Sunday, January 29, 2012

He lifts me up

A good all-round meeting in church this morning but the best bit was a moment we were given early on.

The words of the song we were about to sing were up on the screen and Rich, who was leading worship, suggested we pick one line or phrase that spoke to us and think about it quietly for 1 minute.

The line I chose went something like, 'when I fall down you lift me up.' Initially I though, 'Well, I fall down a a lot so I'm really glad you're there to lift me,' but then it struck me that in order to lift me God has to get down there with me. 

Just like Jesus bent down in the dirt to write on the floor when dealing with the woman caught in adultery so he gets down in the dirt with us, in amongst all our rubbish and crap. And when we're ready helps us get out.

And I'm so glad we don't have a God who keeps himself clean and at a distance. He doesn't just hold out a hand and wait for us to reach up and take it, he gets down, wipes our faces, tends out wounds and lifts us up.

From Pretty Legs Hinds

If you've seen my Facebook profile photo you'll be able to judge for yourself how apt that is!

In which Husband and I argue and I am right

It's intolerable, don't you think? How many people must have - or should have - checked this survey before it was sent out to the public? And still it contains a major spelling mistake. That's lost the Conservatives my vote anyway ...
When I was trying to take the photo of the survey Husband came in and said I was holding the camera at the wrong angle. It needs to be at 90 he said. 
'What? That's stupid.'
I wanted to show 2 bits of the survey at the same time: the spelling mistake and the scribble that passes for the logo at the bottom. Husband said, 'You want it to focus on both those so you have to hold it at 90 degrees like this.'

And he held it as shown in the diagram below.
'That's the way I was going to hold it,' I said, 'but that's not at 90 degrees.'
'Yes, it is,' he said, and he held the camera at right angles to the piece of paper, lifted it up above the paper and turned it over. 'See it's at 90 degrees.'
'No, it's not; it's parallel.'
We continued in this vein for some time until he said, 'well I know what I meant,' which was the closest I'm going to get to an 'Okay, I admit you were right, dear.'

I have to tell you about this because it's rare for me to be right on something vaguely technical or mathematical. I'm not renowned for my precision or expertise in these matters. However I do have a fairly good reputation as a cook so perhaps I shouldn't show you these jars.
On the left is harissa paste as it's meant to be; on the right is harissa paste after it's been hidden in the back of the fridge for an indeterminate time.

I used the one on the left for my Moroccan lamb shanks this evening although the one on the right is probably just bubbling over with antibiotic qualities.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Judge a book by its cover

After getting up with the intention of being dynamic and starting to move furniture back into decorated rooms, I've just spent the last hour browsing book covers on Amazon's Kindle site.

Thank you all for your comments. I understand now that when you read an ebook you see the title in black and white but by then you'll have bought it so it doesn't matter. If I want to attract readers who don't already know me and are buying it just to be nice and make me feel good, then the cover is important.

I've come to the conclusion that you can tell a lot about a book by its cover. (Has somebody said that before?) Some are obviously 'home-made' - but that isn't necessarily bad - and some you wouldn't touch with a barge-pole. The title needs to be big and clear unless you're a famous author in which case your name will take centre stage.

So, of my three choices, I am discarding number 2 because it looks unprofessional. I still like number 1 but I'm not sure it's eye-catching enough. So I'm coming down in favour of number 3.

Yes, I know it's very girly but my audience will be primarily female. Also it needs to fit into an Amazon genre and Romantic Fiction comes closest even though it isn't first and foremost a romance. It's not family saga and it's not literary fiction.

It's in diary form and covers a year in the heroine's life. I did toss around some page from a diary idea and might still have a go at that before finalising the cover.

But now I really ought to go and shift a sofa.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Your opinions, please

Number 1: For some reason transferring it between programs made some of the bits move off the picture. Must be shy. Anyway that's the one I was working on yesterday and you get the general idea. I think it's too 'small' now.

Number 2: I wanted a different colour background but gave up after all my efforts failed. 

Number 3: Elder Son's first effort for me. He threw it together in a spare moment before I told him I'd finally settled on a different title. It looks more professional and good as a thumbnail but is it too obviously girly? Although I imagine my audience will be mainly female.

Going crazy

As I said, I've been working on a cover for my novel. After spending a lot of time on it yesterday - and giving up temporarily because I couldn't understand the software - I finally got round to reading some 'How to ...' advice on publishing ebooks.

One point they all stress is the importance of the cover. And the fact that it has to look good as a thumbnail. Which sort of rules out the subtle cover I'd been working on. Back to the drawing board. Or drawing bed in my case.

I lay there contemplating covers and came up with the 'perfect' design for my book, so I got up this morning all keen and enthused and bursting with excitement - only to be thwarted at every turn by the intricacies of vectors, file formats, programs that stop working at the drop of a pencil and remembering an article I'm supposed to have written by yesterday.

Article is written now, I've had lunch and I have the next 3 hours to 'be creative'. How long before I'm tearing out my grey-at-the-roots hair? (Note to self: must go to hairdresser soon.)

