Thursday, 30 May 2013

May Money Round Up

Money has been odd this month due to the mortgage switch, we paid less than usual this month and have a bumper amount to pay next month. So the bank balance looks very positive, but obviously it'll even out soon.

We've done a lot, spent a lot and saved a lot. Upping the savings amount is great for freeing up the rest of our cash. Because we know we're saving a fair bit all other cash seems fair game. Dan stuck an additional £30 into my ISA yesterday too. So we're new target + 8% for this month. There's £8 and some pence left over from the grocery budget, the pantry is still well stocked, there are 6 meals in the freezer, and we aren't in need of anything at the start of next month so it feels pretty good. 

Other than £16 for hay we're doing everything on a cash basis next month. Dan will be withdrawing £160 on 1st June then that's that (£110 general and £50 weekend money). We have our first free fun thing to do too *yay*. Local residents can take advantage of a free wristband for Blackpool Pleasure Beach. It's just entry to the park, not any of the rides, but we have a ton of 2ps so we'll go to the slot machines, have a wander about and take some photos. Assuming the weather is not too bad we'll walk up there as it's only about 3 miles and that will be our day. Not too shabby.

I'm struggling with the menu plan for June. Will it be hot, will it be cold, will the rain continue to pour? I've filled in 6 of 30 days and one of those is "out". I think I'll pencil in stirfry quite a lot and jiggle the flavour and oomph depending on how hot it isn't.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Six Hat Holiday

Last year we had a two week holiday. Well, Dan was off work for two weeks and we did stuff. But it wasn't really a holiday for me. I don't mean that to sound whiney or like I'm a spoilt brat, I know it does. But we were at home and although we did some good stuff and had a nice time I still had my normal jobs to do but I had to cram them into a shorter time so we could go off and enjoy ourselves. It's not a big problem but it's also not a holiday. Yes, Dan could do some of the jobs instead but that doesn't really count does it? 

So it's nearly summer. What happens this year? Today I've been handed the task of using the six thinking hats to work through the holiday issue. It's really hard! We never go away and I usually find it really easy to rationale think my way out of wanting to go away - we're saving for things, we live at the seaside, it's expensive, I'm not that bothered and of course the main reason - the rabbits. Two small beasts, so many reasons to stay at home.

Turns out my main reasons for wanting a holiday are - having exciting breakfast, not having to deal with washing up, not making my own bed, not seeing laundry piling up, not having to do a ton of driving about every day. My reasons for not going on holiday are - feeling bad about dumping the rabbits with someone (and more to the point leaving them with someone who won't look after them as well as I do). That is really my only reason to not do it, but it's huge and I won't budge unless it's for something really important. A holiday isn't important, a break from routine is what's important to me. 

So instead of looking at it in terms of either/or I need to look for an and. So I can have a lie in and go out for breakfast or one of us (Dan) can go into town, buy coffee and pastries and bring them home for breakfast. Breakfast and washing up problem solved. I can "pack" enough clothes for the week so they're ready to go then chuck them somewhere to deal with later - no need to think about laundry, I actually don't mind making my bed so that's not really an issue. I can turn of my phone and computer, I can turn off the tv I can retune the radio and switch off the alarm. I can make the decision to not use the time to get DIY done. If I can switch the practical me off for a week and switch on the Club Tropicana me maybe holidaying at home could be good. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Cheap June

Getting ready for Cheap June has been fun and interesting. I know we're lucky with the amount of free stuff we have here but looking around most places have some great free or inexpensive stuff to do over the summer. 

Dan has created a funtivities spreadsheet with bits and bobs to do. Annoyingly lots of great things happen on the same day, we're spoilt for choice! We've decided to spend a whopping £24 of our cash on a Lancashire Xplorer ticket giving us entry to various museums and things. I think it'll be worth it. I stumbled upon an exhibition all about the Festival of Britain (a thing I love) and a few other days out that we might not have heard about were it not for this month of saving. 

