Wednesday 30 November 2016

CS Catch Up and Feeling More Festive

It's been a good  couple of days at the CS.  We've been very short of staff, i.e. just me and the manager for half  of each day, due to some unexpected staff absences, but we've got by okay.

I've spent most of the time on the till, which isn't my favourite thing to do in the shop, but I'm happy to go where needed. I find the time passes a little slower when I'm on the till and Tuesday was quite a quiet day, probably because it was the second to last day of the month and people were waiting to get paid. Wednesday was a bit busier though, which was good.

I'm gradually getting used to the change in pace at the shop.  I do sometimes find it a little slow after the speed at which I used to work. On the plus side, however, I am feeling a lot calmer when I'm there and much less stressed for the most part, which is a very good thing indeed, so I'm not complaining, although it probably sounds like I am.

Last week, I got involved in setting up the Christmas window display, which was fun.  No pictures though I'm afraid.  It's now starting to get a bit busier on the Christmas cards and other products front, which I enjoy.  I like keeping the shelves stocked up.  It's like playing shop, although it's not playing, it's for real.  I've not really worked in retail since I was a teenager, so to me I still find it quite a novelty.

From this week, I'm going in on Fridays too, just up until Christmas and it's been my own decision.  I helped out the previous manager by doing quite a few extra days when needed, so I'm happy to help the current manager in the same way for a few weeks during a busy period. I'm away between Christmas and New Year, so I like to make up for it, although I'm not expected to.

With most of my Christmas shopping done, going into the shop keeps me out of trouble with regard to spending, unless something comes into the shop that I can't resist that is.  Besides, I now almost always get away at a time that suits me and makes the commute less stressful, so I'm more than happy to do it.

Today, once I've done my usual class at the gym, I'm heading into town to pick up an online order from Fortnum and Mason (a few stocking fillers for family) and doing a few last minute bits of Christmas shopping.

Following this, I should only have OH's main present and a few sweets to buy, but he needs to try his present on before I buy it, so we need to go on a special shopping trip for that one. The sweets can probably be picked up with the grocery shopping over the next few weeks, so I don't need to make a special trip for those.

Actually, I tell a lie, I still have a niece to buy a present for, but she often prefers the money, and I'd like to get something for my sister this year, as she made such an effort for my 50th birthday, that I want to buy her a little something to thank her.

Now the weather has turned colder, I'm starting to feel a bit more infused with Christmas spirit, especially when I go out early with the dog and everywhere is white and frosty.  I love it, so crisp and clarifying. LB's chocolate advent calendar came out this morning and I'll probably get the decorations out this weekend or next.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Monthly Round Up - November

Another pretty disastrous month on the financial front, but hardly surprising with Christmas around the corner.

I didn't really budget very well for the festivities this year, partly due to unexpected events and partly due to overspending during the course of the year. Oh well, can't be helped. You just have to tot it all up, pay it off and get on with it, making sure you're more careful in future.

At least my personal budget came in under this month, although only by £6 or so.  I didn't intend to spend as much as I did on myself, but a few spontaneous purchases at the CS got the better of me.

Another budget that came under this month was the household budget which was £36.52 under. This is the best it's been all year I think. (I have to say, though, that it will probably be over budget next month, as I'm placing a couple of orders for natural hygiene and household products, as we are running low.)

It was excellent news in the home budget this month, as nothing got spent in this category and it came in at £50 under budget. I do need to buy a couple of things in the forthcoming months, so am hoping to wait until the January sales and get them then. I am going to write a list to remind me of what we need, so I don't randomly purchase other stuff just because it sounds like a good deal.

LB didn't need much buying for her either, especially with Christmas and her birthday on the horizon, so another £33 under budget here.

You may be thinking at this point that things went pretty well, which when you look at the figures, they did really, but the Miscellaneous budget was totally busted, as I overspent by £73 here, mostly on Christmas presents/cards/postage and transport related costs, so nothing that I could have avoided.

The final category that got overspent this month was the food budget.  I don't quite know why, but it was nearly £150 overspent.  I really can't figure out how I came to overspend so badly here, but there you go, it just got out of hand somehow.  Some of it was due to eating out on days out or buying wine for social events, but the rest was just extra food in the cupboards.  I definitely need to rein this budget in this month, in spite of it being Christmas.  I've already made my Christmas food shopping list and I'm hoping to stick to it and not add anything else on, as we really don't want to over indulge too much over the festive season. We will be away visiting for a few days towards the end of the month, so this should help.

In all honesty, I'm expecting another disastrous month next month and then to hopefully get back to some semblance of normality by February or March, which is a bit of a depressing thought, but that's the reality of it.

I hope your budgeting outlook is far more positive than mine.

Monday 28 November 2016

A Really Good Read

On Friday morning I finished reading this book that I picked up at the CS.  I nearly didn't buy it, but I'm so pleased that I did.

It's taken a few weeks to finish it, but I have to say that it's one of the best books I've read in a long time.  It's not a new book and was published 8 or more years ago, but everything in it is still relevant today, if not more so.

It kind of sums up my thoughts about the current rampant consumerism we are encouraged to enter into in so called developed nations today.  I think, as the book suggests, resistance is growing, but we're still a long way off turning things around. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to be connected to lots of you bloggers out there, who don't ascribe to the spend, spend, spend mentality that afflicts us as a nation and that is very reassuring and encouraging.