I'm off to a networking event this evening on behalf of Zac's. The good thing is we get fed; the bad thing is I have to talk to strange people. But it's about Zac's so I can manage that I'm sure. Ric's coming with me. He wasn't originally but I'm glad he is as, if I get The Call, he can stand in for me. When I told him that he said, 'At the dinner or delivering the baby?'
I laughed but apparently, in another life, delivering babies was second nature to him. Hm, maybe I should bear that in mind.

Now to stop procrastinating and get back to book covers. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On the road

But not to Devon. No, I'm talking about a different road, one I've been journeying along for far too long but one I think might just have a happy ending - to mix a metaphor.

A couple of weeks ago Elder Son emailed me with a link to an article by a man who'd self-published his book on Kindle. ES said, 'If you've given up sending it to agents you have nothing to lose doing this.'

So that's what I'm in the process of doing: preparing my manuscript and starting the process of turning it into an ebook that will be available on Amazon. The manuscript of my first novel that is.

I began writing it about 8 years ago and I've been through highs and lows with it, the highest being when an agent asked to read it all after enjoying the first three chapters (I tell you, I'd selected the cast for the film version before she finally said no) and the lowest being a critique I received that was so bad I couldn't take what she'd written seriously.

I continued to have faith in my writing and in my novel, though it was a faith that wavered at times. Indeed when  I started reading it again when preparing to edit it for the ebook I got through the first chapters and thought, 'This is terrible!' But I think that's because it's over-familiar. I've worked, re-worked, amended, edited and changed viewpoints till I'm sick and tired. As I continued reading my opinion improved and lots of it made laugh and some moved me. And I think that's pretty promising.

So that's what is taking up my time at the moment. I've just about finished editing and now I'm working on a front cover. Elder Son asked me what the themes of the book were and he drafted a cover, which I loved - but then thought it might be a bit girly. But he's introduced me to the world of vectors and I'm driving myself crazy trying to work with a new drawing program. (When I tried to download the software I found myself with monkeys instead of a drawing program; it took me a while to find out what I did wrong - and I still haven't got rid of the monkeys.)

I'll be asking your opinions soon.

But I'm excited. I wrote the novel hoping people would read it and even if it's only a handful, if they enjoy it, I'll be happy. (Although happier still if I become a world-famous millionaire author who could ask for Alan Rickman to be cast as leading man.)


Daughter's due date is 4th February so we're on standby to rush off to Devon at any moment. It's a bit like living next to a volcano; you always have your bag packed just in case. (Not that Daughter looks like a volcano you understand!)

I had a frustrating shopping trip today. I went out ready to spend Husband's hard-earned money on rugs, curtain tie-backs and lamps and all I came home with was a can of paint. But Husband's now repainted the wall over the fireplace and I'm much happier. In fact you might say that we've ended up with the sludgey colours I wanted and Husband didn't want in the first place. The two walls for which I chose colours I thought Husband would like just happen to be the ones that have been changed. Ho hum.

I'm sure there were some other things I was going to mention before I move on to my next post which is the exciting one!

Oh yes, I was in a meeting this week and a role was being discussed. It happens that I'm already doing part of the role so you might have thought that people would have asked me if I wanted to take on the rest. But no. No-one even suggested me! I didn't want the job, you understand, but it would have been nice to have been noticed.

It reminded me of another meeting I went to once when suggestions were asked for. I was a newcomer to this group so still rather timid but I plucked up my courage and made my suggestion. There was a moment's silence and then the conversation continued as if I'd never spoken. I didn't say anything again for a long time.

And I found the borrowed book I knew I hadn't lost but put in a safe place. Which in this instance just happened to be under the bedside cabinet. If only I'd thought of looking there before I went out and bought a replacement copy to return.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's going to be one of those days

I spent 5 minutes trying to find a number on the phone and wondering how I'd made calls before before I realised I was using the land line not my mobile.

In the bank I spent a similar time trying to work out how to get the lid off the bank's pen before realising that what I had in my hand was the pen holder and that the pen was missing.

Then I got home and my computer died in front of my eyes. It was especially bad as the recipe for the cake I'm making for Zac's tonight - and for which I'd just been out and bought the ingredients - was only available as a photo on the computer.

However as you know, I am a computer genius. I switched off the computer and turned it back on. No joy. I switched it off again, picked it up, shook it and switched it back on. Hurrah! See? Genius.

Now I'm working on the principle that things happen in threes so I'm safe for the rest of the day ...

Brazilians, cossacks and burpees

This is what Husband had me doing yesterday: shifting three sofas out of the lounge and piling them up on top each other in the hall. Just call me Superwoman.

Although I didn't feel like Superwoman when I was in circuit training later. I've come to the conclusion I have a problem with my brain. At least that's Husband's theory.
I struggle with any exercise that requires me to move both feet at the same time and in the same direction (such as a bunny hop or burpee). My right foot obediently does as it's told; my left foot follows - literally. A beat later. Like Corporal Jones in Dad's Army, my left foot is always one step behind everything else.
And, what's more, they should rename the squat thrust; for people like me it should be called the froggie thrust as my feet point outwards at roughly 45 degrees. I never realised how bad it was until I started doing circuits and Jules says, 'Your hips, legs and feet should all be pointing in the same direction.' Whoops.

