Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Beauty Box Has Arrived!

Well, just a day after my post, the Glamour Party Beauty Edit Box arrived.

Although I knew what was going to be inside, it was still very exciting.  Especially as the products inside were beautifully wrapped in tissue paper and packed in more shredded tissue paper.

Here's a closer look at some of the items in it.  The first item I picked out was this gorgeous nail varnish by Lola in the colour Bluebell.  Great for the spring.  Love this.

I also loved this Burts Bees Lip Shimmer Balm in Rhubarb.  A tinted balm from a company whose products are marketed to be 100% natural.

Elnett Satin Volume Excess Hairspray - handbag sized, extra strength, volumising hairspray.  This will definitely get used and come in handy for days out/weekends away.  A bit different to my usual bargain brands which will make a nice change.

I am very interested to try these Skyn ICELAND Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels.  There is just one pair of eye gels here, which you put on the area under your eyes and leave on for 10 minutes.  Through the packaging they feel a bit like the gel cushions you put on shoes.  (You can tell I'm not a regular beauty blogger ;).  I'm hoping I look like a different woman after using these!!  Only joking, but I am looking forward to giving them a go as they're supposed to help firm and de-puff and I can definitely do with some of that.

The next products that I'm really looking forward to using are these Philip Kingsley shampoo and conditioner.  They are quite small sample sizes, but it will be good to try out a more expensive brand without having to buy a large bottle.  We've been using Tresemme and Pantene for years now, and although I like them, I'm interested to try other more expensive brands and see how they make my hair feel.

Similarly the Vichy Skin Idealizer Serum (Don't they think up great names for these products!) is likewise very small, but I will give it a try.  The Vichy 3in1 cleansing milk, toner and eye make up remover is quite a bit bigger however at 30ml, and might be useful for taking off makeup and cleansing after a night out.  (Not that we go out a great deal - should last ages then!)

There were a few more make-up products, namely a Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner in Black Amethyst.  I know for a fact that Little Bird will want to get her hands on this one, but I would like to try it too.

A Collection Lengthening Mascara in black, which I'm looking forward to using.

And a lovely Wild About Beauty Powder Eyeshadow in Fern.  I don't use eyeshadow as a rule but this isn't too dark or dramatic, is paraben, petrochemical and cruelty free and comes in a sweet little compact with a bee imprint in the powder.  It is also purported to be long lasting, highly pigmented and contain Aloe Vera and Vitamins E & C.  Sounds good.  I might just have to wear it then.

Finally, (well almost) there was a pack of two pop-band hair ties, which are supposed to be 'kind on your hair and cute on your wrist' and they are indeed pretty cute.

There was one other item in the box,which was a Xen-Tan Premium sunless tan product in a medium shade.  It's a shimmery gel self tan.  I'm afraid I'm not really a self-tanner and I don't particularly like to look glittery, so I doubt I'll use this, but will probably pass it on to Little Bird to experiment with.

There were also several vouchers in the box for using on some of the websites of the above brands, which if you do like a product is good, as you can get some money off if you want to buy the full size.  You are also offered a 62% discount (normally £15.99) on an iphone or ipad subscription to Glamour magazine, which I have bought on occasion for Little Bird.

All in all, I'm really happy with the box.  Some things were smaller than I had imagined, which is okay, as some of the other things in the box made it very good value for money.  I don't rule out ordering another if the price and contents are right for me, but I suspect it might not be for a while until I've used some of these products.

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a sponsored post, however, as I have paid for this box and my opinions on the contents are very much my own and not influenced by anyone else.

Friday, 30 January 2015

I Love Thursdays

I like Thursdays.  Thursday is a day when I can generally please myself, more or less.  No gym visits, and no other commitments, unless I have made them.  Just dog walking and putting out the rubbish being the main things required of me.

Call me sad and a bit weird, but I like collecting all the rubbish from different parts of the house, bagging up the recycling and putting the food waste in the caddy (well, maybe not this bit) and I really enjoy putting it all outside to be collected early Friday morning.  I love that feeling of purging the house. It feels good.

I'm still keeping a note of the amount of bags we throw out each week, with a view to trying to reduce it this year.  It is gradually settling down after Christmas, January sale shopping and Little Bird's birthday and will hopefully be completely back to our normal levels come February.

It felt doubly good this week, as Thursday was the day that I also took quite a lot of stuff to the charity shop.  It had been sat on the landing for virtually the whole month, which was a bit of an eyesore, not to mention a nuisance. I was glad to have finally got around to taking it.

In all honesty, I was a bit put off after taking some things before Christmas.  I got the distinct impression that the staff in the CS were feeling a bit overwhelmed with stuff, so I didn't want to go back too soon.  I had a chat to the lady in the stockroom on this visit.  She said that she had had some days when she had been completely overwhelmed with stuff, but explained that they never refuse donations and it had been a little quieter of late, which was reassuring. (Especially as I will have some more things to take next month).

I did do more than just the above mentioned things this Thursday.  I did some washing, ironing (I'm keeping on top of the ironing basket for once), blog post writing,  present wrapping/card writing and general bits of housework. We all need days when we have carte blanche to get things done. Needless to say, a good few things got crossed off this week's to do list, which is always pleasing.

In addition to purging rubbish from the house, I am making a concerted effort to purge the cupboards and freezer of uneaten foods.  It is quite satisfying to see them quite empty to be honest.  It makes me get a little more creative in the cooking department.  I only want to stock what we are going to eat that week, plus a few other cupboard staples (just in case I forget to defrost something, so that at least there is an alternative).

I haven't placed an Approved Food Order for a couple of months now, although when I realised this, I did go on their site and fill a basket, which I may go ahead and order.  I was incredibly careful to only put things we use very regularly onto the order, so that they won't hang around for months in the cupboards not being used.  It can work out very cost effective to buy things from AF, so I won't ever say never with regard to ordering from them again.

Anyway, I made OH and I a chicken casserole in the slow cooker from a packet mix bought from AF. I've got several different ones in my cupboards that I am working my way through.  I can see lots of Rustic Beef and Beef Bourguinon coming up on the menu next month!  Well once or twice anyway. It's not the sort of dish I could eat every single week.

I also did some menu planning for next month.  There's a few things in the freezer that could do to be used up before I buy more food, so most of next week's menu is sorted which should hopefully make it an inexpensive food shop.  Just as well, as I've spent quite a bit of money this month with one thing and another and I have a feeling that February is going to be a very lean month. Fortunately, there's only four weeks in it!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Latest In Beauty - Glamour Party Beauty Box Edit

Following on from my recent posts about beauty routines and videos, I have been a little naughty this week and treated myself to a beauty box from Latest in Beauty.  I have been toying with the idea of subscribing to a beauty box for a while now, in an attempt to try out new to me beauty products, that I otherwise just wouldn't find out about.  As a consequence of watching quite a few beauty vloggers, however, I noticed that they all seemed to be unsubscribing to beauty boxes, as they no longer felt very satisfied with what they were receiving.

I Googled 'Best Beauty Boxes' (as you do before embarking on a new venture) to get some advice on the subject and came across an article by Elle magazine on the Top Beauty Boxes to buy.  In it, they listed several of the boxes that I'd heard mentioned in videos i.e. Birch Box, My Little Beauty Box, etc. as well as Latest in Beauty, an online company which offers one off box collections that you can purchase without subscribing for 3, 6 or 12 months.  In addition, you can see more or less exactly what you will get before purchasing.  I decided that rather than spend the same amount of money for 4 or 5 mystery items that I might not like or use, which is what you get with most other monthly boxes, I would buy a one off Glamour Party Beauty Box Edit from Latest in Beauty, which has been collated in conjunction with Glamour magazine.

