Monday, May 31, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 31st May

Outside My Window ... cloudy and looking as though it is going to rain. Typical bank holiday weather! We were thinking of a picnic lunch, but it looks as though we will have to change plans.

I am thinking ... that life with children means life in a constant state of flux.

From the learning rooms ... half term week, but Angel needs to do some GCSE revision as she has Religious Studies and science exams coming up.

I am thankful ... for a day with absolutely nothing on the calendar.

From the kitchen ... something lazy from the freezer, I think.

I am wearing ... pyjamas. White top, blue trousers.

I am creating ... still working on Cherub's cardigan, which is going slowly due to large amounts of unravelling. The first size I started looked a bit small, and after starting a larger size I made a couple of errors.

I am going ... to see where the day takes me.

I am reading ... A Circle of Sisters, by Judith Flanders (biography of four Victorian sisters who all married influential men), and An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism by Conrad Russell. Still. About half way through both.

I am hoping ... my Mum gets a definite date for knee replacement surgery soon. It is pencilled in provisionally for the end of June, but the pre-op testing has taken longer than usual because of her age and health, and the hospital haven't yet confirmed that she is fit enough for the op to go ahead.

I am hearing ... CBeebies (BBC channel for under 7s).

Around the house ... heaps of Cherub's drawings. She has been in a drawing frenzy for the last couple of weeks.

One of my favorite things ... strawberry martini. We had an impromptu cocktail party with our neighbours last night, and this was the best of the recipes we tested out. I can see us making these regularly over the summer.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a short holiday in Brighton; family meal at a Chinese buffet on Sunday; may take the two big girls to see Streetdance 3D at some point.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I took this picture of an old, thatched house in a nearby village a while ago, but never got round to posting it

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, May 28, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 28th May 2010

1. Seventy years ago British troops trapped at Dunkirk by the German army were evacuated by a host of "little ships" - fishing boats, yachts, and other small craft. The courage of individual civilians of all ages meant that over 300,000 troops were rescued. This weekend a number of boats are recreating the journey to commemorate the event - you can see them on the BBC website, where there are lots of Dunkirk links.

2. There are many good books of children's historical fiction set during World War II. One of my favourites tells the story of Dunkirk from the perspective of a boy who took part in the evacuation: Dolphin Crossing by Jill Paton Walsh. It looks as though it is currently out of print, but Amazon has plenty of cheap, used copies.

3. I think I'll turn that into an author recommendation ... I like Jill Paton Walsh's books generally. I've read a number of her children's fiction books, and one of her adult books (A Knowledge of Angels). One that made an impact on me was Grace, about the Victorian lighthouse keeper's daughter who became a heroine after rescuing people from a shipwreck, and the impact unsought fame had on her life.

4. Talking of recommendations ... I have read so many rave reviews of Lost, that I'm about to order the first series on DVD from Amazon. I may be several years behind, but I have to know what I've missed! (Lost was only shown on the Sky satellite channel here, which we don't have.)

5. Cherub is still doing lots of drawing, and has suddenly got interested in writing. She spent a long time this week writing a shopping list for her school uniform, one laborious letter at a time. She was being picky about letter size - if they were too big, they had to be rubbed out and done again. Certain letters she has decided are too difficult and have to be written by me.

6. I've fallen into a genealogy black hole. I'm trying to put my family tree onto the Ancestry website, which is clearly going to be a much longer job than I expected, as I keep getting sidetracked by the need to fill in gaps, and the frustrations of not being able to find things I'm sure I either have or had.

7. One of my frustrations is that I cannot find my mother's father or his family on a census. I think I have his correct birth certificate, but the family seems to have disappeared completely. They should be there, and are not! Grrr!!!!

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Random Dozen: May 26th

1. Would you rather host party or simply attend a party?
Oh, definitely attend a party. Much easier and less stressful, though I'm not much of a party animal - I would much prefer going out for a meal with friends.

