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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.


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.

Long Lists of Plans

March 2nd, 2015 at 01:37 pm

Since I doubt I will be back in London with this much time in front of me for years, I spent much of Friday rambling in Hampstead Heath. It was sunny and glorious. There was even some hardy soul swimming in one of the ponds.

I bought a couple of cheap travel guides in the Oxfam shop, walked all the way down to Swiss Cottage tube station, then did some grocery shopping. I fell seriously short of my goal of funding three weeks shopping with my Nectar (loyalty card) points. But I did have enough for a single week's shopping, which I will cash in on soon.

After endless hours comparing travel sites and deciding against Ryanair flights, I've pushed back my Sweden jaunt for a couple weeks. I can get a decent timed flight on a decent airline, two nights in a downtown Stockholm hotel with airport transfers for under $400. The hotel includes breakfast. I've been a little worried about Swedish prices, but have been doing some serious reading on where to eat well and cheap(ish). I grew up with a Swedish grandmother and really feel drawn there. I'm very excited.

And the next month is full of many other joys--I'm trying to pence pinch a bit to help justify all these joys. I brought my own coffee today which is a rarity in London. Although travel mugs are for sale, you never see someone transporting coffee. And decent coffee is over $3 with even the university machine-made swill at $2. The fancy-pants grocery offers free coffee with their loyalty card so in the four-hour gap between my second and third class, I went over there for a cup. This coupled with my packed lunch maybe saved me 8-10 GBP today. Well, maybe as I usually bring my own lunch.

Tomorrow my office buddy is taking me out to lunch as I took her to dinner in November when she came to talk to our students. I also have a free theatre ticket to "Once,"so that should be fab. Another day in paradise.

Also Catching Up

September 20th, 2014 at 08:10 am

It's been a couple of flurried weeks between the weekend trip to Minneapolis for my nephew's wedding, three weeks of the new semester, my department chair deserting us for the loftier climes of the Deans' offices, and all the usual household and child raising issues. Plus the London recruiting.

I won't even rehash my many administrative issues with the university; let's just say they have a very hard time leaving well enough alone. I'm over my justifiable outrage about a couple of things, but not a couple others.

It was my birthday last weekend, and two years ago I started a new tradition which I really like. With some of the money inherited from my mom, I invite a number of my lovely women colleagues to go out for dinner. We order decent wine, good food, and two weeks before any one gets their first paycheck for the academic year, we relax, talk, and laugh a lot. It's pure pleasure for me, and a break from all the headaches and austerity we often face together. My mom would certainly approve. Her women friends meant the world to her. That was last Saturday. Sunday DH and DD presented me with a cake and some little gifties. All in all, a very nice weekend.

I'm still slogging away at a freelance textbook editing project. I don't have much nice to say about how so much of this work is outsourced and the result on the quality of the work. But I am looking forward to the cash.

Staying true to my pledge to sell some of the mounting piles of stuff, I've sold a textbook for $49 and a pair of DD's outgrown rainboots for $4.

Lots of work ahead this weekend--both prep and household duties but have decided to play trivia with a colleague this afternoon. I hardly ever get to see him, so this should be fun. We are founts of useless knowledge.

Home from Vacation

July 25th, 2014 at 11:24 am

Wow. We had a great hassle-free time in Minnesota. It was great to see relatives, and our trip to the Minnesota North Shore was fabulous. My DH had never been, and I was a bit concerned he wouldn't like it as much as I do, but he loved it. We did lots of hiking, gazing at Lake Superior, and visiting state parks and the National Monument at Grand Portage. There was plenty of history, plenty of great food, and lots of fun.

We went over on the food budget, but not much. I used up the gas cards from CVS, we had a couple meals in the condo, and everything went well.

I'm especially glad DH enjoyed himself as I'm trying to sort out options for an eventual return to MN as well as part of our future plans.

While we were gone I made a swift $9.00 on ebay which I'll add to the totals. I need to hunt around for more possible listings.

Post-vacation retrenchment means clean up, schedule review, and other fun. Happy weekends to all of you!

Make That Two Bids

July 18th, 2014 at 08:21 am

Excitement doubles here as I got another ebay item listed and it has plenty of bids.

In further accomplishments, I got lots of laundry done, we're almost packed for our getaway, and I opened a Vanguard Roth last night which will be the home for some of my older mutual funds. The fees on those older funds are just too high, and I really like the way Vanguard does business.

We're excited to see my MN family,especially my SIL--and the bride-to-be. Great to get out of here for a bit too. I'm getting stale. My daughter put it best last night, "Every couple of months, I like to go on a trip." I've been home since April. Gotta go.

Up North

July 16th, 2014 at 10:58 am

I wonder if anyone except Midwesterners use that phrase, Up North" to designate a particular place. In MN it meant places north of the Twin Cities--Brainerd, Alex, Duluth, and everywhere in between. Here in Cheeseland it means Rhinelander, Minoqua, and all of those parts of the state.

