Friday, 5 February 2016

Rewarding me... for a complete lack of loyalty!

Last week Sainsburys sent me another pack of 6 X £6 off a £30 shop.
This is probably the fourth pack that I've had from them since October.
I think their huge database of nectar point information can't handle the fact that we get weekly fuel points (because Mark likes to put BP fuel in the car) but we never shop at the stores.  As a result, they are desperate to reward my complete lack of loyalty/"entice me back" (depending on your view point!)
I am actually a very loyal Aldi shopper - but there are still a small number of 'branded' items that we use and we tend to pick these up anywhere that we see them discounted.  I checked the cupboards this morning and decided that I was low enough on these items to commit to a £30 shop at our local Sainsburys....

I approached the whole exercise in a 'super-strategic' way, with a detailed list of things I needed or that could be added to the store cupboard/freezer.  I walked round the store with my vintage Casio calculator and added up everything as I went along.....
Goodness only knows what the CCTV and shop security thought of me as I circled the store several times to get my best bargains!!!!!!  Maybe they thought that I was on some kind of 'frugal reality TV show'????
Anyway, even the checkout assistant was amazed by my £30.30 shopping basket - reduced to £24.30 with the voucher.  Here's everything spread out on the work top when I got home....
Mostly I targeted items that were already substantially reduced, then had the additional pleasure of the extra 20% off.  There's a bag of frozen chicken pieces (already reduced to £2.50 before the voucher), damaged tins of soup and a premium peanut butter brand with a cracked lid (49p before the voucher), and lots of other sauces and dry goods that happened to be reduced this week.
When I handed over my Week One voucher the till went wild with BONUS voucher slips.  I've now got 'Triple Nectar Points' on my week two shop AND 200 Bonus Nectar points without spending anything at all (plus a couple of regular vouchers linked to a cheese purchase!)  If I use all six vouchers then I'll also be entitled to another large number of bonus points.
So - am I going to be enticed into a Sainsbury's shopping frenzy?  I'm not sure...
I know that my regular Aldi shops cost me £22 and £25 for a similar quantity and range of food.  It's nice to pick up some items that Aldi don't stock (like wholemeal pasta) and to enjoy that sense of 'grabbing a bargain' from one of the big supermarket chains. 
Beyond that, I feel a bit "miffed" with Sainsburys to be honest. 
My parents go to the same shop at least once per week and I'm pretty convinced that they spend about £250 per month there.  What price my parents' loyalty?  They never get these generous discounts and bonus vouchers...  Grrrrrr!!!!!
Do you feel the same way about the 'big' supermarket chains?

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


I set myself a target last summer.
When I play the harp, I want to sound like some-one who has hours and hours of practice in their fingers.  I want to sound, competent, precise and assured...
Over the last few weeks I've lost myself for hours in my music.
Typically, I'm practising for 2 - 3 hours per day.
Last Sunday, I performed my first solo of the year - music memorised and rehearsed to a point where every play through was consistent (as close as I can get at this stage to a 'professional' performance.) 
I'm loving the process of giving quality time to something that I'm really passionate about... but I'm conscious of the fact that there's not a lot to post about...!
I've kept up my clothes challenge and have completely avoided the jeans/hoodie combination.
My small private teaching practice is growing and I should have a little celebration when I finish teaching this afternoon (the first £1000 through the books).
I'm keeping fit by walking as far as possible every day.
I'm spending quality time with people who matter to me I suppose that I'm living my dream!
I confess that the whole process of blogging sometimes makes me feel rather guilty.
I'd love to be the perfect blogger - responding quickly to all your posts and posting regularly in return.  Unfortunately I don't have mobile access to the internet so all my posts are written on the computer in the study.  This seems to take ages so it falls down the list of priorities.  Then, when I realise that I haven't been near the 'blogosphere' for a while, I feel even guiltier.
In my previous life the comment would probably have been "Could do better!!"
How do you manage your blogging time?

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A 'posh venue' and other things...

A weekend without jeans... AND I decided to 'push my boundaries' by focusing on statement jewellery rather than a scarf.  These are a few of the outfits I wore for shopping and teaching on Friday (left), a 40th Birthday Party (centre) and Sunday lunch with my F-in-L (right)
The necklace at the top has heaps of sentimental value.  Mark bought it for me to wear with a black Laura Ashley dress for my 21st Birthday party - which was also the night that we got engaged.  I bought the big bracelet a few years ago to wear with a long black dress to a formal dinner.  The next necklace is a 1950s Lisner piece (and is easily my favourite of all my vintage jewellery), while the bottom bracelet was a gift from a pupil several years ago.
The frock that I wore to the party is a Ghost dress that I found in a TKMax clearance section a few years ago.  I used to wear it for work with a smart jacket and flat boots.  It felt perfect for the party on Saturday night because our friend had booked the first floor of this venue, right next to the river at Greenwich.  We don't know the area at all and didn't realise how posh it was going to be until we arrived and started exploring in the afternoon!  It was an amazing location, with a fabulous live band, and we stayed up way past our usual "country mouse" bed times!!!
The weather was pretty foul on Saturday afternoon
but we did manage to explore the park around the Observatory..

