Thursday, 30 June 2016

Monthly Roundup - June

It's been quite a busy month by our standards this month, starting off with our short holiday in the camper van, followed by cleaning the house, having visitors staying for a week, finishing the vegetable beds, attending a 50th Birthday party and doing a few extra days at the CS. Hence why my posts haven't been as regular as they used to be.

Financially, it's had it's expenses too, and as a consequence I went slightly over on the food budget by around £60.  Some of this was due to buying in extra food for our guests for the week they were here, although they weren't big eaters.  I did manage to rein in the food spending for the last week of the month and try to use up what we had in the freezer and cupboards and we have subsequently cleared out/eaten as many foods as we could, that had been hanging around for a while, which is always satisfying.

On the beauty/household/garden front I was also over budget by £70, mainly due to more stocking up on bulk household products and natural toiletries.  I did also spend some money on bits and pieces for the garden, such as the chicken wire, some bean plants and compost.  I'm hoping that next month I can rein in this budget, as it is getting a bit out of hand at the moment and I rarely keep within it.

My newly established home budget of £50 was also exceeded this month, but only by £5.  I did manage to purchase some new towels from John Lewis in this amount, some new bowls for the kitchen from the CS and a new laundry basket for LB, so I was happy enough with this overspend. Next month, I'm using this budget to buy some new pillow protectors, a couple of new tea/kitchen towels, a few side plates and a king size fitted sheet for our new bed, as I am currently short of one to go with a quilt cover, but other than these items, we don't actually need anything in this category at present.

The only budget that I did come within this month, was my own personal wishlist budget, so I was very happy with this.  I guess many of my needs/wants tend to be included in other budgets and I don't need any clothes, shoes, books, or other things at the moment.

I've decided that I'm going to start putting some money in a savings account this month.  I was waiting until there was room in the budget, but I've realised that this will never happen unless I make room, so I'm transferring some money at the beginning of the month to ring fence it and will continue to do this from now on.

Forthcoming expenses this month include a complete new school uniform for LB and another 18th birthday present for a nephew. Other than this, there are a few small things that I need to stock up on for making home made toiletries and a few supplements I want to try, but hopefully, nothing too expensive.

One good thing is that I've been asked to start claiming travel expenses at the CS.  I didn't claim them as I wasn't sure that I could, but the manager had realised that I wasn't and has insisted that I start to claim them back. I received my first lot of travel expenses this week.  This will ease the budget slightly, as it was costing up to £30 per month on train fares.

Do you budget?  How's it been for you this month?

Monday, 27 June 2016

Shop the Pantry and Freezer Week Update

My plan to shop the pantry and freezer for the last week of June, due to budgetary restrictions/lack of funds (and as it was part of Courtney Carver's 21 Day Declutter Challenge), has been pretty successful.

The freezer looked like this on the eve of my final weekly shop for the month, so quite a bit of progress has been made in emptying it, although I do apologise for not providing a before photo. I did have to throw away a couple of items, but they were things that were past their best and inedible.

Most of what is left in here will get used up this week, save for some prawns, Quorn mince, potato wedges and stir fry vegetables.   These remaining few items will make at least 2 or 3 more meals or part meals, so I might even continue this mini challenge into the first week of July or until all of these items have been used up.  I could then give the freezer the complete defrost that it is in dire need of.

It is quite a satisfying feeling to empty the freezer completely and start from scratch again.  A good time to consider the freezer foods you do buy.

I mostly freeze meat, fish and bread products that I buy on my weekly shop and then defrost them on the day I intend to use them or use them frozen, as in the case of fish and vegetarian options. Veggies, potato products, pizzas and pies also get frozen.

A few sweet things find their way into the freezer too, i.e fruit, sorbet or fruit/yoghurt lollies, plus the odd leftover, although I often find leftovers don't agree with me digestively when reheated.

On a monthly basis, I buy liver, kidney and heart, which I chop and divide up before freezing, and use as food for the dog.  She enjoys this fried and with vegetables for a couple of meals each week. A little indulgent perhaps, but she's worth it.

There is one item in here at the moment that is something that I don't particularly like, namely some spicy bean burgers I bought as a meat free alternative. I was planning on using them up this week, but part of me would like to just throw them away, if I could bear the thought of the waste. I will probably try to use them.

As you can see, we don't have a large freezer. I gave away an under counter freezer last year, that I just didn't use enough.  I'm beginning to wonder if I did the right thing now.  With impending Brexit, a little stockpiling might be in order, although let us hope it doesn't come to that.

