Thursday, 29 September 2016

Living With Less - September

It's been a relatively quiet month on the decluttering front this month.  I've been busy working extra hours at the CS for the past couple of weeks, so I haven't had much free time to find many more things to donate.

I took three or four months worth of donations to the Give or Take last weekend and since doing so, I've only found one or two more items to start a new pile with.

Since the beginning of the month, however, I have donated and removed 41 more items from the house. When added to the current yearly total of 775, I've now decluttered 816 items so far this year.

I'm hoping that whilst cleaning the house in the run up to my sister's visit, I may be able to find a few more items to donate, but I'm trying not to run up a whole new stack of things, that will take up space in the spare room while she is here.

LB will be staying in this room for the duration of her visit, so I don't want to make life more difficult for her, by having a mountain of stuff in there for her to climb over, as the space is limited as it is.

It is also unlikely that I will be decluttering at all during my sister's two and a half week visit, so the total for the month in October might be very small indeed.

In November, however, I'm going to try to blitz my craft room and donate some of the fabric, as it just isn't getting used these days. I've completely lost my sewing mojo.

I'm going to put aside some favourite fabrics, with a view to making some new cushion covers and table runners for the living room, when I get the chance, as our current ones look a bit tired.

I also want to make a new dog cushion for the travel cage in the car and start a new quilt project next year, so I will probably put suitable fabrics aside for these projects. With regard to the rest, I might start to get a little ruthless. We'll see.

I may also try and tackle the hall cupboard at some point. It is currently bulging with reusable packaging materials, natural beauty ingredients and containers to put newly made products in and desperately needs reorganising. If there's anything I can cull from here, to make it easier to find the things I need in there, it will be a bonus.  It might inspire me to make a few Christmas presents using the ingredients.

Here's a picture of what it looks like now:

Hmm, needs a bit of TLC.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Finally Getting Out in the Garden

It's been a few weeks since I did any work in my garden at home. I've been itching to get out there and do a little work and some harvesting, however, between doing extra hours at the CS, visiting the allotment and having visitors, I've not really found much time lately, save to harvest a few tomatoes here and there.

On Monday afternoon, the urge came upon me to venture out there and tidy up one of the beds that is currently housing some mustard leaves, spring onions, cooking onions and kale.  The onion sets were planted out a good few weeks ago now, and are sprouting and coming along nicely.  There's a mix of white, red and yellow onions in here now.

I'd been meaning to harvest the mustard leaves for a while and they definitely needed it.  Here's a picture of the harvested leaves, which are mixed with some salad leaves that I bought this week. They definitely add a bit of interest to the salad bowl and have a nice peppery kick to them.

I also harvested almost all of the spring onions that were in the bed and these will be going into my salads this week.

After tidying up the bed, I direct sowed a few more winter salad seeds into it, as the salad seedlings I had been growing in a pot, got eaten by snails. Here's what the bed looks like now.

I have to keep the chicken wire in place, as foxes regularly come into the garden and get into the bed if I don't, start digging around and up end all of the plants.

In the other bed there are just the tomato plants left.

As you can see the tomatoes are gradually ripening.  There's been a little bit of what looked like blight on one of the tomato plants in the small greenhouse, but I quickly cut it out and am hoping that it won't spread to all of the other plants until I've harvested most of the tomatoes.

This bed is going to be topped up with more compost and manure when these tomato plants have died off and then I will sow some broad beans seeds into it to overwinter.

There's a few other things going on in the garden.  I've got some mizuna and spinach seedlings growing in an old recycling box,

and I am also planning to plant the two rhubarb plants I brought from the allotment into another recycling box when I get some more compost. There's a few sticks of rhubarb on these, that I'll probably harvest when I do this.

Next year I'm hoping to plan what I grow better and get an even better harvest.  I've been doing okay though and have harvested nearly £90 worth of produce so far this year.

I still need to do a thorough tidy up of the garden, especially around the decking, before my sister arrives, but for now it's looking okay and at least I've got things growing in the beds.

Although I'm intending to grow produce in the beds over the winter, I am looking forward to putting the rest of the garden to bed until the spring.  I might be a bit strange in this, but I just love the process and knowing that I don't need to do anything again until next year.

