Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday 13: Sixties Child

What an inventive, thought provoking blogger I am ... not! Life seems to be whizzing past without much time for coherent thought, but I can at least manage to churn out memes.

This week, thirteen things I remember from my 1960s childhood:

1. Long socks. I remember wearing long white socks to school until I was maybe 12 or 13. These days I rarely see them - the younger girls almost all wear short socks in summer, or woolly tights in winter.

2. Black-and-white TV, which is apparently beyond my children's comprehension.

3. Paper bags. Lots of things came in paper bags - sweets, of course, but also fruit and veg, and any smaller items. Large items went directly into a shopping bag. When did plastic carriers come into common use? Early 70s?

4. Brown painted woodwork. Old-fashioned even in the 60s, but older people's houses often had doors, skirting boards and staircases painted brown. Was it war issue paint, or just 1940s style?

5. Ski yoghurt, which was at the cutting edge of culinary adventure. Foreign food!

6. Big pennies, and other pre-decimal coins, like silver sixpences, half-crowns and the multi-sided thruppeny (three-penny) bit. I'm not quite old enough to remember the farthing (quarter-penny). Oh, and doing arithmetic in pounds, shillings and pence - 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. Children today don't know how lucky they are!

7. Coal fires and coal delivery trucks. We always had a coal fire in the sitting room, and electric fires in the kitchen and bedrooms. I don't remember anyone having central heating in those days.

8. Lino. Particularly the cold lino floor in my unheated bedroom (or at least, unheated until I got out of bed and crossed that freezing floor to turn the fire on.

9. Outside toilets. Most people I knew did have inside bathrooms in the 60s (though we did have a long disused two-seater thunderbox at the bottom of our garden!), but my primary school still had an outside toilet block. In winter it froze. Enough said.

10. Operator connected telephone calls. Some numbers were on a direct dial exchange, but not all. A far cry from todays mobile networks.

11. Record players. I know these were still around in the 70s and 80s, but in the 60s there were only record players - no cassettes or CDs, just records. I remember having a record player with a switch for playing 78s, but I don't think we had any.

12. Ink wells in desks, dip pens to write with, and blotting paper. (When did you last use blotting paper?)

13. Strap on roller skates. Remember those?

I got to the end of this and then had a hunch that I had done a similar Thursday Thirteen before. Sure enough, I had - but it is long enough ago and different enough that I am not going to worry about having the same good(?) idea twice.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random Dozen: September 29th

1. Do you believe, somewhere deep inside, that blondes do indeed have more fun? That they are "dumber" than brunettes or redheads? Be honest!
I don't think I would have any more fun if I was blonde, so the answer to that is no. I notice the girls talk about their friends having "blonde moments", and the most scatterbrained ones are all blonde. I don't believe that blondes are truly dumber, but I do think social expectation is more tolerant of blondes having scatty moments than it is of brunettes, and that may encourage blondes to act "blonde".  Whew! That's heavy going for first thing in the morning!

2. Which animal would you most like to observe in its wild habitat?

3. This week the U.N. announced that Dr. Mazlan Othman has been appointed the official "Alien Ambassador," should any extraterrestrials contact us. Have you, or has anyone you know, ever seen a UFO?

4. Name your favorite Hitchcock film.
The only one I have ever watched was The Birds, which I hated. I think that means I don't have a favourite.

5. Would you rather spend time at the library, the mall, a craft store or home?
All of them. A day with time at each would be wonderful!

6. Which Disney princess is your favorite? (Or Disney character, if you are a guy)
I'm not a Disney princess kind of person, so I couldn't pick one.

7. What kind of art is your favorite?

8. How do you feel about viral videos, that is, videos made by amateurs that end up on Youtube receiving thousands of hits?
Amazing. I love the way the world is opened up by the internet, and viral videos are one aspect of that. The ones that get thousands of hits are often hysterically funny or very moving - what's wrong with spreading a bit of laughter or tugging a few heartstrings on You Tube. And if people don't like them, they don't have to watch.

9. Where do you buy your jeans?
Marks and Spencer. One of the few (only?) places where the jeans fit my shape.

10. Tell me about your first automobile accident.
I was confused by a filtering system at traffic lights and stopped suddenly at a red light - which, as it turned out, applied to another lane. The third car behind me didn't stop and shunted the cars in front into each other and into mine. No injuries but the cars in the middle were rather crumpled, which was most unfair as they were entirely blameless. As the accident took place at one of London's busiest road junctions (North Circular / A1), I singlehandedly caused a fairly spectacular traffic jam.

