Saturday, 30 July 2016

Counting Down

The last couple of  days have been all about counting down until we go away.  I've been washing clothes, hanging out clothes, ironing clothes, putting away clothes, packing get the drift.

I felt particularly in need of a holiday yesterday, as I didn't sleep well on Thursday night and then had to be up early to go to the GP's surgery to get some bloods taken. I'd had them done a couple of weeks ago, at the hospital, but they had got lost somewhere in the system, so I had to go again, which was a bit annoying.

Consequently, I didn't feel much like packing or doing the small jobs, i.e. preparing the garden for our absence, leaving the house reasonably tidy, getting up to date with paperwork, internet banking and other matters, that all need to be done before you go away. I just felt too tired.

I eventually did get myself into gear, finished the ironing, started packing, and then later when OH had taken the dog out, I tidied the garden and fed and watered everything.  I'll do the watering again today before we leave and will also clear the lettuce bed.  The lettuces are almost going over and will have gone to seed by the time we come back, so I'll be composting them and sowing some new seeds into this bed.  I'm going to try to harvest some first to take with us in the coolbox.

I have to admit that I don't really enjoy the couple of days before we set off for a holiday, as it is such hard work to remember everything you need to take and do before you go, plus packing and repacking your stuff.

I always find myself flying around the house right up to the last minute, tidying up and stuffing things into our bags before I forget them. I do, however, like the bit where we get in the car and drive off and leave all thoughts of everyday life behind, for however long we're away.

I think when holidaying in this country, it is a little easier in some regards, as you know you can get anything you've forgotten pretty easily, without any cultural or language difficulties.  The unpredictable weather, however, does make it harder to pack and I usually end up taking far too much to cover all weather eventualities.

Talking of the weather, it has turned a bit rainy here just as we are about to leave, which makes it all the more difficult to decide what to take, although the forecast for the week ahead is good, with rain only forecast for one day. Not that we completely trust any weather forecast in the UK, but if it is pretty accurate, we should be in for a good week; not too hot and pretty dry. This would be ideal for living in the van, as if the temperature is too high, we will melt at night and have difficulty getting to sleep and if it rains a lot we'll be stuck inside during the day climbing the walls.

Enough procrastinating, I'd better get on with things. I'll be blog reading when I can while we're in Wales and I might even manage the odd post here and there.

Have a good week.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Monthly Roundup - July

I've just looked back at my aims for this month and am not unduly surprised to note that I met only one of them.

It's not been a particularly good month financially, but on the plus side, the one aim I did meet,  was to start saving, which means there's more money in my savings account than there was last month. Further, I have bought a rather nice Christmas present for a family member, purchased more of LB's school uniform than I intended to and got an absolute bargain from the CS this month.

Now for the bad news.

I went over on the home budget by £55, due to buying certain things that I didn't budget for, namely, a fan, on the spur of the moment, whilst in the midst of the heatwave, a new log basket from TK Maxx and a bargain dark grey king sized John Lewis Egyptian Cotton quilt cover from the CS for £8.99 (new they cost £55), that I just couldn't pass up.  The latter will be perfect for our new bed.

I went over on my personal budget by £8, largely due to an impulse purchase of a poncho at the mall.

I went over on the household budget by £55 too, although this is less of an overspend than last month, so a slight improvement here.  No real excuses though.  I just buy expensive toiletries, household products and health supplements and find it very hard to get this area of spending under control. I did stock up on a particular product that I've been using for cleaning our bathroom, via an Approved Food order, which contributed to this overspend.

Finally, I went over on the food budget too by £85, partly due to having visitors for a weekend and I did my usual of overbuying, just in case.  The AF order also contributed in part to this overspend.

So, not a great month, the overdraft and credit cards took the strain, but will still be paid off in full as usual next month.

I am trying to develop a mantra. I will live within my means.  I will live within my means.  I will live within my means.  If I say it enough, maybe it will happen at some point.  Hopefully, by the end of the year, as I'd like to start next year in the black and stay in the black permanently without needing to use my credit cards for very much at all.

Looking ahead to next month.  I have a few expenses.  Save £100, a niece's birthday present, buy more school uniform for LB, haircuts for both LB and myself, new glasses for LB and the purchase of a few small bits and pieces for the house and myself.

As far as I know, we haven't got any visitors or expensive trips planned, but it is the school holidays, so where possible, I will be getting out and about with LB on some days, although I will try to make these excursions as inexpensive as possible. She is spending a week on her own at her cousins' house, so that will help. I'm still stocked up on many food, household and toiletry items, so this will also help and I just need to keep my head down and avoid temptation, which seems to be much easier said than done at the moment.

I hope that you guys are having more luck sticking to your budgets. Just call me Mrs No Self Restraint.

I Finally Cycled to the Mall

Last week, in a fit of being proactive and organised and despite there not really being room in the budget this month, I decided to buy LB's school shoes for September online, as I had managed to find some she liked on the Topshop website.

Two days later they arrived, but unfortunately, they were quite a narrow fit and felt a bit tight on her, so I promised LB that we would try to take them back to our local Topshop at a nearby mall.

On Thursday, after I'd finished my two days at the CS, we had the time to make the journey to the mall and exchange the shoes.  

For once, we went on our bikes.  I'd been wanting to do this for a while, but every time I needed to go, it was to pick up a parcel that would be too big to get in a pannier bag, so I'd never managed it.

This time around I did and we headed off on the same route we'd taken to the Olympic Park on Sunday.  

It only took 15 minutes to get there, it cost nothing to travel or park, we didn't have to wait for a bus there or back and we got some exercise into the bargain.  We will definitely be doing it again the next time we need to go, possibly later in the summer holidays, to get any remaining uniform items needed for school.

We did manage to exchange the shoes too, which was a relief, as the size up were a much better fit.  