How's your garden?

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Monthly Budget Roundup

I can't quite believe how quickly September has whizzed past. Although it's not strictly the end of the month yet, I've just done my last weekly shop of the month, so I can post about how this month's budget has gone, as I shouldn't be spending hardly any more money this week, save for perhaps some travel expenses, that I will claim back in any case.

September was the first month that I started to implement my new budget plan, whereby all expenditure was allocated to a specific budget.

The categories, which I've mentioned before, were as follows:







Direct Debit Commitments


I won't share the exact amount I allocate to each budget, as this is a bit too revealing, but I will attempt to let you know how I've fared in each category.

The Food budget fared pretty well this month.  I was over, by £35, but compared to my overspend of £58 last month, this is a definite improvement.

The Household budget came in under budget again, for the second month running, which is great news.  I had £18.58 left in this budget in September, compared to £5.88 last month, meaning another improvement.

The only other budget that came under was the Home budget which had over £25 left in it, compared to a £17 under spend last month.  I needed very little in this category this month, which was just as well, as a couple of my other categories were well over budget.

The first big budget I busted this month was my Personal budget, which despite promising to rein myself in, was over by £45.  This was due to placing an order with ASOS for some heeled ankle boots for the winter and some new t-shirts, as many of mine are getting very old and scruffy.  I really like the boots though and they will look a bit more dressy than my flat Chelsea boots, which incidentally are a bit slippery when it rains, as they don't have much grip.

I had a nasty slip in these on a rainy day, when we were on holiday in Wales and injured myself, so I'm a bit wary of them. I'll still be wearing them a lot, but may relegate them to wearing to work at the CS this winter.

I didn't manage to get my hair cut this month, mainly due to not having the time to go, so this will need to come out of next month's personal budget.

The second budget that I busted pretty badly this month, was the Miscellaneous budget.  As it is the first time that I've had this budget, I'm going to be pretty forgiving to myself about my £30 overspend here.

It was mainly caused by having £130 worth of dental treatment this month, but I also bought a few presents through the month, some for Christmas, some for birthday/leaving gifts, etc. The other main item in this category was school lunches for LB, which came back into play this month and took care of a fifth of this budget.

Finally, the last budget that went over was LB's budget, on account of buying some more uniform items for her return to school, getting her hair cut and a few other bits that I needed to get her.  This budget went over by just over £30 too.

There's nothing I could do here though, as all of the items were necessary. Unfortunately, some months of the year are just a little more expensive than others, especially near the start of a new school year.

On the plus side this month, I did manage to put another £100 into my savings account. By transferring this at the beginning of the month, it ensures that I make the effort to save. In all though, it's been an okay month.  I could have done better, if I'd been a bit stricter with myself.

Next month, my sister should be visiting from Australia, so I expect to go on a few shopping trips with her and may overindulge a little. I'm hoping to mainly restrict spending to Christmas gifts for her family, small items that I need, plus some lunches and days out here and there.

As it's my birthday, I will probably get enough treats to not need to buy anything for myself, which should help my budget.  Food may go a little over budget again, due to having a visitor and to buying food for home and food for my sister and I whilst we are away at the cottage, simultaneously.

On the plus side, as I should be away from the CS for two weeks, I won't be tempted by the occasional not to be missed item that I come across there.  The only additional expense I will have in October is my annual allotment rental fee, which is due and should be around £30 and there are a couple of regularly used makeup items that I need to re-purchase, as I am running out.

I aren't, however, going to scrimp with regard to my sister's visit, as she's spending a lot of money and coming a long way to visit us, and may not make the journey again for a good number of years, so whatever I need to spend I will and worry about it later. Some things in life, such as enjoying time with a loved one, are more important than worrying about going over budget a little.

What's your budget been like this month?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

More Drama

I don't know what it is about me, but I seem to keep becoming involved in various unfolding dramas at the moment. I try to keep life simple, but it has a funny way of dragging you into things, when you least expect it.

One that I can speak about, is what happened today at the allotment. I went on to the site to do a bit of harvesting, as I hadn't made it there for a couple of weeks.

