Who knows where the time goes?

A rare treat! I met some of my old college buddies on Saturday night for a meal in Covent Garden in London. It is turning into an annual reunion, which is lovely. Only five of us could make it this time. The bad selfie above is what we look like now and the one below is what some of us used to look like. Where has the time gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were 18 and now we have all hit 50! Can you spot me? 
The city was heaving as it was Black Friday weekend and the last part of my underground journey was horrible – everybody squeezed on top of each other. I deeply dislike both crowds and the tube so I was glad to get there. It was worth it. We had a lovely evening and the journey home was a bit better. 
Mr S dragged me out for a walk on Sunday – he fancied kicking a few leaves about! It was what I needed – a bit of fresh air and exercise.
I managed to almost finish my Christmas shopping this weekend. I found a few Black Friday bargains. I was buying anyway – I tend not to get dragged into the hype usually. All bought online -I wasn’t going to brace the crowds twice in one weekend!!
How is your Christmas shopping going?

Got the L plates on!

So, I am now a driving instructor! Not a qualified one – it is Mum’s Driving School. DD3 has been out several times with her instructor but this was the first with me and, once she got used to the clutch, she did well. I’m going to take her out at least once a week so that she can get through her test as quickly as possible.

My friend at work brings me food from time to time – I don’t know why, maybe I look under nourished! His mum is a great Jamaican cook and he has given me Jamaican patties a couple of times now. They are delicious, like Cornish pasties but with a kick. The pastry is also spiced and golden yellow. This is good frugal food with a difference and worth exploring I think. He is promising me rice and peas next which sounds right up my street. I am going to check out some recipes.

I am off to London tonight on the train to see my old college friends. I don’t enjoy going into the city much but I am looking forward to having our annual catch up. Should be fun! I shall report back…

Keeping warm when the outlook is gloomy

Now that the weather has turned colder we can really feel the difference our efforts to insulate the dining room-cum-lodger’s sitting room have made. We lined the walls with polystyrene backed thermal wallpaper, which was a total nightmare to hang but does appear to work. It has the added benefit of making the walls as even as if they were freshly plastered. We put radiator foil behind the radiator and bought some heavy lined curtains. It was such a cold room before but now it is nice and cosy. 

We plan to fit the radiator foil throughout the house and I really recommend it. I don’t think I can face fighting with the thermal wallpaper again though!

I was a bit depressed about the post autumn statement analyses in the media today. This from the BBC:

In its analysis of the Autumn Statement, the independent think tank, the IFS, said workers would earn less in real wages in 2021 than they did in 2008.

“This has, for sure, been the worst decade for living standards certainly since the last war and probably since the 1920s,” said Paul Johnson, director of the IFS.

“We have seen no increase in average incomes so far and it does not look like we are going to get much of an increase over the next four or five years either.”

The “outlook for living standards and for the public finances has deteriorated pretty sharply over the last nine months”, he added.

So, any money we can save on our heating bills (and all bills) will be a bonus. I work in local government and the belts are being tightened so hard there we can barely breathe, so I don’t expect much of a pay rise any time soon. 

Still, we are better off than many so need to make the very best of what we have.  

This and that

DD3 is fond of Heinz tomato soup. She prefers this to my home made (cheek!). However it is expensive I think. I tried the Lidl version this week and it is pretty good, I am having it for lunch. 39p! Bargain. Let’s hope she enjoys it.

I really don’t read enough these days. I rarely seem to have time to get involved in a meaty novel so usually read non-fiction. However, I do love Kate Atkinson books and have read them all. I was pleased to find her latest, A God in Ruins, in our Children in Need book sale last week. I hope it is good. 

Still no luck with finding a tenant for the room. I have dropped the price a bit to try to tempt a few more people round. I suppose it’s not the best time of year to move. I have also put it on Room Buddies as well as Spare Room. I hope I find someone or it will be back to the language students.  I might even put a card up in my local Co-op.

