Monthly Archives: May 2010

Making tentative plans

I’ve given up waiting for baby to arrive. I am now officially overdue (the ‘due date’ was yesterday). Clearly she’s going to come out some point but, since there aren’t any signs that this is particularly imminent, I think the best way to deal with it is to not sit around waiting. In a sense it is quite nice having got the countdown to the due date out of the way – as if any further build up is needed! Might as well just get on with things…

Husband and I went out for a walk this morning (nice to be out in the sunshine but not a particularly comfortable experience!) and he is now cooking a roast dinner so Sunday is shaping up pretty well so far. I’m going to do a bit of plotting this afternoon about what to do this week. I’ve been doing some very odd ‘shops’ over the last couple of weeks, picking up bits and bobs here and there every day or two. This isn’t the way I’d usually do things (it certainly isn’t very budget friendly) but the countdown was on and I didn’t really feel like making any plans. However, we’ve got quite a few things tucked in the fridge and in the cupboards that can be used (or actively need to be used up) so I’m going to make a meal plan for the rest of the week. If it all has to go out of the window then so be it! I don’t mind still picking things up day by day for the rest of the week, so long as there is a plan so I’m only buying what we need. While I’ve hardly been going crazy with the cash since I’ve been on maternity leave I haven’t exactly been keeping a very strict eye on it either. My maternity allowance has still not shown up yet and my wages have now run out so keeping an eye on the pennies and the pounds is definitely the order of the day!

Fortunately my (tentative) plans for the week are of a suitably low-key, shoestring variety. There will be eating and cooking (minimal expense and clearly a necessary one!), cracking open my books saved for a reading based emergency (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is first on the list), hanging out with my parents in their garden and keeping back a couple of DVDs for the evenings. I could also probably do with slipping a bit of housework in each day again – might as well try to stay ahead of the game while I still can!!

On that note, I’m heading off to the kitchen with a notepad and pen to see what needs using up…

Categories: Baby | 8 Comments

The waiting game

Ah, still no news on the baby front. Had to go for another scan today to check the baby wasn’t the wrong way around (she wasn’t) – other than that, not much action. I have given up trying to catch up on sleep in the afternoons because the phone does not stop ringing. I have been having the same conversation either over the phone or by text at least a million times a day. It tends to go something like: No, the baby hasn’t been born, Yes, I will let you know when she is here, No, I haven’t had any contractions, No, I don’t have any special feelings about what day she might arrive, No, I haven’t had a show, No, I haven’t had any funny twinges, No, I am not in the hospital etc etc.

Did I mention that my due date hasn’t even rocked around yet?!

Not just me that’s sat around waiting it seems…

Categories: Baby | 2 Comments

Holidays at home

I woke up to another day of gorgeous sunshine streaming in through the window. I don’t know how long it is going to last so I started thinking about how to make the most of it. One thing we won’t be doing this year is going away on a ‘hot’ holiday. I’m big on holidays – I love them. Any kind – a laid back week in the sunshine, city breaks, winter breaks, UK holidays…we’ve got so much going on and so much to look forward to that thoughts of a lack of a holiday haven’t even hit my radar. That said, seeing the sunshine today instantly took me down the memory lane of holidays past. Anyone else find themselves on holiday, vowing to incorporate more of that kind of lifestyle when they get back home and then getting wrapped up in the day to day within a fortnight? I’ve lost track of the conversations Husband and I have had that go along the lines of what we would do if we actually lived wherever we happen to be visiting. This started me thinking about some of the things we’ve enjoyed most about our favourite holidays in sunny places (I’m a sucker for tiny fishing villages on Greek islands which particularly lend themselves to the following):

  • Going out for lunch and/ or dinner, eating outdoors, sunny evenings
  • People watching from shady cafes
  • Fresh fruit, fish, salads…
  • walking on beaches
  • sitting out in the sun (or in the shade as is often actually the case) and reading a good book
  • swimming outdoors
  • siesta!
  • hiring a boat
  • driving through stunning scenery, taking mysterious turnings and seeing where you end up
  • visiting historic sites

Most of the things on the above list are things that can easily be done at home when the weather is as good as it has been today. Sadly we never know when the good weather is going to appear here in the UK (or vanish again) so it’s good to have an idea of what to do with it when it does turn up.

