Friday, 27 June 2014

Inexplicable Male Habits and how I Don't Get Them.

After my gushing  praise of my DOH in my last blog I  thought it was about  time I set  the record straight. Living with a man is  an eye opener in many ways, and there are  things that my man does  that I just don't get. I bet many women will have  experienced some or  most of these oddities.

1. He switches things  off at the wall


 Not everything, not every day. that would  be too simple, I could  keep up  with that. We have an extension cord beside  the sofa in our living  room. We keep a phone  charger and  the lead for our laptop plugged into it, sometimes it's  being used sometimes not. Occasionally, with no comment or warning I find  it is switched off. Usually I discover it  when I have left my phone to charge   while I go for a shower only to find 40 mins later my phone  almost dead and I need to take  a charger  to work.

2. My brakes are fine, our  driveway is flat and  yet he feels the need to leave  my car in gear in the driveway    " in case  the breaks fail". On  the odd occasion I drive  his car, I know  to check, but I forget if  he has driven my car last evening and I jump in  to get to work and switch on before checking LURCH!

3. I, like many women, leave stuff on  the bottom step of  the stairs as in " Please take this loo roll/shower gel/ toothpaste up  with you next time  you go up". He , like my teen daughter steps over it, like 4 times before I eventually lift it  and take it up.

4. He has not  one, not two but 4 shower gels on  the go at once.

 I usually finish one  before moving  on to  the next, mind  you I do currently have 3 shampoos on  the go- but that's different, my hair  has special needs.

5. If a light bulb goes he replaces it with one  from a light that isn't often used, fine, until you go to use that light.

6. He doesn't "deal" with stuff at the appropriate time ( as I see it). He cleans  the bar-b-que before he uses it rather than after  the last time. So, last Sunday  the barby came out for  the first time  this year and  had to have the grease cleaned off from sometime last summer- yuk. Right  now it is on  the deck, greasy and  also wet and  the tools are still in  the kitchen waiting  to be put away with it.
Hi gym stuff from Friday morning sits in  the bag until Sunday night when he needs to restock for Monday morning. I have tried to encourage  him to restock on Friday night and put  the darn thing into his car so I don't  have to dodge smelly gym stuff every time I go up and  down stairs, what with all those bathroom supplies it's busy on our stairs.

7. He resets  the heat to suit his manly warmth. I'm not a cold sufferer , but I do like  the house  to be warm enough that you don't  have to wear a sleeping bag, and we have little kids who streak, it  needs to be comfortable.

8. In our  house my DOH has the pleasure of emptying  the bins. He usually waits until, they are over flowing  and then has  a good old grunt and swear when the cheap crappy bags  I have bought split all over  the kitchen floor.

9. If  he washes any clothes, he puts all colours in at  the same time saying " they'll be fine at 40 degrees". The HORROR! I am a laundry control freak and HATE colours  and whites, I just had a shudder down my spine.

10.All plastic bags are turned into odd knotted things and left about  the place, crisp bags, sandwich bags, carrier bags.

11. He plays games on his tablets  rather than reading books. Poker, solitaire, online scrabble, football manager, fantasy football etc.

12. He has new clothes , but insists in wearing  the holey, stinky or just plain naff in his wardrobe.

13. He is  super clean but sometimes has to be reminded to change his PJ's

14. He NEVER EVER changes the bed. ( and rarely makes it)

15. When the house  is  so dirty the rats  have moved out he doesn't  notice and wouldn't get  the hoover/mop/duster out  without the age old "would  you like to mop or vacuum" from the woman of  the house.

Now I know I sound like I am having a big moan about my man, but these are only little things, that drive  me nuts. He is so much more tolerant  of  my bad habits than I am of his. For this I am eternally grateful.

Let  me know  if  your man does  any of  these things, I am sure my list isn't exhaustive.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

In Praise of Fathers

Dads get a bad rap a lot of  the time. They are absent, distant, lazy, unhelpful, stingy etc etc. I had a difficult relationship with my dad. Until I was about 7 he was my world but my parents had a bad marriage and we witnessed some horrible scenes between them. They split up and got back together many many times and finally divorced when I was in my teens. It took me a long  time to forgive him for everything we had been put  through and I was an adult before I recognised that he was just a man with problems who married  the wrong woman.

