Monday, 30 June 2008

Decluttering The Kitchen


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I’ve finally made a real start on decluttering the kitchen this week. Until now I just haven’t been strong enough to do it and although I can still only do a little at a time, it feels good to actually be making progress.

The first job to tackle was the big understairs cupboard. Until now it’s been used as a general dumping ground for everything that doesn’t have a proper home elsewhere and was an absolute disgrace. There are a few shelves in there but nowhere nearly as many as I’d like so the bottom of the cupboard was a complete mess. Everything just got shoved in from pots of paint and dog food to toilet rolls and things that might just come in handy one day but probably never will. It was so bad that I had no idea what was actually at the back, and even if I had known I wouldn’t have been able to get to them.

During the first round I managed to fill about a bin bag and a half with rubbish that couldn't be reused or recycled. What’s really embarrassing is that about half of that was food that had been stored there because I don’t have enough cupboard space for it elsewhere. Some of that had also become bogged down with junk so I found full packets of biscuits that had their ‘best before’ date 18 months ago, bags of sticky sweets that even a toddler wouldn’t find appetising, and cakes that were rock hard. There was even a whole Christmas cake and an untouched Stollen in there! Needless to say, I felt ashamed of myself. At least some of the other stuff's going on Freecycle or to the charity shop!

This is how the cupboard looked when I gave up for the day. You can't see anywhere near all of it but believe me, there's still a lot of stuff left to get out!


The little chest of drawers in the kitchen will also be put through the clear out treatment. Richard’s having it and I wanted it out of the way so that I could make room for a dresser or larger chest of drawers, although I’ve yet to find ‘the right one’. Richard says I’m fussy but why shouldn’t I get my kitchen exactly how I want it when I’m spending both time, energy and money on it? I’m planning to live with it for a very long time and want to feel satisfied that it not only works for me but looks pleasant and inviting, too.

The main problem with all this decluttering is that, until I eventually get my new kitchen installed, I’ve nowhere to actually put the stuff that’s come out of cupboards and drawers. There just isn’t room to find them new homes. At the moment my food is kept on two shelves on the wall - a very inadequate solution as they’re not only in an awkward position to get to, but everything’s stacked up in such a way that I can’t easy get things down without half of it falling on top of me. The kitchen table is also ‘home’ to all sorts of things that shouldn’t be there but I can’t exactly just kick them around until I lose them, can I?

Once the big cupboards completely clear I’ll get Richard to put some more shelves up for me. That way the stockpiled food and dry stuff (flour, rice, pasta etc) can go back in, and the vacuum cleaner can have a proper home instead of standing on the floor, in the way of getting to one end of the much despised food shelves. I’m fed up keep having to move it because although that may seem like a simple task to most, things like that quickly wear me out.

Having an electric built-in oven residing on the floor while it awaits its permanent home in the new kitchen doesn’t help with space but as I’m working to a very tight budget, I have to get things when I see them going cheap. The oven’s just 6 months old, barely used and cost £50 so I could hardly let it go. And anyway, why buy new when you don’t have to?

At the moment there are also things being kept in big boxes or just stacked against the walls. The whole room generally looks as if a bomb’s hit it but I tell myself that it’s simply the transition stage, rather like when you’re growing layers out of your hair and it looks a mess but you have to put up with it just a while longer if you’re to get the style you really want.

I’m really eager to get started on the main jobs now. Lise and her boyfriend are going to paint the skirtings and door frames when they come over in July and once they're done, I shall get my "almost" daughter's partner round to decorate and put the new wall cabinets up. At least the food will have a proper home again then. That'll be the first stage over and done with so I'll be able to start concentrating on getting quotes for the rest of the work and saving how ever much more I need.

I’ll get there one day.

Sharon J

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Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Fisherman & The Banker


Years ago, I was told a story that says a lot about the general British attitude towards money. While it’ll no doubt be new to some of you, others will have already heard it. Either way, I think it’s still worth reading.

Here goes:

A successful investment banker was at the pier during a holiday in a small Spanish coastal village when a local fisherman docked his small boat. Inside the boat were some fish that he’d caught that morning. The banker was intrigued and asked the Spaniard how long it had taken him to catch the fish.

“Two hours,” the Spaniard said.

The banker thought this strange and asked why the Spaniard didn’t stay out all day to maximise his earnings.

“I make enough to support my family,” the Spaniard explained. “I don’t need more.”

The banker couldn’t understand the Spaniard’s attitude.”I’m an investment banker,” he explained. “I could help you make more money. If you spend more time fishing you could invest what money you don’t need, buy a bigger boat, catch more fish, invest more money, buy a second boat, invest even more and eventually own a whole fleet of fishing boats. One day you could open up your own export business, move to London where your headquarters would be, and sell fish all over Europe.”

The Spaniard thought for a moment before asking how long all this would take.

“Probably about twenty years” came the reply.

“And what would I do then?”

The banker laughed at the man’s naivety. “When you’ve made enough money, you could sell the shares and live well on your earnings. You’d be a very rich man.”

“But what would I do when I’m rich and retired?”

“Isn’t that obvious?” The banked asked. “You could move to a small coastal village where you could play with your grandchildren, take a siesta with your wife and walk into the village where you could dine on good food, drink wine and play the guitar with your friends.”

“Exactly,” replied the fisherman as he turned to head for home where he’d share time with his wife and children before strolling into the village to join his friends.

Sharon J

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Saturday, 28 June 2008

Ding Dong - The Bells are Ringing



It’s 28 years today since my one and only wedding. The marriage hasn’t lasted all those years but we’re still friends and I don’t regret having married him.

Although wedding back in the 70s weren’t anywhere near as expensive or lavish as they are these days, they were still big events where the bride’s parents were expected put on a good show. I, however, wanted to keep mine simple.

I laugh when I think about it now. It wasn’t simple in the way I’d consider a simple wedding to be these days, but we didn’t know much about environmental issues and the likes back then so in comparison with most other weddings I’d been to, it was actually very simple. Not registry office simple as in sign the book and nip down the pub for a swift pint and a G&T but as far as church weddings with the full works afterwards goes, it was.

I found the cheapest wedding dress I could. Mum and I went shopping for the dress and an Edwardian style dress and hat were chosen over the more tradition veil and train get up and whereas cousins and other family members who’d married before me had had half a dozen bridesmaids, I had just one. A close friend who would do the job of holding the bouquet and what have you. No little ‘uns who’d cry during the service and no stroppy pre-teens who’d refuse to wear their dress. My groom wore a regular suit and everybody was told to come dressed in whatever they felt comfortable with. One guest arrived in jeans and a leather biker’s jacket.

We didn’t decorate the church with loads of flowers and we didn’t have a choir. Dad wanted me to get married in the big church in town (where my cousins had got married) but I insisted on a small Baptist church. Much more my thing. I’d already agreed to drop the registry office because he’d dreamt of walking me down the aisle but a compromise was needed.

The ‘do’ afterwards was out of my control, though. Dad insisted that as long as he was paying, he’d do it his way. 120 guests arrived (yes, that was pretty small compared to most East End weddings), a sit down meal was enjoyed, the bar flowed freely, a DJ had everybody up dancing, the buffet included traditional jellied eels and a good time was had by all. Except that I didn’t even know half the guests - they were all Dad’s mates.

I’m not sure what I’d do if I were doing it today but I do know I wouldn’t spend huge amounts of money on one day. I can’t think of any reason why people would spend thousands on a dress, hundreds on a cake, hold the reception in some posh place they can’t really afford etc etc etc other than that they want to impress their guests. Why is that? Isn’t it supposed to be about making a commitment? And isn’t being sensible with money part of that commitment?

