Saturday, 28 February 2015

A Frugal Food Week

It has been a very frugal food week here this week, which isn't unusual for the last week of the month.  I kept the food shopping down to the absolute minimum that I could get away with this week, so that it came within what was left of my budget for the month.

Consequently, I've had a few complaints from OH, as some of his essentials didn't get purchased, i.e. olives and cheese, but this was mainly because I didn't do my weekly shop at Lidl as I usually do.

We've managed okay though and at least everything in the fridge and cupboards is getting used and not being wasted, we haven't starved and it's not exactly been a hardship, as there's been a decent meal on the table each night. (Well, most) A roast chicken with vegetables, fish, chips and peas, chicken tikka and rice, and chicken fajitas thus far. Thursday night's meal was supposed to be meat pie and peas until the oven caused the electrics to trip out and pitch me into darkness and OH got stuck in gridlock traffic for 4 hours, whence it became beans on toast.

Friday night is always pizza night here, as I go to the gym for a 6pm class. I was hoping to last out until today before buying anymore food, but succumbed to the temptation to buy a few bits on the way back from the gym, as the cupboards were bare and we needed some bread and milk.

On the oven front, it seems that it has finally given up the ghost after just four years of service.  They don't make them like they used to do.  Consequently, it was fish and chips from the chippy and not pizza last night. Needless to say we will be looking for a new oven this weekend.

Regardless, it has been good to keep it simple in the food shopping department this week, even if it isn't by choice.  It makes you really take a closer look in your cupboards and use up things that you would otherwise overlook, not to mention the fact that it makes you appreciate the everyday things that you take for granted, such as a fruit bowl full of fruit or a choice of cereals for breakfast.  Do you sometimes have a really frugal food week from time to time, especially toward the end of the month?

Friday, 27 February 2015

Bedroom Blitz - Part 4

Well, it's now the final week of February and I was just over half way to completing the bedroom blitz that I promised myself I'd do in our bedroom this month.  This week's task was to tackle OH's side of the bedroom, which is looking horribly dusty and unkempt.  Here's a before picture of this side of the room.

I started with the bookshelves in the alcove.  Out came the stepladders again and the bowl of soapy water.  To his credit, OH's side of the room has a lot less stuff to clear and re-organise than my side, which did make the job a little easier.

Once the shelves were cleaned, the items on them put back, relocated to the donation pile/elsewhere or otherwise disposed of (I'm very careful about NOT disposing of OH's things these days, as he has never forgiven me for throwing out an old biscuit tin of his many years ago!), I then progressed to the chest of drawers below, which houses our t-shirts, sweaters, and sports gear.

I pulled the whole chest  of drawers out and cleaned behind it before going through it drawer by drawer. I don't think I've done this in quite a few years judging by the dirt there on the skirting boards.  I have, however, sorted through the drawers in recent months, so there wasn't too much that needed removing, but I did find a few bits that I had decided to let go of for one reason or another.

Having read on many blogs in recent weeks about Marie Kondo and her book, I decided take a peak at some of her videos on YouTube at the weekend and tried out some of her folding and organising methods whilst re-organising these drawers. Here's the finished results, which I have to admit is quite an improvement, in that I can see exactly what is there.

You could say that I've been well and truly Kondoed (excuse the pun!!).  I don't know how we all managed before she came along, banishing our bulging drawers. Although I am late to the party, I am nevertheless glad I came. Apart from being unable to fold one particularly thick jumper in the correct fashion, the rest was quite straightforward.

I would say that the only problem I find with this method, is that it actually creates space in your drawers, which in turn makes you want to go out and buy more things to fill it. (Only joking!)  I've yet to apply this method to OH's and Little Bird's drawers, but it is in the pipeline.

I have to admit that I do like Marie Kondo's idea of thanking the things you intend to donate or dispose of, for their contribution to your life. I often feel like that about things when I let them go. Pleased and grateful to have owned them for however long I've had them and for the service or value for money they've provided. This is probably why I have found it hard to let go of some things in the past. The time comes, however, when some things do need to be moved on and hopefully many of them can help to raise money for charity and serve a useful purpose for someone else who actually has a need of them.

Following on from the chest of drawers, the next job was to sort out the book case on this side of the room. I've had this solid pine book case for 25 years or so and it has spent time in several rooms in our house at one point or another, but seems to have settled here for the moment. It is almost becoming surplus to requirements these days, or it will be when I've read the stash of books on it, but until I completely no longer need it, I am keeping it and making use of it wherever I can.  I guess I do have a bit of a sentimental attachment to it and in any case it is a very solid piece of furniture, built to last. All it really needed was a good dust and polish, as I had reconfigured the shelves here when I cleaned my side of the bedroom in order. This whole side of  the bedroom didn't take long, but looked a lot better for it, although not much different if I'm honest.  I do just need to paint the edge of the middle shelf.   This shelf didn't fit too well, so I turned it around exposing the unpainted edge to get a better fit.