11. Have you ever been honest when you knew you would benefit more if you would be dishonest?
Yes. I am truthful to the point of stupidity. I have spent time in shops arguing that I owe them money they failed to charge me, and virtually having to force them to take it!

12. If you were appointed "Ambassador to Aliens," what would you show and tell first about life on Earth? What would be the most difficult thing to explain?
Everything would be difficult to explain, so I would give them Dr Xargle. Just the introduction to bizarre earth habits that any alien needs. Here, for example, is Dr Xargle on knitting: "Earthlets grow fur on their heads but not enough to keep them warm. They must be wrapped in the hairdo of a sheep. Very old Earthlings (or "Grannies") unravel the sheep and with two pointed sticks they make Earthlet wrappers ... "

Monday, September 27, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 27th September

Outside My Window ... a miserable, dull, wet morning. It is supposed to be brightening up later, but we are well into autumn now. I had to get my winter coat out at the weekend.

I am thinking ... that I need to get moving and clean the bathroom before Cherub's friend arrives for a playdate.

From the learning rooms ... a useful tour round Angel's school last week. Although it was meant to help us decide on a school for Star for next year, I also had a very useful discussion with a business studies teacher over A-levels for Angel for next year. Right now it is looking as though she is going to follow her practical bent and opt for a vocational route rather than academic, with a view to going straight into an A-level entry job at 18 rather than to university.  

I am thankful ... that we have a choice of two good upper schools, and no panic about trying to get Star into a suitable school.

From the kitchen ... this week's menu plan:
Today: Beef and bean hash with roasted potato cubes
Tuesday: Turkey steaks and chips
Wednesday: Lamb chops and mash for Tevye, myself and Cherub / pasta bake for Angel and Star who have to eat late after dance
Thursday: Toad in the hole (I got my menu plan muddled last week and made chicken in bbq sauce by mistake!)
Friday: Pot roast
Saturday: Burgers
Sunday: Roast lamb

I am wearing ... jeans, white long-sleeved top, hand knitted socks.

I am creating ... a ballet cardigan for Cherub.
I am going ... to the supermarket after I drop Cherub at school.

I am reading ... a book of Churchill quotes.

I am hoping ... my Mum's hospital appointment on Thursday goes well.

I am hearing ...  Cherub complaining because she has lost the friendship bracelet Angel made her.

Around the house ... bits of blue painted cardboard that Star is making into some sort of bizarre animal for science homework.

One of my favorite things ... warm, woolly hand knitted socks.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... usual work (freelance and voluntary), band and orchestra rehearsals; Thursday - Mum's pre-op assessment for her postponed knee replacement (turned out to be this week not last week); Friday - mothers' night out with friends; Saturday - belated birthday party for Star (she is having a joint party with a friend who has a September birthday)

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... a stormtrooper invasion at Legoland

  Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman


My children have reminded me, yet again, that I live in a madhouse.


Star: My head is as big as my thigh.
Me: How do you know that?
Star: I stuck my head through the leg of my knickers.


Cherub, on sampling a previously abandoned lollipop: "Hmm ... there are some bits of fluff ... but it's not disgusting."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Catholic Menopausebloggers

Now loose in blogland thanks to Amy Welborn (HT: Sally at Castle in the Sea):

The blogosphere is full of Mommybloggers.  Pregnant, homeschooling, crafting, lactating, birthing, monetizing…mommybloggers!

You know what I don’t see out there?

Catholic Menopausebloggers!
Judging from the comments, there are a few around. In my case, I don't quite belong to the club - no real menopause symptoms yet, apart from the occasional super-short cycle blip - but it is my 50th birthday next month, so I presume it can't be far off. Emotionally I feel as though I'm already there, having made that mental shift of knowing that the baby days are behind me and that a new stage of life is beginning.

And as a fifty year old with a four year old, I am definitely a fully paid up member of another group she introduces in the comments: Kindergarten Moms Who Are Old Enough to Be Moms of the Other Kindergarten Moms!  Mercifully I haven't yet been mistaken for Cherub's grandmother, but I'm sure it will come.

I'd love to hear advice or experiences from any readers out there who have already come out the other side of the menopause. Is there anything I should know?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday 5: Local Hotspots

I ran out of steam (and time) part way through writing seven quick takes yesterday, so I'm doing a belated Friday 5 instead. Here are the hottest five places I can think of within ten miles of home.

