Saturday, 31 January 2009

The best laid plans

I was expecting a quick indoor clean up today and then some time in the garden, with a post winter sort out. The garden is small and quite sheltered so it could be pleasantly comfy out there, even in January, if there was any Sunshine at all. However the sunshine has abandoned us and it is cold, bleak and not even slightly welcoming. Rather than fight with nature i am baling out on the garden and sneaking back indoors for the day. Once upon a time would have continued out to the garden regardless but I have learnt that adapting can be a good thing and not a sign of failure. I am no longer inclined to do something & rushing through it to get on to the next thing. have discovered how to be in the moment and it is good!

My indoor plan has been formulated! I will spend an hour or two sorting out the wardrobes, drawers and under storage in our bedroom. If there are clothes that we will never get too, I am thinking especially of the old fellas clothes from when he was a lot heaver,then they should go to the Salvation Army and be of use to someone else.

Then an hour or so of normal Saturday cleaning. I need to pop to the bank and to get some bulbs (for the cars not the garden, not so pretty but very useful). A tiny bit of shopping.

Late afternoon am setting myself up a little desk area in the alcove in the sitting room. I have a desk next to my sons desk in the conservatory but I never sit there. Its a bit noisy and something like working in a recording studio, although more accessible since the drum kit was moved! A little area in the sitting room will get more use and help me be a little more organised.

Maybe tomorrow will be sunny enough for my garden plans but if not then no problem. I have finally learnt to adapt!!!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

You really are what you eat.

We eat proper home cooked food pretty much all the time. The night before last I really really craved Chinese takeaway. We caved and ordered up. The dishes are fairly healthy veggie stir fries and rice anyway, so no problem once in a while. How come I have felt awful, listless and sapped of energy for the last two days? Can it really be that simple of is it a coincidence? How made chicken and vegetable stir fry with organic burghal for dinner tonight so hopefully full of beans again by tomorrow.

In a similar vain my husband has seen how much better i feel without the constant medication for my migraines and headaches and was bemoaning the fact that he still has to take very harsh painkillers because of muscles aches ( which he gets from another medication he has to take for his heart.0 A real catch 22. I read up on the pain killers and found that to a certain extent they cause the pains that they are supposed to help with. We think it might be true. He hasn't taken one in seven days. The first five days were awful but now he improving n leaps and bounds. Other problems are also disappearing (sensitive teeth are no longer sensitive, couldn't have guessed that one).

We are introducing more organic food into our diet each week (less of a financial shock) and ditching more of the rubbish. I feel better at 46 than I did at 36! We are avoiding medication (except his heart medication - I don't think fresh green veg is necessarily a good substitute for beta blockers!) My cholesterol is 'normal' without me making any effort to make it so. His cholesterol is 2.9, 1.1 below the target (this is a good thing!)

I have a feeling it might be some time before I fancy another Chinese (or any other) takeaway!

PS have bought an ebook of Chinese takeaway recipes but I cant open it. Would any one else like an emailed copy to try? Giving away copies is apparently included in the price I paid.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Cheap v frugal

I started to write a post about cheap v frugal but remodelling this life has beaten me to it! Check hers out but here is a bit form me too!

I think I am frugal & I think there is a world of difference between frugal and cheap. I have a friend who is frugal and she is married to a man that is cheap. He amuses the rest of us when we discuss him but not in person, we tend to avoid him as he is also a bit of a misery.

I don't like waste (or intolerance or snakes but we are here to talk about my frugalness!). I prefer other people to have my 'no longer required' stuff. Charity shop, Freecycle, friends, eBay, Amazon. I don't mind where they go as long as someone will make use of my stuff. I also think EBay & Amazon are just as valid a way to pass things on as they are going to someone that needs them plus that someone is a little frugal. I receive from Freecyle, buy from charity shops, eBay and amazon marketplace so I help the second hand market to go around a little bit.

My frugal friends cheap husband has plans for them which basically involve sponging off other people. Always visiting at mealtime so as to get a free dinner but when they last invited us to visit they were fasting for Santa Marias day. Hmmm, what a coincidence!

Are you one of us or one of them????

Monday, 26 January 2009

Goal for January - check!

