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

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Pies, Pasties and Great Yarmouth

I haven't taken photos but I've already made good use of one pack of the yellow-stickered frozen puff pastry I bought the other day. I used it in combination with a pack of Aldi ready-rolled shortcrust pastry that I rolled out even thinner, and I got 6 deep-filled steak and kidney pies and 2 steak and kidney pasties out of it. I used the shortcrust for the pie bases and the puff for the tops, the leftover puff made the pasties. I used my Salter deep-fill electric pie maker for the pies which makes lovely big, deep pies that I fill to the very top.

The filling was 2 lb of stewing steak from the local butcher and a large ox kidney (bought yellow-stickered from Morrisons) tossed in flour seasoned with salt and black pepper and lightly browned, and I also softened a couple of onions.This was all put in the slow cooker with some red wine, a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, 2 beef stock cubes, a little water and dried thyme. The flour thickened the gravy nicely and 7 hours on low made the meat lovely and tender. After making the pies and pasties there was a little of the meat mixture left over which I'll freeze for another time. We each had a pie with mash and veg for dinner tonight, and that leaves 2 pies and the 2 pasties for my sons' lunches. 

The pastry cost £1.25 for the 2 packs, and the filling was approximately £5. So for £6.25 I made 6 pies, 2 pasties and have some leftover filling for another day. Not bad going!

We're not going to DD1's for the half term break as she has to work extra shifts to cover staff shortages. Instead I've used the money we would have spent on fares and eating out and booked a last minute coach break with Shearings. We're going to Great Yarmouth for 3 nights from Friday 24th Oct . For £99 each we get return coach travel from Dover, 3 nights dinner, bed and breakfast plus an outing to Norwich. Shearings hotels are certainly not fancy but they are pretty good value for money especially when taking advantage of last minute reductions, and East Anglia is an area on the country we've yet to visit. Fingers crossed for good weather.

That's all for tonight, folks. Enjoy the rest of your evening. Love Helen xx

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Latest Bargain

The weather has been pretty miserable here today, overcast, occasional showers and only the odd flash of sun breaking through the dark clouds. It's definitely colder too. I wore a long-sleeved nightshirt, leggings and socks in bed last night. I haven't quite needed a hot water bottle yet.

We did manage a slightly longer walk into town this morning despite the showers, but didn't quite notch up our 10,000 steps. We spent half an hour reading the local papers in the library and then treated ourselves to a hot choc for DH and caramel latte for me. 

We also popped into Miles and Barr estate agents and have made an appointment for next Saturday to discuss a possible valuation of our hovel and what our financial options might be if we were to sell and move elsewhere.  I'm going to be 60 next year and don't work anyway, so no income for me until I finally qualify for my pension at 67. DH is 56, 57 in December, and will also not get a pension until he's 67. We're interested to discover what mortgage options are available at our age. Our house will have more than doubled in value since we bought it 17 years ago, but then so has everything fact house prices are getting ridiculous in this area. I do want to move but don't really want us tied into another mortgage if I can help it since we've so nearly paid off the one we have. But then again if we want to move to somewhere nicer we might have to suck it up and pay out on a mortgage for a bit longer. We'd probably only qualify for a 10 year loan anyway. Still, we'll see what our options are and then decide. I just know I really don't want to stay much longer in this house.

And the bargain...

6 packs of frozen puff pastry at 35p each from Morrison's. There were more packets but I usually try and leave some for other people. They're now in my freezer ready to be filled with good things and baked. I love pies and flans but try to only have a small piece and lots of veggies on the side.

That's all for now. Hope you're having a good weekend. Love, Helen xx

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Random Mutterings

Not much of interest going on here at the moment so I'll just ramble on for a bit.

The weather's definitely getting colder, but not cold enough yet to warrant putting the heating on. Our boiler is about 18 years old, a big floor-standing Potterton that I've had serviced every year since we moved into the house 2 years after it had been fitted. The next service is due in January but I fired it up this morning to check the radiators would come on, not wanting a nasty surprise when we do finally need to use it, and all seemed fine. We could probably get a more energy efficient model and more up-to-date radiators, but that would cost a lot and we'll most likely move from this house within the next 5 years so unless it actually breaks down it doesn't seem worth it. 

There's a lot needs doing to the house, it's a real doer-upper, but as we're getting older it won't be long before we start looking for something with fewer floors and less stairs so we're reluctant to spend money on it when we might not stay here long enough to reap the benefits. Both houses either side of us are up for sale and how long we stay here will also depend on who we get as new neighbours. We've had our fair share of issues with the ones on one side of us, but we could get worse. I wish we could afford to buy somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours to worry about, but unless we win the lottery...

DS2 is back to work at the castle but his contract goes to zero hours at the end of this month so he's looking for seasonal work until the new season starts up again at the end of February/beginning of March. He's hoping his American girlfriend can come over for Xmas. We're going to DD3's again this Xmas so I won't have to put on a big spread for the actual day.

I've already knitted the back and both fronts of my cardigan and made a start on one of the sleeves. I don't really enjoy knitting with super-chunky wool and such big needles (sizes 8mm and 10mm); they make my wrists ache. But I do like how quickly the work grows. 

And finally, some cuteness. 

Yesterday was DD2's birthday and I had sent the cat blanket in with her pressies. Wookie loves it and she posted this pic of him on Facebook.

Have a good night everybody. Love, Helen xx