Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding

I really enjoyed reading another view of the wedding entirely at The Year of Shopping Detox. Nice to here something nice about Eugenie and Beatrice for a change as they do have a somewhat quirky dress style. Samcam would have looked better in a hat and Harry is my favourite too.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

A slightly stressful week

So we try to wait for events to unfold in Syria without worrying too much. I prefer to check the BBC website and find some other country in headline position. Good news though that in talking to family they say everything is as normal out there and we should stop worrying. But I cant imagine that we will!

Fahed had an operation his eye this week. He had an accident years ago when he was doing his National Service and is blind in one eye. Now there are problems and maybe he has to lose it eventually. I know it doesn't really matter but whilst he still has it then we can imagine a time when medicine will catch up with what we want. So he is in pain and a little scratchy, no TV or laptop, no swimming or even going near the pool, no gardening or DIY (pollen and dust) so what is he doing? Sorting out his shed. He is wearing safety glasses and indeed safety goggles as well so I think his eyes are pretty much protected. He is in bed by 8pm!

As he is good enough to sort out his chaos, I have been happily freecycling all his clutter. I feel suitably virtuous as someone else uses up stuff that we have failed to use ourselves. My little patch of the planet must be a lot lighter than it was twelves months ago.

Oddly enough I am stopping re-cycling work for a couple of hours tomorrow for the Royal Wedding. Apparently 2 billion people will be watching worldwide. I know its only an estimate but it seems just amazing to me that 1/3 of the planets population will be watching. I am sure it will be quite spectacular though and I don't actually have any problem with my money being spent on it (as long as every one else dips in, not just me obviously!).

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Replacement post

I was going to write about Syria tonight. In fact I did but I cleared the post as I know the old fella would not be happy about my political ramblings. I notice people from non democratic countries do not care to publicize political opinion. A Chinese friend of mine was approached to teach a short course on Chinese Politics at the local uni. Her face was a picture. She offered Chinese cookery instead.

So I will consider practicalities instead. We have two investments in Syria. Some land & an off plan apartment. We think we will offer the apartment to my sister in law. She is a good business woman and could probably sell it on at a profit. We then need around £25k to build on the land. Any profit from the flat can contribute to this. We can then sell it for £100k. This isn't what we planned but we can't be sure which way things will fall with the government. I wont be putting any more money there for a while just to be safe. After all this is the old fellas pension I am playing about with.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

and so, today.

Yesterday I got my vacuuming of the main house and laundry my laundry all completed. I decided to take the car up for a go through the cash wash. I know it is expensive but two or three times a year is enough because of the waxing they give it. As I queued I was reading the options menu for having the car valeted. It was £17 so I decided I wasn't feeling that flush and would do it myself that afternoon. When I went to pay he offered me the internal clean for £10. I dallied for about 5 seconds and then caved straight in. First time in my life i have had the inside of my car cleaned by someone else. I handed over my £20 and he gave me £10 back. So I got the whole lot of £10 rather than paying for external scrub up as well. Bargain. Full valeting for £1. Apparently they do this when they are quiet so it was just lucky on my part. I think they staffed up for Easter and then found people were not wasting their money on such things. £26 save and it does look good, better than it does when I do it anyway.

Fahed has work this morning until 11am and then we can do whatever we want until his volunteering by 7pm. I guess we will be doing something as I think he felt a bit guilty of disappearing all day yesterday and leaving me home alone.

The traffic is bad enough to ensure we don't go very far but no problem, having a house over a hundred years old means you never run out of things to do at home.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Home days

I am home alone the first day of my planned 11 days at home (now a four and a six - I need to go in on Tusday for the day). The weather is perfect. Fahed and Jamal left at 5am to marshal at a Triathlon event in Oxford. I can't imagine why but I guess it is more fun that it sounds, unlimited bacon sarnies wouldn't get me up at 5.

So my leisurely day is breakfast at my parents house. Almost certainly yogurt. Mum doesn't know what else to give me since I stopped earing carbs but I love yogurt so its all good. I was actually dreaming about Rachels Low fat Rhubarb Yogurt last night. very strange and sad, but vyer very yummy.

Mid morning I will vacuum right through, give the bathroom and kitchen a scrub and empty any rubbish etc. There is talk of my eldest son painting the stair area of the house but I have heard that plenty of times and don't hold my breath.

