Monday, 31 October 2016

This Weekend

This weekend has been all about getting back to normal and getting caught up on all the jobs that I had got behind on during my sister's visit, the main one being the laundry and ironing.

I started off on Saturday morning by gathering a load of washing together and changing the bedding on LB's bed so that she could move properly back into her room.  Later in the afternoon, I managed to work my way through a fair bit of the ironing pile, but there is still a long way to go before I get on top of it all.

The last couple of days has also been about getting back to my regular classes at the gym, which I have definitely missed, although it is good to take a break from them now and again.

I attended one on both Saturday and Sunday and I am back at my usual classes again today. It feels good to get moving again, although I did catch a couple of classes when we were in Yorkshire. I've had a cold this week though, so I'm taking it a little easier than I normally would.

In addition, I've been trying to complete arrangements for the handover of my new smaller plot at the allotment. I needed to get my new tenancy agreement witnessed and signed by one of the plot reps, before I can get a key to the site and start work on the new plot. I didn't manage to arrange to meet either of the reps over the weekend, but one rep did arrange to call round to my house tonight, to take care of this formality and this should help to move things forward.

In view of the above, I also needed to clear my tools and compost bin from the old plot and leave it as clear as possible for the incoming plot holder. OH came down to the plot with me and helped me to do this on Sunday afternoon, and I was able to hand my key over to one of the reps who was there for a clear up day.

It's a little sad to leave the site, but it is time to move on, consolidate my efforts and not spread myself too thinly when it comes to my hobbies, especially if I hope to get a paid job in the coming year, which I would ideally like to do.

OH also managed to get up on the roof this weekend and clear the chimney pot of a creeper that had grown over it.  We had our chimneys swept the other week and the sweep told him that he needed to do this job before we could use the wood burner.

In the process of clearing the chimney pot, OH also tidied up the roof, cleared the guttering and cut back the honeysuckle hedge and other foliage down the side of the house. It now looks a lot tidier and lets much more light into the kitchen which is good in these dark winter days.

This is where our new side return extension will hopefully be built next year.  The planning permission has now been granted and a quote received from the builders, so it looks like it will be going ahead, if we can raise the funds necessary and the neighbours still want to proceed. It is both exciting and terrifying in equal measures.

Finally, I've also been trying to get up to scratch with my finances this weekend and make sure that everything I spent in the past few weeks has been accounted for.  I am really looking forward to spending as little money as possible in November, save for what I need to spend on Christmas gifts and food for us to eat throughout the month. It's definitely going to be a stripped back month for us, which will be both a challenge and good for us with the excess of Christmas so imminent.

I'm really hoping that I won't need to go shopping hardly at all in December and will take care of most of the Christmas shopping this month. I really don't relish being out amongst the hoards of shoppers in the lead up to Christmas. I also find that many of the gifts in the shops are over packaged, overpriced and far too easy to buy, requiring very little thought or effort.

Next weekend, I'm hoping to get started on putting the garden to bed for the winter, as well as sowing some broad bean and other seeds into one of the raised beds. I haven't touched the garden for weeks now and it definitely needs some TLC and a good tidy up before the cold weather sets in.

How was your weekend?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Monthly Roundup - October

Its been a bit of a budget busting month this month, what with my sister's visit and all and the opportunities that it gave to go shopping and go out and about together.  As a consequence, I did go over my budget by quite a bit, but time together is precious and I'm not going to quibble over the money I spent, as I consider it well spent.

I managed to keep much of the spending on things I/we needed or use on a regular basis, Christmas gifts for my sister's family and filling my donation box for this year's Operation Christmas Child, that needs to be handed in in a couple of weeks, but I have to admit that a few extras did slip into my shopping basket on occasions.

Starting with the positives, I was under budget in the miscellaneous category this month by just short of £10. I didn't need to spend much money on LB this month either, as there wasn't really anything much she needed, so her budget came under by £24. I did treat her to a new pair of shoes (with heels) that she really wanted and was really happy with. The only other budget that remained under spent was the home budget, which came in at £35 under budget.

In addition to these under spends, another positive was that I did put away another £100 into my savings account, so this helped to keep me on track for the year with regard to my planned savings. Over the next two months I need to put £250 into my savings account to meet my £600 or £50 per month target for the year, which may or may not be achievable, but I'll do my best.

