Saturday 22 December 2018

The Little Things

Apologies for not posting very often this Christmas.  As you can imagine, working in retail, it's quite exhausting and manic at this time of year, even in a Charity shop.  My last few shifts have been a little crazy, which is all good for the charity, as lots of money has been raised, but has left me with little energy or time to focus on blogging, once I've caught up with household tasks on my days off.

When I have been off work, it has been the little things that have delighted me this Christmas: watching Xmas movies on TV, opening my various advent calendars (when I remember), treating myself to a new Christmas cactus (white this time),

watching my amaryllis grow extremely tall and straight (how do they do this?)

and treating myself to some festive foliage from Lidl, which helps make the kitchen feel Christmassy too.

I also invested in a festive reed diffuser for the downstairs toilet, (TMI, sorry)

and added lights to my front door wreath for the first time this year.

Bought for £1 from Poundland, they look great, even if I do say so myself.  We still haven't managed to get the icicle lights I bought from the CS in the summer, up on the front of the house, but I'm hoping we might do that on Saturday.

I posted off my last Christmas card on Thursday and also finished my gift wrapping.  I've been happy to see my stash of Christmas wrapping paper diminish, so that I can be a bit more eco friendly with my wrapping next year.  I did intend to do that this year, but I failed miserably, as I was seduced by shiny and cute wrapping paper in Poundland.  Next year, I want to print my own wrap using brown paper and poster paint.  I did it many years ago when LB was small and it worked very well, so I'd like to have another go at it next year. No more foil wrap for me, as it's not very sustainable.  I'm hoping to banish it from now on.

As usual, I've gone a bit overboard on the gifts again.  Many have been bought from the CS though, so at least a good cause benefitted from my spending. I hope to increase the number bought this way next year. It just makes sense, as we receive so many great things in our shop, that are new and unused, that it is totally feasible.

There's just some cleaning, the last minute food shopping and a visit to my GP for a health check on Xmas Eve left to do now, once I finish work for Christmas on Sunday evening.  I've got a complete break over the holidays until January 2nd, when I start back to work again.  I'm really looking forward to switching off completely after the madness of the last few weeks and going back feeling refreshed.

I'm not sure I'll get chance to post again before Christmas, so if I don't I just want to wish everyone a fabulous Christmas and New Year and I'll be reading your posts over the holidays

Thursday 13 December 2018

Christmas Catch Up

Well, it's officially now the silly season.  I enjoy seeing people spill out of Christmas office parties in Central London looking merry and spreading festive cheer. The shop has become crazy busy this week, which is a very good thing, but means that I've been very preoccupied getting as much stock into it as possible. It's amazing how many people come into the shop on a daily basis, we're kind of running out of stock of some things and finding it hard to replenish stocks of other things due to the speed with which things are being sold.  Obviously, this is all good and I'm happy that so many people are doing at least some of their Christmas shopping with us.

Last night, was our shop Christmas meal out.  We have a limited budget for eating out in Central London and last year we went over a bit, so I tried to make sure I booked somewhere that was well within budget.  We just about managed to stay within the budget, but the Manager and I split the bill for drinks between us in order to do so. I don't mind too much, as it's a way of thanking everyone for their hard work and I think we all had a pleasant evening. There were just 9 of us this year, as opposed to the 14 or so that came last year, but this kind of reflects the fact that we just don't have as many volunteers at the moment, as several volunteers have drifted off over the year, which is to be expected in many ways and is, of course, their prerogative.

I've decided that next year, I really do need to get a better work/life balance going on.  There have been too many nights this year when I've got home at 8.30pm or 9pm, which is way too late.  I'm going to try to resolve to get out of there by 6.30pm each night, so I should be home by 8pm at the very latest. I don't think that many other managers in our group will be staying so late every night, so why should we.  My manager agrees thankfully, so after all the festivities are over, we are hoping to do something about it.

Today, is my only full day off this week.  I worked on Monday afternoon/all day Tuesday, went in late yesterday for the meal and am going in late on Friday as our intern is leaving this week, then I am working all weekend. As a consequence, I'm trying to make the most of today and trying to get the things left on my list done and dusted.

This morning I wrote most of our Christmas cards.  I just need to complete the addresses on the envelopes of the ones I'm posting, buy some stamps and send them off.  Then I need to hang some chocolates on the Christmas tree, attach some small lights to the door wreath and then do a bit more gift wrapping.

Tonight, we are heading out to the mall for one last Christmas shopping outing.  I just need to buy a couple of cards for family members and OH's trainers and I'm done.  OH, however, has a bit of shopping still to do, so our outing will mainly be for him to complete his shopping. We will probably eat out too, which saves me cooking.

I'm feeling a bit tired today, as I woke up at 5am feeling cold and couldn't get back to sleep. I may  have a nap this afternoon or watch a Christmas movie on TV and just chill. There's always tomorrow for everything else and I do need to spend some time relaxing when I'm not at work.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Monday 10 December 2018

A Festive Saturday

This Saturday, I spent the day decorating the house for the festive season. It's a job I don't exactly relish, but it needs to be done and I do enjoy having the decorations up once they're in place.  I always like to clean the reception rooms before decorating them, so the day started with a good dust, hoover and mopping of the wooden floors.  I put my latest music playlist on, country music this time, I'm a secret fan.  My dad was crazy for country music and I guess I've inherited it a little.

Everyone had gone out, LB to a meet up with a friend and OH to a cycle race, so it was just me and the dog, who spent most of the time outside in the garden. As a consequence, I was left to get on with the job in peace, which, if I'm honest, I prefer. Once the cleaning was done, I set about getting the decorations out and putting up the tree.

I started with the decorations.  Nothing too special.  A few twinkly lights here and there, a few fir cones and artificial festive decorations to brighten up the furthest corners of the rooms.

The photo is of LB with Father Christmas when she was 10 months old.  So cute, it comes out every year.

The paper mache reindeer was made by LB when she was small, and also comes out every year.

I seem to have quite a collection of reindeer, so I found them a spot to hang out together on the sash window this year.

Last year's addition of a white berry wreath bought from a charity shop was back in use again.

Door adornments.

Finally, the tree, with LB's hand made angel (again made when she was small) and the wicker skirt I bought in a charity shop this year for £4.99.

One last new addition, that I couldn't resist, was our naughty elf, who is keeping an eye on the new sofa covers and will be reporting back to me any bad behaviour.

As you can see, the room is now looking pretty cosy and festive. One step further to being Christmas ready and it was very satisfying to tick this one off the to do list.

