Value People – Use Stuff

We call ourselves minimalists yet own more stuff than any self-respecting minimalist should.

Fortunately for us for the most part we live our lives without concern of conformity.  So, even as some would advise owning 100 items we strive to own what we need, find useful and/or brings us pleasure.

When I look around some of the lowest value stuff we own that brings the most frequent joy.  Such is our Italian Coffee Percolator, given to us as a gift for housesitting.  For the ritual of having a little’ly (espresso) bring us pure pleasure.  As a couple, it continues to bond us.  I can see the truth in claims that couples who share the same drinking habits are more likely to stay together.  Together Forever – One Life, Live It.

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Another of the items we own is a small textured rug, given to us over a decade ago in South Africa by my eldest sister.  This rug has had many uses.  First as intended; a bath mat, then, to cover the front van seats of Bloubokkie and now as a mat in Sunny, our big yellow van, Man!  Many a time as my feet feel the texture beneath my heart feels the bond of our sisterhood.

In my cutlery draw lie a pair of excellent quality hand held peeler and spiralizer.  When I use these, particularly when a pile of veggies lie beneath my hands my thoughts turn to my second eldest sister.  Our bond lies, in running a business together and laughing together.  I remember the times when George had to sit between us to stop our giggling in meetings.

The scarf around my neck, the one I use on most walks was given to me by my mother and shields me from chilly winds just as mom stood up for me against the injustices that are part of boarding school life.

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Despite our best intentions and two years of decumulating to accommodate our nomadic, adventurous, house sitting lifestyle we still battle against stuff and clutter.  It pleases me that a lot of stuff we have is not only of use but reminds me of the people we value.

As much as I do not want to be defined by what I own I hope for my heart to grow so that I can value people, whether I have a bond with them or not.  Value people and use stuff.

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Autumn holds such promise

One couple many pets

Last week we trundled over the border of Devon to Cornwall to meet with a retired Vet and his wife, who are looking for a housesitter during the Festive Season. They have 25 hens, 2 cockerel, 1 guinea fowl and 2 cats in need of company  over Christmas.  By all accounts it’s a lightweight assignment considering we have just finished looking after 26 rescue whippets & lurchers.

We are looking forward to the Cornish sit and exploring a bit more of Cornwall.  In the meantime this month sees us looking after one daintly, little black cat called Bella in the South Hams.  We have been housesitting members since 2014 and have had the most phenomenal success.  See below if you would like to find out more about house sitting or pet sitting.

Whippets and Lurcher Rescues
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George & Matt with TippyToes, Dart, Misty, Brindle, Jet, Socks & Miley (or is that Kerrypup?)
Bella of Braodsand
Mutant genes and wanderlust

I digress.  We had a delightful 3 course meal with our hosts, which started with a warming squash soup and ended with a dessert of figs grown in the garden (bizarre for England don’t you think?).  We meet such lovely, warm and open people on our journey.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it is the open mindset and of course they are animal lovers too.

It is interesting to hear about the history of people’s homes and families.  To think this couple have lived in this house and village for longer than I have been alive.  I have lived on 2 continents and in 3 countries and in more homes than I care to recall and yet we yearn for more sights and adventures.  Labelling a psychosis is helpful and ours appears to be genetic, for I am sure we carry the mutant DRD4-7r gene linked to wanderlust and exploration, which in turn leads to advancement of civilisation (google it!).

The world is an open book and those who do not travel read only one page –      Augustine of Hippo

On our drive home, with George imploring I make my butternut soup again, we pulled into the local farm shop in Lifton.  The display of pumpkins caught our attention and while we aren’t keen on consumerism we do make a point of spending some of our pennies locally, particularly farmshops or stalls and came away with some tea time treats to boot.

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Lifton Farmshot – convenient stop for families
Promise of a new season

The first of the month (1st October) holds such promise; the crispness in the air marking a new season.  New starts stirs up childish feelings from my school days.  The snow white, feint lined page of exercise books, which used to evoke false promises to my schoolgirl self to write neatly and even so far as endeavour to complete all homework.  Turn the page and the fresh inspiration is dented from the markings of my previous writing and spent effort.

