Friday 29 April 2016

Budget Catchup

I haven't posted for a couple of months on the subject of my budget and spending, I missed posting last month on account of us being away on holiday at the end of the month.

April has been just a regular month really, no big expenses to accommodate, so I used it as the opportunity to finally place the order with Ecco Verde, that I've been wanting to place since before Christmas.

I posted about the items I bought and have tried some of them. I was a bit disappointed with one of the items in particular (Benecos lipstick), which didn't have the pigmentation I'd hoped for. I would place another order with this company though, as they do have a really good range of brands and products.

The above order did bump up my toiletry/household budget for the month and unsurprisingly I went well over my budget in this area, but food budget wise, I only just went over the regular £400 monthly budget by about £20, which was pretty good for me.  I have really cut down our consumption of red meat and I think this has helped.

I did also purchase a few other small things from my wishlist, such as some Marseilles soap for making washing powder, a mount for a photograph that I've wanted to frame for several years, some more Eden perfume, as I'd nearly run out and a few other small but necessary purchases.  In addition, I stocked up on Easiyo sachets from Lakeland, to take advantage of a voucher, and because we use them regularly, which should keep us in yoghurt for quite a while.

This month, I also purchased one small Christmas present for a family member and got a couple of stocking fillers free with a My Pure order, so I'm slowly working towards cutting the expense of Christmas, as the year progresses.

Working at the charity shop two days each week this month, although stopping me going shopping and spending time online shopping, has incurred some expense in terms of travel costs and I've probably spent £20 plus on topping up my travel card this month, which I wouldn't normally have spent, but it isn't a major expense, so it's no big deal.

On the voucher front, last month I managed to save £47.53 cash using vouchers, voucher codes and loyalty points, but this month I had less supermarket vouchers, so only managed to save £20.35 this way.  It's still worth having though.  For May, however, I've got a whole new bunch of Tesco money off spend vouchers, so I am hoping to save quite a bit more from the food budget this month.  I'm also intending to bulk buy some whole foods, such as dried fruits, seeds, grains and cacao powder, which should boost the store cupboard for a good while, and allow me to make home made granola and granola bars on a regular basis.

May is going to be a slightly more expensive month, as OH's birthday falls within the month, which means a bit of extra expenditure. He needs some new club cycling shorts and that's going to be my present to him, along with a few other small items.  Other than this though, I don't think there's anything major to budget for this month, so I'm hoping to fare better than last month. I'll keep you posted.

Five Good Things

After my previous post (and rant) about volunteering in the Charity Shop, I thought I'd write a much more positive post about my experiences so far.  So, here's five good things I've experienced by volunteering to work in a charity shop.

1)  It helps a charitable organisation and allows me to do something with my time, that aligns with my values in life.  This is generally very satisfying.

2)  It makes me travel outside of our borough in London. Having lived in London for nearly 20 years now, I have somehow slipped into the habit of not venturing very far from home.

Although in the early years of living here, I travelled around London a lot and visited lots of tourist spots and places of interest, in the last few years when OH and I have both been working from home, we have found that it takes a lot of mental effort to go out of our comfort zone and get out and about.

Having to travel to the other side of London for my volunteer work makes me get out and about more and experience life in a different part of London.  I'm hoping it will make me more willing to get out and about on weekends sometimes too.

3) Getting out of the house and working at the charity shop two days a week has also made me realise and appreciate how much I like my home.

That feeling of coming home, especially on a Friday, has returned and I also appreciate weekends a lot more too, as when I set off for home on a Friday afternoon, it signifies and feels more like the start of the weekend.

4) Working in the charity shop is a very social activity, meeting and serving customers, chatting about everyday things to people I've never met before is a very positive thing.

I'm enjoying helping customers find what they might be looking for, keeping the shop looking tidy and inviting, sharing a joke with colleagues, learning new skills.

5)  Finally, there are some other personal benefits of working in the charity shop.

I've been making more effort with my appearance, wearing clothes that have been sat in the wardrobe for months unworn, gaining confidence in talking to people, snacking less as it's not so easy to graze during the day, getting a bit more exercise through being on my feet all day and starting to get more organised and proactive in an attempt to keep on top of everything at home, despite spending less time there.

So, I'm enjoying all of these benefits of my volunteering work and am hoping that they will continue.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Allotment Tales

It's been a long long time since I did a post about my allotment, mainly because I haven't been there over the winter and have visited just once since last autumn.  Today, I had to go, because I think there'll probably  be inspections this weekend, and any uncultivated plots will likely receive a warning letter.

Today, was my only window of opportunity now that I'm volunteering at the CS, as on Thursday, I have an appointment to attend with LB.  I decided to combine it with a dog walk and drove to near the allotment, took the dog for a walk from there and then headed up to the plot once we got back from the walk.

I noticed as I walked to my plot, that quite a few people on the site hadn't really started cultivating their plots yet, which made me feel a little better. I took my spade (which I don't leave at the plot) and my chitted potato seedlings, which have been tucked away in the boiler cupboard for a few months.  I also took a variety of seeds that I needed to sow to get things moving finally.

