Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Shopping the sales

(image from telegraph.co.uk)

We got up really early, keen as mustard, the girls and I, and we headed off into the nearest big city, Peterborough, for some sale shopping this morning.  We didn't really need anything, but we thought we would have a day out together and see what we could find in the sales.  The car park was a nightmare, and the shops were heaving with other people, desperate to spend, spend, spend.  By lunchtime, we had a couple of bags each, and were getting weary, so we headed back to the car to leave those things before we went to buy some lunch.  The cafes and tea shops were also doing a roaring trade today, and it wasn't easy to get a table............

You don't really believe that, do you?!  You know me better than that!  That little scenario would be my worst nightmare!!

The only sale shopping I have done today was to walk around Lidl and pick up a tray of 12 cartons of skimmed milk because they were all on offer at 40-something pence per litre, so I stocked up!  The other kind of sale shopping is something we definitely do not do!

Looking at our spending for the last year, it has been easy to see where we have spent more than we budgeted: clothes shopping went hugely over budget, but that was largely down to the holiday that the girls had, and their need for the kind of clothes they don't usually wear!  The food budget was also bust, so that needs some looking at for the year ahead.  It wasn't mad, but we could do better, I know.

Fuel continues to be an expensive commodity and with the FH's failing health, it is costing us more to keep warm since he needs the house to be a little warmer, and the supply of free wood which he used to scrounge is harder for me to access and deal with now that he is no longer able to do it.  The price of oil has gone up, and where I budgeted £650 last year, I actually spent closer to £850, and I can see that that will only keep rising.  The house is a new-build so insulation is already installed and there is little that I can do to improve the efficiency of the building itself.  We have hot water bottles, rugs, thick jumpers, etc, so we have done all that we can in that respect too.

We may be approaching the time at which getting rid of the FH's car is a good option, as I can't see the need for it much longer.  He has found driving increasingly difficult since he had the bad attack of gout in his wrist and that may be a very sensible economy.  My car has also had a very expensive year, costing me a substantial amount in repairs, so I hope that it has a better year this year!

The girls had their holiday with their Grandad and then we had a few days in Norfolk - this is not going to happen again as my sister and my uncle decided not to renew the agreement and have let the caravan go.  We can't blame them as it was a huge financial commitment, but it does mean we will miss the woods and walks there!  There may not be a holiday in 2014....

My earning potential continues to decline in proportion to the FH's health, and so I am beginning to wonder about having to give up altogether - it is difficult to get the school to take me on to run after school club gym if I am going to have to abandon the course part way through like I did last February when the FH was very ill.  I have only done one 8 week course since then, and I am reluctant to book another one in for the Spring as that is when his health has been at its worst.

And how did we do overall in 2013?  I didn't achieve the £9K improvement in our finances that I was hoping to get, but I did manage £7K, so I am very pleased with that.  Looking at the figures for the coming year, I may have to set my sights even lower this year, which is a little disappointing.  But there are things we need for the house which will have to be bought this year, not least a new oven, a new bath panel, a new shower enclosure and possibly some paint.......The shower enclosure is a health issue as the FH struggles with the shower as it is, and we have talked about replacing it before, but not done so.  Now that he is struggling with the bath as well, he is going to have to make more use of the shower, and so it has become a priority.  I can't have many more minor tsunamis like we had this weekend when he fell into the bath with rather a wallop.......

Tomorrow I shall think about some ideas for moving forward with a more positive flavour, because tonight I feel like I am wallowing in the difficulties a little - sorry, folks!

I wish you all a very happy new year tonight, and that the year ahead brings you enough of all that you need!  Especially good health here!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Looking back

What a year we have had in so many ways........I am getting to the point now that I am looking forward to 2014 so that we can start afresh, although we will be taking lessons and some health issues forward into the new year.

January was not a great start to the year, with the FH spending most of the month in bed, suffering from a debilitating chest infection, that then took him to hospital in February, when we discovered that his kidneys were failing somewhat.  We started the year with a Low Spend Challenge, and ate mostly from the storecupboards and freezers.

