Saturday, 31 December 2016

Bring It On!

I'm not making any real resolutions for 2017 but I do want to try and eat a bit more healthily. Although I've managed to keep the weight off for over 2 years I've gradually slipped into eating less and less fruits and veggies, eating too much meat, too many cakes, biccies and chocolate, and going for quick and easy meals rather than healthier food choices. So that's one area I want to address. 

I also want to push myself and join at least one more social/interest group. I've let myself get extremely isolated and cut off over the past few years since suffering depression and social anxiety, but shortly before Xmas I met an old school friend twice by accident in town. I hadn't seen her for over 40 years and to meet her twice within a week seemed too much like fate to ignore. We've now 'friended' each other on Facebook and she is also in touch with a few other mutual friends so there are tentative plans for us to meet up for coffee or lunch in the New Year. There are also several local craft groups I might check out, and our new house is nearer the church DH attends and I occasionally go to and there are various social events there that would be easier for us to get to. The idea of all of this scares me me silly, but I know if I don't start to push myself I will just get worse and worse.

Mostly, though, 2017 will revolve around certain big events for our family that are already on the cards. So far there are 3 of these - moving house, hopefully within the first 3 months of the year, my 60th birthday in June and DD3's wedding at the end of July. It's also possible that DS2 will move to the States and get married this year if the red tape goes through fairly swiftly. In theory this means we'll be going over to America at least once...DH will fly for the first time and I haven't flown since I was 21.

So, changes are coming without me making explicit plans. I just hope that DH and my kids' health will be better this year and I won't spend half the year accompanying one or the other to hospital appointments.

As for this New Year's Eve...DD3 and his fiance are spending the night in Canterbury and going to a Great Gatsby inspired event. DH, DS1 and I are going for lunch at 2pm, and then depending on how noisy or quiet our neighbours are tonight we'll either stay in and watch Harry Potter and have nibbles and wine, or we'll head out to the pub for a couple of hours instead of listening to the racket coming through the walls.

So, bring on 2017!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Combining Discounts

Yesterday we made a second visit to the house we're hoping to move into within the next couple of months. The good news is we still love it, and the better news is that the sellers have now found a chain-free property to buy so hopefully all will go through smoothly and swiftly.

Fingers crossed we'll soon be living here.

Of course, it probably won't look this good once we move all our junk into it.

This house is third time lucky, and we are compromising by staying in Dover rather than moving to Deal. We simply couldn't find anything suitable in our price range without having to take out a mortgage that would leave us a lot worse off financially each month. 

The pluses are that it's end-of-terrace, almost link-detached as we will only be attached by one bedroom wall over an alleyway between us and the next door neighbour, it's on a much quieter road and it has a lovely garden whereas we only have small paved yard at the moment. In addition, being smaller it should be cheaper to run, and council tax, fuel bills etc are all less. 

We're taking out a small mortgage over 10 years, paying a fractionally higher interest rate so that we can fix it for the full 10 year term. Interest rates are so very low right now, unlikely to fall further, and are bound to rise sometime in the future (who knows what will happen after Brexit) so this ensures our rate will stay low no matter what. We can still recall mortgage interest rates of 14-15% in the late 1980s!

Our other compromise is that the house has only 2 bedrooms, perfect for us in the future but we still have 2 adult sons living with us at present, although DS2 will move to the USA sometime within the next year or so when he and his American fiance get married. DH and I will sleep downstairs in the small sitting room until that happens. With this in mind we've been looking at buying a sturdy sofa bed. We had a clic clac one a few years ago that had a proper sprung mattress and lasted for years and years, so I was looking at getting something similar but the ones I've seen aren't particularly attractive and would dwarf the small room. Instead, we happened to be in Canterbury today, wandering around Debenhams, when we saw this in the sale and instantly fell in love.

It's a daybed with a trundle bed beneath that can be raised to the level of the main bed. It has proper sprung mattresses and will look extremely elegant in our new house's small Victorian sitting room. With lots of plump pillows/cushions to lean against it will make a lovely sofa during the day and provide plenty of sleeping space at night. Luckily DH and I are both short (both of us are only 5ft 4in) as the mattress length is 6ft 3in, a little less than that of a proper bed.

When we got home I went on the Debenhams website to check it out further. There were several options for purchase...just the main bed frame, main frame plus sprung mattress, bed plus trundle bed frames only, bed plus trundle with mattresses for both, and also 2 different mattress qualities. As we will be sleeping and sitting on it every day for maybe a year or more, I decided to go for the bed plus trundle and the best quality mattresses. The full price for this combination was £600, this was reduced to £420 in the sale. This was already a great discount but I thought I'd try to do better. I searched online for a Debenhams' discount code and found one for an extra 10% off that expires tonight. This extra £42 discount brought the price down to just £378 with free delivery. I also get points for paying by my credit card...the bill will, of course, be paid off in full when I receive the statement.

If, for some reason, this house also falls through we are in need of a new sofa anyway and can always use extra sleeping space for guests. 

As well as wandering around Debenhams we had a lovely long walk in Canterbury, checked out future shows at the Marlowe theatre (there's a production of Pride and Prejudice I might treat myself to at the end of January) and had tea and cake in the Moat House Tearoom. We caught the bus home at just before 4pm and I was glad we came home when we did with a thick fog rolling in across the fields as we headed back. 

We're planning on going out for an hour or two tomorrow evening. We generally stay in on New Year's Eve but last year was a nightmare with our neighbours blaring music for hours and letting off fireworks in the road outside the house at midnight. I'd rather be in a pub with all the hubbub than sit stewing while our house shudders with the vibration of next door's bass. 

I think that's all the news for today. Anyone else going out tomorrow night? Or are you planning a quiet night in?

Love to all, Helen xx

Wednesday, 28 December 2016


When was Christmas Day? Only 3 days ago? Really?

So why are there Valentine's Day cards on display in W H Smith? 

