load that day) – the first one I ever made is still in use almost 5 months later.

Blue Scrubbies

One of my testers also found that they were great for exfoliating her legs before she shaved them too! I’ll be adding a round shape for those, but I have the oval and rectangular ones in that Etsy listing right now.

Sage Green Scrubbies

They are gentle on non-stick pans – one tester commented that she loved hers as the cheese that was baked onto her pan came off but didn’t get stuck on the jute like it would on a plastic scrubbie. Like the natural jute scrubbies, these are also compostable, washable, and recycleable – the perfect eco-friendly product!

Hello again!

I know, I know, I’ve been really bad about posting in here again. It gets hard coming up with new things to post that aren’t only ‘Hey, I have a new item here, buy it!’ type posts.

I’m hoping to start posting more. Life hasn’t been fun the past year; I have struggled with old injuries – my back and right ankle keep acting up. If it’s not one, it’s the other so I haven’t been able to do much yoga, which helps with both – but I can’t do it if I can’t either bend or flex my ankle!

This has also affected my productivity – I can’t sew when my ankle is bothering me as that’s my pedal foot. I am very frustrated that I haven’t made the items I want to for my new Etsy shop, Green Living Co. I have piles of fabrics to recycle into wipes, bags and heat packs – and I need to add in a care/instruction card to those too.

And onto the “Hey, here’s a new product” part to this post… lol

Jute Scrubbies
Both shapes of scrubby

These jute scrubbies have sold fairly well (just not on Etsy!). I plan on a larger ‘mens’ size that hubby has asked for and coloured ones too. I’m hoping the other upcycled, recyclable items do as well!

Oval Jute Scrubber
Oval Jute Scrubber

Once these scrubbies have done their job – they make great alternatives to sponges – you just cut them up and recycle or compost them. Before that, you can pop them in the wash with your towels, or in the dishwasher too, when they get dirty. I’ve been using a pair of these scrubbies for months now.

They are made from Jute twine, which is compostable and recyclable (if you don’t compost) and the plants it’s made from take in more CO2 than trees do and is a quick-growing and sustainable crop.

Rectangular Jute Scrubber
Rectangular Jute Scrubber

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled waffle! I’m glad for all the readers of this blog, and hoped that you have enjoyed reading my posts and possibly have tried out a recipe or 2?

Cute Little Notions Bags…

I have finally listed these cute notions bags on Etsy and Amazon… and Ebay. (Never have all your eggs in 1 basket!) I have a fair few more to get finished off and listed but they will get done eventually.

They make perfect notions bags for knitters or crocheters with the keyring on the side to clip to a clasp in a larger bag, but could also hold small projects too – like a dishcloth, maybe. I haven’t decided yet which is my favourite, which is yours?

Each one is fully lined too. Of course they would also make great make-up bags too, but that wasn’t the first use I thought of (I don’t wear makeup) – what else would you use them for? Comment below!

You can find this cute pug dog notions bag on Etsy, on Amazon as well as on Ebay.

Pug Bag

Then these blue anchor bags are here on Etsy and here and here on Amazon (they have their own listings) – plus Ebay.

Blue Anchors bag 1
Blue Anchors Bag 2

Do you prefer something brighter to catch your eye? This bright orange dotty notion bag is perfect!

Orange Dotty Bag

Check it out here on Etsy, and on Amazon as well as on Ebay (there are 3 bags available in this listing).

If pugs don’t take your fancy, do bull terriers?

Bull Terrier Bag

Here’s the Etsy link, on Amazon as well as on Ebay.

Lastly, check out this cute animal print bag!

Animal Print Bag

Find it on Etsy, and on Amazon as well as on Ebay.

While some of the bags I haven’t finished yet use the same fabric as these ones, I still have others to show you!

Yup, more Camera Scarf Straps…

I have no idea if anyone’s out there anymore reading this blog, so I guess I’ll just post these camera scarf straps and if you’ve read this, let me know!

I made these 3 new (well, 4 actually, as there are 2 of 1 scarf) scarf camera straps last week. One is a pink scarf,the 2nd a peach and the other 2 are from a turquoise pashmina scarf that’s great for winter outside photo shoots as it’s quite a thick scarf!

Here’s the Pink Scarf Camera Strap – it’s made from a viscose scarf in a pretty baby pink.

Pink Scarf Strap
Attachment for the pink scarf strap

And then the Turquoise Scarf Strap . This one (there are actually 2) I made from a pashmina scarf – a real one, in a goat and silk blend wool. The colour is fabulous!

Turquoise Pashmina Strap
Attachment for Turquoise Strap

This Peach Scarf Camera Strap and the colour is more peach than in the photos.

Peach Scarf Strap
Over 1 shoulder

Which one do you prefer? And if you prefer to buy off Amazon, you can find all these scarf straps here .