The plot itself wasn't too bad when I got there.  I had dug most of it over on my one and only visit this year, sowed some broad bean seeds and some parsnip seeds.  As is often the case with the parsnips, they didn't germinate, but the broad bean seedlings were doing okay.

The main job that needed doing was to dig over the main bed, spread some potato fertiliser and then plant the chitted tubers.  Before I began though, I had to clear some forget-me-nots that had self-seeded and were choking my gooseberry plant and I also needed to remove some problematic weeds that were encroaching from next door's plot. (An ongoing saga!)

Anyway, eventually I got everything dug over, weeded and then began digging the trenches for the potatoes.

It was a pretty tiring task, one which I sometimes get OH to do for me, but in recent years he hasn't been too accommodating in this regard, so I've just done it myself. I then sowed various salad, spring onion, beetroot, turnip, kale and spinach seeds. The seeds themselves were mostly pretty old ones that I wanted to use up, but if they haven't germinated by my next visit, I'll sow some newer ones and throw the rest of the old ones away.

I didn't take a before picture of the plot, as I just wanted to get stuck in, but here's an after picture of what it looked like once I'd got the potatoes in.

I planted most of the seeds in these two side beds.  The rhubarb in one of these beds doesn't seem to be doing too well this year.  I think I may have over-harvested it last year, so I might give it a rest this season and let it build up it's strength again.  I removed all of my strawberry plants last year as they were all very old and I wanted to give the soil a rest from them.  I may grow some more somewhere else on the plot at some point.

There's just half of the bed  on the other side still to dig over (where the dog's laid out) and sow seeds into and then I think I'm done with cultivating for now.

There is some clearing work to do around this edge and at the rear of the plot though, as a big bush that was there and this big tree on the corner of my plot had been cut back dramatically by tree surgeons organised by the site committee since my last visit.

This will allow a lot more light to the back of my plot, so I'm going to try to clear the area at the back and maybe even grow something there.  As I've never actually cultivated this part of the plot, it will be interesting to see if I can do so now.  At the moment it's covered in ivy, nettles and bindweed.

It will have to wait for another visit though, as I was too tired this time around. It felt really good to get the work done today, as this was a major item on my current to do list that I can now tick off and has got the growing season off to a good start.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

A Tiring Tuesday

Today was pretty full on.  The day started with the arrival of a telephone engineer, to install a broadband connection we hadn't ordered.  A router had been delivered a few days earlier and sent back, as it was addressed to a person who doesn't reside at our address.

We'd been getting a few automated telephone messages telling us about an installation appointment, but had assumed they were a wrong number and in any case there was no number left to call to cancel the appointment, so we could do nothing.

A letter then came asking for payment for the installation, as the direct debit hadn't been honoured and when OH called the telephone company, they wouldn't tell him anything, as he wasn't the person who was fraudulently using our address and he didn't have the security code to get access to the account. It's come to something when companies would rather protect a fraudster than a genuine home owner.

Despite having been told that the person did not reside at our address and that we didn't need the installation, they still didn't call off the engineer, who subsequently had a wasted journey.

The company concerned then said they would contact the person who'd ordered the installation, which means we'll probably receive another letter from them.  Talk about useless.  Anyway, OH promised them he'd be contacting the Offcom regulator if they didn't resolve the situation, so we'll see what happens.

The engineer arrived just as I was setting off on my journey to the CS. I was asked to do a slightly longer shift today. It was pretty full on all day, as apparently the previous day they had been inundated with donations, plus some other deliveries and had had to close the shop early, due to being completely overwhelmed.

So, today, it was a case of making some sense of the chaos. It didn't help that most of the regular staff were attending a volunteer conference, hence why I'd been asked to stay a bit longer, and the fact that two new staff members were starting work.  As a consequence, I got to learn and do more new to me jobs in the shop and get a little involved in some staff training, which was all good.

We all managed to get through the day without too many problems, despite it being crazy busy in the shop too, so all in all it was a good, but extremely tiring day.

When I finally got home at 5.45 pm, it was to the lovely sight of our newly stripped doggie, who'd been to the local pet shop for some doggie grooming in my absence.  Here's a picture of her before

and after the chop. She looks a bit grumpy here but she's not, she's just a bit sleepy and doesn't like having her photo taken.

Anyway, I then took her for a walk through the park.  On the way there, I was verbally abused in a very serious fashion by someone I suspected of being high on drugs, so I kept my distance and didn't retaliate.  Sometimes you know it is just not worth it.  It was the one day I didn't have a phone with me, to call the police or OH if I'd needed to, as it had run out of charge. Typical.  Luckily, it didn't come to that, but I do always like to have my phone on me, because you just never know when you might need it.