Absolutely Ridiculous. 

Nowadays we don't get the chance to savour and then recover from one special celebration before we're being urged to prepare for the next. I'm sure that before Valentine's even arrives we'll be inundated with Mother's Day cards and gifts and simultaneously it will be Easter cards and eggs.

I don't necessarily object to celebrating any of these events and usually give or receive some kind of token marking them, but I do hate that there seems to be no break between one and the next. I was starting to panic that I didn't begin my Xmas preparations until about 2 weeks before the day, but now I'm actually glad that I waited and didn't spend months (from the end of August when I first saw Xmas cards and advent calendars in the shops) on something that lasted a couple of days, was over before I blinked and before we're expected to move on to planning for the next consumer spending spree.

Okay, that's my mini rant over. I'm actually looking forward to Valentine's day this year as DD3 and BF gave us a voucher for Christmas for a meal at a restaurant we've been wanting to try and we've decided to save it for Valentine's Day. Normally, though, we make each other a card and might treat ourselves to coffee and cake at our favourite tea room...we certainly don't start spending a fortune on the the event before the Xmas decorations are packed away.

Dinner tonight is macaroni cheese incorporating some scraps of gammon, and served as a side dish to leftover sausages and more sliced gammon.

It was pretty cold and frosty here today but still lovely and bright. I hope the weather isn't too wintry where you are.

Have a good evening, love Helen x

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Waste Not Want Not

As we had our Christmas Day at DD3's place I don't have much in the way of leftovers this year. However there is some gammon from the joint we had with crusty rolls and pickles for Xmas breakfast and there was some spicy minced beef left from the tacos and wraps we had on Christmas Eve. There was also a little cream and I had loads of cheddar. 

Today I made a start on using up the remains.

I made 2 quiches using a sheet of shortcrust pastry from the freezer, the quarter carton of double cream, a little milk, 3 eggs, 150g cheddar, a couple of chopped, fried onions and some chopped gammon. One of these was served with mashed potatoes, carrots and sprouts for tonight's dinner and the other will be frozen for another day. 

The leftover spicy beef was combined with some finely chopped, cooked potato, a chopped, fried onion and 50g grated cheddar and made in to 6 pasties using a pack of frozen puff pastry. These will do for lunches for the boys. 

I still have a chunk of gammon remaining that will be sliced for sandwiches and the scraps added to a macaroni cheese for later in the week.

This morning we went for a lovely walk to Kearsney Abbey on the outskirts of Dover. It never was an abbey just a posh house and is now ruins, but there's a lovely tea shop there where we sat and had a cuppa and watched the swans and ducks on the lake. 

It was cold, with morning frost still on the grass in places at 2 in the afternoon, but on the whole we've been extremely lucky with the weather. In fact, it's been so mild that there is blossom on several of the trees around and about. 

I also made mint choc chip muffins whilst the oven was on earlier...and I'm just indulging in one while watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I've never watched beyond the third HP film before so I'm saying 'bye for now so I can actually watch properly instead of doing 2 or 3 things at once as I usually do and missing half of the action. 

Have a great evening everyone. Love, Helen xx

Monday, 26 December 2016

This Year's Best Pressie Is...

...a new daughter-in-law!

DS2 and his American girlfriend got engaged 2 days before Xmas but waited until the actual day to break the news.

There'll be a minefield of red tape etc. before they can get married and be together (DS will eventually move out to the States so I'll be losing my baby boy) but I'm thrilled for them. 

So, I had a wonderful Christmas day at DD3s and received lots of lovely pressies but a new family member has to be the best of all.

On another subject, I didn't waste my time queueing at 1 am to wait for the shops to open to nab a load of rubbish I didn't need and couldn't afford but as I was passing the Card Factory this afternoon I did grab some rolls of wrapping paper (6 for £1), 4 x 10 packs cards at 49p each and a pack of gift tags for 49p, so that's me all set for Christmas 2017.

Here's hoping you received all you wished for this Christmas. Love to you all, Helen xx

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Just popping in to wish everyone a...

Have a great day however you choose to spend it!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Lovely Family Sunday

I've had a lovely day with three-fifths of my children plus their significant others. Unfortunately DS1 had to work and DD1 and her wife couldn't make it here from Basingstoke today.

Thankfully I'd done most of the preparation yesterday so that everything just had to be reheated. We had chicken, pork, gammon, pigs in blankets, sage and onion sausagemeat stuffing, roast spuds, parsnips, shallots, Chantenay carrots, whole green beans, sprouts, cauliflower cheese, yorkshire puds and a Quorn roast, vege sausages, vege stuffing etc for DD2. Dessert was cheesecake, strawberry gateau, mince pies and Xmas pud...although the pud didn't get eaten.

I left it all out buffet-style on the worktops in the kitchen for folk to help themselves so that the table wasn't overcrowded with dishes as well as people. All went extremely well and there's enough grub left over for several meals during the week.

I'm thankful that I did prepare everything in advance as this morning DD2, son-in-law, DD3, her fiance and I were at DD2's mother-in-law's as she (another Helen) is making the cake for DD3's wedding in July next year. This is the cake she made for DD2's wedding in May 2015

Complete with Batman for the comic book mad bride.

If DD3's fiance had his way the cake would be Stargate themed (and DD2 did consider it) but in the end she's gone for vintage rustic, similar to this one by Amy Swann.

Unlike with DD2's wedding I haven't had much to do for this wedding; they both know so many people who are giving them things/doing things for them such as DD3's hair, nails and makeup, printing the invitations, taking the photos etc. But I will be making my cupcakes, we've paid for the venue, wine etc. I'm really glad I didn't have to make the invitations; DD2 had 70 for her wedding, DD3 has over 100 coming to the ceremony plus the same number coming to the evening do.

I'm now relaxing with my third glass of wine (courtesy of a lovely little winery in the Loire Valley) and I might just have another mince pie in a moment.

