Sunday 31 December 2017

New Year's Eve

I have found 2017 difficult.  I believe that people can be amazingly resilient under pressure but when the pressure eases then it's as if your body and mind say, 'okay, it's safe to fail now' and you get hit by all the accumulated rubbish that you've been toughing through.  It was the illness of my uncle, not his death, that was hard, and then there was the stored up stress of father's illness and death, trouble in the street, isolation, illness and worry.  I've had my catch up, now I need to be positive.   

I'm being harder on myself for 2018.  I can do better, and I will.  My target for January is

  • Leave the house every day when there isn't snow and ice, even if it's just a few hundred yards around the block.
  • Listen to positive music every day
  • Look outwards instead of inwards
  • Actively track the money coming in and out
  • Actively work on making systems to get housewifery in place.  
  • Plan targets for February
I have a track record of being even less dynamic at this time of year, and so it will be a push, but if I can manage these very small targets then my life will improve so much - and it will be much better for bear and DH.  Also, I think it will be fun!

Wishing everyone reading this a truly awesome New Year with Health, Wealth and Happiness.  May you lovely people all be blessed.  

Saturday 30 December 2017

Bear has a Party

It wasn't exactly a party.  A couple of pals came round to hang out and have pizza.  I loaded up a small table with drinks and treats and settled in a corner with my headphones on.  I could see the computer screen but I couldn't hear the utter rubbish they were talking. 

They started off with a nerf gun battle.  That's toy guns shooting foam dart type things.  The battle raged hot up and down the stairs and in and out of various rooms.  There was also some intricate plot going on as well but I couldn't tell you what it was.  At the end one of his pals offered to clear the nerf darts out of the prison, or the bath, as it is also known.

Then they had a very complicated round robin computer game challenge that seemed to involve a lot of good natured but loud discussion.  I definitely tuned that one out.  It may have been quite cold outside, but needs must.  The lads didn't seem to notice.  Then they went out to play football - another one of the cheapo last minute gifts for bear which was one of those bouncy balls that light up when it's hit or bounces.  They came in when they got chased by a drunk.

As far as I can tell it was a generic drunk not actually attached to anyone local but who insisted on shaking bear's hand and then asking one of his pals if he wanted a fight.  The lads came in at my insistence and bear washed his hand.  The computer game was restarted and then there was another nerf gun battle before the pizza arrived. 

The lads ate so much that they told me that they couldn't possibly move.  It was definitely not worth cutting the birthday cake.  They were so stuffed that they went outside for another round of football, this time without the drunk.  Finally they were all collected and I collapsed.

As far as I can tell everyone had a great time, no-one was hurt, the drunk was seen as entertainment and they would all come again.  I'm taking it as a success. 

Friday 29 December 2017

New Year's Resolution

My New Year's Resolution is to have the house vistor ready, or at least more or less okay, at all times. 

The house is not in a good state.  Apart from everything else I have had ridiculous heartburn which mean that bending over and moving hurt.  I've spent the last few nights on the sofa in order to sleep upright.  I've had mud in and out, parcels opened, nuts have been shelled and lots of satsuma skin shed.  It wasn't even in a good state before the Christmas break, and it shows. 

Today I was expecting DH to be at work, bear being low maintenance with his birthday presents and a chance to at least heap some of the worst of the clutter somewhere out of sight.  I was entirely wrong.

I surfaced relatively late after a lumpy night on the sofa to snow.  Bear was thrilled and I watched him open his parcels.  Then we had a Tesco delivery - in spite of the snow.  I dragged it in and then took five.  Bear went out to play in the snow. 

While he was out, one of his pals was passing, along with his mum and two sisters.  I realised half way through carrying some stuff into the kitchen that they were having a full on snowball fight.  I looked around the state of my home, stuck my head out the door and invited everyone to come in, don't mind the mess and have some hot chocolate and lebkuchen.  The pal's mum is awesome and we had a good natter while the kids played. 

I hadn't got rid of the dirty cups before another of bear's pals turned up, closely followed by DH who had been given most of the afternoon off.  And as DH went upstairs to sort some stuff out I got a phone call from another of bear's pals' mum who was dropping off a gift.  I had a lovely chat with her - bear's pals have awesome mums - and then she left her son, bear's pal, and they hung out for an hour  after the other pal left while the plans for bear's birthday dinner were thrown up in the air.  So DH and I had something then DH took the last pal home. 

I got sea bass in for dinner.  Tomorrow is pizza, so I hope it will last until Sunday or at least I can freeze it. 

There has been a procession of people in and out, which has been wonderful.  But I have not been able to be as welcoming as I would have liked because the house is upside down.  It's basically, how can I give what I consider proper hospitality without changing things around.  I wish I could have done more. 

As it was, everyone got hot chocolate, lebkuchen, drink, warmth and nice candle smells.  Also there was a warm welcome.  I just want it to be better next time.  And it will. 

Thursday 28 December 2017

EBay Under the Influence

It could have been worse.  Dave Gorman tells of a time when he didn't realise he had ordered a hot air balloon from eBay until it arrived at his house. I'm not accepting that challenge.  The list, while drunk in charge of a laptop, is

  • 8 cloth napkins - it could have been worse.  I've been considering them for a while but was considering making some.  These cost less than the equivalent fabric would unless I got a serious deal
  • A plate drainer (needed)
  • A cutlery drainer (needed) - these two were sort of needed as I can't get the current ones properly clean but I was putting off buying them until I really, really, really, really wanted them.
  • A duvet cover - looks like we're getting new placemats.  
  • A bathroom bin - I've been looking for a decent one for ages and hopefully this will do the trick
  • Medieval England - Rural Society and Economic Change 1086 - 1348.  It may not be everyone's cup of tea but it will be awesome with the series of fantasy novels I have ideas for kicking around at the back of my head.
Compared to the stuff I've ordered while sober, I think I got off very lightly!

Tesco Were Lovely

I strongly believe that if you want to be free to complain then you should also feel free to compliment.  I have really struggled at times to remember that it's another human being at the other end of the phone, especially the scammers, and I sometimes fail, but I try. 

In that spirit, Tesco rang me last night.  I have an order coming tomorrow which includes stuff for bear's 'birthday party' (some pals hanging out with access to age appropriate Netflix, computer games, tv and pizza).  I've got some goodies coming and one of the things that I ordered was a fruit platter.  I felt a little guilty but less than you would think.  It's £6 for a tray of prepared fruit meant to feed six and that has to be ordered so many days in advance as it's made to order.  I thought that it would save time, waste and stress.  The very nice man who called apologised.  They weren't going to be able to include it in the order because due to the weather disruption (and I'm once again incredibly grateful for how little we've been affect and deeply sympathetic to those without power and who are stuck in bad conditions) the fruit couldn't be shipped. 

I said fine.  I said I understood.  It's just a few pieces of fruit and the roads are downright dangerous in some places.  I don't want some poor lorry driver risking life and limb so I can have some pineapple fingers.  We are in a good place, we have stuff in and it's okay.  I honestly couldn't complain about a valid issue that is out of the control of Tesco.  Not only that, but they contacted me with two days to spare so that if I actually really needed something like that then I would have enough time to sort out a substitute.  And they also gave me a voucher for £10 for my trouble - nearly twice what I would have paid (but didn't) for the fruit. 

I'm not sponsored by Tesco, though you may not believe it after reading some of my posts, but I do feel safe doing business with them.  To my mind, it's a real test of how a company treat a customer when things go wrong.  Tesco have been pretty awesome. 

Wednesday 27 December 2017

White Vinegar Half Price

For those able to take advantage

Link didn't work, try searching for Golden Swan White Vinegar.  It's awesome for cleaning.

That is 20 litres of white vinegar which has always been very reliable when I clean for £6.39.  I don't know how much postage would be if you are not a member of prime,

According to the sums on the respective websites, the white vinegar from Amazon costs @ 3p per 100ml.  The white vinegar from Morrisons, sold in the small bottle, costs @ 17p per 100ml.

I hope the offer is still there if you are interested and take a look, but even at full price, it is a very good price although I feel bad for the delivery drivers.

I Have a Headache

Against all the odds my headache is nothing to do with alcohol.  I consider this a miracle.  It is to do with bear's pal calling round (they are friends again) so I have the audio book of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire being played on bear's computer together with the musical game of something that bear is currently playing on the phone which sounds like a very tinny version of Fur Elise and the computer game that the pal is playing where lots of implausibly shaped soldiers run around and shoot at each other.  The very important steering wheel has still not been plugged in, which is a shame because at least it doesn't have much of a sound track. 

