rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
... instead of the piles of clothes that have been obscuring them.  I think about 18-24 months' worth of outgrown children's clothes, plus a lurking stash of rags, and a surprise stash of clothes which I must have put aside for Nicholas to grow into - they happen to fit him perfectly now, hurrah!  He is very excited about them.  I filled 2.5 Really Useful Boxes with size 8-10 years clothing, have several packages to send to smaller relatives, another bag of recycling, and a half-full Bag For School which can go in on Friday week.

Sorting out the clothes was a blocker on the big job I really want to get done this weekend, which is moving Nicholas into what was our spare room.  Sharing a room is triggering a lot of arguments between the children, and we always intended to give them a room each eventually, we're just advancing the timetable. But so much stuff to move around to make it work, ugh.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last weekend we made a family visit to the inlaws in High Wycombe, for some low-key hanging-out time together for the cousins to play together and the adults to gossip.  It was Too Hot, but at least every train on the way home had aircon, as did the taxi.  We experimentally departed from Cambridge North, as we are roughly equidistant from the two railway stations.  Advantage: not going through the centre of Cambridge. Disadvantages: only one direct train per hour to London on the weekend, no cafe or shops (yet), slightly more expensive by taxi.  But it was worth conducting the experiment to be sure.

We all struggled with the heat this week.  This house does a good cross-breeze when such a thing is worth doing - this week that was usually from approx 9pm to 7am, so a lot of opening and closing windows and doors according to temperature and people being awake.  We acquired a standing fan to help. I did a lot of waking up about 5am to open things and then droop back on my bed waiting for the breeze to help. I think I'd be a lot less resentful of the lost sleep if I'd been able to be productive with the time, but no.

I went out to a PARTY yesterday and enjoyed catching up with people, and being introduced to Subjective Guess Who?  This is played using the standard board game set, but you can only ask questions which have no objective answer - some memorable ones from last night included "Have they ever played World of Warcraft?" and "Are they a morning person?".  The kibbitzing from the audience is the best part.

Going to the party was utterly self-indulgent given the state of my studying since the election. Today will probably not include much studying either, as plans already include: taking C to see Transformers: The Last Knight, attempting to get some sandals beforehand, getting in my weekly call to my mother before she gets on a bus to San Francisco, and making the cheating version of Tudor costume for C's class trip to Kentwell this week.
rmc28: (bat-worry)
I've had a cough most of the week.  Monday I went to work, which in retrospect was a mistake and I should have worked from home. Tuesday I worked from home. Yesterday and today I am exhausted because I keep waking myself up coughing, and too tired to work, and today on top of everything else I keep wanting to burst into tears at the slightest obstacle. [personal profile] rydra_wong has a theory about cytokines and mood drops towards the end of colds/flu which is a) plausible and b) makes me hopeful that maybe I am towards the end.

AND Tony is ill too and even worse than me, so we're just about adding up to one functional adult when the children need us and otherwise ... not.

Also this morning my main bedroom light bulb died.  Hurrah, past-Tony stocked us up with spare bulbs.  But then I first of all knocked a load of dust off the light fitting onto the nice clean laundry folded on my bed, argh (yes my housekeeping is terrible), and then discovered the bayonet fitting is broken and the new bulb won't stay in it. I give up.  Bedside lights and the window are perfectly fine right?

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
A few weeks ago I was trying to find a blog post I remembered Tim Harford writing about research into different perceptions of gift-giving depending on whether you are the giver or the recipient.  Along the way I also found that he'd written about Maria Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and rolled my eyes a bit (I have read enough of my friends' reactions to the book to be sure I would personally find it intensely irritating), but was interested to see how he pulled out three principles of economics that Marie Kondo is illustrating:
  • status quo bias (Kondo says throw it out unless it "sparks joy", which Harford sensibly changes to "a compelling reason to keep it")
  • diminishing returns (the tenth pair of jeans is less valuable than the second, which is why you tackle all the things of the same type in one go)
  • opportunity cost (if you can't find a beloved possession under all the other things you have, you can't enjoy it)
So this inspired me a bit to start tackling the chronic mess in the house, a lot of which is down to the fact that things don't have a home, because we haven't got room to put them away, so they don't get tidied away.  I started with the toys in the living room, because they were causing the most friction, and I also thought they were the best case of things that really should "spark joy".  (Clothing rarely does for me, for example, and I doubt the children's school uniform does either.)   It took me a good couple of hours, I did most of the work of division, with the children occasionally challenging my choices in one direction or the other, and at the end of it I had 2 carrier bags for the bin and another 9 for the charity shop.  I reckoned we removed roughly 2/3 of the toys by volume; and what remained is small enough that we can keep similar things together when tidying rather than finding it too overwhelming and shoving everything away anyhow (and making the problem worse).

Nico spontaneously spent ages over the next week playing with some specific wooden jigsaws we literally hadn't seen in months if not years, which rather gloriously illustrated Tim's point about opportunity cost.

I've done several more sessions since, especially in the last few days.  It needs me to have time and energy and inclination to spend several hours at a time sorting through a category of things, because I haven't figured out a way to bitesize it without causing even more disruption to everyone else and/or having my work undone again.  It is tiring to keep making decisions, especially potentially emotionally-fraught decisions.   I found a fourth economic concept coming to my aid: in management accounting I learned the concept of sunk costs, that is, when making decisions it doesn't matter what time and money have already been spent, what matters is the future costs/benefits that will result from the decision. 

The children have learned to trust that I won't take something away if they say they really want it, so at least now let me get on with it until I'm ready for their review, which has sped things up a bit.  And slowly the living room and bedroom spaces are becoming nicer for them.  I've finally removed enough stuff from the children's room that I can actually tidy / reorganise what is left.  This morning I asked Charles if he would rather I took him out to the cinema today, or continued working on their bedroom and he chose the latter.

And for all it seems a bit weird, I've found it sometimes helps me to let go if I say thank you to things as I put them in the discard pile.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Things achieved today:
  • evicting half a dozen wasps from the living room
  • soothing child terrified (but unstung) by wasps
  • getting [livejournal.com profile] fanf to locate wasp nest
  • booking wasp extermination for tomorrow
  • taking child to gymnastics, with bonus social time for me
  • booking child's birthday party sufficiently in advance to get desired date (unlike last year)
  • 4.5 hours of OU study

Things not achieved today:
  • attending OU tutorial
  • eating any vegetables at all

Things to do in the next nine days:
  • complete and submit final assessment for intro-to-engineering module
  • revise for and take exam for management accounting module
  • take N for visit 1 of 2 to school & after-school club
  • visit my mum and stepdad before their epic trip around the world (we will next see each other in Helsinki next year)

Also, [livejournal.com profile] fanf wrote about his rather-too-exciting trip to the supermarket last weekend, with bonus beard photos.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Taken from [personal profile] falena :

On the nightstand: Bedside lamp, thermometer, a notebook in which I dutifully record my temperature 4 times daily, a box of tissues, and a charger for my phone.

At the theatre (or from the couch): Nothing really; I can't go out in large groups of people at the moment, but we hadn't been to see anything at the theatre for some time.  The Arts Theatre's practice of adding compulsory booking fees on top of the advertised prices annoys me.

On the small screen: Mostly children's things: Nico is very fond of The Gruffalo's Child (on DVD) and Melody (on iPlayer), and will ask for My Neighbour Totoro about once a week.  I've caught some episodes of Elementary when Louise has been watching it.  Now I apparently can concentrate for the length of an episode, I'd like to finish Daredevil season 1 before Jessica Jones starts.

In my ears: I've been listening to my running playlist on shuffle when I want to develop some get-up-and-go.  I'm still very slowly working through Un Cadavre de Trop when I want to sleep - my French comprehension is so poor that most of it just washes over me, but it gets my brain to stop spinning.  I have a whole backlog of already-bought audiobooks which I'd like to listen to before getting the Ancillary Mercy audiobook and/or rejoining Audible.

