Sunday, 27 December 2015

Merry Christmas

What a lovely relaxing Christmas we've had here.  I think the children had their best year yet for great presents, Adam in particular was thrilled with his stop motion camera and ten kilos of plasticine (I am not joking) and has already made three or four videos.

I bought Mr G a table. Before I'm chastised for being a crap wife, he fell in love with it. It's solid oak, and my friend H had done it up to sell. I bought it secretly and he was thrilled. Unfortunately, my odd shaped house had nowhere to put it, even 'just until', so we had to take the tree down on Christmas Eve. Our presents were then put under the table (you can't make this up).

Although if you believed Mr G, this is what he had for Christmas...

Yes. Coal and a tangerine. He's only short of a hoop and a stick. Bless him.  I had a Up wristband which is fab!  I found out that a) I'm fat and b) that I am a really light sleeper for most of the night.  No wonder I'm always tired and cranky.  

On Christmas Eve I had three nice surprises, I woke up to find £25 in my lottery account and a free lucky dip. I was tweeted by Harvey Nicks who told me that my #giftface had won me a treat (this being a toss up between the epilator and the portrait of Mr G I received from him on our first Christmas together) and a member of their team would be in touch with me next week!  I can't wait to see what it is, I don't know if it's big or small, but either way!  Then, as they come in threes, I won £5 Amazon voucher from Tengi, a chat app that I use now that I don't have access to Messenger.  

Christmas dinner was fab, as usual, and it was nice to have Dan home with us this year...

Boxing Day is when we traditionally go to my Mum's for a buffet.  The weather was atrocious, Mr G had popped to Pringles to buy some heavily reduced Old Guys Rule t shirts with his Christmas money. Then, he popped to PC World to get Cait a nano sim for her phone. A55 closed, Caernarfon Road flooded, he lost his number plate in the flood waters.  Thankfully he got through it and home.  My parents back yard was about four inches deep with rain water.  

This morning I'm torn between relaxing (properly relaxing too!) for the first time this Christmas. I'm talking onesie, slippers, junk food, reading books to reach my 100 book Goodreads Challenge.  And cleaning.  Because my house is wrecked.  More 'stuff' added to a house without room for the stuff it already has.  I have guests staying from New Years Eve.  But I am wiped out after the last two days... Chilling it is!  

Friday, 18 December 2015

Recipe - Walnut Falafel with Tzatziki and Mr G Bakes a Cake!

Well, it's 'Mad Friday'.  My least favourite Friday of the year, promptly followed by 'Black' and 'the thirteenth'.  The only thing 'mad' around here however, is me.  And the craziest thing that I did today was make falafel  #hardcore  However, unlike me, the night is still young.  I hope my son and his friends stay safe and sensible tonight while they're out... doing what young people do nowadays.  The less I know the better.

The children finished school today, as did Dan at Uni, but he's staying at his Halls tonight, which is better for him than having to pay for a taxi home.  We'll pick him up tomorrow with all his worldly belongings.  It will be nice to have him back home for a bit, although he will be going to see his father just after Christmas too so I'll only have him for about a week. The house looks all cosy and festive.  And... tidy.  For the last time until January *sad face*

Walnut Falafel with homemade Tzatziki

For the Falafel:
2 cups of walnuts (I used chopped)
2 tins of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or equivalent amount, cooked
2 tsp of minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
Black pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

For the Tzatziki
1 cup fat free Natural Yogurt
½ cup cucumber, peeled and shredded
¼ cup celery, shredded
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Whisk together all Tzatziki sauce ingredients until smooth.

Process all falafel ingredients, except for the oil, in a food processor until well mixed.

Like so...

Form 24 balls or patties out of the mixture, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Fry in a large frying pan for 3 - 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Alternatively, these may also be brushed with a little oil and baked in the oven, 200C, Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes.

If frying, take care as the mixture will spit.  I fried half the mixture and baked the rest, as I didn't fancy spending Mad Friday in the hospital.

Serve on flatbreads, wraps or naan bread.  Top with the tzatziki sauce, salad and chopped walnuts (optional). 

Then Mr G made a cake.  The only thing I was allowed to do was give him was the recipe and then supervise.  So, from start to finish, it is his cake.  It looks and tastes fabulous!  Only the second cake he's ever made in his life, and he's nearly 54, so he's done really well. 

Mr G's Festive Victoria Sponge

Doesn't that look gorgeous?  I think so anyway.  This is something I could definitely get used to.  So, now that we're all cooked out (for today anyway!) I've made myself a White Russian cocktail and I've settled down for the night.  See if there's anything funny on telly, and have a think about what I'm going to cook tomorrow :-)  Possibly some nice Scotch Eggs, a Carrot Cake for Ryan and I might do some mini cheesecakes in a muffin tin, so I can just pop them in the freezer and take them out when we want one.  The children aren't huge cheesecake lovers, so this way it doesn't mean that Mr G and I end up eating the whole thing to ourselves!  Definitely feeling a bit more relaxed and festive now that almost everything is sorted for Christmas :-)

Monday, 14 December 2015


The tree is up.  The little knick knacks are interspersed around the house, the windows are lit up.  All the presents are wrapped.  The cards are hanging.  The freezer is full.  And I feel very, very meh about the whole thing.  Anyone else?

I always maintain that I love Christmas, but year on year now, I find that I am trying desperately to recapture a feeling of days gone by.  And with each passing year, it seems to elude me further.  Everyone says 'There's no Christmas spirit' or 'It doesn't feel like Christmas, does it?'.  No, it doesn't.  I'm now beginning to wonder that if it's something that you don't feel as a parent and an adult?  When we were children, the most we had to worry about was writing our Christmas cards and not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve.  We woke up, we were gifted presents, had a meal cooked for us, and were able to play all day with our new things.  Now, the stress starts early.  Children expect so much these days, and my children aren't anywhere near as bad as a lot of children I know.  One mother of four told me that her daughter wanted an iPhone and an iPod.  She's nine, by the way.  What the actual hell?  It's not so bad now that three of mine are in the loop and know there's a budget, but when a certain child thinks that the cost of gifts is funded by a fat man in a red suit, well, why shouldn't the sky be the limit?  Do you shatter their dreams early, or get into debt to keep the magic going for them a little while longer?

We've just had a £610 all in car repair bill to pay out too, so that hasn't helped my mood.  If it's got tyres or testicles, as they say.

Adam performed in his Christmas Concert last week, this year the Junior Department did Oliver, and it was fantastic as usual.  Adam narrated a part of the play, and he really surprised me.  For a child who is constantly worried and stressing over the smallest, insignificant things, he was so confident up on stage.  He blew me away.  Bless him.  Next year will be his last Christmas Concert.  My last Christmas Concert.  After seeing four children through sixteen years worth concerts thus far.  It's quite frightening how time flies.

Mr G and I are off Christmas Window Shopping on Wednesday.  We're not sure if we're going to Llandudno or Wrexham yet.  He likes Llandudno at Christmastime, I think the shops are better in Wrexham.  Not that we have any money to spend wherever we go, but still.  There's a shop in Wrexham that sells a wonderful variety of wool colours.  I've found a chart for a jumper I want to knit, The Amazing World of Gumball.  I need a specific blue and orange.  It's our last moment of peace together before the schools close, I just want to get out of the house for a few hours, grab a bite of lunch, hopefully somewhere new so I can add it to my 40 before 40 list.   I have a bit of cooking and baking to do, some sausage rolls, scotch eggs, cheesecake, but I haven't got the heart to do it.  I really need cheering up, and fast.  *stamps feet* SOMEONE CHEER ME UP!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

My Eyes...

My eyes.  Yesterday I went to have more tests on my eyes for the suspected Glaucoma.  I was already dreading it, because the last time I had eye drops (thinking about it, this was about 19 years ago), I was violently sick.  I projectile vomited.  I had warned Helen about this, but I don't think she took me seriously until she saw what happened yesterday.

