Monday, 31 December 2012

Extreme Couponing

I am watching Extreme Couponing on TV.  For those who have never seen it, it is a show about people who use coupons to get a lot of household goods and food for very little money.  At the end of the last show someone got nearly $900 worth of groceries for just around $25 cash plus a HUGE bundle of coupons. 

Going with the coupons are the stashes of food.  I have watched round eyed as the tv camera pans over rack after rack of groceries and cleaning products.  I have wondered about sell by dates.  I have wondered about the cost of the savings compared to the cost of building/purchasing the racking.  I have wondered about keeping it all dusted. 

It isn't really as easy to do in the UK, there is a different culture of supermarket offers.  I was initially thinking - new resolution, do not stockpile beyond reason.  However I think it may be a nice mental challenge to see what I can do with discounts and vouchers. 

Perhaps it is just as well I can't get into couponing over here, my tendency to hoard would run away with me, but I wonder if I can work something out here.  Surely there must be ways to work the deals? 

If I come to any conclusions, I shall share!

Successful Minor Injury?

I can feel smug.

I have had a brain scan, so I can prove I have a brain.  I have had a heart scan, so I can prove I have a heart.  And now I have the most minor injury in existence that is workrelated, so I can say I have at least done some work. 

Roll on 2013.  There will be no stopping me.

A very minor injury

I have managed, somehow, to sprain or otherwise pull or discomfort the little finger on my left hand.  It isn't even that bad.  I have no idea how I managed it, but it is such a minor thing that I don't know why I should have noticed.  It was aching quite a lot last night but it is merely a grumble at the moment. 

I feel incredibly irritated because the little finger of the left hand must surely be one of the most minor parts of the hand to be affected.  Except I touch type.  Every time I use q, z or a, or every time I use shift for the right hand side of the keyboard I feel the dratted little finger ache more. 

I cannot express how irritating I find it, but at least I can take comfort that finally I have a sort of work related injury.  It shows I must have been doing something.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ginger Gentleman Caller

I was just stepping out of the house this morning on my way to pick up darling father's papers when I was faced by the ginger gentleman, the unneutered ginger tom that terrorised the street earlier in the year.  The sleek feline shape with the huge furry dice has now grown into a massive square monster that is as cuddly as a brillo pad.  He saw me and yowled. 

And he yowled, and he yowled, and he yowled.  He gave me a huge mouthful of furry indignation.  I walked slowly towards him.  He backed away in the direction of the flats across the way and carried on with the foghorn style abuse.  Then I remembered.  There was a very nice man who took pity on the Ginger Gentleman and let him in on a regular basis.  I followed the tom across the road, being deafened by a feline who was cross that the world was not as it should.  Then he sat on the step to the flats, glared at me, glared at the door and then glared at the communal intercom.  I buzzed the nice gentleman.  'Hello,' he said, obviously not expecting a ginger delivery.  I explained that there was a cat wanting to come in and he laughed and buzzed the door open. 

After I shut it and had carried on to the newsagents, I thought, this is a cat who has seen a human that normally is hostile (in an effort to protect evil cat) and is never sympathetic and yet has managed to insist that the hostile human does what it wants.  Ginger has probably accumulated about a hundred cat points just by doing that, he is probably zooming ahead in the cat v human stakes.  I will be feeding him tuna next.

And if I ever write a sequel to Cats in the Bible this story will probably be in it. 

Little bear and punctuation

Little bear is now officially six and is basking in the glow of being able to spell things.  He also has a very mischievous sense of humour.  He will ask me things like, 'Mummy, how do you spell 'house'?'
I will pause and say, 'H-O-U-S-E.'
Little bear will grin and say, 'Correct!'

Today we hit the dreaded apostrophe.  'Mummy, how do you spell 'She'll'?'
I wrote the word down for him and explained that the apostrophe stood in for missing letters.  Little bear nodded and looked thoughtful.  'It's like a comma,' little bear said.  'How do you use a comma?'

I paused.  This was not something I was really ready for, and the use of a comma was not something I felt I could usefully help little bear with.  There are a number of reasons.

1.  I am not really sure how to use a comma myself.  I was never taught how at school, but I have picked up knowledge from usage and self help books.

2. I grossly over use the comma myself, when I write things I always have to go back and take out half the commas

3. I am not really sure of the usage that they are planning to teach in schools. 

4. I was pretty sure that this was part of stalling tactics as we were trying to get little bear ready and out for a visit to my brother. 

This is only the start.  I have a book called 'Maths for Mums and Dads' as they do it all differently now to the very basic stuff I can remember and I think I had better start reading it.  And some books on punctuation while I am at it.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Sorting out the next steps

I am still mulling over the best way to try and make the resolutions a reality.  I intend to treat them as a process, not a fixed point, which should help.

I can't see many chances to really get cracking on the bigger parts of the resolutions until little bear is back at school and OH is back at work and I can guarantee a few hours peace and quiet.  However I can get started on the smaller bits.

I am trying to work out whether it is worth me looking in BHS for the sale gifts, so that I can stash a few generic gifts for emergency present situations.  It costs money now, but could save money later.  On the other tack of the dither, I normally like to take some consideration for the person being bought for, but sometimes you just need a gift on the instant.  I would certainly not be looking to spend a lot of money, but it could be worth investing if I see something really good - but I don't often buy for close members of the family as it is normally either a magazine subscription or 40% proof. 

This is a useful dither as it helps me define what exactly I am doing with the money.  What do I buy now to stash for later, compared with stashing the money itself to pay bills, buy necessities and pay for the holiday and the new flooring? 

I am also considering doing a sweep of the city's small, independent charity shops, as a lot of unwanted gifts will be donated, as will a lot of stuff cleared out under New Year's Resolutions.  It is really important to only buy what I need and do I need a gift stash?  Only if it is suitably generic stuff at unbeatable prices in a central location and logged on a spreadsheet.

I could look for stuff for little bear, but that will normally mean I forget just how much I have stashed and he ends up with too many clothes.

I think I shall spend some time mulling this over - and I hope to be able to sneak off and do some ironing tomorrow, to try and catch back up with all the laundry.  

Little bear has a party

Little bear had his birthday party today - and he had a marvellous time.  It was a soft play party and little bear hurtled round with his pals, stuffed his face, ate a vast amount of cake, hurtled round again and came home with a raft of presents. 

He had such a lovely time - I am really glad.  OH has taken little bear to his auntie to blag some more presents (actually, little bear loves his auntie, uncle and cousin.  He is a loving lad) and I am recovering.  I did a lot of the 'walking round and talking to everyone' and I did a very good Sergeant Major's voice when calling everyone for the food. 

Now I am considering alcohol. 

Evil cat's perfect timing

Evil cat waited until I was juggling laptop on lap, urgent text on phone, darling father on his way out sorting out whether keys necessary, little bear opening presents and trying to keep some sort of logic before she leapt onto my north face, sank her over long claws into first one thigh, then the other, knocked the laptop flying and sunk her claws into both hands, my bust and my knee and is now sulking in front of the fire. 

Evil cat really needs her claws trimming, but no-one has the nerve.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Chilli con Charlie au Charlotte

It's a wonderful title for a recipe, it's a recipe I invented myself so I am ridiculously smug, and it was amazingly popular with the men in my life (father, husband and son).  I practically never come up with a good, original recipe so I am making the most of this. 

First make the Chilli con Charlie. 

2 large onions, 454g (1lb) minced beef, 1 415g can of baked beans (or nearest size to it), 1tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, heaped tsp oregano (substitute parsley, sage, mixed herbs or italian herbs if preferred), tbs of worcestershire sauce. 

All the above quantities are approximate and the seasonings can be definitely adjusted to taste. 

Roughly chop onions and soften in the minimum amount of oil.  Add the mince and cook until browned through.  Add the beans and seasonings and simmer for ten minutes.  Set aside to cool. 

Then the Charlotte bit (because I had bread, eggs and milk to use up and I knew that darling father and OH were wanting meat).  Approx half a loaf of sliced bread (or unsliced, but sliced to a medium thickness, butter or margarine, 500ml milk, 3 eggs, salt. 

