Tuesday, 28 February 2012


I know you shouldn't have regrets in life, but I do.

One that has been bothering me for the last year relates to my dream job and just how I messed up my opportunity.

I have always liked outdoor activities and working with kids, so I approached the local activity centre (I take my Guides there regularly), and asked if they need anyone and if they would give me a chance.  They said yes - hooray!  But the centre didn't open for another couple of months and to begin with it would be unpaid.  But I needed money coming in so in that time I got my part time job.  Then the time passed and because I was now working I was not available for the activity centre and somehow my opportunity somehow disappeared, and I was too much of a wus to pursue it.

It almost makes me feel sick to think of the opportunities I have thrown away.  Sometimes it is hard to weigh up the need to earn money to support my family and the desire to go for your dream job.

I guess it is easier to do what you don't want to do, then it doesn't matter if you fail, than to pursue what you do, and face the possibility of failure at that.  How much of a coward am I?

So the question is, what do I do?  Do I explain, ask for another chance, or not try and always have this sinking feeling in the bottom of my stomach that I have missed out on something wonderful.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Making money

So the first part of this journey to mortgage freedom is saving money, the next is making some extra money to go into the pot. There is not much coming in, so anything I can do to supplement this is a bonus.

I have been thinking about this a lot, and trying to work out what 'skills' I have (I use the word skills very lightly!). Turns out not that many.

But I have come up with a few things.

First of all,

Earn More - At the moment I have a little part time job which fits in nicely around the children.  I am working in a tea room - certainly not what I imagined I would end up doing!  It is not exactly the career I thought I would have, but for the time being, it is money coming in and it is very handy - the tea room is on a plant nursery in the village.  The people I work for are lovely and have become good friends, so really I shouldn't complain.

The wages aren't going to change, but I am going to try and get some extra shifts here and there.

Sell more drawings/paintings. - My work has always sold quite well, but it has to be out there and not piled up in my shed.  So the aim is to get into more galleries and shops.  I have 2 exhibitions planned for this year and I want to get in touch with more.   Just selling one drawing a month would be £150-£200+ extra.  Imagine if I could sell more than that!

My first exhibition

Ebay/Amazon -  Continue clearing and try and sell some things.  Hubby has some books from his archaeology days which could fetch a bit.  I don't think I can make much from this, but it is worth a go.

Other Art related activities - I studied Animation for 4 years in Dublin, but life, children, responsibilities meant that I didn't pursue it.  Whilst it may be a bit late now, I have been thinking about designing characters and doing illustrations.   Possibly doing some designs for Phoenix Cards or illustrating a book.  These are just ideas that have been rolling around in my mind.

Short of selling a kidney, I can't think of anything else.

Anyone got any other ideas?

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Listography - Things that make me happy and up date my List

I have been enjoying perusing Kate's blog here and love the idea of the Listography.

This week's is Things that make me happy.....

  1.  Climbing into freshly washed and ironed sheets.  They have to be white cotton and there must be an upper sheet tucked in tightly.  Mmmmmmmm
  2. Listening to my little ones play and chatter.  Makes me smile every time. 
  3. Sitting in a cafe with a good cup of coffee and an unputdownable book, even better if hubby is there too (and some cake).  
  4. Walking bare foot on the grass.  
  5. Being by the sea - any season, any time - just as long as I can watch the waves and smell the sea.  
These make me smile just thinking about them.  

Last night I got to tick off one of my 101 Challenges -  A Night at the Opera.

Yesterday evening I spent a wonderful evening watching Opera North perform Madam Butterfly.  I have never been to the opera and was not sure what I would make of it.    First half I was thinking that I was not quite sold on it, but by the end, blimey, I was hooked.  I was all weepy and emotional.  I was completely blown away by the cast, they were amazing.  

I will definatly go again.  

Hope you are all having a good weekend full of things that make you happy. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Laundry Gloop and a Thank You

Just wanted to say thank you to all those who commented on yesterday's post.  It really did help.  Sometimes all I need is a good cry - I guess it kind of gets all the built up emotions out.  So after a good weep I settled down to read my favourite blogs (I think this might be getting a little addictive).  So a big thank you.

