Wednesday, 30 December 2020

A Financially Productive Day

When I woke up this morning, I decided that I wanted to be a bit more productive today, and to this end I straight away set about re-organising my financial paperwork.  It's a job I've had on my to do list for a while now, and I'd bought some multi-pocket files from work to help with the task, but just hadn't got around to it in the lead up to Christmas.

To be honest, I always do my financial filing in January. I don't file things away all year, just put them in filing box, and then come January (because this was when I used to do a tax return), I would file them all away in their respective places and start collecting them again in the New Year.  

It's a system that works pretty well for me. It means that paperwork is always in one of two places, depending on how recent it is, and to be honest, I don't actually receive that much paperwork during the year, so the task isn't too onerous really. Many statements are now digital, which is fine by me, but I do keep a written record of account balances every month, just so I can keep track and calculate the total amount I have in savings/shares each month.

Anyway, the job took the whole morning and a lot of paper got put in the recycling box and a bit more in the shredding bin. Lots of very old bank leaflets and useless irrelevant paperwork was ditched to make a bit more space. By 3pm, it was all finished and everything safely filed away, and I'd also checked out my current state pension forecast to update my records. It had jumped quite considerably since I last got a statement 3 years ago, so I was pretty happy about that, so long as it is not phased out by the time I retire.

With that job done, and everything fitted back in the space allocated for it, it's one thing ticked off the January To Do List before we've even got to January 1st and I feel I can face the New Year and the financial challenges it may throw at me. Let's hope that there aren't too many of those.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Trying a Low Buy Year

It's that time of year when you start to contemplate what you might like to achieve in the coming year. I don't really make resolutions as such, as they are way too easily broken, but I would like to make some changes to my spending habits this year.  Some bad habits were formed during the first lockdown and beyond and I'd like to curb them as much as possible next year.

As a consequence, I've decided to go back to keeping careful records of all spending, and trying to have a low buy year. I want to only spend money on things that I really need and not splurge on unnecessary items, as I have been doing lately. We have so much and need very little, it is just crazy to continue buying stuff.

In addition, by way of doing this, I hope to build up more savings this year and get on a better financial footing for the future.  One thing 2020 has taught us, is that you just don't know what is around the corner and the better financially prepared you are the easier it should be to weather the storms.

In addition, it's getting near that time when LB will be going off to university, and although I've managed to save some money to help towards the costs, I do need to get more serious about getting more money together, if we want to help prevent her having to start her working life with lots of debt to pay off. 

In order to help me in this endeavour, I've joined a new Facebook group which is all about participating in a No/Low Spend year. I'm hoping it will give me some motivation and I'm enjoying reading some of the posts.

It helps that I don't get paid until 31st December and that in the midst of a pandemic, the shops are mostly shut, as there is little temptation or opportunity to go out and shop. I'm also trying hard not to shop online, although I did purchase some cruelty free makeup that I needed the other day. If I can't manage to control my spending at the moment, then there's probably little hope for me.

Looking back over 2020, I think that during the first lockdown, I was pretty anxious about the virus, shocked at what was happening in the world, frustrated by the disruption and a bit lost at not having the security of my usual routine of work/gym/dance classes, etc. and as a consequence I spent money to provide an emotional crutch. I think as time has gone on, I have got more used to the disruption, although it's still not easy to completely accept it. 

During the second lockdown, knowing it was only for a short period of time helped and before I knew it I was back at work. Spending then became about Christmas and gift/food shopping. 

This time around, finding ourselves in Tier 4, with a more virulent strain of the virus out there and the figures being as they are, I fear it might be much longer before things get back to some sort of normality. As a consequence, I've decided to just try to accept my fate, not put too much pressure on myself, enjoy the time away from work and try hard to keep the spending from spiralling out of control. With Christmas now over, it's the perfect time to slow down the spending and buy as little as possible. 

The first challenge comes in January, as I have a fairly big credit card bill to pay, a hangover from Christmas, and LB's 18th Birthday looming mid month. I've bought a few small things already, but will need to purchase a good few more. Sadly for her, it is looking like she won't be able to meet up with her friends, unless she is back at college, so it may be more subdued than she would like it to be. This does potentially give us a bit of time to spread the cost, as we will probably treat her and some of her friends to a birthday meal out at some point in the future when restaurants re-open.

Other than that, there aren't really any great expenses on the immediate horizon that I can see. I'm intending to just take it one month at a time and see how it goes. 

I'll keep you posted on progress.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Post-Christmas Post

Although the Christmas holidays don't officially end until Monday evening, in our household it is back to normal today.  Back to normal eating, although we will be trying to eat up any left overs over the coming week. The rich food at Christmas always takes it's toll a little and this year is no exception. Two days of feasting is more than enough.

Obviously, it's not back to normal everyday life, as we're still in Tier 4 and can't actually go out and do much other than go for a walk with the dog and get some fresh air, or go and buy groceries, but it's as normal as it can be at this time.

Christmas was lovely and chilled and quiet.  I think we all enjoyed not having to travel to visit family, although we do enjoy seeing everyone at Christmas. For once, we could stay put and not feel like we were missing out on the family festivities. I know for a fact that LB really enjoyed staying put and she's loving her new cosy tartan M&S pyjamas and tartan brushed cotton bedding, so I got something right this year.

I did overbuy on food, I have to admit, but most of it can be kept and used at a later date. I think putting a bit aside every week when I did the shopping, caused me to gather up too much, but we'll try not to waste any of it and some things could be given to the food bank if we don't feel like eating them.

We haven't really watched too much TV this year, mainly because there wasn't really much that we fancied watching. This year's favourite programme (apart from the Motherland Christmas edition) has been Christmas University Challenge.  We all get together on the sofa and get points for the questions we answer correctly.  OH always wins, but it's a fun family activity.

I'm still working on completing my Winter in Central Park 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It's a difficult one this year and is taking an age. It will probably keep me going right up to New Year, which is fine by me. I love the simplicity of completing jigsaws, so relaxing. It's keeping me off the computer too, which is a good thing. It's amazing how much entertainment a few pounds can buy. It does feel strange not going back to work though, but I am grateful for extended time with my loved ones.

I've finally accepted this year, that I am definitely an over giver when it comes to gifts at Christmas. It was brought home to me on a few occasions. I don't really regret anything I bought and most of the items were requested or super practical, but it is perhaps something that I should get under control in the future. I just love Christmas and gift giving and opening. I can't help myself. I admire people who can just give one item and receive one item, but I just can't do it myself. I'm getting better in some ways, but there's much more improvement that can be made.

I am, however, going to try to wrap things more sustainably next year. We had a huge bag of wrapping paper to recycle this year, which isn't good. On the plus side, there was probably only a large crisp packet sized bag of non-recyclable materials, which was better. I kept any ribbons and tags for re-use next year. I've stopped writing on gift tags, so that I can re-use them, and usually make any cards we receive into tags for the following year.  I ended up with a huge gift box full of re-usables, which was satisfying, some of which had been used the previous year. Just the paper I need to work on, so I might try to use Christmas fabric next year, as I have lots in my fabric stash and it all needs using for something. LB handmade Christmas cards for OH and I this year and they were exquisite. She also made tags for our presents last year, which were super cute and were re-used again this year, so I might get her to make some for everyone for next year.

By the time Christmas is over, I do wonder what all the fuss and stress is about. Some of my favourite things have been so simple, such as listening to Handel's Messiah whilst walking the dog and having family a Banagrams championship - champion still to be decided.

Present wise, I've now got a couple of good books to read including an essential one on how not to kill my house plants (I'm failing at this already), Handel's Messiah on vinyl, Doris Day DVDs to watch, a milk frother for fancy coffee and hot chocolate (not tried it out yet, but LB has), a few toiletries, socks, a voucher for M&S, a new back light for my bike and a cycling snood, the usual chocolates (though not too many thankfully) and I am awaiting the sewing machine I requested to come back into stock at Argos.  Who knew there was a run on buying sewing machines? I should have known, what with lockdown and all. There's no rush though, but it would be good to get it before I go back to work, so that I can try to finish the final quilt I've started.

Talking of quilts, the dog seems happy with hers and has been sleeping on it in her basket. She was probably the most excited amongst us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and had to open her treats on Christmas Eve, as the smell was driving her crazy. We avoided crackers this year, as she hates them and gets scared by the bang. I can't say we really missed them that much, save for the personalised ones I usually make for each of us for Xmas dinner, but we managed without.

