Sunday, 28 February 2010

Very Important erm... People

There are two members of our family that I'd like you to meet.
They've been around now for between 9 and 12 years and it doesn't look like they'll be leaving us anytime soon. Unless, of course, they disintegrate.

So without further ado, may I introduce Baby (full name Baby Poppet Sweetheart aka Poo) and Peng (full name, very originally, Penguin). I'll leave you to decide which one is which.

Baby was originally bought for my son, but my daughter took a shine to him and adopted him very early on in life. He is still very much loved and she cannot sleep without him.

Earlier this week she was very embarrassed when she came downstairs with him and bumped into a couple of my son's friends: "But Mummy, I'm in year 5. I shouldn't still be carrying my teddy around."

It's a shame - I shall miss seeing his grubby little face around the place if he gets confined to bed all day. When she was younger I used to put him in different places around the house and pretend he'd been helping me out with my chores. He was often to be found with a wooden spoon or a duster in his hand when she came in from school. Maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part!

Penguin belongs to my son. He is already confined to the bedroom and is most definitely not allowed to school trips, sleepovers or anything else where other people might see him. But he is still very much loved. He is also my sworn enemy and we regularly come to blows. Oh, and he has a pet name for me - Auntie Yin! Of course, I didn't tell you any of this.

The reason I'm writing this is because, just recently, I'm constantly being reminded of how quickly my children are growing up and leaving so many of theirs childish toys and ways behind them. I hope these two get to stay around for quite a while yet but, just in case they don't, I wanted to have a record of them. For the children, you understand.

Season's Eatings

Although I'm not a fan of February in all its greyness there are certain things which, when they appear, always brighten my mood.

So, when I diverted through town on my way home from a run yesterday morning and saw forced rhubarb on one of the market stalls I just knew I had to come straight back and buy some. We were having friends round for tea and it was crying out to be made into the perfect pudding.

Slowly stewed in the oven and mixed with whipped cream it made a delicious rhubarb fool which I served up with homemade shortbread biscuits.

Anyway, whilst I was anxiously queuing to purchase my rhubarb before anybody else snapped it up, I saw this other delightful seasonal treat:

Purple sprouting broccoli - one of my all time favourite vegetables. It looked so pretty that I was tempted just to put it in a vase on the table, but greed prevailed so I steamed it and served it up as the star accompaniment to a slow-cooked beef casserole and mashed potatoes.
'Twas all well received by my visitors, even their 4-year old son (and we all know 4-year olds can be the fiercest critics) and, as an added bonus to an enjoyable evening with good friends, they had bought me a belated birthday gift: some garden incense (for when we can finally sit outside again), a mug depicting a small obsession of mine and... first ever thing from Cath Kidston. A lovely, bright tea towel to take the drudgery out of doing the dishes. I am a very luck girl indeed.

Monday, 22 February 2010

A very happy birthday

41 - say it quickly and it doesn't sound too bad.
Actually, it feels better than 40 did.
Things were a little tough this time last year so, although I had a lovely birthday it felt a bit odd to be celebrating too much.
This year we kept it very simple, and it was perfect.
First there was breakfast in bed.

And no, somebody hasn't stolen my egg - it's just a handy receptacle for the various vitamins I've decided might keep me on the right side of healthy.

Then it was time for a walk. Not the original planned route as the snow had hit again (the first time I can ever remember it snowing on my birthday) but a slightly more local, lower level trek.

And look, we even saw some blue sky.

It was a long haul back to the car (particularly for the dog that doesn't like walking, although she did have fun running around, very fast, off the lead).

And then there was a pub lunch (a bit disappointing but not enough to spoil the day - at least I didn't have to cook it) and presents and a long soak in the bath. Such a pity it had to come to an end.
And today it was back to work. Enough said.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

We're very proud

Today Lily has graduated from puppy school.

Now let's not get too excited here - this doesn't necessarily mean she is any better behaved.
However, it does mean that I don't have to spend any more Saturday mornings doing my best Barbara Woodhouse impressions in a freezing cold barn.

So, to celebrate we had a nice long walk home (no mean feat when you own the only dog in the world who doesn't really like walking) and admired the snowdrops on the way.

And then baked a batch of rock cakes - something I've not made since I was at primary school.
I've given up chocolate for Lent you see (and coffee) and was in need of a sweet treat to take my mind off the deprivation. I read about rock cakes on somebody else's blog recently (so sorry, but I can't remember where) and it sent me off down memory lane so I scoured my shelves for a recipe and here's the result - rather nice they are too, a bit like cakey scones.
And, having used up the last egg to make the cakes, I then had an empty egg box, which is just what I needed for my next project - chitting my seed potatoes.

Quite a productive day really and tomorrow it's my birthday, so I can be completely unproductive without feeling guilty about it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The joy of pets

How romantic.
A shared bath, a jug of Pimms...
... a kitchen timer, a bottle of antispetic shampoo and a scabby South American rodent.

Guinea pigs.

They are lovely pets for children. Cute, easy to handle and, though quite prolific in the bowel offerings department, at least they're of the compact variety that are relatively easy to clean up.

However, they can also be rather prone to skin infections.

And, if they get one, you have to bath them.

That's right, bath a guinea pig.

Did I say they were easy to handle?

That's in their unsoapy, unterrified state.

They're still cute though.

Especially when you get to cuddle them dry.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Love is...

...about stepping out of your comfort zone.
After nearly 15 years of marriage, sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and try new things.

Not sure about this though...

