Monday, 30 March 2015

Another freebie

I've found me another kerbside vintage freebie:

It's a beaut! It needs a little TLC - there's a scorch mark on the top that needs sanding down and a new coat of shellac applying, but it's still completely gorgeous as is.

I like my salvaged life. I like the sturdiness of it all. I generally like the aesthetics of older pieces of furniture. I like the physical work and creativity that it sometimes takes to make things serviceable. I like rescuing things from the redundancy of landfill. I like not spending a fortune to have nice things.

The ten year old in me really likes the feeling that I've stumbled upon long lost treasure - like a modern day Indiana Jones, without all the snakes.

Here's to filling up our freshly decluttered house with more stuff (ahem)!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

One Mug


Well this is one if those simple little changes that has revolutionized my life.

At work, we each have a personal mug that we use for all of our drinks. It gets rinsed with a little water between brews; which saves time and hot water; as well as stopping the tiny kitchen piling up with dirty or drying cups. Why the hell haven't I been doing it at home?

Washing up cups and glasses and beakers seems to be the bread and butter of my day and we usually amass quite a collection by the evening if I don't keep on top of it - three or four per person at least.

I've instigated the one cup policy. Kids want another drink? I ask them to retrieve their cups from wherever they have left them (and usually find they haven't finished them anyway).

So far so much less wasteful. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Minimal March - week one

We are just over one week into our Minimal March challenge and its high time for an update.

First off, here is what we've done right:

  • We 'paid ourselves 1st' and put aside a huge chunk of cash at the start of the month. 
  •  Grocery budget has been halved at £20 per week and so far we are doing well. 
  •  Heating is going on occasionally, but I'm checking the weather reports for the week and most laundry is being line dried. Spring, you beauty!
  •  The store cupboard and freezer are being whittled down at a rate of knots.
  • The local library is being patronized frequently. 
  • Two weeks of annual leave is doing wonders for the commuting budget.
  • A huge bag of oats and sunflower seeds is seeing me breakfasted at work everyday; and I've been taking in leftovers for lunch too.  
  • On the minimizing stuff front, we've done a tip run with garage stuff.  Just the garden left to do.
  • So far, no takeaways. Mr PL even made a huge pizza for us the day that we really could have been lazy and ordered in. 
  • Frugal hobbies are go. Mr PL has been tinkering with his car and I have been reading library books and trying to make everyday occurrences as interesting as possible. Last night I made vegan sushi for a late night supper. It was fun and nowhere near as fiddly as I anticipated. 

There have been a few missteps:

  •  I didn't factor in two dental bills. We have an annual dental budget anyway, but it's irritating that it was this month of all months.
  •  I've been buying expensive soya milk from the coop and the corner shop because I haven't had a chance to get to Lidl. I'm going today.
  • I had to buy lunch at work one day because I left mine at home. My brain and 5.45am don't always play nice.
  • I had forgotten the MOT was due. This was a little larger than expected, but is offset by the fact that said second(!) car is being sold this month. Going from two cars to one (even though neither are used very much) is by default a money saver and selling it will bring in extra cash, hopefully before the ISA deadline. 
All in all we are on track. We have a few treats budgeted in, but mostly this month is about cutting back on all of the fripperies that we tend to lose track of.

March is shaping up to be a good month.

Friday, 6 March 2015

The Ghosts of Libraries Past

I used to live in the library as a kid, rocking up within half an hour of school finishing and not leaving until closing time. I almost got locked in once when the librarian failed to notice me hunkered down in the beanbags, nose in Asterix book.

I don't know quite how, but that bookworm kid turned into a barely reading adult. I have quite a few non-fiction books on the Kindle app on my phone and I read a lot of articles online; but fiction rarely crosses my radar.

One of my biggest regrets is that my minimal reading has been almost entirely utilitarian since then, which isn't really the example I want to set to our children. And so earlier this week after school, eldest Pumpkin and I took a stroll to the local library, just in time for World Book Day.

We've been gone so long that the library  has changed beyond all recognition. You scan out your own books, and scan them back in, pay your fines with a chip and pin machine, order unstocked books from afar - all from a self serve kiosk. There was a Scrabble group meeting going on right in the centre; and more people browsing the internet on computers than there were people browsing the shelves. I found myself a little wistful for the olden days when I knew all of our librarians names; and they knew every book I had read that month and suggested new ones - and no one played board games in a library (and by olden days, I mean 1997). 

