Monday, 29 August 2016

A Peaceful Bank Holiday Weekend

Most August Bank Holiday weekends, we tend to take ourselves off out of London to visit family in Yorkshire, taking advantage of the extra day. As a consequence, we rarely spend a Bank Holiday weekend in London, but this weekend, on account of having visited family at the beginning of the month, we decided to stay put and it was very enjoyable indeed.

The weekend started on Friday afternoon, when we cycled to  a place that LB wanted to visit, as documented in a previous post.

Saturday, wasn't particularly thrilling, but we enjoyed it all the same.  I did my usual Saturday morning class and in the afternoon OH headed off to a bike race in Kent, whilst LB and I spent the afternoon at home. When he got back we all went for a family dog walk, terminating at the pub, where we had supper out and then came back home to watch a film on Netflix.  The film in question was Brooklyn and was very enjoyable.

Sunday morning, I was at the gym again as my instructor was back from her holidays and I was so happy to do her class again after a 6-7 week break.  Afterwards, I did my weekly shop at Lidl, and we all then spent the afternoon at home, me catching up on some domestic and other tasks I've been avoiding lately, such as catching up with internet banking, sowing some onion sets in the garden beds, making homemade granola and emptying the ironing basket.

Finally, this morning, we headed out on our bikes again, this time for a little trip to a campsite just outside of London. LB fancies a camping party with her friends for her next birthday, so we are doing a bit of reconnaisance. The site has cute wooden pods (with heaters) which are open during the winter (her birthday is in January), so all being well we might be able to rent a couple for a night. We'll be going too, but staying in a separate pod. It was probably a 15 or so mile round trip and was mostly very flat on the canal path, so it wasn't too bad really, but the canal paths were very busy with cyclists and pedestrians. On the way back, we stopped off at a lovely canalside cafe close to my allotment and had some lunch.

Whilst OH and LB rode home together, I popped up to my allotment on the way back and sowed the onion sets that I'd wanted to get in before the inspection tomorrow.  There's nothing more I can do now.  It's just a wait and see situation.

I hope you've all had a lovely Bank Holiday weekend, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Neon Junkyard

On Friday, having spent the morning at the allotment, OH and I decided to dedicate the afternoon to doing something that LB wanted to do.  On the list she'd made at the beginning of the summer holidays, was to visit God's Own Junkyard in Walthamstow, East London.

I'd never actually heard of this place before we visited, but took a look at the website at to get an idea where it was. The website convinced me that it was worth a visit and it most definitely was.  We decided to go by bike, as it's probably about 3 miles from where we live and much of the journey can be done on designated off road cycle paths. It's not the easiest place to find, being on an industrial estate in E17, but is definitely worth seeking out.

It is a gallery/cafe that showcases the work of neon artist Chris Bracey, who sadly died quite recently. His signs have been used to entice people into notorious sex shops in Soho, shown in galleries, used in magazine photo shoots and Hollywood movies and this is a fantastic collection of beautiful craftsmanship, some of which can be purchased or hired for special events.  It is an amazing place. An absolute off the beaten track gem. When I stepped inside, it felt like being back in Las Vegas.

I took heaps of photographs of the walls, which were adorned with amazing neon and other lit signs. Here's a selection.

After having a good look around, we sat out the back in a beautifully shaded courtyard, to have a drink and a piece of cake.  There's room to sit and eat inside too or outside at the front, but it was a steaming hot day and the shady courtyard was perfect after our bike ride.

We had a great afternoon out, definitely a good choice by LB. A great little place to take guests when they come to visit. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

A Final Allotment Visit Before Re-inspection

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that I'd received a neglected plot letter for my allotment, as the Committee thought it was overgrown with weeds and under cultivated.  I was a little disappointed, but they did have a point.  Here's what the back of the plot looked like around inspection time.

The nettles, comfrey and mint had got very out of hand and I just hadn't got around to clearing it.  