Tonight, once back from the dog walk, OH cooked supper, which was greatly appreciated and then I caught up on watching a few YouTube videos. Once I sat down, I couldn't get up. After writing this post, I will be hitting the sack, probably to read in bed for a while first though, as I'm completely exhausted. Tomorrow is another day, one that I will happily spend at home and I will tackle the big pile of washing up then I think!

Saturday 23 April 2016

What Is The World Coming To!

I'm enjoying my time working at the charity shop, but I've been very surprised at the behaviour of some of the customers over the last couple of weeks and at the number of people who complain needlessly.

I don't mean genuine complaints, where there are genuine grounds for complaint.  I mean unnecessary complaints, that just waste time and sap your energy and positivity.  Are we a nation of complainers or are people just rude or have nothing better to do?

As a non-paid volunteer or intern, you do your best and try to be polite and friendly to people, and you would think that this would be enough.  But no, some people must think that they are entering Claridges when they come into the shop.

As the manager succinctly put it the other day, people expect exceptional customer service everywhere these days, and volunteers and interns are trained on the job, without degrees in customer service or lots of corporate training courses and of course can't always meet today's exceptionally high expectations.

A small example is that being completely new to working with a till, I do sometimes make mistakes and take a little longer to carry out a transaction whilst I'm training.  It really doesn't help aide my confidence when a customer is tutting and looking disgruntled that the transaction doesn't take just two seconds. Don't people realise that everyone has to learn sometime.

I've also heard tales of unnecessary aggression towards staff which concerns me, not to mention shop lifting from the charity shop.  I know it goes on everywhere and why should we be any different, and yes, some people are probably desperate and we are a charity after all, but really?

Every shift I am ever more surprised by things that happen in the shop. If this is a microcosm of the world outside our home, I'm quite pleased that I've been cocooned from it all this time, although I realise that this is not necessarily a good thing.  I feel like Kimmie Schmidt coming out of a bunker after 15 years and finding the world changed beyond all recognition.

I think I'm just a little shocked and it will subside, as I get used to working there a little more. It's taking me a while to readjust, and I do find it very tiring at times, but hopefully I'll get used to dealing with the more difficult customers eventually.  I'm sure it will become easier with practice.

Having had this little rant, please don't misunderstand, the vast majority of the customers are lovely, it's just the few that make me wonder what I've let myself in for.

Friday 22 April 2016

Homemade Granola

Yesterday, when I got back from the gym, I decided that I would try and make some home made granola for OH. Why, you ask? Well, next door to the gym, is a really good little grocery store that I often pop into, as they sell the most divine avocado and humous dip that I just can't resist.

This week, we needed some toilet rolls, so I popped in and got them, plus the dip I love and I always stop to look at the huge bags of chia seeds, dried cranberries and blueberries, dates, cacao powder, etc. etc. that they also sell.  I have a long list of things that I want to buy from there next month to stock up.

By way of excusing my future haul, (which I'll post when I finally do it) I got to thinking about what I could use all of the ingredients for and decided that instead of buying OH granola ready made from the supermarket, which he often complains is too sweet, that I would start to make it myself.

I already had plenty of ingredients in the cupboard at home, so I set to and started straight away.

I'd seen videos on YouTube before, which showed you how to bake granola in the oven, but when I got in I found a recipe which was so quick and easy and was done by a stove top method, roasting the ingredients in a large frying pan using coconut oil.  I tried it out as it looked so easy and only takes 5 or 10 minutes to roast off the dried ingredients, which I added melted butter and agave syrup to.

Here's what it looked like after I'd pan roasted it and was waiting for it to cool down so I could add the dried fruit.

Here's what it looked like after the fruit was added. (I probably added a few too many sultanas, but never mind).  I just need to find a jar to keep it in now.

This recipe included the following ingredients all of which I already had:

3 cups of Oats
2 tbsp Wheatbran
2 tbsp Flaxseed mix
1tsp Cinnamon
80 ml Agave syrup
1 tbsp Coconut oil
2 tbsp Melted butter
1 tbsp Chia seeds
1/4 cup chopped Walnuts
1/4 cup Pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup Sultanas
6 Dates chopped up small

Hopefully it should keep OH going for a while.  It's also good as a snack to take around in a small container in your handbag.

I'm looking forward to adding to my store cupboard so that I can vary this  recipe every time I make it.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Loving Lately

Recently, I've got right back into watching Netflix for some reason and I have been enjoying a couple of shows on there.

The first is a series I enjoyed, but have now finished, and was a comedy series called LOVE.  The show was about a geeky guy and a crazy girl who meet by chance in a grocery store and become friends. It's a kind of romantic comedy, set in LA and was pretty entertaining.  I binge watched series one of this over a weekend.

The second show I've been enjoying is The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, which has returned for a second season. I've been sitting down to watch this with LB, as she likes it too.  We're about a third of the way through this series and it's nice to watch something together.

Talking of which, OH and I have also started watching series two of scandi crime drama The Killing on Netflix, which is giving us something to watch together of an evening.