Around the house: I have ambitions to tackle the pile of paper waiting to be filed that accumulated while I was away, and to sort out the gloves, scarves and hats, but they might remain ambitions for another few weeks.  Over the back fence, builders are at work on a block of flats and quite entertaining to watch.

At work: n/a

In the kitchen: Not really my domain! Louise has been clearing out the kitchen cupboards of ancient and out-of-date food and spices.  The corner cupboard is much tidier now, and she's identified a lot of flour that needs using up.  So we'll have to turn that  into bread in the next month (the hardship).   I think we're also oversupplied with reusable takeaway containers and should have a cull.

In my closet:
I'm mostly wearing jeans / cords and assorted boring tshirts and hoodies.  The goals are: comfort, discreetly covering my line, not minding if I accidentally bleed on what I'm wearing.

In my mailbox: A couple of bank statements, a postcard from an elder cousin, and a reminder from my dentist.  In a box on my desk, a whole lot of postcards and cards from lovely people while I was in hospital.

In my cart: Most recently bought was a set of folders for tidying up the children's DVDs, and my next OU course.  Today I'm planning to send off my Fairphone to get the giant crack on the screen fixed at last.

On the calendar: Lots of visits to the hospital this week for me. Charles has a Halloween party on Friday and the gardeners are scheduled to come next week and make the garden useable again. Louise goes home towards the end of next week :(

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Cambridge people: can you recommend to me?
  • a window cleaner
  • a general handyperson (competent with drill and screwdriver, simple painting, etc)
  • an electrician
rmc28: (books2010)
A few weeks ago I got new bookshelves up in the children's room.   Before today I had achieved moving about 2/3 of the books across from Charles's old room (now the spare room).

Today, helped (or hindered) by Nico I have:
  • moved the remaining children's books over
  • added more shelves to the spare room, making 16m of shelving space
  • filled those 16m with books-read from the shelves in my room that have been double-stacked for years
  • vacuumed up a disturbing amount of dust from books and shelves
Still to do (not today!):
  • clear assorted clutter off that bookcase in my room
  • move and add shelves, creating another 12-16m of shelving space in my room
  • move my to-read pile and Tony's to this space (and stop my to-read pile in particular encroaching all over the house)
  • move my library books and OU textbooks there too
  • move books-in-living-room to space freed up in study by previous steps
  • move children's books in living room to their bedroom
  • move remaining books-read to living room
The end goal is to have books-read in shared space, and books-to-read in private space, and children's books in children's space.  And as much as possible single-stacked for ease of viewing and access.

Also each move of books and things is an opportunity to declutter.  So far in this project I've taken 3 bags to the charity shop and I've another one ready to go.  Plus an awful lot of general rubbish uncovered and (mostly) recycled.

(Worst thing about getting back to single-spaced books: I uncovered my MZB books and had to make a decision about what to do with them; for now I've stacked them in a Really Useful Box and stuck that in a corner behind other things.  I'm not quite ready to throw them away but for sure I don't want to see them now.)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Since the summer of 2003, I've been getting milk delivered in glass bottles - more expensive that the supermarket for sure, but not actually very expensive in real terms.   Keith was keen to reduce plastic usage and I was fed up of running out of milk at breakfast time, and it's been convenient enough I've not been motivated to stop, even after Keith moved out.

However, our milk consumption is rising as both children grow up, and there are fewer deliveries a week, and fitting all the bottles in the fridge is at times challenging.  This week Charles dropped and smashed a nearly-full bottle and I decided that while glass may indeed be more reusable and greener than plastic, its failure mode is not really acceptable with small children, especially when they are frequently barefoot indoors.

Luckily the milkman also delivers plastic bottles, so I am replacing our daily 3 pint bottles with one 4-litre bottle (and an extra one for the weekend because we've consistently run out on Sundays for the last month).   Easier to pack in the fridge, less likely to run out, no smashing, and best of all it will actually cost us about the same because the per-unit cost is smaller with the bigger bottles.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I've had two of my ten evening classes on this course at Cambridge Regional College, and so far I'm enjoying it.  I'm very grateful to the friend who pointed me at it and is also on the course.

Week 1: lots of talking, mostly about How To Avoid Injuring Yourself Doing DIY - ladders and electrical safety and so on.  Then we finally got to hands on stuff, and did some simple wood sawing and began preparing baby's first wood joint.

Week 2: continuing baby's first wood joint, and adding chiselling to sawing in our range of skills.

The class is quite small, about 10-12 students.  About half of them are women, and I'd guess the age range at about 20-60.  The setting is a workshop with all the tools, equipment etc that we need, so it's a good place to practice with tools I don't have at home.  I did have some difficulty with the chiselling which I was relieved to find were likely down to the chisel not being sharp enough, and physically shown the indications to look for.

Week 3 is apparently going to be hanging doors and I have got ridiculously excited because I basically hate all the internal doors in my house.  They are that nasty hollow fake-panelling which seems to have been designed to create the maximum number of surfaces and grooves to catch dust.  So I find myself browsing DIY store websites for doors and door handles, and may have to drag Tony around the local ones to choose a couple of doors for me to start with (probably to replace doors we mostly keep open anyway, in case I cock it up - I'll save the bedrooms and bathrooms until I'm a bit more confident).

In later weeks we do some glazing, some tiling, some very  basic plumbing, some making holes in things (and patching holes we didn't mean to make), and some bricklaying.  Right now I'm full of New Enthusiasm Energy and thinking of practical applications around the house once I've had a chance to try stuff out in class.   I suspect the projects I'll feel able to tackle after it's over will keep me busy for rather more than ten weeks.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last weekend when I was migrainey, I spent a bit of time thinking and ordering stuff to improve our hallway and kitchen.  The stuff arrived during the week, and I spent much of yesterday sorting it out and installing it, variously assisted by children and spouse.

In probably tedious detail if you aren't me )
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Friday before last, Tony & I went for a lovely meal (launch of the Eat Cambridge festival which we have otherwise not got to).  As it finished early, we opted for a wee drinkie at the Castle before going home. Among other things, this gave us time to talk through some of the things that are stressing me, in particular all the stalled things-we-should-do around the house.

Some of them are stalled because of money.  Much more of them are stalled because of me: I've been struggling for ages to find the thinking-brain capacity to move them along (and some of the things that I need to do about money are similarly stalled), and the lack of progress stresses me, and being stressed reduces my capacity, hello feedback cycles.

Quite often the stall is me letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, for example "we should move the children into the bigger room in the summer when $lodger has moved out, but in order to do that, we need to redecorate the room, and redo the flooring, and get bunkbeds, and now I just can't face even starting".  Tony pointed out we don't need to do all of that, we just need to move their stuff in and use the twin beds that are already there, probably keeping one of them in the trundle position for now.  It's not as good as bunk beds in a newly-redecorated room, but it's a start.  Having them in the bigger room together is a definite improvement from now, so we should do it, even though it's not perfect.  (And thanks to school closures and the Tour de France, we have a long weekend at the start of July, just at the right time.)

A couple of days after that, I managed to break the catch on N's cot, which holds the cot side up and (I realised) holds the cot together such that it is safe to have a cot-top changer.  And now it isn't.  We were already planning to freecycle the cot and reassemble the changing table when we moved N to the shared room, and moving that earlier by a couple of months isn't a huge problem.  So basically I tried little steps:
  • Monday I tried to fix the cot but failed
  • Tuesday I figured out how to use freecycle again for the first time in years and offered the cot there
  • Wednesday I started disassembling the cot
  • Thursday I dealt with freecycle responses
  • Friday I finished disassembling the cot
  • Saturday I had a migraine and let myself do nothing
  • Sunday I got the cot into the garage to await collection and reassembled the changing table
So that was a week in which I had to use changing-mat-on-bed and part of my bedroom was a pile of disassembled furniture, but each step was an improvement and actually happened, and I didn't make myself ill (well, I had a migraine, but I don't think it was this that triggered it).

