Sunday, 31 January 2021

A Few Current Favourites

It's difficult to write a favourites post when you're not buying anything or going anywhere, but there have a been a few things that I've been enjoying of late that I can mention here.

TV and NETFLIX wise, I've really enjoyed Pretend It's a City on NETFLIX, a docuseries by Martin Scorsese about American humorist and writer Fran Liebowitz who lives in New York. I'd never actually heard anything about her before watching this series, but found her to be a woman after my own heart. I like her style and humour. Definitely worth a watch. Similarly, I re-watched a documentary film about US writer Joan Didion, which was also on Netflix and was very interesting.

On TV, I've started watching It's a Sin, Finding Alice and have recorded the new series of Marcella to watch at some point in the near future.

On YouTube, I've become re-acquainted with blogger Frugal Queen, who now has a YouTube channel called Frugal Queen in France, where she now lives. I've also been enjoying Caroline - Mrs M - Over 50 Lifestyle channel since December. I find her very watchable. To be honest, I need to do a full cull of the channels I subscribe to, because I hardly ever watch some of them anymore.

I'm also enjoying reading through my unread fiction bookshelves. I'm now on book three and everything so far has been quite readable. The best bit is being able to declutter them after they've been read though. Very satisfying.

My other main favourite of the moment is continuing to make hand stitched quilts. I just keep starting new ones, so that I've got something to work on at all times. At least it's making use of my fabric stash, as well as keeping me occupied. I'd probably go a bit mad if I couldn't do something a bit creative with all this time.

Other than this, there's very little keeping me amused. I don't feel inclined to spend money online, which is new for me. I don't actually need anything. That's progress at least. 

I'm looking forward to the weather getting a bit warmer and getting out into the garden and onto the allotment. The whole plot needs digging over before the new growing season starts, which we may do at some point in February. Another tidy up in the garden would also be useful at some point. It's way to cold and unappealing at the moment though.

How are you keeping yourself occupied in lockdown?

Friday, 29 January 2021

Monthly Expenditure Round Up - January 2021

Finally, we got to the end of January or payday at least and the first month of my Low Spend Challenge in 2021. It felt like a really long month, which it always does after the festive season, but I was very happy to get through it and to start a clean slate for February.

January, wasn't actually particularly low spend, mainly because of LB's 18th birthday. I don't really have a budget for gifts, as I consider that they are just essentials that need to be bought.  I am, however, tracking what I do spend in this category this year, with a view to reducing it, if I think this is necessary.

Included in the spending in this category this month was the £22 that I spent at Whistlefish, on a bulk order of greetings cards.  When they actually arrived, they were very nice quality cards and also were all made from recycled paper, which I didn't expect. As a couple of the cards I'd ordered were out of stock, they replaced them with different ones and also sent me two extra cards too, which I was very happy about. They came just in time to send one off to my sister, as it was her birthday this month. We don't do gifts though, except for the special birthdays with a 0 on the end.

Heading into a new year and a new challenge, I changed my budget around this year, increasing expenditure in some categories, i.e. My Personal budget and the Home and Garden budget and as a consequence, these two categories and the Misc category, all came in well under budget this month. For myself, I only bought a Zumba class from Udemy and a new watch from eBay, as mine packed up last week. It only cost £4.99 though, so no big deal. I know I could probably have got a new battery put in, but it is tricky to find somewhere that does this in lockdown and it would probably be more expensive anyway. I can keep it as a spare and do it when/if life ever gets back to normal.

The Household category ended up being well over budget this month, mainly due to a bulk order of household products that we use regularly from Natural Collection, plus I also ordered some make up from My Pure. I don't place these kind of orders very often, so I don't anticipate it being anywhere near as high next month.

Food was slightly over, which is to be expected during lockdown, when we're all eating all our meals at home. To be honest, I think we did quite well on this score considering, mainly because I've stopped doing super big supermarket shops/overstocking and just do more medium sized or top up shops now, when we've run out of specific things. 

As I said, it wasn't really a low spend month, but I am hoping that February will be much better, as I will have got more into the habit of not spending money on stupid stuff.

Having said all of the above, I still did manage to put some money into savings, for probably the first time in nearly a year. I stopped saving after we went into lockdown the first time and never really got back into the habit. This month, however, I managed to put aside over one hundred pounds into my savings and a similar amount into LB's university fund, which is better than nothing. 

In conclusion, not an altogether successful Low Spend Month, but I knew I'd find it difficult to begin with. I'm optimistic that I can do better in February. At least there are no birthday gifts to buy in the coming month and I don't have any plans to spend money on anything in particular, although I may buy a few small things for the house, but all within the budget allocated. To be honest, as the month end approached, I tried to think of something that I needed to buy in February,  that I would soon be able to, but couldn't think of anything, which was encouraging. I'm sure something will come to mind at some point.

