Updates on the neighbours…and it’s good news!

I forgot that I haven’t filled you in on the developments with our neighbours in a while. Well, the situation has vastly improved. The top floor neighbours scarpered, taking half the fittings in the flat with them if one of my other neighbours is to be believed (including, apparently, pipework to be sold for scrap metal – awesome). Since then we’ve had a single girl with a young baby move in, and I’ve not heard a peep out of her or any friends of hers who have visited other than the front door being closed. Mr and Mrs Screamy and five year old Miss Screamy, who lived directly overhead have moved out too. I’m sad for the little girl as apparently the elder Screamies have split up, but then given the amount of arguments we heard it was hardly surprising. Although the number and frequency of arguments had died down in recent months – the calm before the storm, maybe? And as they owned their flat, no-one else has moved in as yet. The eternal pessimist in me is wondering how long it will be before one or other of them starts bringing home one night stands they’ve picked up in Cardiff bars, but really I’m just enjoying the peace and quiet while it lasts! It’s just like the good old days when we first moved in, when this really was a lovely peaceful part of Cardiff to live!

Oh dear, I do sound old!

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Rediscovering the yarnie mojo

I’ve just spent two hours or more shopping online for yarn. Not fun. I want to make a Velvet Morning cardigan for myself but the recommended yarn is 1. from America (which would take aaaaaaages to be delivered) and 2. far too expensive for a cardigan for me. Even though I absolutely love the blue yarn they use. So I needed to find a substitute. I was hoping to go for a Rowan or Debbie Bliss merino or pure wool blend and I even went wool smooshing (which is squishing and judging general yumminess, NOT stealing as my lovely husband suggested!) in John Lewis yesterday to get some inspiration. But when I went to find a good deal online today, the best deal I could find still involved me paying upwards of £120 to get enough yarn for just one cardigan! Needless to say that was way out of my budget, and I’ve not found a cardigan in existence which I would value at that. So I found a cheaper alternative, a James C Brett Aran with Wool. I’ve used James C Brett yarns before and they were nice so I’m hoping this one will be too. I’m still spending about £45 on the yarn, but it comes in big 400g balls, and so I will have about 300g of each of the three contrast colours left with which I can knit lots of lovely things for our niece, little M.

My knitting mojo definitely abandoned me last year. I did one large project, a baby blanket for little M, two little cardigans also for her and a handful of scarves and other small items. I’m hoping to really get back into the swing of things in this coming year, including getting back into dyeing again. Luckily I’d built up a decent collection of hand dyed yarns because I’ve not done any more dyeing since last spring. But my stocks are running a little low, so I’ll have to sit myself down and think of some good colourways shortly.

With regard to what I want to knit this year, I’d like to do my cardigan as soon as possible, so that I can get plenty of wear and enjoyment out of it before the weather warms up. I’ve been wanting to make GG a jumper for years and have never got round to it, so hopefully this will be the year for that too. I have plans for gloves or mittens for each of my three boys (GG is counted as one of my boys, obviously!) and something nice for my friend M for her birthday in September (I won’t say what on the off chance she comes and has a look!). I’m going to make a few things for little M, at least one jumpery/cardigany thing in each age range, which means at least three with the first one due in February when she hits six months old. Plus I’m planning some general non-specific items which can go on the stall once I go back to the market or can be put aside for next year’s Christmas presents. So, there’s enough to keep me busy for a while!

Reading that back, it sounds a bit optimistic. But I know that if I knuckle down, and don’t waste time in front of the TV in the evenings by having idle hands, I can get an awful lot done in a year. It will be interesting to look back in a year and see what I did achieve in 2012. Here’s to a good year!

The problem is…

The problem is that I keep thinking of things to write about, and even things which are reasonably interesting. But when I think of them I don’t have time to fire up the laptop, and so the moment passes. And then you get times like now, where I’m on the computer, but haven’t got enough time to write a coherent post. Yes, I’m rubbish and I know I am! So, in summary;

  • Christmas was lovely – time spent with the whole family, excellent food, happy children, not enough sleep. So fairly standard really!
  • The house purchase is still going ahead, although the survey flagged up a couple of issues which we will have to have checked out in the new year. God willing they’re not deal breakers, as the house is fab and I really want to live there! But they would involve some serious work being done, so we need to get some experts to give us opinions.
  • My niece is growing more gorgeous by the day. I’m loving being an auntie to someone so close by. Little M knows us all and beams at us as we arrive. She loves my two boys, and they adore her in return. They’ll happily spend hours acting the clown to make her laugh – long may it last!
  • Speaking of the kids, they’ve been awesome this Christmas. They are unfailingly delighted with whatever presents they receive, be they small or large, and apart from getting over-excited from time to time (it has to be a rare child who doesn’t do that at Christmas!) have been very well behaved. Which makes our lives easier! Cheeky lost his second front top tooth today. The first one came out a couple of weeks ago, and so now he has a small lisp and a massive gap. But I think he looks a bit less like a pirate than when his gap was only one tooth wide. Hopefully those adult teeth will be along soon so that he can bite through food again!
  • Every one of the four of us got a Lego set this Christmas – the ability to not completely leave your childhood behaind must be one of the best things about being a parent! I got a big Harry Potter set, so I’m thinking I might wait and build it once we’ve moved. Which would show considerably more restraint than the other three, who’ve already broken into their sets!
  • I’m now on the hunt for new trainers (the Schuh sale let me down this year and my old Skechers are getting very shabby) so any tips for online cheap Skechers buying will be most appreciated! I’m doing my best to avoid having to go into town and fight my way through the crowds!
  • Lastly, I’m beginning to line up my new year knitting and have a couple of cardigans in mind to knit. But my brain is drawing a blank on nice wools I could buy to knit them with. So help is needed for this too! I’m planning on knitting a colourwork cardigan in double knit yarn, so I want a yarn which comes in a good range of colours. And I’d like a recommendation for a decent aran. I have Christmas money to spend, and I thought I’d rather make something out of a reasonably nice yarn rather than finding the cheapest possible ones to use.