The lightbulb moment this morning was remembering that I actively prefer the incremental-improvement approach to changes in my work, and have experience to back up that preference.  It shouldn't surprise me that it also works for projects outside of work.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We got back yesterday evening from a pleasant six days visiting Tony's father in France, leaving the house in charge of Jonny and our latest lodger.  While we were gone, the lodger managed to overcook something in the microwave to the point of filling the kitchen with smoke and setting off the smoke alarms (as observed by J).  Jonny has done the obvious: cleaned the microwave inside, opened windows to set up a through-draught for a few hours yesterday, but the house is still rather fragrant with eau de char.

Any suggestions other than the obvious (giving the microwave another really thorough cleaning, keeping up the through-draughts until morale improves)?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Nico got sent home from nursery on Wednesday with a dodgy tum; Tony & I succumbed Thursday night and are nearly better now; Charles & Jonny just succumbed.  We are scrupulously observing the 48-hour rule before being social/going back to work/childcare.

I have been especially grateful for the new tumble-dryer as lots of bedding needed changing several times in close succession.  Only the waterproof undersheets can't go in it; Tony hung one of them on the line in yesterday's sunshine but forgot to bring it in before the night's rain.  There seems no point in bringing it in until the rain has stopped now.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Oh yeah, what we're getting in today's messed about delivery: the most energy-efficient tumble-dryer I could find - a Bosch with a heat pump.  I feel a bit guilty about the extra energy use, but we have been finding it really hard to hang up the bedding to dry inside, especially last winter, which means we don't wash our bedding anywhere near as much as we'd like.  (Guest bedding is of course always fresh!)

The dryer is a condensing one that doesn't need a vent fitted anywhere, and it's going to live in the garage as a mild deterrent to using it routinely.  But on suspicion we might start using it routinely anyway, I decided to get the most efficient I could, even if it was more expensive.

(This is the last bit of cat-related admin, as the money came from the self-insurance pot of savings for covering vet fees, which we no longer need.  I cancelled the monthly payment into that pot last week.  I am still finding it strange not to be tripped up on the corridor, and not having to shut the kitchen to defend against intrusion.)
rmc28: (glowy)
As always, the staff at Arbury Road vets were lovely and supportive and if ever we have more pets I will go back there.  (I do not think we will any time soon.)

I had a good cry at the vets - goodbye little cat and sorry for not taking better care of you these last two years.  Otherwise I have let out my feelings by getting things done: taking our stock of catfood and litter to the Blue Cross; cleaning the litter tray and feeding bowls and taking them to the charity shop; cleaning the bathroom where the tray used to live. 

All that is left now are the empty cat food boxes which the children use as building blocks.  They aren't bothering me in the way the full boxes did - I think because they've got classified as something to play with rather than something for the cat.

Meanwhile the back garden is still a mess and the empty hen run is full of weeds.   The neighbour's extension has turned into a total saga and is nowhere near finished; in the meantime that side of our garden is unusable because the builders need access through it.  My vague plan was to wait for the building work to finish and then get in someone to help me sort out the garden back to a basic-and-maintainable standard.   I suppose that is still the plan, and we could work on the bits not affected by the builders, and then do the last bit once the saga is over.

I am still not reliably doing a simple task each evening (check and load the dishwasher at dusk) so new hens are still off the cards.  I've been using a nice little app on my phone (Habit List) to track several desirable habits since Easter.  At the moment 10,000 steps a day and teeth cleaning are going well, running and dishwasher-at-dusk not so much.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I have the following baby-related things for sale, all currently located at my home in Cambridge. I'm happy to deliver within a few miles of home, and willing to come to some arrangement for family/friends living further afield.  If I don't sell things in the next week or so I shall brave eBay (and its weird policies on second-hand cloth nappies).

Changing table: Kub Eco Changer, White. Bought last June from John Lewis for £75 and still in very good condition. We are replacing it with a cot-top changer for space reasons. JL don't seem to do it any more, but it is available at other suppliers.
Asking £50.

Double breast-pump: Avent Isis iQ Duo pump: double pump, comes with carry/storage bag, 2 chill bags & 6 freezer packs. Costs about £260 new, I bought it second-hand on ebay for about £150. Since then it's been used daily for about 8 months with C, and as little as I could get away with two or three times a week for about 6 months with N. Everything still works well, but N is eating enough solids that I don't need to pump milk for him to cover my half-day absences, and so I won't.
Asking £100

Single manual breast-pump: Avent Isis, like this one, but I don't have the model number to be sure they are the same. Bought new for C, used only occasionally. Probably cost about £20 new.
Asking £10

Bottle/pump steriliser: Avent Express electric steam steriliser. Does not seem to be available any more - big enough to sterilise all pump parts and 2-3 bottles, or just 6-7 bottles. Takes about 10 minutes to sterilise. Probably cost about £50 new.
Asking £20.

Cloth nappies: Sized approx 0-6 months, they've had about 12 months total use, seem to be in good condition still.
18 Tots Bots Fluffle nappies, size 1, cost £8.75 new, no longer on sale. They are white, fluffy, and dry quickly when hung up.
Asking £75 for all 18.
4 Motherease Airflow wraps, size Medium, cost £8 each new.
Asking £15 for all four.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Our neighbour, who converted his garage into a spare room last year, now wants to build an extension onto his house. It will run nearly up to the boundary between the two properties, and the builders need access through some of our garden to do the work. The neighbour gave me plenty of notice that he wanted to do this, and so we met with the builder last week to go over the details of what access they need, what will be taken down to allow the building, and what will be replaced afterward.

The extension is pretty much as big as can currently be built without planning permission (not relying on proposed even bigger exemptions), but it will not be too imposing nor should it affect our enjoyment of the garden once it's built.  The funny-shaped bit of land between the two houses will get a bit of improved landscaping, and the builder has promised me a couple of designs/quotes for landscaping our front weed-patch garden to be consistent in appearance with the new bit, and also easier to maintain.

Work begins in May and is planned to take 8 weeks.

And the hen? Her patch of the garden is exactly where the builders need access.  So we need to fence off a new area for her around the corner of the house and out of their way.  Afterwards, my brother Dan has promised to come and give me some landscape-gardening advice and help.  So we might end up with both front and back gardens looking reasonable this summer.

rmc28: (tony)
At the start of April 2003, I bought half a house, and I'm still living here.
At the end of April 2003, Tony & I became a couple, and I'm still in love.

Our tenth anniversary falls next Friday, which is the day we try to do dates. It's also the day after Iron Man 3 is released, which I am ridiculously excited about[1]. So we will celebrate with dinner and a film, which is roughly how we got started.

2003 was a very good year. 

[1] Not ridiculously enough to see the one-minute-past-midnight showing on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Not sure if I'm wiser or just older than ten years ago.

rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
Nicholas is now independently mobile, moving himself unaided across the living room yesterday.  He's been cruising and walking-with-help for some time, but what he's actually using to move is a sort of part-crawl, part-bumshuffle that I've never seen before, but clearly works for him.  I'm going to try to film it at some point for the wider family.

