Monday, 30 December 2019

Gone In A Flash

Well, Christmas has been and gone in a flash. We had a nice few days up in Yorkshire.  The cottage was great.  Tiny, but super well equipped.  Not that we spent all that much time in it this time around, as we were only staying 4 nights and most of our time was spent visiting family or shopping for our Christmas dinner.

Christmas Eve was very relaxing.  After having done the food shopping (with a small amount of CS shopping snuck in for light relief) we headed back to the cottage and I spent the afternoon watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and My Fair Lady.  I used to love watching old musicals when I was younger, so this was bliss for me, whilst OH went out on a cycle ride in the surrounding countryside.

Christmas Eve evening was spent at OH's sister's house, playing games, chatting, drinking, etc.

It was just the 3 of us in our cottage for Christmas dinner.  Just how we like it really. We kept it very simple.  Just a chicken and some pigs in blankets with hasselback potatoes and vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding, of course.

Later, after a dog walk, we joined everyone at OH's parent's house where his sister, her husband and their kids were spending Christmas day.  We could have joined them for lunch, but decided it was too much work for OH's mum, who is already coping with OH's dad, who is currently immobile.

What followed was the usual present opening routine, a couple of face time calls from family members in other parts of the globe and then gradually everyone went their own way. A nice day though. LB went back to her cousin's house to stay over and hang out.

On Boxing Day, OH was back on his bike, and I had a leisurely morning, tidying up the cottage to get ready to go back to London, as this was our last full day in Yorkshire, picking up LB and then heading over to meet OH at his parents'. We then all went to the pub to meet my sister and her family and had some lunch whilst there. I hadn't actually seen her since last Christmas, which is unusual, so it was good to catch up, as a lot of things had been happening in her life.  Not all good.

We spent part of our final evening at OH's parents' and then headed back to the cottage to start packing up, ready to go back to London.  We had to set off at 7.30 am, as I was due at work for 1pm after the 4 hour journey. I was bang on time for work, which was a miracle really and spent the rest of the day there.  It was quiet, but we took more than the same time the previous year.

I've spent the last 3 days at work, and today is my first day back at home getting on top of jobs.  I headed out to my Zumba class first which was good and was able to catch up with a friend after her  visit to her family over Christmas, followed by doing some food shopping to see us through the next week.

This afternoon, I've been doing my banking.  I hadn't looked at my finances for two weeks and I knew it was out of control, as I had a purse full of receipts from last minute Christmas shopping, sandwiches bought on the hoof, etc. It was predictably depressing, as it is apt to be at this time of year, but I've only myself to blame. As I'm typing this, I also still haven't unpacked from our trip. That is next on my list.

I'm back at work tomorrow, but only working a few hours, as New Year's Eve is not a busy shopping day in Central London. I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about work again, as certain peoples' actions over the Christmas period have left me feeling a bit put upon. I'm not going to let it spoil my New Year though, it's not worth it. I'm planning to book some leave mid January and they can all just get on with it, without me. I definitely need a break, as I haven't booked any time off since going to Australia in July. I think it's definitely my turn.

I hope you've all had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to 2020.  I most definitely am, as 2019 hasn't been the best of years in many ways, due to some things that I haven't really talked about here and some things that I have. It could have been a lot worse though, so I'm grateful that it wasn't.

I look forward to continuing to read your blogs in the coming year.

Happy New Year and may 2020 be a good one.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Christmas Catchup

It's been a busy week with one thing and another, as I expect it has been for most people. It seems busier this year for some reason, not sure why, probably because LB has been very busy with her school production and I've been a bit more sociable this year.

Work has been okay, but we haven't had our interns for the last week as they left the week before, so volunteer numbers were down and I've had to really dig in and try to get most of the clothing we needed in the shop myself. We have had some corporate volunteers for a couple of days this week which was a major help, so we were very fortunate there. Really, I'm just hanging on at this point, waiting for the Christmas holidays.  I've still  got a day and a half to work, namely Saturday morning and Sunday and then I'm finished for Christmas.

OH and I did our yearly last minute shopping trip on Monday night to the local mall. LB couldn't join us this year, as she was busy at rehearsals for Chicago. We set off at around 6ish and spent a couple of hours getting the last few bits we needed to get.  It wasn't too busy. I also bought LB a new coat as she didn't really have one for the cold weather and she's been very grateful for it this week, when she's been travelling to and from rehearsals and performances.

I managed to catch a last minute meal with a couple of friends at our favourite restaurant on Wednesday night, which was good. We always take our own wine and pay corkage, which helps with the cost. It's always nice to catch up before we all go our different ways at Christmas and more so this year as one of my friends is having a knee replacement operation in January and I won't see her again before that, so I was glad that I was able to leave work a couple of hours early and join them.

Yesterday, we had tickets to watch LB and her college friends perform their production of Chicago.  She's done 5 performances this week, so we've hardly seen her. We had tickets for the final performance last night and it was really good.  We set off early and had a meal in a pub before heading over to the college, which was nice too. Afterwards, the cast all headed to someone's house for a wrap party, so LB was home very late and will probably be in bed most of today.  It hasn't helped that she's had a cold all week and is pretty hoarse, but she soldiered on and did really well. She's working in the pub all weekend, so today I guess she'll need some serious downtime.

I have lots of last minute things I need to do today.  Number one on the agenda is to finish wrapping all of the presents.  I want them all wrapped and ready to go for when we travel north on Monday and then I want to start packing everything else that we'll need as I'll be at work all weekend, save Saturday afternoon and evening.

I am waiting for one last parcel to arrive and we have a new mattress for LB being delivered this morning, so one of us needs to stay close to home to accept delivery. I also need to do some ironing today, before clothes packing and I still haven't started sewing the dog's quilt, which I might try to find time for today.  The weather is awful and so wet, so I'm happy not to go anywhere.  I don't know if I'll even get the dog out in it today, as she hates rain.

The Christmas exodus from London seems to have started in earnest.  I saw quite a few people packed up and on the move yesterday, whilst on the dog walk, but I think it's expected to be very busy with people leaving today.  I'm happy not to be leaving London until Monday, as hopefully we'll miss most of the traffic.

This will probably be my last post before Christmas, so I'll take the opportunity to wish everyone a Wonderful Festive Season. I hope you enjoy time with your families, and I look forward to reading your posts in the coming year.


Thursday, 12 December 2019

Working Week Over

My working week is now over for this week. As I'm like a car running on fumes and can't wait for some time off away from the shop, I arranged with my Manager not to work my half day this week but to work three full days next week instead when we have far fewer volunteers. As a consequence, I now have another long weekend to get caught up at home.

I made a start on the quilt for our dog the other evening by cutting out all the fabric pieces.  I've done them in a brick like shape for ease and don't have to back them with paper, as I intend to sew them together using the sewing machine for speed.  I might try to do that in the next couple of days.

I also picked up an old table runner quilt made from very small hexagons of scrap fabric.  I think I got bored with making this and put it aside, but I've cut out enough small hexagons to finish it now, so I'm going to try to complete that project too over the Christmas holidays or in the New Year. I also still have to finish my larger grey hexagon quilt, which just needs half a dozen pieces attaching before I can fill and back it.

I also have a very nice jigsaw to do over the holidays, that I bought at a local CS a few weeks ago. It's a cute vintage inspired jigsaw that I'm looking forward to doing. Here's a picture.

House wise, I still need to clean the kitchen and bathrooms and quickly run the vacuum around the areas I cleaned the other week and the house will be done.  I also need to write and post my Christmas cards, complete my present wrapping and buy just a few more small items and then I should be done with that too.

Yesterday at work I had fun going through all the donated greetings cards, as we had a few boxes/bags of them. I managed to match most of them up with envelopes, so they can now be sold and I put all of the Christmas ones in the shop.  A very satisfying job, as they had all just been shoved on the top shelf and had sat there for months. At least now we have a chance of selling them.

