Monday, 31 January 2022

A Few Days of Finally Doing What Needed to be Done

On Wednesday, during my week off, after two weeks of procrastinating, (and also recovering from burnout at work) I finally started to do some of the jobs that desperately needed doing around the house.  I started work in the kitchen. It's the room I spend most of my time in and it seriously needed a good clean and declutter.

I started at about 2pm and continued until probably 8pm, interrupted only by cooking supper. I didn't get around to doing everything.  Vacuuming and mopping the floor, for example, had to wait until the following morning, as it would have been too noisy at 8pm, as our neighbours have small children, who would have been in bed by this time. I also didn't manage to clean the oven or the dishwasher, but these jobs were stand alone and could be done at any time.

On Thursday, I got up and got straight on with cleaning the kitchen floor. It felt very satisfying to get the cleaning of this room completed, as it is probably the one that takes the longest. Cleaning all the cupboard doors inside and out and deep cleaning surfaces and window sills etc., always takes quite a long time. I did deep clean the cupboards under the sink, some of the other cupboards and most of the drawers, where crumbs and clutter gather, but to be honest, there wasn't much to get rid of this time around.

After finishing the kitchen floor, I then cleaned the downstairs toilet, vestibule and stairs up to the ground floor, before taking a break for lunch. I did find a few pairs of shoes in the vestibule that I could let go of. Two pairs were worn out and three other pairs I no longer wanted to keep. So this was progress.

Whilst having lunch, for inspiration and continued motivation, I watched a couple of cleaning videos by Aurikatariina on YouTube, which spurred me on to do more cleaning. She does some very dirty cleaning jobs in her videos, but is such a happy cleaner and is super enthusiastic about it. 

After lunch, I proceeded to clean the two reception rooms. It only took a couple of hours, as I'd cleaned just before Christmas when I put the tree up, so it wasn't super dirty, but there was quite a bit of furniture to move and clean underneath. I finished for the afternoon by cleaning the hallway, which completed the whole of the lower part of the house. By this time it was time to take the dog out, so I got out for a break and some fresh air. Here's a couple of photos of these rooms once cleaned:

Later in the evening after supper, I watched a few more cleaning videos, whilst simultaneously descaling the kettle and cleaning the oven. I had just enough time before The Apprentice came on at 9pm, to get both of these jobs done.

On Friday, I did a couple of things in the morning, such as putting away the laundry, doing another wash and I set the dishwasher on a cleaning cycle with some citric acid in there. I put the extractor fan filters in there too, as they were very oily and dirty, the last little job I needed to do in the kitchen.

I took a break from cleaning for the rest of the day, as I had a few errands to do, but returned to doing a bit more on Saturday afternoon. On this occasion, I vacuumed and mopped the stairs up to the top landing, then cleaned our bedroom which was especially dirty.  I didn't do a spring clean, as in taking everything off the shelves and cleaning them, I just cleaned the bits of the shelves that were visible. The reason for this is that we are awaiting the arrival of new sash windows next week, which are going to be fitted in this room, so there is no point thoroughly cleaning, as it will need doing again, once the new windows have been fitted.

I did wipe down all surfaces, vacuum and mop the floor, change the bedding and then remove any breakables from the room, to prevent any breakages during the fitting of the windows. It felt good to get this room done and then I could hang out some washing to dry.

By way of a treat, after all my cleaning this week, we headed to the pub on Saturday night for supper. 

Saturday, 29 January 2022

A Spendy Friday

The this week I've taken a week off from work. I didn't do a whole lot for the first few days of the week, but for the latter half of the week, I've spent a lot of time cleaning the house.

On Friday, however, I felt like I needed to take a break from the cleaning and with the end of a very tight month in sight, I felt like a bit of a splurge. 

It started when I passed a local charity shop on the dog walk. I saw a dress and a bag in the window and popped in to ask how much they were. The dress was way too small for me, which is just as well, as it was £22, but the bag was £7 and I really liked it. I didn't have any money on me, but the lady on the till said she would put it aside until I came back later, which was very nice of her.

I returned to the shop half an hour later and dropped a bag of items that I no longer wanted at the same time. I bought the bag and a couple of other things too, spending £11.  Here's a picture of the bag:

I always use a cross body bag and I like the fact that this one has 3 zipped compartments; one for keys, one for money/bus pass and one for PPE/makeup, etc. I love my bags to be compartmentalised, so that I can find what I need easily and quickly. I also like the lovely green colour of the bag, which I thought would be nice for the spring.

The other items I bought included this licky mat for the dog, who tends to wolf her food down. I thought this might entertain her for a little while. It was new and was £3.

The final items were these bamboo beakers with a jungle print, which were also new and 50p each.

I was happy with my purchases, but when I got home, I realised that I needed to go out again, as we were out of salad and a few other items and I needed to do a top up shop for the weekend.

My first stop, was Poundland, which is always a £30 spend, as it was this day. Of this spend, £10 was a new jumper that I saw and liked in the window. I then got waylaid in the gardening aisle, as OH wanted some shallots for the allotment. I bought two bags of 10 at £1 each and I needed some more dahlia tubers, as several of mine rotted off this winter. At £1 for two tubers, I thought they were worth a try and bought these 3 packets: 

I'm hoping that they grow okay, as they make such great cut flowers in the summer, which saves me ever having to buy any.

I also bought a few bits of food and some dog treats, as we were virtually out of them. They had some Christmas ones that had been reduced, so I bought some of these. They'd been a bit pricey at Christmas, when I think they were £2 and £3, so I'd given them a miss, but were now either £1 or £1.50.

Next stop was ASDA for salad, fruit, ketchup, bread products, milk, tinned dog food, cereal, wine for OH and me - I chose a low alcohol Rose version this time for £3. That was another £25 spent. 

In all, it was a bit of a spendy day, but because I'd received last month's credit card statement, I could now use my card to pay for these things and I won't need to pay them off until March. 

