Author

I'm a part-time writer, full-time mother and dog-walker living in a small English village by the sea with my husband, daughter and a dog named Doc.

All posts by Dean B

Help! I’m Turning into a Couch Potato

Before the start of the new year, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves and we bought a new smart TV.  We buy all of our appliances from Woolacotts in Bude.  This isn’t a sponsored post, by the way, we’re just really pleased with their customer service, so if you live in Cornwall or Devon and need to purchase any appliances, do head over, I’m sure they’ll be as good as our local one.

Ben, our ever-helpful salesman from Woolacotts helped us choose a Sony Bravia smart TV.  When I mentioned that we wanted to subscribe to Netflix, he shook his head and said “Oh you don’t need Netflix” and introduced us to an app called KODI.  Apparently this app will allow you to streamline all kinds of TV shows and movies, even new movies or ones that hasn’t even been shown in movie theatres yet.  Is it legal?  Yes, it is.  To quote entertainmentbox.com.

Kodi is a piece of streaming software designed to display on a range of devices, and that means it’s perfectly legal.

I know that it sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t.  There are times when the movie you want to watch won’t be available for streaming.  But we don’t have any problems with that, especially when it means not having to pay for subscription!

So yep, my #wotw is TV.  And yes, I’ve also officially been turned into a couch potato.  To be fair though, I do watch while doing chores, especially ironing and yes, gasp, I know, I’m probably the only one who still irons.  Posted this photo on my Instagram account a few days ago:

And all the comments I received was that apparently, ironing is an extinct chore.   I can’t do without ironing, one of my small-joys is having freshly laundered and ironed sheets.  Love it too much to want to give it up.

And meet my TV partner:  Doc.

Now excuse since I have to catch up with my Grey’s Anatomy viewing.  I want to watch that episode where Derek Shepherd – McDreamy dies.

The Reading Residence

A Little Accident

The weather has been really bad lately.  It’s been cold, grey and wet which means our little shit  I mean bundle of fur – Boots, has been refusing to go out to do her business.  I don’t really blame her really, the not-wanting-to-go out part, every time I open the door to let her out she gives me this “You’ve got to be kidding me” look that never fails to make me laugh.

I’m not laughing now.

A few days ago, we’ve just discovered that she’s been using the back of our TV as her very own en-suite.  At first, we though the culprit was Doc, since we’ve caught him several times snuggled behind the TV, but the poo was too small (sorry folks).  As of writing, she’s banned from the living room when no one is there.  At night, I let her sleep in a Bolga basket in the landing upstairs.  In the morning, I throw her out and she spends most of her time in the boot room with the fan-light open so she can come as she pleases.  When everyone is downstairs, only then is she allowed in with us.  Yes, I know, I’m cruel.

I need some advice.  While I’ve obviously cleaned behind the TV, sprayed a combination of white vinegar and water solution, dabbed some baking powder on it, the stench is still there.  Yesterday, I did the same.  Sprayed it again with my home-made solution, but this time after doing that, I also used carpet cleaner.  It’s better now, but the smell of cat pee still lingers.  I hate that smell!

I’ve read that as long as the stench is there, chances are they’ll do it again.  Hence, the ban from the living room when no one is there.

Thoughts anyone?

ANIMALTALES

Kids Say the Darnest Things

“I’m so fat mum!

“Silly one, you’re as thin as a reed” I reply getting worried about how at such an early age she’s worried about her weight already.  You know when you’re a mum or dad and your child suddenly blurts out something and your head suddenly goes haywire and think of the worse scenarios in your head?  Yes that one …

Is it something she heard from the playground?  What has she been watching on youtube?  Have I complained about my weight in front of her lately?  No, I haven’t done that in ages, at least I’m not aware of doing it.  Oh my God!  Does my daughter have a poor body image?  Does this mean she’ll end up bulimic or anorexic?

And then I shushed the crazy-woman in my head and calmly asked T why she thinks she’s fat. My six-year-old replies nonchalantly:  Well, as you know, I have two Baby Alive dolls – Holly and Ivy and mums get fat after having babies.

Crazy-woman in my head explodes again …. Are you saying I’m fat?!

Husband lying beside me starts to giggle and whispers “She walked right into that one, didn’t she?”

Daughter calibrates instantly and declares “No you’re not!”

But the little bugger is actually giggling.

Life with children is never boring, isn’t it?

