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Random London Tips for Monkey Mama

June 12th, 2017 at 08:22 am

OK, Monkey Mama, here we go:
TRANSPORTATION
First, get an Oyster card for transportation at Heathrow or Gatwick. The tube station at Heathrow has them, and you will be happy you did. They can be used on the bus, tube, and various other places. ‘ You’re probably planning on walking a lot, but your feet will get tired. And people walk VERY fast except for tourists who stop at the bottom of the escalator and in other inopportune places. When they say stand on the right on the escalator, they mean it.
The tube is easy, but crowded and you don’t see much except people’s armpits. I much prefer the bus when you have time. The site tfl.gov.uk is your friend for all transportation planning. Black cabs are expensive and don’t get in the non-licensed minicabs. Uber is around, but the bus in non-rush hour is great. I’d skip the tourist buses and try one of these. http://www.londonforfree.net/bus-tour/ or http://londonist.com/2016/02/london-s-10-best-bus-routes. That “Londonist” site is great for daily things happening.
SITES
The biggies for me are
• Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament—come out of the Westminster tube station for maximum (AH!) effect. Then walk along the river after that.
• Trafalgar Square. It’s the geographical epicenter of London. Best bus there is the #24 or Charing Cross tube. The steps to the National Gallery are “my spot.” Look down across the square and you can see the river and Big Ben. I saw them filming Wonder Woman there last year. Go to the National Gallery if art is your thing and say hi to my Caravaggio. Free tours frequently—check out their site. Next door is the fun National Portrait Gallery, also free. Everything from authors, to rock stars, royalty, and a beautiful portrait of David Beckham  Both have cafes and fancier restaurants—including a rooftop one. Expensive for my budget so I eat at Pret a Manger across the street or at St Martin’s for lunch. They often have a free lunchtime concert too. The Chandos pub has lunch upstairs and nice beer as does the Sherlock Holmes on Northumberland Avenue.
• The Eye is worth it, I think, but book ahead. For views I’d skip the Shard and book ahead at the Skygarden. They have a normal priced coffee shop in the morning and it’s got a nice vibe in the evening for cocktails. But you have to book. It’s near the Bank of England, and the morning rush hour in Bank station is my idea of hell. But I think you’re staying close by? Walk over. It’s also close to Leadenhall Market—Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
• It’s probably worth watching the Changing of the Guard once at Buckingham Palace. Watch your wallets etc in those crowded spots and on the tube. I have never had a problem, but summer is full of tourists and offers more chances for pickpockets.
• I love the Southbank—the Globe Theatre (tours!), the National Theater—heaven—and they all have food available. Sit outside, walk, have a beer. I also like the George—from the book Shakespeare’s Local. It’s not far from Borough Market and Southwark Bridge. Despite the recent tragedy, I’d still go to Borough Market. It’s fun.
• The British Museum and all those Museums. They can be overwhelming. Go to the tours at the British Museum. My favorite wine place is just around the corner.
• The Green Spaces—London is justifiably proud of its parks. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are lovely. I also like Regents Park and you can walk along the canals.
• I like Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, but we are history geeks. I spent two years at the imperial War Museum and they’ve done an excellent job remodeling it. Good-ish café there too and Lambeth is different.
• Do go to the Museum of London in the Barbican. Free and very interesting.
• I like London Walks company for guided walks, or just buy a book on walks. Also good wlaking podcasts.
• I know this is strange, but I love St Pancras station. Good bookstore and good architecture. It’s just atmospheric. I also like Lambs Conduit—good places to eat and my favorite feminist bookstore.
• For more out of the way things, I’d recommend Greenwich or Hampstead for Sunday lunch. When I win the lottery, that’s my new home.
FOOD
Breakfast where you live. Take advantage of your own tea and coffee. Lunch can be economically done with the supermarket takeaways. There are great options at all the central grocery stores. I like Waitrose (too expensive though) and dream of the M and S bean salad. All of them have sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruit, crisps, to take away. And do take away from Eat, Pret, and all those places saving yourself the steep 18-20% VAT and eating in the park.
I’m not a fancy eater, especially in London, but do have favorite pubs out aways or off the beaten tourist track. Non-touristy pubs have the best food options. Especially ones with outside seating. Or eat at the theater cafeterias. There are lots of good dinner places by Charlotte Street off Tottenham Court Road. Don’t eat Mexican, just don’t.
This is a big restaurant area: http://www.stchristophersplace.com/

Not sure what else you’re particularly interested in. We do lots of history and literary things, but happy to help in any way I can.