Saturday 1 December 2018

Christmas Starts Here

It's December 1st and as far as I'm concerned, Christmas starts here and now.  Well, actually, it probably started yesterday for me.  I was working in the morning and when I left work I decided to take a walk down Oxford Street, to get a few last Christmas gifts, namely some LUSH items for LB and an intern at work.

I was shocked walking down the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street, to see that part of the street was a building site, on account of the construction of the Cross Rail project.  It just shows how long it is since I've been down there.

Anyway, it was crazy busy with Christmas shoppers and there were buskers on street corners.  A girl with a particularly beautiful voice was busking outside M&S.  I had to stop to drop what change I had into her box and tell her what a beautiful voice she had.  Definitely a future pop star. I wish I'd paid more attention and asked her name to maybe look up her work online, but stupidly I was rushing like everyone else.  I continued to listen to her from the bus stop across the road after I'd done my shopping.

That little jaunt and the purchase of a few last things from the Charity Shop, all but concluded my Christmas shopping.  Just the trainers for OH to go and cash gifts to hand out and I'm done.  It feels great, as I can now savour the excitement of the season without the stress of thinking what to get everyone.

When I got up this morning, the first thing I did was to start off my digital advent calendar from I love these and sent one to each of my sisters last year.  They aren't super cheap at £3 or so, but I had a little money in my Paypal account, so treated myself again this year.  They include little games and tasks, which are great fun.

After having breakfast, I decided to do a Weekly Home Blessing on the kitchen, hall, vestibule and downstairs toilet, using my new cordless vac, of course.  The battery just about lasted out for these parts of the house and is now on charge.  I'll probably do upstairs using the corded vac, as it is carpeted and takes a little longer too.

Aside from this, I've spent this morning watching Vlogmas videos on YouTube, writing my Christmas To Do list, (which I printed off a favourite Vlogger's website, namely  She has provided lots of other free printables for Christmas and everyday on her blog, which you might find useful), baking star shaped mince pies and listening to a Christmas music playlist that I devised for the shop last weekend.

I'm starting to feel very festive and am looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations out of the loft some time this weekend.  I'll probably put the tree up next weekend though, as I'm working tomorrow, so I won't have time.

Work is starting to get busy, so I'm looking forward to concentrating on enjoying the hustle and bustle of the shop at Christmas.  We do have a few more volunteers this year, so it should be a bit less stressful than last year, when I spent most of my days working on the till, as there were so few of us.

Do you enjoy the lead up to Christmas? It's my favourite time of the year and always has been, particularly since I had LB. I'm also looking forward to reading about all of your Christmas preparations over the next few weeks.

I'm now heading off to get my chocolate, paper and candle advent calendars out and start opening all of the windows.

Friday 30 November 2018

Christmas Shopping - The End is in Sight

On Thursday this week, I decided to head out and do a bit more Christmas shopping.  There was one person, whose present I hadn't bought and needed to get, plus I needed a few stocking fillers for OH and LB.

I found myself at TK MAXX and Poundland, the former being perfect for the unbought present and the latter for the stocking fillers, although some of these were bought at both places.

I managed to find most of the things on my list, but I have to admit that a few extra things ended up in both baskets.  At TK MAXX I threw in a couple of things for OH to buy me for Christmas and I also found these lovely glass ornaments for the Christmas tree. I couldn't resist as they were so unusual.

Everything else consisted of gifts for others though, so I didn't fare too badly.

At Poundland, however, this wasn't the case.  I threw two jumpers and a pair of jeans into the basket from the clothing section. I needed a couple of jumpers to wear for work, as I've recently donated a couple to the Give or Take, because I didn't like how they looked on me.  The sweaters I bought were £12 and £8 respectively and the jeans £10. They fit pretty well and I've worn them for work today. I also wore one of the jumpers today too, but embarrassingly, whilst on the bus to work this morning, the girl sat behind me tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that the price tag was hanging out of the back of my coat.  I was very grateful to her for letting me know.  Many people wouldn't have bothered.

Anyway, I digress, another treat that I bought for myself at Poundland was this Airwick Christmas Tea Light Advent Calendar.  It was a little pricey for my liking at £5 for 24 tea lights, but as a Christmas treat, I thought it was excusable and I don't actually have any seasonal scented tea lights to put in my tea light holders, so I indulged. I've now got 4 advent calendars to open (one paper, one chocolate, one tea light and one digital) and an advent candle to light every day. That will keep me busy for the next three or so weeks.  You can tell I like this time of year and enjoy counting down the days, can't you?

I spent the most I've ever spent at Poundland in my life, namely £70.  I had real difficulty fitting everything on the till scale, as it all kept falling off and causing the assistant to have to come over and reset the self service machine.

There were, of course, other things in my basket too such as this book (I don't think I've read it), wrapping paper, stocking fillers for LB and OH, some food and some dog treats, so it was a real mixed bag of a shop.

At the risk of sounding a bit of a tightwad, Poundland is actually fast becoming one of my favourite destinations to shop, but I do try to be very discerning with regard to what I buy there.  I try to avoid plastic junk of any kind and things that won't last two minutes and are a false economy.  They are getting better and better with regard to the quality of some of the things they sell though. I've bought some great lipsticks from there recently and I'm often very impressed at what I can get for my money .

I probably won't be doing much more Christmas shopping now.  I've just got to buy a pair of trainers for OH (but he needs to come with me to choose them), get a few bits from LUSH for LB and an intern at work (who has been an absolute star these past couple of months), collect and pay for a few things I've set aside at the CS and then I think I'm just about done, which is fab, as I wanted to have my shopping finished by the end of November.

December will be all about buying the food and other things we need this Christmas, as we're staying put in London this year until about the 27th or 28th and we're all pretty happy about it.

How is your Christmas shopping coming along?

Thursday 29 November 2018

Monthly Round Up - November 2018

For the first time in a couple of months I ended up overdrawn this month, but by less than £100, which wasn't too bad.  I blame Christmas coming at me like a juggernaut and the fact that I paid off the sofa covers this month, which was a major expenditure.  Here are the final figures for the month:

Food Budget - Overspent by £65.  No real excuses here, just a bit over indulgent.

Household Budget - Overspent by £37.61. A stock up trip to Home Bargains accounted for some of this overspend, as I'm now very well stocked up on most of the toiletries I/we use.

Miscellaneous Budget - This budget came in 54p under budget this month, which was good as it included a meal out with a friend, plus sending off the Operation Christmas Child box.

My Personal Budget - This budget was overspent by £24.37. I bought a few items of clothing from M&S, and the CS, plus a few small treats from TK Maxx.