The other thing I wanted to mention is my new favourite thing  - Laundry Gloop!

I was browsing the Frugaldom Forum and came across this recipe for Laundry Gloop

This is taken from the forum:-

1 Bar of soap, grated 
1 cup of washing soda 
2 litres water 
few drops of essential oil 

Boil the water in a big stock pot or similar, dissolve the soda crystals and soap in it, add the fragrance and then dilute to at least 5 litres. 

You can store this in whatever bottles you prefer. I recycle 7.5 litre containers with wide screwtop lids, but a lidded bucket would also be ideal. 

I make 2 lots, one has a few drops of blue dye in it to help 'whiten' whites. 

FRUGAL TIP: I've been using this diluted to 7 litres and it works really well. I use the 'natural extracts' soap, which is a natural, antobacterial vegetable soap with tea tree & lavender extracts, so no need to add in extra essential oil unless you prefer a stronger scent. 

So at the weekend I made a big bucket load.  

I have always had a problem with shop bought washing powder.  Apart from the ever rising price, it is always so heavily scented that it sets my husband's asthma off.  So thought this would be a good scent free alternative. 

I used Simple Soap which is fragrance free, then added some Tea Tree Oil.  So 6 Litres of the stuff came to a grand total of £1.  (75p for the soap and about 25p for a cup of washing soda).  

But the best thing of all - IT WORKS!  And at the risk of sounding like an advert, even on the filthy kids clothes.  Plus it makes me feel good that there is one more thing I don't have to be dependent on the big manufacturers or supermarkets for. 

Happy me :)

Feeling a bit teary...

I got my little man's operation date through today.  It is next month.

Little Man with his first, very special smile. :)

Little Man T was born with a cleft lip and palate and had his first op at 8 weeks and two more since then.  This next one will be to close a hole through his gum, into his nose.   He will have to stay in for a couple of days.

His plastic surgeon and maxillofacial surgeon are just wonderful, and I know he will be in safe hands, but it makes me feel all emotional to think about my little boy going under the knife again.

This is my gorgeous little man now (excuse the snotty nose!)

I am sitting here feeling so sad and the only thing I want right now is a hug from my Mum and for her to say it will be alright - and that is the one thing I will never have.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Spring and Impossible Requests

A huge hello to my new followers - I really am so honored to have you along.  

Sunday was a lovely day here.  It finally felt like Spring is on it's way.  It was warm enough for us all to spend the day out in the garden.

Hubby and I have been talking about sorting out the garden.  We have a smallish garden which is perfectly functional, but a bit boring, so we decided to move things around and make a new herb bed and get rid of all the tatty gravel under the apple trees.

We also thought about adding some things for the children - a climbing frame or a slide - things they can enjoy whilst they are still young enough.  So in the spirit of getting them to join in, over lunch in the garden we asked what would they like in their garden?......

Little Miss O - 'PINK GRASS'.

Little Man T - 'A WATERFALL'

Me - '.......Errrrrrmmmm........Anything else?....'

Them - 'NO!!!!'

Mmmmm, anyone know where I can get pink grass?!?!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

An empty bin

Ok, so hubby and I have noticed a strange and very wonderful bonus since beginning our new frugalness and becoming a veggie household - our bin is nearly empty.

I have always been aware of how much we throw away, and have tried to reduce it, but we could still manage to fill a wheelie bin every 2 weeks - sometimes having to chuck a bag in our lovely neighbour's bin, when our lid wouldn't close.

Then today I realised that the bag in our kitchen bin is the same bag from last Friday, and it is not even close to being full.  Our wheelie bin is still completely empty.  And to be honest, I don't know how.   The recycling bin is also nearly empty.

What are we no longer throwing away? 

Is is just that we are no longer buying 'stuff'?  

I don't know, but I am very pleased about it!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Ways I can save money......

