Giving up roles to simplify life

Hello Friends,

I have a hard time saying no to people and things which has led to my life becoming over cluttered in all sorts of ways.

A couple of years ago I was bounced into taking on the role of treasurer to a local organisation I am a member of.  Then then treasurer clearly had a friend and myself in his sights as then relatively new members who would eagerly take on the job. I had that feeling in my stomach that this was something I did not want to take on but eventually agreed.

I met up with the treasurer and he talked me through how everything was done.  Now I have been self employed, had to pass an accounting exam to qualify for my job, and learned how to do financial analysis when I did my MBA.  I’m not an accountant, but understand figures.  The treasurer’s daughter, an, accountant, had set the accounts up in such a way it was impossible to understand them.  I did panic at first, but then decided I was going to simplify the accounts in a way a normal human being could understand them.

I battled on with the job for two years, but with everything else going on found it was an unnecessary stress I did not need.  It was the little things like having to remember to take all the cheques to pay into the bank at lunch time while I was at work, people coming up to me and asking if they had paid their subs this term (duh?).  The bigger things were others approaching me and telling me that the treasurer should be involved in fundraising.  (This from somebody who is retired).

Over the two years I gradually ran the role in the way I wanted.  I set out a list of things I would not do.  These included chasing people for subs, taking a register at every meeting and fundraising.

I had intended to carry on for another year, but when the chair announced she was standing down next year, I decided it would  be better to finish now and not have two roles vacant at once.  I found a volunteer to nominate for the post (this is somebody who is semi retired and has plenty of spare time) and handed it over last week.

I had a few misgivings beforehand – was I letting people down, should I have carried on for another couple of years etc etc.  However, having done the deed, I now realise how much extra background stress I was carrying.  My whole mind feels lighter.

What I have learned from this is that I should never ignore the warning feeling in my gut about when it is not right to do something.  Secondly, I have to manage my time – it simply isn’t possible to take on something like this with my life at the moment how it is.  I work full time and have outside work interests such as playing the violin.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Finally, I have learned not to feel guilty about wanting to make my life simpler.

Have you ever taken on one job too many?  How did it affect you and what did you learn?

Until next time, Tawney x

Clearing the garden

Hello Friends,

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks (hence lack of posts), so I’m just doing a bit of catching up from last weekend.

A few weeks ago I posted about how the snow fall on Boxing Day had brought down two of our plum trees.  The weight of a huge amount of snow in a short time caused them to snap in half.  The weather has been grim since and last weekend was the first time we were able to get out in the garden and do some clearing.

I decided to use this as an excuse to spend some garden centre vouchers I had been given for my birthday towards a new wheelbarrow.  The old one I inherited from some former neighbours finally rusted through the bottom last year.  OH and I then spent the whole afternoon sawing and chopping to clear the trees and see if there was anything  we could save.  The good news is that there is probably enough left for the trees to regenerate.  I’m not sure how much of a crop we will have this year – we’ve had some bumper crops of plums before. IMGP4106I am now thinking about what we need to do to keep the fruit in the garden going.  The fruit trees are quite old now, and it’s time to think about what comes next.  Whatever we choose will have to be quite hardy – our garden has frost pockets, is in the north of England and is 180m above sea level.

Have you ever planted up fruit trees in your garden?  Which varieties did you choose and why?

Until next time,

Tawney x

Using up fridge and freezer leftovers

Hello Friends,

I am still working on clearing all areas of our home.  This includes the freezer.  I had a bit of a rummage around this week and found various boxes and bags full of not easily identifiable food.

A few months ago I had some friends around for a meal and made a pork, apple and cider pie.  I made my own pastry, and there was quite a bit left over.

IMGP4101This could have sat in the freezer for quite a few more months or I could have thrown it away, but I decided to use it up and make a chicken pie with it.  I made enough for two meals, so one has gone into the freezer and we will eat this next weekend.

IMGP4104I also used up some chard and potatoes which were a bit past their best in a vegetable curry last night.  There was some of this left over, so today I boiled it up again, added a couple of handfuls of lentils and the same of spinach and will whiz it up to make some soup which I can take to work with me.

IMGP4105How do you use up your random leftovers?