Has your little one said anything funny lately?

Little Hearts, Big Love

Word of the Week: 2016

This is might be considered a belated post, since we’re well into 2017 now.  Strange, but usually when the start of a new year has begun, it takes me awhile to get used to writing whatever new year we’re in, but not this year.  I think I’m used to it already.

The beginning of 2016 was a difficult time for us as a family.  We were going through the process of selling our home and buying a house we’ve fallen in love with.  If you’ve been reading my blog for some time now, you might remember that all that fell apart late March. The whole experience traumatised us, not only because house-buying-selling in England as everyone knows (well at least the ones who’ve gone through it) is a pain in the neck.  But mostly it was because of the incompetence of our solicitor and the Cornwall council but I won’t get into the details, that’s all in the past now.  Good-bye 2016, I am so over you.

The year improved as we found a different house, moved in, licked our wounds clean and eventually settled in our new home.  This year our little family has also managed to form new-significant relationships with special people, that definitely was a bonus and almost made up for our harrowing experience earlier in 2016.

While we or I don’t have any grand plans this year, my only wish is that there would be continued good health in our little family, my family back home and my extended family here in England.

My word of the week, although it isn’t a word, but a number is 2016.

What is yours?

The Reading Residence

Did Christmas Really Happen?

I know it’s only the second week of the new year and already the Christmas season seems like a thing of the past already – that is so 2016!  Already I have tulips on my mantelpiece already which really makes me happy.  In spite the dreary days and cold weather, dare I say it? I think spring might just be on its way.

Of course, I see evidence that it did happen.  I still have a Christmas tapestry given to me by my in-laws which we put in the landing upstairs, still lying on the floor, waiting to be put away in the box.  I keep forgetting!  And since the weather has been really bad lately, I’ve kept a couple of fairy lights and strung them over our bookcase in the living room.  In the late-afternoon, when it’s really depressing and I’m sitting in our lounge glaring at our fire that won’t work again, I switch the fairy lights on and it cheers me up instantly.  It’s all about the small joys people 😉

And we actually still have what T calls a “chocolate” corner, which really should be a “sweets” corner since we also have candy cane left-overs which we used to decorate the tree with and the chocolate!  There are only  a  few left now, but I sometimes wonder if it’s somehow a “magic” corner, because no matter how little there are left, and no matter how much T and the Historian eats them (they both love sweets), there’s always some left over!

January here in England is not for the faint-hearted.  I think you have to be made of sterner stuff to let it not get to you.  But my skin is getting thicker now, calloused even.  I won’t lie and say it’s not affecting me or my mood, but I’m getting better at this dealing-with-awful-winter-days.  I get on with it, or as my dear mother-in-law once told me “You just plod on”.  So here I am plodding on… get on with January!

What about you?

Are you ready for spring too?

Of Mad Men and Talks of Home

How many times have we heard that?  Or read it?  It’s a lovely saying isn’t it, comforting even.  For the longest time though, every time I mention home, I always mean, my home-country, where I’m from.  When I say “I’m going home” or “I want to go home”, it usually means back to the Phil, when in truth, I haven’t lived there since 2007.

Ever since we’ve had T, my husband and I planned that once she finishes primary school, we’d head back to live there.  If my husband had his way, he’d stick to the plan, or even make it happen tomorrow if he could.

It just doesn’t work that way, does it?  We’re thinking of his parents, they are getting older and we wouldn’t want to leave them.  And then because of current events, we are having to re-think our plans.

A few nights ago, feeling disheartened with the way things are also turning out in England and work-wise, he turned to me and said “Fancy living in some other country in Europe, say France?”  I replied, “Can’t.  We don’t speak French.  I don’t think we can survive with the little French words we know”.

The truth is, ever since a mad man has been elected to the highest office in my country, the desire to go home is slowly being dampened.  That little flame is diminishing bit by bit as I read the latest news online, although my husband thinks he isn’t a mad man and calls him a “fraud”, a jokester.  Sadly, I think he is right.  And because of this clown, I don’t think of my birth-country as home anymore.

Why would I want to live in a place where I won’t feel safe, where I won’t feel my husband and daughter will be safe? And to quote my favourite actress, Meryl Streep who has been in the limelight lately because of her speech in the recent Golden Globe awards:

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.