Donations have really tailed off at the moment, so we are just about on top of most of the work in the stockroom, making it much less pressured at the moment. We're just ticking over until Christmas.  Next week, we'll have a last big push and then I'll be glad to get a short break of four days out of London to recover from all the rushing around and Christmas mania. Just 4 shifts to go and counting.

One of our volunteers treated us to a lovely hamper this week, so we've been eating some very nice biscuits and other treats.  He's such a sweetie.

I'm thinking of taking a week off in January around LB's birthday, as she wants to go to the theatre to see Waitress. I've got quite a bit of leave to take, as I haven't taken any since Australia in July. I'm looking forward to a full week of not thinking about work.

Today, I've been doing a small top up shop and I inadvertently popped into a local CS that is closing down and had 50% off everything.  A CS Haul is coming up, as I bagged some great clothing items and some Xmas presents too.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Christmas Lead In

It's been quite a busy and sociable lead in to Christmas for me this year, which makes a change.  Mainly on account of work and dancing. I seem to have been out for several nights in a row this last week and it feels good to stay home now and just chill.

Last weekend, I had five consecutive days off work from Thursday to Monday, so I decided, as mentioned in a previous post, to do some cleaning around the house.  I started with our bedroom, which hadn't got cleaned last time around, so it was pretty dusty. I then proceeded down the stairs to the living and dining room, giving them a good clean through, in readiness to get the tree and decorations up.

I have to admit that I don't really enjoy putting the tree up.  I know I should, but it takes quite an effort to attach all the branches (it's artificial) and then decorate it. I would almost be happy to not bother and just put some twigs in a jar and decorate them, but I'll keep on doing it for a few more years and then maybe reconsider. I was happy once it was done and it does make the living room feel cosy with all the lights.  I haven't put the chocolates on yet, because they disappear too fast.  Maybe the week before Christmas for those.

Having done this job, I felt free to enjoy the social activities of the week. On Wednesday I was at my dance class and we stopped off for drink in a local wine/cocktail bar afterwards.  I wasn't too impressed with the pricing, £27 for 3 drinks and mine was only a bottled lager. It wasn't my turn to pay this week, but I felt bad for my fellow dancer who, all credit to him, took it in his stride, bless him.

Thursday, was the day of our work Christmas meal and we were going to a Turkish restaurant in Bloomsbury, Central London, which we went to a couple of years ago.  There were about 17 of us in the end, which was a good number and the food and service were great. I think we all had a good night.

I wasn't working on Friday and had arranged with a dancing friend to attend a beginners social dance on Friday night, which was exciting.  We'd never been before but decided to give it a go before Christmas. The way it works, is that there is a lesson at the beginning of the night for an hour, followed by a few hours of social dancing to practice your steps.

I took most of the day to get ready, as I got LB to do a wet set and put my hair in rollers to see how it turned out.  I then had to walk the dog in them, which was a bit embarrassing. I should have thought that one through. I really liked the results of the rollers, my hair was so curly and I could style it much better. I just put one side back in a comb and arranged the other side in a 40's style.

I was hoping to wear a new 40's style dress I had ordered on eBay, which was a great price, brand new and just £13, but unfortunately it had been taken in by next door and they weren't around to retrieve it, so I had to make do with my navy floral blouse and a black wrap style skirt I bought in a CS last week for £5.  I paired them with black ankle boots for comfort and ease when dancing and they seemed to work well for the evening. I know that I should really post pictures of myself wearing my vintage outfits, but in all honesty, I'm not really that confident in my appearance to do that on a public internet platform.

Anyway, I had to be out of the house by 3pm, as I had a Mammogram booked at Bart's Hospital at 4pm, so I jumped on the bus and just got there in time and then decided to stay in town and meet my friend later at 7pm when the event began.

I haven't been to Bart's for many years, since I started my nurse training there in the mid 90's.  It is a lovely old hospital and the area around there is so interesting. Here's a picture of the view from the window of the Breast Screening clinic.  So pretty.

When I got out from my appointment, I rekindled old memories wandering around the streets of the city and slowly made my way over to Liverpool Street, where I was meeting my friend.  I decided to treat myself to supper in Leon's restaurant in Liverpool Street station and before long it was time to go dancing.

The event took place in a lovely big ballroom and the lesson at the beginning was attended by at least 60-100  people.  We were taught some basic Lindy Hop steps and rotated around partners for the hour to practice them.  It was quite challenging to be honest and by the end of the hour, my mind and focus had completely gone and I was making all sorts of mistakes. 

Anyway, after the lesson, you are free to dance with whomever you want for the next few hours. There was a bar with very reasonably priced drinks, hand fans on the tables in case you felt hot and needed to cool off (very thoughtful) and two teachers who stayed all night to help you if you needed it.  All for the great price of £10 for the evening. (£8 if you pay online beforehand).  I thought it was super good value for a night out and great fun. You don't need any experience, as they keep it quite basic and there's lots of repetition.  You could just go for the lesson and then go home if you wanted to and it would still be good value.  I'd definitely go again. They hold one event per month for beginners and various other events in different parts of London for more experienced dancers too.

Being a total beginner at Lindy Hop, and not feeling very confident, my friend and I chose to dance together that evening, until we felt we'd got to grips with the steps.  I'd chosen to learn the leader role and my friend learned the follower role, so we were able to dance and practice together, not very sociable of us, but hopefully next time, we'll feel more confident.  We then practiced quite a bit, but also did a bit of solo dancing to the music, which people probably thought a bit odd, but I really enjoyed doing the solo dancing, it's good to get the opportunity to put steps together that you've learned and improvise to the music. To be honest, I don't care too much what others think of me anyway.

There was a performance by a Swing Patrol dance troupe during the evening which was good and a small solo routine that most people took part in, but most of the evening was Lindy Hop partner dancing. By 10pm, we were feeling pretty exhausted, had had enough for our first event and decided to go home. It was a good experience though and not half as scary as you think when you actually just do it.  You can go alone or with friends, as for the lesson it doesn't matter. It's pretty friendly. I'm glad we did it anyway.  There's also a good mix of men/women, ages, sizes, etc. too, which is reassuring, (although slightly more women than men!).

So, it was a pretty interesting week and just for your benefit, here's a picture of the dress I was going to wear but didn't.

It's from Lindy Bop and fits slightly loosely, which I prefer, as it was a larger size than I would normally buy, but the brand I find come up slightly small in my experience of ordering from them directly and I didn't want it to feel tight.  I really like it, as it is slightly oriental in style, modest, lined, comfortable to wear (which is important for dancing) and very flattering, even on a larger figure. I'm looking forward to wearing it, probably on Christmas Day initially.

I hope that you are all having an enjoyable lead in to Christmas.  I have one more dance class this week, a trip to watch LB acting in her college production of Chicago and a possible meet up with some friends at a restaurant next week and then that is my pre-Christmas festivities done.  We may venture into Central London one day to see the windows in the large stores and do a bit of last minute shopping, but otherwise that will be it for this year.

Yesterday afternoon, I began wrapping presents, as they all have to be done and packed ready for us to travel up to Yorkshire in a couple of weeks. I left half a dozen or so, because I got fed up, but they shouldn't take long to do when I next feel the urge. I should start on my Christmas cards too really. I'm also need to start work on a patchwork quilt for the dog's basket. I have lots of doggie fabric that I want to use. Not sure if I'll get it done in time, but am hoping to.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Catch Up

Apologies for my lack of posts lately. I don't really feel I've done much to merit a post.  Just the usual stuff, family life, work, gym, dance classes, vintage clothes shopping.

Work has been getting busier of late in the run up to Christmas.  I'm feeling quite tired already and there's still 4 weeks to go. I hope I last the course. Today, I'm on a day off and I am going to sort out my Christmas present list, go over what I've bought already and what I still need to buy, as all my spare cash in December will be concentrated on this. I'm definitely not going over the top this year, and although I've said this in previous years, I really do mean it this year.

