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.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Back to the CS

Today, was our first full day back in London after our holiday and I was back at the CS for the first of my usual two days. As we'd got back from the airport yesterday at about 7.30 pm, I hadn't felt like doing much after a long day travelling, so after unpacking a few things and putting some washing in the machine, I just sat down and vegged out in front of the TV and caught up on two episodes of Broadchurch and half an episode of Vera.  It was bliss.

I slept really well back in our own bed, but woke very early this morning at about 5am and after half an hour I decided to get up, as I wanted to catch up on a few things and get organised ready to get out of the house.  I never normally wake this early, it was possibly on account of the two hour time difference between our holiday destination and here.

After getting ready, finishing the unpacking, walking the dog and doing some personal banking online, I finally headed off to the CS.  Not long after getting there, the Manager told me and another volunteer that he had a special task for us. We were intrigued.

We are one of five charity shops down the street, (there were six when I first started, but one closed down last year) which means that often thrift shoppers go from one to the other, buying things in more than one of the shops.

As the area is also quite a wealthy one, it is a definite destination for many people who come from further afield to shop there, as well as being popular with local residents.  Anyway, he wanted us to take an hour or so to check out the other shops for him and see how our shop compared.  We were quite happy to oblige and headed off down the road.

It was quite an interesting task.  I'd been in a couple of the shops before on my way home, when something in the window had caught my eye, but I'd never been in and had a really good look around each one, partly because I try not to spend money when I go to the CS and partly because I am always trying to get home as soon as I can, once I leave the shop.

Of course, it was always going to be fatal for me, as I couldn't help but buy a couple of items in the process.  The first was a big chunky jumper that was reduced to £1.99 in one shop, as they were selling off winter stock. I'm not likely to wear it now until next winter, but at that price, new and still with tags on, I couldn't resist. 

Unlike the first item, the second item was something that I actually needed now and just happened to come across in one of the shops.  It was a new and unused photo album I will use to help complete the task I started last month of organising our photos.  I was so happy to find it and at £4.99 it was about the price I was looking to pay anyway.

Here's a picture of it.

It has a grey fabric cover, is strung with a grey grosgrain ribbon and has blank black card pages.  Just perfect for using with the photo corners I bought.  It had a price sticker on it suggesting it originally cost $35, and it seems very good quality, so quite a bargain really. I just need to fill it now.

Anyway, after enjoying our little reconnaissance mission to check out the competition, we headed back to our CS and reported back to the Manager.  Hopefully our observations were useful to him.

To be honest, everyone is looking for something different when they go thrift shopping.  Some people like very low priced bargains, others are looking for things to resell at a profit, some seek out designer or very high quality items at good prices, others just want something to fill a particular need at a particular time, plus there are probably a whole host of other reasons people shop in charity shops. The diversity of shops really fascinates me.  Each one is it's own little world.

Anyway, once back the rest of the day went quite quickly and before I knew it, I was heading home again.

As we still had very little food in the house I had to go out to ASDA and do the weekly food shop that evening after supper.  I wasn't really relishing it as I was tired, having got up so early, but I was quite pleased I did, as I managed to find lots of yellow stickered bargains to put in the freezer and feed us over the next couple of weeks. Result.

I'm back at the CS tomorrow and then I'll hopefully have a few days to catch up on household chores before we pack up again and head off to Yorkshire for a couple of days over Easter.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Home From Crete

Yesterday we returned from our holiday in Crete.  We've had a lovely week.  A very beautiful island with incredibly hospitable inhabitants.  We would go as far as saying that it is one of the most hospitable places we have visited to date and we've travelled quite a lot over the years. We really enjoyed our stay.

We got lucky in terms of our apartment, or maybe we took care to book something we were pretty sure would be a good standard and we weren't disappointed, either by the accommodation or the price which was a bargain for the Easter holidays.  I think it helped that LB broke up a week earlier than many schools in the UK. The price for next week is significantly higher.

The weather has been good and I've done plenty of sunbathing by the pool.  There was a cool breeze and a bit of cloud at times though, so I was pleased I brought a jumper and a jacket.

We had a morning at the Minoan Palace at Knossos, an afternoon in the capital Heraklion, a day in the mountains looking out across the lush Lissithi Plateau and exploring the caves at Psychro.

We visited the Museum of Cretan life in Hersonnisos, a wonderful museum full of information about the flora and fauna of the island and the work and pastimes of it's inhabitants through history.

The food and drink has been fabulous. I've enjoyed wonderful traditional Cretan/Greek dishes, (Kleftiko and Stifado being my particular favourites) and drunk way too much Ouzo and Raki and now I'm happy to be home and get back to normal.

I think we'd definitely return to Crete, as there's still a fair bit for us to explore there.  The history and simplicity of Cretan life is very appealing, I would definitely recommend it as a holiday destination.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Donated - March 2017

Inspired by Thrift Deluxe's 'Decluttered' page on her blog nine to five. I've decided to start a new  series of monthly posts, detailing what I'm donating, throwing out or selling each month and why, as part of my challenge to declutter 1000 items from the house this year.

Starting from this month, I'll be giving a breakdown of what left or will be leaving the house.

So, for the month of March, the following things have left or will leave my home.

1. Little Book of Hygge - sold via eBay - I got this for Christmas, read it and don't really see what all this 'hygge' fuss is about.

2. One large ceramic bowl - taken to the tip as it was cracked. I had still been using it for a number of years on the kitchen countertop to hold food waste, but I'm now trying to keep visual clutter to a minimum, so it was time to go.

3-8. 1 pr of socks/2 prs pants/1 sweater/1 odd glove/bra (all washed) to rag bag for textile recycling due to holes/generally unfit to wear or donate.

9. One lightweight grey sweater to be donated - Not flattering - life's too short to not feel good in things.

10. One navy batwing sweatshirt (ethical).  It just looks awful on me and I can't see me ever wearing it. (I may sell this on eBay, as I've never worn it).

11& 12. Two packs of photograph corners that don't stick very well.

