Friday, 30 September 2016

Friday Frivolity: Coffee

Friday Frivolity

This week we're talking about coffee and I have something of a confession to make. I don't drink it. Ever. The only reason we have any in the house is because my mother-in-law bought us some because she was sick of being told she'd have to have tea whenever she came to visit!

So, the obvious solution seemed to to go for tea vs. coffee memes. :)

Coffee burns Tea
Credit: speedbump.com.

Coffee is not my cup of tea

Some people find it hard to choose:

Picard Facepalm
Others know exactly what they want...

Tea vs coffee vs vodka

How about you - do you prefer tea or coffee? (Or vodka?)




Thursday, 29 September 2016

Budget Report - September 2016

Budget Progress Report

One of the blogs I've been really loving lately is The Mini Millionaire - the savvy Cora charts her financial progress, showcasing what has worked and what hasn't over the last month. It's really inspired me to think about my own financial goals, and how I can use the blog to help me work towards them.

My #1 goal right now is to get out of my overdraft. The hows and whys of my massive overdraft are a long story but, basically, I asked the Natwest to max it out to £2000 so I could pay my first instalment of university fees when I went back to do my postgrad course. I then proceeded to fall pregnant, have the expense of moving from my parents' (again), and become the breadwinner when Anthony lost his job just after Marianna was born. Ever since we've just lurched from one crisis to another, and I've made no progress on paying that overdraft off.

All that is going to change.

I blogged a few weeks ago about the ATM fraud I've been a victim of, via cloned debit card, which is something the Natwest refuses to admit is possible and did their best to fob me off about. This has made me more determined than ever to pay off my overdraft. A) to prove that I could have had a big chunk of it done already, as per my own budgeting calculations, if some thieving *insert expletive of choice* hadn't been siphoning off upwards of £100 a month, and B) so I can now vote with my feet and transfer my account from the Natwest ASAP.

I'm going to record my income and spending each month, and see if I can the one up, the other down, and start chipping away at my overdraft.

So, yeah, I've rabbited on about what I'm doing long enough. Here starts the actual doing it.

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INCOME

Because I'm all about realism, the figures here are rounded down to the nearest pound.

Wage: £1057 - This is fixed, so there are no surprises from month to month. I do get extra pay from Caerphilly Council some months though, for sitting on the Police and Crime Panel. This was not one of those months.

Child Benefit: £82

Child Tax Credit: £222

Anthony: £380 - Anthony's contribution to the bills. Normally this figure is more like £140, but he's been massively downsizing his comic collection.

Ebay / Trade Ins: BALANCED - I've sold a lot of stuff this month, but I've also bought a lot of stuff. I always fund my hobbies and things like clothes and toiletries by selling on bits I already own, or stuff I've accumulated through comping. This month saw various unexpected expenses (see outgoings section) so there was no surplus here.

TOTAL: £1741

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MONTHLY OUTGOINGS

Most months I won't go into much detail about most of this, but as it's the first in the series... All prices are rounded up to the next full pound, just to make life that little bit easier.

Rent: £500 - This is pretty good for a 3-bed private rental in our area, and we're in the most convenient location ever in terms of public transport links and being close to the shopping centre.

Council Tax: £110 - I can't remember if we're Band C or D offhand, but there's not that much in it.

Water: £44 - We're on a set tariff with Welsh Water.

Energy: £0 - I pay SSE quarterly on demand, so next month is energy bill month.

Phone: £34 - I'm with EE and my contract doesn't end until April '17. I'm gonna go for something cheaper next time, but for now at least I don't have a house phone to pay out for too. I could have had a work phone and paid a little extra to use it for personal calls, but I just really dislike the idea of work having such easy access to my personal correspondence.

Internet: £28 - We're with Plusnet because they were the only provider willing to come in and install a new phone line in under six months so we could rejoin the modern world. I may switch in the future, but I'm happy enough at the moment.

TV Licence: £13 - I once had a social life; now I have a toddler.

SKY: £22 - We just couldn't pick up a decent signal when we moved in (and my lovely brother bought us a TV as a baby welcoming gift!), so signed up to SKY for the topbox and aforementioned alternative to a social life. It has now served its purpose as we bought an Amazon Firestick over the summer, and I wasted three quarters of my life resisting the hard sell and cancelled our subscription, making this the final payment.

Kindle Unlimited: £8 - This might seem like an unnecessary expense but I'm really getting my money's worth. I read a lot so this is a great deal for me.

Labour Party Membership: £5 - As a Labour party councillor, this is kind of a non-negotiable!