Perhaps it will take another downturn to make us fully realise the error of our ways and appreciate what we have already, instead of constantly searching out the next best thing.  Who knows, but this book has certainly crystallised how I feel about 'stuff' and mindless shopping and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of reading it.

Sunday 27 November 2016

In a Funk

I've been in a bit of a funk this week (bad mood for anyone who doesn't know what I mean). I don't quite know why, as no one particular thing has happened to bring it on. Maybe it's hormones,(although I hate to say this, it may be true) or maybe not, but for some reason I was on a bit of downer for a few days.

I just felt a bit underwhelmed I guess by the thought of Christmas and the presents I've bought for people, annoyed with myself for always running out of money before the end of the month and generally feeling distinctly unenthusiastic about everything. I don't know if anyone else ever gets like this, but I do from time to time and it often comes right out of the blue.

Anyway, on Saturday I had a bit of a moan to OH about it and then started to listen to myself.  It really didn't sound good.  I took the dog out for a walk to take my mind off things.  It made me feel better. When I looked at her little cute face and she was being cheeky and playful, it helped to snap me out of my funk and start to pick myself back up again.

I'm incredibly lucky.  I have a nice home, great partner and daughter, very nice friends and fellow bloggers, a really cute and well behaved dog who I adore, no serious money troubles, I participate in voluntary work that I enjoy, have lots of interests I really love and there is plenty of food in the cupboards  (although everyone always complains that there isn't!). What more can a person want or need and what gives me the right to feel in a funk about life when I have all of these great things.

Anyway, a day later I'm feeling much better. In part, I was worrying that the Christmas presents I've bought for LB weren't very exciting or surprising, even though they are for the most part, what she has asked for. (I'm trying to be practical/less wasteful and buy things she wants, rather than things I think she might want that don't always really get used).

I'm sure that lots of parents feel this way just before Christmas.  I often do and tend to have a last minute panic that sometimes causes me to rush out and buy more, but I don't want to do that this year. It's not the answer and I  can't afford to do it either.

Instead, I found a great idea on YouTube today for a gift I can make, that has made me feel a lot better. It was an idea to make a memory jar for someone and in it put 12 ideas for things you can do together to make new memories.  I sat down and did this for LB for Christmas.  It should be a nice surprise for her and hopefully she'll like it.

Some of the things in it don't cost anything really, such as a girly pamper session together, a girly night in watching a film with snacks, breakfast in bed, etc.

Others include spending money, i.e. shopping trips to favourite or new untried destinations, a cinema/theatre trip, a visit to Starbucks (she loves it), a day out thrift shopping, a cut and blow dry in a salon.

The idea is for us to do one of the items together each month.  A way to make Christmas last the year, spread the cost and give us both experiences to enjoy together.

Yes, shopping does feature in a few of them, but what teenage girl doesn't like to go shopping every now and then, not to mention what mum doesn't like to go shopping with her daughter on occasion.

I feel a bit better about her presents now, as I know we have lots of treats to look forward to throughout the year and it will also make me consciously do more things with her too.

Saturday 26 November 2016

A Day Out and a Step Back into the Past

On Friday, my friend and I headed out for the day on our annual pilgrimage to the Ideal Home Show at Christmas.  I've managed to get us free tickets every year for the past few years, via and this year was no different as we headed across town to Olympia to make a Christmas Day Out of it.

I don't know if it was because we went on a Friday, when we've usually gone on a Thursday, but for some reason, this year it seemed busier than normal, with thousands of people jostling to look at all of the stalls.

We had a wander around trying to look for the set rooms which are designed by interior designers. We found them eventually in the far corner of the venue.  Here's a picture of a couple of the rooms.

Are you putting a Christmas tree up in your bathroom this year?  A nice idea though. (I had to edit myself out of the mirror in this picture)

To be honest, and I don't mean to sound ungrateful for our free tickets, there seems to be less and less content of interest to us every year that we attend.  It becomes more and more about just buying stuff. In all fairness, maybe it always was or maybe it was because it was the Christmas edition of the event and they maximise the sales space.  In other years I haven't minded too much, but this year I did.

I just can't seem to get enthusiastic at the moment about adding more stuff to our house, so as a consequence, very little was purchased by me at the event, save for a few of edibles (including sushi for lunch), some dog treats for the pup for Christmas and a small, inexpensive, but very practical item for me that I'd been thinking of buying for a while.

Even the stages didn't really have anything going on on them that held our interest. Maybe we picked a bad day. We started to watch one presentation on the main stage, but very soon lost interest.  The foodie stage was more interesting, but we didn't hang out there long either.

I think this might actually be our last visit, free tickets or not, particularly to the Christmas show, as we'd rather just meet for lunch and a chat somewhere nearer home, rather than trek to the other side of London to be virtually solely encouraged to buy more stuff and little else.

The queue for the free goodie bag went around the building and we just couldn't face lining up for a bag of freebies that we probably didn't even really want.

I realised today that I've changed a lot over the last few years.  Once I'd have been happy to wait to get something for free, whereas now I'm finding myself a little more selective how I spend my time and I'm not quite so easily persuaded to accept or even buy things I don't want or need.  It's a good thing really.

