Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Bit of a Catch Up

Well, it's Sunday and I don't feel like I've done hardly anything today.  I was working Friday and yesterday, so I guess I've been recovering from the physical exertion of that.  I did walk the dog this morning, do a class at the gym, complete the weekly shop and then cook a roast, but otherwise, I've not done a whole lot.  I guess I am entitled to days like that, but a few boxes in my bullet journal didn't get ticked.  Never mind.

I thought I'd do a bit of a catch up with regard to my new job. It's going okay. I am finding the people management side of it tricky, as most of the volunteers/interns are quite young and it is quite difficult sometimes to keep them on task.  I'm working on it.

The current manager in post, has suggested a new system of giving some of them more responsibility on a day to day basis. They are management interns and are there to learn how to manage, so they need to be given the opportunity to take charge of different aspects of the shop and I along with the manager, will then oversee their efforts, helping them as is necessary.  This sounds like a much better approach, as they will get much more from their time in the shop, the more they engage. We'll see what happens.

I am enjoying the work.  Everyone has put in a lot of effort over the past couple of weeks to get on top of the back log and the sorting room is now looking so much better and less overwhelming.  It should make life much easier going forward. The manager himself has been driving this reorganisation and it is beginning to pay dividends.

Friday last week was a bit stressful, as a couple of situations arose in the absence of the manager, so most of my day was taken up trying to resolve them satisfactorily, albeit temporarily. In comparison, Saturday was a dream, as there were only a few long term volunteers and both of us paid managers on duty and we were able to do a whole lot of work without many distractions. It was bliss.

I'm gradually building up the stamina to deal with the physical nature of the work.  It's taken a few weeks, but I am finding it easier physically as the weeks go by.  Having said this, the day after I've worked, I am often not capable of doing much at home, possibly through tiredness. I'm so pleased that I didn't offer to work full time, as it would definitely have been too much.

I enjoy the bus journey to and from work though, much more than catching the train.  Instead of having to jostle for a seat in a crowded train carriage, I have a whole bus seat to myself all of the way in to work and can open a window and take a breath of fresh air if I wish (although the buses are air conditioned), listen to the radio on my earphones, people watch or just peacefully prepare for or decompress from the day's work. It takes a little longer and I often miss a bus, as I lock my bike up, which is eternally frustrating, but the whole travel situation is much less stressful. I actually enjoy getting the bus.

I'm working three consecutive days this week before we go away on Saturday for a week.  We are housesitting for relatives, looking after their animals while they go on holiday, so it should be a pretty relaxing week. I'm not sure what I'll come back to, but I'm trying not to think about that for the moment.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Allotment Update

As promised I thought I'd post an update about the allotment. I haven't really visited much in the last two weeks, due to starting my new job. I did manage one visit to water and harvest, but other than this I didn't do any work on the plot.

As a consequence, when I visited on Sunday afternoon the weeds had started to grow back with abandon in places. After harvesting any crops that were ready, I decided that it was time to do a bit of work and spent a couple of hours removing the weeds. I managed to get half way around the plot in that time, which wasn't too bad.  Here's a picture of how the plot looked when I left. The side I dug over is on the right.

The other side of the plot is more densely cultivated, so the weeds aren't as abundant, but I did go back to tackle them today and cleared most of them.  I also sowed salad and fennel seeds into any gaps that had arisen.

Here's a picture of the vegetables I harvested on the initial visit on Sunday:

(Please excuse my very muddy boots and leopard print hareems! - Strange gardening attire, I know)

 and the vegetables harvested today:

I have to admit that we're struggling to eat everything, so I desperately need to defrost the freezer to be able to store some of it.

I've now harvested the last of the early lettuce crops both at the allotment and at home, and although I've sewn more, none of it is really anywhere near ready to harvest.  We have one more week here before we go up to Yorkshire for a week to housesit for relatives, so I might just be able to make what we have last until then and hopefully when we get back some more will be ready.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 12

It's been an expensive month this month, what with starting a new job and having to pay for things that I wouldn't normally budget for. i.e. bus fares, clothing for work, etc. This has led to a number of frugal fails this post, but I'm taking it on the chin as next month, I will be able to adjust the budget to account for these expenses.

Frugal Fails this post are as follows:

1) I went further over on my personal budget this month, to buy a reusable water bottle that would fit into my handbag, for taking to work. (I only had a large one).  It has been very useful though, as it is incredibly hot in the sorting room at the shop, despite numerous fans going, so it has been helping to keep me hydrated. I never usually drink much water, save for at the gym, so it's making me drink much more, which is a good thing.

