Book love

Budget bookworm



I’m still managing to keep myself entertained on a very tight budget. The above two books came from Tesco where they have a corner for used books which you can pick up for a 50p donation. I’ve just finished Sharp Objects from the author who wrote Gone Girl which I finished reading a couple of weeks ago. Note to self: If Stephen King says a book is ‘relentlessly creepy’ then it is. I couldn’t put it down though! I haven’t started December yet. I mainly picked it up because I’ve been craving a book set somewhere wintery. Dos anyone else get mood/setting/era based reading cravings or is it just me?!

I also downloaded A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf which I love. I was going to read my paperback version but I don’t get much chance to read ‘real’ books and I find a Kindle easier to read in bed. Since it was only 49p on Amazon I thought it was a good investment and I’m looking forward to re-reading it.

So, a total spend of £1.49! I’ve also started making a list of books to order from the library – mainly recipe books. I used to be really good at ordering books from the library but then fell out of the habit. In my county, the library website is actually quite difficult to navigate and it has put me off. But I really ought to as it is such a great way of reading without spending too much!

Categories: Book love | 2 Comments

Super simple storecupboard soup!

It’s always good to have a few tricks up your sleeve in case you haven’t had chance to go to the shops/have been snowed in/can’t be bothered. Earlier today I made a heavenly soup using:

  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 handfuls of red lentils
  • 1 stock cube made up with 1 litre of water
  • random dried herbs
  • salt

That was it! I kept glancing at it suspiciously while it was cooking, thinking ‘Surely this can’t be any good. It looks horrible.’. You might remember me saying the same thing when I happened upon my Serendipity soup a while back. Well this was a goodun as well! The amount of times I’ve been disappointed with the results of a complicated recipe…

It made three, good sized portions so I’ve kept some out for tomorrow and the other one has gone into the freezer.

I’ve been trying to use my ‘winter reading’ shelf but all that happens is that I don’t read anything because I’m not in the right mood! Instead I’ve been dabbling in a guilty pleasure – historical novels. I know, I know – they’re either your cup of tea or not. I’ve got an endless facination with the Tudor court and have read many fiction and non-fiction books on the subject. A friend has just lent me some new ones so I might be sat here typing this but, in my head, I’m about 500 years in the past… 

Happy weekending!

Categories: Book love, Frugal food, Recipes | 2 Comments

Winter reading

So, the long dark nights of autumn and winter are upon us. I’ve been contemplating how to spend the evenings…in a budget freindly manner of course! Earlier today I gathered together a load of books that I have, but haven’t read and cleared a whole shelf to put them on:

There are nearly 30 books so that ought to keep me going! Actually there are a couple of books on there that I’ve read before but want to read again (like Wuthering Heights because the one and only time I read it I found it both boring and funny for all the wrong reasons. It seems that this isn’t the general responce so I’ve long felt I should have another ‘go’ at it). All of these books have either been bought second-hand, at a discount or have been lent to me. One or two were free with magazines. None were bought at full price!

That should keep me going for a while. It also ought to wake my mind up a bit by making me read things I wouldn’t usually. If I really can’t get into them then I’ll give up and take them to the charity shop or return them to their owners. Some of these books have been knocking around the place for years! There’s a real mix of genres covering everything from classics to chick lit so there should be something to suit whatever mood I may be in when I’m on the hunt for a read! I’ll try to remember to do a post on each one as I go through them!

Categories: Book love, Shoestring Fun, Shoestring Reading | 4 Comments

7 week challenge: Week 2

I’ve been busy though, apparently, not quite as productive as on week 1. Still, I’ve managed to get the following done:

Weight loss:

  • I haven’t actually lost any weight. Mainly because I’ve not really been sticking to a sensible eating plan. Unless a sensible eating plan involves an evening Twix amongst other things. I’m thinking it doesn’t. I’m actually amazed that I haven’t actually put any weight on. Possibly because…
  • I’ve been sticking to the exercising! Two Davina work outs plus a couple of 10 minute kick boxing workouts. I’ve also taken Baby out for two long walks. Now if I could just co-ordinate a proper meal plan with all of this exercising I might actually be able to shed a pound or two – hopefully something to report next week…