13. One small photo frame (Novelty - need I say more)

14. Overlocker that doesn't work and that I no longer use.

15-50. Baby wear/shoes/blankets, etc. - I felt inspired to go through my hoarded box of LB's baby wear  and found quite a few more things I felt happy to donate or repurpose. I think it helped having sorted my photos, as I knew I had lots of photos of her wearing or playing with some of the items, so I didn't feel the need to keep the actual physical items. (Over time, I'm finding it easier to let go of more and more of these things - #Progress).

51-52. One pair of cheap sunglasses and case - I have some prescription sunglasses and some vintage sunglasses and don't need a third pair that I will probably never wear.

53.One pair of mustard coloured leather gloves (from Primark) - Just what was I thinking when I bought these? I know I will never wear them again.

53-56. Two fabric collars and one pair of cuffs that I made myself - I will never wear these again either and still have the pattern should I wish to make them again.

57. One make up bag - surplus to requirements.

58. One bag of hair rollers, never used and unlikely to be.

59-60.Two winter coats that are rarely worn and unlikely to be in the future.

61. One thick sweater bought from a CS, but which I'm not keen on.

62. One vintage dress - Too small.  I've hung onto this for years because I liked the styleof it.  Now, my tastes have changed and it's time to let go because I can't even wear it, so what is the point keeping it.

63. One skirt - bought from the CS where I work last summer, but not my style.

64. One yoga top bought from the CS.  Not my style and looks awful on.  Why did I buy this? (I'm feeling a familiar theme running through some of these donations. Maybe it's a good thing that I've stopped buying things from the CS where I work, as many of them have turned out to be erroneous purchases)

65. One pair of mustard coloured trousers bought from ASOS sale for £9, to potentially wear for a wedding, but never worn - tags still attached. - Look awful on me and induce guilt every time I see them in the wardrobe.

66. One pair of shoe laces. (NEW)

67. One skirt of LB's, hardly worn and not likely to be.

68. 1 Pac a mac with very conspicuous print. No longer wear.

69-70. 2 bras.  Not worn much due to being the wrong size.

71-75.  4 packs of free seeds that I'm not likely to use.

76. 1 electronic baby game.

77. 1 waterproof valuables holder (I had two of these, so this was a duplicate)

78-79. 2 pairs of unused shoulder pads.

80-82. 3 children's books

83. 1 silicone garmin case - came with something I ordered online, but no use to me.

84. 1 book

As you can probably tell, I had another cull of my wardrobe this month, as I was getting summer clothes back out and trying on things I potentially wanted to take on holiday with me. It boosted the total anyway and made me feel a lot better about what is left.

This brings the total amount of things donated this month to 84.  When added to the previous total of 136 this year, the new current total of items donated in 2017 is 220. I'm still a bit off target, but hoping to make up ground at some point later in the year.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Still Simplifying - March

It's been a funny old month this month, but it has been very productive in terms of simplifying areas of our lives, which is good.  The main thing I achieved was that I finally carried out a task that's been on my list for several years now, namely sorting through all of our photos and completing the albums I'd started collating nearly 10 years ago, but never finished.

The job isn't completely done, as I still need to buy a few more albums and then fill them, but several albums have been completed and the remaining photos are sorted into categories ready to go straight into albums, which will make it easier when I finally get around to buying them.

It's been a bit of a mammoth task, but I did it over a couple of weeks, doing a bit on various evenings or free days.  It hasn't been quite as emotional as I thought it was going to be either, which is good, but it has been super satisfying.  I still also need to organise all of our digital photos going back 8 years or so, but I'll save that task for another month.

I completed another couple of small simplifying and organising tasks this month, one being to go through all of my seeds and throw away any out of date packets.  I know that you can often still get them to germinate, but I'm talking 5 or so year old packets here. I've had mixed results with old seeds in the past and to be honest, I just don't have the time anymore to re-sow them if they don't germinate, so I'd rather stick to fresh seeds where possible.

The other task was to use a chalk pen I bought on eBay to label all of my spice jars in the kitchen.  I really wanted to do this job, as I can't tell by physically looking at the jars, which spices are which, so I had to sniff every jar every time I wanted to use a spice to get the right one.  It was a bit of a ridiculous process.  Anyway, now this job is done, I don't have to do that anymore and they all look pretty neat too. (I already had the chalkboard stickers, that I'd bought a while ago)

I now just need to buy a couple more of these jars from IKEA the next time I go, to house a couple more herbs and spices and then the job will be fully completed.

The final and probably most exhausting task completed this month was the digging over of our new allotment, which was covered in weeds at the beginning of the month.  It was a big relief to get this job done in time for site inspections at the end of the month and I can now get on and enjoy the task of sowing/planting it up and making it my own.

Just a note on the decluttering front - I'm starting a new way of recording the items I've donated or decluttered each  month, by creating a special post every month here on my blog of what went and why, so that post will be coming up shortly.

I feel that on the whole it's been a good month for getting on top of organisational and simplifying jobs and I'm looking forward to doing more of the same next month.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Monthly Round Up - March

I've been a lot more disciplined in March, which has been very encouraging.  I made a decision to try to exist without any non-essential spending, and although I didn't quite stick to it 100%, I spent a whole lot less than I've done for months. Any purchases I did make, were small and pretty inconsequential really, save for my new glasses, which I mentioned in a previous post.

By cutting out most of the non-essential spending, I've actually proved to myself that it can be done. In fact, I kind of managed to create a new mind set around getting on top of my finances, in that I've decided that until my finances are in order, I don't deserve any large treats that aren't absolutely essential.

Previously, my budget just wasn't working because I'd make allowances here and there to justify unnecessary expenditure and it just wasn't getting me anywhere, so at least I've had a mental breakthrough in this regard, and I didn't find it too difficult to more or less stick to either.

With regard to the budget, despite doing a bit of a back to basics budget, I still overspent in most areas this month, and spent in some that I didn't intend to spend in at all, but even taking these overspends into consideration, I'm relatively happy with progress.

The normal £400 food budget went over this month by £60.  I'm not sure why this was, although March is one of the longer months of the year and I think it included an extra weekly shop. (i.e. 5 instead of 4 shops). The monthly budget for this category is staying at £400 going forward, but if I can come under even by a few pounds some months it will help.

