Friday, January 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1. All the snow and ice we had in December and at the beginning of the year has left our roads in a sorry state. Our town seems to be particularly pothole prone at the best of times, but now they are everywhere. Anyone else having the same problem? Is it only British roads that fall apart when the weather is bad? And is pothole - meaning a crumbling hole in the road - a peculiarly British word?

2. Cherub has reached the argumentative stage, with an answer for everything. The other day she wanted to know why there wasn't a rainbow when it was both raining and sunny. I pointed out that it wasn't sunny - if it was sunny the sky would be blue and bright, whereas it was actually (very) grey and dull. Cue an argument over whether or not the sky was blue or grey, ending with ...

Me (exasperated): You would argue black was white!
Cherub: No it's not ... black is dark.

3. Why would someone complain that the school heating wasn't working and that it would be freezing at school, then not bother to wear a coat? In near zero (centigrade) temperatures. Is it a teenage thing?

4. My brother and I learned the hard way yesterday that wiring a light fitting is not quite as simple as wiring a plug. He tried, blew the bulb and tripped the circuit breaker. I read the instructions and worked out which wire went where. Sort of. When there are three apparently identical neutral wires, how do you know which is which? We guessed. We tried all possible combinations. Then we realised the bulb had blown. Success with a new bulb - or so we thought, until a few hours later we discovered none of the other upstairs lights were working and Cherub's light wouldn't turn off. Fortunately a knight in shining armour arrived in the shape of Little Friend N's dad, who disentangled the neutral wires for us. We won't be trying to do anything electrical again in a hurry!

5. Despite the hiccup with the light Cherub's bedroom is now redecorated. While she is at playgroup this morning I need to put up her new curtains, sort out her new bedding, finish repainting the dolls house pink (what else?), and generally straighten things up.  Then it will be one bedroom down, threee to go.

6. Star, making plans for her bedroom refit: "Mum, can I have a toaster in my bedroom? Even though I don't like toast, it would be very cool ...".  Um. No.

7. Anyone else coveting an iPad? I love my iPod Touch, but I think I could love an iPad even more.

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So Who Knew?

That an essential piece of equipment for an aspiring dancer is one of these ...

Star informs me that if you are going to dance at festivals this particular toolbox (Homebase's smallest and cheapest) is a must have: little compartments in the lid for hair pins, grips, nets and so on; a removable tray underneath for make up; and room in the bottom for brushes and combs, mirror, hair spray and any other vital bits and pieces.

If it keeps all those bits and bobs in one place, it has to be a good thing!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 25th January

Outside My Window ... rain again. Cherub is happy. She loves to jump in puddles.

I am thinking ... about colour schemes for our bedroom, even though it is third in line for redecoration. The plan is to do Cherub's this month, Star's next, ours in March and Angel's in April. We expect there to be some slippage, though.

From the learning rooms ... mock GCSE exam results for Angel (the only one she has had so far is chemistry which was rather better than we - or she - expected); mutterings about a day trip to France from Star; lots of vehicle related crafts from Cherub (the playgroup's current theme is Transport).

I am thankful ... for a brother who is painting the bedrooms for us.

From the kitchen ... baked potatoes and chilli for dinner. Cherub was inspired by I Can Cook on TV and we made tomato spirals this afternoon - very easy and very tasty, as were the fish triple deckers from last week. She gets very excited by the idea of making recipes from the programme and today's trip to the supermarket was punctuated by "we need basil! ... don't forget the puff pastry! ... have you got the puff pastry yet?" and so on.
(Note for Pamela ... I think you asked for the recipe for last week's chicken stir fry with sweet chili sauce. It was a cheat, I'm afraid - strips of chicken stir fried with a bag of pre-prepared stir fry vegetables and ready made sweet chili sauce.)

I am wearing ... grey-green trousers, grey v-neck sweater, stripey handmade socks.

I am creating ... more handwarmers, with the yarn left over from last week's mittens.

I am going ... to paint Cherub's dolls house pink to match her bedroom. It is a brightish blue which will clash horribly.

I am reading ... Reshaping Rural England: a Social History 1850-1925, finishing the last third after I got distracted part way through.

I am hoping ... for some nice, bright winter days. I've had enough of snow, ice and rain.

I am hearing ... the TV, which Tevye is half watching.

Around the house ... Cherub's bedroom makeover is well under way.

