Thursday, 29 November 2007

A family house for the generations







We have bought an old tumble down house which has been empty except for squatters for around 30 years. Its around 100 years old and partly home built. It is an opportunity for us to save a house and also an opportunity to create a family house that can be a constant as the children grow and move on in life. It will be project for many years for us. We will work on it ourselves along with a builder friend of ours. Any specialist work will go to the local community. The village is an old farming village with a population of just 390. The local economy is not good and a handful of outsiders buying semi derelict houses (animal sheds etc) has revitalised it a litle by giving farmers some capital to kick start their own businesses, built new green houses or experiment with different crop rotations. We were interviewed by a Sunday paper report who was very nice but didn't really 'get it' and this is the resulting article.

WHEN Liz went on holiday to Crete the last thing she expected was to find a husband. Now, 20 years after she met and fell in love with fisherman Antoni, the couple are building their dream home on the island. Here, Liz, 45, tells KAREN ROCKETT her Shirley Valentine story...
'I WAS 24 and working as a finance clerk in London when I went on holiday with a girlfriend to Crete. We met up with some other people, as you do, who introduced me to one of the fisherman who worked in the village.
He was my age and working as a fisherman, earning money to send to his family in Syria. Many of the fishermen on Crete are from Syria. The fishing industry would collapse without them.
He didn't speak much English and at the time I didn't realise how little he understood as he just kept saying "yes" to everything! But it was pretty much love at first sight. After the holiday was over I flew back to London to collect some clothes, walked out on my job and flew back to Crete. We rented a room and I worked as a waitress while we tried to sort out a visa us to come to England. It took some doing but we got it in the end and came back to live at my parents' house in Hampshire.
We had to marry within 28 days of arriving in England which we did on January 20 1989.
I went on to qualify as a chartered management accountant and my husband , set up the Blue Dolphin Swimming School. We settled near Winchester and had two boys who are now 17 and 15. But every year we'd go to Crete on holiday and recently we started looking for a holiday home.
Finally last October we bought a plot of land in Klima as close as we could to Aghia Galini, where we met. Aghia Galini, is on the coast and all we could afford there was a small apartment, so we bought this place just ten minutes away further inland.
We paid about pounds £34,000 (using Currencies Direct to transfer the money) for the land and the one-storey stone building on it last October. So far we have spent about £52,000 on building work.
We are using a local builder, who is a friend, so it is going to be slightly cheaper.
We expect to spend around pounds £135,000 for what will be a three- bedroom, two-bathroom house. We will put in a swimming pool too and are hoping it will be finished next year.
A similar place where we live in the UK would cost three times as much.
The house will be a permanent reminder for us of where we first met.
Both of us are very romantic and the idea of living out our days on Crete where we met all those years ago really appeals to us.
The people on Crete are so warm and friendly and I can particularly recommend the fishermen.;

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Getting organised - a baby step

I am being a bit more careful with my money as part of the 'new me'. When i am shopping online, as I usually do, i can get my vouchers sorted out without any problem but when they are actually bits of paper i am less good at getting my ducks in a row. I get quite a few vouchers, tokens etc but hardly ever remember to do anything with them. My tokens are never in the right place at the right time.
I have bought myself a little wallet to keep them in. I paid £1.15 from eBay, including post of course, for a little plastic photo album. It has a dozen of so clear plastic pockets. Tomorrow these will be filled with various Nectar,Tesco and other discount/freebie tokens as well as those loyalty cars that have to be stamped when you purchase something.This should help me to keep a little more focused. I still wont be forced into buying things that I don't want but this doesn't seem to bother the supermarkets as they will still take most token regardless of whether you purchase the goods. I assume they just don't claim the money back from the supplier but I don't really know.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to sorting out the shoe situation in our house. Will the excitement never end???

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Money Management Skills

The down stairs floors got scrubbed, the rest got vacuumed. The food cupboards got cleaned and tidied along with an informal inventory of their contents. Today the fridge and freezer will get a little bit sorted out.

