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.


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.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Today I Learned...

There is a sub reddit on Reddit called, 'Today I Learned...' I dip into it now and then.  Sometimes I am bewildered because the heading is something that I seem to have known forever, sometimes it is something mindblowing.  Apparently there is also a YouTube channel but I haven't checked that out.

Today I learned that you can indeed use a small spritz bottle (bought for around 50p to £1 from Wilko) with vinegar and a microfibre cloth to clean windows and mirrors.  If your windows are as dirty as mine then you will have to run up and down stairs repeatedly to get clean cloths and you really will have to open a window, even if it isn't warm.

I also learned that if you don't clear the mantelpiece next to the mirror you are cleaning then you will knock over a vase that has sentimental attachments, almost catch it, almost catch it with the other hand, knock it with your elbow so that it's aimed towards a soft chair and watch it bounce off and break on the marble fire surround.

And I also learned that if you clean the inside of the windows then youu really ought to clean the outside except the outside is not so straightforward as it's around five or six feet minimum off the ground to the bottom of the window and I'd have to fight across lavender bushes that may be rat infested.

Today I learned that there are worse things than dirty windows.  

Monday, 13 March 2017

It May be Spring

I fail with epic proportions when it comes to being a housewife.  I am not proud of this.  I could actually write a 'how to' housekeeping book because I really know the theory.  I have read shelf upon shelf of housekeeping books from the reprinted seventeenth century collections to the ultra modern.  I still fail.

Today, however, despite a lack of sleep and general feeling of sloth, I've done housework.  I haven't done great deeds, but I've done quite a lot of moderately minor deeds.  I've done things like wiping down the bathroom windowsill, sorting out a shelf, opening windows, that sort of thing.  The washing machine hasn't stopped all day and I've been hanging things on an airer.  I have an awful feeling that spring cleaning is sneaking up on me and taking me unawares.   I've even changed my bedding.  DH and bear get their beds regularly tended but I don't usually bother with my pit.

I'm now going to settle down to watch a fire on YouTube (here, if you're interested) as I really enjoy listening to a fire crackle but I don't have to sweep up these ashes.  I would really love an open fire, but I suspect that it's going to have to wait.  While I'm watching I'm going to knit (and plan the next few installments of 'At the Sign of the White Hart').  I have set myself a target to finish one of bear's blankets by the end of Wednesday which is very plausible and the bag weaving is on hold until I work out what to do with my nails.  The raging eczema that I get on my hands has affected the nail beds which means my nails are always splitting and chipping and they are catching on everything.  I am desperate to finish the project but have been driven distracted.  I am determined that I'll finish it after the blanket, so watch this space.

Friday, 10 March 2017


Bear had a pal to visit and for dinner.  I fed them something completely inappropriate - chicken dippers, hash browns and baked beans.  The lads loved it.

Since bear watched Supershoppers and their piece on ice cream, he has become extremely particular.  The Supershoppers demonstrated that four different ice creams looked quite similar when frozen, but if you checked their ingredients there was a difference and if you let them melt there was a difference again.  The cheapest ice cream looked like something in a used tissue once it was melted and was a quarter of the volume.  The most expensive that they showed, Haagen Dazs, hardly shrank at all and still looked like it was food rather than some sort of secretion.  Bear and his pal got Ben and Jerry's today.  Bear graciously accepted it as adequate.

Last time he was here the pal fell and hurt his arm.  This time it was bear on the sick list - he fell downstairs.  He wasn't particularly hurt, though he wasn't happy at the time, but I'm beginning to wonder how safe a visit is!  Bear is limping when he remembers, but I don't expect to see a bruise tomorrow.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Training Day

Bear had a Training Day today.  I think the school organise it pretty well - the training days are always after parents' evenings so that the teachers have a chance to recover.  As the new headteacher is spreading parents' evenings over two days, the training day is after the second.  I'd forgotten all about it so my plans have been put out of kilter.  Bear loved it.  He spent the day in his onesie waiting for Amazon to deliver his book.

