dEAr diary ~ mud, mud, glorious mud

We woke up to the sound of rain today and the power was off until Scottish Power could get their temporary generator going.  So with the weather and the power we had no need to rush as there was very little we could do and opted for an unusually leisurely breakfast.  The SP team worked all day renewing the transformer in the farmer’s field and the power went back on at 3.30 just as they had said in their letter.

I spent the morning updating my garden plants list – removing those that have not survived the winter or the rabbits and checking on the best pruning times for the different clematis and shrubs we have.  Most of them I can remember but I find that is beneficial to the plants if I refresh my memory occasionally.

After lunch we listened to the Archers followed by a play and Gardeners Question time (someone had the same problem as us with the over abundant wild garlic – there is no easy way to eradicate it apparently and eating it was their best suggestion – eating a few tons of garlic sounds like a killer to me!), by which time it had stopped raining and was dry enough to go outside.  As I went down the garden towards the Woodland Walk a rather large bunny scampered away up the banking quite shocked at my presence, I was more shocked at all the little holes he had left behind in the borders.

I decided to tackle the border that runs below the banking on the left side of the garden by the lane – it is a side of the garden that never comes together no matter what I do.

To one end of this border is the large conifer tree with spreading branches – nothing wants to grow under it save the Montbretia.  At the other end we have a Viburnum Tinus which is blooming well at the moment and a self-seeded Fuschia now the size of a small tree – but I like it so I let it stay.  The little group of Mahonia Charity are becoming a little leggy and I have threatened them with the chop – this seems to spur them on to producing some new side shoots – I will still sneak up on them and chop them down a bit though.A while ago we dug this patch over…and lay some grass seed… but it only partly helped for a while and now it is just another spot for the buttercups to take over if the campions don’t get there first.

It is heavily shaded for most of the day in summer and the water from the lane above filters down through the banking and ends up at the bottom making a very soggy patch with quite sticky heavy loam and it is really hard work getting anything to grow other than buttercups.  The banking itself is much more peaty.  Ferns of any type are attracted to take root here – but as I have said before you can have too many.

I am still not sure what possessed me to dig in this part of the garden today as the soil is usually squidgy here on a good day but with the rain it was even worse; the soil clung for dear life onto the roots of the weeds I lifted.

Meanwhile DH was on ditch clearing duty – the ditch separates the lower wood from the upper wood and runs at the back of the pond.  If the ditch gets blocked over winter with all the leaf fall and does not drain down to the burn it overflows through a pipe into the pond and then eventually the pond overflows.   He dislikes this job as intensely as his ‘waste management’ duties (the bins) at home.  The process of ditch clearing is to jump in and sink in with a large shovel and heave the mud up to shoulder height and over in one streamlined manoeuvre like a Golf swing and deposit said mud onto the bank of the ditch.  Quite a demanding job and one that can only be done in small doses before exhaustion takes over.  Of course he chose the light grey sweatshirt over the navy one and came out of the ditch splattered with specks of wet mud resembling a spotted dick pudding.

The bonfire is on hold at the moment as two of the caravans nearest to us have the owners in residence – Mr E who is about our age and has bad knees and prefers to drive the short distance up the lane in his car to the pub for his meals – (he lost his wife to a heart attack a few years ago she hadn’t made 60; she was  a heavy smoker), and Mr and Mrs Fixit who appear quite regularly and are always fixing something on the caravan – this time it was their satellite dish that had been spun round in the strong wind during the winter.  We politely asked each of them in passing how long they had planned to stay – Sunday seemed to be the favourite day to go back home – we dare not ask the exact time – so the bonfire will just have to wait until we see them pack up and leave!

After a couple of hours we ran out of light and good weather so made our way back indoors.  We had a no spend day too.

As you can tell we have such exciting times here!

A day of splodging around in icky sticky mounds of mud…

 

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dEAr diary ~ times they are a changing

Yesterday was such a gorgeous day – too nice to be travelling – but that is the British weather for you– when I needed a nice warm day to dry the washing…..it rained.

There seemed to be more packing than usual.  We had to fit the old water-butt into the car – we have bought a smaller one for home and will use the larger one at the cottage – good job we hung on to the estate car as it is most useful for ferrying things up and down.

I also had a box of old papers to take for the bonfire and a bag of items to drop off at one of the charity shops in Stranraer.  The two Christmas trees will have to wait until our next visit.

As there is less room in the caravan and less storage space I am not able to keep as much stuff like gardening clothes, towels and bedding and I forget what we have up at the caravan when we are down at home.  We keep a few extras but nothing like we had in the cottage.  So I really need to work out a better packing plan – one that takes me less time to get it all together.  When we were both working and set off for Scotland on Friday tea time I could get the car packed inside an hour – now I seem to take well over two hours and I cannot put my finger on why.

As it was such a lovely day we pulled off the motorway for lunch at the South Lancaster junction.  We had packed a flask of homemade tomato soup which is far nicer than anything you can get at the services.  The area to the right of the M6 is one of outstanding national beauty within the boundaries of the Forest of Bowland and has a wealth of delightful little villages with pretty cottages and those quaint country village churches.  But it is an area we have never explored before.  We drove through Hornby and stopped for lunch on a quiet country lane just outside Gressingham (famous for its ducks) to admire the view.  The flatter plains of farmland are enclosed by the surrounding hills  – not hills like the Pennines at home but a gentle rolling landscape and so green.  We felt like we had driven into another world – no busy roads – just a few sheep grazing and an occasional tractor.  It was so peaceful you could have heard a pin drop.   We will be back on another visit to have a better look around but yesterday we had to press on and reluctantly head back to the motorway.  We made it to the cottage by nightfall but as is often the case it was too dark to see the garden – that is usually a surprise for the morning.

