Monthly Archives: May 2009

Days 52 & 53


For the past few days I’ve been trying to take it easy as this lurgie thing is still lingering (as is the toothache – my dentists says I have to have root canal treatment if it doesn’t settle down in the next few days). I’m ignoring the second bedroom and its decluttering neediness. I’ve reached a point where I don’t know where to put any of the stuff that is in there!

I’ve mostly been occupying myself with low-key things from my ‘doing things for free’ list. Over the past couple of days I’ve finished reading A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf which has been sitting on my ‘to read’ bookshelf. I bought it last year and then a friend asked if they could borrow it. A year later it was returned, though they’d had to get me a new copy as their cat had taken rather a shine to it and chewed it to pieces. Apparently the 10 year old cat has never done this before. I wonder what provoked it? Did Virginia speak to her on some inner feline level or did she object to the feminist undertones? I’ll never know. But the book was great…

I’ve also been poking around on . I haven’t actually got any free stuff yet but I’ll keep popping back in until something takes my fancy! I’ve spent too long decluttering to give space to any old thing even if it is free. AND I’ve put another £100 into my savings account so I’ve managed my £500 for the month. I might even be able to put a bit extra in but I’ll wait until next week, just in case.

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Doing things for free: reading books I already have (and haven’t read yet!)
  • Nifty thrifty: checking out free samples online
  • Financial management: saving another £100
Categories: Book love, Saving | 1 Comment

Days 50 & 51

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I made risotto! I’ve never made this before and it turned out really well. The food shop went well on Friday. I spent about £25 on groceries to last the week and then a whopping £12 on ingredients for the risotto (it required booze). I took the £12 from my general spending fund as I was cooking for friends so it was a social thing and still cheaper than going out for dinner – not part of my regular food shop. I’ve mentioned before that I want to experiment a bit more with my cooking. The risotto went down a storm – I’ll definitely make it again and try some different variations. If anyone is interested this is the recipe I used:


  • 125g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1 litre hot vegetable stock
  • 150g green beans cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 150g peas
  • 150g asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 150g baby spinach, chopped
  • glass of white wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 125g grated grana padano (I didn’t use parmesan because, to me, it smells of feet)

To make the risotto:

  • Melt 50g of the butter with the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5 minutes
  • Add the rice and stir well to coat the grains. Add the hot stock a large ladelful at a time, stirring until each ladelful is absorbed into the rice. Continue until you have added all of the stock. The rice should be creamy but still firm. This takes about 20 minutes
  • Add the vegetables and white wine –  mix well and cook for 2 minutes
  • Remove the pan from the heat, season and then add the rest of the butter, the chopped parsley and the cheese. Mix well, then cover and leave it to rest for a few minutes until serving.

I suppose it isn’t really a very shoestring meal, though I think perfectly okay for entertaining at £4 per head. I still have spinach, asparagus, butter, risotto rice and peas left to use in other meals as well so it probably came in at a bit less than that. There was also plenty of wine left over to drink with the meal! Yesterday I also made 8 portions of lasagne to go in the freezer.

I’ve been having a tentative go at the second bedroom again. It seems like I go around in circles, pulling things out, making a mess, throwing things out, putting other things away again only for it to look exactly the same. Very annoying. I’m doing it in 10 minute stints so I guess it will take me a while!

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Nifty Thrifty: making 8 portions of lasagne for the freezer
  • Decluttering: I begin to suspect that I will still be trying to clear the second bedroom come September…
Categories: Recipes | 3 Comments

Days 47, 48 & 49


Well, I haven’t been around in blogland for a few days but I’ve still been keeping up with the challenge-a-day. The lurgie is still lurking and my tooth is still waking me up every night so I feel seriously tired at the moment. We haven’t got people coming over tonight and I’ve just done the housework. If I can summon up the energy I’ll go and do the weekly shop in a little while. Then I can crash on the sofa with husband and watch the latest offering from Lovefilm. Bliss!

I’ve purchased the first addition to my summer wardrobe. Topshop are currently doing a great offer on basic V-neck vests – £6 for 1 or 2 for £9. I ordered one in black and one in red. The fit is fantastic and they are nice and long, so very flattering! I also bought a necklace in their sale, to wear for gigs, which was reduced to just £4 (see photo for purchases). I’m really pleased with my haul as I can create lots of new outfits from these 3 simple things. I may have a couple more vests next month as it is rare to find something that fits me so well. Total spend just £13!