I'm still keeping an oversight of bear's computer use but as he gets older I can fade out a little and hang around in another room.  I am looking forward to the day. 

Tuesday 26 December 2017


Drunk as a skunk at 9pm and in charge of an eBay account.  This can't end well.

We were gifted a very nice bottle of sweet potato liqueur, which is nicer than it sounds.  DH had a small glass last night and decided that he would never, ever touch it again.  It seems a shame to waste it.  Fortunately it was one of those 50dl rather than the standard 70dl or I'd never manage to post today at all.  I now have a very elegant but regrettably empty bottle. 

I'll let you know if I happened on eBay tomorrow.  I will also comment on awesome comments while sober.  But Canada sounds amazing, even if it took me three attempts to spell it.

And you have no idea how long it took me and how many times I had to hit 'backspace' to type this.  Who knew that Sweet potato liqueur at 22% had more of an effect than brandy at 40%? 

Monday 25 December 2017


Bear was not saying too much about Father Christmas this morning.  Instead he is hanging around in a Marc Jacob t-shirt (I had to look him up), Harry Potter glasses and waving a duplicate wand from Harry Potter which is an extreme threat to the ornaments.

As for the great big huge ginormous box of steering wheel that he absolutely had to have - he hasn't even plugged the dratted thing in.  In fact the greatest playtime so far today has been with an extremely inexpensive expandable ball that I got as an afterthought with a supermarket delivery.  However the pack of Harry Potter Top Trumps is coming a close second.  Bear has learned to riffle shuffle and after a few hard fought games the cards look years old instead of being brand new in a cushion cover this morning.

I should explain.  When bear was little I forgot his stocking so we put out a pillowcase and in the morning he had his gifts in a small minecraft shoe bag that had been stashed for presents.  Over the years he's got new book bags and sports kit bags in this way as part of the Christmas tradition.  This year he didn't need a bag of any sort so I got a Harry Potter Ravenclaw cushion cover to serve as a 'stocking' and fill with little bits and bobs.  Bear has done very well for gifts this year.  I've promised that tomorrow we can try out the chemistry set. 

Most important part of the post - I hope you all have the most amazing Christmas time with lots of love and joy around you and that you have your loved ones close to your heart.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday 24 December 2017

Bear is EXCITED!!!!!

Bear is very clear, he does not believe in Santa at all but he is still closely following the NORAD Santa tracking and giving me a town by town account.  I should add that he got into his onesie at 6.15pm and is aiming for a ridiculously early night.  We'll have to be up at seven, just to make it fair on the lad. 

I'm being diligent and running my washing machine on a hot, extended wash with nothing but some disinfectant in.  When the nice repair man came to check out the strange noise he said that the machine was looking like it was well maintained.  All I can say is that it's purely accidental.  However I do put on an empty wash now and again, and I always clear the fluff filter on the dryer (which currently won't turn on) and I know why I should do a lot of things I don't.  In fact, I know a lot of theory about housekeeping but the practice is wanting.  Sometimes I think I should write a book called, 'Housewifery: Theory and Lack of Practice' or 'Housekeeping: Great Fails I Have Known'. 

Tonight is a wonderful night.  Tonight I wrap the presents and get the stonking great ginormous dratted steering wheel wrapped in industrial quantities of wrapping paper and out of my way.  There will still be a certain amount of constipation by boxes, but they should be out of the way in a few days time. 

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to having a wonderful meal, a quantity of alcohol, a drift of torn wrapping paper and some space in the cupboard.  I am also looking forward to my favourite hobby on Christmas Day - checking eBay to see the 'unwanted gifts' appearing and wondering if they are genuine or not. 

Have a great Christmas!

Saturday 23 December 2017

Bear's Bad Day

I had a bad day yesterday.  I ended up staying up far too late, getting ridiculously drunk and listening to Anastacia.  At least I had the sense to stay away from the internet, apart from listening to Anastacia, of course.

Today has been fine, for me.  I woke up without a hangover which, to be honest, was a miracle.  Tesco delivered everything for the last grocery shop before Christmas and then we went to pick up a few extra bits from Aldi and were in and out in fifteen minutes - and that included the queue at the till.  To be fair, dinner tonight was along the lines of 'another cauliflower, another fail' and I think I'm just going to have to give up on cauliflowers.  I was trying to roast it with garlic and cumin but it smelled like something from the depths of an unsavoury canal so I abandoned it.

The kitchen looks ridiculously full.  I mean, it's so full that even the overflow areas have overflowed.  The fridge is the most full it's ever been.  I'm surprised I can shut the door.  I got particularly random when it came to the Christmas pudding, so while we have the gluten free Christmas pudding we also have custard, hard sauce, brandy butter, cream, lacto free cream and spray cream.  It's okay.  I can use up any excess with apple and mincemeat crumble.

Bear has had a bad day.  He has been hanging out with his pal, and managed to hurt his foot playing football.  Then he spilled water over his duvet and a sort of quilted thing that used to belong to father.  At least his mattress stayed dry.  And then he fell out with his pal and has been distraught.  I suspect too much sugar and too near to Christmas hasn't helped.   I'm offering a sympathetic ear though I suspect it was mainly bear's fault. 

I've bunged the quilted thing in the washer.  I'm trying to remember if I tumble dried it last time I washed it.  Father brought it with him.  It's a sort of very flat, maroon, quilted sleeping bag.  It looks so old it was probably first washed in a copper, some time before the War.  I'm not sure which war, either.  The label is so faded that I have no idea what's in it.  Bear loves snuggling in it.  I am considering getting rid of bear's duvet.  It's several years old and as flat as a sheet.  It's only a single so it would fit in my washer, but it wasn't expensive when I first got it so I'm not sure whether it would be worth trying.

Off to give bear another hug.  Hope everyone is having a really good run up to Christmas. 

Thursday 21 December 2017

Have a Cool Yule

A joyous Yule to everyone that celebrates it!  I always tell myself that after tonight the nights will get shorter and it does cheer me up a little through the dreary January and February days.

Today has been good.  We watched the Muppet Christmas Carol and generally hung out.  DH washed out the halogen oven.  It needed a good swish around as we had had McCains Frozen Roast Potatoes, which are awesome, but there is a lot of fat in them.  However, if you cook them on a grill in the halogen oven there are amazingly crispy but a lot of the fat drains off and settles at the bottom.  This ended up going down the sink.  There was a small blockage.

Unfortunately I didn't realise that there was a blockage when I realised that a small package of baking powder had split.  I thought that it would be a great time to clear the kitchen drain so tipped the pack down the plughole and followed with plenty of vinegar.  It fizzed up but it didn't drain.  I prodded at it with a teaspoon.  It fizzed some more but it still didn't drain.  I tried adding some more vinegar.  Nothing much happened.  I checked outside but the outside drain was fine and the washing machine wasn't having any trouble.  I remembered about unblocking the toilet and added some washing up liquid.

You know those models where you add vinegar to baking powder and washing up liquid inside something painted to look like a volcano?  It was just like that.  I didn't realise that chemicals were somehow still being chemical and didn't see any gas, of course.  All I could see was that now there was washing up liquid added then the gas had a shape and it just kept coming.  It was like a B movie special effect - 'the Grease Monster from Under the Sink - it fizzes!'  It was a seething fountain of off white bubbles with added roast potato grease.  I added some more vinegar and just walked away.  When I came back the sink was draining just fine.  I heaved a sigh of relief.  I'll make sure to wipe out the halogen with newspaper first next time. 

Wednesday 20 December 2017

I Hate Steering Wheels

Bear's dratted steering wheel for his dratted computer game came today.  The delivery was by the creepy delivery guy who isn't so creepy these days as it looks like his wife is permanently in the passenger seat.  At least I was dressed even though it was fairly early and not a school day.  Then I had to hoick the box in.  The box is massive.  It's absolutely huge.  There's a walloping big cardboard box holding packaging and the smaller, huge cardboard box that holds the steering wheel, pedals and no doubt a gazillion tons more packing.  I've stowed it in the walk in cupboard where it is blocking everything and I have to move it to get to my bin bags. 

I still can't move for tinsel.  Speaking of which, here is a masterpiece from bear.

The Halloween tinsel cat has been given a sort of turban thingy with red tinsel and the ravens are so swathed in gold twinkle that you can barely see their beaks. 

Positive stuff, I finally got the baskets out.  It's months and months ago but I bought a couple of baskets.  This gives three decent sized, plastic baskets which I've lined up. One is for dirty cloths, one is for the microfibre cloths I use for washing up and one is for the microfibre cloths I use for cleaning.  I have finally put them in place and all of a sudden it is so much easier to clean up.  I'm typing this as we are all hanging out in the study with a nice scented candle on and it feels good. 