The good news ends here though, as all other budgets were busted.  Food went over by £60 approximately, which wasn't too bad in the circumstances, as we ate out quite a lot and there were four of us for most of the month, instead of the usual three. I also have lots of food left in the cupboards at home to carry over to next month, so I'm hoping to definitely rein this budget in during November.

The household/toiletry budget was very nearly kept to, but I did go over by £2.  I have, however, stocked up on a few products that were running low, which should keep us going on these items for most of the next month or so.

The worst overspend was on myself, which was pretty bad really considering it was my birthday this month and I received lots of lovely presents. All told this budget was busted by just over £150.

In my defence, it is harder to keep spending in check when you are enjoying a few much awaited shopping trips together, plus any spending from now on will be on Christmas and presents for everyone else. Maybe I was subconsciously getting in a few last minute treats before the serious business of Christmas shopping begins and the opportunity to spend any money on myself is absent for a few months.

As a consequence of the above, I'm very much looking forward to trying to get on top of things in the next couple of months and staying within budget on every single count.  It would be great if I could achieve this, as it would be unprecedented this year and would also help end the year on a positive financial note.

I'm already thinking that next year I want to save more and spend ever less and I am willing to set myself even bigger goals to reach next year. I'll let you know more about this when this year ends and the New Year comes around.

Anyway, enough about me, how has your October been? Did you manage to stick to your budget?

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Back to Normal

Thursday evening my sister flew home to Australia.  We were both a little sad at the airport and a few tears were shed.  I'd really enjoyed spending time with her during her visit and the thought of not seeing her again for a few years was upsetting.

However, I'm trying to keep focused on the positives and how lovely it has been to see her over the past few weeks and catch up with all her and her family's news.

Friday, it was back to normal life and back to the CS for my first shift in three weeks.  It's been good to have a rest.  I definitely needed it.  It was nice to go back though and see both old and new faces. It took my mind off my sister leaving.

There were a few new young people to meet and work with, some familiar faces that I've worked with over the last few months and there was also the news that one of the volunteers had left. Things change so quickly there, in such a short space of time, which is probably why I enjoy volunteering there, as there are rarely any dull moments.

The day passed pretty quickly, as it was pretty busy all day and I spent quite a lot of it re-familiarising myself with the shop and it's new Winter/Christmas orientated contents.

The manager is still there and has two more weeks of her notice to work before she leaves. Hopefully, the last couple of weeks won't be too stressful for her. I had a discussion with another volunteer on the way home about what we can do to celebrate her leaving.

I was interested to see a couple of books in the shop, that I couldn't resist buying to read at some point. I've heard a lot of hype about both of the authors, but wanted to read their work for myself.

I also bought a couple of small Christmas gifts that I won't photograph and show here.  I'm now starting to think about Christmas and what shopping still needs to be done.  The gifts for my sister and her family have all been bought and sent back with her to Australia, so I have just the cards to send nearer the time.

This does now mean that I can focus solely on family and friends in this country and from the beginning of next month, I will be in proper Christmas Shopping mode. I am going to try to do as much of my shopping as possible, either from ethical companies/websites or from Charity shops.  I will be keeping this in mind each time I go to the CS and I hope to find things that will fit the bill for the people I have left to buy for.

I have to admit that I do really enjoy this time of year, but I'm trying not to go too mad on the Christmas present buying front and buy too much for people, as I have had a tendency to do in the past.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along, or haven't you started thinking about it yet?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Just Stopping By

I thought I would just stop by to say hello and do a quick catch up.

My sister has been here for nearly two weeks now and we've been having a lovely time.

We spent a night celebrating her arrival and my 50th birthday in a hotel in Stamford, Lincs. with our older sister who the next day was flying off on holiday to Cuba for two weeks and would unfortunately miss most of my sister's visit here, which was a pity.  We had a lovely evening though and the hotel was very nice indeed.  I couldn't have asked for a better 50th birthday.

We then returned to London and spent a week hanging out at our house.  A couple of days out ensued, shopping, sight seeing and riding the cable car in Docklands, going to see a live Radio 4 panel show recording at the BBC, visiting the Tate Modern and generally chilling and catching up on each others news.

We're currently in phase 3 of her stay, whereby we took a train up to Yorkshire, and are staying at a very idyllic cottage in the countryside for a week.

