Thursday, 30 December 2010

Getting older but not brighter

A few weeks ago I blogged that I was going to copy Laura with my plans for 2011. Her way of setting out the plans I meqnt rather than he actual plans, although Portugal sounds very nice.

Yesterday morning Fahed and I went though our final thoughts on our own plans and I wrote up the blog. Last night I logged into my reader to catch up on everyone's bloggying for the day. I noticed someone else was also copying Laura's master plan. I read almost the whole article before I realised I had added my own blog to my reader.Doh! I should probably add some brain exercises into next years activity.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The plans

Financial – Formal budget and have minimised costs. All set up jar system for shopping, fuel, etc. All leftovers to go into the emergency fund. All additional income to holiday fund. Pocket money for each of us. The budget deals only with my salary. Faheds money is for investment in the properties which we call Faheds pension.

Domestic – Weekly plan for cleaning but it gets easier anyway as there is less stuff. Meal planning . Continue shopping as now. Healthy eating for all.

Pleasure – My favourite pastime is travel . All money from Amazon, Quidco, Ebay etc to go to the travel fund. Fortunately I also get a lot of pleasure from other areas of life, cooking, crafts, reading and hopefully Salsa dancing. Even my spread sheets and meal planning are fun.

– Lose 28lbs, improve fitness, reduce back pain. Be fit enough for short hike by end of year. Eat more healthily, regular weekly exercise (gym, swim, exercise bike, walking, Salsa dancing). Cost: Salsa lessons £7 per week each. Gym & swimming are free as Fahed teaches at the local leisure centre.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Now the rest begins

All the party bits of Christmas are over. We had a lovely day today with a family walk instigated by my Dad. Last Christmas he was so ill with an infection after his cancer op. He has had a couple more little bits of surgery during the year but despite the arthritis in his knee it was him that was striding out today leading us along the millennium trail. The frost was strong enough to give us the beauty of a white Christmas with the inconvenience. We had a couple of drinks in the pub and then drove back to my sisters house for the latest addition to our list of traditions, a snowy barbecue. I truly eat more meat at Christmastime than I do the rest of the year together. There were eleven of us for lunch today, which is quite an undertaking in your average English house, but we all squeezed around table and it was good. My niece also packed a little lunch box of cold treats for the guy with MS that she helps to take care of.

During the afternoon there was more singing on the xbox game. Bonnie was with us today and out sang us all. Obviously this is because I have a cough and cold. Sure.

I love these few days all together but now I am looking forward to a lie in tomorrow and a day without cooking as there is still plenty of food knocking around. There is work today around the house this week but tomorrow is rest day.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I hope you are all with your friends and family and where you want to be, or alone if you prefer.

I am surrounded by my loved ones except my brother and sister in law who are snowed in in Devon. Or at least I was surrounded by them until the first batch went home about a half hour ago. Now we are just four until tomorrow when it all starts over again at mums house. Now my eldest and his dad are playing some game together, my youngest and I are wrapping present. The dishwasher is going as I need to return my mums plates for supper at her house tomorrow. Its almost time to collapse into bed so that Santa doesn't catch me up and awake and not leave me any presents.

Tomorrow we are playing 'Lips' at mums house. Its an X box karaoke type game and we have got some old stuff on there for the older generation and some more up to date stuff for the rest of us - I am young!! I have a couple of on-line quizzes to do. Plus there is the cooking, the eating, the presents, the walk, some more eating.

I hope your Christmas is as lovely as mine looks like being.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Being too organised would just be too easy.

Last weekend my house was all lovely and clean. All my present shopping was finished, if not wrapped, food shopping was done online to arrive during this week. I was totally on top of everything. We have all of the family coming over on Christmas Eve evening for food, drinks, conversation and a generally good time. So it was all going too well and too easy, we decided to tile the kitchen floor.

The fridges and freezers, tumble dryer and dishwasher are all in the conservatory. The sink is full of dishes & the work tops covered in all sorts of stuff which I can't do anything about, like drills and buckets of filler, as I can't stand on the floor. The last two evenings we had takeaway food & I now remember that I don’t really like takeaway food. But as of last night at 9pm the actual tiles are all laid. Hopefully today is grouting and by tomorrow the equipment can go back into the room. The cooker is perched on two stools so I am hoping that is back on the ground soon as I have pork, chicken and beef to roast for my visitors. Did I mention they are coming around tomorrow night and I have no kitchen?? Christmas stressful? Never.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Division of Labour - Christmas or anytime

I have read the (online) papers in my lunch break do today. At least two articles about the stress of Christmas for women and how unhelpful men are. Harsh. Does no-one understand division of labour anymore?