We awoke to more sunshine streaming through the caravan windows today and the temperature was warm too, so after a meeting with a lovely man from highways this morning over a wee problem that affects our woodland we set to in the garden.

A day working in our cottage garden is far more punishing than any Yoga class and we have to be very careful on the first day not to overdo things.  So after lunch we had a walk along the beach and into the village, bought an ice cream (a rather lavish £3.80 for 2 Magnums) and sauntered back. On our first walk to the village after the winter it is surprising how much has changed.  When we first bought our cottage in 2004 it seemed like life down here on the Mull never changed; but increasingly year on year brings more.

This flight of steps that take you from the beach up onto Shore Street at the bottom end of the village by the little harbour used to be fully hidden  by willow bushes that have now been chopped down.  It is actually someones garden but they do not mind you using them – I preferred it when it was a secret entrance hidden by the bushes.At the far end of Shore street you can just about see the Ship Inn – once a thriving little pub but has suddenly closed and up for sale again.  It has been sold on two or three times in recent years and each of the new owners just cannot make a go of it.

The Queens Hotel in the middle of the village is looking so very run down now this could be next.  The notice in their window is supposed to be a joke – but might well be true – either way I am not sure it is helping them draw in more custom!The pub at the top of our lane might end up being the only watering hole in the village soon.

We also noticed that the door of the old corn store down by the harbour that used to be locked with the aid of an old shovel and has been like that for all the time we can remember… has now had the broken windows  boarded up properly, a proper padlock put in place and a notice pinned to the door. …but I thought the little wicker heart a very cute touch.Wards garage in the village now looks very forlorn; the forecourt has been stripped of the petrol pumps as under new laws the owner is no longer allowed to have petrol pumps within 2 metres of the road (he is allowed a Palm tree however!) and without the sale of petrol has been forced to close – such a shame this business had served this man and the community for years and now we all have to drive over 15 miles to the nearest petrol station in Stranraer.  This is a picture we took before the recent closure – such a sad end. On the way back to our cottage we passed the community garden – the person who looked after it is not able to carry on and the local community council are appealing for another volunteer.  Sadly it cannot be us as we are not here permanently.  This might end up being yet another casualty.

So many changes each year – they may only be little but sometimes are quite significant and are just another example of our ever-changing world even in backwaters like this.  I am sure that even in the Forest of Bowland that looks as if it never changes those who live there will see plenty.

A day of contemplating change and munching mouthwatering Magnums. x

dEAr diary ~ busy making life calmer

I finally took the plunge and started a Yoga class today.  It is the same lovely teacher Anita that I had a few years ago and she now does a class in my own village – so within walking distance if I choose to walk.  I went in the car today as it was quite drizzly and I don’t have anything large enough to carry my Yoga mat in to keep it dry (well that is my excuse).

Spending time to listen to and notice how my body feels and moves felt rather strange at first – it takes practice to be still and calm and breathe.   It all went quite well but there is a limit to the amount of arm lifting I can do on my left side – which is partly the reason I am going to try to retain flexibility.  Doing Yoga certainly highlights any problem areas – I never knew that anyone could bend and twist that far!!!  I came away a little more creaky but things had loosened up here and there and I felt all the better for it and I must make an effort to practice at home between sessions.

Yesterday was spent dodging around the house doing a bit of this and that interspersed with phone calls – why does everyone call on a Monday?…I shouldn’t complain, and I am not really, it is always lovely to hear from people.  Both my daughters can chat away easily for a couple of hours – even when I am about to see them in person and I would never cut them short unless I had some good reason like an appointment to attend – after all what are mums for but to hear the ups and downs of their lives and either rejoice or commiserate with them and offer advice if it is wanted, though I am pleased to say they are both very good problem solvers which makes me quite redundant.

I was a bit frustrated yesterday that I could only put the washing out on the line for brief periods between the almost constant drizzle – didn’t the weather man know it was Monday either and I needed to get my washing dry!  The reason for the rush is we are heading up to the cottage in a day or two for a few days and I realised that when we came back from Scotland a couple of weeks ago I never quite finished washing all our gardening clothes – they get so grubby I always pre-soak them in a bucket but I had mum visiting at the time so pushed the washing basket in the ‘soon to be Pantry’, old cloakroom out-of-the-way and then promptly forgot about them.

I managed to fit in some baking too – an apple cake to take to Scotland made with the last 2 eggs and the leftover portion of cooked apple we took from the freezer to accompany our Nut loaf on Sunday so by the time we went shopping yesterday afternoon the cupboard really was bare as we had worked our way through the very last of the food.  I spent £58 on groceries for this week taking advantage of the offer on Oatabix and Lurpak butter.  We will be making some meals to take with us to Scotland – Tomato soup and Shepherd’s pie.  I also bought some Higgedy Cheese and Onion rolls for the journey – unfortunately they were not on offer but still cheaper than buying food on or off the motorway.  We will get a free drink at Booths cafe if we take our own cups.  I do take a bit of food up with us as it is almost impossible to buy Cheshire or Wensleydale cheese up there and I like a crumbly cheese.  I do like to buy from the local shops in Stranraer to support them where I can.