Fingers crossed I find someone soon!

Are you in a JAM?

I have heard the phrase JAMs over the past few days, standing for households who are ‘Just About Managing’. Low to medium income families who are generally overlooked. Apparently the Government will bring in some measures to help such households in tomorrow’s autumn budget. 

You could argue that some of the JAMs have already been negatively impacted by changes to in work benefits, so will the Government look again at that? I doubt it. I suppose  some have benefitted from the introduction of the national minimum wage, so swings and roundabouts. 

Now I know why things feel so sticky here sometimes – we are JAMs! Not holding my breath for much assistance from the Government though. With this lot I think we all need to learn to help ourselves as much as we can!

Enough of politics. I have come to the conclusion that the world has generally gone mad so best  just to keep my head down!

I finally sorted DD3’s car insurance last night. I chose Adrian Flux who gave me a good deal on a policy for her as a learner driver to run along side my own policy. We will have to start the whole battle again when she passes no doubt.

We tried Lidl’s 3 fish roast as a possible option for Christmas dinner for my nearly vegetarian daughter (she eats fish but not meat) at the weekend. I wouldn’t recommend it. It didn’t have much fish but did have a lot of quite rich and cloying sauce. It was basically an ok tasting fish pie, but not special enough for Christmas. We will make her a posh nut roast I think!

Unnecessary products

I just caught the very end of Supershoppers on Channel 4, where they promised to investigate cellulite vanishing tights next week. As if tights are going to get rid of your cellulite! It got me thinking about other totally pointless or at least unnecessary products. You may as well pop a fiver in the till and leave them on the counter for all the good they will do you.

Large companies employ clever  marketing teams and spend big bucks devising new products to persuade us to part with our cash. They are so good at this that soon we believe the hype and forget we ever lived  without them!

This list is just my opinion. You may well disagree or you might want to add some. 

Air freshners. They don’t and can’t create fresh air.  Open the window.

Tumble dryer sheets. Uh?

Shower gel – what’s wrong with soap?

Diet meals. Make your own low fat dinners.

Pills that claim to burn fat. Sorry. Don’t believe it!

Body firming lotions and bust lifters – unless they are made at Hogwarts 

Separate cleaners for your kitchen and bathroom. Ditto shower and oven cleaners. One multi surface cleaner will do the lot (or some bicarbonate of soda on a sponge)

Hand sanitiser (unless you are in hospital). Wash your hands with soap

Hand wash ( as above)

My daughters will disagree with this no doubt, but … skin primer? You put it on under your foundation to keep the foundation on, then put powder on top to keep the primer and foundation on ….! You will have more layers than an onion if you’re not careful.

Separate hand and foot creams

Fit Bits. If you didn’t exercise before I bet you don’t suddenly become an athlete just because you are wearing one.

Cellulite creams. They don’t work any more than the cellulite vanishing tights 

Any moisturiser that claims to lift your skin and diminish wrinkles. (Or do anything other than moisturise.)

Neck cream. It’s still skin,right? You can use whatever you put on your face!

Stretch mark creams. I tried these when I was pregnant and afterwards too and came to the conclusion that they don’t work. The only thing that reduced my stretch marks was time.

Which products do you consider a pointless waste of money?

Feeling grumpy

Annoyingly the prospective lodger didn’t turn up last night. Only 2 of the 4 have so far. One girl arrived with her boyfriend in tow. She seemed nice but asked if he could stay over a few times each week. We had already decide this was a no-no. It is a single room and I don’t want two lodgers for the price of one. We have said we will only take a woman because my daughter feels uncomfortable meeting a strange man in the kitchen in his dressing gown in the morning. She is only 18 and doesn’t really want a lodger at all. 

There was a Polish girl I really liked but she ideally wanted a studio flat and has now found one. I also had a lady ask if we would rent to her 70 year old mother. I don’t fancy a retiree as they will be in the house all the time. I would also feel responsible for her welfare and I don’t want that. Oh well, hopefully somebody suitable will come along soon. 

