Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Boxing Day

I am pleased to say I seem to be fully fit and recovered from everything.
I wrapped the presents for the family on Christmas morning but everyone was very pleased witht theirs gifts, or at least appeared to be.

My dad had two large framed photographs of the Southampton, one of the Avenue and another of the bar gate. These came from a car boot sale at my sons school.

My brother in law had a magazine part work from the early 1970's on Railways, which also included newspaper cuttings that the original collector had added to the collections.

My mum has a basket full of handmade soap, microfibre body clothes, a book & a few other treats.

My sister had a Waitrose jute shopping bag full of ingredients from the Chinese supermarket, because we are starting our hot & spicy cookery lessons in January.

My neice had a late birthday basket similar to my mum but with more creams and no book. She and her boyfriend had a hot and spicy eating basket for their Christmas present. I thought she might have more interest in eating the food from my sisters cookery course than the actual cooking so I bought some little Chinese bowls and spoons plus some spices.

My own haul was just as lovely. A scarf from mum and dad, a cookery book from my sister and a new apron form my neice. All really lovely. I am feeling very spoilt!

Today we are going for a nice walk all together at Alresford before having lunch at my sisters house. Second favourite meal of the year after Christmas lunch!

Tomorrow we will start to get back to normal. My car needs to be fixed. The house needs a little TLC, maybe we actually get as far as to lay the flooring in my office, then a few days togther before my husband goes off to visit his sister, and maybe also another sister will visit, for a week. He is very excited as he doesnt get to see them very often. I will have a quiet week to start to sort out some of my systems for the year ahead.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Prepare to shop

I popped into town today, to go to the library and the 99p shop, nothing too wild obviously! I had to walk though the shopping centre and couldn't help but notice a sports clothing shop with the windows painted out & an ad saying ‘all stock must go’. Well obviously I am not expecting this to necessarily be the bargain hunters dream that it first appears but I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

Both my boys needed new trainers. I would very often buy these from a car boot sale when they were younger but not much comes up in sizes 8.5 and 10, so I am having to broaden my horizons a little. I wouldn’t want you to think that my boys were label addicts or that they are especially impressed with new clothes. However the do have favourite labels that they ask me to look out for a car boot sales, which we augment with some plainer stuff from Matalan & Primark type stores.

I bought a pair of No Fear skate shoes reduced from £64.99 to £19.99 and a pair of Lonsdale Trainers reduced from £56.99 to £15.99.

Now obviously I don’t think that £19 and £15 are overly cheap but I do think that these trainers last longer than the less expensive versions. I have found it quite hard to create an experiment along these lines because there are too many variables. However my husband once paid £75 for some Puma Trainers (and let me tell you, he heard about it for some time afterwards) and they lasted for three years of almost daily wear. I tried to find him some replacements on the Internet when they finally gave up the ghost, but have sought ‘Black Puma Trainers’ I found a man in the Southern USA who trained black pumas. Not exactly what I had in mind but nice to know its available if you are in the market. Anyway I couldn't’t find anything at a reasonable price so his replacements had to be something cheaper. Unfortunately it wasn’t a great success & they lasted little more than 2 months.

Anyway I was able to take advantage of this sale because I knew what size shoes they both needed and what style they liked. I only have two children and a husband to remember, as well as my own, but nonetheless I do get mixed up so it’s worth making a note of preferences & sizes in a notebook or organiser.

As well as sizes for clothing & shoes, label & style preferences I also keep a note of CD’s, DVDs and computer games as these very often go for next to nothing in car boot sales & charity shops and for absolutely nothing on freecycle, of course. Adapt your lists to suit your needs, for example, library books you have read (saves carrying them home even its not a direct financial saving) china sets with missing pieces, makes & models of domestic appliances and cars (if you are confident & competent enough to embark on serious home repairs)

I am updating this to say that it might be better as the kids get older and maybe more picky to record which games, Cd's and DVDs they are on the look out for rather than all that they have unless you want to end up with a house full of boxed disks that no-one wants. Although of course you can always start selling them again on eBay or Amazon

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Christmas is coming, goose is getting fat!

and so apparently are the rest of us. Today we made plans at work for a 'bring and buy' sale and tombola on 19Th December to raise money for Cancer Relief. Staff will make cakes to donate to the sale, we will also bring in gifts for the tombola. Anyone who has a gift from a contractor normally contributes this as well. Its a bit of fun during our lunch break and we get home baked cakes with morning coffee and afternoon tea.

On the 21st we will all bring some towards a brunch for all of the staff. Every year I invite everyone by email so that I don't miss anyone who is out of the office. I ask them what they want to bring but every year I get told to make a list and tell each person what to buy, they don't want to chose for themselves. Its only a little something from each person but it gives us a chance to relax and spend a bit of time all chatting together.

