Where growing, making & good living come together

Happy New Year!! (And my goals for 2012)

Posted by on Wednesday 1 February 2012 in goals | 4 comments

No, I’m not going crazy. Honestly. It’s just I made a joke on Twitter last week about hearing about a lot of people struggling with January and suggesting we start 2012 again on 1st February – and the more I’ve thought about it in the intervening days, the more it’s made sense to me. This New-New Year thing means I can catch up on all the stuff I was supposed to write at the start of 2012 and not feel guilty about the things I should have, but didn’t do, in January.

So let’s just sweep the last 31 days under the carpet and start of the 11 month long year of 2012 today! Happy New Year! :D

For the past few years, I’ve set myself some goals for the year – 10 in 2010, 11 (+ some smaller ones) in 2011 – but after failing to meet so many of them, I’m going for fewer annual goals in 2012 but will set myself more monthly ones, when the fancy takes me (or possibly, I’ll get you guys to set them for me…!).

These are my six goals for the year though:

1. Make £2012 in “side money”

I signed up for this challenge on MoneySavingExpert. As I’ve been self-employed doing a whole variety of things since 2006, it’s hard for me to define “side money” but I think I’ve got an idea that works for me now. I’ll write more about my rationale at a later date but basically I’m thinking of it as new income streams money, whatever those things are. If it’s a success this year and I repeat in 2013, this year’s “side money” will just become part of my usual income, and I’ll have to make an additional £2013 in 2013 from more new stuff. Doing this in 11 months rather than 12 will be a challenge (£182 a month rather than £168) – but frankly, doing it in 12 months felt like it was going to be a challenge so an extra few more quid a month shouldn’t be a big deal. I will be asking for advice about this one quite a lot!

2. Each month, find a way to make one thing in our lives more frugal, simpler or greener.

A bit of a wide reaching one but I like making small, sustainable changes.

3. Visit all the parks and woodland around Bradford

Not specifically a frugal/simple living one but I guess it’s free, outdoor entertainment that might result in some foraging fun so maybe it is more frugal/simple living than I’d originally thought!

4. Produce something creative each week

I’d like these things to be often either practical or, eventually, sellable (to contribute to the £2012 thing) but I’d rather be doing for-the-sake-of-it creative stuff than nothing at all.

5. Finish and polish my 2011 NaNoWriMo story and finish another developed written project

I’ve been naughty – getting distracted by other stuff – and not finish-finished my 2011 NaNoWriMo story yet. It stands at around 125k so very nearly there. Must. Push. Through. To. End.

I’d also like to write & finish something else – possibly another NaNoWriMo style thing because I had a lot of fun doing that.

6. Keep a list of all the books I read (or re-read) in 2012 – and try to review them all (even if only a tweet)

Again, not particularly a frugal/simple living one but a good proportion of the books I read do have simple living type themes, one way or another, and I’m hoping I use the libraries more in 2012 too so again, some vague overlap.

What are your goals for this year? I bet you’ve all been super organised and already blogged them – if so, please do leave a link in case I’ve missed your list :)

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November 2011 – end of month review

Posted by on Wednesday 30 November 2011 in goals | 3 comments

I’ve surprised myself by how focused I’ve been this month. I’ll talk about it more below but this is what my 105,000 NaNoWriMo words looks like:

(It’s slightly bigger in “real life” ;) )

Goals in 2011 progress

I’ve been so focused on NaNoWriMo this month that I’ve done little else. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that some stuff just isn’t going to happen in 2011. Nevermind.

November mini-goals

I completed three of my mini-goals – the Declutter November challenge (I’ll post more on that tomorrow, when I’ve got rid of my final things!), the batch cooking (mostly a really nice lamb stew) and NaNoWriMo. I’ve loved doing NaNoWriMo – it’s taken up a lot of my time but I hit the 50,000 word mark on Day 11, which both surprised and delighted me. As it’s set before I was born, I’ve had to do a lot more research for this story than I have for anything else and that has been a lot of fun too – I have read about such a wide variety of things and come across some amazing resources online. My one regret is that the story still isn’t finished (which was the whole point of doing it for me) but I’ve got enough weight of it behind me now that I really do want to finish it, so I’ll continue through December. I’m still not sure whether it’s going to be worth editing and polishing but I’m glad I’ve written it anyway. It’s also helped me smash through my extended writer’s block and I’ve actually written a short theatre piece, and planned another two, during the month as well.

