Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 4

This post my Frugal Fails have been pretty minor ones compared to my last post, but they are fails none the less. The first one being that I bought a multipack of Seaweed Crisps, lured by the ridiculously low number of calories each pack contains. (i.e. 22).  

I had tried an individual pack of these snacks some months back, but had forgotten why I didn't repurchase them, namely because I didn't really like them.  They taste a bit too much of the sea for my liking, so unfortunately that was £2 wasted. To soften the blow I donated them to the Food Bank as someone may be partial to them who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford them.

The second Frugal Fail was that I cancelled a gym class the day before we went away to Crete, as I didn't have the car to get there and it would have taken 2.5 hours to get there and back and do the class. As I had too many other things to do such as packing, etc. I decided to cancel.  The problem was, I didn't give at least 5 hours notice, so was hit with a £3 fee for late cancellation.  I wasn't pleased at this taxation on my gym membership, especially when my place was most likely taken by someone else anyway. I won't be doing it again, you can be sure of that.

The third Frugal Fail occurred when I did my weekly shop last week.  I bought  3 packs of coffee for OH as he had run out and wanted some from LIDL. When I got home I realised I'd been charged for 4 instead of three and it was too late to point out their error, so another £3 lost.  Very annoying.

On to the Freebies and Frugal Measures:

1) I've received a few dividend payments from the shares I bought the other month. They weren't for large sums, but every little helps. I'm intending to reinvest any dividends eventually when they total a sufficient amount with which to do so.

2)  The first issue of my new free magazine subscription came the other week.  I'm hoping it will help me make wiser financial decisions in the future.  I had a good read through and there's lots of interesting articles in there.

3) I received another 4 free packets of seeds with my Kitchen Garden monthly magazine subscription.  Choy Sum, Pak Choi, Mizuna and an edible wild flower mix.

4) I almost managed to keep within my total allocated budget for the month of April, bar about a £10 overspend.  I just hope I can do as well in future months.
5) Our holiday turned out to be a real bargain.  Our self catering apartment accommodation in Crete was lovely, the best we've had so far in Europe, and cost only £300 for a week, plus £375 for flights for the 3 of us. With reasonably careful spending, it turned out to be one of our cheapest holidays yet and we had super weather into the bargain.  Definite result here.  Thank you booking.com.

6) I got to the end of April having only spent £13 of my £75 M&S voucher, which means there's plenty left to help me through next month and hopefully beyond. This was great news, as it is such a relief to have something to fall back on at the end of the month when things get tight.

7) Finally, through Money Saving Expert, I managed to bag some free tickets to a Spin Cycling Festival at Olympia the week before OH's birthday and I'm hoping he can take a day off to go.  If I go with him, I could potentially buy him a birthday present there and it would be a nice day out for us.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Flylady Progress - End of Week One

I'm now at the end of my first week proper of following the Flylady program.  I'm gradually incorporating each of the baby steps into my daily routines and finding it to be such a useful system. I have to admit that my morning and evening routines slid a little on the weekend, when I wasn't up against time restrictions or went to bed late, but I'm trying to stick to them, as not to could cause me to slip back.

It may seem silly to need to follow someone else's system for cleaning your house, and it may not work for everyone, but I'm the type of person who really responds to being told what to do and when in this context.  I tweak it to suit myself, of course, but I definitely need a big nudge in the right direction when it comes to cleaning and household maintenance and this is definitely doing the trick.

I've found another ally in my pursuit of Flylady's system, namely Flylady Diane Denmark on YouTube, who is a Flylady Mentor and who has made a whole series of videos taking you through each of the 31 baby steps.  She's a lovely Scottish lady, living and working in Denmark and I really enjoy her videos. I'm also still following Sophia from My Great Challenge too, and there are others out there on YouTube you can follow too.

On Saturday, I descaled the dishwasher, vacuumed and mopped the kitchen, downstairs hallways and toilet and on Sunday I cleared a clutter spot in my bedroom by my side of the bed and by rearranging a bit of furniture here, it now looks a lot clearer and will be much easier to clean.