Those feelings have not left me and if you ever hear a guy moaning loudly ‘not another notebook’ it is likely to be George. {Please distract him so I can make my purchase free of guilt and without being reminded of the countless discarded notebooks I own}.

1st of October for us is a call to press the reset button on our non-existent health and fitness regime  Apparently my blood pressure is through the roof (who knew – not sure the gadget wasn’t properly calibrated though).  Apart from this alarming indicator, we are both craving ‘live food’.  You know…food that heals your body rather than harm it.

Soup and Juice me Jason

Our go to reset regime is from the vibrant Jason Vale.  He is the UK’s Juice Master and we are loosely following the 7 day ‘Soup & Juice Me’ plan.  Later this month will be more hardcore when we take up the Big Juice challenge.  The circumstances of recent weeks has had us thinking about internal parasites and much of what we plan to eat is with this in mind.  Purely by coincidence today is International Vegetarian day and so we celebrate this too.

The first soup on JV’s plan is a Butternut and Carrot soup.  Jason’s recipe is dead easy to follow but being a cook I use it simply as a starting point and my own version will follow.

With a such a cold and blustery day butternut soup served in (wait for it…..) munchkin pumpkins (how could I resist buying these little sausages) will do nicely – thank you very much.

pumpkin-pots Continue reading Autumn holds such promise

How I cut this week’s grocery bill by a third

This week with some ingenuity and time I cut our weekly grocery bill by a third.  In my line of work, I see people’s budgets and often wonder, how is it possible to spend as little as they do on groceries.  To put this in perspective, for two of us my savings this week was equivalent to what the average couple people spend on food per week.  How the heck do you only spend around £60 a week (statistic 2015)  on food? [1]  This is an area of our family budgeting I hope to bring under control.

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Enough of the statistics and let me get down to the nitty gritty.  While picking up some cracking deals in the Waitrose ‘Half Price September Sale Event’ I spotted their offer of £20 off on a £100 home delivery shop and free delivery.

I hot-footed it home with discount code in hand.  Not wanting to be caught out with the old trick of spending to save I fired up‘mySupermarketUK’.  I have the app on my phone which enables me to compare prices on the trot.

First I selected the store I intended shopping at and then I selected ‘organic’ under Lifestyle filters.  Hey don’t forget it is #OrganicSeptember.  One useful feature with the app is you can quickly see if the item is cheaper at any other stores and what the historic average price has been.  The things that float my boat.  You literally can’t beat 60 pence per tin of organic baked beans, which is apparently 38% below its average price at the time of my order.

Quite apart from the historic low price of baked beans, organic or otherwise I plan on making my version of Southern Style Baked Beans soon.  When it comes to recipes I follow less and improvise more.  So having browsed the blog post at thekitchn.com – beautiful-beans and filled with inspiration I rustled up a brunch of baked beans on toast.  Here is what I created out of baked beans having read Faith Durand’s blog:

Jenny’s Rustic Baked Beans Brunch

  • Fry some onion, sauté them if you must;
  • Slice less fennel and fry too;
  • Add diced bacon, a slice or 4
  • Once you are happy the bacon is cooked through toss in a can of baked beans. Turn down the heat and simmer, while making toast to lay the beans on.
  • Spoon the bean mixture onto the toast, sprinkle with extra mature cheddar cheese, caynne pepper if you like heat and grill until the cheese has melted and is brown and bubbly.

Warning:  know now that you are more than likely to burn your mouth because you won’t be able to resist.

I have also bought Aduki beans, Red Kidney beans, Borlotti beans and Haricot beans and hubby reckons I am going to cook up a storm and just as well we tucked away in the countryside.  Joking aside I want to start replacing some of our meat dishes with a few more bean dishes as a way of being economical and environmentally friendly.

