Friday, 28 October 2011

Will eat pop tarts for vouchers

We are all feeling the pinch at the moment and for me this has re-awoken one of my most favourite behaviours – Thrift. I’ve been especially obsessed with it since I read India Knight’s – The Thrift Book and can often be found leafing through its pages as if it were the manual to life itself expounding such gems as ‘you could make that body scrub for 57p you know…’ It is also where I discovered the wonder of Rocket Gardens who have been my faithful grow-your-own companions for the last two years, turning me from gardening dunce to living the good life faster than you can say shovel.

I have been a long term fan of the voucher and am a recent convert to the world of market research. I remember as a kid road testing prototype pop-tarts (as if they even needed to pay us, living the dream!) These days I’m commenting on exciting things like margarine and sanitary products but still. The one thing this does mean is that you have to get over voucher embarrassment pretty fast. This is why I love the rise of Groupon and Voucher Code. The voucher is becoming so much more reasonable rather than something slightly strange people do which holds up normal people in supermarkets (you know who you are).

I’ve been instructed by my husband to not yell this from the roof tops (but since when have I listened to him?! Ha!) as it is VERY embarrassing but I have also recently become a Naked Angel! No, I’ve not become a lady of disrepute, no one needs vouchers that much. I have joined up with the company Naked Wines (I actually have no idea why they are called that…I hope I’m not alarmed when I find out!) and am enjoying the most delicious wines to my door for bargain prices. As an Angel I receive a free sample bottle a month and 33% cash back on all my purchases! This has awoken a slight worry though as I am now one of those people who has a full wine rack. This all seems very adult (I’m usually a buy it, drink it kind of gal) and is taking some getting used to.

My thrifty ways don’t stop here however. I have recently stocked up on seeds of fast growing salad veg that I am growing indoors. The only problem here is that they do require a bit of warmth and I am currently in a stand-off with my heating to see how long I can put off turning it on.  So far I’m winning but I have to say my chances aren’t looking good judging by the weather forecast.  

Any thrifty tips, wise blog readers?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Love Mondays! A pyjamas at midday update

A few months ago when I started this vocation seeking adventure I blogged about the perils of homeworking, most notably the great temptation to stay in pyjamas way past any socially acceptable hour. I then got loads of hilarious tweets back from other homeworkers confessing that they too suffered from this and had even been masterminding ways to leave the house for quick errands without having to change. Slovenly homeworker ways! Well eight months later I am glad to report that it is quarter to twelve and I am sitting in my living room in my jammies! I feel this is a testament to a good decision going well. This little adventure has had many a twist and turn but the pyjamas remain!

When thinking about life choices I don't know how the rest of the world does it, they all seem so wonderfully organised and sensible, one reasonable decision following neatly and sensibly from the other. I've never really been one for that and have so far lived mostly by trial and error. My hope is that one day this will add up to a life where I don't wake up thinking 'Not Monday AGAIN!' and I can use my skills, gifts, strengths and weaknesses in a role that fits me truly as I am.

I think I realised that my desire for this was greater than my desire to do the sensible thing on the umpteenth occasion of sitting in a bosses office and them saying to me, 'So Nicola, what is your five year plan?' You know you can't realistically say 'Well, Boss. I'd really like to NOT be working here.' Instead you have to create some elaborate, falsified life plan of striving to take their place in the organisation with much head nodding and jaw aching enthusiasm. I was never much good at that and usually mumbled something along the lines of 'Oh well, who can tell?' I'm not sure that always went down so well!

Taking on part time work so I could write more and work in church for six months while we were Vicar-less was one of those happy occasions where the trial was a success rather than an error! My hours these days definitely suit me more, the jammies at midday are testament to that. I'm creatively more active and no two days are ever the same. This suits my temperament perfectly, I like variety.

The flexibility has allowed me to do more of what I want. I've been able to go to conferences and have coffee with people I find inspirational. I'm going to be visiting people pastorally under the wing of the church. I have no grandparents now myself so a cup of tea with an elderly neighbour is as much a treat for me as for them. I've had time to reflect on why I enjoy what I enjoy and otherwise. I play piano mid afternoon and potter about my garden. I probably work more hours now than I have done before but I'm much more likely to be doing something of my own choosing that I actually enjoy.