This is not the book that was promised for a good report that he didn't get.  This is the sequel to 'How to Catch an Invisible Cat' which is awesome!  If you have kids around 8 to 12 years old then I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  We read it through, a chapter a night, as bear's bedtime reading but he read it through by himself a few times as well.  When DH was reading it I thought we would have to get an ambulance I was laughing so much.  It is the story of, well, two children trying to catch an invisible cat.  It is also suitable for adults.  The sequel is 'How to Outsmart a Billion Robot Bees' and the first chapter we read together tonight is looking good.

Today I have been more or less useless.  I've fed and watered bear, of course, who has now decided that actually he likes omelettes.  I've added pictures from WikiCommons to the stories 'At the Sign of the White Hart' (latest installment here).  I'll have to have a trip to York and get some pictures of my own.  I have also started a craft project with ties.  I don't know if anyone remembers that a few years ago I sort of accidentally bought 90 ties...

This is what 90 ties look like, I took this picture 12 March 2015 so it's about time I did something with them.

... and I wanted to do a quilt with suffolk puffs like the one I had seen on tv around 1993 but I sort of knew that I would never get round to it, so I started getting myself set up to make a bag.  I found this on YouTube, which is a project by Marilyn Pipe, and it looks amazing.  I'm not sure exactly how it's going to work, and there's a lot that can go wrong if I'm involved, but I should be able to start tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

I Feel a Fool - a matter of perspective.

Our house is indecently close to bear's school.  We can't get decent exercise walking to school as even the long way round takes less than five minutes.  It's a funny area.  We are in private housing but at the back and across the road is social housing and in front of us is a large retail space, currently Matalan but previously a DIY store, and next to us is a bathroom place and behind them all sorts of shops with flats and then there's the expensive houses and industrial units we can see from our window as well as the farms, all on steep slopes with us near the bottom.  It's a mix.

I am not good in the morning.  I may be up and moving but don't expect me to think until at least 10am.  That's my excuse for what happened today.  Bear did his usual trick of forgetting I existed as soon as we got near the school gate and I went to wait until the doors opened, looked over, and there were men climbing on my roof.  I couldn't believe it.  I ran past one of the school mums and asked her to keep an eye on bear (her daughter is in the same class) and belted out of the playground with absolutely no dignity.

It was a trick of perspective.  There were men on a cherry picker climbing on a roof but it was Matalan's roof.  Because of the way that the hill slopes and the angle from the school yard, it was perfect.  It had been the perfect illusion and it looked almost as if they were going to hitch their harness to my chimney.  I had to go back and explain to the school mum.  I was mortified.

For those interested, the latest chapter in 'Tales from the White Hart' is here and the tale from the beginning is here.  Now I can finally catch up with all the wonderful blogs I've been missing.  I'm starting on the next part tomorrow.

eBay Fail

I bid on and won a remarkably inexpensive bedset that would be perfect for curtains for my bedroom.  They were exactly what I had been looking for - in the photo.  In reality they are yellow.  I do not like yellow.  It grates on me.  I definitely could not manage in a bedroom with mainly yellow curtains.

I'll use the flannel sheets that came with them (though I'll consider dyeing them as I can't cope with yellow sheets) to keep the beds warm in winter.  I am not sure whether to donate, re-sell or use the duvets for practice as the previous stash of scrap fabric that is only fit for practice is a lot less than it used to be.

Also, bear only got a mildly awesome report at parents' evening so we have had Words and he is having to earn his treat for a good report.  He is doing well, really, though, so I am actually very proud.

On the bright side, my writer's block seems to have faded so if you are interested then I should be able to share something soon.  If you feel like writing yourself you can have a look at the latest Light and Shade Challenge and see if it inspires.


