Thursday 31 August 2017

Monthly Roundup - August

Back in London and it's reconciliation time with regard to the finances. It's been an exciting month this month, what with getting my first wage from the temporary job at the CS.  It has made things a lot easier all round and I have to admit to a few indulgences as a consequence, but I'm hoping I can be forgiven those.

All told, I was overspent again in most of the budgets, save for Food, in which I was £136.91 under budget.  This was mainly because the first and last weeks of the month we spent away and OH footed the bill for most of the food.  The surplus then became my spending money for both holidays, some of which was spent on food, but I don't keep track when I'm on holiday, because I'm on holiday! I just spend my spending money and nothing else.  In fact I didn't even do that this last time, as I came home with nearly 20 euros to spare, which is all good.  They'll go towards our next European holiday, whenever that might be.

Household expenditure was over by £24.33 this month, mainly because I had to buy some of the expensive shampoo I use and I bought two bottles which was more economical and which came to £20 or so.  I also had to purchase a large box of doggie bags as we ran out, but these will last a good few months now.

The Misc. budget went over by just £5.09 which was an improvement. No big expenditures here, just small expenditures on gifts/cards/gym car park tickets/a magazine and a new umbrella

My personal budget was over by £42.42 due to buying some new underwear and socks, a new rain mac, sweater, jeans and bag, plus a book too.  This was by way of a treat to myself for all my hard work at the CS these last two months really.

LB's budget was even more overspent at £55.96 over.  This was mainly due to uniform and other clothing purchases, plus I gave her an extra £30 pocket money to spend in the summer holidays when she was out and about with her friends. OH usually gives her pocket money, but due to having a bit more money myself I gave her some too. It's expensive being a teenager!

I did go £10 under budget on travel expenses this month though, which was a bonus, mainly due to two weeks of not being at work due to holidays/being out of London, etc.

Finally, the home budget was overspent by just £1.96, which was acceptable.  I bought a new casserole dish and some other small bits and bobs for the house this month.

The best thing about this month though, was that I was able to pay over £300 off my overdraft, which was wicked.  There's just under £400 left on it and I'm hoping to break the back of it this coming month. With no extra expenses planned this month and whilst still working at the CS and getting slightly more this month as I completed a full month there, I should be able to pay a fair bit off the balance. (Hopefully all, if I manage keep on track with spending)

I've still got uniform to buy for LB, namely trainers and a few other bits and pieces. There's a few more bits I'd like for the house, but only small things and more new gym gear for me if I can find any I like. I also do need to stock up on a few toiletries that I've run or am running out of, but otherwise there's not a lot I need or want.

If I can hold it all together and keep my head down, I might even be out of any debt by my birthday in October.  Wouldn't that be great.  I could start my 51st year actually living within my means and hopefully continuing to do so from then on.  I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Monday 28 August 2017

Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac

On Friday, during our holiday here in South West France, we ventured into the Dordorgne region to visit the medieval town of Sarlat and the beautiful gardens the title of this post refers to.

I just had to make a post of our visit, as they were very beautiful and well worth a visit, with something for everyone.

Our first stop was the Chateau which is 'an early 19th century luxury residence' of very simple construction.  The roof fascinated OH as it was made of limestone slabs or tiles and weighed more than 500 tons!

There were a few rooms open to the public that were interesting to view.

From here we ventured along some of the garden's walkways.  Thankfully the walkways were largely shaded by beautiful trees, which provided relief from the heat of the sun.

At the end of this one sat the Poets hut which marked the furthest point of the garden.

The Cliff walk and Belvedere (a viewing point) allowed beautiful views of the surrounding countryside of the Dordogne Valley.

There were playgrounds for younger family members and a netted path suspended from the trees called the Aire de Jeux, which is over 100 metres long.  It looked fun but we didn't  tackle it, as it was very busy at the time of our visit.

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of the garden were the boxwoods which were pruned into 'complicated vegetal forms' and are cut using hand shears twice a year.  They were spectacular.

