Sunday, 31 January 2016

Barry Potter

We went to a Barry Potter Fair this morning. No, I've not made a mistake and put a B instead of a H, it's definitely Barry. It's a collectible/vintage toy fair that Mark goes to a couple of times a year. I don't usually bother going but I had nothing else to do so I tagged along and we took Thomas as well. 

It's mostly 'boys toys', cars, tanks, trucks, etc. Nothing that I'd be interested in but I thought the walk around was better than sitting at home on my backside. Mark goes because he has an interest in Corgi original cars from the 1960's/70's TV series and films like James Bond, Thunderbirds, Batman etc. They're not easy to come by though and he came away empty handed as we pretty much expected. Thomas however, spied this. He has a hankering for a yacht when he grows up and his eyes it up when he spotted it. We just need to put some batteries in to see what it does.
My Amazon order arrived this afternoon and is much more my thing. I finished The Husband's Secret last night so I'll start Mrs Mile's Diary tonight.
It's been wet and miserable here all day with no let up from the rain at all. I've made the packed lunches and I'm just about to herd Thomas into the shower then get my jim-jams on. I might even pour myself a Baileys to enjoy while I'm watching Call the Midwife. 

And that's January nearly over. Thankfully the days don't seem to have gone as quickly this month as they usually do which might have something to do with Project January.  

I'll have to get my thinking cap on and come up with something productive to do in February that'll make the days last a bit longer. 


Saturday, 30 January 2016

Lego, Cakes and Betty Oops

We had a late night at Number 38 last night. No particular reason, although we did go and see Mum, so by the time we got in and sat down to watch Lucky Man it was 9.30pm. We're very lax with bedtimes at weekend. During the week we all go up together at 10pm which I know sounds shockingly late for Thomas but it means he goes straight to sleep and he's up bright as a button every morning so it must be OK for him. 

Anyway, at 11pm last night I was building lego and it was midnight before we were all heading up the dolly dancers. The knock on effect of a late night means a late morning but with nothing urgent to do and nowhere to go it wasn't a problem. 
Me and Mark are on a little bit of a health kick (and I stress little). We're trying to get out for a walk every day, not always easy with the weather but today we managed to get to the local shops and back before it started to hailstone and sleet.

This afternoon I made orange drizzle cupcakes and some scones. My inspiration for these was the delicious slice of cake I had at Mrs Gaskells house. I did my usual half mixture and had one as a treat with a cup of tea. I was going to set the table but the monopoly board is out again.
My Prima magazine arrived and until I saw the name by the side of the person on the front cover I had no idea who it was. Is it just me or has Sarah Beeny's face changed.
And poor Betty Boop has been in the wars. I was throwing a quilt over the airer and knocked her off the shelf. I could see her wobbling but didn't get to her in time and she ended up on the floor minus her head. Luckily it's a clean break and Mark says he'll be able to glue her back together, but I'm so annoyed with myself.
And that's been my Saturday. Tonight I've booked the TV for Mr Selfridge and we'll probably watch an episode of Spartacus. 

Hope you've all had a lovely day. 


Friday, 29 January 2016

Passionate - I don't think so

I've done loads of housework today, including washing and changing 3 lots of bedding. Luckily after a massive downpour the sun came out this afternoon and it was windy enough to get a couple of loads dried outside. 

I've ordered myself a music theory book off Amazon, as instructed by niece/teacher and also this WW2 diary. I've been looking for something like the Nella Last diaries for a while and having read a couple of pages of this on Amazon's 'Look Inside' I think this will be perfect.
                                     Image result for Mrs Miles diary image This afternoon I had my hair cut, then did a Thomas, (without the moaning) and jumped straight into the shower. Mark was doing the school run and I seriously considered getting into my PJ's but 3pm in the afternoon seemed a bit slobby, even by my standards.