LB's Budget - Overspent by £9.97, mainly because I bought her some clothes and jewellery from the CS this month as a treat and I also paid £20 towards some new glasses for her at the opticians.

Home Budget - This went £106.96 overspent, on account of my buying myself a cordless stick vacuum this month. I paid for this on my credit card, so it will be paid for out of next month's wages.

Travel For Work Budget - This went £5 overspent as I used some credit to go out and about a couple of times on non-work related jaunts.

Christmas Budget - I budgeted £300 for Christmas this month, but only ended up spending £177.82 which meant this budget came in £122.18 under.  Just as well really to help cover some of my overspends.

Going into December I think I'm in an okay position to stay in the black this Christmas, or at least have only a very small overdraft, but I will try to avoid this. I have budgeted another £300 for Christmas, but I'm not sure that I'll need to spend this much money, so any left over should go towards paying off my credit card and overdraft. I should also receive my pay rise from work, which I've been informed is nowhere near as much as I was hoping for.  It is frankly a pathetic amount, and equates to a pay cut I suspect when inflation is taken into account.  Every extra bit of money helps though.  I'll keep you posted on whether I manage to stay in the black this Christmas.

I hope your budgets weren't busted like mine this month.

Saturday 24 November 2018

A Quiet Black Friday Here

As the title suggests, it was a very quiet Black Friday here.  So much so, that I didn't venture out to a shop and I didn't spend a penny.

I was working on Thursday and it was a very busy day with lots going on.  The two new Deputy Managers were both working and the Shop Manager came in so we could all have a meeting together. 

In addition, I spent the last two hours of the day creating one of our Christmas shop windows, trying to choose suitably sparkly clothing and accessories, attach fairy lights and decorate the small tree (I got help with this from our intern). The resulting window, I thought, looked quite pretty, but I didn't really get chance to take a photo, as by the time I'd finished it was time to close up the shop.

Consequently, on Friday I was feeling a bit frazzled and couldn't really face getting stuck into anything at home or going out anywhere shopping.  Instead, I had a quiet day at home trying to devise a Christmas music playlist for the shop, watching a Christmas movie and starting a jigsaw that I'd bought a few weeks ago.  I needed something to help me wind right down from work and shopping just wouldn't have done it for me.

I may venture out today with OH in an attempt to buy his main Christmas present, (he would like some new trainers) if we both feel like it, or we may just leave it until another weekend.

On Wednesday this week, I had arranged to meet a couple of friends from the gym to go out to lunch and catch up. Unfortunately, one friend wasn't feeling well and had to cancel, so the remaining friend and I decided to make a change from visiting our usual restaurant and meet at Canary Wharf instead.  It's probably a year since I've been there and I always enjoy visiting, especially as there were lots of twinkling Christmas lights, making it feel very festive.  We had a lovely Vegan burger at the Gourmet Burger bar, a good old chat and had a bit of a mooch around the shops too.  It made for a very pleasant afternoon.

Talking of restaurants, on Sunday night after I'd finished work, OH and LB came into town to meet me and we all headed off to a local Italian restaurant to eat.  I deliberately wanted to try this restaurant, as this is where I have now booked our shop's Christmas meal.  The food was good and the prices were within our budget, which is the most important thing. Last year, after arriving at the chosen restaurant, we found that the prices were more than the menu I'd found online, which wasn't ideal, as we have a very defined budget to spend. Anyway, I now just need to telephone the restaurant manager and confirm the booking/prices and then it will be one less thing to think about in the coming weeks.

Other things I did this week included posting off Christmas cards to my sister in Australia. I thought I'd missed the last posting date, but I think I confused economy parcel post with air mail for letters. As I only send cards these days, it is much easier and much less expensive these days too.

I also spoke to my other sister, who lives in Yorkshire this week, and we had a bit of a catch up and a discussion about Christmas presents for our respective daughters.

In all, it's been a mildly productive week.  I bought a few more Christmas presents, both from the CS and whilst out grocery shopping and paid a visit to Poundland, where I bought the contents for a Christmas Eve Bucket for LB.  It will include flavoured popcorn, chocolate, a drink and a movie.  I always buy her pyjamas to open on Xmas Eve, but this year I decided to make her an extra little something, after getting the idea from a YouTube video.  I hope she likes my choice of movie, Footloose with Kevin Bacon.  She likes 80's fashion, so I'm hoping she'll like a good old 80's movie to watch.

With mixed feelings, I have to report that the mouse that never went near a mousetrap, finally succumbed to one this week.  We felt a little sad, as it had almost become part of the family, but it's not really ideal nor hygienic to have mice in the house.  I hate to kill any of God's creatures, but some creatures are not so welcome in our homes. RIP mousey, I hope you had a good life and enjoyed your stay whilst you were with us.

This weekend I'm not working, so I will probably catch up with housework, tackle the ironing mountain and continue with my jigsaw.  Not very exciting, but enough for me at the moment.  LB starts her mocks next week and is busy revising, so we're all very home centred at the moment.

I hope you had a good week.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

New Sofa Covers at Last

As mentioned in my last post, the new sofa covers that I ordered back in October, arrived this week.  They took far less time than I thought, as initially I had to wait until the fabric came back into stock and then the covers had to be made up, before being shipped out from Australia I think, or maybe it was Singapore.  I'm not sure which, but it was the other side of the world.  Why was that, you might ask?  Not very eco friendly.  Well the sofa in question, was one we bought from IKEA over 15 years ago, which has been discontinued for probably 10 years now.

Over the years, I've looked out on eBay for new covers and one new set did come up, but seemed expensive at the time.  If only I'd known how much I would end up spending on some, I'd have snapped them up.  Anyway, after researching, there were a couple of companies that made covers, one in Europe, one in Australia.  I ordered swatches from each and checked out all of the reviews online and the ones that we liked best, that also seem to get the best reviews, came from Comfort Works in Australia, which is where I placed the order.

I was really impressed with the service, they kept me updated along the way, save for dispatch, which made it a nice surprise when the parcel arrived this week.  The covers were beautifully packed in a drawstring bag, inside a box.  It was like opening up a subscription beauty box.

I finally managed to get them on the sofa on Saturday. I didn't want to put new covers on the sofa in a room that was dirty, so I made the effort to do a full clean of the reception rooms, and then with a bit of help from OH, I managed to get the new covers on.  The base cover and the back cushions fitted perfectly, but the base cover was so snug, it was difficult to get on, hence why I got OH involved.  It looks great though.  The large seat cushions were slightly loose in places, but I can live with that. 

Overall, I'm thrilled, it's like having a new sofa, and knowing I've saved this sofa from going to landfill is even more satisfying.  Here's a couple of pictures of the room before and after.  The creases need to drop out yet, but I think the new covers make the room seem a lot more cosy and pulled together.