That’s about it for the updates. I know it was long for a summary, but I had lots to say! I hope you all had a nice Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrated, and that 2012 brings lovely things for you and your families (I thought I’d get that in there in case I don’t make it back online in the next four days!).

Flying by

I know that time is supposed to go faster as you get older, but I didn’t think I was old enough for time to fly as it has been recently! How is it only nine days from Christmas Day already? Last time I turned round it was November.

So, news update; we’ve sold the flat at last! Or at least, because I feel uncomfortable with being too confident, we’ve accepted an offer and the solicitors are doing their thing preparing the documents and swapping details before an exchange of contracts. We’ve also found a house to buy which has a nice garden, a garage and an upstairs, all of which will be new for us! Please keep your fingers crossed for us that it all goes through smoothly, and that we’re moving into our new home in the early Spring.

I’m nearly ready for Christmas; all the present buying is done apart from the last minute things which I have planned to buy at various points through next week, the cards are written and posted and the decorations have been up for nearly a fortnight now. We’re all enjoying all the lights that we’ve put up, and will definitely be sad when they have to come down on twelfth night. I’ve got a list of festive recipes which I’m looking forward to attempting next week, especially as our lovely brother in law is doing the Christmas dinner, so I feel more free to do some festive baking. One thing I’m defnitely hoping to try is Joy the Baker’s chocolate peppermint roll – we all love minty chocolate things, and a bonus is that this recipe is gluten free. I have some good friends who have coeliac disease, and I’m always on the lookout for good gluten free recipes for them. Another is chocolate honeycomb (like Crunchie bars), the recipe for which I have in a lovely book my Mum gave me last year. In fact, there are so many recipes I’d like to try, I think I could bake a couple of times a day from here to new year and still not get through them all! Plus by then I’d have put my family into a diabetic coma!

My knitting has picked up pace a little in the last few weeks as I’ve been knitting slipper socks for the kids for Christmas. The first pair were knitted in a sport weight Mountain Meadow merino wool and are really nice feeling. It was good to knit with too; the only small complaint I would have was that the wool seemed to be full of little bits of grass that I had to pull out as I knitted through it! The second pair are almost done, and are made from an aran weight blue faced leicester. I had some undyed skeins and so I thought it would be fun to knit them up and then dye the socks once they’re finished. Then I can apply the liquid rubber to the soles so that they won’t skid everywhere!

Anyway, I hope you are all looking forward to Christmas and have a happy and healthy time. And if I’m not back before then, happy new year to you all! Here’s hoping that 2012 is filled with good things for us all!

Fifteen years ago

Fifteen years ago yesterday I had my first date with a very special young man. He took me to the theatre in Aberystwyth to see ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, which was very lovely of him as, I’ve discovered since then, he’s really not that bothered by musical theatre at all! Fifteen years ago today, right now, I was on my way to work, looking forward to seeing that handsome seventeen year old, watching him doing his work from behind my delicatessen counter! Fast forward through those fifteen years and I’ve been married to that gorgeous man for nine years now and have the two most wonderful sons with him.

Here’s to the next fifteen years!

A weekend away

We’ve had a busy weekend since I last wrote to you all. We spent Friday to Sunday with my husband’s family in London, and managed to fit in two trips to the city centre. On Friday we arrived by lunchtime and then headed into London on the train, which my boys always find exciting as it’s a rare occurrence for them. We had planned to have an hour on HMS Belfast, but after finding out we’d be shelling out a little over forty quid for the three of us adults, we decided that looking at it from the side of the Thames was quite sufficient! We did, however, get a good look at Tower Bridge, and as I’ve not lived in London since I was nine years old I get the touristy thrill every time I see it!

This is the kids and their cousin, and I think they were trying to gauge how deep the river was, although I wouldn’t swear to it!

Having seen and coveted the London Bridge Lego set, they were suitably thrilled to see the real thing. After this we got a Thames Clipper boat back to the London Eye pier, and set off to meet my brother in law near the Royal Festival Hall to find some dinner. Each time I go near the Festival Hall I’m reminded of a visit when I must have been in my early teens and we went into the hall for some lunch. I remember very distinctly listening to a string quartet whilst eating the best bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich I’ve ever had! The things that stay with you down the years!

