Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Creative

Since my stitchery attempt has been slowed up a bit by my poor eye sight. To sort this our in the short term I have ordered a needle threader (£1.49 including postage from eBay.)

However I have other craft plans (plan B) in case I cant see to thread the needle even with the threader. My mum is also pretty much bullying to me to get an eye test, so maybe I am sorted out soon. In the meanwhile I have four large balls of really delightfully over the top freaky patterned wool. My knitting is a little out of practice. I started an 'eyelash' scarf at Christmas but sore knuckles and loss of stitches meant things never really got going. I used to be able to knit though and made most of the kids woollies when the were tiggy. So, I can do it but I maybe I should go slowly at first. I have decided to knit myself a shopping back. Not quite sure how big as I can't work out how far this wool will go. I envisage something like a smallish shopping bag. Are they called a tote? I was feeling a bit wild so I also bought a cable needle from eBay. I think I can remember how to cable knit so i think about three cables running up the back. I have googled for a pattern but cant find anything I like, except as a sale piece rather than as a pattern, so I might have to try to work one out for myself. Obviously good for a first time project (not.) So anyway hopefully this works better than the needlework project. Should be okay as everything is bigger and considerably more visible.


For the rest, work is starting to settle down a bit (hope I am not made to eat my words). Thats just as well as my home is crying out to me for attention. I will try to make myself a rule of no laptop before 9pm, then I have a gap between work and settling down in the evening to make dinner and follwoing day lunch plus a few bits and bobs aorund the place. Sounds like a plan.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Rainy Monday

Actually it wasn't a rainy Monday until 9pm this evening. Now however it is raining heavily and my garden is drinking it down happily.

Yesterdays stitchery didn't really get off the ground as I apparently no longer have good enough eyesight to thread my own needle. I have been worrying about my eyes a bit lately. I need slightly bigger needles too. I use to do cross stitch and embroidery quite a bit and I don't remember my needles ever being as small as those I recently bought. I am also investing 25p or whatever in a needle threader. Until it arrives my youngest son is in charge of threading. I think this might also proof that I need my eyes to be tested. My sister and my mum both suffered from cataracts so I am nervous about the recent deterioration. However they certainly wont get worse or better by being tested and so I will book a test very soon.

For tonight my entertainment is an old DVD of Poirot. Just as much fun but not quite as productive.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sunny Sunday

Lovely weather here in the South today. 27 degrees & just glorious. Although I doubt the thousands of travellers stuck on all three lanes of the M3 heading West probably didn't appreciate the weather. They looked like they might take a very long time to get to their holiday destinations. I had thought I might drive down to see my sister at Lulworth Cove for the day but the sight of the motorway put me off.

Yesterday the motorway was the same, and Friday evening too. Surely the West must be full by now.

So, on Saturday I decided to do all of my errands. I bumped into a friend in the town and chatted over cold drinks for a bit and before I knew it the day had slipped away. There was method in my madness(sloth!). I knew both boys were having friends over so any housework downstairs would be largely wasted. They are not deliberately messy but 10 teenager, mostly boys, don't leave a house looking like the pages of House Beautiful.


So this morning I nipped off to the Farmers Market in Winchester whilst the boys did their version of tidying up. Winchester looked glorious. The sunshine brings out the best of our towns. The market was really busy. It used to have a lot of visitors but not everyone buying, some, maybe most, just window shopping. Now I noticed that far more people were carrying bags of goodies away with them. I also noticed far more people using proper re-usable shopping bags or trolleys, not many plastic carrier bags around. All very encouraging and not really looking quite some much like the economic doom and gloom were are expecting.

Afterwards I had a lovely Sunday roast with my parents & my children. My mum always invites me to Sunday lunch when my husband is away. I think he is jealous. Afterwards I came home to finish the laundry, wash the dishes (another thing with teenagers, they get through a lot of crockery in a day). I cleaned the floors right through down stairs with my steam mop (nice day for it!)and then vacuumed right through and put away all of the bit and bobs which seemed to have gotten out of place. I emptied all of the bins, of course sorting out all of the recyclables.