(I was watching a sneaky Christmas movie whilst cleaning the room!)

I'm now driving everyone mad, making rules about not eating on the sofa or letting the dog jump up onto it, but after paying nearly £350 for them, I'm sure you'll understand why. I think my annual wage rise, which we get in a lump sum next month, should cover the majority of the spend.

Our next big expense in this room, will be to buy a new armchair in a co-ordinating fabric, but I think that will have to wait until next year now. When we do, we will, of course, be giving the current one away to a Give or Take for someone else to make use of it.

I'm now looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations up in a couple of weeks time, which will make the room seem even cosier and lovely and festive.  I'll post again, when I've done this.

Sunday 18 November 2018

A Crazy Week

It's been an interesting week. Lots of crazy and good things happened to make it so.  Here are a few of them:

On Saturday, LB and I headed out to a local(ish) Sixth Form College to look around on their Open Day.  She is taking her GCSE's this year and has to consider what she is going to do next. Unfortunately, her current school is not teaching one of the main subjects that she wants to study at A level, so we're considering other options. 

This place was great and really impressed me. She would be able to do all of the subjects she wants to do here and it is only a half hour bus ride away. It would also be a great stepping stone to university and a completely different experience from school.  It was nice for just us two to have an outing and I'm pleased that I went. It will be interesting to see what she decides to do. I'll keep you posted.

On Sunday and Monday, it was great to get back to the gym and do a couple of classes. I haven't been able to attend many lately due to work commitments, so this was a positive and made me realise how much I've missed them.

On Tuesday I was back to work for three days consecutively.  The first two days went okay, but my last day of the stretch was a disaster.  There was so much going on.  The Manager and Area Manager were interviewing for another Deputy, there was a shop lifting incident and a professional thief using slight of hand managed to rob us of some money.  We caught it all on camera, but the police won't do anything as the amount wasn't large enough. Then to top it all, the till stopped working and we had to shut the shop early. A disastrous day. The things people do to steal from charity shops are just unbelievable. Anyway, one good thing was that the lady who was recruited from the interviews seemed very nice which is hopeful at least.

LB had a difficult week too with a Drama assessment for her GCSE, which by all accounts didn't go too well.  She was quite upset about it, but it only accounted for 8% of her marks, which was a pretty small percentage, so by the next day she had got it more into perspective. Hopefully, it won't affect her results too much if it was as bad as she thought.

Needless to say, I was really pleased to get home and have a couple of days off and be able to spend time talking to LB and catch up with jobs at home. I got an email from my sister in Australia, who I haven't heard from in quite a while, which was nice. I had been meaning to email her, but just hadn't got around to it, so it was good to catch up.

My sofa covers also came this week, bang in the middle of my work days, so I didn't get the chance to put them on and see what they looked like.  I was really excited to do so, but I wanted to clean the living room first, which I managed yesterday, which leads me to another thing that I did this week.

I bought a cordless stick vacuum cleaner. I've been thinking about it for a while, particularly as I hate lugging our Henry type hoover all over the house. I'm done with that if I can help it. I need to make life as easy for myself as possible now that I'm working. The one I bought wasn't too expensive at £120, but it had lots of good reviews, so I'm hoping it will be worth the expense.

That just about sums up the week. A bit of a roller coaster, but we got through it. I'm back at work today, Sunday, but not until I've dropped some more decluttered items off at the last Give or Take of the year and a local charity shop.

I hope your week was a positive one.  Lets face it, we all need some positivity at the moment, especially with BREXIT hogging the news for all the wrong reasons. Next week is new week.  I'm hoping it's a little less eventful.

Friday 16 November 2018

Shoebox Time Again

It's that time of year when Operation Christmas Child has come around again.  I wasn't going to get involved this year, as a couple of years ago, when I paid online in order to trace my box, they told me that they couldn't tell me where it went, which I found very disappointing and which put me off sending another one.

Anyway, after watching a few videos on YouTube about them and having a rethink, I decided to send one again. It doesn't really matter where it goes, but it is good to hear that someone somewhere has received it.

Before heading out and spending money on lots of stuff, I decided to shop our house for new things that hadn't been used that I could send off. We all have so much stuff these days, that there's always brand new things kicking around that have never been used for one reason. We really are much more fortunate than we realise.

Watching some of the videos, it seemed that many children cannot go to school unless they have the necessary stationery available to them, which is absolutely ludicrous. We buy such things so cheaply here from pound shops and other places and often keep stockpiles of it just waiting to be used in our homes.

After having a conversation with a volunteer at work, whose family lives in a war torn country, she told me that even simple ballpoint pens cost the earth when little reaches their country. Having difficulty affording something so small, that we take for granted everyday, must make it difficult to even write a list/letter or fill out a form.

With all this in mind, I decided to create a box for a 10-14 year old girl, as this was the closest age to LB and I was led to believe from the videos, that fewer boxes get sent for the older children.  On scouring the house, I actually found quite a lot that was suitable to send.  Here's a list and a photo.

1 - A bar of soap - it has to be individually wrapped.
2 - A pink poncho.
3 - A small sewing kit and fabric to make a small bag. I think this came with a magazine or book and I added a few extras to it from my sewing room.
4 - A small pack of coloured paper straws.
5 - A pretty pair of ankle socks with a sparkly bow - I'd bought these as an Xmas gift for someone else, but decided they could be spared.
6 - One small tin of unused  hair ties.
7 - One new pink scrunchie.
8 - A pack of Trump like playing cards - Normal playing cards are not allowed.
9 - A pair of black leather ballet shoes - I bought these for me, but to be honest they were a little small and I can't honestly see myself donning leotard and tights until I lose a couple of stone. Besides, what if they could inspire a girl somewhere to dance or even to wear them as slippers.
10 - Three small unused wooden stamps with a new sealed ink pad.
11 - Two small notebooks, one lined, one plain paper.
12 - Four new pencils, two with erasers on the end.
13 - Eight pretty note cards with envelopes.
14 - One roll of unused washi tape.
15 - One small pot of stick on jewels and googly eyes for crafts.
16 - One small origami set.
17 - Three pretty bulldog clips.

Crazy isn't it, how much you can find, if you actually bother to shop your own home first.

I added quite a few more items, mostly bought from Home Bargains, to make the box a little more appealing, such as a pencil case, water bottle, pens, ruler, pencil sharpener, large notebook, glue stick, sweets, a ball, soft toy, hair band, necklace, harmonica and a cute fluffy face mask amongst others. A couple of these things were bought new from the CS.

