Thursday, 20 January 2022

Christmas Aprons and Future Projects

In the lead up to Christmas this year, I posted about making some new Christmas aprons to wear for work at the charity shop. It was a good way to use up some of the Christmas fabric that I have in my fabric stash and I  made them in a different style to one's I'd made before. Here's a picture of previous ones that I made during Lockdown:

And this is the vintage half apron that I made the new ones from:

I just added a bib and strap around the neck. I like the use of contrasting fabrics in the new ones, as it adds interest. I was happy with the way they worked out, but never actually got around to posting a picture of them.  Anyway, before I put them away until next year, I thought I'd post about them.  Here's a picture of the three that I completed:

The red gingham one was the first one I made, but I decided that the later ones looked better with the pocket on the bib, as it drew less attention to the bust area, so I might add another pocket to this one. I'm intending to make a couple more, and possibly convert a couple of the previous aprons I made to this style, with a few simple adjustments, as it is a more flattering and femine style to wear. I'll probably do the same with the regular all year round aprons I made too. They all have a matching small drawstring bag too.

I'm also going to try my hand at making some pullable, reusable fabric Christmas crackers this year, with fabric hats, as our dog hates the snap in crackers, so we don't really use them these days. I've seen a couple of instructional videos on YouTube and they look simple enough to make. I will probably repurpose some of the fabric from some of the old Christmas aprons to make these too, as I don't think I'll wear them again. 

In other plans, I'd also like to make some Christmas fabric drawstring bags for wrapping gifts and maybe hem some squares of fabric, also for use in gift wrapping. I figure there are ways that I can reduce the waste we produce, even if it is only for gift wrapping in our household, so that things can be reused year after year.

I've got a week off planned after this week, which should give me a good opportunity to spend some time sewing. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Blue Monday

I believe that today, is traditionally known as Blue Monday. The third Monday in January, the point at which most people are at their saddest; as they are broke, cold and disappointed with themselves, over failing to stick to their New Year's Resolutions.

Whilst the latter isn't the case for me, as I didn't make any New Year Resolutions, my Blue Monday didn't exactly get off to a good start. I needed to take the dog out before heading off to the gym and was running late due to not having slept well and not waking until 8am. I managed to get dog poo on my fingers as I was tying up a dog bag. Urgh! (TMI, I know) It doesn't happen often, but freaks me out when it does.

When I eventually left the house, the windscreen on the car was frozen over, just what you don't need when you're in a hurry, but in spite of this, I still managed to get to the gym on time. The trouble started there.  I had had to renew my membership online last week and my card no longer worked to let me through the barrier and into class, so I had to queue to see the one member of staff on duty in the foyer. After 10-15 minutes trying and failing to sort it out, I had to just go in to the class anyway. 

Luckily, the class started late. Someone had cleaned the floor in the studio and it was still wet, so a member of staff had been called out to dry it off. As a consequence, I didn't miss any of the slightly shorter class, but I did have to position myself right at the back, as it was the only place there was any room, and I could hardly see a thing the instructor was doing. Regardless, I enjoyed the class and then managed to get my membership sorted out after the class.

When I left there, I set off to do the food shopping. I tried to stick to my shopping list religiously this week, but a few extras did slip into my baskets (food only). I am definitely at that point in the month where I am broke, so that is a bit depressing, but there's only one more food shopping week before I get paid, so I'll just have to eke things out. I did receive a £8 off an £80 spend voucher at Tesco, so that should come in handy for the first week in February, to save a bit of money on my first food shop of next month.

I have tried to set a limit on how much I put on my credit cards this month, but it is increasingly looking like I may have to exceed it. If I do, I do. I'll try to get straight next month. I've needed to spend nearly £300 on gifts this month, for both LB's birthday and my sister's, as she turns 60 next week. Thankfully, next month, there are fewer things I need to spend my money on.