2) I also went over on my Misc. budget on account of paying out over £ in bus fares to work this month.  Luckily, I think there was some room in the budget, which should still allow me to pay as much off my overdraft as I wanted to this month.  I'll know better by the end of the month.

3) The Household budget got busted on account of my having to place an order with My Pure for some natural toiletry/skincare products that I'm running out of.  I needed facial wash, dental floss and concealer, but threw an eyebrow gel and a face cream into the basket too, as by doing so, I got the facial wash for free and they will be needed at some point in very near the future. I haven't stocked up like this recently, but I figured it will save me from having to place another order for the next couple of months.

Frugal Measures and Freebies

1) I got the free natural facial wash as mentioned above, by ordering an extra couple of items I use regularly from My Pure.  The whole order was also subject to a 10% discount with a voucher code, which saved another £3 or so.

2) I used another Tesco £4 off a £30 spend voucher on groceries this week when doing the weekly shop.

3) I got a print out of my journeys to work, just to check how much I'm paying each day in bus fares.  I was happy to see that one day, the card reader on the bus didn't charge me for my journey both ways for some reason, so I got a free day's travel.

4) I received a dividend pay out on one lot of the shares I bought a few months ago.  Not a huge sum at £11.90, but it was more than I would earn in interest in the bank and it will go towards buying some more shares in a different company, when I've collected enough money in the account.

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Halfway Point

Well, it's the halfway point of the month, and I'm halfway through my first month in my new job, so I thought I'd do a little post about how I'm faring.

Budgetwise, I'm not doing so great, as already most of the budgets are overspent, some by quite a bit, some by just a little.  I have still got money left for food for the next two weeks though and I'm trying hard to empty the freezer, so am buying as little new food as possible these next two weeks. Hopefully, I might just scrape through and still save as much off my overdraft as I'd hoped (i.e. £150) despite all the added expenses of going out to work this month.

On the job front, I'm two weeks into the temporary contract and am finding my feet a little more at work.  I still find it difficult to manage some of the younger members of the team, but am trying to be a bit better at delegating.  A lot of the time I tend to do things myself, as it is easier than standing around listening to excuses or looking at blank faces, but I know this is unsustainable and I need to get others to help with the jobs that are less popular.  It's a learning curve that I knew I would face from the moment I accepted the job.

On the positive side, the sorting room is looking a lot more organised and much of the backlog in there has been processed, so it is gradually becoming a lot less overwhelming, although the rate at which donations come in and the clothes are replaced on the shop floor is still a big challenge, as many more items have to be sorted, prepared and put out each day than I'm used to.

I find that I enjoy working on weekend days a little more, when there are far fewer volunteers and the commute to work is much quicker on the bus, due to no-one venturing out in London early on a Saturday morning. When I get to the shop I can work without the many distractions of supervising a large number of volunteers and it is the one day that I am able to make a cup of tea and drink some of it. (I never drink it all!) This does have the down side, however, that with less (wo)manpower, fewer items get put out in the shop, as you have to complete the whole process on your own .

On the home front, the cleaning has slipped a bit. I just didn't have the energy to clean the bathroom last Wednesday, so I'm carrying that job over to today, when I will be doing my Weekly Home Blessing.  I don't think rooms will be as deeply zone cleaned going forward, but so long as I keep on top of the main jobs, doing something is better than nothing. I am now beginning to understand that it's not necessarily time, but energy that is lacking when you go out to work, especially when the job is very physically demanding. The mind is willing, (sometimes) but the body isn't on the days when I'm not at work.

On the decluttering and simplifying front, I haven't really done a whole lot.  I did go through the book shelf in the sewing room the other day and pulled out a dozen books I no longer want to keep. I also went through LB's book shelf and pulled out another few books she didn't want too. I can't see there being a large number of items decluttered this month, but you never know, I might get a second wind in the latter half of the month.

With regard to the garden and allotment, I have managed to do occasional visits to water. The rain we had last week helped a lot, as it reduced the need for visits.  I did spend a couple of hours on the plot yesterday, weeding and harvesting.  I got about half way round before coming home.  I'll probably try to get back there again towards the end of the week, energy levels allowing. We've got quite a few vegetables from the plot waiting to be eaten now, which is good. I'll do a separate post about this.