UK Planning and Spending

May 29th, 2017 at 06:56 pm

We had our planning meeting with our daughter's BFF's family on Saturday night to talk through England planning. I think her mom really wants to join us! But it's all systems go--and I booked flights Sunday, and after looking at hotel prices in London, booked a two-bedroom airbnb for six nights instead. The airbnb also gives us plenty of options for breakfasts in, access to laundry facilities, and other meal options. It's a self-contained flat with a full kitchen etc. And--it's in my old neighborhood in London so I know the shops and transport very well. I thought about exploring a new part of the city, but finding a two-bedroom with three beds for under $200/night was a triumph. Now, of course, the girls want a day trip to Paris. DH would prefer to have a day to himself in London, maybe with his brother or BFF, so we'll trade off who has the girls so I can have the following day with my London colleagues.

Real life also progresses here. I spent more than I wanted to at the garden center, as usual. We spent Saturday clearing the raised beds and doing lots of weeding and chopping. I also drove DD to Half Price Books where happily we bought nothing and got $12 for her outgrown books. I'm making several boxes for the upcoming garage sale. Lots of things can go. Plenty to do!

Back from Door County

May 23rd, 2017 at 03:13 pm

I had a lovely five days with BFF in Door County. We used the airbnb where the family stayed last fall. The weather was not fabulous, but the cherry trees, forget-me-nots, and trilliums (trillia?) were all in bloom. We hiked a lot, took the ferry to Washington Island, ate delicious food, drank wine, watched movies, shopped, and talked and talked. My BFF is the best traveling buddy. We made lots of long-term plans and had a wonderful time.
My regular spring classes are done, graded, and projects headed for the shredder. Either students pick them up or off they go. I went to the university today and ran into pre-med students I'd had in my fall classes. They're lovely folks, and I told them I'd help with application materials. It's above and beyond, but I sure like them all. One young man has Syrian parents and is taking two years between now and med school to work in refugee camps. How can you say no to someone like that? Another young woman has been accepted to Kings College London and wants to sit down and talk London. Can you see why I like them?

My evening class continues with the other side of the socio-economic scale. I've got a student who is just out after 10 years in prison. Man alive, the stories.

So, I've spent a lot on Door County, our upcoming anniversary, and various things. We need to do a little belt tightening soon. I do have a few things listed on FB, but am traveling to Minneapolis in a few weeks for a friend's birthday which coincides with her neighborhood garage sale. We're all bringing things to sell so I plan on spending much of tomorrow gathering and pricing. I deposited two small rebate checks into the 100K fund. It needs a funds infusion. I need to make some lists.

Three Weeks and One Day

April 19th, 2017 at 12:40 pm

until the blasted semester ends. I'm hanging on, not spending much, but fueled by caffeine and sugar. I seem to have legions of students who need help, are tired too, have lost the plot, or something else dire. Despite some major grocery spending last weekend, I seem to have spent nothing for days.

Tomorrow I'm driving with a friend to a teaching conference and meeting some other colleagues there. I am so excited, but so tired at the same time. I have a short presentation to do, and miracle of miracles, the university is paying for our lodging. It's over at noon on Friday, so we hope to have some time to hike Friday night. If you want an indication of how boring I currently am, I'm planning on holing up in the hotel room and grading papers all Thursday night. And worst of all--I'm looking forward to it.

DH is also busy at work and I need a couple hours tonight to pull things together around here.

Weekend Away

March 21st, 2017 at 02:30 pm

I spent the weekend in Minneapolis with my girlfriends. One of these women has been my friend since second grade--a million or so years ago. And the others--I've know them all through first, and sometimes second marriages. They're my traveling buddies too.

It's about a 5-6 hour drive, but I had Bill Bryson on audio book, and the weather was ok. We had a dinner and a lunch out--and theatre tickets at the Guthrie. Considering how constrained my spending has been, I think we did well. I stayed with one of them, and we ate breakfasts and had cocktails there. I splashed out on a $25 Eddie Bauer sweater, but packed a sandwich to eat at the rest stop rather than giving in to my Culver's temptation. It was a lovely start to spring break.

Although it's break, my evening class continued last night, but I spent nothing. DD and I are headed for $5 Tuesdays to see Beauty and the Beast tonight.

And DH got paid! Isn't that nice? He's been paid for a week and got his back unemployment. I haven't really relaxed about money yet, but I will.

My women friends and I had lots of talk about retirement and how to do what we'd like to do. Mostly we want to travel, read, and do some volunteer work. Aiming for all of that I have a meeting scheduled with my 403b advisor tomorrow morning. Hoping for some reassuring news. Our fall teaching schedules have been published, and thankfully I have a full load.

Joy in Packerland

January 16th, 2017 at 09:19 am

Sorry,NJDebbie,but there is lots of joy in Wisconsin this morning after that amazing Packer game. And we didn't even eat all the game time snacks because we were too nervous during that last quarter. But, they will be out for next Sunday's Atlanta game.

Except for the church offering, it was a NS day with new movie titles from the library and several new books--including--to my delight, the Colson Whitehead book that has received such raves. I love the library, especially now as we're being uberfrugal.