I counted non-food items in next month's spending, as I didn't have any spending capacity left in any category except food this month. This is what happens when I have a very low spend month, I kind of burst out of it at the end of the month, just to cheer myself up. Having said this though, most of the things were necessary or everyday groceries (save for CS purchases and the jumper), so I'm not going to give myself a hard time.

I'm just so glad to get to the end of a difficult month and be able to treat myself just a little. I've decided to keep a tally of every non-consumable item that I buy this year, to monitor how much 'stuff' actually comes into the house. I'm hoping it might make me think a bit more before buying things and help to keep the clutter down.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Tuesday at Home and a Night Out

Tuesday, got off to a slow start. I stayed in bed for an hour reading. I'm currently reading a book about productivity, for both work and home. It's quite an interesting read. I got up and got showered and after breakfast I took the dog on a two hour walk. 

I had a couple of errands to run when I got back.  One was to post a present off to my sister for her birthday this week and the other was to pick up a prescription for LB. The Post Office and Pharmacy were next door to one another, so it didn't take long and meant I could tick a couple more things off my to do list for the week.

After lunch, I needed to do a Lateral Flow Test, as I'd been invited to go dancing in the evening, with a friend that I met at dance classes pre-pandemic. Once that was done and was negative, I could book my ticket. It is for a swing dance lesson followed by a live band, who I think play ragtime, blues and 20's jazz, which sounded good. I hadn't done any swing dancing for nearly two years, so I was both nervous and excited to return to it. The lessons and event were at a different venue that is trying to build up their events, so it was interesting to see what it was like.

To get me in the mood for going dancing, I re-watched some videos of the Jazz Solo classes I did before Lockdown. It was interesting to be reminded of the level at which I was learning, before everything shut down. Some of the steps and routines were quite tricky. Not sure if I could do them now, not without a lot of practice anyway.

This afternoon, I decided to do a bit more ironing, whilst watching the new film version of Jane Austin's Emma on Netflix. Later I started getting ready to go out. It had been so long since I'd been dancing, I had no idea what to wear. I don't really wear vintage anymore, so I needed to choose something both presentable and comfortable for dancing. I opted for trousers, flat shoes and a couple of layered tops. The first time I go anywhere, it's always a nightmare to decide what to wear.

I had to set the sat nav to find my way to the venue, as the area wasn't that familiar, even though it's only 10-15 mintues away in the car. The traffic was bad too, but my friend and I were still early, so we had time to sit and have a chat before the class began.  I enjoyed the class, it was a good mix of young and older dancers, so I didn't feel too conspicuous. At times it felt like I was actually dancing, by which I mean the steps, albeit just the few we learnt that night, were flowing reasonably well.

The band were good and my friend and I had lots of time to catch up with each other's news. I enjoyed watching the more experienced dancers too. It's inspiring, although I doubt I'll ever be as good as they are.
We left about 10.45pm, as my friend needed to get a bus and train home and I was home for just past 11pm.

I'm not sure if I'll go every week, but it has whetted my appetite to get back to dancing, so we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

A Day at Work and an Unexpected Start to my Week Off

On Saturday, I returned to work for just one day, before taking a week's leave. Work was okay. There was plenty of work to do, as I'd not been there for three days, but I managed to get most of what I needed to do done. In a charity shop, there is always more you can do, you've just got to be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. 

Anyway, on Sunday morning we woke up to a Whatsapp message from LB. She was on the train back from Manchester, but had cockled over and twisted her ankle on the way to the station. She sent a photo of it looking swollen and sore. I said we'd meet her at Euston station when she arrived back in London. OH had to rearrange a cycling meet up with a friend, but we couldn't let her hobble off the train and into a cab alone.

I then got up and got dressed and went down to breakfast.  I put some washing in the machine and then spent most of the remainder of the morning watching a few YouTube videos and writing a shopping list for  the weekly shop the following day. I had a very tight budget this week, as it's the last week before I get paid, so I didn't want to buy anything unnecessary. We've got quite a bit of food in the house, so I only really needed the fresh basics,plus a few items we had run out of. 

Later, OH and I set off to pick LB up. Unfortunately, we couldn't easily get anywhere near to Euston station in the car, from the front anyway, because of roadworks, so I jumped out and headed into the station on foot, and OH ended up having to go home to get back in time to go out for his cycle ride.

I was surprised at how packed it was inside Euston station. I gradually managed to make my way through crowds of people to find LB outside the platform where she'd got off the train. Luckily she could walk on her ankle, but it was painful.  We headed outside to a bus stop nearby, where we jumped on a bus back to Hackney. We had to swap buses as we got near to home, so that we could get as close to the house as possible, but eventually we got on a bus that dropped us off at the top of our street.

LB was exhausted after a weekend of going out until the early hours with her friends, so she went straight up to bed and I made her a bacon sandwich, gave her an ice pack for her ankle and then settled myself down to a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch. It made for a different Sunday morning anyway.

After lunch, I hung out the washing and then finally settled down to doing an hour or two of ironing before the afternoon dog walk called. It was satisfying to halve the ironing pile, which by now was tumbling over every time you try to take something from further down it than the top. I felt a little bit more productive than I've been for the last week. OH has recently decided that he doesn't want me to iron his clothes anymore, as he has developed a hatred of the ironing pile of doom.  Suits me, as it makes the pile a little less overwhelming, but not much, as OH doesn't go through anywhere near as many clothes as I do in any given period. Maybe one day I'll stop ironing my clothes too, but I can't see it somehow.

A Productive Monday

My week off started with a class at the gym. I ran into more problems when I got there, as they've decided to scrap a scratch card system for parking and so I am expecting to get a parking ticket this week.  They did say that they would squash the ticket if I bring it in along with my scratchcard, but it's a whole lot of bother that wouldn't be necessary if they'd just given us a bit of a warning about the change.