P.S. Meant to say the carpet men are coming today to fit our new lounge carpet. Yay!
P.P.S. Carpet men have been. Now I need to go to the shop and buy different paint as the carpet doesn't match the wall over the fireplace.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A weekend away

We've been in London this weekend. Well, Egham actually but if I say London then you'll know which part of the country I mean.

Yesterday afternoon GrandSon had his first swimming lesson and we were able to watch. He was by far the best splasher and floater - and I'm not at all biased - and, of course, handsomest.

Then this morning we went for a walk in Savill Garden, which is part of the Crown Estate and I suppose officially part of Windsor Great park. It's a well-looked-after flower garden, which is very popular with people out for a Sunday stroll, and deservedly so. Even at this time of year there was much of  interest such as these brightly coloured dogwood stems. 

And this unimpressive shrub, which had the most delicious perfume that filled the air as you passed by. It was an unlikely contender when we were sniffing around to determine the source of the scent, which was vaguely jasminey.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The story of Yarri

According to the Guardian, Australia is set to recognise Aborigines as first people of continent. It's only amazing that it has taken this long to get this far.

Zac's Place is the beneficiary of a piece of art that celebrates Aboriginal culture.
This isn't the best photo: it still has some of the cellophane wrapping on it for a start! But it tells a story, the story of Yarri.

In the first half of the nineteenth century white immigrants settled in the flood plain of Gundagi ignoring advice from the local people that it was prone to flooding. The settlers coped with minor floods but one day, in 1852, the torrent that had been anticipated arrived and many were drowned in their attempts to escape.

While the flood was at its height it was too dangerous for rowboats to go in the water but one man, an Aborigine named Yarri, took his frail bark canoe and rowed back and for into the raging waters. His canoe could only hold one passenger so time and time again he risked his own life, rescuing, in total, 49 people. On the second day of the rescue another Aborigine named Jacky Jacky joined him and he rescued another 20 settlers.

It's thought to be the first act of reconciliation between the indigenous people and the white settlers, and many of today's Gundagi descendants owe their existence to the bravery of these two men. You can read the full story here.

Apparently, in Aboriginal culture, there can only be one artistic interpretation of an event and the artist of this piece had to search hard to make sure no art illustrating this event already existed. It was commissioned for Zac's Place by our good friends in Australia, and, if you know anything about Aboriginal art you'll know that each dot has a significance: I think there may be 69 dots in fact.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Treacle pudding and custard

The trouble with writing for a food website is that I get cravings for the food in question, in this case, steamed treacle pudding. As you see it didn't come out of the basin very successfully but tasted nice especially with lots of custard.

Definitely back on the diet tomorrow.

THAT phone call

Nick asked what phone call I was trying to avoid - successfully yesterday, I should add.

It's one where I know I will lose the 'discussion' and come off the phone feeling bad and cross with myself. 

And I'm about to make it now. That is, when I've finished my cereal. And drunk my tea. And blown my nose. Maybe I should go to the toilet as well. Or even shower?

10 minutes later
First attempt made. Recipient in work but not in office - as I secretly suspected he wouldn't be at this time of day. I will call back later.

2 hours later
Second attempt. Got answering machine. Left a message to call me.

7 hours later
Had phone call with anticipated result. Ah well, some things aren't worth fighting over. Or rather other things are more important.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The sort of granny I aspire to be

She took to eating lunch and tea
While sitting in her favourite tree.
She tried to fly one late June day
(No, not in the conventional way,
But from the window, with an umbrella)
Even though we tried to tell her:
"Do not do it, granny dear."
She simply said she could not hear.
I asked her why she'd done all this;
She said that I should know,
That grandmas aren't all they seem,
That though they're old and slow,
Exciting thoughts are going on -
It's just that they don't show.

Excerpts from My Granny was a frightful bore (but she isn't any more)
by Nanette Newman and Beryl Cook

It's amazing what I'll do to avoid making a phone call

I found 26 socks under Younger Son's bed, not quite beating the record of 27. Some pairs, some odd but maybe some of those will pair up with the lonely socks in my OddSox bag. I can but hope.

It wasn't so much that I went under the bed to find the socks  but rather that we took the bed out leaving the socks (and assorted debris) exposed. Just call me Mrs Shifta, beds, chest of drawers moved. It's a good job I'm a big strong girl the things Husband tells me to 'just lift up over the desk'.

Younger Son's room is next on Husband's decorating list. We're converting it into a grandchildren bedroom. What fun!

Talking of socks, I've been sneezing mine off with the dust in the room. Husband tells me I should be sneezing out through my nose to clear it and when I asked how I was supposed to do that he told me to keep my mouth shut. Well, I tried but my head nearly burst.