After hoovering and mopping the floor, the task was complete and now there is just the matter of the underneath of the bed to clean and re-organise.  (There's quite a bit stored under there).  If I can do this task this week I will, and therefore complete the whole blitz this month.  Alternatively, this job may have to carry over into March.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Getting Tough on Stuff in 2015 - February

At the beginning of the year, I decided to set myself the quite challenging task of decluttering and donating at least 1000 items from our home in 2015. January got me off to a great start and I managed to find 168 items to donate to the local charity shop.

As the month of February draws to a close I am pleased to announce that I've managed to find even more things this month, 178 to be exact, so my running total two months in is now 346 items.

This month, the items gathered for donation, came mostly from my wardrobe, some of the drawers in our bedroom, a thorough sort out of the book shelves in our bedroom and a declutter of the summer clothes storage bags, which I needed to get out on account of us going away for a week of winter sun.

I have to admit that some of the things that were donated due to having been grown out of, were subsequently replaced by new purchases, but not excessively so. There has still been a definite and noticeable reduction of items in our home and it feels great.

In addition to the donated items, some other items have finally left our home for good by way of waste disposal, namely an old small analogue TV and digibox that we didn't use and some old and damaged clothes/miscellaneous items.  I now have three bags and two boxes of donations to take to the charity shop and thereby clear some space in the spare room for next month's round of decluttering.

I didn't get around to listing the few things I intended on eBay. I may decide to just donate them after all next month, as they are currently just sat on the end of my bed awaiting action.

There may be a bit of a slowing off of items to donate from here on in, as the major areas that needed tackling have now been tackled.  I will, however, still persevere in pursuing the goal of 1000 items this year and will keep you posted on progress.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Catching Up

Today, has been all about catching up with chores. I began the day by trying to get on top of the laundry, getting back to the gym, and completing quite a few things from the to do list I made before we went away. (I didn't want to forget the things that still needed doing when I got back).

I sold a few things whilst we were away, so the first job on returning from the gym, was to parcel the items up and post them out along with a magazine that I needed to post to a friend and this month's credit card payment :(.

I was supposed to be going out to lunch with some girls from the gym, but when I got there this morning, I found that it had been postponed for a week.  In all honesty, this suited me rather well, as I can't really afford to do lunch again this month.  As a consequence, it left me plenty of time to get on with other things that needed doing at home.

I have to admit that I have been a little profligate in the finance department again this month, which will mean that the remainder of this month will be very quiet and uneventful, but I'm actually looking forward to this, as it will do me good to knuckle down and get on with other things that don't involve spending money.

As I've already done the weekly food shop, I don't really need to spend money on anything else this week, save for topping up on milk, bread and a few other bits later in the week.  I intend to use the time available to  me to get my house in order and continue with the bedroom blitz.  I'll keep you posted on progress.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Brrrr..............Back in Blighty

Well, after 6 days sunning ourselves in Tenerife where it was a lovely 20+ degrees centigrade every day, it was back to freezing cold England yesterday.  We were welcomed by a very light flurry of snow, which was a bit of a shock to the system.

The house felt particularly cold when we got home, but we soon got the wood burner going and it started to warm up.  It was lovely to see our little dog again though, who for once seemed quite pleased to have us home.  We miss her when we go away without her.

We did have a lovely week though and have returned feeling very relaxed and with a very slight tan. Just enough to give us a healthy glow. Our room was lovely, the hotel was clean and well run by very friendly and helpful staff and there were lots of activities available if you wanted to partake of them.

It was the first All Inclusive holiday that we've ever been on and I have to admit that it was mighty strange not needing to spend any money most days.  We did manage to go off site some days and do a little recreational shopping or activities, and spend the small amount of money we'd taken with us.

I think I would definitely do it again, as on account of not having to buy food, I came back with a new watch (£12) on the Ryanair flight out, a Pull and Bear sweater (£13) and clutch (£4.50 in the sale), a pair of black ball stud earrings (80p from a trip to a market), a Revlon Post Trauma nail strengthener (£3 from the market), 4 new pairs of pants (£4.50 also from the market - I usually buy these from markets in France, but was able to get some here too) and finally, I treated myself to a Gosh Eyebrow kit on the Ryanair flight home and I love it. A great holiday as far as I'm concerned and these were my souvenirs.

Most days were spent lounging by the pool, playing far too much Candy Crush/reading/swimming/sunbathing. One day was spent visiting a local market then relaxing on the beach on hired loungers, listening to some fabulous R&B and soul tracks emanating from the nearby beach bar. Felt like heaven. You can't go abroad without visiting the beach for at least one day now can you. OH managed to get in a couple of decent cycle rides up the mountainsides and he and Little Bird also visited a local water park which they loved.

The only downsides were that although the food was generally okay, there were days when I struggled to find something I wanted to eat for supper.  Our last day of sunning ourselves by the pool was dramatically curtailed when a poo was found in the water, causing the pool to be closed for the rest of the day for cleaning!!  The only other annoyance was the noise of the hot tub on our terrace, which we couldn't switch off and which kept me awake until 1 am on a couple of nights.  A hard life I know, but someone's got to do it.