We're also having this as an alcohol free month, which after Saturday in York is a very good thing. Goodness me.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

I Do Get Excited

Last night we went to the supermarket to pick up a few things for the weekend - pretzels, purple ambulance etc, you know, essentials. When we were at the checkout the cashier offered us a brand spanking new Booths loyalty card. Oooooooooooooh. So now, in exchange for Booths having all of my personal details I can analyse my spending and look at my receipts online. Exciting, no more having to go through my receipts with highlighters and having bits of paper all over the place. I am far too excited about it. 

Other things that excite me include - 

seeing my pantry
dancing to the "Suits" theme tune
Shrewsbury
the heath food stall at Carlisle market
seeing a ferret having a walk
airedale terriers
40/20s it's an attacking kick in rugby league, very exciting. Big kiss to Jon Clarke.
hearing "Spanish Flea"
wild rabbits on the dunes
parcels, even if they're not for me

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Make a Fist of It

After everything is accounted for next month we will have £114 left for petrol and other things. We will probably fill the car up twice as we're going to watch Widnes (already paid for as we have season tickets) and we'll visit MIL who lives about 45 minutes away as well as Dan getting to work. That will leave a couple of quid per weekend for funtivities. 

With next month being June it should be fairly easy to find enough stuff to do for a couple of quid per weekend, if the weather is nice. There's the annual Sand, Sea and Spray "urban art" festival up the road, that's always a good thing. There's a massive beach, there's a tangled mess of a garden, there's the library, there are 7 books on my kindle, the quilt (let's not talk about that), just having a nice sit down, lots and lots of wandering about. Loads to do and all pretty much free. 

Which brings me to this weekend. This weekend is not going to be free, this weekend is going to be very expensive. We're going on our "dreamt up in the pub" idea of going to York for the day to venture into some of the old pubs we used to visit when we were students. That's fine other than the fact that by the time we moved away from there we both hated the place and it's taking us a lot of getting used to the idea that we might go back for fun! It also takes ages to get there and is expensive on the train. But, all that aside, we're still going. In the spirit of making a fist of it I'm going to make the most of it. This was kind of kicked off by my brother who gently suggested to me that I was stuck in my ways and "it would be good for me to have a change of scenery". And where better to have a change of scenery than somewhere you know really well?

I know when we're standing at Blackburn station waiting for our connection I'll whinge like a nightmare. I know I'll wish we were in the car so I can listen to music, I know lots of things. But I'm thinking about the positive things - going somewhere we don't usually go, using a mode of transport I wouldn't usually take if I'd had my head removed, the freedom to nip into a pub and Dan being able to have a second drink should he choose to (not that this is about drinking really but when there's a nice selection of Belgian beers it's good to have more than one!). Just being in a different place with a different feel and maybe even finding some binding for the quilt (let's not talk about that). In short, I'm going to stop being a grumpy old git and enjoy myself even though my natural instinct is to wish I was in Shrewsbury.

Secretly I am quite excited, mainly because apparently I'm going to learn that there are two 6 o'clocks on a Saturday.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Dropping Down The Pay Scale

We've been talking a lot about life, work, savings and all that stuff recently. Last night we were discussing Dan changing job and how much of a sideways of downwards shift we could take without it hitting our "lifestyle" too much.  After talking about the type of job he wouldn't mind moving to (assuming that any change would be by choice rather than the other) and the salary that brings we started thinking about what that might mean. If we reach a point where things we take for granted have to change, what will stay and what will go, are our priorities the same as the last time we cut to the bone?

So, long story short we've decided to run an experiment next month and live on that amount. I've had a look at a salary calculator and I have a basic figure, obviously it's a little bit finger in the air as it doesn't take pensions and things into account but we're going to go for that next month. 

I know we'll have enough cash to pay the bills, eat, get to work and do some of the social stuff we usually do so that's not a problem. It's more about the psychology of it, will we start to look at things differently even for this short period of time. We've said it's a trial for a month but if it goes well we'll do it for another month and see how it goes from there. It's easy to do something for a month, especially when we don't have to, but I think it will highlight some things we might want to change regardless whether the change is permanent or not.

