Monday, 31 October 2011

I'm ready

My kids are too old for trick or treat now but i still remember the excitement as they dressed up (all home costumes around here, none of you buy or rent ready to go)ready to go around the close and frighten the neighbours. They always came home with more sweets than they had all year, a couple of pieces of fruit and even £1 coins.

Now my youngest son contents himself with answering the door wearing his scream mask. Actually one mum said her little one was so frightened last year that she didnt sleep for days so I guess I should keep him away from the door tonight. My eldest just in came in from work and is looking for machete and some black fabric. I think he must be planning something. How have I brought these kids up???

My brother in law answers the door in a black cape and vampire teeth but even changes the light bulks to flickering ones in their porch.

My fun size mars bars are ready. Bring it on little scary kids.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

25 hours in a day but will I finally get my stair carpet fitted?

Extra hour in bed this morning. Well the clocks changed and so it was 7.30 when i came down for my coffee and leftover croissants. Lovely to have extra time, normally I never have enough.

Our plans for today were to spend some time in the garden but mother nature had other ideas. My laze bag husband managed to do some kind of rain dance (but i have tomorrow off too so will spring it on him then if its sunny, ha ha)to chase away the lovely sunshine and now it is raining the kind of misty rain that gets you from all angles. And so we bail out and stay indoors. Which means no avoiding the stair painting. So now I find I don't like the colour of the paint. I have decided it must surely look better when dry and plunged in with the wood work of the sides of the stairs themselves.

This is how it should look.

I have left the hall and landing just in case it looks no better when dry. Hopefully another coat before bedtime and then we can see for sure in the morning. Maybe I should just be 'normal' with beige walls and white paint but apparently I cant. Weird stuff just calls to me so much more. As the house is so old I think dark paintwork is also slightly more forgiving for the irregularities and dubious decorating and other skills that have kept it together for the last 104 years.

I have made Malaysian Chicken curry, had a go at cleaning the glass of the oven (shame, deep deep shame), giving the breadmaker its last chance to turn out something which can be eaten instead of used to build houses. If it fails this time then i will freecycle to someone with more natural breadmaking ability than myself.

On the de-cluttering front I gave a box of stationery and 4 PSOne consuls to the Sally Ann's today. Little by little..............

Saturday, 29 October 2011

8 o'clock on Saturday morning

Jamal made us coffee in bed this morning, bless his little cotton socks. Ahdel had some friends around last night. Other kids from the swimming teaching course to celebrate their successes. Most of them are still down stairs awake or asleep. Lucky we have so many sofas. They were a bit noisy but i could always hear the laughing over the music. Ahdel got his brother down from his room to join as it is more fun with him about, which make me happy. I love that they get on. They always did as kids. I remember bringing Jamal home from the hospital and Ahdel having placed a little toy car on his lap in his car seat so that he had something to play with. The got a bit argumentative when Ahdel hit his teens and Jamal was basically still a kid but now it seems back to normal.

Jamal and I are off to do our shopping shortly. I challenged him to get the most food for the least cost and he is quite competitive so I need him on side. We are restocking the larder with tins and dried foods. Essential for winter soups and stews. I am trying to absorb this in my normal bill.

We like winter cooking and last winter made home made sausages as well We had some problems with the machine so I found a course nearby us where you can learn to make sausages for £15 plus you get to take a recipe book home and a kilo of sausages, To me it sounds very reasonable but Fahed said no, too expensive. It would be a waste. I can see that he suddenly got very serious about saving enough money to get the old house in Crete fixed up and get some income from it.

This month we are testing out the new way of managing our money.I gave him cash to cover his pocket money, fuel allowance and some shopping money (he likes to buy stuff when he sees a bargain)and pretty sure he hasn't opened his wallet since. Result!

Although I suspect there might be a whole lot of 'no, its too expensive' over the next year or so until we get it finished.

I have been reading we might be poor but we are happy who received a surprise $6500 this week which they cant pend on debt. What would you do with it?? I couldn't think of anything that I need/want, which is good.

