Monday 31 August 2015

Not Trying This

I'm still dipping into the Compleat Housewife.  One recipe I am not trying is Steeple Cream.  You start by taking five ounces of hartshorn (yes, antler) and two ounces of ivory (dogs' teeth are ivory, so I wonder if it came from them rather than an elephant).  'put into a stone bottle, fill it up with fair-water to the neck, then put in a small quantity of gum-arabic and gum-dragant; then tie up the bottle very close and set it in a pot of water with hay in the bottom, let it boil for six hours; then take it out and let it stand an hour before you open it lest it fly in your face; then strain it and it will be a strong jelly.'  The result is sweetened then flavoured with pounded almonds, cream and amber.  I suppose we could get a similar result by using a strong mix of unflavoured gelatine and mixing it with ground almonds, thick cream and sugar.  I'm not sure about the amber.

Years ago I tried a recipe from Mrs Beeton that involved gelatine.  The first step was to make some strong coffee.  I don't drink coffee but my mother used to take two heaped spoons of Nescafe instant in a very small cup of hot water so my idea of how strong coffee should be may have been a bit skewed.  It was the sort of coffee that would etch a teaspoon.  It was strong.  Any stronger and it may have eaten through the bowl.  I used brown sugar as a sweetener and once it was cold I added rum, so it kept its alcohol content.  I set it with gelatine, following the directions on the packet and served with cream.  It was very pleasant.

Back to the Steeple Cream.  I like the detail of putting hay in the bottom of a pot.  It would protect the bottle being cooked in there, so it wouldn't bounce against the sides of a pan.  It would be a lot quieter than the usual trick of putting an upturned saucer in the bottom if you were boiling a pudding in a basin.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Sitting on my Hands

I've just been dipping in to a reprint of 'The Compleat Housewife' by Eliza Smith, this version originally published in 1758, that is, 257 years ago.  I found it quite fun and I shall leave it in the bathroom for further study.  I am intrigued by some of the recipes, though they do give instructions like, 'add nutmeg until it is enough' or 'boil it until it is enough' or 'add twenty eggs but fourteen whites'.  There is one instruction I recognise, 'boil it until it is all to pieces' which sounds typical of my standard of cooking.

It also has some old remedies.  If you are interested in alternative medicine try Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife  I don't usually use alternative medicines, and have no knowledge, but I do know enough to be wary.  I am far too wary to use remedies in eighteenth century books that involved drinks with powdered lead in them.  The food recipes look interesting.  If I try any I'll share and let you know.

What I really, really, really need not to do is try and make a rug.  I mean, a different rug from the one I have already started.  I saw an idea today and I really, really wanted to try it because I have been looking everywhere for a rug for the living room and not found anything and this would be ideal - but I have too much outstanding!

I'm off to distract myself with a film, a placemat and a long glass of diet cola.

Missing Sweeties

I dragged bear to church this morning.  He quite likes it when he is there but objects in the short term to being removed from friends/football/computer.  

There was a Christening.  The church was incredibly full.  There were loads and loads of of kids running around.  Father always had a pocket of sweeties for the little ones, he would have been happy to have to go and get more for them.  He would have loved the kids running riot during the service, it was so welcoming.  I found it tough because it reminded me so much of father and his ways, but it was another hurdle passed.  It is just over a month, we are all doing okay.

Not only was bear well behaved in church, he was pretty well behaved yesterday when we visited my brother.  To be quite accurate, bear visited my brother's dog.  Woody got the longest tummy rub ever.  It was another moment when we felt the gap, as father would have been shamefully indulgent to the dogs.  DH stepped into the gap and Woody managed to scrounge far too much of the barbecue chicken.

Bear is currently baffling me with football cards.  Fortunately they are on the computer and I haven't had to pay out for them.  I think today will be a quiet day.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Football Happens

I hung out a tablecloth to dry yesterday.  It was lovely and bright and I hoped it would bleach the last few ghosts of stains.  It immediately tipped down with rain.

I left the tablecloth out.  This morning it was lovely and bright - apart from the huge splashes of mud from the football.  Bear had a major meltdown when I mentioned them, and has come inside to have an active sulk.

Ten more days to go...

Friday 28 August 2015

Seeing Sun!

Alex - our school holiday this summer is from 21 July to 8 September.  It feels like several years.  It has been quite eventful, but bear is doing okay.  I'm not sure how I'm doing.

It's a nice change to see the sun.  I thought, as we are in a sheltered position, I may get some peppers.  I've had plenty of flowers but no fruit.  The same is true for the tomatoes.  Does anyone else remember the October when the temperature reached 30 C?  Unless we get something like that, we are going to get nothing from the peppers and tomatoes.  Mind you, I suspect I should have fed them more and staked them but what with one thing and another it didn't happen.  I am definitely not bothering next year.

There is also a minor issue of how the heck I am supposed to get to the outside of the study window.

It's high up, and poised over the vast and billowing mass of lavender.  I do have to get there though, as small boys, muddy footballs and windows are not a good combination and while nothing is broken, there is a significant muddy patch on the study window.

Despite the breezy weather the lavender is still full of bees and I even spotted one small cabbage white butterfly hanging on for dear life as the lavender was blown about.  I am considering creeping out in the dead of night to cut some of the old heads off to encourage the new grow for the bees.  I think they would appreciate it.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Magic Carrier Bag

I have a magic carrier bag.  It is full of the rolls of black bin bags I really shouldn't have bought from Approved Food.  I am always tripping over it unless I need a black bin bag.  Then it is invisible, no matter where I look.

There are twelve more days of the summer holiday left.  Just twelve more days.  I'll be glad when it is over.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Is it Term Time Yet?

