Saturday, 27 May 2017

Ridiculously Happy!

Sorry to have been AWOL for so long and thank you to those people who enquired where I was and how the move went. 

My life has been non-stop since we moved...and yes, it finally happened on 31st March. Almost everything went to plan with just a small hiccup; the people here were so behind with packing that in the end DH and DS2 had to come up and help them or our movers would still have been waiting to unpack at midnight
I am ridiculously happy to be here in my lovely little house with no noise from the neighbours, far less traffic, a beautiful garden that I'm making full use of and planting up with lots of veg and fruit and a few flowers. 

Not much budgeting going on at the moment as we've had to spend out on various bits and pieces since moving in and will need a new boiler in the near future. But I have managed to fit in some knitting since starting to go regularly to a craft group. 

I also finally gave in and accepted anti-depressants as recommended at the psych assessment I had in March. I am definitely feeling more positive, not sure if that's as much due to the move as the medication but hey-ho I'm definitely in a better place than I was a couple of months ago.

Lots of family stuff happened or is on the horizon soon (wedding, 60th birthday, other birthdays etc.) but I'll leave that for another day.

And this happened in Dover...

Banksy's commentary on Brexit

It is so cleverly done, really looks as if there's a guy up a ladder chipping away at the star but it's all an optical illusion.

DD2 and her hubby are visiting for a few days and we're hopefully all off to Dover Castle shortly for the World War 2 weekend event. If not today then tomorrow or Monday, weather permitting (as usual rain and thunderstorms expected for the bank holiday). Fortunately having a son who works there means free entry saving us over £70. 

I'll leave you with a few pics of the garden and hopefully will write again soon.

Love you all, Helen xx

View from the patio

Strawberries in the raised bed

Herbs in pots

Flower border

Rows of salad leaves starting to poke through

Where we sit and enjoy the sunshine

Runner beans and tomatoes in amongst the rose bushes

More herbs

Another view

Saturday, 25 March 2017

It's Finally Happening.

So many ups and downs and maybes that I'm scared to actually say we're moving but...

...we're moving!

This time next Friday, 31st March, as long as there are no last minute delays, we'll be moved into our new last.

This time last week our buyer was threatening to pull out if we didn't move on the day he wanted. It didn't help that our solicitor was on holiday this week and the lady doing his work had her own work to do first before tackling his so we weren't high priority. 

Just by chance I saw our buyer in the local Wetherspoons' while I was having lunch with some ladies from my slimming club (talk about serendipity). I took a deep breath and went to talk to him. Within a couple of minutes we had everything arranged and, a quick phone call to the people we're buying off, and it was all agreed.So, off we go. 

We're popping round to the new house on Wednesday evening so that the current owners can show us the workings of the boiler, cooker, washing machine, and where all the light switches etc. are. Very thoughtful of them to invite us, even though the guy has been a right pain in the rear.

We've spent this morning packing and sorting out. Thankfully much of the stuff I'd packed when we thought we were moving in February was still boxed up, and we'd already disposed of most of the things we no longer wanted. Our nearby charity shop has benefited, and we've probably added a few tonnes to the paper recycling total for this area. 

Our future son-in-law was going to drive a van and help us move but now needs to work that day, so we've booked a removal van and 2 drivers through Anyvan, a sort of comparison website where you register your requirements and then available firms 'bid' for your business. I've paid the deposit and had email confirmation but need to phone the company who won our contract to confirm the details.

I spent last evening online doing all the change of address stuff with the water companies (we have 2 separate companies, one for water supply and another for waste water) and arranging mail redirection (£59 for 12 months). This afternoon I've arranged for an engineer to come round to the new house to connect us to Virgin Media services (Broadband, cable TV and phone) but that won't happen until 5th April so we'll be TV and broadband free for about 5 days. We'll still have internet on our mobile phones and if the weather is good we can fill the days with some work in the garden (not that it needs much doing to it, it's been beautifully kept). I can inform the power company on the day we move out when I take the final meter readings. 

My stomach keeps doing somersaults, there have been so many times we've thought all was going well only to have something rear it's head and set us back that I won't believe it's happening until it's happened. 

So, if I don't get on here again for a week or two, please wish me luck. I could do with something going right without any hiccups for once.

Love you all,

Helen xx

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Good News First...