I know some people will think this is a bit of a fraud when people really are struggling, we're just trying to be prepared that's all. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

About The Sister of the Menu Plan

When it came to looking at the plan in order to get the batch cooking done it turns out we weren't so far off track after all. I had planned to do the cooking this weekend but it didn't happen, there was too much fun to be had. 

There's only one thing on the plan that I now don't want to cook so I'm happy with that. Wow, I sound like such a flibbertyjibbert at the minute. Today I'm going to make - sweet potato and chickpea curry, smoky chilli and a tagine thing as well as whatever we have to eat tonight. The freezer is quite empty at the minute so it needs to be filled. Dan had a good idea about that too. We bought the new tubs for freezer cooking and he suggested keeping the boxes in there when they're empty too. I doubt I'd ever have come up with that and it's a great way to make sure the freezer is running efficiently. 

I usually chop all my veg by hand but now I'm not as fussy as I once was I think I'm going to do the celery, onions and carrots in the food processor today. Hopefully I won't object to the texture too much and it will save a ton of time which can't be a bad thing. 

I was going to get some work done in the garden today but it's raining. My parents brought some edible gifts the other week - the ultimate gift with thing babies. So now I have purple lettuce and strawberries to look after. They also gave me a book about container gardening (Mother is addicted to The Book People). But for today I think I need to turn the garden over to the blackbirds and their babies. I knew there was a nest nearby, they chose somewhere other than our garden this year *boooo* but today was the first time the speckled little'uns showed up.  

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Goodbye, You Won't Be Missed

The mortgage switch went through fairly painlessly which was good, we're installed with the new bank and have said goodbye to a lender who we really didn't get along with. We went through a broker for the best deal, and it was a great deal. But we quickly got the impression the lender wasn't used to loaning money to folk outside the local area and seemed a bit confused at times that we would be baking with them. Anyway, we were in the happy position that we would be receiving some cashback from them on our departure (not really sure why but there you go). 

We gave them a couple of weeks to sort themselves out, we'd learned their pace of working is glacial. Dan contacted them and spoke to a very lovely and helpful person and he was informed that the money had been sent directly to his current account holding bank. Fine, no problems. The money did indeed show up, well, we guessed it was the money as it was around the right amount but there was no clue who it was from as that line was blank. Dan emailed his current account provider who were baffled where the money came from but they paid it into his account anyway!

All's well that ends well, but I do still worry about these banks!

edited to add - After my slight ranty behaviour about train last week a buddy pointed me in the direction of Red Spotted Hanky, we were both sceptical but gave it a go. Lo and behold tickets for £35 each, free delivery and the tickets arrived in less than 24 hours. Hats off to them for great service. Now, if I get to and from York without frustration or injury I'll call it as close to perfect as it gets. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Housewiffing

I guess I'm not one of those fantastical design and interiors types as I have "stuff" and not "pieces". That word makes me feel weird - chicken pieces, delightful pieces (of furniture). Yuk, it's just so... I don't know, exclusive or something. It's all just stuff. I accept I do overuse the word stuff, but it gets to point across and that's the point of a language - do we understand each other? If yes then nothing else matters. 

No idea where that came from. This morning I very much enjoyed an interview on the radio where a man described us as a nation of "lazy porkers" (and in a very childish way I thought it was funny his name was Currie, I really like curry). Too many fried chicken pieces. I don't know if it was the phrase or the thought that lots of people would be frothing at the mouth at the very idea of someone being so honest. Speaking of frothing at the mouth and exclusivity I should imagine folk will be upset at the getting in bed together of Morrisons and Ocado. Ah well. 

And I have had a bit of a dust up with one of my friends about grammar. We have a very clear and fundamental disagreement about it. He thinks it's acceptable to point out any grammatical error people make, I find it acceptable to point out how rude it is to point these mistakes out to people. We've each retreated to our corner for the minute. 