Until next time,

Tawney x

A very useful birthday present

Hello Friends,

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I had a lovely present from Edie and Bee.  Here it is:

2015-01-08 18.53.40And I’ve been doing lots of cooking already.  Here are some traybakes I made for work (we always bring cake in on our birthday to share)

IMGP4087And here are some cakes I made for our book club, a Victoria sponge and a coffee and walnut cake:

2015-01-27 19.51.44I have had a lot of fun from this birthday present.  These are the best sort – yes it’s another item of ‘stuff’ but it’s being used.  I have been through my cook books again, and two which I have not used in years have gone to the charity shop.  This is going to be the test for things from now on – do I use it? Do I love it?  If not, off it goes.

What has been your most useful birthday or Christmas present?

Until next time, Tawney x

Sale bargains

Hello Friends,

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I am not a great fan of shopping as a leisure activity.  I prefer to plan to shop when I need something, rather than drift aimlessly round because I have nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

I’ve never been to the sales to join in with the crush of people on Boxing Day.  What I have found is that if you hang on until the end of the sales, you can walk around without being trampled on and find bargains sometimes at 70% off.  I still have a list of what I need at the time, but if I can’t find it, I walk away.  This time we couldn’t find a coat for Edie – she is quite slenderly built and a size 8, so it can be a challenge finding something which doesn’t look like a sack.

On my list I had a new pair of shoes for work, a new work blouse and I am gradually replacing my old summer T shirts which have shrunk.  While I’m not doing too badly for my age, the cropped T shirt look doesn’t work quite so well now.

I found a pink and white  stripey T shirt reduced from £15 to £3, a shirt at half price at £10, and a pair of the shoes which cost £44, reduced from £150.  I am particularly pleased with the shoes – they are just plain black shoes with leather uppers and soles which means they can be repaired over and over and will hopefully last for years.  OH buys one pair of good quality leather shoes about every 10 years and has them repaired until they fall apart.

How do you tackle the sales?  Have you picked up any bargains this time?

Until next time, Tawney x

Deep de-cluttering

Hello Friends,

I’ve had some time off work over the last few weeks and I’m taking the opportunity to have a bit more of a clear out.  My aim is to create a calmer home where I don’t spend my life looking for things all the time.

I am aware that I have been guilty of shuffling things around the house, when in fact, much of it needs to go.  I’m now looking at the ‘stuff’ in a different way and asking myself if I really need it.  Here are some of the things I have finally let go:

  • bags of small scraps of material
  • broken shoes and torn jeans belonging to all of us
  • several packs of plain postcards and lined revision cards.  I vaguely remember buying these when I did my Masters degree seven years ago – I am not going to need them again.

This has meant challenging my beliefs about why I’m holding on to stuff and giving myself permission to let it go.  Hanging on to the cards is pointless.  They are just taking up space in a folder.  Each time I’ve gone the folder to look for something else they all fall out.  If I need any more I will buy some.

This kind of de-cluttering is going to take quite a while.  We’ve got loads of stuff which we just walk past every day and it’s got to go.  The key is going to be just picking one small thing, like a folder or a shelf, examining every item and making sure I finish it.

What are the things that you find hardest to let go of when you are de-cluttering?

Until next time, Tawney x

Resolutions for next Christmas – maybe do a bit less

Hello Friends,

Over the last couple of years I’ve challenged myself to try new things with cooking and decorating for Christmas.  Last year I made a Christmas cake for the first time ever and cooked a ham.  I also made a garland for the mantelpiece in the playroom and a wreath for the front door.

This year I decided to add making home made ice cream and cinnamon buns to the list.  The results have been variable.

I realised last weekend that although I’ve enjoyed the creative side of trying new recipes, I’ve ended up making life more complicated – not what my life on Frugal Hill is meant to be.  Each new thing has been added to the list of things I MUST DO every Christmas.

I’ve also done far more running around after other people than was perhaps good for me (a 6 hour drive from Derbyshire to London and back finished me off for Christmas day).

One of my friends has the right idea – she cooks lasagne on Christmas day :-)

My resolutions for next Christmas are as follows:

  • Children returning from university catch the train home
  • Children returning from abroad fly to Manchester if they want a lift, or travel home by train if they fly to London
  • One meat option and one vegetarian option only will be provided for Christmas lunch and Boxing Day.
  • One pudding option only for Christmas lunch + bought ice cream
  •  No cinnamon buns or home made ice cream – that was a big mistake
  • Christmas cards will be posted / delivered by the end of the first week in December or not at all.
  • I will no longer read round robin letters of more than 1 page – 8 pages in tiny type about people I’ve never heard of is of absolutely no interest to me and will go straight in the recycling.
  • Everything must be bought online – no more grim Saturday afternoons in shopping malls.

