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Monday, 17 December 2012

The Dress, the Dust and Going Commando!

Its the weekend before the Old Folks arrive. Cleaning is high on the agenda along with making beds, doing lists for lists ( which I will lose and have to rewrite ), walking dogs and generally nutty tuttying pre-Christmas.
There is an inch think of dust on everything and I really can't be arsed to get rid. It's nearly lunch time on a Sunday morning and yet again I am still sat in my pj's. Pj's that are in fact underneath my sweats, a.k.a joggers and a jumper, as have swayed my bra-less way yet again to the local shops to get the Sunday papers. I think the guys in there have bets how on shitty I can look on a morning yet have no shame and how low do my bazoomers swings. Do I give a Figgy Pud?! So I return so I can stain my teeth just a little bit more with the thickest darkest coffee ever whilst I munch on an unhealthy breakfast which I will dismiss because I ran yesterday. Ah yes the running. I like to run in daylight  I like to run on dry surfaces. Ideally it should be  glorious sunshine and my hair should bounce away in time to the beat. Instead I am cocooned innuit-stylee and do not feel the urge to put on any lycra let alone my trainers. Plus He-man pointed out that with my dodgy foot running on ice would do it no good - tahdah! Perfect excuse. Hence I have not been running for 2 weeks. So can someone tell me why I went for a 4 mile run yesterday and now have legs of lead. This is not helping in the domestic chores front and the need to be a bit more whizz bang today.



To add to my already mounting distraction I have return of the Sewing Machine to contend wtih. This is my Nemesis. There was a dress I was making, it broke, it got sent away the sewing machine fairies, it returned yesterday and all I wanted to do is finish the GOD DAMN DRESS! I then spent a good couple of hours unpicking all the good work I did earlier because apparently I don't know how to read patterns and followed the wrong one. But I will not be beaten. I will finish the God Damn Dress which I will probably never wear again as it will sneer at me from my wardrobe. However until I complete the Dress in 1 hour ( this is a bit similar to Jamie Oliver's meals in 3O min - a lie) I cannot muster the enthusiasm, or leg power, to do anything else. So sorry Dad but you will have to make your own bed and draw your name is dust like the rest of us.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Stir fried Chilli Chicken - Fastest meal ever!



I'm not one for posting recipes but often take a quick photo and pop it onto instagram ( apparently instagram is for those who cant read!) any way the lovely Reddskingyal was positively salivating at this piccie so I promised that I would share said recipe.

Firstly this is fast, very fast. Secondly it is satisfying too. Third the previous two points make it an ideal mid week meal or a description for sex. We serve it on a bed of spinach or rocket with maybe some tomatoes ( roasted are very good ) and some home made flat bread. This meal is in our family top 10 of mid week meals.

I give you Chilli Chicken

Serves 2

4 -6 cloves of garlic - peeled
1 red chilli or 2 red birds eye chillies - halved. it's up to you if you want to leave te seeds in
2 tbsp approx olive oil
2 skinless boneless chicken fillets cut into chunks
Soy sauce
Large handful of basil leaves

Mash the garlic and chillies into a paste. Sometimes I do this on the chopping board, other times in the pestle and ,mortar. Dribble a bit of the olive oil to assist.
Heat wok or large frying pan. add rest of olive oil. Add the chilli/garlic paste. Stir fry for 10- 15 seconds!
Add the chicken and stir fry for 5 mins til chicken cooked through.
Add the soy sauce and basil leaves stir fry for 1 more minute.
Serve.
Eat.
Nom nom.





Saturday, 24 November 2012

Piefall


Corny title I know but it kind of follows on from my MI5 one and it all happened in the same week. Besides I love a good pun which was also integral to the evening spent at Asda house with my lovely sister, some other fab bloggers, those nice Asda Pie makers, the Pork farm chefs, and folk from Joules brewery to celebrate the new Asda Pie range including the truly Delicious Steak & Joules ale Pie, at less than £3!



 
Not knowing what to expect other than the brief that we were going to talk & eat  "pie" it soon became clear on arrival at Asda house that we were going to learn how they made their pies, there would be plenty of pie talk, beer talk and then we would have to make pies ourselves followed by eating of said pies with more beer. We were suitable impressed by the professional pie makers and the imparting of top tips to make your pie truly scrumptious.We were eyes wide at the kitchen facilities at Asda house. We eyed up suspiciously the range of prepared vegetables and other luscious ingredients on a nearby work station.