Sadie quite rightly pointed out yesterday that I need to focus on the lycra for Lanzarote so I've sent in the food equivalent of the SAS to combat the vanilla crown that fell into my mouth yesterday; a haddock fishcake and healthy salad. I need to make a bigger salad in future though. Mark and Amy dived into it as well which meant my portion was much smaller than anticipated.
I reckon I burned a few calories last night at dancing. We waltzed around the floor to 3 songs, did the dreaded cha cha cha and also the full Tango sequence. I got all giggly when my leg had to go in between Mark's, although his once uncontrollable desire for me seems to have disappeared as he looked right through me and with great concentration counted his way through the dance. 

Not that I'm bothered really. In all honesty clicky hips, bad backs, aching feet and too much weight means our passionate tango days are well and truly over. I'm happy to settle for growing old together. Notice I didn't use the word gracefully!


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Lots of Nothing

I progressed to A and G in the flute today and thanks to Angel Jem I can now play Merrily we Roll Along. It's a bit breathy and a few notes don't actually materialise, but it's passable for a 3 day old flute player or flautist as us professionals are known!

Today has been a lot of nothing really. It started with shopping where a vanilla crown accidentally fell into my trolley and then into my mouth. I couldn't decide between tulips or more daffodils so I bought both. My hyacinth is coming on slowly but no sign of a flower yet although it looks like it's ready to burst open any minute.
After putting the shopping away I got the jigsaw out. You'd think the gaps would be easy enough to fill but they're not. I did have a good run though and probably did about 50 pieces before I started to go jigsaw blind.
I read some more of The Husband's Secret (I know what his secret is now, but I'm not telling). He wrote a letter to his wife years ago telling her the secret but never handed to her. However, she's found it and reads it. The letter was opened at the end of a chapter and I confess I did the unthinkable and skipped the next 2 chapters to find out what the secret in the letter was. I did go back and read the 2 chapters though. 
I took Thomas for his haircut then dunked him in the shower. He can't abide having his hair cut and isn't that keen on showers either, so I have to brace myself for barber days.

Amy had a dental appointment which was double booked with the barbers so Mark whisked her up there. No fillings, although she did need some sort of protective covering applied.

We had lamb steaks, new potatoes and vegetables for tea and very nice it was too.

And now we're off out dancing. We added a few more steps to the Cha Cha Cha last week. It was like doing an aerobics class with me panting and puffing my way through it. I seriously thought about playing the HA card and sitting it out, but cardio is supposed to be good for me so I persevered with a few 2 minute rests here and there (pretending I'd gone wrong, so I could stop).

I might not stand on Mark's toes tonight as he said my 'Merrily We Roll Along" sounded pretty good. Personally I think he's read my blog and is aware of what's coming. He's been suspiciously full of compliments today which is very unusual for him. 


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Eggs, Choir and 'B'

I blame it on the daffodils. I came over all spring like and bought these today. I didn't do an Easter egg hunt last year, I just assumed Thomas would have outgrown it. But I should have checked. He was really disappointed that he didn't get to run around the house trying to find eggs. It's very hard to judge where the kids are up to sometimes. Too old for a sticker from the dentist but not quite ready to give up the Easter egg hunt. Mind you, Amy joins in as well, so maybe it's something they'll never grow out of. Anyway, this year I will definitely be hiding eggs at Number 38. 
Thomas joined the school choir today. Letters were sent out at the beginning of term for 'auditions' but he didn't want to do that and I don't blame him. Anyway, 2 places are still available which means he doesn't have to do the audition part. I can't remember there being a limit on our school choir, I think it was a case of the more the merrier, but maybe it's to do with transporting them around when they do things out of school. He really enjoyed it and came home with 2 songs to learn, King by Years and Years and Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. Thing have progressed since my days, when Kumbaya and Lord of the Dance reigned supreme. Choir means in future my Wednesday's will be a little longer as I don't need to pick him up until 4pm. 
I've been 'playing' the flute and note 'B' was my lesson of the day along with trying to make a decent noise. Reading music is slowly coming back to me along with the beat of each note. Trust me, there is nothing Groovy about my musical ability at the moment. 
But I shall persevere, least of all to prove to Mark I can do it, whose helpful comments so far have ranged along the lines of "do you want to go in the other room and do that" and "that noise is really painful".

