Sunday, 31 January 2010

And it was all going so well........

I've been absent again - sorry! The week has been interesting, since we purchased the new car. The YFG in particular is desperate to know what it looks like and when we are going to actually get it! When we have been out and about with her in the car, she has been constantly asking, "Is it like that one?" whenever she sees anything that is either an estate or looks like it might be a Volvo. It gets a bit tedious so I hope it won't be too long before we get our hands on it for real. Unfortunately, the insurance certificate hasn't arrived yet, so I don't think that it will be tomorrow as we need that to get the tax.

Friday night and Saturday saw the YFG and I at gym, then shopping Saturday afternoon. I was so tired last night that I decided not to set the alarm early for church, so the FH and EFG went on our behalf. They came home with a wedding invitation from our friends who are getting married in the church on the 14th February. The wedding will take place in the church service that morning, which we knew about, but we have also been invited to the restaurant next door for a meal afterwards, which will be lovely.

Today started with some bad news as the FH's cousin's wife phoned to say that the cousin, J, is in hospital in King's Lynn. He has had diabetes for years, and has had part of one leg amputated a few years ago. He is 85 and has gone downhill recently and now his heart is straining to keep up and his chest is badly congested with fluid.

Yesterday the EFG and I managed to get all the chickens back into the proper runs so that they lay in the proper nestboxes and stop having a free run of the garden. A few made a break for freedom this afternoon when a little girl came round to see them and inadvertently left a gate open, but luckily only about 8 got out; it still took the EFG and I nearly half an hour to round them up, but I got so filthy that I decided to stay out and get all the other outside jobs done too. We cleaned out another two hutches of rabbits - 6 rabbits make a heap of poop - and found over two dozen eggs in the process; 15 laid in the bales of straw at the side of the rabbit hutches and about 11 or 12 were under a chicken house. I have washed them all and tested them for freshness in water and they are all fine and usable - so many eggs all of a sudden - a baking day tomorrow is on the agenda and it couldn't have come at a better time as there is another Coffee Morning on Friday for the chapel so I'll get some buns in the freezer.

At 3.30pm, my dad's travelling companion and friend, MB, phoned from the Caribbean - they are on the Oriana, and unfortunately Dad has been taken ill with a bad chest infection so he has been taken into the medical centre on the boat and is being treated with a drip and IV antibiotics. MB said they have a lovely Norwegian doctor and all the equipment they need so he is in safe hands. The other side of the coin is that they had mentioned putting him ashore into the hospital in Jamaica, and she really didn't want that - I can imagine her panic and distress at being abandoned in Jamaica, far from home and far from anyone that she knows. She thinks that they will be fine as long as they are able to stay on the boat - and I hope that that is true. Hopefully the antibiotics will clear the infection and he'll be fine to go back to his cabin and continue on the holiday. They have nearly two weeks left before they get home on the 13th. He is 80 and she is 70, so they opt for cruise holidays because they get to see the world from a floating hotel, and rarely do many of the excursions off the boat - when they do get off, they usually just have a little trip around the local area but they don't do lengthy bus trips or anything strenuous. If anyone is minded to pray for them and the cousin, I'd be grateful.

The week ahead is looking busy - the piano tuner is coming tomorrow and the FH has his art club, then after school there is band practice for the EFG; Tuesday has a church council meeting and then gym, Wednesday is the lunch club for the FH and an extra Governors' meeting at school about finance, Thursday will be work for me, and then Friday is the chapel Coffee Morning and gym. Saturday we are holding another Songs of Praise for the chapel as it is the Anniversary weekend - must find the CDs of the hymns!!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Surprise purchase

I thought that today was going to be a good day for getting things done, and I did get a few things crossed off a long list this morning whilst the FH was out, but then he came home and things started to go a bit haywire.

He got back at about 11 and told me about a secondhand Volvo he had seen on his travels this morning, so I mulled that over whilst he was out at lunch, and then we decided to go and have a look at it this afternoon. The upshot of all of that was that I wrote quite a large cheque out, and we have a new car!!

