Sunday, 19 August 2018

A Week Off

Yesterday, was my last day at work for 9 whole days.  I'd booked another week off during LB's summer holidays from school, so that we could hang out together a bit before she goes back to school. To be honest, I was glad to get away.  Just recently we've had lots of shop lifters in the shop and it's starting to get me down. We work so hard to raise funds for the charity and people just come in and help themselves to whatever they want.

We try to keep an eye on people acting suspiciously, as much as possible and do sometimes deter or catch shoplifters in the act, but we also can't  be expected to catch or prevent every single one, especially when some are under the influence of who knows what and quite scary or intimidating to approach. It just makes me a bit cynical on the whole and disappointed in humanity.  After all, these people are stealing from people who have very little, not even basic human rights in some cases. It makes my blood boil.

Anyway, no more talk of work, I've got a whole 9 days of not having to worry about it.  The shop is closed for 4 days during my absence for maintenance work, which makes it easier for the manager in some ways.  The takings will be down, but it can't be helped. We start the shop sale when I get back, which should be interesting.

So, what am I planning to do this week?

We are heading up to Yorkshire for 3 days to visit family which will be nice.  It will be good to get out of London, especially in light of the way I'm feeling at the moment and just have a complete break, as it allows me to forget about work for a while and not wonder what's going on in my absence.

On the other days, I'm intending to do a whole new raft of decluttering around the house.  I've already pulled out about 15-20 books from the bookshelves in our bedroom that I'm going to part with, as I'm not going to read them again. I've also got in mind some items in the kitchen cabinets that I'm going to donate, some of which belonged to my mum, but I just don't use them. I will keep one, as a memento, but the rest can go and find a new home.

I need to get LB's hair cut before school starts again and before she goes to a music festival at the end of the month.  I got it cut a few weeks ago, but the stylist was frightened to cut it as short as LB wanted it, so bottled out, but this time around we both want a good 6 inches cut off for going back to school. It will be good to get rid of any split ends.  LB has lovely long thick hair, not at all like mine, but it takes quite a bit of managing, so getting it cut into a long bob will mean a lot less work for her and besides it will probably grow back in no time and a change can be a good thing every now and then.

I really need to try to do some cleaning around the house this week too, but I'm not sure how much of this I'll get around to doing. I've not really got much interest in housework at the moment, but it needs to be done so I am hoping to get around to cleaning some rooms.

Thankfully, the allotment is more or less taking care of itself at the moment, what with more changeable weather.  We harvested lots of tomatoes and beetroot last week and I need to pickle the beetroot, use up some rhubarb and continue to use the mountain of tomatoes in the fridge. I've frozen a few bags of ones that had split through being so ripe, but I may have to freeze more to get the best use out of them.

I'll try to post a few times during the week to keep you up to date with my progress.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

A Much Better Week

After complaining of not really being very productive for the past few weeks, on account of the heat, this week I've managed to achieve a bit more, thankfully.  Productivity  has mainly been on the gardening front, but at least it's something.

On Sunday morning, on the way back from the dog walk, I dropped into the allotment to water the plot and harvest anything that was ready.  There were lots of tomatoes, beetroot, rhubarb, potatoes, more French beans and a couple of courgettes.

I ended up staying for a couple of hours and weeding the plot, as it was in total shade, thanks to the boxing club next door. This made it much more bearable and I was able to get up to scratch with keeping it looking tidy.

I didn't manage to get any photos, however, as I'd left my phone at home charging.  I'll try to get some the next time I visit.

Later in the week, on my day off on Wednesday, the weather was decidedly cooler so I ventured into the garden, which had been looking a bit overgrown since we came back from our holiday.  I nearly didn't do this, as I got it into my head that I would go to the garden centre instead, to possibly buy some new plants and have a mooch. Thankfully, the frugal part of my brain, which sometimes makes itself heard, told me not to bother and that it would be a better idea to stay at home and tidy the garden instead, which is what I ended up doing.