Meryl Streep

Sadly, this is the world we live in right now.  I don’t think there is a place safer in this world where we can move to, to ensure the safety of our daughter, digging the deepest hole in the ground won’t do to hide from the bullies in the world.

My home is my family.  At the moment, it is this cold detached 400-year-old house by the coast where I’m finding out its walls get mouldy in the winter and the fires won’t work all the time.  Indeed, home is where the heart is.  In my home, no bullies are allowed.  And I also like what TS Elliot wrote …

Home is where one starts from.

Indeed it is.

Where is home to you?

A Country Kid’s Post: Winter on The Beach

This is actually a late-post.  Like most people who live by the coast on Boxing day, we found ourselves blowing cobwebs at our go-to-beach, Widemouth Bay which is a mere ten-minute drive from where we live.

And of course, it being a holiday, there were a lot of people on the beach although they aren’t shown in the photos.  T also took her Baby Alive doll on the beach with her, a present she asked from Father Christmas.

Are you familiar with Baby Alive dolls?  They are a bit freaky.  I ought to write about them on a different post and you’ll know why.

T gives Holly, her doll, a piggyback ride all the way back to the car.

Yes, it was time to go home.

Have you visited the beach lately?

Country Kids

Hello January, Hello 2017

Lots of people go mad in January.  Not as many as in May, of course. Nor June. But January is your third most common month of madness.

Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Kanary

And so Christmas and the New Year has come and gone.  I don’t know about you, but it always feels like it happens in a bit of a blur, like a photograph taken in motion, a fusion of colours and memories, over and done with, until the next Christmas.  Hope everyone has had a lovely time, albeit the madness.

Ah January, hello you, broody-grey-skies and cold, you.  It’s the time of the year where everything seems to happen in slow-motion, especially the days and all the noises, the ticking of the clock, a phone ringing in an empty house is amplified, as if the sound is in your head.  No, I haven’t gone bonkers, at least, I don’t think so.  But that’s how I feel at the moment.  The Historian has gone off and dropped my cousin at the University of Reading.  He also has a meeting tomorrow, so it’s just me, Doc and Boots bumbling along together in this cold-bleak January day.  T comes home later, only then will the house awaken.

Back to Basics

I’ve also decided to go back to basics with this whole blogging business.  Last year, I thought I’d give it a go and try to make it more “commercial”, whatever that means.  I fell in a rabbit hole of blogging groups and learning about DAs, and pumping up your stats and all that and the more I did it, the more I felt that every fibre in me was protesting, so I’m done with that now.  Don’t get me wrong though, while I loved the community and the bloggers behind them, in the end, it just became too much for me.

I guess it also comes down to personality.  I’ve always been a solo person.  I like doing my own thing and I’ve also been blogging on and off for more than a decade now.  Does anyone remember blogspot?  I guess that also shows my age…

I’m going back to writing the way I want, because I have this need to write.

I’m not going to be a hypocrite though and say that I’m going to stop accepting sponsored and collaborative posts.  If they come and it’s a good fit with Little Steps, I will say yes.  I’ve learned though to be choosy on what projects and fees to accept.  At the moment, admittedly most of the time, I decline the offers especially when it is too low.

Dear PRs, I do value my time and what I do and write in this little blog of mine.  No, I won’t just accept your offer, even though you all act as if I should be thrilled with the fact that you’ve gotten in touch.  Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way and no, I don’t accept follow-links.  Thank you for getting in touch with Little Steps.

I’m still going to join a few linkies like #countrykids, mostly because I’m friends with the blogger who runs it.  I have a couple of other favourites too like #animaltales and #wotw.  Linkies I’ve been joining in the past couple of years, I do enjoy linking-up with these lovely bloggers.

That’s what 2017 holds for me – going back to the basics, finding my voice again, being authentic.  I wish I could declare that I have big dreams or plans for 2017.  But I don’t.  Like most frustrated writers, I still have that unwritten novel in my head, countless short-stories to edit and write, poems screaming to be written.  I’m afraid I have forsaken my muse.  I’m ready to go down on my knees and plead with her/him – so mote it be.

Any big plans for 2017?

The Story Behind some of our Christmas Decorations

I got this idea of buying a special Christmas tree decoration each year and allowing T to choose it from one of my oldest blogger friend Kate of Did That Just Happen Blog.  She did it with her son who is all grown up now and is in University.  Today she has a Christmas tree filled with wonderful memories!  I love that idea.

