Friday, 28 December 2012

The way to hell is paved with good intentions...

Now that we're in the Christmas - New Year between time like many I'm taking time to reflect on 2012 and make plans for 2013. I've gone over my 101 goals and been honest with myself about the ones I'm no longer interested in or that no longer serve a purpose. My office has been open this week but all the companies we do business with are closed so it's been very quiet, giving me the opportunity to have a good think over what I want to learn, do and achieve in the coming year. The only criteria is that they are things I want to do and which I feel will improve my life and take me closer to the lifestyle I want.  Here's what I've come up with:
 
Gardening:
  • Keep it small and simple - I don't want to feel overwhelmed by growing too many different things (like last year).
  • We havn't got a car so I can only carry small amounts of compost home, so I'll have to plan differently this year and grow things that need less soil as they grow closer together or which give a fairly high yield, for example. Climbing plants like peas fit the bill, as do radishes, salad leaves, bush tomatoes and courgettes.
 
Making:
  • Learn crafts that are new to me - soap making, candle making, preserving, sewing.
  • Try making different wines - Vimto wine has intrigued me!
  • Make more gifts and plan ahead eg. making chutney and red wine for mulling in Summer so they have time to mature in time to give as Christmas gifts.
 
Home:
  • Have less things coming in and more things going out so.
  • Follow the Down To Earth Forum 2013 de-cluttering plan month by month.
 
Extra income:
  • Get items onto Etsy or Folksy by March, even if just a few.
  • Tag along with the Frugeler 2013 challenge on the Frugaldom Forum. I've got lots of ideas for this.
 
Astrology course:
  • Complete two or more test papers a month to finish by the 12 month deadline.
 
Finances:
  • Buy no cheap clothes from Primark - buy second hand, make do with or mend what I've got or save up and spend extra on good quality versions of items like work shoes or a sturdy bag from an ethical supplier.
  • Have another 'Stoptober' as the last one was useful. February could be a good month to set myself another one.
  • Buy as much meat and veg as possible from the market where it's a fraction of the cost of the supermarket stuff.
  • Carry on saving the same amount every month as I have been but be a little stricter over it ie. by transferring money over to savings every single month.
  • Accept that saving up a large amount isn't possible as we're on a single income - and don't beat myself up over it! When things change saving will shoot up and in the mean time something is better than nothing.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Coping with unemployment...

Greetings, allow me to introduce myself, I'm Colin or the famed Mr. CB that has appeared through these pages and the wonderful Mrs. CB has allowed me to write this little piece and post it on her blog.

The first thing to try and cope with is the culture shock.  I've spent most of my adult life in one job or another - that's 15 years of solid employment.  I was a driving instructor and closing my business has forced me to lose the car.  Not good - it makes me feel quite isolated.

The second thing to cope with is rejection.  I've applied for quite a few jobs in the past few weeks - it's not so much rejection that gets me, I'm sick of being ignored, of not even being acknowledged.  Unfortunately, that's just the way it is.

The final thing to cope with is boredom.  Work was quiet for a while before I closed my business so this has become the easiest thing to cope with.

Culture shock

I miss my car, I just loved getting into it and seeing all of lovely Yorkshire.  Getting around isn't easy, I hate buses but my legs are doing me proud!  We're getting used to doing all of our shopping online and it's stopped the impulse shops, the trips to Waitrose bargain bin and so on, so this has actually saved some money!  I just need to stop getting into bad habits like sleeping in and staying up late and get up like I have a reason to.  This is purely a psychological things but I'm getting better.

Rejection

Clinging onto hope is not easy.  I have sent off more than ten job applications or enquires in the past week and heard nothing.  Why should I not give up hope?  That's a damn good question and one that I am struggling to answer.  I don't give up hope because I have to cling onto certain things - holidays, a nice house, a couple of football matches every season and a reasonable car - I don't ask a great deal from life.  There are plenty of jobs out there but I want to think about career over a job.  Arrogant I know, but after working for myself I just want to progress and a backward step is a tough thing to consider.

Boredom

A number of things have stopped me from going stir crazy.  The Gym is one of them, Judo is another.  I'm about to take my first grading in Judo and I'm in the best shape for years.  I recently paid the princely sum of £8 for ten trips to a little gym in Horsforth called Park Centre Fitness (courtesy of popular cheapskate site, groupon) and I've impressed myself.  I got on a running machine and ran for a whole mile in just under eleven minutes - not bad for someone who weighs in at a cuddly 17st!  I managed to get that down to 9:05 on my next go so it's really coming down.  I'm now able to go on walks without being out of breath (take that, car!).

Writing is another thing that's keeping me going.  A friend and I recently started a site called The Dodo Times, a site of daft news stories and writing for this has been a lot of fun and really brought out my creative side.  I won't tell you what my pen names are but there are two Colins on there and one of them is not me.