I gave some of the shrubs in the borders another chop back and also cut back some of the climbing plants that come from next door and start to smother my plants if I don't take control of them.  After I'd finished I was happy with my progress and proceeded to clear one of the raised beds and sow some more lettuce seeds into it for an autumn salad crop.

We're managing to use the existing cut and come again salad at the moment, but there's not that much of it left now, so I thought I'd better make arrangements to grow some more for when it eventually dies off.

I did a couple of other small jobs, including repotting a Date Palm, that I'm trying to grow as big as I can before I plant it in the border.  In the autumn, I'm finally going to remove some of the old woody shrubs and put some new plants in, as one of the borders is getting very congested now.  It will be strange and a bit sad to see the old shrubs go, but I feel it's time for a change and I'll enjoy sourcing some new plants for this border and seeing how they grow and fit in.

After sweeping up the decking, I moved inside to do some other jobs, the first of which was to boil up some beetroot I'd harvested on Sunday and pickle it.  It made a couple of jars, so that should keep me going for a few weeks or until I make some more.

I've currently got French beans drying on the window sill to use as seeds next year, green tomatoes ripening and sweet pea pods also drying, so it's a bit of a production line around here.  There's also lots of rhubarb in the fridge, plus gooseberries and blackcurrants in the freezer, that I need to make into jam at some point. I still have more than two jars left from the last time I made some but it's quite tasty and is a good way to use the fruit up that no one else in the house likes.

Finally, I also blanched and froze some French beans we've had in the fridge for over a week, as I didn't want to waste them by letting them get past their best. So, it's been quite a productive day all told.

I'm hoping the cooler weather continues for a while so that I can get more jobs done.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Earn/Save an Extra £2018 in 2018 - July

This month, things have slowed down dramatically on the saving and earning extra money front.  The main reason being that I've decided that using supermarket vouchers doesn't always save money, especially when said vouchers are for use at Waitrose. I end up spending way more on groceries than I would if I shopped at Lidl for them, which is madness.

Instead, I've been trying to do all of my shopping at Lidl for most of the month and not using the vouchers at all. I'm hoping it will help keep me within budget.

So, that said, here's where I have earned or saved extra this month.

1) I sold a few more items on eBay this month.  This has earned me £9.64 this month.

Total earned on eBay - £9.64.

2) I got a free bus journey to work the other day, on account of the ticket scanner on the bus not working.  This saved me £1.50. Every little bit helps.

Total saved on bus fares - £1.50

The total amount of extra money earned this month is £11.14, which when added to last month's total of £796.17, brings my current total this year to £807.31.

As you can see, I've saved a lot less money this month, partly as a consequence of what's mentioned above and partly due to going on holiday for one week too. I'm not sure how much more money I will be able to earn save this year, but I'm going to continue to plod on and do my best.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Sweating it Out

Another hot day and I have to say that I'm really struggling with the heat.  I can't seem to motivate myself to do much at all. Yesterday, on one of my days off, I caught a class at the gym in the morning and then did a top up food shop and from then on I gave up and binge watched the new series of Anne with an E (based on Ann of Green Gables) on Netflix.

I feel super unproductive, but I just can't bring myself to go outside.  If I manage the laundry and washing up and load/unload the dishwasher, I feel like I've achieved something big.  Is anyone else feeling the same way?

Today, I feel a little more comfortable. I have walked the dog, (keeping to the shady side of the streets), hung some washing out inside and washed the vegetables that OH harvested from the allotment. OH has got  out the air conditioner, that we bought last year when the weather turned very hot, but was only used once or twice. It makes the kitchen much more bearable, but I still can't bring myself to venture outside. Even the dog has stayed inside today and is currently sat at my feet underneath the kitchen table.

