simply reading and planning and doing…

What a shock to the system being back at work this week and how tired I have been each night  – far too tired to blog.  The good news though is that my working Thursday is now a thing of the past – I will be doing Monday to Wednesday at work and Thursday to Sunday at home – a much better balance in my opinion. I couldn’t wait to get started.

It was quite a long holiday break that we had this year well over 2 weeks and it is surprising how difficult it has been to pick up my routine now we are home – I say that like I have one – I do for the most part!

Now I need to develop a new routine to take me forwards so I have been thinking that Thursday will be my official cleaning day.  That does sound like I don’t ever clean on the other days of the week and sometimes this might be correct on a busy week but I usually manage bits and pieces of tidying rather than cleaning as well as the basic chores of washing up and making beds.  After a few days sitting in the office at the computer I find it is quite nice to do something active and domestic so cleaning will fit in well.

Over our holidays I have been doing a lot of reading – you know the kind of book that is titled –  ‘help I need to get my life and home sorted out and in balance’.  I have a stack of books on the subject by my bed – some from the library and others from my book shelf for a reread or on my Audio books to listen to while I dust.  I am especially into a little book I discovered in the library called ‘L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less by Dominique Loreau,  it can seem a bit repetitive in places but I am liking the approach to ‘simplism’.

I apologise in advance for the poor photo quality I was dog tired when taking these pics last night.  I think Thursday may be the designated cleaning day but Friday is going to be the designated recovery day.

The areas I am looking to improve are housekeeping or house management (if you want to encompass the whole of running a house and its upkeep), health, finances and fitness.  I am looking for ways to make each category simple and less time-consuming to deal with.

From my reading there is a common thread running through the advise and that is to have less stuff to deal with – back to the decluttering then.  The other common thread is routine and habit – even in the area of fitness choosing just 2 exercises to do daily is better than nothing and gets a routine and discipline going.  I decided this is just the approach I need together with my leaning towards the Lean and 5S  that I have spoken about here before.

 

To get stuck in on my first designated cleaning day I decided that I would perhaps fall in line with the fly lady zone but when I went on her website it was the living room this week and I felt our main bedroom needed a good going over more urgently and decided on this instead.

I emptied each of the drawers and the wardrobe – cleaned everything down and had a bit of a declutter and I found a few items that I hadn’t used since the last clear out so decided they were for the charity pile.

Everything looks neater and fresher and a bit of a sparkle now.

I have been using Neal’s Yard frankincense Intense face cream and serum since Christmas (a bit pricey but worth it and goes a long way) – this was part of my Secret Santa gift and I am well impressed – I can feel the serum working straight away and it glides over my skin easily.  I think the texture has improved all though the blemishes and freckles I accept will never go away.  The sun damage to my fair skin was probably done much earlier in my childhood when the effects of the sun were not as well understood.  Anyway back to the story – I picked out everything I am using each day in creams and lotions and potions and any leftovers of stuff I will not be repurchasing are to go in the use up box.  If unused and unopened they will go to charity.

So in my drawers now I only have what I like and use.  It is very liberating to do this and I aim to do the same throughout the house – no more hanging on to things just in case – not even the free sachets.

Sorting the current selection of clothes in the wardrobe was harder as I confess I found 3 items I have bought recently and not yet worn and shock horror still have tags on – I think too late to return though.  It isn’t that I don’t like them but I am thinking if I haven’t managed a day to wear them yet after 6 weeks perhaps they are not exactly my favourites.

One of the tops in particular was a bit of a mad buy as it reminded me of my Art college days – a summer weekend at Reading Festival sleeping out under the stars listening to Genesis dressed in flowing embroidered cheesecloth with my long tousled ginger hair and probably no suncream in sight but not a care in the world other than how to get through the mud to the washroom!  The top I bought in Sainsbury’s 25% off week is a fine cheesecloth like cotton, gypsy style with embroidered panel and probably represented this memory – I have put it on 3 times now to go out in it and then changed at the last moment – I am no longer this free-flowing gypsy person!  I think it is going to be a charity gift.