Our American visitors seem to be enjoying themselves although they've mostly been out at night to our British pubs and clubs, still on US time I think so they're sleepy during the day and wide awake at night. They joined us for dinner and loved the idea of cauliflower cheese; they'd never had cauliflower with cheese sauce before.

I'll be seeing DD2 again on Tuesday before she and son-in-law return to Gloucester on Weds morning. They'll be popping in on DD1 on their way home and delivering our pressies for them. Hopefully we'll get to see DD1 in the new year.

No further news on our house move. The building society evaluation survey should have taken place on Weds but I haven't heard anything yet.  It's been such an intense few weeks that I'm quite happy for things to just coast along until after Xmas.

I had my docs appointment to discuss blood test results on Thursday and surprise, surprise my cholesterol is raised (as usual). He prescribed statins...again...that I won't take. The side effects I've read about sound horrible and I don't have any other precursors to heart disease. My weight is okay, blood pressure has always been fine, not diabetic, no history of heart troubles in my family, but he doesn't ever take that into account. I think he's one of those doctors who gets paid for each patient he prescribes statins for. I don't like taking medication for no good reason so I'm willing to take my chances. I intend to try and eat more healthily in the new year, anyway, so hopefully that should bring the cholesterol level down a bit.

On Friday I visited the dentist and had my filling replaced with a recommendation that I should see my regular dentist and enquire about having a crown as a more permanent topping to my broken tooth. I have a check up scheduled in January so will mention it then.

I think that's about it for now. Hope you've had a lovely weekend. Enjoy the run-up to Christmas.

Love, Helen xx

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Nearly Ready

Considering that 2 weeks ago I hadn't bought a single Christmas pressie I am now almost ready for the big day. I've spent this afternoon wrapping pressies and writing most of the cards. DH has a few to write for his relatives and friends and then that side of things is done.

This week I've also had a Tesco delivery and a meat order from our local butcher. Next Sunday (18th) I'm hosting a pre-Christmas family dinner while DD2 and her husband are visiting from Cheltenham. There'll be 10 of us including our 2 American visitors. I have 2 chickens I bought yellow-stickered a few weeks ago, a joint of pork and a small gammon joint, plus stuffings, chipolatas and the usual trimmings. DD2 is vegetarian so I also have a Quorn roast, vege chipolatas and stuffing etc. I have Christmas pud and mince pies for dessert and will make a cake of some kind for those who prefer something without dried fruit in it. I don't think we'll starve!

In addition to the Xmas preparations the spare room and bathroom have both received a quick coat of paint before our American visitors arrive on Tuesday. DS2 did most of the work on the spare room and I did the bathroom. It's pretty rough looking but a whole lot better than it was beforehand.

And...drum roll please...we have found another property, had an offer accepted and have got as far as the mortgage application being processed and the valuation inspection is booked for next Weds. This time it's a 2 bedroomed end terrace house in Dover (we've given up on finding something in Deal within our budget). It's a much quieter road and although it's end of terrace it's more like a link-detached house as it only shares one bedroom wall with the neighbours over a shared side passage. It's a lot smaller than where we currently live but it has 2 reception rooms, one of which we'll use as a third bedroom until one of the boys moves out, a lovely modern kitchen and bathroom and, what's more, a proper garden. The current owners have done a lot  of work to the house and it's beautifully decorated and has some period features including a wonderful Victorian tiled fireplace in the lounge. Fingers crossed it's third time lucky and this time everything goes through smoothly.

Tuesday is a busy day with our visitors arriving late afternoon, an appointment for DS1 with his Autistic team's information officer at 2pm, Xmas drinks and nibbles at my slimming club in the morning and DD2 and SIL arriving from Cheltenham in the evening. Thankfully they're staying with his parents so I don't have to cram in more visitors. At least the church doesn't need DH's help at the soup kitchen after all, so I don't have to fit soup-making in to my schedule, and he won't have to go out early evening. A good job too since he's got another cold at the moment and isn't feeling too good again. 

And finally, an expense I could do filling fell out this afternoon so I have a dentist's appointment on Friday morning. I shouldn't complain too much though, it was supposed to be a temporary filling about 18 months ago so has lasted well. At least I'll have it fixed in plenty of time for Christmas.

How are your preparations going? Everything done yet? Or have you still to get started?

Have a good evening everyone. Love, Helen xx

Friday, 2 December 2016

Still Looking

Well, this week has been quite eventful.

Last Saturday was spent house hunting since we still hadn't heard back from the owner of the house we'd previously offered on. We found a gorgeous flat in the centre of Deal, a short walk from the seafront and pier, that we really liked and we offered on it within a couple of hours of viewing. Our offer was accepted the same day and we were happy campers. We informed our estate agent and solicitors and made an appointment to make the mortgage application. 

On Tuesday morning our buyers came round to start measuring up and we discussed trying to fast track things as there was no chain at either end of the transaction. I started planning on where we'd put our furniture and the adaptations we'd have to make to own and live in a flat, which neither of us had ever done before.

Fast forward a couple of hours. I'd just returned home from a lovely early Xmas lunch with my slimming club and saw I had a voicemail from the sellers' estate agent. I returned the call. The lady at the other end couldn't have been more apologetic but the sellers of the flat had gone behind their backs and accepted a cash offer from another buyer. So that was that. A second place we'd liked enough to want to buy and another one we weren't intended to live in. C'est la vie! Anyway, I phoned our agent to let our buyers know it would take more time for us to find somewhere else. Thankfully they've said they're happy to work to our timetable as they're buying to let out, but even so they won't wait forever. 

I was ill on Wednesday, fighting off a migraine. Too much excitement both good and bad over the last few days. And I think I just needed a time out from fretting about houses. 