On Saturday, it was decided that we should visit the Natural History Museum. Unfortunately, I think that most of the south east of England had had the same idea, as we were queueing for a good half an hour to get in. Inside it was very much as I remembered it from my trip whilst I was in primary school, including the blue whale model and the different sharks suspended above it. I passed on the offer to look at dinosaurs (they’ve never really excited me that much!) and left the boys to it whilst I enjoyed a sit down, a drink and a catch up on my Dad’s latest blog posts (one of the comments on the first in a recent series of posts of his nearly made me cry in public, but I’ll leave you to find that!). After about an hour the kids (and I include their fathers in that category) emerged from the dinosaur exhibit and we made our way to the investigation centre, which was easily the best bit of the museum that I had seen on that trip, and probably worth the visit on its own. After booking in for a half hour slot, the kids were allowed to touch any of the exhibits, put them under microscopes or zoomed-in camera lenses attached to a monitor to examine them, play on computers and even handle some replica skulls. Nothing was off-limits in this room, and they had lots of different things to look at such as fossils, bones, antlers, insects in plastic housings, what looked like a very small stuffed alligator (do they come in miniature?!) etc etc. There was more than enough to keep them occupied for well over double the alloted half hour, and we could have gone back in but all four kids were getting weary and so we decided to call it a day and head back.

After a nice dinner it was time to get the kids to bed. On Sunday morning GG taught Cheeky the main elements of chess (I think he’s started something there, as Cheeky seemed very keen to keep playing!) whilst Handsome spent more time playing with the younger of his two London cousins. He’s always been very good with smaller children, and has a lot of time and patience for playing their games and reading them stories. I think he probably inherited this from my mother in law, as we always found it hard to keep her attention if there was a child in the room with us, as they’d always have top priority! After lunch it was time for the journey home. I don’t like the M4 very much, and so I was glad to spend a good three quarters of an hour asleep – it was well worth the stiff neck! We all arrived home ready to have a chilled out evening catching up on Strictly Come Dancing and making sure everything was ready for school. We’re not used to travelling very much, but it’s nice to get away for the occasional weekend. I’m very glad though that now my parents and my sister in law live in Cardiff so most of our visiting involves no more than a fifteen minute drive!

October update

Firstly, good news on the neighbour front! Whilst Mr and Mrs Screamy-Stompy and Screamy-Stompy junior still are living above us (no prospect of that changing, plus they seem to have another water leak from their bathroom – only a matter of time until that makes our bathroom a little damp!) the unsociable early-hour door-slammers from the top floor have moved out. Or more, accurately, apparently they were evicted after failing to pay rent. Hurray! In their place we have a (so far, fingers crossed) quiet young woman with a young baby. It was a positive sign that she moved in a full flat-worth of furniture, rather than just the mattress and scruffy old sofa we’ve come to expect from our renting neighbours – we’re taking that as a sign that she probably has more respect for the property than those who came before her. There is a rumour going round that the last residents stripped out the pipe-work before they left!

In family news, everyone’s fine. It’s half term this week, and it’s actually sunny today, which was a pleasant surprise. As Cheeky had a week at tennis summer school in the summer holidays, we’ve been encouraging Handsome to find something that would interest him. And so I’m not sure why I was surprised when he came bounding out of school a couple of weeks ago waving a piece of paper inviting him to attend ‘Spy School’ during this holiday! And so that’s what he’s been doing this week; cracking codes, finding hidden briefcases and navigating rooms full of lasers! In the mean time, Cheeky has been enjoying the full attention of both his parents, as GG has taken a week off work. Mum’s been busy planting her spring bulbs in a newly cleared front border, and Dad’s not long had a new car, and has been relishing the prospect of ease of travelling to places outside the network of Cardiff Bus! My niece is growing beautifully, doing everything that a highly intelligent ten-week old infant should do. She thrilled GG on Monday by giving him a beaming smile and maybe almost a little chuckle.

We’ve still not sold the flat, and it’s looking more and more likely that we’ll be here for another winter. And so we’re having to look at applying for secondary school for Handsome from here rather than the other part of Cardiff that we had hoped to move towards. We’ve found a school which we like, but as it’s not the school into which he’d automatically transfer, we have to apply for a place and really keep our fingers crossed that he’d get in. Applications need to be in by the start of December, then we have a long wait until March to find out if he’s in or not. I don’t cope well with waiting and not knowing, so I may have to find a way to sleep through January and February!

Christmas is only 8.5 weeks away, and I’ve really got to start thinking about what needs doing before the event. Hopefully I’ll make my Christmas cake next week, and maybe even some mincemeat if I feel especially enthusiastic. and then it will soon be time to think about present shopping. The boys are beginning their wish lists, and GG is starting to hint for a few things. I really need to write them down before I forget them!

That’s about it for the update, I think. Hopefully more pleasant things to report soon!