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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 09:44pm on 27/12/2011 under , , ,
Jane and I wanted to do something different than just going to her parents' place for Christmas day this year. We talked to each other's parents and offered to have them all at our house for lunch/dinner/some other mutually acceptable combination of food & drink. We thought it would be a suitable introduction to preparing a Christmas meal and hosting. Cooking for six - not too different to what I'm used to, and at home.

Well... this changed fairly soon. This changed in almost every imaginable way.

Jane's mum wanted to do it at her place, partly out of a feeling of being bound to do dinner for some family friends (they've alternated at each other's place for the last 5yrs or so), and partly because I think she likes having it there.

Then, as well as the six of us, there are the five family friends that Jane's mum felt honour bound to invite. So now instead of a nice cosy meal for a manageable number in a familiar kitchen, we're doing dinner for eleven in an unfamiliar kitchen.


Doing it there is not a bad thing, not at all. Our house is small, only a 2-up, 2-down but we could have fitted six in easily. We agreed to do it on one condition: Jane's dad promised that he would feed her mum sherry and keep her out of the kitchen.

Jane's parents offered to buy the turkey (a crown), and the wine. We would do the rest. Then at some point, they gave us £50-worth of Morrison's saving stamps. We got occasional phone calls from her mum telling us not to buy X, Y or Z as she'd got it, and then she went and won a 2-minute trolley dash around a local supermarket!

We made plans, lists, and bought stuff. In the end, we really only bought veg, and stuff for puddings. Everything else was provided for us.

Overall the food all went really well. We arrived at their place on Christmas Eve, and immediately set about preparing veg, making puddings (all cold), cranberry goop, and soup (easy to prepare in advance). Apart from a silly mistake about plain/self-raising flour (seriously: don't make a pie-crust with self-raising flour, it's just wrong) it all went to plan. No emergencies, no disasters.

My parents arrived at their hotel in Oswestry and threw our plans a little bit, asking if they could come to Jane's parents rather than going for coffee/drinks in Oswestry as we'd planned. Despite her mum flapping like crazy about the state of the house, a good night was had. Wine, carol singing and amazing ham (really need Jane's mum to write down what she did to it).

Christmas day came around, we had little to do now except actually cook! I'd planned out timings in my head and knew what needed to be done and when. We were calm, and bar occasionally needing to ask Jane's mum where X, Y or Z was, or how best to use the hostess trolley (things I'm unfamiliar with), and the gravy at the end, it was done on our own. Jane was ace, she claims to have just been a helper but in reality it would never have been done had she not been there.

I was pleased with the outcome. There were a few bits here and there that I would do differently were we to do it again. I would take the turkey out a little earlier (Jane's mum was a little over-cautious about this in my view), I would cook the broccoli a lot less and I would do one fewer pudding (in retrospect, 4 was too many. Even if 2 of those were fruit-based and therefore not really "pudding"!).

We got lots of compliments and fun was had. Hurrah.

I'd do it again, but I would do it at home and I would want to be responsible for buying everything. Using someone else's kitchen, someone else's equipment and not knowing exactly what you've got is more stressful than you might expect.
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased
location: LL11
Music:: BBC News on BBC HD
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 11:57pm on 27/12/2009 under ,
location: CH3
Mood:: 'tired' tired
Music:: Family Guy
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 10:09pm on 27/12/2009 under , , ,
Christmas. A time for family, apparently. In our case, Jane and I went down to her parents' for Christmas, arriving Christmas Eve and leaving today. 3 days seems to be the optimal time to spend, before the arguments start and having Jane's mum out the way most of Christmas day is a blessing :)

I really shouldn't complain - we got some lovely presents. From Jane's parents (and my own) there was money, from Jane (another one) there was a painting of London Theatres (slightly ropey photo can be found here). It's brilliant :)

Also we got a bottle of Vodka, some cushions and a throw, some wine glasses, photo frames, a stylophone, bottles of wine, and more.

