Monday, 28 February 2011

Vintage Wonderfulness

I like vintage clothing and vintage style but not enough to wear it or decorate my home that way. I can appreciate it, I suppose you'd say. I can spot it a mile off. In the last week I bought two lovely items that I thought I'd show you before they're sold on. The first is a really nice dress and coat combo by David Gibson of Regent Street, London. It's a gorgeous teal colour - I could see it on the mother of the bride - and I would date it perhaps early 60s. It's size 16 too,with 41" hips and 39" bust measurement. I like the lace insets on the collar and the chest. I don't know what it's made of but it doesn't crease and has a silky look.

The second item was from a car boot sale yesterday. It's a pure wool coat, made by Seigal in England. It's not wool like fluffy or woolly wool but hangs and feels like a very heavy synthetic fibre. I specially love the spotty lining of this one. It has a little half belt at the back and lovely big buttons. I would say this too could be from the 60s and might be a modern day 14. I'm going to get Red to model both for photos when she comes home on Wednesday, and will ask Babcia's opinion on date when she gets here tomorrow.

What do you think of my buys?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Garden Chaos

Firstly, thanks to my lovely blogging pals for your kind words and support re Mr Charming. I think he would curl up and die if he knew I'd said anything to anyone but but that's what mums do, right? And their pals, real or virtual help them out, so thanks again. The latest is he has already approached a nearby uni about transferring (eek, the one time in his life he doesn't procrastinate and it's something I don't want him to do!!) and they've said to wait until about May. Red says it's just as well he didn't know he could apply to transfer after just one term or he'd be home now. She is going to speak to him and I know Babcia will. I'll keep you informed.

This is my garden at the moment. JUST KIDDING!!! This is my garden.

The courtyard at the side of the house, where cars can, in theory, be parked securely. The pile of stuff near the gates is for a fire (all three of the men in my household are pyromaniacs).

Pretty awful I think you'd agree. Although I like the idea of having a beautiful garden in theory, I'm not so keen on all the work that goes into it. We did make a massive effort one year and it looked pretty good - Big Man made the swing set at the end of the garden himself and Carb Addict still goes on it almost every day, whatever the weather. Big Man also spent a heap of time and money on the pond in pic 3 - he was desperate for a pond and eventually dug one; bought all the equipment, including an expensive pump, and eventually had about 12 koi and other fish in there that he absolutely cherished. One day the pump stopped working and Big Man decided that the pond had to be drained, so he put the fish into a big plastic crate, all together (I bet you can almost guess what's coming). The crate was too small and to cut a long story short, all but two of the fish died. Cue much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. So he totally lost interest, hence the sad excuse for a pond you see now. I think I might have to do something about it myself, come the warmer weather.
Some people, like my lovely mum Babcia, have a green thumb. I do not. Babcia has a kind of cottage garden where she has raised little bushes and twigs she bought for a pound at the car boot sale, into giant trees and shrubs. But she puts a lot of time and effort into her garden. I think that's the secret. My in-laws Babs and Patsy also have a beautiful garden (including a pond, btw!).

Maybe it's a getting older thing? Not so long I would have curled my lip at the thought of such a crashingly boring idea as gardening. Now I think how very relaxing it would be to sit out in the sun on a lounger with a cool glass of something. Is it the impossible dream? I don't think so. I am resolving to try and beat my garden into some sort of shape this Spring - watch this space!!!

Friday, 25 February 2011

This Charming Man

Is there ever a time when you don't worry about your children? Mr Charming is, in my opinion very good-looking, sweet-natured, bright and eloquent. He is also very tall, has a great head of hair and lovely teeth. He's almost 19 and in his first year of uni in Cornwall studying English. He was desperate to go to this particular uni and just managed to scrape in but all of a sudden he's talking about transferring to a uni that's closer to home in his second year because he's 'pining for home'. Now, he has his morose moments - that's part of coming from a Polish/Irish family....melancholy is never far away, but generally he's really good fun. He has a group of 'friends' here at home who he really wants to keep in touch with but they treat him badly. In the main they're wasters - still in the first year at college even though they're all the same age as him. One missed all his secondary schooling because of bullying supposedly but mainly because he has a super-indulgent mum who treats him as her best friend and just let him stay away. He's now at college doing GCSEs but failed the first year and is doing them again. Another missed nearly all of his secondary schooling and two years of college because of social anxiety. Hmmmm. The third just goes along with the first two. Don't get me wrong, they're all okay - always polite to me, clean and tidy and so on (and I'm not disputing there are such things as school avoiders and social anxiety, just not in these cases). But they treat my Mr Charming badly and I can't have that. When he came home at Christmas he planned a night out on Facebook so he could see all of his pals and all but one cried off. He said to me 'I'd never do that to them Mum' and I wanted to kill them all stone dead. There's also a girl involved that Mr Charming liked and had 'talked to' on MSN for ages before he came home for Christmas. After leading him on she then went off, right under his nose, with one of these 'friends' of his. But she still won't leave my lad alone, texting him, MSNing him, so he thinks he has a chance with her. I was telling Big Man all of this and he said 'this girl, where does she live?' 'On my shit list, forever', says I. I could kill her, too.