Of course I have only been able to do my own clothes and so I just arranged OH’s ties neatly on the rack fixed to the inside of the wardrobe door knowing that a lot of them will not be worn again but at least they look ‘organised’ until I can get OH to look through them.

I will have to revisit the wardrobe again but I have given those ‘I’m a bit unsure’ items a final chance to be worn – if not they will go out at the end of the summer.  I sometimes find that there is a reason for not wearing something apart from it feeling tighter and if something does not feel quite right then I am not happy wearing it.

By the time I had done all the sorting I only managed to vacuum the walls, the carpet and the surfaces and didn’t get to move the furniture out – that will have to be another time.

Of course because I will not be working Thursday the figure on my monthly pay slip will be much reduced from now on and I shall have to economise further to take into account this drop in income.  Our fridge at the moment is virtually empty – this is good as it means we have manage to eat up everything we bought for the week.  I am sure I could scrape a couple of meals together from the store cupboard and freezer but there would be little fresh veg – home-grown courgettes, carrots and frozen peas are left over and I have a tin of sweetcorn and maybe an egg or two – perhaps Fritters!

Just off to plan my other days off now – have a good weekend.

just a normal Monday…

In some ways it was a light relief (from all the decluttering at home) to go to work today – I got to sit down and give my aching feet and legs a rest.

At lunchtime and after work I had a few errands to run, two of which had become rather urgent – one being fill up with petrol as the light had come on the dashboard and the other was pick up a gift I had ordered at a shop in town for a colleague who is leaving to have a baby and today we had an email saying she leaves tomorrow.  I hadn’t expected that – isn’t Tuesday an odd day to leave?

I also had to return some unwanted items of clothing to both Sainsburys and Next – tops that looked far better on the hanger than on me – do you have that problem?  In fact I have been a bit disappointed with the choice of tops available this year – perhaps I am looking in the wrong shops but unless I have a trip to Meadowhall or the Trafford Centre in Manchester I have to make do with the limited choice in our main shopping centre which is Huddersfield.

When I finally got home OH had cooked the evening meal – Cheesey Leek Ramekins – I can take the extra he made for my lunch tomorrow with salad as they are just as tasty hot or cold.  I am doing really well now with taking a packed lunch but the ladies in the sandwich shop are missing my custom.  I haven’t actually worked out how much I am saving in total because I would have to factor in the extra amount I spend on my weekly shop for the items I buy to make my lunch.

The contractor started on our house revamp today (the outside) – although I hate plastic we have gone with new uPVC soffits and fascia but will keep our wood windows although the older ones in the extension need the glass replacing as they have gone misty over time but the frames are still good.  The guys replacing the glass are scheduled for next week.  When this is done we are having some re-pointing done on the brickwork and the top half rendered though we have just found out from our enquiry to the planning office that we need to put in for planning permission to do this.

The internal decorating is still going on – all the walls are emulsioned now and the primer on the woodwork ready for the top coat – that is all but the staircase, we left this until the rest of the room was painted to make absolutely sure that we wanted to paint it – and the verdict… we have decided yes we do – sorry to all those blogging friends who rather liked the pine!  I will warn you to look away when I post the next photo of the transformation which will be later on this week if things go to plan.

So all I have left to do today before bed is wrap the gift and write the card ready to take with me tomorrow – as it is quarter to eleven I had better get a move on and stop prattling on!

frustration…

…the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something.

What a mixed up day today – I decided not to go into work after all – that might sound as if I have the freedom to choose – but today is a bit of a flexi day as I am trying to cut my hours down to only 3 days a week and doing every other Thursday.  As it is year-end coming up at work I might go in on Saturday instead – I get far more done without the interruptions.

Anyway I am wandering off the point here – the reason for my decision to stay home in the end was the bad start to the day.  I was booked in at my doctors for a blood test this morning to assess my thyroid levels because my own GP has retired and his practice has been taken over by a larger practice of doctors from the next town and the changes are already being felt.

They insisted I should have a blood test as my review date was showing as 2015 – a bit overdue – but this obviously did not bother my previous GP as he always left it to my consultant in Leeds at Jimmy’s to deal with reviewing my dose and checking my blood levels – however, this year they are 6 months behind due to the doctors strikes last year and demand.