2. Tell us about the most memorable party you've been to.
Can't think of any. You see, I really am not a party person.

3. What is one thing you hope for in the after-life?
To share it with my family and friends.

4. What do you enjoy most about sunshine?

The way it lifts everyone's spirits; warmth; being able to sit outside with a book and eat outdoors.

5. When you attend a bridal/baby shower, do you prefer to bring your own gift or chip in with others to buy a larger gift?

Bridal and baby showers aren't a British thing, although I think baby showers are beginning to become popular. I've only ever been to one, though. 

6. Would you rather have a FREE week of having your house cleaned or all of your meals cooked for you and your family?
Definitely the cleaning. I don't mind cooking, but loathe cleaning with a passion.

7. What song describes your mood today?
I Go To Sleep (I Want To Go To Sleep would be more accurate but isn't, so far as I know, a song title)

8. What is something you received for your own bridal shower/wedding that you still own or use? (If you are not married, feel free to sub a gift you received a long time ago.)
When we got married we were in our thirties and already had everything we needed, so we asked for charitable donations instead of gifts. An old gift I still use is a wooden toy box with a padded top given by a relative when I was a small child. I used it for years to store the girls' dressing up clothes, and recently brought it downstairs to use for yarn storage.

9. Your favorite flavor of ice cream is?
Ben and Jerry's phish food

10. When was the last time you felt "tested?"
Monday evening, when I had a horrible headache and a child going through a very loud meltdown.

11. "[Fill in the blank] is a food that once I start eating I find really hard to stop."

Crusty bread.

12. "-----" is the best motivation.
It may not be very worthy, but for me it is enjoyment.

You can find more Random Dozens at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zoo Trip

Cherub and I took a trip to the zoo last week.

She wanted to see flamingos ...

And hippos ...

She tried to run as fast as a cheetah ...

And hid from the camera ...

And then looked very pleased with herself ...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 24th May

Outside My Window ... sun! We have had a few days of beautiful weather,  more like July than May. Over 80 degrees yesterday, and predicted to be as hot again today. Supposed to be cooling down tomorrow, though.

I am thinking ... about nothing in particular.

From the learning rooms ... Angel has surprised me by opting to take triple science next year (three separate GCSEs in physics, chemistry and biology) rather than additional science (the same three science subjects combined into one single, shorter course).  Good choice, but more work.

I am thankful ... to have got to the end of a manically busy few weeks. Things should be much calmer for a while now.

From the kitchen ... I have a whole chicken that didn't defrost quickly enough to cook yesterday, but haven't decided what to do with it.

I am wearing ...beige cropped trousers, pink vest top.

I am creating ... a cute little pink, cotton cardigan for Cherub.

I am going ... to spend the afternoon relaxing in the garden.

I am reading ... A Circle of Sisters, by Judith Flanders (biography of four Victorian sisters who all married influential men), and An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism by Conrad Russell

I am hoping ... to get back into my reading groove now life is less busy.

I am hearing ... Ashes to Ashes on TV. I'm trying to catch up on the last couple of episodes, but blogging while I watch as I only have limited time while Cherub is at playgroup.

Around the house ... vases of flowers - yellow, purple and orange.

One of my favorite things ... warm, sunny weather. Unfortunately, we don't get enough of it.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... just the usual routine, apart from an orthodontist's appointment for Angel on Thursday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... from Angel's gym competition yesterday. She won bronze on floor and bronze overall.

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, May 21, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 21st May 2010

1. I'm still pondering the political developments of the past couple of weeks, and doing some thinking about Liberalism and the Liberal-Democrat party. I come from a Methodist / Liberal background, and my heart has always been Liberal, even when my head has said otherwise. I'm trying to get to grips with what exactly are the core principles of the Liberals, as opposed to what are their current policies, and whether my long-held assumptions are correct. (Incidentally, for American readers, Liberal / Conservative in the UK political sense does not equate to liberal / conservative in the American sense.

