Thursday, 31 December 2015

Looking Ahead To A New Year

I don't know about anyone else, but I love New Year.  I especially love looking ahead and thinking about what I want to achieve in the coming year.

Next year, I've got a whole raft of things that I am aiming to achieve or maintain.  I've made a lot of changes this year that weren't on my list last year and maintaining these changes is important to me.

Talking of last year's list, I did manage to complete more than two thirds of the things on it, which was quite positive and some have subsequently become less important, so the fact that I didn't achieve them, hasn't been too disappointing.

Normally, my personal aims are quite a personal thing and I don't always share them on this blog, but this year I thought I would, as they aren't anything different to what I blog about regularly anyway, so anyone who reads my blog will recognise the themes from various posts I've already written.

Here goes:

  • Complete my dental treatment and get to that clean slate state with regard to my oral health, as described in this post by Courtney Carver.   I am determined to take control of my dental health and continue with the healthier practices I introduced in the latter part of this year. I also want to finish paying for the treatment too!

  • Use my credit cards/overdraft less - I do pay them off every month, but ideally I'd like to use them less often and only buy using cash or debit card when the funds are in my account. Only that way can I honestly say that I live within my means.

  • Save regularly - even if this is just £50 per month towards Christmas/birthday gifts/holidays, it would help take more control of my finances. Ideally though, I'd like to start saving more for the long term future too.

  • Buy less/buy as ethically as possible - I started this practice in earnest this year and hope to continue where possible.

  • Rejuvenate Little Bird's wardrobe. Last year it was my turn, this year it is LB's, as she is growing up so fast and she has outgrown many of her basics.

  • Make more of my own cosmetics/toiletries/candles.  I think I might try to attempt at least one recipe/make per month.

  • Cycle more - I do love it when I get on my bike and cycle around, but I just don't do it enough. This year I want to do it a lot more, enjoy getting the extra exercise and saving a bit of money in the process.

  • Live more simply - By this I mean just to try to enjoy more of life's simple pleasures.  Be happy with and make use of what I already have, instead of constantly seeking more or better.

  • Read at least two books per month. - Although I was on a book buying ban last year, quite a few more books did find their way into my life at various points, so I still have at least two full shelves of books waiting to be read.  I want to work my way through these this year and to aid me the book ban will stay in place.  Once read I may donate the books, if I no longer want to keep them and am unlikely to read them again.

  • Reduce waste - Keep thinking of ways to reduce our household waste, recycling waste, food waste, etc.  A few changes this year have resulted in creating less landfill waste/recycling waste and in using more recyclable products, which has helped, but there is still a long way to go with regard to permanently reducing the rubbish we throw out.

  • Shop around more - By this I mean try to shop in more local independent shops and not mainly online and in big supermarkets. This may mean changing the way I shop, i.e. not doing a big weekly shop, but I can't honestly see myself doing this, as I do like to just shop the once weekly and not everyday, but who knows I may be able to find a system that works for me, such as doing some local shopping one day per week and some supermarket shopping another. I also want to start taking cash out of my account each week to use for food shopping, as this will encourage me to shop locally more and stick to my budget by not using cards.

  • Get a cholesterol test - I'm just curious to know what my cholesterol level is.

  • Declutter 500 things in 2016 - After successfully decluttering over 1000 things in 2015, I've just got the bug and want to continue.  I'm not sure I can find another 1000 things over the year so I'm setting myself the goal of 500 for 2016.  If I manage more then great, but this is my target for the year.

  • Be more generous - Donate more to charity, help others more, give things away where possible, give my time, etc.

  • Adopt a more regular cleaning routine - My current cleaning routine is virtually non-existent, in that I tend to deep clean when the state of the house is getting me down and I can't ignore it any longer, or when we have visitors. I would like to adopt a more regular routine, that keeps me on top of the more common jobs around the house, such as changing bed linen, cleaning the bathroom and toilet, changing towels, hoovering, mopping floors, etc.

Anyway, that should be enough to keep me going.  A Happy New Year to all of you.  I hope the coming year is a good one for you all.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Enjoying the Break

Well, we're still at the cottage. It's lovely - very cosy, warm, well equipped, peaceful, quiet and although there is no mobile signal, we get a good internet connection. We like it here.  We've just got back tonight after a couple of days away visiting relatives for Christmas Day and overnight.  It's so heavenly to get back to a space of our own.  We've just had sausage, chips and peas for our Boxing day tea.  You can't beat getting back to ordinary food after the richness of Christmas fayre.  I haven't actually cooked us a Christmas dinner yet. Tomorrow, we'll have a Christmas lunch, lamb this year.

The dog is enjoying her holiday.  There is lots of game in the vicinity and she has been itching to escape and chase it.  When the owner of the cottage popped by on Christmas morning with a bottle of pink Cava (to wish us a Happy Christmas), she shot out of the cottage and ran off into his garden, closely followed by me in my nightdress, wellies and cagoule and OH.  Very glamorous - not. Luckily OH managed to retrieve her without too much of a problem.

Our hosts have been incredibly hospitable and decorated the cottage for us to make it feel festive.  I could get used to staying somewhere like this over Christmas.