Speaking of uberfrugality, I may need to have one day with a little leeway. We're planning to head to western Wisconsin this weekend to watch the eagles feed on the river. It will be a good day for a lunch out. Maybe I can use the cash from the boot/skate sales.

Meal plan for the week is done. It's going to be a meatless Monday with a quiche for dinner--leftovers to DD's lunch this week. Taco Tuesday and spaghetti Wednesday as per usual.

We finally got the Christmas tree down, and I've chosen some unloved ornaments to go in the donation bag. I'm also making granola bags for my buddies without full teaching loads. I have lots of oats and dried fruit, so no outlays there. In other exciting plans, DH and I will clean the carpets, and I have meetings at school beginning tomorrow.

Happy MLK day! We're spending some time today to act on his words: "The time is always right to do what's right."

Home Again

December 27th, 2016 at 12:22 pm

After a lovely four days in the Twin Cities for Christmas, we're home. My brother and his wife are the best. Their house is on the market so we talked about staying in a motel to keep out of their hair, but we managed well. I cut back a bit on the vast amounts of wine, champagne, and brandy I usually bring them, but I hope we were still generous enough. I made a mint grasshopper ice cream tart which was great and a spinach pear salad for Christmas Eve. Lots of Wisconsin cheese as well. We made some time yesterday to go to the Martin Luther and Art show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and then headed home.

That and some road food and a breakfast with friends meant the financial outlay was minimal, but real frugality cranks up now. We've decided to do our usual pizza and movie NY, but I've already started crockpot soup for the next few days. I see a couple days of digging out of Christmas--some returns, etc, but mostly small errands. Off to the library for some DVDs and books!

One Big Chunk

August 22nd, 2016 at 12:46 pm

To deal with DH's upcoming pay cut, I have been nosing around for more bargains. Here's what I've done, starting with the minor.
A large pot of soup for lunches and tonight's dinner successfully using some wilting veggies.
Less expensive back-to-school shopping than anticipated. DD is fine with much of what she has. We can buy more to supplement as the school year progresses.
A Costco trip that filled in some gaps
A cheap Hotwire motel for next week's Minneapolis trip.
and my large triumph--a truly bargain flight for DH's trip to his nephew's wedding in October. He's going alone as mid-semester trips are impossible for DD and me. I'd been looking for weeks for a good fare between Chicago and Heathrow and struggling to find anything in the strict timeframe under $1000. We'd used consolidators before without any problems, and since he's flying alone, I thought, "why not?" The ticket has gone through, he's flying AA for under $600. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. If you have a consolidator horror story, please don't tell me. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

And on the income side, my grades are in for my summer class, learning platform and assignments ready for tonight's new eight-week class, freelance project bill ready to be submitted. I still have loads of freelance work, but it can wait a few days.

DD and I are off to visit my brother and fam in MN tomorrow. Hanging out at the lake seems like a good way to wind up the summer.


Study Abroad Changes

August 18th, 2016 at 10:37 am

I spent yesterday with our Center for Intl Education. They've received the bad news that our academic department is no longer willing to pay faculty salaries when they teach studies abroad. This comes from all the budget cuts we've been faced with at the university. So, they'll need to raise costs to students, even though we teach courses in our subject area abroad, just as we would at home.

I spent some time brainstorming with them about how to cut costs. The drop in the exchange rate will help for now. But mostly I came away sad--sad that I can't go again for another fours years, sad that fewer students will be able to afford this, sad at the devaluing of university education into some sort of trade school.

I also came away determined to really stockpile cash and cut back--smarter spending on everything. My overflowing closets and cupboards are testimony to impulse buying. I've become so much better, but we still have so much excess.

More Montreal Planning

May 9th, 2016 at 11:21 am

My BFF has booked her airfare to Montreal with ai rmiles. We don't have enough, so I guess I'm going to have to bite the bullet and pay mine. But we did find an airbnb that is cheaper than the hotel, has good reviews, and lots of space. This will be our first time in airbnb, and I'm sort of glad we're doing it together. Between the shared expense of that, I hope now that it can come in with airfare under $850.

Among other considerations are DD's French camp arrangements. I've told her friend's mom that I'd drive up there, and she said she'd pick them up. This is a long drive--maybe between 9 and 10 hours. But the thing is they have a program on the final morning, and I'd like to see it. But it means 20 hours total driving and at least one overnight motel. And I hate to drive that far by myself. DH would happily come, but he'd have to take a day off work, meaning about $500 in lost wages. I think I'll get over my desire to see the program, three tanks of gas, a motel stay and several meals out. Gees, when I add it up it's pretty nasty. Let's save that money to camp next year or college.

We had a nice Mother's day brunch yesterday--simple but fun-at a local place. I dug up the raised beds, seeded some chard and radishes, and look forward to the bounty. Over the weekend I sold some clutter on FB too.