Weddings are big business but no amount of luxury on the big day will make a marriage any stronger and, try as we might to impress others, the wedding will soon be forgotten by most.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to make a wedding day special, but at the expense of what?

Sharon J x

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Friday, 27 June 2008

Something To Think About

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I've not a lot to say today but I thought this cartoon might give you some food for thought. Click on it to enlarge and read.



Have a good day, wherever you are and whatever you're doing. But think.

Sharon J

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Thursday, 26 June 2008

Riches That Really Matter


Photo: Fatty Tuna


In his essay ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’, Oscar Wilde wrote the following:

"Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you."

Televisions, laptops, jewellery, mobile phones, iPods, in fact anything a consumer can acquire for money, can all be stolen. Some things – the most precious things – cannot.

I have my own riches that nobody can steal…

  • Snuggling up under a warm blanket on the sofa with a good book on a winter’s evening
  • Sitting quietly with my needlework, knitting or crochet feeling contented with life
  • Watching the waves hit the shore as the sun sets over the sea
  • Eating fresh strawberries
  • Writing
  • Star gazing
  • Laughing so much that it hurts
  • Spending hours at the library just browsing the books
  • The peace and quiet of a forest
  • Playing cards and board games (but NOT Monopoly)
  • Knowing that I have my mother's love and respect
  • Picking flowers from the garden or countryside to brighten up the house
  • Binging on pancakes or waffles with a friend
  • The smell of grass after a rainfall
  • Watching a log fire burn
  • Fishing in a quiet lake in the woods
  • Giving my kids a hug
  • Feeling the change in the air when spring finally arrives
  • Watching the wildlife in my garden
  • Talking to my dog
  • The smell (and taste) of fresh baked buns
  • Walking barefoot on grass on a sunny day
  • Watching a heavy rain storm
  • Egg and mayonnaise sandwiches
  • Sitting in the sun, knowing that the vitamin D is making me stronger
  • Scouring car boot sales
  • Talking to a good friend
  • Hopping on the scales and seeing that I've put weight on
  • Recieving a hand written letter
  • Snuggling up in a bed with fresh, line dried linen
  • Sprawling on the sofa, listening to music
  • Home made pizza
  • Seeing my children achieve their goals, however small
  • The smell of cinnamon
  • Barbeques on the beach
  • Learning something new
  • Watching clean washing blowing in a breeze
  • My memories.... many, many of them

The list isn’t limited to the above; there are endless things that make me feel happy and contented with life. Sure, when I find the ‘perfect thing’ then I enjoy buying something new for the home or myself but when I decided to simplify my life it was partly because I’d found that buying things actually made me want more – I was never really satisfied.

Sometimes we all need to remind ourselves of the riches that really matter - those that money just can't buy. What would you put on your list?

Sharon J

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Meditation



“Be Still Like a Mountain and Flow Like a Great River” ~ Lao Tse


I think I’ve probably meditated for most of my life, albeit in an uncontrolled form to start with. My mums says she can remember that even as a toddler I’d sometimes be ‘gone with the fairies’, impossible to get through to. She’d have to click her fingers several times in front of me before I’d ‘come back’.

By the time I was about 5 years old she’d actually started to worry that maybe something was wrong with me. I can remember her asking me about it after one such ‘turn’. I explained that I’d simply been thinking about something, so deep in thought that I ‘was off somewhere else’. Whatever was happening around me simply didn’t register although on returning to my normal state of consciousness, I was aware that life had gone on and I hadn’t noticed. Mum may have finished making dinner, or dad may have changed his shirt. In fact, WW3 could probably have broken out and I wouldn’t have noticed.

As I matured I realised that what I was doing was meditating. I was reaching so far into myself - or outside of myself, whichever the case may be - that I was blocked from receiving external stimuli. I soon learned how to use meditation to help me relax and by the time I reached my twenties, I’d become quite dependent on it. It helped me understand life and my role in the jigsaw puzzle and kept me calm and strong through some very difficult situations.

These days my meditation takes on a form inspired by Lao Tse, one that's part of the Taoist philosophy. “Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river”. I imagine myself as a mountain and feel the energy rising upwards within me, growing until it reaches its full potential. I feel the strength and vigour of the mountain and make them my own. I feel the freedom surrounding me, and the view becomes a view of life’s possibilities.

From the mountain rushes a river, its energy knowing no boundaries and I enjoy the thrill of the ride but take time to explore the smaller streams that may take me to unexpected places. Then I’m heading for a tumbling waterfall before finally enjoying the rock pool below; the calm serenity welcome after the bumpy but thrilling, adventurous ride.

Tao is said to be the force that runs through life. It’s the energy that keeps us moving forward even when times are rough; it’s what give us the ability to feel contentment with the simple things in life; and it helps us understand and enjoy the exciting voyage that life is. To me, meditation is about releasing the Tao in myself because, in our stressful society, it tends to get locked inside, rather like a river that meets a dam, unable to find a path that flows freely.

Now all this may sound pretty weird and whacky to some, but to me it’s the most natural thing in the world. It may not be right but it feels right and that’s what matters. Some people pray, some people sing, some people chant, some people hug trees; if it helps tackle life, that’s surely a good thing.

Whatever a person chooses as their path to peace, as long as it works and it isn‘t hurting anybody, don’t knock it. I know that when I’m in the rock pool - that calm, serene place deep down within me - I can clear my mind. Relaxation and inner tranquility are total and only then can I begin to find the answers.

Sharon J

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Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Tesco, Asda & The Others

Photo: Route79


I’ve just finished doing my online shopping with Tesco and once again I felt a bit saddened as I pressed the ‘order’ button. I really don’t like shopping with them, or any of the other supermarket giants for that matter, but needs must. I’m just not able to get around the shops easily enough to do my shopping at the market and in local, independent stores so Tesco it is.

Richard’s good. He goes to the local butcher to buy most of my meat and often dashes all over town looking for something in particular that I’ve asked for, but I can’t expect him to rush about doing my fortnightly shop that way. Or even send him off on a more regular basis, for that matter. He has his own life, too. And anyway, I couldn’t even get everything locally if I tried - there just aren’t enough independents left.

The trouble with Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and the likes is that they’re ruining local economics. Farmers can barely afford to survive on the prices they’re paid and with the giants selling about 70% of food in the UK, they don’t have a lot of choice other than to sell to them on their terms. Local businesses are pressed out of the market leaving our towns filled with clothes shops, mobile phone shops, and other ‘chain stores’. There are few independent grocers, butchers, bakers, or candlestick makers left. And apparently, for every superstore that opens there’s a job loss of around 200-300 thanks to the small traders and their suppliers being put out of business. Is this really what we want? Has the convenience really been worth the consequences?

As well as their suppliers, they pay their floor staff a pittance. Let’s face it, the minimum wage is NOT a decent income. Whereas an independent store owner and his staff are merely making a living, the supermarket giants sweep up our money and pack it off to the shareholders, far away from the local community. How much money do the Walton family have? More than £100 billion, that’s how much! (In case you don’t know, they own Wal-mart, which Asda is part of). Just how selfish are these people?

Sure, they all like to be seen to be doing their bit for the environment. They offer to recycle our plastic bags and our local Tesco even has a wind turbine to provide the energy it uses but they still over package their products, and they still pay their suppliers and employees far too little. And they still import too much food. And they still deliver my shopping with some carrier bags containing just one item!