You need about half a loaf of sliced bread.  Line a souffle dish with slices of buttered bread, butter side out, crusts cut off (I use scissors) over the base and sides.  Put half the chilli con charlie mixture in the lined dish.  Put in a layer of buttered bread (crusts off) and then top with a layer of buttered bread.  Put the second half of the chilli con charlie in and finally top with thickly buttered bread, butter side up. 

Beat the three eggs with a good pinch of salt and then beat in the 500ml of milk.  Pour over the bread and chilli con charlie and stand for ten minutes.  Cook for 40 minutes at Gas Mark 6 200degrees, covering the top loosely with a piece of foil for the first 20 minutes. 

My lot didn't want anything with it, but I would have put peas or a salad with it. 

I feel so smug I have posted a recipe.  Using Asda online costings and the cheapest versions of the ingredients (including the 454g bag of frozen mince that I used because I actually like that mince) the cost is around £3.20, plus butter/margarine and seasonings.  You could certainly cut down the meat to 3/4 of a lb without it being materially affected, and you could cut down the onion content if desired.  This is not the cheapest meal ever, but I have been asked insistently for a repeat of it. 

Breaking it down

I have this huge list of resolutions, but it is all doable.  I am starting to break things down. 

Fairly high on the list is meal planning.  I have got a lot better at this over the last six months, it doesn't seem to work well if I write it down (I think I am too contrary) but if I just keep a rough idea of what we are eating over the next few days then I stay quite close to this and it works well.  Meal planning will help to tackle not only the budget but making sure that the house is running as it should.  Knowing what I need to defrost, what I need to prepare, how much time before I need to start cooking will help me keep the family fed with home cooked meals.  And it really will help with the budget, if I keep an eye on what needs using up (curried remoska carrots and parsnips last night to go with the sausages) and so get the most out of my grocery spends and avoid waste. 

There are two big things I need to crack to get the meal planning on track.  The first one is to merely take a stock take of food.  I have been putting that one off for ages, but I can see it becoming more likely.  I am working hard to make sure that I am reaching into the back of the cupboards and using up the tins and packets in the darker corners. 

The second thing I need to deal with is the question of lunch.  I need to make sure I am feeding darling father and me some good food midday.  It is amazing how often darling father will pop out for fish n chips, and I find myself skipping lunch or filling up on things like crisps.  That has to stop.  I need to get the maximum value out of my food pennies, and that includes maximum nutrition.

Another thing I want to work on is using my microwave, remoska and slow cooker more and more, to get the most cookery for my energy penny.  That is lower down the priorities though, as I use them a lot anyway, and it is more important to me to lunch and dine with more nutrition for less pennies. 

Tomorrow I am making a new recipe - bread soup - in the slow cooker.  If it is successful I shall post it. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Time to start preparing for the New Year and New Year's Resolutions. 

On the whole I don't really believe in New Year's Resolutions.  You can have a Resolution any day, and quite often waiting for New Year is just putting off something you don't want to do but think you should, and as you will have lost momentum from the first impulse, the chances of keeping on are slim.  I believe you can start a Resolution at anytime.

On the other hand, I think it will be a great chance for me to take stock.  At the moment I would say I was not depressed.  I feel very different.  This year is the first time I have been able to say that with any sort of conviction for thirty years.  I don't know how to be now I am not depressed.  After all the health scares for the last few months I think now is a good time to take stock. 

Looking back over the last few months particularly, I seem to be doing a lot more and I am not sure where it has all come from.  Wherever it has come from, I need to build on it and try changing some habits, and changing them for the better.

Writing things down and putting them in a public place is a good way to motivate - although it hasn't worked well for me in the past.  But I will try listing them here.

1. Run a budget. I have been a pathetic failure at this.  Starting 1 Jan I will track money spent, update any earnings from writing (so far not reached £20, but I don't care!) every Tuesday, and I will allocate money to different needs and try and remain within that. I will use the help that a very kind lady sent (thank you again, really appreciated!).  I will not try and get it perfect straight away and will accept that at a time of rampaging inflation (whatever the government says) a budget is a tough thing to run.  I will join Grocery Challenge, Second Purse Challenge and whatever other challenges I can find on the MSE website.  I will start a price book. 

2. I will get control of my home.  At the moment I am a feather in the wind.  Now I have more physical energy and more will behind it I will do all I can to make my home a pleasant place to live in.  I will set realistic goals, realise that I am going to have to work around my family and get on with it.  I will follow the FlyLady Thread on MSE and also follow the housekeeping chart here .  I shall aim to do everything I can to make my home easy to care for.  I aim to sleep in a bed by the end of February.  I will actively simplify and reduce to aim to keep housework to around half an hour per day. 

3. I will become more active.  I will once again find the pages on the BBC website that include tips on getting active over four weeks.  I will actively seek out ways to increase the number of steps I take in a day.  I will actively find ways to choose food that is better for me.  I will go to the doctor when I need to.  I will take care of me. 

4. I will take care of my social needs.  I will go to Church and prayer group.  I will find a charity shop where I can volunteer. 

5. I will write 5,000 words every day.  Words on my blog count. 

You may notice that I am joining in groups and taking advice.  One BIG downfall I have is thinking I know the best way for me.  This time I am taking advice, following what other people say and using all the resources out there. 

And I will keep picking myself up after all the slips, and misses, and failures and keep going.  And I shall enjoy this great adventure of a New Year.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


Finally got to Matalan and they had some of the twinkly gold or silver wrapping paper left - very pretty, not necessarily Christmas wrap.  It is decent quality and 3 metres long and was marked at £1 a roll.  It came up at 50p on the till, and I was very happy.  I bought fourteen (14) rolls. 

Gift bags were also on sale.  They had packs of four assorted sizes.  I loathe wrapping awkward shapes so these were incredibly welcome to me at £1 a pack, and to my disappointment they came up at £1 at the till.  I got five, that is twenty assorted bags for £5, decent quality. 

I bought some sticky tape.  I was in two minds as I thought I could perhaps get a better price than the one marked and it was the same stuff I had used before Christmas - nice and sticky but a (expletive deleted) if you lost the end.  Apparently if you hold a roll of sticky tape over the spout of a boiling kettle in the steam then the end comes loose.  I have never been desperate enough to try this, but I came close before Christmas.  I thought it was £1.50 for two rolls, but at the till it was 50p per pack, so six decent sized rolls for £1.50.  I also got two large packs of gift tags, totalling 64 shiny but non-Christmas tags for £2. 

I think my gift wrap requirements are sorted for the next year or so.  Now little bear is involved in the school social whirl I seem to need to wrap a lot more things.  I do hope that the stuff lasts for at least two years, and I have unearthed some actual Christmas wrap while sorting out the junk room, which should cover at least next year (fingers crossed). 

I was disappointed at the selection of stuff for little bear.  I bought next year's winter coat, a fleece lined waxed jacket that looked just the thing, nice and warm, wind and wet proof with a hood.  It was £9 instead of £18.  I bought two pair of pyjamas for him for £4.50 that won't fit him until next year, but the ones he currently has will keep him going for a while.  And I slipped into 'doting mum' mode and bought a sort of shot silk effect maroon shirt and waistcoat for little bear for £6.  He has a grey tie that will match the waistcoat (velcro fastening).  That should come online next summer and keep going for at least a year.  That is, if I can get him away from the red lumberjack shirt that he seems permanently attached to. 

The clothes will hang in little bear's wardrobe until required and the gift wrap stuff all has a home, convenient and accessible.  I did check out a lot of the other stuff, but nothing really called (apart from a £2 t-shirt for me that looks supremely comfy and somehow ended up in the basket).  I could have bought marked down bows and ribbon, but I don't use it, and it would take up space I didn't have.

My next target is BHS.  They do some very nice, nacky gifty type things, and I thought of stashing an emergency selection for those moments when you realise that you haven't a gift and you need one sooner than you thought.  I also want to have a good look around the sales for toys for boys/girls around little bear's age, for that emergency birthday present situation.  This will only work if I have a central location for the stashed gifts so that I can actually find them easily again, and perhaps a spread sheet to keep a record.  The location will be a large plastic box in the walk in cupboard.  That is, if I see things that are actual bargains.  Not everything in a sale is a bargain.