This week I'm planning on doing my full weekly shop (albeit a reduced one) at Lidl, as I have a voucher for £5 off a £40 spend. I'm hoping that I can keep it to an absolute minimum as it would be a nice frugal way to end the month.  How's your food budgeting gone this month?

Sunday, 26 June 2016

An Interesting Weekend

It's been an interesting weekend this weekend, especially following the vote on Thursday.  I've been trying to keep updated on events online and in the newspapers.

We took it easy on Saturday, and on the evening attended the 50th birthday party of a lovely friend from the gym, which turned out to be a really nice evening, with a nice mix of people in a very pleasant venue. We had to leave a little early, as OH had a cycle race the next day, for which he had an early start.  It was subsequently cancelled due to flooded roads on the route, which was a bit annoying, as we could have stayed longer at the party after all.

Needless to say, I was a little worse for wear on Sunday morning, so I had a bit of a lie in.  I didn't do my regular class at the gym, as OH had the car, so I stayed in bed and read for a while instead.

I mostly spent the day reading the broadsheets, catching up on ironing, walking the dog, etc., which was very leisurely indeed. Going out anywhere on a weekend in the car in particular, is impossible in London, due to increased traffic on the roads, so we like to stay home and take it easy.

We were invited round to our neighbours on Sunday evening to discuss some plans to jointly extend our kitchens to the side of our houses.  Discussions seemed to go very well and as a consequence, the planning applications will be going in shortly and we will be getting quotes from builders.

This project will, of course, involve a new round of money saving measures, which we are prepared for. We aren't taking a holiday abroad this summer in an attempt to save up some money and I will be starting to put money into a savings account from next month, although I doubt it will be much at first. We will just have to see how we go.  We do have some savings to put towards it, but we will have to find money to add to it.

Expenditure on anything other than essentials, will have to be completely curbed, which will be a challenge, but a necessary one.  I can't say that I'm looking forward to it, but I am feeling much more motivated, especially now things are beginning to get moving on the project.

I'm back to only two days at the charity shop this week, which will give me a little more time to myself.  An allotment visit is necessary, so this will probably take care of it.  I also have to procure an 18th birthday present for a nephew this week, so a bit of shopping, either in person or online will be necessary.

I'm hoping there won't be too many more shock waves, in the coming week and that things will settle down a little. Have you had a good weekend?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Shopping the Pantry/Freezer Week

With one food shopping week left to go this month and the food budget already used up (well slightly over spent if I'm honest), I'm going to have to get a bit more creative with our final few meals, in order to minimise any further food budget overspend.

I will, of course, need to buy some fresh products, such as milk, fruit and vegetables, fruit juices etc., but I'm hoping that next week's shopping list will be a short and fairly inexpensive one.

In addition, I'm determined to eat down a few more things from the freezer, such as some allotment grown sweetcorn cobs and chopped courgettes, that definitely need using up.  There's also some frozen berries that I need to use up, so I'm thinking of  using them in making some home made ice lollies/sorbet, or some sort of fruit flavoured cake, to save me buying any.

My trusty Easi Yo mini will be in regular use, as I have quite a few sachets left from when I stocked up on them last month, so I can use these instead of buying any in. (OH still likes me to buy a few in, to mix it up a little).

Talking of which, they have brought out a few new flavours for it, which are available only in Lakeland.  I tried the Greek Yoghurt with Coconut this month and was very pleasantly surprised.  OH liked it too and he really doesn't like coconut all that much.

There's plenty of pasta, rice, tins and jars in the store cupboard to fall back on and if any of the cereals are running short, we will just have to make do for the week.  I'm sure it won't be too much of a hardship. I am also pretty well stocked up on condiments, teabags etc., so these should now easily last until the end of the month.

One good thing this month, is that I haven't bought any lettuce for over two weeks now, due to the salad bed being in full production. In fact, I'm not really keeping up with eating it all, despite regularly taking salads for lunch to the CS when I volunteer.

I'm actually looking forward to reining myself in a little on food grocery spending, as I usually don't think about depriving us of anything we want, but to do so does makes me stop and think just how much I spend each week on groceries, without really thinking too much about using up what we already have in the cupboards and freezer.

Sometimes you just need to clear a few things out and use them up, allowing space for new culinary ideas and inspiration to present itself, not to mention saving money in the process. Budgetary restrictions are a good excuse to do just this.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Homemade Natural Bubble Bath

Wednesday, last week, whilst spending the day at home, I decided to make another natural beauty DIY.

I've been using UK brand Organic Surge bath foam for a while now, and I have enjoyed using it, but as I was running low and have already spent beyond my monthly budget on household/beauty products, I decided to have a go at making some home made bubble bath/bath foam this time around.