It's interesting how holed up in your home over Christmas, you can almost forget that there's a virus rampaging out there. I know it's been a difficult Christmas for many people, who may have had a lonely time, and I hope anyone who didn't get to see their loved ones for the duration, will get to see them very soon.

I'm now starting to look forward to the New Year. LB's 18th birthday is two weeks into the year and it seems like it might be a very strange special birthday for her, as I don't see the Tier 4 restrictions being lifted any time soon. We'll have to think of some way to make it as special as we can. Hopefully, she'll be able to make up for it later.

I hope you've all had a peace filled Christmas and I look forward to reading your posts in 2021.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Finally Getting Things Done

With just a few days left until Christmas Day, and back on Furlough, it was time this week to get on and do some jobs on my To Do List.

I've had a busy week, getting things done so that we could have the house back as we like it ready for Xmas. I finally finished painting the inside of the vestibule cupboard, which meant that everything could be put back into it and the house cleaned and put back in order. I finished everything that I could realistically do just an hour ago and it feels like a big relief to at least have the downstairs clean and tidy ready for us to enjoy spending time in this Christmas.

It was good news today, to hear that an agreement has been made over Brexit. At least we won't have to hear too much more about it now and we can just get on with living through the transition from now on. I'm sure there will be difficulties, but we just have to get on with it now.

I've been feeling a bit restless and finding it hard to sleep the last couple of nights, mainly due to all the chaos going on in the UK at the moment. It's such a mess. The news on Brexit did seem to mitigate slightly against it all. I just hope that the poor lorry drivers at Dover do manage to get home and have some kind of Christmas with their families and loved ones and that people everywhere in the UK do the sensible thing this Christmas and do all they can to avoid spreading this virus.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and enjoy yourselves despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. We are certainly going to try. 

Stay safe this Christmas and let's hope that 2021 will see an end to this horrible virus and we will all be able to resume normal living at some point in the near future.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

What A Difference A Day Makes

Well, after posting yesterday about having my Christmas work rota all sorted, it came as a surprise when later that afternoon, we found ourselves in Tier 4 and closing up the shop for Christmas. I'd only the day before put a post on Facebook to let our customers know that we were open right up until Xmas Eve and have subsequently had to post that we are now closed until further notice.

It's heartbreaking really, for so many businesses that were relying on the money that would come in during the last week before Christmas and for those that didn't manage to get out of London in time, or chose not to, and won't be able to see their families over Christmas. I feel for them.

As far as we're concerned, it doesn't really affect us too much.  OH did have a client visit organised for this week, but this will obviously have to be cancelled.  LB had already finished college, so it just means no meeting up with friends for a while.

For me, I get to spend the whole of Christmas at home with my family, which I really can't complain about at all. Christmas starts here for me. I'm taking today to just take it easy and then from tomorrow, I will be starting to get on top of the cleaning and other jobs I haven't finished yet.

I understand the situation will be reviewed on 30th December, but judging by the crowded stations and trains leaving London last night, I think the virus might have been spread out to other areas and may take a while longer to get under control. Let's hope not.

In the light of Matt Hancock's comments about the new mutation of the virus being much more virulent and  'out of control' and that 'we should all act as if we have the virus', I'm staying very close to home for the forseeable. When I do go out with the dog, I've even taken to wearing a mask outside, especially where I am passing lots of people on the pavement and in the park.

It's hard to believe that it's come to this so quickly after the last lockdown. It just shows how determined and persistent the virus is in trying to disrupt our lives.

Stay safe.

Friday, 18 December 2020

Christmas - Bring It On

The first day of being relegated to Tier 3 coincided with a day off and as promised the day was spent doing a big grocery shop for the next two weeks and possibly beyond.

It was a mammoth shop, taking in Home Bargains, Lidl, Dunelm and Tesco and after setting off at 12.30 pm I finally got home around 5 pm, exhausted, but relieved to have got it all done. I felt the urge,  as the realisation hit me, that should any of us come down with the virus in the next week, we'd be unable to get out and buy what we needed for Christmas, so I thought it best to do it all early.  Yes, the veg won't be super fresh, and some things may have to be frozen and defrosted, but I can live with that.

I say that I got it all done, but there were a couple of things I couldn't find with a long enough best before date, so hopefully we'll still be able to get out to get them nearer to Christmas. The shopping was unpacked and I was finally done for the day. The arrival of a parcel signalled the end of my Xmas gift shopping too, save for sending a digital voucher to my nephew in Australia, so that was a relief.

I was back at work on Thursday and I hoped that going into Tier 3 wouldn't affect the shop's footfall too badly, but it was very quiet for most of the day. We did still make a reasonable amount of money, but nothing like the previous year.  The number of volunteers we have is gradually dwindling too, as people head off home for Christmas, but a few student volunteers have returned home from Uni and are willing to come in to help, so we should be able to eek it out until Christmas Eve and keep the shop open.

I finally found out my shifts for over the Christmas holidays and they were better than I expected. I am going to get most of the week before Christmas off on leave, and will just have to work for 4 hours on Christmas Eve. I don't mind this, as OH has offered to come into town and meet me and we are going to walk around Central London and take in the lights and store window displays, which I haven't done so far this year. It should make for a nice festive Christmas Eve and it shouldn't be too busy because of London being in Tier 3.  We can't eat out or anything, but we may order a takeaway when we get home, as a treat.

I won't be returning to work after Christmas until Tuesday 29th, so I get a full 4 days off over Christmas, which is great. I'm back to my usual days from then on, which will include a short day on New Year's Eve and then the day after New Years Day. I'm probably going to take a week off in early January, which will give me time to make progress with the decorating and just generally ease myself into the New Year. I'm happy enough with the hours I'll be working and at least I now know what I'm doing and can plan my time a little.

On Friday, I had another day off. OH had booked the chimney sweep to come and clean the wood burner flue, after which we'll be able to light a fire, when it's cold enough to do so. I needed to do a bit of tidying around in the room to make enough space for him to work, as the room is currently a dumping ground for everything displaced from the hall, combined with being the place where we dry our washing.

I also needed to take LB to the doctor's surgery for a blood test and post a final gift parcel to my niece. I was glad to get the job done and know that I didn't need to physically send anything else to anyone now.

The rest of the day was spent at home, catching up on jobs I didn't have time to do earlier in the week, i.e. reconciling my finances, doing some washing, tidying around the kitchen, washing all the vegetables I bought on Wednesday and putting them away in the fridge.

I've now also got most of my present wrapping done.  The dog quilt I was working on is also now finished and ironed and ready to wrap up. Maybe just one more session of gift wrapping for the last few gifts should suffice, possibly on Sunday, leaving me free on the days I have off next week to clean the house in time for Christmas.

I have to say that this year is possibly the least festive feeling Christmas I can remember, probably since my Mum died over 25 years ago. I've usually been able to summon up some excitement over the holiday season, but not so much this year.  That's not to say that we're not going to try our best to enjoy it. 

I bought a TV guide this week, and I'm sure there will be plenty of good things to watch over the festive season. I've also got a good jigsaw to do and we've got lots of nice things to eat and drink, so I can't complain. We are very lucky. I think part of the feeling, is not leaving London and heading off to visit family, and the other part is that LB and her cousins are all getting older and Christmas isn't quite as special as when they were all young and excited about Santa's impending visit. Nothing stays the same forever.

My thoughts have now started to gravitate towards 2021 and what I want to achieve. Probably the main thing will be to get my spending (particularly on eBay) back under control. I want to be much more careful with money next year, as I seem to have been a bit spendthrift this year. Having said that, I still have money left in my account to last me to the end of the year, so that's one good thing, but I could have saved more this year if I'd put my mind to it. I'd definitely like to save more next year.

Have you started thinking about your aims for 2021, or after this rather tumultuous year, would you rather just take it day by day?

Monday, 14 December 2020

A Bit of Progress

I complained of not really being very productive in my last post, which is really still the case.  I'm just trying to get to Christmas unscathed by the virus really, as we're told that the figures are rising rapidly in London at the moment. There was a bit of a scare at work on Saturday, as my Manager's elderly landlady took a test late last week, which might have put him out of action until Christmas had it been positive, but it came back negative thankfully for everyone concerned, so he returned to work yesterday after a couple of days awaiting the result.

Some things are getting done at home on my days off. I managed to finish painting the inside of the vestibule cupboard this weekend. I just need to add a coat of clear varnish to the shelves, as the paint I used was a chalk paint, which will scuff easily, so the varnish will make the shelves a bit more hard wearing.