The minute I set foot on the site, a rather large dog (possibly a young Akita or Husky) bounded over to me.

At first, I thought it belonged to someone working on their plot on the site, but very soon I realised that there was no one else there but me, and the dog.

I think it might have got access via a garden wall at the top end of the site, but it was running around scratching at the fence at various points to try to get out and the garden wall in question was too high to climb back up over.

I didn't know what to do and when I got my phone out to try to ring someone, the battery was dead.

Being a dog owner myself, I didn't want to just let the dog out, in case it got lost or run over by a car, but I was nervous about leaving it there, in case it surprised or even attacked anyone, especially when it started barking at me and seemed to be getting a bit agitated at not being able to get out.

I left the site hurriedly, and came home to contact various site reps and see what should be done about it. In the end I managed to ring one of the reps (after calling directory enquiries to get their number) and he asked me to ring the dog warden.

I met the warden at the site and thankfully, the dog had taken the situation into it's own hands and dug its way out under the fence. Hopefully, it got home safely! Drama over, thank goodness.

Anyway, whilst speaking to the site rep on the phone, he mentioned that a smaller plot might be coming up on the site that I enquired after down the road from me and took my number to liaise with me in the future about it. At least something potentially progressive came out of all the drama.  I'm looking forward to hearing from him again.

The sooner the better, as the quicker I get moved to another site the better, if you ask me. I'm sure every site has it's dramas from time to time, but I just don't want to be embroiled in any more of them in the near future.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Getting Back on Track

After the departure of our visitor on Sunday afternoon, today was all about getting back on track with everyday life.  I was back at the gym in the morning, but just for an hour, instead of the usual two, because I had to do the food shopping, go home, shower and have lunch, and then head out to my dental appointment for 2pm.

The appointment itself went okay and my treatment was quite quick and relatively pain free. I didn't need any injections, which was a bonus, although my mouth is feeling a little tender as I write this, but I'm sure it will be okay by tomorrow. I was pleased with the results and now that this particular expense has been paid for, and I don't need to go back for another 6 months, I can concentrate on directing funds towards other areas, such as Christmas.

I didn't get too much else done today, save for doing a couple of small errands on the way home, putting away all of the grocery shopping, doing a little Christmas shopping on line and then making and clearing up after supper. One thing at a time I guess.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I will be at the CS, so it will be Thursday really, before I can realistically start to make any more progress, but there's no particular hurry, things will get done when they get done. For now, I'm enjoying the here and now and appreciating not having any impending visit, appointment or event.

In fact, to celebrate this I'm going to retire to bed early tonight and indulge in reading a bit more of my current book, which I'm really enjoying. I'll post again later in the week.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

This Weekend

We had a very enjoyable weekend this weekend, spending time with our guest who was visiting from Australia, via Europe.  It's the second antipodean visitor we've had this year and my sister will make it three when she arrives in October.

He arrived quite late on Friday night, so I had plenty of time to do what was needed after getting home from the CS, and we spent a couple of hours having a beer and catching up at home, before we all retired for the evening.

On Saturday, OH took our visitor on a dog walk around the Olympic Park, which is close to where we live, whilst I headed off to the Give or Take and donated a car full of items I've spent the last 3-4 months decluttering.  Always a great feeling.

As we had a visitor staying this weekend, I had got there as soon as it was possible to donate, and needed to get away to attend a class at the gym, I wasn't able to do a post, as I wasn't able to stay for the later part of the event and show the sort of things that are available to take. I still do intend to do this at some point.

After attending my class, I headed home. OH had taken our guest out to lunch and LB was out for the day with her friends.

Later on Saturday evening, we all made our way to the Olympic Velodrome to watch OH compete in some races that he'd booked before knowing our guest was coming to stay.  I think he quite enjoyed watching his cousin in action on his bike.

We all left early from the race meet and headed out for supper at a Brazilian restaurant close to where we live.  It was our first time eating there and was an interesting night with live Brazilian music, and some customers getting up to dance. I think we were the only non-Brazilian customers in the restaurant, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and the staff were lovely.