I've been struggling for a while now to keep on top of the plot, as it is a lot of work, especially now I've committed myself to two days at the CS each week.  In addition, the rain we had this spring meant going to the plot quite often wasn't really possible.

As a consequence, on receiving notification that I had six weeks to improve it, I asked the Secretary if there was any chance I could transfer to a smaller plot, on a site around the corner from my house. In order to do this though, I had to try to get my plot up to scratch.

It's taken a few visits over the last few weeks, I've put 12 to fifteen large bags of weeds into the compost bins and it's been a lot of hard work, but yesterday, I went for what will probably be my last visit before re-inspection on Tuesday. I was pretty pleased with my progress. Here's what it looks like now:

It's not perfect and is still a little under cultivated, but I've done my absolute best with the time I could find to go. 

It is difficult at this time of the year, to find things to put in it. I did transplant some spinach plants that had self seeded onto my plot from a neighbours, but as I left they were looking very wilted in the midday sun.  I'm hoping these might recover and make the space at the bottom of the plot look better cultivated, but I'm not holding my breath. Alternatively, I may try to get there and plant some onion sets into this space before the re-inspection.

One of the side beds was also tidied and planted with some kale and courgettes.  Here's the before:

And here's the after.

The other side bed, however, hasn't really been tackled yet.  Something had to give.  It is cultivated with nasturtium and raspberries though and once the raspberries have finished fruiting and have been cut back it will be a lot easier to get to the weeds at the back of the bed along the fence.

Finally, I did sow some autumn salad seeds into a few of the gaps to cultivate them a bit more, and I'm hoping I've done enough and the Committee will appreciate my efforts at getting on top of it. In any case, there's not much more I can do for now. I'll let you know what happens.  Wish me luck.

Friday, 26 August 2016

A Tiny Weeny Splurge at the CS

Tuesday, I was volunteering at the CS as usual, and having not been at the shop for a week, when I look around, I can usually find one or two items that take my fancy, although I don't always succumb to temptation and buy them.

On this occasion, however, I did purchase a couple of small inexpensive things, namely two books and a scented candle.

One of the books was the sequel to Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes, called After You.  I recall Marlene from Poppy Patchwork commenting that it was worth reading, to find out what happens to one of the characters from the first book, so now I'll be able to do the same.

I also bought this small thin book by Hunter S Thompson, an American writer who someone recommended to me a while ago.  I'm not sure if I'll enjoy his writing, so starting with a small thin book should give me some idea whether his style is compatible with my reading tastes.  I'll let you know.

There's currently a book sale on in the CS, so all books are half price and these two cost 50p each or thereabouts.

The candle I bought was this rose scented one from WoodWick. At £3.49, I was happy to bring this home for a bit of a floral smelling self- indulgence.  I haven't had a candle burning for a few months now, and this one has a beautiful scent, so I'll look forward to using this as the nights start to get a little colder this autumn.

I also incurred some postage costs on the same day, as I finally got around to listing some items on eBay for my small business, sold one and had to post it off.  I really needed to get moving on this front again, as I hadn't listed or sold anything for quite a while now, and everything had ground to a halt.

With Christmas, my busiest eBaying period now on the horizon, getting back into the habit of selling is definitely very useful in order to build momentum.  I've also started preparing stock for the lead in to Christmas in the past week, which is also much needed progress.

Some of the profits made this year will be going towards our new kitchen extension, so the more I can sell the better.  It does help to have a goal to help motivate me on this front.  I'll keep you posted on this years progress as it happens.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Garden Update

We're now getting to my least favourite time in the garden, namely the end of the summer growing season.  Everything starts to look a little scruffy and overgrown and I'm always tempted to pull everything out before I really need to. I'm so far resisting the temptation, although on Monday I did harvest the last of the lettuce in the salad bed as we were running low.

The bed looked depressingly bare once everything had been pulled up, but then that's a good excuse to sow a few more seeds.  There's a couple of varieties of mustard seedlings growing in places, plus the kale plants I transplanted and the remaining spring onions, but more seeds do need sowing when I get the chance.

