Sunday, 7 February 2010

Educating Skint Chick

So at the moment I'm studying for an AS level in Italian after having passed my GCSE with an A*. When I applied for the course I was feeling very confident that I would find it easy as when I was at school I studied both French and German at A level and even today I'm still pretty fluent in both languages despite only using them on holidays. It turns out that it's not going as well as I wanted it to - I'm struggling to find the time to put into study outside of the weekly class. I guess at school I would have been attending a class two or three times a week and then doing the homework at the weekend too so I was more exposed to the vocabulary and repetition.

I decided last week to have a little list of 10words a day to learn and try and use and I've been grouping them together by subject, for example last week I learn vocab about the environment and recycling. It seems to be working ok but if there are any other suggestions I would welcome them - I only have 3months until the exam!

I'm also taking a course on history one evening a week, it's quite a light class as we have a lecture and then a small discussion. It's based around a topic I studied at university so I have a good background knowledge and the themes discussed are familiar to me. Ideally I'd like to start my PhD soon and I have some ideas for a research topic, I took this class to try and formalise the ideas into a research proposal and to get me thinking outside the box.

Both courses finish in May so I have the summer free and then in September I'll have to decide where to go from here. I've already decided that I don't want to take my Italian classes further to A level because of the time commitment involved and the syllabus is basically what I've already studied but in more detail. So I have the option of a Spanish course - and I've seen a language swap company online that offer a week in Spain with free accommodation. In return I would be talking to Spanish people in English for a few hours a day. If I applied to go there next summer I would get a chance to explore a Spanish town in my free time and practice the skills I would learn from September - what do you guys think?

Or I could take a more creative option, I've always wanted to improve my photography skills and be able to take better pictures. Most of my pictures come out pretty well but I'd like to have more technical know-how about focus and exposure to make my pictures really stunning so I could get some made into canvases for my home. I'd also love to be able to make my own clothes and do a dressmaking course. I had enrolled on one last year but then my job got really manic and I ended up dropping out. There are so many things I'd love to learn but don't have the time to do them all!

Realistically my PhD is probably going to be a couple more years, what with working full time and thinking about having a family I won't really have the time or the money to undertake such a big commitment and I don't want to start it and not be able to finish. Plus part time means at least 5 years of research on one topic, that's a long time to keep focus and motivation when my masters dissertation only took a few months and at times I felt as though it was taking over my life.

As you can tell I'm not very good at decisions!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

January blues

So it's been a while since I wrote, Christmas and family and work commitments kinda got in the way of updating this. Before Christmas I was planning to organise my understairs cupboard as it was a disorganised mess with things thrown in any old way. Now my new shelves are in it looks completely different, it's so easy to find and acess things. All that's left to do is buy a shoerack and some hooks for my coats to go on the outside wall. I painted with a hge tub of leftover pale green paint and the carpet was a leftover bit from the spare room. Once everything's complete I'm going to change the light from the bare hanging bulb to a ceiling mounted light as I keep hitting my head or burning my arm on the current one! Here's the before and after pictures

I successfully completed the Live on £4000 a year challenge for 2009 with my grand total coming in at £3425.89. I was really pleased with this as I'd expected to go overbudget, and the leftover money has paid for a trip to Berlin in March. I hope to achieve the same level of success with my budget for 2010 especially as there is a lot more included in this year's budget.

My weightloss is going better than I thought. I rarely weigh myself as I get miserable when I haven't shifted any weight but I've been at the gym a few times a week since the start of the year so I took a chance and weighed myself and I've lost 2stone 1lb since last September. I feel a lot more positive about my weightloss now because for a lot of that time I wasn't really making any significant effort. My BMI has reduced from 43 to a slightly less scary 41, the plan is for my it to hit 35 by the end of the year with a combination of a healthier diet and lots of exercise as some of my 101 aims are based around exercise and outdoor activity.
On Tuesday I tried a yoga class and it took a couple of days for my muscles to stop aching. I don't think yoga is for me, I knew I already struggled with my flexibility but the exercises have made my knee ache because the movements were putting a lot of pressure on my knees and still sore foot ligaments. There are some exercises I would do myself on the gym mat though to help improve my flexibility. Once my knee has fully recovered I'm going to try Body Pump instead.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Preparing for Christmas

I haven't written for a while because things have been so hectic here. I've managed to complete 2 more of my 101. I've decluttered the entire house and sold a lot of things on ebay - clothes I'm not going to wear again, handbags I don't use and a games console and games my ex bought me.

