Wednesday, 24 May 2017

An Enjoyable Monday

I enjoyed Monday. I did just one class at the gym. The regular teacher was away, so someone else was covering, as was the case last week.  I was a bit disgruntled when I first got there last week, as I was expecting our regular instructor or her usual cover, but the person covering this time was new to me.  Her class, though less intense, was quite enjoyable. I enjoyed it more this week, as I knew what to expect.  I'm not so good with surprises, but it is actually nice to have a change from time to time. We'll all be in for a shock next week, when our normal teacher returns and we have to up our pace to keep up with her high energy class.

After class, a few of us retired to a nearby restaurant for coffee and a chat.  It was lovely to spend an hour just chatting about life lately. We should do it more, but we don't.

When we all parted ways, I headed off to a different supermarket than usual, to finish my grocery shopping.  Waitrose this time, as I had another voucher for £8 off a £40 spend, which is just too good to pass up, despite the supermarket in question being a lot more expensive.  I shopped very carefully and got quite a lot for my money, so I was pretty happy. I've spent the food budget now, although I should have more or less enough food to take us through to June.  I will probably just have to buy a few bits at the beginning of next week and I can always spend some of the M&S voucher which has £52 remaining on it, as I haven't used it yet this month.

When I got home, I chilled for a while, catching up on a bit of online and offline reading (courtesy of a free newspaper I got from the supermarket). Eventually, I moved myself to do a bit of zone cleaning in our bedroom. 

Today, I decided to clean out my wardrobe.  I started by taking everything out and seriously considering what I wanted to put back in again. There were still some autumnal/spring clothing items in there, so I bagged them up and put them in storage, leaving just a few very light sweaters to use in the summer months. I found about 5 items of clothing I no longer wanted and another 5 items of costume jewellery.

I proceeded to clean both the inside and outside of the wardrobe, before returning everything I was keeping in there for the summer. There were quite a lot of empty hangers leftover, so I stored some of those away too, as they jam up the rail in the wardrobe and make access to the clothes more difficult. 
There is virtually no colour in there which is something I might need to work on in the future when funds allow. I'm not too good at wearing colour these days though, so I'm happy with the simplicity of what's left in there, save for the excessive number of shoes, which I need to work on.

Whilst in the bedroom, I decided to clean off the pendant lamp which was really dusty, change the bed linen and clean the windows and mirrors before calling it a day.  It took a couple of hours to do all of the jobs, but this was fine as I didn't have anything else pressing to do, so it felt like time well spent.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

This Weekend

This weekend has been pretty chilled really.  Saturday was OH's birthday, so after he'd taken the dog for a nice long walk in the morning, we left her at home and headed out for the day.

First stop was the local Nike store, to buy his birthday present of a new pair of trainers.  I'd budgeted £200 for his present this month, as I still owed him a decent Xmas present.  I'd already bought a few items including some single malt whisky, a book, chocolate, coffee, chorizo, socks - mostly consumables.  In all honesty, he has almost everything he needs. 

The trainers he chose were probably the most expensive in the store, but I expected them to be as he likes good quality and the latest trainer technology.  As a consequence, there wasn't anything left in the budget to get him any cycle gear, but he was happy enough with his new trainers.

Whilst in there, I managed to source some trainers and gym t-shirts for me at a reasonable cost.  I didn't buy them, but I know exactly where to go next month to buy at least one t-shirt, when I've got some money in my budget again.

From there we headed into town, well the City of London to be exact. We managed to find free parking in our favourite spot near St. Paul's Cathedral and then went for a pub lunch before walking across the footbridge to the Tate Modern. We had tickets to see the Giacometti exhibition there, which we enjoyed.

When we came out of the Tate, we both felt really tired. It's always quite intense going around an exhibition and it was pretty busy.  Before heading home, we stopped off for a coffee/hot chocolate in Starbucks at the back of the Tate.  You get a great view of the back of the gallery from there and can see the controversial viewing gallery. We find the rear of the building much more interesting than the front facade.

Later, I took the dog for a walk and then collapsed in front of the TV until I started nodding off at about 9pm, when I decided to head off to bed. I think I must be getting old.  I find the crowds in London more exhausting to negotiate the older I get.

Today, was much more normal.  Up and out with the dog, class at the gym, followed by grocery shopping at Lidl.  Sometimes a tried and tested routine is reassuring. I have noticed, however, that the grocery bill in this store is consistently higher these days.  Gone are the days when I could do a weekly shop for just £40.  It's more like £60 + these days.

This afternoon, LB went out to meet a friend, so I spent the afternoon at home and started on my Zone 4 detailed cleaning in our bedroom.  I cleaned the shelves next to my bed, as they were very dusty.  In the process, I managed to declutter over 30 books and a few other items, so it was a very productive afternoon in terms of simplifying.  That was probably the worst job that needs doing in the room, so it felt good to tick that one off and possibly be able to get more done later in the week.

I cooked us a chicken casserole for supper and after catching up with my weekly fix of The Durrells, I emptied the ironing basket ready for the week ahead and then it was off to bed.

It's been a good of a weekend, but I'm ready for a new week. LB has two theatre trips with school this week and then it's half term next week. A busy week for her. I'm doing just one class at the gym tomorrow and then a couple of us are heading off for a coffee in a local cafĂ© to have a catch up, which we haven't done for a while.  It will be a nice start to the week.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Flylady Update Zone 3

Zone Three got off to a slow start this week due to the fact that I did very little on Sunday, which was day one. I didn't actually start until late afternoon on Monday, as I was out and about for most of the day. When I got back, I watched a couple of videos on YouTube, which helped to motivate me, and got straight on with cleaning the bathroom.

Luckily, as I've mentioned in a previous post, our bathroom is tiny, so I decided to deep clean the whole room in one go.  It took about two hours in total.  All of the tiles were cleaned and grout scrubbed clean, the shower screen was cleaned and I razor bladed any limescale deposits off the bath. The shelves and windows were cleaned, the floor mopped and towels changed. It felt good to get it done.

