Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!






Sunday, November 27, 2016

27 November 2016, update

It's been a bit quiet in the Forest lately which is just how I like it. :) I'm going to do everyone's favourite kind of update - bullet point - because I have a bunch of stuff to do today (see picture above) and have basically just been faffing about since I got up at 7:00 to wait for a grocery delivery.

As it's just arrived, my to-do list has got that much smaller but I still want to accomplish some stuff today.

  • Work is going okay. It's still a bit slow but as there isn't much we can do about that, there's no point getting worked up about it. It just really makes me want to go back to school again to focus on something I can do part-time and/or eventually roll into a full-time job that will take me into retirement.
  • I did three walks on the Forest through the New Forest Walking Festival in October. This is an annual event, apparently, which takes place for two weeks and showcases the Forest in all its functions. There were nearly 100 on offer with a variety of distances, times, difficulties and 'themes'. Most are free, others have nominal fees (£5 or so), and they were really enjoyable and informative.  It's a really remarkable place and I'm SO lucky to live here. I'll definitely be signing up for more walks next year.
  • I attended a writing workshop in mid-October, held at a gallery. It was an all day workshop and was interesting in that the instructor gave us a lot of ideas to work with to prompt and poke our creativity, but I didn't necessarily come away with anything new. However, the 6 other women I did the workshop with were absolutely lovely and we've since met again to discuss what we want to do. So I now have a monthly writing group to attend starting in January! We'll be working with the workshop instructor over a period of 6 months to a goal of publishing a small anthology.

    The gallery has a wide variety of workshops which I'm going to explore next year (block printing, silver making, felt work, drawing, painting, etc.). 
  • I'm enjoying the women's group I've joined. They're a really lovely bunch and I'm glad I decided to join up. It's not active, but they're an intelligent, welcoming, interesting bunch and it's quite relaxed, so is enjoyable a couple of nights each month.
  • I've been housesitting for a few weeks during October and November, taking care of cats and a dog in two different parts of Southampton. One was a Very Posh area, one not. Both paid me (!) and I had direct transit routes to work which was great. One was for a colleague who went to Slovenia for a few days and who has recently got a dog. He's lovely but dogs are hard work! Although the twice daily walks did us both good. She gave me a dept store gift card and I'm going to buy a food processor with it.
  • I got a letter from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs to let me know that I've been overpaid by £1,200 in my Working Tax Credits (essentially extra money for making less than base wage). So I have to pay that back, obviously, and I've made arrangements for a monthly direct debit to pay it back, which will take me through most of next year. It was a bit of an unpleasant surprise but my own fault, as I didn't phone them to let them know my circumstances had changed. So, an expensive lesson. Yeesh!
  • I spoke with my Mum last night who said she'd like a large jar of Marmite for Christmas. She can get it in Canada but it's quite expensive, so that's definitely doable and will be bought and sent. She said she's going to send us some money, as she usually does, so will have to consider the best way to designate that when it arrives, particularly as it's split between me and my sister and my sister currently owes me a couple of hundred pounds. I may take at least part of what she owes me from it.
  • I'm currently doing Nanowrimo again this year, although I can't imagine I'll finish it on time. I'm at about 8500 words and need 50k by next Wednesday. I was looking for the story I started a couple of years ago as I wanted to carry on with it, but I can't find it so started again and am picking away at it a bit at a time.
  • My sister and I have a Christmas market trip to Salisbury planned for next weekend and the following weekend we're going to be in Bristol for a family birthday, which I'm really looking forward to.
  • Will be writing up Christmas cards tonight and mailing them from work tomorrow (a bit of a discount if I use the franking machine). This is an approved method of mailing and was encouraged last year - I keep track of the postage used and pay it back as and when I can.
  • I'm back on the no-sugar (except for honey in my tea on the weekends) programme and although I actually started a couple of weeks late because of the house sitting, I'm doing well and the recipes are really good. This takes me through into January, so will be a real test of willpower over the holidays!
  • I've organised my budget for next year already and it's almost time for goals and 'projects' to be sorted out. This will be done over the next few weeks and, hopefully, I'll be on top of it before the new year this year.
I'm off to do some bulk cooking for the next few days now. Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

October plans
Where has the year gone? October already - how did that happen?