I'd bought a very pretty glass jar from Family Bargains the other week for just £1.49, which was just perfect for the purpose and sat empty waiting to be filled.

I took a look around on YouTube for a recipe and came across a couple of recipes that used one of two main ingredients to make bubble bath. One used Castille soap and another used dish washing soap.

As a child I can remember my mum often using Fairy Liquid in our bath, if we didn't have any bath foam, so I decided to give this recipe a go.  This choice was compounded by the fact that I had bulk ordered eco washing up liquid last month, so had plenty, but had just run out of Castille liquid soap.

The recipe concerned required the following ingredients:

1 cup of unscented dish washing soap

2/3 cup glycerine (preferably vegetable although I only had non-vegetable)

Essential oils for fragrance (I chose a combination of Lavender, Eucalyptus and Geranium)

In addition, I decided to add a couple of other ingredients, namely a splash of rose water and a splash of sweet almond oil.

Here is the resulting mixture in it's jar. It's not a very exciting colour I must admit, although I probably could add some sort of food colouring if I wanted to. I don't mind it as it is though.

I didn't quite have enough glycerine to make enough to fill the jar, but this amount is plenty to be getting on with.

I added a label to the bottle and put it on the shelf in the bathroom in readiness for taking my next bath.

A couple of days later I used it for the first time.  It works pretty well.  Well enough for me to make it regularly and dispense with the need to buy bath foam.  I do use it in conjunction with my home made bath bombs and bath salts, which together all help to make a relaxing bath which makes my skin feel soft and is fragrant and foamy enough for my own personal requirements.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

A Chilled Weekend

This weekend has been lovely and quiet and very chilled.  On Friday evening, LB was staying out at her friend's house next door, to celebrate their birthday, so we had a relaxing evening at home alone. We were going to go out to eat, but had both woken up very early on Friday morning and were tired, so a quiet night in together it was.

On Saturday, LB was out again, all day until 9pm, celebrating another friend's birthday, so we had more time to ourselves.  I had a class booked in the morning, so after a long lie in reading, I got up.

Whilst OH was out with the dog I hoovered, swept and mopped through most of the house, did some washing and generally caught up on household chores, before heading out for my class on my bike.  I felt like I'd done lots of exercise before I even got there.

When I got back OH was out watching the rugby in the pub, so I carried on where I'd left off for a while until he got back and we both had some lunch.

After lunch I indulged myself by taking time to read a weekend broadsheet and then took a lovely long soak in the bath.  Meanwhile, OH decided to tackle the last corner of our newly landscaped vegetable garden.  The foxgloves were by now going to seed, so it was time to dig them out and lay some ground cover fabric and mulch.

He didn't have quite enough mulch to finish the job, so it still needs to be topped up, but otherwise, save for acquiring a garden bench and making some adjustments to the wire vegetable bed covers, it is now finished. Here's a picture of it as it is now along with a shot of the whole of this part of the garden now.

I have placed our one and only garden chair here for the moment, so that I can at least sit in the space, with a cup of tea on a sunny day and enjoy the view.

We do actually have some more garden chairs in the shed, under a whole heap of clutter I've been meaning to clear for a couple of years now. Maybe we'll finally get around to clearing it out this summer.

I do, however, need OH's help with this job, as there's some monster spiders in there, that I just can't face alone.  If we do manage a clear out, I might use two of those chairs in this space for this summer, then maybe get a bench next year to help spread the cost.

As a consequence of the above activity, I didn't even turn my computer on until 4pm on Saturday, which is unusual for me, so I had a much needed digital break too.

Later on Saturday, after walking the dog, we decided to go out for supper to a local restaurant that we haven't been to before.  We followed this, by picking up LB from her friend's house and then we all returned home together for the remainder of the evening.

We're not planning on going out anywhere for Father's day on Sunday, as LB has been out all weekend thus far, so I'm sure she'll want to spend some time at home. I'm planning on spending the afternoon in the garden, getting a few more jobs done, weather allowing.

I do like weekends like this, where we take it easy and just enjoy spending time at home in a leisurely fashion, getting on with everyday life.  We spend very little money and just get on with the things that need doing and help to keep life simple and run much more smoothly.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Garden Tweaks

I posted the other week about a few difficulties we've had with foxes in our garden, and more especially in our new raised beds.  On returning from our holiday in Yorkshire, the problem  had reared it's head again, as they had spent the previous week using our garden as a playground, digging huge tunnels and running around in the raised beds.

