Saturday, 31 December 2016

Feeling a Little Disinclined

Since getting the news mentioned in my previous post, I'm feeling a little unenthusiastic about the thought of any New Year celebrations this year, as I'm still feeling a little numb and thus not feeling particularly motivated.

In spite of this, I've finished reading a book this morning and started on a new one.  The book I finished was Looptail by Bruce Poon Tip, a Canadian social entrepreneur, whose adventure travel company is making a big difference to the places to which he takes his customers.  It was an interesting read.  A very pay it forward minded individual, that one can only admire.

The new book I've started is Carl Honore's In Praise of Slow.  In some of the reviews, it suggests that you read this book about the Slow Movement, by concentrating on just a chapter a day, to give you time to absorb it nice and slowly, so I made myself put it down after completing the first chapter. I can't, however, promise I won't pick it up again tonight when I go to bed, as I am enjoying it so far.

Today, I have also written a list of aims for 2017, and looked through the aims I had for last year, to see how many I managed to achieve. Not that many in reality, although a few important ones did get met, particularly the one about getting a cholesterol test, which was more important than I realised in view of it being found to be very high.

I don't hold too much store by these resolutions, but I find myself wanting to make them just the same, to help keep me moving forward.

With that done, I started thinking about trying to get back to some sort of normality, which, of course, meant writing a food shopping list. We're planning a very ordinary lunch on New Year's Day, probably egg and chips or something similar, as none of us can face another roast dinner, or anything resembling one. Not that we're ungrateful for the food we've been given over the holidays.  It's just that now we can please ourselves, this is what appeals.

We'll probably spend the evening watching TV, Jools Holland's Hootenaney show is usually a pretty safe bet, unless anything else catches our eye and attention.

Talking of TV, we've enjoyed some great films and TV over Christmas (we've been very selective).  I particularly enjoyed the films Saving Mr Banks and The Lady in the Van, plus the drama about the Bronte sisters, that was on the BBC the other night. OH also took his nephew to see the new Star Wars film at the cinema the other day.

I'm now heading out to get the food we need for the next few days, and hoping it won't be too busy. Wish me luck!

Wishing you all a Healthy and Happy 2017.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Home Again and Ready to Face Down 2017

We returned to London tonight after our four days away in Yorkshire to visit family.  The weather wasn't great coming back.  Thick fog most of the way. We made it okay though and are oh so glad to be home and back in our own house, even though we enjoy staying with others.

I received some terrible and shocking news on the journey home. After having switched off my phone for two days, due to there being no signal where we were staying, I found I had a message from a friend at the gym asking me to call them.

I think I knew it was bad news, as soon as I saw it, as she would just text me if it was something inconsequential. I didn't, however, anticipate quite how bad it would be.

I called her up to find out that a mutual friend and former instructor had died suddenly over the Christmas period.  We are both in shock. Said friend was a young and healthy mum just starting out on the journey that is family life.  What happened should never happen to such a young, beautiful and energetic person.

We don't know the full details yet, and might never know, but we are both very sad at the loss of our friend and the deep sadness that it will bring to her family.  I've never met her partner, but as soon as I got home I sat down and wrote a card to tell him how sorry I was.

It has made me appreciate even more, the gift that is every single day that we exist on this planet.

When I heard that George Michael had died last week, I selfishly thought, it could be me next. He was only a few years older and his music was the backdrop to my late teens.

I guess I've reached that stage in life where people of a similar age might die suddenly, but this is the first time I have experienced the sudden death of somebody younger than myself, with everything to live for.

It's cast a bit of a long shadow going into the New Year.  I was already feeling a little apprehensive about what the New Year might bring, what with all of the global upheaval in 2016, but now these concerns seem to pale into insignificance in comparison to the pain that our friend's family must be trying to bear.

I think I will just be glad of every day that is a good/normal day heading into 2017 and try to make the most of it.

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas with no bad news.

Friday, 23 December 2016

An Enjoyable Week and a Big Thank You

I'm enjoying this week.  I've spent two days at the CS, one more to go today.  Yesterday, I spent time hanging out at home, attending my last Zumba class of the year, doing a bit of last minute gift shopping and once again emptying the ironing basket.

We also had a delivery of a food gift hamper, from OH's parents, with some nice luxury foods in there that we've already made a start on. We've decided that Christmas has now officially started in our house.

LB had 4 friends over for a sleepover on Wednesday night to celebrate school being out for the holidays. Whilst they were here, we slipped out for a couple of hours to pick up my console/dressing table, that I'd purchased on eBay. It has already been commandeered into action in our bedroom and looks great.  I can't quite fit everything I wanted to in it's drawers, but that will encourage me not to hoard new products for future use and only buy things as I need them, which is all good. I'll post about it in the New Year.

My days at the CS this week have been enjoyable, busier than the new manager expected, which is good, but there's been a nice atmosphere and the time has passed very quickly this week.

It's the first time I've worked in any capacity in the week before Christmas, for over 10 years and I've enjoyed being occupied. Who knows, maybe next Christmas I might even have a paid job somewhere. Whatever happens, it's good to get out there amongst other people again and see and experience life outside of the house. It's one thing I definitely don't regret about 2016.

As you can probably tell, I'm starting to get a bit reflective about the year that has just passed. Lots of things have happened, mostly good things thankfully.  I've achieved some of my aims and aspirations and failed with  regard to others, but I've enjoyed the year and I am thankful for that. Who knows what 2017 will bring and what will be achieved and I'm now starting to look towards it.

I probably won't be posting much between now and next year (although I will still be reading when I can get a connection), so I will take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading my blog this year and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year for yourselves and your loved ones.

I'll see you in January.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Ticking Things Off the List

In terms of my To Do List, I'm having a productive week.  I guess when you're up against the clock things tend to get done one way or another. As each thing has been ticked off the list, it has granted me the time and mental space to get on with others, some of which I've been putting off for way too long.

On Monday afternoon, I managed to finish off all of my Christmas present wrapping, whilst LB was at an after school club.  That was a big tick off the list.

Later the same evening I made a new double batch of homemade natural deodorant.  I ran out over a week ago and have been using LB's spare Aluminium free stick deodorant (what she doesn't know won't hurt her 😉). I quite liked it actually, but it's back to using my own again from today.

My eBay selling has finished for another Christmas.  I ended all of my listings on Sunday night, as it is just getting too close and I don't want to have to worry about postage and whether things reach people. This also now leaves me free to get on with what I need to do at home.

It's been the worst year for sales since I began, almost, but I've got no one to blame but myself. Sometimes, change doesn't work and isn't strictly necessary.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it comes to mind.  I live and learn.

The To Do List has been radically reduced now.  I've got a bit of cleaning to do before Wednesday when some of LB's school friends are coming for a sleepover as an end of term treat. The cleaning (i.e. of bathrooms) was on my list anyway, so this is providing me with added motivation to do it. There's the usual washing and ironing still to do, but not much else, so I'm quite enjoying this week and experiencing a relatively slow and steady lead up to Christmas.

Tomorrow, I'm back at the CS, so the cleaning will be done when I get home, after supper.

I hope your lead in to Christmas is an enjoyable one.

Monday, 19 December 2016

An Unexpected Free Day

Today, for me, was an unexpected free day, which is always useful the week before Christmas. Normally, my Monday is taken up with classes at the gym followed by the weekly shop, but this week the gym was closed, so no classes, and I did the weekly shop yesterday, to take advantage of a £10 off a £50 spend voucher I had for Tesco, which was due to expire.

When I woke up, I was able to lie in bed for a while and read, which was a luxury and then get showered, have breakfast and walk the dog at my leisure, without any time restrictions.  It felt very liberating.

