Friday, 31 January 2014

Baring My Inner Messy Secrets




Please tell me everyone has a drawer like this in their kitchen and it's not a peculiar problem to me. It's the kitchen drawer where lightbulbs, seed packets, batteries and other odds and sods go to party.  I'm sure that I put stuff in there tidily to start with but when I pop by to find something....yikes!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

For the Love of a Caveman!

Photo: The Guardian


There may be some primordial urges going on under the sophisticated veneer of this particular 21st century woman. It's a good job that I resolutely keep my hair short or otherwise I'd be tempted to be dragged around by him if he miraculously came back to life! Does anyone else find themselves strangely attracted to this chum of Fred Flintstone?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Well Nice Words

Here's a shot of my own personal little monkey, taken earlier this month at Barcelona's Fundacio Joan Miro.  Spot the uncanny resemblance to something else on this page.  When I changed my Facebook profile page to include the shot of me with this statue a friend expressed surprise that it was dead expensive art. She then researched Miro's work a bit and came up with this gem, Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement.  Follow the link and see if you can work out where the poo is.  Be blowed if I can!

Anyway this post is not about art as I did one of those the other day and try to ring the changes. It's just to mention something dead nice that the lovely Mexican receptionist at the hotel where we stayed on holiday had said.  Every time I think about them I smile.

'I've been watching you and your son and you have such a great relationship.'

Someone that doesn't know us well noticing chuffed me to bits more than anything has for a long time!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Crazy Craving

Due to being a late starter, as holiday plans got in the way, I'm just halfway into the Dry January that's going to end for many others on Friday.  So time for a progress report I think.

Up until a few days ago I would have been all sanctimonious, telling you how well I was doing and how I wasn't missing alcohol even one little bit. And that's how it truly was. Over the past year I've cut my drinking to just once or twice weekly Consequently, what would have seemed like a monumental sacrifice a year or two back when I was having a couple of beers or glasses of wine pretty much daily was much easier this time round....until yesterday.

Since then I've been dying for a good artisan beer yes, even now at six in the morning, a time that I've never drunk in my entire life! Of course I won't be giving into this.  For a start there isn't any booze in the house apart from three quarters of a bottle of home-made lemoncello, a gift from my lovely niece.  Luckily I'm not tempted to go there.   And I'm not about to pop out to the nearest shop.  Hell, I don't even know if shops sell alcohol at the crack of dawn. No, I'm just sitting tight and waiting for this unpleasant mindset to pass.  What this has made me realise is that any food or drink that can induce such a crazed state of mind probably isn't good for me at all and needs to be consumed in even smaller quantities year round.  Perhaps I need to be tackling the sugar as the next stage?


Monday, 27 January 2014

Bargains from 'The Big Guy'

I had hoped to show you, not one, but a couple of things that I'd made over the weekend.  Alas, everything went tits up and no, I haven't progressed to headstands whilst during yoga yet. I made a major and irreversible boo-boo on the paper cut that I was making so will have to start again.  Then when I decided to take a break and move onto linocutting disaster struck.  I couldn't find my cutters anywhere!

So it seemed like a good excuse to go ahead and buy the better quality ones that I'd been hankering after for a while.  There is a let-out clause for these in my 2014 budget after all.  And in looking for them I came across GreatArt who are, apparently, the UK's biggest online art supplier.  I really must go around with my eyes and ears shut some of the time because I'd never heard  or seen sight of them before.  Anyway, their stuff is really cheap - reduced prices and an another 15% off on checkout at the moment.  They're Quidco-able too so that'll be an extra 5% at sometime down the track. I'm sharing this for anyone else who needs art supplies and is an unaware consumer like me.  For all I know they could be as famous as M&S but no matter.  Anyway I've liked the company on 'Facebook' too as they've promised promotional stuff which could come in handy in the future.  These words of wisdom come from their page.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Stuck Song




Everyone must have experienced the phenomenon of having a tune going around and around in their head and not being able to stop it. Aaaaaargh! The 'Chicken Tonight'  commercial jingle had to be the all-time low. Here's one that's marginally better that's been lodged in my old noggin for a few days now since watching some back episodes of Father Ted.   Let's hope that this touching, but increasingly annoying ditty goes away real soon!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Just a Hunch