One of my goals this year was to take a task each month to look at an area of spending in depth.

Today I received the building and contents insurance for our house here in England. The cost was £35.42 each month to include buildings, contents, accidental damage within the property and legal costs.

First thing I need to consider is the cover. Do I need more or less, or just plain different.

I opted for up to £400k for the building - this is for rebuild only as obviously we would still have the land. I don't think my house is likely to cost more than £400k to re-build in the next 12 months. Contents insurance was up to £50k. There is a £100 excess per claim and you need to tell them if you have any individual items worth more than £15k. No worries there them! I kept legal costs and it is minimal cost but it could be very useful if we had problems.

The new policy is £280 for the year. That gives me a saving of £145.04 (against 12 x £35.42). Additionally I earned £75 cash back from Quidco.


It was easy to buy the new insurance but really hard to cancel the old one. I waited for 8 minutes on the phone, having selected the 'considering cancelling policy' option. Then the phone went dead. Nice. On my second attempt I selected the option to buy a new policy (time to connection with a sales advisor - 40 seconds) then told that advisor that I wanted to cancel. It annoys me a bit that insurance companies only want to talk to you when they want your money.

I hope I can make this much difference to my budget each month but I suspect this may have been an easy win.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Sunday Funday

I did get up this morning,honest. I made breakfast and coffee at 7.45 which we had in bed. Then my husband went off to work and some how I am still here in my bed!

I have read through a lot of very interesting blog posts. I have found a lovely recipe for pastitcio and discovered that the best way to preserve peppers is frozen in glass jars! Who knew!. I have been introduced to a fascinating life in Amish country. So much accomplished already and its not even 9.30 yet!

But seriously I do feel really well and full of energy. I have suffered with neck pains and migraines for 11 years now, since a car accident. I have taken pain killers by the cart load for most of that time and amitrytiline on a daily basis for a the last few years. A few weeks back you might remember my mum sent me to a chiropractor, for the very sensible reason that one of the ladies at the swimming pool suggested it might help,if I didn't mind a bit of short term pain (agony).

Well I am inclined to think that things happen for a reason. The chiro has worked on my neck and got everything moving again (there are still bone spurs but that's not reversible). This is tempting fate but I can say I have had only one headache is the last 2.5 weeks and am completely off all of the medication. I have so much more energy. She also did some work on my lower back having spotted that one of my hips pointed to the side. I don't have a 'funny walk (who knew) anymore and more importantly I can actually walk again within trapping the nerve that gives me the numbness I normally experience.

Lastly the chiro also spotted something on my xray that might not be so good. Obviously I am not madly happy about having this (consultation is on Tuesday so we find it is a problem then)but if I have it then of course I prefer to know it and have the necessary treatment.

Without all of those drugs and all of those pains I can truly say I feel fantastic, even with the other problem hanging over me. I have so much energy( so why am I still in bed?? that doesn't count, I am reading) It is no exaggeration to say that visiting the chiropractor has changed my life. Thank you Mum! Its true that mothers know best, especially mine.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Benefits of the credit crunch

By which I mean the economic state that we are tending to call the credit crunch, rather than actual crunching credit.

Well there are a few for those of us who like to look after their loose change.

This is we went out for a meal with 8 members of the family. Dinner was a carvery (including unlimited trips to the veg area!)followed by ice cream sundae for an astonishing £4.75 per person, as we took our seat before 6.30pm. Download the voucher here.

We are watching a DVD this evening, a 2005 Patrick Swayze film which was given away free in the Daily Mail -while I still couldnt bring myself to buy as it only useful for wrapping fish and chips. Lucky for me my mum buys it because she likes the crossword!

British gas price cuts for electricity and gas were announced yesterday. Petrol is now down to £0.829 per litre. Back in the summer we were paying £1.30 per litre.

JP Chenet wine is usually £5.19 locally but £2.99 this week from Netto. Also from Netto pine coffee tables for £29.99 ( I have only seen the ad, not the actual tbale - they could still be awful).

The biggest benefit though is to see people valuing things a little more, making more effort to re-use & avoid waste. It seems that it isnt embaressing for the mainstream populatin to be a little frugal anymore. Will we just go back to being our usual selfish, greedy selves when the economy picks up agin. I dont think we will (some will). I think we lost our way and now we are finding it again.

