Sunday, 25 September 2016

Monthly Budget Roundup

I can't quite believe how quickly September has whizzed past. Although it's not strictly the end of the month yet, I've just done my last weekly shop of the month, so I can post about how this month's budget has gone, as I shouldn't be spending hardly any more money this week, save for perhaps some travel expenses, that I will claim back in any case.

September was the first month that I started to implement my new budget plan, whereby all expenditure was allocated to a specific budget.

The categories, which I've mentioned before, were as follows:







Direct Debit Commitments


I won't share the exact amount I allocate to each budget, as this is a bit too revealing, but I will attempt to let you know how I've fared in each category.

The Food budget fared pretty well this month.  I was over, by £35, but compared to my overspend of £58 last month, this is a definite improvement.

The Household budget came in under budget again, for the second month running, which is great news.  I had £18.58 left in this budget in September, compared to £5.88 last month, meaning another improvement.

The only other budget that came under was the Home budget which had over £25 left in it, compared to a £17 under spend last month.  I needed very little in this category this month, which was just as well, as a couple of my other categories were well over budget.

The first big budget I busted this month was my Personal budget, which despite promising to rein myself in, was over by £45.  This was due to placing an order with ASOS for some heeled ankle boots for the winter and some new t-shirts, as many of mine are getting very old and scruffy.  I really like the boots though and they will look a bit more dressy than my flat Chelsea boots, which incidentally are a bit slippery when it rains, as they don't have much grip.

I had a nasty slip in these on a rainy day, when we were on holiday in Wales and injured myself, so I'm a bit wary of them. I'll still be wearing them a lot, but may relegate them to wearing to work at the CS this winter.

I didn't manage to get my hair cut this month, mainly due to not having the time to go, so this will need to come out of next month's personal budget.

The second budget that I busted pretty badly this month, was the Miscellaneous budget.  As it is the first time that I've had this budget, I'm going to be pretty forgiving to myself about my £30 overspend here.

It was mainly caused by having £130 worth of dental treatment this month, but I also bought a few presents through the month, some for Christmas, some for birthday/leaving gifts, etc. The other main item in this category was school lunches for LB, which came back into play this month and took care of a fifth of this budget.

Finally, the last budget that went over was LB's budget, on account of buying some more uniform items for her return to school, getting her hair cut and a few other bits that I needed to get her.  This budget went over by just over £30 too.

There's nothing I could do here though, as all of the items were necessary. Unfortunately, some months of the year are just a little more expensive than others, especially near the start of a new school year.

On the plus side this month, I did manage to put another £100 into my savings account. By transferring this at the beginning of the month, it ensures that I make the effort to save. In all though, it's been an okay month.  I could have done better, if I'd been a bit stricter with myself.

Next month, my sister should be visiting from Australia, so I expect to go on a few shopping trips with her and may overindulge a little. I'm hoping to mainly restrict spending to Christmas gifts for her family, small items that I need, plus some lunches and days out here and there.

As it's my birthday, I will probably get enough treats to not need to buy anything for myself, which should help my budget.  Food may go a little over budget again, due to having a visitor and to buying food for home and food for my sister and I whilst we are away at the cottage, simultaneously.

On the plus side, as I should be away from the CS for two weeks, I won't be tempted by the occasional not to be missed item that I come across there.  The only additional expense I will have in October is my annual allotment rental fee, which is due and should be around £30 and there are a couple of regularly used makeup items that I need to re-purchase, as I am running out.

I aren't, however, going to scrimp with regard to my sister's visit, as she's spending a lot of money and coming a long way to visit us, and may not make the journey again for a good number of years, so whatever I need to spend I will and worry about it later. Some things in life, such as enjoying time with a loved one, are more important than worrying about going over budget a little.

What's your budget been like this month?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

More Drama

I don't know what it is about me, but I seem to keep becoming involved in various unfolding dramas at the moment. I try to keep life simple, but it has a funny way of dragging you into things, when you least expect it.

One that I can speak about, is what happened today at the allotment. I went on to the site to do a bit of harvesting, as I hadn't made it there for a couple of weeks.

The minute I set foot on the site, a rather large dog (possibly a young Akita or Husky) bounded over to me.

