Archives for category: garden

My latest financial splurge has probably been the most sensible expense I’ve ever had. Night school.

At the end of September I embarked on (part time) student life, spending Tuesday and Wednesday evening in Illustration class & Figure Drawing class (after parting with £420 of tuition fees and £80 for art supplies- ouch!).

However, I truly believe that this is the best £500 I ever spent. The courses are 11 weeks long and cost £200 and £220 respectively. Each class is 2 and a half hours long so I really feel I’m getting my moneys worth

I have had something really fun to focus on, and have generated lots of work for my portfolio (more on than another time!).

I’m fortunate that my employers encourage learning and offer subsidies to those who wish to study, even if it’s not directly related to work, so I can claim 50% back on completion of the course (to the value of £250 per year).

Another great discovery for me was the ILA (Individual Learning Account), available to low earners residing in Scotland (terms are at http://www.ilascotland.org.uk/What+is+ILA+Scotland/Eligibility.htm ).

The purpose of an ILA is to provide up to £200 per year for a variety of courses, or £500 for a course towards a higher education or professional qualification. ILAs are available for people with an income of £22,000 a year or less, or those who are receiving benefits. Sadly it is no longer available to those living in other areas of the UK – sorry guys!

Fortunately or unfortunately, my annual pay falls into this lower category (hence, the need to budget) so it looks like I qualify for this kind of grant, which is fantastic news as I am already planning to book the next term!

Is there something you’ve been thinking of studying? Whether you fancy brushing up on your IT skills, or maybe baking cakes is more your bag, it might be worth looking into what funding opportunities are available to you. Maybe your employer would help fund a course? Particularly if it is beneficial to the company you work for.

Learning can really lift your spirits, and in these time of recession, I think we could all do with a little pick me up! For me, these courses fit into my grand plan, and sometimes you’ve got to spend money to make money, right?

I’m back! I’ve been off on annual leave from work for my 29th birthday, and despite my intentions to increase the frequency of my posts, this is actually my first post in over 10 days! Poor show, I apologise.

I had a great week off including a wee night out on the town with friends. I managed to blag my way into a club for free, just because it was my birthday (hey, it’s worth asking!), and also managed to charm my lovely husband into picking me up (taxi fare would be around £40, kerrching!).

I was pleased to see a bit of sunshine on my actual birthday (Monday), which I enjoyed on the beach at Burntisland, Fife.

20110822-100752.jpg

Mid week I headed south with one of my sisters and her 3-year-old daughter for a camping trip. We had a great couple of days visiting Alnwick Castle & Gardens and Lindisfarne. Entry to the castle & gardens was the greatest extravagance at £22 per adult (eek!) but only a penny for kids under 5 (phew!). Visiting Alnwick is really best done on a nice day as the gardens are a great attraction and the castle is just as amazing outside (if not more so), than inside.

The castle is the setting for some of the scenes of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. As an avid Harry Potter fan, this was the most exciting part of the trip for me. I spent the most part of the visit buzzing around searching for parts of the castle that resembled scenes from the film.

Older kids can take part in Harry Potter inspired ‘flying lessons’, which seemed to involve racing brooms hobby-horse style. Then there’s Knights Quest, where children can dress up as knights and maidens and make magic wands, coats of arms and clay tiles. These activities are included in the admission price for the castle, so they’re worth doing to get the most out of your money.

20110822-100903.jpg

We ventured into Alnwick town in search of somewhere to eat (ideally fish & chips!). We stumbled upon a little Italian called Caffe Tirreno. It was reassuringly busy and looked child friendly, and the prices on the menu in the window were very appealing. Two 11″ pizzas, two soft drinks and a slice of chocolate fudge cake (happy birthday to me!), all for just just £20.50. Bargain! On the way back we did pass Carlo’s Fish & Chips, which also looked very inviting.

The following day we drove over Lindisfarne Causeway to Holy Island. The island itself is very picturesque with an interesting history too. Unfortunately, my 3-year-old niece wasn’t interested in history so we took a stroll around the village, along to the grounds of the castle, where she enjoyed rolling down hills, and to the coast, where we searched for crabs in rock pools.

We camped at the Barn at Beal, which is also a cafe and visitors centre. They have a small area for tents near the entrance. It was great value at only £9 per night for all three of us. The only down side was that there was only one male and one female shower which each had a toilet in the cubicle. This meant that if someone was using the shower, then the toilet was not accessible for anyone else to use. That aside, it was great value for money, and I would probably stay there again, rather than paying the £20+ that some other campsites in the area were charging. Also on site is a birds of prey centre. We didn’t have time to go, but other kids on the campsite seemed to have enjoyed it.