Away from Netflix, I've also been enjoying The Durrells on ITV on Sunday evening.  I love this show, largely because of the setting in Corfu, but also because I enjoy watching Keeley Hawes, who is great in her role as Gerald Durrell's mother, who has uprooted her family of five and is trying to start a new life with them on the island.  I've been to Corfu and it is a beautiful place.  This is a fine example of great Sunday evening television.

I've also been watching crime drama Marcella on ITV on Monday evenings. This series is written by the same writer who wrote The Bridge, another scandi crime drama, and as it is progressing I can see some similarities when it comes the to the complexity of it. I'm enjoying seeing Anna Friel on TV again, although her character in this show isn't altogether a likeable one to begin with.

Finally, I'm loving the return of Scott and Bailey on ITV Wednesday evenings.  I think I've probably watched every series of this show since it started and like the rapport between the two main characters.

Away from television, I have been watching some good YouTube too.  My current favourite is Sophia from My Great Challenge, who is doing a 30 bags in 30 days decluttering challenge.  She's attempting to donate or throw away at least one bag of stuff each day for 30 days, which is not an easy thing to do.

The bags in question, can be the size of a carrier bag or larger which helps though.   I find this series very entertaining, mainly because Sophia's numerous collections and house bulging with stuff reminds me of myself before I started decluttering 18 months ago. In addition, her addiction to sticky notes, which she constantly keeps finding in various places around her house, amuses me. Definitely worth following if you're trying to get some inspiration to declutter and you like to watch YouTube.

So, as you can tell, I've been spending quite a bit of time in front of one screen or another, which is just what I need to relax when I get home after a busy day at the CS.  Why when the weather starts getting better, do there seem to be more things to stay in and watch? Makes no sense.

Is anyone else watching any of these programmes and also enjoying them?

Wednesday 20 April 2016

A Busy Few Weeks

It's been a busy couple of weeks with one thing and another and I've not really got around to writing many blog posts.  Apologies for that.

Having got back to London from Yorkshire, I've been concentrating on getting back into some of my old routines and starting some new ones, i.e. CS volunteering, so there's been quite a bit of change to accommodate lately.

As a consequence, work on the house and decluttering has taken a bit of a back seat, partly due to not having time and partly due to having such a big pile of stuff ready to take to the next  Give and Take, that I don't want to add to it.  I'm eagerly awaiting an announcement of the next event, so that I can get moving again.

Thus far, I've avoided buying anything from the CS, save for a birthday card that I needed to send, although there have been temptations over the past two weeks.  I just keep telling myself that  I don't need anything and in any case I don't take much money with me when I go, so I'm not in a position to buy anything.  It's working for now.

I'm enjoying the  new challenge at the CS and there  has been lots to learn in the first couple of weeks and more still to learn in the future I hope.

My colleagues are a very pleasant and interesting bunch, very cosmopolitan too, as many of them are interns from abroad, getting work and language experience here. They are very brave, as I would never have had the courage to do the same at their age.

I think that I am slowly acclimatising to a new routine.  I need to be a bit more proactive to keep on top of things at home and am trying to be so.  It is good to get out and about more and meet new people, although I can't say that I completely enjoy the crowded train journeys.

I do take some consolation in being able to catch up with reading a few blog posts while on the move, so any comments left might not be grammatically correct, as I'm doing them on my phone.

I'm hoping to get back to doing more housework, spring cleaning, gardening and decluttering soon, once I settle into my new  routine more and will try to post on more varied topics.  Thanks for bearing with me.

Monday 18 April 2016

A New to Me Fabric Freshener

Last week, I placed another order with My Pure for some essential items that both myself and LB needed and as I needed a new fabric freshener, I thought I'd check if they sold one.

Having a dog, the upholstery does get a bit smelly after a while, so fabric freshener is a must here. Anyway, I was in luck, they did this one by EcoEgg.

It is a concentrated product which you add to a spray bottle provided and top up with tap water. Just five or six squirts is enough for each batch, so this product should make 25 bottles of the stuff.

I was pretty impressed with this idea and despite the price (£9.99 - although I did get 10% off with a voucher) I thought it was worth buying, as three bottles of another brand of eco fabric freshener would burn through that amount.

It arrived today and I couldn't resist making up my first bottle. It is supposed to be used within a month of being made, which means the bottle of concentrate should last two years theoretically. I bought the fragrance Spring Blossom and it's a very sweet floral smell, not unlike the last bottle of freshener that I bought, which wasn't earth friendly.

According to the packaging, this product saves on packaging by refilling the same bottle, saves money and is kind to the environment.  In addition it's made in the UK.

Please note I am not sponsored in any way in writing this post, but am posting this information in case anyone else who has pets and is looking for a similar product at the moment, might find this information useful.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Home Made Orange Blossom Fragranced Laundry Powder

During our holiday a few weeks ago, I purchased some laundry liquid in a local supermarket that happened to be made with orange blossom scented Marseille soap, which I believe is itself made from olive oil.  I love the smell of orange blossom and to have my newly laundered clothes smelling of it was a real treat.