One of my favorite things ... Whittard's hot chocolate mixes. I bought some for Christmas, and I don't think I can go back to the jars of instant chocolate I used to buy.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a meal at Cafe Rouge to celebrate K-Next-Door's birthday on Friday. An extra dance class for Star, who is thrilled to have been picked for a group who will take part in dance festivals.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... last week's mittens

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, January 22, 2010

4 x 10 Reading Challenge: Year End Update

Oh, what a bad book blogger I am. After a good first six months of reading and reviewing, my 4 x 10 reading challenge fizzled out. I can't remember everything I have read since, but I have patched together an end of year list using my daybook notes. I make it a total of 33 books, spread rather erratically across my 10 categories, together with a fair sized list of books I started but didn't finished. Book titles added since my last post are in blue. Some were reviewed in this holiday reading post.

  • Nella Last's War: the Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 (ed. Richard Broad)
  • Nella Last's Peace: the Post-War Diaries of Houseife, 49
  • A Vicarage Family: a Biography of Myself (Noel Streatfeild)
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (John-Dominique Bauby)
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi)
  • Flora Thompson: the Story of the Lark Rise Writer (Gillian Lindsay)
  • Noel Streatfeild: a Biography (Angela Bull)
  • A History of Hand Knitting (Richard Rutt)
  • Sensational Knitted Socks (Charlene Schurch)
  • Custom Knits (Wendy Bernard)
  • Teach Me To Do It Myself (Maja Pitamic)
  • My Life With the Saints (James Martin, S.J.)
  • The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary (Karen Edmisten)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer)
  • The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)
  • The Autobiography of the Queen (Emma Tennant)
  • The Friday Night Knitting Club (Kate Jacobs)
  • The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett (Colleen McCullough)
  • Baking Cakes in Kigali (Gaile Parkin)
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Paul Torday)
  • The Amulet of Samarkand (Jonathan Stroud)
Geography and Travel
  • A Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria (Kapka Kassabova)
History and Historical Fiction
  • Helena (Evelyn Waugh)
  • The Road to Wigan Pier (George Orwell)
  • The Road to Sebastopol (Katherine MacMahon)
  • Singled Out (Virginia Nicholson) 
Science and Nature
  • Electric Universe (David Bodanis)
  • The Planets (Dava Sobel)
  • About the Size of It: the Common Sense Approach to Measuring Things (Warwick Cairns)
  • The Morville Hours (Katherine Swift) 
  • Confessions of an Eco-Shopper (Kate Lock)
  • Julie and Julia (Julie Powell) 
  • Spotted Pigs and Green Tomatoes (Rosie Boycott)  

Unfinished Business
Alison Uttley, the Life of a Country Child (Denis Judd) - print too small!
Beatrix Potter At Home in the Lake District (Susan Denyer)
Yiddish Civilisatiuon: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation
(Paul Kriwaczek)
A Year in the Country (Alison Uttley)
The Shrines of Our Lady in England (Anne Vail)
Buried Treasure: Travels Through the Jewel Box (Victoria Finlay)  
The Secret Life of Trees (Colin Tudge)
The Catholic Revival in English Literature 1845-1961 (Ian Ker)
Longitude (Davina Sobel)
Knit Two (Kate Jacobs)
Ripping Things To Do: the Best Games and Ideas from Children's Books (Jane Brocket)

Now I can move on to the next challenge. Watch this space.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Day In The Life

I haven't posted one of these in a long time. If you enjoy trivia read on, if not please feel free to jump to the next blog.

This was today ...

7.30 ... Get up. Shower. Dress Cherub. Cook and eat breakfast (hash browns and scrambled eggs)

8.15 ... Manhandle protesting Cherub into car. Drive four girls to school.

8.30 ... Build farm for Cherub. Put away yesterday's laundry mountain. Match up large pile of socks. Stop in Angel's room while delivering clean clothes to straighten hair (she has possession of the communal hair straighteners). Cull old history books I am never likely to need from bookshelves while waiting for straighteners to heat up.

9.10 ... Sit down with mug of tea and laptop to read blogs and knit.

9.20 ... Cherub gets bored of farm and asks to watch TV. Turn on CBeebies (BBC preschool channel).

9.50 ... Turn off TV. Print out pictures for Cherub to colour while I do half an hour of housework. Cherub refuses to be left. Give up on housework. Sit next to Cherub and finish off flip-top section of mitten while she colours.

10.30 ... Stack dishwasher. Get ready to go to Grandma's. Cherub now happily engrossed in Playmobil and not pleased at being interrupted.