Tomorrow, we have the day to ourselves and then some friends are coming over for the evening.  At the moment, there is a risk of flooding here, as there has been heavy rain.  Some of our relatives in the region have narrowly missed being flooded today.  Their village is under siege by water, but they have thankfully been spared so far.  We are supposed to be staying with them when we leave here, but we'll have to see what happens.  It might not be a good idea unless the waters recede between now and then.

I hope you're all enjoying your Christmas break.

Monday, 21 December 2015

A Scruffy Sunday

On account of not wanting to dirty any of the clothes that I want to take away with me over Christmas, when I got dressed on Sunday morning out came some thick, baggy jersey hareem pants, and a t-shirt and hoody that I very rarely wear.

Slightly more scruffy attire than I would normally wear on a weekend, which was a good thing really, as I then decided to head to the allotment for an hour and tidy up the plot a bit.  OH  and LB were off to the cinema to see the new Star Wars film, so I took the dog with me.

I hadn't visited since September or thereabouts.  In fact, I can't actually remember when my last visit was, so I knew there'd be work to do.  It was mainly cutting back things that had died off and pulling out old dead plants and weeds that had grown up since my  last visit.

I got a fair bit done and managed to dig over one of the cleared beds, but I will need to go back after Christmas to finish digging over the rest of the plot and wheelbarrow all the weeds and dead plants to the composting bins.  It was nice to get started though.  I really just haven't found any time to go at all for weeks.

The dog was very patient with me and eventually we left and set out for a walk along the canal and over the nearby marshes.  I ended up on my knees, poking around in a water filled ditch at one point after throwing the dogs most highly favoured ball in by mistake. Luckily, I got it back, but my knees are now nettled and sore.  The things you do for your dog!  We continued on for a nice walk.  In all she spent a good 3 hours outside with me that morning, which was quite a treat for her.

When I got back, I finished up the salad in the fridge for lunch and then headed out again.  To cover up my muddy clothes I threw on a long coat and headed off to ASDA for the final bit of shopping before we leave London.  Just essentials to see us through the next day or so and a last couple of bits for presents.  After spending half an hour in traffic, I am now officially finished with the Christmas shopping and it couldn't come soon enough for me.

Once home, it was toad in the hole and veggies for dinner, once again using up what we had in the fridge and freezer. Whilst it was cooking, I blanched, cubed and froze anything else that was going to be left over when we head off up north.  It will be very simple meals from tins and the freezer between now and when we leave on Tuesday morning. It might not be the healthiest food, but I'm sure it won't kill us for just a day.

My Sunday evening was spent ironing and putting away laundry that we need to take away with us, broken only by a sit down to watch the Apprentice final.

This morning I started on the packing. I was aiming to revisit the allotment this afternoon, but rain set in and it just wasn't worth it, so I stayed home, made a last batch of mince pies to use up the mincemeat in the fridge and continued packing up bits and pieces we need to take away. I'm looking forward to a long soak in the bath tonight, before we head off in the morning.  I'm ready for a change of scenery and am now looking forward to our Christmas break.

I'm still having trouble uploading pictures, (I can only upload them on to OH's machine and not the laptop) so I may not post much over the holidays, but rest assured I will be reading and keeping up with everyone's news.

To everyone who reads this blog, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading and taking the time to comment over this past year and I'd like to sincerely wish you

A Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Nearly There

After a couple of busy days on Thursday and Friday trying to cross things off my 'to do list', I'm now in a much better place. The cards have all now gone, the ironing pile is going down and I took a book back that was due to be returned to the library.  Whilst there I saw this book and just couldn't resist getting it out.

I've talked about the Gandy brothers in posts before. I bought some flip flops from their brand, which raises funds for a children's home they set up in Sri Lanka by way of their charity 'Orphans for Orphans'. The brothers lost both of their parents in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 and their work has been a tribute to them.

This book is definitely going to be my Christmas reading.  I started it whilst waiting in a very slow queue in the Post Office and am already liking it. I'm sure it will be upsetting in parts, but equally I'm sure it will be very inspirational and I'm looking forward to reading their story.

I also managed a few other tasks today, such as checking my bank accounts, sending off my credit card payment and also I did a whole raft of financial paperwork filing that I had let build up all year. It felt good to get it all filed away and organised, so that everything is labelled and easy to find.  It did of course result in more shredding, but that will only take a few minutes to do.

My next task will be to start my clothes packing, which I will add to as the washing and ironing gets completed.

I received this lovely Christmas card from my sister this week who is currently in New York in the US.  It goes nicely with the one I received from my uncle the other day in East Yorkshire. The geographical contrast is interesting. Very cosmopolitan ;).  OH also got this cut out wooden card from one of his work associates.

So cute.

I treated myself to one more little pre-Christmas treat in Poundland the other day.  This cute Jute Christmas stocking.

LB has a stocking, the dog has a stocking, so why not me? I just hope that Santa puts something in it. Anything will do.

Talking of Santa and Christmas spirit, I was touched by watching Christmas on the Poverty Line on TV on Thursday night. (10pm, Channel 5) It was about families in the UK who had very little, but still made the most of Christmas for the sake of their children.  There were some touching examples of the sacrifices some families have to make at Christmas, having to seek out free food, collect things thrown out by others and receive gifts from strangers.

