Guest Post @ Captain Capitalism. Stockpiles.

A huge thanks to @aaron_clarey for publishing my guest post on starting up a stockpile.

My first post back from the week off and it isn’t on my blog! 😛 Click here to read it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Objectives 2015.

Well, this year’s been absolutely insane.

My objectives have moved around a bit due to rescheduling pregnancy, but I’m not doing too badly.

1: I am making well over £50/day between all my work. 100% accomplished.

2: I have finished both books and published them as well! 100% accomplished.

3: Speaking German? Whoops. 0%.

4: Certificates? Oh dear. 0%.

5: Deadlift, squats and shrugs nearly at bodyweight and we’ll be trying for a baby in March! 80% accomplished.

6: #NoNothingNovember2014 still adhered to. I feel much better for it too. 95% accomplished.

7: Ebay established and raking in the money. 100% accomplished.

Plus we are prepared for TTC, including my crazy diet plans; we’ve made, grown and got so many things for free or cheap; my garden hasn’t grown much, but it’s ready for next year and the foraging was a huge success; the blog has went well with regularly scheduled posts; I have done some reading and crafting, though nowhere near what I would like; I’ve kept dinner parties, events and celebrations rolling over, especially now I am making enough money to balance them, and the house seems great, the dog and cat are healthy and Jon seems incredibly happy with everything. So the year’s went well. Total targets around 72%. Not too shabby. 🙂

As for next year’s goals… I have no clue yet.

We’ll be trying for a baby in February-March, so around 9 months of the year are accounted for as “what happens happens”. Provisionally, my goals will be centered around that idea.

1: Keep eating my perfect-baby-diet until I’m breastfeeding and need to adjust it a little for milk purposes. This means 90% Paleo, sugar, dairy and wheat negligible, low carb with refeeds, high vitamin and mineral content, plenty of water, 2 cups of coffee daily (no more no less), no alcohol and as few meals out as possible.

2: Actually learn German this year. Honest. I need to put any time off work to good use anyhow.

3: Get stocked up with everything baby related cheaply or for free. If you have any money-saving or time-saving baby tips, please share!

4: ?

5: ?

6: ?

7: ?

Intangible goals are also a bit up in the air, so… 😦

Until the plans are more solid, that’s where I am. To be honest, I’m nervous about planning anything around my first pregnancy. I’ll have to wait and see how everything goes.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Common Money Mistakes.

Everyone would like to save a little here and there. But some common decisions can result in you spending more money than you intended, over and over again.

1.- Using cards too much.

Cards are a very convenient way of buying things. Too convenient, if you ask me. When we use cards we’re less able to keep track of what we’ve bought. We don’t have a certain number of notes and coins to keep track of. And we’re more likely to splurge when we carry more in our accounts than we do in our pockets.

Try and leave the house always with the money you need and only bring the card out for big purchases or if you see something genuinely too cheap to pass up, that just happened not to be on your list, like a reduced price lamb’s leg.

2.- Virtual over real money.

In a similar vein, we have a hard time conceptualizing real over virtual money. We often accidentally think in terms of our net worth rather than our spending money. We think we have £400 of eBay stock on sale, so we have £400. We think our paycheck is £2000, so we have at least £24000 this year.

Any money that isn’t right now in your bank account or home is not real. That paycheck you’re getting doesn’t exist. If it’s delayed or your company goes bankrupt you might not have it for a very long time. Think in terms of what you have right now, not what you could have.

3.- Physical over virtual media.

On the other hand, we place too much value on physically possessing something. Even when that thing is not really something you hold in person. Everything from films and music to cards and guides, we like to have the thing in our hand rather than on our screen.

But most of these things can’t be used without putting them into some sort of a device anyway, degrade over time and are often more costly. Get your media cheaply, digitally and make it go much further.

4.- Not negotiating.

More a problem that Brits and some Americans suffer than anyone else, but: we just don’t negotiate! We pay fixed price for everything every time and then bemoan it when we find it half price online two days later.

A bit of a haggle is good for the soul and most things can be haggled down, especially in small stores and online shopping. Just asking for a discount via email can result in coupons and reimbursements, so don’t be scared to ask for a little off, especially on big purchases.

5.- Fallacy of sunk costs.