Anyway, it will now cost £1.50 to park each time I use the gym, instead of 75p which the scratch card system reduced it to. I know it's only a relatively small increase, but everything seems to be getting more expensive at the moment. I might consider riding my non-electric bike to the gym sometimes, but as I always combine going to the gym in the car, with doing the weekly shop, this isn't really going to be a good solution. I'll probably just have to pay up and shut up.

Talking of the weekly shop, I managed to keep costs low this week and got everything we needed for just £56. I did use a £2 off coupon that I'd earned, but I think that's still the least I've spent at Lidl on a weekly shop, for at least a couple of years. This shop should easily see us through the week. I think I tend to overbuy on a regular basis, so this week is a good opportunity to use things up. We won't starve.

After getting back and having lunch, OH helped me get all of the Christmas decorations into the loft. It was good to get them out of sight, as they've been cluttering up the spare bedroom/my sewing room for the last 3 weeks. I love Christmas, but once it's over, I'm over it and want to get back to normal.

I decided to do a bit of financial filing this afternoon. I always throw all my financial paperwork that comes in during the year, into a filing box and then file it all away once per year, usually in January. It's mainly just bank statements, credit card statements, the odd pension statement, nothing very important. I just find this the easiest way to deal with paperwork and it seems to have served me well enough over the years. Once done, it was another thing crossed off the to do list and gave me a sense of satisfaction.

I then put away the ironing from the day before, did the washing up which had built up over the weekend, before taking the dog out. Days just slip past so quickly at the moment, I don't know where the hours go.

I had to cancel a dentist appointment for LB today, as her ankle still wasn't recovered enough to walk easily. I re-booked for a couple of weeks time. It worked out better for me financially, as I can't really afford to pay for her checkup this month. Next month shouldn't be quite as tight as this month has been, although it is still going to be a challenge, but at least it's a short month with only 28 days in it.

I also managed to persuade LB to contact the doctor about a skin condition that's been troubling her recently. After sending photos to the doctor via email, she had a long conversation with him on the telephone and he diagnosed her as having psoriasis, which he thinks is related to a thyroid issue she's had lately. Anyway, he's prescribed some cream, so hopefully, this should help to clear it up for now. It felt good to get on top of this issue, which has been bothering her for about 6 weeks now. At least she now knows what it is.

In all, Monday felt like quite a productive day. The house still needs a good clean, but quite a few things got sorted out, so it felt like I'd made some progress with outstanding issues. I'm hoping the rest of the week continues in the same vein.

Monday, 24 January 2022

EBAY Expenditure Audit 2021

For anyone who didn't already know, I'm an avid eBay spender. I used to be a seller on eBay and was always grateful for the support of buyers, so subsequently I've always tried to buy things on eBay where I can.  I like to spread my money around lots of small sellers and not just hand it over to large corporations. (I realise that eBay is a large corporation and takes a cut of each sale, but it also is a great enabler for people to earn money online and I respect this about the platform).

Anyway, I like to look on eBay before I buy elsewhere. Not so much when it comes to buying clothing, as I learnt the hard way in 2020, that buying clothes on eBay, especially vintage clothes, is a bit of a lottery, unless you know the brand and it's sizing well. I made many mistakes during lockdown and subsequently ended up donating some things that I bought, as they didn't fit well.

For almost everything else, I turn to eBay first, i.e. items for the dog, items for work, stationery, ppe, diy, crafts, cycling accessories, collectibles, books, vinyl, other accessories, etc., etc. I absolutely love the fact that you can find so many very niche items on there, that you probably could spend months trailing around trying to find.

For example, some of the things I have bought this year include: a rubber bung to fit a vintage ceramic money box, various vintage Christmas brooches for my collection, a phone case for my 5 year old Samsung Galaxy DS, a hanging crystal for a feng shui moment, labelling tape for an ancient Brother label machine that has been in the shed for a number of years, mounts for pictures, a hula hoop and tape to decorate it, litter picking equipment, moth traps, window film, shelves, garden chairs, cycling accessories including helmet, saddle bag, hi vis jackets, etc., face masks, a face mask case, cycling parts for OH's bike, velcro, sewing patterns, various gifts for Xmas, including a vintage Juicy Couture handbag for LB - you get the drift.

Very occasionally, I have a not so great experience with sellers, but I'd say that in probably 95-98% of transactions, I am very happy with the outcome, hence why I continue to use it on a regular basis.

The other day, I randomly decided to total the amount I'd spent on eBay in 2021. I spent a lot in the lead up to Xmas last year and I also spent quite a bit during Lockdown at the beginning of the year, as I couldn't always find things elsewhere and I make a conscious choice not to buy on Amazon where possible.

Anyway, the total came to £737.53, which was divided between about 80 different purchases. That probably averages to about 6 or 7 per month. This is less than I spent in 2020 when the total was more like £1200, but this did include a bike for £120. I was able to glean this total from a previous post I wrote in November 2020, by the time Xmas was over this figure was probably more likely to have been £1500, so I think I curtailed my spending on eBay by quite a bit last year. 

(So far this year, I have only purchased one item, which was for work, as I'm on a very low spend month. I  just haven't been able to justify buying anything else. I know, however, that as soon as I get through this month, there are a number of small (i.e. less than £10 items in my watch list, that I would love to place an order for. I think I may resurrect my old series about the random things I buy on eBay, when I do eventually buy a few things.)

On occasions, I've probably paid a bit over the odds when postage has been taken into account, but the ease of clicking a button and getting something sent to you, is so much more convenient and is worth paying extra for sometimes. Besides, you can't expect small sellers to soak up the postage costs. I try to buy items with free postage where I can, but it isn't always possible and the price usually includes an adjustment for postage anyway.

I know that eBay have made lots of changes in recent years, that have made it harder for sellers to use the platform. I think this is regrettable and it would probably put me off ever selling on there again, but I still think that it is a very useful tool for finding what you need, especially the more obscure things in life.

How do you feel about eBay?

