Wednesday, 19 August 2020

A Rainy Day Catch Up

I'm sat at my computer, it's raining outside and I need to walk the dog, but she won't go out if it means getting wet, so I thought I'd post a little catch up.  There's not a whole lot going on, so not much of a catch up.

Work is going okay and I'm happy to be back to my new normal. Sales are very slowly increasing week on week and we have plenty of stock and donations to keep us busy, just not large numbers of customers.  We've been having sale events on different sections in the shop each week, which has helped to keep money coming in.

Central London is still very quiet though and I can understand the concern being expressed by the Prime Minister and others, that if people don't return to work in cities soon, many more companies will go out of business in the coming months. As far as we're concerned, I'm hoping that won't be the case, as charity shops historically tend to do well in downturns, when people try to save money by buying second hand, but who knows.

We are getting lots of applications from new volunteers, which is good and we now have a largely new team of people helping to stock the shop.  My job share position recruitment process has got as far as shortlisting candidates and online interviews will be held very soon. I may be sitting in on some of them which should be interesting.

Our shop is currently open 5 days per week from 12noon to 6pm, but I think from next week we will be increasing that to 6 days to try to maximise income. I'm not sure if we're extending opening hours yet, as there are few people around before 12 noon in the area around our shop.

I'm still cycling to work three times per week, even if it means dodging rain, as I just can't bear to go back on public transport, unless it's absolutely unavoidable. I need to start thinking about getting lights on my bike and wearing better waterproofs, as we get closer to the autumn and winter.  OH has given me a rain proof jacket that I can wear, so I'm going to try that out next time it rains on my journey. 

I think I'm getting physically stronger and my stamina is improving as time goes on.  I can ride in higher gears for longer and don't get so tired on certain uphill stretches, which is all good. The time it takes me isn't really reducing, mainly because of everyday obstacles, such as extra sets of traffic lights and road works that I have to navigate on each journey.  Neither is my weight really going down, but I think my shape may be very slowly changing and inches may be very slowly coming off, as muscles develop. I'm hoping so anyway.

I'm enjoying the current cooler temperatures, although not the rain so much.  It's good to see brown grass greening up again though, when I'm out on dog walks. Our tomatoes in the garden have been getting blossom end rot, I think because of getting too much water from rainfall.  A good problem to have really. We can afford to forgo a few tomatoes for more water.

This last weekend, I got to sewing the quilt pieces together that I cut the other week.  Both the back and front have now been assembled and tacked to the duvet wadding and I now just need to stitch them in place using my machine and machine quilt the whole thing. It felt a little like being back in lockdown, when I did a lot of quilt making.

I managed to drag the dog out after all, she was very reluctant and it was a very short walk, but she did her business and then we came home. She hates the rain. We were going to go out for lunch, but I had a parcel due for delivery and didn't want to miss it, plus the local cafĂ© we wanted to try was full so we may go out for supper instead. I might spend the forecast rainy afternoon on my sewing machine or ironing. 

What are you doing today?

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Getting On With Things

Well, we thankfully had a break in the weather on Thursday evening. Heavy rain overnight refilled the water butts and gave everything a good watering, not to mention having cooled things down by at least 10 degrees, which is much more bearable.

As a consequence, I had a much more comfortable walk with the dog on Friday morning and could even get her to run after the ball, which she's been loathe to do during the hot weather.

When I got back to the house, I decided to tackle a job that I started during lockdown, namely to frame one of LB's still life oil paintings, that she made for her GCSE exam. I had bought a cheap frame from a charity shop back in February, but needed a mount, which I finally got around to ordering from eBay last week.

Anyway, it arrived on Thursday whilst I was at work, so the following day I cut it to size and finally got the painting ready to hang in our kitchen, which is the place that inspired it. Here's a photo of it:

and the inspiration:

I also got around to ordering another mount, for a print we bought from the Royal Academy when we visited a David Hockney exhibition.  The original mount got discoloured by the sun and a new one was needed, so when that arrives, that will be another small job completed.