I continued the vacuuming and mopping of the upstairs rooms and landings on Sunday too, which has gone a long way to making the house look and feel a lot cleaner. In addition, I emptied the ironing basket, so I've done quite a bit of work this weekend.

I did, however, stop short of washing my winter coats and packing them and all the winter sweaters away this weekend, as there's another cold spell forecast for this week, so maybe I'll do this next week.

This coming week, Flylady is concentrating on the Living room areas and although I'm not Zone cleaning just yet, I may join in with some of her missions and clean the living room spaces, as I haven't tackled these for a few weeks. I am at the CS three days this week though, as the manager is going away for a few days, so it depends on whether I find the time to do this.

Still enjoying the process and will keep you posted on further progress.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Coming to Life

As promised this weekend, a gardening post. One of the main things I noticed on returning from our holiday in Crete, was that the garden had suddenly started coming to life.  It looked much greener than I  remembered it, with bluebells flowering and  blossoms on all of my fruiting plants and trees.

I had virtually resigned myself to finding that the foxes had marrauded through the raised beds and disturbed everything that I'd sown, but thankfully, although they had dug down in places, the majority of the beds were still intact, with lots of lettuce seedlings and petit pois plants still growing.  It was a relief.

More good news was that many of the seeds I'd sown before we went away had now germinated.  There were kale, calendula, courgette, cucumber, kohl rabi, red basil and sunflower seedlings poking through.  None had been eaten by snails, which I also half expected.  There's only really the tomato and sweet pepper seeds still to germinate, but I think I sowed them quite early outside, so they'll probably need a bit more heat.

All I needed to do was straighten up the covers on the raised beds and water everywhere. Simple

This weekend is the first one in which we've been at home in London for a good few weeks and first thing on my list of gardening tasks was to move my little greenhouse to reunite it with the potting bench at the end of the garden. 

OH helped my by making a flat paved surface to stand it on and we carefully carried over and set it up in it's new home.  It fitted in perfectly and it's a bit of a suntrap in this corner so my tomato plants, when they eventually go in, will love it. Here's a picture of it in it's new home.

The next job was to pot on lots of the seedlings which were growing fast, particularly the kale, kohl rabi and marigolds. Here they are in their new individual pots with plenty of room to grow even bigger.

I also moved a few things around on the patio, putting my fruit bushes and rhubarb where the greenhouse used to stand by the back door.  I repotted the gooseberry bush in the middle into this new larger pot to give it more room to grow.  It's doing well.  I now just need to repot the blueberry next to it as it's soil has mossed over and the pot is cracked and crumbling away.  I need to get some ericaceous compost for this job and it's not in this month's budget, so it might have to wait until after it's fruited now.

Here's the new view down the garden from the kitchen table and as you can see it's a lot greener now. (Please note that I had my towels on the line for the first time this year.  I'm not good at hanging my washing out, but I made an exception for the towels, to help them smell fresher.)

The paths around the raised beds still need tidying (OH's job) and he's agreed to make more attractive covers for the raised beds when we can get to the DIY store for some wood.  I can't wait, it will make life so much easier as all the solutions I've tried are still not keeping the foxes out.

We got quite a lot done in a short amount of time this weekend, so I'm very happy.  I'll keep you posted on future progress.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A Brilliant Dishwasher Tip

As you may know if you've been reading my posts lately, I've recently become smitten with the Flylady system of home management and I am currently on Day 5 of the 31 Baby Steps to developing efficient routines at home.  I'm enjoying it and finding it is already making a big difference to the cleanliness of our home on a daily basis.

Concurrently, I've been reading this book that I picked up from Home Bargains for £1.

