Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I have a couple of exercise DVDs that are free to a good home.
One is a Tai Chi DVD, which I just didn't manage to get into. It is called Tai Chi For Relaxation and Good Health, and is the Hun Yuan Tai Chi 24 Form (if that means anything to you). It works in Region 2.
The other is for use with a Mini Trampoline. It is called PT Bouncer Complete Body Workout and is by Karl Frew. It doesn't have a region number, which may mean it is universal. But don't quote me on that. :-) It certainly works in Europe. This DVD I love, but unfortunately my bladder loses all control when I jump on Tigger (my mini trampoline). I can jog on him no problem, but jumping is a total disaster, and a lot of the DVD has you jumping fit to bust. I'm sick of peeing myself. LOLOL
So, rather than have these DVDs sitting in my home gathering dust, I thought I'd ask if anyone would like them.
If I get no takers I'll pop them down to the charity shop, but I wanted you guys to have first refusal.
If you are interested, sparkmail me and let me know. :-)
In other news...
Is it an age thing, I wonder? I don't recall having this issue some years ago when I last ate pesto. But now I burp for hours after eating it, and I have no idea why. At least they are cute little burps, not blasters! LOLOL
So, today has been a rest day. Timing is everything, and as it was the first rest day of the 30 day challenge, and TOM's full on day, I decided to take it really easy. TOM is being a literal pain this month. *sigh*
So, I've spent most of that day on Jigidi - the jigsaw website I love but haven't had so much time to play on recently. :-)
Mind you, I also did dishes, cooked a meal, and did some laundry, so it hasn't been a totally lazy day. :-)
But it has been lovely to just sit back and chill.
I hope you are having a good day. :-)
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
On Saturday morning I had the distinct delight of watching a Green Woodpecker spend half an hour in my back garden, rooting away in the grass for his breakfast, while I was preparing and cooking mine. :-)
I have never seen a woodpecker that close to me in my life. In fact, I've only seen them once before - at Highwoods a few months ago - for the very first time. So this seemed like a very significant sighting to me, and I wondered about the meaning.
Its arrival in my life coincided with a real change of direction for me, as my post that morning yielded conclusions to the main stress issues, as well as a lovely pressie from a friend, and I also plucked up the courage to attend an event at the Art Gallery that afternoon on my own. Going to events alone has never been something I felt comfortable doing, but somehow on Saturday I managed to change that and I'm so glad I did. :-)
I'm glad, because it seems to have also acted as a catalyst for other things to happen. I feel happier than I have in ages. More awake, eager, willing to make some changes in my life, because for some time now I have been in quite a rut in a lot of ways. Much as I love to do it, the combination of working from home and home-schooling has by its very nature made us a little isolated. At first it was by choice because of all the bullying Tara suffered. We both needed to retreat to lick our wounds. More recently though, I have wanted to spread my wings a little, and now opportunities to do so are turning up. Thank you Universe! :-)
They built The Golden Banana just for me. *grin*
Yesterday (Monday), I walked Sophie at Highwoods again, and as we walked around the third field, she went through a gap in the hedge that took us into a field we hadn't walked through before. Deciding to let Sophie choose the route I followed her, thinking the path through the field would wind to our right, and head us back to the track I'd been aiming for anyway.
But I was wrong.
Instead, it veered left, taking us to a path that necessitated us walking past The Big Garden, which is a project funded by The National Lottery, the local council and various other bodies such as the North East Essex Primary Care Trust.
Every time I've walked by there has been no one about. The garden is only funded to be open for a few hours a week, and never when I've been passing. My timing has never been all that good. *grin*
But this time there were people there, and although I walked on by for a moment, something compelled me to backtrack and attract someone's attention. A young man near the gate said hello, and directed me to Jo, the lady in charge, and she came over to the gate. She said Sophie could come in if she was on a lead, so in we went, and we were given a little tour of the garden. Within a few minutes I found myself opening my mouth and asking if I could volunteer there!