In spite of the sad looking consequences, I did manage to procure what will be our last full bowl of homegrown salad leaves this summer. I'm grateful that we've not had to purchase any salad for the last three months and glad that I didn't pull them all out when we went on holiday, as it would have wasted a good few weeks worth of food. They were still very edible, despite almost going to seed, right up to the last minute.

On Sunday, there was a definite need to harvest as much of the sweetcorn as I could, mainly because something had been eating it.  I think it was a squirrel. because one kept coming into the garden on Monday.

At least 3 cobs had been attacked. I stripped the outer leaves away from the half eaten cobs, and left them on the stems, hoping that whoever it was would go back to the already damaged ones and not eat any of the other cobs that are still too immature to harvest.

I did harvest approximately 10 cobs, which was pretty good. I put it all straight into the freezer to use at times of the year when it is expensive in the shops.

I also harvested a few more dwarf beans, which I ate with the Toad in the Hole I made us for supper on Sunday evening. I'm the only one in the family that really likes to eat them on their own, so they tend to get put in casseroles or stews throughout the year.  There aren't really that many of these left growing on the plants, so they will probably be coming out in the next couple of weeks.
Finally, I've also been harvesting a few tomatoes here and there this weekend.  Many are still green, but some have or are turning red or orange, as in the case of these small tomatoes here.

There remain quite a lot of trusses on various plants, that are still completely green, so I'm hoping they will all ripen before blight sets in.

I'm still keeping track of the monetary value of what we are harvesting and logging it each time I take anything from the garden.

We're not talking huge amounts of money, but it's interesting to see how quickly we earn the cost of the beds back in produce.  I'll post about the total at the end of the growing season.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A Good Start to the Week

This week got off to a good start.

On my dog walk this morning, I couldn't resist popping my head into the Little Free Library up the road. Although I don't really need any more books to read at present, as I currently have a whole bunch of them waiting to be read on my book shelves, I just couldn't resist borrowing this one.

As I finished my latest book this morning in bed, I think I might make this my next read, as I'm really looking forward to reading it and don't want to wait.

The second freebie that came my way today was this month's copy of Kitchen Garden magazine, which came with two free packets of seeds. One a packet of Lambs Lettuce that I can sow now, the second a packet of sweet pea seeds to sow next spring. This subscription was a gift from a friend last Christmas.  Simply the best kind, i.e. one that just keeps giving, all year round.

More good news greeted me when I got to the gym, as I was informed that my regular Sunday instructor is now back from her holidays.  I've really missed her class for the last couple of months and I can't wait to get back to it. I immediately booked my place for next weekend. As she teaches a great class, that has a disciple-like following, it soon fills up once word gets around that she's back. 

Finally, I had to visit my GP's nurse today to get my blood pressure re-checked, as when I'd visited the doctor a couple of weeks ago it had been a bit on the high side. (Another reason for concern about my health!).  I'd never suffered from it being high in the past, so I was hoping that it had been due to the fact that I'd just got back from our partially stressful holiday the night before. (i.e. stressful due to the damage we caused to the camper van).  

Anyway, thankfully my blood pressure was back to normal, despite a 20 minute wait in the waiting room, whilst watching the car (which was illegally parked outside!), so that's one less thing  for me to worry about.

Hopefully things are looking up.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Feeling Overwhelmed Again

From my last post, you might have guessed that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, de-motivated and out of sorts, if I'm honest. I don't know if it's a summer holidays thing.

The house feels a mess, I'm behind on my laundry and chores, there's piles of donations to take to the next Give or Take day and I've not really done anything with LB of any merit this summer. I'm on a bit of a self-inflicted guilt trip I think.

Yesterday, she was relieved of coming to the blood donation session with me, as a friend contacted her and she spent the day with her.  I was pleased for her, as all her friends seem to be away for the entire summer this year, so there's no one to hang out with.  As well as being pleased for her, I felt a little pressure taken off and headed off to the Blood session alone.