If only he could find a girlfriend in Cornwall I think he'd feel a lot better. I think it would be a big mistake to transfer back closer to home, especially when his so-called friends are not missing him, or so it seems. I tried to say this on the phone to him - that he has moved on and they haven't - but I don't want to upset him, I hate to think of him feeling down. I think I might have to call in the big guns on this one - Red and my mum, Babcia. Red is very forthright and she also has the advantage of being a year ahead of him at uni so she can give him advice. And Babcia gets on very well with Mr Charming and adores him, and he her, so she will speak to him gently.

Isn't being Mum the hardest job in the world sometimes?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Chasing A Pound

It's been a real sea-change for me, this frugality lark. There was nobody worse than me for going out with £20 or £30 or even £50 in my purse and spending it all on what I thought was splendid stuff but have since realised was basically rubbish. Don't get me wrong - a lot of the stuff I bought went on to make me plenty of money on eBay or at car boot sales, but equally a lot of it is still sitting around the house as 'stock' and I can't think of much of it as 'good buys' now. I thought that everything I got in a charity shop was a bargain (not always the case, definitely) and whilst I've been lucky and caught onto things just as they became popular, thereby making a fair bit of money on eBay, I have also gone on to squander said money on things I don't need at all. In the past I've sold things for good prices, had maybe £150 sitting in my Paypal account and just frittered it away on more eBay things. I'm such a mug.
But I'm trying to change. I'm trying so very hard that it's turning into my main topic of mind is twisting all the time over ways to make money. I had a day off work today and spent the afternoon at a classroom session for the Census job. Then when I got home at 6 o'clock I made dinner and started on a phone and computer-based survey job thingy that paid £25. I finished that at 9 o'clock. I've applied to do the Returning Officer job in May for the local elections and I've got a mystery shopping job on Saturday 5/3. I could pick up a lot more jobs for that day but my lovely mum is coming for a visit and I can't expect her to sit in the car all day whilst I drive around the city buying eggs and returning sandwiches. And do you know what I actually heard myself saying to Big Man the other day? 'I could do loads of these jobs if Mum wasn't coming'. My lovely mum, who I haven't seen since December :(

What sort of money-saving monster have I turned into? I've gotta calm down.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Staples, You Stink

Far be it from me to criticise the staff of any store - it's a crummy job, customers are generally rude and obnoxious (Red and Mr Charming both worked for Tesco whilst at college and had some hair-raising stories), the pay sucks and the hours are long. So this isn't me having a go at the Staples staff but more a go at the whole Staples experience. Can there ever have been, in the history of stationery retailers, a situation where there are so many employees around but nobody actually doing any serving?

I paid a visit to my local Staples yesterday lunchtime and ending up storming out empty-handed. I should say here that storming out of shops and restaurants is something I do fairly often. Big Man wasn't a 'storm-outer' when we first met but as the years have passed he too has mastered the art of the strop whilst Red has become quite the princess of the flounce. Mr Charming is obviously too, well...charming for that kind of carry-on. But I digress. I needed some packing tape for my eBay parcels so found a multi pack for a very good price and also found a very handy ruler kind of thing that measures whether your parcel can be a large letter. I was excited because I had been after something like that and it was very reasonably priced too. There seemed to be a strange kind of queue near the ran parallel with the Print Station (ha ha) which had several people and employees at it but nobody actually seemed to be doing anything other than - well, it's hard to know what they were all doing to be honest. Staring into space (staff). Looking resigned (customers). None of the checkouts were open. After a while of hanging around a checkout was opened and the first person in the queue went to it and got served. Then a guy appeared out of nowhere and went to the checkout (everyone else was still in the queue parallel to the Print Station in the hope that a checkout there would become free). I said to the woman in front of me, who should have been served next, 'are you going to say something?'. She told me that it was too much confrontation on a Monday. I thought that this was a bit wussy but let it go. The guy on the checkout was well aware that there was a queue and that this...interloper...had pushed in, but said nothing. Then, whaddya know, another bloke came along and was about to go to the checkout at which point both I and the other woman objected. I think he was a chancer because it was pretty obvious we (and the six people behind us) were lining up for something. Retired kind of guy, glasses, looking for a good pasting, you know the kind. By this time I was getting pretty hacked off and all it needed was for somebody to say 'Is anybody paying with cash, the card machines have all gone down'. When somebody came along and said that I had had enough and stormed off, leaving my tape and ruler on top of a computer. I really wanted that ruler too.