I took bear and a friend of his to the Armouries.  His friend's behaviour was impeccable.  Bear was a brat - over excited and giddy.  The picture is just a plate from one of the benches.  The whole Royal Armouries in Leeds is amazing.  Bear and pal were happy to see the elephant armour (yes, armour for an elephant), the display of horse riding stunts and then tolerated being dragged to see the armour of Henry VIII before coming home to play on the computer.  I despair.  On the other hand, given how giddy bear was behaving I was just glad to get home in one piece.

His eye is much better, though, so I am good with that.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Regretting Place Mats

Jean - it is really helpful to get a sensible size for the place mats.   I've cut some out around that size.  My friend eBay was less than helpful.  Some were as small as 9 inches wide.  I've gone for bigger, around 20 inches by 14, but I am allowing for a fringe.  I'll post pics when I get further on.

I'm regretting the placemats a little.  There are some pleasant placemats on eBay for a reasonable price.  However I can't find any that are as right as how I hope mine become.  They need to be big, washable, and I want a particular colour.  We are fond of sauces containing tomatoes here, so that means a lot of soaking in biotex and hanging out in sunlight.  However it would have been so much easier to just get cheap ones and keep replacing them - but that seems so wasteful and so ecologically damaging.  It seems wrong.

I haven't had a chance to do much today.  Bear got some grit in his eye.  He needed vast quantities of cuddles and I ended up taking him to the doctor.  His eye is sore, but he has drops and it is picking up.  I suspect the grit got washed out by natural tears fairly early on, as the doctor (who is an awesome GP) couldn't find anything, and the eye will settle down normally.  As I am a fail on an epic scale when it comes to eyes I am hoping I will not have to administer many - DH was heroic and coaxed bear to take the drops.  Poor bear.  He could barely manage his maths lesson.

Monday 24 August 2015

May Have to Do Difficult Things

I have no confidence with my ability to measure and cut accurately.  This is not a good thing if you are planning on sewing something.  If anyone remembers I did a sort of raggy thing that hangs in the bathroom with some drops of rosemary oil on it.  I quite like it.

I plan to do similar place mats with a raggy edge, but no button in the centre or hanging loop.  The idea is that they save the tablecloth and protect the (rather nice and old) table.  I have this material.  The photo is taken with the white sheet with felt tip pen on in the background which should do fine for a few layers of filling.

I rather hoped that I could just sort of fold and cut, not doing any fancy measuring or anything, just going with the flow and using them as a sort of template for the sheet.  Except I can't fold it into any sensible size.  Darn.  I'm going to have to look at placemats online for measurements, have a guess, allow for the fringe (which I really like), think about the sort of area food is likely to be dropped in .  Drat.  I'm going to have to measure the table and think about sensible places to put the placemats and how big the plates are.  Poot.  I'm going to have to measure properly - and do I include the fringe or not? !)*(£("£&**!!!

I also need to clear a space to do the measuring and cutting.  Darn it completely to Heck.

Almost Productive

I've taken the recommendation to keep all the stuff re father in one place.  That has been a lifeline.  I've managed to get quite a few letters written and sent.  There is still washing up, tidying, cleaning, etc etc etc but the letters are done.  I've even put a note in the to-do list on Google calendar.  I need to work on checking that daily.

I am aiming to get a decent load for the car tomorrow for DH to take to the tip.  In fact, I aim to do that daily.  That is on the mental map.  So is making a decent dinner tonight, I fancy shepherd's pie with spiralised carrots (new gadget).

The other target is to catch up on tv while handsewing some placemats.  I want them done soon as then not only will they be off the list but there will be less stuff in the house and more useful things.  I'm aiming to do that over two days.  That may be wildly optimistic, but it's something.

As bear has a small boy round I can safely leave them to entertain themselves.  It would have been father's 84th birthday today.  I'm taking today as it comes.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Yellow Sticker Epic Fail

Yesterday I bought two packs of reduced green beans for a total of 58p.  As I was prepping them for dinner tonight I did some thinking and checked the label.  I paid 58p for 160g of green beans.  This works out at a £3.65 per kilo (roughly, I am a fail at maths).

If I had bought the frozen green beans from Tesco, which bear finds completely acceptable then I would have paid £1.12 per kilo (a bag is just under at £1 for 900g).  Even allowing for any extra weight of ice, it still looks like the yellow sticker green beans were still twice the price of the frozen ones.

I can understand seriously preferring fresh if you are going to eat your veggies raw.  However I was always going to cook the green beans, and frozen food is usually a lot fresher than 'fresh'.  The I know peas are frozen within an hour or two from being picked and I don't expect the green beans are much different.  As veggies start to deteriorate as soon as they are picked and can take a day or two to reach the supermarket, especially if they come from Kenya, then frozen is better when it comes to nutrition, unless you grow your own.

So I paid twice the price for less fresh produce even after it was reduced!  I was bamboozled by the yellow sticker.

I must remember always do the sums!

DH Thinks Quickly

Bear lost another tooth.  He carefully placed it in a tissue on the table and I promised to email the tooth fairy.

Then we all forgot about it completely - including bear!  

I am not a good housekeeper, but I suspect I absentmindedly swept up the tissues lying around and disposed of it.  This morning when DH remembered we couldn't find the tooth.

DH quickly crumpled a tissue, slid a £1 inside it and then called to bear to ask where his tooth was.  I wish I could have captured bear's expression.  When he frantically searched the tissue and found the coin his face lit up with the magic of it.

DH is awesome.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Random Continues

Another Amazon parcel has arrived.  The driver pulled up and asked for Lisa (Lyssa Medana has her own Amazon account and I'm often too lazy to switch between them) and handed over the parcel.  It was scything down and there was thunder but there was also the most amazing, dazzling rainbow.  'Look at the rainbow!' I said without thinking.
'I can't if I want to get finished before midnight.' the driver finished typing in the details.  'Happy Christmas!' and then he drove off.