Just one final note with regard to finances. Due to ridiculously low interest rates on one of my savings accounts (i.e. 0.01%), I decided to close it and transfer some of the money to some Premium bonds this month. It was so easy to do online. I've had a few bonds in the past, but never won a penny on them. However, this time around I've invested quite a bit more. I know the chances of winning the big prizes are very low, especially if you've got less than £50K in bonds, but I thought I'd try anyway. After all, you've got to be in it to win it, as they say. Anyway, I've arranged for any winnings to be ploughed back into bonds, to increase chances of winning in the future. It's quite exciting. If I won the odd £25 I'd be happy and it would be more than I'm currently getting in interest. I'll let you know if I do manage to win anything. Has anyone else had any luck with Premium Bonds?

I hope you had a good month financially, especially if you're trying to save money.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Wardrobe Clear Out and Re-organisation

As mentioned in a previous post, my wardrobe has been a source of frustration for a while now. It was rammed full of clothes, many of which I never wear and having a shelf at the top, made it difficult to access some items in there without needing to stand on a stool to reach to the back of the shelf.

As a consequence, and as part of my big 2021 declutter, on Sunday, I decided to tackle it and make it much easier to find items to wear.

To be honest, I rarely go into my wardrobe at the moment. I've spent this lockdown wearing tracksuit bottoms, t-shirts and sweaters, all of which I don't tend to hang, preferring to keep them folded in drawers, so I have little need to even look in my wardrobe, but I still wanted to have a good clearout, so that when I do return to work, picking clothes to wear will be much easier.

Whilst I'm happy to be wearing comfortable clothes during lockdown, I'm not happy that I have steadily been gaining weight over the past year and needed to take out of the wardrobe, any items that no longer fit or are not flattering.

Here's the wardrobe when I began the task of decluttering it:

I decided to proceed by trying on every item in the wardrobe and sifting out anything that didn't currently fit me. Thankfully, there were still plenty of clothes that still fitted, but in the hope of losing some of the weight again when things get back to normal and I can get back to exercising regularly, many of the things that were a bit small I decided to store away in the underbed storage for now, so that I could potentially wear them again in the future.

Items that I realistically felt that I would never wear again or were particularly unflattering weight gain or not, I put on the donate pile and then I created one more pile for things that I could potentially sell. These were mostly vintage or vintage style items, but I'm not sure when or if I'll ever get around to selling them. They may just end up getting donated further down the line, along with the ill fitting items, if I don't manage to lose the weight.

In total, I managed to find 32 items to donate, which I thought was a reasonable amount. I don't find it easy to get rid of clothes, as I can always think of a situation in which I might still wear them, but I tried to be as ruthless as I could this time. These items filled two black bin bags and will be finding their way to the donation bank this week.

Here's a picture of my bedroom mid declutter, with all the piles of clothing all over the bed and other parts of the room:

Once I'd decided what I was keeping, it was time to head out on a dog walk, so I asked OH if he could take out the top shelf from the wardrobe and move the clothing rail to the very top. My reason for this was two fold, firstly, so that I could hang my dresses properly as they often trailed on the shelf below and got caught on things on that shelf and secondly, it meant everything else was now on the lower shelves and much easier to access. It did mean that there was a little less shelving space, as I lost a shelf, but this helped to motivate me to get rid of more items so that everything would fit.

I did remove a few items from the wardrobe, mainly some vintage jewellery, which I found another space for elsewhere in the bedroom. This done, I was able to fit everything in and the hanging rail is now so much less congested and it is much easier to see what I have and to put things in and get them out. Most items are now hung singly, save for a couple of pairs of jeans and a few skirts which are hung two to a hanger.

Here is a picture of the results of the decluttering:

Overall, I'm very happy with how the wardrobe functions now and I look forward to going through all of my drawers and being as ruthless as I can there too. I will probably revisit some of the items under the bed that don't quite fit in a few months time, when I change over from my winter to summer wardrobe and I may feel I can let go of more. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Lockdown Weekly Catchup

Despite feeling motivated at the beginning of the week, I have to say that I haven't actually achieved big things this week. 

I did sew another row of my single TV quilt. Just two more rows and the binding to go now. I'll be excited to finish it and start using it before the weather gets warmer. I also continued with the sewing machine cover. I've now got to the point where I just need to add the binding, but can't quite decide what fabric to use, so it's been put on hold until I decide.