Friday, 28 October 2011

What do you like?

I like:

family - the closeness and understanding, the knowledge the there is always someone there for you, the entertainment value of shared humour and mind set, the shared history, the completeness.

travel - new experiences, new people, new, new, new, learning, learning, learning.

books - preferably factual with maybe the occasional novel, leaning, learning, learning. I am sensing a theme. Information, the more the better, the internet. All an extension of books.

cooking - more about feeding than cooking because I only really like to feed others

friends - like family but without quite so much shared history. plus you get to choose the ones you want.

writing - the next stage on surely from reading. Writing about travel would be amazing.

houses - i love them and find them fascinating. its not the desire to own things as I am not materialistic in any way. I believe it is an extension of feeding people, a nurturing thing.


Just had a text from my son to say he passed his swimming teacher training with top marks. I sort of thought he would because my other son did and, though they pretend otherwise, there is a little bit of competitiveness going on there. I am glad. It was expensive but anyway its good that he can find work if he needs it. Since he booked for it he has found a job which is keeping him going as he studies but no he has something in reserve.

I have a long weekend ahead of me and Fahed is only working for a couple of hours each day so it will feel like little holiday,

A had to leave work early today as we spread two cards between three people travel needs, all in different directions and none of them near a bus route. That gave me a good excuse to get a head start on sweeping, laundry and well, stuff. I had this brilliant idea to go shopping too and them remembered I was only early to hand back Fahed's car. Doh. Shopping must wait until the morning.

Then its fun time! Hair Cut. My hair is long and too dark for my age plus somewhat dry since a bad experience where I forgot my hair dye was on it a few months back. By this time tomorrow it should be a lot shorter and a lot lighter. I want to paint the stairs and fit the carpet (heard that one before, i have been saying it for about twelve months).I need to buy blackboard paint for an wall in the kitchen which I am avoiding re-plastering and just paneling and painting as a huge blackboard. I also need a new and better cover for the water tank.

I am hoping Sunday is garden day including a nice bonfire/bbq. Monday is lunch treat from Fahed. We don't normally lunch out so that will be fun but I can guarantee we will be using a voucher or my new voucher cloud app.

Not sure if it sounds good to everyone but to me it all sounds great.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


That's me. I loaned my car to my son this week as he has a training course some distance from home. I borrowed my husbands car for work. I had already used up all of my parking allocation for this month as I was expecting to get lifts to and from work. We do have a car park a little way from work. You can park there for three hours free so I normally leave it there for a but and then at midday move it into any spare spaces that we have around. Today there were no spares so I payed for my parking online and then forgot about it. Fast forward to tonight. Big fat parking ticket. £50 but reduced to £25 if you pay within 14 days. I was just about to write them a mean letter when I realized that I parked Fahed's car and paid for parking on my own car. I have written a grovelling letter instead. I am a Muppet.

Other money things are going better. I am using an app called Spendometer (which was free, obviously)to record all of my spends. I only divide the categories into food and drink (all shopping), travel (all fuel, parking etc)and entertainment (my pocket money) because that is how I budget. Its fun and I don't forget as fast as I do with writing it down. Wonder if it will stop me from spending any money which doesn't fall into those categories.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


I am awake but I am the only one. Cup of coffee, honey on toast and last nights Qi XL on the TV. Ah bliss.

Ahdel didnt finish work until 10pm last night so he and Bonnie stayed up pretty late to have some free time together. Fahed has still not shaken off his chest infection and was running an awful temperature last night. We cancelled his classes today and I am leaving him to sleep until he wakes up for himself.

I am loving the peace and quiet but its a bit limiting to what I can do. Yesterday Bonnie and I had a real good clean out and de-clutter. She did their bedroom and the conservatory which joins on to their room. I did the rest. Today I was planning some painting, now I am wondering if the smell will wake Fahed as paint makes him a bit sick. Also some laundry but the machine is quite near Ahdel & Bonnie's room and i don't want to wake them. Lastly some vacuuming in the sitting room but again noise. Looks like I am forced to sit around watching TV and munching toast for a while.