I can then put back the contents of the cupboard, as they are currently cluttering up our second reception room and the kitchen, and the mess is getting on my nerves. The hallway, is currently on hold as OH is just too busy to do anything at the moment.  After having applied two coats of matt emulsion, it is already getting a bit scuffed, so we're thinking of applying a third coat of emulsion that is wipeable. He will do this when he gets the time. Besides, we still haven't chosen a colour for the wall in the vestibule, and in the meantime, there's no point painting the woodwork, I'll have to do it at a later date.  It's looking like it won't be done for Christmas, but so be it. Maybe I'll take a week off in January and do it then.

On a positive note, we did all head out to the mall yesterday to do a bit of shopping and have supper out.  Whilst there, we finally got around to ordering a new armchair and footstool for the living room, both from John Lewis.  Only problem being, a 15 week wait, so we may get it for Easter if we're lucky, so long as Brexit doesn't throw a spanner in the works. Something ticked off the to do list at least and something to look forward to next year. It's our present to ourselves, instead of having a proper holiday this past year.

We also put some lights up at the front of the house.  We stuck to stringing them along the fence instead of around the windows, but they look okay, and again they are on a timer to come on at 4pm and go off at 10pm. They make the front path look very festive in a subtle kind of way.

Today, I stayed close to home, as I needed to do some ironing and some present wrapping too. I also had an Approved Food order coming. Mostly snacks, food, toiletries and some dog stuff too.

I was going to do a big food shop today, but I was not really feeling it and we had virtually enough to see us through until Wednesday, so I decided to do a very small top up shop and leave the big shop until later in the week. Trouble was, the small top up shop (at ASDA) then became somewhat bigger, as I decided to buy a few staples for the new Brexit stash that I'm starting, on account of all the depressing talk in the news about us crashing out of the EU without a deal. I also decided to get a few things for the food bank and also saw a few extra surprise things that I decided to buy LB for Christmas.  I'm hoping she likes them. 

I almost can't be bothered with the Brexit stash thing, but this might just be the one time when I wish I had. There's always something lately, prepping has almost become part of the UK psyche, (judging by the queues and loaded trolleys at ASDA) adopted from the US, of course.  I'll probably just stash the things that most likely come from Europe, just in case. Who has the money before Christmas to buy too much extra food? 

This week, is the last full week at work before Christmas and of course, we have just been put up a Covid Tier to Tier 3 from Wednesday, so it's going to be an interesting week. I don't know how this will affect footfall in the shop, but shops can remain open.  I won't be attending the last class of the year at the gym though, which is disappointing and we will no longer be able to go out for Xmas dinner, so we'll be eating at home instead. I'd already bought a few things and put them in the freezer. It's now getting so close to Christmas that if you haven't got stuff in, you could find yourself unable to get out to the shops if you come down with the virus. I'm now wishing I'd done the shop today, but I will certainly be doing it on Wednesday, just in case.  Some things may not necessarily be the freshest they could be for Christmas, but I can live with that.

I'm supposed to be on leave the week before Christmas, but I may need to work on Christmas Eve and the day before that, if my fellow managers need to get back to Europe for Christmas Eve, which is their big celebration.  Not sure what's happening there as yet. If they do both go, I'll then have to work after Christmas too, until at least one of them returns, so I may not get a very long break from work, we'll see what happens, as we may all be locked down again before then. Either way, I guess I'm okay with it. We're staying here, so I am around and I can't really quibble after the amount of paid time off I've had this year. It would seem super churlish to do so.

I hope you all had a good weekend and are on top of your Christmas To Do Lists.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Lazy Days Off and Busy Days at Work

Since returning to work last week, I haven't been particularly productive at home. My days off tend to be quite lazy and if I get a few things done I'm happy. As a consequence, the decorating isn't really progressing, but that's okay. I'm just enjoying the lead in to Christmas.

On Sunday, I had a very lazy day. I bought an online Tap/Lindy Hop course and did that in the kitchen, which was fun. I did have a zoom call with my sister in the evening, which was great. It was nice to catch up with her, as I haven't seen her all year, which is pretty shocking when I think about it. She is well though, as is her family, which is the main thing. 

I won't be seeing her or her family this Christmas, as we have decided to stay in London. Adding another household to the mix, just adds complications, so we're having a guilt free Christmas and New Year at home. We'll probably go up north some time next year, when the worst of the virus is over.

On Monday, I was slightly more productive and did a weekly food shop in the morning. In the afternoon, I managed to write and send off most of our Christmas cards. We seem to send less and less each year, which as far as I'm concerned is a good thing. I always feel a great sense of relief when Christmas cards have been sent off. At least this year, it's been nice to receive cards and know that family members and friends that I haven't seen this year are all well, so they have been very useful in this respect.

Later on Monday, I got caught up with ironing the large pile of clothes in the ironing basket, which was another job done. I watched a few episodes that I'd recorded of Escape to the Chateau DIY whilst doing so.  Now the new series has started and I'm back at work, I'm struggling to keep on top of watching it.  Fortunately, I've got a series link which records every episode, so I can watch them at my leisure.

I was a bit disappointed on Monday night, when a delivery arrived, to find that the bag was slit and one of the items was missing. I managed to catch the delivery driver, who checked his van for me, but the item wasn't in it, so must have dropped out or been taken out at some earlier point on it's journey.  I then had to go through the rigmarole of contacting the company and explaining the situation.  Thankfully, they are in the process of replacing the item, which I'd bought as a present for OH. It's rare that I have a problem, but it is very annoying when I do.

Tuesday, I was back at work and the Shop Manager was back, which was a relief as we need as many staff and volunteers as possible in the lead up to Christmas. The shop was busier too, which was good.  We also had a visit from our Area Manager. It was nice to see him and have a bit of a catch up, as he hasn't visited the shop since before the first lockdown.

Today, Wednesday, I'm on a day off again. I've done a few small jobs, one of which was to pot on a few indoor house plants.  I've gone a bit mad buying indoor plants in recent months, and some of them were outgrowing their pots and looking a bit worse for wear, so I put them in bigger pots, which will hopefully help them.

I'm having varying degrees of success at looking after the different plants I've bought. I think I might have over watered some a little. They all seem to have different requirements in the winter, so I get a bit confused. Some may not survive, but at least it will help me to identify those plants that are hardest to look after. It's definitely a learning curve. I like having them in the house though, as they make it feel cosy and homely.

At the moment, they are scattered all over the house, as the Christmas tree is taking up most of the space in the living room. In January, they will all be back in the front bay and I'll take a picture then to show you what they look like.

This afternoon, I did a bit of gift wrapping, so that I'm not faced with a whole heap of it, immediately before Christmas. I figure if I do a bit each week, it won't feel quite so onerous. I do enjoy wrapping presents, I find it quite relaxing. Besides, it's good to see just how much you've bought, to stop you continuing to the point of overbuying in the last few weeks before Xmas.

Every evening for the past week, I've been working on the dog quilt. I love winter evenings watching TV and sewing, it's so therapeutic after a busy day at work. It's slowly coming together and I'm now attaching the binding, so it will soon be finished. With the left over fabric, I'm also making a cushion cover for the dog kennel in the car, as the old one, despite being washed regularly, is looking dirty and needs replacing. I should get the quilt done by Christmas and will post the finished results in another post.

I love this time of year, especially if I've done most of my shopping, as I don't have to get frazzled rushing around the shops and can just enjoy soaking up the atmosphere when out and about or at work. I hope you are enjoying December and managing to get everything done that you need to.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

A Week of Relative Normality

It felt so great to get back to work on Tuesday. I took it steady on my bike and probably took a bit longer than I normally would, mainly due to being a bit out of practice at cycling. It took about 50 minutes.

When I got to work, it was a case of running through lots of checklists to make sure everything was working okay and the shop was ready to open to the public.  It was good to touch base with other work colleagues and find out what they'd been up to over lockdown.

The Shop Manager hasn't returned to work yet, so it's just myself and fellow jobshare Deputy running the shop this week.  I've managed to arrange for enough volunteers to keep the shop open and we re-opened to the public on Wednesday and started taking donations again.

I didn't work on Wednesday, but I was back at work on Thursday, which I quite enjoyed (save for getting drenched on the cycle in). I was able to spend time working on dressing one of our windows for Christmas. I rarely get the time to do this kind of thing anymore, so it was fun.  It was also one of our volunteers' 60th birthday and he came in to work a shift.  It would have been lovely to go to the pub and have a drink after work, but as we are in Tier Two, we couldn't do this unless we ordered a meal and sat outside. So much for getting back to normality.

