Monday, 31 January 2011

Extra day of weekend

I had Friday flexi day booked at work but we had a last minute panic and a 'death is the only excuse for not attending' meeting. So last night at about 9pm I had the lovely realisation that today was an additional day of rest. I have enjoyed it all the more for not remembering it was on its way.

I dropped my son at college at the usual time around 8am but instead of carrying on to work I doubled back and settled into a couple of hours of blog reading with coffee and toast accompaniment. Simple pleasures.

I didnt make any plans on purpose. I also dealt with work emails as they arrived so that I didn't get behind for the week already.

I discovered that a packet of (reduced) chicken thighs, chicken stock from a cube, a tin of reduce tomatoes and a handful of oregano makes an amazing meal after wallowing in the hot bath of the slow cooker all day. Served with rice made in the rice cooker (same machine, different button - brilliant Christmas present).

I got Fahed to go through the piles of clothes which I sorted out from his wardrobe at the weekend. He was even harsher than I was and now there is a pile for the kids to look over as well as plenty for the charity shop. We re-arranged the whole cupboard and it makes more sense now and should be easier to manage. 'Work' clothes have their own place, tops are seasonal and the junk is all gone. I thought I did pretty damn good with my own wardrobe sorty outy but I did his better.

I fixed the sitting room clock. It has been ten past eight in here since November. Now it is finally twenty to nine.

I freecycled a wheely shopping bag, which I cant actually remember ever buying, to a lady who delivers Betterware catalogues. This follows on from freecycling a huge bag of quilt cover, pillow cases, curtains and the like on Saturday. Same lady came for the bag so I guess she was happy with the bed linen.

One big fat fail. I made a vat of curry sauce which is supposed to be frozen and makes a base for all sorts of curry dishes. It was bland and in attempting to make it better I made it too salty. Two wasted potatoes couldn't de-salt it. I chucked the whole vat once I had worked out it was mostly water and spices. Deeply disappointed, I will search on-line for a different base recipe. I love the idea but the actual sauce no-one could love.

Now I am lounging about with the old fella watching another bumper crop of Criminal Minds, favourite program of the day.


Sunday, 30 January 2011

and another thing

How do you balance minimalism and waste.

Just been through all my husbands clothes, which are mainly sports clothes as he get undressed several times a day (swimming teacher not stripogram). There are maybe 12 pairs of joggers, 25 pairs of sports socks and 30 or more tops. I got rid of 8 tops which are way too big or just plain awful. Mostly his clothes looks the same, sports gear black or navy, no big pattern or pictures. I divided the rest between acceptable to wear in public and acceptable to paint the bathroom. Nothing was good enough to sell on eBay interestingly. I am, it would appear, a mean woman who doesn't let her husband have good clothes.

As his wardrobe is largely untouched by fashion, as is mine, what is the advantage to getting rid of all but 10 tops say? It seems to be the thing to do but what if the washing machine breaks or I don't get to the laundry on time? What happens down the line when more tops make it to the bathroom painting pile and less to the wear in public pile? Having donated perfect good tops should I then buy him some new ones?

Nope, not giving in to temptation. It is just wasteful. They are going back in their boxes ready for many more years of active service.


I love the new blogger template and font combo. Sandy coloured and a courier script, makes me feel like I should be writing a travel blog. I would love to be doing just that but I stretched myself a bit thin financially by buying land and a old house in Greece at an amazing price but slightly before I was sufficiently financially secure to do so. And then there are the investments in land and an apartment in Syria (known as Fahed pension). I think I need to get some of my land and buildings working for me if I want to follow my natural instincts to globe trot.

In my defence I would say that all of the investments, however ill timed, were seriously good buys and came from knowing the local market and from having contacts who know who is selling. I wouldn't buy without years of homework and friends in the know, so no luxury apartments on sinking sand dunes. I wouldn't buy top end as a) cant afford it b)not fun, developing and improving is the fun bit. Wouldn't buy a depreciating asset, such as a mobile home. Well I might but only Daizy styleas somewhere real cheap to lay my head whilst working on a more secure master plan. So I may appear a bit daft but there is a bit of thought behind it.