A fantastic garden to visit and very reasonably priced at 9 euros for adults and 4 euros 50 cents for children aged 10-17.  Children under 10 go free.

Sunday 27 August 2017

On Holiday

A rare post from me whilst we're actually away.  We're staying in a house on the outer edge of the Dordogne in South Western France. It's a lovely part of the country and a part of France we have never explored before.  Having said this, we're doing more relaxing than exploring on this visit, despite the amazing historical places of interest in the vicinity that will require another visit sometime.

We arrived in France early on Wednesday morning, and after a 10 or 11 hour drive (including several stops) we got to our destination.  The house we have rented is very nice and very spacious and there's an indoor pool to enjoy the benefit of on the lovely hot days here.

On account of the journey and the build up to coming away, whereby I was working three days solid, our first day was one of decompressing and hanging around the house and garden. We did the obligatory supermarket shop, to get provisions for the week and find our way about the nearest small town.

The following day, we ventured further afield to the medieval town of Sarlat and after a wander around the town, an enjoyable Plat du Jour and the perusing of a fabulous French cookware shop, we headed on to a very special garden called Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac.  I'll do a separate post on this visit as it was very beautiful.

Yesterday, was Saturday, and after a wander around a local market in town, we bought a rotisserie chicken (a traditional treat on our visits to France) and headed home for lunch, followed by an afternoon in the pool and sunbathing in the garden.

OH needed to get to bed early, as today, he is cycling in a race in Albi, an ancient town about two hours from here.  LB and I didn't join him getting up at 4am this morning and instead we are having a lazy day here, pleasing ourselves. Lazy being the operative word.  As I sit writing this, it is 12.15pm and I am still in my nightdress, something I only ever do on holiday, never at home.  The sun is just coming out from behind the clouds and it's going to be another steaming hot day. Probably time to make a move and get dressed.

I hope you're having a good week.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Going Back and Getting Packed

It's been a strange old week this week.  Work has been intense and very busy for the most part, and completely exhausting, but enjoyable nevertheless.

On Thursday, I managed my usual class at the gym before heading off to a meeting at my old CS. It was lovely to see everyone again and interesting to see how things were going there. I did get into a slightly heated interaction with one quite forthright volunteer, who launched into some fairly serious criticisms of the previous manager.  I wasn't impressed and felt someone had to step up and defend her in her absence.

Besides not being very appropriate, seeing as many of the people present hadn't even worked with her, it was unnecessary and irrelevant in many ways to talk about her at all. Obviously, some people still have an axe to grind, and I'm not really interested in having to listen to their views in that particular situation. Sometimes, you've just got to let things go and move on. I think people probably found me a bit more forthright than when I'd been there last, but I don't really care all that much.

I have to admit that this left me with mixed feelings about going back to the shop when I finish this job. Sometimes, in my experience, going back can be a mistake, but I do feel a degree of loyalty to the new manager, who put me forward for the opportunity of a paid job. I'm just playing it by ear at the moment and will decide one way or the other nearer the time.

It also made me notice how different the energy and the dynamics are in the previous shop, and at the moment, I'm finding the atmosphere at the new shop much more positive, despite it's difficulties on occasion. This may be the fact that it is too busy to engage in petty politics and I do realise that this could change over time or that I might just be oblivious for the moment.

Sometimes, when you go back into a situation as an outsider, you can see the reasons you were happy to leave in the first place and things that you did notice, but chose to ignore, can seem amplified and less tolerable. I don't want to seem ungrateful or give the impression that I feel superior or anything, because I don't, but I just felt a lot less comfortable in some respects going back.

Anyway,  I was back at the new shop on Friday and managed to get a few things done.  I've now got my objectives from the manager and I was largely working towards achieving the with the help of a little delegation, which he is encouraging me to do more, although I can't say it comes naturally to me. (I do like to be a hands-on manager.)

I've had a day off today (Saturday), before I begin a solid three day stint of working tomorrow, prior to us going on holiday to France early on Wednesday. I've been trying to pack, iron, do laundry, shop for food for the next few days, catch up on financial/admin tasks, read and write blog posts, harvest at the allotment, pickle excess produce, etc. 