It's not like me to go all 'Top Gear' but this car, a Tesla, is different as it's electric and as pinko leftie green as they come.  And I would have one were it not for two pretty obvious problems.  The first is expense.  Of course something that looks this good is expensive. The brand's cheapest on the road price is just a shade over £50,000.  And then there's the range which is better than most electric cars but that base model only runs for 240 miles before it needs charging. That's pretty near the distance between my Devon home and where Mama and Papa Lovelygrey live in Southend-on-Sea.  I wouldn't be able to travel there without breaking into a nervous sweat.

Because I can't afford the car I've done the next best thing.  I've bought the company!  Well a tiny part of it anyway.  My nine  newly owned shares gave me just a little change out of a grand.  My rationale for my investment is that there's no blooming point in putting much in a savings account these days so you might as well go large and take a risk or two.  But it's a calculated one based on the fact that Tesla are producing batteries for lots of other companies in the emerging electric car market and later in 2014 they plan to widely expand their supercharging stations across Europe.  Concidentally it's just been reported today by Forbes that reported the opening this which of the final station that links the East and West Coast of America and allows a Tesla S salon to undertake this journey. Maybe one day the Essex-Devon run will be feasible!   Such fast moving technology has got to be worth a punt although its not for the faint hearted.  Make your own mind up about whether to follow suit and remember that old adage 'Share prices can go up as well as down'.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Big Festival Alternatives

Photo: CC-BY-SA
Red Mel has been trying to persuade me to go to Glasto for a while now and I'm in two minds about it. Granted it would be amazing from a musical perspective to see legendary acts and to discover some gems that have hitherto been unknown to me. But it's so blooming expensive and with the British weather as it is, there's more than a slim chance that my motorhome would have to be manhandled out of a boggy field by a man with a tractor and tow rope.

So, I'm sticking to smaller events again this year again.  Chagstock is a perennial favourite that I'll be attending for the fifth year in a row.  I'm also tempted to try the smaller Glas-Denbury that's held in July just a few miles from home.  Red Mel though has come up with a cracker after an Internet trawl.  Just thirty five pounds each has bought us the opportunity to see Robert Plant looking a bit older than he does here in his Led Zeppelin  days.   Not only will we be seeing one of rock's all time greats but the backdrop  for his gig is sensational. He'll be playing in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey with his band 'The Space Shifters'.  In terms of ticket prices these days it's got to be a bargain.  Can I tempt any of you guys to join us on 9th August?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Don't Give Up!

On a day when I seem to be lacking ideas for an blog post that's all my own work I thought I'd plagiarise heavily. Then again, isn't it true that plagiarism doesn't count when you acknowledge your source?  Anyway I thought I'd show you this inspiration picture that I clipped from one of the lecture slides from Coursera's 'Developing Ideas for New Companies'  I've got a few little projects on the go that are nearing fruition.  Best not give up!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Moi! Moody?

Let me get this straight.  There's no way that I could be considered clinically depressed at the moment. I'm not consistently low or agitated day in, day out and in the main I'm able to concentrate well.  Lack of focus is a big marker of my mental health status.  But for the past couple of months my mood has been  up and down.  I'm struggling to find a metaphor but it's nowhere near as bad as a yo-yo!  For the majority of the time I'm fine but then I get a really big blip and I wake up really edgy. Today is one of those days.

I've started to monitor my mood each day using the basic  (and free!) version of an online tool called Moodscope.    The rationale behind it is that monitoring something health related can lead to positive change.   What's more the system can be used to share that information with a friend so you can receive a bit more support at the low times.  

