Wednesday, 12 February 2014

New Toy

I am a member of the Morphy Richards trial panel (I'm not getting anything for doing this before you ask!!)

Every so often I'll get an email asking for opinions on a new appliance they are designing. The questions will often start with a few different pictures and cover such things as size, price, looks, what it does etc. 

On some occasions you'll be asked if you'd be willing to test an appliance at home and if you agree you may be chosen to do so. 

Well, a while back, a survey came round about a new slow cooker and as always I said yes to testing and one arrived on Monday!


Here it is in all it's glory being used for the first time. 

But what is so special about this one I hear you cry? - well I hope I do because I intend to tell you!

As well as being a funky red, having a digital timer and keep warm function, this ones secret is in the crockpot itself. Rather than a heavy ceramic pot this one is metal. That makes it an awful lot lighter but the main advantage is that you can use it straight on the hob (except induction). Slow cooking doesn't brown meat and many recipes therefore suggest you fry up meat and some veggies to start them off which means an extra dirty pan. (I'm not too bothered about browning my meat but there are many people that find it odd!) So with this one you can put the crock pot straight on the hob, brown your sausages, mince, chicken etc, add your other ingredients then put it directly into the slow cooker, set the timer and off you go. As an added bonus when the timer finishes it automatically goes into keep warm mode. 

So tonight's dinner is cooking (Caribbean chicken) with minimal washing up to worry about!


Let's hope it tastes as good as it smells!

Simply Being Mum has a habit of naming her slow cookers and I've decided I'd name this one Mokey!! Wonder if any of you can work out why (it's a bit convoluted!!)

Oh and at the end of the trial period you get to keep whatever it was you were testing!!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Books - part 2

Started 10th July (ish!)

Peter Robinson - A Necessary End (detective story)
Oliver James - Affluenza (a study of the 'Affluenza' virus, it's effects and vaccines)
Ken Follett - A Place Called Freedom (story set in 18th century England)
Sylvia Nasar - A Beautiful Mind (Biography of mathematician John Nash)
Raymond E Feist - The Kings Buccaneer (Fantasy)
Tracy Chevalier - The Lady and the Unicorn (Historical romance)
Ken Follett - The Key to Rebecca (Spy thriller)
Ken Follett - Hammer of Eden (Terrorists running amok)
J. K. Rowling - The Casual Vacancy (small town goings on)
Kylie Chan - Earth to Hell (strange heavenly Chinese goings on!)
Kylie Chan - Hell to Heaven (more of the above!)
Kylie Chan - Heaven to Wudang (having now finished the second trilogy of these I discover there are more!!!)
Jennifer Worth - Call the Midwife (memoirs of an East End midwife)
A. M. Homes - This Book Will Save Your Life (story a man finding himself)
Dani Ripper - Promise You Won't Tell (chick lit, sort of!)
Mariam Kobras - The Distant Shore (kinda chick lit where not a lot happens. It's the first of a trilogy, I won't be bothering with the rest!)
Pseudonymous Bosch - The Name Of This Book Is Secret (kids adventure book!)
Long Time Coming - Edie Claire (romance and ghosts)
Ken Follett - World Without End (sequel to Pillars of the Earth, set a couple of hundred years later)
Mary Roach - Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (think the subtitle kind of covers it!)
Raymond E Feist - Shadow of a Dark Queen (more fantasy, 1st book of the Serpent War Saga)
Raymond E Feist - Rise of a Merchant Prince (2nd book of the Serpent War Saga)
Raymond E Feist - Rage of a Demon King (3rd book of the Serpent War Saga)
Raymond E Feist - Shards of a Broken Crown (4th book of the Serpent War Saga)
Raymond E Feist - Krondor the Betrayal (1st book of the Riftwar Legacy)
Raymond E Feist - Krondor the Assassins (2nd book of the Riftwar Legacy)
Raymond E Feist - Krondor Tear of the Gods (3rd book of the Riftwar Legacy)
Raymond E Feist - Honoured Enemy (1st book Legends of the Riftwar)
Raymond E Feist - Murder in LaMut (2nd book Legends of the Riftwar)
Jimmy Perry - A Stupid Boy: The Autobiography of the Creator of Dad's Army (self explanatory really!!)
Raymond E Feist - Talon of the Silver Hawk (1st book Conclave of Shadows)
Raymond E Feist - King of Foxes (2nd book Conclave of Shadows)
Raymond E Feist - Exiles Return (3rd book Conclave of Shadows)
Raymond E Feist - Jimmy the Hand (3rd book Legends of the Riftwar)
Raymond E Feist - Flight of the Nighthawks (1st book Darkwar Saga)
Raymond E Feist - Into a Dark Realm (2nd book Darkwar Saga)
Raymond E Feist - Wrath of a Mad God (3rd book Darkwar Saga)
Paige Toon - Pictures of Lily (chick lit)
Dean Crawford - Immortal (a potentially plausible story of the secret of youth)