Sunday, 23 January 2022

A Few Days Off (Again)

This week my work schedule has been the same as last week. I took Thursday off again, so that I could get back some of the extra hours I worked in the New Year. I quite like having 3 days off together. I haven't had that for a couple of years now, as I tend to work alternate days and then have 2 days off on Sunday/Monday. The extra day makes all the difference in terms of feeling rested, but I'd better not get too used to it. 

Next week, I'm taking a week's leave, as I need to use up my annual leave before the year end at the end of March. I haven't got anything planned as such, but I may do some cleaning and sewing and decluttering. The usual really. We may go away for a few days at some point to get a break from London and blow away the cobwebs.

This last three days, haven't been particularly exciting. Wednesday, I took the dog, or rather she took me, for a long walk. I then needed to pick up a prescription from the chemist. I tried to go to our local library, but it was shut for staff training. I haven't been for at least two years and just felt like picking up a few new to me books to flick through.

I had to wait in in the afternoon for a parcel arriving. A present for my sister's 60th birthday next week. I hope she likes it. I'll have to send it on to her. I ordered her some orchids today too, which she had asked for. 

I was contacted by a friend that I used to go dancing with pre-Lockdown. She suggested a new venue to go swing dancing and we may arrange something in the coming weeks, which would be good. I've wanted to get back to it, but seem to have lost my nerve somewhat.

I spent most of the afternoon binge watching Netflix and iPlayer. A lost afternoon really, but sometimes you just need to do it and enjoy it. As I've now finished a lot of the series that I was watching, I'll have to find other things to do with my time. The ironing basket calls as always, but I just keep batting it away until I run out of clothes.

On Thursday, I had a lie in. The dog wanted to go out for a walk super early (well 8 am, which is too early for me) so OH took her. I stayed in bed and read my current book, which is a really good read. It's called Untamed, by Glennon Doyle and talks about how from the age of 10 girls are taught to be 'good' and compliant and to tame their personalities to please and placate those around them. I can relate to that.

As I wasn't under any time constraints this morning, I decided to get my new yoga mat out of it's wrapping  (I've only had it 7 months!) and do some weights and floor exercises for 20 minutes. I stuck to the routine I devised during Lockdown. I really enjoyed it. My arms are definitely much weaker and were struggling to manage the weight exercises, which emphasised the need to do them. It helped to create a positive start to the day. 

Lately, I'm a super fan of trainwithjoan on Instagram. She is so inspiring, looks fabulous in her 70's and has totally transformed her body in the last 7 years. I'm starting to think that adding some strength training into my routine might be the way forward for me too.

After breakfast, I watched a few YouTube videos and then what do you know, it was time for an early lunch.

After lunch, I checked the opening times online and headed out to the library again. I walked up there this time, as I needed to get out of the house and get some fresh air. I stopped off to buy some bird seed, peanuts and suet balls from a local discount store. A bit of a luxury on my very low spend month, but I just felt like feeding the birds today, after seeing a tit bathing in the bird bath this moring.

Thankfully, the library was open today, so I had a good mooch around the non-fiction section. (I rarely borrow anything else) I checked out these books, which should keep me going for a while:

I wasn't sure if my library card would still work, as it had been so long since I last visited, but it did.

I set off back home. En route, I was thinking about why I just can't seem to settle down to do anything productive at the moment.  The house is screaming at me to clean it, there's lots of decluttering and ironing to do, but I just can't face it. I think I'm still a bit burnt out from work and very selfishly need more me time. Books do it for me when I get like this. They've always been an escape for me.

When I got home, I filled all of the bird feeders and then started reading the Dawn O'Porter book. It's a kind of diary of her Lockdown life in LA. I'm not sure how I feel about this one, but I'll give it a go. I'm also part way through one of her fiction books called So Lucky and have kind of got stuck with that one. I'm not sure if I'll continue to read it or not.

Later, I took a break from reading and did a bit of blogging to break up the day.  It's actually nice to have more time to do it. It's something I enjoy and I've neglected my blog this past year, just keeping it ticking over instead of making more effort.

An afternoon dog walk, and another day had slipped by.

On Friday, I woke up early to see LB off, as she was travelling up to Manchester for the weekend, to visit a friend who is at university there. OH dropped her off at our local station, from which she had to make her way to Euston to catch a train. I went straight back to bed after she left and surfaced a couple of hours later, when I read in bed for a while and then got up, got ready and took the dog out.

Today, was a day when I decided to get serious about looking into the costs of LB going to University later this year. I watched a few Money Saving Expert YouTube videos about how the Student Loans system works, which were very enlightening and then took a look at the halls of residence that LB will be applying to. I even watched some videos about her course, on the YouTube channel of the University department where she will be studying. It was all very informative and interesting stuff, and I'm very excited for her. I think it will be very challenging too though. In a few months, LB will have to start making applications for Student Loans and for places in Halls, so I thought it was about time that I got myself informed about the whole process.

It's going to be a very exciting time for her, but it is going to be expensive too, as she is staying in London, but wants to live in halls to be nearer to her University campus and to enjoy the full student experience. She will be living and studying in a part of London that is very unfamiliar to us, so it should be an interesting experience for her to live and study there.

I got an email from my sister today. She'd received her orchids for her birthday and she was very happy with them. She sent me some photos and they looked very nice. I still need to post another gift to her next week

I popped out to ASDA later in the day, to get a few bits, and picked up a bottle of Vegan rose wine, which was just £3. It sounded interesting and was very inexpensive. I was curious to know what non-vegan ingredients are usually used in producing wine, so I googled it and found that certain animal products, such as albumin and milk proteins are used in the fining process where the wine is made clear and often then filtered out. They do not need to be mentioned on labels as they are removed, but traces may still be present in the wine, making wines non-vegan. 

I'm not vegan, but I thought it would be interesting to try a vegan wine and see if there was a lot of difference in the taste. From an ethical point of view, I think it must be better to drink a wine that doesn't have animal products in it if you can, but then I'm no wine expert either.  I'm sure that there are many people out there that might disagree with me here. Anyway, I tried the wine and it wasn't the best. I probably wouldn't buy it again, but saying this I managed to drink two glasses.

