Preparing for alone

2012.12.22.preparing-for-aloneI’ve decided to spend Christmas alone this year. I know that sounds silly to some people, but it seems like the right thing to do for me; for my heart. It’s not that I’ve not been invited to spend the day with others; it’s just that it’s hard to spend such a special day in someone else’s home. I would be left feeling like an outsider; like I was there because someone took pity on me.

I know that the people who’ve invited me wouldn’t feel that way, but I would. And I’m afraid that would be hard on my heart, so I’ve declined the invitations in favour of spending the day alone.

Part of me knows that the best way to make it through the day alone is to pretend that the day isn’t happening but, at the same time, I know that my heart and soul will know what day it is no matter how much my brain tries to ignore it.

So, I’ve decided that I will enjoy a Christmas feast, just like I would do if I had someone to spend the day with. Only, I had a bit of a melt-down in the shops today when I tried to buy groceries (seeing those happy couples still hurts!) so I have to go back and try again tomorrow.

But, thanks to a co-worker, I do have a copy of the Christmas Radio Times so I can start planning out my Christmas day viewing. Doctor Who and EastEnders are already circled!

Yes, I’ll be alone for Christmas, but I will survive it. Just like I’ve managed to survive every other day. And hopefully, I’ll survive without too many tears. After all, I have to carry on, and this won’t be my last holiday alone. So I might as well figure out how to manage.

Bonus!

2012.12.20.bonusBack in August when I started my new job, the biggest bonus was that my employer was actually willing to sponsor me for a work visa. Those of you who’ve attempted to live in a country other than your native one will understand what a tremendous bonus this is.

Of course, because I work for a small, government-funded programme, I realised that pay increases and bonuses would not be in my future. But that’s OK because I enjoy the job—and I make enough to live on so I don’t need a salary increase. (Though I’d happily take!)

So with that in mind, the last thing I expected to receive today was a bonus. But it seems that someone felt we all deserved a little something extra so they dipped into their own pocket to deliver everyone a generous gift certificate to the local shopping centre. (Please note that this was given with private funds, not government money—no tax money was used for this gift.)

Anyhow, just this morning I stood there looking at my latest accumulation of spare change and I told myself that I would use it to purchase a new tablet in the new year—as soon as there was enough of it. Well, it seems to me that this unexpected bonus could be used to help me get there a little bit faster, which means that between the £60 I had in coins and the £100 on the gift card, it’s time to start researching my next gadget!

Of course, by the time I finally get around to cashing in the coins, I’ll have enough for an even better gadget. I can’t wait!

Yellow-sticker snacks

If you asked me what I thought of Marks and Spenser Food Halls 10 years ago, I’d have turned my nose up and tsked a bit about the up-market feel to the place: the perfectly-parcelled apples, the ready-meals designed for two; and own-brand packaged poncy treats. Actually, I think I would have given the same response just one year ago.

But then I found myself living in Stirling without a car and the most convenient place for groceries—unless I’m having them delivered—is M&S. And do you know what? I’ve found that (whilst still poncy and up-market) the food is a fair price (if you’re not buying ready-meals) and you can actually feed yourself from their small, city centre shops without much hassle. (Though you also lack a bit of variety, but that’s what grocery deliveries are for!)

More importantly, I’ve learned that M&S yellow stickers are amazing! Near the end of the trading day (the shop closes at 6 p.m.) they start marking down fresh foods marked with a best-by date of that day. But we all know that it’s still good for a day or two (most of the time) and even then you can pop it in the freezer.

I’ve found myself popping in on my way home from work—just to see what kind of yummies have yellow stickers! I now have a fine selection of salmon pâté and nibbles in the freezer for my efforts.

And now, I have a delicious selection of goodies for tomorrow’s road trip to England—two packs of sushi, a pack of prawns with chilli sauce, and two bottles of fresh juice. £6.50 worth of food for £2.80! I do love a good bargain!

(So, now that you know I’m heading out for a wee road trip, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a couple of days. And let’s hope it’s because I’m having fun with my in-laws, and not because I’ve gotten sick from eating discount sushi after its best-by date!)

August under budget

At the start of August, I shared with you my plans to develop a strict grocery budget of £200 per month. And now I’m pleased to say I’ve come in under budget by £20! The best part about it, however, is that I’ve still eaten really well. No, wait. The best part is that I’m starting September with a freezer full of food leftover from August, meaning I’m on track for another under-budget month!

And not only did I eat really well, but I shared several of my meals with others because I love to have people over for dinner! And as I look at all the food that’s still in the cupboards and freezer, I can see how I could stretch it to feed a family of four on about the same budget. Of course, if I put beer, wine, and spirits on a different budget line, I’d be able to feed a family of four without worries.

Some of the things I did to keep my budget down was to shop about an hour before Marks & Spencer’s Food Hall closed, then I’d seek out the coveted ‘yellow discount’ stickers so that I could design cheap meals. I also worked really hard to use up leftovers right away, which meant cooking up pots of soup or pasta dishes that went directly into the freezer. It really did make a difference on the amount of food waste I created, too. And happily, it made for some pretty good throw-together concoctions!

So, what happens with the leftover £20? Well, £10 will go into my savings account and £10 will get added to my September entertainment budget. And who knows, maybe I’ll have an even bigger savings at the end of this month!

Payday treats

Today is payday! I’m so excited because it’s my first payday in more than a year and it’s so fantastic to see my bank balance to up for a change, after watching it steadily decline over the last year.

I’m lucky in that I haven’t needed a pay cheque because I worked so hard at saving up for this crazy year of postgraduate study, but those savings weren’t going to last forever—or even for the rest of 2012! So, I’m very thankful to have found a wonderful job that can help re-build my bank balance.

Of course, a first pay cheque deserves a celebratory purchase, so I’ll have to sort that out soon, too. I’d seen a fabulous, funky set of vintage late-1960s dishes at a charity shop about a month ago and told myself that if they were still there on payday that would be my treat. But they were gone when I went back so now I need a new plan. I don’t know what that will be yet, but it will be some sort of a little treat. I am happy to take suggestions for ways to treat myself so feel free to share your thoughts!

I know it’s not much money, but it’s another step toward my future and that makes me happy.

Cheap eats

I like setting budgets for myself because it keeps me accountable to, well, me. And, because I used to have to budget every penny or risk bounced checks, I’m pretty good at it. Better, because I like to come in under budget, it makes me spend less!

For the last year I’ve had a loose budget of £200 (approximately $310 US) per month to spend on groceries. Sometimes I’d go over that, but most times I would be under. But I’ve never been consistent with it. So, I’m going to start holding myself accountable, which means you get to read about my grocery budget from time-to-time!

Budget: £200 per month

In addition to food-based groceries, the following items will be included in the total:

  • Loo roll and cleaning products—but not personal care products
  • Wine, beer, and spirits
  • Lunches bought at work
  • Take-aways or delivery meals
  • Delivery or taxi charges to get the groceries home

Dinner or drinks out with friends do not count as they are in the entertainment budget and any money left over from one month cannot be rolled into the next month. Instead, remaining monies will be split between savings and my entertainment budget.

The idea is that a strict budget will force me to eat healthier—and wiser. I will be forced to think about my meals and plan them out a bit. I will be encouraged to take lunches to the office (often made from yummy leftovers) and I will make things that I like but that I’m generally too lazy to make.

Oh! And it means that I will get to talk about my homemade this-and-that a bit more. Maybe I’ll even get to share some more recipes with you. Or ‘how to’ YouTube videos! Yes, that will be fun!

And since you’re here, I can share with you that, so far, I’ve £68 for the month of August. Which is scary since it’s only the first week, but that included lots of staple items—including a bottle of vodka for my RyanCentric Martinis. Well, that is if you can call vodka a staple.

Stay tuned to find out if I’ve managed to stay within budget for the month! (If you care.)

Spent pennies

As you may know, I like to save all of my ‘spare’ change so that I can cash it in for something fun and frivolous. So when I am out shopping, I never give the cashier exact change, I keep those jingly-jangly coins to feed my coin jar! (And if you’ve ever wondered, that’s where the pennies I pinch from the pavement end up, too!)

Anyhow, after nearly a year of collecting, I cashed in £94 worth of coins today. (That’s about $148, if you wondered.) And there’s still about £15 left in the jar as a starter fund, since there weren’t enough to bag up in all the right denominations*.

After heading to the bank to deposit the coins, I made my way to Falkirk so that I could spend my money! (That was the first £3.50 of my money spent!)

The rest of the money was spent as follows:

A new paper cutter for making my swirl cards: £19.99 (sub-total: £23.49)

Three bottles of Washington State wines from Chateau Ste Michelle: £9.99×3=£29.97 (sub-total: £53.46)

Two pretty new dresses from the 50% off sale rack: £20 and £21 (sub-total: £94.46)

OK! You got me: I went 46p over budget. But I’m going to let that slide since the dresses aren’t really frivolous. They are a practical purchase and will be put to use starting once this week’s holiday is over. (Are you starting to feel a theme to my sometimes-cryptic posts?)

Oh! And you could also argue that the paper cutter isn’t frivolous, since I hope to put that to use for making and selling cards.

The wine, however, is purely for fun.

* In the UK they use little plastic baggies for coins instead of the paper rolls we use in the States. It makes it harder to keep them tidy, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to bag than it is to roll! 

Gadget Girl

Yep, that’s me: Gadget Girl. OK, I admit that I’m not the most gadgety of all gadget girls, but I’m certainly the first place contender in my little bit of the world. And I would guess that if I had the income to support it, I would probably be a contender for the world as a whole. Because gadgets are just cool.

My first gadget was a calculator watch that I got for Christmas 1983. I remember the year because I remember going back to school in January 1984 and showing it to my 4th grade teacher, Mrs Vetter—who quickly informed me it couldn’t be used for maths tests. Oh, but it was awesome! It had an alarm clock and a small address book. I wore it all the time. In fact, I wore it so much that I remember taking if off for baths and it being rather slimy and manky underneath. It was disgusting, really.

I don’t recall how it broke—or when—but I remember always wishing I had another watch as cool as it was. Though my next digital watch was pretty neat-o with its blue glow button thingy to see the time in the dark. Again, my insistence to wear it all the time meant it got pretty icky pretty quickly. (Seriously, who wears a watch to bed?)

Anyhow, about a year or so after that first calculator watch, I got my first Walkman. I would use it when I walked around delivering newspapers—and I’d sing along. It was great! And a year or so after that, I got my first electric typewriter. In fact, I used that typewriter to make up little notes to deliver with my papers when I first took over a new route—little notes introducing myself and giving my customers my name and number in case they had any problems or questions. (Yeah, I was am a geek.)

Over the years, my gadget collection grew and I slowly became an early adopter—and a vocal gadget advocate! And, do you know what? I feel good when I have the best gadget in the room. I know it’s silly and a bit vain, but I really do get an amazing ego boost when my gadgets are better than those of everyone around me.

Sadly, since leaving my job last year in favour of being an unemployed student has meant that I’ve been neglecting my gadgety ways. But that all changed today when I picked up a brand new phone. Yay!

Yes, boys and girls, I am now the proud owner of a beautiful, blue Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s the latest-and-greatest Android phone on the market and I own one!

It took me a while to take the plunge because it required a two-year contract and my visa expires on November 11, but I am throwing caution to the wind and will just hope and pray that I get a job that allows me to extend that visa for the entire length of my phone contract—and more! Otherwise, I guess I have to pay a bit of money to cancel the contract. And I hate parting with money so—come on, job!

So, not a bad way to start the second day of my holidays! And now I have something to play with when I’m on the train to Inverness on Sunday.

Happy Gadget Day, everyone!

(And not that I’m a geek or anything, but you’ll maybe notice that I have HAL as the wallpaper on one of my laptops!)

The cruelty of random memories

There is something ever-so-cruel about random memories. OK, not always. In fact, most of the time random memories are happy moments. But sometimes, like today, they’re just reminders of a future that was stolen from me.

For the past few days, life has been rather exciting and positive for me. There’s been a lot of progress made on my dissertation and I’ve even made a bit of progress in my job search—and I’ve been getting lots (OK, some) training in for my next marathon. And all of those things combined make me excited for my future. And excitement about my future meant that I wandered into town today to look at new gadgets and gizmos for my kitchen and at shoes and jackets and a few other things I’d like to buy.

So there I was, in this fabby little kitchen shop looking at slow cookers, when I was flooded with memories of the day before Paul died. We’d gone into town shopping and we looked at slow cookers and debated which one to get. In the end, we decided we’d hold off and get one the following weekend when we were in the Big City—but we went ahead and bought a chain saw, new additions for our Fiesta Ware collection, and new work shoes for me. (And instead of shopping in the Big City the next weekend, I was at Paul’s funeral.)

As I stood there trying to shake the memory, all I could think of was the conversations we’d had that day. Conversations about the kids we were getting ready to adopt; about the chores we had in for the garden the next day; about making plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas—with our future kids! And all of the sudden I was reminded that, even though I am excited about my future, I really miss my old life; I really miss Paul.

I slowly made my way around the kitchen shop, and even managed to browse through some clothing shops, but my mood was deflated and I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything. I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate my new future because I was too upset about the memories of my old dreams; the dreams I lost when I lost Paul. And as I walked home, I couldn’t keep the tears away. Which meant that by the time I got to my flat I couldn’t help but sob.

I feel so silly when these things happen because I should be happy right now. It really has been a good and positive week and there are so many things that should be making me laugh and smile. Yet still, I cried.

I’m feeling a tad less sorry for myself now though and I’m sure that I’ll be able to concentrate on the happy stuff soon enough. Today was just a momentary blip, all caused because of those cruel little random memories.

But enough of that; let’s talk about some of those positive future-y things, shall we? Specifically, the goal of earning my master’s degree!

Dissertation Month Update:

Current word count: 4,200 (only 7,800 to go!)

Again, that doesn’t seem like much, especially compared to what I had for my last update, but I’m nowhere near done writing for the day and I have about 400+ words scribbled down in a notebook that I wrote on the train the other day. So once those are added in—and I add a few bits to other sections—I may break 5,000 before I go to bed. In fact, maybe that will be my goal!

Tomorrow’s task list:

  • 4+ mile training run
  • Work party with classmate (again)
  • Finish literature review

[Image is my most recent swirl-in-progress. It’s been helping me relax in between fits of dissertation writing!]

Swirl research

As you know, I like to swirl. It’s a relaxing pastime and I find it extremely helpful when I need to unwind for a spell.

I’ve been sharing my completed swirls with family and friends on Facebook and I’ve been amazed at how many people tell me that they really like them. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how often it’s been suggested that I try to sell them.

And so, I’ve decided to try that in the form of swirl note cards. Which means I’ve prepared a stack of samples to send off to family and friends in the hope of receiving some honest feedback about the quality as well as their thoughts on pricing.

It’s weird because this is the first time I’ve seriously thought about selling something I’ve made. And even weirder because I still can’t understand why everyone likes my swirls so much. I mean, they’re just scribbles that I do when I’m bored or stressed. Still, I like to please my public whenever I can!

What does this mean for you? Well, it means that in the next few weeks you might be able to buy a set of swirl cards from me. But please know that I’m not going to push that on anyone! When they’re ready, I’ll let you know. Buy them; don’t buy them. Totally up to you!

Wow. I feel like a little entrepreneur all of the sudden. (I hope Hallmark is ready for this awesome bit of competition!)

Expiry dates

I’m a little bit crazy most days. Always have been; always will be. But widowhood seems to have increased my insanity. In fact, it seems to have created new forms of crazy all together!

