Monday, 31 August 2015

And that was that

Summer's over in my mind as September is here in the morning, and my birthday month is [in my mind, anyway] autumnal, sunny and bright but fresh and a wee bit windy, leaves on the ground, conkers to collect soon, a sharpness in the air, and the smell of woodsmoke from the fires on the chillier evenings. The nights are drawing in, and the clock change is on the horizon. Harvest festivals abound.

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August has been a busy time but we are ending it in a good way. The EF [Education First] girls are happy with their lot here: having heard dire stories of other host families, they are of the opinion that they have fallen on their feet. What they will make of the school will be another thing, but we are welcoming them, and enjoying their company. In a strange way, they make us better versions of ourselves, and that is good.  We have enjoyed long talks over dinner the last two evenings, and they have kept my girls off their laptops for hours, as they have been chatting away and exchanging stories, comparing lives and prices in their home countries - we are fast learning that Denmark is a very expensive place to live and they pay 50% income taxes!  I think the Danish girl is going to need another suitcase to take all her loot home with her as she wants to make the most of the good prices here - and her mum would like some golden syrup for her baking as it is hard to get hold of over there, she says!

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August has been wet, and the grass has grown like mad - my dad has finally rung up today and said that he knows that there is a petrol mower at UJ's house that was his [my dad's], and he will see if he can get it working for me - hooray!  It will beat all the huffing and puffing with the poor little electric one that I have at the moment.

Finances always take a hit in the summer, and I have just paid £180 odd to BT for my annual line rental so that is another stone in the road - but at least it is paid for another year.  And it saves a bit.  I was too late on Saturday to share that the Lidl voucher was in the newspapers, or at least the ones which carry the Lidl News supplement.  I didn't read the paper and find it until Sunday!  There was £5 off when you spend £40 - BUT when I went in to spend mine today, I noticed that there are heaps of the little pamphlet as you exit the store, so perhaps you can pick one up if it would be helpful to you - it is valid until the 6th September.  I shall be back on the wagon, tracking spending like a hawk, and making every penny count. I hope to be able to make some serious savings this month, although I don't get the girls' food allowance paid until the very beginning of October, so it is paid in arrears.

New job starts tomorrow - thanks for your good wishes - I shall report back!  Thank you xx

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Creativity class

The YFG has been a busy bee this last week and as well as attending her interview on Thursday, she has completely redecorated the cloakroom [below] and been a huge help in the preparations for the EF girls' arrival.  The cloakroom had been a shade of green for many years and the skirting boards were in dire need of a lick of paint, so she did it. Just like that, and all by herself. 

We had the family who took her on holiday round to dinner on Friday night, and she wanted prawn cocktails, so she made them.  I thought she did rather well with those. They became a personal favourite of hers from all the cruising with Grandad - I think she had them every night on the last cruise!

And the mum came back this afternoon to say that her husband had been inspired [or shamed!] by the YFG's hard work, and had started his own programme of re-decorations.......

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Safely here

The two EF girls have safely arrived and are tucked up in bed!  They are shattered from a very long day, as they left Winchester at 7.30 am this morning and have been busily settling in, chatting and meeting new folk all day - they are doing very well.

The one we thought would be quiet is the more talkative, and the one which had appeared more outgoing is the quieter one at the moment - although we have had the violin played for 90 minutes this got better when she had finished the scales and actually played some pieces. She has an audition on Saturday, so she'll be practicing quite a lot this week, I think.

I've been taking photos of things to share with you over the last couple of days, but haven't got the photos on the laptop, so I may do that tomorrow afternoon.  Bed now, as I am off preaching in the morning xx

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Been a bit busy...again!

This feels like the last week of summer as we head back to school next week - that always seems to mark the beginning of autumn for me, whether it really is or not!  It is the last week where we are just the three of us, and then the dynamics are going to change again with the addition of the EF girls and the loss of the EFG back to Aberdeen at the end of next week.  It all feels like a bit of a whirlpool at the moment!

Monday was the trip to Thetford, and then I worked most of Tuesday on the phone whilst the EFG went for her last food bank volunteering session and the YFG was painting, and then we went out when the EFG got home. 