The problem has been that I’ve enjoyed NaNoWriMo far too much and not made time for anything else. The bacon hasn’t been made, the crochet tops still only half-finished, and not all my winter to-do to-did – but I think it’s been worth it over all. I’ll do them in December :)

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

I came into November having bought 11 things in 2011 and while I’ve randomly seen a few “oooh!” things this month, I’ve been very clearly telling myself “if you buy that skirt you’ll probably never wear etc, that’ll be the last thing you can buy in 2011” — and that’s been a surprisingly good motivator for keeping my purse in my pocket. I’ve bought no new clothes* so I’m still on 11 in 2011!

* I did buy some exempt socks as my sock drawer has seen a good number of comrades fall over the last few months – in the summer I don’t mind holey socks (and generally don’t wear socks that much anyway), but in the winter, I get annoyed when I can see more feet than cloth. I did go out of my way to find better quality socks than just replacing them with cheap ones – who knows how they’ll last but they certainly feel better quality (thicker, better stretch) at this point.

Growing & Chickens

The garden is asleep for winter – well, it should be, I’ve seen a disturbing amount of new growth out there — buds on trees, spring bulbs starting to peek through… There are a few leeks still to pick but everything else is finished for the year now. The chickens helped me clean up the last of the green things earlier in the month – and we discovered that if they eat a lot of achocha, it taints their eggs. Unfortunately we discovered that the day after I’d dragged the whole massive wall of achocha down to their run – Lily-dog got the next day’s eggs so we didn’t accidentally make them into a cake. She didn’t mind one bit :)

Two of the chickens – Ginger and Ms Mauve – have had partial moults but seem to be on the home straight with that now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t start laying again until the new year though (or after that if it gets cold). Because of them being out of action, the short days slowing things down generally and our team getting that bit older (the ISAs are nearly two now), we’ve only been getting two or three eggs a day this month — 73 in total (or 2.43 eggs on average a day). Not the end of the world, still enough for us but we can’t give as many away as normal.

As always happens at this time of year, my mind is turning to next year – I need to decide on what fruit tree (choices: plum, damson or cherry) to add to the garden, which boring shrubs to replace with more soft fruit bushes (probably raspberries), and whether to get more staggered season strawberries or whether I should go for a glut for jams… Decisions, decisions!


Another reason I’ve loved NaNoWriMo – it really helped curve my spending after an expensive October. I was too focused on my writing to spend time browsing online shops or getting tempted on eBay. No expensive new books or craft supplies! At £128.01, it was by far my lowest month of spending all year – hurrah!

My biggest spending was on transport (taking the little stray dog to the vets and I missed the last bus home after class two weeks in a sodding row – meaning expensive taxis, boo) – £52.80/41% – and eating out (£34.70/27%). We’ve had a couple of lots of take-out and eaten out at restaurants a couple of times too. I’m annoyed about the taxis but I don’t mind so much about the food as it’s all be good food, not just junk. The other things I spent money on were socks, some things for work, and the vet’s bill for the small lost doggy.

All in all, it’s felt like a productive month – but I think December needs to include more bacon & crochet, and if I can stick to spending just as little as this month, I’ll be very happy.

How was your November? I hope yours was as good as mine!

(Oh, and Alexis, Martine & anyone else who NaNoWriMo-ed – congrats on winning too :) )

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November mini-goals

Posted by on Wednesday 2 November 2011 in goals | 1 comment

I’ve got some mighty “mini” goals this month!

1. Declutter November
The Decluttering in November challenge I’ve been mentioning repeatedly – between the every day challenge and the mini-challenges, I’m going to get rid of 50 pieces of junk from around our home/garden in the next 30 days. John’s doing it too so we’ll hopefully have 100 less things by the end of the month – but more importantly, hopefully we’ll both be more conscious of how clutter grows and stays here!