 "Chorizo" I whispered to my sister as were told to man our station and create our own pie in half an hour. Her elbows were out and she dived on the said sausage, chicken thighs and a sweet pepper. We gathered some more ingredients and started to create a Spanish masterpiece. When one of the chefs placed a bottle of red by elbows that went in too. "So what's your pie called?" he enquired and quick as flash we replied " em-pie-nada" (  oh how we larfed) A slab of puff pastry,  a quick lesson in pie glue ( flour and water mix to you or I ) and we were done.

 It was at this point that to the good brewing folk cracked open their jugs and we were treated to sample of 3 ales,Joules Pale Ale, the Slumbering Monk and Blonde. The Slumbering monk was by far the winner for us along with the fact that on a Friday the local taverns put on home made sausage rolls for their punters. Hospitality at its best.



The ensuing pie smells wafting around the kitchen had us all drooling til the moment of truth when they all came out of the oven. we had a fish pie, a tricolore vegetable pie, a trio of cheese pie, a creamy salmon pie and our very own Spanish pie.

A it is such a rare occasion in my life to win anything ever to have been judged top pie makers of the night is now up there with my one time win at egg rolling aged 30 several and winning a Muppet poster when I was  aged 9 for an art project. Not content to just win the evening we decided to inflict the recipe on our family the following weekend and even the pickiest of eaters came back for seconds  We expect to see em-pie-nada making an entrance onto Asda shelves anytime soon, please do tell if you see it.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

3 funerals and a wedding

Tara's The Gallery theme this week is the 80's. Do I really want to go back there? For Tara I will do anything!


The 80's started  looking something like this.


And ended looking like this.
If I had told my young 13 year old self what the decade had to hold I'm not sure what I would have made of it. So what did the 80's hold  for me.  

Rebellious teen, a stint abroad, 3 funerals and a wedding.
The hair, big hair and even bigger hair
Coloured hair from red to blonde and back again.
Make up tons of the stuff and red red lips
Fashion faux pas
Shoulder pads and high waisted trousers
Killer heels
Cigarettes, French and strong
Coffee the same
Drinking drunk and drunker still
Vomitting and puking stories to fill the next decade
Sexy sex and sexing it up
Working and studying hard
Partying and partying hardier still
Friendships came and go 
Some still standing
Responsibility to irresponsible
Child to adult in 10 years
a voyage of self discovery

If there was ever a period of life I would NEVER go back to is the 80's!
At post 16 point I was gonna RULE THE WORLD! I was off on my gap year and university was all lined up for when I got back. I had my career mapped out and knew where I was going.  It was  see the world and be young free and single for ever! This was exciting time people. And then it started to go wrong. The biggest life changing factor that cast its shadow over the rest of the 80's for me was death. I lost two grandparents that I was really close to in the space of 9 months and the following year in '87 I lost my mother. I was a baby really and floundering terribly.  The 6 month fling I was in the middle of turned into marriage because he became my rock to cling to. I dropped out of uni because I couldn't cope with all this dying business though my mother managed to get me into another course where up on she died on my first day.  Married the following year and staggering my way through the rest of the booze filled decade I made to 90's.


Ever the wiser after the event there are so many things that I would love to the change about this decade.


Monday, 12 November 2012

GCHQ -Apprenticeships in British Intelligence

 

 

If I said GCHQ what do you think of? British Intelligence, MI5 or MI6 maybe? This immediately conjures up all sorts of images from James Bond to Spooks to international travel and espionage. It also makes me think of hi-tech hubs with the power to tap into everything. You may be aware of the current recruitment campaign that GCHQ are running in some of the Sunday papers but were you aware that they run apprenticeships too? Well neither was I.

 

How does this sound for a brief? Working with GCHQ, MI5 (Security Service) and MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) - this is a Higher Apprenticeship like no other. You’ll be earning a salary and gaining a unique insight into a world that you won’t find on any university course. Not only that, but with GCHQ you’ll be learning about – and working with - some of the best and most cutting edge technology. And because their work is constantly evolving, it’s always challenging – giving you plenty of development opportunities to explore.

 

Here you’ll make a real contribution to the mission of the Intelligence services to tackle cyber threats, terrorism, counter espionage and organised crime. You’ll be supported throughout this two year programme, with a combination of university delivered education, specific technical training and work based placements and projects. Based in Cheltenham for the first year, the two year Higher Apprenticeship programme will consist of university delivered education, specific technical training and work based placements. There may be some opportunities in London for the second year of the placement. After successful completion of your apprenticeship, you’ll gain a Foundation Degree and a level 4 Diploma in IT Professional Competence. And then? Why not use the technical skills you’ve gained in a career in British Intelligence?