Having said all that, we had a super time, and best of all I didn't put on a pound of weight which is rare when I go on holiday.  We even made a new discovery this trip, namely that the meet and greet car parking service at the airport is worth every penny of it's £10 cost, by both saving time and the need to get on a transfer bus to the car park. We'll definitely be using the service again on our next trip.

For now though, it's back to normality.  There's school uniform to iron and a meal to cook.  I hope you've all had a good week.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Bedroom Blitz Part 3.5

After part completing this week's task in my bedroom blitz, the remaining part of the task was completed on Friday.  It took another couple of hours, but this and a bowl of soapy water with a few drops of lavender oil in it to deter the moths, was all that I needed to complete the clean out the wardrobes.

I started with OH's wardrobe as there's less in it.  I found a few bits of mine in there and decided to let go of one coat that I know I'll never wear again.  There were also some old paint stained work clothes I'd hung onto for painting jobs, but when I tried them on they were so unflattering that I decided to throw them out. I've got plenty of things I'm thinking about throwing out in my own wardrobe, that I can use as work clothes.

I did hang onto one old pair of denim jeans.  These promptly had the legs cut off and are now denim shorts.  I got the idea from a lady at the gym who wears some cut offs in classes and they look great. I just need them to fray up a bit now and look a bit more lived in.  I'm taking them away with me and hoping to get some use out of them. The only downside I'd say they have, is that they are button fly, which is a bit annoying.  I'll see how I go with them.

Having cleaned out OH's wardrobe and replaced the sticky moth trap, I moved on to cleaning out my own wardrobe.  I did finally decided to donate a few more things that I've been umming and ahhing about for a while.  It was time for them to go. I filled another bag with all the things I found to donate, which was a good sign.

I'm now left with 31 items of clothing hanging in there for my winter wardrobe.  A few other things are in the wash or packed ready to go away, but I'm hoping that I can limit my clothes to using just 40 hangers in the wardrobe each season. This seems to me to be a comfortable amount for the size of the wardrobe and means there's no squashing up of the clothes causing unnecessary creasing.  I got the idea from a pin on Pinterest and it seemed a much more managable idea for me than Project 333, where you have just 33 items including shoes and accessories for every 3 month period.

I don't think I could realistically manage with just 33 items in total at the moment. I may move more towards this when I get my wardrobe exactly how I want it, if that is ever possible. I'm almost there. There's not much more I want to purchase save for a pair of black leather knee length boots and a new pair of skinny jeans in a dark indigo. I will probably wait until next autumn to buy the boots, unless, of course, I see any I like in a sale through the year.

There are a few things still in my wardrobe that I may donate in the near future.  Mainly some coloured skinny canvas jeans I bought the other year, but I am hanging onto them for now to see if I can get a bit more use out of them.  They weren't expensive, so I've probably got more than my money's worth out of them already, but they are looking a little faded and I'm liking them less and less as time goes on. They will probably eventually become reserved for outdoor activities such as gardening and going to the allotment, plus other messy jobs, such as cleaning and painting.  I think I may stick to black or indigo in the future, and keep it simple.

With both wardrobes cleaned and decluttered, I could finally tick this part of the bedroom blitz off my to do list.  Now I can turn my attention to the packing for the holiday.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Who Says You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks? - (Metaphorically speaking, of course)

Since starting to watch beauty and fashion vlogs on YouTube, I've been picking up lots of tips about beauty routines, healthy eating, best budget beauty and fashion buys, etc. etc.  All good stuff.  I like to know where I can get a bargain, or how to get a better end result with regards to applying makeup.

One thing I've noticed from all of the beauty channels, is that everyone seems to apply their foundation/concealer and also shape and apply products to their eyebrows using various makeup brushes. It had never really occurred to me that you could do this, so I thought that it might be nice to try it and see how it worked for me.

I didn't actually own any make up brushes, save for a few small sponges included in a couple of eye palettes. The reason for this is that I don't (or very rarely) wear blusher, powder or even eyeshadow, I just don't really have a need of them.  I didn't want to spend £10 or more to purchase the expensive branded brushes that many vloggers use, mainly because I didn't know if I would find them useful and in the end I didn't need to.

As a result of watching one particular vlogger, I became aware of a much cheaper range of brushes I could get on the high street. The vlogger in question had been to Primark and reported that they now sold very reasonably priced makeup brushes, that she found to work very well.

I made a mental note and when I was in Primark the other day, I found the brushes in question and indeed they were very nicely packaged, very reasonably priced and do seem to be quite good quality. I initially bought a double ended Foundation/Concealer Brush for £1.50.  I have used this brush a couple of times for applying concealer and I like it.  It does help blend it in nicely and moreover, is very useful for getting every bit of concealer out of the stick, which you can't easily do with your finger.  I haven't actually used the other end of the brush to apply my BB cream yet. I'm working my way up to it. Here's a picture of the brush and the worn down concealer.

Anyway, yesterday I was in our local Primark to exchange an item I had bought for Little Bird, and I decided to take another look at the makeup brushes.  I was looking to maybe buy a lip brush, but they didn't actually have one.  Instead, I did pick up a combined eyebrow & lash groomer brush and comb for £1.