Apparently, Tesco are now considering removing their logo from their trailers because, with the rising price of fuel and the ever looming oil crisis, they don’t want to be seen on the roads too often. Crafty devils!

Still, my shopping will no doubt arrive safely and once again I’ll have been part of the problem rather than the solution. Sigh….

Sharon J

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Flying


Photo: Davipt


How comes, while we’re being told to fly less so as to reduce the effects of global warming, our airports are being extended? As if Heathrow’s Terminal Five wasn’t enough, they’re now planning to ‘improve’ Birmingham airport so that it can take larger aircraft used on long-haul flights.

Why?

Surely, if we’re really expected to fly less, airports should be decreasing in size rather than increasing?

I don’t get it.

Sharon J xx

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Monday, 23 June 2008

Plenty More Fish in the Sea?


Photo: f10n4


We’re partial to a portion of fish n’ chips in our house but about a month ago, Richard went off to get what was once our weekly treat only to come home with haddock instead of cod. Cod, he’d been told, had become increasingly difficult to get hold of leading to prices sky rocketing so our local chippie was no longer using it.

What? No more cod and chips? What’s going on?

I had to look into this and what I discovered wasn’t nice.

Our seas have been so badly over-fished that many of the food species that we once took for granted are now struggling to sustain their populations to the point where they’re becoming increasingly scarce.

Apparently, in order for us to continue following the Government’s guidelines regarding eating more fish for health reasons, it’s important we buy only fish that’s caught in a less wasteful manner than has, until now, been the case.

Fishing with nets leads to the loss of way too many young, unusable fish that are already dead by the time they’re thrown back in. It also causes the death of other marine creatures that aren’t used for food but that are important in upholding the balance beneath the waves. In fact, net fishing is considered the biggest and most indiscriminate killer on the planet! Long-line fishing isn’t innocent either.

So what can we do?

It’s suggested that in order to put a stop to this wasteful method of fishing and allow growth in our natural fish supplies we shop only from reputable fish mongers and always ask the questions: “where does this fish come from?” and “how was it caught?”. Better still, learn to fish and catch your own ;-)

Preferably we should choose locally caught fish and rather than sticking with one variety, we should vary our choices to include less popular fish such as Saithe and Pollack while steering well clear of vulnerable species . Take a look at this list from Greenpeace to find out what you should and shouldn’t be buying and why.

photo: yomi955

No more tropical (tiger) prawns for me. With 10kgs of by-catch being killed for every 1kg of prawns caught, the cost is just far too high. Not to mention the human rights issues surrounding these prawns. According to the Greenpeace list, violence and intimidation is part of the picture. Even farmed prawns are far from innocent. Nope... just give me some plain old fresh local prawns, please. Fresh because the frozen ones are often shipped to Asia first for peeling and freezing and then shipped back again. That's some carbon footprint just for a few prawns!

It’s all really quite shocking, don't ya fink?

Sharon J xx

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Sunday, 22 June 2008

Rising Prices


Photo: Iocto


I’ve had enough!

I’m sick of hearing people whinge about the rising cost of fuel, food and a variety of other products and then laying the blame on the government, expecting them to do something. As much as some like to believe it, the truth is, in this case anyway, the government do not have us by the bollocks.

In fact, more than anybody else, the blame belong with us.

We’ve long been warned that oil supplies won’t last forever yet far too few did anything to curb their usage. Now that we’re close to using peak supplies, we’re fast heading up the creek without the proverbial paddle.

What really gets my goat, though, is that EVEN THOUGH WE’VE BEEN TOLD CLEARLY WHAT THE PROBLEM IS, people are still consuming far too much oil. Just yesterday, as I drove around town doing some necessary errands, I passed several huge 4x4s that guzzle fuel at a horrendous rate. Talk about “sod you, Jack”. While many of us are switching to smaller, more energy efficient cars and driving less, these people are adding to the problem by using more than their fair share. They’re contributing to the coming oil crisis and polluting the atmosphere but they just don’t seem to care. How you can need a car like that in a town like Crewe is beyond me.

Then there was the person who complained about the price of food these days and wondered how on earth she’d ever manage to survive on her meagre income and yet she’ll happily admit that she prefers plastic articles (bowls, buckets, garden pots etc) over more traditional materials because they’re cheap and lightweight. I tried to explain that oil is used in the production of polymers and that the more oil we use the more food and fuel costs will rise, but she wasn’t having any of it. “The government ought to step in and do something about it then”.

And, of course, there are those who simply don’t or won’t ‘get it’. Those who just can’t see how the price of food, that isn’t made from oil, can be affected by this. Do they think that food just magically appears on the supermarket shelves? Or that it’s transported by air fuelled trailers, airplanes etc? Buying local produce and supporting local traders will help more than any amount of whinging.

Surely now is the time for everyone to start realising that this IS a problem and it isn’t going to go away. If the only way to encourage people to use less oil so as to give researchers more time to develop viable alternatives is by increasing the price, then so be it. We have to learn to start tightening the belt and become more self-sufficient because soon, there probably won’t be any choice in the matter. Simple living will be something everybody but the very rich will be forced into.

The trouble is, we humans are generally very ignorant, even to our own needs. Even though we know that our actions are harmful, as long as they’re not actually affecting us too much, we just carry on as usual because that’s the most comfortable way. And then when the roof falls in, we wonder why. It must be somebody else’s fault, though - couldn’t possibly be our own. It’s the government, the oil producing nations, the oil refineries, the Chinese and Indians for wanting their share of oil too… anybody but US.

Of course, other knock on effects of the oil crisis are also affecting us now. Small businesses, from the local grocer to haulage companies, are starting to struggle as prices increase and their chances of competing with the market giants are even further reduced; interest rates are increasing as lenders fear our inability to repay loans; property prices are falling as general spending power decreases and an increasing number of potential buyers fear even higher increases in interest so are keeping their backsides firmly on the fence; the demand for social housing is rising as more and more homeowners realise they can no longer afford their mortgages and associated outgoings; the cost of public transport is increasing; and that’s just the start of things. If we don’t curb our usage on a global basis, things are only going to get worse.

Isn’t it about time we stopped laying the blame at somebody else’s doorstep, expecting them to sort it out and accept that we have responsibilities ourselves?

  • Buy British to avoid unnecessary transportation, preferably locally produced goods.
  • Grow your own food as much as possible.
  • Avoid oil based packaging & products (plastic and polystyrene are the main offenders).
  • Switch to a smaller, more fuel efficient car and drive less.
  • Cook double portions when the oven’s in use.
  • Turn the heating down by a couple of degrees.
  • Mend and make do.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle.
  • Spend within your means to avoid becoming yet another victim of the credit crunch.

It’s no more than 50 years ago that all of the above were the norm. My grandparents grew fruit and veg in their garden (organic and they didn’t even know it), used very little plastic, had no car while my dad, who was from the same generation, always studied fuel efficiency before replacing his car, they were thrifty with the heating, used the cooker sensibly, mended and made do, and had no idea what a credit card was. If they could do it then, surely we can do it now?

Sharon J

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Saturday, 21 June 2008

Long Live Freecycle



Our local Freecycle members have been good to me recently.

A few months back my gas cooker decided to bite the dust. The oven wasn’t heating to the correct temperature (or anywhere even close), one of the rings would only work on very high and would go out as soon as I tried to turn it down, one ring wouldn’t light at all and a third ring seemed to adjust itself willy nilly. It was as if gremlins had taken up residence in it. I put out a wanted ad for a new (to me) cooker and, Robert's your mother's brother, a reply came in that same day. The new cooker’s still going great guns and will no doubt be passed on to yet another Freecycler when I eventually give the kitchen its planned make-over and it'll no longer be needed.