The only jobs I didn't do were to use my vinegar and water spray on the windows and mirror to get them streak free and to try to remove some mould from one of the walls. The former I did later in the week, the latter I tried with a bleach spray, which didn't work, so I'm going to make a paste from bicarb and vinegar and try that next. (A tip from The Home Handbook)

I was at the CS for the next two days, and on the evenings on my return, I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm to tackle LB's room, plus she spends most of her time in it, so it is difficult to get access unless she's out at school.

Thursday, as mentioned in my last post, I spent some time at the allotment, although I did do a 2 minute Hot Spot clearance in the hallway, removing and relocating some items that were cluttering up the shoe bench. As a consequence, I had just today to give LB's room a thorough clean.

After walking the dog this morning, I got straight into cleaning the room. It was pretty dusty in places, so I started with all of the shelves and book cases, pulling everything out to clean behind and underneath, before replacing the contents. I pulled most of the furniture out and cleaned behind it too, and had a go at the windows, outside and inside, and although it was difficult to clean the outside of them from the inside, I did my best.

I hadn't quite finished by the time LB came home, so I got her to help me in a last push. She managed to declutter quite a few soft toys and dolls clothes that she has now outgrown and some more of her unwanted clothes too. I eventually completed the job, which wraps up Zone 3 for me this week.

I am not doing any zone cleaning tomorrow, as we are going into town for the day to celebrate OH's birthday. I may do a bit of cleaning on Saturday morning, just to hoover and mop the hallway, whilst OH takes the dog for a walk, but apart from that I don't have any other tasks to complete.

From Sunday, I will be cleaning in Zone 4, which is our master bedroom. I'm actually looking forward to tackling this room, as it hasn't had a good deep clean for about a year, since we got our new bed.  I've already completed some of the tasks recently, such as vacuuming the mattress and turning it, and I gave the tall boy a very thorough clean not long ago, so they won't need doing this month.  I also vacuumed the underbed storage the other week, so won't venture in there this month either.

Ideally, I would like to clean the bookshelves in the alcove on my side of the room and deep clean my wardrobe inside and out.  If I have the time I'll do more, but I'm trying to be realistic and not go too mad, as it can be quite exhausting to try to do everything in one week. So long as I manage the above mentioned tasks, I'll be happy and will tackle OH's side of the room and his wardrobe next month. I'll let you know how I get on.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Allotment Day

I thought it was probably about time that I posted another allotment post, although I have to say that there isn't an awful lot going on down at the allotment just yet.
I decided to visit today, because there appeared to be a break in the weather, before what is supposed to be a rainy few days over the weekend, so it seemed like a good opportunity.  The Flylady zone cleaning was put on the back burner, and I headed over to my plot instead.

Some of the seeds I've sown on the plot so far haven't actually germinated well, so there's not actually much to show for the work I've put in there. The lettuces have probably been the most successful sowings, but the potatoes are coming along well too, thankfully.

The broad beans got blackfly infested due to my not pinching out the tips early enough, and the onions seemed to be rotting already, probably on account of disease being in the soil from the previous tenant growing them.

Not the best start, but such is gardening and to be honest, I'm not really bothered about growing onions or carrots, as they are so cheap in the shops and very prone to disease and pests, I'd rather grow crops that are more expensive to buy, such as salads, beans and fruit.

I still had one bed and the area around the compost bin left to weed this visit, plus a few more weeds had sprung up where I'd weeded before, so I cracked on with getting them under control again.

That's the problem with starting again on a new plot.  You inevitably inherit particular challenges from previous tenants and in this case, I've inherited some very persistent and quite deep rooted perennial weeds, that take a bit of eradicating, as any little piece of root left in the soil tends to shoot and regrow.  I'll get there eventually, but it might take a bit of perseverance.

I took some kale plants with me that I'd grown from seed and planted them out, once I'd done as much weeding as I could manage. They should be pretty hardy. There's just a couple of paths left to finish weeding, but after three hours of digging I just didn't have anymore energy to tackle them and by this time it had started raining quite heavily too.

At least the climbing bean and sweet pea seeds, that I sowed on my last visit a couple of weeks ago, have started to germinate, which was encouraging.  The plot still looks pretty bare compared to more established plots on the site though. I guess I've just got to be a bit patient and give it time.

Apologies for the lack of photos, I took the camera, but unfortunately the battery needed charging. Big fail. I'll post some over the weekend.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Mid Month Update

Well, I'm now half way through May and as mentioned in a previous post, I've been a bit spendy so far this month, which has not really been ideal.  There were quite a few things I just couldn't resist buying at the CS at the beginning of the month, but thankfully my impulses have now calmed down and I'm managing to resist temptation a lot more.

Having said this, I did have a small splurge at Home Bargains this week to buy lots of toiletries and a few other bits and pieces, which did just about max out my remaining budgets.

There were a couple of unexpected expenses that arose this month.  LB needed a scientific calculator for an upcoming Maths test and with her GCSE's coming up in the next couple of years, it was a good time to just buy her one. It only cost £9 though, which wasn't too bad.

In addition to the extra £15 school trip that I needed to pay for this month, another trip was arranged that cost another £10. These two trips, LB's calculator and a couple of other things I bought for her has meant that her budget has gone way over this month, but this couldn't be helped and it has come under for a few months now, so I'm not too worried about it.

I won't, however, be able to buy any of her school uniform for next year this month, as I'd hoped, but it will wait. To budget for this, I may start putting any future excess from her budget into a separate account, until there's enough money to place an order with the uniform company.

Aside from spending on LB, I also needed to purchase a couple of expensive toiletry/make up products for me this month, as in addition to running out of perfume, I ran out of both shampoo and foundation. As I use natural products, it was costly to replace these and although I bought a small travel size (15ml) of the foundation to try to get me through the next few months, it still set me back £13.50 and the shampoo I use costs £10.

