Friday, 1 January 2021

'Bye 2020! Don't let the door hit you on the way out!


I think we're all glad/relieved/thankful/etc., to see the back of it, too, aren't we? Holy cow.

So, I will take this moment to wish you all a Happy New Year. Here's hoping for a brighter, lighter, more hopeful year. I wish you all health, wealth and some magic. 

So, what did I do last year? 

In February I got a stonking raise: 10%!! In truth, it was two years' worth of raises in one go, but who am I to argue? A good start.

(End of) March - July: lockdown. Had grand plans to utilise the time productively. The only thing my flatmate and I managed was a 5,000 piece puzzle. Otherwise, it was full of frustration, anxiety, etc. I couldn't read, I couldn't write, I couldn't concentrate on anything. Mind you, I've not slept so well in YEARS. Like the proverbial log, for weeks. It was amazing.

July 1: returned to work. It's been absolutely mad since. We've never been so busy. This is good for us, but also trickles down/over into estate agents, solicitors, movers, etc. The backlog - thanks in part to the stamp duty holiday, which runs through until March - is tremendous. People are reasonably understanding, but some still want what they want when they want it, and we're at the point where if someone cancels, it's not a problem, because there are probably a dozen more waiting.

20 July: I registered for an online proofreading course. I thought it might be a good way to eventually bring in a little extra income.

September: my last month at the corner shop, because...

October: I MOVED! Again. This time, however, it was on my own. Finally! I had a list and it checks EVERY. SINGLE. BOX. I honestly hadn't intended to move again so quickly, but this showed up and I literally could not say 'no' (there's a bit of a long story around that). I'm now walking distance to the office (1.4 miles/25 mins) and have walked every (work)day but one since I moved in.

I look onto a converted stable yard. The property is set up as a B&B/holiday let, and my flat is actually a holiday let, but they utilise two flats to bring in regular income: mine and a slightly smaller one-bed above me.

There are four holiday lets around the stable yard. The B&B is run out of the old manor house, which is behind my flat. The owners are lovely, and there are a number of animals on-site too: three miniature donkeys (Paddington, Rupert and Teddy), eight Soay sheep (rescues), fourteen free range laying hens, six show chickens (Buff Orpingtons, etc.) and four goats, two Boers and two miniature. There is apparently a cat, too, but I've only glimpsed him once since I've been here.

These are several months old, when I was moving in (and before my plants arrived), but give an idea of it. Very compact, not much storage, but that's not a bad thing. It just means I need to be certain about what I'm keeping, etc. The rent includes all costs (utilities) and it's a *smidge* tight, but I'm happier paying one cost than scattering all my bills throughout the month. It's not cheap to live on your own, but I am so happy. The setup is perfect for one.

I live directly across the road from a reserve which is beautiful and home to a plethora of birdlife. The road itself is probably the only drawback. It's a direct route to Salisbury and therefore is very busy. I'm on the opposite side of the road to the pavement, so need to use extreme caution when I'm crossing. The driveway to the property is on a slight bend, so a bit nervewracking to negotiate, but fortunately I can walk a short distance to a much easier crossing spot.

I've spent the last several months settling myself in and still have a couple of boxes and bags to work on. But the flat is warm, cosy, compact, quiet, modern. It's wonderful. I've recently added a bird feeder outside my living room window, and now have some blue tits and robins feeding on seeds. Lovely!

As for my course, I've finished it and sent the final assignments several weeks ago. I got 60%, but need 80% to pass in order to get any work with the affiliate company. There are three opportunities to pass, and I've spent some time chatting with one of the staff to go over what I did wrong. I *should* be able to pass the second time. The trouble is that it's mostly academic stuff, and I'm not academically inclined. Having said that, though, it's just a matter of practice. The more I do it, the better I'll get. I can take as long as I need on the final assignments, too, which is great, so I just have to 'fine tooth comb' it and be patient. I know I rushed a bit the first time.

I go back to work on Monday after two weeks' break. One of my colleagues is retiring at the end of January, so we'll be breaking in a new one. There will be some big changes, I'm sure. I've been resting, reading (finally), cleaning, organising my thoughts, and have done a couple of walks at the reserve. The weather hasn't been great - wet and mild mostly - but from Monday, I'll be walking daily again and that helps clear my mind for the day.