1. Whipsnade Zoo

The country branch of London Zoo, which has been a favourite with all three girls. Gerald Durrell (author of My Family and Other Animals) learned his trade as a zoo keeper here. 

2. Woburn Abbey and Safari Park

Picture: Wikipedia

Despite its name, Woburn Abbey is the home of the Dukes of Bedford - where an earlier Duchess of Bedford was credited with inventing the tradition of afternoon tea. Back in my childhood days part of the Woburn estate was turned into a safari park where you can drive round and see the animals close up in a natural habitat (natural-ish - clearly they can't quite manage to turn a piece of Bedfordshire into southern Africa!) 

3. Grand Union Canal

One of the major links in England's nineteenth century canal network, that connected London to the Midlands. These days the canal is used for leisure rather than trade, with narrow boats available for holiday rental, scenic canalside pubs, and the towpath for walking and cycling.

4. Stockgrove Country Park

Another family favourite, with an ornamental lake (from the days when much of the park formed the grounds of a country house), ancient woodland, a children's play area, and Cherub's favourite, a stone sundial - which she has decided is the perfect place to play her version of hopscotch.

5. Xscape

Picture: Wikipedia

The major entertainment venue in a nearby town - sixteen screen cinema, indoor ski slope, climbing wall, bowling, restaurants, clubs and so on.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday 13: Holiday Food

I enjoyed the Thursday 13 posted last week by Pamela at When Good People Get Together, where she listed memorable foods from thirteen different places she had lived. I haven't moved around enough to copy her directly, but I thought I'd adapt it to favourite foods I remember from different holiday destinations. Working roughly in chronological order:

1. Cornish Splits and Clotted Cream (Padstow, Cornwall) 
My great-aunt and uncle lived in Padstow until I was six, and I remember sitting at the dining table there (funny that I can still picture that dining room) eating splits - kind of like a cross between scones and bread rolls - with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

2. Knickerbocker Glories (Isle of Wight)
As a child we went to the Isle of Wight for a summer beach holiday for several consecutive years. Going to a cafe for ice creams was a treat, and I remember often copying my mum and having her  favourite, the knickerbocker glory.

3. Cornish Pasties (St.Just, Cornwall)
After a spell in Norfolk, my aunt and uncle moved back to Cornwall, where I developed a taste for pasties.

4. Curd Tarts (Yorkshire)
Yes, that is curds as in Little Miss Muffet's curds and whey - mixed with currants and used to fill a pastry case. I love curd tarts, and have never seen them anywhere except Yorkshire. The best ever come from Hunters of Helmsley.

5. Moussaka (Corfu, Greece)
The first Greek island I visited was Corfu, back in 1979, which is where I discovered that Greek classic, moussaka. Yum.

6. Kataifi (Kos, Greece)
Next up on the Greek list was Kos, and lots of time hanging out at a cafe-bar that sold the most gorgeous cakes. Traditional Greek desserts are a lot like Turkish, with lots of nuts and honey. For me kataifi, made with a kind of shredded pastry (looks like shredded wheat), has the edge over baklava.

7. Gelato (Rome)
Italian ice cream. Enough said.

8. Turbot (Calais, France)
Back in our very early days together, Tevye took me on a day trip to Calais, where we ate at a restaurant recommended by a former colleague with gourmet leanings. I had a truly memorable main course of turbot, cooked to perfection.

9. Crab Sandwiches (Jersey)
While Tevye was recuperating from surgery on his back we spent a week on the Channel Island of Jersey. Most days we ate lunch in a little cafe overlooking a bay, where they sold the best ever crab sandwiches. Delicious.

10. Vegetarian / Vegan Food (Totnes, Devon)
When I was three months pregnant with Angel we spent a week in a cottage in Devon, which coincided with the beginning of the end of pregnancy nausea and the realisation that eating was at least an occasional possibility. My first real meals in a couple of months came from a vegetarian / vegan cafe in Totnes. For some reason they appealed to my frazzled taste buds where meat based meals just didn't.

11. Danish pastries (Weymouth)
Since Angel and Star were quite small we have holidayed regularly at a caravan park in Weymouth, Dorset. One holiday treat is to share a giant slab of Danish pastry from the Dorset Cake Company for breakfast.

12. Moules a la Normande (Normandy, France)
Mussels are a classic dish for northern France and Belgium, and apples are ubiquitous in Normandy. Combine the two and you get mussels cooked in apple cider and cream. 