Tomorrow is pay day so I am sorting out the 'new way' with money for this month. I have divided up the cash for food, petrol and pocket monies and am confiscating debit cards. We are going cash. I am copying Laura.. I do know that I lack Laura's discipline so hopefully this can keep me in check automatically.

Since talking to my bank about the mortgage recently I am much more aware of the debt and thinking about the possibilities of over-payment. I am saving money for a one off contribution to the principal but also have decided that I want to increase the regular overpayment by a further £54 per month from next April. That will knock another year off the length of the mortgage.

Toast time is over, painting must commence.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Why do I do it?

I thought I would calculate my net worth again, just for giggles. Oh why do I taunt myself??

Zoopla tells me that my house has gone down in value by a further £3879

The euro exchange rate is crawling up, which is good when I have to make payments in Euros but not for net worth purposes. Overall decrease £9923.

Land & property in Syria being sold, not at a loss but not at the profit it should have been. I strongly suspect we are being taken advantage of by sister in law. My husband thinks so too but we all the same its easier for us this way and we learn not to go into business with her again. Loss £3600

Liz Pension - unchanged (but good, one of my best ever investments even though it has cost me an arm and leg to make the contributions)

Fahed Pension - I am not sure. I had a letter from a company to whom he made a regular payment for a few years right before he had his heart attack, back at the end of the nineties. I didnt realise it was worth anything but apparently it is. I will investigate further. I have put in a very cautious £5000 at his point.

Total decrease £17,402. Oh, happy days.

But I am enjoying my job again. I have had a lot of staffing problems in the last six months. One of my managers and a couple of my team leaders have been amazing and really supportive, some of the others not so much. It is beginning to all feel good again. Having a fairly safe and enjoyable, and if I am honest quite well paid job, actually makes up for the endless losses to my net worth.

Life is good and very often fun as well.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

MFM day etc

No spend except for a bargain lunch a friend. Ready Brek from the drawer. Lunch of leftovers from home and dinner, home made of course, at home.

Free parking again and for rest of the week.

Jamal made a curry but thought that a jar of curry paste was a jar of curry sauce. It is seriously salty but we persevered and didnt waste it. We have a huge vat of burghal to go with tomorrow food. Plus I have got Fahed to think about the possibilities of Bulgar Wheat Risotto. He actually got to the stage of looking at pictures I showed him from the net. He is seriously conservative so this is stunning progress from him.

I froze two boxed of meatball in chilli sauce with rice. Two lunches for next week.

Pretty sure I did other things but my mind has gone a blank!!

As part of my de-cluttering strategy I offered 4 PSone consuls on freecycle. One response from a mum who wanted one for her 10 year old. I explained that it was an old PSone and wouldn't played PS2 games. She was still interested as he has never had a games consul. Oops, now I feel I must find controllers and games for him too. I will get Jamal to box him up a set of everything.

I have warned the others in th house that this weekend the de-cluttering is getting serious. I have a hazmat suit and black bags and am going into bedrooms. They have been warned!!

Monday, 17 October 2011

MFM Day 2

No spend.

Breakfast was ready brek (instant porridge). The packet is kept in my top drawer at work.
Despite having a meeting right through lunch, free lunch was something of a fail initially. A cake was provided, it looked nice but the centre was yucky fake cream in the style of cheap doughnuts. Not nice. However the exec had a meeting which was catered and I managed to snaffle a couple of freebie wholemeal chicken sandwiches. Not great but free!

I passed an invoice for payment at work which is for some training which I rally want to do and would aim to do even if work hadn't picked up the tab. So this could maybe count as saving £1200! Okay maybe I wouldn't have been able to afford it but its going to be amazing and I am not paying.

Tomorrow I am in Windsor. I have bagged a free parking space. Also a free cake from a morning meeting. For the rest I have to be more organised and take some lunch with me. Evening meal is meatballs in chilli and garlic sauce which is already prepared and will just need re-heating.