I worked out the other day, that despite my food budget being £400 per month, last year I spent an average of £460 on food each month. I need to try to do better this year.  I have been quite good with regard to spending money so far this month, mainly borne out of necessity, but also with a bit of will power thrown in. There aren't many things that I need at the moment, so I don't feel inclined to shop for anything, either online or in person, so this has helped enormously.

When I got back from doing the shopping today, I got a nice surprise. Over two years ago, I found a nice pair of glasses frames in a local East London charity shop for £3. The frames themselves are Dita Von Teese frames and they are quite solid and well made. They are 1940's/50's in style and I'd wanted to get lenses put in for ages, but didn't have my prescription.  After getting a copy of it when I last went to the opticians, OH sent them off last week, as part of my Xmas present, to an online company to get some lenses fitted. 

They arrived today, varifocals in situ and I'm really happy with them and looking forward to wearing them. They're a bit Mad Men, but I like them. Here's a picture of them:

Just out of curiosity, I took a look on the website that sells DITA glasses and similar frames range from £500 to £800. Wow, what a stroke of luck it was, that I found them at the price I did.

This afternoon, I rang my doctor's surgery to see if my blood tests results from Friday had come back and to ask if I could have another prescription for the statins I was put on a couple of months ago. I was told that my liver function tests were normal and my cholesterol had come down from 7.7 to 4.4, which was great news. I'm just waiting on the new prescription now, as I've run out of tablets.

In other news, OH headed off to the vets with the dog this afternoon. She's having problems with pain and stiffness in her front legs. We think it is arthritis and she needs some medication, but she's also having problems with one of her teeth, which we think needs taking out, plus she's got lumps and bumps all over her body, which we hope are benign and nothing to worry about. We hate taking her to the vet, as we generally find them lacking in empathy and we dread that there might be anything seriously wrong with her, as you can imagine.

Turns out, her tooth and possibly others need to be removed and her teeth cleaned. Some of the lumps they are going to remove under anaesthetic too. She was given some medicine for the arthritis and she's been booked in for an operation in a couple of months time, which is going to be very expensive, unless we can get the insurance to pay for some of it. Let's hope so.

So, there was a lot going on today, most of it good, so I can't complain. Not such a Blue Monday.

Sunday, 16 January 2022

A Bit of Bloggy Reflection and an Unexpected Anniversary

Whilst out walking the dog today (Sunday), I was watching a couple of YouTube videos on my phone about manifesting good things in your life. I'm not into this kind of thing in any big way, but I do believe in the concept of serendipity and to some degree karma, and it got me thinking about a very interesting blog post I once read about the universe providing for your needs. I can remember linking to it in a blog post way back, so when I got back home, I decided to look back through the titles of blog posts I've created over the years, to see if I could find it. Unfortunately, I couldn't.

What started out as a search for this one post, then became a trip down memory lane, as I was reminded of the myriad of posts I've created over the last nine years. Yes, it's nine years this month, since I started on Blogger. I was surprised it was that long. I genuinely had no idea how long I've been blogging. I don't even think about it. I just do it and continue to do it because I enjoy it and I enjoy reading other people's blog posts.

It was interesting to scroll through past blog post titles. They revealed my activities through the years, including the charity shop hauls, frugal challenges, allotment gardening, decluttering, vintage collections, holidays, days out, sewing projects, books I've read, home makeovers, upcyles, etc. and every trend I've gravitated towards over the last nine years. It was quite a shock to see the range of subjects that I've posted about here, compared to the pretty boring posts I've been creating lately. 

Life has changed a lot since I started blogging. LB is now an adult, living her own life, although still currently living at home, for the time being at least. I'm now working and despite only working part-time, work seems to consume a large part of life, as I'm either recovering from it or just getting on with it. In some ways, it seems that life has narrowed somewhat, especially in the last two years with the pandemic, but in other ways, it feels like it has opened up new worlds to me.