So that's my year in a nutshell, really. I haven't decided whether I'll be regularly updating or not at this point, but I'd like to. Perhaps monthly. Regardless, I hope this finds you safe and well, and that 2021 is easier for all of us, in as much as it can be.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

First run!

Obviously, that's totally (not) me. But a girl can dream. Realistically, my best physical days are behind me - if I ever really had any - but I can work with where I am and do my best.

Yesterday I received the last part of my running 'puzzle' - fresh, new running socks. All quite timely, really, seeing as I'd stated I'd be starting today. Good timing, no?

No excuses.

I went for my first run this morning and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Mostly because it wasn't raining or very, very dark. However, although I don't have a suitable waterproof jacket, there are streetlights around here and the area is comfortable and safe, so running in the dark mornings (for now) shouldn't be an issue. It's just the getting out of bed part...I will have to be out and back by 6:45 most days in order to get ready for work afterwards. I've found in the past that I prefer running in the mornings, so I'll continue that routine for now.

Anyway, it did feel good to be out there again and I was paying attention to how I was feeling. It's a cool but dry morning -  a very, very light drizzle on my way back, but nothing to deter me, perfect for running actually.

So far (and knowing that the first couple of weeks are much more walking than running), apart from being stiff from lack of any form of exercise for far too long, I feel okay. My breathing wasn't too bad and once I stop thinking about how my feet should land, where my hands should be, how I stop my nose running, etc., and get my rhythm, I'll be fine.

It was my dad's birthday yesterday. He would have been 89 and will have been gone 39 years in February. He was a runner, started later in life (40's I think), and I'm not sure why I feel I need to run this year, but as I said yesterday, it just feels important. So I will.

My first Mindful Chef box gets delivered this morning! I tried this last year at this time, but only made it a couple of weeks (it's a bit pricey, although absolutely fantastic ethics and recipes). I got a huge incentive to try it again, so I re-signed up for January. This should cover the majority of my lunches and dinners for the month, although I'll have to organise breakfasts and weekends. I get a 10% discount from the shop and often come home with wasted items ('expiring today' kind of stuff) for free, so that helps a bit.

One of our regular customers (a serious alcoholic) bought me a gift box of 4 huge chocolate bars yesterday (post-holiday price of £2). Awkward. This fellow keeps saying that when/if he wins the lottery, he'll take me to dinner. I mentioned to a colleague that if he was serious, why wait for the win? Joking aside, it's a bit uncomfortable, but it's the only thing that I don't enjoy about the shop. I left the box (seriously, it's HUGE) at the shop because I honestly can't eat that much chocolate (I'd be sick), and I'm not happy taking it home. My colleagues are more than welcome to it.

Some of the joys of being a woman, eh ladies? 😬

Otherwise, have a shift at the shop this afternoon and back at the office tomorrow. I'm trying to decide how I feel about that. I guess I'm glad to be back in a routine? Regardless, I'll be there. Have a good first week of January, and let's try not to let the current world chaos and politics beat us down too early.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Getting organised

Word(s) for January: Indulge Abundantly

Well, in trying to keep some kind of 'beginnings of change' moving forward - if slowly - today I took the car to Halfords (a chain more or less dedicated to cars & bikes) to get a bulb replaced in the front headlight. I noticed it had gone yesterday and instead of being my usual 'can't be bothered right now' self, I made a point of driving the almost 3 miles to my closest outlet and having the bulb replaced. Apart from a dumb move on the large roundabout I try to avoid (for just that reason... *ahem* ...), I made it without incident. It cost me £16.90: £8.90 for the bulb, and £8 for the fellow to replace it. Well worth it as far as I'm concerned as, starting on Monday, I'll be driving home through the dark again and need both headlights.

Ten minutes and I was all done. Fab. One less thing to worry about and as far as car costs go, exceptionally reasonable.

I mentioned on the first how I felt it was important for me to run this year. These are the new bits & pieces I bought last week and which arrived about an hour ago. I bought them online from a site called Sweaty Betty. I'm planning to try my first run on Sunday morning. Because I'm still unsure how I'll be able to breathe (have been having some similar issues to my anaemia issues from several years ago), I thought I would give it a go and see how I feel. I probably need to follow up with my doctor anyway, so will wait until next week to arrange a call with her, just to see is she recommends more blood tests, etc.