I halved the Household budget this month to £50, but unfortunately couldn't stick to it and ended up over budget by £46. I think stocking up on bulk items that weren't absolutely essential accounted for most of this. I did also need to buy food and treats in readiness for our dog going to a sitter whilst we're away next week which would ordinarily come out of next month's budget.  In any case, everything will get used over the coming months, it was just bought a little prematurely. In spite of this, I think halving this budget is potentially viable, so I'll be doing this every month from now on until my finances are completely under control.

I cut my personal budget to zero this month too (not including optician and dental costs).  I didn't, however, stick to this either, as I bought two books on eBay, a plant, an inexpensive pair of earrings and a couple of other small things which took me £22 over budget. I think realistically, a zero personal budget isn't very sustainable, but I might reduce my personal budget by half to £25 per month from now on, just to allow for a few small treats to motivate me.

I cut the home budget to zero too this month and again didn't manage to stick to it.  I was, however, only £5 over, so I think I could realistically reduce this budget drastically going forward, to something like £20, which will again help keep me motivated, by allowing for a couple of very small purchases to maintain our home.

LB's budget was slashed to zero too this month, as there was nothing she really needed and she still had plenty of her own money left over from her birthday and Christmas, so could buy things for herself if she wanted anything.  I did treat her to a DVD from a CS, so this budget went over by just £1. I'm going to keep this budget at the same level as my personal one going forward, i.e. £25, but obviously if she really needs anything, I'll buy it.

The final area of the budget was Miscellaneous and I allowed £50 for this budget, but didn't manage to stay within it. In the end I was £33 over which was mainly due to buying and posting off a couple of gifts, plus various small expenditures, some of which weren't completely essential, but which all add up over the month.  I could do better in this category, so I'm going to keep it at £50 for next month.

In all, I was pleased that I'd slashed my budgets, despite the overspends.  I've read that it takes 3 months to form new habits and stick to new budgets, so I'm not expecting miracles of myself instantly.  It's a process and any improvement I make from month to month is a positive. At least this month has demonstrated to me that I can reduce budgets and spending if I put my mind to it, and it's something that I've now committed to in the coming months.  I'm trying to look on it as a challenge, rather than a chore, in order to help motivate me.  Turning things around is a slow process, but I think I'm making progress.  Baby steps as always.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

More Progress at the Allotment

Friday afternoons at the allotment are becoming almost a regular feature of my life at the moment.  I thought I might be needed to work at the CS last week, with the manager being away, but as I wasn't I decided to make the most of it and see if I could break the back of digging over my plot. 

As mentioned in my post last week, I managed to get about one third of the way around the plot the previous Friday afternoon, (see picture above) so last Friday, I was hoping to get at least another third done, so that I could start sowing and putting plants in.  The spring inspections are at the end of the month, so time is running out.

It was a bit of a grey, cold day, but there was no rain forecast, so I figured I'd soon warm up once I got digging. I most certainly did as the sun decided to come out whilst I was there, which made a big difference.

Digging isn't my favourite task, nor is it the most exciting task, especially combined with the weeding that was necessary, but I know it's worth persevering, as the real work of creating my new plot can begin once it's done.

I have to admit that although I think I'm reasonably fit, when I start digging at the allotment, I feel like a very old lady. I stiffen up almost immediately, because of all the bending and stretching.  It is such hard work, especially as the ground was still a bit wet after rain this week, so it was pretty heavy going. I kept plodding on for about 3-4 hours on this visit and managed to get three quarters of the way around the plot.

I also managed to sew a few seeds this visit; lettuce, curly kale and parsley.  There were already some broad bean plants and onions in that I had overwintered. I just needed to weed around them. 

Onions and broad beans that overwintered

I was completely exhausted by the time I got home, so I decided to go to bed for a nap. I think I just overdid it. As a consequence, OH volunteered to come back with me on Saturday and finish the digging, as well as planting my potato tubers for me. (He always does a better job than I do).

Potato tubers in and earthed up

We went back on Saturday morning and whilst OH started digging over the last two beds, I transplanted some rhubarb, gooseberry and blackcurrant plants into the one of the dug beds.  I'd salvaged these from my old plot before I left.

Perennial Fruit Bed

I also sowed some more seeds and planted out some petit pois plants that I'd bought from Lidl a few weeks ago.  I don't know if they'll thrive, but I gave them a shot.

We were probably on the plot for just a couple of hours on Saturday morning and finally finished digging it all over.  It was such a relief to get it done.  We then headed home for bacon sandwiches as a treat for all our hard work.

Now the interesting bit begins. Growing food.

An overall view of the whole plot

Here's a picture of the plot now. As you can see its pretty much a blank canvas save for what I we planted and sowed. I still need to devise a solution for the paths between the beds. I'm not sure what yet, as I don't really want to spend any money, or at least not much.

In any case, it will have to wait now, until we get back from holiday.  I probably won't be able to do any more work on the plot until after Easter, but least there should be a few things growing by then.
I'll keep you posted on future progress.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

An Eventful Week

It's Wednesday night and already it's been an eventful week.  Why is it that the week before you go away, everything goes crazy?

Anyway, poor OH has copped for most of the hassle. Whilst out doing the weekly grocery shop on Monday the car started playing up.  To be honest it's not been great for a few weeks and on top of that OH has been trying to get new tyres fitted but the security bolts on the wheels had fused and prevented them being taken off, so several trips to the dealership and tyre garage ensued to get that problem sorted.  He's still got to get the tyres replaced this week.

The other problem with the car has been a valve that has got choked up and needs replacing.  A nice £500 worth of valve, might I add, just a month or so after the 5 year warranty ran out.  Who would have credited it?  Call me cynical, but it's a known problem with this particular brand of car, according to OH who has now researched it on the internet.  Anyway, he's got it replaced and it's just the tyres to go now.

In addition to all of this going on in the last few weeks, LB has been rehearsing for and then performing in another production at school this week.  We went to the first show, which was good, and I had to go collect her from the second last night as it was getting too late for her to come home alone.