Tuesday 19 December 2017

A Good Day

I went out.  After getting my eyes tested (need new glasses) I had a look around Kirkstall Abbey.

Kirkstall Abbey is a relatively well preserved ruined Cistercian Abbey.  I find it interesting, because Cistercian monks traditionally chose sites that were 'desert' ie the back end of nowhere in particular.  Fountains and Rievaulx are up in North Yorkshire, out of the way.  Kirkstall Abbey is ten minutes from Leeds City Centre.  I had to call in for research purposes.  I'm nearly 20,000 words in to the Prince and the Paladin, I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll get further and one of the next scenes I'm planning to write is in the grounds of Kirkstall Abbey. 

I also called into Leeds and picked up a pack of gloves for bear.  Marks and Spencer obviously know boys and they actually do a pack of two pairs of gloves for £4.  I shall be having words about keeping them safe!

So today was a good day.  I went out of the house, ran some errands and got home safely.  It was awesome.  I think it helped that for the first leg, to the opticians, DH and bear were with me as it was a group booking.  Then I was walking in the sunshine while my mind was occupied with what I was planning to write and before I knew it I was home again.  I shall remember these tactics. 

Monday 18 December 2017

A Parenting Win

There was a long discussion about steering wheels used to play games on the PC.  Bear and DH had an indepth examination of every review of all the steering wheels on Amazon.  There was a cost/benefit analysis.  DH and bear came to the conclusion that the steering wheels that were £200 or so were probably not that much better in terms of how long they last compared to the ones at around £30 or so.  Bear will be getting an extra present of a steering wheel, but he has also had a good lesson in making spending decisions. 

He will be 11 in 11 days.  It's still early days and I have explicity told him that the decisions are still being made by the adults.  However I think it's important that he gets the hang of how financial decisions are made so that he has at least some framework later on.  So I'm taking this as a win. 

Bear may be telling me of his deeply seated doubt about Father Christmas, but he's acting like he's desperate that he stays on the 'nice' list.  He's been absolutely lovely.  He's been helpful, polite and cheerful.  He's brought things and carried things and went with DH to the tip again (we're having a sort out). 

He's also helped DH decorate.  The house looks like a tinsel monster has just been sick over the entire house.  I approve.  All in all, it's a good day. 

Sunday 17 December 2017

Parenting Fail

We were discussing presents.  I pointed out to bear that there was a thread on Mumsnet about how many presents people were getting for their kids, including some very low totals..  I didn't bother mentioning Father Christmas as bear is deeply sceptical.  'Well, at least I'm getting my steering wheel.' bear said with satisfaction.  What?!?!

He had decided against the steering wheel in favour of Lego back in October.  This is a wheel where you plug it into a PC or console and use to drive simulated trucks.  Bear adores Eurotruck simulator, so he enjoys his current steering wheel, but he complains about the squeaky pedals.  I practiced my 'nod and smile' as he gave me the technical reasons why he needed a different one, preferably with a gear stick.  However as I pointed out that these things were easily over £100 even with deals, he chose Lego.  Now he is outraged that I thought he meant it. 

I'm going to start getting this in writing.  Mind you, this skill at re-writing the past will serve him well at meetings all the way through his working life.  He's got a knack for arguing his case and it won't hurt his future career.

My initial reaction is that you can barely move for cardboard despite DH having done several runs to the tip, he is getting some really good stuff and it will 'build character' if he has to use the Amazon Vouchers we are giving him together with money from his pocket money, birthday etc.  DH came in as bear went upstairs to brush his teeth and asked whether we could get it in time.  And I sort of get why.  I hate seeing bear upset.  He has been awesome today and really helpful.  And even though there will be a sizeable mound of presents for his Christmas and birthday I haven't spent that much on him.  I was mentally totting it up and it's around £60-£70 each on Christmas and his birthday.  Most of his peers at school will have a lot more spent on them.  However I wince at the thought of spending the same again for presents.

I sort of know that bear will end up with the steering wheel and I'm worried about the signal we're sending.  I think I'm going to have to use the transistion to High School as a good point to start cutting back.  Apart from this, bear has been a dream and really helpful, the day has been relaxing and things have generally been good. 

Thank you for all the comments.  Step Two - answer individually every comment on the blog.  You are all awesome and I am lucky to get such supportive, interesting and lovely comments.  I should show proper appreciation. 

A Chance to Feel Smug

Bear's maths tutor came for the last session of the year.  While bear was acting up (he couldn't be bothered and I may have to have Words), the tutor asked whether I had done any Christmas shopping yet.  I shrugged and told the utterly awesome tutor that I had finished it.  The poor lad has all his to do. 

I got into the habit of getting the Christmas shopping finished by the beginning of November as before bear was born I had six birthdays in January of close friends and family, including my late MIL and father's girlfriend.  I always shopped for birthday presents in December.  Interestingly, I'll be picking up a couple of birthday cards next week as two of bear's pals have birthdays in Christmas week as well as bear. 

And speaking of bear's birthday, I asked him what he would like for his birthday dinner.  He is having his party the day after (pizza with his pals) so what would he like on his birthday?  I will be getting a delivery and at this time of year you have to chase the delivery slots, even after Christmas Day so I needed to get things in hand.  Bear is not bothered.  He's not really interested.  He doesn't want much. 

Last year we had steak.  Bear isn't so keen at the moment so I'm ruling that out.  I know bear likes fish.  I loathe fish unless it's in the shape of a fish finger, and I'm not that impressed even then.  However, as it's bear's birthday, we are having fish.  I've had a rummage around and it's looking like sea bass fillets at an extortionate cost.  I shall cook them in foil and serve with samphire and rice.  I also need to stock up for the pals coming around the next day.  I shall have half a dozen pre teens so I'll be surprised if all they need to eat is pizza.  I shall stock up just in case. 

Friday 15 December 2017

Thank You!!!!!

When I said in my last post that this blog was my support, I wasn't trying for the pity party.  It's truly been a massive support for me for years.  There's been some sound advice given, which I've appreciated and sometimes takne, and some great stories and experiences shared - there are so many lovely people out there and I am lucky enough to have some of them following this blog.  I am very grateful and thank you so much for the messages.  I feel hugged and inspired.

Susan said that she thought I was brave sharing my problems.  I don't feel brave.  I think it's important to admit that sometimes things go wrong and, to be honest, sometimes life is so much more entertaining when there is a little less perfection.  For example, it took me days to get all the dried rose petals out of the toilet brush and that's much more fun to share than me saying how I keep my bathroom perfectly (I don't - but that's a work in progress and it's okay).

If this was fiction then the house would suddenly be gleaming after I decided to pull myself together.  It really isn't.  However it's cleaner.  I've sorted through a few shelves, tidied others and I've found a place for the washing powder stash.  It's a start.  It is better than it was yesterday by a little bit, and I'll take that. 

The freezer came.  I was up until the early hours trying to defrost the old freezer.  It was deeply encrusted.  I'd manage to use up most of the stuff and so there were only the dregs of some frozen mixed veg and some dubious chicken pieces that had to be thrown out.  The old freezer was as tall as me and it took a lot of towels to soak up the mess, but by the time the men came I had defrosted it, moved it out of the walk in cupboard and into the kitchen, mopped where it had stood for the last ten years and cleared every chair, box and hanger out of the path for the new freezer. 

The delivery men were very nice, and unpacked the new freezer with frightening and ruthless efficiency, but they seemed to be shocked that there were steps into the kitchen.  I had warned them, and the same firm (AO) had previously taken a fridge and a washing machine down the same steps, but these men seemed shocked at their very existance.  Once they had got over that, though, the old freezer was taken and the new fridge installed in double quick time and they were off.  I'm letting it settle and Tesco are delivering lots of frozen food tomorrow.

Bear has had his last day of term.  It was Christmas Jumper Day.  He was wearing the same one he wore last year, which had been big on him.  It's still got plenty of room for growth in it and should he need a Christmas jumper next year I'm sure it will still do.  As ever, bear came home with one more Christmas present than he left with, but that's okay.  It means that there is now a home for the duplicate chemistry set I bought accidentally when it was an excellent deal.  I'll have to hand it over in January, but I don't suppose that it will be a problem. 

I think Step Two is going to have to be getting me out of the house on a daily basis.  I've tried to set that goal before and not managed.  I'm going to have to work on that, and with the holidays it's probably going to have to wait until after New Year.  However I feel positive that things are a little further on than they were yesterday, so Step One is continuing. 

Thank you again for listening to me and for the amazing support.  Hugs x

Thursday 14 December 2017

Another Day, Another Fail

Jake's a Girl - massive hugs. 

