Category Archives: Home

Buying and Selling through Social Media

Before Baby-Girl, I wasn’t really aware of the marketplace that exists on Facebook.  I knew people that used Facebook as a platform for selling htings that they had made but I had no comprehension of the variety and volume of sales of everyday things.

I think that it was my old, lovely, next door neighbours that had suggested it for buying things for the baby because toys and clothes that were barely used were available very cheaply.  They weren’t kidding.  In the last year, I bought her a Rainforest Jumperoo, a swing which is currently half height with a baby seat but with the parts to make it full height with a normal seat and a wooden, Mothercare walker (I was desperate for one of those, rather than the plastic toy station type). They cost me £25 in total.  That’s right, £25.  To have bought them all new would have cost £245!

Having to move from a house with a fitted fridge and an attempt at a fitted freezer to one without was pretty scary from the perspective of funds so I decided to take a risk and replace those via FB too.  We got a reasonably new Hotpoint fridge freezer for £40.

When we got here, our old chest freezer died, I bought it from a friend about 6 years ago so I wasn’t surprised but with an extra little mouth and huge tummy in the house, I had to get another chest freezer too.  I had my eye on a much larger specimen that I can get lots of different ice-cream flavours into next summer.  I messaged the lady to ask for the dimensions and that I was at my mum’s and that I would get back to her after 16:00 when I’d been home and measured up.  She said that she’d sold it.  So, I grabbed a smaller one that had a broken hinge and a bit of corrosion on the outside (as they get knocked over the years).  I bought new hinges (we’ll get to repair later) and the larger fridge freezer was suddenly available so, I put the other back on FB with a shiny new pair of hinges and a bit of radiator paint adn made a £13.50 profit!

Now, I didn’t _need_ a tumble dryer but with a baby, I really wanted one after living in temporary accomodation that had one.  Her little cotton nappies came off the maiden like cardboard if it was too mizzy to line dry them and I was ironing them.  Inorite!  Me, iron :/

Of course, a tumble dryer leaves them all soft and lovely and the turnaround for laundry is amazing so I thought I’d keep an eye out.

It turns out, the second-hand prices on FB in the North-West are quite a bit higher than those in the South.  Perhaps there’s less disposable income up here or less of a throw-away society, who knows but the cost of dryers in the county was far beyond my budget, even second-hand.  That is, until I saw one advertised with a broken belt that the lady needed rid of as the new place that she was moving to (within the week) didn’t have room… Of course, no-one wants to buy broken, second-hand (potential fire risk) appliances so I made a ridiculous offer, citing the fire risk – which she was ignorant to – and she accepted.  When I took it apart, it transpired that the belt was broken because the jockey wheel was knackered so I ordered new ones, fitted them and I have a working dryer which is just awaiting the nice Hotpoint Engineer to come and modify in order to rectify the fire hazard issue.

My 13 year old Dyson Animal was also poorly by the time that we landed in the North and his was the first new part to be searched for…

I found a website called BuySpares.co.uk that is superb!  Around about the time I was ordering for the Dyson, the washing machine developed a fault too and I got the filter cover for the vac and the brushes for the washer for £18.  I found some helpful little videos on their site and YouTube adn have been able to undertake all of the repairs myself!

Now, I worked out the cost, like for like, of the items that I have bought second-hand and/or repaired against the cost of brand new replacements, taking my £13.50 profit into account and I have spent £141, new would have cost me £1035.

I have been washing and drying clothes, bedding, curtains and towels for about a week on and off every day.  Prior to getting the dryer working, I took one week’s worth of wet washing to the launderette to dry and it cost me a fiver.  Imagine if I’d taken the two massive piles of stuff that has been in storage for over 6 months.  If that dryer works for 8 weeks just doing normal washing, it has paid for itself, anything beyond that is just a bonus.

If you are buying on FB.  Be safe.  It may sound stupid but you may find yourself in an area you don’t know, with a couple of people waiting for you who know that you are carrying x amount of cash and a mobile phone.  Make sure, at the very least, that someone knows exactly where you are going.

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19 days…

On Friday 24th March 2017, we will be filling a 3.5 tonne low loader with the penultimate load of “stuff” to be transported to the North-West.  We’re going home.

Here is where it gets a bit scary.

We don’t have anywhere to live.

A dear friend with a property portfolio is buying a house specifically for us to rent but the seller initially refused the offer and then changed her mind.  That means that the completion date could be anytime between 14th of April and sometime in May.  So I am faced with the challenge of finding somewhere for my Baby-Girl, dog and cat to live for anywhere between 3 and 8 weeks.  The chickens, rabbits, guinea-bobs and chinchilla have temporary accomodation sorted out but I need to be close by (within 20-odd miles) to care for them and Mr PinQ has several options for bunking down somewhere.