Once I'd done the above, I decided to do something that I've needed to do for about 5 months, namely go and get my haircut.  I really am the worst person for getting this done regularly and hadn't had it cut for about 8 months.  Anyway, I headed to Supercuts and the same lovely lady that cut it last time, did it for me again.

It feels and looks so much better. I've been having some problems with it for a long time now, which I won't go into, but just to get a few inches cut off made all the difference. It also cut out all of the old colour that I used to have in it, so I feel like I'm back to my natural self now, completely, which is an added bonus.  I couldn't face the festivities without doing it and now I feel even more ready for Christmas.

The only down side was that the lovely lady hairdresser is moving away and won't be there to do it again for me, which is sad. (For me, not her as she's getting a fresh start somewhere else!) I wished her all the best and gave her a big tip, because I really do appreciate it when I find a hairdresser who has a nice manner about them. It makes all the difference.

In other news, I won an eBay auction this morning for a much wanted piece of furniture for our bedroom.  It's a dressing table to match our bedroom furniture, that I've wanted for a few years now. I decided, that as it is now out of production, I just needed to buy one or I might miss the boat and find them difficult to come by.  I put a fairly big bid on and won with room to spare.  We're picking it up later in the week and I can't wait.

I'll let you know what it looks like when I get it home and set up in the bedroom.  It's not the best time of year to splash out, but it isn't too far to go to collect it, so I just took the opportunity whilst I could.

The rest of today I think I'm going to spend doing some more Christmas present wrapping. I want to wrap some of LB's presents while she is still at school and this is my last chance. I'll catch you later.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

This Weekend (Part 1 - Saturday)

This weekend got off to a very good start, partly due to the Prosecco I drank on Friday night and partly due to the fact that I got a whole suitcase full of presents wrapped. I just have to write the tags now, if I can remember who each parcel is for.  Makes for a good guessing game to keep my mind active!

I followed this on Saturday morning by finally getting myself out into the garden.  It  was a bit cold and misty, so I had to wrap up warm, but there wasn't any rain forecast for the weekend, so this was probably the best chance I had to just get on and get it  done.

I wanted to take a photograph of what the garden looked like just before I embarked on the task, but unfortunately OH took our shared camera with him on a client visit, so there will only be the after pictures in this post.

I started work down the side return, in an attempt to clear all of the leaves that had settled there. Part of the reason I've left the garden this late, is so that I would only need to clear the leaves just the once, and as virtually all of the leaves have now left the surrounding trees, this will hopefully be the case, although a few more may subsequently drop.

Anyway, I gave the decking a good old sweep and bagged up all of the leaves. I'm keeping them to make leaf mulch this year. I had bagged some earlier in the year, but OH threw them in the garden waste bin, needless to say he's not getting his hands on these. The bags are going to be tied with cable ties and left to rot down and supply lots of lovely leaf mulch for my raised beds.

It took about four hours in total to clear the decked area outside the back door.  I did a bit of pruning too, although there's still a lot more to do and some hoeing too, but it looks a whole lot better.

The greenhouse was cleared of the old rotting tomato plants and grow bags and it's cover was put back in place, so it is now a nice dry place for storing things over the winter.

I put the canvas garden chairs away in the shed, found a few more old toys of LB's to donate and emptied any pots that had filled with water over the autumn winter months.  I still need to do lots of pot washing in spring, but I always enjoy waiting for a nice sunny day to do these.

Here's a few pictures of how this area looked when I'd finished on Saturday afternoon.

The side return.  This is where our kitchen is going to be extended out into next year.

I still need to hoe this border and re-pot the blueberry  plant which is mossed over, but it's looking a lot better along here now.

The mini greenhouse is now all clean and tidy and giving shelter to my succulents.

I'm a bit annoyed with myself for neglecting my greenhouse over the past couple of years, as some of the joints are now rusting and it might only last another year or so.  I should have taken a bit more care of it really, but it will be moved later this year, to where the trampoline is currently standing, in time for when we have the building work done on the kitchen, so we'll see how it fares there.

The potting table will be relocated there too, as will my new hot composting bin.  (More in another post)  We just need to dismantle the trampoline, make a gate from the fence that's currently there and put some flagstones down to accommodate everything we want to relocate there.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Getting Ready for Christmas

Tonight, I was happy to get home from the CS after a busy week. There seems to have been a constant stream of customers in and out of the door, which has been really good news for business.

As I've spent most of my last couple of days there on the till, this his kept me occupied.  It is, however, quite tiring, so I was pleased to get home and know that I don't have to be back there until Tuesday.

Since getting home, I've been winding down from my busy week, by mainly spending the time catching up on watching my favourite YouTube channels.  I am getting a bit more selective about what I watch lately, as time constraints have meant that I can't watch everything that my favourite channels post, but I've focused on the videos that interest me most.

I've had an email from my sister in Australia tonight and it was lovely to hear from her again and catch up with her news since she returned home. I should be able to skype her on Christmas Day this year, as we will be at home, have a wifi connection and no one but ourselves around to distract me.

Talking of Christmas Day, I've also been planning my Christmas Eve/Day TV viewing.  There's not much of it, save for The Queen's Speech, possibly watching Strictly and also watching a film that I've been wanting to watch for ages, namely The Lady in the Van, which is on TV on Christmas Eve. Couldn't be more perfect timing.

On Christmas Eve during the day, OH has booked us tickets to see the Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy, which should be good.  We'll head into town as we always do when we stay in London, do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping (just a couple of things to get), and have lunch or supper in town before heading home to watch the film.  I'm quite excited as it should be a nice day.

Tonight, OH is out with his cycling buddies for their Christmas drinks and I am home with LB and about to embark on some Christmas present wrapping.  I enjoy making presents look extra special, so I am quite looking forward to getting stuck in.

I am, however, halfway through a bottle of Prossecco, (OH bought in a case for Christmas and to give as gifts) so I'm sampling it tonight and it's very nice indeed.  I'm not sure how the presents will turn out in the circumstances.

I hope you've got an enjoyable weekend planned.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Great Day at Home

I've had another lovely day at home today, after spending two days at the CS. I really needed it, as the first half of the week has been exhausting. I haven't slept well for nearly three nights now and to add to this I am coming down with another cold, so I was feeling a bit worse for wear.

Just getting an extra hour in bed to read and spend time doing something that I enjoy made such a difference. This afternoon after coming back from the gym, I've emptied the ironing basket whilst watching the new Minimalists documentary newly released on Netflix, done some washing, spoken to my sister to make arrangements for visiting and presents at Christmas, made up and posted eBay parcels, hoovered through most of the house and generally got on back in control of things at home. I feel a lot better.

I'm  now going to have a soak in the bath and finish the evening watching The Apprentice, which is always quite amusing.

This weekend I've got no classes booked, nor  anything planned, so I'm going to concentrate on tackling the garden at last. (Weather allowing). I've got an empty brown garden waste bin to fill with all of the prunings, sweepings and leaves, etc. and I'm going to get it in order before we get any snow, assuming that we will get snow at some point. I'll finally be ready for Christmas once this job is done.

I hope you're having a good week.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Getting Back My Sewing Mojo

Since attempting to declutter the sewing room the other week, my thoughts have kept returning to my stash of fabrics. I have even started thinking about how I'd like to start using some of the fabrics, to make some items for around the house.

New cushion covers and runners for the reception rooms would be nice, as the current ones are looking a little tired, although I still do like them a lot.

I think this is going to be my priority when I get some free time in the New Year, namely to spruce up our home, at very little or no cost. It seems such a shame that some lovely fabrics are tucked away in boxes and drawers instead of being appreciated whilst in use on a daily basis.