Now, this seems a weird thing for me to do. Both my girls' jaws dropped when I told them. Tara's was easy to watch as it hit her laptop with a thud, and I heard Bry's hit her kitchen floor with an audible slap when I told her over the phone! LOL
You see, I'm not much of a gardener, as the state of mine will attest. It is probably why the birds love it so much. My garden looks as wild as Highwoods most of the time. The first year we were here I did try growing some herbs and veg, and it went very well. I had courgettes and beetroot, carrots and peas all growing like crazy. Everything I planted grew.
The second year, though, the slugs and snails moved in and ate everything I tried to grow.
I was put off after that, and although the herb garden kept going, I gave up on the veg, and my health also took a bit of a nosedive, which didn't help.
Then the bramble took over and that was that!
So, you see, me asking to work in a garden, digging, and making compost and all that kind of thing, is a very strange thing for me to do. I don't like what I term 'icky-stickys' either. LOL
AND there's a wasp nest right at the entrance with a big warning sign, and I REALLY don't like them!
But I knew I had felt the need to ask for a reason, and so I told Jo I'd start next Monday. They are open on Mondays and Thursdays from 10am-1pm, and every other Saturday from 11am-3pm. I plan to make Monday my regular day, and do Thursdays as well when time permits.
There are obvious benefits to this of course. :-)
I'll be out in the fresh air. I'll be getting exercise. I'll be learning about organic gardening through hands-on experience instead of trial and error through reading a book. They'll have all the tools and things I need to use. And I'll be in the company of people who will be interesting to get to know.
Also, all the volunteers get a share of the produce that is grown there. A definite bonus, that is! :-)
All the way home I thought about what I'd done, and the more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether the Woodpecker had something to do with it. So when I got home I pulled out my copy of Ted Andrew's book Animal Speak and looked up the Woodpecker.
Oh my! So much of what he says about the Woodpecker made so much sense to my situation. The very last line though, was what captured my total attention. It quite simply said:
"It is now safe to follow your own rhythms."
And that is the truth of the matter. I need 'safe'!
Fear is my issue. Fear is what always holds me back. Fear stops me from doing so many things. But now I seem to be gradually conquering that fear, bit by bit, step by step, and I'm allowing myself to try things I wouldn't normally be willing to do because of my fear.
First the talk at the Art Gallery, and now volunteering in the Big Garden.
I wonder what opportunity might present itself next? :-)
Changing the subject...
My exercise plans had a week or so off during and after Bry's visit. I just really needed a bit of a break from the usual routine to recharge my batteries and try and cope with the stress.
But I started back on Sunday, using my new Cyberbike, and doing a few dances with Just Dance.
Monday saw me starting a second 30-day challenge on my EA Sports Active Personal Trainer. I've set it to medium intensity this time, because, apart from a couple of things like squat holds, I was finding it wasn't pushing me on the easy setting.
Not so easy now! :-) Yesterday's session was around 20 minutes, and had me doing more and lower squats than I would normally do. It was hard, but I did them. I'm pleased about that, but was more pleased to find that today's workout was squat-free, thank the gods! LOL
Today's workout was 26 minutes long, with lots of lunges of various types and lots of upper body work. I enjoyed it more than yesterday's workout, but I was really sweating from the exertion by about halfway through, which is great, and on both days my limbs were a little shaky by the end of the workout.
This is what I need - to be more challenged by strength training. If I lift weights I don't feel pushed and I don't push myself much at all, but for some reason this game pushes me and I don't want to admit defeat so I go past my comfort zone! :-)
Tomorrow is a rest day. As before, there are 20 workouts and 10 rest days. I'm looking forward to seeing how well I get on this time. :-)
With all that, plus well over an hour walking with Sophie on Monday, and a 30 minute aerobic workout today (Tue), I'm finding my enthusiasm is back. I haven't quite made my step counts daily, but I'm less concerned about that now.
Technically I'm on a target of 7400 steps a day (which I did make today actually) but I'm letting Active Health say how many steps it thinks I should be able to manage for a change. :-) The game thought I could do 8100, and I've not managed that yet this week. Also, TOM kicked in today - four days early - which doesn't bode well for the rest of the week's step count either. :-) I am very very achy today.
Wow! I got a bit serious today, didn't I! :-) But you can probably gather that I've been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days. I guess this blog is part of that process. Writing out your thoughts can be quite helpful I find. It tends to help me get my thought processes organised.