After picking up a tip from Recessionista I also looked into the new Freedom packages being offered by Vodafone for Pay As You Go customers such as myself. I’m giving it a go. The ‘pack’ lasts 30 days and my £10 buys me 300 texts and 100 minutes talk time. As I only really use my mobile phone for recieving calls and sending texts my credit usually all goes on texting. Previously this was costing me 10p per text which means my £10 used to get me 100 texts. Obviously I am now going to be getting a lot more for my money! The only slight drawback is that £10 would often last me a bit longer than 30 days. HOWEVER. The biggest expense on our landline bill comes from calls to mobile phones. So we can actually save money by using the 100 minutes I am getting as part of my package. I made the effort to go into town at lunchtime to buy my top up voucher from Boots so I could get the points on my Advantage card again. I now have £35.80 saved to spend in Boots on a rainy day.

Today I made a start on decluttering the second bedroom. This room gives me the fear. It is bursting with junk and I have been too intimidated to deal with it thus far. I’ve decided to tackle it in small chunks and then run away when the fear becomes too great. I started by re-organising part of the massive collection of books that live in there. This job is by no means finished but it looks a lot neater and tidier than before.

I’ve also managed to put another £50 into my saving account!

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Considered spending: 3 new additions to my wardrobe for only £13
  • Nifty thrifty: getting a lot more out of my mobile phone top-up
  • Nifty thrifty: getting my top-up voucher from Boots to get the Advantage card points
  • Financial management: saving £50
  • Decluttering: making a small start on the second bedroom
Categories: Decluttering, Home Economics, Saving | 3 Comments

Day 46: A little spend

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Today I bought my first magazine since January! Actually, it’s been a bit of a shopping day generally as I also had to buy some conditioner and a new foot pumice stone thing as well. I’ve been quite enjoying using up all of my bathroom things instead of going out and buying stuff. I already have a large, deep drawer in the bathroom full of ‘stuff’ – I think of it as my shop, which I only visit when I’ve run out of something on the shelf. I have/had a large collection of travel sized products which I am slowly making my way through. I don’t know why I thought having so many mini versions of products was a great idea. Some, I’ll admit, come in handy for a night away. I have small bottles for toner and eye make-up remover which can be refilled so are very handy. But how much hassle is it to actually pack a normal sized plastic bottle of shampoo when you are going away for a whole week? I’m hanging on to one travel sized shower gel, the little bottles and not much else. I’ve nearly used up all of my travel sized shampoos, though my lush shampoo bar bought at New Year is still going strong. However, I used up the last of my conditioner at the weekend and simultaneously accepted that the pumice stone was functioning no more. Even so, space is appearing in the drawer! Eventually I hope to have only one of each thing (unless I’m stocking up with BOGOFs etc) and each of those things to be something that I really like.  

Anyway, the magazine. I’ve been rummaging around online looking for interiors inspiration and found some good ideas but I really fancied sitting down and pouring over a magazine. One of my funny little decluttering projects has been ridding the house of several years worth of magazines. After going through the main stacks I thought I had them all, but they keep appearing in strange places. A few years ago I bought a large, spiral topped notepad and used it to collect photos of interiors I liked which came in very handy. I came across this notepad a while ago. Some of the photos seemed quite dated but some still appealed. My first instinct was to buy a new notepad and start again but, in the spirit of shoestring, I carefully removed the photos I didn’t like anymore. I then went through each old magazine before throwing it away and cut out any photos that gave me ideas and glued them into my book. So I’ll be getting my money’s worth out of this glossy investment with the aid of a pair of scissors and a pritt stick!

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Making use of what I already have: re-using my ‘Interiors’ notepad
  • Doing things for free: spending a little time on my free internet course
Categories: Getting organised | Leave a comment

Day 45: Ta da!


I’ve finished the bookmark for Gran’s birthday – woo hoo! With a couple of weeks to spare too. Phew.