A quick check in before we head off to Canterbury to take DD2 out for lunch. She's over this way for a few days for a friend's 30th birthday, but we're managing to get together a few times before she heads back on Monday.

So, the good news first...

Our buyer finally has his mortgage offer through so the move is back on. He's pushing for a quick move which is a bit of a cheek after he's the one who's kept us waiting. Since there's a teacher in our family and also in our seller's family we're holding out for Monday 3rd April at the beginning of the Easter break. After all, it's down to him that we couldn't move over the half term break so fair play that he should now work to our timetable. Also, he's out of the country next week so won't be available to sign the paperwork or exchange until the week beginning 13th March at the earliest. 

It's a big relief that all is going ahead. We actually went as far as putting the house back on the market and had a couple of offers we were considering, but that would have meant going back to the start of the selling process with the new buyers needing a mortgage so we hung on for our original buyer and thankfully it seems to have paid off. I won't count my chickens until we've moved in though!

And now the bad news. Unfortunately DS2's engagement was shortlived. It's uncertain exactly why she changed her mind and DS couldn't get a straight answer out of her, but it appears she returned home to the States and had second thoughts but couldn't bring herself to tell DS for weeks. He's absolutely heartbroken. As he says he was prepared to give up everything to move to the US and start a new life with her. The relationship is completely over so that's that. 

There is a bit of good news for him in that he's been offered a full time job as a court usher at the local magistrates court (subject to his references and health info checking out) but that's not much consolation at the moment. Also, his band are through to the next round of this year's Metal to the Masses competition following the first round gig that we attended in Canterbury on Tuesday. However, because he needs his tonsils removing due to repeated throat infections, the band may need to replace him as singer if his surgery clashes with the competition dates. Lots of ups and downs.

Now that DS2 isn't moving to the States it looks like DH and I will be using the sitting room of our new house as a bedroom for longer than anticipated. If the new job works out for him though I'm sure that, at nearly 24, he'll be wanting to get his own place pretty soon.

I think that's all for now. There's probably lots of little bits and pieces I could mention but I won't bore you with them.

Have a good weekend everybody. Love, Helen xx

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A Homemade Valentine's Day

We had intended using a restaurant gift voucher from DD3 and BF to go out for a meal for Valentine's Day. Then we thought we might be moving this week so decided to save it for when we were more settled. The move is off for the time being but as we hadn't booked for tonight I did a homemade meal. I cooked DH his favourite sausages from the local butcher along with fried onions and we had them in rolls. I made another of his faves, a trifle using store cupboard ingredients, except for the cream from Aldi. I also made a choc and vanilla marble cake so the boys would have something nice as neither of them like trifle but I haven't taken a pic of it. As well as the food, I made DH a card that I knocked up using what remains of my craft supplies while he was at church on Sunday

Nothing OTT or overly romantic, just a way of saying I love you by doing something a little special. We tell each other 'I love you' on a regular basis; it's just nice to make a little extra effort every now and then.

I'd gained 2 lbs at my weigh in this week, and I'm now 1 lb over my top weight allowance. This is only the 4th time since I reached target 2.5 years ago that I've gone over my target. I'm not worrying too much because I've always managed to lose the extra by the following week. I know it's happened because of the stress of the house sale and the cold weather combined means I've been comfort eating too much sweet stuff and too many carbs. I'm going to try and eat more fruit and veg this week and less stodge...starting tomorrow since I already ate a sausage in a roll, some trifle and a piece of cake this evening! 

I'll also be walking more with DH off for half term; we already did a 5 mile walk yesterday up to the National Trust site on the cliff top. It's a long time since we climbed up the hill to the top and I did need to stop and catch my breath a few times, but we made it and despite a chilly wind and a bit of mist it was lovely to see the Exmoor ponies they use to control the vegetation, and the view over the docks and across to the opposite cliff. Unfortunately it was too misty to see the French coast which is visible on a clear day. Here's a pic of the ponies, a couple of the views across Dover Eastern Docks and the harbour and one of a windswept DH.

There's a community information day up at the church tomorrow morning so we might take a walk up there and grab a coffee before going into town. We can't go far tomorrow as we have a viewing in the afternoon, a cash buyer or so we're told. Fingers crossed yet again.

