Friday, 27 January 2017

Decluttering and Socialising

I've been busy decluttering most of the day, I'm a natural born hoarder when it comes to books, craft magazines and crafting materials. Somehow I'm managing to cast aside about 2/3 of the stuff I've acquired over the years. There are some things, like my original WW2 women's magazines, knitting patterns and cookbooks that I refuse to part with. It was a real wrench to cull my other cookbooks but I realised that most of them only contained a couple of go-to recipes so I've copied the ones I can't do without. The books I've kept are ones I use time and again. I've also donated nearly all my craft magazines, again it's a case of looking through them once every few months thinking I'll make that one day and returning them to the shelf until next they're going. There are so many patterns and projects online anyway, I don't think I'd have trouble finding something to meet my requirements whenever I get the urge for a certain project. Sorting through my card making, fabric and yarn supplies was more difficult. Fabric and yarn in particular can be expensive to purchase, and some of it is so pretty, but I have amassed a huge amount of stuff that I will likely never use so I've been tough and there's an impressive mound of bags ready to go along to the charity shop tomorrow when DD3 drives over.

I got so busy I hardly had time to eat all day and forgot I hadn't planned anything for dinner. At 5 pm, an hour before we eat, I found myself standing in the kitchen with the following on the worktop in front of me - 

Leftover haggis, leftover tatties and neeps, leftover peas, leftover cooked bacon. I had the brainwave to make a haggis meatloaf using some sage and onion stuffing mix, but there was no stuffing on the shelf. Another brainwave saw me grabbing a sachet of vegetarian sausage mix. The sausage mix was combined with water and a couple of beaten eggs. The bacon was cut up small and mixed into it along with the mushed up haggis, the mash, peas and swede and it was turned into a greased tin and baked at the top of the oven along with a tray of hash browns from the freezer. 

Served with leftover cowboy beans from yesterday, it was delicious. Just shows, after all these years I can throw together something edible from almost anything, and nothing gets wasted in this house if I can help it.

Talking of DD3 I'd planned a full day for me, DH and the boys to spend decluttering but she phoned yesterday and wants us to put together the wedding invitations tomorrow. Luckily, having sorted through the card making supplies today, I know exactly where all my bits and bobs are and that I have enough double-sided tape for the hundred or so invites she and BF are sending out. In return for my help she and BF are taking the bags of books and craft supplies to the charity shop, and some bags of junk up to the tip. 

We're hopefully still on track to move in the middle of February. We've signed and returned the sale contracts for our house, and now have in our possession the purchase contracts for the new house. This evening I've taken out an insurance policy on the new house to satisfy the terms of the mortgage, and on Monday I'll return the purchase contracts, the stamp duty contract and the insurance details to the solicitor. Then hold my breath for exchange of contracts in about a week and completion date in the week starting 13th Feb. I can't wait. I'm so ready to get moved in. 

I went to the craft club again yesterday morning. I'm knitting hats for charity at the moment; double rib so they're nice and stretchy and easy to knit while chatting. There were more ladies this week and one of them I knew from when I went to Weight Watchers years ago. There's also a Chinese lady who goes. She only lives a few doors down from me but I've only ever said 'good morning' to her before, so it's nice to get to know a bit more about her. As it's Chinese New Year this weekend she brought in some sweets for us to share.

In addition to socialising at the craft club, my old school friend has messaged me via Facebook and we're hoping to meet for a coffee next week. We bumped into each other again a few days ago; after 45 years not seeing each other we've now bumped into each other in town 4 times in the past few weeks, so we've both agreed it must be fate and time we actually made plans to meet up. 

I must admit to being nervous, wondering if there's anything we could have in common after all these years, even though we were best friends at grammar school. She's unmarried but trained to be a nurse in London and was a ward sister for years and I feel she's done so much more with her life than I have as a stay at home mum for thirty odd years, and especially over the past few years with my depression and anxiety meaning I've pretty much isolated myself. 

What I try to tell myself lately though is that I have to start taking chances or nothing will change. Just moving is an enormous thing for us after 17 years in this house. Who would have believed that 3 months ago we'd just walk into the estate agents asking for a quote and set all this in motion. So, I am starting to get some kind of life back. 

I think that's all for tonight. I'm off to bed soon...3 hours sleep last night thanks to DH's snoring. I'm hoping for a better night tonight. Sleep well everyone, love Helen xx

Monday, 23 January 2017

Time Flying By

Has a whole week really passed since I last posted? And are we really in the last week of January 2017 already? With all that's happening this year I can see time flying by at an incredible speed.