It is an L registered Volvo 850 estate, so it is slightly smaller than the 940 we have at the moment. It is in very good condition, and there are lots of nice features like leather seats, which we are quite pleased with, electric windows all round, instead of just in the front, and there are also two small seats in the boot! It is a year younger than 940 and hasn't been worked quite so hard. The dealer took it in part-exchange and they have done work on it since that owner had it, so they know it, and told us what work they have done on it recently. They are going to give it an up-to-date MOT so we get 12 months' worth of that, and put 6 months road tax on it as well.

The 940 will be moving on, either to a new owner who wants a banger, or to the scrapyard! We have had it for about 6 and a half years and it cost us £1000 so it has cost less than £15 a month over its time with us for the actual car. This new one has cost £1295, so I hope that we can keep it for at least as long, and we'll have another bargain. If we are careful with it and keep up to date with the maintenance, we should have a good chance.

I've sorted the insurance out to start on Monday 1st February, so the tax can be arranged to start then as well, and hopefully we'll be able to bring it home early next week.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

I'll be back soon!

There doesn't seem to be a spare minute just now, but I think I have a day to myself tomorrow so I'll come and blog away here for a while and try to catch up!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Resting now and again

Tuesday was such a busy day that I spent most of Wednesday asleep or reading, curled up in the chair near the fire! Tuesday saw me rushing about in the morning, doing the things that needed to be done at home, but then in the afternoon, I had the Worship Leaders' course at church at 1pm, then off to pick up the EFG from school and then go to her Parents' Evening at school, then to gym for the rest of the evening. I had begun to realise by 8pm that I was getting to the end of my energy for the day, but I hadn't realised how tired I was until I got up on Wednesday and just couldn't get going!!

Anyway, today has been better and I have plodded instead of rushing! We have been out this morning, had a long-overdue chat with my lovely neighbours, watched some TV, read a book, made a cake, walked the mile to school to pick up the YFG, who was pleasantly surprised that we were walking, and delighted that her friend T was walking too so we all chatted all the way home! And the sun was out so that made the walk all the nicer. The girls have both had friends round after school - the EFG and her friend took the friend's dog for a walk on the common land on the estate (it's a lovely little terrier, aobut 12 or 14 weeks old, I think) and the YFG and her friend played on the Wii until she had to go home for dinner and we sat down to eat ours.

This evening I had my dad phoning me on his mobile from the cruise ship in the Caribbean, asking me to put some credit on his phone for him, but the phone cut out just as he was telling me his phone number! I did 1471 but the number wasn't available - so I had to phone the cruiseship at £3 a minute, so my conversation was limited to "What's the number?" and "Which network?" Having got the information I needed, I got onto the web and did the deed for him.

More eggs! Yippee! Two more yesterday and three more today - the girls are beginning to get the hang of this but they are not always laying them in the nestboxes, yet...

The FH and I had a while clearing out some stuff in the garage and found some old photo albumns - one with the very first photos of the EFG including the scan picture, and one with our wedding photos (taken by the EFG's godfather). Gosh, I looked different then, way back in '96 - the EFG can't get over the size of my glasses - they are not quite as bad as Deirdre's on Coronation Street but they are definitely out of today's fashion!!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Spending all you have - and more!

I have read a couple of posts today which have made me think, so I am sharing my thoughts!

I don't spend all we have - I say "I" because I am the chief spender here: the FH spends very little, only £2.50 a week for his art club and £3.50 each Wednesday for his lunch club. That is really it as far as his regular spending goes! He never buys himself clothes and I bully him into getting new shoes now and all our money is generally under my control, and I look after the savings as well. I spent a couple of hours investigating interest rates on Friday morning.

I could spend it all every month, but I would be scared, and stupid, I think, to do so. I firmly believe in living within our means, and saving some money each month. We actually live some way below our means, which enables us to make the savings. It also means that when we decide to splurge, as we do once or twice a year, we have the money to do it without worrying about using credit or going into an overdraft. "Splurging" is what we call doing something we enjoy but which we don't do regularly - like going out for a meal together, or buying the Wii earlier this month. Because we don't eat out often, the girls find that it is more of a treat and a special occasion when we do!

The YFG and I watched "Wife Swap USA" early on Saturday morning whilst we were eating our breakfast: we were both amazed at the difference in the two wives' lives as one was a total control freak and the other was so laid back she was horizontal. She didn't plan an hour in her kids' lives, let alone plan their college educations as the other wife was doing. I think that we are somewhere in the middle - we are planning a little further ahead than the laid back wife but we are not controlling them and their futures.

