Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 In Pictures

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Cherubisms

Looking out of the door to see a misty morning ... "It's very froggy out there!"

Inspecting the sour cream and chive dip on Star's plate ... "Can I have the same dump as Star, please?"

A cry of distress ... "I can't find my flat change!" That would be the paper money she had been given by a friend to buy Playmobil with. (What does a very girly three year old choose? A recycling truck.)

Noticing the little nativity figures on what had been a Jesse tree ... "It's the people from Bethlehem!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow Snippets

We have had a few days of thoroughly wintery weather, which we rarely get before Christmas. Two or three inches of snow on Thursday night left us snowbound on Friday. Southern England never copes well with snow, as we get significant snow falls too rarely for it to be worth having the equipment to deal with it - no snow shovels, snow blowers, snow chains or anything of that kind here. Mostly people either sit it out at home or slide around in ill equipped cars. Usually the main roads are quite well gritted and salted, but side roads rarely or never see a gritter (hmm ... according to the local council's website they grit 47% of the road network. I'll leave the remaining 53% to your imagination). Our favoured snowy weather tactic is to park our car on the main entrance road to our estate and avoid driving on our snow and ice covered cul-de-sac at all.

A few snow diary notes ...

  • Thursday - came out of a carol concert in a village church to find snow falling and a light covering on the ground. Very atmospheric! Drove home ahead of the snow to find Angel peering out of the window wondering why it still wasn't snowing.
  • Friday - snow day for the older girls as most schools closed. Tevye didn't bother trying to drive into the office - we know from experience that if it is bad here, it is usually worse there. The roads cleared a bit so I ventured out to play carols on a village green. It snowed. Good job brass instruments are quite weather proof. Certain band members discovered tubas are useful for snowball target practice.
  • Saturday - town roads looked OK so we ferried girls backwards and forwards to the gym. Temperatures down to -5 (C). Star's friend made it over in the afternoon and stayed overnight. I made it into town in the evening for another carol concert.
  • Sunday - a little more snow overnight and road conditions much worse. Drove Star's friend as far as the edge of her village and left her to walk the rest of the way (village roads looked nasty!), then drove slowly and cautiously on to Mass. Walked in during the first hymn to find there was no organist. Found that I was the last minute substitute (or should that be later than last minute substitute?)
  • Monday - still cold and icy, but Tevye made it into work. Temperature dropped to -11 (C) at one point during his journey, but had settled at -7 by the time he got to the office ... to find the boiler had gone out and there was no heating. Fortunately someone more technically minded managed to get it going. He left early and was glad he did - by the time he got home it was snowing again. He went straight out again to take Star to a dance class, and just barely made it home as cars struggled to climb the hill on the main road near our house. I walked down later to collect her. By this time there was traffic chaos, with cars slipping and sliding everywhere and a tailback down the hill. Our neighbour took two and a half hours to drive ten miles home from work. Which leaves as at ...
  • Tuesday - a beautiful winter wonderland, and we are going nowhere!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 21st December

Outside My Window ... lovely snow. Not a US style blizzard, but a good coating that has been here for four days now, with no sign of thawing.

I am thinking ... about snowy winters of my childhood. Does anyone else remember ice slides in the school playground?

From the learning rooms ... a snow day for Angel and Star to end their winter term. Cherub's playgroup was still open, which made her happy.

I am thankful ... for central heating. I grew up in a hill top farmhouse without it. Warmth is something I don't take for granted. I am also thankful for good neighbours who have been checking my mother is OK, offering to get her shopping and so on while she is housebound by the snow. My brother and I have been keeping a close eye too, but it is good to know they are looking out for her.

From the kitchen ... supposed to be a cottage pie from the freezer, but I may have extra girls to feed and might have to rethink. Still haven't made those mince pies, and I also need to make some apple pies.

I am wearing ... pink pyjamas, woolly socks, superwarm fluffy blue dressing gown. No need to get dressed early today.

I am creating ... a nearly-done wrap for Mum for Christmas. I'm also hoping to get a hat done for Cherub. The two older girls both want mittens or gloves, but no chance of getting them made this week.

I am going ... to try to get the house clean and organised for Christmas this week. The trouble is I'm not good at converting good intentions into actions. Must. Get. Busy. (And yes, that is what I said last week).

I am reading ... back into a half-finished book on rural history and just started English Catholic Heroines by Joanna Bogle.

I am hoping ... for a white Christmas, to the point of obsessively checking weather forecasts. One is predicting heavy rain on Thursday, another more snow. The last white Christmas I can remember was in the early 80s.

I am hearing ... Peppa Pig.

Around the house ... handmade Christmas decorations  - paper chains and paper snowflakes that the girls have been making. Angel and Cherub have put some on their bedroom doors. Cherub's are all neatly stuck about two feet off the floor which gives a rather unusual effect.

