Sunday, 23 March 2014

This is my last post here - but I've started a new blog.

I've decided to stop blogging at Where's Neens?. Ever since I changed my mind about going travelling with my Albert-monkey, this blog hasn't really been the right fit for me. Now that I'm starting afresh in life, I might as well start afresh with a new blog as well. So this is my last post here.

Thank you all so very much for following my journey;
I didn't go travelling, but I still feel like I've come a really long way.

My new blog will centre around the aspects of life that I'm focusing on now - minimalism, frugal living and enjoying the simple pleasures in life. And I'm sure there will be a fair bit about Albert, as well.

You can find the new blog at

My first post is about my breakfast routine (or rather brunch routine, as I eat so late in the morning), and explains how I eat an organic breakfast every day for just £0.23/$0.38.

I hope you have enjoyed Where's Neens?, and I also hope you will make the transition to Simplicity & Ease with me.

Thank you for reading this, and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Love Neens xx

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Stuff Creep: A Minimalist's Nightmare

I love the fact that everything I own can fit into my van. This is still the case, although I will admit that ever since I moved into my lofty little flatlet, I have experienced some 'stuff creep'. The first thing I bought was some cosy pyjama trousers, then I got a Tatty Teddy onesie.

Surely no one can resist a comfy Tatty Teddy onesie?
I've also bought some pens and note books and cards and quite a few books. Well, I wanted to reduce my Amazon wish list to just Kindle books, you see, and some of the books on my wish list weren't available in Kindle editions so eventually I just caved in and purchased them. I'll donate the books to charity as soon as I've read them, of course, but then there are the 10 candles (justifiable because it hasn't stopped raining all year so I've got to try to enjoy myself indoors!), the embroidered cushion and woven tea towels I inherited when my grandma passed away (I love them and use them every day, but it's more stuff nonetheless), new fairy lights (the old ones died and I reiterate - it hasn't stopped raining all year!) and a few DVDs (you know, because it hasn't stopped raining ALL YEAR and because they were cheaper than on iTunes). Oh, and a printer.

I can justify pretty much all of this stuff (I'll assume you know why now), but what's been driving me crazy lately isn't so much my own stuff creep, but the stuff that was already here when I moved in. The flatlet came fully furnished, not just with furniture, but with kitchen equipment too. We're talking breakfast plates, dinner plates, soup plates, bowls, salad bowl, mixing bowl, pint glasses, mugs (7!), wine glasses, whisky glasses, tumblers, oven-proof dish, two strainers, a sieve, a disgusting-looking electric kettle, a toaster - even a rolling-pin and a bizarre-looking huge metal spoon (the list is not exhaustive). Quite a lot for a tiny flatlet that only has one small table and two chairs - I'm hardly going to be entertaining lots of guests here!

Anyway, when I moved in, I put my few little things among all the other stuff, but before I knew it my tiny kitchen corner (pictures here) was completely overflowing with dirty dishes, and it took me days to do the dishes! Ok, I'll admit I hate doing the dishes, and I am the Queen of ProcrastiNation (Ma'am as in jam, not Ma'am as in arm), but it did actually take days because I kept running out of hot water.

All this stuff has slowly been getting to me, and last night I just couldn't take it anymore. I managed to get rid of a few notebooks, books and DVDs, but it didn't really make much of a difference. Then this morning I noticed that the wooden beams that hold the drawers in place in the beautiful old-fashioned kitchen 'unit' are getting really worn down with use, to the point where I don't think they will last much longer if I keep using them as much as I have been doing. They seem to have been repaired before, but I'd rather just avoid the whole thing becoming a thing, if you know what I mean. So today I tackled all the dishes (while watching the cross-country sprint and biathlon, One is Norwegian after all!) and put all the landcouple's kitchen stuff away in a cupboard I don't use and in the aforementioned drawers.

As I'm not using any of this stuff, I could
fill the poor cupboard up completely! The
black thing is the bottom of the toaster...

Kitchen equipment to the left and in the middle; food
to the right. The drawers are full of mugs, glasses,
cutlery and lots of other stuff I won't be needing.