It was payday on the 29th, so I spread the love around, as you do. I have a bit more to work with this month because of the payments on my credit cards (which have now been removed from my wallet). I'm ALMOST paid off on my M/C, but the amount has gone up a bit and now sits at about £490. Why?

I got a fantastic deal on a refurbished iPad 4 on Groupon and bought it: £229. It cost me less than I budgeted for. This was the best way to do it as it includes a charger and USB cord, whereas if I were to buy it from the place I'd originally considered, I'd have to buy those additionally. So, pleased.

The other £30-ish is for flowers for a friend in Canada whose mother died on Wednesday. I wanted to acknowledge what her mum meant to me and let her know I was thinking of her. I picked out a sunflower bouquet and asked for some white lillies to be added. Her mum was a joy and I felt it would be a bright spot in an otherwise sad time. The flowers arrived literally several hours later (thanks, Internet!) and were well received, so I'm happy. Zero issues with this cost.

I budgeted down a little for my debt repayments on this end and that's given me a bit more in the bank this month. This is a good thing as I have a two week housesit starting on the 12th and I'll need both my own grocery money (my cousin and I are splitting grocery purchases again) and bus fare! This is a bit frustrating, but easier than driving every day although I'll be taking my car with me and have free parking at work if I want it.

I've got loads of things planned for this month too, which I'm actually excited about! I'm not sure why October ended up being ridiculously busy, but I'm not complaining.

I've decided to join the women's group I went to the other week. I thoroughly enjoyed the ladies' company and it's very laid back. If you can't make a meeting, it's okay. There's generally tea and biscuits as we wind up, so I've decided that I'd like to contribute some kind of baking. I love to bake but my places to share it have dried up since my cousin now works from home and my own colleagues don't really eat baked goods anymore...

So with that said, I have a couple of nights with them that sound fun. 

I've got a two-hour (!!) yoga workshop next Saturday morning (£15) which should be interesting, as the last time I did any yoga was 4 years ago while I was at college.

It's also the New Forest Walking Festival from the 15 - 30 October with loads of walks to choose from, most free, some with nominal fees. My cousin and I have registered for two easy walks of a couple of hours each and I registered for two further ones that are about 4 hours apiece. These latter ones are also informational in that I'll be learning about how the Forest works so I'm looking at them as research as well as exercise. Quite excited about those! Hoping for decent weather...

I've registered for a writing workshop one Sunday too. Perhaps I'll come away with something I can use as a start for Nanowrimo in November.

Phew! But in a good way.

Today I went to the library again. I returned 5 books (several of which I didn't get to and didn't want to renew - again - at the moment) and somehow wound up with 8 more! I have no idea how that happens...

This weekend is quiet, but as the weather is on/off rain, it's nice to have a day to putter and get a few things done around the house.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

An 'aha!' moment

Not that kind ... although they're fun, too.

"That overall lack of direction went a long way toward fueling my overspending back in the day. My general lack of any kind of life direction sort of bothered me, so I often covered it up with short-term pleasures. I spent money and did things at least in part so that I wouldn’t have to consider my lack of life direction.
I think that feeling is common for a lot of people. If you don’t have any sense of what you want to do with your life to guide you, it becomes really easy to just drift through life, living paycheck to paycheck and simply trying to get the most momentary enjoyment that you can from what life hands you."
I found this blog just now. It seems to have a number of contributors with posts about various personal finance topics but it's the latest post, "What Should I Do With My Life? The Fundamental Question of Personal Finance - and a Surprising Answer" that jumped out.

In particular, those two paragraphs above stood out - okay, maybe it was like a universal smack upside the head, but really! Why has it taken me so long to realise this? (emphasis mine).