Sale fever

I haven't bothered looking online for sales, as actually there is not a lot I currently want to buy.  As I type, tempting fate and touching wood, we don't actually need anything.  It's a 'let's not save 50%, let's save 100%' situation.

I may look later regarding a toaster.  Darling father brought a toaster with him that is absolutely brilliant with lots of settings and displays and everything.  I make sure it is always unplugged when it is not in use as it must need a lot of power to keep the control panel going.  It has done sterling service, but now is getting a bit feeble.  If you want your toast darker than pale primrose colour then you have to either put the toaster on its highest setting or put the toast in twice.  I may be reduced to the grill.  However the sort of toaster I am likely to get is the cheapo bottom of the range basic one, and they don't get much of a discount in the sales. 

I had planned to go to Matalan as soon as their doors open.  After all, it is really close, so I can just walk there and not worry about parking.  Matalan do a really good range of giftwrap, nice long rolls of robust paper that is really nice to use.  On Boxing Day in the past they have marked it down to £1 per roll, and I have bought armfuls.  It is brilliant stuff, and they have nice shiny stuff that isn't obviously Christmas paper.  I have used their stuff all the year round for weddings, birthdays, Christenings and anniversaries.  I could do with getting another shedload as my last haul is beginning to run out. 

They also usually have racks of summer clothes they are getting rid of.  Little bear will definitely be in their size age six next summer, I could pick up a few bits for him to stash away as well. 

I said firmly to OH that I wanted to be outside Matalan when they opened their doors on Boxing Day.  Then I found that they were opening at 6am.  Regardless, I am not taking little bear there, and no-one else is up, so I shall have to wait.  I do want to go, as darling father won a voucher in a raffle that can be used there. 

I wonder how many people actually did turn up at 6am? 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Little bear is happy

I'd forgotten about the vast quantities of presents we had stashed for little bear in darling father's room.  It took him two hours to open all his presents. 

And he is so happy.  There are all sorts of goodies, like the robot pencil sharpener whose clockwork is wound up when you sharpen a pencil and then goes marching across a desk.  He has a huge scaletrix cycle thingy (darling father), a smallish train set (darling father) and all sorts of Dr Who stuff from his lovely auntie.  Little bear paused over every package, took time to explore each one and was genuinely thrilled with everything. 

OH was happy with what I got him and I am thrilled with what he got me, and all is well with the world.  Darling father has an impressive collection of bottles.  Evil cat had a small tin of very choice fish pate.  It disappeared in two gulps and a swallow and she is still topping up on Whiskas. 

I am now recovering from Christmas dinner and will possibly have some Christmas pudding when I have room, possibly next week. 

Happy Christmas all


I hope you all have a marvellous time, and wishing anyone who reads this health, wealth and happiness


Monday, 24 December 2012

Little bear gets ready for Christmas

I should have known things were going too well. 

I didn't make a list this year, so I am a bit on the back foot.  As far as I can see no-one has missed anything and apart from possibly being short a card or two, I am pretty okay.  I am currently at the pendulum swing of thinking little bear hasn't enough - though as I type I am surrounded by gifts for him from his uncles, his aunts, his grandfather and various friends.  We can hardly move for Christmas/birthday presents for little bear. 

Yesterday little bear confidently hit OH for six when he told his auntie that what he really wanted for Christmas was a DS XL with Mario Brothers on it.  OH was stunned, it was the first he had heard of it.  'Have you told anyone about this?' he asked little bear.  Little bear nodded confidently.  'I wrote it on a list at school.'  'Did you tell mummy?' asked OH.  'No, I wrote it on a list at school.' Little bear said, and turned back to charming my sister in law. 

I did actually ask little bear what he wanted earlier on in the month, but somehow everything tended to veer off at a tangent usually involving sweets or computer time.  So little bear wants a DS XL with Mario Brothers on it, and he could have probably had it - had we known about the dratted thing.  As I am worried that little bear gets things a bit too easily, we have agreed with him that he can earn it (as it wasn't on the list that Santa had sent us).  He earned his huggle buddies hideaway, which cost £25 and each box he had to fill came to around 50p.  So he has to fill around 250 boxes with ticks for homework done without complaint, team points earned at school, helping out in the house - and to be fair I have said that any money he is given can be put towards it as well.  It's all agreed.  Little bear was very clear about it, and in a few years I think he will want to get this sort of thing in affidavit form.

At a lull this afternoon I looked panic stricken at OH - I hadn't got a stocking ready for him.  I had stocking fillers, but no stocking.  'Don't worry, little bear has never mentioned it, he has probably forgotten about it - we don't need to bother.  It will be fine.' OH said confidently.  Around one hour and forty five minutes later little bear was asking where his stocking was.  We settled on a pillow case (which I think is a bit greedy, but it does at a pinch).  However as I have typed I have remembered a personalised minecraft shoe bag that could be the pillow case transformed...  I shall get a second opinion on this.

And one gift has already been given.  In the afternoon I had asked OH whether he had heard movement in the attic.  OH agreed that he had heard footsteps, and so had darling father.  There were no footsteps, of course, but this meant that when little bear spotted that we had switched his ceiling lampshade for a Ben10 one (we had hoped he wouldn't notice until Christmas morning) we could say that Santa must have put it in place when he was checking that he could get in earlier.  OH and I agreed that it was on the list that Santa sent us earlier, so Santa must have put it up early to avoid any hassle in the dark later on. 

In a few years it will be a token socks together with a 'big' present.  Until then, I hope I can make this magical. 

Lucky Duck

I dashed to Morrisons, dashed home and all but fell off the bus as it was one I wasn't used to and I nearly missed the stop.  The shopping hadn't been bad, actually.  Lots of people were being very nice.  I felt in a very calm and happy Christmassy mood.

As I wandered along the very busy dual carriageway back to my home I wondered why the cars were slowing down randomly.  I couldn't work it out.  There were all sorts of backlogs growing.  This part of the dual carriageway is actually extremely busy, between a crossroads with traffic lights that is always jammed and a roundabout carrying a lot of industrial traffic as well as the normal car traffic out of the city.  Backlogs are not good.  Especially if those backlogs are caused by a duck.

I could hardly believe my eyes.  There was a white duck, quacking like mad, wandering around the inside land near the central reservation without a care in the world. It was quite a size, and I suspect some cars were slowing down in consideration for their car should they hit the quacker rather than the duck itself.

I am a complete failure with this sort of thing.  I have no idea where to start with a duck.  I have especially no idea where to start with a very large, possibly depressed duck who is a lot bigger close up than you would think.  There was no way I was going to attempt to pick that up.  Apart from anything else, it was probably stronger than me.

When the traffic lights caused lulls and gaps in the traffic I tried to dash out and chase it back to the beck that was running alongside the road.  The duck was not co-operating.  It flapped, quacked and dashed back to the part of the road nearest the central reservation at every opportunity.  Typical of any animal I have dealt with, it didn't actually get on the central reservation, where it would be safe.  You could bet your tail feathers it wasn't going to be that co-operative.

Just as I was about to give up and leave before I either saw duck pate or a pile up, someone sensible pulled up behind the duck in a very large practical looking thing.  I suspect they were either farmers or perhaps vets or something similar because they managed to round up the duck and grab it in short order.

I do envy people who can just get things done.  They asked if I knew whose duck it was, and I said I hadn't a clue, so they said they would deal with the bird.  I don't know if the duck was about to be stuffed or was about to be rescued, but at least it was away from the risk of being squashed. I would take that as a happy, Christmas Eve ending.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Delayed Delivery

I booked an Asda delivery for between 3pm and 5pm today.  It arrived at 6.45pm and the driver looked at the end of his tether.  He leant against the door frame and looked nervous.  I think he had been given an emphatic welcome from a lot of stressed ladies.  We are in the county of Nora Batty, forthright Yorkshire women and a tradition of taking no nonsense.  It looked like the driver had felt the full force of it.  He looked pathetically grateful when I said, 'thank goodness you've come!'

I was absolutely terrified that I would have to face Christmas Eve shops for more than a brief shop.  As it is, I need to dive in, grab a large piece of meat for Christmas dinner (current preferred favourite is lamb with mint butter). 

