Wednesday, 10 August 2011

We Have Our House Back!!!

I finally collected the keys on Tuesday last week.  The state of the house was beyond belief.  What the tenant's didn't steal, they graffittied, broke or urinated on.  So far, over the past eight days, we have spent over 300 working hours cleaning and redecorating.  I'll post the before and after photo's after we've sued the arse off the agent.

So, we will be back in our own home by the end of this month!  Finally!

In the meantime, this week I've been back here in Hexham, getting the house ready to vacate.  Unfortunately the lady who we deal with at the Estate Agent won't be available for check-out of this house, so I decided to drop her a line, explaining what we'd done prior to moving:

Dear xxxx,

As I won’t see you at checkout on 26th of this month, I just wanted to confirm that the work required by the landlord has been completed.  The hedges were trimmed in late July and the lawn will be mown this Saturday (within the stipulated two weeks of our vacating the property).

As per our previous correspondence, on the landlord’s insistence, we have repainted the walls in white.  He should be very pleased with the result as covering the magnolia has completely eliminated any feeling of welcome and warmth we had created in the property.  Furthermore, the contrast of white walls against the aged, chipped and yellowing woodwork has gone some considerable way towards recreating the shabby, neglected feel the property had when we took possession.  Unfortunately we have been unable to recreate this in its entirety as I was unable to match the dirty grey patches that were in evidence prior to our redecorating magnolia.

However, there are a number of issues I need to bring your attention:

  • Although we have known about the pending move for some time, we have been unable to replicate the original depth of dust and quantity of spider webs in the months preceding check-out.  However, I am confident that this will continue to build over the forthcoming months while the property lies empty.
  • Cleaning the carpets has removed almost all evidence of the stains visible at check-in.  In retrospect we realise that this was an error on our behalf, but without knowing what the stains comprised, we are left impotent to duplicate them. 
  • The curtains now draw properly and are now securely hung throughout.  If the landlord is unhappy with this, it can easily be remedied by removing a few curtain hooks. 
  • We were unable to secure the broken pelmet rail evident on arrival in the downstairs passage, so for safety’s sake we removed it, lest it fall on one of the children.  The fabric pelmet has been left, neatly folded on the windowsill. 
  • Try as we might, we could not take the upstairs bathroom walls and ceiling back to bare plaster, so unfortunately the paint on the walls has to remain insitu.
  • Despite our best efforts, we have been totally incapable of accumulating the amount of grease that was on the cooker hood and dirt that was inside in the fridge when we moved in.
  • Likewise, the two downstairs toilets are completely lacking in stains, either in the bowl or on the toilet seats.  Therefore the previous accompanying odour is now almost undetectable.
On a more positive note, we are happy to report that the large stain on the kitchen floor has not been removed and that the hall carpet remains poorly fitted downstairs.  We were also pleased to note that the exposed gripper and unfitted carpets were still apparent upstairs when we removed the protective barrier we had installed to save our children’s feet from injury.

The blobs of paint, marks and rust stains on the radiators have not been remedied, nor have they ever been re-painted by us, so remain in their original scruffy, unmaintained condition.  Likewise the wood/gloss work throughout. 

Finally, the electric fires continue to work intermittently and the fake coals on one remain broken, as on arrival.

To summarise, the house has now been returned to its original state and is once again completely devoid of any character whatsoever.

I trust that you will find everything to be in order, however if there are any issues please do not hesitate to get in touch.  Many thanks for your assistance over the past four years.  We wish you all the best for the future.

Yours sincerely,

Saturday, 23 July 2011

I'm Back!

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ve been up to a fair few things instead of sitting in front of my pc!  Firstly, the tooth that has been giving me so much pain and trouble for the past 14 months is finally gone. I had it removed under a general anaesthetic two weeks ago today.  I was in complete agony afterwards, with a face that looked as if I’d done a few rounds with Mike Tyson.  I couldn’t eat for a few days and my gum looked as if the tooth had been dug out with a teaspoon. Fortunately it’s healing well and I’m now back on ‘proper’ solid food.

Since then, I’ve been down to Essex for an interview and assessment at Anglia Ruskin University, who subsequently offered me a place (which I immediately accepted).  The OD has been up for a few days and the children’s godmother and her family have been staying with us for the past week so we have been out and about as much as the weather has allowed.

But most notably, the Nocturnal Child bought a boy home.  An actual boy.  Twice.  Not a ‘mate’, but the boyfriend.  I have been told of the existence of such creatures but had never actually experienced one connected to the Nocturnal Child.  Even stranger is the fact that he seems to be a perfectly normal, polite, well-mannered lad.  He didn’t have 1,000s of face piercings and has all his fingers and toes, both eyes and hair.  Proper hair, not a blue Mohawk or a greasy ponytail, just ordinary, brown, slightly swept to one side hair.  And he’s clever.  Almost to the point of geekishness (speaking as a geek myself, I see this as an excellent trait – after all, it has served me very well throughout my life).  He had dinner and joined in the conversation freely and as naturally as a lad confronted with parents, siblings, cousins and godparents all in one go can.  To be honest, I’m struggling to think of things I didn’t like about him.  Apart from his silly beardy bit, but I'm sure he’ll grow out of that!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Signing off for a few days

I'm signing off for a few days as I'm going into hospital tomorrow to have a horribly infected tooth removed under general anaesthetic.  They've been trying to treat it for 14 months now without success, partly due to the fact that I am a 'variant' and they can't numb me with conventional methods.  As it's a second molar the dental hospital won't undertake root treatment and there was no point paying to be treated privately as I had already been told that there was little chance of success as I need the kind of anaesthetic only available in the hospital.