I made enough money to buy the storage I wanted from Ikea for under the stairs so I'll keep you updated on the work in progress. First of all I need to take everything out and paint the bare plaster white with some leftover paint to make the space look cleaner and bigger. Then I have some spare carpet from my hall and stairs that I am going to put down to make the cupboard more user friendly. At the moment it is so dusty in there and I would like to be able to store my work shoes, coats and sports equipment in there instead of falling over everything in the hall! I've bought adjustable shelves on a racking system so I can amend them in I change my storage needs, and some clear plastic tubs to keep everything together neatly. Currently my diy tools are stored in 2 plastic buckets and some bags and I can't really see what I have or find anything without taking everything out. All my tins of spare paint are stacked on top of each other and I always need the one at the bottom!

I've also managed to save my emergency fund -six months salary is sitting in a high interest internet account. Next year's aim is to increase this to a year so if we have children we will be able to spend time with them rather than us both having to hurry back to work. I've signed up for the Live on £4000 a year challenge for 2010 and here's my planned budget;

Groceries £1000
Heating £600
Electric £300
Household and toiletries £155
TV Licence £143
Haircuts £60
Landline/TV package/Broadband £400
Mobile phones £120
Petrol £500
Clothes and shoes £150
Car tax £120
Home Insurance £100
Social Life £200
Presents £152

So I've just got car insurance, life insurance, council tax and holidays to pay for from mystery shopping income. I'm aiming to overpay my mortgage and reduce the balance to under £140,000, and also to repay my £5,500 loan in full this year.

I wasn't sure how realistic my budget for 2009 was until I got this far in the challenge and while I've gone overbudget in some areas, others are still on track and my total spend for everything I included should end up being around £3,500. So I've been able to include far more categories in next year's challenge and still be confident of success. When I talk to friends and hear how much they spend on groceries it shocks me. One couple I know are spending £120 a week on food and there's only the 2 of them! We are spending around £20-25 a week and we're not eating less than this time last year when I was spending around £45 a week. I prepare most meals from scratch, and it doesn't take much longer than microwaving a ready meal because I organise myself with meal plans and while I'm making dinner I do prep for the next night's dinner - getting food out of the freezer, cooking extra for the freezer, marinading, chopping veg etc

I finally got my Itunes organised - it took a long time to get this sorted out because I have sooo much music on my Itunes. The genius application helped a lot by creating playlists for me, and I went through all my podcasts and removed anything I'd already listened to or that wasn't relevant anymore. I really like the Genius toolbar, I have some fabulous playlists based on my favourite songs and have re-discovered artists I hadn't listened to in a while.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Back to Blogging!

I haven't posted in a few months as I was busy with a new project at work and getting lots of things done. I started my Italian evening course to work on my language skills and it's going very well. I do find it hard to commit the time to doing my homework and extra study each week, my tutor reckons we need to be doing at least 3 hours on top of the 3 hours of class each week. Luckily next week is half term so I don't have a class and can catch up. I started reading an Italian newspaper online to practice my reading and comprehension skills and have printed off some articles that are related to the topics we study on the course.

I've achieved a few more tasks from my 101, number 50 to give up Diet Coke was tough going the first few days I was exhausted, constantly yawning and my head was so sore. But I worked through it and now I am the most frequent visitor to the office water cooler. I'm hoping this will have benefits soon - after all magazines are always telling me people who drink litres of water a day have clear skin and shiny hair. So bring on the supermodel looks! It'll save me a fortune too as I was spending at least £5 a week on my Diet Coke habit and water is free! I have a water filter at home and use no added sugar squash to liven up the water a bit, and now it's winter I can have lots of hot lemon and blackcurrant. I also stocked up on vitamins to make sure my diet is even more well balanced, and to help regulate my hormones so I feel even better.