I know, I don't need three pans (especially as I've only got two hotplates), but it was actually cheaper to buy three than one. Go figure. Obviously there are pans here as well (3 pans and 2 frying pans), but they're made of aluminium so I'm glad I found the offer for these stainless steel ones just before I moved in.

I'm thrilled that I got all this done today, I feel like I can finally breathe again! Now I've just got to watch the last few DVDs and read the 17 hardcopy books, and then I'll feel even better. More importantly though, I've got to keep the stuff creep under control, because I don't like it one bit. I've only got approximately 35 square metres up here, so less is most definitely more!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Momo In Memoriam

Momo and me in 2010 - while she was still herself and living at home.

My beloved grandmother, or 'momo' as I liked to call her, died the night after Boxing Day. She was 90 years old, thin and frail, and Alzheimer's Disease had pretty much usurped her mind. But some parts of her were still in there.

When I visited her back in August/September, she had recently been ill and she had also had a bad fall. As a result, she slept almost the whole time I was there. She suffered with sleep apnea, but touching her helped her start breathing again. When I was on my own with her, I would stroke her gently every time she stopped breathing, and talk to her a little, saying things like "I'm here with you". Doctors often told my mother that my grandmother would not recover, that she ought to prepare herself for my grandmother's death. But my grandmother always recovered, and would be back on her feet, pacing the hallways of her care home the next day. So also this time. A few days later she told my mum "I heard you talking to me. It was so nice knowing you were there.".

This time, I left for Norway on the 23 of December. Due to storms, floods, accidents and trees on the railway line, I didn't get there until 1 am on Christmas Eve (it's a wonder I made it at all). My sister picked me up and drove us back to her house, where we got a few hours of sleep before her girls, my 5-year-old identical twin nieces, woke up. In Norway we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, so my sister, her girls, my mother and I all went down to my momo's care home to visit her - but she slept so soundly that we only stayed for a short while and decided to come back the next day instead. On Christmas Day we returned to find her still sleeping. It was dinner time, so hoping she would wake up, we placed her in a wheelchair and wheeled her into the dining room. My sister and I tried to feed her but she was unable to stay awake, so we had to give up. My sister left to talk to our mum and her girls, while I stayed in the dining room with my beloved momo. I tried talking to her a little, remembering that she had heard me in her sleep a few months earlier. I told her who I was, that I had come from England to visit her, and I told her that I loved her incredibly much. She opened her eyes a little then. I think she heard me. That was the last thing I ever said to her.

Later that day, and most of the next day, my sister and my mother went back to stay by her side. She was still sleeping, and we also found out from a nurse that some other things that had happened to her. It doesn't matter now. My grandmother had long wanted to die. She had had a long life, she had lost her husband a few years ago, and she was ready to "go home to Jesus". Still, when she actually died the night after Boxing Day, it hit us all much harder than we thought it would. We thought we were prepared for it. We thought we had been prepared for it for years.

It is easy to eulogise the dead, but my grandmother really was a very special person. After I heard that she had died, I spent some time by myself, just thinking - and I remember thinking that all my life, she was my anchor. She was my one safe harbour in an otherwise tempestuous childhood. We moved a lot, I changed schools a lot, I fought with my mother a lot - but she was always there for me. She even helped raise me, as I lived with her and my granddad for a few years while growing up. She was my rock. And although I technically lost her to Alzheimer's Disease a few years ago, I didn't really feel like I lost her until she died. And I know that's ridiculous. Before, she was pacing the halls of a Norwegian care home in utter confusion and uneasiness. Now she is in my heart - now she will be with me wherever I go.

Still, my heart won't listen to logic, it won't be reasoned out of its grief. It will pass with time, I know that. And my momo is happy now, I know that too. I am beyond grateful for having had such a wonderful woman as my grandmother. And I think my sister feels the same way - because when the time came to select flowers for the coffin, she chose an anchor of white flowers...

Rest in peace, my dear momo - you will always be remembered with love.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Season's Greetings!

A Christmassy Robin photographed in May 2010... ;o)

It's been a month since my last update - way too long - but I've been ill with a chest infection / flu for almost three weeks, so I'm behind on most things at the moment!