Bear was complaining bitterly about being forced to walk miles (around a few hundred yards) on really slippery roads (they were fine) in the pouring rain (it was dry) to go the Carol Concert at the local CofE church.  When he got home he was out playing football in the freezing rain.  I am getting very good at a 'nod and smile'.

I've been thinking about the whole issue about getting out of the house.  I realise that I've been basically assuming that the only thing I can do is pull myself together.  I would never encourage anyone else to take this attitude, but I can't imagine another way of doing it for me.

Back in the early eighties I escaped from my mother and went to university.  I never graduated.  I had a breakdown and lost all my short term memory.  I could remember who I was and where I lived, but I couldn't remember anything from one moment to another.  I have very fuzzy memories of the time but I remember being lost in Preston bus station.  At the time it was the biggest bus station in Europe and one of the few things I can remember is knowing that I could keep walking around because I'd never remember whether I had been somewhere or not and the helpless feeling that went with it.  Looking back it's one of my most vivid memories.  Yet I have no idea why I was in Preston.

I couldn't go home.  My mother was a big part of the problem.  I didn't have anyone to advocate for me at the university.  I didn't know what choices were possible.  I spent some time in the University Health Centre (again, I'm a little hazy on the details) but the stalker I picked up made it impossible to stay there.  I wasn't offered any medical treatments and I was unable to make it to the counselling that was arranged because it was too complicated for me.  So I got a part time job in a supermarket and sort of got on with things. 

Antidepressants have helped me in the past but the anxiety I'm suffering from at the moment makes it impossible for me to swallow tablets.  I don't want to discourage anyone else from trying counselling but it didn't work for me.  I'm very good at saying the right things and then utterly failing to manage.  My main support network is on here.  At the moment I can keep bear clean and warm and fed (and I fight his corner for school and all the extras) and DH always has dinner and a clean shirt, but I am getting able to do less and less. 

So today I'm making a conscious decision.  Today is the day I start to pull myself together.  I am really not recommending anyone trying it, and to be honest, I'm not sure where to start, but I'm starting.

Step One - post something positive on here every day. 
Step Two - I'm working on step two, but I'll share when I know. 

Today's positive - the kitchen, dining room and walk in cupboard look like they are in the middle of an explosion but while I've been clearing I've found enough old towels to mop up the defrosting freezer - new freezer tomorrow!!!

Wednesday 13 December 2017

More Nothing of Much

If you look in the comments on the last post you will see the issues Eloise is having with the snow.  In fact, the comments on the last few posts reflect how different it is across the blog community.  Margie in Toronto is having far more snow and far fewer problems.  Eloise and Jake's a Girl are having a lot of issues with unfamiliar weather.  We had rain.  There are times when I really count my blessings.

I have not yet replaced bear's gloves.  The last few pairs (yes, I know) have been quite padded.  Bear claims, with mingled innocence and indignation, that it can't possibly be his fault, they just fall out of his pockets.  As he usually takes less than five minutes to go between school and home, plays football relentlessly at breaks and it isn't that cold here, perhaps a few days with cold hands will focus his attention.  I'll look for thinner gloves next time. 

Today was difficult for me, as I went out of the house.  It was incredibly hard.  I am starting to get really worried.  Still, I made it to the bus stop and chose to get a bus that meant I needed to do more.  When I got to Leeds I looked in Home Sense for candles.  There wasn't many nice candles.  I suspect that they don't get many overstock candles at this time of year and the time I'll really score big is probably nearer March.  It was all very disappointing.  Then I got another bus out to Aldi, where I just picked up some cola and some chocolate, then home.  So I did it.  I just need to keep doing it. 

I have my last Approved Food order of the year on its way.  I think that there may then be a really possibility of the house bursting at the seams.  Like I say, I'm counting my blessings.  I have good stuff coming in a Morrisons order tomorrow, a new freezer on Friday and a stock up for the freezer on Saturday.  I'm looking forward to Christmas. 

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Weather (such as it is) continues

Yesterday I called into Matalan, to pick up a pair of gloves for bear.  I had seen the weather forecasts and I knew that he had lost his last pair so I got the next of no doubt a series.  He forgot them this morning.

Unlike a lot of the UK we are barely affected.  It's cold, it's icy and I got hit by at least six snowflakes yesterday but it's nothing to the disruption caused in other parts of the country.  While places like Canada (hi to Jean, Margie, Sharon et al over that side of the pond and subject to snow!) and Norway are dealing with banks of snow just fine, we are really struggling.  However we rarely get snow in the Midlands to the extent that has fallen, and snow is usually after Christmas.  I don't think most of the UK (with the usual exceptions) know how to deal with it so that it's a problem when it comes.  Sending out huge hugs and good vibes to all those affected by it.  Snow and ice are treacherous and even dangerous for people unused and unprepared for the conditions. 

I can consider myself blessed in that the biggest problem I have had today is that the very inexpensive scented candle I picked up was inexpensive for a reason.  The whole house smells of cheap cleaning fluid instead of the Lime and Mandarin I was promised.  I've had windows open (not all day!  I'm too nesh for that) but I still feel like I've been splashed with toilet cleaner.  I'll put out some saucers of vinegar if it doesn't fade soon.

I've put in the last Approved Food order of the year and hopefully I will soon get a very large box stuffed with treats.  I even got free shipping.  I've got the last few bits of grocery shopping and then I'm done.  If I've forgotten anything, tough.  It will have to do!

Sunday 10 December 2017


Snow was forecast for the UK.  Around here there is very little snow.  In fact I don't remember seeing any last year at all.  However the BBC forecast snow so I made sure that I had hot chocolate in and got on with things. 

The Daily Express forecasts dreadful storms and snow every year so I ignore their weather pages.  If the BBC forecast snow, however, I usually keep an eye out.  In places like the Highlands there have been really low temperatures.  In places south of here there has been a lot of disruption caused by snow.  Places in Scotland, the Lake District and Wales get plenty of snow and know what to do.  Here in Leeds the buses faint and disappear at the first snowflake and people watch anxiously as the temperature drops.  We've had a few flakes.  It's nothing special.  There's a trace of snow on the walls and bear managed to make a snowball the size of a small grape.  Tomorrow is likely to be more hazardous, but as far as I can tell with the weather forecast (as much as you can tell!) not only are we likely to miss most of the snow but we are also likely to miss the worst of the ice which is going to cause real problems elsewhere.  I am not complaining.

Bear did manage to score some serious complaints about his glasses in the fifteen minutes before getting used to them.  He looks so serious in them.  I just hope he doesn't break them before he grows out of them. 

Friday 8 December 2017

Bear's Christmas Play

Bear's school put on a play every Christmas.  They have done a few different once, this year it was the Lion King, and they are amazing.

One of the teachers actually writes a script in rhyming couplets.  It's absolutely tailored to insult the area and all of the teachers.  There are dance numbers, lots of songs and some of the kids sing solo and dance solo.  This year I really appreciated how amazing the school is as they put on a performance with 10 and 11 year olds, dancing, singing, almost acting and following all sorts of different cues.  They were also in costumes.

Bear only had a few lines (every kid had a few lines) but he was dancing away with more than a reasonable amount of elbow flying around.  I swear his arms looked like bits of broomstick connected with elastic bands.  He also started a shoving match with the lad next to him during one of the numbers and nearly ended up pushed off stage.  Neither DH nor I had the will to challenge him on that but we were very limp when it came to sympathy. 

Also we have had to pay out a lump of money because when we woke up this morning, one of the downpipes from the guttering had snapped in two and was completely away from the wall.  I managed to get someone to come out, quote, and fix it this afternoon for an extortionate amount before the builders and roofers were overbooked by people affected by the current storm.  I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but there is often someone lurking at the corner by the drainpipe.  I usually notice a shadow as someone disappears a step or two back, I've no idea who they are or what they are doing, but I suspect the wind more than any phantom lurkers and so far they've been okay.  Besides, they smoke and a hand with a cigarette disappearing into the shadows lends a sort of film noir air to a rather dull terrace.   

Monday 4 December 2017

Boys will be Boys

Bear's pal came round tonight.  I fuelled them up and left them to get on with it, just as I usually do, but not before giving bear's pal a joking complaint that in this weather, around 7 celsius or around 45 Fahrenheit, he thought it was a good idea to wander through the streets in just a short sleeved shirt. 

I mentioned the concept of jackets and sweaters as bear and he chuckled, and obviously he took no notice of me.  He's two years older than bear and already looking like a teenager.  I know that nothing either me or his mother could say would convince him to wear anything more than a short sleeved shirt in quite cold weather.  I know it's not cold cold but it's not warm either.