We're doing reactive babyproofing at the moment - moving things as and when he discovers he can reach them, and refereeing quite a lot between him and Charles over Charles's toys.  I'm just getting well from one of the worst colds I've ever had (I was actually signed off sick, it went on so long), while Tony is just getting ill.  In the longer-term, we need to do what we did before: make the living room safe and reinstate the baby gate on it.  A challenge I am not going to try until everyone is better.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
lengthy saga of irritation and expense )

Short version: we have a new washing machine; our plumber is still ace; [personal profile] pseudomonas and our neighbours are kind; I have had a useful reminder of why I prefer cloth nappies, and also how much I like washing machines.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Charles has been ill and slightly feverish since Wednesday. On Thursday evening he insisted I sit with him in his room while he went to sleep, and for much of the evening he would wake and whimper sadly if I left the room for any length of time. Tony was out, and I decided to make the best of being mostly stuck in one room, and started clearing up broken bits and assorted clutter from his shelves. It took me 6-7 hours, with plenty of breaks (mostly to sit and soothe my fretful child) but I achieved the following:

detailed list probably only of interest to me, but trust me, it was impressive )

It's a good thing Tony was out, because I think my random progress would have driven him nuts (I'm decluttering the games shelf because I tidied this game off the floor on the way to pick up the dressing-up clothes, why yes there is a pile of curtains on the landing and a heap of books on Charles's floor ...) Left to myself I found it quite fun and a useful distraction from fretting over my son.

I think the random-walk approach is very natural to me and is often how I approach the household chores, especially at weekends: wandering back and forth around the house tidying/doing stuff until either I've had enough or the house is "good enough". By contrast Tony tends to tidy one room at a time until that room is done. No wonder we do housework better separately than together.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The old nasty not-quite-inefficient-enough-for-scrappage-scheme boiler has been removed, and all the radiators but one (the reference one) have thermostatic valves. The new boiler has been installed, but the electrician needs to come tomorrow to make it work. As the gasman needs access to all the radiators again tomorrow to test they work, the furniture in nearly every room is out of place.

It is surprisingly not too cold, considering there has been no heating since 9am, thank you loft insulation and double-glazing. But I will be glad to be in bed, and we will have Charles in with us. The immersion heater will provide tomorrow morning's showers, if I manage to wake up early enough to put it on.

The gasman is working with my favourite plumber, who has renamed her company Just SO Plumbing following a trademark dispute. I am amused to note that the top Google result for the old name is the new domain name.
rmc28: (bat-funny)
The house woe is getting sorted.
Read more... )

My foot was xrayed and is not broken; and has in fact started to improve in the last 24 hours. At this morning's checkup the doctor said it was most likely tendonitis, though the root cause remains a mystery. Anyway, it should heal up in another 1-2 weeks, if I can continue to stay off it as much as possible and continue with the ibuprofen. This has cheered me up greatly as I feel there is an end in sight to the tedious regime of getting the bus everywhere. At least Charles has enjoyed the extra bus rides.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Just as we get the bathroom sorted: the washing machine is broken and the boiler is making alarming clanky noises. It never stops!

house woe )
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)

Before After


Good morning Solemn


Mummy Mummy at party

Edited to add All changes completed on Thursday 26th August, the day before we went to the Discworld Convention.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The bathroom is being ripped out and replaced, starting next Monday and going on for the next 2 weeks. I have spent more time than I ever want to again thinking about tiles, shower curtains and bathroom cabinets. My first ever skip is arriving on Monday and I still need to buy the lino, the aforementioned cabinets and the shelves for the bath. Once it's all over I get to plan a new boiler. We need it before winter, but I can only cope with one major project at a time.

My left foot and ankle started hurting yesterday morning, feeling as though someone had kicked/trodden on me, yet I have no memory of this, unless Tony/Charles want to make a confession. It's been getting worse and was sufficiently bad when leaving work today that I rang the doctor. A phone consultation resulted in an appointment for actual poking and prodding and, apparently, blood tests tomorrow. I'm trying not to worry too much or play hypochondriac on the internet.

My cousin got married a few weeks ago and looked beautiful and happy throughout. I missed half the ceremony to child-watching, but the reception was glorious, lovely speeches and topped off with the best fireworks display I have ever seen. I have photos but seem to have failed to actually catch the bride and groom in them. Charles was enchanted by my uncle's classic car and successfully begged a ride in it:

In the car

Tony's sister Lucy has just got engaged to her lovely boyfriend Simon, who popped the question on a romantic weekend in Paris. Lovely happy news. They're off to Australia for a year now. The wedding will be sometime after they get back I think.

In a couple of weeks, I'm abandoning Tony & Charles for a night for only the second time since Charles was born, in order to attend Ellie's hen night. I'm looking forward to it very much.

Today I've borrowed my first ever DVD from the library. Because who could resist Scooby Doo meets Batman?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
ramblings )
This afternoon we have been to an alumnae Family Day at Murray Edwards, with barbecue, toys, treasure hunt, face painting, afternoon tea with yummy cake and lots of conversations with other alumnae parents. Luckily there is plenty of shade in the Fellows Garden so I survived quite well. Tomorrow we're going to a Family Barbecue at Trinity which will be busier and with less shade, but hopefully will still include interesting conversation and fun things for children.

And now I am going to rest and attempt to cool down a bit before contemplating doing anything else today.
rmc28: (OMG)
We've had a leak from the toilet in the "main" bathroom for some time (months) - we stuck a box under it, emptied it regularly, and I thought vaguely about calling a plumber.

About 2 weeks ago I noticed a damp patch on the ceiling beneath the toilet, but I didn't actually get around to calling the plumber until we noticed the floor deforming under the toilet on Wednesday.

The plumber came today - the damp patch on the floor under the lino covered most of the bathroom, and the floor near the toilet was close to collapse. The joist over which the toilet was sitting is probably the only reason we hadn't already had a "comedy" collapse of the toilet through the utility room ceiling and into the sink. The leak was from a dodgy repair to the toilet done by a friend, but ignoring it for months made it much much worse.

The plumber has removed the toilet entirely for the time being, to prevent anyone sitting on it without thinking. We have booked a builder she recommends to replace the square metre of unreliable floor tomorrow. In the mean time we are running the dehumidifier in there to dry out the joist and ceiling below. The plumber will come back next week to replace the toilet once sitting on it is less likely to kill people.

A plan to completely redo the bathroom, including full new floor, is being brought forward from "sometime in the next few years" to "later this summer".

Lessons learned:
* Do not ignore leaks because they are "being managed".
* A damp patch on a ceiling is cause for immediate action, not 2 weeks of procrastination, no matter how busy and tired I feel.

We have narrowly avoided major damage, which our house insurance might quite reasonably have declined to pay for. We will now incur a major maintenance cost sooner than would have been our choice. This was all avoidable if the plumber had been called at the first sign of the leak.

Sarah from Girls on Tap, who came quickly, worked well, explained what she was doing, charged a reasonable price, and had an excellent way of conveying how close we came to disaster without actually calling us stupid idiots.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Jonny got a Wii this week, and found me a bargain Wii Fit while he was at it. It is surprisingly fun and social and even Charles loves some of the games. I am finding it useful for exercising the parts that powerwalking does not reach.

I had a mild migraine throughout Thursday and Friday, which was very tedious, but it seems to have eased off. My brain annoys me sometimes.

We are down to 1 small nappy load a week now, which is a nice reduction in housework, enough to make me chill out a bit about getting rid of that last nappy-a-day. Charles will do it when he's ready, as he has everything else.

Today I had to get the cats to the vet for annual jabs at 9:30, so we are all up and dressed now. It's sunny, and Charles has emptied the laundry into a basket for me to hang out; then he's going to play in his house while I build "a surprise" i.e. the rest of the climbing frame, with Tony's help where needed.