We've spent the we(k catching up with old friends, visiting old haunts, doing a bit more shopping
(;)), meeting up with family members that we haven't seen for a good few years, chilling out and catching up and have squeezed in a visit to see a very good local theatre production. It's been very nice indeed and very relaxed. I even managed to catch a couple of exercise classes and cycle into a nearby town to attend them on a bike lent to me by the cottage owners.

It's now Saturday afternoon and we're having a quiet afternoon in the cottage with the wood burner going.  OH and LB have joined us for the weekend and OH has got the Wifi sorted, so I am once again connected to the outside world and have spent some time catching up on reading blog posts and emails. Tonight, we're heading to the local pub on foot for a meal and tomorrow will be our last full day here.

We've got one more meet up with a family friend planned for tomorrow lunchtime and then a trip down memory lane in the village in which we grew up in the afternoon.  We'll be stopping off at OH's sister's on the way home on Monday for lunch before heading back to London on Monday afternoon.

My sister has three more days with us in London, before she heads back to Australia and we've got a few more adventures planned. The time has gone so quickly, but I think we've made the most of it so far and seen everyone we needed to see.

I've overspent a little, and will likely spend a bit more in our last few days together, but I'm not stressing, as it's her first return visit after 8 years and who knows when she'll come back again. Sometimes you've just got to make the most of the time you have together when you have it. Hopefully, we won't have any regrets about how we spent our time.

I'll post again when life gets back to normal.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Early Morning Ramble

It's 7.45 am on Sunday morning and I'm up and about which is unusual for me.  In the next few hours my sister will be travelling to the airport in Brisbane, to catch her flight to London. I'm really looking forward to seeing her, after not having done so for five years. I hope she has a comfortable flight.

As a consequence, I'm currently in the midst of cleaning the house from top to bottom.  I started with deep cleaning the kitchen.  Not such a good move, as it took me the whole of Saturday, leaving me just this afternoon (I'm at the gym this morning) and an hour or so tomorrow morning to cover the rest of the house.  I think I'll get everything done though, as it was only a month ago that I cleaned up for another visitor, so the house isn't too grimy at the moment.

I probably won't get around to tidying up the garden though, which is a pity, as the patio and front path could do with a sweep. I'll just have to see how I get on.

OH arranged for the chimneys to be swept this week, in time for the colder weather.  He just needs to get on the roof and clear some foliage that is affecting the draft of the wood burner, but he should hopefully get around to that today.

We've got a couple of things planned for my sister's visit, but I haven't gone too overboard, so we can be flexible to adapt to whatever she wants to do.

I may not get around to blogging much in the next couple of weeks as I want to enjoy the time I have with my sister, but will probably read posts, as and when I get the chance.

Have a good couple of weeks, I'll be back blogging towards the end of the month.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

A Bit of A CS Catch Up

You might have noticed from recent posts, that I've been working a lot at the CS in recent weeks, but I haven't really said much about what has been happening, and a lot has happened.

The manageress has resigned after 8 years in the job.  I didn't mention it in previous posts, as not everyone in the shop knew, but the job has now been advertised and everyone working there now knows, so I feel I can mention it on my blog.

She's been under a lot of stress for a long time now and was worried it was starting to impact on her health. It was difficult for her to take holidays and days off due to the shop relying on lots of interns who only stay for a few months.  I can't say I blame her in the circumstances, but I think she'd been thinking about it for a while now.

As a consequence of this, and the fact that I'm taking two weeks off after this week for my sister's visit, I've been doing a few extra shifts to help out, as the shop has been having a sale for the past month and it's been super busy, as well as there being a bit of a lull between interns finishing and starting.

I've enjoyed working in the sale, mainly because it's been so much busier and the days go so much quicker.  The Christmas stock has also been arriving and been put out on the shelves, so there's been a lot of things to do, which makes the work more interesting.

I'll be really sad to see the manager leave.  We're very different people, but she's very generous at heart and caring, and I feel a strong sense of loyalty to her, for giving me an opportunity to get out of the house and do something different. I think some of the other staff will miss her too, as they've got to know her well over the last 8 or 9 years.

In addition, there is the question of who will get the job and what they will be like.  I'll probably stay and see if it changes much.  I think I will be making sure I don't over do it once the new manager comes and  be firm about the days and hours I'm prepared to work, as it's kind of taken over at the moment and I've got behind on things at home as a consequence.