We had to go to see my dad and MB - she has finally got the cast off her arm and the boot off her leg, so she is happier, although there is restricted movement in her arm and it is very swollen still. We spent about 90 minutes there, and then moved on to UJ's house: he is on holiday this week and my sister and I arranged to do his watering in his greenhouse between us. Tuesday was my turn.  The girls fell in love with a beautiful tortoiseshell cat which was having a snooze in the greenhouse when we got there and apparently lives a few doors down the road - there was talk of cat-napping which I had to put a stop to!!  I picked some Victoria plums off his three big old trees which are laden with plums this year - but no adventures with a ladder this time after I nearly fell off last year.

After that, we continued our circuitous route and called in on step-son and his partner. He is glad to be home from prison but tethered to the house between 7pm and 7am by the tag on his leg - it did mean though that we could turn up there at 7.10pm and be sure that he would be in! I took him some tomatoes and runner beans and a courgette from our garden as well as a bowl of UJ's plums. He was grateful and loves fresh food like that - he does all the cooking!  We stayed there for about an hour and finally got home here at about 8.40pm. It was quite a trip but we got it all done.

Yesterday I had a phone marathon session whilst the girls went off late in the morning. They had a bit of shopping to do, and they wanted to have a recce of John Lewis, where the YFG has a job interview this afternoon - they had to find the partners' entrance where she is to report, and also to check out the cafeteria, which is where the job is located. After a slice of carrot and pecan cake there, they were home just after 5pm.

Any spare moments I have had this week have been spent knitting bunting for the EFG's room at uni as she decided she wanted some to put up there. I have so far "bunted" four pieces for her, and think I might manage a couple more before she goes back - one flew off the needles last night whilst I was watching the second of the "Britain's Secret Spending" programmes.  It was poignant that the very rich chap Anne Robinson interviewed often feels very sad, and has problems that money just can't solve.  I just cannot imagine having £90m to spend on a home!

Today I have the final couple of hours work for the week to do on the phone, and some stuff to do in the EF girls' room [I think photos will be in order when it is done!] but we have to do some shopping tomorrow as we need lampshades for the donated bedside lights that we were given: unfortunately they came from a smokers' home and the lampshades were smelly, but the bases are fine as they are ceramic.  

All afternoon I shall be keeping my fingers crossed for the YFG at her interview!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Bit of a blur

The girls had an amazing time on Friday in London, and came home buzzing with excitement about the musical and their trip.  It all made for a very late night, though, and it was nearly 11am when we surfaced on Saturday - we had had a busy week, topped off by the trip, so it was no wonder that we were shattered.  The weather didn't help - very warm and muggy here, and not the sort of weather that inspires one into much action, I am afraid. I managed to cut about half the grass yesterday before I collapsed in a heap and needed lots of very cold drink to revive me enough to some more. There are still two lawns to go but rain has stopped play at the moment.

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Today the YFG and her friend have been to GoApe at Thetford Forest. The EFG and I were there too, but we were knitting in the car, and having the occasional mooch between the downpours, rather than getting drenched 40 feet up under the canopy of trees, harnessed to a safety wire [most of the time, although I am told there was a panic when they realised that the friend was not attached at one point] and doing Tarzan swings and zipwires.  I like solid ground too much to do all that.......scaredy cat, I know!  Typically, you might guess that there was a discount involved - as the YFG and her friend have both done the Duke of Edinburgh award, they were able to use their DofE cards to score a few pounds off their tickets!  Shame that we couldn't have foreseen the weather when we booked it.

The landscape of The Brecks is quite different from the Fens, and it was a change to have alternative scenery for the drive over to Forest Lodge.  The Scots pine trees are everywhere, and make quite a contrast with the almost treeless [in some places] Fenland landscape.  Our days out are nearly at an end as the YFG starts back for Sixth form next week and the EFG returns to Aberdeen a week on Saturday.....we reflected whilst we were chatting this afternoon that they have had a good summer of days out and trips, as well as their weeks away here and there.  The family which took the YFG away to Northumberland are coming round to dinner on Friday evening and the EF girls will arrive Saturday morning, so the YFG and I are full steam ahead on their room this week, hoping to have it finished by Thursday night so that we can go shopping for something nice for dinner on Friday!  That invitation was a bit spur of the moment and not in the menu plan......spontaneity is fun occasionally.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Kinky Boots

I'm sure that title will do wonders for the hit counter!