I'm quite enjoying it as books about cleaning go.  It's very informative.  One thing that I think I read here was about ways to clean your dishwasher.  I didn't actually act on it until I was doing a Flylady 15 minute declutter in my cupboard where I keep all of the products I use to make natural toiletry products and came across a part used box of citric acid.  On the back it suggested using it to clean out your dishwasher periodically.  You fill the little box where the detergent goes with citric acid and then sprinkle more in the bottom of the dishwasher and put it on your normal cycle (empty). 

I did this this morning and the results were great.  It now almost looks like new inside.  I was super impressed and will be doing this regularly from now on as it is such an easy way to get a good result. Here's a picture.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Hooray for the Weekend

I'm so happy to get to the weekend this week. After a crazy Wednesday getting to the CS, Thursday was a bit calmer.  I did my usual class at the gym, then did a few errands picking up and paying for my new varifocal specs (I'm still getting used to them!)  and renewing some books at the library, before heading home for lunch.

After lunch I had to collect LB from school for a dental appointment with the orthodontist.  It didn't go too well, for one reason or another, which I won't go into here, although not for the reasons you might think.  Anyway, there's nothing to worry about, but it did leave me feeling a bit upset and disappointed, as the experience was a pretty negative one on account of the attitude of the consultant whom I found to be quite shockingly unprofessional in his manner. Anyway, I'm over it now, and not letting it get me down.  I can't do anything about someone else's negativity, it's their problem.

Today, I was at the CS again and thankfully the trains were back to normal, so I got there and back easily. I was working with a volunteer I haven't worked with before who was good fun and a character, which made it quite enjoyable.  I'll be working with her again next week whilst the manager is away for a few days.

I spent most of the day sorting through and pricing an extremely nice donation.  All I can say is that if the donated clothes are anything to go by, the donor's current wardrobe must be amazing and I'd love to be a fly on their wall.  It's really fascinating to see what some people donate. It does make you realise how much wealth there is out there in places. This particular donation was made up of mostly dresses, which were in very good condition and of course, I just had to try the odd item on, as many of them were nearer my size than many we get in the shop. I didn't buy anything though, as they were a little too expensive for my budget.

After another busy day, tonight I have kicked back and enjoyed watching Gardener's World.  I now can't wait to get out in the garden tomorrow as lots of my lettuce seedlings are really coming on and many other seedlings need potting on before I plant them out. I'm being a bit cautious as the weather forecast is predicting a cold spell next week and I don't want to lose what I've grown so far.

There will definitely be a gardening post on it's way to you this weekend. What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Crazy CS Day

Today was my first day back at the CS after the Easter weekend and I felt very organised as I set off having properly started on my Flylady routines.  I'd laid my clothes out the night before, made a salad instead of sandwiches in an attempt to eat healthier and set off in good time.  Trouble is, sometimes life conspires to prevent things running smoothly and today was 'one of those days'.

First up, there was a signal failure on my usual train journey, so I could only get so far.  I then had to change buses twice to finally get to the shop 30 minutes late, just as the other volunteer on duty was giving up and walking off down the street to go home.  Without her I wouldn't have been able to open the shop, as having tried to ring the manager, I realised that he wasn't in today and I was opening up.

Anyway, as the volunteer was wearing headphones, she couldn't hear me calling her, so I had to chase her down the street, so that she'd come back to the shop with me.  Luckily another volunteer rang in sick so I hadn't kept two people waiting, and another volunteer turned up to help too, so all worked out okay in the end.

Why is it that when the manager isn't in, you get all kinds of obscure requests from customers?  I've left the manager numerous notes informing him of various encounters I had in the shop today. It was insane.

Anyway, I left a little early as the trains still weren't running properly and took a tube and a train home.  I got home in almost the same time but had to pass though Central London, Down the Embankment, through part of South London and then Docklands to get home.  I worked out that I went under the Thames four times on one tube ride.  CRAZY!! I may have to use the same route on Friday, which I'm not relishing, but needs must.  I've been very lucky with the train for the past year.  I hope they get it sorted soon.