Summer Planning

May 6th, 2016 at 07:53 am

I spent a good chunk of yesterday planning a friend's "milestone" birthday. She lives in Minneapolis, so I'll drive up there in June. With my BFF, we got the invitations e-mailed, the menu sorted, and I have a gift already--happily from my overflowing gift closet.

I also went through photos trying to figure out how to incorporate them into the party. We're just doing some potted annuals dressed up with raffia and candles in mason jars for decorations--both inexpensive reusable items. Beside the gas to get there, I plan on spending about $75-100 on throwing the party. It's at her house so I'll stay with her.

The more expensive item yesterday was paying the deposit for DD's French camp. I charged $300, but we still have (ugh) $1685 to go. I'm driving both her and her friend to Northern MN, so that also will have to be budgeted for.

And then there's Montreal. I'm hoping to slide in with airfare and shared hotel under $1000. The meals will be extra, but most of the hotels provide breakfast. We're also very good at buying and bringing snacks and water.

Good thing that except for the French camp deposit I only spent $1.75 yesterday on a gallon of milk.

Busy Life, Quiet Blog

April 9th, 2016 at 04:45 am

So, it's been still a very busy and very fun time here in Fantasyland. DH and DD were here for Easter week, and we had loads of fun. I talked DH into spending the bulk of the week in his hometown to max out his time with his 90-year-old dad, and DD and I had a grand time in London--walking everywhere. She requested a trip to Forbidden Planet, a couple of fun walks, a trip to Kew, and she got to sit in on my increasingly raucous classes (spring fever!). We went up to the 35th floor of a London skyscraper for breakfast, saw a stately home (for free!) and rode the bus all over. We ended this trip by meeting friends who traveled to Normandy with us via the overnight ferry.

We got a room on the ferry both ways and spent two jam-packed days in Bayeux, Caen, Arromanches, and the D-Day landing sites and museums. We splurged a bit on a tour guide, but divided it between us, and agreed it was well worth it for all we learned. We saw the Bayueux tapestry, the cathedral, had a gorgeous hotel, and just plain enjoyed ourselves. DD spoke French to the waiters and was very pleased she was understood. Very fun for all of us.

Yesterday I went on the student trip to Brighton which was also fabulous. I'll close with a photo from Omaha Beach and count on your support when I'm back to real life in a week. And snow. And taxes.

Lovely Evening

March 5th, 2016 at 07:28 am

I managed to rouse myself out of my semi-illness to go to a poetry reading at the National Theatre last night. It was a benefit for Amnesty International and cost me a whopping 4 GBP (about $6). For that I heard ten writers, actresses, and reporters read "Poems That Make Grown Women Cry." It was a geek-heaven experience for me as half the poems they read are poems I teach. And some of these women are legends--Edna O'Brien, Juliet Stevenson, Maureen Lipman, and Vanessa Redgrave. I swooned.
I had a small dinner there and walked for 30 minutes--just across the river Thames and up Charing Cross Road, through Leicester Square, and up to Tottenham Court Road to catch the tube. I stopped several times to etch the silhouette of St. Pauls in my brain as I stood on the Jubilee Bridge. But I was exhausted when I got home, took a hot bath and slept for 12 hours.

I especially appreciate snafu's advice (as always) about Rome. I'm going to rethink it for my last full weekend here. The weather may be slightly better in April, and hopefully I'll be at 100% then.

I've got a full slate this week as I've asked my students for dinner, am going to the theatre on Tuesday, and I need to be at full strength.

What I've Been Up To

March 4th, 2016 at 04:46 am

It's been a lovely few weeks in Londontown, punctuated by a trip to Nice with my girlfriends. I'm really trying to relish every single moment. It's going to be tough to go back to real life in six weeks.

Amazingly Nice didn't cost too much. It's off season, and I shared a room with my Minnesota girlfriends who flew over to join me. Six nights with breakfast and a balcony overlooking the Med cost less than $300 each. With the flight under $100 (thanks to my BA Avios), and the wonderful bus system there, it was just dinners and some misc. spending. We went back to Eze on a day trip, also Villefranche and the fabulous Rothschild villa and gardens, and Antibes and Vence all on the bus. A seven-day bus pass cost 15 Euros (less than $20), and with the enormous breakfast buffet, we rarely ate lunch--just coffee or wine and pastry.

I've had two no-spend days since coming home Sunday, but am off to the National Theatre tonight and will have dinner there too. Next week my students are coming here for dinner ( I think), so there will be a little more grocery spending. They are such super-nice girls; my best group ever.

They were in Scotland while I was in France, and one of the California students slipped at a castle and had a compound leg fracture. She's still in the hospital there. Ugh.

In my very charmed life, I'm trying to decide whether to go to Rome next weekend with a friend. Hotel and airfare is about $500, but I came home with a cold and I'm kind of tired. I'm also fretting a little about money--though I don't think I've spend much--certainly less than in previous years. May all decisions be so nice. I'll post a photo from Eze--a hilltown outside of Nice.