  • Got rid of the old front door and living room door – yay! Husband’s mate came along with his van and vanished them for us. I thought they were going to end up a permanent fixture.
  • Mum has put together some CD boxes for me (she picked them up for me on a recent IKEA trip). These should soon be going on the shelves in the entrance hall (to home junk – not actual CDs).
  • Got socket guards to cover up the two plug sockets that Baby has become fixated with.
  • Gave the bathroom a really good clean and sort out. We have a large chest of drawers in the bathroom with one drawer for cleaning products and spare/occasionally used skincare stuff, one for towels and one for bed linen. These are all now cleaned out and tidied up. We also have two massive shelves instead of bathroom cabinets which is where we keep everything from shampoo to face wash. I gave every single thing a wipe down (including the shelves!). It is much more user friendly and inviting now.

Getting Organised

  • Filed all of our paperwork. This took two sessions. The first was where I opened all of the post and sorted the envelopes and leaflets for recycling, the second session was for the actual filing. I had to do this in two goes because it was soul-destroyingly dull.
  • Renewed my car tax. Because I had actually been organised enough to put back money for car tax I was able to pay for a year instead of 6 months. Not only did this mean I got the discount but it also means I won’t have to pay out for it in January when a) I am skint and b) I have to pay for the MoT. Paying for car tax and your MoT in the same month sucks.
  • Paid another £150 into my ISA
  • Wrote out budgets taking me up until the end of the year (more on this another time).

And that’s all for now. If things have been a bit quiet here on Shoestring Alley it is because of this…

I’ve been completely sucked into the Cazalet Chronicle, of which The Light Years is the first title. There are four novels and I have almost finished the second one. How did I not know about these books before?! I am gripped – gripped. In as much as I keep not getting things done because I can’t put them down (and going to bed too late). I bought the whole lot second hand on Amazon (incidentally, has anyone else noticed that second hand books are now cheaper on Amazon? Something to do with sellers offering a price that includes P&P? Before, even if a book was 1p there was a standard P&P charge of £2.80 meaning that the cheapest you could get a book for was £2.81. I bought one of these books for a total cost of £1.98. Anyway, I managed to get all 4 books for well under £10 and they are giving me HOURS worth of entertainment and I am already lending the first book to a friend!).

Happy days…

Categories: Book love, Getting organised, home improvements | 1 Comment

A budget bookworm

You might remember that I’ve been trying to keep track of which books I’ve read so far this year. I only remembered to record one for June though I’m sure I read at least 5. However, other than that glitch I’ve kept up with my little record pretty well. It seems I’ve read over 60 books so far this year, more than 50 of which have been new (ie not re-reads) which I’m pretty impressed by as it can be so hard to find good, ‘new’ books and authors! If you are a voracious reader like me you might encounter the same problems – namely if you read a lot of books fast it can a) get expensive and b) get difficult to find new stuff to read that you actually like. Here’s how I’ve managed so far this year:

  • Using my local library and seeing what they’ve got in stock. Also…
  • Ordering books through the library instead of buying them. It costs 50p to order a title online and £1 if you go in and ask them to do it for you.
  • I’ve bought second hand books from car boot sales, charity shops, second hand bookshops and via Amazon for much less than the cover price
  • A friend recommended that I sign up to Goodreads . I haven’t actually used their website (which is pretty amazing) but I pour over the newsletter they email me each month. It keeps me up to date with what is coming out and I’ve read loads of books that I wouldn’t have know about otherwise.
  • Use the features on Amazon – everything from their recommendations, to other readers ‘Listmania’ lists and the stats on what other customers have bought who have viewed the same items as you.
  • I keep a list in my filofax (which goes everywhere with me) for when I hear about books or authors I want to check out. Once or twice a month I go and place an order at the library or see what is available for 1p plus P&P on Amazon.
  • I’ve said it before but I do buy new if one of my favourite authors releases a book. I want to make sure the publishers know they should keep publishing them!

It struck me that I should do a top ten list out of the books I’ve read so far this year but as soon as I thought about it I realised how hard it would be. However, I’m going to give it a go, so – in no particular order:

  1. Becoming Queen, Kate Williams
  2. The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly
  3. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Schaffer
  4. Room, Emma Donoghue
  5. Daphne, Justine Picardie
  6. Remarkable Creatures, Tracey Chevalier
  7. The Empress of Ice-cream, Anthony Capella
  8. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  9. Madame Tussaude, Michelle Moran
  10. My Last Duchess, Daisy Goodwin

Special mentions must go to The Postmistress, The Passage, The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly and also Jodi Piccoult. My favourite re-reads have been Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling and Marianne by Monica Dickens.

