Tuesday, 31 December 2013

At the End of the Year

... all that remains for me to do is to thank you all for your support this year - I can't begin to explain how much it has helped me get through the last 10 months but I really do appreciate the friendships I have found online.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year and I'll see you again in 2014!
image from Facebook (Global Illumination Council)

Monday, 30 December 2013

Welcome to SFT

... to Saving for Travel

image from Google

Frugal Still Life Photography

I've signed up for a free online photography course - Frugal Still Life Photography. It is organised by Cheryl McCain, starts on January 6th 2014 and lasts for 8 weeks. I can't get her badge to display properly so here's the link to her site for anyone who may be interested.

All About ... 2013: Year in Review

What did you do in 2013 that you’ve never done before? I can't think of anything.  This has been the start of a year of 'firsts' as I come to terms with the changes imposed on my life by Ced's death but there isn't actually anything that I have never done before.

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?  I didn't make any resolutions.  At the start of the year Ced was critically ill in intensive care and not expected to survive so my focus was on him and the time we had left together.  For 2014 I'm planning a list of things I want to achieve by the end of the year.  Some of these are lifestyle changes and some are things I've always wanted to do and 2014 is the year I'm going to do them.

Did anyone close to you give birth? No, there were no additions to the family this year.

Did anyone close to you die? Yes, my beloved Ced passed away in March. 

What countries did you visit? I didn’t travel at all this year.  Well, I went to visit my niece and her family in Wales which was the farthest I got!!

What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? At this stage of my life material things are not that important to me and my life has changed so much, and will continue to change, that I can't really answer this one.  I want my family and friends to stay happy and healthy and that's all I wish for.

What date from 2013 will remain etched in your memory and why? There are two dates - March 4th when Ced died and August 1st when I collected the keys to my new home.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? Being with Ced at the end of his life.  Managing to keep going afterwards.

What was your biggest failure? There hasn't been anything that can be classed as a failure as I didn't really have any expectations for myself this year.

Did you suffer illness or injury? No major illnesses or injuries this year but I have ended the year under the care of a consultant at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.  I've had a colonoscopy and a CT scan and am waiting on the results.

What was the best thing you bought? My new home. I love it!

Where did most of your money go? On the new home! Apart from that it has been spent on the bills, food and clothes - just normal expenses, nothing extravagant.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? Nothing really, it hasn't been that sort of year for me.  I'm starting to get more enthusiastic about my photography again.

Compared to this time last year are you:
  • Happier or sadder? Sadder, but for the obvious reason that I am trying to come to terms with the loss of Ced in my life.
  • Thinner or fatter? Slightly thinner.
  • Richer or poorer? Slightly richer.
What do you wish you’d done more of? I would have liked to have done more socialising and more choral singing.
What do you wish you’d done less of? Worrying about things that I couldn't change.

How did you spend Christmas? My sister, BIL, nephew and his partner came to mine for Christmas breakfast.  Then I spent the late morning/early afternoon doing the rounds, visiting my niece and her family, then my other nephew and his family (+ celebrated Miss C's 5th birthday) and finally my friend's home to spend some time with her and her daughters.  I spent the rest of the day at home on my own where I cooked my Christmas meal and opened the rest of my presents.  It's what we used to do when Ced was well and I wanted to do it again this year.  It was a lovely day, lots of laughter, a few tears but filled with love and good memories.
Did you fall in love in 2013? I was already in love, and stayed in love, with Ced. He's just in a different dimension now.
What was your favourite TV show? I haven't really watched much TV this year.  I watched the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who which was brilliant.  Apart from that just a few repeats of Lewis and QI.
What was the best book you read? I can't remember most of the books I've read this year, which presumably says something about my choice of reading material.  I finished the year re-reading the Harry Potter series and I enjoyed them just as much as I did the first time I read them.
What was your greatest musical discovery of 2013? Nothing in particular but I've drifted more towards listening to classical music all the time.  It's not a 'discovery' as I've always loved the genre but now I am listening to classical music to the exclusion of all other genres.  I find it comforting and relaxing.
What did you want and get? I wanted a means of exercising at home so I bought a Wii + Wii Fit game.
What did you want and not get? I'd originally planned to buy a new build house but didn't get it because of all the negative changes to the marketing information I'd originally received - two additional maintenance charges on a freehold house and plans to build a children's playground just in front of the living room window! At the time I was disappointed but I'm a great believer in fate and my decision to walk away from that house meant that I ended up in my current home.  It was meant to be!
What was your favourite film this year? I enjoyed the first Hobbit film.
What did you do on your birthday? I went out for a meal with my twin sister and her husband.  We went to The Old Bear at the other end of the village and had a most enjoyable meal.  I had duck and the others both had steaks. 
What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? There's a whole list of things that I wasn't ready to do that would have made my year more satisfying but I don't want to dwell on the negative.  Instead I'll concentrate on the major thing I have been doing which has given me a lot of satisfaction and that is that I've started playing with the brass band again.  I'd had to stop this when Ced's illness progressed and I really missed it.  I now teach at the local youth band and also play along with them. It's as much fun as I remembered and I'm really enjoying it.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? I don't have a personal fashion concept. It's difficult to have one of those when you are overweight and just go for comfort and whatever fits!   
What kept you sane? The support of my family and friends, lots of reading and photography.
Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I didn't fancy anyone.  Well, just David Tennant and Robbie Williams and ....
What political issue stirred you the most? The problems with the economy.