We have booked a cottage up in Yorkshire for 4 days over Christmas, which we are looking forward to. I haven't told work, as no-one has made any effort to arrange the Christmas rota, despite my asking them to do so, so I will have to present them with a fait accompli, as we couldn't leave it any longer to book due to there being very little accommodation left available. I'm hoping it works out ok, fingers crossed.

This morning I've been sorting through my wardrobe, to include all the new vintage items I have bought in recent months.  I've pulled out the odd item from storage too, that I might actually wear again now. Dressing in vintage clothing does make deciding what to wear a little more difficult in the morning, and a longer process, as previously I had a kind of uniform of T-shirt, jeans and sweater that I threw on, but I do quite enjoy trying different combinations and the results.  I think I've now got quite enough vintage clothes to be going on with and need to get used to wearing everything and work out which combinations work well.  Here's a couple of my favourite recent purchases:

This fair isle knitted tank is one of my most recent purchases and is great. I'm looking forward to wearing it in the lead up to Christmas, as being red it is also quite festive.

I also love this floral print blouse that I bought on eBay, which is so pretty and will look great tucked into a pencil skirt. (Please excuse the creases) The flowers are not embroidered, just printed on, back and front, but it is really pretty just the same.

I did splash out this month and bought a new plain black pencil skirt from M&S. I probably spent over an hour trying on all the different ones they had in stock, so that I could get just the right fit and fabric. This is important when you are quite large, as you need more structure in a garment.

I settled for this one, which I really like and which will be perfect for work or more formal occasions. I haven't worn it yet, but am looking forward to doing so, probably for our Christmas meal at work. I think it will become a wardrobe staple in the coming months.

I also bought this lovely forest green beret from work. I haven't dared to wear it outside of the house yet, but am hoping to get up the courage.

Another favourite purchase was also from eBay, namely this embroidered white blouse.  It is so pretty. I have worn this one.

I've definitely become a bit more discerning over purchases on eBay in the last few weeks and have been having better results as a consequence and feeling much happier with the things I've bought. This is definite progress for me.

Besides clothing, I have also bought a couple of patterns recently to make a couple of skirts.  Here are the two I purchased:

I'm hoping to make the pencil skirt in this dark grey checked fabric that I had in my stash.

In other news, my dance classes have been going well and I'm still really enjoying them.  We started a new block of 5 lessons last week, which was fully booked. Several of the class members from the previous group couldn't actually get a place on it, which was a pity, and had to go on the waiting list, so it is a very popular class at the moment.  It was nice to meet more new people though. I'd like to continue for a couple more months before I move on to other classes or a higher level.

I'm still attending one Zumba class at the gym that I really enjoy, on a Monday. Our teacher, however, is currently pregnant, which is fantastic and exciting news, but it does mean that she will no longer be teaching when it gets near to her delivery date, so I'm considering cancelling my membership for a while when the time comes, dependent on who takes over the class and possibly focussing on other dance classes instead. I think I need to change things up a bit, as I've been going to the same classes now for over 10 years.  It is nice to meet up with friends who go too though, so I might still continue, but go on a Pay As You Go basis instead of having a membership.

Everything is quiet on the allotment front now, which is one less thing to worry about.  OH has practically dug the whole plot over and we just need to add some organic matter to enrich the soil for next year. The garden is very wet and doesn't really inspire me to get out there and finish the pruning or tidy up.  I need some dry cold weather for that.

Family wise we are good, LB has been very busy, as she has started a new part-time job waitressing and works most weekends.  She almost earns as much as I do for her two days, once tips have been taken into account. She's busy saving up to travel once she has finished her A levels in 18 months time. I'm very impressed at her efforts so far.

I'm working this weekend, so next week, I should be getting four or five consecutive days off. As a consequence, I'm intending to blitz the house and get the Christmas decorations up.  The whole house needs a good clean and I've been leaving it, knowing that I'll do a spruce up before getting the tree up, so it's the perfect time. We've been lighting the fire this week, as the weather has been colder and it should be even more cosy once the tree and other decorations go up.

I hope everything is going well for you all.  I'll try to post a bit more in the lead up to Christmas.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

A Return to Vintage

Apologies for being absent from this blog for a few weeks.  There have been a couple of reasons, but it was mainly because the Shop Manager was on leave and I was required to work extra hours. The other reason was that since starting to attend Jazz/Charleston dance classes, I've felt a resurgence of my love of all things vintage.  Probably 10 years or so ago, I regularly shopped and dressed in vintage fashion and I really enjoyed wearing some of the clothes, unlike how I feel when I've dressed in modern fashions in recent years.

It's a rare day when I go to work feeling happy with my appearance and feeling that I look good. Chatting to some new friends I've made through the dance class, we are considering attending a social dance event at some point, when we're feeling more confident in our dancing ability, and with that in mind, I've been seeking out some new vintage clothing, as the items I used to wear have long ago been donated.

The era that most fascinates me is the 1940's.  There's just something so glamourous about this era.  Women looked so feminine and also at times quite masculine.  I find it all so interesting and I now actually have an excuse to wear vintage fashion, when I'm dancing to the music of that era.

A few weekends ago, we went up to Yorkshire to visit family and whilst there LB and I went for a browse around some charity and vintage shops in the local town where we were staying.  We had a lot of fun and I came away with a whole host of new clothing items and accessories. 

To be honest, some of them I might not ever wear and were impulse purchases in my newly rekindled vintage enthusiasm, but a couple of items I have already worn and am enjoying wearing. Nothing was particularly expensive.  In fact one shop was an end of line clearance shop and everything was £1.  I ended up spending £10 in here, so if I don't wear some of the items, it's not a great loss, I'll just donate them.

I've also bought a few items online on eBay. To be honest, this method has been very hit and miss with regard to sizing and I'm starting to get much more discerning, as it's very difficult to know if things will fit, especially if they are vintage, and made when sizes were smaller.

Of the items I have bought so far, I've particularly enjoyed wearing these very cute granny style sheepskin boots, which are just so comfortable and warm.  They aren't exactly perfect for the wet weather we've been having lately, but on dry, cold days, they are just so snuggly.  I've already worn them multiple times since buying them. They are not 1940's, of course, probably more 50's or 60's or even later, but I'm not a purist and half the fun is using your own interpretation to get the look you want. I've created a whole new Pinterest board dedicated to Vintage Styling, found a few really good YouTube channels that focus on wearing vintage and I think that watching some old movies might be in order to get further inspiration. What torture!

I have also been trying out vintage hair styles using bobby pins, which has been fun and I've gone back to wearing red lipstick, which has very rarely seen the light of day for the past few years.

As a consequence of the above, I've also dug out my old collection of vintage jewellery.  I have heaps of vintage brooches, earrings, scarves and other items, which I'm starting to wear again, instead of leaving them to gather dust in the bottom of the wardrobe.

I'm just having fun, and that's what matters.  I'm trying to do it in a subtle grown up way, but who says that we should grow old gracefully. That's the last thing I intend to do.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Birthday Girl

Well, it was my birthday this week.  I'm now the grand old age of 53 and trying NOT to grow old gracefully.

The day itself, I didn't do anything special, but at least I didn't have to work this year. I got some lovely, but very practical presents from OH.

To be honest, for my present, I asked him to pay for an order I had collated on Marshall's website, so it was a gardening themed gift.

The order included this Mulberry bush, which was a much better specimen than I was expecting, after reading some of the reviews on the site.  It may take a few years before it produces fruit, but I'm very excited to have it, as it is such an old English variety of tree. I will probably keep it in a pot, as I don't really have a suitable space in the garden for it at the moment.