We had a lovely day at Wimbledon last week. We watched a Men's Doubles quarter final and a Mixed Doubles match and then had a wander around the outside courts to watch some wheelchair tennis and some of the youth matches. We tried to get on Henman Hill to watch the end of Johanna Konta's match with Venus Williams on Centre court, but it was just too busy and there was nowhere left to stand, so we went back to our seats in Court One.

We did manage to meet up with my friend from the gym, who had tickets for the same court on the same day and we sat watching with her and her friend for the last couple of hours which was nice. Attending Wimbledon is a lovely day out, but the journey home is a long one for us on the Tube and quite exhausting. We got home at 9pm.

I hope you're having a good month so far.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Work and Play

I've had a busy couple of days, firstly catching up with work around the home and getting back on track with the Flylady system after working and volunteering so much last week. By Monday night I was almost there, just the bathroom to clean today, on one of my non-working days this week. 

I've decided to cut myself some slack this week and not clean a second room of my choice this month, as on Thursday, OH and I have got tickets for Court One at Wimbledon, so we will be out all day and I want to get a bit of me time today and not spend all day cleaning again. I'll be working Friday and Saturday, so no time there to do an extra room. That's the beauty of the system, that you can do that if you so wish.

Yesterday at work was manic.  There were 4 new work placement students, 2 new interns and a couple of volunteers that I hadn't yet met. I can see I might have difficulty in remembering everyone's name going forward. In total, on the morning shift, that made 16 of us, which is crazy, but it is a big shop, so can easily accommodate us all in the sorting room and on the shop floor. Another three volunteers turned up in the afternoon too, to take the total to 19 staff working in the shop on one day, although not all working at the same time.

It does, however, make for a lot of work getting done and I can now see progress being made in how I want the clothing sections of the shop to look (my main remit). Hopefully, once we get on top of what is a bit of a backlog in the sorting room, we'll be 'flying' at the shop too. I've got a couple more small changes planned for the shop floor, but am waiting for the right time and opportunity to instigate them. Luckily, my manager has given me the freedom to implement any changes I deem necessary, subject to his approval, so I feel very supported in my endeavours.

Today, I'm spending the day in quite a leisurely manner, decompressing from yesterday. My only tasks are to take it easy and recuperate, clean the bathroom, walk the dog and make some supper.  I'm sure I'll find other things to do, but for now that's enough for my shop addled brain.

I was very happy that it rained yesterday, as the garden and the allotment both needed a good soaking and it saves me visiting the plot to do the job today. The garden now looks much more green and lush. I wasn't quite so happy about the rain when I got soaked at the bus stop and riding my bike part of the way home last night, but it was a small price to pay for a bit of cool, fresh air, as opposed to stifling heat. I'm looking forward to putting my boots on to walk the dog this morning for a change.

After this week, I have two more weeks at the shop before we go up to Yorkshire for a week to house sit for family. We're looking after ponies, dogs (one of whom is about to have a litter), a cat and chickens, as well as the house! It should be a relaxing change of pace though, but I'm trying to get as much done at the shop as possible before I go, which is why it is so full on at the moment.

In the meantime, there has been no opportunity to spend any money, which has been very good for my budget and hopefully this should continue for the next couple of weeks and see me through this month, hopefully on target with the budget. I guess while I'm working to earn money, I don't always have time or opportunity to go out and spend it, which is an added bonus that I could get used to.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 11

This week I spent quite a bit of money, as soon as it came my way. Most of my spending happened on account of a couple of trips to the local mall to get my hair cut in readiness for a job interview and any subsequent spending has been on groceries only. So here goes:

Frugal Fails:

1) I bought two new tops and a pair of pumps that weren't budgeted for, to wear to work at my new job.  Well, strictly, I purchased one for the interview and a similar one because I liked the first one and then saw a sweet pair of (not very comfortable when you wear them for a long time) pumps.  In total I spent £15.50, as I bought a small bottle of perfume too, for my handbag. (Yes, natural intentions temporarily on hold at the moment, as I can't afford the expense) I didn't know I'd got the job when I bought these items, but now I have, they should come in very useful.

2) Unfortunately, I may have just missed the payroll deadline to get paid at the end of this month from the new job, so it might be a tight month next month while I'm waiting to be paid at the end of August.  I'm sure OH will help me out if necessary.