I can see myself accidentally stepping on his toes a few times tomorrow at dancing.  


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

First Daffodils and First Flute Lesson

I went into Middleton this morning for a few bits and a new T-shirt and pumps for Thomas. He went to the swimming gala in his PE kit yesterday and somewhere between going and coming home half his stuff has gone missing. He's relieved the gala is over but said if nobody else will do it next year, he'd put his name down again. But "only if I really have to".

I also bought my first daffodils of the year. I love these flowers. The colour, the smell and the promise of spring and warmer weather around the corner. Even though there's a way to go yet, it's nice to look at them and think "not long now".
Amy is in the middle of her GCSE mocks. This week she has maths, science and geography. She's really knuckling down to it and there are notes pinned all over her bedroom walls. While I was in Wilko I treated her to a few bits. She loves stationery and if you have to revise you might as well do it using nice things.
I've booked the dogs into the kennels, sorted out our travel insurance and made an appointment for Amy to have her eyes tested next Friday. I was talking to her last night and could see her glasses needed cleaning so I did them for her but discovered there are 2 scuff marks across both lenses which could be why she can't see!

I had my first flute lesson and really enjoyed it. It was only for 30 minutes but I managed to learn B, A and G, how to hold the instrument properly and how to 'blow' correctly, although if Mum's face was anything to go by I've still to master this technique. I've been sent home with 3 pieces of music which I'm looking forward to having a go at this week. My niece/teacher is only 12 but she's done her grade 4 exam, is part of a youth orchestra, has loads of patience and plays her flute beautifully, so I'm in good hands. 

Before I went I cooked a chicken, prepared some filling and rustled up a salad for fajitas. I wanted to be able to just walk in, heat something up and tea be on the table sooner rather than later, and this seemed to fit the bill.
Me and Mark went to see Joan tonight. She's looking as well as ever. We just had half an hour with her, there's nothing much conversation wise to be had but she likes it when we put a small pile of sweets on her table. Her little eyes light up and she loves choosing which one to have next. They're all caramels (no idea how she chews them, but she does), so the half dozen we give her pretty much take up the visit.

Right, off to blow a few notes now, (in my dreams). 


Monday, 25 January 2016

Weight, Flute and Gala

There's nothing like a holiday abroad looming on the horizon to make you think about losing a bit of weight, so this morning I jumped on the scales to find out the state of play. I'm 11.6lbs which is the same as when I stopped posting on my weight loss page in July. So although I've not lost anything, at least I'm not starting from scratch. 

We go away in 9 weeks so if I lost 1lb every week I'd be over the moon. But, that's not likely to happen. For whatever reason, (age, tablets, the odd naughty snack), weight is hard to budge these days. So I'm going to aim for 5lbs between now and then. Not lugging the equivalent of a bag of potatoes around with me in the pool seems a good target to aim for. 

I've bought a flute today so I'm now committed to my new hobby. The hardest part is supposed to be getting a noise out of it. Funnily enough I can do that, although it is exactly that - just noise. The continuous blowing is a bit of a problem though. I've decided it'll do wonders for my breathing technique and lung capacity as quite clearly I have neither at the moment. I've texted my niece and my first lesson is tomorrow. 
It was the finals of the swimming gala tonight. Thomas had a practise in the kitchen this morning. We concentrated on arm technique as he walked around! He wore his new trunks and although they didn't make him swim any faster, he was much better than last week. 

Unfortunately, his school came last which was no surprise really. There was a bit of psychological warfare going on this week as well, as the team sat next to them (with their co-ordinated swimming caps, costumes and trunks), kept pulling their tongues out at Thomas' school. 