On Friday, I spent the day at home. I finally got around to painting the inside of the vestibule cupboard, and this time I really do like the colour and it's a keeper. I had a few problems with previous paint peeling off the wall, but with a bit of a sand down and re-paint, it worked out okay.  It probably won't be to most people's taste, but is needed because of the roughness and unevenness of the inside of the cupboard.  The dark paint helps to hide all the flaws. I've very happy with the results, especially after trying so many different paints on it. I was losing all hope of finding one I liked.  We just need the paint for the feature wall now. 

Later, I went out to a class at the gym. Two of my favourite teachers have returned to teaching there, so I now at least have the option of going to a couple of classes a week. I was really excited to go back and do a class I actually enjoy and it didn't disappoint. I've really missed it and could really feel how unfit I've become in respect of this kind of exercise. You just don't appreciate what you have until it's taken away from you.

After the class, OH and I headed off to the mall to do a spot of Xmas shopping, which was a kind of evening out for us. Whilst out we ate out in a Tapas restaurant, which was very nice. It felt strange though. Luckily, we got seated in a very quiet corner, away from everyone else in the busy restaurant, which was very reassuring.

I'm feeling a lot more motivated at home now that I'm back at work. I think I needed to get out of the house. It was a bit suffocating staying home all the time. There's something about bouncing ideas off work colleagues and chatting about nothing much with people. I've missed it a lot. I've also missed the exercise of riding my bike and feel much better now I've reversed the weight slowly piling on.

On Saturday, I was back at work. Once again, I really enjoyed it. I've now got two days off together which is always good. 

I hope you've had a good week now lockdown has ended.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Loving Right Now - The Pre-Christmas Edition

Another favourites type post, this time a kind of Christmassy one.

The first thing that I'm loving right now and have been for a couple of weeks, is my white Christmas cactus being in flower.  I love the pretty white flowers on this plant.

I have a hot pink one too, which is also flowering and it always makes things seem a little bit festive when they bloom at this time of year.

The next thing that I'm loving right now is the sight of the twinkly Christmas lights I bought in my Cherryz haul, decorating our little outdoor tree and down one side of the garden.  I've wanted some lights on this tree for years and never put any on. I'm so pleased I finally got around to it, as every time I look out of the back door,  I can see them twinkling and moving slightly in the wind and it's so festive.  They are battery powered, timed to come on from 4.30pm until 10.30 pm and light up the garden a treat. 

As always, I love it when the Christmas decorations and the tree go up, which they did on Sunday. Here's a picture of the tree:

I haven't gone mad with decorations, mainly due to the fact we'd redecorated this summer, but a few lights and vintage artificial festive flora here and there always make the room feel more Christmassy. OH hates Christmas decorations, he loves it when they come down in January. (HUMBUG) I don't take much notice though and put them up anyway. It's only for one month after all.

Out came the nut bowl too and the nutcrackers.   I bought a new to me pair of brass nutcrackers this year (on eBay). 

I had to try them out to see if they worked well and thankfully they did. 

I'm also loving getting out my vintage Christmas brooch collection ready to wear during December. I've collected them over the last 10 years or so and love wearing them.  Some I only wear for special occasions, as I don't want to risk losing or damaging them. They cheer up any outfit during December. I may be adding more to the collection in the next month, as I'm always on the lookout for new ones.

Finally, now we're in December, I'm enjoying burning my Advent candle daily and opening my Galaxy Advent calendar.  It wouldn't quite be Christmas without them.

What are you loving this festive season?

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Week 4 Lockdown 2

Entering the last week or should I say the last 5 days of this current lockdown, I still had a heap of things to do.  On  Thursday, I needed to do some grocery shopping as the fridge was almost empty. In addition, it was the last day to use my Lidl £10 voucher and I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

I set out at about 11.30 am after walking the dog.  It took a few hours to go around the two supermarkets that I usually visit, and I made sure to use all the vouchers I possibly could at each. A few extra things got put in my trolley. At Lidl I bought this sweater which I thought was really pretty, 

and a set of Christmas containers for leftovers, which I thought was cute.  The Middle (aisle) of Lidl is a dangerous place to be. The sweater was £7.99 and the boxes £4.99 for a set of 4.

It was no different at Tesco, as I ended up buying a few more indoor plants.  I couldn't resist them, as they only cost £2.50 each, which was so reasonable. I also bought a beautiful Amaryllis for the festive season, it's a deep pinky/red colour, which really appealed and is called Queen of the Night.  Here's a picture from the box:

It is currently just a bulb and will take 8-10 weeks to grow, so it won't flower until next year now, but that will be something to look forward to.

When I got home, the paint samples I'd ordered from Little Greene for the hallway had arrived. They came complete with a little paint brush to use, so I immediately painted a couple of patches on the wall to see what it looked like. It was very exciting. After a second coat, we were still not sure if we liked either of them, so I'm a bit despairing at the moment of finding the right colour for the downstairs hallway.

On Friday, after a morning work zoom meeting about re-opening the shops, it was back to work cleaning the house. I progressed to cleaning our bedroom and changing the bedding.  I put my new black satin pillowcase on one on my pillows and it feels okay to sleep on, although not quite as cooling as the first one I bought. 

On Saturday, it was back to the decorating.  OH started painting the hall ceiling and walls. We're going with white for now and will add a wall of colour when we find one we like. Whilst he was doing that, I did some Christmas shopping online, as LB finally provided me with her Christmas Wish List. I still have a few things to get, but we need to make a trip to the mall next week when it re-opens, for OH to check a couple of things out before I buy them, otherwise I'm almost done.

On Sunday, I finally got around to putting up the Christmas decorations in the living room. The house feels much more festive now and it's always a relief to get them up, as I can then relax and start enjoying the lead up to Christmas.

I've decided to stop putting us under pressure to get the hall finished before I go back to work. It's not going to happen. If we get it finished by Christmas I'll be more than happy. In fact, I've relaxed about all of the things on my list that aren't done yet. I don't need the stress and no one is coming round, so what's the hurry.  In this vein, as Monday was my final day at home before returning to work, I decided to just take it easy and enjoy my last day of lockdown.

Today, I was back on my bike and cycling back into work to get the shop ready for re-opening on Wednesday.  It seems a world away from lockdown life, but I enjoyed getting out of the house and getting back to some sort of normal routine. It will be nice to see our volunteers and customers again and it felt great to get some exercise on my bike. I'll let you know how things go.

I hope you enjoy whatever relative freedoms you are permitted once this second lockdown is over. Let's hope it's the last that we'll have to endure.

Monday, 30 November 2020

Quilting Tales

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I love to quilt. I'm not a machine quilter, I'm afraid, much as I'd love to be, because I don't really have the skills to make anything but a very simple quilt on a machine. Maybe one day I'll take a course and develop some skills, but in the meantime, my quilting often tends to be of the hand stitched variety, often using paper piecing.

The quilt I'm currently working on, started as a machine project during the last lockdown, mainly to make use of an old single quilt that I didn't want to put into landfill. I often use them as the wadding, which makes the quilts very thick and warm, great for snuggling under in the winter months, whilst watching TV. The only problem with this is that sewing machines often don't like to stitch through thick layers of duvets and I therefore often end up hand stitching the quilted rows.  Here's a picture of this current project:

It's not too far from being finished, but my motivation is seriously lacking at the moment, due to the fact that hand stitching the rows takes a lot of time and effort to handle the quilt and make the stitching neat. 

Most of the fabrics used to make this quilt formed part of my vintage Laura Ashley fabric collection. I've collected various prints over the years, mainly ditsy ones, buying them on eBay and squirrelling them away.  The last lockdown, however, taught me that it was probably about time I did something useful with them, hence how this quilt came about. I'm looking forward to finishing it and putting it into use in our living room.  The colours should complement the decor and I think it's quite pretty in a simple kind of way.

On Sunday morning, I woke up and felt inspired to drag out yet another quilt project that I had started during the last lockdown.  This one was for a certain canine member of our household, to put in their basket. I'd started sewing it on my machine and was going to attempt a machine made quilt, but as my machine is not currently working, I've decided to resort to the paper piecing method.

There are a few things I like about this method -

- it's an occupation that costs nothing, but produces a wonderfully practical heirloom item, that can be used for years and very easily washed.

- it's a method my mum used to use when she had the time to quilt and it keeps me connected to the memory of that.

- it uses up lots of scrap paper, of which I have a ton, after ripping all the unused pages out of LB's old school exercise books before discarding them.

- I can work on it whilst watching TV in an evening and don't have to work in the sewing room.

- I find hand stitching on small pieces, very therapeutic and don't really care how long it takes, as it's the process that I enjoy and the satisfaction that comes when you finally finish it.

