Holiday and more Toilet Rolls

I had a great holiday – enjoyed catching up with all the family, but as always, it was over far too quickly.

 

Not quite as action-packed as my last holiday but I still managed to squeeze quite a bit in:

  • A day out at the trampoline park with my niece and nephew – I did realise that I shouldn’t really be flinging myself around on American Ninja-style apparatus at my age but I couldn’t help it!
  • A karaoke session with the siblings – we sang all our 80s and 90s favourites!
  • Five days in Koh Samui, Thailand where I snorkelled, kayaked, ate a lot of yummy food and stayed up til 3.30am watching England in a nail-biting penalty shootout!
  • A foot massage evening with the siblings
  • An outing to celebrate my sister’s birthday
  • Ten pin bowling session, scoring 73 in the first game and 150 in the second – clearly the first game was just a warm up, haha!
  • A game of badminton
  • Lots of dim sum and sushi!

I didn’t know that planes with open propellers were still used commercially!

Budget Blown

As with previous holidays, I hardly bought anything for myself (just snacks and green tea teabags!) but I spent a lot on eating and drinking out and of course, I had to treat the kids and ended up spending a lot more than planned.

So much so that I had to borrow from my sis so she will be wanting to collect on her debt either later this month but maybe I can stall her until next month…

Some people buy souvenirs on holiday….I buy toilet rolls!

As always, I leave home with a heavy suitcase (full of stuff for the family) and end up with a light/empty one and as with my last trip, I stocked up on toilet rolls for my return trip home.

Toilet Rolls

Why toilet rolls? Because they’re something I will use, I can store them away and I needed to fill up my empty suitcase!

I usually buy Tesco brand, £3.35 for 9 rolls, 2-ply, average 220 sheets per roll.

The HK ones I buy cost £2.88 for 10 rolls, 3-ply, average 340 sheets per roll.

And that’s with a crappy Sterling exchange rate. There will, however, be no need for me to buy any more on my next trip – the stash I have will last a long time!

On the subject of spending, I successfully used my Starling card in both Dubai (airport) and Thailand – am very happy with the app so no doubt, I’ll be using it again on my travels.

Thoughts and Ideas

As mentioned previously, I didn’t do any blogging while I was away but while I was lounging by the pool in Thailand, I jotted down a few ideas and thoughts about my investments.

I’ve now got more of an idea of how I will use my SIPPs and ISA for income when I pull the plug on full-time work. It’s still only a loose idea and I’ll see how things look at the end of year as I’m overdue an update on my investments plan.

I’ve realised that I’ve been coasting along when I could probably make a lot more effort with my expenses and my savings. I guess a bit more focus won’t do any harm and might be enough to make a difference. I have family staying with me later this month so perhaps the focus will have to come after they leave!

Some clowns, plus a couple of guys wearing white make-up…

A shame that ‘football didn’t come home’ in the end as this trip was very much entwined with the World Cup, with various plans being made around catching the timezone friendly (and some unfriendly) matches.

I almost miss the ‘Three Lions’ song which has been played endlessly everywhere!

I shall still enjoy watching the final as a neutral and also look forward to catching the Wimbledon finals – tennis has been forgotten with all the football excitement!

Have a great weekend all!

Home Brew #9

I can’t believe I’ve left it so long to get back to home brewing my own beer – my last batch was over a year ago!

Home brewing was a hobby which I took up back in September 2014 because I wanted to do something different, which would not only give me joy but save me some money  – it’s a fact that when I have home brew in the house, I spend far less or nothing on alcohol for home consumption. It isn’t an easy hobby but I think because of this, it’s a very satisfying one.

I only brew all-in-one premium kits, and the kit I made this time was Festival Razorback IPA.  This was probably the first kit I’ve attempted where I was a little concerned that I’d done something wrong.

After three days, fermentation still hadn’t started and I thought that I’d messed up with the water temperature, ie too hot, destroying the yeast and I dreaded the possibility of having to pour the whole lot down the drain.