To be honest, if we hadn't had the delivery, and I had bought in the minimum, it would still have been alright.  There are local shops with things like bread and potatoes, and we can work around practically anything. 

I have failed to get stressed about it, perhaps because we don't have a big tradition of the food.  We have traditions like company, spending time together, relaxing and probably drinking a month's worth of alcohol in ten days.

As it is, I can hardly close the freezer, the fridge is absolutely packed and we have a large heap of goodies.  Also two birthday cakes.  I thought I might need two as a lot have been invited to little bear's party.  However I have mistakenly bought two cakes that are designed to cut into forty portions.

Let them eat cake!

Same again

Every year I do this - every dratted Christmas, without fail, without pause and without really getting to grips with the whole Christmas business.

First of all there is the food.  Every single dratted year I say that we are not going to get a lot of stuff, the shops are only closed for one day, we do not live in a desert, and it won't hurt us not to be overwhelmed by goodies, including fruit and veg which will be wasted.  Then every year, every single dratted year, I buy enough groceries to wait out a month long blizzard.  The delivery which is due today is over twice what I would normally consider an expensive shop and four times my target for deliveries.  And that is without all the stocking up from Morrisons, Makro and the farm shop. 

I am also considering getting a tape recording made of me saying, 'we shouldn't get too much for little bear'.  And, 'Little bear has so much stuff, he doesn't really need that much.'  Then there is the old favourite, 'I know lots of people are buying for little bear.'  Little bear has his birthday party on 29th December.  I have invited over forty children.  Many will come, and I am relatively confident that on 1 January, after we have had Christmas, birthday and party, there will be a drift of wrapping paper higher than our car.  There are nearly eighty books just from us stashed in various places, not to mention bits here, gizmos there, a HUGE sack from little bear's godfather, and unknown quantities from little bear's lovely auntie.  Little bear even has a Ben10 lampshade due to be hung on Christmas Eve in the hope he will not notice and think Father Christmas put it up when he visited.  What little bear has from us has escaped me - I have lost track.  It does include things like a hole punch and stapler, because I think those are the sort of things little boys enjoy fiddling with.  It also includes dinosaur eggs that grow in water, a kaleidoscope, and lots of Dr Who stuff.  Yesterday I bought a magic trick in a tin. 

Every year I grumble, lose things, forget things and do not get into the spirit.  Every year I moan about the cost of stuff and the trouble and what a nuisance the shopping is.  Every year some time around 10pm on Christmas Eve I fall in love with Christmas again.

 Actually, 9am on a very stormy 23 December, I think the Christmas spirit is hitting me a little bit early. I think it is wonderful!  

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Thank you!!!

Catastrophie - Thank you so much for the review on Amazon.  I am in tears again - and I never do tears.  Thank you so much for your kind words.  I hope I can live up to them. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Evil Cat is tired

This is evil cat.  She is asleep, snuggled up and cosy on a handknitted blanket I haven't finished knitting yet.

Doing sums

 I have done my sums and I think I have failed.

It is the dratted Morrisons Voucher thingy.  You collect pretty tickets for eight weeks in the run up to Christmas by spending at least £40 each week.  This seemed like a good idea as OH collects little bear and I from Morrisons every Wednesday after piano lessons so I pick up groceries then, and spending more than £40 is not a problem.  Spending less than £40 is a bigger challenge.  And I would get a lovely £30 voucher for doing stuff that I would do anyway.  It seemed an obvious thing to do. 

That is the theory.  We didn't go to Morrisons this week due to little bear, so I needed to go today to get the pretty ticket to complete the set for the £30 voucher.  I went straight from dropping off little bear so my bus fare cost £4.60.  If I missed this week I would still get a voucher, but for £25.  The difference is £5 and the bus ticket accounted for all but 40p of it. 

However I wanted to get out, and I needed a present for a birthday party little bear is going to, so I decided it was worth it.  And I couldn't be having with hanging around getting the bus to Morrisons in Kirkstall, with one bus an hour and a lot to do.  I went to Morrisons in Leeds. 

This was a mistake.  I had to carry all the stuff home on the bus, I had left my trolley at home, and I am not that strong.  I had also called in to the Works on the way in to Morrisons, which meant I picked up a nice present for the little lad also meant that with all the bits I had picked up for little bear as well I was already carrying a load.  My tactic was going to be to stock up on alcohol, as it is relatively low weight to price ratio.  After all, it doesn't go off and it does get used up.  We had some stashed, but there is always room for another bottle of Famous Grouse.  However Morrisons in Leeds has a separate off licence.  Any alcohol would not be included in the £40.  If I wanted the £40 to get the £30 voucher then I would have to work out what I could buy that we actually needed that came to £40 and that I could carry. 

What I should have done is looked at dvds, but we don't watch that many.  I am sure I could have bought some to give as gifts, but that is always a bit tricky.  So I headed for the meat counter and bought a loin of pork to have on New Year's Day.  That was more expensive than I normally consider, but at this time of year I grit my teeth.  I bought a nice cheese basket for darling father, though my preference would be to re-use a basket and collect the items myself.  Looking at the contents, I did get a decent deal, but it still seems a lot.  I also bought a stand pie, which we rarely bother with, but will do nicely on Christmas Day night.  Together with a kilo of onions and some sandwich ham for over the break, that was me just about breaking the £40 barrier and managing just to get the bags home. 

The voucher needs to be spent by 31 December.  So on Christmas Eve I am leaving little bear with darling father, hoping that the house stays standing, dash to Kirkstall Morrisons, get the voucher, the meat for Christmas Day and anything that was missed off the delivery coming Sunday. 

I am really not sure that the voucher is actually worth it. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Housewifery happened

I have some stuff burned in the bottom of a stainless steel saucepan.  Yesterday I was getting fed up of getting nowhere with it and so I boiled some water with some laundry oxi-whitener in it.  And the pan didn't break! 

If I had tried it with aluminium the pan would have turned black, but it was okay with stainless steel, and I had to watch it as it wambled right up. 

But it worked!

Of course, stopping it burning in the first place is better, but I am happy to have my pan back, it is a lovely stainless steel stockpot just the right size.  And I am quite giddy in that I had a go at something that I didn't see recommended, and it worked!

I will be a proper housewife yet.

Always a silver lining

I have to be up early tomorrow, so I went to bed early.  Of course I couldn't get to sleep, isn't that always the way?  My feet were too cold.  I am going to be sorting out those cherry stone heat bags asap to put down the foot of the bed! 

On the bright side it meant I was awake when little bear started grumbling in his sleep so I could go straight up and put the bed clothes back on him.  If he slept anywhere but the extreme edge of the bed it may help them stay on a bit longer.

Now I am turning around what to do for money saving.   I have been here before, I know, but I am slowly getting a little better and a little better.  Housewifery is still a bit sparse, but again, it is getting there.  With the start of the new year I want to start trying to keep to a budget.  I have never managed it in the past. 

By the end of March I need to have £500 spare for the outstanding on the holiday.  By the end of May I need holiday spending money plus £500-600 for a new floor.  It is the ideal time to get the entire ground floor done, and it is a bargain at the price - but I need to have the money together.

I am taking comfort in what has been happening over the last few weeks.  Even though I have been quite poorly, I am getting all sorts done.  It is unnerving.  I am not sure where this energy is coming from, but I will find a use for it! 

And one tiny bit of silver lining.  I hurt my ankle and couldn't make it to the shop, so OH brought in the vegetable sticks that I need to take in for little bear's party tomorrow.  I would have never have chosen to do this, but I was allocated the vegetable sticks in a firm note from the teacher.  I would have always gone for something in a packet.  If I had been popping in to the shop I would have bought the sticks ready prepared and paid the extra.  OH bought in the vegetables loose and in their natural state, thus less expensive.  As they will be eaten tomorrow afternoon I can't quite bear to make them tonight.  So I have to make them tomorrow, which means I have to get up early, which means I could do with getting off here and getting some sleep!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cats in the Bible on Amazon

Cats in the Bible is now on Amazon here

(slightly less expensive on

Clutterbusting again

I'm clutterbusting again.  Obviously I am not swinging into Operation Christmas Clean as I should - that would be far too easy. 

I have just got rid of some old cardboard boxes from the junk room and another three bin bags.  The bin bags are controversial.