Spurred on by my efforts a couple of weeks ago, the  weekend before last, I decided to declutter more of my fabrics and on Saturday afternoon, I worked my way through two of the drawers where I store my less favoured fabrics.  I probably halved the contents of the drawers and when put with the fabrics I'd set aside the week before, I managed to collate this huge pile for donation.

I really hope someone else will get the chance to use these fabrics and make something functional or decorative with them. I could, of course, keep them and try to do that myself, but I have so many that I just know I never will get around to using them all.

It felt good to thin things out a little, a bit wasteful though if I'm honest with myself. I really dare not think about how much I've spent on buying all of these fabrics in the past.  Luckily, most were purchased very inexpensively from car boots, jumble sales, eBay, markets, etc., but it was still a waste of money that could have been better spent.  I  don't want to make this mistake again. Anyway, I have no real regrets, as it is now time to look to the future and move on.

Having sorted through my fabrics, I came across a few pieces that I decided could, with very little effort be made into something useful and I actually got around to getting a bit creative and making a few things.

Firstly I made this fabric bookmark from scraps, which I'd already cut out and just needed to sew together. I always need a good bookmark, as I'm always reading some book or other and need to keep track of where I am.  It's nice to have one I've made myself too.

I also made a table runner out of this lovely piece of African cotton fabric.  It had already been hemmed around three sides, so all I needed to do was hem the fourth side and it was perfect for this chest of drawers in our second reception room.  I really love the designs of some of the African prints, they are so vibrant and alive.

Finally, I made a scarf that I bought at the CS into a snood, as I find this is just the easiest way to wear scarves these days, and especially good in the winter as you can snuggle your face into them.  It took two minutes and I'm now enjoying wearing it.

It felt good to get the sewing machine out and make a couple of things that I can use immediately. No amazing creations or anything, but the fact that I'm making use of things I already have is enough for me.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Getting Things Done

This weekend has been all about getting as many things done from my current to do list as possible. The main item being putting up the Christmas decorations.

It's never a case of just putting up the decorations, as the living room always needs cleaning and hoovering beforehand and then again afterwards, as there are always bits and pieces that drop from the tree when you're putting it up, even if it's artificial like ours.

We've not had a real tree for several years now, but I'm starting to miss having one. I think the problem is that the artificial tree we have is very traditional, and basically just looks a bit boring.

It didn't help this year as I went for a traditional red and green theme. In the end I had to add a few brighter coloured baubles to give it a bit of a lift. Maybe it's time to start re-thinking the tree thing and look at alternatives.

Next year, we should have a bigger kitchen by Christmas, as we are hopefully going ahead with our kitchen extension in the second half of the year.  I can see us possibly wanting to put a tree in this part of the house in future or maybe even decorate one outside that will be visible from the kitchen, instead of having one inside.  It's something to think about.

Alternatively we could get a new brightly coloured artificial tree or simply new decorations might be the answer. I can feel a change coming on one way or another.

So the tree and our familiar decorations are up and Christmas has officially begun in our household. It's quite a relief actually, as it feels like a big task has finally been completed.  I still have all of my gift wrapping to do and a little bit  more shopping for a couple of people, but essentially it is mostly taken care of.

I bought a few more Christmas food items in my Lidl shop this morning, which is why the bill came to over £70.  I don't have much more shopping to do now this week, as I got most of what we needed. As I don't have any vouchers left to use at Tesco I could do most of the shop at Lidl this week. There were a few bits I couldn't get so will still be heading to Tesco as usual tomorrow, and then stopping in at TK Maxx to see if I can get the last few gifts I need to buy.

Tomorrow evening is the Christmas dinner for staff at the shop, so I'll be heading there when the shop closes, to meet every one and head out to the restaurant. It should be a nice evening.

Another job I've been doing this weekend has been making up and packing items I have sold on eBay as part of my small business. I haven't really mentioned much about eBay recently. The main reason for this is that this year I haven't really been on it and haven't sold half as much as I did last year. Initially, I listed things differently and they didn't get seen, but the main reason I think has been the fact that I changed a few things about my listings and it didn't really work as well in terms of sales. It's been a learning curve.

To be honest, I also got off to a slow start due to everything that was going on in October and it took me until November to get my act together, which is pretty late when trying to capture Christmas-related sales.  Things have picked up a bit in the last couple of weeks, but to be honest I'm not too bothered as I've been very busy at the shop and life moves on sometimes and different things become important.

I will, off course, miss the extra money that I earned last year and which paid for most of my dental treatment if you remember, but so long as I cover costs and make a little bit of money, I'm happy.  I can always try again next year, although the disruption of having building work done, might put paid to that idea.  Maybe it's time to get a job outside of the house and earn some money that way again.

Other things I've been working on this weekend include; cooking up some homemade food for the dog, the usual ironing/laundry workload, personal and business banking and generally pottering and doing other small household things that needed doing.  I've not managed to do everything on my list, but should hopefully find a bit more time to do some of them tomorrow before I go out.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Good Week

It's  been a good week this week, despite my small losses at the beginning of the week.  I haven't lost anything since, save that an eBay parcel I sent got lost in the post, but it was a very inexpensive thing to replace for a customer, and it is so rare for anything to go amiss in my experience anyway.  It makes me grateful for our postal services.

My sister in Australia says that postal services there are dire and things always go missing.  I've had my parcels to her go missing too, so I know from personal experience and don't like to post things now.

My two days at the CS so far this week have gone okay. It's quite interesting as the new manager puts up our weekly sales results on the staff notice board, so we can see how well the shop is doing with regard to it's targets. It's quite interesting reading and nice to have access to them, as it makes you feel more involved.

We've got a staff Christmas dinner planned at a restaurant near the shop next Monday evening. There isn't a huge budget for it, and I wouldn't expect there to be, but the fact that there's one at all, is quite encouraging in terms of feeling making volunteers feel valued.

Today, I've spent the day at home, save for going to the gym, going out to do a bit of top up grocery shopping and post some more eBay parcels.  It's been nice to just enjoy time in my house pottering.

I haven't been using the dishwasher for a few days, because I was awaiting an order I'd made which included some dishwasher tablets.  It was late coming, (10 days from placing the order due to Christmas and Cyber Monday I guess) so I ran out, but was loathe to spend any more money on more tablets, so had to make do washing up by hand.  (I ran out of dish soap too, which was also on the order, but relented and bought another bottle to see me through until it arrived today)

It wasn't a great hardship, but it was a bit annoying. However, I was very disappointed when the parcel arrived today, as the box was all squashed and leaking the dish washing liquid all over the contents. Luckily, it only contained household, food and toiletry products, but if it had contained gifts,which I sometimes purchase from this particular company, they would have been ruined.

I promptly sent off and email letting the company concerned, know what had happened. I'm not really the complaining type, but when a fifth of the bulk liquid you've bought ends up all over the other contents, they need to know.  The delivery company were at fault in this instance, as the box looked like it had been dropped from a height. I'm waiting to hear back, but here's a couple of photos I took of the box and contents. A lot of the card board packaging of the other products was slimy and soggy.

Not impressed!

Anyway, on a brighter note, tonight, we're heading to our local mall for John Lewis's yearly Christmas shenanigans for loyalty card holders.  It's more for OH to do a bit of Christmas shopping, as most of mine is done. I'm thinking of returning what I bought for my sister last week at the Oxford Street store and exchanging it for something else, as I'm not sure it's her kind of thing.  If we're lucky we should get a glass of fizz and a chance to look around the store without it being too full.

How's your week been?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Losing Things and the Monday Shop

Monday is always a busy day for me. After walking the dog, I do two classes at the gym and then head off to do the weekly shop.  Today was no different, but I got a bit annoyed with  myself for the second day running.