Monday, 6 March 2017

Not Bad for Monday

Today wasn't bad for a Monday.  I got quite a few loads of washing done, had a very small tidy round, sorted out some doctors' appointments and still had writer's block.  There was also the Postman issue.

We have several different posties, and this one is isn't a star.  I've had issues before.  He is the one who forced a parcel through the letterbox and broke the draught excluder thingy on it.  He is the one who ignored the open kitchen door to fail to deliver to the porch door.  I have tried giving him lessons on how to use the doorbell, though to be fair our door bell doesn't stand out.  He's a few stamps short of the correct postage.

Today I had a few windows open and there was a light on, it was obvious I was home.  Instead of knocking he forced the parcel of Dr Who collection books (for bear) through the letterbox and it landed with half the cardboard packaging missing.  The books were undamaged and there was no harm done, but I am starting to wonder if I should complain.  The other posties are wonderful, I'm always in and they all know me.

DH has been awesome and changed the position of the study clock and also changed the battery so I can see the clock and it is working for the first time in years.  Unfortunately it is right next to a large cobweb that is probably old enough to be listed.  Rather, it was next to the cobweb.  I got irritated, and when I couldn't find the proper long-handled duster I took the soft broom and went around the entire room literally brushing the cobwebs down.  I'm quite worried about how much difference it has made.  The ceilings are quite high and for years the light has been poor in here so it was regrettably easy for me to ignore them.  New lights and a change of the clock's position and I had to act.  What is most wonderful is that I didn't knock anything down!  I think I shall be taking the broom around the house.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Mrs Beeton was Right!

I read cookbooks.  I rarely use them, but I read them.  I have even tackled Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.  For those who are not familiar with her work, she wrote a cookbook in the mid nineteenth century which was around three inches thick and very stern about the failings of servants, the wasteful nature of cooks and the importance of the lady of the house Running Things Properly.  There's a whole section of pictures on Wiki Commons.  Here's one of them.


There is, of course, a chapter on How Best to Purchase Food.  There was in all nineteenth century cookbooks and that sort of chapter still turns up in many cookbooks today.  I don't think it's a bad idea.  Of course, she includes the importance of checking for bone meal and alum in bread which isn't as important today, but there is a lot of sensible advice, because humans have not changed their nature much in the last 150 years, and people will be people.

One of the pieces of advice I remember is her stern warning to test the local tradesmen by ordering the meat as usual for a month or so and then carefully comparing the tickets.  She said that it wasn't unusual for the price of meat to creep up by pennies and halfpennies when the butcher was sure of the custom.  I was checking my Amazon 'Subscribe and Save' account.  I was tepid about it anyway as I thought I could end up buying for buying's sake, but they had the Nairn gluten free oatcakes on it.  I love the oatcakes, they are a real staple for me but they are not inexpensive and practically never on sale.  If I got them on subscribe and sale then it would work out at a little less expensive.  In every store and supermarket I've seen they are £1.50 a pack.  I knew I was only saving pennies, but because I have them so often I thought it worth while over a period of time.  About six months ago I decided to subscribe and save for the Nairns oatcakes.  Today I checked and even with the discount they had gone up to £1.65 a pack and the packs at the supermarkets were still at £1.50!

Mrs Beeton was right.  You cannot relax your vigilance for a moment!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Frame Myself

I first came upon the expression 'frame yourself' when I moved to Yorkshire.  I'd never heard it before, but it's a very useful expression.  To 'frame yourself' means to pull yourself together, get your truck in gear, get moving with purpose, to stop naffraffing around, etc etc.  It's what I really need to do.

I was coming back from the hospital yesterday (nothing serious) and I wanted to call in at PC World (who didn't have what I wanted) but on the very short walk between the bus stop and PC World I passed MegaValue.  I went in.  It was a mistake.