As I regularly wear mascara on my eyebrows and lashes, I thought that this brush might be useful to give me a more groomed, long lashed look. I haven't actually used this brush yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so very soon and I'll let you know how I get on with it.

So, as the title suggests, who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.  I'm enjoying the new tricks I'm learning. Sometimes, we can actually learn a lot from the younger generation, who aren't scared to try new things and pass on their findings.

Next, I want to try and find myself a lip primer and see if it helps my lipstick stay on and last longer. I'll get back to you on that one.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Bedroom Blitz - Part 3

In order to keep up momentum on the long overdue deep clean of our bedroom, (that I promised myself I would undertake this February) I've been adding the cleaning of a different part of the room to my to do list each week.  Last week was the turn of the beauty station and this week it was time to turn my attention to the wall of wardrobes. Here's a before picture of what this wall looked like before I started on this task.

We have two wardrobes in our bedroom.  The original one was bought  from Habitat many years ago and is part of the same range as the tall boy chest of drawers, where I keep all my socks, underwear, etc. The second wardrobe we acquired later and although it is not from the same range, does match quite well with the room and is very useful as it allows OH and I to have a wardrobe each. No more arguing over shelf or hanging space, which makes for a very peaceful life, clotheswise at least.  In addition, the full length mirror is so useful for making sure I'm happy with my appearance each morning.

I must admit that a few of my lesser worn, bulkier items have made it into OH's wardrobe, but he doesn't seem to mind as he doesn't have that many clothes, and neither did the moths when they were found to be frequenting his wardrobe a while back.

Although I quite regularly go through my wardrobe and clear out the things I no longer wear or want to keep, and despite having cleaned out OH's wardrobe and thrown out lots of moth eaten things after the nasty moth infestation, I haven't properly cleaned inside, on top and behind the wardrobes for quite a while, so a lot of dust has gathered.

Today, I decided to make a start on banishing the dust, having a bit of a declutter and moving around some of the furniture.  The first thing I wanted to get rid of was the small TV on top of the chest of drawers. It's been there since we moved in seven years ago, but we haven't actually watched it for probably the last five years. This is in part due to the fact that it is an analogue TV, but also due to the fact that we don't get a good reception here as we have no aerial socket nearby, so we have given up on it altogether and it has sat gathering dust for ages.

To be honest, I don't actually want a TV in my bedroom any longer, as I never watch TV in bed, so I am quite happy not to be able to use it and although it still works and we could use it in conjunction with our old digibox, it is time to let it go and take it to the recycling plant. This will free up a bit of space to arrange a few other things on this surface instead and thin out another area.

I only had a couple of hours to do the task today, as I had to do the afternoon dog walk, so I started straight after lunch.  Luckily OH was around for a while, to help me move the wardrobes and chest, and I managed to clean behind and on top of each one, hoover, mop and polish the furniture with a beeswax furniture polish.  It felt so good to get rid of all that dirt that I just hadn't been able to reach.

I had a little move around, just for a change and because the chest was obscuring a socket.  In addition, the mirror part of the wardrobe door has swung back a couple of times onto the corner of the chest and I was worried it might break the mirror if this happened again with any force. Here's how the room looks now.

It doesn't look a whole lot different, but I know it's all lovely clean and I was able to put my costume jewellery box out on the chest top, instead of leaving it to languish in the bottom of the wardrobe.  I may add a candle or vase here too at some point in the future, if it looks okay.

I still need to clean the inside of the wardrobes, and possibly the chest of drawers, if it is needed, but that will have to wait until tomorrow, as time didn't allow me to do it today.

I'm now just about half way around the bedroom, just OH's side of the bed and underneath the bed left to do, and I am hoping to complete most of the blitz this month.  I may have to carry it over into the first week of March to complete the full room, (on account of us going away for a week) but with a bit of luck I'll keep to my schedule and get it done. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Monday Madness

Monday this week was a bit of a disaster.  I had planned to go out to lunch with a few girls from the gym after having done our classes. (We can shower and change at the gym - just thought I'd point this out). We did this just before Christmas and had a really nice time and decided to repeat the experience so a few more of the girls could come along.

Anyway, when we got to the gym the studio had just been painted and the paint fumes were still quite strong. As our instructor is pregnant, she couldn't work in such an environment, and it wasn't really good for the rest of us either, so the classes had to be cancelled.  In addition, one of the girls had completely forgotten about the lunch and couldn't therefore make it, so we agreed to reconvene in a couple of weeks time and do it then.

Not to be disappointed, my friend and I decided we would still go for lunch, just the two of us.  We had all our clothes with us to change into and so decided to head off to the same restaurant, but in a different location, which was at our local mall.

I had a few jobs to do whilst there, namely take an item back, do a bit of banking and buy a few toiletries from Boots, so I popped home first to get what was necessary, and by the time we got there and had done my few errands, we were able to sit down to a nice meal and a chat.  A bit later, we were joined by my friend's daughter which was lovely, as I'd not met her before and soon after I headed off, not wanting to stay too long because the parking was very expensive and I resent paying it when I'm spending money in the mall.