I thought about sharing a little window into that craziness last week, but decided against it because I don’t really want to bore you with these things. But tonight I had a bit of a meltdown so figured maybe saying it all ‘out loud’ might help me work through it. (Or not. We’ll see.)

Here’s the deal: I can’t buy things with an expiry date of April 26. I just can’t do it. Two years ago, I was out shopping and grabbed a tub of yoghurt. As always, I checked the expiry date and it was April 26. It was days before the first anniversary of Paul’s death (which is April 26 if you haven’t sussed that yet) and I panicked. I put the tub back and started searching for one with a later date. But they were all dated April 26. So I didn’t get any yoghurt. Same thing last year: I couldn’t buy anything with an April 26 expiry date.

So, a few days ago I found myself grabbing a few groceries to tide me over until my next online shop. As I picked up a pack of fresh cheese, I noticed the expiry date (yes, April 26) and realised that there was no way I could do an online shop until after that date, for fear of having something delivered with that dreaded date imprinted on the packaging.

Anyhow, tonight I decided I’d make a nice salad for dinner. I grabbed a bottle of Ranch dressing that I’d bought a few months ago. After putting the salad together, I opened the bottle and noticed the date as I started pouring it—April 26. I froze. I didn’t know what to do. Do I throw it out? Do I force myself to move past this silly block? I didn’t know. I don’t know how long I stood there staring at the salad before deciding that I needed to eat it.

I grabbed a fork, picked up the salad, and went to sit on the couch. But I couldn’t bring myself to eat the salad. Instead, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably over a stupid date. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. And with that, I went back to the kitchen and threw it out—the salad and the rest of the dressing.

Then I cried some more. I am, after all, completely insane.

I don’t know what will happen next year. I just know that, apparently, this year I’m still not ready to buy or eat food with an expiry date of April 26. As I said, widowhood has created new kinds of crazy for me!

My Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, a day of great importance for many Christians—including me. It’s also a day of fasting for Catholics (and maybe other religions?). So, I’m fasting. I’m not starving, but I’m certainly fasting.

Still, it’s been a good day. I had a wee sleep in this morning and when I finally managed to drag myself out of bed (I won’t confess the time) I took a bit of time to work on my butterfly swirl and catch up on emails. Eventually, I made my way to the shower before taking some time to get more school work done.

Then, I did something I shouldn’t have done: I went to town for groceries. Yes, whilst fasting—whist hungry—I went to the shops for food. But I rationalised it because I was afraid that if I didn’t go today there wouldn’t be a ham left for my Easter dinner on Sunday. Thankfully, a grocery list kept me from buying too much more than I needed. And even then, my hunger-driven impulse buys weren’t too bad: A package of strawberries, a bottle of wine, and a pack of crisps. None of which got eaten today. (Good girl points for me!)

Yes, I’ve had a good Good Friday. I hope you have, too. It won’t be long until we’re celebrating the resurrection of my Saviour, Jesus Christ. Oh, what a wonderful thing to celebrate!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
~ John 3:16

Random thoughts: Last of the big spenders

Random thoughts—Week 5: List the top 12 things you can buy with your last $20.

This challenge all comes down to interpretation. So, here’s how I’m interpreting it: My assumptions for the list are that all of my basic needs are being met (food, shelter, clothing) and that it’s my last $20 until my next budgeted allowance.

My list will be 12 $20 items, instead of 12 items that total $20. For items linked from UK sites, the cost will be £12 to account for the exchange rate. Also, for the purpose of this list, I will not include sales tax (or shipping) in the final price. Oh! And the mythical purchases will be fun things, because all of my other bills have been sorted already. So, here goes!

  1. Electronic butterfly in a jar
  2. Hand-made leather journal
  3. Silver plated Champagne stopper
  4. Basic whisky glasses
  5. Owl crystal necklace
  6. Eight sticks of sealing wax (green, of course!)
  7. Eucalyptus and spearmint bubble bath from Bath and Body Works
  8. A pretty tulip skirt (the red one!)
  9. A set of John Lewis martini glasses
  10. Heart-patterned tights
  11. Running hat with a hole for my ponytail
  12. A pretty butterfly Alice band

Phew! That was harder than it seemed. Mostly because most of my splurge ‘wants’ are either really cheap or really expensive! But it was fun, and now I guess I have a bit of a wish list going for myself!

I wonder what next week’s random topic will be …

Freedom of the City

My day started out pretty lazy and I didn’t have plans of leaving the flat until early afternoon. But then I learned that there was a military pipe and drum band making their way through town. Which meant that I needed to get dressed and get a move on my day. And I’m so glad that I did!

The reason for the parade was that the Royal Regiment of Scotland was given the the honour of The Freedom of the City of Stirling. [Read the BBC’s story about the event here.] And since you weren’t able to be there to see it (or were you there and I missed you?) I’m sharing the video I made of the event. Yay!

After the parade finished, I made my way through the Stirling Farmers’ Market to pick up some fresh produce, buffalo steaks, and a bit of smoked cheddar. I even ran into someone from one of my classes and had a nice chat. It’s always nice to run into people I know!

So, now I guess I need to return to my weekend of rest. Yep, it would seem that I have a low platelet count after last weekend’s cold. For those counting, the count was 13. But don’t worry, I’m sure they’re on the upswing again.

Random thoughts: Simple pleasures

Random thoughts—Week 3: List 31 simple pleasures; pick one and write about it.

Last year I was challenged to write a list of 30 things that made me smile and I imagine that this list may include a few duplicates, but I will try to keep those to a minimum.

  1. Finding coins as I’m walking down the road
  2. Unexpected postcards (heck, even expected postcards!)
  3. Lunch with friends
  4. Internet chats and phone calls with my nieces and nephews
  5. Dirty Martinis
  6. Seeing children skipping down the road
  7. Skipping down the road (yes, even as a full-grown woman, I do that sometimes!)
  8. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
  9. Watching a favourite movie on television
  10. Long soaks in a hot bath
  11. Finding my favourite [whatever] on sale
  12. Smells that rekindle a happy memory
  13. Running
  14. A well-cooked steak (that would be medium-rare, thank you!)
  15. Riding on carousels
  16. Playing on swing sets
  17. The feeling of the sun on my face
  18. Flirtatious encounters with cute boys (even when I know I’ll never see them again)
  19. A quiet night in with some jazz, red wine, candle light, and a good book
  20. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning after a long week at work (or school)
  21. Finding a ‘new’ vintage handbag that I love—and can afford!
  22. Watching (and listening to) a massive rain storm—complete with thunder and lightning
  23. Seeing my friends happy and giddy with excitement
  24. Waking up dreading going to work, only to realise it’s the weekend
  25. Walking barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach
  26. Gravy style popcorn
  27. Picnics in the park
  28. Finishing a craft project
  29. Weekend city breaks to fantastic places
  30. Finding an out-of-the-way pub that sells great beer—but that no one knows about!
  31. Hugs and kisses from family and friends

Now, I know that I’m meant to write about just one of these things, but it would seem that I had a fantastic opportunity to combine a few in one. So, here’s a wee story about something that happened when I was in Cambridge this weekend:

I woke up early to go for a run on Saturday (No 13). And after the run, I had a bit of time to waste waiting for my running partner (who’d gone off for a longer trek!). So, as I waited, I found myself (literally) skipping (No 7) over to the playground where I plopped myself down on a swing (No 16). And as I swung, I noticed some shiny things on the ground below. Sure enough, those shiny things were coins—33 pence worth of them (No 1)!

Of course, the weekend also included Nos: 3, 12, 17, 23, 29, 30, and 31. And loads of other simple pleasures that didn’t make the list.

Oh! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog to see what she wrote for her topic this week!

Splashing out

Today I finally broke down and bought a new set of sauce pans. They are light-weight, cheap aluminium pans but, despite that, they are considerably better than the pans that my flat was furnished with. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing since I first moved in, but I’ve been a bit uncomfortable with the idea of spending my limited budget on something that was more of a want than a need.

But the problem is that the pans I had were so cheap they didn’t work well. I know, I know: A bad cook always blames their tools. But sometimes, sub-standard tools do make a negative impact! And because the pans were such rubbish, I dared not cook certain foods.

So, the way I see it is that these pans are an investment in my future nutritional health. Yes, really. As strange as that sounds, these pans really will help me cook more!

In fact, one of the pans is in service now, cooking up a batch of basmati rice, to be served with baked salmon and peas.

Maybe this little splash out of cash will help me fix my poor diet!

And don’t forget to enter my anniversary competition. I’ve really enjoyed the entries so far and would love to be entertained with a few more! (Today’s your last chance, so don’t be shy!)

Sunday roast

Sunday roast is a pretty big thing here in the UK. So much so that even Paul—a 30+ year vegetarian—insisted that we enjoyed a big Sunday roast (sans dead animal for him!) most weeks. Mostly, we’d just have roasted veg, mashed potatoes, and Yorkshire puddings; sometimes even a bit of boiled cabbage.

I think my favourite part about Sunday roasts was that it was one of the few meals Paul and I prepared together. We’d return home from Church and start prepping the meal. Then, as it was nearing completion, I’d be kicked out of the kitchen so that I wasn’t in the way when Paul made his Yorkshire puddings and mashed the potatoes. You see, he didn’t like the way I cooked potatoes, so would always just take over that task. Which was fine by me since it saved me getting mad at him for telling me what I was doing wrong. (I was always called back in at the end, however, because it was my job to dish up.)

Anyhow, I’ve not done Sunday roast since he died. I just couldn’t do it. Even just thinking about it made me start to panic. Really. Thanksgiving was the closest I got, and then I had a mini panic attack when someone joking questioned some of my cooking methods. (The blocks that your mind creates through grief can be silly sometimes, I know!) But I digress…

The point of today’s post is to share with you the lovely Sunday roast I’ve made—my first since my last with Paul on Easter Sunday 2009.

I hadn’t really planned on making the meal, but when I went to the farmers’ market yesterday, I couldn’t resist the lovely topside roast they were selling at the Puddledub Buffalo stall. And since I knew I had Scottish grown carrots, parsnips, and potatoes at home, I figured it was a good excuse to make a Sunday roast for the Dark Days Challenge.

In addition to the meat and veg mentioned above, I also used Scottish onions and English garlic. My oil choice was Summer Harvest’s Cold Pressesd Rapeseed Oil and I used Maldon Sea Salt.

And let’s not forget dessert: A lovely piece of carrot cake from Milis Cakes. I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t know if they source their ingredients locally, but I’m going to let it slide since they’re a local, independent cake maker.

Yep, I have a happy belly now!

Coats and cupcakes

When I was in town earlier in the week, I saw a nice light-weight coat that I really liked in a charity shop. But when I tried it on, I wasn’t quite certain about it. I mean, it looked nice and it fit, but it’s the same colouring as my wool coat, so I wavered. In the end, I put it back on the rack and walked away.

But I’ve been thinking about it and decided it would be OK to have another black and white coat. It was a different cut, after all, and would look much nicer with dresses than my wool coat. Plus that, it was only £10 so it wasn’t a massive commitment.

So, I went to town today determined to get the coat if it was still there. And it was still there. Only it wasn’t £10, it was £4.99. Which means I saved £5.01 in addition to supporting a good cause!

And when you save a bit of money, it’s OK to celebrate with a little treat. So when I stopped by the Farmers’ Market on the way back to my flat, I splurged £1.90 on a pretty pink Valentine’s cupcake from Milis Cakes. (I’ve already eaten it though, so I guess it was just a pretty pink cupcake.)

Oh! I also picked up a nice roast from one of the local farmer stalls for tomorrow’s dinner. And that means that I have everything I need for a Sunday roast, which will qualify for the Dark Days Challenge. And that means that if you check back tomorrow, you can read about my yummy dinner.

(Or you could invite yourself over to help eat my dinner. There’s more than enough to share!)

And, yes, that really is the cupcake I bought. It was as yummy as it looks. I also got a carrot cupcake for tomorrow’s dessert. I wonder if it will last that long…

The dummy box

Well, I have a television now. Yay! I’ve been going back-and-forth on whether to get one or not, but when Joanne offered up an old one of hers, I found myself unable to turn the offer down. I’d been watching TV on my ‘big’ laptop (14” screen) and it was bit of a pain—and I had a very limited selection of shows to watch.

Joanne was pretty certain that wasn’t good enough, and was pretty certain that I needed a proper TV. After all, there are some really good shows that I should be watching and it would be nice to be able to just flick around the channels sometimes. At first I discarded her statements, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised Joanne was right. (Not that I should be surprised; Joanne’s a smart cookie!)

So this afternoon, my new(used) TV arrived. Joanne and I hauled it up to my top-floor flat, then we went to town for lunch—and to get a FreeView box so that the big ol’ box would work. Of course, once we got back to my flat again, we realised that we also needed an aerial cable, which meant that when Joanne went home, I went back out in search of the magic cable. I had to go to five shops before I found one, but at least I was successful.

And now, I’m sitting at home with my nice little television sitting in the corner of the living room. With my groovy new FreeView box, I get about 50 channels plus music stations and it all works with a remote control. This is like Couch Potato Haven!

Now, what will I watch? There are just so many choices! Yay! (Don’t worry; I have a TV License now, too!)

Thanks, Joanne! I really appreciate it. Really!

[To give further credit and thank-you-ness to everyone who tried to get me telly-ed-up: Martin did offer (on several occasions) to bring me an old 37” television he has collecting dust in a corner, and Rebecca sent me to my new flat with a small portable television. It just wasn’t compatible with the new digital signal regulations.]

Cheap [or free] booze

I used to buy expensive booze. I had a collection of fine wines and expensive whiskies. I had top-shelf Cognacs and the best small batch Bourbons. And I wouldn’t have thought twice about opening a $40 bottle of wine for no reason other than I wanted a glass of wine.

But I couldn’t take it all with me, so I slowly worked through my collection before I moved. And I gave the rest to my aunt and my neighbours. (And took a couple of bottles to my folks’ house too, I think.)

And now I find myself in a different booze situation all together.

First of all, I’m in a small apartment that doesn’t have the space for wine storage—not when you like to really collect fine wines at least! But more depressingly, I can’t afford it even if I could store it.

So, I’ve found myself drinking cheap booze again. I’ve found myself choosing wines based on price, not on label/vineyard. And I only buy wine that’s on sale. (I can normally get a ‘nice enough’ bottle on a half price sale, but even that’s not what I’d consider good wine.)

In fact, all but one bottle of wine are screw tops! I know that nice wines are using screw tops these days, but the majority of Washington State wines (which are top-class, premium wines that beat out any Old World wine you can imagine!) have corks.

Oh! And I’ve even stooped to purchasing store brand stuff! Which isn’t necessarily bad but Sainsbury’s vodka has nothing on Grey Goose!

But, thankfully, I’ve got some nice stuff that I’ve gotten for Christmas gifts. (Must send that thank you note to Canada soon!) And thanks to friends and family, I even have three (well, two and a bit) bottles of nice Scotch, too.

It’s not that I’m a raging alcoholic or anything, it’s just that I’ve realised recently that my snobbery when it comes to drink has gone to the wayside in favour of my frugal (and poor) ways.

But my birthday is coming up. And I like Remy Martin and Caol Ila. You know, if you wondered …

Cheers!

The little red dress

Twelve years ago, I purchased a lovely silky red dress that I just loved. Form-fitting and sexy, I loved finding excuses to wear it. The only ‘flaw’ was that I needed to add a bit more help to the upper portion—more than I normally need to add. (Sorry, this is my blog and I can talk about my less-than-endowed form if I want.)