I decided to put the cleaning on hold completely for this week, as there's just too much else to do. I'll pick up where I left off when we get back from France. I'm definitely not giving up on the Flylady system, as it's been working well for me, I've just got a bit too busy between holidays.

In September, I should be able to get back to normal, especially once LB is back at school and by which time the allotment will be making fewer demands on my time. I'm hoping to get back into a regular routine quite quickly, without too many interruptions and I'm almost looking forward to getting back before we even go away. (Well, not entirely.)

I hope you've all had a good week.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Allotment Update/Harvest

Monday night, I popped across to the allotment.  It had been a week since my last visit, after getting back from Yorkshire.  Just enough time for more things to grow to their full potential, but not quite go over and get too big.

Sadly the climbing beans had gone over, so I didn't harvest any more.  It's the same scenario in the garden beds.  I harvested a few from there on Sunday and we had them with the roast dinner, but the remaining ones I'm going to let develop into seeds and sow them next year, as this years harvests have been pretty prolific.

Although the climbing beans are now over, there should be some runner beans to come, from a self seeded plant which has grown quite big and wrapped itself around some sunflowers.  There are lots of flowers on it at the moment and the beans will probably be ready to harvest when we get back from France.

I'm afraid I didn't take my camera to the plot, so no pictures of the plot itself, but it is producing quite a bit of food for our first year there.  It does seem to be working out so much better than the old plot, as harvesting is so quick and easy. Here's what I brought back with me this week. (This is not intended to be braggy, just an update on the productivity of the new plot compared with the old one!)

Maintaining the appearance of the plot is still quite a challenge, as the weeds seem to grow back quite quickly and when you go away, there's always lots of stuff to catch up on at home, before getting the chance to go to the plot.  I know that I'm going to need to do a lot of work on it when we get back from France, but it will wait until then, as I just don't have the time before we go to do anything other than harvest.  To be honest, my plot is probably one of the tidier ones on the site, I just hope there aren't any inspections whilst I'm away, but I think it's probably too late in the season for that now.

We've been doing our best to eat our way through everything that we've grown, but the cucumbers are a challenge as there's just so many of them.  I might try to pickle some, which is something my mum always did, as it might be nice to have a pickled cucumber sandwich from time to time. I've been pickling the beetroot and enjoying eating it. This week's beetroot are small though, so it's just as well I won't be harvesting any more for a couple of weeks as it will give them chance to grow bigger.

The rhubarb has gone mad both at the plot and at home in the garden.  I will need to buy some crumble mix (I don't make my own) and freeze some to use it up.

The kohl rabi I tend to put in casseroles or stews to bulk them out and the potatoes we've been eating as wedges or mash. I just dig a couple of plants up each week and use them up before digging up any more.

I've learnt a lot about what I want to grow on the plot in the future this season.  I will be growing bought tomato plants in there next year and try to be more successful at successional salad sowing.  Potatoes are a good option too, as are the cucumbers and courgettes, but maybe not quite so many of the courgette plants are necessary.  Beetroot, radish and kohl rabi have been great this year but I haven't used the kale or the chard as we don't really eat it in our house.  I may try to make some kale chips with the dehydrator in September, otherwise it will have been a complete waste of time growing it. 

I've now got mustard leaves growing and some fennel, so they should be interesting later in the season. I'd love to get some raspberries onto the plot next year, but will have to buy some to do that, so it all depends on the finances really. I will be trying to grow more spring onions next year though as I didn't really have much success with them this year and I am partial to them in my salads from time to time.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with progress on the plot this year and hope to do even better next year. I'll post some pictures when we get back from France and I have more time to work the plot and tidy it up.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 14

This last week or so we've been back in London and getting back to our normal lives. Having been paid from the CS, I was feeling a little less broke than normal, but have still been trying to stick to my budget and pay off my overdraft as soon as I can.

