Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Enjoying the break

We had a fairly quiet day on Christmas, but then the visitors started coming!! UJ was here by 12 on Boxing Day and the FH wasn't even up - lucky for me, I had been up a while and started on the chores. Lunch was just going to be cold meat and mash with pickles anyway, so there wasn't a lot to do. In the afternoon, the first gang of cousins came - three of them. I made some French sticks to add to the spread for tea - it was a kind of buffet affair, with bread, cheese, crackers, ham, pork pies, crisps, lettuce, tomatoes, dips and side salads, pickles, etc, and then mince pies and fruit cake for the sweet course. We had to have crackers too!

That was a fun evening, and we didn't have the tv on all day until we watched The Borrowers on BBC at 7.30pm. The cousins left at about 9pm after telling us lots of new (and not so new!) jokes, helping the FH with his puzzle and enjoying lots of chatting and catching up. It was good.

Yesterday (Tuesday) another family - my cousin and aunt and uncle - came in the afternoon and UJ came back to meet up with them, since the visiting uncle is his brother and they rarely see each other! My mum was their sister - one was older than her, one younger. We had another similar spread for tea, but they left slightly earlier at just after 7pm. UJ stayed a little later, helping the FH with the puzzle again, and it was another good day.

Today, the FH had been planning to take some of his lunch club mates out for lunch somewhere as the lunch club is closed for two weeks, but one of the mates is in hospital after a fall on Monday (he's nearly 90) and another was feeling under the weather with a heavy cold, so they didn't go this week. He has inspected the inside of his eyelids a lot today, although he would disagree!! The puzzle is coming along nicely, though, and that keeps him occupied but I know he is itching to get back out into the workshop and get on.

I have prepared this Sunday's service today; I'm a bit nervous about this one as I haven't even attended a service at this particular chapel, let alone led a service there. I have spoken to a lady I know there who is a Worship Leader there and she is being very helpful and will meet me on Sunday and show me where everything is. She promises me that they are very laid back there, so I hope that they are forgiving too!! I just need to ring someone else with the hymn numbers tomorrow and I'm all set. This is the last service I will need to take until February so I will have January to get started on the 4th unit of the Faith & Worship course - I had a look through it today and it is heavy going. I will definitely have to set time aside to get on with it. A unit a month as the tutor suggested looks overly ambitious to me at this stage.

Frugally speaking, I want to sort out the budget for next year this week, but time is slipping away from me. The girls want to go to Wisbech tomorrow for a look around at Asda and Morrisons - there is a new Morrisons there, and they both have a little cash to spend and ideas as to what they "need" already. Half the money they have been given this Christmas is safely put away in the bank, so they don't have a lot - I think that they have about £25 to spend on some clothes each, so they will be looking for bargains and good value! It will take a while to get there, so I hope for harmony in the car and not too much disagreement between them....

At 4pm we are going to see a friend and her little girl, so we will have to be back by then. Friday morning is the Craft club at the chapel, and then I think peace will reign again until I have to go out on Sunday. The girls realise that the days are rushing past now towards them going back to school and they are enjoying the holidays too much to be looking forward to that, although the EFG has had me on Amazon this afternoon buying revision guides for her GCSE English texts. We can't find one anywhere for Blood Brothers, though, so she is a bit worried about that one.

I do hope that you are all enjoying the break from normal routine - I know I am - I have read my three Christmas books that I was given, and done some knitting too.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas 2011

The start wasn't too early at 7.30am, but the girls piled onto our bed to unwrap parcels straight away. The FH was delighted with his new cap, braces, Maltesers, body care products and Fred Dibnah DVDs. I unwrapped some new books, truffles, a spice rack and some new bamboo knitting needles in a very fancy Cath Kidston wrap case - it is gorgeous! The girls had the modest little heaps of things they had asked for and chosen so they were happy.

We went to church for a 10am start, and it was lovely to share a couple of hours with close friends from the village, and there was a lot of chat and fun to be had. We all share opening one of our gifts together, and we had taken along a little box of chocs for the 95 year old lady to open, and another friend had brought her a plant pot of hyacinth bulbs which pleased her immensely.

Lunch was served at about 2pm - beef for three of us and a turkey leg for the YFG. Pudding was some time later! Then I think I fell asleep for quite some time - I certainly missed out on the Queen's Speech. The girls watched some films, and then I remember watching Ratatouille, which is fun! Some light snacks have been eaten tonight, mostly tea and mince pies, the girls have watched Dr Who and now the FH and I are watching Downton Abbey's Christmas Special, although he has one eye on the puzzle he is doing, and I have an eye here!!

We have UJ coming for lunch tomorrow and then cousins joining us in the afternoon, so we are in for a day of company tomorrow. I hope you are all having a very peaceful Christmas x

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Just a couple of hours to go! The FH took the girls to the Christingle service this afternoon, and they have spent the evening watching TV - Merlin and Top Gear, but now the FH is in control and it is Les Dawson so they are off to have a bath/shower. I am tired after all the preparations I have been doing today, so I am about to put my feet up with a new book for half an hour!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Welcome, friends!

Just to say a warm welcome to the Fens for our new followers - lovely to have you, and do leave a comment now and again, please! The blog will hopefully liven up a bit now that I have a working camera again - how I have missed it xx

Yesterday in numbers

Thursday 22nd December

6 chicken pens cleaned out
5 dozen mince pies baked
4 loads of washing washed
3 bottles of sloe gin bottled up (and a wee taste enjoyed!)
2 Christmas cakes made
1 service prepared (at last!)

And today, a new charger arrived for the camera battery, so we can have photos again!! Just in time for Christmas!!

I may be able to come back and edit some appropriate photos into this, but don't hold your breath!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The mince pie recipe

I found the original version of this recipe on the Moneysavingexpert website back in 2008 and have since adapted it slightly to increase the amount it makes, so I am now sharing my version of the only mince pie recipe you will ever need. Forget Delia, Nigel and Nigella - this recipe comes from the next door neighbour of an MSE poster called Researcher!

It now makes 5 dozen mince pies - and you won't have any hanging around!

1.5 lbs of SR flour (yes, SR!)
8oz Trex (white vegetable fat)
4oz lard
6oz caster sugar
2 eggs
100ml cold water (exactly 100ml, not a drop more or less)

I find that this quantity of pastry requires 2.5 jars of mincemeat.

Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and rub in the fat until it looks like breadcrumbs. Beat the two eggs together and mix into the flour/fat with the water using a knife.

Then use your hands to knead the mixture and pull it all together into a large lump of pastry.

The pastry is very pliable and soft, so I find there is a need to be gentle with it!

Use plenty of flour to roll out a fifth of the piece, and cut out large circles to line the tins. After adding a teaspoon of mincemeat to each, pop on a smaller circle for a lid, and then make holes with a fork in the lid, and brush with beaten egg. Repeat until you have used up all the dough.

I cook these in a fan oven at 180C for about 10 minutes until they are lightly golden.

When I remove them from the oven, I leave them to rest for about 10 minutes before I attempt to remove them from the tins. The original recipe tells you to put a wire rack over the tin and tip them out, but I found that the lids fell off when I tried that, so now I ease them out extremely carefully with a palette knife, but they are fragile when they are hot, so it is better to leave them for a few minutes. I do have the odd casualty which the FH hoovers up, but in making 5 dozen tonight, I released them all whole!

A little sprinkling of caster sugar before serving finishes them off beautifully.

They can be frozen!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Snow is falling

No, not really! But we kind of wish it was, so we made some of these giant snowflakes for Christmas decorations tonight. The YFG and I sat at the table tonight and made three between us.

Do take a look at the link - they are SO simple to make!

Friday, 16 December 2011

End of term!

The girls are getting their bags packed this morning, taking gifts and cards and treats for their friends....term is ending today and holidays just beginning - hurrah!

I am really looking forward to this break from routine and the opportunity to be a little less bound by time, appointments and commitments. It is always good to have some change occasionally!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Cracking up

Marriages, that is. I am so sorry to have to say that another one of my friends' marriages has broken up, and I just don't know what is going on.

In the past year, I have had this news five times, and not one of them was a marriage that anyone could see was in serious trouble. OK, one of them had been grumbling along for a long time, but it seemed like it would go on like that for ever.

Is it a sign of the times we are living in now? Is it a symptom of the financial crisis? Is it that people are realising how short life is, and that they don't want to live in miserable relationships? Do modern couples lack staying power, as the FH seems to think?