I got some Wii games, money as mentioned before, a rather brilliant book, and a promise of clothing from Jane.

Christmas eve we spent in the Punch Bowl in West Felton. It was pleasant but much quieter than I remember it being previously. We even managed to completely miss Jane's parents arriving, a feat neither of us thought would be possible.

Christmas day was spent doing not much, but the evening we had the usual crowd around, Jane's parents' friends and their kids (kids being our age). There was beer, good turkey, pudding of doom, wine, ginandtonnix, whisky and port, all followed by Wii boxing :)

On Boxing Day, Jane's parents went to the Shrewsbury Town match and we were left to ourselves, which was good because standing up was more trouble than I cared to think about, never mind walking anywhere.

This evening I cooked a chicken and have been tidying up as much as I can be arsed to, and looking at nw laptops. Tomorrow we need to put some work into it, do some proper tidying and sorting out of the paperwork. The dining room table has no room for anything unless it's on top of papers.

New laptop - I'm thinking about it. Well, I'm considering using the money my parents gave me (us) towards one. Looking at a budget of £500-ish and want something with decent (pref. separate) graphics card, large (17"+) screen, minimum 3GB RAM and not too fussed about HDD space - though 320GB is probably the smallest one should go for these days. I want something I can do good video full-screen on, and my current just doesn't cope well with it.

Current front-runner for me is The HP DV72110SA which is going for £399 a a refurbished product on PC World's web site, though am open to persuasion.
Music:: Outnumbered Christmas Special
Mood:: 'amused' amused
location: CH3
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 09:55pm on 21/12/2009 under , , , , , , ,
My life seems to have become very busy all of a sudden. OK not so much now, with everyone stopping over Christmas, but my "normal" weeknights are now all taken. I've got 2 rehearsals a week, singing lessons once a week (though I may try to switch to doing one longer lesson every 2 months), a defined "shopping" night (we're trying to be sensible, though I'm not sure it's working) and then the night reserved exclusively for WINE.

Singing lessons I have been looking at doing for a while and a month or so back I finally made some more phone calls after my initial attempts in summer ended up being fruitless. The lady I'm doing them with (Jo Cleeton) has been good - I kinda just turned up and went "Teach me to sing better", and she's done a good job at finding things I'm good at, and things I'm bad at very quickly. She's helped with some techniques to work on and I am sure that I will see some definite benefits in the not too-distant future.

Related to the singing, we have recently obtained a half-decent (musical) keyboard. We got rid of the organ, at last! I'm starting to play a bit again (I did piano for a few years at school) and am struggling to cope with 2 hands, though definitely improving with practise. My music reading does suck, though it always has.

I've started using Last.FM "properly" today. For months/years I've been scrobbling through iTunes (recording all the tracks I play on my iPod) but never really used the radio/recommendations/artists similar to functionality. Only when I found and tried out the official application for my phone did I see just how cool it is ;) So right now I'm listening to "If I Can't Love Her" from the Beauty and the Beast cast recording. Lovely.

Christmas is coming. I've been concerned lately about my mum, who has been unwell, so Jane and I spent the last weekend down at theirs and I had some time to talk. She seems to be happier than I expected, so am slightly less concerned but still worried. I'd love to get them to commit to saying that they'll be doing something over Christmas - I appreciate that it's difficult when you're starting new drugs that you never know how things will be the next day, but I don't care. I'd be happier to know that they're with people than being miserable and alone.

So my Christmas plans are somewhat meh. I've got some stuff for Jane, I guess at the moment I'm going with the default option which is Jane's parents and friends. Not sure what I want.

I recently flogged a whole load of CDs/DVDs on eBay. Didn't make much money overall, to be honest I only would have made just over what I spent if I hadn't acquired some jiffy bags from work and had someone not vastly overbid on my box set of Cube/Cube 2/Cube Zero. I am happier for having done so, and making money was not the object of the exercise. I got rid of some stuff I have had hanging round for years for no good reason. CDs I haven't looked at for 5yrs, stuff I bought because I thought I'd watch it again or because I thought it would be cool to have. Anything I looked at and decided I wanted to keep, I did, but that still left about 30 CDs and 20 DVDs to sell.

