Wednesday 29 December 2010

Some friends need an Egg Donor

We're friends with a lovely couple who have had sad news about their own chances of conceiving a sibling for their son. They'd like the egg donor to be a known part of their family rather than anonymous, so have set up the following website.
If you think you, or someone you know may be willing to help, please contact them through their website.

Monday 27 December 2010

Seasons Greetings

Short days and long nights- brings pictures in my mind of curling up by the fire (carving spatulas of course, they're a little more house friendly than bowl carving in my experience) after playing out in the snow.

Only our snow has melted, leaving us with buckets full of ice but thankfully the van can get around again. We haven't found snow/mud friendly tires yet, so skid and skate with it if there is even the slightest coating of snow on the roads. Unfortunately we made the decision to get better tires after the snow started, and everywhere has sold out. I was looking rather enviously at a truck on our road with brand new snow tires!

I've been able to book onto a spoon carving course at the end of March. As we will be homeless then (our landlord wants the house for a family member as soon as possible, and our contract ends the beginning of March so we've been given notice) I luckily can use some holiday before my career break starts 1st April- travelling to work when having to live in a tent with two small children just doesn't sound fun. And that's without logistic issues like washing uniforms! We're looking on the bright side and will have a couple of weeks 'settling in' whilst being handy for where we're storing the 'living in a house' junk to rescue what has been packed or ( hopefully) store non-essentials we planned to travel with. DH is convinced we'll need a trailer as well as our long wheel based crew cab transit, and I think he might be right.
I am just hoping we'll keep warm enough in the tent with woodburner in March- we've done overnight in the snow in the smaller tent last Christmas, but that's not living in  it full time! I know we're planning on travelling in the tent all summer, but April was when I planned to start, and we might have even found somewhere with housespace for us to start off with!
I've sadly put away the sewing machine as the next 10 weeks or so will be far too busy packing up to start new projects...though I have just remembered some of our sleeping foams need covering, and the machine would hurry that up..anyway, apart from that my mother-in-law has got me onto something new.

For Christmas she has given me a crochet hook, some wool (yarn I believe may be the technical term), a patchwork bag (expertly made by herself) to keep it all in, and a book to get me started!
I've had approximately 2 dismal attempts at knitting, when I was much younger and that is the grand total of my experience of 'that sort of thing'.
Growing up in Canada meant I had options at Junior High like Hunter Education that caught my attention, with plans on Driver Ed for grade 9 had I stayed there -I think you could learn to drive at 14, back when I was there, anyway. Secondary school here didn't include much in the home crafts or cooking. I seem to recall about a school-terms worth of cooking but there being a horrible amount of writing for what I expected to be practical classes.
To avoid too much PE I did Latin GCSE- the teacher came from the 6th form next door, but the only place in the schedule meant missing out on an hour of Games and some other (non-GCSE) lessons a week. The Latin class was fairly evenly split between really brainy folk and the rest of us doing anything to avoid running around outside in just pants . That was something that really shocked me moving to England, uniform for school I could cope with,quite liked even,  but having a see-through top and big pants to wear for PE- and not being allowed to wear anything on top? Winter classes in a freezing gym 'if you're cold you need to run about more' being a repetitive strain and the classes in 'summer' (I use the term loosely, it wasn't warm most of the time by any stretch of the imagination) being outside where even more people could see you  half dressed?! I gladly scraped through Latin to avoid it, but quite possible missed finding out about fun crafting stuff (this might have been in the other lessons grouped with it on the timetable) for another decade or so.

Anyway, M-I-L has kindly given me the crochet things as something to keep me learning, and quite importantly with our travel plans, doesn't need a lot of equipment or space to work on. She's shown me how to get started, and I think she's taught me how to do doubles or something. I'm getting to grips with the row bit, but I seem to have a problem at each end of a row. I'm hunting on utube for tutorials I can follow -the first one I got showed you how to do a slip knot so quickly that, seeing as I watched it about a dozen times and still didn't see what she did, I gave up on her.
If anyone can point me to somewhere good to start online I'd be grateful!

Hope you've had a happy, healthy (sounds like half my friends have had 'flu this Christmas so hope you've escaped) and warm Christmas, and hope 2011 brings dreams to life, or at least one step nearer, for you.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

The Grand Plan

I recently posted out our Christmas cards mentioning our blogs on them, but haven't actually got around to putting brain in gear to spell out what we're up to, not the least why we haven't our own address for long!

Short version- we're going travelling around the UK for 6 months in 2011.

Long version:
We started discussing travelling around the UK about a year ago, and at some point on the One Show WWOOFing was mentioned. This is World wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, the detail in on their website but basically it means for doing some work on a farm, with no prior knowledge required, and you have somewhere to sleep and food to eat. There are many different permutations, varying from living with a family to having a tent and raw ingredients to cook yourself, and finally on to our variation where we hope for somewhere to stay and the odd shared meal- as our two are so young we can't both do full work hours. We both realise there is so much of this country we haven't seen, and with our young family weekend trips are just exhausting to fit in with a working week as well. We've vaguely discussed emigrating, but feel we really will find somewhere to suit us in this country without going to the other side of the world.
We do know we don't want to stay in our mid-terrace house in Halifax -though no one else seems to want to buy it, so we're working on getting tenants in it instead. Between us we have a dream of land to grow veg, trees for Alex and space for the children to grow up and play. Housing isn't a huge priority, though a vomiting bug earlier in the year has made somewhere to wash and dry lots of bedding more important. We'd like to have space to invite friends to- the limits of our little rented house has made it evident that we need some space for families to come and play.