It wasn't a mistake as such because it is an interesting store with lots of cut price bits and pieces.  I bought a reasonably sized picture frame to make into a type of white board thingy.  If it happens I will share, but it was remarkably inexpensive.  I bought a small jar to keep the extremely inexpensive cloves I have ordered from eBay to simmer as an air freshener, which was again a very good deal.  However I picked up something that was on sale, and isn't on their website.  It is a king sized, polar fleece bed set.  That is, it is a fitted sheet, a flat sheet and two pillowcases made from polar fleece.  I can't imagine that, I think it would get very sweaty unless the room was very cold indeed.  I may keep the fitted sheet for under the proper sheet in winter, and I could get some nice pillows and use the pillowcases and have them on the chairs and sofa.  However the flat sheet is purely for fabric.  On my friend eBay, most polar fleece is around £4.99 a metre at 60 inches (150cm) wide.  This set was originally £25.  I got it for £11.25.  If I used it all for fabric I would have the fitted sheet which is 60 x 79 inches or 152 x 200cm, the two pillowcases that are two layers of 20 inches x 30 inches or 51 x 76 cm and the flat sheet which is 98 x 110 inches or 249 x 279cm.  It currently looks like this...

It is seriously red and I have no idea whatsoever of what project I could use it for.  I have curtains to make, a stash to bust and a heap of things to get sorted.  I really do not need swathes of utterly scarlet polar fleece!  Besides, I have writing, and trying to earn some money, and housework...

I need to frame myself.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Decisions, Decisions

We have a junk room.  It's a huge bedroom on the top floor.  The window is small and doesn't get much light.  The geography and surrounding buildings means that it gets about half an hour of natural light a day at this year, not much more in summer.  It does mean, however, that if you sleep in the room and need to get dressed, unless the curtain is carefully dealt with or you stand in a very precise location, anyone at the bus stop over the road can see everything.

There are issues with the curtain.  There is a swish track that is smaller than any of the standard hook thingies so every time you draw or open the curtains the dratted thing leaps off the track and once again you are on a ladder, muttering, to hang the thing back up.

The window is also quite narrow.  It seems even more narrow as it is in a corner and is tiny compared with the size of the room, 76 inches (around 193cm) long and 46 inches (around 116cm) wide, but it looks smaller.

I have two choices.  I have a curtain pole, there are YouTube videos with instructions on how to put up a curtain pole and I need to pull myself together and try new things so I could have a go at that.  It would take hardly any time to once again stitch heading tape on a couple of inexpensive duvet covers (the window is the same as the others - non standard drop).  I could even get longer ready made curtains as the window isn't above a radiator.  This would be the sensible solution.

Or I could run two of the wire thingies - the ones that net curtains hang from - across the top of the window.  I have 20m of incredibly inexpensive, very dark purple, sort of shimmery polyester that I have always regretted getting from eBay.  It wouldn't take long to run up two curtains, one in front of the other, and have them held by tie backs made from necklaces - like these...

I could use ornate doorknobs or fancy hooks to hold the tie backs, reinforced with tape if necessary and even sew a fancy ruffle for the top of the curtains - and it would use up around six metres of the stuff.  

It would be ridiculously dramatic and over the top for two very mature adults and an indifferent bear in a room that is hardly used, but it does call to the Drama Queen in me.

I am considering it...

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Still Shopping

I didn't do too bad in Wilkos.  I went in there for white thread and generic black poster paint and walked very briskly past other things.  It almost worked.  I also picked up one of those small spray bottles used for stuff like perfume.  I want to put a vinegar mix in there and use it for mirrors and windows.

One of the things I walked briskly past was the display of decorating supplies, and I didn't walk quickly enough.  I am determined that bear's room is going to be done by the end of March, and there is only thirty days to go!  Last year we watched the programme 'Shop Well for Less' which showed that Wilkos budget brand paint was just as good as most expensive brands and better than some.  I brought home a colour chart thingy.