It’s all too easy to fall for this one. We’ve already spent so much on this renovation project, making this dress or planting the garden that we “may as well” throw another pile of money at it and try and fix it. And then we end up spending more money on our cheap way out than we would have spent buying the items anyway.

If something just isn’t working, you’ve spent twice as much on it as you would have spent on the alternative and it looks like it will still cost more, cut the costs and buy the alternative.

And those are my top five common money mistakes that we all make and that can cost us a lot over the year.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What money mistakes do you fall for? What traps do you take pride in avoiding?

How To… prepare a first aid kit.

This is going to be the first in six installments where I will explore six kits we could use in various situations as housekeepers. It falls on our heads to be ready for most eventualities, especially when they happen on our threshold and a small, easy to locate, well-organized, well-stocked box will really come in handy when you need to think fast and save the day!

The first kit is a first aid kit. This is an essential in any household, but few people go beyond the basic sets you can buy in the pharmacy, a box of plasters and a few painkillers. But even if you find it hard to think ahead when it comes to illness and injury, there are some simple measures you can take to make an awesome first aid kit.

1: The container.

The first step is to prepare a suitably sized container for your kit. None of that tiny, easy, cutesy nonsense. That was fine for your first scout camp, but when you have a real problem on your hands, you need to be well stocked. We actually have an entire shelf in a cupboard dedicated to our first aid gear. That’s how big we’re talking. You will want to stockpile the basics and be storing heavy-duty things, like heatable and coolable packs, compresses and emergency surgery kits. You need the space.

If you can’t take over a cupboard, consider a child’s suitcase, a storage box or even assorted tupperware boxes, all properly marked and organized, of course.

2: The grab-bag.

But what about those times when you need something soon or often? For that we will create a mini-kit, a grab-bag of assorted items you may need in a pinch. This should be the size of your standard household first aid tin or small lunch bag.

It will contain antiseptic wipes and/or spray, a small selection of plasters and sticky bandages, a nail kit and anything else you may need suddenly or urgently, such as an adrenaline shot if your daughter is seriously allergic to beestings.

3: Basics.

The basics are what we first think of when we talk about first aid. You will want two stashes of these: a stockpile in the main cupboard/container and a small selection in your grab bag.

Antiseptics. For any small cuts or animal bites.

A nail repair kit. Tweezers, nail file, small scissors and clippers. All very useful in the event of torn or damaged skin or nails.

-Simple painkiller. Paracetamol is wiser, as too much aspirin is a blood-thinner. But do make sure to have a selection.

Plasters. Everything from those tiny dots to a huge roll of plaster tissue.

-Sticky bandages. For more serious cuts than plasters can help with.

And those are your bare essentials.

4: Cold and Flu.

Colds and flus are inevitable. Sure, if you look after yourself you may get to a point where you get one a year and all it feels like is a stuffy nose, or even where you don’t get ill. But not everyone will or can get their immune system that strong and these people wander in and out of your life and home fairly regularly. Therefore, we need to be stocked in case of cold and flu.

-Congestion relief. Inhalers are very good, but nasal sprays can also help.

-Throat relief. Soothers and cough syrup.

Vapor rub. Good for handkerchief rubbing and for little ones with blocked sinuses.

Spare packs of tissues. Nobody ever has enough.

Vitamin chewies. To help prevent them from catching anything else whilst they recover.

5: Sports.

Again, you may be one of the least physically active people in the world and still get tennis elbow. And others around you will almost certainly get sprains, tears and twists even when you don’t. So you will need to be prepared for them.

Freezable pack. This could be as simple as that sponge-in-a-Ziploc trick or even a camping freeze bag.

Warmable pack. Rice bags are really easy to make and helpful.

Cool and heat sprays. For instant relief.

-Compress bandages. Usually just two long ones are enough, but you may want a specialized knee, ankle and wrist one too.

Ibuprofen gel. For swelling and pain.

Rehydration salts. Great for recovery, also usable in cases of extreme enteritis.

6: Bandaging.

Anyone can get cut or injured. Anyone can fall over, have a piece of furniture land on their foot or be bitten by a large animal. So bandaging gear is an essential.

Simple sterile gauze. These bandages come in little sterile packets and are very useful.

Bandaging. These come in rolls and are used for compressing wounds or broken parts into place.

Butterfly stitches. Little sticky stitches, good for holding things together as a temporary fix.

-Sewing kit. Sterile needle, proper thread, sterile tweezers and scissors.