In order to convert the making of this quilt  to a paper piecing process, I had first to make a cardboard template for the paper pieces.  This was very easy, as I already had a template for the fabric pieces and just needed to make one slightly smaller all around.

The pieces in this quilt are brick shaped I guess and cut from dog or duck print fabrics, plus some other plain and spotted fabrics thrown in. Again, I'd bought these fabrics on eBay years ago, with the intention of making something for the dog, but had never got around to it until now. As she's now 8 years old, I can't hang around much longer or she won't get to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Anyway, here's a picture of some of the blocks I've already machine sewn, to give you some idea of how it is taking shape.  It's quite cute. I've stuck to dark colours as they are much more practical for a dog quilt.

Sunday morning was spent cutting out all the paper pieces I needed, which I thoroughly enjoyed and Sunday evening was spent pinning them to the fabric pieces whilst watching His Dark Materials and The Crown. I managed to get them all tacked too by the end of the evening, so now they are ready to hand sew together. A thoroughly pleasurable way to spend the many autumn/winter evenings to come.

It may sound terribly sad, but it's helping to give me a sense of purpose at this difficult time, when it's hard to see when normality will ever return.  In addition, as we are staying in London for Christmas, it will more than keep me occupied for the duration. Sometimes, having a pleasurable future goal can really help get you through the difficult days.

I'll keep you posted with progress.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

A Bit of Ebay Auditing

This is probably a bit of a contradictory post considering a recent post was concerned with being frugal, but whilst poking around on eBay the other day, after having purchased yet more items (a couple of used books this time), I decided to have a look back over this year and audit how much I'd actually spent on the site. I was just curious, as I use the site a lot and buy lots of different things, from clothes and accessories to DIY bits and pieces, craft bits, furniture, a bike and accessories, etc., etc.

I decided to focus my efforts on what I'd spent in the last year on three categories - Clothes and accessories, Home/Garden/DIY and the final category was what I'd spent on Covid related purchases for my own personal use. 

Here's what I found:

Clothing and Accessories - I spent a whopping £368.05 on clothing and accessories this year on eBay. That's quite a lot.  This included 4 pairs of footwear, 19 items of clothing and 16 items which I'd class as accessories, ranging from socks or tights, scarves to jewellery, mostly brooches and some of these purchases were for multiples bought as one item, which I haven't included in the figure. Interesting.

I have to admit that some of the purchases didn't actually turn out to be what I expected, which is always a risk when buying things online and some I've even subsequently donated, as I'll never wear them. I am, however, trying to be more careful about buying clothing, as it is very difficult to know if you'll like it when it arrives.  Many things I've bought this year I really love though and am very happy with, I'd say probably 80%.

Home/DIY/Garden - I spent an even larger sum on items for our home and garden and to assist me in DIY projects over lockdown this year. The total came to £383.92. I'd say that the proportion of things I was happy with, was far higher in this category, although I did purchase the odd thing that was totally unsuitable or not as described - less than 10% I'd say. Quite a lot of money spent though. Most of it was spent on things to accessorise our rooms after redecoration, for storage or for DIY projects. 

Broken down this included three items of furniture or parts for furniture, 17 items used to accessorise or for home decor, including anything from photo frames, ornaments, candlesticks, plant pots, front door furniture, etc., 11 items used for DIY projects including mounts for framing photos or prints, ribbons, cords, paint, polish, a clock mechanism, staples for my staple gun, plus a few others. In addition, a couple of items were bought for storage and the same for the garden. A very eclectic mix of things.

Covid 19 - I thought it would be interesting to see what things I bought on eBay that were Covid related too. This total came to £87.33, mostly spent on PPE, but this did also include a 5 litre bottle of hand sanitiser that I bought for work, but wasn't suitable, as it couldn't be used by asthmatics, so I had to keep it for us to use. It will last us for the forseeable and way beyond, but was an expensive mistake at £20, all because I didn't read the label in the photograph properly and it wasn't mentioned in the listing, which was annoying.

This figure, however, did not include the bike I bought to get to work post-lockdown. Adding this in and the various bits of cycling clothing and paraphanalia I bought elsewhere, it would come to nearly £250. Super interesting to work out these additional costs this year. Initially, I bought very expensive masks on eBay, just as the crisis was building up and when it was difficult to get hold of them. I subsequently bought less expensive masks on Amazon and elsewhere. 

(There were a few other things I've purchased on eBay over the year, which didn't fall into the above categories, so the final figure will be maybe £100 or so more than the totals added together, but the majority were included)

A bit of an eye opener, but one I thought might be interesting to post about. It does make you question your online buying habits when you are confronted with the evidence of your shopping history. 

Overall, though, I am pretty happy with what I spent, save for a few things that I really wish I hadn't purchased. My experiences this year, have taught me to be much more careful buying clothing, especially vintage clothing and I have seriously curbed that urge online as a consequence. I think going forward, I'm going to be a lot more careful though and try to spend a lot less. 

I think being at home and unable to get to shops for much of the year, has led me to shop on eBay much more than I ordinarily would. At least, with eBay, small companies and individuals benefit from your purchases, and it is nice to know that you are giving extra life to something that someone else no longer wants.  

Do you ever audit your online spending?

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Week 3 Lockdown 2

I can't believe that we've got to the end of Week 3 of this lockdown already.  It's been a bit of a mixed week. Time has gone so quickly, and I still don't feel like I've achieved all that much. This week, I began to feel the pressure to get stuff done before I go back to work. I wanted to at least to break the back of decorating the hall and then be able to clean up the house and get the Christmas decorations up before returning to work, so it was time to really knuckle down. 

However, things didn't really go as planned. I continued to try to paint the inside of the vestibule cupboard, with little success. After trying a coat of the lighter coloured emulsion paint that I'd bought, I wasn't happy with that finish either and after more trial and error, I've decided to use a completely different paint. 

I ordered some tester pots from Little Greene for one wall in the downstairs part of the hall. Both of the colours I got samples for were quite dark, but whichever paint we choose, is going to replace a dark colour already on the wall in this part of the house, so I know the space can take it. I decided that whichever we choose, I would buy a bigger pot of it and re-paint the inside of the cupboard with it, so that there's some continuity.

The problem with the cupboard is, that it is very rough and uneven inside on both the walls and woodwork and I don't want to spend time filling, sanding, etc. as it doesn't really get seen that much. The very dark matt paint that I'm intending to use, seems to help disguise the flaws, whereas the light coloured paint and the eggshell paint with it's slight sheen, seem to make them more obvious. I now have to wait until we have made a decision and then I will need to order and take delivery of the wall colour before I can finish the cupboard. Sometimes the simplest jobs take much longer than you anticipate. Hence, the hall may not actually get finished before I go back to work.

Anyway, here's a before shot of the cupboard before I started, just to give you some idea of what I'm dealing with. I know it's just a cupboard, but I'd like to do it to a standard that I'm happy with.


On Saturday, OH was able to join me and do a bit more decorating and he finished sanding all the walls and also sanded all the woodwork on the banister and skirtings. I will now be able to start painting them, just as soon as he has finished painting the walls and ceilings. This will not be until next week though, as progress is slow.

On Monday, I managed to be a bit more productive and finally went over to the glass shop to order some glass for a photo portrait of my grandfather. I'd mounted it during the last lockdown and measured it for glass, but just hadn't got around to getting any. Anyway, the glass cost £9 and after putting everything in the frame, it's now up on the sewing room wall, which is very satisfying. It brings back childhood memories of my mother's bedroom, as it always hung on the wall there. One more thing crossed off the list.

On Monday this week, I also got back to working on a quilt. It was one that I started during the last lockdown. I decided to hand stitch the quilted rows, as my sewing machine is not working again. It took 2 hours to stitch just one row, which was a bit laborious, but only 5 more to go before it's finished. I'm going to try to do one per day, so that I can finish it before I go back to work.

Talking of which, on Monday it was announced that non-essential shops will be opening after this lockdown ends, regardless of tiers, so I will definitely be going back to work next week. I then received an email from work asking us to return to work next Tuesday 1st December to prepare the shop for opening on Wednesday 2nd December.  This means I only have a few days left of this lockdown and this applies a little more pressure to get everything done, but maybe I need it.

Unfortunately, LB got some bad news on Monday, namely that she's going to be made redundant from her part time job working as a waitress in a pub. She was disappointed, but she's had a good run and been paid all through the last lockdown, so she's been very lucky. It might be difficult for her to find another job at the moment though, but hopefully by Easter things might be more back to normal and she might find something.

