Graduaines

The day is done and what a day it was. After three years of study and a summer of uncertainty, I finally graduated yesterday.

The chap and I arrived at the Guildhall in Winchester in good time to collect my rental gown. My parents arrived just before, having driven all the way from Glastonbury for the occasion. A flurry of forms and photographs ensued so that I could have the immortal picture of me and the scroll.

We swept along in procession to the Cathedral, a magnificent venue. As my friend sidestepped puddles and slippery paving stones, I secretly felt relieved at my choice of flat shows. Less glamour, more security, especially when I knew there would be steps to climb later. We took our seats; my parents and the chap had a splendid view of the proceedings, thanks to the chap venturing into a different seating area. They could have been stuck at the back, and as you can imagine in a cathedral, that would have been a very different experience.

The excitement and anticipation bubbled through me as my row of seats awaited our turn. It was nothing more than a couple of handshakes and a posh certificate. But no, it wasn’t just that really. It was the hours of effort poured into a single dream. It was a culmination of hard work during my school years that led me to attending University in the first place. It was recognition of every story I struggled over, every word I wrote. I took a deep breath before stepping on to the stage. As I left, I let out a sigh of satisfaction and pride.

We left via the main doors of the cathedral, a true honour. More photographs – every parent in the land was trying to capture the essence of the day. Soon it was time to hang up the infamous hat and return home. We dined on a feast of smoked salmon, carvery ham, steamed potatoes, salad, crudités, dips, hummus, savoury rice, coleslaw, crackers, cheese and Prosecco. The celebratory meal was paid for by my parents, who also gifted me with a delightful bunch of roses. It was my supper of choice, much more personal than a hurried meal in an overcrowded restaurant.

The day ran so smoothly, I couldn’t have wished for it to be any better. I’m pleased to close the chapter on full-time education now. Who knows if I will return to University in the future, but for now, I’m a graduate with big dreams and big ideas. Thank you Winchester, for lighting the fire.

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Over and out

After a bout of ill health that has struck me this week, I could not be more relieved to be disappearing on a jet plane later on this afternoon. The chap and I are off on our hols, and about time to if you don’t mind me saying so. This summer has been a struggle, a truly turbulent time when I wasn’t sure if I was coming or going from one week to the next. I plan on spending this next week abroad doing all of my favourite things, including eating, practising yoga, exploring historical sights, drinking cocktails and reading. Then, on my return, I can at last get down to the serious business of finding a permanent base and setting down my roots. I’ve been longing to feel settled and content for awhile now, but I know that sensation is right around the corner. 

But for now, I’m going to indulge in some R&R and ready myself for the challenge ahead. We’ve been saving for our holiday for awhile, so there is no harm in a few treats. But the lunch boxes are packed and magazines have been borrowed instead of bought; it makes no sense to completely forgo frugality for the sake of it. 

Wishing you all a lovely week and I shall return soon.

My oh my

The chap visited this past weekend and it reminded me of the visiting GIs from the war era. He wooed me with chocolate, wine and cans of soup from the black market. Yes, I strayed from my own rationing guidelines this weekend. But when we sat down together to watch a film with our coffee and small chocolate bars, I didn’t feel any guilt. In fact, I appreciated the treat a lot more than if I wasn’t sticking to rationing 90% of the time.

My purse wouldn’t approve of this weekend though. Money does disappear very quickly if you are constantly popping in and out of shops for “a few bits”. Luckily, my purse was unaffected, as the chap’s wallet came to the rescue. But it doesn’t make financially sense to continually spend in the way we did this past weekend.

After seeing the link on Sue’s blog, Frugal in Suffolk, I listened to the episode of The Food Programme and then discovered Claire’s blog, Eat for Victory, and read her blog. I found I had a lot in common with her morals and virtues concerning food and rationing. She actually allows herself £5 a week to spend on “Black Market” products and I thought about adopting this approach myself. I don’t really have £5 to spare each week, so I think a glass of wine and a bit of choccie every now and then won’t hurt. As long as I stick to my principles of little waste, making food stretch and efficient shopping, I think I’ll be just fine.