Bear was entirely indifferent.  As long as it is a sort of light grey he doesn't care.  I think it will be depressing but bear doesn't see colour the same way - literally.  I had to ring the school up yesterday to remind them that the optician had diagnosed him colourblind and when he had a maths question that involved him sorting out greens and browns, purples and blues and yellows and oranges he didn't have a chance.  They were very nice about it.

I've decided we will go with Wilkos.  Not only are they good enough for a bedroom that will need re-doing sooner that I would like, but they deliver and I can get cashback.  They do a lot of fun stuff on their website.

I am suffering badly from writer's block so I apologise for anyone who is waiting for the next installment from the White Hart.  However if anyone would like to try some creative writing themselves please dip into the Light and Shade Challenge.  It's a Welsh theme this week, with it starting on St David's Day, and the picture is of Conwy Castle.

I also saw this video.  It's how to weave a smallish bag out of scrap fabric.  I am desperately intrigued by it.   I have a massive stash of fabric and it looks a perfect way to use stuff up, so I thought I would share.  

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

We had Pancakes!

I did pancakes.  Bear said that he wasn't looking forward to them as he had had too many of them last summer and had become sickened by them.  I said that it was Pancake Day, he could put maple syrup on it and get over it.  We were having pancakes when he got home as a snack then we would have a proper dinner.  So I actually made the actual pancakes without burning anything and bear tucked in.  Half an hour later he asked me to make another batch.  I was a cruel mother and made him wait until after dinner.  He strongly suggested that they would be perfect tomorrow.  I am not rushing into it, though they are a great snack.

Dinner was bought falafel (which were very pleasant) with samphire (meant to go with the mackerel yesterday but I forgot it), steamed cauliflower and roasted carrot, parsnip and onion.  I weakened and got another veg box.  We will never get through it.  If I trusted my freezer more, or if I could actually use it, then I'd make a shedload of soup and stash it for lunches.  Tomorrow I am facing a marrow.  It isn't big enough to stuff, and I'm not making chutney or jam as I can't be trusted with boiling sugar.  I found a recipe for marrow cake (here, if you're interested) but I can't face it.  I feel deep in my soul that some things should never be made into cake and marrow is one of those things.  I also have half a cauliflower that is bigger than most of the cauliflower in the shops and DH and I can't have cheese.  We may be looking at cauliflower 'rice'.

Monday, 27 February 2017


Bear loves fish.  Morrisons do a very good range of very fresh fish.  I had a Morrisons delivery today and it included four fresh mackerel fillets.  They looked very nice indeed.  I was still apprehensive.

Years and years ago, when I was around seven, we had a wonderful camping holiday in Port Patrick, in Western Scotland.  It was a quiet fishing village and the rain came in with the tide every afternoon.  It was the best holiday I can ever remember.  There were rocks to play on, minature golf (I took a shot for my brother and got a hole in one but didn't manage to make it in less than three for myself) a wonderful harbour and lots of beautiful countryside and sandy beaches.  I found this picture on WikiCommons, taken in 2016, and it hasn't changed much.  You may like to click on the link to see the picture full size as it is beautiful.

One day father bought four mackerel from the fishing boats as they came in, so the mackerel were the freshest you can get.  I think he paid 10p each, a bargain even in those days, and they were a good size.  Mother insisted that she was not cleaning them.  I insisted that I was - right up to the moment when father cut their heads off!  After that, I stayed completely out of the way,  I was having nothing to do with them.  I couldn't even look at them.  It was the first time I had ever been squeamish and I recoiled!  Mother coated them in batter, which I now realise was sacrilege, and fried them.  I couldn't manage a mouthful.  I have never been keen on mackerel since.

To be honest, I don't like fish, and oily fish really doesn't agree with me, but bear loves fish, it's good for him and I wanted him to try something new.  I put the mackerel on the order.

DH was a hero and pan fried the fillets.  They were beautiful and fresh, DH and bear commented on how tasty they were, they looked amazing.  I couldn't eat any.  I think they were too rich for bear as he complained about tummy ache all evening.  DH also said that they were very rich, though good.  If we have mackerel again I will try and find a different way to cook them.