I am a dreadful coward so to keep my mind off of the impending op, I have been working hard on the memory quilt and it's looking really good (even if I do say so myself).  I've also just started a quilt for YD's teacher's end of year gift.  It's going to be from the whole class, paid for with the donations made by parents.  If I can find some fabric pens I'm going to get each child to write their name on a piece of fabric and then incorporate them into the quilt somewhere.  I'm sure that there are some children in the class that Mrs P would rather forget, but in this age of inclusion they all have to go on, or none of them at all.

With a bit of luck I should be able to finish the hand stitching on the memory quilt while I'm waiting to go down to theatre tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Memory Quilt

Hurrah!  I've done all of the blocking for my mother-in-law's memory quilt.  Each picture block is approximately 12" square and the overall size (unfinished) is just over 5' square.  Excluding design and printing time, it's taken me about 8 hours so far and I am very pleased with it.  The photos printed beautifully - the printer fabric was very easy to use.  Of course, the patchwork is the easy part though... the hard work starts tomorrow when I start putting the actual quilt together.  I'm off to Calico Barn first thing to buy some batting as the stuff I've got already isn't wide enough for this quilt.  I'm also taking DH with me in the hope that he'll pay.....

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I've been very busy again today.  I've nearly finished another quilt... I just need to hand-sew the edging and it's done.  But more excitingly, something arrived in the post this morning that I've been desperate to receive... printer fabric. 

"What's that?"  I hear you cry.

Basically it's chemically treated, paper-backed cotton fabric that you can put through a printer to print photos on.  Hard-wearing and washable photographs.  Fantastic stuff. 

I've decided to make my mother-in-law a memory quilt for Christmas.  She has 16 grandchildren and step-grandchildren, so it will be a 16 block lap quilt, each with a photo of a grandchild in the middle.  I need to start it now and try to finish it soon as I don't know where we'll be from September and I doubt I'll have time to make it for Christmas if we move back into our own house at the end of October (or later).

It'll look something like this (but better), but in blues and white with black and white photographs:

I think my mother-in-law will love it!!!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Magpie Monday

I rarely buy brand new clothes and when I do, they're almost always in the sales.  That's not to say that I don't dress, well... my wardrobe comprises mostly White Stuff, Boden, Phase Eight, Laura Ashley and so on.  But I do believe in recycling, reusing and not wasting clothing so I love browsing eBay and charity shops for little gems.  I also make sure that anything we don't wear any more gets recycled.  Anything in pristeen condition goes on eBay, things that are slightly worn go to the charity shops and anything that looks 'old' goes into the fabric recycling bin at the local recycling centre.

The nocturnal child has also discovered the Aladdin's caves that are charity shops.  She has found that her allowance goes a lot further if she thrifts and she gets the vintage look she craves, for a fraction of the price of buying new.  She has also recently discovered vinyl.  I have a fairly substantial collection from the days before CDs and she has been buying up every record she finds in the charity shops in town.  Apparently the Relate shop is the best for vinyl.  Whilst she is in bargain heaven, it has proved rather expensive for me as I have had to invest in a USB record player for her to actually play all of these records!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Anniversary Day

It was our 10th anniversary yesterday.  Not our wedding anniversary, but our anniversary of being together, which to me is the more significant date.  However, I’m not one for celebrating this type of event, so I kept quiet about it, knowing that DH would never in a million years have remembered.   

So in typical style, it was just an ordinary day.  I marked the occasion by cooking a shepherd’s pie from Sunday's leftover roast lamb (part of the anti-waste campaign I’m currently enforcing) and then went out for the evening to my textiles group to “stitch and bitch”. 

I’m not sure if he did remember or whether he overheard a telephone conversation but when I got home, he was sitting on the couch in his pyjamas and dressing gown with a perfectly chilled bottle of bubbly waiting for me.

Who says romance is dead…?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Monumental Decision

I’ve spent the past three years studying part-time and have just successfully completed my post-compulsory teaching qualification.  I really enjoy teaching.  I have been in post in Northumberland for two years and am currently teach sociology but moving to Essex means having to find a new job so I will either have to teach in a college or secondary school or re-train. 

Knowing Essex and having had three teenagers myself I have no burning desire to be verbally abused and possibly even stabbed while teaching in a high school so I have decided to go back to university and do a primary teaching degree so that I can be bitten and vomited on by small children instead.  As we leave Hexham behind and begin a new chapter in our lives, I am in the best possible position to go back and study full-time to become a school teacher.  Yes, admittedly I am applying a bit late in the day, but according to the university websites there are still spaces on some teaching courses and as long as I get my application in before the end of the month, I could be offered a place for this September.  

I have guided many students through the UCAS and student finance application process, but I had absolutely no idea how complicated and time consuming it was until I had to do it myself.  I must have spent at least six hours over the weekend finding certificates, writing statements, speaking to potential referees and filling in online forms.  If I never see another drop-down box it will be too soon.  I am having to send documentary evidence of possessing children, proof of my husband’s income and outgoings via bank statements and my marriage certificate.  Why they need my marriage certificate I will never understand.  Perhaps to assess my endurance and stress levels?