I have been bidding on social housing and searching for short-term lets but as yet, without success.  We can’t stay in the South because of Mr PinQ’s start date for his dream job. If we extended our current tenancy, I would have to manage the move on my own and with the animals and Baby-Girl, not even I could deal with the logistics alone.

We have family and lots of friends who would put us up in a heartbeat but it is too much to ask anyone to take on so much and with Puppy-Dog being so young (14 months the day before move day), she still has very destructive moments and I could never forgive myself if she destroyed something belonging to someone that we love!

I can easily get a second storage unit for the last bits of furniture and as I have said, there is a Plan B for the chooks and small furries but I am starting to get a little bit stressed about housing the rest of us.

Stress aside, I can’t wait.  I have loved being down South for the last 8 years.  If I hadn’t moved here for that job in Easter 2009: I wouldn’t have met my husband or had our beautiful Baby-Girl; I would have missed out on becoming friends with some truly wonderful people; I’d never have found my big brother (we should have been brother and sister) and Nan-Bear (his mum); I wouldn’t be doing my Creative Arts degree or have had an exhibition of my own or a piece exhibited in London as a finalist with a V&A competition; I wouldn’t have returned to the stage or begun singing again and found my panto family; I would never have begun ice-skating lessons and fallen in love with the sport; I doubt that I would have started running and cycling again; I certainly wouldn’t have had the amazing career that I did before becoming a mum and I wouldn’t be be building a business doing what I love.

We are exchanging this:

stokes-bay

For this:

dovestone

We had always said that we would return to the North-West, although we had planned to stay in the South for another 2 years, so when we were given notice on the house, it seemed like fate was telling us something.  We sat and wrote a list of decent local dog walks within a few minutes walk to an hour’s drive in both locations, the sort of walk that you would do in a morning at the weekend.  We spent five minutes on each list and came up with 12 down here and 55 with my home town as the cantre point.

We also considered different locations across 4 counties, all of which we were happy to move to and started to look at both rental and purchase costs.  Although we can’t buy for a few years yet, we found some incredible houses for sale in the North-West at less than half the price of comparable homes where we are now.

This house is out of our price range for the moment and not necessarily what we will be looking to buy in the future but a property of a similar size and in similar condition costs £160,000 more down here.

Neighbours and friends have said, “Yes, but it’s hard to get work up North.” To be honest, there is no discernible difference in the job market.  In fact, Mr PinQ has had more interviews, for better positions and a much more positive response with several more offers made than he’s had in 6 years here.

Our plans have had to change so many times in the last four months that I am still spinning.  A few weeks ago, we thought we had it sussed when I finally got a chance at a great job myself, on better pay than I had been down here and Mr PinQ was going be a stay-at-home dad.  Typically, he then got a start date that he has been waiting over a year for!  I am really pleased because it means that I can be at home with my beautiful baby, building my business and studying.

Apart from the worry about lack of accomodation from 24th March to when we can move into our new house, I can’t wait to be home.

EU: the FACTS

Was the title of the leaflet that came through the door this afternoon.

I can’t say that I was surprised to find a UKIP logo with contact details on the back, the leaflet proved to me that they are aiming for a less intelligent following.  The “IF WE VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU” page had green headers and the “IF YOU VOTE TO REMAIN IN THE EU” using red.

N.B. The use of “WE” and “YOU”

You are part of a nice, snuggly, warm club/family if you choose to vote leave.  Isolation and doom for you if you choose to remain.

Not surprisingly, the “facts” are not particularly factual.  Opinion is not fact – even when it’s mine 😉

I had a look at it because Star (the puppy) kept trying to paw at it so I thought I would read it to her.

Now, the reason that I kept it on the coffee table in the first place was so that I could lodge a complaint.  When we got Star, Mr PinQ put chicken wire across our wrought iron garden gate and fitted the following sign (on both sides):

Please Close the Gate

The sign is approximately 5″ x 7″ (roughly 13cm x 18cm) and the gate is easy enough to operate so I was not impressed when I went out with Star earlier and found that the gate had only been pulled to rather than closed.  I was taught that when leafleting, you should always leave the gate as you found it and I KNOW that I closed it earlier; never mind the fact that there is a SIGN asking people to close the gate.

Further to all of this, I then tried to call the number on the back of the leaflet to complain about the gate, only to be put through to the UKIP membership hotline!  Really? Membership?

With my Aryan looks, I might have to ask Mr PinQ to put on some DMs so that he looks as BNP as possible and pay a visit to the local UKIP member’s office…

The Foxes & The Locals

I love foxes.

I love animals in general.

I spent a little time today watching a vixen and her cubs playing by the creek and a couple of years ago, sat out in the cold for several hours from midnight to watch them play.

I don’t like the over-population locally.

When we moved into this house, it was evident that there were too many foxes.  Their territories are so small and we regularly see them facing off against each other in the road around the corner.

