Saturday, 26 May 2012

Saturday Stuff



I am going back to my list of things to do on a Saturday. I find I am far more likely to
get things done when I document them.

* All laundry, wash, dry and put away
* Sort out some 'business clothes' which I don't need anymore for a charity collection we have at work on Friday. I can't remember the name of it but it is to provide clothing for women trying to get back into the job market after fleeing domestic violence, leaving prison etc. I am sure I must have something.
* Quick bedroom tidy. It gets a little worn by the weekend as the downstairs rooms ahve effectively been out of action and we live in here!
* Update budget plan - ah, the magic spreadsheets.
*Load the car up with stuff for charity shop, two large boxes, a bag of bedding and another of clothes. I want them to be gone before I have chance to weaken and get anything back.
* Sort out everyone's clothes for next weeks wedding. I want to ensure that we are not about to leave and find that everyone was thinking to wear the same pair of shoes or whatever.The menfolk all tend to share their clothes around but this could be a draw back if we don;t co-ordinate properly. Do they need ties? It is the 21st century so surely not, especially in this heat.
* Photograph a load of stuff for ebay.
* Carry on with the kitchen sort out including filling at least one more box for charity.
* Pick up Jamal from sleepover in Winchester

Aside from loving the new look of my kitchen, which I will photograph once I have returned it to normal (tools, wood, bricks etc out - I can't even imagine what the bricks were for) the refurbishment has had a secondary effect. We have eaten loads less than normal. I am always really particular about cooking a proper meal from scratch every day (working mothers guilt?)but we are now eating less and happy with it, all of us. We started off with takeaways each day - I know its bad but I didn't even have a water supply at that time. Then we went on to instant food from the supermarkets such as pre cooked chicken and garlic bread. By the end of that period we were heartily fed up with eating at all. Today I will be back to cooking but I am keeping it small, light and healthy (and did I mention cheap - the spreadsheets have control).

Maybe this is what they mean by life begins at 50 (previously 40). It just means you get a handle on life.
These are not my stairs but the blog looks sad without photos and they are so beautiful.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Good Life


Friday again already. Sunshine. The kitchen is almost finished but at least it is finished enough for me to get back in there and start organising everything (and giving about 50% of it away). I have been out of the room for weeks as they work so I am dying to get back in there. Ahdel has almost finished the re wall papering in the front room, he has sanded the floor and woodwork. There is painting still to do but I have enough to do with my kitchen so I am happy to wait until next weekend to get the sitting room back as well.

Next week we have a great week planned & the house being 're-done' for me in the icing on my cake. In fact I have told them I dont need a birthday present as I am so happy with their work.

Wednesday - my placement student/intern has got himself a maternity cover job at one of our other offices. We have lunch out at a local Italian.
Thursday - My fun times start with a retirement party at one of our away offices on Friday - we have the Diamond Jubilee street party at our normal office.
The weekend - mine to spend on my house again with everyone else out at work.
Monday - bank holiday and my beautiful nieces wedding.
Tuesday - our day of recovery.
Wednesday - Off tot he Harry Potter Studio Tour (yes, Hogwarts Geek here).
Thursday - another day of rest
Friday - My 50th birthday - can't beleive it. In the daytime we are off to London all togther for lunch at a Syria Restaurant. Afterwards we are going to ZSL London Zoo for their Zoo Lates session.
Weekend- Family barbecue for my birthday
Normal week
Friday - Combined birthday meal with two other new member so of the 50 plus club at work. Half the company seems to be coming with us. Hope it is fun.

Then it is back to normal until holiday in August. But my boss is leaving at the end of June, so maybe we get another party in then.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Obsessive, Moi?


Oh yes. Spreadsheets have been much in use this week.

Everyone's mobile, apart from mine, is due for an upgrade. I will sell the old handsets but I don't have definite prices on them so instead I concentrate on getting the best deal for what we want. We pay monthly. Two of the guys are self employed and use their phones for business so they also feature in their tax returns.

They are allowed to choose their own handset as long as they are not too daft, then I take the total cost of the phone for the two years of the contract and work out the best deal.

Next on my list were flights.

We are going out to the house for around 3 weeks. If you Google flights to Crete then you get a ton of sites but really there are only a handful of tour operators so its not actually that difficult. I make a spreadsheet up of date date/cost combinations.

Easyjet, who are excellent and actually my preferred flight provider, come to a minimum of £915. Aegean airlines, also pretty good come in at £869. FlyThomasCook I wouldn't consider unless a lot cheaper as their previous customer service was pretty ropey and the planes are a very tight fit. They came in at £1211 so that's a no brainer. Meridianfly are coming in at £1200. The outgoing flight is £100 but somehow the return is £300. Wow. Actually on all of the fights there is a very reasonable flight o Greece but very expensive to come back. Maybe we should just stay out there. At the moment Monarch are in the lead with a total cost of £748. My spreadsheet obsession has potentially saved us in the region of £500.

I love spreadsheets xxx

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Searching for structure


Since I had time to have a proper look at the sitting room after the plasterers have done their work I am less than impressed. The actual plastering is great quality for there is plaster on the painted walls, its also all over the floor and seems to have scratched the wood. The worst thing is about 100 industrial staples which are stapled into the picture rail, my beautiful wooden floor and my brand new door frames. I didn't expect them to staple plastic to all of my wood fittings but if they were going to then should they not have put it right afterwards?

The kitchen progresses slowly but at least it looks better each day, the sitting room really doesn't. By this Friday they tell me the worst will be over and I am can move about in my house again. I really hope so.