Lovely Purchases

February 14th, 2016 at 06:18 am

I set out yesterday to buy a birthday gift. It's been cold, and of course, it started to rain minutes from the flat. I'm SO happy I put on my quilted vest under my raincoat. Folks here are always saying, "You're used to cold weather," but I never spend five or six hours outside in my daily routine. Here I'm always walking, walking to the tube, or walking and waiting for the bus. My fitbit is happy, but my feet get cold.

I haven't been to that great tourist trap Portobello Road for a while, so thought perhaps I'd find a small piece of jewelry for my BFF's birthday. I almost bought a small amber necklace, but wasn't completely sold. So I decided to head off to my old haunts in Muswell Hill as I've always had fun at their many charity shops. Two of my favorite tops were from one of them, so I headed there first. By this time, I'd been on the bus seemingly forever as there's no tube service there. And it started to sleet the moment I exited the bus. But my Air Ambulance Charity shop did it again. I bought the BFF a very pretty heart amulet for (wait for it) 2GBP, then found a gorgeous purplely grey shirt for 3.95GBP (less than $6). It was a great brand, Marks and Spencer's Per Una line, and I love love love it. You know, one of those things you put on and go "Yes!"

Fueled by my success I hit all the other charity shops there and even a couple (gasp) full retail. I bought another really cute shirt for 3.75GBP that I also love, then tried to figure the best way home. I think I was dizzied by my retail success, and I didn't pay much attention to the bus route. I'd read the numbered route, but got on the bus going the wrong way. I can't believe I did that, but blame the rain and cold. At least it wasn't going somewhere awful, so I got off again in Central London, grabbed a tube, bought some lovely food, got another bus home within minutes.

Refueled by tea and a cherry tart, I bought DD and DH's airfare. Everything that worked with their dates was in the high $1200s, but I found one with a stop in Manchester for under $1000. So--a lovely $600+ savings there. Skyped with them both, and we're all looking forward to us being together. All in all, horrible weather but great shopping. I'm going out for a stroll, but then will be home to prep for the week's teaching.

Sticking My Toe In from London

February 1st, 2016 at 06:44 am

I've been in London just over a week now;mostly things have gone very well. A student lost her passport and other minor calamities too, but all is well and I've been in the classroom for a week. DH and DD came over for his dad's birthday and left yesterday. It's been a bit of a whirlwind. They stayed in five places in six nights, and the hotel stays and meals out have added up as has the transportation.

They flew Aer Lingus to London via Dublin while I flew with students. We ended up in a London hotel the first night as my flat had tenants, then we were off to his hometown for the birthday. The coach fares were half the price of the train fares, but the ferry was pricey. And DH has a habit of treating his whole family to meals as a gesture of his affection, which I would not, but I figure that's not my business. His dad has moved to a care facility, so we thought we could stay at his house, but because the family was there from all corners of Europe, we stayed in a hotel two nights, had the party and various celebrations, then I returned to London while they stayed with DH's brother.

They came back to London midweek, and we toured Parliament with the students, had various meals with friends, and went to the George, a pub in Southwark because we'd read a book (Shakespeare's Local) on it over the summer, and I'd had fun times with colleagues before at the same pub. So, although we ate in a couple of nights, it's gotten bit expensive. This leads to my budget decisions. I'm trying to sort out how much an ordinary weekly expenditure would be for me. Meals out are very expensive as there's that nasty 20% VAT, so I've bought food for breakfasts and some lunch supplies, and have leftovers. We had a lovely proper tea at the British Museum with students, and I ended up taking mini quiches and some scones home--all of which are in my freezer now. So I'm thinking with most meals in, I can probably get by with 50 GBP a week. Although I can hear Scotish Girl laughing at my indulgent budget, I' hoping to fit theatre tickets and all meals out of that.

I have a few more things to buy: another pillow, a wall poster, computer cable, and some sofa pillows, The flat is lovely, but it's all black and white, and I need some color. It's eleven more weeks after all! This week has a day trip to Bath which is paid for, but I'll need to buy lunch that day. And it's too busy for the theatre this week, so if I can find some nice cheap seats either at Leicester Square or day tickets at the National, I'll spring for that next week.

I've also had to buy a phone as our UK old phone is pretty knackered and we find we need two. In previous years the university and our partners here have lent us phones, but that's not happened. I spent 65 GBP (about 90$) on a cheap pay as you go smart phone. It has some frugal apps, so I'll be trying those, especially the special offers on free coffee and 1 pd Monday lunches. Today I came home for lunch after classes, but am headed out tonight for faculty wine evening--my favorite night at a fancy wine bar with free nibbles for dinner. It looks like a no-spend day in London. How's that for a good start? I'll post photos on Thursday when things settle down. Happy February to all of you!

