Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Weekly Catch Up

It's been a busy week, hence why I didn't really get around to blogging much.  I was managing the shop three days consecutively in the Manager's absence last week and there was just so much work to do.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a good week sales wise, not sure if the weather being so hot has been having an effect and people are going to the parks and doing other things than shopping, so all my efforts didn't seem to be too well rewarded, but I guess some weeks are just like that in retail and let's face it, everyone on the high street seems to be struggling at the moment.

This week didn't get off to a great start yesterday, as I had a bit of an exchange at work, which wasn't pleasant.  When you're working really hard to keep things going and someone comes in and is critical, it's sometimes very hard to swallow. I have to say I had to stand my ground, as I can't physically do more than I'm already doing and yes, as a consequence of being very stretched, I make mistakes sometimes.  Don't we all. I'm probably a bit overly defensive, but I think it's very easy to pick out the negatives and not the positives. Anyway, it's one of my days off today, so I'll talk no more about work.

This weekend was quite leisurely.  I did some more tidying in the garden, cutting back some of the shrubs which grow a bit too vigorously and make it difficult to get around the edges of the garden. Other than this and a bit of cleaning through the main through fares of the house, I didn't do a lot else. I find myself napping a lot in the afternoons of my days off these days.  I think my job is just so physical that I need to do that to recover on my days off, but it means I'm not very productive at home.

Over the next two days, I'm hoping to catch up with laundry and ironing, some personal finances and also do a tip run, as there's lots of stuff in the garden that needs taking.  The allotment is having one of it's regular inspections today, so I won't be going there and there's not much to do at the moment anyway, save watering and harvesting.  I'll probably go tomorrow.

A day trip to the beach has been organised for Saturday, so I'll be driving to a quiet beach near Clacton in Essex with a couple of friends from the gym and we'll be having a picnic lunch together, weather allowing.  It might be just what I need at the moment.

Talking of going to the beach, OH has booked our main summer holiday this week.  We've rented a very private villa in Northern Portugal, which has a pool and garden. It's costing a bit more than we originally wanted to spend, but it will be our main holiday this year, so we'd rather spend a little more and make it a good one.  We've never been to Portugal before, so it should make a nice change. I can't wait. I think now I'm working, I appreciate our holidays much more as they do provide a proper break from work and thinking about work.

We will be taking another week's holiday during the summer holidays, probably in August, but we'll be staying closer to home and staying somewhere in the UK, so that we can take the dog with us. We've not decided on a destination yet though.  What are your holiday plans this year?

Monday, 18 June 2018

Allotment/Garden Update - June

It's been quite a while since I did an update of what's happening at the allotment, largely due to the fact that I haven't been there much of late. OH has been popping in regularly to water and I popped across to put in some cucumber and courgette plants last weekend, but otherwise, it's been a couple of weeks since I did any real work there.

In the mean time, there's been quite a lot of activity on the site.  An open day was held last weekend to allow local people interested in getting a plot onto the site to take a look and learn more about how to get started.  I wasn't able to attend unfortunately, as I was due to work, but it sounded like it had been reasonably successful and quite a few people had come in.

In addition, one of the plot reps has also managed to organize for a green gym group to come onto the site and do some clearing of rubbish and an old compost pile that wasn't breaking down, with a view to creating some more small raised beds for someone to tend.  All good stuff and all credit to her for getting it organised.

The same rep is also trying to get our site added to the National Open Gardens Day list, so that more people will visit and suggested that we might even sell seedlings. She seems to be working very hard to raise the profile of the site and get it into shape, which is very admirable.

We, meanwhile, have been on the receiving end of some positive comments from other plot holders with regard to our plot, which has been very nice indeed. I have to admit, that it wasn't looking quite as tidy as it was a couple of weeks ago and needed some weeding doing once again, but it didn't take too long to get it back in order.

Today, I headed over there and started pulling out the weeds that had grown back. It seems to be never ending. I guess I'm still dealing with the legacy from the plot being a bit neglected when I took it over and the weeds have just self seeded over and over.  I'm trying to get rid of them before they have a chance to do the same again. I know eventually I'll get them under control, as much as anyone can, it's just a matter of perseverance and not giving up.

I've lined up some sort of matting that I'm going to buy from the CS, to keep the weeds down over the winter, so that should help going into next year and cut down the amount of work I'll have to do next spring. To be honest, being so busy at work, I'm glad of any passive methods to help me out and save time. It will be interesting to see if it works.

Anyway, a bit of weeding and hoeing worked wonders and here are a few pictures of how the plot is looking now.