I'm turning into a male domestic goddess.  I've always enjoyed cooking and recently I've been doing more and more.  Sausage Rolls, Cheesecakes, Scotch Eggs and Chocolate Mousses are my specialities but recently I did a homemade Chicken Satay and it was pretty darn good.  Basically, you just mix some Sesame oil, Peanut butter, Sweet chilli sauce, and Coconut milk until you have a gooey sauce which is simmering nicely then you add some chilli powder - 2-3 teaspoons is plenty for a little kick between the two of us.  Gently part cook some chicken or any other meat you wish to use (or not, if you're a veggie), sizzle some veg (onions, carrots, peppers and anything else you wish to chuck in), drain your meat, add it all into the pan with the sauce, simmer and come back in half an hour with some rice.  Yummers!

All in all, unemployment is shite but we're both making the best of it and I think we'll come out of it better than before.

MrCB.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A change of perspective

For a couple of years after moving to this house with it's tiny kitchen me and Mr Crafty Blueberry would grumble that we'd do more cooking and make more things if we had a more spacious kitchen with better storage and more work space, a better oven and so on. It struck me this week how much our perspective has changed since then. Last weekend we made, between us, a huge batch of beef ragu sauce, spicy butternut squash soup, homity pie, caramalised onions, chocolate moose, 3 1/2 jars of mincemeat, a wholemeal loaf, and a sweet breakfast loaf. We've also bottled two batches of wine and started off a new one. So really that kitchen was big enough all along, we just had to stop moaning and focusing on the problems, and get on with it instead!

Fruity breakfast loaf

Homity pie and caramalised onions

Beef ragu, spicy butternut soup and mincemeat

Saturday, 10 November 2012

101 Goals in 1001 Day - November 2012 update

Completed goals: 12
Goals in progress: 15
Days so far: 88
Days to go: 914

I've not done a 101 goals update for awhile but have been working away on them in the mean time. I have to confess that I've changed a couple of them; some of them, in hind site were 'fillers' - there because they seemed like an ok idea, but not something I really want or need to do. So I've made some revisions and I'm happier with my list now.

Completed (the ones that spring to mind)

12) Make a one page SAD action plan for Winter 2012; I'm glad I put this on my list as it pushed me to get it done. I've learnt more about SAD and feel better able to cope with it this Winter. Still worried though as despite my efforts I think. It's creeping in, but time will tell if any of the stuff I've found out makes a difference this year. I'm keeping a track of it so I'll see.

37) Make bread instead of buying it; I dusted off the bread maker (literally) for this one.My bread maker belonged to my sister, then my mum and finally me, so it's certainly earned it's keep! We havn't bought bread for three weeks and I'm enjoying trying out different recipes. The bread's so tasty and I can make little 1lb loaves in the machine, which is the perfect size for two. It's good being able to control what goes into a loaf too; I hadn't thought about all the crap in a commercial loaf until I began using my bread machine regularly.

49) Have a Winter trip away for one night in a cosy B&B; We did this last week with a cheap voucher we bought a couple of months ago. We stayed in The Red Lion in Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales. The wind howled, the mist fell and we felt very cosy and relaxed.

87) Register with a dentist and have a check up; I put this off for 14 years! I set this goal and still kept putting it off because I was scarred of getting told off by the dentist for not going. Then a big chunk of tooth broke off so that decided it for me! It was all fine, the surgery was sort of shabby but clean and comfortable, and I had a kindly dentist who played relaxing classical music.

My main priority at the moment is goal one - 'Begin astrology course and work towards qualification'. So far so good, it's a very interesting course but I need to settle down and write my essays sooner! I tend to put them off as I never know where to start. Well there's no time like the present so I'm going to finish here and go and get started. Grrrr, here I go!





Sunday, 4 November 2012

Stoptober - an eye opener

Mr Crafty Blueberry's sausage rolls - these used up sausage meat left over from making scotch eggs
 and  have gone into the freezer for a future picnic or lunch.

How was your Stoptober? The first two weeks went really well for me, the third was pretty good and the fourth was OK but could have been much better.I didn't throw money around but I did slip back into the 'I may as well' spending habit towards the end of the month and I can think of a lot of things that I could have happily gone without buying. I'm not going to beat myself up over it though because although I've not reached the standard I want and need I've learnt a lot form Stoptober 2012:

  1. I can comfortably do without 3/4 of what I buy in a normal month
  2. I can firmly say 'No' to the consumer in me, and it feels good.
  3. I'm skilled at making meat stretch a surprisingly long way!
  4. Shit happens; sometimes unexpected spending can crop up that is unavoidable. Best to be prepared with a little money set aside if possible.
  5. Batch cooking makes a huge difference to how much we spend on food, so I'm going to do more of it.
  6. Stockpiling at the start of the month cut down on supermarket visits and impulse buys in a big way.
  7. It really helps me to have my reasons for reducing spending, and my aims, stapled to a noticeboard at the front of my mind because it keeps me motivated.
  8. In a normal month I waste a shocking amount of money!
All in all it's been a worthwhile experience and I've enjoyed reading about other people's Stoptobers too. It's given me some ideas on how to move forward and has come at just the right time for our house as this month we have to tighten our belts and keep it that way for the foreseeable future due to some changes in our finances.