Ten years ago, I brought it to Scotland with me hoping that I’d have a chance to wear it. Then I met Paul and I figured I’d get the chance. And I did. And he loved it. And over the years, I’ve pulled it out again for special occasions.

The last time I wore it was Easter 2009—just two weeks before Paul died. I remember standing there wondering what to wear for church, and he pulled that little red dress out. After all, he said, with a light sweater it would be more than appropriate for Sunday Mass. And when we got home and began making our Sunday lunch, he told me how beautiful I was in that dress.

So, when I packed my bags to return to Scotland last summer, I couldn’t help but to pack the dress; even though I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to wear it. And, to be honest, I’ve felt a bit soft and gooey the last several weeks, having not been running but still eating as if I’m training for a marathon!

Anyhow, I wanted to wear something pretty for my birthday later this month and I thought about that dress. And, well, I tried it on with a bit of trepidation because I knew that if it was too snug I’d be upset.

But it fit rather nicely. In fact, I could eat a few extra meals in between now and my birthday and it would still fit! (Though I will still need to add a bit of help to the upper portion; some things never change!)

I am very happy about this little victory. And I know that I’ve just bragged about how a dress that I bought when I was 26 years old still fits me today—just days shy of being 38—but I run and try to stay quite active. (And if this was a pair of jeans, it would be a different story. Dresses are just more forgiving for bum-and-thigh weight gain!)

Now… what am I going to do about shoes and an evening handbag? I guess I’ll need to see what sort of fun stuff they have at the charity shops!

Red and rosé

It took a while to convince myself to get out of bed today. I mean, a long while—it was nearly noon by the time I decided to emerge from under my duvet. At first, I wondered if I would spend the day inside. Not necessarily sulking, but sitting around doing nothing. And for a while, I convinced myself that I could do that.

Then, for reasons still unknown, I decided that I should head into town. With that decision made, I hopped in the shower before putting on a pretty skirt and a fun sweater for a quick jaunt into town. I didn’t really know why I was going, but I knew that I needed to get out and stretch my legs.

Anyhow, I looked in the charity shops and even a couple of sales racks in the mall, but didn’t manage to find anything I wanted/needed/that fit, so I went home empty handed.

And now, I’m curled up on the couch with a glass of French rosé, listening to the sultry jazz sounds of Norah Jones, and getting ready to paint my nails a nice shade of hooker red.

I guess I have to say it’s not been too bad of a start to the new month.

Steak and potatoes

OK boys and girls, today is my first meal prepared for the Dark Days Challenge. Not that I haven’t been eating some local foods all along, but tonight’s dinner is special because it’s all about the local stuff!

Now, I like to pride myself in purchasing locally grown produce whenever possible, but I must admit that much of the other groceries I buy come from all over. I mean, it’s a little difficult to find local olive oil when you live in Scotland! But, I did some research and managed to find a few local (Scotland or elsewhere in the UK) staples to keep on hand—many of which will make appearances not only in my local-only meals, but in my every day meals as well. Those things include a Scottish cooking oil, UK-sourced sea salt, and Scottish-milled flour—to name a few. I won’t go into all of them today, but will try to tell you a bit about them as I use them. Or, at the very least, I will link to them so that you can read more if you want.

And with that, here’s what I had for dinner:

My main course was pan-fried minute steak from Puddledub Buffalo Farms. I had wanted a fillet steak, but they only had large packs available by the time I arrived at their stall on the market, so I ended up with a less-than-ideal cut. But, cooked with a bit of Maldon sea salt, it was pretty tasty! I also made a small potato-shallot-and-cheese concoction using Scottish-grown potatoes and shallots, layered with a strong Scottish cheddar. I baked it in a small dish that was coated with Summer Harvest rapeseed oil (made in Scotland) and a light sprinkling of sea salt. Oh! And some lightly boiled Scottish-grown carrots for my veg.

Oh! And I can’t forget about the wine now, can I? I don’t generally buy (or drink) fruit wines, but Cairn o’ Mohr always has a booth at the Stirling Farmers’ Market and curiosity (and the need for local!) got the better of me. So, I bought a bottle of their Bramble Wine. And it was very nice. Maybe next time, I’ll try one of their whites!

Anyhow, I’ve learned a lot this week about the foods that are available locally. This has also been a great excuse to experiment with food—which is what the potato thing was—and a great reminder about what a good cook I actually am. (But I wish I made a bigger pot of the potato stuff. That was way-yummy!!)

Of course, I seem to have forgotten to get myself something for pudding. Darn! Maybe next week…

The dark days

The dark days of winter are upon us. Oh yes, they really are. Even more so here in Scotland compared to my (only slightly) lower-latitude homeland. But those nine degrees don’t make a difference when you’re in the deep dark of winter.

But this post isn’t about the darkness—it’s about food!

You see, my friend The Improbable Farmer has taken up a challenge. And since I enjoy a bit of a challenge—especially one that fits my views—I decided I’d give it a shot, too. (Yeah, I’m such a copy-cat!)

And so, I will be taking part in the 5th Annual Dark Days Challenge.

So, you may not know this about me, but I’ve long been a bit of a hippy-granola-freak. In fact, Paul and I were avid supporters of our local Co-Op and worked hard to source foods (and other goods) locally. We even grew our own food and made our own cleaning supplies. Oh! And we had a compost heap and everything! (He made me promise not to knit underwear for the kids we were adopting though. And I begrudgingly agreed—with my fingers crossed behind my back.)

But, yes, I am a wanna-be-hippy. And maybe I’ll take some time to talk about my views on sustainable living and the whole reduce-reuse-recycle thing from time-to-time. Oh—Wait!—I’m kinda getting ready to do that right now!

[Sorry, I seem to have digressed, so let me get back on topic …]

The challenge sounds rather simple—but I expect it will be a bit difficult, or it wouldn’t be called a challenge. The idea is that I will cook one meal a week that is made from SOLE foods (sustainable, organic, local, ethical). Local is often described as being within 100 miles, though the challenge allows for 150 miles because of the winter growing seasons. That said, I live on a small (by American standards) island and I don’t really know the geography well enough to know how many miles away something is. So, I will aim for UK-sourced goods, giving priority to Scotland and the regions closest to Stirling.

I hope that this challenge helps me learn more about the foods produced here in the Central Belt, but also that it helps to remind me of the importance of eating local. Not just for the environmental impacts, but for the economical ones, too. Oh! And maybe it will help to wake up my culinary creativity which seems to have taken a bit of a long nap.

I’m jumping on the bandwagon nearly three weeks late, but since it’s really about reminding myself about the importance of eating local, the dates are arbitrary. I’m sure it will be interesting, especially since I don’t really know all of the local farms and brands and shops, but there’s no better way to learn than a challenge!

So I guess that tomorrow I’ll stop by the Stirling Farmers’ Market and the local deli to see what they have on hand to help me succeed. Wish me luck! (And join along if you want!)

[Speaking of ethical, the photo with this story was taken from my sister’s blog without her permission, but with assumed consent.]

Making do; Part 2

Back in November I talked about the practice of ‘making do’ in my efforts to host a Thanksgiving dinner for friends. I was really pleased that all of that making do worked out, especially since I’ve found myself needing to make do again. But this time, making do had nothing to do with food. Instead, I found myself having to make do with what I had to wrapping parcels.

For years, I collected used gift bags and tissue paper, bows and ribbons, and even wrapping paper and boxes. I had it all neatly organised so that I could easily wrap up gifts for family and friends. I had such a selection of stuff that I almost always found the right size bag, box, or used bit of paper for everything. But when I moved, I passed on my collection to my baby sister, Royann. And that means there isn’t an awe-inspiring collection of wrapping supplies tucked away in the hall closet. (I hope she appreciates the time it took me to amass such a collection, and I hope she’s using the supplies whilst continuing to replenish them with her own reclaimed materials!)

Then yesterday I found myself looking at purchasing wrapping paper, shipping boxes, and bubble wrap for sending parcels home for Christmas. And I have to admit that as I stood there looking at the available stock in the shops made me sad as I recalled (once again) all of the stuff (i.e.: clutter) I had to leave behind when I ventured out for this new future of mine.

So I went home empty-handed. No, really. I went home with nothing because the idea of having to buy those things broke my heart. When I got home, however, I started to look at what I had. I had printer paper and coloured pencils, so I would make wrapping paper. (I didn’t.) I had a few boxes from things I bought when I moved into my flat—but they were all either too big or too small. And I had some wrapping paper from a lovely housewarming gift that Rebecca gave me.

Ah! And I had scissors and a bag filled with plastic bags (from before I got my re-usable ones). And with that, I got to work.

It seems that the gifts I bought for my nieces and nephews were small enough to be placed in envelopes with their Christmas cards and there was just enough of that wrapping paper from Rebecca for the gifts I got for my folks and my lovely [former] foster daughter. Then, I found a used (but usable) padded envelope that was large enough for my foster daughter’s gift to fit in. But I was having trouble finding a box for the stuff for my nieces, nephews, and parents (it was all being shipped to the folks’ place to save on costs).

But wait! Who needs a box to be the ‘right’ size when you have scissors? It seemed to me that there was a box that could be the perfect size—if I cut it down a bit. And padding? Well, since the nieces and nephews’ gifts aren’t breakable, they got to help provide protection for the folks’ gifts, along with some crumpled plastic bags (which I know the folks will recycle on my behalf).

And that’s it. I had to buy some packing tape, but that’s something I can’t really re-use anyhow.

Of course, now I need to figure out how I will wrap the rest of my gifts. But since they didn’t need to go to the post office for international shipping, I can give myself a few days to scrounge around. And there is still that printer paper and coloured pencils if all else fails!

Wants versus needs

Once again, I wanted to spend the day inside, hiding away from the world. I wanted to sit in and sulk and cry and feel sorry for myself. I don’t know why I feel this way, but I imagine that it has a lot to do with the sadness of facing another holiday season without Paul. I imagine it has a lot to do with the loneliness I feel when there’s no one to share my life with; no one to share my dreams with.

But as much as I wanted to sit inside and pretend that the world wasn’t out there waiting for me, I knew that I needed to go and participate in life today.

And I did. I managed to get out of bed and brush my teeth. I managed to make a cup of coffee and take a shower. And I managed to walk into town to meet Rebecca for a cup of coffee and a natter.

In fact, I even managed to make my way further into town to buy a couple of Christmas gifts for my [former] foster daughter back in America. And I managed to treat myself to some fresh olives from the farmers’ market on the way home.

But I did it all without the true joy and excitement the activities deserved. I did it all with a touch of apathy. And now I’m sitting in my living room once again.

I want to put on my PJs and sulk on the couch. I want to block out the world and be miserable. I want to go to bed early and cry myself to sleep.

But I know that I need to stop thinking about those wants. I need to put on my shoes and put on a smile and go out again. After all, it’s Cocktail Night and I need to be at The Junk Rooms for Cocktail Night. I need to be there because it will remind me that there is a world outside of my flat. A world that’s filled with friends and laughter and smiles.

Delivered

I am one of those weird people who enjoys grocery shopping. I start in the produce section and take great effort to select the best fresh fruits and vegetables. Then I wander up and down every aisle—with my list in hand—looking for great bargains. Most trips see me grabbing a few items not on the list, but items that are on sale and that I use regularly. And since I’m shopping with a list that’s based on a pre-determined menu, I end up with loads of great food that will actually make for some great meals when I get home.

Oh wait! I lied! I rarely go up and down every aisle. I avoid the one with the sodas and shelf-stable juices because I don’t really drink those things. And I avoid the one with the crisps (that’s chips to translate to American) because I am a weak woman when it comes to savoury snacks.

But I digress… (That happens often, doesn’t it?)

I learned when I lived in Edinburgh that grocery shopping without a car is not fun. Or rather, the shopping bit is fun but the part where you have to get the stuff home kind of sucks. Especially if you live in a top floor flat! So I did this thing where I would walk to the store (a mile+ away) then I’d take a taxi home for about 5. But I still had to lug everything upstairs to my 2nd floor flat (that’s the 3rd floor in America).

And then I discovered Tesco delivery!

When I moved to Stirling I decided that I would have my groceries delivered again. Only it took me a while to get everything sorted—mostly because I needed a new bank card since the one I had wasn’t working for online payments. But my new card came in the post over the weekend and I put it to the test!

And, well, it seems to have worked! I placed an order yesterday afternoon and took the first delivery spot they had this morning—which meant that by 9:30 I had my groceries delivered and put away!

The cool thing about this is that it took way less time than shopping myself, I didn’t have to lug everything up the stairs to my 3rd floor flat (that’s the 4th floor in America), the delivery fee was half the cost of a taxi ride home, and I didn’t end up with impulse buys that I really didn’t need—which means I saved money in the end!

So, what’s on the menu for this week? Well, there will be a feta-asparagus-potato-tomato bake thingy this evening, a Caesar salad tomorrow, baked chicken with mushroom risotto the next day, pasta with fresh tomatoes and artichoke hearts the day after that, and maybe a baked potato with a fresh salad the day after that. And plenty of fresh fruit, granola, and yoghurt for breakfast all week, too.

But I didn’t buy any wine this time, so if you’re going to invite yourself around for one of these fabulous meals, you’ll need to bring a bottle to share!

If the shoe fits

I’ve been experimenting with footwear since my return to Scotland. Yep, it’s heels for this redneck, if you can believe it.

I admit, it’s a bit tricky at times because I still wobble a bit (and that’s with fairly short and chunky heels!) but I’m getting better and I almost feel like a semi-pro! But the biggest bonus is that I feel good! I know it sounds silly, but the dress code here tends to be a bit smarter than the homeland for everyday wear, and I feel good when I am dressed up that little bit more.

But that’s not the point, so I’ll move on now.

The point is that my feet are suffering! They don’t hurt but they are suffering. You see, I’ve always worn sensible, well-fitting shoes without heels. And that meant that I’ve always had pretty feet. Well, not so much as a child because I insisted on wearing shoes that were too small because I didn’t like shoe shopping. Not that I like it anymore now. But I digress. Again…

Back to the point: The bottoms of my feet are starting to get a couple of spots with not-so-soft skin. And I need to figure out how to fix that, whilst still wearing pretty shoes. And since I can’t afford professional pedicures at the moment, I’ll need to figure out how to fix it on my own.

For starters, I am using a heavy lotion before I go to bed, covering my feet with socks as I sleep so as to not get the bedding all lotion-y. I am also spending a bit more time making sure my toenails are trimmed nicely.

But the biggest solution, I imagine, is going to be finding the right shoes and the right inserts. And that, sadly, means shoe shopping. (I think I know someone who can help with that!)

Of course, the other solution would be to return to my redneck roots and just wear casual trainers everywhere.

Comfort zones

There is something to be said about the comforts of home. Your own bed; your favourite chair; knowing where all the gadgets are in the kitchen; understanding the intricacies of just how to turn the knobs in the shower so that you have the right temperature and the right pressure. Yes, there is something to be said about the comforts of home.

When you’re surrounded by the comforts of home, you truly are in your comfort zone.

Of course, after you’ve sold your bed, put your favourite chair in storage, and moved into a new flat (in a new country) where you haven’t figured out the kitchen layout or the workings of the shower—let alone how to walk down the road—you don’t always feel as if you’re in your comfort zone.

One of the common things with being an expat is finding yourself outside your comfort zone. Maybe not in that ‘makes your skin crawl’ kind of way, but (for me at least) in that ‘I don’t fully understand the way this works and everyone must think I’m an alien’ kind of way.