Bear is far worse than his pal.  Sweaters and shirts get dropped wherever he sees fit as he just sheds as he goes.  I have spent most of his life putting blankets back on him, insisting on a coat, insisting on a jacket or insisting he at least puts a t-shirt on.  He does not feel the cold. 

Lucky him!  I feel the cold to a ridiculous degree.  I huddle down with blankets and sweaters while bear looks at me in bewilderment and takes off his vest.  He sometimes snuggles under blankets, but it's more for the cuddles than anything to do with temperature.  I can see that I will spend around half of his teenage years trying to get him to wrap up. 

In other words, it looks like bear will be a perfectly normal teenage boy.

Sunday 3 December 2017

Bear Needs Glasses

Well, he just about needs glasses.  And he really only needs them for close up reading and/or writing.  The Optician thinks he may have even outgrown that within a year or two.  His long sight is excellent. 

Bear didn't take it well.  He did not want to wear glasses, it wasn't fair.  However he kept grumbling about pain in the eyes then he started complaining that he didn't have the glasses right now and that it wasn't fair. 

Then he spent today doing dot to dots and colouring in pictures and complaining about eye strain.  Apparently his teacher uses colouring pictures as a way of teaching mindfulness.  I'm all for it.  I hope to be able to pick up one or two books inexpensively over the next week or so for Christmas.

I won't be going out tomorrow.  I'm waiting on the tv, which I have been doing since @ 27 November.  It arrived yesterday but with a smashed screen.  Tomorrow someone is picking it up and someone else is delivering the new one, which will be encased in yet more cardboard.  Cardboard is taking over the house.  I'm really looking forward to the first week in January when I can finally get rid of all the boxes! 

Saturday 2 December 2017

Doing the Right Thing

I have been trying to write The Prince and the Paladin for over ten years, since long before I published The Forgotten Village.  In fact, I used concepts in The Forgotten Village that I had been kicking around for a while.  I must have written a dozen starts to it.  Currently I'm just over 16,000 words into the current version - around a quarter if it is the same length as The Forgotten Village and I've managed that since Wednesday.  I've just dropped a character and suddenly everything is rattling out.  I may get back to the White Hart before you know it.

I've also, coincidentally, added a new character.  I'd noticed that back in the trade directory of the 1790s was a widow who was listed as an apothecary.  A few years later a 'chemist and druggist' with the same surname but male was listed as a 'chemist and druggist' and, at one point, 'East India Company Agent' was listed in Briggate.  I've rattled through some of the trade directories in Leeds Library for the nineteenth century and there's been a chemist under that name for most of the century and a lot further on.  They moved shops a few times and seemed to have had branches in other places.  The name, which is quite unusual, is still extant in Leeds.  I don't know if the person I found on Facebook is descended from the widow selling medicines back in the 1790s, but I can't risk it.  I'm going to have to find a different name that is a lot less distinctive.  I can't make someone's grandfather or great grandfather randomly into a vampire, no matter how interesting the story sounds.  I'll play around with names and details.  It's the right thing to do.  I don't want to, though.  The name was awesome and perfect for an early nineteenth century vampire.  I'll never manage to make up something with the same ring to it.  Darn it to heck. 

On another note, in their infinite wisdom Leeds City Council have decided that the Central Library only needs one, single stall, gender neutral toilet and one disabled toilet.  The queue was horrendous.

And I have to share a gem I found as I leafed through some of the directories I found this gem in the 1857-58 directory.  Henry Elam, Human Mechanician, provided Elastic Spring Uterus Supporters and 'Machines for the Deformity of the Human Form' from his shop at 34, Beast Market, Huddersfield.

Just to prove I left the house, a picture of the exit from Leeds Library that I took today

It makes me feel like a proper writer when I do research in a building with stonework like that.  I have to go back for some further research and I'll take some more photos of the good bits. 

Friday 1 December 2017

Tomato Soup

Morrisons online shopping are sneaky.  As you are checking out they have what they call 'flash sales' or stuff that is radically marked down.  Sometimes they are worth it, sometimes they are not and you have to keep a close eye on what you get.  I spotted this

It was £1.74 instead of £4 so I thought I would give it a go.  That is a pic of the actual box that I received, and you can see how fresh the tomatoes were.  In fact, all the veg was good quality.  You recieved around a pound of tomatoes, three fat cloves of garlic, a single small carrot, fresh thyme, an onion, two stock cubes (shaped like Knorr, and according to the ingredients they are gluten free) and a small tin of tomato puree.  You soften the onion, garlic and carrot in a tablespoon of oil (supplied by you), then add the tomato puree and the fresh thyme and then the quartered and cored tomatoes with 750ml of water (supplied by you).  You then simmer for 15 minutes and then blend with a stick blender.  It tasted gorgeous! DH and I practically inhaled it.  Bear had eaten earlier with his pal from school and I regret not saving him a taste.  I am definitely using the recipe again.  I may even buy the boxed kit.  Otherwise I will keep my eye out for good deals on top quality tomatoes, because it really is the ingredients that make the difference.

There was a small downside.  I haven't used fresh garlic for a while and I got a little over-enthusiastic with the garlic press.  A squirt of garlic ended up in a cardboard box full of Christmas goodies.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that modern packaging can deal with it and dealing with that tomorrow, I'm far too full to manage it now.  The recipe says it is for 4-6 and it would, for a starter and possibly a nice main with some bread and a solid dessert.  DH and I finished most of it off and we are stuffed but it was so pleasant!

Due to a weird shake of circumstances we won't be able to try out the other box I got until the day after tomorrow.  This time I paid full price for £4. 

There is onion, sweet red pepper, aubergine, courgette, couscous (I'll have to swap that out with gluten free couscous), dried fruit and spices.  I need to suppy 300g of minced beef.  I'm keeping all crossed that the veggies will be okay as they were delivered yesterday and we will be eating it on Sunday.  I'll let you know how that eats. 

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Feeling Miscellaneous

A while ago I posted that I got a voucher for free roast potatoes.  Tonight we tried them.  The serving suggestion gave cooking time for 500g of potatoes.  There are 800g of potatoes in the bag.  I just bunged some in the hot over.  For those interested, they are McCains

DH enjoyed them so much that they are going to be part of Christmas dinner.  They were lovely and crisp on the outside and pleasantly fluffy on the inside but they were very heavy on the fat.  

Then there is the whole issue of bear's school shoes.  They are battered and extremely worn.  He has had them since September, and he plays football at most break times.  They still fit him, probably just about and because the leather has moulded itself to his feet.  He really needs new shoes.  If they pinched or had holes in, I wouldn't hesitate but they are almost okay.  If I spend over £40 getting him the good school shoes next week he will grow out of them in days, I know it.  I don't know if I could bring myself to buy cheaper shoes, and I guarantee that if I pick up some less expensive school shoes from Matalan then he will be in them for months and months and I will worry about his feet. He is a lot better than he was yesterday, so it looks like he just had a bad cold.  He's still not eating much, but I'm sure he'll pick up soon.  

I also remembered to look up Spirits of Salts.  I found this Wiki entry after getting my Approved Food delivery complete with a bottle of the stuff.  It's hydrochloric acid.  I am not sure I'm safe with anything stronger than vinegar.  I think it was Mrs Beeton or someone similar who recommended spirits of salts for getting stains out of tablecloths.  I'm sure it would get rid of the stain - and possibly the tablecloth as well!  I read the article but I didn't really understand it, although according to one of the references, it was recommended for household cleaning in the Telegraph in 2003 and you can buy bottles of it on Amazon, for a much greater price than I managed to get at Approved Food.  I officially have a bargain I'm scared of.

Mind you, according to this source, the White House Cookbook of 1887 recommended using chloroform for getting stains out of tablecloths.  My search history doesn't bare looking at.  Now I've found that the website 'Vintage Recipes' exists I intend to enjoy it.  If I try any, I'll share the result.  

Monday 27 November 2017

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I thought my mother's family was mainly Welsh with a dash of Cornish and Breton.  Apparently I am only slightly correct.  I was talking to my brother and apparently I underestimated my mother's family.  My father's family have been happily settled around Crewe, the Wirral and the Northwest in general for as long as you like.  My father had that clicky thing in his fingers that usually means Scandinavian ancestry and the Wirral was settled by Vikings centuries ago.  My mother's family, however, have been a lot more adventurous.  According to my brother, who has been researching the family tree, they were well travelled even before the start of the railways.  They've popped up in Plymouth, Ipswich, St Malo, over to Dorset, back to Suffolk and all over North Wales.  He says it's quite a challenge tracking them down with all the changes between the different census. 

