No booze, no car, no chicken!

Posted October 12th, 2008 by Penny Wise

*Pout* - to use an expression gleaned from the SS Forum, I am NOT HAPPY, JAN! I think the powers that be must have it in for me lately. There I was minding my own business the other day (well OK, I was rolling around on the floor trying to keep up with the new Winsor Pilates DVD I had just bought on Trade Me) when my laptop, which incidentally I was nowhere near, emitted a loud BANG and died instantly. I was seriously worried that the sight of a beached whale trying to contort itself into impossible positions had actually caused it to go into shock, although mercifully I don't have a webcam. It wasn't until the following day when half the lights and appliances refused to work that Noel went outside to check the fuses and found a very small bird had decided to try and build its nest in the fuse cupboard. Goodness knows how it got in and out from behind the bolted door but we had no choice but to clear the nest, shoo the bird out and whaddya know, everything was back in working order. Everything except my laptop, that is. It's still at the computer hospital undergoing observation and I'm praying the prognosis is good. At least this time its untimely demise is due to circumstances beyond my control, compared to the the previous embarrassment of yours truly drowning its predecessor in a glass of Shiraz...

Then there's the fact that we've had no hot water for the last five days. Typically the weather has chosen these same few days to become glorious and there we are like a pack of plonkers sweltering beside a roaring fire with all the doors and windows open and the four of us gasping for air. Unfortunately it's been necessary to light the fire as it's the only way we can get enough hot water for a bath, but what a waste of firewood! We thought it just needed a new thermostat but the electrician finally came and told us it was a pole fuse problem, which the power company would have to fix in their own sweet time. Fortunately I used my Simple Savings savvy to make use of the lovely hot showers in the gym this morning after my run. I felt very proud of myself as I got in the car all lovely and clean, turned the key and... the engine was dead.

My trusty car - the one I so proudly paid off earlier than planned some time ago - has been giving me a bit of trouble lately. Firstly, it developed the wobbles a couple of weeks ago. The kids and I and anyone else unfortunate enough to sit in it get shaken around like being in a washing machine for about 20 seconds before the wobbles magically clear and we're launched off down the road like a rocket. It's rather embarrassing for me and definitely not cool for the kids who have had mates with them throughout the school holidays but as soon as I noticed it I took it to our local mechanic, who looked at me bamboozled and couldn't find anything wrong, so we just crossed our fingers and hoped whatever it was would clear. It didn't, but it did almost blow up a few days ago on the way back from picking a friend up at Auckland airport. I had no choice but to leave everyone sitting in a stinking hot car long enough for the engine to cool down so we could see what was wrong with it. Everyone thought it was a great joke to discover that Silly Penny had let the water run completely dry and we were soon back on the road again.

However, that was on Friday. Today is Monday, I drove the car only once at the weekend and whaddya know? Once Noel had rescued me and the mechanic lifted up the bonnet, we discovered that I had no water once again. That would explain the noisy fan and the fact that the battery was now flat because the overactive fan had been draining it (ooh, don't I sound technical?) but what about the latest addition of clouds of smoke belching out the back of the exhaust? What with that, and the paint missing off the bonnet after three years spent out in the open while we save up enough to buy a garage, my respectable family car looked as though it would be more at home among the boy racers in South Auckland. Upon spotting the 'smoke' the mechanic had an 'aha!' moment and realised it wasn't smoke at all but condensation. Which means a leaky head gasket. Which for a Holden Vectra is apparently uneconomical to fix so I don't really have a choice from this point on except to trade it in for peanuts and buy a new car. Oh fabulous. This of course comes at the precise moment that Noel and I decide we can finally make a start on decorating the bathroom - the one that I started stripping wallpaper off in January 2007. We'd even been and got the brochures but I guess that's on the backburner for quite some time now. Boohoo!

On the positive side... THE KIDS HAVE GONE BACK TO SCHOOL TODAY! Woohoo! Not that I don't love them dearly of course but my goodness the school holidays wore me out. The last fortnight has passed in a blur of noisy sleepovers, not to mention parties. Well, sort of. I was amused on Saturday night to see a large sign on the boys' bedroom door: 'PARTY TONIGHT - 7PM - 12AM+. LIAM, ALI AND ELLIS ARE HAVING A PARTY, NO ONE ELSE ALLOWED!' It was certainly a noisy affair, with hysterical laughter and plenty of food and drink, judging by all the empty bottles of ginger beer I carted out of their room the next morning, but they didn't quite make it to midnight as planned. I peeked my head around the door at 10.15 to find all three of them snoring their heads off!

Noel has now reached two and a half weeks of not smoking and is still running every day. He says his new focus is to look after his body and he can't wait to get home from work to go for a run each day. Wow, what a turnaround! I can't believe he's actually done it - if only I had his willpower when it came to wine. I've even joined the No Booze Challenge on the Forum and started with a hiss and a roar but failed miserably at the weekend. In fact I even admit to having a hangover yesterday but I forced myself to run 10km as penance! Still there's one challenge I am good at and that's making meals out of nothing. Amazingly our chocka-full-to-the-brim freezer is all but empty, with nothing but mince, a few roasts and an oxtail I can't bring myself to do anything with so my menu plan for the week has to revolve entirely around red meat.

Well, almost. If there's one positive thing which has come out of Noel giving up smoking it's that he can't keep still. He has to keep busy all the time to keep his mind off smoking which has been excellent for me as he's offered to cook dinner almost every day during the last week! If he's not been cooking dinner he's been providing it. When he realised there was nothing in the freezer on Friday he took it upon himself to go and feed the family and shot a deer on Saturday and caught a feed of fish on Sunday. The whole family loves venison except me, so I think I'll be vegetarian again for a while at least! One thing we have all vowed and declared not to eat is chicken, unless it's free range. Has anyone been watching The Big Food Fight - Hugh's Chicken Run? Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall might have a mouthful of a name but he's a real SS legend in our family - we love his nude food recipes and self-sufficient lifestyle. It was a foregone conclusion that I would be upset by what I saw on the show but I was surprised how strongly Noel felt about it. We both agreed that there is no way we are buying any chickens for meat that is not free range. I really admire Hugh for taking a stand and feel he is making a big difference. There's just one problem - where on earth are we supposed to get free range chicken meat from? I'm sure as heck not eating any of our girls!

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