Part of that planning is teaching them financial responsibility and how the world of money works at our level - we are not merchant bankers or stockbrokers, but we have to have some understanding of banks, interest rates and borrowing to pass on the important points to them about avoiding unnecessary debt. I want to be a decent example to my children and not to let them think that it is possible to lounge around all day at the state's expense (and I say that with no disrespect to the people who have been made redundant, as I am more concerned with some families in which there is a culture of benefits, where no one is working, no one has worked within recent memory and none of the family has any intention of looking for work!).

I can't say what proportion of income people should save, but I can say that at least 10% would be a start, and some months I manage as much as 30% if I am working on lowering the stores, but everyone's circumstances are different.

The other thing that has made me think this weekend is the concept of spending money when you have plenty. Just because one has a fantastic income, perhaps, or great wealth, does that make it right to spend money like water? I can see that there might be an argument in favour of spending as some would say that those who have money should spend it to help keep the rest of us in jobs, but I don't agree with spending willy-nilly. If one has a little extra, I believe it should be used wisely - perhaps on a more energy efficient car or boiler for example, not on wild parties and expensive gas guzzling cars.

If I won the lottery on Wednesday (I won't as I don't participate) I don't think I would buy a posh car although I would certainly get a new one as both of our cars are on their last legs and will need replacing this year or next. I would look into moving house so that I could have a little more land for the chickens, and growing more veg and soft fruit. I would invest in the childrens' educations, for certain, and I would give a chunk of the money away. But I see no reason to stop buying Value tins of peaches, or scouring the shelves for the yellow-stickers on the reduced items - it is still a matter of getting the best value for money (although yes, I have heard the argument that if you have more money, you shouldn't buy the reduced goods as then people who genuinely have less money and therefore more need are deprived of them......).

Other news - another baby born to a family on the street - a baby boy. Must have been born last night or this morning, but don't have any more details yet. And on the chicken front here, no more eggs yet!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Whirlwind Sunday

Sundays are turning out great just lately. I seem to steam through the day, getting tonnes done and yet not feeling at all stressed or rushed - I wish every day was like this! Uncle J is here for the weekend - he came Saturday afternoon and will leave us again on Monday.

We started off at church at 9.30. I was leading the service today; we had fun playing some games and learning a couple of "new" hymns - they weren't new to me, but they seemed to be new to some of the congregation, but one lady said what beautiful words one of them had and how it was a really good choice, so I was relieved that they weren't cross that I had chosen it and they didn't know it. The whole theme of the day was love - so that was a really uplifting and positive start to the day.

After church, I was busy in the kitchen, preparing lunch - good old roast chicken with roast potatoes (they are much more crisp if they are put into COLD oil - try it!), carrots, cabbage and sprouts, stuffing and gravy. I also baked a coffee and walnut sponge cake for tea, and made a chocolate and pear pudding for lunch.

Lunch was ready at about 2pm, and after clearing away and loading the dishwasher, I headed out to clean out the henhouses. Today has been the first fine day for ages and I had to take advantage of the weather! About two hours later, the chicken houses were fresh and clean again, and the girls were keen to get moved back in, as by the time I had finished, it was beginning to get dark and they were wanting to head for bed! However, I found some egg-citing (!!) discoveries this afternoon: three eggs - they are starting to lay again - hooray and hallelujah.
One was under a perch, one was in a nest box (sensible girl) and one, unfortunately, was under a table in the verandah, and was broken.

A shower was an absolute must after all that - then we sat down for a lovely cup of tea and a piece of cake. It is scrummy and between the five of us, we have almost demolished it!

This evening, I have cleaned the kitchen with the YFG, scrubbed the floor and washed most of the cabinet doors down. She spent most of the afternoon clearing out the hallway - she took ALL my books off the shelves in there to dust them and the shelves. Not sure she is feeling OK. She certainly didn't get that from me - but hey, it looks great now she is done. I have had instructions to sort the utility room out whilst she is at school tomorrow. I want to do our bedroom too as there is a chronic shortage of storage (either that or too many clothes - which is more likely?) and it is a tip.