Next up came a ceramic hob - exactly what I want for my new kitchen and a saving of around £150. I responded, they said I could have it and LM went off to pick it up for me. That’s now in a storage cupboard awaiting the day when it’ll be put into use.

Last week I received a gorgeous rug for the lounge. Hand made out of 100% pure New Zealand wool, in exactly the right colours for my living room with a pattern that combines traditional with modern. I couldn't have been more happy had I chosen it myself. Even DD2 loved it when she saw it - she thought it made the living room look much more homely. She's right, of course.



Zara the dog - now rehomed - had relieved herself both back and front on the original rug so many times that no amount of cleaning was ever going to make any difference. It stank and was faded. Yuk! The lady who let me have it even delivered it for me, apologising for the frayed corner as her puppy had taken a nibble. The said corner is hardly noticeable and is hidden under the sofa anyway, so not a problem.

The same lady also gave me a beautiful red vase full of cream silk flowers.



Beautiful, isn’t it?

I’ve also received an extractor fan, a breadmaker, several books and an aloe vera plant.

But it’s not all been receiving, I’ve also offered a few things. My perfectly good but unused sun lounger found a new home; lots of kitchen bits and bobs and a framed mirror went to a lady who was starting over from scratch; a very comfortable clean mattress and topper went to a single mum who needed a new one for her son; a huge, unused make-up set went to a teenager who thought it was Christmas again; a dozen or so large terracotta pots went to a man who’d just got his first garden; and a box of books found a new home.

Anything that keeps stuff out of the landfill has to be good and Freecycle is, in my opinion, one of the best things to have come out of the Internet.

Sharon J xx

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Friday, 20 June 2008

Favourite Posts

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Today I thought I’d do as some of my fellow bloggers have been doing recently and round up the week with an overview of my favourite posts.

Here goes:

Cultivating a Simple Life - a guest post on Emily’s ‘Remodelling This Life’ where the author, Sara from ‘On Simplicity’ uses as garden as analogy for a simple life. A beautiful post that says a lot.

50 Reasons to Read More by Anand Dillon - if you think reading’s a waste of time, take a look at this post. Reading really couldn’t be more useful.

This is My X - Rachel at The Simple Family talks about her ‘addiction’ to the Internet. I think a lot of us can probably recognise ourselves in her post to some degree.

My Need of Mountains by Elderwoman. A sentiment I share.

On Motherhood by The Inner Minx. Just read it.


Sharon J x

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Thursday, 19 June 2008

I Won't Be Beaten!

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[Warning: looooooong post. If you can‘t be bothered to read it, I won‘t be offended if you decide to poodle off now]



Yesterday I went for a bone scan. The actual procedure was dead simple although I had to have my hip scanned twice as the machine didn’t read it properly the first time round. It’s just as well it was repeated because it turns out I have osteoporosis in it. Luckily, my back’s ok.

As this wasn’t totally unexpected , I some reading up on the subject beforehand and, knowing the facts, I’m not happy.

The doctor I originally saw during visits to the TPN clinic lowered my calorie intake because she was concerned that my weight would increase my risk of developing this particular condition. At that point I weighed about 15 stone (around 220 pounds) at 5’ 8”. According to this BMI calculator I was overweight to the point where a person’s considered fat. I agreed that losing some of it wouldn’t be a bad thing and as my calorie intake is provided entirely by TPN, I could still eat what I wanted and lose weight at the same time. Finally there was an up side to this short bowel condition. Maybe I’d get back to being the size 16 I’d once been comfortable with.

And I did. What’s more it gave my confidence a damned good boost after having it knocked somewhat by a combination of things that had gone before. For the first time in a long while, I started to feel good about myself again. I had one very enjoyable summer that year that some great memories came out of.

But it didn’t stop there. No, no, no. My doctor wanted me to lose more weight. I protested and said I was happy with my weight as it was but even though I weighed about 12 ½ stone (about 185 lbs) I was still classed as overweight; my BMI was 1.1 over the maximum healthy BMI of 25. Not a lot by any means. But ok, I could deal with losing a few pounds more.

If only it had stopped at a few pounds but that wasn’t to be. I don’t recall how much I weighed when my calories were eventually increased but I was too thin, that much I know. My hips were sticking out and you could easily see my rib bones. I wasn’t happy. It was only when I saw a new doctor that any action was taken. Unfortunately, I developed an infection in my Broviac line that made me dangerously ill and, as a result, I couldn’t feed without intense pain so I lost even more weight. Believe me, I was skinny! In fact, several friends told me that I looked anorexic.

By the time I was admitted to hospital in April, I weighed 7 ½ stone (just over 100 lbs). Things are finally looking up though; I’ve since put on about a stone (14 lbs) since.

Now what gets me is that, according to several websites I looked at, if you have a low BMI below 19 you are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis. My BMI was around 17. In other words, I was in the risk group. Basically, I’d gone from being in one risk group to another.

I am, to say the least, annoyed at the original doctor.

But what’s more, I’m angry at myself. Smoking is another risk factor, y’see, so picking up the habit again isn’t only increasing my risk of developing another blood clot and/or blocked arteries, it’s also increasing my risk of developing brittle bones. My legs are painful thanks to blocked arteries in both so there hasn’t been a great deal of weight bearing exercise over the past five years and neither is there likely to be in the future even though it’s said to reduce the risk. All in all, I’m not in a good place right now. I really must give up smoking.

One good thing to have come out of it is that it’s given me more determination. Not only to kick the fags but to get stronger and be able to take more exercise. I’m not talking mile long walks and aerobics here but I need to be able to walk further than I’m able to at the moment and maybe even dance to half a song (a whole one even?). I have to keep pushing myself. The recent lack of vitamin D hasn't helped either so I definately shan't be missing out on my dose of sunshine whenever it graces us with its presence.

I don’t want to end up with a broken hip just because I thumped it into something and as I’ve already fallen over a couple of times recently, once onto a sack full of clothes and once onto the sofa, I’m not going to keep increasing my chance of a fracture because one day, the landing might not be as soft. I have lots left to do and I'll be damned if I'm gonna be stuck in a wheelchair.

Sometimes anger can be a good thing; it can motivate us to act. I’m motivated now and am already developing a plan of action on both accounts. The smoking will be knocked on the head and I will get stronger.

Sharon J

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Scans, Birthdays, Fish and Kittens


Lise, being all pouty


Today is a special day. It's my older daughter's 22nd birthday and the day I get to meet my new kitten for the first time.

It's hard to believe it's so long since my first baby girl was born. It's funny how every detail of the moment we first meet our babies sticks with us forever, isn't it? I can remember it as if it were just last week. She looked pretty much like she does now, just less hair and smaller :)

But back to today. This afternoon I’m off to the hospital for a bone scan. My doctor's concerned that I may be developing osteoporosis, a condition that’s common amongst those on long-term TPN, so he naturally wants it checked. Apparently it’s a simple, painless procedure so nothing I ought to be dreading. I’ve no idea how long it’ll be before I get the results but as I’m not the kind to worry about what might happen, I shan’t be losing any sleep over it.