I’ve been doing more plotting re. home improvements. I know that I need to stop thinking about everything that needs to be done and focus on one room / area at a time. I’ve picked the spare bedroom as project number 1. It is laughably small – around 6′ x 10′ I think. At the moment it is home to a futon sofa bed, a built-in floor to ceiling cupboard/wardrobe, a bookcase, book shelves, a desk and a filing cabinet. I want to make it look more like a room than a cramped cell which is going to take some doing (particularly as the windowsill is at chest height). For a while I considered getting rid of the cupboard to give a bit more floor space (and because it is ugly) but I am almost entirely decided that I am not going to do it. It would mean ripping holes in the wallpaper on two walls and the ceiling which, in turn, would mean taking all of the wallpaper off and getting someone in to replaster (I know it would need this – I’ve seen underneath the wallpaper in other parts of the house). This would also mean having to put up with all of the furniture in our bedroom while the various bits of work (cupboard dismantling, plastering, painting, re-carpeting etc) was going on. I can’t face it. Plus, the ugly cupboard offers good storage. So I think it is staying. Tonight I’m going to start making a serious list of all of the things that need to be done…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Gift box / Making use of the things I already have: finishing the cross-stitich book mark for Gran (which I meant to do about 5 years ago – better late than never!)
Categories: Goals | 4 Comments

Day 45: A moment for reflection

It’s been one of those thinking days. I’ve felt slightly uneasy for a few weeks now and I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly what is bothering me. Then, when I was catching up on some of my favourite blogs, I noticed a post over at Move To Portugal that hit the nail right on the head. Laura was talking about the work / life balance, feeling distracted at work by thinking about things that need to be done at home and then feeling stressed at home for having been distracted at work. This is exactly what I have been doing and I have been driving myself mad. Work is particularly busy for me at the moment and I really need my focus. After chewing this over for a couple of days I’ve decided that I need to take a slightly different approach to get back on track. Getting up earlier to get annoying household chores out of the way has been working really well for me – I’ve barely noticed the ‘loss’ of time in bed in the morning but I have really noticed the difference in coming home from work with a minimal amount to do before getting on with the evening. So far so good.  Over the years I’ve collected several good books on my industry, with different books covering different aspects of my paarticular job. Generally I find dippng into them every now and then quite inspiring. I’ve decided that I am now going to get up a little bit earlier still so that, once I’ve finished my chores, I can read one of my books for 20 minutes or so while I’m having breakfast to put me in the ‘right’ frame of mind for the day. And, other than taking a break at lunch time to think about and do other things, I am going to make a concerted effort not to get mentally sidetracked from anything but the job in hand. My work is my only source of income so it is very important that I do it well – if I didn’t have it there would be no saving, no anything. Very anti-shoestring!

I’ve also been thinking about the other things distracting me. Working out what you need, what you can do without and all of that malarky makes you think a lot about what you really want to be doing with your time and money. Outside of seeing my friends and family and playing in the band, I love reading, writing, walking, going out, seeing new things and learning more about food and cooking. But it adds up to rather a lot (for me anyway) and I don’t feel like I’m giving any one thing enough attention because I always feel like I ought to be doing things to the house. This is becoming more and more evident as I try to declutter. I keep going to do things and then realising I can’t do that until we’ve done such and such or there isn’t anywhere to put this until we’ve done something else which means we can get a chest of drawers in there or whatever.

Our home is very small (a tiny chunk of a very large building), though it doesn’t feel too cramped as it has two flights of stairs in it which gives the illusion of space. This weekend Husband has just about managed to get our TV wall mounted which means we can get rid of the old, bulky TV unit and gain some floor space. However, just doing something as simple as this has reminded me of how difficult it is to get anything done here. We can’t move the furniture from room to room, there are boxes everywhere, dust, leads, drills – chaos basically. Just from putting the TV on the wall! And then we’ve got to find time to get rid of the TV unit and re-home all of the other things that used to live there. Ugh.

I’ll post more about our plans for the house another day. I am beginning to think they might need to be altered a bit. Yes, there are things that need doing but maybe a few actually don’t and I really don’t want this to be dragging on forever. We’ve lived here for nearly ten years and it seems like it has been an endless cycle of home improvements. So my focus now has to be getting it done and drawing a line under it so I can finally get on with the fun stuff!

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Making use of what I already have / Planning: putting together a small pile of books to get me motivated in the mornings
  • Home Improvements: making a start on getting the TV on the wall!
Categories: Decluttering, Getting organised, Goals | 2 Comments

Day 44: At the wheel

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I’ve been a proper good girl today – I finally got around to cleaning my car! Yup, I brought in the last of the random bags of things I sorted out. Then I went to my parents house and used all of their fabulous car cleaning equipment (with rather a lot of help from Dad). It looks sparkly and new. I must not let it get in that state again. I literally have no recollection of when it was last cleaned out. The fact that I found my ‘lost’ sunglasses from last summer in the boot is probably a good indicator! Came home with the above, gorgeous bunch of lily-of-the-valley from my parents garden – it smells heavenly.