I still need to order some glass for a couple of other frames, but I'm not sure how much that will cost, so it might have to wait until next month now.

My only other accomplishments on Friday were to pickle another couple of jars of red onion and  do some laundry before returning to work on Saturday.

Whilst I was at work yesterday, OH managed to make progress on hanging the hammock in the garden.  He's cemented in the posts to hang it from, but we still need to buy some heavy duty hooks before we can hang it and use it.

After a busy day at work yesterday, followed by a very good night's sleep, today I'm planning to tackle the ironing pile of doom that has built up in the corner of the living room. Wish me luck.

As far as I'm concerned, even managing to accomplish small tasks on my days off these days is progress, as it's far too easy to just chill and achieve very little.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Coping in a Heatwave

It's been a hot week and I have to admit that I am looking forward to a break in the weather, although it might prevent me from cycling to work.

The house has gradually been hotting up as the hot days continue.  Usually it stays quite cool in hot weather, but the consecutive hot days has meant that it hasn't been cooling down as well at night and heats up quicker during the day.

On Monday, whilst shopping at Home Bargains for the first time since lockdown, I treated myself to this cute little desk fan. At only £2.99, it was a bargain, as it keeps me cool when I'm sat at the kitchen table.  As I write this, it is blowing lovely cool air on my face.  It plugs into my netbook and away it goes.  I've even taken to taking it up to bed and plugging it in at my bedside, as LB has appropriated the house fan for her own personal use these days. A great little buy.

Other ways I'm trying to keep cool include staying indoors as much as possible, wearing my hair up off my neck, dressing in cool loose cotton clothing and drinking lots of cold drinks. My outfit today is this simple vintage cotton dress that I've had for years, but only recently started wearing again. (Not the most flattering photograph here) It has a cute Indian print on the fabric and does the job of keeping me cool.

Walking the dog is probably the hottest part of the day for me.  I try to keep us both cool by walking in the shade as much as possible and taking a bottle of water and a collapsible dish to give the dog regular drinks.

Later today, we headed out to lunch at a local Pizzeria utilising the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. I had my first glass of Pimms of the year which was nice, but I now feel like I need an afternoon snooze. Daytime drinking is not a good idea these days.

We're finding that it is too hot to even cook supper at the moment and we might just start having sandwiches, salad or something that cooks very fast in the microwave instead of a proper cooked meal in the evening. Putting the oven or gas rings on, only serves to heat up the house even more.

OH has constructed this unusual arrangement to help keep the heat out of  the kitchen, but still let the dog come and go as she pleases. It is actually proving quite useful for keeping flies out of the kitchen too, which is a bonus.

I have given up on the ironing for the duration and have succumbed to wearing creased clothing where necessary. It's not easy for me to do this, but needs must.

Thankfully, much of my cycle route to work is shaded by trees along the roadside or in the park, so the commute is not too hot and you often feel a breeze on your face as you're whizzing along on the bike.  Better that than being sat on a hot bus for an hour, wearing a mask.

We missed the heatwave last year as we were in Australia, but this year we're finding ways to just about cope.  I don't know how young people can sit out in it all day, I just don't have the tolerance any more. How are you coping in the hot weather?

Sunday, 9 August 2020

My New Weekend

For the last six weeks or so, I've been experiencing a new weekend.  It starts on Saturday night when I finish work for the day and ends on Tuesday morning, when I return to work.  I'm actually really enjoying it. Working alternate days on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays has been working out perfectly, as I get a rest day between the bike commutes and then get two days of weekend on Sunday/Monday. It might not last for much longer though, as from the week after next we will be opening the shop for longer hours and an extra day, so things may change. I'd better enjoy it while I can.

I have been sleeping in the sewing room/spare bedroom for the last few nights, whilst it has been very hot. I've been using just a vintage sheet on the bed and leaving the window wide open to let some air in. It's been a good excuse to use some of my vintage linen that I keep under the bed, after all, what's the point of keeping it if I don't use it.  As a consequence, I have stayed nice and cool and have been getting good nights of sleep, thankfully. As the room is at the back of the house, I don't have any anxiety about leaving the windows open on hot nights, which I do when I sleep in our bedroom, as it is at the front of the house and I worry that someone might try to climb in. OH has no such worries!