10.45 ... Manhandle protesting Cherub into car. Again. She wants to walk. It's raining, and I don't. Arrive at Grandma's. Cherub throws a fit because I refuse to leave her standing outside the front door in the rain. Eventually calms down and has game playing marathon with Grandma. Meanwhile I sort out a printer problem (computer refuses to recognise a paper jam has been cleared ... why?), drink coffee, eat chocolate cream cake, and start yet another pair of mittens.

12.55 ... Head home via Tesco Express for oddments. Have run out of kitchen roll and need to feed the older girls' blueberry addiction. Cherub not pleased at having to go to the shop, but limits herself to grumbling.

1.15 ... Make lunch. Eat lunch. Watch The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Deal with money stuff on the computer.

1.45 ... Work on local history project. Trying to finish checking censuses for several generations of a rather prolific family.

2.15 ... Look at a numbers activity book with Cherub (her choice)

2.30 ... Cherub putters with toys. Make dinner (lazy chicken and potatoes). Hang ridiculous amount of pink laundry round the house to dry. Declutter a cupboard in Cherub's room. Clean bathroom while Cherub sits on toilet.

3.45 ... K-Next-Door comes round for mug of tea. Older girls drift in from school.

4.15 ... Play game with Cherub. Make hot chocolate for Star. Quickly tidy up. Read to Cherub. Tickle fest with girls.

5.00 ... Tevye home from work. Chat for a while. Star reads to Cherub

5.40 ... Cook vegetables. Eat dinner.

6.15 ... Sit down for fifteen minutes while nice Tevye clears up in the kitchen.

6.30 ... Take Angel and Star to dance classes, collecting an extra child on the way. Bath Cherub and get her ready for bed.

7.40 ... Go to brass band practice. Fall more deeply in love with my trombone.

9.30 ... Get home to find one girl in bed asleep, one girl in bed awake, and one girl on the computer cooing over pictures of cute fluffy lapdogs. Chill with laptop. Post this.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 18th January

Outside My Window ... damp and miserable but much warmer than it has been for the past month. There was more snow on Wednesday, but only a few small patches remain after lots of rain on Friday and Saturday.

I am thinking ... about books I would like to read this year.

From the learning rooms ... yet another snow day on Wednesday, when both older girls were sent home from school after morning snow caused traffic chaos.

I am thankful ... for my new mobile phone. The old one got stuck in silent mode. A phone that you can't hear is not good. I particularly wanted a QWERTY keyboard, so I got one of these.

From the kitchen ... chicken stir fry with sweet chili sauce.

I am wearing ... dark grey cord trousers, black top, black and white striped sweater, zebra print socks with pink heels and toes.

I am creating ... mittens for myself. I'm trying to combine aspects of different patterns. The first attempt was not a success; hopefully Mark 2 will be better.

I am going ... to be busy getting Cherub's bedroom decluttered and tidied ready for my brother to paint next week.

I am reading ... We Are At War by Simon Garfield. Or more accurately, not reading. I think I've lost interest.

I am hoping ... for a routine week, with no snow days, sick days or other unexpected disruptions.

I am hearing ... TV and the dishwasher whirring.

Around the house ... carpets in need of hoovering, bathrooms in need of cleaning.

One of my favorite things ...sausages and mash. Winter comfort food.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... tap exam for Star tomorrow, but nothing else out of the ordinary on the calendar.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On the Seventh Day ... God Made Spiders

Anyone who has taken small children to church will know it is rarely a restful or prayerful experience. Some days are better than others; some days offer more unique challenges than others.

Today's challenge was an eight legged one. As usual, we sat in the front pew, alongside a slightly older couple (kids grown, kid friendly and used to Cherub). All went well until a large daddy long-legs or leggy spider of some variety ran down the sleeve of Mr F's jacket, catching the eye of Mrs F, who squealed involuntarily and flicked it off. This caught Angel's attention, and she bent over the pew to see what Mrs F was looking at. This, in turn, got Cherub interested. The first I knew of it was when I saw Cherub hanging over the top of the pew watching Mr Leggy climbing up the outside of the pew towards her.

Cherub claims to like spiders, but this was too much. Frantic squeals of "Get rid of it! Get rid of the spider!"  Angel reminded her she likes spiders ... "I only like little ones! Not big ones!"  As her volume increased I did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed the daddy long-legs.