Thomas' old school didn't make it to the final so they weren't there, but remember how I wanted to push his teacher in last week? Well this week I'd have cheerfully pushed the teacher of the tongue pulling children in.... and held her under!

Maybe it's best Thomas isn't into sports or competitions. It seems to bring the worst out in me. 


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Somewhere Sunny

Mark is cold and I quote "in desperate need of sun" (he's such a drama queen), so a holiday abroad is on the agenda. Not one of our month long driving ones though. Amy and Thomas don't like being away for that long any more and as much as I love the travelling, I get homesick as well. So this morning we booked a one week package to sunnier climes in the Easter Holidays. Amy and myself are very nervous about the flying part and we seriously considered just sending the boys, but we've dug deep into our courage reserves and have decided we are going with them.
I nipped into Middleton today for a card for my nephew's 18th and picked up a new make-up bag and a jar of 'posh' coffee. It was actually the cheapest branded one on the shelf by a couple of quid which will no doubt make it taste even nicer.
I also spied these, so cannelloni will be on the menu this week. I expect they've been on the shelves for years, but I've never seen them before. 
We debated going out but couldn't decide where to head to so ended up at Sainsburys buying new swimming trunks for Thomas (I didn't realise how much he'd grown until I saw him at the gala last week), and cakes to go with the posh coffee. I cut my slice of carrot and walnut in half but after this weekend I will be watching what I eat. 
Easter is very early this year and swimming costumes only have so much stretch in them. 


Friday, 22 January 2016

Nothing to Do

It's been so quiet here today. It's a very long time since there's literally been nothing to do. Even the ironing pile only had 5 school shirts in it.

The most exciting things that happened were my National Trust book came. Hoping to get to Avebury at some point this year.
And we went to see Mum who'd made a tin of flapjacks for us, which are delicious.
I booked a hair appointment for next Wednesday and made a lamb casserole for tea.

Amy is out having pizza with her friend, Thomas is on his Wii U, Mark is getting ready to watch Lucky Man and I'm not sure whether to have a soak, read a book or get the jigsaw on the table.

Choices, choices!


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Dentist, Hyacinths, Flute and Plain Cruel

Thomas had a filling today. I booked an early appointment, I couldn't bear the thought of him sat at school all day worrying about it. I wasn't sure how he'd be but we went prepared with headphones and music. I've been going to her for years and she's known Amy and Thomas since they were born. She's firm but kind and won't do anything the children aren't happy with. That's not to say she isn't able to make an objective judgement on whether they're just playing me up or not! 

Anyway, Thomas was brilliant. He jumped into the chair and after a couple of squirms while the injection was being administered, simply lay there with his headphones on for the 20 minutes it took to do the job. I was so proud of him. Afterwards, when I asked him what he'd listened to he said "nothing, I forgot to turn it on and I didn't want to move". Bless him. At least the headphones worked in drowning out all the noise ....and her! Every time she spoke to him he completely ignored her! 

He declared himself too old for a sticker, so came away with a small tube of toothpaste in each pocket instead and another life experience under his belt.

On the way home we went to Lidl for the weekly shop. He never comes shopping and really enjoys it when he does. They had hyacinths this week so these went into the trolley along with a bunch of pink tulips.
Back home, Mark offered to make me a sandwich for lunch. If I'd known he was going to produce this I'd have said yes. The man most certainly can, when he wants to.
I'm in the process of researching flutes. One of the things on my 2016 list is to learn how to play an instrument. I can read music at a basic level from my school days of recorder club, organ lessons and dabbling in the violin, guitar and cello so that will help. I've always fancied having a go at the flute and the added bonus is my niece plays it and will give me a few lessons. 

Thomas has just shown me a youtube clip of a little boy who accidentally walked out of a restaurant with a cup. His mother is telling him she's phoning the police and he's going to jail. The poor child is hysterical. I really don't get this craze of upsetting your children so you can post their reaction for strangers to laugh at. In fact, I think it's cruel. Is it just me that doesn't see the funny side or am I being over-sensitive?