I had a detailed field of vision test done.  The one where you click the button when you see a shimmer in the picture?  When she told me that if I got tired I could pause the test by long holding the button, I wondered how long were they planning on having me there, that I would feel the need to pause it??  I soon found out.  Then it was in to have the eye drops that would enlarge my pupils.  That's where the fun began.  She put the drops in my right eye, and they bloody stung.  I closed my eyes and rested my head back.  I could feel my head swimming.  I must have looked dreadful because she asked me if I wanted some water.  I shook my head and grabbed her bin off the floor.  I was sat there clutching a waste paper bin with the intention of spewing into it.  I asked her to do the other eye quickly.  I knew she was doing this in between her normal appointments, but I couldn't move.  Her door was open and I could see down the room to the High Street and I just wanted to be outside.  How I made it to Mr G in the waiting area is beyond me, and he had to take me outside, where I hyperventilated, and had a panic attack.  He told me to breathe in through my nose, and out through my mouth, and even those simple commands I couldn't follow, I was gulping air in.  I felt sick and I thought I was going to pass out.  He took me back in to sit down, and he told me I had gone yellow, green and grey in colour.  It took about fifteen minutes for this to pass.  Thank God I'd skipped breakfast.

Then I had to have photographs taken of my eyes.  I've had this done before... but I had eight pictures taken, four on each eye.  Wah.  I saw Helen for my results and the detailed tests gave a better indicator of where things stood, that I do have thick corneas, and this allowed for a certain 'score' on each eye to be subtracted from the 'normal' score.  The result was better than it had been the previous two times.  But she still wasn't happy with one of the figures, so I was back in to the testing room for another two photographs of my eyes.  The outcome?  If she referred me now, the issue wasn't so serious that they would see me immediately and I would probably still be waiting for an appointment in 6 months time.  Or she could not refer me, and instead she could see me again in 6 months time, repeat the tests and monitor me that way.  If things had deteriorated by then, she could refer me as an emergency and I would be seen quickly.  We decided to go for that option.

I just wanted to go home but we didn't have a bus for an hour (still no car!).  We did a bit of shopping, and while in the bus stop, one of our friends passed and gave us a lift home, I was so grateful.  The rest of the afternoon I was useless.  I felt so sick.  My head was banging after having that light flashed in my eyes ten times.  I felt sick, like I'd been on a fairground ride repeatedly.  My eyes just felt strained, and sore, and tender.  And naturally, after going to bed, Mr G fell into a deep sleep and started snoring.  So I came down and crashed on the sofa.  Four hours of 'sofa sleep' and here I am, like a wet blanket.  Today should be fun. 

One thing is for definite, I do need to get some help for this medical phobia.  People genuinely don't understand how debilitating it is.  I also think it's been preying on my mind because - I am getting older.  And with aging (in most cases, not all) comes some form of illness, degeneration, and as I've seen in my parents case, even my husband who is 14 years older than me, the likelihood of having to have a blood test, injection and operation is increased.

It really is hard to explain to someone who doesn't have the same fear as you.  People really don't understand.  Instead they try to empathise, and it's not something that you can empathise with?  You could be a 6 foot 5, butch, alpha male who is terrified of spiders, and I'll empathise with you, as I cup that spider in my bare hands and carry it outside to freedom, shall I?  I don't particularly like spiders, nor relish touching them... but I can touch them, and I don't see why you/he/she can't or why you're terrified of something that's so small, and can't hurt you... do I need to go on?   Not all phobias are rational and empathy doesn't work where phobias are concerned.  I appreciate that there are very few people who like having needles, but 'not liking' needles is completely and utterly different to being phobic.  It's the difference between someone who doesn't like nuts and someone who is allergic to them eating a peanut butter sandwich.  One might gag, or pull a face.  The other might die.  Here are some real life comments and conversations.

Friend - I had to go for a blood test today.
Me - Oh, I couldn't.  I'm needle phobic, I'm absolutely terrified of needles.
Friend - Me too.
Me - But you had the blood test?
Friend - Yes.
Me - ...

Friend - You just have to get over it.  Look away.  Think about something else.  It doesn't hurt (my personal favourite!  I know it doesn't bloody hurt!  That's not the issue!  If pain was the issue, I wouldn't have given birth four times, would I?  I'm in pain daily with my back, and I function!)
Me - ...

Friend - What happens if you get ill?  What happens if you get cancer and need chemo?  If you need dialysis three times a week?  If you become diabetic and need to inject yourself daily?  Are you really telling me that you wouldn't seek treatment, just because you're scared of having a tiny needle, that you can't even feel?  When stubbing your toe probably hurts more?  You would really rather die than do that?
Me - ...

And believe you me, when I see it written out like that, I can appreciate how ridiculous it might look and sound to someone who doesn't have this phobia.  I do actually see it rationally, in black and white.  But getting my mind on board?  Impossible. 

True story, when my oldest son was a month away from his third birthday, he contracted Meningitis and Septicaemia.  He was very, very ill in hospital.  Public Health phoned me up and wanted a list, names and addresses of everyone he had been in contact with over x days.  We all needed vaccinating.  My son was in a private room.  At this point the medical staff were all confident of a full recovery, but he was still hooked up to drips and monitors.  The Doctor came in and told me I would need the vaccination.  I had managed somehow to evade him for a few days.  I asked him to give me a moment, I needed to use the bathroom opposite.  I went in, I locked myself in.   It must have taken them the best part of half an hour to coax me out.  I sat on my son's bed, sobbing, while he was consoling me—"Don't cry Mummy, it won't hurt."  I felt like such a fool, such a failure, after everything my poor toddler's body had been through that past week, and I was hysterical over a mere vaccination, one that could save my life one day, and he was comforting me

So I think we can ascertain that my phobia is psychological.  I think the trigger being when I passed out after having an injection in school when I was twelve.  It might have been something completely unconnected.  It may have been a hot day.  I may have skipped breakfast.  It could have been a multitude of things.  But my mind has connected needles with fainting.  I also find the idea of both a) taking something out of my body (blood) and b) putting something into my body, abhorrent.  The former is taking something that I perceive my body needs to function, and the latter is putting a 'foreign body' into mine.  Where to go from here though, I don't know.  I don't know if my Doctor would take me seriously, to be honest?   I suppose there's only one way to find out.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Backsides into gear...

What a weekend.  Both Mr G and I have been full of cold.  I felt so ill, I thought my head was going to explode, my sinuses were throbbing.  I was dosed up to the eyeballs.  Surrounded by tissues.  I also had to go shopping in the middle of this, and that took everything I had.  Weather is atrocious, we're on a yellow weather warning and it's been nothing but high winds and rain for days.  

I had my three youngest children in the space of 47 months.  I was pregnant for 27 of those months.  And even though it was hard work, I thought 'Oh, how nice.  How close they'll all be'.  The boy and girl not even 13 months apart.  Had one been born two weeks earlier and the other three weeks later, they'd have been in the same school year instead of two years apart.  The two boys less than 3 years apart.  Little playmates for each other.


I have three very different, very individual children, and none of them seem to like each other.  (Nature not nurture).  But all three adore their big brother.  As a rule there's only peace in my house when they're separated.  They won't lift a finger to do anything to help or assist the other, to make their life easier, no favours, nada.  So this little exchange that I witnessed didn't surprise me in the least.

Ryan: Adam, have you got any loom bands?
Adam: *snaps* Why?
Ryan: I just want to borrow one.
Adam: For God's sake, Ryan!  What for?
Ryan: I want to make something.
Me: Adam?  You've got thousands of the bloody things.  Don't be mean.
Adam:  Fine!  They're upstairs by the shelf.  And DON'T use any black or white.  Or any of the primary colours.
Me:  You can use pink or orange Ryan.
Adam: Or orange...
Me:  Just get a pink one Ryan...

And then there was this from Adam.  Mr G was showing him a picture of his great Grandfather.

Adam: If he hadn't died, would he be alive now?