 

I have to say these internships sound like no other I have seen. Even He-man pricked up his ears and actually took an interest in what I had to say about the opportunity. Can you image how fanstatic this would look on your CV?! If this is the future of apprenticeships then university education will be under serious threat.

 

If you are interested then register here www.careersinbritishintelligence.co.uk and you have until the closing date 30/11/12 to apply.

 


 

So what are you waiting for?


Sponsored Post

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Books that shaped my life

Tara's Gallery theme this week - books. Haven't been inspired to write any blogs for a while so thank you Tara for giving me a kick start

Once upon a time now you are sitting comfortably I will begin. As a child my life was my books! My days were spent curled up in a ball somewhere reading and reading and yes more reading. I would literally have to be turfed out of the house to "get some fresh air". As the teenage years fell by the wayside and I became an adult somewhere my love of books was exchanged for love of other stuff. When the kids were small I read to them from the moment they were born. I would like to think that this helped them become the articulate intelligent people they now are. ( I say articulate but I need a translator my He-man's 18 year old grunts and She-ra's 16 year old galloping-at-speed dialogue) These days I always have a book on the go and am a "sort of" member of a book club. Thing is I am so goddamn tired when I get to bed that I can end up reading the same paragraph for weeks on end. Plus stress, of which I seem to have my fair share, robs me of my ability to concentrate and read. Bulk reading seems to have become the preserve of holidays. Reading for pleasure curled up on the sofa mid afternoon seems to have become nothing more than a childhood memory. Here are some books which have shaped my life

Enid Blyton - Including The Faraway Tree, Mallory Towers and Famous Five. These were all saved and have been read through the generations. Currently sat on my sisters book shelf waiting for the 8 year old to wade her way through.

Charlottes Web - E.B.White. I still have a  love of pigs, can't kill a spider, named my first pet after said pig and still cry at the end of this book.

Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy tales - I still have this book! It's full of beautiful illustrations and typical of the books my dad gave me.

Dr Seuss - gotta love a bit of green eggs and ham. I even had a song book!

Charlie Brown series - Charles M. Schulz, given to me by Grumps when he first met my mother. Great books for adults and children alike. I still want a beagle plus my daughter is pig pen and I have music from the TV series on  my phone. Call me nostalgic.

John Wyndham - I became addicted to these at one point which I read along side

Edna O'Brien - This must have been the period in which I started to learn about feminism, not that I would class O'Brien in a flag bearer for that cause, and I remember my Step mum giving me lots of books on the subject.Wong and Greer if I remember rightly. The bookshelves still heave with a variety of titles.

I became liberated as a teen when I read Molly Parkin. My eyes were on stalks. So this was sex! I have just re read her first book and it seems so tame/dated by today standards.

Delia Smith - Complete Cookery Course. This was a gift from my mother & grumps before I went to be an Au pair. I still have it and use it today. It was the last book she bought for me.


Lemony Snicket - We still love these as a family and someone somewhere has got the entire audio collection which I would really like back. The language in these were fantastic and would keep the whole family talking for hours giving us our own in jokes and sayings. Absolutely fabulous!

Spike Milligan's Bad Jelly the Witch. I loved Spike's wacky humour as a child and was delighted to read this one to my two.its been read more times than I care to say and now waits to be rediscovered by my niece and nephew.





The following books I never want to see again, The Mr Men and Little Miss series and Thomas the bleedin' Tank engine. Read every night night after night til the children knew them verbatim and I couldn't skip pages.

I am deliberately not mentioning J.K.Rowling as a book that shaped my life although it definitely did for my daughter, prime target audience at the time. I found them dreadfully dull books to read and very slow. Thank god for the films is all I say.

I now have the pleasure of reading to my niece and nephew and am so delighted the nephew has really come in to his own of late. He still loves...
click here for Amazon


Having wanted to study American Studies I love all that is Americana  the most recent book that left a long last impression with me is The Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin Brockmeier of whom I have gone to read more of his work. I would so love to believe in the sentiment of the book. I will still devour most things American set in any period along with books set in 18th century Britain.