Hakuna matata

My enjoyment of the bible study at Zac's last night was marred by the almost continual stream of foul-smelling farts being produced by the person sitting next to me.

It seemed rude to move so I tried discreetly to waft the odour away with a makeshift fan but all that happened was that Steve, who was leading it, thought I was hot and turned down the heating.

That aside, the study was good, looking at the feeding of the 5,000, with an alternative explanation (to a simple miracle) thrown in for thought i.e. that Jesus - and the little boy who offered the 5 loaves and 2 fishes - set in motion a process of sharing food that continues in the church today. 

P.S. I've just remembered that, later in the evening, I slapped Steve across the back of the head but I can't recall why. I think it was something he said about women and multi-tasking but I can't multi-task so it must have been some other inference.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sorry, it's the rules

I'm not sure if I should publish this post so if you're reading it you'll know I decided to 'publish and be damned.'

The Night Shelter is a brilliant scheme and I was delighted to have my chance to help out on Friday but, ever since then, I've been struggling with an issue.

One of the things about the Night Shelter, which has run successfully in London and other towns and cities for some years, is that there have to be strictly defined rules, Rules that you have to abide by. Rules like, if you're not there on time i.e. before 8.00 pm, then you're not allowed in.

So last Friday one guest arrived at about 9.30. His name was on the list but he was late so refused entry. Because that's the rules and there have to be rules because otherwise the guests will take advantage. If you break a rule once then next time it'll be that little bit later (or he'll be a little bit drunker or a little bit bolshier) and when do you stop? And besides the guests who'd managed to get there on time were objecting in no uncertain terms. 'It's not fair. We told him to come with us and he didn't so it's his own fault. You can't let him in.'

When I left the building at 10.15 pm it was 3 degrees on what was looking to be the coldest night of the year so far. We had space and spare beds and this man who'd made his way a few miles out of town to find us was sent out to sleep ... where? I don't know. I do know I can't see Jesus saying, 'Sorry but go away.'

I'm not on the rota again as Daughter's baby is expected in the next few weeks and I didn't want to have to let people down at the last moment, and I'm glad about that. Much as I think the shelter is a wonderful thing it needs stronger people than me to run it.

Doddery old drivers

Since Husband passed his driving test at the age of 17 he's been grumbling about doddery old drivers getting in his way, and his ambition has been to, one day, be similarly annoying to other drivers.

I'm pleased to say he has achieved that ambition.

Well, I don't know about other drivers but he annoys me. Sometimes he seems to forget he's driving, especially if he's explaining things to me, and he goes really slowly. I find my stomach getting tense as I press the non-existent accelerator.

Heaven help us when he gets really old.

Confused or what?

Currently, January 2012, we have in flower in the garden: rose, camellia, snowdrop and geranium. 
There are some confused plants about.

When you don't need a husband

Driving to town this afternoon Husband and I had a discussion about the symbol used locally on signposts to illustrate the waterfront industrial museum. Husband claimed we'd already had this conversation (we had) and that he'd said it was the letter M. I said I didn't remember him saying that but 'I might have forgotten. I forget lots of things. My memory isn't the best. Nothing about me is the best these days.'
I coughed.
'Excuse me,' I said.
'What?' said Husband.
'You're supposed to say something at this point.'
'Oh, I wasn't listening. You'd gone off one one of your rabbits.'
Undeterred I started again. 'I said that my memory isn't the best and that nothing is the best about me nowadays. You're supposed to say I have lots of best bits to which I will reply, "well, you've got to say that as you're my husband." ... And I don't really need you to take part in this conversation anyway, do I?'

That's the good thing about being married a long time. Predictability means I can have a conversation on my own.


Does this look like icing to you? 
No, nor me. Either I've got something wrong or Mary Berry, famous tv cook, has.
I thought I'd try her 'favourite traybake' recipe from this month's Sainsburys magazine for Zac's tonight but I'm not convinced by it.
She suggested using a potato peeler to create chocolate curls to decorate the top. When i tried that this is where most of the chocolate went. 
(Obviously it's melted a bit on my hand; I didn't try and peel the chocolate when it was warm.)

P.S. It's turned out better than I anticipated.

The fish keep following me

It's bad enough having George watching me eat and begrudging me every mouthful; now I have the fish watching me too. They follow me around the kitchen, their big eyes appealing. And they start first thing in the morning and they're not due to be fed until 6 in the evening!
It's very disconcerting having your every move scrutinised. By fish. 

I don't believe they can have a 7-second memory as alleged.

Monday's Odd Shot

This odd shot is even odder than intended as I can't make it appear the right way up - even though it started out that way. 
In the wood in Devon last week we discovered these balloons growing wild.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Jesus clock and insomnia

We've had a recent influx of new people at Linden so much so that Sunday morning meetings are beginning to present a Health & Safety hazard. I suggested to Chris, my boss, that we could solve the problem by replacing the boring clock in the hall with the Jesus clock from my office. My theory is that only people who really belong in Linden would stay then.

