Books I’m reading

Today I thought I would make mention of a series of books I have been reading. I guess they fit in the “self-help” category but as Alain Botton says of the series, “Here are books that prove that the term ‘self-help’ doesn’t have to be either shallow or naive.” Mind you, he does write one of them. I consider them to be easy-reading philosophy books.  They are called The School  of Life series and come in two volumes. The ones that are asterisked are the ones I’ve read so far. They are all by different authors.

Toolkit for Life Vol. 1 includes the following titles:

How to Find Fulfilling Work  * I read this one after I had resigned but it was very reassuring.
How to Stay Sane 
How to Worry Less about Money  *
How to Think More about Sex *
How to Thrive in the Digital Age 
How to Change the World 

Toolkit for Life Vol. 2 includes the following titles:

How To Be Alone
How To Develop Emotional Health
How To Deal with Adversity * currently reading
How To Connect with Nature *
How To Think About Exercise *

I am not reading them in any particular order, just what becomes free on the Auckland Library Borrow Box kindle service. And of course I enjoyed some more than others.

I usually have a few books on the go so I am also reading Knitting Yarns, Writers on Knitting, a collection of short stories edited by Ann Hood. My son gave this to me for my birthday and while I am not usually a great fan of short stories I am loving it. So much so that I went to the library and and got out Ann Hood’s The Knitting Circle. I tend to enjoy Canadian writers more than American writers but  I am enjoying this and it is keeping my attention.

It also inspired me to finish another square of a blanket I am knitting. What comes across strongly is that knitting has a meditative, soothing quality that helps calm and comfort.

Let me know what you are reading. Sue


Some small changes to save money

This morning I am contemplating a few of the small changes I’ve made to save money for my new life style.

I no longer download new books without thinking. I belong to the library of course but am really enjoying their free kindle books on Borrow Box and Bluefire Reader. I haven’t used Overdrive yet but plan to try it out soon.

I have unsubscribed to any tempting “Sale” emails e.g. Onceit, Max, Repertoire; the list is endless. It is such a relief not to go to my inbox and see all these emails as well.

I have stopped getting a monthly magazine which was expensive, $20.00 a copy. I will buy one occasionally for a treat.

I am making gifts rather than buying them. I am knitting and making tiles and cards. Cards are very expensive and can be up to $8 and making them is fun and easy. Once again though, to set yourself up with materials, card, etc. is expensive to start with. I save paper and ribbons and keep them in the “Susan” drawer in the kitchen.

I am now going to cheaper movies because I can as they are usually before 5 pm.

I am looking at cheap flights to visit Christchurch and Dunedin because once again, if you don’t need to go at weekends it is a lot cheaper.

I am shopping more efficiently and making sure we don’t end up throwing food out because we haven’t got around to cooking it.

I know none of these things is particularly new or earth-shattering but I think it is easier to live more cheaply without working by not needing public transport costs, new clothes, make up, fast food, coffees, drinks after work and so on.

I still like these things though! I just think more about options, have people home more often and rather than lunch and coffee out I might do lunch as a picnic followed by a nice coffee at a cafe. Auckland is so fantastic for walks and parks.

At the weekend we went for a walk in the newly completed La Rosa gardens reserve in West Auckland where they have returned the stream to a more natural form to support plant life and provide a haven for native birds. A bonus was running into an ex pupil who was with her young children at the playground. Afterwards we strolled along the beach at Blockhouse Bay.


The small joys of being at home-end of week one

There are two small things that are bringing me much pleasure by being at home. The first is not having to find something suitable to wear. How lovely to wear socks and comfortable shoes, merino tops and no make up. I have never become accustomed to wearing the dreaded nylon tights that tear on first wear, that sag at the crotch and silly shoes that defy comfort.

Secondly, preparing breakfast at a leisurely pace followed by a second cup of tea. Fatuous I guess, but I have a real kernel of pleasure in these small things.


I am developing a bit of a rhythm to my day by starting with yoga, doing some domestic chores while mulling over my list of things I want to do and then sitting at the computer for a while, I have read about the concept of “flow” and had a sense of that yesterday when I looked at the clock and it was 4 o’clock and I had no idea where several hours had gone,

I am looking forward to spending some time with my partner tomorrow where previously I needed to spend a lot of the day doing domestic chores or shopping and so on. I resented his enthusiasm for biking or walking as I felt I had so little time to myself after a full-on week at work.

So far I have more or less stayed within budget but I can see how a coffee here and there can add up very quickly.