Unfortunately, I got snarled up in traffic on the way and was 20 minutes late. The donation system, however, had no slack in it to allow me to still donate, so I was pretty unimpressed to be honest and I've decided to stop donating for a while.

Not just for this reason, but also because I've been wanting to take some supplements of late and haven't done so because I feel they might not be compatible with blood donation.  I really want to give them a try and as I've now got this whole cholesterol thing going on, I need to focus on myself a little and concentrate on getting my own health under control for a few months.  I still want to donate and feel it is a very valuable thing to do, but I need a break.

I think that my minor health issues are a lot to do with how I'm feeling at the moment, so I need to take charge of it. I feel I'm pretty health conscious and healthy, but then you receive a blow like the raised cholesterol and you feel that all the good you are doing with exercise and reasonably healthy eating is just negated.  I'm floundering at the moment, not knowing what I can do to improve things. I've started with all the cholesterol lowering products, which I must say, don't inspire me that much and are also very expensive, but as I have no choice, I just need to persevere and hope they get results.

The next thing on the list is to possibly lose some weight, but I have no intention of dieting.  I'm going to focus on improving my digestion and boosting my metabolism and see how it goes, hence where the supplements come in.

Today, thanks to the weather and LB having been out all day yesterday, she's happy to stay home and chill, so I get to do the same and tackle the ironing mountain.  Once it is done, I'm at least up to date on laundry, which I haven't been since before our holiday.

I got to the allotment yesterday afternoon too and made big inroads into clearing the plot.  The fact that LB was otherwise occupied and the email encouragement I'd received from the Committee Secretary probably helped a lot in motivating me.  There's only a small area left to clear by the end of the month.  I also managed to transplant some kale plants, to fill one of the beds.

It's looking better than it has in a couple of seasons, which makes me feel like I want to continue with it, but I know that downsizing to a small plot, if I can, is the right thing to do, as the pressure to maintain it always casts a shadow over the summer months.  If I get offered a smaller plot I will take it, but if not, I'm not sure what I'll do now and might try to hang on until one becomes available.

In the meantime, and on a more positive note, the garden is benefiting from some rain today. Frankly, it needed it, as did the allotment and the water butt which was virtually empty.  I've got a week's worth of salad leaves left in one raised bed, so it should see me through to September, meaning I've had three months worth of salad leaves from it, which is good for me, especially as I eat it most days.

The rain has also been good for me mentally, as it has made me look towards the autumn, which I find more enjoyable and comfortable weatherwise.  I always prefer to be wrapped up a little rather than overheated. Having said this, it has been a nice summer, for the most part.

We had good news this week with regard to OH's parents' camper van, in that the damage we caused to it only cost £100 or so pounds to repair, which was a major relief.  It doesn't excuse our carelessness, but at least it was affordable and the work has now been done, so that they can use it to get away this week. We will, of course, be reimbursing them the whole amount.

Another positive is that I just checked out the next date of the Give or Take and there's one advertised for mid September, so an end to the rising donation pile is in sight. I might have to do another round of decluttering in time for it, as this is something else that has been put on the back burner lately.

I'm getting there, but it just feels like wading through treacle at the moment.  I guess we all have times like this every now and then, so I'm trying not to let it get me down too much and appreciate the relative peace and quiet before time starts hurtling towards the big C.

Apologies for having a moan on here, I don't like to do it, but sometimes it can be quite cathartic and helps me to get focused on pulling myself out of it. Life isn't all roses round the cottage door, it has it's difficulties too and I generally prefer to hear about peoples' lives warts and all. It's in the struggles that we find fellowship.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Things Have Been A Bit Quiet Around Here

I've been a bit quiet on the old blogging front lately.  Not for any particular reason, but there's not been an awful lot happening around here.

On Monday LB and I did some more uniform shopping and I almost have everything that she needs, save for underwear and socks.  I'll probably buy these nearer the time for starting back.