Only got 5 Feist books left to read before it'll be time to read the very very last one...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A year...

...yup, I've been back in the Shire a whole year - and it's been quite a year.

I've had four employers.
Spent a year without a TV or microwave.
Lived in one room.
Walked most of the Exeter Green Circle.
Had my lunch stolen by a seagull.
Shared an office with a cat.
Been to Salisbury and Reading for lunch!
Read loads (and loads and loads).
Found real friendship in unexpected places and lost friendship where I thought it was strong.
Been to several interviews (hadn't done that in years!)
Tried Android and gone back to Apple (again - you'd have thought I'd have learnt last time!)
Paid for two flats.
Realised just how lucky I was to find my landlords.
Babysat for friends.
Had an offer on the flat that fell through.
Cursed the Housing Association and Estate Agents on a regular basis.
Attended a Steampunk jewellery workshop.
Been regularly reminded why I love Exeter.
Wondered at the rising floodwaters in Maidstone from afar.
Worked in my favourite field.
Discovered the chip shop across the road is a bit rubbish but the Indian on this side is yummy.
Still not eaten the chocolate chick I was given when I left the first job in March.
Gone to work in a onesie.

I wonder what the next year has in store???

Monday, 4 November 2013

Plot Twist


On Tuesday Oct 8th I said this, lots!!! And panicked a bit, and told the Universe I wasn't impressed!

On the Monday night I went out for dinner with V. She was full of the news of her (somewhat mad, I think she'll agree) new adventure. On my walk home I found myself thinking that some new adventure would be good - ha, careful what you wish for!

On my arrival at work on the Tuesday morning, having ditched the coat and put lunch in the fridge, the boss calls me over. Do I need pen and paper says I? No, says he. Uh-oh, says I.

Long story short I'm being made redundant, let go, sacked...it's all very amicable. Both sides knew there was a risk involved when I started working there and it just hasn't worked out. I'm re-assured by the boss that it's nothing I've done (or haven't done) and that I'll get a months notice, and that he'll do all he can to help me...

Right Universe - that wasn't quite what I had in mind when I said I'd like a bit of adventure!!!

I already had a sort of Saturday job lined up with the guy that I've been doing event work for so there was one day a week but what about the other four? I'm still paying out for the flat in Kent don't forget!!

I spent a very demoralising weekend surfing the web looking for Xmas jobs and ended up walking round the shops looking in the windows for ads for Xmas temps - my theory being, grab an Xmas job, take the pressure off.

Five on-line applications, three application forms and three CV's with cover letters later and I felt a little better.  Then one of the on-line ones came back to say I had been unsuccessful swiftly followed by another - that wasn't a good start. 

Another came back inviting me to a recruitment event so I booked myself in, then I went through the mountain of paperwork they sent only to discover I didn't have the relevant ID here in Devon with me. Gave them a call to see if there was any room for manoeuvre, could I attend and then get the ID to them, I had after all been working for the Police for the last eight years or so - no, definitely not, had to have the papers as requested. Well that was the end of that then.

Another invite to a recruitment event - on the outskirts of Chard, in Somerset!! As most of you know I don't drive. After some web surfing I discover that I can get there but it'll take me two and a half hours (each way) and involves multiple buses. After several emails back and forth I take myself off to the local store in question and see if they can help. The very nice assistant manager says she'll sort something and get back to me.

So it's been a couple of weeks and so far I'm not getting very far.  There's a couple of posts I'm toying with applying for but the hours are awful (nights or 5am starts) and the location is a bit of a bugger to get to.  There is definitely some head in sand action going on and I know it. Strangely though that doesn't motivate me to do much about it!!