The girls have just sent me this photo from their seats in the Adelphi Theatre tonight as they wait for the start of the premiere night of the new Kinky Boots musical to begin.

The story is set in a Northamptonshire shoe factory, and we have watched the film numerous times!  The FH grew up in Northamptonshire and was always pleased when he found some real Northampton shoes in the charity shops as he knew that they were well made.  The film is brilliant, and I hope that the musical is as good.  This is their birthday treat. 

Here are some links to tell you more about the story. The musical. And the film.

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

My little brainbox

She looks like she is going to follow in the footsteps of the elder brainbox!  

B grades for Maths and English Language and A grades for Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography, Textiles and RE.  That is to add to her previous B for English Literature that she gained last summer and a C in French from the year before - Year 9!  She also has a Merit in ICT - altogether an impressive clutch of grades, and one very proud mummy.  She has smashed her target grades in most subjects, and done better than the mocks indicated that she might, so we are all pleased.

She'll be going on to do her A levels at the same school, and is looking forward to getting back into the routine, I think.  Only a couple of weeks to go!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

One to watch

The girls and I have just sat together and watched a fascinating programme about Britain's Secret Spending Habits. It was on BBC1 so you can still catch it on the iplayer if you are interested.  

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We immediately identified with the couple with four children [pictured above] who live on £25K in a thrifty manner, and could see how they did need to stretch their meals with pulses and rummage in charity shops.  There were comments about them spending 10% of their income on children's activities each year, and I think that I would have questioned that too - but each to their own.

There were some spendy types, some of whom could afford it and others who couldn't.  I think my eyes would have popped out of my head if the checkout person had asked me for £1,300 as she did when one entrepreneur did a spot of clothes shopping with her stylist.

The girls' eyes were really opened when Anne Robinson went to have a chat with the Baroness though, who came from a long line of aristocratic politicians - and I thought she was the bee's knees as they say - yes, she had antiques, but she had inherited them, and she wore "posh" clothes, but the outfit she wore to Baroness Thatcher's funeral was £16 from eBay - and she had lots of things she had found on eBay at very reasonable prices. She didn't give a hoot for labels, and put her Aldi coffee in a Fortnum's tin because she had been given the tin in the past and liked it - good for her!  She was down to earth and thrifty - dinner was pigeon her son had shot at the weekend, and she was making marmalade with an old pair of laddered tights......

I thought that the programme was interesting and well-made. I have not been a fan of Anne Robinson but she was able to ask some very pertinent questions, and I shall have to try to remember to watch the second half of the programme next week.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Counting down

We have just 10 sleeps to go until the EF girls arrive, and we are busy sorting out their room, as well as redecorating the bathroom and organising lots and lots of S-t-u-f-f!

The YFG has been doing a sterling job with a paintbrush and has painted the walls and glosswork in the bathroom, and is now on to their room.  She's developed a very tidy habit with the paintbrush and I can leave her to it - she's almost a pro!  The bathroom needs the floor washing, but apart from that, it is almost there.  Their room still has to be finished - she has painted one wall but the one with the Mario Brothers mural on it still has to be tackled - we have taken on board several suggestions about covering the acrylic paint and we are going to try them out at the weekend.

All this is being accomplished on quite a restricted budget!  We have bought two pots of magnolia paint from Wilkinson's and a couple of new paintbrushes, but that is about it for the decorating.  As you know, we bought a new-to-us single bed for one of the girls and borrowed one from UJ. I have been given some huge fleece throws for the cost of a small donation to the chapel, and I have bought some new duvets and pillow packs in a half-price offer from Argos.  I have also been offered some bedside lights this week - hopefully the person who offered them will remember to actually give them to me!  I did accept the offer gratefully but I am aware that he said they were in his loft.....I have to take out a huge bookcase from the room and I am hoping that I might get that down tomorrow whilst UJ is here.  Not sure where it will go, yet, but I don't want to get rid of it as it is a floor-to-ceiling one which the FH made from good quality wood.  And I have plenty of books that I can put on it, that's for sure!

The thing about all of this is that we have an eye on the future as well as to the present.  The house will need to be prepped for sale in less than two years' time, so we are regarding some of this as an investment in that process too - some of the walls haven't ever been touched in the 11 years we have been here....about time, I hear you say!