I have even taken to buying plastic water bottles this year, (please don't judge me), which I never do, and freezing them, so that the defrosting bottle cools me on the way to work and keeps me hydrated with lovely cold water for most of the day, when I remember to drink it, that is. What I should do is try to freeze a reusable plastic bottle and see if that works as well. It would be much more sustainable.

I've also been keeping the freezer stocked with ice lollies to help cool us down.  If we had a freezer box at work, I'd do it there too. Instead, we've been fighting over the fans.  The one in the office I use always gets taken to the office upstairs (that I don't use), and I'm left with no fan.  I took one out of the stockroom on Wednesday and put it in my office, only for someone to take it back into the stockroom again, where there are four others.  I wasn't happy. Being a woman of a certain age, having a fan is even more essential for me, but I'm not going to go around telling people that.

As a consequence of the weather, I personally am being very neglectful of the allotment and garden.  OH has been over to water and harvest a couple of times since we came back from Portugal, but I haven't set foot over there yet, which is a bit naughty. It's just so exposed, with no shade at all.

We've got a bit of a glut of tomatoes and French beans at the moment. We're slowly working our way through it. There's lots of cut and come again lettuce in the raised beds in the garden too, which we are eating. I'd love to be outside gardening, but I just can't face it.

Having said all of this, I'm very grateful not to be in Portugal right now where temperatures are predicted to rise to over 40 degrees centigrade this week. It's bad enough here at 35 degrees. Will I ever get used to this hot weather? I'm not sure I will, maybe I just need to stop whingeing just get out there and get on with things regardless.

If anyone has any tips regarding how to keep your cool in this weather, I'd be happy to hear them.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Monthly Round Up - July

A busy month with work, our holiday, school ending for the summer and visiting family members(although they didn't stay with us). It's not been so bad, budget wise, but I did go over in most categories, mainly due to buying bits and pieces for the holiday.

Here goes with the results:

Food budget - This came in £6.90 under the £400 budget, which considering we were away for a week, isn't too great, but under budget all the same.

Household budget - This went over the £50 budget by £30.68, mainly due to buying sun cream, insect repellent and other toiletries for the holiday, plus the regular stocking up of some toiletry and household items.

Miscellaneous budget - This went over the £50 budget by £34.85 this month, due to a niece's  birthday gift and buying a few extras for the holiday.

My Personal budget - This went over the £25 budget by £80.02 because I indulged in a few more t-shirts and tops to wear for work. I have devised myself a uniform for hot summer days, which consists of long black short sleeved t-shirts from H&M and loose fitting harem trousers.  It works well in the heat and I wanted to buy enough to get me through the summer.  It makes getting dressed for work much quicker and easier.  I also had a haircut which cost over £30, but was badly needed.

LB - This £25 budget also went over by £49.93, due to buying her several new pairs of shorts for the holiday/summer holidays and also another £30+ haircut.

Home - I went over the £20 home budget this month by £32, to purchase my sun lounger, plus a couple of other small items for the house and garden.

Travel - This £40 budget came under by £4, mainly due to being on holiday for a week.

All told, I was happy enough, as I cash flowed holiday spending money (even coming back with lots of euros for the next time we go away), LB and I got much needed haircuts, I've now got lots of options to wear for work and I still had some money left over to transfer to one of my savings accounts, which I consider a positive result.

There shouldn't be much required expenditure next month, unless we go away again, as I will be taking another week off in August. We will probably stay in the UK though, so we can take the dog with us. There will be the expenditure of buying a couple of new school skirts for LB and maybe some socks and underwear, but otherwise, I have no spending planned. I'm hoping to put a bit more money aside next month as a consequence, but we'll see what happens. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Back Home Again and a Kitchen Preview

We've been back in the UK for a few days now and are settling back into normal life.  We had a lovely holiday, very relaxing. A little too relaxing if I'm honest, but I think I needed it.  I feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.