Also on the order was a new garden fork.  I needed one as we currently don't have one at all, after the handle on our last one broke off completely. This one is designed especially for the older lady, as it is very lightweight, made of ash wood and aluminium. I bought it with the future in mind.  Who needs to lug around a heavy garden fork as they get older, especially when they don't need to. I'm excited to use it at some point.  I'll have to try to make sure I clean it properly though and look after it.

The rest of the order included some green manure seeds to possibly sow on the allotment this winter to add nutrients to the soil, a few packs of vegetable seeds and some shallot bulbs. Talking of the allotment, I received a voucher from the Allotment society this week too, which confirmed that we'd won Best Plot on our small site this year, which was a lovely added birthday gift, although not intended as one.

There was one other item on the Marshalls order, which we bought as a gift for a family member for Christmas. It's a green gage tree, but hasn't been delivered yet. I quite fancy one myself, but due to our garden being so small, there isn't room for many trees. Anyway, a bit of Xmas shopping was done too, which is all good.

I also received some flowers from OH and LB and the always appreciated chocolate and gin, so I consider myself a very lucky girl indeed.

We also went out for lunch on the day, to a local restaurant/café that we hadn't been to before, which was nice. I had to have a glass of Prosecco with my pizza, of course. Daytime drinking is allowed on your birthday as far as I'm concerned.

I think that from now on, I might ask for dance classes for Christmas and birthday gifts, as I am so enjoying my solo Jazz/Charleston class.  This week's class was the best yet. I really feel like I had a good workout as it was really quite tiring at times, but fabulous fun.  I've treated myself to another block of three Charleston classes, as next is the final class in this current block, and they will follow on until the next block of five classes starts in November.  It was definitely a good decision to take the plunge and I hope to continue indefinitely.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Things Get Better

Since my last post, I have to report that life has got a bit better. I was very angry and disappointed by what happened to our car, and we've been without it for almost a week. 

On Monday, I had to take my trolley bag on the bus to the gym and then fit all my grocery shopping into it, before getting back on the bus.  It really made me appreciate having had a car, but it also made me realise that doing the shopping with a trolley bag is very doable.  I only spent about £50, so it did cut my grocery bill this week, as it made me focus on only buying what was essential.

After ringing around garages and car parts companies, OH was expecting us to be without our car for at least a couple of weeks.  The police advise you not to put a Toyota part back in the car to prevent it being stolen again, but the insurance and Toyota dealerships won't replace it with anything else.

Our insurance excess was £350, so it was going to cost us quite a bit to go down the insurance route. There was also a possibility that they might write off the car if they couldn't get a part for it, which was ridiculous, so when I received a message from OH yesterday, to say the car was being repaired and would be back with us that evening, I was really surprised and delighted. 

After having a conversation with a Prius driving Uber driver on Monday night, on his way to the Velodrome, OH managed to source a local(ish) garage and got it fixed himself, without claiming on the insurance. Serendipity, if you ask me. It did cost nearly £600, but our car is back on the road and hopefully we won't lose our no claims. More importantly, we're hoping that the part won't get stolen again as a security plate has been added to the car and the new part isn't the Toyota one, which is being targeted.  I'm hoping it will now run as well as before and with no problems.

In other news, work went much better yesterday and I managed to get on top of a job that has been hanging over me for months, which felt very satisfying. It will make a difference to my work day going forward, as it will help to reduce my feeling of overwhelm most days and allow me a bit of freedom to concentrate on other areas of work in the stockroom and shop.

LB has now been cast in her college production of Chicago.  It's a supporting role, but she's very happy to have a part and is looking forward to starting rehearsals tonight.  She also went for a part-time job interview yesterday and thinks she might have got herself a new part-time job, which is good news.  I admire her get up and go.  The hours of her previous part-time job seem to have dwindled since the summer, so she's just gone out and got another. Good for her.

It feels like we've weathered the bump in the road, and things are picking up a bit. Touch wood.

Thank you to everyone who offered me moral support.  I really appreciate it.

Friday, 4 October 2019

A Disastrous Day

I should have known when writing yesterday's post that things had been going too well this last couple of weeks.  In contrast, yesterday was a disaster.  It started off well enough.  I took the dog out for a nice walk. However, on returning to our car in a car park a couple of miles away, the engine sounded very loud and there was a scraping sound underneath.

I think I knew immediately what had happened. Our catalytic converter had been stolen whilst I was on the dog walk.  We have a 7 year old Prius Hybrid and OH warned me that there had been a spate of cases where the catalytic converters had been taken out and sold for scrap by thieves, because of the high quality of the precious metals they contain, such as palladium, etc. We had well and truly fallen victim to the trend.

I wouldn't mind so much, but it happened in broad daylight, in a car park full of dog walkers coming and going, footballers coming and going, motorcycle training going on and a security camera right in front of the car.

I was gutted, as was OH.  He cycled over to meet me, whilst I rang the Met Police to report the crime. They recommend that you don't get a Toyota converter put back in, to try to prevent the same thing happening again.  New models have apparently had the design changed to make this much more difficult to do, but our car was an older model which made it easier to steal.

After all of the formalities of reporting the crime, we managed to struggle home with the car running between the electric mode and making very loud noises when running on the petrol engine. It was so annoying.

As I said when my bike got stolen a few months ago, it makes me so angry, that such parasitic people exist and live their negative and dishonest lives sucking the life out of others and leaving a trail of destruction and misery in their wake. I despair about the world we're living in at times like this, they contribute nothing and take everything and there seem to be more and more of them around these days.

So, we're currently without a car, which living in London, isn't too much of an issue, but we'll have to claim on the insurance to get it back on the road. I'll probably lose my no claims and we'll probably have to pay an excess to get the work done, as well as having inflated premiums in the future. It's only money, but it is hard earned, as opposed to stolen without a care from others. OH is in charge of sorting out the mess, poor guy. Hence, I'm feeling quite despondent about humanity today.

The ups and downs of everyday life. I realise that things could be a lot worse and I'm thankful that they are not, but it's still very frustrating and disappointing.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

A Good Couple of Weeks

It's been an eventful couple of weeks in an enjoyable kind of way. Work has been good, but busy due to my fellow Deputy being on leave for two weeks. We've still managed to do really well in terms of sales whilst he's been away, which is great. The stockroom is now under much better control, thanks to the help of our new interns and regular volunteers, so it feels a lot less overwhelming when I go in. I'm just hoping we can keep it that way in the run up to Christmas.

LB has been busy with auditions and call backs for a production of the musical Chicago at her new Sixth Form College.  She'll find out if she's got a part later this week, which is quite exciting.  I love going to see her in school productions and this one will be staged just before Christmas I think. She is good at what she does and is always very committed and works hard to make it look easy and natural.

At home, I've been trying to catch up on washing and ironing, but I'm still a long way off in the case of the ironing.  I've ordered my prescription of Thyroxine before Brexit kicks in, so I should be okay for a few months. I just have to pick it up today. I've done my monthly financial round ups and managed to stay within budget this month and not go overdrawn, so I'm back on track in time for the expense of Christmas.

I saw a Whats App message on our allotment chat last night that indicated that we may have won Best Plot on our site this year.  I haven't had official confirmation yet, but if we did, that's brilliant and I think I should get a garden centre voucher. (Our AGM was last night, but I couldn't attend due to my dance class and the results of the plot inspections were announced at the meeting.) I won't get my hopes up to high though as there are a few Ann, Anna, Annies on our site. I might have got it wrong.

I've changed over to my Autumn/Winter wardrobe and put away any summer clothes and shoes. I was glad I did when it turned out to be so cold yesterday.  I wore my thick woolly coat and gloves for the first time since much earlier in the year.

I've finished my work hours for this week, so I now have at least 3 days off  in a row, which is always a much needed treat when it falls like that.  I'm usually pretty tired the first day and then gradually gain momentum and get things done as the days progress.