What I'm doing is annotating each day's score on the graph to reflect on why its high or low.  I've noticed, for example, that keeping on top of things such as housework and record keeping is really beneficial whereas a bad night's sleep really knocks things right off course.  This increased awareness gives me an indication right at the start of the day about whether I need to give myself a little extra TLC or make that extra to do something positive and life affirming that helps me get things back on course.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Cheaper Choo-Choo

In the scheme of things, the waiting room at Newton Abbot railway station really is rather a lovely place.  It's clean, minimalist and has interesting art on the walls including a series of rather funky railway posters, like this one that I've poorly photographed, by a printmaker called Brendan Neiland. Okay, I'm not talking about somewhere that's say as beautiful as, Wells Cathedral or those William Burgess designed apartments at Cardiff Castle. It takes years of workmanship to get spaces to look that good.  But in the type of public place that's often neglected and sad someone has gone to a bit of effort.  If you're that person I salute you.

Anyway let's move on. Today's topic is supposed to be introduce a thrifty saving tip, not prattle on about design and suchlike.  Mama and Papa Lovelygrey will be visiting at February half term and asked me to buy their train tickets for them.  Don't you remember sometime in the dim distant past that the pricing structure for these was going to be simplified.  Well dream on! It ain't happened yet.

What I've found is a vast difference between the cost of the same tickets on different travel websites.  Had I gone to the the website of thetrainline.com  the 'No 1 UK independent online rail ticket retailer' with my credit card as I usually do,  I would have paid over £40 more for equivalent journeys.   No only did the train tickets cost extra but there was also a booking fee and a credit card charge which piled on an extra sum that didn't leave much change from a fiver. Instead I booked with First Great Western who had a much wider and generally cheaper range of fares to choose from.  And no extras either!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Four by Four


Louis and I had a whole lot of fun yesterday at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey. The latest exhibition there, 'Narrative Remains' explores the relationship between words and making.  'Oh sh*t' is the phrase that comes to mind as I consider the link when it comes to my own crafting activity.  There always seems to be some sort of disaster to overcome.  The sticking plaster that is on my index finger from an aborted effort at cutting my own mount to display a print attests to this.

Anyway one of the exhibitors Alex Valentine, who've I've just discovered is a musician as well as a visual artist, has pared down poems to a sixteen letter stanza created using a Boggle board.  He's then photographed the results with contextual backgrounds.  You can see more of the results here.


The gallery have installed a great big Boggle board so that you can come up with some succinct ditties of your own.  Just when I think that there's no hope for Louis and that he's always going to be tapping away frantically on some electronic device or other, he surprise me. I struggled to get him away from those giant wooden blocks and over to the park for a walk in the sunshine (yes, there was sunshine!).  He was absolutely hooked.



Here's one of his many efforts which can't be attributable to Louis alone.  I helped with many and there seemed to be rather a lot of audience participation with other visitors and yes, gallery staff members getting involved as well.  And the slightly addictive word game continued long after we emerged to take some fresh air.  How about this one?

LIAR
GETS
PANT
FIRE

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Dreams and Schemes

2015 is the biggie.  Not only is it the one where I reach the big Five-O but it's also the year when I'll move into my Brixham home and I've earmarked it as the time when I'll move from secure full time employment in the NHS to something a little more flexible and perhaps dangerous.  Eek!

Obviously I can't just sit on my arse for the next fifteen months or so and then hire a truck to move my stuff whilst at the same time casually handing in my notice.  No, these moves must be prepared for. One of the steps that  I'll be taking soon is to give up my participation in the NHS vehicle lease scheme.  Each time I take delivery of  a new shiny car I am effectively tied into employment for a further three years employment unless I accept hefty get out penalties on resignation.  So, this year I'll be buying my own set of wheels.  And I'm saving, saving, saving and reigning in expenditure.  There's a number of reasons for this.  Firstly I might need to live on less so it's good to get into the habit of being more frugal now.  Investment income might also, in the future, contribute to what I live on, another good reason for saving whilst I can.  Finally some of my dreams and schemes might need a little money thrown at them so its best to have something in the pot to be able to do this rather than relying on borrowing.