We seemed to spend the early months of the year at hospital in one way or another, either visiting him or taking him to appointments.  Even when he came out of hospital, he still wasn't properly well, and struggled through March.  April saw him back in for a shorter stay, but a much more successful one, with new medications and a much fitter FH came out again.

I knitted loads of these hats this year too!

May was time for a challenge and we spent the whole month avoiding that supermarket you all know I am not terribly keen on!  We were pleased with the challenge, and people seemed interested in how it all went.  It was also the month we hatched some cheepy chicks out and loved seeing them grow.

June saw my favourite challenge of the year when I learned to crochet.  I loved it when I got going, and some kind ladies of the Craft Club at chapel saw me on the right road, holding the hook and getting the tension under control.  I shall get back to crochet soon...

June was also the month I had to face up to the EFG going to university in 2014 and we started some uni visits, going to Lincoln and UEA.  UJ's help in the garden meant that things were underway and growing better than the year before!

Brayford Pool at Lincoln

July was a month of heat and thunderstorms, when we got struck by lightening and lost all our phone and internet connection - it was weird to lose such communications like that, and we felt a bit lonely! July was a patriotic time as we saw Prince George of Cambridge presented to the world too.  The FH had one more night in hospital that was a bit of a mystery and he was discharged the next day with no real diagnosis.

One of the EFG's beautiful photos from the trip

August was quite a month.  We had some local days out, our beloved Lancelot died, and the girls went on the cruise to Norway with my dad and MB.  We really missed them, but they had an amazing time. The exam results also arrived, and big smiles on the girls' faces said it all.

Lancelot 2007/8 - 2013

September and October was the most challenging time of the year so far.  It started off quite gently with a short break in Norfolk and ended with a heartbreaking tangle over a newborn baby that was never meant to be part of our family, it seemed.  It took some time to move on from all of that, and really wreaked havoc with people's emotions.  The EFG and I also made our roadtrip to Aberystwyth, quite an adventure, and some valuable time together as well.

The prom at Aberystwyth

November had us losing communications again through a damaged cable in the road somewhere, so once that was replaced, we were back again!  It was a month of preparations, of thinking and making plans, of beginning to bring plans together for the festive period, and a time to think, for me.  It was also  a very rough time in the weather, and the garden continues to be saturated.....some things don't change.

December had the FH back in hospital for one night with a chest infection that presented our doctor with a couple of mysterious symptoms, so he sent us off to the hospital again.  Thankfully the antibiotics have improved his health no end since the beginning of the month, and his only problem now is the gout. My own Dad has been the major worry this Christmas time with his hospitalisation, and now his continuing recovery period.  Fingers and toes are crossed for him across the world as friends on this blog and on FB remember him and he is thought of in prayers too.  He'd be a bit gobsmacked about that all, actually, so I haven't told him!

The recent storms that have battered the country really make us think about other people and count our blessings whilst we wonder what we can do to help.

I shall be thinking about our plans for 2014 tonight, and be back with a looking-forward post tomorrow x

Sunday, 29 December 2013

One down!

It's one-nil to me in the mouse wars!  

The little blighter got caught on one of the traps sometime this evening, and I just found it as we went to re-set the traps for overnight.  They are all re-positioned with fresh bait just in case the casualty had a friend....

On the subject of my Dad, he had a good night's sleep last night, and I spoke with him this morning, and he felt well-rested and looking forward to a leisurely day.

I have similarly had a peaceful day - church, cleaning out the chook houses, making leek & potato soup for supper and some general mooching around the internet, looking at patterns and reading blogs.  Relaxing.  The FH is doing another jigsaw, which is quite a challenge as there are hordes of wild birds all over it, and he is finding it hard to match the pieces up with the right plumage!


The mouse says thanks for all the suggestions of the peanut butter - he has licked it off the traps and says it was delicious!

Conclusion - I need some better traps!

Teds away!

Here they are!  The posse of teds who are off on a long journey from the Fens to Zimbabwe.

They left the Fens yesterday, en route to Hertforshire, from whence I am assured they are going to take a longer journey out to Africa.