So to make up for having so little control (today I had bran flakes for dinner as I couldn't use the cooker or get tot he freezer.Also, short of dishes, I ate my branflakes out of the metal dish which normally tops my scales. No wonder I am grumpy). I want to measure something and can't even find a tape measure.)I worked on my budget.

I have the main structure set out and some of them can't change (mortgage, council tax etc)but some can. As soon as the work is finished I will change the insurance. I renewed the cover as we were half way through a claim, my first ever claim, and didn't notice until later that it has doubled! I will pay the admin fee to cancel and then insure elsewhere. Also the food bill is coming done. We eat healthily but we eat too much. Everyone agrees on less food, smaller portions and less meat. It's a miracle but I don't complain as it is good for our healths and my budget.

I need the extra cash. We have our holiday that is really an activity break in Greece (and the activity is house renovation - such a change), I also have a big tax bill to pay in Greece (despite what everyone thinks, there are tax bills and they need to be paid), I have to buy some additional goods to send out to Crete too, some electrical stuff and a king sized mattress. Then there is an extra £300 for Jamal's ticket since he decided he is coming too now. Last thing is Fahed's pre holiday flight to Jordan.

His niece, the daughter of his brother in law that died in January, has asked him to give her away at her wedding. She said that it would be the next best thing to having her dad there. That's not something it is easy to say no too so I need to find extra cash for that.

I know I always say you can do anything with spreadsheets but I am pretty much at the limit now! Fahed doesn't get to turn down a single minute of work until September, that's for sure.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Facing the facts


We have made some poor decisions. Might be time to re-assess and think about future plans.

It is a little hard not to feel selfish when reading the news at the moment. We have land and a partly built apartment in Syria. Worth nothing now, down from $60,000 (or it may have been £ but does it matter now, not a bit)a couple of years ago. We used to call it Fahed's pension. He is going to be pretty hungry in later life if he has to rely on this investment. Life for those people in Syria right now must be awful, although the family we speak to regularly seem to be bearing up okay. I guess they are a tough bunch. In the grand scheme of things our land is not important and at least it can't be destroyed in the troubles as it is simply land anyway and not buildings. Maybe one day we can sell it for something but for the time being we assume it has no value.




A few years ago we bought 2000sq m of land, including an old house and second stone building. We built our house on that land & were planning to renovate the old house too. Enough room for all of us then. At the moment the country has no government and no sign of being able to successfully pull one together without further voting. I am not certain that they are responsible for the Euro being in free fall but they are certainly getting plenty of the blame. A quarter of the population are unemployed & people are really suffering, not being paid, can't afford food, schools have no supplies etc. They seem to lurch from one useless government to the next but I read an article this week that says they are actually some of the hardest workers in Europe, totally let down by their government. I assume that is why large scale tax evasion seems reasonable. So our house might be worth something now or maybe not. Without a government or as they may leave the Eurozone (a disastrous idea - do politicians not understand economics??)my house value may well drop and drop. On the bright side I guess Crete will always be beautiful and the people will always be lovely too. You could not call it a good investment though, we made yet another hopeless decision.




What should we do now? No point in selling as nothing has any re-sale value.

Fahed and I are going to have a 'board meeting' tonight to discuss our direction of travel. At least that's my plan but he looked so sleepy when he left for work this afternoon, I might be making plans alone! No hurry though, those houses are going nowhere for a while.

I missed you!


So the insurance company decided to take the ceiling in the main room here (which, being an English house, is pretty much the only room) so we have had great fun. The kitchen is mid -refit by my menfolk & the contents of the sitting room are pretty much all still in the conservatory. No satellite, or indeed Tv to view it on, for a week was fine. No sofa to sit on whilst not watching TV was fine. The cooker hood box was an impromptu dining table for the food I couldn't cook ( we had a lot of cold food, used special offer vouchers at local eating places and hot cooked chicken etc from ASDA. I miss my cooking). I missed my broadband router most of all.

So now have a new ceiling and it looks lovely. The plaster is almost dry and should be ready for painting mid week. Ahdel will paint the rest of the room & there is talk of sanding the floor & re-finishing it. Hopefully we move back into that room by next weekend.




The kitchen has been partially re-plastered, deep cleaned & completely painted. cupboard, yes, with doors and drawer front! The cooker has had a total service and looks like new. I have a massive chalkboard on one wall, all of the wood work around the door etc is finished. The cooker hood and glass splashback have been fitted. Ebay has been stripped! Fahed is finally a convert to ebay since he went to the local plumbers merchant to get the fittings for the sink I bought on ebay a whilst back. He took a phot of the sink on his phone. The guy asked him how much we paid. I am not 100% certain but it was about £160. The guy showed him them on the website for £900. I had similar success with the other things too. He was similarly impressed with me finding parts for washing machine and cooker on the internet. He is almost beginning to think it might be a useful tool instead of a waste of time now.


Other important news. My winning prize from Carla & my order arrived a couple of days ago. They are as lovely as I had hoped. I am going to use the wallet for diving my cash between shopping, petrol,pocket money. Also a section for vouchers & maybe for receipts. I will keep receipts for appliances etc at home still but the kind of receipts where you have to use them online to g4t a voucher or whatever can have a place. The mug rug is well too cute to use for a potentially drippy coffee cup. It is renamed as the iphone launch pad. I have my iphone and a Blackberry for work, so these can now lie side by side to do their charging, on my cute little phone rug. Thank you Carla, just brilliant. And I am saving up for this lovely bag next.

Back later. Now I am attached to the internet again I really feel the urge to talk(type)!!


Lets talk about something good!

I went to the other house and it was lovely! My dad came with us, with my youngest son, for the first 5 days.  Its his first time since ...