At first, I thought it belonged to someone working on their plot on the site, but very soon I realised that there was no one else there but me, and the dog.

I think it might have got access via a garden wall at the top end of the site, but it was running around scratching at the fence at various points to try to get out and the garden wall in question was too high to climb back up over.

I didn't know what to do and when I got my phone out to try to ring someone, the battery was dead.

Being a dog owner myself, I didn't want to just let the dog out, in case it got lost or run over by a car, but I was nervous about leaving it there, in case it surprised or even attacked anyone, especially when it started barking at me and seemed to be getting a bit agitated at not being able to get out.

I left the site hurriedly, and came home to contact various site reps and see what should be done about it. In the end I managed to ring one of the reps (after calling directory enquiries to get their number) and he asked me to ring the dog warden.

I met the warden at the site and thankfully, the dog had taken the situation into it's own hands and dug its way out under the fence. Hopefully, it got home safely! Drama over, thank goodness.

Anyway, whilst speaking to the site rep on the phone, he mentioned that a smaller plot might be coming up on the site that I enquired after down the road from me and took my number to liaise with me in the future about it. At least something potentially progressive came out of all the drama.  I'm looking forward to hearing from him again.

The sooner the better, as the quicker I get moved to another site the better, if you ask me. I'm sure every site has it's dramas from time to time, but I just don't want to be embroiled in any more of them in the near future.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Getting Back on Track

After the departure of our visitor on Sunday afternoon, today was all about getting back on track with everyday life.  I was back at the gym in the morning, but just for an hour, instead of the usual two, because I had to do the food shopping, go home, shower and have lunch, and then head out to my dental appointment for 2pm.

The appointment itself went okay and my treatment was quite quick and relatively pain free. I didn't need any injections, which was a bonus, although my mouth is feeling a little tender as I write this, but I'm sure it will be okay by tomorrow. I was pleased with the results and now that this particular expense has been paid for, and I don't need to go back for another 6 months, I can concentrate on directing funds towards other areas, such as Christmas.

I didn't get too much else done today, save for doing a couple of small errands on the way home, putting away all of the grocery shopping, doing a little Christmas shopping on line and then making and clearing up after supper. One thing at a time I guess.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I will be at the CS, so it will be Thursday really, before I can realistically start to make any more progress, but there's no particular hurry, things will get done when they get done. For now, I'm enjoying the here and now and appreciating not having any impending visit, appointment or event.

In fact, to celebrate this I'm going to retire to bed early tonight and indulge in reading a bit more of my current book, which I'm really enjoying. I'll post again later in the week.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

This Weekend

We had a very enjoyable weekend this weekend, spending time with our guest who was visiting from Australia, via Europe.  It's the second antipodean visitor we've had this year and my sister will make it three when she arrives in October.

He arrived quite late on Friday night, so I had plenty of time to do what was needed after getting home from the CS, and we spent a couple of hours having a beer and catching up at home, before we all retired for the evening.

On Saturday, OH took our visitor on a dog walk around the Olympic Park, which is close to where we live, whilst I headed off to the Give or Take and donated a car full of items I've spent the last 3-4 months decluttering.  Always a great feeling.

As we had a visitor staying this weekend, I had got there as soon as it was possible to donate, and needed to get away to attend a class at the gym, I wasn't able to do a post, as I wasn't able to stay for the later part of the event and show the sort of things that are available to take. I still do intend to do this at some point.

After attending my class, I headed home. OH had taken our guest out to lunch and LB was out for the day with her friends.

Later on Saturday evening, we all made our way to the Olympic Velodrome to watch OH compete in some races that he'd booked before knowing our guest was coming to stay.  I think he quite enjoyed watching his cousin in action on his bike.

We all left early from the race meet and headed out for supper at a Brazilian restaurant close to where we live.  It was our first time eating there and was an interesting night with live Brazilian music, and some customers getting up to dance. I think we were the only non-Brazilian customers in the restaurant, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and the staff were lovely.

Sunday, we all headed off to Camden Market for a few hours at the request of our guest.  LB didn't need persuading, as she loves visiting this vibrant, but very busy tourist attraction. On the way home we said our goodbyes to our guest, whom we dropped off at Paddington and it was back home and back to normal for us.