All the ironing got done whilst I was watching "Wild at Heart" on ITV, and now the girls are tucked up in bed, and I am trying to catch up on here for five minutes.

The EFG is still suffering with the cough, although it is getting better and she coughs less often.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Paper, paper and more paper

I am feeling overwhelmed with organisational issues at the moment - just how to keep track of all this paperwork?! I have come home from a school board meeting with a folder full, I will get more at the Worship Leaders' course tomorrow, and there are Risk Assessments to be written for gym, so there are several significant heaps of!

I am the first to admit that I am not a tidy person - whenever I get things tidy, they get untidy pretty quickly. I tried Flylady, and couldn't hack the pace, and it didn't seem relevant to my life - she talks about keeping the entryways clear, I am more interested in keeping the verandah clear of chicken poop, so we clearly have very different priorities in life. I do have filing cabinets, two of them, in the garage, probably full of junk I should clear out. I don't like filing like that, though, much preferring ring binders so things are contained more securely - but I am acquiring a surfeit of ring binders now. Maybe I am just keeping too much stuffffffffffffff!

Had to go to buy more chicken food today, and some material for the EFG's school sewing project, no - sorry - her "technology" project - six weeks to DESIGN the thing, and two weeks to make it. Something wrong there. Students Need Home Economics classes so that they have the skills to live in the big wide world, because too many parents these days are either a) too busy to teach their children or b) don't know themselves. Rhonda Jean's blog should be on the curriculum to teach them about budgeting, gardening, baking, etc because that would make a whole lot more sense than spending eight weeks designing a pizza box - and the FH used to be a technology teacher. This was back in the day, though - students made furniture and useful items, and learned the beginnings of a trade with him, not how to make jitterbugs (don't ask!).

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Poop patrol

After sorting out the chickens with their hot mash this morning, I decided that the verandah area really had to be tackled. This weather has meant that the chooks have enjoyed coming out of their run and making a temporary daytime base under the verandah - and who can blame them? They get whatever sun there is, they are protected from wind, rain and snow, and then can peep in at us! Unfortunately, it means that the garden furniture has been rather liberally covered in their poop, as well as the top of the freezers (not so bad) and the stone slabs on the floor are quite sticky too.

So today, I started with the furniture - the covers are washable, so I was out there with a bucket of hot, soapy water and a scrubbing brush to clean them. Luckily the weather today turned milder so it was OK to be out there for the best part of an hour. The wind has picked up this afternoon and is much colder so I am glad I tackled the job this morning. Once I had cleaned all the chairs, I put them in the garage for storage and protection until the sitting-out weather is here again (I am SO looking forward to spring this year!!).

The freezer tops will have to be scrubbed as well but I had done enough this morning and really needed to come in to warm myself up so that can go on tomorrow's list. The slabs will need scrubbing with hot water and a stiff brush but that chore will have to wait until the weather improves enough for the chooks to be shut up in the runs again. The FH has thoughts of enclosing the verandah, which seems like a good plan to me but I have to wait for him to have the energy and the weather to be suitable.......might have to wait a while.

The YFG and I have been to town this afternoon to try to get her some shoes but we failed again and will have to make the trip to the specialist shop in Downham Market. We also took four bags of rubbish to the tip, and bought more cough medicine for the EFG. She will be going to school tomorrow to see how she gets on, but if she is sent out of too many lessons because of her cough, she'll be back at home. I know that it will be affecting her attendance rate, but she can't help being ill!! Apparently, teachers send children out of lessons if they are coughing too much as they are causing a disruption! If they need to be sent out more than a couple of times, they are they sent to the medical room, and from there, home. Let's hope she makes it through the day as she is beginning to have some concerns about what she might be missing.

We didn't make it to church this morning, which was a bit of a problem. I am doing a Worship Leaders' course, and our homework was to observe the service this morning with a bit of a critical eye, and to make some notes to share next week. That's me in trouble already! What with the coughing, me having a cold and a sore throat, we didn't sleep well last night and then I slept right through the alarms this morning, so we were getting up about 20 minutes after the service started. Whoops.