Some of these expenses, combined with this weeks trip to Home Bargains, where I stocked up on mouthwash, distilled witch hazel, small packs of tissues and cotton pads, served to take care of the rest of the household budget for this month. I may go over a little, as I will probably need to buy some more dog food and toilet rolls before the end of the month, but hopefully, it will just be a matter of a few pounds over.

With two weeks to go, my personal budget is overspent by £8.77, LB's is over by £18.44 and the Home budget is £2.14 overspent. I still have most of the budget to buy OH's birthday/belated Xmas present this week. He's decided on a new pair of trainers, plus some small cycling items, so we'll be going to check out the local Nike and cycle store for those and I've bought him a few other bits too.

There's just over £2 left in the Misc budget and 36p left in the Household budget, and I've got at least £60 left each week to spend on food, so things aren't too desperate. I may even be able to claw back some of the overspends from the food budget if I'm really careful. I'll let you know the final tally in my monthly roundup.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Loving Lately

I haven't done a post for a while on my current TV, Netflix and reading favourites, so here goes.

As far as viewing goes, I've been enjoying the following lately:

1) The short series now finished on Channel 4, 'Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners'.  In this series, the OCD cleaners were sent over to the US to help out some serious hoarders and grime gatherers.  I think there were only 3 or 4 shows in the series, but as always, I really enjoyed this show, which always and in this instance, combined with the Flylady, inspires me to clean my house.

2) I am currently and have for a few weeks now,  been enjoying 'The Durrells' on TV on Sunday evenings.  It's just one of those wonderful Sunday evening TV programmes that is so easy and enjoyable to watch and Keely Hawes is just fabulous in it.

3) LB found a new series to watch on Netflix the other week, namely Girl Boss, which I've been really enjoying watching with her. (Although some bits aren't all that appropriate for a 14 year old to watch).  It is very loosely based on the book Girl Boss, the story of Sophie Amoroso and her successful internet clothing business. I've heard it slated in some places, but I've found it pretty enjoyable to watch and I don't think it's meant to be taken too seriously.

4) On Sunday, having done lots of cleaning all week, I was looking around on Netflix for something to watch whilst doing the ironing.  I came across a series called 'Anne with an E', which is a remake of the Anne of Green Gables story.  It is wonderful and I will be continuing to watch this over the next few weeks.

5) For any fans out there, there's also another new series of The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt starting on Netflix on the 19th May, so I'll definitely be watching that too.

6) Finally, of course, I'm loving Friday evenings in the company of Monty Don on Gardener's World, to get me in the mood for gardening over the weekend.

Lots of good viewing to be getting on with, whenever I fancy a bit of escapism.

On the reading front are the following favourites:

1) I'm currently reading 'Your Money or Your Life' by Joe Domingues and Vicky Robin, that I bought from the CS the other week. I've heard this book recommended in various places; on YouTube, in blogs, etc. In all honesty, I was wondering if I would find this book at all useful, as I've read so many financial self-help books so far this year, and thought it would just be more of the same, but actually, this book is really interesting and really gets you thinking about the value of money and what it actually is.

Originally written in the 1960's it has been linked with the voluntary simplicity movement in the US, which started around this time.  It's contents, however, don't date and it's still as potent now as it was then. The basic premise is that money represents the hours of your life spent to earn it and it encourages you to think about whether the things we buy are really worth the time they take, to earn the money to pay for them. 

In addition, it takes a look at what your real earnings are, once the costs of working are factored into the equation.  In this sense, it makes you take a look at your actual hourly rate, which may not be as much as you think, once you calculate how much you are spending as a consequence of going out to work, keeping up appearances in the workplace or escaping from the daily grind.

This book also encourages you to identify what is your 'enough'. The point at which your needs are met and you experience fulfilment and can stop seeking more in order to be happy. It's a very thought provoking book, in a way that other books of this genre haven't been. I'm thoroughly enjoying it's approach, which consists of a series of steps to follow that should lead you toward FI or financial independence.

2) Another book that I've just finished reading is the The Home Handbook.  I purchased this book at Poundland for £1 and I've really enjoyed reading it.  It was a very easy read, which you could pick up and put down very easily. It has some wonderful advice for the managing and cleaning of your home on a room by room basis.  Definitely worth the investment and a definite keeper, as a reference book for all of those tricky household cleaning dilemnas.

So these are the things I've been loving lately.  What have you been enjoying lately?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Flylady Update - Zone 2

This week in Flylady's Zone 2 has really flown, (please excuse the pun) and I feel like I've been flying too. The kitchen has had a major clean. 

Every cabinet was emptied and decluttered, then cleaned in and out before being reorganised.

My table and chairs were thoroughly cleaned for the first time in I don't know how long and look so much better for it. It feels good to take care of things we have owned for a long time and that have served us well.

I banished my small chest of drawers, that I kept next to the kitchen table for use as my 'office', back up to the spare bedroom, as I don't use the contents enough to justify having them clutter up my kitchen. I'm now managing with just a tray and a box on the table to work from and a container in one of the kitchen cupboards full of other things I might need.  (Frankly, I got sick of the visual clutter in this room and really wanted a change.  Everything just collects dust and grime.)

All appliances got cleaned inside and out, baseboards were washed for the first time in probably a year and the windows were cleaned on the inside. I'm pleased with the results and it's nice just to clean for my own benefit for a change, rather than for guests arriving imminently, who probably don't even notice that much.

I've now had enough of cleaning for this week.  This zone has been a tough one, as it probably gets dirtier than any of the other zones in the house, because of the grease and grime of cooking and daily life.

I did leave a few jobs undone for next month, namely to wash the curtains, clean the windows from the outside and defrost the freezer. These will be my priorities when the Zone comes around again.

