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!