This box contains 13 different items, some sample sizes, some larger or full size and a very varied selection of skincare, hair care and makeup products, both from brands I had heard of and brands I hadn't.  As there was a January sale on this particular box, you could get 20% off, which made the box very good value at £13.49 and there was no postage charge on top.  I signed up for this box and should be receiving my first beauty box in the next few days.  Here's a link to the site in case anyone is interested. There are several collections which I believe they change every couple of months and this was the least expensive, but most interesting and relevant to me personally.

These boxes might also be a good gift idea for anyone who is interested in beauty products and you can collate your own box from an interesting and varied selection of sample and full size products, ranging in price from £1 upwards.  I may try this option in future, as it is a very useful concept and it might be fun to collate a small surprise box for Little Bird at some point.

In deciding to purchase this box, I reasoned that any products I don't want, like or wish to use, I can pass on to Little Bird or give away as gifts, to people whom I think might like them.  Although I don't get to experience the suspense and excitement of not knowing what is in the box, I also don't get any disappointing surprises either and I don't have to buy another box if I'm not satisfied with what I receive. Perfect. Can't wait for it to arrive now.

I'll post again when I receive it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Getting Tough on Stuff 2015 - January

This year I've decided to 'Get Tough on Stuff' in our home and am challenging myself to donate, sell or give away 1000 unwanted or unused items in 2015.

January got off to a pretty good start.  I'd already put aside 20 or so items prior to the festive period, ready to send to the charity shop in the New Year and a good clear out of Little Bird's bedroom post-Christmas resulted in another 100 things being put aside to take.

Here's the pile outside her bedroom door ready to go to the charity shop after our clear out. (Apologies for the quality of the photo, but it was late afternoon and the light wasn't good when I took this.)

I was going to leave it at that for January, as I'd well exceeded my monthly target of 84 items, but I then decided to have a good sort through the Christmas decorations box and bag, before putting them back in the loft. This also rendered quite a few unwanted items, 22 in total, which were added to the charity shop pile.

I added more things here and there and the total number of items leaving the house this month is 168, which has given me a bit of a head start on the 1000 item total that I'm aiming to donate or sell this year.  In addition, to the pile of toys pictured above, here is another pile of things I will be taking to the charity shop this week.

For February, I have a few ideas of ways to tick more items off the total.  The first is that I have a small number of items of children's clothing and shoes to list on eBay. I've been meaning to sell these for quite a while and any money I manage to recover can go towards buying Little Bird some of the new clothes that she desperately needs at the moment.

The second idea is that I am going to blitz and deep clean our bedroom, prior to some work we want to do in there. I'll be delving under the bed, into the depths of the wardrobe, shelves, drawers and have a major clear out of any items I no longer wish to keep.   I've made a start on one corner of the bedroom and on my costume jewellery collection and have amassed quite a few things so far. There should, however, hopefully be lots more things uncovered to donate next month.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Freebie Magazine Subcription Arrives

Just before Christmas, I needed to renew my monthly subscription to Prima magazine.  I subscribe using my Tesco Clubcard vouchers, so never actually pay for the magazine, which is a nice treat, as it is just about the only magazine I get.  (Apart from very occasional purchases of other magazines).  It has a bit of everything in it: fashion, beauty, home, craft, food, etc., so suits me well and also provides free sewing patterns which is a major appeal.

After re-subscribing, and then using some vouchers to obtain a Christmas gift magazine subscription for a friend, I still had some vouchers left over.  There were just enough to arrange a subscription to a relatively new magazine that I've never read before, namely Landscape.

It was a bit different to magazine's I've subscribed to in the past, but does cover quite a few subjects of interest: gardening, food, craft, places to visit, nature, etc. etc.

It is published every two months, so my subscription is only for 6 copies, but I received my first copy (Mar/Apr issue)  today, which was quite exciting.  I had a flick through and there are some quite interesting articles in there, that I will probably go back and read at some point.

It makes a nice change to receive a magazine that focuses on very different topics to those that I would normally read, and even better when you don't need to pay for it and it gets delivered to your door.

There is  quite a definite focus on nature, gardening, the seasons and the countryside, which living in London, is quite refreshing and ties in well with my aim to keep things simple this year.  It will be interesting to see what future issues hold.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Monthly Reading

One of my aims for this year is to continue to read as much as possible in the coming year. I have a stack of books waiting to be read (90 to be exact!) and so, if possible, I really need to up my reading rate if I can.

This month, I finally managed to finish reading this Christmas themed book that I started last Christmas. I quite enjoyed it once I got into it, despite the 12 month interval.

It's called 'Miracle on Regent Street' by Ali Harris, and told the story of Evie a stockroom girl, working in an old established, but failing department store in the West End of London.  After finding out that the store is in danger of closing if sales don't increase dramatically by Boxing Day, Evie sets about secretly trying to turn the store's fortunes around.  It is a heartwarming and light hearted read with some romance thrown in of course.

As it was January, a time for New Year resolutions and diets (for many, but not really for me), I often like to read books which have a self-improvement theme running through them.  This January was no exception and I decided to pick up a diet book I've had for a while called 'Nerys and India's Idiot Proof Diet'.  I've been a fan of India Knight's writing for a couple of years now, so when I saw this book in a charity shop I couldn't resist it, despite the fact that I don't ordinarily buy diet books.

This book, however, was quite entertaining and charts India and Nerys's attempts and success at losing weight - five stones each to be exact!  It was written back in 2007, well before the latest fasting diets became popular and tends to promote it's own version of a low carb/carb free diet.

What I liked about this book is that it was written by two real women, who admittedly liked food and had developed issues around consuming it, whose aim was not to be stick thin, but just to reach a normal, healthy weight that they were happy with.  The use of humour in the book alongside their own experience and insights, made it very interesting and entertaining to read.

The only problem I had with the diet, is that the first week or two of the diet is quiet severe, in that it advocates a complete avoidance of carbs and sugar. Whilst I could understand why this might have the beneficial health and weight loss effects they suggest, I'm not sure I can ever see myself committing to it, although it was an extremely tempting thought throughout reading this book. (Especially as you could have bacon and eggs for breakfast quite often!)

It has, however, made me think about sugar and carbs and how they can mess with your bodily systems (i.e. blood sugar levels, fat burning, etc.) and I am seriously thinking of reducing my dependence on them as much as I can in the future, to try to achieve a better balance, healthier weight and improved feeling of wellbeing, if this is possible. I will definitely be keeping this book for future reference and who knows I may one day decide to actually do the diet.

In the same self-improvement vein, I picked up another book this month called 'Romancing the Ordinary - A Year of Simple Splendour' by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I first read one of her books a couple of years ago, which was called 'Peace and Plenty' and I really enjoyed it. This lead me to seek out a couple more of her books on eBay, and this is one of them.

In this book, she encourages you to embrace and value the ordinariness of your everyday life, by appreciating the simplest of things, and by utilising what she calls the seven senses through which she believes all women understand the world.

As this is my year for 'Keeping it Simple', I thought this would be a great book to read. It is organised by way of a chapter for each month of the year, so I am thinking that I might read a chapter a month throughout the year. Something tells me that I might want to get ahead of myself, as I do enjoy reading this writer's work, but we'll see.