In view of the current Covid figures up north where our families live, OH cancelled our cottage booking for Christmas, as it's one of the worst affected places in the country at the moment. If we do go it just adds another household to the mix, so it's probably best we don't. We'd been thinking about cancelling anyway, and had until next week to take advantage of free cancellation. I'm not sure we'd even have been able to travel up, due to restrictions as they will be in Tier 3,  so our movements will also be very restricted. I will probably need to work right up to Christmas and straight after anyway, especially since we've just lost a month's worth of revenue.

On Tuesday, I decided to spend a last day in the garden. I had a couple of small jobs still to do, both at the front and back and a bit more leaf sweeping. I wanted to get it all done in time for the brown bin collection due on Wednesday morning. In addition, once it was done, I could focus on cleaning the house, as I would no longer be tramping dirt in and out.

In order to make sure that I have enough time to get the whole house cleaned before going back to work, I started on the cleaning on Wednesday. With the main dust inducing decorating work done in the hall, it should stay relatively clean, so on Wednesday morning I started by cleaning the living room. I haven't given it a thorough clean since the last lockdown, so it was long overdue. It didn't take too long, but looked so much better. Now I can at least get the Christmas tree up at the weekend, if nothing else.

Looking ahead to Week 4 of lockdown, it is now going to be focused on cleaning, painting, sewing and putting up the Xmas decorations. I need to really focus hard to get everything I want to do done. I will let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Cherryz Online Haul

After seeing a few Cherryz hauls on YouTube over the last couple of weeks, I was curious as to what the site was actually like and decided to take a look myself. Not being able to visit Poundland during lockdown, as I don't think it's open (I might be wrong here), being able to shop from a similar online shop appealed.

I initially started to take a look on my computer without downloading the app, but was kind of tricked into downloading the app in order to get free delivery, which I didn't actually get. It was like the Amazon Prime trial -  you get a free trial for a month followed by paying £12 per year for free delivery, so I didn't use it, in case I forget to cancel it.  Anyway, downloading the app on my computer was pretty straightforward and it did enable me to get a 15% discount on my first order. I'm not sure if this was offered if you don't download the app though.

I had a good scroll through and managed to spend over £40. I have to admit that half of this was on just two items that I bought with Christmas in mind. 

The order was delivered 4 days later and came with lovely Cherryz branded tissue paper on top and only brown paper to fill the box out.  No annoying unnecessary packaging, which was good.

One of the above mentioned Christmas items was a perfume for me, namely Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea with Cherry Blossom. It cost £10 for 100ml, which I thought was quite reasonable. I usually use the original Green Tea perfume, but I'm running out, so I got this one for OH to give me for Xmas. I was a bit worried that I might not like the scent, but on receiving it, I found that it doesn't actually smell that different from the original, so I was happy with it.

The second item I bought with Christmas in mind was a set of 200 Warm White outdoor fairy lights with a timer that allows you to time them to come on for 6 hours per day/evening. They appealed because they are battery operated (4 x AA batteries), so no wires or plug in and I've wanted some lights for our little real Xmas tree on the decking for a while. They were probably a bit more than I would have liked to pay for them, but I'm really hoping that they will be well worth the price for the convenience. These cost £10 too.

Other than these things, most of what I bought were food or household items. Mainly snacks and treats, but some staples too. Here's some pictures of the other things I ordered:

Snacks and treats

Miscellaneous food and household items

Other items

Delivery cost £3, which is reasonable enough, but I did save over £6.50 with the 15% off my first order offer, which more than covered it. Delivery was within 3 to 5 days and the order did arrive in this time, but you can pay more and get it delivered the next day. Not something I would really ever do on a discount site, as it contradicts the frugality of using a discount site.

In addition, when you order from the site, you are given 2 reward points for every £1 you spend, which can then be exchanged for free reward items, which are a selection of items that are also on sale on the site. I assume they change all the time. You can use the points up on your next order I think. I gained 76 reward points, which would have got me the choice of one a few things from the site, which is an added bonus. Not sure if they'll still be offered if I order again, but then again, there might be something I like better.

I would recommend giving the site a try, even if only for the discount on your first order. Only one item in the order was incorrect, the calendar.  What was sent was not what I ordered, but this may have been because they had run out of the one I ordered. I would place an order again in the future.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Making Some Christmas Aprons

During the first lockdown, I did quite a bit of sewing and made various things, including some aprons to wear at work when I'm sorting and pricing donations. They were easy to make, along with their matching drawstring bags, which make them easy to throw in the washing machine when I get home from work at the end of the day.

Whilst being furloughed for the month of November, it was on my list to make a few more, this time from my stash of Christmas fabrics, both to cheer myself up and to get into the Christmas spirit for when I return to work in December. It's a great use of the fabric, that I probably wouldn't otherwise use, and if they raise a smile at work, then it will have been well worth it.

I set about making them one afternoon the other week. I wasn't feeling the decorating and just wanted to do something different. I began by using one of the aprons I had previously made as a template. I changed the new aprons slightly, making them shorter (knee length) and not so wide, as they didn't need to go down past my knees or wrap half way around my back.  This used much less fabric, which was good, as some pieces of fabric that I wanted to use, weren't quite big enough to make them in the original size. I also didn't bother to make any pockets to put on the front, as in reality, I just don't use them.

I cut out 6 aprons in all, from six different fabrics and pinned the edges ready to sew, either by hand, or on my machine if I could get it working again. I also cut enough fabric to make a small matching drawstring bag for each of them. I was then going to order some cotton tape on eBay for the ties, neck strap and drawstrings, until I accidentally came across some cotton Christmas tape that I already had in my stash that was perfect for the job and needed using for something. 

It was a day or so before I got back to them and could progress, I had to try to get my sewing machine working again. It was a job I wasn't looking forward to, as I'd got quite frustrated with it the last time I'd tried to use it, whilst making a new quilt. After changing the thread and testing out the machine, I was pleased to find that it was working okay, so proceeded to sew the drawstring bags and then the aprons themselves. 

I then proceeded to cut the cotton tape to the right lengths and pin it to the aprons, ready to machine stitch on. Later that evening, whilst watching TV, I threaded the tape through the drawstring bags and then all I needed to do was to stitch the tapes onto the aprons and give them all an iron and they were all set to go. This last bit of stitching, I did in part on my machine, which subsequently stopped working and then the last few done by hand.  This took a bit longer, but I quite enjoy hand stitching.

They are by no means perfect, but will do the job and it was a very satisfying little project that at least is now completed, ready for when I return to work. Here's a few pictures of the finished aprons and bags:

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Keeping It Frugal (Or Trying To)

As mentioned in the blurb on my blog, I do consider myself to be a frugal blogger and I am always trying to live as frugally as I can, although I haven't really posted much about my frugal endeavours in recent months.

During the last couple of weeks, I've managed to save a bit of money by returning to grocery shopping at Lidl, instead of Tesco, who I favoured during and after the first lockdown, as they had a super huge store that I felt safer shopping in. Since then, I discovered a newly opened Lidl store that was convenient to use and I decided to start shopping there. I think this has saved quite a bit of money, as they are very competitive on price. 

In addition, last week, whilst shopping in Lidl, I was encouraged to sign up for the new Lidl Plus app on my phone. It only actually saved me 27p on the day I signed up, but my shop qualified me for a £2 off coupon on my next shop.  It was only valid for a week, however, so the following week, needing to do a top up shop, I intended to use it, but unfortunately, on the day I was due to use it, the car went into the garage for an MOT and some other work and it had to stay in overnight, so I missed the window of opportunity and lost the saving.  Anyway, the following day I was finally able to do the shop, which then qualified me for a £10 off coupon, as I'd then spent more than £200 in one month. Once again, it's only valid for a week, but I will definitely make sure that I use that one when I do a my next shop.  In addition, I seem to have been awarded £2 off at the till, plus a further £1.04 in savings and then I won a 25p off coupon using the digital scratch card they send you every time you shop. Not bad savings in just one week. The app does seem to encourage you to shop there every week in order to use your coupons, but if you do anyway, it's no big deal.

On the subject of supermarkets, I have also received £16 in vouchers to spend at Tesco, as a result of accumulating club card points through shopping with them a lot in recent months. I'll also be using these on my next shop, as invariably I can't always get everything I want from Lidl and need to get the rest from Tesco.

