Sleeping Easy?

I caught some of an interesting interview on the radio on the way to work this morning with Dr Guy Meadows, who runs the Sleep School ( As a chronic insomniac for the past 10 years I found this very interesting.

Insomnia is awful – it can be bad for your physical and mental health, not to mention your relationships. Lack of sleep makes you grumpy and affects your performance at work, how you deal with stress and has a negative impact on pretty well every aspect of your life.

And it is so common! In 2011 the Guardian reported that the Great British Sleep Survey found 51% of Brits  were struggling to get enough sleep.

i have tried pretty much everything I can think of. Yoga helps but hasn’t cured me. I have done the long wind down before bed, hot milky drinks before bed, warm baths, aromatherapy, reiki and reflexology. In recent years I have pretty much given up and if I can’t sleep I take a pill; I need to be able to function during the day. However, I am uncomfortably aware of the potential long term side effects of these and I would love to just go to bed and sleep!

Dr Meadows has a book out, the Sleep Book. I think it may be time to invest!


A Good Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

I took the opportunity to catch up with my three daughters today. The two still at home came with me to London to meet DD2, who is there at university.

imageWe don’t do it much – the cost of rail tickets is prohibitively expensive and I don’t like driving into London. As a compromise, I drove to my sister’s house in Brentwood where we had a quick cup of tea and dumped the car, then we got the train to Stratford from there. I pre-booked the tickets and it worked out at less than £10 each return. It would have been £67 in total from Colchester!

I remember as a teen thinking nothing of hopping on the train from Brentwood to London, which in those days only cost a few pounds. Those were the good old days of subsidised state railways. It’s a shame that driving is now the cheapest option for getting to most places; it’s not very green and the roads into London are so congested it is a bit stressful. Buses aren’t much cheaper and take so long.

Still we had a lovely day window shopping and looking at prom dresses for DD3. Most way too expensive but she found out what suited her. I think we will try TK max and eBay!

The girls treated me to a Mother’s Day lunch and gave me a huge bunch of flowers too, so a lovely day. Shattered now though!

Mediterranean Chicken Pasta with Chorizo

I am keeping the holiday feeling going tonight with some Mediterranean ingredients from Aldi! The chorizo adds so much flavour, and is really delicious. It only cost £1.49 for 170g, and I will use the rest later in the week.


Serves 4-6

300g pasta bows
2 chicken breasts, sliced
Large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Large red pepper, chopped
1.5 cans chopped tomatoes or passata (600g)
1 heaped tsp mixed herbs
85g chopped chorizo
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onions, garlic and chicken breasts until the chicken is more or less cooked on both sides. Add the pepper and cook for minutes or so then add the tomatoes, herbs and chorizo. Season to taste. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and mix with the sauce, and serve with some grated cheese and a nice green salad.

This was easy to make, which I needed today as I was unpacking and catching up with laundry. It’s good to be back and I even got the sun today, so can’t complain 🙂

Back to Reality, back to frugality!

imageSo, back to reality – we fly home this afternoon – but I will be happy to see my girls and the cats, and I have the weekend to recover before I go back to my manic Monday at work.

I have had a lovely holiday and it has made me determined to continue to be as frugal as possible and to make extra money wherever I can so that we can do it again. It won’t be soon – I will have to pay for myself next time and would like my daughters to come with us.

I travelled a lot as a young woman but very little since I have had children because of the vast cost. I have no idea how people find the money to have a family holiday abroad each year as I have rarely managed it. We haven’t gone without a holiday though; just gone for cheaper options such as house swapping and camping. The expense of flights has meant that these vacations have tended to be closer to home. We have had some excellent cheap holidays in the UK and in France, but never with guaranteed sunshine. And there is something about a sunny vacation by the sea that relaxes you – Mr Shoestring says the sound of the sea gets into your soul :-).

Back to reality, back to frugality!

How to quit the rat race

imageWell I don’t have the answer yet…but, as ever, being on holiday raises certain questions. Mostly, how do I manage getting up at 6 every day, working full time, running a house, doing a second job teaching yoga and a third taking in students? When I get the opportunity to sit and refect on this I don’t know how I do it , but I do know that it all takes its toll and that being away I am already sleeping better and the (sorry if this is TMI) my IBS symptoms that were dreadful in the last few weeks have all but disappeared.

Almost everyone I know is on the same relentless hamster wheel of just running to keep up with themselves. I bet you are too!

I may not be able to go on holiday to recharge very often but I can find more ways to relax and take time out. That is my new resolve! Yoga on the beach is a good start.

A traveller’s tale

imageI have finally managed to log into the free wifi here in beautiful Tenerife! Not sure it will happen much so thought I would get a quick blog post in.

I can’t describe how wonderfully luxurious it feels to be in a sunny piece of paradise when usually I am fighting my way through the rush hour traffic in the midst of a wet British winter at this point in the year.