Enjoy your evening. Love, Helen xx

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Woollies For The World

Firstly I must thank everyone for their commiserations over the problems with our house sale, and for sharing their stories about the process. It's truly a minefield and the advice seems to be to hold in there and hopefully it will eventually work out. Fingers crossed.

Now confession time. After my little moan yesterday about people holding up checkout queues, I was the one doing just that today. Morrison's had an offer on various varieties of tinned beans at 4 tins for £1 instead of 38p a can, but not all types were included in the offer. Red kidney beans were, white kidney beans were, apparently (although the same brand and on the same shelf) chickpeas were not. So having presented 2 tins of red kidney beans, one of white and one of chickpeas at the till and discovering that the discount had not been applied, the queue (well, the one person waiting behind me) had to wait while the checkout girl called the supervisor who then kindly swapped the chickpeas for a second can of white beans so I could meet the requirements of the offer. 

Of course, if they'd made the offer clearer on the shelf (or if I'd taken the time to read it more carefully!) the problem might not have arisen. In my defence, I did pack the remaining shopping away while the supervisor exchanged the chickpeas and I did have the correct money ready so the transaction was completed quickly after that. And I did also apologise to the person behind me. But maybe I shouldn't judge others so quickly in future...definitely a fault of mine.

Other than that little drama, there's not much to tell today. DH and I walked very quickly into town for was freezing cold and threatening snow all day long but it never fell. This afternoon I've been finishing the knitting on a little baby jumper for charity, and I've just started on a strip of striped garter stitch knitting to make up a blanket. I've joined the Woollies for the World Facebook group after seeing an article in this week's Woman's Weekly magazine. I have quite a few jumpers and hats that I've knitted over the last year intending to send them to a charity but I've never gotten around to it so now they'll go off to Pam in Rhyl. 

The group also has a website here -

Dinner tonight was the pie I made yesterday. A yellow-sticker pack of puff pastry - 38p, 250g sausagemeat - 99p, a couple of tablespoons of spicy apple chutney - 20p, a little stuffing leftover from Xmas - 0p, served with 1/2 bag of Aldi fresh carrots - 23p, 1/2 bag of Aldi frozen peas - 35p, mashed potatoes made with 1/2 of a 2.5kg bag Aldi baking potatoes - 68p and a little milk and butter - 10p, plus gravy made from granules - approx 10p. A yummy filling dinner for £3.03 or 76p per person for 4 servings.  

DH is on half term holiday this week so I secretly whipped up a quick Valentine's Day card for him while he was at church this morning. We haven't planned anything because we expected to move house tomorrow and we'd hoped to be too busy settling in to celebrate the day. Instead of going out on the day I'll probably cook up something nice for dinner and then we might go to Deal at the end of the week and have a cream tea in the lovely little vintage tearooms.  

That's all for tonight. I hope you had a good weekend. Love, Helen xx  

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Still Waiting.

I'm not a patient person. You'll often find me muttering away under my breath (or sometimes a little too loudly for DH's comfort) when someone is holding up the queue at the checkout. A pet peeve is when someone has been waiting for ages to be served and then holds everyone else up while they get their money (or debit card) out of their purse. Why on earth didn't they get it sorted whilst they were waiting? Surely, as I try to do, they had time to work out an approximation of what their goods cost and have their payment ready so they don't hold up the rest of us. 

Anyway, with my lack of the virtue of patience, I am finding this whole house selling/buying thing bloody frustrating. We are still waiting on our buyer to come up with the money. He's the one we were assured had no problems with finance at the very beginning of this process, so why are we and our sellers and their sellers all ready with our contracts sitting signed and dated with our respective solicitors while he's still awaiting his building society's decision? 


We should have been packing up the last of our stuff this weekend ready to move on Monday, instead we still have no idea whether the deal will actually go through at all or whether we're going to have to start all over again.

Anyway, as much as I feel like throwing in the towel and staying put (although I really, really don't want to stay here), we're being proactive and have a viewer coming round on Wednesday afternoon...just in case our buyer doesn't get his money sorted, but also to give him a kick up the bum and let him know we're not going to just sit and wait for him forever. If this viewer was to offer cash (or substantially more than our buyer is paying) then we might very well be tempted to accept. The person due to view last Wednesday cancelled, so we'll have to see if this one even turns up.