However, apart from feeling slightly feverish today, I'm pretty much back to normal. I am actually off to Norway in a few hours - that is, I leave the flatlet in 3 hours but I won't get to my destination for another 12... Methinks it's time for some high-speed trains in the UK! ;o) Still, I've got my Kindle all charged up and I can't wait to celebrate Christmas and New Year's eve in Norway with my nieces for the first time. I think it is 6 years since the last time I had a Norwegian Christmas with my family!

Albert will be looked after by my lovely former-in-laws, so I know he will have a great time. Still, I will miss him very, very much, so I have to admit that he's been allowed up in my bed in the morning these last few days for some extra cuddletimes. There is no better sound on this earth than that of my little monkey snoring happily!

Anyway, this will be a very short blog post as I still haven't finished packing - I also need to walk Albert and have a shower plus eat something before 11 am.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to

wish you all a very happy holiday season 

before it's time to pack away the Mac. That's right, I'm not bringing it this time either! I'm getting the hang of taking time off! :oD

Now, where did I put those tiny bottles of fairy dust that I bought for my nieces...? ;o)

Love Neens xx

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Presenting: The Flatlet

Today I was supposed to catch up on a lot of work I've been neglecting lately (Neens and long deadlines is not a good match), so as an excellent procrastination technique I instead decided it was finally time to get some half-decent pictures taken of my flatlet so I could show you what it's like living here, like I promised I would do in my previous blog post more than three weeks ago!

I absolutely love living here! The village is tiny and quiet, I'm finally learning where all the good dog walks are (I interrogate every dog walker I meet!) and I have joined the church choir, which keeps me busy of a Wednesday evening and Sunday morning. The flatlet itself (I call it that because it is really tiny - just one room and a bathroom. Oh, and stairs, mustn't forget the stairs!) is very cosy - it's got five (5!) huge skylights, one of which is right above my bed so I fall asleep under Cassiopeia whenever we have a clear, starry night. And I love the sound of rain on the windows, so it's equally cosy if it's stormy outside.

Messy nightstand - I'm working on a small
arts & crafts project, another ingenious
procrastination technique devised by yours truly.
I should write a book!

I love it so much here that I don't leave the flat if I don't have to. I find it so relaxing here - the first few days I kept falling asleep in my comfy chair whenever I tried to get some reading done. And Albert loves it here, too. When I was moving in - walking up and down and up and down two flights of stairs at least 20 times - he just went to lie down in one of the corners and he loved it so much there that eventually he couldn't even be bothered to run downstairs to the door every time I came crashing through it carrying something ridiculously heavy in my arms in an effort to reduce the number of trips up and down (and up and down) those stairs. Hey, I'm not complaining - I'm sure my bottom is getting increasingly pert with each day that passes - it's just hard work for a girl who's been living in a bungalow for the past 8 years! Anyway, as Albert seemed to have appropriated the corner in question, I put his bed there and he still loves it there. I have tried leaving him 'home alone' a few times (well, he's rarely alone as usually my landcouple [landlord + landlady = landcouple, obviously. The landcouple has landchildren. I mean, it goes without saying.] are downstairs most of the time) and when I come back he hasn't even jumped up on my bed for a sneeky snooze - he just stays in his bed in his corner, bless him. He is such a good monkey!

Good monkey. Very good monkey.
(That's a grounding mat, btw - I've got one in my bed, too!)

My bathroom is huuuge and has underfloor heating. Such luxury! It's brilliant! I've been trying to figure out how to use the thermostat, and I've learnt how to switch on the underfloor heating for short boosts (I think this is the Party Mode!). The other day I was watching a 4-hour EduVid (What? Don't we all call it that?) on YouTube, and I moved my computer into the bathroom and lay down on the floor to enjoy the heat. Well, naturally I fell asleep pretty much right away, so I may have to watch the first hour of that video again! Don't worry, I obviously cleaned the floor before I got comfy down there! Not just because it is a bathroom floor, but because that's where Albert has his food and water bowl. You know that song Mr. Lova Lova by Shaggy? Well, Albie is Mr. Slobba Lobba... So that's why his bowls are in the bathroom. It makes it really easy to clean up after him, and it also means the bathroom floor gets cleaned frequently, so it's a win-win, really.