Dissection kit. Sterile scalpel, tweezers, scissors, etc. Good for cleaning up messy wounds before bandaging or stitching and removing glass or deep splinters.

7: Epipens.

If you or a member of your household has a serious allergy, you will probably have an epipen anyway. These are measured adrenaline shots to keep people alive through an allergic reaction.

But as long as you know someone who has a serious allergy, it may be best to keep an appropriate epipen at hand at all times, just in case. Be warned, they expire. So keep an eye on them.

8: Gadgets.

Anything technological that may need batteries recharged, to be kept dry and safe or replaced after a few years.

-Assorted thermometers. Oral, ear, rectal, baby.

-Massager. A godsend when you need one. Just get something simple, like those insect-like ones.

Blood pressure monitor.

Blood glucose checker and strips.

9: Specials.

These are assorted items you will use rarely and that aren’t part of a treatment program, but that it’s best to keep in the back of your kit, just in case.

-Heavy duty painkillers. Codeine, for example.

-Headlice killers.

-Worming pills.

-Something to induce vomiting. When you need someone to vomit, this is vital.

-Fire blanket and burn cream.

10: Personals.

Anything you need that other people may not. Have a look at whatever illnesses or disorders run in the family. Some homes may need a defibrillator, some may need omega oils, some may need a couple of epipens handy. Make sure you have everything you need and put it into the right area.

11: Information.

All the literature you might need. I’d recommend a clipboard with a sheet of expiry dates for easy access, a first aid book for all emergencies and any books on the local wildlife and what may be poisonous where you live.

Once you have collected all of this, be sure to keep it organized. Tupperware boxes or makeup bags make great mini-kits, so that all your bandaging, painkillers or flu treatments are together. When you use it, make sure to put everything back where it came from and make note when something needs replacing or restocking.

And that is your first kit! Be sure to check in next week to find out how to design a kit for when you are depressed or otherwise “down”.

Until then, feel free to share your suggestions for the kit in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Money-Saving Book. Mending Clothes.

Another excerpt from my Money-Saving Book, currently subtitled The Good Housekeeper’s Guide to Economizing”. Still no clue on the main title. Working on a cover picture though.

The previous excerpts were on supermarket grocery shopping and time management. This one is on mending various items of clothing, from the chapter on clothes.

-Holes and tears (cotton, linen and thin synthetics).

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Some jogging trousers suffering from run-in with an unexpected hawthorn bush, a vengeful door taking a bite from your shirt or kids being kids and wrecking every item of clothing they own; we’ve all been here at some point. Usually a thin tear, though sizes and shapes may vary. And you’re unsure how to deal with it. Well, here’s how.

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For formal-wear: If a smart shirt, school shirt, tie, dress, blouse or scarf gets a tear, the first thing to assess is where it is. A torn pocket can be easily sewn back on, but a tear at the ribs is harder to deal with. The best solution for a small hole which is already near a seam is to undo the seam a bit and fold it in. If it’s really quite small, you can often fix it with small, even stitches done from the inside of the item. Some of the best solutions, however, are to customize it, which I shall go into in greater detail below.

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For informal/kids wear: Cut out a piece of fabric into a nice shape and simply patch the item. If that’s a bit adventurous, you can always buy iron-on patches online, that come in pre-made shapes. Iron them on, then stitch them a bit, to secure them. A knee-patch on some baggy trousers or a kids’ blouse covered in cool patches can actually look pretty awesome and individual.

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For practical clothes: If you need the item to be sturdy again, such as with gardening clothes, jiu-jitsu outfits or heavy-duty work gear, the best solution is often to get some thick thread and just stitch it as securely as possible. It may not look as nice, but in these cases a patch may not quite do the job.

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Holes and tears (denim, canvas and wool).

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Heavier, woven materials tend to tear in a different way to lighter ones. It usually involves some rubbing-away of the material, which can make it hard to just stitch back together or patch over. Eventually, the material wears around the stitches and comes undone again. This can happen with scarves, hats, gloves, jumpers, socks, coats, jeans, jackets and cardigans. The solution to this is to darn them. If you don’t know what darning is: no I didn’t just swear and, no I didn’t just suggest giving up. Darning is a process where you replace worn or torn fabric by sort of weaving, sort of knitting, sort of sewing the hole shut.