My dad and sister are organising a little trip to France in a couple of weeks and I would like to join them but £600 in car repair costs and some lost earnings over the last week are putting me off. I will see how well we do with the budget next month before making a final decision. I love organising travel. Maybe it should go on my list of thing to develop. Small individual travelling parties that really get to know an area. When Fahed was visiting family in Jordan or Syria (cant remember) a few years back he heard someone speaking English and being a little homesick approached them for a chat. They were a Dutch couple trying English as the international language. Enjoying the chance for some European conversation (he is a bit set in his ways and Anglicised after 23 years)he took them to a family wedding. They didn't stay the full three days but I like to think it added a dimension to their trip & they think about it form time to time. Suppose I could organise little holiday groups who could really be inclusive to the society they are visiting and learn and enjoy.

Something else on my today when I get the chance list. I have been reading Moyra making plans for a retreat/art workshop she is asking the universe to help her attend. Maybe my property in Crete could be suitable for something like that once it is landscaped (i.e. surrounding land is no longer a death trap). Moyra also mentioned these camps.. Some many ideas. Maybe I could buy an old house in Damascus to renovate and run as a hotel or retreat. No shortage of ideas only of time. Something else to put on my list. Fahed will be pleased to have something else to worry about.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Friday Night is Poker Night

Well not every Friday but the last Friday of every month. Fahed loves to play poker but casino play would be a massive waste of money. Instead he has been asked to join a local tournament by a guy who he met whilst teaching him to swim. The last Friday of every month they meat up at the house of someone who has a garage converted to a sort of home casino. They pay their £17 and play all night, and they get a guys type dinner or curry or chilli in the break. The winner can come home with £60 as you may remember from when my sweet heart bought me a sander (I did ask for one, its not as weird as its sounds - I have doors that need attention).Anyway, bargain and about the only social spending he has in a month apart from occasional de caff coke.

So one Friday a month is my indulge myself with TV about gardening, cooking and anything else that only I like to watch. Today though both kids have decided to be home. Do they not know it is Friday. Eldest is in the front room playing video games with his mate. Lovely lads both of them but I don't feel like an evening of 'Assasins Creed'. I have sneaked off to my bed after cooking a pan of lemon chicken, enough to feed everyone. The chicken was reduced to £2.65 and this is its third day on duty. Sweet and sour chicken makes the breasts feed all four of us quite well. I have done my mummy duty, they are all well fed.

Now I am spoilt for choice, we have a TV in the bedroom, which is not connected up to the outside world,which is hardly ever watched but does work. There is a second hand PS2 connected up for watching DVDs. I have a Stephen Fry Book and a Nigella book. My laptop for reading and writing. Fahed's laptop (bigger screen, mine is a notebook) which Jamal has just shown me how to legally watch old criminal minds programmes on.

I am living the life here, total cost maybe £1.50, and that fed us all and gave us leftovers for tomorrow. Kids seem happy too, total additional cost £nil. If you told me I could go anywhere or do anything I could think of better things to do but its pretty damn good all the same.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Car news

We have two cars, neither of which is very new. We bought them second hand in 2004.
This week the engine management light came on in my car and it started to drive a bit roughly. Petrol usage was up. I came home and told Fahed and his reply, snap, me too!

For his car we need a new head gasket which will be £500. My car just needs a service which will be £102.

There is good news, sort off. I asked Fahed to ask the mechanic if his car was actually worth it as it isn't a baby any more. The mechanic said it is still in excellent condition, doh, I forgot the new engine in 2008, and will keep going another 100,000 miles, no problem. Head gasket is just one of those things that goes from time to time and isn't a big deal. In my opinion it is big but I am only thinking of cost. Also my car has a good few years in it.

So we don't put any money into savings this month, which feels like a backwards step, but we should then be set for the next few years. I am thinking about giving mine its annual clean just so she knows I still love her!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Capsule Wardrobes and update

Just for Cathy, this is what I meant by capsule wardrobe. I worked out ho to search my reader to find it! I am not done yet but had a good clear through the wardrobe. I have a lot of very formal clothes which I rarely wear because business clothes just aren't so formal any more. I will try to give them each a test day at work to see if they stay. Most of my clothes goes with most of my other clothes because I am almost always wear black and white or black and something bright. I do have a brown skirt and jumper, which I can wear with nothing else, so I am checking out the fabric to see if it can be dyed to fit in with everything else.