It got me thinking when I got home, that I could perhaps make some laundry powder myself to get the same effect.  I had been wanting to have a go at making some laundry powder for a while and had one of the ingredients already, namely a bottle of soda crystals or washing soda, that I'd had under the kitchen sink for nearly 10 years. I wanted to use it up and not throw it away and thought that this was probably the best way.  I'd also found a few recipes on line that recommended using this with finely grated castille soap to make laundry powder.

Once home from holiday I searched eBay for some Marseille soap and was happy to see that you could get it in various fragrances such as olive oil, lavender, orange blossom, rose petal and others. One particular listing interested me, as it was selling two bars of orange blossom and one of lavender, for approximately £12 including postage, which I thought was quite reasonable, so I went ahead and purchased it.

Saturday morning it arrived and I couldn't wait to make my laundry powder.  It took a while to finely grate a bar of the orange blossom soap and once I'd done it and mixed it with half the bottle of the soda crystals (500g) I decided to grate the second bar and use up the whole bottle as there was still plenty of room in the plastic container I'd bought for the purpose.

Here's the result with the ingredients mixed as well as I possibly could.  I immediately put a wash on and used a couple of tablespoons of the powder, as recommended in the recipe, to try it out.  I was pretty pleased with the results. Although my washing didn't actually come out smelling that strongly, it did come out very clean, with stains removed, so I was pretty happy.

It probably wasn't the cheapest way to make laundry powder, but is fairly natural and was fun to do as I caught up on YouTube videos.  The same recipe can be made with Dr Bronner's Castille soap or olive oil soap and essential oils, which I know can be bought much more inexpensively.

As I still have 2.5l of laundry liquid left from buying in bulk a few months ago, I don't need to use this laundry powder straight away, but may instead use it for an occasional load, such as sports wear or sheets, etc.

It has made good use of the neglected bottle of soda crystals and cleared out another product from under the sink which is all good, plus I've got plenty of washes stored away for future use.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Project 10 Pan Update

It's been a while since I updated my Project Ten Pan, which was a project I initiated to use up some beauty products that have been hanging round a while and that I wanted to finish.  I think in my last update I had used up two of the ten products listed, namely a Clinique Chubby Stick Lipstick and a bottle of hand cream.

I'm pleased to say that more progress has been made.  I've now finished the Mineral Fusions conditioner that I bought in the US last year.  It was quite expensive at around $10, but it has lasted well and worked very well too.

I did really like this conditioner which made my hair feel pretty good compared to some I've tried and if I'm ever in Wholefoods, I will definitely seek it out again, but for the time being I've managed to find a new natural shampoo and conditioner in TK MAXX which is working reasonably well for the moment.

Another item I've also now used up is the home made eye make up remover, which I actually made as a face cream, but which didn't suit my skin.  I re-purposed it as eye make up remover rather than throw it away and it really worked well in this role, so I was pretty sorry to finish it in the end.  More so when a new recipe I tried for eye make up remover didn't work as well.  I'm persevering with it for now, but will be trying yet another recipe next time or reverting back to the original face cream recipe.

The final product that I have finished using is this natural crystal roll-on deodorant from Faith in Nature. I've been using it on days when I don't go to the gym, as it didn't quite work effectively enough on days I did classes. I use a home made deodorant stick on these days now, which has been working great.

I am convinced that once you stop using products containing chemicals that your body definitely smells less.  I am keeping the empty bottle from this deodorant, as it is refillable, which is really useful if I want to try to make my own roll on deodorant.  Very clever packaging from this British brand.  I've not seen anything else like it.

So, my original Project 10 Pan products are now down to 5, which feels like quite a bit of progress has been made.  I'm also getting more use out of some of the remaining products now I go out to the Charity shop and wear a little more make up, so hopefully a couple more will be finished soon.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

A New to Me Natural Beauty Website

If you've been reading my blog for the last year, you'll know that I've been transitioning to more natural beauty products and have been trying to find products that suit my skin, hair and pocket.

I've tried lots of different brands with varying success, and several natural beauty retailers too and I have a few firm favourites that I buy from quite regularly.

When new to me on line retailer Ecco Verde came onto my radar a few months ago, I couldn't resist checking them out and I was really impressed by their prices and the fact that they offer discounts on all products when you buy more than one, making stocking up on certain products that you use regularly, much cheaper.  This is definitely a bonus when natural products do tend to err on the expensive side.

I trawled through the new website (there's hundreds of products on it) and found lots of things that I wanted to buy, some from brands I'd never used before and some favourites that I use regularly, but are more expensive elsewhere. Before long, I had a sizeable basketful selected.  The only problem was, I didn't really have any room in my budget to spend the money.  I held tight and resisted temptation for 3 or 4 months, which for me was quite restrained and once things eased up a little, I decided to finally place an order.

The company themselves are based in Austria, but have a UK website and ship to the UK and if you spend over a certain amount (£43 or thereabouts) you get free delivery, which I benefited from with this order.  I know that sounds a lot, but it soon adds up with natural products and I also bought some essential oils for making my own products too.