What I did decide on this week, were a few aims for the year, as posted about earlier in the week, and as a consequence, I did a few bits of decluttering here and there and removed some things from the house.  The total so far this month is currently standing at 85 items. I'm hoping to bump this up a bit by the end of the month. I need to do a total overhaul of my wardrobe in the very near future, so I'm hoping this will force me to make some decisions about some of the things I never wear. I've decided to  rearrange the shelves as I don't like how the wardrobe is currently set out, as it doesn't allow easy access to some of the items in there. I'm hoping this will make it easier to access everything. I'll do a post on the project.

I also did some financial organisation tasks this week, to aide some particular goals that I've set. I am finding the month is passing very slow though. It feels very long.

I've tackled a few small jobs this week, that I've been meaning to do, such as sort out the Xmas decorations ready to put them up in the loft. It took us 6 months last year to put them up there, and at the moment access is blocked by furniture from the landing, so there's no hurry, but it was all cluttering up the 2nd reception room and has now been taken upstairs, nearer to the loft. We still just have to take down the fairy lights that I put outside this year, but as the weather had been a bit wet, I'm waiting for a dry spell, so I don't pack them away wet.

In addition, I've spent quite a bit of time reading this week. I've just finished the second fiction book from my bookshelf and I am trying to set aside time most days to read. That's 4 books read this month so far. Only another 45 or so to go this year to clear the bookshelf.

I realised this week, that I'm not a very good indoor plantswoman and probably never will be. Some of my indoor plants have either died or are dying. The urge to add to my collection has therefore evaporated. Although the ones that have or are dying are probably the more difficult to look after, it has put me off acquiring anymore for the time being, which probably isn't a bad thing from both a financial and decluttering point of view.

Yesterday, I finally got around to doing some painting in the hall. There's now at least one coat of paint on most of the woodwork, save for the spindles and bits I can't reach, which OH will do. I don't seem to be able to motivate myself to do it during the week. 

I also received a Cherryz order yesterday. It was mostly treats and snacks and a few more toiletries, etc.  I did add a few bits towards a bottom drawer for LB, for when she leaves home to go to University in the next year or so. I figured if I started early, buying a few bits here and there, it will save her money when she does go. Some things she wants to buy herself, and some things I won't buy until I know where she's going to be living, but the odd small essential kitchen implement is a start.

We woke up to snow this morning. It's currently snowing big flakes and everything looks so pretty, but it doesn't make me feel like going outside. I'm happy to watch from indoors. I will need to venture out to walk the dog later, but for now I'm happy to stay indoors.

I hope you've had a good week.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

New Decluttering Plans for 2021

After reading an article online about someone in the US who attempted to declutter 2020 items in 2020, I decided that I might try to do the same in 2021 by trying to declutter 2021 items. 

The house is starting to feel a bit cluttered again. I know it's mostly because I'm keeping extra food during lockdown, the Christmas decorations haven't yet gone back into the loft and we're moving stuff around due to decorating, but even so, my wardrobe is bursting at the seams, I have way too much stuff in the sewing room still, as well as under beds and in drawers and cupboards all over the house. It's time.

Having said this, 2021 is a lot of items. I don't think I've ever tried to declutter quite so many in a year, in all my attempts over the years, but desperate times means desperate measures. Being in our house day after day for months on end during the various lockdowns, has made me realise how claustrophobic if feels having so much stuff.

In my list of items leaving, I'm going to include much of what I put aside last year for donation, because it hasn't left the house yet, which is another part of the problem. It is sat in the sewing room awaiting the re-opening of charity shops and Give and Take events. I know this probably sounds a bit of a cheat, but as it is still in the house, I don't consider it decluttered yet.

I got started this weekend, by taking some stuff to the tip. Included in this were an ironing board that is too low to be comfortable to use, a rusty old baking tin, a bag of garden garbage containing broken pots, etc., a couple of empty paint pots from the decorating and a front door mat that foxes had kindly done their business on. A modest start, but getting rid of anything is better than nothing in my current situation.

I also cut up half a dozen of LB's old t-shirts last week that she no longer wanted and made dish cloths with them, so they can be added to the total and we broke a couple of glasses in the last week, so they were disposed of too. In addition, a couple of house plants were composted, that I had managed to kill after only a very short period of time. Sadly, I think there will be more in the coming months.

I sorted through some clothes that I had put aside to donate the other day, counted them and then this morning, I finally took them to the clothing donation bank down the road. The local charity shop will unfortunately not get them this time around, but they will find their way to a charity to be sold or otherwise repurposed. That will at least provide a little more breathing space in the house. 