Husband didn’t have to work this morning so we took off for a walk along the seafront, stopped for a drink and then, after bumping into a friend, went and sat in her garden, had a cup of tea and watched boats zipping back and forth. While I had a nap (we’ll call it a siesta shall we?) Husband nipped over to a neighbouring seaside town and bought a massive piece of cod which he is currently doing something with in the kitchen. We’ll be eating it outside in a little while, squeezing the last few drops out of the day…

Categories: Shoestring Fun | 4 Comments

Tinkering and pottering

Tinkering and pottering seem to best sum up how I’ve been spending my time this week. I’ve been food shopping, flopped around reading and generally pottered along. Alas there hasn’t been much sleeping in or napping because a) laying down for any length of time is actually wildly uncomfortable and b) the phone rings every time I lay down during the day (invariably one of those recorded sales calls). I’ve also been playing in the kitchen rather a lot. This week has seen home made pizza, a variety of ‘new’ salads not to mention a variety of cookies and cakes. I can’t believe I have already had nearly a fortnight off work – the time has gone surprisingly fast. My due date is still more than a week away and yet this already feels distinctly like a waiting game…

Categories: Baby | 1 Comment

Sunshine, books and rocking chairs

Is summer here? Other than a rainy fit yesterday it has been suspiciously sunny in these parts. I’ve been so consumed by getting everything finished at home and work before the due date that I sort of forgot it might be on its way…quite a nice surprise as it turns out. Thus far week 2 of my maternity leave has been more chilled out than week 1 – probably because the house is now very clean and tidy and most of the ‘to do’s’ have been done. Due to the mank weather yesterday I didn’t leave the house and was rewarded with a banging headache. This always happens if I stay in all day (must make note to self not to do this again unless strictly necessary).

Today I tramped back down to the library to return two of the books I borrowed and borrowed some more. I am now gripped by The 19th Wife by Davcid Ebershoff. I don’t know why I haven’t read it up until now (I kept seeing it everywhere) but I’m glad I didn’t because it has been just the ticket. I also went out for coffee with my friend and her 5 week old baby and sat by the sea in the sunshine. Much better than sitting at my desk staring at a computer screen which is what I’d usually be doing at midday on a Monday! Then, in a distinctly unbudget friendly fashion, I decided we needed to go out for dinner. What can I say? The sun was out and it won’t be long before randomly going out will be off the cards.

One good bit of budget friendly action took place over the weekend – we managed to find a chair for the nursery. I had kind of given up trying to find anything as the room is so small (basically a large box room) and then we saw a chair in the window of a shop in our nearest city. It is actually meant for the garden but is perfect as it is very narrow (essential!), has arms, is surprisingly comfortable and also rocks (literally). I did wonder if it might not be upright enough but I’m sure a big fat cushion will fix that. Best of all it only cost £29. They didn’t have any left ready to take away so we are having it sent to us by courier for £5 which I thought was a bit of a bargain considering it would have cost us way more than that in petrol and parking to go and collect it when their delivery arrives. Thus I think just about all of the pre-baby purchases have been done. Apart from hiring a TENS machine which I still can’t make up my mind whether to go for or not. Hmmm….

Categories: Baby, Book love | 8 Comments

The purge

It was no good. I tried doing one kitchen cupboard a day but it seemed to be dragging on forever so I’ve just had a massive purge and cleaned/tidied/rearranged the lot. There are only a few bits and pieces of the big spring clean left to do and then I’m done. I hate doing it but can’t deny how much easier it is to keep on top of things if I have a really good sort out every few months. 