Sunday, we all headed off to Camden Market for a few hours at the request of our guest.  LB didn't need persuading, as she loves visiting this vibrant, but very busy tourist attraction. On the way home we said our goodbyes to our guest, whom we dropped off at Paddington and it was back home and back to normal for us.

It's three weeks now before my sister arrives and I'm getting very excited and trying to devise a list of things to do and places to visit that I think she'll enjoy.

In the meantime, a new week and a new round dental treatment and decluttering begins.  I'm looking forward to simple pleasures such as doing very little cleaning, having some time to harvest at the allotment and do a bit of work in our garden at home.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, 15 September 2016

An Afternoon of Cleaning and Trying Out My New Spiralizer

This week, not everything has gone to plan.  I didn't get the cleaning done that I intended doing on Monday afternoon, instead I spent most of the afternoon shopping for a 50th birthday present for OH's sister.  I found a few small things, as we were planning on making up a hamper of goodies to send off to her in the post.  Hopefully, she'll like it.

Consequently, the cleaning was left until I had some free time today, but I was booked into a class at the gym in the morning and once again, I had to go shopping for a few last minute items for the same birthday gift hamper, so I didn't get started on the cleaning until nearly 3pm.

I concentrated on the the living rooms and managed to hoover, mop and dust them both quite quickly. I'm not going too mad at this point, as our visitor is only here for a couple of nights, but I still want the house to look as clean and inviting as possible.

I then hoovered and mopped the hallway, stairs and vestibule, cleaned and mopped the downstairs toilet and then worked my way around the kitchen worktops.  It didn't take too long and by 6pm I was finished with what I wanted to do for now.

Tomorrow, I'm only at the shop until 2pm and then I'm coming home to clean our guest's bedroom, change the bedding, do another quick whizz around upstairs, before he arrives later that night, so I should have enough time to get everything done.

Having finished today's cleaning, I turned my attention to supper.  My spiralizer arrived today and I was itching to try it out.  Here's a picture of it. It comes with it's own little draw string bag and cleaning brush.  Cute!

It's a mini version of a spiralizer, as I didn't want to spend a fortune on a larger, more expensive gadget, that I'd need to find room for and this one seems to work just fine, for courgettes anyway.  I did manage to slice one of my fingers on the blade by not following the instructions, but it wasn't too serious an injury.  It could have been a lot worse.  Be warned, if you ever use one of these, don't twist the courgette with your fingers as you get to the bottom near the blade, as this is how it happened.

Anyway, four small courgettes, one medium sized marrow and 10-15 minutes later, I had this bowlful of courghetti.

According to this book, that I bought at Tesco for £5 on Monday, whilst doing my weekly shop, you saute it in a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, then mix in some pesto or pasta sauce.

This book is really pretty good, with lots of recipes for different types of dishes you can make using spiralised vegetables and fruit, such as rostis, noodles, coleslaw, fishcakes, fritters, to name just a few. Some of the recipes don't have photographs, but many do. There are some dessert recipes too, which is useful.

The spiralizer itself, makes both wider ribbons and the thin spaghetti-like ribbons, depending on which of it's two blades you use. I'm not sure yet how well it works on harder vegetables and fruits. I'll let you know.

For £5.49 on eBay, it was definitely worth trying though, even if I don't get along with it, as many of the reviews for these gadgets are mixed, especially for some of the very expensive ones. Reviews for this were pretty good, which is why I decided to buy it.

As a side note, you are left with lots of odd ends of courgettes, that won't spiralize down any further, so I chopped these up quite small, as you can see in the photo below, and froze them for use in casseroles and other dishes.

Sadly, when LB and OH returned from their dog walk, they were none too keen on eating the courghetti, so I had to cook them the usual pasta and I had some of it myself.  With pepper, salt, pasta sauce and a few gratings of Parmesan cheese, it looked like this once cooked.

The verdict.  I really enjoyed eating it.  It did become a little watery once cooked, however.  I'm not sure if this was because I sauteed it too long or whether this is normal.  It reduced down on cooking too and I had to cook a bit more to get a bowlful. I would definitely eat this again in the place of pasta, as it didn't leave me feeling as full and heavy as pasta does and I felt pretty full after eating it too.