All of this needs to be with the appropriate institutions by 30th June otherwise I will have to wait for the bun-fight that is ‘clearing’.  I have everything ready to go this end, I am just waiting for an online reference from my last tutor and for my friend to complete a form confirming that I am who I say I am before I can press the button, post the evidence and send the applications off (so no pressure if you’re reading this - lol). 

I have a bubble of excitement in my chest that has dissolved the feeling of dread I have had in my stomach over the house debacle.   Finally I have something positive to look forward to.  A monumental decision yes, but I think a very positive one.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Oh, That's a Big 'Un!

I usually collect the eggs laid by our lovely free-range, organically fed hens mid-afternoon, or wait until YD gets home from school so that she can do it, but it was pouring down yesterday so they didn't get collected.  However, as three of our ladies are prone to broodiness I can't leave the eggs in the nesting boxes too long otherwise I'll open the coop to at least two very cross, growling, puffed up hens, who subsequently stop laying for a couple of weeks.  Much as I love my hens, they need to be productive and have to lay to earn their keep!

So this morning, after school drop off, I grabbed a couple of egg boxes and popped down the garden to top up their feed and collect the eggs.  I ejected the two broodies from the nesting boxes and put my hand in to pick up the eggs and guess what I found......

What a whopper!
Eggs clearly come in three sizes in our house... small, large and eye watering!!! We're not the only ones though, my good friend Mama Syder found a similar sized egg a couple of weeks ago.  Purely out of curiosity, DH weighed the egg and it came in at a whopping 105g... the average hen's egg weighs between 35g and 77g.  I'm saving it to show the children but I bet YD has it boiled for breakfast in the morning with hot buttered toast soldiers... it's bound to be a double yolker.

 After the very harsh, cold winter, when the hens stopped laying completely for three months, we're now getting an average of 8-9 per day, which is great.  I give lots of eggs away to friends and normally donate the excess to the Abbey for the tea shop, either for cakes or egg mayonnaise sandwiches, but this week I'm keeping them for myself as the Brownie's are having a cake sale on Sunday after the service and I've promised to bake 60+ large cupcakes for them.  YD will of course be helping me and I'm really looking forward to spending the afternoon with her in the kitchen tomorrow... we have't done it for a while.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Day of Reckoning

Well, the day of reckoning has come and gone and as anticipated, the tenants have not moved out of our house.   They are doing exactly what the housing office has advised them to do and are staying put until they are evicted so that they can jump the queue and get a council/housing association property.  Two parents, six children and two dogs and tens of thousands of pounds in benefits, just sitting pretty while we fork out thousands we can’t afford from our own pocket to have them evicted.

So it now looks certain that we will become homeless as of 31st August 2011.  Although the tenants were served notice on our house back in April, it transpires that the agent served the wrong type of notice, therefore the solicitor could not apply to court for a possession order.  In turn, we have had to get the solicitor to serve the correct Section 21 Notice and so we now have to wait another two calendar months before we can apply for the possession order.   We can’t even begin to build a case against the estate agent as we have to be back in the property and have full details of our losses before the solicitor can begin proceedings.

I have written to the ward councillor of our house but he was unable to get anywhere with the housing office.  I have now contacted the councillor responsible for housing and the local MP but I’m not holding my breath.   I suppose it will have to be the press next.

What a shocking state of affairs it is that people are actually being advised to squat in a house by their local authority.  These people are privately renting now, have done for years and there is no reason why they couldn’t continue to do so… it’s not as if they actually pay the rent themselves, it’s all paid by the housing benefit department!  But they have decided that they want local authority housing, so my family has to suffer.

None of this is our fault.  Stephen couldn’t help getting ill and the only way he can remain employed is by going back to Essex to the office.  I have four children and a recently disabled husband but WE don’t qualify for any help and nobody is even vaguely interested in our plight.  The council in Essex actually told us to do the same thing as our tenants are and claim that we were homeless to our local council!

Totally outrageous!!!

I will keep updating on the situation, but I have to be careful what I say for when it all goes to court.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Three Little Words: Another Quilt Finished

I've been a busy bunny again today and finished another 45"x45" lap quilt.  This is a birthday present for a little girl in YD's class... the party is tomorrow so I had to get it completed sharpish.  This on is a bit more 'shabby chic' or vintage looking with more traditional fabrics and some applique.  Machine quilted but finished by hand.  Not bad considering I only started it on Monday evening....

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Manic Monday on Tuesday

I had another 'Manic Monday' yesterday. It started badly with the alarm going off and hearing Chris Moyles droning on about some rubbish or another. We were both shattered so the snooze button was hit several times, each peaceful reverie rudely interrupted by that irritating voice. By the time I crawled out of bed I was just about ready to kill someone. I really need to tune into another radio station.

YD ate her breakfast and then decided to be ill… there is a tummy bug going around so when she said she had a tummy ache I had to believe her. As she is the only one that has to be taken to school nowadays, it transpired that I’d got up for nothing, which cheered me up no end (NOT). I sent her back upstairs to put on her pjs and confined her to the sofa with a bucket.

The nocturnal child completely threw me off guard by getting up and going to college of her own volition. I woke the male child for the first time at 9am, just out of spite and reminded him for the umpteenth time that he HAS to clean and tidy his room… if he doesn’t do it soon, someone will find out and call in Environmental Health.