During my search, I found a recipe for some dog paw salve on one post, which was very useful, as I needed to make a new batch, so I quickly rustled some up with what I had in the cupboard. The making my own toiletries trend didn't last too long with me and I still have the ingredients in the cupboard to prove it, albeit out of date. At least I was able to make use of some of them today. Being topical and external, I doubt they'll be harmful to the dog. She has a pretty robust constitution.

On one blog post thumbnail, I saw a photo of a favourite old pair of shoes, that I haven't owned for a long time, and it took me right back to my days as a mum at the school gate, taking and picking up LB from primary school. A small but poignant reminder of how life used to be. Time moves on and I'm glad it does (I never liked the school run!), and things inevitably change. It's good to be reminded, as it spurs us on to create the life changes we want and need. I don't know what the future looks like for me at the moment. I'm happy enough, but I need to keep finding new sources of inspiration and new outlets for my creativity and curiosity, that's just the way I am and have always been.

Do you ever look back on past posts to help inspire you as you move into the future? 

If I ever find that darn post, I promise I'll link it again.

Friday, 14 January 2022

A Few Days Off and a Birthday Celebration

After spending Sunday and Monday at home, I was not relishing returning to work on Tuesday this week, but I was consoled by the fact that once I had finished work on Tuesday, I would not need to go back until Saturday, as I was taking some time back after working last week, by taking Thursday off. Three days off sounded like sheer bliss to me as the house was still a mess after Christmas and New Year and I needed to do a bit of a tidy round and catch up on some jobs.

After sleeping really well on Tuesday night, I felt suitably refreshed and ready to make the most of my time off. I began by taking some decluttered items to the clothing bank, charity shop and little free library. I loaded the two boxes and two bin bags into the car, dropped the bin bags into a nearby clothing bank, then took the dog to a favourite spot that is just a little too far to walk to.  After a lovely walk in the fresh air, I dropped off the two boxes at the charity shop on the way back and put one book that was a little too well read for the charity shop, into a nearby little free library. It felt great to be relieved of more items that had been clogging up the landing over Christmas.

That is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to the having a clearout. I haven't even started decluttering proper and I am actually looking forward to being a bit ruthless, especially with things I don't wear, things that don't fit well or which don't look nice on. There's plenty of those in my wardrobe and drawers, that's for sure.

After lunch, I retired to the sofa for a few hours and watched a few programmes on iPlayer and Netflix, which included an interesting series about Andy Warhol and a period film drama. Later, I wrapped LB's birthday presents. Not a hugely productive day, but some things did get done, which is progress.

On Thursday, it was LB's birthday. I strung up a few balloons and a banner, put a candle in her cake and then headed out with the dog as she wasn't yet up. By the time I got back, she'd surfaced and OH and I watched her open her presents. The few things that we were still waiting for by post, miraculously turned up at the same time, which was good fortune. She seemed very happy with her presents, but then she always is.

We headed out to lunch at a restaurant near to the centre of the area in which we live. We don't often venture much further than our small local high street to eat out, as it has a few nice restaurants, but we thought we'd do something a little different today. We last went to this particular restaurant on my birthday two years ago.

Lunch was a lovely relaxing affair with good food and an accompanying glass of Prosecco by way of celebration. I did have to have a nap on the sofa when we got home though, as daytime drinking isn't my forte.

When we got back, we tucked into LB's Rocky Road Birthday cake, which was nice. 

Later, I potted up an amaryllis that I'd forgotten to pot up before Xmas. I got a shock when I opened the box, as it had been so keen to grow that it had produced a large shoot and flowerhead in the box. I felt suitably guilty and neglectful. It's currently a bit curled up, but I'm hoping that with some sunlight, it might straighten out and green up. Here's a picture:

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Netflix. A very lazy day all told, but I don't care, I enjoyed it.

Friday was my last day off this week. I woke a bit late, as LB came home in the early hours, so my sleep was interrupted. I had to get ready and go straight out to the doctors for a blood test. I fasted, but found when I got there that I hadn't needed to. Typical! Anyway, it went okay, I just now need to get a new prescription for the statins, as I will run out this weekend. Having to work for a full week, put me behind in relation to sorting out stuff like this, because I just didn't have the time to get to the doctors earlier.