The kitchen stinks.  It smells absolutely foul.  I've had a window open and I've left cut onions around.  I've thrown all the scraps and packaging out into the outside bin.  I haven't any cloves to simmer on the stove.  I'm going to pick them up tomorrow, as I suspect the mackerel will be making its presence felt for a few days yet.

I can't remember who asked, I grew up in Ellesmere Port.  I used to love going with my grandmother to Brombrough to visit her friends and when she went to her bank in Rock Ferry.  I left there in the eighties, but I still get homesick sometimes.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Dull Day

It has been a lovely quiet day.  I've found out that a 5kg bag of rice can cost more per kilo than a half kg bag.  I've had my subscribe and save parcel from Amazon which was incredibly well wrapped and I won't need to get wrapping paper for a while.  I've already ironed the brown paper and I'm thinking of the best way to store the bubble wrap.  I'm not entirely convinced that the subscribe and save is a good deal and I think I will revisit it.

I've knitted a few inches of blanket, watched some craft videos and generally chilled.  Bear has been practically boneless as he's been so chilled and DH has done some serious relaxing.  We finished by reading a chapter of 'King Solomon's Mines' and I think that is definitely a story we are going to read in full soon.

It's been a lovely day, but dull to write about.  I hope I will be back with something more interesting tomorrow.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Another Mirror Fail

The local cats are not affected by mirrors.  Once again I went out to find the little mirrors knocked over and a 'message'.  It was a mountainous 'message'.  They had either been on a high fibre diet or had been saving up for a week.  Bear and DH are helping by eating oranges so I can put the peel out.  I'm not confident about this.  Evil cat once licked olbas oil from my hand.  I think this is war.

In good news, DH found my black pudding (not a euphemism).  It was in the fridge, just where I had left it.  What can I say?  At least I hadn't left it in the washing machine.

Friday, 24 February 2017

I Lost My Black Pudding

I lost my black pudding.  That is not a euphemism.  I was raised in the North West of England and it's something that was always in the background.  I quite liked it now and again.

About a year ago I thought I would quite like a small slice and that is when I found that the standard black pudding has gluten.  It's funny how when something is forbidden it suddenly becomes so desirable.  A nice component of a full English suddenly looked a lot tastier.

I have found that Morrisons do a gluten free black pudding.  Yesterday I cut a few slices, about a quarter of it, and heated them through on the griddle.  I really enjoyed it.  It was on the bland side compared to the slices we used to get from the local butcher on the Wirral, but it hit the spot.

I can't find the rest of it anywhere.  I have searched, but yesterday my mind was elsewhere and all I know is that three quarters of a black pudding didn't make it back to the fridge.  I remember at one point I tried to put it in the drawer where I keep the plastic bags, but it's a blur afterwards.

I'm going to have to pull the kitchen to pieces.  It's most likely that I threw it out in a fit of insanity but I can't risk finding a decomposing black pudding down the back of the baked beans in a month's time.  I am also really sad, because it was so lovely to have it when I thought it was a taste that I'd never have again.

So there is a bright side - the kitchen will be a lot cleaner and probably emptier.  Also, Morrisons will deliver on Monday with an order that includes a gluten free black pudding.  I shall take good care of it.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Mirror Fail

Next door but two have two cats which roam at all times and in all weathers and flinch every time they see me.  This could be because I have grumbled about their habit of using my garden as a toilet and made dark and detailed threats against them, but other cats have pegged me as a complete softy who wouldn't hurt a whisker so I think they are just not good with humans.

