Sunday, 29 January 2017

Dressed for the Motoring Club Lunch...

 I still HATE having my picture taken..
but I've braved the camera lenses today to show that I kept working towards my 'look' through 2016.  Mark bought me this dress from Apricot as a Christmas present.
It looks lovely with a black cardigan or the black jacket that survived the post-work wardrobe cull.
I added black leggings and some seriously ancient black fabric boots.
Then I accessorised with a vintage enamel necklace..
.. and a mixture of vintage and modern black and cream bracelets.

Those of you with sharp eyes will notice that my harp seems to have shrunk -
but the one behind me in the lounge was a present from my whole family for my 50th Birthday. I still have my large pedal harp.  In this photo I'm playing music for a Christmas coffee morning in the local church hall...

It's really interesting to have the chance to work with two instruments that are so completely different.  I have a strong emotional attachment to my big harp.  It was completely overhauled and restrung with light gauge gut strings two years ago.  This gives it a big, even tone and lots of 'playing predictability'.  The new harp is strung with a lighter gauge hybrid string, which is bright and sunny but less predictable.  Last weekend I performed some solo work on the little harp for the first time.  It's hard to explain, but when I'm playing the new harp I feel like my finger-tips are linked to my soul..  Fellow musicians out there will know what I'm on about!!
Welcome to my new follower - Jules.  Please leave a short comment then I'll be able to find my way over to your blog and follow you too.   Otherwise I seem to get hopelessly lost in the 'blogosphere'.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

This Week.. A Miscellany

Thomas, my beloved elderly cat, had to go back to the vets for another check up.
Last year we came very close to losing him in May to an overactive thyroid.
He was ill again in November, when the vet recommended that we 'tweak' his medication.

The good news is that he's stable again, has put on a bit of weight and his heart sounds good.
Hopefully he'll be with us for a while longer yet.  He came to us as a young cat but he's always been tiny so we're not sure of his exact age.. I hope that he'll be one of those cats who goes on for years because he's certainly lives a life of pampering, adoration and indulgence!
Here's the 'little prince'...
Things have moved on quickly at Mum and Dad's house.
They were lucky to be offered an 'ex-demo' lift which the company had used at a trade show.
This came at a preferential price (although still not a cheap option!) and moves the project forward without much of a waiting time.  It looks like they'll have the lift installed in a few weeks.  I've promised that I'll make plenty of time available next week to move stuff around with Dad.
At the same time, I'm project managing several jobs that are taking place here.
We got a really good deal on some new carpet, which is going to be laid in the hall, stairs, landing, lounge, dining room and conservatory.  It's one of those super-hardwearing, stain-resistant carpets (that is really needed when you've got someone with HD in the family).  It will also much smarter now that I'm working from home.
AND we're going to have a new front and back door installed.
AND we've got a roofer to come a fix the leaks in the roof.
AND I've got a price to replace the entire top of the conservatory - which has also been leaking and generally showing it's age.
We haven't just had a lottery win.  It's just that we bought the house when it was brand new 22 years ago.  We've been able to 'live lightly' with the carpets, white goods and other fixtures since then.  The roof should have been fixed several years ago but we 'got by' with a tarpaulin in the loft....  Now that I'm at home most of the time - and can be flexible about access for the builders etc - we can finally get some of the jobs sorted.
It's a little bit scary because I've never done this sort of thing before...
but I can't wait to get all the stuff that's been irritating me sorted!!

Monday, 23 January 2017

In Praise of Chick Peas...

...the secret weapon of the frugal housewife!

At the end of December my budget went seriously off the rails.  This morning I settled down to review my spending for the first three weeks of January and I'm proud to report that our food/household budget is currently £25 per week.  I don't have a useful chest freezer for bulk buys etc. - just the small one below the fridge - so I'm really pleased with this total!

I'm also pleased that darling hubby isn't complaining.  He's a committed carnivore so it's been quite a challenge to 'hide' the smaller cuts of meat by adding more veg.  Given that he also takes left overs and microwaves them for'd think there would have been some kind of whimper!!  However, at the moment I seem to be getting away with it.