Frugal Fails in recent weeks include the following:

1) I bought a pair of black jeans whilst we were away and I was sure they were my size, as the label attached stated they were.  I didn't try them on as I'd bought previous pairs and knew the fit but when I went to put them on, to wear them to work the other day, I realised that they were a size 12, which I haven't been able to wear for a decade.  I was a bit disappointed to say the least.  They didn't cost much, only £8, but I can't return them, as there's not a shop anywhere I know of in the south, so I may have to donate them.

2) I got access to my wage slip on returning to work and was slightly disappointed to see that I don't actually earn quite as much as I had been led to believe.  As I haven't actually received my contract yet, I don't know if there's been an error or I was just led to believe the pay was better than it actually is. I'm not too worried, as I'm just grateful for a paid job really, but it's always nice to earn a little bit more and see the overdraft go down a little quicker.

3) I did splurge a bit this week both on a few items in the H&M sale online and at Primark whilst picking up the H&M order.  One of the items I bought online at H&M was another school skirt for LB though, which was on my list of required purchases.

Freebies and Frugal measures on the other hand have included:

1) I received a few more vouchers from Tesco to use on my grocery shopping.  The first was a £4 off a £30 spend, which got used our first week back in London.  There were also lots of extra points vouchers for things that I regularly buy, so I used quite a few of those on this shop too to gain a couple of hundred extra Clubcard points, which will go towards renewing some of my free magazine subscriptions through the Clubcard scheme.

2) I moved some more savings into a savings bond this month to get a better rate of interest.  The sum is now for all intents and purposes committed for 3 years, to get the interest rate offered, but I can sell the bonds should I need the money out. I've been meaning to commit to this particular bond for a while, but was waiting to see if I needed the money for our new kitchen.  That project has now been put on hold for a while, so I've moved the money to get better returns over the next few years. This will increase my monthly passive income from investments a little bit more, which is always nice to know.

3) I also transferred some more funds into my share trading account and bought some more shares this week too.  The returns on them are better than the interest offered by the banks at the moment.  I know they are a bit riskier, but it's a risk I'm comfortable with, as I'm committed for the long term. Again, this is something I've wanted to do for a few months and I've had the shares I want to buy earmarked and have been watching them for a while. I don't think I'll be increasing my investments much more for the time being though.

4) Whilst looking for shares to purchase, I came across a list of shares that offer extra perks to shareholders and was pleased to see that some vouchers should be coming my way in January on account of my holding some M&S shares.  Not sure what value or how many I will receive, but anything is something.  The shares of one company on the list, that offer such perks, is now being watched with interest, as buying shares with them could save me extra money on something that I'm already paying out for every month.

5) I paid £1 instead of £2.50 for parking when I went to collect a parcel from our local Mall.  It involved a much longer walk to get to the shops, but it was worth it and cheaper than getting the parcel delivered to our home address (although I wouldn't have spent the money I did in Primark if I had done).

I hope you've had a frugal few weeks if that is what you have been aiming for.

Monday 14 August 2017

This Weekend

This weekend wasn't a particularly productive one at home.  On Friday I did manage to do my Zone cleaning in the kitchen, but failed to do my Weekly Home Blessing, due to doing a more thorough job on the kitchen than I had intended.

Saturday, I was at the CS.  The day didn't get off to a good start as I had to walk the dog, which I don't normally do on a Saturday morning, and as a consequence, I ended up being a few minutes late after getting on the slower of the two buses that take me to work, due to it being the first one to turn up at the bus stop.

It wasn't a big deal as one of the interns had the keys and had opened up, but it did mean that I started on the wrong foot and then due to communication issues, I ended up doing some work that wasn't really a priority for the first hour or two.

The remainder of the day was spent trying to make inroads into a donation mountain, that had accummulated in the two days since I'd been in the shop.  I did my best, but there was still a lot left to sort. It was physically tiring too, so I was pretty exhausted by the time I got home. I had had to spend 10 minutes before catching the bus, trying to find somewhere to top up my Oyster card, as I hadn't had time to do it in the morning and didn't have enough on it to get me home unless I did.