Tomorrow, I start detailed cleaning in Zone 3, which is the Main Bathroom and One Other Room which is your choice.  For this month it will be LB's bedroom.  Luckily, our bathroom is tiny, so should not be too much work. I made a start on this zone yesterday by changing LB's bedding, as I needed to wash it and today I will just vacuum upstairs and in her room and mop the bathroom floor, before starting proper on the cleaning on Monday.  That's enough for a Sunday.  I'm looking forward to having a bit of time to myself, without any cleaning.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Seeing Things Differently

I got to thinking the other day, that for the past 10 years at least, my vision and thinking have been seriously impaired, probably mainly as a consequence of being an at home mum and not really being out in the real world that much.

When I compare life then, to life now, I feel like I've kind of woken from a deep sleep and am starting to see the world around me again.  Now don't get me wrong, I loved my own little world, that I built for myself and our family, that kept us safe and secure and I don't love some of the things that go on outside of it (Gosh, I sound old saying that!), but I do think that there were things that I could have done differently, had I had a job and been out and about in the big wide world experiencing more.

Anyway, there's no point in any sort of regrets, so don't regret how my life was and still is to some extent, but I am quite enjoying how it is now and how I am managing to finally get more of a grip on it. 

When I look back at old photographs, which I've been doing a lot of lately whilst getting them sorted and organised, it is interesting to see some of the choices I made over time and I wonder now why some ofthese were actually made.  I know we all change with age and experience and I can't go back and change the past, but I can influence what I do from now on and be more thoughtful and intentional in my future choices.

I think that the decluttering I've been doing for the last few years has been an essential part of cementing this in my mind, as when I see the mounds of stuff leaving our house, that I have at some time or other bought, I can't believe I accrued so much.  Letting go of the stuff has really made the house a much better place to live in.  It has also made getting on board with the Flylady programme much easier, as we have much less to clean around and maintain, although there is always room to get rid of a bit more. I'm really starting to see how once you do declutter and get your house in order, that it does leave you with time on your hands to do other things.

In addition, all of the current focus on budgeting has made me realise how in the past I have also made some not so good choices when it came to spending and saving (or not saving) money.  I guess I didn't really think about saving for the future and I didn't really know what good quality actually was in many respects, as I was often a victim to buying cheap or 'fashionable' things rather than things that would last longer. I think working at the CS has helped me appreciate quality more in some ways, but it has also cemented in my mind how ridiculous spending large amounts of money on designer labels would be, for me at least.

I like to see the lovely things that come through the shop, but I have no wish to purchase such things myself new, especially considering how fickle and ever changing fashion trends are and also considering the fact that it would be a waste to wear them to do the very ordinary and mundane things I do on daily basis.

As I am slowly getting my house into better shape, I'm starting to realise that I will soon probably need to find something purposeful to do with my life. LB is quickly growing up and becoming more and more independent, often off hanging out with her friends on weekends.  Before I know it she will be up and off to university and I will need to get myself more of a life.  The charity shop was a first step in this direction, and I love the work I do there, but I probably need to take it to the next level some time soon and get some paid work.

I think therefore that my next focus will be finding a paid job, studying something new again or something along these lines. I'm both looking forward to this and quite nervous about it at the same time, but I realise that above all I am making progress, albeit small steps every day.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 5

In my fifth post in this series, you'll notice that there are some distinct repetitions, namely the free seeds I get from a free magazine subscription. I will continue to include them, but I apologise if it gets a bit boring for anyone reading.

Frugal fails this post were:

1. I had a bit of a splurge in the first week of the month, buying a few things from the CS and other shops.  I think I spent about £35 in total, on lots of different bits and pieces, but largely they were things that will be used regularly or passed on as gifts.

2. I bought a couple of unbudgeted things in the second week of the month, one being a denim dungaree dress for LB to wear in the summer, which came into the CS and the other being another small Xmas gift for a relative, again from the CS. Sometimes, the items are too good to miss and both of the above were brand new and unused, still with labels.  They cost less than £10 in total too.

3. This frugal fail was very annoying.  I used a cash point on the way to the CS the other day and forgot to take my money. (I rarely use cashpoints and just completely forgot).  I'd only gone a few steps, but when I went back it wasn't in the machine. I don't think anyone took it, as there wasn't anyone else around at the time. I went in the bank and was told that  the machine took it back in and it should be recredited to my account, so I'm now waiting to see if this does in fact happen. I'll be very annoyed if it doesn't.  It was just £10 though, luckily, so it wouldn't be a massive loss, but I'm not one to just throw money away, especially into the jaws of a bank.

Freebies and Frugal Measures this post were:

1. More free seeds.

This time turnips, curly kale and fennel.

2. Three free unwanted trellis panels found outside a house and used to make raised bed covers.

3. I got this Neal's Yard Wild Rose hand cream free with Marie Claire Magazine last month.  Not strictly free, as the magazine cost £3.99, but a lot cheaper than I'd have to pay if I bought it in a store. I don't often buy magazines, but if they have a free natural product with them, that I will definitely use, I sometimes make an exception.

4. After my frugal fail at Lidl last post, whereby I was charged £3 for a packet of coffee that I didn't buy, when I was presented with an £80 bill for last week's grocery shop, I decided to check my receipt before leaving the car park, to make sure the same thing hadn't happened.  It turned out that I had been charged for two bags of compost, when I'd only bought one, so I made sure to get another before I left for home.  Only a 99p overcharge this time, but it would have been very annoying if I hadn't checked, especially as it was for something that I could so readily use in the garden.

5. One of the items I bought from the CS in the first week of May was a real bargain and worth a special mention, namely this boxed set of two new and unused Emma Bridgwater Half Pint Mugs for just £10.  It was a great price, as the two retail for more like £40 and they will make a great gift for someone, whose name I will not mention here, just in case they might be reading this.