There are no natural predators and the only thing that would keep the population down would be competition for food but that has largely been removed by The Locals.  A woman across the road makes them a fresh sandwich every night, cuts it into triangles, puts it on a plate and places it in the middle of the lawn.  Another person on the same block has a take-away every night and puts the half that they don’t eat out for the foxes.  A lady on our side goes out in the dark specifically to feed them because she likes them.

The constant human interaction has made them completely fearless.  A couple of weeks ago, a fox wandered past me in the garden just giving me a cursory glance.  A gentleman that I regularly see on my puppy walk was telling me that one had gone into his house (before he got his beagle puppy) , eaten a pair of his wife’s shoes and then appeared at his feet in the lounge!

I’m used to rural foxes where a family group can have a territory of up to 40 square kilometres.  Urban foxes can be limited to just 0.2 square kilometres.  Tell me how that is right.

Of course, in May, that spells danger for our hens and rabbits – a rabbit can die of shock just because a fox is sat outside the hutch watching it all night and many foxes will try their damndest to get into coops and hutches.  The hutches and coop that I have built over the last few years are well and truly fox proof (although I was told that wasn’t possible) and there are additional floors and hiding places so that my feathered and furry babies have somewhere to hide if they feel threatened.  I also made sure that there is much more space than they need because I can’t let them all out to play every day but on a nice day, when we are going to be in, the rabbits (and guinea pigs) go out in the run and the chooks have the run of the garden.

Last week, the chickens were out playing and pregnant-tired, I nodded off but awoke as soon as heard them calling an alarm.  I left the puppy in the cage and shot outside to find a fox in the garden, as brazen as you like.  I managed to get a couple of the girls to go into their house where they would be safe but three wouldn’t budge, so I made the decision to run and get the puppy.  By the time I got back outside, the fox (a vixen) had come back into the garden and had Lucinda in its mouth.  I made it drop her and between us, puppy and I scared her off.  I picked Lucinda up and although she was uninjured, she was in severe shock and died in my arms within minutes.

Now, people say, “They only kill for food.”

They don’t.  When I lived in the countryside, I would walk the dog over the hills every day and in the Spring, seen every lamb in a field slaughtered overnight.  Lambs that I had fed just the day before.  The fox only took the one to feed the family.  It’s a pretty stupid animal if you think about it – why kill off an entire food source in one night?!  I’m not even going to go down the road of the plight of farmers with only a small, family farm and the ridiculously small amount of money that they get per lamb at market.

I grew up as a Townie living on the edge of the countryside and didn’t know much about foxes, agriculture etc so it was years before I could make a genuinely informed decision about my feelings on hunting and despite everything, I still don’t believe in the whole fox and hounds hunt.  That is purely for the “amusement” of certain humans.  However, when I lived in the country, I was offered the opportunity to accompany “dog men” (as I call them) when they were asked by farmers to “take care” of a fox problem.

They went out lamping at night, calling in the foxes by making the sound of an injured rabbit, identifying the fox by the colour of its eyes reflected in the lamp light and shooting it.  One, single shot.  In the day, they would go to the fox hole with a bag full of nets and a Terrier, net the small holes and put the Terrier in the main entrance.  The dog can’t get to the fox, a dog fox is about 6 – 7 kg and a vixen about 5 – 6 kg, the Terrier over 8 kilos and all shoulder – it is simply too big to get down the hole.  The key is the nets over the smaller holes; the fox runs out through one of the other exits, gets caught in the net and again, a single shot dispatches it.

The “dog men” love and respect the foxes and can happily sit and watch them play but when they need to, they will kill them but as humanely as they possible can – obviously they can’t go out with a Terrier any more but I’m sure that lamping still goes on when required.  I’ve known dog men get angry when someone who doesn’t know what they are doing decides to get a gun licence and go out lamping – possibly for sport but no doubt to look big and hard – and they wound foxes but don’t kill them outright, leaving them to die slow and painful deaths because they can’t hunt any more and are more susceptible to things like mange.  The dog men genuinely respect the foxes and care for their welfare and won’t dream of killing them if they are not causing any problems.

I was raised to respect the countryside but I learned more about conservation and respect for nature from those hunters than I could have from reading, television or just living in the country.

Even if I had access to a rifle nowadays, I wouldn’t be able to reduce the numbers locally because there are regulations about the distance that you have to be from houses before you can shoot.  I also wouldn’t dream of setting traps or laying down poison, they would suffer slow and painful deaths and I expect a few domestic animals would suffer the same fate but I really do wish that there was something that I could do to reduce the numbers, give them back their fear of humans and stop The Locals from feeding them.

My beloved did try to engage in conversation with the freshly-made-sandwich-lady one night, explaining the issues but she just muttered that it was nature.  She couldn’t grasp the fact that it is _not_ natural for a fox to have a freshly made sandwich served up on a plate every night.

Although I must confess that I am tempted to hang the dead Lucinda on her front door with a little note to say that it’s just nature…

 

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,

PinQ

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.

Boom.

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!