I did well with my chores, everything except Fahed's wardrobe. I may well do that tomorrow as we really need to do it together. Today I made 8 portions of red cabbage for the freezer (yum but only I think so, hence individuals servings), started to prepare my Seville orange vodka for bottling, made the best ever trifle for my sons 21st birthday cake. Did the food prep for steak in a cream sauce and chips (which we have four time a year for birthdays - never more) which Fahed then cooked. He is such a good cook but he doesn't do healthy so he gets limited access to our arteries.

I also dyed, or rather am currently dying, a pink and burgundy duvet set to a violet colour. I didnt realise it was pink when I bought it as it was folded badly in the pack. This will mean I have three sets of good bed linen for our bed. That will do me for years to come.

I almost booked a hippobag collection today but the price seems to have gone up by a whole lot since last time I did this and we have decided to invest in some rubble sack instead and take things to the dump mid week, when there isn't a queue.

Seems like the weekend was fun and productive. I believe my son enjoyed his simple birthday celebrations.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Cold & frosty morning

I have managed to avoid the cold by staying in bed so far. Its just after nine and I have been avoiding getting up by reading blogs and news for 50 minutes.

A list might help me move my lazy arse.

I am dividing the day into

Before Fahed comes home for brunch 3 1/2 hours
Hours break until he goes to work again 1 hour
Faheds second job 4 hours
Late afternoon together 3 hours
Fahed volunteer work as I go to see my family. 3 hours
Late evening together 1 or 2 hours depending on how tired we are.

Before he comes home in slightly less than two hours I aim to have:
coloured my hair (includes shower and getting dressed),
sorted his sports clothes, which being a swimming teacher are the bulk of his clothes, into wearable, work only (work that involves paint & glue not going to work type work) and bin.
Put laundry away.
Sorted jumpers in own wardrobe and maybe even started listing items from the wardrobe in my plans for a capsule wardrobe. Cant remember who on my blog list I am copying this from but I will link it in when I find it.
Make brunch, probably poached egg on toast, for returning husband.

Take coffee and toast break (well earned by this time assuming I even leave the warmth of my lovely bed).

and then on my own again.

Top up shopping from my list
Sweep hard floors, fluff up pillows, empty bins.
Clean bird cage.
Un-pack dishwasher.
Prepare dinner - home made faked up Burger King Double Whoppers. I am getting good at these I am told. Secrets are toast bun, use ketchup and mayonaisse but in small quantities, include raw onion and gherkin even if they are thrown out before eating, wrap in greaseproof paper and warm in the oven for five minute. Perfect and very affordable for an occasional treat plus saves 15 mile drive.

Enough, I must move or nothing will happen.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Oh my god, Friday again.

I cant believe how quickly the days fly by. Its always Friday, always Year End (or so us finance people say), always Christmas. I hope this just indicates how happy I am with my life. Guess And apparently I must be very happy.

So, Friday. That means a evening in front of the TV watching Criminal Minds and/or Deadliest Catch, both of which we love. Yesterday was our 22 wedding anniversary but Fahed was working until 10pm so this is our anniversary celebration. I am watching some seriously tough Alaskan blokes catching crabs as there boats slowly become encased in ice. That is truly enough to make you appreciate your normal job. I suddenly love spreadsheets. Fascinating viewing though.

Friday night is diary update night to. I love my diary and it really does help me get organised by focusing me on tasks. I have a list for tomorrow, a shopping list and a list of spices needed to make a bulk cook up of curry sauce for the freezer.

I do love the weekend but sometimes I wish they didnt come around quite so quick, Every one that passes me is one less still to come.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

An end to stress

I have been sleeping really badly for the last couple of months. I am waking every hour or so getting up in the morning is like waking the dead. Last Thursday I did some bite size training sessions. One of the middle ones was Managing Stress.

I have to conclude I don't have stress. Think of a stressful situation had me thinking of trapped in the wilderness and have to cut an arm off to get away. The lady sitting with me had 'driving'. At this point I knew I was wasting 1.5 hours for nothing.

That night I opened the big bedroom window, remembering it is normally kept open all year but shut it during the snow. At bed time I put a couple if books on the bed side table which accidently covered up the illuminated face of my alarm clock.

That night the room was darker, cooler and more airy. Perfect snoozes every night since then. I really am an idiot.

I also sleep better if I don't eat anything after about 6pm, and avoid cheese from about noon! and I don't drink any alcohol.

I am loving my sleep now.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

2011 - the year of.....