Give me strength.  So, with under four weeks to go until the big day, on Saturday I dragged my sorry backside to Llechwedd Meats to get my Christmas meat.  They have fabulous quality meat there at great prices anyway, but they've started doing offers recently, offering freebies or extra packs of things for a penny?  I buy their 5kg pack of Chicken breast, their 2kg packs of bacon and pork sausages as standard anyway, and the freebies that they had on this week were quite good.  Mum hadn't seen the offers so when I told her what they were, she said that we could go to get our Christmas meat, providing that I could store her stuff in my freezers.  That suited me fine.  One less thing to worry about nearer the time, I've been saving all year with them so that paid for the bulk of the bill.   This is my meat haul...

I had 5kg fresh chicken breast, beef mince, pork and herb sausages, a huge pack of bacon, my Christmas gammon, my turkey, a whole pork loin and a huge pack of sausages for £80.  I bought a leg of lamb in Morrisons on Thursday as that was on offer, so that's New Year's Day sorted as well.  Now I just need to get fresh vegetables, snacks and maybe some beers.  I've had to stop drinking wine because I am clearly intolerant to it.  It's not only exacerbating my allergies but it's making me physically and violently sick too, even when I only have a glass.  It's just not worth it anymore.  So I need to find me a new tipple!

I have my glaucoma test thingy tomorrow, Mr G has had his date for his MRI scan and also a letter from Musculoskeletal Department to make an appointment, so I have had his word that today?  We clean.  We clear.  Our family tradition dictates that our tree should have gone up yesterday.  Nobody had the energy to do it, we felt so poorly.  By tonight, I want this house to be ship shape and ready for Christmas.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Black Friday - STOP IT - and other madness

As I type this sentence, it is 9.45 am.  Last night, before I went to bed, I emptied my trash in my email account.  My trash now has 284 emails in it.  Black Friday, Black Friday, Black Friday...  I see the words, I hit delete.  Last night's news programme showed scenes of last year, people fighting, actually physically fighting over goods in store.  I also watched an episode of Watchdog which told me what I and most people with a modicum of common sense already know... the prices are hiked up in advance, and then slashed on Black Friday.  There were items that were actually cheaper earlier in the year, had been put up about £250 since August, and then slashed?  Come on, as a nation, we're really not that stupid, are we?  Everyone is in competition with everyone these days, just spend a little bit of time looking, and you'll get what you want for the right price.  It's all crap that they can't get rid of.  Or stuff that they'd have shoved in the January Sale ANYWAY?  Get a bloody grip!  If we were going to steal a tradition from the US, why didn't we steal Thanksgiving itself?  Or at least the bloody foodie part of it?

Mr G and I have been in separate beds this week.  His snoring has been awful and costing me too much sleep.  In the early hours of Sunday morning, after kicking him umpteen times hadn't worked, I whacked him.  Unfortunately, in his stomach.  He yelped in pain.  And I slept downstairs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.  In my son's double bed.  THE most uncomfortable bed ever.  No wonder he moved out.  So, Mr G has been moping, with a sad face.  He missed cuddles.  He was cuddling my pillows as a makeshift me.  He couldn't sleep without me.  Please come back to bed.  So, last night I relented.  He made an effort by putting one of those breathing strips on his nose (but still managed to start snoring, while still awake...?).  I slept and woke up about 6 am.  I checked the time.

Mr G: When have you eaten sprouts?
Me: I haven't, why?
Mr G: Your farts smell of sprouts.
Me: *giggles* Shell's Festive Farts.  Greggs do Festive Bakes (yes, yes they do, I've had 6 in the last two weeks #reasonswhyI'mfat) and I do Festive Farts!

I sit up, put my glasses on, come to.  Then I hear a scream...
Mr G:  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!
Me: What the bloody...
Mr G: Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!  Help!

I switch the bedside lamp on.  He has pulled the nasal strip off.  And somehow, managed to drop it on his nipple.  And it had stuck fast.  So, with no pussyfooting around, think waxing, I just whipped it off.  He screamed again.  Bless him.  They're not for anything but decoration, are they?  Really?  What are men's nipples for?  I'm starting to sound like my youngest son, which leads me onto this exchange.  This is what it's like most mornings, sat with Adam.  Incessant.  Moidering.  I've taken to having a text document open on my desktop so I can record the things he says as they happen in real time.

A sample early morning in the life of Frazzled Shell... Friday 27th November

Adam: Mum?  How many minutes are in a million seconds?
Me:  What do I look like, Carol bloody Vorderman?  Google it!  That's what it's there for?

Adam:  Mum?  Are there different types of almonds?
Me:  Yes.  Whole, flaked - liked the ones I put in my Christmas pudding.  Chopped ones, ground ones that look like powder, which I use for certain curries?
Adam:  Are there wild almonds?
Me:  Oh... I don't know.  Waitrose might have them.
Adam:  I saw it on Youtube.  They can kill you.
Me:  Ah.  I thought you were talking about ones you buy in shops.  I tend to steer away from the ones that kill you as a rule...
Adam: Then there's puffer fish...
Me:  Jesus...

Adam:  Mum?  How can an apple kill you?
Me:  I don't know.
Adam:  *giggles* Maybe if it's thrown at your head?

Adam:  Mum?  Is there a mushroom where you see pretty colours?  (LOL!)
Me:  Yes, yes there is.
Adam:  What do they call them, drug mushrooms?
Me:  Magic mushrooms.

Adam:  Mum?  How did Hitler die?

Adam:  I've never had a poo at school.  Well, it'd be a bit weird seeing as I take all my clothes off to have a poo.  Can you imagine the teacher looking under the door and seeing me sat there naked having a dump?  Awkward!

Adam:  Mum?  Do baby crocodiles make cute noises?
Me: I don't know. 
Adam:  Mum?  Do you know rattlesnakes, do they do the rattle from the back of the tail?

All in a morning's work... ;-)  I cherish moments like this while I can, and I'm blessed to have this blog to be able to capture them for posterity.  Have a great Friday, Black or otherwise.  Don't get trampled on.

Recipe - Christmas Puddings

*Note to self - hitting 'Publish' helps!  On Monday...

I'm all Christmas Puddinged out.  If I haven't made enough this year, then I will simply do without and buy one >.<   I still have my cake to make, I felt absolutely rotten yesterday, full of cold and I didn't have it in me to make it.  I will probably do that today, while Mr G is having his CT scan. Despite my streaming nose and sneezing fits, it was a really nice relaxing day yesterday, I put MTV Christmas on and listened to two countdowns of Christmas songs.  As an awful Christmas song, I didn't think 'Christmas Wrapping' could ever be beaten.  And then I heard Destiny's Child's version of 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'.  Awww hell to the no, Bey.  What were you thinking?  I'll tell you what she was thinking.  'Anything for a quick buck'.  I also heard a nice cover version of  'Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas' by Lady Antebellum, so I bought that to stick in my iTunes Christmas playlist.

It was funny to see what was now defined as a Christmas song.  Not so long ago (in the UK anyway) you had your classics, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and then there was a new wave of songs (which are now themselves classics by age alone!) in the 70's and 80's, Slade, Mud, Wizzard, John Lennon, Wham!, Shakin' Stevens, Paul McCartney.  I don't think there's been a decent proper Christmas song made (an original) since the 1980's.  When I saw Leona Lewis 'A Moment Like This' in the chart I shook my head.  Has the X Factor ruined the Christmas song forever?   On the plus side, I got to hear Steps 'Heartbeat' for the first time in years.  At least that video had fake snow in it.  Guilty pleasures... sigh...

Cooked puddings cooling down

1500g Dried mixed fruit (Raisins, Sultanas, Currants)
100g Glace cherries, chopped
100g Dates, chopped
1 Cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
Zest and juice of an orange
Zest and juice of a lemon
500 ml Cider (I used a good quality apple Cider)
*optional - 75g of Candied peel - if you're using bags of mixed fruit, this is already in

165g Self raising flour
3 tsp Mixed spice
4 tsp Cinnamon
330g Shredded Suet
330g Soft dark brown sugar
330g White breadcrumbs
25g Flaked almonds
25g Pecans, chopped
25g Walnuts, chopped
6 eggs, beaten

Put the fruit and zests in a large mixing bowl, squeeze over the lemon and orange juices and then add the cider.  Stir well, and cover.  I stir this often to make sure the fruit really absorbs the cider.  Leave overnight if possible.

