Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Messy places

Like many other people I read a lot of blogs, and one that I read frequently is http://paidinchickens.blogspot.co.uk/.

The latest post has the brilliant idea of clearing a messy space each day.  A simple idea, methinks, for a simple soul like me to take on board.  Julee, who has that blog, has been tackling the challenge with a huge amount of energy (and she's revealed the reason for the world gravy shortage) but I know my limitations and the daily space may be as small as one drawer or a single shelf, but by the end of January I should be making some sort of impression on the mess.

I've already got my eye on a few places which need more than a little bit of attention but I shall intersperse those "challenging" places with a few easier spots.  I do like that word "challenging".  There are many other words which could be used but that one is polite.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Reflecting and planning

I know it’s not quite 2015 yet but my weeks always run Sunday to Sunday so I want to start thinking about what I want to do in 2015.

I read quite a few blogs and one of the things which I have enjoyed reading is the various attempts at doing 52 projects in the year but I haven’t noticed anyone crowing that they managed the full fifty two.  If you can tell me of any I’d love to know.  (Since I’ve written that I’ve googled and found a site called 52projects.com and I shall explore that.)

The reason I want to get a few projects is actually to do with frugality.  In the post-Christmas season I am very aware that there were several Christmas presents which were planned but time ran away with me so substitutes had to be bought and that is somewhat wasteful.  I’ve never got around to making a store cupboard inventory (or a craft inventory) so I waste my precious cash buying duplicates.  A good declutter combined with an eBay listing session would boost the coffers.  You get the idea.  I’m going to do some more thinking about this.

And whilst I’m here I want to remember the three special habits which I have managed to establish during 2014.  First I have managed to lose just over a stone in weight.  I’ve always been a yoyo dieter, managing often to lose three or four stone but then putting it back on.  This stone has come off as the result of minor changes to my diet and probably has a better chance of staying off.

Secondly I have established a pattern of Sabbaths.  This hasn’t happened every week but it is part of my lifestyle now, like those minor dietary changes.  Again like the eating changes, I haven’t beaten myself up or given up when I’ve failed to make that precious time.


And thirdly I have started a blog.  In fact I overdid it.  I actually have two blogs!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas!

Christmas comes tomorrow but according to my stable, Christ arrived today!  Have a joyful and blessed Christmas.


Gifts are on the way for him, I hope they are on the way for you too.



Monday, 22 December 2014

Waiting



The stable is very full now.  Joseph has arrived and is checking that the stable will be OK for his young wife.  The visitors from the east are on their way.


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Well, you would say that wouldn't you?

Today's thought on the frugal joys of advent is the one where you can say, "Well, you would say that wouldn't you?"  It's the pleasure of visiting a church.

I've just come back from a church where this afternoon there will be a village Carol Service which will be very well attended.  The church is decorated with a huge tree, lots of greenery and a wonderful knitted nativity scene.  It will be a rousing sing this afternoon and afterwards there will be tea, coffee, mince pies and maybe a drop of mulled wine.

Sadly an awful of of churches are locked up during the week but there are still a lot which are open for anyone who cares to open the door.  There is something wonderful about the stillness of a church when one is there alone.  My favourite one has a churchyard which has areas which have been left to go wild so there are birds singing outside.

So I commend churches for a good sing whether you are a human or whether you are a bird!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Just a thought


Well, we are now within a week of Christmas and it feels like a good time to organise my thoughts a little.

When I started this lead up to Christmas it was with no very definite idea in mind but I feel that a theme has emerged as the days have gone by and I want to run it past you.

I love Christmas and I love the razzmatazz.  There is little of the Bah Humbug about me as far as Christmas is concerned.  However, I agree with those who are worried by the commercialism of Christmas but I think that it is possible to look at the commercialism, even take advantage of it, without being seduced by it.  I know it is easy for me in that there are no children screaming “I want” and I am of an age where my friends are also not driven by the competitiveness which can surround the festive season.


