Saturday, 30 July 2011

"You Like Me.....You Really Like Me!!!!!"

So, whilst I was away I was given four awards by my lovely friends Wendy and first recognition!

and two lots of this one!

Am I not the luckiest gal? Now I have to give you twelve obscure facts about me - that's seven for the 'One Lovely Blog Award' and five for the others. Hmmm. Let's see.

I was the drummer with an all-girl punk bank (the only one in Dublin at the time) whilst still at school. The nuns loved that! I started by practicing with two rulers and a bucket then the other three punkettes bought a drum kit - they'd left school by then. The cows threw me out of the band when I became a skinhead. I had shocking pink hair, then black with a white streak down the centre, just like a skunk....I had a #3 at the time.

I had a weekend job in a barber's shop when I was still at school (nothing as mainstream as hairdressing salon for THIS rebel lol!!) so I have always cut hair for the men of the house. Big Man doesn't have masses left so he's a quick run over with the clippers but both Mr Charming and Carb Addict have fauxhawks.

This isn't either of my sons btw, it's just in case you don't know what a fauxhawk is...

I know how to communicate using Makaton. This is a combination of signing similar to BSL, and symbols and is very useful for people who have little or no speech. I first started using it as a way of communicating with Carb Addict though he has no interest in it whatsoever.

I own and have read many times every Agatha Christie book. David Suchet and Joan Hickson are my ideal Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple though I also love the films of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov.

I love films about the Mafia and I also watch The Shawshank Redemption every time it's on.

My favourite film ever is The Mummy. The rest of the family laugh at me whenever I watch it, saying 'do you remember the time we went on holiday to Egypt and you expected the inside of the pyramid to be like it was when Rick and Evie went in one?'

Doesn't everybody book holidays based on what they've seen in a film then??

My only claim to sporting fame is winning the egg and spoon race at the Sports Day in the last year of junior school. All race winners went on to compete against winners from other local schools to find overall champions in each event but sadly my folks had decided to move us to Ireland (again!) so I never got my big chance to shine....I went to 13 different schools in England and Ireland.

I understand French, Spanish, German and Polish better than I speak them. But my Polish is getting better every day, thanks to my lovely colleagues Staś and Kasia. Also I can sing two songs and count to 10 in Irish, which will be useful if I ever find myself forced to take part in Riverdance.

I did a tandem parachute jump to raise funds for the Hampshire Autistic Society a couple of years ago and it was the most exhilirating experience of my life. The following year I entered the Great South Run, again to raise funds for HAS, and it was ghastly. That's all I'm saying.

I was once thrown off a horse into a massive patch of nettles but it didn't put me off horse riding!

I met Prince Charles when he came to open the new head office of B&Q where I was working as an accountant. Driving home afterwards a lit cigarette end that I was trying to throw out of the car window blew back and set my new, specially bought skirt on fire. Nobody mentions things like that when they talk about the dangers of smoking, do they? 

I have to pass these awards on now so I've picked some blogs I think are entertaining. Feel free to accept one, all or none, if you so desire - I realise these are not up everyone's street, so I understand if you decline. Either way it is an opportunity for me to say how great you folks are and how much I love reading your blogs. 

My charity shop swap partner, the funny and clever Lucy at Being Of Sound Mind
The supemely talented Viv at Hen's Teeth because I love the way her post titles are always song lyrics
Lisa at Jumble and Jelly - her blog is so positive and enthusiastic
Elsie at The Kitsch and the Curious...I totally covet her collections and stufs
The admirable Alex at Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks. I'll be going to her for a list of Liverpool 'must-sees' next month!
I'm not sure Jane at Rattlebox will approve but that's too bad!
Liz at Shortbread and Ginger  always has something interesting to say

Thanks again Louise and Wendy!!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

O mój Boże!

Dobry wieczór! (that's good evening) -

I've been away for a while and I'm very flattered to have been given awards by Louise at The Princess Prudence Diaries, and Wendy at The Butterfly Balcony during my absence. Thanks guys! I'll give you a few obscure factoids about me tomorrow, as well as an update into what's been going on chez Keshling. But for tonight...well, my lovely colleague Staś came over and the jollities were helped along with quite a lot of Żubrówka. Mmmm mmmm mmmmm. Anyway, I have work at 08:00 so I'm gonna love you and leave you. As they don't say in Poland ;P

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The One With The Bitten Face

I always feel a mixture of sadness and relief when Babcia goes home after a visit - sadness, obviously because she's my mum, I don't see her very often, and she lives a long way away (in our malignant Northern hometown as you know). But relief because she and I usually end up spending more than we should when we're together and neither of us can really afford it. Well naturally....she's a pensioner and I'm trying very hard to live a frugal life. We had a great visit though - lots of chat, lots of laughs, LOTS of charity shopping (which I'll show you next time); Mr Charming is home from uni, Red came back from London specially to see her babcia and Carb Addict had the weekend here. Big Man spent rather a lot of time in his room to escape the yacking from all of us. It's so nice to have three generations together but such a shame it doesn't happen very often :(
Anyway, Babcia made it home without any trouble this time, which is always good bearing in mind the palaver last time...