After my friend and I went our separate ways home, I got off the bus and as I had some cash left in my purse, I decided to pop into a local charity shop on the way home, one that I used to frequent regularly just a few years ago and have bought lots of things from in the past.  I haven't done this for a long time.  In fact, I've deliberately avoided it to be honest, so bad was my CS shopping habit in the past. It felt a little strange going in, but also very comforting and familiar at the same time.

I had a good long look around the shop, as I always used to do.  I tried on numerous items of winter/seasonal clothing, but none looked quite right on me.  I had a good rummage in a box of leather offcuts, of which I was tempted to purchase a few and get a bit creative, but it was all a little too thick and would have been very hard to stitch.

After scouring the book shelves, I came away with just one book for 50p, this one by Ariana Huffington of The Huffington Post fame.  It sounds like quite a good read and I can always pass it on when I've finished it.

I like CS shopping, I like that the proceeds go to help others and I like it that things have already had a life, but it scares me that I might go back to where I was previously, namely needlessly buying things I didn't need and filling up our house with stuff.  I think I'll just stick to working in one for now and limit my exposure.

I'm not yet totally cured of my past shopping habits, they will always be part of my life and an ongoing struggle, but I am making good progress which is encouraging.

Maybe next Christmas a day out that doesn't include an opportunity to shop would be even better progress.  A lot can happen in a year, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday 25 November 2016

Thursday At Home

Well this Thursday, I didn't have a great long list of errands to do, so it was relatively leisurely.

I did my usual dog walk and gym visit, bought a couple of fresh grocery items on the way home.  I noticed that a couple of new shops/cafes had opened near the gym.

The shop sold artisan bread and gorgeous looking pastries.  Just a pity that I never eat these things, as I can't justify the empty calories. I'm sure they'll do well though.

The cafe looked interesting too, but I do sometimes wonder how many cafes the local area can support.  Seems like an indefinite number where I live, as there are just so many of them.  Obviously cafe life is a very popular occupation amongst Londoners.

Anyway, for the rest of the day I didn't really have a plan.  I did a bit of blog reading, laundry, washing up and rubbish sorting for collection on Friday. I didn't feel like doing any ironing, so I left it for now.

Later, I decided to do a bit of a spontaneous declutter of the sewing room.  I went through most of my boxes of fabric and pulled out any that I no longer wanted to keep. There were quite a few.

I've decided that I need to streamline things here, as there is just so much and I'm never going to use it all. I kept my favourites and a lot of the rest I let go.

I've now got a big pile to bag up for donation. Hopefully someone else will be able to use it for quilting or other projects.  There's still a lot more work to do in this room, but I couldn't easily get to some of the drawers full of fabric, as the boxes of donations were in the way. It'll keep until another day.

Later still, I also got inspired to do a bit of a declutter of a couple of my kitchen cupboards, after watching a YouTube video on the subject.  I have to say it was one of the worst videos I've watched in terms of camera movement.  By the end I felt sick because the camera moved around so much.  I didn't realise that watching a video could make you feel so unwell.  (I say this, because I was feeling fine before I watched it, but I suppose it could have been something I'd eaten that made me feel ill) Anyway, I got rid of a few out of date food items that I'm just not going to use and a couple of other items that we no longer want to keep.

It was nice to spend an afternoon and evening concentrating on getting rid of more stuff.  I wish I'd thought about how much time it would take to declutter things when I bought them in the first place. I could have saved hours of my life.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Bemoaning Black Friday

Is it just me or is anyone else sick of hearing about the latest Black Friday deals? I seem to have been deleting them from my inbox for days now and none have tempted me to part with any money at all, save for this one.

I shop quite regularly with this company and I have to say that I find them very reliable and they have a good range of alternative health/organic/earth friendly products. I think I will probably be placing an order in the next few days as there's a few household items I need and can buy in bulk from them. At least it will benefit others in the process, as well as netting me a 20% discount. of course.  I really can't argue with that.

If you like earth friendly products, it might  be a good opportunity to try shopping with them and help effect some good for people in need at the same time.

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with this company, other than being a longstanding customer and I have not been sponsored to make this post about them.

Monday 21 November 2016

Another Busy Weekend

This weekend has been another busy one catching up with jobs. On Saturday morning, I finally got around to writing our Christmas cards, which had been sat on the kitchen table for over a week. I have to say that I always feel better once this job has been done. I have to find out and add some names and addresses to a couple of the cards, but they're done for the most part.

In the afternoon, OH and LB set off for Twickenham to watch England play rugby, so I had the afternoon completely to myself. I thought about going into the shop and then thought better of it and decided to head to my new allotment for a couple of hours instead.

I could only manage a couple of hours, because it was pretty hard work and I had to take the dog for a walk before it got dark, but I got quite a bit done.

Returning from the dog walk, I had to head out to ASDA for some dog food, as we were completely out and unfortunately got caught in traffic, which was very annoying. We normally avoid going anywhere at the weekend for just this reason, but needs must.

I was glad to get home, start cooking some supper and then sit, catch up with some blog reading and watch Strictly on TV.  We finished the last episode of The Crown on Netflix on Friday night, so will no longer have this to watch of an evening.😞  It'll be back to watching Designated Survivor instead when episodes become available.

Sunday was a slightly more leisurely day. I was out to the gym in the morning after walking the dog. I didn't need much from Lidl, which is just as well as it's hell in there these days. I had just this discussion with a fellow customer in the car park on my way in, which was completely gridlocked. I'm trying to do most of my shopping with Tesco at the moment, because they're the ones currently supplying me with vouchers for money off my groceries and their stores are much easier to access.

