Honeymoon crisis averted :)

So our ferry to France on the 27th was cancelled... after a slight panic we managed to re-book 2 days later and book into the Woodenbrigde Lodge, the oldest hotel in Ireland while we waited (lost our Rouen hotel payment though grrrrrrr). It's in the beautiful County Wicklow and was a good place to rest, re-organise and take stock.

Also on an interesting and pretty cool side note, Eamon De Velara and wife Sinead also spent part of their honeymoon in this hotel in January 1910! (very important man in Irish history)

Loving up Dublin on Honeymoon! (part 2)

St Stephens day was spent wondering the beautiful green opposite our hotel, a touch of bargain shopping, relaxing, and found the best Italian food in Dublin!

Loving up Dublin on Honeymoon! (part 1)

On the 1st night we christmassed up the room for santa :) Then did the obvious thing to do 
when your given a 5 star room with a magnificent king size bed...

In the evenings we wondered around Dublin's streets, they looked fantastic with all the city's character magically highlighted with twinkly lights. It was so romantic, perfect start to our honeymoon! 

I refuse to be tempted...

I am very proud of myself - I'm just back from a trip to town, Al had something secret to do and I needed some funky tights to wear with my LBD for his work party tonight. We separated in the mall and I wondered around the shops for an hour and did not buy 1 single thing!!! (apart from the cool tights £2.99) I knew I had nice gifts already and didn't need anything else, so I just looked, admired the pretty things, bargain deals and people watched.

I know for some of you seasoned frugal living experts this may not be a big deal but for me, the week before christmas I must say I am quite pleased :)

Astra and her self control 1 - shops and all their clever selling tactics 0!

Planning next years veg garden

I've really missed gardening this last year and can't wait to get my hands dirty again, get a bit closer to nature, be eating our own home grown food on a daily basis and be saving a fortune :) Making the most of our gardening space is going to help us save money in a big way, not just saving on the cost of the veg but when we're growing so much lovely fresh veg we eat far less meat.

While I'm recuperating (from what i think must have been a chest infection, don't know for sure since I stay clear of the doctors - just healthy food, vitamins and rest) I've been going through our old photos and getting so excited planning our garden for next year, these pictures are from 2010 at our old home in County Mayo (west coast of Ireland).

We should be able to successfully grow all these again next year, and tonnes more - I'm an ambitious planter you see and tend to have to let the garden go wild because there is to much to do around july/august LOL but as you can see it seems to work for us :)

I'm thinking that we could fit 2 bantam hens in the garden for eggs too but we'll see, I'm worried about all the cats around here (including our wee hunter!), they couldn't free range and would need a roof on their run... This topic definitely to be continued!

What better way to get better than to sit in your PJ's sifting through your seed box and dreaming of all the brilliant things that will be happening next year - 2012 is going to be amazing - I can feel it already :)

My lovely hubby :)

He knows how to put a smile on my face thats for sure :)

With this kinda looking after I'll be better in no time! Ps only 9 days till our honeymoon!

Brilliantly busy weekend!

Last weekend was brilliant :) Our friend Baz was up from dublin for his birthday, you might remember we went to Dublin to stay with him for Als birthday in October so its becoming a bit of a tradition! We headed out on Friday to the Belfast continental market, which was beautiful and so so christmassy.

The men got stuck in to the german beer and we ended up drinking at a table with the Ulster Rugby team! Ended the night at a funky bar then Little Italy's pizza - all round great night :)

Saturday was my staff christmas do - massive success, got my boss to do a shot (LOL) and had the absolute BEST of craic with the girls and somehow only spent £25!!!

Unfortunately now I'm a bit under the weather with a chesty cough thing... Have booked tomorrow off work though and had Thursday off anyway so I'll be resting up and getting better :)

On a much more exciting note, it's only 10 days till our honeymoon!!! The time has crept up so fast, I still have so much to do - must go and make a list :)

Oh twinkly lights, how I love thee!

Its December, we held out and didn't decorate until last weekend. Our neighbours put all theirs up 2nd week in November... Not cool. Anyway Al and I had a lovely evening decorating our home, somehow now it feels warmer and cosier. We decided not to get a real tree this year since we leave for Dublin on the 24th and aren't back till the 7th jan but we have our wee tree up and I love it, small but perfect and our presents to each other are under it already!

I love twinkly lights - they make me happy!

Thats my stocking from when I was a child!

Last year we were between homes and had so much on we didn't do pressies so this year it's been extra special, choosing little gifts I know he'll love and hiding them away, I cant wait till christmas morning to see his face :) and to see what he got me! I have no idea! It's all so exciting, I love christmas :)

I feel like this christmas we've got the magic back.