In spite of their hardships, it was heartwarming to see genuine family togetherness and Christmas spirit in the face of pretty abject poverty. Something that many more fortunate people could do with a good dose of.

By way on an example, LB came home on Friday having witnessed a customer verbally abusing the young sales assistant in a local store, because she had the audacity to be friendly. Sadly, some people can be rude, aggressive and thoroughly unpleasant. Who knows what their life is like, but even so, it isn't really fair to take it out on others.

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon in Central London for a last Christmassy mooch around.  It's a bit of a family tradition and usually gets us looking forward to Christmas.  LB and I paid a visit to the Oxford Street Lush store, to get some last minute stocking fillers and we had a long look around the largest bookstore in the country in Piccadilly, followed by a stop off at our local pet shop on the way home to get a few doggy stocking fillers.

I have to say that I didn't really enjoy trudging around the busy streets of London on the last Saturday before Christmas.  Some of the sales had started and it was far too busy.  Despite us taking many of the back streets through Soho, I very soon tired of people pushing past me or stepping into spaces or sitting on seats I was just about to accommodate. Maybe I'm getting too old, slow and grumpy for all of this.  It was so good to get home, put my feet up, relax and watch TV, away from the crowds. (Incidentally, the last two episodes of The Bridge were so good.  I will miss watching this show.) Next year, I'll definitely think twice about venturing there at such a busy time of the year.

I hope you are all enjoying your lead in to Christmas.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Pre-Christmas Day Out

This Wednesday, I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch and a spot of shopping as a pre-Christmas girlie treat.  Although I usually do a class in the morning, I decided to give it a miss, as I had a few bits and pieces to do before heading out. In the end it was just as well, as I needed to stay in for the computer engineer again.

It's only polite, when you've been given a time slot, to make sure someone is in, even if the said visitor isn't polite enough to turn up in said slot and as OH was doing my morning dog walk, so I could go out, it fell to me to stay home until he got back.

Incidentally, the laptop got a new hard drive and is working again, but my photos on the old hard drive are gone forever, as we weren't allowed to keep it and try to recover them. OH has subsequently put some sort of back up software on the laptop, so hopefully it shouldn't happen again. I'll be very careful to put them on a memory stick too though from now on, if I want to hang on to them. On the up side, at least we will have a computer to take away with us.

My day out was lovely.  We took a bus to Canary Wharf and had a mooch around the shopping malls there before having a light lunch at Wagamama's.  I didn't spend too much, but did pick up a couple of things we needed.

It's a completely different world there, where most people appear to work in the financial sector. Very smart, polite and business like with doors held open for you and the like, although it was incredibly busy on this occasion.  As you would expect, the shops are mostly the kind of high end brands that cater to the city workers.  When I've been in the past, I've not really had time to look around, as I've had to get back, to retrieve my car from the gym car park before the ticket runs out, so it was nice on this occasion to be able to take our time and enjoy a good look around.

I always pick up the 'posh' free Canary Wharf magazine, which is really just a glorified advertising vehicle for high end brands and property companies,with the odd interesting article thrown in.  I also picked up the Tatler.  Not because I like the magazine.  I don't.  I did, however, like the free Organic Pharmacy 50ml Marigold and Comfrey hand cream that came with it, which I couldn't buy for the £4.40 cost of the magazine, even if I wanted to. This brand is expensive and this item retails for £22 on the Naturisimo website.  I have tried some (free in a magazine) sample sizes of this brand before and liked virtually everything I tried, so I'm pretty sure I'll like this too.  Let's call it a little pre-Christmas treat.  As for the magazine, I'll probably have a quick flick through and send it with some others to the doctor's surgery for the patients to read. (I'm not entirely sure it will be well received in my local health centre, but hey ho)

I also managed to source a reasonably priced packet of my favourite American candy, Milk Duds. Everywhere else I've seen them in London, they are ridiculously expensive, but probably the number of Americans working in Canary Wharf who wouldn't be fooled into buying them at such exhorbitent prices, they  were priced sensibly there.  I will definitely be heading back there next time I need to get them again.

The next few days, I'm going nowhere and intend to stay home and get on with the list of things I need to do before we go away, wrapping LB's presents being the main one, as she finishes school on Friday and might catch me in the act if I do it when she's around.

Hope all of you are getting your 'to do lists' done too.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Another Tuesday Christmas Fest

I've been loving Tuesday evenings for the last two weeks.  They have been my secret little Christmas indulgence, when I've watched Christmas orientated TV programmes. Last night, it was Britain's Craziest Christmas Lights, followed by another episode of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas and I finished the night watching a programme called The World's Most Expensive Christmas. (I do love to see how the other half live sometimes, but in this instance, I have to admit that it left me feeling a little depressed at the extremes of wealth in our country today)

You can't, however, beat a bit of festive programming for getting the festive spirit flowing and I was even inspired to make a seasonal paper chain whilst I watched Kirstie attempting yet more Christmas crafts. Nothing too sophisticated for me as usual.