What are the best books you’ve read this year?

Categories: Book love, Frugal ideas | 3 Comments

Park life & a new book

Eek – I’m pooped. It’s been a tiring few days what with work, Baby not sleeping too well and having had a bit of a cold. Still. Onward and upward! We’ve been making the most of what good weather we’ve had and going out and about. It’s looking fairly unlikely that we’ll be having a holiday this year so we’re trying to make the most of the fact that we already live in a tourist destination. We’ve gone to various child-friendly places and done lots of wombling around the countryside. One thing we decided to spend some money on was year long membership to a local park. They have huge, huge grounds with lots of gardens, walks and outdoor and indoor play areas. Quite a few of our other friends are members too so it is a great place to meet up. It is a little bit of a drive but other than the petrol we won’t need to spend any more. Baby gets in free and it cost each of us around £15 for the year which I think is well worth it.

I should be getting paid in the next few days – yay! What a novelty. It’s been an age. I’m looking forward to being able to put some money back and start saving again.

I’ve got a new book – I’m very excited about it. It came out last month and I tried to order it from the library but there was already a waiting list of 15 people! I decided not to waste £1 ordering it and then waiting forever to read it. I remembered I signed up for a nectar card last year. I’ve dilligently collected points here and there and when I checked the balance I had over £10 to spend. The new book was £5 on Amazon so I used my nectar card points to order a £5 Amazon voucher. I had to wait a couple of days before it was ‘delivered’ to me by email. The book was exactly £5 and I chose the free delivery option. It arrived yesterday; my brand, spanking new book that I paid zilch for. I am a happy shoestringer. Now I’m off to do some reading…

Categories: Book love, Frugal ideas, Shoestring Fun | 1 Comment

The trials and triumphs of a book lover

I love books. I love them. I really, really do. I tinker with other hobbies and pastimes but I always come back to books. And I hate being without a good book on the go. It makes me feel sort of lost and empty. I often find it quite difficult to find ‘new’ books to read (I find Amazon quite useful for recommendations) but, luckily, I’m happy to read my real favourites again and again.

A while ago Laura at Move To Portugal wrote a post on clearing her book collection and asked how many books her readers had. Mildly curious, I counted up how many books were on the two cases in our living room. There were over 300. I should point out that there are more books on the shelves in our alcove, in boxes in the cupboard under the stairs and also in boxes in my parents attic. Basically, even after donating several hundred books to the local charity shops over the last few years, my collection well surpases the 1000 mark. This seems like an embarrassing excess but I’m just being honest. I begin to see where all of my money has been going over the years! In fairness to myself, the majority of these books have been bought second hand and many have been given to me but still. I’m at capacity – there is no more space for new books until we move (I have secret fantasies about one day having a little room of my own with shelves on every single wall. It might happen. You never know). Aside from the fact that I’m not supposed to be spending too much right now. So what’s the answer for someone like me who is currently averaging three books a week?

The library. Obviously. Holly (at Shopaholly) wrote a great post recently about supporting local libraries which I hope everyone will do if they value them at all. I visit mine at least once a week but usually twice, particularly if it is the week for the nursery rhyme and music session which Baby loves. Did I ever think I’d be rocking the Grand Old Duke Of York at 9.30am in a public space? Probably not. It’s great though and the little ones love it, particularly when they get the shakers and tambourines out.

Anyway, this year I’ve started ordering books through my local library that I might otherwise have bought (sorry to any authors out there who are missing out on some £s. I’ll be buying again at some point!). This service costs 50p per title if you order it online and £1 if you order it in person at the library. For me, this is a winner; I get to read loads of books that wouldn’t usually be in stock (my library is well stocked but at the end of the day its a small one) plus I don’t have to buy them or store them afterwards. Genius! The only drawback is that the librarians are now far more aware of my slightly, er, ecclectic reading tastes (‘The Hunger Games? It says here it’s a young adults book. Are you sure that’s the right one?’.). I’ve just read Anthony Capella’s latest offering – The Empress of Ice-Cream. Incidentally, does anyone else just love Anthony Capella? I never hear anything about him. Massively underrated in my opinion. I digress. If I start talking about what else I’ve been reading we’ll be here all day. My point is, if you don’t already do it, start ordering books from your library. Even though there is a small charge it is such a cheap form of entertainment, particularly if it means you get to read lots of new or obscure titles that you might otherwise have to buy.