Since being inspired by the thought of paying off my mortgage, my little mind has been pondering just how I can reduce the money steadily pouring out on my bank account.    I have been reading other blogs and have got lots of ideas which my lovely hubby and I are going to start doing. I am also aware that whilst I have my short time on this earth, I want to do the least amount of damage to it. 

So in no particular order, these are some of the things we will be doing this year.....

Reduce our electricity bill - bill estimate for next year is a massive 1/3 higher than last year!  Eeek!  We have an energy monitor now and I am diligent about turning off lights, not using the tumble dryer, making the most of Economy 7.  

Reduce our Gas bill - again the prices have gone up.  We had now have a woodburner, so only put the heating on in the morning when the monkies get up and again in the early evening to take the chill of the bedrooms.  My 2 littilies seem to have a higher internal temperature or something, and will quite happily sit in shorts and t-shirts, whilst hubby and I are in our thermals.    

If only I could harness their energy!!!!!

Reduce food bills - We are getting much better at shopping around and bulk buying.  Also, we now have 2 allotments for the bulk of our veg growing, we have space for salads and tomatoes at home in the greenhouse (a gift from our lovely neighbour the first week we moved in!), our 4 fat hens should provide the majority of our eggs.  We also have 3 apple trees and an old pear tree, so in theory, we could be largely self-sufficient in the fruit and veg department.   It is just a case of putting in the hard work to make it work! 

We are writing down everything we spend, which is eyeopening to say the least! 

There are so many more things, which I have pinched from other peoples blogs!  So thank you to all those out there who are constantly inspiring me.  

Happy Valentines Day all.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Thank you so much to SFT for my very first award - I am really honoured.  
Potato Pete and Dr Carrot Poster

A lazy day today, I have flu and am feeling all sorry for myself.  I have not moved from the sofa by the woodburner all day.  In fact, I didn't get dressed until 2 o'clock - I haven't done this since I had my first baby!

In between napping I have been reading the latest book I got from the village library 'The Ministry of Food - Thrifty Ways to Feed your Family Today' by Jane Fernley-Wittingstall.  It is making me very excited to get down the allotment and start planting.   Although with more heavy snow forecast tonight, it could be a while until I can get down there.

The book is also full of posters from the time, which I just love.
Eat Greens for Health Poster

I have this one in my kitchen. 

Go Through Your Wardrobe Poster

I want this one!
Your Britain Fight for it Now [Alfriston Fair] Poster
For now I shall make myself a honey and lemon, head off to bed with my hot water bottle and dream of the spring and new shoots. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Learning to budget

Budgeting is something that I am learning to do, and surprisingly enough, enjoying it!

I have been thinking about my Girl Guides and about what skills I would like them to take away from their time with me, and one that came out top is the ability to plan, budget and cook a meal.  I have 20 girls in my unit, all aged between 10 and 15, and I would love to make sure that each and everyone of them is able to take away some very important life skills.

I helped out with another unit's camp last year.  It was a patrol permit camp, which means that the patrol leaders  (aged 13) had to plan the whole weekend for their own group.  This included planning, budgeting, buying and cooking the food for 6 people.  The girls did amazingly well, but both said that budgeting was the hardest part of the weekend.  But that got me thinking, what an amazing thing they had both learnt - it is not often as a teenager you are expected to budget and shop for others, and then cook the meals.
So as a unit we are doing our cooks badge next term.  I am thinking of giving the girls £5 per patrol to try and cook a meal.

Do you think this will be too hard?   

Or perhaps to easy? 

 The rules will be that it has to be a cooked meal - no cheese sandwiches and crisps.  It must be healthy and everyone should agree on what it is.   I also want them to try cooking a meal from scratch and comparing it to one from a jar or a microwave version - they will have to compare the cost and do a taste comparison.

I really want them to take away from this just how much food costs and that you can make tasty, healthy meals on very little.   And hopefully, when they are out in the real world on their own, it will help them a little.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

My weekend

It is the end of a lovely snowy weekend.  I am sitting by the woodburner, toasty warm and reading blogs - a very nice way to spend a Sunday evening.

I was supposed to go to work today, but it was closed because of the snow, so instead I took the children out on their sledges and made snowmen - a far nicer way to spend the day!

