Saturday, 28 February 2015

Bear on Thin Ice

Negotiations continue about piano lessons.  I could hear bear pushing his luck with the teacher this morning.  Bear is definitely putting in the minimum effort in the hope that I will give up.  I am unimpressed.

The piano lessons could be a really good thing for him, giving him all sorts of benefits.  He can manage them, but I don't know how much longer I will have the strength to keep him going (lots happening that isn't on here).

It is just the same with his reading books.  I gave up trying to make him read at home when I listened to him working his way through a Children's Encyclopedia.  His reading is fine, he just can't be bothered with the reading books.  As school haven't complained yet I am letting him get away with it.  For now.  This position may change.

The battle for the homework will begin when bear gets home from The Entertainer sale (75% off this weekend).  I am pushing it now, but when he gets to secondary school he will be on his own, and if he doesn't get it done and gets into trouble then that is his problem.

He isn't even a teenager yet!

Friday, 27 February 2015

World Book Day

I thought I had got away with it, but no.  There had been a blessed silence from school about the whole subject of World Book Day, I thought I was safe from the scramble to dress up.  Today I got a letter saying bear was supposed to be going to school in Fancy Dress for World Book Day next Thursday.  That is, the 5th of March.  That is, six days away.  Darn.

Bear had already discussed the plan to make him lots of fancy dress costumes when I learned how to sew.  I was carefully selling him the plan that I do something outside the house like take a sewing class and I was using potential dressing up clothes as a positive point, because obviously I shouldn't be doing anything without him outside the house.  I looked at the letter and my heart sank.  Bear makes meaningful noises about the sewing machine.  Darn.

I have six days to find a pattern, learn to use the dratted sewing machine, buy the material, buy more material when it goes wrong, use cut up duvets to practice on, still not get the dratted pattern and send bear to school as Horrid Henry - which bear is strenuously opposing.

You know, I'm grinning about it, because it is an awesome opportunity to get kick started, even if it does go crazily wrong.  It will be fun!

Seriously shopping

I need to get a grip on shopping.  If I had £1 for every time I have put this on a blog I still wouldn't have enough to cover the stupid impulse buys I've made.  Yesterday's haul included two shirts for DH (needed, as everyone in the office except him wears casual shirts so I need to get more casual shirts and hide the office ones), three shirts for father (not needed at all but I knew they would cheer him up and they were on sale) and a bottle of sherry.

I am going to have to stop going into Tesco on the way back from father.  I pick up some complete impulse stuff, and yesterday there was some sherry at half price.  I like sherry, in moderation, and  I normally don't get it, as it is so much for just something you drink, but I gave in to temptation.

A little sherry goes a long way.  It went all through the Great British Sewing Bee and on afterwards.  I was sipping in a ladylike way as I looked in awestruck horror at the corset construction and mused on how nice a man in a kilt looked, and just kept sipping.  I am not planning on trying to do anything that they did last night.  The thought of matching all that tartan for a kilt (plus no-one to wear one) and I am really not up to corsets, it made me shudder and pour another very small sherry.

It is now after lunch and I still have the hangover.  I think I'll put the rest of the bottle away until Christmas.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

I dropped a bookcase on my foot.

Nice Mr Next Door is moving, so it seemed to be a good time to lose the meccano shelving that I was planning on getting rid of, because I know he can use it, and while I was at it he said I could put the bookcase I wanted to get rid of into the skip he was getting.  My knee is a bit iffy at the moment after falling on Tuesday - I slipped on some mud and went crashing.  It isn't bad, just awkward and gives way now and again, which is why it was obviously the ideal time to drag a meccano shelving unit, five food high, over some clutter on the floor and up some concrete steps.  

I managed that, by a miracle.  So it was obviously an ideal time to manhandle a bookcase taller than me out and up the steps.  I'm not posting a pic, it was covered with dust and stuff was piled everywhere.  Everyone knows that you should always clear a space for stuff to go before you move it off the shelves.  That makes sense.  I just dumped it, my dining room is more chaotic than ever.

So I was manhandling the dratted thing up the dratted stairs and the darned thing fell on the edge of my dratted foot.  I said some rude words.  No, it isn't serious.  Yes it is sore.  I may have a minor bruise.  I just felt I could cry.  It is such a little thing, but I felt like it was the end of the world.  It is particularly embarrassing when I think of all the people that have genuine problems.  But I dropped a bookcase on my foot.

Father has asked me to get him £100 worth of Euros, because it is low at the moment and he wants to go on holiday to Malta.  At the moment he isn't fit to leave the nursing home.  Of course I will get them for him, he knows what he is asking.  That's fine.  It breaks my heart that such a free spirit can't get to the nearest pub, let alone Malta.  The Euros aren't about the holiday, but hope.  I think it is a misplaced hope.  I'll get them anyway. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Why, why, why?

I've bid, and won, on a sewing pattern on ebay.  It looks an amazing pattern.  You take seven yards of fabric and gather it into a neckline, as far as I can see.



I got the picture of the sew essentials website, which looks quite good.  The link is here.  I am saving the site and planning to go back there.

Why have I bid on a pattern that looks insanely tough for my very basic skills?  I haven't even got the dratted sewing machine out of the dratted box.  I cannot imagine ever having the courage to wear any of it, and I don't know anyone who would either.

And why am I mad enough to get a pattern that needs seven yards of material that is unlikely to come in at less than £4 per yard when not only will I be completely out of my depth but also unable to use the cheap sheet/duvet cover/pillowcase stash because it is such a particular fabric?  It will cost a fortune to get right.  Where am I going to draft out the pieces - after looking at those gathers the pieces will be enormous.

I know why I have had my mad moment.  Yes, I will love having a go at some point at the dracula nightie, but really it's because father has been refusing medicine and isn't eating enough.  There are worse things to displace with.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Made in Leeds

Father has a visitor coming up from the Wirral tomorrow.  I thought it would be nice to get them a present from Leeds - the sort of thing that you find in Tourist Centres, overpriced biscuits with 'A present from...' and a postcard stuck to the lid.  On the way to visit father I dropped into the railway station as the Tourist information is there.  Except it isn't.  The 'Visit Leeds' Centre was now closed and you could call in to the Art Gallery.  I tracked all the way up to the Art Gallery and asked them about souvenirs of Leeds.  They had some tea towels.

Tea towels are, in my opinion, a rubbish gift.  I mean, some people collect them and then they are great, and some people like the idea of something from a town that doesn't need dusting and has no calories, and that's great, but I have never seen one of those souvenir tea towels that dries up properly yet.  They cost an absolute packet, are usually pure linen which isn't the most absorbent textile, and they lurk in the back of a drawer taking up space.  Anyway, tea towels are five for £5 at Tesco, the one here from Leeds Art Gallery is £7.50 for just one.    


The picture is taken from the Leeds Museums and Galleries online shop.  I put 'leeds' in the search shop thingy and the only thing that came up were two pairs of cufflinks at £45 each.

I had a think and really there isn't anywhere in Leeds selling tourist tat.  You know, a cheap bit of rubbish to take home to the neighbour who fed the cat.  There isn't that much expensive stuff.  There is stuff at the Armouries, which is not inexpensive, and some seriously expensive stuff from the galleries, but nothing saying, 'A Present from Leeds'.  Not even a mug.  I ended up getting a small book of Yorkshire proverbs and a box of biscuits from Marks and Spencer, which started in Leeds Market, so that was something.

Mind you, I went into M&S and looked at the 'biscuits to give to someone to make father feel better even though you have only met this person four times in your life' section.  I could get Belgian biscuits, Viennese biscuits or Scottish shortbread.  Actually I got a rather expensive box of Swiss biscuits.

It does seem a bit odd to me.  Leeds is a busy place.  It has its own tv channel, it hosted the Grand Depart last year for the Tour de France.  It has the Royal Armouries and Harvey Nichols and a pretty good market.  There are three city centre theatres and the City Council is always trying to get something else happening.  So why isn't there a stick of rock/mug/plastic pen holder that visitors can take away?

I may find something on ebay to send on.  It's the principle of the thing.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Plenty of Fish

Somewhere a very nice young man is wondering why he hasn't got any replies to his dating profile.  I am sure that he went to a lot of trouble to work out exactly what to say and what picture to use.  It is a shame he wasn't so careful about the contact email.  Because for some reason, all his message notifications are coming to me.  After previous experiences, everything from Plenty of Fish dating site goes into my spam folder, which went overnight from 42 to 133.  I'd email him, but it would just send a notification back to my spam folder.  It must be very disheartening to put up a profile and get nothing back, not realising that all his notifications are going to a married old biddy who, I suspect, is on a different continent.

Poor lad, I hope he doesn't feel too downcast and finds someone nice soon.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Meh

I made impossible pie in the halogen, or tried to.  The top was starting to singe while underneath wasn't cooked.  I'm going to try it again for longer but slower.  There are more expensive things to practice on.  Mind you, if the failure rate of cakes carries on I shall either have to go back to not baking or cave and pay out for a new mini oven.

There is always good stuff.  Here is a picture of the pan which burnt before I did anything


The burnt stuff went right up to the top, because there was a steamer on top (that had a burnt bottom and I scrubbed that).

I poured two litres of cheap diet cola in, left it, and when I tipped it into the sink it looked depressingly similar.  So I got out a scourer and started just rinsing the pan before I started rubbing.  Lumps of black stuff started falling out.  After a bit of a rub with a sponge, not the scourer, it looked like this.


I was very impressed.  However, the two litres of diet cola didn't come up to the top of the pan.  Here is a picture of the tide mark


I've left it soaking in the sink, filled to the top with biological powder in hot water.  I'll let you know how that goes on.  However we can say that diet cola works quite well.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Cake fail

I made a Romanian Apple cake.  Bear loves it and had the bit that was fit for breakfast.  However, that's the trouble.  I cooked it in the gas oven and the gas oven is not reliable.  Part of the problem was that the mixture was a dark brown due to massive amounts of cinnamon, and also that we could both smell burning.  It turned out it was the carrots for dinner burning, but moving on, it meant that we didn't check the cake properly.  It had been fine cooked when the mini oven was working, but now was desperately soggy in the middle and going dry on the outside.  It was the same baking dish and everything.  Bear had a lot of the outside and loved it.  I've binned the rest.

The dishwasher is still being a bit iffy.  I have been quite meticulous in giving things a good scrape, and I've given it one of those cleaning thingies so I'll keep an eye on things.  Now I am so much better physically, I can wash up more by hand.  I am not so sure about the oven though.

On the bright side, the pan which the carrots burned in is absolutely black, so I have a great chance to try out the cola cleaning.  I've just put two litres of the cheapo cola into it and I will leave it until tomorrow.  I have taken a 'before' picture and I'll post up the results.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

What is bear up to?

After his cereal for breakfast - he had cereal without grumbling! - he asked for fruit.  And the cereal was overloaded with sugar but it was this stuff.


No extra sugar or raisins, and he polished it off sharpish before demolishing a mango.  I am planning on baking an apple cake later. He hasn't begged for treats, although he has been drinking the cream soda pop (yeurch!) that a neighbour bought him.

Our neighbours are moving.  I am devastated that Nice Mr Next Door, who has been here for years and his family are going.  They have been an absolute lifeline to us over the all the tough times.  However I can't blame them.  Now their landlord will have to rent the house out to someone who doesn't mind a kitchen with a partial ceiling (some has fallen down) and a leaking bath with no shower.  I imagine that someone renting that will be desperate.

I just don't understand how someone can rent out a property, watch it devalue despite everything due to ongoing lack of maintenance, fail to do basic repairs and expect other human beings to live there.  It isn't fair.  The landlord has had their eye on our home for many years, and I have seen him in action for a while.  The repairs will not be done.  I felt for him when another of his properties had all the copper piping stripped out as I don't see anything wrong with trying to earn a living renting out.  However having seen how he 'repaired' the damage, I am not very confident and a little worried about how it will affect us.  I have given up on the value a long time ago, but the continued damp coming in from adjoining houses worries me.

There is always a bright side.  Nice Mr Next Door will be moving to a bigger, better, nicer house in a state fit for habitation.  That is a really good thing.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Why do I do it?

I bought that sweater thingy yesterday.  It will be ideal for the school run.  I didn't need it though.  It was £16 and I didn't need to get it.  I was trying to show bear that ladies sometimes shopped for clothes.  Bear did not really approve of my taste.  I grew up among punk and New Romantics.  Anything in anyway not safe was not approved of.  I mean, I looked at a pair of boots with chains on and bear was appalled.  They weren't even particularly punk, just a bit of decoration.  As it was, I ended up buying something he wanted me to buy.  Fail.

I also didn't do a lot of dither.  I just had a quick look round.  I usually just think what I want, research, get it.  Or I dive into a shop, look only at what I want and dive out.  I am ruthlessly efficient in charity shops.  Bear will have to get his experience of shopping as a hobby from my sister in law.  Of course, bear is sadly used to his mother having a bit of a dizzy do and strange things appearing in the post as well, so he has at least an experience of the random shape of shopping.

These are the sort of shoes I'd like to wear (but perhaps a little spikier)



What bear would approve of is more like this


Poor bear.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Rude awakening

5:55am this morning some dratted person started ripping out the kitchen in the room at the back directly attached to my bedroom.  I was awoken by an almighty crash and my guess was that a cupboard was pulled off the wall.  I was unimpressed and I think I may be into my overdraft when it comes to rude words.  At least it didn't wake bear.

I could have done with the extra sleep.  I did manage some light dozing with some very strange dreams, but I was feeling depleted before taking bear to see Dinosaur Zoo.  This is where bear left me mortified by announcing that the huge dinosaur he was petting afterwards 'was just plastic'.

I am still not sure how bear persuaded me to take him to the Works, but we had a great time, spent a fortune and staggered back to the bus.  Do you know how much in weight £9.37 can get you in the Works?  All I know is that it cut off circulation in my shoulder as I staggered out.  On the way bear persuaded me to buy him some blue ice-cream, in this weather!  He also critiqued my fashion sense, refused to accept that I should wear anything with flowers or designed for those under ninety and forbade me to buy a new handbag.  He was absolutely right about the handbag.

I did make a fashion purchase, actually.  Bear encouraged me to buy myself a large, furry, sort of sweater type thing and is currently sitting on the sofa wearing it.  It wasn't dear, was completely unnecessary and I am confident that I'll get the wear out of it - all £16 of it.  It looks a bit like this


But it's in black.  Bear is reluctant to be parted from it.  Just because it was bought for Mum doesn't mean he can't have a cuddle in it.

Tonight is the traditional 'Test the Fire Alarm Tuesday'.  I am sort of braced.  Bear is also sort of braced and I expect DH is resigned to his fate - shoving a broom handle against the fire alarm button while I waft smoke out of the kitchen door.  I'll let you know how I get on with pancakes.  I was rather unsuccessful with the kiwi and banana loaf yesterday so I am not optimistic.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Only Monday

The week of half term is on us, and I have very nearly lost my rag.  The dratted Wii wasn't working.  I lost count of how many times I said 'Leave it until Dad gets home...' before I threw them out.  They are currently at the shop buying goodies.  I didn't bother too much with the whole concept of lunch.  The particular pal that comes around is used to a lot of snacks during the day spread out and then a meal at night.  I gave them both a bowl of salad, but I didn't stress much further.

Sarah - thanks.  I usually just scrape off the big bits for the dishwasher, and it hasn't been a problem, but I will be being a bit more diligent in future, if it extends the life of the dishwasher.  It is currently going through a cycle with a finish dishwasher cleaner in it.  It managed a couple of pans last night with no problem.  It may indeed be only faint at the thought of tomato - it makes as much sense as anything else that happens in this house.

On the other hand, here is a picture of the visitor we had yesterday.


She is five months old, very dainty and a Romanian rescue.  I had cleared the house expecting something bouncing around at waist height.  She was carried in, slept between my brother and his friend and when my brother got up to get her out to go home she curled up in the corner of the sofa with an air of finality.  She didn't want to move, she was quite comfortable where she was, actually, and could we all just let her to nap.

Really want a dog.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Somebody pass me a Valium

Just before Christmas the washer went.  It had been threatening to go for a while, I was planning its replacement, then bang - washer full of half done uniform.  Then the car went - the accident on Christmas Eve that wrote off a car that had a good few years in it.  I've just got rid of the mini oven, which I miss already, the boiler is eight days from the end of its warranty as I type but the fix of the hot water seems to be holding, and the microwave is looking a bit limp.  Actually the microwave has been on the sick list for a while.  It is managing to heat the cup of milk, jug of beans or bowl of soup which is more or less all I ask of it, but it is not getting any younger.  It was father's when he moved here and wasn't new then.

And now, further indignity, the dratted dishwasher is playing up!  I have run the load three times.  To be fair, the dishwasher seems to be able to cope with the spaghetti traces and the bits of veg, it just seems to come all over faint when it comes to tomato.  A mug that had held tomato soup and has been through the dishwasher three times should not have have its insides still encrusted.  I had to open a new bottle of washing up liquid and while it is effective, it is Fairy, there was a reason it was on Approved Food - it smells like second hand grapefruit.

Regardless, I am off to try and pick up far too much rubbish so that when my brother visits with a new puppy we won't immediately need the vet.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Surreal Afternoon

Pampers nappies (diapers to those reading not from the UK) are advertising their stuff using music that I never, ever associated with babies.  It's this one here - We Will Rock You, by Queen.  I always thought of it as edgy.  Pampers have synched up cute babies banging cots.  It really isn't the same.

Then bear started explaining zombie snails to me.  There's a link to the YouTube Video by National Geographic here, if you have the stomach for it.  It's about parasites in the snails brains.  Yeurch.

And here is a picture from Wiki Commons, taken by Charlesjsharp, that has helped to cheer me up after too much graphic nature.


Teenage boys don't get better when it comes to yeurch, do they?  Darn.  If bear is like this at eight, I am investing in ear plugs.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Timing is everything

We had the men out to look at our hot water today.  I think it is sorted, but who knows?  Sometimes I think that plumbing is more of an art than a science.  I mean, the theory is clear but then you have men with screwdrivers behind their ears tapping thoughtfully at pipes and going 'hmm' and you know that it's one of those that isn't covered in the manual and could be any one of a dozen things, many of them expensive.

Today I only got charged the call out, but the parts warranty on my boiler runs out soon.  Actually it runs out on 23 February.  That is, it runs out in ten days time.  I have ten days to confirm this is working properly or be charged for parts if it turns out to be something more than a twiddle with the stop cock.

Reading this I feel almost convinced I should bet that my boiler will implode at one minute past midnight on the 24th of February, but no bookie would accept it.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

School Run

On the way home this morning I overheard two mums talking about how much their children loved homework.

Dear heaven I envied them!  I went home and felt very inadequate.

Mind you, I suspect that not all that is said on the school run would stand up under oath.

All that I write down here is true.  The only bits that are not absolutely steel straight true are the bits I fudge to protect anonymity.  I don't do much of that.  So everything I have put about bear, and father, and uncle, is regrettably true.

Sometimes I wish I had to make things up.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Bear knows what he likes...

Bear knows what he likes and it wasn't the slow cooked, home made rice pudding, made to include a tin of evaporated milk and lovely and rich that I made yesterday.  DH and I couldn't get enough, but bear found it wanting.  He much prefers the 15p per tin rice pudding from Tesco, sigh.  I gave it him for breakfast (there has to be some nutrition in there, even in a 15p per can rice pudding, right?) and he decided it was sadly inadequate because he had asked for cinnamon and there wasn't enough.  

I am considering my options.  Though I will still be making the home made rice pudding for DH and I - it may cost more but it tasted a lot better!

On the bright side, bear has requested a rice salad tonight.  Actually, what he is after is a large dollop of mayonnaise, a garnish of raisins and a very small garnish of chopped apple, carrot, rice and sweetcorn.  He will not be getting it necessarily in those proportions, but it will go with the fish fingers and plenty left over.  

I will be making some apple cake tonight, I think, because there is a fair chance of bear actually eating it for breakfast and there is a bit more nutrition than the cereal.  I have pitched for porridge, but he says it gives him tummy ache, he has never been a real fan of toast and I just want him to go to school with some fuel in there.  Unfortunately bear has realised this.  Negotiations continue, but I am getting closer and closer to let him go a little hungry for once.  


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Thinking for a Minute

I found this online - 17 Facts about Coca Cola.

It has lots of stain removing tips about using coca cola to clean toilets, carpets, pennies etc.

The thing is, you can clean a toilet with coca cola, but ml for ml you get more value for money with normal toilet cleaner.  I mean, Tesco's limescale remover toilet cleaner costs £1 per bottle (which apparently is £1.34 per litre according to Tesco's maths) and will do a good few washes.  Tesco's 1 litre Coca Cola is £1.49 per litre, and to be honest you would be lucky to get a few goes at the lavatory bowl.

Apparently you can use it to soak burnt pans overnight.  For the sake of argument, let's say you use a whole can of Coca Cola for a mediumish pan.  It's at least 50p in our local shop.  However I've found biological detergent or washing soda fine for this and washing soda crystals are £1 for a kilo in Tescos.  You would need a lot less than half a bag.

It can be used as an insect trap as well, but sugary squash works just was well in a shallow bowl a little way away.

I am not sure about Coca Cola Stripping paint.  I may or may not try that.  I am definitely not in a hurry to try it on blood stains.  All this seems to rely on Coca Cola being a mild acid that works into stuff like carpet stains due to the fizz.  I have a suspicion that the value 17p for two litres lemonade will do as good a job and that quite a lot of the time there is a better way to do it.

But it is not as sensational as 'Coca Cola cleans the connections on your car battery'.  I suspect that vinegar or Dr Pepper would do just as well, but not as sensational.

I am not going to stock my cleaning cupboard with Coca Cola just yet.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Bear is Bear

I managed to get bear out of bed this morning without using dynamite - just!  He has been exhausted by the weekend, although I suspect my brother's dog is also suffering.  He may actually be cuddled out.

I then started the negotiations for breakfast.  I am desperate for bear to go into school with something inside him, and as I was short of ingredients I was back relying on the cereal.  Bear did not favour cereal as he curled on the sofa with a throw over him.  I settled for vast amounts of yogurt.  I mean, there's some nutrition in there, isn't there?

I got him dressed, eventually, and out.  Watching bear get dressed downstairs this morning was like watching stop motion animation.  He would sit transfixed as dratted Loony Tunes was on with one sock poised over his toes.  Then the sock would go on and the other but he would pause, like a freeze frame, half way through buttoning his shirt.  How we ever make it to school on time is a miracle.

Then it is bed changing day.  I had persuaded DH to accept the possibility of a new duvet and now he is snug.  I could do with a new duvet but it isn't exactly urgent.  Bear's duvet is a thing of shame, flat and sad looking and lying limply inside the Doctor Who Tardis duvet cover.  If I had any confidence at all that bear would sleep under the duvet consistently I would immediately replace it.  However as I creep in every night to replace the covers, I can confirm that bear will happily snuggle under the Lakeland soft throw and the absolutely massively huge tiger through that uncle bought so many years ago, but, as far as I can tell, bear believes duvets are for sleeping on, like a secondary mattress topper.   That is, when I can get him to sleep in the bed at all.  To be honest, I am just desperate for him to get enough sleep to start with.  

I am stuffed once he is a teenager.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

What will Bear tell School?

Part of bear's dratted sponsorship is a suggestion that he helps with meals.  Bear thinks this is brilliant.  I feel a bit like a rabbit in the headlights.  Bear has Views about what he wants to make.

I am feeling flattened.  I suspect (with a great deal of sadness) that the crisps that Tesco promise are gluten free are not, or at least don't agree with me.  I am in a lot of pain so DH is making dinner.  Bear is his assistant.

I have sat up here, hurting, while listening to DH and bear in the kitchen.  I can imagine the conversation at school...

'So, bear, what did you do at the weekend?'
Bear considers the two days carefully.  He thinks about his visit to the Donkey Sanctuary, the trip to Scarborough, his utter disdain at the prices in the gem shop.  "This weekend I learned to use a tin opener."

Bear is having tinned ravioli.  I am grateful that there is a chance he will eat more than candy floss - especially as he sort of dodged the question about the lunch his uncle gave him (or didn't) to get access to the pure sugar.  All the rest I am just leaving until tomorrow.

Quiet Weekend

Bear went on a sleep over with my brother last night.  I remembered clean underwear, calpol (brother is not used to children), bear's favourite toy and a few books.  Bear is currently enamoured of Spy Pups.

I forgot his coat and his pyjamas.

Bear had a marvellous time and left my brother mildly bemused and his poor dog completely exhausted from cuddles.  However while bear and my brother are happy to do it again, next time I think I ought to be a bit more on the ball when it comes to packing.

DH went out for a meal together, just us, for the first time since a long time before bear was born.  It was a really nice gluten free restaurant and I had a cocktail that cost more than my main course.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Bear Brings Home a Form

Bear brought home a sponsorship form.  We have to sponsor him for doing things for a week, such as emptying bins (which he should be doing anyway), making his bed (he has insisted on sleeping on the fold out bed on the floor for the last week) or helping with meals.

I don't like these forms.  I know of one mum at school who has four children there.  It must be a nightmare for her.  Then there are those like us who don't have many people to ask.  I won't ask the neighbours, it's too much like begging.  Besides, they have a grandson at the school already.  I can put father down for a few pennies and of course we'll sponsor bear, but we won't need any of the extra forms that the school mentioned we could pick up at the office.  I mean, there are a lot of spaces on the original.

Bear has decided that he will be Helping With Meals.  My heart sank.  I know what that means.  It means that I will be unable for a whole week to just say, 'darn it, let's have fish & chips' or, 'darn it, let's just have something really easy.  Pass the potato waffles and open up the baked beans'.  Bear has expressed Views and we will be making creamy soup.  To be fair, he will probably eat it but it is a lowering thought.  I am not sure what we will be eating, but there is good odds it will be complicated.  I don't envy those with several children, activities, both parents working, rushed evenings and packed schedules adding 'supervising dusting' to the list.

I admit, my instinct was to just put bear's name on the form and bung it in an envelope with a tenner and send it back.  It is for a good cause, however, replacing their computers which are apparently a lot older than bear.  However bear wants to do the right thing, so I'll grit my teeth and get on with it.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Expensive Baking

It is strange.  One of the things that people always say when frugality is concerned is that all treats should be home baked.  When compared to the 'Value' treats in the supermarket, the ingredients seem to be a lot of money.  This is especially true when you are using gluten free flour.  I also always get the free range eggs, and that is not inexpensive, though still incredibly good value for their nutrition.

However I have noticed that I am a lot fuller and more satisfied after eating home made treats.  The nutrition is almost certainly better.  I've even got an apple cake cooling, which is a way of getting fruit into bear.

However it is not just the ingredients.  I have already spent £10 on a hand mixer.  Now it looks like my mini oven is on the way out.  It seems to be leaving cakes either scorched or raw.  It was incredibly inexpensive and has served us well, but I've thought it was on the way out for a while.  This means I should rely on the halogen or the gas cooker.  The gas cooker has never been reliable, which is why I got the mini cooker in the first place.  Also, this is going to sound odd, but the halogen is the wrong shape for stuff like fairy cakes or the magic cake, which is in a square pan.  This year I've used the mini oven quite a bit, but the halogen hardly at all.  The gas oven is last resort only.

Bear is enjoying the baking, and this morning had the biggest breakfast he has had all year - two slices of buttered weetabix cake!  It is far better than the three rice crispies, or four cornflakes he has been having.  But if I want to keep baking I really should be getting another mini oven.

I'll concentrate on the gas and halogen ones for now.  Surely they are enough for anyone.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Comments

I love getting comments.

Morgan - I didn't know that!  I may have a look when I consider flapjacks.  Bear has not been a fan so far, but who knows?

SweetBlondieBlueEyes - I have no idea, but I have to confess to using this conversion site.  Also I have never successfully produced a baked egg custard.  I really should try, both bear and DH adore them.

I'm not exactly sure where this flurry of baking has come from.  Last night we had impossible pie (bear loved it) and bear had the remains of the magic custard cake for breakfast, so I am just about to get the weetabix cake out of the oven.  I can't have any of that, but I am hopeful that bear will enjoy it as a start to the day.  Even using the full ration of sugar, it still can't be worse than a lot of the breakfast cereals on offer!

I just had a quick look at my spices.  I am not a huge stickler for use-by dates, but some of these were use by 2010.  Oops.  I'm restocking with some value stuff and I'll see how that goes.  They were overdue a sort out.  I'll have a quick scan of the herbs, but those get used up a lot quicker.

I had forgotten how much more filling the homemade stuff is, how it fills a hole better.  I'm going to go off and have a look at cake recipes using fruit to see if that will get nutrition into bear.  They can't be worse than the chocolate rubbish he was hoovering up last week.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Thank you, Andunwoody

Copied and pasted from Andunwoody's comment.  

This works well with a hand held mixer:- 6 ounces of Stork margarine, 6 ounces of self raising flour, 6 ounces of caster sugar, 3 eggs, half teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and with the mixer turned of lightly stir all the ingredients together, the idea is to break the eggs and combine most of the flour, this way you don't have clouds of flour flying around the kitchen. Turn the mixer on and whizz everything together for about a minute, don't get too hung up on *light and fluffy*. Everything needs to be combined so you might need to stop the mixer and use a spatula to bring the flour at the bottom of the bowl into the mixture, when you have finished the mixture will be lighter in cloud due to the air you have incorporated. This is the best and easiest sponge recipe ever, forget all that creaming the butter and sugar and then beating the eggs in malarkey....this never fails and is easy to increase or decrease the quantity just remember two ounces of flour, sugar and marg for every egg, unless you get into really large quantities the baking powder and vanilla stay the same. Swap a tablespoon or two of flour for cocoa (never hot chocolate...to sweet) for chocolate cake. Either bake in two lined sandwich tins, cool and fill with jam for a Victoria Sponge or use paper cases in a bun tin for Bear and friends sized snacks......go mad put a few currants or chocolate chips in the mix. Oven temperature needs to be about 180 degrees and bake for around 20 minutes, all ovens vary so just keep you eye on them. This is a very child friendly recipe, I used to work in pre schools and have made these with the children.

I am so going to use this.  Thank you, it looks like the sort of recipe you should always, always keep handy, and I shall!

I had a go at the Magic Custard Cake last night, and it worked okay.  I shall definitely be doing it again, as bear and DH both thoroughly approved.  It did end up with a 'pastry' base, a custard middle and a fluffy sponge on top.  I suggest you google it if you are interested, as all the recipes I saw seemed to be copyright, which is pretty impossible with recipes, especially as there are many variations out there.  I think I will try the lemon version next.  I would definitely consider the hand mixer as a necessity.  It reminded me of Impossible Pie, and I shall definitely have to do that again as well.  

I didn't get a chance to investigate HFW's recipe book of fruit.  Bear took it upstairs to read. I am a bit braced.  

Edited to add Sarah Head's recipe for flapjack, which looks very useful, but I can't easily make it gluten free as porridge oats are often contaminated with gluten.  I may have a go for bear and the locusts friends as it will make a nice and filling change for them.

I've never used a mixer for my cakes and as we don't have an electric hand whisk, I beat everything together as my mother originally taught me, although she liked her hand whisk later on. If you don't want to beat anything, try some flapjacks. Our family recipe is 8oz margarine, 2 dessertspoons of golden syrup (heat these together in the microve for about 30 seconds until melted, then mix in 1tsp bicaking powder mixed in 2 tablespoons of hot water. Add this to previously mixed 8oz porridge oats, 7ozs sugar and 5 ozs of flour. i.e. you are adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir and placed in an oiled baking tray. Cook in a medium oven for 15-20 minutes. You can add dried fruit and reduce the amount of sugar or grated apple or other fruit, but this makes the mixture wetter so needs longer to cook. My sister and I could cook this ourselves when we were eight. It's nowhere near as sweet as commercial flapjack

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Baking

Today I made some peanut butter cookies.  You take 260g of peanut butter, mix with 200g of caster sugar and an egg, form into small balls and bake at 180C for eight minutes.  I was underwhelmed.  Besides, it is also an awful lot of fat and sugar.

Costing, using Tesco and their cheapest, it would cost around 25p for the castor sugar, 8p for the cheapest egg (but probably not kind production methods), and 99p for the peanut butter.  So £1.36 for about two dozen very small biscuits that were underwhelming.  I suppose I could reduce the sugar, but I suspect that would have a big impact on the texture of the biscuit.

I can buy a pack of value chocolate chip cookies for 40p which are apparently more adequate.  I would maybe need to buy two packets to get the same number of mouthfuls, but even so, it is depressing.

DH kindly bought me a hand mixer, which cost £10.  That seems like a lot of money at the moment, so I need to be using it.  I can cream a butter and sugar mix okay, and I can whip egg whites without worrying about the overbeating that can happen with a mixer, but the North American recipes that state you need to beat something hard for several minutes need a mixer.

I am going to go away and read Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's book on cooking with fruit.  I don't mind making stuff that is a little bit more expensive as long as it is healthier.  I don't think those peanut butter cookies would do it.