So Staples, sort your checkouts out. Sort your card machines out. Sort your queuing system out. Life is too short to spend it pointlessly waiting in line.

Here endeth the rant.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Not So Lazy Sunday

I usually blog at night but I've got such a lot to do today that I'm grabbing a few minutes whilst Big Man and Carb Addict are on one of their jollies to B&Q and before I make lunch. Washing, changing beds, wrapping parcels, e-learning for the Census Job, photographing items for eBay (free listing today!), making dinner, finishing a lemon meringue pie for pudding tonight, updating my financial spreadsheet, maybe ironing (but only if there's no avoiding it!)....phew!!!! I've just had a week off work and I've achieved nothing as far as I can see. It's funny but I seem to get more done when I only have a limited amount of time to do it in. Let's see if that's the case today!! I'll let you know tomorrow what I actually get through.

Here's to a good week ahead xx

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Lately I Have....

...seen a preview movie and read a book for my book club so I decided to write about both in one post. The film was 'West is West' and is the sequel to 'East is East' (as if you highly intelligent and cultured folks needed that pointing out!) I loved East is East - the scene with the 'sculpture' and the matchmaker is hilarious - so I was hoping that this one would be as good.

Well, I can tell you it is funny - there are perhaps not quite as many laugh-out-loud moments as there are in East is East. The focus is on Sajid, the youngest child of George and Ella Khan and this time the action is set in Pakistan. It's beautifully filmed...within minutes of the main characters arriving at the airport I said to Big Man 'I want to go there'! It looks heavenly. Not all of the characters from the first film reappear; the sister and one of the brothers aren't even mentioned and Jimi Mistry as Tariq only makes a cameo appearance. Again it's family dynamics that are under the microscope and this time the family is the one George left behind 30 years ago when he went to Salford - the first Mrs Khan! However, it's a good fun, feelgood film that I would recommend highly.

I am a voracious reader and although my taste is usually for thrillers (Michael Connolly, John Connelly, Stuart MacBride, Peter Robinson) I am often stretched by our book group choices. They're not always to my taste - I couldn't even finish Mort by Terry Pratchett  - but sometimes we have something I wouldn't normally have contemplated reading - The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier, for example - but end up really enjoying. This time it was War Horse by Michael Morpurgo and I have to confess that I read it in three hours on the afternoon before our meeting. It's fairly short, maybe 180 pages, and it's a children's book. I enjoyed it I suppose, it was a sweet story. The problem was that I couldn't get past it being a kids book and thought it was very simplistic and a bit...cliched maybe? I feel bad even saying it because I know a lot of people love it plus I hear the stage show is magnificent. And I know that I don't really fall into the target audience! It's the kind of book I would have read nightly to Red and Mr Charming when they were young and I think they would have liked it. But in this family even now, nothing beats a good Enid Blyton. Now that IS good storytelling!

 What have you been reading and watching?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Justifying Myself, Just..

Today I spent £33 on myself. It's the biggest single amount I've spent just on me for ages - even under normal (non-savings mode) circumstances I don't tend to spend a lot on myself. Other people yes, but not me.
I use, or used, something called 'Eau Bienfait de Clarte' by Lancome, which is a make-up remover, and a fantastic one at that. The last bottle I had was bought for me by Red a couple years ago. It lasted a long time but that's because I don't always wear make-up. Well, my bottle finally ran out so I looked online to see how much it costs now. The last lot was £17 for 200ml. I couldn't find any on Boots' website, on eBay or anywhere on Google and came to the conclusion that it was discontinued. Today in town mystery shopping I decided to ask what had happened to it at the Lancome counter in John Lewis. And it's only been renamed, that's all! It's now Eau Micellaire Douceur and a different colour.

So, that's where I indulged myself. £33 for 400ml. I am telling myself that it'll last a long time and that it's a brilliant product. And that I always get money for my birthday from my in-laws (next week!!!). And I've been working very hard to pay stuff down. Plus I got really cold and wet walking into town to do more mystery shopping.

I think I've convinced myself that I deserved it. What say you?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Pay It Forward 2011

This is something I saw on a blog belonging to my friend Vintage Hearth - I'm very lucky to be one of her 'payees' as her beaded stuff is so lovely. Anyway, now I'm Paying It Forward.

I promise something handmade to the FIRST five people who leave a comment here. However, to be eligible you must repost this status, offering something handmade to five other people. The rules are that it must be handmade (or homemade) by you and it must be sent to your five people some time in 2011.
Ready, set, GO!!
I will contact the first five people who comment so that I can get your details in order to Pay It Forward.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Don't You Want Me?