Finally, this January, I decided to start reading a book that I've had in my 'to read' pile for a long time now. It's called 'Watching the English' by Kate Fox and in the past I have read quite good reviews of this book, so was interested to finally get around to reading it. I understand that an updated version of this book has now been published, but notwithstanding, I am enjoying this edition. In it, Fox, who is an anthropologist by profession, takes a look at the English as a tribe and the hidden rules of their behaviours. It is quite a lengthy read, as this edition was published in quite a small print, but it is written with humour and is turning out to be a very interesting read. I did find the introduction and the first chapter or two a bit hard going, but on persevering I am starting to really enjoy reading it, to the extent that it had me chuckling away to myself this morning. I will be continuing it into February as it may take a while to finish and will hopefully post again next month with my overall impression.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Beauty Routines

Having spent the past week watching YouTube beauty videos, it's made me think a little about my beauty routine, such that it is.  It's very simple, I'm definitely not what you call a beauty obsessive, but I think it might be time for a few tweaks and improvements.  Currently it involves:

Facial Wash, Toner, Moisturiser, Handcream,  followed by Light Make Up.

Whilst I admire the time and artistry of younger women who like to use lots of makeup, I've never really been that into it.  In fact, as I get older, I often find less is more, as being overly made up makes me personally feel like I look older.  Young women seem to wear it well, so I will for the most part leave it to them.

In terms of my beauty routine, I'm currently using a Johnson's Facial Wash Foam, which I bought from Approved Food of all places, but I do genuinely love it as it leaves my skin feeling clean and soft and is very easy to use.

My current toner is Simple, but to be honest I'm not enjoying using it at all and much prefer my usual Distilled Witch hazel, which although quite astringent is very refreshing and I love the smell.  I can't wait to get back to using it again.

My current moisture fluid thankfully contains witch hazel, so I'm loving it at the moment.  It is a Tesco Moisturising fluid, again bought from Approved Foods. (I'm still using up a past stockpile, but am almost finished using everything up). It is a serum like fluid which leaves my skin feeling fresh and not greasy.

I've only been moisturising regularly for the past couple of years, as I didn't like the feel of creams on my skin when I was younger, but more recently I find I can tolerate quite a variety of moisturisers, where I couldn't before.  It could be the onslaught of ageing that has made me more conscious of the need to moisturise, or maybe just that the products available are much improved.  I have found though, that moisturising has made a difference to my skin and I get less blemishes and less dry skin in the winter now which is good.

My last beauty application aside from makeup, is hand cream which I apply once daily, in a morning. I'm not religious about re-applying it after every hand wash or before bed, which perhaps I should be and I might try to use it more often or leave some by the kitchen sink for use after hand washing to encourage me. Occasionally, if I go into a 'smart loo' I might add hand cream if it's there, but otherwise I rarely reapply it, despite carrying it in my handbag.

Finally, my make up routine, is also very simple.

For daily use I simply apply a tinted moisturiser or BB cream, currently Garnier, but I'm not liking their BB cream as the colour match isn't great, the feel on my skin isn't pleasing and it has no SPF. Frankly, I'm looking forward to using my beloved Nivea Tinted Moisturiser again when I've finished it.  I don't do foundations any more, as I find them a bit heavy and I feel too made up, so these lighter options suit me well. Problem is, I just can't throw away part used products (unless I have an extreme reaction) and have to use them until they are empty. (Must be my frugal tendencies).

I'm certainly not one for having lots of part used items in my bathroom.  I keep it simple with just one of everything we use and then replace them when they're almost finished. (Our bathroom is very small, so less is definitely best).  I may have the odd part-used travel option lying around, i.e. shampoo/conditioner, for use when we go away, but otherwise I like to only give houseroom to things that get used pretty regularly.

Anyway, I digress, BB Cream, Boots 17 concealer, mascara on eyebrows and on lashes on those days when I'm not at the gym (+ liquid eyeliner in brown if going out for the evening), lipstick, perfume and voila, I'm ready to go.

I am thinking of changing a few things that I do currently, as a consequence of tips I've picked up on YouTube.  The main things I'm considering are as follows:

1)  Using a brush to apply BB creams and concealers to see if it helps them blend better and get a smoother look.

2)  Investing in a lip primer to get more wear out of my lipstick applications.

3)  Finding a nail strengthener.  My nails split terribly, more so when I use varnish on them and I do like to varnish them from time to time especially if I'm going out somewhere.

4)  Purchasing a couple more colours of eyeliner, possibly green/grey and navy pencils, just to add a bit of variation, but nothing too extravagant.

5)  Finally, I do want to try out new to me brands of some products i.e. volumising mascaras, facial washes/cleansers, moisturisers, concealers and see if I can get improved results or just treat myself to better products from time to time.

Unlike in the bathroom, in my bedroom there are quite a few old and part used make up products kicking around that need a good sort through.  This week, I'm looking to clean the beauty station in my bedroom, as part of my bedroom blitz and I'm planning to get ruthless with any old makeup I've kept from years ago, but never use.  Out with the old and in with new.  I'll keep you posted with how I get on.  I can see some things finally getting thrown out once and for all.

What's your beauty routine like?  Do you like to change it up from time to time?  Where to you get inspiration for purchases?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Digging the Vlogging Vibe

In the last couple of weeks  I've found myself a new obsession.  It was probably borne of trying to distract myself from getting on with my tax return and other important paperwork that needed attending to, but I am often guilty of such subterfuge and self delusion.

Anyway,  as I said I've acquired a new obsession, which is watching YouTube vlogs or video channels.  It started after we bought my daughter Loella's new book 'Girl Online' for Christmas, which she really enjoyed reading.  Now I know that there has been some controversy over this book, as it was supposedly ghost written, but any book that gets my daughter reading, and more to the point enjoying it,  has to have something going for it, regardless of how it was written and marketed, so I'm certainly not going to criticise.  Besides, I'm a live and let live kind of girl at heart and who am I to pass judgement on anyone else.

As a consequence of the above, the whole vlogging thing kind of aroused my curiosity and the fact that I've read and heard a few things in newspapers and on the radio about the popularity of some of this young generation of vloggers. I decided to take a look at Loella's vlog myself.  I must admit that I kind of enjoyed watching her. She's sweet, pretty, cute and quirky and I find her very entertaining.  I can perfectly understand why she has 7 million viewers of her videos on YouTube.

Having dipped my toe in the vlogging scene, I decided to probe further and seek out a few more vloggers who were worth watching, and I must admit I've become a bit obsessed in the past week or so. I know this obsession will settle down, it always does, and I may even get over it entirely.

What I like about the vlogging community, is that it is slightly more animated and three dimensional as opposed to the two dimensional format of blogging. (Please note that I still love blogging above all else and don't intend to stop writing or reading).  In addition, vloggers tend to post once a week, with videos which are around 10 to 15  minutes long or thereabouts, so it doesn't really involve that much time, once you've stopped watching their back catalogue that is.

I must admit that most of the vloggers I've come across so far are quite a lot younger than me, have a heavy bias toward beauty and fashion vlogging, and are very pretty and girly.  This hasn't, however, stopped me enjoying their work.

Here's a list of my favourites thus far.  Check these out on YouTube if you get the chance or are in the slightest interested. (These may be subject to change over time)

1)      Diaryofaspendaholic (surprise, surprise, that I would like a vlog of this name!) - Mikhaila (I think) vlogs  on this channel.  She's around 29 years of age with two children and I find her videos very down to earth. She says what she thinks about the products she reviews, which is quite refreshing and the content is mixed, fashion, beauty, home, everyday stuff.  Very watchable.

2)     Fleurdeforce (this links to her blog but if you search her name on YouTube you will find her videos) - another beauty/fashion/home vlogger.  Very polished, dog lover, but also very watchable.

3)     Zoella - Beauty is the main focus of this channel, but Zoella also vlogs on MoreZoella about fashion, home, friends and her life with boyfriend Alfie Deyes of the Pointless vlog.

4)    Sprinkle of Glitter - Zoella's friend Louise, who is a mum of one and blogs about fashion and beauty and other things on this channel.  Also very sweet, good hearted, down to earth and very watchable.