On the house front, we've had the contracts though for the sale of our place. We took them to the church yesterday and one of the pastors witnessed our signatures. I'll send them to the solicitor as soon as I've heard back from him with a couple of queries I emailed. We're pushing for a completion date during the week starting 13th Feb because both DH and the owner of the house we're buying will be off for half term holidays. 

I can't wait to move. DD3's fiance (BF) will help us on the day; we're hiring a van and doing it ourselves since we're leaving a lot of the big items behind such as a sofa, cooker, fridge, chest freezer etc. We're only taking one sofa which is sectional so easy to move, and the beds and dining table can be taken apart. We don't have any wardrobes as all the bedrooms here and at the new house have built in closets, and the only biggish item that won't dismantle is the dresser in the living room. In return for his help, we're giving BF and DD3 our washer/drier that's only a year old, as there's a built-in one at the new house, and we'll treat them to a meal out.

I took a huge step forward (well, for me it was huge) last Thursday and I joined a craft club that meets at the church hall just around the corner from us. I've been thinking about it for over a year but couldn't overcome my anxiety enough to walk in to a room full of strangers. But last Thursday I put my big girl knickers on and went...and it was fine. I chatted a bit, got quite a lot of knitting done on one of the hats I'm making for the homeless shelter, had a cup of tea and will be going back this week. Also, on Tuesday, I went for coffee with a couple of ladies from my slimming club and we had a good old natter which there isn't always time for during the meeting. If nothing else it gets me out of the house and into a different environment for a couple of hours and, who knows, I might even make a friend or two. 

Tomorrow is slimming club again. I managed to maintain my weight last week but won't be surprised to have a gain this week. We've been out to lunch twice this week and both times I had something with chips, and on Saturday I also had spotted dick and custard for afters. Yummy but not particularly good for my waistline.

That's it for tonight, I think. Enjoy your evening. Love, Helen xx

Monday, 16 January 2017

Praise Where It's Due

Our daybed was delivered today and I have to say the whole process has been trouble free. Debenhams' customer service has been excellent, from email updates to phoning us about a suitable delivery date, another email to confirm the date was still okay, then this morning lovely Sean called to let me know what time they would be with us and again when they were 15 minutes away. 

When they arrived they put a length of carpet down on the hall floor and also wore cloth overshoes so they wouldn't tread dirt through the house, and most of all they carried the whole lot (2 single mattresses, main frame and trundle bed frame) up 2 flights of stairs to leave it in our spare room on the top floor. If we had wanted they would have assembled it for us too, but as it's intended for the new house it's better left in the boxes ready for moving. 

Considering the great discount I got on the bed and that delivery was free of charge, I have to give them 10 out of 10. If I don't receive a satisfaction survey email I'll write or phone to let them know how pleased we are. 

Tomorrow morning is slimming club. Last week I'd lost the 1 lb gain I had over Xmas. I think I've mostly eaten healthily this week with a couple of lapses, but I feel uncomfortable around the middle so I'm hoping that doesn't mean a gain. Sometimes I still feel really fat but find I've either lost or stayed the same. In fact, looking back at my club records, my weight has remained the same for this time of year ever since I reached my target in 2014 but I do feel that it has redistributed a bit. I'm sure I carry it more round my ribs and middle than I used to. An age thing, perhaps? 

After slimming club I'm off to the hairdresser for a cut and blow dry. I want the same cut but shorter. Maybe I should have my hair done before slimming club; I'm sure to lose at least an ounce with the amount that needs cutting off! LOL!

As if that wasn't enough to keep me occupied tomorrow, DH is helping at the soup kitchen in the evening so I have a few litres of Leek and Potato soup to knock up. I'm also making a sausage casserole in the slow cooker for us so he can help himself to dinner before he goes out. I'd make enough casserole for the poor rough sleepers too if it was allowed, but we have to stick to soup. Since the soup kitchen is operated by different volunteers each time who make the food themselves, the organisers have received complaints from the users when one week there's been extras and not so the next week. So soup and sandwiches it is to maintain consistency. 

That's all for tonight, I think. It's another cold one and I'm looking forward to getting in to bed soon with my hot water bottle.

Have a good evening, love Helen xx

Friday, 13 January 2017

Finished At Last

We've been lucky so far with the weather. We've had some snow, lots of rain and cold winds. Snow has settled a bit on some of the higher ground around Dover, but the town centre has remained virtually snow-free. There was a reasonably heavy snow fall for about 30 minutes while I was out this morning but the ground was already so wet it just melted and thirty minutes late it was all gone. This afternoon has been cold with bright sunshine. 