Turned out it was the other way round, my kitchen was so cold that the mix had dropped to too low a temperature for the yeast to do its stuff, so as well as using a brew belt to increase the temperature, I wrapped an old winter coat round the tub and piled towels on top and that did the trick!

The kit produced 40 bottles (20 litres/35 pints) and cost £26.50.  So not accounting for the time spent doing the actual brewing, the cost of these beers work out at £0.66 per 500ml bottle or £0.76 a pint! Definitely happy hour! 🙂

Bit darker than the picture on the box!

Alcohol strength at over 5.5% is probably on the high side compared to what I usually drink but it still goes down easily! A good hoppy flavour, and this despite me not following the instructions exactly and leaving the hops in for just 4 days instead of the recommended 10 days, as I didn’t want to overdo the bitterness. From start to finish, this brew took just over 2 months before it was ready to drink and is likely to get better with time (that’s if I don’t drink them all quickly, haha!).

Obviously it’s nowhere near the quality of say BrewDog but it’s a decent beer with the important quality being that it pours with a good frothy head, which doesn’t disappear after a few minutes and which sticks to the side of the glass as you down the drink, just like a real pint you’d get in a pub! 🙂

I’ve now done 8 different beer kits and one cider kit. I had originally been planning to brew (and document) 10 different kits and then just reverting to brewing my favourites.

However, there are so many different kits out there, I may just keep going and trying new ones that catch my eye and picking up old favourites when I see them on offer.

Brewing as a Business

I can see me continuing with my brewing hobby and probably doing more of it when I no longer need to work.

Friends and colleagues have suggested that I should perhaps look into brewing as a proper business in the future (eg a microbrewery), but I’d rather not convert a hobby into a job.

Whilst it would be nice to earn money from a hobby, I just think that having deadlines and customer expectations would suck all the joy out of it. I’m happy just doing it for fun and sharing some of the fruits of my labour. My friends and colleagues are happy with the free beers they get off me but I reckon they might be a tad fussier if they had to pay!

I’ll leave the experts to rake in the profits that way!

I’ve promised a friend that I’ll do a cherry beer next – not something I would normally drink but I’ll give it a go in the next month or so.

Anyway, cheers!

Holiday and Toilet Rolls

I had an excellent holiday – enjoyed lots of quality time catching up with family and friends.

Where are the customers’ yachts?

Managed to squeeze quite a lot in, including:

  • Weekend at an arts & music festival
  • National Geographic dinner event, with Professor Brian Cox as guest speaker – absolutely mind-blowing!
  • Michael McIntyre live in Hong Kong (funny, although jokes about housework fell a bit flat as pretty much all ex-pats have cleaners/maids…)
  • My Dad’s 80th birthday bash
  • My Gran’s 92nd birthday celebrations (maternal grandmother, in case anyone’s trying to do the maths…)
  • A couple of days in Macau – my gambling exploits ended with a HK$100 loss (about a tenner!)
  • A ‘hairy crab‘ evening with the siblings
  • Two ‘Superhero’ cinema trips (‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Justice League’)

St Paul’s Church Ruins in Macau, which you might just be able to see behind all the tourists…

Budget Blown

The last few times I’ve been on holiday, I’ve hardly bought anything but this time, not only did I do some Christmas shopping but I also actually purchased some new clothes – I know, whatever came over me!? 😉 So I spent quite a bit more than expected out there but it means much of my present-buying was done, so that was a result.

As mentioned above, it was my Dad’s birthday and there was a full-on formal banquet laid on, with the whole clan in attendance. It was fabulous to catch up with cousins, aunts and uncles I very rarely see and great to see all 4 generations get together. Although I knew I was going to be contributing towards the costs with my other siblings, I hadn’t put enough aside for it, so most of it came out of my ’emergency funds’, which I will have to ‘pay back’ over the next year.

This may put a little squeeze on my savings rate but I aim to tighten my spending further so am hoping there won’t be too much impact there.

Toilet Rolls

Some people (apparently) take toilet rolls with them when they go away on holiday – me, I brought some back! Groceries in HK are very expensive, much of the food is imported, so the own-brands of Tesco, M&S and Waitrose compete well over there versus imports from other countries.