We're about to become official in home-educating as Big One is 'school age' after Christmas. Home educating gradually crept in for us. It started out realising that DH worked in a school that wanted him to only take time off in school holidays, and I work in a department where school holidays are booked about a year in advance, if not longer, and my chances of getting when would suit me was quite limited. Then the realisation of the costs of peak time holidays, plus the cost of childcare for the other weeks...when we'd rather be with our children- home educating started to sound nice. We also happen to feel formal education starts too young at age 4 , when many places don't start until aged 7.
Meeting other home ed families in real life has been a wonderful experience. Just about everyone has a completely different reason for getting into it, but the main aim of doing what is best for their child is the common thread.

So DH quit his job last month, from next month he'll have Big One at home full time, and come April we're going on a grand tour of mainland UK on the cheap for 6 months. I haven't jacked in my job -yet-so have 6 months leave for our adventures. We hope to see places we've missed before, learn new skills, find out what aspects of a small holding really appeal -or we really detest, and hopefully come up with a plan for what and where our next, more permanent home will be.
We've been raising anxiety levels with my parents at least, discussing a yurt in a field (English planning laws alas are not helpful in this respect).
Our immediate family seem to hide their anxieties about our plans well- so far, anyway.

My current dream home would be a short commute to a hospital or clinic so I can earn a conventional wage a day or two a week as needed, but have woods for DH, a stream for hydro power, a big garden for the girls, lots of growing space for the veggies and polytunnel, a small house we can adapt to our needs with lots of verandas, insulation, something like a ceramic stove,a composting loo or two, solar panels and a wind turbine, and a busy home ed community nearby.
I think we'll need to win the lottery and compromise!

Sunday 5 December 2010

Festive Family Doings

We spent an evening and a morning making Christmas cards from various left overs, stickers and a bumper pack of cards. Big One especially had a wonderful time, reduced to tears for having to stop for bedtime, and she's still offering now to make more if I find I need more. Most were posted before I even thought of the camera, but these are three she has chosen who they are for. Though there were four, so I wonder if one has been posted to someone else by accident....

I have started to put things together for the hampers we intend as our Christmas gifts this year- this is one destined for someone highly unlikely to look here, so I think I'm alright showing it!
I'm copying Robin Woods line of using wood chips as packing material- these aren't being posted anywhere, so even though our wood shavings aren't as fancy, they'll still be functional.

I grew up in Canada, and one essential ( along with ice skates and skis- snow shoes were only tried out once at school that I can remember!) was the toboggan. Mine came back with me when we moved, and has been sat in my parents garage for about 20 years.Its in need of some TLC and another cross-brace, but is functional enough for my two. It was quickly located for the first time on Christmas Day last year, when Big One and DH had spent Christmas Eve in our tent with woodburner listening for Santa, and funnily enough noone else was on the sledging hill Christmas Day Afternoon ( Little One was too little to enjoy it, but Big One had a fab time!). We're keeping it handy in the van for further snow adventures, as the van has been snowed in and my parents garage isn't that handy for us to walk to.

 We had a go at making mince pies. I have limited imagination, so I follow recipes. So, this was mince pies courtesy of Delia. With mincemeat courtesy of her too. Usually my pastry is fairly uninspiring, but something- no idea what- went incredibly well.

So this is as close as you get to seeing a baked one! Oh, the mix made 3 dozen plus 2, plus a small amount of pastry for Little One to make 'biscuits' with. They were baked in the oven for a few minutes around the last 2 mince pies, and both girls loved scoffing them and want to make more. Little One won't eat the mince pies- well, after seeing me and Big One scoff so many, she graduated from eating the points off the stars to poking through and finding the raisins in the mincemeat- she spat out the orange zest in it. I do enjoy how different in taste the girls are!

This weekend we also found an excuse for DH to try out the chainsaw he bought last week ( he got all the protective gear straight after his course, but decided to wait a bit for the saw) but I suspect he'll have blogged about that.
As a result, I've started work on a spoon-tula, but thought I'd blog instead of being dangerous with a knife tonight.

From a couple of months ago- a great use of an Ikea cheap wok and a few curtain brackets. I was most impressed!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Bah Humbug

To the Agenda For Change. For those of you who haven't heard my tirade, Agenda for Change was something the last government came up with, to equalise hours and working practices across the NHS. The out of hours system they came up with -actually, I don't think they ever did come up with something workable. But the changes they did come up with have affected me ( and my colleagues).
This all started 5 years ago, and from a pay point of view, it was good for me. Our trust had a local agreement, with one rate of pay for newly qualified sonographers, another for experienced, and a third teir for those who did specialist scans or put drains in. AfC did away with all that, so that as long as I kept working, I worked up the pay band. Now I'm at the top of my band, with no financial incentive to do further training, and incidentally on the same pay point as my colleagues who do put drains in or do specialist scans.
They've been on pay protection for the last 5 years, so no pay rise now is no different for them.
Why am I grumbling about this now?
Well, today I start having to work 10 minutes later to maintain my pay. Last time this happened I was returning from maternity leave,so it wasn't quite as obvious. But from today I'm working longer days.
So, on top of a pay freeze for my colleagues for the last 5 years, they've also had to increase their working week- we were all originally working a 35 hour week, and working up to 37.5hrs. Of course, for other folk in the NHS this has been an improvement for them, as their working week was previously much longer- but I'm not talking about them!
So, its advent calendar time ( which I have still to get out of the Christmas box and put something in the pockets!) and I'm working longer days. I just wish we could win the lottery!