I'm a drifter. Somewhere I did know this, I've been told, but I suppose you get to a point in your life where you just start 'Adulting' and get on with it. My upbringing didn't encourage girls to be anything other than wives (ideally of People: doctors, lawyers, etc.) and mothers. I knew I didn't want that but at the same time, anything I DID want was neatly deflected as unimportant, silly, unnecessary, etc. So where did that leave me?

Anyway, here I am. I don't believe in coincidences - everything comes to you as and when you need it. There have been a number of 'aha' moments in the past couple of months and I've begun to pay real attention, conscious attention, to them and am finding ideas, experiences, and opportunities are starting to show up.

I don't love my job, but at the moment it's steady and allows me to live comfortably and enjoy a few things.

But what I really need to do is write my book(s).


I've transferred money from my Canadian LOC to clear my English credit cards. The exchange rate is pretty miserable, but the interest rate on the LOC is about 5x lower than the credit cards! It makes more sense to do this, despite the fact that I haven't lowered my total debt load, as I can adjust my outgoing debt payments down a little bit.

I'll be paying a bit more than minimum on the remaining CC and concentrating harder to bring the LOC down more quickly.

I add this as it was another of those little 'aha' moments, even though it's technically more of a lateral move than a forward one.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ireland: Dublin, Day 1 (photo heavy)

copyright irishexcursion2015
Well, I know you know that Jane and I were just a 'little' excited about our trip to Ireland, so here's my first post now that we're back.I've just finished organising my photos so thought it best to just get the first post done or it would be ages until I got around to it.

We started our trip in the capital, Dublin, a very old, eclectic, vibrant and international city. Jane had arrived the day before me so had had a chance to walk around and explore a lot.

We were staying in south Dublin, in the area called Ballsbridge which is home to many foreign embassies, beautiful, large Georgian homes and wide streets. It's quite lovely (and not cheap). Our B&B was called Ariel House and was one of the said Georgian homes. It was gorgeous, albeit the decorates were a smidge tired and in need of a little TLC. The staff was superb, however, and the breakfasts delicious.

On the map above, if you find 'Irishtown' on the right-hand side near the bottom, our B&B was half a block from (just to the left of) Landsdowne DART Station, which works out to a 15-20 min walk from the city proper.

There was a lounge to relax in if you wished and in the evenings they put out cake and hot drinks for the guests.

Breakfast was a small bowl of muesli & yogurt and a poached egg with smoked salmon. There was homemade brown bread - which we found everywhere we went in Ireland - which was hearty and very delicious. It wasn't soda bread but was rich and flavourful.

Then we headed out, walking 20 mins or so into the city.

Our beautiful room. The ceiling was about 12' high!

Jane, excited to be going adventuring in Dublin, outside the B&B.

The front facade of the hotel. Our room is on the top floor, far left.

The doorways around Dublin were beautiful, all slightly different colours or designs.

Some beautiful tilework decorations.

The Grand Union canal.

The statue called 'Eire' in Merrion Square (a small, pretty park on our way to the city).

Jane 'trying before buying'. Chair sculpture in Merrion Square.

The Oscar Wilde memorial in Merrion Square. He lived in a house across the street for a few years.

We bought a bus tour ticket outside the gates of the park as they were having a 'one day sale' and they were a pretty good deal for 10Euros each. We didn't go on right away but purchased them as they were good for 24 hours.

We first went to Trinity College for a tour.

A cow sculpture on an empty house.

Trinity College, Dublin.

Our tour was given by a student guide and took about half an hour. It was really interesting and our guide was very good. It's a beautiful campus, right in the heart of the city and covering 47 acres. It was founded in 1592 (by Queen Elizabeth 1) and today there are approximately 17,000 students studying a range of disciplines: medicine, science, geography, politics, law, etc. and has both undergrad and postgraduate studies.