Because I think that it’s the competitiveness which is ugly.  There is pressure to lay on the perfect Christmas with the right food to eat, the right gadgets as presents and the right decorations to adorn the house and it is easy to succumb to that pressure.  I want to share my delight in the small but significant things which give me pleasure at this time and in sharing them I have increased my own pleasure.  What more could a blogger ask?

Friday, 19 December 2014

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches

So much of what I have written about advent list has been about  pleasures that I receive that it's good to write about a pleasure which I give and that is my outdoor tree.  I'm not wildly keen on the big displays of lights in gardens and on the outside of houses but as I have said already, Caistor has quite a tradition of Christmas trees and it's a tradition I enjoy joining in. 

 One of my cousins ordered this tree for me as a birthday present way back in October and with a few LED lights it has brightened up my house.  More than any other photograph in this series this one shows my inadequacies with the camera but my little tree gives me pleasure and the many other trees in the town give me such delight that I dare to hope that this one gives some joy too.

Visitors from the east

A small bonus from my Advent nativity stable today – here are the three kings.  I’ve put them near the scene but not actually in the stable for they are still on their journey.



For today’s pleasure is the joy of the journey – or rather the meeting at the end of a journey.  Christmas is a time at which we see more of our family and friends.  As I have said I am a little bit short on family but yesterday my nephew and his wife visited me.  They live in Belgium (which is east of me!) but at Christmas they visit so yesterday we went out for lunch.



And during the next few days leading up to and following on from Christmas I will visit various friends and I will also entertain in my own home.  No need to bring gold, frankincense or myrrh, just the pleasure of their company enriches my life.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Memories

Today's frugal pleasure can be somewhat bittersweet for it is the joy of memory.

I love to remember the Christmases I knew as a child.  Mother would have made the cake and the pudding well before December began but she still had plenty to do.  Presents had to be wrapped, cards written (and the cards we received had to be displayed), the school nativity play and carol service attended and a million and one other things to be done.  Father would fetch a Christmas tree and then put it up and help my sister and I as we decorated the house.  There were many, many secrets around and life was exciting.  And all that was before The Big Day!

Sadly both my parents and my only sister all died in (different) Decembers so it could be a very sad month but nothing can take away the pleasure of the memories I have built up over the years.  A couple of years before she died my sister visited Russia and she brought me this lovely Father Frost (Google and you'll find his story) so as I put it out on display yesterday I remembered her and the Christmases of my childhood.  And I am happy

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Generosity of Others

Caistor, the town where I now live, has a lovely market square.  It also has some lovely residents.  Every year our town is entered into Britain in Bloom and every year we do rather well.





Towards the end of November the market square is enhanced by the addition of a large Christmas tree.  The tree is the gift of a local business and the decorating of it is undertaken by volunteers.  That generosity certainly enhances my Christmas.

So my frugal pleasure today is simply delighting in the generosity of others

Monday, 15 December 2014

Angels doing a recce

The stable has a goodly population of animals now and the angels seem to be checking it out.





Sunday, 14 December 2014

Angelic voices?

It’s such a simple pleasure I want to remember today - the joy of singing.  If there’s a carol on the radio or if I get myself organised and play a CD, I join in.  Fortunately I live in a detached house! 

But even better than being at home pretending that I have something like a singing voice is going and singing carols with others.  I have a certain prejudice here and have to say that I like singing in church best but I know that choirs, schools, bands and Uncle Tom Cobley and All give us plenty of chances to expand our lungs.


Christmas songs are wonderful.  Most of the time we don’t need to have the words printed and in front of us: we’ve known the words from childhood up.  So, be among the faithful who come while herald angels sing on an otherwise silent night in royal David's city.  And enjoy

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Trees

Today’s pleasure is to do with Christmas itself and it’s the pleasure of Christmas trees. Caistor is one of the many churches and chapels all over the country holding Christmas tree festivals this weekend so I trundled up the hill and called in.
 
There were over thirty trees displayed, all of which had been sponsored by local people or businesses or groups and each of which was individually decorated.  One of my favourites was decorated by the local chimney sweep who had displayed a fine choice of entry points for Santa.






The schools and kindergartens had done their bit, usually with lovely decorations made by the children.