My husband, with help from the kids, is tiling the kitchen floor today. I am not. I select and buy the Christmas presents and Christmas food. He doesn’t. I decorate the house, except for electrics which they will do. He keeps the cars running, keeps the house running and stops me from buying wild things which no-one will want.
If we both did everything instead of diving tasks then no-one would use their specialist knowledge and we would keep tripping over each other. I rather think it is part of being a family.

My son’s girlfriend doesn’t understand. I am an accountant but when I do his paperwork then he is being lazy & irresponsible. When I need software loaded or someone to sort out the TV then it’s his turn to use his specialist knowledge. To me it makes sense that if you live in a community then you don't need to do everything, you can specialise in some areas. I am assuming I won't be asked to help out with her tax submission as I wouldn’t want to encourage her to be lazy and irresponsible too. He says it is because her family really don't operate like a family. Everyone eats a microwave meal from the freezer when hungry and spends their life alone in their room.

Families, or groups of close friends, are brilliant for company, humour, understanding, security and I now realise, efficiency. Operating alone just strikes me as really hard.

Monday, 20 December 2010

3 1/2 days to go

Left work a little early today as it was dark and snowy. I found the house in silence and darkness. Where had they all gone? After a couple of seconds of hanging up my coat and bag I heard giggles coming from under the piles of blankets. At ages 47, 20 and 18 they were hiding and trying to trick me!

It was the sign of a good evening ahead I think. We had a picnic dinner of pitta, coleslaw (just discovered how easy and cheap this is to make it myself, yum) and cold roast beef, which is surprisingly cheap from our local garage. We have also tried a few glasses of home made wine. The kids got the old SNES machines and games out of the attic. We have gone back ten years in a few hours and its just lovely. If Christmas is this lovely it will be perfect.

Back to the coleslaw. I had two pack arrive in my online shop today and by the time I got home the kids had eaten one each. Unwritten rule is you don't have to ask if you want fruit or veg. They manage to finagle coleslaw in under that flag. So I chopped half the white cabbage which i bought for soup, shredded an onion, grated and carrot. Mixed it all up with some mayo and a spoon full of cream. Ten times better than the bought variety. Why have I never down that before. What other dead easy ideas have I been missing? Any ideas gratefully received.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

2nd post Christmas giggles

Last Christmas I had loads of presents and everyone seemed to find it most amusing. It was afternoon before I found out that the saucepan set which I loved so much was also given to me the previous Christmas, and that I had bought it myself some years before and put it in the attic.

Whilst sorting out my office I found a beautiful boxed set of Boule which I gave Fahed when the kids were young and we always camped. We used the plastic boule filled with cement and I bought him some fancy ones when they were on special in Lidl one time. This is being re-wrapped for Christmas. Has he got a better memory than me. We will see. Just had a quick search through the bathroom drawers to make sure there is no shampoo. I found three sealed bottles of mens cologne and one of womens perfume. They are all going to be re-wrapped.

I wonder what else I can find.

Shopping in the snow

Snow is falling, all around me, children playing, having fun. Was that Shakin' Stevens?

It really is falling all around me but no kids, both stayed at their girl friends houses last night. I am picking Jamal up at around ten this morning though as we are going shopping. Jamal and I like a bit of shopping together. Is it unusual for an 18 year old to go shopping with his mum? Ahdel phoned me to ask if I had a lunch break last week as he was walking around the town and would I like to join him. Love my boys - I am obviously getting in the Christmas spirit already, counting my blessings and loving everyone!!

Shopping update - almost all presents are bought now. All on-line so if the snow stays this week no-one will get their gifts until next year. I did buy them a bit much this year because I felt like a bit of a spoiling would be nice. Last night I finally managed to log on to the ASDA website and ordered food for Christmas and well into the New Year. This morning we need to buy some boots for Jamal, a couple of stocking fillers for both boys, a few bottles of wine and other drinks. Oh,plus Jamal's presents for everyone as he just remembered yesterday he hasn't got anything yet. Bless (Grrrrr).

I had a little challenge to myself not to buy any bathroom stuff until stocks were depleted. I have a full bottle of conditioner and two partial bottles but no shampoo. No bubble bath or shower gel. In fact not very much of anything useful. I may have to finally cave in and buy shampoo today as my hair feels weird today where I conditioned it without shampooing yesterday. I will re-check my stocks first though, don't want to do anything rash

I love snow.

