Saturday 31 December 2011

Farewell 2011

It's a bit sad saying goodbye to you.  You've been an up and down kind of year, but with an awful lot of very dear memories packed into your days and nights. 

2011 is going out in a damp squib weather wise.  It's unseasonably warm though, strange following two such hard winters.  We've taken advantage and been out and about with visitors, Tenby was a great hit. 

Tenby in late December, still beautiful.
Wednesday we decided to walk around the dam (as an antidote to Christmas telly), about 6.5 miles.  Last year we would have required snow boots and sledges.  This year it was a tad damp underfoot due to all the rain we've had just recently, on finishing I was most relieved that we hadn't fallen in the deep muddy tracks; as it was we had to pile in the wet room together - clothes on!

But still nothing puts me off and there's nowhere else I'd rather be all the same.  Which is just as well, as it's here I shall be in 2012.

Brooding skies.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Fuel Poverty

In the UK, fuel poverty is said to occur when in order to heat a home to an adequate standard of warmth a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income to maintain an acceptable heating regime.

Hmmm. Living out in the sticks we don't get access to gas, and therefore cannot benefit from the dual fuel discounts that are offered by many energy companies.  This makes my blood boil, which does help me to keep warm. 

We are not centrally heated... I know when some people walk into our home they think it's cold.  It's going to be.  It's old and has poor energy efficiency.  There are a lot of drafts and thick solid walls.

Her and Him Next Door live in the extension built with modern insulating materials and know how. They do have oil central heating, but this winter are being more economical (they previously kept it turned up high to keep Gran warm and snug). We all now put on that extra jumper instead.

Last time we filled up with oil (2489 litres which services both homes) it cost us an eye watering £1358.73.  This lasts for approximately six months. 

Our family also heats water and cooks with oil.  To compensate for not having the benefit of central heating we increase the Rayburn temperature to keep the core of the house warmer, especially on those very bitter days. 

The oil guzzling monster.
We have two electric radiators to supplement the range, these are situated in the one up, one down part of our home which is our snug and master bedroom (a separate house originally that has been knocked through).  These radiators check out the temperature of the room and do not let it fall below a chosen setting (which can be individually programmed into a seven day variable cycle).  Rather than heating the area, we tend to use the radiators set at a level to just about stop the rooms from actually freezing!

Hopefully our solar panels will also help reduce the hefty electricity bill, which has been approximately £2,200.00 per annum - again for both properties.

The ever watchful radiator...
We are also fortunate enough to have an open fire and a wood burner.  We use the wood burner a lot in the snug (which also negates the electric radiator coming on in the evenings by increasing the room temperature).  We are lucky in that we live surrounded by trees, so have a handy source of wood.  We also find the Ecofan effective, it works by pushing warm air from the wood stove out into the room. Circulating the heat increases efficiency and apparently is particularly effective when the stove is recessed in an inglenook.  It's also free to operate as it's powered simply by the rising heat from the wood burner. 

Our trusty wood burner, with resident Ecofan on top.
In total our fuel has cost us knocking on for £5,000.00 per year between us.  It's a lot of money, no matter how you look at it.  Paying for fuel is making us poor.  I'm going to start knitting that extra thick jumper now; with matching socks and vest.

Post Script
One benefit of our heating 'system' is we'd be fine in a power cut.  Them Next Door would soon be rushing round with their tails between their legs.  Our Rayburn can run without electricity and their fancy pants one cannot - so we'd have some warmth, be able to cook and have gallons of very hot water.  And of course the wood stove would carry on as before.

Monday 5 December 2011

Christmas austerity (aka Scrooge like tendencies)

Well times are tight... how to economise on the Christmas time spending spree?  Hmmmm.

I'm sorry, try as I might we still shop at Tesco.  One beneficial side effect of this is their double your points offers (part of their reward scheme).  This year I took full advantage and bought some toys and alcohol direct in the store - with vouchers that during a specified period of time can be exchanged for double the face value. I do think you need an A level or something in how to redeem vouchers, but I was on a mission and nothing would deter me from it.

Although I was pleased with myself, I had to go back and buy a toy I didn't really want as I was one penny short of my voucher sum - and you have to spend equal to or more than the total value.  (I was informed of this by someone who took rather too much pleasure at the prospect of making me stand at the back of the five mile queue again).

I bought quite a few gifts at local craft fairs.  Good value for money, locally made.  Result.

I thought about culling the card writing... but still can't bring myself to do it.  We've many visitors over December so all cards and gifts that can be handed out, are being.  Just to save on the postage.

I received a few items ordered from Amazon.  Unfortunately a smashed nail varnish in one parcel ruined the packaging of the other items contained therein.  Amazon replaced immediately and did not want the originals returned.  Of course this is great service and they now have a loyal customer who will continue buying from them.  I have re-packed the affected items myself though and they are still going to be gifted - albeit smelling pungently of ethyl acetate.

G10 is looking to wrap up some pre-loved books to share this Christmas.

If I could I would make beautiful things... but I am just not talented enough.

I try to buy thoughtful presents.  But they will not be expensive things I'm afraid.  J and I rarely buy much for each other - just a small gift so G10 can see us giving and receiving.  This saves us money.  If there is something we particularly need or want we can always treat ourselves in the January sales and pay half the price for it.

We've never bought much for G10 either.  She asks for little.  She is always pleased with whatever she gets.  Certainly until she was 7 or 8 we could have given her a cardboard box and she'd have been happy with that.  We try to save for her regularly though instead.  And of course she has grandparents and a large family that spoil her.  She does OK.  I also think that it's important not to get everything handed to you on a plate just because you asked for it.  Santa has limits.  (Perhaps I'm a cruel mummy). 

I refuse to go into debt over Christmas. 

Ahh the Christmas tree.   Now they have become expensive.  But really it's our only decoration. We have a few other bits and bobs around.  But the tree is predominantly it.  OK I splurged here - but it's a gift to all of us and our friends and family visiting over December and the festive period. 

Nadolig Llawen i pawb.

Our Christmas treat.
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