As for today, I’ve spent the majority of this week’s budget this morning. I sent parcels and cards for upcoming birthdays and celebrations, as well as collecting my rations for the week. There is some major cooking going on today, in preparation for a busy week ahead. I shall be sharing my culinary adventures and experiments over the next few days. No more contraband products for me!

 

Ingenuity

It’s one of those strange days that feels like a day off. I get to wake up slowly, peruse the blog world and wear my most comfiest black leggings. But alas, this afternoon I will be changing into my uniform and heading out to work. Sometimes it’s a burden, waiting around all day and being unable to settle because you’re constantly clock-watching. But today, I’m enjoying the relaxed pace of the morning.

The chap brought me back a darling souvenir from his travels. He collects tankards and fancy beer glasses, which I’ve always been envious of. But now I have my very own, all the way from Heidelberg, Germany.

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Being gluten-intolerant, I don’t in fact drink beer. I had been using my new tankard for water, which I guzzle all day. But this morning, I truly fancied a huge vat of tea. That’s one way of making my tea ration stretch, using one bag to create a half litre of tea 🙂 And saving electric, as you only have to boil the kettle once. It was a wonderful accompaniment to my muesli. (Sue – I’m yet to be organised enough to try your tip for muesli, but I will do soon!)

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I probably won’t do this regularly, as I fear staining my precious tankard, but I did enjoy reading my book this morning, large mug in hand. It’s the simple things that I find most relaxing of all.

A new frugal challenge

Oh boy, I’m excited about this one! It feels great to have a distinct purpose, a tangible goal to work towards. This is much preferable to my previous state of anxiety about the future.

Leaving University will be cutting the final string. My balloon will float away and it terrified me that I had no control over its path. But then I spoke to some friends. And then I cried my heart out to my family. And then I had a little chat with myself. I now have something to aim at, the anchor I’ve been looking for.

I have applied for my dream job. I hesitate to expand on the details, in case it all falls through. But this job would help all other areas in my life slot into place. It would be close to The Chap, which would allow us to spend more time in each other’s company. I could start looking for a suitable apartment to set up home. This is the career that would make me happy, which is what everyone keeps telling me to do.

But, if I do get this job, it will incur unavoidable expenses. Not just big things like rent deposits and furniture, but commuting costs from Winchester before I am able to move closer. Yes, I will be earning, but there will be a void between starting work and my first pay day. The bottom line is simple; I’m going to need money, for this year, and beyond. There is talk of more travelling and a whisper about Asia. For me, this is worth being thrifty for.

So, for the month of May, hopefully my last month in limbo, I will be spending as little as possible. No extras or treats, just the basics for healthy living. I learnt my lesson on my last attempt at a budget lifestyle that cutting fresh fruit and vegetables is not an option. They are essential. But I can purchase cheaper options, such as frozen berries and loose carrots. I want all my meals to be as healthy and as cost efficient as today’s lunch.

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Salad sandwich; two slices of GF bread (reduced bargain!), spread with red pepper houmous (currently on offer for £1), carrots, cucumber and spinach.

            Since the start of the challenge, I have spent only £9.60 on food. I was lucky enough to come back with a few supplies from Glastonbury, so the stocks are good at the moment. You can bet I’ll be stretching every last penny because I’ve got a major incentive for doing so. My future happiness depends on budgeting successfully, and I don’t believe that’s an over exaggeration.

Breaking News

I’m a little bit busy. Hardly ground breaking stuff, but it’s true. This time of year is always frantic, with birthdays, looming deadlines and preparation for Christmas in full swing. I thought I’d so a small round up post today, then resume normal posting asap.