The only drawback, was that I did get a bit tempted in Topshop and bought this water resistant poncho from the menswear section.  

I know it's a little roomy, but I'm hoping it will be perfect if we get any showers in Wales on our upcoming camper van trip.  Even if we don't, it will always be perfect as a dog walking coat in the winter with plenty of room for a thick jumper underneath.

I'm getting quite excited about our holiday now and am starting to think about the packing and what I/we need to take.

Even though we're not going to some long haul destination, I am going to enjoy just being on holiday and not having to do anything but live from day to day in the van and visit nice places that I've never been to before.

What more can you ask for really, especially when it will cost us substantially less, we can take the dog with us and it is much more environmentally friendly, all of which are very important bonuses, not to be sniffed at.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A Quiet Start to the Summer Holidays

After having our visitors this weekend, we've had a very quiet start to the summer holidays, which is just how we like it.  During the first week, it always feels good not to have a set routine and to just ease ourselves into the change.

On my walk with the dog this morning, I managed to borrow a couple of books from the local Little Free Library, this one for me, which is exactly the sort of book I enjoy reading,

 and this one for OH, which he's been wanting to read for a few weeks now.

The latter looks pretty well read, but it was free, so we've got no complaints there. I've been looking out for it at the CS, but hadn't seen it thus far, so when I saw it in the LFL, it was perfect timing, especially as he needed some holiday reading.

I also picked up this arch shaped piece of plywood left outside a house on our route. I'm going to use it to do some mosaic work this summer for the garden, as it will make the perfect base. I've got some chipped crockery that I've been keeping for the purpose.  I'll post about it when I eventually get around to doing it.

When I got back, LB came to the gym with me, as OH had to go out to meet a client. After my Zumba class, we did the food shopping and then came home, where we spent the rest of the day.

For me, that meant pottering, getting the house back to normal after our visitors, laundry/ironing and watching comedian Bo Burnham on Netflix.

Talking of watching TV, we've just finished watching American Odyssey on Netflix, which starred Anna Friel and was quite good.  I'm not sure whether there'll be a second series though.

On regular TV, I'm currently enjoying the Eden series on Channel 4 on Monday nights, which is about a group of 20+ people who are given the opportunity to live on an island in the Western Isles of Scotland for a year, build a new community and sustaining themselves by rearing livestock and growing their own food.  It's a very interesting programme and it is fascinating to see that it isn't an idyllic paradise and that human nature causes people to have different priorities and pull in completely different directions at times.

Tomorrow, I'm back at the CS and LB is staying home with OH.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Garden Update and Lettuce Glut

I haven't had much time for the garden lately, what with cleaning the house ready for our visitors this weekend, but I did manage half an hour or so in there before they arrived and managed to plant the cheap strawberry plants I'd bought a few weeks ago, into their new home.

I had to harvest the lettuce out of here first, but had munched my way through it this week, so I could get the strawberry plants in.  Here's what the old shoe basket/new strawberry patch looks like now.

I also re-purposed LB's old moses basket from the shed to plant up a few more.  I know it looks a bit odd, and OH isn't exactly thrilled by it, but I don't think they would accept this at a CS, due to potential mould spores, after having stored it in the shed for a few years, so it was better to do something with it than send it to landfill.  This way it should rot away eventually and come to a natural end.  I just lined it with an old compost bag, filled it with compost, then planted into it.

The dog took a liking to eating the leaves of my Dwarf French beans this weekend.  She hadn't previously shown any interest in any of the things I've grown in the garden, but was yomping away on these.  I don't think they did her any harm and she didn't eat the beans, fortunately, which are still growing and should be ready for harvesting soon.

I was forced to harvest lots more lettuce this weekend, as several heads were almost going over.  We are going away soon for a week, so I filled our fridge with as much as I could, but we are never going to eat enough this week to use up what is ready, so I redistributed quite a bit to neighbours and friends. Even having done this, there's still far too much left to harvest, so I will have to leave some to go to seed or compost some of it. Here's a picture of what is still left.

I admit that this bed looks a complete mess. I got way too enthusiastic when the raised bed was ready to plant into and didn't think enough about what we would realistically need.  In all honesty, I also didn't think as much would germinate as did. It's been a learning curve.  I may clear most of the bed and sow some new seeds into it before we go away, so they will have germinated by the time we come back. I'm hoping to make it look more attractive in the future, with a bit more thought.

In the other bed, the sweetcorn is doing really well in the hot weather and the cobs are starting to form. I'm not sure how many we'll get from these plants. I'm just hoping the foxes don't eat them when we're away, as they have done this at the allotment before now.

I planted some courgette plants amongst them, but they are still very small, as I was late growing them from seed. The remainder went into the allotment to fill out the spaces. Hopefully, they will fruit before the end of the season.

On the tomato front, there are lots of fruit developing, but none turning red yet.  I will have to leave some sort of irrigation in place when we go away and hope it rains in our absence.  The roof of the greenhouse has been rolled back, so rain would now water them if it came.

The only other news is that I dug up some rhubarb tubers from the allotment and a self propagated gooseberry plant and have potted these up at home in case the allotment goes this year.  There's still a couple more gooseberry plants to bring back on another visit.  I'm just not sure where they're going to go here, as space is very limited.

Finally, whilst at the allotment the other day I also managed to pick some blackberries from nearby bushes and made two pots of jam on Friday night.  I'm looking forward to eating this.

It's nice to have some time again to potter in the garden.  I do hate leaving my garden and allotment when I'm growing food, but there's not much I can do about it.  At least it's only for a week this time and not two or even three,  which has been the case in the past.  I can always tell if there's been rain, as I often come back to a complete jungle.

I hope your gardening efforts are going well.

This Weekend

This weekend we had visitors from Yorkshire.  OH's sister, her husband and grandson came to stay, so that they could show him the sights of London. He's only six, but he was very excited.