One or two of them look a bit nervous, but I think that they are quite excited on the whole!

This is a project we found out about through Elaine at Mortgage Free In Three and the ladies at the Craft Club at the church have really come through and delivered these gorgeous teds.  There are one or two more to come, but these guys are on their way!

Saturday, 28 December 2013


Dad's home.  

I think some people will have an understanding of the sheer relief and joy I have in typing that.  He was so ill last week, that I didn't think he was ever coming home, so it was so blessed to leave him sitting in his reclining chair by the window this afternoon, sipping a cup of tea in his Pjs and dressing gown, looking very happy to be there.  

Not half as happy as I was to see him there.

Keeping busy

These past few years, we have treated ourselves to the Limited Edition Ravensburger Christmas Jigsaws, and this is the latest offering.  The FH started it on Christmas Eve, pondered over it on Christmas Day, had a little help on Boxing Day, and finished it yesterday with some help from me.

The picture is lovely [above] and there is so much detail in the pictures - the FH hates pictures with acres of sea, sky or grass as there is little relief from the hard slog of puzzling those out, whereas a more detailed picture holds more interest.

I love the detail like these cute rabbits, watching proceedings from the corner.

And it looks like the Station Master's cat is keeping an eye on everyone too!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Latest news

Dad had the pacemaker procedure this afternoon, and the nurse that my sister spoke with is adamant that he will have been mobilised enough to be discharged tomorrow at noon, so I am going with MB to pick him up and bring him back to their place.  I am still quite worried about this, as he really hasn't used his legs for more than a week!  We'll see what they say in the morning when they have tried to get him up and about.  We have to ring to check the plans at 10am...

Wee beasties

This cold and chilly weather is bringing all the wee beasties a bit closer to the house!

(image from abcpestcontrol.co.uk)

I knew I had one or two of these in my garage, and so we set the traps, and they ate all the chocolate up like well-trained children, and then said, "Lovely, what's next?" We are still deliberating what to put on the traps for maximum impact, so to speak, as chocolate has been recommended by lots of people and hasn't done the trick - they've enjoyed the chocolate but it hasn't caught the little blighters.

But now the game has moved up a notch.

There's one in my office - the dining room!  I heard a rustling sound last night when I sat here reading blogs in the quiet, but this morning, I have seen it!

A deep cleaning and tidying session is on the cards today so that it has less places to hide and then the traps shall be deployed, with chocolate, cheese and whatever else folk want to recommend!

Pacing himself

Dad should be on his way to Papworth right now as the ambulance was booked for 9am, and then the procedure for 1pm this afternoon.  We are hoping for a phone call from his partner this afternoon to tell us how it has gone.  Prayers are ascending and fingers are crossed.....weird combination, but you know what I mean!

I am hoping that they keep him in for a few days to regain some strength, as he has hardly taken two steps in all the time he has been in intensive care, and will need to begin to walk more again, I hope, before he comes home.  Tethered to the bed by the catheter tube, he has been out of bed only to sit on the chair or the commode! I saw a walking frame by the side of the bed the last couple of times we visited but he says that he hasn't been using it because he has had nowhere to go...

I am cautiously optimistic this morning, and really hoping that he will feel much better after this.  I will broach the subject of his next cruise and whether he should be going on it, when I see how he does over the weekend, and whether we can get a chat with a doctor about it.  Gadding off to the Western Med on the 27th January may not be the wisest plan in the circumstances.  It's got to be about pacing himself [and yes, pun intended, sorry!] over the next wee while and rebuilding his strength.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas in the Fens

I've felt really connected with my fellow bloggers this Christmas: 

We had a table mat which sweetblondieblueeyes made.  I saw it on her old blog as an item for sale and fell in love with it.  The colours shine much better than the photo shows and it is very festive.  The little decoration which is sitting on it is one that my mum made years ago and it has reappeared with the decorations that UJ brought from his loft.  My mum was a very thrifty soul from necessity, so she would have approved.

And when I cooked my whole turkey leg, and then stripped the meat off to cool, I thought of Elaine and her family over at Mortgage Free in Three as she had had a huge post about making one of these legs last and last - rubber turkey!