Charities too had decorated trees including this one by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution which has a lively fundraising group here in Caistor.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Not bad for £1.80

Today’s frugal pleasure did involve a little bit of expenditure.  One pound eighty pence to be exact.  And it’s a pleasure which many frugal websites would tut tut at but I think it’s worth it.

Today I met up with a friend for a coffee.  No we didn’t take a flask; we went into the cafĂ© at a farm shop.  We were meeting at a point between our two homes and for the price of a cup of coffee we had a comfortable warm place with lovely seasonal decor for an hour’s chat.  This is not the season for a picnic!


I know I’ve already written about friendship in this series but that was about friends I won’t be seeing.  Today I’m talking about the pleasure of meeting with a friend and having a really good laugh.  £1.80 may be quite an expensive coffee in comparison with putting the kettle on at home but as the cost of a day long smile after an hour of laughter – brilliant! 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Contentment

Today's frugal pleasure is actually something on which I actually spend a lot of money, and that is my home.

Running a home involves paying rent, council tax, and energy bills as well as the cost of furnishing, cleaning and beautifying it.  It takes effort to keep it looking good and feeling comfortable.  True, one can economise and make sure that the best value for money is obtained but the fact remains: running a home is one of the biggest demands on anyone's budget.

And yet, home is a lovely place to be.  I have furniture which makes me comfortable and relaxed.  The decor suits reflects my personality.  I have photographs reminding  of people and events which have given me pleasure. In my home I can follow my hobbies.  I can entertain friends.  Here I am safe, warm and comfortable.

And here I find the truth in the saying that contentment lies not in having what you want, but rather in wanting what you have.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Feed the birds

Today’s pleasure is one which again is available all year around but it’s especially lovely in the winter and that’s the pleasure of just watching the birds.  I’ll come clean and say that I can’t take photos of birds – I’m just not fast enough – but I want to mention a few of my favourites.
House Sparrow 

First, the house sparrow.  I never thought I’d put spadgers in a list of favourites but these days I feel so lucky if I see one.  They used to be so common but not now.  A few bacon rinds thrown outside would have ensured a deluge of them but sadly their numbers have declined devastatingly.


Common Blackbird (turdus merula).jpg 




Next, the blackbird.  I do get regular visits from these.  A little bit of dried fruit or an apple core on the bird table makes sure of that! 






Blue tit (Copyright Mark Fellowes)

Then the blue tit, almost the first bird I learnt to recognise.  When I was a child we used to thread peanuts in their shells on to lengths of strong thread and hang these for the blue tits but these days they seem quite happy with the fat balls I hang from the table.



Goldfinch

One of the commonest birds to come to my garden is the goldfinch a bird which I hardly remember seeing as a child but which seems to like current living conditions here in the UK.  They like the Niger seeds I put out for them.  Did you know that a group of goldfinches is called a charm?


Male Robin





And a December blog post about birds wouldn’t be complete without the good old robin.  Robin Redbreast.  He’s quite fond of the dried mealworms and as far as I’m concerned he’s welcome to them!

Cardinal birds

I can’t finish without thanking a certain lady in the USA who had a Christmas card from me and commented on the cardinal bird on it.  I know she reads this blog and I have a guilty confession – I had thought the bird was a made-up one.   I made it with a stamp from America!


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Friendship

Family doesn't feature as large in my life as it does for most people - largely because I haven't got one!  I've never married and my only sister died four years ago leaving just one son who now lives in Belgium

But I delight in my friends.  Friendship is one of the great pleasures of life which we can have without major expenditure.

Around Christmas time I think a lot about my friends.  Cards arrive, many with letters inside.  It's fashionable to deride the round robin letter but I love 'em.  Most people write their basic letter and then add a personalised note on the bottom and that way I hear about the grandchildren of people whom I first knew over forty years ago.  No-one would want to write as many individual letters or if they did, they would just be scant notes.