Counting Down

January 11th, 2016 at 08:26 pm

It's 10 days until we leave for London, so I'm in big countdown mode. Lots of things to eat up, lots of things to get done.

We've got a dog sitter lined up, I've hauled the suitcase up from the basement, and I'm going to officially start packing tomorrow.

I've been talking with a colleague about my willingness to take on extra work. The university situation is tenuous, and she's just had a class cut, cutting her income by 25% for spring. I mutter and curse the extra work, but I think she's right, it's fear motivated. So I'm hooked on work, hooked on saving money where possible, and realize it will probably always be this way. I will be happy when this Winterim class is done, Only eight days left of it and 8,000 papers.

In happier news, my MN friends are joining me in France at the end of February. My students go on a rather raucous bus tour of Scotland, and we're headed back to Nice. We got a triple room, a great rate at the hotel, and free breakfast (at 17Euros) for booking online. I'm flying British Air, and I actually am using my Avios points, so the flight from Heathrow cost under $100. I want to do some more traveling too, but will hold off on that until I get the semester sorted out.

It's so cold here. Ugh.

Balancing Act

November 30th, 2015 at 11:27 am

I've been trying to balance minimal household chores, cooking, and family time with the mountain of grading that is staring at me. Despite some frustrations, it's going pretty well.

We spent some time over the holiday discussing whether we could afford French camp for DD again this year. Those numbers and our weakening water heater has brought on another round of belt tightening. Oh, and there's the plane tickets to the UK for my father-in law's 90th. I've reset the frugal daily spending, making an impromptu dinner at home after Saturday's post-holiday driving, parked in the free zone enabling a long walk to class today, and brought my own coffee. If I can make that work for the next few weeks, we'll call the water heater fund started. Maybe Swagbucks can kick in $100.

It's all about the balance.

Half Price or Donate?

August 27th, 2015 at 08:19 am

I've got four (!) bags of books from my office makeover. I'm sure three of them are useless to anywhere except the Goodwill or library donation pile, but one has some more current stuff--albeit worthless on Amazon. So I'm debating the wisdom of a 15-minute drive to Half Price Books. I think I'll put it on my "maybe" list for the day while donations will be on the "definite" list.

My DH's tuition is due early next week. I hate paying $1500 for his class, but we're committed to his history degree. I just wish August had a bit more squoosh room. But always doing better than my university friends who are super super broke. I'll get a small check on September 1 from my adjunct work, but nothing from my primary employer until October 1. I finished up a textbook study for a publisher the other night which promises $125. I hope it comes soon!

And I bought a new carry-on bag last night at ebags. I've been looking for a wheeled bag that fits the new carry-on requirements and has a laptop compartment, and this Delsey fits the bill on all of those. It wasn't as cheap as I'd like, but I've had good experiences with my other Delsey luggage, and made Swagbucks rebates, ebags rebates, and will get some cash back. One of my biggest travel headaches of the past few years has been inadequate and nonwheeled carry-ons. So I'm excited. August cash flow be d---d.

Four more days of August, but an afternoon full of booooooooring meetings loom.

Feeling Very Off-Track

August 16th, 2015 at 08:19 am

I've been feeling very off-track lately. It seems like I'm not getting much done and am behind in housework and self care too. The house needs a solid pick-up, and I find a very full fridge and freezer hard to deal with. I think I officially have August-itis.

Causes? Uncertainty about DH's job (always and again), impending semester with lots to do, August-afflicted child who sleeps too late and hates the heat, travel hangover, delays in bathroom remodel bids, massive canning days that put off everything else, horrible edits and capstone projects that frustrate me, too many social obligations. I feel stuck.

Plan? Tomorrow (heat and aforementioned social obligation today) must be devoted to catching up. I may have to build in a reward to the child for helping me. Maybe even build in a reward for myself.

It's time to get financially back on track too. Back-to-school shopping was expensive as child now requires adult sizes. Yesterday I spent (ouch)$250 on jeans, pants, and shoes for her. The only upside now is if she outgrows those three pairs of shoes, I can wear them.

Tomorrow demands a list. Getting on that today. Wish me luck to get unstuck.

Working Away at those Goals

August 4th, 2015 at 11:31 pm

We all went over to the bathroom remodeler this morning to go over detailed plans with them. As I suspected, there's no way we can get an English-length (6 foot) bathtub in our 1960 house. But we spent an hour going over choices of tile, and they'll send us a bid in a few days. We had them bid both the family bath and our en-suite, but I'm not sure we can afford to do both now. It will be interesting to see their numbers. Even for our smallish bathrooms, I think it will be in the mid 20s.

DD and I hit Costco and Target to begin school supply shopping. We've done a brief inventory of last year's leftovers, so we didn't spend too much. I always keep a running list to see if I can beat the School-Pak boxes offered by the district--which I always succeed at. One year I beat their numbers by $70.