So, now we have one day before the house is full of children once again. Carb Addict is home for the weekend tomorrow and on Saturday we have hired a van to collect Red and all her worldly goods from Lewisham then bring her back here. Her plan is to stay at home for 'a month or so', get some work and make some money, then return to London and a new flat (that she hasn't attempted to look for, btw) and hopefully get a job working with people with autism. I'm hoping against hope that it all works out but I have a feeling that things may not go entirely to plan, as they have a habit of doing in this household. Mr Charming of course is already home and is also threatening to get a job since he is down to his last £100. And there was me fretting about having an empty nest - they're never off the doorstep.....!

So although there is lots to blog about I'm gonna make this a short one because I am at work at 8:00 tomorrow - extra hours to try and replenish the coffers. It's a pity I have to go out at all though because not only has some sort of insect bitten me on the face, leaving me with two hideous, hard blistery things near my lip (which are getting worse with every passing day), but when I woke up this morning I had a golfball-sized sore lump in my neck. And indeed still have. My lovely nurse colleague Kasia had a feel, asked if it was painful and when I said that it is, said 'is okay, is nothing. But see doctor'. And luckily the doctor agreed! An infected saliva gland in case you're interested. Or possibly a stone in it. We shall see. Apparently lots of gland lumps and swellings are due to being run down or to stress.
Now why would I be stressed?!

Monday, 11 July 2011

What A Load Of Rubbish!

Unless you live on the stretch of the South Coast covered by 'South Today' you won't be aware that here in Southampton the dustmen have been on strike for weeks. Last Friday's local paper told us that the union covering dustmen has a 'war chest' of twenty million pounds, enabling the strike to carry on indefinitely. The strange thing is, the paper says that there will be another strike starting, as if they go back to work then stop again, but we haven't had our regular bins emptied for about six weeks now. The recycling bins were emptied maybe three weeks ago but who cares about that? We need the general, stinky rubbish clearing. The street cleaners are also on strike and it's beginning to get pretty ropey around here.

 Southampton city centre

We are finding it reasonably difficult even though we have four bins, two general and two recycling. We didn't buy extra bins but we live on a main road and years ago we came down one Sunday morning to find, first a wheelie bin in the front garden followed by a recycling bin on top of the car a few months later. We assumed drunks'd pushed them from outside houses further up the road and abandoned them at ours - what larks! Obviously we kept them and it's a jolly good job we did too! But if it's getting bad for us it must be worse for people who don't have a waste disposal system. When we had our new kitchen put in years ago we'd just come back from a villa in Florida and I insisted on having a 'garbage gobbler'. Thank goodness I did - all the food waste goes straight down the drain. Even so we have (or did have until this evening when Big Man, Mr Charming and Carb Addict burned them in the brazier) four black sacks full of rubbish too. It was warm today, they were getting smelly, there's MILLIONS of fat, lazy flies around.......what can I say, I live with pyromaniacs. And the smell from the fire was so foul that I'm surprised nobody called the police.

Student ghetto!!!

There's a student enclave near us and each year when they move out of their rented houses they tend to throw incredible amounts of 'stuff' utensils, clothing, bits of furniture, unopened packets of food...must be £000's of stuff. The universities set up a scheme a couple years back where the students could leave anything decent and reusuable outside their houses on a particular day at the end of term and it would get collected - it's still ongoing  - but it's always a mess at this time of year. Now it's just dreadful! Walking through there the other day I could see bags of unopened pasta, noodles, crackers; a pair of practically unused Ugg boots; a TV - I was so tempted to scrag some items but oh, the indignity of being seen and labelled as a middle-aged pikey deterred me. It's a throwaway society we live in and no mistake.

More student house trash round the corner from me :(

It really shows what dirty, lazy pigs people can be when you see the city centre littered with McDonalds' bags and wrappers, empty pop bottles and bits of paper - did their parents never tell them not to be a litterbug? I always made sure my kids used a rubbish bin and even Carb Addict, my special boy knows to put his rubbish in a bin, or failing that his pocket until he gets home. I think McDonalds should have staff out on the streets picking up their litter, if nobody else's. In fact I think all businesses should be responsible for sweeping and tidying outside their own establishment as a matter of course, not just when there's a strike on. Isn't that what they do in other countries?