Whilst we were out shopping yesterday afternoon we had other bits and pieces to attend to……the bits being an urgent need to look for decent loppers for the garden yet again.  We need extra strong Anvil loppers, preferably geared and preferably telescopic and definitely light to handle.  We had recently bought what we thought were the perfect pair made by Spear and Jackson but when we used them in the cottage garden on our last visit, although they cut through old branches brilliantly, by the 2nd day we noticed the handle on one side had bent inwards preventing the telescopic handle from working.  So back to Argos they went for a full refund but we are now on the search for some that cut just as well but won’t bend out of shape.

I made a quick visit to The Range to check out those ready printed messages for some cards I made (this will be another post).  I was not impressed by the price but reluctantly bought a couple of sheets and a packet of assorted messages as I intend to do more of these basic cards using up my stock of decorated papers – cost £3.  The silver and gold typeface and borders on these pre-printed labels does make a difference and I cannot print these metallic colours on my printer or I would have made my own.  A silvery grey is the best I can do.

I also returned my four pillows to Sainsbury’s for the full refund – so I am now on the hunt to replace these.  Whilst in Sainsbury’s I decided to buy two more long-sleeved T-shirts, they had a black one and a white one – so now I have four all together with the previous two grey ones I have. I am thinking that might be my total spend on clothes for the year this year and then I remembered I would need a ‘posher’ outfit for the Christening(s).  I noticed in passing that Roman have some nice inexpensive spring dresses in at the moment.  The drawback with this shop is you cannot return for a refund – they only give a gift card so you are then committed to buying something from them.  Trying on in the changing room is not the same as doing it at home with all the right accessories to hand.

Well I have chattered on enough it is time to do some more packing.  Hopefully we will have internet connection at the cottage so there will be no long intermission here.

A day of sorting out contortions – me after the Yoga class and the loppers.

……Oh and before I go welcome to my new followers – enjoy the journey – not sure where we might end up!  For those who have their own blogs I will be over to your place for a read soon.

 

 

crEAting ~ a knit in time

After twenty some years I have started knitting again – sometimes I frighten myself – I first began knitting one day back in 1980 with a little help from my mum, who was an avid knitter both by hand and machine.  I was expecting my first daughter at the time and continued when my second daughter came along and beyond until they reached secondary school and then I just stopped.  Knitting two garments each time took some doing.  At first my knitting was knit one drop one but after a while I was mastering cables and yokes and without the advantage of You Tube.

Now it all feels a long time ago but I am starting to remember quite a bit as I go along and with the help of You Tube –  although I have had to pull out a few rows when I dropped two stitches accidentally on a decrease row and didn’t notice.I chose this pattern by Sirdar as it said easy knit (I might question that!) and I like the fact the yarn called Baby Crofter, although random, looks a bit like Fair Isle as you knit.

I took the time to wind off some of the wool so I could begin the second sleeve at the same point in the yarn as the first so they match and also match up with the pattern of the front and back.I have finished the main body of the jumper and need to press and stitch it together so I can pick up around the neck to continue and knit the hood – that will be fun!

I need to practice the start and end of my rows and make a better job – there are it appears many ways to make it neater including adding an extra stitch at each end – does this really work?

This attempt is for Sweetie to grow into – I deliberately chose a 6-12 months size (she is presently 5 months old) in case it took me a long time to make but the knitting part has been surprisingly quick.  It might take me longer to do the sewing part.

I have already chosen the yarn for my next project – this time a plain colour, a lovely soft cotton in pale grey and ecru called Cottonsoft by King Cole to make a summer cardigan or jumper.  I found it in Boyes which is a wonderful northern store full of cut price goodies like an old Woolworths.  Finding patterns seems harder than finding the wool.  I am hoping I will find a pattern for little Freddie but if not it will be another one for Sweetie.I am not sure if Sweetie will want to wear granny’s knitted effort when I have finished it but she is still young enough not to bother too much whereas Libbie (Little L) will be much more fussy I think so I need more practice before I make something for her.  I am thinking of one of those summer dresses with a little knitted bodice and fabric skirt.

A few days of painstaking persistence but a very pleasing pastime. x

fEAsting ~ and the cupboard was bare

At first glance on Friday our cupboards and fridge seemed a bit bare…panic…

My menu planning had become a bit out of sync with having mum to stay recently and we only did a part shop last Monday in Sainsbury’s to cover a few days, expecting to have to go again at the end of the week to top up.   But I didn’t really want to go down to town to Sainsbury’s again just for the weekend and I am watching the pennies so I decided to make what we had stretch over to next Monday when I would usually shop.  We had run out of milk completely but we can get this from the local village Co-op and once I had assessed the meagre offerings laying in the fridge and devised a menu plan to get us through the weekend I asked DH to bring back a carrot too. The sum total of the veggies leftover from last Monday’s shopping trip were a few large old potatoes and a handful of small new potatoes, a number of tiny tomatoes, a little gem lettuce, 2 leeks, 2 onions, 2 courgettes, a few bits of celery, most of a swede and 3 pointed red peppers plus 2 very small avocados.