Plans are coming on for Christmas at home as well. Hopefully we will be far enough along with building work to clear out the tools and wood, and have a lovely tree and presents there instead. The family will all visit on Christmas Eve, for snacks and maybe some games. Christmas day will be at my parents house again ( I haven't missed once in 45 years, although it was pretty close a couple of time and i nearly spent the Christmas break in Athens airport one year. My mum will do most of the cooking despite our best efforts to help. She enjoys it and likes to have her family there together. Boxing day will be a my sisters house ( we go from house to house for the holiday - as does the cheese - if it doesn't then we end up with 3 of every thing and it doesn't get eaten until March. Three brie is okay but 3 Edams not so easy to appreciate). We will have a cold buffet which we join and leave many times during the day, after a nice walk in the morning.

We made a decision of £10 per person for gifts, handmade if possible. Last year I did a little gift basket for each person. I really enjoyed it so something similar is my game plan this year. At the moment my collection of goodies is going well.

I have made up a little spreadsheet to track all the expenditure and make sure I don't overspend but I don't think its a problem. I have meat in the freezer, my food bill is never to much because we like good food but always cooked from scratch so its never expensive really. We don't need any Christmas decorations. I have some lights from the Ikea sale, my lovely tree decorations which i used to add one each year and some holly and other greenery from the garden.

I enjoy Christmas with my family very much and appreciate the way that nothing much changes from year to year, usually the food slightly and maybe the destination of the walks. It is very comfortable, a simple but very complete pleasure.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Our home

We live in a very small 3 bedroom semi detached house in a village without shops. The house is on a close and no-one really comes along here unless the are visiting someone. The bedrooms in our house have sloping ceilings and only two of the rooms have a high enough ceiling to accommodate wardrobes. Downstairs we have a small sitting room and a kitchen.It is beautiful and we love it but it is a bit on the snug side. The garden is equally 'pocket sized'. A few years ago we decided that perhaps, as the children got physically bigger as well as older, it might be a good idea to move house. We couldn't find anywhere as lovely as our little old cottage so eventually decided to build on. We build an l shaped extension which fits around two sides of the house. Along the side was a widish alleyway which got no sun and was never really used. This would be a guest bathroom and my office. Across the back of the house we chose a conservator that went from boundary to boundary (not actually that far in our garden). Although it is a conservatory it has superb insulation and an efficient heating system and could be used all year around. We did all of the building work ourselves except for the electrics. We used recycled materials wherever possible and when you look at the (almost) finished building now it doesn't jar against its surrounding. It hasn't been a quick job to say the least but finally we seem to be close to moving in (should it be moving out). There will be more work after Christmas as the larder gets build and the kitchen re-arranged for maximum efficiency (still using the same cupboards of course-minimal waste. From there the sitting room and the stairs needs a coat of paint but luckily nothing structural. I am also applying for planning permission to build a small front porch. We will have somewhere to store out door clothes, bags, shoes and boots. There is just about room in behind to fit a little laundry room so I will finally have somewhere for all my household items. I am dreaming of a linen closet of my own!
I know it is just a house but we like it here. Its a home because its friendly and welcoming. I try to keep it clean and fairly tidy but not so tidy that it scares people away. It is always full of children, now teenagers really,and we have very few doors (bedrooms and bathrooms only) so we are always close by each other even without sitting on each others laps. There are shelves of books and comfy chairs, good company plenty of laughs from the kids (am i the only one who finds teenagers just adorable). The perfect home.
PS the allotment that I share with my sister is just a few minutes away by bike so even the lack of garden hasnt been too big an issue. We have enough space for everything we want to grow at the moment and another plot available to us if we ever get completely on top of the current one!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Frugal Food and Frugal Shoes!

One of my new things was to avoid throwing any food away. This morning I noticed that there was quite a bit of veg in the fridge which would hang around much longer. I chopped up a bunch of celery, a bag of carrots and three onions and cooked them for a while in olive oil (extra virgin organic from my friends Sues farm in Crete.) When they had softened enough i blitzed them with my stick blender. I froze half of it and the other half went on to be the beginnings of a huge pot of bolognese sauce. I chopped some more celery and onion and cooked every up with the minced beef. Later i added mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and borlotti beans plus a carton of garlicky Dal which i froze last weekend. It was superb and i got to feel good about not binning anything.

I also found a shoe recycling facility in a shop in the local town. I am not sure if you are supposed to use it if you don't buy from them but I think its for everyone. Shoes are neatened up a bit and then sent on to someone who needs them. This is really good news for me because with two teenage boys we often have shoes which are too small before they wear out. In the early days you could pass shoes from one to the other ( I checked with the health visitor - this is fine) but one now has long thin feet, like a rabbit, and the other has short wide feet, so it really doesn't work so good anymore. So during the coming week I hope to collect up all the shoes which are about the place, match up the needed ones with their owner/potential new owner (younger son has his eye on some of my beloved shoes)and take the rest off to town to recycle.

Not a bad day, I think.

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