I spotted a new Little Free Library on my way to the doctors, so took a look on my way out. I found this book, which sounded quite good.

After finally having some breakfast, I took the dog out for a walk.  I didn't have any plans for the day, save that I needed to do some top up food shopping at some point.

After lunch, I went off to do the shopping, as the traffic gets bad the longer I leave it.  When I got back I put away some laundry, did another load of washing and then decided to sort through our Xmas decorations. I needed to declutter them before they went back in the loft. There were quite a few decorations in there that I no longer wanted to keep for various reasons. I won't be donating them now, as it's not a good time for charity shops to receive these kinds of items, but I'll keep them somewhere until later in the year and then donate them.

Friday night saw my three days off coming to a close. I'm slightly apprehensive about going back to work. It's been good to have a complete break for a few days. I've really managed to switch off from it, which has been lovely. I think I'm still recovering from the intense lead up to Christmas and then working over Christmas and New Year. Not having a proper break of a week or more has taken it's toll. I'm sure I'll feel more energetic soon, but for the moment I'm still feeling pretty tired most of the time.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Taking a Breather

Well, it was wonderful having a couple of days off work on Sunday and Monday. I had a lie in on Sunday morning, which was long overdue and then got up in a leisurely fashion, had breakfast and went out with the dog for a nice long walk. She's only been getting short walks from me this past week. OH has been doing most of the dog walking.  It felt good to get outside and breathe in fresh air, after virtually a week of wearing a mask all day everyday.

When I got back, I started to think about what I needed to do at home and in my own life, instead of for work. The ironing pile was stacked high and I'd run out of clothes to wear for work, so that was a priority. I made a grocery shopping list, as we were fast running out of food. We weren't going to starve, but I needed to do a shop on Monday.

I spent a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon napping on the sofa, it was needed after a busy week.  Eventually I got up and did a couple of hours of ironing whilst binge watching Emily in Paris on Netflix. I finished watching the second season. At least I've now got some clean clothes ready to wear for work next week.

Sunday night we watched a programme on TV about some of the male ballet dancers at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. It was really interesting.

Working all last week has had a couple of upsides.  One was that it kept me from spending any money unnecessarily, during a very tight month financially, so I'm grateful for that. I'm going to shop very carefully for groceries this month to keep costs down and try to use up stuff we have in the freezer and cupboards. The second was that it also helped me to lose the Christmas weight gain of a few pounds, so another plus.

I bought a few things from the shop on Saturday with some expenses I was owed, mainly presents for LB's upcoming birthday, but a few other bits for the house too. I did buy a couple of baby Scots Pine trees that had been donated and were looking like they were drying out in their packaging. I couldn't bear to think of them dying, so I bought them both. They can grow to 120ft, so they're not going into the ground in our small London garden. I'll control their growth for the time being in pots.

On Monday, I booked a blood test at the doctors for later in the week to see how the statins are working on my cholesterol. I'm almost out of the tablets, so I need to see if I can get another prescription whilst I'm there. I've left it a bit late to be honest, as there were no earlier appointments than Friday and my tablets run out on Saturday. There was one on Wednesday, but at 2.40pm and I really can't fast for that long, which is what I need to do for the bloodtest.

Anyway, I had booked myself into my usual Zumba class for the first time since before Christmas. I had to pay more for it than usual, I think because my membership had expired, so I now need to renew it which is going to cost £20 to re-join for the year. I really enjoyed the class, but felt a bit unfit, as I hadn't been for four weeks.  It was nice to see my friend there though.

From there, I went off to do the weekly shop, first at Home Bargains, then Lidl and then Tesco. In additon to regular groceries, I bought some chewable vitamin D tablets, compost to pot up the Scots pines, as we didn't have any at home and a birthday cake/some sweets for LB's birthday. Otherwise, I stuck strictly to my shopping list. I spent more than I wanted to, but food prices are going up and we needed virtually everything we normally eat, so I just have to spend what I have to spend. I managed to pick up some more lateral flow tests at the supermarket, a box of 20 this time, I didn't even know you could get so many in a box, I've only ever got 7 in a box. They will come in handy this month, as I use at least 4 each week, for work and the gym.

