Thursday, 13 December 2018

Christmas Catch Up

Well, it's officially now the silly season.  I enjoy seeing people spill out of Christmas office parties in Central London looking merry and spreading festive cheer. The shop has become crazy busy this week, which is a very good thing, but means that I've been very preoccupied getting as much stock into it as possible. It's amazing how many people come into the shop on a daily basis, we're kind of running out of stock of some things and finding it hard to replenish stocks of other things due to the speed with which things are being sold.  Obviously, this is all good and I'm happy that so many people are doing at least some of their Christmas shopping with us.

Last night, was our shop Christmas meal out.  We have a limited budget for eating out in Central London and last year we went over a bit, so I tried to make sure I booked somewhere that was well within budget.  We just about managed to stay within the budget, but the Manager and I split the bill for drinks between us in order to do so. I don't mind too much, as it's a way of thanking everyone for their hard work and I think we all had a pleasant evening. There were just 9 of us this year, as opposed to the 14 or so that came last year, but this kind of reflects the fact that we just don't have as many volunteers at the moment, as several volunteers have drifted off over the year, which is to be expected in many ways and is, of course, their prerogative.

I've decided that next year, I really do need to get a better work/life balance going on.  There have been too many nights this year when I've got home at 8.30pm or 9pm, which is way too late.  I'm going to try to resolve to get out of there by 6.30pm each night, so I should be home by 8pm at the very latest. I don't think that many other managers in our group will be staying so late every night, so why should we.  My manager agrees thankfully, so after all the festivities are over, we are hoping to do something about it.

Today, is my only full day off this week.  I worked on Monday afternoon/all day Tuesday, went in late yesterday for the meal and am going in late on Friday as our intern is leaving this week, then I am working all weekend. As a consequence, I'm trying to make the most of today and trying to get the things left on my list done and dusted.

This morning I wrote most of our Christmas cards.  I just need to complete the addresses on the envelopes of the ones I'm posting, buy some stamps and send them off.  Then I need to hang some chocolates on the Christmas tree, attach some small lights to the door wreath and then do a bit more gift wrapping.

Tonight, we are heading out to the mall for one last Christmas shopping outing.  I just need to buy a couple of cards for family members and OH's trainers and I'm done.  OH, however, has a bit of shopping still to do, so our outing will mainly be for him to complete his shopping. We will probably eat out too, which saves me cooking.

I'm feeling a bit tired today, as I woke up at 5am feeling cold and couldn't get back to sleep. I may  have a nap this afternoon or watch a Christmas movie on TV and just chill. There's always tomorrow for everything else and I do need to spend some time relaxing when I'm not at work.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Monday, 10 December 2018

A Festive Saturday

This Saturday, I spent the day decorating the house for the festive season. It's a job I don't exactly relish, but it needs to be done and I do enjoy having the decorations up once they're in place.  I always like to clean the reception rooms before decorating them, so the day started with a good dust, hoover and mopping of the wooden floors.  I put my latest music playlist on, country music this time, I'm a secret fan.  My dad was crazy for country music and I guess I've inherited it a little.

Everyone had gone out, LB to a meet up with a friend and OH to a cycle race, so it was just me and the dog, who spent most of the time outside in the garden. As a consequence, I was left to get on with the job in peace, which, if I'm honest, I prefer. Once the cleaning was done, I set about getting the decorations out and putting up the tree.

I started with the decorations.  Nothing too special.  A few twinkly lights here and there, a few fir cones and artificial festive decorations to brighten up the furthest corners of the rooms.


The photo is of LB with Father Christmas when she was 10 months old.  So cute, it comes out every year.


The paper mache reindeer was made by LB when she was small, and also comes out every year.



I seem to have quite a collection of reindeer, so I found them a spot to hang out together on the sash window this year.


Last year's addition of a white berry wreath bought from a charity shop was back in use again.




Door adornments.


Finally, the tree, with LB's hand made angel (again made when she was small) and the wicker skirt I bought in a charity shop this year for £4.99.

One last new addition, that I couldn't resist, was our naughty elf, who is keeping an eye on the new sofa covers and will be reporting back to me any bad behaviour.


As you can see, the room is now looking pretty cosy and festive. One step further to being Christmas ready and it was very satisfying to tick this one off the to do list.




Saturday, 1 December 2018

Christmas Starts Here

It's December 1st and as far as I'm concerned, Christmas starts here and now.  Well, actually, it probably started yesterday for me.  I was working in the morning and when I left work I decided to take a walk down Oxford Street, to get a few last Christmas gifts, namely some LUSH items for LB and an intern at work.