By 10pm I was in bed asleep, after almost falling asleep whilst watching a Spanish Crime Drama on BBC 4.

Sunday, I was up and walking the dog, then out to my usual class, followed by my weekly grocery shop at Lidl and Tesco. By the time I got home it was 2pm, so I didn't get an awful lot else done that day, save for a bit of washing, the ironing and cooking a roast chicken for supper.

Today, I had to drop in to our local mall after my class at the gym to pick up some items I'd ordered in the H&M sale. I tried them on whilst there to save another journey if I didn't like the fit, but they were okay thankfully. 

I did have an extra little splurge in Primark whilst in the Mall and bought a large bottle of perfume for daily use, as I'm almost out of the small one I bought from there a few weeks ago.  I also bought a new back pack, as my current one is suffering from some serious wear and tear, and a new pair of black jeans to replace the ones I'd bought whilst we were away that were the wrong size. Some of my older pairs of black jeans are now looking very faded and a bit scruffy for work, so they'll be relegated to cleaning and gardening wear. I spent £25 in total, but they were all things I needed for everyday and work use.

This afternoon, was my only opportunity to go ahead and buy the new shares that I wanted to purchase, as I'm working or otherwise occupied on the other weekdays this week when the Stock Exchange is open, so I prioritised this task over cleaning.  I think I'm going to roll over all the cleaning to next Saturday, when I've got a full day for cleaning and packing before we go to France for a week next Wednesday. The house isn't especially dirty, so I'm not worried about leaving it for a week. Sometimes life happens and you've got to put it on the backburner.

I'm working Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week I think and on Thursday there's a little gathering at my old shop in the afternoon, that I'm hoping to attend.  It will be nice to see everyone and catch up.  I spoke to my old manager on the phone last week for the first time in a month, as I needed some help with something and he was very kind and patient in assisting me.

For the rest of today, I'm hoping to pop to the allotment to harvest some crops and then have a bath after supper, ready for work tomorrow. I hope you've had a good weekend.

Friday 11 August 2017

Errand Day

Thursday here was Errand Day, which is the only part of the Flylady system that I got completed on this particular day. As usual, I'm pretty tired after a couple of days at work, so I don't always feel like full on cleaning.  My first day off is usually about resting and decompressing, so I'm hoping to get on with some cleaning tomorrow, namely a Weekly Home Blessing and some zone cleaning in the kitchen or Zone 2.

After my class at the gym in the morning, I had a parcel to pick up from the Post Office Depot, which contained some silicone ice cube trays that I'd ordered on eBay weeks ago, to replace our current novelty shaped ones that I'm now donating.  (They did come all the way from China!) I was  happy with them as they were pretty sturdy, unlike some floppier ones you can buy, which spill water over the sides when you try to carry them to the freezer. They were good value too.

I also needed to do a top up shop for some groceries we were out of, which necessitated calling in at both Lidl and Tesco, but some things weren't available in one or other shop.

When I got back I spent most of the rest of the day doing some personal financial stuff. I've decided to move some of my savings into other investments, as the interest rate where they are is diabolical.  Some are going into some bonds for a few years and some are going to be used to buy some more shares, so I was transferring monies, checking bank statements, that sort of thing. I probably won't do this again for at least another six months, as I don't want to take too many risks with my money and I don't want too much of it tied up for too long either.

The main reason I did it on this occasion, is that we've decided to put the kitchen extension on hold for a while, as building costs are going up and up at the moment and OH wants to concentrate on paying as much off the mortgage as possible for a while. I'm very happy with the decision, as I wasn't too sure about spending the amount it was going to cost and I wasn't looking forward to the disruption either. We'll probably just do some minor renovations ourselves instead for the time being.

I did manage to do a load of washing too, but other than this, not a lot got done around the house, but it isn't too untidy due to us being away.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Back in the Swing of Things

It's Wednesday evening, and we've been back in London since Sunday night. I was pleased to get home and positively looking forward to getting back to work.  I worked Tuesday and Wednesday this week and will be working again on Saturday.