On Sunday afternoon, I caught up with a bit of blog reading/Youtube watching, emptied the ironing basket again, hung out some washing to dry, watched a recorded episode of Nashville and a smaltzy Christmas movie on Channel 5, which I totally enjoyed, had a shower and then did some eBay work before retiring for the evening. Still getting things done, which is good, but there's always more to do.

How was your weekend?

Sunday 20 November 2016

First Visit to My New Allotment Plot

On Saturday afternoon, I paid my first visit to my new allotment plot to do some work on it.

The site on which it is situated is a very urban one, in the middle of a housing estate. It is overlooked on virtually all sides by flats, so you almost feel a little exposed and in full view when you're working on the plot. It's probably less of a problem in the summer, when the vegetation around the fence grows more.

This is the site entrance coming from the direction I approach it.

And this is my plot at the far end against the fence.

Here's the view looking back up the site from my plot.

There are quite a few raised beds on the site, there's a communal shed to right of this photograph. and a water trough to the left which will be useful for watering, as I won't have to carry the watering cans very far. 

It's a nice little plot, but it has some history attached to it that I can't go into just yet.  It's not quite a simple matter of me taking over the plot, and I'm currently waiting to see how things pan out.

Anyway, as I've paid my rent and been given a key, I thought I'd better get down to work or I'd be getting into trouble from the committee. 

I took the car there on Saturday as I had to drop off the compost bin, which was too cumbersome to carry all the way there. I won't be doing this in future unless there is lots of stuff to take away or take to the plot, but it does allow really good access for taking away green waste. (The garden waste bins don't always get emptied and some things can't easily be put on a normal compost pile)

I then set to work digging over the plot. It has been divided into various small beds with mud paths in between.  I kept the same layout whilst digging.  It took a couple of hours to dig over half of the plot and it was quite hard work as the soil is much heavier than my last plot, possibly due to not being overworked and the fact it has more clay in it.

The plot looks pretty small compared to my last one, but when you're digging it over it doesn't seem small.  In fact, there seemed to be much more of it than I remembered. Anyway, this is what it looked like when I'd finished for the afternoon. 

I sited my compost bin, but still need to put some chicken wire underneath it before I start using it, to prevent rats getting into it.

I'm hoping to put some sort of paving on the paths between the beds, but I don't want to buy any if I can help it, and definitely not at this point, as I'm not sure what might happen yet. I know this sounds a bit cryptic, but I will explain the situation in more detail at a later date.  It would be much easier to navigate and cultivate with proper paths under foot.  

I sowed some broad beans, onion sets and mustard seeds into the back two beds either side of the compost bin and left it at that.

I had some help from this little visitor who was flitting about throughout my stay.  So cute.

I guess he was waiting for the worms I was bringing to the surface. It was nice to have company though.

As you can see from this photo, there is still plenty left to do another time.

I'll keep you posted on both progress and developments!

Saturday 19 November 2016

Real Corners

Yesterday I came across this blog post whilst perusing Claire's Happy Friday Links post and thought I'd join in and post about some real corners of my home, as they were on Friday morning. It's not quite so pretty a post, but we're talking about being real here aren't we.

Kitchen table

This is my most used corner of the house, and I use it as a daily work station. As you can see, it is looking a bit cluttered.  This is quite tidy compared to how it looks sometimes, but I've been trying to keep on top of it lately.

Kitchen Counter

This corner of the kitchen is where I put things that need to be taken elsewhere in the house. The two marrows have been here for a couple of months.  They are too big to go in the fridge and I haven't got around to chopping and freezing them, as they will take up too much room in the freezer. 

The CD's were birthday presents from over two months ago and I still haven't opened nor listened to them. There's also a medal here that LB won for her performance in Hairspray, that needs to go back to her room and a couple of other miscellaneous items awaiting relocation.


Although I bought this wooden box in an attempt to try to keep this area more tidy, OH insists on leaving his shoes on top of it, instead of putting them inside.😒  

I do have to admit to putting the basket here. It holds all of my winter scarves and gloves so that they are easy to access on my way out of the house. The fan needs re-homing for the winter, I just haven't found a spot for it yet.

Second Reception Room

Yep, looks like a bike shed/laundry room.  What more can I say.  We do move the bikes when we light the wood burner, so the heat can spread around the house, but as they are in almost daily use, this is the easiest place to keep them for getting them in and out of the house.  (We have lots of stairs!)

The Spare Bedroom

A pile of accumulated donations, other stuff that needs sorting through and the Christmas wrapping paper storage bag.

More donations (in the box), a teddy that needs some repairs, and fabric I sell on eBay in the plastic boxes. 

More seasonal fabric for selling on eBay. (Albeit neatly stacked)

The Teenager's Bedroom

If I'm honest, this is looking pretty tidy compared to what it can get like.  I did go around after taking this photo and tidy up, putting away the laundry I'd asked LB to put away last night!

I hope you enjoyed this slice of reality.  What are your real corners like?

Friday 18 November 2016

Thursday Catchup

It felt like a productive day yesterday.  As the stress from weeks of being over committed at the CS starts to ease, I'm finding myself slowly catching up with all of the things that need doing at home.