As the ways that I'm planning to earn money largely involve self employment it seems a jolly good idea to better prepare myself for that.  As such I'm taking, not one, but two of those free Coursera modules at the moment which seem to lend themselves to being studied together.  Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies explores entrepreneurship.  Two weeks in and although I've gleaned some ideas from the course, I'm finding that it comes from a rather theoretical perspective I've therefore signed onto 'What's Your Big Idea?' as well.  This aims to help people put their business ideas into reality so comes at the same subject matter from a practical angle.  Lots of work yes, but no more than I would have once I'm trying out running a start up business alongside regular full-time employment later in the year.  I just hope that it's all going to be worth it!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

A Minor Miracle

Blimey! Now here's something that I haven't seen for a very long time. A local weather forecast that predicts two straight days without rain!   Have the Met Office got their facts right and will this brief sunny spell (and it is brief as rain is again on the cards for Tuesday) come to fruition?

Friday, 17 January 2014

A Duo of Jamie

When I was 'fessing up about my 2013 spending I forgot to mention that I'd bought a copy of 
Save with Jamie.  It was meant to be a Christmas present but oops! I ended up keeping it.  Now even though I've given you a link to Amazon where I could in theory earn some commission if you click through (though I haven't to this day), don't necessarily buy it from them.  It can be had for much less if you pop into WH Smith (£7.99) or The Book People have it at the amazingly price of a fiver.  How's that for shooting myself in the foot?  I'll never make a good saleswoman which is bad news indeed for someone who hankers after working for themselves.

At the weekend I meant to knock up one of the recipes, Fish Pie with Sweet Pea Mash and wrote a suitably fishy shopping list so that I could pick up the ingredients.  But in the bargain basement of the chilled section of the supermarket I found a wonderful pre-prepared leg of lamb joint for about a tenner and decided to screw up the plan and cook that instead.  It fed four hungry grown ups and there was lots left over.  These pastillas were made from the remaining cold lamb.  Again this is a recipe from the Jamie Oliver book which is also available on his website.  The original called for couscous which I didn't have in the store cupboard.  I substituted a bit of rice without ill effect.




And this is the dish that filled our pud tummy after stuffing ourselves with lovely lamb.  It's  Chocolate Fridge Cake with Pecans and Meringues, another Jamie Oliver recipe from the website, that's turned out to be really a rather wonderful resource in its own right.  On second thoughts, perhaps you don't need to buy the book at all!  This  is dead simple, dead delicious and the leftovers have been a lovely sweet treat that have kept me in nice nibbles for a whole week.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Chest Nurse

There's a petition on change.org at the moment asking the UK government to mint a £2 coin commemorating the life and work of Edith Cavell, a pioneer of modern nurse who insisting on treating  injured men from both sides of the trenches in World War I. Her sideline was helping our troops escape from German occupied Belgium for which she was court martialled, sentenced and shot by the Germans.

Edith holds a special place in my heart already for the simple reason that she was tattooed large onto my grandad's chest.   I've shown him before in Fish Town, my place of abode to be.  If this petition succeeds it also will keep Grandad's memory alive . He was a veteran himself after all.  Every time I look at the coin I will be able to remember sitting on his knee at a small child begging him to 'show me the nurse'.  Our entertainment was simple in those pre Xbox days! So for me, my grandad, nurses everywhere and especially to keep the memory of this remarkable lady alive please pop over to change.org and sign up to support this cause.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Budget!

In setting my 2014 spending rules last week I wisely acknowledged that I am never, ever, ever going to stick to a no spending diktat when it comes to clothes.  There's a danger though that the absence of that self imposed piece of legislation forbidding such purchases could be disastrous. I could easily talk myself into going down a very slippery slope.  A trip up to London for a shopping spree in Anthropologie anyone?  Now there's a rather pricey brand that could really float my boat if I let it.

So I've done the next bet thing to an outright spending ban and set myself a budget.  Not a massive national one like the Chancellor of the Exchequer with his gnarly old sets but a rather reasonable one that will help me be creative with my money and keep things under control.  I'm allowing £300 for the year or £25 a month.  That will be plenty to keep me happy with charity shop, supermarket and Ebay purchases and give me scope to ring the changes in my wardrobe.