I am also grumpy trying to get my daughter added to my car insurance. I am using Compare the Market and thought I had found a good quote. I planned to buy it on one credit card and then transfer the balance to my other 0% interest one. However they upped the quote by £65 when they found I had attended a speed awareness course last year. I was furious! One ticket in over 30 years of driving  and that makes me a risky driver. I have already taken my punishment of £100 and lost a day to attend the course, which already made me mad, and now this. I wouldn’t mind if I was a girl racer but far from it! I told them to stick it and have gone back to square one. 

My daughter will be paying the extra herself now that she is a working girl. Just as well as I can’t afford £1000 a year for my car insurance. I paid £160 last year.

I can’t even work out my frustration in the garden as it is currently pouring. I think I need to do some yoga!

On the plus side we all really enjoyed the film last night, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If I do finally get my insurance through Compare the Market I will be able to use their two for one cinema offer and maybe we will go more often. We hardly ever do! Ok, back to finding a great deal…

A cheap lunch

Rushing about today. Already been into town to collect my new glasses (varifocals – struggling with them right now!), get my hair cut and buy a few more Christmas presents. I will save the rest for Black Friday next week.

I am having a cheap and easy lunch of sardines on toast. I love this. It’s old fashioned I know but healthy and 29p a tin from Lidl. I am trying to eat more oily fish and this is a good way to do so. Now I am having a quick clean through as I have another possible lodger coming to look at the room later. Then we are having a family dinner and off with Mr S and all three of my girls to see the new JK Rowling movie. More tomorrow!

Small victories!

Another small victory for my bank balance – the cats love the cheap Lidl biscuits I bought! They are only £1.99 and I pay around £4 for the usual brand. Still being cautious and I won’t stock up too much just yet.  As Ilona commented on my last post, cats are fickle beasts so I won’t be at all surprised if they turn their noses up at some point.

I have two more ladies coming to view the spare room this week. I have made sure they have my number and asked them to text if they can’t make it after I waited in all afternooon for the last one. If I can get someone in before Christmas that will be a great help to the budget. We are all a little nervous about it though. We regularly have short term students but this is a different prospect. If we don’t get on they won’t be leaving after a couple of weeks! 

What if they both want the room – how on earth do I choose? On the other hand neither of them might like it, but at least I am getting a bit of interest.

As I type this, another email has popped into my inbox about the room. Fantastic 😀.

I have been tidying up still and making space in the kitchen cupboards for the lodger to store her stuff. I lined the rather tatty shelves with some nice plastic and they look much smarter. I need to clean out all the kitchen cupboards before I let anyone cook in there! 

There is always so much to do but I am trying to be as organised as possible and keeping the house super tidy so I can get people in seeing it at its best. Wish me luck!

A purr-fect bargain

I have had a minor breakthrough in trying to spend less on cat food. I have been trying for years to get my fussy girls to enjoy anything other than the most expensive food but to little avail. The best I can do is look for deals on the fancy stuff in places like Home Bargains and buy in bulk. I decided to try some premium Coshida cat food from Lidl this week though and they love it!

At 19p a pouch as opposed to the 32p minimum I generally pay that is a great saving. However, if you own a cat you will know what they are like. As soon as I buy a big quantity they will decide they hate it! I give them biscuits too to keep their teeth clean so I bought a bag of the Lidl stuff  but haven’t tried it yet. Fingers crossed – that is around half the price of the usual brand.

I had a contact on SpareRoom.com who was supposed to come round today but she didn’t show. This was annoying (and rude!) as I had to wait in all afternoon when I could have been with Mr S helping him at his mum’s house. She is coming out of hospital today and needs a downstairs bedroom, so he has cleared and painted what was basically an unused junk room for her. It looks great!

I am taking dinner round for us all shortly anyway – I made chicken chasseur from a recipe in A Girl Called Jack.  Let’s hope she thinks it’s better than hospital food 😀.