We also had a block of mild cheddar, a piece of Jarlsberg, 5 eggs;  and in the freezer I keep peas, broadbeans and nutloaf.  In the store cupboard I had a packet of chickpeas and plenty of brown rice.

So I worked out a menu plan to incorporate all these bits and bobs and tide us over

  • Friday evening meal – *chickpea and rice with 1 onion, 1 courgette, the leftover mushrooms (not at their best but salvageable), and the 2 small stalks of some celery,
  • Saturday lunch – a ploughman’s lunch of bread, cheese, tomatoes, pickle and the avocado
  • Saturday evening meal – omelette with tomato, red pepper, courgette and herbs, small roasted potatoes and peas.  Also a small cherry crumble each from the freezer.

Leek and Potato Soup

  • Sunday lunchtime – Leek and potato soup (I can add a carrot to this and the remaining lettuce), bread with avocado and cheese.
  • Sunday evening meal – Nutloaf, mashed potatoes with swede, carrot and broad beans and we have a pack of small Yorkshire puddings in the freezer if we want to turn it into more of a Sunday dinner.  I also serve the Nutloaf with apple sauce (also in the freezer).
  • Monday lunchtime – rest of the Leek and potato soup and bread

* The chickpea and rice concoction – I kind of invented it myself one day and it has been a winner here ever since.  Quick and easy and you can throw most things in it.

Cook a chopped onion and celery in a little oil to soften, then add chopped courgettes and finally add a packet of pre cooked Chickpeas and some chopped mushrooms.  It works with most vegetables so a good way to use up those little bits and pieces.  Once the mushrooms are softened I add some stock – about 200ml and leave to simmer so the flavours infuse.  I add some parsley at this point too.  Meanwhile cook some brown rice about 3-4oz (usually takes 30mins). Once cooked add to the chickpea mix and combine.  Cook for another 3-5 minutes and serve.

It is always amazing how far you can stretch the leftover veg when you need to and it is a good way of saving a few pounds.  We have a few standby things in the freezer like Nut cutlets, Pizza and some dried pasta in the cupboard but it was the veg I was interested to use up completely so there is no waste.  The frozen Pizza will save for another day or another emergency.

With the 2 remaining eggs I might just be able to make some chocolate buns or brownies.

A day of purposeful prudence and penny-pinching…with a positively perfect outcome for the cost of a carrot.

Spend £0.45p (DH actually bought a bag of carrots rather than just one…but hey you can’t win them all!)

trEAsury ~ pension overwhelm

Yesterday saw us in Leeds attending 3 seminars delivered by the financial advisors Hargreaves Lansdown – you may have heard of them they are a pretty big national company.  The seminars were free – so seemed a waste not to go – after all any advice is better than none.

I must admit I am so glad we attended – we came away with much food for thought.

We decided on using the Park and Ride as the seminars covered most of the day and parking in Leeds is not only difficult but expensive with a capital E.  It worked well and I would use it again – the buses were clean, quiet and driven by a lovely helpful man and we did not have to wait long coming or going.  Cost £6

The snacks and drinks we had to buy during the day to keep us going were not very cheap – we took sandwiches which we ate at 11am in the car as the first seminar was 12 noon to 2pm,  after that it was places like Costa for a toastie.  The event finished at 8.30 so we had to cover food for all day although they did lay on tea and coffee and some chocolate chip cookies.  Cost for drinks and eats out a hefty £17.

I know some of my readers are in the same place as me or coming up to retirement – some of you will be lucky enough to have final salary or public sector pensions – every ones means are different and that is the message that came out of the seminars.  I am in no way promoting or recommending Hargreaves  Lansdown – I am certainly not being sponsored by them nor am I advising anyone in any way.

The three seminars were entitled –

  • Planning for retirement,
  • Looking to make the most of your money in retirement
  • Passing your wealth onto your loved ones (presuming you have some money left).

We thought we did not have enough wealth to warrant advice but the truth is when you add up your assets – your house, car(s), caravan, any valuables, savings, shares etc (especially if you live down south where property prices are higher) you may find that they exceed the £325,000 inheritance tax allowance and so when you (or both of you) pass away the tax man will claim his 40% first on the excess and this can work out more than any individual beneficiary receives. Thinking ahead can help to preserve more of your estate for your children’s / grandchildren’s benefit.

There are it seems many legitimate ways to protect some of the money that you might pass on to loved ones by means of a trust.  I did not know anything about trusts and they may not be applicable to us but it was interesting to learn more about them.

One of the main points I came away with was I do wish we had been more attentive when we were younger and thought seriously about putting more of our surplus money into a private pension pot.  Anyone younger reading this I would say get to know more about pensions now and act on it – you will not easily sustain the standard of living you have got used to, when you leave paid work and retire on just the state pension – so don’t rely on it.  That is not to say you cannot live fairly comfortably on a state pension – my grandparents did well enough but there are no frills attached.

Obviously for us this cannot be reversed now and I remember when we were younger we did not have a lot of spare cash – we had mortgages with hefty interest rates in the 80’s and two growing girls – pensions were not on our mind but should have been and I am sure we could have squeezed a little more out of the monthly budget to put away.