In the evening OH and I finished watching a series on Netflix called Stay Close and then started watching series one of Ricky Gervais's After Life. We enjoyed it and will continue to work our way through the three series that are available.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Christmas Aprons and Future Projects

In the lead up to Christmas this year, I posted about making some new Christmas aprons to wear for work at the charity shop. It was a good way to use up some of the Christmas fabric that I have in my fabric stash and I  made them in a different style to one's I'd made before. Here's a picture of previous ones that I made during Lockdown:

And this is the vintage half apron that I made the new ones from:

I just added a bib and strap around the neck. I like the use of contrasting fabrics in the new ones, as it adds interest. I was happy with the way they worked out, but never actually got around to posting a picture of them.  Anyway, before I put them away until next year, I thought I'd post about them.  Here's a picture of the three that I completed:

The red gingham one was the first one I made, but I decided that the later ones looked better with the pocket on the bib, as it drew less attention to the bust area, so I might add another pocket to this one. I'm intending to make a couple more, and possibly convert a couple of the previous aprons I made to this style, with a few simple adjustments, as it is a more flattering and femine style to wear. I'll probably do the same with the regular all year round aprons I made too. They all have a matching small drawstring bag too.

I'm also going to try my hand at making some pullable, reusable fabric Christmas crackers this year, with fabric hats, as our dog hates the snap in crackers, so we don't really use them these days. I've seen a couple of instructional videos on YouTube and they look simple enough to make. I will probably repurpose some of the fabric from some of the old Christmas aprons to make these too, as I don't think I'll wear them again. 

In other plans, I'd also like to make some Christmas fabric drawstring bags for wrapping gifts and maybe hem some squares of fabric, also for use in gift wrapping. I figure there are ways that I can reduce the waste we produce, even if it is only for gift wrapping in our household, so that things can be reused year after year.

I've got a week off planned after this week, which should give me a good opportunity to spend some time sewing. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Blue Monday

I believe that today, is traditionally known as Blue Monday. The third Monday in January, the point at which most people are at their saddest; as they are broke, cold and disappointed with themselves, over failing to stick to their New Year's Resolutions.

Whilst the latter isn't the case for me, as I didn't make any New Year Resolutions, my Blue Monday didn't exactly get off to a good start. I needed to take the dog out before heading off to the gym and was running late due to not having slept well and not waking until 8am. I managed to get dog poo on my fingers as I was tying up a dog bag. Urgh! (TMI, I know) It doesn't happen often, but freaks me out when it does.

When I eventually left the house, the windscreen on the car was frozen over, just what you don't need when you're in a hurry, but in spite of this, I still managed to get to the gym on time. The trouble started there.  I had had to renew my membership online last week and my card no longer worked to let me through the barrier and into class, so I had to queue to see the one member of staff on duty in the foyer. After 10-15 minutes trying and failing to sort it out, I had to just go in to the class anyway. 

Luckily, the class started late. Someone had cleaned the floor in the studio and it was still wet, so a member of staff had been called out to dry it off. As a consequence, I didn't miss any of the slightly shorter class, but I did have to position myself right at the back, as it was the only place there was any room, and I could hardly see a thing the instructor was doing. Regardless, I enjoyed the class and then managed to get my membership sorted out after the class.

When I left there, I set off to do the food shopping. I tried to stick to my shopping list religiously this week, but a few extras did slip into my baskets (food only). I am definitely at that point in the month where I am broke, so that is a bit depressing, but there's only one more food shopping week before I get paid, so I'll just have to eke things out. I did receive a £8 off an £80 spend voucher at Tesco, so that should come in handy for the first week in February, to save a bit of money on my first food shop of next month.

I have tried to set a limit on how much I put on my credit cards this month, but it is increasingly looking like I may have to exceed it. If I do, I do. I'll try to get straight next month. I've needed to spend nearly £300 on gifts this month, for both LB's birthday and my sister's, as she turns 60 next week. Thankfully, next month, there are fewer things I need to spend my money on.

I worked out the other day, that despite my food budget being £400 per month, last year I spent an average of £460 on food each month. I need to try to do better this year.  I have been quite good with regard to spending money so far this month, mainly borne out of necessity, but also with a bit of will power thrown in. There aren't many things that I need at the moment, so I don't feel inclined to shop for anything, either online or in person, so this has helped enormously.

When I got back from doing the shopping today, I got a nice surprise. Over two years ago, I found a nice pair of glasses frames in a local East London charity shop for £3. The frames themselves are Dita Von Teese frames and they are quite solid and well made. They are 1940's/50's in style and I'd wanted to get lenses put in for ages, but didn't have my prescription.  After getting a copy of it when I last went to the opticians, OH sent them off last week, as part of my Xmas present, to an online company to get some lenses fitted. 

They arrived today, varifocals in situ and I'm really happy with them and looking forward to wearing them. They're a bit Mad Men, but I like them. Here's a picture of them:

Just out of curiosity, I took a look on the website that sells DITA glasses and similar frames range from £500 to £800. Wow, what a stroke of luck it was, that I found them at the price I did.

This afternoon, I rang my doctor's surgery to see if my blood tests results from Friday had come back and to ask if I could have another prescription for the statins I was put on a couple of months ago. I was told that my liver function tests were normal and my cholesterol had come down from 7.7 to 4.4, which was great news. I'm just waiting on the new prescription now, as I've run out of tablets.

In other news, OH headed off to the vets with the dog this afternoon. She's having problems with pain and stiffness in her front legs. We think it is arthritis and she needs some medication, but she's also having problems with one of her teeth, which we think needs taking out, plus she's got lumps and bumps all over her body, which we hope are benign and nothing to worry about. We hate taking her to the vet, as we generally find them lacking in empathy and we dread that there might be anything seriously wrong with her, as you can imagine.