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Mrs Gaskell's House

Today we visited Mrs Gaskell's home. The house was built between 1835-1841 and Elizabeth lived here with her husband and 4 daughters from 1850 until 1865, when she died. Her first child, a daughter, was stillborn and her only son died when he was a baby. It was after her little boy's death that her husband encouraged her to write her first book 'Mary Barton'.

I'm glad somebody fought hard to preserve this house. So many of these buildings have been knocked down in Manchester or left to go to ruin over the years. I think we need to hold on to as many as we can now. 

Elizabeth was born in 1810 and in 1832 married William, a Unitarian Minister. This is her wedding veil, a jacket and one of her shawls.
The whole family were very involved in Manchester's way of life, especially charitable causes and in particular education for children. They would often bring children to their home to teach them reading and writing in this room.
And the house was always full of visitors including the famous Charles Dickens, Charles Halle and Charlotte Bronte. When Charlotte died Elizabeth wrote a posthumous biography of her life, although she had to 'tone it down' to avoid legal action from several persons connected to Charlotte. 

William and Elizabeth were very happy together but they often followed their own interests. While William didn't care for travel abroad, preferring Wales and the Lake District, Elizabeth enjoyed her overseas jaunts and would take the children and her trusted maid and friend, Ann Hearn, away with her. The paper on the left is her passport and the book is the equivalent of today's Hitchhiker's Guide books.
The dining room was set out beautifully and although the dinner service and cruet set didn't belong the family, they are from the era and are the coalport design. 
Elizabeth liked to write in the middle of the hustle and bustle of family life. There was no shutting herself in a room on her own for hours on end. Her writing desk was at one end of the dining room, overlooking the gardens. Next door was the drawing room where the family would gather, visitors would be entertained and her daughters would take piano lessons. Solitude was something she definitely didn't crave.

It's amazing to think that novels used to be handwritten with ink, quill and paper. No computer, no spell check, no copies made, no back up facility. Quite unimaginable these days.
I do love a winding staircase. Sadly, apart from one room full of information boards, the rest of the upper level has been given over to rooms that are rented out as meeting rooms, offices, community clubs etc. 
Which is a shame, because I would have liked to have seen one bedroom set up and all the closed doors marked Private/Staff/Meeting Room were a bit of a disappointment. Never mind, like everywhere these days, money has to be made and if this goes towards keeping the house open, so be it.
Next we made our way below stairs to the cafe. 
Nothing fancy on offer in here, just tea, coffee and cakes, but all presented on beautiful dainty china plates. The plates are so much smaller than anything we use these days, which makes me think maybe that's the problem with regard to portion control. This slice of cake would look measly on my side plates, yet on this plate it looked, and was more than adequate.
There was also a bookshelf in the cafe with second hand books for sale along with Elizabeth Gaskell's works. I bought this, excerpts taken from letters and novels  she wrote.
There were a few of Elizabeth's quotes dotted around the house that seem as relevant today as they were over 150 years ago. 
Although she had an eloquent way of describing the more mundane tasks. Me and Mum couldn't stop laughing when I said "it sounds so much better than 'I've just shoved a load in the machine'".
Then it was home and back to the 21st Century. And because Number 38 doesn't have a set of these in the house, or more importantly, the staff to go with them, it was down to me to shove a load in, hoover and prepare our meal.
There's something to be said for being the lady of the house in the old days.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Christmas Money and Presents

I went to the Fort today for a Wii U game Thomas wanted to buy with his Christmas money. They didn't have one in Game so I popped into Asda. No luck there either but I did spy these. I saw them a couple of weeks ago but being tight, the reduction of £1 wasn't enough for me to open my purse, especially as they'll only be used at Christmas. Today they were on the shelf for 50p each, so I bought 4 of them. 
Luckily Argos had the game, although I couldn't pay at the 'quick pay point' as there was an age limit on it, which seemed a bit strange considering it's all cartoon characters. Anyway I duly queued up and queried it, to be told "yes, you've got to be 3 years + to buy it"! 