His favourite, frugal casserole seems to be Chilli Chicken.  I can stretch two chicken breasts into five portions with this one.  I just cube the chicken; chop up a couple of onions, celery, peppers and carrots; put it all in a large casserole dish with a stock cube, a tin of chick peas and a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes; add garlic, paprika and chilli powder and cook for a couple of hours. 

It re-heats brilliantly and works really well with a cheesy breadcrumb topping, rather than rice or potatoes.  To be honest, I think it would be equally nice without the chicken at all... but I suspect that might be a step too far for my little meat eater!!

Welcome to my new follower Jan.  I'd love to follow your blog too but can't find a link from your name.  Please could you pop a quick "Hi" against one of my posts, then I should be able to find you without difficulty in the blogosphere!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

In Celebration of the Unexpected..

Since I last posted I've gained another harp pupil!  She rang last week and said that she'd love to pop round for 'A Harp Experience'.  She's a retired lady with lots of musical experience so we planned a session for yesterday afternoon.  I'd planned it as a 'one off' very much in the style of 'A hot air balloon experience' or something like that.  I prepped both harps and had them set up for her, side by side, so that she could chose.  I also put the kettle on so that she could enjoy a cuppa while we played.

Well.. she liked it all so much that she wants to come on a weekly basis for 30 minute 'proper lessons'.  It's perfect because she wants an early afternoon slot on Wednesdays - which is a time when I'm generally at home and it's some distance from the slots that I normally offer my younger pupils.

Then, yesterday morning, I received a text from one of my other 'Music Mums' asking is she could pass my details onto another family.  Fingers crossed that I receive another phone call in the next couple of days...!

Then, last night, we were offered free tickets for an Autosport show in London.  Sadly we can't make it because there's a clash with a trip to Pembrokeshire.. but it's so lovely when people think of you and ask.

AND.. while we were at the appointment with the specialist about the lift on Tuesday.. Mum tried out some wheeled walkers.  These aren't really recommended long term for people with HD and Mum didn't get on with one that she tried at Worcester Hospital. However they had masses of different designs at the show room in Malvern and she found one that suits her needs perfectly for the moment. Even better.. they had one in stock so she could take it home immediately. 

It's given her back some confidence and she's having a go at walking across the lounge and dining room.  Her personal goal for the Spring is to get her legs moving again so that she can walk with the frame to the end of her close.

In case you haven't guessed.... I'm immensely proud of my Mum.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

New Look Mondays

Over the last 18 months I've been 'keeping the financial wolf from the door' by building up a small practice of private pupils.  Almost everyone has come to me through word of mouth, so they know the bigger picture of Mum's HD and the potential pressures it can put on my life.  It's taken a while to get used to starting work at 4.30 and finishing between 6.00 and 7.00 - depending on the day - however I really enjoy the chance to teach without the politics of working in a large institution.  On the whole, it's working well.  People respect me and give me plenty of notice if sessions have to be missed.  Generally we can re-schedule sessions within the week so I have a pretty steady income.

The only family who consistently messed me around - arriving extremely late and cancelling sessions at very little notice - happened to take up the 5.00 until 6.00 slot on Mondays.  Now this happens to be a 'pinch point' in Mum's care.  It all came to a head just before Christmas when the family simply failed to show up entirely.  I'd come home to wait for the them and. as a consequence, my Mum had to spend an extra two hours in an upstairs room with a cup of tea and a sandwich.  I was livid (largely on my Mum's behalf) and texted the family asking for payment.  They refused to pay and the father sent me an extremely rude text back.  The upshot of all of this is that I contacted them in the new year and explained that I was no longer in a position to teach the girls.

Yesterday was the first new look Monday... I had a quiet day at home, practising for a concert on Sunday, trying to bring some order to our chaotic guest bedroom and doing the washing.  Then I went round to my parents at 4.00 to make Mum's dinner, while my Dad got ready to go out.  I sat with Mum while she had her meal, made her a hot drink and made sure that she had everything she needed until Dad got home.  At 6.00 I popped home to teach a lovely pupil who comes for a harp lesson from 6.15 until 7.00.  It all worked out brilliantly.