I have a theory about this, based on my own observations and the stories of my grandmother and my great aunts.  I think that families travelled unreasonable distance to get away from their mothers-in-law.  My great-grandfather was a sea captain.  He used to be away for three years at a time, come home, move house (probably to get away from the recently moved mother-in-law who was notorious), get his wife pregnant and be off again.  My father contemplated moving to the Falklands Islands (which according to Google is nearly 8000 miles) and my grandmother was a much better than a lot of my ancestry.

It wasn't just in-laws, however.  It was accepted in my family that the safe minimum distance between myself and my late mother was 100 miles.  Any nearer and it got vicious.  She was lovely to DH but the invention of the telephone meant that 100 miles was a little on the near side for me.  She never saw bear as she passed a few years before he was born.  She would have indulged him shamelessly (you should have seen how she spoiled the cats!) but I wouldn't have had a lick of peace.  The hard part about it is that while I can put a lot of my mental health problems directly down to her, I know that she did her best under often difficult circumstances.  It makes me very aware that I can get things wrong with bear.  There are times when I fail with bear and I think that I should not judge my mother too harshly.  Then there are times when I talk about something that I thought was normal in my childhood and I register the shock on DH's face and realise that perhaps I need to not mention that again in front of bear.  I just keep trying to keep the love going and hope it will turn out okay.

As for bear, he is much better.  He's still a little croaky but he's fine in himself.  I am much relieved. 

Sunday 26 November 2017

I'm a Day Behind

Yesterday I posted about bear buying a fountain pen on Friday (he's on his third cartridge - Witch Hazel, he will find an assortment of coloured in his stocking, including purple and brown!).  Today I will post about what happened yesterday - the Church Fair.

There was a fair amount of people being lovely there.  I always feel like I can't quite live up to some of the ladies.  They really are amazing.  We all know that Church Fairs, along with Village Fetes and School Fairs, can be hotbeds of bitterness and feuding which involve abiding rifts over who got which table cloth and who was promised the extra table.  There was a complete lack of that.  I hadn't been there for the planning so I just told them to put me down for anything they needed.  That's how I came to run the Bran Tub last year, and this year I was pencilled in to run the 'match a card to win a prize' stall.  However, as is common in these situations, there was a last minute change of plans and I was suddenly down for the Teddy Tombola.  After seeing how the 'planning' goes here, I didn't even break step.  All I can say is that they are the loveliest bunch of people who ever were in need of a proper chair, an agenda and a forceful character. 

I was glad to get back home.  Bear is poorly.  He's got a vicious sore throat, has had an upset tummy and is losing his voice.  He's not really himself today, either, and has spent all weekend in a onesie, coughing and sneezing with occasional croaks as he carries on filling up the expensive notepad with actually legible handwriting!  I keep checking his eyes.  He's complaining of pains behind his eyes, which to me could mean sinus pain or eye strain.  However there is an outbreak of measles currently in Leeds.  Bear was sent home with a Letter from Leeds City Council which laid out all the symptoms of of measles, and bear has all of them except red eyes and a rash.  As the early symptoms of measles without the red eyes and rash are basically the symptoms of a bad cold/flu I'm know that it's probably a bad cold.  Bear has had the MMR and there is no known measles contact.  Of course I find myself worrying. 

Bear is feeling low but after my refusal to spend any more on him, DH and I let him use his own pocket money to buy a computer game.  It involves cars.  I don't know anything about cars, but I suspect I may be about to learn.  Actually, it was quite nice.  We sat watching a video of one of those 3D artists while his programme loaded, chatting and admiring and it was wonderfully snug. 

Saturday 25 November 2017

I'm Learning About Fountain Pens

I don't actually want to learn about fountain pens.  I tried them when I was younger and it didn't end well.  The main ink in those days did not wash out easily, if at all.  Apparently you can get washable ink these days.  I shall believe it when I see it.  That will probably be quite soon.

Bear somehow found himself watching a YouTube video about someone writing with fountain pens.  They were knowledgeable, articulate and were able to throw in enough jargon and then explain it to completely hook bear's attention.  He came home from school yesterday and asked carefully, 'Do they sell fountain pens in England?'  I told him that, yes, fountain pens were available in England.  'Do they sell them in Leeds?' he asked with equal care.  Yes, I said, there are plenty of places in Leeds where you can buy fountain pens.  'Great,' he says.  'We can go now.'

My instinctive reaction was to tell him that anything like a fountain pen was not going to happen this close to Christmas and his birthday and he would have to wait.  On the other hand, I can only get bear to leave the house under extreme duress or to play football on Tuesday evenings.  He was volunteering to get out of the house!  I got my coat and out we went.

We called in at Rymans, in the Merrion Centre and a wonderful assistant helped us find an inexpensive pen, ink cartridges (apparently there are international standard cartridges, who knew?) and some expensive paper that was slightly heavier weight than standard.  Bear explained that it had to be greater than 80gsm for the best writing experience and to avoid 'bleed through'.  I was just glad he was in an actual shop so he got away with it.  Further supplies may come out of his pocket money.

Bear has had a lot of issues with writing.  It is one of the constants of his parents' evenings.  Bear is awesome but his handwriting is like the footprints of a drunken ant that has fallen into an inkwell and hit its head on the way out.  It is very hit and miss, and it gives him blisters.  However in the twenty four hours that bear has owned a fountain pen he has filled page after expensive page with legible handwriting, I think he is half way down his second ink cartridge and he doesn't have blisters.  I'm happy to encourage the fountain pen, especially if I can find a good source for the paper. 

Thursday 23 November 2017

Free Knitting Patterns

Marriners Yarns are doing free knitting patters for Black Friday here.  I am going to indulge myself.  I've had a couple of patterns from there which have been okay.  I find the yarn from there inexpensive and pleasant to knit with and their customer service is great.  They are an old British firm that started (according to their website) in 1784 and they are currently based in Cardiff.  

I really like their yarn, but I don't think that they are awesome at naming their colours.  For example, this...

,,, is the yarn and colour I am currently using for a shawl for a friend.  It's a pleasure to knit with, the colours are lovely and the shading is amazing.  The knitted fabric is snuggly, warm and drapes incredibly well.  I shall definitely get it again.  It's called 'Rockpool'.  I may have had a sheltered life but I've never seen a purple rockpool.  I'll post when the shawl is finished.  

I'm on here because I'm avoiding clearing out the walk in cupboard.  It needs to be done because next month I am definitely getting a new freezer and I need to be able to get the old one out and the new one in and also any day now our new tv will arrive and I want to rearrange the dining room before it's all swapped around and at the moment it's filled with rubbish, junk, boxes, barely concealed Christmas presents and ironing.  I found some old mini bath bombs that I got in for the bran tub at church last year and tried putting them down the toilet.  I suppose it was a worthwhile experiment but bathbombs do not clean toilets and I now have a toilet brush clogged up with leathery rose petals.  

I had better get going as I have already received a large Approved Food delivery and packaging and cheap goodies are already strewn everywhere and I am losing what is left of my sanity.  Just want to say that I really appreciate the comments, and I am definitely using Carol's suggestions on my steps.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate the help that I get from the lovely people that stop by.  

Gas? What Gas?

Apparently, when Scottish Power put in the smart meter on the gas in our house they forgot to tell their computers about it.  And, due to automation, no-one seemed to find it odd that we had a smart meter for electric and estimated readings for gas.  So I spent half the morning on hold and the other half trying the patience of someone really lovely while working out exactly what bit of the sticker I was supposed to be reading to them, while bending in an awkward corner (whoever installed the meter must have hated meter readers) and waving a torch around.  Now they know we have gas.  I am braced to see what comes up, but they seem to think that I have used less than estimated so I shouldn't get hit by a large bill.  Back in the early nineties we ended up with a lot of estimated bills for gas when they didn't realise that gas central heating had been installed and their estimates were so wildly low that when it all caught up we found ourselves with a bill for over £700.  I'm taking nothing for granted until it's all sorted out.

Shopping continues.  I have a weakness for tinned beans and sausage.  It's not exactly healthy, but it could be worse.  It's gluten free, it's quick, it's easy and, most importantly, bear and his pals will all eat it for lunch, even the fussy ones. 

Currently it's on offer at Morrisons for 5 for £3 or 60p each instead of £1.05.  I stocked up.  However there is barely room in my cupboards.  I also have a small stock of Heinz tomato soup, tinned tomatoes and lots of tinned chickpeas and kidney beans.  I can barely move.  I have also started stocking up the Christmas treats.  Heaps are starting to form.  In addition I invested in a Morrisons Wonky Veg box which seems good value for money but is also adding to the congestion. 