None of that is the point. Food shopping this week has been odd. I have bought - milk, broccoli, tofu, tamarind & chipotle chutney, vegan marshmallows, hazelnut butter and some buns. That's not going to get me far is it? I was seduced by the health food shop on Carlisle market, spent all my money on fancy things and there's nowt left for more mundane items. 

As previously discussed, the menu plan is out of the window. I won't be going shopping until Tuesday so have to make evening meals from the stuff I bought this week (other than the broccoli, that's for the buns) spinach, a pepper, some celery, a carrot, 3 mushrooms, some pantry stuff and a portion of lentil bol from the freezer. I'm hoping to make stirfry, chickpea and spinach curry, some kind of tagine, jambalaya *hooray*, falafel with some kind of quinoa thing and a bol. There should be enough for all that. Hmmm, wasn't as tough as I thought. Should have kept quiet really. 

Widnes v Huddersfield tonight too, should be... difficult. Bad boyfriend is suspended again.


Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Trauma

Having a lie down in a darkened room today after going through the turmoil of buying underwear yesterday. Wow, no wonder I've been describing underwear I bought in 2007 as "new". I needed to convince myself I didn't need to face the task again. 

It's done, the old items have been chucked and I had a scone to celebrate. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Sister of the Menu Plan

For the past three weeks or so we haven't followed the menu plan at all. We've kind of been looking at the menu plan, accepting it's there but then running alongside it and eating something else. I know I've said it before but that's why I love the menu plan. We've been eating earlier, later, quicker or easier, same ingredients with a different outcome. 

At the minute I have three go-to meals when I don't want to cook or don't fancy what's on the menu. Jambalaya it crops up frequently on the menu plan, it's usually a placeholder when I can't think of anything else but when I want something easy there it is. Singapore noodles, we bought a jar of noodle sauce from Waitrose for a quid at the start of the year, I love it really tasty and a jar lasts for aaaaaaages, just need to bung in some veg, noodles, noodle sauce, soy sauce and a squidge of tomato puree and there it is. Third and final enchiladas, spices, couple of tins of beans or beans and a bit of veg, wrap up top with tomato sauce and bung it in the oven. They all taste great but are hardly any effort. Jambalaya is the cheapest and most versatile of them all, the others aren't rock bottom bargain meals but they're better than a kick in the face.

In another change to eating habits I have been eating raw celery. I have always claimed celery to be foul unless it's chopped up into the teeniest pieces and bunged into a stew. The other day I couldn't be bothered to chop up the end of one stalk so I ate it and it was pretty nice. Breaking down the walls of fussy eating wherever I go!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Curb My Enthusiasm

Given a free choice I wouldn't swap my life for that of anyone else.

Has anyone ever made plans to meet up with a friend then notice on the days before the event they are the rudest, most judgemental and joyless creature in the land? Or is that just me?

On the plus side we went to Patterdale, met some dogs and took photographs while hanging out of a toilet window. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Wednesday

9am

where am I? in the kitchen

what's the sky like? blue/grey

what am I wearing? paint spattered jeans and red waffle top

what's motivating me? green paint, yucky chairs

2pm


where am I? in the dining area

what's the sky like? blue

what am I wearing? even more paint spattered jeans and red waffle top

what's motivating me? green paint, chewed table legs

5pm


where am I? in the garden

what's the sky like? looks like rain to me

what am I wearing? paint spattered jeans, purple top

what's motivating me? singapore noodles, brambles, chair waxing, a nice cup of tea

I've decided to try to learn to draw, I might print some fabric to use for a quilt (I know printing is really fashionable but I like it anyway) and something else that I can't remember. I also ate some raw celery this week - another food I said I didn't like that is really not all that bad. Progress.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

End Of An Era etc

Well, Sir Alex Ferguson is off after 26 years. It makes me feel as though I should make some changes too, if the life audit wasn't enough. There are things I've been hanging on to, things I want to do but haven't and habits I'd like to change. If a 71 year old man can do it then so can I.