Luckily the damage wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it did necessitate a few tweaks being made to the raised beds and the filling in of a few holes.  To tackle this problem, I bought a new roll of chicken wire last week.  It was a lot longer than the small £1 rolls I'd bought from Poundland, so can be easily stretched right across the beds and properly secured with nails to prevent the foxes getting into the bed again.

I will probably try to fix it in place this week at some point. You can see from the before photograph above, that in the corners of the bed at the bottom of this photograph, the foxes have been digging around and destroyed the seedlings sown here. Luckily, there are plenty more to transplant into the gaps.

Talking of transplanting, last week I transplanted some of the above seedlings into the old shoe basket I took out of the hall, after filling it with a bale of compost.

Unfortunately, they were completely annihilated by foxes the very next night, so I have now purchased a plastic cloche from Poundland to keep these unwanted visitors out and transplanted some more seedlings into it.  I'm hoping this should do the trick and finally keep them at bay.

Here's a picture of the basket with it's new cloche cover. It's not the sturdiest example of a cloche, but hopefully will protect the lettuces underneath.

I'm certainly learning that it's not as simple I thought it would be, growing food in the back garden at home. When the wildlife has the choice of over 30 plots to visit at the allotment, you tend to get much less individual attention from them. In the garden, I seem to get their attentions a lot more.

In other garden news, the tomato plants are now growing really well. One was eaten by snails when small and I still haven't replaced it in the grow bag, I may put a small cucumber plant in here this year. The other five are now getting quite large and I will soon need to stake them or string them to the roof of the mini green house.

Some of the seeds I sowed haven't been a roaring success, as many just didn't germinate at all. I did notice that all of the pots on one side of the greenhouse had germinated and on the other side none had.

As a last ditch effort, I decided to swap the trays over and see if this had any effect on germination.  It did. Within a few days a couple of the cucumber seedlings and a couple of the courgette seedlings had started to germinate, which was slightly more positive news.

More successful were fennel, sunflowers, mini cucumbers, peppers and sweet peas and I am eagerly watching their progress.

I decided to buy some bean plants from the garden centre the other week and proceeded to plant a dwarf variety out, alongside some more sweetcorn that I had left over, to fill up the vegetable bed.   They are all now coming along nicely underneath and through the holes in the trellis.

I still have some climbing french beans to plant out, when I decide where they're going to go. I'm thinking possibly in a big tub, supported by a cane wigwam.  I just need to do a bit of moving around of plants to accommodate this. I'll post again when I've made more progress.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Living with Less Stuff in 2016 - May/June

I thought I'd do a bit of an update on my own decluttering challenge, before I embark on Courtney Carver's 21 Day Decluttering Challenge this month, as due to going away at the end of May, I didn't actually provide an update for that month.

May saw pretty good progress with 51 items donated.  June, was even better with 69 items donated or put aside for donation.  Added to the yearly total of 410 at the end of April, this means I have now achieved a total of 530 items, thus meeting my initial target of donating at least 500 things this year.

I'm pretty pleased to have reached the target so soon and as a consequence, it seems more appropriate now to embark on someone else's challenge, so as of the date of publishing this post, I will be taking a sabbatical from my own challenge and will be temporarily focusing on Courtney Carver's.  I will resume my own challenge in July, when I will add the total number of items decluttered in the 21 days, to my yearly total.

In readiness for starting the new challenge, I found a spare hour or two on Thursday to organise the donation pile that I've collated since my last visit to the Give & Take.  There are two boxes and a suitcase full of items, culled whilst cleaning the house before the arrival of our recent guests.  Here's a picture of the pile. As you can see once again, unwanted clutter builds up very quickly around here when I set my mind to tracking it down.

As Courtney Carver's challenge started a few days ago, I took the opportunity to catch up, by decluttering 5-10 items into an empty box (I managed 8), decluttering our already decluttered to within an inch of it's life bathroom, (only 2 items decluttered here (both either discarded or recycled), ditching a few duplicates that I could find around and about and decluttering the junk drawer in the kitchen.  (It's not really a junk drawer, just a drawer where we keep batteries, aluminium foil, cling film, etc. I do go through it on a regular basis, so there wasn't much in here to actually declutter).

This has now catapulted me to day 7 of the challenge and I now await the next task tomorrow via YouTube. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Courtney Carver's 21 Day Decluttering Challenge

Yesterday, I was reading a post on Courtney Carver's blog Be More With Less and as I reached the bottom of the post, I saw that she was posting videos on YouTube, as part of a free 21 Day Decluttering Challenge.  I decided to take a look on her YouTube channel and watch the videos she had already posted.

As a consequence, I've decided to join the challenge and do as much as I can.  I'm not promising to carry out every single part of the challenge, but I will do as much as I possibly can.