Monday, 17 August 2015


Morning at gymnastics club, afternoon working on the phone, evening eating dinner and watching a film with the girls..........all good. Back soon x

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Quote for the day

I came across this quotation from Franklin D Roosevelt this morning and it seems to sum up my thoughts on several things today.

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I could rant on about that today, but I think I will leave you to reflect on it.  
We don't seem to have advanced very far since FDR said that.
It's not necessarily only about politics, but about aid, medicine and education too......

Friday, 14 August 2015

Just 10%

When you need to install a hanging rail in a cupboard for one of the EF girls, do you go for one of these at £7.48?

No!  Pop along to the local hardware/cheap shop and pick up a broomstick for 79p.  Does the job for a tenth of the price!

I am 100% confident that the FH's son will be able to copy his father's method of fixing it to the wall and save me a fortune - thank goodness for inventiveness!

I have also been wonderfully blessed this week with huge fleece blankets for the EF girls' beds. In the winter, we all have fleecey blankets or quilts on top of our duvets, and with the EFG taking her quilt off to Aberdeen, there wouldn't be enough for the girls as well.  A lady at the Knitting group brought two huge ones yesterday and I was given them in return for a small donation to the church - how kind, and just the thing I was lacking - but God knows every need, hey!  Things are coming together.

A transformation

 I have had a meditative week so far, and transformed four chests of drawers, and an extra set of eight drawer fronts.  The chests were all this lovely shade of orangey pine but are no longer - thank goodness!

The chests are all over 15 years old, and well travelled. This particular unit [below] had old parcel tape still stuck to it in places from where the FH taped the drawers shut when we moved here 11 years ago!  I did manage to get it off when I sanded the drawer fronts, which was a relief.

I used chalk paint.  I had planned to use Elaine's recipe but hadn't got all her suggested ingredients. I had to substitute plaster of Paris for the tile grout, so I used this recipe.  It's brilliant what you can find on Pinterest....The recipe I used was usable for hours, and I even left one pot of it overnight [about 8 hours] with some clingfilm over it, and it was fine in the morning.

This is what it looked like after only one coat - I ended up putting five or six coats on each piece, waiting for them to dry in between.  It built up to a lovely finish.

And then I had to wax them.  Two layers went on, buffed with lots of elbow grease in between layers.  Speaking to the FH's son, he thought one layer would be fine, put on with a buffing brush on a drill, but when I pointed out that there was no buffing brush, just me and a soft cloth, he agreed that two would be fine.  I used Briwax, from a trader on Amazon.

And this is what one of the finished products looks like - ready for the EF's girls' room. They have one each like this. I left the knobs as plain wood, and I love them.  So much so that I have done a five drawer chest for my room exactly the same!  The YFG has a three drawer chest which is wider than these, but the knobs on hers have been painted powder blue to complement her room.

This is how I managed to paint the knobs - using an old plastic basket to poke them through on their screws and holding them as little as possible.

And the total cost......about £8 for the wax.

Magnolia paint, very old, about three inches in the bottom of a pot, left in the workshop - as good as free
Plaster of Paris, left over from a kids' model making kit and languishing in the shed - no idea how much it was when it was new.....but it was not going to be used for anything else.
Sandpaper - used an old sanding belt that the FH had had in the workshop - he had a collection of them in a drawer, and this was the scruffiest of them all and the least likely to be used by his son, I thought, so I tore it up and used it.

I am chuffed that I have reworked four pieces of furniture and saved myself some pennies in the process as I needed to do something to make the furniture acceptable for visitors to use.  The YFG and I have both got "new to us" furniture in the bargain too.  

Thursday, 13 August 2015


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Today the YFG turns 16!  It is hard to believe that my "baby" is that old, but she is, and she has grown up into a lovely young lady of whom I am very proud!

She's still snoozing as I am typing, but there are breakfast pancakes on the menu and then we are off to see my dad for lunch.  

Life is busy and I am enjoying my week off work - we are getting so much done!  The YFG painted the bathroom yesterday when we returned  home from the dentist [Sorry, Sue in Suffolk!].

My furniture renovations continue, and I also scrubbed the kitchen floor as I have not scrubbed it for a long time - it is sparkling this morning!