The first programme reassured me that there are completely bonkers people out there prepared to spend their own money to raise cash for charity, spread festive cheer and entertain others in their neighbourhood at Christmas.

The latter programme, however, I found to be obscene in the extreme and I couldn't even begin, nor wish, to imagine having the sort of wealth depicted and then spending it on such ostentatious bling. (And no, I'm not bitter and jealous, it just seems like such a waste of precious resources, but each to their own).

Returning to the subject of a normal person's Christmas, I do have to admit to sneaking a peak at Simply Nigella's Christmas Special on Monday night too, followed by Supershoppers Do Christmas, which was interesting.  Especially the bit where they made their own perfume from essential oils and vodka. I may give making a very small bottle a try, as I don't really want to waste good drinkable alcohol in case it doesn't smell too good and isn't wearable.  It's style was just about as far as you could possibly get from last night's programme, but I much preferred it's down to earth, money saving focus.

Can you tell that I'm struggling to get Christmassy this year and having to resort to binge Christmas TV watching?  I love Christmas, but the grinch has definitely got a hold on me this year and it isn't really happening for me just yet.  There's still time though, so who knows.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Slow Progress

Since posting last, the Christmas cards got written and some sent, the food bank shop got done, a few more orders were posted out and a few more presents bought.  Why is it that there is always one thing on your list of gifts to buy, that has been specifically requested and that is impossible to find?

This year it is hazelnut flavoured Baileys.  None of the supermarkets seem to stock it.  I'm beginning to wonder if it was a limited edition that is no longer produced.  Does anyone know where you can purchase it? The only place I found it was on Amazon with £10 postage costs. It's getting too late now to order online, so a different flavour might have to be purchased, unless I get lucky.

I enjoyed doing the Food Bank shop today.  I managed to spend around the amount that I wanted to, to make up some of my regular donations which lapsed earlier in the year. I'm intending to makeup the rest of the lapse in the New Year. I did the shop at and donated via a local Tesco store and used a voucher I was sent by Tesco to get £6 off a £40 spend, which reduced the cost quite a bit. Apparently, they also donate another 30% on top of all donations, so I hope they do and that will swell the donation a little more. I was given free carrier bags at the till, but forgot to remove my trolley coin from the trolley I left the food in, so that was an unintended donation made.  I still have another one thankfully.

Most of my Christmas cards got sent off today.  I kept a couple back to put letters in or that I need addresses for.  There's always a couple. I need to make a couple of phone calls before I can send these off.

With regard to the laptop, I am as I write waiting for an engineer to arrive and replace the hard drive. Seems I may have lost all the photographs I so diligently organised the other month and as I removed them from my camera, all I have left of our holiday this year are on my blog.  I don't currently have anywhere to back them up to and can't remember if OH did it for me or not.  I need to try to hang onto the old hard drive to try to get them recovered.

As you can imagine, I'm not best pleased, as I really didn't expect the hard drive to go on a computer we've not had for more than a year and one which replaced one that nearly set our house on fire to boot.  Needless to say I'm not impressed.

The netbook I was using has also gone kaput.  I don't seem to be having much luck on the technology front recently.  I'm currently on OH's desk top whilst he is out walking the dog, so I am not spending much time online as a result.  Having said this, I'm quite enjoying the break and it should have the benefit of allowing me to get on with other things I need to do.

I do hope that we get the laptop resolved in time to go away though or we will have no computer to take with us and I don't think it will go down too well with LB.  On the other hand, it would make for a very relaxing Christmas.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

This Weekend

It's been a good weekend here for the most part. I'm still not able to post using photographs unfortunately, and haven't actually spent much time at all on the computer, which has been a positive. I'm writing this on OH's computer, as it was the only one working at the time of writing.

Saturday morning we spent doing a bit of last minute family Christmas shopping.  We find that the best time to get out and about in London is definitely Saturday morning.  As the weekend progresses, it gets progressively busier and you can easily end up spending far too much time sat in traffic, so we mostly try to stay home on a weekend.

The shopping trip was quite successful and then LB and I spent the afternoon having a wrapping fest, whilst listening to Zoella's Christmas play list (lots of Michael Buble, who I'm partial to at Christmas anyway).  I managed to get lots of wrapping done for extended family members and now just have to do the wrapping of LB and OH's presents (when they're not around).

Saturday evening was spent eating roasted chestnuts from the wood burner and watching Strictly, followed by watching two episodes of series 3 of The Bridge. Who needs to go anywhere on a Saturday night when this is on. It is such a good series, we love it. A bit creepy in parts, but some of the characters are so interesting and it is so well written/made.  It finishes next week and we will be disappointed not to be able to watch it any longer.

Sunday was less relaxing.  A dog walk, class at the gym (my last Sunday class before Christmas as the instructor is away next week, so I'll probably give it a miss), some food shopping at Lidl, emptying the ironing basket and putting away all the laundry, cooking roast beef for supper, before finally being able to relax in front of the Strictly results show.  I don't normally watch it, but as it's so close to the final, I had to.  I was a bit disappointed that Anita didn't make it through. (Sorry if this is a spoiler).