Saturday morning we headed down to Tower Hill.  OH knows where it is possible to park for free on a Saturday, so we left the cars there and had a wander over Tower Bridge and around the outside of the Tower of London.

We then caught an open topped tourist bus around the city.  We have to admit that we didn't make the best choice when it came to the bus company. We went by price alone and truth be told, you get what you pay for.  Our tour company didn't have as many buses on their routes as some of the more established ones, so we found ourselves waiting quite a while at bus stops for the buses to come along.

Regardless, it was a scorching hot day and we got to see an awful lot of the city in a short space of time, which wouldn't ordinarily have been possible.

First stop was the London Eye as we had booked tickets to take a ride. We had to queue for quite a long time, but eventually got on and enjoyed our ride and the wonderful views of the metropolis that it affords.  The air conditioning was much welcomed too.

After stopping for lunch, we got back on to another bus to see more of the sights, from Westminster, to the Parks, to Oxford Circus, Regent Street, Paddington, Marylebone, Bloomsbury.  We stopped off and popped into a pub in Westminster for a drink, before returning to Tower Hill via St Paul's, the City and Borough Market.

Then it was home for a thrown together supper before we all fell into bed exhausted.

Today, we had a much more relaxing time and after watching a bit of the DVD of LB's school production, which everyone seemed to really enjoy, we took ourselves off to the Olympic Park which is situated a couple of miles from where we live.

LB and I took our bikes, as we couldn't all fit into one car and I felt like getting a bit of exercise, as I hadn't booked my regular classes this weekend. It was a very enjoyable and easy ride, taking only 10 minutes or so through mostly park land and open spaces.

Our littlest visitor had a great time in the wonderful play areas on the Olympic park, our guests enjoyed a visit to the Olympic Velodrome and we all enjoyed hanging out and having brunch in one of the cafes nearby.

OH's sister cycled home with me on LB's bike.  She hadn't rode a bike for 36 years, so did pretty well considering.  She really enjoyed it too and went home feeling really enthused about riding a bike again and vowing to come back and ride around the park again.  It was good to see her gain so much confidence in something, that she thought she couldn't do.

It was a good weekend, I hope you enjoyed yours too.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

School Uniform Tales

This month, I decided to spread essential costs and made a point of ordering LB's new school uniform for next year before the end of term.

Her shirts are now in such a state that I am desperate to put them in the rag bag and her blazer has no buttons and is on the small side now (probably the reason why it has no buttons!).  Anyway, as planned, I ordered everything on line on the school website at the beginning of the month.

Within the week, the items had come home with LB and I happily set them aside, feeling slightly smug and organised.

Fast forward to this week and LB comes home with another set of the same uniform items.  The school had duplicated sending out the order.  I did the honest thing and sent them back with her this week, as I didn't want to be charged another £70 when they realised their mistake. When she got home, she said the school had thanked us for our honesty, but they probably wouldn't have charged us again anyway!!!

The very same morning I bumped into a neighbour, who told me that the school had sold out of everything and she couldn't get any uniform for her daughter, who was starting at the school in September, as the school was changing over to a new system.

Lo and behold, that night I received a letter from the school saying that they would no longer be selling the uniform and that parents would need to buy it direct from the stockist's website.  I  took a look at the quoted prices of the uniform and would you believe all of the prices had gone up for LB's size.  It would have cost me an extra £17 to buy the same items, plus another £4 to have it delivered to our home.

You could say, I was pleased that I'd got my backside into gear and bought them before the changeover. It paid for my log basket at least.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

An Unscheduled Shopping Trip

After the gym today, I sponaneously decided to pop to Home Bargains for a few toiletries that I had almost run out of and ended up having an unscheduled splurge between there, Poundland and TK MAXX.  It's the first time this month that I've been in any of these shops, but of course, once you do go in, you inevitably end up buying things that you didn't really intend to.  So here's what happened.

Poundland was the first stop, and I went here to get some Organic Compost Activator (£1) that I'd seen when I'd been in previously.  This helps to speed up the formation of compost in my compost bin, so I thought I'd get some and start using it regularly.   I also purchased a pack of these super colourful beetroot mix seeds (£1), which I'm looking forward to growing.

Whilst in there, there was a clearance sale on, as the shop was previously a Family Bargains, that was taken over a couple of months ago, so they were selling off all of the old stock. I also bought a waterproof map cover for our Camper van trip to Wales in a few weeks (50p), a wall hanging tomato grow kit with seeds included, which I thought I'd give a go next year, to facilitate growing as much food as I can in our garden (50p) and then when I got to the till I spotted three 8 packs of Warburtons Crumpets reduced to 50p each, so they came home with me too and went straight into the freezer. That's breakfast sorted for the rest of the month.

Next door, was Home Bargains, and although I only went in for some Distilled Witch Hazel, I came out having spent nearly £10, which included two bottles of the aforementioned, two bottles of mouthwash, one can of hairspray, one box of tissues, a drink, and this bag of Organic Chicken Manure for £1.99, which I will be using to fertilise my raised beds come the autumn.

Although it was a bit more than I had intended to spend, I was happy that everything I bought will get used over the coming months.

Finally, I called in at TK MAXX before heading home.  I needed some more dog poop bags, which I bought for £9.99 for a pack of 375.  It's supposed to be a six month supply, so it should keep us going for a good while.

I also bought a thin black leather belt for LB, as she has been using mine of late to wear with her new jeans.  The thing is, she's decided she likes mine better, which is okay, as I like this one, so we've kind of swapped.  It cost £5.99, which I think is very reasonable.