In a light-hearted way to conclude this post, these are the FH's top tips for making this marriage of ours last with my notes in brackets:
  • Love your wife and make sure she is your best friend. [Works both ways!]
  • The woman is always right....
  • If she changes her mind, go along with it!
  • Don't complain about the state of the house - she will soon find you a list of things you could do to help.
  • Let her control the money and ask for pocket money regularly. [Only do that if she is good with money! Insist on regular reports on the financial health of the family - he gets a weekly update.]
  • Pull together in the same direction - share common life goals and outlooks. [I wouldn't have got on with a spendthrift!]
  • Present a united front to the kids - and communicate often about the kids.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Powerful words

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

I think that this is by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, but I found it in Mission Praise, number 1072. We sang it on Saturday at the Recognition Service and I found the words so powerful and moving that I just had to share them.

I also want to share the full text of a verse I found a reference to on Fostermummy's Beautiful Life blog. The Bible I am using is a different one, so it is a slightly different translation.

Exodus 14.14
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still (NRSV)

So the song mentions of our devotion to God, and the Bible verse reminds us of his powerful love and care as he watches over us.

Sounds good to me!

Getting into the spirit

I spent some time on Saturday and Sunday evenings writing Christmas cards, so I have to head off to the Post Office for stamps today! There are also some wee parcels for a few folk which will need to get posted soon, too.

This weekend has really helped with the Christmas feeling. Saturday was lovely, as I went to a Recognition service for a friend who has managed to make it through Faith & Worship and become a fully accredited Local preacher. The service was very moving, and it was good to catch up with some other friends from across the circuit. I sat next to an older gentleman, who has been a LP for over 50 years, I believe, and he was telling me how he manages to take a service every week, without ever actually writing a sermon down on paper. He puts all the preparation time in, but it is all in his head! He is a retired baker, and whenever he comes to our chapel, he brings along the most beautiful hand made cream creations - eclairs, etc!

After that, I came home to find that the others had had a good afternoon at the village bazaar and managed to find a few customers for books. Then we got together again to go to a friend's house for a drink and a few nibbles and a chat. It was a good hour and a half, and the FH actually stayed a bit longer as he was very interested in the alterations that the family has recently done to their house. The girls and I had to nip off as I was babysitting for another friend, so their children came to stay for the night.

The girls and the other two had a lovely evening, playing on the Wii and watching DVDs - the FH and I soon retired upstairs to watch TV in bed with a cuppa!

Yesterday morning, I quietly got up and went to church, and left them to it!

In the afternoon, I made a Christmas cake - a very simple one which I got from here - with just three ingredients: SR flour, dried fruit and chocolate milk. It is going to be wrapped up and stored for a week now, and then I will attack it with some marzipan next weekend. I have used that recipe before, and it was well received. [Edit on Monday afternoon to report that the cake has stuck irretrievably to the paper and when we attempted to remove the paper, huge chunks of cake came away too. I may now have to go back to the Christmas cake recipe I have used with reliable results since 2000, and this concoction may have to become Christmas cake truffles - I have seen a recipe somewhere!]

I have also written all the Christmas cards this weekend, ready to get them in the post today. The girls have wrapped all the parcels, so I need to have a rummage through them to find the ones I need to post!

Hope you have all had a good weekend, but don't ask about the tree - that's next weekend's job!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Fudge recipe link

I was asked on Wednesday night whether I would be making fudge for Christmas again this year, and I have had to search websites this morning to find the recipe - and found it here on the blog, posted last Christmas time. So for ease of finding it again, I am linking to it here! It is a fab and easy fudge recipe, so do give it a go for teacher gifts, and little offerings to friend!

Friday slowdown...

The term is winding down a little now, and I am looking forward to an even slower week next week. Today just holds a brief visit to the Knit & Natter group at church, then taking the EFG to see the dietician at the local hospital, home for a while and then gym tonight. Definitely a slower day than yesterday or Wednesday. I was very tired yesterday after the concentration of the two meetings and driving to Cambridge and back.

Next week's diary is less full, and I am really hoping to get the house tidied and cleaned before the girls break up from school, and to get some Christmas baking in the freezer - not too much for us but a few mince pies to share at church, for example, and to have out when we have company over the holidays, which I know we have planned in on a couple of days.

The job interview for the position at school was interesting. I'm saying no more at the moment, as we haven't quite decided about the person yet! She also has a number of considerations we have asked her to think about so that she is ready to decide if she wants the job should she be offered it.

I have joined in with Sft's sealed pot challenge, although I haven't sorted out a pot just yet, but I have one in mind that I have seen in a shop - a cheap 99p one which has to be opened with a tin opener. I feel that this level of security might be useful, as people here have a tendency to raid my wee tins for change and I don't intend this one to be raidable. I could hide it, but if I do that, I am less likely to actually put money in it, and I really want to fill it up!

Spending this week has been reduced in some ways - there has been less spending, as I intended, on bits and pieces and stocking up on things we have run out of and just can't wait for! On the other hand, I have had to pay £45 for a new pair of glasses for the EFG and £10.50 for the YFG's piano lesson, neither of which I have begrudged as I know exactly where that money has gone and why - it's the odd bits that disappear on a drink and a snack when we are out and about that we must stop! I am working to eliminate that by making sure that I take along drinks and snacks - so it is largely down to me to work on that one. Staying strong about staying out of the shops is also my job, because I have two girls who love to poke around the supermarkets, so I have to keep them out of them!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Wind and travel

The weather forecast is rather wild and woolly all over the UK today but particularly so for those in the central belt of Scotland, so I'm hoping everyone I know up there makes it through the day without any significant damage to their establishments.

Here is not too bad at the moment, but I know that the wind was bad yesterday and we are looking at a lot of rain here today.

I have to be in Cambridge by 9.30am today so that is an early start for me as it will take me just over an hour to get there; I am heading for a venue on the outskirts, so hopefully the traffic won't be too bad. Should be over by 12.30 and I have to dash back to school for interviewing for a fairly senior position so I am required to be there. Course this morning is on Child Protection so I think it will be fairly heavy going - must get brain into gear!

Better go and get the girlies up and at it! Hope you all have a good day x x

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Online shopping

I have had my first delivery from a company called Rosspa which is an online grocery shopping store. It is different from the Tesco/Sainsbury/Asda etc deliveries, because this comes overnight by City Link tracked delivery.

Knowing then that it comes by courier in an ambient temperature van, you wonder what they can bring, but they bring fresh meat, fish, yogurts, cheese, etc, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, bread, eggs, etc.

I placed the order in half an hour on Monday morning, and it was here by 10.30am yesterday morning! I was very impressed with the quality of the fresh fruit and veg - the broccoli, courgettes, apples, bananas, plums, carrots and sprouts which I ordered are all beautiful, fresh and in the case of the bananas, not over ripe as they are just tinged with green.

Everything was extremely well wrapped and packaged - the bananas were wrapped in cushionwrap and then in a bag whilst the eggs were all individually wrapped in kitchen roll, on a tray, with more kitchen roll over them before another egg tray was placed over them, elastic bands all round and placed carefully in the box with more packaging around them. They made it here without even a crack.

The meat, yogurts, and veg were all packed in polystyrene boxes with ice packs, which are all re-usable here! Everything was still cold, and I was impressed with the system.

Prices are very good - heads of broccoli weighing between 600g and 800g were 39p each, and I was very pleased that I ordered 6 so they are all chopped up and in the freezer now. Bloomer loaves of bread were 59p, and tins of Highlanders Broth, from Baxters, were only 79p. That stuff is difficult to find in normal supermarkets, and over a £1 a tin when it is found, so I was happy to stock up and stash 6 tins away with this delivery. The girls love this, and it makes a good meal with a hot pudding occasionally, although they would eat it daily if they could! They discovered it on our trip to Baxter's Highland Village in Fochabers, and have been enjoying it ever since, whenever I can source it.

Drawbacks? Delivery costs £5.50 for each 25kg package. That is the only one I can find. And there is plenty of justification for paying that: the convenience of the system, the speed of the delivery, the quality of the goods (they are good!), and the prices of the goods, as well. It has been recommended that a good idea would be to place a monthly order, to minimise the costs - I accept that I wouldn't have weekly order, the way that some people have a weekly supermarket delivery. It would also be possible to share a delivery with a neighbour if you each wanted a smaller amount of produce.