On another topic, I had a wonderful time with my old school friend and two hours in the coffee shop flew by. Some reminiscing was done about school days, but a lot of the time was spent catching up on our lives since school. Funnily enough, although we've gone in completely opposite directions, we still had quite a lot in common. She's never married, made a career out of nursing and, apart from 10 years spent working in London, has lived in her childhood home with her parents who have now both passed away. Whereas I went from job to job before having kids, marrying and going on to have a large brood and not working for over 30 years. Even so we both have collected teddy bears (she still does but I sold my collection a few years ago), we still like to write fiction as we did at school, like me she's never learned to drive and for similar reasons (hate being in traffic and both feel we would do better learning to drive the car on waste ground before ever going on the road) and we both enjoy coach holidays. She admitted to also being nervous about the meeting and wondering whether we'd find enough to chat about, but in the end that was no problem. We've both agreed to do it again, maybe once a month and hopefully get together with a few other friends who she keeps in touch with. 

I also went to my craft club on Thursday morning and there were a lot more people there so it was a lively gathering. Like me most people are knitting for various charities. I took along a pile of knitting magazines that I'd sorted out and they were pounced on by the ladies.

So, although I didn't make any actual new years resolutions, my determination to make this year the year I got out more and joined more things is well on track, only being put on hold last week when I was ill. I'm all better now, and so is DH after having three days off work with the same bug. He seems to have kicked it a lot faster than I did though. 

I've been making more dinners with leftovers today. There were some chicken legs and wings, a few slices of pork and a little stuffing in the freezer left from Christmas. I used the chicken, half a jar of Chicken Supreme sauce from the fridge, a splash of white wine, an onion, some frozen sliced mushrooms and a few frozen peas to make a chicken supreme with rice for dinner today. I chopped up the pork and combined it in the slow cooker with carrots, onions, celery, a tin of mixed beans, some roast parsnips left from Xmas, a couple of stock cubes, pepper and thyme to make a casserole for Monday. The stuffing was mixed in with 250g sausage meat leftover from the roast I did earlier in the week. It was packed into a puff pastry crust, spread with some spiced apple chutney and topped with more pastry to make a pie for tomorrow. There was also a bit of pastry left so I rolled it thinly, cut into 4, spread each piece with jam and made into turnovers with a little granulated sugar sprinkled on top. My freezer is definitely looking empty these days, but even so there's at least a week's worth of dinners in there.

Have you had snow? We've had a spattering but nothing that's settled; it's mostly just been cold, damp and depressing. We might have a bit more tomorrow, but it's more likely to rain. I'm fed up with winter now, can we move in to spring please? Shouldn't wish time to pass too quickly, should I?

That's all for now folks. Sorry about the moaning. Enjoy  the remainder of your weekend. Love, Helen xx

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Eating From The Freezer

Back to slimming club this week and I'd lost 1lb, probably because I had no appetite for most of last week. A good job too since I hardly left the house for several days so no walking done. Mind you, I've likely regained it tonight thanks to a full roast dinner followed by cheesecake brownies and cream courtesy of DS2. It was extremely unhealthy especially as my senile old brain forgot to remind me to cook extra veg to go with it. We had roast potatoes and parsnips but I forgot the green beans and carrots until I'd already started serving up. DD2 didn't mind, he's not a fan of veg, and there was plenty to eat without them but it was even less healthy than it should have been.

I'm really getting the freezer cleared now that I've used the chicken and most of the sausage meat and sliced bacon. I've also slow cooked a small gammon joint to have tomorrow with chips and beans and on Thursday with crusty rolls and pickles. The remains of the chicken will make another meal on Friday. There's very little left in there now to make a main meal so I'll have to buy things day by day until we finally move. 

And on the subject of the move, our buyer's application for a buy-to-let mortgage has been refused, but he's managed to talk the surveyor and building society into looking at his application again so we're awaiting the result of that. If it's still refused he wants us to wait until he's sold another property he owns so he can pay cash. That could take weeks or even months so we're not prepared to do that and we'll re-market our house instead. In fact, we have a cash buyer viewing tomorrow just in case. The good news is our buyer's solicitor has his search report back and there are no problems, so if his mortgage is approved then the process could still move fairly quickly and if a miracle happens the move could still possibly go ahead at the very end of next week. We're keeping our sellers up to date and have said that we'll quite understand if they want to try and find another buyer, but we really still want to buy if they are prepared to wait. Of course, that depends on whether their seller is also prepared to wait for them. 