One quite exciting thing today, was that I finally got around to making some more bath bombs, some home made bath salts and then some more lip balms to give as presents this Christmas. Unfortunately the containers I'd ordered to make the lip balms in still haven't been delivered, so I had to use some others which are smaller than I'd like, but hopefully they will be well received.  LB received one in her home made advent calendar today and seems to like it.

The bath bombs I made specially for my own personal use as I had run out.  I like to have a bath with them as the water not only makes my skin feel soft, but the baking soda in it also leaves the bath sparkling clean.  I did buy some new cardboard cupcake cases to make them in, as it is hard to tamper them down firmly in paper cases and I don't have a mould for making them yet.

The bath salts were a simple mixture of Epsom salts, Pink Himalayan salt and essential oils, mixed together and put into a mason jar.  Simple, but pretty.  I might consider making some of these as gifts too, maybe next year.  I've mainly stuck with a peppermint scent for all of these items, as I really like it at the moment and it's quite seasonal too.  I may get bored of it before long though and make the next batch with something else.

This week, I think it is going to be quiet on the eBay front, as it has definitely dropped right off this last few days, so I will hopefully be able to get much more done at home in readiness for us going away.  The main priority will be Christmas cards, the remainder of the wrapping, a little bit of last minute shopping for a few presents and then packing and getting ready to leave London.

We're mostly eating from the freezer and cupboards this week in an attempt to use everything up before we go away.  I'm trying to keep shopping to a minimum.  I have one more dentist appointment this week to get my new crown fitted and then I'm looking forward to a break from treatment and from London. By the time we come back, I am hoping that we will feel refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to face the challenge of a new year.

I've been thinking quite a bit about my aims for the coming year and have a blog post ready on the subject, which I will publish nearer the time.  I hope all of your Christmas preparations are coming along well.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Peppermint Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling

Since watching this video on Youtube a few weeks ago, on the subject of oil pulling, I decided to give it a go.  I'd never heard of oil pulling, but apparently it is an ancient Indian detoxification technique, that has been carried out for thousands of years. It didn't altogether appeal at first, as I wasn't sure that I liked the taste of coconut oil, however, after giving it a go, the taste wasn't too bad.

Then when I attended the Ideal Home Exhibition, I came across a product on sale that was a minty version of coconut oil, used for the same purpose.  It gave me the idea to try to make some minty coconut oil myself to use for oil pulling.

I scooped a few teaspoons of culinary coconut oil into a little cosmetic pot, melted it in a bain marie and then added a few drops of peppermint extract to it and stirred it in well.  I then left it to harden and taking a teaspoon at a time, began oil pulling with it.

Basically, the coconut oil is supposed to be good for extracting harmful bacteria from between the teeth when you push it through the gaps and gargle with it, thus helping to minimise plaque build up, and it is supposedly good for the health of the gums and oral mucosa and can help whiten the teeth.

I'm more than happy to give it a try, especially with the treatment I've been having lately, but it is best to do it before brushing your teeth and you don't need to do it every day.  I think I'm going to do it maybe once or twice a week and see if it makes a difference.

Making my first batch, I didn't add much peppermint extract, as I'd read that a little went a long way, but to be honest, I couldn't taste it all that well, so when I make it again, I may add a bit more.

Here's a picture of the batch I made cooling.

Have you ever oil pulled?

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Getting Festive

Wednesday, after a bit of a manic start to the week, things quietened down a little and I was able to finally get around to cleaning up the living room, so that I could get some Christmas decorations up.

In all honesty, I have to admit to being inspired by watching Crazy About Christmas on TV the night before, followed by Kirstie's Handmade Christmas. A bit of a Christmas TV fest, but it had to be done and it certainly got me into the festive spirit.

Luckily, sales had slowed right down, so I was able to commit the afternoon to domesticity for a change.  The living room was a bit of a mess and needed a good clean up.  I washed all the decorative cushion covers, sprayed all the sofas with fabric freshener, hoovered, dusted and mopped until it was all looking much better, and  very satisfying it was too.

I didn't go mad with decorations.  Just a nod to Christmas really with a few old favourites.  I stuck to my resolution not to put the tree up, although I was sorely tempted.  Instead it was twinkly lights on the mantle piece, a snowman card holder, some festive pot pourri, a few sprigs of artificial Christmas foliage, and some Christmassy candle wreaths.

When I've cleaned up the hall and dining room, I'll put a few more bits out, including the wreath on the front door, and my new wool scrap wreath on one of the internal doors.

I keep thinking about how easy it will be to pack it all away come the New Year.  I might even get used to this minimalist decorating.  It has got OH's seal of approval already.

When I'd finished, it was lovely to sit back and watch TV, with Christmas twinkling all around me.

(I was going to add some photos into this post, but unfortunately the lap top isn't working and I am unable to upload photos on to the netbook that I am now using, so there'll probably be no Christmas photos from me this year.  I'll still try to keep posting when I can though.)

Saturday, 5 December 2015

This Weekend

This weekend would normally be the weekend that I put up the Christmas tree and decorations, but this year, I've been so preoccupied with dentist appointments and being busy with sending out orders, that I haven't actually got around to cleaning up the house in readiness.