The bin bags that I have thrown out have contained things that could be used by someone else. 

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this.  The bin bags included some sewing thread that I suspect is rotten (I was shocked when I found nylon thread could go rotten as well!).  I cannot see a charity shop wanting nearly a bin bag full of part used rolls of thread some of which are in dubious condition.  The thing is, I hardly ever sew.  I have a sewing plait, like this for the odd button (can't remember when I last did one, but I have some red skull buttons to sew on little bear's gloves) or to catch something down.  I have a roll of cotton for the cushions when I have enough to stuff them.  Apart from that, I don't know when I will next use sewing thread.  There was use in them, but I needed the space more than I need the possibility I may be able to use the thread and that it will be in a fit condition. 

I threw away some cross stitch kits.  I threw away all kits that I had started and not got round to finishing five years ago.  Also I threw away all the little kits that I had got from magazines.  I had no idea where the original charts had gone, so they couldn't be used 'as is', I couldn't imagine using the thread in any project and I did not want to collect something like fifty cheap cross stitch needles.  I already have at least one hundred somewhere, from previous kits.   

But someone could have used them

I think the feeling I have is from my grandmother who went through WWII and all the rationing that involved.  You couldn't get needles.  You couldn't get cross stitch floss.  Every scrap that wasn't used was recycled, or donated, or used up in one way or another.  To throw away something that someone else could use was just not done.  We threw away hundreds of her magazines when she passed, which she had kept, in case she wanted a knitting pattern.  I don't think she every bought a pattern in her life, all of them came from magazines. 

And there is the ecological side - all this to landfill.  At the very least I should separate the needles to recycle.  Except today I have put on washing, put on the dishwasher, watched little bear's nativity, loaded up Cats in the Bible to publish separately on Amazon Kindle (still pending as I type), made darling father's lunch, written Christmas cards, and cleared out a huge pile of rubbish.  If I wait until I make time to sort out the needles from the haystack of junk, the junk will never go.  My time is not going to expand.  I need the space that I am clearing, I need to sleep in a bed again. 

Apart from the desperate desire to get the bed sorted out, I am also aware that a lot of stuff I could theoretically donate, if I ever got to a charity shop, wouldn't be wanted, and is unlikely to be bought.  People are still half living in the economic climate of a few years ago when buying a reel of sewing thread or a packet of needles was not a big deal.  It is now less of a casual purchase.  So many have lost jobs or are looking at pay freezes while inflation gallops on.  I don't care what the figure says - food and energy have gone up so much that everything is being squeezed.  However the remnants and fragments that I have thrown away are still not worth hunting round for.  They may be one day, but I need that space now. 

It is the curse of hoarding - seeing the utility in things.  I just refuse to see more value in 'stuff' than in the space for me to sleep comfortably. 

(still conflicted, of course)

Evil cat seems a lot better

Evil cat is definitely feeling a lot better.  I am blaming yesterday on the lamb she stole on Monday night.  Everyone else seemed fine but I felt it was far too rich for me, and possibly evil cat as well, as it was stuffed with pork sausage stuffing (and viciously expensive).

She is feeling so much better that she is sitting on top of the last of the Christmas cards I am trying to write.  I loathe doing them at the best of times. 

Little bear also seems a lot better.  He has been out of sorts and when someone gave him a tiny chocolate santa yesterday, he didn't manage to eat it all!  However he slept with no night light for the first time last night and seemed very refreshed by it.  He was certainly fine for the Nativity play this morning, and this biased mum thought he was adorable. 

As evil cat has now wandered off, possibly to complain about the lack of fire being on, I had better get those Christmas cards finished. 

Everyone Welcome

Yesterday I got over three times the normal number of hits on my blog.  This is fine by me, everyone is welcome, I hope you don't find it too dull.

But if anyone knows why, I'd love to know. 

And honestly, everyone welcome.  I hope you find it interesting. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Evil cat is worrying me

Last night darling father reminded me that the vet was in two minds whether evil cat would make Christmas.

She is spending a lot of time in the dining room, snuggled on a pile of textiles.  It is handy for the dinner dish, the water dish and the litter tray and is one of the warmest rooms in the house, so good for her.  However now I think about it, I don't think she has been upstairs from the living room for over a week.

She stole from the plate last night, so I was a little reassured, but this morning she didn't beg for food.  It is 11.23am as I type, and as far as I can see she hasn't moved from the textile nest she has constructed.  When I went down to make little bear's breakfast and packed lunch I had a quick look and she gave me a Look, that said, 'do you mind, cat trying to sleep here'.  I didn't put any food down as evil cat thinks that food put down when she isn't looking doesn't count. 

I have just come back from doing the fill dishwasher/empty dehumidifier/make cuppa routine and she is still there, not a hint of 'where's my breakfast, thank you so much?'  It has got to the stage where I actually checked that evil cat was breathing - I got close enough and she was snoring.  I took the risk of putting down her food with her medicine on, and fingers crossed she will wake up and eat. 

I am sure she is alright really, as the glare I got this morning was quite vivid enough.  I just worry. 

A morning just happened to me

I've had one of those mornings.  Little bear was just about okay to go to school, so was up just about in time.  Today he had to get to take money in as there was a School Fayre (parents not allowed) and there were going to be activities.  I have a red wallet for little bear where he can keep pennies, so I picked that up this morning, got dressed and completely lost the wallet.  I turned the house upside down, while time was ticking away.  If I hadn't been late to start with it wouldn't have been so bad, but I was pulling my hair out.   

I managed to get food into little bear (he will go to school with a breakfast in him, no matter what he says) and he got himself dressed.  In the last few weeks little bear has decided he wants to be 'independent' (his word) so I make sure that all the clothes are laid out, especially the clean underwear, and leave him to it.  Of course, as we were running late and I was frantically filling a coin bag with silver, this morning was the morning when he couldn't manage his collar.  We just about made it into the school yard on time - where the other kids were in party clothes.  Little bear's eyes filled up with tears but he was being brave.  So I shot home, picked up the cool outfit shown earlier and then shot back to leave at the office.  The school are really good, despite a lot of my grumblings, and of course would let him get changed.  They are really good with nearly six year olds.  Because of the way the school year falls and the split year, little bear is perhaps the youngest in his class. 

So I am feeling a bit of a failure, because I couldn't find the wallet and I didn't remember the clothes, and I was getting a bit stressy.  Though less than a failure than I could because when I was belting into the office, having been one of the last in the playground, gone home, found clothes and come the long way back to the office, I was still there at the same time as two lads that were coming in late. 

I know the lads by sight, and I know that their mother is doing her best, but I don't think that they have ever been on time.  They are usually eating biscuits on the way into school.  They usually miss out on fancy dress days because their mother never sends them in wearing costume.  The kids are clean, but the uniform isn't always as new as it could be. 

I don't face the challenges their mother faces, I am not sure I could cope as well as she copes, but I think tonight I will give him an extra cuddle, just so he knows that his mum loves him lots and lots. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Little bear's last straw

Little bear is still pink cheeked, over bright of eye and coughing artistically.  And I think he has reached his limit.

Evil cat has just been sick all over his dressing gown. 

If little bear had his way evil cat would even now be looking at the 'rooms to rent' section. 

All has calmed down now.  I confess that while I am keeping an eye on little bear I am keeping a slightly closer one on evil cat.  She was sick after I evicted her from my throat, and I think one of her back legs is giving her a lot of trouble.  I would hate to think that she was in so much pain it made her ill.  On the other hand, she has been sick as a hobby since she was a kitten, so it is hard to tell if it is significant. 

I am considering turning to alcohol. 

Not the day I had planned

I was supposed to be going for a test at hospital, then nipping in to M&S to spend the £25 voucher that we got due to darling father reading the Daily Mail and saving the codes.  I was possibly going to call in at Morrisons, possibly not, and then dive home to try and get a dent made in the study before little bear got home and that sort of clearing which may unearth Christmas presents and items of an adult nature which I don't want to risk surfacing when little bear is dashing around.  I don't want to clear there at night as it is directly under little bear's bedroom.