This evening I am relaxing ahead of another busy week. I have tapestry needles so that I can start my stitchery pattern, wool for knitting and crochet hooks. I am spoilt for choice for what to do next. I also have a good book half read. Lucky me, does it get any better.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Happy Friday

I left work at 4.30 today! The work which has caused any number of my late nights is now out of my hands, at least until next year. So, although there is always work to be done, I could come home early without a conscience. I am hoping that gives me the mood for the weekend. Next weeks work is completely different. Working on the set up of the new computer system, shortlisting and interviewing for a new staff member and starting on procedures. I do think that a change is on the way to be as good as a rest, if not quite as good.

My son was offered a couple of days work this week helping out at a local boatyard. He worked really hard and long hours but yesterday came home saying that they all said he had taken too long to do the work and so he wouldn't be likely to be kept on. Today it is all changed. The boss went into the hull where my son had been working and was amazed and pleased at the standard of his work. Del, my son, expressed his own concerns about how long it had taken but the boss said it didn't matter, the standard of work was what mattered. He was so happy. He doesn't yet have any long term commitment but he has work tomorrow and Monday and thinks it should lead to more. Next week he must register as self employed, assuming he is to be kept for a while, and set up a standing order for his National Insurance payments. Lastly we need to find his old savings book so that he can put away 1/3 of his money each week ready for his tax bill. Now that is looking a little more upbeat and positive I will put in for his driving test again because I am sure it was his frame of mind that caused problems in the past.

On a lighter but less successful note, I resurrected my bread maker this week. I made a loaf from a packet. I t was awful. I cant understand how I can have so much trouble with something so simple. I made the loaf into bread pudding today and it tasted far better and had a better texture as well. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Being led astray already

Monday was my first day back at work after holidays and I wrote a little list of 'Post Holiday' resolutions. I included 1) I will continue to work hard and, when essential, long hours for my job but I wont allow it to take over my life completely. Today is Thursday and so far I have only just scraped home before 7pm each day. Although having checkeed my work email during the evneing I rather think my boss was still there after I left. I still have my energy but how long will it last at this rate?? So this evenings efforts around the house amounted to unstacking and re-stacking the dishwasher, washing the cats food bowls and washing some clothing.

If I look on the bright side I am washing the coming weekends laundry ahead of time - I dont normally wash laundry during the week as it is too difficult to dry it when you are not at home to peg it out around the rain drops. So by washing on a Thursday I am getting ahead of my plans!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Organising my virtual world

I have decided to do a bit of sorting out which doesn't involve getting up from my chair for a lazy but virtuous evening.

My inbox has been getting rather bunged up lately by emails telling me I need to buy this that and the other. I am with AOL, who are pretty good at rooting out spam, so all of my junk should be stuff from which I can unsubscribe. I will unsubscribe from each of them for a week, just to give them a chance to get me off their mailing lists. After that I will report them as spam and AOL will separate them out from my usual mail from then on.

My other bit of virtual organisation is to sort out my 'favourites'. I am setting up categories such as useful information, shopping, favourite blogs, my blog. Its looking quite neat already. I prefer to do my reading this was rather than subscribe to mailing lists if blog readers so that I can read when I fancy rather than when things are published.

Tomorrow I will try to be slightly more physical in my sorting out but this felt like a good job done without too much effort.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

What is the value of food?


I was reading Bean Sprouts blog this evening. She is discussing Farmers Markets and the higher prices you pay (for much better food) when you buy from these markets. She was even brave enough to say that food is cheap and has been for decades.

How does food gets its value? From its financial cost, from its rarity (truffles), from the work you have put into growing or gathering it. So is food worth more to those that grow it themselves? Could be. One year my sister and I worked on the allotment in 40degrees. For the south of England that is positively tropical. We watered our plants with sweat from our brows, pretty much literally. Stir fries had the best broccoli I have ever tasted after all that effort. Nothing went to waste, except when we were too inexperienced to realise we were losing it.