In another large bowl, put the flour, spices, suet, sugar, breadcrumbs and nuts.  Mix well.

Pour the fruit mixture into the dried mixture.  This is where you really have to give it some mixing, to make sure everything is well combined.  When it is, add the beaten eggs, stirring as you go, making sure everything is well mixed in and there's no dry bits left.

Grease your basins or bowls with butter, and fill with the pudding mixture. 

Cover the top of the puddings with a double layer of greaseproof paper.  Then tightly wrap the basins in foil.

I steam my puddings in a steamer, and I can't really give a specific time, because they're all different sizes.  It's a case of initiative and common sense, the larger ones can take between 6 - 8 hours, the smaller ones between 4 - 6 hours.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Stir up Sunday slightly scuppered...

I sit here with a coffee unable to make a start on my Christmas puddings for two reasons.  Firstly, I forgot to blitz the breadcrumbs last night, and I don't think my teenage daughter (whose room is directly above my kitchen) would be too happy with the 8 am wake up call of a food processor on a Sunday morning.  Secondly, they've all got to stir the mixture and make a wish.  So I'm going to work on my NaNoWriMo until they all get up.

I've got three things to share with you that happened this week.  Firstly, my youngest son.  He's the first of my children up every day, and we usually spend time together downstairs.  The apple hasn't fallen too far from his father's tree there, either.  He was talking about different animals and an anteater came up in the conversation.

Me:  What's an anteater's real name?
Adam:  Arwel?


Then this.  Both Mr G and I had chronic indigestion the other day.   I personally hadn't had it so bad since I was pregnant.  Logic dictates that it was something that we had both eaten, right?  Wrong.

Mr G:  Seeing as we've both got indigestion, do you think it might have anything to do with that?
*Nods at Yankee Candle burning in a jar*
Me: What??  Unless you've been bloody eating it, then no?  I don't?


And this morning, there was this.  I'm the first to admit that I am... boring.  I am predictable, I am a homebody, I like routine.  I'm a Taurus.  But it's a good thing, because you know what you're going to get from me.  I'm solid.  Dependable.  So to receive this in my daily horoscope, sent by email...

"You will have the opportunity to express some of your more extreme and controversial views to your love interest. As you are not usually well known for doing anything more original than trying out the latest filler for baked potatoes - this could be potentially exciting."

What a liberty...

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Sneaking Christmas in early...

I love Christmas.  Love it.  But the minute Christmas Day is done?  I've had enough of it, and I want my house back to normal.  Sod tradition, I'm not superstitious.  The thought of leaving my decorations up until January makes me feel ill.  It's a new year?  Therefore, I tend to put my decorations up early, so I get the benefit of them!  The tree normally goes up the last Sunday in November, so I'll have to dig out the decorations this week some time.  We do have the snowy tree permanently in our hallway, so as we've picked up little tree decorations over the last few weeks, we've put them straight onto the tree, so it's already done.  It looks really pretty, especially at night when it's lit up.

We've had my friend Helen's peg dolly tree decoration in more than enough time, so that also is taking pride of place on the tree...

It's Stir up Sunday tomorrow and later this evening I'm going to make sure that all my fruit is firmly soaked in cider and  fruit juices.  My lesson was learned on my first Stir up Sunday many years ago now, where I didn't read the recipe beforehand, and didn't prep the fruit.  That year I had Stir up Monday ;-)  And then, as if I didn't have enough to do, Mr G says...

Mr G: I can't wait for a slice of that Christmas Cake.
Me: Which Christmas Cake?
Mr G: Yours, of course?

Looks like this year, I'm making Christmas Cake too...

This is what my kitchen looks like.  I hope nobody is expecting me to make a Sunday Roast tomorrow, because this is tame compared to the bedlam that it will be tomorrow.

So on Monday I will post my Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake (with chocolate!) recipes :-)

Our car is in the garage, still... Mr G is going stir crazy, he's not left the house since last Sunday.  His CT scan has been rearranged for Monday so at least he'll get a bit of fresh air there.  I've done a bit more online shopping this morning, so I feel more relieved today than I did this time yesterday, all the 'big' presents for the children are now sorted.  I've saved through the year with our local meat wholesaler so I have enough money to get my Christmas Turkey and Gammon or Ham, Sausages and Bacon, I'll can pop there with my parents the next time that they go shopping there, and stick everything in the freezer.  So at the very least, everyone will have a main present and some Turkey on Christmas Day!  Everything always comes together in the end, doesn't it?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Rough with the Smooth

My life tends to be very much like this.  Either everything is going really well.  Or things are going terribly.  So, after my fabulous week last week, where I won a £250 voucher and I met my favourite group Lawson, it was inevitible that this week was going to be a bit of a 'mare.

Mr G had another school meet-up.  Not officially a reunion, which took place the year they all turned 50, when they all had so much fun that they decided to have one every year now, just before Christmas.  I stayed behind with the boys and Caitlin went with him to see her auntie and cousins.  My sister in law was having her laminate flooring taken up and had asked Mr G if he wanted it for his shed pub (which is, currently, decimated after he insulated it and made a new bar!).  My other sister in law had managed to acquire two pumps for the new bar, a lager pump and a wine pump, so the bar will look the business, when (if!) it stops raining long enough to empty the place and put the flooring down.  I really want this doing soon as I want to entertain there over Christmas, and possibly have a little New Years Eve party.

Just before lunch time on Sunday, the local hospital phoned to cancel Mr G's CT scan, which was scheduled for today, and as the woman didn't know when the scanner would be fixed, she couldn't reschedule.  This was a huge disappointment because his specialist won't even consider operating again until he has some answers.  The poor woman sounded so flustered, having to spend her Sunday ringing around and from the sounds of it having a hard time.  There's no point in shooting the messenger, is there?  I told her it couldn't be helped and wished her luck with the rest of her phone calls.

Mr G phoned to tell me he was on his way home, and when he was about half an hour away from home, I could feel my eyelids drooping.  I fell into a half sleep in my chair, asleep enough to snore and drool, but awake enough to be aware that I was snoring and drooling.  The phone woke me from my sleep, and I realised that they were about an hour late.  I answered the phone and it was Mr G.  My heart sank.  'What's happened?' I asked.  It turns out the car had broke down on the A55, spluttered, and then cut out.  No hard shoulder where it happened.  Super luckily he was right by the Llandudno Junction turn off and managed to exit and pull into somewhere safe.  Also a blessing that we have Breakdown Cover.  And probably really, really lucky that it happened there and then, so close to home, and while still daylight, than had it happened gone midnight while we were on the M56 coming home from Manchester in the early hours of Friday morning!  They were towed home, and our mechanic friend came out to recover the car today and take it to his garage.  He seems to think that it's going to be a big job, which is naturally, what we need just before Christmas.  The problem with our car being that it's old, so parts are really hard to come by, especially if it is a new engine needed.  The other issue is, that we've invested so much in the car, new radiator, cylinder head, exhaust, brakes, you name it - that we can't afford to scrap it and take a chance on buying another second hand car, and maybe have to start throwing money at that too.  So, it's better the devil you know for us.  When there's nothing wrong with it, it's been a brilliant car for us, plenty of space.  After owning people carriers for over nine years, the thought of having a small car now fills me with dread.   

So, with less than forty sleeps before Christmas, I am trying very hard to be as Zen as possible.  I have very few presents bought.  Even less money to buy any.  And no transport.  And... breathe.  Tomorrow's another day. 