They also have a separate site that sells household products, which didn't seem to allow you to link up with purchases from the beauty site unfortunately, as there were some interesting products on there too.

My order arrived yesterday and I was pretty happy with it.  Here's what I bought.

As mentioned above, I ordered some essential oils for making my own products and for use around the house for cleaning and laundry, etc. I bought Lemon, Eucalyptus and Geranium essential oils.

I  also wanted to try a different shampoo, as this is still the one product that I am having difficulty finding to suit my hair and scalp. I ordered this Lime Blossom and Kiwi shampoo from Eco Cosmetics, a German brand, because it had hundreds of positive reviews, so I'm going to give it a try.. It was inexpensive too, at less than £5.

From the same brand I also purchased the above sun lotion with SPF30, as the previous natural one we'd been using ran out on our recent holiday. This was the most expensive item I bought at £11.61, but something that is important, so I don't mind too much.

The remainder of the products I bought were make up products.  I bought my first natural red lipstick and lip liner from the Benecos brand (shade Just Red and and Red! respectively) and at less than £6 for the two I was very happy to buy these.  I haven't tried them yet, but I am hoping they are good.

I bought my first Five Free nail varnish (free of five of the more toxic ingredients of regular nail varnishes).  This was also from the Benecos brand.and was £3.19.

I also bought a couple of tubes of my regular brand of concealer by Alva, which are cheaper on this site than I've seen anywhere else.  They worked out at £8.71 each if you bought 2 and got cheaper the more you bought.  I just bought two to keep me going for a while. I like the fact that this now comes in cardboard, as opposed to plastic packaging.

Finally, I was sent a few samples of other natural products with my order, an organic rose face cream, an organic Aloe Vera body wash and a sample of an Almond hand cream from Weleda. Always useful to try different products and for travel.

I  think I'll  definitely be using the site again when I need to place a reasonable sized order for make up and other products.  It was very good value for money, the packaging was minimal, and delivery took less than a week from Austria.  I would definitely recommend them to anyone interested in natural products, however, I would say that I did find some products such as Dr Bronners soaps, more expensive on this site than elsewhere.

Definitely worth checking out for some of the European brands of natural products though, if you're struggling to find anything that suits in this country.  Here's a link to the EccoVerde site

Please note this is NOT an affiliate link and I am not sponsored in writing this post, just putting my experience out there for anyone who uses natural products, as they have a very wide and interesting range.

Monday 11 April 2016

Getting Back to Normal

After a busy Easter holiday fortnight, tomorrow the school holidays end and it is back to our normal routines.

This week, OH travelled by train to Yorkshire and then headed off to France with his father in a camper van to visit the Somme and other First World War sites, something that they had been meaning to do for a couple of years now.  OH did also managed to combine the trip with a cycling event near Paris too, which is often par for the course these days, but makes him very happy, so no complaints there.

Meanwhile, LB and I stayed a little longer in London, as she was attending a concert with a friend and then sleeping over.  I finally managed to get around to a bit of work in our garden at home, the first time I've done anything out there this year.

On Saturday morning LB and I travelled north to stay at her Grandma's and spend a relaxing weekend visiting family and friends, taking lots of dog walks and also visiting the local car boot sale on Sunday.

It was a beautiful bright spring morning, with hardly a cloud in the sky, very different to my previous visit when it had been raining and deserted.  The car boot was packed with people and we struggled to get a parking space, but enjoyed a walk around in the sunshine with friends.  I didn't buy much bar a couple of packets of salad seeds and a few very small plants (an aqueligia and a couple of hellebore seedlings).

This morning the adventurers returned and after hearing tales of their travels, we headed back to London, in time for LB to go back to school tomorrow.

On arrival back we were met with a road block, blue flashing lights and various emergency vehicles on our high street.  We're not yet aware of what has occurred, but it must have been a pretty serious incident to close off the road completely.  No doubt we'll find out soon enough. Hopefully, nothing too horrid.

Tonight, it's a case of unpacking, sorting washing, catching up on eBay orders, a late night food shop, a bit of TV watching (Marcella on ITV) and generally getting ready for the week ahead.

I'm at the charity shop again in the morning, so I need to be a bit more organised and proactive.  I'm looking forward to staying put for a few weeks now and not going anywhere, just getting on with normal everyday life.

I hope you've had a good weekend.

Friday 8 April 2016

What's In My Bag

I haven't  done a 'What's in my bag?' post for a very long time and I have pretty much culled a lot of the things I used to carry around with me on a daily basis for two reasons, one, I didn't use many of them and two, they were making my bag far too heavy to carry.  I'm definitely all for simplicity these days, so I only carry the bare essentials that I absolutely need.

I've probably had a few bag changes since I last did a post of this kind, but my current bag is this ruck sack style bag which I bought from ASOS in their sale for £16.  It's not leather, which I'm happy about, but is very roomy, more so than I actually need if I'm honest, but I do like the fact that it's a ruck sack and as such doesn't fall off my shoulder.