Today I'm spending the afternoon with my parents.  People with HD have such erratic movements that they struggle terribly with going up stairs.  A standard stair lift would be quite dangerous for them so the HD association recommends the installation of a proper lift.  My parents have been thinking this over for some time.  It's obviously an expensive solution but it will keep Mum at home for a lot longer, so it's going to be money worth spending.  They've identified a section of the utility room, which goes up into the little bedroom/office, which they think would be a good site for the lift.  This afternoon we're going to a mobility specialist in Malvern to get the whole project going.  I'm 'riding shotgun' because my Dad is really hard of hearing and he doesn't want to misunderstand what's said!

Between times I'm still practising, trying to complete the guest room tidy up, ironing and teaching from 5.00 until 7.00.  As I texted to my friend earlier today.. "So much better than work!"

Thursday, 12 January 2017

My Lovely Husband..

32 Years ago this evening we went on our first date.
You are the kindest husband.
You've shown your love in big ways..
- when you drove all the way to Geneva to rescue me when I was stranded by the Ash Cloud.
- as you've designed a sports car around my 'mood board' as a 50th Birthday present.
- when you drove all over the UK to find the 'perfect baby harp' for my new retired life.
But you also show your love in little ways..
- happily searching for fabric bargains in the discount corner of my favourite shops.
- fixing the pedal as quickly as possible on my vintage sewing machine.
- sharing your Salt and Vinegar Crisps.
It's not easy being married into a family with HD.
You take on the 50/50 chance of a compromised retirement and a major care role.
You're currently dealing with the challenges of my Mum.
I think you're amazing and I love you!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Back to Normal..

Now you see it...
(sorry about the blurry photo) you don't!
I love decorating the house for Christmas,
but there's something rather satisfying about the TIDINESS
of the lounge without the Christmas tree.

But what's this large box doing in the hall...?
I'm not in the mood for anymore clutter....
Mark's bought an exercise bike.  It's gone into the little bedroom above the front door - which we jokingly call "the boys' room".  It's where Mark has his Playstation, car books and DVDs.  It's also where Thomas the cat quite like to sleep - if he can't get into his favourite spot by my pillow!
We decided to buy the bike because Mark's job has become increasingly 'desk-bound' and he's struggling to schedule regular activity into his days.  The idea is that he can go for a gentle 'ride' while I'm doing my early evening teaching sessions.  So far he's done about 20 miles of cycling while still playing his favourite PS3 games... sounds like a good multi-task!!
I've actually got on it too... when no-one was looking.  I found the 'going downhill with the wind behind you' setting, which completely suits my level of cycling skills at the moment.  3km on the bike, followed by a little Tai Chi seems like a nice way to start the day in these dark winter mornings.
Starting Small..!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

You Can't Beat...

..a little bit of fabric therapy.
I managed to buy a whole pile of festive fabric from 'Oh Sew Crafty' in Kidderminster.
Some of these 50cm and 100cm pieces were just £2/£3!!
I hope to make a patchwork stocking for every member of the family for next Christmas.
My "Crafting New Year's Resolution" is to schedule 'makes' so that they don't become chores!
You also can't beat a brisk walk by the River Severn in Worcester on a sunny winter's afternoon.
There's a lovely circuit which takes a path down the back of the racecourse, over the main city centre bridge, back over the footbridge by the rowing club and through an avenue trees to the car park.

I guess it must be somewhere between 2 and 3 miles.
Since I've stopped work I try to walk it at least a couple of times a week.

It's far more beautiful than the street circuits round the village
- especially in the light of a mid-winter afternoon..

While I was walking today I realised that I'd been really daft when I set up another completely new blog for 2017.  Mum's illness is an increasingly important part of my life (and one of the reasons why I didn't post for much of 2016) but essentially my day to day posts haven't changed at all.  So a few tweaks to the header and those explanatory pages at the top should be enough to 'set the scene'.
In this house we call these kind of episodes "Blibble Moments".. The rough translation is harmless, but time-wasting, stupidity....!  Do you have similar 'in house phrases'?

Forgive Me...

I think I've been a little bit stupid!
I started a completely new blog... when all I needed to do was tweak these existing pages.

Give me an hour or so..............................

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year!

Dear All,

I've started the new year with a new blog, which deals with the some of the challenges of living in a family with Huntington's Disease.  You will find it at Housewife, 50
I hope that you'll become a follower of the new site!

Best Wishes for 2017,