I also need to pay attention to my knees & hips and see how they feel after a few days of running.

7/8 length leggings - they feel glorious! I kept running my hands up and down my legs. Ha ha! Have some compression to them, as well as a 'bum sculpt' feature. Will let you know how/if that actually works.

A new, proper running bra and shirt for warmer weather ('beetle blue'). Lovely and soft, if a bit revealing around my post-Christmas, face-stuffing-for-two-weeks tum.

A yoga bra/top (made of bamboo). See description above about the fit.

I signed up for my online yoga site yesterday, too. I bought a year's worth of access via Groupon for £12 sometime in June or July, and have waited until now to redeem the voucher (new year enthusiasm/anticipation and all that).

I also bought some lightweight, cheap-ish walking shoes which are more suited to evening walks. Not sure they'd take me too far without issue, but a couple of miles should be okay.

Overall, while I haven't done anything I had set out to do, I feel rested, relaxed and ready to go back to work (I guess...). Although I've slept well, I've eaten far too much and feel heavy and bloated, but that will change starting on Sunday when my first meal delivery box arrives. I've got meals for 5 days in it (my first 4 deliveries are 25% off, plus I somehow had a £14 credit, so took advantage), going down to 4 per week for the rest of the month. I know the food is delicious and the portions on the large side, so ideally they'll work out for two meals each for me - a dinner, and lunch the following day.

I'm working on my new bullet journal along with thinking of 100 things I want to do this year. I only managed to list 65 items last year and accomplished only half a dozen of those, so intend to do better this year. My items include completing the Couch to 5k (running programme), sorting out my car insurance (it's double what it should be because I have a 'claim' from three years ago, when I really don't), baking, visiting London (because I haven't recently - two years? More?), reading 52 books this year (one a week seems doable, more than that feels a bit 'urgent', and books should be enjoyed not rushed through), etc.

I was a 'bit' profligate with my credit card before Christmas and bought myself a few things: a new stand mixer for baking, an Amazon Alexa, a subscription to a writing magazine, and all the items above. The mixer is brilliant and I've already made two cakes with it, a carrot cake for my neighbour's birthday (turned out very well if I do say so myself, and he was very pleased), and a salted caramel chocolate cake which was delicious. It really makes a difference, time-wise, having a mixer to do the hard work for you. It's brilliant.

Alexa has a huge variety of things it can do, but at the moment I'm using it just for the sheer variety of music. Roomie E is starting to understand how to use it now, rather than just shouting at it. Ha ha!

We had our neighbour over last Sunday for an Italian Christmas dinner, which was absolutely delicious. There was wine, cotechino (a sausage), mashed potato and lentils. We had home-made panettone (pear and dark chocolate) and the salted caramel cake for dessert. We were visiting for about 6 hours - so much fun! He's a really lovely guy. He and I now have to think of things for an 'international' night - pondering what South African (him) and Canadian (me) dishes we can contribute. Poutine and Nanaimo bars? Mmmm. Yikes!

So, already a bit of financial advice required. I currently have £1200 set aside for a flat deposit/move, but am wondering if it would be more beneficial to wipe the CC off (again) and re-save for the flat? Ideally, I'll do both, but think not having the debt is more beneficial in the long run really, particularly since we have no idea what's happening in respect of Brexit (which has now apparently been pushed back to 31 Dec 2020?! Boris - please explain? I thought it was the end of January...). Thoughts, suggestions welcome!

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Word for 2020

A terrifying, exciting, nerve-wracking and wildly positive word... (it includes the exclamation mark every time, too, by the way).


'Yes!' - I started the year with my last piece of salted caramel chocolate cake for breakfast and by writing up my annual card reading. I'm quite excited by it - lots of positive, introspective, creative guidance and support.

I'm feeling a need to run this year. Like it's important. So, 'yes!', I'm going to buy some nice running gear, and start the Couch to 5k again.

'Yes!' - I've arranged meal delivery for a month, starting on Monday, which I'm hoping will kickstart better eating habits - 4 meals a week (hopefully, the meals I make for dinner will be enough to carry over to lunches the following day - that's my plan).

'Yes!' - I'm going to set up some achievable goals to accomplish over/by the end of the year.

I'm very much looking forward to this year, the beginning of another decade, with you all and sharing achievements, challenges, thoughts, progress, and 'yes!', continued friendship.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019