Thanks to everyone who left me book recommendations – I’ll be making a list to take to the library on my next trip. Yesterday I picked up a few titles and am already halfway through a brilliant book on Shakespeare written by Bill Bryson (how did I not know about this?). I think I’ll go and read a bit more before getting ready to go out for lunch with some friends…

Categories: Decluttering | 2 Comments

Reading recommendations required

I’m at that weird point – the baby could arrive at any time but she could also still be tucked away in bump land for another month or so. I’m not great at sitting around twiddling my thumbs as I get bored too easily. I’ll be making a trip to the library tomorrow and will hopefully find something riveting to read. Recommendations anyone? I’ve just read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak which was good and am currently re-reading Nella Last’s War – a woman that knew more than a thing or two about thrift and frugality. I was actually in the mood for Sense and Sensibility but my copy seems to have mysteriously vanished. I’ve also just read My Life in France by Julia Childs (from the library) which I loved and also a really annoying book about people moving from the city to the country and hating it. I don’t know why I borrowed it really – I find these books patronising beyond belief. I won’t mention the name of the book or the author because, frankly, neither deserve the attention. There are countless books like this and they all seem to feature bored rich housewives who talk about beauty products at coffee mornings while being looked down on by some hideous, newly relocated creature who moans about being stuck in the house all day and not having a whirlwind social life. Do people like this really exist?! Gah. One book I did love about someone moving to the country is Mrs Fytton’s Country Life by Mavis Cheek so it’s not an entirely hopeless genre. Actually I might have to re-read it if the library lets me down tomorrow. I’m avoiding the baby books for a week or so – there’s only so long you can spend reading, often contradictory, baby care information before it turns into a big blur. So if anyone feels like throwing any ideas my way for a decent read please go ahead!

On the domestic front, I started tackling the house over the weekend. It’s not so much about nesting as trying to get everything straight after the craziness of the redecoration/home improvement projects of the last few months. What the whole place has needed is a full scale spring clean. It’s actually been relatively easy as so much decluttering has been done. The kitchen needs a really good going over but it is too boring to do in one go – I’ve decided to settle on doing one cupboard etc a day until it is finished. Today I managed to send off my forms for my maternity allowance and do a bit more stocking up at Lidl (93p for balsamic vinegar!) as well as finishing the bathroom and doing most of the bedroom. I’m hoping to get all of the ‘big’ clean done this week so it is out of the way and I can do more interesting things. Unless I can’t find anything decent to read in which case I’ll probably just start cleaning again. Anything to avoid daytime TV…

Categories: Book love | 8 Comments

The last day

Tomorrow is going to be my last day at work before I go on maternity leave. This seems very, very surreal. I’m going to try to make an effort to get some things done each day that I’m off before the baby arrives, mainly to stave off cabin fever. I haven’t mentioned my due date here (I can only explain this as a vague kind of superstition) but they seem to be quite unreliable anyway. It is an odd kind of limbo – I may be free to do things, I may not. I’m certainly not up for doing most of the things I would probably have done with some time off work in the past! Thus I shall be trying to keep myself from going up the wall from a strange combination of anticipation and boredom – on a budget of course.

I went to Tesco and did some stocking up after work which required allocating a bit of my grocery budget from next week and the week after. I also used up £8.50 worth of vouchers to keep the cost down. The budget mainly went on things like clothes wash (plus seperate non-bio clothes wash for baby things), washing up liquid, baking parchment, flour, coffee – basically a host of cleaning products and store cupboard items. I’m planning on getting a few other things next week too. The idea is that we won’t need to think about buying any of this kind of stuff for a while to give us some space once the baby is here and we are otherwise occupied. I’ll also be trying to make some more home-made meals to go in the freezer for the same reason. So far I have several portions of shepherd’s pie, some tomato sauce to go with pasta, chicken curry and a few portions of bangers, mash and onion gravy. It’s beginning to look like we’re almost ready…

Categories: Baby | 7 Comments

Seasonal food for May

A few more things are coming in to season now, as well as a few that cropped up on the April list, including:

  • asparagus
  • aubergines
  • broad beans
  • cabbage
  • celery
  • cherries
  • lettuce
  • new potatoes
  • radish
  • rhubarb
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • watercress