The dog has been to the groomers today to be stripped, in readiness for the weather starting to warm up. She looks cute, but quite different, bless her.  She behaved much better this time, as we had reports of her being a little grumpy the last time this was done. She's still not 100% since the tick incident, nothing too serious, but we'll probably be taking her back to the vet when we get back from our holidays. This is another long running saga, rather like the car.

I've just finished my two days at the CS and as the manager had no staff to work with him on Saturday, I've volunteered to go in. I didn't go in last weekend as I thought I might, so I figured I should this weekend, especially now I've got the garden and allotment up to scratch. (Last year, I nearly lost my allotment due to not keeping on top of it due to overcommitting at the CS. I had a real job getting it back under control and adequately cultivated over the summer, so I'm trying to be careful not to do the same this year - it should help that my new allotment is a much more manageable size)

In any case, LB has an end of term sleep over at a friend's on Friday night, which fits in perfectly, as she'll probably be off hanging out with her friends most of Saturday anyway and therefore being at the shop won't be such an issue. I, for my part, will find it quite interesting to see what it's like working in the shop on the busiest day of the week.

As a consequence of the above, the remaining two days of this week I'll be getting organised for the holiday, i.e. washing and ironing clothes, packing, buying last minute holiday essentials if any are required.  I've already got my currency. (The exchange rate was atrocious I might add, but what can you expect, as the PM starts off our exit from the EU). We also had a few extra euros left over from previous holidays, so I'm taking them with me. I've got all the sun lotions we need and my holiday reading lined up already, which are a few things ticked off the list.

Talking of books, I also need to return all of my recently borrowed library books before we go, as they fall due whilst we're away.  I just need to finish the book I'm currently reading and they can go back. I may also need to collect my new glasses from the optician, but I'm waiting to be notified that they're ready.

I'm now getting quite excited about the holiday, whilst simultaneously really feeling in need of a break.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

This Weekend

This weekend has been one of those wonderfully productive ones where you feel that your time has been well spent.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Friday afternoon and Saturday morning were spent at the allotment, finally getting it up to scratch and ready for planting out and sowing. (More in another post)

The weather was glorious. Sunshine all weekend.  It's amazing that a bit of sun can make such a difference. Being out at the allotment and out in the garden, I realised how much I'd been stuck inside all winter, spending most of my time on the computer.  It was so good to sit out in the garden and feel the heat of the sun on my face.  It feels like it's been a long time coming.

As a consequence of the better weather, my gardening mojo came back, and on Sunday, I finally bought the compost I needed to do a few small repotting jobs that I'd been meaning to do for a while.

I also planted out some petit pois pea plants into one of the raised beds, from a tray I bought from Lidl for £2.29 a few weeks ago. There were so many plants in the tray, I've still got lots more to plant out. I'm waiting to see if the foxes disturb the first planting, so at least I can try again if they do. They are tiny, spindly things at the moment so I'm hoping they'll bush out given time.

I moved some lettuce seedlings that had overwintered in one of the raised beds. Spreading them out a little more to give them room to grow. 

I also took advantage of the sunshine to get around to washing all of my dirty garden pots.  I always leave them until spring and do them on the first sunny day we get if I have time.  There weren't as many as I thought there were going to be, so it didn't take long and then I re-used them to sow some seeds in the greenhouse.

Having done this, it cleared the way for me to move the potting table to the end of the garden in readiness for building work later this year.  The greenhouse will be the next thing to be moved to this area.  We just need to sort out the fence as, behind the panel our opposite neighbour to the rear has removed the fence panel without any discussion and left this matting type panel suspended in mid air practically. Needless to say, I'm not very impressed.

Anyway, the decking area now seems so much bigger.  More space to sit out and enjoy the sunshine while we have it. I got the garden chairs out of the shed to facilitate this.

I put a couple under the cherry tree too.

I now feel ready to go on holiday in a week or so, knowing that I've caught up on all of these jobs and don't have them all to come back to.  Next weekend is going to be all about the packing.

Loving the spring now it's finally sprung. How was your weekend?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Frugal Measures and Freebies and a big fat Frugal Fail 3

For this post in this current series, I decided to add Frugal fails to these posts, as lets be honest, we all make mistakes or get persuaded to spend more than we intend at times. I'll start this post with my most recent frugal fail in order to get it out of the way.

My major frugal fail this post was allowing myself to be talked in to buying varifocal lenses on my recent visit to the opticians, against my instincts and budgetary efforts to stick to my usual lenses for short sightedness only.

It's my first venture into varifocals and although it will probably be a lot more convenient, as I do spend a lot of time taking my glasses on and off at the moment, the cost was twice that of the normal lenses I've been buying for years and I'm not yet sure that it was worth it, as I haven't actually got my new glasses yet. I'm paying for them across two months, in order to be able to afford them, so I don't know yet whether I'll like them, but I am hoping that I do or I'll be even more annoyed with myself than I am at present.

Anyway, onto the positives, recent Frugal Measures and Freebies include the following:

1) I watched the film Me Before You on Netflix.  I have to admit though, that waiting to watch it for free (well, not strictly free, due to the subscription) was due to multiple reasons and not just frugality.  One reason was that OH wouldn't go to the cinema to watch the film with me, another was that I knew I'd cry watching it and didn't want to do that in a public place and probably the third reason was fiscal. I thought it was very true to the book and the casting was pretty good too.  I'm hoping they'll make a film of the sequel, Me After You, as I enjoyed reading that too.

2) I used two of the yellow stickered cards I bought from M&S back in February, for a couple of birthdays this month.  These two cost 19p and 29p respectively. They're nice quality cards, too.

3) I created a strict budget plan for the next six months, to try to achieve the financial outcomes that I want to achieve this year.  I now just have to stick to it and I should be in a much better financial position.

4) I had a six month check at the dentist and didn't need any treatment, so just paid £20 for the check up. Result. I was advised to book in for a scale and polish in a couple of months time, but I'm happy to do this once in a while to keep my teeth as clean and healthy as I possibly can. I've adjusted my strict budget accordingly to account for it.

Whilst at the dentist, I helped myself to this free sample of my usual toothpaste, as it is perfect as a travel size when we go to Crete next month.

5) I had another week at the CS where I didn't buy anything.