Not sure but i think my obsession with money, and the non spending thereof, is actually just an obsession with food or at least with feeding people.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

MFM (mortgage Free Mission) Day 1

I am following in the footsteps of Daizy (who is temporarily ahead of the game) and Laura (who is about where I am but much more disciplined).

Actions towards being MF

Last night Jamal texted and asked me to pick him up a currey/rice ready meal on my way to his nan's house. I explained the situ and he settled for cheese on toast whiched looked and smelled delicious.

Today I am making soup from a broth mix and lamb bone. Smells good. Fahed has already said he is just having bread and houmous for his main meal today, along with some salad. So healthy but fairly economical.

Dusted off the breadmaker and am attempting a loaf. There must be a good reason why the breadmaker was relegated to back of the cupboard at the top, so not expecting much success.

Will also dig out slow cooker as it is that time of year.

Found some tiles suitable for the kitchen refit on ebay. Total cost including delivery £89. Plus they are very cute.

Am re-writing my long term in discussion with Fahed ( who is still ill and therefore grumpy.)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Well things did get better

Its Saturday but all laundry is done and away. Yaay.
I made a lovely vegetable soup.
Best of all, I told Fahed what I had done with the mortgage payments. He was delighted. I am flavour of the week!

We agreed a plan. he is saving all the money from his main job plus anything else he can sneak from his part of the budget. This pays off all debts (laser eye surgery, sister in law loan etc) and then the money goes to developing the Crete houses as a business. I am saving what I can from the rest of the budget plus any other income I can get my sweaty little hands on. This all goes against the mortgage. I am getting a (maybe virtual) mortgage pig, that is a money box to collect all cash and pay down the mortgage with it.

I am officially on a mission!!

So I thought I would start the day with a big fat fail!

Full of energy and on top of the world? Not exactly, how about didnt sleep at and now have a cracking headache. I didnt even have a glass of wine. Grrrrhh. I think I am living too cleanly. Fahed's cold is actually a chest infection. He sounds like he is dying every time he lies down, hence no sleep for either of us.

Being a swimming teacher this happens to him a lot. Bonnie is also a swimming teacher and constantly ill. Jamal qualified to teach just before holidays this year. He is looking for lessons next week (he doesn't claim benefit as that would be immoral, but apparently its perfectly fine to sponge off me). Ahdel is doing his teaching course week commencing 24th October. The whole family will be a writhing mass of chest/ear/throat infections through the winter, I just know it. On the bright side we could surely be the basis for some sort of sitcom?

Ahdel wants to re-start the swim school. We were doing okay pre-recession and had about 150 kids but we were in a poorish area and folks just couldn't keep paying out, even though we tried to keep costs to a minimum, when times got tough. I guess if he can get it going when times are hard we should be well away when the economy recovers. I would quite like that but add in training for other things, specialist sports but also personal development. I am sure I could make diversity training more interesting than it is when we have these courses at work. Am I rambling????

Yep, sure am but its Saturday morning and I have the time, so why not. I really feel like doing some kind of lifelong learning and personal development. Wouldn't helping people make the best of themselves and their lives be so fulfilling? I could run oversea, get away from it all workshops.

I cant decide if I am having brilliant ideas or still feverish and in need a of a lemsip!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Still poorly - more reading

I went to work this morning but general consensus was that i looked terrible and should go home again, so I did. I know its only a cold but I do feel frightful. All feverish and worrying about everything.

However every cloud has a silver lining so I have been snuggling up on the sofa and reading some of the diaries of the Debt (& Mortgage) Free Wannabees. Very inspiring although I am already pretty canny with my cash so its more about inspiration than actual new tricks.