I attended my Jazz dance class last night, which I really enjoyed.  The first two weeks were a bit slower as we got to grips with a completely new genre of dance, but things picked up this week and it was much more my sort of thing. I had a drink in the pub downstairs afterwards, with a couple of people who also attend, which was nice.  In the next two classes, I think we might be doing more Charleston based moves, which is exciting.  I'm not 100% sure though, as it will be a different teacher, so it will be up to her what she decides to teach. I will probably be continuing on with another block of these classes when this one finishes, as there will definitely be a Charleston focus for the first few weeks of the next block. I like the teacher we've had to date and the atmosphere in the class is slowly getting more relaxed, as we all get used to each other and start to chat to each other a little bit between routines.

Today, I've had a little lie in and have not got any major plans, other than to walk the dog, put on a wash, pick up my prescription, post my credit card payment, order some car park vouchers for the gym and hopefully do some ironing whilst catching up on the new series of The Apprentice, which I missed when I was out last night. Not too much pressure there. I might also pop out and buy a birthday present for my god daughter, but her birthday isn't until next week (same day as mine).

I hope you guys have had a good couple of weeks too.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Autumn Creeping In

When walking the dog the other day, I couldn't help but notice on my return, that the climbing plant that covers the front of our house and our neighbours' houses was slowly turning very autumnal. Here's a picture:

Here's another one from inside the house, the windows are framed by beautiful red leaves. We love it.

It's not going to stay this way for long though, as the neighbours (whose plant it is) informed us that they are going to cut it back very shortly. Shame, but it will mean less leaves blowing into the house and front garden, so I guess that's one benefit.

There's no denying that there's a nip in the air some mornings now when I'm out with the dog. As a gardener, I've loved the rain we've been having for the last two days.  It's much needed and it's reassuring to know that the water tables will be replenished. I think that in general we take water for granted in this country, as we don't often suffer from a shortage of the stuff. I love the sound of rain outside when I'm inside.  The dog's not so keen though.

I'm now looking forward to the cooler weather and can't wait to start getting wrapped up in scarves, etc. I'm an autumn baby, so it's my favourite time of year. Bring it on. I've started to store away my summer clothing to make room in the wardrobe and make deciding what to wear each day a little simpler. I might actually get around to catching up with the ironing, now it's a bit cooler too.

We're so lucky to have such definite changes in season, I love that about living in the UK. What do you think?

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Taking It Slow

Friday, was my first day off in three days. It had been a hectic three days, as I worked a few extra hours to do a specific task for the shop, that I don't get time to do in my working hours.  It was worth doing though, as it brought in quite a good amount of revenue for the shop.

I also started my new Jazz/Charleston Solo dance class after work on Wednesday.  It was good, not as exhausting as I thought it might be to start with. I'll just have to see how it progresses over the 5 weeks.  I was happy to see that there was a good mix of people and ages in the class.  I didn't feel like I stood out as the oldest person there, which was a big relief. 

The venue was a room above a nice bar, which had a beautiful painted ceiling.  I'll try to take a photo next week to show you.  The teachers seemed very friendly and the class was pretty well attended.  There must have been 20+ people in it.  The room almost felt too small at times, but I enjoyed it.  The first week of doing something new is always the hardest, so at least I know a little more about what to expect next week. In addition, I'm not working on Wednesday next week, so it won't be such a rush and I won't turn up in such a sweaty mess.

Friday, the first of two days off together, I took things very slow.  I spent a couple of hours reading in bed after waking up.  OH even brought me breakfast in bed.  He used to do it all the time when he got up early to commute into London to work, but hasn't done it for years now, so it was a lovely treat to start the day. It's funny how you forget that such luxuries were daily events.  I was a little spoiled I think.

Eventually, I got up and showered, cleaned the bathroom a bit, as it was looking pretty dirty and then it was out with the dog.  We were out for about two hours in total, although about half an hour at least was spent in my local RSPCA charity shop, which is dog friendly, and where I managed to buy a PU pencil skirt for £5, which will be great to wear for work.  Please excuse the creases, I left it folded up for a couple of days before taking this picture.  Hopefully, they should drop out eventually.

I also bought a book for £1. I definitely need to master this art, particularly for the purposes of putting it into practice at work.

Anyway, a little bit of Charity retail therapy always feels good. I hardly ever get a chance to shop the shop I work in, as there's just too much else to do when I'm there. I do put the odd thing aside to try on, but it can take me a few weeks to get around to trying them on and most times I don't buy them when I do.

In the afternoon, I succumbed to a snooze on the sofa, as I was feeling a bit tired.  Sometimes, it's good to do nothing and just recharge.

The next two weeks at work are going to be even more busy, as my fellow Deputy Manager is on leave, which always makes a difference.  We have had new interns start this week though, which should help, once they get familiar with the shop.

I'm hoping to get back to as normal a week as possible at the shop next week, as the last few weeks have been a bit fraught with unexpected events, meetings, training courses, training new volunteers, etc. I just want a quiet couple of weeks on this front, to get my head down and get to grips with the stockroom, which is currently bulging with donations. Wish me luck!

A Much More Productive Day

Following my very slow Friday, during which I was so tired from work that I did very little, Saturday was a much more productive day. When I got up, I had much more energy than I'd had for a while, so I decided to do a deep clean of the kitchen.

I guess that a conversation with a volunteer at the shop this week started me thinking that I should spend some time on my home.  The other day, as I was trying to keep the stockroom as organised and tidy as possible, a volunteer said that he bet my house was immaculate.  I explained that although it was tidy, in that everything had it's place, it wasn't as clean as I'd like.  Mainly because I'm so tired after work, that I find it hard to summon up the energy to clean on my days off. 

This thought stuck in my mind and to be honest irritated me into making the effort to do some cleaning. It's ridiculous that I'm too tired to clean my own house, but spend my days at work trying to control the mess that is the stockroom. I don't seem to have my priorities in balance at the moment. I need to spend time and energy on my home too.

Anyway, I began cleaning just after breakfast and continued until it was completely finished at about 4pm. It was a bit of a marathon, but it shouldn't need doing again in such depth for a good few months.

Almost every drawer and cupboard got cleaned out and rearranged and all of my condiments and jars got topped up with the various products they contain.  Anything out of date or not needed any more was set aside to either go to the Charity shop/Give or Take, be thrown away or put somewhere else.  To be honest, there wasn't a whole lot to remove.

All the cupboard and drawer fronts were then washed down and then the floor was vacuumed and mopped and I then continued cleaning through the vestibule and downstairs toilet to complete the lower ground floor of the house.

It felt great to do some deep cleaning, as I spend most of my time in the kitchen when at home. I'm going to try to work my way through the rest of the house, floor by floor, later in the week on my days off. I'll keep you posted with progress.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Another Small Eco Product Haul

I was running out of dental floss this week, so I decided to place another order with one of my favourite eco product sites, Natural Collection. I think I've mentioned them before, as I placed an order with them a few months ago, when I stocked up on dishwasher tablets and other toiletry and household cleaning products.

My order this time was a small one, which didn't qualify for free delivery, but I needed the items quickly, so sucked up the delivery fee of £3.95, which isn't very frugal, but there you go.

Anyway, I ordered the following:

More dishwasher tablets (for the stash). These worked out at 20 or 30p each, which sounds a lot, but we use one each day or every other day sometimes.

Fruit and veg wash (x2), which I use on supermarket bought fruit and vegetables. I realised, when looking back at my previous post, that I already had a full bottle of this in the cupboard, so now I have 3.  Looking on the label, however, I noticed it is manufactured in Greece, so dependent upon the outcome of Brexit, it might not be such a bad idea to have a supply stashed away.