So my frugal pleasure today is friendship, especially those friends I have had for yonks and the news of whose lives plops through my letterbox at this time of year.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Still waiting

My lovely advent stable continues to reveal its secrets and we now have quite a selection of sheep and cows, gathering near the manger.  Nothing strange or startling in Bethlehem so far.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

OK it wasn't Rudolph

I had a wonderful magical free show today on my way home from church.  Eight deer (one stag, seven hinds) ran across the road about twenty yards in front of my car.  I felt truly privileged for this is a sight which truly money can't buy.  

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Idleness

Today’s joy has been one of my favourites.  It’s a pleasure I indulge in all year around but in the busy month of December it gets promoted from pleasure to joy.  It’s the joy of idleness.

I have been very busy from Friday onwards and yesterday afternoon I became aware that I was getting very tired and my body aches.  (Disability makes some things even harder work than they would otherwise be.) So today I planned a day of doing very, very little.  I've just knitted and listened to an audiobook.  


May I commend idleness to you?  I realise that I may have provoked hollow laughter but I still commend it.  

Keeping an eye on Santa

I love Christmas and I love the build up to Christmas.  One of my favourite sites at this time of year is http://www.noradsanta.org.  Each day there is a new game to play, there's a cinema to watch films about Santa, a library to read about him and a music theatre to listen to (and maybe join in with) songs about Santa.

NORAD is "North American Aerospace Defense Command" so thank you very much to anyone on the west side of the North Atlantic who therefore (indirectly) funds this great free site each Christmas.  Being aerospace based NORAD is ideally placed for keeping an eye on Santa and they get well geared up for The Big Night.  They use the latest photographic techniques for taking film which can be slowed down sufficiently for Santa to be seen by ordinary human eyes.  They use satellite technology to get the vital information to us from their webcams situated high above the earth and they have an archive of his activity in previous years.  


But for the moment I'm just enjoying playing in Santa's arcade.


I'm just a big kid at heart.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Bonus

I've had a bonus joy today - when I woke up the house still smelt of the glorious aroma of gently cooking Christmas cake.  I'm counting this as frugal fun because although the cake was expensive, enjoying the smell is a free bonus.  And when the house still smells spicy and rich next day I am in heaven!

Serendipity

Sometimes joy can be planned.  Sometimes it has to be – but the joy is worth the planning.  Gardens are a case in point.  A lovely garden takes planning and effort – but it also takes serendipity (I love that word!). 


I planted these cyclamen a couple of years ago.  They had been in the house but they didn’t do very well indoors, so I bunged them in this planter by the front door.  This is their third winter in the pot so again, although there was initial cost, they really have given great value for money.

Even in the summer I have enjoyed them.  I think there are about six or seven plants in there but they each have slightly different leaves.


And I hope that visitors to my house also enjoy them

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Sheer glory!

I love cut flowers for the house.  I know that pot plants are more sensible but there is something about a bunch of flowers which makes me feel wonderful.

The trouble is that if I am not careful my purse suffers.  Most of the time if I buy flowers I buy alstromeria because they are not too expensive and they last well.  I also buy spray chrysanthemums, (especially white ones) for the same reason and one bunch of chrysanthemums makes several vases. 

Yesterday when I was in Tesco I saw these glorious irises – the photograph doesn’t actually do justice to their colour.  And they were in the Reduced For Quick Sale bucket – reduced from £3 to 95p.  Irresistible!  

Monday, 1 December 2014

Frugal anticipation

1st December brings a thrill all of its own.  Today children start to count the number of sleeps to Christmas.  Today the Advent Calendars come out.

Advent really started yesterday but today I got out my own Advent “Calendar” although in my case it’s a stable.  I’ve had it for several years so I think it can now count as frugal even though originally it was a very expensive gift.  All those little cupboards, each with a figure in it, add to the build-up of pre-Christmas excitement here at Frugal Follies. 




Each year when I pack the figures away I try and make sure that the following year there will be some sort of logic in the way that it unpacks.  I don’t sneak a look into any of the cupboards until the appropriate day.  After 12th December the scene pivots and the twelve cupboards on the other side will be revealed.  By Christmas the scene will be filled but today it stands empty apart from one solitary cow.  I love it!