Malevolent cat was terrified of mirrors.  Absolutely terrified.  We found this out when we took a mirror down and propped it against a wall for a few days until someone came around to pick it up.  Malevolent cat freaked.  She hissed, spat, growled and bounced around on straight legs like an evil tigger.  We ended up putting a table cloth over the mirror before she exploded.  While it was there, Malevolent cat kept sneaking up to the cloth covered shape, peeking under the cloth and running away.  I remembered that and purchased (from my friend eBay) some small, acrylic mirror tiles that I hoped would have the same effect on the gruesome twosome.  I've propped some against the trunk of the tree in the tub, which was getting targetted, plus some propped near where they were 'using' the flowerbed, so that they got an unexpected reflection.  I was hoping to hear the sounds of cat constipation.  Instead it's blowing wildly and the things won't stay up.  I shall keep propping them up and hoping the wind dies down.

Speaking of the weather, like the rest of the UK we are being hit by serious winds.  We are on the edge of what they think is the worst of it, and it is bad enough!  So today of all days I finally get around to making the half hour each way walk to the local greengrocer.  I had heard good things and I wasn't disappointed.  It is next to a very nice butchers where they were selling venison!  I thought that was quite upmarket for this area, but it did look nice.  I have no idea what I would do with venison, so stuck to buying half a pound of mince and some bacon.  I need to make this a regular walk, but hopefully in better weather.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Lucets are dangerous

I still haven't sewn up the lucet chain I made for a rag rug.  I did find the lucet incredibly calming.  I've just no idea what to do with the result.  I still went and got this...

The two legs are the prongs which you lucet with - like the prongs below, except that the cat is around a quarter of the size.

In a very small time (when I still should have been doing other things) I had this.

I may make placemats.

Bear had his hair cut today.  I told him he was now old enough to chose his own style.  He got a fairly straightforward short back and sides, a little longer on the top, and looked gorgeous.  I may be a little biased here, lol!  Bear's hair is awesome.  It is thick, straight and tangle free.  He never combs his hair.  He never needs to.  He doesn't get bed-head or tangles - just straight hair lying perfectly flat.  I am envious.

Tonight I am determined not to cruise YouTube trying to work out what I can do to lucet cord.  Sarah Head had some great ideas in her comment on the post about the big lucet here (and a great book recommendation) but tonight I am also ignoring them.  I have spent the last two weeks fighting with a story that I hope to submit to a magazine and it has been fighting back - and winning.  I think I may have cracked it and then I can get back to the White Hart - apologies for the gap!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bear has Been to the Dentist

Father used to look at bear and tell me that bear had been here before, that he had an old soul.  Sometimes I worry that I expect too much of him.  He's an only child who spends a lot of time with older parents so he's bound to seem a lot older than ten.  He did complain with some heat about the dentist talking to him as if he was two years old, so I suspect he feels a lot older than his years.  Still, he came away with a clean bill of dental health so that's fine.

I wonder how long it will be before he went to the dentist by himself.  One of his classmates goes to school by himself already.  I'm not sure if the school know.  They are very strict in the early years but next year he is supposed to go on his own.  Bear might as well start going on his own now.  It is literally yards from our door to the school gate, bear is pretty good with roads and as soon as we get near to the school he forgets I exist so it's not as if he needs me there.  I'm holding out for a little while longer.

I visited uncle today.  He didn't recognise me - he has vascular dementia.  The doggy cuddles I got going through the park didn't really make up for it, though they were very pleasant.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Spending Again

To be fair to myself, this is something that really caught DH and bear's attention.  I'm using the picture from one of the eBay listings as all you can see next to ours is the dust on top of the fire.

It really does go like that.  You need special incense cones which allow the smoke to drift down and pool at the bottom.  Ours overflowed and it cascaded all over the fire - adding to the dust.  It's not very good at scenting the room.  It just smells of burning but it looks awesome.  I imagine it will be shown off to a lot of people over the next few weeks.  I don't know how much it will be used long term but it's coming out every Halloween!

