Archive for May, 2010

This is a Relaxing Holiday

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Holidays are tough. If I ask Beardieboy he can never make his mind up, doesn’t want to think about money and doesn’t want to go anywhere that is vaguely organised or ordinary. He wants to feel free. Exasperated that I can’t get any straight answers from him I just get on with it by myself. After all I was a single parent for 10 years, if I can’t organise then who can?

Approximately 6 months before a holiday I begin. I start by choosing a destination. This is based on activities that are available. The more activities the better. Two years ago I had a 17, 13 and 3 year old so it had to be something to suit everyone. For anyone interested that seems to be Tenby though I’m sure Cornwall and Devon would do it too. Then I work out a budget. How much is the accommodation? Do we take a tent, our increasingly rickety caravan or rent something. Then I work out my entertainment budget. I plan to do something every single day, knowing we won’t do that but it’s important to cover all angles. I budget for two restaurant meals usually. I bid for Tesco points on eBay and get them converted to entry tickets to theme parks. I am relentlessly organised. I print out maps, buy extra food each week in the months leading up to it and on the day before I leave I make a picnic hamper. This takes whole operation takes hours of study and planning, weeks of organising and preparation. It’s my family holiday and I want my family to have a great time.

Usually about two days into the holiday Beardieboy saunters down a cobbled street with an ice cream in his hand or climbs off a nerve-shattering ride and declares with his warm shining grin, ‘This is a relaxing holiday. We should go with the flow more often, you should chill out more’.

A Little Bit of This and That

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Oh there you are. I must have had my map upside down, I was heading in the opposite direction. Soz.

I’m not sure I’ve got anything interesting to write about. Work is interesting but I can’t talk about that and stay working so we’ll leave it there. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Family? Well, let’s just say, everyone has been ill so far, and the least ill but the most grumpy is obviously Beardieboy.  I sent him a text tonight, after venting my spleen earlier (I still haven’t found my wedding ring from my outburst two days ago so I really should get some anger management). The text said ‘Sorry I got angry. Please get well soon.’ This means ‘Sorry I got angry (, you wound me up with your whiney shit and outrageously grumpy, pestering behaviour and if you don’t get well soon I might have to kill you, so) please get well soon.’  He came scampering down the stairs like an excited puppy to accept the apology in person. grr

A typical victim of 'man flu' - just add a beard and ignore.

 I’ve been so ill all week that I’m finally on antibiotics and recovering. It’s a good thing. We’re short staffed next week and well, you can’t have too many people to push bits of paper around can you?

Friends? My welsh friends will always be my friends but not being able to get home more than once every four or five months is proving a bit of a barrier on the close friendship front. Never mind, we’ve been friends since we were five I’m sure we’ll survive. Then there’s the friends I’ve met through Beardieboy. I have to say they are pretty much as lovely as you’d like. Kind hearted, good fun, always come to our parties and never borrow the lawn mower. However, it’s important to find friends for yourself as well, so I decided recently that I should start working on new friendships, new acquaintances and becoming part of my new community. Twitter’s been amazing.

 I’ve chatted with some hilarious and lovely people. Take @nudieprincess for instance. She’s gorgeous even in the nude .  Obsessed with (my) weird sex (fetishes) too.   Then there’s the beautiful and talented @cosmicgirlie. I don’t chat to her much but I do watch her growing confidence in photography and her refinding of her love for cello with admiration. Her honesty is very endearing. Her kids are cute too. There’s @brumcast who is passionate about birmingham and passionate about music his Rhubarb Radio show is great and he’s very excited about his impending parenthood (and so he should be, it’s a bloody trip). We met up with him at a rhubarb radio mash up and he’s a lovely bloke. There are more and I’m sure I’ll mention them again but I don’t want to do a roll call. You/they are all great and make my long evenings tolerable.

Deserving of a paragraph all of her own is @mrs_eddieizzard What can I say about this woman? She’s funny, passionate about her family, human rights, society, and crocheting.  She’s also an absolute mare who nearly made me piss my pants by texting the word ‘Boo!’ to me when I was watching Paranormal Activity the other night. This was closely followed by ‘Look outside, I’m behind the bush’ Not fucking likely spank you very much! I’m the woman who watched Salem’s Lot in my first home with no curtains up. So there I was, sitting in the living room, when there was a tappety tap tap on the window. Fearing that my life was about to drained from me by terrible vampires I picked up two pokers and fashioned a cross before turning around to discover they were effing moths trying to get to the light. Bastards.

 

However, back to mrs izzard, she is propery funny and has great taste in clothes and cars. I know we’re going to have fun, even if she is younger than me, with bags of energy and enthusiasm. Calm down dear.

