Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Coping and waiting for spring



Following the recent sad/scary/stressful events, I am happy to say that I have not only survived, but also found a way to cope with the problems in a relatively calm way. I am known to panic and overreact, but this time S and I have found solutions that gave us peace of mind. Among other things I have been able to get an interest-free credit card which will pay for the bulk of what we need to spend on the car and that unexpected debt I discovered. I have accepted that our finances this year are going to be much tighter than ever; I have looked at areas where I can save money and it looks doable to say the least.

  • We won't go away on holiday this year. Sadly this means I won't get to see my family, but there's always Skype.
  • I won't buy any new books - I have been known to spend a small fortune on them every now and again. Books are my guilty pleasure. But I still have a few I haven't read yet, and plenty I would love to read again. There's also the library and book swapping with friends.
  • I won't buy any new plants for my garden this year; I'll either grow from seeds which I already have, or propagate from cuttings etc.
  • No more ''this blogger recommended a great product, I must order it on Amazon right away''.
  • We won't do birthday/Christmas presents this year.
  • I won't be buying new outfits for the two weddings we've been invited to this year.
  • I will be stricter about sticking to the shopping list and staying within budget.

We already do a lot of other things that save us money:
  • We plan meals for 2 weeks ahead
  • Always shop with a list and never hungry
  • We don't eat out and very rarely get take-aways
  • We cook from scratch
  • We don't really go out; I am a total homebody and don't like drinking; S sometimes goes out with people from work but doesn't drink either as he always drives
  • I grow a portion of our own food and top up with foraged mushrooms; S catches a lot of fish
  • We hand-wash our car ourselves
  • We shop around for energy/phone/insurance providers and are not fussed about ''brand loyalty''
Probably a few more things I can't think of just now, but in general we aren't new to the frugal lifestyle and I know we can make it through this year.

I feel like the coming spring is making everything just a little bit easier. I look at the tiny seedlings on my window sill, at the first daffodil in my garden, at the shy-but-determined shoots of onions and garlic making the veggie patch just a little less sad and empty, at the new leaves on my strawberry plants at the chives coming back to life after the long winter and the birds curiously hopping around, and I can't help but feel a bit more hopeful. 

Nature always perseveres and finds a way to thrive, and I will too.


Monday, 5 March 2018

A week from hell



Last week was one of the worst in my life. I have never felt so cursed before; everything that could have gone wrong - did. Apart from Monday, every day was a nightmare.

On Tuesday we had a death in the family. Dobbie, pictured above, was ''only'' a cat; not even mine but my friend's, but he was part of our family and we loved him dearly. He was my own cat's twin brother and he spent many weeks with us whenever his owners went away. He was the sweetest, most innocent gentle giant ever. The picture above was taken during his last stay with us over Christmas. He left a huge hole in my heart.

On Wednesday S was in a car accident on his way to work; in the horrible weather we've had he lost control of the car and drove into the wall pictured below. Thankfully he's ok but our car is gone. We live in a remote location and that car was our only means of getting to work, and for my partner to see his daughter. The insurance company took our car and we have to wait for a decision whether they will repair or scrap it.




On Thursday we found out that if our car gets written off (which is the most likely scenario), our insurance payout will probably be £2k short of what we still owe for the car, so we have to find that money somewhere else.

On Friday, after a 3h trip from our village on several buses and a 50 minute walk through knee-deep snow, we found out that our flight to Denmark for my birthday weekend was cancelled and we had to go back home (it was showing as ''scheduled'' up until the last minute). Without a car we couldn't plan do anything else for my birthday. We also lost part of the money we paid for that trip.

On Saturday, and this is the most horrifying one, I accidentally found out (when I registered with a credit score website) that back in 2015 there was a court case against me I knew nothing about, and I owe £4,7k to pay off my ex husband debts!!! This is extremely stressful to me, not just because of the huge amount of money I don't have, but also because I am a honest, law abiding person and I feel so extremely humiliated by this! The bastard stopped paying his rent after I moved out, and his debt has been assigned to me. I emailed the court right away explaining the situation and asking for advice on how to proceed. I am hoping to make this go away as I have evidence that I shouldn't be liable for my ex's debts (I informed the letting agency with plenty notice about me moving out, and continued to pay my rent for 3 months afterwards), but in the worst case scenario this huge amount of money will put me back a few years in my journey to being debt-free.

On Sunday - yesterday- was my birthday, certainly not a happy one. My ex, after 3 years of total silence, dared to send me an email wishing me a happy birthday and saying that he forgives me!
It was a really sad birthday. Thanks to S it wasn't completely terrible; we had cake and played board games and had my favourite Indian take away for dinner. But I couldn't forget my worries.

As of today, S, who has been my rock through all this, has to move in with his Mum who lives in the city, as that's his only chance of commuting to work. We don't know how long it will be before we can get a new car, at least 2-3 weeks, and I hate to think of spending this much time apart.