My 101 in 1001 list is up!

I took a few days to write this up and it was so much fun :)

I could have written 101 more fun random ones but I'm really happy with what I chose and it's gonna be so much fun crossing them off and writing about them as I go, I hope you'll kick my butt if I don't keep crossing them off and celebrate with me when I do :)

Have a look and tell me what you think!

Ps I'm nearly at 1000 page views! Thank you all so much xx

Sealed pot challenge...

OK so yesterday was the start of Saving for Travel's sealed pot challenge, here is my sealed pot/tin :)

A collage I did last year, one of my favorites

Sealed properly so no dipping in!

Until we get back from honeymoon in January this pot will probably be empty as we have a honeymoon fund one on the go already but after that Im determined to squirrel away every spare bit of cash lying around (spare bank money will go to our savings to earn interest) and I already can't wait to see what's in it when I open it Dec 3rd next year!

I hope it's full by then :)

Liebster Love!

Yesterday I was given a Liebster Blog award by Bee Girl from Sky Minded & Ever Growing, I couldn't believe it! Her blog is so inspirational and to be selected by her for this award is an honor :)

I've been quite ill these last few weeks and I'd been worrying that my blog was suffering but getting this has given me confidence to just keep being myself and to stop stressing! So thank you again :)

"Liebster" is a German word meaning dear, sweet, kind, nice, good, beloved, lovely, kindly, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. What a gift to be awarded with such kindness!
Alright, on to the details. The Liebster is a way to show a little Blog Love to bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers.

The rules:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have fun!

Now for my five picks, in random order...

Saving for travel
A great blog written by a frugal woman successfully reaching the goals in her
 101 in 1001 challenge and encouraging her loyal followers to do the same!

Eco Footprint - South Africa
A blog full of really inspiring posts about a new eco homestead coming 
together and practical ways to be more environmentally friendly anywhere!

The Joy of Farming
I've only just found this blog, it's so close to my dream its crazy! Stunning pictures 
and happy words from a happy family, I love it :) 

Living Without Money
This one's a diary type blog about money saving and living a frugal life, always 
a great read with some interesting opinions and ideas.

Frugal Living UK
Such an exciting blog - I wish he'd post more lol he's in the process of moving to the 
country from London to create his own downshifted dream, exciting times :)

So those are my 5 picks and a wee bit about why I love them, I hope you'll check them out and love them too!

Bring on the freeze!

Christmas Eve 2010, down the road at Lough Neagh, the largest lough in the northern hemisphere, frozen over! A group of guys actually carried a boat out to the island and back! I know the ice causes havoc for millions of people but I can't help seeing the positive, it turns our country into a magical winter wonderland. You can't do anything about it anyway so when it gets here, wrap up, find your inner child and try to enjoy it! xx

Thanksgiving Astra's way :)

I've never celebrated Thanksgiving before, well, once when I was 14 in Bermuda on a working trip... Anyway it's not something that I was brought up with or ever taught about. As an adult I have developed quite a respect for this american tradition, I love the idea of taking a few days to celebrate with the people you love, everything you have to be thankful for.

Al and I have decided that we are going to start celebrating Thanksgiving! Next year we'll host our first party/dinner/evening of festivities! Im excited, I hope it looks something like this, but inside since we're Irish :)

For this year my Thanksgiving will take the form of a little note -

I'm thankful for my place in the world, I love who I am and where I am in my life.
I'm thankful that our cat Cara is getting better :)
I'm thankful that Al and I both have secure jobs that enable us to save for our dream.
I'm thankful we have no debt.
I'm thankful for our lovely home thats easy to keep cosy and warm.
I'm thankful for my good health, after being ill for a few days, I'm so thankful it rarely happens.
I'm especially thankful for my husband, our brilliant marriage and every single kiss, 'i love you', laugh and shared smile.

I could go on for hours but I'll leave it there lol, did you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, in any way?

Surprise veg!

In April this year we had to move house quite suddenly, it was a real shame because we had done a lot of gardening and all round preparation for the season ahead at our old place. The thing I was sad about leaving the most was a large square raised bed I'd made by hand from scrap wood, it had taken me about a week, I loved it and was so proud of how well it turned out. I had layered compost, sand, dead leaves etc to make a rich soil base for the mixture of onions and carrots I planted, they were looking so promising when we left but all too small to pick.

We've been back a couple of times and seen it totally overgrown, I figured there mustn't be much under the weeds. How wrong I was!! We are cat sitting for the owners (Al's parents) this week and thought we'd have a dig around, after 7 months of total neglect this is what nature (and my loving preparation and planting) provided...