It's three weeks now before my sister arrives and I'm getting very excited and trying to devise a list of things to do and places to visit that I think she'll enjoy.

In the meantime, a new week and a new round dental treatment and decluttering begins.  I'm looking forward to simple pleasures such as doing very little cleaning, having some time to harvest at the allotment and do a bit of work in our garden at home.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, 15 September 2016

An Afternoon of Cleaning and Trying Out My New Spiralizer

This week, not everything has gone to plan.  I didn't get the cleaning done that I intended doing on Monday afternoon, instead I spent most of the afternoon shopping for a 50th birthday present for OH's sister.  I found a few small things, as we were planning on making up a hamper of goodies to send off to her in the post.  Hopefully, she'll like it.

Consequently, the cleaning was left until I had some free time today, but I was booked into a class at the gym in the morning and once again, I had to go shopping for a few last minute items for the same birthday gift hamper, so I didn't get started on the cleaning until nearly 3pm.

I concentrated on the the living rooms and managed to hoover, mop and dust them both quite quickly. I'm not going too mad at this point, as our visitor is only here for a couple of nights, but I still want the house to look as clean and inviting as possible.

I then hoovered and mopped the hallway, stairs and vestibule, cleaned and mopped the downstairs toilet and then worked my way around the kitchen worktops.  It didn't take too long and by 6pm I was finished with what I wanted to do for now.

Tomorrow, I'm only at the shop until 2pm and then I'm coming home to clean our guest's bedroom, change the bedding, do another quick whizz around upstairs, before he arrives later that night, so I should have enough time to get everything done.

Having finished today's cleaning, I turned my attention to supper.  My spiralizer arrived today and I was itching to try it out.  Here's a picture of it. It comes with it's own little draw string bag and cleaning brush.  Cute!

It's a mini version of a spiralizer, as I didn't want to spend a fortune on a larger, more expensive gadget, that I'd need to find room for and this one seems to work just fine, for courgettes anyway.  I did manage to slice one of my fingers on the blade by not following the instructions, but it wasn't too serious an injury.  It could have been a lot worse.  Be warned, if you ever use one of these, don't twist the courgette with your fingers as you get to the bottom near the blade, as this is how it happened.

Anyway, four small courgettes, one medium sized marrow and 10-15 minutes later, I had this bowlful of courghetti.

According to this book, that I bought at Tesco for £5 on Monday, whilst doing my weekly shop, you saute it in a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, then mix in some pesto or pasta sauce.

This book is really pretty good, with lots of recipes for different types of dishes you can make using spiralised vegetables and fruit, such as rostis, noodles, coleslaw, fishcakes, fritters, to name just a few. Some of the recipes don't have photographs, but many do. There are some dessert recipes too, which is useful.

The spiralizer itself, makes both wider ribbons and the thin spaghetti-like ribbons, depending on which of it's two blades you use. I'm not sure yet how well it works on harder vegetables and fruits. I'll let you know.

For £5.49 on eBay, it was definitely worth trying though, even if I don't get along with it, as many of the reviews for these gadgets are mixed, especially for some of the very expensive ones. Reviews for this were pretty good, which is why I decided to buy it.

As a side note, you are left with lots of odd ends of courgettes, that won't spiralize down any further, so I chopped these up quite small, as you can see in the photo below, and froze them for use in casseroles and other dishes.

Sadly, when LB and OH returned from their dog walk, they were none too keen on eating the courghetti, so I had to cook them the usual pasta and I had some of it myself.  With pepper, salt, pasta sauce and a few gratings of Parmesan cheese, it looked like this once cooked.

The verdict.  I really enjoyed eating it.  It did become a little watery once cooked, however.  I'm not sure if this was because I sauteed it too long or whether this is normal.  It reduced down on cooking too and I had to cook a bit more to get a bowlful. I would definitely eat this again in the place of pasta, as it didn't leave me feeling as full and heavy as pasta does and I felt pretty full after eating it too.

The remainder of the courghetti was popped into freezer bags and frozen for future use, possibly in one of the other recipes in the book. Have you tried spiralizing? What did you think?