I'm still working my two days at the CS.  The manager has been away this week, so there has been a slightly different atmosphere, but things seem to be ticking over pretty well and the intern who has been left in charge of the shop seems to be doing a really good job, which is nice to see.  He's really gained in confidence and ability over the time he's been there.  It's interesting to see the change in the interns, from when they start to when they leave, it must be quite a steep learning curve for them at times.

I am finding that during the school holidays, I do feel a little guilty that I'm not at home with LB and doing things with her on the two days per week.  I guess that's just because it's always been like that and if I was working (i.e. paid work) I'd probably feel the same.  I don't feel like I can easily just withdraw my voluntary labour for six or seven weeks though, so I have continued going in.

On the days I'm not there, I try to go out and about and spend time with LB, as she does get a little bored at home with her dad, whilst he is working from home,  He does take her out with him on appointments and to walk the dog, but even so, she finds that days can be a little long.

This week she has spent most of the time having a big purge of her bedroom.  There is now a huge pile of stuff outside her bedroom door, waiting for me to relocate it to the Give And Take pile.  I'm pleased she's made good use of her time and is finding it easier to let go of things. Sometimes, I think a bit of boredom is good for you, as it does help to make you more self motivated and resourceful.

Tomorrow, I'm not at the shop, so I can spend more time with her.  I do have a blood donation booked, however, so I'll probably take her with me and we can do a bit of window shopping, as neither of us have much money to spend.  I might even suggest we go on our bikes and get a bit of exercise into the bargain.

Talking of bikes, I've decided to ride my bike to the train station on the days when I travel to the shop, as I hate the walk to and from the station. It takes far too long and is tiring when my feet ache after a day at the shop and still need to take the dog for a walk when I get in.  Sitting on the bike and pedalling is much more enjoyable.  I tried it for the first time today and dug out my old clunky bike, which was still in the garden. I didn't want to leave my newer bike locked up all day, in case it got stolen in my absence.

It worked quite well, save that I went to a different train station and didn't enjoy the experience of catching the train from there, so I will be going from my usual station next week.  It should mean that I can set off a little later and get home a little earlier, all being well, and get a bit more exercise in the process.  I just have to be a bit careful in the traffic.

On Friday this week, I have a free day, save for having booked LB in for an eye test in the late afternoon.  She's lost one pair of glasses and broken another and needs a new pair to go back to school with.  We may spend the earlier part of the day doing something that she specifically wants to do.

In other news, I got an email from the allotment secretary yesterday and she noted that I'd made a real effort to clear my plot and encouraged me to carry on.  I have until the end of the month to get it up to scratch, which I'm hoping to do, in spite of not having a lot of opportunity at the moment.  She said that there is someone interested in a plot on our site, so I'm hoping that I might be able to secure a swap for a smaller plot after all.  I'll keep you posted.

The garden is still producing.  The corn are very near being ready to harvest, but I might leave them another week or so, to make sure the kernels are fully ripe.  I'm harvesting dwarf beans every week and a few tomatoes are now ripening.  The lettuce is still edible and should hopefully last me at least another week.  I've now also transplanted some kale seedlings into the salad bed, so it will be interesting to see how they fare.

I'm going to harvest the measly four apples that have grown on our tree in the garden very soon. We had to cut off some of the main branches this year, as they had been suffering from some sort of fungal growth, but I think we've managed to cut it out and hopefully save the tree. If not, these might be the last four apples we grow on it.

That's about all the news here really, as not much else is happening.  We've been glued to the Olympic cycling for the past few days and have really enjoyed watching it.  What have you been up to?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A New Budgeting System

On reveiwing my finances part way through this month, I've decided that from next month, I'm going to start a new comprehensive budgeting system, which accounts for all monthly expenditure.

Unlike a previous system I employed, where I just spent what I needed/wanted to and then allocated all expenditure to different categories.  This time around, I'm allocating a budget in accordance with my income, to every conceivable spending category and then recording expenditure under each budget heading, as it occurs.

