20150924-Coffee Cream Swirl

It’s week 6…

…and I still haven’t completely recovered from the last couple of years!

Those of you that know me well will no doubt mutter something about the fact that I don’t rest but although I have been doing lots of things, I have also been resting.

Of course, a fair chunk of my time is spent searching for jobs, attending interviews and the Job Centre.  It’s so strange because what I really want is to just do something part-time (preferably mornings) so that I can spend the rest of my time focusing on my studies, Magical Maths and other things that I want to do but of course, in order to get my stamp paid, I have to apply for EVERYTHING.

Anyway, job searches aside, I have done a variety of good stuff too.

Most importantly, I have spent time with old friends who I haven’t had quality time with in ages despite living only a few miles away!

I’ve done 60 workouts in 55.06 hours: covering 168.39 miles (cycling and walking), 12 hours of ice-skating, 4 hours of ballet and burned 35,618 calories.  In part, because I only drive if I absolutely have to now.

I’ve started knitting a sweater for Mr PinQ and begun lessons in crochet from my panto-mummy who taught me how to make raggy quilts.  I unpicked my first & second attempts because they were too wobbly but my third was one of the white squares.  I was determined to master the double crochet before my next lesson and learning my next stitch so I have continued with my squares most evenings with a view to making a blankie.

20151008-Crochet Beginnings

The house is cleaned more frequently than it was when we were both working and the kitchen had its deepest clean in the four and a half years that we’ve lived here!  I also decimated the front garden, it was horribly overgrown and although I haven’t removed all of the little weed that blankets the gravel, it looks so much better.  There are much larger jobs needed, the “bit of decorating” that I had planned has turned out to be more – the bathroom, for example, needs the tiles and floor replacing, not just the papering and painting that I had initially thought and of course, if the tiling and floor are being done, the toilet and basin need to be replaced *sigh* but no matter, one thing at a time.

I’ve been cooking and baking beyond just what is necessary.  I’ve made several kilos of raspberry jam (because it is so easy), which has led to Mr PinQ getting a couple of little cream teas in his packed lunches for work:

20151001-Raspberry Jam 3 20151006-Packed Lunch Cream Tea

I sterilised the jars and lids just by popping them in the oven on 150°C for about 20 minutes to kill off any bacteria.  Then for the jam, I used: 2 kilos of raspberries, 1.5 kilos of preserving sugar and the juice of 2 lemons; pushed half of the fruit through a sieve to remove some of the seeds (raspberry jam wouldn’t be raspberry jam without seeds getting stuck in your teeth!) and then boiling it, continually stirring until it began to set.  I don’t have a jam thermometer, jam funnel or any sexy equipment but the old plate test works a treat.  Put a plate in the fridge before you start and when you think that it might be ready, put a teaspoonful on the plate, leave it for 5 minutes and give it a little push, if it wrinkles up, it is ready to pour into the jars.

I have also made ice cream, vanilla, raspberry ripple and a new flavour – coffee cream swirl:

20150924-Vanilla 20150924-Raspberry Ripple 20150924-Coffee Cream Swirl

Now, this is the very old ice cream recipe that a friend recently posted online – a 397ml can of condensed milk and 800ml of double cream whisked until soft peaks are formed then I fold in the flavour and turn it out into a plastic storage tub and pop it in the freezer.  Tips: 1. I don’t measure the cream anymore so you might want to experiment with the quantities. 2. This makes up a lot of ice cream so have two flavours ready – a small punnet of raspberries pushed through a sieve for half of the mixture and a little vanilla essence for the other half or whatever you fancy, again, experiment!  I’m going to try making chocolate ice cream next so I’ll let you know how that goes!

I’ve been baby-sitting two lovely dogs, sadly not at the same time because they love playing together when their stays overlap and spending more time with my animals.  Hyacinth, our beautiful little house-chicken, passed away on Monday.  It is the first time since Agatha and Beatrix that I have grieved one of the chooks.  Several of the birds from the more recently rescued batches from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust died before I had the chance to really bond with them but Hyacinth was very special.