And here's my first purchase, an £18 geometric print knit dress from Asda's Moda range.  I rather suspect that this is the line for the more mature woman but no matter as I am heading that way. It's snuggly and looks great with woolly tights and boots.  It leaves me £7 over this month for a charity shop find, or else I can roll the money over to be a little bit more profligate in the year ahead.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Late Starter




I have decided, like many out there, to make January a no alcohol zone but I started late, yesterday in fact. Cut me some slack.  I was on holiday for goodness sake!  What it means is that I'll run my month long abstinence session over into the middle of February.  Consequently it looks like I won't be needing to take the advice in this video for the time-being.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Grey Painting for a Grey Girl

Picture:  Gonzalo Chillida
There I was, after having been to the incredibly thought provoking exhibition Before the Horizon at Fundacio Joan Miro, kicking myself because I hadn't stumped up the cost of the exhibition guide. I know, its a book and they're not  allowed if I was adhering strictly to my 2014 spending rules. However, I was so moved by some of the pieces, some of which really are quite obscure, that I wanted a concrete reminder of them to use as a resource for my own creations.  I even contemplated getting a copy shipped from Spain to the UK but with postage costs it would have cost an eye watering 71 Euros. That stopped me in my tracks.

But result!   A further trawl online paid dividends. If you follow either the exhibition one above or under this incredible tonal painting you'll find a PDF file with images of all the exhibits.  This is my absolute favourite, Marina, a 1978 seascape by Gonzalo Chillida, an artist from San Sebastian.  So clever, so  inspiring, so grey!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Lovelygrey: Saving You Money Some of the Days?

Right I've just popped across to Trago Mills, the huge discount complex just on the other side of the A38 from our village.  If you're in the area you might be interested to know that the store has its sale in January.  It's not like other shops though where different bits and pieces are marked down. Instead on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays during the period everything in the majority of its departments has 15% off.  I'll probably pop across and buy some bargain sketch pads before the month is out. Today I just needed dishwater salt that cost 99p with no reduction.  I'm afraid cleaning materials come under one of the categories that's not discounted. Ah well!

The other reason that I wandered over, or in reality under, a main trunk road was to get the fruit and veg that I'd forgotten to pick up at Asda yesterday.  Bananas and spring greens actually but there was such an array on the greengrocer's concession near the main entrance that I impulsed purchased an array of exotic fruits.  There's melon, a pineapple, Sharon fruit or persimmon as they're also known, pomegranates and avocados.  They all seemed to be so blooming cheap.  This lot which is minus the Sharon fruit that I squished in my bag and so ate on the way home cost £7.40.  But is that good when compared to the supermarket price?  I've done a 'back of the envelope'  calculation on the remarkably useful Google Keep to find out.

The figures on the left are from the fruit and veg stall whereas the right hand ones have been gleaned from Asda's website.  The comparison is approximate as products aren't exactly the same.  For example Asda don't have satsumas as a product line but they do have citrus fruit called 'easy peelers' which I reckon may be pretty similar.  I'm sure if someone from Asda reads this post they'll notice that some of the items, most notably the melon isn't cosmetically perfect.   Again not a like for like.   And they could also highlight the fact that if I'd stuck to my original shopping list the Asda price would have been cheaper.  Just eighty pence for spring greens and bananas as opposed to the £1.40 that I'd paid.   There's also a small chance that my maths is out of kilter and there's a margin of error as a result.  That's another reason why I'm saying that this is an estimate and the figures are not set in stone.  I'm fairly confident that the comparison is reasonably fair though.  After all I'm not a cheaty kind of person.

So what have I learned from this exercise?  Well if I bought an entire basket of the more common fruit and veg from one of the more competitive supermarkets then I  might get a better deal than shopping locally.   It's possible that the concept of 'loss leaders' could well come into play here.  Of course if I was penny pinching and time rich I could shop at both locations to get the best of both worlds on essential and luxury items when it comes to price.  In reality I think what I'll do is give the local guy a bit more custom a bit more often.  After all I'm not too fussed about cosmetic appearance when it comes to my fruit and veg and if I can replicate a saving of over 20% of the supermarket cost on each visit, that's certainly worth having.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

All Quiet on The South West Front



Did you know that Demis Roussos had any hits other than 'Forever and Ever'?  No, neither did I until I was subjected to a whole album load of his stuff, presumably Greatest Hits, accompanied by the whistling Andorran  driver  on our transfer coach yesterday. That was followed by what some unidentified artist who'd produced something that would not have seemed out of place as a soundtrack to a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon, again with the driver trilling along like an out of tune canary.  I was almost pleased when he finally replaced this on the outskirts of Barcelona with a CD of a group that appeared to be the Spanish version of that old seventies favourite, Dollar.  It almost appeared tasteful in comparison to everything else that I'd endured on the three and a half hour trip.  And that was after a night where revellers outside our hotel had turned our bar facing bedroom into a disco in the early hours of the morning.