I had an easy day on Thursday but I was still productive spending money online. Yes, I have finally done some Xmas shopping. In fact, with a £6 off a £60 Tesco spend, a meat delivery arranged from a local butcher and a Body Shop order, plus some chocs bought during a shopping trip, I've done nearly the whole of my Christmas shopping in just a couple of days. I need to buy gift vouchers and a couple of other bits and then I'm done. Thankfully I had £170 in £2 and 50p coins in my sealed savings tin and that has paid for most of what I've already ordered. 

Today I'm fine and back on form. I've put a coat of fresh paint on the bathroom ceiling and started on the walls in preparation for our visitors from America arriving next week, and I've found us 2 more properties to view tomorrow. One is a flat that we could buy without a mortgage once our house is sold, and the other is a house in a slightly quieter area, an end of terrace and only linked to neighbours by an upstairs room above a side alley between the 2 almost detached. Both look good in the descriptions and the flat is in the same block where my oldest daughter bought her first home so we do know that area. Anyway, we'll see what happens tomorrow. If we end up offering on either, let's hope it will be third time lucky!

Other news...DD3 and BF are coming to us for a belated birthday meal (for her) this Sunday. her meal of choice each year is vege sausage meatballs and spaghetti with vanilla cupcakes for dessert. And DS1 has an appointment on Weds morning for his first counselling session. We're also trying to get him help in filling out his PIP forms but the relevant organisations who offer advice are booked up until after his deadline of 22nd December when the forms need to be returned. His Information Officer is trying to arrange an alternative for him. 

Oh, and we already have our tree and decorations up thanks to DS2. We generally don't put them up until a few days before Xmas and take them down a few days after, but he wanted them up early this year. I'll likely be sick of them by the time the big day arrives.

I think that's all for my catch up. How are your preparations going (if at all)? Have a good weekend everyone.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Good News, Decluttering and Chocolate Cake

Today has been a really positive day. We had a scheduled visit from a lovely lady, an information officer (IO) from the Autistic Spectrum Conditions Team. 

We've been floundering since DS1's diagnosis, not quite sure who to turn to for help, but she lived up to her job title and then some. Not only did she tell us where we should go for help but she will also attend meetings and assessments etc. with DS1, make appointments for him and ferry him about. He may be entitled to a disabled persons' bus pass and rail card, PIP (Personal Independence Payment) or other benefits to help top up his salary from his part time job, and she's putting him in touch with a local social group especially for autistic adults.She will apply for him to have a full needs assessment but has suggested he makes an application now to go on the local housing register so that they are already aware of his need for appropriate independent accommodation when the assessment recommendations are complete. 

We phoned up the Government department to ask for the forms to apply for PIP and just that was stressful, they asked so many questions...and that was just so DS can be sent the forms to fill in. No wonder so many people don't bother applying for these benefits, those who are most likely to need them would find it hard to get through even this introductory process. DS is generally quite good at giving appropriate info but it was all rattled through so quickly that I had to talk for him part of the time, and even I had difficulty keeping up and taking in everything the operator said. Thank goodness our new IO is making an appointment with a service that will assist him in filling out the forms.

DS1 really liked our visitor and we both felt cheered that finally, after nearly 2 years since we first requested a diagnosis, some progress is being made in helping him live a more fulfilling life and to get help in making life less stressful for him.

Our other news is that we definitely have a buyer for our house. We've accepted an offer from someone who wants to do it up to rent out. He has his finance in place and there's no chain as he doesn't need to sell a property. We did have to take less than the asking price, but it's actually the price we thought it was worth so we're quite happy. We thought the estate agents' valuation was too high anyway considering the amount of work that needs doing to it. 

Now, if only the owners of the house we would like to purchase would just give the estate agent an answer to the offer we made on Saturday...

We offered a bit less than the asking price but are prepared to increase it, but so far they haven't given their agent a response to the offer. There's no chain at that end either so it would be perfect and the sale could hopefully go through within a couple of months so that we could move in the new year.

In the meantime I'm gradually decluttering in preparation for the move. I'm sorting through all my crafting magazines and putting a few at a time on the stall in the Co Op to raise money for a local girl who has a rare cancer and needs to go to the States for treatment. 

DS2 and I are proposing to sort out the cupboard under the stairs tomorrow so I'm sure I'll have more bags of stuff for the charity shops and the dump soon too. I know the Xmas tree is under there, and lots and lots of empty boxes we've hung on to from household items we've bought over the years just in case we needed to return any of them, but I'm pretty sure most of them are for things we don't even have any more or that are well past their guarantee date. Of course, some of them will be perfect for packing, otherwise it's recycling week this week so they can go in the paper and card box. 

There's also some old paint under there and as DS2 is tarting up the small bedroom for one of our American visitors at Xmas I'm hoping some of it might still be usable so I don't have to pay out for new paint.

I also found time to do laundry and make a chocolate cake today. It's a new recipe for me using Veg oil instead of butter/marg and it's super easy. Of course it's a good old Mary Berry one. I made a buttercream filling instead of the ganache in the original recipe.

The picture is what is left after 4 gannets (me, DH and 2 adult sons) dug into it.

Mary Berry Chocolate Cake 

2 x 8 inch cake tins (greased and base-lined)
Gas Mark 4 for 35 - 40 minutes

Cake Ingredients

275g Plain Flour
3 tablespoons Cocoa 
1.5 teaspoons bicarb of soda
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
215g Caster Sugar
3 Tablespoons Golden Syrup
3 Medium Eggs
225ml Vegetable or Sunflower Oil
225ml Milk

Filling Ingredients

85g Softened Butter
175g Icing Sugar plus 2 Tablespoons Cocoa (sifted together)
Approx 2-3 Tablespoons Milk

Measure all the dry cake ingredients into a bowl, sifting the flour and cocoa. Measure and mix the eggs, milk, syrup and veg oil together in a jug. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and give them a good mix with a wooden spoon or whisk. Divide between the greased and lined cake tins and bake in the middle of the oven until firm and springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and leave in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire cooling racks. Leave to cool completely before filling with buttercream.