As father is no longer watching our tv, I cancelled all our sports channels.  Father used to watch BT Sport and Sky Sports on his ipad, using Sky Go.  Right until the end he was enjoying the cricket.  However I could see no point in laying out @ £30 a month on Sky Sports and the extra BT Sports.  I enjoy football, but I don't get to watch it, and the world cup next year will be on terrestrial.  DH has never followed football.  Bear has suddenly found an interest in football.  I should be used to it now.

I might possibly, possibly convince myself it is worth spending the extra £5 per month for BT Sport if bear's interest in football lasts longer than the bananas in the fruit bowl.  I will definitely not be re-subscribing to Sky Sports.

More Random Than Normal

I missed a call from my brother earlier today and bear and his pal didn't bring the phone up in time for me to answer it.  I rang my brother back and explained that I had been stuck on the upstairs landing with a fridge.  'So it's a normal day there for you.' he said.

The fridge was father's but hasn't been used for a year.  I know someone who may want it for a barbecue, so I was wondering if I could get the fridge down the stairs by myself.  It is only a mini fridge, but eventually I decided someone stronger than me needed to carry it down.

There are four large bags of pink sheets in the middle of my kitchen floor.  Father must have smuggled them in.  I only really like white for sheets and I don't really do pink at all, so I am unimpressed.  I don't think I could use them for dusters.  However Nice Mr Next Door can use them for rags.  Apparently he is coming round 'soon'.

I'm starting to go under a little and so is DH who is badly in need of a break that doesn't involve a crisis.  Witch Hazel gave some good ideas about selling cds and dvds but I've talked with DH and we decided that we don't have the head space to do that.  The local tip has a bank for unwanted cds and dvds to be donated to charity/recycled so we can take stuff there.  Check out Witch Hazel's comments for the ideas though, as it is a really useful suggestion.

In fact our local tip has places where clothes and books can be donated as well.  There was no way we could get anything for father's clothes that would make it worth the trouble, and father would really have wanted things to go to good causes.  It's like the issue of the collection at church at the funeral.  They asked if he had a charity he supported.  I would be harder pressed to find a charity he didn't support.

But I did get a load of yellow sticker stuff in town, so I am happy about that.

Friday 21 August 2015

Another Question

What the jeff am I supposed to do with a trouser press?

So far I am looking at a trouser press, a hifi with no re-sale or donation value, a vast heap of cds and dvds, none of which I can see getting a quick home, and a swathe of clothes.

I am handing over the pink flannelette sheets (ughh!!!!) to former Nice Mr Next Door.  Each to their own, but pink sheets are very high on my yeurk scale.

I disposed of zillion and three tomato sauce sachets which had been carefully harvested from KFC.  I approve in principle, but they have been there over a year.  The same went for the brown sauce and the iffy looking mayonnaise sachets.  I scraped the sugar up and disposed of it with a crusty splat.

Bear has claimed an extremely odd bit of bedding.  It's a little like an old fashioned eiderdown, thickly quilted, but sewn into a sort of sleeping bag.  Father felt the cold.  However he was never that cold in our house.  I do hoard blankets, I can't help it, it's a weakness.  I can now, after some excavation, see where I got it from.

I also need to take in another few bags of out of date prescription medicines.  Last time when I took in two carrier bags full I got a Look.  I expect I will get it again.

I have never managed to get signed up to Freecycle effectively, for some reason I get fails on an epic scale.  I suppose some luckless charity will find some benefit.  If I was a serious gardener I could use the cds to make bird scarers.  I am not a serious gardener.

Actually I just had a quick look on my friend eBay and I found this.  A non electric trouser press recommended for pressing flowers.  Father's may be electrical (and really elderly) but I'm sure it would be fine for flowers, and pressing fabric, and, well, all sorts.  As it had to be left on overnight for a pair of trousers I suspect it would be inadequate and yet still overkill for bear's school trousers.

So, I have a use for the trouser press.  Next!

Another Day, Another Fail

I've just deleted a depressing post.  When all is said and done bear is okay, there is a roof over our heads and food on the table.

Also, three housekeeping books have arrived from Amazon.  My house won't get any cleaner, but I will really enjoy reading them.  They were never going to get my house cleaner - one of them has a cure for the plague in them and another one tells me that young carrots need to be boiled for three quarters of an hour.  I am still looking forward to curling up with them.

The bees are busy and things could be a lot worse.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Even More Bewildered

Witch Hazel - due to my incredibly lax attitude to screen time (apart from at bed time and it had better be age appropriate or bear will regret it) bear has seen some really fun things on YouTube about science and mathematics and now has had an amazing play.  I agree, this is how best to get someone excited about Science.  The maths tutor (who is really lovely) is his treat.  We deliberately asked around for someone who would not try and get bear to reach a higher level or qualify for an exam but for someone who would understand that this was a fun time for bear.

YouTube has it's downsides.  So far I have been bewildered by Pokemon, Skylanders and Minecraft.  Bear will fire off statistics and facts about them at me and I nod, smile and wonder what he is on about.  Now he has progressed to a card game based on football that he somehow watches on YouTube.  I have had lectures about players I can't pronounce.  I have had one sided discussions about the relative points of players I have never heard of.  I am completely and wholly bewildered by another swathe of statistics which I have no idea what they relate to!  My smile is getting a bit fixed.  Fortunately bear has a 'hit and run' delivery so will insist I listen, washing up gloves dripping with foam or poised on the stairs with an arm full of washing or standing with a brush and dustpan in my hands as he rattles off some information which I cannot relate to in any way, then disappears.  I hope he doesn't expect me to remember it.