Household items and books, will need to stay for now, but I may take books to a Little Free Library near us, if there is room to donate them there. As I have no non-fiction books in the house left to read, I have decided that I will now make myself read through the 50 or so fiction titles I have on the bookshelf in our bedroom. As soon as these have been read, most of them can be donated, so that will be more items decluttered eventually. I never tend to re-read fiction, so always pass it on once it's been read. I've finished reading one over the course of the last few days. One down.

For the purpose of this challenge, I am only going to count things that have actually left the house, which should motivate me to actually take them somewhere or put them outside for people to take for free. I'll do  a monthly update to let you know how I get on. I have calculated that I need to declutter approximately 169 items per month to meet the target. I'd better get to work. Wish me luck.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Motivating Myself to Save Money

This year, I've decided that I need to get motivated and seriously start saving some money, hence the Low Buy/Spend year, I'm currently attempting. It's not got off to the greatest start, mainly due to LB's 18th birthday falling in the first month, but from here on, it should get better.

I used to be in the habit of putting money into my savings regularly after overhauling my finances a few years ago, and up until the first Lockdown last March, things were going pretty well. As we all know, Lockdown happened, and unsure whether I would be receiving less money on Furlough, I cancelled any direct debits into savings accounts, just in case. As a consequence, I ended up spending any spare money and not saving much last year, so it is now time to get back into saving habits again. 

To aid me in this venture, as I've mentioned in previous posts, I've joined a Low/No Buy Facebook group, set myself goals with regard to the amount I want to save this year and started tracking my spending in detail again. I have already put aside some money toward savings this month and there should hopefully be som more money left in my account at the end of the month, which can be transferred over to a savings account, so it's not been a complete failure, but I know I can do better.

On the Facebook page I follow, group members have been posting visual aides that they use to help them meet their savings targets. I decided that I might like to do this myself. It's something I've never done before and I thought it might help to motivate me. I had a look at visual trackers that you can download or purchase, but as I can't print from my computer at the moment, I decided to just try to create a chart myself on my computer.  It's very simple, just a grid of small squares. Each square represents £10 saved, and as I put money into savings, I put an 'x' in the equivalent number of squares. 

I said it was simple, but more to the point, it was also free. I'm going to try to update the chart each month as I add money to my savings and I look forward to gradually filling up the squares over the months. I've probably been a bit over ambitious, as the grid I created comprised of 20 x 20 squares, which I've just calculated equates to £4000 worth of savings.  Not sure I'll reach this, but aim high is what I say.

Have you got any financial goals in 2021?

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Feeling More Motivated

This Saturday, I woke up feeling a lot more motivated. I read a chapter of my current read in bed, which served to motivate me further. (It was a chapter about the fashion designer Stella McCartney's work and the work of others in the fashion industry to create and manufacture more sustainable alternatives to animal products for use in fashion. Incredibly interesting and inspiring.)

I then decided that I wanted to do some more hand quilting, but not on the heavy quilt I was currently trying to finish, no, I decided to start a new project, one that was small and could be done whilst watching TV. I decided to make another sewing machine cover of all things. I made my current one probably 7 or 8 years ago, and whilst there's nothing wrong with it, I just fancied making a new one in different fabrics in anticipation of getting my new machine as soon as it is back in stock in the shops (My Xmas present from OH).

As I couldn't use my current sewing machine, due to it not working properly and the sewing room being too full of stuff to get easy access to try to mend it, I decided that this one would have to be a paper pieced quilted one. Once I'd got up and dressed I hunted around for some fabrics with which to make it. This was made difficult by the fact that there is extra furniture in the sewing room at the moment, blocking access to a lot of my fabrics, so I had to instead focus on my scrap basket and what I could find in there. Luckily, there were plenty of pieces that were large enough for this small project.

Whilst I was waiting for OH to finish ripping up the hall carpet, I decided to cut out the cardboard templates and then the paper pieces I'd need for the project. It took me only about half an hour to do this so I would be able to start sewing it that same evening whilst watching TV. It felt really satisfying to be using up some of the many scraps of fabric I've accumulated and to have a project to look forward to doing in the evenings. I have just enough of a vintage wool blanket left to use as the wadding and other fabric to hand for the backing and binding.

For the remainder of the day, I decided it was time to get down to painting the woodwork upstairs in the hall. With the carpet taken up, it made it much easier and I didn't have to worry too much about drips of paint as they'd be covered when we eventually get a new carpet. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon doing just this, buoyed on by looking forward to starting my new quilt project in the evening.

To accompany the sewing, we've just started watching The Night Manager, which we missed first time around, and we've also recorded a couple of new to us Scandi crime dramas which we are trying out to see if we like them. We love to spend Saturday evenings watching these.