I had a call on Monday to say our buyers had decided to have a full structural survey done, so an appointment was made for Thursday morning. Much nail-biting at our end because we know the house needs a lot of work but that's why we're selling at substantially less than the properties on either side of us which are also on the market. All went well, as far as I can tell. The surveyor was very nice, and seemed to think the house is good value for money so hopefully when our buyers get the report next week there won't be any issues to delay the sale. The seller of the house we're buying is eager to go ahead and has expressed hopes that we might be able to complete by the week starting 13th Feb. That's half term week and like DH she's a teacher so that would suit us both to move that week. Of course it also depends on the people she's buying glad there isn't any more of a chain at either end of this transaction. 

We can't wait to move now; our troublesome set of neighbours have been right pains in the rear for the past week or so. In fact, I can hear their music blasting through our wall as I write. DH went round to complain last night but the message never seems to get through. The dad just says, well you know what teenagers are like. Well, we had 5 teenagers but didn't allow them to annoy our neighbours! Also, one day this week I went outside to find some dirty bugger had allowed their dog to poop right on top of our low front wall. I had to clean the mess up. Just about sums up the mentality of a large proportion of the population round here. 

In between clearing up dog poop, usual housework, accompanying DS1 to various appointments, filling out paperwork for the house etc. etc., I finally picked up the cardigan I'd been knitting. I'd had the second sleeve on the needles for months and between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon I've managed to finish the sleeve, do the front borders, sew it up and add the buttons. So I can finally show you the end result. Not very flattering photos, and the house is a mess with us starting to clear stuff out, but it gives you an idea of how it looks.

I can't say I enjoyed knitting with this super chunky wool. It might have knitted up quite quickly (when I actually sat down to work on it) but the thick needles were unwieldy and make my wrists ache after a while. I don't think I'll be doing any more like this in a hurry. The buttons are courtesy of my dear mum. She died 11 years ago but I inherited her yarn and button stash and there just happened to be 5 perfectly coloured, perfectly sized buttons in the tin. Thanks, Mum.

That's all for tonight. Enjoy the rest of your evening and have a good weekend.

Love, Helen xx

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Hoppin' John A La Helen

It was a horrible dreary damp day today, drizzly, misty and cold. We did manage a walk into town, read the papers in the library and then went for a pot of tea in our favourite cafe. It's only £2.50 for a large pot for 2 people plus a large pot qualifies for 2 stamps on our collector's card and when we have 6 stamps we get a free pot. After that we nipped into W H Smith to browse for a few minutes and then into Poundland for tippex for DH for work and finally back home again. 

Lunch was a toasted cheese sandwich made with 2 slices of bread that needed using up from the freezer, dessert was yet another rice pud. I did have fruit tea with it; does that count as one of my 5 a day? Breakfast was a banana and coconut yogurt so that was quite healthy. I had a pack of low fat crisps as a snack. 

Dinner tonight was Hoppin' John a la Helen. In other words I made it up as I went along around a basic recipe. 

Every item came from the freezer or cupboard - 12oz white easy cook rice, a can of tomatoes, a can of blackeye beans, a few frozen chickpeas, some of the yellow-stickered frozen peppers and red onions, 2 chopped frozen Quorn gammon-style steaks (they'd been in the freezer for over a year), a cube of frozen garlic, tomato puree, a teaspoon of smoked paprika, half a teaspoon of chillies from a jar, salt and pepper, approx 800ml boiling water. Just bung everything in the slow cooker, stir and cook on high for 3-4 hours until all is tender and the water has been absorbed (remember to plug the slow cooker in...I forgot for the first 1/2 hour). Add a little more water if it starts to get too dry before all is cooked.

Plenty for 4 dinners tonight with enough leftover for a couple of lunches tomorrow and made entirely from items I already had. Dessert? Another rice pud. Good job they were so yummy.

I had a lazy afternoon, nearly falling asleep on the sofa but managed to stay awake. I've had a few late nights, mainly because of DH's snoring. I have trouble dropping off anyway with everything going through my head, but unless DH lies on his left side he snores like a freight train. I'm sure it's partly due to his excess weight; when he lost some a few years ago his snoring almost stopped. I try to get him to eat more healthily, give him smaller portions etc, but given half a chance he'll pile his plate high and snack from dawn to dusk. If I feed him less he just helps himself to more. He's an adult and I can't force him to mend his ways. I can see me spending nights on a second sofa bed in the dining room when we move house. I do nudge him to turn over but can't be too brutal or the bruises will show...LOL!!! Hopefully I'll be so tired I'll just drop right off tonight. I've got a bit of a cold and sore throat so if I medicate myself as well I'm sure I'll sleep okay.