Ou, ou, ou. I forgot. Amazon randomly sent me a £20 voucher this week to be used the same day. I ordered three books, thinking it was a scam to be honest, but they arrived today. Reading about walking in Crete and making cheese this weekend, all for free!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Clean Slates

19th January 2009. The most depressing day of the year. January is supposed to be depressing, Mondays are supposed to be depressing but why the 19th? It might be the last week before payday?

I didn't find 19th January at all depressing. I love January. I love the chance to start over and put behind you all the things you did wrong last year. I love the clean page of the diary, the chance to make plans for the year - maybe they will come to something and maybe not, that's the fun bit. I like to introduce new habits & work towards new goals. I love the way that the days become longer so quickly & the promise of coming home from work in daylight.

January is the perfect balance at the other end of the year from the indulgence and excess of Christmas. Each has its place and we have a place in each.

I am watching covererage of the inauguraiton fo the US president. Congratulations people of the USA. I am proud of you.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

My new way of looking at things

I have been reading Paul at Simple Green Frugal thingy

Re-using things you don't have a need for, by making them into something you do have a need for.

This might not be quite what he had in mind but today the last of the Christmas peanuts (which were pretty soft, having been open since Christmas Eve)were re-used into some weird peanut brittle using Nigella's recipe. Not sure if I went wrong because it is actually more like ultra crispy honeycomb with the odd nut in it, but it is yummy.

I also had a glass pasta cooker which I really cant get on with. Its a glass tube which you fill with dried pasta and pour boil water over. I have tried and tried but the pasta always tastes both under and over cooked. I couldn't free cycle it with a clean conscience because it is useless. Aha, its useless to cook pasta but actually it seems pretty good as a sprouter. It has a perforated lid and another solid lid, so you can fill with water and then drain. Perfect.

I also put up some flashy shelves above my desk today. Not exactly re-using but i bought them for a couple of quid at a car boot sale and intended them to go in my kitchen, so it sort of counts!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Keeping Busy

Vacuumed and cleaned right through (basic housework mode not super clean)
Cleaned floors
Cooked roast lamb for lunch.
Dried the covers for the conservatory sofas and put them back on (knackering as cushions are huge)
Pressure cooked chickpeas and made humus!
Made washing powder (enough for approx 6 months)
Made coconut ice
Cleaned cooker
Put shopping away
Sorted cable box ( a huge ottoman full of wires and cables, but now not so full)
Cleaned out birdcage
Made cornflake cakes (as per Nigella recipe)
Froze enough curry sauce for future meal.

and now am I taking kids to a gig in town (and bringing them back at some god forsaken time). No time for thinking or worrying, just keeping busy.

Friday, 16 January 2009

I'm sorry to grizzle again but

My chiropractor, the woman who is making my life so much less painful than it was for so many years the wonderful woman, told me this morning she has sent a note to my GP saying that I need to have a test for diabetes and also for an enlarged pituitary gland. Hmmmm.

I am having some problems concentrating on my weekend plans, which is a shame as they were fun ones. I have some shelves to put up and I am checking on my vegetable seed stock and adding my 'vegetable plans' to my diary.

Looking on the bright side though Lulus is looking good. I suppose that if she (the chiro not the cat) is right about these things then it is better that she identify I need treatment sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Life begins at 40(ish)

I will be 47 this year. Married 20 yeas next week (I know, you get less for committing major crimes, don't think I haven't noticed). I have been blogging for just over a year.

Over the last year I have really got my act together. I have learned to be in the moment instead of worrying about everything I haven't yet got to. That was the one thing that made me quite miserable. I am not certain whether to credit blogging, the reading of blogs or the decision that brought me to blog (to record my progress and change) in the first place. But something has made that difference and I am loving it. I am even more productive than I was, so lots of feelgood factor, but instead of rushing through things and getting on to the the next task I am fully 'in' my task. Its a revelation.

My decision to learn to appreciate my life was obviously the big first step. Without that I would still be cleaning,cooking,working,working,working, all at break neck speed and without extracting contentment. Writing my blog helped me to get my ducks in a row. I really had to dig deep into my thoughts to commit something to paper (electronic paper)and I revealed my desires and hidden dreams to my conscious self. Discovering the blogging community, from comments and tracking back to other blogs, has just taken me a step further. Opened a world of possibilities to me. Thank you.