Turns out, her tooth and possibly others need to be removed and her teeth cleaned. Some of the lumps they are going to remove under anaesthetic too. She was given some medicine for the arthritis and she's been booked in for an operation in a couple of months time, which is going to be very expensive, unless we can get the insurance to pay for some of it. Let's hope so.

So, there was a lot going on today, most of it good, so I can't complain. Not such a Blue Monday.

Sunday, 16 January 2022

A Bit of Bloggy Reflection and an Unexpected Anniversary

Whilst out walking the dog today (Sunday), I was watching a couple of YouTube videos on my phone about manifesting good things in your life. I'm not into this kind of thing in any big way, but I do believe in the concept of serendipity and to some degree karma, and it got me thinking about a very interesting blog post I once read about the universe providing for your needs. I can remember linking to it in a blog post way back, so when I got back home, I decided to look back through the titles of blog posts I've created over the years, to see if I could find it. Unfortunately, I couldn't.

What started out as a search for this one post, then became a trip down memory lane, as I was reminded of the myriad of posts I've created over the last nine years. Yes, it's nine years this month, since I started on Blogger. I was surprised it was that long. I genuinely had no idea how long I've been blogging. I don't even think about it. I just do it and continue to do it because I enjoy it and I enjoy reading other people's blog posts.

It was interesting to scroll through past blog post titles. They revealed my activities through the years, including the charity shop hauls, frugal challenges, allotment gardening, decluttering, vintage collections, holidays, days out, sewing projects, books I've read, home makeovers, upcyles, etc. and every trend I've gravitated towards over the last nine years. It was quite a shock to see the range of subjects that I've posted about here, compared to the pretty boring posts I've been creating lately. 

Life has changed a lot since I started blogging. LB is now an adult, living her own life, although still currently living at home, for the time being at least. I'm now working and despite only working part-time, work seems to consume a large part of life, as I'm either recovering from it or just getting on with it. In some ways, it seems that life has narrowed somewhat, especially in the last two years with the pandemic, but in other ways, it feels like it has opened up new worlds to me.

During my search, I found a recipe for some dog paw salve on one post, which was very useful, as I needed to make a new batch, so I quickly rustled some up with what I had in the cupboard. The making my own toiletries trend didn't last too long with me and I still have the ingredients in the cupboard to prove it, albeit out of date. At least I was able to make use of some of them today. Being topical and external, I doubt they'll be harmful to the dog. She has a pretty robust constitution.

On one blog post thumbnail, I saw a photo of a favourite old pair of shoes, that I haven't owned for a long time, and it took me right back to my days as a mum at the school gate, taking and picking up LB from primary school. A small but poignant reminder of how life used to be. Time moves on and I'm glad it does (I never liked the school run!), and things inevitably change. It's good to be reminded, as it spurs us on to create the life changes we want and need. I don't know what the future looks like for me at the moment. I'm happy enough, but I need to keep finding new sources of inspiration and new outlets for my creativity and curiosity, that's just the way I am and have always been.

Do you ever look back on past posts to help inspire you as you move into the future? 

If I ever find that darn post, I promise I'll link it again.

Friday, 14 January 2022

A Few Days Off and a Birthday Celebration

After spending Sunday and Monday at home, I was not relishing returning to work on Tuesday this week, but I was consoled by the fact that once I had finished work on Tuesday, I would not need to go back until Saturday, as I was taking some time back after working last week, by taking Thursday off. Three days off sounded like sheer bliss to me as the house was still a mess after Christmas and New Year and I needed to do a bit of a tidy round and catch up on some jobs.

After sleeping really well on Tuesday night, I felt suitably refreshed and ready to make the most of my time off. I began by taking some decluttered items to the clothing bank, charity shop and little free library. I loaded the two boxes and two bin bags into the car, dropped the bin bags into a nearby clothing bank, then took the dog to a favourite spot that is just a little too far to walk to.  After a lovely walk in the fresh air, I dropped off the two boxes at the charity shop on the way back and put one book that was a little too well read for the charity shop, into a nearby little free library. It felt great to be relieved of more items that had been clogging up the landing over Christmas.

That is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to the having a clearout. I haven't even started decluttering proper and I am actually looking forward to being a bit ruthless, especially with things I don't wear, things that don't fit well or which don't look nice on. There's plenty of those in my wardrobe and drawers, that's for sure.

After lunch, I retired to the sofa for a few hours and watched a few programmes on iPlayer and Netflix, which included an interesting series about Andy Warhol and a period film drama. Later, I wrapped LB's birthday presents. Not a hugely productive day, but some things did get done, which is progress.

On Thursday, it was LB's birthday. I strung up a few balloons and a banner, put a candle in her cake and then headed out with the dog as she wasn't yet up. By the time I got back, she'd surfaced and OH and I watched her open her presents. The few things that we were still waiting for by post, miraculously turned up at the same time, which was good fortune. She seemed very happy with her presents, but then she always is.

We headed out to lunch at a restaurant near to the centre of the area in which we live. We don't often venture much further than our small local high street to eat out, as it has a few nice restaurants, but we thought we'd do something a little different today. We last went to this particular restaurant on my birthday two years ago.

Lunch was a lovely relaxing affair with good food and an accompanying glass of Prosecco by way of celebration. I did have to have a nap on the sofa when we got home though, as daytime drinking isn't my forte.

When we got back, we tucked into LB's Rocky Road Birthday cake, which was nice. 

Later, I potted up an amaryllis that I'd forgotten to pot up before Xmas. I got a shock when I opened the box, as it had been so keen to grow that it had produced a large shoot and flowerhead in the box. I felt suitably guilty and neglectful. It's currently a bit curled up, but I'm hoping that with some sunlight, it might straighten out and green up. Here's a picture:

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Netflix. A very lazy day all told, but I don't care, I enjoyed it.