The first video asks you to write a letter to the stuff you want to declutter. Thank it for coming into your life when you needed it, but explain that it is now time to let go and move forward with your life. In addition, it encourages you to explain why you want to let go and what you want to move towards.

I did this, although I did feel a little silly, but it was actually quite cathartic. Acknowledging why you might have bought something and why you  no longer need it in your life is quite liberating and helps you feel gratitude for whatever it was that it provided you with whilst you owned it.

The video for day two sets out the Three Commandments for taking the challenge, which should be adhered to for the duration.

These are:

1. Enter into a non-essential spending ban for the next 20 days to avoid accumulating more stuff while you are in the process of decluttering.

Any wants that arise in the next 20 days should be committed to paper and considered after the challenge has ended.

2.  Do NOT compel those around you to join the challenge with you. Focus only on your own stuff.

3.  Go at a pace that best suits you.

To join in with the rest of the challenge subscribe to Courtney's YouTube channel and complete each task for the next 19 days.

Here's the link for Day one, i.e. the first video mentioned above.

Does anyone else fancy joining in?

Please note that I am not sponsored in any way in writing this post, but just found this challenge an interesting one, that I thought others reading might enjoy.

Good luck if you do join in.  I'll post periodically about my progress.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Wednesday Catchup

After spending the day at the CS yesterday, today I've got a day without anything planned for the first time in a few weeks.  I'm going to relish it.  I'm staying close to home, as I have a few tasks to catch up on.

Number one task will be my finances. I need to do some online banking and check off recent purchases, so that I know what I've got left to last the month (probably not much at this point in time!).  We have quite a lot of food in the house though and lots of salad leaves in the garden, so it will do me good to minimise grocery shopping for the rest of the month.

I also want to tackle the ironing mountain today.  With having visitors, I still haven't got on top of the washing and ironing since we came back from holiday, so that's my main job for today.  Not very exciting, but necessary all the same.

If  I get chance and the weather is onside, I might do some work in the garden and try fixing the new roll of chicken wire to the salad bed, although this might have to wait until the weekend, when I can get some help with it from OH.  My back troubles have recurred since I ventured into the garden the other evening, so I might find the bending down to fix the wire a little difficult today.  Hopefully, it should be feeling a bit better by the weekend.

I've offered to go into the CS on an extra day next week, as it's a bit of a transition week, with a couple of people leaving and a couple of new members of staff starting.  I don't mind doing a bit more from time to time, if it helps and to be honest it will keep me busy too.

I am beginning to wonder what I did with my time before I started volunteering.  It's interesting how soon I've got used to being busier and how the thought of not being as busy leaves me wondering what to do with myself.  I think I'd got very good at filling my time with one thing and another at home, so I guess the house and housework has suffered a little as a consequence, but not too much.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Normality Resumes

Our visitors from New Zealand departed today.  They are staying one more night in London, with another relative, before making their way to stay with other relatives in the Midlands and then travels beyond into Europe.

I hope they've enjoyed their stay, although they've been incredibly unlucky with the weather, as the music festival they attended on Saturday was met with a series of torrential downpours.

We've tried to be good hosts, but you never can tell what expectations people have and whether or not they were actually met.  Maybe they didn't have any.  As they were quite young, (i.e. mid twenties), we mostly left them to their own devices to explore London, thinking that this would probably be what they would prefer.

In any case, OH had to work during the week, as we'd been away the previous week and he had a lot to catch up on, and I had my shifts at the charity shop and classes to attend as usual, so I hope they didn't feel too abandoned.

We did venture out with them today to Columbia Road Flower Market, Brick Lane and Spitalfield's Sunday Fashion Market which was nice, despite it still being pretty dismal weather wise.

Living in London, we tend to take a lot of what is on our doorstep for granted and don't always get out into other parts of town, preferring to just get on with our daily lives near to where we live.  It may seem a little boring to outsiders, but it suits us.  Having said this I am starting to appreciate travelling to another part of London to do voluntary work, as it is widening my horizons a little.

Although we always enjoy having visitors, it is quite nice to get our house back to ourselves. LB kindly gave up her room for our visitors to stay in, so she was very happy to move back in there this afternoon.

We're now looking forward to a normal, straightforward week this week, with no out of the ordinary commitments, so that we can get back on track with our normal day to day tasks and goals.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Smallish Splurge at the Charity Shop

I was working at the CS on Friday as usual, and made the mistake of taking my credit card with me, for emergencies only, you understand.

Needless to say, of course, have credit card, will spend money.  I'm afraid I got more than a little tempted and had a splurge when I spotted these Reiss jeans on the mens' rack.  (Most of the ladies clothes in our shop will not fit me, as they tend to be very small sizes!)