13. Doughnuts (Thassos, Greece)
Our favourite Greek island is Thassos, in the north. A fixture on the beach since we first went nearly twenty years ago is the doughnut seller who strolls round at intervals with a tray full of chocolate doughnuts, jam doughnuts and plain rings. No prizes for guessing my favourite.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Daily Routines

I recently stumbled across a collection of the daily routines of famous people (a blog currently on hold as the idea is being turned into a book).

Browsing through, I was intrigued by the routines which involved chunks of work interspersed with large blocks of leisure time, with great things accomplished in those concentrated work periods, presumably at least in part because the leisure meant that mental and physical batteries could be recharged. For example, Winston Churchill:

  • 7.30 - Woke, ate breakfast in bed and read the papers, then worked in bed
  • 11.00 - Got up, bathed, took a walk, went to his study (presumably to work)
  • 1.00 - Extended three course lunch until...
  • 3.30 - More work, or played cards or backgammon with his wife
  • 5.00 - Nap
  • 6.30 - Bathed and dressed for dinner
  • 8.00 - Dinner with drinks and cigars afterwards (could last until after midnight)
  • After dinner - back to his study for another hour or so of work
And this was C.S.Lewis's ideal, based on the days when he lived with his tutor:
  • 8.00 - Breakfast
  • 9.00 - Work
  • 1.00 - Lunch
  • By 2.00 - out for a walk
  • No later than 4.15 - afternoon tea (alone with a book)
  • 5.00 - Work
  • 7.00 - Dinner, followed by leisure to talk or for lighter reading
Inevitably, most (or all?) of the routines described do not involve even basic domestic duties, which were presumably performed by wives or servants, yet alone responsibility for childcare. One of the things I find hard about life with children is the fragmentation of time - the snatching of an hour here, or a half-hour there - and the inevitable interruptions that make it hard to truly focus on anything, or to fully recharge. Skimming through the daily routines got me fantasising about how I would like my days to look if I had no commitments, and how much more it would be possible to accomplish if I was free to match the structure of my day to my natural rhythms (read: night owl!) ... or even if I was just able to think in chunks of time rather than snippets. I think working from 10 until 1, followed by a long lunch, exercise and some reading time, then work again from 4 to 7, followed by dinner and a leisurely evening sounds pretty good - not far off C.S.Lewis's ideal, but with a slightly later start.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 20th September

Outside My Window ... pleasant early autumn morning. Blue sky and white cloud.

I am thinking ... I need to buy Cherub some more clothes for the winter. There was less put away from last winter than I thought, and some of that looks on the small side.

From the learning rooms ... Angel is spending the afternoon at Cherub's school tomorrow, in the same classroom as Cherub, to gather information for her Health and Social Care GCSE coursework. Much excitement. Must warn Cherub's teacher that there may be squealing when Angel arrives!

I am thankful ... that the visit of Pope Benedict to the UK went so well. All the atheist griping that preceded it paled into insignificance once he arrived.

From the kitchen ... this week's menu plan:
Today: Mushroom stir fry
Tuesday: Marinated chicken and chips from the chip van (wish I could remember what I meant to marinate the chicken in!)
Wednesday: Cottage pie
Thursday: Toad in the hole
Friday: Turkey steaks and potato wedges
Saturday: Baked potatoes and cauliflower cheese
Sunday: Eating out (Chinese)

I am wearing ... jeans, pink sweater, hand knitted stripy socks

I am creating ... bed socks for Mum. Managed to get one sock and the Bitterroot shawl finished ready for her birthday tomorrow. I'll post a picture of the shawl later.

I am going ... to the supermarket this morning, then will go for a swim after I have dropped Cherub at school.

I am reading ... Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, but didn't pick it up last week.

I am hoping ... to get back into my groove this week. Last week Cherub was off school with a cold for a couple of days and I was under par too, so not much got done.

I am hearing ...  yes, Cherub's TV again. Part of our morning routing is that Cherub watches TV while I blog, read blogs and catch up with Facebook. I am not a morning person and a bit of down time helps me switch on to the day.

Around the house ... mess. I need to run round upstairs and firefight the chaos left behind in the rush to get ready on a school day.

One of my favorite things ... coffee.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... usual work (freelance and voluntary) and band rehearsals; Thursday - missing orchestra to go to an open evening at Angel's school with Star. We are looking at Upper Schools for next year; Thursday or Friday (some confusion over this!) - taking my mum for another pre-op assessment for her postponed knee replacement; Saturday - teaching First Communion class in the morning. Both older girls are out at parties in the evening; Sunday - going out for a Chinese meal (whole family plus my Mum and brother).