Grocery stores are one of those situations for me. They are just different here. The produce is displayed differently. All of the foods I like aren’t available, and many are in different packaging so I don’t always realise that they are there. The eggs are not in a cooler—they just sit there on a room-temperature shelf. The aisles are chaos. You have to pack your own groceries. And, in some places, you have to put a £1 coin in a slot just to get a shopping cart. Er, I mean a trolley. (But you get the coin back when/if you return the trolley to its home.)

So there you go. When I’m grocery shopping in the UK I am outside my comfort zone. I’m getting better at it—and I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was 10 years ago—but I am always aware that I’m not in the homeland.

Ah! But there is a grocery store where I feel at home. It’s called Lupe Pintos and they have a shop in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I first found it 10 years ago and I fell in love! You see, they are a North American import store. You want American or Mexican groceries? This is where you go.

And when I go, I recognise the brands and the packaging. They have Lipton Onion soup mix. They have Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. They have Stove Top and Libby’s and Bisquick and A&W and Old El Paso and hominy and yams and all sorts of other goodies that I love, love, love. In fact, they have more stuff there now than they did 10 years ago. And apparently the Glasgow store is much larger than the Edinburgh one.

It’s so nice to be able to walk into a shop and just grab the items you want without having to hem and haw over if it will be ‘close enough’ to the American version. Now, often times it really doesn’t matter, but sometimes, you really want those home comforts. And isn’t it nice that there’s a place that sells them? A place where I feel like I’m in my comfort zone…

Coming home

I got the keys to my new flat this morning and have spent the day traipsing up and down several flights of stairs to get my belongs moved in—and more trips up and down to get groceries and bedding and a few other bits-and-bobs in.

There’s still lots and lots of unpacking to do. And there is still lots and lots of stuff to buy to make this place a home. But I’m sure it will be fun getting it all put together.

It’s a bit strange being in my own place now, but I think it’s going to be OK. Of course, since Rebecca is just around the corner, it’s not like I’ll be living in isolation!

I am going to resist the urge to write a long and boring description of my new flat. Instead, I’m just going to let you see it for yourself! And whilst you’re doing that, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine to celebrate coming home.

Budgeting

Before I graduated from university money was tight. My adult life, until shortly before I got married, was spent not spending money. No, really. Money was so tight that a $5 banking error could have meant complete destruction. I relied on the good will (and good cooking) of family and friends to pad out my grocery budget (I rarely turned down a free meal!). On more than one occasion, I had to call the power company to get my electricity turned back on. I had to cancel my phone. I didn’t have cable TV. I didn’t own a car for a while.

Or, to put it another way, I lived on such a meagre income that there wasn’t even enough money to make a budget, let alone live by one!

But the lessons I learned about pinching pennies and denying myself luxuries like haircuts, clothes, and shoes meant that when I finally had a healthy income, I had more money than I knew what to do with. And that meant that my savings account grew, and that my spending increased. Oh yes, I had disposable income. And I used it!

And when I decided to quit my job and return to Scotland for graduate school, I used those early penny pinching skills to pad out my savings account. Of course, now I’m back in scarily familiar territory again: I’m poor! I have no income and I have a limited budget. So, once again, I have to pinch pennies and deny myself luxuries.

Thankfully, I’m prepared. For nearly two years I’ve prepared myself emotionally and financially for this adventure. But I fear that no amount of preparation will stave off the fears I have about things not working out the way I want them to.

I am constantly fearful that I’ve done the maths wrong or that I’m kidding myself about how much things will cost. I am also aware that, with no income, the money I spend will not be replenished and I fear that watching my bank balance decrease over the next several months will cause me to be a little over cautious with my money. Yes, I fear that I will start denying myself too many things, in an effort to hold on to as much of my money as I can!

All of that said, I am not broke. I can afford this adventure. And if everything does go wrong, I have the option of moving back to my parents with my tail between my legs.

And so, I’ve managed to work out a new budget for the next year. And I’ve done it in part by looking at emotional triggers. Like I knew that living in a squalid rat trap would make me sad, so I’ve put a bit more money towards my housing budget than I originally planned. And I know that I like some of the finer foods, so I’ve increased my food budget so that I can have fresh salmon and quality steaks for dinner from time-to-time.

But those higher budgets mean that I have to sacrifice a bit elsewhere. I will have to scrimp on things like weekend city breaks. My clothing budget has been slashed (not that it was ever that high in the first place). My booze budget is almost gone—no more fine wines, premium beers, expensive Scotch (sorry, whisky), or fine Cognacs.

It’s not really a complaint. I mean, I’m the one who chose this path. I’m the one who made the decision to give up her middle class lifestyle. I’m the one who decided to take this adventure out of the dreaming stage and into reality. And I’m mostly excited about it. I just need to re-learn what it’s like to be on a strict budget. And I need to try not to let it make me sad!

As I said, I’m not really broke nor will I be forced to eat rotting food ‘salvaged’ from back-alley Dumpsters. It’s just that I can’t decide—on a whim—to buy the latest-and-greatest gadget or that really pretty green dress that’s not even on the sale rack.  And I will be looking for occasional work to help my budget—and to allow me splurges from time-to-time. [I’ll put in a quick plug for my freelance gig. You know, just in case you have someone to recommend me to!]

So, now that I’m just over a week away from moving into my new flat, I need to really remember to stick to that new budget! And that’s where you come in! I’d love to hear any great ideas for living on a budget—including ideas for entertainment and home decorating. And great ideas for recipes for cheap food that looks and tastes expensive!

Yeah, I’m looking forward to having a proper income again so that I can splurge on things like name brand shampoo!

Rationalised spending

Yesterday was meant to be my last training run before my first (and last) ever marathon next Sunday. Only plans got changed. As they do.

So instead of being all fit and athletic and stuff, I went to the antique mall (do they call them that here in Scotland?). After all, I do have to find new old things, since I left so many of my old things behind when I moved.

I looked at handbags and drooled. But then I remembered that I am on a budget and can’t rationalise spending £85 on a vintage handbag—no matter how awesome it was.

But then I looked at a stack of handkerchiefs (something I like to collect as much as handbags) and figured that since I’m back living in my lovely home of Scotland where there’s lots of rain, it would make sense to have a few spare hankies, which meant that I could easily rationalise spending £6 on three pretty little embroidered hankies.

And since my friend, Sharon, always wants to see photos of my latest vintage finds, this post is really all for her!!

Reflections

The home I had in America was my dream home. Paul and I spent more than two years searching for the perfect place to raise a family and I remember how we both just knew this little yellow house was the place from the moment we walked through the front door. A month or so later we were handed the keys and after that we started making the place our own.

We tore out the carpets to let the hardwood floors shine like they were meant to; we painted the walls; and we refinished an Art Deco table for the dining room. And we started to search for bits and bobs to make our house our home. One of the things we were searching for was a mirror—something large enough to fit over the seven-foot fireplace mantle.

As we began our search, we looked for something with a simple frame in a black or white finish. Like really, really simple. But we didn’t find what we wanted straight away so we began to look for something with a bit of flare to it. But not something gaudy or ostentatious—something simple and classy to compliment the Art Deco/Craftsman designs of the house.

Then it happened—we stopped into our favourite back road antique store (the one I talked about before) and we found the perfect mirror. It was tucked behind a pile of picture frames that were tossed haphazardly in a corner behind a broken down table. It wasn’t anywhere near what we were looking for, but we knew instantly that it was the one we wanted.

So we went from searching for a modern, simple wood framed mirror to falling in love with mirror framed with one of those gold-and-gaudy frames that you see in stuffy old art museums. But it worked. It really did. In fact, I think it worked better than anything else ever could have because it clashed in just the right way.

I remember when I first started thinking about leaving my home and my lovely treasures for my return to Scotland. I remember thinking that I would miss my table and my mirror so much, and I remember thinking that it would be so hard to part with them—and so many other pieces. I also remember thinking that I wanted them to go to people who would love them like I did, but I also knew that there was no way I could guarantee that would happen.

Then my friend, Amy, posted a picture of her mantle on her blog and asked others about how they decorated theirs. So I shared a picture of my mantle from my first Christmas in my home and Amy mentioned that she quite liked it—assuming it was either a family piece or an expensive piece. (It was neither.) But that made me realise that Amy would love the mirror as much as I did and that she would treasure it. So we met up for lunch just before I left the country so that I could pass on my treasured mirror to my treasured friend.

Anyhow, today Amy shared what she’s done with the mirror. She made it her own with a bit of spray paint and placed it in her newly redecorated bedroom where it looks incredible. It’s made me cry a bit to see my beloved mirror in someone else’s home, but it makes me happy at the same time because I always thought it would be happy in someone’s loving family home—and that’s where it is.

As for me, I’m planning to move into my new flat toward the end of October. And since the only mirror there is in the bathroom, maybe it’s time for me to find another perfect mirror for this new life of mine. I’m sure there will be plenty of funky little back road (or even main road?) antique stores to search in with friends on the weekends.

[Photo #1 is the photo of my mirror; Photo #2 is Amy’s mirror]

Honestly, I’ll keep blogging

It would seem that I’m not very good at this whole blogging thing of late, and I apologise for that. I suppose that it has a lot to do with the fact that I am no longer living in near isolation—meaning I have real life people to talk to—and that I have been running around quite a bit visiting family and friends and getting ready for the start of term. But I’ve been meaning to write, really.

In fact, on Saturday I had thought I might post about how I am re-learning the art of solo site seeing. It was something that I always did before I met Paul (and did with enjoyment at that time in my life) but it would seem that now that I’m seeing the sites on my own again—and not really by choice—that it can be a little sad. But then I got sidetracked after a rather upsetting conversation and thought I’d blog about that because I needed to vent, but really didn’t want to vent here. Then Rebecca came home (as a reminder, she’s the friend I’m staying with until I get my own flat) and instead of blogging my emotions, I vented to her. It was actually good to have a real-life person to vent to, but I felt bad about burdening her. (It really helped, too, but meant that I was so emotionally drained that it was all I could do to drink half a bottle of Champagne and watch Doctor Who before going to bed.)

So then I thought I might blog about Sunday. Rebecca and I took the train through to Glasgow to check out a craft fair and to do some vintage shopping (I had success at both activities!). We also took a side trip to find the house that a former work colleague’s grandmother lived in before moving to America. (Sadly, the house seems to have been torn down.) But by the time we got home it was time for me to Skype with one of my sisters and her kids and by the time we were done chatting I was beat and ready for an early night.

That brought me to Monday—the first day of the first semester for my postgraduate career. I had looked at a flat in the morning that I decided was perfect for me (I will update on the flat hunt later—maybe even today!) which meant that I was all smiles for my trek to campus. Once on campus I met with my programme director and was so excited to determine my modules—one of which felt as if it was designed especially for me! But when I got home, I was too busy sharing my exciting day with Rebecca whilst we pigged out on curry that I never got around to blogging.

And then yesterday I decided that I would share all the details about my degree and what I hoped to learn and study. I even started the post. But then I learned that the module I felt was designed for me was being cancelled because only two of us signed up for it. I have to say that I was completely gutted! So instead of telling you about my courses, I spent time thinking about what module to take instead. (It’s between two and I hope to know what to do by tomorrow.) I also spent the day getting books and reading materials for next week—and actually reading in preparation. And, again, I was too beat (and emotionally exhausted) to blog about it all.

Which brings us to this post: A post about the things I thought about posting about over the past few days but never did. (Really, it’s more to update my Mom and a few others who’ve indicated that they’d rather have boring ‘what I did today’ posts than no posts at all.)

Again, I’m going to get better at this; I think I just need to get a routine sorted out. After all, blogging really is a great outlet for me and I find my life is much calmer when I’m writing. So here are a few post topics you can look forward to over the next few weeks: My first Scottish race, my first marathon, my first day of classes, my new flat, Ian Rankin, and an anecdote or two about the differences between Scotland and my part of America. Yay!

[The image with this blog was created by me with the awesome Keepcalm-O-Matic. Yay, again!]

Running into excuses

So I’m training for this marathon. Only I’m not doing that great at the moment. Last week I was pretty pleased with myself: four miles on Monday; six miles on Wednesday; then 10 miles at the ocean on Saturday. And I made pretty good time with all three runs.

This week, I planned to do six miles on Wednesday and 10 miles on Friday (today) followed by a 14-mile run on Monday or Tuesday. But it’s all gone a bit wrong. You see, on my Wednesday run I was really pleased with how it was all going and was excited to see that my time was 3+ minutes better than the same run last Wednesday. And as I finished, I saw Dad’s bike parked out front, all loaded up for his overnight trip. So I grabbed one of the water bottles to quench my thirst. Only it wasn’t water, but rather white gas for his camp stove! Thankfully, I realised just as I was going to drink so whilst I did get a mouthful, I didn’t swallow. Also thankfully, there really was water in the other bottle to rinse my mouth with.

Then that night, my lower legs and feet were extremely swollen. Like really, really swollen. Now, I don’t know if the white gas incident had anything to do with it or if it was a combination of the run, the heat, and my lack of water intake. But last night my feet were a bit swollen, too. Again, I stopped to wonder if that was a white gas leftover, the heat, or a lack of water again.

Anyhow, today’s run was meant to be 10 miles, but I opted to turn a mile early for an eight mile run instead. And several things made me do that: 1) I hadn’t slept well the night before thanks to ‘Widow dreams’ (more on that tomorrow maybe); 2) my running clothes seemed to be ill-fitting, likely because they’d been going through the tumble dryer (will now air dry running gear); 3) my feet seemed unhappy; 4) the sun was beating down like mad; and 5) the winds were really strong on the return.

I think that everything combined made my determination waiver a bit. And when my mind was processing the previous night’s dreams, it just made the run even more miserable. So I’m two miles behind on my training now, but I know that I can catch up and will still get my 14-mile run in before my flight leaves.

And as to not leave with just excuses for a shorter-than-planned run, here are some solutions:

  • I am working to increase my water intake again. It’s really fallen since I stopped working.
  • I am looking into some better running clothes. I noticed today that it was too hot for the jacket I had (which is actually a golf jacket and not a proper running one) but the wind on my sweaty arms made it too cold not to have long sleeves. So a proper running coat and/or long sleeved top is needed!
  • I am going to try to get up earlier for my longer runs—like before the sun gets so hot. (Though I did start before 7:30 this morning, so maybe that won’t matter.)
  • I am going to get some new, more motivational music on my running iPod. The stuff I have is good, but I need new tunes!
  • I am going to just try harder!

I’m taking the weekend off since tonight and tomorrow night is class reunion stuff (my 20th is next year, but with such a small school we often combine a few years, since we all know each other so well!) and tomorrow morning I’m having a yard sale to try to get rid of some more stuff before my move. Oh, and Sunday is lunch with a friend in North Bend—about half a mile from the Nike store where I plan to get a new jacket and even look at new running shoes.

Then I suppose Monday I’ll have to pound pavement again… Yay for running!

Green means go

Today was Shiny New Gadget Day, which is always a celebratory day for me. And today’s gadget was a Dell Inspiron Mini 1012—a wee green computing machine!

It was a hard decision to get a new gadget as I’m trying to save every penny I can for my year of relative unemployment, but I decided that I really did need it to make my studies easier. My main laptop (a lovely, robust little HP called Happy) is great and will continue to be used, but she’s just too heavy for toting to-and-from classes. And with her limited (3-4 hours?) battery life, there is the added weight of her power cord. Add to that, I will be living car-less which means the long walk to campus, to the library, or to the coffee shop would just be too burdensome with the extra weight.