Oh, and did I mention. I have now lost 11kg. My best weight loss ever. No chocolate bunnies for me over Easter.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

4 day week

So we are at the beginning of the brilliant roller coaster of bank holiday in the UK right now. We have four days at work following by a four day weekend for Easter, three more days off and then a three day weekend thanks to William & Kate. Even better I have booked the cherished 'three days in between' which gives me a full eleven days without work. I still had nine days annual leave outstanding at the end of March so you can tell I didn't have too much time off lately.

As usual I am making a list!

2 days garden sort out - bonfire, dump, weeding and mowing. Plant some parsley seeds from my dad.
Sort out and rejuvenate pots.


2 days shed - fix the darn roof and get the tools out of the house before I give in and move to the shed myself. The two days include sorting the actual shed.

2 days house fix - not hanging doors or moving cookers but sorting out everything else.

2 days - sloths and fun

Leaves me three days still to occupy. Result!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

& more money

The flights had gone up again in the few hours I dallied. I have since been shocked by the cost of airport parking. we ware walking to 70 miles to the airport at the moment!

So I went shopping to feel better. not as mad as it sounds. I bought 4 £30 vouchers for Bodyshop from £12 each to buy Christmas presents. Today we went to spend them and found a load of additional reductions in place. We left the place with £221 worth of presents and stock for ourselves. The girl was excellent and worked out how to maximise what we got for our vouchers. Somehow we ended up with free gifts and all sorts. It was great fun, probably becasue we dont normally do it. I bought some perfume for myself and something which you spray your pillow with to help you sleep. Fahed got his stock of shaving stuff all filled up again. He is sensitive to other products and it is body shop or not at all for him. The rest all went on gifts. We are stocked up for the year.

Then we decided to lunch at Ikea. It can to £12, which was plenty, but if we take the receipt back next month then we can get the same amount of discount from products in the shop. I assume they expect you to forget but I have squirreled away my paperwork already in anticipation. We shopped only on bargains, including a lovely cast iron saute pan, and spent a total of £32.50 for £86.55 worth of goodies. I cannot swear they were all needed (can a trifle dish ever be truly needed)but I am liking them all. The glasses are such good value. 50p each and there are solid and just perfect.

We ran out of steam before we got to the charity shops but we may just force ourselves out of bed in time for a car boot sale tomorrow. I know it seems like a festival of spending but am I sorted for Christmas and Birthdays for the year and we wont go to the shops again until about October!

I just thought I would waste some more money!

I have been sorting out flights for the trip to the Crete house in August & September. Should be easy but there are too many variables. I have been waiting to hear who is coming for the first ten days so I didn't book it last weekend when I intended to. Flights out are now minimum £126 instead of £90. Flights back are now £140 instead of £110. Rats! Baggage is an extra £25.

Ahdel and some mates are coming with us but he has only ten days holiday so they will leave before my parents and Jamal arrive. We intended to fly direct but on the way back we would take the ferry to Athens and then have a couple of days in Athend before we fly home from there. This was because Ahdel is really interested in his ancient ruins and would have spent a day mooching around the Acropolis. We are not sure it is worth the effort without him although I found what looks like a super and very reasonable hotel. I cant even tell you how many hours, days, weeks, months we have hung around ancient grave yards or caves or ruins whilst he drinks it all in.

So I wish I had booked last weekend but actually I am still not sure what I am booking. Doh!

Anyway Fahed is working this morning but otherwise we have the weekend to ourselves. We have some vouchers to buy Christmas presents from Bodyshop. I know it is early but the vouchers only last until May and we don't often get a day when neither of us is working. We will have a wander around the local charity shops too. We don't buy much but Fahed believes he will one day find something for 50p which will fund the rest of our mortgage so we can all retire and keep chickens instead!

The kids have a voucher, which I bought them in their Christmas present, for a go at zorbing. It is now half price (brilliant, I paid full obviously)but looks great fun. So sometime this weekend of next I will be throwing my kids off a hill in Dorset. Whats not to love.