It is also a moneysaver in that one is not tempted by all the other distractions of the supermarket!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Loving blogger friends

I was gobsmacked last night to have been tagged by Silversewer over at her blog as a blog award winner - she has nominated me as a winner in the Liebster Blog award. It's a kind of "passing on the good feelings" award, where each winner nominates 5 more, but I think it is a lovely thing to do, as it shares links to blogs for readers and you the reader find out more about the blogs that I like, and why I like them!

So first of all, I have to say a huge thank you to Silversewer, over at her blog - do pop over there and check out daily life in Scotland, sewing and gardening, and cooking on a budget.

And now to nominate my top five picks:

This is a little difficult, as I don't want to re-tag people who have already won, and we are limited by the rules to blogs which have less than 200 followers, so there are some blogs which I would have chosen but which have too many followers! There is another I would have chosen too if I could have had a longer list, but that blog is private, and there are a couple more who don't accept awards! This isn't easy...

BUT my top five blogs which fit all the criteria:

  • Wannabe Sybil's Witterings where WS talks about her son, Little Bear, and what he is up to. He is an endearing little chap, and the tales are lovely. Family life in a big city, on a budget, using public transport - I love it!
  • A Trifle Rushed is a predominantly cooking blog with some fantastic recipes, and it is beautifully written.
  • my beautiful life is one woman's journey through life, the ups and downs, and she is frugal, spiritual, and shares the trials and joys of life. Well worth a read.
  • The Thrify Garden/Home I enjoy because of the cooking, baking and gardening posts. Mrs Mac shares family life and frugal times.
  • The Farm at the Back of Beyond 2011 is Gentle Otter's tale of life as tenant farmers in deepest rural Perthshire, and she writes so eloquently of the struggles of life as well as the positives that it makes me cry at times, but my love for Scotland makes me deeply ashamed that people would have to live in these conditions in the UK in 2011, and I support her quest for Land reform in Scotland, and I have written to MPs and MSPs about their situation.
I have to share the rules now:
  • Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  • Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blogs.
  • Copy and paste the award onto your blog.
  • Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  • Have fun!!
Come on over and pick up your awards, and readers, please have a look at the blogs I have nominated - they are all great!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

What a day!

I can't begin to express the range of emotions I have been through today!

The service this morning went well - the sermon went down well and the service was well received, and some of the congregation from the village came along to the service as well, as there was no service here this morning due to there being a carol service this afternoon. It was lovely to share the service with the two congregations, who mingled well.

We had taken the EFG to help a friend with some painting scenery for the Guides Christmas performance before we left, and so we went to collect her on our return to the village. Our friend opened the door and I thought something awful had happened by the look on her face - and I was right: she and her husband have split up. We spent some time with her and her little girl, before coming home to grab some lunch, and then dashed back to the village to pick up an old lady of 95 to go the Carol service. That went well, and all 9 readings were done beautifully - we had a microphone out so that the children could be easily heard, as some of them have quiet voices. Tea and fruit cake/mince pies afterwards made in that bit more special, and we were there until nearly 5.

I heard today of another friend whose marriage is looking rather rocky due to financial struggles and strains, redundancies and strife in general.

It's been a very up and down kind of day, and I feel rather useless in that there is little I can do to help these friends, apart from being there for them. I've got to start thinking of the week ahead now, and that begins with ironing the school uniforms, as usual. But my prayers will be a little more fervent tonight and for some time whilst I know that these dear friends and their families are in such turmoil.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

It's ready!

Yes, finally, I've written it and I am off to bed now! Toodle pip - sleep well.

Sermon ponderings

I went to Sainsbury last night and bought some trashy magazines, the sort covered in stuff about losing weight for Christmas, what to wear for all those Christmas parties, making the best Christmas cocktails, 200 presents under £100 etc - food for thought for the sermon I still have to get down on paper.

The gospel reading is John the Baptist, wandering the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord, so I am thinking about the way the world is preparing for Christmas, and whether we as Christians are preparing the World for the coming of Christ.

Still more thoughts to ponder, as it will be this evening before I get a clear slot to get this on paper, but it is coming together!!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Frosty start to the day

It's definitely getting colder here now. I'll be bucketing the water down to the chicken runs this morning as the hose pipe will have frozen up overnight...must think of a plan to avoid that, somehow.

Today is looking busy - craft club at chapel this morning till 12, then our first Worship Lunch from 12 -1 which I am helping to run. Got to help the FH sort and pack books for a sale at a local school this afternoon - setting up from 2.15pm, and then I'll pootle off to pick up the girls and go to gymnastics until 7.30pm. Thank goodness they have left over enchiladas for their tea tonight, so I don't have to cook. The EFG might get dropped off to help the FH instead of coming to gym, but I'm not sure what she is doing yet.

Last night's plans went awry and the sermon didn't get written. It obviously isn't going to get written today either, because there just isn't going to be a block of time spare. Unless I do it late tonight...unlikely. BUT I do have ideas going round in my brain so all is not lost; there WILL be a sermon by Sunday, never fear!!

Better get started on those chooks - see you later :-)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Making progress

I have a service outline, I have hymns and prayers....just need the sermon now! Tonight's work.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Brain freeze

I am going to bed very shortly, tomorrow will be Thursday, I have a meeting all morning at school, AND I still have no service planned....brain is completely frozen in that respect!

I have to set aside a couple of hours tomorrow afternoon between that meeting and taking the EFG to the optician's when I have to come up with at least a service plan and choose some hymns, because the lady at the chapel will want the hymns tomorrow!! Nothing like a deadline...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Monitor success

I am hoping that the monitor continues to have a positive impact on our electricity usage. I take electricity readings at least fortnightly but mostly weekly, and have been doing so since May. This past fortnight has had the lowest weekly average usage since I began keeping the records, and it can only be that we have all had an eye on the monitor. If we can keep it this low, I will be pleased, but if we can go lower, I will be ecstatic!

Wild, windy and wet weather in the Fens this week - it is quite warm today although there is a wind. I have cleaned the chicken house out this morning, which has been quite an effort, but they are all happily pecking and dust bathing in the new fresh bedding that I have put down.

Sunday was our wedding anniversary - we have been married 15 years, although we have been together just over 19. We kept the day frugal and just had a sponge cake at teatime with the girls to celebrate. My dad was right when he said that it is the Marriage that matters as the Wedding quite often goes by the wayside. The wedding cost us less than £250 back then, but I remember a lovely day spent with friends, and the memories are worth a lot!

I am preaching on Sunday so I have to get a service together - I think the theme might be Waiting, but it might also be to do with Shepherds, so I need to think about it all and make my mind up, as there are a number of other things that have to get done between now and then, so I don't have a lot of time to make the decision because I need all my spare time to actually prepare it all...

Hope you are all well, and I will try to get back sooner this time!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


It has been very interesting and a source of some excitement (sad, but true!) these past few days. What is it? An energy monitor!

We don't know where it came from, but it appeared in the post at the weekend, addressed to the FH, which is where the mystery begins. If I had ordered it or even bought it, it would have definitely been addressed to me, not him, so that narrows it down a little - most likely to be something to do with the FH. There are two options left - that the FH put his name down for it amongst other offers at the local flu jab tea and cake afternoon that the surgery organised, which is possible, going on the fact that he came home from that afternoon with an energy saving plug, so there must have been people there from companies or charities to do with helping older people save money and energy. Option 2 is that the EFG put his name down on a freebie website she frequents - samples of strange teabags turn up occasionally, the odd pack of shampoo arrives in the post, that sort of thing. An energy monitor doesn't seem to be in the same league, so I am in favour of option 1.

So, we attached it to the electricity wires in the meter box as instructed, and got it all set up. It hovers around 4p/hour most of the time when we are not doing much, so that is covering the three freezers and two fridges, and the air pump in the sewage treatment plant - all of those are on constantly, although I know that the refrigeration equipment will cycle a bit. When we put the kettle on, it leaps up to about 43p/hour, and the dishwasher and washing machine are each putting it up to about 37p/hour - I haven't had them both on at the same time yet. I haven't dared see what the oven does to it, yet, although that will happen later on today when I do some baking. I have been using the Remoska instead of the oven more often lately anyway, and that hardly used much at all.

So thanks go to whoever sent it as it is educational and motivational as well; it is in the kitchen where we can all see it when we pass, and it is helping us to be more aware of our energy use. There are buttons where we can get it to tell us how much power we have used in the past hour or 12 hours, but I haven't read that section on the leaflet yet - I'll get to that soon...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The other side

We came through! We made it to the other side, and now I have done it once, I have a better idea what to expect next time Ofsted come calling. Can't say any more than that, but I am very grateful for all the support I have had from friends, in real life as well as blogging friends - thank you!