I don't currently have a pair of indigo blue jeans and these fitted pretty well, save for being a bit long and needing turning up.(Hipster style, in spite of being a bit old to wear them like this!)

I liked the fit though, so decided to add them to my wardrobe.  Here's a couple of pictures of them on, combined with my ASOS skater shoes that I bought last year and are still going strong.

At £14.99, they weren't exactly inexpensive, but when I looked up the full price on the Reiss website, jeans from this brand cost anywhere between £90 and £115 new, so I was pretty happy with them and they are in very good condition.

I also decided to buy 6 Habitat white porcelain bowls for £7.99. (Sorry, only 4 here as two have already been used and are currently in the dishwasher)  I'm trying to replace some of the bowls we have, with better quality ones that don't scratch with use.

Many of ours were purchased from IKEA over 10 years ago and are now looking a bit worse for use. I'm sending them off to a new life, via the Give and Take, but they have served their time with us.  I have already purchased some new bowls and side plates from John Lewis over the past couple of years, but we still needed a few more of each.

These were a good price, as I have paid a similar price for just 4 similar bowls in John Lewis. They look hardly used, are a very simple design and a good size for limiting portion sizes too.

As you can tell, my resolve not to buy anything from the CS is gradually melting away, but I am trying to only purchase things that are very good quality or very practical, and will get a lot of use or wear.  I am also trying, although not completely succeeding, in starting to practice a 'one in one out' policy with new purchases.

It was a much better day at the shop yesterday, as for one thing, I had slept the night before.  There were also some new members of staff to meet, one, a volunteer for whom it was their first day, a lovely lady from Brazil, and another who is a manager of another shop, who was also great to work with.  I'm really starting to enjoy the work and getting to do lots of different things.  Long may it continue.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A First Crop

Yesterday afternoon, I trotted out to the new garden vegetable beds to harvest the first of our home grown salad.

The mustard leaves had been doing so well, that I was concerned that they might bolt in the hot weather if I didn't harvest them soon.  

That is one of the great things about growing them in the garden. They don't get close to going to seed without me being aware, so there's less waste.

As you can see from the photograph, I harvested the larger leaves from half of the row, which provided two salad spinner baskets full.  It has a lovely peppery kick, so should make my salads a little more interesting over the weekend.

There were plenty of other leaves to pick, but I prefer to grow the fancy frilly varieties into full size heads of lettuce, as these are what I buy and eat on a regular basis and they are quite expensive. As a consequence, I'm not touching them for now.  I'll let you know when they're big enough to harvest.  

It feels good to finally be harvesting crops from the new vegetable beds. I'm keeping a tally of what I harvest to see how soon they start to pay for themselves. I've priced this mini harvest at £1.50, which I think is realistic for a bag of leaves. It will take a while to recoup the full cost, but I'm looking forward to more being ready.

Floral Explosion

 The garden seems to have come into it's own in the last week or so and is looking wonderfully wild and floral.

I'm not a partricularly tidy gardener, so I love this time of year the best for this little garden, as it is the month when next door's lovely climbing rose and my orange blossom entwine and provide flowers in abundance.  Such a lovely sight to greet me when I go into the garden, and they smell great too.

The bushes in this border also seems to be flowering too, with their stems of yellow blooms.

There is no stopping the foxgloves, which seem to have multiplied every time I go out and look at them.

Finally, the border of geraniums with it's one allium outside the kitchen door are also flowering and providing a carpet of pink.

Needless to say, I'm enjoying the moment and making the most of it, as it gets much less colourful as the year progresses.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Catch Up

It's been a hectic week so far this week.  After returning from Yorkshire, the weekend was spent doing more cleaning on account of the arrival of our visitors on Monday morning.  They arrived, gripped with jet lag from the flight from New Zealand, and were duly left to sleep it off.

Tuesday, I was back at the charity shop, having not slept at all the night before, partly due to a reaction to some beef mince I ate in a lasagne.  I haven't been eating this recently, having swapped to using turkey mince or Quorn mince, and I had a stark reminder of why I'd done this, as it just doesn't seem to agree with my digestive system.  I won't be using it again myself.

In addition, my lack of sleep was also due to the police loudly apprehending someone in the street outside in the early hours, with lots of shouting.  One of the joys of living in a large city.

Anyway, as a consequence, I felt like a zombie at the CS all day, and could hardly string a few words together.  Luckily, I was working in the back room, as the manager had decided to sort through 10 days worth of donations in one day, which had accumulated due to her being very short staffed the previous week, so the damage was limited. Thus, the day was spent with my head down or up, steaming, hanging, sorting, pricing donations, which was a relatively new departure for me, as I've often worked on the till whilst at the shop.