Labour Party Group Subs: £25 - All elected Labour politicians are expected to pay a proportion of their wage to the party, presumably to make it seem more like a cult, IDEK. Again, it's a non-negotiable so you just gotta suck it up.

Scope: £7 - I had a pledge not to sign up to any charities via direct debit simply because you never know when your finances are going to implode. (It's not like I don't donate, I just prefer raffles, collections, and one-off payments.) But they got me on a door-to-door hard sell when I was eight and half months pregnant and terrified of bad karma. They're a good cause though, for all that their sale tactics are skeevy, and it's staying for at least the foreseeable future.

Food and Household: £200 - I spend between £20 and £30 a week on food for the three of us, and then make it up to £50 with other essentials like laundry and cleaning supplies, nappies and formula, and household items like paint and garden tools. Food shop day is Tuesday, so this differs between £200 and £250 depending on how many Tuesdays the month has.

Bus Fare: £50 - The bus is our answer to the car, and the ticket type I get depends on what I've got on at work that week. It typically averages out to about £50 a month.

Overdraft Charge: £6 - Hopefully not for too much longer!

Overdraft Interest Charge: £22 - Again, the plan is for this to rapidly disappear.

Unexpected Expenses: £100 - (i.e. I couldn't cover all of it through eBay, Ziffit, WeBuyBooks trades, etc.) The pushchair broke and needed replacing, various good causes wanted my money, I spilled a pint of coke over my laptop... You know, the usual.

TOTAL: £1274

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I saved £50 at the end of last month, so my progress thus far is:

£517 / £2000

Anthony is paying all of the rent next month, but it's also energy bill month which will cut into my budget. I'm going to do my best to bring my spending down though and get another £200 paid off at the end of September.

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What I've Won This Month

I've decided to merge my monthly 'What I've Won' feature into this series.

 Bundle of Warner Bros DVDs. I was given these in exchange for running a Twitter comp for another bundle, so not technically a win. (Just close enough!)
 I Love Gin gift set from Admissions of a Working Mother.
 Various books from Goodreads.









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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

What I Read In September

Secrets of the Capsule Wardrobe by Sarah Eliza

My awesome #FridayFrivolity co-host, Sarah Eliza of Devastate Boredom, has just released an equally awesome eBook on creating the perfect capsule wardrobe. Sarah didn't ask me to review - in fact she doesn't even know I am! - but even though I consider myself the least likely person in the world to actually part with clothing I decided to give it a go. :D

First up, it's no secret that I love Sarah's writing style, and you can be sure that this eBook does not disappoint. It's fun, it's quirky, and I felt like I was being guided along with a gentle touch, rather than being judged or lectured at, which is always a big win with any self-help book. There is no mention of how much of x you need in your capsule closet, or why more than y is totally unnecessary.

Instead the focus is completely on what works for you. Some people love skirts, some people hate them, the number of skirts each of these people owns is probably going to be different. There's nothing wrong with that. Instead of working to some arbitrary number, the reader is first encouraged to go through their clothes, find what makes them happy, and then put the rest (work uniforms / other necessities exempted) on probation for a few weeks.

What this made me realise is how much of the stuff in my wardrobe actively makes me feel bad about myself. I put on a lot of weight with Marianna which I still haven't shifted, and every time I look in there it reminds me of the fact. I'm not ready to get rid of the clothes, and am still working on losing weight, but reading this gave me a lightbulb moment: I don't need to keep it view. It can all go in a vacuum pack (or three...) and go on extended probation until I'm in a better place to deal with it.

Looking at what's left allowed me to take on board some more of the book's advice. Pick some base colours and some highlight colours. Work with those in tops and bottoms to create a myriad of outfits that make you feel happy and confident.

While I'm not getting rid of much in the sense that it's actually leaving the house, and to compound the issue plan on buying a few new pieces on top of what I already own, I really feel that the book has worked its magic on me. I feel so much more positive about my clothes and how I look.

And that's pretty priceless!

Secrets of the Capsule Wardrobe
Click the pic to go and read more about the book over at Devastate Boredom, or you can head straight over to Amazon where you can pick up your own copy for just £5.28 or read for free via Kindle Unlimited!
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What I've Read This Month

Other books I've read this month include...

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Most Evil II: Presenting the Follow-Up Investigation and Decryption of the 1970 Zodiac Cipher in which the San Francisco Serial Killer Reveals his True IdentityMost Evil II: Presenting the Follow-Up Investigation and Decryption of the 1970 Zodiac Cipher in which the San Francisco Serial Killer Reveals his True Identity by Steve Hodel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2015. Some really interesting new information, especially around the decoding of the symbols used by the Zodiac.
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How to Start a Successful Blog in One Hour (Better Blog Booklets)How to Start a Successful Blog in One Hour by Steve Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2013. Useful guide for those looking to set up a blog on Wordpress. Kind of redundant for those of us not sold on the platform.
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Declutter And Simplify - 33 Proven Ways To Declutter And Simplify Your LifeDeclutter And Simplify - 33 Proven Ways To Declutter And Simplify Your Life by Andy C.E. Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2015. Nice quick read, like dipping your toe into the topic!