Jamal just called to say are we still on for shopping. Should be even more fun in the snow.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Lists, lists, lists

Could be just the time of the year, lots of things to remember for Christmas lots of things to plan for 2011, but I seem to be going list mad.

I love my One Note software, which came with office 2010, and it gives me spaces for infinite lists.

On the go at the moment;

Christmas gift list-obviously. Nearly done!
Shopping list - Big food shop
Things to do this week before we have visitors
Things to do over the Christmas break
I also have my general to do list
Meal planner list for the new year
My 'things I really want to do in the future' list
Fahed's list of outstanding jobs (never ends)
Road trip plans - my 50th birthday trip to the states.

I am quite interested to see if this is new super organised me or just a Christmas moment.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas Prep

Parcels for Christmas have been prepared. I am an elf!

Parcels for Christmas have been prepared. I am an elf!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Change of plans

The plans this year for overseas travel was me, kids and extended family to the Crete house in August/September.
Fahed to Syria for three months to build on the land and be well on the way to selling finished property (This is know as Fahed's pension scheme).

As money grabbing sister and big sister are no longer speak to us the summer in Syria doesnt seem to be worth the effort. Now Fahed's more sensible sister (who never asks for money) is visiting her children in Denmark around Easter and so he will get his family time by visiting them at the same time. Thank you Easyjet. Much more affordable and we all get summer together. The Syria land is co-owned with big sister. Fahed has decided he wants to sell or at least sell our half (maybe to her?) so that we can make our own decisions. My 47 year old is growing up!

We then have to save hard for the next stage of Faheds pension plan when he visits Syria, maybe next winter. Darn, I knew there was a catch!

Sunday, 12 December 2010


Plans for 2011 were to leave a more interesting life.

I would like to hike and to dance. I am seriously unfit and have a trapped nerve in my back and a soft tissue injury in my neck and compressed disc space (car accident). I am going to build up my back muscles. I have had 12 month at the chiropractor, copious painkillers, muscle relaxants, physiotherapy. Nothing has worked so far so now I am going with exercise. Once the back and neck start to improve, and I am not going to accept that they wont,then I am going to start cycling and walking more. I have an exercise machine, sort of like a treadmill but not really. Also an exercise bike from the wonderful freecycle.

One hour of day of some kind of exercise, gentle at first but building up. My work are starting 20 minute guided walks around the area from January. I don't actually need to be guided but it will be nice if I have to commit to doing something.In the evenings I will need to make up my hour at home on the machines or walking home or Salsa (yaay cant wait). 5 hours of Salsa does not mean 4 days of inaction follow salsa days. I have to make lots of rules for myself as I am sneaky and will find loopholes.

By next summer I want to be able to carry out a short hike without my lower back numbing. I can do this.

£30 well spent

I signed up for a emails from something called Groupon a while back from a link on one of the US blogs. It appeared to offer me 70% discount on Burger King (which it didn't) but what it gave me instead was tons better. For anyone who doesn't already subscribe to Groupon let me explain. As far I can see they do a deal with a local or national service provider and as long as they sell a certain number of the deals then you get to buy something at a heavily discounted price. The provider has a big rise in customers and in they generates some repeat business so everyone wins.

A few weeks back I bought a full house clean for £30, normal price £100. Almost the best £30 I can recall spending. Beaten only by the £28 on travel insurance once that covered £8000 of medical costs and repatriation, when Fahed had a heart attack whilst visiting in Jordan.

A group of three women arrived at my house and spent three hours cleaning just the upstairs, then another couple downstairs. The place is truly immaculate. I did coerce both kids into a super tidy and it was well worth it. They will come and do the same again once a month for £60 a time. I am busy juggling my budget to ensure I can afford this.

This week I worked from 8am until around 7pm most days. Normally I am home by six but this week I had tenant consultation meetings in a different location each day. By Friday I was too shattered to make toast. Having someone give the house a serious spring clean is a real boost. Today I am just clearing a few more things away and then we can officially start Christmas. All clean and shiny. So far I am loving Groupon and I am going to make more effort to actually read the daily email (today's was rubbish by the way - you do need to be discerning.)

I am very happy with Fahed at the moment, despite enormous pressure he is still not sending money to family members who bleat for assistance even though they are better off than us. One sister phoned on Wednesday, the one that generally bleeds us dry, and he stood firm but felt so guilty that he hasn't slept properly since. Yesterday another sister phoned and told us that she found out that the sister who always wants money is actually sending it to her daughter. The daughter sold her flat (bought by mummy) and appears to have spent the proceeds on designer clothes and tattooed eyebrows (what???)and so he mum is now bailing her out with OUR MONEY. I could be cross for how much has been wasted but have decided to concentrate on how much we wont be wasting going forward. They truly would not leave us with a penny given the chance.