The remainder of the courghetti was popped into freezer bags and frozen for future use, possibly in one of the other recipes in the book. Have you tried spiralizing? What did you think?

Sunday, 11 September 2016

This Weekend

This weekend has been about getting back on top of things.  Over the summer, I've neglected the house and done very little, but now LB is back at school and with my sister visiting in a month and another OH's cousin coming next weekend, I decided it was time to start getting to grips with it again.

I started on Saturday afternoon.  OH was out at a cycle race and LB was at a birthday party, so I spent the afternoon cleaning the bathroom, hoovering the upstairs and stairs, picking up in LB's bedroom and putting away laundry.

Having done all this, it was time to get ready and go out to eat and visit our local street festival for a couple of hours, before picking up LB and heading home.

On Sunday afternoon, I resumed the job in hand and tackled the kitchen. I didn't do a full on blitz, but I managed to hoover and mop the floor and clean all of the cupboard fronts, before stopping to cook dinner.

Later on Sunday evening, I needed to make some more homemade deodorant, as I had run out that morning.  I then finished the ironing  ready for the week ahead.

There's more cleaning to do this week. I'll probably clean the kitchen worktops and clean/mop the downstairs toilet, vestibule and stairs, which should be possible on Monday afternoon/evening.

I've got a few more jobs aside from the cleaning to do on Monday, such as buying a 50th birthday present and card for OH's sister, then I need to make some homemade dog food and some homemade granola, but hopefully I should have time to do it all.

I'm at the CS three days this week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, so Thursday, will be my day to tackle the main living areas and then bar changing the bedding and a quick clean around the bedroom to be used by our guest, we should be just about ready for when they arrive on Friday night.

It's going to be a busy week, but at least having someone come to stay means that I'm focused and have the motivation to get everything done.

Things may be a little quiet on the blogging front, as something has to give, but I'll still be reading and keeping up with everyone's news.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

A Bit of a Drama

Friday was a mixed day.  It started off well enough with a long dog walk, followed by a visit to the dentist for my 6 monthly check up.

I didn't actually need any work done, but I agreed to some semi-cosmetic work, namely 4 small fillings, to fill some places where my gums have receded due to overenthusiastic brushing.  I'm trying to be more gentle on my gums, but the damage has been done over time and won't grow back, so  I'm having the recesses filled to protect the teeth from decay caused by food and bacteria building up in the recesses and to reduce possible future sensitivity.

I'm not sure what the fillings will look like, but as there is no drilling involved and they are small, they are a lot cheaper than normal white fillings, so I don't mind paying for them.  I think it's worth it, to prevent future problems, I'm just hoping they look okay when done.

The rest of the day was spent quite leisurely with a bit of pottering in the garden, a trip to the tip to get rid of some garden rubbish and then a couple of hours spent reducing the ironing mountain.

In the evening, OH had booked tickets to go to the Royal Academy of Art in Piccadilly to see the new David  Hockney Exhibition, an exhibition of 82 portraits and one still life of his friends and family. (The still life was done when a sitter couldn't make the sitting).

It was an interesting exhibition, which I enjoyed, but after about 30 minutes of wandering around, the fire alarm sounded and we were all ushered down the outside fire escape to evacuate the building. On the way down we could see smoke coming out of a floor below and a strong smell of burning, so we knew it was a genuine emergency evacuation.

Five fire engines then arrived to deal with the incident, at which point we retired to Patisserie Valerie for hot chocolate and to see whether we would be able to get back into the building for OH's booked 3D headscan at 9.20 pm.

Half and hour later as the patisserie closed we wandered back over the road.  Only two fire engines were left and the firemen were climbing back in.  People had been let back in the building, so we ventured to where the scanner was but unfortunately the remaining scans had been cancelled as the incident had taken place in that part of the building.

It wasn't an actual fire, apparently, just some overheated machinery used in setting up another exhibition, I believe, so luckily there wasn't any damage, just some of smoke in the area concerned. As a consequence, we headed  home on the train, laughing at an argument between several middle aged women on the train, calling each other some very choice names in the carriage. Now I remember why I'm not so keen on using public transport, especially at night.