It's amazing just how much you can get in a shoe box. It kind of reminded me of a scaled up version of competitions we used to have at school, to see how many things we could fit into a matchbox.  I loved doing this when I was a child.

Hopefully, the recipient will enjoy the contents of this box. I wrapped up the box in Christmas paper, popped in a hand written card, said a little prayer and then took it to a local drop off point and sent it on it's way. 

Thursday 8 November 2018

An Annoying Start to the Week

After spending Monday and Tuesday of this week at work, it was lovely to get home on Tuesday night and know that I had two days off to spend at home. The week didn't start well, with a bit of an incident on Monday morning.

Basically, there was a stand off between a grocery delivery van (I won't name the company here) and another motorist on the street outside our house.  It lasted from when I took the dog out at 7.50am until I got back at 8.30am.  Both vehicles were refusing to reverse out of each other's way and instead sat there for 40 minutes blocking the road and blocking in our car.  I was really disgusted.  I tried asking both parties to move, but neither would yield to the other.  In the end I threatened to call the police.

Anyway, OH came to the rescue and calmly asked the motorist to reverse (I wasn't so calm), so he could get our car out to go to an appointment and to her credit she did, but the grocery van was completely unhelpful.  Needless to say, I made a strong complaint to the company concerned.  The driver claimed they were not allowed to reverse due to safety concerns, but I suspect that it was more a case of him not being able to, which makes me wonder whether he should have been employed as a van driver in the first place.

It didn't get my week off to a great start and was quite stressful. I've never seen anything so ridiculous in my entire life, especially from a well known company.  Since when was it written into the highway code that motorists have to yield to grocery delivery vans, they are not public service vehicles, nor emergency service vehicles.  They were completely deluded.

Anyway, the remainder of my two days at work weren't too bad, save for another shoplifting incident. I did feel a bit overwhelmed on Tuesday, as we received so many donations.  I know it's a good problem to have, but when you're responsible for processing them and are already overstretched, it can seem so onerous. I'm sure we'll get on top of everything though, eventually.

On a more positive note, our shop has been allocated another part time temporary Deputy Manager's post for 7 weeks to cover the busy Christmas period, which is a big plus and very unexpected, so we were happy to hear that news.  They just have to be recruited now.

For my first day off yesterday, it was the usual catch up.  I did a top up grocery shop and took an item back to TKMAXX that I'd bought, but that wasn't suitable.  I managed to throw a few more Christmas presents into the trolley, which was good.

Today, I'm staying closer to home, doing laundry etc. It's almost enjoyable to stay home, potter and do housework after being out at work. I quite enjoy the contrast and staying home on my days off, stops me spending lots of money unnecessarily.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

A Bit of a Tangle

This weekend has been a strange one. After working on Friday, I spent the most part of Saturday, doing a little task I'd brought home with me from work, I say little, but it took a long time.  The job itself was to detangle 30 necklaces that had somehow got themselves into one big almighty knot.

I wouldn't normally bring anything home with me from the shop, but in this instance, these items were all new and from a quite pricey costume jewellery brand and were well worth untangling in order to get them put on sale in the shop in the lead up to Christmas, as they would make great gifts.  I just don't have the time at work to sit and unknot jewellery, nor do I have a volunteer whose time I can feasibly use to do the job, so I felt it was the best option in the circumstances and with the agreement of the Shop Manager I brought them home.

One whole day and two nights later and they were all untangled and ready to go back to work to be priced and put out on sale. OH even helped me out, as it got to a point where I just wasn't getting anywhere but frustrated, so he stepped in and did the last few.  A couple of chains inadvertently snapped whilst I was trying to detangle the knot, but on the whole, I think it was a worthwhile exercise and they should hopefully raise quite a bit of money over the festive season.

There was another large knot of cheaper necklaces that still needed detangling at the shop, but I managed to whittle these down by half yesterday, whilst I was at work and they are now out on sale.  Seems to be a running theme at the moment. At least I didn't have to bring these home with me too.

The rest of the weekend, was spent watching Strictly, ironing, walking the dog and generally taking it easy.

Sunday 4 November 2018

A Mixed Bag

After my week off, I returned to work last Sunday, to what seemed to be a stockroom that was under very good control, which was a nice surprise.  My two days working at the beginning of the week went okay and I got caught up on one job that I'd not had time to tackle properly before I went off on leave, which was also good. There'd been a bit of drama in my absence, I won't say what, but I'm hoping it's now blown over or will have very soon.

On Tuesday, I booked myself into a different class at one of two gyms I've been attending for a while. I haven't actually been to the usual class at this venue for a while, as I got a bit fed up with it.  Returning again, I was starkly reminded why I'd stopped going. I don't think I'll be going back.  It's just a vibe there that I'm not enjoying.  As a consequence, I've spent part of my days off researching other classes I can attend in other venues. I think it's time to change things up properly. I've been doing the same things for way too long, I definitely feel I need a change. I'll keep you posted on how successful this is as I try out new classes.

On Wednesday, I had to go out to do the weekly shop early, as from Friday I was supposed to be working 5 days in a row and wouldn't get chance to do the grocery shopping.  (The rota subsequently got changed when the Manager decided not to take some leave he'd booked). I combined the grocery shopping with a bit of Christmas shopping and managed to complete the gifts for a few more people on the list.  It definitely felt like I'd made progress, which is a relief. There's still a couple of tricky gifts to buy, but I'm getting there and hoping to be done with it all by the end of the month.

In addition to doing some Christmas shopping, I managed to spend the birthday money that OH had given me at TK MAXX.  I bought this lovely Fiorelli bag, which will be my next handbag for daily use.  I'm still using my current one, but I always like to line up another one, as they frequently wear out, get too scruffy/dirty or handles split, etc., as a consequence of so much use. 

I'm really happy with this one, it has pockets in the various places that fit my needs perfectly (I particularly like this zip pocket on the back for my Oyster card - I have one on my current bag) and it looks quite smart for work and days/nights out too. It's PU, not leather, which is a plus, and at £35 I thought it was pretty good value.
I also bought myself these Guess sunglasses too.  Don't ask why, I just liked them and decided to treat myself to a nice pair. They were expensive for me at £20, but for a designer brand, it wasn't a bad price. (I don't usually go for designer brands at all, but I just liked the style of these)

Finally, I bought this necklace for £1.70 which I thought was very cute. It will be good to wear for work and was a snip.

I bought one other thing, namely some Guess ear buds, but I haven't yet decided if I'm going to keep these for myself or give them away as a Christmas gift to a niece. The jury's out on that one.