I do have something good, and very MSE, up my sleeve though. This morning I had a letter from the mortgage company. They found I have been overpaying. I hadn't realized I needed to tell them but apparently I do. They asked if I was paying the money off my principal or interest. Principal said I. In that case we should re-work your length of the mortgage my man said. So he did. He reduced it from 21 years to 17. Bless him little cotton socks. Jamal was here whilst I was talking to my new friend David. He was quite intrigued. He is all for early repayment of mortgage because, as he says, we will be minted when that's gone! I told him how I had nearly paid it all off once before and then we had this brilliant idea that we would like another house. He was cool about that too. He has started to understand that having flash cars, designer clothes etc might not actually be a symbol of wealth. Pretty sure I actually saw a penny drop!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Inspiration from Moneysaving expert (MSE)

Slothing around on the sofa, nursing my cold, I started flicking through the MSE forums for a bit of fun and inspiration. I like what 10DFW will you do today

So these are my small DFW (debt free wannabee) things

Make use of free water, tea, coffee and even hot choclate at work
Charge phone, work phone and laptop at work
Take leftovers for lunch but free lunch when I have a meeting/training thorugh lunch (ridiculously often)
Check online banking daily
Check Freecycle fairly often
Check out this weeks flylady thread & do something - must keep on top of it this week
Have an NSD (No spend day)- I have laos of them
Read newspaper online - I never buy.
Made a list of making the house winter proof - mainly insulating conservatory roof and insulating all the curtains.
Negotiated a new cash handling procedure with the old chap. As well as his pocket money he will get his petrol/gas money in cash and a small amount for the bits of shopping that he can resist. Any savings he can make then he can keep them. For me it means certainty of what is happening with the bank account.

What do we think? Progress?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Grumpy Mummies

Well that always happens. I am reveling in the sheer pleasure of a relaxed Sunday afternoon so I catch a cold. Its not always a cold, sometimes a puncture or a bad tempered person. Its okay to be happy but even slightly smug and something will get you. My sisters says the black fairies will get you. An they always do.

My throat is sore, but slightly soothed my hot lemon and honey, my nose is running an my head aches. All the usual really.

But even though I am poorly and therefore somewhat ratty I am not as bad as some people. Jamal's trip to London was marred by the fact that his mates mum was a bit of a bad tempered old ratbag who thinks that she can intimidate a 19 year old with threats. Please. Seriously my babies are scared of no-one. Jamal is polite, helpful and no trouble to anyone because he is a nice (and well brought up, if I may say so) young man not because he is scared of people. He carried her bag and helped her up and down stairs all day without being asked. You could find a more helpful person but you would have to really try. This is a kid who goes on holiday late so that he can accompany his grandparents through the airport and plane as he worries about them travelling alone. Judging by his mates reaction mother is always a bit of a cranky old bird. Have to admit to a certain warm glow when he said how much more fun it would have been if we had been there instead.

No home cooking from me tonight but Fahed must have still had some bounce in him as I see homemade muhammara ( a tomato and chilli dip), houmous and lamb meatballs in the kitchen waiting for Ahdel to come home from work, presumably starving as he has been working since 7am.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Lovely Sunday Afternoons

Quiet and lovely after a busy weekemd. We are chillin', as the kids say. Bonnie is playing Sims, Ahdel is composing music & writing lyrics. I am watching The BBC Teen awards as Jamal is there. His mate won one of the awards for being her mums primary carer since she as 4 years old. Bless her little cotton socks. They have another night in a fancy hotel tonight and all back to normal tomorrow. Jamal has been texting to us all through the gig, it almost felt like we were there. Quite hilarious that my computer stopped dead when the Black Eye Peas came on. Ahdel says Rupert (laptop) knows what he likes. Jamal said don't do CPR on him yet, wait until after Joe Jonas.

I made a huge chocolate fudge cake to everyone to share. We had homemade beef stew with dumplings for lunch, which was actually not a stew but a casserole because it makes the dumplings more yummy. I made the cake I don't like my oven to have empty space in it when its hot. I also roasted a chicken for next weeks lunches.

In an hour or so Fahed will be home from work and we will settle down to a few hours of TV viewing together. Lovely gentle Sunday afternoons........