But we are where we are and part of the seminar was to think about how much money we really need to live on now and during the rest of our life (of course not knowing how long this might be is a bit of a key factor in this game) and are we going to meet that income with the pension we have or is there likely to be a major shortfall.  For instance if you want to travel to exotic places or keep a high standard of living going or remain in a big house this may cause a large shortfall.

I just need to know I can enjoy my retirement and be comfortable, have a few good holidays and follow one or two hobbies and if anything unexpected happens we have the means to deal with it – I am not expecting to live it up exactly but if there is a shortfall or we need expensive care costs how can we generate more income to bridge the gap.  There are only a few ways to receive more income during retirement – for most of us this would be through savings generating interest, investments generating dividends, or  rental income (if you are lucky enough to have another property or inherited one), you might be lucky at gambling or bingo but at worst you might need to go back to work.

Another fact I had not considered is that different governments will have a future effect on our money – some will want more than others in tax.  That will not alter the choice of party i vote for but is something to be aware of.

Since 2015 the flexibility of accessing our private pension pots has greatly increased but with it a lot of complexities and the goal posts change yearly with the budgets so you need to be mindful of these changes.

The speaker, who was extremely knowledgeable, took the time to explain about the merits of the relatively new drawdown pension scheme in contrast to taking the traditional annuities.  The advantage of drawdown is that it passes on to your beneficiaries which annuities do not.  This pension pot is there to draw on if and when you need to but if most of it is left invested it can generate more capital growth to create an income stream (something I had not considered as I had been under the impression that capital was something that just ran down steadily in retirement).

The downside of a drawdown pension is that the money continues to be invested and so needs managing and if not by yourself by someone else at a cost.  If not managed well you could run out of funds unlike an annuity which gives you a set guaranteed amount monthly for life – it is a secure amount but you need a decent sized pension pot to receive a decent monthly payment in the current climate.

On the risk side I learnt that you cannot assume that having your money in cash just gaining interest is low risk – this is actually very high risk as that money although safe will undoubtedly not keep pace with inflation and if you live another thirty years will be worth very little and might only buy you a cup of tea in the future.

The best way we were told to minimise risk is not to put all your eggs in one basket – invest your money in a whole range of ways.  Sadly, this is not a simpler option and as you know I am looking for simplicity in all areas of my life but we live in a complex world so it feels pretty unavoidable.

We came out feeling much more informed if not a little overwhelmed – but like everything else we need a plan – so during this next week we are going to seriously plan our strategy and have a go at a lifetime cashflow chart as they suggest.

We arrived home to find two letters – a bank statement for our bill account, all as expected, and one from DWP notifying us of a rise in our state pension from April of £4.25 a week, about £18 month – when I budget I will work on the old amount not the new – this rise of £18 will go straight to savings.

A day of potential doom and gloom – (but made better by the free freshly baked cookies and an unexpected rise in income). x

dEAr diary ~ what the postman brought today…

It has been wet, wet, wet today and windy – I felt sorry for the postman – the last two days he has had nothing to deliver here and walked passed but today surprisingly there was a bundle of letters landed on our mat and before lunchtime too.

Firstly, the handwritten one – they are always the most exciting as we hardly receive any mail this way now.  I opened it eagerly to find a lovely invitation to granny and granddad for Sweetie’s christening in May at Healey church up in North Yorkshire.   I think granny here might just be making her a Christening dress for the occasion – we usually use our family heirloom made of fine cotton lawn and lace but Sweetie is a little pudding and she will be older than 6 months by May so it is doubtful it is going to fit her then and the fabric is getting very delicate now and we do not want to risk a rip.  So granny is on standby to make one.

Next, I opened the envelope from Boots containing some money off and extra point’s vouchers, valid until June – always useful to keep in my purse, although I don’t buy very much from Boots now but when I do I take advantage of their offers and buy 3 at once, if I can claim extra points all the better.

A curious letter with an Argos franked stamp on the envelope but actually from Sainsbury’s with a product recall on the Goose Feather and Duck down pillows I bought in the sale after Christmas – there is a fire safety issue with them and I can return them for a full refund.  I found mine a bit too full anyway so I won’t be too upset to give them back – but not sure what mum will sleep on when she comes!

We also had a credit card statement with a zero balance as we have not made any internet purchases during the last period – I was extremely pleased with this – I don’t shop a lot on the internet but it is useful for DH to buy obscure hinges and man stuff when he is doing one of his maintenance projects and mending broken bits and pieces around the house.

So all in all mainly good news and no bills…

…and then there was the usual pile of junk leaflets which I put straight into the recycle bin – I have even got past the point of reading them first before I dispose of them – what a waste of paper and resources.

We spent the rest of the day with little Freddie who is also growing each time we see him and is much more alert now.  He tends to sleep well at night  but not so much during the mornings – I suppose that is the better way round.

Tomorrow we travel to Leeds – we have decided on park and ride as we are attending three free seminars in the centre of Leeds delivered by Hargreaves and Lansdowne.  They are all to do with pensions, planning and advice and we certainly need some.  I am hoping we will hear something to our advantage.

In between all this I am continuing to clear clutter and simplify.  I have been in the shower room – this is an easy room to do as it is one where I have invested a lot of time previously to reduce the stuff that accumulates in there so it was more of a maintenance activity this time round.  The craft room and office that I am clutter clearing at the moment is more difficult to negotiate.  I have still got mounds of special craft papers, blank cards and envelopes, embellishments etc but I am loath to get rid of things just in case I find time to make some cards – but I ask myself just how likely is that?