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Picture from BBC website
  Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Two highlights from the papal visit that gave me the shivers (good shivers!) ...

1. Pope Benedict speaking about Thomas More in Westminster Hall, the very building where the trial of St. Thomas took place:
As I speak to you in this historic setting, I think of the countless men and women down the centuries who have played their part in the momentous events that have taken place within these walls and have shaped the lives of many generations of Britons, and others besides.

In particular, I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose 'good servant' he was, because he chose to serve God first.

The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process. ...
Oh. My. Goodness. That is something to set every historical gene I possess quivering. How the world has turned. In the time of Blessed John Henry Newman (another wow!) it would have been unimaginable that a Pope could speak at Westminster. Even fifty years ago it would have benn unthinkable.

2. As a Catholic married to a Jew, this image says it all:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fast Food

Spotted in the local paper ... British eccentricity is alive and well and living a few miles up the road.

Tell me, how does someone come up with the idea to cross a dining table with a car and break a world record for the fastest piece of furniture? You can watch his fast food here (not sure if this works outside the UK).

Friday, September 17, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 17th September

1. The Pope is here! He spent his first day in the UK in Scotland, where he met the Queen, drove through the streets of Edinburgh in his popemobile, and celebrated Mass in Glasgow. The Papal Visit site has live streaming video, and there is live blogging at the Catholic Herald, which is also putting the texts of his speeches and homilies online.

2. Am I going to see the Pope while he is here? Sadly, no. Unlike the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982 where there were large scale, open air Masses with free access, this time the big Papal events are ticket only. There are two in England, a prayer vigil at Hyde Park in London, and the beatification Mass for Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham. Each parish has been allocated a certain number of tickets for one or both events. Our parish only got Birmingham tickets, despite being nearer to London, and it is compulsory to travel by coach as part of a parish group (unlike Hyde Park where people can travel independently). The coaches leave from a nearby town at 3.30am. I just can't do that - I simply wouldn't be able to function properly for the rest of the week - so I'm contenting myself with watching on TV.

3. One reason I love Cherub's school is that they are serious about giving the children many and varied learning opportunities. From this week's Reception class newsletter:
We have made a workshop area in the classroom and would be grateful for any off-cuts of wood to hammer into, hand drill or saw (under supervision - don't panic!), nuts and bolts, nails, polystyrene blocks, pipes, old tools and tape measures. We would also like items we could dismantle with screw drivers to find out how they work.
How many schools would let four and five year olds loose with hammers and saws, even closely supervised?

4. After her enthusiastic start poor Cherub has been off school with a nasty cold for the last two days. She was also very disappointed that she had to miss her second ballet class. She is still snuffly but says she feels much better and wants to go to school this afternoon. I hate having to take the school / no school decision when a child is borderline!

5. This week's archival snippet ... some fun stuff has been put online by Oxfordshire Record Office at The Dark Archivist. According to Wikipedia the Dark Archivist "takes the visitor around Oxfordshire through the ages, searching for sinister crimes which took place hundreds of years ago, looking for old remedies and reading up on crimes as they might have been written up by journalists today." Horse-dung in milk as a cure for a pain in the side, anyone?

6. As a couple of commenters queried the pronunciation of "pightle" last week, I checked ... yes, it does rhyme with "title".

7. Continuing the word theme, here are this week's additions to the Cherub-English dictionary:

Marmalade = Marmite (as in "Mummy's eating marmalade crisps". Marmite crisps* - yum; marmalade crisps - yuck!)
Paracetamol* = Receipt ("Par-receipt-a-mol". Get it? I'm not entirely sure whether she was confused or joking.)

* UK-US translations ... crisps = chips; paracetamol - acetaminophen

Visit Conversion Diary  for more quick takes

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Show Term

This is dance show term for the girls - all three of them! - and with dance mania ruling in this household they are taking part in a grand total of thirteen dances between them. The usual format of their school show is to have a very tenuous plot running through with small snippets of drama between dances, which allows for a mix of dance styles and themes. This time the premise is that something (or someone?) has to be rescued from an evil doctor and his "room of secrets". The darker themes fall to the older kids, while the younger ones get the lighter, pretty stuff (fairies, butterflies and so on).