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The Murder on the Enriqueta: A Golden Age MysteryThe Murder on the Enriqueta: A Golden Age Mystery by Molly Thynne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiction, 1929. Formulaic but enjoyable murder mystery from the late 1920s. It's hardly the greatest example of the genre, but it's good fun and, for me, that more than made up for any deficiencies!
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Goodbye Clutter, Hello Freedom: How to create space for Danish Hygge and Lifestyle by cleaning up, organizing and decorating with care. (Danish Hygge & Lifestyle Book 1)Goodbye Clutter, Hello Freedom: How to create space for Danish Hygge and Lifestyle by cleaning up, organizing and decorating with care. by Lena Bentsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. Introduction to the Danish concept of 'Hygge' and how our homes can be better organized to encourage it. A nice enough read, but I didn't come away feeling inspired as I have with other similar books I've read on the subject.
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The Trail of Ted Bundy: Digging Up The Untold StoriesThe Trail of Ted Bundy: Digging Up The Untold Stories by Kevin M. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. There are a few pieces of really interesting information here, but for the most part it's a little content-lite, with lots of quoting from other published works.
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The Dream Dollhouse Do-It-Yourself Book: Adorable goodies for the fashion dollhouseThe Dream Dollhouse Do-It-Yourself Book: Adorable goodies for the fashion dollhouse by Julie Shelton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2014. Lots of great ideas, and really clear instructions. I came away full of crafting enthusiasm!

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101 Ways to Say Thank You: How to Write Customized, Gracious and Sincere Thank-You Notes for Nearly Every Gift, Event, or Occasion101 Ways to Say Thank You: How to Write Customized, Gracious and Sincere Thank-You Notes for Nearly Every Gift, Event, or Occasion by Deanne Marie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. Writing thank you notes does not come naturally to me, but I loved the step by step approach in this book and feel I now have the tools to craft a (non cringeworthy!) thank you note for any situation.
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Making Dollhouse Furniture Living Room: With Pipe Cleaners Step by StepMaking Dollhouse Furniture Living Room: With Pipe Cleaners Step by Step by Ava Bachan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2014. Some cute ideas for making inexpensive dollhouse furniture.

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Home Cleaning Hand Book: 89 Quick Tips To Deep Clean Your House Easily and Without Breaking A SweatHome Cleaning Hand Book: 89 Quick Tips To Deep Clean Your House Easily and Without Breaking A Sweat by Amanda Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2014. Some great tips for keeping your home looking great.

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How to Organize Your Life to Maximize Your Day: Effective Time Management Tips and Ideas to Simplify Your LifeHow to Organize Your Life to Maximize Your Day: Effective Time Management Tips and Ideas to Simplify Your Life by Judith Turnbridge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2013. A quick read with some useful and easily actionable ideas to help reduce the stress in your life, and give yourself more time.
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Ice and Bone: Tracking An Alaskan Serial KillerIce and Bone: Tracking An Alaskan Serial Killer by Monte Francis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. Not cases I was previously aware of, but the author did a fantastic job of writing them up and presenting the victims as well as their killer, which is so often something which gets overlooked with true crime. There is also an absolutely fascinating section about tracker dogs, and the incredible part they played in solving one of these murders.
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The Mindset of Organization: Take Back Your House One Phase at a TimeThe Mindset of Organization: Take Back Your House One Phase at a Time by Lisa Woodruff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. I've read lots and lots of organization books lately, and this one has been the best by far! The author's tone is warm and non-judgemental, and the tips are both specific and realistic, which leaves you feeling motivated to start implementing them. If you're looking for some organisational and decluttering tips, this is the book to get.
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Forensic Analysis and DNA in Criminal Investigations: Including Solved Cold CasesForensic Analysis and DNA in Criminal Investigations: Including Solved Cold Cases by R.J. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2015. This is a great introduction to the history of forensic analysis, and how it works in a modern police investigation.
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Hannah Spannah


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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Tuesday Blog Linkies

Tuesday Blog Linkies

Blog linkys, hops, parties - whatever you want to call them! - are a great way of connecting with other bloggers and becoming a real part of the blogging community. Here are a bunch of linkys you can get involved with on Thursdays.

For other days of the week, please check out my Connecting With Linkies post.