When I got to the car parking machine, I had already gone over the time allowance for the cheaper tariff, so as I was going to have to pay more than I liked for parking, I decided to stay a while longer, get better value for the parking fee and do a couple more errands.  Needless to say, I did end up spending a little bit more than I intended, as I got sidetracked in Primark and H&M looking for a few things for Little Bird.

The main reason for this is that we're taking a winter sun break next week at half term and heading off to the Canary Islands for 5 nights.  OH wants to do some road cycle training and while he does this Little Bird and I are going to spend a few days by the pool or on the beach.  We haven't had a winter sun holiday since we went to Morocco, at New Year 3 or 4 years ago, so I'm quite looking forward to it.  As it is an all inclusive break, (this was the only option at the hotel we liked best) I'm hoping that I won't be spending too much money whilst I'm away, not to mention eating too much.  I will have to be self-disciplined and not overindulge.

Coincidentally, last week I took a good look through my summer clothes, which I keep stored in a suitcase during the winter, in order to declutter anything I no longer wanted.  I did declutter quite a few items, but was still left with plenty to take away, and not needing much at all.   Little Bird on the other hand had outgrown almost everything, so a few bits were needed for her to take away with her.

I ended up buying her a couple of pairs of shorts, a short suit for the beach, a vest, some sandals, new underwear and some flip flops for a total of about £35, but couldn't resist popping a pair of flip flops in for me too, and a couple of pairs of summery trousers which were £5 and £8 respectively.

Here are the flip flops.

They are a bit Bet Lynch, if you know what I mean, but I liked them and they only cost £1.50.  I may use them as slippers in our hotel room, if I don't have the nerve to wear them poolside.

The burgundy trousers, which I already own in black, (and did have in khaki until I spilled bleach on them whilst cleaning -  I still use them for cleaning incidentally, but was gutted that I'd ruined them, so it was good to get another pair I can wear outside of the house) were reduced from £9 to £5.   These are such a lovely soft loose fit and look great with a t-shirt and sandals.  They're a definite go to in warmer weather and the ankles are half elasticated to give them a hareem look.

The monochrome print pair were £8.   I did actually want to find a pair of print trousers for my capsule wardrobe at some point, so these will fit the bill perfectly.  They have a lovely crossover feature at the front which you can't actually see well from the photo, but which makes them quite flattering on and I can see me getting a lot of wear out of them.

I did buy one other thing for myself, which was this jumper at H&M, reduced from £30 to £10.

It is lovely and long and very cosy/roasty.  I paid for this using a gift card I received on returning an item I'd bought on line, so only actually paid out an extra £3 for it.  I'm very happy with this though, as I love the knitted pattern on it and the high neck and even if I don't get a lot of wear out of it this year, I know I will happily wear it in years to come.

A small splurge, but I am so happy with the items I bought that I don't mind too much.  It certainly more than made up for the disappointment of not doing my classes that morning and saved me a trip in later this week, which was on my to do list.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Late Arrival

I mentioned in a previous post, that I had overspent in the January sales and that February would be a frugal month.  Well, nine days in and it's beginning to look a bit like January, as a few things have been purchased (mainly on the CC to be paid for next month), although they were necessary for one reason or another that I'll go into later.

It was a nice surprise, however, to receive a delivery of something I had ordered online way back in the beginning of January and had almost forgotten about.  The item in question was a small   handbag/cross body bag that I could use when I wanted to travel extra light, with just a debit card, travel card, keys, lipstick, etc.  I don't currently own a small bag and sometimes I just don't want to take a large handbag with me if I go somewhere for the day or go out for the evening.

The company the bag was ordered from make these items to order, hence the delay, which wasn't a problem as I expected it, having bought a bag from this company before.  It was, however, the perfect solution and one I'd had my eye on it for quite a few months, but just couldn't justify buying one full price.

Knowing that there might be some reductions in the January sales, I hung on and treated my self to the same bag, but with 40% off.  It was still quite a lot of money for a small leather bag, but it's a keeper, a good quality bag, handmade in the UK and I think I'm going to get a lot of use out of it.

I was going to go for a very conservative colour such as black, navy, blue, grey, etc., but as I already have a black handbag, a grey satchel and a navy bag, I decided on a completely different scheme that would add a pop of colour to many an outfit.  Here's the bag I chose.

Not to everyone's taste granted, but I love it.  It is a super cute size and has magnetic catches to the front, which I much prefer to actual buckles which are cumbersome to open and close all the time.  It has two small internal pockets, perfect for taking just the few things mentioned.

Now I've revealed the bag, you can probably guess why I liked the green wool for the scarf I started. The scarf itself is now finished.  As I thought, I had to make it colour blocked with the blue and green balls of wool, as there wasn't enough of the green to make it long enough to wear, and here it is.

For a couple of pounds, I also treated myself to a new pair of ball earrings to match, just to tie things together a little more and to wear with the bag in the summer months.

Can't wait to wear them all now. Just need a day out or some other occasion to crop up in the near future.