6. I also received some money off vouchers to shop with at Tesco this week, so my most of  my weekly shops for the remainder of the month will be done there to take advantage of these.  I haven't had any for a while, so this is good news.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Thursday Catchup

It's now 3.30pm on Thursday, and I've spent the day running errands to the library, Post Office and pharmacy, followed by continuing my Flylady cleaning in Zone 2, the kitchen.

Today, was probably the messiest job, namely cleaning the oven, hob and the shelving around the area, which always has quite a layer of grease and dirt, especially if I haven't cleaned it for a while, which I haven't. 

I think, to my shame, the oven was last cleaned about a year ago, because I remember blogging about it, and it was pretty grot then.  In that post, I said I was going to clean it more often, but of course, I haven't.  My current excuse is that I've been busy at the CS in this past year and that was in the day's before Flylady, but we'll see if that stands the test of time moving forward.

It's not exactly perfect, but it is looking a lot cleaner and I'm hoping to clean it at least every two months using the Flylady system.  If we do get a new kitchen extension this year, I may have a completely new oven to keep clean, which should help motivate me.

I've been doing a little cleaning in the kitchen each day this week, even the days I was at the CS.  Saturday, I cleaned the fridge, Sunday I cleaned the microwave, Monday was the turn of the under sink cupboards, Tuesday I cleaned out the cutlery drawer, baking drawer and crockery drawer, Wednesday I cleared the window sills, washed everything and cleaned the windows too and then today it's been the oven, hob, drawer below, shelves around and hood (I just need to put the hood filters through the dishwasher, but I don't want to put them in with my crockery, as they are very greasy. I may even put them through the dishwasher using citric acid to clean them, but I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not.  I'll probably Google it.

Tomorrow, I'm cleaning inside and out of the cupboards, or as many as I can manage and on Saturday, I'm sweeping and mopping, cleaning the worktops and maybe doing the baseboards. I won't need to do all of these jobs next month, I'll probably focus on just a few that are really in need of doing. I think once I keep doing some cleaning regularly it will be so much more manageable on a daily basis. 

I've removed a lot of visual clutter from the worktops and streamlined things a lot, as many of the items we had out, didn't really need to be out on the worktops, so I'm happy about this, as it will also make cleaning easier in the future.  I have a few ideas to streamline further in coming months, but I do need to buy a couple of small organisational items to assist me with this and there's no money in the budget this month, so they will have to wait until next month now.

Flylady is still working for me, as you can tell, and is providing me with the motivation I need at the moment.  Even if I don't continue with it, it will have encouraged me to do a thorough spring clean at least.  The only drawback is that my hands and nails are really suffering, as a consequence of doing so much cleaning. There's always a price to pay with everything I guess.

Monday, 8 May 2017

A Spendy Start to the Month

You may have noticed that I've not been buying very much recently, on account of my new strict budget, but the beginning of this month has been a bit spendy as I have found a few good buys at the charity shop or whilst out grocery shopping, and here they are.

Last week I bought these two notebooks.  The grey one on the left is a genuine Moleskine notebook with JP Morgan on the front, obviously donated by someone who worked for the company and hadn't used it.  I bought it as my next bullet journal, although I don't need it just yet, as I haven't finished my current one, but at least I've got one to go when I do need it.  It cost just £1.99 which is much less than a Moleskine of this A5 size would cost to buy new and I love the colour.

The horse notebook on the right, I bought as a gift for my niece who has a pony.  It will be either for Christmas or her birthday later this year and cost just £1.49. Hopefully, she'll like it.

This book, which I've heard a lot about, was in the charity shop the other day, so I purchased it to help me with my budgeting and getting my finances in order.  It cost £2.79, but it could prove invaluable if helps me save money rather than spend it. (I need all the help I can get!)

I had another little splurge this week.  I saw some fabric in the window of a different CS and went in to take a look. Fatal.  Now I know I already have lots of fabric, but this one caught my eye and priced at £1 for five pieces (it says just 3 but there were 5), I couldn't resist.  None of the pieces are quite big enough to make cushion covers unfortunately, but I might be able to use it combined with other fabrics to make something, or alternatively use it for patchwork projects.

In the same shop, I found this great CD case to use in the car.  Previously our dashboard was stuffed with a dozen CD cases making it difficult to sift through and find the one you want, but this is such a simple way to store and access them easily, that I couldn't resist it, especially when it was priced at only £1.50.

I did also buy a couple of lightweight scarves to wear in the summer, (rocking the Bet Lynch look) so I don't get too hot and a pair of very inexpensive faux leather lace up shoes for wearing to the CS in the summer, instead of wearing boots all the time. (Not a great photo, but they are actually quite nice)

Finally, on a trip to ASDA, I treated myself to a timer to help with my Flylady missions and cleaning sessions.  At £3, it wasn't too expensive and is useful as a stopwatch, for timing how long different jobs take me to complete or for setting a limit on the time I spend doing certain jobs.

Mmm, spendy indeed, but thankfully, all but one cost £3 or less.  I've now just got to curb any more spending impulses for the rest of the month to keep the budget in tact. Wish me luck with that!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

This Weekend

Towards the end of this week and over the weekend, I've had a busy old time doing jobs around the house and allotment. 

I started on Thursday afternoon, when I did a session of weeding and sowing on my new plot.  Lots of new weeds had come up, so I made sure to pull them all (bar a few) out and used the cleared space to sow some flower seeds in one bed and some climbing beans in another. 

There's still a whole bed that needs weeding, into which I'm going to plant courgettes and cucumbers when my home grown plants are big enough, but I'll probably get around to weeding that bed next week.

On Friday, I decided to tackle the dining room, as it constituted Zone 1 of Flylady's programme. I'd done a bit of decluttering in there the night before in the chest of drawers and found a few more things to donate or throw away.  Later, I also vacuumed and mopped the hall, which is also part of this zone.

On Saturday, I cleaned out the fridge in readiness for Zone 2, the kitchen, this coming week and did my food shopping a day early, as it was a quiet day and we were nearly out of food. 