Chris vetoed the idea just because. 

However he did make a valid point. Some would love the clock while laughing heartily but others might love the clock because of its religious symbolism. The first group is welcome; people in the the second group might soon find themselves struggling with Linden's less-than-religious attitude.

* * * * * * * * *
I was reading an article in a magazine all about home remedies for various ailments. If you have trouble sleeping try applying pressure to the pad at the base of your big toe. Apparently, according to reflexologists, this clears the head thus enabling you to sleep well. And while you're massaging your big toe chew on some lettuce, which, as every bunny knows, is highly soporific. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Husband dear, would you mind ...

Husband finished painting the lounge on Tuesday; yesterday we went out and ordered carpet (which was quite easy as we could only find one carpet shop and the choice of green carpets there was limited). Now all I have to do is decide what I want Husband to repaint as the colour scheme doesn't look quite right.

Husband is resigned to this, or maybe I should say used to this. We rarely manage to decorate a room without me changing my mind at some point after he's started.

I suggested we should repaint the woodwork - if you recall by the time I'd got round to choosing suitable paint I'd lost the will - but Husband suggested re-painting the yellow wall - as we have lots of leftover 'drab' paint and won't have to buy any more. As the yellow wall was my token gesture to his request for warm yellow colours I'll probably let him do that.

Except now he's got me worrying that the room might look too cold rather than the calm serene effect I'm going for.

And he says that George won't be allowed in there when it's all finished. Yeah, right.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The men loved my dumplings

Six churches in Swansea are working together to operate a Night Shelter during January and February, providing food and accommodation for rough sleepers. Linden is doing Friday nights and last night I was on duty for cooking. The menu is preplanned - we're to offer cawl (traditional welsh stew with lamb, root vegetables and leeks). I always make dumplings with my cawl at home so I did the same last night and they went down a treat. 'Oh, dumplings! I haven't had dumplings for years!' Or as one man called them, doughboys. 
I grew up calling them doughboys but Husband didn't know what I meant so I changed to dumplings. It was great hearing them called by their 'proper' name again! The man, a local, said his nan had been a school dinner-lady and she'd made doughboys so maybe it's a South Walian term.
I followed it with rice pudding and again the cries rang out, 'I haven't had rice pudding for years,' and the talk was all about remembering school dinners with tapioca, sago and rice puddings and the inevitable blob of strawberry jam in the middle.

Nick, who laid the table, suggested candles and wine glasses for the orange squash, which made the table look lovely. One of our guests said it was like a romantic dinner for twenty. (Guests and volunteers sit down to eat together.)
As well as the volunteers from Linden representatives of the housing groups come along too and one, a nurse, who works with the homeless, said what an improvement she could see, particularly in some of the men, even in the two weeks that the shelter has been running. They have some sort of aim in the day - they have to get themselves to the next night shelter/church in time and the churches are all over Swansea - and it gets them motivated and they have to be sober enough to manage it.
They are all so appreciative, it's fab! Last night was my only stint as Daughter's due date is 4th February and I didn't want to commit myself to anything too close to that date as we might be in Devon. But fortunately we had over 40 volunteers from Linden and that's amazing. As a church we're not good at volunteering. We turn up to things and help but don't like to commit in advance!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Naughty George!

He escaped this morning.

First time for ages but fortunately he must have made a beeline for his new best friend who gave him a bowl of food while phoning us. 'I've never seen a dog eat like him,' he said.
At least we'll know where to go first to look for him in future.

He got out through the back gate, which had been opened during the night. We're guessing someone was hoping to get into the garage and look for stealables. Unfortunately for the thief our garage is so securely locked I struggle to get in and I have keys.

The greenhouse door had been opened though making Husband panic. 'It's all right,' he reported back. 'They haven't taken my lime plant.'
It's his pride and joy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A success and a failure

Tried out 2 new recipes today: Gary Rhodes' slow-roasted belly pork and Hummingbird Bakery coconut jam sandwich.

I was in M&S looking for dinner inspiration and saw the belly pork. Husband's had it a few times when we've eaten out so I thought I'd give it a go, but as you see from the photo it wasn't entirely successful. 
It wasn't a complete failure - the meat tasted quite nice - but the top and the tin that were supposed to have a nice caramelised coating were just black. And the meat was a bit chewy. 
Pork isn't my favourite meat but I hoped the slow-roasting and the fat would make it tastier. So it's back to the drawing board for belly pork, methinks. I've been through a few of my recipe books and none of them mention belly pork; I assume that's because my books are mostly old and it's only recently found its way back into fashion.

I had more success with my coconut jam sandwich from one of my Christmas present cookbooks. I'll see how it goes down with the Zac's mob tonight but I like it very much.

I'm free!

My optician was called Mr Humphreys. It was so hard to resist the urge, when shown into his room, to say, 'Are you free, Mr Humphreys?'

Is it me or does everyone feel as if they're back in school when they go for an eye test?