I’m feeling a lot better today though still rather washed out. Was woken up by tooth ache AGAIN at 6am. I got up, took some painkillers, watched a documentary on bbc iplayer and then took myself off back to bed. Because I’ve got to used to getting up and about earlier than I used to it has been a real effort to make myself take things easy the past couple of days. I managed to stay in bed until gone 10am. I think the rest is definitely doing me some good – I really dont want this thing to drag on too long.

Felt a bit perkier this evening so had some friends up for dinner and a movie – very laid back and non-demanding! One more decent nights sleep and I’m hoping I’ll be over the worst of this bug…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Decluttering: my car is officially cleared out, hoovered up and cleaned from top to bottom!
Categories: Decluttering | Leave a comment

Day 43: The lurgie strikes

Ugh. I’ve had to take the day off work which is most unlike me as it always brings about feelings of extreme guilt. However, I just couldn’t face getting dressed, never mind the rest of it. I’m not sure what I’ve got – it seems to involve a temperature, swollen glands, a very sore throat and a lot of aching joints and muscles. I’m hoping it goes very soon.

Since today mainly revolved around a lot of laying down I knew I wasn’t going to get much done – no big clean, no food shopping – argh! So I moved some more funds into my savings account, determined not to miss out on my thing for the day. Hopefully I’ll be feeling a little more lively tomorrow…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Financial management: Put £100 into my savings account
Categories: Saving | 3 Comments

Day 42: Free learning!


I did something today I’ve been meaning to do for ages – sign up for a free ‘course’ with the Open University. From what I gather, these are basically units taken from the paid-for courses, including some that have been discontinued. There are a massive range of subjects on offer, perfect for dipping a toe in here and there. There are no marked assignments or anything like that – just course material and a few exercises. Each unit is supposed to equate to around 12 hours of study time. I actually did my degree with the Open University and have been toying with the idea of doing one of these taster-style courses for a while, just to keep my hand in. If anyone is interested you can check it out at: .

I also had my visit to the dentist today, resulting in a filling being replaced. I hope it puts an end to the tooth ache – it woke me up at 5.45am. I was not impressed. My mouth has gone from numb to tingly now, so I’m hoping I won’t have to be drinking tea through a straw for much longer! Alas, I have to go back at the end of next month as I seem to have chipped a different tooth altogether (ah, the joys of teeth grinding).

I’ve started thinking about what things I might want to buy for my summer wardrobe. I think I mentioned before that I have very little in the way of summer footwear – two items to be exact, and both are falling to pieces. I really ought to have replaced them last year but hey-ho. I’ve had a tentative look on the internet and have spied some interesting sale activity at . I’ve also spied an offer at Topshop where you can have two vests for £9. I’m not buying anything until I am a) sure that my savings are on track and b) have thought very carefully about what I really want. I say want instead of need because, clearly, I already have clothes. That said, I’m not particularly into wearing things that are coming apart / don’t fit me properly / look ragged and scruffy! I’ve actually done pretty well this year. I last bought clothes in January – a pair of dark blue skinny jeans (£25) and a black cardi (£8) for work (I don’t count the two items of underwear as I really needed those!). I don’t want a lot. I’m thinking a couple of vests or a T-shirt, a skirt or a dress and some shoes. Finances allowing, I’d also like a new necklace or pair of earrings to update some of my plain basics (which is like having a whole new outfit in my book!). At the weekend I’ll have a good look through my summer stuff and see what I’ve got…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Doing things for free: signed up for a free course
Categories: Frugal ideas, Shoestring Fun | 3 Comments

Day 41: My mini-library

Uncharacteristically I am posting before 8am due to the aforementioned gig that will be taking up all of my time later on. I’ve managed to tidy up, put some washing on and make a brie salad for lunch. And it’s only 7.52am!


I’ve also started sorting out my books. Because I’ve got so many of them (literally hundreds) this tends to be an ongoing thing. We have book shelves and wall shelves scattered all over the place, groaning with books – not to mention the books in boxes in cupboards and my parent’s attic. So today I started small. The above photo is my shelf of unread books, the idea being that I know exactly where to go when I want to read something new. The trouble is, I keep putting books back there when I’ve read them (not to mention a collection of other bits and bobs) so this morning I’ve sorted through them all again. Now, once more, the shelf contains books I’ve bought but not read and also books that people have lent to me. Now I’ve just got to sort the rest of them…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Decluttering: sorting out my books
  • Doing things for free: gig later on
Categories: Book love, Decluttering | 4 Comments

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