And when I served up the Christmas dinner, with the Aldi four bird roast for the rest of the family [I can't eat it because of the stuffing etc] I thought of all the frugalers out there who encourage one another to try different things and tell each other what they have done.

This is a dinner before it got to the table.  At the table was the gravy, cranberry sauce and the hot apple sauce - and then I remembered on whose blog it was that I read about making home made apple sauce in jars, and thanked Sue as we enjoyed it with our dinner.

And now we are getting ready for the Boxing Day visitors - although it is 10.45am and I am the only one up....

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Thinking of you

If you have been flooded out of your homes today.....

If you have had the roof blown off in all the recent gales.......

If you have no power to cook a meal with today, or tomorrow...........

If your family and friends are stranded somewhere and can't get to you.........

If you can't get to where you would rather be........

If you are at work today.........

If you are alone today............

If you mourn the loss of someone you cherished........

If you are ill.........

We're thinking of you xxx

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Not out of the woods yet

The EFG and I had a good hour with my Dad this afternoon, although the YFG had to spend the time patiently in the relatives' room as she has developed a cold.  When we arrived, Dad was asleep, but soon perked up when he realised we were there.

He looks tired, and I guess that it isn't the best place for a restful night's sleep, so I can understand that, and he seems to grab what sleep he can get!

Remembering that he went in because his heart rate had plummeted last Wednesday, we have looked at the monitor each time we visit, and it has shown anything from 40 - 60 bpm, still a little low, but they seemed to have it under control.  Today when we walked in, it showed 113, and it varied over the hour, setting off the alarm three times by spiking over 200 and reaching 227 at the highest I saw it.  Two doctors and two nurses came over each time, and they had a discussion about medication, and said that he will be resuming a pill that they had stopped!  His pacemaker insertion is now booked for Friday, so we have to hope and pray that he stays stable enough to have it done this time.

The FH's son has been invited over for the holiday but he isn't coming.  I hoped that he had other invitations, but today I heard from him again and he says that he hopes to work, to keep his mind occupied.  I'm upset that that means he will be alone in a chilly carpenter's workshop, building sheds, but I can see what he means, I think.  We have some gifts for him, so we will arrange to see him another time, soon.  He's in our thoughts a lot at the moment - he works until he is exhausted and then he sleeps, and then he works.  It is very hard.

As far as Christmas goes, we are as ready as we will be this year, and I still haven't got the marzipan and icing on the cakes....they may not get them this year!  People who like fruit cake like fruit cake, surely!

We have had a lovely meal together here tonight, I have watched Last Tango in Halifax, and the rest of the gang are watching something else now, and I am going to potter in the kitchen for a while before heading off to bed with a book.  Chapel is not until 10.30am in the morning, so I can have a short lie in before I get up to see to the chooks.

Merry Christmas, everybody - love and best wishes for a peaceful Christmas!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Quietening down now

Christmas for us, is all about this:

(image from christmasimagesandwallpaper.blogspot.com)

but we do have plenty of this ready for the visitors who are coming on Boxing Day and enough for us to have a wee feast in the evening on Christmas Day.  Not too much, though.

(image from en.wikipedia.org)

We have lots of this to keep us warm, and we are looking forward to some quiet time, sitting round the fire.  I am looking forward to getting my crochet out again - I have hardly touched it since June!

(image from commons.wikipedia.org)

There are some of these under the tree.....
(image from telegraph.co.uk)

and there are several of these hanging in the tree!

And this sparkly fairy is dangling decoratively in Granny's vintage tree.

Today has been another day that I have taken at my own speed.  The weather here has been fierce, with strong winds and driving rain, so I haven't been to see Dad, but just popped to some local shops to get the last few bits of fresh food I wanted for Boxing Day and the visitors.

I am just going to make the pastry for the mince pies now and then I will make the pies themselves in the morning.  I shall also make a few coconut tarts, which Dad loves, so that I can take him a few in a box for a treat.  He doesn't have a huge appetite, so four in a Tupperware will be fine.

Good night x