Yesterday, I dropped my woolly bobble hat at the gym on leaving and when I went back to ask if it had been handed in, it hadn't. I was very disappointed as it was a nice one I'd bought from ASOS last year, which is probably why someone has picked it up and kept it.

Today, I managed to leave my filter water bottle at the gym and didn't realise until I got back from doing the shopping tonight, too late to go back and see if it had been handed in.  By the time I go back there it will be far too late and they'll have disposed of it.  So I'm feeling doubly annoyed with myself, as I paid £10 for it at the Ideal Home Show last year and I liked it.

I'm just hoping I don't lose anything else this week, apart from the marbles I've obviously already lost, of course. I'm hoping that losing a favoured glove on a dog walk a few weeks ago will make up the three and I won't have to part with anything else I own and like in the near future.  It's one way to declutter I guess.

Anyway, the grocery shopping took a bit longer this week, as I did a detour to Home Bargains and Poundland. A few festive items found their way into my baskets, including a little 1ft artificial tree for LB. She said the other week that she'd like a tree for her bedroom and as Poundland were having a clearance sale of old Christmas stock, I got a tiny one, complete with decorations (and two small table cloths for me to use as fabric), all for 50p each. I just need to get her some tiny lights to go on it now.

I also bought a new basket for the dog from Home Bargains, as she's taken to sleeping in our room most nights and her current one is too big and takes  up too much space. The new one is nice and compact and will be good to double as a travel basket. It was pretty inexpensive, so it wasn't too much of a budget buster.

A few more items of food got bought today and put aside for Christmas, including an expensive tin of posh nosh for the dog, three bird flavoured, duck goose and turkey. She'll be eating better than us on the day.  I also picked up some brandy sauce, but as yet I haven't got us any pudding to go with it. The final items were some chocolates for the tree, which I'm hoping to put up next weekend.

As it was the first shop of the month, I probably bought more than I usually do, as we'd run out of a few things and I was a bit more relaxed about throwing things in the trolley.  Only two more grocery shops before Christmas now and only one more Monday at the gym, as the final Monday before Christmas all classes are cancelled, so that will probably become my main Christmas shop day, save for picking up any fresh bits nearer the time.

Tonight, I had a relaxing bath to ready myself for the week ahead at the CS and I put the finishing touches to my Christmas cards. They're all getting posted out tomorrow, because I'm sick of them sitting in a pile on my kitchen table.  I posted my sister's cards for her today. She left them with me when she returned to Australia.  It was cheaper to do it that way, than for her to send them from the other side of the world. After tomorrow, I will just have a few to hand out at the CS and then I'm done for this year.  (Hooray!!)

I'm off to bed now, to read and get an early night for a change.  Have a good week.

Friday, 2 December 2016

A Trip to Town

Thursday, as I mentioned in a previous post, I spent the afternoon in Central London doing a spot of last minute Christmas shopping.  The main reason for going in was to avoid a £6 delivery fee on my Fortnum and Mason order, but I did need to pick up a few presents too, so made an afternoon of it.

I caught the bus in, which takes a while, about an hour from where I live, but longer coming home, (90 minutes) as it is much busier and the bus much fuller.  For £1.50 per journey though, it is super inexpensive, if you have the time and patience for it.

Anyway, I digress. The bus took me straight to Oxford Street itself, so I hopped off at Oxford Circus and wandered down, stopping in a couple of stores that I needed to go to.  I managed to get one present, but my second stop was unsuccessful, another attempt to avoid delivery costs.  I wanted a particular CD from HMV, but unfortunately they didn't stock it, so it was back to ordering it online when I got home.

I then reached John Lewis and took in their Christmas Window displays. I have to say, in my humble opinion, these were the best of the ones I saw this year.  They were so cute, tying in as they did with their Christmas advertising campaign. I didn't take any photos, as I only had my phone and can't download photos from it, so apologies for no pictures.

Selfridges next, and although their windows were glitzy and glamorous as always, they didn't quite do it for me quite so much.  I went into the store though, but was unsuccessful getting what I wanted, as when I saw it in person, I wasn't too impressed.

Anyway, I took myself down South Moulton Street and most of the length of Bond Street to find my way to Fortnums.  I enjoyed looking in all the expensive store windows, but wasn't overly impressed by much of the merchandise, far too ostentatious for my liking. I guess some people live a lifestyle that requires such trappings, I don't.

I popped into Fenwick's for the first time ever and found it quite interesting in there.  I am sometimes a bit put off going into some of the more expensive designer stores, as they tend to have security men on the doors and sometimes they even follow you around the shop.  Not my idea of a pleasant shopping experience.

Unfortunately, in this day and age anyone who doesn't appear to be wearing blatantly expensive designer labels, seems to be viewed as a potential shop lifter. Very sad and depressing, but I know from experience in the CS, that people do go out with the intention of stealing, in charity shops or high end stores, it makes no difference.

I was reminded as I passed the Royal Academy, that there's an exhibition on that we wanted to visit on Abstract Expressionism.  I made a mental note to ask OH to try to book us tickets to visit on Christmas Eve, as we always like to go into town for the day when we stay in London for Christmas, as it makes us feel particularly festive.

Eventually I got to Fortnums and it was super busy. As I was picking up an online order, I thought it would be very quick, which it would have been if I'd gone to the right place. I ended up queuing for 15 minutes in a line to order a hamper and you can only imagine how long each customer was taking. It's bad enough deciding what to buy at home on your computer without sitting down with an advisor in store to make up a hamper.

When I finally realised my error, once redirected, I had my order and I was out of the store within a few minutes. I have to say I found the service was impeccable, unlike some stores I visited during the afternoon.

Having collected my order, I made my way along Regent Street and popped in a couple of stores on my way back to John Lewis on Oxford Street, where I bought a couple more presents and used the ladies before getting the bus home. My bus leaves from the street down the side of the store, making it a super convenient last stop.

It was a good afternoon out, but by the time I got home at nearly 7pm I was pretty exhausted and not really fit to do much else but collapse in front of my computer and order the one present that I couldn't get in person.

Maybe next year I'll get it all delivered, but then again, I might not, as it just wouldn't be the same and it wouldn't allow me to see the Christmas windows and lights and soak up the pre-Christmas atmosphere on one of the London's most infamous streets. A crazy place, but you've got to love it just a little bit.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

CS Catch Up and Feeling More Festive

It's been a good  couple of days at the CS.  We've been very short of staff, i.e. just me and the manager for half  of each day, due to some unexpected staff absences, but we've got by okay.

I've spent most of the time on the till, which isn't my favourite thing to do in the shop, but I'm happy to go where needed. I find the time passes a little slower when I'm on the till and Tuesday was quite a quiet day, probably because it was the second to last day of the month and people were waiting to get paid. Wednesday was a bit busier though, which was good.

I'm gradually getting used to the change in pace at the shop.  I do sometimes find it a little slow after the speed at which I used to work. On the plus side, however, I am feeling a lot calmer when I'm there and much less stressed for the most part, which is a very good thing indeed, so I'm not complaining, although it probably sounds like I am.

Last week, I got involved in setting up the Christmas window display, which was fun.  No pictures though I'm afraid.  It's now starting to get a bit busier on the Christmas cards and other products front, which I enjoy.  I like keeping the shelves stocked up.  It's like playing shop, although it's not playing, it's for real.  I've not really worked in retail since I was a teenager, so to me I still find it quite a novelty.

From this week, I'm going in on Fridays too, just up until Christmas and it's been my own decision.  I helped out the previous manager by doing quite a few extra days when needed, so I'm happy to help the current manager in the same way for a few weeks during a busy period. I'm away between Christmas and New Year, so I like to make up for it, although I'm not expected to.