Please note that this is not a sponsored post, just a post about a product I have purchased and am very happy with.  The opinions expressed are all my own and given without the influence of any other party.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

9 to 5

I'm not sure if it's appropriate to do this type of post on a Sunday, but here goes.  I'm posting in the style of Thrift Deluxe on her nine to five blog.

9.00 am

Where am I?

Sat in bed with Little Bird having a mother/daughter chat.  OH has gone off on his usual Sunday morning cycle ride with the local cycle club.

What am I wearing?

Marl grey boyfriend T-shirt and marl grey lounge pants.

What's the sky like?

Not sure, the blinds are drawn.

What's motivating me?

The fact that we have to be out of here in 30 minutes to walk the dog before heading off to my Sunday morning aerobics class and Little Bird's Sunday morning swim.

2.00 pm

Where am I?

Back from the gym and sat at my sewing machine for the first time in months.

What am I wearing?

Black jersey hareem pants, bright pink sports vest, black Nike t-shirt, black/pink New Balance trainers, maroon Go-Goi hoody (bought from TK Maxx for £10 and it's great quality and good for keeping warm en route the gym in this cold weather).

What's the sky like?

Beautiful bright blue with sunshine.

What's motivating me?

Getting Little Bird's school skirts mended.  A bit of a bugbear at the moment.  I've bought 3 skirts from her school in the last term and a half.  In each case the zip has jammed after a couple of months wear.  I don't think it's a size issue, i.e. they're too small, more like a quality issue with the zips. Needless to say, I won't be buying another one.  Anyway, I'm taking the zips out and putting new ones in, then the skirts need washing, drying and ironing before school tomorrow. Feeling quite satisfied by my frugality and the fact that I don't now have to buy her another new skirt, although the stitching isn't great.  Could do better!

5.00 pm

Where am I?

In the kitchen, stood at the ironing board.  Little Bird is out playing with friends and OH is out with the dog.

What am I wearing?

Same as 2pm.  I probably should have showered and changed, but as I'm not going anywhere and am just pottering doing a bit of housework for the rest of the day, I'm going to shower after dinner.

What's the sky like?

Still sunnyish, but getting a little darker as the day is drawing in.

What's motivating me?

Emptying the ironing basket.  I've found lately that if I empty it on a weekend and start the week with it empty, I am much more likely keep on top of it and not let a big mound build up.  It's worked for the past few weeks anyway, which has been great.  Also getting as much of Little Bird's uniform ironed as possible, to prevent a last minute rush on a Monday morning.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Putting My Feet Up

Well, the party's over, the cake has been eaten, (well almost) the girls have all gone home and I'm putting my feet up and having a much needed glass of wine and a few pieces of chocolate. (This might be a slight understatement).

Today, was Little Bird's belated trampolining birthday party, and after a bit of initial stress at not knowing who was coming and who wasn't, it all went pretty smoothly and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

It was a little expensive, but we figured that this was probably the last party she would have of this kind, as her next birthday will be her 13th and she and her friends will probably no longer want 'the olds' hanging around with them, they'll probably want to be off to the cinema, nail bar or shopping on their own by then.  As a consequence, the expense didn't seem so bad.  Besides, we just have the one child, so it's not an expense that has to be repeated for any siblings.

It's now Saturday night and after spending the whole of yesterday and most of this morning cleaning the house before Little Bird's friends arrived, and after spending the afternoon trying to keep our plans running smoothly, I can now finally sit back and relax.

I must admit I'm not the best at hosting parties.  I'm definitely not a party animal myself and get quite stressed by the whole thing, but everything considered it seemed to go okay.   Little Bird seems to be of the opinion that it was her best birthday party ever, so if she's happy, then so are we.

I've kicked my shoes off,  put my feet up and it's now time for me to relax and unwind, enjoy my clean and tidy house and spend the rest of the weekend doing just as I please. Hooray!

Hope you're enjoying your weekend.  Hopefully, normal blogging will resume from tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Mixing It Up At The Gym

I've not worked out in the gym at the Leisure Centre where I do my classes, for at least a couple of years now.  I decided I was spending too much time doing classes and gym workouts and it was eating too much into my days, so the gym time got shelved.

Just recently, however, inspired by someone I was talking to the other day, who has recently started attending a rowing club, I've been getting back in the gym, usually after classes, to spend a little bit of time on the rowing machine.  I forgot how much I liked the rowing machine.  It has to be my favourite piece of gym equipment. (The only one I actually enjoy, if I'm honest)

I'm trying to make a habit of just spending 15/20 minutes on this machine, a couple of times a week after I've done a class.  I enjoy the rhythmic nature of rowing, its very therapeutic allowing me to spend a little time thinking about things as I row, watch the TV screens or chat to a friend if they are in the gym too.  I also like that it's not a high impact exercise, which is great at my age.

I'm all for looking after my joints and often work a lower level at some things in classes, to avoid too much impact on my joints.  I'm already starting to feel the benefit of the rowing machine, as I can feel muscles aching that are not normally worked in my usual classes.