Plan for the weekend:
Finish the climbing frame and get it pegged down in its permanent location
Restring the clothes lines to avoid it
Move the rotary line to be visible from the kitchen window (so we don't forget it's there!)
Powerwalk 10 miles
Deliver some leaflets
Read at least one library book
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The local electrical goods emporium is shut on Sundays. So we went to John Lewis: I might have got a better price shopping around but we decided to prioritise convenience, speed and a trusted retailer. I handed over the model number I wanted (an A-rated Bosch larder fridge in the Which? best buy list) and asked how soon it could be delivered. The answer is Thursday, and the old and busted one will be taken away the same day (hurray for WEEE legislation).

This one I expect to last at least 15 years. Quoted power consumption/annual costs are 175kWh/year or £17.50 per year, or an average of 20W. (Yes I know fridges aren't on all the time). I'll be checking that ...

I had a cursory look at washing machines while we were in. Ours is getting a little temperamental, but I would like it to last at least a few more months so I can replenish the emergency fund. Unlike the fridge I know its whole history: it was originally bought in 1999 by my friend and landlord for the flat Ben and I rented after I graduated; after some years serving that flat it got upgraded, and Keith arranged for us to take it as an upgrade to the one here (I think that machine was still working and got freecycled). So it has spent something like 5-6 years serving a household of at least 5 people, not to mention all the nappy washes in the last 3 years. I will forgive it if it breaks, but I should probably dig out the manual and see if there are any obvious things to trouble-shoot.


2010-02-28 11:19
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The plan for this weekend: usual weekend chores on Saturday, dash to Leeds and back on Sunday for a family visit with my mother (enabled by the kindness of [personal profile] arnhem giving us a lift to/from Peterborough).

After contact with reality: Saturday was spent nursing (in both senses) a sick child, and we cancelled today's trip. This morning Charles is much better but the fridge has broken: the light works but the compressor does not. Following the troubleshooting in the manual has not succeeded in restarting the compressor.

Silver lining: at least we didn't discover the fridge had broken at the end of a long day away with no chance to rescue the contents.

I will shortly be heading out to my favourite local electrical goods emporium to see what can be done by way of replacement, and how soon. The fridge has been with us 7 years and was second-hand then, so it's had a good run I suppose.
rmc28: (glowy)
Yesterday evening I went around and moved all the ground floor windows that were locked in 'slightly open' to the 'fully closed' position. The heating is not yet on though I am beginning to wear jumpers in the evening. It will be interesting to see how our gas consumption changes this winter compared to last year, with the double-glazing in everywhere.

Today I've been playing around with figures from my accounting program (Accountz), partly prompted by coming surprisingly high in the IFS "Where do you fit in" income distribution, and yet still having to juggle money more than I'm happy with. The obvious answer is "we're spending it all" but I wanted to get a better idea of how and on what. Unsurprisingly, the huge mortgage is the main culprit, but after that our biggest spending is on food, followed by travel (primarily train), general household stuff (including some recent purchases of new things), and power.

There aren't many obvious targets for big reductions in spending. We can save a bit by switching energy supplier as I've not done that in a while. I was going to say that this was frustrating but perhaps it's something to be pleased about, that I've already done all the easy stuff and we're not being obviously wasteful.

Almost all our food, travel and household spending (i.e. the top 3 after the mortgage) is done on the shared credit card, and although I set a nominal budget for that in Accountz, we've exceeded it most months this year. I haven't been doing any kind of enforcement on that budget and it's probably time to start. For now, I'm going to start making sure both Tony and I know each week where we are, and hopefully just being kept informed will be enough to bring us back into line. I really don't want to get into setting detailed targets if I can avoid it, especially not on food as I already have to think about food more than I want to.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The microwave in our kitchen was built in; we assume it was fitted at the time the house was built, nearly 20 years ago. About 2 years ago the timer dial went a bit wrong and started zeroing on 7 minutes rather than 0 minutes. We adapted and kept using it. About a month ago the turntable stopped turning, which was rather harder to cope with.

Unrelatedly, we had our annual gas safety check and the device that checks the oven is lit when the gas is flowing is beginning to fail (and spare parts are hard to obtain, naturally).

As we can't afford a whole new oven yet, and probably don't want to get one until we're ready to redo the kitchen (ahahaha), I decided to replace the microwave with a combi microwave, so we have an oven alternative at the point we no longer have a working safety device and the gas oven gets condemned.

It was only when I started to remove the built-in microwave that I discovered the power lead was plugged in at the back of the cupboard above, and the lead goes through a small hole in the back of the unit. Luckily I was able to unwire the plug and pull the cable out to get rid of the old and busted microwave. I temporarily rearranged the kitchen counters to fit the shiny replacement on for the first night, and then the next day Jonny took a small saw to the built-in unit and made a neat hole big enough to put a plug through. Then we could install the new hotness in the same space.

The new microwave is smaller and lighter and more power efficient and has reliable controls and a turntable that turns. It has auto-cook and auto-defrost programs for common food types and weights. Our lodger approved the defrost as being a great improvement over the old one. Sadly it lacks a potato button, but the instructions have recommendations for jacket spuds that I intend to try out this weekend.

(I now need to get the old microwave to Milton HWRC, if any Cambridge drivers are planning a tip run soon and would like to offer it a lift.)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The microwave in our kitchen was built in; we assume it was fitted at the time the house was built, nearly 20 years ago. About 2 years ago the timer dial went a bit wrong and started zeroing on 7 minutes rather than 0 minutes. We adapted and kept using it. About a month ago the turntable stopped turning, which was rather harder to cope with.

Unrelatedly, we had our annual gas safety check and the device that checks the oven is lit when the gas is flowing is beginning to fail (and spare parts are hard to obtain, naturally).

As we can't afford a whole new oven yet, and probably don't want to get one until we're ready to redo the kitchen (ahahaha), I decided to replace the microwave with a combi microwave, so we have an oven alternative at the point we no longer have a working safety device and the gas oven gets condemned.

It was only when I started to remove the built-in microwave that I discovered the power lead was plugged in at the back of the cupboard above, and the lead goes through a small hole in the back of the unit. Luckily I was able to unwire the plug and pull the cable out to get rid of the old and busted microwave. I temporarily rearranged the kitchen counters to fit the shiny replacement on for the first night, and then the next day Jonny took a small saw to the built-in unit and made a neat hole big enough to put a plug through. Then we could install the new hotness in the same space.

The new microwave is smaller and lighter and more power efficient and has reliable controls and a turntable that turns. It has auto-cook and auto-defrost programs for common food types and weights. Our lodger approved the defrost as being a great improvement over the old one. Sadly it lacks a potato button, but the instructions have recommendations for jacket spuds that I intend to try out this weekend.

(I now need to get the old microwave to Milton HWRC, if any Cambridge drivers are planning a tip run soon and would like to offer it a lift.)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
10 days in France, staying with Tony's mother Louise, accompanied by:
my mother Ruth & stepfather Mick
my youngest brother Matt
my stepbrother Daniel and his daughter Sophie (for 7 of the 10 days)
my stepsister Rebecca (for 7 of the 10 days)

Jonny was supposed to come too but backed out at the last minute in hopes of a job interview.

Me, Tony, Charles & Sophie stayed in the house, everyone else was housed in two of Louise's gites. [profile] james_r stopped by for the last couple of days but had to camp on a spare bit of lawn (camping is not usually offered by Louise, but we'd run out of beds).

The weather was warm through to dangerously hot and back to warm again: we swam almost every day and ate outside together every evening. Charles and his step-cousin were adorable together, and Charles learned to cope with two excitable young dogs very well indeed (from abject terror on the first evening, to chasing them around by the time we left).

We got back yesterday evening and today we had a new lodger arrive (another Microsoft intern) and the gasman cameth to do the annual safety check (everything passed, but the oven is wearing out, as well as the boiler).