6) Having signed up to my recently acquired life insurance policy through MoneySuperMarket, I qualified for a £75 voucher, once I'd paid my third monthly premium. I got an email through about it today, requesting that I choose between Argos, Next and M&S. I, of course, went for M&S because at least I can use it to buy food, as well as other things.

I will hopefully receive it in the next 28 days, so it should help keep me within budget next month and possibly the month after, if I use it carefully and don't blow it in one go.  I might use it for my weekly top up grocery shop until it runs out.

Not quite as many frugal measures and freebies this week, but the ones I did manage will be very useful indeed.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Glad to be Home

Tonight, I'm very glad to be home. I feel very sad for those people and their families caught up the atrocity in Westminster and who are at this moment fighting for their lives or recovering from the trauma. I heard the news on the radio whilst working at the CS this afternoon.

I found out a bit more about what had happened on Yahoo and via the radio when I got home, but will probably find out more details from the 10 o'clock news later tonight. It's a sad day for London, but I was rallied by the #wearenotafraid campaign that I read about online.

The world seems such a volatile place at the moment. We try to just get on with our lives regardless, but these sort of events bring us back to reality. It saddens me that there is so much negativity, hate and malice out there.

Changing the subject slightly, I've been watching Gary Vaynerchuk a lot on YouTube lately and I almost agree with him when he says that lots of people want to get rich quick these days and not work hard for it.  They all look to the self-made young millionaires on YouTube and want to be like them. Aah, the age of YouTube, where you can earn thousands/millions advertising your own and everyone else's products to an impressionable audience who will then go out and buy them. What an amazing opportunity for those who got in the game early.  Excuse me if I sound a little cynical, but the kind of success it offers doesn't interest me much, but I can understand how people can get swept along by it or young people are desperate for the opportunities it can open up for them.

I stopped watching sponsored content a good while ago, as it just seemed so gratuitous and unappealing. I've actually got to a stage where I almost pity the vloggers who get sent mounds of PR samples and stuff in their PO boxes from numerous companies, wanting them to promote their products.  Clutter springs to mind.  What can you do with a whole range of lipsticks.  It takes me two years to use one up, let alone 20. I just see them as vehicles for big business hijack in order to hawk their wares. Fair play to them, they are getting amazing opportunities early in life, so who am I to criticise.

Anyway, I like the way Gary just tells those waiting for it to happen for them to stop moaning about why they haven't made it big instantly, be grateful, work hard, put content out there without being too precious about it and be patient. Nothing worth anything ever comes easy. 

It's such old fashioned advice, but still so true, even in our digital age and it obviously still needs to be imparted because people (me included) are lapping it up. What is the hurry to be a millionaire when you are 20? Although at least they are wanting to get on and are hungry. In many ways, I wish I had been more hungry for success when I was 20, and had known more about compound interest, but I didn't and I didn't really come from an entrepreneurial background. 

Having said this, I am not sure that I would have liked to feel the pressure that many young people feel to be a financial success these days.  There was very little pressure on me.  Too little I sometimes think, hence why I've always been pretty terrible in relation to my finances. I came from a hard working background though, and my parents did their absolute best for me and my sisters, I know that much. It didn't come easy to them, so why should it be any different for anyone today.

Anyway, in the light of today's events, success just doesn't seem so important somehow, it can all be wiped out in seconds, but then we shouldn't let others' hate stop us from striving for a better life and world.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Working to a Strict Budget

March has been an interesting month. I've tried hard to stick to a really strict budget. I didn't fully succeed, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the fact that it wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be.

I think it helped that I got to that 'sick and tired' moment that The Former Mrs Jones talks about on her YouTube channel, that prompted her to get on board with Dave Ramsey's 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. I've had a lot of those moments in recent months and the penny has finally dropped.

I myself am not actually committing to Dave Ramsey's programme, as I don't really have a lot of debt to pay down and prefer to chart my own journey, but it is a useful tool to measure your success by and therefore every now and then, I do check where I am in relation to his steps.  Here's my not quite complete version of them.

1) £1000 Emergency fund
2) Debt Snowball
3) Save 3-6 months expenses
4) Invest 15% of income for retirement
5) Save for kids college education
6) Pay off mortgage early
7) Build wealth and give

I am personally taking an approach that attempts to tackle several of the steps simultaneously rather than in the order Dave Ramsey suggests. In this sense, I'm trying to save and invest for retirement and my daughter's education, keep funds available for emergencies and regularly give some small amounts of money to charity (in addition to my time volunteering at the CS)

(Please note, that I may have mixed the order of some of these steps to suit my own personal priorities. I also think there was another step about buying a car with cash, but as we own our car outright, I didn't include this one in my list. I'm not sure what the other missing one is though.  If anyone knows please enlighten me.  Again, it may have been one that didn't seem relevant, perhaps titheing, which isn't a particularly common activity here in the UK or at least I don't know of many people who do it. Please refer to Dave Ramsey on YouTube for the proper 9 steps in his plan)

Anyway, as I said, I'm not strictly following Dave Ramsey, but I am taking a lot of notice of Budget Girl who does follow the Ramsey plan, and charts on her YouTube channel, how she is paying down her student loan debt. In particular, I am paying attention to her detailed budgeting methods. She is very inspiring. I'm so enjoying seeing her debt go down each month. She truly deserves to be debt free for all her hard work and positivity.

She argues that the ability to budget is like a muscle, that grows stronger with practice and focus.  I like this analogy and find it does make perfect sense.  As a consequence, I am flexing that muscle in an attempt to build it up over the next six months.

Although in March I partially succeeded in sticking to a strict budget, I was still left feeling like I was treading water, if not going backwards and couldn't see to when the light would appear at the end of the tunnel, so on Sunday I decided to plot a strict budget for the next 6 or 7 months and see where it would take me.

