Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year...

I can't believe that in around 6 hours, it will have been exactly a year since my last cigarette. I only made two resolutions last year; to quit smoking and to buy my own house. It may have taken a bit longer than I might have liked but it's good to be sat here on New Year's Eve 2005 with both resolutions firmly achieved.

Resolutions for 2006? I suppose it would be good to stay a non-smoker and to keep the house, but that's cheating I guess. I think I'll probably resuscitate an old favourite and resolve to lose some weight. I just need to decide how much and by when.

In keeping with tradition, I'll not be out celebrating tonight but I've plenty of booze left over from Christmas should I feel the need. If previous years are anything to go by, I'll probably toast in 2006 with a cuppa.

Anyway, whoever you are and wherever you are, I hope you enjoy your celebrations and that 2006 brings you everything you wish for.

'Ave a good 'un...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I love it when a plan comes together...

Everything appears to be back to normal today, shops are all open again, buses are running as normal and the house is suddenly very quiet and very empty. The last part is actually quite welcome, although this Christmas will go on record as one of the best I've ever had.

My six year old niece is at just the right age to get into the magic of it all and for the record, I never stopped believing. Christmas Eve we left out the customary mince pie, glass of sherry and a couple of carrots for Rudolph and his mates. We were obviously good little girls and boys this year as more presents had appeared under the tree and we found this in the kitchen the next morning:

I'm not entirely sure about the walnut, but hey, I might have been if I were 33 years younger.

My first attempt at Christmas dinner went exactly to plan and judging from everyone's comments and the amount that was left, I guess I can rack that up as a success. Contrary to my earlier protestations, I did manage to prepare plenty of vegetables so the entire choice consisted of turkey (surprise, surprise), sausages wrapped in bacon (or pigs in blankets as we know them), sausagemeat and sage & onion stuffing balls, roast potatoes, duchess potatoes, yorkshire puddings, carrots, sweetcorn, cauliflower, brocolli and sprouts. Thank goodness for the steamer I got as a housewarning present. Special thanks should also go to Em for the delicious home-made cranberry jelly. It wouldn't be Christmas dinner without eating too much so there were also mini Christmas puddings and mince pies to follow with either custard or ice-cream (or both). Coffee and Christmas cake to finish off, followed by an after-dinner nap whilst trying to watch The Polar Express.

So, a great Christmas Day had by all and only fifty one and a bit weeks to the next one...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas...

A quick post this morning because, like the rest of the world, I have a really busy day in front of me today. I really just wanted to say whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you have an amazing Christmas and you that you get to enjoy all of the fun that goes with it. Easy for me I suppose seeing as I never grew up.

Nothing says Christmas like ninja stars...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I'm done...

...although that is not an excuse to stick a fork in me.

I had a much more sensible shopping experience this evening, picking up the last few fresh items I need before the weekend and surprisingly, I only bought the items I set out to buy. A much better experience at the checkout this time aswell when I was assisted in packing my bags by Bob the Builder (and if my niece ever asks, then it was the real one).

So that's it for now, two days left at work, three days before the family arrive and four days before the big one. If I've forgotten anything now then I don't care - we'll have to do without. Just a thought though, I've resisted the temptation to cheat for Christmas Dinner, but I wonder how many people out there will be dining courtesy of Aunt Bessie? Worth remembering for next time perhaps...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Mustn't Grumble...

Yesterday I learnt the lesson that perhaps it's not always so clever to prepare for Christmas so far in advance. Christmas draw day at work and take a look at what I won:

So now I guess I won't be doing any more shopping until August...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

And there's more... the continuing daily blow-by-blow account of my Christmas preparations.

In my last post I eluded to the fact that buying alcohol has never posed much of a problem for me and tonight I've proved it. Broken all personal till receipt records in one foul swoop and the only edible items were a multi pack each of crisps and snacks. I won't divulge the actual total, but lets say that it exceeded two figures (to the left of the decimal point, in case you were wondering).

The dining room is almost clear now pending Saturday's delivery and I finished off the evening's activities by getting all of the presents wrapped. The only shopping items left are a few fresh bits which I'll pick up towards the end of next week. The last of the decorations will go up on Saturday while I'm waiting around the house, which leaves Friday night with no real plans.

Hmmm, what should I do? Answers on a postcard to Hobgoblin competition...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More festive progress...

Despite a late escape from work this evening and a couple of lengthy phone calls (why do people always call when you've got the least time to spare?), I still managed to get plenty more stuff unpacked & re-arranged. In addition, I put the finishing touches to the decorations in the lounge.

However, by far, the best achievement of the day was at lunchtime. On my way into work this morning I happened to be gazing around at my surroundings instead of looking where I was going and as if by some miracle, I spotted a furniture store that I'd never noticed before. During the overly generous 30 minute lunch break we have, I took a spin down there on the off chance that there may be a dining suite around and on the even more remote chance that I could collect it or even less likely get it delivered before Christmas.