I am puzzled why we need 20 plus years of adulthood to come up with a life plan that allows us to enjoy our lives. But perhaps later generations than me will be able to find their way a little earlier in future, now that the whole world can become an author.

On a completely different note, we went to the vet again this morning & Lulu got the okay to come off her meds. Her back paws are not 100% and are still cold (that means something more than she needs catty slippers apparently) but otherwise my little fluffy bundle is grumpy but healthy. I am hopeful she will cheer up once she is completely off the meds. Thank you to everyone that has enquired.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

My secret weapon

Okay, its just a diary. But I think it is earning its place in my bag!

I have set myself daily housekeeping tasks.

I have created a space on the first Sunday of each month to learn a skill. This started off a frugal skill but if I fancy non frugal skills too, then I will.

My activities like the photography class & the Salsa dancing are in, for a bit of balance.

I have included my actual appointments (vet and chiropractor spring to mind)

I have allocated a Saturday slot to special tasks. Wardrobe clear out, desk sort out, all the usual things.

There is a Sunday slot for baking a cake. Recipes to be suggested by my sons (who are definitely in charge of cake eating). The first cake was a home spun recipe for fudge cake.

Next thing I need to add are my gardening plans for the year. Which plants, when the seeds go in, when to plant them outside, when to feed. Real bite size pieces because this is a pretty new area for me to conquer successfully in this way.

If I can get all of my main housekeeping tasks completed during the week I can do a more in depth session, on areas which I like,at the weekends.

Its possible my secret weapon might actually be working.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Super Economy Mode

We are having to move onto super economy mode. Vet bills and chiropractor bills (and did I mention the 400euro water bill for the buried meter - yes I did, but I wanted to mention it again) have made an enormous dent in the finances this month.

Two more weeks to go but we have plenty more chiropractor visits to come & at least a couple of vet visits too. However it is paying dividends, Lulu & I are both feeling much better. I have had neck problems and lower back problems since a car accident in 1997. For the last few years there have also been migraines, worse with every year that passes. My lower back is very painful if I walk for more than about 10 minutes and the back is numb on the surface. I have visited doctors and physios for all of this period, my drug intake went up and up over the years, now ibuprofen, paracetamol and amitryptyline are in daily use. My chiropractor is amazing. I haven't had a painkiller in a week. I am weening myself of the amitryptyline as well.I am still in some pain for the 'adjustments' but overall the improvement is amazing. Well worth spending every penny on!

I don't begrudge any payment to the vet either. Lulu is improving each day. I really think she is going to be with us for a while now. I will be glad when she finishes her steroid as I think they are making her grumpy, but otherwise we can lit fine as she is. She doesn't move or sit like my cat but she doesn't appear to be in pain or distress. She purrs!!

We have economised as much as we can on household expenditure to ensure that we pay for our costs in the month rather than paying over the coming months. It has shown me how much we can cut down if we really need to. However it has made work on the guest bathroom grind to a halt! We were too stressed (and too broke) for any more work in there! My health and that of my cat are top of the list for the moment & we are definitely appreciating every improvement.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Lulu update (and Diary Update)

But obviously Lulu is the most important so she comes first!
She is still breathing very quickly, perhaps too shallow and she is sitting oddly for her. She has always been a cat who sleeps in draught excluder position, long and thin, but at the moment she is more curled up. Otherwise there are good signs. Eating, purring when stroked but also purring when you walk close to her. She wont climb onto the furniture and if you put her up then she jumps down again so i think she likes hard floor under her feet. We must see the vet again on Wednesday morning so please keep fingers crossed for her.

I had two diaries for Christmas. I narrow one which would fit in a small handbag, suitable for the odd appointment but not for use as a planner and an A5 one where a week covered a double page spread. I am the small one as a new price book. My previous price book was in excel and was quite neat but I found I didn't refer to it enough, so this one will be more handbag sized. I have labelled up the first page; MEAT - WHOLE CHICKENS PER KG. Second page;MEAT CHICKEN THIGHS PER KILO. After all of the meat pages I did the same again with BAKERY and then TINS. I have started FRUIT/VEG, then it will be DAIRY, JARS, DRIED, OTHER. A single page for each product. It should be quite interesting, as well as cost saving, to see how this pans out.