The rest of the day I performed activities such as walking the dog, potting in the garden, catching up on YouTube, making supper and ordering another gift for LB's birthday. I'd almost forgotten what having time off was like, it's been nice to have some time to myself to relax, catch up with friends on the phone and in person and generally just try to get my life back in order. 

Here's a picture of the potted up Scots pine treelets. They're a bit spindly, but I hope they survive.

Hopefully, life can now get back to some sort of normality.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

The First Week of 2022

I had a feeling that this year was not going to be an easy one and it has started with a challenge. I got a message on Bank Holiday Monday from my Manager. He had symptoms of Covid and wasn't coming back to the UK for the rest of the week at least.  With the person who shares my job, still off for at least another week, that left just me to run the shop for the first week in January.

I can't say I was over the moon about this, but after initally feeling pretty low about it, I just resigned myself to the task. As a consequence, I've had to work nearly double my normal hours, but I will get time in lieu eventually, so I should get almost a full week off once the Shop Manager returns.

Anyway, I decided not to blog about the week as it was happening. It had it's challenges, high points and low points, but I finished tonight and I've now got two days off, thank goodness. I've left the shop in a better state than I started with. I was flagging a bit today, but still managed to keep going until the end.

The Shop Manager is returning on Monday, as is my fellow Deputy (hopefully). They can take back over the reins, as they'll be refreshed from their time off over Xmas. Me, I'm tired and need a break, which I will hopefully get soon.

It's been quite eventful in other ways too this week. A very longstanding volunteer got offered a job and starts next week. I'm so pleased for him. He's been a very reliable volunteer for several years and has always helped me, since I started there, nearly 5 years ago now. I couldn't be happier for him. He deserves this opportunity so much.

Another volunteer is also starting a new job, and after she showed me her rota for the next two weeks, I can tell that we're not going to see much of her from now on, which is sad, because she's a nice girl and works well. She says she will still come on her days off, bless her, but I think she'll find she might be quite tired.

So, there's a lot of moving on going on, and that is a good thing. That is what we are there to do, give people an opportunity to build their confidence and gain experience, to help them progress in their lives.  That's how I like to see my role anyway.

The reverse side of this, is that we're going to be stretched for volunteers in the coming weeks. It doesn't scare me, as it's always been a cyclical thing in the shop. New volunteers come along and old ones sometimes return (if you're lucky). Let's hope so anyway.

Now I'm going to put my feet up, pour myself a drink and relax.

I hope you've had a good week.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

A Positive Start to the New Year

This New Year I feel has been positive. I can't really remember how I felt last year, save that we found ourselves in another Lockdown and there was a lot more uncertainty. I was probably relishing the idea of having a bit of time off work, until that stretched into months, which I actually hated.

This year is different and as a consequence, things feel possible, life feels possible, not impossible, which is a much more positive place to be.

I wasn't working on New Year's Eve, thanks to the kindness of a volunteer who stepped into run the shop. LB was recovering from a night out the night before, so OH and I decided to head out for lunch at a pub about an hour outside of London, and maybe pick up some manure for the allotment from a garden centre nearby.

We plumped for lunch first and headed straight to the pub. We passed the garden centre, which, of course, was closed early, but no biggie, we thought, we'll come back another day. Lunch was nice, the pub was nice. We got back to the car, and who would believe it, we had a flat tyre, not just a flat tyre, but a puncture with a nail right through. That's the 5th tyre that has needed replacing this December. Feels like some sort of curse.