5)    NiomiSmart - Niomi too vlogs about beauty, lifestyle and fashion, but I find with a slightly healthier, alternative vibe.  She seems to be into organic products, juicing and a healthy lifestyle.

Many of these vloggers are well known to each other as well as within the YouTube community, and they often collaborate on videos and socialise together, which can give the impression of cliquishness, (this can be the case amongst bloggers too, might I add), albeit in a very good natured way. I, personally, tend not to watch the videos of  all the ins and outs of their relationships, and tend instead to just enjoy the individual videos on subjects that interest me personally.

One thing I quite like about most of these vlogs is that they all do regular hauls, whereby they vlog about what they have bought on recent shopping trips.  This may not appeal at all to many people who are not interested in shopping, but I quite enjoy it.  It can be a treat if you yourself are not going shopping due to financial constraints, as you can live vicariously through their videos, without spending any money at all.  (Very frugal!)

What I really like about these vloggers is their confidence and entrepreneurial spirit.  Yes, they do sponsored videos and yes, they are often plugging things they are sent to review, but good for them that they are putting themselves out there and making a living for themselves. (Even if sometimes I think they are possibly exploited and manipulated in the process). I personally am finding their vlogs quite informative on some subjects, such as beauty products, of which I have very little knowledge.

For the moment these are the main vlogs I have been watching.  I haven't yet found any that are created by people nearer my own age and circumstances.  If you know of any that are worth watching and following, please let me know and I'll check them out.

Thursday, 22 January 2015


January, this year, has been a month of procrastination.  Doing anything other than what I should really be doing. Yes, you've guessed, my tax return.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who invariably leaves it until the deadline is looming. Having put it off and put it off, for three weeks now, with just over a week left to file it, I have finally got my head down and done the work necessary to complete it.

It's not like I haven't had the time, as things have been quiet on the business front this January, it's just that I've been consciously and subconsciously avoiding it, for as long as I possibly could.  This week, however, it was starting to weigh more heavily on my mind (hence the shopping binge I think) and preventing me from doing anything at all, so I forced myself to get started.

Don't get me wrong, filing my tax return isn't a particularly onerous task, it's just that I really don't like any kind of form filling. Passport applications and other such official documentation also get the same treatment from me.  They usually get completed at the last possible moment. I sometimes wonder how I've managed not to create more problems for myself, as a consequence of this approach.

Every year I vow to file it earlier, but more often than not I still leave it until the last week or so. I did organise much of the paperwork and make many of the calculations earlier in the year, which was a distinct improvement, and did help me to complete it fairly swiftly, but I could do better.

The feeling when the job is done is one of complete and utter relief and liberation. Well, it would be, but I still have some National Insurance issues and other official paperwork to do this week, that I've also been avoiding.  I suppose life can't always be about doing the nice, fun things.

If anyone out there still has to file theirs, I can empathize.

Is there anything that you really hate doing?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A Bit of a Blip

Today, a bit of a blip occurred with regard to my aim this year to buy better, buy less with regard to clothes, shoes, etc. On an errand to the Post Office, I just happened to pop into Clarks on our local high street, ostensibly to see if they had any knee high boots on their sale rack. I'd bought my previous pair from here 5 or so years ago and I'm coming to the point where I need a new pair.  I wasn't necessarily looking to buy any at that moment in time, I just wanted to take a look. Big mistake!  I ended up buying a new pair of shoes. This pair to be exact.

At £24.99 these Teal suede fringed brogues just had to come home with me.  I've admired this style of shoe for a while, even contemplating making leather fringes to put on my own tan brogues, so when I saw these for sale at such a good price, I'm afraid the temptation was too strong.  Although not on my capsule wardrobe list, they are a lovely addition to my wardrobe and are very comfortable. I can see them becoming a firm favourite.

If this had been my only misdemeanor, it might not have been so bad, but I also snook into Primark to take a look at their new season items.  I'd say it was a mistake, but I don't honestly think it was, it felt more like kismet.  I was instantly drawn to this lovely oversized cocoon style black longer length jacket/blazer.

Now, a new blazer/lighter weight jacket was most definitely on my capsule wardrobe list and I've been looking for one for a long time now, so I don't regret this purchase at all. I love it's very simple design and I particularly like the collar which can be worn flat or folded back and the lovely deep patch pockets on the front.  At £23 it isn't really an example of buying better, buying less, but I'm really pleased I did buy it and I can't wait for the weather to get a little warmer so I can wear it.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Spoil Myself Sunday

Today, has been a day of doing very little, with just a hint of pampering thrown in for good measure. I did my usual morning dog walk, followed by attending my toughest exercise class of the week. Once home, we all had a stroll up to the market up the road, for the first time in months, and bought a few food items for lunch.

The afternoon was whiled away reading the Sunday papers and catching up on reading blog posts, followed by an impromptu mini pamper session, which, by the way, was long over due.

I very rarely have a long soak in the bath, but today, I just fancied one.  I few beautifying tasks were undertaken, including painting my toenails for the first time in months.  I've given up on painting my fingernails, as they can no longer take it and immediately start splitting.  I'm considering using a nail strengthener to build them up, so that I can start to wear varnish again at some point in the future. (Any suggestions or advice on this point will be gratefully received)

I put on some lovely slouchy clothes and a brand new roasty pair of bamboo socks I received for Christmas. Here they are in a lovely deep pink colour.

I was given quite a few pairs of lovely socks this year and I'm enjoying wearing them.  My sock drawer has had a cull as a consequence.  I'm really starting to realise that it is these small things in life that make all the difference.

We ended the evening, fire blazing, bowl of nuts in shells left over from Christmas and favourite tipple in hand (no dry January here), catching up on a couple of episodes of a new to us BBC 4 French police drama called Spiral. We missed it last night on account of our visit to the cinema to see The Theory of Everything.  Incidentally, it was a really good film, which I would heartily recommend.

Hoping you've had a lovely Sunday.

Project Bedroom Blitz Underway

One afternoon last week, I decided to make an early start on my aim of blitzing and deep cleaning our bedroom.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is a bit of a mess and has been left for a while, so it was long overdue.

I decided to start with cleaning probably the most difficult corner by my bed. The clutter here is the last thing I see when I go to bed at night and the first thing I see when I wake in a morning, so I figured that by starting there, it would give my mornings a definite boost.
(It did, after a couple of restless nights, I slept very soundly that night).

This part of the room is difficult, not only because of the mess, but because of the height of the shelves and the amount of books and other things on them. I intended to remove everything shelf by shelf, dust it, clean the shelves and rearrange things a little to accommodate most of the pile of books by my bed which are waiting to be read.  You can't tell from this photograph, but there are 3 shelves full of books on this side and the top two shelves of books haven't been completely removed and the shelves dusted for a number of years.

I got out the step ladders and got cracking, starting with the top shelf.  I must admit I was a bit ashamed when I saw how thick the layer of dust was on top of the books and behind them on the shelf. With a feather duster, a bowl of soapy water and a cloth, it didn't take long to get rid of all of the dirt, sift through the books, putting any I didn't want in the charity shop box and re-organise the shelves a little.

Thankfully, I managed to accommodate all of the books in the piles on the left hand side of this picture. Some of the books on the right hand side still remain there, but a few were removed and either donated or relocated to other bookshelves in the house.

It did feel good to get my books organised.  I had a good read of the back covers as I was doing this, to help me decide whether I still wanted to read them.  There was a whole heap of great books by some great authors on the top shelf waiting to be read; Iris Murdock, Anita Brookner, Fay Weldon, Mavis Cheek, Joanne Harris, plus loads more.  I decided to count how many unread books I actually have.  There were 90 in total. Completely ridiculous. It will take me years to read them. Note to self: YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY ANY MORE BOOKS THIS YEAR (or for several years for that matter!)