..and I snapped this photo of the Greenwich Meridian
through the gates of the Observatory buildings

We left early on Sunday morning because we wanted to get across the city before the traffic started to build up.  We stopped off in Oxford on the way home to see Mark's Dad.  He's 82 this year and has some problems with his heart, and he seems to be increasingly frail.  It's clear that he doesn't feel much like eating at the moment so he struggled with the volume of a pub Sunday lunch.  We are worried about him (but he gets very grumpy of we try to ask too many questions etc.)   The good news is that he's got further hospital appointments and a scan in the next week, so the Doctors are not ignoring his situation.
On Monday I went to Hereford with my neighbour to visit the fabulous Doughty's Fabric Warehouse.  Yesterday I attacked the housework and made time to pop round to see my Dad.  He's also had a period of severe ill health with his asthma recently.  He did some tests with the asthma nurse on Monday and they discovered that his 'preventative' inhaler was actually making his condition worse(!!).  Fortunately there are plenty of other medications that he can take so we are hopeful that he will soon be feeling significantly better.
I had a nightmare at the weekend that I had to go back to work!!!
It's funny how your subconscious throws up random stuff in dreams...
I hope that you're all having a good week,

Friday, 8 January 2016

You Gave Me Confidence...!

Ladies - thank you for your comments!
I was going to wear a pair of trousers on Day Four,
but you encouraged me to maintain some 'leg confidence'.
I'm not quite this gorgeous lady....
but I kept my legs out....

Day Four - dressing for a day of practising and pottering, with a couple of hours of piano teaching in the late afternoon.  My favourite day so far - fabric boots with a heel, leggings, an empire-line tunic/dress, light cotton scarf and vintage Coro necklace.  This outfit felt great all day.  I like the way the empire line (especially in a patterned fabric) gives me a bust but skims over problems!
Day Five - dressing for coffee and a fabric hunt with my fellow 'craftaholic' and lovely neighbour, some housework and a late afternoon trip round to my parents house.  Flat boots today, leggings, a slightly longer dress, scarf, necklace and 'satchel style' brown leather handbag.  I used to wear this dress to school with a cropped brown jacket.  Without the jacket, it felt comfortable but slightly shapeless....
Can I asked your opinion about another thing that's bothering me?
I've worn a scarf pretty much every day of my life for the last 20 years - even draped round the outside of a hoodie!  They are a habit that's developed from the years when I was having major neck issues after a motor-racing accident (another story...!).  My neck is fairly ok nowadays so I don't need the extra warmth and support.  Having looked at these photos, I wonder if they spoil the neckline/shape of the dresses, rather than adding to it.
What do you think?
We've got a busy weekend ahead - a lot of travelling around (which would always have been jeans etc. territory), a 40th Birthday party and a meal with my F-in-L.  This is going to take a bit of serious 'clothes consideration'.... Eeek!
I hope that you all have a good weekend too.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A little bit of vintage.....

In my head I'd like to be on a spectrum between these two wonderful ladies..
Don't you love the way that she her 'look' is complimented by a 'natural' hair colour?
..and jeans with an oversized jumper just looks so effortlessly chic.
Unfortunately I'm way heavier, have inherited my Dad's super frizzy hair gene and my Mum's colouring (and I can't afford the stylists), so here's days two and three of 'life without jeans and hoodies'....

Day Two - dressing for coffee with my Mum in Worcester and some late afternoon teaching.  I'm wearing a soft denim skirt that's been languishing in my wardrobe for over 12 months and a plain wool jumper.  I tried to pull it together with the scarf and an antique style necklace (that I found in Bournemouth years ago).  I think the photo looks quite nice but I didn't feel comfy when I was working in such a thick top (my age - you know!!)
Day Three - dressing for coffee with a friend at the local garden centre, harp practice and several hours of internet admin.  I'm wearing a jersey dress that's easily five years old, a jacket that's close to it's second decade and a vintage peach enamel necklace from the 1950s.  Normally I wear a black jacket when I wear this dress but I wanted to go for a softer and more casual look.  My friend (and the girl on the counter in the coffee shop) immediately noticed and commented on my necklace.  This outfit was far more comfortable but I'm starting to wonder if I look a bit 'leggy' in heeled boots and leggings?
What have I learnt so far?
Don't wear thick tops for teaching piano in a centrally heated house - it only generates an unattractive 'glow'.  People notice my vintage necklaces and I have MASSES - organise them and wear them!  I may achieve a slighter more 'chic' look if I rethink the leggings and boots.... (Oh dear - I LIKE leggings and boots!)
Thanks for all your comments on my last post.
Continued thoughts, comments and tips would be really appreciated!!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A Confession and A Challenge..