With most of my Christmas shopping done, going into the shop keeps me out of trouble with regard to spending, unless something comes into the shop that I can't resist that is.  Besides, I now almost always get away at a time that suits me and makes the commute less stressful, so I'm more than happy to do it.

Today, once I've done my usual class at the gym, I'm heading into town to pick up an online order from Fortnum and Mason (a few stocking fillers for family) and doing a few last minute bits of Christmas shopping.

Following this, I should only have OH's main present and a few sweets to buy, but he needs to try his present on before I buy it, so we need to go on a special shopping trip for that one. The sweets can probably be picked up with the grocery shopping over the next few weeks, so I don't need to make a special trip for those.

Actually, I tell a lie, I still have a niece to buy a present for, but she often prefers the money, and I'd like to get something for my sister this year, as she made such an effort for my 50th birthday, that I want to buy her a little something to thank her.

Now the weather has turned colder, I'm starting to feel a bit more infused with Christmas spirit, especially when I go out early with the dog and everywhere is white and frosty.  I love it, so crisp and clarifying. LB's chocolate advent calendar came out this morning and I'll probably get the decorations out this weekend or next.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Monthly Round Up - November

Another pretty disastrous month on the financial front, but hardly surprising with Christmas around the corner.

I didn't really budget very well for the festivities this year, partly due to unexpected events and partly due to overspending during the course of the year. Oh well, can't be helped. You just have to tot it all up, pay it off and get on with it, making sure you're more careful in future.

At least my personal budget came in under this month, although only by £6 or so.  I didn't intend to spend as much as I did on myself, but a few spontaneous purchases at the CS got the better of me.

Another budget that came under this month was the household budget which was £36.52 under. This is the best it's been all year I think. (I have to say, though, that it will probably be over budget next month, as I'm placing a couple of orders for natural hygiene and household products, as we are running low.)

It was excellent news in the home budget this month, as nothing got spent in this category and it came in at £50 under budget. I do need to buy a couple of things in the forthcoming months, so am hoping to wait until the January sales and get them then. I am going to write a list to remind me of what we need, so I don't randomly purchase other stuff just because it sounds like a good deal.

LB didn't need much buying for her either, especially with Christmas and her birthday on the horizon, so another £33 under budget here.

You may be thinking at this point that things went pretty well, which when you look at the figures, they did really, but the Miscellaneous budget was totally busted, as I overspent by £73 here, mostly on Christmas presents/cards/postage and transport related costs, so nothing that I could have avoided.

The final category that got overspent this month was the food budget.  I don't quite know why, but it was nearly £150 overspent.  I really can't figure out how I came to overspend so badly here, but there you go, it just got out of hand somehow.  Some of it was due to eating out on days out or buying wine for social events, but the rest was just extra food in the cupboards.  I definitely need to rein this budget in this month, in spite of it being Christmas.  I've already made my Christmas food shopping list and I'm hoping to stick to it and not add anything else on, as we really don't want to over indulge too much over the festive season. We will be away visiting for a few days towards the end of the month, so this should help.

In all honesty, I'm expecting another disastrous month next month and then to hopefully get back to some semblance of normality by February or March, which is a bit of a depressing thought, but that's the reality of it.

I hope your budgeting outlook is far more positive than mine.

Monday, 28 November 2016

A Really Good Read

On Friday morning I finished reading this book that I picked up at the CS.  I nearly didn't buy it, but I'm so pleased that I did.

It's taken a few weeks to finish it, but I have to say that it's one of the best books I've read in a long time.  It's not a new book and was published 8 or more years ago, but everything in it is still relevant today, if not more so.

It kind of sums up my thoughts about the current rampant consumerism we are encouraged to enter into in so called developed nations today.  I think, as the book suggests, resistance is growing, but we're still a long way off turning things around. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to be connected to lots of you bloggers out there, who don't ascribe to the spend, spend, spend mentality that afflicts us as a nation and that is very reassuring and encouraging.

Perhaps it will take another downturn to make us fully realise the error of our ways and appreciate what we have already, instead of constantly searching out the next best thing.  Who knows, but this book has certainly crystallised how I feel about 'stuff' and mindless shopping and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of reading it.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

In a Funk

I've been in a bit of a funk this week (bad mood for anyone who doesn't know what I mean). I don't quite know why, as no one particular thing has happened to bring it on. Maybe it's hormones,(although I hate to say this, it may be true) or maybe not, but for some reason I was on a bit of downer for a few days.

I just felt a bit underwhelmed I guess by the thought of Christmas and the presents I've bought for people, annoyed with myself for always running out of money before the end of the month and generally feeling distinctly unenthusiastic about everything. I don't know if anyone else ever gets like this, but I do from time to time and it often comes right out of the blue.

Anyway, on Saturday I had a bit of a moan to OH about it and then started to listen to myself.  It really didn't sound good.  I took the dog out for a walk to take my mind off things.  It made me feel better. When I looked at her little cute face and she was being cheeky and playful, it helped to snap me out of my funk and start to pick myself back up again.

I'm incredibly lucky.  I have a nice home, great partner and daughter, very nice friends and fellow bloggers, a really cute and well behaved dog who I adore, no serious money troubles, I participate in voluntary work that I enjoy, have lots of interests I really love and there is plenty of food in the cupboards  (although everyone always complains that there isn't!). What more can a person want or need and what gives me the right to feel in a funk about life when I have all of these great things.

Anyway, a day later I'm feeling much better. In part, I was worrying that the Christmas presents I've bought for LB weren't very exciting or surprising, even though they are for the most part, what she has asked for. (I'm trying to be practical/less wasteful and buy things she wants, rather than things I think she might want that don't always really get used).

I'm sure that lots of parents feel this way just before Christmas.  I often do and tend to have a last minute panic that sometimes causes me to rush out and buy more, but I don't want to do that this year. It's not the answer and I  can't afford to do it either.

Instead, I found a great idea on YouTube today for a gift I can make, that has made me feel a lot better. It was an idea to make a memory jar for someone and in it put 12 ideas for things you can do together to make new memories.  I sat down and did this for LB for Christmas.  It should be a nice surprise for her and hopefully she'll like it.

Some of the things in it don't cost anything really, such as a girly pamper session together, a girly night in watching a film with snacks, breakfast in bed, etc.

Others include spending money, i.e. shopping trips to favourite or new untried destinations, a cinema/theatre trip, a visit to Starbucks (she loves it), a day out thrift shopping, a cut and blow dry in a salon.

The idea is for us to do one of the items together each month.  A way to make Christmas last the year, spread the cost and give us both experiences to enjoy together.

Yes, shopping does feature in a few of them, but what teenage girl doesn't like to go shopping every now and then, not to mention what mum doesn't like to go shopping with her daughter on occasion.

I feel a bit better about her presents now, as I know we have lots of treats to look forward to throughout the year and it will also make me consciously do more things with her too.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A Day Out and a Step Back into the Past

On Friday, my friend and I headed out for the day on our annual pilgrimage to the Ideal Home Show at Christmas.  I've managed to get us free tickets every year for the past few years, via and this year was no different as we headed across town to Olympia to make a Christmas Day Out of it.

I don't know if it was because we went on a Friday, when we've usually gone on a Thursday, but for some reason, this year it seemed busier than normal, with thousands of people jostling to look at all of the stalls.

We had a wander around trying to look for the set rooms which are designed by interior designers. We found them eventually in the far corner of the venue.  Here's a picture of a couple of the rooms.