Off for a think...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Expensive Things, Free Things, Good Things

Do people really get the train to places? We thought about going somewhere by train, no flipping way. Over fifty pounds to get to York EACH! I don't even like York let alone want to spend that amount of cash getting there. We could get to Copenhagen for that. So that's going to be an expensive day and pointless, but we already knew that. 

Cars, they're also expensive. Car service - two hundred and something and we need two new tyres. Pah. Car services (and Robert Hicks) also prevent you from going to watch St Helens v Widnes, but that's ok because Widnes never win. Except they did for the first time in 19 years 28-35. And we were at home. Double Pah.

Dog watching, that's free and brilliant. Weeding, that's free and is a good thing, cooking, that's cheap, useful and occasionally fun, taking photographs of things is excellent and free. Laughing at Dan when someone asks him if he's in charge of the donkey rides is great fun and almost certainly the highlight of a generally splendid weekend. Well, the highlight other than Widnes beating Saints, because that happened and it was good. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Life Auditish

Not a boring list of questions and my not wholly serious answers on this day but I have done some stuff this week. I was also angered so much by a grammar obsessive that I have started looking at a phonology course via MIT OpenCourseWare - although I'm already having flashbacks to my first essay about the word "scrimp" (appropriately enough).  As we were at the library yesterday I also picked up a book about Cultural Evolution. That's what happens when I get cross. But that's a good thing isn't it, stretching the mind and all that. 

Alas I will still be compost bin-less at the end of the weekend as my parents are not coming to visit, they had a better offer... 


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Do You Walk The Walk Or Catch The Train?

This is kind of inspired by, or at least related to, a couple of comments I've made about the Live Below The Line week that lots of people are doing this week. It doesn't matter to me whether people do or don't do this challenge, raising money for charity is generally a good thing and fair play to people who wish to raise money for a charity they feel strongly about. I'm not in any way saying this isn't a good thing or that people shouldn't take part in these popular ways to raise money.

This is my thing - something that people feel strongly about. My issue is with those little "share this if you shake you fist at Mr. Cancer" things on facebook, ribbons and especially "awareness weeks" - I mean who isn't aware of cancer? If actions have no long term effect on the person doing the thing then aren't they meaningless (other than cash donated to a charity)? It's fine and easy and lovely to do something very visible, when sharing shows you care or when people can see you're getting sponsorship. But what about when no-one's watching? Why wait until this week to Live Below The Line? Why not do it next week or in August, or once a month? Maybe because part of the thing is that people know about it and it's a social thing... I don't know. Is it because we all kind of want to have something to care about but sometimes don't know what it is so these weeks are something to hold on to. Or just because we are, or at least want to appear to be, nice people who do nice things. 

It's like donating things to a charity shop, it makes us feel good to think that the stuff will raise money but we feel equally good, if not better, about the fact that the stuff is out of our house and someone else can deal with it. Sometimes it doesn't even matter what the charity is, as long as it's gone. When it's out of sight, it's easy for it to be out of mind. 

I think what I'm trying to say is that an if an issue impacts a person's life then surely it must alter how they shop, give, act, make decisions and see the world all the time. If it doesn't do that then how can someone really have embraced that as their cause to believe in? Or do I just take things too far?

To people who raise money for things during this type of week, whether it be living below the line or not, what happens afterwards? Does it lead to something more or is it just for this week? Does it really change you as a person to have lived your usual life but just with a bit less food? Or was life different in some way? Are you fundamentally changed by something like this or are you a charity jumper,might it be food this week, blankets for cats next week etc? Genuine questions. I'm interested, not cross. 

 

Costs Up! Savings Up! Spending Down!

Good news - the mortgage switch went through as planned yesterday *hooray*. 

Good news - we're getting a couple of hundred quid cashback.

Bad news - we are now paying more per month for gas. SEVENTEEN POUNDS more, goooooodness me. 

