Sunday, 14 December 2014

Feeling Festive

I adore Christmas – even more so now J is at an age where he is really enjoying it, too.

I like to try and do as many Christmassy activities as I can with him. These days are the memories for him for when he’s older. I want him to have great Christmas memories like I do.

On Friday 28th November was the Christmas Lights Turn On in town. My mum came up and we collected J from school and picked up fish & chips on the way home. We got home, got changed and ate dinner, then bundled up and headed into town. There was a night market, Father Christmas in his grotto, churches were open showcasing nativity displays and offering hot chocolate to visitors, there was a small fairground for younger children and Christmas songs playing. After the lights were turned on the walk home was punctuated with spotting the lights all around town.

In the poundshop while out shopping the following week, I found a kit for making sparkly angels. At home J and I had a fantastic time doing them. After we’d done them, we started on J’s homework for that weekend – making snowflakes. After we’d cut out the snowflakes we decorated them with glue and leftover glitter from the sparkly angels. Glitter everywhere – much fun.

One day at school, J and his class decorated gingerbread men. J was eating his on the way home and got as far as just having the legs left and doing the gingerbread song about “run, run, as fast as you can”. He then went to pop the legs in his mouth and missed, dropping them on the pavement! Disaster. As you can imagine, he created quite a fuss of epic proportions about that, so I pacified him by saying we’d make more gingerbread at home. I’d never made gingerbread before, but we’ve got a really good baking book, and I found an easy recipe to follow. Our first batch of gingerbread was a success and J was absolutely thrilled to bits that we’d done it.

On Saturday 6th December, Father Christmas visited the local garden centre with two of his famous reindeer – Dancer and Prancer. J and I went along to say hello. I’d never met reindeer before in such close quarters either – I was as excited as the kids to get to stroke Prancer’s nose when she came over to me for  a bit of carrot! Dancer was obviously exhausted – all danced out by the time we arrived perhaps, as it was toward the end of the afternoon.

After I’d got some more Christmas presents, I spent Tuesday wrapping presents while J was at school and that evening Daddy P and I continued on the task. I love wrapping presents – I put on some Christmas music, chuck a splash of Baileys into my hot chocolate and away I go. This year I even treated myself to a sticky tape dispenser, to the dismay of my husband, but to my great delight.

His school participated in Save The Children Christmas Jumper day so I asked him what jumper he’d like for it. He requested a pale blue Olaf jumper – I thought he was being far too exact and would be disappointed by whatever I managed to find him, but I found exactly what he was after on E-Bay and happily clicked ‘Order’. As part of the fundraising, the school also invited parents to come for Christmas dinner and wear a Christmas jumper too. Grandma Parker and myself both went along, both buying and wearing a Christmas jumper specially! (We’re both planning to wear them at Christmas, too, and we know that Daddy P and Grandad P are utterly thrilled by this news)

Today my mum and dad are coming up for the day and we’re heading out for a meal with them to celebrate Dad’s birthday (which is on the 23rd, but Daddy P and I won’t both see my dad again before then) so we’re booked into a local restaurant for a ‘festive’ menu at lunchtime. It’s been a few weeks since I saw my dad, so I’m really looking forward to it.

So far we’re having a very lovely festive time … Hope you all are too!


Mummy P

X x x x x

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Shiny New Kitchen Appliance!

A few years ago, my parents were kind enough to get Daddy P and I a second hand dishwasher. It did well and served us faithfully for five or six years until without warning one day it was loaded and switched on and nothing happened. My cousin spoke to Daddy P over Skype and they located the manufacturing date to see if spare parts could be ordered for it and we discovered that dishwasher was 20 years old. No wonder it had finally given up. Spares weren’t in vast supply (unsurprisingly!) and I was resigned to washing up forever by hand, so I brought a pair of pink washing up gloves, tuned the radio in and danced my way through hours of washing up on a daily basis.

On Black Friday, on a whim, I happened to look up dishwashers from several retailers who were having special sale prices. Lots of them were still far too expensive, even with the Black Friday discounts, but one from Curry’s caught my eye and with the discount it was a very good deal even with delivery and installation on top.

On the website initially it showed delivery available for next day, so I selected that. After the sale was completed it said next day delivery was not possible as it was a 2 person delivery / installation (I would have thought with a dishwasher that would flag up anyway, before the delivery has already been chosen for next day and order is completed?) I had a selection of alternative delivery dates – I wasn’t fussed in the slightest so I clicked the first three showing available. I received an automated email saying that I would receive confirmation of delivery date by email soon. Nothing arrived.