Are you putting a Christmas tree up in your bathroom this year?  A nice idea though. (I had to edit myself out of the mirror in this picture)

To be honest, and I don't mean to sound ungrateful for our free tickets, there seems to be less and less content of interest to us every year that we attend.  It becomes more and more about just buying stuff. In all fairness, maybe it always was or maybe it was because it was the Christmas edition of the event and they maximise the sales space.  In other years I haven't minded too much, but this year I did.

I just can't seem to get enthusiastic at the moment about adding more stuff to our house, so as a consequence, very little was purchased by me at the event, save for a few of edibles (including sushi for lunch), some dog treats for the pup for Christmas and a small, inexpensive, but very practical item for me that I'd been thinking of buying for a while.

Even the stages didn't really have anything going on on them that held our interest. Maybe we picked a bad day. We started to watch one presentation on the main stage, but very soon lost interest.  The foodie stage was more interesting, but we didn't hang out there long either.

I think this might actually be our last visit, free tickets or not, particularly to the Christmas show, as we'd rather just meet for lunch and a chat somewhere nearer home, rather than trek to the other side of London to be virtually solely encouraged to buy more stuff and little else.

The queue for the free goodie bag went around the building and we just couldn't face lining up for a bag of freebies that we probably didn't even really want.

I realised today that I've changed a lot over the last few years.  Once I'd have been happy to wait to get something for free, whereas now I'm finding myself a little more selective how I spend my time and I'm not quite so easily persuaded to accept or even buy things I don't want or need.  It's a good thing really.

After my friend and I went our separate ways home, I got off the bus and as I had some cash left in my purse, I decided to pop into a local charity shop on the way home, one that I used to frequent regularly just a few years ago and have bought lots of things from in the past.  I haven't done this for a long time.  In fact, I've deliberately avoided it to be honest, so bad was my CS shopping habit in the past. It felt a little strange going in, but also very comforting and familiar at the same time.

I had a good long look around the shop, as I always used to do.  I tried on numerous items of winter/seasonal clothing, but none looked quite right on me.  I had a good rummage in a box of leather offcuts, of which I was tempted to purchase a few and get a bit creative, but it was all a little too thick and would have been very hard to stitch.

After scouring the book shelves, I came away with just one book for 50p, this one by Ariana Huffington of The Huffington Post fame.  It sounds like quite a good read and I can always pass it on when I've finished it.

I like CS shopping, I like that the proceeds go to help others and I like it that things have already had a life, but it scares me that I might go back to where I was previously, namely needlessly buying things I didn't need and filling up our house with stuff.  I think I'll just stick to working in one for now and limit my exposure.

I'm not yet totally cured of my past shopping habits, they will always be part of my life and an ongoing struggle, but I am making good progress which is encouraging.

Maybe next Christmas a day out that doesn't include an opportunity to shop would be even better progress.  A lot can happen in a year, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Thursday At Home

Well this Thursday, I didn't have a great long list of errands to do, so it was relatively leisurely.

I did my usual dog walk and gym visit, bought a couple of fresh grocery items on the way home.  I noticed that a couple of new shops/cafes had opened near the gym.

The shop sold artisan bread and gorgeous looking pastries.  Just a pity that I never eat these things, as I can't justify the empty calories. I'm sure they'll do well though.

The cafe looked interesting too, but I do sometimes wonder how many cafes the local area can support.  Seems like an indefinite number where I live, as there are just so many of them.  Obviously cafe life is a very popular occupation amongst Londoners.

Anyway, for the rest of the day I didn't really have a plan.  I did a bit of blog reading, laundry, washing up and rubbish sorting for collection on Friday. I didn't feel like doing any ironing, so I left it for now.

Later, I decided to do a bit of a spontaneous declutter of the sewing room.  I went through most of my boxes of fabric and pulled out any that I no longer wanted to keep. There were quite a few.

I've decided that I need to streamline things here, as there is just so much and I'm never going to use it all. I kept my favourites and a lot of the rest I let go.

I've now got a big pile to bag up for donation. Hopefully someone else will be able to use it for quilting or other projects.  There's still a lot more work to do in this room, but I couldn't easily get to some of the drawers full of fabric, as the boxes of donations were in the way. It'll keep until another day.

Later still, I also got inspired to do a bit of a declutter of a couple of my kitchen cupboards, after watching a YouTube video on the subject.  I have to say it was one of the worst videos I've watched in terms of camera movement.  By the end I felt sick because the camera moved around so much.  I didn't realise that watching a video could make you feel so unwell.  (I say this, because I was feeling fine before I watched it, but I suppose it could have been something I'd eaten that made me feel ill) Anyway, I got rid of a few out of date food items that I'm just not going to use and a couple of other items that we no longer want to keep.

It was nice to spend an afternoon and evening concentrating on getting rid of more stuff.  I wish I'd thought about how much time it would take to declutter things when I bought them in the first place. I could have saved hours of my life.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Bemoaning Black Friday

Is it just me or is anyone else sick of hearing about the latest Black Friday deals? I seem to have been deleting them from my inbox for days now and none have tempted me to part with any money at all, save for this one.

I shop quite regularly with this company and I have to say that I find them very reliable and they have a good range of alternative health/organic/earth friendly products. I think I will probably be placing an order in the next few days as there's a few household items I need and can buy in bulk from them. At least it will benefit others in the process, as well as netting me a 20% discount. of course.  I really can't argue with that.

If you like earth friendly products, it might  be a good opportunity to try shopping with them and help effect some good for people in need at the same time.

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with this company, other than being a longstanding customer and I have not been sponsored to make this post about them.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Another Busy Weekend

This weekend has been another busy one catching up with jobs. On Saturday morning, I finally got around to writing our Christmas cards, which had been sat on the kitchen table for over a week. I have to say that I always feel better once this job has been done. I have to find out and add some names and addresses to a couple of the cards, but they're done for the most part.

In the afternoon, OH and LB set off for Twickenham to watch England play rugby, so I had the afternoon completely to myself. I thought about going into the shop and then thought better of it and decided to head to my new allotment for a couple of hours instead.

I could only manage a couple of hours, because it was pretty hard work and I had to take the dog for a walk before it got dark, but I got quite a bit done.

Returning from the dog walk, I had to head out to ASDA for some dog food, as we were completely out and unfortunately got caught in traffic, which was very annoying. We normally avoid going anywhere at the weekend for just this reason, but needs must.

I was glad to get home, start cooking some supper and then sit, catch up with some blog reading and watch Strictly on TV.  We finished the last episode of The Crown on Netflix on Friday night, so will no longer have this to watch of an evening.😞  It'll be back to watching Designated Survivor instead when episodes become available.

Sunday was a slightly more leisurely day. I was out to the gym in the morning after walking the dog. I didn't need much from Lidl, which is just as well as it's hell in there these days. I had just this discussion with a fellow customer in the car park on my way in, which was completely gridlocked. I'm trying to do most of my shopping with Tesco at the moment, because they're the ones currently supplying me with vouchers for money off my groceries and their stores are much easier to access.

On Sunday afternoon, I caught up with a bit of blog reading/Youtube watching, emptied the ironing basket again, hung out some washing to dry, watched a recorded episode of Nashville and a smaltzy Christmas movie on Channel 5, which I totally enjoyed, had a shower and then did some eBay work before retiring for the evening. Still getting things done, which is good, but there's always more to do.

How was your weekend?

Sunday, 20 November 2016

First Visit to My New Allotment Plot

On Saturday afternoon, I paid my first visit to my new allotment plot to do some work on it.

The site on which it is situated is a very urban one, in the middle of a housing estate. It is overlooked on virtually all sides by flats, so you almost feel a little exposed and in full view when you're working on the plot. It's probably less of a problem in the summer, when the vegetation around the fence grows more.