Bear has airily talked about reading Treasure Island but he hasn't cracked open the Kindle app today.  However we had a rousing chapter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World tonight, so he's getting exposed to the right stuff.  I think it depends who he can show off to.  There is a chance he may be able to show off his piano playing at the weekend and he is not only practising the piece but he is practising it properly and more than once!

I have had a thumping headache all day, so I've had a distinct lack of achievement.  I'll see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

YouTube is Probably My New BFF

As I have often said, eBay is my friend.  It looks like YouTube may be going the same way.  It encourages me in dangerous ways.  I've just seen a YouTube tutorial about making a basket out of braided rope.  I could do the same with a lucet cord made of rags.  I really, really like the lucet, but this is the first thing apart from a rug that I've seen that would be worth it for me.  Nothing in my stash is really suitable for the rag rug, though, so that means I am looking at buying desperately inexpensive polycotton.  I need to step away from the 'Buy' button.  I also really, really, really need to not start another project before finishing off some of the other outstanding stuff.  I've found some interesting cleaning tips on there, though, so it's not entirely a waste of time.  I just need to actually do some cleaning to use them.

On the bright side, while we failed to get a physical copy of The Prisoner of Zenda for bear, we loaded up the Kindle Reader on bear's PC and downloaded a free copy.  He is also dipping into Treasure Island.  I don't know how much he will actually read.  He is still only just 10 and the language of Treasure Island is very different from the language that modern children's books use.  If you compare Dickens with Rick Riordan (who writes the incredibly awesome Percy Jackson books) they are very different.  Bear seems to be okay, but I'm not pushing him.

It's back to school tomorrow.  Bear is downcast.  I will breathe a sigh of relief and use some of the YouTube cleaning techniques.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

My Lucet.

Sarah - here is a picture of my lucet with the first braid.  It's @ eight and one half inches long and chunky.  I got it from Amazon.

I've really enjoyed using the lucet, but I have no use for the thing apart from rag rugs.  Your stuff sounds awesome.  If anyone else is considering using a lucet, it's great but you end up with loads of cord.  One vital hint that I didn't find in YouTube videos but worked out for myself half way through the first braid - if you have to break off because of bear, DH, delivery or in general then winding an elastic band around the tips of the lucet will stop the smooth yarn or strips of fabric sliding off the smooth lucet.

I need excuses to make more rag rugs.  I have limited places to put them.  I'll think of something.  I suppose I'll have to sew this one together before I do anything else.  I really need to stay away from the YouTube craft tutorials.  They look like they can be expensive.  At the moment we are trying to work out what to do for the best for bear that doesn't involve spoiling him (which I suspect is too late) but we may end up paying out.  

We are currently reading a A Boy's Book of Adventure Stories, which is a collection of stories and excerpts from books that are out of copyright.  So far we've had a fight from Lorna Doone, we've had the death of Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist, we've had The Hand by Maupassant (which scared me more than bear) and we have just taken three nights to work through the start of the Prisoner of Zenda.  Bear enjoyed the Prisoner of Zenda, and would like to read it by himself.  We don't have a copy. 

We could get bear an inexpensive ebook version for his kindle fire but we don't allow the kindle upstairs or at bedtime which is the time and place bear normally reads.  I've dug out father's old kindle, but it isn't working.  If we get bear a kindle it costs a lot more than the kindle fire we got him at Christmas 2015 (though that was an awesome deal) and which he hasn't really used much.  There are a lot of awesome books that are free on Amazon, including The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle (a snippet of that is the next chapter in the Boy's Book of Adventure Stories).  If bear had a basic kindle then he could get all sorts for his bedtime reading (and, dear heaven, we would be checking it!).  A basic kindle is £60.  It is a long way until Christmas.  I am not relaxing the rule of keeping the kindle fire out of his bedroom.  I think we'll just have to pick up a physical copy of the Prisoner of Zenda (because bear is never denied books within reason) and see how it goes.  

I'm sure that tomorrow DH can pick up a physical copy of the Prisoner of Zenda and bear can thoroughly enjoy it!