On Sunday, OH was going out for a bike ride, so I needed to walk the dog. When I got back, I had an appointment at the Waste depot to take the bits of hall carpet and a few other bits of rubbish kicking around the house and garden that just needed to be gone. It felt very satisfying to get rid of some clutter and rubbish and make a bit more space.

As the Waste depot was very close to ASDA, and as we had run out of some fresh essentials, I ended up dropping in once again to do a top up shop to keep us going next week. I do find it disconcerting how quickly food gets used up when we are all at home eating three meals everyday. I seem to spend my life going to the supermarket. The visit wasn't helped by the fact that I picked a wonky trolley and it was exhausting and complete torture trying to manoeuvre it around the supermarket. By the time I got home, my good intentions of doing more painting fell by the wayside and I had a super chilled afternoon sewing instead, whilst catching up on a few YouTube videos. A simple supper of egg and chips followed, which is a rare occurrence, a nice  frugal meal to end the weekend. A bit more sewing got done later whilst watching TV. Once I start a new project, I find it hard to put down until it's finished. I'm almost half way through this one now. I'll post a picture when it's finished.

Despite not getting done what I had intended this afternoon, this weekend still felt like it had been much more productive, which in my view made up for the lack of action during the previous week. I now feel much more motivated going into week 3 of Lockdown and hope that I can manage to be a little more productive whilst still enjoying the time that I do have.

How was your weekend?

Friday, 15 January 2021

A Distracted Week

This last week in Lockdown 3 I've been very distracted. Partly by LB's impending 18th birthday and partly as a consequence of a task I needed to do, but had been putting off. The result has been that I haven't been as productive as I was in Week 1. I just took things slowly this week and took one step at a time. Simple self-care tasks, such as cutting my toenails and plucking my eyebrows felt like the utmost in progress. 

Most days have passed quickly. By the time I've read my book in bed for half an hour each morning, got up and got ready and then done my exercises, it has been at least 11 am, so half the day had virtually gone.

After a bit of housework, laundry, lunch, plant watering, watching a few YouTube videos, reading a few blogs, shopping for food or attempting and failing to do an online food shop, it's been time to take the dog out, getting back around 5pm. Day virtually over. 

Supper, a bit of TV and then bed. A familiar rhythm to most days, which hasn't been altogether unpleasant actually. I'm not always tired when I do get to bed though, so often I lie awake pouring over the day's news in my mind, wake up late the next morning and the cycle begins again.

On Tuesday, I headed out to ASDA to get a birthday cake for LB. She wanted a caterpillar cake - a definite sign of regression during lockdown - she's 18 not 4, but as it was for her special day, and as it's going to be pretty miserable for her to have her 18th birthday during lockdown, Clyde the Caterpillar it was. Who am I to argue?

Whilst at ASDA, I decided to do a bit of a larger shop than planned. I figured that if I was venturing out at all, I may as well make it worth my while, so I bought all of the things I thought we might need in the forthcoming week or so, mainly so that I wouldn't need to step into another supermarket for a couple of weeks at least.  ASDA wasn't actually too bad in reality, not as bad as Lidl had been the week before anyway, as the store was so much larger with much wider aisles. A couple of aisles were pretty busy, but on the whole it was okay.

Buoyed by the experience, I also popped into B&Q to get a bag of houseplant compost, as I need to pot on a few of my plants and maybe split the odd one or two at some point. It was very quiet in there too, thankfully.

In other news, our dog has been finding walking quite difficult this week. At first we thought it was just arthritis, which she suffers from, but then we began to realise that she's definitely pulled something in one of her front legs, so she got just one walk on some days, cutting out mine, which wasn't actually great, as I desperately need the exercise. I guess I could have gone out walking without her, but I wasn't feeling it really. I need the excuse of having a dog to get out there. Besides, it's been raining most of the week, the parks are full of people and I would rather avoid venturing there if I don't have to go out.

I've been thinking this week, that I might buy a litter picking stick, so that when I do take the dog for a walk, mainly on the more rural walks that we do, I can fill a carrier bag with litter I see dropped and do my bit for our community. I will wear gloves, of course, and won't be picking up anything that looks remotely suspect. I'll let you know if I do buy one.

My spending has been under much better control so far this month, just food, household items and gifts for LB mainly. It feels good not to be mindlessly buying stuff on eBay, which had become quite a habit before Christmas. 

Having said this, I have to admit that I don't think I got LB's birthday present quite right for such a special one this year (18th). I hate that feeling.  I think it's partly to do with the Lockdown, a kind of feeling of enui has overtaken me and I don't think I made enough effort to buy her a special surprise. On the day, I decided to buy her an additional couple of gifts online that were pretty special. They won't be delivered until early next week, but I'm glad I did it and I'm hoping that she'll like them and will get a pleasant extended birthday surprise.  Do you ever feel that you don't quite get a gift right? With it being such a special birthday and with us being stuck in Lockdown, I really don't mind overspending a bit. My only regret is that I hadn't thought that way before the day itself. 