I hope you had a good Stoptober, reading people's posts about it has been truly motivating.

Monday, 29 October 2012

SAD Action Plan 2012


Last year Seasonal Affective Disorder bought me almost to a standstill. Since then I've read about it and gathered together information to help me with it this year. In case you are affected too here's my SAD action plan:

Food

Foods that are slow burning and help to prevent your blood sugar levels from crashing; fill up on these!

  • Raw fruit and veg
  • Plain popcorn (can add a tiny bit of salt for flavour if you want but try it without)
  • Oats (you can add these to things like bolognaise!)
  • Raw, unsalted nuts (or roast them at home and eat without salt)
  • Peanut butter
  • Wholegrain bread and crackers, oatcakes
  • Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon)
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals

Foods to avoid as they spike then dip your blood sugar:

  • Sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits – refined sugars
  • White bread, white rice, pasta, potatoes
  • Caffeine (though it’s better if you have it with a slow burning snack)

So in general stay hydrated, fill up on raw fruit and veg, avoid too many refined sugar products. Weight gain can rocket in Winter so combine healthy, satisfying foods with gentle exercise.

Health and well being

  • Vitamin D may help – studies suggest there is a link
  • Get a light box and use it twice daily – in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening or before bed.
  • Gentle exercise; walking, swimming, some home exercise like weights and sit ups, Pilates stretches. Prevents weight gain and keeps your body functioning healthily.
  • Essential oils; if you have an oil burner burn a citrus oil (mandarin or grapefruit are good) in the mornings to stimulate you, and lavender at night to help you sleep. 6 drops of lavender in a bedtime bath is also good.
  • Bedtime routine; sleep disruption is a major symptom of SAD and can lock you into a vicious cycle. Get into a simple bedtime routine by turning off all screens (TV, computer) at least 20 mins before you turn in for the night as they trigger chemicals in the brain that can keep you awake. Take time to read a book and if anything’s playing on your mind write it down before getting into bed and set it aside for tomorrow, or add it to a to do list if it’s something you’re worried about forgetting – it helps to get it out of your head.
  • Keep warm; being cold can make you feel miserable when you’re already experiencing SAD. Wrap up well, keep your hands and feet warm if you suffer from bad circulation and keep your home evenly heated.
  • Stay hydrated; when you feel thirsty this is a sign that you’re already quite de-hydrated and your energy levels will suffer as a result. Dehydration also causes headaches and other aches and pains, and can even make digestion difficult. Keep a bottle full of water with you at home and at work and keep sipping.
  • Be easier on yourself; housework can wait, DIY can wait, major new projects can wait. Conserve your energy when you need to. Focus on gentle exercise and looking after yourself, and don’t take on more than you can handle. Treat yourself in the way you’d treat a loved one who was feeling the same.
  • Plan nice things to look forward to during Winter; set dates for a meal, a night away, a day out etc and Winter won’t look so bleak.
  • Make a sad to happy CD/MP3 compilation to gradually ease you out of a depressed mood and into a better one.

You might find it helpful to track how you’re feeling throughout Winter so that you can spot any triggers or patterns:

Date:
Food:
Exercise:
Summary:

I hope this helps!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Onwards to week two of Stoptober

I've had a fun and cheap weekend of foraging for elderberries at long last, discovering that there's a large WW2 bunker in the park next door (closed off but there's an intriguing mound piled over it that we poked around on), having a friend visit and going on a near by ghost hunt (not cheap but paid for in full a couple of months ago). I've also been a useful little blueberry and started off a batch of elderberry, blackberry and raspberry wine and batch cooked 4 work lunches and 8 dinners (beef bolognaise, cottage pie and butter chicken). The wine makes use of the blackberries we picked and froze on our wedding anniversary and a load of raspberries we got for 35p awhile back. I'm pleased with the batch cooking as I've stretched £4 of beef to 4 x 2 person cottage pies, two meals worth of bolognaise and three burgers (the burgers are 100% beef but the bolognaise has oats to thicken it and add fibre, and the pies have pearl barley and veg mixed in).

I'm pretty happy with how the first week of Stoptober has gone. I've spent about £10 because I bought a work shirt from a charity shop and went swimming on Friday (expensive at £4.50 but I really enjoy it), and a drink and a pasty on Saturday (ooo, splashing out!). This is a big improvement on how I usually spend money; I've not nipped into any shops for 'just a quick look' or browsed Ebay or Amazon. There are a couple of little things I'd like to get for myself but they're non-essential and I'm determined to get used to walking away and seeing if I still want it a week or two later.