Well guess what? I was in and out of the place in less than 15 minutes, considerably lighter in wallet but having just ordered one of the exact same suites I had been checking out on the internet a couple of weeks ago but couldn't get before Christmas. Better still, it's being delivered this Saturday afternoon! Take a look at this:

By my reckoning that leaves me just over 10 days and the main thing I have left to sort out is a supply of alcoholic beverages for everyone. If I say so myself, buying alcohol could hardly be considered one of my weaknesses.

Oh, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone I've invited for Christmas dinner. I would be more than a little extravagant to buy drinks for all of you...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Every day in every way...

...I'm getting a little bit more prepared for Christmas.

Before I go on, a quick flashback to last night's post regarding my neglected green wheelie bin, I got a result today. Apparently I managed to sort and de-sellotape my cardboard to a standard worthy of brown wheelie bin collection. So perhaps I packed the rubbish a bit too tight into the green one in a moment of unprecedented enthusiasm which would have been too tough for the poor little mites to empty. I guess I'll find out next week.

Anyway, tonight's source of amusement occurred whilst in Tesco making major headway with the Christmas food shop. I thought that I had gone a bit OTT on my last trip (as you always do when setting up a new home) but I was amazed how my shopping list of twenty or so items expanded to fill a shopping trolley. I think the inclusion of the word "turkey" was where I went wrong because I then went on a campaign of "well if I'm buying the turkey, I might as well buy the [insert name of anything else remotely festive and Christmas dinner related]".

On arriving at the checkout, the girl asked if I needed any help packing my bags as I'd collected so much and after an initial refusal, I agreed that it might get me away a bit quicker. I've mentioned before that I am a creature of routine who likes to be organised where possible and for that reason, when packing the shopping at a checkout I like to have a selection of bags ready to keep things in some kind of sensible order for unpacking, i.e. separate bags for non-food, cleaning products, frozen food, fresh food, etc. To my amazement, this individual "helping" me pack was more interested in telling her mate about her plans for the weekend and proceeded to pack random items into bags, frequently containing little more than three things. My favourite was an entire carrier bag for a whisk and a tea strainer (hey, what I do in my own time is my business right?!). In the end, I packed the majority of it myself.

In future I think I will make it my quest to see how much shopping it takes before I'm unable to keep up with the checkout girl on my own. Of course, based on my purchases over the last couple of weeks, my next food shop will probably be sometime in July...

Monday, December 12, 2005

What a load of rubbish...

During my last stint as a homeowner, I used to go to reasonable lengths to ensure my rubbish was dealt with in an eco-friendly manner; particularly separating paper and glass from the remainder of the rubbish to take a trip down to the local bottle/paper banks every now and then. I suppose the fact that they were less than 5 minutes away in the car helped matters.

Imagine my surprise then, nay delight, when I discovered that the bungalow comes complete with a whole host of bins:
Green wheelie bin - general waste (as long as it fits in the bin, I guess it's fair game)
Brown wheelie bin - garden waste or brown cardboard (non glossy and without sellotape please)
Orange box - empty food/drinks cans (rinsed out please)
Blue box - newspapers, magazines, junk mail (but no envelopes please)
Green box - glass bottles & jars (rinsed out and without tops & lids please)

On the specified days (timetables for the forthcoming next year supplied) we're instructed to present the appropriate receptacle on the boundary of the property (i.e. where it meets the pavement) where it will be returned once emptied.

Well excuse me, but when did we suddenly get so fussy about our rubbish? I know I've moved into quite a nice area but this seems a bit over the top considering all of the neighbours I've met so far are as "normal" as I am. The heaps of leaflets detailing timetables and strict instructions for segregation are also littered with threats that "It will be necessary to reject any container found to have any items which will contaminate the load".

I'm not an unreasonable man and I can understand some of their reasoning, but having gone to the extent of segregating the significant amount of rubbish I'm accumulating since unpacking everything after the move and having "presented the appropriate receptacle on the boundary of my property" on the appropriate day, I think I'm justified in being completely pissed off to get home from work tonight and find the green wheelie bin only lighter in contents by the weight of one half filled bin liner from the top (which, for the record, was still within the confines of a bin with a closed lid). How the hell am I supposed to continue with the pre-seasonal clearout?

I hope I get the chance to catch one of the lazy bastards sniffing around for a Christmas tip...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Back to reality...

It's been a busy weekend with one thing and another and up to a point I was quite pleased with my achievements. After a rather "lively" Friday night out, I woke up around 8:00 Saturday morning, resisted the urge to sleep all day in favour of getting up and getting some things done:

~ finished assembling the long service award barbecue
~ unpacked a load more clothes
~ washed and dried two loads of washing
~ re-arranged the lounge furniture to accomodate my hi-fi (pity the two single electrical sockets can't accomodate everything)
~ cleared some space in the garage for my tools & car stuff
~ cleaned the bathroom
~ unpacked numerous more boxes (why have I kept so much of this rubbish?)
~ hoovered throughout the house
~ filled both wheelie bins in readiness for this week's collections

By my normal standards I should have been proud until I realised this is the sort of thing most normal people get up to on a Saturday morning when for the past three years or so, I have been happy languishing in my pit without an ounce of guilt.