A day of delights and dithering.

trEAsury ~ the February tally

Once again I am facing the moment of truth.  Sometimes we can think we are doing well and spending less but the figures at the end of the month never lie.

Overall for February the total outgoing money was much the same as January but the amounts in each category had shifted around – a bit like the sand and pebbles on our beach at the cottage.

To summarise; the housekeeping, household bills, cards and gifts were lower than last month but fuel costs, eating out, health and wellbeing were higher.

The housekeeping money (which for me includes groceries, whole foods and supplements, magazines, cleaning supplies, toiletries, face creams, make-up, postage, stationery and flowers for the house when I buy any) came in at £367.00, but of course it was the shortest month so maybe this wasn’t a great achievement and remember I am not an all out frugal blog by any means (stop reading now if you were expecting severe thrift or you will be disappointed) – I like a bargain and I like to live within my means – I also like hanging on to my savings for dear life but I don’t particularly buy cheap in all cases in fact I like quality and value for money so I assess everything I buy with that in mind whether it be food, clothes or a garden tool.

I know there are many of you out there who would do much better than me but this is my way of cutting the spending down and buying less without making myself totally miserable or obsessed and I am pleased with myself if I find I have spent less than last month.  I haven’t even set category budgets for myself – I suppose I should really but I know I have to stay within the bounds of our one state pension for most of our day-to-day living costs and save a bit if we can.  When we have lived on the pension for a while and have definite figures to work on then I can adjust and budget.

So how did I do…

Transport and fuel costs

February was heavy on fuel costs not just for the car but during the warm spell we had recently we had to buy petrol for the mower in order to cut the grass!  The trip up to Scotland and 2 round trips up to North Yorkshire increased this category to £180 ouch!  In compensation there were no other transport or car related costs but we do have an MOT coming up next month.

Total costs of seeing the world and shaving the grass: £186.87

Health and wellbeing costs

February saw us both at the hairdressers for a cut and blow dry.  We go to the same local hairdressers  – not together I might add, that might be a little strange!….and whilst mine is £26, DH only has to pay £11 but then his hair is much shorter and he has less of it.  For me it is worth the expense, I always feel much better afterwards.

Total cost of a brand new me and him:  £37

Utilities

Our central heating and hot water runs on gas and we have a coal effect gas fire in the living room.  The heating is on from 5 pm to 8pm – after that we will just put the gas fire on if it is really cold whilst watching the TV or sometimes for a bit of glow on the lowest setting.   The gas bill for February came in at £69 plus VAT.  I didn’t think that was too bad – helped of course by the milder weather and watching TV during the evenings wrapped snuggly in a throw rather than putting the fire or heating on.

Total costs for the joy of warm toes:  £72.63

Grocery and housekeeping costs

Surprisingly I spent less this month than last (but then it was only 4 weeks long) however the average per week on groceries alone worked out at a little more than last month @ £77, (£309 for the month) but we did take advantage of a lot of items on offer so are pretty well stocked in the grocery department.  Some weeks I do better than others and have more time to plan – sometimes it is all a bit rushed and that is when I do spend more but we have been having some nice meals recently and I have been trying new recipes.Yellow Sticker foodWe had a surprise freebie in Tesco in Castle Douglas in Scotland when they were handing out free rolls one evening.  You couldn’t beat this yellow sticker price!Daffodils I didn’t buy any toiletries or face creams during February but did treat myself to some flowers for the house.

Total cost to eat and be merry £361.87 and a bunch or two of cheerfulness £5.

Home and garden purchases

Once again just bits and pieces bought in this category but it still added up to an alarming £106 – I had to look twice at this in disbelief – but it is there in black and white and needless to mention this cost will be taken from savings not the pension – the pension does not allow for frivolous purchases that consist of:-

  • 2 large storage boxes with lids for in the loft to replace some old cardboard bankers boxes
  • 3 lidded craft storage boxes to hold our old slides
  • 1 small 4 litre Maslin pan to make jam and marmalade reduced by £10 to £19.99Maslin Pan
  • 2 glass lidded containers from Muji for cotton wool and cotton wool buds (this was a definite treat); I love Muji products for their simplicity and have wanted these for ages and couldn’t resist when DH gave me the OK nod.muji
  • Portable Muji diffuser – on offer at the Muji store – gives out 2 hours of real essential oil fragrance
  • 2 Pillow protectors on sale in Sainsbury’s for £3.60 – decided against the dearer John Lewis ones and will return them.

This is certainly a category to watch – those little bits here and there add up to quite a lot.

Total cost for unavoidable household needs wants: £106

Gifts and card costs 

Gifts and cards came in lower than last month – only a couple of birthdays and mum’s belated birthday book token.  I already had a Valentine’s card and a stock of birthday cards and luckily none of the birthdays required a gift, so much cheaper month than last.

Total cost to gift away: £22.50

Crafts and hobbies

Confession – I bought two books (I include books in my Craft and Hobbies category).  Simple Sewing posted here, and The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.  I bought his book The Four Pillar Plan a while ago and it is one of the best general health books I have read and continue to reread and am trying to put into practice. The Stress Solution I couldn’t wait for his new book to appear cheaper in The Works so splashed out the £8.49 in Sainsbury’s.