I am not as rested by the holiday as I'd hoped for: large-group holidays are a bit too stressful for me I think. Luckily I have the long weekend so I can potter around at home and be an antisocial hermit before going back to work next week.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Simon asked if I'd factored in power, which obviously I should have done. Our power meter has just broken (now I can find out if Maplin will honour the instructions on the back to return it to them for WEEE disposal) so I am forced to fall back on the manual and some rough calculation. I know I did measure the power consumption at one point but if I wrote down the numbers I don't know where.

The manual says it uses 505-550W, so for a 5-hour loaf that will be 2.75kWh. It uses little power on timer (this I do remember from when I had it on the meter) so if we round it up to 3kWh a loaf, that makes the sums easier and probably more than covers the on-timer usage.

The number of weeks of use in the last 18 months has been 72.5 (calculated as the number of weeks of not-paying the milkman £3 per week for bread - 18 months is actually 78 weeks and the difference is from when we've been away).

A guess at our typical usage is 3 loaves a week on weekdays (overnight) and a fourth over the weekend (daytime). Checking with our power supplier, Economy 7 units are approx 6.2p and daytime units are approx 17.1p

3 kWh x (3 x 6.2 + 17.1) = 61p per week on electricity.
72.5 weeks x 61p = £44.17.

The initial cost of the breadmaker was £90, and it's taken 72.5 weeks to clear that with the difference between the money we spend on bread ingredients and the money we used to spend on bread, which means a saving of about 124p a week. But factor in the power, and that becomes a mere 63p per week saved, and another 70 weeks or so (another 18 months) to really break even.

Still worth it.

Edit James supplies some data in the comments on LJ from the same model of breadmaker, using 0.4kWh for a 5-hour bake (the one we usually do). Rounding up to 0.5kWh means I can divide the costs above by 6:
10p per week on electricity, reducing the weekly saving to 134p per week
£7.36 on electricity in the last 72.5 weeks, which takes 5.5 weeks to clear and therefore we will "really" have broken even by mid-September.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We broke even on the breadmaker last month, at which point we had spent £215.72 on the breadmaker and ingredients and saved up £217.50 by not paying the milkman £3 per week for bread.

It is still a source of daily pleasure.

I still love collecting data.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
A couple of weeks ago I noticed rust on the outside of the boiler. We're on British Gas Homecare, so a gasman was dispatched with pleasing promptness, and diagnosed a leaky heat exchanger inside the boiler. That part was also covered on Homecare, and replaced within a few days. However, the rusty case is cause for concern. At the moment, the boiler is ok. But if the case rusts through, and is no longer airtight, it has to be replaced. And the boiler is sufficiently old that apparently replacement cases aren't made any more, so we are looking at a new boiler.

The house is 19 years old, and I have no reason to be believe the boiler to be any younger, so I was planning a replacement in the next few years anyway. But this is a bit sooner than planned.

I did a brief bit of research into heat pumps, as mentioned in the wonderful Sustainable Energy - Without The Hot Air by Professor David MacKay of this parishcity. A heat pump is a reverse air conditioner and is much more efficient than a traditional boiler - 300%-500% efficient, i.e. it uses much less energy to run than it moves around as heat. It runs off electricity, not gas, so converting the heating of housing to heat pumps is a step along the "electrify everything and green the electricity supply" grand plan of How To Stop Emitting Carbon Dioxide, as outlined in MacKay's book. It should also cost less to run.

Unfortunately the heat pump market is still customised expensive solutions for people with large gardens and lots of money. Too much technical information about "choices" is still presented (ground-source or air-source? heat only or domestic water too? change your radiators or not?), and too much obscure information is requested by companies before they'll quote. Why no, I don't know the area of my house in square metres, or my garden for that matter. Why can't I just give the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, as I do for getting a home insurance quote? Why aren't there easy ways to estimate the space I'd need in the garden for a ground-source pump like "about the size of two garden sheds" or similar?

Philip Pullman is promoted as a "satisfied customer" by one of the companies I contacted. That's lovely, but I am not a bestselling novelist. What I want is the easy quote for the suburban family with a small garden, but no-one's doing that yet.

Here's my free tip for someone wanting to do well by doing good: found a company that will do mass-market heat pumps, persuade the govt to subsidise installation on carbon reduction grounds, and make contracts with the big energy companies to sell to their customers, in the same way insulation has been recently. If boilers need replacing after 15-20 years, that's a lot of British people each year in the same situation I am right now.

Putting heat pumps aside, I got British Gas to send a man round to quote me for a new boiler, which happened after work on Wednesday. The chap was pleasant and low-pressure, but the cost is significantly above Which? Local price guides for the same sort of work (about 33% more). Still about half the price of the best guess I got for a heat pump. I have contact details for a couple of local companies but even the Which? Local price would blow all our emergency reserves, and then where are we if something else breaks? We just spent most of our readily-available money on windows and a fence.

More sensibly, we can save up over the next year, plan to mitigate the possibility of boiler failure during the next winter, and get a range of quotes this time next year. That gives another year for the mass-market heat pump to arrive too. Come on invisible hand, get a move on.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Yesterday the gasman cameth, and fixed our boiler for now.

Also yesterday the glaziers came, and replaced 5 windows. I think it will take them until Thursday to finish doing all the windows and the three doors. I spent some happy time playing with the new windows and admiring all the features, and most of all admiring that we had BIG WHOLE PANES rather than mock-Georgian little panes. It makes a surprising difference to the light in the room, not having those wooden dividers, and much nicer view outside too.

This week we have a new lodger arriving and the current one leaving, and assorted shopping arriving, including a groundspike for the rotary airer that [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and [livejournal.com profile] cjwatson gave us ages ago, so I will finally get that into use, so we can dry clothes without taking over the whole garden.

(Also expected this week: catfood, nappy soak because John Lewis stopped stocking it the week after I found they stocked it, washable potty-training pants, and some frivolous books.)

Dusting and putting the furniture back in our room after the window was fitted meant I did a nice declutter of old paper off my bedside shelves, and vacuumed the dust off the rolling boxes and suitcases stored under the bed.

I unearthed my old stereo which had such a thick layer of dust I vacuumed it too. I decided to try installing it in Charles's room: it was my pride and joy at age 18, but I haven't listened to it since Charles was born. He has figured out the on-off button and I have it tuned to Radio 2 for now. He danced to the music. Later I will teach him about playing CDs and supply him with ones I don't mind being broken.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
For at least two years we've had a fence that needs mending after it got damaged in a storm (it's leaning at a tipsy angle). For at least a year, I've been meaning to go and talk to my neighbours whose leylandii are just the other side of the tipsy fence. At the least, I wanted to trim back the ever-encroaching branches on our side, but actually I wanted to ask them to reduce the height so the sun hits our washing lines before lunchtime. It didn't make sense to fix the fence and then do tree work, in case we dropped branches on the fence.

Of course I've just procastinated away the entire year, because I'm tired after work, or they're not in yet, and really because I've never spoken to them and opening an acquaintance with such a loaded subject as Your Trees And My Garden was frankly scary.

Out of the blue, on Monday they had the landscape gardeners in and the trees are now down to a reasonable height. The husband popped round to talk to me about the fence and left a message with Jonny. I returned the visit once I was back from ballet, and we had a very pleasant chat. I saw the lovely job the gardeners had done of trimming back the trees inside the garden, and got their number. The neighbours are planning to get them in annually from now on, to stop the trees getting out of control again.

They are not in a big hurry about the fence, but a bit concerned because their visiting daughter's dog nearly escaped under it last weekend. Charles is currently very scared of dogs, so this is more incentive than they may realise. I'm getting a quote later this morning from the same gardeners to trim back the trees on my side, and also a separate quote for the fence. It'll be a big relief to finally tick off those two jobs.

Most importantly, the neighbours are no longer faceless sources of anxiety, but nice people I can go and talk to if I need to.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Just under a year ago we bought a breadmaker.