Finally tonight, things reached an all time low when I re-acquainted myself with the art of ironing. Ironing has to be the most tedious chore ever invented but all the same it is unfortunately necessary so I opted for my previous routine of getting a whole week's worth out of the way on Sunday night.

So this is what weekends are going to be like then? Oh dear, what have I done...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Never let it be said...

(which is normally a prompt for one of my usual crowd to say it) ...that I have no sense of occasion.

After a pretty intense day of presentations at work today (of which my team were last to present, and at which point I thought I got an uneccessary grilling incidentally) I decided to have a night off from the unpacking and chose to do something a bit more frivolous. Having rustled up a pretty tasty chicken fried rice in my newly refurbished wok, I set to with putting up some Christmas decorations in preparation of young neice and nephew arriving over the festive period. In hindsight, my hallway is now somewhat reminiscent of a Santa's grotto but I thought I should make the effort. I haven't got any decent pictures yet, but you can get an idea here.

Problem is, we are now only 17 days from the big day, which is 16 days before they arrive and so far I haven't got anywhere clear for them to sleep, any dining furniture to sit and eat at, or even a cooker to prepare the meal on, to name but three insignificant problems. Having said that, the garage is looking pretty clear at the moment and I've seen my long service award barbecue in the HR office at work awaiting presentation so all may not be lost just yet.

All the same, sense of occasion? Quite possibly. Sense of priority? Probably not...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thanks again everyone...

As you've probably gathered, I've been a bit pre-occupied over the last couple of weeks and haven't had the chance to feed my stats obsession, but I notice on the counter tonight that another "K" has slipped by...

Home Sweet Home...

Back to work in the morning and although it's been a hectic week, it's been worth parting with every bead of sweat along the way (and believe me, Seany sweat is an extremely rare substance).

Sure, there's still loads of unpacking to do and I can't get the new cooker plumbed in until Friday night but I'll have some fun turning out meals with what I've got in the meantime. First Sunday lunch today consisted of tuna steaks cooked in garlic & rosemary with potatoes, asparagus tips and baby sweetcorn - delicious if I say so myself. I ought to pass credit on to Dave from the Tap who introduced me to the idea a while ago and to the Tesco bargain bin for having all of the right ingredients at reduced price last week.

To say I've only been here a week, I'm already feeling really settled and look forward to getting into a new routine. Most impressively, the auto-pilot facility has already kicked in effectively. I woke up in my new home on both Saturday and Sunday morning, not entirely sure in either case how I got there.

So here's to my extended commute tomorrow and the anticipation of catching up with all of the exciting happenings while I've been away from the office...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Too much like hard work...

An ex-housemaster and Geography teacher of mine once accused me of "running from hard work like any sane person would run from a mad dog". I suppose at the time he was right; my 15 year old attention had much more exciting matters to deal with than the glacial movement resulting in crag & tail rock formations (as seen at Edingburgh Castle - or was that a Roche Moutonee?). I suppose he would be impressed to read this knowing that 24 years later I can still recall either, not to mention my maintained ability to spot a cirrus cloud from a cumulous. What did any of this have to do with Geography? Quite honestly I was never entirely sure and this was accurately reflected in my GCE Grade D (back in the good old days when we were actually allowed to fail at something). I thought Geography was to do with travel and places. Hmm... perhaps that's why we are no good at asking for directions - it must be some kind of inadequate geography schooling syndrome.

Anyhoo, back to the hard work thing, since I collected the keys to the bungalow on Monday afternoon, I've had a harsh reminder of what hard work can be like. Not that I am exactly slacking during my usual weekly occupation, but I figured that by taking a week off and enlisting the help of the occasional volunteer here and there, this moving lark would be a breeze.

OK, it could have gone a lot worse. It is now Thursday afternoon and I'm down to about one more car load, but it's going to have to be a bloody big one to cope with the weight of the almost famous (and somewhat recently neglected) running machine. I have got big plans for it here at the new place, honest. Besides which, I've done more physical exercise this week than I probably have all year to date so that should count for something. Anyway, it's taken nearly six months for the sale to go through so I don't suppose an extra day or two will hurt much.

So here I am, wallowing in the self satisfaction of living in a lovely bungalow, nicely situated in one of the town's outlying villages. I finally have my kitchen full of gadgets and food of all descriptions; lounge with a suite I struggle to get out of, cable TV through the new widescreen LCD telly and more importantly I have my wireless internet up and working again.

Seeing as I probably can't afford to go to the pub now for the next 20 -30 years, I suppose there's no excuse for not keeping the old blog up to date then...