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...