Needless to say, when I finally got home I was exhausted. I had to unwind for an hour before I could even begin to think about making any supper. My evening routine was blown, but I'll catch up. It's a good test of my resolve.

I hope you had a better day.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Learning to Fly(lady)

I'm joining in with Sophia from My Great Challenge on YouTube, in trying to follow the routines of the infamous Flylady in an attempt to get and to keep my house in order.  She is making a series of videos charting her progress using the Flylady's techniques for creating a routine that allows you to keep on top of your housekeeping and helps you to declutter unnecessary items from your home.

I watched a few of Sophia's videos on the subject and jotted down a few notes before I decided to actually join with her and try to follow Flylady's baby steps to develop new household routines. It was only when I went out and bought some bleach today that I finally committed myself to start the process myself and tonight I completed the first step, namely to Shine Your Sink.

This action forms the initial basis of the new routine, as it then allows you form the habit to shine your sink each evening before retiring.

There are many steps that follow this one, but it all starts here and other things then can be added to this routine, building it up into a comprehensive way to tackle your whole home in the time you have available.

So first step - Shine Your Sink

Fill your sink with a bleach/water solution and leave for one hour. (Make sure you open a window as the fumes from the bleach are quite strong). Empty the sink and then take a cloth, scrubbie, toothbrush or whatever else you need to use and shine your sink/draining board areas thoroughly.

Follow this up by cleaning this area every evening before retiring to bed (exact timing is up to the individual).

I duly followed these instructions.  It had been a while since I'd deep cleaned the sink area, so quite a bit of limescale had built up in some parts of the draining board, especially around the base of the tap.  I tackled this whilst my sink was cleaning itself by using a mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol which very quickly breaks down the limescale, allowing it to be easily wiped away.  Any stubborn bits were subsequently attacked with a razor blade, with great care.

Here's the finished result.

As you can see, we have a double sink.  The left hand side is for washing up our dishes, the right for washing the dog's dishes. In the interests of hygiene, I like to keep these tasks totally separate. The right/dog side does tend to get overlooked in terms of cleaning as it is used less, so it can get a bit grimy.  Hopefully, this new routine will help me to be more disciplined about keeping it clean.

Having shined my sinks, it does instantly make the kitchen feel tidier and cleaner and there's nothing quite like coming down to a clean sink area in a morning. I may not use bleach each time as it is quite strong, but I will probably use it once a week to keep it clean.

Anyway, having watched 2 further videos of Sophia I have also started to prepare what Flylady calls a control journal which helps you to stick to the routines you create and I have prepared the initial morning and evening routines that Flylady suggests you will need to follow.

Included in these routines are some essentials aside from shining your sink, such as recognising and tackling hotspots of clutter in your home (set a timer and tackle one hotspot each day for 5 minutes only), a daily 15 minute declutter of any area you choose, make your bed daily, always prepare and set out your clothes for the next day, check your calendar and ask yourself 'What's for dinner?' (to remind you to get what you need out of the freezer), dress up for the day (i.e. don't stay in your pyjamas all day), do one load of laundry per day, (I won't be doing this as we don't make enough laundry to do a load each day, but will probably do 3 or 4 each week), swish and swipe your bathroom(s) (again just five minutes should be sufficient for decluttering and wiping clean your bathroom surfaces and quickly cleaning the toilet) and finally, set a time to go to bed/sleep and wake up and try to stick to it.

Some of these things I do already.  I always wash up after dinner and try to leave my sink area tidy on retiring of an evening and I always dress up for the day, make my bed in a morning and try to check my menu plan and take out any meat I might need from the freezer, so I do know that doing these things works and helps to make the day go much more smoothly.  I also know that if I don't do these things, it can create problems.

Step Two of Flylady's system is to visit Flylady.net. and take some flying lessons.  This will be my homework over the weekend whilst we are away.

In addition to doing this, I will probably also start to read this book that I found today in Home Bargains for £1. Hopefully, it won't confuse me too much.