Also happy to say that Fahed chased me up yesterday to ask what had happened to our idea of weekly Salsa dancing. So pleased as I thought he just said yes to shut me up but if he wants to go to then we are more likely to stick at it. Really looking forward to this as I do love dancing.

Everything is going well.Really must start Christmas shopping soon!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

House - done and undone

Windows in the conseravtory

Next job. Stair area to paint and carpet over Christmas, Have paint, have carpet, just need time.

Corner of the sitting room where I usually sit, complete with my fluffy blanket for keeping warm in the evenings.

Mirror and my clutter in the conservatory.

End wall of the kitchen. Plastering, new floor tiles, so much to do but my larder looks beautiful.

The window is the downstairs guest bathroom. Cant have proper window as this overlooks my neighbour.

Recycles sink and end of line mosaic tiles in guest bathroom. Will be finished before Christmas (no, really)

Our bedroom, looking smaller than it really is. You can just about see the piles of washing which I am sorting onto the bed. Paint could have a quick touch up but otherwise its just how I would want it.

One of the stained glass windows in the conservatory.

Main bathroom - cupboard door needs fixing since I dropped Jamals weights bar and broke the corner but otherwise good.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

What next

Tomorrow eldest son is finishing the tiling and shower fittings in the downstairs bathroom. That room is then complete.
The conservatory (really a big sitting room and additional bedroom) are complete all but some architrave and other finishings.
The upstairs bathroom - just needs to cupboard lids since I balanced Jamal's weights bar up on them and shattered the trim.
Jamal's bedroom - new rug required as he is getting a little old for the hippo carpet but its not worth changing so we will just cover the centre.
Main bedroom - Exactly as I want it except a slight re-arrangement of furniture and a quick touch up of the paint.
Office - finished but touch up of paint.
Hall, stairs and landing - Paint walls cream, paint woodwork dark aubergine, lay new carpet - everything is bought so hopefully I have time to do the work soon.
Kitchen - larder is finished, new floor tiles next week, all finished by spring ( I so hope)
Sitting room - re-varnish the wood floor in a couple of places, touch up the paint work, new open fire.
Front porch & laundry room - Planning consent is sorted,we have a brick layer planned, all other work will be by us. This should still be finished in the coming year.
Shed - new roof but otherwise good.
Garden - brick barbecue etc - we have the bricks just need the time.

Soon the house will be finished. Weekends will be ours again. We have re-cycled, freecycled, creatively and frugally renovated the whole house. I cant imagine we can ever sell it. It is quirky and very 'us', loads of wood, mosaics, stained glass, glass blocks, etched glass, just all very special to us but not how you decorate a house to sell for a profit. Nothing new unless it wasn't possible to beg, steal or borrow (or sometime4s even buy) it from somewhere.

I love the almost finished place but it will be nice to do something else with our free time for a change. I will need a new outlet for my creative side. Luckily I have another half finished house waiting for my attention.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


I made up the baskets of goodies which are the families gifts for this year. They look excellent. I needed Fahed to help me cellophane them but he is snoring peacefully on the sofa, which is actually a good thing but not that useful. I will take photos and share when they are finished.

I don't do Christmas cards but I will do a Christmas email to everyone that I wont see some time next week.

Presents for Fahed and the boys will be bigger but tend to be practical. I don't buy stuff for them during the year so they get a bit of a treat at this time of year. I have bought a few items but I know exactly what else to get.

Decorations. Both kids are putting up artificial trees. One in the sitting room and one in the sitting area of the conservatory. Otherwise it will just be lights and the all use very little power. Simple but quite magical I think. There are also some lanterns and red glass bowls. Very pretty and simple.

Food planning and shopping is all that is left to worry about. But I enjoy cooking and having time to do it is real bonus.

We wont be travelling over the break, so visiting local friends and family and spending some time together and on the house.

Its all sounding just perfect right now. Happy to have some Christmas snow to if the heavens would be kind enough to give us a break for the next few weeks.

Gentle Sunday

Finish sorting out new larder and re-arrange remainder of kitchen. Not finished but coming along well. Should finish today. Fahed is so impressed with how it looks that he is inspired to finish the laundry area and tile kitchen floor before Christmas. We can then progress with cabinets, etc when we have the ten day break over Christmas and New Year. Much as I love to travel and visit at Christmas I am more happy with this idea.

Remove rest of kitchen tiles or as many as possible. Jamal got loads off and I think should finish this today.