For now though, it is time to give that process a break and get myself off to bed. :-) The Woodpecker may be opening up my mental faculties, but mental faculties also need sleep. LOL
Hope you are all well.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Meet the Golden Banana:
It has also been called many far less flattering names, including the £28 Million Pound Bling Bikeshed. An ironic title, considering one of my favourite exhibits is entitled Two Cows, which is artist Subodh Gupta's impression of the streets in his hometown of Khagaut in India and is a blend of golden bicycles and silver milk churns. The cow is a sacred animal in Hindu society as a symbol of unselfish giving. :-)
This page wafts through some of the art on display, including Two Cows:
To then come face to face a little further down with Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup II - Oyster Stew was quite a surprise as I've always wondered why anyone would pay a fortune for a picture of a tin of soup. I must admit though that getting the chance to look closely at the work, I am very impressed with his skill, and therefore I felt compelled to give homage to Andy Warhol's talent in my own style...
My own version of Campbell's Soup - The Devine Celery On Teatowel!
Of course, the choice of Oyster Stew was to tie in with the exhibit celebrating the Oyster Feast that stood close by. Ancient and modern seeing as the feast dates back to Roman times. :-)
I love a good segway! LOL
I have to say that, despite all the controversy (and there has been a lot), I liked the opportunity to be so close to famous works of art. The gallery is a 20-25 minute walk from my house, and is free to browse through, which makes it a real draw when you are strapped for cash (and the walk includes steep hills, so great exercise can be had too).
They do have collection boxes dotted about, and we will contribute to those when we can, but to know that, for example, you can view JMW Turner's sketch book for nothing! What a privilege!
The firstsite (no capital letter) gallery (its real name) has been a long and painful conception, pregnancy and delivery. Beset by problems from the start, it is a minor miracle that it finally opened in September this year.
I was first aware of the plans back around 2005, when the final four designs for the building were made public in the local newspaper, and I wish I could show you what the choices were, because there was one that seemed to be a front runner for a while, that I and many others claimed resembled a lump of liver!
I am very glad that the Golden Banana won out in the end (I'll eat liver, but draw the line at liver eating me! ;-) ), and the architect - Rafael Viñoly - I personally think is very talented. I am not fond of all modern art or all modern architecture. In fact, when I first saw the almost finished building I was shocked by its similarity to a well-wrapped and strangely shaped Christmas Present! The resemblance so struck me that I was tempted to enquire as to where they planned to place the ribbon and bow! :-)
But the building has grown on me. :-)
For details about the design, and the innovative foundations that stop the building from damaging the ancient archaology beneath, this link includes explanations by the architect himself:
Sadly, amongst other issues, the original contractors claimed to have the skills to carry the work out, but didn't, and from what I gather there may have also been some financial shenanigans by some of the council members. There are certainly suggestions that more money has disappeared than is accounted for, and amongst other things around £1.5 million is being claimed back from the original contractors. Time will tell what really happened during the six years this has been going on.
Our MP has been against the project from the start and still refuses to support it, claiming he is speaking for us all, which he most certainly isn't. There is certainly a lot of negativity about it, many people moaning about the bus station having to be first shrunk, and eventually moved in order to make room for the gallery! A strange objection to my mind, but each to their own opinion...
But getting back to the positives, I also love that apart from the Berryfield Mosaic (housed under glass in the floor as shown in the photo below), all exhibits are temporary, and will be changed every eight weeks or so, which will mean I'll keep wanting to go back and see what's new.
I love that there is such a marriage of the ancient and the modern encompassed in the whole thing too. From the Roman artifacts, to the latest in Resin Art, the first exhibit has married the two beautifully, in my view.
I also did something I would never have dreamed of doing before. I booked a seat for a talk on the Berryfiend Mosaic, which was hosted in the auditorium (see pic). It seats just under 200 people and was about half full for the talk, so not a bad attendance. I was nervous about going alone, but I wasn't the only singleton, and the talk was fascinating, so well worth the walk and the time, and it was free too!
So, when did we first visit?
On the Wednesday of Bryony's stay we made our way to the gallery for the first time, and we even had lunch in the cafe. The chips were served in miniature wire baskets of the design you see in chip shops, with perfume bottle style vinegar sprayers, and little pots of garlic mayonnaise. Bryony and I also tried a Portobello Mushroom, Goat's Cheese and Pesto Sandwich, and it was delicious!