Talking of Christmas shopping, I opened an email the other morning offering 30% off one of the presents I bought for LB the other week.  Don't you just hate it when that happens. I'm trying not to think about it. A more positive email I received this week, however, informed me that my sofa covers are now being made and will be posted out soon, which is very exciting.

This month is going to be a bit busy.  We've got a couple of appointments to see different school sixth forms for LB, there's a Give & Take I need to attend to donate another big box of stuff we no longer need, LB has an eye test appointment to attend, there are possibly interviews for a new part-time manager at the shop again this month, some friends and I are arranging a pre-Christmas meet up and then the usual Christmas shopping/card writing nonsense.  I'm sure it's the same for everyone at this time of year.

I'll try to post as often as I can, but posts may be a bit irregular.

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Monthly Roundup - October 2018

I managed to finish the month in credit this month, but once again most of the budget areas were overspent. Here are the details:

Food - This £400 budget was overspent this month by £59.44.  I did buy a few bits and pieces towards Christmas though, which will account for some of this, but not the majority.

Household - The £50 budget for this category was overspent by £33.20 this month. I did buy a few extra toiletries and household items for everyone to keep us stocked up, so this wasn't too bad.

Miscellaneous - The £50 budget for this category was actually underspent this month by £10.96, so that was a bonus.  I did have a birthday gift to buy and post off too this month, but other expenditure was minimal.

My Personal budget of £25 was overspent by £62.18, which was pretty self indulgent really. Amongst other things, I bought some tights, a skirt, a cardigan, and some perfume from Primark and  a top, a waterproof jacket, a skirt and some costume jewellery from CSs.

LB's budget of £25 was also overspent this month, but by just £14.48. I bought her some toiletries she wanted, four very inexpensive school skirts (£8.50 in total), some new bras, three inexpensive tops and she had a fringe trim too.

The Home budget of £20 was well and truly busted by £45.94 this month, mainly due to buying two new cushions for the living room, a new laundry basket which was on offer at work and cost a mere £15 which was a bargain.  I also bought a plant, some Xmas baubles, a calendar for next year and a wicker skirt for the Christmas tree.

Finally, my travel budget for work was spot on the £40 I budgeted.  It should have come in at less due to my taking a week off work, but I lent my spare Oyster card to someone at work and then the next day I forgot I'd left mine in my coat pocket, so had to buy yet another one for £5. So annoying. I'm amassing quite a collection of them at the moment.

One last thing to mention, is that I set aside £300 for buying Christmas presents this month. However, I only ended up spending £186 on gifts and a few other bits for Xmas, this included LB's main presents, so I've made a reasonably good start.  I'll probably do the same thing next month and try to get some presents for other people bought.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Day 7 - A Lost Friday and a Final Push

I didn't post yesterday, mainly because it was a bit of a lost day. It happens sometimes. I did do a couple of things, namely some grocery shopping and a little bit of Christmas shopping, but the cleaning I had wanted to do just didn't get done.  I got restless and went out instead, as it was beginning to feel like I'd spent the whole of my week off cleaning and little else. It was making me feel a little resentful, so I did something else instead.

Thankfully, today, I got back on course and cleaned the upstairs bathroom.  To be honest, now that's done, I'm not too worried about doing much more, as LB's room can wait until she's back at school next week. She's spent a lot of time in it this week, revising and doing homework and I don't want to disturb her.

This afternoon OH, myself and the dog went over to the allotment to harvest, clear it and dig it all over. It was a lot quicker job than when it's just me doing it. It would have taken three times as long, over three visits, but we managed to get it done in just a couple of hours. It's great to know that there's very little left to do to it before winter arrives. I'd like to cover it with compost taken from the big pile in the park, but it will have to wait until another day as neither of us had the energy today.

I cut a few dahlias and brought them home with me.  They are very pretty. We harvested the rest of the potatoes, lots of beetroot, which I'm boiling as I write, some rhubarb and the last of the tomatoes. 

Here's a picture of what the plot looked like as we left today.

Tonight, I'll be doing the ironing, whilst watching Strictly, then I'll probably have a shower and get ready to go back to work tomorrow. 

Friday 26 October 2018

Day 5 - Thursday - More Cleaning

Day 5 of my week's leave was spent at home again. After venturing out to the mall yesterday, I was happy to stay put today and continue with some cleaning. First things first, the dog needed walking, but once we'd got back I made the flaky mince pieces to use up the puff pastry from the freezer and then set about deep cleaning the kitchen.

It took about 4 or so hours to give it a good clean.  It feels so much better knowing that it is all now clean.  I didn't clean inside all of the cupboards, but a few did get cleaned out, mainly because they've been visited by our mouse in residence.  Yes, we have a mouse and despite setting numerous traps, it refuses to go near them. 

Believe me, I don't really enjoy having a rodent in the house, but this mouse seems to be particularly intelligent, so we have tolerated him thus far.  However, seeing how many droppings there were around the kitchen (not on counters or in food cupboards might I add), I'm starting to feel like he's outstayed his welcome.

I'm hoping we can catch him humanely and set him free somewhere away from our house, but we haven't had any luck doing so as yet.  He's even too quick for the dog.  He is quite a character, we can often hear him behind the fridge or washing machine, crunching the dog's kibble, which he's stolen off her dish. What a cheek!

Anyway, there's not much cleaning left to do now, just the upstairs bathroom and LB's bedroom which I will probably get around to tomorrow afternoon, as she is heading out to meet her friends. It hasn't been much of a rest this holiday, but at least I feel like I've got back on top of the house.  I now just need to keep on top of it.

Once all of the cleaning is done, I'm going to visit the allotment to harvest any produce left on it and dig everything over. I haven't been to do work on the plot for weeks now, so I'm quite looking forward to it, although it will be quite hard work.  I'm particularly looking forward to harvesting some more beetroot and then pickling it, as I've now run out and have been buying it for the past couple of weeks.

I think by the time this week is over, I'll be happy to go back to work for a rest (or a change at least)!

Thursday 25 October 2018

Day 4 - Wednesday - Christmas Shopping

As mentioned in yesterday's post, today it was my intention to go out shopping with LB to our local mall. I had some money in my account for buying Christmas presents, but hadn't really made too much progress so far this month. LB knew of a couple of items she wanted, so we decided to head out so that I could get ahead of the curve.

First stop was Office for some new Converse trainers.  I have to admit that I find it very difficult to spend £50 on a pair of trainers, knowing that you are mainly paying for the branding, but this was what she wanted and not wanting to be a curmudgeon at Christmas, I agreed to buy some for her.  Thankfully, when we were in the store, we found out that there was 20% off the shoes she wanted, which did help, as it saved me £10. Paying £40 is still a lot, but is a lot easier to stomach than £50.