Beat butter until soft and creamy, beat in the sieved sugar and cocoa adding milk a little at a time until the mixture is a spreadable consistency. It wants to be easily spreadable in the cake but not too soft that it won't hold together.

Fill cake with the buttercream and enjoy.

I also made another Mary Berry cake last week, a Lemon Victoria Sponge filled with lemon curd. 

It's an ordinary all-in-one Victoria Sponge but with the grated rind of 2 small or 1 large lemon(s) added to the mix and filled with lemon curd. It was delicious with custard. 

Mary's recipes are almost foolproof and our fave Birthday Cake is her Vanilla and Choc Traybake. I've lost count of the number of times I've made it over the years.Mary Berry rules as far as I'm concerned and I'm looking forward to her new programme on BBC now that Bake Off has gone over to Channel 4.

Right, that's all for now. It's nearly midnight and time I was in bed. Sleep well everyone.

Love, Helen xx

Friday, 18 November 2016

Looking Hopeful

More house stuff, I'm afraid. 

But exciting for us because...

...we might have a buyer. 

After a week of having people traipsing through the house, we've actually had 3 offers. All are below the asking price but then with the amount of work that needs doing we were expecting that. One offer we've already turned down as it was £25,000 under, but the other 2 we are considering. One in particular is extremely promising, a buy-to-let investor who will be a cash buyer. The other has made exactly the same offer but needs to be approved for finance. At the moment we've asked the estate agent to sound them out to see whether they'd be prepared to go a bit higher, but if not we'll probably accept the cash offer. 

Tomorrow DH and I are going to Deal for a second viewing on a house I saw on Tuesday with DS1. It has 3 decent-sized bedrooms, a decent lounge, large modern kitchen/diner, utility room, downstairs cloakroom, and an okay bathroom. There's a small neat front garden and a small back garden with an outbuilding and a shed. It's all been well maintained and the garden is lovely. The only down side is it's on a busier road than we would have liked, but still quieter than where we are now, and the area used to be a bit rough but seems to have improved in the 20 years since we last lived in Deal. That's the opposite of the area we live in now which used to be really nice but with lots of properties now being multiple occupancy it's has gone down hill over the past few years. Since we can't afford to buy in the really nice areas of Deal we'll have to settle for second best, but still preferable to our current location. 

If DH likes it too then it would be perfect as there's no onward chain. With a cash buyer for our place and no waiting in a chain for the occupant of the other house to move then things could go forward quite quickly and we could be relocated early next year. 

If we don't go for that then there's a lovely new build we saw that we could afford with shared equity if we were approved. It's gorgeous but has only 2 bedrooms and at the moment we still have our 2 boys living with us, although at least one of them is likely to move out within the next year. 

With all this going on and trying to keep the house looking as presentable as possible for our 'visitors' (plus walking 8 miles around Deal for hours on Tuesday) I'm cream-crackered tonight. And, of course, our beloved neighbours have decided to play their music loud enough for us to share. Bless them...grrrrr! I know we can't guarantee we won't have neighbour issues wherever we move but I can't wait to get away from this lot.

So, that's my news. And my little moan for the night. Sleep well everybody.

Love Helen xx

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Making Do

I've paid an extra chunk off the mortgage this month, trying to pay it down so we owe as little as possible once the house is sold. This means we'll have most of the sale price to invest in our new property and will need to borrow only a small extra amount to fund it. We have a really low interest rate at the moment that tracks at only 0.79% above the bank of England base rate. It was negotiated some time ago for a fee of £100 which has been well worth the money in saved interest payments over the years. Any borrowing on a new mortgage is bound to be at a higher rate (we've been quoted at around 2.5% fixed for 5 years) so it makes sense to pay more off at our current lower rate so we won't need to borrow so much at the higher rate. 

In light of the extra payment I'm trying to spend as little as possible on food (especially main meals) over the next 2 weeks (until DH's next pay day). In my freezer I have the following -

2 x 500g beef mince
1 x 500g  pork mince
1 tray of 6 Brains faggots
1 x 500g pork sausagemeat
2 x 300g packs and 1 x 500g pack of Quorn chicken-style pieces
1 x 300g Quorn mince
1 x 250g tub chicken livers

I also have frozen veg, fruit, bread puff and shortcrust pastry

In the fridge I have cheddar, smoked pork sausage, 100g bacon rashers and eggs, and in the cupboards I have such things as tinned beans (baked, blackeye, kidney), tuna, tomatoes, sauce sachets and jars, pasta, rice and couscous etc. etc.

So, lots of stuff to get creative with. I know I'll need to stock up next month but if I can stretch this out for the next 2 weeks - or longer - then I can hopefully pay another chunk off the mortgage next month too, despite it being Xmas.

I will make probably a large pie with the sausagemeat, maybe even stretch it to 2 pies or a pie and some pasties or sausage rolls. 

The pork mince combined with one pack of the minced beef will make a meatloaf and some meatballs to have in a pasta sauce. 

The other beef mince combined with a tin of kidney beans and a jar of sauce from AF will make a chilli  to serve over nachos with salad veg. 

One pack of Quorn pieces will mix with a condensed mushroom soup, onion, garlic, wholegrain mustard and white wine to be served over rice or couscous.

The Quorn mince will mix with baked beans, onion, garlic and herbs to make Slimming World beany mince served with baked or mashed potatoes.

The cheese, eggs and bacon can make a quiche using a carton of UHT cream from AF, served with chips or salad.

The smoked sausage will be put in a macaroni cheese.

Today I've made a sweet and sour stir fry with 1/2 of a second pack of pork mince, veg from the freezer and fridge, Aldi ready to wok noodles and a sachet of sauce from AF. The other half of the pack will be combined with a tin of mixed beans and some dried chilli mix to make a 'white' chilli for tomorrow. 

That leaves 2 more packs of Quorn pieces, the chicken livers and the faggots. Not to mention the tuna. 