Today, I woke up, read my book and then suddenly felt compelled to put together the fabric to make another quilt for the living room.  Sleeping in a room full of fabric can inspire you that way, besides, the two quilts we've been using for the past couple of years are starting to look a bit tatty now the room has been redecorated and they don't really fit in with the colour scheme. Anyway, I got up and got out suitable fabrics, which I then cut to size and the quilt is now ready to sew together.  I have one old single duvet left, to use as the wadding and I think the fabrics I've used will work well in the room as it is now. I have washed the old quilts and have stored them away for use if ever LB has any sleep overs with friends or we need extras in the winter. I'm looking forward to a break in the weather though, as I'm not a lover of hot weather unless I'm at the beach or by a pool. I've been keeping cool indoors.

This week has been a good week.  OH has made progress on some of the final bits that needed finishing in the living room and other reception room.  The floors have now been re-varnished and the hearths re-painted and we've been able to open it all back up and enjoy the space.  It has made a real difference to the feel of the house, making it feel much more spacious after having the rooms closed off  from one another. We just need to paint a shelf and hang a few pieces of artwork and it's done. I'll post the results when it's totally finished. It's exciting as we are now almost ready to move on and decorate the hallway, which is definitely the shabbiest part of the house.

Talking of the living room, we're hoping to replace the bay windows later this year under the Government's forthcoming initiative to help house owners make their homes more energy efficient. They are currently single glazed and we want to replace them with double glazing.  We'd like to get our bedroom and LB's bedroom windows replaced as well, but it depends on how the scheme pans out in reality. Is anyone else thinking of getting work done under this initiative when it begins in September?

In other news, we took advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out initiative on Wednesday evening and went to a local Mediterranean restaurant. The food (and Prosecco) was good, but social distancing and other precautions were virtually absent. No hand sanitiser as you walked in, no social distancing markings, staff didn't wear masks or visors when serving and most tables were occupied, so people were seated quite close together. We were quite surprised.  We'll try somewhere else next week. I think we're going to try to use the scheme once per week whilst it runs. Next week, we'll maybe go out for lunch instead of the evening.

We also booked a UK staycation this week.  There were very few self catering properties available, but we managed to book for four nights in Suffolk in a cottage in September, before LB goes back to college. We're really looking forward to the break, as we haven't been out of London for 6 months. It was a relief to find something to be honest, especially somewhere where we can take the dog too.

I met my friend at the gym and tried a new class this week too.  Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it. Let's just say it was too punitive, on account of the instructors style of ?teaching. I won't be doing it again, which is a pity, as it would be good to meet my friend every week and it's on a day when I don't work. The parking charges have gone up at the gym too, which is very annoying. I used to be able to pre-pay for vouchers and they cost 30p each, but now I have to pay £1.50 for two hours, which makes classes  more expensive, so I won't be paying for classes I don't enjoy, that's for sure.

When I left the gym, I went on to Mile End Vintage and filled another small bag for £10. I bought some interesting items including a genuine short Japanese kimono which needs a bit of a repair. I may do a post when everything is washed and repaired.

It's been an interesting week anyway.  How's your week been?

Friday, 7 August 2020

More Small Jobs Completed

Before returning to work a month or so ago, I got busy touching up and tweaking lots of things old and new around the house. For this purpose, I bought a tin of gold/gilt coloured paint on eBay, which I was going to use to touch up a mirror.  Unfortunately, the colour wasn't quite right and the mirror had quite a lot of damage, so I decided to use the paint for other projects, including changing the colour of this cast iron door hook that I bought from Poundland. Here it is before I started painting it:

I was hoping to buy another 3 of these and use them in the vestibule for hanging coats on when we re-decorate the hallway, but I haven't managed to find any more in store since. I still like this one though, especially now it has been painted with a couple of coats of gold paint and I will find an alternative spot for it.

