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.