Question. What to do when you find yourself in an exposed position during a quiet point of the Mass with a fistful of wriggling arachnid? The church was packed which meant no clear line of retreat to the exit. The windows were all shut, and in any case too high to reach. I contemplated dropping it on the floor a few rows back, but decided that dumping a large eight-legged creepy-crawly near some unsuspecting parishioner was not really fair.  Hanging on to the darned thing until the end of Mass was not an option. Then I spotted a bin for used candles under the votive candle holder. Phew! A new home for Mr Leggy.

Angel and I spent the next five minutes trying very hard not to giggle.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Little Dancer

Little Cherub finally made it to her first dance class on Thursday. She was very excited ... which made taking pictures difficult.

She couldn't keep still ...

And was easily distracted ...

Ah! Got her!

The class is a mix of tap and modern. In her head ballet is too hard for three year olds; in reality this class is harder than the tiny tots ballet as it has a wider age range and the other children were all five or nearly five. Not that this phased Cherub, who was completely focused and determined to keep up. Afterwards she said it was even better than she expected. And to add to the joy, Little Friend N went too.

How cute are these little feet in tiny tap shoes!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Musical Interludes

Sunday was a musical day, albeit a rather eccentric one.

Musical Interlude No.1

Instrument: Trombone

Location: Golf course. First tee. Outdoors. In the snow.

A golf club engaged the brass band to add musical accompaniment to the ceremonial drive off of the incoming club captain. I can tell you from personal experience that metal instruments, with metal mouthpieces, are not ideally suited to snowy conditions. On the plus side, you can play a trombone wearing gloves, and they gave us bacon butties and hot coffee to warm us up afterwards.

Musical Interlude No.2

Instrument: Flute
Location: Church

Musically straightforward enough, but ecclesiastically cock-eyed. Our parish priest is on holiday in the Algarve (talk about good timing!), and his substitute couldn't make it through the snow. We ended up with a Communion Service instead of Sunday Mass.

Musical Interlude No.3

Instrument: Violin
Location: Home

I took my violin out to play for the first time in an age, and Cherub was inspired to want to play "her" violin. The smallest violin we have is a quarter-size, which is still far too large for Cherub, so we turned it upside down and pretended it was a cello. After "playing" for quite some time, she thinks she might like to learn cello when she is older ... but then again, maybe she would rather play the trumpet. Choices, choices!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 11th January

Outside My Window ... another half inch of snow last night to top off last week's snow, which was just beginning to melt.

I am thinking ... how much I appreciate efficient central heating!

From the learning rooms ... snow days for the older girls last week. Angel had to go in on Friday for a mock GCSE exam, and has another this coming Friday.

I am thankful ... we didn't have to travel anywhere when the weather was at its worst, and have been able to enjoy the snow.

From the kitchen ... I have rediscovered my bread machine, which I had got out of the habit of using. I tried pizza dough in it for the first time - Cherub says homemade pizza is "very yummy". Dinner tonight? Cauliflower cheese.  

I am wearing ... jeans, red top with floral trim, red hand-knitted socks. 

I am creating ... a coat-cardigan for myself and socks for my brother (I gave him the yarn for Christmas with a promise of socks to come). Last week I finished mittens for Angel and Star, and a pair of handwarmers for myself. Mittens for myself are next on the list as soon as I can buy the yarn.

I am going ... to have to venture out to the supermarket this afternoon. I shopped online last week, but left it too late this time.

I am reading ... We Are At War by Simon Garfield. Snippets from World War II diaries, but not as interesting as I expected.

I am hoping ... that we can get back into our normal routine this week, after three weeks of Christmas break and snow days.

I am hearing ... beautiful silence, apart from the whirr of the washing machine. Tevye is at work, the older girls are at school, Cherub is at playgroup, and I have the house to myself for a couple of hours.

Around the house ... girls' bedrooms that look as though a clothes bomb has gone off. Ugh.

One of my favorite things ... the set of Cadfael DVDs I was given for Christmas. I've watched seven episodes so far and have another six to go. When I finish this post I'll be settling down with my knitting to watch the next.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... orthodontist's appointment for Star on Wednesday; Cherub's first ever dance class on Thursday (postponed from last week thanks to snow, much to her disappointment); a quiet weekend (I think)

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, January 08, 2010

More Snow Days

"Winter is my favourite and my best!" says Cherub. She is, as anyone in the UK with small girls will probably recognise, a fan of Charlie and Lola. She is also a fan of throwing snowballs.