Little bear has a cough.  He has a temperature.  He has burning pink cheeks and his eyes are too bright.  He keeps giving me random cuddles and he is carrying around his cuddly rat which he normally only does now when he is feeling fragile.  His postponed Christmas play is on Wednesday, so I am keeping him off school in the hope that he will be fine later. 

So I am now having a quick browse, then I think we will be having some more cuddles and fuss, and perhaps some soup for lunch.  I am sure will little bear will be fine in time for Christmas.  I just hope I won't get in trouble with the school for keeping him off. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

I've been reviewed

I actually cried when I read the lovely review on Smashwords. 

(and this is me, hard as nails who only ever cries at Miracle on 34th Street)

Thank you so much, Marybelle, you can not know how much that means. 


Thank you - I am really glad that you like it

(and you don't sound old enough to have done anything for thirty years)

Next Christmas I may do Cats in the Bible 2 - Son of Cats!  Because as anyone who has cats knows, there are always more stories... 

Seriously, I really appreciate the support.  It means a great deal. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Thank you

Hester - thank you for getting this.  I really do appreciate the support I have had.  I know that the Bible bits aren't perhaps your thing, but I hope you can appreciate my choices.

Thank you again - and all those who have given me support and help.  You cannot know what a difference it has made. 

Little bear has braces

Little bear now has a pair of jeans with braces holding them up - just like Dr Who!  He is very pleased.

NB his eyes are not normally this colour...

So there he is in his new shirt with a tie, new jeans and braces, about to go and murder some unsuspecting piece of music at his music teacher's Christmas concert.  I love him so much. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Done it!

Cats in the Bible is now available for download here

It is only a short piece, just over sixteen thousand words.  I feel comforted that it is being sold at Smashwords for 99c, so not too bad, and you can pay by Paypal. 

Obviously, you don't have to buy it. If you feel like it then yes, I am pathetically grateful, but I suppose it was a way of keeping me motivated to get the next book out for the Forgotten Village series.  I have about three more plot ideas for that. Also, I had a lot of fun writing it.

And thank you for all the supportive comments.  It has been really inspiring. 

Feeling smug and scared

I've finished the draft of 'Cats in the Bible'.  OH has been wonderful and done an amazing cover.  I've written the little bits that go in the description and it is formatted to Smashwords' requirements. 

I need to read through once more to try and pick up the typos, then I will be publishing.  Once again I feel like the cars are being cranked up to the start of the rollercoaster. 

I shall also make a test purchase from Smashwords, so that I can let people know how easy it is to buy from them.  If I go through there it is a lot less expensive. 

Please note, non Christians would probably be fine with it, as long as they liked cats. 

I will post when I have got up the nerve to publish again.  And thank you to everyone for the support that has made it possible. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Memo to self

Never write the invitations to little bear's birthday party after a stiff Tia Maria.  It really isn't a good idea.

On the other hand, well done you on not including a note that says, 'You called your child what?  The poor kid will be mocked, bullied and have to spell their name repeatedly on the phone for the rest of their life or change it by deed poll.  What were you thinking?!

Just because I am not sure about a name does not mean it isn't lovely.  And I am sure I will be more convinced about that after several cups of tea and an aspirin tomorrow morning. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Not sure about this....

I receive mails from Amazon.  I actually look at them these days in case there has been a sale.  However the latest mail made me think.  It is an advert for a selection of notebooks and organisers to hold your passwords and log in names for the internet. 

I do keep a Google document, shared with OH, of all the account numbers of stuff like the mortgage etc but never passwords.  I do keep the log in for one site but that was because it was such a nightmare to remember.  For some reason the only log in they would accept was one I could never remember.  I had no problem with the password, just the log in.  I group passwords, so that while I have quite a few, all the shopping ones are variations on a theme, all the natter ones are on a variation of a different theme, and so on, so I usually know where to start remembering.  And I don't have trouble remembering the password to the Google account, so that isn't written down anywhere.  It is there in case of a fire, or something happening when we are away from home and the documents, or a water leak or something that means we need the account numbers but the paperwork no longer exists. 

I was always told that you never, ever, ever told anyone your password.  Not even for a chat forum.  You just didn't.  Now that there is the trend of people making 'prank' entries on facebook when it has been left logged in, and the potential for havoc that can cause, it seems more important than ever.

For me, at the moment little bear is happy to just pootle about on Minecraft videos.  However a few years down the line, when he is a bit more clued up, a notebook with all my log ins and passwords would be an invitation for havoc for a young lad with his eye on goodies from ebay.  He is not going to be blessed with my passwords for anything. 

I would also say that if goods are ordered in your name, to your address, using your log in and password, and there is a notebook at the side of the computer with all the details in then you are going to have a hard job proving fraud, even if they were ordered by your babysitter.  The notebook could be a recipe for disaster. 

On the other hand, neither my darling father nor my darling uncle order anything online.  Neither of them are comfortable with the internet (though I suspect it is lack of practice for darling father) and both of them could really use a reminder of their passwords.  Having inadvertently overheard darling father setting up telephone banking when he couldn't remember his mother's maiden name, he would need a notebook like this.  I should add that not remembering things is normal for darling father, not the onset of anything.  For as long as I can remember he has been unable to remember stuff like birthdays, anniversaries or stuff like middle names.  I am just happy if he remembers my birthday in the right month.  So perhaps he is the target audience.  And the advert should have come to me, as he doesn't have an Amazon account, as he never spends money online himself but gets me to spend it for him. 

I still think it is a recipe for disaster. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

High Gravity Day

Today has been high gravity.  When trying to make further dents in the junk room I tried carrying an armful of cardboard boxes and dropped them everywhere.  On the next trip I dropped a full bottle of white spirit (which we didn't know we had) and breathed a sigh of relief when it didn't spill - the bottle must be at least ten years old.  Can plastic rust shut?

I dropped things in the kitchen, I knocked things over, I forgot to add an attachment to something I sent OH, I popped out to get a last minute birthday present and knocked over a stand full of wrapping paper, and in a different shop I completely failed to pick up the correct quantity of wrapping paper. 

So far I haven't actually broken anything, and I have done a little in the junk room, sorted out little bear's birthday party invitations to take in tomorrow, scrubbed the bath mat, put on the dishwasher and generally been accident prone and productive.  However I think for the afternoon I may sit very quietly and try not to break anything.

What is happening?

On Saturday I felt unusually active and cleared a huge swathe in the junk room.  Actually I cleared a very small swathe but it felt huge.  There were a lot of black bin sacks.  On Sunday I felt awful after three hours sleep and with a really bad stomach.  I spent a lot of the morning trying not to throw up and feeling sorry for myself.  I still did a little more clearing in the junk room and kitchen and did some stash reduction.  Yesterday I went for a brisk walk, cleared out another few bags of rubbish from the junk room and some cardboard boxes, did some washing, kept the tumble dryer and dishwasher working and I also made a start in clearing out the walk in cupboard, which included getting rid of a carton of UHT milk dating back to 2009.  I got just about the last of the presents sorted, trying to work out an ebay account and generally was active. 

This is all low level activity in the grand scheme of things, but it is a lot for me.  I have no idea where all this energy is coming from, I really haven't.  Today I was going to go for another brisk walk after dropping little bear off but as I skidded on icy patches on the way in I thought that the brisk walk could wait.  I am tired, feel sleep deprived and under the weather - and itching to get moving. 

I just don't know why I am feeling so determined, but I am.  So I had better make the most of it. I have no idea where to start, so I will just start in the middle and keeping moving. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

So much for Monday

So cold I can hardly type. 

Now I am feeling a bit better I thought I would try and up my exercise.  So I dropped off little bear and headed towards Makro.  In the bad old days it would have been an expedition and it would have been a challenge.  Today it was a brisk walk and getting wet with the lumpy rain that the weather forecasters hadn't forecast.

So I picked up a loaf of bread (and some sweet rolls that I really shouldn't have had for breakfast as all the few calories I burned in the short walk are now completely replaced and more with brioche) and came home.  I have sorted out some Amazon stuff and finished a lot of present hunting.  I have sorted out dehumidifiers and opened windows (and closed them again!) and got sucked into a far longer conversation with darling uncle than I wanted. 

I have just put on my little 800w heater and evil cat has teleported in.  I hadn't seen her all morning, I should have known she was hiding somewhere warm. 