2. In pursuit of the Liberal Party I've just started reading An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism by Conrad Russell. Wondering if the title means it is a guide for an intelligent person, or a guide by an intelligent person. I guess it is meant to be the former, but the latter is certainly true. Conrad (aka the 5th Earl Russell) was a tutor of mine at university and a man of exceptional intelligence, as was his father, the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Conrad, however, was also an exceptionally nice man; his father, by all accounts, was not. One of the questions I've been pondering about the Coalition government is "what would Conrad have thought?", and I'm hoping this book will answer that. So far, so good.

3. As a working peer (he was a Liberal spokesman in the House of Lords) as well as a working academic Conrad had to do a fair amount of diary juggling. As a result, I once found myself having a tutorial on Elizabethan finance in an interview room in the House of Lords. He also very kindly gave me tea in the Lords' tea room, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

4. A final Conrad Russell anecdote. I once stumbled across a TV broadcast of the Liberal Party conference in which Conrad was giving a speech. It included this rather spectacular piece of name-dropping: "And as my father said to Lenin ..."  (said as if your father having a conversation with Lenin was a perfectly normal, everyday thing!)

5. Cherub has suddenly decided she likes to draw. She sat for over an hour yesterday afternoon working through sheet after sheet of paper - I counted twenty-one separate drawings. They included a tooth fairy with a bag of teeth in one hand and a bag of coins in the other, two children standing on a mountain, a person holding a torch under a starry sky, someone covered in sun cream, a child with a party hat on her head and chocolate cake round her mouth ... not to mention three consecutive pirates!

6. All my digital photos are now on Flickr - over 1000 of them, labelled, dated and sorted into sets. Now I need to start scanning the old-fashioned, printed kind.

7. I meant to post this last week, but forgot. This miniature hobbit hole is just amazing! Click over and admire the detail. (HT: Someone on Facebook, but I'm afraid I can't remember who.)

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random Dozen: May 19th

1. What is one really fast, know-by-heart "go-to" meal to fix in a pinch?
Spaghetti bolognese. I nearly always have meat in the freezer, a jar of sauce in the cupboard, and spaghetti or some other sort of pasta to hand. And if I don't, I can scrounge some from my neighbour. Brown meat, add sauce, cook spaghetti. Can't go wrong. 
2. What is one item you won't leave home without. (Purse and license do not count.)
Mobile phone. 

3. Where is one place you never tire of visiting?
This hotel in Appleby, Cumbria (between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales). 

4. Share one factoid of your family's history.
According to my mother's genealogy research, in the mid-nineteenth century three brothers from my father's family all spent time incarcerated in Aylesbury Prison. Not sure why, and not sure if they were all inside at the same time!

5. Complete this sentence: "Once upon a time I ...."
... tried to teach myself Dutch. I have no idea why, and I didn't get very far.

6. If you could win a one year's supply of anything, what would it be?
Champagne.  I love champagne but it is a rare treat. But then again, I love Pimms and lemonade, so maybe Pimms? Do I have to choose?

7. "One quirky thing you may not know about me is ...."
I hate heights but love roller coasters.

8. You have one dollar pound in your pocket. What will you buy?
There is only one possible choice. Chocolate. 

9. "One thing that always makes me laugh is ...."
Watching Cherub and her Little Friend N together. We call them The Odd Couple.

10. What is one thing you could do today to help yourself reach a personal goal?
I can't think of a single thing! I'm not big on personal goals. Is that bad?

11. What is one thing you could do today to bless someone else?
Tidy the heap of clothes on Star's bedroom floor for her.

12. What is one thing you're looking forward to soon?
A three day family trip to Brighton during the school half-term break (beginning of June).

You can find more Random Dozens at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 17th May

Outside My Window ... cloudy but bright, with the promise of a warm and sunny week. 

I am thinking ... about politics. The aftermath of the election has left me trying to get my thoughts in order about the various political parties and what unites and / or separates them.