Having tried a bit of crotchet with the hooks and wool I bought last month it became apparent I would not be making any baby clothes any time soon – I couldn’t even crotchet a square and will need more time to practice so I decided to try my hand at knitting again. Sidar Baby Crofter I bought a baby pattern £3.10 and 3 balls of Sirdar Baby Crofter from Hobbycraft @ £4 ball to make a jumper for Sweetie and now realise knitting your own is not a cheap option.  DH just smiles!

Total cost to keep me busy: £27.78

Leisure and Entertainment

I spent a worthwhile £15 on the pantomime tickets (no discounts even though I am related to the stars of the show!), however I do still have to pay my sister for these when I see her.  Of course the petrol costs to get there would have been about £30 – but she is my sister and of course Libbie (Little L) was so thrilled.

Other than that our other entertainment this month was visiting Ikea – totally free!

Total costs of a good belly laugh: £15 (not including the fuel a definite boo!)

Eating out

This continues to be much reduced now we take picnics everywhere or get free drinks in Ikea – but is higher than last month as we had our trip to Scotland and bought a chip butty tea each on the way up and back £7.70.  Mainly though our only regular expense is the pre shop drinks in Sainsbury’s café every week £4.10, DH always comes along with me now since I am no longer at work (probably to keep an eye on the spending!) so it doubles this little indulgence – if we gave this up we would be down to zero pounds unless we elect to treat ourselves for lunch out, which we did at Costa en route to the Pantomime.

Total costs to satisfy our healthy appetites:  £52.25

Clothing and footwear

I bought a grey long-sleeved t-shirt from Sainsbury’s – it was, I am pleased to say, a considered purchase.   I bought one last Autumn and love it so much I invested in another before they disappear, they are great to wear under a jumper and keep me snug and warm in the cold weather – so a small price to pay.  I also needed to replace some old wornout black socks that I wear with my jeans and leggins.  One pack of five from Tesco for £5 – they have the same patterned rib as the previous ones I bought two years ago which is great as I won’t need to spend time matching socks after washing them.

Total cost to looking totally glamorous presentable: £9.75

As you might expect the spending in the different categories has ‘see-sawed’ a bit this month.  What was a low figure last month was higher this month and vice versa.  I am enjoying the books, enjoying the knitting (more on this another day) and will no doubt enjoy making some jam and marmalade.

So a few new items have entered my home but what has gone out…I will reveal later.

As usual hoping to do better next month and any advice is always welcome….xx

If you want to read January’s tally click here

dEAr diary ~ just a little thank you

Thank you for all your lovely supportive comments and suggestions  from my last post – I have obviously connected with a lot of people in the same boat, or similar boat, but of course each of our lives and problems are different but I think we all agree on a few points –

  • Caring for the elderly and looking after younger grandchildren even at a distance is hard work and falls hard upon our generation – mainly the women –  to deliver care as best we can, often whilst running our own homes and working at the same time.
  • It can be very frustrating at times in our own advancing years to care for 80 and 90 year olds. I feel like I have spent my middle years caring for firstly my grandparents and then my own parents as well as the in-laws.  We try to keep them going in whatever way possible attending to their needs as it becomes too difficult for them to take care of themselves but this route we follow is one that becomes harder to manage, placing additional stress on our own lives and reducing any free time of our own to take care of ourselves and which can often lead to resentment building up – as one or two of you said life starts to feel as if it is passing you by.
  • Health problems that require doctor intervention and prescribed drugs, although intended to make us better, could be making us worse or indeed creating new problems for the future.
  • Soon we will be the ones who are old and need medication – I hardly know anyone now in my age group who is free of taking any medication.

Mum is back home now and once again my sister is doing the day-to-day care, meanwhile I can at least carry on with a few more of my tasks until it is time to have her to stay again.  I have spent the week winding down a bit as I had begun to feel I was welded to the car seat with all the trips up and down the country and I was exceptionally tired after looking after her and her needs.

I have lots of other news to tell you and maybe I will get to share it with you now.  It is impossible to blog when my mum is here and I spent last week catching up with myself in the house and with shopping.

I feel like I am back on track now. x

 

dEAr diary ~ thoughts on growing old

Having mum to stay for a few days has certainly made me think about old age and its effects upon a person and those caring for them.  She has become so limited in what she can do recently that it seems to have had a snowball effect – that old saying ‘one thing causes another’ problem.  Her mobility now is certainly more limited and she is not getting out and about like she did other than with my sister and so is becoming increasingly anxious, a bit lonely and quite fed up with herself.   What you might call out of sorts.   She keeps saying things like ‘when I get back to normal’ or ‘when I get myself right’ but my experience is that with the elderly they never do it is an inevitable downward slope.

It looks like everything began last September when mum thought her vertigo had returned as she was constantly dizzy.  However, the wait to be seen by the consultant in the vertigo clinic was a few weeks and in December it turns out it was a bit of a misdiagnosis by the GP and her blood pressure, a shortage of B vitamins and potassium was the actual cause.  The additional blood pressure tablets prescribed to lower her sky-high blood pressure worked only too well and caused it to drop too low throwing her into a zombie like state and we had to revive her once or twice!