These days my bookshelves are a testament to OCD. Colour Coordinated or what? Bet there's a book on that too



..And they all lived happily ever after.
The end

PS I have put a link to Amazon for as many of the books or authors as I could find if I have tempted you to look further




Tuesday, 25 September 2012

To be or not to be my lover

So 6 months single and I'm thinking should I dip my toe back into the internet dating game? To be honest in terms of fun it's up there with Ebaying. However of late I have been engaging with Kate who has bravely stepped out there and is dipping her toes in the whole match.com scenario. A GOOD ON HER!  I think she deserves a medal. In fact there should be a medal for those brave enough to do it. How do you capture the essence of you in a few lines? How do get the good photos? How do you pluck the courage to send that first message, go on the first date? I have been there,seen that and got a Tee shirt ( although mine was a gift from Hot Date of Gene Hunt )

I would like to meet someone at some point but naturally and less manufactured. I'm  definitely old school believing that at some point I will just bump in to someone and relationship will thus develop. It could be Hugh Grant Notting Hill Stylee or maybe George Clooney Up in the air, or even Brad Pitt, think Thelma and Louise. I just don't fancy looking for the old maddog68 - silver fox seeking silver lady friend type banter that goes with internet dating.

Maybe it's because I can feel the clock ticking that I might give it one more try. Putting age as 46 instead of 45 seems like a slippery slope towards 50 and before you know my collar and cuffs will match the old silver fox's head of hair. No amount of cream will bring back the bouncy youthfulness of skin of yesteryear and yes my tits will be down my belly button. The joints are already creaking and a passionate embrace might break something by the time I get to 50+! By which point I will have been single for nearly a decade. *SOBS loudly!

So should I do it? I am quite happy discovering myself ( not in a pervy way) having been a child bride. And after 18 months of Hot Date fizzling out I'm feeling a little cautious to let myself in for what internet relationships might bring to my door step again.  Or shall  I continue in my own merry way bimbling along trying out new things occasionally and see where life takes me?




Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Hard Stare

I am in the midst of rare occurrence. Once every 3 -4 years I will summon up the courage and sell a couple of things on eBay. This time I have excelled myself. I put over 20 items in one go. It's a new form of torture. This should be a new form of punishment for wayward children,teens and even in-the-dog-house adults. Never mind the naughty step or no pocket money how about a whole weekend of collating. cleaning, weighing, researching, photographing crap followed by inane questions from dip sticks. This is then closely followed by the great pack up and dash to the nearest Post Office or courier. ( I have just discovered Hermes by the way so I hope their cheapo prices mean the items get there in one piece !) Or you may do collection in person on some items. This quite entertaining but also tying. Once I am told that I have to stay in for a whole morning or evening I will suddenly feel the urge to go out at exactly the same time. So far I have had a" try before you buy" lady ( unsuccessful bidding too -shame ), trying out my bikes. A man from the depths of the counties inbred community in gravity defying jogger pants complete with suspect stains who gave me useful advice on my sons custom built BMX. We've had the eastern Europeans and yesterday I had many conversations from Nigel, a very small Jewish man in his 50's, wider than he was tall,  "who was picking the item for his friend Richard. he certainly did look like he was in need of a universal bike rack, I don't think his feet would have touched a bike pedals. He said " and do you know my aunt across the road?" At this point I had to say "we wave at each other" as said  ancient aunt is rarely seen out although her husband is back and forth in his car all day long. They seem happy with the "just wave and smile" kind of neighbourly attention. I did have to bite my tongue though as they have a lot of inconsiderate visitors who block me in my drive way every weekend. I digress and now have the urge to write a blog on neighbours.

To assist the great eBay sales you need great eBay photos. She-ra is a mad keen photographer so I let her loose on a few items. I have to say that I am not surprised that Paddington is giving me a "hard stare" after what he saw.





50 shades of grey eat your heart out! These are yet to go on eBay so if anyone wants to make a bid on a randy genuine 1977 Paddington complete with the original labels, wellies,hat coat etc as made Mr Jeremy Clarkson's mother in Burghwallis. Or indeed the randy Steiff rabbit then get in touch. I meanwhile will be putting items on every weekend until I have achieved my objective of clearing the home of things we just don't use any/need any more. I just wish there was an easier way.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Student FEES - Some useful facts

This is not a sponsored post but I was asked if I was interested and I'm a bit of a Martin Lewis fan so here goes....Thursday (20 Sept) marks Student Finance Day – the day is a focal point for universities, schools and colleges to talk about student finance in England – and dispel some of the myths and misunderstandings out there. The second annual Student Finance Day is run by the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information (headed by Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert).



60% of prospective students have ‘worrying misconception’ about student finance. 