2. NaNoWriMo
I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo – (Inter)National Novel Writing Month – this year for the first time. I’ve been meaning to do it for a few years but managed to forget the kickoff each time before now. This year though, I’m onboard and I’ve got to write 50,000 in 30 days. (A standard non-genre novel is around 80,000-100,000 words, so it’s shorter than normal but the point is to bang something out, sod the quality, then expand/refine it later.) If anyone else is doing it and wants to be my writing buddy, I’m louisa_

3. Finish making one of the two crochet tops I’m currently working on
I have the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes crafts. I am determined to finish one of the tops this month though – I’m cold, I need the woolly layer ASAP!

4. Do all the winter preparations ‘to-do’s
A long list! I’ve already done a few but need to do the others before winter properly sets in.

5. Batch cook another 2x2servings of meals for the freezer
I liked having this mini-goal last month so want to do it again. The freezer is currently full of meat from our recent Swillington Farm delivery but once we start making some progress through that, I want more homemade ready meals added to our stash.

6. Make bacon
All the cool kids have been doing it recently and we’ve got some pork that would be perfect for a little curing transformation. Plus, it’ll help free up some room in the freezer for that batch cooking – by storing the meat in our tummies :)

Have you got any particular aims or to-dos for this month?

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October mini-goals

Posted by on Monday 3 October 2011 in goals | 2 comments

After meh-ness and illness in September, I’m keen to get achieving again in October. I’m thinking of even having a proper scheduled week off work too – it’ll be my first full proper non-ill week off since last October and like I did last year, I’ll hopefully tick some things off my annual goal list before it’s too late!

  • 1. Design & make a (wooden) laundry hamper to fit the exact space available in the bedroom
  • 2. Make a cushion for the new shoe bench in the porch (broken into sub-parts so I can tick off as I go!)
    1. measure & buy foam to size or research & source a filling alternative
    2. source fabric
    3. put together into a cushion
  • 3. Do the final-final-final snagging in the bathroom. It’s about two hours work but I can’t get motivated to do it. We started renovating the bathroom on the last day of February. I think it’s about time it was finished once and for all!
  • 4. Get my company accounts & personal tax stuff for 2010-2011 finalised, signed off and paid. (This is mostly a work thing but on here because a. I really need to do them so I can pay the tax before the start of January deadline & avoid a fine and b. we want to change our mortgage on our house before the end of the year too, which should save us a lot of money in the long run.)
  • 5. Batch cook at least two (x two servings) meals for the freezer — and John will probably make the same amount. We rather depleted our homemade ready meals supply while I was ill so it’ll be good to build it back up again.

And not exactly a simple living goal but something John & I are doing:

  • 6. Draw a self-portrait, and a portrait of the other person, every day.

Do you have any mini goals for this month?

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September 2011 – month in review

Posted by on Friday 30 September 2011 in goals, less than 12 clothes challenge, meta | 7 comments

Wow, this month really flu flew by.

Goals in 2011 progress

Sigh, too ill to do anything much. Still a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time!

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

I’ve bought LOTS of clothes this month! Partly inspired by replacements – a favourite (work) top & a (newly holey) pair of jeans had to be decommissioned from general service this month – and partly by the start of term & change of the season. I bought a pair of jeans (excellent second-hand quality from eBay), two long sleeved cotton tops (new) and two t-shirts (new). I also bought a new pair of trainers as my last pair developed a 2inch split along the sole – fixable for dry weather wearing but not for the incoming soggy winter.

Before this month, I’d bought three things, so now I’m up to nine items in 2011. A few months ago – when I had bought anything for more than six months, I’d have been surprised at that. While I didn’t NEED these things, my existing clothes (which generally pre-date the start of the challenge by at least six-months/a year) are wearing out.

Growing & Chickens

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August 2011 – end of month review

Posted by on Thursday 1 September 2011 in goals, less than 12 clothes challenge | 8 comments

Cor, another month that seems to have taken its sweet time to come to a close – again, not dragged but the beginning of the month feels very long way ago now.