Generally speaking, everything is going brilliantly over here at 'The Great Escape'.  My income is tiny compared to this time last year but I'm happy and healthy, and the maths that underpins my two year transition budget is holding up.  I've got another piano pupil starting this week and a couple of enquiries for harp tuition to follow up once the new term is under way.  Things look fine...
....Except for one thing - my clothes!  I feel that I've completely 'lost my way sartorially' since I gave up work.  When I was classroom teaching I developed a comfortable winter uniform of boots, leggings, a smart Alexon or Precis dress and a dark jacket.  These dresses were a bit 'old-fashioned' but they were fine for my job role.  When we got back from France at the end of September I just embraced my Saturday wardrobe of boots, jeans and a Fat Face top or Cuba hoodie.
Ladies... I have worn nothing but three hoodies, two tops and a couple of pairs of jeans (on a washing rotation!) for the last three months.  I've barely worn make-up.  I've ignored all my lovely vintage 1950s jewellery.  I've used the same soft black leather rucksack for every trip out of the house.  I've sometimes remembered to put on perfume but, to be honest, I am not the smart middle manager that I was last year.
Hmmmm.... This was my wardrobe at around 2.00 pm yesterday afternoon.  You can see that I'm in a state of crisis because this is a very 'un-Jan-like' muddle.  (Just before Christmas I even managed to lose a boot completely in the drifts of stuff at the bottom.) 

The top shelf - where I keep my hoodies, scarves and soft bags - is in complete chaos.
You can even spot one of my favourite tunic tops on the bottom right (which normally always lives on a hanger)

Some 90 minutes later everything looked a bit tidier again.  I've moved all my super-smart dresses to the left hand side of the wardrobe, then there's a sliding scale of smart to casual across the hangers.  This means that my 'smart-casual' clothes are now straight in front of me when I open the doors.

I can see all my winter footwear again (and found the boot that I believed lost)

Stuff that I won't need until Spring has been piled at the back of the shelf, while my beloved hoodies are in one, easy to access pile at the front.  I've also collected some of my favourite handbags together on the right hand side....

So that's the confession side of this post over and done with... now it's time for the challenge.  I realise that I've become a slightly lazy dresser.  There's nothing wrong with jeans and hoodies, but I need to work at finding a 'smart/casual' style that suits my new role; makes the most of the clothes I already have (since I can't afford new ones!) and accepts the fact that I'm going to be 50 next birthday.
I am going to go 'cold turkey' on the boots, jeans and hoodie combo, and to prove it I'm going to post photos of my outfits as regularly as possible.  Bearing in mind that I really prefer to be behind the camera, this is really taking me out of my comfort zone..

So this is what I wore to my Quaker Meeting this morning - ankle boots with a proper heel, leggings, a short (but not too short??) grey skirt, a Laura Ashley soft top under a grey wool jacket, a chunky grey plastic bracelet and vintage necklace.  I also ditched my black leather rucksack for a black bag with fabric flowers.   As soon as I walked in one of the clerks admired my necklace - which gave me some confidence that I'm heading in the right direction!
I'd love to read how other people are managing the style/fashion/age challenge.
Do any of you fancy joining me in some January posts?

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Between the Storms...

... Mum, Dad, M-I-L, Mark and I visited the lovely National Trust moated manor house at Badesley Clinton.  We were really lucky to see just a hint of blue skies on Boxing Day afternoon.
I first visited this house when I was a student at Birmingham university in the mid-80s.
In those days NT properties were always closed through most of the winter months.
I love the way many of the properties now stay open and have been specially 'dressed' for the Christmas period.

This year Badesley Clinton was full of natural and traditional decorations.
This was the wreath on the ancient door below the gate-house..

This is a little detail from the dining room table.
(I'm a huge fan of blue and white and would love to be able to replicate this on our own Christmas table!!)

The whole house was full of dried fruit, berries and evergreens.
This is a detail from the library window..

Here's our Christmas table, just before everyone sat down for our main meal on Christmas Day.  You can see my beloved blue and white china (Royal Worcester clearance in the mid-90s) but I've got a long way to go before my presentation looks anywhere near as glamorous!

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this post
and sincere Best Wishes for 2016 to regular readers who have become my 'bloggy friends'