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Animal Tales
Open: Tuesday
Rules: Link up your animal related posts, old or new, then add the badge to your post and comment on the host post, and at least two others.
Other: Tweet @greenrosielife your post with the hashtag #AnimalTales for a retweet. This is only live every other Tuesday.

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Bake of the Week
Open: Tuesday - all week.
Rules: Link up to two posts, old or new, and add the badge to your posts.
Other: All entries are shared across social media.

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Brag About It Link Party
Open: Tuesday
Rules: Link up your crafty and creative posts, follow the host on social media, check out some other posts.
Other: Favourite posts are featured.

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City Tripping
Open: Tuesday morning - 23:55am Thursday
Rules: Link up one post, old or new, about travel experiences in a city. Add the badge to your post, comment on the hosts' posts and at least two other links using the hashtag #citytripping.
Other: Tweet your post to @wander_mum and @MummyTravels with the hashtag #citytripping for a retweet; posts are shared on other social media. The host blog alternates between Wander Mum and Mummy Travels.
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Cook Blog Share
Open: Tuesday
Rules: Link up a recipe or foodie post, old or new, and add the badge. Check out other links.
Other: Tweet your post to @k_phillipson for a retweet. Favourite posts are featured.

The party is hosted on different blogs on a rolling programme; I've linked to a master post with the schedule.
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Create Link Inspire
Open: Tuesday
Rules: Link up your crafty and creative posts, add the badge or a backlink to your post, check out some other posts.
Other: Favourite posts are featured.
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Dream Team
Open: Tuesday (6am - 9pm)
Rules: Link up to two posts, old or new, and add the badge or a backlink. Comment on the hosts' posts and the one directly before yours.
Other: Tweet your link to 3_LittleButtons and @bridiebythesea with the hashtag #DreamTeam for a retweet. Favourite posts are featured.
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Let's Be Friends Blog Hop
Open: 1pm Tuesday
Rules: Link up your favourite post from the last week, follow the hosts and co-hosts on social media, add the badge to your post, comment on at least three other posts, share the party post on Twitter and Pinterest.
Other: Favourite posts are featured.

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Show and Tell
Open: First Thing Tuesday - Midnight Sunday (GMT)
Rules: Link up your crafty and creative posts; follow your hosts on social media; comment on the two posts before and two posts after yours.
Other: Favourite posts are featured.
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Tasty Tuesdays
Open: Midday Tuesday
Rules: Link up to three food related posts, add the badge to your post or sidebar, and check out some of the other links. Follow your hosts on social media.
Other: Hosts will pin all posts.
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The Truth About
Open: Tuesday - Thursday
Rules: Link up old or new posts, add the badge, and comment on a couple of other posts.
Other: N/A.
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Tips and Tricks
Open: First Thing Tuesday (GMT)
Rules: Link family friendly posts, and add the badge to your posts. Comment on at least two other link ups.
Other: Favourite posts are featured.
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Toddler Approved Tuesday
Open: 6am Tuesday - 11pm Wednesday
Rules: Link up to two posts, old or new, add the badge to them, and comment on at least the post before yours.
Other: Tweet your post to @ClaresTots and @3princess_1dude with the hashtag #ToddlerApprovedTuesday for a retweet. Do the same to @ClaresTots and @3princesses1dude on Instagram for a potential regram.
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Tried and Tested
Open: Tuesday (8am - midnight)
Rules: Link up to two posts, old or new, add the badge to them, and comment on the host posts and a couple of others.
Other: Tweet your post to @Lollinski and @FamilyFever with the hashtag #TriedTested for a retweet. Two favourite posts will be featured each week. No guaranteed visit from the hosts.
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Tuesday Treasures
Open: 5am Tuesday - midnight Thursday
Rules: Link up to two posts, old or new, and add the badge. Comment on the host post and at least two others, including the hashtag #TuesdayTreasures.
Other: Tweet your link to @RachelSwirl with the hashtag #TuesdayTreasures for a retweet. Favourite post is featured..
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Turn It Up Tuesday
Open: Tuesday
Rules: Link up as many posts as you like, old or new, and add the badge. Check out other posts and follow your hosts on social media.
Other: Favourite posts are featured each week.
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Twinkly Tuesday
Open: Tuesday (6am - 23:55am)
Rules: Link up one post, old or new, and add the badge to the post. Comment on the host post, the post before yours, and at least one other, using the hashtag #TwinklyTuesday.
Other: Tweet @mummascribbles with your post and the hashtag #TwinklyTuesday for a retweet. No guaranteed visit from the host.
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Please let me know of any terrific Tuesday linkies I'm missing out on! :)




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