As a consequence of getting back in the gym, I've also dug out my old iPod, which hasn't seen the light of day for a few years.  You can tell how long it has been by the music on it, but I'm too embarrassed to divulge what the three albums on it are.  I definitely need to raid Little Bird's and OH's iTunes accounts and fill it with some more up to date music to listen to.  It's nice to make use of it again though, instead of it sitting in the cupboard unused and unloved.

I'm really enjoying mixing up the exercise a bit, as I've been doing the same classes for quite a long time now, and although I still love them, I think my body needs more variation to effect any improvements.  In addition, one of my instructors is currently pregnant, which is wonderful, but she will obviously be taking a break for a while once the baby is born and if I don't enjoy the classes taught by her replacements, I may need to diversify and change my classes up a little.

Away from the gym, I'm also starting to cycle a bit more.  I'll be posting about the reason for this later this month, but it feels good to be back in the saddle so to speak and fitting that extra bit of exercise into my week.

I probably sound like a bit of an exercise obsessive, and I guess that I am really, but you probably wouldn't necessarily think so to look at me. I'm not at all svelte or particularly athletic in build. Regardless of what I might look like to others, however, I feel better for exercising regularly and that is the main motivation for me.

Do you exercise?  What is your exercise of choice?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Bedroom Blitz Continues

Yesterday, I found myself with an afternoon to spare, so I decided to continue with the bedroom blitz I had begun in January.  In case anyone didn't read the first post, I am trying to work my way around our bedroom, giving it a thorough deep clean.

Our bedroom is probably the least cleaned room in the house, as I just never seem to get around to doing it thoroughly.  It's not a hovel or any such thing, as I keep it tidy on a daily basis, but it is pretty dusty on shelves and in corners and really did need some attention.

I began last month, with what was quite a big task, namely cleaning all the shelves in the alcove on my side of the bed.  It took a good few hours to take all the books and various bits and pieces off and clean the shelves, but it felt great when it was done.

This week was the turn of my beauty station.  (That's what I call it, but it is in truth a vintage tea trolley painted grey!)  Here's what it looked like before beginning the clean up.

The mirror was cleaned for the first time in quite a while, as was the mirror shelf which houses my hairbrush and some remedial Dr Bach remedies I occasionally use.  Next, all of the beauty products in the top perspex container on the trolley were removed, cleaned and the container washed in soapy water before it's contents were returned and rearranged.

These are the products I use on a daily basis.  It probably doesn't sound like a job that would take too long, but it did take a good few hours. I was pleased with the results though.

Mirror shelf

Top Beauty Box

I donated a few nail varnishes that I no longer wished to keep.  Seeing all my lovely nail varnishes, it really made me want to start painting my nails again, but I really need to get some nail strengthener and use that for a while first.

Earring Tray

Whilst cleaning this top layer I also cleaned all of my earrings, which I keep in a ceramic dish. Some cotton wool and surgical spirit did the job.  As you can see, there's quite a lot of them.  I tend mainly to wear ball studs on a daily basis and have them in just about every colour to match my clothes.  

Every pair was cleaned and returned to the dish, once it had been washed too. I find it so much easier to have them right by my beauty products, as it helps me not to forget to put a pair on when I get ready.  

The watch in the picture is the one I'm currently wearing, as my own Swatch watch gave up the ghost before Christmas.  I bought this one for Little Bird last year.  It was a complete bargain at £7 from TKMaxx, and as she never wears it I am making good use of it.  I like the fact I can colour match the straps to outfits too, although I haven't really done so thus far. You can see from the photograph, however, that the white strap that I wore initially has discoloured with use and I've just noticed that I have lost the dial too. (Sob!)  It's also just occurred to me that I can mix and match the dials to create two toned watches.  I can have lots of fun with this watch.

Anyway, once the top shelf was cleaned, I ventured to the bottom container which houses my overspill of products.  These are mainly stash products that I've been given as presents or have bought, but not used yet, plus a few other things.  

The same process was carried out and the shelf cleaned, then the whole trolley was pulled out to allow me to clean the skirting and hoover and mop the floor.  Here's the finished result which doesn't look too different from the first picture, save that I know it is all now clean and orderly.

Another part of the room cleaned, re-organised and decluttered.  It's slow going, but baby steps are better than none at all.

Keeping Track of Time

I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment called 'What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast' by the author Laura Vanderkam.  It's inspiring me to take a look at how I use my time on a daily basis.

Now, I know I'm not a high flying business person, but I think anyone can benefit from taking a look at what they spend their time doing, and I am no exception.  In her book, Vanderkam recommends recording how much time you spend on everything you do for a week, to see where your time goes and whether it is being spent in a useful/productive way.

You may be thinking that life is not always about being productive, and I totally agree, sometimes it's good in life to just sit back and be, enjoy the moment, take life at your own pace, and this book does advocate that you do take time out of your day/weekend to do such things.  It also, however, reminds us that there are only a finite number of weekends available to us, a fact that I personally tend to overlook, and encourages you to make the most of yours by scheduling in things from your bucket list of things you would like to do.  This might include activities, crafts, places or people to visit, other experiences, etc. etc.