Meanwhile boxes keep arriving and I can't move for cardboard.  Until DH takes the old piano stool (which is not salvageable) to the tip, it is stuck in the middle of our living room, blocking the flow of traffic and getting in the way.  I am feeling overwhelmed. 

I also have a massive Approved Food order on the way.  Memo to self - do not order from Approved Food while under the influence of alcohol.  It never ends well.  I've got some good stuff coming, and a lot of it will be stashed for Christmas, but I have also bought a bottle of spirits of salts.  I am not exactly sure what spirits of salts are but I think I've seen reference to them in books of Victorian household hints.  Apparently it's good for drains.  I'm not sure I'm safe with it.

I can't use it on the steps down to the kitchen.  They are looking very green and are getting slippery when it rains, which they do at this time every year.  However I saw a toad crawl into the cupboard under the steps so the normal method of 'wait until it rains and douse everything liberally with bleach' isn't going to happen.  I suppose I can try scrubbing with some soapy water, but I'm not sure how the toad would take that.  I'll have to consider my options. 

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Bear versus the Piano

I started bear on piano lessons out of desperation.  Bear was rattling through his lessons and it was all far too easy.  I thought that with the piano he would have to at least practice.  Since then we have gone through two piano teachers and a lot of nervous exhaustion on my part. There have been the most spectacular arguments between bear and I over piano practice.  I have been at my wits end.  At times bear will be thrilled to show off his latest piece but when it comes to practicing he is an utter nightmare.  A few weeks ago I said that we were cancelling the piano lessons.  I was on my knees.  Bear looked devastated and wanted to continue.  Lessons continue.  So does the wear and tear on my nerves.

I was thrilled that he was carrying on, of course, but I was a little sad that I wouldn't be reclaiming the corner of the room currently occupied by the piano and I have just spent £27 on a new piano stool before the old one collapsed.  Then there is the issue of the piano.  It was 'free to good home' and while we had to pay for the transport of it, we didn't need to pay for the actual instrument or stool.   It sort of needs tuning, in that the piano is playing four notes lower than it should but all the notes are four notes lower so it's in tune with itself.  When we consulted a piano tuner they pointed out that the piano was old, unbranded and that once we started fiddling with its knobs it was likely to start failing.  I'm going to need to get another 'new to us' piano.  There's no rush but it's on the list. 

Meanwhile the new piano stool arrived.  Bear took it out of the box, looked at the instructions and put it together.  I didn't give him any help at all, he just cracked on and now we have a new piano stool which bear is currently using as he does terrible things to the first few bars of the Blue Danube.  I can't tell you how proud I am of him.  It may have only been sorting out a few bolts, but he just did it without fuss or fretting despite not doing anything like that before.   He is really growing up - easy self assembly furniture at ten years old, who knows where he'll be next year!

Monday 20 November 2017

Still Shopping

I've succumbed to one or two things on the Amazon Black Friday sale (that started incredibly early).  I picked up an iron for when I break the current iron.  They have a very short life expectancy here.  I also picked up some silicon cooking utensils, which I was already shopping for, and a microfibre towel that I've been tempted by for a while.  There haven't really been other deals that appealed.  I picked up a few other bits at the same time that weren't part of the Black Friday Sale but were good enough prices. 

The house seems to be awash with cardboard and padded envelopes.  I think that the house feels constipated, all bunged up, as boxes from The Works (they had a great cashback deal last week), The Book People (of course!), and sundry eBay sellers lurk in every corner and block up access to cupboards.  The stash for Christmas and bear's birthday is growing.  I have completely lost track, as usual, but I am confident that bear will not be going short. 

When it comes to the actual Black Friday, I am very wary.  I know enough of the prices to know that a lot of the deals are not really deals but just about the usual price.  You really have to have your wits about you to just break even.  It doesn't stop me looking, of course.

I am determined that in the next month we are getting a new freezer.  I've not seen any 'must get this now!' deals yet, but I'm keeping my eyes open.  We also need a new TV.  The one in the dining room has stopped working.  Fortunately DH really does know what he's talking about when it comes to televisions so I can ask him whether it's a good deal or not worth it for the brand.

Sunday 19 November 2017

Questions from Bear

Sarah - that is an awesome video and I found it really helpful.  Thank you. 

Also, thank you to all the kind wishes, I don't feel I deserve them, but I am very grateful.

I'm sorry I've been missing.  It's a very long and dull story.  However I thought I would get back to business with a question that bear asked me last week.

Apparently the school were 'doing Christianity' in RE last week and bear came home and announced he wanted to read the Bible.  I was mildly surprised. I am a Christian (not a good one, but I do my best) but bear has had quite a secular upbringing and I am as careful as I can not to disparage any other religions.  I dig out a New Living Translation Bible and leave bear to it.

Bear reads through Genesis.  I make approving noises but don't push.  He starts on Exodus.  I continue to make approving noises but I am bracing myself to deal with some of the questions about the laws.  I mention very clearly that the sacrifice of Jesus has freed us from the Law of the Old Testament and keep everything crossed that I can keep up.  Then one night bear comes down and carefully asks, 'Mum, what's circumcision?'

I explain to the best of my ability.  We both have full body cringes.  He goes back to bed.  He hasn't mentioned reading the Bible since and I know I should be sorry but I'm also incredibly relieved.  I hope that this hasn't given bear a distaste for Christianity.  I am also quite glad that bear thinks that it's okay to ask me questions.  I just hope that the next questions are about something easier, like land tenure in the Danelaw or the legal foundations of the Agricultural Revolution.  I'd find them a lot easier.

Monday 6 November 2017

Bear is Sensible

Last night bear and DH went outside to set off fireworks.  Both are very cautious and risk averse and I felt happy to let them go out and enjoy being Men and Doing Men Things and Explosions.  They had a blast, literally. 

DH took the cue from father.  Father was in the Royal Engineers.  They were sent to Egypt in the 1950s to blow up the arms dumps left by Rommel in WWII.  He said it was great fun.  They started off learning how to up tree trunks and worked up.  He had some training in bomb disposal (not like they do nowadays) and a can-do attitude to all sorts of mechanical and electrical stuff.  He treated fireworks with extreme caution. 

I'm glad when Bonfire Night is over, for the sake of the pets.  We are not affected now, but I remember the cats reactions.  Psycho cat was a complete wreck.  Malevolent cat suffered with stoic disapproval.  Evil cat used to enjoy watching fireworks out of the window.  I miss having cat stories. 

Saturday 4 November 2017

Stealth Voucher

I'm the person who got a Christmas Card from the local Tesco Online Delivery people last year.  I'm really into Tesco.  Obviously I also dabble in Morrisons (nearly £40 in More points but I got a load of those through deals) and Sainsburys (I'm ignoring their coupons until I'm ready to spend £90), but Tesco is my main love.

So I am tootling around the site for today's order and up popped a link - 'Add this code for free McCains Roast Potatoes'.  I added the code and got the free roast potatoes which happen to be gluten free, so a win for me.  The offer ends tomorrow, 5 November 2017, if you're interested and getting an order tomorrow anyway.

I've been rummaging around on the Tesco site and I didn't find any other vouchers, but I'm going off to have a real look around the internet.  I wonder how many of these deals are lurking around.  btw while I was working I saw a good deal on baby wipes which was almost as good as the one I got from Approved Food and it's a shame I bought a year's worth.  I'll share if I find anything out of the ordinary. 

Also btw, for those who are interested, reddit has 'Tales from Tech Support' and one of their regular contributors is someone who mends sewing machines and has a lot of crazy tales.  I'm fascinated by the whole thing.  The link is here, I particularly like the one with the teddy bear and I am totally going to use the idea. 

Thinking Freezers

I need a new freezer.  I have been writing on this blog about my need for a new freezer for easily over a year.  I am definitely going for it at the end of the month. 

I am so looking forward to getting a space where I feel I can put frozen food in and feel confident about eating it when it comes out.  However, lack of confidence in frozen food isn't new.  I fail at freezing.  If I ever try to freeze soup or similar, I never have the confidence to use it later.  Or I look at it and think, 'meh, can't be bothered'.  Or it gets shoved in the back until the next time I come to defrost the freezer and I realise it's been in there for so long that it thinks bear is still a baby. 

I still need a freezer, but I'm not sure I need a big freezer.  The current model is a big upright freezer.  It's great for someone who freezes the bargains they find or who freezes stuff from the garden or who batch cooks and freezes.  I have never successfully batch cooked and I'm not going to try and fool myself that I will in the future. 