Music? Well that’s taking on a life of its own. Still nothing recorded as Less for Murder yet but we did go down to Katie Fitzgerald’s in Stourbridge on Monday, where they have an open mic night. Someone called us experimental; someone was clearly heard saying ‘well that was shit’ after the first song, but overall we had some very positive feedback, including being compared to the Pixies. We were encouraged to return. That’s the ticket! We’re going to be spinning our little yarns of fucked up relationships and the life choices of weirdos at the Adam and Eve in Digbeth on 31st May for our first offical outing as Less for Murder, that’s if I don’t decide before hand that I could actually get less for murder and dispatch him with a rolling pin first.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. Been sick, have new friends, driven insane by the evil one, making music, will be heard. Night all!

Thrifty Business

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Right, I’m not apologising, but I will warn you, this is a boring post, it’s about food shopping and it’s not a joke. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this crap but I will admit that my calmest moments are when my fridge is full and my family can eat.  It’s a protective thing. I bloody hate being broke.

I get thrifty. Did you know you can put a handful of lentils and a handful of porridge oats in your bolognaise? Make sure you keep adding extra water and use a heavy bottom pan. It takes an extra hour to cook but can almost double your pan. It tastes extra creamy and it’s good for you.

When I lived in wales I had the choice of one shop, Kwiksave. I spent the same every week and there were no frills. When Tesco went online I used them and my bill jumped from £75 a week to £120 but I put it down to having, and taking, the extra choices.

Since coming to Bearwood I’ve had more choice, but more to do and life gets busy. I’ve tried buying fruit and veg from Pak in Cape Hill, I’d say great if you’re going to use it in the next 3 days but don’t buy for the week. I get bulk packs of spices there, buy big bags (10 or 15kg) of rice and toilet rolls. they have massive packs, I think they’re £3.50 for a pack of about 24 rolls or £10 for 3 packs.  They often have very cheap sugar 50p a bag and I buy popping corn there, dry pop it in a heavy pan and take it to the cinema with my cans of pop. If you like asian food, like me, you can buy giant tubs of preminced garlic and ginger there, as well as the spices and large buckets of plain yogurt. We buy frozen samosas there, often on 2 for 1 offer.  Farmfoods next door is cheap but Iceland is better quality for virtually the same price.

So now, apart from the odd trip to Pak  Supermarket I’ve started shopping in Bearwood. I’ve got into the habit of going to Co-op first for their bogof bargains. This week they had buy 18 packs of McCoys and get 18 free. £4 (it’s currently £9.54 for the same amount in tesco and if you buy their own brand it’s £3 for 18 or £6 for the quantity I bought). I am strict about coop, they’re a bit expensive, don’t get sucked in by their glossy fridges, go straight to the bargain shelf where they usually have super cheap coleslaw, pizzas etc and stick to ONLY the stuff I’d usually buy. They regularly have great cheese offers, better than anyone else, dunno why but they usually have some kind of half price or bogof offer on mature cheddar. They have very cheap granary baguettes at the mo, nice for Saturday lunch.

After Coop it’s off to the bargain multibuy butchers on the same side of the street, just past aldi (can’t remember name) but they are great for bacon, sausage, bargain packs of pies (i bought the pasties once, they were nice). They have trays of sausages which have become a barbeque favourite when we have parties, very tasty. Be sure to ask which packs can be frozen though cos some are defrosted. He was selling two big bacon joints for a fiver today.

After the butcher it’s back down to Aldi where cereal is cheap and milk is currently £1.09 cheapest we’ve found  for 4 pints and cream is the cheapest too. Their cooked meats are extremely good value and very good quality. The thick and creamy yogurts are as nice as any luxury yogurts I’ve tried. They also have kids pots which are currently at 59p for 6 (I forgot and spent £1.55 for 12 in Coop which was still 45p cheaper than Tesco). Don’t by their cleansing wipes, it’s like cleaning your face with a brillo pad.

After Aldi it’s over to Iceland for chips, pizzas, frozen fish, and their bread which is 2 loaves for £1.50, which really is the best we’ve seen and is a constant offer. I also buy meatballs and sometimes chicken breast there.

Ok, I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a faf, particularly Iceland because you can’t take the trolley to the car, but it took us less than 90 minutes today, which is around the same time as it takes to saunter round asda with the ensuing cacophany and stress.  If , like us, you’ve got to find piano lesson money, multisports, dance lessons, rehearsal rooms and other lovely stuff then every extra penny counts (and if the damn tories get in we’ll need it to pay the mortgage, bugger the fun stuff).