– I’m no longer partaking in the One Pound Per Day challenge. I lasted ten days. I liked walking to the shops each day and seeing what bargains I could find. I didn’t like not being able to pick up food whenever I needed to when I was on the go.

– I’m back to spending as little as possible. I had a couple of last weeks where I opened my purse far too often. I’ve got to re-learn my limits and re-establish my budget.

– I spend most of my days at the moment writing. I’m already looking forward to when it will all be over.

– The chap is taking me out for dinner tonight, which makes me very happy indeed.

– I’ve loved reading all the tips that are popping up on all kinds of blogs. Tips on Christmas, and non-Christmas related things too. I am storing them for future use, possibly January when I have no money!

– Speaking of January, I managed to secure my first work experience placement. I cannot tell you how pleased I am about that!

I hope you’re all having a lovely week. Comprehensive posts to return shortly.

One pound coin

I’m sure a few of you probably saw this coming. In my everlasting goal to save money, I’m going to take up the one pound per day challenge. I have seen variations across the blogosphere (Thrifty Lesley and One Pound Per Day, to name a couple) and have been truly inspired. I like the structure that comes along with this form of spending.

I have thought of a way to tailor this challenge to suit me personally. I will have £1 to spend each day that will go in my purse that morning. Any change left over can be carried across to the next day, but I cannot “borrow” from the future. I will accept free food, because I always have done! But I will not use the challenge to take advantage of generosity.

The £1 budget will include:

All food.

All drink.

All non-essential items.

All entertainment.

The £1 budget will not include:

Travel expenses to see the Chap or my family.

Medicine, if I ever need it.

Occasional nights out with friends/Chap (still keeping to a low budget though!)

Essential toiletries.

I plan on using every inch of my store cupboard. I think it will really teach me the value of the stock I’ve built up over time. I’m looking forward to testing my creative cooking skills. I think this particular challenge will work better than previous rationing challenges, because I can buy what I want, as long as I’m within budget. I think this will help me sustain the challenge, instead of feeling deprived. We shall have to wait and see.

I decided to start the challenge immediately, so I would have no chance to fill the shelves, consciously or unconsciously. After the November NaBloPoMo is up, I shall update my progress on this challenge every Monday. My motivation for attempting this challenge is to save money for my future. I’m more than willing to have a lean year, so that I can stand on my own two feet when I leave the sanctuary of University. I think it’s a goal worth fighting for.

So far today, I have spent 52p on 500ml of semi-skimmed milk. At least then, no matter what happens with actual food, I can always have a nice cup of tea.

Frugal Fridays #16

I’m coming to you live from the chap’s Mac, so no pictures to serve as proof. But you will just have to believe me when I say my new scales and book arrived this morning! It’s odd how happy I was to finally have scales back in my kitchen. I am looking forward to baking up a storm at the weekend. If the delights from the oven are particularly tasty, I might even be inclined to post the recipe. No promises!

But as this is a frugal friday, I thought I’d share two standard tips for when you do have to make a purchase.

Tip One: Shop around. The scales I bought from Amazon cost £12. The same scales from my local Sainsbury’s cost £15. The £3 I saved went on my new-to-me book. Two items for the price of one, thrifty shopping at its best.

Tip Two: Don’t be afraid to buy second hand. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but for the grasshoppers amongst us, second hand is the way to go. Books, clothes and furniture (amongst other things) are all cheaper when they’ve had a previous owner(s). It’s a form of recycling to me, to give a home to something that’s pre-loved. It saves landfill. If you shop carefully, you’ll often find second hand items to be in good condition, particularly books. I often donate books to charity shops so that they can be bought, read, donated and the lovely cycle can begin again. Don’t be prudish about second hand. We all share the same air and water and can all live peacefully with pre-loved items, I’m sure.

I hope my tips will assist whatever frugal journey you’re on. My phone bill came through and I have purchased a ticket to visit my chap. So the current balance is £54 to last 22 days. I’m feeling pretty confident that I will succeed in this challenge and use £150 as my monthly budget for the foreseeable future.