I was shocked walking down the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street, to see that part of the street was a building site, on account of the construction of the Cross Rail project.  It just shows how long it is since I've been down there.

Anyway, it was crazy busy with Christmas shoppers and there were buskers on street corners.  A girl with a particularly beautiful voice was busking outside M&S.  I had to stop to drop what change I had into her box and tell her what a beautiful voice she had.  Definitely a future pop star. I wish I'd paid more attention and asked her name to maybe look up her work online, but stupidly I was rushing like everyone else.  I continued to listen to her from the bus stop across the road after I'd done my shopping.

That little jaunt and the purchase of a few last things from the Charity Shop, all but concluded my Christmas shopping.  Just the trainers for OH to go and cash gifts to hand out and I'm done.  It feels great, as I can now savour the excitement of the season without the stress of thinking what to get everyone.

When I got up this morning, the first thing I did was to start off my digital advent calendar from jacquielawson.com. I love these and sent one to each of my sisters last year.  They aren't super cheap at £3 or so, but I had a little money in my Paypal account, so treated myself again this year.  They include little games and tasks, which are great fun.

After having breakfast, I decided to do a Weekly Home Blessing on the kitchen, hall, vestibule and downstairs toilet, using my new cordless vac, of course.  The battery just about lasted out for these parts of the house and is now on charge.  I'll probably do upstairs using the corded vac, as it is carpeted and takes a little longer too.


Aside from this, I've spent this morning watching Vlogmas videos on YouTube, writing my Christmas To Do list, (which I printed off a favourite Vlogger's website, namely www.lifeinthecottage.com.  She has provided lots of other free printables for Christmas and everyday on her blog, which you might find useful), baking star shaped mince pies and listening to a Christmas music playlist that I devised for the shop last weekend.



I'm starting to feel very festive and am looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations out of the loft some time this weekend.  I'll probably put the tree up next weekend though, as I'm working tomorrow, so I won't have time.

Work is starting to get busy, so I'm looking forward to concentrating on enjoying the hustle and bustle of the shop at Christmas.  We do have a few more volunteers this year, so it should be a bit less stressful than last year, when I spent most of my days working on the till, as there were so few of us.

Do you enjoy the lead up to Christmas? It's my favourite time of the year and always has been, particularly since I had LB. I'm also looking forward to reading about all of your Christmas preparations over the next few weeks.

I'm now heading off to get my chocolate, paper and candle advent calendars out and start opening all of the windows.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Christmas Shopping - The End is in Sight

On Thursday this week, I decided to head out and do a bit more Christmas shopping.  There was one person, whose present I hadn't bought and needed to get, plus I needed a few stocking fillers for OH and LB.

I found myself at TK MAXX and Poundland, the former being perfect for the unbought present and the latter for the stocking fillers, although some of these were bought at both places.

I managed to find most of the things on my list, but I have to admit that a few extra things ended up in both baskets.  At TK MAXX I threw in a couple of things for OH to buy me for Christmas and I also found these lovely glass ornaments for the Christmas tree. I couldn't resist as they were so unusual.



Everything else consisted of gifts for others though, so I didn't fare too badly.

At Poundland, however, this wasn't the case.  I threw two jumpers and a pair of jeans into the basket from the clothing section. I needed a couple of jumpers to wear for work, as I've recently donated a couple to the Give or Take, because I didn't like how they looked on me.  The sweaters I bought were £12 and £8 respectively and the jeans £10. They fit pretty well and I've worn them for work today. I also wore one of the jumpers today too, but embarrassingly, whilst on the bus to work this morning, the girl sat behind me tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that the price tag was hanging out of the back of my coat.  I was very grateful to her for letting me know.  Many people wouldn't have bothered.


Anyway, I digress, another treat that I bought for myself at Poundland was this Airwick Christmas Tea Light Advent Calendar.  It was a little pricey for my liking at £5 for 24 tea lights, but as a Christmas treat, I thought it was excusable and I don't actually have any seasonal scented tea lights to put in my tea light holders, so I indulged. I've now got 4 advent calendars to open (one paper, one chocolate, one tea light and one digital) and an advent candle to light every day. That will keep me busy for the next three or so weeks.  You can tell I like this time of year and enjoy counting down the days, can't you?

I spent the most I've ever spent at Poundland in my life, namely £70.  I had real difficulty fitting everything on the till scale, as it all kept falling off and causing the assistant to have to come over and reset the self service machine.



There were, of course, other things in my basket too such as this book (I don't think I've read it), wrapping paper, stocking fillers for LB and OH, some food and some dog treats, so it was a real mixed bag of a shop.