Oops, time to do the laundry!

My new Tatty Teddy onesie!

The bathroom is mainly used for storage,
and the wash cloth on the floor is
for wiping up when Albert has been drinking.

Spare bed, clothes rack, more storage, washing machine...
The flatlet is more than fully equipped!
Oh, and the mess on the counter is my recycling 'system'.

USP: Lots of floor space -
with underfloor heating!

My daily routine (or attempts thereof)
is taped to the door. I might share it
if I ever learn to follow it!
My desk is a lovely old table placed between two of the skylights. It has got a protective mat on top of it, so I don't even have to worry about spilling tea! It is great to have something a bit more ergonomic for work again, the trestle table / garden chair combo I had in the bunker wasn't really working very well... Below is a photo of my work space with my 13" MacBook Pro and my trusty filofax (any fellow +Philofaxy addicts will quickly identify it as a personal Domino in purple. I love it, but it has become a bit small for me, so I recently ordered an a5 Original in retro yellow - oooh, can't wait!).  Oh, and I should mention that my QEII Silver Jubilee mug was featured in Grazia magazine during the Diamond Jubilee. Well, not my personal mug exactly, but one just like it. I'm such a trendsetter, right?

Dontcha just love my new tea mug?
Today is going to be a good day!

Neens's cosy corner.
Fairy lights, books, journal, cushions,
blanket, tea, grounding wire...
No wonder I sometimes
fall asleep when I'm meditating here!

I've started decorating the back of this 'kitchen unit'  to
make it look a bit more cheerful! The 'table' is actually a
huge storage box. The Norwegian flag is a present my
grandparents received on their wedding anniversary
and the date of their wedding is engraved on the stand.
My dad made the wooden jewellery box.

All my clothes, bedlinen, towels etc. are in this
chest of drawers. It is flanked by the two men in my life:
Albiepops and Winnie the Poo ;o)

At the footend of my bed there is a little
bookshelf, and some new colourful
fairy lights.

Disco fairies!
It is a bit strange to have a fridge again after going without one for over a year. I keep forgetting what I have in there and then the food goes off: not good. I have two hotplates and a little toaster oven in my kitchenette. Although it's a brilliant and compact design, having the kitchen sink that close to the hotplates is not ideal - the plates have become a bit rusty! I've managed to clean off the worst of it though, and I make sure I always wipe them dry after doing the dishes. I've never understood why some sinks have the taps fitted really high above the basin, the water just goes everywhere... Anyway, the silvery column in front of the toaster oven is my Berkey water filter (travel size). I've got some coriander and mint growing on my only window sill; the mint is thriving but the coriander seems a bit unhappy. Oh, and I'm in the process of making the doors under the sink/hotplates a bit more cheerful as well, but I need magnets so I can hang up more stuff. Oh dear, what's happening to my minimalist ways, now I want fridge magnets...?

Sunset outside my kitchenette skylight.
This is the 'kitchen unit' that is a bit unsightly from the back.
Clearly the front more than makes up for it!

Well, that's it, that's the grand tour of my flatlet! And now it is past 4 pm and the sun is setting, so I better take Albie out for a walk before it gets dark. And then I might try to get some work done before The Day of The Doctor. Oooooh, I really can't wait! I hope my broadband connection will be flawless!

Landgrandchild Heidi made me a star biscuit.
Am I lucky with my landfamily or what?
There was even a bouquet of flowers
waiting for me here when I moved in!

Our morning walk today - such a beautiful day!

What's the one thing that can make life in the
perfect flatlet even perfecter?
A Tatty Teddy onesie, of course!
Sooooo comfortable and warm and snug and lovely!

My wonderful former-in-laws are letting
me park for free at 'the bunker' whenever
I'm in the area - meaning Albert and I can
enjoy sunsets like this all the time without
having to pay £120 for an annual parking
permit! PS: That's actually the moon!