De-stressing Christmas

Hello Friends,

Following on from my last post, I have decided that I am not going to do the stress thing with Christmas this year.  In previous years I have tried to do too much and be perfect.  So this year it is all going to be much simpler.

First of all, I’m going to do as much of my Christmas shopping online as I can.  I’m planning to do this in the next couple of weeks so everything will be with us well before Christmas.  I am going to stay away from town centres and malls, there are better ways to spend my time other than wandering aimlessly trying to think of something to buy people.  Luckily Edie and Bee have told me what they want, so I can get on with doing this.

I also need to manage my time in the run up to Christmas carefully.  Some years I have reached Christmas feeling completely frazzled – that isn’t going to happen this time.  There are some things I want to do (playing with the orchestra, making a Christmas cake, collecting Edie from the airport when she comes home) and I have carefully planned these so I’m not trying to cram too much in.

How are you planning the run up to Christmas?

Until next time, Tawney x

Just one job

Hello Friends,

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was clearing up Edie’s room by picking up three things every time I went in there.  I’m now applying the same principle to the landing, and that is looking a bit less cluttered.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been tied up doing stuff, but one thing I have suddenly discovered is that it’s better if I just focus on one thing at a time.  So last weekend, I set myself the goal of cutting a bit more of the hedge in front of the kitchen.  This has been a bit of a tough job – the hedge is full of ivy, and I didn’t cut it back properly last year.  My only job for last Sunday was getting to grips with it, and I did.  There’s another section I need to do but that can wait until another time.

At the weekend I just set myself a few tasks: a quick clean and tidy up round the house, sorting some magazines out and on Sunday, pruning an out of control rambling rose.  It seems that by trying to do less, I’m achieving more.  I am coming to the conclusion that I probably need to try and do less.  There are some things I’m going to have to put to one side – will I ever make those Roman blinds? Or a Christmas table runner?  The answer is not until I prioritise some time to do this.

Have you scaled back on the things you have been trying to do?  Have you found things are working better as a result?

Until next time, Tawney x

Autumn jobs

Hello Friends,

If you are in the UK I hope you are enjoying the lovely warm sunny weather we are having at the moment.

Yesterday OH and I went for a walk over the hills near here.

2014-09-27 12.09.10Having had a day out enjoying ourselves, I had to get down to a few outstanding jobs today.  We need to do a bit of house maintenance before the winter.  One of the downsides about living where we do is that it can be difficult to get hold of things without either ordering them off the internet or a 30- 40 minute car journey.

I don’t enjoy going shopping much but today I forced myself to get in the car and head off to a DIY shed for some paint, sandpaper, brushes and a new shower curtain.  After lunch I set about painting the french doors in the kitchen.  It didn’t take as long as I thought it would and now I know they are ready for the winter.  We still have some window frames to do so I hope the warm weather will hold for a bit longer.

What autumn jobs have you been doing lately?

Until next time, Tawney x

Gathering fruit

Hello Friends,

It’s that time of year when I gather fruit from our own trees, blackberries from the hedgerows and sloes from the top of Frugal Hill.

We have had a much better plum harvest this year, and there are also lots of blackberries around.  I walked up Frugal Hill last Sunday morning, meeting neightbours asking me where all the blackberries are, and whether the sloes are ready.

I am lucky to live in the country – this is the walk up the road…….. 2014-09-07 10.14.26And then out to the footpath on Frugal Hill.  It’s not far to the blackberries and sloes from here. 2014-09-07 10.22.32I’ve made plum jam and bramble jelly so far and the rest of the fruit I’m putting in the freezer for now.  I will make preserves with them later on in the year.

2014-09-07 10.29.56Have you been gathering fruit and making jam?

Until next time, Tawney x

Mortgage free at last

Hello Friends,

Today, 1st September 2014, we made the last payment on our mortgage.  After all this time, I can’t quite believe we have got there.  We have managed to pay it off 5 years early and I feel like it’s a real achievement.

How have we managed this?  I guess we have been lucky but we’ve also made our own luck.  We bought the house at the bottom of the market after there had been a house price crash in the early 1990s.  It was a bit scary at the time as prices were still falling.  We had both owned houses before we got married, and although they had also dropped in value, we still had enough to put down a good sized deposit.  We bought the house on a mortgage based on one income only as we didn’t want to stretch ourselves with young children.

Before you ask, neither of us comes from a wealthy background.  I was the first person in my family to go to university. OH came from a similarly normal growing up in a 3 bedroom semi background.

We also bought when interest rates were higher.  As they fell, we continued to pay at the same rate, overpaying every month.

Things are very different right now.  Edie and Bee both say they can’t see how they will be able to buy a house.  I think they will – it might just take a bit longer.

Where do we go from here?  We’ve now got to learn how to have a bit more money.  It would be very easy to splash out, but we both want the option of cutting our hours if not retiring at 60, so we will be looking at how we can achieve this.

Have you paid off your mortgage?  If so, what did you do next?

Until next time, Tawney x

Three steps to tidying

Hello Friends,

My home has been a bit extra chaotic this summer with people coming and going with all their stuff.  As you know, Edie finished university and brought all her books and belongings home before heading of to Central Asia with one large suitcase and a rucksack.  There were piles of stuff in her room, and at one point it wasn’t even possible to reach her bed.

My goal is simple – to straighten things up, get the boxes stacked tidily, clear out the rubbish and clean the room.  Sorting out her belongings and deciding what she wants to keep is Edie’s job when she gets home.

When I first went into Edie’s room I didn’t know where or how to start.  I then had the idea of picking up three things each time I went into the room.  This would be something like three empty plastic bottles, three scraps of paper or a sock, a book and a pen.