We've been having some problems with some of the potato plants which have died off, so we're not sure we'll get a good crop this year, but we're removing affected plants and hoping for the best.

The tomatoes are growing well thanks to OH's care of them, with several trusses now visible and there are now some peas, climbing beans and bush beans starting to grow, after I sowed them a couple of weeks ago. Of course, you'll notice that the dog managed to get into the photograph, bless her.  She loves to have a snuffle around the site when OH goes to water the plot.

I decided to plant out some of my dahlia plants into the small raised bed, as the dahlia tubers I put in didn't grow (save for one).  I'm hoping they'll survive and start flowering soon.  I've got some lovely flowers on some others I have in the garden at the moment. I forgot how much I love these plants. These particular ones haven't started flowering yet, but I'm hoping they will soon, so long as the snails don't destroy them.

The rhubarb has gone mental and I just don't feel like eating it at the moment, so I'm thinking of making some rhubarb jam, as that's possibly the only way I'll get anyone else to eat it with me. There's no way I can eat my way through it all.  I'm just not feeling it this year. I may need to remove some of it and replace it with some other fruit bushes or something.  I'm thinking about it anyway.

At home in the garden nothing much has changed.  I had a sweep around the decking today to tidy things up a bit.  I also moved a few plants around to situations that would better suit them.  I bought a Canarian Date Palm today from B&Q for £6. (It's there in front of the gate) It's quite a small one, but I've immediately potted it up into a much larger pot, so I'm hoping it will have grown a bit before I put it in the garden, as I'll be removing some very established shrubs to make room for it.

I'm seriously into ferns at the moment and want to buy lots more to put in the garden.  Trouble is I don't know where to buy them from.  I need to find a good nursery that sells them.  I've been pinning lots of fern filled gardens on Pinterest to give me inspiration.

Some of my Dahlias are starting to flower which is making me very happy.

The lettuce in the raised beds is all cut and come again this year.  I'm not too keen on it to be honest, but the headed lettuce seeds I sowed didn't germinate this year, so I missed that window of opportunity.  I've stocked up on lots of autumn and spring varieties for later in the season and next year though, so we'll just have to make do with this for now.

It feels good to have caught up with garden and allotment jobs today, so I can go back to work on Wednesday knowing that there isn't lots of work to do on them this week. How is your garden?

Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Saturday Out and About

As mentioned in my last post, I had plans for this Saturday, that I was so hoping would come to fruition. The plan was to pay a visit to somewhere in London that I'd never been before and the prospect was quite exciting.

I had originally planned the visit with a friend, the same one that I'd visited the Chelsea Flower Show with, but unfortunately, she couldn't make it, so OH stepped in and agreed to come with me instead.

The visit itself, was to some gardens that were opening as part of the National Garden Scheme, a scheme whereby gardeners countrywide, open up their gardens to the public for one day per year, in aid of charity.

We decided to cycle there, as it was a pretty easy ride, mostly through parks and on cycle routes away from busy roads. OH hates buses and refuses to get on one and parking can be difficult in this area.  Besides, the exercise would be good for us and it probably was the easiest option all things considered.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly, will know that after living in London for 20 years, we often tend to relax at home on weekends and don't go out and about that much, mainly due to the volume of traffic on the roads and the crowds of people, but for once we did venture out and it was really very enjoyable indeed.

The gardens in question were The Secret Gardens of Spitalfields, a stones throw away from Liverpool Street Station and Spitalfield's Market. They are described on the NGS website as 'a collection of hidden treasures behind some of the finest merchants and weavers houses in Spitalfields'.  With such a description, how could we possibly resist visiting.

The gardens included the tiny courtyard garden of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), which was founded by William Morris in 1877 and we started our visit here. This also turned out to be one of our favourite gardens of the day, although we did enjoy visiting all of them as they all had something different to offer. In many of the gardens there were refreshments available and in this one there were a few plants to buy too, although I didn't purchase any on this occasion.

There were hundreds of people visiting these seven tiny, but intriguing walled city gardens dotted around the area and there were queues to get into a couple of them, with access given on a 'one in one out' basis, but the queues didn't take at all long to go down.

Within a couple of hours we'd visited all of the gardens and had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in this beautiful, historical corner of East London.  I didn't take any photos, as the gardens had quite a lot of people in them and it wouldn't have provided the best representation of them, but do check out the link above or the NGS website which has some wonderful photos of the gardens.

I'd definitely visit again another year, but would turn up much earlier and try to avoid the queues at the more popular gardens. I will possibly take my friend next year, as I know for definite that she would really enjoy it and it would be a great excuse for a day out.  Have you visited any open gardens this year?