I finished off the evening watching Gardener's World on Catch up.  I'm quite happy that they have increased the length of the programme and made it into a new one hour format, with new presenters and contributors. Sometimes its good to have a bit of a change, only not such a drastic one as they made the last time the programme was made over. What do you think of the new format?

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Allotment Tales

Ten days after the allotment inspection, I managed to find time to get there again.  It was a relief that I managed to do enough to pass the inspection.  I now need to do some harvesting on a regular basis, at the very least once a week.

I didn't think courgettes would become marrows within just 10 days, but I should know better really. Here's what was harvested on the three plants I had on the plot.

There were a  few small ones too, which I had put in the fridge by the time this photo was taken.  I'm a bit stuck as to what to do with them, so I'm probably going to jump on the bandwagon and get some sort of small spiralising gadget in the next few days, so that I can make easier and proper use of them. I may chop and freeze a couple, as they are good to put in casseroles in the winter.

There was also quite a nice sized harvest of dwarf beans, with quite a few left still growing both in the garden and allotment.  I blanched and froze these for use in stews and casseroles.

The tomatoes came from the garden at home.  I seem to have quite a few plants with small fruit, some orange, some red.  They are gradually ripening and this week was the first week I haven't bought any at the supermarket.

I did, however, have to buy some lettuce this week, but by today it had all been eaten, so I was pleased to be able to harvest some young chard leaves to use as salad leaves.  

I threw in a few nasturtium flowers too, to make it a bit more colourful.  I like the peppery taste of these in a salad. This should see us through the rest of the week and the weekend.

I've also got some frilly mustard salad leaves growing in the garden at home. I just need to pick and wash some to mix in and make my salads look a bit more interesting.

Finally, I plucked some apples from a small orchard just outside the site.  I believe it was planted by site members, for the use of site members and I have also seen members of the public harvesting these too. Most of the good sized ones had already been harvested, so these are quite small, but I did eat a couple and they are pretty sweet and definitely edible.

I was pleased with the amount there was to harvest today.  The plot seems a bit more productive than in past years, which makes me pleased that I am hanging on to it for now.  

I'm still costing produce grown at the allotment and in the garden. It's currently averaging out at £20 - £30 per month for the past 3 months, which isn't too bad.  I'm hoping to increase this amount by quite a bit next year, by giving a bit more thought to planning exactly what to grow and where.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Living With Less Stuff 2016 - August

This month, I haven't really done a lot of decluttering.  I've put the odd item on the donation pile, as it's occurred to me to part with it, or in the case of books, when I've finished reading them, but other than that I've made no real concerted effort to increase my current pile of unwanted stuff.

As a consequence, I really can't take credit for this month's total, as it has largely been down to LB alone, who whilst feeling bored in the summer holidays, went through her bedroom with a fine tooth comb and extracted a huge pile of items she no longer wants to keep.  Three cheers for LB.  Hip Hip Hooray!

Due almost solely to her efforts, 171 items will be leaving the house this month, which when added to last month's total of 604, brings us to a new running total for the year thus far of 775 items.  I'm really pleased with our progress and it will be interesting to see if I can match last year's total of over 1000 items, despite setting out to realistically donate only 500 this year.

It just goes to show that decluttering has a kind of snowball effect.  The more you do, the more you find yourself able to do, as the ease of letting go of stuff that you don't use or enjoy, increases over time and  (hopefully) you are left with only the essential things you need in life.  In addition, when other people in your household see you getting rid of clutter, they join in and do the same, which is all good. There's still quite a way to go, when I look around the house and see how much 'stuff' it still contains, but progress has been and definitely is being made.

Having said this, I'm not necessarily aiming for clear surfaces or any kind of extreme minimalist home, but a few empty spaces would be quite nice.  The thought of having an empty or part empty shelf that isn't crammed with 'stuff', is quite an appealing thought and although I'm not there yet, I'm getting there slowly.