As my appointment’s late afternoon I’m hoping that the local fish n’ chip shop will be open when I’ve finished. Richard and I discovered it by accident a couple of years ago and they have the best fish n’ chips in the whole world there. Well maybe not, being as I haven’t tasted food from every chippie, but it’d take a lot to beat it. Once fed we’ll be heading to my friend Jo’s house as she’s the proud ‘human mum’ of six kittens, one of which is called Jack and will be coming to live with me in about two weeks from now.




Isn’t he gorgeous? I haven’t seen him in real life yet so I’m dead excited. Jo has sent me regular photo updates and even made me a video clip so I feel as if I know him already but being able to actually stroke him and give him a cuddle, that’s gonna be the perfect way to round off the day. Seeing Jo again will be good, too. And her other half if he isn't working late. They’re such a great couple.

But all that isn’t until later. There’s a whole day to be enjoyed first. I shall be taking it very easy, though. Mustn’t knock myself out when I have to travel, be put through a scanner, eat fish n’ chips and visit a kitten : )

Sharon J xx

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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

50 Money Saving Tips



Most of us, unless we’re rolling in it, are noticing the rise in prices these days and having to tighten the belt somewhat, like it or not.

One way of dealing with it is to see the situation as a challenge rather than a problem. With the right plan of attack, it’s possible to cut down expenditure considerably and still enjoy a relatively high standard of living.

As I’ve always been a thrifty type of person both through necessity and the belief that there’s no point in wasting money, I’ve picked up a few tricks on the way that help keep the belt a notch or two tighter. Maybe some of them could help you.

  1. Make a list of the contents of your freezer/food cupboard to avoid doubling up
  2. Menu plan
  3. Use leftovers
  4. Bulk buy non-perishables
  5. Look in Aldi, Netto, Home Bargains and other similar stores before heading to the main supermarkets
  6. Make a shopping list and stick to it (unless you find a product you use regularly on special offer)
  7. Use cash rather than a card - that way you’ll see exactly how much you’re spending
  8. If you have online banking, check it every day for the same reason as above
  9. Write down everything you spend for a week. You’ll probably be surprised by where your money’s going
  10. Only use 2 for 1 offers if you really need the products
  11. Use a club card to collect vouchers (voucher codes can also be used when shopping online)
  12. Use eBay, visit car boots and charity shops and make use of Freecycle
  13. Avoid buying designer labels
  14. Buy baby items second-hand. They’ll hardly have had much use and it’ll save them clogging up the landfill as well as saving you money
  15. If you have young children, try joining a toy library. Kids get bored of the same toys so quickly and they’re hardly cheap
  16. Arrange a swap evening with friends and neighbours. Swap clothes, toys, household goods... anything really
  17. If your mail doesn’t have to get there tomorrow, use second class stamps instead of first class
  18. Drive efficiently
  19. When clothes aren’t heavily soiled, use the quick wash cycle on your washing machine.
  20. Wash on 30, maximum 40 degrees
  21. Only use a tumble dryer when absolutely necessary - they practically double the electricity bill of the average household
  22. Use soda crystals and soap flakes instead of washing powder. Cheaper and the soda crystals keep your machine, including the pipes, really clean
  23. Use white vinegar instead of fabric conditioner (add some essential oil for a nice scent)
  24. Use cheap cola to clean limescale in the toilet. Just pour it in, leave it overnight, scrub with your loo brush and flush
  25. Use cheap conditioner when shaving your legs. Much cheaper than shaving foam
  26. Clear your credit card debt
  27. Use a cash-back credit card to make larger purchases but only if you know you can definitely pay off the balance as soon as its due
  28. Turn off appliances at the mains
  29. Turn off lights when you leave a room
  30. To minimise heat loss, close the curtains in the evening during winter and chilly periods
  31. Fit heat reflectors behind radiators, especially those on outside walls
  32. Try camping for a cheap holiday
  33. Supplement your dog’s food with leftover rice and pasta
  34. Buy giant bags of pet food. It works out much cheaper than several small ones. Better still, make your own dog food
  35. Only boil the amount of water you need
  36. If you have more bedrooms than people in your house, you’ll most likely be better off with a water meter (more info can be found here)
  37. Learn to do at least some of your own DIY repairs
  38. Learn to mend your clothes (it’s surprising how many people can’t sew on a button)
  39. Don’t leave the fridge door open for longer than necessary
  40. A full freezer is more efficient than a half empty one but a full fridge will use more electricity
  41. The chances of winning the lottery are very slight. Put that money in a jar instead and watch your savings grow
  42. Keep a couple of £1 coins in the car for parking meters. Saves you having to nip into a shop to buy something just to get change.
  43. Look for a home hairdresser. One that comes to your home is generally much cheaper than a salon stylist. Even cheaper, check your local college as those with hairdressing courses generally offer very cheap cuts etc. The same applies to beauty treatments
  44. Check that your phone and utility supplies are the cheapest. There’s lots to be saved by switching.
  45. Check that your getting the best insurance deals
  46. If you regularly phone abroad or to mobiles, consider signing up with 18185.com
  47. Use the library instead of buying books, or buy second-hand from charity shops, car boots or Green Metropolis
  48. Box wine works out cheaper than bottled wine and there’s no waste if you don’t polish it all off in one sitting
  49. Give up smoking (easier said than done, I know). If you can’t or don’t want to give up, consider switching to rolling tobacco instead of tailor-mades as it’ll work out far cheaper
  50. Avoid using cash points that charge you for withdrawing your money. Paying £1.80 to withdraw £20 is the same as paying 9% interest to use your own money

You might also want to read my post about saving water, which is good for the environment and can save a considerable amount of money for those on a meter.

Other posts that may be worth looking at are:
20 Uses for Vinegar
Grocery Shopping - 20 Money Saving Tips


One website that’s really worth visiting is MoneySavingExpert by Martin Lewis. It’s huge and full of useful advice. The forums are also superb for anybody looking for save money!

No doubt you all have your own ways of saving a few bob. If you have, it’d be great if you could share them in the comments section.

Sharon J

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Monday, 16 June 2008

Three Point One Planet Earths



I’ve just tried this carbon calculator for kids. It’s easier to use than the adult versions because you don’t need to know exact figures but I suppose, for that reason, it isn’t as accurate either. It does give a pretty good picture of where you stand on doing your bit for the environment though.

What I found interesting - assuming the figures can be trusted - is that if everybody were to live like Brits, we'd need 3.2 earths in order to support the average person’s lifestyle. And despite my efforts, we’d still need 2.2 earths if everybody did the same as I do.

I suppose it shouldn’t really come as a surprise; I’ve known for a long time that we Brits, along with the rest of the industrialised west, are inconsiderate of the needs of the rest of those sharing the planet with us. We want what we consider a decent standard of living while much of the world struggles to find fresh water, adequate clothing and food. Hopping in the car to nip to the supermarket is something much of the world can't even imagine, as is sticking the washing machine on, turning over land to the luxury of growing flowers, etc etc etc.

But, according to the carbon footprint calculator, we’re far from the worse offenders. The average Australian needs 3.6 planet earths but Americans need 5.3!! That I really found shocking. Yes, we all know that the average American jumps in his car at every opportunity and that they have huge fridges but five point three???

Just because we’re not the worse doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels though. Our German neighbours only need 2.5 so are outdoing us considerably on the green front; the Japanese are slightly lower at 2.4; and Mexicans are at 1.4. Not that any of those figures are good enough - we do only have 1.0 to 'play with', after all.

People in India and China are both below needing one planet but that could be because there’s such a large percentage of poor there, who aren’t contributing much to environmental problems simply because they can’t.

It's clear that if the human race is going to survive on this planet, we must learn to lower our own consumption and start sharing more.