The last purchase from here was this Log Basket.   I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to get another one. Whilst I know that it isn't really necessary at this time of year, and more particularly on a day as hot as yesterday, I thought I'd just buy it, as I can guarantee that if I leave it, I won't find one I like as much. It was quite pricey at £16.99, but this was quite reasonable compared to some I'd seen on eBay, which also looked a lot less sturdy.  I have now removed the old one from the shed and transferred its contents into  this one. The size of this one is a lot more in proportion to our reception room, so I'm looking forward to getting it out again in the autumn and using it  for it's intended purpose.

Ironically, I didn't actually manage to find the main thing that I went in for, namely a gift for LB's teacher, who is leaving her school this summer.  I wouldn't ordinarily buy a present, but this teacher was very kind and encouraging towards LB when she was rehearsing for her big part in the school production this year, so I thought I'd make the effort.  This does mean that I've got to brave the store again this week, but I think I'll take LB with me and let her choose something.

A bit of a splurge then, but mostly consumables and very useful items that will pay for themselves many times over in use and convenience.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Stress-Free Sunday

This Sunday, I decided I was going to have a stress free day, as much as possible.

I woke early, I'm not sure why, but decided to get up at around 6 am, as I didn't think I could get back to sleep.

I cancelled my usual class at the gym, partly because it wouldn't be my usual instructor, who was on holiday, and also because I just fancied taking it easy and not having to rush out and get all sweaty.

Instead, I stayed in and got sweaty, by doing the mountain of ironing that was awaiting me and putting everything away, before having a shower, getting dressed and taking the dog for a slightly more leisurely walk, instead of the usual of dragging her around the park in time to get off to my class.

When I got back, I needed to take LB to her friend's house, so I took the opportunity whilst out and about, to visit a more local Lidl and do my weekly shop, which will save me time tomorrow.

In the afternoon, I set about making the natural beauty and household products that I'd run out of, namely natural deodorant (I made two sticks), bath bombs (I made four of these) and hand wash. (which is still in the process of being made, as I have to let it thicken over a 24 hour period)

Having done this, I proceeded to make OH some granola and also to make some yoghurt for the week ahead, in my Easiyo mini.  It was good to get these things done and replenish the products that we need and use regularly.

I didn't have any other plans for the day, so I just sat out in the garden with a magazine and enjoyed it for a change. After all, that's what it's there for. I find it quite hard just to sit still and do nothing of significance, but it's something I think we all benefit from, from time to time.

Hope you had a lovely Sunday.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Spot The Difference

Yes, you're right, we now have a usable washing line again.  The line was previously attached to the wall on the other side of the patio doors, but I managed to persuade OH to move it for me.

It is now much more central, and no longer gets tangled in the bushes on the right hand side of the garden. It's great to be able to hang washing out again after a couple of years' hiatus. It dries so much quicker outside in the sunshine and smells nicer too, as well as giving me an excuse to spend more time in the garden during the summer months.

I had to go to B&Q, however, to buy a new clothes line prop, as ours had broken in half, but it only cost £3, which was a steal.

The piece of wood we had previously been using was then used to attach storage fixings in the shed, to hang my most used garden tools from.  No waste here. Thanks OH for assisting.

The shed clearing is now for all intents and purposes finished.  I just need to clean the tools, a job I haven't done for a long time.

Here's the overall picture.

Once we get rid of the Flymo, I'll be able to access everything in it pretty easily.

I spent most of the afternoon on Saturday, clearing up the patio, and consolidating all of my clean pots into the green storage bag you can see here in the shed.  The dirty pots are now kept in a swing bin by the potting table, ready to be washed in the autumn.

Here's the bin I found in the street, which now houses tools I don't use so often and support canes. (Apologies for the blurry photograph).

The shelf at the back of the shed is much more organised too.

I also managed to take all the bits and pieces that needed disposing of to the tip on my way to B&Q, so I'm virtually on top of the garden. It feels very satisfying for once, instead of my feeling overwhelmed by the clutter.

Just as well really, as we have visitors next weekend.  I now need to focus on the house this week, to get it ready for our guests.   No rest for the wicked I guess.

Friday At Home

Friday, I managed to get my blood test done.  I arrived at the hospital at 7.45 am, expecting it not to be busy, but the waiting room was already almost full.

Luckily for me, a very kind gentleman, who couldn't wait any longer, gave me his ticket on the way out, so I didn't have to wait quite as long as I might have, although it was still a 30-40 minute wait. Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to take a book with me.

On the way out, I passed a black bin discarded on the street next to the waste bins.  I tipped the few contents into the waste bin and brought it home with me and washed it out.  It is perfect to store my gardening tools in the shed.  Just goes to prove that life has a way of providing what you need for free, if you just keep an eye out.

Finding the bin, inspired me to continue with the shed clear out when I got back from walking the dog. It took a couple of hours and the dust did irritate my eye a little more, but I eventually got it finished.  I just need to knock a few nails and hooks in, to hang a few things from the wall and it will be finished and as tidy as I can get it at the present.

I decided to re-purpose an old wormery into a dispenser for my comfrey tea fertiliser, as it conveniently has a tap on it, making it much easier to dispense into the watering can when I need it.

Quite a few things got put aside to donate to the next Give and Take, and a few other things to go to the tip. It feels good to get it done, as I now know exactly what I have in there to use for the garden, so I won't be buying any duplicates.

It's not exactly Pinterest worthy, as it's still got far too much in it, but at least everything is now reachable (just about) and much better organised. An added plus, is that I can now finally cross this task off my to do list.

This weekend, I'm going to finish the final small shed details and will post the final results.  I also want to tweak a few things in the garden this weekend, with OH's help, to tidy things up and make life a lot easier all round.  I'll post about these too, once completed.

On the eye front, it  didn't really get any better as the day wore on, in fact, it looked a bit worse, so egged on by OH I rang the doctor to see if I could get an appointment. I eventually managed to secure a cancellation for later the same afternoon.  At the appointment the doctor  thought it was a bite and prescribed some hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines, which I've taken and it does look a little less red and swollen, but is not yet back to normal.