Good news - a nice sum of cash has gone in to savings. 

Bad news - it's the "big" car service tomorrow

Good news - I didn't spend any money yesterday.

Good news - this weekend is a Bank Holiday *yay*

Good news - it's sunny

Good news - I've nearly finished the top of my latest quilt.

Good news - the laundry basket is empty.

So, more good news than bad, as it should be. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Pay Day

Today is pay day, yesterday was actual pay day but today is the day the grocery and household cash plops into my bank account. And it's burning a hole in my pocket! 

Dan has gone to London for a work thing so he might buy a drink or something to eat on the way home but other than that it's no spend. I have the whole day at home and usually I'd be ordering things or be writing the shopping list for the first shopping trip of the month this evening, but we're not going shopping and I don't need to order anything. We even have meals in the freezer that would do us for the next 3 nights. But I'm so used to shopping on the first day of the month I'm looking for reasons to go to the town and buy something. 

If I went to the town I'd find something to spend money on of course, but it would just be doing it for the sake of it. It's like craving crisps on the first day of a diet, I'm so used to spending it's hard to not crave it today! A weird feeling but the day's half over now so not too long to go!

Life Audit, One

A couple of people I know elsewhere are doing a life audit so I thought it was a good time for me to do one too. 

I have questions to work through and I think that's what I'm going to go through here. 

1. Of what accomplishments, talents or achievements are you most proud?

Proud isn't a word I'd ever really use. You either do something or you don't do it so, for me "proud" is just a way to describe finishing something. Having said that, I'm not a huge finisher of things so that's probably why. 

2. What's important to you? What do you value above everything else?

Of course Dan and rabbits, our homestead and all the usual stuff. But in terms of myself I value the way I can see things in a different way to other people and can generally cut through things to the knust of the issue. 

3. How do you motivate yourself?

A bit of a downfall, I am rubbish at this, mainly because I very rarely have something I feel driven to do. A lot of the time I wait until I've had an "I've had it" moment then do something because it needs to be done. Other than that it's a "I don't have to like it, I just have to do it" approach. That's the stick, the carrot would be a pie or something like that. 

4. What do you do when you're up against it? What are your sources of strength and support?

Shout and be a bit stubborn. Sometimes I go to bed and sometimes I just get on with things whether I like it or not, unless I can avoid the situation in which case I will. 

My main sources of support are of course Dan and my virtual friends. I find virtual friends can be more helpful as they don't have the baggage of who they think you are, just take you more on face value.

5. If there were a secret passion in your life, what would it be?

Erm, I'm not really a bucket list or indeed a secrets person. I think I'd like to know more about how computers work or be better at screen printing. But the screen printing thing isn't a secret or a passion, it's a thing-that-would-be-quite-good-to-do.

6. What do you consider to be your key strengths?

Being able to ask the question behind the question, i.e what's really going on, rather than what the appearance is (not that I believe in objective truth). Erm, I know all the lyrics to "We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel, good memory which can be useful. Aaaaand I'm quick witted which is also useful. 

7. What do you consider to be your main areas for development?

Motivation, standing up and doing stuff. 

8. When you've been successful at making changes, what helped?

Lack of options, if I can't do it I won't and if I have to do it then I will. Too much choice isn't a good thing. 

9.  What are the main challenges for you?

None, I live a pretty charmed life. Resisting pastry.

10. In what circumstances so you feel empowered, at one with the world, at peace with yourself, like life is in alignment with your values?

Empowered isn't really a thing that I either am or am not. At one with the world - never, I don't really know what that means and if it's anything to do with feeling at one with other people I wouldn't want to feel that way. At peace with myself, when I'm in bed or having a walk, the rest of the time I'm thinking so it's not a time to be at peace. Life is in alignment with my values much of the time - we all have things that go against the grain to some extent as we have to deal with other people and all that. But I walk the walk as much as I think is necessary. Other than milk in tea, just can't stop it. 

That's enough for now!