Knowing that from 11 am onwards, (after finishing the dog walk and my class at the gym) I had a free day to do as I pleased, I decided to write a list the night before, of all the jobs that I wanted to get done. It went something like this:

Drop off prescription at GP
Post eBay parcels
Take Operation Christmas Child box to drop off point
Check out Christmas decorations in Poundland for CS Xmas display (This wasn't actually on my list, but as the shop was opposite where I'd dropped off the box, I thought I'd take a look and bought a few items that might come in useful next week. If they're not needed I can use them at home)
Dark wash/hang out
Make homemade dog food
Make Tacos for Supper
Bag clothes for donation (currently in a pile on the bed in the spare bedroom)
Box up bric a brac for donation (ditto)
Business/personal online banking/finance catchup/pay credit card bill
Collect and put out the rubbish/recycling
Ironing/put laundry away
Allotment visit
Garden clear up
Write Xmas cards
Sort Xmas presents bought so far (I've been piling these up in a corner of the bedroom as soon as they've arrived and the pile has substantially increased in size over the last few weeks, so it all needs putting out of the way in the suitcase on top of the wardrobe, or as much of it as will fit.

As you can see from the list, there's a few items that are yet to get done. The allotment and garden will have to wait until the weekend now, as will the Christmas cards, but most of the rest got done, which was definitely progress.

A good day, and for that I'm very thankful.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

CS Update

I thought I'd use this post to update you on the CS situation, as it's been quite a week so far.  The new manager started at the CS on Monday and I am very pleased to say that he seems to be very volunteer orientated.  I explained my situation on my first day working with him and he seemed very happy for me to work just two days per week, doing only the hours that I wish to work.  I was very relieved, as I do enjoy the work very much and hoped to stay on.

As I wrote in a previous post, I will probably be doing the odd extra day in the next few weeks until he can organise some new volunteers, but by the sounds of it, he had a large pool of volunteers at his last shop and I am reasonably optimistic that he'll be able to attract and retain more longer standing volunteers at this one, which should hopefully make life a little easier in the shop.

In temperament and in many of his ways of working, he seems very different from the previous manager, which will take a little while to get used to.  I am so used to going in and being very focused, moving from one task to another very quickly, that I find it hard to adjust to a slower more considered pace.

I'm not criticising in any way, as obviously he is finding his feet and assessing his new situation, but from my point of view, I feel that I've been under quite a bit of pressure for so long, that it is hard to instantly switch down and work steadily. I'm sure I'll get used to it and come to appreciate it a lot in a very short space of time.

Having said all of this, a lot of work has been done and discussed this week by way of getting the shop to run how he wants it to. Only small changes, but ones that I think will have a very significant impact in weeks to come.

It's very interesting to hear someone else's ideas about how things can be done to make processes within the shop more efficient. Luckily, I'm not a person who dislikes change, so I'm happy to try new ways of doing things, particularly if they will be beneficial to everyone concerned.

I'm not in again now until next Tuesday and it does feel strange to have finished my volunteering week on a Wednesday.  I will enjoy my lunch out with friends this Friday though, as we've not met up for a good six weeks and will have lots of news to catch up on.

I have to say that I do feel slightly guilty that I'm not going into the shop and helping him more in his first week there, but I'm sure he will be fine and the other volunteers will do their best to help him. Besides, I have plenty of things to get on with at home and the more I get done, the happier I will be when I am in the shop, as I won't be thinking about all of the things I've still got to do and wishing I was somewhere else.

I'll keep you posted with how things progress.

Monday 14 November 2016

This Weekend

After recently complaining about how much I needed to catch up with things at home, this weekend I've made definite inroads into the backlog.

I didn't book my usual class at the gym for two reasons, one being that I've not been enjoying the class quite as much recently, so am giving myself a break from it.  The second reason is, that I was planning on going to a local hospice Christmas Bazaar, but I didn't end up going to that either.

It wasn't because I don't want to support a good cause, but I figured that charity needed to start at home this weekend, as the house desperately needed some TLC.  In addition, I figured that I would probably buy lots of books and other stuff that I don't really need. (Albeit at very good prices with the proceeds going to charity) When push came to shove,  I just stayed home and did some domestic chores instead.

I started by changing the bed linen which was overdue.  Then I cleaned the bathroom and downstairs toilet, followed by hoovering and mopping through the house.  I also sorted out a couple of small things that I've been meaning to do or put away for a while. It's often these little things that you just don't get around to doing during the week, that cause a clutter pile to accumulate, which eventually gets so big that it begins to impede your daily life.

It felt good to get  these things done and I feel like I've reclaimed my home and my life a little and restored a bit of balance.

On Saturday afternoon OH and I headed off to the local mall to look at small laptops, as he's buying me a new one for Christmas.  This is mainly because he wants to reclaim his spare work laptop from me, as I am a little heavy handed when typing (a consequence of learning to type on a proper typewriter many years ago) and the buttons get depressed a little too heavily, which in the end damages the keyboard, sometimes fatally.  He's hoping to prolong the life of the one I am currently using, by removing it from my clutches. I don't blame him really.

I must say that I don't mind having a new one all to myself, and a smaller one at that, as it will make life much easier when travelling. The one I currently use is large and heavy and quite cumbersome. I'm not an iPad type of girl really and prefer to use a keyboard rather than a touch screen, so small laptop it will be. I'll probably end up with quite an inexpensive one, as the kind of things I use it for don't merit my getting a fancy all singing/dancing one.