Who did you miss? Ced. Mum. It has been a difficult year.

Who was the best new person you met? I haven't met anyone new this year who I could say was the 'best new person' I'd met.  I've met a few of my new neighbours, people at the sewing bee, staff at my new school, parents of new band members - the list goes on but I don't really know any of them well enough to class them as friends.  In every case, it is early days in the relationships.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. Live your life now, don't wait for tomorrow.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.  I can't think of one with lyrics that means anything to me.  The one piece of classical music that sums up my year for me is Pachelbel's Canon but I can't really find the words to explain why. 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sealed Pot [2]

I haven't saved very much at all but am quite impressed that I managed to save anything at all considering it is the Christmas week!

The Sealed Pot 
  • Saving small change in a piggy bank: Last week it weighed 819gms.  Today it weighs 841gms.
  • Save the Change: 75p - I was expecting this to be a tiny amount as I've only used my debit card on two occasions. 
  • Saving money left over from weekly pocket money: I didn't spend any of it as I'm saving for the next three weeks to buy a set of books, so nothing to add to the pot.
  • Saving money left over from weekly food and petrol budgets: This part doesn't start until 2014.
  • Gifts/unexpected savings: Nil

Saving Account
  • Gifts/unexpected savings: £50 of garden centre vouchers (Christmas presents)

Linking with Saving for Travel

Silent Sunday

Linking with Silent Sunday

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2014 Reading Challenge - Push Your Boundaries

I'm trying to get out of my self-imposed reading rut so with that in mind I am joining in with Roni Loren's The Push Your Boundaries Reading Challenge 2014.
I've selected a variety of genres to put in each box according to my current reading preferences.  The aim is to challenge myself to stretch my boundaries as well as continuing with my current favourites.  I will read at least one book from each genre listed in the following chart.

Linking with Roni Loren

Friday, 27 December 2013

Skywatch Friday

Early this morning the sky was grey and five minutes ago it was pouring with rain but now the blue sky is peeping through the clouds.
Taken in Staverton, Wiltshire, UK
Linking with Skywatch Friday

The Simple Woman's Daybook - Friday 27th December 2013


Outside my window ... it is a cold, grey day. It was very windy again last night and the back garden looks like it has taken a battering.  I'm sure there will be more wind and rain before the day is out.

I am thinking ... 'can I be bothered to drive down to the other end of the village to photograph the flooding?'  Probably not ... it's going to be a 'lazy, curl up on the sofa with a good book' sort of day.

I am thankful ... for all the thought and love extended to me during the Christmas season.  I have to be honest and say that I was sort of dreading it without Ced but it turned out to be a really lovely laughter filled day.

In the kitchen ... there is the washing up from breakfast but not much else is happening.

I am wearing ... my dressing gown and a smile!!

I am creating ... still working on the patchwork hexagons.  It is going to be a grab bag.

I am going ... to Ena's (my sister) home later today for a family get together.  Her eldest daughter lives in Wales and stayed at home this Christmas but her eldest son has been to stay with his dad and is coming to sleep at Ena's home tonight so the rest of the family are going round to have our belated Christmas celebration with him.  They are taking him back to Wales tomorrow and I'm going with them to see my niece, her husband and the other two children and indulge in another day of present giving and food.

I am wondering ... how long I will have to refrain from exercising.  I fell over on the decking yesterday and have badly bruised my hip and leg and can't walk properly.  Luckily I didn't break anything but have been advised to take things easy.

I am reading ... the third Harry Potter book with plans to read the rest of the series as soon as possible.  I'm enjoying them as much as I did on the first read but for some reason it is taking me ages to finish them which isn't like me at all.

I am hoping ... to complete a photo a day project in 2014, themed on the garden.

I am looking forward to ... seeing my niece and her family in Wales.  I haven't seen them since the summer.