Across the road from me...yuk

We have lost all civic pride in this country!!!!!
Here endeth the rant.

PS  I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be able to do from today because I'm having a visitor for a week, one who talks even more than I do AND expects me to answer. Yes, Babcia is coming to visit.

If she doesn't miss the coach, obviously.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

May/June SitRep

I didn't give you a sitrep of our finances in May and it's kinda late for June too but since this is supposed to be a journey of frugality as much as my bitching, moaning and drama-queening it I decided better late than never. And also, y'know.....I'm pretty proud of what we've achieved. Well, I say we.....if you're a regular reader you'll know that Big Man's input is minimal to say the least. Such is life.

Anyway....(drum roll).....up to the end of June we have reduced our debts by.......


We have gone from owing £45,766 to £37,094. I'm obviously really, really pleased about it, especially when you consider that we both only work part-time and don't earn massive salaries AND it's really been a one-person effort. If I say so myself.
So, one small business credit card was cleared totally in June and that can be snowballed. I got a 0% interest credit card from the Nationwide and balance transferred Big Man's smallest credit card onto it - sadly I couldn't transfer the whole £4.5k because I was only given a £1800 limit (I said I don't earn much, didn't I?) but we'll pay the existing £2k off the credit card in maybe four months whilst paying the minimum on the Nationwide card. Then pay that off. We threw everything we had at the MBNA card but it's going down sooooo slowly because of the very high interest rate. I got a couple pay cheques that were bigger than usual in May and June due to working some overtime but we didn't make any extra income so I've got to knuckle down to my eBaying this month to try and give us a boost.
We spent a bit more than usual last month, mainly from our little emergency fund but I also had to dig into my Lloyds overdraft again. Again if you're a regular reader you'll know that Red has been having trouble with her rent...long story but she and three other housemates paid a fifth housemate their rent for the month and said fifth housemate has taken it, made up a whole load of lies and as guarantor I became liable for £680 in rent which I paid from our 'cushion'. Plus I'd already sent her £340, one month's rent to pay the landlord which I should get back from her since I've now paid it myself. However I have my reasons for thinking Red is in further financial difficulty so I'm not going to ask her for it back. Yep, before anyone says, she should stand on her own feet but I decided long ago that I would never stand by and see any of my kids fail IF I COULD HELP IT. And I can, in this instance. End of.

We also spent £100 or so on our Welsh trip and I have booked a short jaunt to Liverpool in September for Big Man's birthday. Only a cheapie Travelodge but as a base they're really good - I think I've paid £38 for two nights. We also ate out at Frankie and Benny's one night....all three kids were home at the same time and I wanted to do something special so we went there. Oh, and we had a Chinese takeaway delivered. We won't be doing anything like that this month though, we'll be very frugal :)

I hope we will reach the £12,000 paid off by the end of this year but more would be great!!!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Photo Scavenger Hunt June 2011

This isn't a very good start is it? The first month of taking part in the hunt and I'm five  days late with the photos. Oh they are:

Wheel trim toys of some description....whatever happened to Hot Wheels?

Tree branches near the river walk

Farm-fresh Welsh lamb...

Fantastic statue at Aberystwyth. I haven't done it justice :( but it IS architectural...

Sweet wooden elephant from my printers' tray

My messy cutlery drawer

Night over the caravan park

Something with the name of my city on it

A bit of a cheat....zucchini!!

This toadstool ring is outside the back doors at work

My granny had this set in her house when I was a girl. I bought them all for 30p at a charity shop in Wales

Delicious cheese from the Snowdonia Cheese Company. Nom nom nom

I'm not on the case for July yet but I have the list in my purse. Hopefully I won't be putting them up as late as the 5 August! I enjoyed doing this....good fun!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Why We Celebrate July 4th

Nine years ago Big Man was an artificer instructor at HMS Sultan, which is a MOD establishment for mechanical engineers. He had been tasked with taking a handful of young trainees on an Outward Bound kind of course in the Brecon Beacons, lasting from Monday to Friday. The plan was that Big Man would take turns driving the mini-bus and leading the younger guys up mountains, and they would stay at a Youth Hostel place. He set off first thing on the Monday morning - not very willingly - though obviously I was happy at the thought of having the bed to myself for four nights. No change there then. I remember that we hadn't been listening to Radio 2 for very long at that stage and that I sent an email to Ken Bruce, asking him to say 'good luck to my husband and his boys, who were trekking up some Welsh mountains'. Big Man heard that because he rang me when they reached Brecon and said how surprised they all were, and how they'd taken the mickey out of him. He rang home every evening and said that it was hard going and that he was looking forward to getting home.