After tackling the shelves, I had to tackle the other bits and pieces below that needed sorting and re-homing. Carrying out this task inevitably has led me to uncover more tasks that I need to complete. The main one being, to sort out my photos and albums which are kept in the wicker hampers.  I had a good look  through the hampers and pulled out all the albums that are only partially filled, all the photo frames that need a picture putting in them, and all the loose photos that need both sorting and re-homing in the frames and albums.  I've put them all aside in a large bag, so that I can take them downstairs and do this task at my leisure, probably in front of the TV of an evening.

I've avoided this task for a while, as I find it quite emotional going through them all.  I must admit, looking at them today brought back some memories.  I might get little Bird to help me, as she hasn't seen many of them, which is good motivation to get them out and get working on them.

When I'd finally finished pulling everything out of this corner, cleaning the floor and skirting and then putting everything back, it felt very good indeed.  I may be just a small way around the bedroom, but it felt like a big achievement to have tackled this particular job.

Here's a photo of how the corner looks now:

Not a whole lot different to the reader perhaps, but to me it is like a whole new start.  I'll keep you posted on the rest of my progress in this room as I make it.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Saturday at Home

This Saturday, I spent the day at home, pottering about doing odd jobs.  It's not unusual for me to spend the day like this, in fact it's one of my favourite ways to spend my time.

Today, I finally got to see the bottom of both the laundry AND ironing basket.  The massive heap, that had been boring into my back as I sit at the laptop in the kitchen, has been ironed and put away. Likewise, I can now see wicker when I look into the laundry basket, instead of another heap.  I know it won't stay that way for long, but after a month of being behind on my laundry, it feels great to get on top of it for once.

Another very small, but significant thing I did today, was to sort out my knicker drawer. I  know, way too much information, but for a while now I've been promising myself I would do it, and have just never bothered to. Well, today, whilst putting away the laundry, I finally did.  Any tired looking pants and or lace pants with holes in (that aren't supposed to be there!) were happily thrown in the bin.  No more scruffy looking knickers for me. Hooray. I may have to indulge in a few more pairs in the near future, but needs must.

I started a new small project last night, namely a happiness jar.  I write on a piece of paper one thing that has made me happy each day and pop it in the jar.  At the end of the year, or whenever I'm feeling a bit low I can pick one out and remind myself of what has made me happy this year. It's an idea I got from a lovely new to me 40+ fashion blog I've started reading, called Delilah's blog has a lovely positive vibe and she's a very stylish lady.

Whilst I tackled the ironing inside, OH got busy sweeping up the leaves front and back outside, so all is now tidy and clear.  He also finally got around to putting the Christmas bags back in the loft, clearing lots of lovely space in my sewing room. I now just have to take a whole heap of things I've collated so far for the charity shop, to clear the rest of the space in there.

Floors were swept, toilet cleaned, dishes washed, dog walked and tonight we're belatedly celebrating Little Bird's birthday with supper out and a night at the cinema. (She's having a small party in a few weeks time.)

Hope you've all had a good Saturday.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Worth A Listen

This morning as I was getting ready to take the dog out for our usual walk, I got listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4.  For any of you that don't know, it is a radio programme that asks a famous or accomplished person to play their favourite tracks, in between more or less giving an abbreviated account of their life story so far.

It's a long running series on Radio 4 and the participants have to say what they would take to a desert island with them if given the chance to take one book, one piece of music and one other luxury item. (Aside from the bible or other religious text and a copy of the full works of Shakespeare, which they are given automatically).

I often miss this programme, as it tends to be on whilst I'm out walking the dog, but today I did something I never normally do, which is take my earphones and listened to it on the walk, because it was so inspirational.

Today's participant was Jo Malone, creator of the famous beauty brand. Her story and choice of tracks was so compelling and emotive, I was almost in tears at various points during the programme.

If you get a chance, listen to this programme, about a very remarkable woman.

Here's the link  -

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A New Knitting Project

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm a very basic knitter, but not to be put off, I still knit and try to make the odd simple item from time to time.  Today, I've started on a new very simple project, to make another knitted scarf or snood (not decided which it is going to be yet).

The wool I'm using was purchased from John Lewis at the weekend.  I couldn't believe my luck when I saw it.  It's a 200g ball of Patons Big Fab Super Chunky in pea green.

Maybe not a colour everyone would choose, but I do have a penchant for a bit of bright green here and there, especially when the weather outside is as grey and blustery as it is at present.  I don't even know if it is acrylic, or wool, I suspect the former, but regardless, the best thing about it, aside from the wonderfully zingy colour, was the sale price - £1.58. (Please note the ball looks quite small in the photo - it isn't)

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to get started with it and using 7mm vintage plastic needles from my collection.  I cast on 15 stitches and am knitting this in a simple garter stitch.  I've been knitting this as I watched videos on YouTube and read blog posts, which has made it very enjoyable thus far. Here's how it is taking shape.  The stitches are quite tight using this size of needle, but I'm happy with the effect.  Simple, but snugly.

I have a special reason for buying and wanting to make something in this colour, which I will reveal a little later, possibly when it has been completed.

If I don't have enough wool on this ball, I do have another 200g ball of Patons Big Fab Super Chunky in Delphinium blue, so this may become a colour block scarf, which would make it slightly more interesting, I must admit.  I'll keep you posted.

Who says 'blue and green should never be seen'?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A Fashion Discovery

The other night, I made a bit of a new discovery to myself, not that it is probably anything new to anyone else, but I finally got around to checking out, an online fashion site.

I've often seen them credited in magazines and blogs as the source of different items of clothing, but had never actually ventured onto the site myself.  A few days ago, prompted by seeing someone return something to them at the Post Office, I did just that and was very pleasantly surprised indeed.

Although I'd say that the site is largely geared toward younger fashion fans, it does have a very good range of sizes and brands available, ranging from petite to plus size ranges, with tall, maternity and curve ranges in between.  Despite being in my forties, I do like to try to dress with an eye to current trends and at the risk of being accused of dressing too young for my age, I did find lots of things I liked on this site.

Some of the big name brands on offer included Cath Kidston, Jack Wills, Birkenstock, Ultimo, Has Beens, Converse, Nike, Whistles, River Island, plus hundreds of others. The choice was quite phenomenal, and I really liked many of their own brand designs, hence why it took me an age to look through some of the categories.  I persevered though, as I didn't want to miss any great bargains in their sale, which is still running.

On my first visit I didn't go too mad, but I did order a few t-shirts that are on my capsule wardrobe list.  Delivery is free, if you spend over £20, which is great too.  

It will be very interesting to see how the quality and sizing pans out, but all being well, I can see me returning to this site in future, when I am looking for specific items of clothing or for gifts for other younger family members.

Be warned though that it is a very popular site and some things become sold out as you are on there looking.  In particular, one item I was looking at, went out of stock whilst I continued searching, which was very disappointing, but I persevered and kept going back to it, in case someone had put it in their basket and not actually bought it.   Lo and behold, it became available again and I was able to buy it.

I made use of the saved items facility where you can bookmark items you like and return to them if you later decide to buy them.  This was great, as it meant that I didn't have to keep going back and re-find items that had timed out of my basket (as they are only kept in your basket for 60 minutes at a time, which I didn't realise).

I found the easiest way to negotiate the site was to save everything I liked first and then go back, compare the options available and add final choices to my basket just before I was ready to pay for them.  You can, of course, risk something going out of stock completely, shopping this way.

I was also very impressed by the fact that the site delivers to hundreds of countries worldwide for free, providing a spending limit is reached.