I am learning ... to pace myself.  I have a tendency to take on too much and then crash and burn.  I'm still planning what I want to do but am being much more realistic about what I can achieve and in what timescale. It makes for a happier me!

Around the house ... I can hear the boiler churning away and also the radio - I'm listening to Classic FM. I'm sitting at the dining room table and just next to me is the beautiful flower arrangement my Friday school surprised me with.  The Christmas decorations are still up (but I'll probably take them down on Sunday) so the house is a vision of red and gold, with some green thrown in for good measure.

I am pondering ... nothing really.  I'm emotionally very tired and simply don't have the energy to ponder anything.

One of my favourite things ... black ink on good quality white paper.  Julie and the girls gave me some calligraphy pens for Christmas so I will soon be indulging in this.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
  • Saturday: Going to Wales to see Keri and family
  • Sunday: Relaxing at home
  • Monday: Shopping and cooking
  • Tuesday: Cooking + friends visiting in the afternoon
  • Wednesday: Visiting family 
  • Thursday: Some photography if weather permits
  • Friday: Relaxing at home
A peek into my day ... A meal with family tonight.  Apart from that I haven't planned anything, just a relaxing day!

A favourite quote for today ...

image from Google

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Another Christmas Day Birth ...

... happened in my family in 2008 and today this beautiful little girl celebrated her fifth birthday.

Happy birthday little Miss C.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 24

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
image from Google

Monday, 23 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 23

Carol singers - it should have a tea light in the street lamp but I'm not putting it in until Christmas Eve when all the other decorations are out.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 22

From my archives, baubles on the tree.

Sealed pot [1]

Well, I have made some savings this week, although fairly minimal.  It's that time of year!

The Sealed Pot 
  • Saving small change in a piggy bank: I've added some coins but have deliberately not counted them as I want a surprise at the end of 2014. I'd already saved some coins before I officially started this challenge which means that the starting weight of the piggy bank was 757gms.  Today it weighs 819gms.
  • Save the Change: According to my bank statement I have saved £2.03.
  • Saving money left over from weekly pocket money: Nothing, I spent it all!!
  • Saving money left over from weekly food and petrol budgets: This part doesn't start until 2014.
  • Gifts/unexpected savings: I was lucky enough to have one of my debit card purchases refunded by my bank, a refund of £7.69.  Also £2.10 I didn't have to spend because the parking meter was out of service so parking for carol playing today was free.
Saving Account - this doesn't start until 2014.

Linking with Saving for Travel


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Friday, 20 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 20

Wicker reindeer in my sister's garden.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Weigh In Update

Just a quick update.  I used the Wii Fit program to check my weight so I now know my correct starting weight.  Want to know what it is? .... ....








Not telling!!!  All I'll say is that I've lost 2 pounds since I was weighed last (at the doctors).  I don't know how accurate the Wii is but today's weigh-in is my starting point.

Advent Calendar Day 19

One of the decorations in my sister's home.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Weigh In Wednesday [1]

I haven't actually weighed myself yet.  Quite late last night I realised that a major flaw in my plans was the complete lack of a set of scales!  

So ....

..... all I can report on this week in terms of actual weight is that my first target is to lose 1 stone.

I'm planning to start using the 5/2 diet on Saturday.  The final hospital appointments are on Friday and although it is unlikely I'll have the results by then, the tests will have been completed so it'll be a good time to start making changes to my eating habits.  Between now and Saturday I'll be shopping and bulk cooking to refill the freezer. I still have to decide on suitable meals for the two fasting days so any suggestions will be very much appreciated.

Alongside the eating changes I have already started exercising, doing daily walks.  I've anticipated how my enthusiasm for this will wane once the really cold weather hits us by treating myself to a second hand Wii console with the Wii Fit program and balance board. I know that this won't be enough in itself but it will give me a fun way of exercising in the comfort of my own home and I know that I won't go out if it is too cold and particularly when it is icy.  I'm going with the view that any exercise (i.e. the Wii) is better than no exercise at all. Today's task is to set it all up.  I doubt that I'll have time to look at the fitness program as the purchase also included a Star Wars game complete with Wii lightsaber, which has to be tested first!  This is according to my friend's children who have the afternoon off school and are coming to tea!!

So not much to report but I have made a start.  I'm off out now for a short walk around the marina, approx. 1.5 miles.

Linking with Frugal in Bucks.