At the risk of sounding a bit of a tightwad, Poundland is actually fast becoming one of my favourite destinations to shop, but I do try to be very discerning with regard to what I buy there.  I try to avoid plastic junk of any kind and things that won't last two minutes and are a false economy.  They are getting better and better with regard to the quality of some of the things they sell though. I've bought some great lipsticks from there recently and I'm often very impressed at what I can get for my money .

I probably won't be doing much more Christmas shopping now.  I've just got to buy a pair of trainers for OH (but he needs to come with me to choose them), get a few bits from LUSH for LB and an intern at work (who has been an absolute star these past couple of months), collect and pay for a few things I've set aside at the CS and then I think I'm just about done, which is fab, as I wanted to have my shopping finished by the end of November.

December will be all about buying the food and other things we need this Christmas, as we're staying put in London this year until about the 27th or 28th and we're all pretty happy about it.

How is your Christmas shopping coming along?


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Monthly Round Up - November 2018

For the first time in a couple of months I ended up overdrawn this month, but by less than £100, which wasn't too bad.  I blame Christmas coming at me like a juggernaut and the fact that I paid off the sofa covers this month, which was a major expenditure.  Here are the final figures for the month:

Food Budget - Overspent by £65.  No real excuses here, just a bit over indulgent.

Household Budget - Overspent by £37.61. A stock up trip to Home Bargains accounted for some of this overspend, as I'm now very well stocked up on most of the toiletries I/we use.

Miscellaneous Budget - This budget came in 54p under budget this month, which was good as it included a meal out with a friend, plus sending off the Operation Christmas Child box.

My Personal Budget - This budget was overspent by £24.37. I bought a few items of clothing from M&S, and the CS, plus a few small treats from TK Maxx.

LB's Budget - Overspent by £9.97, mainly because I bought her some clothes and jewellery from the CS this month as a treat and I also paid £20 towards some new glasses for her at the opticians.

Home Budget - This went £106.96 overspent, on account of my buying myself a cordless stick vacuum this month. I paid for this on my credit card, so it will be paid for out of next month's wages.

Travel For Work Budget - This went £5 overspent as I used some credit to go out and about a couple of times on non-work related jaunts.

Christmas Budget - I budgeted £300 for Christmas this month, but only ended up spending £177.82 which meant this budget came in £122.18 under.  Just as well really to help cover some of my overspends.

Going into December I think I'm in an okay position to stay in the black this Christmas, or at least have only a very small overdraft, but I will try to avoid this. I have budgeted another £300 for Christmas, but I'm not sure that I'll need to spend this much money, so any left over should go towards paying off my credit card and overdraft. I should also receive my pay rise from work, which I've been informed is nowhere near as much as I was hoping for.  It is frankly a pathetic amount, and equates to a pay cut I suspect when inflation is taken into account.  Every extra bit of money helps though.  I'll keep you posted on whether I manage to stay in the black this Christmas.

I hope your budgets weren't busted like mine this month.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

A Quiet Black Friday Here

As the title suggests, it was a very quiet Black Friday here.  So much so, that I didn't venture out to a shop and I didn't spend a penny.

I was working on Thursday and it was a very busy day with lots going on.  The two new Deputy Managers were both working and the Shop Manager came in so we could all have a meeting together. 

In addition, I spent the last two hours of the day creating one of our Christmas shop windows, trying to choose suitably sparkly clothing and accessories, attach fairy lights and decorate the small tree (I got help with this from our intern). The resulting window, I thought, looked quite pretty, but I didn't really get chance to take a photo, as by the time I'd finished it was time to close up the shop.

Consequently, on Friday I was feeling a bit frazzled and couldn't really face getting stuck into anything at home or going out anywhere shopping.  Instead, I had a quiet day at home trying to devise a Christmas music playlist for the shop, watching a Christmas movie and starting a jigsaw that I'd bought a few weeks ago.  I needed something to help me wind right down from work and shopping just wouldn't have done it for me.

I may venture out today with OH in an attempt to buy his main Christmas present, (he would like some new trainers) if we both feel like it, or we may just leave it until another weekend.

On Wednesday this week, I had arranged to meet a couple of friends from the gym to go out to lunch and catch up. Unfortunately, one friend wasn't feeling well and had to cancel, so the remaining friend and I decided to make a change from visiting our usual restaurant and meet at Canary Wharf instead.  It's probably a year since I've been there and I always enjoy visiting, especially as there were lots of twinkling Christmas lights, making it feel very festive.  We had a lovely Vegan burger at the Gourmet Burger bar, a good old chat and had a bit of a mooch around the shops too.  It made for a very pleasant afternoon.