I predict the following:
  • Food and fossil fuel prices will sky rocket, forcing us to lower our consumption (what we're experiencing now will be nothing compared to future prices)
  • We'll have to start growing more of our own produce whether we like it or not and re-learn to cook from scratch
  • When we do plant flowers, they'll need to be native species in order to support important insect life
  • Meat production will cease and the land used for arable crops instead
  • 'Mend and make do' will once again become the norm
Although there are some things I can’t do to reduce my footprint, like walking or even using public transport instead of using the car, and growing my own veg would just be too physical for me, I’ll continue to do as much as I can, and hope that one planet will prove enough for all 6.8 billion of us (and that figure's rising by the second).

Sharon J xx

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Sunday, 15 June 2008

Why Can't I Make Up My Mind?

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Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while will know that I’m currently saving up for a new kitchen. Those of you who didn’t know, do now.

I’m about halfway there at the moment and have come to the point where I need to start planning it properly, especially as I’m going to be doing it in parts. But I can’t make my mind up!

My original plan was to have cream units with wood effect worktops and flooring, and sage green walls. The tiles have already been painted a warm red and the kitchen chairs are going the same colour, as are the legs of the table. Red and green is a combination I like.

But my kitchen is very dark. There’s just one tiny window stuck up in a corner and as it’s also in a corner on the outside of the house, very little light comes in. I usually have the ceiling lights on at the moment because the whole thing’s painted a darkish orangey peach colour with pale grey units and work surfaces. The floor is a darker grey and even the tiles were originally grey. It is, to say the least, very miserable looking.


This is what the kitchen looked like before I started painting the tiles. The photo was taken in natural light. See what I mean about dark and miserable?

Recently I’ve been thinking that perhaps it would be better to go with white units rather than cream being as white reflects more light. And I’m thinking of using a dado rail to split the walls, using the sage green on the lower part and a warm off-white on the top. That should also help brighten things up.

But I’m really undecided. I’m usually pretty sure of how I want things in the house so this indecision is starting to do my head in. I sure as heck don’t want to spend my money on a kitchen I’m not going to be happy with and as it's being done in stages, the paintwork and wall cabinets are going to have to be sorted soon-ish. After that, there’s no more changing my mind.

What do you think? Should I stick with my original plan or would the white version be better?

HELP!

Sharon J xx

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Saturday, 14 June 2008

Wormery Update


Way back in February I wrote about my new wormery and promised to let you know how things went. Well I’m pleased to report that after an initial set back, the worms are now fat, happy and munching their way through my kitchen waste.

Unfortunately, the first lot of worms died. I think that was due to a combination of factors. One was that it was cold and they just didn’t have enough compost to get warm and cosy in, and the second was that I over fed them. By putting too much waste in the wormery before they’d got themselves properly established, I suffocated the poor things. Putting too much of one kind of food in didn’t help matters either. They had far too many potato peelings to deal with.

I removed much of the food and left things to see how they went. When it got the point where I could only find two living worms, I decided it was time to top up. Two worms do not a wormery make.

A trip to the local fishing supply store turned up a lovely tub of 50 beautiful wrigglers that were just right for the job and these were duly introduced to their new home. I could almost hear the sigh of relief when they realised they were going to be enjoying life in a cosy wormery being fed all sorts of goodies rather than ending life on a fisherman’s hook. Mind you, should I ever decide to do a spot of fishing later, I may well pick a few out again but isn’t that life? You just don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring!

I’ve eased up on the feeding this time and when I checked them a few days ago, a whole bunch of them made a beeline for the lower layers (they don’t like the light) so it appears they’re thriving. A good portion of the food is being turned into compost, too.

Fingers crossed that I’ve cracked it this time.

Sharon J xx

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Friday, 13 June 2008

Yes, I Still Smoke!

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Since Richard made it clear in yesterday’s comments that I still smoke and how he feels about it, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you all an update on my progress, or lack thereof.

I hate smoking. I really do. Sometimes I lay in bed despising myself for picking up the habit again and allowing myself to become addicted. Sometimes I cry with frustration and decide that I’m not going to light another cigarette but still I smoke.

I’m finding it damned difficult to quit. I suppose, as Richard rightly pointed out after discovering that I was still smoking - that I’m lacking in the necessary will power. It’s strange, because in some areas I have tons of willpower and refuse to let things beat me, but when it comes to smoking, I’ve never found it easy to quit. I tried enough times before I became ill but was never successful and if I’m honest, the only reason I quit after the damned things almost killed me, was because I spent the first month of my hospital stay tied to several drips with a rather large, open hole in my stomach. Quite simply, I couldn’t smoke! Once I became mobile again, enough time had passed for nicotine desire to have passed.

Now? I dunno. I called the NHS helpline and they suggested I ask my doctor to refer me to a stop smoking support group but my daughter made the same request over a year ago, was told there’s a long waiting list and has still heard nothing. It was also suggested I use nicotine patches, gum or one of the other products available but I’m a bit wary of those. I mean, you’ve still got to wean yourself off nicotine at the end of it all. Perhaps they would work though. I’ll speak to my doctor about it when I see him next.

What they also said is that very few people can ‘just give up’. For most it’s a long, slow process of cutting down whilst avoiding situations where we’d normally smoke. “You need patience“, they said. It’s difficult to be patient when others aren’t patient with me, though.

I was doing quite well when it comes to cutting down, taking just a few drags on a cigarette before putting it out. One could last me all afternoon. But it wasn’t good enough. I was still criticised and that just added to the frustration. I needed support, not scorn.

Eventually I went into hospital for the second time in a month and cut down to one, sometimes two, a day. It was at the point that the pretence began. I had enough to deal with, what with the weakness (I weighed just 47 kilos at that point whereas my ideal weight is 75 kilos), the thirst (for 2 weeks I was limited as to how much I was allowed to drink but was experiencing extreme thirst), the tests, nursing staff who were making too many mistakes because I was on the wrong ward and the rest (not to mention the bloody food!) and the last thing I wanted was Richard’s criticism for not having given up completely when I had the perfect opportunity. Also, because he’d been good enough to drop everything and come to Crewe in order to care for me when my health took a downward dive, I didn’t want to disappoint him.

When I came home, the pretence continued but I also started smoking more. In retrospect it would have been better if I’d come clean but once I’d started lying I had no idea how to admit it. Eventually, the truth came out.

No doubt he’d suspected it for quite a while but the proof surfaced on Tuesday. A huge argument followed, I told him to go back to his own house (he lives permanently in Crewe now), and we haven’t spoken since.

Lying isn’t good. It never is. One lie leads to another and before you know it, you’ve weaved yourself a very sticky web that’s difficult to get out of. I knew if I came clean he’d be mad for being lied to (understandably) and after a past relationship that was very bad (criticism was usually the forerunner to a couple of days of hell), I’m very wary of situations where Richard might criticise me, which isn't entirely fair because I criticise him too (actually, living with me can be hell on earth - I'm really not 'couple' material). I react badly and we end up shouting at each other, something I’ve had enough of - I can’t stand the stress of those kind of rows anymore so I try to avoid them as much as possible. I just want peace and quiet in my life. In this case that meant lying.

Things aren’t always as black and white as they sometimes appear. Giving up smoking isn’t always a matter or ‘do it’ or ‘don’t’. I do want to give up - my health is bad enough already and I know I’m just making it worse, but so far it hasn’t happened.

I know I shouldn’t have lied, but it seemed like the best thing for everybody at the time.