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Catch Up

Apologies for the lack of blog posts lately. I returned to work last week after my week off and had meetings on two days that took me out of the shop and caused me to work an extra day that week. 

This week, I'm working my normal three days, but we've been busy trying to get caught up, as stock built up a little in my absence.  When I left work yesterday evening, things were looking a little better, but as always there's still lots of work to be done and it only takes a couple of large donations for things to fill up again.

Wednesday was in fact a bit of a disaster day for me outside of work, maybe because it was the 13th, who knows. It started off on the dog walk when the dog got bitten by another dog. It wasn't anything serious, more of a nip really, but boy she did squeal. No broken skin though, so no harm done. 

I've been riding my bike to the bus stop this week, as there have been road closures locally and I thought it would be easier than taking the car because of the ensuing chaos. The only trouble was, on Wednesday morning I managed to reset the code on my bike lock accidentally whilst trying to lock it and then couldn't undo the lock. I had to just leave it and hope for the best when I got off the bus later that day.

When I did get off the bus on the way home, of course, I couldn't undo the lock, so I had to leave my bike where it was overnight. I then jumped on a bus to get the rest of the way home and got involved when a man collapsed and looked like he was having a fit of some kind. I managed to get him onto the floor and onto his side and then someone rang an ambulance, so I was a little late home, as I stayed on the bus until they came. A very eventful day.

Today, things are a little calmer and after my usual gym class, OH and I returned to my bike to find that the lock had been undone by someone overnight, but they had left the bike in situ, probably because it's not worth stealing. It is a real wreck. I only keep it and use it as I don't want to use my new bike in case it gets stolen. OH was hoping that someone might have stolen it, so that I wouldn't have to bring it home again. Tough luck to him.

This afternoon, I'm spending time at home, catching up on ironing, washing, putting the bins out and generally doing a bit of pottering around the house.  Tonight, I've planned to meet some friends from the gym for a meal in a restaurant, which will make a nice change.  We've not got together for a good few months, so it will be nice to catch up.

I've just got Friday left to work this week and have got my weekend free this week again.  I've got something planned for Saturday, which I'll blog about if it actually works out and then Sunday is Father's Day, so we'll probably take it easy and stay home, as everywhere gets so busy if you try to go and eat out on days like this.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

A Week Off

Well, this week I've had a lovely relaxing week off work. I finished work on a Friday night and spent the first day of my week off at Chelsea Flower Show, which was a real treat.

On the first Sunday, I caught a class at the gym and when LB returned from a practice expedition for her Duke of Edinburgh Award, we headed off up north to visit family in Yorkshire.  We stayed just a couple of nights, and then we came back down to London on Tuesday.

The remainder of the week I have spent at home, reading, pottering, doing odd jobs, catching the odd class at the gym and just generally enjoying my time off. I had a bit of a splurge at H&M whilst out grocery shopping on Thursday.  I needed some new summer clothing, mostly tops to wear for work. I probably spent about £55, but I got 7 items for this amount and I'll wear all of them for work this summer, as some of my existing clothing was looking very tatty and scruffy and needed replacing.

I had intended to blitz the house during my week off, but when it came to it, I didn't get started until this Saturday, when I managed to blitz downstairs. Upstairs still needs doing, but I did manage to catch up on most of the laundry and ironing, which is good.

I did quite a lot of reading of a book I bought from the CS before I went off on leave. It is called Money - Master the Game, by Tony Robbins and is a book I've heard a lot about and was interested to read myself.  I found it quite compulsive reading and although it's a very thick book, I managed to get more than half way through it during my week off. It gave me some great ideas about investing, which I might put into action in the next few months.

I also managed to spend an afternoon at the allotment on Saturday. There was an event on at the Boxing Club next door with a DJ, so I had great music to listen to whilst I worked and people going into the event kept stopping to chat to me which was nice. I managed to get the whole plot weeded, planted up and more seeds sown, so I was happy about that.  OH put the tomato plants in last week and they seem to be doing pretty well. I also harvested our first salad crop from the raised beds in the garden this week, the first of many I hope.

LB completed her expedition for her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award this weekend.  I'm very proud of her. I think it was tough for her.  A lot of walking with a heavy rucksack. She was very happy to get home.  She's got a week of exams now, which isn't great timing.