Two interesting experiences today, one profitable, the other costly (to me anyway, in my frugal state of mind).

I went into town with Red as she had been dying to try out Yo! Sushi for ages. Every time she comes home she suggests we go there for lunch so today we finally got round to it. Expensive isn't the word, and I can understand why Japanese people are so small and slight judging by the portions. If you've never been, you sit in a booth and a conveyor belt goes round past you. On the belt are 'plates' of sushi and you grab whatever you want. Each different style of sushi, sashimi or whatever is assigned a coloured plate and the colours correspond to a price. So green plates are vegetarian and cost £1.80. That would be for maybe 3 edamame beans and a julienned carrot. The most expensive were the grey plates at £5 and they are more substantial. Might fill a baby food jar. Well, we had five different coloured plates (none grey) and a tiddy pudding each and it cost, with the tip, £40. I think, we both thought, that it was dear and were pretty underwhelmed with the food. Still, as my granny used to say, 'we'll know another time'.

Second experience of the day involved a trip to London. I was supposed to be taking part in a focus group for 3 1/2 hours and getting paid £100 for it. I joined a research company and this was the first time that I fitted their criteria. I wasn't looking forward to getting home at midnight but who can turn down £100 in their hand these days? After all the other people arrived we were about to go in to focus or whatever we were doing when I was called back. Apparently I was the spare in case they were one short but everyone had turned up so I wasn't needed after all. But I still got paid!! RESULT!!! The very best thing that could have happened - pay for no work. And I was home by 8.30. But do you know what? I can't help feeling a little bit....unwanted. Silly isn't it? I would only have been setting off to get home by now instead of tapping away online but still, nobody likes to feel rejected. Not even when they've got £100 in their pocket..... 

Monday, 7 February 2011

Twenty-One Today!!

Strictly speaking it was twenty-one last Saturday but 'today' sounds so much better. It's hard to believe that it's 21 years since I went to the hospital and came home with a wee girl, my Red. It was a worrying time because the ambulance people had gone on strike and I thought I might have to go in an Army ambulance if Big Man couldn't be reached in time (we're talking about the days when expectant fathers didn't hang around to mop your brow). He was serving at a naval base about 15 miles away at the time, and pretty hard to contact. And Red decided to come early so Big Man had gone off to work all unconcerned. To cut a long story short he was located and got home in time to take me to the maternity hospital where a mere five hours later Red appeared. She was a bit poorly and had to go to the SCBU for a while but at that time you could stay in the hospital for up to 10 days. I wanted to stay because we have no family near us and I knew that Big Man was due to leave imminently for the Brecon Beacons, on training with the Navy. As it happened we had one day at home together, all three of us, before he left, then one day on my own with her. The next day my lovely Mum came down to stay, which was a blessing. And of course then I went on to have Mr Charming and Carb Addict. I stayed in hospital for ten days with all three children...and I cried when I had to come out with Carb Addict! The staff were so lovely there - you can see how lovely they are if you ever watch 'One Born Every Minute'. I personally don't watch it...if I was to see someone I know labouring away on TV I don't think I could ever look them in the eye again.

What I don't understand is, how can Red be 21 when I am only 29?!!! ;P

Here's to a good week ahead xx

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

January SitRep

Well, one of the main reasons I started this blog was because I'd been so inspired by other frugality blogs that I thought it might help me. And also because I like to write and share things that happen, but that's by-the-by. At the end of my first month of frugal living I want to share how we've got on.

The great news is that we have paid off £1403.86 in January! I am really made up about it. It was a combination of spending more wisely and income maximisation. I made just under £250 through eBaying; an extra £386 through mystery shopping; and as a result of car scrappage and a water rebate we got an additional £329. A couple of things have been paid off altogether - a small overdraft I had on an account, which I then closed; and a business phone line bill...we are getting rid of the line.

Not so good. I budgeted £200 for food for the month to cover me, Big Man, Carb Addict at weekends and Otto our cat. I also had Red and Mr Charming for the first bit of the month. The food came to £259.26 so 25% over what I'd planned. I did menu plan each week and stuck to it but it doesn't help that Big Man buys things he fancies for his lunch that are not budgeted for - Dairylea Cheese Spread..pate..tubs of sandwich filler...cream cakes. I have been including those costs in to the overall spends but I'm wondering whether I should leave them out. He pays from his own money so....hmmm. What does anyone else think?

Overall I am a happy bunny today. The only thing is that now I start to get a feeling that isn't altogether helpful...a feeling like 'oh, we've paid things off now I can be a bit less strict'. I always do that. On diets I'm the same. I've got to be really strong and stay motivated.

You will all help me, won't you?