I kept the Food budget at £400, Household at £50, Home £20, Me £25, LB £25 and Misc. £50 and tried to account for any known upcoming big birthdays, events, foreseeable expenses.  According to my calculations, if I stick strictly to this budget for the next six or seven months (until September), I should get where I want to be, in terms of being in control of my finances and living firmly in the black and within my means, rather than using credit cards and my overdraft to get by each month. (Although I do pay them off every month and never pay interest) This is a terrible habit that I've formed over the past 10 years and I'm trying very hard to break it and start paying for everything in cash or with a debit card. (Unless purchasing online, when I will still use my credit card)

In some respects, sticking to such a strict budget for so long seems a bleak prospect, but I think the built in small budgets for me, home and household should help me stick to it, as they do allow a little room in the budget to buy the occasional treat for myself or to enhance our home. I think I'm finally in a mindset to tackle this financial turnaround strategically and I'm going to do my darnedest to crack this thing.

Of course, there will probably be lots of things that crop up that I haven't accounted for, which will more than likely blow my budgets, but I'll just have to cross those bridges when I come to them. Having focussed on what I want to achieve, and having potentially created a path through the jungle of my current finances, I now just have to follow it to hopefully achieve my aim and the prospect is making me feel much more optimistic. I will be keeping a very close eye on my progress each month and I'll let you know if I'm sticking to the plan and achieving the progress I have predicted.  Wish me luck.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Weekend Catchup

After my stint at the allotment on Friday afternoon, I was hopeful this weekend, that I'd get to finish digging over the plot, but unfortunately life had other plans, or LB did anyway.  She wanted to have a sleepover with a couple of friends on Saturday night at our house, so I spent most of the day cleaning up in readiness and making the place presentable.  It gave me the kick up the backside I needed to get on with it anyway.

In the process, I did a bit of hoovering and dusting in our bedroom, as dust and dirt levels were getting very severe.  As I've said before in posts, it's probably the least cleaned room, as every other part of the house seems to be given priority, mainly because no visitors come into our bedroom and see the state of it.  Don't get me wrong, it's tidy, but not as clean as it could be.  Anyway, it is now and it looks a lot better. 

I even got around to putting some fragrant draw liners in my underwear drawers.  They had been a gift a couple of years ago.  The trouble was, when I went to bed all I could smell were the liners, and it wasn't a nice smell either.  It smelled like chloroform or something similar.  Needless to say, they came out again the next day. I don't know if the fragrance had gone off, but I just couldn't tolerate it. Anyway, I learned a valuable lesson - use such gifts as soon as you can to prevent deterioration.

In the process of cleaning our bedroom, I also found a few more things that I was happy to donate, which was good and in emptying my drawers to line them, I came across lots of summer clothing that I may need when we go to Crete in a few weeks time. As a consequence, I decided to start packing. 

As I'm taking just a carry on, for only the second time, I'm going to squish all of my clothes into one of those shrinkable storage bags, so that I can get more into my suitcase.  I'm hoping it will allow me to take everything I need, but not take up too much space in the carry on.  (I got the idea when in TK MAXX where I saw some for sale.  I resisted buying them, which I was pleased about when I got home and realised I already had empty or near empty ones I could use) I'll keep you posted about whether this works or not.

On Saturday afternoon I tackled the ironing mountain once again, putting all the clothes away on Sunday. There's still just under half left to do, but the pile is much more manageable now.

Sunday, I attended my regular class at the gym.  We've been struggling with the music system for two weeks now, so the class wasn't the usual one that the instructor teaches. She had to adapt the class to slower music which wasn't ideal, but we still got a good workout.

I did my usual weekly shop at Lidl straight afterwards and it was hell.  They've reorganised the store so that the bakery is the first thing you walk past as you walk in.  Trouble is the aisle isn't wide enough for everyone to pass, so it's a bit of a bottle neck.  In fact, the whole store was a bottle neck this week.  Not a very enjoyable experience.  I did almost all of my weekly shop for £52 though, which is good for us. I'm currently trying to avoid other supermarkets to avoid impulse spending.  It's working quite well.

Sunday afternoon was a pretty lazy one. I probably could have gone to the allotment, but it was very windy, so I stayed home instead. You've got to have some down time on the weekend.  That's my excuse anyway. I rounded off the weekend by watching the first episode of the new series of Vera, a long time favourite show. I hope you had a good weekend.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

CS Update

Life at the CS has been steadily improving over the last few weeks. As a consequence, and you can probably tell this from the variety and number of posts I've been publishing lately, I've found myself with free time to actually get on and do jobs at home, that I've neglected for a long time. This has been very satisfying on many levels and has allowed me to strike a much better balance.

The main reason for the improvements, has been that the new manager has started a volunteer recruitment campaign and we've had quite a few people through the door enquiring about volunteering. I've been pleasantly surprised by how many people are actually happy to volunteer, as we've never had a recruitment push since I've volunteered there.

Anyway, a few new volunteers have already started, which has reduced the pressure on long standing volunteers to fill the gaps in shifts. The manager is looking for people who can give a longer term commitment, rather than be able to stay for just a couple of months. I can see his logic, as quite a lot of time and effort goes into training people, so the longer they are willing to stay the better.  Although there are no guarantees with any volunteer, making clear the minimum amount of commitment you are looking for in the outset will help to make the staffing of the shop easier and more sustainable in the long term.

Next week, the manager is on holiday, so I'm expecting to work a few extra hours, mainly to stay and help cash up of an evening, as the afternoons tend to have less volunteers than mornings.  I don't mind too much, as everyone needs a holiday and new volunteers don't necessarily have the experience to take on some responsibilities. Having said this, I haven't done this very often, as I usually leave before the shop closes, so it's good experience for me too.

I may volunteer to go in on the Saturday, as a one off, which I haven't done before, as the manager was struggling to fill this particular shift. Both myself and another long term volunteer are away from the shop in a few weeks time for a week, so I feel it's the least I can do before I go.

The nice weather makes such a difference to the commute too. London is like a completely different place when the sun shines.  People's moods seem to be lifted and they appear much happier going about their daily business. People sit out in bars and cafes and enjoy the warm weather and the whole atmosphere is a little more congenial.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

An Afternoon Working My New Allotment

I posted late last year about how I'd swapped my old allotment, which I was struggling to maintain, for a new smaller one around the corner from my house. It was pretty sad to leave the old one, but I was looking forward to working one that was more manageable for me, considering my new commitment to the CS.