This is the site entrance coming from the direction I approach it.

And this is my plot at the far end against the fence.

Here's the view looking back up the site from my plot.

There are quite a few raised beds on the site, there's a communal shed to right of this photograph. and a water trough to the left which will be useful for watering, as I won't have to carry the watering cans very far. 

It's a nice little plot, but it has some history attached to it that I can't go into just yet.  It's not quite a simple matter of me taking over the plot, and I'm currently waiting to see how things pan out.

Anyway, as I've paid my rent and been given a key, I thought I'd better get down to work or I'd be getting into trouble from the committee. 

I took the car there on Saturday as I had to drop off the compost bin, which was too cumbersome to carry all the way there. I won't be doing this in future unless there is lots of stuff to take away or take to the plot, but it does allow really good access for taking away green waste. (The garden waste bins don't always get emptied and some things can't easily be put on a normal compost pile)

I then set to work digging over the plot. It has been divided into various small beds with mud paths in between.  I kept the same layout whilst digging.  It took a couple of hours to dig over half of the plot and it was quite hard work as the soil is much heavier than my last plot, possibly due to not being overworked and the fact it has more clay in it.

The plot looks pretty small compared to my last one, but when you're digging it over it doesn't seem small.  In fact, there seemed to be much more of it than I remembered. Anyway, this is what it looked like when I'd finished for the afternoon. 

I sited my compost bin, but still need to put some chicken wire underneath it before I start using it, to prevent rats getting into it.

I'm hoping to put some sort of paving on the paths between the beds, but I don't want to buy any if I can help it, and definitely not at this point, as I'm not sure what might happen yet. I know this sounds a bit cryptic, but I will explain the situation in more detail at a later date.  It would be much easier to navigate and cultivate with proper paths under foot.  

I sowed some broad beans, onion sets and mustard seeds into the back two beds either side of the compost bin and left it at that.

I had some help from this little visitor who was flitting about throughout my stay.  So cute.

I guess he was waiting for the worms I was bringing to the surface. It was nice to have company though.

As you can see from this photo, there is still plenty left to do another time.

I'll keep you posted on both progress and developments!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Real Corners

Yesterday I came across this blog post whilst perusing Claire's Happy Friday Links post and thought I'd join in and post about some real corners of my home, as they were on Friday morning. It's not quite so pretty a post, but we're talking about being real here aren't we.

Kitchen table

This is my most used corner of the house, and I use it as a daily work station. As you can see, it is looking a bit cluttered.  This is quite tidy compared to how it looks sometimes, but I've been trying to keep on top of it lately.

Kitchen Counter

This corner of the kitchen is where I put things that need to be taken elsewhere in the house. The two marrows have been here for a couple of months.  They are too big to go in the fridge and I haven't got around to chopping and freezing them, as they will take up too much room in the freezer. 

The CD's were birthday presents from over two months ago and I still haven't opened nor listened to them. There's also a medal here that LB won for her performance in Hairspray, that needs to go back to her room and a couple of other miscellaneous items awaiting relocation.


Although I bought this wooden box in an attempt to try to keep this area more tidy, OH insists on leaving his shoes on top of it, instead of putting them inside.😒  

I do have to admit to putting the basket here. It holds all of my winter scarves and gloves so that they are easy to access on my way out of the house. The fan needs re-homing for the winter, I just haven't found a spot for it yet.

Second Reception Room

Yep, looks like a bike shed/laundry room.  What more can I say.  We do move the bikes when we light the wood burner, so the heat can spread around the house, but as they are in almost daily use, this is the easiest place to keep them for getting them in and out of the house.  (We have lots of stairs!)

The Spare Bedroom

A pile of accumulated donations, other stuff that needs sorting through and the Christmas wrapping paper storage bag.

More donations (in the box), a teddy that needs some repairs, and fabric I sell on eBay in the plastic boxes. 

More seasonal fabric for selling on eBay. (Albeit neatly stacked)

The Teenager's Bedroom

If I'm honest, this is looking pretty tidy compared to what it can get like.  I did go around after taking this photo and tidy up, putting away the laundry I'd asked LB to put away last night!

I hope you enjoyed this slice of reality.  What are your real corners like?

Friday, 18 November 2016

Thursday Catchup

It felt like a productive day yesterday.  As the stress from weeks of being over committed at the CS starts to ease, I'm finding myself slowly catching up with all of the things that need doing at home.

Knowing that from 11 am onwards, (after finishing the dog walk and my class at the gym) I had a free day to do as I pleased, I decided to write a list the night before, of all the jobs that I wanted to get done. It went something like this:

Drop off prescription at GP
Post eBay parcels
Take Operation Christmas Child box to drop off point
Check out Christmas decorations in Poundland for CS Xmas display (This wasn't actually on my list, but as the shop was opposite where I'd dropped off the box, I thought I'd take a look and bought a few items that might come in useful next week. If they're not needed I can use them at home)
Dark wash/hang out
Make homemade dog food
Make Tacos for Supper
Bag clothes for donation (currently in a pile on the bed in the spare bedroom)
Box up bric a brac for donation (ditto)
Business/personal online banking/finance catchup/pay credit card bill
Collect and put out the rubbish/recycling
Ironing/put laundry away
Allotment visit
Garden clear up
Write Xmas cards
Sort Xmas presents bought so far (I've been piling these up in a corner of the bedroom as soon as they've arrived and the pile has substantially increased in size over the last few weeks, so it all needs putting out of the way in the suitcase on top of the wardrobe, or as much of it as will fit.

As you can see from the list, there's a few items that are yet to get done. The allotment and garden will have to wait until the weekend now, as will the Christmas cards, but most of the rest got done, which was definitely progress.

A good day, and for that I'm very thankful.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

CS Update

I thought I'd use this post to update you on the CS situation, as it's been quite a week so far.  The new manager started at the CS on Monday and I am very pleased to say that he seems to be very volunteer orientated.  I explained my situation on my first day working with him and he seemed very happy for me to work just two days per week, doing only the hours that I wish to work.  I was very relieved, as I do enjoy the work very much and hoped to stay on.

As I wrote in a previous post, I will probably be doing the odd extra day in the next few weeks until he can organise some new volunteers, but by the sounds of it, he had a large pool of volunteers at his last shop and I am reasonably optimistic that he'll be able to attract and retain more longer standing volunteers at this one, which should hopefully make life a little easier in the shop.

In temperament and in many of his ways of working, he seems very different from the previous manager, which will take a little while to get used to.  I am so used to going in and being very focused, moving from one task to another very quickly, that I find it hard to adjust to a slower more considered pace.

I'm not criticising in any way, as obviously he is finding his feet and assessing his new situation, but from my point of view, I feel that I've been under quite a bit of pressure for so long, that it is hard to instantly switch down and work steadily. I'm sure I'll get used to it and come to appreciate it a lot in a very short space of time.

Having said all of this, a lot of work has been done and discussed this week by way of getting the shop to run how he wants it to. Only small changes, but ones that I think will have a very significant impact in weeks to come.

It's very interesting to hear someone else's ideas about how things can be done to make processes within the shop more efficient. Luckily, I'm not a person who dislikes change, so I'm happy to try new ways of doing things, particularly if they will be beneficial to everyone concerned.

I'm not in again now until next Tuesday and it does feel strange to have finished my volunteering week on a Wednesday.  I will enjoy my lunch out with friends this Friday though, as we've not met up for a good six weeks and will have lots of news to catch up on.

I have to say that I do feel slightly guilty that I'm not going into the shop and helping him more in his first week there, but I'm sure he will be fine and the other volunteers will do their best to help him. Besides, I have plenty of things to get on with at home and the more I get done, the happier I will be when I am in the shop, as I won't be thinking about all of the things I've still got to do and wishing I was somewhere else.