Anyway, if I’ve been a bit quiet around here it’s because every time I’ve had five minutes to myself my nose has been happily buried in a book!

Categories: Book love, Shoestring Fun | 11 Comments

Up and down with the weather

I’m having a mild fit of the blahs today. Maybe it is because yesterday the sun was out and everything just seems better then, doesn’t it? Since it was so nice I skipped playgroup and took Baby for a walk along the seafront, which was really busy considering it was  before 10am on a Tuesday morning in February. Incidentally, since I’ve been on maternity leave I’m frequently surprised by the number of people I see out and about during the day time. Why aren’t they at work? What’s their secret?! I wish they’d tell me. This maternity leave is slipping away far too fast. Anyway, the walk was good and then we met up with some friends for coffee (£2.35).

Today, however, has been relentlessly grey and miserable. Both Baby and I have had colds and then I realised I was also getting a coldsore, for which I can’t take my medication because I am breastfeeding. Baby couldn’t get to sleep because of her bunged up nose so I ended up taking her for a drive (works like a charm). This evening I tried another Jamie recipe (Chicken Casserole). I really wasn’t in the mood but the chicken had to be used so I had to get on with it. I’m glad I did because the recipe was ridiculously simple and it tasted really good (plus I have two portions to go in the freezer so we’ll get a night off cooking next week). I’ll definitely be making it again.

I’ve just cracked open a book I loved when I first read it three years ago and it is as comforting as the casserole (Mariana by Monica Dickens, great-granddaughter of Charles. Read it if you liked I Capture the Castle by the fabulous Dodie Smith and The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice). Through its pages I’m going to escape to Charbury and be optimistic that, in spite of the heavy rain forecast tomorrow, everything will seem a bit brighter!

Categories: Book love | Tags: | 3 Comments

Plans for 2011: (Part 4) The old grey matter

I need to jump-start my brain. It was quite good once upon a time. I’ve mentioned before that I did my Literature degree through the Open University. I still read a lot (as in 2-3 books a week) but mostly a very non-intellectual mish-mash of things. Also I tend to re-read the same books a lot. I know some people can’t re-read books but I do. I developed an aversion to reading for a while. A fairly common reaction, I think. Basically I spent 6 years studying like a maniac (on top of a demanding full time job), graduated (with first class honours no less) and then promptly shunned the printed word in favour of learning to play bass guitar in a band. It’s what we all do…right?!

Anyway, in 2011 I’m going to try and get my brain working again. I thought about setting myself particular goals but I think doing that will just turn it into a chore. Thus I’m going to take it month by month and see where my good intentions take me. Also Frugal Trenches is starting a Classics book club (the first book is Emma by Jane Austen) so I’m joining in with that. I’m thinking about revisting Plath as a starting point for this part of the 2011 plan…

Categories: Book love, Goals | Leave a comment

Frugal fortnight: Day 3

It rained so much today I nearly made myself a bowl of porridge and read Jane Eyre (October activities in case you’re wondering). What I actually did was go to baby clinic to get baby weighed (another healthy weight gain this week) and meet up with some friends, visit Mum and Dad and do a spot of reading. I’m still loving my local library. It’s only small but I always find something and it keeps me entertained for FREE! I’m currently reading The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams and I actually managed to read a decent chunk of it today as baby girl had a long afternoon nap. The only bit of shopping I did today was in placing an order with Amazon for an Arthur Ransome book (I’m having a Swallows and Amazons phase at the moment. Anyone else think kids books aren’t just for kids?) and my library, great though it is, doesn’t have any of his titles. I’m hoping the weather sorts itself out a bit so I can go for a walk sometime this week!

Today’s spending:


From the shoestring kitchen: Weetabix (I thought of you, Kat!), Omlette and salad, Pate and ryvittas, a slice of toast, a fairy cake (what can I say? When someone offers you home-made cake you take it), the rest of the pork casserole made yesterday with mash (this time made with sweet potatoes) followed by grapes and melon with yoghurt.

Categories: Book love | 1 Comment

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