Tuesday was a bit of a shock. There'd been a massive influx of donations in the week I'd been away and the sorting room was piled up everywhere. I can't complain, as it was possibly partly due to my being away, but then we're all entitled to a holiday. The manager hasn't been there most of the time for the past two days, so I've been getting back into the swing of managing the shop myself.

My first day back was a disaster, as there were problems with the card machine which took a while to resolve and took up lots of my time, in addition, I spent a while getting the shop back to how I like it to look and making a few changes to the clothing/accessories displays. 

Today was better, as I felt I actually did some of the bread and butter work that needed doing, although there were still lots of interruptions. I'm looking forward to Saturday, as it tends to be a little quieter without the interns to manage and I can just get on and do whatever are the day's priorities.

I have to say, that some of the interns have improved in my absence and are easier to manage. Others have become a little more difficult, however. There were a couple of absences through sickness today though, which left fewer hands on deck, but I guess this is just part and parcel of any workplace. Having spoken to other managers today, it sounds like everyone is in the same boat.

I'm definitely enjoying being back though and getting back up to speed with shop life, lets hope this continues.

Sunday 6 August 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 13

Frugal Measures and Freebies this last week or two have included the following:

1) I decided on a very quick visit to T K Maxx one day a couple of weeks ago, and although I realise this is quite a dangerous thing to do for someone who is trying to stick to a budget, I did manage to find something from my wish list at a very good price.  This set of two Kitchen Aid kitchen towels came home with me for the great price of £3, as opposed to their usual price of £5.99 in the same store.  I love this brand as they are very good quality (I have some already). I'm still sticking to dark colours as you can see, to help disguise any accumulated food stains. It seems to be working as a strategy.

The only other thing I bought was a Christmas gift for someone, which was also on clearance.

2) More free seeds - Perpetual Spinach, Lettuce and Sorrel.

3) I used another £3 off a £30 spend at Tesco voucher on the grocery shop. 

4) I defrosted the freezer, so that I could freeze lots of this year's allotment and garden produce, which saved it going to waste (although some of last years produce from the freezer did have to be thrown away). I'm going to try harder to use it up this year, so the same problem doesn't recur.  I also pickled some beetroot too which I took with us when we went away and have been eating in my salads this past week.

5) I gave a small leather satchel that I had bought for myself, but only used once, to my niece as a birthday gift.  It was in immaculate condition, but I just know that I will never use it again and she loved it, so that saved the money I would have spent on her gift. I did buy her a few small gifts to go with it too.

6) We got a free week's break in Yorkshire this week, by volunteering to housesit for some relatives that have lots of animals that needed taking care of. It turned out to be very peaceful and relaxing, which was just the antidote to our normal everyday lives in London.

Frugal Fails have included:

1) Being overcharged for travel on my Oyster card, which I had a rant about in a previous post. TFL still owe me £7.20.  If I remember, I'll try to claim it back next time I travel on a tube or train.

2) I forgot to take my water bottle to work the other day and ended up buying a very nice donated Klean Kanteen instead.  I don't regret it though, as these stainless steel bottles are beautiful items and seem to keep the water nice and cool.

3) When we went up to Yorkshire for a week, LB forgot to take anything suitable to wear for her cousin's 21st birthday party, so I had to buy her something whilst we were there. I tried to keep spending to a minimum though.

4) LB also needed a wetsuit for a short break she is taking soon with some friends, so I had to purchase one for her, as I didn't know anyone who had one that would fit her that I could borrow from. This cost £25, which was a bit of a blow to last month's budget, but I'm sure it will come in useful occasionally and I can always resell it at a later date.

Saturday 5 August 2017

Visiting Helmsley Walled Gardens

On Friday afternoon, we spent an hour or two in the Market town of Helmsley, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.  The town itself is very pretty, although I didn't take many photos of the market square and surrounding areas, but here's a picture of the pretty beck that runs alongside the town square, which is the other side of the bridge.