 This week I've got to pay the dentist £70, the library £6 (lost track of how many library books I'd got out, I could kick myself) and I need a new small flask for a long coach journey at the end of the week; it works out cheaper that the coffees I'll end up buying when I go there and back otherwise! I also need some milk and fruit. I've been reading other bloggers Stoptober plans and it's great motivation to stick with it. Right, so, I feel prepared for week two now and feel that I can improve on last week, dentist bill not included. 

Keep up the good work for week two everyone!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Provisions

Day one of Stoptober and I've spent money! But in my defence £2 was towards re-stocking the tea and coffee drawer I share with a work colleague and £1 was for a pack of foil tins for when I do some batch cooking later this week (good for freezing cottage pies and fruit crumbles etc in) so I don't feel like I've 'frittered'.

The stockpile shop arrived tonight - it's huge! Should keep us going for awhile, we'll just need some fresh fruit, veg, meat and milk every week. The only trouble is we havn't really got room for it. Every cupboard is crammed full and it looks like we're prepared for a siege zombie lockdown/nuclear winter/hibernation. I shall have to scavenge some cardboard boxes from work when they're being chucked out to use for basement storage for tins and bottles. Mr CB looked a tad surprised when it was all unpacked and our living room was knee deep in provisions. But if it stops me from nipping to the shop for a tin of tomatoes and coming back with three bags of 'bargains' then it'll be worth it. The next step is to cook some batch meals for the freezer to have in for after work - I love all the free time that I can free up in an evening by preparing food in advance, especially in Winter when the evenings feel shorter anyway.

Yesterday I found a stash of bread flour and yeast that I bought months ago when it was buy one get one free in Tesco so I'm going to make bread rather than buy loaves until the flour runs out. I think I've got enough flour to make bread until Spring...! I got the bread maker out last night and tested the waters with a small white loaf. I used basil olive oil instead of plain oil and added dried basil too. It's soft and full of flavour; I could definitely get used to this.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Stoptober

Inspired by Frugal Queen (who isn't?!) and her mission to make October into Stoptober where finances are concerned, I've decided to join in and see if I can cut back needless spending this month. My bank account took a big start of month battering today with bills to pay, a big stockpiling grocery shop of non-perishables to last a couple of months, a textbook I need for my course (searched around and got it £5 cheaper than on Amazon though!) and an extra large credit card payment to get the debt dropping fast.

When the shopping gets delivered tomorrow night I'll have a kitchen and basement full of food and I'll just need to buy fresh stuff as and when. I've got a house filled with pre-paid entertainment - books, dvds, yarn, internet - and access to free exercise in the form of weights, sit ups etc and a big park next door, so when I think about it there isn't really much excuse for spending this week.

Let's see if I manage to behave...

Sunday, 30 September 2012

It lives!

An update on today's home brew - the yeast is alive, we didn't kill it with cold. It's fermenting faster than the wines we've made from wine kits (the ones with very concentrated grape juice that you mix with water). If all goes to plan we'll have six bottles of wine for £4.

The yeast floating around prettily

Starting to froth and giving of 'wine farts' - what we've started calling the gas bubbles that
pop up through the air lock
If you would like the recipe let me know and I'll share it in a future post.

Real scotch eggs (and yet more home brew!)

We got some sausage meat from a supermarket bargain bin the other day and result was these lovely scotch eggs:


They were surprisingly easy to make. We looked at a couple of recipes to see how to make them and it's a case of boil the eggs, shell them, sprinkle them with flour, wrap them with blobs of sausage meat, dip them in beaten egg then breadcrumbs, and fry them. There's a good recipe and a brief history of the scotch egg here. I have to say, having seen the amount of oil they absorb as they cook they are terribly unhealthy, but deeply tasty and filling. And they're as different from supermarket scotch eggs at they could possibly be - no rubbery old egg rattling around inside a thin shell of grey meat, coated in orange crumbs. Oh no indeed; think fresh egg in a thick jacket of good quality, seasoned meat and tasty breadcrumbs, served with a blob of wholegrain mustard.

It's been a lazy Sunday where once again we'd planned on picking elderberries but were thwarted by the weather. However we had four litres of fresh grape juice in the fridge from when they were on offer in Fultons so we started a batch of white wine with it. I'm concerned that the juice may have been too cold and killed the yeast though, but I'll know for certain if it hasn't started fermenting by the end of the day. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

A quickie

A quick update on current projecty bits today. I made a couple of Christmas cakes last Sunday using this straightforward recipe from Being Penny Wise . I'll be 'feeding' them with brandy every week leading up to Christmas so they should be good and boozy by the time the festive season get's going!