Next on her Xmas list, was  a visit to Urban Outfitters for a velvet pantsuit that she wants to wear to a New Year's Eve Party.  They didn't have it in the colour she wanted (black), but a member of staff in the changing rooms, kindly advised us that we could order it at the till and have it sent by Express mail to our address for free.  I happily took them up on this offer, as it saved me the postage which would probably be at least £4 or £5 and we got it the next day.  The staff were so nice and helpful.  I was really impressed by the customer service.

Another job we needed to do was to get LB a fringe trim.  Supercuts obliged us for less than £10 including the tip, although the wait was a little long, but at least it got done and she can see properly again.

I bought a few other bits, namely some toiletries for LB and myself, another school skirt for LB from Primark which cost £1. (Down from £2.50).  Such a bargain. 

I also bought myself this orange leopard print skirt from Primark, which I'm hoping to wear for work with black tights and boots.  It's a little shorter than I would normally wear, but I really like it and it was only £10. If I bottle it, LB will be happy to wear it.

All in all it was a very successful outing with LB's two main presents bought.  The remaining things on the list are small stocking fillers and cash, although I may surprise her with something that she's not expecting just to keep a little bit of the surprise in Christmas.

I now just need to focus on getting OH to write me a list, so that I can get some of his presents bought, as I don't want to be rushing around at the last minute, especially when work will be very busy in the lead up to Christmas.

How's your Christmas shopping coming along?

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Day 3 - Tuesday

Day three of my week's leave and the day started with a lie in.  OH took the dog out for a walk before he headed off up to Yorkshire to see his parents.  LB and I didn't go, as LB had originally arranged to go to a concert this evening, which subsequently got cancelled, but then made an arrangement with a friend which also got cancelled, in any case she was also focussing on her revision, so we stayed put.

I finished reading my current book in bed, before getting up and doing the usual of emptying the dishwasher, having breakfast and catching up with bits and pieces online.  Whilst doing this, I also put some fruit in a pan to make some jam and it was finished by the time I was ready to go upstairs and get ready. It made just one jar, but it will keep us going for a while.

Today, my plan was to do some cleaning.  With some smaller outstanding tasks having been taken care of yesterday and Sunday, the way was cleared to get stuck into some proper housework. As I'd cleaned the rooms downstairs recently, I decided to start with the upstairs and work my way down through the house, so I began in our bedroom.

I didn't intend to initially, but ended up doing a very deep clean of the room, which hadn't been done in over a year. I removed everything from the shelves and wiped them clean.  They all had quite a thick layer of dust on them.  I went through all of the books and decided to part with yet more, probably a dozen or so went onto the donation pile.  I also decided to donate a few jigsaws too, that we bought years ago and probably won't do again. Then I vacuumed and mopped the wooden floor  before vacuuming my way down the stairs.  I omitted LB's room, which I will do later in the week when she goes out. I also cleaned, vacuumed and mopped the hallway, vestibule and downstairs toilet.

Whilst cleaning the hallway, I decided to sweep up the fallen leaves from the front path and gave the front door a bit of a clean too. Then it was time to take the dog out, so I called it a day on the cleaning. I did feel that I got quite a lot done today though, and was pretty pleased with my progress.  It feels so good to get to grips with some areas of the house, that haven't been tackled for way too long.

Tomorrow, I'm going to head out to our local mall with LB to do some shopping. It will be nice to go out and about together and make the most of our time off work and school. Cleaning will have to be resumed later in the week.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Day Two - Monday

Day Two of my week off and I was up and out to the gym in the morning for a class. It wasn't my usual instructor, but I knew the person covering. I used to attend her classes a few years ago, but stopped for various reasons.  Anyway, it made a change to do her class again.  It was quite nostalgic in some ways.

OH came over to the gym with me and dropped me off.  He was taking the dog to the vets nearby. It wasn't a straightforward visit.  There's quite a few issues with her, one being she needs her teeth descaling under anaesthetic, two she's got a small lump on her chest, she appears to have a problem with her ear at the moment and the vet also found a problem with her eyes, so there's quite a bit going on with her that we need to get attended to, which is quite a concern.  We're hoping none of it is serious, but I'm sure we'll find out if it is.  I can see a month or so of repeated visits to the surgery to get her right.  She seems okay in herself, but you never know with animals, they can't exactly tell you if they're in pain.

As soon as we got home, I headed out again to do the weekly grocery shop.  It didn't take long and it was good to get home and know I didn't need to venture far for the rest of the day.  I spent the afternoon attending to food in the fridge/freezer.

I'm trying to use up as much of the contents of the fridge/freezer as I can this week, for a couple of reasons.  The first being the freezer needs defrosting and the second being that I want to start getting bits in for Christmas, so I want to use up stuff that's been hanging around for a while and that I've been avoiding using. As a consequence, I got out some puff pastry to make some flaky mince pies and some red berries to make some more jam, both of which I'll do later in the week and I used up some chicken thighs to make OH and I a nice hearty casserole for supper.

There was also some lamb hearts and chicken livers in the fridge that I'd bought for the dog, which I fried up with some vegetables, as they were going out of date. It felt good to be able to use them up rather than have to throw them out. The dog was happy too, as she got one of her favourite suppers.

Once I'd finished cooking, I did some shredding that's been building up, and put away the laundry from my marathon ironing session on Sunday, then finally I did some online banking, which I haven't done for a couple of weeks. A productive day.  No cleaning yet, but I'm working my way around to it. I'll keep you posted on progress there.

Monday 22 October 2018

A Lazy Sunday

Sunday, was the first day of my week off for half term. I hadn't managed to book my usual gym class, so it was lovely to be able to stay in bed, read my current book, get up in a leisurely manner and have a leisurely breakfast/dog walk, before deciding what to do with my day.

It was especially sweet on the back of working the previous four days. I'd gone in on one of my days off to do a few errands, that wouldn't otherwise be done this side of Christmas, due to lack of volunteers. One involved getting lots of donated foreign currency changed into sterling to boost the coffers, so it was a worthwhile thing to go in for, as it raised quite a bit more money than we anticipated. We tend to do this once or twice a year, so it builds up to quite a good amount.

Anyway, work aside, I'm looking forward to my week off. I intend to spend some time on my house and do some much needed cleaning. I've really let things slip lately and feel I need to get it back under control. LB and I are not going away, so I should have plenty of time to do it.  I might even get out into the garden and onto the allotment.