(Have I convinced you that I really did need to make this purchase yet? Because I feel I need to convince you that I need it so that my guilt will lessen…)

Anyhow, LittleGreen (that’s her name) is lightweight and can run about six hours on a full battery charge. She is quick and speedy and will run my graphic software with ease—though with her small size (just 10”) I won’t use her as my main design friend. I haven’t gotten a chance to bond with LittleGreen just yet, but we will soon. Oh yes, come tomorrow I’ll have set my preferences, downloaded Skype and TweetDeck, installed Office and Adobe Creative Suite, and networked her with Happy.

All just in time to pack up and take to the ocean this weekend!

(Yay!)

Playing make believe

Avid readers of Just Frances will remember that I shared my thankfulness for ‘make believe friends’ this past Thanksgiving. Well, it seems that my sister, Celeste, shared that story with her make believe friends at the same time. And one of those friends became a regular reader of my blog after that. Dawn began offering support and friendship through my blog and even found me on Facebook.

Well, this week Dawn is in Seattle as a tag-along spouse whilst her husband attends a conference. So she’s meeting her make believe friends in real life—and Celeste and I were first!

It really was interesting to meet with someone I’d only known online—but it seemed easy and very comfortable. Of course, I felt at ease with Dawn before meeting her, so that probably helped!

Now, not only was this Dawn’s first trip to Seattle, but it seems that it was Celeste’s first for many things, too, because she’s never really been a Seattle girl. So I was in tour guide heaven!

Our first stop was Starbucks #1, then we wandered across to Pike Place Market where we enjoyed the various booths and free samples—and watched with big smiles as they threw fish. Then, of course, it was down to Post Alley to stick our used chewing gum on the gum wall. (Really.)

Next up, we wandered along the Waterfront where I purchased a loaf of double sourdough bread from the Alaska Sourdough Bakery before we popped in to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop to see the mummies and three-headed pigs. (Really.)

Of course, all this wandering around made us hungry, so I had to introduce the girls to Dick’s Drive-In on Broadway. We all enjoyed Dick’s Deluxes, fries, and root beer, and then we were off to Volunteer Park where we enjoyed a walk around the conservatory and were pleasantly surprised to see a fantasy medieval-y battle group playing. Even better was that some of the players took time to talk to us about their group. (Really.)

Anyhow, it was a good day out and I’m glad to have gotten the chance to meet Dawn in real life.

Check out photos from the day here.

And check out a video from the battle people here!!

The table

Three weeks before we moved into our house, I found an Art Deco table on CraigsList for $20. I emailed the link to Paul then excitedly picked up the phone to talk to him about it. Looking at the photos, we both agreed that it was battered—after all, all of the four chairs were in pieces and the finish on the rest of the table was horrible at best! We also agreed that it would look fabulous in the Art-Deco-meets-Craftsman house we were in the process of buying.

With little effort, I convinced Paul that it would be a breeze to refinish, so we decided to get it, which meant transporting it to our temporary home in our Ford Focus and Honda CRX. I don’t know what a tighter fit was: Getting it into the two small cars or getting it into the hovel of an apartment we lived in for a month before moving into the house!

After we moved in to the house in mid-May we would sit out on the back patio in the evenings sanding away the old finish by hand. Each piece had to be taken apart and sanded separately, and then I carefully glued the chairs back together. The table legs were missing a couple of little fiddly bits, too, so my Daddy got to recreate them using the existing ones as a template.

Finally, in November, we began the process of staining the table. When, two weeks before Thanksgiving, it was done, we excitedly placed the table in the dining room. Then I stood back and commented about what a great job we’d done—especially since I’d never refinished anything before in my life!

At that moment, Paul looked at me in shock. He had assumed that since I insisted it would be an easy project that I’d actually done something like it before—and he remarked that had he known I’d not, he would have argued against getting the table. (I reminded him that I never said I’d done it before—I’d only said that it would be easy to do.) But I think that Paul was glad he didn’t have that bit of information because he loved the table and loved to tell the story about our amazing CraigsList find.

And a couple of weeks after it was done we had the table filled with family for Thanksgiving dinner—which fell on Paul’s birthday that year.

Yesterday, I sold that table (for more than $20, after all, it’s all pretty now!). It breaks my heart to say goodbye to the table where Paul and I sat to share meals and dreams together, but I am happy to know that someone new will get to enjoy it now. As for me, I don’t have the table any more, but I will always have the memories…

Lost voice messages

[Note: This post has nothing to do with phones or other technology.]

Just before bedtime on Sunday I started to feel a bit of a tickle in my throat and by the time I woke up Monday morning, my voice was gone. (I think the tickle stole it!) I was certain it would get better as the day went on so I headed into the office. Only my voice didn’t get better and I found myself sipping mint tea just to keep going.

By last night my body was beat so I went to bed early hoping that a good night’s sleep would coax my voice out of hiding. Instead, I had a miserable night’s sleep because my throat was so very sore and swollen that I was in too much pain for proper rest.

So this morning I woke once more only my voice was completely gone by this point—not a squeak to be heard—which meant sending an email to the office to let them know I wouldn’t be in. But I still needed to go to town to take my foster daughter to day care, which meant that I might as well stop by the doctor’s office. And since the kid had a ride home, I didn’t have to stick around when I was done.

Anyhow, the doctor says I don’t have strep throat, which is awesome. And that I have a platelet count of 100, which is almost unheard of for me, which is awesome. And since I was in town with a sore throat I took the opportunity to pick up a few messages. (Ah! There’s that word from the title…)

And when you have a sore throat and have lost your voice, you need to have think carefully about what sort of messages to get. I chose apple juice and lemon-lime soda, apple sauce, chicken noodle soup, and fresh raspberries (one pack didn’t survive the drive home). Oh, and just in case my voice comes back and my throat stops hurting, a bag of pretzels and some cheese-in-a-can.

But for now, I think I’ll pour a glass of apple juice and soda and attempt to kip for a couple of hours…

(Do you like how I’m starting to use more Scottish terminology in my blog?)

A happy-sad goodbye

One of my favourite bits of furniture was an old 1950s(ish) green padded sewing stool. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but I said goodbye to it today. Parting with my stuff is very hard, and I really thought that parting with this awesome little guy would be hard, too. But when I met its new owner in a parking lot this morning, I couldn’t help but smile.

I bought the stool about three years ago. It was on one of the many trips Paul and I took to ratty little antique shop on one of the winding Palouse back roads—and one of the many purchases we made there. The shop has a nice front room with everything nicely dusted and displayed, but they also have this back storage area that is more like the dumping ground for everything else. You have to climb over things and move things around to get to that one cool thing tucked in a corner. But it’s worth it!

One day we popped in on our way to Spokane and in the back room there was this awesome little green stool—without a price tag. I loved it and knew it would be great in my sewing room. We decided that we’d ask what the price was and we’d buy it if it was less than $25.

Well, it turns out that the shop’s owner had salvaged it the night before from the garbage heap in another small farming town a few miles away. He asked if we’d pay $5. And with that, this lovely new stool went from garbage heap to back room to a loving home.

It hurt to put the thing up on CraigsList, but I did so with a $20 price tag. A few hours later I got an excited email from a woman who was getting ready to move to the area to attend university, but she wanted to know if I’d hold it until August. I let her know I couldn’t so she made arrangements to make the six-hour drive to town this weekend to visit friends and look for an apartment.

I was a bit doubtful that someone would want this little stool so desperately, but after several emails I was convinced and we arranged to meet this morning. When I pulled the stool out from the trunk, the woman’s face lit up! She was so excited and couldn’t stop smiling. She seemed to love it at first sight the way I had loved it at first sight. She happily handed me the money and I smiled as she carted it away.

OK, I know it seems silly and all. But I feel better knowing that this stool that brought me so much joy is now bringing someone else joy. (Even if secretly her joy is that she knows it’s really worth $500 and is going to resell it!) Also, I was pleased to know that her move to the area is so that she can get her master’s degree—which is the same reason I’m moving away from the area.

I wish it were this easy to part with all of my stuff, but I know that there will be more tears than smiles for much of the process. I also wish I could make an awesome profit on everything like I did for this!

I’ve been Kindled!

I did it! I purchased a Kindle today. The 3G one. Yay me!

I opted to purchase it from Staples in Moscow because I didn’t want to wait a week for it to arrive from Amazon and because it was $3.40 cheaper because of the sales tax savings. (Yes; I’m that cheap. I mean, I was going to drop of clothes at Goodwill across the parking lot, so it wasn’t out of my way or anything.)

I also purchased my first Kindle book—Ian Rankin’sStrip Jack” for £4.99. Ah! Did you notice that pound sign? Well that’s because the book I wanted isn’t available for customers in America so I had to switch my country of choice to the UK. Which is cool since that will be my country of residence in less than three months’ time.

Anyhow, I need to go read now but I wanted to leave you with a couple of questions:

  • Is there something ironic about naming a book-reading device after a fire-related word?
  • If you purchase a re-furbished Kindle (or re-gift one) then does the Kindle become a Rekindle?
  • If you’re reading something electronically, can it even be said that you’re reading a book?

So, book suggestions welcome. Gifts of Kindle books are also welcome. [Enter cheeky smile here.]

Happy reading!

The dressing room

The thing I hate most about buying clothes (second only to parting with money) is trying on clothes. I hate trying on clothes. I hate it so much that if I don’t have success with my first trip to the dressing room, I will often call off my shopping trip and leave. But if I manage the (rare) treat of loving the first thing I try on, I can be encouraged to try on more stuff.

This hatred of trying on clothes is why I own so much old stuff. It fits, I know it fits, it’s comfortable, so I keep wearing it—despite current trends and styles.

But (as is a common theme of this blog lately) I need to start getting rid of stuff. And that means going through all of my clothes and trying stuff on. All of it. After all, there’s no point in transporting something 6,000 miles only to find out it doesn’t fit quite right anymore.

Anyhow, I spent a few hours trying on clothes today. Lots and lots and lots of clothes. And what I’ve found is that I have a lot of clothes that I can ditch without concern. But there’s also a lot of clothes that I can’t seem to part with because I like them and I wear them—despite my owning them for more than a decade. But thanks to Facebook and a digital camera, I am able to get feedback on some things from my friends, which means that the ‘ditch’ pile has grown! (Which is OK.)

As an added bonus, I’ve made my foster daughter go through her clothes, too. I mean, she’s been growing like a weed since her arrival last August and she’ll be moving on to her permanent home soon. It would be unfair of me to send her there with ill-fitting rags. Right?

I made her get rid of jeans that were waaayyy too tight and ones with holes in the britches so she hates me now because she wanted to keep them. And I am evil for making her try on clothes. Bad foster mommy. Bad!

On the plus side, I’ve told her I’d take her shopping since her wardrobe has dwindled considerably because of the chore. She’s happy about that.

I suppose that I should confess at this point that I have yet to go through Paul’s clothes. I know it’s been more than two years, but I haven’t wanted to do it. A friend had [kind of] planned to come out and help, but it never happened so I have to do it alone. I’ve gotten as far as knowing that there are a couple of things I want to keep for myself and I’ve decided that I’ll offer up ties to nephews (and nieces) but I’m at a loss as to how to handle the rest of his clothes. But I’d best figure it out soon! Or maybe I just need to pack it away in storage bins. We’ll see…

Anyhow, it seems I have a lot of extra space in my closet now. And it seems that I’ll have a bit more space in my luggage for important things like gadgets and cough syrup. So that’s cool!

Specky four eyes

A lot has changed since I got my first pair of glasses nearly 30 years ago. (That’s glasses as in specs, not drinking vessels, to clarify for my UK readers.) Back then, ‘big’ was normal for glasses. Back then, my frames were massive and wholly dependent on my parents’ budget. (And they were wise enough to insure the suckers, too!) My frames remained rather large throughout the 1980s and well into the ’90s.

In the mid- to late-90s two things happened: I got my own insurance and I learned that, despite my extremely strong prescription, I could wear small frames. Added to that, my optometrist’s office offered specials for ‘buy one pair; get one 50 percent off’ which meant that I could, for the first time in my life, have sunglasses! Eventually, I found myself with several pair because my prescription didn’t change for a few years but my insurance kept paying for new glasses each year.

Ah, with all of those new, smaller glasses the world never looked better! [Pun intended.]

Anyhow (slowly getting to the point) I was long-past due for a new prescription so I went and had my eyes checked a couple of months ago and am now (finally) getting around to ordering glasses I can see through!

But thanks to insurance cuts (Only $150 for hardware? That’s madness!) and my imminent unemployment and future starving student status, I decided against getting new frames. Instead, I’m just updating the lenses in my last two pair of regular frames and my sunglasses. This way I have a spare pair of specks should anything happen to the other. Plus, since my new (soon to be former!) optometrist offers 30 percent off the cost of 2nd and 3rd sets, my total out-of-pocket expense is just $65! Which is about $85 less than I had budgeted, so I that Kindle with 3G is starting to sound a bit better…

Wait. If this post is about ordering three pair of glasses, shouldn’t the title be “Specky eight eyes”? Oh well, I’ve always said I was rubbish at math[s].

Oh, and I know I’m not showing you photos of the glasses, but I figured that you’ve been seeing the current ones (red frames) and the sunglasses for the last year+ of this blog and if you’ve looked at older photos (pre-November 2008) you’ve seen the others. And you’ll get to see them all again and again and again so you don’t need to see them now. (Yay! Can you feel the suspense building?)

Taking stock

I have an alcohol problem. A big, big alcohol problem. But it’s not because I drink too much—it’s because I drink too little!

You see, Paul and I began this amazing booze collection when we got married with the idea that any time we had guests we could offer them a drink and we’d have what they wanted on hand. We had a well-stocked bar indeed! Ouzo, light rum, dark rum, a variety of schnapps, vodka, gin, bourbons, whiskeys, Scotch, mixers… And then there was the wine collection.

Sure, I’ve had a few drinks since Paul died, but I continued to save the ‘good wines’ for special occasions and have just bought mid-range ($25 or less) wines when I fancied a glass. And I’ve bought a bottle of vodka for my Martinis—but I don’t seem to be drinking mixed drinks now that I have a foster kid in the house. Which means that my fancy drinks are just sitting there waiting to be loved.

And now I have loads and loads of booze and there is no way I can drink it all in between now and my departure.

So I took a quick scan through the collection to determine what to do. And I’ve decided that I’m going to start enjoying my fancy wines a bit. I’m not saving that $80 bottle of awesome Washington State wine for a special occasion because I don’t plan to be here long enough for a special occasion. And I’m not going to save my collection of ‘favourite’ Washington reds for a friend’s visit, because I don’t expect any friends to visit.

Please don’t think this means that I’m going to become a raging alcoholic. No, I don’t plan to increase my consumption; I just plan to start consuming the good stuff. And I’m going to start with the best and work my way down the ladder. And how lucky am I that all of my booze and wine is good stuff because I’m a bit of a drinks snob?!

What does all of this mean to you? Well, it means if you want to drink some of my best booze and wine, you’d best come visit! And if you’re one of the people waiting for me to leave in the hopes of inheriting my stash, just know that you’ll be getting the bottom of my barrel.

Sláinte!

Bug gear

I had a post all ready about how beat tired I was and it was only Monday. But I’m not going to post it because my stress and exhaustion is nothing compared to what my niece is going through right now.

So instead, I’m going to give a plug for the new Team Buggie CafePress site so that you can go buy some Bug Gear if you want.