Advent Calendar Day 18

Christmas music - a major part of my seasonal celebrations. Tinsel on the instruments, Santa hats, fingerless mitts and mugs of hot chocolate to warm cold hands - I love every minute of it!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Plans for 2014, part 2

Following on from my previous 'Plans for 2014' which dealt with the more serious lifestyle changes, this post is all about the more fun things I plan to do over the course of the next year.  It will sound like a lot but this is my way of kick starting my attempts to start living the life I want and finding the time to do some of the things I regularly plan in my head but never get round to actually starting!  I feel that this is something I need to do, particularly since the last chat with my doctor - at some stage I need to get on and start living for myself again and now feels like the right time.  That's why I'm starting now rather than waiting until January 1st.
So here goes ...
1.  Project 365: Photo a Day.  I've been posting on this blog every day since the beginning of October 2013 and have enjoyed the discipline of this.  In 2014 I plan to try my own Project 365 based on a daily photograph of the garden.  I tried this project once before but didn't manage to keep going with it but I do enjoy looking back at these photos and the memories I captured.  I'm hoping that having a theme that only requires me to walk out of the back door will make this an achievable target!!
2.  Internet Memes. I'd like to be more organised about joining in with some of the Internet memes.  I've chosen a short list of ones I'd like to do regularly:
3. Reading Challenges.  I'm in the middle of sorting out some reading challenges to join in with.  I love reading and find it a great way of relaxing but I'm stuck in a bit of a rut with the genres I currently opt to read.  These challenges will be my way of opening up my horizons and making me look at new authors and genres.  I'll do another post when I've sorted my list out.
4. My Simple Things.  I'll definitely be continuing with my monthly list of the 'me time' activities I plan to do each month.  Making a list works for me and is keeping me motivated in this aspect of my life.
I also have some vague ideas about trips, crafty type projects and musical activities but they are for another day.  And at some stage I will restart the photography degree.

Plans for 2014

Putting a positive slant on things, I am at a stage in my life where I have the freedom to make whatever changes are necessary to achieve the lifestyle I want. However, because there always seems to be the inevitable 'however', I am also at the stage where serious motivation is lacking so I need to be intentional about how I plan to actually get on and make these necessary changes.  One way of being intentional that works for me is to voice my plans by joining in with other like-minded people in the blogging world. 

My biggest aims for 2014 are to get fit/lose weight and to improve my finances.  There, I've said it so I've got to get on and do it now!

I'm joining in with Weight In Wednesday organised by Frugal in Bucks.  I know I've said about losing weight before and have failed miserably, but my recent health scare has finally given me the desired push to get started. My weight and lack of fitness is impeding my mobility, which obviously impacts on many aspects of my life. It's time to stop making excuses and do something about it.  I plan to do the 5/2 diet but won't be starting until the hospital tests finish on Friday.  Alongside the dietary changes I'll need to do some regular exercise and I've already started on this aspect of the new lifestyle with daily walks averaging 3.5 miles.  My first target is to lose 1 stone.

I'm also joining in with the Sealed Pot Challenge organised by Saving for Travel.  For me, this will be divided into two parts:

1. The Sealed Pot  which will include:
  • Saving small change in a piggy bank (which I've actually done for years)
  • Save the Change, where the bank automatically rounds up purchases to the next whole pound and saves the pennies in a nominated account.
  • Saving money left over from weekly pocket money (£10 per week for 2014)
  • Saving money left over from weekly food and petrol budgets (still trying to sort realistic budgets)
This part of the money management is for saving towards the cost of a photographic holiday to be taken in 2015.  I haven't finally decided on the actual holiday but it looks like I'll need about £1000.

2. The Savings Account which will be used to save the money from:
  • Decluttering - sale of items via car boot sales, auctions, ebay, Amazon, etc
  • Increases in salary - I'm due to take on additional pupils in Jan/Feb and I'm planning to save the additional money for the remainder of 2014.

This part of the money management will be put towards my 'new car fund' and then towards the home and garden improvements.


Advent Calendar Day 17

Red and gold baubles and tinsel waiting to go on the tree.  I don't decorate until Christmas Eve ... by which I mean that my great nieces and nephew who live locally will be round to decorate it for me.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 16

Back to the garden centre today, here's one of their wreathes.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 15

I apologise for the poor quality but here's another jolly snowman.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 14

A cheerful snowman on a Christmas stocking.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 13

Father Christmas with a sack full of toys and a cuddly teddy bear.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 12

A very jolly snowman.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 11

I'm not sure that polar bears count as Christmassy but they were part of the seasonal decorations at the garden centre.  It was a fantastic display - they were animated and, although the photo hasn't really captured it, they were quite lifelike.
I'm sorry that I haven't been commenting on all your posts.  I haven't been too well and now have about 10 days of scheduled hospital tests, starting today.  This and the next 7 posts are scheduled to appear daily (so fingers crossed that it works) and I'll be round to comment when I'm back home later next week.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 10

More from the garden centre - two reindeers and some oversized toadstools!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 9

The Nativity + out of scale donkey!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 7

Today I went to the Whitehall Garden Centre to see all their Christmas displays and stock up on lots of Christmassy images!  I had to use my phone camera so the quality isn't too good.  Here's some Christmas robins.