On the evening of LB's birthday, we ordered in a takeaway to celebrate. To be honest, I don't really like takeaway food, it always tends to be so calorie laden and I thought about not ordering, but went ahead, instantly regretting it. I should have trusted my first instinct. LB spent the remainder of the evening having a Zoom party with her friends. I think she enjoyed herself, a little too much, judging by the number of  cocktails she drank.  Once things are back to some sort of normality, we are going to pay for LB and half a dozen friends to have a meal out and celebrate properly, but that's a while away yet. 

Anyway, the painting has not been coming along at all this week. We need to take up the carpets before I can really get on with painting the woodwork upstairs, so I haven't done any at all. I'll try to make up for it next week when there should be fewer distractions. My paint samples came at the end of last week and they are very dark. Probably too dark, so I'll just have to find another use for the tester pots and I've now handed the baton over to OH to find a suitable colour that we can agree on. Why is choosing colour so difficult?

This week, I heard someone on social media suggest that it would be great if we could think of Covid as just a kind of hibernation until spring. That's a much nicer way to look at it. I like the idea of hibernating. It does describe what we are having to do quite well. Being on Furlough, I have the luxury to do this, but it's not so easy for people who still have to work from home or otherwise.

Later in the week, I did my row of hand stitching on the quilt which was good and felt very satisfying. At least something got accomplished. I also did a bit of sorting through some old clothes that LB was throwing out. As a consequence, I was able to cut up some old t-shirts into dishcloths and dusters, so I now have a plentiful supply to keep us going.

On Friday, I finally got around to doing the task that had distracted me all week. It felt like such a relief once it was done. It involved a bike ride, which actually felt great and inspired me to try to get out and about on my bike more in the coming weeks.  I feel like I can now relax and start to try to enjoy the remainder of the Lockdown. It's strange how just procrastinating and worrying about something, can cause you such anxiety and distraction in our current circumstances. Everything seems magnified somehow.

I'm hoping that next week will be a much better week. How was your week?

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Rumbling On

The first week of Lockdown is rumbling on. I had a reasonable day on Thursday and was pretty productive. I dutifully did my exercises, washed up the dishes from the previous evening, cleared the washing from the drying rack, put all the ironing I'd completed the previous day away, and then did a new wash load and hung it out. Just the daily grind really, but it helps to give a kind of structure to the day.

I wasn't in a great mood, what with the world events of the previous night and some stuff that LB was finding herself involved in on social media. There's been a couple of issues in the last week, which has been quite worrying. 

In the afternoon, I decided to hand sew a row of the quilt that I started working on after the first lockdown. I haven't picked it up for probably 6 months. It took a couple of hours to hand sew the one row, but I just fancied doing something slow and contemplative and it fit the bill perfectly. I figure that if I do one row per week (there's 4 left to do and then the binding), it will keep me occupied for quite a while during this lockdown, which, lets face it, is going to go on for at least another 6 weeks if not more and thus spreading it out this way, will help keep me occupied for longer. Better this than putting pressure on myself to do some of it everyday and finish it quickly, as some days I'm just not in the mood.

OH set aside some time on Thursday to carry on with the decorating, and virtually got all the prep done in the upper part of the hall. This means that he will be able to paint it very soon. As I write, he's now painting it. It's exciting, seeing it being transformed. 

Back to Thursday, when I got back from the dog walk, I vacuumed the stairs which was a mess from all the prep work, so OH had a clear space for the painting. We can eek painting the woodwork out over a few weeks too, to ensure we/I have things to do throughout the lockdown, but we're going to have to take the carpet up to do it.  I won't be sorry to see it go, it's a mess anyway.

In the evenings, we are currently watching The Serpent on iPlayer, about a serial killer in Thailand. Not very nice, but oddly watchable and quite nerve wracking. On Netflix, I'm part way through Bridgerton, which I consider to be a bit of a historical romp, rather than a serious historical drama. Quite entertaining though. Other than this, we're watching University Challenge still as a family and I'm slowly working my way through the latest series of Escape to the Chateau DIY, whenever I've got ironing to do. We have two boxed sets of The Sopranos to watch at some point, but just need to reconnect the DVD player in order to do so. It was disconnected during the last lockdown, when we decorated the living room, and remains so.