So my new doctors were reluctant to issue a prescription without a review blood test – this is fair enough but for the fact that they did not mention at the time that they would not issue my prescription at all until after the results were back –  in fact  I had been told before I went to Scotland that it had been sent to the pharmacy and would be there on my return to pick up.  But of course when I went to pick up my tablets they had not received a prescription and I was left without my medication.

Given that I am totally dependant on my Thyroxin (like a diabetic with insulin) because my Thyroid was removed some years ago and the slightly higher dose of Thyroxin protects me by suppressing any likely cancer cells that may regrow I cannot go for very long without it.  To say I was a little annoyed – well we won’t go there.  However, the doctor rang and apologised and sent my prescription straight away to Sainsbury’s and my cupboard is well stocked once again and I am happy but it took most of the morning and a few phone calls to sort it all out!  Anyway moan over – sometimes changes are a bit frustrating.

Whilst at home for the rest of the day I did an hour on the finances paying the water bill (an estimate again, another frustration)  – checking the bank balances and looking at the general picture which will be another post another day.  Later I went on to the Audible website to use my remaining 9 credits and download nine books.  I am thinking I will cancel the membership rather than renew this month.

I chose quite a mix of books – both fiction and non-fiction – from the snippet they give you to listen to as a sample it is hard to know if you will like the book but you are able to ‘send them back’ so to speak – they just refund the credit to your account and you can choose another.  I have done this with one or two books in the past I found a bit boring or hard going.

After lunch I decided that even though it was throwing it down outside – yet another frustration – I would carry on with clearing out the shed as planned – only instead of being able to take everything out onto the patio I had to bring it inside to sort.  We are having work done on the outside of the house soon and the shed is in the way so it has to be emptied and moved.  When we move it we suspect it will fall to pieces so we will have to go and buy another to replace it – in the meantime I have to declutter.

We will also have to move the compost boxes – it seems this job is fast becoming my hubby’s life’s work having just got the one at the cottage moved again!

Before tea time we jumped in the car and went to Sainsbury’s to do a small shop for necessities and pick up the prescription and on the way home called in to cast our vote – but will my vote change anything?  This election and the whole of Brexit has been as frustrating as my day today – at least tomorrow we will know the result –  will I be happy – maybe – maybe not!

economising update…

I haven’t done a post for ages on our economising so thought a bit of an update in order.

It is slow progress but at least there is progress.  I have now moved our savings into higher interest rate accounts, although the rates are still comparatively low, but any interest is better than nothing.  These savings will help to make our pension go further in the future when we stop working so it is important for us to make the most of what we have.

One of the best rates for us at the moment is actually the Flexclusive saver from Nationwide  paying 5% gross over the year.  It is one of those regular savings account where you save up to £500 a month and this accumulates over the year – you cannot put in a lump sum at the start.  At the end of the year you have to close the account and start again.

On the spending side I have managed to balance the books so to speak and deal with the outstanding paperwork.  I think it took me longer than the two hours I am trying to set aside each week and last week I did not do anything at all deciding instead to go in the garden.

I have sorted out all our new outgoing payments such as the increased Council tax and my yearly parking contract and have fixed the utility bills for a while though these need constant watching for better deals.  I find it tiring to have to search around on the internet and compare all the time – thank goodness we don’t have to do this for the mortgage.

Since the New Year I am still planning a menu for the week although it is often a bit of a rushed flexible list; however, it is having the required effect and cutting down on any waste food.  I have also started planning and taking a packed lunch to work – mostly I have a mixed salad, a cabbage and carrot slaw with walnuts (homemade by OH) and then some protein – a piece Nut Loaf or Quiche or just a boiled egg – sometimes it is leftovers.   This saves me about £3.50 a day.

I  have two months overtime to claim this payday a total of about 50 hours so quite a nice boost to the savings pot although I have a few items I want to buy and I might even treat myself  – perhaps a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment.