Yesterday, was my first day back, and it wasn't too bad.  The Manager and volunteers had kept stock levels under control, so it wasn't too overwhelming. I haven't yet officially met the new Deputy, who is sharing the post with me. I should meet him on Wednesday, which will be interesting. I was a bit tired after my first day back, but that's to be expected really.  I'm sure I'll build up my stamina for it again pretty quickly.

Today, I'm at home and trying to catch up with my month end finances. The whole house needs a good clean, but I'll get around to it eventually, there's no hurry. I did tackle most of the holiday washing and my ironing mountain after we returned, which has helped. I thought it best to get it out of the way whilst the weather was cooler.

I didn't really spend much money on holiday.  I don't really go in for souvenirs of any kind, but I did buy a Portuguese tile coaster on this holiday, to remind me of the beautiful tiles we saw decorating some of the buildings.  It nicely matches our renovated kitchen colour scheme too and is so pretty that I couldn't resist it. 

Talking of the kitchen, I haven't actually shown you any pictures of our progress. It's not finished yet, as we still need new cupboard doors, a new co-ordinating glass splash back behind the hob and a new fridge freezer and microwave, but I love the colour change and I am enjoying the simplicity it offers, with only everyday essentials out on the worktops. It's been a bit like a Minimalist packing party, I don't want to put some of the things I took out back, as I want to keep it as simple as possible. I'll post more pictures when it is fully completed.

I digress, anyway, I also indulged in buying two large bottles of Aloe Vera gel whilst on holiday, which I always use as an after sun lotion and for other things too at times. I just about had spare weight in my luggage for these.  The only other thing I bought was a new sun visor.  I've bought these on past holidays and never worn them again, as I didn't like them once I got them home, but this one is very similar in style to an old and much worn favourite, so I think I will use this one.  I decluttered two previous holiday purchases as soon as I got home. It's useless hanging onto them when every time I put them on I don't like how I look in them. Hopefully, it will be a case of third time lucky.

Since we've been back, it's been wonderful to have some rain.  I really didn't mind taking one for the garden/allotment, when I got drenched on a dog walk on Sunday morning and I positively relished waking up to thunder and rain this morning.  Thankfully, the allotment and garden survived not being watered in our absence, but I need to get out and do a bit of harvesting today at some point.

Friday, 27 July 2018

A Day Out in Porto

On Tuesday, during our week in Northern Portugal, we woke up to a very overcast sky.  Thinking that it may hang around for most of the day, we decided to head out and do a bit of sightseeing in the nearest large city, which was Porto.

Porto is Portugal's second largest city after Lisbon, the capital and it's airport was where we flew into the country.  It was only an hour away and as we approached the city we were pleased to see that the sky was blue and the sun was shining.  It had been a good decision.

We started off our visit by stopping off at the Casa de Musica, a wonderful concert hall designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaaus/OMA. We didn't go on the tour of the building, but did have a little look around what we could and stopped for a drink and a snack in the lovely cafĂ©. (I had a wholemeal croissant, the first I've ever had and it was surprisingly good.  If they had these in the UK, I would definitely buy them, despite the calorific value.) 

This very contemporary building was a stark contrast to some of the more historic sights of Porto.  I particularly liked the buildings embellished with tiles.

There were also some interested artworks embellishing some of the buildings.

Cat lovers will love this particular one and bunny lovers might like the one below, which interestingly, was three dimensional and made from all kinds of junk.

I also liked this art work made entirely of old tyres. A great idea for recycling them.

Aside from being famous for the production of Port, the city is also know for it's six bridges, three of which you could see from the one we were standing on in this photo.

The above is the fourth bridge we saw, which we walked across twice, one way on the higher level and back along the lower level. We took the cable car from the top of the bridge down to the riverside, where there were lots of restaurants and market stalls.

Either side of the river the town climbs up and this results in lots of small, cobbled streets to climb.

Not for the feint hearted or those with mobility problems, but there are trams and tut tuts to hire to get around too.

It's a beautiful and very interesting city to visit. I'd highly recommend it to anyone.