Although I've taken a break of late, I know that once the pile of donations in the spare room has been taken to the Give or Take in mid September, and following my sister's visit in October, I'll probably get a renewed passion for decluttering and will eventually start the process off again, continuing until I get to the point where I'm happy with what we own and there's nothing in the house that we no longer want to keep.

For September, I will continue to pick out items that I no longer want to hold onto, as I come across them, and I'm sure I'll come across a few things, as I clean and prepare the house for my sister's visit. I will also continue to donate some of the books I finish reading.  There are very few that I keep for reference these days or with a view to reading again, as I just never really do read them a second time.

I may also sort through the odd cupboard here and there, but I don't really have any plans for any serious decluttering sessions this month or next for that matter, so I'm sure the pace of clearing stuff will definitely slow for a couple of months, but that is fine by me, as there's no particular rush. I may just do a joint September/October post on progress if it is limited, so as not to bore you too much with the minute details of my progress.

Until then...

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Monthly Roundup - August

Despite the month of August being bang in the middle of the summer holidays, this month has been much less of a disaster than last month, I am pleased to say. Whilst I haven't had any money left over at the end of the month or any such thing, I have managed to keep within a couple of the budgets I set myself, as well as putting aside a little more money into savings.

We've managed a few inexpensive outings with LB and I've bought more items in readiness for her return to school, i.e. school skirts, bag, etc.  There were still a few inexpensive things to purchase though, so these were bought this weekend out of the new September budget and she's all set for school now save for one thing.

I ordered her some glasses at the opticians, but when I called to see if they'd come in, they said they'd already been collected.  I insisted they hadn't been collected by us, but I'm not sure they believed me, which was irritating.  Why else would I ring?  I'm not a person who would try to con them out of an extra pair.  Anyway, they were going to re-order the lenses and get me a pair made up this week, but not in time for her first day back.   We'll have to see if they do.
Anyway, I digress, the food budget was a bit over the £400 budget set this month, namely by £58.58 to be exact, but I'm getting closer all the time to keeping within it, so I'm pretty okay with that.

Home expenditure came in under budget, as I only spent £33 out of a possible £50, the majority of which was on a small rug for our bedroom floor, plus a few miscellaneous bargain bits from IKEA and TKMAXX.

I also managed to come under budget in the Household/Pet/Garden/Toiletry budget, only by £5.88, but this has not happened for quite a few months now, as I always seem to overspend in this category, so I was pretty pleased about this. Next month, I will need to buy some more bulk eco laundry liquid, but otherwise I'm pretty well stocked up on most things to see me through September.

Finally, the main budget that was busted this month, was my personal budget.  I got a bit self-indulgent and bought myself a pair of TOMS trainers in their online sale.  It's something that I've been wanting to purchase for a while, so I was pretty happy about that.  There were also a few other purchases of second hand books. a moleskin notebook for my handbag and a pair of hareems for wearing to the gym, (which I purchased from another ethical company).

I'm not beating myself up too badly about the £60 overspend here, as I've spent very little on myself for the last few months.  I will, however, be trying to rein myself in on this budget next month. A haircut will be the main expenditure here I hope, as it is desperately needed and there is very little, if anything, left on my personal wish list.

My financial intentions for next month are to put some more money into my savings account, finish buying LB's back to school necessities (Now done, save for some over the knee socks which I couldn't find), pay for LB and myself to have a hair cut (hers done, mine still to do) and stock up on a couple of things that we are running low on.  I also have a dentist appointment, so that may incur some costs, depending on how much treatment I need.  Any other purchases are completely dependent upon how much money is left after paying for all of the above and if there isn't any, then it's going to be a basic low spend month.

As Christmas is now approaching, I am mindful that I need to start thinking about gift purchasing to spread the cost.  I think this may more realistically kick in properly in October, I may do some Christmas gift shopping with my sister when she comes and send some things back with her for her family. (If she has room in her suitcase of course!)

It's been a  definite improvement on last month and next month it would be wonderful to come under budget in every category.  I know that this is largely within my own control, so I need to make an extra special effort to make it happen. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Exciting News

On Thursday night this week, I had a lovely surprise.  OH told me that he'd been in discussions with my sisters in Australia and Yorkshire and that he had been trying to hatch a surprise gathering for my 50th birthday in October.