That's all for today. Hope you've had a good day. Love Helen xx

Friday, 6 January 2017

Today's Bargains

Firstly a big 'HI' to my new readers, great to have you along for my ramblings. 

My dentist appointment this morning wasn't too good. X rays revealed I need another tooth filled so that's an extra £33 to add onto the £19.60 check up charge, plus the £19.60 I spent on replacing the filling that dropped out before Xmas. Also, I've been having problems with a recurring spot at the back of my mouth (right at the back, almost in my throat). It's so uncomfortable when it appears that I usually scratch the top off and it will disappear for a while and then flare up again. The dentist thinks it's an obstructed salivary gland so has referred me for further investigation. My mum died from oral cancer even though she'd never smoked, so I worry when something like this happens. Way to start off the new year with yet another (hopefully minor) family health issue...and it's mine this time!

Today's yellow stickers are courtesy of M&S and Morrisons, and there was an offer on toothpaste in Poundland.

There are 3 x 285g bags of M&S grated mixed Cheddar and Mozzarella for 90p a pack, 500g bag chopped spring onions for 19p, and 2 large tubes of Crest toothpaste on offer in Poundland for 50p each.

Morrisons quite often reduce large bags of excess salad bar ingredients and before Xmas I bought 2 big bags of sliced red and yellow peppers and a bag of sliced red onions all for 19p a bag. These went in the freezer, as will the spring onions, and I break off a bit whenever I need some. Especially great for my soup maker, saving on all the chopping. Two bags of the cheese will also go in the freezer, and one bag in the fridge.

Tonight's dinner used up more freezer items. I cooked a packet of Aldi frozen cauliflower cheese (leftover from Xmas) in the slow cooker before transferring it to a casserole dish, topping with a little of the M&S cheese and crisping in the oven. This was served with mash made from a few remaining potatoes and peas and sweetcorn. Dessert was, of course, rice pud from yesterday. 

I packed the Christmas decorations away today; I only left them up until our visitor left. I've binned a few bits that were really the worse for wear and our angel's china head got broken when one of the cats knocked her over. So, that's Christmas done and dusted for another year. With DS2's engagement I spent more than intended but have still started the new year as usual with no debt. I do have a balance on my credit card for the daybed we've bought for the new house, but that will be cleared from savings when I get the next statement.

I also had to take my meter readings to input online this morning, and luckily we're still a little in credit. I'm hoping we will have moved before the next readings are due so won't have too much to pay off our final statement for this house.

DS2 is understandably depressed today after saying goodbye to his fiance yesterday. DH and I had a long distance engagement for 4 years while he was at university, although not as far apart as they are, so I do understand how he feels being parted. Mind you, at least nowadays there's social media and they can video chat via some app or other for hours for free. We didn't even have a home phone back in the early 80s so I had to go down the road to the call box when I wanted to speak to DH and of course we couldn't see each other during the call. He's hoping to go visit her in March and in the meantime he needs to try and save and find another job with more hours. 

I think I've finally come to the end; this has turned out to be a longer post than I'd intended. I sure can waffle on when I get going. Sorry for that. 

Have a good evening, love Helen xx

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Slow Cooker Rice Pud

I got a little carried away making use of the extra space in my new slow cooker. The result...rather a lot of rice pud. 

Thankfully it's absolutely delicious so I'm sure DH and I won't have any trouble polishing it off. 

I adapted a recipe I found on the web so amounts are a bit approximate but it went something like this:-

8 oz Pudding (Short Grain) Rice

100g Caster Sugar

50g Butter plus a little extra for greasing

Large Can of Evaporated Milk

Milk (any kind) enough to make the Evap up to a total of 4 pints (I used a mixture of semi-skimmed and dried skimmed mixed with water).

Tsp of Vanilla Essence or can be flavoured with nutmeg, mixed spice etc. 

Fistful of sultanas or raisins if liked.

Grease the slow cooker bowl, add all the ingredients, give them a quick stir and then cook on high for approx 5-6 hours, stir a couple of times. 

I switched the cooker off and then left the pudding to thicken in the still-warm bowl for another hour before spooning it into containers.

It turned out lovely and creamy.

This amount is for a 6.5 litre Slow Cooker; halve the ingredients for a 3.5 litre cooker but use the same amount of Evap milk to make it extra creamy.

Dinner tonight was a Thai Green Curry using fridge and store cupboard ingredients. The only item I had to buy especially was a tin of Coconut Milk from Aldi. I managed to use up some peppers that had been sitting in the crisper drawer since before Xmas, a couple of carrots, an onion and some cooked green beans leftover from Xmas dinner that I'd frozen. We had it with some fragrant Thai rice, a packet I'd been eyeing in the cupboard and looking for the right recipe to serve it with. 