After having paninis for lunch at a cafĂ© just off the square and stocking up on a few bits of food at the market, we headed off to take a look around Helmsley's Walled Garden, which sits in the shadow of Helmsley Castle. I can never resist a walled garden, they just intrigue and fascinate me.

You could get a great view of the castle from the garden.

The gardens themselves were beautiful.  They had a lovely relaxed feel.  Not too manicured, with a bit of wildness to them. Some of the borders were beautiful. I just love the contrast of planting with bare walls in this type of garden.

I particularly liked some of the views through the garden, created by the footpaths, doors and other ornamental features.

This wild flower border was exquisite.

I also admired this bug hotel, which actually looked like it might be quite easy to replicate.

There was an area given over to community garden plots.

Made up of multiple raised beds that I assume are loaned out to local community groups and were used to grow all manner of flowers and vegetables.

There was an orchard and vegetable beds growing lots of different edibles.

The greenhouses were also worth taking a look at and incorporated some beautiful floral displays of less hardy plants.

It was a wonderful place to visit on a lovely summer's day and the dog could along come too. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.

Friday 4 August 2017

Still Housesitting

We're still housesitting here in Yorkshire and on Wednesday I finally out to a local fitness class. It was a class that I haven't tried before called Fitsteps, a kind of ballroom fitness class.  It made an interesting change to what I normally do, but many of the steps were similar to those you do at Zumba classes, so it wasn't too difficult to pick up the routines.

I combined this with a quick trip into a local town to check my bank balance and do a couple of errands.  I was pleased to see that I have in fact been paid for the month of work that I've just completed at the CS, which is good news.  Hopefully, it will help me pay my overdraft off a little quicker.

Later on we headed out for supper to a local restaurant, which was enjoyable and I got to have a night off cooking on a very unfamiliar to me Aga. When we got back we watched a movie online before retiring for the night.

Thursday morning, I got up early and took a turn at walking the dogs around the fields. It was quite nice to be up and out for a change, instead of lying in bed reading. (I still did a bit of this). After yet more very changeable weather, including some torrential rain showers, we took our dog out to the beach at Barmston, near Bridlington in the afternoon which was very enjoyable to be able to breathe in some fresh coastal air as we walked along the sands. It's a lovely spot and the wind turbines there look very majestic and graceful as they turn.  The dog loved it too, as she doesn't get to go to the beach too often these days.

Today, we head to the North Yorkshire market town of Helmsley for their weekly market and possibly lunch out. I may try to take some photos whilst there for another post.

Thursday 3 August 2017

A Family Visit and a Trip into Town

Tuesday, during our week of house sitting, turned out to be a bit of an errand day. The day started in a leisurely fashion.  I had a bit of a lie in reading a new book.  This current read is an autobiography/memoir by Fay Weldon. I devoured her novels in my early twenties and read many of them.  This book 'Auto Da Fay' is very entertaining so far. Her family background is a very interesting one.

Anyway, after a leisurely breakfast and the completion of a few tasks, we eventually headed out for the afternoon.  We stopped in at OH's parents house for a couple of hours of chatting and catching up with news.

Unfortunately, I found out that a family friend of my family had died recently and the funeral had been that morning.  I contacted the deceased's sister and offered my condolences, which was all I could do at that late stage of finding out and promised to put a card in the post.

In addition, I found out from my sister, that her daughter, whose 21st birthday party is on Saturday had had a rough morning, having woken up with a trapped nerve in her neck, rendering her unable to move.  After some pain relief, she was feeling a bit better, so hopefully she'll be fully recovered by the weekend and her party will go ahead as planned.

The errands that I needed to do on this day, were to purchase her birthday present and to ensure that LB had something suitable to wear for the party, which meant a trip into town in Hull. I decided to compromise on LB's clothes and to buy her a school skirt that could double as part of her party outfit. I bought her a couple of different tops in the sale at H&M to go with it and she was sorted taking me just £10 over the budget, which seemed reasonable enough. I still need to purchase another school skirt for her when we get back to London, but I can probably leave it until September, as I'm most of the way to completing the purchase of her uniform now and she's got at least one of all the items she needs to return to school.