More positively:

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) I used a couple of small Tesco vouchers  to get a little bit of money off a loaf of bread and some cherries this week. I told you I had no shame when it came to money off vouchers. I also used another of their £3 off a £30 shop vouchers on my grocery shop this week.

2) I used a 20% off voucher with ASOS to buy LB's new school bag for the next school year. (More early uniform shopping!) I had budgeted for it this month too.

3) Within the Home budget, I bought a fab pair of oil and vinegar bottles from Lakeland for just £5.79, which was a great price.  These were on my list of things I needed to buy for the house and I was willing to pay up to £15 for some, but these came in well under budget.

4) I did a huge food shop the week before I started my new job, partly because I figured if I got the job I wouldn't have so much time to go grocery shopping. Stocking up meant that we were able to get through quite an intense period, without running out of food. I will be meal planning simple quick meals for the days that I work, so that either OH can make supper if he so wishes or I can do it quickly when I get in late.

5) I caught the bus to work every day, which cost £3 in total each day, as opposed to £6.60 on the train/tube.  This more than halved my travel costs and as I don't get expenses for them now, it's all good.

6) I packed my own lunches to work each day, so I didn't spend any money save for travel expenses. I intend to continue to do this for the duration of the contract.

7) I got my wristwatch mended this month.  It needed a new battery and the back had to be removed with a special tool, so I had to take it to a watch repairer.  It would have been £15 for a new battery (insane!), but lifetime battery replacement was £20, so I went for that instead and just hope the watch will last me at least another year so that I get my money's worth.

8) The allotment is finally producing vegetables.  We harvested lettuce, courgettes, a kohl rabi and some climbing beans this week. Plus more salad and a few onions from the garden too.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sunday Catch Up

It's been an intense week and today has been the first real chance I've had to reflect and keep you updated on all that's happened this week.

I attended the new shop on Wednesday to do some last minute paperwork regarding taking up my new position as Temporary Deputy Manager, and was told that I could start straight away if I wished.  As I was already there, I thought, why not?  I spent the afternoon throwing myself into a task given to me by the manager to change some displays around.  In a way it was a good thing as it took the edge off starting the new job.

I agreed to complete my hours that week by working the Thursday afternoon, then full days on Friday and Saturday.  In total, this meant that one or other CS was honoured with my presence on five days last week (albeit most of it paid).  Hence, why it was intense.

The manager left me to close the shop on Thursday afternoon and I was left in charge on Friday on his day off, so it was a bit of a baptism of fire.  I survived to tell the tale though, but by Saturday evening I was completely shattered. All I could do was to walk to the pub with OH and the dog and have a beer.

As a consequence, I didn't do my normal class at the gym today, instead I decided to take it easy, do some grocery shopping, come home and potter about my house, catching up with jobs (particularly ironing) and just enjoy being at home for the day.  It was lovely. Going out to work has given me a whole new appreciation of my home. Flylady has, of course, taken a back seat, but I'm hoping to catch up on the days I'm not working this week.

Thankfully, I'll be working just my three full days this week and I will be relieved to get into a proper routine at last, although my working days will vary from week to week. I start back on Tuesday.

It seems to be going okay, although I don't like to say too much, as it is very early days. I have to admit that I was pretty overwhelmed for the first couple of days, but by Friday, I was starting to get a handle on things and decided I had to get over any doubts and fears and just get on and do the best job I could.

I managed to travel to and from the shop by bus most days, which saved me money and meant that at least I could get a seat and sit down for the duration.  Mid week mornings are the hardest, as the buses get packed and stop at every stop on route, so take much longer.  I cycled half the way on Friday and caught the bus further along the route, but had to stand right at the front with the driver until a seat became available a few stops later.

This week, during the week I'm going to try to cycle even further along the route, to a place where lots of people get off the bus and see if that's any better.  Most of the way is on cycle routes and small quiet roads, which isn't too bad. The cycle home is tough after a busy day, but I'm sure I'll build up my stamina and get used to it in time.  It really is the best option available, to avoid being like a sardine on the trains/tube and to provide me with the quickest, cheapest journey and the most autonomy.

On Saturday mornings, however, the bus takes no time at all, as the streets of London are virtually empty before 11am. I got to work in just 30 minutes, as opposed to nearer an hour or more on weekdays. It makes working weekends seem much more appealing than during the week.

The travel is still a learning curve, but I've got choices, which makes it more bearable. I'll keep you posted with regard to progress in the job as time goes on.