Lesley - I would have taken more people in there with me if I had known that I could, but I managed! He kept me waiting for an hour, which added to the tension but I don't know that many of the others would have known any more, and a very experienced Chair that I know has confessed that he would have had to bluff his way through a question I floundered on as he wouldn't have known either!!

And so life resumes: if you remember, I spent the week before this rather poorly and not doing an awful lot, and then this week has been spent in panic mode, so I haven't done a lot at all at home. The girls and I blitzed the lounge yesterday at tea time, so that we had somewhere more pleasant to sit for the evening - Saturdays are tv and knitting at the moment - Strictly and then Merlin. Last night we also tried to watch a Nicolas Cage film called Knowing, but towards the end the screen kept pixellating, so we attempted to retune the tv twice and then gave up - the ITV transmitter out in Norfolk is having some work done to it, so we hope that the issues will be resolved when that is finished.

The school washing is done, and is drying on the airer, and we have been to chapel. The EFG is at school [yes, on a Sunday] preparing for her art exam. They have to do 5 hours tomorrow and another 5 on Tuesday, so today they are spending 4 hours at school preparing their boards and refining their ideas. The FH dropped her off earlier, and we have to pick her up at 2pm.

The weather here is atrocious today - thick fog, and very chilly so we have the fire alight. The FH and YFG are watching a film version of "A Christmas Carol" as she is reading the book at school as a class text - she'd much rather watch than read and I am a little bit cross about that as it is the lazy way to do it! The EFG and I have read all the Harry Potter and Twilight books, but the YFG just watches the films and we cannot get over to her how much of the stories she is missing out on...The latest Twilight film is out now, Breaking Dawn part 1, so we have to get some Tesco vouchers exchanged for Cineworld tokens so that we can go and see it soon.

Hope you are all having a good weekend :-)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Just popping in

I am as ready as I can be!

I am going to be at school for the chaps from Ofsted arriving at 8am, and then I am going back to be interviewed at 3.30pm.

I know about our plans, our aims and our targets; I spent yesterday afternoon checking through our Governor policy folder and helping the secretary with some stuff, as well as talking with the Head for about an hour. She has had the pre-inspection interview on the phone and the pre-inspection report came through so she had some data analysis to do last night when I left at 6pm. It is her first inspection as our Head, of course, but she is experienced in these things as a Deputy Head, so I know she will let them know exactly how things stand.

Had better go and let the chooks out soon, find some posh clothes to wear, and then, when I have some time after I have greeted them, I am coming home to think through what I think our strengths and weaknesses are, and what we do well, and then I have to make a few cakes - it is the FH's birthday today, and there is a Christmas Coffee morning at chapel tomorrow so I need to do some baking to get ready for that - life has to go on, Ofsted or not!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Excuse me

We heard yesterday that Ofsted are coming to the school later this week. My first inspection as Chair of Governors. A little intimidating. Quite scary. Lots to read up on and remember all of a sudden. Staff feeling a little queasy in places. Nervous smiles. Late nights.

Hope to be back at the weekend....

Monday, 14 November 2011

Christmas in the Fens

Let's just face this head on. Christmas is coming, and fast. The EFG knows to the hour how long it is until Christmas and frequently tells me...she is obviously keen on Christmas.

But we are a fairly frugal family, so what has she got to look forward to? What is she so keen to experience?

I think she is, like me, looking forward to spending some time at home, with the family, with nowhere to go and not a lot to do, where we can spend time together, watching DVDs, knitting, chatting, snuggling by the fire, and enjoying having relatives visit us for meals and chat. We'll be in church a couple of times - I am taking the service Christmas morning, so we'll all be there then for sure!

There will also probably be a jigsaw to do - I always spend money on that, I am afraid, as I buy a new "Christmas" themed jigsaw each year, preferable a Ravensburger one. They are excellent quality, and in about 5 years time, I guess we will have a serious collection and stop buying them as we will be able to go around again and not remember them!

There may be snow...there may not! There will be good food, maybe a glass or two of wine or home made sloe gin, and there will be some presents. Some. Not obscene amounts. Not enough to cause debt problems which would take me months to pay off.

Christmas for us is never about spending a lot of money. We have had our little 5ft Christmas tree since 1992, making it 19 years old this year. It works fine! We love our collection of decorations we have acquired and made or been given over the years - there seems to be a red/green/silver theme going on, but it is purely accidental. The FH made a wooden shelter for the knitted nativity figures to stand in - they were made with love by a lady who has known me all my life and was a great friend of my mothers, and a great knitter. And a candle bridge stands in the window, glowing each evening to welcome people to our door.

And then there is the food. Probably a turkey, but perhaps a nice piece of beef. Or a large chicken. We haven't quite decided yet, but I will rummage in the shops and see where the best deals are. Roast potatoes, in goose fat, some roast parsnips, broccoli, cabbage perhaps, and carrots. Lots of gravy and stuffing. Then the pudding and brandy butter - home made, of course. The girls sometimes prefer to have a Vienetta ice cream as they don't like pudding. I don't buy Vienettas during the year, so although they usually cost about a pound, they are still a treat as they are not usual fare here. They might like a self-saucing chocolate pudding, though, so I shall have to consult them. At tea time (more food? Really?) it will be fairly simple as we are usually still quite stuffed from lunch - perhaps a sandwich or roll, some crisps, a jelly, and maybe some cake - Christmas cake, or something lighter.

And that is usually that. Christmas is a fantastic time which we are all looking forward to, but I am not about to go mad with the credit card and cheque book!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

We really won't forget

I have been reminded today about the friends and family we have in the services, and the part they are playing in today's military.

The FH's cousin's grandson is in the RAF, and his fiancee is in the Navy - we heard today that they have just had a baby boy, so the family has grown overnight! Not quite sure what relation we are to that baby, but it is a big family! The father is serving in south Wales at the moment, so is very glad to have been able to combine a fortnight's leave with a fortnight's paternity leave to enable him to spend a month in Aberdeen with his fiancee and son. They will be getting married early in 2012 and then should be able to get married quarters and be together properly. The father has recently returned from a tour in the Falkland Islands.

The EFG's godparents' son is serving in the Navy as an apprentice/trainee engineer, we believe, working on helicopter engines. He has just spent six months in Afghanistan and we were hugely relieved to hear of his safe return.

At this time of year, we are remembering those who have fought and died, as well as those who are still serving and giving their all.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Armistice Day 2011

My summer photo of the local poppy field

We remember.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sneezles and wheezles

When I was a child at a school in Cambridge, we had Speech Day each year at the city's Guildhall. Apart from the memorable time I got locked in the loo during the morning practice session, I most clearly remember the time my class recited the AAMilne poem about Christopher Robin having sneezles and wheezles. I found it for you here so do read and enjoy!

I have had the sneezles, and have now progressed to the wheezles with a chesty cough...

The EFG has been to two more Open Evenings for 6th form this week, but neither place has topped the one we saw last week, so that is still her top choice. Now we hope that she might be able to go there for a day or half a day to see what it is like on a day-to-day basis. That is next week's mission.

Monday, 7 November 2011

On trial - nearly there

I have been training, doing the first part of the course to become a Local Preacher in the Methodist church. It is quite a challenging course, and I am only just at the beginning! I have had to do three units of work and then on Sunday, I took the service at the local chapel and two people came along with notebooks to assess me - very nerve wracking! And with this cold that I am suffering from, it was quite a challenge. The two assessors were very kind, and the feedback mostly positive, so I am very relieved!

The next step is that they will report to the Local Preachers' Meeting, in early December, and I will also be interviewed at that meeting. If the community of Local Preachers likes what it hears, they will recommend that I go forward "On trial" so that I can take services, whilst I continue with the studying - a further 17 or 18 units of work! The tutor I have just met in the last week seems to think we might manage a unit a month, but I am not so sure - there are only so many hours in a day...we have 5 years to do it, but I hope not to take that long.

Here we go on another journey - another strand to this life! Can't wait to see where it will take me, really!