I spent a big chunk of yesterday searching for a getaway spot for us now that we're not heading to "our" lake. I found three that would take the dog too, and quickly narrowed it to the mid-range option. They've also knocked 10 percent off because we'll be staying midweek. Now I'm trying to budget meals. It has a kitchen, but we won't want to eat every meal in. I guess I'm figuring between $50 and $75 a day for the three of us. That will give us the opportunity to have some great local food, but not blow the budget further. Does that sound reasonable?

Frugality abounded (sort of) yesterday. I'm on the waiting list for the new Robert Galbraith mystery (aka JK Rowling)at the library, but I think I'm #367. I saw it yesterday marked down at Half Price Books, and had another 40% off coupon, so relented. I'll sell it back when I'm done. DD escaped without purchasing anything, but got a $5 reward in their summer reading program. She'll save that for later.

We spent nothing else, ate from the fridge and freezer, and started gathering trip essentials. I mailed my ebay sale, transferred money from checking to savings, and found a few more potential ebay sales.

In larger news, the university seems to have money available for online course development. My boss offered me a chunk of change to work on converting a class I already teach into a more viable online offering. Things are never done there until they're done, so we're cautiously optimistic.

Shopping Around

July 15th, 2014 at 01:08 pm

We had some bad news about my wonderful S-I-L who has been diagnosed with uterine cancer. She and my brother have been married almost 35 years, so she's very dear to me. That news has also changed our plans for a week at my parents' lake place in MN that my brother bought from us.

So, I'm trying to decide whether we should be super cheap and stay home (ugh), go to nearby Door County (nice, but been there lots), or go from Minneapolis to the North Shore of MN. That would be my top choice, but we'll have to take the dog since our dog sitter is not available.

My DH has never been there, and if we can do it affordably we will. Now--on to hours of web site searches for prices and pet-friendly accommodations.
MY DH says I'm a travel-planning geek, so I have a lot to do!

Today's frugal missions will include transferring some money from checking to savings, depositing my U-Promise check of $14.46 and mailing my ebay sale.

Only Ten Days Left

April 1st, 2014 at 05:41 am

I have ten days left in my London semester. I haven't started kicking and screaming about leaving yet, but I will. My students are becoming very sad about leaving too, but many of them are traveling for a while later.

I've done moderately well with my spending. Because of last year's super cold weather, I have lots of sweaters with me, but we've had some lovely warm weather, and really, I'm very tired of those grey and black cardigans. I did a little shopping over the weekend at a charity shop near where I live. They vary in quality, but I really like this one, run for the benefit of the air ambulance. The staff has painted it to look like a beach shack, and the fitting rooms are very cute. I bought three summery tops and two books for a whooping total of 10.15pds

If I didn't have to eat here, I could go home with money from my stipend, but I do spend a fair amount on food. Yet compared to my spendthrift students, I'm Scrooge. I never eat more than one meal a week out, even lunch, unless I was with guests.

Last night I saw the X Factor musical. X Factor is the Brit version of American Idol with Simon Cowell. As part of the faculty package, I get free tickets, and I enjoyed it very much. It was silly, but cute. Unfortunately one of my colleagues dropped her Oyster (transportation) card with a pre-loaded cash card. We searched for quite some time, but she'll need to cancel everything. We had a stand-up Chinese meal in the street that set me back 6 pds and a beer later for another 3.50, but it was a great evening.

We have a few more things going on, Stonehenge on Friday, curry night on Monday, and a farewell party the following Wednesday, but these are all paid.

Here's one for the morbid amongst us. Tomorrow, I'm going over to have a peek at the Plague Pits recently unearthed by the Barbican. What free fun!

London Update

March 14th, 2014 at 07:15 am

I'm still here in Londontown. Since I've last checked in DH and DD have been here and gone, I've been to Prague with students and to (glorious) Nice with a friend. I will never ever complain again. It's been grand and glorious and wonderful.

And the weather this spring has been glorious. I've been very very busy, trying to juggle four classes, four preps, and my freelance project evaluation.

So, I'm off to do some grocery shopping.
London prices are still just staggering, and truth be told, I've sort of abandoned the idea of living in London itself. Even diehard Londoners are cringing at the price of property. But a smaller city might still work for us.

I've got a friend joining me here for a week starting tomorrow, so I expect my expenses will go up a bit this week. Except for France, I've been very frugal, packing lunches and bringing coffee most days. DH and DD will be back in four weeks. They are faring well as is his job. But I miss them a lot.

But it's been glorious--so much art, so much walking, some many quirky wonderful things. More later on interesting and depressing shows on food insecurity (not mine!) here in the land of London billionaires.


February 1st, 2014 at 01:55 pm

Hooray! DH's interview went well, and they offered him the contract. He's happy to be going downtown again as it's a shorter commute, and he loves to take the bus. Good all around.

I headed out early, scoping out a route from my flat to the Eurostar Station at St Pancras. A friend is coming over the end of the month and we're going to France, so I wanted to see the most direct route. No problem at all, a very easy bus ride to a tube station on the Picadilly Line. I'll also go that way next week to get DH and DD at Heathrow.

It was fun being at St Pancras. It's a beautiful station, and I enjoyed seeing people rushing off to catch their train to France and watching folks come in. It was so much fun, I bought a coffee and just sat for a while.