The pressure is on to get the right answers. It's fine when he responds, 'Good,' but then the inevitable moment comes when you have to say which circle is the darker and it's, 'um, um, the right one? Maybe?' and he says doubtfully, 'Okaaay.' Then puts different glasses on you to test if you're lying to him.
But I was doing okay until he brought up on the computer screen the pictures they'd taken of the back of my eye.  He could have just said, 'Fine,' but no, he felt the need to explain it all to me.' This dark spot is where the front of the eye is and this is an artery and this a vein.' Far too much information for a woman of tender sensibilities. Get me out of here!

But I'm pleased to report that my eyes are fine - or at least they haven't deteriorated any more since the last test. At least not enough to warrant new glasses. 

And the receptionist, when I paid, pointed out that I had £28 worth of Boots points on my loyalty card. 'You should treat yourself,' she said.
I didn't like to say that I had never managed to work out how to exchange points.
That and I'm a serial point collector. I have thousands of Sainsburys points that Daughter keeps telling me I should spend. 

Monday, January 09, 2012

Poor George!

George has perfected his 'I'm so sad and scared' look. He managed to wangle three lots of treats at the vets' and he only went for his vaccination.

I have an appointment at the optician's tomorrow. I wonder if I tried the same thing I'd get chocolate.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

I've given up

I've ordered a second-hand copy from eBay of the book I borrowed as I've searched high and low and can't find it anywhere.
I know I put it somewhere safe ...
However while searching I did find another book I'd forgotten I'd borrowed so that's a plus. I also found the £10 voucher from Waterstone's that they gave me because I spent so much there before Christmas. So a win win situation really.
And Husband is cooking Gary Rhodes' shepherd's pie for dinner for me tonight so all is well in the Hinds' household. I don't know what makes Gary's version so much better than any other but it is. Maybe it's the richness - or simply having it cooked by someone else.
The original plan was that he would make it for dinner yesterday while I was in work but his roller broke. Or that's his story anyway.

Whoop! Whoop!

I'm a centerian - my new word! I averaged 106 daily blog readers last week. That's the first time my number's gone over 100. 

I know that's nothing compared to those of you who count their readers in the hundreds or even thousands but it's an achievement for me. And I believe that includes a lot of regular readers who actually come to read what I have to say rather than people who've been brought here by a random search engine.
Some people comment regularly too and I much appreciate those words, and I know from occasional comments that there are other regulars.
There are some blogs that specialise and deal primarily with one or two topics and they attract readers interested in those subjects. While I have my favourite themes - George escaping, Zac's chaos and so on - which are popular with readers too - some of my posts are fairly random. (Okay, make that very random!) I know numbers aren't important but it's lovely to know a reasonable number of you find my writing entertaining. 
I love it when you say that I made you laugh. That has to be the best reason for writing.

So to each one of you 106 I say thank you!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Oh yes I have!

I've just come back from the panto!

It was great. I had to drag Husband with me but even he said it was better than he expected. And as for the 3D effects! I was ducking behind the lady in front of me to avoid the flying rocks!

It was a very modern panto with lots of singing, flashy lights and amazing sets. What it lacked was tradition: there was no striptease from the Dame or a custard pie fight and not a single 'He's behind you'. 

I suppose pantos have to change for modern audiences. I did enjoy the 3D but still hanker after a bit of 'Oh no he's not.

My first experience of theatre was the annual trip to the pantomime. My mum worked for the local bus company and every year they organised a trip to the panto for employees' children. My excitement at going was marred slightly at the thought of having to go with a crowd of children I didn't know but once I was there, and caught up in the magic - and the smell of the greasepaint! - I forgot my terror and became, just for an afternoon, a sequinned-costumed princess.

And Daisy, Sean's daughter, who is one of the little dancers in the show, was, of course, the real star!

P.S. Widow Twankey at least did manage to retain some of the old-style humour. 'A man came into the launderette wearing cling film pants. I said, "I can see you're nuts."'

Thursday, January 05, 2012

What do you do with your spare arm?

We decided we'd stick to the original curtain plan for the French doors but buy the only option available - which is too narrow and too long. 

Watch this space for developments.

** * * * * * 

I've been having trouble getting off to sleep recently, mainly because I can't work out what I usually do with my spare arm - the one that isn't underneath me that is. I'm sure I must have done something with it in the past but just what escapes me.

But while I couldn't sleep last night my head was busy and, amazingly, today I've followed through on lots of the actions I planned. I am quite impressed with myself. Now if I could just remember where the safe place is that I've stored the borrowed book.

I yearn for magnolia

So I sat down and had a little think. I planned the colour scheme and chose the colours. Then I went to the store clutching my precious list in my hot little hand.

Of my original colour choices they only had Mojito in stock - and I didn't like that after all. I was determined - or rather Husband had threatened me with no dinner - not to go home without paint so after a great deal of uum-ing and aah-ing and walking to and fro and putting on and taking off of glasses, I went for Cotton Fields and Honey Lust. In place of Mojito I got another 2 colour charts to ponder upon and as I was the only Aged White thing in the section a large tin of white paint prettily-named to prevent me confusing it with juts-ordinary-white paint joined its compatriots in my basket.