After the Costco hot dog for lunch, DD and I went to the dentist. Thankfully I still have a balance left on my flex card, so nothing out of pocket after the insurance and the flex. A month ago my kitchen sieve/strainer broke, and I was surprised to see how much they were. The OXO ones were $18, but I spotted one for sale on a local FB list for $3--which we now own. I roasted some garden zucchini and peppers to go with our black bean burgers tonight. We're trying to move from one to two meatless dinners a week, and I must admit, the dread zucchini has helped!

More accuracy checking work tonight, so I'm ahead of schedule with the project managers and editors.

Tomorrow DD and I are off to Minnesota again, the beautiful North Shore with my best friend. We're there until Monday and we're all looking forward to hikes, pie, and a visit to the Wolf Center in Ely.

I'm really enjoying these summer days. It's been a good balance of work and play.

London Again

August 3rd, 2015 at 08:44 pm

I've received the final go-ahead from my family and department, so it looks as if I'm going to London again next year, pending enrollments. I'm very excited, and we've already started some planning.

Not a lot of financial news. I put a $12 rebate check in the bank, had a haircut, took DD to pick up her school registration, dropped off batteries and a computer mouse for recycling, and then did some grocery shopping and hit the library. Tomorrow we go to check out the bathroom remodeling bids.

The zucchini keeps coming fast and furious so tonight we had zucchini quiche. I froze some over the weekend along with peaches.

Happy to have the windows open tonight and happy to have new library books and wonderful peaches!

Road Weary

July 7th, 2015 at 09:57 pm

I am home again after driving 1200+ miles to take DD and her friend to French camp. The trip taught me a few things including that my DD is pretty low maintenance. Her friend is not. My DD is used to our rules about food, stopping, buying junk, etc, and it was interesting to see their differences.

We spent $100 on Sunday's hotel, had a lovely dinner with some of my Minnesota friends at a place where kids eat free on Sundays. Again, my daughter was a star. Free breakfast the next morning saved us some cash as did the car snacks in lieu of lunch. I stayed with friends on the way back who made me an excellent dinner. So gas, hotel, and some road food was all that I spent--and I even managed to stay out of the outlet stores.

It's very quiet in the house without the kid around. I hope she's having a grand adventure.

Steering Back on Track

June 1st, 2015 at 11:31 am

After the Door County expenses, now comes DD's summer camp expenses. So, to keep things as much in line as possible, we're going to need some simple weeks with limited spending. We have lots of food around, and not a lot of obligations. DD and DH have been going out to Noodles or some such place on the nights I teach. It's more cash, but I feel strongly it's better for them. They spend more time in conversation rather than hurrying back to their respective screens.


DH is flying back to the UK to see his dad later this week. It's another slightly optional expense, but his 89-year-old dad is failing and they need time together.

So, as you can see, we need to hold it down. I'm always looking for ways to economize and stretch. Hit me with some new ones! This is the week to try things!

Financial Stall

May 26th, 2015 at 10:03 pm

Lots of expenses this week including DD's camp funding, DH's car's exhaust, and our increased food budget from a week with guests.

My dear governor's refusal to take Obamacare funding has caused a budget shortfall which has meant he has again squeezed the university. We've just heard our health insurance premiums will rise as will co-pays and deductibles in 2016, so I need to schedule all sorts of medical things this year/summer. This latest bit has really increased our desire to get out of here. It's a very ugly climate at the university right now, and many of my colleagues are taking retirement bonuses which help them but will hurt our ability to deliver in many areas.

Happily (sort of), I've been offered another adjunct class in the fall which will help, but really load on the work. I need to use the summer as wisely as possible.

I held off buying anything this weekend in Door County except for some nice meals and a couple of jars of jam.

In other minor news, I sold a shirt and sweater on FB today, adding $7 to my totals. And my radishes and lettuce look very happy.

Back Home

April 14th, 2015 at 08:58 pm

and trying desperately to find the nearest Underground station to take me back. But enough of my London-itis; let's get down to business.My long-awaited $2400 showed up and has been deposited along with a rum rebate. I made some cash today reading capstone projects, and am putting together a syllabus for my upcoming Bestsellers class.

DH has not unpacked yet, so tomorrow I'll unpack all three of us while weeping copiously. And do the taxes.

Three months after I filed it, the Sonicare toothbrush rebate arrived. That $50 will go into savings.

And I do promise photo highlights this week.

Hej!

March 24th, 2015 at 04:10 am

Hej is Swedish for hello! I spent, and I do mean spent, last weekend in Stockholm. Why Stockholm? My grandparents were Swedish, I grew up with my grandmother speaking Swedish, and I though, after my adventures with students in Iceland that I should go. I shopped hard to find the right flight and hotel, preferrably leaving from Heathrow. It all came in for under $400 with the airport transport and a great central hotel with breakfast as I heard (rightly) how expensive Stockholm is.