Whilst on holiday  recently, I took a small cross body bag for every day use, but it drove me mad, as it swung around my hips and generally got in the way.  It also felt quite heavy at times, as I had to ram everything into it and this made my shoulder feel sore.  I have no such problems with this rucksack bag, even when it is pretty full, as it's just so comfortable to carry.

So, what do I keep in it?  Well, here goes.
First and foremost I keep my purse.

For the past year or so, I've invested in these kind of large zip around purses, mainly to hold all of my cards.  I have both personal and business banking and credit cards, that I carry around and not all purses contain enough card slots.  This purse, however, that I bought at TK Maxx, is just the perfect size.  It's a kind of patent snake print.  I'm not sure if it's leather, but to be honest I'm probably happier if it isn't these days.  I can see me keeping this purse for a long time, as I really like it.

Next, I have my prescription sun glasses, which I bought last year.  They were quite pricey at £100, but definitely worth it, as I really like the style of them and wear them a lot, especially for driving in the summer when the sun is low in the sky.  The box is useful too, as it is quite hard and protects the glasses when they are knocking around in my bag.  It also has magnetic closing which I like.

I also currently carry this small A6 Filofax, which contains addresses, phone numbers, etc. plus spare paper for making notes.  I no longer keep an up to date daily diary planner inside it, as I just didn't use it on a daily basis, but it does contain last year's diary with birthdays listed in it.  To be honest, I think I'm going to replace this with a small moleskin note book or something similar, that will be much less bulky to carry around.  I'll just make a note of birthday dates in the back of it.

One of the main reasons I no longer need this Filofax in my bag, is that I now also use this small concertina address book that I received in a luxury Christmas cracker last year.  It perfectly adequately fits all of the addresses I need to keep with me and is so lightweight and simple to use and carry.  It could easily fit in my purse or a much smaller bag if need be.

Also in the main bag compartment are my keys and my phone, which is contained in this monochrome case.  I bought this in a set with a luggage tag, from ASOS in their sale for £3.  It is perfect for my phone and in fact makes it easier to find it when I look in my bag. All of my keys I keep on a large bunch, so that they too are relatively easy to find in my bag.  On the keyring, I  keep a couple of trolley coins and a bottle opener (also from a cracker), which invariably come in handy.

The last couple of things I keep in the main part of the bag are reusable shopping bags.  The large one I hacked by adding elastic to keep it together when it's rolled up and another small one in a pouch that I bought on eBay at the beginning of the year, but which is already falling apart.  Although the larger one is very bulky, it is a strong and good sized bag, great for impromptu visits to Poundland or mid week top up shops.

The two small front pockets of my bag contain various bits and pieces. On one side I carry this small screwdriver set and pen (more cracker gifts - you can see a theme emerging!), a tape measure, tin of French liquorice breath fresheners and my oyster card in this black leather card holder that I've had for many years, but didn't use until recently.

In the other small pocket, I keep a hand sanitiser (non-natural until it runs out) and tissues. I also pop in make up or a small travel perfume bottle that I might want to take with me if I go out anywhere.  I no longer carry a make up bag, as it's contents rarely get used and don't justify the weight.

Streamlined and simplified contents which meet my daily needs perfectly and make life much simpler and easier.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

An Interesting Week

It's been an interesting week this week, with lots of things going on. I can't mention them all here for various reasons, but I've been trying to get back into my routines after coming back from our holiday.

The washing and ironing has been brought right up to date and I've done a couple of classes at the gym, have another booked for tomorrow, and was delighted on our return from holiday, to find that I can finally after several years, book my classes on line.

There was a problem with my account at the gym, which didn't allow me to book online and it took a pretty firm email to the company to get a positive response. Thankfully, a very kind lady sorted it out for me and I am now able to book classes for the next week at the same time as everyone else, which gives me a better  chance of getting into them. I was so grateful to get this issue resolved.

I also had my first day volunteering at the Charity Shop this week.  I was supposed to work two mornings, but on one of them OH had to attend a funeral of a work associate, so I was unable to go in, as it was still half term and we didn't want to leave LB home alone for hours.  I felt bad about letting them down, but it couldn't be helped.

My first day was pretty enjoyable though.  The other volunteers and workers in the shop seemed lovely and very friendly.  There was so much to learn.  I ended up staying a few hours longer to make up for not going in the next day, so by the end of the day I was feeling pretty exhausted. I then had to walk the dog when I got in, as OH was too snowed under with work and had taken my morning dog walking shift.

By the time I got a chance to sit down, it was 7 pm and I'd forgotten to get anything out of the freezer for supper, so I just had a tin of soup and OH got a takeaway. Afterwards, it was my night to watch Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, which helped me rally.

The following day, I slept in until 9 am, which is very unusual for me. Consequently, the poor dog got a very late morning walk.  In the afternoon, LB and I ventured out to get our hair cut at a local Supercuts branch. It felt so good to finally get it done.  It was long overdue, and we both felt like so much better afterwards.