By the time it came to choosing a colour for the woodwork I had lost the will.

Next time I'me going to paint it all Brilliant White and give guests felt pens as they enter with an open invitation to 'decorate our room please'. What am I saying, 'next time'?! At our decorating rate we'll be dead by the next time.

Do you remember when having magnolia was considered daring?

My problem is ...

No, I'll amend that. (Actually my immediate problem is that someone - probably me - has pushed my keyboard further back on my desk and I am struggling to reach it. Remedy: bring it forward. If only life - and decorating - were that simple.) One of my problems is that I am a sucker for a neat turn of phrase.

Daughter is a copywriter and thus one of that band of people who contribute to making my life difficult.

If I had to look at a paint chart and choose it would be relatively simple; because I allow myself to read the colour names I am drawn into the web of deliciousness promised by Summer Pudding and Winterbloom. How can I resist Cuban Heat or Happy Daze? Gentle Yellow, Fairy Dust and a Whisper of Snowfall all beckon me in. As for Sunday Best, Biscotti and Rice Pudding ...

I had more or less chosen my colour scheme when the opportunity to recreate French country living with chamomile yellow, truffle and linen shades was offered to me. Oh dear ...

My granny would turn in her grave

I invented a pie for dinner the other evening using Christmas leftovers. 

My pie was lightly spiced butternut squash and feta cheese with chilli and garlic wrapped in filo pastry. How middle class is that?! My granny wouldn't have heard of half the ingredients and as for using shop-bought pastry?! 

She made the best shortcrust pastry. She taught me the method, told me the exact ingredients and watched as I made it; still it wasn't as good as hers. 

Ever since I've felt a fear when called upon to make pastry. Mine's okay but it's not my granny's. But then again maybe I'm looking through rose-tinted spectacles at a past that is partly created from storybooks. That's what I accuse Husband of when he takes his first taste of my Christmas pudding, savours it, allows its flavour and texture to be appreciated before he says, 'It's good ... but not as good as Evelyn's.'

Husband used to work with Evelyn about 25 years ago. A Scot, at Christmas she would take one of her home-made puddings into the office to share with her fellow-workers. Husband has never forgotten these puddings - as he reminds me each year. I say length of time makes the memory sweeter and, just like Princess Diana will never look old, Evelyn's Christmas puddings will only grow in splendour as the years pass. 

My granny used to make her own puddings, steaming them for a day in the big old family boiler. Now her puddings were really something ...

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Monday's Odd Shot (belatedly)

Am I missing something here? 

Surely a blank stencil is just a bit of uncut cardboard?
For Katney's Odd Shots.

(I'm having trouble with this new Blogger layout; if I centralise my words my picture stays left. And the words are supposed to be underneath the photo not next to it.)

Hairy Mclary

I must be a lot better: I've started having strange dreams again.

For about a week my dreams have been very normal, logical and sensible; last night I dreamt I had a beard growing from my right wrist. And that was the sanest bit.

Zac's back to 'normal'

Back to Zac's last night. As Sean expected it was a low turn-out for the first bible study of the year so instead of getting straight back into Mark we chatted more informally (like it's ever formal!) about ways God had shown his presence to us last year. There were some great stories, with people sharing honestly and openly about painful times in their lives. 

And hearing about answered prayer not in God's usual 'see if you can find me in this answer' way but obvious unambiguous ways.

A good start to 2012. Especially as someone brought a tin of Quality Street. 

We have a problem, Houston

Went wall-paper browsing today. First problem is that Husband doesn't like my suggestions. No, first problem is that Husband isn't listening to what I say so he says, 'Yes, that sounds nice,' then when I continue, says, 'Oh no, I don't like that.'

Next - and probably more serious  - or expensive at least - problem is that our French doors/windows are bigger than ready-made curtains go up to. Current estimate for curtains made to measure that fit (in material I want) is more than the price of a small car (even in the sale). Even in material I don't want it costs nearly that much. And suppose I had them made and didn't like them!

I knew it couldn't be as simple as it appeared yesterday.

So, thinking off the wall, do we really need curtains at that window? We don't need them for privacy but we do for cosiness and heat retention. We've had the curtains open ever since Husband set up the Christmas grotto outside. Hmm, what about draping a blanket from the curtain-rail? I think I've still got some of my granny's old war blankets ...

Alternatively shutters? Blinds? A trendy mix of two pairs of contrasting but complementing cheapo ready-mades? Paint the windows?


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Welly good

My new wellies, a Christmas present from Husband, were christened today. It was the first walk I'd been on for about a month what with Christmas and being busy and being poorly and I was entering into that anxious/depressed state that I haven't experienced for ages. Before I went I got myself quite worked up fearing 'what if?' What if what I wasn't sure; there were just these unnameable dark fears weighing me down.
A good splosh through the woods - and, my word, we've had some rain this last month - in my new wellies and I feel reinvigorated. Thankfully.