When I got back, I had received an email from the allotment committee, to say that I had been given a neglected plot letter.  I must admit it was disappointing, as it has been difficult to get to the allotment this year with all the rain and I had started to take remedial action to clear it up.  I am currently in correspondence with them and I'll let you know the outcome.

Overall, it wasn't a great day, so I retired to bed feeling exhausted at 9pm and just about slept through until 8am this morning. Hopefully, today will be a better day.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Slow Progress

Since I started volunteering at the CS, home and garden projects have taken a bit of a back seat, due to lack of time and progress has been slow.  Having said this, progress is still being made, and I have made inroads into some jobs that I've been putting off for a long time, which is great.

I think the contrast of being out of the house two days a week or more and then spending time at home on the other days, has made me appreciate spending time at home more, and made me want to make my surroundings at home as simple and as pleasurable as possible.

Seeing how much 'stuff' comes through the shop, also keeps confirming to me, that I'm on the right track and that I don't actually need as much as I think I need, to live happily and simply.

Contrary to what I thought, I don't find myself tempted to buy much at all whilst I'm there either, although the odd small item does find it's way home with me.

The last couple of weeks have been all about getting up to scratch with the allotment and clearing out the garden shed, on the days when I'm not at the shop. I visited the allotment again yesterday and did some more clearing of weeds, so it's looking better, but there's still quite a bit to be done.

As well as doing some clearing, I managed to dig up a few plants for the garden at home whilst there, including a small blackcurrant bush, a comfrey plant, a couple of small crowns of rhubarb and a clump of chives.

There are also a few red gooseberry plants that have set down roots by layering themselves in the soil, so I intend to dig those up too and bring them home. I also cut some comfrey leaves to make comfrey tea and brought them home in a bucket to steep and use as plant food.

I was going to return there today, but unfortunately I seem to have handled a plant (possibly comfrey) and then I've touched my eye, or I've been bitten by something near my right eye and today it has swollen up pretty badly.  It's not a good look.  I look like I've been punched, but without the bruising.

The discomfort from the swelling woke me up at 4 am this morning and I eventually got up at 5 am and decided to go downstairs and apply an ice pack, rather than toss and turn in bed. I've taken some anti-inflammatories and it is feeling a little better, but I'll have to see how it goes. The allotment, however, can now wait for another week or so.

Today, I need to visit the hospital for a thyroid blood test, as I have a medication review appointment next week at my GP surgery. I tried to go on Tuesday, but at 9 am there was a roomful of people waiting and some outside of the room too, so I left it as I was on my way to the CS anyway and didn't want to be too late.

This visit, I'm going to go at 8 am when it opens and hope I fare better, then walk the dog when I get back, so getting up so early was probably not such a bad thing after all.  I  may have to wear sunglasses though, to cover my eye.

The rest of the day I'm spending at home.  I think I might tackle the mess on the table at the back of the shed and do a bit of re-organising, or alternatively make some home made beauty products, as I've run out of stick deodorant, hand wash and bath bombs.  If I get super productive, I might manage to do both jobs, which would be a bonus.

Wishing you all have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Shed Clearing - Part 2

After posting last night about my efforts to finally clear out the garden shed this weekend, thinking about it got me inspired to do a bit more work on Monday night.

As a reminder, this is what the shed looked like after I'd finished on Saturday.  Still very cluttered, but better than before.

I got started by pulling everything in the front out once more, sorted through it, untangled the hosepipes, making them neat and tidy and removed a few things for donation. I then pulled out everything from under the table at the back and after sweeping the cobwebs off the shed walls and brushing the floor, I stored all of the summer/winter sport and camping equipment neatly under the table.

Now, most of the non-gardening 'stuff' is tucked under there out of the way, save for the fire wood basket, fireguard and coal scuttle, which will come out of the shed come the autumn, when we start lighting the wood burner again.

(I am in any case thinking of getting a smaller log basket, as this particular one is very large and cumbersome and takes up too much room in the living room. I'll have to keep an eye out in the charity shops for one.)

The remainder of stuff to the front is now mostly gardening equipment and tools, which means I can now access it all.

Here's a picture of the shed after I'd finished for the day.

As you can see, some floor is actually now visible, which is a vast improvement and makes it a lot easier to actually get inside the shed.

There's still a way to go until it is back under control though, but the Flymo is no longer required, as we no longer have any grass to cut. We haven't actually yet decided what to do with it and may pass it on to a relative or neighbours, should they want it.

I'm thinking of hanging some of the garden tools from the shed walls, so they are more organised and easily accessible, but I need to think about how I'm going to do this.

In my next attempt at imposing some order, I will need to clear and sort through everything on the table top, which will mean pulling everything out again to get access, but I decided to save that for another day.

The more stuff I pull out and re-organise, re-home, dispose of or donate, the easier it is getting and I'm pretty sure that I will have it back in use very soon, which is quite exciting.

It feels very satisfying to finally tackle this job, as I have put it off for so long and it was one of the main remaining areas of clutter on the property that needed addressing.

I think there are definitely still more items in there that I can eventually get rid of one way or another, so I'm looking forward to doing that and then reclaiming the space for future use.

I'll post again, when I finally finish the job and do a final reveal.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Tackling A Long Avoided Job

Saturday evening, after watching various videos on YouTube, I very suddenly got inspiration to start to tackle a job that I've avoided for at least the last two years. Namely, clearing out the garden shed.

There are several reasons why I haven't tackled it, probably the main one being the huge spiders I've seen lurking in there.

Another, is that it was full to the brim with stuff, some of which is LB's baby paraphenalia and I knew that I'd find it tough to finally get rid of it.

However, one of the tasks on Courtney Carver's 21 day declutter challenge, was to tackle unseen clutter, and this job offered the perfect opportunity to complete this task.