I've passed this information on to my sister in Australia who has a very fashion conscious son, who can't always buy some brands over there.  I've not tested this aspect of their service, but if it does work well, then it is a fabulous bonus and would be a great place to buy gift vouchers for relatives living abroad.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Bedroom Blitz Revisited

About 18 months ago, I posted about how I was trying to declutter our bedroom, which had become a dumping ground for all kinds of things after we had our basement excavated into an office for OH a couple of years ago. There were piles of 'stuff' everywhere as you can see from the photo.

Although our bedroom is in nothing near the state it used to be in, it is still probably one of the worst rooms in the house for clutter and desperately needs a good overhaul. Here are some more recent pictures of it's hot spots.

The space next to my side of the bed is always a clutter hotspot and at the moment, desperately needs a good sort out.

OH's side of the bed is a little better, but there is still room for improvement, despite the fact that the shelves are looking a lot tidier.

My  beauty station (such as it is) also looks a little cluttered, but at least the pile of things in the other photo were either relocated or donated many months ago. 

The whole room is a lot more bearable as it stands presently, but not quite as clutter free as I would like it to be. My wardrobe challenge has partly been aimed at decluttering this room and making it more manageable, but there are still other areas where more can and needs to be done.

We are hoping to get some work done in there this year, namely single glazed windows replaced, ceiling and other damage repaired on account of the builders doing some extra work in the loft, and the floor evened out as it currently has a slope on it, which isn't ideal. We will sadly lose our lovely wooden floorboards as a result of the latter work, but will gain a nice cosy carpet, which should make it warmer, feel lovely underfoot and not gather quite as much dust as the wooden floors seem to do.

In readiness for this work whenever it does happen, I am going to be giving the room a thorough going over in the next couple of months and disposing of or donating anything I no longer wish to keep. Everything under the bed, in wardrobes, on top of wardrobes, in drawers, and on shelves will be gone through with a fine tooth comb.

It is long overdue I'm afraid, as I must admit that our room probably gets least attention in terms of cleaning than any other room in the house, mainly because when we have visitors every other room gets a thorough deep clean, but I never seem to have the time before their arrival to clean our room as well, so it generally gets left until I can stand it no longer and this is where I'm at with it at the moment.

Don't get me wrong, it is not unhygienically unclean, as I do periodically hoover and dust, but I haven't done so for a while and it is just very dusty on floors and surfaces and needs everything pulling out so that I can clean behind it. This will be done this year, as everything will have to come out for the floor to be corrected.

In the next few weeks I'm intending to get started with going through everything in there. It's quite a big challenge as there are things I've probably not gone through for quite a long time, many of which may have sentimental value to me, so I'm not expecting it to be an easy task. I'm just going to do my best and do what I can to clear as much as I can.

I'll post some results in a later blog post.

Monday, 12 January 2015

A Few Frugal Measures

On my blog list I follow quite a few frugal blogs and have always been interested in hearing how others try and succeed at living as frugally as possible. I try where I can to be frugal, but must admit that in the last year or two I have made a little less effort in this direction, partly due to having paid off my debts and having found that financially life has become a little easier from month to month. However, I still don't like to waste money, food, time, or anything else for that matter.  If something has life left in it and we can't use it, I'm always happy to donate it to a good cause and I still like to find bargains, of course, rather than paying full price for things, subject to availability that is.

Recently, I've taken to reading a few more new to me frugal blogs that I've found out about through other bloggers, one of which is The Non-Consumer Advocate blog.  It is written by Katy who regularly posts about the frugal measures she takes to manage on her budget.  A regular post that she does, is to list Five Frugal Things that she has done in a day or week or whatever period of time. It's a great idea and I have decided to do a similar post myself every now and again, where I talk about frugal outcomes I've managed to achieve in the past week or month.

This post is the first in the series, so here goes.  Since Christmas, I have.....

....bought all my individual Christmas cards, wrap, and a few presents in the sales, so that I don't need to spend more money than necessary on them next year. (I realise not everyone is able to do this, as if you don't have any room in your budget to buy ahead of time, this is impossible). Although it means a careful January and February, I always find this works for me and saves me having to buy these things at full cost in the lead up to Christmas.

....bought a couple of new items of clothing for Little Bird on eBay, (a wool mix winter pea coat and rain mac/parka for wetter weather) as she's recently outgrown her previous ones. Combined they cost less than £30. Both were a bit of a gamble, as sizing can be an issue when buying online, but they were both very nice quality, one a little large if anything (it can be grown into), and she seems happy to wear them, so I'm pretty happy with the outcome. I think I've not only saved money doing this, but I've also saved lots of time trudging around the shops with her, looking for suitable options.

....tried to be a little resourceful, in that, instead of buying myself a new pair of Hunter wellies, (these were on my Capsule Wardrobe list, as I've passed my old ones onto Little Bird, who had outgrown her own) I am using an old but sturdy and comfortable pair of green wellies I have had for a while. (They were found in the basement of our house when we moved in 7 years ago). To smarten them up a little and help them fit a little more snugly (they are a size too big), I have treated myself a bargain pair of Hunter cable wellie socks on eBay for £9 (RRP £28). This worked out much less expensive than buying a new pair of boots at £70+ per pair. I may consider buying a new pair next winter, but am trying to hold off for as long as I possibly can.

....I used a voucher I had from my My John Lewis loyalty scheme membership, to get a free cup of tea and a fresh cream scone whilst out shopping for clothes for Little Bird at the weekend.  It's always a treat to go and sit in their cafe and take a rest from the madness of the mall.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Running Totals

Following on from my post about my theme for this year being Keeping It Simple, I have decided to initiate a new method of recording my expenditure this year.

In previous years, I have noted every penny spent, dividing this into different areas of expenditure. I then created monthly totals and at the end of the year would collate the figures to provide yearly expenditure figures in the various areas.

When I was feeling particularly analytical, I would sometimes compare figures from one year to the next and see if I'd made any savings, but for the last year or so I haven't actually done anything with these figures.  This has rendered this process very wasteful of my time and not particularly useful in the long term.

I gave up on this way of recording my spending last year, as I suddenly became very bored of keeping these overly cumbersome records, after over 10 years of doing it this way. It was time for a change and for the latter part of last year, I didn't record my spending at all, thereby giving myself a complete break.

However, I do like to be able to compare spending year on year and it is interesting to see where and on what your money goes, so I've decided to devise a new simplified method this year.  I'm no longer particularly interested in recording food, pet care, cleaning and toiletry product expenditure.  We need what we need, I buy what we need and I don't think I'm particularly excessive in doing so.

I am still interested in keeping track of my expenditure on things like gifts, clothing and other house and garden items, so I'm going to keep track of just these areas of expenditure from now on, by keeping running totals of purchases. I'm hoping to use the information gathered to set myself  proper budgets for these areas in years to come and stick to them. (Hopefully).

I'm really looking forward to tracking these few areas, as it will be a lot less laborious than my previous system and expenditure on these items is a lot less frequent than the everyday stuff of life.   I am hoping to keep up to date and accurate records without it becoming too much of a chore, once I get into the new habit of it.  In addition, keeping track of expenditure in fewer areas, but putting the figures to good use, seems much more useful to me, than tracking lots of areas and doing nothing with the information.

Sometimes, less really is more.  Keeping It Simple in 2015.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Saturday Afternoon at the Mall

This afternoon, we took a trip to our local mall, just like hundreds of other people, including one of our neighbours I might add, who I spotted there and who like ourselves was probably checking out what I imagine will be the last weekend of the January sales.

We didn't really get a chance to go sale shopping proper over the holidays (I just visited a couple of local regional stores that we don't get here in London), so we  thought we'd catch the tail end of the sales, expecting it not to be quite so busy.