Yet still, we need to watch the budget. Because one of our travelling companions has coeliac’s disease we hadn’t planned to eat out much anyway. She cannot trust that all restaurants will understand that she really can’t eat gluten and to do so would have a serious impact on her health. So we have been buying lovely fresh vegetables, meat and salad and cooking our own meals, with the aid of some Schwarz Flavour Shots she bought with her. These are great as we obviously don’t have access to all the herbs and spices we would have at home.

We have walked, eaten, swam in the pool and drunk a fair bit of cava from the supermarket so far. We will get to the beach for a swim tomorrow as Mr S loves the sea. I am making the most if it all as it is a rare treat. Back soon!

Is happiness more important than wealth?

Today was the United Nations International Day of Happiness :-). Smile everyone!

The day invites us to reclaim happiness, to see past the idea that happiness is having money and buying things, or being beautiful and famous, or that the wealthier our nations are, the happier we are.  

They ask: have you had enough of being made to feel poor in a world that is rich with opportunities to be happy? Or do you think we should just stay focused on money and material things? Not surprisingly, the results of a survey they ran showed that 87% of people would rather live in a society with the greatest happiness rather than one with the greatest wealth.  On the surface of it, this seems obvious to me. You can be a happy poor person or a totally miserable millionaire! We have all seen what fame and wealth does to some celebrities. They chase the dream of money and success in a bid to find happiness, but sometimes they should be careful what they wish for as they discover that these things don’t shield  them from life’s sometimes harsh realities.

It is obvious that money can’t buy happiness. However, a lack of money can certainly make you depressed and unhappy, and it must be hard to be truly happy when you are so poor you cannot feed and house yourself and your family. Anxiety over money can make each day feel relentlessly difficult.

We all need a certain amount of wealth. Enough to put a roof over our heads, to provide nutritious food and adequate clothing. After that, everything is a bonus. When we strive for more all the time – a better car or house, designer clothes, expensive holidays, a glossy magazine lifestyle – then our focus shifts to how to achieve those things in order to find the happiness and satisfaction that we crave rather than  to the things that actually do make people happy. Good relationships with family and friends, the chance to relax,  to be creative, even just to get out in the fresh air, to have fun; once you have the basics covered these are the things to focus on.

We are bombarded with so many fake and misleading images of happiness in adverts and the media that we often forget what really matters. We need to change our focus, to learn to be happy with just what we need and just a bit more, and to consider the things that will really give us a sustainably happy life.

It’s not easy but if we can simplify our lives, and learn to live well with less money maybe we really will find the secret 🙂

Jumping off my soapbox now and going to bed. Off on my hols tomorrow! Will try to blog but may not appear much as I’m not sure I will have internet access. Have a happy week!

Leftovers for lunch

I have had a busy morning at work trying to tie things up so I can have my week off! It will all be worth it I know but I go abroad so rarely I am worrying about what I have forgotten to do! I have my passport, EHIC, Euros, suncream and cozzie so I should be ok 🙂

imageI am so happy I cooked too much for dinner last night so I am enjoying a nice home made spag bol as I type this.

Off to check that Mr S has printed off the boarding passes …

A freebie!

We have managed to get a new comfy sofa, donated by a friend. It’s old actually but new to us. It needs a good steam clean but is otherwise sound. It will replace my old leather three seater, which looks smart but is not very comfortable at all.

imageSo we now have two sofas in the lounge with a third in the middle of the room (the pic shows the old one with the new one behind). I am hoping that somebody will take it from my local Freegle group. They need to do it in the next few days as I am going on holiday on Friday! I have had three requests for pix but they need to have suitable transport. If this doesn’t happen we will have to break it up to get it to the tip, which will be a great shame as there is plenty of wear in it yet.

So let’s hope Freegle does its magic. It is a very good organisation that works the same as Freecycle. I have given and received so much stuff over the years, saving me lots of money and solving the problem of what to do with large items I no longer need.

If you haven’t found your local group yet I urge you to do so – just Google it!

Another project to tick off the list :-)

The weather has been so fab here in Essex. We managed another day sorting out the garden yesterday. My project was sorting out the flower beds in the front garden. They were so full of weeds! I filled up 4 compost bags full – our heap was choc-a-bloc, so I will donate them to the Council waste collection. Me weeding

One of the beds before weeding...

One of the beds before weeding…

The beds look a bit empty now there are no weeds, although I planted some summer bulbs and have some seeds on the go to fill them up.

pre weeding

Another disaster area…

Looking better!

Looking better!

Mr Shoestring had a productive day too. First he titivated the sheds – not sure if you can see from the pic but he added some fancy edging. He just needs to add a door to the new shed and it is complete. It is a work of art!

Fancy sheds and newly rotovated veggie patch

Fancy sheds and newly rotovated veggie patch

Then he tried out the rotovator that his neighbour donated.

Mr Rotovator!

Mr Rotovator!

So I reckon that’s another two projects done! 🙂