I realised after ordering that I had an appointment which I couldn’t avoid which conflicted with one of the proposed delivery dates. I e-mailed customer services at Curry’s apologising about that and asking them to ensure delivery did not happen that day, but delivery any other day was fine. It took four days for a reply to arrive (after the date of the confliction anyway) and at that point the customer service guy advised that delivery was showing as booked for another date (obviously) but then I was confused by the date he gave me, as it wasn’t a date I thought had been optional when I’d made the order. It wasn’t an inconvenient date, but it meant that delivery would not be for 11 days after I’d made the order, which I felt was quite a long time. To date I have not received a reply back from the customer care team at Curry’s following my response to their initial e-mail.

On Tuesday morning I received a text message advising that my time slot for delivery was between 07:35 and 11:35. I was up and dressed and trying to get J sorted out when I had a missed call from a mobile number on my phone. When I rang back I was cut off, so I checked out the front window and saw the Know How van parked outside, so I dashed down and found one of the delivery guys on the doorstep. He was polite, wasn’t phased at all by the fact that both dogs were going absolutely nuts howling, barking and screaming. I put Holly in her cage in the kitchen and shut Buddy in the front room with the gates, and we discussed whether it would be easier to bring the dishwasher straight down the hallway through the house or come in down the alleyway at the side and through the back gate into the utility room directly. Due to the tight corner and the step, the delivery guys agreed straight through the house was the best option.

I never like leaving people alone in my house in that kind of situation. It makes me feel a bit weird. But what option did I have, but to leave him removing the old dishwasher from the space while I ran back upstairs to carry on sorting out J for school. A couple of minutes later, there was another knock at the door – I went and opened it and delivery man number 2 said hello. He came into the house and the first guy had already got the old dishwasher disconnected and ready to go – the two of them walked it through the house, and off to the van. Then the shiny new black one came in – I had to rush back off upstairs – and finished getting J ready. I heard the front door open and shut and saw delivery man number 2 was walking down the path to the van with a load of packaging stuff. A couple of minutes later I glanced out of the window again and he’d turned the van round ready to go. Then the first guy called me from downstairs, and I went down and found him ready to leave. He said he’d tested it and all was working fine, advised me to read and follow set up guidelines (adding rinse aid and salt before first use etc) and contact them if there were any issues. He asked if I had any questions, confirmed they’d taken my old dishwasher and the packaging for the new one and then he asked if it was OK to pet Buddy!

Now bear in mind, this bonkers dog had been bouncing around the front room howling, barking and screaming from the time the delivery truck had pulled into sight in the road outside, the whole time this guy had been in the house and as we’d stood talking at the front door, Buddy was separated from us by a baby gate so you could see him leaping all over the sofas and circling the room as he continued his deafening song. I looked at the delivery guy in disbelief. “Yeah, he’s fine to pet,” I said quickly. Buddy immediately shut up with a good ear scratch. “I love dogs,” The delivery guy said, “He’s a beauty.” I gathered my jaw up from the floor and managed to smile at him. “I like him more when he’s shouting less,” I said.

J and I left for school two minutes later, they’d already gone, no hanging around there! I was absolutely amazed at how quickly they’d got it sorted – and the only thing that took the two of them was bringing the new one into the house and taking the old one out, the fitting etc was all done by one. In total, they arrived at 08:07 and they left at 08:28. J and I were at school at normal time, and there was me worrying about being late!

When I got home I had a cup of tea before I started fiddling with the dishwasher, and I read the User Manual like a good customer. Our old dishwasher I never learned how to do certain things like putting the salt in and I feel that’s ridiculous as I’m sure it’s fairly standard in any dishwasher, but having never done it before I didn’t know. So I wanted to know about this dishwasher, and after reading the User Manual I managed to follow the set up guidelines and get it all organised within half an hour.

Go to product on website

I’m not daft – I did read the reviews before making the purchase – and one thing people had commented upon was not having enough room for larger dinner plates on the bottom rack due to the low position of the top rack. However I had also read that the top rack was height adjustable in the info about the product on the advert. I risked it – my dinner plates are huge. There was no way they would fit in the bottom rack with the top rack on the lower position. The instructions for changing the height aren’t exactly full and easy to understand but it provides enough information for a person to work it would and adjust. I managed it! After putting the top rack in the higher position there is just enough space for the arm to move before the tops of my dinner plates. If my dinner plates fit, I can confidently say that most would. You’d just need to adjust the top rack to do it.