It's a bit of return to accounting for every penny, but with a different and more income based emphasis, which I haven't actually done for a long time, as I've always had the luxury of a virtually free overdraft that I could utilise. I don't, however want to rely on this anymore and hence this approach is hopefully going to minimise my use of the same.

My chosen expenditure categories are as follows:



LB - Clothes, shoes, trips, etc.

Home - Furniture, homewares, linen, etc.

Me - Clothes, books, shoes, etc.

Savings - A minimum of £100 per month

Regular Commitments i.e. gym membership, charity donations, bills, etc.

Misc - Everything else i.e. school dinners, birthday and other gift purchase, transport, parking charges, etc.

Although I've allocated a set budget to all of these headings, this doesn't mean that I have to spend the total amount allocated each month and any excess that I don't spend, will go towards savings, Christmas gift shopping or overspends in other areas.

It's a small tweak to what I was doing already, by simply expanding the categories to incorporate every conceivable expense, but one I'm ready to make to account for all of my spending and get it properly under control for once.

It's taken most of this year to get to a place where I'm finally putting aside money for savings and whittling the need/wish list down to virtually nothing, but I feel I've made progress and am ready to develop a more positive and practical approach to controlling my spending.

Having said this, I will probably have good months and not so good months, but at least now I'm ready to implement a proper system to facilitate living within my means and not using my overdraft or credit cards. It's pretty exciting for me, although it must seem blatantly obvious to many people.

I'll keep you posted with progress from the end of September onwards.

Friday, 12 August 2016

All Together Again

Friday, saw me  make what should have been a quick two and a half hour train journey to Yorkshire to pick up LB from her grandma's house, except all didn't quite go as planned.

I got myself to King's Cross on time and boarded the train and all was going okay for the first half of the journey.

I had my phone plugged in charging (just as well as I needed it later!), I was enjoying tea and biscuits, a sausage butty and reading a copy of The Times, which formed part of my first class ticket entitlement.

The only discomfort was the sun shining in on me, but the window curtain soon put paid to that until it was high enough in the sky not to be a problem.

Then suddenly we drew to a halt and several announcements were made.

Staff were discretely running up and down the carriage.  I knew then that something serious had happened and it had. There had been a fatality on the line ahead of us and we weren't able to continue with the planned journey.

As a consequence, the train returned to a previous station in order to change lines to circumvent the incident and consequently the journey took an extra two hours.

Thankfully for me, I was nice and comfortably ensconced in the First Class carriage, but even so, it did make the journey rather a long one.

However, I was mindful that this was a small problem compared with facing the catastrophic news of someone's life having ended, so complaining seemed inappropriate somehow.  I heard some slightly less sympathetic comments from another passenger, which is a little sad really and just goes to prove how inured and unsympathetic we have become as a nation, with regard to others' misery and heartbreak.

Anyway, I got there eventually and by the time LB and I went to catch the train home, normal service had just about resumed, which must have taken a superhuman effort by the staff, with literally no turn around time.

An eventful day, which made me appreciate having LB back home with us again. The dog, incidentally, was super pleased to greet her at King's Cross after her week away, which was a surprise, as she's a stoic little creature, who rarely shows any emotion, so she must have missed LB too.

Hopefully, normal family life will now resume for the remainder of the summer holidays.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The One Thing I Missed Whilst on Holiday

The one thing I missed this year whilst we were on holiday, (apart from having a private bathroom - sorry TMI) was most definitely my garden.  I kept thinking about it and wondering how everything was growing.

Once back on Monday night I managed to find half an hour to potter, harvest anything that was ready and just appreciate being back home.

In our absence, the sweetcorn had grown really well, with lots more cobs forming and some getting quite large already.

The rhubarb plants that I dug up from the allotment, seem to have settled into their pots and are growing lots of new leaves, which is encouraging, as I thought that perhaps they might not thrive and I'd have to buy a new plant.  This will definitely save me from making any further expenditure here.

In addition, the very cheap strawberry plants I bought from B&Q had also done well, had grown some flowers and were starting to bear fruit. They look a lot happier than when I bought them.