We definitely got that wrong, the mall was pretty full and there were lots of people out spending money and quite a bit of pushing and shoving in some of the stores, which I hate.  I never normally have to experience this, as I only usually ever go to the mall midweek mornings when it is quiet.  I find myself less and less tolerant of this kind of thing as I get older, so it wasn't a wholly enjoyable experience.

Another reason we went to the mall today, was that it is Little Bird's birthday next week and I'd promised to buy her a couple of items of clothing, which I wanted her to try on before I bought them. She also had some vouchers she'd been given as Christmas presents and wanted to spend some of them, which she duly did.

The shopping was broken up by tea and a scone in the John Lewis cafe, which helped us relax after the busyness of some of the shops and regain our equilibrium.  I can definitely appreciate the appeal of online shopping, the more real actual going to the shops I do, particularly at this time of year.
I've had some very poor customer service in the last week, even just in the course of my weekly food shop and was beginning to think that all shops were becoming no go areas. John Lewis did kind of restore my faith the whole shopping thing, but even there there were a couple of things I found a bit irritating. Like who leaves their rubbish in the plastic shopping baskets? - Extremely lazy people, I can only assume. I had to search through 3 baskets to find an empty one to put my shopping into and then I had to take some rubbish I was prepared to touch out of it, to empty it. (There were some items of rubbish I just wasn't going to touch i.e. a used latex glove!)

Anyway, I managed to find a new Kingsize duvet for our bed in the John Lewis' sale which was pleasing as it was on my list of needs, and it wasn't one I'd seen online. Other than that, I just bought a few basic inexpensive new plates and dishes that we also needed, so I didn't go too mad.

I did try on a beautiful Phase Eight skirt, that I'd been eyeing on their website for weeks in the sale. I was possibly going to add it to my capsule wardrobe, but I found it didn't quite suit me, so my fantasy of having it hanging in my wardrobe was dashed by a strong dose of reality. Probably not a bad thing when I considered the cost of it. At least now I know that it was never meant to be and can put the yearning to rest.

Hopefully, we won't feel compelled to do this again for a good while. I the more sensible of you had a much more relaxing Saturday afternoon.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Keeping it Simple

Blog reading in the first week of this year and I've noticed that several bloggers like to give themselves a theme to work towards for the year ahead. I've decided to do something similar myself this year, and this year's theme I've decided, is 'Keeping It Simple'.

It has occurred to me recently, that in the past I've done certain things in my everyday life, in ways that were perhaps overly complicated and cumbersome and this year I'm aiming to sweep away the complications and make life simple. No more debts, complicated financial records, disparate wardrobe contents, cluttered living spaces, overly excessive spending habits and too ambitious blog challenges. Why don't I just make life easier for myself? So, that is what I'm doing in 2015.

The last two years of blogging and blog reading have been really instrumental in my getting to this point, (N.B. Thank you to all you inspiring bloggers out there, you know who you are.) as during this time, I've read many, many inspiring blog posts, which have given me ideas of how I can do things differently and more simply.  I've also been inspired to incorporate various challenges into my blogging, that have helped me to pay off almost all of my debts (save for the mortgage) and get to a point where simpler living is possible. Having created for myself a little more financial and mental freedom, I am hoping to use this to facilitate simplification in ways I've considered before.

Sometimes in life, you do things because you've always done them, and have never really stopped and reflected on why you do them or the way that you do them or whether they could be done differently. In the last two years I've really started to question why and how I've done certain things and I've realised that some of my habits or ways of doing things haven't necessarily been useful ones, so I've tried to curb them or change them. It's been difficult at times and it remains so, but I have made progress in some areas.  We all need a change sometimes, so as not to get stuck into a rut or continue down a path that isn't bringing about positive benefits and sometimes simple small changes can actually breathe new fresh life into areas of our lives that have become very stagnant, stifling and self defeating.

So, 2015 for me, is going to be all about making changes that help me in my goal of 'Keeping it Simple' and where possible I'll be tailoring some of my blog posts to this theme.

Hopefully, it should be an interesting year!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Reducing Waste

I've always been a bit opposed to waste in any form, be it food, time or anything else and for the past year I've thought about and attempted to reduce our household waste as much as possible; composting, reusing, recycling and donating as much as I possibly can. For this year, however, I've decided to get a bit more serious about it, as previously my attempts have been somewhat half-hearted.

For example, I'm not sure how successful I was last year in reducing waste, mainly because I didn't have a benchmark to measure against, having never actually counted up how many bags of rubbish we throw out in a year.

This year, I'm attempting to reduce waste again, so I have decided that it's time I kept a record of our weekly waste, i.e. how many bags we throw out in any one week, be they refuse or recycling and to that end I've started a waste diary.  As a consequence, from next year at least, I will definitely be able to tell if I've managed to reduced our waste or not, in a measurable way.

As we still have our refuse collected in black bin bags and recycling in green polythene bags, it is quite easy to keep a tally of our waste by noting down how many full or half bags we dispose of each week.  In addition to keeping a note of how many bags, I'll be marking down next to each entry the reasons for the same, where obvious, so if I have a mass decluttering session one week, it is noted down, or if there is lots of recycling due to birthday or Xmas wrapping or packaging from a specific delivery, then this is noted down too. This should help me to see where and when we tend to build up the most waste and work on those times and situations in order to reduce it.

I'd like to get our general refuse down to half a black bag each week if possible, and although I know I won't be able to achieve this every week, it will be interesting to see just how many weeks in the year that I do reach this target.  Small, but important steps towards my yearly goal.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Resuming Normal Routines

This week is the week when normality descends once again after the Christmas and New Year break and to be honest I'm thankful for it. It felt strange yesterday afternoon when I returned from the gym, Little Bird was back at school, OH out on an appointment and for the first time in quite a while the house was quiet, with just me in it.  I almost didn't know what to do with myself, so out of my routine was I.

Luckily I had a bit of work to do posting out some parcels, which kept me busy, as did a bit of blog reading and writing, and then before I knew it everyone was home again. I did secretly quite enjoy the quietness that descended for a couple of hours.  I'm easing myself into the New Year gently. That's my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it.

Today, is my first full day to do as I please and get on with things.  Nowhere to go, save for a bit of food shopping I need to do and a dog walk.  I've got a long list of jobs that need tackling, mostly paperwork, ironing and taking down the decorations, of course.  Why is it that there is always one or two decorations that you overlook and don't discover until the bags have been returned to the loft?  It happens every year.  Must try to make sure it doesn't this year, but I'm sure it will.  Call me a little strange, but I'm quite looking forward to the house feeling and looking a little bare.

I enjoyed the first episode of the new series of Broadchurch last night.  Sounds like it might be good. This winter we've got Netflix again and are soon to embark on watching Orange is the New Black back to back most evenings for the next month.  I'm looking forward to it and hoping I'll enjoy the series. I might even find myself getting my quilting out for the duration.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Creating a Capsule Wardrobe - Part 1

One of my aims both in 2014 and for 2015, has been/is to create a capsule wardrobe, one that contains only clothes that I truly enjoy wearing.  No more throwing something on in the morning that will do, but instead wearing clothes that make me feel and look as good as I can every day, even when the only place I'm going is the gym.

Over the past few years, I've noticed that many of the things in my wardrobe have become faded and tired or have gone unworn from one season to the next.  I have been reluctant to part with these items, just in case I might still wear them, but as time has passed and they've remained unworn, I've realised that many of them are really no longer worth keeping, so I've been gradually giving them away to the charity shop over the last six months.  It has been good to let go of these items, as it has substantially reduced the amount of clothes I own and in turn has allowed me to see exactly what I have in my wardrobe that I do like and wear regularly.