And if I hear one more word about Christian Ronaldo, I will not be responsible for my actions.

Bear has a wonderful time

Bear had a maths tutor lesson yesterday, but they didn't do maths.  They did science.  Apparently you can use juice from a red cabbage to measure how acid or alkali something is.

Bear loved it, he really, really loved it.  They tore up the cabbage, poured hot water on it and then whizzed it up in a machine.

Bear was amazed as they carefully and scientifically added the contents of mystery containers to see what would happen.  I was mortified he didn't recognise the smell of lemon juice but not surprised he didn't recognise bleach.  I'm scared of bleach in large quantities and use milder cleaners - also I am a rubbish housewife.  He watched with delight as the colours changed in front of him.

By the way, did you know that if you add dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) to something it makes it more acidic.  We watched the colour change and special effects.  It was amazing.  Bear is a very lucky bear.  I am also lucky as the maths tutor was kind enough to let us wait for a while before DH could pick us up.  She is seriously brilliant.

The spooky mist from the dry ice isn't very clear, but you can get the idea.  It rocked!

Wednesday 19 August 2015


Everyone goes through this.  The grieving and the sense of loss.  I feel like I am trying to knit fog.  I am certainly not up for anything intellectually challenging, I found putting tins away a bit of a stretch.  It isn't fun, but it isn't unsurprising.

The first installment of my random purchases made over the weekend have arrived.  It could be worse.  Actually, it could be anything.  Though I am not as bad as Dave Gorman who apparently only realised his eBay issues when a hot air balloon he didn't remember ordering appeared.  I am uneasily aware that this isn't impossible for me.

Bear has been his usual, wonderful self, but I wish I could find the magic button that meant he wouldn't interrupt when I am on the phone trying to understand complicated financial matters through a bewildered haze.  At least bear didn't have company!

I am not sure what I am going to do now.

Apparently it is an extremely inexpensive carrot sharpener.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Is it Bedtime Yet?

Actually, it's around 2pm as I type.  I've dealt with some tricky correspondence regarding stuff for father, cleared out a lot of clothes (father liked nice clothes) ready for charity shop/we buy your old clothes shops, taken a very long call from someone needing a shoulder to rant at, and dealt with two small boys and a computer.

They've played out in the rain.  They've tracked mud in.  They've gone out in the rain again.  They've argued over the computer.  They've gone out in the rain again.  Bear has negotiated hard about which shoes are fit to play outside in the rain.  They have identified the gorgeous cat that bear wanted to adopt as belonging to someone - I suspect that a decision on a cat is deferred rather than just denied.  They have gone out in the rain again.  They have done unspeakable things with balloons while I have been on the phone and have become extremely light headed.  They have now very helpfully posted some letters for me.  I gave them some pennies for the shop while they came out and they came back with industrial quantities of chocolate.  I suggested that they avoided being sick.

I still have serious quantities of father's clothes still to sort through.  The letters were posted with stamps that I found in one of his pockets.  I cannot currently get to the window in father's room, but I am still optimistic.  I was planning to try making a quilt this afternoon (or at least start), but I think I will just hide in the other room.  

Monday 17 August 2015

Darn it to Heck

Bear is in tears.  He has fallen hard for a cat that is probably around six months old and almost certainly belongs to someone else.  He wants to take it in.  I have reluctantly donated some of our dinner which the cat enjoyed and now bear is making friends.

He really, really, really wants a cat.

I can't wait to see what DH makes of it.  Probably the same as me - we don't want to see bear unhappy, but darn it to heck we do not want the upheaval of a cat/kitten on top of everything else.  It would be helpful if DH and I were not as soft as butter when it comes to bear and very much aware of what bear has been through over the last few years.

I have an uneasy feeling that when bear goes into school and is asked what he did in the holidays he will tell people that he lost a grandad but gained a cat.

Must. Stay. Strong.

Monday and it Shows

I feel more random than ever.  I've just had a furtle under a trolley that I didn't need to even touch.  I didn't find what I wanted anyway, but I did find six more rolls of wrapping paper so that's something.  I also found the left over party bags from bear's party and so small boys are scattering small bits of plastic tat and high sugar/low nutrition sweets everywhere.  I have also just realised that bear has been wearing school shoes to play out in.  

I also have had an email to let me know that my plants are on their way.  I haven't got any plants ordered, at least, none that I remembered ordering, and all the plants I did order were things like tomatoes and half way through August is far too late.  I'm hoping that the email is a glitch.

I'm trying to work out what I should be doing now.  I have absolutely no idea.  I think I'll just start in the middle.  

Sunday 16 August 2015

I can just....

I think it all the time.  I can just... and then I am off with broad sweeps in my imagination and no respect paid to the minor details.

Today I thought, I can just make a table cloth for the side table in the study by hemming that piece of fabric that I got for a very reasonable price from my friend eBay.  The fabric is lovely and, while I don't normally go for patterns, I went for this.  One reason it was so spectacular inexpensive is because it is a second, the pattern has printed over the selvedge.  I trimmed the selvedge (apparently it shrinks at a different rate to the rest of the fabric) as best as I could with the pattern overlaying part of it.  However the piece is big enough that I can always cut away the hem and re-do it.  I may have to anyway, as I am not sure that the thread matches the fabric - but that's another story.

As I was aware that there may be issues with the hems I decided to do a single hem and I handstitched (bear will not countenance me using the machine) very close to the fold so I got a good, crisp edge.  The stitching was not to a high standard, but anyone coming in and checking the hem on the table cloth is likely to be mocked.

Then I thought I can just mitre the corners.  I'm not showing any pictures of the mess I made of that.  Regardless, this is how it turned out.