The gilt paint has since come in useful for several jobs, some of which I've already mentioned in previous posts. One other job I used it for was to cover some damage on a picture frame in our living room.  There was a small 1cm piece of frame that broke off and that I lost and couldn't replace. I didn't take a before picture, but you can see from the photos below that when I painted it with the gold paint, it made it hardly noticeable. Prior to this it left a white gap.

Another job I completed, was to put a new trim on some storage boxes in our bedroom. Prior to adding the new trim the boxes had different coloured trims, here's one of them:
Although this trim is pretty, I accidentally got paint on it when re-painting the box, so I decided to replace it and embellish them both with the same trim. I bought the trim for these on eBay and it matches a treat. It took a little longer than I anticipated to fix it on, as I had to peel off the dried glue from the earlier trims before I could get the new one to stick. Eventually though, they were both done and here are the results:
Much tidier and more co-ordinated. I'm pretty happy with all of the above results for very little money spent.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Random Ebay Purchases - Part 2

Following on from my last post about the kind of purchases I make on eBay, here's another one. 

In the last few weeks, I finally managed to find an item that I've been looking for over a number of years and I couldn't believe my luck that it worked so well for what I needed.

I've had the above ornate brass frame for many years. I bought it in a charity shop and have always loved it. I've been meaning to either put a clock in it or to get some glass and put a picture in it for years, but never have.  Ideally, I wanted to make it into a clock, as we don't have one in our living room, where it has always stood.  I'd seen some clock inserts on eBay, but I'd never been sure about the size of them and whether they'd fit well, so during lockdown, I took some measurements and did some research and managed to find one which I thought would fit. It was a bit of a gamble, but it actually paid off, as the clock mechanism fits pretty well.  It's a little loose, but this can be rectified with a strip of cardboard or some Blue Tack that won't be seen.

It wasn't exactly what I wanted colour wise, as it was a very bright gold colour and my frame, being vintage and brass, is a darker gilt colour, but my trusty eBay bought pot of gilt paint worked wonders on this, to make it fit in much better with the frame.  I'm happy with the roman numeral clock face too, as I feel it fits well with the ornateness of the frame. Overall, for £9.99 including postage, it was a very simple and effective solution to the problem of transforming this frame and giving it a purpose.

I also purchased another gold photo frame on eBay recently. As I've mentioned before, I'm changing all of the photo frames in the living room to gilt coloured ones, to fit in with some artwork and other items I already have, such as the clock above.

Once again, this gold frame was a little too brightly coloured when it came, so out came the gilt paint again and it now looks so much better. I paid £3.49 including postage for this frame, which was a bargain.

It is now holding a photo of  LB, myself and her birthday cake, from her 2nd birthday, an all time favourite photo of mine. I'm still on the hunt for a few more frames, but there's no hurry as the more eclectic I can make them the better.

On a completely different note, I also bought this cute little wooden stamp on eBay recently for £3.75 including postage. I bought a brand new green ink pad from the charity shop where I work the other week for just 99p and wanted some sort of botanical stamp to use with it for making gift tags, etc. When I saw this fern stamp, it was perfect and so cute too.

Talking of plants, I bought some bronze fennel seeds on eBay a few weeks back.  I think I paid about £1.60 including postage for about 50 seeds. With shops being closed during lockdown, it was hard to buy seeds, hence why eBay came in useful. I have bought seeds on eBay before, but some haven't even germinated, so I was sceptical about whether these would.  They did though and I've now potted some of them on, so that I can plant them out later.  .

Here are some of the ones I've potted on:

I'm hoping they survive the upheaval and grow into much stronger plants that I can plant out in the garden and the allotment.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Lazy Sunday

It's Sunday and I'm having a lazy one this week. I had a lie in reading my current book this morning, before getting up and out with the dog. We dropped into the allotment on the walk to do a bit of watering.  I forgot to take any photos I'm afraid. I had a good chat to another plot holder who was there though, which was interesting. I've since done some laundry, hung it out and caught up with some online reading. I was thinking of heading up to Mile End Vintage again, but to be honest I've decided not to. I don't really need any more clothes at the moment and aren't really wearing what I already have that much. I tend to wear knee length shorts or jeans and t-shirts most days. Vintage clothing just isn't practical for bike riding or dog walking particularly.