A quieter day

The days have been chasing by, and I have hardly had time to stop and gather myself. Unfortunately, I have come down with another cold, or perhaps I never really got rid of the last one, but I struggled through Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I have given up with today so far and allowed myself a bit of a duvet day so far! I have to go out for 3pm, but only for a short while, and then I will be home again. I lit the fire early this morning before the girls went off to school, so the temperature in here is quite warm.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Nasty Netball

We don't mean that really - we girls all actually enjoy netball (well, I did when I played it!) but the problem is that it has caused us injuries! I broke my toe when I landed after catching the ball when I was about 10, and yesterday the EFG broke her finger when she caught the ball and the ball bent her finger badly.

She has had it examined and x-rayed today and strapped up, so I have to take her to the hospital to the fracture clinic for follow up on Monday. Having it in a sling for elevation has helped the pain, she says.

So, if she broke it yesterday, you are asking why it only got examined today? I thought it was only badly bruised, so I didn't take her yesterday. However, the PE teacher had her again today, and although the EFG had wanted to play again today, the teacher wouldn't let her and recommended that she get it looked at, hence the trip to the minor injuries unit after school today. The bone is not broken through, but it has chipped a little off the side near one of the joints.

We made it home from the unit and then went out again almost immediately to go to the 6th form evening at a nearby college. We quite like this college environment, and the EFG asked a lot of questions in the various departments - she is interested in Biology, Chemistry, Art and ICT. One of the computer department staff explained the difference between ICT and Computing qualifications and she has begin to consider Computing, I think, whereas last time we talked about it, it was an absolute no.

Long day, longer one on the cards for tomorrow, so off to bed now, and taking honey and hot lemon drink as I can feel a sore throat coming on, and the sneezles have already begun. The wheezles have yet to ensue!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding

A new group is trying to get off the ground in the village, an active retirement society. Although I am not old enough to be a member, the FH is, and several of my friends from the Knit and Natter group are supporting this plan, so I am being helpful too!

Tonight they held a "Pudding Evening" as an initial fundraiser and publicity event, so I made a pudding to take along. I couldn't stay to the evening as there was a Governors' meeting but I made a Sticky Toffee Pudding, and dropped it off.

I made this one from the Good Food website. And I made two! Well, never having made it before, I had to double the recipe so that the FH and UJ could do some quality control and make sure it was fit to give to the pudding-eating public! They declared it acceptable, so I allowed it to go to the party.

I couldn't eat it, but it and the sauce really do smell lovely!!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Welcome, Romania!

All of a sudden, in the last month, the stats report 246 page views from Romania, and that is all that there are and they have all happened in the last month - so whoever is out there, welcome to the Fens! Do say "Hello" sometime!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

RIP Jimmy Savile

I was really sad tonight to come home from the party and read of the death of Sir Jimmy, aged 84. He was a British legend, and I have many happy memories of Saturday nights watching "Jim'll Fix It" on tv when I was a child. He sat in a huge red chair, I think, smoking enormous cigars, dripping in gold! He "fixed" some amazing things - and he did an astounding amount of fundraising, for Stoke Mandeville Hospital as well as for other things. He ran marathons, too!

He was inspirational, and the world will be poorer for his loss.

Keep smiling!

Great plans don't always come to fruition, do they? I had hoped to be able to post more often here this week, but what with one thing and another, I just haven't had the time. As I have said before, reality has to come first!

I was delighted to read a list of the top 30 things that research has found make us happy. I want to share the list, so I have it here to come back to now and again. I am also really pleased that a lot of these things are cheap or even free!!

  1. Finding a £10 note in an old pair of jeans (well, I went one better the other week and found a £20 note in the pocket of my bodywarmer but made a note to be more careful with my cash!)
  2. Going on holiday (roll on next June)
  3. Getting into bed with freshly washed sheets (totally wonderful!)
  4. Swimming in the sea (not sure about that one - perhaps abroad but not here...)
  5. Waking up on a sunny day :-)
  6. Sitting in the sun (yep - even in the winter it's good if you are in the verandah)
  7. Being surprised with a gift of flowers (just last Friday!)
  8. Getting a nice message from a loved one
  9. Cuddles (All the time )
  10. Receiving a thank-you card in the post (sent my dad one last week for the lovely Sunday lunch)
  11. Seeing an elderly couple holding hands
  12. Driving a car with the window down on a sunny day
  13. Winning £10 on the National Lottery (well, you have to be in it to win it..)
  14. Booking your holiday (done that!)
  15. Hearing your favourite song
  16. Finding a bargain (my favourite sport)
  17. Seeing an old friend
  18. Picnic in the park
  19. Getting a promotion
  20. A romantic night out (must have a word with the FH about that)
  21. A song that reminds you of your past
  22. Looking at old photos
  23. Making a new friend
  24. Having a quiet moment to yourself
  25. Walks in the country
  26. Hearing a baby laugh (26/30? This one should be Much Higher on the list!)
  27. A girlie/lads night out
  28. Waking on a Saturday morning and realising it is the weekend (yes, but I still have to get up...)
  29. Chocolate
  30. Eating cake
Not sure how many women they polled for this research, but perhaps there were more men than women or else why was chocolate so low on the list?? This list was published in the Daily Mail today on p11. Worryingly, it says, "The hustle and bustle of everyday life means that the average person is only happy for half the week." I don't like the sound of that!

We have had a good week: the girls have each had a friend round on different nights for sleepovers, and one brought along a boxset of Merlin DVDs so they had a massive Merlin marathon! The YFG has been to the cinema twice, once with a birthday party gang, and the other with just one friend. She has seen Dolphin Tale and Monte Carlo, and reports enjoying them both. I think that Dolphin Tale is quite a tearjerker though. We have had some time at home, but the culmination of the week's activities for the girls must have been last night's Guides sleepover - I dropped them off at 5.30pm at a church hall in a neighbouring village, and collected them this morning at 11am. They have done an incident hike, apple bobbing and all sorts last night and then had a campfire this morning and toasted marshmallows. We have a closed Guiding group on Facebook so the leaders were able to share photos of the events as they progressed - they look like they had a load of fun, but they are shattered today. And we have a party to go to tonight, so they will have to find their second wind before 7pm...a friend in the village turns 60 so she is having a wee hoolie, and we are invited!

My achievement of the week has been completing a piece of knitting - a twirly scarf. I am quite pleased with it, but I did it in a multicoloured yarn and with hindsight I think it may be better in a solid colour, so I might do another wish I had a camera working so I could show you!!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Sloe, sloe, quick, quick, sloe!

The sloes are in the gin, and are being shaken up occasionally. One litre bottle, one 75cl bottle and a kilner jar with what wouldn't fit back into the gin bottles. Never having made it before, I went for a middle of the range gin - not the Value/Basics version, nor a branded gin, but a Sainsbury's own brand at a respectable price.

I have sold three GPO pullets and a Cockerel to one of the FH's beekeeping mates for his sister's birthday present - he came and collected them this afternoon, so that was a little money in my pockets towards the £70 feed bill I will have to pay on Monday! I am going back to buying it in bulk as the feed shop's deliveries have been unreliable - it has been very frustrating the last twice I have been in there to find that they haven't had sufficient delivered and have sold out already.

We have watched "Strictly Come Dancing" tonight - and the two favourites are Chelsee and Jason at the moment - and there doesn't seem to be anyone else coming close! The rest will have to buck up their ideas and fast!

The girls are on Half-term holidays now - so I'll try to post a bit more often. Hugs to all out there, especially those with heavy loads to bear. xx

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A day in the life...

There is a great post here on Rhonda's blog about "Selling our brand" which is about Home-making as a "profession" or a way of life.

In the spirit of that, I am sharing the day I have had today. Although I am "at home", I am obviously not sitting on my backside all day watching the television!

So, alarms went off today to wake us up, and I got up to wake the girls at 6.45am. I pottered downstairs at 7am, made a cuppa and turned on the Breakfast news programme. The girls came downstairs and made their breakfasts, and lunches, and then, once all their stuff was ready for school, they turned the channel over to watch part of "One Tree Hill". I drank my tea and did some knitting. Quite a bit of knitting - until about 7.55am when the girls left.

I started on the day properly then! Quick tidy round in the lounge, and a swipe of the kitchen. A quick swipe! I then put on my coat and wellies and went outside at 8.30am to let out the chickens, feed and water them, and check them over generally. This takes about half an hour.

Once I came in again, it is time for another cup of tea, and a slice or two of bacon for my breakfast - the FH has surfaced and he has some too. Time to turn on the computer, check the banks, emails and blogs I check through. By 9.45am I am back outside, booting up the washing machine in the workshop, hanging the last load done yesterday, and having a quick tidy round in the verandah where I hang the washing.