Anyway, have a great weekend wherever you are and whatever you do. Sue



Keeping the budget in check

Feeling a bit creaky as I have done the TV yoga every day. I used to do it regularly but slacked off to zero after a couple of years so getting back into it is goood. However, I realise how stiff and inflexible I’ve become. I used to be able to reach my toes easily.

Today I have been sorting stuff to sell, as a friend and I are going to the Browns Bay market very early on Sunday morning and I have also put one or two things on I feel a bit penny pinching as I could just give them away but as I am trying to live on just $50 per week for what I’m calling frivolity and the doco film festival has started I need all the cash I can get. Apart from the money it feels good to clear out stuff I know I’m never going to fit again.

This morning I have been working on transferring poems to my tiles. It seems to work OK. So far I have just done decoupage on tiles for gifts for friends, it makes a change from the dish cloths… I will post one with a poem when I have experimented a bit more.

photo 1photo 2


Faux Frugality?

I was thinking today about the luxury of frugality. In particular we have three garden beds out of which we have harvested quite a lot of rocket, lots of tomatoes, accidentally fed friends daikon radish leaves for some time (thought it was cress),some dried up corn and picked some beautiful sweet peas. We do also have a variety of herbs that we use regularly.

However, the beds were about $400 each from a wonderful company called Patch from Scratch. They arrived while we were at work and when we came home there they were all lined up and filled with organic soil. While this is lovely and we really enjoy having them it is going to take many years to actually start making any sort of profit from the garden. Also the stuff we have grown can be bought really cheaply all summer from the nice van that parked up the road. Hmm the budget doesn’t really add up.

IMG_5925 (480x640)

Another example is that I like to knit, (I know, I know I’m trendy..) and more specifically I like to knit dishcloths with pretty patterns on them for friends. However I like eco -yarns and organic cotton and bamboo which makes the wool really expensive. You can buy a good old absorbent dishcloth in the super market for around $2.00. Not really frugal living…


Dish cloth


IMG_0432In case you can’t see it, it’s a frog. So here I am making uneconomical, not particularly absorbent dish cloths for my friends and harvesting produce that probably costs twice that from the supermarket after all the costs are accounted for in my garden.

But, and I like to think this is a big but, I love doing it and the knitting feels like a little labour of love. Picking your own sweetpeas is heavenly and it just feels darn good and possibly a bit self-righteous to be harvesting your own food. So in the meantime I’ll keep going and let you know if the budget starts to look better.


Getting to grips with blogging

I am just learning the ropes with the website and am not sure why I am telling you this as no one will have read it yet… However, my intentions are several-fold; to write, and publish poetry, to write the story of my son and I going to the Pyrenees for six months when he was eleven and to record my attempt to be more frugal and to live more simply.

This is day 2 and yes, I did the yoga. I wonder if i can keep up the routine. I moved a cupboard from one room to another and when I cleared it out there was actually nothing in there that I wanted or needed to keep. I think maybe half the stuff in the house is like that.

Part of my inspiration came from a blog called  written by an Australian woman about being more frugal. I was fortunate to take myself to France and Germany last year and was disheartened by the duty free shopping. Skinny, bored girls selling ridiculously over-priced handbags and perfumes where the packaging is most of the price. It helped me move further away from collecting stuff.

I’m middle class and hardly living the simple life right now but if I make an effort to grow my own vegetables and cut down on buying things I don’t need then maybe its a tiny contribution to the planet. I don’t have a mortgage but I can see already I’ll need some income for the big ticket items. My car is leaking oil right now for example. I also left the oven on very high grill with the door shut and came back to the sound of a jet engine in my kitchen. It still seems to work for the moment although it is still noisier than it was.

I was interested that colleagues couldn’t believe i just want to be at home and I was told many times  that I was far too social and would need more of a challenge. We’ll see.


Day One

Yoga on TV check,

Technology set up, check,

Trying to set up web site- ongoing

Beetroot from garden cooked, check

small cleaning job, check

I have been thinking of giving up full-time work for about two years. I have convinced myself it is possible to live more simply, be more frugal and become more creative with more time on my hands.

I’m a little bit anxious and know it could all turn to custard and my nice fat salary will be sorely missed. I might be very lonely and miss the fun of collegiality.

Then again, I might be more creative, write more, be kinder to the planet and myself. I hope you will join me on this little experiment and contribute your own experiences.

Fluffy George is the name of my childhood bear and he features at the top of the page. Like me he has been around a while and is well-worn. My mother darned his forehead after I left him to dry leaning up against the fireguard. The painting of F George is by Sam Mahon, a NZ artist but I still have the real FG and will add a photo forthwith.