Speaking of which, we've bottled our quick brew wine, racked off the strawberry wine into a fresh demijohn (we havn't got enough bottles yet to bottle it all) and racked off the mead to give it a second clearing.

We've called the wine we bottled today 'Isaac 2012' as it was ready on the same day that our friend's son Isaac made his first appearance in the wide world after a long and arduous labour.


Plenty of wine for wetting the baby's head!
The blue Christmas blanket is coming along nicely - I've joined all the squares and am crocheting the border now. I'm already planning the next blanket - so many possibilities where the good old granny square is concerned.

I've been reading about the planets for my astrology course and am finding it interesting so far. Interesting enough to read it in the bath too, a sure sign of enjoyable reading.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Magazine grumble

Today in the supermarket I stopped for a glance around the magazine aisle and my eye was caught by a new magazine called 'The Simple Things'. I had a flick through and it looked OK, what you'd expect - recipes, gardening, things to make, places to go, articles on living more simply. All this for £4.99...! 

£4.99 to 'Embrace the simple life' as it says on the cover. Phew, that's a lot of money for people who are looking to simplify their lives.

I think it's great that more people are thinking about simplifying their lives and learning to appreciate  simpler things, it's a really positive change and a silver lining to the recession's grey clouds. But I think it's cynical to try to sell that lifestyle to people, to commercialise a lifestyle that includes more thoughtful, less rampant consumption. I know it's a trend like any other for many people, but selling a make do and mend, simplify your life kind of lifestyle in a £5 mag full of advertising kind of takes the piss.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Home brew progress and a new book


I got this fab book in the post today, it's a pocket sized guide to foraging by Richard Mabey. It's got over 100 plants, mushrooms and shellfish (is it still foraging if they're shellfish though?) and a calender at the front showing what's available for foraging each month of the year. For each thing it explains how it can be eaten and even has some recipes and advice on making jams and jellies out of wild fruit. I'm looking forward to taking it out with me on a walk and seeing if I can find anything. There's a phrase in the preface that made me laugh; the author says that now he's older he doesn't forage for large amounts any more but just likes something to nibble on whilst walking - 'ambulant consumption'.

Today we racked off the mead and strawberry wine into clean demi johns. The strawberry wine can be bottled in another couple of days and the mead needs one more racking off them a campden tablet to kill any lurking bacteria before being bottled and stored for as long as we can bear to leave it. We also started a quick brew kit today. It takes a week to ferment before being bottled and left for 3 months - just in time for Christmas!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Enrolled - finally!

After much procrastination I enrolled on an online course for a Certificate in Astrology yesterday with The Mayo School of Astrology. I've been interested in studying it for awhile but have been putting it off. I told myself this was because of the cost but I dug a little deeper and realised that the cost was just a smokescreen.

What was actually holding me back was fear. It seems obvious now of course but up until Saturday I'd managed to pretend that I wasn't at all scarred and I'd start the course in six months when I'd saved the money. But that didn't sit right so I thought about it, got in a muddle and finally did myself an Angel Card reading that helped me to clarify matters. The card related to letting go of past patterns and fears and moving forward. So that caused me to ask "What's really holding me back?". After all, I could pay for the course on my rarely used, low interest credit card and comfortably pay off large enough chunks that the debt would be gone pretty soon, long before finishing the course. I was scarred of making the commitment then changing my mind, scarred of failing, scarred of having to get myself organised and stick to a home study routine. I even felt guilty about spending so much money - my money - on something for myself. As soon as I pulled each fear out into the light they looked a little lame to be honest. The fear of commitment was much worse than actually making the decision because now I've made it I feel like a weight has been lifted. The fear of failure is based on past attempts at studying that havn't worked out, but when I think about it they've been things I've studied because I felt I should, not because I was really interested. As for being apprehensive about not being organised enough for home study - well my dear girl, the way it works is you get your arse in gear and you do it! I'm organised enough to excel at a varied and often pressurised job with six different people asking me fourteen different things at any one time, so I know really that I'm capable of being organised enough for home study.

As for the guilt over spending a chunk of money on myself - well, I'm generally very thrifty so it's ingrained to save rather than spend, but sometimes you have to, and since it's money I've earned and it's a course that interests me it's a worthwhile spend.

I feel happier now I've made the decision to do the course and am excited about studying. It feels so good to have stopped procrastinating! And it's a relief to have been honest with myself about it and admitted my fears. They're so much worse when they're vague and unidentified - when you look at them in the cold light of the day they're often not so bad.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 30

I love the feeling of being in the middle of a project that I'm enjoying every
step of

Saturday, 15 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 29

Spending £2 at the greengrocers has given me a vase full of sunshine

Friday, 14 September 2012

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Leeds Knit and Natter

If you're in Leeds and you knit, crochet, sew, cross stitch, make jewellery or partake of any other portable craft there's a new knitting/craft group in the city centre.