I'd say about 2kg carrots and 1kg onions!

Aren't they perfect, with all their imperfections :)

So tonight we feast on 40p lamb, free carrots, cabbage (reduced down to 10p) and gravy that's home made - with flour the old fashioned way! I'm so happy!

This is saving for our dream in style and appreciating the small things - just what we're about!

Hope you all are enjoying your weekends :)

P.S are you noticing a pattern with my saturdays? Not that I'm complaining!

Bargain buys and childish humour!

I think Saturdays are fast becoming my happy day :)

This Saturday was brilliant, Al and I headed into town for a bit of shopping, it was chilly and there was a definite air of christmas excitement. We started by doing our rounds of the charity shops and they didn't disappoint, I found another Jamie Oliver cookbook in the same shop! A beautiful little casserole dish and a cool glass jar for our kitchen collection - all in perfect condition and for crazy prices, I'm so chuffed!

Then we split up for a wee while to do some secret shopping. I got one thing for Al, can't say what because he likes to read my blog, sweet hey? Hi baby, I love you! he-he

We stopped for diesel on the way home, he pumped and I went to pay, while I was in the shop waiting in line (he was still pumping) I locked the car with the clicker, husband looks around like 'thats weird', I start giggling and click it again, and again, he looks at the car confused and I crack up laughing in the shop, then he see's me and cracks up too! So the two of us are laughing hysterically and no one else knows why, we must have looked mental!

I love our childish sense of humour, how we can find joy and laughter in the dullest situations and how after 5 years of being together we are still best friends, closer than ever and happier than we thought possible :)

Anyone else having happy Saturdays lately?

Astra xx

Some of the ways we save for our dream.

Our mission is to save a lot each month so that when we buy a home/land we will have a substantial deposit, get a low interest rate mortgage, be able to pay it off in 10 years then live debt free after that. Ambitious I know, but we are ambitious people and we'll make it happen :)

We worked out when the reduced items come out at our local supermarket (friday 7pm) and it saves us a fortune! We buy meat and just freeze it straight away, other items are usually fine for a few days. We also bulk buy, when something we use a lot of or buy regularly is on a really good deal we stock up, no point paying full price next month. The 800g mayo you see below was £1.62 usually £3.15! It's one of the few expensive brand names we do shell out for so when I saw this deal I was so excited. The meat is an amazing deal - each packet was £4 now 40p (only use by tomorrow) and lamb is my favorite too!

The big bills...
Rent - always the same but we love our home, so don't mind paying for it each month. Electricity - we are just sensible with it. Internet and phone deal - we regularly check we are getting the best deal, they change so often its really worth it (mobiles are just PAYG). Car Insurance - same as Internet we change up nearly every year and haggle down the phone! Car Tax and running - we own a small clio so tax is really cheap. It's a diesel and we share it, only having one car can be an inconvenience but its so worth it for the money we save.

The wee bills...
We write it all down, on a notepad in the kitchen, one page for each week and it really helps us. From that we can see if we are on track for our monthly targets or if we've spent a lot and need to cut back next week etc.

So those are some of the things that help us reach our savings target each month, nothing ground breaking lol but they work for us :) I will say that we are not in high wage brackets by any means and we are not scrimpers, we are savers. We do treat ourselves, we go out, we put the heat on when its cold enough and we use lights at night. We don't believe in sacrificing or struggling now for something in the future, we believe in happiness today while doing what we can to ensure a secure, comfortable future :)

If your on the same page/journey and have any tips to share I'd love to hear them 

Astra xx

Have you ever tasted the intriguing mixture of spicy chilli and smooth sweet chocolate?

For anyone who doesn't know, my husband is the Chilli Ninja :) His blog is all about no nonsense chilli growing, it has brilliant photos, information on different varieties and our personal recipes (I am a huge chilli wimp so don't worry if you are too, you'll still love them!).

So at the weekend we decided to collaborate and make chocolate chilli cake, this is how we got on.

Cake icing is very serious business you know!

See the cute carnation in my scarf? That was from Al, I love his romantic side :) 

If you want the recipe (highly recommended) head over to his blog www.chillininja.wordpress.com. The cake recipe is the same one we used for our wedding cakes, just with fresh chilli :)

A quick update on my Pre School bake sale for Children in need - BRILLIANT! We have sold out of everything, every day! The kids have loved it and we all have had tonnes of fun :) The big finale is tomorrow with chocolate cakes, more lemon cakes because they were amazing, and gingerbread Pudsey's. I'll be interested to see how much money we raised, but I don't think it'll be a huge amount as all our prices were very reasonable - 25p, 30p etc still, every penny counts!
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