I'm heading back to work tomorrow I think, possibly for a meeting, otherwise it will be Wednesday when I start back proper. I'll know for definite when I speak to the Manager today. I'm hoping it's not been too stressful a week for him. I know I'm going to be very busy going back, so I'm trying to prepare mentally for it. Things are constantly changing at work and it's a job just keeping up with the changes at the moment. I'm sure I'll be back in the swing of it within a couple of days.

Friday, 1 June 2018

My First Visit To Chelsea Flower Show

Last Saturday, I was very excited to visit Chelsea Flower Show for the very first time.  It's something that I've wanted to do for a long time, but didn't really know how to go about buying tickets and just never got around to it.

Anyway, I was fortunate that a friend of mine managed to get hold of some tickets for the last Saturday and she very kindly invited me to go along with her.  I was thrilled.  We met at 9am to catch the tube from East London to Sloane Square. It didn't actually take too long, just one tube (and a bus for me) all the way there and before we knew it, we were making our way into the show.

I didn't realise, having not been before that wearing something floral is very popular amongst Chelsea show goers. I felt a bit dull in black and blue with white stripes, but even if I had known, I don't actually own anything floral at all.

Once in the showground we felt a little overwhelmed and didn't quite know where to go.  As a consequence, I ended up buying a show guide, which did help, although it was pretty expensive at £10.

We started off looking at some of the large medal winning show gardens. It was great to see them in the flesh so to speak, but there were crowds around them and you had to wait to get a good view. It was worth it though to see the exquisite planting and design features. Here's a few pictures:

Gold Medal Winner - Welcome to Yorkshire did remind me a lot of the Yorkshire Dales from our many visits there.

I also loved this garden, whose design was influenced by the plants that grow in Cornwall and the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth.

I also liked The Lemon Tree Garden which had a beautiful lemon tree as it's centre piece, beautiful planting and some good ideas for vertical vegetable gardening.

The hard landscaping and built features of some of the gardens were beautiful with wonderful outdoor rooms that just begged you to have a gathering.

I also liked some of the planting schemes. Lupins were very much in vogue this year.  In fact, I bought a couple of lupin plants for my friend, to thank her for bringing me along. It was the least I could do.

It was a sweltering hot day, and after an hour walking around outside, we escaped the heat by entering into the amazing world that is the Floral Pavillion. It was wonderful, one of the best things about the show.  The plants inside were so diverse and I found myself drawn to some of the more exotic species and exhibits on show.

Outside, we took a look at some of the lovely garden products available.  These bronze bird baths were particularly beautiful, but a little out of my price range.

There were some quirky sights, such as this amazing floral bar in a genuine vintage van.

As it was the last day of the show, at 4pm many of the plants were to be sold off. I pre-ordered a couple of plants from one stand, Hardy's, a cottage garden plant specialist.  The first was this lovely fern which I paid £10 for.  It was a great specimen and a good size to put in the garden at home.

I also bought one of these lovely white potentillas for £7 and another small fern for £1 from another stand.

I would have loved one of these beautiful white French lavenders, but unfortunately they were all reserved. It was so exquisite. Maybe next time.

We had a wonderful day out and armed with my plants and some seeds that I bought from one of the stalls in the pavillion, I was very happy to make my way home and take a little piece of Chelsea with me.

Earn/Save £2,018 in 2018 - May

Once again it's been a difficult month with regard to earning and saving extra money. Having tackled some of the major areas of my finances, there is little scope to make any more big changes, other than to continue to sell off unwanted possessions and save money where possible on groceries and other expenditures.  Unfortunately, such activities don't really generate huge savings or earnings.  In spite of this, here's what I managed to earn/save this month.

1) I saved £2 on a top up shop at M & S this month by using a voucher I received as a consequence of being a shareholder.

Total saved at M & S - £2.00

2) I saved £10 by using money off grocery shops at Waitrose this month, plus another £2 by getting a free newspaper with my My Waitrose card.

Total saved at Waitrose - £12.

3) I sold a few more items on eBay this month, earning a total of £13.32.

Total earned on eBay - £13.32.

4) I saved £2.99 on postage on an ASOS order, by adding a small treat for LB to my order to avoid postage costs.  I'd rather spend the postage money on her, than give it to ASOS.

Money saved - £2.99.

5) I saved £22.00 by using money off grocery shop vouchers and Club Card vouchers at Tesco this month, after a new batch arrived through the post.

Money saved - £22.00

In total, I have earned/saved £52.31 this month, which when added to the total so far this year of £688.25, means that the new running total now stands at £740.56. I'm now falling behind target with this challenge, but will try to persevere and continue to do my best. If I only reach extra savings/earnings of £1000 this year, they will have been worth making.