Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The August Break

For the past two years I have taken part in Susannah Conway's August Break and I am joining in again this year.  During the month of August, lots of bloggers all over the world will be taking photographs and posting one on their blogs every day. 

This year in particular I am looking forward to it as an opportunity to use my camera, as I haven't been taking as many photographs as usual for a long time. I hope the plan to post one here every day will help to inspire me. 

I'll be posting a photo every day, probably mostly without words, but I might write something now and then too. See you back here on Thursday with my first picture! 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Five Years On: It's a Wonderful Life, or The Best £23.50 I ever spent

Debbie's Story

Sunday was the fifth anniversary of the day the Prof and I became a couple. These photos are the first we ever saw of each other, on a dating website.

Both of us led busy, active lives, though quite different ones. I had been single for years and so had he, though not as many as me. I had dated a little on and off over the years, but mostly didn't bother. In fact for many of those years I barely went out socially. I was a single parent and spare money was mostly non-existent. Added to the mix was the fact that when my son was eleven he left school to be educated at home, so life was busy and there wasn't much spare money for me to have a social life of my own. Even when I went back to work, there was barely enough money to cover the bills, so I didn't go out very much. Meanwhile, The Prof had an active social life. He was in the fifth year of his part time BA in History, as well as working full time. In his spare time he did a lot of historical re-enactment and belonged to an art group, as well as having lots of friends, but he had never met that special someone.

A friend of mine persuaded me to join a dating site. This site was unique in that your profile had to be written by a friend, not by yourself. I remember being quite flattered by what my friend Darren said about me, though I wasn't sure what to make about his 'Debbie is as scatty as a box of coathangers' comment. I'm still thinking about that one.

It was his photograph that made me contact him. He looked kind, funny, open, honest, all those things I now know he is. Despite the fact that his profile said he was into historical re-enactment and architecture and that he wanted to meet somebody creative, I sent him a message. I was completely uninterested in the first two and quite alarmed by the last! I spent the first few weeks of our relationship worried that he would find out I wasn't creative. Of course, he says I am and I will (now, after trying a few things and forgetting to be so hard on myself) concede that I might be, a little bit. He says that as soon as he saw my photo he knew he was going to like me.

We sent each other messages through the website for a while, then exchanged email addresses and eventually telephone numbers. Several emails went back and forth, we both had a similar sense of humour and I know I looked forward to his replies very much. There was an alarming few days when I didn't hear from him, until he realised he had got my email address slightly wrong and had been emailing me and thinking I wasn't replying to him. We used to text back and forth a lot too, I remember I would always get a text from him as I was waiting at the bus stop at 7.30 am to go to work and used to think it so sweet that he was thinking of me first thing in the morning. We became quite good friends before we even met.

After a few weeks we arranged to meet, locally to me as I don't drive. I chose a local pub and we met at 6pm, knowing it would be quiet, one Sunday evening at the end of May 2008. We spent four hours together that evening and got on extremely well. We agreed to meet up again, but during the next couple of months events conspired to keep us apart. Both of us were ill, various things came up, but eventually we saw each other again in July, and after another couple of evenings together, we were an item. 

The five years since have been interesting, to say the least. In those five years the Prof has had a cochlear implant operation, redundancy followed by 16 months unemployment, two graduations (BA History with honours, MA Medieval History with merit), five days in hospital with septicaemia following a wisdom tooth extraction. I've had two bouts of severe anaemia, years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a diagnosis of arthritis, I've sent my son happily off to University only to have him come home again a few months later less happily. 

We've had several lovely short breaks away. We've had too many times when there was too much month at the end of the money. We've spent many a contented hour driving through the countryside of Essex and Kent and many more contented hours just sitting together at home. A hundred caf├ęs have seen us doing the Telegraph general knowledge crossword and we live in hope that one day we might have enough general knowledge between us to finish one. 

We had a wonderful Humanist wedding ceremony that we wrote ourselves and I still mean every word. 

We have a wonderful life, he's a wonderful man and it's been a wonderful five years. 

Happy Anniversary, Philip. I love you.

Friday, July 19, 2013

news from the heatwave

It's very hot here. Indulge me while I behave like the English person I am and complain about the weather. Why do we have to have such extremes? More rain than Noah had to cope with, weather so cold my central heating was on from last September up until about three weeks ago and now this heatwave.

It is nice to see the sun though. Last year we didn't have as many drives out in the countryside as we like to, the prospect of grey cloud all day doesn't put me in the mood for a day out. We did more popping out locally instead, usually to the craft shop followed by the coffee shop. This summer more country time is definitely on the cards.