Somewhere under the snow is our car ...

 Which is parked on the road because our drive looks like this ...

The UK continues to shiver through the coldest, snowiest winter for thirty years. More snow and freezing temperatures are on the way. If you don't hear from me, you may need to come and dig us out. Or at least, lend us a shovel.

Stop Press: An abominable snowman just appeared on our doorstep, having walked ten yards from next door. It seems the snow has already arrived.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Care and Feeding of Children

A couple of throw away comments recently set me thinking about the way our children eat compared to the way Tevye and I ate as children back in the 1960s.

A typical day for our children ...

  • Breakfast - some days grab as you go. Typically cereal for Tevye and I, toast or a breakfast bar for Angel, a glass of milk or fruit for Star (who isn't big on eating first thing in the morning), and a banana or cereal for Cherub. A couple of days a week I cook pancakes or hash browns and eggs.
  • Lunch - usually sandwiches followed by fruit or yoghurt for Cherub and I; packed lunch - again usually sandwiches, though occasionally cold pizza or pasta - for the older girls. A couple of days a week Angel buys lunch at school. She mainly chooses pasta or  a filled baguette. 
  • Dinner - hot, home-cooked meal, followed by fruit or ice cream
  • Snacks - the older girls take a snack (biscuits, crisps, cake or fruit bar) for morning break, then graze on whatever they can find when they get home from school. A couple of nights a week Star goes straight from school to a dance class and usually buys a portion of chip (fries) on the way. Random snacks for the rest of us.
A typical day from my childhood ...
  • Breakfast - cooked breakfast with cereal to start and toast on the side
  • Morning snack - biscuits or bun or crisps
  • Lunch - two course cooked school lunch, including hot dessert (sponge pudding, rice pudding, that sort of thing). At home during the holidays lunch was our main meal, and "tea" a lighter meal - egg and beans on toast, that sort of thing - but still with a dessert of some kind.
  • Tea - bread and butter with jam or peanut butter. 
  • Dinner - another two course cooked meal. 
Tevye took sandwiches to school, whereas I had a cooked lunch, but remembers always having three courses for dinner, even if it was only half a grapefruit for a starter and tinned fruit for dessert.

I thought I did quite well in (pretty much always) cooking a reasonably substantial meal from scratch every evening, but in comparison to the meals we had as children, most of our children's meals are slim pickings. The meals I ate included a lot more "fat" food - jam roly poly and custard, bacon and eggs, that sort of thing - but grazing between meals wasn't an option. Snacks were limited and regular, though not particularly healthy. Our children eat more raw fruit and vegetables, but compensate for that with more sweet snacks and a lot more junk food.

Which diet is best? Almost certainly the 1960s version, where meals were more substantial and mostly cooked from scratch from real ingredients. The "fat" food was still real food; junk was very limited; and more filling meals meant less snacking and grazing. I'm thinking I should be spending more time in the kitchen.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 4th January 2010

Outside My Window ... winter. A light dusting of snow, topped with sparkling frost. More snow predicted this week.

I am thinking ... about whether to make a New Year's resolution this year, or whether I should just give it up as a lost cause.

From the learning rooms ... back to school for Angel today. Star's school and Cherub's playgroup don't start until tomorrow.

I am thankful ... for a lovely Christmas and New Year break, with lots of time spent with family and friends.

From the kitchen ...pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs. Christmas leftovers are pretty much all gone, and I need to re-jig my winter menu plan.

I am wearing ... pink pyjamas, woolly socks, superwarm fluffy blue dressing gown. Exactly the same as two weeks ago. I'm taking advantage of a last lazy day before we get back into the term time routine.

I am creating ... flip-top mittens for Angel and a little blue cardigan for Cherub to wear in her dance class.

I am going ... to be lazy and order the groceries online rather than drag myself and Cherub out into the cold.

I am reading ... finishing up half-read books.

I am hoping ... that this will be the year that I scale the clutter mountain.

I am hearing ... Peppa Pig. Again. Peppa Pig = blogging time.

Around the house ... clutter, clutter, and more clutter. Grrrr!

One of my favorite things ... learning to play my trombone. It's going well, I think.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... taking Star out for lunch today as she has an extra day of school holiday; Cherub's first ever dance class on Thursday; First Communion classes start again on Saturday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... Happy New Year from us to you!

Find instructions and links to othr daybooks at The Simple Woman