This has been really important in the process of creating a capsule wardrobe, as it has enabled me to see the gaps that need filling.  As a consequence of this, I was able to sit down and compile a list of things I wanted to own, to create the kind of wardrobe I could be happy with.  The list looked something like this:

smart winter coat that I enjoy wearing*
smart black ankle boots #
smart black shoes to wear with a skirt
small handbag to match most outfits (for those days when I want to travel light)
white/striped*/print shirt
new pair of tan brogues #
knee boots (black or brown)
smart gloves*
medium/light weight jacket or blazer
print skirt
plain black pencil skirt*
other skirts x 2*
plain black trousers*
flattering jeans
print dress
navy suede shoes*
skinny leather belt
short sleeved t-shirts x 3*
long sleeved t-shirts x 3
charcoal top*
charcoal sweater
wellington boots

* items already purchased
# items received as a gift

As you can see from the above list, many of the items I needed for my capsule wardrobe have already been bought or gifted to me.  Most were bought quite inexpensively whilst on sale from a favourite website LaRedoute, a French mail order company, but some others have been bought elsewhere at low or reduced prices.

There are still quite a few items that I need to source. Several are slightly more expensive items, where I want to buy reasonably good quality that will last, such as shoes, boots, bag, jacket or jeans. Others, however, are potentially much less expensive, i.e. t-shirts, shirts, sweater and a belt and I will be looking out for all of these items over the course of the coming year, as and when I have the funds available.

The most expensive items acquired so far have been my winter coat, new tan brogues and biker boots.

The latter two were bought for me as gifts from OH and the former I bought myself, but I am very happy with all of them and have been wearing them quite a lot so far this winter.  I'm trying not to wear the coat too much, and certainly not for the gym, as I'm trying to keep it for best and for days or evenings out.

Of the remainder of the items already bought thus far, the most expensive item has been this pair of navy suede Fitflop shoes bought for £25.  I've wanted to try a pair for a while now and have only ever seen them on sale for £50-70 or more, so I was really pleased to get them for this price.  I've not actually worn them yet and will probably do so more in the spring and summer, but they are very comfortable and co-ordinate well with quite a few of my spring/summer clothes.

All of the remaining items already bought have cost quite a bit less than these items and I will post some more photos of some of the less expensive items in my next capsule wardrobe post. (Many of them are currently in the laundry having been worn over the festive period).

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A Productive Saturday

Yesterday, was probably my first productive day of this year, in that I got caught up on quite a few tasks that have been neglected over the festive period.  First on the list was doing a bit of online banking and checking up on my expenditure over Christmas and New Year, as I hadn't had access to my account whilst on our travels.  It felt good to be able to pay a few bills, check off receipts of money I'd spent whilst we were away and calculate my budget for the remainder of the month.  It wasn't quite as desperate a picture as I'd imagined, so I'm hoping I can stay within it.

I managed to post a birthday present off to Australia for my nephew. The card will have to go on Monday, as they didn't have one suitable for a male, so it might be a little late. Alternatively, I might need to revert to my Moonpig account and send a card via their website.  I also had a few parcels to send off to customers of my small business, as I had sold several things over Christmas and New Year, which was a good start.  It feels strange to get back to it, after nearly 3 weeks away.

One thing I did do today, was to pay some money onto Little Bird's school lunch account and order some new items of school uniform. Unfortunately, a couple of items had either got damaged beyond repair, had acquired stains that were impossible to remove or had mysteriously disappeared (only to reappear later in the day, despite my having thoroughly searched  for them and given up!)  I wasn't best pleased at having to order more, but sometimes you've just got to swallow the cost and get on with it, to make sure they turn up at school looking presentable. At least once I've ironed her existing school uniform tonight, I know she will be all set to go back and throw herself into a busy new term.

Following this, after lunch I had promised Little Bird that I would help her go through her bedroom and have a thoroughly good clear out, ready for the year ahead.  In so doing, we managed to collate a huge pile of things to take to the charity shop next week. Since we last did this job, both of us have become happier to let go of more things that were no longer used or played with.  Some things, however, we still couldn't quite part with for sentimental reasons, but progress was made.

I can't deny that this particular activity was partly motivated by my 'Get tough with stuff' challenge for 2015 and it has already  helped me meet my target for this month, when combined with some things I put aside before Christmas to go to the charity shop. My other motivation was finding room to store all the new items she has received for Christmas and is yet to receive for her birthday later this month. December and January are quite accumulative months in this household as far as Little Bird is concerned, although I am getting better at buying her less but better quality as she gets older, which helps.

In the process of our clear out, poor Little Bird's wardrobe has now been decimated and is looking very bare. In addition to creating my own capsule wardrobe this year, I need to buy her some new clothes, as she has grown out of the majority of the ones she had.  It really is a priority in the next few months.

We managed to get part way through the clear out, which took us about 3 hours, before we both started feeling too overwhelmed to continue. We'll be resuming and hopefully completing the job today.  I do need to find a new storage solution for her crafting equipment, of which she has lots, as she's quite a creative child and is always finding new crafts and activities to get involved in. I'm hoping to find a small inexpensive set of drawers to keep it all organised and off her desk top, where it is currently preventing her from using the space for her homework.  I can't wait to get the job completed and for her have a much better organised space to enjoy.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

On Your Marks, Get Set, Go

Yesterday, it was back to the gym for my first class of the New Year. After 10 days of sitting around at home and in other peoples' homes, it was great to get back to exercise and get moving again.  No matter how much I promise myself that I'll get out for brisk walks etc. over the festive period, all I tend to do is stay where it is warm and cosy, move very little and eat a lot.  (I did check out  the local classes online whilst away, but unfortunately there weren't any that appealed over the festive period!) Thankfully, this year I didn't overindulge as much as usual and only a few pounds crept on. Hopefully, they won't stick around for long.

Getting back to my normal exercise regime is always something that I look forward to, despite the usual frustrations relating to customer service that I seem to be experiencing at my local gym lately, which I won't go into here.  After I'd finished my first class back, it almost felt like I'd never been away.  I've now got all my classes booked up for the week and am raring to go.

I've not made any resolutions to lose weight this year.  I wanted to lose a stone last year and ended up putting half of one on, then spending the rest of the year trying to lose it again.  No such rash promises from me this year.  I'm going to take it a day, week, month at a time and just do what I do, try to eat a bit more healthily and in less quantity if possible and see what happens.  A far more realistic approach for me.

Talking of food, I'm enjoying getting back to our normal diet. All the uneaten chocolates and biscuits we were bought at Christmas have been put out of sight so as not to tempt us too much into eating more than we need to.  I'm hoping to eek them out over the next month or so, as there aren't too many of them left thankfully.  I can't actually promise that they won't disappear in a moment of weakness though.

I've done a weekly food shop, (never again on 2nd January - anyone would have thought the shops had been shut for a week.  In fact, I think they may have even been open on New Years Day this year) and have stocked up on fruit and low calorie snacks (rice cakes) for school and home, so that if the urge to have a nibble overtakes me, there's something reasonably healthy to hand.  I'm going to try to cut down on orders from Approved Food this year, not because I don't like or rate them as they provide a great service, but mainly because I order too much chocolate and end up having far too much food in the house.  I'm reverting to a buy just what you need policy this year to avoid unnecessary temptation.  If I can limit myself to only ordering reasonable amounts of store cupboard items, I will still place orders, but I do find this quite difficult when there are often lots of other treats to put in my basket.

Talking of temptation, I was very tempted to join in with Courtney Carver's Capsule Kitchen Challenge which started yesterday, where you simplify your food buying and menu planning, focusing on only 33 food products every 3 months (not including flavour boosters or ingredients you only use a spoonful of), but I don't think I can get our foods down to this number.  Besides which I didn't think it fair to inflict my predilection for blog challenges on the rest of the family.  It's a great idea though.  You can check it out on her blog, Be More With Less.