At 10.30 I started cooking the tea - shepherd's pie, cabbage and peas. All cooked and chilling for later. In between that, I get a message that another Governor needs a reference for something, as he has put a note through the door earlier whilst I was outside! I phone him, check my emails and find the form he needs me to fill in has come through, so I make a phone call to the agency that wants it to briefly discuss it, and then I fill it in and email it back. I also print off a copy to sign and send back.

By 11.30, I am preparing some paperwork for tomorrow evening's Governing Body meeting. It takes a while, and then we stop for lunch at 12.30.

After lunch, I slice up a fruit cake I made yesterday and arrange it on a platter. I also wrap another one in clingfilm and write a label with the list of ingredients on it. I stick that on the bottom!

You may have noticed that I haven't got dressed yet!! I am still in the fetching pair of leggings I pulled on when I got up, so I go and have a shower now. I put on some older gym clothes, and start to load up the car. At 2.15pm, I leave the house with spare clothes for later, the cakes, the snacks for the girls, etc, and head off.

First call is the chapel where I leave the cakes, the sliced one for the Harvest Supper refreshments and the whole one for sale in the Auction of produce. I then nip off to the Co-op in town, where I grab some potatoes and cauliflower from the Reduced section, and collide with some very old friends in the car park. We have to chat for a good while to catch up on the news since we last met, and I find out that their daughter is in an interview for a job as we were speaking - I wish her lots of luck! I then leave, at 3.20pm to nip in to see a friend from chapel who I know is going through some tough times. There is just time to have a chat and give her a big hug before I am off again to pick up the girls at 3.35pm, luckily not far away.

The girls get in the car and we head off to gym where we help the Head Coach to finish setting up the gym for the evening's sessions. The girls have a Mug Shot for their "tea" and I catch up with the Head Coach. The other coach arrives, and I get changed to move on, again! Normally I would have stayed and coached but tonight I had a meeting, so I had to leave.

I set off at 5pm to work my way through the evening traffic to a big town about 20 miles away. I arrive at the offices for a 6pm meeting and I am a little early. My colleague from the school arrives and we have a meeting there for an hour and a half. She talks and I take notes. At 7.30pm, I leave that office and call in to Tesco - the EFG has a huge blister lingering from the marathon walk the other weekend, and she needs some special blister plasters, which I eventually find.

Arriving home at 8.20pm, I find the FH here, lighting the fire, but the girls nowhere in sight. I had expected him to fetch them home from gym so I am a little puzzled but then he explains that a friend who also has a daughter at the gym class will bring them all home. Sure enough, they all turn up 5 minutes later.

We are all eating the previously prepared Shepherd's Pie by 8.45pm and then the girls start having bath/shower time. The FH watches "The Body Farm" and I am listening whilst I am typing. Still to do is the washing up and shutting up the chickens for the night - we are very lucky never to have been troubled by foxes here, or this would be too late.

This has been one of those days where I have been constantly on the go, and not at home. Other days are similar, but sometimes I get to spend more time here, when I can do more house work, ironing, etc and some gardening. Yesterday morning I spent all morning cleaning out the chooks and then spraying the shed for red mite again - then I enjoyed some time in the school, doing French conversation with some Y6 children, which was fantastic.

That would have been a better post with some photos, but the camera is still out of action! I can't charge it up because we have lost the power cord so I either wait until I find it, or can buy another one cheaply..haven't found one at the moment..

Saturday, 15 October 2011



Winter preparations

I have just updated the Winter Preparations page with a few more of the things I can cross off the list - we have had the oil tank topped up, I have sorted some candles and matches and torches out, and I found some hot water bottles and bought two. Just have to knit or make some covers for them to make them more cosy to cuddle...

We managed to get a couple of pence per litre off the price of the oil by arranging a delivery jointly with our neighbour who also needed to top up. The company, Goff's of Kings Lynn, also allowed us to apply the OAP discount that the FH is entitled to, to the whole delivery, so I was very pleased, as the neighbour was as well, as he is only in his late 40s, I think!

We haven't had the woodburner alight yet this year, although temperatures are definitely beginning to drop in the early mornings, like now, and in the evenings. I can see it being lit soon, perhaps this weekend. We are still being careful and using rugs and jumpers - there is no point using energy if we are not taking some measures to get warm as well - I see houses where the heat is clearly on and windows are open because it is too hot inside, and people are walking around in the house half naked! What a waste of energy and money....

And with Winter comes Christmas! I am beginning to make more efforts in my preparations for that too. I have plans for some presents - and I even have some presents organised already, which is a relief. I am fully stocked with Christmas cards, wrapping paper and tags, but I may need sellotape! I have one present ready for the YFG as she has mentioned something and I bought it when I saw it. I also have a stash of Tesco Clubcard vouchers, and going by the tally on the receipts, I should be getting a pleasing amount in the next round of vouchers, so they will go towards Christmas too - not necessarily in grocery shopping as I may be able to use some of them for presents in Rewards - I know of at least one subscription to a magazine I can get for one person, and then I will get some cinema tickets for the Christmas holidays too. I have built up the balance a little with the extra vouchers that they have sent me for acquiring bonus points, and taken advantage of an offer to get 500 points on ink cartridges too! I need the ink, so why not get the points too?

I am also planning to reduce the number of chickens I have to reduce the costs of overwintering them whilst they are unproductive. Plans for my life have changed and breeding chickens is no longer a big part of them, so I will be gradually moving the chickens on to new homes, or the freezer, over the next two years, and I don't plan to breed more, or buy more either.

On another topic entirely, it is a bright but chilly morning out there, but as I type I can see a young lady who has turned 12 today, quite literally flying around the estate on a new bike she must have had for her birthday. The huge grin on her face tells me that she is clearly delighted with her birthday gift, and her brother is having a hard time keeping up with her as she pedals like mad! The YFG is going to her birthday tea tonight, so I am sure we will hear all about it. Happy Birthday, T :-)

Taking time for me

As I posted months ago, the doctor had recommended taking time to do something just for me, and I am happy to report that I have been doing just that!

I have knitted two pairs of wristwarmers, and I am now knitting a twirly scarf, which is coming on nicely, but may not be ready for this winter! I have to knit a whole 50g ball of wool into it, and there are only 20 stitches on the needle, so I spend as much time turning as I do knitting.

I have also helped to set up a Knit and Natter group at the chapel which meets fortnightly, so I am able to pop in there for an hour or so, turn off from everyday life and sit and knit and chat with friends - and get some help with my knitting if I get stuck! It is lovely, very relaxing and a bit of an oasis of peace when the rest of the week is busy.

I do get some knitting done at home as well, sitting in bed before I go to sleep, and occasionally when there is something good on the tv.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Pastors' wives

I found this on a pastor's wife's blog - and it is so true! I must remember not to use my husband and children as examples too many times or someone will be trying to get their own back on me before too long... it's a great clip - just click on Play!

Monday, 10 October 2011

One day at a time

I've plodded along through these past few days, taking it all one day at a time!

Thursday was a busy day with the Headteacher's performance management meetings in the morning and then a book sale at the school in the afternoon - lots of books to lug about. Came home and collapsed.

Friday was Knit and Natter at chapel and then gym - the last session I had to run without the Head Coach.

Saturday we were up at 5.45am to get everyone ready as the girls needed to be at the start of a long walk at 7am. They were walking laps of 6 miles to raise money for the Guide unit in the village - the day dawned cold but dry, but the EFG got wet later on. She managed 13 miles, and the YFG did 10. By the time I got home from gymnastics, the EFG was fast asleep on the sofa and the YFG was tucked up in my bed watching a DVD.

Sunday was another very early start, as we loaded up three trios of GPOs and took them over to Peterborough to the showground where the Autumn Show was held. They were penned up early and then we met up with UJ and later with my cousin, and we walked around, did some shopping, chatted with some people we met up with by accident, and had a picnic in the car. The chooks all sold by 1pm, so I collected my share of the profit after the poultry society had taken their cut, and we toddled off home. UJ took the FH with him, and they came straight home whereas the girls and I had to do a little shopping for some tea. We had done some shopping at the show - the EFG chose a beautiful wind chime with a dragon on the top of it. The dragon is jointed and moves gracefully.

And then today - I have been on a Safer Recruitment training course for the whole day. My brain is slightly fried, and I am quite tired from sitting still and lack of fresh air. I am glad I don't sit in a classroom all day any longer...some of the tales we were told today are quite harrowing to imagine, and it has given me a lot of food for thought about how we protect children in schools today. It is a Huge responsibility...