One of my favorite things ... snow.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a bit of last minute shopping and wrapping; our usual Christmas Eve trip to enjoy the Christmas display at Milton Keynes (not the dangling legs!) and eat cake at John Lewis; Christmas Eve carol singing in the town centre (will make a nice change from playing them); morning Mass on Christmas day; Doctor Who Christmas special; lots of cosy family time.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Find instructions and links to othr daybooks at The Simple Woman

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sans Day Carol

I mentioned that I have been enjoying carols from Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band this Advent, and thought it would be fun to share some of the traditional English carols they sing over the next couple of weeks.

First up, the Sans Day Carol, a nineteenth century folk carol that originated at St. Day in Cornwall. Like many old English carols the words embrace the Crucifixion and Resurrection, as well as the nativity ...

1. Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk,
And Mary bore Jesus, who was wrapped up in silk.

Chorus: And Mary bore Jesus Christ our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly!
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly!

2. Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died on the cross.

3. Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died for us all.

4. Now the holly bears a berry, as blood is it red,
Then trust we our Saviour, who rose from the dead.

It is best known in this arrangement by John Rutter:

I prefer Maddy Prior's more lively folk music version ..

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Nativity According To Cherub

I got the Playmobil nativity set out today for Cherub. Various snippets overheard since ...

"Stop that, you naughty sheep!"

"They went to Bethlehem ... and the bag was on the tail of the camel."

("Reading" from the Nativity story booklet - in German - included in the box) "The baby was born ... and then the shepherds went back to the fields."

(Singing) "They see'd a star
And came from far ..."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'Tis The Season ...

... of odd Christmas decorations.

First, there was the foil wrapped pub. The whole place was like this - every exposed beam that could be wrapped, was wrapped. The limitations of my phone meant I couldn't get a more panoramic picture, but take it from me, the overall effect was decidedly unusual. Perhaps someone needed to find a use for a job lot of turkey foil. Or maybe they had an obsession with shiny things. On the whole, I think turkey foil is better kept for turkeys.

Then there were the dangling legs in a nearby shopping centre (the one Cherub thinks is the name of a month, not the one where Dorothy got tangled up with an armed robbery). Not just any old dangling legs, but animated, kicking legs.

Over the last two weekends I spent six hours playing carols right next to the legs, but in the end still couldn't decide what they were meant to be. The giant from Jack and the Beanstalk trying to escape by climbing into a cloud? (The odd green thing underneath is definitely a beanstalk, though in the picture it looks rather dragon-like.) Father Christmas disappearing into a puff of smoke? Father Christmas being swallowed by a giant brain? Who knows!

Any interesting Christmas decorations in your part of the world?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 14th December

Outside My Window ...  more dampness, though it is supposed to turn colder this week and we may even get some snow. I'll believe it when I see it!

I am thinking ... of new musical adventures. I'm going to try playing a new instrument with the brass band after all the Christmas events are over. Scroll down to the end to see what the New Year has in store.

From the learning rooms ... last week of school and playgroup before Christmas. 

I am thankful ... for good health. I have felt so much better recently. After feeling old, tired and under the weather for months, whatever I had (something post-viral, maybe?) has shifted. Getting off the sofa has stopped feeling an effort, and I can even run upstairs again :).

From the kitchen ... pasta, pesto and creme fraiche for dinner. Mince pies to make sometime this week.

I am wearing ... dark blue jeans, red shirt with floral trim, cosy handknitted red socks.

I am creating ... a snuggly knitted wrap for my mother - hoping to get it done for Christmas, but as I only started it this morning that may be optimistic. I finished my brother's sweater, though.

I am going ... to try to get the house clean and organised for Christmas this week. The trouble is I'm not good at converting good intentions into actions. Must. Get. Busy.

I am reading ... not much. I have a pile of books on hand, but have been too busy pottering with local history research to get stuck into them.

I am hoping ... the doctors can work out what is wrong with J-next-door, who hasn't been well for the past few months - she has no energy and has had a number of scary passing out episodes. Nothing has shown up so far on the battery of tests and scans she has had. Prayers for her appreciated.

I am hearing ... Cherub talking to a Playmobil fairy.

Around the house ... girls' bedrooms so messy I don't even want to look through the doors.

One of my favorite things ... my MacBook. Can't imagine life without it.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... the culmination of a manic brass band Christmas schedule: Thursday, scouts' carol service; Friday, carols on the village green; Saturday, Christmas concert; Sunday, carols at a social club. Cherub has a playgroup Christmas party on Wednesday, but will probably decide it is too scary and she would rather stay at home. She has already decided singing Christmas songs in front of an audience of parents tomorrow is not for her.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Find instructions and links to othr daybooks at The Simple Woman

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Morning After the Night Before

What happens when a three year old has a bad night and no nap the next day? She sleeps so deeply the next night that she misses bladder signals, that's what.

Quarter past five in the morning is my least favourite time to get up and change toddler beds and pyjamas, as it is too early to want to wake up, but too late to be able to get back to sleep. Ugh.

She still brightens my day with Cherubisms, though, even through the sleep-deprivation fog. Today she brought home a calendar she had made at playgroup. Talking about the calendar led to a discussion of months of the year. What months did she know? ... December ... and June ... and Aylesbury. I explained that Aylesbury is a place, not a month, but she was clearly not convinced!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Night Duty

Between 10.30pm and 1.30am last night I ...