Yesterday, I finished my current book and have started another about the fashion industry.  I had to venture out to do a food shop too, which I didn't particularly enjoy, due to the high virus figures here in London and the inability of some people to social distance, but the fridge was virtually empty, and the freezer was not much better. I didn't get too much stuff to put in the freezer and cupboards, as I still want to eat up what was already in them before buying more. I mainly bought fresh stuff to keep us going for a week or so and a few bits we'd run out of altogether. I'm beginning to think it's getting too risky to even venture out to food shop, especially with London in a 'state of emergency'.

It's a very strange existence at the moment. I heard from a friend this morning to say her partner currently has Covid. Luckily he's recovering at home and hasn't been hospitalised and she doesn't appear to have caught it. At the moment we're just trying to get through it as best we can, trying to stay positive and busy(ish). I think I've got a better balance and acceptance of things this third time around. Finally.

Anyway, my bulk household order arrived this morning, so we are all stocked up on most stuff we need, which is a relief. I just need to go out next week to get a cake for LB's birthday, but it should be a quick in and out of the supermarket. I thought about making one, but I no longer have any cake tins.

I hope you are all keeping and coping well in this lockdown and finding plenty of things to occupy you.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Another Day in Lockdown

Here we are, another day in Lockdown and today, inspite of trying to have a low buy year, I've managed to spend quite a bit of money.

It started when I was reading the No/Low Buy Facebook page and noticed a post about a website called Whistlefish, which sells greetings cards. I decided to take a look and ended up buying probably a year's worth of cards, to cover most of the birthdays and anniversaries I need to send cards for in 2021 and possibly beyond. Unfortunately, a lot of the cards had sold out, as there was a 10 cards for £8 offer on the site and there weren't many cards left for males, but I managed to buy a couple. I consider these cards an essential purchase and they worked out at about £1 each in total with postage, which is comparable to the Card Factory, but I won't actually have to go out to buy them now, which is good in our current circumstances. I will be able to just select one from my greetings card box and pop it in the post using the stamps I bought before Christmas, before the price increases kicked in. 

After showering and doing my exercises, I headed downstairs. In my inbox was a money off voucher for Natural Collection, which is the site on which I had filled a basket with bulk household items but hadn't checked out. As I could get £5 off my order, plus free delivery, I decided to place the order, so now I will soon have most of the household products I need for several months to come, save only for laundry liquid. Again, essential purchases, so not really outside of the low buy rules, moreover, less to hump back from the supermarket, but money spent nevertheless.

For the remainder of the day, I managed not to spend any more money. I did, however, browse the M&S website, as I received a £30 voucher for Christmas, which is burning a hole in my pocket. I've got a good idea what I'm going to spend it on, possibly a new sports bra. Of course, the styles have changed since I last bought one and many of them are out of stock in my size, but I've seen one or two that might be worth a try. I'm very particular about my sports bras as they have to be very supportive for Zumba and other gym classes.

Today, I was also awaiting the delivery of the final present I'd ordered for LB's birthday, so I decided to start wrapping her presents, ready for next week. I didn't really feel like doing any painting, as I did quite a bit yesterday, putting a second coat on most of the woodwork OH and I had painted at the weekend. I also started on the ironing basket last night, which I'm also hoping to finish today.  

Slowly making progress which is good.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Lockdown 3 Inspiration and More Decorating Disruption

After the news last night, that we are now facing at least a couple of months in lockdown, which wasn't a surprise at all, there was a plethora of online courses advertised on Facebook. One such advertisment was from Udemy, and having used the platform before, I couldn't stop myself from taking a look.

I started with looking at the free courses and downloaded a few onto my account: baking, learning the piano and how to make vegan salads. I always make a point of viewing the preview for the course, to get an idea of what the course tutors are like on camera.  Some I find very hard to watch, so I make a point of avoiding these, especially if I'm paying for the course. There were a few other free titles that appealed, but the presentation didn't, so I didn't download them.

I then decided to look for some sort of dance or exercise course and settled for a Zumba course. I watched the preview and the teachers seemed okay. At £10.99 for a 2 hour video, with unlimited lifetime access, I thought it was good value. I normally pay £10 for a class at the gym, now that I've cancelled my monthly membership and pay as I go, so this seamed reasonable if I can use it over and over again. If, might I add.

I know there are probably lots of free resources online that I could tap into, but I'm happy enough to pay for something and provide income to the creator. Besides, the courses were reduced by 80%, so I know I got a good deal. I'm not sure if they're still on offer, as it was supposed to end last night, but they may be. Free courses should still be available though, if anyone is interested.

With Lockdown entertainment and inspiration sorted, today OH decided that he was going to start work on prepping and painting the walls and woodwork of the upper part of the hallway/stairs.  The upstairs landings have high ceilings, so are difficult to decorate, but he figured that while it's still quiet after Christmas and New Year, if he didn't do it now, he might get busy again and be unable to do it.