By the time I got home I was virtually asleep on my feet and had to retire to bed for half an hour or so to compose myself.  I almost felt as jet lagged as our guests, without having been on a flight.  After resting for a little while I felt a lot better and headed downstairs to make dinner.

After a good night's sleep, I'm feeling a lot better and today, is my first free day at home for a few weeks. I'm looking forward to spending it in a relatively leisurely fashion, whilst also tackling my ironing and laundry mountains and doing a few small tasks in the garden.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Camper Van Interior Tour

Although we are now safely back in London and have parted ways with the van, as promised, I took a few photos of the van, as we began our travels, just to give you some idea of our accommodation for the duration.

It's quite an old van, well over 20 years old, but runs well, is pretty reliable and very well equipped and fitted out.  It had all of the conveniences that we could possibly want, including a toilet, running cold water, fridge, gas rings, oven and grill and electric lighting and socket.  A little home from home really.

I love the way that camper vans utilise even the smallest space, making it pay it's way.  A lot of thought has obviously gone into their design, to make best use of every inch of space.

All of our personal items and food easily fitted into the storage cupboards and wardrobe.  Here's a few photos of the interior.

Kitchen area, complete with fridge full of food. The cupboards above the sink contain all of the crockery we needed on our travels and the small drawer to right the cutlery.

Dry food storage was plentiful in the cupboards above the seating along one side of the van.

Here's the seating bench below these cupboards, which converted to a single bed at night.  After the first night, I moved onto this bed which was much better for my back.

Up above the driver and passenger seats (behind these curtains) was a space for bedding during the day, that converted to a bed for LB at night.  There was a ladder to climb up there.

This table and seating benches also converted to a large single/small double bed at night, but made a great eating/sitting area during the day and had seatbelts for LB to travel safely in the back.

The dog was happy enough sleeping in her travel cage when we were moving around, but often slept on the seating bench itself when we were parked up.  She loved staying in the countryside and enjoyed looking out of the window at the ducks and rabbits roaming around the campsites.

Finally, here's the door to our small wardrobe and toilet. There was a heater below the wardrobe, but unfortunately it didn't work.  To keep warm on colder days we boiled the kettle or lit the grill, which soon warmed up the van.

The van provided great accommodation for us.  It could be a bit stressful at times, due to lack of space at busy times, such as mealtimes or when getting ready in a morning, but we generally found it to be perfectly adequate for our needs.  

Had the weather been fine enough to sit outside, there was also a table and chairs that we could use and an awning that we could pull out and sit underneath.

We would quite like to borrow the van again in the summer (hopefully with better weather), if it's convenient for OH's parents, of course, as the weather did spoil this trip slightly. We feel that it might be a very different experience in sunshine and warm weather. We'll have to see if it is possible and will keep you posted.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Camper Van Tales - Part 3 - Our Final Day

Our last complete day in the van, began with an early start.  OH wanted to go off for a bike ride and the dog, overexcited by being in the countryside, woke us up early wanting to go out and chase the rabbits she'd seen around the camp site.

I got up early too and headed out to the shower block, which was eerily quiet, but very warm.  I definitely beat the rush, as I had the place to myself.

Whilst OH was out cycling I hung out in the van, catching up on reading and writing a few blog posts.  When he got back, we tidied up, washed up and headed out of the campsite, ready for new adventures.

We drove up onto the moor.  It was still pretty foggy, as you can see from the photograph. Eventually, it started to clear a little and we stopped in a lay by  to go for a walk with the dog, down a track across the moor.

We couldn't believe how bitterly cold it was, but it was good to get out for a walk at last.

When we returned to the van, we made lunch before heading up to the northern tip of the North Yorkshire Moors in Guisbrough.  We stopped here to do a bit of top up grocery shopping, to get us through the final 24 hours in the van and then took a long and leisurely drive down Bilsdale and into Helmsley, a very pretty Yorkshire market town.  We didn't stop as we were en route to our next stop over, a site a mile or so out of Helmsley, where we parked up for the night.  We will probably go back and explore the town tomorrow, before we return the van to it's rightful owners.

Our site for Thursday night was the Golden Gate Camping Site, in Oswaldkirk.  It was a huge site, with lots of pitches for tents, tourers and campers.  It was a really popular site with families, but we were allocated a lovely quiet pitch out of the way, which was great.