I started at about 7 pm, which isn't really a good time to start a big job like that, but I had to be in the mood, and in the mood I was. I'm afraid as often is the case, I just got stuck in and forgot to photograph the 'before', so I'm afraid a little imagination is required here.

Armed with a small hand brush, I pulled things out, swept the cobwebs off and made loose piles around the shed area, according to whether the items were to be donated, tipped or placed back in the shed for more thorough sorting through later.

I was reasonably pleased with the progress I made in just an hour or two.  I pulled out all the baby gear, and took it into the house to sort through properly.

I removed a few items to be taken to the tip along with the bags of garden waste I'd filled the day before, and I retrieved a couple of spare garden chairs, that were tucked away at the back, for us to use now, as we were down to just one old chair in the garden.

Some things did get put back, namely camping gear, beach gear, winter sports gear and the fire basket, coal scuttle and fire companion set, but most of the rest was removed, so that I could move it on to a new home off the property.

I will sort through some of the items that I put back the next time I venture in there, and I'm sure there will be several things that can be donated amongst them.

In addition to what I pulled out on this occasion, there is still a whole heap of gardening items right at the back of the shed to sort through, namely lots of pots, irrigation systems, sieves, tools, wormery, garden canes, bird feeding paraphenalia, etc., etc.  I will get to these eventually, once I have tackled and minimised the 'stuff' in front.

Here's a picture of what it looked like after I'd finished for the day.

You'll just have to trust me when I say that it was a whole lot worse than this before I started, as the 'stuff' was stacked up to the roof.

I am now quite looking forward to hopefully using the shed for gardening purposes again, instead of the storage of junk.

I will probably still store some junk in here, but might be able to house most of it under the built in table at the back, out of the way.

We've had this shed since we got our first allotment about 12 years ago and although it's getting a little dilapidated and it's condition is definitely deteriorating, it is still going strong. Lets hope it lasts for a good few more years yet.

I'll post again on this project when I make more progress.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Gardening Dreams

Just  lately, since we've had the vegetable beds finished and since I've finally made the decision to let go of the allotment later this year, I've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about how I can make the absolute most of our garden at home, especially when it comes to growing food and making it more sustainable.

I didn't really give much thought to what I sowed and planted in it this year, as I just wanted to get going, but I did make sure that it was all food that we do like to eat, hence the sweet corn, salad, and green beans.  I am still hoping to put some courgettes in, as my seeds have germinated and I think there's probably still enough time left this growing season to get crops from them.

I've also decided that the strawberry plants I bought for 50p each tray the other week are going to go into my garden and not the allotment.  I've got a few ideas about where I want to put them, which I will reveal in another post.

In future years, I'm going to have to be a bit more organised and think about how much of everything we need to grow, as we currently have more salad crops than we can physically eat and I don't want to waste anything if I can help it.

In addition, I planted everything in very traditional neat rows, (although some of the seeds were dispersed by fox activity!) which isn't necessarily the best way to utilise the space, so I will be thinking more in terms of mixing lots of different crops in together, sowing and planting quite densely, to make the garden more productive in the future, if I can.

To get some inspiration, I've been watching some very interesting documentaries on YouTube about permaculture and sustainable gardening, and I very much feel that I want to go in this direction, as much as possible, taking into account our very limited space.

It will mean growing some things in pots and other containers, maybe removing some of the existing plants and replacing them with more productive food producing plants, which I think I might be happy to do at some point, plus finding more creative ways to grow some crops, such as vertically, but I am definitely looking forward to the challenge.

Although we spent quite a bit of money getting the garden just how we wanted it this year, i.e. £429 at last count, I am pretty confident that we can reap this money back in produce quite quickly, if we utilise the space well.  It would be good to eventually get to a place where gardening costs very little, if anything, and actually saves us lots of money on food.

I've got lots of ideas going around my head at the moment, but as soon as some of them become reality, I'll let you know.

Friday, 8 July 2016

An Afternoon in the Garden

This Friday I wasn't at the CS for a change, so I had the day to myself, which was a treat.  OH was heading off up to Yorkshire for a cycle race, whilst LB and I stayed in London.  As a consequence, I also had the house to myself which is quite rare these days.  (OH works from home!)

I didn't wake until gone 8 and then I had a pretty lazy morning, beginning with starting a new book in bed.  OH headed off at 9.30 am, so I then was free to do as I pleased.  To be honest I didn't do anything exciting. Just the usual catching up on housework and blog reading. I was going to take the dog to the allotment with me and do some more clearing, but I never did get there.

Instead, I decided to have a lovely afternoon in our little garden, pruning a neighbours tree that was over hanging the fence and trampoline at the back and had got a bit out of hand, along with some other shrubs that were obstructing the paths around the vegetable beds.

I managed to fill the brown bin and then filled another 3 sacks that I need to take to the tip this weekend, if I get the chance.

There's still a bit more to do inside the trampoline, which hasn't been used in an age due to the overgrowth, so it will be good to finally clear it and see if LB will get on it and do some jumping this summer.  (I doubt it!)

I think that she's perhaps outgrown it now, so we might pass it on to some neighbours if anyone wants it. I have to  admit that I have that corner earmarked for my potting table, pots and garden tools at some point in the future.  It would definitely help to tidy up the decking outside the back door and give us a bit more usable space.

Here's how it looked before I started work (this photo was taken a week or so ago, but you'll get the gist).

And here's what it looked like after I'd finished for the day.

A satisfying day that will make access to the trampoline and around the beds to harvest, a little bit easier.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Allotment Tales

I finally got to the allotment today, for the first time in 4 or 5 weeks.   I was expecting it to be overgrown, due to the mix of rain and sunshine, but not quite as bad as it actually was.  I took a couple of pictures before I got started.

Here's the back  left hand corner, completely taken over by nettles, brambles and bind weed.