Anyway, after visiting the mall, I caught the train on to the CS for the manager's leaving do. It was a pleasant enough evening and it was interesting to meet some of the previous volunteers who had come back to the shop to celebrate with the manager.

I didn't stay too late, as I had to catch a train back across London on my own, on which lots of youngsters were heading out for the night.  It was strange to think how old and boring I am now in comparison. Having said this, I quite enjoy being that way and like nothing more than staying home on a Saturday night.

Sunday, was a very quiet day here. I did the usual dog walk before heading off to the gym. I managed to do all of my weekly shop, rather than as usual finishing it on Monday afternoon, so I will be able to come straight home from the gym today for a change and get on with other things.

The remainder of Sunday, I did some laundry and a little ironing and then cooked us some dinner.  I caught up with watching Strictly from the night before and then had a bath before watching one episode of  The Crown. It was my day for taking it easy.

I'm looking forward to starting a new week feeling a bit more on top of things at home.  It makes such a difference mentally, as it frees me up to focus my attention properly on everything I need to do outside of the house. How's your weekend been?

Sunday 13 November 2016

Christmas Shopping

The last couple of weeks, I've begun to make a start on my Christmas shopping. Well, I made a start back in January and have picked up the odd item here and there throughout the year, but I've now made a start on finishing my Christmas shopping, which is probably a more accurate way to describe my activities.

I've managed to complete the gifts for most of the children in the family, bar one who usually prefers to be given cash.  With  regard to LB, I've also bought most of her gifts.  She's not getting so much this year, as she will be getting a new phone on a contract, which is a big expense.  I'm buying her a few bits and pieces to open on the day though and trying to include a few small inexpensive surprises.

I've now got to the stage where I can't afford to do any more shopping for this month, so the rest will have to wait until next month. There is only really OH's main presents to buy and he doesn't really want for anything, so I don't actually know what to get him.  I have a few ideas, but need to give it a bit more thought.

I also still need to buy a few more small items for other adult family members.  I've decide to go to some of the more luxury retailers in London for some of these this year, as it is nice to be able to buy people something special at this time of year and I've never really made use of the very special shops we have easy access to in London before, in all the time we've lived here.

I think my change in attitude towards them was partly as a result of my sister's influence when she visited, as she does like luxury food products.  I'm trying to stick largely to consumables, as people probably have enough other 'stuff' already.  This will, of course, entail a little shopping trip into town, but this will be quite enjoyable.

I've written and sent my sister's Christmas cards to Australia this week, so that is one job done, and have also separately returned some items by post that she inadvertently left behind after her visit.

Next week, I need to take my Operation Christmas Child box into a collection point.  I just need to wrap the lid in Christmas paper and secure it with a large rubber band and it's ready to go.

I intend to do a shop for the local food bank at some point next month too. I've printed off a list of things they currently need and will be armed with it when I eventually get around to it.

I still have my Christmas cards to write and send, but they are sat on my kitchen table all ready to get started on.  The writing of them will probably be another job I will attempt either this weekend or next week, time allowing.

It's a slow and steady build up to the festive season.  Just how I like it. How's your hristmas shopping coming along?

Saturday 12 November 2016

Change at the CS

This week has been the Manager's last week at the CS, so I've done my usual 3 days again, hopefully the last time for a while, as it is just a little bit too much and too disruptive to family life.

Having said this I've almost got back on top of the washing and ironing.  I've got an empty ironing basket for the first time in months and just need to keep on top of it.

The rest of the house needs attention though.  Bedding needs changing, bathrooms need cleaning, well everything needs cleaning really and garden/allotment needs clearing.  Still lots of work to do, but it's getting done bit by bit.

Anyway, I digress, so this week has been the last with the current manager in charge and yesterday was my last day working with her.  The new manager came to the shop in the afternoon to get acquainted with it.

He's currently managing another shop in the London area, but one that is very different from this one, so it will be a bit of a change for him. He seems very personable, and quite calm and orderly, which is potentially a good thing.

Tonight, I'm heading back to the shop for the current manager's leaving. We're all meeting at the shop for wine and nibbles and a bit of a gathering.  She didn't want too much fuss and a meal wasn't really appropriate, as many of the volunteers are young and don't have the money to spend on meals out.

Some of the ladies who currently work there, have contacted past volunteers and invited them to come along, so there should be a good turnout and a collection has been taken with a good amount raised to provide a nice leaving gift.

It will be sad, but happy at the same time, as she will now be able to move on and try something new, with less stress.  The shop won't quite be the same without her, as she injected a lot of her strong personality into it, but I guess things will carry on as normal.

I'm not sure how many volunteers will be left when the new manager starts next week, as some may not come back and some have already left.

I am not, however, intending to single handedly breach the gap, as I need to get back to my two days per week after nearly 3 months of working 3 days, and get back on top of things at home.

Of course, if he is really stuck, I will try to help out where I can, but I feel I've put a lot of extra hours in over the last few months and I need to get some balance back. I've come to realise that these shops will eat up all of your time if you let them, as there are always things to do.

It will be interesting to see how the new manager approaches the shop and the working environment. I'm hoping he might improve it a little, if I'm honest, as it can get quite chaotic at times.  I guess it is partly the nature of the job and the limited space available, but it is also a matter of organisation too. We'll see.