We meet in Costa on Briggate, Thursday evenings from 5pm to 7.30pm.

If you fancy learning to knit or crochet there will always be someone there who can show you how.

We're a small and friendly group so come along for a drink, a knit and a natter.

(There's also a group on Ravelry - 'Leeds Knit and Natter')


One month in pictures - Day 27

Wonderful refreshing cider with a lady holding an apple almost the same size of her head.
My sense of proportion is being messed with here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Four days of fun

I've had a long, four day weekend and I've enjoyed it so much that I've now got that end of holiday feeling as I'm going back to work tomorrow. It's been an excellent few days of day trips, relaxing, making things and a few surprises too. 

I've made progress on a crochet blanket:


Finished a pair of socks:


Found stash yarn for the next pair (the yarn's left over from previous socks so it feels like free yarn):


And the strawberry wine's finished fermenting so we've added the finings and it's having a day to clear:


I've also started crocheting some rose brooches to sell on the next Hope Pastures open day, picket a ton of blackberries and done some batch cooking for the freezer, so it's been quite a productive time. Done bugger all around the house mind you, it looks like a bomb hit it! We've got guests at the weekend though so that means a Friday After Work Special - attack the mess swiftly and mercilessly (and fudge it ie. shove stuff away in drawers and cupboards!).

Ah well, back to it tomorrow after a refreshing four days of fun, frollics, foraging and footling about.

One month in pictures - Day 25

Our last visit to the alpacas of Alpaca Maraca today due to other commitments. It's sad they we won't see them again but it's been fun getting to know them over the past 18 months.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sunday, 9 September 2012

One month in pictures - Days 22 and 23

I had a day off from posting a picture a day yesterday as it was my 5th wedding anniversary and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it. Mr CB surprised me with breakfast and buck fizz in bed then we went for a walk near by and picked blackberries. It was a good haul and we had enough to make a crumble today and freeze two bags. How relaxing it is to pick blackberries - standing in the sun picking them, wandering from patch to patch.


Later we went for a nice meal then sat in the garden drinking cocktails and enjoying looking at the stars.



Today we went to the Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza (there's a great word that doesn't get used enough!). Lots of impressive old vehicles, stalls, charities - and ferret racing!








The racing was to promote a local ferret rescue charity. The ferrets were relaxed and happy being handled (and cuddled!) and all in all seemed very contented with life:




We saw these dogs too. They raise money for animal welfare charities and are Huge.




After dinner we went for a walk and enjoyed the view.



 It's been a weekend full of unexpected good things. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 21

I finished a frivolous frilly scarf and visited Max the cat at Goldenacre Park - here is a picture of both 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 18

I'm getting back into visiting the library and am enjoying reading all these craft books
for free

Monday, 3 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 17

We visited Adel Dam Nature Reserve for the first time this evening - lots of busy birds and animals and
it was a peaceful place to be after a day at work.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

One month in pictures - Day 16

Today we went to the opening of the new Hope Pastures visitor centre - Pimms, cakes and a celebration of the sanctuary's work and volunteers.
We met one of the sanctuary's newest residents, Banjo the donkey who was rescued in the nick of time from being made into pet food and who is such a gentle, cuddly guy.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

101 in 1001: August 2012

Completed goals: 3
Goals in progress: 21
Days so far: 17
Days to go: 984

Completed:

29) Go to a knitting group.
Last week I finally went to a knitting group and this week I went again. It's in the city centre after work and the people there are welcoming, friendly and fun to be with. Since moving to Leeds, 95 miles away from my family and with most of my friends scattered throughout the country, I've been quite lonely. I went to a couple of craft groups when I first moved here but the size of them overwhelmed me; about 25 people at one and about 40 at the other. After that I slipped back into my old shyness and became quite scarred of meeting new people. I put 'Go to a knitting group' on my goals list because I knew it would be a challenge that could improve my life if I faced up to it. I was so nervous before going! I'd prepared for that though and had some calming self talk ready, so I reassured myself (repeatedly) and went, and I'm so glad I did. If you live in Leeds the group meets every Thursday from 5pm to 7.30pm downstairs in Costa on Briggate, opposite Marks and Spencer (there's a group on Ravelry for it - search for 'Leeds Knit and Natter').

11) Learn to make a great cream of tomato soup
This may seem an odd one, but it stems from the following equation:


I love Heinz cream of tomato soup
+
It costs 85p a can
+
I'm stingy
=
I  want something cheaper and better

Mr Crafty Blueberry beat me to this one but following a spouse to spouse soup tutorial yesterday I've made a big batch of tasty cream of tomato soup using this recipe that totally kicks Heinz's arse and half of which is in the freezer, stashed away.

17) Write a letter to myself to be opened on day 1001
I wrote about why I embarked on this list and what I hope to get out of it. The letter's sealed, labelled and  in a place I won't loose it.