And tomorrow - back to school in the morning and then gym in the afternoon. I am looking forward to some time at home on Wednesday, although I have to attack the red mite problem again. I have bought some Poultry Shield to spray around, as it comes highly recommended. Fingers crossed xx

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Three down

The Head Coach went away last Thursday night, so we have managed three sessions without him so far - just one more to go! Last Friday and Saturday's sessions were OK, but yesterday's was the most challenging as my voice has diminished to such an extent that I have to use a very deep tone to make any noise at all, and that was a surprise for the girls to hear such a deep voice! There were just three of us last night to run the classes, but we did OK, and the girls worked hard. We always run the classes slightly differently when he is not there, as we work co-operatively, rather than doing as we are told by a boss, and so there is a change in the atmosphere. Not that it is bad when he is there, it is just different - I am sure that you will know what I mean - two women running things are going to do things in a different way to one man....I will be glad to have him back on Saturday though, as I have had enough of the responsibility this week, feeling as rough as I do.

The FH had to take the EFG for a routine hospital check yesterday and she saw a new consultant with some different ideas. He thinks she might have some of the symptoms of PCOS, and is also concerned about her insulin levels, so she has to be taken back to the hospital Monday morning before 8am to the ward for a blood test. Hope we get somewhere soon with all of this.

I have booked a holiday for all of us next June half-term - in Yorkshire, on the coast near Bridlington, and I am so looking forward to it. I have had to check with UJ that he is OK to come and house sit here for us whilst we go, and he is fine with that. The holiday home is a log cabin, and looks lovely - two twin bedded rooms, each with an ensuite shower room, and a lovely open plan kitchen/dining area/lounge. Enough room, but not huge. Bridlington is about four hours away, so it won't be an arduous journey, and it is close enough to Filey, Scarborough, Whitby even, that we have lots of places to go - and I am sure that there are loads of things to do in the area. Hopefully in June the weather will be decent - I am going to say "decent" rather than "wonderful" because going on this year's record, it may not be that great, but it should be OK! I have paid the deposit now, so it is all systems SAVE for the rest of the costs!

Today: a couple of meetings at school - 11am and then 1pm. Tomorrow: a meeting with the school inspector at 9.30am for a couple of hours, and then running a book sale in the afternoon. Fingers crossed that the FH's foot is OK today so that he is able to do the piano lesson run tomorrow; he had to go to the nurse yesterday for some acupuncture for gout in his toe! Seems to have worked but he is going back next week for a top up appointment.

Off to get started on the day now that the honey and hot lemon drink has done some good.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Positives and challenges...

Sounds better than Ups and downs!

The positives are that we raised £133 for Macmillan at the coffee morning - so I am very grateful for everyone who supported us.

The challenge is that I have come down with an absolute stinker of a cold, with sore throat, runny nose/blocked nose (it alternates!) and a temperature....but with the Head Coach on holiday, I still have to run the gym club this week, so I am feeling a bit sorry for myself.

I am going to iron just the bits of uniform that the girls need for tomorrow and then I am off to bed to watch Downton Abbey. Hope you are healthier than me tonight!!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Baking bonanza

Tomorrow morning, I am hosting the Macmillan coffee morning at chapel, so today I have been baking, baking, baking.....

Tonight, I have been over the border into Norfolk for a Local preachers' and worship leaders' meeting, which was my first experience of such things, and very eye-opening!

Given that I have to get up again quite early to get the coffee pot on in the morning, I am off to bed now! Apologies for the brevity of the post - love to all who are reading, and just keep your fingers crossed that lots of people come and donate for Macmillan!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Hafdy Birfday!

That is a weird title, but the EFG couldn't say "Happy Birthday" properly when she was little, so along with "epitephs" (elephants) that phrase has become one of our particular family words!

It's my birthday today - 39 at last! Must get that list of things to do before I am 40 sorted out as now I have just a year to do them...

I have had a cup of tea brought to me in bed, along with gifts (new oven glove, new hairbrush, bath items and a fancy telephone number flip up thingamy) and cards. Birthday wishes have also appeared on Facebook this morning from friends who get up earlier than I do!

I don't intend to do an awful lot this morning - I am going to go and let the chooks out, and then I may retire back to bed for an hour or two, read a new book I bought myself (well, you have to make sure you get the right one! The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory) and then a bath..... School meetings this afternoon, so I am having the morning "off".

Have a good day, everyone - I intend to!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Do I have rights too?

I have heard about the BBC changing BC and AD in their programmes, and then I was reading in the Mail on Sunday about all the other things happening to Christians and it just gets worse. The UK is becoming so pc that it is unbelievable, and the powers that be are bending over backwards to accommodate all the other faiths and cultures that are making their homes here now that they risk alienating the Christians, but we don't seem to matter.

A Sikh bus driver often comes through the village at the wheel of a Norfolk Green bus - I know he is Sikh as he's wearing his turban. Muslim girls attend the college in a nearby town - I know they are Muslim because of the way they are dressed and their headcoverings....but how would anyone know that I am a Christian? I might choose to wear a cross on a chain at my neck, but hold on, I might get dismissed from my job if my employer decides that it is against the uniform code; I can't show silent DVDs of the Bible on my tv in my cafe in case they incite violence; if I am a Relate counsellor and say that I am unable to counsel gay couples because of my faith, I will be sacked; if I am a Registrar and refuse to officiate at civil partnerships because of my faith, I will lose my job. But if I am a Muslim and want to pray at work, they will provide me with a room to do so, and I am allowed to nip off at the appropriate time.

As Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has said, "No one wants to deny homosexual people rights, but can a way be found for Christians to have rights as well?" and I would add to that that I am perfectly happy for Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, humanists, atheists, etc etc to have their rights, but I don't see that they have to be at the cost of ours as Christians. I have also noted that whilst the Queen is "Defender of the Faith" as Head of the Church of England, I have heard that perhaps Prince Charles will choose to be "Defender of faiths" which is quite different. Things are changing...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Another Mary Berry cake, and busy days

Yesterday was UJ's birthday so when he came over for lunch club today, I made him a fruit cake to take home with him. I looked in Mary Berry's Baking Bible and found her "Quick Boiled Fruit Cake" - there's a link to it here but this person has added bicarbonate of soda and brandy, which aren't in the recipe in the book. It turned out well, and UJ and the FH thought that it would make a good Christmas cake. They had a taste with a cup of tea this afternoon and then I wrapped it up and he took it home to enjoy this week. The FH hopes I will make another one soon!

This week I have been investigating the A level options for the EFG. There are a limited number of places she can go that are accessible from here, and so I have been looking to find out when all the Open Evenings are in order to be able to take her along to get a flavour of each venue and the courses available. We have about 6 to go to already! Most are in November.

Yesterday evening she and I attended an Art GCSE evening at school to find out how she needs to progress her art - she is in line for a good grade, but the teachers invited all of the children along last night to look at work from last year to inspire and encourage them. It was a very useful and informative evening.

Today I have entered some of my chickens in to a sale of chooks at the Autumn Show at the East of England showground. We sold some there last year, and so we are hoping for a good day this time. We enjoy the show, and UJ is interested in coming along with us this time.

My cousin turned up quite out of the blue this evening, in quite a distraught state. She had had to call in at a local bridalwear shop to cancel a fitting for a wedding dress as the wedding has been cancelled. It is a long story and not one to share, but needless to say it has come as a shock to her and of course, to us to a lesser degree - still a shock but much less impact on our lives, if you see what I mean.

Quite a few things to reflect upon this evening, and I have to take the service at chapel on Sunday, so I am thinking about that tomorrow too. Blogging has had to come second to real life at the moment, and I am sure that you will all understand!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Weekend plans

The weekends just aren't long enough to get over the weeks in between, it feels! We never get a lie-in as we have gym on Saturday mornings, and an early church service at 9.30am on Sundays, so we don't sleep till noon I should really be getting some sleep earlier in the evenings, and not be doing things until 11.30pm - note to self: go to bed earlier!!

The FH has been doing things in the garden - moving chicken fences around, and sorting out the garden shed to rehouse some chooks too. We have also stripped the greenhouse out pretty much, and are getting ready to replace the benches in there for the winter. A friend up the road has a polytunnel just installed, and I am quite envious of that, but I am not so keen on all the work involved in digging trenches around it to get the cover buried! She's welcome to all that!