I mooched around and harvested some dwarf french beans.  They had gone over a little, so were blanched and frozen for use in casseroles and stews this winter.  There are still more beans growing on the plants though.

Before we went away, I was going to pull up all of the lettuce in one of the raised beds, thinking that it would go to seed whilst we were away.  I harvested a couple of muslin bags full and took them away with us.  They lasted all week in the campervan fridge.

In the end, I was so busy on the day we left, that I didn't even have time to pull up and compost the remaining lettuce and when we got back it was starting to bolt, but on tasting it, it didn't taste too bad. I harvested some for this week, will take it a week at a time and see if I can keep harvesting it and eating it for as long as possible, before it becomes completely inedible.

I did, however, manage to find time to sow some more lettuce and mustard seeds before we went away, and was pleased to see that these are now germinating and will provided a future source of salad leaves.

The only other things that were ready to harvest were one beef tomato and some spring onions, which I'm using in my salads this week. The rest of the tomatoes hadn't really ripened at all, so it will probably be a while before any others are ready to eat.

I'm enjoying it all being on my doorstep, although I've not any time today to spend out there, as I've been at the CS.  There had been a few changes in my absence, with regard to some aspects of working in the shop, which was interesting in some cases and in others time consuming, but who am I to question the whys and wherefores.

The manager is going on holiday in a couple of days, so today we were busy trying to get things done before she goes and it will no doubt be the same tomorrow, before she heads off on Thursday.  I'm pleased that she's getting time away from it all though.  She needs and deserves it.

On a different subject, I got bitten in the garden last night by some very unpleasant insect and my ankle and the back of my knee have swollen up quite dramatically.  It seems to be one thing after another at the moment in a physical well being sense. I've had to take some anti histamines and put antihistamine cream on the bites.  They are feeling a little better now though, which is good news. Hopefully, they will go down fully overnight.

I'm looking forward to Thursday when I've got some free time to possibly visit the allotment.  There's been no news on whether anyone wants to swap plots and I'm beginning to think it's a non-starter.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Back Home After An Eventful Week

We got back from our holiday in North Wales last night.  Exhausted, but rested if you know what I mean.

It was an eventful week in more ways than one.  We had a good holiday though overall and I have to admit to completely falling in love with Snowdonia National Park.  It was beautiful and we'll definitely be going back at some point.

The week didn't get off to too great a start as the weather was a bit rainy, which did limit our options. It did start to clear up later in the week though.

I received phone call on the first proper day of our holiday from my GP, to tell me that my cholesterol levels were high and that I needed to make some amendments to my lifestyle.  I was quite surprised at how high it was i.e. 7.2, when it should be more like 5.  We had a telephone discussion of ways I could try to bring it down and she reassured me that it was a known side effect of having a hypoactive thyroid.

As I already currently exercise very regularly, don't eat much red meat, eat lots of salad and fruit and try to eat healthily, I was a little concerned that I might not be able to do much to lower it, but she assured me that just by using cholesterol lowering products instead of some dairy products, that I should be able to bring it down within reasonable limits.

I promised to do my best, once I got home from our holiday, as it wasn't really practical to try to start seeking out special products to use when you're shopping in very small shops that don't stock the ranges. She said the best thing I could do was to relax and enjoy the week! I have an appointment with the same lady GP this evening, to discuss what I need to do, so I'll see what she says.

After getting over that blow, we had a minor accident in the camper van, which also put a damper on our holiday.  Nothing serious thankfully, and no one hurt, but as it wasn't our vehicle, it was a worry. Luckily, it didn't prevent us from driving it or affect the inside at all. It was a bit of a shock though and a disappointment, but these things happen when you are driving a large vehicle sometimes.

In addition, I also suffered a few injuries through slipping on various walks, so I was bandaged up where a branch had punctured and scratched my arm.  Thankfully, it has virtually healed and didn't stop me from doing anything.