Progress:

The main progress I've made is on goals relating to health and fitness. I've been doing a lot of exercise at home, walking on my lunch breaks, swimming and eating way less sugar and fat, lots more fruit and raw veggies and drinking enough water to stay hydrated. So far so good but the real challenge is to keep up the good work - to take it from being a novelty to becoming habit. I feel up to it but the main threat to my routine will be the Winter, when I go a little odd, have no energy, feel crap and just want to sleep. For that reason I've been working on a SAD action plan - planning preparations I can make, nutrition and health through Winter and planning for improved well being. I just hope it pays off. Once I've done it I'll post it here in case anyone reading is affected by SAD too and finds it helpful.

Other than health goals I've started learning chess, painting my living room, making a blanket for Christmas and planning my finances. An accurate saving and spending plan's essential for many of my goals as I need to save up for them, such as studying Astrology, travel and saving for a house deposit. It was quite scary, initially, writing down my outgoings accurately but it's clarified what I can save up and how long it will take. Now I just have to get the saving started and cut down on spending - the hard bits!

Oner month in pictures - Day 15

It's a boring picture of a door painted with white gloss, but it's proof that I've
finally started painting the living room!

Friday, 31 August 2012

One month in pictures - Day 14

£14 of raspberries for 35p from a supermarket bargain bin today - hail to the bargain bin, bringer of booty to the freezer.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

One month in pictures - Day 13

A cheap, healthy snack; pop a couple of tablespoons of popcorn kernels in a microwave for 3 minutes in a large plastic container. Eat plain or drizzle with a little butter and a sprinkle of salt (still better than a bag of crisps!)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

One month in pictures - Day 12

Mr CB made a GORGEOUS cream of tomato soup tonight for tea. That was number 11 on my list and he's beaten me to it! Must get him to show me how. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Thoughts on 101 goals


I am a list maker, I love it, it makes me happy. There, I said it. 
This 101 goals in 1001 days list is perfect for me and I'm enjoying the process immensely. Lists are often spoken of as restrictive and dull but I find that using lists gives me a framework for prioritising, getting essential tasks done, trying new things and making the most of my time. I feel that just making this list has opened up new possibilities to me; the possibilities were always there, the list hasn't magically created them, but it's made them more visible, given them substance and enabled me to get on and do them. At the moment I'm doing so many fun and useful things that I've been vaguely meaning to do for ages when I've got the time and/or money. Now that I've committed them to paper and done a bit of planning I can see that they were always available to me, I was just overwhelmed and unorganised. Many of my goals are free or require only a small outlay of money - that's surprised and delighted me as without any extra cash there are still so many experiences and opportunities available to me.
What happens if I start too many goals at once in my enthusiasm and feel overwhelmed by them? I'll go back to the list, back to the plans and re-organise. I see the list as a filing cabinet for my plans; if a goal is getting too much for me, I've bitten off more than I can chew or can't take a goal any further at the time (for example if I need to save up money for it first) it can go back into the 'filing cabinet' where I can pick it up where I left off later.
1001 days is a long time compared to the usual time I set myself to do things. When making new years resolutions one year seems a paltry length of time to do so much. But just under three years is enough time to pick things up, explore them, complete them or investigate them and set them aside for a more appropriate time whilst knowing that I've taken each one as far as I can for the time being. At the same time 1001 days is also a clear, set amount of time; it's not a case of meaning to make a start on something some time and not getting round to it, as there's a time frame to take into account.
The list also satisfies that start of term feeling; at high school and university I always felt that with a fresh notepad, pen and file anything was possible (I was and am a stationery geek). It feels good to be making plans, gathering information and moving forward a step at a time. I find myself focusing on the present rather than the future - what I can do now, not some currently unreal future - and that's a valuable and liberating change for me.

One month in pictures - Day 11

A salad of tomato, cucumber, carrot, onion, red chilli, coriander and lime juice; I can't get enough
raw veggies lately, I'm really enjoying them.

Monday, 27 August 2012

One month in pictures - Day 10

Today we made mead; here it is with it's cousin, the strawberry wine. Ferment my beauties,
and make mummy some cheap booze!

101 Goals In 1001 Days


Running from 15th August 2012 to 12th May 2015

The week before last, during a particilary crap few days, feeling at a really low ebb and in search of something to do with myself I stumbled across the idea of completing 101 golas in 1001 days where you write a list of 101 things you want to do in the next 1001 days. They can be anything from painting your bedroom to trying out a new hobby, from walking more to getting a new career - 101 is a lot of goals so there's room for everything! 


I've written my list and am writing a plan for every goal. I'm really enjoying it because it's clarifying all the things I want to do, big and small, and making them look much more achievable because I'm breaking down each goal into a series of small, detailed steps and keeping track of it all. It's empowering and exciting, very motivational and positive. I copied the following off a blog called Scarlet Words as it's a good definition:
The Mission:

Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. 