Talking of restaurants, on Sunday night after I'd finished work, OH and LB came into town to meet me and we all headed off to a local Italian restaurant to eat.  I deliberately wanted to try this restaurant, as this is where I have now booked our shop's Christmas meal.  The food was good and the prices were within our budget, which is the most important thing. Last year, after arriving at the chosen restaurant, we found that the prices were more than the menu I'd found online, which wasn't ideal, as we have a very defined budget to spend. Anyway, I now just need to telephone the restaurant manager and confirm the booking/prices and then it will be one less thing to think about in the coming weeks.

Other things I did this week included posting off Christmas cards to my sister in Australia. I thought I'd missed the last posting date, but I think I confused economy parcel post with air mail for letters. As I only send cards these days, it is much easier and much less expensive these days too.

I also spoke to my other sister, who lives in Yorkshire this week, and we had a bit of a catch up and a discussion about Christmas presents for our respective daughters.

In all, it's been a mildly productive week.  I bought a few more Christmas presents, both from the CS and whilst out grocery shopping and paid a visit to Poundland, where I bought the contents for a Christmas Eve Bucket for LB.  It will include flavoured popcorn, chocolate, a drink and a movie.  I always buy her pyjamas to open on Xmas Eve, but this year I decided to make her an extra little something, after getting the idea from a YouTube video.  I hope she likes my choice of movie, Footloose with Kevin Bacon.  She likes 80's fashion, so I'm hoping she'll like a good old 80's movie to watch.

With mixed feelings, I have to report that the mouse that never went near a mousetrap, finally succumbed to one this week.  We felt a little sad, as it had almost become part of the family, but it's not really ideal nor hygienic to have mice in the house.  I hate to kill any of God's creatures, but some creatures are not so welcome in our homes. RIP mousey, I hope you had a good life and enjoyed your stay whilst you were with us.

This weekend I'm not working, so I will probably catch up with housework, tackle the ironing mountain and continue with my jigsaw.  Not very exciting, but enough for me at the moment.  LB starts her mocks next week and is busy revising, so we're all very home centred at the moment.

I hope you had a good week.






Tuesday, 20 November 2018

New Sofa Covers at Last

As mentioned in my last post, the new sofa covers that I ordered back in October, arrived this week.  They took far less time than I thought, as initially I had to wait until the fabric came back into stock and then the covers had to be made up, before being shipped out from Australia I think, or maybe it was Singapore.  I'm not sure which, but it was the other side of the world.  Why was that, you might ask?  Not very eco friendly.  Well the sofa in question, was one we bought from IKEA over 15 years ago, which has been discontinued for probably 10 years now.

Over the years, I've looked out on eBay for new covers and one new set did come up, but seemed expensive at the time.  If only I'd known how much I would end up spending on some, I'd have snapped them up.  Anyway, after researching, there were a couple of companies that made covers, one in Europe, one in Australia.  I ordered swatches from each and checked out all of the reviews online and the ones that we liked best, that also seem to get the best reviews, came from Comfort Works in Australia, which is where I placed the order.

I was really impressed with the service, they kept me updated along the way, save for dispatch, which made it a nice surprise when the parcel arrived this week.  The covers were beautifully packed in a drawstring bag, inside a box.  It was like opening up a subscription beauty box.

I finally managed to get them on the sofa on Saturday. I didn't want to put new covers on the sofa in a room that was dirty, so I made the effort to do a full clean of the reception rooms, and then with a bit of help from OH, I managed to get the new covers on.  The base cover and the back cushions fitted perfectly, but the base cover was so snug, it was difficult to get on, hence why I got OH involved.  It looks great though.  The large seat cushions were slightly loose in places, but I can live with that. 

Overall, I'm thrilled, it's like having a new sofa, and knowing I've saved this sofa from going to landfill is even more satisfying.  Here's a couple of pictures of the room before and after.  The creases need to drop out yet, but I think the new covers make the room seem a lot more cosy and pulled together.

Before:


After:



(I was watching a sneaky Christmas movie whilst cleaning the room!)

I'm now driving everyone mad, making rules about not eating on the sofa or letting the dog jump up onto it, but after paying nearly £350 for them, I'm sure you'll understand why. I think my annual wage rise, which we get in a lump sum next month, should cover the majority of the spend.

Our next big expense in this room, will be to buy a new armchair in a co-ordinating fabric, but I think that will have to wait until next year now. When we do, we will, of course, be giving the current one away to a Give or Take for someone else to make use of it.

I'm now looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations up in a couple of weeks time, which will make the room seem even cosier and lovely and festive.  I'll post again, when I've done this.