Sharon J xx

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Thursday, 12 June 2008

Just What is Selfishness?


On Tuesday evening I went to my friend Christopher’s house. I originally met him through a writers’ group that we were members of and have since become very good friends – he’s a man who never fails to interest and inspire me.

Last night he held a meeting entitled “Finding Your Highest Self” where one of the subjects explored was the concept of ‘selfishness’ and how the accusation of selfishness is used to control us.

It's not too long since I had this discussion with somebody close to me - a person who has used his/her own concern for my welfare in order to try to persuade me to change my mind about certain things I've wanted to do.

"If you do such and such a thing, I'll spend the entire time worrying about you." In other words, it would be selfish of me to do something that I want to do; something that I believe would enrich my life, because it would cause him or her concern.

But isn't it equally as selfish of that person to expect me to live a life that doesn't meet my personal needs, in order to satisfy his/hers?

So just what is selfishness? The group came to the conclusion that it's basically any action that stops a person from reaching their potential, as long as nobody is deliberately hurt in the process.

So what is 'hurt'? Would I be deliberately hurting another person by leaving them to worry about me? I don't believe I would. Their worry is, after all, their choice and not something I've deliberately brought upon them. Is it acceptable for that person to use their worry in order to stop me leading the life that feels right for me? I don't believe it is. In fact, in my opinion, that's nothing short of emotional blackmail.

Now this person insists this has never been about control - that they were merely making me aware of their concerns. But if those concerns are such that he/she would worry about me the entire time, it's obvious that it's going to put the dampers on my enthusiasm for whatever it was I wanted to do. Sometimes it's better to NOT say how you feel and offer support anyway. That would surely be the least selfish path to take. Voice concerns, by all means, but if the person making the decision still wants to go ahead, don't use "but if you do, I'll....".

Far too many people use emotional blackmail as a way of controlling others. Because nobody likes to feel that they're selfish, we accept this and often put aside our own needs in order to satisfy theirs.

Unfortunately this is something we learn at an early age. We see how well it works for others and start to use threats like "if you play with her instead of me I won't be your friend anymore (because you're being selfish by not caring about my feelings)".

In later life we continue to use it. We become more subtle about it, but it's still emotional blackmail regardless and that, I feel, is most definitely a more selfish action than wanting to enjoy a fulfilling life by reaching our emotional, intellectual, physical and/or spiritual potential.

Am I wrong? Maybe you see things differently. If you do, I'd love to hear why.


Sharon J xx

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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Eliminating Niggles


Photo: minxlj


My house used to really get me down sometimes. It was full of little ‘problems’ that would niggle away at me, little things that needed fixing, but that nobody ever got around to doing. These things were a source of constant irritation; they never really allowing me to relax and just enjoy a feeling of contentment at being here.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still lots of things that need to be done but making a start has made all the difference. No doubt new niggles will surface and be added to the list as I move through it too.

Anyhow, rather than just letting myself become irritated every time the bathroom door squeaked, or the porch door wouldn’t shut, or a draught came in beneath the front door, I decided to do something about it. The first step was to make a plan.

I wrote a list of everything that made me feel grumpy. I’m not talking about major work – remember, this is about the things that niggle at you.

My list was pretty long and I knew I wouldn’t be able to fix them all myself. Sure, a drop of WD40 works wonders on squeaky doors, but fixing a warped door? No, I don’t think so. I can easily fit a draught excluder to the front door but I couldn’t fill in the plasterwork that’s missing around an electricity socket in the kitchen. I wouldn’t dare. I can’t fix the wall vent in the kitchen either but I can fit foil reflectors behind the radiators myself to save on energy.

The next step was clearly to split the list into jobs I could do myself and those I couldn’t. For my part I had four lists, as some of the things I couldn’t do myself would have to be done by a hired workman, others were the responsibility of the Housing Association. Then there's the list of things that friends could help me out with.

Once the lists were completed, I then re-jigged them in order of priority. Do I want to pay to have a new door put in first, or would it be better to have somebody come and re-paint the chipped and faded kitchen walls? I already had what I needed to stop the squeaking bathroom door so that's been moved above fitting the draught excluder, especially as it's a good few months before the cold air will be coming in again.

Once you have your plan and know exactly what needs to be done and by whom, it’s easier to actually get started on things and gradually make your way towards eliminating every last niggle from your home. Well, most of them anyway... hopefully :)

Sharon J

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Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Baby Cows – Should We Eat Them?


Photo: Cryptonaut


Veal has, for a very long time, been avoided at all costs by those with any kind of compassion and concern for animal welfare. Until 1990, male calves born to dairy herds were crated so that movement was restricted and atrophy of the muscles occurred. Why? In order to produce the white meat that’s still popular on the continent. Luckily, this method of raising veal calves was illegalised and British calves are now kept under far healthier conditions.

Because our veal is no longer crated we no longer produce white veal. What we have now is rosè veal, which apparently tastes just as good. I can’t actually tell you whether it does because I haven’t tried it... yet.

Veal, you see, is a by-product of dairy farming so really, if you want to drink milk, you should also eat veal. If you don’t, the countless male calves born to dairy herds every year will need to be otherwise disposed of. This can be done either by shooting them and discarding the carcasses or by shipping them overseas to be raised there. And while crates are illegal all over Europe now, slatted floors are still used making it more or less impossible for the calves to stand up. These are also illegal in the UK.

Of course, one argument, as heard on Big Brother recently, is that the male calves should simply be left to grow up and die of natural causes regardless of whether they produce milk or will be of any use as beef cattle. Well that’s all very noble and there was a time when I was younger that I would have agreed but if we’re to be honest, it just isn’t a viable option. Those bulls will need to be fed and cared for (veterinary bills etc) and that would ultimately push up the cost of other diary products. Imagine the outcry there would be then! They'd also take up valuable land space that could and should be used for food production as well as producing huge amounts of methane for no worthwhile reason, putting their own species, as well as ours, under threat.

The average male dairy calf is slaughtered at six months. Not a long life by any stretch of the imagination and yes, it is sad. But it’s reality and I do think it’s better to eat it than waste it.

If you don’t drink milk or use other dairy products then you have no reason to have any kind of personal conscience when it comes to the male calves. Most of us, however, do use the white stuff in one form or another and are therefore indirectly supporting the production of these male dairy calves and only our choice - to eat or not to eat - will determine their future.

I’m going to give British veal a go. Rather on my plate after a reasonably decent 6 months than on the plate of a continental after the same time spent living under appalling conditions.

Sharon J xx

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Sunday, 8 June 2008

A Super Sunday



What a beautiful day it’s been. The sun’s been shining from a clear blue sky, and the day has been good to me, health wise.

It started bad – I woke with my heart pounding and tears running down my cheeks after the most horrendous nightmare I’ve ever had. It’s still clear in my mind but I keep pushing it away. It’s just too awful to think about. That was at about 7 this morning.

I got up, sat in the garden for half an hour or so then pottered about in the house for a bit. At around 9 I picked up Richard and we headed to one of my favourite places: the car boot market!

Strangely enough, it wasn’t as packed as I’d imagined it would be on such a lovely day, which was good for me as it meant it was much easier to browse the stalls. I got lucky.

I found this chair for just £10 and it’s practically new! It even still has its tag on!

When my legs are bad I need a chair that’s relatively high as the sofa’s just too low to get up from. I had another, similar, wing-backed chair but the colour – terracotta and cream - was all wrong. This one fits in with my plan for future decorating far better. Richard has now taken the original chair to his house where it fits better with his planned colour scheme. It’s good to share :)

I also found this cup and saucer.