So, continuing in the spirit of being a complete sadsack I’ve sat down today and discovered the cost of shopping on the high street is very interesting, very interesting indeed (if you don’t get out much). This is a like for like table, where no option in tesco exists I’ve given them an equal price.  If the food weights weren’t the same I’ve used a price per kilo price making it correct. I used own brands in tesco where i’ve got discount brands on the high street.  In favour of tesco I will say that a few things were cheaper and their own brand gold coffee (and asdas for that matter) is great and their pasta is unmistakeably the cheapest and best I’ve yet to see.  I buy my flour and other baking stuff from Asda still. Their own brand bread flour is great value and bakes well, though I haven’t shopped around too much. This list is this week’ shop, it does vary, and I’m buying for 3 adults, 1 teenager and a five year old. We have two dogs and I still buy their dog food from Asda.

Item Quantity/offer Bearwood Tesco Difference
Co-op



McCoys 18pck 2pks £4.00 £9.54 £5.54
Granary baguette 1 £0.52 £0.67 £0.15
French dressing 1 bottle £0.49 £0.87 £0.38
100 Island dressing 1 bottle £0.49 £0.87 £0.38
mature cheddar 2 x 400g £4.00 £5.00 £1.00
Tomtao sauce 605g £1.50 £1.90 £0.40
HP sauce 450g £1.50 £1.65 £0.15
Munch bunch pots 2 x6 bogof £1.55 £2.00 £0.45
Diet Pepsi 1 £1.00 £1.00 £0.00
Pepsi 1 £1.00 £1.00 £0.00
Pepsi cans 2 x6 for cinema etc £2.75 £5.50 £2.75
Courgettes 1 pack £1.35 £1.75 £0.40
Strawberries 1 pack £1.35 £2.29 £0.94
Bearwood butcher


£0.00
Rack of ribs
£3.99 £4.04 £0.05
Bacon 2×8 rashers £1.50 £3.96 £2.46
Gammon steaks
£2.49 £4.00 £1.51
Aldi


£0.00
Hot chocolate 1 jar £0.99 £1.33 £0.34
sugar 1 pack £0.75 £0.98 £0.23
Thick creamy yogurts 6 £1.62 £3.68 £2.06
Big eggs 20 not free range 🙁 £1.98 £2.18 £0.20
sugar free sweets 3packs £2.67 £2.69 £0.02
Aerosol cream can £0.89 £1.25 £0.36
Double cream 284ml £0.79 £0.84 £0.05
Red grapes 1 punnet £0.69 £2.17 £1.48
Spinach 1 bag £0.79 £1.40 £0.61
Broccoli 2 large heads £1.38 £1.74 £0.36
Spring onion 1 bunch £0.49 £0.50 £0.01
Bananas 1 bunch £1.19 £1.49 £0.30
Funsize apples 1 bag £1.59 £1.00 -£0.59
Satsumas 1 net £0.99 £1.74 £0.75
Leeks 1 pack 2/3 leeks £0.85 £2.16 £1.31
Peppers Pack of 3 £1.39 £1.87 £0.48
Conference pears 1 bag £0.99 £0.70 -£0.29
Blueberries 2 tubs £1.98 £3.98 £2.00
Medium chicken 1 £2.99 £4.00 £1.01
Garlic sausage sl 1 pack £0.37 £0.54 £0.17
Smoked lean ham 1 pack £1.79 £2.99 £1.20
Deli sliced salami 1 pack £0.99 £2.00 £1.01
Parma ham 1 pack £1.99 £2.49 £0.50
Nurnberger sausage 1 pack mini sausages £1.49 £1.49 £0.00
Peach slices 1 tin £0.39 £0.45 £0.06
Malt wheaties 1 box £0.99 £1.45 £0.46
Rice snaps 1 box £0.95 £1.20 £0.25
Wheat bisks 36 £1.69 £1.92 £0.23
Peanut butter 500g £1.59 £1.30 -£0.29
Pesto 1 £0.99 £1.84 £0.85
Tomato puree 1 £0.33 £0.48 £0.15
Iceland


£0.00
Garlic bread 2pk £1.00 £1.00 £0.00
Cornish iceream 1 litre £1.00 £2.00 £1.00
Kids lollies 18 or 20 £2.00 £2.00 £0.00
Olive Oil 1 litre £2.50 £3.34 £0.84
Chicken strips 1 pack £1.50 £2.00 £0.50
Lean mince steak 820g/800g £4.00 £3.83 -£0.17
Chicken breasts 500g £3.00 £4.12 £1.12
Thin crispy pizza 2 £2.00 £3.00 £1.00
Branston pickle
£1.50 £1.73 £0.23
Chocolate mousse 8 £1.00 £0.80 -£0.20
Meatballs 24 £3.00 £3.00 £0.00
Potatoes 5kg £2.00 £2.25 £0.25
Lambrini 750cl £1.69 £1.49 -£0.20
total
£94.24 £130.45 £36.21

I hope you didn’t fall asleep. Or at least I hope the total at the bottom woke you up. What would you spend the extra £36.21 a week or £1882.92 a year on? A holiday? A better home? Lessons for the kids? Save for 10 years and you could buy a very nice car, no messing.