OH treated us to supper out at a local restaurant on Saturday night. It was so nice not to cook for a change and then we came home to watch The Fault in Our Stars on TV with LB.  It was a bit of a tear jerker.

Today (Sunday), it was nice not to have to go to Lidl after my usual class at the gym, I did stop off at a Tesco store and finish the last few bits of my grocery shop though, so I'm starting the week feeling much more organised.

Later this afternoon, I vacuumed and mopped upstairs and swished and swiped the bathroom, which I hadn't done for a week. I also changed and washed our bed linen, removing all of the mattress and pillow protectors and washing them too. I then vacuumed the mattress and the storage spaces under the bed and turned the mattress over for the first time since we bought it last year (OH had been nagging me to do this). We're trying to take good care of this bed.

I finished the ironing, put the laundry away and sorted out some of the donations in the spare room, as I'm going to take some of them to a local Charity shop next week.

After a busy weekend, I enjoyed sitting down to watch The Durrells on Sunday night.

Having said this, I'm looking forward to tackling Zone 2 next week, as I'm going to use it as a good excuse to seriously declutter the kitchen before we have to pack most of it away when the building work starts.  I'm hoping to get ruthless and really get rid of things we just don't use. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Still Simplifying - April

This month, due to being away for 10 days or more, I haven't actually tackled any major simplification tasks, but what I did do was to purchase a few more photo albums and continue with the re-organisation of our family photos.  One more album has been filled, but I still have two to organise, as I ran out of photo corners. I have ordered some more from eBay, which I am waiting to receive, so hopefully, I should finish this task completely next month and then it will just be the digital photos that I need to organise.

I did, however, complete another unfinished task this month, namely that of organising the spices in my kitchen, after buying a couple more spice jars.

A new simplifying task I completed this month, was to move my mini greenhouse down to the end of the garden, which I've been meaning to do for a while, in readiness for building work on the house later this year. I'm happy to have completed this task, as it means that I can now concentrate on what needs packing away inside the house before work begins and I can also eventually go ahead and plant tomato plants into the greenhouse, now it is in it's new and permanent position.

The only other breakthrough I've had this month in terms of simplifying, is to get on board with the Flylady, to get my house in order and keep it clean.  It's still very early days, but every little job done makes life a little easier. It's an ongoing process of developing a routine that suits me and my lifestyle, but I'm hoping it will make a big difference to keeping on top of the household organisation and cleaning in the future.

Next month, I'm hoping to simplify the garden beds by getting help from OH to build new covers for them, (already done!), I hope to have progressed with a lot more cleaning of the house and should have managed to wash and store away all my autumn/winter clothing until next year. (Washed but need to store!) I haven't got any other simplifying tasks in mind as yet, but some more may come to me as the month and the Flylady process progresses. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Flylady Big Fail

After feeling very pleased with myself for sticking to the Flylady system for the first week, by Thursday last week, my resolve was starting to crumble.  It didn't help that I just felt exhausted on Thursday afternoon and went to bed for a few hours. Since then, for one reason or another, I've done very little cleaning and really let my routines lapse over the Bank Holiday weekend.

This was partly a conscious decision, because I had cleaned my toilet so much in the past week, that I was happy to just let go a little and let it get a bit dirty.  I am going to try to get back on board with Flylady again this week, but I think I will reduce my routines and maybe do the toilet every few days instead of every day as it really doesn't get that dirty that quickly.  I don't think a few days of not cleaning it will do any harm to any of us and I'll use a lot less product.

I will still be washing up every evening and leaving my sink clean, I'll probably get to bed at a decent hour, read for a while and try to get enough sleep, but I don't think putting out my clothes for the next day is too essential for me either.  I don't have a vast wardrobe, so choosing what to wear isn't a big challenge. I'll try to do it for special occasions or for work at the shop, but other than that I don't think it's too important for me.

I'm going to try to get on board with the Zone Cleaning from this week, as I do want to get into a more regular cleaning routine, but I'm not going to be too hard on myself if I lapse a bit here and there. It's very easy to get too obsessed about cleanliness and routines which can detract from my enjoyment of life and can be very annoying  to other members of the household. I don't want to be too rigid, as life is just too short.

Some nights, for example, I might get engrossed in a job or project and then be too tired to do the routines and I don't want to feel too bad about that, especially when the job I get engrossed in might be more important in terms of making progress in getting my life in order, than the cleaning routine.

This week I haven't yet had chance to do much, as I've been working at the CS for the past two days, but I have done some work on my control journal and written out all of the zones, daily plans, weekly blessings, baby steps, etc., so I now feel I actually understand a lot more about how the Flylady system works. I've also added in motivational quotes and clarified my morning and evening routines, so that I'm now properly ready to fly.

I'll continue to follow the baby steps and see where they lead me, but I have taken a bit of a step backwards, in order to assess just what I can take from the system and what won't work for me. I don't want things to be too prescriptive, as it's just not realistic or enjoyable.

I'll let you know how I get on with my more balanced approach to the system.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

A Productive Bank Holiday Monday

This weekend was a bit of a lost one for various reasons, some of which I've already posted about. Bank Holiday Monday, however was a much more productive day and we managed to get a few important things done.

Job number one, was to buy some timber to build covers for the raised beds.  Well, in actual fact the timber was to put on the sides of the raised beds to rest the covers on and keep the foxes out.  The actual covers themselves were made from some trellis panels I found outside someone's house, who didn't want them anymore. I was on my way home from a dog walk at the time of finding them, so I just carried them home with me.  They were perfect for the covers and most important of all, they were completely free. (The timber wasn't and OH kindly paid for that, which has helped my budget a little)

One bed we covered fully and raised the cover to allow for slightly higher growing plants and the other we half covered and left lower for lettuce mainly.  This was also done as we only had 3 trellis panels to work with, but also so that I can grow taller plants in the other half,  such as beans or kale which aren't so easy to cover.