Talking of the allotment, I got notified that I'd won a prize for my plot this year in the Allotment Association Awards.  It was as Best Newcomer on a small site.  Bearing in mind that I've now had the plot 2 or 3 years, and had a bigger plot with the same association for 8 or 9 years before that, it seems a strange award, but I don't want to sound ungrateful, because it's nice to get any recognition for the work we've put in and the £10 National Garden Centre Voucher I received yesterday was a bonus that I will enjoy spending. OH suggested that I won because he had been working on the plot this year. Typical!

LB is, of course, off school this week, it being half term. She's had a busy week attending meetings about Sixth Forms and going on school trips to the theatre, so she's ready for a break and wants to try to get herself organised with regard to her upcoming revision for GCSEs. A week of down time at home should help, although OH is going up to Yorkshire for a couple of days to see his parents, as his father isn't too well. 

Anyway, the rest of Sunday I spent catching up on Saturday night's Strictly (whilst ironing), doing laundry, planning and preparing supper and watching reruns of Pride and Prejudice (the series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) It was very enjoyable.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Sewing Again

Since rearranging our living rooms, I've been considering purchasing some new cushions for the large sofa that now resides in the front room. The sofa is so large that it really requires either super large cushions or lots of them, for them not to appear insignificant.

Here's what the sofa looked like after I'd changed the room around. As you can see, the cushions on there look dwarfed by the sofa.

I considered buying two beautiful designer cushions from work.  They had been donated a few months ago and were in perfect, unused condition.  They were also made of designer fabric, a silk print to the front and lovely cotton velvet to the back.  The only trouble was, they were £40 each.  I know this sounds a lot, but originally they were £135 new, so they would still be a good buy.

The Manager put them aside for me and I thought about it for a couple of days, but when push came to shove, I just couldn't bring myself to spend £80 on two cushions, that might get ruined within weeks, by having wine or food dropped on them or chocolate smudged into them.  We're a messy lot here.

In the end I put them back on sale in the shop and decided I'd get some cheap ones from IKEA instead, then it wouldn't matter so much if they got dirty or damaged.

Anyway, this morning, whilst out with the dog I decided to try to make some new cushions.  Goodness knows I've got enough fabric, and I also had some brand new cushion inserts that I'd bought to make some cushions as presents, but never got around to doing.

I had a good look through all of my fabric stash and was really struggling to either find fabrics that went well together to make the front and back of the cushions, or that I liked enough to have in the living room. In the end, I decided to make the whole cushion covers from just one fabric.  I didn't make them removable as I didn't feel like fitting zips or making envelopes, so I just folded one side, sewed two sides using the machine and closed the final side by hand.  The cushion inserts are polyester, so the whole thing can be washed along with the cover when needed.

Here's a picture of the new cushions.

They still looked pretty small for the sofa, but the colour matched the room much better, as one wall is painted in a teal colour and there are lots of gold picture frames and a gold lamp in the room.  As a consequence of not feeling the look was quite complete, I headed out this afternoon and bought some large plain teal faux velvet cushions to accompany them.  They cost £12.99 each from TKMAXX and I'm much happier with the overall look now. What do you think?

I now can't wait to get my new sofa covers that I ordered at the weekend.  They were supposed to be arriving in 4 or 5 weeks, but I think they've now been delayed a month, due to the fabric being out of stock again. I'm hoping they come before Christmas, but if they don't it doesn't matter too much as we're not having visitors or anything as far as I know.

This was a much better solution than spending so much money on designer cushions, although it would have gone to a good cause.  Whilst I had the sewing machine out, I also altered a couple of scarves to make them into infinity scarves, so I now have two new scarves ready to wear when I next reach for them.

It felt quite good to get back to sewing again.  I don't feel like I want to attempt anything too difficult though, as I don't have enough free time these days, but just making something that is useful felt good. It did make me realise though, that I have lots of fabric that I am probably never going to use for one reason or another, so I can feel a big cull coming on at some point in the future. I'll keep you posted on that when it happens.

Friday 12 October 2018

The Birthday Post

Well, it was my birthday yesterday, I won't say how old. I woke up to a small pile of cards and a few presents from OH which was lovely.  Plus a small birthday cake.  (There's only three of us so a big cake just isn't necessary)

I should be okay for chocolate and spirits for a little while now. Perfect presents for me.

Anyway, by about 9.45am we were ready to go out for my Birthday Day Out (we wanted to miss peak commute times on the train due to having the dog with us) and headed up to the local train station.  Here's the dog sat patiently waiting for the train.

A quick 20 minute train ride and we were 2 minutes walk from Hampstead Heath. 

We walked up the infamous Parliament Hill to see the amazing views of the City and Central London. It was a bit hazy, but you could still make out he major landmarks such as the BT Tower, St Pauls, the Gherkin, the Shard, etc. etc.

Some of the foliage on the trees was starting to turn very autumnal.  In a few weeks I imagine they will be even more colourful.

After a walk back down and over the lake, we headed into Hampstead itself.

We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant and I had a lovely (but very overpriced) salad. Hampstead is a lovely part of London, with it's high street full of very expensive shops and boutiques, but it is way too expensive for us to afford to live and shop there.

I took the opportunity to visit a local branch of the charity shop I work for and had a good chat to the Manager there, who I've met before. It's always interesting to see other shops in our group and see how they are laid out. This particular shop was very boutique like which impressed me. Very different to our shop.

I bought a few bits whilst I was in there. 

Firstly, and a great bargain at £4.99, was this wicker Christmas Tree skirt.  These cost quite a lot more in John Lewis, so I was happy to carry this all the way home on the train at that price. I'm looking forward to trying it out this Christmas.

Secondly, I bought two packs of these Christmas gift bags at 99p for 3.  These will be perfect for my homemade selection boxes/bags.

Finally, another jigsaw came home with me, which was priced at just 99p because it hadn't been checked, and was a steal.  I don't mind if there's a piece or two missing, it's more about having something to concentrate on to wind down after work, than actually completing it. Sometimes, I also find some jigsaws don't actually appeal once I get started on them, so if this were the case with this one, I've lost very little money by trying it.

After a cup of tea and a cake we headed home, but had a bit of a disaster on the way back. OH left his phone on the platform and we didn't discover it was missing until we got off at our local station. Luckily, I called it and someone had handed it in to another station further down the line, so OH headed back to collect it, grateful that he wouldn't have the hassle of buying himself another one. It was reassuring to know that there are still plenty of honest people in London.

Later that night we headed out for supper with LB to a local tapas restaurant, which was a nice treat. We called in at a bookshop on the way home and OH bought me a book I've wanted for a while called A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button. I think it may have been recommended by one of you guys.  I'll let you know how I get on with it.