Science a go go reports that Timothy W. Jones, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona Nationwide, says, household food waste alone adds up to $43 billion, making it a serious economic problem. The BBC says 'Homes across Britain are wasting a total of 3.3m tonnes of food a year'. I can't find articles fro Australia, New Zealand or Canada) i.e. similar cultures and levels of material wealth) but loads of articles where they are reading about how wasteful us Brits are. The New York Times has a few things to add on the subject too. So why are we doing it? We wouldn't through away diamonds or pearls. Food is worth more to us than jewels (or if its not then first try living a couple of months without a pearl necklace then try...well you get the idea).

The supermarkets, in my opinion, have driven suppliers to the wall to provide food at unrealistically low prices. The quality of food is kept fairly low to keep cost down (standard chicken v free range chicken) and we have got used to food being sufficiently affordable to throw a huge amount of it away.

Rhonda at Down to Earth is very sensible with her cash but economises on things to afford good locally produced dairy products. I am prepared to bet real money that she doesn’t waste very much of anything. She has got it right (in my opinion.)

So what about abandoning the supermarkets for a while & trying a bit more 'real food'. I am probably preaching to the converted when talking to anyone who reads these sort of blogs but why not spread the word. Farmers markets are good, local butchers and greengrocers, roadside stalls, home-grown from the garden or allotment (or from parent’s garden - my particular favourite!)

So my soapbox conclusion for today it’s - food has a value and it is far higher than we are currently rating it.

Nighty night

Monday, 21 July 2008

Busy Bees - Happy Bunnies

I was just reading through Laura from Move to Portugal comments on my blog. Laura commented that they have been busy but that’s how they like it. But sometimes it gets a bit too much. I am the same way and sometimes I lose my balance. Before my holiday I couldn't remember everything I needed to remember, I couldn't keep up with everything which I needed to do. Since my break I feel renewed and re-vitalised. I guess it is to have 2.5 weeks away from work rather than away from home (I do love my home) but whatever the reason it was just in time.

So I made a few late New Years Resolutions upon our return.

1) I will continue to work hard and, when essential, long hours for my job but I wont allow it to take over my life completely.
2) I will make sure I have the time to do what I want at least for the rest of this year - the odd leisurely bath, making slow gin, baking bread, the list is endless.
3) I will plan a proper budget with beloved when he comes back from his trip to his family.
4) I will stick to the organisational plans I have made, and amend them as I need to; to make sure that everything fits into the balance!
5) I will not have more than 5 things in a list!!!!!!!!!

My lap top is back, 6 weeks after it first left me, having been written off by a local repair shop (wont be going there again, do!) and resurrected by Hewlett Packard. It’s like a brand new laptop but it’s still my same old baby. Okay, I am too enthusiastic, time for bed.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

First day back

Much to my surprise I overslept this morning, having only had 3 hours sleep the night before I had no trouble at all in sleeping through until 10.30 this morning. I had to move my plans a little to accommodate my extra snooze. I made sure all the washing wash done before we left for hols (or so I thought)so I had a lot of baskets of clean washing in my room which I had folded but had not had time to sort and put away. The first action of the day was to get that all sorted.

I sorted through my enormous pile of post and binned 90%,the junk mail. The rest needs sorting into action and filing,. I know I should have done this all in one go but making the pile manageable seemed more important.

I am making my way through the washing pile, using my semi home made washing powder. Everything is coming out nice and clean so that is a success.

Otherwise it is just a lot of cleaning and sorting. I also invested in a small cupboard for bathroom storage (marked down at Argos). I buy bathroom products when they are a good price and do find storage an issue, so this should make the room a lot.

I also started a new pile of goodies for the other house. I have so much here and plenty of it would be useful there. I know having two houses sounds like a wild indulgence but where my husband comes from there are no pension schemes, and investing in property is their future security. I hope to be able to keep the house for always, for all of the family but if things went wrong in the future then we have something we can sell to free up some capital. I hope that my children will build onto it in time and their families can live there too, at least sometimes if not all times.