They are trying to get it sorted but in the meantime she caught a rather nasty virus after Christmas and has developed Housemaids knee when she was kneeling on a chair to have her hair front washed at the hairdressers as she could not tilt her head backwards over the basin without becoming extremely dizzy.  So now she is hobbling about in constant pain but that is sometimes because she won’t rest it and refuses to use a walking stick.

Her confidence to go out by herself diminished very quickly along with her ability to cook a decent meal for herself replacing them with quick snacks.  She has suddenly become much more reliant on my sister and her DH who live nearby –  requiring escorting to the hairdressers and shops, things she did for herself that kept her active.  She would like our presence all the time but of course that is not possible.  If I am honest I am feeling a little trapped between helping my mum and helping with my 3 grandchildren and although we love my mum her constant demands are becoming a bit of a strain on us.  As she does less and less now for herself she likes to be taken out to tea shops and cafes – the ones in garden centres and shopping malls and whilst having a drink and a bite to eat she will tell us the same old stories of things that happened years ago over and over again, often in the same day.  In fact her memory of the past is better than that of the present but she gets the people and time of events rather mixed up and forgets you have heard that story many times.  It is not quite dementia but it is very annoying to those who have to listen.

I live two hours away from them and cannot offer much relief on a regular basis but I go up as often as I can and have mum here to stay.  It has reached the point now that when my sister says she might be going away for a weekend or holiday mum suddenly panics at being alone.  She lives in a retirement apartment that has a manager on call during office hours and this reverts to a call centre at night so if she were in difficulties help would be on hand,  but like many elderly people they do not like to use the service preferring instead to be attended to by a relative.

In the past I have looked after my gran and my dad through many years of their decline and one thing that is apparent to me is that having good health is key in old age.  Learning to look after yourself and eating well is a must because as soon as you start with any medical intervention you end up on numerous tablets and often this is quite a cocktail that triggers yet another complaint.

My dad’s demise started when he was in his early seventies and in pretty good health;  a consultant prescribed aspirin for his eye that was showing signs of a condition called macular degeneration.  The consultant ignored dad’s medical history (dad had a condition where he bled a lot called Von Willebrand disease) and we questioned the wisdom of this but were told it was necessary to help with the circulation in his eye and protect it from the degeneration.  Of course dad was worried about the possibility of losing his sight so took the Aspirin as prescribed.

A few months later the aspirin caused a serious bleed in the artery to his good eye which left him with partial blindness.  The loss of blood from this (4 pints which bled from his nose and required an emergency operation to stop him bleeding to death) also resulted in a blood transfusion.  A few days later his body reacted to the transfusion and turned against itself causing the destruction of his platelets which dropped considerably to a dangerous level (normally about 150,000 to 450,000 per mcl of blood) dad’s went down to 2,000 a condition called Thrombocytopenia.   He was rushed into hospital again and to rectify this he had steroids (they didn’t work), then immunoglobulin by drip (worked for a few days only then they dropped again) and finally the last resort to stop his body from destroying his platelets he had to have his spleen removed and was put on antibiotics for life as you require protection from infection. He was at this point told to stop the Aspirin!

Because he had little immunity he had to have vaccinations against pneumonia but even with these he constantly suffered with this.  At one time he saw the GP as he felt unwell and had extremely noisy and laboured breathing but the GP did not pick up on the pneumonia and thought he might have the beginnings of heart failure – a few days later dad became far worse so I called an ambulance as I knew something was not right.  They got oxygen to him immediately and once stabilised took him straight to hospital.  They told me if I had left him for another half an hour they would not have been able to save him.  After two weeks bed rest in hospital he came out as good as new – no heart failure after all, just pneumonia.

The following year he had a fall breaking his hip, shoulder and foot.  They could not operate straight away as once again they found he had underlying pneumonia which had no doubt made him weak and caused the fall.  Whilst waiting for the pneumonia to subside enough to operate he was given high doses of pain killers and then anti-sickness for the effects of the pain killers.  He became delirious with all the drugs and his kidneys could not cope with the overload of medication and began to fail.  Within two weeks of the fall he had died of kidney failure.

…. And all that because he was prescribed a little Aspirin.

My mum has gone from being on one tablet for blood pressure to a cocktail of tablets including Aspirin and statins.  Of course I worry.  She seems unsteady and a bit confused a lot of the time and is so frustrated at feeling unwell, her blood pressure seems to be all over the place and her knee and foot swollen and not getting any better.  She is certainly in decline and she was doing so well for 93 it is a shame that she has had so many problems recently.

A study conducted by the University College London showed that happy and positive people are more robust and fit in later life.  The research concluded that unhappy people were twice as likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.  Mum is certainly not happy at the moment and I feel powerless to help her get better when her problems seem to be compounding.

My own observations of people growing older tell me I need to address my own niggling health issues and put my diet and fitness way up on top of my list of intentions to act upon, as prevention of illness seems far better than hoping for a cure.  I do not wish to end up on a cocktail of medications other than the Thyroxine I am reliant on.  I have always taken my own health issues in hand preferring to use natural remedies wherever possible and only resorting to medical intervention if it is absolutely necessary.

As I age I am finding I am a little creakier in the mornings, my brain works a little slower and my digestion not as tolerant.  This must be the time to sort this out as old age is so hard without good health on your side and once that starts to decline it is like a runaway train.