I am loving my mobile phone more and more all the time. Android is a powerhouse, an up-and-coming star in the mobile device world. The app store/market may not yet be as enormous as the iPhone one, but 12,000 apps is still a lot! If I could say that I use my phone for 3 primary things, I think these would be:
  1. Twitter
    I use (at the moment) Swift as my Twitter client. Twitter on the move is one of the most insanely useful/useless things in the world
  2. Google products of ALL descriptions.
    Android being a Google product it's obvious that the integration between Google products and this phone will be tight, and it really is. Calendar, Contacts and Email sync without any effort. Google Reader works really well, Picasa looks good on the small screen, and the newly installed (for me) voice search is remarkably accurate. Google Goggles is not so much "useful" yet, but very clever.
  3. Navigation
    I bought ALK CoPilot 8 for Android, and for under £25 it is an amazing price - turns the phone into a fully featured and actually very good SatNav. Free speed camera updates are a nice bonus. If you don't want that, Google Maps is useful, but turn-by-turn navigation is not yet available in the UK. It's still usable as a navigation aid, but it's not as nifty as fully-fledged navigation software. It also fails spectacularly when you go out of mobile/data coverage, as Google Maps loads everything on the fly and doesn't appear to cache anything.
Speaking of technology, I have an urge to do some proper geekery again but I really need another PC to do it on. I got tired very quickly of breaking my one and only PC, where fixing it became a necessity rather than a thing to do because I wanted to. Heck, I haven't compiled a kernel in a long time, it just seems like too much effort on my day-to-day PC. One day I'll get round to finding a second-hand PC and rolling my own server for DNS, web, MTA, etc. Having a domain completely within my own control and providing all services for it was a real learning experience.

Work - I'm liking my job at the moment. I have almost pushed myself out of direct customer contact. There's still the occasional period where I have to do the calls but I guess it's a necessary evil for now, and there's nothing to keep you on your toes like having to figure out what a customer means versus what they are actually saying. I am almost exclusively "3rd line" now. I spent nearly 3 weeks exclusively looking into one problem that affected one customer - or at least at that time we thought it affected one customer. Seems to be many more. Anyhow, it turns out that we were breaking a message up and sending "\r\n" and "HELO" in two separate TCP packets for some reason. This was causing chaos between our kit and some mail servers. Tracking that down from the original "The email stops working after a while" report took several iterations and many dead ends.

I am quite pleased though, however also slightly disappointed. The job I went for a while back, that they went external for in the end? The manager for them told me the other day that based on the work he'd seen me doing in the past few months, he'd take me on without bothering to do the interview if he had the budget. I'm pleased because it's SO nice to know someone is noticing that I do try hard, but also miffed because I either didn't sell myself strongly enough at the previous opportunity, or he's admitting he was short sighted :)

Oh, tonight's tea:
  • Parsnips roast with crab-apple jelly
  • Sweet potato roast with chorizo and paprika
  • Boiled Anya potatoes
  • Steamed carrots with caraway

I think that'll do.
Music:: Stephen Schwartz – Recurring Dream from Uncharted Territory
location: CH3
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 06:06pm on 31/01/2009 under ,

Jane got a picture from her colleagues when she left Cheshire Council, of Daleks on the walls. It was just the pic, not framed or anything so I've been trying to persuade her to get it framed since then.

Seeing as it'd been at least a year I gave in and took it to get framed before Christmas. It was only last weekend that I got a call from them to say it was done! Looks like there's only a couple of framers in Chester and they're both hideously busy.

Here is Jane with the pic in question. The frame and mounting has been done nicely, I'm very pleased with it other than it took so long.