I made a wee fool of myself, not being sure what was in the spray bottle at first, and after spraying it on a chip and not tasting anything, I remarked to Bryony that it may be a spray for washing our hands after eating the chips, in which case the staff in the distance had probably had a good laugh, watching me spray it on a chip! LOL
Turns out, it was vinegar, so I was right the first time. I asked one of the waitresses in the end, because I am not one to shy from looking a fool in order to get the right information! The only silly question is the unasked one! :-) I told her what I'd said to Bryony and she laughed with me, saying the bottles confuse a lot of people. :-)
A few minutes later I almost made a very embarrassing mistake, and tried to walk into the gents instead of the ladies. Fortunately, Bry spotted my error and called me before I got as far as the door. LOL
Even the loos are modern art, with waterfalls instead of sinks. I loved that, once I'd figured out how they worked. :-) The loos, you will be pleased to know are conventional designs, and clean. (Some designs shouldn't be messed with! LOL)
But I got away with my pride intact, and we all enjoyed our visit. :-)
I hope you have enjoyed this little taster, and if you ever visit Colchester, you will have to visit The Golden Banana, because love it or hate it, you have to be able to say you tried it! :-)
Sunday, November 20, 2011
You may want to go get a cuppa or something before you start reading this. I have a feeling this is going to be a long, long blog! For your reading ease, and in case you have to come back to it later, I've split it into chapters. LOL
The last two weeks has been chaotic. There has been some very stressful moments, some so silly it made me roar with laughter moments, some unbelievable - if it hadn't happened to me I'd never have believed it - moments, some very enjoyable moments, some family fun moments, and very little sleep, until last night, when I had the first solid 8 hours undisturbed in two and a half months!
Let's get the stressful moments out of the way first:
Chapter 1: The Stressful Moments Saga:
The local council suspended my rent payments on the 2nd November because the woman who came to my house on the 1st September put me down as having a change of circumstances! It took them until the 2nd November to reach my paperwork in the pile, and I got the letter a week later (9th), causing major panic on my part, on top of the low level of worry as to why it was taking so long to sort it out in the first place.
I phoned the council and I found out there was also a second letter floating about with conflicting info on it. Panic deepens! I end up writing a letter explaining my business, my failure to sell anything (makes you so embarrassed to have to admit that!), and my slight change of direction - which only meant that instead of concentrating more on part B of my business, I'm now concentrating more on part A. Hardly a change of circumstances when it is only a minor shift. Geeze!
I took the letter and the other paperwork they asked for into town the next day (Thur 10th), and sat for 3/4 hour waiting to be seen. The chap who took my paperwork only does that. He doesn't make any decisions, and he tells me that it will be 2-3 weeks before I'll hear the results. I point out the facts that...
a) the woman saw all my paperwork when she visited on Sept 1st.
b) there has been no change of circumstances!
He tells me that if she saw my paperwork he can't understand why they would need to see it again, and that the letter I got is a standard one built up from a drop down list of comments! That the 'change of circumstances' paragraph was probably the nearest of these to the situation!!!!!!!
Am I irritated by this? Youbetchya! Do I rip into him? No! He didn't write the letter. Was I restrained? Darned tootin! Do I deserve a medal? Youbetchya! *grin*
So I go from sleeping for about 3-4 hours, then tossing and turning for the rest of the night, to barely sleeping at all! All this finally ended yesterday, when the letters came confirming that they were still willing to assist with the rent costs. The relief was immense! Last night I could barely keep my eyes open, and when my head hit the pillow I knew no more for 8 hours, and even then I turned over and went right back to sleep for another hour! *happy sigh*
Chapter 2: The So Silly It Made Me Roar With Laughter Moments
I was wandering round Waitrose on Friday 11th, when my mobile rang. It was Tara. Apparently the delivery van guy had knocked on our door. She didn't answer because she wasn't dressed and we weren't expecting anything. She figured that they must have got the wrong door. Well he disappeared, but a couple of minutes later he came back and put a note through the letterbox to say our delivery had been left two doors down.