It wasn’t all hardship and scrimping as I added a ½ price Welsh Lamb Roast to my cart and some very nice organic wine for Sunday Lunch and have duly invited my favourite son and girlfriend over in a semblance of maintaining traditions.

img-20160806-wa0014Where we housesitting there is not one but two biscuit tins chock-o-block with treats.  We find them quite irresistible so this time I am prepared with our own snack size treats also on special.  I took the opportunity to stock up on my store cupboard supplies, including coriander, which is quite prominent in South African cooking.

A huge Ka-ching as all in all I saved £20 for ordering over a £100 of groceries and a further £38 off discounted items without compromising our standards aka organic as far as possible.

And as if that was not enough when I booked my delivery slot I picked one with a little truck symbol indicating the driver would already be in the area and thus more environmentally friendly delivery.  Not only do I get to feed my family nutritious home cooked meals I save the planet (even just a tiny little bit helps).

How you can save too but hurry to make the most of this

  • Register for Waitrose account
  • For 1st online shop £30 off £100 with code: AQ3H30£30 (before it expires) or pop in to a Waitrose near you and pick up the discount code on a van shaped flyer at the tills;
  • Create an account at mySupermarketUK and after selecting Waitrose as your store start adding items to your basket.   For a double whammy you can filter by goods on offer and if you drop down to lifestyle options you can select organic.
  • When you select an item you can see the average price of the item and how much other stores are currently charging.  If you find yourself a bargain on an item you need/want add it to your list;
  • Once you have £100 in your basket you can ‘checkout’ and send your shopping over the net to Waitrose.  Click on the button continue to Waitrose and be sure you have just over a £100 in case of missing goods.

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[1] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/minimum-income-standard-uk-2015

Are you some kind of nomad?

Housesitting has been in my periphery for a long time.  My feisty mother-in-law (hello Hazel!) is employed to house-sit in Cape Town, South Africa to deter squatters taking over people’s second homes.  This was the extent of my knowledge. It was something retired peogle did.

Then towards the end of 2014 our son declared his desire to join the Royal Air Force. Or RAF as he casually put it.  GULP.  This is a mom, who cried actual (many and large) drops of tears into her cereal the day he went for a college taster session (because my baby was growing up).  I was crying happy-sad tears.  Knowing ‘this day’ would eventually come we gave him our blessing, saying there were two things we wanted for him; to be happy and follow God.  After a couple of false-starts I was acutely aware that empty-nest syndrome would hit me hard.

Extract from https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/empty-nest-syndrome

Time and energy that you directed toward your child can now be spent on different areas of your life.  This might be an opportune time to explore or return to hobbies, leisure activities or career pursuits.

After a couple of weeks of moping about and deep philosophical discussion around what we would do ‘if money were no object’ we decided on two main things.

  1. Self-build and live sustainably
  2. Travel and see more of this amazing world we live in

So what was stopping us?

In short my career.  I had painstakingly built up a career as a Chartered Financial Planner over the last decade, after relocating to the UK.  It is something I am good at and can help people in a very personal and unique way.  The income is quite handy pretty essential too.  Plots and housing don’t come cheap on this small island.

George, then casually asked me, one Saturday morning, if I thought we could house sit. Being the researcher that I am I googled the gaggle out of housesitting. Scouring for tips and stories online I saw quite a few in our nearby vicinity, including a particularly appealing house sit for 3 months, which would coincide with our son’s leaving dates.

We joined Trustedhousesitters for a tentative 6 month trial. I created our profile, adding photos, requesting references from friends, acquaintances and even my boss (who is a lovely chap). We were all ready to rock and roll, except I was too scared to apply for the dream sit.  What if I applied and we didn’t get it?  It would be another disappointment to deal with, our hopes and dreams dashed once more.

Successful we were, and I can hardly believe two months of housesitting have gone and in exactly a month from today we will have finished our first house sit we applied for.  It is more than we imagined.  We live in the most gorgeous village, complete with village shop that bakes croissants on a Sunday morning. The two dogs we look after have crept right into our hearts.  And we have had the most amazing time exploring the South Hams and Dartmoors over winter.

Someone asked me if I was some kind of Nomad?  No,  not yet.  We are following our dreams with the resources we have at our disposal.