I’ve also been enjoying the Edinburgh Festival this week, but I’ll have to leave that for my next post.

20110728-012217.jpg

I’m writing this post from the Spiegel Garden, which is part of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. The atmosphere here is buzzing; lively crowds of twentysomethings sitting in scattered groups on the (plastic) grass, whilst others sit at picnic benches chatting intently with the sound of the bass coming from one of the three performance tents. The excitement of the Edinburgh festival is creeping in, happily egged on by five days of sunshine.

This is far from my most frugal evening. We’re seeing the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play later, and at £16 a ticket, this is definitely more pricy than a cheap evening in front of the telly with a frozen pizza in the oven, but it is definitely possible to enjoy the jazz festival on a budget. As I look around me, there are plenty people with a drink in their hand, but there are quite a few without too. It’s free entry to the garden, and if you’re happy not to drink, or to nurse a half pint like I am, then it’s actually a pretty well priced (or even free!) taste of Edinburgh Jazz.

It’s the same scenario during the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s great fun (and free!) to just wander around town, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the street performers, perusing the stalls… and on a lovely warm evening like tonight, it’s perfect.

Sadly my iPhone battery died before I could finish uploading. The gig was awesome, I will post about it tomorrow. G’night!

So we didn’t catch any fish on Saturday night. We did, however, see a gorgeous sunset over the Firth of Forth and observed some colourful characters, who you wouldn’t usually associate with a quiet night of fishing…

I’m sorry I deserted you yesterday. It was, in fact, a perfect day, filled with sunshine, sea, family, friends and music. We took a boat trip out to an island in between Edinburgh and Fife called Inchcolm. I hadn’t been out there since my childhood and had forgotten how beautiful it was. We were lucky to see some seals (probably the reason we didn’t catch any fish!) and some birds, mostly gulls.

Later, we had a barbecue and then headed to the Speigal Tent in Edinburgh to soak up the atmosphere at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival (for the price of a half pint of cider, which I nursed for a good half hour!).

20110725-103622.jpg

Back to work today. This evening we watched The Lovely Bones on TV. I read the book a few years ago and was extremely dubious about the film. I really struggled to understand how this magical yet tragic book could possibly be made into a movie. I feared that it would seem gimmicky and the sentiment would be lost somehow. For this reason, I didn’t ever make the effort to watch it at the cinema, nor the DVD. Until now.

I was truly touched by the adaptation. It broke my heart all over again. It managed to capture all the frustration, anger and confusion that Susie’s family experienced, alongside her own grief and fear. The scenes that I feared would be gimmicky actually achieved the feeling of the surreal that I thought would be lacking. In fact, I think it was better, in some ways, than the book.

20110725-103806.jpg

I realise that this post is not exactly ‘money saving’. What I mean to illustrate, is that you don’t have to go to the movies and pay the entry fee. There are plenty of movies for free, or even for just a fraction of the cost on DVD. And you can watch them as many times as you like.

20110723-045530.jpg
Today I joined Twitter. I’m still to decide how I feel about it. After spending hours setting up an account and fluttering through the giant birdcage that is Twitter, I feel like I have achieved very little. I have wished Daniel Radcliffe a happy birthday in hopes of getting it to ‘trend’, gathered 3 followers and lost 1 already.

Not a very fruitful afternoon. And it’s sunny outside! Here in Scotland, sunny days are hard to come by, so I really should be making the most of it. At least I managed to get the washing hung out in the garden.

My money saving tip today was to talk my darling hubby out of going out to dinner. I’m sure we can find something good to make at home at just a fraction of the cost. I did my supermarket shop online today as well, so at least I’m practicing what I preach! It’s being delivered on Monday night. Also, we’re going fishing this evening (off the harbour), so if we catch anything, that’s free food!

Nobody has visited my blog today, I’m guessing it’s because it’s the weekend. So I thought I’d try a bit of reverse psychology and tell people NOT to read this post. Sorry if you thought it would be more interesting. A post like this is very much a result of a very sleepy me! Happy Saturday!

In other news… I had the best night last night, chilling with my bestest lady friends. Gossip and food fest are just the best Friday night activities…. This morning I tried Chocolate Sugar Puffs, they kinda just taste like Sugar Puffs but they turn the milk brown…. The chilli plant has been repotted and is settling into it’s new home nicely!… The big batch of soup from the allotment is nearly finished, fortunately father-in-law has kindly donated another turnip from his allotment to go into the next batch!