I have a healthcare plan through my employer and actually took the time to read it a few weeks ago and found it included a whole range of alternative treatments. I'd been having problems with one of my feet since I bought new shoes in the correct size, that didn't hurt my feet. So I went to a podiatrist and he was amazing! Apart from my feet getting totally pampered and all the hard skin removed, nails cut and filed properly, I mentioned my foot pain. The podiatrist explained that now my foot has room to spread out the ligaments aren't getting enough support and he sorted me out with an insole. It has completely fixed my foot pain - I was starting to despait as walking around barefoot was painful and I was struggling to walk after sitting for any length of time. My insole supports the middle of my foot as well as the arch so all the muscles and ligaments are in the correct place. And I've painted my toes in a glamorous red to celebrate my new good looking feet!!

I started a proper home cleaning routine last week when we had a dinner party and I had to take a day off work to clean the house before I could invite friends over! So I made a little chart of what needs to be done and when and who is responsible for making sure each task is done. Less than 20 minutes a day each will keep the house and cars looking great and avoid any embaarassing incidents when friends land on the doorstep. It also demonstrated that we need to sort out some proper storage for our living room as there were some things that just don't have a home. Our house is quite minimal, we don't have much furniture, or many homely touches and it's beginning to look a little too stark for my nesting instincts, so I'm going to have a think about what we'd like to have in the room and how to make it fit with the existing dimensions and colour scheme.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

It's been a productive weekend, I've achieved several things that have been on my list for a few months. Mr SC and I went to the reclamation yard, I had never been before and wasn't expecting it to stock so much and such a wide variety of antiques and amazing items I would have loved to have a home big enough to accommodate!

I have a 1930's terrace house with some period features although I would love it to have more. It has white plasticy moulded internal doors that I hate with horrible brass look handles. So we went to see how much it would cost to get reclaimed doors as I love natural waxed wood and I have original sanded floorboards so it would unify the look. I got a bit of a shock, on the website it had said they have reclaimed doors in stock from £100 plus VAT so I had assumed since my doors were quite standard sizes I would be spending around £650ish for five internal doors. My quote came to £1225 plus VAT!!

I did chose a lovely gothic arched door with glass panels for the door between the living room and hall to let extra light in, but even for the standard doors it was almost £200 each - and I totally forgot to budget for door handles- which I suppose are essential to use the doors!!

So I may just get the door for the living room, and I'm also going to explore some cheaper options, as I found a local store online that makes replica doors. Their prices appear to be about half the price of the reclaimed ones, so next weekend I'm going to the showroom to see how good they look up close, and get a quote.

Then we visited a local maritime festival to see the ships, it was very crowded though and muddy because of the rain, so we didn't stay long. In the evening we went to see the new Brad Pitt film "Inglourious Basterds", which is a black comedy about a group of Jewish soldiers who go on a rampage killing Nazis. I enjoyed it even though there were a few gruesome moments, there were some hilarious comedy moments.

Today I 've been having a quiet day organising my week ahead, making a list of books I'm going to borrow from the library. As I've bought a few books from Amazon I've started using their recommendation tool to give me suggestions of new books that might interest me and it seems to be working well. Then I went through my kitchen cupboards and planned my meals for the week ahead. I have a few frugal batch cooked work lunches left from last week - spaghetti and chilli so that sorts out a couple of days. I got a lot of groceries last week, including 8 jacket potatoes for £1 so I'm going to be having jacket potatoes for lnuches and dinners - with various fillings - cheese, baked beans, tuna mayo, and my favourite madras mayo. I make it using a little madras paste mixed with reduced fat mayo to add a little flavour, and I use it to make chicken wraps, and flavour sandwiches with a little kick.
I took some pictures this weekend of the colourful flags flying from the ships that I thought I would share. I would love to spend a restful week or two at sea just floating about watching wildlife go past and catching up on all the books I keep meaning to read and music I keep meaning to listen to. But I don't think I would feel confident enough to hire even a small boat and take it out to sea - and I don't think my holiday budget would be up to hiring a yacht anyways! This week I plan to study some more towards my language course I'm continuing next month, and spend an evening organising my next creative project as I keep putting these off!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Thinner Thursday!