We settled in and had a roast chicken and salad supper.  We'd bought a hot chicken from Morrisons in Guisbrough and it saved lots of messing about cooking.  Between us and the dog, it all got polished off, with a little left over for the dog's supper the following day.

The weather decided to perk up substantially today and there was even some sunshine, despite it still being a little cold, which made all the difference.

We walked the dog on site in a large field allocated for the purpose and spotted some good walks that we will take her on tomorrow before we leave.

Here's a picture taken from our camper van, looking towards the children's playground.  You can see the sun peaking out as it sets in the distance.

Tomorrow, we head back to OH's parents' house to return the van and this will signal an end to our little adventure.  Although the weather has been awful, we've enjoyed the experience in the van, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

The budget including diesel, food, site fees, eating out, etc. has been less than £250, which is far less than we would normally spend on a week away, albeit a couple of nights have been spent with relatives.  We've had electric hook up pitches each night and decent washing/waste/wifi facilities, so we've not really scrimped or scraped by, but it has made our trip much easier and more enjoyable.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Camper Van Tales - Part Two - Whitby

When we woke up in the van on Wednesday morning, the weather outside wasn't much improved.  It was cold, grey, drizzly and very misty. As a consequence, it didn't seem like a very good idea to go walking over the moors due to the limited visibility and after taking a shower and having breakfast, we decided to head to the nearby town of Whitby instead.

I'd  had a bad night, as I had suffered from a recurrence of severe back ache during the night, a condition that started a couple of weeks ago, but had improved considerably before we came away. I think, however, that being holed up in the van due to the inclement weather, had exacerbated it and it returned with a vengeance.

Consequently, getting out and about was vital, so Whitby it was.  In spite of my predicament, I managed to slowly climb the 199 steps up to the hauntingly beautiful Whitby Abbey.

We hadn't visited in over 10 years and in the intervening years, English Heritage had built a heritage centre and exhibition space on the site, which we paid to enter.

The Abbey itself was a wonderful place to visit and I enjoyed the audio tour that came free with our paid for admission.

After tea and cake in the Abbey Tea Rooms, we made our way back down to the town's many and eclectic little shops, many selling the infamous Whitby jet. I can remember buying a necklace charm made from this stone on my previous visit.  By mid afternoon we returned to the van for a late lunch and then moved on with our travels.

Late afternoon, we drove over the moors, via Goathland, to a new campsite in Rosedale.   The mist was still low causing visibility to be very limited still and we felt reassured that we'd made the right decision not to go walking today. Instead, we made our way to a new camp site in Rosedale for the evening.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Camper Van Tales - Part 1 - Robin Hood's Bay

Tuesday, after spending a couple of nights visiting relatives, we finally set off on our half term camper van adventure travelling around the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. We'd packed up the van a couple of days before, but hadn't actually stayed in it overnight as yet.

Mid morning we set off, stopping first in the town of Pickering to get a few provisions for our trip. It's a bustling little market town, home of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.  We didn't venture onto the railway today, instead we just stopped for a quick walk around and a bit of food shopping.

It was whilst we were here that the rain started, and carried on all day, so our first day in the van was a bit of a wash out.  We stopped en route to the coast and made ourselves some lunch in the van. It took a while to get to grips with food preparation, but once we'd worked out how to light the gas rings, we were okay and it was a nice big salad/sandwich, followed by Yorkshire curd tart and a nice cup of tea for lunch.

An hour or so later, we continued on our journey to the coast, and a camp site just outside of Robin Hoods Bay, where we could get an electric hook up.  We were super lucky, as we managed to bag a pitch due to someone leaving early on account of the bad weather.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent chilling in the van, whilst the wind blew and the rain poured outside.  Luckily, our spot was right next to the amenities block and these cute little wooden cabins that you can rent.  There was even a little food kiosk on the site where you could get hot food.

It was 7pm before the rain properly stopped and we were able to venture out.  We took the van down to Robin Hood's Bay for a brisk walk along the beach with the dog.  It was a bit misty as you can see from the photograph, but succeeded in blowing away the cobwebs. We followed it with a fish and chip supper. (How could we not?)

Robin Hood's Bay is a lovely little bay that you have to walk down steep little lanes to get to.

A very quaint village, with lots of little quirky fishermen's cottages for rent, small cosy looking pubs and small independent shops, which unfortunately had all closed for the day. Probably just as well really. 

Apparently, this village was larger than the nearby town of Whitby back in 1820 and was locally known as Baytown.

It was an interesting little excursion that we managed despite the terrible weather, and after which we returned to the camp site and cosied down for our first night in the van.

We're hoping for better weather tomorrow, so that we can venture up onto the moors.  I'll keep you posted.