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A simple darn is suitable for denim, socks and canvas. You usually need nothing more than strong cotton or thin wool thread. Here is where you sew from right to left and left to right, up to down and down to up, weaving the needle in and out of the threads you’ve just sewed. It sounds more difficult than it is, but is easy once you’ve got the hang of it. You’re basically sewing across the hole until your threads are so interwoven and so densely packed that they’ve filled it in. Depending on how big the hole is, this can be a quick task or a very long one.

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Some forms of darning, especially those used on wool jumpers and other Winter-wear, is to follow the pattern created by a knitting-needle to fix the hole almost imperceptibly. For this you usually need wool of an appropriate colour and thickness and a wide-eyed needle. It may take a while to identify the knitting-pattern and get the hang of replicating it, but it is worthwhile to know and, plus, you have your favourite jumper back!

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Holes and tears (plastics, leathers and furs).

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As they are not thread-based materials, a plastic or animal-derived fabric is often hard to fix. This is because most threading would be very obvious. So, here are different approaches for different types of ‘unsewable’ materials. I will list the plastic-based ones first, so that those who wish to escape discussion of leather and fur can do so.

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Pleather: Often, the thin upper layer of pleather breaks and lifts away from its backing, looking like something has been peeling it like an orange. Not a good look. The best way to fix this is to insert fabric glue beneath every side of the tear and press it down. Start at one end and be sure not only to glue the part that lifts up, but also the main fabric. This is so the pieces can’t be pulled apart again. As fabric glue dries slowly, you can adjust the lay of the tear until it’s just right and looks like a natural fold in the material. Hang it up away from other clothing, dust and damp for a few days. After this, find a polish suitable for pleather (make sure it’s colourless or in the right colour) and gently polish around the area with small dabs. This should re-blend the colours and lessen any scuffing. When scuffing is severe, it’s best to dilute fabric glue with suitable polish and “brush” it in, making sure to keep strokes going in one direction. This minimizes the damage.

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Meltable plastics: The best solution is usually to use fabric glue on the tear. If you can warm the tear area so the fabric is more pliable and likely to bond with the glue, then do so. Just be EXTREMELY careful not to overheat it or use a naked flame, as it will melt and some can catch fire. Holding it to a radiator or using a hair-drier on it for a minute or so would do the trick. Avoid using irons, candles, matches…etc Once the area is warmed, add the fabric glue and press both sides together.

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Non-meltable plastics: Trim a small, ½mm-deep fray along both edges of the tear. Apply glue and press them together. Flatten with your fingers, a spatula, a butter-knife or a similar heavy, flat-edge instrument. Leave to dry.

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From here until the next material category I am discussing animal-derived materials.

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Smooth leather: Use the pleather trick, except, as leather doesn’t have a “backing”, insert some strong fabric beneath it to glue it onto. Make the fabric as close to the leather colour as possible, but a shade darker is better than a shade lighter. Gluing so it overlaps is also fine, but remember to polish out the marks around the edges once the glue is dry.

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Thick leather: This is your biker leathers, your leather shoes and your heavy-duty bags. Things you don’t want to just lightly glue back down. First step is to peel back the backing a little. Unstitch it as near to the area as possible and peel it back until you can comfortably work around the hole. Use the strongest super-adhesive you can find and some solid leather. Glue the leather firmly behind the hole, skin-side-up. Turn it over and glue the edges of the tear onto the under-patch. If you’re more bothered about function than cosmetic value, get a leather patch (maybe something plain, maybe something cool, whatever suits you) and stitch it firmly down over the hole. Next, apply leather polish to the top and a hardening mixture to the underside. Hang up to dry. A few days later, get it down and apply waterproof paint to both sides of the patching. Make sure to get it around the edges and under the upper-patch seams. Hang it up to dry. It ought to be good to use again after that. If the item in question is a shoe, consider waterproofing the entire inside of the shoe, in case of leaks. Water inside a leather shoe can spell disaster as, when damp, leather wears easily.

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Suede: Suede is basically inside-out leather. If you’re going through this step-by-step and have fixed a couple of smooth or thick leather items, you’ll have noticed how weird the backing looks once its been fixed. This is why suede shouldn’t be fixed with stitches, overpatches or anything stronger than normal fabric glue. Follow the same steps as with normal leather: insert an underpatch, glue the back of your suede down to it with fabric glue and press. As you’ll have to use very little glue, to avoid making stains on the visible parts, get a hair-drier and heat the area after the glue has been applied. This will make it stickier, so it will soak into the patch and the back of the suede and hold them more firmly together. Hang up to dry. Buff with leather protector and, if necessary, re-dye.