  • applied Vicks Vapour Rub to coughing child
  • checked child's peak flow
  • gave foot rub to insomniac child
  • tucked up grumpy insomniac child
  • comforted crying child and tucked her up in her own bed
  • comforted crying child and tucked her up in my bed (child stopped crying)
  • put child back in her own bed (child started crying)
  • gave Nurofen to child complaining of hurting knee
  • gave hungry child a cheesestring
  • drank mug of Horlicks
  • watched one episode of Little Princess and three of Peppa Pig
  • put child back to bed
  • gave up on trying to sleep and curled up on sofa with laptop
  • went upstairs to give child drink of water (twice)
  • managed not to lose patience
  • dozed off on sofa
Sometimes I want a job with regular hours.

    Monday, December 07, 2009

    Simple Woman's Daybook: 7th December

    Outside My Window ... wet, windy, leaden skies. So much for December.

    I am thinking ... of things I need to do before Christmas.

    From the learning rooms ... Cherub is practicing Christmas songs for playgroup, which she may or may not deign to perform before an audience of parents. I would bet on not.  

    I am thankful ... for umbrellas, the great British year-round accessory.

    From the kitchen ... turkey steaks, broccoli and some sort of frozen fries or wedges.

    I am wearing ... greenish-brown trousers, green and cream striped top, multicoloured striped socks.

    I am creating ... knitted Christmas presents. Sweater for my brother almost done, one sock for Angel almost done.

    I am going ... to get lunch for Cherub and myself at the supermarket cafe. It will save time and I want something more warming than our usual lunchtime sandwich.

    I am reading ... Reshaping Rural England: a Social History 1850-1925 by Alun Howkins.

    I am hoping ... for frost and snow at Christmas, not wind and rain.

    I am hearing ... Cherub singing "I'm a little snowman" to herself.

    Around the house ... lots of wrapped Christmas presents, hidden away in various places.

    One of my favorite things ... gingerbread latte.

    A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... orthodontist with Angel to get her braces fitted on her top teeth; Tevye's office Christmas meal; more brass band carol playing at the weekend.

    A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... on this week's to-do list ...

    (C) Musical Linguist; Wikimedia Commons
    Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Don't Panic, We're British

    Cherub and I went Christmas shopping yesterday. Clearly, we picked the right day ... unlike my friend Dorothy who went to the same shopping mall on Tuesday and managed to get tangled up with an armed robbery. Oops.

    The odd thing - apart from hearing gunshots in North Buckinghamshire on a December Tuesday, that is - was the reaction of the shoppers to the sound of shooting. They either went towards the incident to see what was going on, or simply carried on shopping (while diving for their mobile phones, presumably to provide a running commentary to their nearest and dearest) ...  

    The newspaper reports people running and screaming. This is SO not true that I wondered if the reporter had felt they HAD to write that just to make the story more exciting? No one ran. No one screamed. Most people just went on shopping. Even when BHS drew down their metal shutters, people were knocking politely on them trying to get in to buy their mum some slippers for Christmas.
    She wonders "British reaction in the face of threat - sanguine unflappability or complacent stupidity?" What do you think? As it turned out, they were firing blanks, though that wasn't apparent at the time.

    As for me, I'm fairly certain that I would have carried on shopping, due to a combination of slow reaction time, appalling lack of observation skills, and a dash of stupidity. By the time I worked out what was going on, it would have been long over. 

    Thursday, December 03, 2009

    Little Miss Stubborn

    That's our Cherub. She outdid herself this week after a minor snatching and sharing (or not!) incident with Best Friend N on Tuesday. When I told her to say sorry, she dug in her cute little heels  and refused. Consequence: I sent her to sit on the stairs until she was ready to apologise.

    Two hours later ... and there she still sat. Different stairs by this time - the episode started at Grandma's, and after 40 minutes we walked home and took up again where we left off - but one small Cherub was still determined not to give in.

    By now we were running out of time and options. We had alternately ignored and coaxed. N, bless him, had done his best to persuade her ("just whisper it in my ear, and then we can play ... nobody else has to hear"), but she was having none of it. Finally, we found a way out of the impasse. Cherub offered to write sorry**. N, who by this time really, really wanted to play, accepted gladly. With a bit of help - another minor battle here, as she insists she can both read and spell, determinedly disregarding all evidence to the contrary - she produced "Sorry N. xxxx Cherub" (the fourth kiss at N's insistence, after Cherub suggested three!).

    Honour satisfied all round. But honestly ... two hours? Angel was very similar as a small child, another stubborn apology-hater, but when we had the exact same battle with her she was a little older and only managed to hang out for an hour. Yikes. What next?

    ** Don't be over impressed by this or imagine we are going in for early academics. She can write the letters in her own name plus a couple of others, all self taught. All three girls have been naturally early writers - Angel was writing more, earlier, and bizarrely went through a stage where she could write and spell simple words she couldn't read. I think it is mainly a function of them all having good fine motor control and hand-eye coordination.