As a consequence, today we cleared any furniture or other items that usually live on the landings, to give him room to work. That done, he can now get started, but it does mean there is extra stuff in all the upstairs rooms this time, until the work is done and everything can be put back. More disruption, but not quite as disruptive as doing the downstairs. All in a good cause though. I'm sure we'll manage.

In other news, as part of my Low Buy plan for 2021, we're currently trying to eat down the fridge, cupboards,freezer and food stash. I bought a bit too much food for Xmas and also some extra food in anticipation of a no deal Brexit, so we have quite a bit to work our way through. I may have to do a series of small shops to top up on the things we use up quickly, but hopefully I won't need to do a big shop for at least a couple of weeks. This suits me, as I'm not too keen to get out there and do a big shop, as the queues to get in the supermarkets might be long for a couple of days until things settle down.

How are you planning to occupy yourselves during this new lockdown?

Monday, 4 January 2021

Getting It Together

So, we're a few days into the New Year, and I have to be honest, I haven't done very much in the past few days. In fact, I was starting to get a bit frustrated, at the time stretching out before I go back to work. This morning, I decided enough was enough, I needed to get into some sort of routine, if I'm going to get through this time at home mentally intact.

The first thing I decided to do was to get back into an exercise routine. I'm really missing my cycle to work three days a week. It meant that I didn't really have to think about any other exercise, but with that not happening, I have resumed the short exercise routine that I started during the first lockdown. 

Just 20 minutes of stretches and other exercises on a mat in the bedroom. It's amazing how much better I feel for just doing that. This time around, I made a note in my phone of all the exercises in the routine, as I'd forgotten some of them since I did them last. I may add new ones as I get back into shape, but for now the list is pretty long, although it doesn't take too long to do.

This time around, I don't have the previous time pressure of the dog waiting for her walk, as OH has started doing the morning dog walk and I do the afternoon one. This makes the exercises more enjoyable, as I can take as long as I want.

Next, I wrote a list of potential daily tasks I can do when I'm feeling bored or don't know what to do with my time. It's not written in stone and I don't have to accomplish all or any of them, it's just a guide if I want motivation. Some things are one offs, such as taking down the Xmas decorations, putting them back in the loft and wrapping LB's birthday presents, others are ongoing things that I can do, such as washing/ironing, painting the woodwork in the hall, sewing sections of the unfinished quilt, watching recorded episodes of the new series of Escape to the Chateau DIY.

Talking of the decorating, OH and I did get around to a bit more painting in the last week. OH applied a new coat of wipeable emulsion onto the walls in the hall and we both painted the first coat onto some of the woodwork, so it is slowly coming along. I've ordered some more paint samples for the vestibule wall, so progress is being made, but painting is so boring.  I can only do a couple of hours at a time. The results are satisfying though. It helps if I think of it as taking care of our assets.

I'm also looking forward to getting the living room back to normal and taking down the Xmas decorations. I normally wait until Twelfth night, but I'm not sure I can stick it out this year and I am thinking of doing it today. They went up a bit early this year, so maybe they can come down early.

Yesterday, we popped to B&Q to take a look at the radiators they sell there these days. We are thinking of replacing the panel radiator in the hall, for something a bit more interesting. Unfortunately, OH didn't like the designer ones they sell, so we're going to take a look at the column radiators they now sell, which are similar to cast iron Victorian ones and should suit our Victorian terraced house. We need to go to a bigger store to see them though. 

In the end, all we came away with was a bag of ericaecious compost, for OH to pot on some blueberry plants we have outside the back door. We needed some, so it wasn't a wasted journey. I managed to resist buying any more plants, but only just.

My low buy is going well enough so far. I've only spent money on gifts for LB's 18th birthday, homewares we needed (some new roasting dishes from Lidl £3.99), paint samples and food. I do have an order sat in my basket for bulk household products we're running out of, but I haven't placed it yet and might not do so.

OH and I have had colds this Christmas. To make sure it wasn't anything more serious, OH took a Covid test, as he had a bad cough, but got a negative result thankfully.  To be honest, we don't see anyone anyway, only on dog walks and then we keep our distance. It's so difficult to tell whether you've just got a cold or anything more serious at the moment and the system is under such pressure, especially here in London.

I'm hoping that now I've got myself in a better frame of mind, the time on furlough will pass much more pleasantly. Why can't I just enjoy it?, you're probably asking. I wish I knew the answer to that myself, but I am trying this time around. I do realise how lucky I am to be paid to stay at home.