I feel defeated and completely helpless. I know S and I can get through all this together, but with him being away it's going to be so much harder.











Wednesday, 21 February 2018

''Fresh'' supermarket produce





I harvested my potatoes in September/October. I didn't have any fancy storage facilities. I still have a few left and they are still perfectly edible if getting a little wrinkled. They have only just started sprouting, 5 months later, as Nature intended, and I'll be replanting them next month.

Shop bought potatoes sprout within less than a week, and are sometimes black/bruised inside. I have recently gone through two bags of supermarket potatoes, and had a massive amount of waste from all the grey/black bits. Disgusting!

Makes you wonder how bloody old they are??

Well, the answer to that, apparently, is anything up to 12 months! Even ''new'' potatoes can be as old as 7 months! I never knew that and I'm really disgusted... And of course it's not just potatoes. It makes me realise the value of growing my own even more...

Monday, 22 January 2018

On emotional abuse (long read)

This blog was supposed to be my place to talk about the good things in life. But lately, in between the good moments, I have been struggling with my emotions and anxieties and if I'm honest I really need to vent.

I have always suffered from social anxiety and I have always been very emotional. I don't want to go on about how it's been affecting my life lately. I want to talk about the underlying cause.

I want to talk about my relationship with my mum.  She had me at 21 as a university student; completely unprepared for starting a family. She never hid the fact that I was unwanted and she always rejected me; sometimes (I think) subconsciously and without realising that I could absorb those emotions even if I didn't understand them as a baby or toddler. She didn't want me so bad that  at one point she gave me away to her mum/ my gran, and it wasn't until my dad started protesting against other people raising his child that my parents got me back.

My mum always told me what a terrible obstacle I was to her life plans. How much she suffered because of me. And I spent my entire childhood and youth apologising for my existence; trying to earn her acceptance, her affection - but I was never good enough. I was literally the best student in my primary school, but my mum always said I could have done better. I was the quietest, most obedient child you could imagine, but my mum would always find faults in me, the most common ones being ''why don't you ever smile'' and ''stop being so shy''. It's true that I was extremely shy as a child. I still have social anxiety, but have by now learnt to live with it. Back in my early primary school days though I was paralysed by fear whenever my mum made me go to the shop or to the doctor's by myself. But the more I cried about it, the angrier my mum got.

She would always find ways to humiliate me, and disguise it as ''good advice'' or ''motivation''. I vividly remember a photo of me (not the one below) taken when I was 12 or 13. I was standing in our garden under a pear tree on a beautiful summer day, smiling and looking happy. I was wearing shorts. My mum refused to put that picture in the photo album, because ''my thighs looked too fat'' in it. It was the last time in my life I wore anything short. On a side note, I was never fat as a child. I was perfectly normal, as evidenced by many photos. But I always believed I was too fat - I must have been if mum said so. I became overweight as an adult in my mid 20's and I can't help but wonder if I'm just filling out the image of myself that my mum made me build in my head.





I remember so many similar stories throughout the first 19 years of my life... There was the time when my cousin, who's my age, stayed with us during the summer holidays. My mum would take her shopping, buy her stuff, take her places, always leaving me behind and making me feel like she wished my cousin was her daughter, not me. Then there was the day my mum, who at the time was my primary school teacher, humiliated me in front of the entire class and kicked me out of the room, because I was answering her questions before the other kids got a chance (that was me trying to prove to her that I was better than others and make her like me).

I was never allowed to be seen when my parents had guests round.
I was never allowed to play with my dolls, all of which my mum hung up on my bedroom wall and I was only allowed to look at them. The only permitted toys were books.
I was never allowed to speak unless I was spoken to.
I was never allowed to trust my feelings, e.g. when I was no longer hungry but had to finish my dinner, or when I was deeply hurt but wasn't allowed to cry.

The most painful side of it all was that whenever I showed any weakness, i.e. cried, she would dismiss and/or ridicule my feelings; tell me I'm all ''slimy'' and wash my face with cold water, and complain about having such a stupid, useless child.

All of this has left a giant mark on my personality. I have huge difficulties in making friends, or human interaction in general. I have no confidence and very little self esteem. I am not assertive; I need constant validation; I work hard not because I like it but because I need an excuse for my existence. I have this weird inner anger towards children, because I think deep inside I'm jealous that ''everyone loves kids'' while I was the only one who didn't deserve love. I have had difficulties in my relationships with men; it's a miracle that I have eventually found one who has enough love and patience to put up with my issues.

I have always wanted to see a psychologist. This is no joke; as a child I asked my mum several times if I could see one, but I was just told to stop being ridiculous. Finally at 34 I decided that enough is enough and I need to fix my head before I fall apart.