There's certainly enough there for 2 weeks plus there are other vegetarian meals I can make including a lovely vegan curry recipe, a savoury crumble, cowboy beans, Hoppin' John...

...maybe I can stretch it to 3 weeks at least. 

I will obviously need to buy fresh salad veg, maybe potatoes for baking (I use Aldi frozen mash instead of's only 59p a pack) and there'll be stuff like cereal, fruit, bread etc for breakfasts and lunches but I have quite a lot of that too. My biggest issue is DS2 who has a bottomless stomach and will raid my stocks to make his lunches. I often go to make a meal and find all my chips or pasta have gone. I've asked him to let me know when he uses something up...but...

Anyway, none of the above meals are set in stone or in any particular order except tomorrow's pork chilli. It depends on what we fancy, or how busy I am, but I'm really hoping not to have to buy any extra meat or vegetarian options.

if you have any other suggestions for my ingredients please let me know.

Hope you've all had a good weekend. Love, Helen xx

Saturday, 12 November 2016

So Much For That

For whatever reason (and it could have been the horrible wet weather), of the 4 viewings we had booked today only 2 showed up. I suppose 50% isn't bad, but I had hoped for better. I'm just hoping the 2 booked for Wednesday aren't no-shows. I'm impatient, I know it, but when I get an idea in my head I want to act on it right away...and I so want to move now we've made that decision. How have I never learned patience in my nearly 60 years on this Earth? 

I now have 2 houses to see in Deal on Tuesday, one is a new build and the other only a couple of years old. One we could just afford with a small top-up mortgage, the other would need to be financed under a shared equity scheme although we'd have a substantial deposit to put down. Both would depend on us getting a reasonable price for this place. Dammit, I wish I could think of something other than houses at the moment; it's driving me mad going over and over the different possibilities and I must be driving everyone else (including you good folks) insane talking about it all the time. I still think I might be slightly bi-polar, I get so manic over things. 

Once the last of our 2 'visitors' had left DH and I ventured into town. It stayed dry for the 15 minutes it took us to walk there but by the time we'd left the library it was peeing down again so it was quick march to get back home. At least I got out of the house, I've spent 2 days inside this week when it rained non-stop from dawn til dusk. 

Dinner tonight is Iceland's cod in breadcrumbs, oven chips and peas (mushy peas for me). Last night it was Brains' faggots, mash and peas. Not very original, or healthy, but I was going for easy to prepare with everything else going on. 

The cod was 6 pieces for £3, so 50p per portion, the chips 95p for 1kg from Aldi and the peas are Tesco's value, approx 50 pence worth used. This makes each serving (for 4 of us) around 85-90p (including half a tin of mushies for me).

A 6-pack of faggots in gravy was on offer in Iceland for 89p, and we had 2 trays between 4 of us served with one and a half packs of Aldi frozen mash (59p a bag) and another half bag of Tesco peas, making each meal approx 80p. It proves that with careful shopping it's possible to make 'ready-meal' type food affordable for those days you don't have the time (or inclination) to make anything more time-consuming. Tomorrow I'm hoping to cook something a little more 'homemade' with the minced pork I got yellow-stickered from M & S. it's worth checking them out sometimes; I've managed to get some lovely reduced price meat on several occasions.

I think that's about it for now and I have to go check our fish and chips dinner in the oven.

Have a good Saturday evening. Love, Helen xx

Friday, 11 November 2016

Open House

Tomorrow we have an open house viewing day and I've spent this week trying to maximise the feeling of space (our main selling point) by sorting through the piles of stuff cluttering up the place. I have over a dozen black sacks of rubbish that DD3 and BF are going to collect early in the morning to take to the tip, and I've sent about the same number of bags of saleable items off to the local hospice charity shop. My airing cupboard is now clean and tidy with room to house all the cleaning things and spare loo rolls etc that were previously stored on the floor of the bathroom or in bags on the landing. And our bedroom is virtually unrecognisable with my 3 dusty old collector's dolls' houses donated to the Emmaus charity shop. I haven't done anything to them for years and they were acting as clothes hangers for my dresses and smock tops draped all over them. All the clothing I've kept is now tucked neatly away in drawers.

To make room for the dresses and tops in the drawers I've finally bitten the bullet and given away all my big clothes. I've hung on to them because I've lost weight and then regained it several times in the past but this time, after more than 2 years at my target, I'm hoping I'll manage to keep the weight off permanently. I've held on to one pair of size 14 jeans...just in case. But all the 16s, 18s, 20s and, yes, the 22s have gone. If I ever gain the weight back then I deserve to have to pay out for new clothes. Mind you, with the stress of a probable move already getting to me, I've been eating for England this week. 

The first signs are hopeful as we have 3 people booked for the 11-12 am viewing slot, and another person coming about 1.15pm. There's also 2 people who couldn't make tomorrow and are booked to come on Wednesday. So, let's cross fingers and everything else we can that we'll soon have an offer...preferably from a cash buyer from London looking to invest in rental property. We can but hope. As we're considering new build homes, and DS1 and I are going to view some in Deal on Tuesday afternoon, it would make for a much easier transaction with no chain at either end.

With all this going on I still haven't given much thought to Christmas. Not a single pressie bought yet. It's going to be gift vouchers and boxes of chocs this year, I think, I simply have too much else to think about with the house sale and DS1's social services assessment on 22nd Nov. There's also 2 birthdays before the holiday period too. One of them is DH's and luckily he's quite happy to just go out to the vintage tea room in Deal and have a cream tea, which is what we did for my birthday this year.