I collected every piece of ironing I could find in the house and added to my already foul mood by actually standing and doing it. My labour was interrupted by the need to wake the male child again and a trip into school to run hen club. Normally I enjoy this activity, but in my current mood and given the fact that YD was not actually at school, I was not best pleased to be dragging into town. The last vestige of humour left me when the class teacher announced that they had forgotten I was collecting children and I was required to follow them around the yard while they rounded some up. It was looking hopeful when was presented with a group of 7 nice little girls to work with. However, I subsequently discovered that the hens had not been done for some time and the task was more disgusting and took rather longer than I had anticipated... accompanied by much squealing and squeaking from the girls and great reluctance to actually touch the poo or clean generally. I'd arranged to meet the nocturnal child at the abbey to drive her home.  It's OK for her to keep me waiting, but within 2 mintutes of our meeting time, she was texting me demanding to know where I was.

Getting back from school well over an hour later, I went indoors and practically screamed at the male child who still wasn’t up and sorting out his room. I grumbled, scowled, complained about girls and hen poo, bemoaned my fate some more and then continued with the ironing. Luckily for all those present at the time, my mood was lifted slightly when Rafael Nadal began his quest for the 2011 Wimbledon title. Unfortunately this respite was short-lived as I then had to go out again to take DH for an MRI scan at the local hospital. Naturally they were running late so the 20 minute appointment ran over an hour.

On the way home, we stopped at Waitrose for essentials and by the time we arrived home it was time to start dinner. Joy. We’re trying not to waste food so much to the children’s absolute horror, for the first time in their lives I made rissoles from the leftover meat from Sunday's joint. To keep the calorie count down, I decided to oven bake them instead of frying (big mistake... in retrospect I now see that rissoles NEED to be fried). I carried on with the ironing while the food was in the oven and then endured the continual mithering of my kids while they whined and lamented their doom over being forced to eat this clearly inferior new foodstuff. They were at least astute enough to do the dishes before I started nagging about that too.

By the time I’d finished the ironing, YD was ‘laying low’ in bed. The nocturnal child had disappeared but the male child, not being very bright, was still being yelled at for not cleaning his room... to the point that I threatened to empty the entire room of his belongings when he was next at work. It’s amazing the effect a serious threat from a near-matricidal mother can have on a boy (before you call in social services, just to clarify he is nearly 20).

I then had to wait until it was almost dark so that I could extract two of the growers (young hens) from the flock as they are going to their new home tomorrow. They are really flighty birds so they can only be caught when they are sleepy after dusk. Of course, it goes without saying that by the time I’d got outside to the coop it was hammering down with rain and by the time I got back indoors with the box I was soaked to the skin. I would have loved a hot bath, but someone had already used all the hot water. And who says I lead a dull life?

The funny thing is, I’m not normally prone to bad temper or homicidal thoughts… so the blind rage I experienced at the sight of the toothpaste lid 6" away from the tube this morning should really have made me wonder if I was possibly suffering slightly from a little PMT.  I think I’d better get the Allways and Feminax ready!!!

And while I'm on the subject... that blooming Allways slogan really gets on my nerves… “Have a happy period”? WTF??? Only a man could have come up with that and another man have approved it and signed it off. If there was a woman on the board, she’d have stabbed them for even having the audacity to mention it!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Magpie Monday

Today's offering comprises two fabulous, original 1960s/1970s orange plastic lampshades.  Fantastically retro and right up my street.

I found this gorgeous flower-shaped cylindrical lampshade for about £8 (+P&P) on eBay just after I'd painted the kitchen.  It goes beautifully with the colour of the walls, clock and accessories as well as the Roman blinds I'd made, and hangs on one side of my kitchen.  I love it so much that I searched for months for another one for the other side of the kitchen, but without success.  It's probably for the best though as the other side of the kitchen has a much lower ceiling and I had secret visions of DH constantly banging his head as the shades are about 25cm long and hang quite low from the ceiling on a pendant.


However, I spotted this spherical shaped lampshade in a local charity shop and picked it up for a bargain £3.  I was absolutely delighted to get home and find that it is an exact match in both colour and pattern to the one I already had hanging - plus it also fits perfectly onto a fixed light fitting, thus avoiding the top of DH's head!

 What I like best about them is the way they diffuse the light in the evening and make the kitchen feel really warm and cosy with the orange glow they give off.  Definitely one of my favourite finds.  I just don't know where I can put them in the other house when we move...

Me and My Shadow

Friday, 17 June 2011

Childhood Memories

Over the past few weeks my husband has taken to staying at home rather than coming on the school run.  Whilst this means that YD and I now arrive on time every morning, it also means that I get home to find gems like “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross on the Discovery Real Time channel on the television.  I remember this guy from my childhood and always wanted to be able to paint like him.  He can produce a full-size oil on canvas in 30 minutes, using a wet-on-wet mostly brushwork technique.  Bob Ross died from lymphoma in 1995 but left a legacy of instruction books and videos for aspiring painters all over the world as well as 31 (yes 31) series of his ‘how-to’ painting show.  I am no stranger to the paintbrush myself, but try as I might, I just can’t paint like he does!
Bob Ross

Watching Bob this morning, with his Afro and ‘pocket squirrel’ bought back another aspirational memory from my childhood…  Nancy Kominsky.  She used to have a show, “Paint Along with Nancy” which I remember watching at my Nan’s.  Nancy had a completely different technique, putting the paint on thickly with a palette knife and mixing colours by the teaspoon.  I also remember she used to divide the canvas into a grid so that viewers could copy what she did at home.  Nevertheless she could also produce a finished canvas in less than 30 minutes… a skill I have yet to master!
Nancy Kominsky

And who could forget the amazing Tony Hart – and Morph?
Tony Hart and Morph

All of these artists played a part in my artistic development, inspiring me from a very young age to have a go at different things and see what I could achieve.  I also have to thank my mum, nan and aunt for teaching me to sew, knit and crochet respectively, as well as my lovely, tolerant DH who puts up with bags and boxes of resources dotted all over the house and indulges my passion for all things crafty.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Lazy Thursday for Me!