According to Wikipedia: Trinity College (Irish: Coláiste na Tríonóide) is the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin, a research university in Ireland. The college was founded in 1592 as the "mother" of a new university,[Note 1]modelled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and of Cambridge, but, unlike these, only one college was ever established; as such, the designations "Trinity College" and "University of Dublin" are usually synonymous for practical purposes. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland,[7] as well as Ireland's oldest university.
Originally it was established outside the city walls of Dublin in the buildings of the dissolved Augustinian Priory of All Hallows. Trinity College was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and it was seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. Although Catholics and Dissenters had been permitted to enter as early as the end of the XVIII century (1793),[8] certain restrictions on their membership of the college remained until 1873 (professorships, fellowships and scholarships were reserved for Protestants).[9] From 1871 to 1970, the Catholic Church in Ireland forbade its adherents from attending Trinity College without permission. Women were first admitted to the college as full members in January 1904.[10]
Trinity College is now surrounded by Dublin and is located on College Green, opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament. The college proper occupies 190,000 m2 (47 acres), with many of its buildings ranged around large quadrangles (known as 'squares') and two playing fields. Academically, it is divided into three faculties comprising 25 schools, offering degree and diploma courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. As of 2016, it was ranked by the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings as the 160th best university in the world, by the QS World University Rankings as the 98th best, by theAcademic Ranking of World Universities as within the 151–200 range, and by all three as the best university in Ireland.[11][12][13] The Library of Trinity College is a legal deposit library for Ireland and the United Kingdom, containing over 4.5 million printed volumes and significant quantities of manuscripts (including the Book of Kells), maps and music.

We kept our tickets for the Book of Kells for the next day, rather than wait in the lengthy lineup that day.

This is called 'Sphere within a Sphere' and stands outside the newer, smaller Berkeley library.

After the College tour, we hopped on a Green Bus Tour to go out to Dublin Castle. This was a building from the roof of the tour bus. Sorry, I don't have details on this...

The Record Tower of Dublin Castle. The sole surviving medieval tower c. 1228.

We bought our tickets then went to have lunch as we had some time to fill and were getting peckish.

Temple Bar and The Olympia Theatre entrance roof. 

We stopped for lunch at the Queen of Tarts, a delightful cafe just across the street from the castle. We settled into this lovely space.

Lunch! Delicious. I had a fantastic quiche. So delicious was the food and so lovely was the cafe that we almost missed our tour of Dublin Castle!!

The tour had already started but a tour receptionist took us over to join the group. We only missed a few minutes of the introduction - phew!

The castle chapel.

The state apartments.

The (with)drawing room.

The throne room.

The dining room.

St Patrick's Hall, used for presidential inaugurations and dates from the 1740s. It was used recently to welcome Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland in 2011. She is the first English monarch to visit Ireland since 1911.

The beautiful ceiling decorations in the Hall.

Our first selfie of the trip!

The castle gardens.

Christ Church Cathedral. We missed the tours but there was a food and craft fair on the grounds and we consoled ourselves with divine mini cheesecakes. Mine was passionfruit. 

Off Grafton Street, the main pedestrian shopping arcade.

There are about a million pubs in every city and town in Ireland. Not kidding.

It was heaving, although in this photo it doesn't actually look as busy as it was (or at least felt!).

Tilework on a business down one of the alleys off Grafton Street. There were about a dozen flowers, all different colours.

A couple of the decorative light stands outside the Renaissance Hotel. Each was a different woman.

Another doorway en route back to the B&B.

We stopped at a pub called Crowe's Pub for dinner, a place Jane had discovered the day before. Dinner was delicious: a three-beet salad with halloumi, quinoa, rocket and pine nuts. Drinks were a little less so - I had two attempts at a rum & coke and wound up with little bugs in both! Ick...

The landlord finally figured out that they were fruit flies that had got into the bottle of rum through the spout. Once he'd opened a fresh bottle, all was well and good with the world and I even got a second drink on the house for the trouble, which was really nice of him.

Tomorrow: the Book of Kells and a ghost tour!