Sunday, 11 September 2016

This Weekend

This weekend has been about getting back on top of things.  Over the summer, I've neglected the house and done very little, but now LB is back at school and with my sister visiting in a month and another OH's cousin coming next weekend, I decided it was time to start getting to grips with it again.

I started on Saturday afternoon.  OH was out at a cycle race and LB was at a birthday party, so I spent the afternoon cleaning the bathroom, hoovering the upstairs and stairs, picking up in LB's bedroom and putting away laundry.

Having done all this, it was time to get ready and go out to eat and visit our local street festival for a couple of hours, before picking up LB and heading home.

On Sunday afternoon, I resumed the job in hand and tackled the kitchen. I didn't do a full on blitz, but I managed to hoover and mop the floor and clean all of the cupboard fronts, before stopping to cook dinner.

Later on Sunday evening, I needed to make some more homemade deodorant, as I had run out that morning.  I then finished the ironing  ready for the week ahead.

There's more cleaning to do this week. I'll probably clean the kitchen worktops and clean/mop the downstairs toilet, vestibule and stairs, which should be possible on Monday afternoon/evening.

I've got a few more jobs aside from the cleaning to do on Monday, such as buying a 50th birthday present and card for OH's sister, then I need to make some homemade dog food and some homemade granola, but hopefully I should have time to do it all.

I'm at the CS three days this week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, so Thursday, will be my day to tackle the main living areas and then bar changing the bedding and a quick clean around the bedroom to be used by our guest, we should be just about ready for when they arrive on Friday night.

It's going to be a busy week, but at least having someone come to stay means that I'm focused and have the motivation to get everything done.

Things may be a little quiet on the blogging front, as something has to give, but I'll still be reading and keeping up with everyone's news.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

A Bit of a Drama

Friday was a mixed day.  It started off well enough with a long dog walk, followed by a visit to the dentist for my 6 monthly check up.

I didn't actually need any work done, but I agreed to some semi-cosmetic work, namely 4 small fillings, to fill some places where my gums have receded due to overenthusiastic brushing.  I'm trying to be more gentle on my gums, but the damage has been done over time and won't grow back, so  I'm having the recesses filled to protect the teeth from decay caused by food and bacteria building up in the recesses and to reduce possible future sensitivity.

I'm not sure what the fillings will look like, but as there is no drilling involved and they are small, they are a lot cheaper than normal white fillings, so I don't mind paying for them.  I think it's worth it, to prevent future problems, I'm just hoping they look okay when done.

The rest of the day was spent quite leisurely with a bit of pottering in the garden, a trip to the tip to get rid of some garden rubbish and then a couple of hours spent reducing the ironing mountain.

In the evening, OH had booked tickets to go to the Royal Academy of Art in Piccadilly to see the new David  Hockney Exhibition, an exhibition of 82 portraits and one still life of his friends and family. (The still life was done when a sitter couldn't make the sitting).

It was an interesting exhibition, which I enjoyed, but after about 30 minutes of wandering around, the fire alarm sounded and we were all ushered down the outside fire escape to evacuate the building. On the way down we could see smoke coming out of a floor below and a strong smell of burning, so we knew it was a genuine emergency evacuation.

Five fire engines then arrived to deal with the incident, at which point we retired to Patisserie Valerie for hot chocolate and to see whether we would be able to get back into the building for OH's booked 3D headscan at 9.20 pm.

Half and hour later as the patisserie closed we wandered back over the road.  Only two fire engines were left and the firemen were climbing back in.  People had been let back in the building, so we ventured to where the scanner was but unfortunately the remaining scans had been cancelled as the incident had taken place in that part of the building.

It wasn't an actual fire, apparently, just some overheated machinery used in setting up another exhibition, I believe, so luckily there wasn't any damage, just some of smoke in the area concerned. As a consequence, we headed  home on the train, laughing at an argument between several middle aged women on the train, calling each other some very choice names in the carriage. Now I remember why I'm not so keen on using public transport, especially at night.

I finished off the evening watching Gardener's World on Catch up.  I'm quite happy that they have increased the length of the programme and made it into a new one hour format, with new presenters and contributors. Sometimes its good to have a bit of a change, only not such a drastic one as they made the last time the programme was made over. What do you think of the new format?