I'm going to start my Christmas preparations on Sunday, when I am going to be making and steaming my Christmas puddings, known traditionally as Stir up Sunday.  I make them every year for myself and friends and family, and I must blow my own trumpet here - they are really good.  One person who has them from me every year, has tried the most luxury ones from Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, even paying up to £20 one year, and she and her husband maintain that they're not a patch on mine.  The key is loads of cider.  More than the original recipe contained anyway ;-)  The fruit really soaks it up and it makes it really moist.  I may make my Christmas Cake too, it's not the most traditional of cakes, so it doesn't lose out by not making it early and feeding it.  It's a Chocolate Christmas Cake, and I use sherry in that.  Even ardent fruit cake haters absolutely love that cake.  I know if I make it too early, like most years, the cake is so good that it doesn't even get to the marzipan and icing stage!  One year in particular, everyone was eating it while it was still hot, from the oven!  That's a sign of a good cake, right?  That will be a start anyway, that's something within my control.  Everything else will fall into place, one way or another.  I'll have to take the bus, and go shopping with family, and hurrah for Amazon.  When all else fails, there's always Amazon!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Lawson Gig - Sound Control, Manchester!

If you're also following my '40 before 40' blog, you'll know that right at the top of that list was to see Lawson in concert.  Further down the list was 'meet a celeb'.  Any celeb.  Hollywood star to Z lister.  Just for the hell of it.  Just because.  When I made that list, little did I know that less than two months later, that I'd not only be seeing Lawson live, but that they would be the celebs that I'd meet.  I've written the post over on my other blog, please check it out here!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Heard my first Christmas song!

Paul McCartney 'Wonderful Christmastime'.  Triggered off an unbelievably good mood in me, to the point that I played a cheeky few myself when I got home.  Mr G came in and told me off when I was belting out 'Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow' at the top of my voice. 

Mr G:  You can bloody pack that in, too!  It's November!

Yesterday we went to see Mr G's Consultant.  We had a 9.10 appointment and decided to risk the A55, thankfully leaving at 7 meant that we missed the congestion.  We arrived in Wrexham just after 8.20 am.  The whole journey we were blessed with clear skies and beautiful sunshine, like this...

... turned off the A55, I looked away for a minute to change the music on my iPad and when I looked up, fog!

What the...

The Registrar gave his ankle a proper going over, poor Mr G nearly bounced off the bed in pain.  He said that the next step would be an MRI scan to see what was causing the pain and inflammation, but first he would need an x ray to check if the little metal anchors that had been put in his ankle were still in place.  We went to wait for an x ray, and then back to see the Consultant again.  The x rays showed they were still in place so it's a waiting game for the MRI. 

Then we popped into Town for a spot of lunch.  We had hoped to do some shopping, but poor Mother had been lumbered with the children all day, so it was lunch and home.  We found a nice little chip shop called Town Fryer near St Giles Church.  The Church looks beautiful.  I have a fascination with Churches, Abbeys and Cathedrals, so I definitely want to go and investigate St Giles's one day.  When we have a bit more time, of course.  2025 is looking good.

Cod and chips, bread and butter and a cuppa was £10 for two.  It was really good too.  We took the scenic route home, through Llangollen and onto the old A5.  Both Mr G and I talking about how we'd love to live in that part of the country.  Euromillions win pending, of course ;-)

Look how still the water is.  Beautiful.

So now it's time to start thinking about Christmas.  Not that many sleeps to go!  November is going to be taken up with NaNoWriMo, so I may leave the wrapping to Mr G this year.  Who am I kidding, I even have to wrap the non surprise presents that he buys me.  I can wrap about seven to his one.  Even if he started now, they wouldn't be ready for next Christmas, let alone this one!   Is everyone ready for Christmas or are you more of a last-minuter?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

NaNoWriMo is go!

The first day of NaNoWriMo is upon us, and I am so glad that I've prepared.  Because I've been up since 5.20 am, I'm already on my second coffee, and I'm just looking at the computer screen, checking emails, checking Facebook.  I think it's time for that Facebook deactivation that is also on my '40 before 40' list.  Perfect timing. 

Tomorrow we're back down the A55 to Wrexham Maelor for Mr G's bi-annual ankle check.  He had a scan last month in YG, and he was meant to be having an ultrasound guided cortisone injection.  However, the consultant couldn't see the damage that was apparent in Maelor the last time so she didn't do it.  We know there's roadworks near the tunnels and the traffic has been adding hours onto people's commute times. As his appointment is 9.10 am we are having to set off really early, and we're toying with the idea of going down the A5 through Betws y Coed and Llangollen.  Mum was coming up to see the children off to school.  On Friday, I found out that two of them have an INSET day.  Mum's response was 'Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah'.  Whether that meant 'Yes, that's fine, I'll take them' or 'You can sod off and take them with you', I'll have to find out later today.  I was rather hoping to have a little mooch around the shops and then lunch with Mr G before coming home.  We shall see. 

Right, I'll go and make that third coffee, and make my official NaNoWriMo start!  Wish me luck, I have a feeling I'm going to need it...

Friday, 30 October 2015

Crap Friday

What a crap day.  The optician phoned, our new glasses were ready, and I needed further tests to ascertain if I had Glaucoma.  So, off we toddled.  I had my eyes scanned, and when Helen took me through to the room, she tested my eyes again, and told me that the scan showed I had thick corneas, which meant that I could feasibly have a higher 'score' than normal.  But even deducting my bonus thick-corneal '5' from my score still left my eyes at 23 and 24, which... meh.  Not looking good.  So I have to have more tests at the end of November.  I suppose the good thing is, that it's been caught early, and it's treatable with eyedrops.  Even though eyedrops make me vomit... 

Then, on the way back to the car park, where we'd had to park on the roof level, and both lifts were broken, I knocked my big toe nail on a concrete step and ripped it half way off.  It's half on, half off, about two thirds of the way down my toe...

Then, on the way home we called in Asda.  And my debit card got declined.  For the first time in my life, my card was declined.  I tried it again, and it was declined again.  Thankfully had a credit card with me to spare my blushes.  With twenty minutes before the bank closed, we dashed back into town, to my bank branch to find out that it was a problem their end and everyone's cards were being affected nationwide. 

I also ordered 10 kg of plasticine for my son for Christmas.  Yes, ten kilograms of plasticine.  What was I thinking?

Add chronic back pain to my day, and there you have it.  I am feeling very, very sorry for myself indeed.  If anyone wants me, I'll be in bed, wallowing in self pity. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Recipe - Easy Chicken Casserole

I happened upon this recipe a few months back, I just fancied Chicken Casserole but made a little differently to how I usually make it.  Everyone has their own take on basic recipes, be it chilli, casserole, spag bol, and I wanted to see how someone else's tasted.  Seeing as I cater for everyone but nobody ever invites me around for food!  I found this video recipe on A Glug of OilAs I watched the video, it looked so simple and so basic that I really thought it wasn't going to be anything special.  Nice, but not... wow.  Well, was I forced to eat my words (along with every scrap on my plate!).  Mr G wolfed it down and proclaimed it 'One of the nicest meals I've had in a long time'.  Not sure what that says about my cooking though... ha!  It's now 'my' go-to Chicken Casserole recipe.  We even made little pies with the leftovers in my bargain piemaker that I bought on holiday.

Jan makes her casserole on an induction hob.  I don't have one of those, so I usually make it on the stove.  This week, I've been doing my Autumn clean.  The last couple of days the kitchen has copped it, and I've rejigged cupboards, moved appliances up to the kitchen and food down to the pantry.  I have so many different appliances that I don't use as much as I should do.  With the exception of my trusty double slow cooker, of course!  I was having a look at my Severin Party Cook Pan, and realised that although it's one of these devices that does a multitude of things, I've only ever used when I've had company and needed to cook four or more pieces of gammon or steak.  So today, I'm going to try using it to make this casserole.  The only thing that I didn't have this time was celery, but it'll save the children having to pick it out...

Chicken breast (I used four)
Onion, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
5 large mushrooms, sliced
100g Pearl Barley, rinsed and boiled for about 15 minutes
Tin of Campbell's Condensed Soup (plus two cans of water)
3 heaped tablespoons of Bisto Best Chicken, mixed to a thick paste with hot water
Salt and ground black pepper

I heated up a little oil in the pan and added the onions and carrots.  I softened them for a few minutes and then I added the chicken.