Work this week has been okay, busy as usual, although not with customers particularly. I had another slight mishap with my pannier bag on my cycle home last night. Despite it being cable tied to the bike rack, it somehow managed to jump off the rack and was swinging around from the cable tie.  It didn't help that I had packed it too full of stuff I'd just bought from the shop. I tend to put things aside when I see them over a period of a few weeks and then when I get paid I buy them, but this is probably not a good practice, especially when I'm travelling to work on a bike.  I might have to purchase things differently in future.

Anyway, no harm was done to me, anyone else or anything in the bag, but it wasn't an ideal situation.  I ended up riding very slowly most of the way home and then getting OH to come and meet me part way home with the car, into which we put the bike, as I was afraid of it jumping off again and causing an accident. We need to make more adjustments to the pannier to stop it moving and jumping off or I will just have to carry a rucksack, which I don't really want to do as it makes your back feel sweaty. This cycle commute is still very much a learning curve.

I'm really loving the freedom that riding my bike to work gives me though, despite the small hiccups. I'm hoping that I will be able to iron out the wrinkles soon enough.  I do get a bit nervous cycling in, as I can't control the stupid things other people sometimes do on the roads, but that is probably a good thing, as it keeps me on my toes and looking around me, anticipating what others might do. I thought I might get bored using the same route, but every day is different as I am confronted with new road works that constantly pop up or other obstacles such as police cordons or blocked roads that I have to negotiate.  Our Shop Manager is currently thinking of buying a bike too, as he walks to work and it can take him over an hour some days. We might be fighting over bike storage space in the cupboard before long.

It's a little worrying to see that the virus is increasing again, just as I'm getting used to being back out in the world.  I'm hoping we won't be in lockdown again anytime soon, but I did read today that the PM may be thinking of locking down everyone aged 50+, based on a points system. I guess we'll just have to see if that actually happens.  I hope not, although I can see the sense in it, as older people do seem to be worse affected. I also heard that France is now requiring people to have undergone a test before entering the country.  This will make life more difficult for many and may put paid to any ideas we might have had, to go over by car for a week's holiday at some point. Crazy confusing times we are living in, made worse by not knowing when they will end. I feel pretty safe at work though, as we all try to take appropriate precautions and keep our distance from one another.

I have heard stories on the grapevine of people travelling by air knowing they had the virus and potentially spreading it. It just serves to reinforce my lack of interest in flying anywhere anytime soon. I don't think it will harm us to stay put this year.

Talking of travelling, LB was supposed to be going to Brussels with some friends next week on Eurostar for a few nights. I was getting a bit concerned when I heard that the virus was increasing in Belgium, but they have had to cancel anyway, because one of her friends was due to go on holiday with her family on returning and they didn't want the family holiday to be spoilt by her potentially having to quarantine when she got back. I was quite relieved to be honest, although LB was a bit disappointed. She's got over it quick enough though. Things are changing constantly and so fast that it is hard to keep up with everything.

I broke my vow not to use Amazon last week, when I purchased more disposable masks on the site. It really was the most economical option. One pack of 50 black masks cost £5 or £6 and has arrived already and a second pack of 50 blue masks cost £3 or £4 and I'm still waiting for it to arrive.  They are coming from China, which again, I'm not ecstatic about, but it was the best option I could find. I'm still wearing the ones I made, but they are much harder to wear for any length of time, such as the time it takes to do the bi-monthly grocery shopping and at work, where I tend to wear disposable ones supplied by the charity, at least for part of the day. I like to have the option of both and was fast running out of the ones I originally bought on eBay, as LB has been using them too. I know it's not the most eco-friendly option, but sometimes it makes life and breathing a little more comfortable.

How are you coping with and feeling about the constantly changing virus situation?