We started when T was three-years-old, I wish I had started when she was one.  But better late than never.

This was her first ever special decoration, we got it in a National Trust property where she also met her first Tudor Father Christmas, you can read all about it here.

In 2014, we spent Christmas with my in-laws at Woburn Sands.  While there we visited Frosts Garden centre to specifically choose a special Christmas tree ornament, luckily they were on sale.  T choose a vintage Father Christmas and Christmas Reindeer:

This is made of glass and is very delicate.  I used to decorate our kitchen in the old house, so of course, I also did it this year, especially since it’s the first room you’ll see once you step in our front-door.

I’ve decorated it with a garland and hang some of my glass baubles including the vintage Father Christmas.  Not clear on the photo is the vintage Christmas reindeer seen on the left side.

And of course, also decorated the mantel shelf above the kitchen fire.

Yes, I also have Christmas crockery, some of them were given to me by my lovely in-laws.  They know how much I love anything to do with Christmas.

And this was last year’s special choice:  Mr. and Mrs. Clause kissing.

And this year’s choice was a very sparkly penguin.  T said her Christmas rabbit needed a friend.  She bought that when we picked up our tree from the tree farm and that is why, when you have a small child, it’s impossible to have a “theme” going on in your Christmas tree.  I think all parents with young children have the “everything-and-anything-goes-theme”.

Now for my favourite Christmas tree ornaments:

I have a thing for glass Christmas ornaments, especially baubles.  I blame my mother for this, yes, she loves them too.  I couldn’t sleep last night, so I had the iPad in bed and was browsing through M&S’ website and was drooling over their Christmas decors which were on sale.  I told my husband about it this morning and he laughed and teased me and called it “Dean’s Christmas Porn” and then told me to just buy the blimming baubles, so I went online to purchase them and of course, they’re all gone.  Story of my life.

And I adore this little breakable Father Christmas, also vintage-looking.

I also love this angel ornament which I bought when we visited St. Michael’s mount in Penzance more than a few years ago.  I have this feeling though that it isn’t really a Christmas decoration, but is actually the Archangel Michael who supposedly appeared before local fishermen on the mount in the 5th century.  I don’t really care, I love seeing it up there on our tree.

And then there’s this tacky Christmas fire-guard my husband bought in Trelawney, a garden centre nearby.  There’s a little story attached to this one.  The Historian bought this fireguard not for this house, but for another house which had an open-fire and two wood-burning stoves.  We were supposed to move into it early this year.  We were all packed and about to exchange when the house-sale fell through.  If you’ve been following me for some time now, you  may have just read about the whole fiasco in past posts.

When we moved in our present home, my husband looked at our gas-fire and said, I’m still using that blimming Christmas fire guard  even if you all point and laugh.  To be fair, nobody is pointing and laughing, but yep it’s out and is staying there all through out the Christmas season, whether I have a say or not.

What about you?

Do you do this tradition?  Or have one of your own?

A Country Kid’s Post: Searching for that Special Christmas Tree

For the past five years or so, we’ve been going to one particular Christmas tree farm that’s a bit of a drive away from where we live.  When T wasn’t in school yet, it was easy to go to, since we had all the time in the world to drive to it.  But it’s not so easy now that she’s in school, so when close friends of ours (whom we always go with when picking out a tree) suggested that we go to one that’s within easy drive to us, we readily said yes of course, although admittedly a small part of me was a bit saddened that we weren’t going to our usual place.  When you’re pressed for time, you don’t have much choice do you?

Last Thursday, after picking-up T and her friend from school, two families went to a Christmas tree farm in search of that special Christmas tree.

 It was getting dark, so we had very little time to choose.  In the end though, we chose a slimmer and tall tree.  I wanted something more fuller, but we were losing light, so we had to decide fast.

While this Christmas tree farm was conveniently closer to where we lived, it wasn’t as big as the other one and they also didn’t label their trees.  It was easier to find the kind of Christmas tree you wanted in the old one, where they purposely planted the same kind whether you wanted a Blue Spruce, or a Nordman Fir.  They also had information about each tree up in signs.  As the Cornish would say “a proper job!”.

We couldn’t wait of course and started decorating as soon as we got in.

And here it is, standing tall in our conservatory.  I’m not that pleased with the shape of this tree, I think our most perfect shaped Christmas tree was the one we had last year.

It’s definitely Christmas in our house!  Is it in yours?