I have no doubt that my parents loved each other, and they both loved us, but  they drove each other crazy. My dad worked his way up from national service commando to a sergeant in the Royal Marines but when he left the service and returned with wife and kids to Belfast in the mid 1960's he found he was qualified for very little. My mum was very active in her church and very clear about her purpose in life. She was driven and ambitious and wanted a perfect family to match her own image of herself. My dad worked in several companies in lots of different roles but found it really difficult  to settle. I think these differences led to fighting and mum left him for  the first time in about 1974.

It's father's day today and I have been thinking about my dad. It's easy  to think about all of  the bad stuff and when my dad died  when I was 21 I mourned not what I had lost but what I'd never really had. I was jealous of  friends who had dads who were around, who looked out  for  them and who didn't have a shadow of fear and mistrust with men. Today I have been remembering some of  the good stuff too.

Dad was a very keen camper and because of  his Marine training was very good at it. In 1976, during  the longest heatwave on record, mum was at a church event New York and Boston. Dad loaded up his old orange Mazda with all our supplies, 4 kids between 6 and 14 and a trailer tent. We drove from Belfast to Southern Cornwall. It took a couple of days and by  the time we got there there was a rust patch up  the side of  the car from my brother's constant puking. We had  to all get out every time  there was a big hill, and walk up, the car couldn't support the tent and  all of us. When we were travelling over Exmoor we spent more time on foot than in the car, but it was hot and sunny, and  there were ponies!
We spent two weeks in Cornwall, playing with new friends and eating beans and sausages outdoors. It was a brilliant holiday. We even saw Noel Edmonds going past the campsite with the Radio 1 Roadshow. When I think about it  now I am proud , my dad was a modern man. He looked after all of us for 2 weeks. He fed us, made sure we were clean, kept us  safe, and  enjoyed being  with us. He drove all that way with 4 kids, at least one throwing up regularly, no doubt fighting and bickering and "when will we be there" every five minutes. he did all of  that alone. I wouldn't fancy taking 4 kids on holiday on my own, would you?

My dad had  his demons, and I don't  condone how he behaved towards our mum, or us as we were growing up, but I have forgiven him. I forgave him before he died and was with him in the night when he passed away. I am thankful to him too. I am grateful that I have his courage, I am afraid of very little and will stand up for those I love without worrying about my safety. His courage gave me the strength to walk out on a bully when I was expecting  my first child, and that experience made me  realise how fortunate I am  now to be in a relationship with a man who is a consistent and loving father and stepfather.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

10 Reasons why Lidl is better than Tesco

Grocery shopping is a bore, but it has to be done. Since I started working part-time I have taken on more of  the shopping responsibilities for our family. We have 3 girls living with us and 1 more who visits regularly so budget is a very important factor , but it is  not  the only consideration, or the only reason I rate Lidl so much higher than the giant of British supermarkets Tesco.

Here are my reasons why:

1. Lidl is never over crowded. It is easy to park and you don't have to compete with a load of yummy mummies and babies, families cruising up and down the aisles having a day out at the supermarket. You also don't have to compete with those huge crate things that clutter up Tesco's aisles day and night.

2. Less "special" offers- there are very few/none of those annoying 3 for two or BOGOF offers that Tesco rely on to get you to part with your hard earned cash. As a result you buy what you need and don't have cupboards groaning with extra perishable food you don't want or need.

3. Hidden Gems- Lidl stock a range of luxury foods at a fraction of  the price of  other supermarkets, King prawns, crab meat, duck breasts, pate, and they have just added these coffee capsules to their range. I haven't  tried them yet, but I will, they work out approx half the price of Nespresso. Their ground coffee is pretty good, and their smoked ham is better than any I have tasted elsewhere.

4. Plants and Flowers- they routinely stock quality cut flowers like stock, peonies and and roses that open when you bring them home and don't stay in a weird frozen state like Tesco's do until they prematurely die.
I am the world's worst gardener, but have two shrubs alive and well on my deck that I bought about 7 years ago and have survived 2 house moves.