However while I was sewing this I realised that I didn't have a decent pincushion.  I threw out the effort from the sewing class, but I thought confidently I can just make a pincushion out of a tie.  Except the ties aren't really suitable.  The one I unpicked was just too thin and silky, it would have been ripped to pieces by repeated use.  So I used some of the rag denim waiting to be turned into the rag rug.  As for stuffing, I thought I can just use some of the filling from the pillows that have been on the top shelf in father's room for over ten years.  I used a long pole to knock them down because there was no way I could get to them and opened one up.  The filling was extremely well packed.  I really had to tug and tease to get the stuffing in a fit state to fill the pincushion.  Finally I had this.

I thought I can just put a button in the middle so that it looks all puffy and professional.  I couldn't.  I think I put too much stuffing in so that trying to sew a button each side didn't pull it in and I didn't think the soft cotton thread was strong enough to wrap around and bind it.  However it will be ideal for holding pins and needles during a project.

Tonight I think I can just sit back and relax.

Bear Enjoyed a Barbeque

We were about to leave an amazing barbeque, which was sort of badly timed as other people were going through the same process I have just gone through with father.  Bear thought it was good though, as he loved the food.

As we were gearing up to leave bear said that he felt sick.  We went through a quick check list.  He had consumed two large glasses of schloer, two glasses of blackcurrant squash, a kebab, two burgers (one with cheese) a slice of key lime pie and a large portion of trifle.  Bear is a skinny little thing so I am amazed he could find room for it all.DH observed that bear was not so much suffering from tummy ache as the law of physics.

Saturday 15 August 2015


Sir Terry Pratchett described how Magrat bought occult jewellery as a distraction from being Magrat.  She had two boxes of the stuff and still was exactly the same person.  Last night I bought some Magrat earrings - not occult jewellery but something to distract me from being me.  Fortunately they were inexpensive, but at the moment all bets are off.

I suspect I am going through a mid-life crisis, and it is actually quite fun, looking at things and thinking - do I like this?  Regardless, now is the best chance to find out what I can do.  After my adventure with the tyres and inspired by Morgan's refinishing of her small chest of drawers I have bought some black paint and clear varnish and have ordered some fancy paper from eBay (my friend) which looks a bit like this and I will have a go with an inexpensive side table we are considering getting rid of.

Once I have had a go at that and worked out what I am doing then bear wants to have a go with his table.  I shall let him.  Who knows after that.  It may turn out to be Magrat decorating, but it may not. I intend to have fun!

Friday 14 August 2015

Serious Rain

The rain is tipping down here.  It is really, seriously, determinedly raining.  That is, I have the same weather as most of the UK.

Bear was trying to persuade the other small boy taking up the study to go out and play football.  This is what their normal football pitch currently looks like.

Bear's friend is understandably reluctant, because his mother will go mad if he gets as muddy as last time and he may get grounded.  The whole, 'I may get soaked to the skin and covered with mud' issue is seen as a positive and not a negative.  

I can tell that this is where they regularly play football as here is a pic of the evidence.  It took serious skill to get the ball wedged here behind the fence.  I won't let anyone climb around as it is a place favoured by drug users.

At least the bees are getting a day off.  I am still not cutting any.  Apart from the whole 'getting it dry' issue, it looks very second hand indeed, and has been beaten down by the rain.

And I really don't need to water the tomatoes.

I keep forgetting to say - thank you so much for the kind messages.  I really have appreciated them and the time and thought in them, and they have really helped.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Funeral Went Well

The flowers were amazing.  No-one came to the house.  There was far too much food.  Lots of good memories were shared with lovely people, lovely friends, lovely family.

Bear was really good.  He was in church during the service, then me and my brother went to the crematorium while everyone else went on to the wake.  This evening bear said that he was really sad that his grandad had died and he had no more tears left for the rest of his life, but next party could it be like the afterwards bit because the chicken wings were awesome.  My cousins really looked after him.

The minister was lovely, the service went well, the undertakers all knew father - it was a warm and loving time.  There were sweeties on the alter, because father always went to church with a pocket full of sweets for the kids (and the adults).

Tomorrow I start again.  The funeral draws a line.  I just want to share the verse that was used in the funeral:

2 Corinthians 9:7 Let every man give according to the purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Father was a cheerful giver.  He is very much missed.

Wednesday 12 August 2015


I've just wiped down some paintwork.  I cheated and used wipes, and it felt a bit cheap, but it meant that the evidence of small boys was more or less mostly removed from the internal doors downstairs.  I haven't managed miracles.  I have managed to get things slightly better.  I'm going to have to make a small bowl of water and cloth a more regular feature.  To be honest, I think washing up liquid in water would have done a better job.  The only exception is light switches.  I like to use wipes for those.

The house is still a tip, but not quite so much of one.  I am cautiously optimistic.  By Christmas the house will be fit to be seen.  Unfortunately the funeral will be before then, but they can take me as they find me.

I've pulled out the cross stitch.  I don't know whether my eyes will hold up, but I find it so soothing and calming.  I won't finish anything, of course, but I'll enjoy it.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Another Day, Another Play Date

Bear is getting a bit old for play dates.  Pretty soon he will be just hanging out with his mates. The latest guest arrived as bear was playing football with another pal and just dived in.  I just hope the house is almost fit when his mother picks him up later.

DH did wonders in the study this morning (so much for his annual leave!) and I've been pootling around, so things are starting to pick up.  It is still completely chaotic, but in different ways.  I am still bewildered.

I think I can have a big push after the funeral then I can pick up the slack with uncle when school starts.