Supposed to be the year of doing something slightly more exciting and interesting (whilst still on a serious budget obviously).

So far it is a big, fat, fail. However as the world, in particular Brazil and Australia, is really suffering at the moment I don't think I can whine too much about life being a bit dull. I would obviously rather it be dull than the nightmare scenarios some people are in. The thoughts and hearts are with them.

I will review at the end of the month and try harder. I am making more effort with the kids lives though and they spent 3 hours at a climbing wall this week, and I feel they may have walked away as potential addicts. Sports addiction is an addiction I can live with. They also have a zorbing day voucher to be used from April. If I was a bit less heavy then I would find the climbing appealing so maybe I can join in at a later date. The zorbing I may have found fun once but I have face facts and admit it is completely beyond me now.

Actually lasting through January to a late pay day without compromising on yummy dinners is pretty exciting, especially as it is a very heavy birthday month. It was quite the sort of excitement I had in my mind but I am quietly pleased. From January payday the new regime (money pots etc.) starts so again something new and mildly exciting. It should give focus.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Weekend Plans and treats

Reading about Froogs Friday night has inspired me today. I shan't be having the wine, although there is a box of white and a box of rose on top of the fridge, I hardly ever have a glass. Home made Chinese is to be today's treat. I have a large quantity of cooked ham 'bits' which have been frozen. This was a reduced package from the co-op some months back and not sure how long it will keep in the freezer so time to use it. I have added it to a vat of water along with three chopped onions, two chopped celery sticks,3 chicken stock cubes, a packet of condemned mushrooms. Frozen peas would be good too. This is surprisingly yummy for something so simple. Thickened up and served with rice (new rice cooker has been used every day this week - even I am beginning to crave a potato). Any left over will morph into soup for my lunches next week. I am expecting it to last most of the week.

Other plans include sorting out goodies for charity. Someone at my work advertised for old bedding which they use for making patchwork quilts. It is something to do with the care and support arm of work so I am guessing they are used by some of our service users as some kind of physical therapy. They showed a photo of a quilt made with jeans and it was great. Wish I had one myself actually. Wouldn't a big jeans patchwork make a good rug?

Sort out new diary. No rushing this one as I need to be thorough and to use it well. A quiet hour this pm will start it on its way.

Tonight a couple of hours with family at my parent's house is always fun. Tomorrow an invite for birthday cake and coffee in the afternoon.

I guess the first step would be to get my lazy arse out of bed, now that i ahve done my blog reading for the day.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

I bought something and it was good.

One of my Christmas gifts from the old fella was a rice cooker. It is also a steamer, slow cooker and porridge maker (who knew there was such a thing as a porridge maker). Whilst this might seem like an odd present I did ask for it. I have a confession to make. I really can't cook rice. I think it is because I like to cook by the inspirational method not by weights and measures. cooking rice is more like baking, its almost like a chemistry experiment. Yesterday we had pilau rice for the first time. It was amazingly delicious. Everyone liked it. 300g of Basmati, 400ml of chicken stock, sprinkled of salt and a teaspoon of butter. Utterly delicious.

I am not going to buy many things this year, at least I dont plan to, ut one thing I really find useful is a diary from Boxhouse publishing. Last year I had the Life Book. I bought it reduced in January. This year I looked at the family Life Book and thought it might be the one for me but I wasn't about to pay any more than inevitable. I have been checking on a daily basis to see if I break before the sale is one. Yaay, today it is on! The Lifebook is £12.99 reduced to £8.99. The family life book is £12.99 reduced to a fiver. I have invested my £5 in a further 12 months of organisational bliss. The weird thing is that I have a Blackberry. I love my Blackberry and I keep my diary and outlook emails on there but it works fine for business but nothing beats the format of a paper diary for organising 'life'.

I will buy a few more things this year, an orthopaedic mattress, a set of stairs (you did read that right)but they will be planned and deliberate, just like my diary. No more frittering.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Keeping it tight

I withdrew £20 from the bank to top up the food supplies this week. Mostly bread, which was reduced,some cheese on special offer, some porky whites sausages, again on special offer, so houmous, reduced if you buy 2, a bag of basic onions. Total spend £16.44. We are fine for the week ahead.