 Once the chicken was sealed, I added the mushrooms, the pearl barley, Campbells soup and the two tins worth of water, and stirred.  Then I added the Bisto Best paste, and stirred this in to the casserole.

I left the casserole to simmer.

I came back in, and the carrots were still rock hard.  I played around with the heat control, and it became apparent, very quickly, that there were only two cook settings on the bloody thing.  Hell Fire or Tea Light.  Because the casserole contains pearl barley, the 'simmer' had to be supervised as it was sticking.  It was like waiting to die.  I'm suffering with my back this week, and I really, really didn't want to be stood there watching it cook.  Eventually, I relented and shoved everything in a large saucepan to finish off.  Severin was thrown through the kitchen window.  So, now I know.  Severin is fine for steak, but crap for everything else.  Party Cook Pan, my arse.

Five minutes before it had finished cooking (seventeen hours in total...) I added the peas.  Seasoned it with salt and black pepper.  Served with potato and swede mash, and pointed cabbage.  By the time it was ready, I was too hungry to take a photo.   

Friday, 23 October 2015

Utterly Fed Up

What a funny old week I have had.  I am, as the post title confirms, utterly fed up.  My normal optimistic, positive demeanour has vanished somewhere.  Maybe it's with Summer, wherever that went to.

We'll start off with some 'Sh*t My Kids Said' this week.   Including one exchange that knocks last week's 'Meerkat Boner' story off the number one spot.  Straight in at number one, this week, is Adam and the Sausage.  Adam is very nervous around water, and as such, the school have paid to have someone in the pool with him and the other nervous kids.

Adam: You know what I think I need in swimming?  You know that guy that's in with us?  I need him to just hold the end of my sausage...
Me: Whoa!
Caitlin: *dies* 
Ryan: *snort* 
Mr G: Um...
Adam: WHAT?  You know my sausage, well, if he was just to hold it right at the very end... STOP LAUGHING, WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING ABOUT?
Me: What do you mean by 'sausage', sweetheart?
Adam:  You know, the float thing.  The noodle.
Ryan:  What colour sausage have you got?
Adam:  Well, you can have a pink sausage, a red sausage and a blue sausage.  I've got a blue sausage because...
Mr G:— the water is cold?
Me:  Sweetheart, you mustn't let anyone touch your sausage in swimming, ok?
Adam:  STOP IT! 

Poor boy still didn't have a clue what we were talking about.    Then we had this from Ryan...

Ryan:  Are sausage rolls made out of 'pork poison'?

Don't know.  Couldn't tell you.

Mr G, myself and Adam had our eyes tested last night (more on that later...) and because we all needed photographs taken of our eyes, and other tests, I had to accompany him for his eye examination while Mr G was being tested.  Adam is a really good boy (when in public or in company).  His manners are always commented on and complimented.  However, the last few weeks or so, the moment he comes home from school, until he goes to bed, he talks and he talks and he talks.  Without interruption.  Mr G and I wear glazed expressions until he is in bed, just being talked at.  Incessantly.

I cringed for the most of the exam.  Adam didn't shut up.  Helen (the optician) was laughing throughout.  She asked him if he was going to pick new glasses and keep his old pair as a spare, or if he wanted his new lenses in his old frames.

Adam: Can I have a monocle?
Helen:  Errrrr... no.  Oh Adam, I could have done with you the other week, my son had homework where we had to think of words beginning with 'mono' without using a dictionary or computer.  Monocle would have been a good one!
Adam:  There's a dinosaur called a 'monolophosaurus'.  Did you have that?
Helen:  No...
Adam:  And monobrow.  My big brother has one of those.  Like Ed from Ed, Edd and Eddy.  Did you have that?  Monotonous?
Me: *mutters* Monologue?
Adam:  What's a monologue?
Helen:  Kind of what you've done since you walked in here?

A bit later in the examination, Helen shone the light into his eyes.

Adam:  Is this like one of those rooms where you take people prisoner and shine lights in their eyes until they talk?
Me:  And to round off your day, Helen, being compared to the Gestapo.  You're welcome.  Would you like us to find a new Optician for next time?

So, back to the eye test.  As I'm knocking on 40, I had to have a glaucoma test.  I managed to work myself up slightly, Helen remembered that I had actually vomited over my Optician branch (literally, projectile vomited a la Exorcist) when I lived in Manchester, just because I'd had eye drops in my eyes before trying contact lenses.  She showed me the little tool, and practiced on my hand and I relented.  Apparently the reading should be between 12 and 20.  Mine was 23.  Yay.  So I have to have another test done when I pick up my new specs next week.  I tried reading up online about it, but nearly passed out, so...

Parenting Highlight of the Week - Telling my son to 'Calm your tits' a little louder than I meant to, as his Headmaster held the door open for us with a horrified smile frozen on his face.  In front of other parents and children.  To which my son responded 'I haven't got tits'.  #momgoals

My allergy is on top form this week, to the extent that I could smash things, I could scream, I could cry.  And no, I haven't made a GP appointment.  Because I bet a pound to a pinch of shite, she'll ask for blood tests.  Not on my watch.  So, with the help of Mr G, we've started a process of what I like to call 'self-diagnosis' (or Ask Google, as it's otherwise known.  Clinically dead in three clicks) and we're pretty much in agreement that it could well be dust mite allergy.  Apparently it doesn't mean that I'm a rubbish housewife (although...) and it makes sense that the two rooms that I am affected most in are my living room and my bedroom.  Mr G also thinks that our duck feather duvet might not be helping and also the plug in/auto spray air fresheners could be triggering it off.  So, it's looking like a load of hoovering, wet dusting, washing bedding at 60 degrees, washing upholstery, new duvets, pillows and protectors, and a smelly house is the way forward from here on in.  Process of elimination before I have to relent, reach for the EMLA cream, and have my first blood test since my last pregnancy. 

It's the Fair tomorrow, and as much as I might sound a killjoy, I bloody hate it with a passion.  Loved it as a teen, but as an adult, if it never came back here again, it wouldn't bother me.  It's a Saturday, which means that there's going to be an increased amount of what I like to call 'idiots' around in the day, drinking.  I've warned the children that we're going down early and I want to be back in the house for 3pm, in time for Soccer Saturday, my accumulator bet, with sweets and chocolate.

Oh yes, and to round off my week, I am definitely allergic to wine.  So allergic that I gave half a box of wine away to my son (who would drink his own pee at the moment if it had a % ABV) without hesitating.  I am devastated.  Let's hope next week fares a bit better.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Raindrops and Roses, and Meerkats and Boners...

I've had to post about this while it's still fresh.  Countless exchanges like this happen in my home, madness fuelled by autism, and although I vow I'll never forget and be able to quote it word for word, I always forget.

So, today, Ryan came home from school after being on a school trip to a local butterfly farm.  They also have meerkats.  He burst through the door and after I asked if he'd had a nice time, if he'd seen the meerkats, he sat down and announced

'I know what a boner is.'

I looked at Mr G and he at me.  Looks of abject horror on our faces.

Ryan - There's this boy called 'shall remain unnamed' and when the meerkat came out, he had a boner.
Me - The meerkat?
Ryan - No, 'shall remain unnamed' did.
Me - Oh my God.  Poor boy. Something like this could haunt him his whole school life.  He'll be known as Meerkat Boner Boy or something.  Were people taking the mick out of him?
Ryan - Yep. 
Me - I hope you weren't.  Poor boy.
Ryan - I was singing Michael Jackson parodies *bursts into song* 'Cos this is Bonerrrrrr, Boner night'.  Oh and 'Do you want to have a Boner? It doesn't have to be a Boner' from Frozen.
Me - Ryan! 
Mr G - *sweating from trying not to laugh*
Caitlin - *drops to the floor*
Me - You make sure you apologise to that boy tomorrow.


Monday, 12 October 2015

My weekend with Shelly - Aka The Hangover Part 4

I have had a wonderful weekend with my friend Shelly, my feet are killing me, my head is pounding and I've been dragged out of my comfort zone (living room) kicking and screaming.  But this weekend was all about Shelly, her weekend, her trip down memory lane, for the first time since 1992. She's off abroad in December for a year and may choose to stay so it could be a once in a lifetime, never to be repeated weekend.