Degradable plastic bags, that I intend to use in emergencies, for sandwiches that I take to work, on the days I don't have a clean fabric baggie. (I normally have 3 of these, but two seem to have disappeared or maybe they're in the wash basket)  Anyway, I'm currently using non-degradable plastic bags and I am not proud of myself for doing so, hence I bought these which at £2 for 50 are pretty reasonable, so I bought two packs, which should keep me going for a while.

Dental floss and Dispenser -  This was by far the most interesting purchase. Since my last order, they had a new product in stock, which is made of plastic made from corn starch, making it a slightly better option than the floss I was using before.  I did succumb to buying a new container for it, in spite of already having a glass container that I bought last time I ordered some.

This was mainly because I'm a bit nervous of the glass one breaking.  I know that sounds really wasteful, but I feel a lot better about having a stainless steel dispenser, as it will be much more hard wearing and can just be thrown into a wash bag when travelling. I will just keep the old one as a spare, just in case I lose this new one.

I also bought 2 extra rolls of floss for refilling it, so I'm pretty well stocked up for a while.  These new rolls gave me 20m more floss each than the one I've been using, for pretty much the same money, so I did save money in the long term by changing to the new brand.

This is the old one:

And this is the new one:

A much more practical solution.

In terms of service and delivery, what I love about Natural Collection is, there was no plastic packaging, save for the bottles the veg wash came in. Just scrunched up brown paper to fill up the box, which I can shred and put on the compost heap. Thankfully, there was no corn starch bits used as packing filler, that I would feel obliged to save and find space for until I can re-use them, nor bubble wrap or anything similar. At least it is one online shopping experience that is virtually zero waste and positive, which keeps me going back when I need to.

Monday, 16 September 2019

15 Positive Things about the Summer

I loved Kezzie's recent post, where she listed 15 positive things about her summer. So here's mine.  I'm not sure if I'll reach 15, but I'll try.

1) LB passing all of her GCSE's was a great day this summer.  It probably sounds a bit boring, but it was probably the highlight of the year for me. I was so pleased for her to have done so well, after all the work she put in this year. Her school had a great year with regard to exam results, which was also a good thing for everyone who studies and works there.

2) Growing quite a lot of food on our allotment this summer has been another highlight. It's great to feel a bit more independent of supermarkets, even if it is restricted only to a few months of the year and to just a few types of food.

3) Our trip to Australia was special. We all loved our time on the Gold Coast, despite the fact that OH had to be rescued by a life guard at one point. Did I mention that? I was so thankful to the guy, who appeared out of nowhere and set off on his surf board to bring OH back to shore when he got into trouble in rough waves. They are thoroughly professional, all respect to them. We learned a big lesson that day. Seeing my sister and her family and some members of OH's family, was also very special, of course.

4) Continuing with the simple task of completing my current hand stitched quilt is bringing me much positivity and joy. I just find it so relaxing and being able to make something that will be useful, from resources that I already have around our house, is very satisfying. I always enjoy snuggling under my homemade quilts on the sofa. It hands down beats a bought blanket any day, as they soften and fade so nicely with age and washing.

5) In spite of the ups and downs at work, we've consistently been getting very good sales, especially compared to last year when it was very quiet in the shop over the summer, mainly due to the heat. I'm very grateful for that and it is very satisfying to know you are doing a good job and raising lots of money for the charity.

6) I'm very thankful to have missed the extreme heat of summer whilst in Australia, and that the summer weather has been more mixed this year compared to last year. I like the unpredictability of an English summer.  Rain is good (in moderation).

7) It's been great having LB at home for almost 10 weeks this summer, after leaving school way back in June, following her GCSE's.  Having said this, she's been out and about most of the time, so I haven't seen that much of her, but it's good to know that she's got lots of friends to hang out with and isn't bored and lonely. (Boredom can be good too though, as it does spur creativity)

8) Whilst in Australia, I found a soap saver in an Op Shop (Charity shop) for $1.  I used to have one of these when I was a teenager, until it got thrown away, contents and all. You use it to save up all your slivers of soap and create a new bar with them.  As I am a bar soap user, I'm hoping to make good use of it and I've already warned OH never to throw it away. It takes an age to fill, which was why I was so disappointed when it originally got thrown out, as it was almost full.

9) Finally, we have got around to taking some older plants out of our garden and replacing them with new plants after 3 or 4 years of procrastinating about doing it.  I have a problem letting go of things, plants included, but it feels good to have a garden refresh.

10) Attending another Give and Take event and giving away more items from our home. Many of them belonging to LB, but regardless, it felt good to send them off into the universe, to possibly be of use to someone else and save them from having to spend money.

11) Recycling all of LB's GCSE exercise books felt very good, probably for her too. She didn't want to keep them after her exams.  I did make her keep her Maths and English books just in case, but now she has passed both, they will be going the same way.  I did tear out all of the blank pages and have been using them for making lists and paper pieces for my quilting.

12) Walking with my dog in and around the green spaces near where we live. We love our dog and miss her so much when we go away.  Walking her in summer is so enjoyable and gets me out of the house and into the sunshine on a daily basis. I love to observe the nature around us when we're on walks, whether it is the plants in other peoples' gardens or the hedgerows and trees in parks and other open spaces.

13) One more positive memory from our holiday in Australia was that whilst we stayed on the Gold Coast there was a Country Music Festival one weekend.  We walked down to the beach where they were playing and I got to watch some of Australia's best known Country Music artists play live.  Being a country music enthusiast, it was a great serendipitous moment for me.

14) Letting go of the housework and ironing and caring whether it got done or not was great for me for most of the summer. In any case, it was way to hot most of the time to stand over an iron. LB even started to wash some of her own clothes this summer, which is all good to encourage independence as far as I'm concerned.

15) One of our shop volunteers winning Volunteer of the Year Award across the whole charity I work for, was a great moment this summer.  We're yet to have the Award Event, but the person concerned really deserves it for her commitment and hard work over a number of years.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Taking Steps

This post may be a little controversial, which I apologise for before hand. If you don't agree with what I'm saying here, please feel free not to continue reading this post or to comment in a respectful manner.  Everyone has their own view and opinion, not everyone will agree with me.

This post involves the dreaded B word, that we are all so sick of hearing, but the reality is that it looks like it is looming and there is not long to go now.  As a consequence, I have decided to take things into my own hands, and I'm sure I'm not alone in doing so. I am building a Brexit stash of food, just in case there are shortages if we do crash out without a deal.

I'll start by saying that some people may feel that my thinking on this subject is negative, and if that is the case, so be it, but the way I see it is that I am responsible for feeding my family, and if I feel there is a possibility that food may be difficult to come by after Brexit, or even just more expensive, I am quite entitled to spend my money as I wish and put away some supplies of food, just in case the worst happens.  If that makes me feel more secure, then that is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

There have been comments in the press about panic buyers creating problems and suggestions that there may be a possibility of empty shelves in the supermarkets after Brexit. It is a fact that none of us know what is going to happen, so I don't consider myself to be a panic buyer, I'm a considered purchaser. I'm looking out for my family, as I'm not convinced that the powers that be both here and in Europe are currently doing this. They are so engrossed in their own political point scoring that they are leaving us feeling very insecure for a very prolonged period and I am completely fed up of it all and taking my own steps to feel more secure, whatever happens.

I created a Brexit stash earlier in the year.  I spent approximately £100 and stored away extra dry goods, tins, cartons, jars, bottled goods, etc.  Not a massive amount, but enough to keep us going for a few weeks at least, if supermarket shelves were lacking in produce. I made sure that the best before dates were as long as I could make them and just packed them in boxes in the spare bedroom.

I figured that if the worst didn't happen, which it didn't earlier this year anyway, the food could easily be eaten as we ran out of it and on many occasions that supply has saved the day, when I've realised that we didn't have an item in the cupboard that I needed for making supper. Hence, the stash was gradually eroded.