I added the salt and the rinse aid and followed the set up guide by putting water into the salt compartment to run the dishwasher for the first time without any washing up in it. Another comment I’d seen on reviews was that it was really loud. Since the dishwasher lives in the utility room anyway, noise isn’t something that really bothers me. If I’m in the front room watching TV or upstairs I can’t hear a dishwasher running. I don’t know what volume these reviewers were expecting – especially as it states on the product info the noise level produced – but while it’s not silent, I would say it’s about average, not loud at all. When the cycle ends, the dishwasher beeps a few times – this beep is loud, and was clearly heard by me when I was upstairs in the front bedroom at the furthest point in the house away from the location of the dishwasher. If this went off at night it would probably disturb me, and the dogs, but probably not Daddy P or J unless they weren’t properly asleep anyway. I don’t know if it beeps intermittently once it’s finished until you open it, but as I heard it yesterday I came downstairs and opened it. It does beep if it is turned on and the door is not properly shut which is fine, until you’re loading things into it and it gets a bit annoying. I turned off the power while I was loading it!

I like the additional wiring in the racks to move around and make the best set up for what washing up you have – it can provide flat spaces if needed, or angled ones as required. The cutlery basket holes are a variety of shapes and sizes to try and accommodate a wide range of cutlery styles but unfortunately my sharp knives (which I put in handle-up) do not fit in there well as the handle is too large to fit in the gaps and this leaves the knife off balance / top heavy.

Another one of the negatives listed on the product reviews is that the bottom rack doesn’t stay out because the dishwasher door doesn’t open completely flat. No, the dishwasher door doesn’t lie completely flat, but it’s only a couple of degrees off it so the bottom rack may not stay the whole way out but it doesn’t roll the whole way back in, either – it moves in by an inch or two maybe. If you leave the top rack in, you can access all of the bottom rack without needing to pull the rack out again. Once you have some weight in the rack it stays more firmly in place though I did find I needed to be careful to roll the rack back into the body of the dishwasher properly as on one side the wheels pop off the runner easily.

The dishwasher has a delay cycle facility you can set to delay it going on by 3, 6 or 9 hours – my mum uses this function on her dishwasher for it to go on overnight, which I would do if the dishwasher made so much noise I couldn’t cope with it being on while I was downstairs, or if it was cheaper for me to run it overnight, but it doesn’t affect me either way so I won’t worry about that, but it’s a nice added feature. It offers Eco Mode, Intensive, Normal, 1Hr, Rapid and 3 in 1 wash cycles, all of which you can select and then use the ½ load button if required.

By far my favourite addition on the panel of buttons is the childlock option. You set the childlock on and whatever buttons get pushed after that just get ignored by the dishwasher. Since I’ve a four year old who LOVES fiddling with all things button related (especially with flashing red lights and beeping going on) this is a big bonus for me. It’s easy to set but I did find getting it right took a couple of attempts – You have to press two buttons at once, one of those buttons being the program selection, so I kept changing the program selection just before the childlock activated and then having to undo the childlock to change the program back! I need more co-ordination!

It did a washload yesterday and I was pleased with how things came out, using the Eco Mode program and it was quite full. The only thing was the deeper bottoms of some mugs still had water in them where the angle wasn’t quite enough for the water to run off over the depth of the lip. Not a massive deal really. Everything was clean and with the exception of the bottoms of those mugs everything was rinsed.

All in all, so far I am pleased with this dishwasher. It was a very good price, though the customer care could have been vastly improved with better contact, the text message was received with my time slot being very accurate, the delivery guys were polite, professional and quick, and so far the dishwasher has done what I want it to do. The instructions could be clearer for adjusting the top rack but it’s quite obvious once you think about it and for the cost in comparison to other products I think this is a decent product of the quality you would expect for an own-brand item vs brand name. You get various bits included – salt funnel, scoops for detergent etc – probably stuff you get as standard with a new dishwasher, but this is the first time I’ve had one from new!

Impressed with Curry’s product and the pricing, less impressed with their so-called customer ‘care’. Impressed with Know How’s delivery guys.

Good overall experience for me!