My last visitor left today, DS2's fiance on her way back to Virginia. He'll soon be home from seeing her off at Heathrow, rather down I expect but hopefully determined to save and do all he can to get his visa so they can get married. 

DS1 has submitted his application for the Personal Independence Allowance (PIP), so we'll see how that goes. It's not an easy benefit to get so we're expecting he'll be turned down and will have to appeal. Hopefully if that happens he'll have had his full 'needs' assessment by the Kent Autistic Spectrum Conditions Team by then and we'll have more evidence to argue his case.

I have my dental check up tomorrow; unfortunately I feel like I'm getting a cold so I hope I can make it or they charge double the fee for missed appointments.

Trying to resist having another tub of rice pud. I don't usually eat this late in the evening delicious. No, I'll be strong, I'll wait and have some with fruit for breakfast instead!

Enjoy the remainder of your evening. Love, Helen xx

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Slow Cooker

I've taken advantage of the Argos Sale and bought a new Slow Cooker. 

I got rid of my old 6.5 litre Morphy Richards a few months ago. I'd had it for years and, although it still heated up and cooked fairly well, the knob on the lid had broken off a long time since. This left the screw protruding that I had to use to very carefully lift the lid using a cloth or oven gloves as it got extremely hot. Also the heat settings had become totally obliterated, although as there were only 3 - high, low and off - I knew in which direction to twist the dial. The body and heating element were also pretty grotty after many years of spillage and scrubbing and with just 4 of us now I decided I could manage with my small 3.5 litre one so I binned the poor old 6.5 litre one.

I regretted it quite soon after and bought a second small one for just £15. Having 2 x 3.5 litre ones worked out okay most of the time, but I did think it a waste to have to heat both up to make large quantities to freeze and I could no longer easily fit a whole chicken, or more than 4-5 decent sized baked potatoes in a small cooker.  

And then along came Christmas. This year - shock, horror -  I had to divide my gammon joint into 2 as the whole thing wouldn't fit into one cooker. 

Then earlier this week I saw this at £19.99 in the Argos sale. 

I reserved one right away. It was out of stock but with more due in a couple of days and today I collected my brand new 6.5 litre slow cooker. This one has an extra heat setting, 'medium', so I shall have to peruse the booklet to see when that might be needed. 

I am ridiculously happy to have this new piece of kitchen equipment and I'll be trying it out by making a big vegetable curry tomorrow with enough to freeze for a second meal. 

I'll still keep my smaller cookers, somehow I'll find room for them all. In my humble opinion a slow cooker is the very best kitchen gadget I've ever bought. 

The last of my visitors goes home tomorrow. She's fitted in well with our mad family and will be missed (especially by DS2, of course, who won't see his new fiance again until the end of March when he can visit her in Virginia), but it will be nice to get back to normal after having had guests here since 13th December. 

Not that I can relax much; DS1 has an appointment with an organisation that will help him complete his PIP (Personal Independence Payment) forms tomorrow morning, and I have a dentist appointment on Friday morning. I need to discuss possibly having a crown fitted to the tooth I had re-filled before Xmas. There's not much tooth left for a filling to cling to so a proper crown might be the answer if I don't want to keep having it re-filled. I'll have to see what's involved and how much it would cost. If it's going to be too much trouble I'll stick with it as is. 

Just editing this to add that I braved the scales at my slimming club yesterday and despite eating everything under the sun over the past 2 weeks I have only gained 1 lb and I am still just within my target weight allowance. Hopefully returning to a more normal eating regime will get rid of that without me having to be too strict.

That's it from me. Sleep well, everyone. Love, Helen xx

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy 2017

A  wet and windy start to the New Year, but I'm feeling positive and we did manage to get out for a short walk despite the inclement weather. 

We were blessed with a relatively quiet New Year's Eve. No loud music from next door although they played the same game as last year and let fireworks off out in the road, this year launching rockets from their dustbin. Thankfully that only lasted for about 15 minutes. We watched the final part of Harry Potter and I just might have indulged in a glass of Jack Daniels and coke and a glass of wine. We had a lovely meal out earlier in the day with DS1, while DS2 and his fiance spent the night over in Canterbury. 

I've done a roast beef dinner today and, since I couldn't make the cake I'd planned on as DS2 used all my eggs to make pancakes yesterday and didn't tell me, I raided the cupboard and put together caramel slices using a can of condensed milk I'd had on the shelf for a while. And yes, despite my good intentions I am going to indulge in a piece. I mean...caramel can I resist?

I hope your first day of 2017 has been peaceful. Have a good evening everyone, love Helen xx