After 3 weeks I end up with three interviews/recruitment events that I can attend.  I am lucky in that since leaving Uni I have had about six jobs but only had to attend an interview for one of them. Well, lucky then but now I'm pooping my pants as I have no idea what to expect. The interview I did have was nearly nine years ago...

I do a little bit of swatting, checking out the shops website careers pages and having a nosey on Wikipedia, but decide that the best I can do is be myself (good advice from an on-line group I'm part of).

Interview one is me and another person. We've been asked to take three photo's with us to show what we are like, what we like to do etc.  A quick trip to town to get some printed and I chose the below...

This one to cover my love of reading - that's Raymond E Feist and I've been reading his books since I was 18

This one covers both the fact I liking taking pics and the fact I love the sea.

And this one 'coz I love my family (even if this pic is missing a brother!)

We chat about our pics, chat a bit in general, then get sent off to the shop floor to pick some outfits for certain scenarios (it's a clothes shop). After that it's back for some one on one questions. Thanks very much, we'll let you know in a couple of weeks. I don't think it went too well but I have nothing to gauge it against.

Next interview is completely one on one, just me and the manager. She's lovely and it's very relaxed. Quite a bit of giggling, and the swatting up I did on Wikipedia comes in handy. This one seemed to go better and they'll let me know in a week or less.

Final one is a bit more of a recruitment event. There are nine of us ranging from a 17 year old fresh from college to an older chap who is trying to get back into the work force. We start off with a 'chat to your neighbour, find out about them, then tell the rest of us'. I hate those!! We also have to decide if we were an object what would we be!! I went for suitcase for the chance to travel. There are another couple of exercises and some general information and then we're done.  This one seemed OK too. I piped up a couple of times but didn't take over. They'll let us know in the next few days.

Last Friday I got a call from one of the above (Cath Kidston) to offer me a position - hurrah, I took it. About ten minutes later one of the others called to offer me a position - too late (but a nice little boost for the ego!).

So today I went in for my training, got my badge and my pinny and had a good day. It's 'only' a part time temporary position but there will be the opportunity to grab overtime as it gets nearer to Christmas. I have my rota for this week and next and I'm already down to do more than my contracted hours - bonus.

Hopefully I will be able to work the event work around the hours I do at the shop - they have to give me a day off right!

My plan is to work as much as I can between now and the new year and try and keep myself near the level I was. There is a small possibility that the job could be extended or even become more long term but I can't count on that. I will have eyes and ears open for another position but it has to be flexible enough to allow the event work as that's what I really think I want to be doing in the full on long term. That again is a bit of a suck it and see position (so to speak) but I know the boss is putting a lot more thought into how to make it work from the start so hopefully it won't go the same way. That is due to start properly in the next couple of weeks - the office is still being built at the moment!

So, there you have my last month in a nutshell - fingers crossed for the future...


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Connecting

So, I've was under the impression that we didn't have wireless at the office as my computer had to be connected to the internet by one of those old fashioned cable things!!!

Of course, I've now discovered that there is wireless, it's just it's a desktop machine without wi-fi capability!! 

But, you know what, I found that out over a week ago. The boss has told me where to find the wi-fi key so I can connect my phone up, yet I haven't.

Don't get me wrong, I still check out my emails and facebook on that desktop machine. But in general I log in whilst I'm having my lunch, have a quick catch up, and log out again. No distractions from the notifications popping up, or the junk emails coming in.

I'm quite liking it!!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Packing

(started 12th Aug and finished 22nd, the post not the packing!)

As many of you know I HATE packing and generally leave it to the last minute always packing too much and being convinced I've forgotten something vitally important.

I've just done my packing for the annual festival I work at and I seem to have too much room in my case.  This may be because I've forgotten something or because I did the 'rolling' method for packing.




In the case in the above picture...(the chair is in the pic to give an idea of size!)

Very chunky jumper
Unicorn onesie (the Sunday theme was animals and this onesie made a good pillow for the week too!)
Gillet
Long sleeve t-shirt
Strappy top x4
T-shirt x4
Long skirt
Long shorts x2
Long top x3
Leggings x2
Linen trousers
Dress 
PJs
Short Wellies 
Relevant undies
A LARGE toilet bag
Towel
Picnic blanket
Torch
Soft toy unicorn
Other odds and ends

In a separate bag
Waterproof coat
Normal wellies 
Sandals
M's short wellies

My daily rucksack will have my laptop and charger, phone charger, waterproof trousers, notebook etc. And there is also my sleeping bag.