Friday was my last day off this week. I woke a bit late, as LB came home in the early hours, so my sleep was interrupted. I had to get ready and go straight out to the doctors for a blood test. I fasted, but found when I got there that I hadn't needed to. Typical! Anyway, it went okay, I just now need to get a new prescription for the statins, as I will run out this weekend. Having to work for a full week, put me behind in relation to sorting out stuff like this, because I just didn't have the time to get to the doctors earlier.

I spotted a new Little Free Library on my way to the doctors, so took a look on my way out. I found this book, which sounded quite good.

After finally having some breakfast, I took the dog out for a walk.  I didn't have any plans for the day, save that I needed to do some top up food shopping at some point.

After lunch, I went off to do the shopping, as the traffic gets bad the longer I leave it.  When I got back I put away some laundry, did another load of washing and then decided to sort through our Xmas decorations. I needed to declutter them before they went back in the loft. There were quite a few decorations in there that I no longer wanted to keep for various reasons. I won't be donating them now, as it's not a good time for charity shops to receive these kinds of items, but I'll keep them somewhere until later in the year and then donate them.

Friday night saw my three days off coming to a close. I'm slightly apprehensive about going back to work. It's been good to have a complete break for a few days. I've really managed to switch off from it, which has been lovely. I think I'm still recovering from the intense lead up to Christmas and then working over Christmas and New Year. Not having a proper break of a week or more has taken it's toll. I'm sure I'll feel more energetic soon, but for the moment I'm still feeling pretty tired most of the time.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Taking a Breather

Well, it was wonderful having a couple of days off work on Sunday and Monday. I had a lie in on Sunday morning, which was long overdue and then got up in a leisurely fashion, had breakfast and went out with the dog for a nice long walk. She's only been getting short walks from me this past week. OH has been doing most of the dog walking.  It felt good to get outside and breathe in fresh air, after virtually a week of wearing a mask all day everyday.

When I got back, I started to think about what I needed to do at home and in my own life, instead of for work. The ironing pile was stacked high and I'd run out of clothes to wear for work, so that was a priority. I made a grocery shopping list, as we were fast running out of food. We weren't going to starve, but I needed to do a shop on Monday.

I spent a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon napping on the sofa, it was needed after a busy week.  Eventually I got up and did a couple of hours of ironing whilst binge watching Emily in Paris on Netflix. I finished watching the second season. At least I've now got some clean clothes ready to wear for work next week.

Sunday night we watched a programme on TV about some of the male ballet dancers at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. It was really interesting.

Working all last week has had a couple of upsides.  One was that it kept me from spending any money unnecessarily, during a very tight month financially, so I'm grateful for that. I'm going to shop very carefully for groceries this month to keep costs down and try to use up stuff we have in the freezer and cupboards. The second was that it also helped me to lose the Christmas weight gain of a few pounds, so another plus.

I bought a few things from the shop on Saturday with some expenses I was owed, mainly presents for LB's upcoming birthday, but a few other bits for the house too. I did buy a couple of baby Scots Pine trees that had been donated and were looking like they were drying out in their packaging. I couldn't bear to think of them dying, so I bought them both. They can grow to 120ft, so they're not going into the ground in our small London garden. I'll control their growth for the time being in pots.

On Monday, I booked a blood test at the doctors for later in the week to see how the statins are working on my cholesterol. I'm almost out of the tablets, so I need to see if I can get another prescription whilst I'm there. I've left it a bit late to be honest, as there were no earlier appointments than Friday and my tablets run out on Saturday. There was one on Wednesday, but at 2.40pm and I really can't fast for that long, which is what I need to do for the bloodtest.

Anyway, I had booked myself into my usual Zumba class for the first time since before Christmas. I had to pay more for it than usual, I think because my membership had expired, so I now need to renew it which is going to cost £20 to re-join for the year. I really enjoyed the class, but felt a bit unfit, as I hadn't been for four weeks.  It was nice to see my friend there though.

From there, I went off to do the weekly shop, first at Home Bargains, then Lidl and then Tesco. In additon to regular groceries, I bought some chewable vitamin D tablets, compost to pot up the Scots pines, as we didn't have any at home and a birthday cake/some sweets for LB's birthday. Otherwise, I stuck strictly to my shopping list. I spent more than I wanted to, but food prices are going up and we needed virtually everything we normally eat, so I just have to spend what I have to spend. I managed to pick up some more lateral flow tests at the supermarket, a box of 20 this time, I didn't even know you could get so many in a box, I've only ever got 7 in a box. They will come in handy this month, as I use at least 4 each week, for work and the gym.

The rest of the day I performed activities such as walking the dog, potting in the garden, catching up on YouTube, making supper and ordering another gift for LB's birthday. I'd almost forgotten what having time off was like, it's been nice to have some time to myself to relax, catch up with friends on the phone and in person and generally just try to get my life back in order. 

Here's a picture of the potted up Scots pine treelets. They're a bit spindly, but I hope they survive.

Hopefully, life can now get back to some sort of normality.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

The First Week of 2022

I had a feeling that this year was not going to be an easy one and it has started with a challenge. I got a message on Bank Holiday Monday from my Manager. He had symptoms of Covid and wasn't coming back to the UK for the rest of the week at least.  With the person who shares my job, still off for at least another week, that left just me to run the shop for the first week in January.

I can't say I was over the moon about this, but after initally feeling pretty low about it, I just resigned myself to the task. As a consequence, I've had to work nearly double my normal hours, but I will get time in lieu eventually, so I should get almost a full week off once the Shop Manager returns.

Anyway, I decided not to blog about the week as it was happening. It had it's challenges, high points and low points, but I finished tonight and I've now got two days off, thank goodness. I've left the shop in a better state than I started with. I was flagging a bit today, but still managed to keep going until the end.

The Shop Manager is returning on Monday, as is my fellow Deputy (hopefully). They can take back over the reins, as they'll be refreshed from their time off over Xmas. Me, I'm tired and need a break, which I will hopefully get soon.

It's been quite eventful in other ways too this week. A very longstanding volunteer got offered a job and starts next week. I'm so pleased for him. He's been a very reliable volunteer for several years and has always helped me, since I started there, nearly 5 years ago now. I couldn't be happier for him. He deserves this opportunity so much.