From the learning rooms ... Angel has her first GCSE exam tomorrow (Religious Studies, Philosophy). She has a handful this year, then the main set of exams next year.

I am thankful ... that Cherub has now had chicken pox! After being poorly for a couple of days at the beginning of last week, she came out in spots on Tuesday. Fortunately she has had it quite mildly, and apart from a couple of uncomfortable (and sleep deprived!) nights she has been her normal perky self.

From the kitchen ... I think maybe chilli and rice.

I am wearing ... black linen trousers, purple t-shirt. I'm in a purple phase at the moment.

I am creating ... almost finished my brother's Christmas socks (last Christmas, that is!), and planning to move on to a pink cardigan for Cherub next.

I am going ... to get back on track with my to-do list this week, after everything went out of routine and pear-shaped last week.

I am reading ... The Twenty-Two Letters by Clive King, but not getting very far. I picked up three books at a used book stall on Saturday - two historical biography, one a history of underground London - and I'm planning to start on one of those today.

I am hoping ... I can work out what I did wrong when I tried to change the filter on the fridge. It is now leaking so I have had to turn the water off. I managed it OK last time, and I don't think I did anything different. I'm hoping maybe it is a faulty filter rather than a faulter fitter!

I am hearing ... silence. Star was off school sick on Thursday and Friday, and Cherub missed playgroup for the entire week, so I'm extra appreciative of this morning's quiet.

Around the house ... Cherub's works of art. She has suddenly discovered drawing in a big way, and sheets of paper are getting scattered everywhere.

One of my favorite things ... McVities chocolate caramel digestive biscuits.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... new starters' meeting at Cherub's will-be-school; Tevye's late cousin's son from South Africa is in England and planning to visit us from Thursday to Saturday; A and K-next-door are away next weekend and their two girls will be staying over with us, so we will have a house full. Angel has a gym competition on Sunday, and Star is going on a friend's birthday trip to a theme park on Saturday. After this week everything should quieten down. I hope.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I've been busy over the past week uploading old photos to Flickr, and found a few gems. These two pictures tell you everything you need to know about Star and A-next-door!

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rambling On

After my existential blogging crisis over the past month or so, I have come to a conclusion ... I'm just going to continue rambling on as I always have.

I have history on my mind these days, so expect more about that, and hopefully there will be quite a number of historical book reviews just as soon as I get my head back in reading mode. I'm also hoping to write more "thinking posts" about the eclectic mish-mash of things I have on my mind. And of course, the usual random and family-oriented jumble you have come to know and love tolerate over the years.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

There ...

... new blog header done. It is a picture I took back in 2005 of the medieval packhorse bridge in the grounds of Walsingham Abbey. Nice for late spring, I think.

For some reason Blogger isn't letting me change the background colour of the posts or sidebar, but the existing colour works fairly well.

Blog Headers

Inspired by Alicia at Studeo, I thought it would be fun to revisit old blog headers. I'm surprised I was able to find so many.

Time for a new one I think. What next, I wonder?

Friday, May 14, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 14th May 2010

1. This has been a fascinating week for British politics. After last week's inconclusive general election result, we have a new government - a coalition between the Conservative and the Liberal Democrats, the first time two political parties have governed Britain together since the Second World War. I thought it would take at least two elections with a hung parliament (no overall majority) before a coalition government became a realistic possibility, and that the most the Conservatives would get would be an agreement from the Lib-Dems not to bring down a minority Conservative government in the short term. I'm glad to be proved wrong, as the alternatives all looked pretty bleak. If it works, it just might be the beginning of a new more consensual era in British politics. If it doesn't, then it will be back to confrontational politics with a vengeance.

