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.