Then off to the Tate Britain. Last year many of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings I like were down as the Tate was being remodeled, but I spent a lovely day there and also saw a great photography exhibit.

This may seem silly, but I'm missing my bird feeder at home. We have magnificent backyard birds, frequently 4 or 5 cardinals at once, and sometimes even hawks. So today I bought a small bird feeder and some seed. I have a small patio out the back and thought it might be fun. I can always bring the feeder home if I want. It'll be interesting to see what kinds of birds might appear.

Some quick grocery shopping on the way home, then back here for dinner. This will be a very busy week, so I need to get some work done tonight.

Ups and Downs

January 31st, 2014 at 03:49 am

I'm happily snuggled up here on my Friday off, but will go out and about later if the rain holds off. But things are not so hot (both literally and metaphorically) back at home.

DH's contract was extended, then amidst all sorts of flurries and apologies, was not. So his last day is February 7. He does have an interview this morning, so we're hopeful. That job would be at his current company's downtown location rather than the suburban one which, because of the shorter commute, would be much nicer. I'm a little worried, especially since I'm on 3/4 pay while here. But we have no debt, so only our regular expenses, but still.

There isn't much I can do from here (or there, actually), so I'm just holding down expenses, teaching my classes here and my online class, enjoying all the lovely free things I can do.

It's Me! Live from London Town!

January 27th, 2014 at 05:15 pm

Hello my friends,
I'm back in London and it's been (aargh) two months since I've posted. But it's time to start up. It's been a very busy two months, partly for some sad reasons. I think I posted back in November that a dear friend had been diagnosed with cancer. Indeed, she was my best friend for many many years. Less than six weeks after diagnosis, she lost the fight, and it's been a very hard emotional coming to terms with it for me. My DH says I'm worse than when I lost my mom, but my mom was 91, and my friend was 49. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely knowing this friend, I'm convinced she's haunting me, or at least hanging out with me. But that's a story for another time.

So, here I am back in one of the world's most expensive cities, but it's glorious to be back. It's getting late, but I'll post again tomorrow about the trials and tribulations of the academic budget in the Big Smoke.

Hi to you all; I'm glad to be back.

Getting There

November 20th, 2013 at 08:14 pm

I feel like the worst of the semester is behind me. All my students are working on big projects, and only need feedback from me. Nothing new or too major to assign, and only three weeks to go.

Tomorrow my London contact arrives to do the meeting with this year's students. Unbelievably, there are three I still haven't met, so finally I'll see everyone tomorrow.

I've been pretty frugal, and I've also been trying to diet a bit. I've kept up with Swagbucks up to now, but imagine if we're traveling over Thanksgiving, I'll abandon the monthly goal. My Nectar Adpoints are very slowly adding up to help with my London grocery bill. I've done some Pinecone surveys and some Christmas shopping at the church bazaar. Now I just need a few days to tie up loose ends and do an analysis of things that need to be done for the semester, the London trip, home, and Christmas.

My dear friend with cancer is home, but the prognosis is not good. She's a very stubborn soul, so I'm hoping she'll let me help while I can.

It's going to get very cold here, and I've made yet another pot of turkey broth from the turkeys I roasted for the shelter. It smells heavenly here. Nothing like a big pot of homemade soup.

Still Busy but Less Busy with a Nice Surprise

October 28th, 2013 at 07:58 pm

I'm finally thinking I'm over the worst of the semester. I have the rest of it planned out, and the best part is now that my evening class is over, I have some more time.

I went to New Orleans from Wednesday-Saturday to do a conference presentation. It went well, and the best part was New Orleans itself. I haven't been there in years, and I had such fun. The university will pay for about half my trip, but I heard great presentations, ate fabulous (and free!) food, and had at least a couple of hours for a wander around. A bunch of folks I was in grad school with were there, and some other former colleagues, so it was fun to go out with them. I didn't spend too much, tried to economize where I could, and got some work done at the airports, on the planes, and in odd snatches of time. So, I'm caught up enough and feel refreshed.

I came home to a registered letter from my adjunct employer which made me a bit anxious. But it turned out to be good news. Their IRS audit revealed they owed me a 403b contribution. Because I work there only sporadically, I don't have a retirement account with them, but apparently I worked enough in the previous year to open an account with an initial $800 deposit made by them. Isn't that peachy?

I hope to clear things up around here this week, completely catch up on work, and clean the house. Maybe I can even turn into Tinkerbell or lose that dread 20 lbs.?

Thirteen for London, Please

October 4th, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Hooray! It looks like I have my numbers for London. I needed 8-10, and we should have 11 or 12, plus me! My iffy one is waiting on a recommendation from a TA. Don't get me started on TAs; I've had several run-ins with one that I'm mentoring. Ah, to be 25 and so damn sure of yourself. But wrong.

I couldn't sleep much last night; way behind in my own work, the house, and now London events. But I don't have to do much for the next couple of weeks except hold a couple of meetings. Still, my head is spinning.

Our chimney rebuild started today, but it's raining so hard, they gave up and went home. It'll be a busy busy weekend here. And hopefully a cheap one too.

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