I was very taken aback, as I am not the sort of person who likes surprises and was shocked that he'd done it, but in the end he'd decided to tell me, as he knew what I was like and thought it better all around if I knew, so that I could plan for it.

Anyway, the outcome is that my sister, who moved to Australia 7 or so years ago and hasn't been back to the UK since, is coming over in October for a visit and I'm super excited.

It all got a bit complicated, however, as our other sister, who lives in Yorkshire, is due to fly out to Cuba for two weeks, two days after she arrives, which is a great pity, but can't be helped, so the logistics of getting us all together for an evening was tricky.

Anyway, we've all agreed to meet at a hotel half way between London and Yorkshire and have a meal together on the eve of my birthday, which will be lovely.  OH just has to book the hotel rooms and we should be set.

It was a really lovely surprise to find out my sister was coming over, as I haven't seen her for over 5 years now, since we visited her in Brisbane.

We were going to visit again this summer, but our plans changed when our neighbours unexpectedly agreed to a side extension of our kitchens and we needed to save money for that.  We were still hoping to return to Australia, possibly next year.

Anyway, my sister's forthcoming visit was facilitated by the fact that she has recently taken voluntary redundancy from one of her two jobs, which gave her a window of opportunity, and I'm so happy and humbled that she's using it to come here and visit us. What better birthday present could I ask for?

I'm so looking forward to doing normal sisterly things with her, that we never get the chance to do, like days out, shopping, chilling, and catching up with each other's news.

We're hoping to take a trip up to Yorkshire too, so she can visit a few friends and family members and take in a few old haunts.  We're currently looking at booking some accommodation for that too, so it's all very exciting.

I had a good Skype conversation with her on Friday morning, (OH finally hooked up my computer to Skype) to find out all about it.  She's coming on her own due to the rest of her family having work and school commitments. It is a long way to travel alone, but the tickets have been booked and it is actually happening I hope.

So, it's been a rather overwhelming few days since I found out and it is now beginning to sink in and I really can't wait.  I can see a lot of cleaning and decluttering on the horizon, plus food shopping and other preparations, in anticipation of her arrival.  I can't wait to get started.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Two Busy Days

It's been a busy couple of days. I've worked two full 10 till 6 shifts at the CS shop, because the manager was short on staff and also needed to spend a day at a management meeting.

The first day, I wasn't aware that I needed to stay late until one of the other volunteers came in and told me that she had to go early, so it wasn't an ideal situation, as when I get home at 7.15pm I still have to walk the dog.  Luckily, OH volunteered to do a second dog walk that day, as I was pretty tired and just needed to sit down for a while.

The second day, I was kind of in charge of the shop all day, whilst the manager was at a meeting.  I had a couple of volunteers working with me at all times, so it was okay and we got done what the manager had left for us to do, plus dealt with any incoming donations.  No big dramas or anything really, although the till wasn't working properly. We were still able to use it though, thankfully.

I was a bit more organised for the second shift, as I'd walked the dog before setting off and posted a parcel I had to send before I went to the shop, which left me free to concentrate on what needed doing once I got there.

Several volunteers and interns are leaving this week, so it's back to skeleton staffing.  I can see me doing a few extra hours here and there in the coming weeks to help out.  I don't mind so much when LB is back at school, but for the last two days of this week and of her summer holidays, I'm spending all of my time with her, doing some last minute school shopping, getting her a haircut, picking up her new glasses, etc. etc.

On a different note, things have started to get moving again with my eBay selling, so it's bringing in a small amount of income, which is always welcome. I'm going to find the preparation of stock a bit more difficult this year, having to fit it in around my volunteering, but I'll just have to do what I can.

Good news on the allotment front too.  I think I passed the inspection, as I got an email saying that it was looking good. I'm hopefully keeping it on until a smaller one becomes available, although I've got no guarantee of one yet.

All in all, and despite being super busy, it hasn't been a bad couple of days, but I won't count my chickens as things can change on a sixpence!! I hope you're having a good week.