To tell the truth I'm sick of the whole thing and at the moment I'm just trying to forget all about it and let things take their course. As much as we want to move from here at least we have a roof over our heads and the longer we're here the more we're paying off our current mortgage.

Tomorrow morning I'm meeting up with my old grammar school friend. I'm worried we won't find anything to talk about after not seeing each other for over 40 years. I've found an old black and white photo of our tutor group taken after we'd completed an 8 mile sponsored walk over the cliffs from Dover to Deal. I think we were in the 4th form, so about 14-15 years old, and it would have been around 1972. I was trying to put names to faces and managed about half the group. Hopefully my friend might know some more and it will give us something to chat about.

That's all for tonight. I'm tired out and will be in bed before long. Have a good evening, love Helen xx

Sunday, 5 February 2017

All Germy!

A by-product of socialising more is being exposed to more germs. I've only been to my new craft club twice and I caught a horrible cold that's had me stuck indoors for nearly a week so I missed my slimming and craft clubs this week. 

I've still got a rough throat, a grumbly chest and lots of mucus. I didn't leave the house at all for 2 days, only popped round the corner to Aldi on a couple of other days and managed a trip there and back to town twice because I was going stir crazy. Today was the first day I really got out for longer than half an hour. We had to go to Argos to collect a new paper shredder; our old one finally gave up the ghost under the onslaught of documents we've been shredding...why on Earth did I think I needed to save bills from 10 years ago, and insurance documents for policies we haven't had since we moved here in 1999? We have honestly shredded sack loads of paperwork. 

DH now also has the cold I kindly passed on to him but isn't quite as bad as I've been, so in between more decluttering and on the way to collecting the shredder we popped into Wetherspoons for breakfast. It was nice to sit down away from the mess of bags, sacks and bits and pieces all over the place, and have a good natter. 

We're doing extremely well with sorting out though, even though we still don't have a moving date and the week we'd hoped to move is looking less likely as our buyer is being a pain in the proverbial. 

He offered on our house weeks before we found the place we're buying and we accepted his offer because, despite receiving several offers around the same price, we were assured he had his finances in order. He's holding things up because his searches aren't back due to his solicitor using an agency to apply for them, whereas our solicitor and our seller's solicitor applied personally. In addition, it turns out he needs a small mortgage because, as a developer, if he buys totally by cash the money laundering laws means he can't then purchase another property for 6 months. Of course, his building society now have a backlog of applications so we've only had their surveyor round on Thursday for his valuation survey.

I want to know why he didn't apply for all this within days of us accepting his offer. Both ourselves and our sellers came to the process several weeks later and yet we're all ready to go, our sale and purchase contracts have all been signed and are waiting with our solicitors to exchange. If we can't complete and move during the week beginning 13th Feb (half term week) it will be difficult for both us and our sellers as we both have teachers in the family. 

Anyway, in the meantime, DH and I are still planning as if we're moving that week. We're working towards getting everything out of the house this week that we won't be taking with us to the new house by either donating, recycling or ditching it. The boys are taking a lot of it to the hospice charity shop around the corner and DD3 will come over again on Saturday to take the masses of paper to the recycling centre, and the bags of rubbish to the tip. 

I'm doing well at reducing the contents of the freezer and have made a casserole tonight using leftover Xmas chicken and gammon and a pack of stew veg. I have a whole chicken and some sausagemeat, and there's also half a bag of frozen roast parsnips so we'll have a roast during this week. I also have a small gammon joint that I'll cook in the slow cooker. It will make a meal with chips and beans, and any leftovers will do for sandwiches. I've packed away some of my kitchen equipment including my soup maker so soup is off the menu for a couple of weeks unless I make it the old fashioned way. 

That's all folks. I've been up since 7am, started clearing and cleaning almost immediately and have probably put in 10 hours graft including making dinner and a microwave jam pud, and doing a load of laundry. Considering I'm still not 100% healthwise I've done well, but now I'm cream-crackered and off to bed shortly. 

Hope you've had a good weekend. Enjoy the remainder of your evening. Love Helen xx

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