Friday, 7 October 2011

Random thoughts about Apple

I got my first ever iPhone this week. An iPhone 4. Its amazingly easy to use compared with every phone I have ever had, even my Blackberry. Aside from being intuitive to use (maybe just for ipod users) it gives me feeling of control having so much in one place. Or at least it does until I lose it and then I lose access to everything, including my music, all on one go. My digital camera packed during the summer, my iPod died and could not be resuscitated by the repair company. It is destiny. I would have noticed the loss of Steve Jobs even if I hadn't had my new phone but it did seem a little sad and maybe ironic that I didnt have my phone 48 hours when he went. RIP Steve Jobs.

I read up on Steve Jobs today and saw he was mixed race, Syria and white European. Same as my children. I also read (not quite so) recently that mixed race children are ten times more likely to succeed in life than the rest of us.

Any idea why my youngest son cant get the job he wants with even his genetic make up working for him?? Grrr

Sunday, 2 October 2011

I'm honestly not wishing my life away

but we are making loose plans for my 50th Birthday which is next June. This is mainly to be frugal as early flights are a ton cheaper.

First plans, big three week trek around the USA. We still really want to do this but because of uncertainty with the Greek economy I don't know how much we have to pay up in various taxes. We are going to put this on hold for a year or two, which also gives me more time to enjoying the planning stage.

Next plan was to spend a three week holiday with the various in laws in the Middle East. Trips to Palmyra, Petra and the like were exactly our thing. Then it all kicked off in Syria and Fahed decided no, he would never knowingly take his own boys into a war zone. He, having been brought up for some years in Lebanon and well aware of the dangers, is more nervous than I am but he is right. Another postponement.

Other ideas were log cabin in Canada, definitely on the list for future but too expensive for now. Venice, fantastic idea but not for June. Apparently October is the best month as it doesn't smell so good in summer. Morocco, affordable and not too long a flight but everything in Arabic so wont Fahed get homesick for us not visiting Syria.

So, new rules.
* We cant have such a long break as one of the swimschool that Fahed works for have said no holiday outside of school holidays.
* It has to be affordable because we don't know what other expenses are waiting for us for the Crete house.
* It has to be interesting and not somewhere we have been before.
* Not too long a flight as we have a time limit overall.
* Interesting cultural and architectural interest for Ahdel & Bonnie
* Good food and interesting night life (street bars of locals not night clubs) for Jamal.

My latest idea is five days in Istanbul followed by three days travelling around Switzerland. Its a odd combination but it is based on finding cheap flight with Easyjet to Istanbul. Easyjet also fly from Istanbul to Basel in Switzerland so we could do that and then buy a three day train ticket to roam around there. None of us have visited Turkey before and only I have visited Switzerland. As usual I will through the invite open to all friends and family. You can tell from the nine house guests in Crete last summer that I am happy in company.

I think I might have found the right balance of cost v interest

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Turning of tide

Mixed news with the kids jobs. Ahdel got his but Jamal didn't. Jamal is trying to get into the merchant navy so he needs to find something to keep him going until the next batch of recruitment which I think is next summer.

I am hugely looking forward to some training with the super interesting and now super organised Moyra. It will be brilliant. I cant wait and cant wait to meet her too. Her life always sounds a lot more interesting than mine!!Perhaps some of it will rub off on me.

England on the South coast this week is in the high 20's for temperature. Hotter than Crete. So not what I was expecting. I am on a mission to properly clean and de-spiderfy the house, so actually cooler weather might have been better but this is the UK and we cant afford to turn sunshine away.. Hope Moyras training includes getting on top of life too and maybe I wont be so slobby going forwards.

Fahed has decided that we need to take our debts in hand. I owe some money for my eye laser treatment and for a personal loan which actually went to my sister in law (dont ask, makes me cross) but little else except a huge mortgage. He wants to use the money form Syria to clear all that before we start on the next project. Seems like a good idea to me and I am happy about it. It truly makes more sense than starting another project with these bits hanging over us.

Okay, back up to vaccumming under my bed. I am being enthusiastic this week as Jamal said his friend woke up with a tarantula on her bed this week. Could that be true? Not sure.

My life

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