Dying a complete death after I totalled a box of Rose wine and she a small bottle of JD on Friday night after she arrived, by the time we both came to (and I mean that in the loosest sense of the word...) it was after 12.  Road trip!  First we went to Amlwch to try and find where her Nana was buried, we looked for about an hour but couldn't find her.  We're going to make enquiries with the church and council as to where she is and I've promised to take flowers on her behalf when we do.  Then we went on to Bull Bay, to the farm she used to live.

Windswept Selfie in Bull Bay

We then drove to Benllech and had a stroll on the beach, which was still very busy despite being firmly out of season.

Next on the list was Bangor, we were both starving, so we decided we'd get a spot of lunch and see how much it had changed since she was last there.  Which was a lot!


We saw people walking up a little alleyway between shops and followed them, and found this little place, Blue Sky Cafe. I'd heard about it, but never knew where it was. We found a table and ordered the homemade burgers.


The food was to die for, the burger was obviously good quality meat, and the salad was big and had all manner in it.  Chips were nice too, could have done with a few more, but it filled a gap.  Only quibble was that it took a long time for our food to arrive, about three quarters of an hour.  It probably felt worse because neither of us had eaten, were gravely hungover and close to collapse.  But if we wanted fast food, we had walked past Burger King.  Lovely atmosphere in there too, I plan to take Mr G one day, he loves a good burger does Mr G.

Later, we met my eldest son in town, and we had a few drinks.  By that, I mean, I went for drinks with a Manc and a half-Manc student.  These guys are seasoned, let me tell you.  Apparently you can't just get a drink... oh no.  They come in twos.  Therefore, I had my first Jager Bombs (spelling?) and I also had my first Sambucas?  I was completely mullered and ready for bed at half 11, but they weren't done, and so my son, and my old bff went into Bangor, clubbing.  Yes.  Yes they did.  I'm more of a Horlicks, pipe and slippers gal, obviously.  Ok, not the pipe but, you get what I mean ;-)  There are pictures of the night out, and no, you will never see them :-)

Shell leaves for sunnier climes in December and so in November, Mr G and I are going to Manchester for the day to see her and meet up with her Dad, Sam, who I haven't seen since 1995, and I am so looking forward to that too.  He was such a huge influence and help to me at a time in my life that I was really struggling, unhappy and lonely, and I owe him a great deal that I'll probably never be able to repay, nevertheless, I can't wait to see him again.  I think I'm going to put this on my 40 before 40 list (click here if you want to see my progress), reconnect with some people that I've lost touch with or just gone a bit quiet with.  Sometimes we don't try hard enough with our friendships, and I'm guilty of that at times.

It all feels a bit flat today, I love having people to stay but I'm normally happy to see the back of them after a couple of nights (no offence) and get my house straight and back to a routine, but I really feel that I could have done with a few more days with Shelly, especially knowing that she's not going to be around for the foreseeable?  Still, it was one wild weekend, I don't think I could make a regular habit of it, and we had lots of laughs and created lots of nice new memories :-)  So, by tomorrow, when the tiredness and melancholy has (hopefully!) lifted, I'm coming out fighting again.  Working on things on my 40/40 list, doing some more prep on my NaNoWriMo... basically anything that doesn't resemble housework...

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Shameless Plug!

Please take a gander at my new blog Frazzled Shell's 40 Before 40 (ish) Adventures!  I still need twelve items to put on my list - I'm a boring sod, I don't do exhilaration - and after countless internet searches, I'm coming up with nothing!  Any suggestions gratefully received! 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Recipe - Lentil and Bacon Soup (and other shenanigans)

Well, October crept up on us all, didn't it?  Another lovely week of weather, blue skies, sunshine.  I still think it's cold though.

Mr G and I are on another health kick.  He has a GP referral to the gym, as the physio at the Pain Clinic felt that it could be beneficial in strenghtening the muscles in his back and his stomach, so he has been going there twice a week.  I have taken the world's most expensive coat hanger (the treadmill) out of retirement, in the back porch and have been attempting to walk an hour a day on it.  It means we have to duck and walk through it to get to the loo, the fridge (a good thing?), my saucepans etc.  Junk food is out.  Soup is firmly back in, for the the health benefits and to fill us up - as, before and in between meals.  Yesterday I made a big pan of one of my recent new favourites, Lentil and Bacon soup.  But before that, let me just give you this little nugget...

Mr G: (Coming home after gym session, looking a tad sheepish) Sam weighed me and I've put on 3 kilo in a fortnight...
Me: Oh dear.  That's not very good.
Mr G: I told her you were a feeder...
Me: You said what???

A feeder?  Honestly, this man, I don't know whether to laugh or cry with him.  That's not even taking into account his thoughts on my periods.  Or, where he's allowed to poo.  Which I'll give you after the recipe, just in case you really don't want to know. 

Soup - this recipe is taken from the BBC Good Food website,  but I adapted it slightly to use what I had in.

Olive oil
4 rashers lean back bacon, fat trimmed and snipped into pieces
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
250g red lentils, rinsed
1300ml chicken stock
1 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp lazy chilli
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric

Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion, bacon and carrot, and cook for about 10 minutes on a low to medium heat until the onions are soft.

Add the spices, garlic and chilli and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.  Pour in the stock, and add the lentils. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the lentils don't stick.

You can eat this as is, but I did give it a slight blast with the stick blender for a few seconds.  I only had to season this with ground black pepper as - holy shitballs - Tesco chicken stock cubes are salty.  Sheesh.  I served mine with a toasted wholemeal pitta bread cut into fingers.  And a gallon of water, because of the saltiness.  Lush.

Mr G has had his (my) Maneki Neko tattoo done.  He was meant to be having it done on his arm, but he had the portrait of The Pierces done there instead.  Paul was really eager to do this cat after designing it, so he managed to slot Mr G in despite being really busy.  I think it's a work of art myself, the photo doesn't do it justice.  I never thought I would be a fan of tattoos, but I'm as addicted to seeing them on him as he is getting inked himself.  To think he was nearly 40 when he had his first one!  This is a cheaper midlife crisis than an open top sportscar and a messy divorce citing a 20 year old beautiful, skinny blonde, I guess?  Although he is making noises about buying a campervan *facepalm*.  Mr G also thinks I should get a tattoo as part of my 40/40 list, but I don't want to.  Just my personal opinion, I don't like tattoos on women.  I have female friends who are covered in them, or in the process of getting sleeves done, those who have hidden ones, or little ones on display - and even though they're nice, each to their own.  I just don't like them on women. 

Another Maneki Neko for my collection

Lying in bed...
Mr G:  You know when I get older...
Me: Yes...
Mr G:  And if I die before you...
Me: (*thinks* Where is this going?  Please don't grieve me forever? Don't spend the rest of your life alone?  It's ok to love again?  Er... no...)
Mr G: Make sure you bury me in shorts and a vest, because I'm getting my money's worth out of these tattoos...

My friend Shelly from Manchester messaged me last week to ask if she could come down and stay this weekend.  We were school friends, and when she moved back to Manchester, and I moved there too a few months later we remained friends but lost touch when I moved back to Wales.  I'm so looking forward to seeing her again, but on the Saturday night we're going out around Bangor.  Ye Gods.  I don't know if after 24 years she thinks that it's going to be a trip down memory lane.  Half the pubs we used to frequent are closed down.  The ones that aren't, and the new ones that have sprung up in the meantime are rammed with students and pretty young skinny things, which I certainly am not, and even though she is stunning and can pass for a good ten years younger than what she is, the fact remains we are both knocking on 40.  There's still only one bloody nightclub here, after nearly quarter of a century has elapsed, and you know what?  It's still crap and your feet still stick to the carpet.  The only thing that has changed is its name.  She lives in Manchester, host to a multitude of clubs.  She likes dancing, whereas I can barely co-ordinate my hands and feet to work simultaneously in order to walk.  I.  Don't.  Dance.  I'm kind of hoping she'll say 'Ah Shell, you know what?  Let's just get a Chinese and a box of wine and watch X Factor'.  But it's not going to happen.  Is it?