After a week there is a clear path to the bed.  There is a massive box of text books that I hope to slide under the desk when the floor under that is clear, and after that I should be able to put the remaining shoes and clothes in the wardrobe.

This exercise has taught me that successful clearing and de-cluttering doesn’t have to be done all in one go – a very small effort every day over a longer period of time can have quite dramatic results.  This is something I would like to try in other areas of the house.

Have you tried a similar method of de-cluttering?  Has it worked for you?

Until next time, Tawney x

A year of less stuff

Hello Friends,

If you’ve been following my blog for the last few weeks, you’ll know that Edie is off to Tashkent for a year.  As I write this, her plane is about to take off from Heathrow.

This is her case for the year.

10603409_796864653699615_5096727720807933010_nShe has had to pack for winter and summer.  The case contains a thick winter coat and snowboots, a couple of pairs of shorts and her work clothes.  She had to think very carefully when choosing what to take so that she could put together a number of outfits from a limited number of clothes.

When she went on her year abroad as part of her degree course, she took a lot of books and was over on her baggage allowance.  This time she has taken an e-reader and her case weighed 18 kg.

This has got me thinking that we could all manage with less stuff, and the exercise of living out of a suitcase for a year is an interesting one. It involves shopping consciously and deciding what is essential and what you can do without.

After we got back from holiday last year, I made a list of what I didn’t wear or use.  This year I left these things out of the suitcase and found I took a lot less stuff.  This year, there were one or two things which didn’t get worn, so I will try and cut down again next year.

I think this would be an interesting exercise to apply to other areas of the home and decide what I really need.

Have you ever had the experience of living with a pared down amount of stuff?  How did you get on?

Until next time, Tawney x

Sale bargains

Hello Friends,

I’m not very good at sales.  I don’t like the feeling of being overwhelmed and hunting through things as if you are at a jumble sale.  I’ve also had a few sale disasters.

I have, however, had a few successful purchases in the last couple of weeks..  As you will know, Edie flies to Uzbekistan for a year on Friday.  She needed some new walking shoes – she’s had her old walking boots for about 6 years, they don’t fit properly and are split down the side.  They are also very heavy and she is on the limit of her baggage allowance.

We spotted some suitable lightweight shoes in a shop today.  As she has a only few days left here, I decided to bite the bullet, even though they were a bit on the pricey side.  When I got to the till, I found they had 20% off making them a very good buy indeed.

My second bargain has a couple of lightweight macs (the sort that pack up small in a bag) for Bee and I.  I had a lightweight Rohan mac which lasted about 10 years – I loved it, it folded up small and was very versatile.  It cost quite a bit at the time, but the length of time I owned it brought the cost per wear down considerably.  Unfortunately, I really did wear it into the ground and despite reproofing it now leaks like a sieve. The new macs were reduced to £15 in a sale, and although they probably aren’t as waterproof as my old one, they will do the job.

My final bargain was a new purse.  I’d been looking out for one for a while, and seen a particular one I liked in a sale – with a 10% discount.  However, I still felt I didn’t want to pay that price so I left it.  While I was looking for something else a few weeks later, I checked again on the purse to find it was now reduced by 50% so I snapped it up.

What have I learned from my recent sale experiences?

  • Sometimes you just get lucky, as I did with Edie’s shoes
  • Sometimes it’s worth waiting until the end of the sale to get a real bargain, as I did with the purse
  • If you are going to buy something anyway, as with the macs, it’s worth hanging on for the sales

Have you bought any real bargains in the summer sales?  What are your top tips for sales success?

Until next time, Tawney x

Simple holiday meals

Hello Friends,

When I’m on holiday I like not to have to think about anything much. This includes cooking. The last thing I want to do is to spend half a day of my precious leave in an unfamiliar supermarket, trying to find unusual ingredients, and then work out how to use a different cooker before spending another two hours cooking.

I have now fallen into a pattern of simple holiday meals when we go away. If we are with a large group, I’ll cook something I’m familiar with and scale it up. Cooking for 11 isn’t the time to conduct elaborate experiments. I usually do something like spaghetti bolognese or chilli. The advantage of these meals is that you can substitute vegemince if there are vegetarians in the party (Bee has been veggie for nearly 10 years) and you don’t have to cook a separate meal.

Whether it is for two or four people or for a big group, I try to plan meals from a small number of ingredients and which will take no more than an hour to cook. Some of my favourites can be put together in 15 minutes. This is my top list of holiday suppers which can all be adapted for vegetarians:

pasta bolognese
chilli con carne + rice or wraps and salad
beans on toast
pizza with salad
ciabattas with various fillings
vegetable curry

What are your favourite holiday meals?

Until next time, Tawney x


The best time of day

Hello Friends,

At the moment I am a morning person.  I like to get up early, do whatever I have to do and then go to bed relatively early.  It hasn’t always been like this.  When I was a student I used to get up at 11 am and go to bed at 2 am.

I find that if I work with myself rather than against myself, I achieve more.  So now I try and do things which need a lot of energy or mental effort earlier in the day.  My worst time is after lunch, I then fall off a cliff with exhaustion around 4 pm before getting a second wind in the early part of the evening at about 6 (this is about the time I’m writing this post today).  This lasts until about 9 pm after which all I can do is flop.

I have a bit of flexibility around the times I can start and finish work.  What I have now started to do is to plan my job hours so that I use my energy more effectively for the creative things outside work which are important to me.  I might do extra violin practice or writing before going in later, or alternatively, finish early if I’m cooking something a bit more complicated for tea.  Since I’ve been doing this, things have been on a bit more of an even keel and life has got a bit simpler.

When is your best time of day?  How do your organise things to suit your energy levels?

Until next time, Tawney x