The weathermen told us this weekend would be more glorious summer sunshine so obviously it is raining and gloomy at the moment. Time to shift my lazy backside out of bed, have a shower and get the laundry going before Fahed gets back from work at 11 and we start our day of holiday.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Stopping the cash leak

I have the same problems as Daizy this month. Money is evaporating. Car repairs and tax, training courses for Ahdel, eye lasering for me. I did stock up on boneless chicken thighs from the meat wholesaler as well. I am intentional spending a little more on food as I don't feel good quality food to be a waste but I am getting careless so its all got to tighten up.

Action Plan

Work through budget with Fahed
Food plan
Set up transfer to savings on payday
Remind eldest son of outstanding debts to me!
Assist youngest son into a job (interview next week - part time as he is still at college)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

First BBQ of the season

Had a lovely day. We decided to cook our dinner outside and before you know it then it turns into a full size barbie, with more participants than we actually have chairs. We kept it really simple with boneless chicken thigh (from my wholesaler trip), pork rashers cut into thirds, Asda extra special sausages and a couple of half shoulders of lamb. I made potato salad & Syrian salad. I have to recommend Syrian salad. It is the best. Lots of parsley finely chopped, finely chopped salad veg, six large tomatoes, a cucumber, two onions, 4 chillies, all dressed with olive oil(from my friends groves), a little cumin and juice of two lemons. I have enough to take a little box for lunch tomorrow too. Whoop. I toasted pita bread and opened some wine and a few beers. For giggles we also dug some of my homemade fruit vodkas out of the cupboard. They were very popular.

The kids were really entertaining |& hopefully we were not too noisy for the neighbours. Sunny summery days are so fleeting in the country you have to take you outside fun when you can it.

Back to work, and probably more tomorrow. Great!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Financial Planning

I wrote to my pension provider a few weeks back to ask how much they predicted my pension would be if I retired at 55 (6 years) or 60 (11 years). In my wildest dreams I am not thinking to still be doing such a high powered job after 60.

To see how life will be affordable I had to be a bit more structured than my usual self.

I downloaded a month of statements from my bank accounts. Updated my monthly budget (no change - I am obviously more on top of this than I give myself credit for). I removed the mortgage, mortgage related insurances, and one of the cars. This gives me how much I need to live exactly as I am now.

Using the age 55 option I can have £67k up front and then a monthly position of about £400 less than current. We would have to be fairly careful but it was doable assuming we have cleared the mortgage by then.

Using the age 60 option I can have £100k up front and would be about £100 per month less well off than now.

Old age pension from the state will kick in at 67 for someone my age. Apparently it will be £150 per week, each, and index linked to keep up with inflation. By 67 I will actually be better off than I am now. Thats actually quite logical as I currently spend about 50% of my salary every month on overpaying my mortgage.

The house we live in here is now almost worth more to rent out monthly than the basic mortgage repayment would be.

Fahed doesn't have a pension at all but mine seems to be enough. He does however have a few investments which should be his pension. He has some building land and a flat in Syria. Obviously I am thinking the value of this might not be very high as they are mid revolution at the moment but who knows, going forward they could be a popular holiday destination!! We have the house in Crete, we have another old house in Crete which we hope to rebuild. We also have enough land around the house to build two more houses but we don't plan to do so. Its good to know we could sell some of the land if things went wrong. I have one more thing I would like to do with property. I have seen a lot of large houses for sale in the Brittany area of France. Locally here you can catch a night boat to that area a lot cheaper than we could also fly to Crete. Checking rental values to purchase costs I find that with a property kept rented for 1/3 of the year then a house would pay for itself in about 8 years. This is fine unless I get like I am with the Crete house where it starts to feel like home and I don't fancy strangers living in it. I think I could be a successful business woman if I wasn't such a Muppet!!

The Plan

I am aiming for 60 unless I am made redundant before then.
We will not buy a pension for Fahed (we should have started years ago and we just didn't have the cash back then).
We will renovate the old house in Crete and market it to bring in a proper annual income.
We may buy another house with the kids (who are now 19 and 21)and rent this place out.
I would like to build, sell and buy more land in Syria because it makes a little cash but also because it is interesting and fun. The sister in law likes searching out good deals and we can employ other family members for the actual work.
I really want to do the Brittany house thing but maybe not until retirement when I can really enjoy it.

I am happy now I have looked at the full picture. It was preying on my mind that things were going to be more bleak.We will be fine and I will pass a degree of financial security on to the kids. We will have some fun and an interesting time but we wont overstretch ourself and give ourselves unnecessary worries.