Right have to go, Thomas is singing a song to me and is getting irritated because I'm not giving him my full attention. 

We're of to visit Mrs Gaskell tomorrow. Looking forward to that. 


Monday, 18 January 2016

Swan Lake and Swimming Gala

I made it to the ballet and it was fabulous. The costumes were lovely and the orchestra definitely added to the drama of it all. 

The swans were mesmerising and I could have watched them dance all night. The ballerinas were so graceful and light on their feet, even as a big group you could barely hear them. And the men, well what can I say. White tights and lovely bottoms, that I admit I couldn't take my eyes off. What more could a middle aged woman ask for. 

Sadly, no opportunities for photos, we weren't even allowed to take the drinks we bought from the bar into the theatre, so I had to neck my pre-show G&T pretty sharpish.

All in all, it was a lovely evening and even though I got the shivers at the interval and the beginnings of a headache, nothing could detract from how wonderful the whole night was.

Today I'm feeling 99% back to normal. Mark made me a smoothie of mixed berries, mango and a spoonful of vanilla yoghurt, which seemed a good healthy way to start the day. 
My Avon delivery came. I ordered a diffuser and a small bottle of perfume to keep in my handbag. Not that I'll remember it's in there. Might be best if I just put it on the bedside cabinet.
I've started The Husband's Secret and I'm also getting on with the jigsaw. Thanks to Rachel at Eternally 28 I know the names of these birds now. And Sue's post today over at Our Quiet Life in Suffolk reminded me that at the weekend Amy, who has really bad eyesight, was looking out of the window and asked me what bird had a really bushy tail. It was a squirrel!
My treat of the day was a coffee and walnut cake with a cup of tea while watching Call The Midwife, which I thought was an excellent episode. 
It was Thomas' swimming gala tonight. No photo opportunities there either I'm afraid. He'd been chosen to do breast stroke which isn't his best swimming style, made obvious by him only being half way up the pool when everybody else had finished. He persevered like a true champ though and got there in the end. 

He wasn't the worst swimmer but I was amazed at how good some of the children were. It's obvious some of them go to clubs, so you had the equivalent of 'Team GB' vs. 'I can just about swim a length without drowning'. It was all good fun though. 

He fared much better in the freestyle relay where he did the crawl but to his dismay his school got through to the next round and he has to go again next week. He thought it was a one off which is why he agreed to do it. 

So, this weekend we are definitely in training at the pool. The only plus side I see to this is a long soak in the bath Friday evening so I can shave my legs. 


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Dying Swan

I wasn't too good again last night and spent most of it tossing and turning in bed shivering but red hot. 

I dragged myself out of bed this morning but had to go back after 10 minutes and slept through until 3pm.

Of course this would happen on the day I'm going to the ballet but thankfully, although I feel a bit like a dying swan myself, I think I'm on the up now.


Saturday, 16 January 2016

Little buns in the oven

Just in case you thought I was going mad, here's a photo of the flower I took last night, which has turned blue.
I'm feeling much better today but Mark has spent most of the day in bed, emerging every now and then to ask for a drink and to tell me he thinks he's dying! 

Mum stayed away as she doesn't want to catch the lurgy, Amy has been into Manchester with friends and Thomas has been doing his own thing, so it's been a quiet sort of day.

I finished reading Forgiven which was really interesting. I'm not sure I could forgive somebody who murdered my child or in one family's case 2 children. But it does make you question that even though it's the harder thing to do, in the long run is it better for your own sanity and inner peace. I hope I never have to find out. I haven't decided which book will be next but I have this pile to choose from.
I made cakes today, plain vanilla sponge and coffee and walnut. With time on my hands I had a bit of a faff around so we have a choice. Anyway, these are my buns in the oven.
But this little bun in the oven is much more exciting. Matthew text this to us; little baby F in the making. This is the first scan and everything is fine. Another 6 months of cooking and he/she will be perfect.