Singing in the finals for a competition on Saturday, I’m down to 10 choices for the “movies” theme:

1. The Time Warp (The Cast)- Rocky Horror Picture Show
2. Wishing Well (Free) – Almost Famous
3. Everything About You (Ugly Kid Joe) – Wayne’s World
4. I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles) – Rainman
5. Mrs Robinson (Lemonheads version) – The Graduate
6. Ironic (Alanis Morrisette) – The Internship
7. Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett) – The Commitments
8. House of the Rising Sun (The Animals) – in lots of films
9. Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young) – Fahrenheit 9/11
10. Stuck in the Middle (Stealers Wheel) – Reservoir Dogs

Because I can’t learn Happy (Pharrel Williams) – Despicable Me 2 in time!

I dressed to cycle today but decided on a lazy day instead.  I have a hot bubble bath waiting for me so I must go, then it’s Panto rehearsals this evening – Oh no it isn’t! ;o)

Ta ta for now lovely readers,


The Two Worlds of Charlie F

Out of Work

I’m now in my third week of being out of work and this is my journey so far…

Week one was like having a week off:

Mr PinQ had won tickets to go and watch the premier show of Strictly being filmed.

Strictly logo

We decided to drive to Elstree Studios because the joining instructions state that the dress code is “glamorous” and I didn’t fancy an hour or so on the train followed by getting the tube or a bus – especially as it was likely to be a late night.

I decided to wear my pretty yellow Monsoon dress:

Yellow Monsoon Dress

I’ve only worn it twice, the first time when my little exhibition opened and then for a friend’s wedding so it was a great excuse to get it out of the wardrobe.  As before, I teamed it with jade green satin Karen Millen shoes and bag – similar to these but without the ruffle on the side:

Karen Millen Green Satin Shoes

It took a couple of hours to get there and there was a car park just off the roundabout exit directly opposite the studio which was free in the evening so I only had to pay to park for the afternoon.  We joined the queue, validated the tickets and waited to be allowed in.  We didn’t take our mobile phones because they have to be checked in as you enter the canteen/bar area where you spend the next hour.  There is seating for a couple of hundred or so of the 500 audience members and two ladies toilets but it made the experience quite chummy because strangers had something to chuckle about.

The audience were called in batches of 50 and we all walked to the Strictly stage.  As we passed the George Lucas stage, we saw a man in a butler’s costume peeling a banana – I made him laugh (and choke a little on his banana) because he heard me say to Mr PinQ: “He’s not in Star Wars!”

I made a request to be seated at the end of a row because I knew that I made need to move because of my back so we were seated in the production area at the edge of the dancefloor.  The thing that strikes you first about the set is how very small it is.  I believe that the ceiling height gives the illusion of a huge dancefloor because of the ability to show it with a bird’s-eye-view.

Whilst people were still being seated, I nipped out to the ladies and bumped into Cassidy Little.  I stopped him to say that we had been to watch The Two Worlds of Charlie F and that it was the best and most moving piece of theatre that I had ever seen.  He asked where we’d seen it and chatted a while and at the end of our conversation, he thanked me for being so kind and gave me a big hug! That made my day, everything else paled into insignificance.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F

Brendan, Anton, Aljaž, Pasha, Natalie, Janette, Darcey, Bruno and Craig and Caroline all came over and chatted with us.  Len kept his distance but I heard him talking to one of the production team about the fact that he was suffering from a cold.

The singers did their spots first and embarrassingly, too many of the audience were unable to clap in time and had to be told not to clap as it was off-putting for the artists!  We watched the entrance from the Strictly Express the introductory dance of Oti, Giovanni and Gleb, the group dance and Caroline and Pasha’s dance as reigning champions.  It was really entertaining but really tiring because there were several takes of some of the songs and dances and filming didn’t end until about 23:30 but we had a great adventure so it was worth every minute!

Week two of my new life was far more eventful but far less glamorous:

I set myself two fitness goals of cycling 50 miles and doing 10 workouts.  I cycled 52.85 miles and completed 16 workouts.  I started my NISA Bronze Passport training (old passport because I did the old NISA levels 1 – 10) and had an impromptu skating lesson from a Hockey Coach on Thursday afternoon – he really put me through my paces and spent a great deal of time helping me to get rid of my fear of going backwards by teaching me a new way to go backwards, pushing me to keep going, making do back crossovers on the corners and all the while, chatting about random subjects so that I would notice what I was doing.  It was great! I use those tactics sometimes when I’m teaching other people but it was so nice to have someone doing that for me for a change.  He also taught me a new way to lace my boots so that I didn’t get “lace bite” and what a relief that was – I can at last skate in comfort without having to keep getting off the ice to re-lace my boots.  It was also the first week of ballet for the new academic year and I finally managed to do the dance that has eluded me for 6 months.