Aside from dropping the male child at work and getting YD to school, in full Celtic costume for a school trip, I’ve been totally unproductive so far today.  After a flurry of studying, knitting and quit-making over the past couple of weeks, I’ve completely ground to a halt.  So much so that when the speech therapist arrived to see DH at 10am this morning, I went upstairs with the intention of sitting in bed and watching some daytime tv… a rare treat for me during the week.  However, I must have dozed off as DH has just come in to wake me up with a cup of tea as it's half past twelve!  I’d better get up and do my marking then!!!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

MUMenTUM Momentum

I’ve been dieting for almost a year and have so far lost 39.5lb, just short of 3 stone, on the Slimming World diet.  That means I'm nearly 12 months into my lifestyle change of eating sensibly, drinking very little and generally feeling better about myself.  I'm down from a tight UK size 22/24 to a comfortable UK size 16 and I'm currently aiming to lose another 3 stone (42lb) and a UK size 10-12 (but truthfully I'd really like to lose another 5 stone and be a UK size 8-10 like I was when I was 30).

I find it helps to keep a food diary every day so that I can keep track of exactly what I put in my mouth nutritionally/calorie wise.  Apart from making sure that I eat a balanced diet according to whether I'm on a red, green or orange day, there are so many hidden calories/syns in other things... I need to keep on top of it or I end up way over my allowance.  For example, a home-made chai tea latte is 0syns if you make it with a tea bag and use your healthy extras allowance for the milk, an instant chai tea latte is 3.5syns but a regular size one from Starbucks is a whopping 10.5syns... a whole day's syn allowance!

Unfortunately, I put about half a stone back on again earlier this year when my husband was first ill but I’ve just about got back down to the lowest I've weighed since I was pregnant with YD.  I should be proud of that, but I'm actually kicking myself because I would have lost 3.5 stone or maybe even 4 stone by now if I hadn’t put that 7lb back on.  To be honest, I found it really hard to get that 7lb off again and now I feel as if I have plateaued as I've stayed pretty much the same for the past three weeks… annoyingly, even though I’ve been very good and stuck with the Slimming World programme, written down everything I ate and didn't go over my syn allowance at all, I actually put on 1lb this week! 

I’m quite upset about that… it’s not that time of the month and there’s no other reason I can think of for putting on when I’ve not overeaten.  Anyway as a result I have been a little bit down and used it as an excuse to fall off the wagon on Monday night.  I’d made a delicious and hearty Italian style tomato and bean soup – which really is a meal in itself – but I also put some home-made sunflower bread rolls in the oven for everyone else.  Well, they smelt so good I just couldn’t resist and I had not one, but two.  With butter.  Not just a smidge of butter either, thick butter.  So I beat myself up about it all day yesterday, then ended up having a take-away for dinner last night because we were running late and I just wasn't organised enough to cook.  I had/have been good apart from that and am really trying to stay on track... so it's just a little glitch... honest!

I've loved reading the different #MUMenTUM blogs and I am totally re-inspired.  I already know what I need to do – drink more water, eat less (but eat well) and take more exercise - I just need to keep on doing it.  I live 3 miles away from school so I have to drive in but I’m trying to park at least a quarter of a mile away and walk the last bit.  I’ve also just started methodically clearing the house room by room in readiness to move, taking our lampshades and curtains down and replacing them with the originals etc, so that’s about all the exercise I can manage at the moment.  Hopefully it will be enough to see a change this week?

I simply have to keep reminding myself that 1lb loss a week = almost 4 stone over a year.  I didn't get fat overnight and it's going to take just as long to get slim again.  Patience is a virtue.

There aren't many "before" photos of me!  This was taken last summer.
And I'm still very much a "work in progress" but I'm getting there!!!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Quilt Photos as Promised

I finished my second quilt last night and I am SO PLEASED with it.  It’s a lap quilt at just a fraction under  1.2m/4’ square.  This one was originally going to the Linus Project, but as soon as YD saw the first block, she claimed it for herself.  She had already designed her ‘new bedroom’ for when we move back to Essex later this year and was originally having cream walls with a lavender feature wall, decorations, soft furnishings and bedding.  However, she has now had a complete change of heart and is now going for a multi-coloured look.  Luckily I hadn’t bought any of this purpleness yet (apart from some butterfly wall stickers) so the fact that we’re now going for a rainbow theme is fine by me.