We continued on, still determined to enjoy our holiday, in spite of the setbacks and we did.  We stayed on some lovely campsites in the National Park, finding that the simpler, more natural sites suited us best. One even had it's own resident ghost, although I didn't see him while we were there. As many of the sites didn't have WiFi connection, I didn't blog, but if I'm honest, it was good to have a digital detox for the larger part of the holiday.

We visited the wonderful Slate Museum at the foot of Mount Snowdon in Llanberis. Entry was free and there was a demonstration of slate splitting and cutting which was interesting. You could also take a look in slate miners' cottages through the centuries, which was also interesting.

I did buy a few souvenirs from the shop, which included a slate key ring and a single reject slate to use as a cheeseboard.  I also bought some Tiger Eye stud earrings, to aid confidence and help me be brave and sensible, which came in very handy towards the end of the week when we made the walk up Mount Snowdon. This was a real adventure and deserves a post of it's own.

We also visited Portmerrion, Swallow Falls waterfall and many of the lovely little villages in Snowdonia National Park.  We had a wonderful, but pretty exhausting week and I am definitely pleased to be back home in order to recover from it.

There is still, however, much more that I'd like to see and experience, so another visit some time is a definite must.

We left LB in Yorkshire at her cousins' house, where she is staying for a week. I will be travelling up by train to collect her on Friday. OH booked the tickets this morning and I'm quite looking forward to the train journey, as he has treated us to first class tickets with all refreshments included.

Today, I've been back to my usual classes at the gym and then did the weekly shop.  Normality resumes, but that's fine with me.  Thankfully, due to eating pretty sensibly on holiday, I haven't put on any weight and I've managed to procure some of the cholesterol lowering products needed today, so it will be interesting to see if they help.

Have you had a good week?

Monday, 1 August 2016

Living With Less Stuff 2016 - June/July

After watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's series about waste on TV last week, I thought I'd better post an update on my 2016 challenge to live with less stuff.

For anyone who doesn't already know, this is a challenge I set myself, to donate at least 500 items from our home this year, which I have already managed to achieve.

This month's progress on the decluttering front has been a combination of general decluttering and the result of trying to follow Courtney Carver's 21 day decluttering challenge, which spanned both June and July.

In all honesty, I did my best on the 21 day Challenge, but didn't manage to achieve every task set, for various reasons. One was that I have been continually decluttering for over two years now, so some of the tasks had been done already, two, some tasks just didn't appeal or seem relevant to my life, and three, some I consciously chose not to do for emotional or other reasons.

Probably the most successful and useful task from this challenge, was to donate unseen clutter, and for this task I tackled the shed of doom, which I've avoided for at least two years.  It wasn't quite as ominous a task as I thought it was going to be, although it did take a while as I did it over the course of a week or so.

The result, however, was the ability to use the shed and it's contents for it's originally intended purpose, gardening and garden storage, as well as creating a pile of items to be donated to the next Give and Take event.  

I haven't fully finished sorting through some of LB's baby stuff that was in there, as I need to be in the right frame of mind for this task, so these items aren't included in this month's figure.

Irrespective of this, the number of items put aside for donation this month (and last) was pretty respectable at 74 items. Adding this to the 530 items already donated so far this year, this takes my running total to 604 items.

I've been checking on our council website for the date of the next G&T (Give and Take, not Gin and Tonic!), but there are no details posted so far, so I think it will be in September or October, as they tend to be held in local schools and therefore will probably not take place during the summer holidays.

The usual transitional space for all the clutter (i.e. the spare bedroom) has therefore been filling up again, but I can live with this as a temporary situation.

I haven't forgotten that I still need to do a post with photos of our Give and Take events and will hopefully do this when I go to the next one. (If you watched Hugh's programme last week you may have caught a glimpse of similar events that have taken place in other parts of the country).

I haven't really got any plans for any particular decluttering tasks to tackle next month.  There's nothing shouting out to me.  I may tackle the tool/decorating equipment cupboards in OH's office, if he's in agreement, as these haven't been re-organised for over 4 years, since they were built and are a bit of a mess.

I'll keep you posted.