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.