Once the shopping errands were completed, we headed the 30 miles or so back to the house and the animals. There are so many different jobs to do in looking after them, that it is quite tying and disappearing for a whole day is quite difficult. It makes a big change from our normal everyday lifestyle in London though, which is good and the country air and quiet surroundings means that I sleep well and wake up feeling very refreshed and rested, which is just what I need at the moment.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Settling In

We're currently in Yorkshire and settling into our home for the week.  The family members, for whom we are house and animal sitting, have departed for a week's holiday in the Ballaerics and we now have their huge house and garden to ourselves. It's very quiet and private here, so it's wonderfully peaceful and restful. I'm looking forward to doing lots of reading and dog walking, of course.

Talking about dogs, our dog has also come along, and is enjoying the freedom here, compared to life in London and is making herself very at home. Needless to say, none of the chickens dare come into the garden with her around, as she has been known to chase them, having not been brought up with them and trained to live in harmony with them.

We spent our first day housesitting just rattling around the house. In the morning, we headed into a nearby market town to stock up on food for the week and do a few other errands. In the afternoon, we just took it easy, settling into to our new accommodation.

OH and LB are getting used to the routine of feeding and caring for the animals here, namely two ponies, two dogs, chickens, fish in the pond and one cat. I'm responsible for the house and food, although I will probably help with the animals.

I don't like to post any photos of the house on the internet, as it's not our house, but here are a few shots of the garden and some of the animals.

(We're not looking after the sheep, this field is loaned out to a local livestock owner)

The weather here is incredibly changeable, with sunshine one minute, heavy rain the next, then sunshine again. It's not prevented us from doing anything thus far and we're enjoying the peace and quiet and the change of scenery.  Who wouldn't?

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Donated - July 2017

This month got off to a slow start, mainly due to starting my new job and being focussed on that, but I have managed to build up a bit of momentum towards the end of the month, as I got more settled in at work.  It wasn't, however, that great in terms of number of items donated or parts of my life simplified. Here's a list of the items donated this month.

1. One decorative ink blotter - never used, nor likely to be.
2. One home made wool fabric wreath.
3-4. Two wine glasses - These were placed on our gate post by the people who live next door.  However, OH wasn't happy to leave them there in case someone smashed them on the path or pavement outside our house, which could lead to our dog getting injured, so I brought them in and put them in the Give or Take box.
5-12. Eight books culled from LB's bookshelves.
13-24. Twelve books culled from my crafting bookshelf in the spare bedroom - I've decided to streamline my collection, as I do less and less sewing and crafting these days.  There's still a good selection left though, for when I need them.
25. One bottle of essential oil that I'm not too keen on the smell of.
26. One long sleeved school shirt that LB refuses to wear, as she gets too hot in it.
27. One fabric holdall of LB's recycled for rags.

Not such a good month in terms of simplifying and decluttering and when added to last month's total, my total so far this year now stands at 575, which is actually only 6 behind target, so it's  not too bad, despite the number being low this month.  I am, however, finding it harder and harder to find things to donate or recycle, which is a good thing, but I'm not sure if I will reach the target this year unless I make a concerted effort at some point to let go of more stuff.

Next month, I still need to declutter the sewing room/spare bedroom if I get the chance and it maybe time to tackle the cupboard in the hallway again and see if I can part with more of the things in there. My clothes may get another cull too, as there are still some items that I just never wear and some that are past their best, that I could recycle or repurpose. It will all depend on how much time I can muster to tackle these areas.

In terms of simplifying, I was relieved to get the freezer defrosted this month, as it is a job that has needed doing for months now. I'm determined not to put things in there that we will not use in future and keep it's contents simple and ones that get used up regularly. At least when we return to London, this job won't be one I will need to do as part of my Zone 2 cleaning.

I'll keep you posted about progress in next month's post.