Friday, 6 December 2013

November Scavenger Hunt

Better late than never, here are my photos for the November Scavenger Hunt organised by Greenthumb.  Many thanks for organising this yet again!

Before you look at my attempts I have to admit that I failed miserably to take new photos for every prompt, so quite a few are from my archives.  Sorry!!

boxes - from the house move, all sorted now though (archive)

bread - one of my money boxes with some 'bread' on the table
in front of it!

5 - a very old, faded playing card (archive)

gold - detail on one of my 'not very clean' candle holders

happiness - one very happy young man!

pair - a pair of fingerless mittens I bought for playing out with the band when we are carol playing.  
So far they have been a waste of money because we've played out twice
and I've forgotten to wear them both times!

park - Southwick Country Park (archive)

pattern - brightly coloured game pieces from Continuo

rain - raindrops on a metal handrail (archive)

staircase - looking down the main staircase at Stourhead (archive)

sunset - looking down the Close from the front of the house (archive)

traffic - taken from the pedestrian bridge over County
Way in Trowbridge (archive)

Advent Calendar Day 6

Another one from the archives, this is a local man who collects a lot of money for charity each year by decorating his home.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 5

A Christmassy snow globe, Santa with one of his elves.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent Calendar Day 3

A Christmas snowman decoration.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Cooking the Christmas Turkey

Evie asked if I had any more recipes, so to help you all have a successful Christmas dinner here is a fail proof method for cooking the turkey this year. 
  1. Go buy a turkey
  2. Take a drink of scotch (whiskey)
  3. Put turkey in the oven
  4. Take another 2 drinks of scotch 
  5. Set the degree at 375 ovens
  6. Take 3 more scotchs of drink
  7. Turn oven the on
  8. Take 4 scotchs of drinky
  9. Turk the bastey
  10. Scotch another bottle of get
  11. Stick a turkey in the thermometer
  12. Glass yourself a pour of scotch
  13. Bake the scotch for 4 hours
  14. Take the oven out of the turkey
  15. Take the oven out of the turkey
  16. Floor the turkey up off of the pick
  17. Turk the carvey
  18. Get yourself another scottle of botch
  19. Tet the sable and pour yourself a glass of turkey
  20. Bless the saying, pass and eat out

Advent Calendar Day 2

From my archives again, here's a snap of some holly.  This bush was in the garden at my sister's previous home and I think this image was captured the only year it actually produced some berries.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Christmas Cake Recipe

Just a quick post before I totter off to bed for an early night.  I've been seeing lots of blog posts about people making their own Christmas cakes.  If you haven't made yours yet I suggest that you try my recipe this year ...

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tsp baking  soda
  • 1 cup of  sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of  brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • 4  large eggs
  • Nuts
  • 2  bottles wine
  • 2  cups of dried fruit
Sample the wine to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure  it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat.  Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy  bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best  to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another cup... just in case.  Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and  chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick the fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets  stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample  the wine to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or  something. Check the wine. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your  nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever  you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try  not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally,  throw the bowl through the window. Finish the wine and wipe counter  with the cat. Go to Waitrose and buy cake.
Bingle  Jells!

Welcome to Julie

... to Julie @ KCsCourt

Advent Calendar Day 1

This month I've signed up to play along with Julie @ KCsCourt.  The idea is to post a photo a day to create an online version of the old style Advent calendars, i.e. in the days before the chocolate treats when you just opened a door to find a picture.  The image you post can be one you've taken yourself or may be an image from the internet - it just needs to be a Christmassy or wintery image.
Here's the first one, from my archives it's the Christmas wreath on my sister's front door about two years ago.

December's Simple Things

I did reasonably well on my list for November:
  • Go to see a film in the new cinema in Trowbridge done
  • Get back to playing the piano regularly - I haven't played it in over a year failed!
  • Make some Christmas cards with Tinks and Tweenie done
  • Try out a new recipe or two done
  • Reread the Harry Potter books I've started reading them but haven't finished the full set.

My list for December is:
  • Finish reading the Harry Potter books
  • Get out of the house on days I'm not working - go for walks and explore along the canal bank
  • Invite friends round for a meal
  • Visit the Christmas Market in Bath
  • Treat myself to some fresh flowers