Although we're going to DD3's for Xmas day I've managed to get roped into doing a full roast dinner for 10 of us on the previous Sunday (18th) when DD2 and SIL (son-in-law) will be down our way, DD3 and BF will be over and DS2's American girlfriend and her best friend will be here.  I managed to pick up a couple of large fresh British roast-in-the-bag chickens yellow-stickered in Asda so they've gone in the freezer, and I already have a Quorn roast and some Quorn gammon-style rashers in there for DS2 who's been vegetarian since she was 8. I'll probably buy a pork roast too, and do all the trimmings. Good job I have a big cooker with 2 full sized oven and 8 gas burners. I think I might need most of them.

That's about it for tonight. I'll be having an early night and trying to shut my brain down enough to get some sleep before tomorrow. I do hate my overactive brain; it goes through all the possible outcomes over and over and over again, usually in the early hours of the morning. So, here's to a good night's rest.

Sleep well everybody. Love, Helen xx

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

For Sale!

The 'For Sale' sign went up this morning and we also received the property description for our approval. It's been described as in need of refurbishment, and as an ideal property to do up to rent out. Too true! At least that way viewers will know what to expect.The photographer came round this afternoon; he'll return next week to take additional photos of the back yard when it's cleared out as at the moment it's stuffed full of old mattresses and a bedstead that the council will come and collect this Thursday. Tomorrow morning the energy survey is being done. I just have to return our signed declaration that the details are correct and then we'll go live by the end of the week. Open house viewing on Saturday 12th Nov. Fingers crossed for an early sale.

I went with DS1 to his assessment for CBT yesterday; just for moral support, he saw the therapist by himself. He's been put on the waiting list. The therapist apologised that it might be a long wait, 4-8 weeks. That seems quick to us after the 15 month wait for his initial autism assessment, plus an extra 4 months for his second assessment and receipt of the actual diagnosis and report. Some of the other recommendations in his report will come under the remit of other services, hopefully that will be sorted when he's assessed by the social services at the end of the month. Slowly but surely we're moving forward.

Having been so busy today (slimming club this morning before the photographer this afternoon) I made a quick dinner tonight thanks to my slow cookers. In one I tossed a bag of frozen Quorn mince (Aldi £1.49), half a bag of value frozen mixed veg (approx 50p), some frozen sliced leeks (25p) and a sachet of sausage casserole mix (25p - 4 for £1 from Approved Foods); in the other I cooked 4 baking potatoes I got yellow-stickered from Asda for 39p. Left to bubble away for 4 hours on high it was cheap and delicious. Served 4 at approx 75p a portion.

And finally, here's my knitted patchwork blanket on the sofa; Shadow thinks it's very comfortable.

Have a good evening everyone. Love, Helen xx

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Bits and Pieces

DH is still feeling rough. He can't seem to shake his cough completely and his chest feels tight and uncomfortable. He saw a GP at the hospital (when there aren't appointments available at the surgery we can sometimes see a GP at the local outpatients) on Thursday who said his chest was clear, but he's still feeling like sh*t and having coughing fits. It's doubtful whether he'll go back to work on Monday. If he keeps getting sick over the winter and can't keep this job and has to go back to supply teaching we won't be selling the house and moving; we can't take the chance of not being able to afford any new mortgage payments. He takes after his mum who had an extremely weak chest; you wouldn't think he has hardy Scottish blood in him, he's definitely a wimpy southerner LOL!

We've signed an agreement with the estate agent and are having the photos taken on Tuesday next week and an open house viewing on 12th November. We've got a quote for solicitor's fees and an agreement in principle for a mortgage but we'll have to see how things go. Worst case scenario we end up having to stay put but can release some equity and do the place up a bit, but I'd really like to move to a quieter area. 

That's enough about houses; I'm getting obsessed with checking out properties and calculating repayments etc. 

Let's talk knitting instead. I've finally picked up my cardigan again and I'm up to the raglan shaping on the second sleeve. If I keep at it it should be finished within a few days. Not that I've needed it lately; it was so warm today I didn't even need a coat when I went into town. I'm also halfway through making a woolly hat; I'm going to knit a few from my odds and ends of yarn and donate them to the local Outreach centre that provides facilities for homeless people, feeding them and providing washing facilities but also helping them find accommodation and work etc. in conjunction with Porchlight.

Still no Christmas pressies bought yet. I'll have to start shopping sometime. It should be an interesting time this year, not only is DS2's American girlfriend coming over but also her best friend will be staying with us for a week from 14th -21st December. DS2 is clearing out and cleaning up our littlest bedroom at the top of the house. It's in quite a state, having been vacant for a couple of years and just left pretty much as a junk room. We're going to give it a lick of paint and hopefully it won't be too terrible for our visitor. I'll need to get a new duvet and pillows; our spares are also in quite a state. As you can tell we're not used to having visitors. 

I think that's about it for my waffling. I'll hopefully post a pic of me wearing my new cardigan sometime next week.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Love, Helen xx

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Ready For A Change

We had a lovely weekend break in Great Yarmouth despite DH being ill with a terrible cough the first night. Luckily by the next day his antibiotics had started to make a difference and he was a whole lot better for the remainder of our stay. 

The weather was extremely kind to us. We walked and walked and notched up 15,000 steps on Saturday wandering around Norwich and 17,000 on Sunday making the most of the sunshine and walking along Yarmouth seafront, down to the historic Quay and then around the town. We even managed 10,000 steps on Monday thanks to a brisk walk before breakfast, despite spending most of the day on the coach. A good job we did walk so far with all the lovely food we ate. 

Here's DH enjoying a 3 tier meal in Biddy's vintage Tea Rooms on Norwich. 

We each had delicious sandwiches with salad on the side, a cream tea of scone, clotted cream and jam, and a huge slice of delicious homemade cake (Victoria Sponge for DH and peanut butter brownie for me), plus a massive pot of tea. DH polished off all of his, but after the sarnies and scone I was so full the lovely staff boxed up my brownie and I enjoyed it instead of dessert after my evening meal back at the hotel. 

We did visit the cathedral but it was being used for college graduations so we had to fit in a tour between ceremonies. It was packed so the atmosphere left a lot to be desired. I'd love to go back some time when it was less busy.