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Long-hair fur: Fairly easy to fix if the area won’t be seen. Simply get tapestry thread or leather-based thread, part the fur around the area and stitch the tear together. Be careful not to catch any furs or pull them out, as it may make a larger repair look more noticeable. Treat the tear with a tiny amount of vaseline to make it soft whilst the stitching beds in. Brush the fur back down over it with a soft-bristled hairbrush.

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Short-hair fur: Slightly harder to fix, as the fur parts more easily. This means you risk your needlework being exposed. To avoid this, follow the steps for long fur: part the fur, don’t pull any out. Next, overlap the tear so that the part that’s on top is coming from the direction the fur grows in. This should stop the fur from parting and exposing the stitches. Sew in a straight line (rather than from one side of the tear to the other) going through the upper and lower layer every time. Treat the stitching with a tiny amount of vaseline and brush the fur back into position with a soft-bristled hairbrush.

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Bust seams and scuffed edges.

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An open seam or a scuffed edge may seem unfixeable. But, with the right technique, this job can be made easy. For open seams, cut the broken thread out, sew any loose thread back down and stitch together from the back. If you can’t easily access the back, sew in a zig-zag line from one side of the seam to the other. Find the fold created by the seam. Put the needle into it, then straight back out a few mms up. Move to the other side and do the same. When you draw the thread tight, the stitches should be invisible.

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Broken jewellery (hooks, hoops, chains and wire).

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If you wear a lot of designer jewellery or are forced to wear largely gold because of metal allergies, it can be pretty annoying to find the hook or a link has bent out of shape or broken. Fortunately, a chain or connection hoop that has been bent out of shape or split open is easily fixed. It is worthwhile to invest in some jewellery pliers, as they do the job best and are often useful for many other tasks; but, if you’d rather not, hunt through your toolkit and find the smallest round-nosed pliers you have. They’re the ones that look like cones and end in points: no flat sides at all. You can use them to open, re-shape and close broken links. You can also use them to replace ornaments that used to be attached to the jewellery.

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Broken jewellery (rethreading).

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It’s best to catch something that needs rethreading before it’s too late and it falls apart. Many jewellers offer the service when you buy a more expensive item off them or when you pay to have it done, but, for your everyday jewellery, here’s a step-by-step: take an appropriate thread (metal-based threads are always preferable) and measure out twice the length you need it to be, add two inches and cut; thread it through a needle; even out the thread so it folds in half at the eye of the needle, tie the loose ends together tightly; unthread your beads carefully onto some fabric (the beads ought to weigh it down and the roughness of the fabric ought to stop them from rolling out of order); if you’re particularly worried about losing the order, then remove and thread one by one; save the original clasps if possible; rethread the beads; once rethreaded, tie off the end by the needle’s eye and cut it free; firmly attach the thread to the clasp. The best replacement clasps are the ones that pinch down on the ends of the thread, but remember to wrap the thread tightly in leather or faux suede before clasping, so it will be held more firmly. Another option is to add glue before compressing the clasp.

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Broken jewellery (earrings).

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Most earring involve some beads or charms strung onto something. This something can be a fine chain with a stopper, a hoop or a stem with a stopper. These parts are known as being in the category of “findings” and the ones with stoppers are called “headpins”. To fix a broken earring, you must first work out what part is broken. Is it the hook that goes through your ear, the clasp that locks onto your earlobe, the pin that goes through your ear, the backer for the pin or hook, the hoop that the pieces are strung on, the headpin the pieces are strung on, the pieces themselves or any chain involved? Usually the broken part needs replacing, but most DIY and sewing stores and any jewellery store that sells beads will be able to sell you replacements – sometimes these are sold in bulk and sometimes piece-by-piece.

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Once you’ve bought a replacement, then take apart the earring. Normally there are bent “eyes”, chain links and hoops that you can bend open with round-nosed pliers. Open all of them you have to until you reach the broken piece. Swap it for the replacement and reassemble.

You can apply this method to whenever anything fully breaks, but it’s usually necessary with earrings.