Bug heads to Seattle in the morning for her first week of chemotherapy. I’m sure she’d appreciate all the prayers and good thoughts you have to spare. Maybe some for her folks and sister who are all exhausted and stressed, too.

I love ya, Bug! xx

If the dress fits

At some point I am going to need to go through all of my clothes and ditch the old stuff in preparation for my move. But today isn’t that day.

It is, however, the day that I happened across the dress that I wore for my high school graduation way back in 1992.

So I did what any 37-year-old woman would do 19 years after graduation—I tried on the dress. And it fit.

I have several dresses from high school and my 20s that I’ve saved. It may seem strange to have kept them—knowing full-well I’ll never wear them again—but I just know how upset I am that my mom get rid of her awesome clothes from the 60s and 70s. The few pieces that she kept I’ve managed to borrow on occasion (and I’ve been given a couple, too) but there are some dresses I’ve seen in old photos that I’m so distraught over not being able to steal borrow.

Which brings me to why I’ve saved my ‘best’ dresses from the past: So that I can one day pass them on to my daughter. Of course, as a childless widow, the chances of that happening are now slimmer than ever before. So instead, I hope to one day pass them on to my nieces. Only, I don’t know that they’ll want them.

Oh, what a dilemma!

But, all of that said, since the dresses seem to fit—and since the 90s seem to be coming back in style—maybe I should start wearing them again?

No, wait. I think I remember some rule that goes something like: ‘If you wore it when it was fashionable the first time around, you’re not allowed to wear it when it becomes retro-awesome.’

Oh well. Anyone want some awesome dresses from the 1990s for their daughters? …

With this ring

The last thing I expected from Paul when we took a mini-break to Venice back in spring 2004 was an engagement ring. I mean, I thought we were heading that way, but I didn’t expect the question right then. (But I said yes without skipping a beat!)

I remember the feeling of pride looking at that ring in the year in between our engagement and our wedding. And I remember the immense feelings of joy when my engagement ring was joined with a wedding band.

Paul and I would sit curled up on the couch together sometimes just looking at our rings. We would smile when we’d hold hands and our bands would clink together. Sometimes, we’d just clink them together for the sound—and we’d giggle and beam with joy. (I know: Extremely sappy! Funnily, we’d have mocked others for doing the same thing; which is why we only did it in the privacy of our own home.)

We were going to wear our rings forever—until death do us part and all that. And we were young(ish) and healthy and planned to live a very, very long time. So you can imagine the heartbreak when less than four years later Paul’s ring was removed from his finger in the funeral home. When it was handed to me, I slipped it onto my finger where it remained until yesterday.

In the beginning, I told myself that I would wear all three rings forever. I felt a connection of sorts with them there together. The diamond setting on my engagement ring kept Paul’s wedding band securely in place, but because it was so much bigger than my finger, the ring would clink and clank around when I moved my hand. I found a bit of morbid comfort in that sound.

But, also from the beginning, I knew that my wearing his ring made others uncomfortable. Some people even made comments about it being time to remove my rings—and after the ‘one year mark’ a couple people were quite adamant that it was time to do so. But I wasn’t ready. (I wanted to ask them how long they’d worn their rings after losing their spouse, but I didn’t think that they’d see the ironic humour in the question, since their spouses were still living.)

Later, I decided that maybe it was time I set aside the rings—despite the fact that I wasn’t ready. I thought that maybe it would be symbolic or something. So I started looking at ‘widow rings’ since I’d been hearing so much about them. But the thought of setting my wedding rings aside for a black diamond to symbolize the end of my marriage seemed wrong. Very, very wrong.

So instead I started to research nice claddagh bands. Something that would be meaningful to me, but not [hopefully] elicit questions like a black diamond on my wedding finger would cause. Something substantial that could replace all three rings. But nothing seemed good enough.

The urgency to find a new ring became clear a couple of months ago when I noticed that the rings were starting to get a bit worn because they were clinking together all the time. I became concerned that it would soon ruin the setting on my engagement ring, or potentially the diamond itself. And I could already see how the platinum was wearing.

Then a couple of weeks ago—after a considerable amount of research and soul-searching—I finally ordered a new ring. A simple band with a claddagh engraved in the metal. I decided that it would be my birthday gift to myself.

But when it came in the post a few days ago, I realised that I wasn’t actually ready or willing to give up wearing my rings. So I tried on the new ring with my wedding set and felt that I could live with that. But I wasn’t ready to make the commitment just yet, so I put the new band away and put Paul’s ring back on my finger.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I opened the box with the new ring once again and stared at it, wondering if I could actually bring myself to remove Paul’s ring for good. I felt so torn, but I knew that I needed to put this new ring on my finger. So I placed it in between Paul’s ring and mine and wore it that way for a couple of hours.

Finally, after I’d taken my foster daughter to day care, I thought I’d give it a shot without Paul’s ring. I removed all of the rings and placed Paul’s on top of his jewellery box before putting the new ring and my wedding rings back on. Then I went to take a shower. And I cried and cried and cried.

It dawned on me that we put so much ceremony into placing an engagement ring or wedding ring on our fingers, but there isn’t a ceremony to mark their removal. After all, there is nothing to celebrate, is there?

I don’t know how I really feel about removing Paul’s ring. I know it doesn’t feel good, but I also don’t feel completely hysterical about it, either. I also can’t promise that next week I won’t put Paul’s ring back on my finger. I suppose that I’ll just do whatever feels right.

As for my own wedding rings, I don’t know how long I’ll wear them. When I first put them on I had all intentions of wearing them for the rest of my life. And maybe I will. Or maybe I won’t. But for now, I can’t bear the thought of being without them. After all, in my heart I am still very much married.

Who knew that a simple piece of jewellery could cause so much thought and so much grief!?

Tree time

With less than two weeks before Christmas, I am trying to get into the spirit. I’ll admit it’s difficult, but I am trying.

I had planned to bring out all of my decorations this morning but when it came right down to it, I guess I’m not ready to display those memories this year. So, this afternoon I loaded the kid up and we went to town to buy a new tree.

We decided that we would get a small tree that could go on the plant stand and were pleased to find one that had pinecones and fake berries already on the tree. That meant we just needed to get a small package of bobbles and some pretty garland to finish it off.

The kid made a lovely star to top the tree and did all the decorating herself. (After I tied string onto the bobbles.) She was extremely pleased with the tree—and even more pleased to know that it’s her tree that she can take with her when she decides she’s sick of living with me.

I know it’s not a big, traditional tree, but we decided it works for us. Plus, the kid liked the idea that because it’s her tree (and more importantly, doesn’t have my precious ornaments from my childhood) she can re-arrange it as often as she wants. She’s just not allowed to touch the presents under it!

Oh! And for those wondering, I have managed enough Christmas spirit to make cards and write my annual letter this year. (Can I call it an annual letter, having missed last year’s?) Anyhow, if you’re on my list, expect it in the post soon because I’m heading out to mail them tomorrow.

If you’re not on my list, please know that it’s nothing personal and I still think you’re awesome! (And it’s really just a re-hash of things you’ve read here, so you’re not missing anything!) BUT, I will post a picture of the card later for all of my curious readers!

So tree and cards are sorted. Now I suppose I’d best go buy some gifts, since I’ve yet to even think about that!

Fashion-less

I don’t know a thing about fashion, nor do I care. And this is how bad I am:

Today, I bought a pretty sweater because I love the colour. A colour Paul would have hated! (Bile green, he’d have called it.) It was on sale though, and I liked it. And it was buy one, get one 50% off, so I bought another one, too. (But a different colour and one that Paul may have approved of.)

But the sweaters are too snug for regular jeans which are lumpy with loops and buttons and pockets, so I decided I’d wear them with my bargain £10 jeggins I got at Primark last year.

And the only shoes I have for my jeggins are a pair of fake Prada’s that I got on sale a couple of years ago. Only the black plastic ‘pleather’ stuff is peeling off the heels. And I can’t find my black electrical tape, so I am colouring in the cheap white plastic underneath with a black marker.

And for all of this, the only name brand item—and one I’ll have paid full price for—is the Sharpie. Yes folks, only name brand office supplies for this geek!

I know I will probably look ridiculous in my get-up, but if it’s comfortable, I don’t care. And if you don’t like it, just don’t look at me.

Hooked

I work full time. I parent an 11-year-old foster kid. I have a house that requires my care and attention. I have applications to complete for entrance to a postgraduate program. I have this amazing blog to keep up with. And I have the full-time occupation of being completely awesome. (And there are loads of other tasks and responsibilities I’ve not listed, like the chore of being extremely modest all the time…)

Oh, and I have a queen-sized afghan and a baby blanket that I’m busy crocheting.

So, you’d think that I’d recognize that I have enough on my plate, right?

Wrong!

On a trip to the big city yesterday I purchased yarn for two new projects. Both of which I need to finish by Christmas. One is a purple scarf (started last night) and the other is a twin-sized purple and green ripple afghan. I know it seems silly, but the kid just loves the queen-sized afghan I’m working on and has also admired my hand-crocheted scarves.

Well, I guess I’m just a sucker because now I’m busy making Christmas pressies for the kid after she goes to bed. I hope she likes them. I really, really hope she does! (And don’t worry, she’ll get proper, store-bought rubbish, too!)

Handbag packrat

Ack! It’s happened again! I’ve become a handbag packrat. You know, those women who carry these massive bags around all the time that are loaded with rubbish they don’t need. And the reason they do that is simple: As inhabitants of the western world, we fill the space we have to capacity. (And if that’s still not enough, we just rent a storage unit somewhere on the outskirts of town!)

I am not generally a handbag packratter though. For three main reasons: I don’t wear makeup; I carry smaller, vintage bags most of the time; and I swap out my bags often.

But when I go on holiday I generally carry a shoulder bag so that I can toss my camera and any small purchases into the bag and my hands are free.

Anyhow, when I went to England at the start of the month, I grabbed a larger handbag so that I could have various bits and bobs with me on the plane. And when I got back I entered straight into a crazy world of work and foster mommy-ing and I never had time to switch my bag back over. Which meant that I did what inhabitants of the western world do and I filled the space to capacity.

Well, I’ve had enough and am now cleaning house. Or, rather, cleaning bag!

So, what was in the bag? Well…

  • Money floating loosely: £4.05 in coins; $3.25 in coins; and $6 in cash
  • Two iPods; 1 iPod headphone; and 1 iPod cable
  • A smart phone; a wireless mouse/pointer; and three thumb drives (total storage: 22 GB)
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum (four pieces of which were out of pack floating loose); a pack of Love Hearts; a pack of Giant SweetTarts; two tins of mints; three lollypops; a tea bag; and an apple
  • Three handkerchiefs; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A silver ring; two tooth pick flossy things; five safety pins; and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton and one teaspoon worth of sand, grit, and coal bits that must have come from the shell floating at the bottom of the bag
  • A large note book; a small Moleskin; two novels; a check book; and a filled check register
  • Fifteen envelopes filled with new bank cards, bank statements, bills, and a fun new art project
  • Four pens; a business card holder; and seven loose business cards
  • Eleven ponytail holders
  • Two empty gum wrappers and a partial wrapper from a pack of Mentos
  • A camera
  • A wallet with: Nine receipts that need to be reconciled; six business cards; a pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; eight bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes; $11 in cash; and $2.95 in coins

And now, I’ve cleared out the mess and transferred junk into one of my favourite vintage bags: A 1960s wicker bag with teal lining and brass handles and closures. This is a fun bag that I purchased when out shopping with my mommy shortly before I got married.

And its contents are:

  • A smart phone; a 16 GB thumb drive; and one iPod with headphones
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum; a pack of Love Hearts; a tin of mints; and three lollypops
  • One handkerchief; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A tooth pick flossy thing and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton (I’m taking it to Paul’s grave at the weekend, otherwise I wouldn’t still be carrying it—promise!)
  • A small Moleskin and a check book
  • Four pens and a business card holder
  • Two ponytail holders
  • A wallet with: A pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; four bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes and $17 in cash

Ah… that’s better. Still a bit too much clutter but much, much less than before! I wonder what bag I’ll pick to use next week… ?

Closer to a better tomorrow

Today’s quote from my “Be Good to Yourself” calendar came at just the right time. For a few weeks now I’ve been telling myself to get in gear and start working toward next year when I hope plan to attend graduate school in the UK.

Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.
~ Doug Firebaugh

I’ve been working on my applications and I’ve been thinking about the practicalities, but I’ve not actually done anything to get me closer to success.

One of the biggest hurdles (other than the required acceptance letter, of course) is the financial side of the issue. In short, I need to come up with about £24,000 ($36,000) for tuition and living expenses. That’s no small task. (In fairness, I’ll have about £9,000 of that once I finish filling out some tax refund forms for the UK, but that still leaves a £15,000 deficit!)

In an effort to curtail spending I’ve cut the cable and have opted to not buy a complete new wardrobe for the year (despite knowing that Paul would want me to) and will instead work with what I’ve got just adding a couple of pieces here-and-there.

I’ve also decided to trim my grocery budget drastically, which is going to be difficult because I’ve gotten used to buying higher-end foods over the past few years. But, I suppose that I need to get into practice if I’m going to be a starving student!

Anyhow, the main point is this:

I’ve just purchased a big container of Yuban coffee. The sale price was $2.99 per pound, compared to the $12 per pound I normally spend on fancy coffee. I have about three days’ worth of Pioneer Coffee left, and then I’ll have to start slumming it. I’m not really looking forward to this part of my higher education goal, but I suppose I need to cowgirl-up and get on with it.

Other money-saving plans include making more soups and casseroles instead of steaks and prawns; buying fresh flowers less often and instead finding pretty leaf-filled branches and other ‘free’ items from my yard to display on the mantel piece; and eating apples, pears, and other inexpensive fruits instead of expensive berries and exotic imported produce.

It feels a bit ironic to be taking the day’s “Be Good to Yourself” quote and interpreting it to mean depriving myself of lovely foods, but I’m playing the long game here so am happy to make the short-term sacrifice!

Tonight’s dinner: Left-over meat loaf w/ frozen veggies. Tomorrow: Beef stew made from a hodgepodge of left-overs from the freezer. Yum!

The cost of vanity

For more than a year I’ve been telling myself to get some really nice, quality face moisturizer because grief can really take a toll on your skin. Between the constant crying, the lack of sleep, and the absolutely rubbish diet, my once-smooth skin began to age in triple-time shortly after Paul died. I’m now crying considerably less and sleeping a little bit more – so much of the swollen eye issues are subsiding. But still, I’ve been feeling less than happy with my skin’s appearance, and whilst I know part of this is my poor diet of late, part of it is also the fact that I’m no longer in my early-20s. (I know. Hard to believe!)

Anyhow, knowing that having nice skin would make me happy, I put buying a nice lotion on my task list for my life goal of being blissfully happy. Well, the day after I posted the tasks for that goal, a friend commented about products that she uses and that a friend of hers uses. Which got me searching for other things available.

So when I was given the opportunity to drop my foster daughter off at her friend’s house for a couple of hours, I headed to the cosmetics counter at Macy*s. I was immediately pounced upon by the sales staff. (This was my first trip to a cosmetics counter. It was a bit scary and intimidating.) Thankfully, I’d read a bit about the various products online before heading out so I sort of kind of knew what I wanted because those girls started yakking on and on about this and that and totally lost me!

There were two brands I was interested in, and I chose based on the free gifts – which I know is silly, but as they’re both major international brands with excellent reputations, I didn’t figure I had much to lose. Brand #1’s free gift was makeup, which if you’ve read past posts, you’d know that doesn’t interest me. Brand #2’s free gift was six travel/trial-sized containers of other products, and a little toiletry bag – all of which I could get some use out of.