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).
Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple goals such as New Year’s resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.


Here's my list. It's not a full list yet, but I'll add to it over then next few days as I finalise what I want to put on it. I'll be checking in on my blog frequently with updates on my progress, to keep myself motivated, track how I'm doing and hopefully share lots of interesting stuff with you.
Black = Not yet started
Green = In progress
Red = Completed
  1. Begin astrology course and work towards qualification (Began September 2012)
  2. Design and complete a cross stitch sampler
  3. Make a double bed sized crocheted blanket for Christmas 2012 (Began August 2012)
  4. Make strawberry home brew wine - 30/9/12
  5. Make mead - 26/9/12
  6. Learn to play chess
  7. Climb a climbing wall
  8. Complete a 10 mile walk
  9. Paint the living room
  10. Paint the kitchen
  11. Learn to make great cream of tomato soup - 31/8/12 (I used this recipe)
  12. Make a one page SAD action plan for Winter 2012 (here) - September 2012 
  13. Avoid the internet on weekends for a month
  14. Learn to quilt
  15. Make a batch of soap
  16. Go camping
  17. Write a letter to myself to be opened on day 1001 - 30/8/12
  18. Learn about colour therapy and put it to use
  19. Set up liability insurance for reiki
  20. Do Pilates at home
  21. Learn 10 new vegetarian recipes (4/12; stir fried tofu, lentil curry, veg lasagne, spicey butternut soup)
  22. Make and package dry mix jars as gifts
  23. Make beeswax candles
  24. Build and maintain my upper body strength
  25. Visit 3 new parts of the UK
  26. Use my exercise bike every week for 6 weeks
  27. Drink at least one litre of water a day - Sept 2012
  28. Address my self esteem issues
  29. Go to a knitting group - 13/8/12
  30. Give the living room a deep down clean
  31. Sell things on Etsy
  32. Get business cards made for my Etsy shop
  33. Moisturise all over at least twice a week - 30/9/12
  34. Walk more on lunch breaks
  35. Learn about PMT and how to cope with it
  36. Get rid of 101 things in 1001 days
  37. Make bread every week instead of buying it - November 2012
  38. Replace the broken zipper on my husbands jeans with one salvaged from an old ripped pair
  39. Paint bedroom and cupboards
  40. Record a chapter for Librivox
  41. Finish king sized granny stripe crochet blanket
  42. Document one month of my life in photos - 16/9/12
  43. Learn 3 new card games
  44. Re-purpose an old item of clothing
  45. Make fresh pasta
  46. Create a sewing and study area in the attic
  47. Organise my yarn stash
  48. Stop complaining for a week
  49. Have a Winter trip away for one night in a cosy B&B - 6/11/12 in Burnsall
  50. Make a cross stitch pixel portrait
  51. Loose weight and maintain at 8 1/2 stone
  52. Save for a deposit on a house
  53. Learn to do tarot readings
  54. Stay in a Pod
  55. Take a skiing lesson
  56. Apply for a council house
  57. Eat raw food for seven days
  58. Do twenty one days of Reiki self healing
  59. Send distance Reiki twelve times in four weeks
  60. Ice a cake
  61. Read twenty five random non-fiction library books and share what I've learnt on my blog
  62. Sew an item of clothing
  63. Fly a kite
  64. Go to the cinema alone
  65. See the Northern Lights
  66. Knit, crochet or sew something for charity
  67. Fly in a hot air balloon
  68. Do a handstand, unsupported
  69. Don't buy any yarn for two months
  70. Have a holiday in the sun
  71. Climb a mountain
  72. Make a list of 101 things that make me happy
  73. Make a list of 30 free, fun things that I enjoy doing
  74. Firm up my tummy
  75. Get my finances in order - make and stick to a spending plan
  76. Spend a week focusing on Angelic meditations
  77. Make some sort of preserve (jam, pickles, chutney)
  78. Start a retirement fund
  79. Start a holiday fund
  80. Go on a retreat alone
  81. Enter an annual show
  82. Go to an archery club
  83. Make French macaroons successfully
  84. Make puff pastry successfully
  85. Make chocolate ├ęclairs successfully
  86. Learn about the chakras
  87. Register with a dentist and have a check up - 25/9/12
  88. Finish knitting the Berry Waffle Thermal t-shirt
  89. Get a bra fitted properly
  90. Learn to spin yarn on a drop spindle
  91. Create a realistic house keeping plan and follow it for one month
  92. Learn calligraphy
  93. Make a will
  94. Go to the theatre 3 times
  95. Print out photos stored on laptop, make albums
I havn't got a full 101 things that I really want to do at the moment, so I'm leaving these 6 free because I'm certain that new goals will crop up in the course of working on other ones. I'll fill these in as I think of them:

96.
97.
98.
99.
100.
101.