5. Excellent quality produce- I am sick of buying fruit in Tesco that either doesn't ripen at all or ripens at an alarming rate the minute you bring it home. The punnets of pre-selected plums/ peaches /pears are ALWAYS of the poorest quality and taste of nothing- if they are all even edible. The last 5 batches of bananas I bought in Tesco were green on the outside ( and strangely wet) and at least 1/3 black inside. Yuk.
I bought bananas in Lidl yesterday and they were ripe but not bruised and tasted like bananas. Lovely. Lidl also stock mangoes, pineapples and melons, limes all cheaper than Tesco, and so far pretty good.

6.Quick to navigate - Lidl is a lot smaller than Tesco and while it doesn't carry the full range of  choices that larger supermarkets do, it makes it so much faster to get around. I can do the whole store in about 20 minutes. Tesco takes me 1.5/2 hours of hell.

7. No frills-I like the no frills displays, no excess packaging and the lack of choice is almost refreshing. I will deliberate over 30 different types of washing powder, or hand-wash, if there are only 4 my life is  so much simpler. Also I like not having to fill the bin with excess packaging when I unpack the shopping.

8. No distractions- If I shop in Tesco I will almost always buy something I didn't go in there for, some glasses, a nice candle or some PJ's for  the kids. Lidl has less distractions. They have  their specials that change every week.  I can always walk past any clothing on offer, I'm not into power tools or gardening equipment, and if I do get sidelined by a craft set or a few kids books at least they will cost me less than £5.

9. Less ready meals-Lidl don't seem to stock a lot of heat and serve food so it's easier to make healthy choices for meals. Having said  that their Lasagne is one of our family favourites even the kids eat it. It's one of  #1 daughter's favourite dinners.

10. Big brands discounted- Lidl also stock some of my favourite brands, Cadbury, Weetabix, Muller, but at discount prices.

So in conclusion, Lidl is just better. Get over your brand snobbery and give it a chance. Even if you just get some bin bags, catfood and a bottle of very decent Prosecco ( for only £7.50) it's well worth a visit.

Monday, 2 June 2014

To Move or not to Move

Our lives seem to be in a permanent state of upheaval. Living with a teenager and two preschoolers will do that to you. The last few weeks were particularly stressful.

We rent our home, while this is not  the ideal situation for us, it nevertheless is the situation we find ourselves in. Renting has it's upside though, if the washing machine packs in or the roof starts to leak we just call the agent and someone comes to fix it, at no extra expense.

We signed another year's lease in March, but last week the agent contacted us and said that the couple who own our home would like to return to it, and asked us if we would be happy to move. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided that as we would likely be out at the end of our tenancy in February so we decided to start looking. We love this house, in particular the fantastic view from our deck.

It's not clear from this but we can see the shipyard with it's iconic yellow cranes Samson and Goliath and the Titanic Belfast Building, and the George Best Airport. There is also a huge oil rig( centre right), currently under repair. The view is much better in the winter when the trees are bare, and we have a fantastic view of all the firework displays at Halloween.

We began looking in East Belfast, but actually Holywood had a lot more to offer. The first house I fell for was in Cultra, in a leafy lane 5 minutes from the beach and work. unfortunately we were just beaten to the application stage by someone who was ready to move this week.,

In between falling in love again I saw a variety of scruffy or impractical homes, or townhouses that are designed for goodness knows who, living room upstairs, bedrooms downstairs, higgledy-piggledy up and down stairs,dreadful, odd shaped rooms and no storage.

The second house  I fell for was lovely too, ticked a lot of boxes for us, space, storage, convenience and price.
 cute isn't it?

So on Friday our agent called my DOH and told him the landlady had changed her mind and was buying another property! Phew? or No! We were already psyched to move and DD1 and OH had started clearing out. *Sigh*

After some thought we decided to stay put, we love our home and our children are close to school, nursery and family. We decided to start clearing out as if we are moving though and so far have the garage and the attic cleared of rubbish and looking a lot more like a home rather than a storage facility.

Guess what? the agent for house #2 called this morning saying they would like us as tenants *sigh*.