Because my accounting software allows it, I created a little bucket in our savings account and another little bucket in the food+drink spending account. I've been tracking spending on breadmaking supplies (flour, yeast, seeds, etc) and also putting aside £3 per week as that's what we were spending on bread from the milkman before the breadmaker arrived.

By the end of 2008 we had saved up £138.75 and spent £165.27 (including the cost of the breadmaker).

I may have missed some of the breadmaking supplies, as this relies on me inspecting receipts before I enter the totals into accounting software, and some things are used both for general cooking and for bread (e.g. butter, pesto). On the other hand I haven't adjusted the saving on not-buying-loaves even though bread prices have risen in the shops. Even with those uncertainties, it's clear we should expect to break even sometime this year.

Money aside, it's been a big improvement to general happiness in the house. The bread is yummy, makes the house smell lovely, and we've had lots of fun trying out different recipes. We did intermittently make bread by hand before getting it, but that petered out whenever we got busy. We've done other, more expensive, things to make life happier in the last couple of years (e.g. buying a dishwasher, hiring a cleaner) but those have been more about removing hassle, whereas the breadmaker has added a little pleasure to every day.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Charles and I have been well since Thursday afternoon. (This 48-hour thing is very sensible - Charles twice went 36 hours between bouts before finally getting well.) Tony managed to avoid being ill altogether. Jonny succumbed Friday but I think is better now.

On Saturday we spent the afternoon with [livejournal.com profile] arnhem and L, and I was introduced to the Ukulele Orchestra DVD while Tony spent quality time with L's lego. I was meant to go out for a meal celebrating my friend's escape from ex-work but by the time I needed to leave I was far too tired so wimped out.

On Sunday we made an excellently productive shopping trip into town, for the three Finch birthdays this month and a few other errands. Sunday shopping in Cambridge is almost bearable although we did seem to keep orbiting John Lewis and the not-quite-finished Grand Arcade. Yippee on King Street is fairly child-friendly and Charles approves of noodles.

I am still falling asleep around 8-9pm most evenings (today being an obvious exception), but now mostly avoiding the midnight insomnia. I will assume I just need to sleep a lot, and try not to resent losing evenings with Tony.

Charles greeted James's return from Australia with terrified screams and a tantrum demonstration.

Our cleaner is lovely but just as we are settling into a good routine she is going to miss 4 weeks due to Easter hols and a trip home to her mother. I will try to encourage myself and the other adult residents not to let the place slip back into squalor in the meantime.
rmc28: (glowy)
There's this idea being promoted that washing at 30°C rather than 40°C will help reduce power consumption. I am dubious about whether things will be cleaned well enough, especially given the advice "It is however recommended that towels, underwear, sportswear, baby clothes, all bedding, and heavily stained items still be washed at higher temperatures to ensure they get completely clean."

Currently I'm working my way through the draft of Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, a book on sustainable energy by Professor David MacKay of the Department of Physics in Cambridge. It is an excellent facts-and-numbers-driven analysis. His debunking of the mobile-phone charger myth inspired me to do some calculation on "washing at 30".

The manual for our washing machine states that it uses 59 litres of water for a standard wash, and 0.5kWh of electricity. It is plumbed into both hot and cold mains, and for wash temperatures up to ~65°C it uses the house hot water rather than doing any heating itself. As a household, we do a nappy and a non-nappy wash most days of the week, nappies at 60°C and everything else at 40°C.

Non-nappy washes
For the sake of easy calculation, I'll call it 6 washes a week currently at 40°C, and 60 litres of water per wash. The specific heat capacity of water is 4.2 kJ/kg/K and water is handily 1kg/l.

60 kg x 4.2 kJ/kg/°K x 10°K = 2.52MJ per wash, so 15.12MJ per week.

Our water is heated by gas and we are billed for gas in kWh. 1kWh = 1000 J/s x 3600s = 3.6MJ.

15.12/3.6 = 4.2kWh per week. We are currently charged 2.574p/kWh inc VAT, so the saving would be a grand total of 11p per week, or £5.72 per year.

Either there is something wrong with my calculation or this is a fairly minimal effect on energy consumption.

Nappy washes
We wash the nappies at 60°C but strictly speaking, only the soiled nappies need to go at 60, the rest could go at 40 with the non-nappy washes. Without worrying too much about implementation, we could cut from 6 x 60°C washes per week to 3 x 60°C washes, and 2 x 40°C washes (we could probably eliminate one wash a week by mixing the wet-only nappies with other laundry).

Pleasingly, 3 x 60 x 4.2 x 20 is the same as 6 x 60 x 4.2 x 10, so we know that part of the answer already. What about saving 1 washload a week? If we assume the water is heated from mains cold at 10°C to 40°C then we have 1 x 60 x 4.2 x 30, which is half the previous answer. Plus we save the 0.5kWh of electricity which costs just under 11p/kWh.

So in total, we could save 22p per week by separating out the soiled nappies, and we could only do this by continuing to wash at 40 most of the time, so it's not additional to the 11p per week above.

Showers are also usually taken at about 40°C. Some quick experimentation with a measuring jug and the shower tells me that our shower flows at about 8 litres per minute. So if we shower for 7.5 minutes that's the same as one non-nappy washload. My guesstimate from our morning routine is that I spend 5-10 minutes in the shower and Tony spends 10-15 minutes. Plus Jason and Jonny take showers every day in the other bathroom, but I don't observe for how long. Our showers are both fed from the hot water tank and do no additional heating of their own.

If we assume an average of 10 minutes per adult per shower per day, that's 280 minutes of showers a week, equivalent to 37 washes at 40. The energy used by heating water for a wash at 60 is 5/3 that for a wash at 40 (heating from 10 to 60 rather than 10 to 40), so our current laundry is equivalent to 6 x 8/3 = 16 washes at 40 (16x5.5p=88p/week), less than half of the cost of showering. Without the nappy washes, it would be less than one-sixth (6x5.5p=33p/week).

Baby costs
Jonny asked just now "so how much does Charles cost then?" to which the answer is 6 nappy washes and 1 non-nappy wash per week.
Water heating is (6x5/3 + 1) x 5.5p = 60.5p/week.
Running the washing machine is 7 x 0.5kWh x 11p/kWh = 38.5p/week.
A total of 99p/week on baby laundry energy costs. Detergent costs are left as an exercise for the reader.
rmc28: (glowy)
I have finally employed a cleaner. After doing a bit of budgeting and failing to do anything serious about finding someone, an acquaintance serendipitously emailed about her cleaner wanting more hours. We met up and had a satisfactory interview, and she is now coming once a week for 3 hours. The first week she needed all of that just to tackle our rather grim bathroom and ensuite; the second week she re-did those rooms and managed to get on to the downstairs loo, kitchen, and some dusting/vacuuming. I am pleased with the results and the house is rather more pleasant to be in. The cleaner is Chinese with halting but reasonable English. The only practical difference this has made so far has been occasional vocabulary gaps about cleaning equipment, solved with much gesticulation.

(Why oh why though, does part of my brain feel that paying someone to keep the house clean is some kind of failure on my part? I'm mostly not listening to it, and remind myself there are actually 4 adults in the house to do the housework. And since when did my self-esteem get based on my housework anyway?)

About three weeks back, Tony spent a few hours properly fitting child locks to all the kitchen cupboards, and securing certain doors now that Charles has figured out door handles. The utility room was the real challenge - we wanted to be able to leave a gap big enough for the cats to get through but small enough to keep Charles out, and eventually we hit upon using a large hook to keep it hooked ajar. We've done something similar with the kitchen, though the gap there is smaller, just enough for an adult inside the room to let themselves out. Together with a little hook on the airing cupboard door, we have removed swathes of potential adult-child conflict and reduced stress levels considerably.