I managed to spend some time clearing this today and it looked like this when I left.  At least you can now see the rhubarb and my blackcurrant bush, both of which have just about been liberated.

Here's the two piles of cuttings, one of which I need to bag up and then put in the site compost bins and the other, which is made up of comfrey and nettles only, that I will use make a very nutritious plant food.

As I only had a couple of hours to spare today, I couldn't tackle much of the rest of the plot, but I did dig up the potatoes, which looked like this before I started.

To be honest it was a measly harvest. Quite a few had gone green, because I didn't bank them up well enough.  Once I'd dug over this area, I put some climbing french beans, cucumber and mange tout plants in.  It looked a lot tidier.

There's still a whole lot of work to do.  The mint and lemon balm have got totally out of hand and need cutting right back.  I think I may dry some and keep it to use for making tea or as dried herbs. There's also quite a bit more pulling up and cutting back of nettles and other weeds to do around the edges of the plot, so plenty to keep me busy.  I'll probably go back again tomorrow, weather permitting.

I think I mentally made a definite decision today, to let go of the plot this year.  Now the back garden beds are getting productive, I can probably grow almost as much in them (if not more), of produce that we use, than I harvest at the allotment, due to my neglect of it.

I'm now certain that the time has come to hand it over to someone else, to make what they can of it. I'll continue to cultivate it this year and try to clear it up as much as possible, so I don't leave a total mess for the next plotholder, but I think it's definitely the end of an era for me.

I've enjoyed having an allotment for the past 12 years, but I am now looking forward to concentrating on gardening in a small space at home.  The challenge will be to be as resourceful as possible, in order to grow as much garden produce as I can, hopefully all year round.

The ease of just stepping outside my back door to tend and harvest everything has definitely been brought home to me since we've had the new vegetable beds and it makes the effort of going to the allotment seem even more burdensome.

Time to move on and enter a new gardening chapter.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Breaking the Book Buying Ban

I instigated a self-imposed book buying ban this year, mainly because I have over 40 books on my shelves that I haven't read yet, which was plenty to last for a couple of years, never mind this year. I wanted to concentrate on reading these first.

I've been pretty good so far, although I have picked up the odd book from the Little Free Libraries in my area, but I don't tend to count these, as I don't have to pay for them.  Nevertheless, truth be told, I have acquired a few more books over the past six months.

I have noticed that the majority of books on my shelves are fiction books, a few classics, but many are pretty light reads.  I think my tastes in books are changing again and I'm finding some of these books quite unappealing and a struggle to read.

In addition, I like to mix up what I read and include some non-fiction from time to time to break it up and vary things a bit more, and I'm currently decidedly short on this genre of book.

Today, whilst volunteering at the CS, in a quiet moment, I couldn't help but take a look at the non-fiction book shelves and within just a few minutes I had found four books that I wanted to buy.

I set them aside and then took a closer look at them to make sure I really wanted to buy them.  At this point I managed to discard two of them, but the remaining two did come home with me.

Here they are:

This book called No Logo by Naomi Klein, is one that I've wanted to read for a while.  I've heard it mentioned in other books I've read and was curious to read it myself.

It charts the history of marketing and suggests ways we can resist the multinational mindset that prevails today.

She also suggests ways of taking this idea further by conscientiously objecting to the power wielded by multinational corporations in our modern day society.

It sounds like a fascinating read, although it is over 450 pages long and the print is very small. I'll certainly give reading it a try though.

The second book I bought was this book called Looptail, by Bruce Poon Tip, a socially responsible entrepreneur, who created a company offering adventure travel in more than 100 countries.

What differentiates him from other entrepreneurs is his management approach.  His company doesn't have a CEO, nor an HR department and it is committed to generating good 'karma' for everyone that comes into contact with it.

His philosophy is that business is all about the cycle of the Looptail, giving back in life and in business, is what it is all about.

Both of these books sound totally riveting and fascinating to me, so how could I resist them?

I'll  post a review of them once I've read them, if I find them to be worth reading.

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Make Do and Mend Project

I've been using the same black pleather rucksack from ASOS for probably the last 6 months now and have found it really easy to carry, plus it was more than plenty big enough to hold everything I carry on a daily basis.  Here's a picture of it.

It wasn't too expensive, I think I paid £18 or so for it earlier in the year.  I liked the rose gold hardware, i.e. zips, buckles, etc., but the long top zip that opened the bag had always been a bit temperamental, as the teeth of the zip sometimes moved and it wouldn't zip up or open up easily on occasion.

Anyway, I persevered with it, until the other week when one of the teeth fell out, leaving a gap in the zip, so that it just wouldn't work anymore.  I was a bit disappointed, as I haven't really had the bag that long.

I proceeded to cut the zip out, with the intention of trying to replace it and carry on using the bag, and then it got set aside for a while and I used a different bag for a month.

On Friday night, I decided to try to sew the new zip in.  It doesn't fit exactly, and doesn't match the zips on the front of the bag, but I figured it would do for everyday use, going to the gym, etc.  I hand stitched the zip in place, as central as I could and then stitched up the ends where the zip didn't quite reach to. I was pretty happy with the results and my bag is now back in action.

Here's what it looks like now. I t doesn't look too obvious and it  has prolonged the life of the bag.  In addition, I now don't have to negotiate an annoying zip every time I use it.

I much prefer this bag to the one I was temporarily using, as it has more small pockets to house the various bits and pieces I carry around on a daily basis, instead of them all swimming around in the bottom of my bag. It is also more secure, for use in a big city.

I'm not sure how much longer I will use it for, but at least when I do decide to stop using it, I can donate it to the Give and Take for someone else to potentially use, instead of having to put it in landfill and the repairs cost me nothing as I already had the zip in my stash.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Another Wardrobe Cull

Friday morning and I was looking in the wardrobe for something to wear to the CS.  I've been trying to make a bit more effort this week because one, the shop is in quite an affluent area, two, I feel better when I feel good about my appearance and three, I was deliberately trying to get more use from some of the items in my wardrobe.