Borrowing books is a life enriching and frugal pastime, as long as you return them on time. It turns out I had a three year old debt to settle. We spent half an hour browsing before bringing some books home. I intend to order through inter-library loan a few titles that I have been resisting the temptation to buy. I'm still enjoying my uncluttered book shelves.

I've set up a little reading nook in the corner of the living room where we can sit and read a few books each day in the sunshine. A few beanbags and it will be just like the olden days.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

First Aid

I slipped whilst opening a tin. Whoops. Quite a long, deep skin flap I have there.

It was a really bad time to discover that our first aid box lid is a little too snugly fitting; and that the dressings scissors have gone AWOL; and that it is really hard to grip open a plastic steripack when you have blood on your hands. I will be auditing the first aid tin this week - I don't ever want a repeat of today. Normally I do it every 6 months - I check supplies, discard old medicines and reorganize it.

This is the second first aid emergency of the month - a few weeks ago the smallest PL choked on her dinner. It was just one of those things, but it took all 5 of the recommended back slaps to dislodge the obstruction. Here is what you need to know should you find yourself in that situation.

A month ago we narrowly avoided being first on the scene of a motorbike/car collision. Would I have been able to deal with that? I'm not sure I would have. I had PTSD related to witnessing a similar incident many years ago; but whilst things like this make me a little queasy, I have gradually learnt to deal with it over the years. I bought a first aid book a few months ago which was a big step, and now I will start to work my way through it.

The St John Ambulance have a brilliant Youtube Channel here with lots of how-to videos. Its always better to be prepared.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Slow down and take a day off

In September I went back to work three days a week; and at the same time added another daily school run to my schedule. Most days I don't know if I am coming or going and life is either passing by in a blur or the days are ticking by with excrutiating slowness - just so that I can really appreciate the drudgery, y' know? Which really isn't what I was aiming for when I started my simplifying journey.

I think I have identified part of the problem. I don't get a regular 'day off', where my duties slack off to the absolutely essential and I can sit and read a book for an hour without guilt. I scheduled a rest day when I implemented my S.H.E. system, but going back to work has thrown me off kilter.

This afternoon after the preschool run, I found myself scrabbling around on the floor trying to sort legos (which, next to the school run, has got to be my least favourite activity ever) before moving on to doing the freezer inventory, before it was time to get the youngest PL up and ready to do the return school run. It took me a while to identify why I was feeling quite so spectacularly cranky - when I realized that I hadn't eaten lunch today and that I would much rather be sat on the sofa with a cuppa and something toothsome.

I whipped up a batch of scones for a treat - because I very rarely have time to bake these days and I do quite enjoy it. I baked the last specimens of Pumpkinfest 2014 at the same time to save energy and time. We will have this vegan Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese for dinner tonight, because it looks a) delicious and b) really really easy and uninvolved.

I think Chillin' Tuesday needs to become a regular thing.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Storecupboard woe

In preparation for aforementioned Minimal March, I need to inventory the storecupboard

Streuth. What a mess - and this was the most organized of the lot.

I waited until two out of three of the small PLs were at school and pulled all of the food out of the cupboards, onto the dining table (I think the Kondo method has really rubbed off on me).

It turns out that we have way more food than I realised, and that my rotation system has fallen apart in recent months. Just pulling it all out and categorising it took an hour.

I stopped for potato salad half way - the (14!) tins of potatoes were calling to me. A little vegan mayo and some parsley, cayenne and black pepper made for a filling if not particularly healthy lunch. 

I wiped the shelves down and restocked them, taking care to ensure the earliest best-before dated ones are close to hand. I decanted a few things into jars and put the loose ends of packets into a 'use first' box so as to free up some space. I also made a huge list of everything that we have. 

This will help me to plan my menus and also form the basis of future shopping lists. It's easy to see what gets used up and what tends to get left behind. Interestingly, my going vegan will barely impact the store cupboard - aside from a few tins of fish, everything else is plant based. Nothing much will change there.

I now have nice orderly shelves.  I have a modest shopping list for a few essentials that we are running low on, but for the most part I am going to try and make do with what we have.  Tomorrow I will tackle the fridge and freezer.

I'm now sat enjoying a glass of wine and intend to while away my evening catching up on blogs and possibly developing a Call the Midwife habit.