On Sunday we drove to Maldon and had lunch sitting outside in a lovely sunny little courtyard. I made the effort and completely against my natural inclinations sat in the sun in an effort to top up the vitamin D. My levels were extremely low not long ago and having had mega doses of a supplement for the last few months, I am keen for my levels not to drop like that again. I've also been standing in the sun  when waiting for buses, instead of lurking in the shade of the bus shelter and sitting in the garden for the odd 10 minutes with a book or a cup of tea. I can't stand it for very long, but I am hoping that every little helps.

I'm reading a lot these days. I'm averaging a book every day-and-a-bit at the moment, while it's too hot to do much else. I just finished Perfect by Rachel Joyce, who also wrote the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I also read earlier this year. Both good reads, but I preferred Perfect. It's quite a gentle read, in fact they both are, thoughtful and well observed, and with a touch of sadness about them. This week I also read Blindness by Jose Saramago, a much darker book, which reminded me of Day of the Triffids, although it isn't science fiction. It has barely any paragraphs, and no quotation marks at all, which I found off putting at first but after a few chapters I was fine and it was a really good read, with some food for thought. I've also read Midnight Cactus by Bella Pollen, a book about a woman and her two children making a new life in the Arizona desert amidst political intrigue and a quest for revenge, and After the Fall by Charity Norman, a chilling tale about what really happened the night a five year old boy fell from a balcony. For once, I have enjoyed all the books I've read, and read all of them start to finish - so often I start a book and abandon it after a few chapters, but all of these were really good reads. next up is Going Gray by Anne Kreamer, in preparation for my own upcoming No More Badger Stripe campaign.

I'm not doing so much knitting lately. The Purple Poncho of Avoidance is still lying on the table all pinned together and ready to sew up, I just Don't Want To  Do It. I wonder if my Mum would like to do it for me? (Now lets see if that forces her to leave a comment, I know she reads along!) I have a dishcloth on the needles, and also another head wrap. I'm considering knitting various head wraps and hats in preparation for the above mentioned campaign, as of course there will be the mother and father of all badger stripes going on for several months before I can say goodbye to it for ever.

In other news, my baby boy was 22 yesterday. Once again, I am putting this song here, my favourite song ever about being a Mum and what it means, how I felt 22 years ago and still feel today about being his mother.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

that was the weekend

            :: lazy mornings

          :: time with family

          :: rhubarb and custard pies

          :: driving in the Essex countryside

          :: lunch in a sunny courtyard

          :: Fentiman's lemonade

          :: the Telegraph crossword

          :: a field of sweet peas

weekending with Amanda

Monday, July 08, 2013

this weekend I've been

volunteering: manning (womaning?) the Women's Institute stall at a local summer fair.  I came away with rhubarb and raspberry jam I was very excited about and some lemon drizzle cake. We hopefully recruited some new members too, there were some very enthusiastic ladies there. 

eating: lemon drizzle cake. Rhubarb jam (very disappointing - expensive and I couldn't taste the rhubarb). Strawberries and cream - how else to watch Wimbledon? 

drinking: proper coffee from my cafetiere, with cream. We've only had instant for a while and proper coffee is just so much nicer. A glass of traditional lemonade with ice on a hot day, gorgeous. I must make it myself sometime. 

feeling: tired, but happy. I've been doing more than usual lately, and so far it is making me very tired, hence lots of extra sleep, but its not made me ill so that's an improvement and I hope it continues. 

watching: Andy Murray win the Wimbedon men's final! The first British male to win in shorts, that's how long ago it was that we last won, 77 years! I have to admit to falling asleep in the middle of the match, but I was awake to see the end and to eat the strawberries, those are the important parts! 

enjoying: the sight and smell of the glorious sweet peas I am growing on a wigwam by the front door. I have small vases of them on the mantelpiece and the kitchen windowsill and they smell divine. 

weekending with Amanda 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

£2013 in 2013

A Frugal Wife has been doing a '£2013 in 2013' challenge, and I thought I'd join in. I know I'm coming late to this, as we are already halfway through the year, but I think it's doable and will spur me on with my eBay adventures and might even make me do a boot sale later this year. I might not get to £2013, but it's worth a try.

I have a bit of a head start, as this week I collected together my old gold - broken necklaces, odd earrings, that kind of thing. My parents gave me a few bits as well, and I sent them off to Tesco's gold exchange, hoping for £50 or £60. I was delighted to receive £520!   There's a decent start to my project, then. I also have a bit of money put aside that we've earned through cashback sites, so we've £598.01 to start off with, as you can see in the nifty little widget over there on the right.  I'm hoping this goal will encourage me to have a sort out and start listing things on ebay, which I've been putting off forever. 