However, I spotted that toilet paper in HK is cheaper than in the UK – half the price of an Andrex 9-pack for similar/better quality – so since I had space in my suitcase and I was under my luggage allowance, I brought back some rolls, haha!

And on that note, with the dark days hurtling towards the inevitable madness that is the Christmas holiday, I wish you all a very merry one and will see you all on the other side!

Looks like Zippy (from Rainbow) dressing up as Santa…

My New Hobby, plus Home Brew #8

As mentioned in my post about 2017 goals, I’d got it into my head that I didn’t want to wait until I was retired before doing something I’ve always fancied doing – that of learning to play a musical instrument!

With my mind made up, I struggled to think of what instrument that someone like me (ie non-musical) could easily learn, which didn’t require formal/expensive lessons. Fortunately, I mentioned my dilemma to my sister who announced that coincidentally, she had just started to learn to play an instrument….

So, that’s how I came to buy a ukulele!

Yes, it’s like a little guitar!

TFS wasn’t too far off when he suggested a banjo in the comments, in that it is a stringed instrument!

For those who don’t know (which included me, before I bought it), a ukulele does resemble a small guitar, except it’s got just 4 strings, not 6 like a guitar. The version I bought is a Concert ukulele.

How Will I Learn?

YouTube will be my teacher – there are loads of free ukulele lessons online. Thus far, I’ve just been learning a few chords and how to strum – I’m just sooooo happy that something sounding vaguely like a tune is being produced! Wow, who knew I had it in me – I certainly didn’t! 🙂

Now, I’m not aiming to be an expert or to be able to perform in public. I’m finding it both fun and relaxing just picking it up and practising for a few minutes at a time. My fingers hurt a little but callouses are already starting to develop.

The total cost of this new hobby was around £60, including case and tuner – I’m very glad I decided to go for it!

Another Home Brew Success

Home Brewing was a new hobby which I took up back in September 2014 – like any good hobby, it’s still going strong and I still get a kick out of brewing my own beer!

However, my last home brew update was back in April as my brewing timetable was interrupted due to having family staying for most of the summer.  I was able to resume at the end of October, although the brew wasn’t really ready until last month.

So the kit I made this time was Milestone’s Black Pearl Stout – yes, I’m partial to a bit of Guinness and wondered if I could do a fair imitation of a decent stout!

The kit produced 42 bottles (21 litres/36 pints) and was free – it was a birthday present.  As I spent £5 on a new tin opener (to open the big cans of malt), the cost of these beers work out at £0.12 per bottle or £0.14 a pint! Not just happy hour, happy days! 🙂

Alcohol strength just under 4%, obviously it’s not a patch on Guinness but..it’s got a good ‘stouty’ flavour and the most important thing of all, it pours with a decent frothy head! I’d notch that as a success, plus my friends and ex-colleagues like it too!

I’ve now done 7 different beer kits and one cider kit. I had originally been planning to brew (and document) 10 different kits and then just reverting to brewing my favourites.

However, there are so many different kits out there, I may just keep going and trying new ones that catch my eye and picking up old favourites when I see them on offer.

Alcohol Budget

Whilst not a specific goal of mine, but as mentioned in a comment I posted on FireinLondon’s post about his spending on alcohol, I’m going to try to reduce my ‘Alcohol At Home’ budget to zero this year…

No, I’m not turning teetotal – this is just to stop me spending money on alcohol for home consumption. This should encourage me to continue brewing my own and it helps that I received 3 homebrew kits for Christmas!

I should also drink the stuff that’s in the house already, which at the last count included 3 large bottles of gin (leaving gifts), plus various other (unopened) bottles of both spirits and wine.

Barring an outrageous alcohol problem, this should all last me a while (not just til end of Feb, FiL haha) – even though I’m not working, I’m still keeping to my not drinking on ‘school nights’, as I don’t want to descend into bad habits!

Anyway, have a great weekend all!