I think it’s quite beautiful and will look lovely in the lounge filled with flowers. A snip at 50p (pardon the pun – it really was unintentional).

On the same stall I found a cut glass vase. Another 50p was duly handed over. It'll look pretty displayed in any of my rooms. Well, once they’ve all been redecorated, that is. The house is a work in progress but I plan to gradually change the entire place – it’s just a matter of doing it on a budget. A very tight budget.

I also found an interesting cookery book for 25p and a Maeve Binchy paperback for the same price. You really can’t go wrong, can you?

After dropping Richard back home I popped to Charlene’s (my ‘almost’ daughter) and sat in her garden for an hour before heading back home and spending another hour in my own garden. I couldn’t sit still though – I kept getting up and pottering about and that just wasn’t doing my legs any good. I knew I shouldn’t push myself too hard so I went back inside and spent a couple of hours resting on the bed.

At 4 o’clock, Richard arrived, ready to do some digging for me.

I needed a few hebes taken from their too small pots (where they’ve been living for a couple of years now) and planted in the ground. It wasn’t a huge job but too much for me and I really didn’t want to lose them. This is how they look now.

Once that job was finished, he went inside and started on the dinner. Nothing too challenging – skinny fries with bernaise sauce. Well it's what I fancied and it tasted delicious.

Now I’m back upstairs, attached to my pump for the night and resting.

Yes, it’s definitely been a good day.

Sharon J xx

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Saturday, 7 June 2008

Pointless Save-a-Flush


Today our water supplier delivered a freebie to the door. It’s a plastic bag type thing with tiny holes in it that’s filled with absorbent polymer and silica sand. We’re supposed to put it in the toilet cistern so that it uses less water when it flushes. It’s called a Save-a-Flush.

What a daft idea!

What on earth is the point in manufacturing more plastic goods in order to save water? Why couldn’t they just drop us a leaflet made from recycled paper explaining ways we can use things we probably already have hanging about the house or garden for the same purpose instead? What’s wrong with putting an old brick in the cistern? Or a plastic bottle that’s already been manufactured, filled with water?

This new plastic thingy also carries a warning: contains super absorbent polymer and silica sand – keep away from children and animals. If accidentally swallowed or inhaled, drink plenty of water, do not induce vomiting and seek medical advice immediately. If the contents come into contact with the skin, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Hmm... doesn’t sound very environmentally friendly if it’s dangerous enough to carry a warning, does it? It certainly isn’t family friendly.

It doesn't carry any advice as to how it should/could be recycled either. I suspect that's because it can't.

Why on earth they did this is beyond me. Are they just trying to raise their kudos a tad by appearing to be ‘green’ or what? Well United Utilities have definitely taken a step down in my estimation so they shot themselves up the jacksy there!

Sharon J xx

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Friday, 6 June 2008

Fattening Up

Photo: jovike


Well it finally looks as if I’m heading in the right direction, health wise, again.

After five months of feeling as if every last micron of energy had been sucked out of me, rapid weight loss to the point where there was absolutely no fat left on me, I’ve started to pick up some strength and have put on 4 kilos this in about the same number of weeks. Now I know that’s not a lot but when you’ve got used to seeing the electronic digits of the scales blink at you with an ever decreasing number for far longer than is either pleasant or safe, seeing that number actually increase is A VERY GOOD THING. My size 12 clothes also fit me now and although I'm still a long way from the size 16 I'd like to be (I'm tall and heavy built), a 12 is better than a 10.

After lord knows how many tests, a blood transfusion, surgery, two hospital stays, weeks upon weeks spent at home in bed too weak to walk to the bathroom let alone go up and down stairs or out of the house, the big man himself at the Intestinal Failure Unit of Salford Royal (formerly Hope Hospital) managed to crack the remaining problem that was still holding me back. I was lacking vitamin D.

A quick jab in the bum and instructions to spend half an hour in the sun without sun screen every time it’s out seem to have done the trick. Just a couple of days following the jab I was already feeling more energetic than I had for months and although we haven’t had much sun to get excited about, I do make sure I get out in it for my half hour when it does put in the odd appearance.

All this was about three weeks ago now. On Wednesday I did some dusting in the living room then drove into town, walked about 50 meters to the Caribbean shop, had a look round, walked back to the car (was struggling a bit by this time - the PVD in my legs doesn't help) and drove to the park. There I walked about 25 meters to the nearest bench, sat in the sun with a cheese sarnie that Richard had prepared and fed the ducks. Back home and I was knackered. I went up to bed for a nap but instead of staying there, I got up again in the evening and drove to the garage because I wanted something nice as a treat. I know those extra carbon emissions weren’t good but there's no way I can walk that far (about 300 meters) and I really did feel I deserved a treat and thoroughly enjoyed the melon, pineapple and grape salad that I bought. It felt good to be back to doing something reasonably normal.

Yesterday I expected to be totally knocked out but no, once my feed had finished and I’d unhooked from my pump, I was up and about again. I didn’t do much, I admit, just pottered about a bit but mostly relaxed, but that was nice. A friend popped over in the afternoon with a huge piece of beef fillet baked inside a bread type thing (which I’m sure has a name but I’m blowed if I know what it is but name or not, it’ll become tonight’s dinner). We sat in the garden, me with my trackie bottoms rolled up, getting some Vitamin D, and spent a couple of hours catching up. In the evening Richard went out to the ice-cream van bought me a cornet before going back to his own house. Life was good.

Today I’ve been in bed. Not because I feel particularly weak but because A) I know I still have to pace myself and B) I fell asleep without hooking up so had to do it at 4am which means I’m stuck on my pump until about 5pm. I could use the rucksack that I can put the feedbag and pump into (specially made for the purpose) so that I’m mobile but it’s too heavy for me at the moment. Better to just enjoy a duvet day. Tomorrow’s another day and I shall be up and about again.

I might even get to the boot market this Sunday.

I still have some tests that need to be carried out. One is to check for osteoporosis and the other is to try to find out why my blood pressure is so ridiculously low, but I can deal with them. Everything’s easier when you feel good, isn’t it?

Sharon J xx

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Organ Donation - The Ultimate in Reusing


Photo: mtsofan


Did you know that about five and a half thousand people are currently on the organ waiting list, desperate for a transplant that could save their lives?

Kidneys are in highest demand although livers, lungs and hearts are all urgently needed. Unfortunately, because there simply aren’t enough donars, many of those people will die before they come even close to their chance of a transplant. Luckily, 949 of those on last year's list survived thanks to transplants and a lot more had the quality of their lives improved.

I don’t know about you but I think that people dying while healthy organs rot beneath the ground is a terrible, terrible shame.

I signed up for organ donation here in the UK when I was a young lass of just eighteen but on enquiring with my doctor, that’s no longer valid. I signed up in Norway, too, but that’s not much use to me here. But I’ve no excuse now – it’s just a matter of point, click and sign up! Yes, you can become an organ donar online.

Just visit UK Transplant and the rest is easy peasy - it'll take no more than a minute of your time. So unless you have some religious or other strong personal reason for not wanting to become a donar, there’s no excuse for delay.

I hope that each and every one of us has a long and happy life ahead but you just never know. As my mum always said: “you could be bowled down by a bus when you least expect it so make sure you’re always wearing clean knickers!”.

And who knows who’s going to be needing a donar next? It could be me, you or somebody we love. We’d soon be wishing there were more donars then, wouldn't we?

Sharon J xx

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