I am seriously considering going for a smaller freezer.  It will cost less as an initial investment and there is less chance of things being lost in there never to see light again.  It will reduce the chances of me having six different bags of frozen peas, all open and half used.  It will limit my ability to freeze bargains but the only time I can think it would make a difference for me is the once a year gluten free sale at Tesco as their gluten free chicken nuggets are really, really nice.  But all the money saving places say that I need a big freezer to save money. 

Bear is fine.  The thump with the football seems to have worn off quickly.  He his now looking with interest at the packages that are starting to pile up ready for Christmas.  I don't want to even think about how much I'm spending on him.  However I think I've got all the big presents sorted out. 

Monday 30 October 2017

Poor Bear

Bear is fine now, but I got a call from school at lunch time today saying could I come and check out bear.  He had been hit in the side of the head with a football kicked at full force.  Bear did have a tremendously red and swollen ear (now almost back to normal) and he complained of ringing in his ears and a pain behind his eye (now gone).  I brought him home.

So bear had an easy afternoon, and there's no sign of anything off.  He polished off dinner without much trouble and is now winding down for sleep.

I managed to get out today.  I was determined to get into town.  The Knit and Natter needed a particular type of wool and I thought I'd try and pick some up, and bear has decided he felt much better with almond milk.  It's also easier on DH.  And I made it.  It would have been easier if the buses had turned up.  I spent ages hanging around, but I got in and I came home, so I consider it a win. 

There's always a bright side.  I have a £9 coupon if I spend £90 at Sainsburys.  I was thinking I wouldn't manage to make the total this week, but the iron started playing games tonight.  I just about rescued bear's school shirt.  I suspect the heat setting is broken as it just got hotter and hotter and hotter.  So it looks like a delivery that includes a new iron.  I'll see how it works out. 

Sunday 29 October 2017

Bear Likes Halloween

DH has carved a pumpkin successfully (there is a face and no fingers were lost during the process).  Also bear tried on Halloween makeup...

He's actually quite a good looking lad underneath that! 

The next challenge is to get all the make up off him before school tomorrow. 

Saturday 28 October 2017

I got out of the house

Today I helped at the church's table top sale, selling donated kids' clothes.  It was okay.  I sold a little, chatted a lot and generally had a good time. 

I feel like I am being chased around by kids clothes.  First there was a donation through the facebook I do for them, then there was the stalls, then more and more of the stuff keeps appearing!  I sorted a load out last Monday but when I turned up this morning there were two extra boxes and an extra bag.  I couldn't get it all out and it spilled out over two tables.  Some of it was gorgeous and some of it was less so but it was all given with love and that is what matters. I was going frantic trying to set up.

I couldn't do much yesterday when the rest was set up as bear had a pal around and I couldn't leave them.  They were busy hanging out and talking rubbish - almost like grown men!  I've seen exactly the same sort of wandering, irrelevant, subject changing discussions in bars.  You know the sort of thing, where the discussion goes from someone at football to something to do with travel on to something to do with cats. 

Then my brother and his partner came round and we had a time hanging out and chatting.  It was good to see him. 

Tomorrow pumpkin carving is supposed to happen.  I have reservations and plan to put down a lot of oil cloth and newspaper. 

Thursday 26 October 2017

Serious Shopping Fail

There has been a significant shopping FAIL.  I can't believe I'm getting it so wrong.

It started on Sunday.  I wanted some bits for the week as it's Half Term and bear is at home.  I also was running short on the Sainsbury's flavoured water that bear and DH like, so I got a Sainsburys order, with added stockpot that took the total to just over £90.  Then I found that I was short of other things and that I was almost out of the Tesco shandy that DH likes chilled with dinner (I never run out of things, so this shows I wasn't with it!) so I got a Tesco order on Tuesday for just over £60.  Wednesday a very significant Approved Food order arrived and that was a hit to the bank account, I don't want to even type how much except it will set me up with wipes for at least the next year at a very reasonable price and the treats that came will keep us going for a while.  Today, Thursday, a Morrisons order came because there was an extra 5,000 points (£5 on the More card) if I ordered this week so I chose Morrisons but I would have had an order from somewhere anyway as I was picking up treats and fresh goodies as a friend of bear's is coming tomorrow and that was another order just over £40. 

My brother and his partner are visiting on Saturday and I promised to get some bits in.  We can have a sort of buffet type thing with some Halloween decorations up and a pumpkin.  The last two times our schedules have properly aligned have been last Christmas when we were supposed to visit them but the car battery died and this summer when we had the car crash.  I am cringing as I type this, but it means I'll be getting another order in on Saturday, and it's probably going to be Tesco as my Morrison Delivery saver doesn't work on a Saturday and Tesco are doing a promotion that ends 5 Nov where if you spend over £60 you get a coupon for 10p off per litre of fuel at a Tesco petrol station, which is no good for DH but my brother drives past a Tesco petrol station and it seems a shame not to take advantage if I can justify spending more than £60.

Then some time between 29 Oct and 4 Nov I should put another Sainsburys order in as if I spend £90 then I get £9 off and I suppose I can stock up a little more for Christmas.  Or I can not bother at all. 

Speaking of Sainsburys - apparently they do a Double Nectar Points event.  You have to go to a Sainsburys store between certain dates then you can get a voucher worth double the amount of Nectar points so if you have £5 of Nectar Points then you can get a voucher worth £10, maximum amount of points is £20, doubling to £40 and only certain categories are allowed.  These categories include Lego Dimensions and Skylanders - Ricky at Skint Dad has all the details, the Sainsburys version which isn't so well written is here.  Bear is very keen on lego and Skylanders at the moment. 

I just need to sit on my hands for November and avoid paying out anything more!

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Showing Off

wherethejourneytakesme - I can't resist showing off.  I self published Dinner at Dark last year. 

Important - anyone can self publish.  You just need to have an internet connection and a little time to work out the formatting.  You can self publish a shopping list.  I didn't use outside editors or anything like that but I did get my book cover from designer Melissa Alvarez.  Even though I didn't use outside editors, I do think I managed to do okay with grammar and spelling (please let no-one point out really obvious mistakes...again!)

The intro I use is

How would Martha Stewart deal with a dinner party where two of the guests were vampires, four of the guests were werewolves, one guest was completely unaware of this and one was a housekeeper with very high standards? What happens when you buy Holy Water from the Internet? When eight guests are trapped in the rugged British Pennines, the dinner party at Darke Manor takes an unexpected turn.

and I don't exactly know where you are in God's Own County but I set the story above Hebden Bridge during the awful floods.  It's not gory - I get scared too easily! - but there is some horror and some humour and I hope it's not too obvious.  I like to think it's very British, but I can't always tell. 

I strongly believe that if you really want to write a book then you can.  It may not be popular and it may not make money (mine don't), but I found a wonderful satisfaction in writing the story.  If you want to write, go for it!  Alan Moore said that you become a writer by the act of writing.  If all you ever do is enjoy working on the story then it's completely worth it! 

Now I'll step back from showing off back to business as usual.  If you do dip in  I hope you enjoy it.(important I never mind if anyone doesn't want to read my stuff, I'd rather just 'chat' passing through and keep friendship than you feel obligated)

Half Way Through Half Term

Bear went to a pal's birthday party today and I tried plantain for the first time and loved it.

there is still a significant fly problem despite the cider vinegar and washing up liquid traps.  The air is thicker than I like.  Tomorrow I need to take the kitchen apart.  This is likely to be more possible as I've written @ 600 words since I got back from bear's pal's party at 5pm and if I manage another 1500 words I think the kitchen will be sparkling.  I hope so - I've a very large pumpkin and a pumpkin carving kit.

wherethejourneytakesme I remember trying to decipher legal handwriting.  Those who worked on the Rossetta Stone had it easy in comparison!

As I mentioned, I did have a fly problem as part of the plot of Dinner at Dark and I admit I enjoyed writing it far too much.  If anyone is interested, if you click on the above link it will take you to Smashwords.  Smashwords is a place for self-published authors and there are some awesome writers there.  If you are interested you can use Smashwords coupon WS52Q and get Dinner at Dark free.  The coupon is good until December 31 2017 and I hope you can enjoy it. 

In other news, bear has decided that he wants to learn to touch type.  I had a quick google, checked out some reviews and bear started learning with Typing Club.  It's quite good, and the basic version is free.  I'm going through the course at the same time as bear, partly because although I've been touch typing for twenty years, I'm self taught and I'd like to improve my speed, and partly because I want to keep up with what bear is up to.  He's having a great time, and I'm finding it curiously soothing.  I can't wait to see bear's essay on 'what I did in the holidays'.