Anyway, OH got out the spare and changed the tyre in the pub carpark, so all was well and we continued on to do a bit of last minute food shopping and then headed home. It didn't spoil our day, we were just completely aghast at our luck with tyres this month.  Hopefully, this curse is now left back in 2021. Incidentally, the tyre that got the puncture was the only tyre we hadn't yet replaced on the car, so at least when it is replaced, the car will have four new tyres, so will probably be safer and thus this can probably be seen as a good thing.

New Year's Eve was spent quietly. I ordered most of LB's birthday presents online, as there's only a couple of weeks to go. LB later went out to a friend's house for a small NYE gathering. They were all very sensible and tested themselves before going. We don't like to leave the dog home alone, as she is terrified of fireworks, so we stayed home. 

We watched a movie we'd never seen before on TV, which was good, I finished a jigsaw I'd been working on all week, had a few drinks and then I watched Ollie Alexander's New Year's Eve show on TV, which I enjoyed. It seemed quite a positive show and I enjoyed the music. I also watched the Central London fireworks and countdown. In addition, the fireworks in our neighbourhood didn't seem too onerous this year. Some years they seem to go on and on for hours, keeping us awake trying to calm the dog down. I even enjoyed watching them out of the window.

I slept well and woke feeling refreshed on New Year's Day. I finished reading my current book in bed and then showered and spent a bit of time cutting my toenails and plucking my eyebrows. In the lead up to Christmas, I just didn't get around to doing self-care things like this and it had got to the point where one of my little toe nails was cutting into the toe next to it, drawing blood and making it painful to walk. Terrible self neglect, I needed to do something about it. It felt good to spend a little time on myself to face the New Year.

The rest of the day was chilled. I watched a bit of You Tube, cooked a beef joint for us to use for wraps or sandwiches, as we just didn't feel like eating another roast dinner. I placed an order for some eco household and healthcare products that I need from Big Green Smile. It busted the household budget for the month, but I only place these orders a couple of times per year, so it balances out and I wanted to make sure I got free delivery. 

I feel positive about this New Year. I think it's going to be challenging in some ways, but I'm up for it. I'm not making lots of unrealistic resolutions. Yes, there are things I'd like to do better or improve about myself and I'm going to aim for self improvement in some areas, but with no pressure. 

I do want to rid the house of things that no longer serve me/us, clothes that don't look nice on or aren't practical for my current lifestyle, other household things that we just don't need or use. Clutter has built up again, as it always does, and there's definitely more stuff I can let go of. There's so much need out there, why am I hanging onto so much stuff that I don't like, need or use.

Anyway, later on New Year's Day, we watched Don't Look Up on Netflix, a parody, but a great movie, I'd definitely recommend watching it.

On Sunday, I had a very lazy day and didn't do much, nothing worth blogging about anyway.

Bank Holiday Monday a better day and was my last day off over the holidays, so I had a good lie in. I was tired, as I hadn't slept well the night before. I finished my current book, which is about the restorative effects of Pottering, one of my favourite things to do. I enjoyed reading it.

When I eventually got up, I had a shower and then I decided to do some little odd jobs that had built up over the festive season, but which I hadn't found the time to do, i.e. sort out some items to take to the charity shop, repair one of the hanging rails on my clothes airer, repair a brooch whose pin had come off, put some pictures into a frame, re-hang my grandad's photograph in the spare room and get OH to change the light shade in the spare room too. It looks nice with the new free (non-)shade on. Here's a picture:


That felt very productive.  Then I went onto eBay to order some items for work, that I've been meaning to order for a while and whilst on there I did a bit of research for some reusable products, that I can swap out for disposable things that I currently use. I can't afford them at the moment, but at some point in the year, I may buy one of each to try them, before laying out larger sums for more.

We were running a little low on a few groceries today, so I headed out to ASDA to buy a few bits to keep us going for the week, as I don't intend to do a proper food shop this week. We've still got plenty of things from Christmas to use up. When I got back, I went out to walk the dog and when I got back from doing that I made us a veggie spag bol for supper, essentially to use up some mushrooms.

I hope your New Year was a positive one and continues to be.