The second diary is for use as an actual diary. It will have appointments, plans & reminders but also bring structure to my thoughts and plans. I am making a couple of changes to how I structure my week and my diary will help me keep to this until it becomes a habit. I am going to divide my housework over the weekdays rather than leaving it all to the weekend. I am also moving my main meal to lunch time. Our various jobs at the moment mean that we cant sit and eat our dinner all together anyway, unless we eat around midnight, so I might as well eat at lunch time anyway. I will review this after a month.

Saturday, 10 January 2009


Thank you so much everyone who wrote to me yesterday. Monty's sister cried all afternoon, weed in the conservatory (never done this before), was sick in the kitchen (also very unusual) and when she got up she was walking on the front of her paws. She hasn't had a moment of illness until this point in 15 years, except for a snake bite. Another trip to the vet last evening (they kindly stayed open for us - thank you Riverside Veterinary Surgery)with Lulu, where she was given steroids and painkillers. It looked like Saddle Thrombus so I thought I was going to lose both of my babies in one day. I cant think this is a coincidence surely? They had thirty human years of good health between them and then both in one day?? I assume she could pick up on what was happening and it was stressing and distressing her. After a frightful night she actually looks a lot better this morning. Still unsteady on her feet and not especially hungry but some purring and a little more movement in the back half.
I am fast losing confidence in 2009.

Friday, 9 January 2009


I have been a little distracted these last few weeks because my little cat has been ill. He wasn't well when we came back from holiday at the end of October & has deteriorated, more especially over the last week or so. We don't know how old he was but he adopted us in 1994. We thought at the time that he was a stray kitten but he didn't really get much bigger over the years, and didn't actually look any older so he could be any age. Today was his time. I have balled my eyes out for days but the vet said it was cruel to make him stay longer. So today my little Monty has gone, just as cute as the day he first sneaked into our house all those years ago. and with such a beautiful temperament. My family buried him under the shade of the cherry tree.
I do understand he was 'just' a cat and not a family member but I dont seem to be understanding it very well.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

I'm bored!

I sound really pathetic I know, and I feel it. I want it to be pay day. Not so that I can buy things, just so that I can pay things down! And I know this is not the way to go. Next stop is wishing your life away. I think my husband is bored. He's just announced that he would like to go to a desert island for 2 months. Hmmm. He has been pacing up and down for hours so I think he means it.

Any suggestions? I need to be entertained, but cheap (like free). And not to make it any more difficult but I like to be productive even when I am on leisure time. I had a day at work today for a meeting and wondered if that has unsettled me. I didn't want to go back after Christmas but of course I had a really good day. Now I have four more days at home. Two to help with the bathroom, yet again, and two more for cleaning up.

oh, and does any one know of any charity survival courses to send the old man away on??? I dont ask for too much, do I?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Progress update

What to do in 2009

• Pay at least £20000 from debt/mortgage - Credit cards have been cut up and snowball calculator has been completed. Minimal goods have been purchased - reel of Cotton, syringe to give medicine to cat, cup hooks.
Finish Crete house so that it can be rented. No progress expected this soon.
• Increase exercise through additional walking. First visit today to Chiropractor who says she can fix my back and neck. I will walk!
• Keep swim school afloat.One day at a time.
• Take lunch to work each day unless provided at work. Not back to work yet.• 5 No spend days each week.
• Meal plan each week. Plans are underway.
• Re-visit single area of expenditure each month to ensure we are getting the
best deal (i.e. car insurance, mortgage cover)Nope but I will.
• Try salsa dancing.Course booked for 4 weeks starting 3rd February - at discount!• Take short course in digital photography.Booked, course starts 28th January.• Sell £500 if possessions on eBay.
• Make salami & sausages. Still planning.
• Taster ski lesson at the local Alpine centre. Postponed at the moment as too expensive.

Not bad for a first week, plus upstairs bathroom is finished and plumbing is finished in the guest bathroom ( still on target to finished walls and floor this week)

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Sunday night smile!