I'm very excited because I lost 4pounds at Slimming World even though I cheated a little and ate a Cornetto! I'm finding it a lot easier than I thought because there are so many " free" foods that I can eat as much as I want of, so it's been actively encouraging me to eat more fruit and veg to get my 5 a day. Plus I read in a magazine that you should ideally aim for 10 a day then it's statistically more likely that you'll get your 5 in more consistently.

I'm still maintaining my frugal ways, so far this month I've only spent £26 on groceries and I have enough staples to get me through the rest of the month, I just need to get some fresh fruit and veg each week. I'm estimating a total spend of £50 for the month, half of the £100 I've budgeted so I can spend the remainder on task 61 - buying an Oxfam Donkey for an African village.
I've got a few creative things planned for when I spend some alone time with my sewing machine, a stationery wrap to hold my note writing paper, envelopes, address book and stamps. At the moment I store them in an A4 brown envelope which looks terrible and doesn't inspire me to write letters to friends and family. So I thought I could make a wrap for all my supplies and then I would be more inclined to keep in touch the old fashioned way. It will make my desk look a lot prettier and tidier too! I bought some fabric a few months ago to make new pyjama pants, it has little penguins on - my favourite animal - so I want to get these cut and made as a birthday present to myself (for next month).
Tomorrow night I'm going to take another step towards 29 and 31, I'm eating out at a new place and seeing a new movie tomorrow night, with my husband so I guess that counts toward 25 - doing something romantic with Mr SC once a week. Because of our conflicting work schedules we haven't really seen each other since the weekend so it'll be nice to spend the whole weekend with him. Also planning to visit the reclamation yard to investigate reclaimed doors to add another finishing touch to completing the decoration and restoration of our home.

I've got some more pictures to share. I got a new feature light for our living room, as the internal transformer in the old one went and couldn't be repaired. I needed something large as the ceilings are high and the room is large, and we decided to go for something unusual but didn't want to spend a fortune on lighting - some of the ones we considered for a fleeting moment were £200+. We were lucky and managed to get a really unusual star design with lots of reflective silver wire in the sale half price for £70. I don't consider this an extravagance as we don't have any other accessories like rugs, cushions or throws, my style is quite stark and minimalist so the light softens the room and gives it some focus. And hopefully this light will last longer than the last one! I also took a couple of pictures of the meals I've been making for myself as part of my healthier eating plan.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Back to blogging!

I didn't mean my break from blogging to be so lengthy but I got caught up with working hard on my career and trying to get my home organised for my parents visiting!
So since I wrote my last post I've been home for the weekend and seen all my old friends and caught up with their news- another wedding in September, a baby just before Christmas and a move to a different country! I've also ticked off a few tasks on my list, which I'm really pleased about as a lot of them are ongoing tasks that will take a while to get into a routine with.
My parents visited for the weekend and we took them out to show them local places that we like and enjoy and had a great time catching up, I really want my parents to get to know Mr SC as they've only met him a few times so it was lovely spending quality time with them.

I finished my satin handbag for the wedding a few days after my last post; here's a pic
My mum showed me how to thread and use my machine to do various different stitches in preparation for my dressmaking course. I've also been busy with diy; I replaced a broken window, sorted out the dodgy electrics in my lounge and painted my kitchen door. The kitchen door had been bugging me for months, it has 8 panes of glass in it to let light through from the living room to the kitchen and was a nasty orange pine colour with a horrible rusty brassy handle. So I bought a new satin silver handle from the diy store for £24 and used paint we already had to paint the door. Now it matches the living room walls on one side and matches the kitchen walls on the kitchen side. It no longer jars with the look of the room and I'm really pleased with the finished door. It's amazing how much pleasure I can get from one small change!

I've taken some great pictures of the places I've been, mostly on long walks with hills involved to keep me fit and active. I also started Slimming World to give me extra motivation to lose weight and achieve my personal goals, so I'll keep you updated on my progress. I'd better go now as I have housework to organise- laundry, dishes and bathroom cleaning - what an exciting carefree live I live! But here's some pictures of the beautiful scenery I've been surrounded by the past few weeks...

My ideal view

My ideal view