Last month, I started to build it up again and I will continue to do this until the Brexit date has been and gone. I realise that the real issue will be around fresh produce such as vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and bread, if anything, but who knows what might transpire. I just want to be prepared.

I'm not saying that anyone else should do this, and I realise that there are many people that maybe could not afford to do it either. I'm thankful to be in a position to do it.  We've had very cheap food for a very long time. Things may or may not be about to change. I personally don't see the harm in wanting to potentially soften the blow.  What do you think?

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Trying to Stay Positive

The last couple of posts, I'm sorry to say have been a bit negative and I apologise for that. There's enough going on out there without bringing my winges to the party. In order to escape everything that's going on in the news, politics, etc. I've been keeping my head down and have continued to take pleasure in gardening and spending time at my allotment.

I have also found a few more YouTube channels that I've been enjoying watching, that post regular videos on this subject or on the subject of growing food or homesteading.

The newest one is a channel called MossyBottom (strange name I know), but it's by a guy who has left the rat race in the UK and bought a run down cottage in the West of Ireland, where he is restoring the cottage and land, growing/selling food and using the principles of permaculture to live more sustainably. It's quite interesting to watch someone who's doing this in this part of the world, as opposed to the US.

Another current favourite channel is The Hollar Homestead, which is created by a young couple who in the last few months have moved onto a homestead in North Carolina in the US. The channel follows their efforts to get their homestead up and running.  It's quite interesting, especially as they seem to belong to a community of homesteaders who help them out when needed, which is good to see.

Finally, I'm enjoying the channel called Peter Kanaris Green Dreams FL, who posts videos about growers in Costa Rica and Florida, many of whom grow food and obscure and wonderful sounding fruits, some of which I've never seen or heard of before. It's amazing to see people doing such wonderful things all over the world, to show people how easy it is to grow your own food and not be so dependent on others for survival. Plus they are all helping to increase the diversity on our planet.

It's making me want to grow as much food as I can. At the moment, we've been having great success at the allotment with tomatoes and cucumbers.  We've got more than we can possibly eat, despite giving some away to fellow plot holders and others.

I've been freezing many of the tomatoes, as we realised that when you put them in chilli or spaghetti Bolognese, they taste fine, even after freezing. Hopefully, I won't need to buy tinned tomatoes for a while, although there is now limited room in the freezer.

The raspberry plants, most of which I bought from Poundland or have spread naturally, have also been producing lots of berries. I've not had to buy raspberries for a few weeks now. We've just dug up all of the potatoes too, but there was a lot of slug damage that we've had to cut away. We're still going to use them the best we can. I haven't and won't be buying potatoes or frozen chips for a few weeks, while we use the ones harvested to make wedges instead.

I feel like I want to get serious about growing as much food as I can at the moment. I've even got plans to grow salad during the winter, especially as it seems like were due for an extended Indian Summer. I just need to get around to getting it all set up correctly. Planting only what we actually eat has definitely worked for us this year and reduced wastage.  The only exception has been the rhubarb.  We just don't use it, so it tends to go to waste as no-one likes it.  I've offered my plants to other plot holders, as we're digging them out this winter.  Someone who actually likes it may as well benefit from it.  I've got a couple of people interested in a plant each.  In it's place we can grow more strawberries or raspberries, which are much more useful to us.

Finally, I've recently bought a couple of black grape vines to go in at the allotment. I'm hoping that they will grow well up against the back fence and possibly give us another type of crop at some point in the future. The possibilities are endless and it's quite exciting to think about it. It makes me feel much more positive than reading the news anyway.

What do you do to keep yourself feeling positive, when things going on in the world around you seem so gloomy?

Saturday, 7 September 2019

A New and Exciting Challenge

Lately, I've been feeling a little stuck in a rut.  It may be that September feeling, with the start of the new academic year.  LB is starting her new Sixth Form College next week, which is exciting for, whilst I meanwhile feel like I'm stagnating fast. Work has been unrelenting and I often find myself not looking forward to going. 

When I get home from work, I'm exhausted and it takes a while to decompress. I don't always feel appreciated and my morale is at a low ebb. I know that this has been the case numerous times over the last few years, but we've been having trouble with a lot of criminal elements coming into the shop lately, and it's starting to get me down, plus I'm starting to be concerned for my personal safety.

In addition, the menopause is taking its toll on me, in that I'm gaining weight and I need something to boost my energy levels, help raise my self esteem and hopefully help me to keep my weight under control.

I've been doing the same exercise classes for years, and although I like them, because I get to meet up with friends on a weekly basis, things are changing at the gym with some people moving away and I'm starting to think that it's time I did something a little different. I will still continue to go when I can, but I need a new challenge.

For a while now, I've wanted to sign up for some Swing Dance/Lindy Hop classes locally.  There are quite a few places where it's taught in London.  I keep putting myself off by telling myself that it's for young people with more energy, but two years on and I still find myself wanting to try it. It's obviously an itch that needs scratching.

This week, as a kind of early birthday present to myself (it's my birthday next month), I finally signed up for a 5 week workshop in Jazz and Charleston solo classes with London/Brighton based company SwingPatrol. You can find out about them on their YouTube channel SwingPatrolUK or on their website. I've gone for the solo class initially, as I don't know how I feel about partnering at the moment, until I get to grips with some basic steps.  It may be something I decide to progress to later.

At £10 per class it's quite reasonable, and the classes are half an hour away on the bus. I don't know what to expect, save for what I've seen on the YouTube channel, but I'm really looking forward to starting and learning something new.  Sometimes you just have to take up a new challenge to stay sane and if I don't do it now, I may find it too energetic or difficult at some point in the future.

I feel better for making the decision and booking.  I'll let you know how it goes when I've done my first class in a couple of weeks time.  Wish me luck!!

Friday, 6 September 2019

Frugal Friday

It's been a couple of weeks, so I think I'm due another of these posts.  The last week of August was pretty frugal, as I didn't have any money left to spend, and in fact went overdrawn to be able to give LB her reward money for her GCSEs, which she needed to take to a festival with her last weekend. Thankfully, I got paid on Friday, so I was back in the black.

Anyway, here's a few frugal things I've been doing in the last few weeks.

1) Harvesting more vegetables and fruit from the allotment.  It's been a good year with regard to crops. In fact, we've had way too many tomatoes and cucumbers.  I've chopped up and frozen more tomatoes, as they get slightly over ripe, so as not to waste any. 

There's still half a dozen or more small cucumbers in the fridge to eat, but as OH has now taken the plants down, there won't be any more.  It sounds awful to say so, but it's a bit of a relief to be honest.  Luckily, they keep quite well in the fridge and we haven't wasted too many.

2) Once I got paid this month, I decided to splash out on a bulk supply of bio-degradable dog poo bags.  What a glamourous life I lead! I bought about 2000, which should keep us in dog bags for about 2 years.  They were very good quality and worked out at about 2 or 3 pence per bag, which was very reasonable.  It's about time I changed to degradable bags for this purpose, so it was a bit of an eco move too. 

If anyone has a dog, the website is and the best thing is that for £1 you can order samples of the different thicknesses before you place a large order, which is what I did.  To be honest even the cheapest ones were better than what I'd been using for months, but I opted for ones on large rolls of 100, as these are more practical to store and use on a daily basis.

3) It's been a week of bulk purchases really, as I also placed an order with Approved Food, for the first time in many months.  I haven't used this website in a long time, but after an email pinged into my inbox, I just thought I'd have a look and ended up spending £60. Not very frugal you might think, but half of this was on Christmas presents for OH, as I managed to bag a very good bottle of single malt for £20 instead of the £40 I paid for the same brand for his 50th birthday. This made the whole order worthwhile and I threw in a few extra consumables for OH as stocking fillers, i.e. coffee, cycling snacks, etc. It actually felt good to start on the Christmas shopping, even in such a small way.

