drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about, rEArranging, simplifying, trEAsure

“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed”…

― Orhan Pamuk, The New Life

Yesterday I had a visit to Leeds to have some blood tests done at Jimmy’s.  I only have to go once a year now to check I’m still OK and I always tag along with my husband who works in Leeds as I dislike driving in the morning rush hour along the M62 – not that you can call it driving it is more like queuing.

He drops me off in a convenient spot and I walk up through the city centre to the Headrow to catch the bus to the hospital.  It is always a constant source of amusement to me that I get on and off at exactly the same bus stops for both journeys yet it costs me £2 to go to the hospital yet only a £1 to come back.

The difference must be it is all downhill coming back!

On the way to the bus I might just happen to call in at one or two of my favourite shops such as Paperchase and Neal’s Yard, even though I tell myself I shouldn’t because there is absolutely nothing that I need and wants are definitely out out out this year.

On the way home  – even better – a visit to Waterstones  – 3 floors of heaven.  I tell myself it is just to get a hot chocolate and a toasted sandwich at the in-store Costa but really I know the truth – it is to browse the endless shelves – collect together a tidy pile of books and then find a soft squidgy arm-chair to sink into and read until I feel I have over stayed my welcome or fear I may be locked in.

My intention was just to browse through the pile – definitely not to buy.   But amongst the Craft shelves of all places I discovered an interesting book called Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying your Life by Bea Johnson and just by reading the preface I knew I wanted to read more of this book.  I am sure some of you will have it on your bookshelves already.  I am hoping it will produce the momentum I need to get going again on my Simplifying.

Then just by chance I also came across The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo and I pulled this one off the shelf as I was curious to know what it is about this book that other bloggers like Sue over at Our New Life in the Country and Freda at Live Simply, Simply Live  and a few others are raving about.

I have tried and tested many ideas from other organising books over the years and even though they have good advice something always seems missing for me and I thought this might just be another one, but when I read her introduction something sparked.  I could identify with her initial interest in all things tidy at a young age and her obsession with home-style magazines.  Rather than play with my toys I would line them up as if in assembly at school – this might be bricks, or dolls or those little Wade porcelain figures – everything had to be in order for me even by age six.

The tidying has never been a problem it happens naturally – but keeping it tidy  – that is my sticking point and most of this is due to our busy lives.  I also have a knack of leaving my own tidying to go and help a sick or busy friend or relative do theirs.  I leave their house tidy and go home to my mess!  She continued to talk about how to keep the tidiness and she was suggesting it isn’t to do with lack of time.   Aha I thought this sounds like I might be on to something and I am now curious to discover if the answer to my problem lies within these pages.

So I confess…both books came home with me.

I justified this purchase by telling myself that I had earned a treat after all the overtime I have been doing lately and that this could be the change my life needs.

So if you don’t hear from me for a while you will know this time it is because I have my head in a book…or two.

being thrifty, fEAsible, sEAsons, taking stock, trEAsury

Adding up the cost of Christmas…

Christmas Presents

Last year more than ever was quite tight financially especially at Christmas and I know, through lack of time, I let a lot of money slip by that with a little more care would still be in our pocket – but such is life.  I can only try to do better in the future.

I was lucky with one or two Christmas purchases that had been reduced and we managed to get quite a few items in Scotland where there are more independent shops and I do like to help the local economy as we have a house there.  I also eeked out the budget by making a few little gifts for friends and colleagues.   Ideally I should have made more but time was not on my side!


This is a list of my purchases

I won’t divulge the exact price of the gifts as the recipients may be reading this but we spend about £20 a person on average for relatives, a bit more for our mums and a lot more for our daughters and partners.  We agree to only buy small gifts between some of our friends and colleagues and others we agree not to swap presents.

For my better half – who didn’t have very much the previous Christmas and works extremely hard – I surprised him with a Kindle Fire – needless to say he is well suited and has played with it every day since we opened our presents!

For my mum – who loves to go back in the past I gave her an interesting book on the Loxley Valley in Sheffield where she comes from which has photos of then and now.  I found a lovely necklace in Wallis which just happened to be reduced and I also bought her a gift card from House of Fraser.

For my mum-in-law – it had to be clothes so we chose a M&S coffee and cream Jacquard cardigan which will mix and match with other things she has.

My brother – a guaranteed frost proof earthenware garden planter that is a tall cylindrical pot almost like a chimney pot.  He has been doing a lot in his garden this year and he really loved it.

For his Russian wife – an ethnic style bag with embroidery for the summer and a gift set of travel body lotions etc as she was about to go abroad for Christmas.

For my Russian niece and her husband I gave a joint Gift card for Debenhams as they are true shoppers and like to hit the sales after Christmas and for their new baby – we joined together with our daughters to buy the cutest little Rocking Horse (actually a brightly coloured cow) by Mamas and Papas.  They all loved this present (the baby included!) and we got a good deal reduced by almost half.

For my other Russian niece and her partner it was definitely a gift card as they have gone to live in Australia.

For my sister and her new husband I bought a Patio Garden Voucher from Jamia Olivers Fifteen charity  link here http://www.fifteencornwall.co.uk/shop/patio-container-garden.html   When the planting season begins Fifteen will deliver a pack of tiny plug plants to my sister who will then put them into a planting box and grow them on.

For my sister’s daughter another gift card – she is at ‘that’ age when buying her something would be too difficult – I would be bound to get the wrong ‘in’ fashion!

For my sister in law and her partner I found a beautiful hand-made silk purse in Scotland that we put a Waterstones voucher inside and was light enough to post.

For my friends – we buy very small token presents – this year I made jars of fresh flowers and foliage and a bag of homemade chocolates.

For the girls at work – I bought a beautifully packaged homemade soap and bath bomb and I made chocolates and gingerbread houses as well.

For my male colleague – a china mug with a Westie dog on it which is just like the one he had from the animal rescue last year. Plus the chocs and gingerbread.

For my son-in-law and my future son-in-law I  bought jumpers from Next and they had some money.

So that just leaves our two daughters, they had mostly money and a stocking full of unusual little bits and pieces, oh and of course an Angel.  I did indulge and get them an all in one Santa style sleep suit each from New Look in bright red with a white snowflake print complete with hood and pom-pom, and I let them open these on Christmas Eve as they were both staying with their respective in-laws and future in-laws.  We are known to laze around a bit on Christmas morning and these are just perfect for that in fact I really wanted one so that we could have a mother and (two) daughters set!

Everyone seemed very pleased with their gifts but next year we are thinking of doing something different as a family and perhaps introducing a secret Santa where each person only buys one substantial gift of £50 to £100 or we continue to buy separately and cap the price at £5, so it is a notional gift.  We all agree it is getting harder to think of suitable gifts and more expensive to buy them especially for the younger end who are struggling just to buy a home.

So my total for all the presents was less than last year because we had cut down a bit but we should really have spent even less than we did but it is hard unless everyone does the same.

So now it is the big squeeze and we are on a ‘hardly’ no spend for the rest of this month.  At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that Christmas is all paid for and I won’t be getting a hefty credit card bill at the end of the month.

How did your present buying go did you come in on budget?

I think generally a lot of people are spending less although I do have a couple of friends who buy a phenomenal amount and love the whole shopping / spending experience thing.  I heard today on the news that Morrisons did not do as well as expected and this may be the same for the other shops.  I don’t feel I want to spend though just to keep the shops in profit but how much does this harm the economy, both ours and the developing countries that we buy from?