I recently started therapy and it wasn't until a few days ago that I realised that the way my mum treated me was emotional abuse. Whether she did it consciously or whether she had the best intentions I will never know, but it doesn't really matter - it doesn't change anything. There is no nice way to put it. I was emotionally abused by my mum and I now suffer the consequences of it. My mum doesn't know about my therapy and I have no intention of telling her - or ever confronting her about this. It wouldn't help either of us.

My therapist believes I can get better. I want to get better - for myself and for my relationship. I feel that this is my last chance.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

What I was grateful for in 2017



Instead of new year's resolutions I thought I'd much rather reflect on the wonderful things that happened in my life in 2017. I think good changes can and should be made any time we feel inspired to make them, not just on the 1st of January... But it never hurts to practice a little gratefulness and look back at the good things we've already been blessed with!


DOING UP OUR HOUSE 

Our house still needs a lot of work done, but we are getting there! In 2017 we managed to repaint the entire hallway, which we didn't think we would be able to do on our own due to the height of our staircase. But we managed and the resulting bright white walls make the house look so much brighter and cleaner. We have also added to our furniture, making the house feel more homely, and started looking at kitchens and carpets.


GARDENING SUCCESS

2017 was my first full year of real gardening (as opposed to growing things on the window sill which I had done in the past). I grew a huge (considering my lack of experience and the smallish size of my garden) variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit; mostly with success. My garlic crop was particularly successful - I still have plenty to see me through until summer!


PERSONAL FINANCES

I got a nice payrise in 2017, and around the same time S got a new and better-paid job. This meant that we've been able to pay off some of our debts quicker and we are much closer to being debt free!


NEW PASSION

I've always had interest in photography, but it wasn't until Christmas 2017 that Santa brought me a brand new professional Canon camera, together with a set of different lenses and a book to help me understand all the features. It gives me so much joy and I'm so proud of some of the photos I've taken, even though half the time I still don't know what I'm doing!






GOOD HEALTH

In 2017 I finally got my blood pressure under control and have been feeling a lot better - no more headaches! In May I gave up all wheat products and reduced the amount of carbohydrates I eat - this has lead to some weight loss (not dramatic, but it wasn't the main goal), increased general wellbeing and discovery of many new, wonderful recipes, such as my favourite multigrain, flourless bread.


BOUNTIFUL NATURE

2017 was the best year for mushrooms I've had in the past decade. We ate the last of our frozen chantarelles on Christmas Eve, but we still have A LOT of frozen and dried birch boletes. In spring we had some wonderful wild garlic, and in late summer - wild raspberries, blackberries and a small amount of blueberries.

I can't wait to see what 2018 brings!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Winter wonderland



There's no running away from the fact that Christmas is just around the corner. We went to one of our local garden centres yesterday and I was amazed to discover that they transformed almost the entire space into this magical wonderland of Christmas decorations. It was beautiful! No tackiness there; everything was really tasteful and gorgeous. I just had to take some pictures. I ended up tot buying anything (it was all quite pricey!), but I certainly got inspired!
























Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Homegrown & homemade garlic preserve




Fermentation is one of the healthiest ways of preserving vegetables; it turns them into a real probiotic powerhouse - especially precious if you've been taking antibiotics and your natural gut flora is depleted. Sauerkraut is a staple in my house, as are cucumbers in brine. I had never tried garlic preserved that way, but seeing as I had a bumper crop of garlic this year I absolutely had to try it!

Garlic preserved in salty brine tastes delicious and doesn't leave behind a stinky breath the way fresh raw garlic does. But most importantly, fermentation intensifies its healing properties, and eating just a couple of cloves a day will really boost your immune system.

Here is the recipe; all quantities are approximate and will depend on the amount of garlic you use.

Garlic cloves - peeled. I used 6 garlic heads to fill 2 small jars.
Dried herbs, about a teaspoon - I used basil and lovage, but any favourite herbs will work.
Whole mustard or coriander seeds, about a teaspoon.
Fresh rosemary, 1 sprig.

Brine:
Water - enough to fill the jars you are using.
Salt - use 1 tbsp per 1 litre of water (adjust the amount of salt accordingly, e.g. if using 500ml of water, only use half a tablespoon of salt).

Jars and lids must be scrubbed clean and dipped in hot (boiling) water to kill any microbes.
Place the herbs and spices in the bottom of the jar(s). Add in the garlic - a tight squeeze is fine.
Boil the water with the salt. Pour boiling water into the jars, making sure the garlic is covered. 
Screw the lids on and turn the jars upside down, and leave them until they cool down completely, then turn them the right way up and store away in room temperature for at least a week. The warmer the environment, the quicker it will ferment, so if your house is cooler, 2 weeks is probably the minimum.

The garlic can be sliced and added to salads, used in cooking, or eaten on its own almost like a ''pill'' when you feel you need an immunity boost.