* * * * * * * * *
Husband has half-stripped the lounge. He's getting on faster than I expected so I need to be decisive in my wallpaper selecting. Fortunately - amazingly! - the wallpaper I was tempted by months ago in Laura Ashley is half-price, as are the matching curtains! The chances of me choosing a wallpaper on sale, let alone curtains too, must have been minute so I feel this must be a sign. Will I still like it when I go and see it tomorrow though?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Xmas? Yeuk!

Before Christmas, Chris, my boss, sent me an email about the Xmas lunch. I replied with a one word email: Xmas? In response he sent me this information.

Abbreviations used as Christian symbols have a long history in the church. By the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type. In the early days of printing typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. 
As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation C, or simply X, for the word "Christ" to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and "Xmas" became an accepted way of printing "Christmas" (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity).  
So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season.  Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church.  
It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. As with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation "Xmas" should be pronounced "Christmas" just as if the word were written out in full, rather than 
saying "exmas."  
Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the faith during Advent, and bring a little more peace to the Xmas Season. 

Which is all well and good except it wasn't because I considered it a dilution of Christianity or commercialism but simply that it is an aesthetically unpleasing word. And as an English teacher Chris should know better!
But thinking about it, it would only be intelligent Christians (or atheists, dr stu) who would know about the Christian abbreviation (I didn't before this, needless to say) so the use of the word in the secular world could still be a dilution rather a harking back to the old traditions.
And it's ugly. 
Don't you have words you don't like?

Oh no I didn't

Isn't it fascinating what you forget?
I was just re-reading last January's blog and I discovered we spent last New Year's Eve in Derby where Mother-in-law had been hospitalised. Well, well.
I also thought I'd written about my resolution to be extravagant; turns out that was 2010's resolution.
Doesn't time fly when you're getting old?
Did I live extravagantly? I don't and didn't mean spending lots of money, but rather being extravagant with my time, energy and love. I don't know. 
I'm sure there's still room for improvement and it shall be my resolution again this year.

Carry on decorating

We've taken down the Christmas decorations because we're decorating the lounge. I'm using the royal we here you understand: Husband is doing all the work. Although I have the most difficult bit: choosing the paint, paper and curtains. We - or maybe I - will go out tomorrow and browse.

Husband said we should get on with it and as we've been saying for the last four years at least that it needs doing I don't want to stand in his way. I've done my bit - undressing the tree - now I'm leaving it to him.

I think it must be time for a cup of tea though ...

You may call me Ma'am

Another year, another Honours list and still I'm not made a Queen. 
But Husband has been doing some interesting genealogical research the fruits of which I shall share with you when he has completed his reading. For now let me just hint that I am descended from kings, emperors and saints.
Excuse me, I must go and polish my tiara/halo.

Husband knows how to make a girl feel good

He looked at me yesterday and said, 'You look terrible.'

Admittedly I did have a cold flannel draped across my forehead at the time but still.

After a drug cocktail administered by Husband I slept reasonably well and am feeling a little better today. (I've stopped the antibiotics.) I am approaching life very tentatively though and doing everything slowly.

I am glad to see the back of December; I've had more infections, coughs and bugs in one month than I've had for years. Still new year, new start.

2011 had its bad times: the death of Mother-in-law, Father-in-law having to go into a home and Husband's hospitalisation. But they're outweighed by the good times: the birth of GrandSon, the news that Daughter is expecting again, and Younger Son's graduation and engagement. And in 2012 we have a new baby and an Italian wedding to look forward to.

Yes, life is good.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Feeling ill?

How do you like these wedding cakes? Quite unusual I think!

Sadly we had to leave the wedding party early as I had a splitting headache that carried on through the night. Last time I had a bladder infection, at the beginning of December, it was followed by the strange not-quite-flu-type illness that laid me up for a few days. At the time I wondered if it might be a reaction to the tablets and I'm wondering again today. 

At about 3 this morning I had every fatal illness known to Man so in the cold light of day I checked the possible side effects listed in the tablet package. They included aseptic meningitis the symptoms of which are: headache (check), fever (well, I was very hot last night), blah blah (didn't have those), and 'feeling ill'. Feeling ill?! What kind of symptom is that? Surely it's because you're feeling ill that you take the tablets? How do you know if you're feeling ill because you're ill or because of the tablets you're taking to stop you feeling ill?

Anyway I felt a bit better this morning so I took another tablet. If I get a repeat of the stinky headache I'll stop and go back to the doctor. 

But a word of advice: if you're thinking of putting a bag of frozen veg on your forehead to ease the pain, make sure it's an unopened pack. I'll be picking green beans and sweet corn out of the back of the sofa for months. Unless George ferrets them out first.

Happy New Year one and all

I wish you could smell these hyacinths. They were just bulbs, a present from my uncle, when they arrived in the post a few days before Christmas. Since then it's almost been possible to see them growing as you watch. And the smell fills the kitchen.

A very happy, healthy and blessed 2012 to each one of you. May it be a special year for you.