When we go out we have been making the effort to pack a picnic – actually I am enjoying these and have a few recipes to try that I can freeze in individual portions.  Tomorrow we are going up to North Yorkshire with a picnic to see my granddaughter and visit the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park at Grewelthorpe.  I have a feeling the plant nursery is going to be far too tempting perhaps this will be my treat rather than a massage!

Sainsbury’s have been very good recently and keep giving me a triple points coupon and the reward points are already building up again – I have now got £64.24p.  Morrisons have also given me a £5 coupon to spend (we tend to get our petrol here).  It will come in useful when we go to Scotland as the two supermarkets in Stranraer are Tesco and Morrisons.

And the not so economical

I had a bit of a spending spree last week on items that I had run out of or worn out and a few that had not been planned for but caught my eye  – this is the list;-

  • I needed some face cream and I use Neal’s yard which is not the cheapest but it suits my sensitive skin
  •  one or two gorgeous little outfits for my granddaughter from Sainsbury’s £18
  • a white top for work from Sainsbury’s £10
  • some new Tayberry Mucker gardening boots £35  from the internet as my old ones are wearing out.  They are a bit like moon boots but very flexible with comfy fur-lined soles – I wouldn’t be without them so much better than my old wellies.

Tayberry Mucker Boots

  • a bird house from Sainsbury’s £8 and OH has put this in the garden, attached to the top of a pole. I think the pole cost more than the bird house!

 

We also bought a few items for the garden last weekend from the Garden Centre with my birthday tokens (some National Garden vouchers) which covered the cost and although I could have been thrifty and grown my own herbs I felt it was just nice to treat myself and the large bottles of feed / bug spray will hopefully last a very long time – here is the not very thrifty list:-

  • A Gazebo to go in the shady border £35
  • some organic seaweed feed £7.49
  • an organic greenfly spray £6.99
  • a courgette plant, some mint and fennel £5.49
  • a posh garden fork by Burgon and Ball £9.99
  • a paving knife also by Burgon and Ball £9.99I love my new shiny stainless steel hand tools – my old fork has hardly any wooden handle left it is so worn – but must be well over 20 years old.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend x

the nicest thing about the rain…

…is it stops eventually!  AA Milne

Daffodils

Don’t you just love the Pooh quotes – they always make me smile – the rain hasn’t stopped here all weekend – so no gardening possible for me –  I even had to go shopping in the rain this afternoon something I dislike doing on a Sunday but needs must.

I had a number of items to look for mainly for the caravan – a doormat, various sticky hooks for the keys and other items that require hanging and a small dish drainer.  You have to be quite creative in a caravan as space is tight.  I headed to Wilko’s as this often good hunting ground for such items and I wasn’t disappointed- though the dish drainer came from Sainsbury’s.

Then on to Boots as I had a few toiletries on the list – I use Liz Earle’s shampoo and conditioner – a bit pricey (for me) but I like the natural ingredients and it suits my hair and scalp.  I find you need very little to get a good lather so it goes a long way.  I took advantage of the double and triple points coupon I had been sent by post this week.

As it is Sunday my usual health food stores are closed so I had to go to Holland and Barrett for some Aloe Vera juice- to help my digestion (should have thought better of eating the sprouts we had with our meal on Friday – they tasted very odd and shortly after my digestion was, shall we say, a bit disturbed and a bit nauseous, and hasn’t fully recovered all weekend).  They had a half price offer on so I added in a tub of vegetarian gravy powder.

 

Finally, I popped into TK Max and found a small decorated box to keep my bits and pieces in on the bedside table and this unusual little white enamel pot with a stainless steel lid that I can keep cotton wool in at the caravan.

 

On my way to the till I spotted a lightweight duvet jacket with hood for my granddaughter.  It folds up into a really tiny package and I thought it is one of those handy items for the summer that you can squeeze into your handbag on a day out just in case of a shower or cool breeze.

 

With Easter in mind –  I picked up a cute little decorated box in Wilko’s for £1.50 and I will fill it with coloured paper straw and hide some little bite sized Lindt bunnies in there to give to my granddaughter.

 

Also in Wilko’s I spotted a rather nice glasses case which I need so my reading glasses don’t get damaged in my handbag.  My last one wore out ages ago and I have been without since.