My son is busily applying for every job advertised anywhere but in the meantime he is selling Avon. Disadvantages are bags, boxes and catalogues everywhere. Advantages are I get all the free gifts which he has not use for, which is apparently all of them. Result for me. I thought about advertising the stuff on ebay but of course every Avon rep in the country gets the same freebies at the same time so the price leaves it not worth the effort.

Fahed has un-block the sink/dishwasher outlet without resorting to a plumber.

Surely with all these economies I should be rich.

Friday, 7 January 2011


I need to minimise the cost of transport in conventional and less conventional ways.
Some easy decisions and some that need more time.

I checked petrol prices on line and found that the prices at the garage I pass everyday is currently 2p per litre cheaper than the ASDA that I drive two miles out of my way to get to.

I have tried to avoid taking the car out as best I can. One of my meetings which would have been a 50 mile round trip turned into a conference call on screen when my boss was asked to attend. Funny how its okay not to physically attend when a director says he wants to use conference facilities. Today I bummed a lift to meeting which was another 60 mile round trip. Next Tuesday also bummed a lift in the shared pool car from work. However this does affect my holiday savings as mileage and expenses are claimed annually to go in the holiday pot. Lost around £80 this week.

On a more positive note I avoided a 20 mile return trip to spend a £25 Marks and Spencer gift card, by selling it on eBay. Handy to have the money in January but it would have been fun to buy something with a clear conscience.

I filled Fahed's car up with gas and 'insisted' he use gas only from now on and don't use petrol because he cant be bothered to go to the gas station. Petrol is currently £1.22 per litre locally company with gas at 75p a litre.

On a slightly more long term note I checked out these babies after reading about them on Foster Mummies site. Have I got the nerve to do it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Food - larder principal

This year I am copying Amy Dacyczyn of Tightwad Gazette fame and ensuring I have a full pantry/fridge/freezer which I replenish at the most affordable prices. So each month shopping fills up the food store again. Main advantage being that you can buy things when the prices are right not when your meal plan dictates.

Important things to remember
1)make sure you buy at the right price and have enough stock
2)bulk buying should not just mean bulk eating
3)Take lunches of soup or leftovers for work
4)Have a meal plan list of affordable dinners so you are never stuck for something to cook.

Next; fuel costs

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Potential spending problem -avoiding squandering

I can fritter money away like there was an award for it. But the good thing is that if I make an effort then I notice and don't do it any more. Just have to make sure I keep that in my mind this year. Since I stopped popping into Waitrose to buy houmous I have saved myself a fortune. So I know there are triggers to be avoided. I am thinking about having a little spending diary for January. Has anyone else found that noting spending down inhibits the actual spending?

What I expect to make a difference this year if that Fahed is on board. He worked through the budget with me and set up the idea of the separate pots of money for shopping, fuel etc. I reminded him yesterday that we are now on the new way of doing things and he suggested he gives me his switch card so that he isn't tempted to spend. I find that very encouraging. What we have decided is that he can keep the money from one of his jobs and it will be his pocket money, the money for the lottery and anything else he needs. However I am pretty sure that he will do his best to save this money too. I know what he is like after all these years. He is happy to spend what he considers random money i.e. from the bank but he doesn't like to part with money he actually has in his pocket.

Next I need a plan for food shopping, for fuel usage, for household improvements. I have to start looking at these as opportunities for improvement instead of problems to be addressed. So many opportunities!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Hellooooooo 2011

Happy New Year.

Reading Middle Ways very sad post this week is enough to bring my thoughts back to life changing moments, perspective and all thoughts of living in the now. We were luckier,10 years ago this month Fahed had a heart attack. He was visiting his sister in Jordan. By the time I knew anything about it they had already operated. During the op there is a fair chance of suffering a stroke. if you get through the op then things can be pretty good. So actually very glad not to know anything until afterwards. We have been though a few things since then. Its not so easy to face your mortality when you are so young. As time passes its not always so easy to remember to live in the now but I really do try. I make plans and sometimes I stick to them but if they aren't right then I change them, I remember that very little actually needs worrying about. If you wont remember it was a problem in twelve months time then its not really that important anyway.

2011 is to be about making progress with the Crete house, about being healthier and happier & maybe even more economically viable people, about finding life to be interesting but most of all its to be about not sweating the small stuff. Its about remembering to live not just plan.

My life

My wonderful husband has died. He was in hospital for some weeks but this was very unexpected. I won’t be reading or writing for the foresee...