Soon I shall dash out for another walk, make darling father's lunch and then try and cram in all the stuff I wanted to do in the time I used with darling uncle's call plus all the stuff I really need to get done this afternoon into this afternoon before I pick up little bear. 

I don't know where this energy has come from, it is completely alien to me, I haven't felt this energetic more than two hours on the run since I can remember.  As it is, I think I will take this with both hands!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Clearing stuff out

At the moment I sleep on the floor in the study on a foam fold out bed.  It is starting to affect me as I am not really getting the rest I need.  I originally started sleeping there for two reasons.  OH has real and serious problems with insomnia and sleep apnoea  which mean that he could do with the space to pace, read, toss and turn at night without worrying about me.  Also I would have been sleeping on the floor above little bear, and three floors above the kitchen, after the stair gate had been removed due to little bear's ability to climb over it.  I needed to be able to intercept. 

Little bear is now a lot safer to be left in the kitchen.  I wouldn't leave him there if I was cooking or lots of things were on, but he is now old enough to not worry that he will get knives out of the draw at random.  He is usually sensible, though I don't feel like counting on the common sense of a nearly six year old.  Lots of mums are fine with nearly six year olds making their own breakfast. I am not so sure, but I am fairly confident that little bear will avoid the kitchen in favour of the computer if he is given a chance.

So I will be moving into what is now the junk room.  This is a bit of a depressing prospect.  The room looks like one of the rooms from one of the 'Hoarders' programmes, all heaped with stuff.  I can't even remember what is what now.  Some stuff I really want to keep, like some of the yarn.  Some stuff I really don't, like some of the 'useful' cardboard boxes that are up there.  Because of the lack of air and that the room is so full, and also because I suspect that there has been a major leak in the house behind and it has affected us, some stuff is ruined through damp. 

At the start of the day just getting past the threshold was a major challenge.  Ten black bin sacks later it is a bit better.  I have just thrown out a huge amount of thread - it had gone rotten with the damp.  I am washing some sheets I found but I think they may be beyond saving as they had mould on them and they are really hardly worth the bleach.  I have also got rid of my sewing machine.  I am still scared of it, and it was almost certainly rusted beyond belief. 

I have moved a lot of yarn into OH's room for the time being, but I want to sort through that later.    I have put some crafting stuff aside as I know someone who runs a Brownie pack and I think that I will be able to pass stuff to them.  Some stuff that went out could probably have been used by a charity shop, but to be honest I think it is a little unlikely. 

I mentioned to little bear that I would be sleeping in the room upstairs eventually and that I wouldn't be there when he came downstairs.  He looked a little thoughtful, and then said, 'Well, I will just come upstairs and say good morning to you.'  In other words, I will make sure you are up and awake and ready to make me breakfast. 

It must be cold

Little bear is voluntarily wearing a sweater when it isn't school time.  This means that it must be extremely cold!  Normally I can't get him into a sweater outside school except at gunpoint.  His father is just the same, OH never wears a sweater.  He says he never really registers cold.  With both of them I try and make sure that thick shirts are available (yes, they both prefer shirts to t-shirts and I can't remember the last time I saw OH in a t-shirt). 

Little bear now has a thinnish sweater from M&S bought when we were in there and which cost a fortune.  Little bear helped to choose it, and said that he entirely agreed to wear it and promised that he would consider putting it on if it was cold.  Today he has put it on.  Thank goodness he likes it.  I know in the grand scheme of things it actually wasn't that expensive as although I paid full price I used cut price vouchers and bought it with the sincere wish that it would carry him through until next autumn at least, but I have been used to buying baby clothes and bundles from ebay before all this inflation started.  All the clothes for little bear seem so much money.

He also has a rather iffy fleece Ben10 hoodie which is okay but not for best!  It is also getting a bit snug but I haven't the heart to get rid of it yet as little bear does like it and has been known to wear it voluntarily.  I haven't bothered buying him other sweaters as I thought that they were just going to languish in the bottom of drawers.  If little bear is going to actually wear one, and if this is actually going to be a cold winter rather than this being a blip and then we get a comparative heatwave like we had last year then I need to look out for some new ones.

Actually, now I think of it, I have a half finished sweater to knit for little bear that will probably still fit him if I have a good go at it over the next few weeks.  Also I shall have a quick look at ebay.  

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Unsuccessful softie

I have had a rigorous morning.  Little bear is off school as his cold has reached epic proportions and we do not have a tv plugged in, darling father was painting the window and I had just finished putting in an order for grocery delivery for darling uncle which had taken some time and the phone on speaker.  I decided to nip out and get darling father's papers. 

I noticed the lady cat again, though I have no idea where her kitten is.  I am calling her the Strawberry Blonde cat, or Strawberry, as she is a sort of pale ginger with white patches.  She is in season and so was very happy to have as many cuddles as I would give.

I am still worried about her.  Her fur is very dense and rough which shows she is living mainly outside at the moment, but she seemed healthy enough.  She was clean, which is always a good sign in cats, and quite alert - actually she was a little bit jumpy.

I managed to coax her a little way towards the house.  She was not coming anywhere near our lovely, gentle, animal loving neighbour as I think she had seen him chase off the ginger gentleman.  And as she seemed okay I didn't think I had much chance of persuading her into our house which was full of paint fumes.  It is also full of evil cat, who while only a small cat certainly fills the whole house.  And evil cat would react vigorously.  Actually evil cat could end up bullied by a younger cat, which would serve her right after the years of abuse she has dished out but I wouldn't want to see it.  However I did put down a large amount of dried cat food for Strawberry, and she tucked in happily.  She seemed hungry and enthusiastic, but she didn't seem desperate. 

When all the paint fumes have gone I may try and get her to at least visit.  I am so worried, she will be with kitten very soon, and the weather doesn't look like it is getting any warmer.  I just hope evil cat will be kind.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Missed by a whisker

Cats traditionally do not like change, and blind cats are supposed to be particularly sensitive.  Evil cat has decided that this, like so many other things, does not apply to her.  If she isn't completely blind she is certainly extremely short sighted, and I have no confidence that she would spot a mouse if it walked slowly in front of her.  She still can find food, water and trouble without much effort, though, so I don't worry. 

We are currently doing a little decorating.  To be exact, darling father is doing the decorating, he is painting our windows and it is badly needed.  He has done the study, and it looks amazing.  Today he is starting on the living room windows. 

So last night we moved the television and this morning I moved the unit under the window.  Evil cat homed in immediately because the furniture that had moved had left a gap next to the radiator and that is where she was going to sleep.  Ladders were moving around her, boxes were being moved but she was not shifting as she was now next to the wonderful radiator.  I reached over to pick up a magazine holder full of little bear's Dr Who comics.  I'd quite liked the magazine holder when I bought it, it was a sort of faux mock leatherette but it did look nice and was quite sturdy.  I picked it up confidently and the whole thing fell to pieces in my hand, the sides of the magazine holder shooting off in all directions and the heavy bundle of magazines landing literally less than an inch from evil cat.  You really could say it was a whisker away from her.  As they fell I was terrified as the magazines were really heavy and could have really badly hurt evil cat.  For a moment I just stood there, shaking.

Evil cat did not move.  She hadn't had a chance to sit next to this radiator for years and she was not going to move just because of extremely heavy stuff falling very close to her.  She was comfy and happy and going back to sleep - and she did! 

She is now sleeping under the ladder where darling father is painting.  I am letting sleeping cats lie. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Little bear and presents

I am still swinging wildly between thinking that little bear will have too many presents to thinking that he will have too few.  On one hand the poor mite will have both Christmas and birthday to celebrate.  On the other hand, he doesn't actually want that much.  He has crates of cars, piles of figures and last night was making good use of his toy swords when he was playfighting with OH - he is not short of goodies.  How will he learn to appreciate things?  I honestly think he could get nearly 100 books for Christmas and birthday presents.

But then I think - poor mite, this is going to look so thin on the ground and it seems so unfair and he should have lots of presents.  Perhaps there will be a bargain or two in Matalan... and then I am off again.  It does not help that I have totally lost track of goodies ordered for little bear.  They are stashed all over the house!