Some time later, after all the interruptions, I have fed them treats, provided various drinks, mopped up spills, supervised a scrape down of mud, a token wipe of the dirt and I am hiding from what they are doing to the piano (discordant rather than destructive).  Now I am taking five minutes before getting back to the coal face.

Monday 10 August 2015

This weather was not forecast

I like watching weather forecasts.  I am not a farmer, I do not depend on the weather for anything, especially as I can't even dry washing outside without the clothes smelling.  However I do know that the downpour that just happened was so severe that it interfered with the Sky signal.  We were only supposed to be slightly overcast.  At least I don't have to water the garden.  I may have to chase after the pots if they float down the street.

Fortunately some random people came and cleared up the fly tipping across the road before it all started belting down.  I have no idea why they came, they were definitely not from the council, but they did an amazing job.  It is odd.  This time last year there were cars and boxes from the back of lorries and trailers and stuff in the street.  Now there is nothing.  The tyres have gone (apart from my painted tyres), the drums of oil have gone, now they have even taken miscellaneous crisp packets and soft drinks bottles along with the battered sofas and the strange and oddly shaped bits of wood.  It's nice, I suppose, but empty.

I've got someone to house sit during the funeral, as everyone locally will know about it.  I've sorted the flowers.  I've gone for bright.  Father liked bright, and to be honest a formal lily-and-roses thing wasn't him.

In the more reasonable rain previously the lavender was still full of buzzing.  If I do make any lavender bags I shall purchase the lavender flowers.  It will be worth the money to avoid the fear, dread and terror at trying to get past the bees!

Saturday 8 August 2015

Display Cabinet

Our display cabinet is up.  Now I just have to put the study back together.

It could be worse.  The amount of stuff that is leaving our house at the moment is a lot more than stuff coming in.  We need to start disposing of father's stuff.  Most of it is clothes.  He came up to live with us with one van, and most of that was bed.  I'm sleeping on that bed, so there's no chance of that going.

There is a cupboard I need to get to that is full of more clothes and diy stuff.  I've just found two more drawers full of papers with further clothes in the lower drawers - I am not impressed.

I wish father could see the cabinet.  He would love it and would have been so supportive at DH putting it together.  I'm missing him a lot today.

Another bee photo.  They move so fast!  Some of them are seriously butch.  I'll leave the lavender strictly alone for now.

Friday 7 August 2015

Bolshy Bees

Bear has almost unlimited screen time.  I'm strict about things being age appropriate and no screen time near bedtime but otherwise I am negligent.  I let him get on with it.  This is probably why he was out playing football this afternoon.

He has already lost several balls, some more than once and some not belonging to him, behind Matalan's fence.  I had warned him that I would purchase no more.  So I feared the worst when I heard, 'Muuuuum...'  He hadn't exactly lost the ball.  It was just under the edge of the lavender.  The lavender is full of bees.  Bear decided that retrieving the ball was definitely a job for mum.

I couldn't blame him.  Not only were there dozens and dozens of bees, but some of them were huge.  The ones from the chimney are just honeybee size and while there were a lot of them they did not look nearly as threatening as the myriad bumblebees bustling around.  I am sure if you knew bees that you would find more than one variety.  However there were a lot of them, some of them were very big, and they all looked very determined.  I used a rake.

Here is the best photo I managed - the little buzzers move quick.  It was taken on a cool and overcast evening at 8pm.  I leave it to your imagination what it looked like at 2pm when it was sunny here.

I think I need to practise with my phone before I enter any photography competitions.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Having a Dither

Morgan - I am sorry I doubted the depth of knowledge that didn't even need google, and I am incredibly impressed.  Actually I am still impressed that anyone could google 'spider' and not come up with an arachnid, but there you are!  That certainly doesn't take away from you actually knowing what a spider is in this context.  You definitely have my respect!

I don't know what to do first.  I really don't.  I should be doing A but I am going to have to start with B because it means that there will be enough room for DH to assemble the new display cabinet.  At least it is our stuff and not father's.  That's probably next on the list, but who knows.

The trouble is, there is no space to put stuff from B, but even if I did A first there still wouldn't be that much more space.

I Hate to Housekeep is a book by Peg Bracken and she said the best time to entertain people is when you are decorating because people will excuse you lots of mess and dust and give you credit for being incredibly brave.  I have people coming to visit around the time of the funeral.  Stripping wallpaper has never looked so appealing.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

I Forgot to Say Thank You Even Though I Really Felt Thankful

Some really amazing people used phenomenal google-fu and found the details of spider cake.  I've cut and pasted

Ravylesley found a recipe! - Sybs I have had a good google and found this for your Spidercake puzzle


Morgan found this - I THINK that a spider was a cast iron pan on legs [like a spider!] that people used to use over a camp fire - tis probably on good old google somewhere! Memories of Little House on the Prairie type of stories spring to mind xxxx

And Witch Hazel found this which includes a link to a site which I am so going to savespider – A spider is a cast-iron skillet or frying pan. At one time, this cooking vessel had three long metal legs (enabling it to be set directly over the coals of a hearth fire). It was from these legs (since discarded) that the utensil received its name. Thought the legs were discarded with the coming of the range, the name has remained in many locations, referring to the cast-iron vessel only. 

I don't pretend that I had any idea what it was.... I googled it and found the definition here

If I try the spider cake recipe, I shall share the result.  

The Methodist Minister has been and was lovely.  I already knew the reading, the psalm and the hymns, so it was fairly straightforward.  I have taken delivery of some illicit fleece and two large cardboard IKEA boxes.  I am starting to get an idea for numbers for the funeral - I'm not baking!  Not even Spider Cake!  I am getting boxes of sausage rolls etc from Tesco.  I am not doing sandwiches, except possibly for father's family if they get here early.  