So now I'm back home safe and sound revelling in the lack of noise in my spookily silent Devon village.  Long may it stay that way!

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Lurgy That Awaits Me

It's the final day of the holiday today and I could have shown you endless pictures of snow for the last few posts.  Goodness knows, without skiing to occupy me, I've had endless opportunity top take pictures of gleaming white mountainous vistas that would have been very similar to the ones that I took in 2012 when I injured my knee in the first place.  However, in the interest of keeping my audience engaged I haven't been happy snappy.  After all some of you probably scenes of hotter climes given the weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment.

No it's Louis who's taken on the chief role of camera man this week.  A kind person in resort lent him their hideously expensive GoPro helmet camera and he's taken loads of video footage of his ski class.  I'm not going to show that either.  Endless pictures of  kids doing  random stuff isn't likely to float your boat unless your own little darling is in shot.

Instead you're getting a woeful tale of domestic drudgery.  For we arrive home tonight at midnight to a home that's a complete pit.  For I replaced leisurely, organised packing on New Year's Eve with acceptance of an impromptu invite to the neighbours for a drink and nibbles.  My shambolic travel bags consequently contained loads of leggings and jumpers but only three vest tops to get me through a ten day period.  That includes one I've been wearing as a pyjama top for the whole time!    And the house, well I know it looks like a whirlwind has hit it but I fear that my final memories when closing the door do not paint the full picture of the carnage.

So this little poster thing that I came across on Facebook seems very apt at the moment in spite of its reference to marriage.  I'm thinking that it's a good job that I'm single at the moment and no other adult has to share the pit of destruction that awaits me back in Blighty.  But hey, let's look on the bright side and put all that intermittent slovenliness down to a healthy creative streak!  

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Meanwhile Back in Devon.....




I shouldn't be thinking about work whilst I'm on holiday should I?  It just so happens that two of the people I've met also work with people with dementia, one in a in-patient setting.  As I had my tablet with me when I was speaking to her I was able to share this video.  It showcases one of the wards that my team is attached too. What's special about this place is that it received money from the King's Fund, a charitable foundation, to improve the healing environment and uses creative arts and multimedia  to create  a calm, welcoming space.  The aim was to help the most troubled individuals, for they're the ones admitted to the limited number of mental health in patient bed these days, reconnect to the world, thus alleviating their distress.  In the event that I, or any member of my family, need this kind of help, this is the kind of environment that I would like my care to be provided in.


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

5:2 On Holiday?

Photo: Luna Park
Let me get one thing clear.  My 5:2 diet has been going swimmingly well since October.  But  intermittent fasting and holidays?  Well,  as Rudyard Kipling might say, 'Ne'er the twain shall meet'.  This is especially pertinent if a hotel buffet spreads is part of the picture.  It's just not possible to maintain a twice weekly 500 calorie day when faced with a beautiful display of pastries at breakfast and an endless choice of yummy array of starters, main courses and desserts at the day's  end.  That's before the beer and wine too.

So,  I'm cutting myself a little bit of slack and consequently will probably pop on a couple of pounds this week.  I reckon though that any diet regime is going to yield weight loss and gain that would look rather like a roller coaster if plotted as a graph.  But if as a whole, its wiggly path slopes in a downward direction with time, then I'll be content with my progress. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Gratefulness Continued

It's day two of Louis' skiing holiday but after musing over the thorny question 'To ski or not to ski?'  I decided that hitting the slopes was a no-no for me.   Tearing a second cruciate ligament is a chance I cannot afford to take. And so I am being uncharacteristically sensible.