I told Tara not to worry. He's normally pretty good but it is entirely possible that his mind was on something else and he meant to go next door, because they regularly get stuff delivered from him too. I said I'd sort it out when I got back.
And I did. I dropped the groceries off, grabbed the note and went to the neighbours two doors down to see the package, genuinely expecting to see my neighbour's name on the label.
But no... it was actually my name! I thanked the chap for being kind enough to take it in and I walked back to the house.
I took the parcel to the kitchen and put it on the table. It had my name on it and was from the Very catalogue company.
I'm not a customer of theirs!
I've never even asked for a catalogue from them.
I don't know anyone who does have their catalogue!
But here is a parcel from them, addressed to me!
So, I opened it...
No, it wasn't an inflatable leg! LOL
It was two bottles of Nivea products!
There was no note, no return slip, nothing! Just these two bottles of body firming cream and celulite cream! Thanks universe! You trying to tell me something? *shakes fist at rude person who thinks I'd benefit from celulite cream!* LOLOLOL
Fortunately, there was a phone number on the packaging, so I rang it...
After going through those annoying chains of 'to pay your bill, press 1, to get more and more frustrated because you aren't speaking to a human being yet press 2,' etc I finally found a human being...
"Can I have your account number please?"
"I don't have one."
"Would you like to open an account with us?"
"Um, are you ringing to pay a bill?" (think about this question, considering my response to questions 1 and 2 LOL)
"No, I'm not, and I'll bet you can't guess why I'm phoning today!"
*silent confusion ensues at the other end*
I explain that I have received a parcel from them but that I don't have an account. I am laughing (possibly hysterically) by this point because, given the last couple of stressful days, this is the insanity icing on the stressful cake!
I tell her what came, and she tells me I need to ring their Fraud Office!
Well, that wiped the smile off my face, I can tell you!
She gave me their number.
I rang them.
It turned out that the Nivea creams were a free gift offered to customers who bought certain items. For some reason that they were in the process of investigating, instead of these customers getting the products the items were being sent out to random other people.
It also turned out that the company also runs the Littlewoods catalogue, which I do have, and they had found that it was customers from Littlewoods who were receiving the free gifts.
The very sweet young woman I was speaking to said, and I quote:
"Firstly, you don't have to worry, because no one has tried to open an account in your name." (sigh of relief from me)
"Secondly - and I don't know how to say this without possibly causing offence - so I'll just say it..."
"If you can make use of the product..." (remember, this is celulite cream)
I burst out laughing.
"Or if you know someone who can use it..."
Now we are both laughing.
"Then you are welcome to keep it, or just get rid of it, if it's of no use to you."
I thanked her and commiserated that of all the types of products going astray, it had to be something like this she was dealing with. LOLOL
Before I'd made the first call, because I couldn't think who else to ask, I'd already texted Bryony to ask her if she had sent me any pressies via the Very catalogue (not believing for a moment that she would be so insensitive, but you never know, and she was the only family member or friend that I knew had a catalogue of any kind)
She texted back as the conversation with the fraud lady was coming to an end (oblivious to what the parcel actually contained).
"Sorry Mum, wasn't me. Perhaps you have an admirer!"
That kind of admirer I can well do without! LOLOLOLOL
Chapter 3: The 'if it hadn't happened to me I'd never have believed it' moment!
Do you remember the saga of the Water Company? That ended when they cancelled the £76 odd bill by way of apology for mucking me about and said I only had to pay for my metered water.
One of you who commented predicted that it may not be over - clever clogs! LOLOL
How right you were. :-)
I received the revised bill alright, but last Monday (14th) I got 4 (count them) FOUR! bills through the letterbox from Anglian Water! One bill for the amount they were supposed to have cancelled. One bill for that plus 10 days metered water. One bill for that plus 4 months metered water, and one for a whole year's unmetered water - total value of all four bills: £798.54
I was furious! I grabbed a glass of water and the phone, and rang the number that the Customer Services Manager had given me a couple of weeks earlier.
I asked for her, but she wasn't available, and the poor girl I was speaking to uttered those fateful words...
"Can I help at all?"
"I hope so," I replied, "I got 4 bills from Anglian Water this morning", and told her what came.
She looked up my account details.