I visited the new plot back in November and started work digging it over.  It wasn't in too bad condition, but there was quite a lot of digging to do as it was still a good size. Here's what it looked like when I took it over.

Here's how I left it back in November after digging half of it over.

When I arrived today, it looked like this.

As you can see, there are many more weeds on the half I didn't dig over before Christmas.

Anyway, as there are going to be inspections at the end of the month, and as the weather is starting to warm up, I thought I'd better get to work this week, so on Friday afternoon I took myself there and do some digging.

I stayed for about 3 hours digging over some of the beds.  I decided to dig between the beds too as I'm not sure I want paths between beds as was the arrangement before.  It was hard work and by the time I'd finished I was aching all over. Some muscles I never knew I had were letting me know about it.

Here's the result of my work.

I'm probably just over a third of the way round.  The bed in the foreground looks larger than it actually is in this photograph, it's actually quite narrow.  If I can walk tomorrow, I may go back and do some more work. I'm looking forward to getting growing on this plot and see how things fare.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Freebies and Frugal Measures 2

Recent freebies and frugal measures include the following:

1) I received these two packs of free seeds with my subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine this month.  (A gift from a friend for my birthday last year)

2) I borrowed some books from both my local library and a local Little Free Library. (Sadly, this hasn't prevented me from buying a couple of books too)

3) One of my eBay items sold, which was good news and brought in a very small amount of cash, but better small, than not at all.

4) I found a small piece of furniture on the street whilst walking the dog and gave it a makeover.  It is now being used in our bedroom as my bedside table. (See recent DIY post)

5) I got free tickets to the Ideal Home Show at Olympia, London at the end of the month.

6) I bulk bought several staple food and household items this month, which should keep us going for a good while.

7) I got a free pack of Naked Salted Caramel Nibbles using a voucher at Tesco. (Needless to say, this is the empty packet)

8) I finally received the results of my requested Pension Forecast from the Department for Work & Pensions, which was more positive than I thought it was going to be. I still need to contribute NI contributions for several more years to qualify for a full state pension, but as I've started to pay voluntary contributions this year and intend to continue if I don't find a job, this shouldn't be a problem. (I say positive, that's assuming, of course, that there still is a state pension when I reach retirement age)

9) For two out of the last 3 weeks that I've worked at the CS, I haven't bought anything, which is good going for me.

10) I received some freebies this week when OH was sent some samples for his business.  I nice pen, post-its and a 7.5gb memory stick. (I removed the promotional material from this, so it's now empty and ready to use to store some of our family photos - Saves me buying one anyway.)

It's not been a bad couple of weeks all things considered.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Approved Food Order

A couple of weeks ago, I was notified by Approved Foods that they were offering half price shipping on any orders made. I hadn't placed an order with them for a while, mainly because their shipping is £5.99, which I feel is a little expensive, so because of the offer I thought I'd take a look and perhaps place an order, which I did.

The order was pretty quick to arrive and came last Thursday.  Here's a picture of what I bought.

The above is the food part of the order.  I got a bulk 1kg pack of chia seeds for £5.99, several fajita kits for £1 each, various jars of olives/cooking sauces and tins that we use on a weekly basis, lower calorie snacks that I use for lunches and on the days I go to the CS, porridge and a few dessert options. I was pretty pleased with everything that came and I'm hoping that I will only need to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and perishables for the remainder of the month now.

Part of the order was made up of household and toiletry items, as in the photograph below. Most of these were for OH, LB and the dog.

There are probably a few items I will still need to buy in this category, but for the most part I am pretty well stocked up to get us through the rest of the month and beyond. It was nice to re-visit the site and be able to place an order whereby the postage wasn't prohibitive.

I still like to take a look every now and then and it's interesting to see that they stock a lot more health conscious and organic products than they used to which are worth checking out.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A Little Found Item DIY Project

A few weeks ago whilst walking the dog, I came across this little wooden shelving unit that had been left outside a property for anyone to take.  Call me a bit of magpie, but I can't resist a little piece of furniture which has the potential to be spruced up.

It was a little rough and a bit grubby, but a good sand down, clean and a touch of wood filler and it looked a bit better. I wasn't sure what I would use it for, possibly a little shelf or bed side cabinet in the guest/sewing room. On it's end, it is perfect to house magazines and books for bedside reading.

Anyway, I tried to paint it a few weeks ago, but couldn't find any paint I liked in the cupboard, (I was looking for some grey paint) which is how I came to do a bit of a clear out of all the old tins and tester pots.

Fast forward a few weeks and after getting fed up of it hanging around in the kitchen getting in the way, I decided to paint it white, as we had lots of white eggshell and satin finish wood paint which I chose in the end.

As it was lovely and sunny on Saturday morning, I took it outside on the decking and got stuck in.  It took a few coats to make it look anywhere near decent, but as the paint was quick drying it didn't take too long.

Here's the finished result in situ in our bedroom by my bed. I put a few magazines and books in there in ready to read. It's nothing fancy, but I like it and the fact that it was free makes it all the more appealing.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Recent Reading

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately. I'm trying to read for 30 minutes every evening before Igo to sleep and for at least 30 minutes on each morning that I don't go to the CS.  As a consequence, I've been getting through quite a few books.

I'm currently in a non-fiction mood, with a preference for financial self-help books or business/biography type books.

I paid a visit to our library the other day and amongst other books, I got out Michelle Mone's autobiography 'My Fight to the Top'. It was pretty inspiring stuff.  She's definitely a gutsy lady and quite a force to be reckoned with. I enjoyed her account of her early life in the poorer parts of Glasgow and the eventual creation of her bra business Ultimo with her then husband. It's good to read a book about a woman doing well in business.  I think I might look out for more in this genre.

Following this, I've been reading this book that I bought from the CS a few weeks ago.

I started reading it on a very quiet day, whilst I was sat by the till and in between customers coming in and it got me hooked, so I just had to buy it.  It is full of anecdotal accounts from fifty of the richest men in various cities and towns across the US.

I find it really inspiring to read how people created successful businesses and then maintained that success and even took it to another level entirely.  There are some amazing stories in this book of hard work, determination and the rewards that these bring.