Last month I was excited to see rhubarb on the list (I know, excited by rhubarb – must be the hormones), quickly dampened by the fact that, despite looking all month, I couldn’t find any anywhere. I finally tracked some down a couple of days ago and am going to be trying out a new recipe for rhubarb crumble this evening – I’ll let you know if it is any good. This weekend I also tried out a new, very simple recipe for celery soup which is something I’d never made before. I was slightly suspicious (I don’t know why) but it was actually quite nice. It was also very cheap to make as, other than buying a pack of celery, the rest came out of my storecupboard and general kitchen staples. In case anyone fancies a go:

CELERY SOUP

Ingredients

  • 300g celery (approx one of the packs you get in supermarkets after the top and bottom have been discarded), chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400ml chicken or vegetable stock

To make:

  • Heat oil in saucepan and cook the celery, onion and garlic on a fairly low heat for around five minutes until softened
  • Add the stock, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes
  • Use a hand held blender or food processor and blend until smooth

Next time I might try reducing the amount of stock and replacing it with a bit of milk for a creamier taste/texture. Still, it tasted fine as it was – very fresh and healthy!

Categories: Recipes, Seasonal food | 7 Comments

Reigning in spending

The last few months have been a bit upside-down in terms of spending which, having written this blog for a year or so, has provided plenty of food for thought. It has also made me question a few things about what I like to spend money on and what my financial plan for the future might look like. I’ve mentioned before that I’m good at sticking to a plan when I’ve got a specific goal to work towards but not so good when I don’t. For a year or two I was very focused on putting together my family fund; basically enough savings to top up maternity pay and buy things for baby/nursery. This was perhaps the best incentive I’ve ever had, making it was easy to go without a lot of things because the reward was so much bigger than anything else I could have spent the money on. Similarly, we really want to be able to sell our home next year so, again, we had a great incentive for ploughing time and cash into getting things sorted out at home. Now I’ve got to the point I wanted to be at; the savings for my maternity leave are in the bank and our home is very nearly finished (there are a few things left to do but they can be finished off at a more leisurely pace over the next few months). So now what?

I don’t really want to slip back into bad spending habits and I’d like to be a regular saver but I’m not great when I don’t have a specific goal. Similarly, while I much prefer taking a simpler approach to a lot of things I also don’t want to get into the midset where I never allow myself to buy anything at all. Which raises the question about where the boundaries are between mindlessly buying a ‘pick-me-up’ or spending money on a something that will really be enjoyed. I suppose working out where the line is is an ongoing process. Over the last month or so I’ve bought quite a few things with my last couple of wage packets, purchases that I would have veered away from in the previous year including:

  • Stationery. Yup, back on my old favourite again. I caved and bought two Emma Bridgewater notepads and a selection of coloured fountain pens from Paperchase. No good reason for any of these purchases but I am really, really enjoying using all of them!
  • Accessories: Just a few bits so jazz up my capsule maternity wardrobe really – a silk scarf, a cotton scarf, a brooch, some earrings…small things but they add up quickly.
  • Books: Mostly of the recipe variety. I got one discounted by £10 thorugh Amazon and another brand new one reduced from £25 to £7.50 in WHSmith. I’ve already got a few new ideas from them which was the whole point really.
  • Shoes: Swollen feet = no shoes that fit. So not exactly extravagant but then I could have waited another month or two to buy a pair of summer shoes in addition to a pair for work…
  • Make-up/beauty products: More of a stock-up on basics like mascara, plus Loreal discontinued my favourite range of skincare products (argh!) and it took me a couple of goes to find an alternative that didn’t make my skin freak out.

I can’t remember what else I’ve bought. Bits and bobs. I haven’t kept track of it well enough to be able to say how much I’ve spent on non-essentials. Probably somewhere between £200-£300. A reaction to the imminent loss of my full time wage I suspect! I can’t say I regret any of the things I’ve bought – I’ve enjoyed and used them all. It did, however, remind me how easy it is to get into a spending cycle where you buy one thing and then immedietely want something else. That said, it also reminded me that having the odd new thing here and there is pretty good too!

I’ll be writing a couple of posts over the next few days in an attempt to try and make a plan for the rest of the year in terms of my spending. While I won’t be able to do very much in terms of saving I do need a rough idea of what to spend on and what not to…

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