The only thing I haven't said much about is living with the kids going forward but that is a whole big post on its own so something for another day.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Feels like summer

The weather is completely gorgeous. The weekend promises to be just as good. Feels to me like a holiday. I came home from work full of energy and have been cleaning, sorting laundry, sorting junk and cooking.

This week I started a new staff member. She is going to manage 5 of the teams that work for me and I really cant wait. She seems to have all the same kind of ideas as I do and she was as impressed with my staff as I always am. She even spotted the two that are not quite on board! I feel the worries dropping of my shoulders now that I have her. My other two managers are excellent already so I am picturing a real dream team now. Just cant over emphasize how much I feeling about my job suddenly, now that I think I have time to do my job properly.

Since I cut right down on carbs (only those hiding in veg and a few fruits are allowed) I have so much energy and am sleeping so well. Also am rarely hungry. Apparently it may be that my body produces too much insulin and causes me to get low blood sugar, and therefore hunger, tiredness, listlessness and best of all, migraines. Plenty of veg and protein means I eat about half as much food and feel bloody amazing. I wish I had known this years ago but at least I know it now. 7kg weight loss in the last few weeks too.

Tomorrow is a day for food shopping. Veg, bread, yoghurts, chillies and olives etc - I bought a lot of chicken from the wholesaler so we are set for meat. Cleaning, cleaning, there is always more cleaning. Some garden time. Check up at the eye clinic for the laser surgery. Visiting some friends and then my parents. And all in the sunshine.

And just for a bit of extra good news both of the plants which I got for mothers day are blooming. It couldn't fail to raise the stoniest heart.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothers Day

Jamal texted me from his nan's house with a 'Happy Mothers Day' greeting first thing this morning. Then texted again to ask if his brother was still asleep, so I think he must have texted him to remind him to and got no response. I am off to take my mum a shrub for the garden shortly. Thats more her sort of thing than short lived flowers. It's nice that my babies remembered and no doubt there will be flowers and cards later as I over heard them talking about not getting me choccies yesterday (diet).

Both boys were home yesterday and both in good moods so ganging up on and teasing Mummy. It was fun and such days are what memories are made of even if I got a lot less done around the house than I intended.

I listened to an audio book, Angels & Demons, to give my eyes some rest. It was a good story poorly written and even more badly read (you would need to be told that the accent at one point was Australian, you certainly wouldn't know by hearing it) but more interesting than no input at all. I apparently need almost continual audio or visual stimulation, bit of a surprise to me.

Today the laundry room should be ready for action. Just in time before we completely run out of clothes but I bought three new pairs of knickers just in case. Knickerlessness is not a chance I want to take.

This week is going to be a taking the financial planning in hand week. I wrote to my pension company and got an idea of what my pension will be if I retire at 55 or at 60. I also downloaded the last months transactions from the on-line statement function at my bank. I seem to have less money than i am expecting a lot lately. A quick look through the account tells me that fuel prices are really impacting but not as much as Fahed doing additional shopping and general frittering. I will confiscate his card if he can;t remember his cash pocket money only rule. Funny how he remembers some things but other things are completely forgotten.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Fed up

Just having a fed up day.

My eye is actually great and healing nicely but i have some double vision when tired as my brain gets used to the change. Fortunately Jamal's mobile phone recovered from me missing his catching hand by a 18 inches yesterday and flinging the phone at a door frame instead. Oops. Because of the eye though I can't do anything very active, or read much or use my laptop or watch TV. Housework is about the only thing left to me!

The house is disappearing under an enormous pile of dirty washing as my washing machine is yet again not plumbed back in. I have had definite finish dates for it for the last week. I assume that I will be able to do laundry again at some point but if nothing else it is getting me to wear some different clothes instead of the usual items. so glad I didn't de-clutter my wardrobe & am now walking around in a wet suit or whatever else would have been left.

I didn't lose any weight this week. Maybe the lack of moving about or maybe I didn't eat so well. I have to be careful to stick with it nopw and not lose motivation because of a week of failure.

Not looking forward to chores today as I know I can;t do laundry. Maybe I will ignore the house completely and just work in the garden instead. The garden needs it and it will take my mind off the house.

Autumn has arrived

I can tell as we have had rain pretty much non stop for so many days. And its getting colder. Part 1: So obviously thats a great time t...