Now being in a ski resort without partaking in a bit of downhill action could be a bit of a sorry experience. In a particular frame of mind watching others participating in an activity that I'm rather partial to myself could be torture. Time to revisit the teaching of Fr David Steindl-Rast, the gratefulness bloke again. Let me focus on what I have rather than what I haven't got (or cannot do!). I''ve found loads of valuable addtional material on the website gratefulness.org to help me get into the practice of doing this.

So let's think what there is to be currently grateful for. Well, there's spending time somewhere where there are startlingly beautiful snowy vistas each way that I look from my perch in a mountaintop cafe.   I'm refuelling the batteries with a bit of relaxation that just isn't possible to this extent in a working week.   I've got plenty of time to spend reading and writing, activities that I love.  I'm extremely fortunate to have the resources available  to allow my son to participate in an activity in which he thrives.  And we've both met new acquaintances who we're enjoying spending time with. Lou is in the spa of the hotel with his latest friend as I speak.   That's plenty for starters!

Monday, 6 January 2014

New Spending Rules for 2014

Righty ho!  Yesterday I promised to bring you my spending rules for 2014.  They must be really strict given that this is a year that I want to save, save, save rather than spend, spend, spend. Firstly let me bring you items rolled over from last year's list

  • Books - there's still a stack of paperbacks kept in the chest next to my bed.  So it seems sensible to put a lid on literary purchases. No doubt I'll again be the recipient of books that have been kindly passed  on by others.  And there's the library of course.  2014 isn't going to be an impoverished reading year in spite of the lack of retail therapy.
  • Stuff to grace horizontal surfaces in my home - There wasn't any room for any more objets d'arts to adorn shelves or tables last year and I haven't moved house. Unfortunately there isn't anyway that this beautiful but huge piece of fused glass made by Emma Rawson could go.    This rule sadly has to stay even for smaller covetable items.  And as I mentioned yesterday I'm trying not to covet.
  • Crafting Tools and Materials - 2013's rule focused around only buying stuff to finish off projects that I started still seems eminently sensible.  I'm going to try and focus on existing crafting activities where I've already bought the tools and have a stock of materials.  However I'm allowing myself a let out clause for printing supplies.  I'd like some decent lino cutters at some time during the year.
  • Kitchen Gadgets - the embargo against new nifty appliances is still in place.  I do need that replacement food processor though.
  • Alcohol for Lone Consumption - a 2013 list item that will remain.  There's scope for even more improvement on curtailing spending in this area in 2014.
  • Shop Bought Lunches - that can stay too.  It seems silly to add pre-packed sandwiches back onto the 'allowed list'.
  • Cards and Wrapping Paper - Homemade or electronic greetings will again be order of the day.

I've taken clothes off the forbidden list because this was one rule too far last year.  However my spending did dwindle as winter approached and maybe with continuing weight loss stuff that didn't used to fit can be reintroduced into my wardrobe to give it a thrifty free filip!

So let's add a  few new items to the list.

  • Furniture - There's no floor space for anymore at Lovelygrey Cottage.  Unless I find a suitably wonderful rocking chair that is and I have a maker in mind!  I must eschew stuff that I come across that is just begging for a makeover to avoid squeezing through the rooms of my house.
  • Unnecessary Toiletries - I'm not a big sinner in this department but the occasional purchase promising a miracle slips through.  Nothing I have ever bought has got rid of the bags under my eyes so this is a reminder to self to not waste money on stuff that just isn't likely to work.
  • Electronic gadgetry - 2013 saw the arrival of a new phone, tablet and laptop.  No more updated wizardry is needed for a couple of years.  Of course the fact that my printer is nearly knackered means that a small let out clause is required.
I'll be bringing you updates through the year of whether I've been naughty or nice. You can report me to Santa if you wish!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

2013: Review of the Year from A Spending Perspective.

So way, way back in December 2012 I set myself some spending rules for 2013.  Now those who know me will realise that self imposed legislation is pretty loosely adhered to in my camp.  I can be  a  pretty naughty person.  You'll be pleased to know that I do better with those Ten Commandments made by God. To my knowledge there's been no murders, Mum and Dad are pretty well honoured and I don't steal, apart from when I occasionally take someone else's pen around the office.  Isn't there a get out clause for that?  I'm working on eliminating covetousness as far as I can, except when it comes to super hot motorhomes.