I don't really mind, as I need the time off for my sister's visit, which isn't that convenient in the circumstances and I know it's only for a short time, so I want to help the manager as much as I can before she leaves. A new manager coming, however, is an opportunity for me to start to be a little more assertive, in order to get a better balance.

My last day at the shop for a couple of weeks is Friday.  I don't feel so bad about going off now, as the manager has managed to recruit quite a few new interns and volunteers to help her for the next month or so, so I know she'll have plenty of staff while I'm away.

Next week, the sale will be over and the Autumn/Winter clothing will be in the shop, as well as all of the Christmas cards, foods, some gifts, etc. I'm looking forward to working in the shop over the Christmas period, as it should be nice and festive, but we'll see what happens in the next couple of months.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Finding the Right Frock

For the past couple of days I've been trying to find the right dress for LB to wear to attend a special event later this week.

Earlier in the year, she starred in the lead role in her school's production of Hairspray and as a consequence, won a special award for her efforts.

On Thursday, we are attending a special awards ceremony and it occurred to me that she didn't really have a suitable outfit to wear, so I decided to buy her a new frock for the occasion.

I wanted to get her one that would also double as an outfit for when we go out to dinner in the hotel we're staying at when my sister arrives.

On Sunday, I began the search by scouring the ASOS website, mainly because prices are reasonable and delivery is free.

I found a selection of dresses that LB thought were okay and went ahead and ordered them.  Luckily, I qualified for free next day delivery, so they arrived on Monday afternoon.

In the meantime, LB had been looking at dresses on H&M's website and found a couple that she liked.  I promised that I would go into the store and see if I could find them and if I liked them I might buy them.  (They were very inexpensive).

Monday afternoon, after doing my weekly shop, I stopped into a nearby branch and although I couldn't find the exact ones she wanted, I found a couple of dresses in the sale that I thought she'd like.  Each cost just £7.  I checked that I could return them if she didn't like them.

Later when she got home from school, she had a major trying on session. As luck would have it, (they were more expensive) all of the dresses from ASOS weren't really favoured by her, for one reason or another, save for one, which I actually quite liked for myself.

In the end, it was one of the £7 H&M dresses she opted for. It is similar to this dress, but in plain black and with slightly flouncier 3/4 sleeves.

It suits her, so she should look nice on the night. The second H&M dress, she didn't like. So, I now have one dress to return to H&M, and 4 to return to ASOS. The fifth ASOS dress I am keeping for myself and LB to potentially share, as I think it's really nice and it is the last one in the size we ordered.  An unexpected treat, but it can be worn in both winter and summer and adds a little colour and interest to my pretty boring wardrobe.

Here's a picture of it from the ASOS website. It's slightly longer on me, as this is from their tall range, so sits slightly longer on a short person like me.

It should also go very nicely with the ankle boots I bought from the same site last month.  Here's a picture of them.

The dress was £30 and the boots £41, although they have now annoyingly been reduced to £33 in the sale.  Never mind. I  may or may not wear these on the night, but I'll let you know how the evening goes.

Monday, 3 October 2016

An Interesting Day

Today, has been interesting to say the least.

I was shocked when I got out with the dog this morning, at how cold it was.  It was almost glove wearing weather, which was a surprise.

When I got back from the dog walk I had to rush out to meet the Allotment site rep and see the plot I was being offered.

To be honest, I had a good idea which one it was going to be and I was in fact correct. (Looking through the fence,  I'd counted the plots around the site until I got to the number I was given)

It was actually bigger than I thought when I actually got inside to see it and looks pretty straight forward. There aren't too many onerous weeds to clear, so it will just be a case of pulling out the less onerous ones, digging it over and I'll be away.

It is situated next to the plot of a former fellow plot holder on my first allotment site over 10 years ago.  I still see her around in the neighbourhood and often stop for a chat.  I'm not sure what she'll think when she finds out I'm going to be on the next plot to hers, but it will be nice to know someone on the site.

I accepted the plot and when I got home I sent off a cheque for my membership and plot fees which was due, so that is now all sorted.  I now just need to do a few last minute bits of clearing on my plot before I hand over the keys and get the keys to the new site around the beginning of November.  It will be something to look forward to and keep me occupied when my sister returns to Australia.

I made it to the second of the two classes I usually attend on a Monday morning, and felt better for doing something, then headed off to do my weekly shop.