Looking around the house, I could cry.  However things are getting slightly better.  Just slightly, but better.  I have decided I am not going anywhere tomorrow or Friday.  I need to get on.  One of the things I need to work out is how to divide things up.  At the moment I have rubbish in bin bags, coloured bags are for stuff for the clothes bank/charity shop and white pedal bin liners are for stuff to be relocated.  However the coloured bags aren't really strong enough for the books that I am about to be sorting, and I don't know how to put aside things of father's that he wanted passing on without them getting confused with stuff that needs to go out/relocate/charity shop.  The only rooms unaffected by the turmoil are the bathroom and bear's room, neither of which are good for a stash.  

Also bear has managed to lose his fourth football in three days.  Actually it's three balls, one twice, and one of those three balls doesn't belong to him.   They are seriously lost, either in deep, deep brambles or down the cut where the drug users hang out.  I know that DH will object to bear getting another ball.  On the other hand, it is so wonderful when he is actually out happening to something that isn't a computer.  I am thinking that the £2.25 isn't a bad deal.  

I'm taking the rest of the evening at a quiet pace.  Tomorrow I start again.  

Shouldn't be Here

I should be doing.  I have a large display cabinet being delivered this afternoon and I am expecting a Methodist minister.  I am trying to make a space for both and failing on an epic scale.

Also - I've told everyone the wrong time for the funeral service.

Also - I need to feed several small boys.

Also - I am expecting a delivery of fleece that DH isn't expecting

Also - I have dining room chairs that need to be assembled.  I am not feeling very confident, even though they are from IKEA.  IKEA is usually very possible.

On the bright side, you would not believe how much stuff is getting cleared out.

Off to float a tentative suggestion of beans on toast.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Not Surprised

Earlier today I posted this

I have a lot of stuff to do, and unfortunately it goes something like, I need to do A.  Before I can do A I need to move B.  Before I move B I need to clear C.  Before I clear C I need to clean D.  Before I clean D I need to give E a good sort out.  However in order to make space to give E a good sort out I need to do A. 

I was just attempting A (putting together a Billy Bookcase) when I heard the sound that strikes fear into every mother's heart.  'Muuuuuuum, it was an accident...'

Bear had managed to spill most of the three litres of bubble mix someone had kindly given bear for a belated birthday present in the porch.  Actually it was over the mat, the floor and the concrete step coming in.  It was a slip hazard.  I ended up doing Z - cleaning the porch.

The porch really needed doing.  I had ignored it for over a year, it had been the home of muddy balls, wet umbrellas and the roof sometimes leaks.  It did not make a good first impression.  It is about four foot square - perhaps a little more than a metre.  I managed to fill two bin bags.  To be fair, that was mainly matting.  Father put down mats.  I ignored them.  Today, when I shifted to clean, one disintegrated and a centipede ran out.  I can cope with ridiculously large spiders but centipedes are a step too far.  

I've thrown out the mats, wiped over the window sills and taken the first layer of dirt off the lino.  It will take a few more goes.  But I have done something, and it felt good.  Now I need to find a screwdriver and a hammer for the bookcase.  Onward and upward.  

Trying to Start

I have a lot of stuff to do, and unfortunately it goes something like, I need to do A.  Before I can do A I need to move B.  Before I move B I need to clear C.  Before I clear C I need to clean D.  Before I clean D I need to give E a good sort out.  However in order to make space to give E a good sort out I need to do A.

I'm just going to dive in.

Last night bear climbed into bed early to pretend he was asleep while DH used the bathroom.  Bless him, bear was flat out before DH had finished a very brief visit, he has been exhausted.  We all have been exhausted.

One random purchase from some time ago is '365 Luncheon Dishes: A Luncheon Dish for Every Day in the Year'.  It is an American publication, and was originally published a long time ago.  I have a modern reprint but there is no information except that it was by 'Anonymous'.  At a rough guess I would say that the recipes pre-date WWI and are from the USA.  Some are attributed to places like 'Table Talk, Philadelphia' or 'Boston Cooking School Magazine'.  The recipes are variable and span the range from curried lobster to marmalade sandwiches.  One recipe is just how to fry a banana to go with cold duck.  It hasn't helped my complete inability to manage a healthy lunch on a regular basis, but has been entertaining.

Spider Cake - Beat 2 eggs very light, add 1 cup sour milk and 1 cup of sweet milk; stir into this 2 cups corn meal and 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon each of salt and soda.  Mix and beat thoroughly, and the pour it into the spider; pour over it 1 cup of sweet milk, but do not stir it into the batter. [Italics in original].  Bake in a hot oven for 1/2 an hour.  Slip it carefully onto a platter and serve at once.

I wish I knew what sort of utensil a spider was.

Monday 3 August 2015

Not a Good Day

It hasn't been a bad day in terms of grieving.  Bear has had a tough time, but on the whole we are doing okay there.

However trying to find the right page on the internet to add data on to my phone and failing, then failing to get through security on the phone (DH set up the phone) then needing to get a taxi as I was running late and while I had kept the same appointment for the registrar to register the death they had changed the location so I was on the hop, then the taxi driver creatively misunderstanding where I wanted to go, then trying to get back to pick up bear afterwards on the world's slowest bus, then not having someone at the funeral parlour that knew what they were doing and that knew father, then being overrun with small boys, then failing to get an answer from the delivery driver re the missed parcel and not being able to pick up the click and collect stuff at Matalan because I don't have enough data to show the email on my phone, to staggering round IKEA with a blinding headache because the new glasses are really not working, then frantically hoping that DH's bedding had dried...

It could be worse.  The beef is cooked for tomorrow, IKEA had everything we needed (and only two extra cushion inserts added to the bill) and we got the delivery date we wanted.  Start again tomorrow.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Bear and Jeans

He isn't even a teenager.