And so, I’ve gone from my (very good) Olay products (a night cream and a day cream – about $20 for both) to the (supposedly) superior Lancôme products. I paid nearly $75 for a nice night cream then got three small containers of day creams, a small eye cream, and two small containers of serum (I don’t really know what that means yet) along with a nice little bag to carry them in. Yay!

The best part? I get to mark something off of my task list! That deserves another ‘Yay’!

Correct-handed

Today is International Left-Handers’ Day. Yay! A whole day set aside to celebrate the awesomeness of being a lefty!

So, for my part of the celebration, I’ve made another ridiculous YouTube video. It’s a bit long (nearly eight minutes), but check it out to learn all about my prized left-handed possessions!

Wasn’t that fun? But, moving on…

Some interesting things to ponder:

  • Estimates vary on the percentage of left-handers in the world from a low of 5 percent to a high of 15 percent
  • Left-handers are made with 100% pure awesomeness
  • Left-handers are thought to have a higher likelihood of being dyslexic or of stuttering
  • Most left-handers draw figures facing to the right
  • Twenty percent of all Mensa members are left-handed
  • Left-handers are 100% beautiful
  • As seen from the North Pole, the Earth rotates to the left, counterclockwise, and proceeds to the left around the sun
  • International Left Hander’s Day was first celebrated on August 13, 1976
  • Everyone is born right handed, and only the greatest overcome it
  • Left-handers are made with 100% pure awesomeness (that fact deserved repeating)

Wanna purchase left-handed things? Here are some great resources to check out*:

Oh, and since it’s my blog, I have to give a shout out to some of my favorite lefties!

  • My Daddy, who taught me how to use my correct hand;
  • My bestest friend, Rachel;
  • My really cool nephew, Adrian;
  • My really cool nephew, Stephen;
  • My maternal uncles Fred and Joe;
  • And my favorite lefty ever, my amazingly-awesome husband, Paul, who loved how excited I got about this day every year!
  • (Oh, and a special mention to Ned Flanders and Kermit, too!)

So, again, Happy International Left-Handers’ Day!!

* I am merely providing links and cannot offer an endorsement on any of these outlets. I’ve never used them; I don’t receive any benefits from you using them. These were all found my searching the terms “left-handed products” in Google.

To market, to market

I was looking forward to the Moscow Farmers’ Market opening last year but Paul died before we ever made it there and I couldn’t bring myself to go alone until today. I suppose that it was easy to go today because I’ve gotten back into cooking and I was in need of beets and cabbage so that I could make borscht.

So when I woke up this morning, my first order of business was to swap out my handbag. (Well, first I had coffee and took a shower, but you get the point.) My bag of choice for traveling to the farmers’ market was a straw bag with shells and raffia – and a very long strap so that I had both hands free.

As I drove through Palouse on my way to Moscow, I realized that I’d not been to the fantastic little antique shop there in quite some time. And as I was tackling ‘firsts without Paul’ today, I figured I may as well tackle that one, too. It was a bit hard to walk in there alone – and harder still walking around knowing just what Paul would have looked at. He would have been disappointed that I didn’t buy as much as I did, but I was very pleased with the two lovely ‘new’ handkerchiefs I acquired: My first-ever round hankie with lovely blue flowers and a crisp, white linen one with handmade purple and green lace along the edge.

When I finally arrived at the farmers’ market, I was pleased with the selection of fresh produce and homemade breads and jams. But what impressed me more was that the booth selling hand-carved cooking utensils – including left-handed ones! The craftsman was a pleasure to speak with and I was especially excited to hear that he makes one left-handed piece for every three right-handed ones – and he’s always selling out of the lefty tools! Not bad when you know that the estimate is that less that 9 percent of the population is left-handed!

Oh, and I got some great beets, tomatoes, potatoes, and other such goodies, too. But – darn it! – I forgot to get onions so the borscht will have to wait until after my next trip to town! Despite this frustrating oversight, I’m going to call it an extremely successful day’s shopping!

Oh, and I don’t know about anyone else, but is it funny that I drove to Moscow for fixin’s for borscht? No? Must just be me…

Ugly thoughts

Many years ago, a friend came to visit me. She exclaimed excitedly that she’d been walking by a vintage clothing shop in Portland, Oregon, and in the window display she noticed the ugliest handbag she’d ever seen, which made her think of me. So she bought it for me as a gift. (This would not be the last time she made similar purchases for me, with similar statements.)

Now, you may think that I would be insulted by this statement, but over the years I’ve grown to realize that when people say that ugly, gaudy, ostentatious, or tacky accessories make them think of me, they mean it as a compliment, and I take it as one!

This is one of my largest vintage bags, measuring 10.5” across; 6.5” high; and 4.5” deep. (Add another 5” to the height with the handles.) It’s constructed of wicker then has a burlap over-lay on the front with Bakelite flowers attached to it. The handles and the top of the bag are made of a tortoise shell Bakelite with small brass tacks used to fasten it to the wicker underneath.

Anyhow… This bag won today’s bag grab because I was heading to the big-bad-city for a root canal (yay!) and thought I’d do a bit of shopping beforehand. One of the things I was shopping for was golf shoes which meant that I need to bring a pair of socks with me. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but most of my vintage bags are too small to accommodate socks. I also figured I’d take the opportunity to stop off at the little vintage shop “Finders Keepers” whilst in the area.

Sadly, the shoe shopping was a miserable failure (who knew it could be so difficult to find ladies’ golf shoes?) and some serious road construction in downtown Spokane meant I couldn’t get to the vintage shop. But, happily, three people gave me awesome compliments on my awesome bag. Which almost made up for the shopping failures and the root canal.

Go Wine!

Uncle Mike finally found his way to the Palouse for a day of wine tasting! (Can you believe it!?) He showed up Saturday evening and on Sunday morning we went into town to taste some of the finest wines the Palouse has to offer.

Our first stop was Merry Cellars in Pullman where we had a private tasting with winemaker Patrick Merry. I’d had a couple of their wines before but had never been to their winery for a full tasting so it was a fantastic opportunity to try everything they had to offer. And I think I’ve found a new varietal to add to my “favorites” list: Carmenere. It’s normally used as a blending grape, but I really did like it as a standalone. Yay!

Next up, we crossed over into Idaho to visit Camas Prairie Winery, where winemaker Stu Scott gave us a private tasting followed by a tour of the facilities. I’d been tasting there before and have always like the wines, but after learning that they are a “Clean Green” winery, recognized as a “Pollution Prevention Champion”, I’m even more impressed! Plus, I’m a fan of solar power and enjoyed the opportunity to see the solar panels installed on the roof of the building. [Oh, and Stu is retiring and wants to sell the business. If you want to buy it, tell him I sent you so that I can get the finder’s fee!]

For a third stop, we popped into the tasting room at Wawawai Canyon Winery along the Moscow-Pullman highway. I’d never had any of their wines so it was a real treat for me. Uncle Mike and the winemaker had a nice little chat about vineyards and pruning methods whilst I enjoyed the jazz music they had playing in the background.

Of course, because Uncle Mike is “in the biz” he got an industry discount. I was very pleased to have been extended the same discount for my own purchases, which helped to pad out my dwindling wine collection.

When we finally returned home, I gave Uncle Mike a quick haircut then we enjoyed a nice meal on the back patio with a couple bottles of wine.

The best part of the weekend – other than spending time with Uncle Mike, of course – was that he gave me a bottle of his own wine made with grapes from his vineyard. It’s not ready for market nor does it have a brand and label yet, but it’s some mighty fine wine.

Guess it’s time I head to Walla Walla to visit him next…

Green with envy

I got a new toy today. It’s a lovely new, bright, and shiny 4 GB iPod Shuffle. It’s a pretty shade of green with a personalized inscription.

Just Frances
100% Awesome
 

I purchased my first iPod last October. It’s fantastic, but it’s also rather large. I got the Classic (160 GB) with a view toward the future. I wanted to be able to put all of my music in one place so that when (if?) I manage to make it to the UK for my master’s degree I could take it with me and not have to faff around with 100s of CDs.

I totally love the Classic. I take it to work and plug it into my office speakers so that I can listen to music throughout the day. I’ve found that since Paul died, the music calms me and actually makes me more productive. Not necessarily more productive than I was before he died, but more productive than days when I don’t have music playing.

The problem with the Classic, however, is it’s size. It’s just too big for use when I’m running. And that’s why I needed a second iPod.

The Shuffle is great! It’s super small and clips right onto my clothing. It doesn’t hold as many songs, but it will hold more than enough of the “right kind” of music for running. Whilst the Classic is loaded with everything from bluegrass and jazz to rock and classical, the Shuffle is pretty much just for rock, 80s pop, and up-beat country.

Off to create a new play list for tomorrow morning’s run now. I think I’ll start with Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty

Yay for me!

I hope this doesn’t make you too green.

Designing woman

A while back, I decided that I wanted to purchase a new ring for myself. Something special; something that had a bit of meaning to me. I had a rough idea of what I wanted then started to do some looking around. My rough idea led me down several paths which took me through several changes from what I thought I wanted.

I’ve been sketching and clipping photos from catalogs to patch something together for a while. And now I know exactly what I want. (Well, mostly.)

But the problem is that no one seems to sell the ring I’ve imagined for myself.

Of course, I can’t accept that as an answer. And so now I am taking my design and searching for someone who can make it happen. Which is looking a bit difficult, too, because no one local seems to work with the materials I want – and no one local seems to have all the right skills and tools needed.

Yesterday I allowed myself to consider a temporary ring whilst I continued the search, but I can’t bring myself to do that. And so I’ll keep searching and searching for the solution. After all, I want what I want. And I’m willing to wait for it.

Ultimately, I may need to head into the city to find a jeweler with the skills to make what I want. Or give up on getting what I want. But that will never happen. I’m stubborn. I always get what I want. (Even if I later decide I didn’t want it after all.)

Distractions

I don’t know if it’s better to face things head-on or to find distractions, but personally I prefer the latter in many cases; today being one of those cases. So, instead of spending the day thinking about what I didn’t want to think about – the fact that my husband died before we made it to our 4th wedding anniversary, meaning that he wasn’t here to celebrate our 5th anniversary with me today – I’m distracting myself from my reality.

My first distraction was a golf lesson – my first of the year, and only my 4th ever. And it shows. But – wow! – I did really well! My goal for the summer is to work on my long game so today’s hour-long lesson was working on my drive. Afterward, I hit a bucket of balls on my own and managed to hit the ball further and straighter than I ever have before.

It may sound silly, but I as readied myself for each swing I talked to Paul and asked him to just help me out. Knowing that he hated golf, I have to think that he wasn’t helping so much as my asking was making me concentrate on my swing that little bit more. Either way, I actually looked like I knew what I was going! Bonus – two hours of my day was wasted away!

From there I headed into Moscow where I had nearly three hours to waste before my spa treatment. I hit the mall where I found a fantastic new ring (on sale!) and attempted to buy golf shoes. But apparently the local sports’ store doesn’t care ladies’ golf shoes. Weird. Then I sat in the little coffee shop with my laptop, a book, and a journal and wasted a bit more time before heading to the spa.

After an hour-long, extremely relaxing facial, it was back to Pullman for a manicure and pedicure – with my newly-purchased “A Oui Bit of Red”. The last time I treated myself like this was the day before my birthday, so it was certainly a long-overdue pampering session!

By the time I made it home it was time for a junk food feast and a few episodes of The West Wing, Season 4. Really, not a single one of these activities should have been on the calendar for me today, because May 21 is supposed to be a “we” day, not a “me” day. But as it’s Just Frances now, I suppose it’s OK that I change the way I spend the day. A bit of healthy distraction seems like a good way to do it. Though if I’m honest, I spent a lot of time thinking about the “we” days. Then, I always do…

A weekend at home

Weekends haven’t been the same since Paul died, but I’ve been determined to get back to spending them as normal as possible. Now that spring has finally sprung, I was thrilled to learn that I would have this weekend completely free. No work, no plans, no nothing. This is the sort of weekend that Paul and I liked best because we could spend it doing nothing – which basically meant doing all sorts of things!

Paul used to tell me to sit down and relax, but I just can’t resist working in the yard on a nice day. And then there are all the kitchen chores. And, of course, laundry and grocery shopping and running and… Sadly, now that Paul is gone I have to do his share of the work, too.

Anyhow, I managed to pack quite a bit in to the weekend – even though I didn’t get out of bed until after 10:00 a.m. each day! I’m certain you don’t really care for the details of my weekend, but since this is my blog, I get to pick the topic. And get to talk (or type) as much as I want. To that, I’ve created a photo album so that you can see just how I spent my weekend.

I’ve spared you the little details like checking Facebook every-so-often and personal hygiene tasks because, well, I don’t want to share everything with my fans!

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Modern mowing

I’m not a patient person. When I know what I want, I want it now. So, after breaking out the vintage mower yesterday and deciding it was time for an upgrade, I couldn’t think of much more throughout the day. I wanted my new toy. I wanted it today. And I wanted it cheap.

So after work I took a trip to Moscow to pick up my new mower. It was about $10 more than what I’d found online, but once you add shipping costs, it was cheaper. Plus, I got it instantly and didn’t have to stalk the UPS man.

My awesome new Scott’s Classic push reel took about 15 minutes to set up and has several height settings (1-3″). I took her out for a spin once she was done and it was great! She’s lighter and quieter than the old one and because the blades are new she cuts the grass a lot easier.

I’m very excited about my new toy – partly because push reels are so much better for the lawn (and environment) but partly because it’s going to be a great workout for my entire body and I might have my athletic tone back by the end of summer if I keep the lawn trimmed.

Retro mowing

When Paul and I bought our house two years ago, we decided that we wanted to continue our “hippy-granola-freak” lifestyle in our yard care efforts. So, I picked up the old (and I mean old!) lawn mower from my folks’ house the weekend we moved. The next weekend we spent the whole day out in the yard – and met pretty much every neighbor because people kept stopping by to offer use of their gas-powered mowers. Some offered to have their kids come by on the riding mowers, too. It was difficult for people to believe that we really wanted to use the relic mower!

Paul would tell people: “I asked my wife for a multi-gym and this is what I got!”

Last year the old mower never got used. Instead, in the days after Paul died the neighbors all started to care for the lawn. Every week or so, someone would come around on their riding mower and just take care of it for me.

I decided that I really need (and sort of want) to take care of it on my own this year. Between being sick and the bad weather, however, it was difficult to get out and mow. Luckily, someone has come by three times in the past several weeks to mow for me.

The weather was nice today, however, so I took out my trusty mower and mowed a good-sized section of the front yard. And – wow! – it was hard work! I think that I’ll have to mow a little bit each evening to keep up on it – or buy a new mower that’s easier to use.

We’d spoke about purchasing a new push reel mower last spring, and I think that I certainly need to do it this year. So… I think I’m going to check out Tri-State (Idaho’s Most Interesting Store) this weekend and see about buying a new-fangled old fashion mower. It will still be environmentally friendly, but it will be a lot lighter and a lot easier to use.

Here’s a link to the sorts of things I’m looking at. I am, of course, happy to listen to recommendations for which push reel is best!

(And yes, I know I’m crazy. But then, so does everyone else!)

Retail therapy

I’ve been feeling very sad and lonely the last few days so when my neighbor called to see if I wanted to drive into the city today to cheer me up, I was more than happy for the distraction. What I didn’t realize was that I would actually have a successful shopping day, which was an added cheer for the day! I know that Paul would be very pleased that I bought new clothes – and I even think that he’d have approved of some of it!