Today, much to OH's pleasure, we agreed that we wouldn't put up and decorate our big artificial tree this year, as we are leaving London earlier to head up to the cottage we're renting in Yorkshire. Apparently, the owners of the cottage will be providing us with a small tree for our stay, which is very nice of them, so there doesn't seem much point in putting up ours for all of 10 days or so.

Instead, we decided that I would decorate the rooted Christmas tree I bought several years ago whilst on a holiday in Wales.  It's a fair size now, in a huge pot and I think I might just leave it outside and decorate it out there, rather than bring it in and risk it going into shock with the heat.

I will be putting up a few other decorations, however, some twinkly lights on the mantel piece, a wreath on the door and other festive bits and pieces, just no tree.  I almost regretted the decision tonight when I was out walking the dog and could see lots of Christmas trees in the windows of houses as we walked around out neighbourhood, but I know that for this year, it isn't really worth it and LB isn't too worried, which makes me feel better about it.

I'm going to make a concerted effort to clean around this week, before getting the decorations out. I've done just about all I can with regard to preparing the last of the stock I have for sale, and I expect demand will start petering out in the next week or so, which will leave me more time to concentrate on housework, Christmas decorations/preparations and the last of the Christmas shopping.

Tonight, LB is going to a birthday party for a few hours, so OH and I are going to treat ourselves to a takeaway fish and chip supper.  I'm going to make a start on some Christmas wrapping I think, LB's presents mainly, while she is out and unable to peep.  I just have to get the wrapping paper down from the loft first.

I'm not feeling particularly Christmassy yet, but we got our first Christmas card today. Unfortunately there was some sad family news inside it, so I need to make a follow up phone call sometime in the next couple of days.

I hope your Christmas preparations are coming along nicely.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Finally Facing Up to Things

The health issue that I was concerned about in a post the other week, was finally faced up to a couple of weeks ago, when I went along for my appointment with a new to me dentist.  The outcome wasn't a tenth as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I came out feeling such a sense of relief, that I couldn't quite take it in for a couple of  days.

The fact of the matter was, that I hadn't been to the dentist for a considerable time. Don't get me wrong, I meticulously clean my teeth, day and night and in the last couple of years have started using mouthwash. In addition, I have also very recently made peace with my nemesis, namely dental floss, and have become a born again flosser, currently flossing daily, which I have never been able to bring myself to do in the past. It's amazing what genuine fear of losing your teeth can do to motivate you.

Although I knew that I needed to go, after such a long absence, I found the thought of going to the dentist both shame inducing and frankly terrifying, hence why it took so long for me to face up to my fears and finally make that appointment.

It doesn't help that I've  always had major problems with my teeth, from being a child, which was even more reason why I shouldn't have left it so long.  I've had so much dental treatment and have been so self conscious about my teeth over the years, that it didn't take much for me to stay right away from the dentist chair, just one belittling encounter with a particularly unpleasant dentist and that was enough to keep me away.

Even when I broke a tooth, a couple of years ago, biting into a roasted chestnut, this couldn't induce me go and seek treatment.  Then, I started having other problems mainly with my gums and became convinced I had gum disease. It was this that finally forced my hand and the appointment was made.

Anyway, the new dentist was very professional and non-judgmental, which I was very appreciative of.  It turns out that I don't have gum disease, but I do need to brush them a bit more gently and I also need one new filling, a couple of teeth re-filled and a crown making for a broken tooth, which incidentally, I'd convinced myself would need to be extracted.

I started my treatment last week and it will be ongoing over the next month or so, which will be expensive, as I am going to pay privately for white fillings and for the crown.

In comparison to what I thought would need doing, paying extra to get a slightly better aesthetic result seems to me to be a small price to pay for the years of neglect.  I can't believe how foolish I was to ignore my oral health for so long, but fortunately for me this time around, the harm done wasn't too serious and I'm determined to get back on the right track.

I have been incredibly lucky and believe me I know it.  I won't be making the same mistake again.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

A Day at the Ideal Home Show at Christmas 2015

Last Thursday, as previously mentioned, was the day of our annual visit to the Ideal Home Show at Christmas. This is the third year that my friend and I have attended, using free tickets received via

We have to admit that we do miss the show being held at the old Earls Court, (now demolished) as the snowy scene that confronted you when you walked out of the tube station was so Christmassy.

However, that said, the inside of the venue always looks pretty Christmassy and there seems to be plenty of room for the hundreds of exhibitors.

It's always a bit overwhelming when you  first walk in and you're not quite sure where to go first.  We stopped and watched some singers perform on the Bandstand whilst getting our bearings and then headed into the show.  We began our visit by watching a talk on Christmas trees.  I didn't realise that there were companies who would come to your home and decorate it for Christmas for you (at a price).  Ideal for those people who hate putting up the tree and decorations, but I don't think I'll be calling them in just yet.

We had a bit of a wander around some of the stands until another presentation we wanted to watch an hour later.  This presentation was on gift wrapping and I really enjoyed it.