I had a marvelous time; it was very fun to wander around the Old Town, look at all the cool Swedish design, and sample excellent seafood. I was glad I planned carefully as things were indeed staggeringly expensive, but I found great places and things to do that didn't kill the budget. There was a great museum on Scandi living called the Nordiske Museet on one of the small islands that make up Stockholm. Next door was another huge museum containing the reconstructed 1628 ship that sank in Stockholm harbor 20 minutes after sailing. Everyone was lovely and friendly and spoke English in response to my faltering Swedish. And I have a Scandi surname which everyone commented on, so I got to talk with lots of people--nice for chatty me when traveling solo.

Got back to London at 9:30 on Sunday night feeling like I'd been gone weeks. DH and DD here in a couple of days! I spent more than I'd planned on gifts, but it was so lovely. Yesterday I went to another gallery with students, then stayed on to go to the John Singer Sargent show at the NPG. Very interesting but came home exhausted after days on my feet. Only two weeks of classes left, but with Easter Monday off, that's only three days after tomorrow since I teach two days a week.

My editing work for the d--m textbook publisher has still not been paid, and I'm getting pretty hacked off. My contact forgot to invoice them, but said they screwed up. They owe me $2500 which better show up soon. Sitting in my sunny flat before my afternoon meeting, and really again feeling so blessed and so lucky to have this time.

Saturday Strolls

March 8th, 2015 at 05:52 am

Trying to keep up with which London neighborhood is currently cool is too much for my middle-aged self, but someone told me all the junk from Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane has now moved to Walthamstowe. So I dutifully went there yesterday, and it indeed was full of junk. It is apparently the longest market in the UK, but triumphantly, though I sampled many things, I walked away with nothing.
Then on to hipster haven at Spitalfields which also left me yawning. I did ooh at Shad Thames shops, then on to more high-end shopping. I haven't been to Fortnum and Mason in years--but it was so incredibly crowded in there, I gave up after 15 minutes. Salt beef seems to have swept the country in the last few years so I stuck my head into the salt beef bagel places in the East End and again at Selfridges--sampled some, sampled Truman beer, Italian orange Easter cake, and very high- test chocolate. I have to say, it was all a feast for eyes, but my only purchases were the Evelyn Waugh novel I'm teaching next week (free with my Waterstone's card!) and a coffee (free with my Costa points. ) I even got 1p back from Waterstone's so was entertained, fed, and happy while making 1p.


Off to Marylebone Market now....

The Day After

March 6th, 2015 at 01:11 pm

I've been home most of the day with a pen in hand, writing comments on papers. One class down, about one and a half to go. Some won't need extensive comments, but some will. I wish the shoemaker's elves would come and finish them up.

So why the day after? Yesterday was spectacular, at least in my geek universe. I got up early and queued for day tickets at the National Theatre to see Ralph Fiennes in a Shaw play. We got tickets for 15 GBP, so I was thrilled. I camped out in a sunny spot on the Southbank and corrected more papers, then a hike over the river through Embankment Gardens to the tube back. After lunch and more grading, I went for a special tour of Parliament with three other faculty. A Labour MP took us to his office (small--but the view!) then all through Parliament itself--including the underground chapel, the river terrace etc. What a treat. He spent hours and hours with us.

Then I walked down to the Embankment again and to the theatre. I had a quick sandwich and cup of coffee and settled in for a long but fabulous play. Rather than hopping right on the tube home, I walked with a colleague across the river to Trafalgar Square to see the new sculpture, then through Leicester Square and finally back to Tottenham Court Road for the tube home. I was exhilarated and so happy--What a beautiful day. Of course today, I am exhausted. Nothing like grading papers to put you to sleep. All of that joy for 20 GBP--15 for the ticket, and 5 for dinner.

Another Very Good Day

March 4th, 2015 at 01:05 pm

My first class went on a long walk today through all the Bloomsbury squares. Now we've been here for six weeks; a person would think they might have discovered them before? They're a two-minute walk away. But it was fun to show them where Virginia Woolf lived, and Yeats, and Dickens, and a host of others.

My other class also went well, and I had been a bit grumbly about students who have been a little lax. Yet when I left, my most trying student said, "Don't leave. We like your classes best." I went home with a big smile on my face.

I spent nothing until I went grocery shopping this evening, when I spent 20 GBP. I had a voucher for double loyalty points, so stocked up on things I'll need soon like more coffee, bottled water for upcoming trips, and laundry soap. I'm a bit pleased as I've managed to wean myself off half and half in my coffee and switch to whole milk. Perhaps I'll get it down to 2 percent someday, but think I must be saving some fat and calories.

I have a huge pile of grading since last night was theatre night. "Once," the musical we saw was very good, and my colleague bought me a drink which you could have on the stage! Very fun.


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