I wish I could get into the habit of getting it done more regularly, but I always fail, every time I make such a resolution. The colour (bleach) that I used to have in my hair as highlights, has virtually completely grown out now.  Probably just one more cut and I will be totally 'au naturelle' for the first time in quite a number of years.  It was necessary though, as repeatedly having it highlighted was damaging my hair.

There are a few more things happening towards the end of this week, culminating in us taking a trip to stay with family in Yorkshire at the weekend.

LB isn't back at school until Tuesday, so it will be a long weekend break and then we will be properly getting back to normal when we get back.

I'm not good with disruption and I do like a regular routine, so whilst not wanting to wish my life away, I will be pleased when normality resumes and things are a little less hectic.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Home Again

We got home late this afternoon, after a lovely week in Tenerife. The weather for the most part was good, but the last couple of days were cloudy, so sunbathing was off the cards.

We got very lucky again with accommodation, in that the villa we rented was great.  A few small grumbles, but overall a lovely place to stay. Very clean, calm, spacious and quiet and not commercial at all, a real retreat.

OH got to spend a couple of days cycling up to the foot of El Teide, the highest mountain on the island, we all spent a day in the mountains and then another at a beautiful water park on the island called Siam Park, which was LB's highlight of the week.  We had a hilarious night out watching an Elvis impersonator, came second in a pub music quiz and took walks along the harbour that we could see from the balcony of our bedroom suite.

One of the small grumbles was that there was no WiFi, unless you were prepared to sit outside the office of the property manager, or sit in a bar that provided a free connection. I managed to catch up on a bit of blog reading this way on a couple of occasions, but it was actually very liberating not to be able to open up the laptop and instead just spend time with others. In this sense, this grumble was actually a good thing, as I was able to have a bit of a digital detox, although not a complete one. As a consequence, I had a very relaxing time.

On an altogether different note, on this holiday, I did actually manage to achieve something that I've never achieved before, which was to travel with a carry-on suitcase of clothes for a full week.  This felt pretty good, and to be honest I still didn't wear several of the items I took. It helped, of course, that the villa had a washing machine, so I was able to wash and re-wear my favourite items.

I'd like to manage with even less the next time we go away for a week, providing washing facilities are available of course. The main reason I made myself do this was the £90 cost of checking in a large suitcase. It's amazing what a bit of financial pressure can do. I was quite proud of myself though and having succeeded in this regard, I am determined to hone things down further on any future trips.

I can always remember going on a holiday to Spain with some friends when I was 19 or 20  and finding myself admiring one girl in our party, because she managed to take just a small suitcase of clothes, yet still looked fabulous every day. She had her own very personal style that was really pared back, but quirky, and I always wanted to be able to do something similar myself. It's only taken 30 years to get things down to a carry on, but I'm hoping that now I've done it, there's no going back and eventually I will be able to attain this goal. I can live in hope.

On the subject of money, I didn't spend too much whilst we were away, coming at the end of the month meant I didn't have too much cash left over to take.  I did, however, want to buy some more Aloe Vera Gel whilst there, as this plant grows in abundance on the island and many different products containing it are available.  I was looking for one which was as pure as I could possibly get, to use for making beauty products and eventually managed to find one in an artisan shop in the mountains.

I did most of my spending here, as the prices were incredibly reasonable, unlike in some of the resorts. I also bought some lovely pairs of ball stud earrings made from island lava and coral.  These will serve as a nice reminder of our holiday.  Plus a lovely visor made from natural materials, which rolls up wonderfully small (like a panama hat) without losing it's shape, to facilitate easy packing. I know that this is going to be a very useful item on any future holidays in warm climates, as I do like to protect my face from the strength of the sun's rays.

As you will know if you have read any of my previous holiday blog posts, I always come home from our holidays having had some realisation about some aspect of my life and on this occasion it was how little I actually needed on a daily basis to function well, enjoy my holiday and get by. Such a realisation never fails to inspire me to make small changes in my everyday life once I get home and consequently I will be looking to part with a few more things now I'm back, starting with some of the things I took with me, but never wore or used!

Whilst away, I also did quite a bit of reading, finishing three books, one of which I borrowed from a bookshelf on site, after I'd finished the two I took.  One of the titles I took with me was a Christmas present from OH and was called 'The Moneyless Man - A Year of Freeconomic Living' by Mark Boyle. It was his account of spending a whole year living completely off grid, without spending any money at all. It was a very interesting read and did get me thinking about how little you could actually live on, if you seriously put your mind to it. I'm not thinking of doing anything similar myself, might I add, but making a few changes here and there to cut costs wouldn't be a wholly bad thing to do.

Anyway, back home,  the dog now home with us and a good choice of English speaking TV channels, it's nice just to get back into our normal everyday routines and eating habits. It's still half term this week so LB is off school, and I have a few things going on.  I'll post again when I can. I hope you've all had a good week.