I did the housework without tiring myself out because I wasn’t trying to squeeze it into a weekend along with shopping, socialising and exercise which meant that I have had plenty of rest.  It will be a while yet before I’m totally rested and fit again so I won’t try to push myself too much – I would like to enjoy my time out of work.

I felted the roof of the new rabbit hutch that we made a few months ago and tidied the shed so that back garden looks a little less like the Clampetts have moved in and Florence (the chicken in quarantine – chicken post to follow soon) now has a much better shelter on her temporary home.  It couldn’t have been timed better, the temporary covers that we’d put on Rocky and Drizzle’s hutch and Florence’s quarantine cage wouldn’t have protected them from the dreadful rain that we’ve had over the last few days.

I had a successful interview to run Magic Maths.  It’s an after school club teaching and supporting Key Stage 1 & 2 mathematics.  Schools are approached and if they are interested, the lady who runs the program goes in to do a school assembly, if the school then want the program, a register is set up and a night agreed and then this is where I would come in.  Magical Maths is a 6 week program and each week has a theme, so week 1 is “Maths Detectives” and my character would be Stately Holmes, there are 5 themes and the children get to choose their favourite for week 6.  I have started my DBS application but hit a wall when the electronic form refused to work and I will be attending training on 3 Oct 15.

I also took deliver of my new laptop and PC from Dell.  Joy!

Much as I would have liked a brand new, sexy inspiron, I was able to get both a laptop and desktop from the Dell Outlet store for the price of the one sparkly new one so I’m really pleased, it’s been difficult being without a working laptop for the last 3 and a half months!

We made new friends and spent time with old friends at a wine-tasting, had a lovely evening at dinner with two of our best friends in their new home, I had a great leaving do and we’ve had friends over for dinner so we’ve had more of a social life than we usually have the time or energy for so it’s all good.

I’ve tried out some of the fabulous new art supplies given to me as part of my leaving present from work but I’m still not feeling brave enough to apply water to the watercolour pencil sketch that I did of one of the chooks.

Week three (now):

Sunday was great, we took a trepidatious but excited young lady to Uni, spending an hour or so to help get her unpacked and settled more quickly, leaving her with only her clothes and bedding to sort out before the Fresher’s Ball and Mr PinQ collected a few bits and bobs from friends on his way home.  All was well.

Then came my first experience of the Job Centre for many years.  It didn’t start well.

Having applied online for Jobseeker’s allowance (after all, what else have I been paying National Insurance and taxes for?) I’d had a text from DWP (Department for Work & Pensions) telling me that I had an appointment at 08:50 on 14 Sep 15.  I duly arrived a couple of minutes early and when I tried to get into the building, discovered that it doesn’t open until 09:00.

I was not a happy bunny.

I then sat through all of the questions and was told that I could have interview training and assistance in writing my CV from my Coach.  I pointed out that I could probably teach my Coach a few things on that score.  The lady dealing with was oozing false empathy and that just made my back go up all the more.  Anyway, I left with an an “agreement” which was a list of things that I will do to find employment.  There was no agreement.  She told me what I would be doing.

I cycled for about 8 miles to work out the anger and was left feeling totally demoralised.



So, I woke up fine on Saturday morning but within half an hour, whilst I was sat down in a brilliant chair (from a support perspective), I felt my back seize up.

I couldn’t stand up or walk straight.  Poor Mr PinQ was torn between utter horror at my pain and laughing at my impression of a constipated Neanderthal.  I was out of pain relief thanks to my GP and trying to work out how I was going to be able to get myself upright so that I could go to work today.  It’s my last week and I am determined to clear my tasking to alleviate some of the pressure that the Team will be under from next week.

I kept moving, had a hot bath, did some physio exercises, asked Mr PinQ to assist by applying pressure to my spine in some areas and spent the day laced tightly into a corset and finished with some home-made wine (loopy-juice) to try to relax the muscles.  I slept in the guest bedroom so that I could sleep flat on my back and not worry that I would snore and keep Mr PinQ awake and did a little Tai Chi.