There is still burghal and dahl left over from Friday but we are tiring of it by now. I must learn to cook in smaller quantities, but with two teenage boys the natural inclination is to cook more not less. However this will not be wasted, this morning I will pack them left overs in plastic boxes for freezing. I have frozen cooked burghal before and no-one noticed the difference but this is the first time for frozen dahl. My family are easy to cook for because they pretty much eat everything but they don't like to eat food which has been frozen after it is cooked. In some cases I can agree with this but with burghal and dahl I think they don't deteriorate but maybe I don't broadcast my intention to freeze to the whole family.

Yesterday afternoon we went to visit a friend who was telling me about her step son in law. He gets bored easily and cant keep a job. He also has a tendency to fritter away any money he gets on new cars and whatever else he wants. He has now lost his house and is going bankrupt after the latest failing project. He is around 50 I would guess. My friend has tales of woe from other areas of the family as well and they mostly revolve around poor money management skills. Later on my sister tells me about an acquaintance of theirs who is 4 years from retirement and has had to sell his house to pay off all his debts. He is staying with his mother but has invested what little was left from the house sale in a small holding with his son. Apart from the loss of independence we hear that father doesn't like son, mother doesn't like daughter, son and daughter cant stand each other, and parents are not especially keen on each other either. I think my family could all live together without any problems. We have never had a disagreement or falling out and we very often go on holiday together but a family who cant stand each other? I feel everyone living on the same small holding will be a disaster of soap opera proportions.

I am concluding that poor money management skills leave you very vulnerable and take away any security you may have. I already knew this but I am shocked that i see it everywhere i look. I live in an area of high employment so if people cant manage their lives around here then what happens when things get real tough? I am more determined that ever to pay off our mortgage early and give us our best chance at financial freedom. I don't want money because I like to buy things.In fact I hate having to give in and buy something. But I do want to earn enough in the short term to pay off the mortgage and give us some security in later life.

Later on I will recount all the stories to the kids because I think it means more to them to understand that things happen to real people that they vaguely know than it does to just tell them 'be careful with your money' 'debt in bad'.

Friday, 23 November 2007

What is it that needs to change

I have been thinking a lot about why I feel the need to change. I have difficulty relaxing into whatever I am doing. I am always worrying about what else needs to be completed next. What is the answer? I have read somewhere that if you are doing the right thing at the right time then this doesnt happen. How do I do the right thing at the right time.

On a slightly less deep note it is Friday and we have not had takeaway! We cooked chicken in some spices, dahl and burghal. Scrummy, and there is enough left for tomorrow.

Tomorrow I have plans to wash the floors in the kitchen and sitting room. Vacuum everywhere else. Move the baskets of tools from the corner of the extension out to the newly extened shed. Clear up the bulding site which used to be my back garden if the weather stays dry. In the evening I will visit my parents house with my sister and her family for our usual Saturday evening get togther.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

To meal plan or not to meal plan...

Still undecided at the moment but erring on the side of the larder method. I am collecting a list from everyone (cats and bird excepted) of top ten dinners, top ten puds and top ten snacks, so that I have some inspiration at cooking time. Just don't think meal planning is for me. If things are too structured then I rebel even when I am setting the rules and I wont follow my own guidelines. This is of course quite silly but as I know how my mind works then I know how to manage it.

Discussions with mum tonight about Christmas presents. We started off with plans that all presents must be hand made but have had to have a re-think because my mum claims she can only make cakes and pickled onions, and she usually gives us these when makes them anyway so it seems a bit off to not give us something else as well. We have now decided on a price limit of £10 per person & with instructions to be creative. I may still go for the home made presents as far as I can but within the new price limit.

The cats are obviously easy to please. I will just give them little embroidered jackets with a mouse pattern on them. Just teasing, boss cat would take my arm off if I tried to put clothes on her. I will give them a little treat of turkey and gravy though if they don't climb the Christmas tree and bat all the baubles around the room. The bird can have a piece of millet as I don't think Turkey would appeal to him (might be a distant relation).