Although I love working at the shop, there is a limit to what time I can comfortably give, and if too much pressure is brought to bear then I won't be hanging around for long, as life is too short.

I would then probably look for a volunteering opportunity closer to home with less travel involved, especially now the nights are drawing in and it is getting dark so early.  Hopefully, I won't need to, but I'm keeping an open mind for the moment.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Art Mirroring Life - Or Almost

I got up this morning to see that John Lewis's new Christmas advert was in my inbox. I couldn't resist watching it, of course, and when I saw that dog in the thumbprint I thought, oh here we go, a nice dog to emotionally blackmail us this Christmas.

The advert was a little different to what I expected though and made me laugh instead of bringing a tear to my eye.  Take a look for yourself.

I have to say that it struck a chord with me, as certain visitors to the garden do behave in this way. The only thing the advert doesn't show is the smelly little calling cards that they often leave behind, if you know what I mean.

Monday 7 November 2016

Weekend Summary

As previously posted, I had every intention of putting the garden to bed this weekend, but I got a bit distracted on Saturday morning, a consequence of finishing Marie Kondo's book and being in the mood for a bit of decluttering. The result was that I decided to declutter the hallway cupboard instead of tidying the garden.

This was the before photo.

As you can see it is pretty well rammed to the rafters with stuff. Admittedly, most of it is packaging materials I want to reuse, ingredients for candle or natural beauty product making and some sentimental items that belonged to my mother, that I find it hard to part with.

I tackled it shelf by shelf, the top shelf probably being the hardest, as this contained part of my collection of Hornsea Pottery ceramics.  I really need to find a way to display these in the house, but haven't found one yet.  I do like them though, so I'll keep thinking about it.

Also on this shelf were my mother's items.  I went through the box and did manage to set aside a few items to donate. They were the things that had less sentimental value to me and that I would never use. A few things I put into everyday use rather than letting them sit unused in the cupboard. This was progress enough for now. I still kept a fair few things though.  I'll keep going back to these and I will probably be able to part with more as time goes by.

The middle two shelves were the candle and beauty making ingredients, so I tidied them up as best I could to make them easily accessible.  I did find several things to donate, I also disposed of a few bits and relocated a few others, so I was pleased with the overall result.

The cupboard, as you can see from the photo below, now looks a little less cluttered.

So, I've made a start on the clutter clearing for this month, which feels good.  The garden will have to wait until another day, as Sunday was way too cold for me to get out there.  I just couldn't face it. It probably won't take long once I get going, but I've got to be in the right frame of mind to tackle it.

Instead, I tackled more of the ironing mountain this weekend, as this had the added bonus of keeping me warm with the weather turning so cold.  I also made an effort to get to grips with my new digital camera, which was a birthday present from OH and I did a bit of computer housekeeping by sifting through all of the photographs on my computer, making sure to delete any I don't want to keep and transfer others into appropriate files.

We lit the wood burner for the first time this weekend and I had forgotten how lovely and cosy it makes the house feel. We've been sitting down to watch 'The Crown' on Netflix.  There's been so much hype about this series in the newspapers, that it almost put me off watching it. I'm glad, however, that it didn't, as we're finding it surprisingly well made and are enjoying watching an episode of an evening, in between watching our other current Netflix favourite when each episode becomes available, 'Designated Survivor'.

I have to admit that I do like the autumn and winter months, when you don't feel you should be outside enjoying daylight or sunshine and can hunker down and get cosy at home guilt free. Definitely my favourite time of year.

I hope you all had a great weekend.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Living with Less Stuff - October

Last month I didn't think that I'd manage to do much decluttering, as the major part of the month was taken up with my sister's visit.

However, I did manage to find a few items to donate whilst cleaning the house in readiness for her arrival and since her departure and return to Australia, I have sifted out a few more clothing items to donate, whilst catching up on laundry and ironing.

In addition, LB has been busy decluttering again this month and has supplied me with a good quantity of clothing that she no longer needs or wants to keep and which were cluttering up her drawers, but not getting worn.

As a consequence, this month's total is non too shabby and between us as a household we will have amassed another 59 items in total to be donated.  This has once again streamlined our clothing and I'm getting ever nearer to having an acceptable (to me) amount of clothes in my wardrobe and drawers.

When added to the running total for the year which at last count was 816 items, I have now cleared a total of 875 items from our house so far this year.

Reading Marie Kondo's infamous book helped towards the end of the month. I didn't subsequently follow her method to the letter, and I may not ever actually do so, but some of her ideas make a lot of sense to me, particularly ones about not hanging onto things that LB is throwing out for sentimental reasons, and not passing things down to her that she doesn't really want, which I have a tendency to do, instead of dealing with my own guilt at getting rid of something.

I utilised the extra hour when the clocks went back two Sundays ago to give my underwear drawer a good sort through, as some items had holes in the lace or seams and needed throwing out.  Due to having bought some new underwear whilst my sister was here, I felt the time was right to chuck out the stuff that is past it's best and this feels like a job well done to me.

I've got the odd decluttering job planned for November, if I get the chance to do it, namely to tackle the cupboard in the hallway, which is bursting with stuff. It might even inspire me to finally get around to a spot of candle making, as I have the soy wax, containers, wicks and a pine candle scent, which would be ideal for the festive period. I'll let you know how that goes if it happens.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Getting Back into Frugal Habits

It's been a much better week this week on the financial front.  I've got back into the habit of spending only on food and essentials and I feel much better and more in control of my finances as a consequence.