There's a bit of a party going on at one of the neighbour's tonight - there are hordes of cars in the road, disco lights flashing in a marquee in the back garden, and people mooching about - but all is peaceful and I can't hear any music, so it is not bothering me. Hope they have a good party!

One of the FH's friends has been here for a cuppa this afternoon, chewing the fat - and he and the FH have been talking about a home made dehydrator - sounds good! I have been doing a bit of research on the internet tonight and found a few ideas for them to copy, so we could be looking for odd pieces of this and that to use to put one of these together; I'd love to be able to make some fruit leathers and dried apple or banana chips, for example. I could dry some of those chillies too!

Hope you are all well tonight - I'm off to do some more knitting as I want to get these wristwarmers finished soon....

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Faffing around

I've been playing with the stats page again, and a l0t of traffic seems to come to the blog to look at a picture on a gymnastics post from ages ago, so I've deleted the picture, just to be contrary and see what happens!! I think the ratings will fall...I may put it back again later!

Getting things done

Morning all!

Wednesday here already - we are well into the swing of the week now, and more things are happening today. The FH's lunch club meets today, the girls' Guides group resumes tonight (subs due for the term too, so have just been scrabbling around in the egg money box!), and the Governing Body AGM is tonight as well.

Last night gymnastics started up for the term again too - the first week is always stressful what with all the parents trying to pay their subs for the term, thrusting envelopes, cheques and wadges of cash at me to register their payment. Last night was worse because of the renovations which have been done in the sports centre which meant that all our equipment has to be stored in a slightly different way, and it is a challenging jigsaw to get it all back in the cupboards which have been built now - it took us a little longer than usual, but hopefully we will get used to it quite quickly. I did feel quite tired after it all last night, but I always do for the first few weeks!!

Blue skies this morning, so I am planning to get some more washing done. The wind has died down a little, so more gardening work can progress too. The FH went to the wood yard yesterday to buy more gravel boards to raise the sides of my vegetable beds, but somehow didn't buy enough wood, so will have to go back for more at some point! Our list of "outside" jobs grows longer as we think of them, but we are working through them all steadily - getting the chickens into their winter quarters is top of my list at the moment. Those chicks in the photo are partly sold off now, and some of them are in their winter home. Others may yet get sold, but a few are cockerels which may be destined for a casserole.

We are having a little knitting festival here at home at the moment - the EFG has joined me in knitting wristwarmers as she wanted a pink and green stripey pair, and now she is knitting at every opportunity! She is sitting here now in the minutes before she has to go for the bus, knitting away. I'm quite impressed with her stripes, and she is doing quite well. I have finished the initial pair bar the sewing up which is waiting for a needle to use, and have also completed the first of another pair in a plain denim blue wool. I am enjoying knitting them as they are practical items which I know we will use, and they are also relatively quick to complete.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Monday musings

Everyone up and at it this morning, and the girls off to school again - they are soon back into the rhythm of schooldays again. I wish I adapted as quickly, as these mornings are taking some getting used to. I still want to roll over and go back to sleep when the alarm goes off.

This morning I spent a couple of hours outside, moving things around. I put the three little Barred Plymouth Rock chicks into a new house, where they promptly sat and sunbathed in a very sheltered corner, absolutely loving the sunshine. Lots of plastic growing modules and plant pots have been evicted from the potting shed as it needs to be made over into a chicken shed, so the pots have to be relocated to the verandah. We also dismantled a chicken house which has another infestation, and put up the newer one which has had its infestation cleared out. The chickens are quite happy with the new house and laid eggs in it already this afternoon, so it is christened in that respect. I managed to get a load of towels dry on the outside line without any of them blowing away!

This afternoon has been paperwork and phonecalls, and then this evening I have had to sew up the EFG's trousers and do some knitting. I am a little bit annoyed about the trousers as I bought two new pairs for her this year, and paid the shop £5 to have both pairs turned up. She wore one of the pairs for a couple of days last week and already both hems on that pair are down. On closer inspection of the sewing, it is awful! I will not be using that alteration service again.

The weather hasn't been too bad here today - there has been plenty of wind, but it has also been beautifully sunny too, and I have enjoyed being outside. I am hoping that no one has been badly affected, but I have heard in the news this evening that someone has been killed by a tree falling on a car, so I know that there will be sadness for the people who knew that person tonight.

Frugally speaking, I have had a NSD (No Spend Day) today, and indeed have acquired several pounds through the sales of 3 dozen eggs - all regular customers who all chose today to request a dozen eggs each. I hope to have more days like today! The bank accounts need building up again, and I am glad that I am not going on holiday this October - as lovely as it was to go to Scotland last year, I am not sure that the bank balances could take that bashing again this year! I need to save close to £1000 to meet my savings target for the year, and I am not sure that it is going to be achieved, but I will do my best!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

World Peace

At chapel this morning, the preacher was talking about racial justice and world peace; he gave us all a handout, with a list of "20 ways to build world peace". Although I don't know where he got this list from in order to be able to credit someone or an organisation with the idea, I am still going to share the list with you so that you can think about it too:

  • Take your share of responsibility for the world
  • Send letters and emails
  • Welcome strangers
  • Be a good friend
  • Don't make others wrong
  • Smile at others when you walk
  • Live simply so that others can simply live
  • Don't fight, forgive
  • Learn new ways
  • Stand up against bullying
  • Help those in need
  • Be peaceful inside yourself
  • Be tolerant
  • Join in
  • Talk about peace
  • Share what you have
  • Care for your environment
  • Aim so everyone wins
  • Be open minded
  • Listen well

That's quite a list, and a big wadge of ideas to take on board. I know that most of us do some of these things, but could we all do more? I am sure that some of these things come as second nature for people but others would be more of a challenge. I am thinking, as the preacher asked us to, about three of these things to really work on this week.

Today has been a good day, and I feel like I have got quite a bit done but in a relaxed and comfortable way. The School Washing is done and ironed, the homework has been checked and the children are upstairs, and have been nagged to within an inch of their lives in order to get them to bed before 10pm. The target was 9.30pm but there was a scrum for the shower with them both declaring at 9.15 that they were going for a shower, so more planning is needed in that area! We will have in under control soon :-)

We have battened down some of the hatches in preparation for the 25 mph winds which are due to hit us here tomorrow - that is nothing compared to the 70 mph gusts which I know are forecast for other areas, so we are fortunate that we should escape the worst of the winds here, but I shall be thinking of all my more northerly friends and thinking of you.

I have been thinking about those people I know who have been affected by the 9/11 events and remembrances today, and watching the tv coverage on the news with tears in my eyes. It is heartbreaking to watch those children reading out their late parent's names in the lists of people who died.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Friday fun!

We made it to the end of the week - I thought that getting used to the early starts again was going to finish us off yesterday, and we did struggle a little this morning...there was much muttering along the, "Just five more minutes!" lines, but they got to school on time!

I made a Mary Berry sponge this morning after I made the breakfasts so that I could take it with me to the Knit and Natter session this morning at chapel. One or two ladies were saying that it was even more delicious because they knew how fresh it was as it was still warm! It went down well, anyway. I sat and knitted for about an hour with the ladies, having finished the first set of wristwarmers so I started on another pair as the EFG has laid claim to the first ones. I must get the side seams sown up and then she can have them.

This afternoon I had my first meeting at school with the new Head; it went well and I get the impression that we are on the same wavelength and will get along well. We face a heavy workload this year as we are on the up, and there is still a lot to do, but I can be confident that there will be significant improvements made by the end of the year. The village will soon have a school to be proud of!

After that, I nipped off to the town to meet the girls who had walked round to the Head Coach's house. We have to move the gym equipment back to our "home" gym tomorrow and there were some preparations to do for that - taking the legs off the beams and things like that. We are meeting a man with a van there in the morning for a couple of hours' work, and then the new term begins again for gym on Tuesday.

Tonight the FH has gone out with his friend to a beekeepers' meeting. I don't know how late they will be back, but I think that it will be good for him to go out and re-connect with some of the people he knew at the club 20 years ago when he was last a member before he came to Scotland. The girls are upstairs, doing things - the YFG is on the computer, and the EFG has a friend on the phone who has just called up about some homework. I had thought of calling my sister tonight but this girl talks for England so I have no chance!

And with the return to school comes the return of the School Washing - the chore that involves getting the school uniforms and PE kits washed and ready to go again over the weekend, and typically means I am ironing shirts on Sunday evenings. I am going to do and put the dark load in now so that they are ready to hang out before I go out in the morning.