Cook something yummy for lunch.I am thinking something with noodles, chicken, coconut link and Thai basil. I cooked but it was disappointing unlovely as I used a tin of coconut soup instead of coconut milk and the spices were all weird.

Whizz around with vacuum cleaner. Swept the hard floor but didn't both with the vacuuming as Jamal and his mate are pulling up the carpet on Tuesday.

Bag of clothes to charity shop. Done
List three items on ebay. Today
Make some houmous. Bought two tubs as it actually worked out cheaper
Drop kids in Southampton for wild party night (Bonnies birthday). Done, there are a vast number of teenagers snoring away in every room of the house. One of my sons went to the party as a Goth and the other started as a caveman but sort of morphed into Tina Turner in a cave man outfit.
Visit £ shop really early. Done, bought loads, all useful.

A couple of extra additions to the list.
Laundry - finish, sort and put away.
Make up Christmas hampers for family members.
Compile present list for husband and sons.
Chase up Ahdel to complete job application forms.
Possible mini visit to Ikea to stock up on candles etc bargain basement prices.
Sort out recipes for Christmas sweeties - I am planning white chocolate fudge, peanut brittled, honeycomb and coconut ice.

Friday, 3 December 2010

500th post -Random things to do today

500 posts. Am I a better person than I was at the beginning? I am tidier,more content,more organised, maybe even a better cook. But not a better person. Not that I am a bad person. Writing things downs seems to make one more deliberate, more accountable maybe, more in control of life because you think about things more. I suspect I might be less interesting which isn't really great news for someone that things interesting is an important part of life. Maybe I am not actually less interesting, I just seem it because I rarely seem to do anything new and different. 2011 must be my year of living interestingly.

However, in the short term, back to Saturdays to do list.
Finish sorting out new larder.
Re-arrange remainder of kitchen.
Remove rest of kitchen tiles or as many as possible.
Cook something yummy for lunch.I am thinking something with noodles, chicken, coconut link and Thai basil.
Whizz around with vacuum cleaner.
Bag of clothes to charity shop.
List three items on ebay
Make some houmous.
Drop kids in Southampton for wild party night (Bonnies birthday)
Visit £ shop really early.

More than enough for one day. I love 3 day weekends. They should happen every week.

Be careful what you wish for

Snow, loads of it, everywhere. Beautiful but not that convenient. About 30% of us made it into work yesterday. Plenty can work from home but a group of us needed to be there for some things. Payments for property completions to keep people in there houses. We were treated to pizzas for lunch. Unfortunately for the pizza guy not many of his staff turned in either so had to make them all and got lunch mid afternoon. Its the thought that counts. We started leaving at around 3.30pm but the trains and buses were cancelled so I got to use the 4WD on Fahed's car as I spent two hours running people home. Today I too have bailed and am having a flexi day. Dad has hospital this pm which I am hoping he will allow me to transport him up there instead of digging his car out of garage and then reversing down a deadly slop. Then out to visit friends before retiring in doors at a suitably early time.

Still working on plans for 2011 but have decided 2011 is to be Year of Living Interestingly (of a little grammatically suspect).

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Blackberrys, larders and snow

Got my new work phone today. Interfaced to the work outlook system. Good for work because I can answer queries at any time. Good for me (sort of) as I don't have so many mails waiting for me every morning.

Very nice guy from IT was running through how to use the phone today. He was telling me all about using it for photos, music etc. I wasn't expecting to be able to use my work phone for personal use. I am wondering if this is an opportunity to ditch my own mobile or just super down grade the usage. I had better make sure it is okay to the Blackberry first but this could be very helpful. Only had the Blackberry for a few hours but so far loving it. So much easier to use that the previous PDA. I guess that's why everybody raves over them. Doh.

The new larder is finished. A thing of beauty and a joy forever. The rest of the house is slowly emptying as I move all food and catering supplies in to my lovely new larder. I cant believe how many duplicate jars of things I have now that I see it all together. Three jars of ground rice, similar with self raising flour. Luckily it is all in the clamp top jars so it is all still in perfect condition. It does mean I wont need to buy much except veg and meat for some while. I even have a 56lb bag of potatoes in there. Potatoes are a deal too, less than half the price of buying smaller bags in the . My lovely dad gets them from the wholesaler for me. If the refurbishment of the rest of the kitchen is same quality as for the larder, it is going to be fantastic. I am very lucky sometimes

The whole country is snowed in except, not a flake.

My life

My wonderful husband has died. He was in hospital for some weeks but this was very unexpected. I won’t be reading or writing for the foresee...