I have purchased a few Christmas gifts on line too, as I'm trying to complete my Christmas shopping as soon as I can.  I'm also adding the odd small Christmas food item to my shopping trolley each week, to reduce the amount I need to buy nearer the time.

A couple of occasion cards needed to be purchased too this week and some money put into a collection for the Manager at the CS.  Other than this, it's been a pretty frugal week.

I also spent £1.29 to repair one of the brakes on my old banger of a bike, that I ride to the train station on days that I go to the CS. Luckily the part fitted, so I now have two brakes working instead of one.

I have to say that this old bike is getting a second lease of life and is serving me well. I use it because I don't like leaving my favourite new bike locked up all day in case it gets stolen and it spares me the 15 minute walk to and from the station that I don't enjoy, especially on days when I am very tired after a long day on my feet. The extra exercise is good too, of course.

I finished reading Marie Kondo's infamous book this morning in bed. I really enjoyed it and I don't quite understand the severe reaction of some people who I've heard really pan the book.  I found it very considered, rational and insightful. I think the press and media have sometimes taken a very sensationalist approach to it.

This weekend, I'm hoping to do some work in our garden as it's looking very sorry and neglected on account of my having very little time to attend to it in the last few months. I'm looking forward to putting it to bed for the winter as it will be another job taken care of and I won't have to worry or think about it for a few months. I do, however, intend to continue growing in the raised beds throughout the cold weather, but this should require little maintenance.

Other than this and a pile of ironing that is awaiting my attention, I don't have any plans for this weekend.  Just getting back on top of things is enough excitement for me right now.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Getting Things into Perspective

I'm in a bit of a strange mood lately. I think having three weeks away from the CS did me some good and chipped away some of the scales that were obscuring my vision. I was so focused on trying hard to help the manager, that I was putting myself and my family on the back burner, which is never a good thing.

Spending a few weeks away, has helped me get things back into perspective.  It's not my job to ensure the manager's last few weeks go smoothly, I was just getting too involved and drawn into things that weren't really any of my concern.  A bit of distance has done me good and although I may still work an extra day a week until she leaves in two weeks time, I'm planning on going back to volunteering for just two days from there on in, as any more than this leaves things at home piling up.

With Christmas looming, there is plenty to keep me occupied away from the shop, although I do enjoy the festive atmosphere in the lead up to Christmas, so I can't promise I won't do a few extra hours here and there.

Another thing I've been neglecting this year is my eBay selling and this is going to be my priority this week, as time is now marching on and I have already missed out on lots of sales in the months of October and September due to being so busy with other things and not getting my act together.

I definitely need to get onto it and make as much effort as I can to sell as much as I can in the remaining few weeks. I'm pretty sure that I definitely won't achieve anything like the results I achieved last year though, as I just haven't been on it.

Talking of Christmas, we're spending Christmas Day in London this year, which I'm quite looking forward to, on the request of LB.  She enjoys spending Christmas Day at home now she is getting older.  I'm not sure what we'll be eating, possibly a turkey crown or even lamb, but whatever we decide, it will be a simple meal and we won't be over indulging this Christmas.  A few treats, yes, but not too many.  I just can't deal with the excessive amount of food you are encouraged to buy at Christmas time. It can seem almost obscene at times, especially when some people struggle to put a decent meal on the table on a daily basis.

On another note, I have almost finished gathering the bits and pieces to go in my Operation Christmas Child box. I bought the last few items with my weekly shop on Monday.  Once again, I am sending a box for a teenage girl, so it includes toiletries, stationery, make up and other bits and pieces. I'm hoping whoever receives it will like it. I'm tracking it once again. Last year it went to the Ukraine, so I'm interested to find out where it will go this year. (You get informed a few months later)

There's a couple of Christmas events I want to go to in the next couple of months, one being the Ideal Home Show at Christmas, for which I already have free tickets. Another is a local hospice Christmas Bazaar that I have attended regularly for several years.

What are your plans for Christmas and in the lead up? Are you planning any Christmas outings this year?

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Everything Changes

I've not been keeping to my normal food shopping routine in the past few weeks and haven't actually visited Lidl at all during this period, so when I returned to my regular store on Sunday afternoon, I was shocked to be confronted with queues that reached the back of the shop, literally. (Even with every till occupied by a member of staff!) In the weeks prior to my absence, the queues had been reaching half way down the shop, but to double in length in the space of a few weeks seemed strange.

I soon found out the reason after I joined one of the long queues and waited my turn.  When I got to the front of the queue I found myself in a queue for a whole new raft of self-service tills.  Had I known, I would have transferred myself to a different queue.  Anyway, defeated, I went ahead  and used the said self service tills which have replaced half of the tills in the store.  It went okay, save that there isn't enough room on the scale for more than one bag, which might be a problem should I want to do a larger shop.

Has Lidl introduced self service tills in your area?  If not, be warned it may be coming to a store near you.  I have to admit I was slightly disappointed, as I do prefer to be served by a person, as opposed to a computer,  but I guess you can't hold back the tide of progress (?) can you? Another sign that the store has sadly become a victim of it's own success. In spite of the changes, I'm sure I will still shop there as I always have done and who knows it may actually reduce the queues, once everyone gets used to the new layout.