Mummy P

x x x x 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Jumper

Last year, I got J a special Christmas jumper. It was a beautiful soft knit from Sainsburys TU, £8, navy blue with Father Christmas on it featuring a soft fluffy white beard appliquè detail. I adored it. J adored it. It suited him down to the ground and he proudly wore it for Christmas Jumper Party at Nursery last year as well as to Boxing Day celebrations with Grandma and Grandad P, my SIL J, my brother in law D and my nephew A.

He wore it a few other times around Christmas too, but not as memorable days. I remember washing it one last time on New Years Eve and hanging it in his wardrobe (toward the end that all the rarely worn things live, because it's awkward to access) 

I'll be very honest - I was hoping that J would get some wear from that jumper this Christmas as well. When the email came from the school about the Christmas Jumper Day event for this year I thought yay, I can get out the Father Christmas jumper. I knew exactly where it was and didn't think about it again.

A few days later, at school pick up time, J and I walked back with his best friend K, and Mummy M, and we were discussing the event. This year J's year and two others are allowed to have family members as guests for dinner and we're all invited to wear a Christmas jumper to raise money for Save The Children. Mummy M commented about getting hers and K's Christmas jumpers sorted. I'd confidently got one for myself and said to Mummy M, "J has the one I got him last year that should still fit" To which J said to me, "No, mummy, its not in my wardrobe its gone"! Mummy M and I laughed and when I got home I went straight to his wardrobe and opened it to get his jumper and show him.

The jumper wasn't there. I have literally no clue where on earth it could have gone. I have turned J's room inside out, my wardrobe inside out, I've pulled everything out of the airing cupboard on a random chance it somehow got mixed up with the thick winter blankets we don't often use. The only remaining possible place it may be is the spare bedroom.

The spare bedroom frightens me at the moment. At one point a few months ago I spent three days sorting it all out and cleaning and rearranging and for some time after that it was fine. I had my ironing board set up in there, craft bits, a surface that I could craft on or put my laptop on ... it worked well and I quite enjoyed it. Then I wasn't well for a bit, then I went away for a bit, then I came back and was busy and here we are now.

The washing got backed up in there because while Daddy P will (eventually) take washing downstairs, sort it, put it in the machine (usually stuffed too full) and even go as far as hanging it up to dry afterwards (on a particularly good day) but he will not iron. I never used to but over the last year for some reason I have done more ironing than I did in the first 7 years we lived here. So anyway the washing pile drifts everywhere, boxes and old clothes to be sold or donated, the spare room looks like a scene from Walking Dead happened. Its trashed. The jumper may be in there. It shouldn't be - it wasn't a clean washing dumping ground last time I saw the jumper - but it could be. I'm too knackered and too pushed for time to be able to check right now.

I consulted with J about the situation and he calmly said, "thats ok mummy you can get me a new blue one". I said OK another Father Christmas one or something different?" He thought for a moment and then said "Pale blue Olaf" I asked if he was sure - he said yes. Doubly sure - absolutely yes. Thank heavens for E-Bay. After getting him to bed that evening I located a pale blue Olaf jumper in his size delivery free within the UK. I clicked order and waited,

Order was confirmed by e-mail the following day and within a couple of days the package arrived. I am so pleased. Its good quality, exactly as the E-Bay image looked, with a little 3D knitted carrot nose. As promised in the ad it was brand new with tags, in a plastic bag. When I opened it I noticed it smelled quite stale, like that bag had been closed for a while, so I've put the jumper through the wash. On a wool wash 40 degree machine cycle in my machine along with my own new Christmas jumper and a few others the Olaf jumper washed well, coming out soft and smelling lovely, no shrinkage or distortion to the shape at all.

The purpose of the Christmas jumpers for myself and for J (and for Grandma P ...) is the Christmas Jumper Christmas Dinner at J's school this week for Help The Children. Daddy P can't make it as he'll be working but Grandma P has confirmed that she has a special Christmas jumper for the occasion (described as optional by the school) and I have our tickets in my purse. My friend Mummy M will be there too, she ordered jumpers for her and K, but baby M will need to stay at home with her Nan as very young children / babies aren't allowed. Much to his deep joy I have promised Daddy P I will be wearing my Christmas jumper for Christmas day itself, too. (I know he's secretly thrilled by that!) 

I showed J his new Christmas jumper and asked him if it was what he had in mind. He smiled from ear to ear and said "Yeah, thank you, it's brilliant!" before turning to Daddy P and saying, "Look, Olaf!" I think he's pretty pleased with it too.


Mummy P

x x x x