I have also done all the blocks for a quilt for the nocturnal child, but I’m going to need to have that one professionally quilted as unfortunately YD’s lap quilt was just about as big as my domestic sewing machine could handle.  Luckily I have found a lovely, friendly lady in Yorkshire who is prepared to do it for me for a reasonable price.  I’m not quite ready to send it off yet (I have about 1,000 loose threads to finish off first) and I have no idea how long it will take, but if she’s good, I’ll use her again for any large items I want quilting. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Magpie Monday

I am a massive fan of cast iron pots and pans and have a huge Le Creuset collection, which is worth a small fortune.  I found this little beauty in our local junk shop for £17.50.  It's a big cast iron enamelled stock pot, admittedly not Le Creuset but it still matches and is exactly what I was after but at a fraction of the cost.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

It's Been a Busy Week

It's been a busy week for me.  A very busy week.  I spent the end of last week, last weekend and all day Monday completely ignoring my family and putting together my final portfolio for my teacher training course.  I handed everything in on Tuesday afternoon and now feel as if a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Wednesday was exam day for my students and I now have to mark their papers.   I had Thursday off, so treated myself to a day crafting.  I made a quilt for the Linus Project which I hope to be the first of many.

My First Linus Project Quilt

I have been well and truly bitten by the quilting bug.  Since then, I've already done all of the patchwork for a single bed size quilt for the nocturnal child and most of the patchwork for a lap quilt for YD (photos will follow when they're finished!).  I spent the afternoon at Calico Barn looking at fabric, asking questions of the ladies that work there and getting inspiration for my next few projects.  I am planning to make another Linus Project quit next, for an older boy, in red, white and royal blue.  I already have the patches cut but I'm waiting for a jelly roll to arrive from the USA before I can actually start.  After that, I think I shall make a smaller one for my gorgeous Godson's 4th birthday.  He is a HUGE Toy Story fan and I have found some wonderful fabric that he will absolutely love.  Once it arrives, I'll take a trip back up to Calico Barn to buy some coordinating fabrics to go with it.  

I shall post photos of all of my creations as I finish them.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Poor Old Scatman

Our poor old cat is terribly bullied by one of the neighbours' cats.  The animal in question is an absolutely huge ginger tom who bears more than as passing resemblance to a mountain lion.  He can take out a fully grown rabbit with ease and I have seen him effortlessly scale our 6' high fence with one in his mouth.  Now, about 10 months ago, Nelson (possibly named for the wresting move?) took a dislike to our lovely Scatman.  It took 5 trips to the vet, an operation and countless courses of antibiotics to clear the infection in the wound inflicted by this vile creature.  There have been many other occasions since when our baby has come in injured. 

However, last night was possibly the worse so far.  The male child arrived home from work at about 3.30am and came banging on our bedroom door because the cat had run into the house and was bleeding.  And boy, was he.  Every time he shook his head he left a spray of blood on the wall/couch/floor etc.  He is usually a very talkative feline, but he didn't make a sound... not even a purr.  I debated calling the out of hours vet but he didn't seem to be in any danger of exsanguinating so the male child sat up with him until the vet opened this morning. 

Because of the location of the worse wound, and the fact that it was still bleeding freely, the vet was reluctant to stitch his face as she was concerned that a haemotoma would form.  So my beautiful fat baby is now pumped full of antibiotics, anti-inflamatories and painkillers and is sporting a very unfashionable pressure bandage which has been sticky taped (yes, taped) onto his head to look like he is wearing Y-fronts as a hat.  That's going to hurt when they take it off to re-dress the wound on Monday!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Exciting Day for the Munchkin

YD is a bit of a drama queen.  Literally!  She loves all aspects of the performing arts, singing dancing and acting.  She also enjoys a bit of modelling… anything to grab the limelight really.  Her latest step towards stardom was the lead child in a short film called 'Closed Doors' made by some very talented people at York St John University and we have been invited to attend the VIP screening in York this evening. 

YD plays ‘Lucy’ the battered child of a cruel middle-aged Victorian doctor.  Her beautiful young mother falls in love with a handsome young soldier and they plan to run away to America… but their plan is foiled when the father overhears them talking and intervenes.  However, his health is failing due to the fact that he is being systematically poisoned, ironically with his own medicine.  He then dies, leaving the lovers free to escape to a happy future across the Atlantic.  And the twist is... 'Lucy' is the murderer.  That's my girl.

I didn't do the plot justice in my description because the concept of the film is great and the cinematography described in the script looked as if it was sheer brilliance.  The cast, the crew and especially the director were lovely and all seemed very impressed with YD, though I have to say that she takes direction well and is always impeccably behaved on set.  Of course I am a bit biased, but I also thought her acting was excellent, although we shall have to wait and see the finished article for proof of that.  It must be good as it was one of just five films selected for this screening, in the presence of industry professionals.  I personally can’t wait to see it.

YD is beside herself with excitement as she has never been to a premier or seen herself on the big screen before.  She has had her outfit sorted out since the weekend and has planned her hairstyle (and back-up hairstyle) as well as talking me into a slick of lipgloss for the evening.  I will need a copious supply of tissues for the screening.  I am, and shall be a very proud mummy.


Monday, 30 May 2011

Magpie Monday

This is a fabulous STOMPA Casa bed I found on eBay.  They retail at around £1,200 but I snapped this one up for just £200.  It was in absolutely immaculate condition when I collected it... to look at it you wouldn't know it wasn't brand new.  The desk pulls in and out to make a large surface area when you need it and it also has a built-in bookcase.  The sofa under the bunk pulls out into a guest bed which I have been told is really comfortable and it has built in storage under the seat cushions for the spare bedding too.  The family selling it were lovely and even threw in the desk chair, bedside lamp and ceiling lampshade, lavender duvet set and matching curtains!  YD was and still is delighted with it.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Appleby Horse Fair

Just to prove that I am still alive, I thought I’d write a few lines today.