Most of the rest of the order was made up of things we use all the time. I didn't go for out of date items on this occasion. I just stuck to things that were still in date, but as a consequence we are well stocked up on certain things.  I got free delivery too, on account of spending over £55, so I was happy about that too. I did notice that they've reduced their delivery costs back to what they were originally, after raising them a while back, which was why I stopped shopping with them.

4) We had a very frugal weekend last weekend. LB was away all weekend at a family friendly festival, with her friend and her family, so we spent the weekend at home and in the garden taking down the greenhouse and moving the compost bins.  We used our own compost on the border I was refreshing, as well as a bit of bought compost and the cost of the plants I bought a while ago that we put in, totalled just £20, which is a pretty cheap makeover. They don't quite fill the space yet, but they will eventually.

5) We seem to have now got the hot compost bin working properly, so hopefully we will be producing lots more good home made compost for use around the garden, which should save us some money.

6) The only other frugal thing I've been doing is continuing to make my hexagonal quilt, the top of which is nearing completion now.  Just the edging hexagons to do and then I can fill and back it. I didn't need to buy anything for this as I have everything I need to complete it in my sewing room.

I hope you've all been having a frugal couple of weeks.

Monday, 2 September 2019

A Pang of Conscience

With fires burning in the Amazon jungle and much talk about climate change in the news, this week I had a decided pang of conscience about our trip to Australia this year. We don't go on a regular basis, (i.e. approximately every 10 years), but it's still a long way and a lot of CO2 emitted on our behalf.

After reading a blog post about carbon offsetting, I decided to check out how much CO2 our trip would have generated.  The amount was shocking and definitely made OH and I think about whether it is worth flying at all these days. We do it maybe once or twice a year at most, but even this creates a lot of CO2.

Anyway, having been shocked by our emissions, I proceeded to find out how much it would cost to offset our flights this summer. It was a very reasonable amount and although I don't  believe offsetting is the answer and it doesn't absolve my conscience at all really.  How could it? I do believe that doing something, as opposed to nothing is the better option.

As a consequence, I decided to go ahead and offset the flights.  There were a number of options, from planting trees in the UK (which interestingly incurred VAT!!!), to helping to fund wind farms and hydroelectric plants in far flung places.  Whilst the amount of carbon output that these large structures help to reduce is high, I actually chose to offset by contributing to quite small projects that would have a positive effect on individual families, mainly by way of providing efficient cooking equipment or by regenerating boreholes to supply fresh clean water.

It may have been a missed opportunity, but I felt happier with this choice, knowing that families can be provided with a better standard of living as a result of the projects. In addition, I decided to pay it over a year at approximately £10 per month.  Partly, because I couldn't really afford to pay in a lump sum this month and with hindsight, this actually makes me appreciate more the consequences of long haul flights, as I pay it off each month.

I'm not altogether sure if this donation will continue each year until I cancel it, but if it does it's probably not such a bad thing, as it will help offset our annual carbon emissions, just from daily living, commuting, holidays in years to come, etc.  Although we live reasonably sustainably, (save for occasional long haul holidays), contributing to improving the lives of others in this way can't be a bad thing, can it?

Feel free to be honest in your opinions on this matter, as I'm sure some people may not agree with the sentiments expressed here.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Weekly Catch Up

It's been an eventful week, mainly at work, with criminal activities taking place in the shop and arrests made, amongst other unpleasant behaviour.  It's starting to get us down a bit as a team, as we spend so much time trawling the CCTV for footage of shoplifters, and then forwarding information on to the police, that we can't get on with the work of getting stock into the shop. I'm very much hoping that after the drama of this week, they'll keep away for a while at least and let us get on with our jobs in peace.

I'm not at work again until Tuesday now, so I'm enjoying some time at home getting on with stuff. Yesterday, was about recovery from work and easing myself into small jobs such as top up shopping, laundry and taking time to read in bed in the morning.

Today, we tackled more jobs in the garden, namely the deconstruction of our falling down mini greenhouse.  Many of the metal rods that make up the frame had rusted through and it was collapsing.  As we don't really use it anymore, we've decided to dispose of it and clear the space for a new seating area at this end of the garden.

As I write this, OH was doing just this. The next job was to  move the composting hot bin that OH bought me for my 50th birthday.  We've never quite got it going properly and wanted to start again in a different part of the garden, once again to free up more space.

Here's a picture of this corner of the garden before we started today:

And here's the space once the greenhouse came down:

There's still lots of things we need to find a home for, but once we get a new shed, everything will be sifted through and we'll hopefully get rid of any surplus and fit everything in the shed. (It's currently full, so this stuff wouldn't fit in).

I cut all the growth back around this corner, so we now have a great blank slate to work with.  The next step will be getting a new shed and dismantling the existing one.  I'm not sure when this will happen though.

The Hot Bin has now taken the place of our previous compost bin. It's a little more compact and a bit less obtrusive, you can hardly see it from the house. It is also self contained in that it is a sealed unit and can take cooked food too, which is useful, although we do have a regular collection of this by the local council anyway. We're not sure what we're going to do with the old compost bin yet, as I don't think we create enough of the right kind of garden waste to fill two bins.

There was actually some good compost in the bottom of the hot bin and the nrmal compost bin when we emptied them, so this was duly dug in to the bed that we're currently replanting.  OH also planted out the two new plants that I'd bought to go in this bed.  They don't yet fill their allotted spaces, but they hopefully will eventually.

The hydrangea is beautiful.  I just hope it thrives here and fills out over the years, as it will look fabulous with it's fantastic white floral cones.

I was happy with the work we got done in an hour or so.  We're a little bit closer to getting the garden how we want it, but there's still lots of work to do in the next few months. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 23 August 2019

A.Mixed Couple of Weeks With Some High Points

The last two weeks have been a very mixed bag. Work has been tough and stressful, with heaps of donations pouring in every day.  All I could do was my best.  We've got few volunteers and no interns at the moment, so some things just don't get done.

I had some abuse at work a couple of weeks ago, from a member of the public, who spat at me outside the shop. It wasn't even a customer. I didn't actually notice him doing it, it was my daughter who had just arrived to meet me from work and a volunteer that observed him doing it, I must have been looking the other way.  Disgusting behaviour, especially in front of my child.  I didn't even do anything to prompt it, save for saying that the shop was closed, as we were just leaving.

I also got abused in the street around the corner from where I live, on the same morning.  A man tried to bully me into picking up someone else's dog's poo, from outside of his house, by insisting that my dog had done it, when I knew she hadn't. He even got his wife to swear and abuse me from their flat window.  I refused to pick it up and informed them that I'd call the police if they didn't stop shouting at me and then went on my not very merry way.  Not a good day on the whole.

This week has been marginally better, but not much. An incident in the middle of the night on Tuesday upset me and I got little sleep, so work the next day was gruelling.  I'm now finished for the week though and things have got better.  LB got her GCSE results yesterday and passed all of her exams.  We're so proud of her. She did way better than we expected, not because we don't think she's capable, but just based on her reaction to the exams she took.  I thought that maybe she might fail one or two, but she didn't.

Now, I just have to find the £100 I promised her if she got more GCSE's than I got O Levels, which she did.  OH took us out to lunch at the local Italian restaurant to celebrate which was a nice treat. Drinking a glass of Prosecco at lunchtime wasn't such a good idea though, as I spent the afternoon on the sofa sleeping.  It's so good to know that she's got those qualifications under her belt and has met the conditions required for her to go to her 6th Form College of choice.  She's got her interview there next week. It's an exciting time for her moving on to a new educational institution.

This morning OH cycled off up to Yorkshire with his friend, so I've got a couple of days to myself to do as I please.  LB is meeting up with friends and partying after her exams, so I probably won't see a great deal of her.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, probably just tackle the ironing pile. The dog is still here with me though, so I know one thing, that it'll be double dog walking for me.

I hope you've had a good week.