I'll be wearing jeans, top, hoodie, 'work' boots and have my waterproof coat with me.

I tend to go on the layering principal so at the start of the day it's normally strappy top, t-shirt, jumper, jacket and as I warm up the layers come off, going back on as the day cools down again. I don't know about you but my legs feel the cold a lot less than the rest of me so a combination of 'long' shorts and knee high socks does me fine as will leggings or my long skirt/dress.

I normally always overpack but when you don't know what the weather will be like you have to consider the fact that you could get drenched several days in a row!!

I'll do a list when I get back of what actually got worn!!

So been back a few days but I did a list as I unpacked the case...

Got worn
Very chunky jumper
Unicorn onesie
Strappy top x3
T-shirt x2
Long skirt
Long shorts x1
Long top x3
Leggings x2
Linen trousers
Dress 
PJs
Short Wellies 
Relevant undies
Waterproof coat
Normal wellies 
Sandals 

Didn't get worn
Gillet
Long sleeved t-shirt
Strappy top x1
T-shirts x2
Long shorts x1

I did buy a floaty tunic, this years festival t-shirt, a festival vest top, a linen floaty top and a pair of harem pants. I wore the vest top on the last day so that explains why the last strappy top didn't get worn!!  There were also a lot of pairs of socks that didn't get warm as it was sandal weather a lot of the time and I DO NOT do socks and sandals!!

Overall I was pretty pleased with the levels of what got worn and what didn't.  Had it been cooler/wetter then I think the other bits would have been worn.

Maybe I'm finally getting better at packing!!!



Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Saving - or lack of it

I've always been pretty good with money (at least I like to think so!). Due to aquiring some money before Uni I managed to come out with only one student loan and as I was one of the first to get one the earnings threshold was ridiculously high and as yet I haven't had to start paying it back.

My job in London was well paid. Due to an error I went for quite some time without the incremental pay rise I should have received. When I spotted this it was backdated and my monthly salary adjusted to a new level. The lump sum I got went into a savings account (after a small treat) and I carried on living off my pre pay rise income and put the extra into a savings account each month. If there was any money left at the end of the month that went into savings too. I saved. I was a good saver. Yes I was a good spender too, trips to shows in London, purchases from eBay, but I still predominantly shopped in charity shops and was happy to do the grocery shopping at Lidl! I stuck to my means.

Fast forward to my current situation. I have taken a significant pay cut and am now paying out for two properties - as you can imagine, that doesn't compute!!  By the time I have paid all the bills for the flat I am trying to sell and the rent for where I am currently staying (which is well below 'market' rate and includes my bills) there is no money at the end of the month. Never mind no money to save, there is no money to eat, entertain, buy clothes or the occasional treat!! I am now living off those savings I so diligently put by. Don't get me wrong, I knew that would be the situation and because I made the effort to save I'm in a position where I can do this. I guess this counts as the proverbial 'rainy day'. What I didn't expect was how not being able to save would get to me.

I would like to go and see J, but to do that not only do I need the money to get there and back but I'd also need a new passport - that's £75 on it's own.

I'd really like one of these for my eBook reader - I don't need it true but it would be nice.



I've wanted this bracelet for ages...



I'd like to be able to go back to Kent and visit M. Head up north to see S & W...

I'm pretty much decided on my fourth tattoo...

In the past I would have said - OK then, lets save for that. Or if I can save half of the cost of it, I'll treat myself and take the other half from what I'd already saved. I'd sell some stuff on eBay.

But what do you do when there is no money left at the end of the month and everything you buy comes out of your savings? When you do pick up some extra work and get some extra cash it all goes in the same pot and in the long run the little voice in you head says you need to keep it so that it can pay for food etc in the future. It seems that much more frivolous to say 'OK, that was extra so I can spend it'.

I'm far from destitute, I know that, I have a roof over my head, food on the table etc etc. I also know that at some point if my flat doesn't sell I'll have to head back to Kent and get a job there, this can't go on indefinitely. Or (looking at the positive) if the flat does sell then problem solved! I'm just finding it a tough place to be right now...rant over!!!