2. While all the political events have been playing out, I've been pretty much under house arrest as Cherub has chicken pox. Apart from a couple of itchy-scratchy interrupted nights, it hasn't been too bad. She has had it more mildly than the older girls did. Lots of spots on her body and upper legs, but not many on her arms and face. All being well, I think she will be over it and able to go back to playgroup on Monday

3. I've been putting current photos onto Flickr for the past year, and have taken advantage of the time stuck at home with a sick Cherub to start uploading old pictures. Fortunately I had backed up all my digital photos up to 2008 to my MacBook, so when the hard drive on the iMac died recently I didn't lose much, if anything. It was the prod I needed to start putting them online, though. So far I have done 2005, 2007 and most of 2006 (no logic to that!) and my Flickr picture count is up to 734.

4. I stumbled across this quote from G.K.Chesterton: "The only way of catching a train I have ever discovered is to miss the train before." Lightbulb moment! I now understand why in my commuting days I missed such an extraordinary number of trains. And why I find myself  saying "I'll aim for the 10.24, and then I should get the 10.34". Scarily, I'm married to someone who often gets to the station so early he ends up accidentally catching the train before. How on earth does he do that?

5. I have one seriously double jointed child. How freaky is this thumb-twisty thing she was doing this morning?

6. Cherub is now in a thoroughly contrary stage. Witness this conversation:

Me (to Star): Do you think it is worth hanging out the washing? Or will it just get rained on?
Star: The second option, I should think.
Cherub: I think the third option!

7. She is still very cute, though, and desperately looking forward to her fourth birthday next month. As she told me this morning: "I'm excited all the way to Africa and back!"

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


By Cherub ... 

Complete with pirate hat, eye patch, beard and belt!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 10th May

Outside My Window ... a bright but chilly morning. A few minutes outside hanging up washing left me shivering.

I am thinking ... about this blog. A couple of busy weeks with little time for posting slipped into a longer hiatus than I intended and left me pondering my blogging future. I'm in no doubt that I want to carry on blogging, but I'm wondering in what direction I want to take this blog, or even whether I would like a new start with a new blog. Or then again, I may just continue meandering around here in random circles. Watch this space. (PS: A big thank you to those of you who wondered why I was so quiet and checked to see I was OK.)

From the learning rooms ... a letter officially offering Cherub a school place for September arrived last week. Since then she has been busy playing "going to school". I'm delighted with what I have seen of the school and I think she will love it. One of the things I particularly like is that they ease the children in very gently, and from the beginning of June she and I will be going together once a week for taster sessions.

I am thankful ... for Tevye. In so many ways.

From the kitchen ... baked potatoes and cauliflower cheese tonight.

I am wearing ... jeans and a cherry red sweater.

I am creating ... back to knitting the same socks I was knitting four weeks ago. I took a diversion and made half a cardigan for Cherub. Now I can't find the rest of the yarn so it may never get finished.

I am going ... to orchestra rehearsals. Before Cherub I used to play violin in a local orchestra, but had to stop when I was pregnant and constantly coughing. Then Thursday evenings got tricky. Now it is finally feasible to go back, and I'm enjoying playing the violin again after four years of blowing things. Still loving my trombone, though :).

I am reading ... The Twenty-Two Letters by Clive King. Children's historical fiction.

I am hoping ... that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will be able to come to an agreement and form a workable government after last weeks inconclusive general election. This is not a good time for political uncertainty.

I am hearing ... the washing machine whirring and Cherub playing with a box of Duplo - mostly these days she prefers Lego, and the Duplo hadn't been out for a while. She has a cold and is home from playgroup having a pyjama day.

Around the house ... lovely clean carpets. The nice man who cleans our carpets finally made it back from the Canary Islands where he was stranded by the ash cloud.

One of my favorite things ... Facebook. I'm really enjoying Facebook lately. I like the opportunity for quick and easy social interaction with different circles of friends.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a quiet week and a busy weekend: dinner party with our neighbours on Friday; playing at a village fete with the brass band on Saturday; taking Star to Leamington Spa to dance on Sunday (if the weather is nice we may take a picnic lunch and make a family day trip out of it).

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... from one of our London trips last month

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman