Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Manchester

I read the news today about the bombing of the Manchester Arena and my heart broke for the parents and families.  I read about the casualties and wondered how those police and ambulance people would cope with dealing with that awful tragedy.  I thought how sad that a concert that should have been a safe place for young teens was targeted and how so many would be changed by this experience.  I also read of the ordinary people of Manchester doing what good people do everywhere - offering rooms to stay for the stranded, offering a meal, a safe place, somewhere to charge their phones, lifts, blood donations, opening nearby cafes and hotels to take in the shocked survivors, what good people do in hard times.

Dreadful things happen, whether it's a natural disaster like the earthquake in Turkey which had Israeli search and rescue teams helping out or whether it's man made like the dreadful events in Manchester which has led to the rush of support from local people in the moment and prayers and support from around the world.  Always, in the bad, if you look you can see all the good people who step up and pitch in and do the right thing regardless.  I utterly condemn those that would do such dreadful things.  I give thanks for the vastly greater number of good people who keep the world turning.


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Sunday, 21 May 2017

Quiet

All has been lovely and quiet here.  I've pottered very gently (leg is getting a lot better) and on the whole it could be worse.

I've taken some time to browse reddit.com, which was fun.  There's a tab at the top which will take  you to random subreddits, different topics from a very diverse range of subjects.  I've dipped into a few and subscribed to a decluttering sub and a funny cat sub amongst others.  However if you do try to run through a selection of random boards, I strongly suggest that you wait until you are not at work and do not do so where children or those of a delicate nature can see the screen.

Some of them I didn't understand at all.  There's one that's dedicated to the different types of socks or stockings in anime.  I'm not linking to it.  It's quite disturbing and you'll have to take it on trust.  I'll link to cute pictures instead.

I've also started browsing eBay for clothes for bear for next winter.  I'm hoping that bear doesn't shoot up too much, and that if I stick to the likely age range then I'll do okay.  I'm trying to catch the sellers who are clearing out winter wardrobes, but I may have left it too late.  It's always good to buy things off season if they are a little less expensive, and second hand children's clothes are a reasonable target.  Salt and grit is also less expensive in the summer - if you can find it.

This is not fresh advice.  I read about buying out of season in a book on Medieval Social History.  Housewives in the fourteenth century were advised to order the salt fish so necessary for Lent in early Spring and to order it early, some recommending that it was bought in well before November.  The fish must have been very well salted!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Sainsbury Delivered

I like the Sainsbury's products, and while they average a little more you can still get some awesome deals.  However the drivers from the local depot aren't user friendly.  I've posted before about uncomfortable encounters with the drivers and I ditched them after one experience too many.

Then it came to this week.  I need compost.  I want to re-pot the herbs from Aldi into bigger pots before I start seriously harvesting them.  They have not only survived but I think they are going to take off as soon as we get some sun.  I have the pots.  I just need some compost.  I think I am going to have some serious problems in the central bed when I start digging there as well.  Everything was dying off before I started with the weedkiller and I suspect an ants' nest.  This will require some compost once everything is treated.

Tesco don't have any compost on their deliveries and neither does Morrisons.  Darn, my two go-to stores couldn't help.  I wondered about risking Asda who are okayish but not always good if there's a problem.  They don't have compost.  Sainsbury's do carry the compost.  I had a rummage around the internet, including Amazon, but the delivery charges were high - reasonably enough!  After all, we are talking a lot of brown stuff being lugged around.  So I put in a Sainsbury order.

I got some good stuff.  I won't lie, they do some good, ethical, wholesome products.  Unfortunately the quality of drivers hasn't improved over the last few years.  He was pleasant enough and at least he unloaded his van by himself, which was more than the Morrisons man did, but he overplayed the 'cheeky chappy' routine.  I hid in the kitchen while DH dealt with the delivery.  Yes, I ordered a lot of compost.  Yes, our garden is smaller than his truck.  No, I did not over order as I'm not even sure that I've got enough for all the pots.  I'm glad DH was there because I felt heckled.  He went on and on and on.

I don't think I'll be going back to Sainsburys soon.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Bear Grows Up More

I checked with school and it is okay to send bear into school on his own.

A lot of the parents already do this, but I do not want to have a telling-off from the headteacher and thought I had better play safe.  Bear can be there in literally two minutes and doesn't actually cross a road.  I think he's fine.  He definitely thinks he's fine.  I breathed a sigh of relief that the school think he's fine.  The pick up/drop off was very hard on my leg.

This morning I stood at the door and watched bear hurtle down the street.  He was fine.  He used to forget my existence as soon as we got within ten yards of the school gate.  Now he forgets my existence as he leaves the house.  I think I've done something right.

Thank you for all the good wishes.  I really appreciate the hugs - it's helped!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Today is Not Day One

I fail at the cleaning plan.

I only have one stitch, but it feels quite painful if I stand or walk for more than a moment or two.  As it is still only a two days on, I've decided to wimp out and leave it.  Apparently as it is lower leg it can be slow to heal.

Also uncle is in hospital again.

Also I got a letter for father today, from a jazz band in Czechia that he followed.  I'm going to have to write back and let them know he died two years ago.

Also, did I mention, very sore leg.

Also the garden needs doing and plants I ordered have arrived.

It's a complete pity party here.  To be honest, I'm most worried about uncle, but it is a regular cycle.  He feels under the weather, then he doesn't eat, then the diabetes kicks off, then it gets complicated, then he gets back into hospital where he is stabilised, then he gets back to the home.

I've been naff raffing around but I'm determined that tonight I will make the most of enforced sitting and make a dent in the outstanding knitting.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Tomorrow is Day One

It sounds like one of those motivational posters, but actually I'm starting the Simply Clean 7 Day kickstart tomorrow.  Day One is to declutter.  There is no way on this planet that I will be able to do even a token declutter in one day.  The book is chirpily optimistic that I will be surprised how much I can accomplish.  I reserve my judgement on that.  I plan to use the rest of this week at least.  I have a lot of clutter.  Fortunately there is a handy checklist for a whole house declutter at the back.

Part of the problem is that I don't have homes for everything.  If I can just establish a home for everything then it will be a breeze.  As it is I can see me spending the rest of this week just decluttering the dining room.

To be honest, I think the book may be aimed at better housekeepers than me.  It says that just filling a couple of bin bags will make all the difference.  I suspect that two bin bags won't make a dent.  Also the kitchen is FULL as I have a year's supply of pasta amongst other things stashed as the yearly gluten free Tesco sale has ended.

I have a sore leg.  It was a very minor biopsy, but it still stings, so tomorrow I will be taking it steady and working up to more.  Bear was very sweet about my leg, and is checking that all is okay.  It is, but I feel like I've been cuddled better.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Impulse Control Fail

I bought another book on how to clean your house.  The 'Clean Your Home in 30 Days' had potential, but I could never get past Day Three.  It did have some effects, however, and we had a marginally cleaner home for a while.

This time it's a book called 'Simply Clean' which promises a lovely, clean, tidy home in just 10 minutes a day.  I'm not holding the book to that promise.  It's never going to happen.  However it may work if I take away the unrealistic timescale.  For example, I am supposed to vacuum one day a week.  According to the book it should take ten minutes.  We have three bedrooms, a junk room, a bathroom, a study, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.  Also three sets of stairs.  Okay, it's lino in the bathroom and kitchen but it would take me more than ten minutes to get the vacuum between all the rooms.

You know those shopping channel adverts which start by advertising a chopping board or something and then keep saying, 'but that's not all...' and, 'wait, there's more...' and they are adding in knives and kettles and all sorts so that the overpriced chopping board looks like a good deal.  I feel like the book is doing similar.  You have a daily routine.  Then you have the ten minute task.  Then there are the monthly/bi-monthly/yearly type tasks.  Before you know it it's an hour at their estimate and goodness knows how long in real life.  However if it gets a clean house then I'm good for that.

One thing that is promising is that it starts with a seven day action plan to get you ready, then a 28 day kickstarter.  As Day One is to declutter it may take me a while to get past that, but I can live in hope.

I won't be starting it tomorrow as I have a biopsy on my leg, but I'm optimistic.  As it starts with a declutter then I can stretch Day One over a few days as any leg pain allows (I've no idea how painful it will be, probably not much).  Then I can go for it with gusto!

This week there are tests all week for bear's class.  Bear is calm and seems to quite enjoy it.  Please let that continue for a long time!

Very Relaxed

When bear was little and up early, I'd let him loose with YouTube while I dozed behind him.  I used to love hearing him listen to 'Duncan does Tekkit' as Duncan had a wonderful, calm, soothing voice that had complete mastery over the minecraft tekkit.  I've found my equivalent.

I spent most of Sunday afternoon hanging with bear and DH and listening to iknitwithcatfur (awesome name!) and watching her playlist of stitch patterns.  It's incredible.  She is just so calm and methodical.  There are 242 videos of different stitch patterns in that playlist, (some of them are repeated) so it occupies me for hours.  I sit there with my own, much easier knitting and drift away into a sort of zen state.  Some I want to try, some I wouldn't attempt with two months training and a safety harness.  I still enjoy seeing it.  It is now on my 'how to relax' list.

Apparently there are tests at school all week.  Bear is cool with that.  He's still mortified because he has to hand in the actual slip that I have actually written on for the permission.  His teacher will know that I have seen that he's getting sex ed!  I'm not allowed to discuss it with him.

I didn't have much in the way of The Talk myself.  School was sketchy and I don't think my mother knew where to start, though she did her best.  I do remember, when I was about five or six, I had been reading the News of the World.  There was an article that included a phrase that a young man had not known the facts of life until he was in his twenties.  I didn't know what that meant, either, so I asked father.  Looking back, I must have had a clue from the context because I knew that if I asked my mother what the facts of life were she would have calmly answered that it was about sex and I would have shut up straight away.  Father was an easier target.  Poor man, I can still remember him saying that it meant that one day I would be a woman in a voice that was half portentous and half panicked.  I thought that meant I would be taller and develop a bust and told him airily that I knew all about that.  And that's when my parents stopped getting the News of the World.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Eurovision

It's Eurovision tonight.  The UK have, I think, a chance of possibly finishing in the top 10.  Or perhaps the top 15.  Or even not last.  I don't think I'll be able to stay awake until the end of the voting, but I plan to enjoy the madness that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

It has not finished as I type, but when it got to Croatia I took strong drink.  It didn't help.  Croatia was just so odd but good for him.  I may not be sober enough to post later.

Fortunately I won't have to be up too early.  Today bear had his piano lesson where he did dreadful things to Tchaikovsky, then his maths tutor, when he utterly rocked at working out the angles of septagons and hexagons, then a stiff game of football in the street with his pal, then the gym.  I am not expecting to see him too early.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Being a Mum

Bear brought home a consent form for sex education.

Bear squirmed as I signed the form.  What was worse, I insisted on telling him that he could always ask me or his dad anything because things that were said in the playground were often rubbish.  If he was confused he should check with us.  I told him that humans were strange creatures and when it came to sex there were all sorts of odd things around, not all of them healthy, and it was okay to ask us stuff.  I thought bear was going to pass out from embarrassment and I think I used up three years' ration of cringe in one short conversation.

As a ten year old, bear is absolutely mortified that his mother might know about sex.  I admit that I thought it was funny to see his horror at the conversation, but I tried to make it safe.  I would rather he could come to me or DH and ask us about the stuff that is out there, and while I might have to look stuff up, I'd rather he asked me than get lost and caught up in something he regretted.

Things have changed so much since I was his age.  I had my only, very sketchy sex ed lesson in the days before AIDS.  Now there is AIDS, drug resistant syphilis, drug resistant gonorrhoea and all sorts of other nasties that I've hardly heard of in my rather sheltered experience.  When I was ten I barely knew about the magazines that were on the top shelf of the newsagent.  Nowadays I would be very surprised if at least some of bear's classmates had not had an encounter with porn by the time they leave primary school.

I think the school is in a good place to give non judgemental and sensible information.  I'm happy for them to teach these lessons, no matter how appalled bear is that I actually read the form and I know that he will be hearing about sex.  Now I just need to navigate the best way to let bear know that it's okay to talk to me and DH if he needs to.  Also, I need to make sure bear doesn't realise how sweet he is when he's mortified.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

I Did Sums

I did sums.  I worked out that I saved 28% on the goods I had delivered today.  It was the Tesco '3 for 2' offer on some of the gluten free stuff, mainly their own brand.  I bought insane amounts of pasta, plus brown sauce, gluten free fish fingers and a few other bits that wouldn't expire quickly.  This is the important part - I used mysupermarket.com that the price hadn't been artificially inflated before the offer so that I was actually saving the money.  You have to watch the supermarkets.  But it had been around that price all year so 3 for the price of 2 was definitely a saving.  I got bear to check my sums.

I've finished the blanket.  I can't get a decent photo.



The pale colour is much more a mid blue.  It was supposed to be knitted in Carron One Pound, and you were supposed to get two times 454g (16oz) balls in each of the three colours.  Then you were supposed to knit in three strands.  At three separate points you were supposed to knit with three strands of the same colour.  This means that you had to unwined the balls of Carron One Pound and re-wind them into three separate skeins.  I recoiled from that in horror.  Instead I got some inexpensive 100g balls of DK (though the Carron One Pound is equivalent to Aran, I went for cheap) and I ended up using three balls of colour A, four balls of colour B and four balls of colour C (I think the yardage was inconsistent).  Carron One Pound is not always easy to get here, and if I had bought their yarn it would have cost @ £66 instead of @ £16.50 inc p&p.  The free pattern that I used is here and the YouTube video is here.  As I used a different weight yarn the blanket was 44 inches across instead of 50 inches, but it was 60 inches long, the same as the pattern.  The pattern was described as easy, and it is just a sort of rib, but it was 2x2 rib, but not aligned so you couldn't switch off, you had to concentrate.  Even worse was trying to make sure you always got all three strands around the needle when you were making a stitch.  I used up a lot of swear words.

It feels a little like cheating.  Carron have spent money, paid designers and done the photography and website to give a free pattern that is supposed to encourage us to buy their yarn.  If cost had not been an issue I may have bought three balls of the One Pound and used any leftover yarn for scarves or something, but I was never going to wind a ball into three separate skeins.  I think that is why I grew up with my mother and grandmother never sticking exactly to a pattern.  The really good brands of yarn invest money on pattern designers for gorgeous patterns to tempt you to buy their brand yarn.  In three generations, there hasn't really been the money to spend on the good yarn.  So you fiddle around with the less expensive brands and try and work it out as best you can.

The blanket is incredibly warm and snuggly so I will definitely be making more.  I may try the aran weight, if I see a good deal, but even the least expensive still costs more than cheap dk.  I may do more sums to try and get it the right width.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

About Schools

There have been a lot of good points made in the comments about schools, so I thought I'd witter a little about my take on it.  My experience of education was poor.  When I started school in the early 70s they were experimenting with the idea of 'learning through play'.  I believe the idea was to encourage children to explore ideas through playing, and I think that in some private schools it is currently very successful.  However in the state schools with insufficient training and staffing ratios, it was an epic fail.  I can still remember that at the age of eight a teacher had us all come up to the chalkboard to write our names and a massive number couldn't manage it.  I learned to read, write, add and subtract at home.  We were all very badly prepared for High School.

The first High School I went to was what is now called a sink school.  My experience of the first two schools is why I am not totally against testing and rating schools (I don't agree how it is currently done).  We were desperately short changed.  In the first high school the subjects were more or less glossed over and behaviour was appalling.  If you wanted to sit exams you had to stay on an extra year.  Otherwise you just got certificates, which would have left you at a real disadvantage when it came to getting a job.  When I was around 14 my mother managed to get me to another school.  My experience in the first High School meant that I never studied geography or Religious Studies, had half a term of biology lessons and I was floundering in terms of basic maths and grammar.  I did okay at O level, and, after teaching myself to write a legible cursive script (no writing was taught at primary apart from making the basic letter shapes), I got really awesome A level results.  As a result of my experience, I think schools matter.  I don't think it is the most important factor.  I think a lot of it is up to bear.  But I still think schools matter.

There are two state schools that are relatively near.  The nearest is a very good academy that has a lot going for it.  It is within decent walking distance, has great reports and bear is likely to do well there.  So if bear doesn't pass the exams to the grammar schools, it's okay (and I have made sure bear knows it's okay).  He may not.  I think he's awesome, but there are a lot of awesome kids out there.

The other state school within reasonable distance is appalling.  It has a semi permanent police presence.  I know kids that have been so badly bullied there that they have been in danger of real injury.  Bear is not going there - I'd home school first and that is definitely a last resort!  Whatever happens, I'm sure bear will manage.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Typical

Today I put in the applications for bear to go to grammar school.  I don't know what will happen, and if he doesn't make it then the local school is awesome, but he is showing all the signs of being really bright, and the teachers and tutors agree.  One school is free, but has around 800 applicants for 180 places (and is a massive bus ride away) and one school is not free and will be a serious stretch (and is a massive bus ride away).  I don't know if I'm doing the right thing by bear, whether he will be better off in a challenging academic school, a local school with a good mix of people, or what.  I am pretty sure that the system ought to be that bear would be best in the local state school.  I worry that I am making the wrong ethical decision.  I worry about every facet of it.  Besides, bear may not make it.  It won't be the worst thing if he doesn't get into a fancy school and it may end up being a positive, I just wish I knew.

While I was sitting here, desperately wondering if I was doing the right thing, I put on the latest episode of Lucifer.  This week's murder took place is a very selective school.  I watched all the parents backbiting and the scramble of the playground politics and I am now officially terrified.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Gluten Free

I've got quite a writer's block going on, so nothing much to say.

However, for those in the UK there are some gluten free deals going on.  Morrisons are doing extra 'More' points on some gluten free stuff.  I got an email saying that if I spend over £100 in my next order I would get 10,000 extra 'More' points.  If you cash it in for vouchers that comes to £10.  I am saving the Morrisons vouchers for Christmas, and I thought that if I picked my deals then it was worth it.  Now I've added on at least another 1,000 points on with the offers and stocked up on some bits and pieces that will keep me going for a while.  It is scarily easy to spend £100 on grocery shopping.  According to the order, I've spent over the £100 and saved @ £14 in multi buy savings.  I watch the multi buys with some scepticism but it seems to be the regular price.  I am expecting a large order tomorrow.

The Morrisons site said that it was coeliac awareness week so I had a quick look on Tesco's website just in case.  They've got quite a few gluten free deals as well.  It's mainly the Tesco own brand stuff which are three for the price of two.  I had a quick look at mysupermarket.com and it looks like the prices have not been hiked for the 'deal'.  Next week I'm getting a year's worth of gluten free pasta delivered.  It practically never goes on sale, and it has a loooong shelf life (I bought a year's worth of gluten free pasta last year as well).  I've had a quick look through the gluten free stuff and added a load of other favourites while I was there as the deal ends on 16 May.  According to the total at the end I've saved @ £20, or around a quarter of the total.  I think that this is a reasonable deal but it is a big outlay.

I thought I would share so that anyone interested could have a quick look.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Still Tired

Yesterday we went to Temple Newsam.  I really need to get a decent camera, but the only ones I seem to find are the ones that look more complicated than Mission Control and cost a kidney.  Here are the pics I managed.





I didn't realise there was a walled garden with glass house.  It was a nice, short walk down through some gorgeous bluebell woods.  They weren't quite out, so I'm hoping to go next weekend.  Bear and DH were unimpressed by the flowers but enjoyed the actual walk.  Bear hurtled round the grounds, had a marvellous time and bought three postcards.

When we got home his pal was waiting and bear spent a lot of the afternoon running up and down the street playing football.  As there were no serious injuries and only minor amounts of mud, I took it as a win.

Bear was utterly wiped out by the time bedtime came, and I think he had got too hot.  He was violently sick all over the study carpet and immediately felt better.  I didn't.  Of course I gave him cuddles, tucked him in and stayed until he fell asleep.  It took about fifteen seconds but I waited around a while just to be sure.  Then I had clean up.  I started off with spray cleaner, then water with generous amounts of disinfectant, then finally a good layer of baking powder which I let lie overnight.  It did the trick.  There's no smell and the only stain is white powder in the carpet.

Bear went into school today after I checked with the school.  I'm pretty sure that it was just bear being hot and tired.  He managed okay, but was very disappointed that I didn't take him to football.  He looked at me with massive shadows under his eyes and hollow looking cheeks and assured me that he really wasn't too tired to run round a pitch non stop for an hour.

I'm going back to my blanket.  I can't wait to post the pics once I've finished.  

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Darn it to Heck - Again

I'm 49 rows into the blanket but have to take breaks because the needles feel so clumsy.  Also it is something you can do while listening to something, but you have to keep an eye on the three strands or bits get missed.  I may be away some time.

While I am here, I will update you on bear's latest.  Bless was kind enough to comment and mentioned that my great aunt was a character.  There was a lot of that in my family, which means that I have plenty of stories to tell bear.  As bear was enjoying poring over the maps and talking about different places, I told him about my mother's main hobby.  She collected postcards.  She would coax everyone to send her a postcard back from wherever they went, had a selection from her grandfather and great uncle who were sea captains, her uncle who was in the Royal Navy, her brother in the merchant navy and browsed the second hand shops and postcard fairs.  For most of her life she would get one or two postcards here and there, but just before she died she got a shoe box with 800 postcards from a dealer and spent a lot of time happily sorting through them.

Mother had an organised mind.  She sorted all her postcards into scrapbooks, divided into countries.  If she had a lot of a particular country she would sort those postcards by the appropriate divisons, so the French cards were sorted by Department, postcards from the USA would be sorted by state and then county, etc.  She would spend hours studying old atlases and gazetteers to try and identify a troublesome card.  Some of the cards she had were quite old and places have changed their names, like the city once known as Danzig is now called Gdansk so she could spend hours getting the postcard in exactly the right album with real triumph when an awkward one was finally placed.  When Yugoslavia split she carefully got out the scrapbooks and spent hours sorting the postcards into their correct country.  She got enormous pleasure from this.

Bear said he would like to collect postcards, it sounded fun.  NOBODY SEND HIM POSTCARDS!  When my mother died she had, at a very conservative estimate, 60,000 postcards, that's sixty thousand, it's not a typo.  They took bookcase after bookcase and shelf after shelf.  They were stacked in piles.  They were a dust trap and a fire hazard.  My poor brother had to deal with them.  Mounds and mounds of bits of rectangular paper all worth something but usually less than 5p.  It was a nightmare that I was grateful not to have.

I have told bear that if we go out we can perhaps pick out one or two postcards when are there.  So we could pick up one at a time if we are still in our home town but if we are farther away perhaps we can pick up three or four.  It may encourage bear to move further than the end of our street.  Unfortunately bear is savvy enough to know that you can buy bundles of postcards on eBay for what appear to be reasonable prices.  I have vetoed that until he has shown he can stick with this.  He almost very nearly tidied his bedroom to have places to put the postcards but I am holding firm.  Still, at least it means I can have something to give him for Christmas if he gets into it.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Just Passing

I am getting giddy, the yarn should be delivered today.  Bless - it is the colour change blanket and I can hardly wait.  It's only 101 stitches, 182 rows and should be easy to finish (easier than the quick jacket I started then lost the pattern).  The YouTube video is here and the free pattern is here.  Of course, I've tweaked it a little, using a different yarn as I can't easily get hold of the yarn in the UK so I think I've got a slightly thinner yarn but I'm using the same size needles so it shouldn't be too out of shape.

I'm going to see how this knits up.  It's never going to be an inexpensive pattern, but it looks lovely.  I was thinking about it.  I'm sure I could tweak the numbers because it is a multiple of four stitches plus one so if I wanted a matching scarf I could do the same pattern but maybe cast on only twenty five stitches (as the tension given is 8 stitches to 10cm/4 inches so a scarf that is supposed to be 30cm or twelve inches wide would need 3x8 stitches, tweaking to accomodate the pattern repeat which is two plus one so twenty five stitches but as I'm using a different yarn it may be more stitches to 10cm which means that I would have to see how it worked out).

And then I remembered my great aunt.  I had quite a few great aunts, many unmarried and all of them variations on the theme of terrifying.  Even the nice one, who was considered safe and died at the age of 101, could terrorise the vicar if she felt it was necessary.  The one I was thinking of wasn't the one who knitted the sweater in three strands on what were then 000 needles (possibly USA 15?) but one who was a terrifying maths machine in the form of a tiny, frail, helpless old lady.  I didn't know her when she was younger (she was sixty four when I was born), but I suspect she started being a frail old lady in her twenties.  She never married and started work keeping the books of a firm in Liverpool when she was sixteen and left when she was in her seventies.  She terrorised three generations of the family firm.  When the rep came round demonstrating the new fangled adding machines, this great aunt beat them with pen and paper.  It wasn't just numbers.  She could smile sweetly at anyone and then totally demolish all pretense they had at any sort of ego or self worth and then carry happily on her way.

Maths great aunt loved to knit.  She didn't do the dull stuff though.  She liked doing intricate aran patterns.  She would placidly decide she needed a new cardigan.  Then she would sift through her patterns.  She would choose a size from one particular pattern, but she'd have a panel detail from a different pattern and a cable detail from a third and meld them all together.  The maths she would have to do to work it out must have been fearsome, with tension and pattern repeats and suchlike all figured out.  She did this for fun!

My grandmother was her sister in law and I suspect she suffered at times, but also loved her knitting and she never stuck entirely to a pattern either, although not to the same extent.  Neither did my mother, although she preferred crochet.  I think we are looking at a minimum of three generations who are just too awkward to follow instructions.  I also suspect that if I had been taught maths properly I may actually have been okay.

But I always preferred history anyway, and as a detail, the ridge pattern on the blanket reminds me of medieval ridge and furrow ploughing.  Medieval agriculture is its own kind of fascinating.  There have been some awesome bunfights over the origins of the shared field/strip ploughing used in medieval England, but their traces look so intriguing.  There's an article on Wikipedia (of course) which you can find here but it doesn't do justice to the absolute froth-at-the-mouth infighting about its roots.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Tired

There have been some lovely comments, and I really appreciate them.  I can't answer them at the moment as I'm away with the fairies at the moment. Bear has had a poorly tummy.  I'm not sure if it was the mince (I've been off, but not like bear and DH has been unaffected) but I am on my knees.

So I did the obvious thing and said hello to my friend eBay.  It could be worse, but thirty balls of yarn are heading my way.  There's this throw that's knitted with three strands of yarn and it's calling to me.

A sort of great aunt once knitted her son a sweater, which passed to me and which I adored.  It was knitted in three strands of yarn - bright turquoise, chocolate brown and white and it was knitted on big needles.  The great aunt said it was like knitting mooring rope with telegraph poles.  My mother persuaded me to get rid of it, which was perhaps for the best, but I thought it rocked!  I already have the telegraph poles size 10mm/US15 needles, so that's alright.

Crawling into bed now things are quiet.  Poor bear is like rags.  So much for the food diary (but he managed some home made veggie soup tonight which was a good thing).

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

So British

I had to add this.

I live very near bear's school and I recognise a particular car that always parks at the end of our street and I recognise by sight the dad who does drop off and pick up.  I vaguely recognise the kids.  They are not in bear's class or even in his year, so there's no reason to know them.  This car may have been parking there for the last four or five years, but we've never spoken - we usually only pass once or twice a week as he is either in the school yard before me or picking up after me.  He always looks very introspective, which is entirely his right, and I'm usually involved in some sort of discussion with bear about the cleanliness of his face/unfinished homework/when he plans to hand in the dinner money that has been in his bag all week/what happened in Maths etc etc etc.

Today we had sort of snow/sort of hail.  As I hunched up and scuttled towards the school the dad passed and said, 'What about the weather then?'  It is just so British.  Never saying a word until weather hits.

Sue - I suppose I could complain to Morrisons, but as a Brit I suspect I normally grumble instead of complain.  I do feel very let down.

Sick of Food

There's a theme over the last few posts.  This morning bear had cereal and I sighed with relief.  It was one of those 'healthy' cereals and I studiously avoided looking at the panel with nutrition information.  It may be wholemeal cheerios with oat flakes and cinnamon (which bear inhaled) but I don't want to think about added salt and sugar.

Joan - there is a big thing about child obesity at the moment.  The purpose of the diary is apparently so that they can put together a healthy eating plan.  I suppose this is a good idea.  There is such pressure on the NHS and the government is doing all can to promote a healthy lifestyle.  To be honest, I think that this idea of the school to help plan healthy meals isn't bad, but I could do without the stress.

Also, Morrisons have just delivered.  It was not a good experience.  When the driver suggested I lift the crates out of the van for him I was unimpressed.  Apart from anything else, my bad joints won't let me.  Also someone had shoved a load of tins in the same carrier so I had to make three journeys just for the stuff in that carrier bag.  I can manage normal carrier loads just fine.  What is worse, I've taken to drink and the bottle of brandy that I was rather looking forward to was at the bottom of the bag of tins and has a very dented lid and I'm not sure I'll be able to get it open.  I'm unconvinced the mince I'm having for dinner in shepherd's pie was properly chilled as the packet is all puffy.  It isn't exactly a warm day, and the mince looks okay, but I'm glad I'm using it tonight, I wouldn't dare keep it all day.  Because of the way everything was jumbled, I'm not sure how it was stored.  

I'm missing Tesco

Monday, 24 April 2017

Still Focused on Food

I need to do more from scratch.  It's not likely to happen overnight.  I'm just breaking the takeaway habit.  Also, bear's pals are used to things like noodles for lunch or tinned meals.  I'm just really glad that bear has people who like to visit him.  I know I can't budge bear out of the house with dynamite normally, so any interaction is probably good.  I shall have to see how things go.

Bless - I haven't got round to commenting on the comments but for the benefit of your daughter, we are lying dreadfully on the form.  Bear decided that breakfast this morning was going to be easy peel citrus and had a few satsumas (or whatever they are).  I told him to write down cereal.  I don't think just citrus is a proper breakfast.  I know that I am out of date and old, but if I had my way bear would go to school with a breakfast of muesli with perhaps an apple and some cheese.  I want him to go in with wholemeal carbs and protein.  Bear has utterly rejected muesli for the moment, but his food preferences swing around so much that I'm optimistic that there's hope for more than citrus.  Bear is just not a breakfast person.

We had fishfingers for dinner tonight.  I don't mind those going on the form as much but it does make me worry about looking neglectful.

I don't know how it works in California, but I wonder how many parents will be fibbing on the forms in case they get into trouble.  Easy peel citrus isn't so bad I suppose, though it is grossly inadequate in my opinion, but I have seen the same kids regularly going into the playground eating sugary biscuits and sweets for their breakfast.  When bear had a packed lunch I know I struggled, but bear did relay some horror stories of chocolate spread sandwiches every day for lunch.  Bear regularly drives me hairless at breakfast, and has quite a few moments the rest of the day, but I have never been so desperate as to allow him chocolate spread sandwiches day in and day out.  I don't know how I would have faced the awful battles between my son not eating or eating only chocolate spread sandwiches.  Of course, bear could have just been angling for chocolate spread sandwiches for himself.  He didn't get them.

So I worry that if I put down all the stuff that bear eats I will get into trouble.  There's lots of good stuff.  I'm always generous with veggies and there is always fruit.  However fish fingers don't look like haute cuisine.  It's shepherd's pie tomorrow and then home made soup and then souffle.  If everything goes to plan (and it has to at some point!) it will at least look partly respectable.  At least, not enough bad stuff to get me into trouble.  Probably.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Food, Food, Food

My life seems to be revolving around food.  First of all bear brought home a dratted food diary.  Then this evening the idea of meals went out of the window - not for the first time.

We'd had such a relaxed Sunday afternoon.  We were hanging out in the study, all of us on devices, all of us sharing and talking.  I had my knitting on the go as I watched a tv show and also bear playing his new game.  DH was comfortably sprawled and reading.  The room was sunny and the atmosphere was relaxed.  The awful moment when I had to get up and sort out dinner was almost upon me.  I had planned to do potato bourgeouise and sausages.  Or possibly sweet potatoes and sausages.  Except none of us was particularly hungary.  None of us could face a proper meal.

I didn't have anything in the cupboards for a snack meal.  I've been trying to run them down.  The freezer is treated with caution anyway and the fridge was looking bare.  Between the stuff that we can all eat and that we all like, we have a very narrow range.  All local shops were shut.  What was worse, all inspiration had vanished.  I keep thinking of all the things I could have tried but that's now.  This afternoon I was as inspired as a blank page.

In the end bear had the last tin of tomato soup, DH had chorizo omelette (which bear and I had already had for lunch) and I had a tinned meal that I had stashed a while ago and that was fortunately just within date.  It was uninspiring.  It was definitely not the leisurely Sunday browsing that we all wanted.

Tomorrow's task - research lunch/snack dishes that can be made from easily stored items so that we can always have a snack dinner on hand.  Of course it can't contain corned beef (DH), contain gluten (me), sweetcorn (bear at the moment but terms and conditions apply and his preferences may change without notice), cooked fish (DH), cheese (me), bacon (bear again, and t&cs apply again), etc etc etc.  Challenge unethusiastically accepted.

Also, cold has settled into awful gunked up snuffles and I am utterly fed up.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

New Maths Tutor

Bear's former maths tutor has moved countries and is being awesome elsewhere.  This meant a search for the new tutor.

Maths tutors must be a tough breed to keep slogging on, pushing string uphill as they try and coax an unwilling pupil through the intricacies of multiplying fractions.  They need patience, persistence and the skill of presenting information in many different ways to encourage a reluctant child to engage with the GCSE Maths that will be vital to their future.  I'm sure not all situations are like that, but the very nice maths tutor seemed surprised that bear was looking forward to seeing him.

The new tutor seems utterly awesome.  He arrived prepared to see how well bear was dealing with his work at school and then gently encourage bear to do better.  That flew out of the window around ten minutes in.  By the end they were bonding over converting decimals to fractions and back.  From what I can gather, they were working significantly ahead of bear's expected level and having fun.  I'm going to make sure I get nice biscuits in for him.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Meal Planning Gets Worse

Bear has brought home a sheet of paper.  The school want the kids to keep a food diary for a week.  Bear had filled in today's breakfast already, and put that he had had dry cereal and a glass of milk for breakfast.  He really didn't.  He had a cereal bar.  It could be worse.  I've sent him to school after a breakfast of custard before now as I really, really believe that it is wrong to go to school on an empty stomach and I've been desperate to get anything into him.

Tonight I told him to put down frittata for dinner.  DH and bear actually got fish and chips from the takeaway as I had completely failed at cooking, but I thought I wasn't putting that.  I am now going to have to work out healthy meals for the week, darn it to heck.  I'll do at least one souffle and tell bear to lie about his snacks.

To be fair, there's a net of easy peel citrus downstairs which bear will devour in an afternoon if allowed, and there are things like bananas and cucumber for cucumber sticks, etc etc but I know that this is the week where I need to be sensible.  I don't want to be sensible.  I have a raging cold and want to live on ready meals and takeaways.

I don't like posting too much about bear's health and I try and avoid posting stuff that will be too embarrassing later on for him, but there have been all sorts of issues over the last six months and bear has become very peculiar about food.  He's been  quite well for the last month or so, but when I managed to get hold of gluten free chicken nuggets I was grateful because there was some protein in there and he would eat them.  We've done our best, but it's more of a challenge than I feel ready for.

I'll treat it as an exercise in Creativity.  Unicorn burgers, anyone?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Bear has a Steering Wheel

Somehow, I'm not sure how, bear persuaded us to buy him one of the cheaper plug in steering wheels for the driving games.  It's got pedals, for heaven's sake!  I suggested that it came out of bear's hoarded pocket money, but DH was happy we funded it.  Sigh.

It arrived and bear set it up.  I am now officially one of those old ladies who needs their son to show them how the remote control on the tv works.  To be honest, I'm quite happy to delegate that part of life.  It's bear's toy so he can sort it.  Though I'm not sure whether a nearly life sized steering wheel with a gear stick, indicator and pedals counts as a toy or an accessory.

I've been looking at meal planning again.  It hasn't worked before.  Partly because I swear there is something wrong with me and the moment I decide to do something I seem to run to do the opposite.  However the meal planners I've seen all start with proper recipes.  There doesn't seem to be room for the 'absolutely on the floor tonight so it's frozen sausages, frozen hash browns and frozen peas' type evenings.  Also, when bear it eating, terms and conditions apply.  Last night he suddenly decided that he didn't like sweetcorn.  I nearly cried.  We didn't have it when father was here, because he didn't like it and DH and I love it.  Sigh.  Theoretically tonight we are having frozen gluten free chicken nuggets that I got in for those 'on the floor' type evenings but the chicken that I was planning wasn't delivered by Tesco with sweet potatoes peeled, cut into chunks, stirred up in oil and possibly sage, microwaved for twenty minutes and put in a medium oven for ten (I love my combination microwave).  With frozen peas.  That is, if the sweet potatoes are still fit.

There are two ways the meal plans fail.  The first is because I don't have the energy for the fancy meal I've planned.  The second is because something vital wasn't delivered, or isn't fit, like the sweet potatoes being found to be mushy and yeurk.  All the articles on meal plans seem so assured and confident, where nothing ever goes wrong and they can always find the grater.

I think I will put the idea of meal planning on the back burner until I've done an audit of the cupboards and got a decent freezer.  That may take some time, especially if we keep buying bear steering wheels.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Just Passing Through

There's not that much to blog about.  It's been wonderfully, marvellously, splendidly uneventful here.

Bear is back at school.  It may be the first day of summer term, but it's very chilly.  He did remember to bring out his PE kit after school, though, and it wasn't too bad.  It is washing as I type.  He's almost done his homework as well.  Poor bear, it's his least favourite type of homework - lots of very easy stuff.

Today has been a fail day but tomorrow I need to get moving.  On Saturday the new tutor is likely to visit (old and awesome tutor has moved countries) and on Monday an engineer needs access to all the radiators.  All the radiators have junk in front of them.  It's going to be hectic.

At least it will keep me away from YouTube as I have seen an awesome blanket that is knitted in three strands of yarn on huge needles.  I do not need to knit this.  I have enough throws to kit out a department store.  But, but but it is awesome and interesting and I completely wouldn't get bored six inchess in - honest!  The linky is here.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

A Lull

It's been so action packed that a quiet day seems out of place.  I'm full of cold with a rotten sore throat so I have done nothing significant.

One thing I did do was make shepherd's pie with turkey mince.  I like the turkey mince because it is low fat, high protein and very inexpensive.  On the other hand, I suspect what I save on mince I spend on stock cubes.  Actually it only wanted a stock cube and a pinch of sage (with the usual carrot, onion and a few spare mushrooms), and bear and DH loved it.  I will see how it goes.  For comparison, the turkey mince was £2 for 500g and the lean beef mince was £4 for 500g, so I think it's worth experimenting.

I've actually paid out for a frozen shoulder of lamb joint for Easter Sunday.  I am not keen on lamb but bear and DH adore it and it's traditional - and hideously expensive.  Poor DH is feeling very poorly with the cold so the least I can do is cook the lamb slowly in the slow cooker wrapped in foil with rosemary and garlic.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Laugh or Cry

I try and see the funny side of life.  There's usually something.  Today was a toughie.

The computers went off, along with everything on the electrical circuit that includes power sockets.  That meant no washing machine, no dryer, no computer, no tv, etc etc etc.  I am so used to letting bear amuse himself on the computer and he was supposed to be having a pal around to play computer games.  We rescheduled that pal and we played yahtzee and hung out for six hours until the electrician that DH arranged turned up.  I had checked the (new) circuit board and one of the switches was down.  I tried pushing it up and it wouldn't stick.  I mean, I really pushed and held it.  The sparky pressed it up and everything came back on.  That cost £123.80.

Then when DH got home he called out the AA because his car had started to lose power.  It had more or less limped home for the last mile.  Apparently there was a thingy with the onboard computer which they reset.  That didn't cost us as it is covered by the significant payments we make every month to the AA.  It is obviously worth it as I don't know a tyre from a steering wheel and DH isn't really mechanical, but it's another payment.  DH is potentially, theoretically, possibly, perhaps at some date thinking about lease cars.  Please let it not be soon.  Also the insurance comes out in a lump sum this month and I winced when I heard it.

Then when I was hanging out with bear and took out my knitting I found I had made a dreadful mistake.  I had just got past a part where you put some stitches on a holder, cast off, do some shaping, cast back on and rejoing the stitches on the holder.  I suppose I had since done around three rows of 135 stitches.  I've rejoined it twisted.  I'm going to have to go back over around 400 stitches and with all the increasing and decreasing I don't dare just frog it back.

On the bright side (and there always is one) when I met my pal at the weekend we exchanged gifts.  She finally got her housewarming after over a year.  I got a birthday present that may be last year's or possibly next year's or perhaps the year before last's, but we gave up keeping count a long time ago, we just enjoy the friendship.  This meant I got a lovely Woodwick candle to burn whenever I like, even if it's just me.  Also I found the fridge was not on the same circuit which meant that the groceries delivered this morning stayed cold.  Also, it's made me convinced that I need to try and work out about re-wiring and all sorts of other bits.

Also, we had some sunshine and it was great hanging out with bear.

Monday, 10 April 2017

YouTube is my Friend

Actually, I think YouTube and eBay are just encouraging each other to lead me in bad ways.

Somehow, and I'm not sure how, I ended up watching knitting videos on YouTube.  I had been sticking quite closely to medieval monasticism and dinosaurs, which are a lot safer.  Today I went along dangerous paths.

The first thing that caught my eye was the ten stitch blanket patterns.  These are patterns where you cast on ten stitches and then knit short rows and turn corners and pick up stitches from the side you already knitted so that you end up with a blanket having only had ten stitches on your needles for most of the time.  A link to one is here.  It's definitely beyond my patience level, and possibly my skill level, but does look awesome.  I could absolutely make one for a friend who has impeccable taste and a home in the countryside that appears to lack throws.  I had a quick look on eBay for suitable yarn before I came to my senses.

From there I ended up on some interesting dishcloths here.  They are knitted with long and short rows in two colours and finished using Kitchener stitch which is a way of joining knitting named after the WWI general, Lord Kitchener, who apparently knitted, or at least had a knitting stitch named after him.  I am not sure about dishcloths.  I prefer to use a sponge which I quickly wear to rags and then throw but while they may be environmentally unsound, they are inexpensive.  I checked.  You can get some good 100% cotton yarn which would be ideal for the cloths on eBay for very reasonable amounts, especially if you are not sticking to the two colours that the pattern showed, but I'm not going there.  I have a stash of the sponges which will last me for months (a good deal from Approved Food).

Then I found myself looking at a knitting pattern for a scrubbie knitted out of tulle, here.  This intrigued me (of course).  I am sort of tempted.  I have half a dozen plastic scrubbies in the drawer after scoring a good deal at Approved Food and I haven't used them up yet.  They appear to be almost indestructible.  By the time I have got to the end of them I will have probably forgotten about the idea of knitting a scrubber out of tulle.  Just in case, I checked eBay and there are some very inexpensive rolls of tulle on there.  I managed not to buy any, but it was touch and go.

I think I should stick to dinosaur videos.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Darn it to Heck!

I bought bear some pumps for school as they were incredibly inexpensive and came with the grocery order.  I looked around for bear's gym bag.  He has an Angry Birds backpack which holds his games kit.  The school insist that the kit is kept at school during term time but when the holidays come round bear should have brought home a tshirt, jogging bottoms, shorts, trainers, probably pumps (he loses them and never tells me) and a hoodie.

He didn't bring them home.

Fortunately bear is 10 and not a fourteen year old lad playing energetic rugby in the mud.  I should be able to just wash the kit and it will be fine.  The back pack will probably need a good wipe out and air (it's not washable) but it's fixable - this time.  I'm not looking forward to getting it.

Bear had a pal around to play.  It was wonderful.  There was peace, quiet and minecraft.  I sat in the corner and relaxed.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Uncle is Poorly.

Uncle has been taken back into hospital.  He's had a tummy upset and the combination of dementia, diabetes and warfarin mean that it gets out of control quite quickly.  He should be back in the care home tomorrow.  I told the ward that I really miss him, and it's true.  The uncle who was such a rock when we were small isn't there.

I pootled around aimlessly and ended up making potato and ham souffle (sort of) for dinner.  I got the recipe out of a book called Traditonal Farmhouse Fare which I picked up for pennies from Matalan.  Apparently it's a collection of recipes from Farmers Weekly and it isn't the usual stuff but has some really good and interesting recipes.  The recipe, submitted by Helen Clark instructed that you peel and boil two large potatoes.  I only had very small ones, so I did half a dozen.  They then had to be beaten to a cream with an ounce of butter (tsp of oil here) and three egg yolks using an electric beater.  Then you stirred in 8oz (200g) of finely chopped cooked ham (I only had 100g so I ended up adding 'some' chopped mushrooms which needed using up) and parsley then folding in three egg whites beaten to stiff peaks.  Cook for 25 to 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, Gas 4.

It worked.  I think I would have liked the souffle a little firmer and would have cooked it longer, but it definitely rose and was lovely and fluffy.  The men very much inhaled it and I have had to promise that I will do it again.

I mentioned that I was considering the whole Save Money Good Food cookbook and bear looked at me sceptically.  'You never use cookbooks.'  I pointed out that the souffle had come from a cookbook and he shut up.  I take comfort in small mercies.

I found the book on Amazon here and if you are looking for a general cookbook that isn't just the same old same old then I really recommend it.

Typical!

After writing about how much cooking I'm doing, we had a takeaway tonight, or at least, bear and DH did.  I'll start again tomorrow

In fact today was a vaguely fail day.  I got a little washing done, suffered from bear who was BORED and generally achieved little.  I suggested a few things that bear could do - sort through his drawer, tidy his desk, sort out some pencils etc and he utterly rejected them, he decided he was better being BORED.  Instead he belted up and down the street on his scooter and set all the neighbours' dogs off.

I'm off to bed with the hope that I get more done tomorrow.




Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Accidentally Cooking

Just for once, just one time, I'd like to have something in my life that I had planned to do and actually did as planned.

I rely heavily on takeaways.  It isn't good.  I got into the habit when I was feeding father, DH and bear who didn't like the same food.  One would eat beef but not lamb, one would eat lamb but not pork, one adored sweetcorn, another loathed it etc etc etc.  The safe meals were prepared, crumbed chicken, Indian takeaway, Chinese takeaway or fish and chips.  Father used to adore his takeaways.

Then father went and I stopped being able to eat gluten, so it cut down some of the takeaways, but we were still having far too many.  Then suddenly - we weren't.  I have no idea why.  We haven't had a takeaway for the last month.  It is unprecedented.  Some of the meals are fancier than others.  We have had (relatively healthy) tinned sauce with pasta, but also chicken breasts baked in foil with potato bourgeoise.  Tonight it was fish fingers, but it could be a chili, a nice fresh pasta, shepherd's pie or smoked haddock.  I don't know where it's come from.  DH is loving the food, bear is happy, I'm enjoying the food but I have no idea why I'm suddenly cooking.

Tonight I watched the programme on ITV called Save Money: Good Food.  It seems like a version of Eat Well for Less, but slanted slightly differently.  The recipes that they prepared don't seem to be available on the website or facebook, but there is an expensive cookbook.  The food looked good, though perhaps not what I would eat.  I'll watch the rest of the series and point bear in its direction (he's been binge watching junior masterchef) for his opinion.  I'm interested in the extra tips about storing food, use by dates and working hard to eliminate waste.  I was interested that they used up the thick broccoli stems by grating them into another dish.  Those sort of ideas are worth watching.

There's a low lying grumble about food prices going up.  Even before Brexit there were issues about soil degradation, climate change and food security, and I suspect that over the next few years there will be a lot of encouragement from the government about making the most of food.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if we got a Ministry of Food again.  What is surprising me is that I may be ready if it comes.

Monday, 3 April 2017

The Holidays

It is the Easter holidays here, and today was the first day.  I survived it.

Bear was unimpressed.  He has been complaining bitterly that he was too tired for school.  Now he is equally venomous about being bored.  So far he has run up and down the street (we've lost yet another football), slouched in front of the Xbox and PC and messed around with the sticker books.  I've let him.

We do not have a programme of what to do or not do.  This is perhaps just as well as I have a nasty sore throat and very achy joints.  We have a short walk to the greengrocer planned for tomorrow.  It will use up an hour of the day by the time we have walked there, walked back and grumbled around the shop.

One small ray of light is that we have finally signed bear up for Mathletics.  Apparently Mathletics makes maths fun and is usually used in school.  However there is an 'in the home' option which we have chosen.  Bear thinks it is awesome, amazing, great, wonderful, etc etc etc.  Someone understands the mindset of small bears.  If you complete various games or tests then you get the virtual equivalent of a gold star.  Most young children will go for the gold star with gusto.  Bear has already done sums about the best way to get them.  He is raring to go.  This enthusiasm may last, and if it does then it is incredibly good for him and encouraging his interests.  Even if he only keeps going for a little while it is bound to boost his ability to some degree.  And it should keep him interested for at least some part of every day over the holidays.

I'd be a lot more enthusiastic if I wasn't faced with the awful fear that he may ask me how to work the numbers.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

New Neighbours

The house next door, where Nice Mr Next Door used to live, has been empty for almost exactly two years.  Before that, the family of Nice Mr Next Door lived there for around fifteen years, and were great neighbours.  I can't say enough good about them.

I was worried that they would not like us when they first moved in because we had to shut off their water on the first day they were there.  I was mortified and took a lot of bottled water around, there was nothing I could do.  We had been left high and dry by some bathroom fitters.  Fifteen years later I was heartbroken when they moved out, though I really understood why they did.

Now we have new neighbours.  They seem very pleasant, they are very quiet and we haven't had to shut off their water.  What has happened could be considered worse.  Bear, after utterly rejecting all connection with the concept of piano playing and driving me to the utter ends of my resources when it comes to practising, has found a piece he liked.  He's had a lot of fun with Donna e Mobile and a song that's apparently to do with canaries, but yesterday his piano teacher (who is an absolute star) brought what I suspect is a simplified version of Hall of the Mountain King, part of the Peer Gynt Suite.

Bear loves it.  He is a very happy bear.  He can't stop humming it.  Since he got the sheet music in his paws yesterday around 9.15am he hasn't stopped practising.  I honestly believe that in the last day and a bit he has done more practice than the rest of the year so far.  It isn't an electric piano.  There isn't a volume control or headphones.  Our neighbours at the back are definitely hearing bear attacking Hall of the Mountain King with energy, determination and almost accuracy.  I'm hoping that the new neighbours aren't suffering too much.  The piano is against the outside wall.  The sound of bear's attempts have to cross the study, the living room and their kitchen before it gets to their living room.

I hope that they are the forgiving type.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Another Thing Off the List

I have been meaning to apply for a passport since before bear was born.  I'm not planning to travel abroad but I could really do with the means of identification.  If someone tries to check my ID when I buy alcohol then I would be in trouble - I have no passport and no drivers licence.  Fortunately I look like an old biddy so I'm probably safe.

Stage one today was to have my hair cut (long overdue) and then get passport photos taken.  I've done that.  The next stage is get someone to sign the pictures and I'm optimistic I can get that done in May.  On my way to get the pictures taken I called in at the new John Lewis store that opened just before Christmas.

I think that there are a few non-Brits reading this blog, so for them I will say that John Lewis is an upmarket department store with a reputation for the high end of middle value, excellent service and awesome treatment of staff.  I had heard wonders about their haberdashery so I wandered in.

I did purchase a booklet of eight knitting patterns for £5, all of which look very plausible.  I didn't purchase the very small pouch, say around six to eight inches high, that had an embroidery transfer on it.  Even with the embroidery cottons I felt it was still over priced at £17.  I think I will call in now and again, but perhaps not for the bigger purchases.  On the way out I looked at shirts for DH.

DH has Views about his shirts.  He likes a certain range of masculine colours, he likes his shirts plain and they have to fit in with the 'sort of smart casual' rule where he works.  You can't buy plain shirts at the moment.  Everything seems patterned and DH isn't keen.  He is also lovely and wide shouldered, which is an issue with the fit of shirts, so some shops are ruled out for a start.  As several of his shirts are getting threadbare, I'm desperate.  I checked out the ones in John Lewis.

DH was not impressed at shirts for him coming up at £25.  He grumbled.  I think the last time he bought a shirt it was around £15 (though it was a while ago).  The shirts I saw in John Lewis, just on the racks, were £115.  I probably won't get DH a shirt from there.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Small Print Fail

I wanted another one of the silicone pan covers.  I've got two.  One is unfeasibly large but covers all sorts and one is about the right size for a small pan.  Both can be used on the stove and in the microwave and apparently can be airtight in the fridge.  I haven't tested them in the fridge, but they are awesome when cooking and I've stashed the pan lids in a far cupbard and have two easy to store silicone thingies in the shape of poppies at hand.  They look a bit like this...


But I would prefer another mid sized one and I keep wistfully thinking of a blue and white kitchen.

I saw another type of lid, this time in blue and much plainer.  I saw this image and didn't check the small print.


What I got was something that would comfortably cover a medium sized to small mug, 105mm or around four inches.  I didn't read the small print, but it is all there in black and white.  I'm going to have to send it back.  I cannot think of any use I would have to cover a not very big mug.

I could look for the bigger size, as they do look very nice, and seem very reasonably priced, but the ones who make the poppies also make the lids to look like daisies and tomatoes.  On the other hand the pretty ones are not inexpensive and the postage on top is horrific.

I should have read the small print.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

I Nearly Ordered

I was tootling around Approved Food again today.  I nearly ordered stuff, but it didn't really have the stuff I wanted at the price I wanted.  It seems to have some high end stuff at good prices, but I suspect I'm not that high end.

I only looked because the Easter holidays are nearly on us and I will be feeding bear and his pals.  He is still not a teenager and only ten, but I am confident that the snack cupboard will need a lot more stocking in the next few weeks.  I'm going to have to get back to baking.  It isn't always as inexpensive as the cheapest cookies and biscuits, but it isn't too dear and a lot healthier.  There weren't enough snacks at the right price, but I'll keep an eye out and see how it goes.  I very nearly almost ordered because they had some very inexpensive male hair removal cream.

DH has a lot to put up with, and that includes random orders of male hair removal cream.  I want to be very clear - as far as I'm concerned, the hair on DH's body, wherever it's distributed, is perfect.  However the hair removal cream was the cheapest I've ever seen and I was wondering if I should try the cleaning hack where you put hair removal cream down the bathroom plugs to dissolve any lumps and mats of hair that may be lurking in the pipes.  It's never been enough of a problem for me to want to pay for hair removal cream, but this was a good price.  I decided against it.  The rest of the order wasn't awesome and I still hadn't tried the liversalts and vinegar trick.

Bear was urging me to order a tonne of potatoes today.  I've seen a recipe where you mash potatoes and use it to line a baking dish, I think you bake it briefly.  Then you fill it with cooked chicken and mushrooms and top with a cheese sauce and put it back in the oven to heat through.  Cheese does not agree with DH or I, but I'm sure that if I filled it with cooked chicken and onion and did a mushroom sauce it would work just as well.  If I ever get around to trying it, I'll share.

btw, for those who enjoy history, I found these lectures on YouTube.  They're history lectures aimed at university undergraduates, and I'll be honest, it's at the top of my understanding, but I've enjoyed it, and I thought I would share - here.  They also do podcasts - here.  I haven't tried the podcats, but I will see if I can knit to them.  I'm desperate to stay away from craft ideas, so I'm digging out all sorts.

I Managed Monday

I had a meh Monday.  I tootled around and faffed and while the house is marginally cleaner than yesterday and the ironing is very slightly less, I can't take it as a win.

One thing I can take as a win is dinner tonight.  The gluten free sausages and frozen mixed veg were nothing special, but I did a sort of version of potato bourgeoise and the men almost inhaled it.  Unfortunately it's one of those 'make it up as I go' versions' and the basic measurement is 'some'.

I had bought a rotary grater, a little like this...


... but mine is cheap white plastic and has three drums, one of which is a sort of slicer thing.  I used up the last of the potatoes by slicing them incredibly thinly, quickly and easily with this (and it washed up nicely as well) and layered the potato with some onion sliced in the same way.  I poured some stock over it, covered it and bunged it in the microwave for twenty minutes.  It would have been fine then but I cooked it for another ten as DH hadn't got in then.  DH and bear both insist that I do this again soon.  It's incredibly flattering.  Next time I may add a tiny taste of garlic or herbs, but it worked well.  I got the original recipe from Hardup Hester but used the microwave for a change.

I'm desperately trying to run down the freezer as I'm not sure how safe it is now.  The seal is very limp and the frost is building up inside.  It may make for some interesting meals.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Actually Did Knitting

I've been knitting.  I'm working on the sleeveless version of this which is knitted side to side and I am intrigued to see it work out.


I did nine inches today, which wasn't bad as I was taking it all steady.  I've stayed away from the craft YouTube videos and instead I've been watching videos about Medieval Europe and Dinosaurs, which should be safe.  

Unfortunately the videos didn't take up all of my attention.  I didn't buy the Doctor Who fabric that I saw yesterday because I have sacks of fabric and I really shouldn't get any more without getting using some of the current pile first.  Besides, I couldn't think of anything to make for bear or DH and it was £14 per metre (which is a good price considering I can't get it anywhere else!).  Today bear was 'sorting' his pencils by colour, which is always interesting as it shows exactly how colour blind he is.  He announced that he needed more pencil cases and gave me an expectant look.  

There are a gazillion YouTube videos on how to sew a pencil case, many of them use zips.  I've never sewn a zip, but I do feel that it is time to accept the challenge as it will give me an excuse to buy the Doctor Who fabric and make some awesome stuff.  Bear won't mind, I'm sure.  

I also caved and opened the parcel from India.  I bought a sari, sold as suitable to reuse as craft projects.  It's very frayed at both ends, but apparently is pure silk and the design on it is gorgeous.  I don't think I will every get used to how beautiful sari fabric is.  I plan to use Bless's idea and use a bigger piece of cardboard and make a bag like this one but bigger.  If it happens, I'll share.  The fabric is a lovely old gold with a small pattern of red and green and looks amazing.  I've given it a quick wash and it is now draped over my ironing board looking magnificent.

I am now going back to the knitting and dinosaurs.  

Saturday, 25 March 2017

I Went to York

I thought it was time I called in to York, as I am trying to write about stuff set there.  There was a complete absence of werewolves, vampires and mayhem but there were lots and lots and lots of crowds.  I could barely move.  It was absolutely packed.  York is a tourist town and also the centre of a lot of countryside.  There are some glorious shops there if you like expensive shops.  Even the market had a lot of upmarket and expensive stalls next to the ones selling cauliflower and rhubarb.

I tried taking photos but my camera wasn't co-operating.  What I need is a cheap camera that transfers to the laptop.  I have no idea where to start.  There was a camera shop in York, but the cheapest camera in the window was over £300 so probably not what I am looking for.

I did buy some fabric when I got back to Leeds.  There is a shop selling fabric and yarn on George Street, next to the market (not Great George Street next to the hospital, easily confused).  I recommend it.  They are very tolerant of amateurs such as myself, are very competitively priced and even have some Doctor Who fabric that I haven't seen anywhere else, not even on eBay.  I didn't have anything in my stash to make a table cloth for the little chest of drawers that are now next to my chair.  I think it needs it as I keep splashing it with my drink, and I love fabric everywhere anyway.  I managed to take this photo of the fabric.


I haven't seen this on eBay either.

Tomorrow I plan to concentrate on knitting.  I wonder what I'll actually end up doing.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Where do I Start?

Do you remember a while back when I mentioned that I had bought a fleece king sized sheet set that was not only very red but absolutely enormous?  I was planning to use it for craft projects.  Bear had different ideas.

Bear has issues with his bed.  He cannot keep his blankets on at night.  He has been the same since he was a newborn in a cot - blankets don't stay on!  At the moment he has layers of duvets, blankets, throws and the huge, massive, ginormous red fleece flat sheet that bear claimed.  I try to tuck it into the back of the bed but only have limited success.  I am considering nails.

I had hopes for the fitted sheet, but bear has also claimed that.  I trimmed the elastic off and he coccoons himself in it when he comes down in the morning (being all cold from having kicked all his bedclothes off).  I am going to use the pillowcases to have bed sized pillows on the big chair in the study.

I may also get a bedsized pillow for the shrug I knitted.  I finally sewed it up last night and now it looks lovely - and too small.  It's about the right size for bear but in girlie colours that he utterly rejects, preferring to curl up in a hacked up piece of red fleece fitted sheet.  I may sew it up further and try stuffing it with a pillow.  Also, speaking of sewing, and having decided to concentrate on knitting, I sewed a small pouch to hang off the toilet roll holder and hold a small essential oil bottle.  The scent holder I had hung in the bathroom was looking very second hand and now that bear and his pals are older I feel much safer having a few drops off the oil on the cardboard inner tube of the toilet roll (nowhere that can touch skin - most essential oils should not be put neat onto any skin!).


It's about four inches (10cm) high and took me a few goes as I couldn't get the top neat enough.  In the end I just pressed the edges over and left it.  I'll be sick of it before it frays too much.  The background is my laptop screen.  Did you know that you can get university lectures on YouTube?  I rummaged around and was watching dinosaur stuff from the University of Utah like this, which is a little too advanced for me but I'm enjoying.  I found some courses from Yale as well, here, and while I'm not saying I understand all of it, the historical stuff is fascinating.

Today the man came about the new service agreement for the boiler.  Apparently I signed up to the premier version which includes radiators.  This means that he has to fully and thoroughly check over all the radiators in the house.  There is stuff in front of every radiator.  In the study it's a small plastic tower and in the living room has a small table that is easily moved, but in front of the radiators in the kitchen, dining room and my bedroom there are large, heavy tables covered with stuff, bear's room has a storage unit and in front of the radiator in DH's room therea is a computer, two screens, a set top box and eleventy ten wires.  The junk room is the worst.  There's just a huge heap of stuff.  You can get to within a yard - just!

Air circulates around all the radiators, but they are not engineer friendly or easily accessed.  I'm going to have to do some serious sorting out before they come back.  It's a great opportunity to have a sort out, or that's what I'm telling myself, and I've booked them to come back in a month.  I should be able to manage in a month.  Probably.  I just have no idea where to start.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Still Normal for Sybil!

I've been feeling blocked, so I took a break to see if it would rekindle the spark.  So far so ineffective, but I'm living in hope.  While I was sworn off writing anything I decided that I would catch up with all my half started knitting projects and I could sew up the lucet rug.  The rug is being a challenge as I can't seem to keep it flat.  It keeps working up so I am having to repeatedly undo what becomes a large, shallow, floppy bowl.

I had decided that I would definitely stick to knitting.  I had a couple of projects that just needed sewing up and some nice, easy projects half started.  YouTube has all sorts of interesting stuff on, like videos about dinosaurs by university lecturers and, while I can't keep up with everything, it's a lot better than watching videos about crafts which would start new projects.  So, I could watch these and knit, right?

I swear there's something seriously wrong with me.  Forget knitting, I started making the bag shown in this YouTube video.  I recommend it for anyone needing a stash buster.  I used around half a dozen ties - at least I was losing some of the ties!  I started off making a lucet cord from strips of one of the ties.


 Then I took a selection of ties


 I got a remarkable amount of fabric.  Then I threaded up a piece of card as it said in the video.  The threads go both sides, but the other side of the card has my address on so probably best not to show it.

 In the video they used strong thread.  I used dark invisible thread as I had that handy and I only had the invisible thread or cheap polycotton.  I chose the invisible thread.  Invisible thread is from Satan's armpit, but it is strong.  I used it with a lot of bad language.

I cut the ties into sort of around probably half inch wide strips and wove them in and out of the invisible thread on both sides and occasionally through the lucet handle.  I kept missing the threads because invisible thread is from Satan's own armpit and I got distracted as I was watching Shop Well for Less and the episode had someone who had impulse bought at £26k car.  To be fair, the only difference between them and me on eBay is scale, but I was hooked.  As the video said, I kept pushing the strips down and keeping fabric packed tight.  I wish I had remembered to take pictures.  Eventually I came to the end and had this...


 I didn't even need to sew in the handle as it was woven into the bag fabric and I'm remarkably proud of that idea.  I honestly didn't think it would work out, but it did.  Here's a pic with a normal paperback book in for a size guide...


 I'm sure those who are really crafty will be able to do all sorts with this, especially if they stay away from invisible thread because it is so evil that even evil cat would have rejected it.  I have also knitted a scarf.

Tomorrow I am definitely, absolutely, 100% going to start on the knitting projects.  Or possibly the rug.  Definitely nothing else.  Absolutely guaranteed nothing else.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Unlimited Screen Time

I am a bad mother.  Bear gets sort of unlimited screen time.  I mean, he doesn't get screen time after around 6.30pm and he often chooses to play football outside and he sometimes reads anyway but he doesn't get the time limited (before 6:30).  He also knows that if I catch him with something not age appropriate then he will be in big trouble and I'm usually in the room with him.  So YouTube videos are football, funny cats, gameplay, odd bits here and there and lots of documentaries.  Some of them are interesting and I watch over his shoulder.

Yesterday bear was doing Art.  Bear takes after me when it comes to art.  He's not quite as inept (I can't draw stick figures) but it isn't his thing.  He is also colour blind which doesn't help.  So he was distracted and picked up the booster science papers that were lying around.  Bear is Year Five, the papers were for Year Six.  Bear explained to the teacher that there was a mistake on the papers.  The paper said that while the moon orbited the Earth and the Earth orbited the Sun, the Sun didn't orbit anything.  Bear pointed out that the Sun does orbit something.  Apparently the Sun and Solar System orbit some sort of cloud which is part of the Milky Way.  He learned this from YouTube.  Apparently he is correct.  I have no idea.  A few years ago he was able to correctly explain to a teacher how to do a mathematical process that had not been covered by the school because he had seen it on YouTube, understood it correctly and remembered it.  He's going to be one of those kids in high school.

And that is what unlimited screen time has done for bear.