Tonight bear bitterly complained that none of the jeans in his drawer fitted him.  What he actually meant was that he didn't want me to wash the skinny jeans he had been wearing for a week.  My view was that if they didn't get a wash soon I would have to hit them with a hammer to get them in the washing machine.

I know that there are a pair of Bench jeans in there that he has loved for around two years but not only are they not his lovely skinny jeans that he doesn't want washing but they are now barely fitting him.  One more growth spurt and they are finished.  I asked bear if he was asking me for more jeans.  I got a baffled, 'I don't know.' in reply.  I knew the answer.  What he really wants is for me not to wash his skinny jeans.  The jeans are disgusting.  Apart from the general falling in mud puddles and encounters with yogurt and baked beans, I don't think that the same pair of jeans should be worn by a small boy for days on end.

I'm going to be digging out the suit bear wore for the wedding last September as I believe he may well fit into it for the funeral.  Father always liked to be smart, so we will all be dressing up.  Bear will like that bit and insist on wearing a tie.  Bear can be convinced to wear all sorts of smart things, peacocking around and generally pretending to be a spy.  However this does not include new jeans.  In his view he has a pair of jeans that are perfectly adequate thank you and they would be better for not being washed.

I'm going to have a quick look at my friend eBay for skinny jeans, but to be honest I am not in a hurry to get him some more.  This is training for the teenage years, and I am taking it seriously.

Does Washing Up Liquid Go Off?

I have just tried using some of the washing up liquid that had been in father's room.  Father was set up in his room with a sink, fridge, microwave and stuff like plates etc so that he could do his own thing.  I wanted him to be independent as long as possible, even though he was living with us, as it kept him more functional.  This means that I am finding all sorts of household stuff that has hung around for the last year.  The fairy liquid was fine, but there were only a few drops left.  The Asda stuff smells funny.  I may just pour it down the drains.  You can use a mix of washing up liquid and water on greenfly, but our greenfly come with ladybirds and ants so I'm leaving them for now.

I have also run out of vases.  This isn't a big surprise, as I only had one and lots of people loved father.  At the moment I have just run out of plastic boxes tall enough but on the bright side I have just remembered a tall jug in father's room.  I really appreciate the flowers.

I have also come across the idea of Slow Sewing.  It's sewing stuff like quilts by hand.  Bear is not keen on me doing any sewing, but will tolerate me stitching things.  He violently objects to the sewing machine.  I am working on it.  I am determined to try and shoe horn some of this in, but not at the moment.  At the moment I am just doing what comes to hand first.

Thank you for all the good wishes, they really help.  I think you are right, BlueHouseDebs, I will be able to function a little better after the funeral.  You sound like your furry friend was lovely and close to you.  Evil cat really was evil.  The war over the right to sit in the armchair has passed into family legend.  The vet's receptionist spoke of her in hushed tones.  She was a legend and not in a good way.  However she gave awesome cuddles.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Bear's Day Gets Better

Poor bear was really upset as we cleared father's room in the care home.  However he then went to his tutor.

As I have mentioned, bear goes to visit a maths tutor on the strict understanding that he doesn't go beyond his year, beyond what his school has taught him and that it is for fun.

Today the tutor allowed bear to play with non-Newtonian fluids.  If you slowly push your hand into a cornflour and water mix then it is liquid, if you hit it, then the mix is solid.  Bear and DH explained but I didn't keep up.  I found a link on Wikipedia here, but I didn't understand it.  The tutor (who is really lovely) then put some dry ice into test tubes, put a cork in and then they went outside to see the test tubes explode.  Bear was in heaven.

DH was very impressed as well.  When asked to give an example of a solid, bear said, 'sodium'.  It just goes to show that YouTube is for more than just cat videos.  For those, like me, that stick to cat videos, here is a favourite one of mine.  I miss evil cat.

It's A Sign

Thank you to everyone who has given messages of condolence and sympathy.  It has really helped and I really appreciate it.

I am still bewildered, and I don't suppose it will go any time soon.  As my address is very easily identifiable I am being cagey about the date of the funeral.  It is a little while away, though, and I am sure that there will be a lot of people nodding when I say that I feel like I am standing in the middle of a whirling mass of information and stuff to do and I am not taking it all in.  It doesn't help that during this I have started moving stuff around in a major way and adding to furniture and getting rid of other stuff because we had started with the free piano before father passed.  I swear in this room I can see about two square feet of carpet, the rest is stuff  - and it's a big room.  

We cleared father's room at the care home this morning.  I really broke down in a way I hadn't since Tuesday.  DH was a real rock for me, especially as he is hurting as well.  The staff were upset as well.  They were so lovely with father, and they really miss him.  I've come home with some more Christmas cards and two rolls of wrapping paper.

Earlier I pulled a case down from the top of father's wardrobe.  That was an adventure.  I had to move a lot of things, including the Christian Aid thingy that father had forgotten about, a locked, keyless cash box that has, as far as I can tell by shaking it, nothing inside it.  I suppose that is something I need to sort out.  I found fifty more Christmas cards there as well.  Bluehousedebs suggested that I do a Christmas card give away, in a very tongue in cheek fashion, and I may if I ever get to the stage of being sure I can actually get my act together enough to see it through.

When I opened the case I found decorating stuff.  There were lots of paint pads.  I have never used a paint pad.  To be honest I've only ever used brushes on the tyres.  But it's a sign, right?  It may be the sort of sign that is actually just nothing at all, but I could pretend it was a sign and that I am meant to start decorating.  And before I decorate I have to sort out and clean and even if finding half of B&Q's stock of paint pads is just a coincidence, it's a useful coincidence, right?

I'm off now to try and sort out some more stuff.