Most of all I love that I haven't had one of those mumbly, I can't really tell you the truth, conversations with an employer since I started this whole thing. I hope that means I'm on the journey to finding my place where Mondays are not just tolerated but celebrated. Now that really is a tall order – watch this space!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Trauma in the Hulks Garden

Last week was very sad day for the Hulks garden empire. We rent our house which is absolutely fine 99% of the time, not so when you return home and someone has gone to town with a chainsaw on your beautiful wildlife-friendly garden under the direction of the very absent (and therefore ill-informed) landlord. As I mentioned in a previous post I have befriended a rather territorial robin who has been hanging out in a large tree outside our bedroom window.

Now I have a real soft spot for not only my own garden but wildlife in general and I can’t stand manicured gardens with no room for real life. Another little known fact is that my first ever piece of writing to appear in print was an article about robins in BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Young Writers Competition. You may be getting the picture that I REALLY like robins. So imagine my dismay when I returned home to find my robin’s favourite tree lying across our garden path. Bad times.

After this sad episode the robin was nowhere to be seen.  I decided drastic action was needed. As the natural goodies (spiders, bugs etc) had also had their homes removed by the chainsaw happy gardener our robin was also now not only traumatised by the butchering of the landscape but also low on snacks. Not one to give up on bird-kind I decided to head into town to do some shopping for my feathered friends. A couple of hours later and some time with a screwdriver and my paint box lead to what can only be described as the most bijoux robin house in the whole of Summertown, nay Oxford, nay THE WORLD.

I am very proud of it. And the good news is, so is my robin! He was re-sighted yesterday standing proudly atop his new house, puffing out his chest and saying (I like to think) ‘Check out my pad!’ And that is how order was restored to the Hulks garden! :)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


I've been thinking recently about opinions. These have been quite rambling thoughts so forgive me if this blog post follows suit.

For years I have had a nagging dissatisfaction with the state of news reporting. I know it is a well banged drum but I do believe that the constant preoccupation with bad, no make that terrible, news is making us all a bit mental. I'm not advocating putting your head in the sand, the world is one messed up puppy, but just as there are stories daily of poverty, war and evil there are also stories of people overcoming poverty, striving for peace and quietly working for good. We all know this to be the case but the constant bombardment of negativity makes for depressing viewing. I also think it makes us switch off from the news and so engage with the issues we should engage with much less effectively that we otherwise could.

My second bug bear with opinion, more specifically opinions bandied about the internet, is the true hideousness of the comments section on most newspaper websites. After reading responses on a single Guardian article you could be forgiven for thinking the world is made up of a bunch of raving extremists. It's enough to have me packing up for a life in hermits-ville. But the thing is, just as we all know that bad news isn't the only news, I don't meet many people like this in real life. I don't know whether the anonymity of the internet brings this insanity to the fore or if there are just a small subset of really frightening people who all happen to love comment sections on websites but most of the people I meet have opinions, yes, but usually moderate, tolerant and changeable ones. THANK GOD!

This has all made me think about my own opinions and how I express them. Anyone who knows me will know I cannot help but speak my opinions. I may as well walk around with a billboard tied round my neck. But as I've gotten older and hopefully a tiny bit wiser I have realised one important lesson:


I cringe at some of the things I have said in my time. For this reason, though I have plenty of them, I try and carry my opinions lightly. I try to avoid sweeping generalisations about groups of people because it is never that black and white. I try and value people more than what they have to say about the government's economic policy, what religion they sign up to or whether they prefer Made in Chelsea or TOWIE.  Most of all I try to do this all the more when I disagree (Err...Made in Chelsea all the way!) So I suppose this rather rambling blog post is a plea for taking ourselves a bit less seriously and realising that at the end of our words is a real person reeling from the blow. I'm taking that on board myself. Sorry Guardian commenters! ;)

Meanwhile, I for one am committed to a bit more good news in my life! So I have started a new box on the right of my blog that I am going to update with good news as I find it. And I promise it won't all be Granny Mabel hosting bring and buy sales in the village hall!