This week is a very exciting week because next week marks the beginning of the Appleby Horse Fair.  Appleby Fair runs for a week in June, ending on the 2nd Wednesday in June, in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria.  It is probably the best known of the horse fairs attended by Romany families travelling from all over the country to meet up with old friends and conduct business. It is world famous, the largest of its kind in the world, and attracts a huge gypsy gathering.

It has existed as a fair for horse trading since 1685, under the protection of a charter granted by James II.   The field on the outskirts of Appleby originally known as Gallows Hill, due to its usage in earlier times, is now called Fair Hill and looks over the town of Appleby. During the Fair, horses may be found everywhere - in the river, on its banks, along the roadsides or tethered outside hotels and shops.  Young people wash the horses in the River Eden and are then ready to show them off. The tradition of racing and trotting the horses along Flashing Lane takes place throughout the day.

So what is it so exciting?  It’s the fact that the travellers use a piece of land at the end of our lane as a ‘stop-over’ to rest their horses.  Every morning this week there has been a different collection of the most beautiful traditional gypsy caravans and carts on display, with horses tethered nearby.  It really is a sight to behold and one I would not want to miss for the world.

There are lots more pictures here

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Nothing Especially Interesting.

I was observed teaching again today.  It’s not my favourite thing if I’m honest, and it can be quite demoralising having my resources and paperwork scrutinised and teaching methods criticised.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to be told that it was all good and there is no higher praise than to be told by the person 'grading' you that they will be taking some of your teaching practices and resources and using them in their own practice.

On a different note, DH’s rehabilitation is going well and continues to be a constant source of entertainment.   He has been practising his fine motor skills this afternoon so I suggested that he peel some potatoes for dinner.  Every chore is a challenge for him as he suffers tremors and spasms on a regular basis.  Sometimes his hand will lock onto something, another time his hand will open suddenly and he will fling what he is holding across the room.  I’ve lost count of the number of times he has dropped the potato and thrown the peeler into the pan of water.  However, as he gets tired the spasms get worse so I’m going to leave the room now before I am impaled by a potato peeler... If you don't hear from me tomorrow, hopefully it will be because I'm en route to see Take That... not that I have been stabbed to death with a kitchen implement!!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Take That

I never liked Take That.  I was too old to be into ‘boy bands’ by the time they were created and they certainly didn’t sing anything I wanted to listen to.  Even the most ardent fans must concede that when you hear their original early recordings now, they just weren’t that good. 

I remember my next door neighbour knocking on my door in floods of tears the day that Robbie left.  Naturally I made her a cup of tea and sympathised, but I’m not sure that I even knew who he was then.  I don’t have any recollection of Take That disbanding at all.

Even I have to admit though that Robbie has churned out a fair few decent tracks during his solo career.  In my period of ‘singleness’ between husbands I may have even danced to a fair few of them.  However, I was only barely aware that Take That had reformed, thanks to the Morrison’s advert and their singing the theme tune to the film, ‘Stardust’, on Jonathan Ross sometime in 2008.

However, I was absolutely blown away by a televised recording of their live concert ‘The Circus’ when it was shown.  I instantly rushed out and bought the CD and kept the recording on Sky+.  Consequently, having now memorised every word to every track, I now admit to being a fan.  Even so, I wasn’t over-excited by the fact that Robbie has re-joined the band... it felt a bit like 'jumping on the band-wagon' (pardon the pun) to me.

Now the tickets to their forthcoming concerts were announced just in time for my husband to buy some for my birthday last year.  However, despite heaping on the hints, he managed to miss buying any, instead presenting me with a Take That DVD for Christmas.  Needless to say I was absolutely gutted.

It seems as if everyone I know is going, friends, colleagues and sister-in-laws.  I was lamenting my loss to one of my work mates last week (another person who is going) and she told me that another colleague was selling a couple of tickets and suggested that I contact her to see if she still had them.  No chance, I thought, but I emailed her with my details anyway.

Lo and behold, guess what’s just arrived in the post….?  2 tickets for Friday’s concert at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland!!!  I am overjoyed.  Somewhere, someone is smiling down on me.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Very Sad Day

I don’t really have much to say today.  I have had a very eventful day but my thoughts and prayers have been and still are with the parents and family of Emma Newton.  Emma was a bright, beautiful and extremely talented young lady whose life ended tragically yesterday in a freak accident in high winds on the back road to Corbridge.  She will be missed by all who knew her.  Rest in peace x

Monday, 23 May 2011

Magpie Monday

Well, this is my first Magpie Monday, where I share a second-hand bargain I have found with you.  I absolutely love trawling through charity shops and of course, eBay.  This week's offering is a set of 8 beautiful pressed glass sundae dishes that I found in our local Scope shop for £2.50.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

For All My Crafting Friends

I was going to join my great friend Mama Syder with Silent Sunday, but I had such a fabulous, inspiring day yesterday that I just had to share.  I’d been invited by a friend to go to an exhibition of quilts at a nearby stately home.  The quilts were just AMAZING.  There were well over 100 on display, from small wall hangings to giant quilts that would swamp a super-kingsize bed!  They were made in every colour you can imagine and using a multitude of different techniques.  There were also patchwork teddies, bags and items of clothing.