I've been busying myself making some new tree decorations.  Made the mistake of posting my first little bear on Facebook, now I have to make loads for friends and family.  The little blue bear in the Wigan Warriors kit is for my great nephew.  They're so easy to knit, the time consuming part is the assembly and making up.  I love the little stockings too, some people use them as advent calendars, hang them up with little pegs, and put a little gift or chocolate in each day?  I guess that's fine if you only have one child I guess, but not practical for me with four.  Awwwww, three now :-( 

 In bed.  Don't ask where this came from. Drifting off to sleep...

Mr G:  I'm not allowed ANYTHING...
Me: *jumps out of skin* WHAT????
Mr G:  I'm not allowed a campervan.  I'm not allowed to poo downstairs...
Me:  *bewildered*  No, you're not!  You take 30 minutes per crap, there's no window or extractor fan in there, it's next to the kitchen and there's gaps in the doors.  You're only allowed to poo in there when you've been operated on and can't walk far.  But where the hell did that come from?  Do you want to poo downstairs or something?
Mr G:  Even if I wanted to, I can't now because of the treadmill.  I can't luigi under it.
Me:  What????
Mr G:  I can't luigi under it.
Me:  I still don't know what you mean, just go to sleep...
Mr G: That thing with the stick and you go under it.
Me:  Limbo?

I couldn't sleep for about twenty minutes for laughing.  And then there was his take on my periods, of course...

Me:  (Looking for pity) I'm bleeding heavy...
Mr G: *sniggers*  I know.  You might want to stick a comma or full stop in that sentence.
Me:  It's not funny, it hurts.
Mr G:  No, I'm not having that.  Look at that woman in that advert earlier.  Clubbing til 5 am in the morning in white jeans.  WHITE jeans?  She didn't look in pain.  And then the other one on the horse.
Me:  Bollocks.  I bet a man wrote that advert.  There's no woman in their right mind would wear white jeans while on their period.  And no sanitary towel on this planet worthy of that level of trust.
Five minutes elapse...
Mr G:  If I buy you a pair of white jeans and a pony, will you stop moaning about your period every month?

Ladies and gentlemen, my husband.  The one I have nursed back to health, or - just nursed let's say, because there's no health there - for seven years now.  THAT is the height of his sympathy for me.  He's neither use nor ornament, really... :-)

Thursday, 24 September 2015


It's cold.  Never mind 'Sun's out, guns out' - in this house we're at the 'Sun's gone, heating's on' stage.  Mr G is insulating the summer house. There's bubble wrap and foil everywhere and how he can breathe in there with the glue fumes is beyond me. He'll be high as a bloody kite later, which is all I need.

The illnesses have started, Ryan and Caitlin are both off school with hacking coughs and sore throats. Yay. Mr G was floored yesterday and was on the sofa, with a patchwork quilt.  There have been two noteworthy child insults for you.

Running from the bathroom. Stark naked. It's literally about three metres from my room. Seven or eight steps at the most.  Mistimed it, face to face with my twelve year old at the top of the stairs.  Who said...

Ryan: My childhood is ruined. RUINED!

And yesterday, sitting down for a rare moment with a coffee waiting for the children to arrive from school. Adam bursts through the door.  Adam is all about the food, 'bout the food... While he's eating breakfast he wants to know what's for lunch and if possible, tea...

Adam: What's that smell? Cod? Are we having cod for tea? I can smell cod.  Yay!  
Me: *stands up* Right that's me off for a shower... 
Mr G: *patchwork quilt vibrating because he's laughing underneath it* Best have a bath too. And another shower after... to be sure...

The house feels funny without Dan.  For one, the aroma of teenage boy is noticeably absent... His room is clean and tidy... He turns twenty next Monday, which is when he starts Uni properly, this week is Freshers Week. I doubt very much that he will be wanting to spend his weekend with us, or have a party or barbecue, which is a bit sad but he's a grown man now and he has his friends, old and new to celebrate with.  

Crusaders play their play off game this weekend, they take on Keighley after Oldham beat them last weekend.  If it had been at Oldham we'd have probably been able to go, but Keighley is too much of a stretch, especially on a Sunday.  Gutted, but hey ho.  Whatever league they are in, we've got our season tickets for next year and will be there for every home game (at least!) cheering them on.  Good luck Cru!  #fearnothing

My mind fog seems to have cleared a bit, the morning sneezing fits seem to be getting better, and not lasting as long.  Maybe it was 'just' hay fever.  And now that the weather is... shite... it's diminishing?  One thing I do know though.  I've always been a bit disdainful of people who say 'Oh, I have allergies'.  Don't get me wrong, I would never say anything to their face, of course, I'm not a nasty person.  But what I do have is an evil little voice in my head, which sounds a little bit like Eric Cartman mimicking them.  I apologise.  Never again will I mock, or think 'MAN UP!'  I stand shoulder to shoulder with you, eyes streaming, nostrils itching like I never thought humanly possible, sinuses throbbing and unable to concentrate on the most basic task.  Roll on Winter.

So, on the agenda, painting porches, bathrooms, the kitchen, oh and the hall, stairs and landing top to bottom AGAIN thanks to my children and a) scuff marks and b) fake blood.  Christmas prep.  It seems like an eternity away to children, but when you're an adult and each week passes like a day?  That's scary stuff! 

I'm also setting up a new blog, because as you may have seen from my blog tagline or whatever that thing is called up there at the top... I am nearly 40.  Fml.  And seeing as I have done absolutely sod all with my life apart from churn out offspring, cook and be sarcastic, turning 40 is as good a reason as any to spend some time on me, doing what I want to do.  And in some cases what I really don't want to do - because sometimes we need to stretch ourselves, right?  So look out for that new blog, coming soon, where I give myself from now until the last day of 40 (because I started late... and I can't even think of 40 things yet...) to complete some challenges.  This honks of disaster already :-D  Happy.  Days. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Moving Day

The day was finally upon us, yesterday Dan moved into his room in Halls.  True to form, he only started showing an interest on Friday afternoon - Did I know where his is. Will I need y?  

Really ugly buildings on the outside

Dan collecting his key to his first 'pad'

Off to get part two from the car while I unpack... meh...

Ensuite bathroom #swish

Shared Kitchen

Last time he'll be sober for a long time...

Watching the hockey match outside the window

He was off out last night with the other new students, although he knows where he's going better than any peer guide could tell him!  Another lad in the room opposite came to introduce himself as we were leaving and by the time they went out last night, they'd all been acquainted, and went out together.  I am so jealous, I never thought I'd have a child in Uni before I went myself.  But the thing is, for me, it was always going to be about the entire experience, and not just the end result, the degree.  I wanted halls, living on a budget, drinking away my grant and then having to eat value foods, making new friends from all over the country.  After becoming a mum to Dan at 19, I was never going to be able to do it that way, and ending up as a mother of four, it was definitely not happening that way!  That's why I thought it would be a good idea for him to move out, albeit only three miles away, so he can experience it properly.  If it's not for him then he always has his room to come back to.  If he misses us (doubtful) he can always spend the night here.  If things are tough financially, I'll have his back and can get to him within ten minutes with food or money or whatever he needs.  I really don't know how I would have coped if he'd gone further afield.  Small mercies!

He wanted picking up today for Sunday lunch, apparently the lure of my roast pork dinner was too great to resist.  I was filled in on the shenanigans of the night before, it looks like one of his flatmates is a bit of a card, apparently he forgot to bring an iron and instead - filled a saucepan with boiling water - and used that to iron his shirt.  Top marks for innovation I guess?  I was also informed that I had set his alarm clock for 8 am.  Thinking ahead to the welcome meeting at 9 am on Monday morning, I hadn't factored in a lie in after a drunken night out this morning.  My bad.  It went off at the mains, apparently.  Bet he misses his meeting...