Towards the end, it summarises the advice of the various millionaires and billionaires with regard to the most important things to do to create and maintain a successful business. I'm almost finished reading this book and it has definitely been an enjoyable and interesting read.

One thing I took away from this book is that most wealthy people don't retire, they continue working because they enjoy it.  It has made me look at the notion of retirement with new eyes. We don't necessarily need to give up working, indeed, many people can't afford not to work past retirement age. The idea that we can do as we please and continue to make money if we so wish has, however, helped to ease the pressure a little in relation to financial planning, although this is still very high on my agenda at the moment.

My next read is going to be this book that I bought on eBay last week.

I think it was a book recommended by Tim Ferris at the end of his book the Four Hour Week, which I read recently and posted about. Anyway, I just love reading about overconsumption.  It always fascinates me and inspires me to declutter more and buy less, which is no bad thing.

Aside from reading, intermittently, I've also been listening to the odd podcast, and in particular a recent one by James Altucher in which he interviews Tony Robbins, the infamous US author and life coach to big business and the rich and famous.

I've also been watching some video interviews with Tony on YouTube.  He's a very popular guy across the pond and his work is very inspirational, hence why he's a billionaire on the back of it and makes sure to give back to those less fortunate.  Now, if he were to write an autobiography, that would definitely make very interesting reading indeed.

Talking of Tony Robbins, I watched an interview with him on Gary Vaynerchuk's channel on YouTube.  The host was severely criticised by many viewers for constantly interrupting him and not letting him speak, but when I watched it back, it didn't seem as bad as it was suggested. 

Anyway, I found this video on Gary's channel which just about sums up how I feel at the moment.

Disclaimer: There's the odd four letter word in this rant, so please don't watch this if you are likely to be offended.

What do you think?

Monday, 13 March 2017

Busy Bee Saturday

I've been a busy bee this Saturday.  The morning was spent listening to podcasts, listing and posting off eBay items (business as opposed to personal), painting a found piece of furniture, doing some washing and household chores and using my food dehydrator for the first time.

Yes, I finally got around to using the dehydrator that my sister bought me for my 50th birthday last October.  I had bought some thin cut beef steak with a yellow sticker on and I finally defrosted it and used it to make some dog treats.  On a recent visit to the vet, our dog was found to be a little overweight, so I'm trying to give her healthier treats and this was an attempt to make some.

Here are the strips in the dehydrator.

Here's what they looked like when they came out. 

I think I either overcooked them or over hydrated them, as they are a bit crispy, but better safe than sorry.  I had to put them in the oven for 10 minutes before putting them in the dehydrator to kill any bacteria, hence why I think they look overly dried.  They were very thin strips too.  The dog loves them though, so they won't go to waste. You live and learn.

Next, I want to dehydrate some fruit or vegetables and see how they turn out.  I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, I also spent quite a bit of time in the garden on Saturday as previously posted, just generally tidying up and sweeping the decking and the front path. It was a lovely day, perfect for it.

Later, I sat down and wrote/completed quite a few blog posts, so I'll probably be posting every day for a week or two now, which makes a change, as my posts have been few and far between lately. How was your Saturday?

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Saturday Afternoon in the Garden

Like many other bloggers, I too spent part of Saturday in the garden.  It was sunny here and bright, so it was a good opportunity to tidy up a little bit.

Firstly, I set out my potato tubers on a tray and put them in the boiler cupboard to chit.  Then I ventured out into the garden and did a bit of pruning of my corkscrew hazels, which had quite a bit of dead wood in them.

(Notice I didn't rake the wood chip paths, I've almost given up on them, as the dog just scatters them as she runs around the garden - Big fail!)

Anyway, I hoed all the borders, save for the border on the left as the dog is constantly in there, so it never stays neat. I'll dig it over some other time. I swept the decking and then tidied up the covers on the raised beds, which has still had several visitations by foxes, despite all of my efforts.  What can you do?

I've got a few salad items that have overwintered and I could start to harvest them really.  Mustard leaves and this mizuna to be precise.

I sowed lots more lettuce seeds the other week which have started to germinate.  I can't wait to start harvesting my own home grown lettuces again.

I do need to buy some compost to start sowing some more seeds and also to re-pot a few things here and there. I hadn't really budgeted for it this month, but needs must.

The rhubarb I took out of my old allotment is coming through now.  Here it is planted in an old recycling box.  I may now transplant some of it into my new allotment. 

Having worked on our garden this weekend, next week I will be focusing on getting the new allotment up to scratch, in time for inspections at the end of the month.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Month So Far

Well, so far this month, I have been quite frugal and sensible and have stuck largely to my planned budget.  I was trying not to spend any money at all, in various areas, but I have to say, that a few very small purchases have been made thus far.

Mostly, I'm just spending money on food and household/toiletry/pet items, plus paying for a couple of medical/dental appointments that I've got coming up later this month.  I have, however, had some unbudgeted vetinary expenses this month, due to the tick bite that affected our dog, so this has impacted my overall budget quite a bit..

I've been much better at the CS and have not spent much at all, save for this week when I purchased this basket to use in our living room.

I wanted it to store the throws that we use, so that I could remove a shelving unit and make the room look less cluttered.

Here's the before

and the after.

Much better.

The basket is tucked behind the sofa in the corner.

I also bought a guide book for our forthcoming holiday on the island of Crete, a dvd for LB and a jacket for OH, which will serve as part of the Christmas present that I still owe him. The only other things I've bought have been gifts, a couple of inexpensive books, some photograph corners and a chalk pen, the latter 3 on eBay, some of which were bought with money I earned by selling a book at the beginning of the month. I don't, however, intend to buy anything else this month, save for one more small gift and some compost.

I'm still within my food budget, despite placing an order for some bulk items from Goodness Direct, (rice/pasta/laundry liquid) and another order with Approved Food for more bulk and other food and household items. (More in another post) I'm hoping these will help me through the rest of the month and beyond, and mean that I will spend less in subsequent weeks on food as a consequence.

I could have done better by not buying the books, especially as I'm still supposed to be on a book buying ban, but I can't resist a good read, it's my main pleasure in life these days. How's your month going?