All in all we had a wonderful time. Yarmouth was a bit tired and run down and I'm not sure I would go back there again, but the hotel was very nice and the food good and for £99 each for 3 nights dinner, bed and breakfast, coach travel to and from Yarmouth and a day out in Norwich, I think it was excellent value for money.

We arrived back home about 6 pm on Monday and it's been all go since then. 3 loads of laundry washed and hung to dry on Tuesday morning before I headed out to face the music at my slimming club. All that walking paid off and my weight had stayed the same. 

DH has been preparing the bathroom for painting and doing school work so he's all ready for the start of the new term on Monday, and this morning we had an estate agent round to value the house. We were pleasantly surprised. Despite the amount of work that needs doing it was valued at more than we'd expected. Of course, the true value is whatever someone will actually pay for it. Nonetheless, now we've decided to move I'm hoping it won't take too long; I can hardly wait to get out of here and start again somewhere new. 

More good news is DS1 has got an appointment on Monday to be assessed for CBT to help him manage his anxiety. Anxiety is crippling for many people on the Autism Spectrum so any strategies he can learn to help him cope better can only be good for him. Of course, once assessed he'll go on yet another waiting list but at least since his diagnosis things are finally moving (slowly) in the direction of getting him assistance with daily living.

Here's hoping all is well with you. Love, Helen xx

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Weekend Away

We're off on our hols to Great Yarmouth tomorrow. Well, a long weekend, returning Sunday evening.It's been touch and go whether DH would be well enough to travel; he's had a cold and a tickly cough but after a trip to the docs yesterday morning he has antibiotics, and with throat sweets to suck on he's not too bad today. 

Our bags are more or less packed, laundry more or less up to date and food left for the boys if they want it. They'll probably not bother, and anyway DS2 likes to cook while we're away. I've also left money for a takeaway should they want one.

We're looking forward to walking in new places, weather permitting, and hopefully visiting Norwich Cathedral; we do like looking around churches and other religious buildings. 

While DH was at his doctor's yesterday I went with DD1 to his doctor's surgery to discuss his assessment report. As a consequence he is also being referred for psychiatric assessment; he suffers dreadfully with anxiety, has issues sleeping (very vivid dreams) and depression. Apparently this is extremely common in people with autism, their brains are constantly overloaded with stimuli and they can't shut down. I sometimes get like that myself and can't sleep but to be like that every day and wonder he has trouble coping with the world around him. Since we started this assessment procedure I've gained much more insight into what he deals with day in day out. Anyway, although it does mean more appointments with professionals at least things are moving in the right direction. About time; it's more than 18 months since he was first referred.

I've thrown together a pasta sauce in the slow cooker for tonight's dinner and I've made choc chip muffins to have with ice cream for dessert. I would have done cowboy beans but don't think the other passengers on the coach tomorrow would appreciate the pollution we might produce.

So that's all for now. See you when we get back. Have a good weekend. Love Helen xx

Monday, 17 October 2016

Monday Reflections

Is it really Monday already? Where did the weekend go? Am I alone in feeling that as I get older and time is more precious it actually speeds by at an alarming rate? 

We're halfway through October already, the dreaded C is fast approaching and so far I haven't done a damned thing towards preparing for it. 

Actually that's not entirely true. I have ample wrapping paper bought at 6 rolls for £1 after last Christmas and I have a sealed savings tin containing £2 and 50p coins that I will open at the end of November. I haven't fed it too often but it feels quite heavy and I'm hoping the contents will fund the food for over the Xmas period and maybe a couple of pressies. 

I also know where we will be spending the big day - at my youngest daughter's - and that DS2's girlfriend will be staying with us from America. I also know that DD3 would like gift vouchers for stores such as Dorothy Perkins, New Look or Debenhams, and DS2 wants money towards driving lessons. DH and I have agreed to spend very little (around £10) on each other but to have a nice day or meal out somewhere instead. I've also been thinking about what food to buy for the days we're at home; I just haven't actually bought anything yet. 

Never mind, somehow everything always gets done and I have a more laid back approach in general these days...if it doesn't get done it's not the end of the world and spending time together is the most important thing. I just wish I could summon up more enthusiasm and put a bit more effort into the event but since the kids grew up it doesn't have the same sparkle and excitement it used to. Or maybe I'm just all Christmassed out after years and years and years of organising everything by myself.

Mustn't get melancholy...even if it is Monday. We've got our weekend away to look forward to this Friday. Hoping for good weather...and good health. DH currently has a cold and I'm praying it doesn't go to his chest as these things so often do. Also hoping against hope I don't get it especially as my throat is a bit scratchy this morning.

We had our appointment at the estate agents on Saturday and it actually looks quite hopeful that we'd be able to borrow enough, at a rate we could afford, to top up whatever we get for this house and buy something half decent either here in Dover or just along the coast in our home town of Deal. Properties in Deal are about a quarter again more expensive than Dover so we'd get less house for our money but in a nicer area. Deal would be closer to work for DH, but both the boys would need to travel a little further. But then they might both move out within the next year or so. We're having someone round to value this hovel the week after we get back from Norfolk...we'll have to see what the good or bad news is.

Some good news is that DD1 has an appointment on 22nd November for someone from the special autistic unit at the Social Services to come to the house and assess his needs. Top priorities are for him to be able to live more independently, get counselling or something for his depression and anxiety (he's got a doctor's appointment this Weds to discuss the recommendations in his Psychologist's report) and hopefully a new job with more hours but where he has less contact with members of the public. The state of the house might even count in his favour...they'll take one look at this place and want to rehouse him right away! LOL!

Anyway, I suppose I'd better bite the bullet and get stuck into this Monday. I have a load of laundry ready to go in the machine and an Approved Food order coming at lunchtime so need to get into town and back again before then. 

Thank you for reading my ramblings. Have a good start to your week. Love Helen xx