Apparently, some bright spark in the accounts department had reversed everything that the Manager had done, and generated the four bills to be re-issued!
The lady I spoke to was very efficient, and sensing that I was pretty sick of the whole thing (I wonder how she could tell) she was quick to say that she would correct all the latest changes, AND knock another £20 off the bill to cover the cost of my phonecalls! Would you believe this idiot she was correcting had even switched me back off the So Lo tariff to the normal costs?
She also told me that the person responsible would get a talking to from their supervisor. I told her a swift kick up the patoot works wonders in my experience! *grin* I'd calmed down by then and I was joking with her that at the rate things were going, they'd end up owing ME money!!! I also said I'd had so much paperwork from them over the last couple of months that I could wallpaper a wall in my kitchen with paper to spare!
Had enough yet? LOL
Chapter 4: A Visitor for a Couple of Days
Bryony arrived on Monday evening (14th) bearing gifts - the signed copy of the Jacqueline Wilson Book for Tara and Maureen Lipman's latest called I Must Collect Myself for me. (I Love Maureen Lipman!). I filled her in on the water company fun and games and the Very fiasco, and asked her if she could think of anyone we could offer the celulite cream to who wouldn't be offended.
She has decided to do the world a favour (and save us some potential embarrassment, LOL) and be a test subject by using the creams as prescribed on one half of her body only and we'll let you know the results in a couple of weeks! LOL
We had a lovely time. I needed the distraction to counteract the extreme stress caused by the council, so Bry was just what the doctor ordered. On Tuesday she and I took Sophie for a really long walk at Highwoods (4 miles or more). On Wednesday we took Tara into town and ended up at the new Art Gallery - The Golden Banana (more on that in a later blog).
On Thursday we had another nice walk at Highwoods, and it was great to see that now the weather temp has dropped sufficiently, Sophie can handle walks up there again. :-) We also bumped into Bill (my lovely gentleman friend) and his lab Mollie, and Tara (my policewoman friend) and her two labs Basil and Baxter. So it was a nicely sociable occassion. :-)
Bry left on Thursday afternoon when her friend picked her up in her car. Friend and her dog Alfie had been going to arrive early enough to join us on our walk, but there was a change of plans so we only had Alfie for a few minutes. Long enough for him to demolish Sophie's food and try to steal his ball back that they left a while ago to replace the one of Sophie's that he chewed up. LOL
Chapter 5: The Rest of the Time
Friday I chilled out, catching up with sparking a little, and deciding that I need to think about my exercise routine. I decided that I can't always exercise for long enough to make my minimum step count every day. 7400 steps is about 3 1/2 miles a day, and can take up to 90 minutes to accumulate, depending on the type of exercising, and with more time being taken by strength training, which is naturally low in stepcount, it makes the amount of exercise I'm doing take up too much of my day. So I'm working out options at the moment.
Saturday was full of good news for a change. The council send a letter confirming that they were still assisting with paying my rent (for now anyway), and the latest bills from Anglian Water with all the corrections, and the latest money off arrived (which also showed that the So Lo tariff had never been properly applied in the first place!).
I also got a lovely belated birthday pressie from my bestest friend, that she was embarrassed to admit she had forgotten to post, but to be fair she has had a lot on her plate lately, and I never take offence about things like that. :-) It was a booklet of crochet patterns using slip-stitch. I'm looking forward to having a play with it. :-)
I walked to the Art Gallery in the afternoon, to attend a talk on the Berryfield Mosaic, which was fascinating. Again, more on the Golden Banana in another blog. :-) Suffice to say that although I was a bit nervous about going alone, I'm glad I plucked up the courage because it is nice to have something to do that got me out of the house and chatting to people who aren't 15 years old and pokemon crazy! LOL
Well, I still have a few hours of work to do because I deliberately took a few days break while Bry was here and I have a minimum quota of hours to reach.
Sorry this was so long. I hope there was something in here to entertain you though, and maybe make you LOL.
Oooh, and the reason for the blog title? I nearly forgot to say. :-)
I've been using my new Exercise Bike - the one that works with the Wii - and my bum is numb. LOLOL
Catch you with my next blog - The Golden Banana, and How It Nearly Became The Lump of Liver! :-)
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