(Lemon curd, with cinnamon, which I made one day to accompany a fig-and-fennel soda bread test loaf.)

Goals in 2011 progress

We tried to go sea-fishing but failed. We haven’t had a lot of food from the garden – a few courgettes/marrows, tomatoes, potatoes but nothing major-major. I’ve been sewing quite a bit but for decorative rather than practical purposes. I haven’t made anything with wood. I have baked quite a bit – actually done quite a bit of experimental baking & cooking, trying out new ideas for recipes – but not made cheese. Basically, I’ve got a lot of goals still to accomplish and an increasingly short amount of time to do them in!

On the plus side though, I did slightly better with my month’s mini-goals: we sorted out the bills stuff (2), I researched the ISA options and decided it wasn’t worth switching until next year (1), cleared out the cupboards (4+5), nearly stuck to my budget (3 – see below), would have done 6 if there wasn’t a damp problem in need of investigation, and made a purse (8). Not great but better.

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

After buying two things in July, I bought another thing – a light “so very me” cardigan – at the beginning of August. My old cotton cardigan has seen better days so this is sort of a replacement and will be useful in the next few months over t-shirts/vest tops.

One of my favourite pairs of jeans has developed an unfortunate (and very difficult to fix) hole in the bum so I’m on the look out for a replacement pair but not seen any yet.

Anyway, no other temptations or anything else from the exempt list so I’m just up to three items so far in 2011.

Growing & Chickens

As I said above, the garden has not had a hugely productive month – which is a bit of a shame. I’ve run out of preening steam too so it looks a mess as well. Sigh. September should bring lots more tomatoes (we’ve got lots of green ones at the moment) and more courgettes, and hopefully our first achocha. Two out of four of our achocha plants have pretty well developed fruit on them and finally, the other two — which have grown up together against a wall and are MASSIVE (15ft tall, 8ft across) — have finally started fruiting too. That might result in a lot of fruit!

The chickens have had a good month – no broodiness and Ginger definitely started laying again (she went broody in the middle of June, came out of it finally about a month later but I couldn’t be sure that she was laying again until mid-August when we finally got six eggs in one day). With six eggs on some occasions, we had a grand total of 157 eggs, an average of just over 5 a day.


I had given myself a budget of £100 for my SAVE-as-much-as-you-SPEND (corrected!) categories this month and if I hadn’t gone completely craft supply crazy, I’d have made it. I spent a whopping £55.75 on craft stuff this month: mostly embroidery threads and cross-stitch fabric but also £17.20 on yarn from Bobbins in Whitby. The yarn was a complete impulse buy – I saw it, wanted it, had a vague project in mind but not great plans to use it ASAP (since I can’t knit/crochet in the summer) – and that blew my budget, pushing me over to spend £110.66 in total. *shakes fist* Yarn aside, I do know that all the embroidery stuff will keep me quiet for a long time so while it was a lot of money, I probably won’t need to buy anything more for ages.

Aside from crafts, restaurant/takeout food wasn’t too bad this month (£46.42) but I could easily have saved about a tenner of that by taking sandwiches, snacks & drinks with me when I was teaching during the day, rather than using the Coop. Naughty. It did also include expensive fish’n’chips, donuts and other seaside treats when we were in Whitby.

Transport costs were quite low for the month (£30.70), especially since £16.70 of that was last night alone (a return bus ticket then a taxi fare when the meeting overran and I missed the last bus, grr). I didn’t buy any books – used the library a few times instead. Entertainment was a newspaper one Saturday (and all the crafts, of course!). The silly thing was my cute vase. Household stuff included the wool blanket, some photo frames, a bathmat, and an oven thermometer – wild ;)

I spent £175.74 in total, after bills and food shopping – my lowest month since I started tracking spending (the previously lowest had been June, at £188.91). Bit disappointed that I “wasted” some of it on impulse yarn and actually wasted some of it on unnecessary lunches, but I’m not beating myself up about it too much.

How was your August?

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