Readers snow pictures: Snowpolarbear in Vicky Park. Whoever made this: I love you
I wish I had made this snow polar bear! (Guardian website)

Yesterday was spent at a craft workshop, making bags out of tweed jackets.  It was a lovely day, surrounded by gorgeous fabric and pretty things.  It was held by the lovely Louise Preseley in her studio, Hope and Elvis.  Now, I am not much good at sewing and can about manage a straight line with a sewing machine, so was amazed that I made a bag, and that I will actually use it!   I am quite tempted to make some more.  (these are not mine by the way)

   Tweed bag

101 Challenge Update - 

I am starting on number 16 - Learn a new language and use it.  
Later this year we are going to France with old university friends and their children, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to learn French and make use of it.  I will be using the Michel Thomas CD's (these can be got from the library).  I have had a go with them before and they are really good - I just have to keep going with them.  

In the spirit of all things Frugal - tonight's meal is being cooked on the woodburner.  We have a woodburner in the kitchen, and this is the room that we spend all our time - it has a sofa, a 6 seater dining table and lovely big bi-fold doors that open out onto the garden - it is this room that sold the house to us and I love it.  In fact, I haven't sat in the lounge for months!  So we thought as the woodburner is going most of the time, why don't we cook on it.  So this evening we have a bubble and squeak merrily sizzling away.  

SFT - I did indeed get my belt.  It went really well and couldn't stop smiling for days!  I am now Green and White, still another 2 or 3 years away from achieving black belt, but I am enjoying the journey.  

Saheen - I did try and post on your blog, but not sure it worked.  I hope the move goes well for you and you get down the allotment soon.  I have really been enjoying reading your recipes - we are making Chickpea and Rosemary soup tomorrow.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A short review

It has only been just over a week since I started on this very interesting money saving challenge.  Having never really known quite what is coming in or going out, I now know what every bill is, exactly what is in the accounts and just how much we need to save for our upcoming holiday.  It feels like a weight off my shoulders!    There is not much coming in, but we certainly have enough to live on and to be able to save a little here and there.  

This last week my husband and I decided to put anything extra money into a pot.  I had a rather elaborate system of pots and jars, which we have simplified a bit!  I counted it up today to see what I could put into the bank, and after just 10 days we have managed to put aside nearly £300 - how surprised am I!!!!!  This is extra bits of money that usually disappears into our pockets and gets frittered (I like that word) away on nothing much - a bottle of wine, maybe a magazine,  a bar of chocolate for me, another one 'cos I had a busy day, another one  cos' I deserve a treat and on and on, until the purse/wallet is empty.  

But now £300 for doing nothing and not really depriving ourselves of anything!  I think this saving lark could get addictive!    

I have also been diligent with what we are spending on food.  I have only spent a few pounds this week topping up on milk and veg.  I have stuck to my weekly menu (tonight is dips night in front of a film).  Tomorrow will be 'use it up' day.  All the left over bits of veg etc will be turned into a curry which should last us until Monday.  I really enjoy planning my menu for the week (this weeks culinary highlights have been Moroccan Squash Stew with Couscous, home made flatbreads with squash, homemade pizza with kids, finished with a pear flapjack crumble).   Looking forward to seeing just what our spend is by the end of the month.  

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Guides and Belts (and a little bonus)

I had a nice little bonus of £77 for my holiday fund yesterday. I run a Guide unit in a nearby village and am always buying bits and peices for Guides and the receipts usually disappear into the black hole of my purse. Although us leaders are unpaid, we do claim back for anything we have bought for the unit from the unit funds. So totting up my receipts for equipment, food etc came to a nice £77. Getting closer to my holiday goal.


Today my mind is mainly on tonight's challenge. I will be grading for my next belt in Aikido (a more self defence based style of martial arts) and to be honest, I am a little bit scared. I know my stuff, but it is different when you have to do it in front of the Sensei. Hoping work is really quiet so I can preactice my techniques ;).  But each belt is closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a black belt, so time to take a deep breath and get on with it!