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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 12:02pm on 07/12/2008 under , ,
Jane and I went to the Trafford Centre last weekend. We arrived at about 11am on a Sunday, thinking things would be open and it would be quiet. Pah, I say to shopping centres in which the stores open at midday. We were remarkably close to the doors though, I've never been able to park that close.

This weekend we went to Manchester itself, taking the car to Broadlands and park & riding into town on the tram. If we'd have known Manchester United were playing we probably wouldn't have gone, or at least would have attempted to be out early. As it was, we arrived at about 1030 and got the tram out at about 1730, long day shopping. Admittedly we did stop for coffee twice and lunch at Wagamamas (with free pudding!!). Yum.

I think we've now got everything for everybody that we wanted to get. Checking my Remember the Milk lists I'm not sure about some of them, but Jane's the chief buyer here.

From now on things get a little busy. This coming weekend we're down in London. We're leaving as early as we can and staying at my parents' on Friday night, then off to Michelle's birthday bash on Saturday. Not sure what Sunday shall bring, as it all depends how Saturday night works out! The weekend after is free, then it's Christmas. We're then driving up to Elgin, starting on Boxing Day and staying over in a (really) cheap Travelodge room in Livingstone before continuing up on the 27th. I've got to be back at work for Friday the 2nd (grrrr - what's the point, I say?) so we'll be driving back down on the 1st. It's such a waste of a weekend really, as nothing's going to happen on that Friday anyhow.
Mood:: 'geeky' geeky
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 12:35am on 26/12/2007 under
Dinner with the future-in-laws was great, the Wii went down a storm, the drink flowed (though not as much as some previous celebrations) and all was good.

location: Jane's Parents'
Mood:: 'peaceful' peaceful
Music:: The ticking of a clock
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 09:51pm on 25/11/2007 under , ,
This weekend had been mightily pleasant, with some rehearsal, some pottering, some cooking, some sleeping in, some celebration, some chinese and nursing a hungover [ profile] pipsytip.

heheheh :)

Tomorrow is auditioning for Jekyll & Hyde. I'm not particularly worried because I'm the only person auditioning for the part, but I am worried as there's 2 people going for Jekyll, and both of them are capable of doing the part of Utterson. It is forseeable that I could be sidelined by them.

I am bored out of my box by Cranford. It's all very pretty and stuff but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The storyline is pleasant but seems mostly "safe". The life of a costume-drama actor is dull, most of all.

Next week is work, and there's a week off after that, during which I shall sleep, sleep, take Janey out for lunch, and sleep some more. I shall also try to do some Christmas shopping, though I only have about 3 presents to buy as my parents will be away at Christmas and well, there's only _really_ a Janey after that.
Mood:: 'indifferent' indifferent
Music:: Cranford on BBC1
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 11:00pm on 25/12/2005 under , , , ,
Thursday evening, straight from work to Jane's.
Sleep and food, were the order of the evening. Jane feeling rough so not much excitement.
Friday - Oswestry in the morning for new shoes and a haircut with a slightly odd barber. Shrewsbury in the afternoon for lunch with Jane who finished work early, then shopping. Quite a nice time, not anywhere near as busy as I expected. Friday evening involved nothing much other than hugs and TV.
Saturday was rather mad, including Becky, David, Dawn, family, running round staying in, running round going out, going to the pub and drinking rather too much.
Today has been presents, breakfast, driving, work.

Work was crap. It started off promisingly with Helen being honorary mum and provided _loads_ of food and pressies, mini remote control cars, gliders, loads of cool stuff. As the day went on it became harder and harder to maintain the positivity. But hey, eh. *shrugs*

I upgraded my Sky package before going away, to the Sky World deal, but only because they were offering it at half price for 3 months. Thought it would be cool to have the movies and sports - if I planned it right I should have the sports for the Superbowl.
Mood:: 'indifferent' indifferent
Music:: Shaun of the Dead - Sky Movies
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 02:37pm on 25/12/2005 under
Whee, at work. Yay. Think of the money... think of the money... triple time all the way.

Good time at Jane's. Didn't really want to leave, but when do I?