Any back to my own 2013 rules.  Here's how I did

  • Only a couple of new books apart the latest edition of All the Aires France crossed the threshold of Lovelygrey Cottage apart from ones for Louis.  He's had shedloads but then kids should read.  One of my purchases from the School Fayre, the Rough Guide to Barcelona, did not make it on our current trip.  I couldn't find it!
  • I've pretty much eliminated shop bought lunches.  There's butter in the fridge at work so if I forget to make a sandwich at home I do so in the office.
  • Ah clothes!  Definitely my weak spot.  Those charity shops, especially, draw me in.  I'll have to think about how I modify this one for next year so that I'm not quite so guilt ridden about attending to my inner peacock.
  • No dust gathering ornaments entered the house since the arrival of my much loved Hornsea pig.
  • I don't recollect buying a greetings card will admit to the purchase of one £1 roll of wrapping paper.  Seeing as the main aim of the exercise was stopping spending this is a jolly good result.
  • Just a few craft materials your honour.  Linocutting stuff and some blades for papercutting, really not very much at all when compared to previous years.
  • Even though my food processor broke it hasn't been replaced yet so big brownie points on the no spending on kitchen gadgets here.  On the minus side I did pick up a rather lovely stick blender in a charity shop that replaced my own value version.
  • And no Alcohol for Lone Consumption?  Well, tippling increasing as the year progressed but still not on a previous scale.  Most weeks I only have alcohol on a couple of days. My consumption has reduced to a level where the habit of drinking has well and truly been broken.  Good for the health as well as the pocket.
So what of this exercise?  Well it was a useful one even though I didn't stop tasting the forbidden fruit altogether.  It made me think about everything that I spent and being conscious of actions has got to be a good thing.

Tomorrow let's set some spending rules for 2014!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Before The Horizon: My Take

Well, instead of ending up at La Sagrada Familia the other day, Lou and I ended up visiting the Fundacio Joan Miro instead.  And I am glad that I did.  For I'm an arty kind of girl and there by chance along with a lot of works by yes, Miro,  I ended up seeing one of the most awe inspiring and thought provoking exhibitions ever.   Being that is was temporary one, I would have missed on any other visit to the city so I count that as a result!

Before the Horizon depicts representations of the horizon in different art media.  If you can hop across to Barcelona before 16 February, I urge you to traipse up to the Montjuic area and take it in.  So inspirational was it that I inadvertently took this shot the next day. Could it feature in an future exhibition of the same name perhaps?

Friday, 3 January 2014

Through a Child's Eyes

Proof That The Simpsons Exist in Spain:  Captured on an Overhead Monitor on the Barcelona Metro System  by Louis
Recently I read or heard that our modern habit of constantly snapping away with our neat little cameras, or more frequently, phones is adversely affecting our ability to lay down memories.   So, in the interest of forming more secure reminiscences of a lovely day in Barcelona I handed over my camera to Louis thus risking his recollection of the day being a totally rubbish one!  In doing this I've found out that what he decides is important enough to record for posterity differs entirely from my own view!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

So Near and Yet So Far

For the last two months my little heart has been pounding with excitement at the thought of finally entering La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece of a cathedral bang smack in the centre of my newest favourite city of Barcelona.  Just looking at the pictures on Wikipedia caused my post menopausal loins to stir. Believe me, without supplementary hormones that I'm sure must be disappearing at the speed of sound, it takes a lot to do that these days.

And today was the day when I  was supposed to have marvelled in a beatific way.  We arrived at the candy topped edifice only to find a queue snaking around the block and an assertive Spanish lady sending us on our way with a request that we book online another time. Do we go back tomorrow laden with luggage?  We've decided not to spoil the experience by replicating beasts of burden so we'll wait until our next visit.  So instead I bring you a snap that Louis took in the gift shop of a must-have model replica.  For now that will have to suffice.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Big Sky Barcelona


New Year's Resolution:  Oh I don't know.  Perhaps it could be travel more.

January 1:  Barcelona


Well this really isn't a terribly bad start!