On the Thursday, July 4, I got home from work and the phone rang about 6pm. A distraught voice I hardly recognised gasped 'It's me....I'm at Abergavenny Hospital....they're saying I've had a heart attack'.

How do you react to that?

In my case, very badly, and I'll be ashamed of myself forever. I wouldn't accept it, wouldn't believe it - I insisted that the doctors were wrong. I was awful to Big Man for so many reasons. Plus I blamed myself for jinxing him by getting Ken Bruce to read my good luck message out. All I could think about was myself...MY loss of lifestyle; MY loss of a healthy husband; MY loss of the Navy 'family'. Not a thought for my hard-working, strong, dependable husband - fit, strong and only 36 years old. It was a very dark period for us and one that I don't think I can ever completely atone for.

My Big Man hasn't really recovered physically. He's lost confidence in his own strength and is aware of his body's fallibility every day.
He's not recovered mentally. He has only just finished three years of therapy (it's a measure of how far he's come that we were able to drive past Abergavenny Hospital when we went to Wales last month), and his image of himself as provider, protector and mainstay of his family has taken a real beating.
He had to leave his job in the Navy which was all he'd ever done and which he truly loved, because he wasn't ever going to be able to go back to sea again.
He, and we have had to change our lives totally. A heart attack doesn't just affect the affects everyone around them too. But we survived...HE survived.

And every year on the 4th of July we celebrate that.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Sweet Peas, Buttons and Charity Shops

Well hello friends. Thank you to Jane and Louise who tried to help with my two (of many, many) problems. Jane - I fear my sweet peas might be past the pinching out stage. What say you?

Some of the stalks are pretty thick - I'll know next year I guess, and what I do have smell divine. Louise - I think I'm going to have to wait until I get the new Blogger dashboard. Mine is old-stylee. I'm sure there must be some way of adding the HTML code but I'll wait and do it the dork-friendly way!

I got a couple nice useful bits from a charity shop in the city centre on Wednesday. I try to buy things I can make a profit on or that I know I'll use. Having said that I've bought lots of stuff for Red and Mr Charming in the past that I thought would be great for them, only to find it thrown in a corner of their respective rooms. I won't do it any more now.....hope I've learned my lesson. So anyway, I'll show you what I bought.

Two rolls of Spiderman wrapping paper for 99p and two rolls of Cat in the Hat wrapping paper, also 99p. My nephew Little Baby Jack loves Spiderman whilst Carb Addict likes the Cat. The rolls are nearly 3' wide and are 5' long so I thought they were a good buy. Then I got something to use when baking.

It's a volume measure, for dry goods. At the risk of telling you all what you already know, rather than weighing flour, sugar, rice or whatever out you just pour it into this cup, which has handy 'weight' measures for a variety of different stuffs. Does that make sense? I should've photographed the inside to make it really clear. I have a lot of baking to do this weekend so it will be getting  some use. It's brand new and I paid £1.99. We are celebrating July 4 at work so I am making brownies, cupcakes, scones, apple tart, lemon meringue pie and muffins (yep, I know.....I try too hard). I also found a recipe for Red Velvet Cheesecake that sounds delish so I'm going to make that too. Nom nom nom. Then I bought this Jenga knock-off for £1.99.

I bought it for the old people I work with. Their current favourite is Connect Four but I thought they might like this, and I'll get reimbursed for it so it's all good. Finally I spotted this and paid £2.99. It's also brand new, originally from Lakeland. I have bought a couple of these in the past for Babcia - usually Brown Bag Cookie Molds  - so I picked this up for her Christmas stocking.

 What do you think of my buys? I also bought something yesterday for my swap partner's parcel but I'm not going to post that in case she sees it. Did anybody else find that they have bought things for Lakota's swap then keep seeing things that you thing your swap buddy might like more? I've been doing that for a month so far....  :(  I suppose I'll be happy with what I've got at some stage.

Plenty of other stuff has been happening but I'll save it for a couple more posts. It looks like Red's landlord problems have been somewhat sorted out but it has cost us the best part of £700 and I'm a bit gutted to be honest. Our emergency cushion has been severely deflated but....o well, that's what parents are for, right?

As well as my baking sesh I am hoping to go car booting on Sunday before I go into work - don't usually do Sundays but I've arranged a little party for the tennis finals and I need to go and supervise the strawberries and cream. Though whether the residents'll be interested now Murray is out is debatable!

What are your plans for the weekend?