So quite a fruitful shopping trip – although in terms of spending maybe I have spent a touch more than I intended – but they were all fairly low priced items and I did avoid stopping in Costa for a drink so saved a bit of money there.

The bowl of daffodils above arrived by post and were a surprise from my granddaughter for having her to stay overnight last weekend – (I think my daughter might have had a hand in this as even though my clever little 2 year old can work an iPad with no trouble I am not sure she has yet mastered internet shopping)!

Apologies for the quality of photographs it was quite dark in the house when I returned home after shopping and I am a bit short of time, but no doubt you get the gist!

Thank you for all the tips and hints about eBay in the comments.  It looks like I need to watch out for a few drawbacks.  I must say I am quite daunted by it all even though part of my job is to train people on our computer software programs and I maintain the software at work –  I am not a savvy online shopper.

a busy week so far…

It has been a mad week with so little time for myself that today I have hardly done anything but a little light cleaning and a bit of clearing up and putting away.  Still it felt good not to have to go work and to get my house back in some semblance of order.

Yesterday evening was our fund-raising event in memory of my dearest friend and colleague.  I haven’t been told a figure for how much money we raised for the hospice (where Helen spent her last few days) but I am sure it must have been quite e bit given the amount of people there.  Her mum, step dad and younger daughter all attended which was lovely and they won a raffle prize too – how lucky was that.

Tomorrow we are venturing further north to go and collect my granddaughter who is coming to stay overnight.  She is 2½ now and loves baking, animals and trains so we are (weather permitting) going on a train ride a few miles away from here at Clayton West on the Kirklees light Railway.  I like trains too so we will both be excited.  Perhaps we might even bake a few buns to take home for mummy and daddy – I bought a tub of chocolate drops and sprinkles from Sainsbury’s the other night just in case.

Meal Planning

We couldn’t make pancakes on pancake day due to time pressures so we had Mushroom and Leek pancakes tonight.  I make them with buckwheat flour rather than ordinary but I have only found it available to buy in 3lb bags so I need to find some other recipes that use buckwheat so it is not wasted. The menu planning is still going well though when I am short of time the plan ends up as a quick scribbled list in my notebook.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to search out and try new recipes in the last few weeks so we have been relying on old favourites.

Housekeeping

Airing CupboardThe airing cupboard is now up and running and I love having a cupboard where I open the door and inside the contents are only items we need and use – there is nothing in here that you might call clutter or surplus to requirements and it has an equal amount of space : stuff which is quite pleasing to me.

Airing Cupboard

It is fresh, white and bright with the new strip of LED lights that comes on automatically when we open the door.  At the very bottom of the cupboard just out of the picture we installed a heater  – a 40W tube equivalent to a light bulb and will just keep the cupboard warm enough to air the ironed clothes and linens which can be stored on the lowest empty slatted shelf.

Airing Cupboard

 

 

I have cream towels and white towels  (the white ones are from the cottage – I thought we may as well be using them here at home) this makes washing them easy as they all go in the wash together.  The white ones I bought in 2004 from Primark Home and they have been really good and stay soft when washed and dried inside (I don’t have a drier so cannot ‘fluff’ them up).  To keep my linens and towels smelling nice I place bars of scented soap and satchets on top of the piles.

I am eager now to get started on our next project in the house.

Finances

I saw an article in a magazine recently that suggested it is a good idea to spend one to two hours a week on your finances, keeping yourself up to date with changing interest rates and checking for good deals.  I would include in this time checking those online bills for utilities.  It is so easy to get the email saying your bill is ready for viewing and then ignoring it.  We found quite a few mistakes on our BT bills and Npower.

So I am going to set aside two hours this weekend to deal with the following financial tasks

  • car insurance to accept
  • cancel the separate breakdown cover (it is covered in the car insurance)
  • pay the credit card bill
  • check the bank accounts
  • open a savings account for Mr I that has a 5% return

Thrifting

This week Saintsbury’s gave me a coupon for 8p off petrol if I spent £15 on clothes.  It seemed like a good deal to me as I had seen a jumper for work for £18.  I also had a few rewards points coupons and one triple points so these are mounting up nicely.  Other than that I have not spent any money other than the groceries this week and a couple of birthday presents.