(Some wrapped parcels)

The lady presenting was Alison Westwood from Eclipse Gift Wrapping and she showed you some great and very creative techniques in gift wrapping, especially with regard to bottles and awkward shaped items.  She made it look so easy.  She has a website at  and has started a YouTube channel of the same name.  She also runs courses in the skill in Wales.  Here's an insert of one of her videos to give you a taste of what she did in her presentation. I'm looking forward to watching future videos.

Following this presentation, we decided to go for Lunch at Pizza Express.  We kept it simple with a small pizza with salad and a glass of Cava before heading back in to the show and continuing around the food and fashion stands.

One interesting exhibitor was the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour.  It uses a Routemaster Bus to take customers on a 1 and a half hour tour of the major tourist landmarks in London, whilst providing them with a lovely afternoon tea.  I really liked the idea of this as a treat if you have someone visiting who hasn't been to London before, or just for a special birthday treat.  The bus was there and you could get on and see the tables laid out with food, as they would be on a tour, to give you a feel for the experience and the food. (Note the sippy cups and cup holders!)

The bus departs from both Victoria Coach Station and from 8 Northumberland Avenue in Central London.  Adult tours cost from £45 and Children aged 6-11 from £35.  I think for a special occasion, it could be a super surprise experience for someone.

A couple of other interesting stands to me were included one selling artificial grass, who very generously gave me these samples to take home.

We're seriously considering getting artificial grass in our small London garden, as every winter the dog chews up the grass into a mud bath and OH is getting seriously sick of having to re-turf or patch it up every spring.  It was interesting to see the different types available and I was reassured by how realistic they look.  Not to everyone's taste I realise, but much more practical for us and at least we'd be able to declutter the lawn mower!

I made just a couple of purchases whilst at the show, the main one being this new filter water bottle for the gym.  At £10, I thought it was reasonable value, as you can pay £6 for a bottle that doesn't filter your water at the same time.  I liked the size and styling of this bottle and it was available in a multitude of colours.  The filter lasts for 300 refills which should just about last me a year and then a replacement filter can be bought from their website or Amazon. 

Whilst at the show, I also found some inspiration for a natural beauty item that I can potentially make for myself, which will be revealed in a later post, when I've tried and tested it.

Finally, here are a few photos of the set rooms that were designed by different interior designers. Many of them weren't particularly to my taste, but it was interesting to take a look. 

My favourite was this room, as I particularly liked the pine cone wallpaper which I'm afraid didn't come out too clearly in the photograph.

Although we didn't spend too much money, we did enjoy our day out and I always come away with information and inspiration about things I am interested in.

Please note that I am not sponsored by nor affiliated to any of the businesses mentioned here.  They are just the things that I found most interesting from my visit to the show.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Project 10 Pan

Inspired by a recent video on Rachel's YouTube channel All Natural Aspirations and a post by Thrift Deluxe at Nine to Five I have decided to embark on my own Project 10 Pan challenge, to make a concerted effort to use up 10 of the products I currently have in my beauty/toiletry stash.

The main reason for doing this is to cut down the number of products I use, simplify my routines and also to continue the process of moving towards more natural products, which is an ongoing one.

I have had some success in finding natural products to use and am getting closer to finding products I'm happy to use again and again, but in the process of finding these I have sometimes started using products and then found something I've liked better, so moved on before they have been finished. 

In this sense, this project is about using up some of these products that have largely been relegated to evening routines or that haven't been used whilst I've been using other products.

I did a similar thing when we went to the US this year, whereby I tried to take along products that I wanted to use up, but there were significantly more than 10 in that challenge and I'm still using some of them, which as you will see are included in this project.

So here goes.  The first six are items that I took to the US and am still using.

1) Black mascara. 

This Boots Seventeen mascara is not a natural product and isn't waterproof either. I also prefer a brown mascara, so it's not my first choice of colour either.  I've got a natural replacement waiting in the wings, so I'm concentrating my efforts on using this up.  Its taking a while as I only wear it 2 or 3 days a week, (on days I'm not at the gym) but I'm persevering.

2) Bodyshop Grapefruit Lip Balm.

I was gifted this lip balm two years ago this Christmas by OH and have been using it for over a year now.  It seems to be one of those never ending products.  I'm not complaining as such, but since making my own peppermint lip balm and liking it, this has been relegated to use on a night before going to bed, and I wear the peppermint one during the day as it goes nicely under a lipstick.  I'm working hard on using it up and I aren't far from reaching the bottom of the pot, but there is still lots of balm around the sides of the pot to use. 

Incidentally, the pink pot will be a great little receptacle to re-use, as the labels peel off very easily.

3) Clinique Chubby Stick

This was a freebie with a magazine I bought ages ago.  I didn't wear it at all for quite a long while, but have recently quite liked the subtlety of it, as it isn't fully opaque, but has a bit of colour. As I have just recently used up a long standing lipstick, I will be trying to use this one much more often in an attempt to use it up.  It won't be replaced, but I do have a few similar coloured more natural products I can then concentrate on using.  The amount showing in photograph is all that is left of this, so hopefully it shouldn't take long to use up,

4) Green People Roll On Deodorant in Aloe Vera and Green Tea.