Also the changes I made about a month ago (toyboxes for Charles, upgraded airer capacity) have likewise had a good effect on the household. Laundry logjams seem to be far less frequent, and I can clear up the living room to "company ready" in only a few minutes.

Going back even further, we have had the breadmaker for a little over 6 weeks now and that has turned into a real source of comfort and happiness. My accounting so far suggests we are spending only slightly less on bread-ingredients than we were on getting bread delivered, but we're eating a much wider variety of loaves of better quality and freshness. (Occasionally I have to remember to eat something other than bread.) I've noticed some indirect savings too, as I spend much less on food at work when I have nice bread from home to keep me going.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
This weekend I have been trying to tackle two household issues: somewhere to store Charles's toys and books to make tidying easier; the constant pressure on drying space on the landing.

We line-dry outside where possible, though in winter that's hard. I've had a washload hung out on each of Saturday and Sunday for the majority of the daylight hours, and they came in much less wet, but not actually dry. It did at least reduce pressure on the drying space indoors and allow us to catch up a bit. In the long term, when we have the garden a bit more sorted, I am going to get a rotary dryer and put it in the odd little corner behind the house where people don't tend to go - so we can continue to dry outside easily in the summer even when wanting to use the garden for parties or just eating outside.

Inside, we have a miscellaneous collection of folding airers, some much more efficient than others. Everything takes noticeably longer to dry in winter. There are four airers apparently permanently in use on the landing and I have ordered replacements for all four, all of them taller and with more drying space than anything we already have, without taking up any more floor area. I also chose some bog-standard radiator racks for the bathrooms, and some rather fancy radiator racks that unfold to hold quite a lot of laundry - these are intended for the two lodger rooms, and I hope will give Jason and Jonny a bit more flexibility.

I have also ordered a number of Really Useful Boxes in which to store Charles's toys and books, picking out sizes that should fit well on the existing corner unit shelves we are using. They worked well at first but now there is so much stuff that it all just forms an amorphous heap in which it is hard to find anything, and which Charles will pull all over the floor given half a chance. I'm planning to use the boxes to store similar stuff together, so hopefully we'll have less "pull everything on the floor" and in any case it'll be easier to quickly tidy up and actually have it look tidy rather than a heap on a shelf. [livejournal.com profile] fanf is quite excited because one of the sizes I've ordered may work well on the ordinary IVAR shelves as well; I ordered two extra just to see.

Finally I spent far too long wrangling train times and ticket prices, but have now got reserved seats and tickets to visit Tony's sister in March. The Family Railcard is very useful here. Charles is getting big and boisterous enough that it is an advantage to have a seat reserved for him by buying him a ticket, as well as saving the money by using the railcard.

I used to be a long-standing customer of TheTrainLine.com but they have really started gouging for credit card charges and postage charges. East Midlands Trains sell tickets "powered by TheTrainLine" but without the gouging. A useful discovery, although I had to register before I could confirm it for sure.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Small single room, fully furnished, in large friendly shared house. Other occupants are 3 young professionals, 2 cats and a baby. Freeview and broadband internet. Suit writing-up student or weekly commuter. £300 per month, inclusive of all bills.
rmc28: (glowy)
We spent most of the weekend working on the Great Furniture Shuffle that will result in: a new joint study for me and Tony, a bedroom for Charles, and a lettable small bedroom. The new study is really taking shape, though the last pieces (2 small desks) will not arrive from IKEA until 21st November. We were both getting quite pleased and excited about it by the end of Sunday. It will be really good to be able to do our respective at-computer stuff in the same room rather than opposite sides of the house, and to have baby-safe space near our computers so there's a chance of getting a bit more done without neglecting Charles, or having to constantly redirect him from the stuff he shouldn't get into.

My current study is a junk room at the moment, and for the medium term that's what it's going to stay - somewhere I can put things that need sorting out where they aren't in the way. I'm going to move the stuff I need to use regularly into the new study and deal with the rest a bit at a time when I have spare oomph. To stop it being a junk room FOREVER, I have a long-term plan to make it a music room and install an upright piano. Maybe in a couple of years.

Keith's coming round tomorrow with his drill to help me fix shelves to walls, another line to cross off the to-do list. We're about 1/3 through the list I wrote on Sunday.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Conrad (Tony's father) arrived on Thursday evening and we had a pub meal but flaked out early. Douglas moved out on Friday, just in time for us to turn the room around for Lucy to stay in over the weekend. Today has been very lazy, with a venture out to the local recreation ground for Charles to play on everything. His favourite thing by far is the zip slide: we very carefully let him ride on it with both me and Lucy there to catch him, and he was very reluctantly detached, and then spent the next 5 minutes walking back and forth following the zip slide as other children played on it.

Tomorrow Sarah & Paul are visiting for the day. The plan is to have a family barbecue (try not to roast the baby).
rmc28: (happy)
This week my spare energy has been mostly devoted to the house. On Monday and Tuesday Keith emptied his room downstairs. On Wednesday afternoon, while Charles napped, I managed to move the futon which has been a sofa in Tony's room for the last 3 years downstairs and turn it into a double bed. On my own. Go me, ug me strong woman, etc. Keith restored the light fitting which has been gone for over 5 years so it actually looks like a normal room, and also brought in the bedframes for the spare room and stashed them temporarily in the downstairs room.

Later that evening, Tony helped me take down the high metal bed in our spare room, and together we sorted through the large piles of bedding, towels etc that had lurked a) on the futon b) in the airing cupboard.

On Thursday afternoon I had a serious go at the spare room, taking everything off one set of shelves, moving the shelves to their new location in the room, and putting everything back on them. All the while Charles was bimbling around the floor fairly happily and occasionally finding unsuitable things to eat, and submitting unhappily to their removal. Then I took down the next set of shelves, and with Douglas's help got them across into Tony's room without completely destroying them. Then I did more things-shuffling, and vacuumed both rooms, this time with Charles in the Mei Tai on my back.

On Friday I did the bedframes in the spare room. These are 2 single beds, one at roughly normal height, with the other rolled underneath, so that you can roll it out as an extra bed. There isn't room for this in the spare room, but it's a handy way of storing a spare single bed for when we want it later. So I brought up the lower frame, plonked the mattress down, and then assembled the higher bed above it. And then had to take the higher bed apart again because I'd forgotten about the wooden slats that hold the mattress and put the frame in upside down. So then I did it all over again. Charles kept getting annoyed because he wanted to play in the area at the end of the bed and I was repeatedly in his way screwing the bed together.

Anyway, our regular guests, including [livejournal.com profile] louise_e_finch and [livejournal.com profile] ruthcoleman, will no doubt be very glad to know that we have a normal single guest bed for them from now on!

Hopefully someone from freecycle will come and take away the disassembled high metal bed later today. I need to confirm with Keith what's happening with the remaining mattress and bed frame for which we have no room, but with any luck will also go to freecycle. On Wednesday we have stuff coming from IKEA's online service which should mean we start on the planned reorganisation of the living room and finish reorganising the spare room. Also on the to-do list is:

* tidy up the bookcases in our room, and re-space the shelves so we can get 10 shelves floor-to-ceiling rather than the current 9
* declutter the study
* turn Tony's room into Charles's room

Those last 2 tasks unpack into huge to-do lists of their own but I'm not going there just yet. Originally I planned for Charles to have his own room by the time he was 1. That's not going to happen, but we might manage it by the time he's 2.

Today I finally put up curtains that actually cover the entire window in the downstairs bedroom, so that Douglas could move his stuff into it, so that Jason (our new long-term lodger) can move into the upstairs room. The curtains, like all the ones in the house, are rather blah, but "new curtains" is rather a long way down the priority list. I think that all that remains for the downstairs bedroom is net curtains and a desk, before I can tick that room off as completely done.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
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