I know, two posts in one day, the woman is obsessed. But I just found out something very nice & I need to share it!

After making my goals list yesterday to pay at least £20k of debt/mortgage this year I decided to complete a snowball calculation for everything. If I pay the basic amount then my mortgage etc will be clear by 2028, not brilliant but asper the mortgage repayment schedule.

If I continue to pay the amount which I plan to pay this coming year then my mortgage will be paid by 2021.

However my husband has agreed I can have all of his salary from three of his jobs (he has to be allowed to keep something as he has plans too). On top of that any extra cash from eBay or amazon can also top it up. My aim then becomes to be debt and mortgage free, without selling any property, by 2017. I AM A VERY HAPPY BUNNY and learning from other bloggers and brought me to this place. You are a wonderful and literally an inspiration. Thank you.


Working hard here this Sunday

Not true. I am reading blogs and eating breakfast crumpets. However I did find a lovely new blog which I wanted to share. Try this The Greening of Gavin. I have just had a tour of their lovely garden.

I am convincing myself I am working at the moment but running a couple of scans on my machine as I skip around the blogs. I promise to do more this pm, honest. Plans for the day include;
Hanging re-varnished mirror and shelf into the upstairs bathroom - yes the leak is finally fixed and the tiling complete. Bathrooms looks lovely and I will take photos today.
Wash and return all of the coloured bottles to the shelf. I know this is clutter but its really pretty when the sun shines through the bottles and its not in any ones way and...well, I just like them.
Varnish bathroom door and possibly bedroom doors as well.
Cook yummy dinner - I know I do this every day but today more time might equal exciting meal.
Make some bread. Get to grips with the bread maker or is this asking the impossible.

Anyway, enough skiving, my bathroom is calling

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Expense, expense, expense

So 2009 is to be a year of concentrating on debt repayment, lowering the outstanding mortgage etc. Debt repayment will be around £25000 so I have to minimise other expenditure. So how did the first day go. Hmmm.

Had a email from my friend in Crete to say that I owe her £400 for paying my water bill. My lively builder buried the water meter so the water company have guess that we owe them this amount and we cant challenge it, so she paid it to save us from incurring interest.

Trip to B&Q (my second home) to buy board for the walls and floor of the guest bathroom (the reason I am not going back to work properly this week is to be assistant/labourer on this project). 5 boards at £9 each, less £30 in B&Q vouchers from my December investment with them. Of course that too easy (and cheap). Instead it is 5 board at £26, less my vouchers, but plus a bench grinder which is some how an essential item for this job. £135!! Grrh

I have misplaced a Marks & Spencer £20 voucher which my husband was given from Christmas by a group that he teaches on a voluntary basis. They always spoil us with chocolates & biscuits but this year money too. and I have lost it.

I am afraid to speak to anyone else in case I end up owing them money.

On a more cheerful note. My husband asked some relative of his to send me 50 kilo of olive oil soap the other day, with a view to start my own little online business. I wasn't too sure if this was a wise idea at the time. This week we had a package of soap, weighing in at around 2 kilo, so obviously my sister in law felt the same way. I am quite please as finding a home for 400 bars of soap wasn't so easy.

Friday, 2 January 2009

First thoughts on 2009 plans

What to do in 2009

• Pay at least £20000 from debt/mortgage (Debt can only be paid off
i.e. no further debt can be incurred).
• Finish Crete house so that it can be rented.
• Increase exercise through additional walking.
• Keep swim school afloat.
• Take lunch to work each day unless provided at work.
• 5 No spend days each week.
• Meal plan each week.
• Re-visit single area of expenditure each month to ensure we are getting the
best deal (i.e. car insurance, mortgage cover)
• Try salsa dancing.
• Take short course in digital photography.
• Sell £500 if possessions on eBay.
• Make salami & sausages.
• Taster ski lesson at the local Alpine centre.

My secret weapon is a diary which is big enough to record everything but small enough to fit in my bag. I will detail how I am using the diary once I am into the rhythm of things.

Blogger problems

So now it would appear I cant comment on my own blog. Sigh.  Normally i would uninstall and re-install everything but this is just live in t...