I bought this deodorant a while back after having a reaction to the fragrance in a natural deodorant and have used it for a while.  Although it is very gentle and I don't get a skin reaction, in all honesty I don't find it to be too effective, especially on days when I go to the gym and get sweaty. 

Whilst in the US, I found a natural stick deodorant that I find much more effective on gym days and have been using that and then using this on the other days.  It may take a while to use up, but the container is refillable and I've been looking into recipes for home made roll on deodorants, so may try to make one myself when it is finished.  I definitely wouldn't repurchase it, as it doesn't suit my lifestyle, but it may suit someone else as it is good to have the option of a natural roll on, that can be refilled.

5) Mineral Fusion Conditioner

I bought this hair conditioner in the US from Whole Foods, mainly because my hair went terribly frizzy in the Florida heat and humidity this summer.  It works very well, but does have a few ingredients I'd prefer not to be in it.  I've found that quite a few products irritate my scalp.  This conditioner doesn't seem to affect me too badly, so if I can't find anything better, I would definitely repurchase it if I can get it here, if only for the sake of my scalp health.

6) Neal's Yard Essential Oil Roll On for Energy.

This little roll on perfume was what I bought instead of a perfume when I decided to go natural.  It is beautifully packaged and smells nice, but I don't find the smell lasts too well.  In addition, it is quite oily on the skin which I don't really like too much.  Since buying an Eden spray perfume recently, I tend to now use this roll on on days when I'm just hanging out at home and when I'm out and about I use the stronger smelling Eden perfume.  I do have another bottle of this roll on to use up too, as I bought two on an offer, so I need to work my way through both.  It is a handy size for a handbag though, so I may put one in my handbag permanently.

Moving on, here are some products that I didn't take with me or use in the US.

7) Collection Fast Stroke Brown Liquid Eye Liner

Another product that isn't natural, but I do really like it and haven't sourced a replacement yet.  I don't use this that often, maybe once a week, if that, but it works well for me, is easy to apply and has good staying power.  I am concentrating on using it up and will then seek a natural alternative.

8) Lemongrass Hand Cream

I bought this hand cream in a set with a handwash from Holland and Barrett when I first started to purchase more natural products back in May and although I don't mind it, it does have a rather strong scent.  I can't honestly say that lemongrass is one of my favourite scents either, but it isn't offending me to use it up and I quite like the formula.  I'm well over three quarters of the way through it and use it day and night, so hopefully it won't take too long.

9) Collection Wand Concealer

This is a product that I heard a lot about on YouTube, as it is a regular favourite of many beauty channel YouTubers.  I bought one myself to see what all the fuss was about and it is great for the under eye area, especially for covering dark circles and brightening up the face, when I wear full make up, which isn't very often these days.  I do really like it and am slowly using it up with a view to replacing it with a more natural alternative.  I will be sad to lose this one, but if I can't find anything else I would consider repurchasing it even though it isn't 'natural'.

10) Homemade Moisturizer

A month or so ago I made a couple of bottles and a small jar of homemade moisturizer, from the ingredients I'd purchased for making my own cosmetics.  I found it was a bit too greasy for my skin as a moisturiser, but did find an alternative use for it, namely as an eye makeup remover.  It works really well in this regard, on those days that I wear mascara.  I'm working my way through the jar and bottles, but once used up I may just use pure coconut oil for this purpose, as I've heard it works well. I haven't actually tried it myself yet, but this cream does contain coconut oil, so it does give me some idea of it's potential efficacy.

You will notice from the photograph that it has gone slightly grainy and lumpy.  I understand this to be the Shea butter, that causes this, so I think I might try to use other ingredients in future, although it doesn't stop me using it as it is.

So, that's it for my 10 Project Pan products.  I'll post again when I've made significant progress towards using some of these up. Hopefully, not too far in the future!

Do you have any products that you just can't wait to use up and move on from?

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Getting Tough on Stuff in 2015 - November

Up until last weekend, I hadn't really done too well this month, in this decluttering and donating 1000 things in a year challenge, that I set myself at the beginning of the year, having found only another 18 items to donate.

That was until LB decided to have another sort out in her room and created a big pile of books to go for donation.  A whopping 54 to be precise, which bumped  up the total to 72. This sounded far more respectable. I guess almost being a teenager, her taste in books is changing very rapidly and she's now moving into more grown up genres, so many of the donated books are ones that have been completely outgrown.

Her clearout spurred me on and I found a few pillowcases in the linen cupboard that no longer go with any of the bed linen we now have, so they got put on the pile.  An old Christmas themed tin I used to keep my cards in got added too and a pile of magazines were put aside for taking to the doctor's surgery at some point in the near future.

The final monthly total of items for donation in November now stands at 87,  which when added to the yearly total so far of 1171, this means I've now reached a yearly total to date of 1258.

With just December left of this year, I can't see too much more leaving the house, but I am seriously thinking of continuing with this challenge next year, but with a slightly less ambitious target   of 500 items, to account for the inevitable slowing down after a major year of purging. I find it does motivate me to keep on with the process and not rest on my laurels allowing things to build up again.

Does anyone fancy joining me in the challenge next year?