Doesn't look quite like it does in here...
Maybe we just need to heat things up a bit...
I'm still not convinced. There's only one thing that can save this now...
... the icing on the cake!
Happy Valentine's Day everyone - hope it's as sweet as these look.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Chaos theory

Forget all this stuff about butterflies and hurricanes.

What I really want to know is this.

If I spend a morning sorting out cupboards and clearing surfaces so that one corner of my kitchen looks like this...

Why, when I turn around, does the rest of the house look like this?

Seeing red

I don't really do ill.

I was brought up to soldier on through all adversity with a stiff upper lip and a snotty nose.

Usually, I have to be hospitalised before I'll take a day off sick.

But not this time.

So, what finally brought me down?

Conjunctivitis. A sticky, red, itchy eye, completely glued together with pus.

Admittedly I'd felt a bit off colour all week and maybe this was the manifestation of it all, but it sent me into total meltdown.

What sort of woman was I, if I couldn't cope with a minor eye infection?

If I took the day off work, would I ever be able to make myself go in again?

Why did I feel so disproportionately sorry for myself?

Winter blues? Hormones? General run downess? A need for change and action?

All of the above?

So, it was off to the pharmacy for some eye drops (I don't really do doctors either), into the health food shop for some balance and then a quick trip to Waitrose for some flowery goodness.

It would seem that the absence of flowers to gaze at in the garden has driven me to ingesting them instead. And these two new flowery flavours certainly perked me up a little - Fentiman's Rose Lemonade and Montezuma's Orange and Geranium chocolate.

And now I feel a little better. Not great, but not as totally useless as a few days ago.

And the change and action I was blaming up there.

Well, it's been identified.

Now, what to do about it?

Monday, 1 February 2010

My list

A long time ago, over at frugal trenches, I read about a project called 101 things in 1001 days . Essentially it's making a big long to do list which you then have nearly 3 years to achieve.

Now, I liked this idea and immediately started a list, but time and procrastination inevitably got in the way so I never made it to 101 things, even though sometimes I feel like I have 5 times as many things I'd like to do.

Still, I kept the list in my drawer at work and every now and again I get to cross something off it. Occasionally I even remember to add something else to it.

Then I read that Rhiannon of the princess mug also has a list which she is rapidly working her way through and she regularly updates us with progress reports on her blog.

So here goes, I'm putting my list up for all to see. It's not 101 things. They're not all SMART. In fact some of them are downright vague, but it's my list and that's the kind of girl I am. Also, in true list writing fashion, I've already achieved some of them, so I get the instant gratification of ticking them off straight away!

My list
  1. Empty my inbox(es). Managed to empty my work one once, but that was a long time ago
  2. Keep it empty!
  3. Make myself something to wear.
  4. Learn to knit and/or crochet.
  5. Teach my children to cook. Daughter now makes a mean fairy cake and son makes the biggest, puffiest toad in the hole you've ever seen. Still need to expand their repertoire though.
  6. Have something I've written published. Does this count?!
  7. Insulate the house.
  8. Run in a cross country race. I ran my first on 18/10/08 and then did 2 others that year. Can't remember where I finished - let's just say it was near the back of the field. Chickened out again last year (painful, muddy memories) but maybe this year I'll be foolish enough to give it another go.
  9. Bake some bread. Baked my first loaf on 8/3/09 and haven't looked back since. Don't get to bake as often as I'd like but really enjoy the therapeutic qualities of a good knead!
  10. To weigh 9 stone again.
  11. Start a vegetable garden. Did this in a very haphazard fashion last year - hope to be more organised this year.
  12. Pass my sports massage course. Completed this last summer (with a distinction!) but not giving up the day job. It's a long story, but after 2 years of night classes, I decided it wasn't for me.
  13. Hold a clothes swapping party.
  14. Comment on a blog. Think my first one was 2/11/09.
  15. Run another half marathon - my first and only one so far was early in 2008.
  16. Train Lily (the whippet puppy).
  17. Start a blog. Well, here I am - started on 18/1/10.
  18. Do up the shed.
  19. Sell something on eBay.
  20. Learn to sew.

And that's it for now. I may or may not complete it and I reserve the right to revise it any time I feel like it. It's my list and I'm damn well going to enjoy it!

Unforeseen difficulties

When I finally bit the bullet and started this blog I though I'd considered all the possible problems I might encounter.

Lack of time and something to write about were amongst them.

Something to write about isn't currently the problem, I have loads of stuff in my head. It may not be that interesting to anyone else, but currently my main audience is me. Oh dear, could blogging to myself be the modern day first sign of madness? I was hoping it might help me find a little sanity - perhaps I was mistaken.

Anyway, what I hadn't realised was how hard it was going to be to get computer access in my house these days. It would seem that whenever I have time to blog, there's homework to be done, virtual worlds to be explored and important websites to be checked. Or, someone wants to look over my shoulder to see what I'm doing. And that just makes me very, very nervous.

It's one thing putting your thought and words out there to a load of (OK, a few) strangers. It's entirely another having your nearest and dearest discover your guilty little secret.

"You're blogging?!"

Pause for hysterical laughter.

"What are you blogging about?"

"I'm not. No. Nothing"

Blushes furiously and closes the window.

You see, I was going to tell him. Just not yet. Not until I'd found my voice a little and gained a bit of confidence.

So, what should I do now?

Reveal the web address and lay myself bare? Or keep trying to steal secret moments with the computer and run the risk of him thinking I'm really up to no good?!

In case I choose the former I should add that he's a lovely man and well used to humouring my little flights of fancy and scatterbrained schemes. But still....