This morning was a case in point.  First of all there was a knock on the door and a parcel arrived for OH.  I have no idea what is in it.  Then his present arrived with a different carrier, along with the Ben10 lampshade that will be one of little bear's gifts.  The night light has already arrived and the desk lamp is on its way.  They aren't brilliant presents for someone turning six, but I am seriously running out of inspiration.  Then a third carrier arrived with the fourth dehumidifer, to go into the junk room.  Approved Food are calling this afternoon as well. 

There is no room in the recycling bin for all of the cardboard boxes. 

There are twenty one days until Christmas and twenty five days until his birthday.  I can honestly say, with my hand on my heart, I have no idea if I will get him anything else. 

Monday, 3 December 2012


Part of the fault is OH's - he introduced little bear to minecraft.  Part of the fault is mine.  I let little bear play minecraft and watch videos of minecraft games on YouTube.  However, whoever is at fault, little bear now has a 'thing' about minecraft.

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.  Little bear would find a topic and then rattle off about it to all that would listen.  I suppose I could manage okay with dinosaurs or creepy crawlies.  I haven't done so badly with Ben10 (shudder).  Minecraft is a bit of a challenge.

For those not blessed with knowledge about Minecraft, it is a computer game which lets the players develop resources in a logical way and also kill zombies.  So little bear has patiently explained that you start off with a wooden pickaxe and use that to get the materials to make a stone pickaxe, to get the materials to make an iron pickaxe, etc etc etc.  I sort of zone out after a while and miss vital chunks of information.  At least, chunks of information that are vital to little bear.  Information about a computer game I shall never play isn't that vital to me, although little bear would dispute this.

Last week at martial arts, right in the middle of a discussion about kicks, little bear launched into a long explanation of how to get roast chicken.  I was mortified.  Then the instructor (who is lovely really) turned and said, 'Well, we don't talk about it in class, but I know that your mum would really like you to tell her all about it on the way home.'  I was unimpressed.

Little bear is getting very immersed in the whole thing.  He started writing a list of instructions about how to play minecraft - on the wordprocessing programme.  My little bear using Windows 7!  It may have been a list of instructions on how to create a pickaxe, but it was a fair start on a document.  It had logical, numbered points and the spelling was pretty good.  I showed him how to save it and how to open it again, and where the automatic numbering button was.  I was just so proud.  I also showed him where the spell checker was and gave him ideas how to use it.  I am not sure how much sunk in, but I was just thrilled that he could spell 'wooden'.  Of course, it helps that at one point he dictated to me a list of materials in minecraft that while not exhaustive filled two columns on a narrow lined pad of A4 paper so that he could pretend to type them into his toy laptop, so some words have been practiced.  I have a son who can spell 'obsidian'.

Sunday marked a bit of a revelation to me.  I had taken little bear to Church, and he had gone to the group and had received his two sweets and made paper chains.  I thought all had gone according to plan.  I always ask if little bear has been good, but I am usually confident that he has.  Yesterday he had been good, as usual.  The Sunday School teacher then asked, 'What's minecraft?'  Mortified again.  I have no idea what little bear told them, but I have a reasonable idea.  

Still, little bear seems happy enough so I shall keep looking as if I am interested and carry on. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Washing powder

I finally ran out of the huge box of Fairy powder that I got months ago for £10 at Sainsburys.  That was fine, I had some washing tablets ready purchased from Approved Food which should be fine.  I broke them out, followed their instructions (eventually) and set the machine off.  There was a problem.  The washing tablets from Approved Food appeared to be waterproof - they were not dissolving. 

I did try an empty wash on 90 degrees, which I do now and again to flush out the washing machine.  That got rid of the tablets just fine.  However I do most of my washing on a much lower temperature.  I have read that most of the energy used by a washing machine is taken up by heating the water, as mine like most is cold water fill.  None of us get spectacularly dirty (little bear does his best, but it really isn't that bad) and we change our clothes often, so I put the wash on at 30 degrees, but for a longer wash.  To be fair to water and washing machines, actually that will get rid of an amazing amount of dirt and dust even if there is no soap, but I prefer to add soap.

So I popped in to Makro and spent £21.36 on a box of 110 washes, or around 20p per wash (I checked it on a calculator).  I never use the amount stated anyway, and I expect it to last a good six months, especially if I use the waterproof tablets for the few hot washes I do, like towels and sheets.  But it is a bit of a blow, especially after the last box of Fairy.  I got Ariel Professional Actilift, so it will no doubt deal extremely well with the majority of little bear's stains.  And it will be hygienic.  And I will be using less powder than stated.  It just seems a lot.

I have decided to take a two pronged reaction.  On one hand I will be actively researching big boxes of powder to have one (and only one!) in reserve for when this box finally finishes.  On the other hand I am going to have a go at laundry gloop.  I am not convinced it will cope with little bear's shirts, but I am confident it will be fine on my tops and sweaters, and considerably less expensive.

I shall let you know how I get on.

Looking good

While I was ironing yesterday (still smug!) darling father and OH were hard at work and I now have new curtains in the study, hanging from an elegant new curtain pole.  The curtains are patterned which is unheard of for me - in fact, these are the first patterned curtains I have ever bought.  Fortunately all in the household approve so I am feeling quite good. 

Darling father has painted the windows inside as well.  Next week he is tacking the living room where matching curtains are waiting to be hung.  I shall have to motor just to keep up with him! 

And I should add that I am really grateful!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

It has finally happened!

I reached the bottom of the ironing basket!!!  I don't think I have ever, ever, ever in my life done that before. It has taken me two days of ironing around little bear and family, and I am absolutely exhausted.  But I reached the bottom of the ironing basket!!!

The journey was not without it's discoveries.  I have found all sorts in my journey, from lovely shirts for little bear that I had forgotten to very strange tops that I do not remember buying.  In fact, one top had me eying it very carefully.  I don't remember taking recreational drugs.  I don't remember drinking alcohol while taking prescription (or any) medicines.  I don't think I was out drinking early enough for the shops to be still open after I had drunk myself into a state where I could buy a frilly mauve top with lots of buttons.  It is a nice frilly mauve top with lots of buttons, but I don't do frilly.  I don't really do buttons.  I don't even do that much mauve.  Never mind, it was a discovery and it may grow on me (or be donated in the very near future).

I have almost run out of coathangers.

Of course I can see all the downsides.  I have found a lot more clothes that little bear has grown out of.  I have stashed them to one side with a load of tops that I was insane to buy (but unfortunately I remember buying them, and it seemed a good idea at the time).  They will all need ironing. and there are a good few hours there.  I have looked at a few bits that have got a bit dusty while waiting for the iron and put them back in the washing, so they have merely been postponed.  And while I was doing the ironing I was washing and after gloating over my empty ironing basket, I immediately filled it with the normal, everyday washed stuff out of the tumble dryer.  There is another load in there now - I suspect I have another hour and a half's ironing generated today. Also, there will be a bit of a problem putting it all away, as I am not sure it will all fit. 

But I reached the bottom of my ironing basket!!!

A different view of things

I finally cracked and got glasses.  I was getting handed all these serious medicines and I couldn't read the instructions, it's my age.  So I trotted along to Specsavers, got a nice basic pair that the Hospital Fund will cover and came home. 

Little bear was supportive in his own way.  He nearly fell on the floor laughing when he saw me in my glasses. 

I finally break out the glasses last night.  OH, darling father and myself were all planning on sitting and watching something that had been recorded for about a year, which we had been promising ourselves we would watch and last night we actually did.  So I settled down with my knitting and put on the glasses.

I don't know exactly what I expected, but it was really odd.  I could see my knitting perfectly.  I could see all the tiny details on the tube of hand cream next to me.  I couldn't, however, see the tv.  Anything more than three feet away was a sort of fuzzy blur.  As evil cat was sitting some way away she looked like a sort of tabby cushion, which was a huge improvement.  It was not such an improvement not being able to see the tv.  Apparently I have excellent long distance vision for my age.  Last night it was less of a comfort than it should have been.

I spent most of last night feeling like an elderly and stern spinster, with my glasses perched on the end of my nose.  I looked down to see through them and get the detail of the knitting and over them to see the tv and the really wonderful show.  And got something of a headache.  Never mind, at least I can read the small print.