Lunch Date: Loch Fyne

Lunch Date is my intermittent blog series where I write about restaurants I have visited. These are previous establishments that I have posted about:

The Good Life Cafe/Buddy’s Diner/Carluccio’s

I hope they make for a pleasant read!

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            If one cannot be spoilt on one’s birthday, then there is no justice in the world. That makes me sounds awfully bratty, but I confess, I was looking forward to being fussed over on my 21st birthday. The chap rose to the occasion wonderfully.

I was showered with gifts when he first arrived. I found myself falling for him even more with each unwrapped parcel. The man bought me pyjama bottoms, I know he is a keeper. The indulgence didn’t stop there, as I was whisked off for dinner at Loch Fyne.

Although I frequently walk past it, I have never visited any of the Loch Fyne restaurants. We were welcomed into the spacious venue by an enthusiastic waiter. We were informed about the choices on the fresh counter and the catch of the day. Loch Fyne predominantly (although not exclusively) serves fish.

We sat down at our table and perused the menus. All manner of seafood, fillets and whole fish tantalised us both. I am a big advocate for fish although I haven’t sampled many varieties. The chap had whispered the golden words; I could order anything I desired. Perhaps it was the unavoidable status of being a student, or an innate sense for a bargain but I was leaning towards the set menu. Then two dishes grasped my attention fully and I confirmed my order from the set menu. The chap followed suit.

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My starter was a simple charcuterie plate. Everything tasted fresh, delicious and was displayed in order to make an impact. It’s not often that I go to a restaurant that can be referred to as “fancy”. Even on a Monday evening, the place hummed with a warm atmosphere. It’s nice to be in the company of other diners, even if you don’t engage with them. We sipped our wine, a true extravagance, and relaxed into the evening.

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My main course was beautiful. A kiln smoked salmon fillet on top of a salad of pear, butternut squash and pumpkin seeds. The dish leapt out at me from the menu, as it featured some of my favourite ingredients. The fact that it came with a side of twice cooked chips was a real treat. I can honestly say I enjoyed every mouthful.

The chap started with crab cakes and had a whole mackerel alongside chips for his main. He enjoyed his dishes too and would like to return. The feeling is mutual.

If we didn’t order wine, the entire meal would have been £19.90. I think the set menu was incredibly good value for the quality of the dishes. Both menus were extensive, but they do specialise in fish and rarely deter from that, which is worth bearing in mind. I happen to love fish, so it was the perfect option for me. Heartfelt thanks to the chap for making me feel so special.

Frugal Fridays #9

Inspired by the activity over at Down to Earth, I have been on a decluttering mission of my own. I have trimmed down my books, DVDs and trinkets this past week and have carried/dragged two generous bags of items to my local charity shops. I could have sold it, certainly, but it felt good to donate to a system that I thoroughly believe in. Plus, I did list a few other items on ebay, they can be seen here. I thought I would try and make a few pennies out of things that were starting to gather dust.

And what did I do to reward my decluttering efforts? Why, I bought more items obviously! Well, not loads more, just two books that I couldn’t resist on a jaunt to the Oxfam Book Shop with the chap.

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First up is Nigel Slater’s autobiography, Toast. I really enjoyed the BBC adaptation of this a few years back, with Helena Bonham Carter and Freddie Highmore. Slater inspires me more than any other chef, so I’m sure this will be an interesting read.

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I cannot resist a WW2 book when I see them in charity shops, let alone on focusing on the domestic front. Bombers and Mash by Raynes Minns is a wonderful book that I have been devouring ever since I brought it home. It features facts I never knew and several bizarre recipes that I’m summoning courage to try.

So not only have I donated items to charity shops this week, I’ve also managed to donate £5 for these two lovely books. It feels very thrifty to give and take from a glorious system like charity shops. Smiles all round.