I will be counting money made from:

  • Selling my old gold and silver (I have some more gold I don't want that I actually couldn't find. I know, how disorganised am I if I can't find my jewellery?! When it turns up, I'll be selling that too)
  •  Ebay/Amazon sales
  • Cashback sites
  • ironing and cleaning work I'll be doing
  • Anything left in our budget envelopes each month 
  • Money made from the boot sale I might get around to doing!
  • Anything else I can think of

Friday, July 05, 2013

Do or Dye

I have just coloured my hair. I have managed to get splotches of dye on the wall and on my hands and arms as usual, and I don't like the resulting colour of my hair. I don't know if I picked up the wrong box (I couldn't remember what I usually have) or if the formulation has changed but I think it's too dark, and looks flat. I am so fed up with colouring it.

I started going grey in my early twenties, and now, at 45, I believe I am considerably grey, underneath all the layers of dye. I am so grey now it is difficult to cover it all, and last time I paid huge sums of money for the hairdresser to do it, she did a worse job than me. I've been colouring my hair so long I can barely remember my natural shade. I do it every four weeks, and for ten days or so I am happy with it, then the white stripe down my parting appears and gets wider until I colour it again. I hate that and would rather be grey than look like a badger for three weeks out of every four. What's the point? I'm not prepared to colour it every ten days and it's not as if I'm fooling anyone, when the whole world can see the badger stripe more often than not.

I wish I could wave my magic wand and get rid of the hair colour overnight, but I know it's likely to take a year or so to grow it out, and how to deal with the ever-widening white stripe during the process? I have had enough of the mess I always make in the bathroom (and on my skin!), the cost of having it done at the hairdresser, the ever present stripe, the nasty chemicals, not liking the result. I've.  Had. Enough.

I just have to come up with a strategy to see me through the process of growing out the dye. I could cut my hair short, to make the process quicker....I hate my hair short, but it's a possibility. I could wear headbands and hats! That might be the route I go down, I think. Watch this space. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

making laundry liquid

I made laundry liquid yesterday. The kitchen was awash, I managed to burn lumps of soap on the hob, drop a tea towel into the dog's water and break my mini chopper (I knew I was optimistic thinking it would cut up soap, but it cuts up carrots and soap can't be much harder than that, can it? Turns out it is.)

On the plus side, it cost me more or less nothing to make 9 litres or so. For a while I've been saving little ends of soap in a jar, I had just enough to make almost a cupful of grated soap and I used half a cup of washing soda. Boiled it up on the stove with a couple of litres of water, poured it in a bucket with another 8 litres of cold water, decanted it into various containers, et voila. Laundry soap, enough for quite a while. I've hopefully saved more than a new mini chopper is going to cost me. 

One thing I am going to miss is Ecover fabric conditioner, I love the scent of it, but I do know that some white vinegar in the rinsing water does just as good a job of softening the washing, is far cheaper and doesn't leave a smell behind. Once I can source some cheap white vinegar, all my washing will smell of nothing except fresh air from being hung outside on the line. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

this weekend I have been...

What I've not been doing this weekend is taking photos, hence this random one, taken in London a couple of months ago on one of our drives. After I posted it, I realised the words at the side are particularly apt: today I'm making laundry liquid! 

  • Eating: Nectarines. Not really ripe enough yet, but I couldn't resist. There were four in the box - the Prof got one, the Young Philosopher wasn't here, I managed to eat the other three. A chip butty with lots of salt and vinegar. Toast with jam for breakfast. A veggie wrap and crisps from Pret in the car with the Prof on our way out last night. Half a brownie with the Prof, also in the car. I am not sure we ate a proper meal this weekend, that seems like a lot of snack food, oops. 
  • Drinking: full leaded coffee as the decaf has run out. Peach schnapps and lemonade, which I took up to bed with me to read in bed. Woke up this morning and took a swig, thinking it was my usual water. Peach schnapps not so nice first thing in the morning! 
  • Doing: Lying in bed late. Knitting. 
  • Watching: Wimbledon. Not much of a choice, the Prof's a fan - me not so much, but I will summon some enthusiasm (and some strawberries and cream) for the final next week, I expect. 
  • Feeling: Tired, it's been a busy week. This week and next week are too, so I'm crossing my fingers and planning to eat well, get to bed early (and maybe grab an afternoon nap or two) and hope I can manage and I don't get ill. 
  • Going: to the Royal Albert Hall (for the first time. Fantastic venue, what a lovely building) to see Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, I gave the Prof tickets for his birthday in April. The special guest was Marc Almond from Soft Cell, the very last person I would have expected to see singing Jethro Tull songs. Apparently he's a big prog rock fan, who knew? I love Tainted Love, it's always been my theme song with my friends - you know the song you always get up and dance to? Ever since I was thirteen! 
  • Making: Finally sewing the poncho together. It's about time. I still have to knit a border around the neck, another around the hem and make a fringe. I've also been making a dishcloth to send to a friend. I'm feeling the need to cast on something else and I'm not sure what. 
How was your weekend?

Weekending with Amanda