The problem was, nothing seemed to look or feel right on me.  I tried on numerous combinations, but none of them cut it.  I decided there and then that more things from my wardrobe just had to go. What is the point of them being in there, when I am never reaching for them and when I do, I just don't like them?

When I got home later that evening, I set to at having another cull.  To be honest there were quite a few things I now felt happy to part with. Styles that I just don't wear anymore or that just aren't very flattering.

I accumulated quite a pile from the cull.  Here's a photograph of it.

There were  a couple of items that have been in and out of the donate pile several times in the last few months, but I think I have now finally made a decision about them. Who knows, I might even feasibly be able to join in with Project 333 at some point, although maybe not just yet!

While I was in the zone, I decided to go through a few drawers too. In total there were 21 items culled and added to the donation pile or cut up for cleaning rags.  My wardrobe and drawers are now heaving a big sigh of relief.  I don't particularly feel like I need to replace anything either, which is good, so I'm not just culling to allow more in, I'm doing it so that I can live with less and enjoy what is there more.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Garden/Allotment Catch Up

It's been more than a month since I've visited the allotment.  Mainly due to the awful weather.  If it's too wet, it just  isn't worth going, as it can damage the soil structure.

I was intending to go this week, but was asked to do an extra day at the CS.  I declined at first, but as rain was forecast I decided to go in and help out, as things are a bit busy there at the moment.

Needless to say, I'm now almost dreading when I do go, as I can imagine that it will have got a bit out of hand with the combination of rain and sunshine.  The potatoes should be ready to dig up, hence my need for it to be a bit drier.

I'm definitely going to go next week, come rain or shine, as it's only three weeks until LB finishes school for the summer and I need to get it up to scratch by then.

Once I lift the potatoes, I'm left with a dilemma, as it will leave the majority of the plot empty and I need to keep it almost fully cultivated all season. I am therefore in dire need of plants to put in. Unfortunately, the couple of courgette seeds that did eventually germinate got munched by snails in the mini greenhouse, which was very disappointing.

All I have left are a couple of small cucumber plants and some fennel seedlings to take there.  I took a look in a local shop that sells plants and they've sold out and aren't getting anymore in now. Then I went to B&Q, but no luck there as their young plants looked well past their best.

As is usual for me, I'd missed the window of opportunity to buy vegetable plants and my only hope left was to take a wander up to our local street market this weekend and see if anyone is selling any, or find a car boot sale where people are selling their surplus.

I was getting a bit concerned and then I returned to B&Q for some mulch and managed to eek out a couple of trays of half decent looking young plants, which were by then half price at £1.20 per tray.
I bought a tray each of climbing french beans (the previous ones I bought got eaten by snails in the garden) and a tray of mange tout, so these will be planted out on the plot to fill in the gap left by the potatoes.

Whilst there, I also managed to buy two trays of strawberry plants that weren't looking too great for 50p for each tray of six.  I might not get fruit this year, but they will fill gaps and will flower and produce fruit next year. (They may even give a second crop this year too)  As I'd previously dug up and discarded almost all of my strawberries at the allotment, because they were pretty old and getting a bit diseased, this will start me off again, whether I keep the plot or not.

As a last resort, I've also sown some different courgette seeds.  I might just get some to germinate and grow big enough to produce fruit, if we have a long growing season this year. It's worth a try.  I've also got some other seeds to sow, i.e. Rainbow chard, swede, mooli radish and kale, so I might be okay filling up the plot now afterall.

Meanwhile, the garden at home is doing well. The sweet corn and salad are thriving and I've salvaged some tomato plants from amongst the salad I sowed.  Their seed must have got in with the salad seed. I transferred them into the sweet corn bed as they can grow through the trellis , and they will hopefully provide us with a few more fruit this season.

The remainder of the mulch is also down around the raised beds, so effectively the new garden layout is now completed. The mulch I bought this week is slightly different to the original, but not sufficiently so to be a problem.

How's your garden growing?

Friday, 1 July 2016

A Thursday At Home

Thursday was the only day this week that I got to spend at home and I really needed it.

I worked an extra day at the CS again this week and by Thursday, chores and other things that needed doing had started to pile up.

I still went out to my normal class in the morning and then bought a few groceries on the way home, as we'd run out of a couple of things. As I'm now into July's budget, this was fine.

I spent a couple of hours over the lunchtime period catching up with a bit of online reading and listing and then put some washing on, did the washing up from last night that I'd been too tired to tackle, emptied all of the rubbish and recycling ready to be collected on Friday and made a phone call I'd been meaning to make for a while.

I also purchased LB's school uniform for next year on the school website, paid in some lunch money for her and then packed an eBay parcel ready to post.

Once these main jobs had been done, I decided to go out to B&Q and get the last couple of bags of mulch we needed for around the garden vegetable beds.  I bought a few plants whilst there too. (More about this in another post). OH spread the mulch later that night, so the garden is now officially completed, save for acquiring a garden bench, which isn't currently a priority.

I also popped into ASDA, which is situated near to B&Q and bought a few more groceries and a card that I needed to send off the following day, before finally posting my parcel on my way back home.

When I got in, I got the dinner in the oven.  Moroccan meatballs with couscous.  I decided to use up more freezer/cupboard staples to make this.  The freezer is now looking even more empty, which is all good.

I wrote a blog post whilst dinner was cooking, and later hung out the laundry on the indoor dryer, emptied the dishwasher and then finally, my time was my own.

I ended the day with a bit of a potter in the  garden, thinning and planting out the salad, whilst at the same time harvesting some more. It felt like a pretty productive day and anything that still needed doing, can now wait until the weekend.