This is the view from my terrace. Enough to lift any ones heart.

Friday, 18 July 2008

'Proper Food'


We took a friend of the children to the house last week. She is 18 and had never been abroad, never flown and as we found out, had never actually had a holiday. She coped well with the first flight. Never complained when the temperature was about 10degrees higher than she had ever known before and even swam in open water, conquering a life long fear. I asked if she suffered from seasickness when we planned a fishing trip but she didn't know, having never been on a boat.

One thing she couldn't adapt to was Greek food. She craved MacDonalds. In fact the only thing she missed about England was fast food! My sons were horrified. They believe completely in the old Dave Allen joke, shall we have food or go for a MacDonalds. We tend to eat at the 'local places' so we eat really Greek food, fresh locally produced vegetables, local meat from animals who don't know that intensive farming exists, olive oil from thousands (millions ?) of local trees. The most simple and tastiest food ever. My friend cooked for us o n the last evening. Lamb and potatoes in the oven with a side dish of green beans in tomatoes and olive oil. Dishes of salad and tzazaki, wholemeal bread and local 'fresh' wine.

Our visitor had never had lamb before and didn't understand how to cut it from the bone and eat it. Is there an entire generation who have missed out on life or am I just having a downer about the English way of life for so many people???

Returned and re-vitalised

I am back from my break at the new house. We were away for 2.5 weeks but it seems like much longer. I slept for long, long hours and have recharged my batteries (must be solar powered!)

I spent the first week meeting, planning and socialising (this is Crete after all) with the builder, my long time friend, various of his children, who have different jobs within the business, also the plumber, fridge man and even some of the new neighbours. My new neighbours didn't let the mere absence of any joint language we could converse in affect our chats.and kindly called bearing gifts of tomatoes and melons (lots and lots - yum). I found that without my husband around, who used to speak Greek well enough to mistaken for a local and who is still pretty good albeit with a real Crete accent apparently,my own grasp of the language wasn't bad. Conversations did involve a bit of mime still though. The children and I must brush up on this as it seems quite rude not to be able to have some conversation with the people in our little village.




Building has gone well (if slowly)so far. My plan to have an overhanging balcony giving us a shady patio all day worked well. This is meant that the main rooms are shaded from the sun all day and don't get as hot as they would if exposed. My challenge is to avoid air conditioning but this may not be possible for us wedding cold weather folk in to 40 to 50 degree heat. We had a lovely cool place to sit in the heat of the day. My upstairs balcony also has a full roof of read tiles. This means that the sun in the summer comes down form above and creates ample shade. In winter (this is my theory - not yet proven)the sun should be lower in the sky and the house should be warmed by the beams shining under the eaves.

My fridge is plumbed in to the water supply so that we can have cold water without buying plastic bottles. Everyone but everyone gets through so many plastic bottles a day. They have started recycling in most villages in recent years but avoiding the bottles in the first place is better still.

I have no heating as yet and it is hat to imagine that we will need it but I know we will. We are planning to have a wood fire stove which will burn the cuttings from our own trees. This wont be for a while though, there is saving to be done first!

Lastly my hot water is entirely solar powered. The cold water is coming out of the tap as hot as the moment anyway, as the pipe is running over the ground and is currently black. Once everything is in position and properly painted we should have both hot and cold, rather than two hots though.

This means that the only electricity we are using in for the lighting and the fridge & occasional use of the toaster. We are using bottled gas for the 2 ring cooker. Water is, I believe, village spring water. Our use is minimal as we use showers & a water efficient (and second hand)washing machine. There is a bath but I think only because the builder though that being English this was obligatory.

I am planning my garden during the moniths before our next visit.It was very hard to come 'home'.

Lets talk about something good!

I went to the other house and it was lovely! My dad came with us, with my youngest son, for the first 5 days.  Its his first time since ...