Welcome to my latest follower - can't believe that there are six of you now - do send me a comment some time and tell me where you are from!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow days are still here

The snow is piling up in the garden and the chickens are really not too sure about it all - they are happy that they are getting hot mash each morning, but then they are taking refuge under the verandah for much of the rest of the day, basking in what sun there is, and pooping on my freezer, which is a definite downside. The bunnies are OK - the hutches get covered up in the late afternoons so that the bunnies can preserve whatever body heat they have got in there!

We have only been out of the village on necessary journeys since Christmas - taking books back to the depot on Monday this week, we had a lucky find of a load of pallets in their yard so we came back with a trailer load of those, which the FH has been cutting up and adding to his stockpile of wood. He cuts the pallets and then leaves the bits for a couple of days in the workshop, then he or I spend half an hour picking the bits all up and storing them in feed bags ready to be brought up under the verandah for ease of lifting them in to the house as required: we are burning three or four bags' worth each day if I light the fire in the morning. The EFG has not yet returned to school as she has been suffering with her cough, so we have been lighting the fire for warmth.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Spring cleaning

I had a room in the house which was full of "stuff" which was generally clogging up the room. On the house plans, the room is the dining room, but we used it as that for only a year or two. The dining table is now at one end of the large sitting room, where we can take advantage of the wood burner whilst we sit at the table, eating or using the laptop or doing whatever it is that we are sitting at the table for, even if it is only chatting. So that room became a bit of a dumping ground - for the computer desk, the exercise bike and treadmill, the piano, the sewing bits and pieces, and lots and lots of books!

I have spent the past three days sorting this room out as a project in between the other routines of daily life and the celebrations for the New Year. I have released three bin bags full of rubbish, lots of books to charity shops and friends, and I have rehung some nicer curtains, and put pot plants on the windowsill again - the room looks civilised again, thank goodness. I can get to the computer without stepping over junk, the piano has been polished and is playable, and the treadmill is usable again!! Can't promise that will make much difference to the size of my backside at the moment, but it can be used, which is an improvement - just have to get the FH to use it as well since it was him for whom it was originally bought. One mile a day would be an achievement for him.....

Now that the sitting room is lovely after its redecoration, and this room is looking better, I have to hit the hall and move all the clutter dwelling under the stairs.

The weather has dampened the New Year celebrations a little as people haven't wanted to come out in the snow and ice that has come back here. We had a quiet evening and watched a DVD together before we had champagne with orange juice at midnight and enjoyed the spectacle of the London Eye's fireworks display at the sound of the bells. We even switched over to BBC Scotland on the red button to watch Hogmanay Live for a few minutes - the sound of a pair of chaps playing the fiddle and the accordion brought it all back. And we recognised the presenter from BBC Scotland but couldn't think of her name - now I think that it is Jackie something. Glad to see that she is still around - we'll have been back in England 10 years come August, so a lot has changed! Can still remember them saying the Gaelic greeting when they started the five minute Gaelic news broadcast - have no idea how to spell it but is sounds to me like "Fisken Mar!"

The EFG's cough goes on and on - she is better in herself in that she has more energy, but the cough is still troubling her. Hoping that she will be fit enough for school on Tuesday.

Yesterday the girls and I went on a little shopping trip to Ely - they were looking forward to spending a little of their Christmas money. We checked out some of the shops and there wasn't much they liked until we hit WHSmith, when there were some things that the YFG wanted to buy and a couple of books I fancied as well as one I had promised the EFG for Christmas but not been able to find. We headed for the queue at the tills after about 20 minutes mooching around the shop, and then all the lights went out! Almost everyone in the shop sighed - with some sadness - as we all knew that it meant that we wouldn't be able to complete our purchases since the tills weren't working. Bring back pencil and paper and a money tin the old-fashioned way! The whole street was out, and then some came back but not all - and none of the shops we wanted to go into. So we and most of the population of Ely, it seemed, headed to Tesco, where we got some bargains in their post-Christmas sale - slippers for the FH, a pair of half-price PJs for the EFG (yes, she has already had some, but she was very short of PJs!) and some fruit.

Today has been busy - church, pottering, lunch, Grandad coming to visit this afternoon, more pottering, supper, TV, tidying and hoovering, and a bit more TV. A good, relaxing, happy day.