Have you managed to simplify Christmas?  How have you managed it?

Until next time, Tawney x

Plum tree mini disaster

Hello Friends,

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas.  We’ve had a bit of an odd one.

Both OH and I were ill on Christmas day.  The girls got together and made a shepherds pie, but as they switched the oven on it blew up tripping out the electrics.  We’ve had this oven for around 5 years.  It has been very unreliable, and OH had fixed it 3 times previously.  We decided that if it broke down again, we would buy a new one.

At first things didn’t look good with no ovens available for delivery until into the new year.  However, after a bit of searching and phoning around, OH found an oven in Sheffield and the shop was open on Boxing Day.  We knew it was going to snow in the evening, so he headed off early afternoon.  We managed to get a good deal on the oven – it is a ‘B’ grade one which means it isn’t perfect.  In this case it is a scratch on the handle which is practically invisible, but saved us over £70.

OH got back before the snow started, put the oven in, and we decided we would have our Christmas dinner on Saturday.

It started snowing in the early evening on Boxing Day and just kept on falling. Bee went out with her friends but phoned us around half past midnight to say she couldn’t get up our road due to a fallen tree across it.  OH and I got up and went to find her – it was incredibly spooky as it was still snowing and we could hear branches and trees falling in the woods all the way down the road.

We found Bee and helped her round the tree.  When we got back to the house, we had a quick look at our trees and found that one of our plum trees had fallen.  We couldn’t see much at night, but the following morning it became clear that one tree had fallen and another had sheared off part way down.  All over the area, there are trees down and fallen branches.  It’s really strange, it’s as if the snow fall was so heavy and sudden that many trees just couldn’t cope with it. 2014-12-27 08.16.19We’re not going to be able to do much with sorting the trees out until the snow has melted.  I love our plum trees, they look beautiful in the spring and we have had so much wonderful fruit from them.  I am hoping that we will be able to cut away the fallen branches and that they will rejuvenate from the trunks lower down.

Has anybody out there any ideas about the best way to deal with damaged fruit trees?  Will we be able to save them?

Until next time, Tawney x

Useful Christmas presents

Hello Friends,

Well we are nearly there with the Christmas shopping.  There has been a bit of a theme with this year’s presents: we seem to be going back to giving presents that are ‘needed’ rather than just ‘stuff’.  And we all know pretty much what we are going to get.

OH will be getting new Workmate.  His gave up the ghost in the summer after 30+ years, so it didn’t owe us anything.  Bee has asked for things which will help with her course, such as a geology hammer and a GPS thing.  I’m not entirely sure what kind of GPS thing she is after, so I’m going to wait until she comes home in just over a week to check exactly what she wants.

Edie is slightly trickier.  She is coming home for a couple of weeks, and won’t want to be taking a huge amount of things back on the plane with her.  However, she dropped her laptop within 2 days of arriving in Tashkent, so one of her presents is a replacement keyboard which OH will fit when she comes home.

My birthday is very close to Christmas.  I don’t usually like presents which cover both, simply because I don’t like my birthday to get lost.  This year, however, OH has built me up a new bike.  I will post about it soon, because it’s been done in a very cost effective way.  Luckily OH is into cycling and knows how to do this.  As this is something much bigger than I would normally have, I don’t mind at all that it’s covering both celebrations!  It will also have a lot of use – if it ever stops raining.

Are you moving towards giving ‘useful’ presents as opposed to ‘stuff’?

Until next time, Tawney x

Playing the supermarkets at their own game for Christmas

Hello Friends,

I don’t believe it!  I lost the internet connection just as I was about to hit preview and I’ve lost the entire contents of the post…never mind, I will try again.

We usually have a few treats over Christmas including biscuits.  Today I popped into the supermarket after work and picked up a couple of packets which were on offer at £5 for the two. Then I stopped.  Partly this was because the selections were a bit top heavy on the chocolate side.  I am allergic to chocolate (really) and while I don’t mind others eating it, I like there to be a bit of balance.  Partly this was also because I wondered if I could find something similar for better value further round the store.

I made my way to the biscuit aisle and on the bottom shelf (surprise, surprise) were some packet of biscuits which not only had  a more balanced selection but also only cost £2.

I read somewhere the other day about shops charging 20% extra for ‘gift packs’.  I’ve certainly found this in the past.  I often buy a normal pack of say, shower gels, and split them up to make my own gift packs.

What tricks have you found shops playing at this time of year?

Until next time, Tawney x