I'm not solely loyal to Lidl and Tesco, I also occasionally shop at Waitrose, which I did last weekend, as I needed to drop my Operation Christmas Child Box off at a shop in the mall, that was still open for Click and Collect. Whilst I was there, I picked up a few bits we needed for the weekend from Waitrose. I made sure to make it worth my while by getting a newspaper for OH, which you can get free with your Waitrose card, if you spend more than £10. As newspapers are £2-£3 these days, this was definitely worth the saving. Whilst there, I also picked up the John Lewis At Home magazine for free. As it was the Christmas edition, I enjoyed reading through it at the weekend and getting into the Christmas spirit a bit more. It was a lot less expensive option than buying a Christmas interiors magazines that cost around £5.99 each, but I might still treat myself to one at some point, as a festive indulgence.

Other savings I've made recently, have been on an order from an online discount shop called Cherryz, that I'd seen several people post videos about on YouTube. It's a kind of online Pound shop, although it does sell more expensive items too, and as I can't visit the pound shop at the moment, due to lockdown restrictions, I thought I'd scratch the itch by giving it a try. I got a 15% discount off my first order which was certainly worth having. I'm still waiting for the order to arrive, but a post will be coming shortly about my haul from them. It was mainly groceries and household products, with a few extras thrown in.

Finally, one non-grocery saving I made in the last couple of weeks was on eBay. A recent new thing on the site, has been for eBay to offer discounts on listings that you watch, presumably to encourage you to go ahead and buy, and the other day I was offered a £10 discount on an item I was watching, which I promptly accepted. I think eBay actually give you the discount rather than the seller. I'm not 100% sure, but whomever, a discount is always welcome. The item arrived yesterday and I'm very happy with it, as it was something I'd been looking to buy for a while. It will be featured in a forthcoming post.

Not the most exciting frugal measures I know, as they mostly involve grocery shopping, but every saving means more money in my pocket, which is all good. Have you managed to save money on anything recently or are you waiting for Black Friday?

More Random Ebay Purchases

As anyone whose been reading my blog for a while will know, I'm very partial to buying things on eBay. I used to be an eBay seller and enjoyed selling on eBay, but now I work in a charity shop, there is a conflict of interest with regard to selling online, so to make things simple I stopped and now just buy on eBay.

In recent months, I've posted a few times about the random things that I've bought, particularly through the last lockdown, but I've continued to buy things during the time the restrictions were lifted, mainly because I was looking for new decor for our living room.

Like many people, I've been making it feel cosy since we redecorated during the last lockdown and I decided that it needed a bit of a new look, so out went all the old random photo frames that we've had for 20 years, plus the random items on the mantel piece and in came a few vintage but new to me things that I really like and want to live with.

I began by buying a few gold coloured photo frames to blend with the gilt picture frames that were already in the room, and which I liked and wanted to keep. 

I then moved on to buying a few new things for the mantel piece, the first of which were these brass herons that I just love. We often see herons on the canals and rivers around where we live, so they seemed a fitting choice. They are lovely and shiny, more so than they look in this photo and look lovely against the blue paint on the wall which is actually darker than it appears in the photos on account of the flash. I bought one from an eBay seller and then went back and bought the second from the same seller. They are a pair after all and are meant to be together, so after being parted for a week or so, they were eventually reunited. I probably paid a bit more doing it that way, but I don't care as I really like them. (Please excuse the dust and dirt in these photos, the room needs a good clean, but there's no point until we've finished decorating the hall as we're still generating more dust)

I also bought a few vintage brass candlesticks for the mantle piece. One was from a car boot sale for £1.50, but the others were all from eBay. I think I paid about £16 for them in all. I went for the open barley twist ones as I really like the design.

Next, I turned my attention to adding some greenery to the living room.  I'm not that good with houseplants, but I wanted to give it a go. It's nice having living things in your home that you can care for, but I have to admit that the whole regular watering thing is a big learning curve for me and I have to try hard to remember to do it. To accommodate the plants, I've recently bought a variety of vintage copper and brass pots, mostly from visits to car boot sales. At one, I bought the smaller copper and brass ones pictured, plus a copper tray and a small brass door knob (not pictured) all for £5. Total bargain.  Car boot sales rock! It's just a pity that the season for them has ended.

The largest pot I bought was on eBay. I say pot, but it's actually a vintage copper coal scuttle that will fit a very large plant. I'm not sure the plant that is in there at the moment will be staying in there, I may buy a big palm or cheese plant instead.  It wasn't particularly cheap, but worth the £40 or so I paid for it, as I really like it.

In my next Random Ebay Purchases post, I'll show you what I've bought on eBay in recent months for when we redecorate the hallway. They are mostly small inexpensive items, but I can't wait to put them into use.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Week 2 Lockdown 2

During the second week of this second lockdown, we finally turned our attention to working on projects indoors. I'd put it off for a week, preferring to spend time outside in the garden whilst the weather was dry and bright and it's probably a good thing I did, as it was windy and rainy for the most part of the second week.

I think I avoided work inside because I knew that this was where most of what we need to get done is concentrated. Re-decorating the hallway and stairs is a big job and is going to be quite disruptive, but it's as good a time as any to do it, so we just needed to get stuck in.

The paintwork in the hallway is currently a disgrace and it's very embarrassing that we've let it get into such a state. It was last decorated before we had the basement built out in 2012, but what with builders coming and going and bikes coming in and out, it's taken some knocks over the last 8 years, hence where we are today.  It would be good to get it done in time for Christmas and have a nice refreshed entrance to the house, not that anyone is coming to visit, but purely for our own pleasure and enjoyment.

As mentioned in my last lockdown post, I did as intended and tried to begin by painting the inside of the cupboard in the downstairs part of the hallway, as this was something I could do without OH's help. This cupboard houses a multitude of things, including sports equipment, the ingredients I use for making natural toiletries and candles, plus a few other things that all needed to be temporarily relocated. 

The walls and insides of the cupboard had never actually been painted by us, since moving into the house over 12 years ago and they were covered with flaking yellow paint, so my first job was to sand it down a bit and then prime all of the surfaces inside the cupboard ready to paint them.

On Friday 13th, primer applied and dried, I then attempted to apply the first coat of the interiors paint I had bought for the job. This was where I ran into difficulty, as the paint I'd bought which was an eggshell, didn't seem to go on to the primed surface very well. In addition, it turned out to be far too dark a colour and wasn't really what I had expected it to be. At this point I admitted defeat and gave up for the day, or at least until I could get hold of some different paint, believing fate was conspiring against me on such a troublesome date.

It wasn't a great start to the week, which left me feeling a bit useless and demoralised, until Saturday, when OH was able to join in and start prepping the walls, i.e. filling in cracks and dents ready to get on with the painting. As he is still busy working during the week, he can only do decorating on the weekend and it was such a relief once he got started. 

He began working in the entrance hall and the lower ground part of hallway, as these will be the easiest parts to decorate, due to there being no high ceilings in this section.  The upstairs part is more tricky and will involve getting on long ladders and moving furniture from the top landing, so this will be done at a later date, once the lower levels have been completed.

The prepping process is always a slow one and for most of the week, things stayed as OH had left them. I tried again to paint the inside of the cupboard, with a bit more success.  The paint I bought is a bit too light this time, so we may add a darker paint to it and darken it a bit for the final coat.

As a consequence, I got very distracted and a bit frustrated with regard to the decorating this week and sought other things to occupy me on some afternoons (i.e. sewing - more in a future post). I'm hoping next week will see a bit more progress.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Loving Right Now - The Lockdown Edition

I haven't done a favourites type post for a very long time, but watching a favourites video on YouTube the other day inspired me to make one. So here goes.

One of my very favourite things at the moment, is the limited series that OH and I have been watching on Netflix this last week or so. It's called The Queen's Gambit and is about a young female chess player in the US in the 1960's. It may sound like a strange subject matter, but it is so engaging, well made and just a really great watch. If you're looking around Netflix for something to watch, I'd highly recommend it, even if you really don't like the game of chess. The 60's fashion and decor make it worth the watch. We've just got the last of the seven episodes left to watch tonight, before we move on to watching the new series of The Crown. Can't wait to watch it, but I'll be gutted that we've finished the series and hoping for a second one.

Next on my list of things I'm really enjoying at the moment, is Boots Witch Hazel and Tea Tree Day Moisturiser.  I've always used witch hazel on my face for many years, usually distilled, as a toner after washing my face in the morning. Since the start of the pandemic, however, after having experienced problems with maskne, I started to use a witch hazel blemish gel instead of a moisturiser, in order to calm my skin down and reduce any blemishes and it's worked so well. Having run out of that one, the one I'm currently using is the one above from Boots and it's very soothing. I think that wearing less make up has also helped, particularly not wearing face powder, especially when I'm wearing a mask all day at work. I certainly think that the gel and moisturiser have contributed to keeping my skin a lot clearer in recent weeks, which is all I can ask for.