After this posting i will settle down with my list of areas to be tackled.

Something to add to the good thing list


Something else to add to my list of things which I am already quite content with, although this does need some extra work.

Cooking. I like to cook, beloved likes to cook sometimes, if reminded and we all like to eat so this should be an easy area for an overhaul. We already avoid convenience food on the whole but there are definitely areas i need to address. I need to get more organised with regard to leaving things to decompose at the back of the fridge and not making so much that we are sick of it before its gone. I also notice that as the week goes on then I get worse at meal prep and Friday night is quite likely to end as takeaway night. Takeaways don't feel like a treat then, just a re-fuelling exercise and this also needs attention.
There are some convenience foods which I do use, tinned tomatoes,baked beans,corned beef all spring to mind.
There are two possible ways forward here that I am considering. The larder method, whereby I keep up a constant supply of everything decide on a daily basis what we will eat. This is a more organised version of my current method. Another option is to meal plan for a week or so at a time. I can see advantages to this but what if something happens unexpectedly, will everything go to the dogs in my plans. Things most likely to happen in our family are kids eat a grandparents house and aren't hungry when they get home, beloved has to work late or extra and doesn't feel like eating by the time he gets home, a good price for chickens etc mean I stock up and we get lots of chicken meals for a while, more important what if i just don't feel like cooking what is on the master plan for today.

I will decide which route we will first try and if we arent happy with it and it doesnt work out for us then we will go to plan B.

Knitting of the winter scarf did not go well last evening. I was too busy with other plans.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Time for change


Like so many others I am beginning to notice that I want to make changes in my life.

Everything is happening too quickly and in such confusion. Its always Monday, always Christmas, always washing day, its always ages until pay day. I moan about people wasting food when I read a newspaper article, and then I throw away something from the back of my fridge which has somehow got overlooked as my week rushed past me.

It is time to slow down. Simplify and de-clutter are the buzz words but I visualise something more like a pruning. My cherry tree benefits from this when we remember to do it, so why shouldn't we too. Pruning can bring clarity and definition as it cut away the old dead wood.

My home needs to be the centre of my world. At the moment I expect a lot from it without giving it time and attention. The house itself is quite a small traditional semi built in 1908. It is packed to the eaves with far too much junk but it is a happy house and always full of visitors.

I work full time and that isn't likely to change for a few years. I need to pay the mortgage but also I am lucky enough to that my job is important and the sort of work I would volunteer for even if I didn't need a salary. This is a good thing but work must also be kept in perspective. It cant be the centre of my universe.

So, we are content with ;-
the family, two lovely & occasionally troublesome teen aged boys and one grumpy old bloke (who is slightly younger than me but dont remind him as he gloats).
the animals - two naughty and adorable cats and a chatty cockatiel.
the job
the car - ancient Astra estate
the house - small but perfectly formed, however the extension is nearly finished.
the extension - home built by us, except for some of the electrics, and mostly from recycled and scrounged building materials.
the garden - still suffering from the building work but it was rather cute before and will be again.
the allotment - the sister and I spend a few happy hours each week in the 'green gym' which is just 10 minutes walk down the lane.

and we are slightly less content with;-
the overcrowded house
the 'lost' things which are often re-purchased because I cant find the originals.
the food which get thrown out because i forgot it needed producing at meal times.
the birthdays & anniversaries which get forgotten and the associated guilt buying.
the 'cant find anything to wear to work' about 4 times every week.
The grumpy old blokes blokes business, which is taking a long time to build up and which is suppose to support me in old age!

I feel a plan of action is required!! Tonight I will sit and knit my winter scarf as I make my plans.

Summer Rain

The middle of summer on the sunny south coast of England, and the rain is falling heavily enough to keep us indoors again. We were hoping to...