When I woke up, I was at least able to stand straight but I was still in agony.  I was all twisted out of shape and every step was agony, my a*** stuck out like Mick Jagger in a strut but in slow motion – really attractive!

It has been over four years since it has been this bad so I decided that I had to go to the surgery.  I figured that if I saw the doc, he might relent and realise that I actually need the medication.

I have never taken them as prescribed – I know how bad they are for me – a quick look at my history would have told him that but I was really concerned that he would still refuse.  Thankfully, the lady on triage (I’ve never met her before and can only assume that she is a nurse practitioner) was brilliant.  She assessed me, checked my notes in a few seconds and prescribed the whole cocktail.  I was crying with relief as I headed to the chemist.  I am now as high as a kite and no longer care about the pain; another reason why I only take the meds when I can’t get my own shoes and socks on, when I have to crawl to the bathroom in the mornings.

Before seeing her, I was wondering what I would have to do to ease the pain if I had to see the incompetent again and I realised that my choices were as follows:

– Order the medication from the internet – which we all know is super safe!
– Find a local dealer and spend money on class A drugs (which would be impossible without a job!)
– Grow my own drugs

The latter option being preferable over the other two but how horrendous it is that knowing that my GP would not prescribe the medication that I needed, I was worried that I may have to make a decision to engage in criminal activity!  Worse still that the pain was so bad that I was considering that and I still couldn’t go to him because he flat refuses to let me have them because, and I quote: “they are bad for you”.


The cycle home was interesting!

I thought I’d better stick to the pavement as my cheap retro light broke and the local Pashley dealer has none in stock.  Thankfully, when the Police cycled past, I was walking.

The pavement had covers in several places where holes were being dug, bollards, signs, a bus stop with benches, wheelie bins out for collection and massively overgrown shrubbery so I had to up my game significantly.

The best bit…

For the second time this week, I didn’t gear down going over the bridge, I just powered through it!

Go me :-)

New do

I had made up my mind.  I wanted to go Marylin.

I’ve only had my hair coloured a couple of times in my life but the lack of sea and sun, coupled with getting older had left my hair looking a little dull.  A couple of years ago, after a cut, I had noticed a lot of greys and when I mentioned it to Mr PinQ, he said, “Yes, I noticed them when you came out of the hairdressers.”  If that wasn’t enough, my hairdresser kept suggesting that I book in for a colour!

So, H____ and I cycled to the hairdressers and I had a chat about what I wanted.  I even found a photo of my prefect “do”, a bit of a modern take on Marylin’s platinum tresses.  The Colourist said that she would streak it rather than do a block colour, “to make it more ash than white”.  I was horrified, that was the opposite of what I wanted.  Anyhoo, toner was applied to my head for a patch test and off I went.

The day of the appointment came and I went to the salon all excited.


20150410-Old Hair

The Colourist saw the little bit of sun-bleaching on the ends of my hair and decided to match that.  As soon as it was rinsed out and I was sat in front of the mirror, I knew that it wasn’t right.  My hairdresser started to cut and all I wanted to do was cry.  By the time she started to dry it, the Colourist came over to ask why I wasn’t happy.

I’m getting used to it now, it’s a lot brighter than it was and I keep being told that it suits me.

Deep down, I know that it would look exactly like this if I was a surfer chick.

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20150409-Finished Garden (6)

Days Off

I try to always book my leave around Bank Holidays, I know that I still get the same amount of leave regardless but a week at each Bank Holiday makes it feel like I am having more full weeks off in a year.  I don’t think that I have ever been more ready for time off than I was on Maundy Thursday, 2 April 2015.  It was an early finish, 11:30 ish and I had the afternoon all planned out, including a nap.  The best laid plans… The Engines BU were working until 16:00 but all of the Team were contracted for the early finish so I stayed in the office just in case.  It did have a bonus though because the IS guys had the time to sort out the VPN on my work laptop.  Consequently, I didn’t go to rehearsal that night because I was too exhausted so the first part of my leave didn’t quite go to plan.