My retail therapy actually began yesterday when I purchased a new phone to replace the one I broke whilst on holiday in March. Everyone who knows me likely knows that a cool new gadget is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to my face – which is exactly what my new HTC Tilt2 has done. (Windows Mobile 6.5, if you wondered.)

When we took off for Spokane today, I don’t think that either of us actually planned to buy anything. I think we figured we’d check out a shop or two for plants or garden supplies, maybe grab some lunch, then head home. We got to the Northtown Mall and on our way in noticed a good sale and I was gently prodded to look at the summer dresses – so I did. And I found two that I really liked. And they were on sale. So I bought them.

At the next store, it was my neighbor who had the shopping success having found two great pairs of jeans (one of which was just $5!) and a new necklace. (I found a little over-shirt to wear with my pajamas and a small pair of silver earrings.)

On the way back to the car, we stumbled upon a new store in the mall that sells fantastic business-appropriate clothes and we decided that, as we were pretty much shopped out at that point, that we’d come up some other time to find some nice suits. But I managed to find a pair of denim capris and an amazingly-ugly jacket before we left.

With one more store ahead of us, we stopped in for nachos and margaritas for a re-charge session and to rest up a bit. Then we headed across the road to the golf store where I found a couple of pairs of shoes I like (but I didn’t have the right socks for trying on shoes). I also managed to buy a new pair of golf shorts – they are purple and green plaid and are truly ugly. But I’ve decided that I am going to create a golf look for myself of plaid bottoms and solid-colored tops. I know that I should spend more time working on my swing than looking for ugly clothes, but the swing is never going to improve, so that’s OK.

I really did enjoy the distraction of the day, and while it won’t fix the fact that I’ve come home to an empty house, it did mean that I didn’t sit around the house feeling sad all day. And now that I have all this nice summer clothes, I’m going to have to find excuses to leave the house every-so-often to show them off. I just wish that Paul was here to enjoy the benefit of having a gorgeous, well-dressed, sexy woman on his arm. (Yes, that’s meant to be describing me. I’ve taken a bit of creative license on that one, I know!)

Bit of Saturday shopping

The folks came to visit, so while Daddy went on a bike ride to Palouse and back, Mom and I headed to Moscow for some antique and book shopping. And I’ve totally scored!

I was actually looking for a “new” vintage handbag at the antique store but they didn’t have anything that I would actually use, and what’s the point in a cool, old handbag if it’s just going to sit in the closet? I did, however, manage to find a couple of new handkerchiefs – which is good because I am still suffering from a nasty cold. I also found a great ring. It’s a tiger’s eye set in silver and fits just right! I’d been looking for a tiger’s eye ring for a while, and since I wasn’t spending money on a handbag, I got something else for my hand instead!

When we finally made our way to the book store, Mom went in search of some cookbooks and I hit the discount CD racks. I used to love spending rainy Saturdays in Fopp looking through the racks and today reminded me of that. I really didn’t plan to buy anything, but Mom was taking her time so my hands slowly started to fill up. I got six CDs in total including Etta, Miles, Harry, and (because it was only 97¢) a Debbie Gibson CD (really!).

I know I should have stayed home to rest and recuperate a bit more, but I felt it would be unfair for Mom to have traveled all this way to just sit around… And I’m such a thoughtful daughter!

Butterflies

I saw this dress in a store window when in Seattle for meetings on Friday and can’t get it out of my mind. The store, Luly Yang Couture, was next to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, so there was no glimmer of hope that I could afford to even walk through the doors, let alone try on – or purchase – such a lovely dress. The dress is called “Monarch Butterfly” and is a silk taffeta corset and ball skirt, trimmed with ostrich feathers and Swarovski crystals. Price tag? $25,000.

Really. Only $25,000.

I can’t get this dress out of my mind, and am now on the search for a butterfly dress of my own. Maybe something a little more casual – and certainly something that doesn’t include a comma in the price tag. I don’t normally feel such a strong desire to own a dress, but imagine that it might have something to do with a life-long obsession with butterflies. One that saw me desiring a butterfly tattoo on my ankle when I was a teenager. But don’t worry, I grew out of that desire!*

Anyhow, if anyone wants to buy this for me, I’d be more than happy to receive the gift. If anyone wants to stitch a fake Monarch dress for me, I’ll happily send you my measurements!!

*This isn’t to confirm or deny the desire for other tattoos in other locations nor is it meant to confirm or deny the existence of tattoos on my person at this time.

The signs point west

I decided to take advantage of a 30-day free trial on NetFlix today in a quest to rent the movie Stone of Destiny, after learning of the conspiracy surrounding the stone over which Scottish Kings were traditionally crowned and being a fan of Scottish history and all. OK, my true desire may be based on the fact that Robert Carlyle [swoon!] is in the movie.

After signing up, however, I learned that the movie is not yet available in America. (What? America is the greatest country in the whole wide world. Why does Britain and Canada get it, but we don’t?! I’m totally writing to my congressman over this one!) Blah blah blah…

Relatedly (is that a word?), for nearly a month I’ve been hearing friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances mention The West Wing in casual conversation. Having only seen – at most – half a dozen episodes I’m generally at a loss for the references. And this seems to be happening more and more. In fact, in less than a week two different people made reference to the same scene from episode #32!

Seeing as I couldn’t get Stone of Destiny, I started to browse the selection of available titles. And that’s when I stumbled upon the fact that you can rent television series and watch the entire show season-by-season. So, I’ve ordered Season 1 of The West Wing and expect that I will begin watching over the weekend – if the delivery times they state are accurate.

My goal is to watch the entire series before the 30-day trial is over so that I can cancel the subscription before I get charged. Then, since I won’t have to pay $9 a month for NetFlix, I will feel better about having to pay nearly $11 to buy Stone of Destiny. And really, it can’t hurt to have a bit of Robert Carlyle in my movie collection. I’ll keep him next to my John Hannah movies…

Walla Walla wines

I went to Walla Walla this weekend to visit with some family and friends and participate in a Saturday wine tour – a hobby I enjoy but don’t do often enough. A friend from high school works in the wine-biz in the Seattle area and I promised her a review of the wineries, so here you go!

The first stop was Bergevin Lane Vineyards. Most of their wines are priced in the $25 – $55 range but I felt it was fair pricing for what you get. I especially liked their 2008 Viognier (Columbia Valley; 90 Points; Wine Enthusiast); their 2005 Oui Deux Syrah (Wahluke Slope; “Best of Class”; S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition; January 2009); and their 2006 Intuition Reserve (92 Points; Wine Spectator).

Next up was Patit Creek Cellars. All but one of their wines were priced under $30 but, again, the prices were fair for the product. I was extremely impressed with their 2007 Zinfandel (Walla Walla Valley; 93 Points; Wine & Spirits). Their 2007 Roux Bordeaux Blend (Columbia Valley) and their 2008 Chardonnay (Red Mountain) were also excellent wines. I was also very impressed with their 2008 Semillon Ice Wine (Columbia Valley) but being cheap and not really being a fan of dessert wines, I couldn’t bring myself to spend $59.00 on it (though if you really like ice wine, this is an amazing price for the drink!)

Finally, we went to Waterbrook Winery where we took a full facility tour, including barrel tastings, before heading to the tasting room to try their current releases. Their wines are mass-produced in state-of-the-art facilities, which mean they have a lower price point than the first two wineries. With rare exception, their wines are all under $20, but are surprising good when compared to other wines in a similar range. I really liked their 2007 Pinot Gris, 2007 Sangiovese Rose, 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2005 Meritage (all Columbia Valley vineyards).

There were only two wines I didn’t care for throughout the day, and that was because they were too sweet for me. No one else agreed with that opinion, but that was OK with me!

(Note to self: Go to Walla Walla to visit Uncle Mike more often. The wine is fab and the company is OK, too!)

Very taxing

I finally filed my taxes. I say finally because I normally have mine completed and filed the first week of February – based on the fact that tax documents generally arrive the last week of January. Yep, a geek to the core I used to love doing my taxes. And this year I tried, but just couldn’t do it through the tears. I think it had something to do with the box that I needed to tick that read: Qualifying Widow.

Instead, I made an appointment with an accountant then spent the weekend getting my files together – something that was more difficult than normal because I seem to have lost some of my over-the-top organizational skills since Paul died. I think having someone do my taxes for me was a good idea though, because I may never have gotten them done otherwise!

But I know what you’re wondering: Did I get a refund?

Yes I did! And a bit more than expected!

Being the responsible person I am, I am using the majority of the money for a major purchase that I’ve been putting off. But because Paul always thought that tax refunds should be used for fun, I will use the rest for something I don’t need.

I will not use the money for a new refrigerator or water heater. I will not use it toward the cost of a new furnace or car repairs. It won’t go toward my student loans or mortgage principal; I won’t roll it into my 401K or my IRA. No CDs or savings bonds. No, this money will be used frivolously – even though that goes against my frugal nature.

I wish I could use it for a trip to my nephew’s wedding in Cuba this June, but I can’t. So I’ll need to think of another trip I can take or useless gadget I can purchase.

A summer trip to California or British Columbia? A flight to Scotland for a friend’s wedding in October? The possibilities are endless!

I think dreaming up ways to spend the money might be just as much fun as the actual spending…

Coins

I have two old pint-sized honey jars that I fill with coins. It takes a while to fill them up because I don’t use cash too often. In fact, the current coin stash was started on March 7, 2009, meaning it’s taken more than a year to fill both jars to capacity. Compare that to my waitressing days when it would take just a couple of weeks to fill a gallon-sized jar!

Anyhow, Paul and I decided long-ago that when the jars were full we’d use the money for something fun and silly. Something we didn’t “need” but wanted. On March 6, 2009, we cashed in our coins and used the money to adopt Schrodie. (Which is why we almost called the cat “Spare Change”.)

Well, now the jars are full again and I need to determine how to spend my $64.22 (which doesn’t include a lone Canadian penny, a wheat penny, or the button that were all in the mix). If I spend it on taxable goods, that means I have about $59 to play with. So, what sort of cool things can I get for $59? ($61 if I do my shopping in Idaho, assuming my math is correct.)

I’ll have to think about just what to do with the windfall for a few days. Your suggestions are always welcome so please share any ideas that you have. (Remember though, I’m spending this money on something for ME not for YOU.)

Jeggings confession

I have a guilty confession to make. When I was on my holidays in the UK, I let my niece convince me that “jeggings” and a trendy shirt looked good on me. The sale price convinced me to make the purchase. But I think I secretly thought I’d never actually wear the new outfit. After all, at 36 years old, I’m certainly too old for such a silly trend – especially since I lived though similar trends in the ’80s and ’90s.

But, today I found myself putting on those skin-tight leggings – made to have the appearance of jeans – and the barely-there top that I bought at the same time. And not only did I put them on, but I went out in public wearing them. (And a coat, so the only thing visible was the lower half of the jeggings.)

The real confession is this: I actually kind of liked them. (::bows head in shame::)

I don’t know that I will wear them again because I felt a little silly in them, but the top will certainly get more use!

The North

After a lovely couple of days in Yorkshire, we made the trip to Teesside on Sunday by way of a few small, back-country roads where we were able to see a couple of twee villages and lovely little farm houses as well as the ruins of a fantastic abbey. It took us nearly four hours to make the trip to Billingham, one that would normally be about an hour’s drive. Our local guide, Paul’s cousin Olwyn, made the trip even more enjoyable. The SatNav on loan from my nephew, Stephen, means we didn’t get lost!

Once we finally arrived at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house, we were off again for Seaton Carew. A perfect start to any visit!

We’ve spent the day touring around Billingham and supporting the local economy at the shops. I found some lovely new wool so that I can start on another baby afghan for the flight home, and even found a bit of new clothes! Mom found some tea and a new mug – and a canvas bag to carry them in. Soon, it will be time to head out to the carvery for dinner.

We’ll load the car again in the morning to begin our drive further north toward Scotland. We have plans to stop along Hadrian’s Wall and Holy Island. We don’t know if we’ll hit the border tomorrow or the next day, but we’ll get there eventually!

Get set…

We’re at SeaTac now. We’ve checked in. We’ve gone through security. We’ve checked our gate number. We’re all ready to go… and are just waiting to be told we can.

I’m taking advantage of the free SeaTac WiFi while Mom uses the free time to catch up on the latest-and-greatest news in the Yakima Herald.

Mom’s mood pulse: Calm, cool, and collected. So she says…

Oh, look… Duty Free. Must go shopping now!

Bag it

It’s a quiet Friday night at home. I’m enjoying a Widmer Brothers’ Hefeweizen and cleaning my vintage  handbag collection. Yes, I am that pathetic!

Of course, as I sat there cleaning my collection, I realized that I still have two boxes of bags in an upstairs guest room, and maybe one or two still floating around my parents’ house. Still, I do have a few fun ones in circulation.

But, it’s not enough. Maybe I’ll have to buy a new bag or two when I’m on holiday. Yes, I think that’s a very good plan.

Shopping failure

I have an affinity for handbags. Mostly vintage bags that have a unique character and flare to them, but I also enjoy modern-day bags when they are a little different than the every-day look. I also tend to be a little cheap and hate to part with my money. Of course, Paul always said I should spoil myself and would remind me over and over again that “we can afford it” when I saw something I liked but couldn’t quite bring myself to buy it. I have been getting a little better at spending money on myself, and while I almost always feel guilty for doing so, I’m starting to feel less guilty with a bit of practice.

While at Macy*s a couple of weeks ago, I saw a fantastic handbag that matched the lovely Barbour jacket my nephew and his fiancée bought for me when I was in England back in December and I really wanted it. But at nearly $100 I just walked away. But I couldn’t get the bag out of my mind and actually went back to admire it a couple of times.

So, last weekend I took my mom shopping with a goal of buying a new handbag that was similar, but considerably less expensive. I looked at Target. I looked at JCPenny. I looked at several little shops in the mall. But no one had just what I was looking for.

When we finally got to Macy*s, there was the bag I’d been admiring. I picked it up and caressed the soft leather, and wondered just how good the Presidents’ Day sales were. Could they be so fantastic that they would bring my dream bag into my dream budget? I sat there (literally, as we were right next to the shoe department where the chairs are) and did the math. In fact, I did the math a couple of times because I wasn’t certain I’d done it correctly to begin with. With my final attempt at percentages (and rounding up so that I knew it would be even less when I got to the till) I knew I was getting a good deal and went in search of someone to pay.

Now I have this fantastic new bag; a bag that I really wanted and that I could take on my holidays to the UK next week. And because you really need to break in a new bag just like new shoes (which I hate shopping for, by the way) I started using the bag yesterday.

When I woke up this morning it was raining. Not sprinkling, raining. It’s less than 10 feet from the kitchen door to my car door, but I was still wet by the time I got there. That’s the sort of rain I’m talking about.

(Slowly getting to the point…)

I drive to work, park the car, and start walking to my office. The whole time I’m walking, I’m realizing my nice, expensive (OK, I got it cheap, but still) bag was getting rained on. When I got to the office there were visible dark spots on the leather and I wondered if they’d become permanent marks (they didn’t). And the point is this: What the heck was I thinking buying a nice leather bag to take on a two week holiday to England and Scotland, in the winter, when I know it’s going to be wet and rainy the whole time?

Yep, I’ve always said I’m bad at shopping, and this is proof positive of that. But, I still love the bag so totally worth it!