I love to spend my weekends at home in our house, pottering about, etc. etc., but when we ventured out last weekend into Central London, it reminded me how lovely it is just to get out and about now and again and do something different.  It's very easy to get into a rut and not actually do very much at all with your time on a weekend.

For the past couple of days, I've been noting down how much time I spend doing certain activities, from reading in bed, getting ready in a morning, food preparation and housework, to the time I spend on the computer doing work and non-work related stuff.  It is proving to be a very eye opening exercise.  It is making me take a fresh look at how I spend my time, and confirming to me what I have been feeling lately, namely that perhaps I have been spending far too much of my time on-line on non-work related stuff.  I think that this is something that I do need to address.

The book talks about taking a day a week as a kind of sabbatical, where you don't engage in any technological activity, to enable you to recharge and refresh your mind.  I'm very much thinking of doing something along these lines, perhaps on a Sunday.  Leaving blog/email reading/online shop checking until the next day, isn't really going to make too much difference to my on-line/business life, but spending that time disengaging from technology might make a big difference to our family life.

Another amongst many interesting suggestions that Vanderkam makes, is to spend a small amount of time on Sunday planning what you want to achieve in the week ahead.  This can help reinforce what your priorities for that week really are and prevent you getting too distracted by other demands that might arise as the week progresses.  I must admit that I often do something similar to this, by way of writing a 'To Do List', menu plan and a grocery shopping list for the week ahead on a Sunday evening, so that I can start the week knowing what I need to achieve. In all honesty, I don't always achieve all the things on my list, but it does help me not to forget the more important things that need doing and these usually do get done.

Do you do any of the above and find them useful?  Do you limit the time you spend online?  I'd be interested to hear other people's time management tips.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

January Roundup

Well, how has your January been?  To sum up mine in two words, I would definitely say expensive and long.

Now, I'm not trying to garner any sympathy here, as it has been completely my own fault. I have got carried away in the sales a little this January.  They seemed to last so long too and I just kept coming across things that I just couldn't resist.  Admittedly, some of them were for Little Bird, to fill some gaping holes in her wardrobe, but still, I did go overboard and will be paying for it this month, which will be a very lean one.

I can't even remember now what my aims were for January.  Just to continue trying to get out of the remaining small amount of debt that I have by way of my overdraft.  This might take another month or two, but it is hard to resist things when they are discounted.  At least I feel I've crossed a few things off my Capsule wardrobe list. (Even if a couple weren't actually on it in the first place!)

I think after all the spending in the lead up to Christmas, it was hard to kick the habit, but I think I'm all shopped out for now and need now to start concentrating on things closer to home and getting more de-cluttering done around the house.

OH is treating Little Bird to a belated Trampolining party for her birthday next week, so I will have a busy week getting the house cleaned for when her friends come around. This should keep me out of trouble. Following this I need to get stuck back into our bedroom blitz, which has ground to a halt. I also need to collate a Food Bank box in February and deliver it to the food bank.

One good thing this last month, is that I have been reading quite regularly.  Only for half an hour or so before I get out of bed in a morning, but I am working my way through the remaining book pile by my bed and some of my reading matter has inspired me to re-organise my routines and rethink my diet a little, to get a better balance and live more healthily.

As a consequence I have stopped buying almost all sweet food items and am trying to cut down my carb intake and introduce a few more vegetables to my diet, to encourage my body to burn more stored fat. I'm not sure how this will pan out, I can but try. We're still eating down our cupboards, to clear some food that has been hanging around for quite a while, but I seem to be making quite good progress on this front, which is encouraging.  Here's a couple of pics of my overspill cupboard looking almost empty

and my main food cupboard after a food shop today.

I do realise that there are a few sweet things in here, (middle shelf) but these haven't been bought this side of Christmas. The only other cupboard in which I keep food is the cereal cupboard which is shown below.  As you can see, it mainly contains cereals and low fat crisp snacks but there is a box of crumble topping and one dessert mix behind which you can't see.

I guess most of our food is kept in the fridge or freezer, which is good as it must mean we eat quite a bit of fresh food.  Here's a picture of the contents of the fridge, again after a weekly food shop today.

The yoghurts are virtually the only desserts I still buy and the double cream is to use up one of a couple of dessert packet mixes I've had kicking around for a while.  We seem to be getting to a healthier place at last, now I've finally put my mind to it.

I definitely find it works best for me when I have minimal food in the house, as I'm not so tempted to overeat or constantly snack.  If we get a sudden craving for something and can't resist, there are plenty of shops up the road to go to and buy whatever it is, as we need it.  I do, of course, try to make sure I fill the fruit bowl at the beginning of the week which helps when it comes to snacks.

Looking to February and other areas, I am aiming to list a few items on eBay this month and raise a little bit of cash, hoping to do a lot more cycling (more in another post) and would like to get back to doing a little sewing this month (I've said this before, however, so we'll see), but other than these things and the fact that it's going to be a frugal one, I don't have a lot planned.

What plans have you got for February?