Obviously there are other ways to cut back, meat free mondays (yea, that’s no meat), freaky fridays (the only day we get the fizzy pop and sweeties out unless we go to the cinema). You can also bulk mix cookie dough. Split it into portions, roll it into a sausage, wrap in cling film and freeze as sausages. When you want some get a sharp knife and cut enough for a couple of biscuits each, put the rest back in the freezer. It stops over eating and because it takes just 10 mins to bake, by the time the washing up’s done and the kettle’s boiled the biscuits are ready, smell luxurious and taste better than the sawdust you usually buy. If you make a basic dough you can shove a few choc chips on just as they’re going in the oven. yum yum. I’m sure you’ll have your own ways of saving, like not feeding the husband now and then.

Oh and by the way, the Lambrini is for the beautiful au pair. I hid it under the coke incase someone saw me. Honest.

Love is…

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

My fifteen year old daughter is, so far, blissfully unaware of my blog and my Twitter.  I say ‘so far’ because no doubt she will eventually find them and egotistically search them for any mention of her good self.  I wouldn’t like to disappoint her.

A few months ago she confessed to me that she quite liked a boy she’d met at her church group’s camp holiday last year. I was determined not to be as much of an arsehole as my dear father was and showed her genuine interest without any hint of motherly possessiveness. Now, my dear dear father wasn’t quite so easy going. My first boyfriend, at the age of 15 was a local bounder called Paul. Paul was a few years older than me, which to me meant very little but to my father it meant war. The first time Paul came to our house to take me out I came into the hallway just in time to see my dad open the door and say ‘Fuck Off!!’ before slamming it in the poor lad’s face. Parental love is a funny thing.

Anyway, so she tells me about this boy and, after bigging him up quite a bit, she slips in the fact that he’s 18. I yelped internally and later figured out a way to tell Beardieboy, who is not strictly her dad but, in the absence of her dad , does a pretty good job of standing in for a paternal grinch.

Beardieboy: Fuck Off!

Me: I’m sure he’ll be lovely

Beardieboy: la, la,la I’m not listening, la, la, la

Me: Pack it in…

Beardieboy: Invite him round to dinner, I’ll sort him out

Perishing the thought I did just that and to both our surprise he seemed like a perfectly nice boy. Very young for his age, very sweet. Beardieboy was calmed. My father, on the other hand, called me a bad mother, declared the boy a predator and told me to put my child on the pill. I smiled sweetly, went in my mother’s kitchen and muttered something about getting stuffed.

Now, they only see each other once a week and when they do it’s shopping, cinema, bowling or in our house or his parent’s house, with adults around. So I had been feeling quite comfortable with things. Then, a few weeks ago, I walked in to find them, erm, getting a bit heated. I swallowed. I made dinner and we sat at the table. He volunteered it was his birthday the next week.  I suddenly realised my little baby was dating an actual man. He may be a bit gawkish and geeky, he’s certainly not as wordly wise as my own 19 year old son, but he IS 19.

The beautiful au pair thinks all of this is hilarious, and in a very direct german way, wants to know if I’m worried he’ll have sex with my daughter. I reply by saying that, if she likes, we can talk about her parents having sex. She bursts out laughing and wanders off like I’m the funniest square she’s met in a long time.  So, you’re language skills have improved to the point of sarcasm…hmmm?

Last week, I was in the kitchen (I seem to do that a lot) when the sweethearts came in for a drink. My daughter’s face was covered in bright red blotches from excessive snogging. – remember that! I joked that I hoped she wasn’t allergic to him (I say joked, because I secretly wished that she was allergic to him. More than that, I wanted her to find him boring). I carried on being jovial, saying they’d have to keep their distance if it was an allergy.  I said it’d make having a relationship difficult. Imagine…

Mimicking someone shouting from a distance, I half shouted across the room to him: Heyyy, I really like you

He, caught up in the moment, yelled back: Heeeyyyyyy, I love you too.

I audibly choked and suddenly decided to put the kettle on.  The au pair, who’d been idling by the fruit bowl, suddenly picked up an apple and rammed it in her gob in a bid to stop herself from laughing.  A small amount of embarassed murmering took place and the blotchy couple left, sans drinks. The au pair crumpled with laughter. I just glared at her.

Me: Did you hear that? Did you hear that?

Beautiful au pair: I will help you interrupt them every 15 minutes, we can take it in turns.

Me: Ok.