Have a good weekend x

too many tasks, not enough day…

Friday comes around quickly  but it is nice to have a day off work to get my house in order not to mention myself.

Yesterday during my lunchtime I visited the lending library for a browse.  It is a grand building built in 1937 with local stone and has a very central position in the town – but inside now it is quite a sad place.   Three self-service machines have taken over and the staff drastically reduced and are set to be reduced even more shortly.  I don’t like being ‘served’ by a machine and so rarely go now.

Over the last few years I became very friendly with one of the ladies who worked on the desk at the library – when there was a desk – we chatted quite often when I popped in every week but now we are limited to when we bump into each other in Sainsbury’s.  We are arranging to meet for lunch one day for a good natter – you can’t do that with a machine!

On the way to the library I took a short cut through Poundland and had to smile when I saw the bottles of thick bleach £1 each – I paid 50p in Sainsbury’s for the same size!  Not everything in the cheap shops is a bargain.

After the Library visit I went in to my bank only to find that the 5 counters have been reduced to two – I was told it is the effect of online banking and the hole in the wall machines – I even asked if they were closing down but was assured they were not but maybe they will start to install machines to do the counter jobs like HSBC did across the road.

Just having this stroll around town made me realise how quickly things are changing these days and how this upsets me as it does not feel like positive change.    With all the reductions in staff and increase in automation perhaps we will have to learn to converse solely with machines!

Anyway back to today and the task list.  This morning I took my car to the garage it had been washed and cleaned inside and out by my better half ready for the MOT and service.  All day I was keeping my fingers crossed that they didn’t find anything major wrong.  Already this year I have had a new exhaust so my car budget is a bit tight now.

After depositing the car I went on to the dentist to be patched up again – but this bill was less than £20 on the NHS for the repair of a filling – quite good value I think.

Meanwhile back at home the paperwork pile has certainly been in competition with the ironing pile and both have grown considerably during the week despite my best efforts to deal with some of it.  I keep trying to make the paperwork simpler but when the post arrives it seems to come with yet another problem to deal with.  This week we had a letter from our local council to say our Council Tax payment for December (which is sent by standing order) had not been received.  We have never missed a payment and it had clearly gone out of our bank account so where was this payment?  A few phone calls later and we are told someone will look into it.

After a flurry of cleaning downstairs and a cup of tea round at my neighbours at last the phone call came from the garage to collect my car before 6pm – we were given the news that it is probably terminal and might only have another year left as the underside is not in good shape.  Not the news we wanted to hear!

On top of all this I ended the day knowing that I had tried to fit in too many tasks and one or two of them had gone badly wrong.

The colour run wash I did on some stained sheets failed – the powder stayed in the dispensing drawer and formed a big solid lump whilst the sheets had a 133 minute @ 50 degree wash for nothing!  I only discovered this when the wash had finished.

cheesey-leek-ramekins

 

The new recipe of Spicy Chickpea bakes that I was going to try for our tea tonight did not happen either – there seems to be a sudden shortage of courgettes around here and I forgot to check again in Sainsbury’s last night to see if they had restocked.  I tried the local Co-op and Morrisons down the road but they had none either (is everyone making Spicy Chickpea bakes for tea?).  I didn’t think it very economical to drive all the way to town for one so at the last minute  I had to improvise with the ingredients I did have and make Cheesey Leek ramekins – an old well-tested recipe – just as tasty, but it was a bit disappointing as I had spent time carefully choosing the menu this week and was looking forward to something new.

On the back of today’s disasters it made me think that I need to limit myself to doing a few tasks well and not take on too much – perhaps three new recipes in one week was a tall order.  As well I should have postponed the colour run wash for a time when I can give more attention to it and I will certainly remember to check that the water has washed the powder through the drawer next time.  When I make my list for next week I am going to try and single out only two tasks to do each day and make every effort to complete them.

Well here’s to a good weekend everyone.