Another beauty/hair product that I've been enjoying lately, is a satin pillow case that I bought from TK Maxx a few weeks ago. I'd seen lots of adverts about Blissy silk pillow cases on Pinterest and in other places and about how they were a beauty must have. Despite the fact that I don't usually fall for this kind of advertising, when I saw this, I just thought I'd give it a try. Why not? After all it only cost £5.99 and is supposed to help your hair more than anything, but I've found that I just love sleeping with this on my pillow. It's so smooth and cool. The colour of this particular one (cream) doesn't actually go with my bedding, but I have just ordered some black ones on eBay and I'm hoping that I will like them just as much. They were two for £6.49. All of them are the kind that zip closed rather than the envelope type. I don't know whether they actually benefit my skin or not, but I do just like the feel of the satin against my face, it feels like a bit of luxury during these troubled times. Who doesn't need a bit of that at the moment?

Talking of which, I have developed a bit of a guilty secret since the beginning of the pandemic. I've become  a fan of the GC, yes Gemma Collins, from the Only Way is Essex.  Although I very rarely ever watched that programme, I have found myself loving her recent Diva series.  Yes, she's outrageous, but I love that about her. I think she's a comedy genius. I'm even following her on Instagram. Her current catchphrase 'I'm Claustrophobic Darren' (Day - her friend) or 'Boris' is just so funny and apt. She's been cheering me up during the dark days of lockdown and I look forward to seeing her Christmas special. In addition, she's a very beautiful curvy lady and I like to see her doing well selling her own range of products online and appearing on TV enjoying herself. I actually find her quite inspiring, mainly because she doesn't seem to give a damn about what people think.  Go girl with that self belief, I think we could all do with a bit of it.

Finally, there's one last thing that I'm loving at the moment, namely lighting candles. I'd fallen out of the habit of lighting candles around the house over the last few years, but despite not using them, I seem to have amassed quite a collection in my cupboard. I've received them as gifts, bought them discounted from TK Maxx or bought a few from work that had been donated. Anyway, I decided to get them out and start burning them and I've been really enjoying it. What can be more cosy in these autumn months, than sitting down and lighting a candle during the long dark nights. I'm gradually working my way through the autumnal/wintery scents, saving the more Christmassy ones for a few weeks time and the more spring like scents for next year.

What have you been loving lately?

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Week 1 Lockdown 2

I started this second lockdown by posting fairly egularly about what I was getting up to and how I was trying to make the most of the furlough by trying to get on top of things at home. I've since decided that a weekly post might be better, as some days I'm productive, some days not so much. So, here goes for Week 1.

This first week of lockdown has most definitely been about the garden. I don't know why, but I was just drawn to spending time out there. I started off just generally tidying things up a bit, cutting back climbers and sweeping up leaves. This then progressed to a mighty prune of our fruit trees, which was long overdue, but which caused us to create 6 big bags of garden waste, plus our brown bin, which I filled first. I also created the same number of bags of leaves for rotting down for leaf mulch which will go back on the garden in 6 months or so.

As a consequence, I had to book a slot at our local recycling centre, which has remained open, so that we could drop it all off. Some of the branches that we cut off the cherry tree, OH cut up for logs, which we will dry out over the next year and use at some point in the future, but the rest went into the garden waste at the recycling centre.

I thought about starting other jobs in between stints in the garden, but couldn't motivate myself. Between bouts of ironing (I had a huge ironing pile to catch up on), I kept going back out into the garden, doing a bit more each time, as there were still a few small things to do, once the main cutting back and pruning had been done. 

I decided to pot on a new mimosa tree I bought during the last lockdown, as it was getting a bit tall for it's pot and kept blowing over in the wind. I moved a small maple tree that I'd also bought during the last lockdown, but which hadn't really thrived in the position I planted it. Hopefully it will enjoy it's new position in a sunny border.

I planted out some ferns I'd bought over the last few months, put in some bulbs I bought a few weeks ago, cleaned out the greenhouse, washed all the dirty plant pots and generally got into every corner of the garden and cleared debris that had built up over a couple of years. It felt very satisfying.

By the time that I'd done all that, there was very little left to do bar sweeping up some more leaves here and there as they drop so I could finally step away from the garden. It was a relief to get finished, as we can now more or less forget about our outside spaces for the rest of the autumn/winter and now turn our attention to the inside of the house.

I'm hoping that in the next few weeks we can get the hall decorated, or at least get started with it and I'm going to make a start myself on the wooden cupboard in the vestibule (the downstairs part of the hall next to the kitchen). The inside of the cupboard is probably the only part of the house that remained untouched since we bought it and needs priming and painting. It's a job I've been wanting to do for a good few years, but I only bought the paint for it a few weeks ago. I'm quite looking forward to doing some painting again. I'll keep you posted with progress.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Lockdown - Day Three and Four

No post on day 2 of lockdown, because it wasn't really a very productive day. I managed a few very small re-organising and tidying tasks around the house, ordered a few bits I needed from eBay and did some laundry, but not much else really got done. I thought about starting another big indoor project, but didn't, as I wanted to get the garden finished before moving indoors, so it was a bit of a wasted day really, but it was good to have some down time too. 

When I think about how long this lockdown is, it's potentially only 28 days long, which isn't really that long, compared to the one in March and I suspect that it will go by super fast, so I do really need to make the most of it.  There is already talk that the rates of infection in London are dropping, so I'm sure they'll want us back at work in December, but I guess only time will tell.

Anyway, day 3 was a lot more productive. Whilst OH took the dog out for a walk in Epping Forest on Saturday morning, I got straight out into the garden and did more pruning and tidying down the other end of the garden. By the time OH got back and had had lunch, I had just about done all that I could without his help, so it was then time to tackle the pruning of the overgrown fruit trees. 

Whilst I stopped for some lunch, OH proceeded to empty the compost from our hot bin onto the raised beds, which was another job done and then I was ready to help direct him in the pruning and more importantly hold the ladder, of course.

It was a tricky job, as we hadn't done a proper job of it for a few years and many of the branches had grown very tall and unruly, but within an hour or so it was done and the trees were looking so much better.  We were pretty brutal and removed a lot of the branches, but it had to be done as they were getting way too big for our small city garden and I'm hoping they'll be better for it. 

We managed to finish the pruning just before the light went and then I had to take the dog out. We weren't out to long because of fireworks scaring her home again.  When I got in I found out that the US election had been called and Biden had won. Probably why so many fireworks were going off on November 7th or maybe people were just celebrating Bonfire Night on the weekend.

It felt so good to get the pruning done, partly because the trees are on the boundary with our neighbours property and I'm always conscious that they may be a nuisance to them. The branches that we cut off still needed to be cut up, but that was a job for day 4 of lockdown.

Day 4 of lockdown dawned and I came downstairs to the sight of the tree massacre in the garden. Maybe we were a bit brutal after all.  Anyway, it was too late to worry about it as there was a massive pile of branches was piled high on the decking outside the back door. waiting to be cut up. Once I'd taken the dog for a walk, I got to work on this and cut down the thinner branches and filled up several bags full of them, ready to take to the tip.  The thicker branches were left for OH to saw, some of which we might season in the shed and burn on the log burner next year.

The final job of the day was to sweep up the leaves again, this time the ones that had come off the fruit trees and when this job was done I downed tools for the day.

There are still a few small jobs to do out in the garden, such as washing dirty plant pots, planting some bulbs/planting out some ferns I bought a few months ago, tidying the greenhouse and sweeping the leaves from the front light well and path, but these jobs are relatively small and easily done in comparison and I can tackle them on my own at anytime in the next few weeks.

Tomorrow, I think I may start some household cleaning, starting in the bathroom. I was going to do it yesterday, but LB was planning to dye her hair, so I thought it was better to wait until she'd finished or I would end up cleaning it twice.

On the subject of cleaning, I've just finished reading a small book I bought from work, written by a Buddhist monk, which is about cleaning your house and looking after your possessions and how this can help purify your heart and keep you healthy and feeling positive. It was a good little read and I do think that when your house is clean, you feel much more positive about your life and self, so to some extent I do agree with this point of view. 

Hopefully, by the end of lockdown, I will have worked my way through the whole house and will feel much better, as everything seems to get a bit out of control when I'm at work and I find it hard to keep on top of things.

Hope you're having a productive lockdown, or not, if you are happy to take it easy and enjoy the break from normal routines. I am planning on doing a bit of that myself at some point.