Another volunteer is also starting a new job, and after she showed me her rota for the next two weeks, I can tell that we're not going to see much of her from now on, which is sad, because she's a nice girl and works well. She says she will still come on her days off, bless her, but I think she'll find she might be quite tired.

So, there's a lot of moving on going on, and that is a good thing. That is what we are there to do, give people an opportunity to build their confidence and gain experience, to help them progress in their lives.  That's how I like to see my role anyway.

The reverse side of this, is that we're going to be stretched for volunteers in the coming weeks. It doesn't scare me, as it's always been a cyclical thing in the shop. New volunteers come along and old ones sometimes return (if you're lucky). Let's hope so anyway.

Now I'm going to put my feet up, pour myself a drink and relax.

I hope you've had a good week.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

A Positive Start to the New Year

This New Year I feel has been positive. I can't really remember how I felt last year, save that we found ourselves in another Lockdown and there was a lot more uncertainty. I was probably relishing the idea of having a bit of time off work, until that stretched into months, which I actually hated.

This year is different and as a consequence, things feel possible, life feels possible, not impossible, which is a much more positive place to be.

I wasn't working on New Year's Eve, thanks to the kindness of a volunteer who stepped into run the shop. LB was recovering from a night out the night before, so OH and I decided to head out for lunch at a pub about an hour outside of London, and maybe pick up some manure for the allotment from a garden centre nearby.

We plumped for lunch first and headed straight to the pub. We passed the garden centre, which, of course, was closed early, but no biggie, we thought, we'll come back another day. Lunch was nice, the pub was nice. We got back to the car, and who would believe it, we had a flat tyre, not just a flat tyre, but a puncture with a nail right through. That's the 5th tyre that has needed replacing this December. Feels like some sort of curse.

Anyway, OH got out the spare and changed the tyre in the pub carpark, so all was well and we continued on to do a bit of last minute food shopping and then headed home. It didn't spoil our day, we were just completely aghast at our luck with tyres this month.  Hopefully, this curse is now left back in 2021. Incidentally, the tyre that got the puncture was the only tyre we hadn't yet replaced on the car, so at least when it is replaced, the car will have four new tyres, so will probably be safer and thus this can probably be seen as a good thing.

New Year's Eve was spent quietly. I ordered most of LB's birthday presents online, as there's only a couple of weeks to go. LB later went out to a friend's house for a small NYE gathering. They were all very sensible and tested themselves before going. We don't like to leave the dog home alone, as she is terrified of fireworks, so we stayed home. 

We watched a movie we'd never seen before on TV, which was good, I finished a jigsaw I'd been working on all week, had a few drinks and then I watched Ollie Alexander's New Year's Eve show on TV, which I enjoyed. It seemed quite a positive show and I enjoyed the music. I also watched the Central London fireworks and countdown. In addition, the fireworks in our neighbourhood didn't seem too onerous this year. Some years they seem to go on and on for hours, keeping us awake trying to calm the dog down. I even enjoyed watching them out of the window.

I slept well and woke feeling refreshed on New Year's Day. I finished reading my current book in bed and then showered and spent a bit of time cutting my toenails and plucking my eyebrows. In the lead up to Christmas, I just didn't get around to doing self-care things like this and it had got to the point where one of my little toe nails was cutting into the toe next to it, drawing blood and making it painful to walk. Terrible self neglect, I needed to do something about it. It felt good to spend a little time on myself to face the New Year.

The rest of the day was chilled. I watched a bit of You Tube, cooked a beef joint for us to use for wraps or sandwiches, as we just didn't feel like eating another roast dinner. I placed an order for some eco household and healthcare products that I need from Big Green Smile. It busted the household budget for the month, but I only place these orders a couple of times per year, so it balances out and I wanted to make sure I got free delivery. 

I feel positive about this New Year. I think it's going to be challenging in some ways, but I'm up for it. I'm not making lots of unrealistic resolutions. Yes, there are things I'd like to do better or improve about myself and I'm going to aim for self improvement in some areas, but with no pressure. 

I do want to rid the house of things that no longer serve me/us, clothes that don't look nice on or aren't practical for my current lifestyle, other household things that we just don't need or use. Clutter has built up again, as it always does, and there's definitely more stuff I can let go of. There's so much need out there, why am I hanging onto so much stuff that I don't like, need or use.

Anyway, later on New Year's Day, we watched Don't Look Up on Netflix, a parody, but a great movie, I'd definitely recommend watching it.

On Sunday, I had a very lazy day and didn't do much, nothing worth blogging about anyway.

Bank Holiday Monday a better day and was my last day off over the holidays, so I had a good lie in. I was tired, as I hadn't slept well the night before. I finished my current book, which is about the restorative effects of Pottering, one of my favourite things to do. I enjoyed reading it.

When I eventually got up, I had a shower and then I decided to do some little odd jobs that had built up over the festive season, but which I hadn't found the time to do, i.e. sort out some items to take to the charity shop, repair one of the hanging rails on my clothes airer, repair a brooch whose pin had come off, put some pictures into a frame, re-hang my grandad's photograph in the spare room and get OH to change the light shade in the spare room too. It looks nice with the new free (non-)shade on. Here's a picture:


That felt very productive.  Then I went onto eBay to order some items for work, that I've been meaning to order for a while and whilst on there I did a bit of research for some reusable products, that I can swap out for disposable things that I currently use. I can't afford them at the moment, but at some point in the year, I may buy one of each to try them, before laying out larger sums for more.

We were running a little low on a few groceries today, so I headed out to ASDA to buy a few bits to keep us going for the week, as I don't intend to do a proper food shop this week. We've still got plenty of things from Christmas to use up. When I got back, I went out to walk the dog and when I got back from doing that I made us a veggie spag bol for supper, essentially to use up some mushrooms.

I hope your New Year was a positive one and continues to be.