After a fabulously refreshing 14 hour sleep (inorite!) my break began.  Unusually for me, I managed to get loads of rest.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some mad flurries of activity but at last, I found myself able to relax.  I know that sounds daft but for so long, I have either spent holidays getting things done or just collapsing that this break has been a real treat.

Don’t get me wrong, Mr PinQ and I have done absolutely loads in the 12 days that we’ve been off but I feel great.  So great in fact that after a fab day in Bath and Brizzle yesterday before ice-skating, I was shattered this morning and really didn’t want to go back to work.

I extended my holiday by a day!

After getting up at about 10:15, we had a major housework day.  Despite it knackering me to the point of a three hour sleep in the early evening and being shattered now, I’m glad that we did, the kitchen and bathroom are gleaming.  It is more obvious there because they were the two rooms that got trashed during our gardening marathon.

We spent three and a half back-breaking days digging up plants, weeding, re-landscaping, fencing (with wood and bamboo screen, not foils), laying anti-weed matting, re-planting, potting and covering the garden with bark chippings.  It looks beautiful.

I decided to cut back the bamboo.  Little did I know!  Oh yes, I am well aware of how tough it can be when it is well established but after ruining a garden fork and spade on the first day, I certainly wasn’t expecting to then ruin a second fork ten minutes after getting it home!  So. a few text messages later and we had a chainsaw on loan.  It failed.  Yes, that’s right, I said that it had failed.

I decided to try to undermine the bamboo’s foundations with a chisel and a lump hammer and it tried to fight back.  Battle ensued.

Over three nights, I hammered and chiseled away at the roots and got over three quarters of the way through it.  Where the spade, two forks and a chainsaw failed, my trusty lump hammer and one of my old, cheap chisels prevailed – although I think that i t is fair to say that bits of me still hurt, seven days later!  On the fourth day, whilst I was at the hairdresser’s, Mr PinQ borrowed a grub axe from the gravedigger that lives across the road and got out the final root-ball.


20150409-Finished Garden (1) 20150409-Finished Garden (4)

Now that the garden is all pretty, we re getting four new chooks on Saturday!  Charlotte, Dorothy, Evelyn and Florence – YAY!

Incidentally, I will now be doing Gold at ice-skating on Monday nights – DOUBLE YAY!


Personal Admin vs Sleep

For a couple of months now, my personal admin has gone to the wall.  I believe it started as my hours at work got beyond reasonable whilst my backlog continued to increase.  Since then, although doing less hours at work, I am still doing too many and have to go in for a few hours over the weekend to prep for the coming week.  I intend to do a lot of hours every other weekend to start chipping away at my backlog but I still have to plan in time to get through my personal admin:

  • I don’t know how late I am with my degree assignment so I must do a couple more sketches, check that I finished the research and write up my evaluation before I post it to my tutor
  • I have to finish the Burlesque choreography for the show so that we can practice it
  • I have a questionnaire to create
  • I must crack through my next degree assignment – I have to finish my first subject by the end of the school year
  • My art room/visiting children’s room is a tip.  I started sorting paperwork for archiving and art materials back in my November week of unpaid leave but ran out of time and have since ignored it
  • My clothes need to be sorted into: charity shop, work, smart, casual, dressy
  • I haven’t had a haircut since August
  • I have two baby raggy-blankies to make
  • I have several other raggy blankies to make for double beds
  • I’m part way through making pair of nets to stop our weirdo neighbour from peering in
  • We need a new back fence for the reason given above
  • I need to chase up on missing Christmas and Birthday gift orders and a work beverages order
  • The kitchen, bathroom, dining room and both sitting rooms need decorating
  • I owe the guinea-girl-babies another floor
  • We have to get some new chooks, I miss having chooks around and can’t face bought eggs anymore
  • I have to write a letter to accompany a real Unicorn’s horn for a very special little girl and deliver it to her via her Grandma
  • I have 4 letters to write
  • There is a deep scratch on my car that a gang of urchins gouged when I challenged them one night – some of you will remember my solution to an accidental scratch on CarlosCarlos' Hearts Carlos' Hearts 2

Tonight, after cycling home from work with a stop for a 1:20 gym workout; I had a shower and something to eat with every intention of getting on with the final bits for Assignment 3 of my degree.  When I sat down, I realised how tired I am.

I’m going to go to bed instead.  I can take on one job at a time but not until I’ve had some rest!