The panels have chicken wire stapled to the back of them to prevent the foxes getting in through the holes, so I'm hoping that they will make life and growing in these beds a lot easier, as the seedlings should now not be disturbed.  They look a bit  more attractive than the arrangement we had before too, which wasn't working as the plastic was getting torn and was also preventing any rain watering the plants, plus the foxes were still getting in and digging holes.

The new covers lift off pretty easily too, allow much easier access and store flat in the winter. I'm really pleased with the results. I also transplanted the lettuce seedlings to spread them out in the beds, as they were clustered together and unable to grow properly.

Job number two was making a flower basket out of this old colander. I used this previously to house some succulents, but they all died off, so it's getting a new life as a flower basket.  I used an old wool blanket I was throwing out due to it being moth infested, to line it and planted it up with English marigold seedlings and sowed nasturtium seeds into it. 

It might be a while before it looks anything like, but hopefully the nasturtium plants should tumble out eventually. I did the same thing with a proper hanging basket and hung it up outside the back door.  It may need moving later in the summer when the builders start, but for now it'll be okay here.

Job number three was to replant a pot at the front of the house.  Previously I had this pot there, that was planted up with red geraniums, but they are definitely past their best now and getting a bit leggy, as you can see from the photograph, so I relegated them to the back garden and bought some new geranimum plants in shocking pink this time. I picked a different pot to plant them into.  Here's what the new pot looks like. A lot fresher and they should soon grow to fill the pot better.

As a consequence of the above, I felt a lot better and can start the week feeling like we at least achieved something, well OH did anyway.  I might just be able to enjoy my raised beds now.  We'll see.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Donated - April 2017

This month I've done a little better on the decluttering front, despite going away for a week,and the Easter weekend. My efforts got a boost from starting with the Flylady system, as quite a few things got decluttered as part of this process.  The following things are those that will be donated to the local food bank, the next Give and Take, recycled or taken to our local CS.

1-8.  Scratched glassware damaged in our dishwasher when I bought alternative tablets that didn't work well.  I've now found very cheap replacements at IKEA that I like much better too.

9.  One Tupperware container with chipped lid.

10. One duplicate salt mill that had a very annoying loose lid.

11-12. Two books left at the hotel in Crete for other guests to read as I'd finished them. One I really enjoyed which was Caitlin Moran's 'Moranthology' and which made me laugh. The other I found very tedious, which was Oliver James' 'Selfish Capitalist'.

13-14. Two foreign coins taken to the CS to be sold on to coin collectors.

23. 1 cupcake rack - rarely used.

24-45. Twenty two items of clothing, mostly culled from mine and LB's summer wardrobes when they came out to pack for our holiday.  Things we didn't take with us and won't wear again for various reasons, ranging from being too worn out, not fitting well anymore or just looking plain awful.

46.  One book finished and really enjoyed, namely The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham.

47. One very cheap laundry bag I bought from the pound shop to use for travel, but don't.  A carrier bag or swing bin liner works just as well for dirty laundry I bring home with me and weighs next to nothing too.

48. One bag full of rags taken to the clothing recycling bank.

49-56. Eight items donated to the local food bank as they were never going to be eaten or used and have been languishing in the cupboards for way too long.

57-58. Two vintage bone or Bakelite handled knives that had damaged handles.

59. One pack of incense sticks whose scent gave me a headache.

60. One empty unused cosmetic travel bottle.

61-65.  Five silicone muffin cases that I'm unlikely to ever use again.

66. One glass that used to contain a candle.  It has been thoroughly cleaned and could be reused for various purposes.

67. Floristry wire. I'm very unlikely to us this.

68-69. Two new books that I wasn't able to sell on eBay and that we just aren't interested in reading.

70-71. Two wooden scarf hangers that I no longer want to use.

72. One bathmat that is looking old and doesn't really match any of my towels, as I donated similar coloured towels previously.

73-79. Seven magazines received via free subscriptions.  I've read all of the articles in them that I'm interested in and don't wish to keep them.

80-81. Two pairs of fingerless mittens.

82. One wool scarf - not worn this winter and probably won't get worn again.

83-88. Four mugs and two expresso cups.  We just have way too many of these and many never get used.

89-92. Four cocktail glasses that just sit in the cupboard gathering dust.

93. Cat mouse toys that I bought for the dog, but surprise, surprise she doesn't play with them - because they're for cats!!!

94. One travel card holder OH got as  a freebie when he ran a 5k run yesterday.

95. One large ceramic fruit bowl that never gets used.

A slightly better total this month to boost my ongoing total for the year which stood at 220 items last month.  Adding this months 95 items, it now stands at 315 so far this year, which is still a little behind target for 1000 things in a year, but I'm catching up gradually.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Monthly Round Up - April

This month was the first month that I had a proper budget worked out that incorporated all the things I needed to spend money on.  It was a new departure for me to budget this way and in addition I also gave myself reduced budgets in many of my spending categories, so I was unsure if I'd be able to stick to it for the whole month.

Thankfully, however, I just about did, and had the best month I've had in a long while without feeling particularly deprived of anything.

My Food budget was set at £300 this month, as we spent a week in Crete. I managed to stay within this budget, coming under by just £2.07, even with a bit of help from the M&S voucher that I used a couple of times.

The Household budget was halved to £50 and although I went over by £10.56, I did stock up on dishwasher tablets and bought some new to me cleaning products for the Flylady baby steps, plus some stationery to make up my Flylady control journal.  (I could and probably should have made do with what I already had, but I got impulsive in Tiger, whilst waiting for my daughter to get a hair cut.)

My personal budget was set at just £25 this month and I went over by £3.77, which was good for me I can tell you.  If you've been reading past round up posts, you'll know I always overspend by a lot more than this, even when I have a budget twice the size.