There was one section of the exhibition that really caught my eye – ‘Project Linus’.  Project Linus is a volunteer non-profit organisation, named after the ‘Peanuts’ character who never went anywhere without his blanket.  They aim to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatised, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, home-made, blankets and quilts.  Project Linus originated in America, and started in the UK in March 2000.  By the end of June 2010, Project Linus UK had delivered an incredible one hundred and twenty thousand plus blankets across the UK.  Volunteers make blankets and quilts for all ages from neo-natal to teens are provided free to families with need.  This is their weblink which is broken right now (they are fixing it as I write so please keep checking!): or you can email Lyn for more information.  Apparently there are around 70 regional coordinators throughout the UK who collect and distribute the quilts.  This is the American weblink where you can also find lots of information as well as free patterns and ideas:

I’ve made patchwork and done some quilting before, but only small things.  I used to make patchwork hats for my girls when they were small (in the 1990s) which were so popular I used to sell them for pin money.  But I have been inspired by the beautiful quilts in this exhibition and will definitely be having a go when I have a little more time and I am absolutely going to be making something for Project Linus.

Before I left, I bought patterns to make two different ‘wholecloth’ hand-quilted cushions as starters.  Next thing on my shopping list is a quilting foot for my sewing machine as we have been assured that it is possible to make a bed-size quilt in a day with a machine!   My friend and I finished the afternoon with a civilised cup of tea in the cafĂ© before a leisurely drive home.  We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

These are just a few of the wonderful things we saw…

This hand-made Baltimore quilt was made by a 70 year old lady for her 50th wedding anniversary.
Gorgeous patchwork teddies.

Four Seasons: a machine quilted wall hanging
This chasuble and robe were made by the ladies of the congregation for a lady vicar in Australia

This Christmas quilt was made by different members of the same family each making one square.

Top, Quit for a Child: Bottom, Sutton Ho Quilt

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Visit from a Stranger

We had an unusual experience last night… we actually saw the Nocturnal Child.  I'm not making this up, it really was her.  In person.  Despite the fact that she was not at college, we hadn’t seen her for days, although there has been the usual trail of dirty dishes and destruction to evidence that she is still alive. 

She came into the front room at about 10pm, in pyjamas, looking like something the cat dragged in.  I almost didn’t recognise her.  No really… her hair has, at some point this week, changed from brown to a very dodgy orangey/blonde.  It looks like a bit of a peroxide disaster… trying to strip the brown dye out of her naturally blonde hair. 

She dyes her hair as often as most people change their bed sheets, and being of a changeable nature, tends to go from one extreme of colour to another.  It’s as dry as straw, with split ends so bad that it’s permanently frizzy.  I keep warning her but to no avail.  One morning she’s going to get out of bed and her hair will still be on the pillow… watch this space…

Friday, 20 May 2011

Woman in a Red Dress

As a natural redhead, I spent most of my 1970s childhood being dressed in green, and occasionally pink, purple or brown.   I don’t remember ever having a red dress, because one of my mother’s mantras was that ‘redheads shouldn’t wear red’, along with ‘blue and green should never be seen’ and other similar fashion faux pas.   Consequently I grew to hate the colour green with a passion.  In fact, I must have been in my 30s before I ever seriously considered the colour for my wardrobe. 

My mother always maintained that I was ‘strawberry blonde’ but mostly I was tormented at school for being freckly and ginger.  Any insult you can think of, I was called.  Mercilessly.  I started dying my hair when I was 13 or 14 and didn’t stop until I was about 22 or 23, when I had a sudden change of heart and began to embrace my gingerness.  Of course, I dye it now, but that is mostly to cover the greys… sometimes it ends up red, other times more of a dark or mousy brown… it just depends on which hairdresser is doing it and how free they are with the foils.

Anyway, I digress.  I love red but only usually wear it at Christmas, always wary of the warning drummed into me against it ‘with my colouring’.  Also, being big, I always imagine I would look like a giant tomato waddling down the street.  I do have red shoes and handbags but generally wear them with denim, black or white to spruce up an outfit.  However, I was very daring during the Easter break and wore a red t-shirt on a day trip out.  I bumped into a friend who commented later that I had looked ‘stunning’.  Now stunning is not a word often used to describe me nowadays and I was really heartened by the complement. 

I had bought a couple of dresses in a smaller size in the DP sale a few months ago and was delighted to discover this week that they now both fit.  So I took the plunge yesterday and wore a completely red outfit to work.  Admittedly, I was underpinned by SPANX, but I wore a red and white poppy print dress with a scarlet cardigan, shoes and bag.  I even swapped my usual ‘barely there’ nude colour lipstick for an outrageous and slightly tarty pillar-box red.  I didn’t care what anyone thought or said, because I felt fantastic.  

I am so glad I did.  I’ve had a really rubbish few months and have been increasingly feeling down.  But from the time I walked downstairs for breakfast, I had nothing but complements!  From my children, my husband, other mums in the school yard, my students, work colleagues, the girl that served me in Specsavers and again yesterday evening when the same friend popped over for coffee and exclaimed, ‘Wow, red is certainly your colour!’ when I opened the front door.

It is amazing how much better I feel today and how less stressed I am as a result of these genuinely kind words.  It only takes a second to say something nice to someone but it might just make an enormous difference to the way they feel about themselves.  I’m definitely going to make a point of telling people that they look nice from now on - everyone needs a boost from time to time and I might just make someone’s day!