Student Finance Day is launched as new research shows dangerous knowledge gaps. As students face the prospect of £9,000 English tuition fees for the first time, while others visit Open Days for 2013 entry, new research released to mark the second annual Student Finance Day, shows a high level of confusion over the new student finance system remains. Students wrongly worry about repaying when not earning.The research found 63% of English 14-18 year olds and 60% of those starting university in 2012 are worried about how they’ll repay the loan if they are unemployed or a low earner after university – despite attempts to publicise that repayments only come into effect after graduation and provided you earn over £21,000 – and even then it’s proportionate to earnings.The impact of this is that 61% of 14-18 year olds admitted that the changes had made them think harder about whether to go to university, and 91% felt that if they did, they would need to work whilst at university to financially support themselves.  


Head of the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information (who co-ordinate Student Finance Day), Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com said:“The tragedy is, it’s likely a good chunk of potential students are choosing not to go to university due to misplaced fear.  Worse is, I suspect it’s those from non-traditional university families who are most risk averse and most affected.

“Part of the problem is there’s too much focus on the headline amount being borrowed - a mostly irrelevant figure. What really counts is how much needs repaying and that depends solely on what’s earned after university.  You repay nothing under £21,000 and above that, the more you earn, the more you repay. Financially at least, it is effectively a no-win, no fee system. “Whether you support the changes or not, we must ensure that we don’t damage a generation of students through misunderstandings. That’s why initiatives such as Student Finance Day are so important. Universities, schools, colleges, parents, politicians, and the media all need to come together to ensure we communicate the financial facts – not the fiction.  After all, if young people don’t understand the true cost, how can they make an effective decision?” 

The results of the survey come as universities, schools and colleges across the country join together for Student Finance Day (20 September), hosting events and disseminating information to help prospective students and their parents get clear and accessible information on student finance. For more information on student finance, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/students2013



Here's one of Martin's myth busters on student fees

Ten point mythbuster
  1. You don't pay up front to go to Uni.
First time undergraduate's fees are automatically paid by a Student Loans Company loan. There are also loans of up to £5,500 to live off (£7,675 in London) and those from families with income under £42,611 get living grants of up to £3,354. 

  2.Students don't repay, graduates do, but only if they earn £21,000+. 
You repay 9% of everything earned above £21,000 starting the April after graduation (2017 for most). This £21,000 will rise from 2017. Those who never earn over it, never repay. 

3. Monthly repayments are the same on £6000 or £9000 fee courses.As monthly repayments depend ONLY on earnings, the course fee size doesn't impact it.

4. It’s wiped after 30 years. 
Whatever you still owe, repayments stop after 30 years.

5.There are no debt collectors.
Repayments are taken via the payroll, just like tax. So you never actually handle the cash, meaning there are no debt collectors chasing. 

6.Repayments are £470/year LOWER than before.
Those asking "how can anyone live with such debts?" may be surprised that future graduates will initially have MORE disposable income than today's graduates as they repay above £21,000 earnings (under the old system, it was £15,795). This is also a mild improvement for building a deposit and getting a mortgage in the early years after graduation.
 


7.You will owe for LONGER and may pay MORE.
The bad news is compared to today's graduates, 2012 starters onwards repay less each year, have much bigger loans and pay higher interest (as much as inflation plus 3%), so it'll take MUCH longer to repay than now and depending on earnings, may cost a lot more.
 


8.Many will NEVER pay it all back.Even many starting on £25,000 graduate salaries (and rising after) won't repay everything owed within the 30 years (test your situation at www.studentfinancecalc.com)they'll often be repaying for much of their working life.
9. Many won't pay more on £9,000 courses than £6,000.
As even many £25,000 starters won't repay combined £6,000 tuition fees and living loans before the 30 year wipe, it won't cost them any more to take a £9,000 fee course.
10. Paying up front could be throwing £10,000s away
Fee fears means some parents aim to pay them upfront. For those planning to use savings, remember as many won't repay what they borrowed at today's prices before the 30 year wipe, you could be throwing big money away.  Don’t make knee jerk decisions to pay upfront, without doing research.
 



Managing money is one thing that everyone should get qualifications in! If you feel you need a bit of help in the finance area please see the links Martin has put together. Let's face it the new fee structure is confusing to all. Knowledge is power!

Martin’s 20 key facts on the new student finance system


Guide for full-time students 



Guide for parents



Sunday, 9 September 2012

Summer of Sport

I am not a natural athlete. I am late comer to the benefits of exercise and now am out of action due to doing in the other bleeding Achilles tendon pining like a love sick teenager for my trainers and the wind in my hair as I run with my dog. This aside did not stop my enjoying every blooming minute of the Olympics I wish now that we had bought tickets or even just gone to the Olympic park to soak in the atmosphere.For those of you who do not follow me on instagram I give you our summer of sports. I challenge you to guess the sports!