LB's budget was the same as mine and I came under in that I spent only £9.20 on a few bits for our holiday.

The Home budget was set at £20 this month and I went over by £2.09.  This was mainly due to buying some new Hi-ball drinking glasses that I didn't plan to buy this month. My planned expenditure was on some new photo albums and a couple of new spice jars which I did buy too.

My Easter budget was set at £30 this month, to cover gifts for family members, OH and LB.  I went over by £5.14, but this overspend didn't actually come out of the budget, as I used the M&S voucher to cover this.

Finally, the Misc. budget was set at £50 and came in at £1.71 over, which also wasn't too bad.

So, I wasn't quite on budget, but not far behind, so things have dramatically improved this month which is positive.

In addition to the above, my usual £100 went into savings, I took spending money to Crete and I finished paying for my new varifocal spectacles.

All the above budgets (save for Food, which will return to £400) will remain the same for the next five months, until I'm in a better financial position and then they will be reviewed.  Month one was a success though, so lets hope it continues.

Next month, however, is an expensive one, as it is OH's birthday and I still owe him part of his Xmas present, so I've allocated a £200 budget for this, as he needs some new cycling gear.  Other than this and an additional £15 for a school trip everything else stays the same.

Budgeted expenditure next month will be focused on timber for the raised bed covers and growbags for planting tomato plants in the greenhouse, some new perfume for me, as I've almost completely run out and getting a couple of necessary things for the dog. I may also buy some items towards LB's school uniform for next year in advance, to spread the cost, if there is any room in the budget. (You can tell I'm starting to think ahead budget wise now.)

All in all, I feel I did pretty well and managed to claw back £102.50 to pay down the overdraft I had unfortunately built up since before Christmas. This is, however, £27.50 less than I hoped, but I'm happy enough for my first month on the new budget. Fortunately, I don't pay any interest on my overdraft, but I just want it paid off, so that I can start to live completely within my means. At least £122.50 of it has now gone.

Next month, as explained above, the budget is a lot tighter and I am only aiming to pay off just another £30, but I'll keep you updated about progress there in next month's round up.

I hope your budget, if you have one, is going well.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Saturday Morning Scare

It's 11.55am on Saturday morning and already what should have been a relaxing day, has left me feeling like a wreck.

OH disappeared into deepest darkest Kent at 7am this morning for a cycle ride with some members of his club.  This was fine, but for the fact that he wasn't around to dish out LB's pocket money and she was going out for the afternoon.  I managed to scrape together enough to keep her happy. (I rarely carry any cash, but had thrown some loose change into a jar over the last week or so).

The next problem was that the back door jammed and I couldn't get out into the garden or even let the dog out.  This was really annoying.  The lock sticks sometimes and I can't do anything with it.

I decided to take the dog out to vent my frustrations by way of a good walk.  We were having a lovely walk too, bar the sound of what sounded like a gun shot, until on entering a field, some youths started setting off fireworks in broad daylight.

Well, our little dog gets so scared of fireworks, and subsequently she made a run for it and would not stop.  I was terrified she'd run onto a road, so I headed off to check the main road nearby, whilst a very kind runner went in another direction toward the horse stables to see if he could see her.

There was no sign of her near the road thankfully, so I headed back towards the stables to be told by another dog walker that someone had found a dog there. After investigating further, the runner who had gone to look for her had indeed found her.  Then I couldn't find him for what seemed like ages and I was getting into a real panic.  Eventually, I found him and there she was in his arms.  I was sooooo relieved.  It made my morning grumbles pale into insignificance. It's funny how often you think you have problems, and then life creates a much more serious problem to take your mind off them.

Anyway, the police then arrived on the marshes, as someone had reported hearing the gun shot and they were looking for where it had been fired from.  I told them where I thought I'd heard it come from and about the fireworks and they drove off to investigate.

I'm now home and sat at the kitchen table typing this, trying to recuperate from the stress of the morning and wondering where to start on the things I need to do.  After posting on Thursday morning, nothing I intended actually got done, as I came back from my class and just felt completely exhausted and took myself off to bed for a couple of hours.  I didn't feel great the next day either, when I went back to the CS, but once I got there I was fine.

So, I guess I'd now better make a start and do some ironing, seeing as I can't get outside to potter in the garden, unless I climb out of a window that is, which I might do yet.

I'm hoping the weekend goes a little smoother from here on in. I hope your weekend is going well.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Thursday at Home

After two busy days at the CS, today I'm at home catching up with tasks that need doing.  Yesterday morning at the shop,  the volunteer I was supposed to be working with called to say they couldn't make it, through no fault of their own, so I had to keep the shop closed for two hours until another volunteer arrived.  I didn't mind too much, as I was able to get on with lots of sorting and pricing in the back room, without any interruptions. (Not a great start to the manager's absence though, but it happens sometimes).

Anyway, as soon as the afternoon volunteer arrived, we opened up and had quite a good day anyway.  For once, I stayed until closing at 6pm, so I got to help cash up and close up, which is something I'm less familiar with. I was really tired when I got home at 7.30pm though. 

I was the only one home last night, as OH was out cycling and LB was performing in a play with school, somewhere in North London and not getting home until 10pm ish.  I just made myself a bowl of soup and chilled out, before retiring to the spare bedroom to sort more photos into albums.  (I've still got two more to do and then the physical photos will be all organised.)

Today, I've not got much planned.  I've got the usual dog walk, a Zumba class at the gym at 10.15 and then the rest of the day is mine to do what I want.  I think a bit of a clean of the living room, more photo sorting, some ironing and laundry are the likely activities. Not wildly exciting or anything, but it will feel good when it's all done.  I might even make it out into the garden for a potter, if I get the chance. 

As it's the end of the month, there's no money left to spend, so I am trying to keep things simple and get the house in order, as it costs nothing to do.

I hope you have a great Thursday, whatever you may be doing.

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

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 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.