I had some vouchers to get £7 of a £70 shop at Tesco, but needn't have worried about not spending enough to qualify, as I spent over £100.  I got a few good deals though, especially on this Organic Wholegrain Spelt Pasta which was on offer for just 37p per 250g bag.

I bought 8 bags and contemplated buying more, but restrained myself. It should keep us going for a while. We'd eaten some the other night and it is really tasty, so I wasn't going to pass up on this offer.

I also bought a 2kg  bag of pudding rice for £3.  This will last an age. I've taken to making rice pudding every Monday night when I get a new carton of Cholesterol lowering milk and need to use up the remainder of my existing carton.  (I never use the whole carton in a week and you can't buy a smaller one).  It tastes just the same as normal rice pudding and I get more of the plant sterols into my system by using it up this way.

I also managed to get a couple of tubes of my favourite toothpaste which were reduced from £4 to £2.50. I use Corsodyl, as I find it has the most natural ingredients of all of the big brand toothpastes and works well at keeping my teeth and mouth healthy. Coincidentally, my sister uses it too, and her dentist swears by it for minimising plaque and insists on all her patients using it.

The cupboards, fruit bowl, fridge and freezer are now bulging with food, which is just as well, as I won't get the chance to do a proper food shop next Monday, until we get back from the hotel in Grantham, where we're going when my sister arrives to meet our other sister. I'll probably do a small shop when we get back to London on the Tuesday, so this should help us last until then save for a few fresh items.

Finally,  when I got home today, my online beauty products order had arrived.  I usually order some natural toiletries each month, from one online site or another, and this month it was the turn of My Pure, as I needed some new natural concealers.

In addition to these, I also bought some eye cream from Laidbare.  I'm currently using a moisturiser by this brand and am quite liking it, so I thought I'd try the eye cream too.  The only other items I paid for were two bars of natural soap by new to me brand Friendly.  These are very similar in price and appearance to Suma soaps, which I currently use.

The two Hurraw lip balms in the picture were free with my order, as it was over £30.  One is a sun protection balm and one a Lime lip balm.  I sometimes give these away as gifts, if I don't get around to using them myself.

An added bonus of ordering from My Pure was that I got 10% off my order, making it just over £28 for everything.  I know this sounds a lot for what I bought, but natural products are pretty expensive compared to some of the bigger beauty brands. I don't mind paying extra though and have now got used to the costs involved.

This order should take care of most of my beauty needs for this month.

The rest of my day involved shopping for an outfit for LB to attend a special event later this week. More about this in another post.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Is it me?

Is it me or does time seem to have speeded up?  Month after month seem to pass very quickly. I used to find myself wishing for the end of the month (mainly due to having spent up somewhere in the middle), but now the months seem to come to an end before I'm actually ready for them.

There's been the usual busyness at the CS this week.  I went in an extra morning on Friday, but left by 3pm, as I was going out last night to the house of a friend from the gym, who was cooking supper for a few of us.  We had a lovely evening.

It was probably the first time I've been out on my own on an evening for a long time.  OH came to pick me up, so that I could have a drink and not have to negotiate public transport at a late hour, which was good of him.

On Thursday, I had to go to a meeting at the school about the new GCSE's.  Everything is changing again of course and as LB is picking her options early next year, we needed the relevant information.

I was also contacted by the allotment society this week, to say a smaller plot on the site I was hoping for is definitely available and I have arranged to meet a rep there on Monday morning to check out the plot, site, etc. and make a decision as to whether I want it, which is quite exciting.

I made a start on getting some of my Autumn/Winter clothing out and putting away some summer clothes and shoes.  I left the big chunky sweaters packed away for now, as it isn't cold enough to get them out yet and they take up a lot of room in the wardrobe.  A couple more things made their way in to the donation pile.

I watched a very interesting documentary on Netflix the other night called From Fat to Finish Line, about a group of people in the US who between them had lost 1200lbs (partly due to taking up running) and were together, as a team, running a 36 leg race from Miami to Key West to celebrate their weight loss.  It was quite inspiring.

Finally, after a quiet couple of weeks, things picked up on the eBay front as the month drew to a close and a few parcels were hastily posted off, which was very satisfying.

In all a pretty good week.

This weekend, we've got nothing in particular planned.  I'll probably watch Gardener's World on catch up and if the rain stops and it drys up, do some tidying around the garden in time for my sister's visit.  (Just over a week to go - getting very excited!)

How was your week?