I'll keep you posted with how things progress.

Monday, 14 November 2016

This Weekend

After recently complaining about how much I needed to catch up with things at home, this weekend I've made definite inroads into the backlog.

I didn't book my usual class at the gym for two reasons, one being that I've not been enjoying the class quite as much recently, so am giving myself a break from it.  The second reason is, that I was planning on going to a local hospice Christmas Bazaar, but I didn't end up going to that either.

It wasn't because I don't want to support a good cause, but I figured that charity needed to start at home this weekend, as the house desperately needed some TLC.  In addition, I figured that I would probably buy lots of books and other stuff that I don't really need. (Albeit at very good prices with the proceeds going to charity) When push came to shove,  I just stayed home and did some domestic chores instead.

I started by changing the bed linen which was overdue.  Then I cleaned the bathroom and downstairs toilet, followed by hoovering and mopping through the house.  I also sorted out a couple of small things that I've been meaning to do or put away for a while. It's often these little things that you just don't get around to doing during the week, that cause a clutter pile to accumulate, which eventually gets so big that it begins to impede your daily life.

It felt good to get  these things done and I feel like I've reclaimed my home and my life a little and restored a bit of balance.

On Saturday afternoon OH and I headed off to the local mall to look at small laptops, as he's buying me a new one for Christmas.  This is mainly because he wants to reclaim his spare work laptop from me, as I am a little heavy handed when typing (a consequence of learning to type on a proper typewriter many years ago) and the buttons get depressed a little too heavily, which in the end damages the keyboard, sometimes fatally.  He's hoping to prolong the life of the one I am currently using, by removing it from my clutches. I don't blame him really.

I must say that I don't mind having a new one all to myself, and a smaller one at that, as it will make life much easier when travelling. The one I currently use is large and heavy and quite cumbersome. I'm not an iPad type of girl really and prefer to use a keyboard rather than a touch screen, so small laptop it will be. I'll probably end up with quite an inexpensive one, as the kind of things I use it for don't merit my getting a fancy all singing/dancing one.

Anyway, after visiting the mall, I caught the train on to the CS for the manager's leaving do. It was a pleasant enough evening and it was interesting to meet some of the previous volunteers who had come back to the shop to celebrate with the manager.

I didn't stay too late, as I had to catch a train back across London on my own, on which lots of youngsters were heading out for the night.  It was strange to think how old and boring I am now in comparison. Having said this, I quite enjoy being that way and like nothing more than staying home on a Saturday night.

Sunday, was a very quiet day here. I did the usual dog walk before heading off to the gym. I managed to do all of my weekly shop, rather than as usual finishing it on Monday afternoon, so I will be able to come straight home from the gym today for a change and get on with other things.

The remainder of Sunday, I did some laundry and a little ironing and then cooked us some dinner.  I caught up with watching Strictly from the night before and then had a bath before watching one episode of  The Crown. It was my day for taking it easy.

I'm looking forward to starting a new week feeling a bit more on top of things at home.  It makes such a difference mentally, as it frees me up to focus my attention properly on everything I need to do outside of the house. How's your weekend been?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Christmas Shopping

The last couple of weeks, I've begun to make a start on my Christmas shopping. Well, I made a start back in January and have picked up the odd item here and there throughout the year, but I've now made a start on finishing my Christmas shopping, which is probably a more accurate way to describe my activities.

I've managed to complete the gifts for most of the children in the family, bar one who usually prefers to be given cash.  With  regard to LB, I've also bought most of her gifts.  She's not getting so much this year, as she will be getting a new phone on a contract, which is a big expense.  I'm buying her a few bits and pieces to open on the day though and trying to include a few small inexpensive surprises.

I've now got to the stage where I can't afford to do any more shopping for this month, so the rest will have to wait until next month. There is only really OH's main presents to buy and he doesn't really want for anything, so I don't actually know what to get him.  I have a few ideas, but need to give it a bit more thought.

I also still need to buy a few more small items for other adult family members.  I've decide to go to some of the more luxury retailers in London for some of these this year, as it is nice to be able to buy people something special at this time of year and I've never really made use of the very special shops we have easy access to in London before, in all the time we've lived here.

I think my change in attitude towards them was partly as a result of my sister's influence when she visited, as she does like luxury food products.  I'm trying to stick largely to consumables, as people probably have enough other 'stuff' already.  This will, of course, entail a little shopping trip into town, but this will be quite enjoyable.

I've written and sent my sister's Christmas cards to Australia this week, so that is one job done, and have also separately returned some items by post that she inadvertently left behind after her visit.

Next week, I need to take my Operation Christmas Child box into a collection point.  I just need to wrap the lid in Christmas paper and secure it with a large rubber band and it's ready to go.

I intend to do a shop for the local food bank at some point next month too. I've printed off a list of things they currently need and will be armed with it when I eventually get around to it.

I still have my Christmas cards to write and send, but they are sat on my kitchen table all ready to get started on.  The writing of them will probably be another job I will attempt either this weekend or next week, time allowing.

It's a slow and steady build up to the festive season.  Just how I like it. How's your hristmas shopping coming along?

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Change at the CS

This week has been the Manager's last week at the CS, so I've done my usual 3 days again, hopefully the last time for a while, as it is just a little bit too much and too disruptive to family life.

Having said this I've almost got back on top of the washing and ironing.  I've got an empty ironing basket for the first time in months and just need to keep on top of it.

The rest of the house needs attention though.  Bedding needs changing, bathrooms need cleaning, well everything needs cleaning really and garden/allotment needs clearing.  Still lots of work to do, but it's getting done bit by bit.

Anyway, I digress, so this week has been the last with the current manager in charge and yesterday was my last day working with her.  The new manager came to the shop in the afternoon to get acquainted with it.

He's currently managing another shop in the London area, but one that is very different from this one, so it will be a bit of a change for him. He seems very personable, and quite calm and orderly, which is potentially a good thing.

Tonight, I'm heading back to the shop for the current manager's leaving. We're all meeting at the shop for wine and nibbles and a bit of a gathering.  She didn't want too much fuss and a meal wasn't really appropriate, as many of the volunteers are young and don't have the money to spend on meals out.

Some of the ladies who currently work there, have contacted past volunteers and invited them to come along, so there should be a good turnout and a collection has been taken with a good amount raised to provide a nice leaving gift.

It will be sad, but happy at the same time, as she will now be able to move on and try something new, with less stress.  The shop won't quite be the same without her, as she injected a lot of her strong personality into it, but I guess things will carry on as normal.

I'm not sure how many volunteers will be left when the new manager starts next week, as some may not come back and some have already left.

I am not, however, intending to single handedly breach the gap, as I need to get back to my two days per week after nearly 3 months of working 3 days, and get back on top of things at home.

Of course, if he is really stuck, I will try to help out where I can, but I feel I've put a lot of extra hours in over the last few months and I need to get some balance back. I've come to realise that these shops will eat up all of your time if you let them, as there are always things to do.

It will be interesting to see how the new manager approaches the shop and the working environment. I'm hoping he might improve it a little, if I'm honest, as it can get quite chaotic at times.  I guess it is partly the nature of the job and the limited space available, but it is also a matter of organisation too. We'll see.

Although I love working at the shop, there is a limit to what time I can comfortably give, and if too much pressure is brought to bear then I won't be hanging around for long, as life is too short.

I would then probably look for a volunteering opportunity closer to home with less travel involved, especially now the nights are drawing in and it is getting dark so early.  Hopefully, I won't need to, but I'm keeping an open mind for the moment.