This time round the themes for the girls' dances are:

  • Tribal voodoo (Angel, jazz)
  • Angels and demons (Angel, ballet)
  • Flowers (Angel, pointe ballet)
  • Prisoners (Angel, modern - they have to dance this one in handcuffs, which is a challenge!)
  • Gargoyles (Star, contemporary)
  • Wild animals (Star, modern)
  • Street thieves (Star, jazz)
  • Fire and light (Star, ballet)
  • Mad scientists (Star, tap)
  • Snowflakes (Cherub, ballet)
  • Mice (Cherub, modern and tap)
That should make for an interesting set of costumes. Angel, as a senior, will also take part in the opening dance and the finale, which don't have any particular theme. The running order has its challenges, with some very quick changes. Also Cherub's snowflakes are dancing immediately after Angel's tribal voodoo group - I have visions of anxious four year olds being trampled by large and scary looking teenagers hurtling around the wings (their teacher tends to choreograph in entrances and exits with very tight timing) and alarmed by eerie lighting effects. Not quite sure how they will get round that one!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Random Dozen: September 15th

1. Do you do garage sales? If so, tell me about one great find. If not, tell me why not.

No, because they aren't a British thing. We have "car boot" sales instead, where people sell from the backs of their cars. Mostly they are held at regular times in a field or car park, or schools or charities might organise a one-off car boot sale to raise funds (people pay for their pitch, and buyers pay a small fee to enter).  I don't do car boot sales - too lazy to sell, and I don't want to add to my clutter mountain - but my twelve year old is an enthusiastic car boot seller. She and my brother usually go together three or four times a year.

2. Name the last thing you fixed.
Does switching back on a fused light circuit count? If not, then it was a drawer that had been broken for more years than I care to think about. Unfortunately, fixing things is not one of Tevye's talents, so if anything breaks round here I am the one who has to take a crack at mending it. 

3. Name your A) Favorite item of makeup OR B) Favorite tool
Favourite tool? Electric screwdriver, which has saved me more blisters that I care to think about. I don't actually own one, but have acquired my Mum's on permanent loan. And as a bonus, my favourite item of makeup is Boots No.7 Moisture Drench lipstick. Without lipstick my middle-aged lips look pale and washed out, and moisturising lipstick is a great alternative to chapstick to stop me getting dry, sore lips from playing the trombone.

4. Which room in your home needs organizing more than any other?

I don't want to think about that question!

5. Which room could use re-decorating?
The dining room is top of the list, as it hasn't been redecorated for some time and is getting rather tired. I would also like to repaint the kitchen. Although it was only painted last year, I've never really been happy with the colour (a very pale green), and would like to change it to yellow.

6. Share something unique about your town. 
Unique? Difficult. There are lots of things I like about our town, but none of them are particularly unique. Even the beautiful thirteenth century church and medieval market cross are not unique - you can find similar ones in other English towns. Ah! I know! It is the home of The Borrowers, which Mary Norton wrote here and set in a house that is now a middle school.  

7. If you could send a one-sentence message to your great-grandchild, what would it be?
Oh. My. Goodness. I don't think I could ever settle on one sentence. I would be constantly rewriting it.  Even thinking about it leaves me stuck in paralysed confusion, so I'm going to skip out or I will never get the rest of these questions answered.

8. Do you Facebook?
Yes. Love it. 

9. Describe your favorite shoes.
Purple court shoes with heels. Not my favourite to wear, as I never find heels particularly comfortable, but my for looks, and a great colour.

10. Do you listen to more talk radio or more music radio? What kind of station is it?
Mostly music radio, alternating between classical and middle-of-the-road local radio (mix of current music and pop classics), depending on who is in the car and the mood of the moment. I have phases where I listen to a lot of talk radio, but I'm not in one of them right now. 

11. How far would you travel for a really good (favorite) meal?
About 20 miles if it was by car. I would take the train into London, which is about 40-50 miles, but has endless choice of places to eat. 

12. If you were totally honest with yourself (and us) what should you probably be doing right now instead of blogging?
Getting up, showered and dress, and helping Cherub to get dressed. And if I don't start doing it now, we are going to run very late this morning!

For more Random Dozens, visit  2nd Cup of Coffee.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 13th September

Outside My Window ... grey. Not sure how much it is just early morning grey, and how much it is cloudy-rainy grey.

I am thinking ... it is seven o'clock in the morning. Much too early for thinking.

From the learning rooms ... busy, busy, busy. Lots of homework over the weekend for Angel and Star (there always seems to be a homework bulge at the beginning of a school year - new teachers working out who is at what stage, I think). 

I am thankful ... that the new term time routine is working out. Last week was busy, but manageable.

From the kitchen ... the menu plan is running like clockwork so far. Chilli tonight, and I promised Cherub we would cook some pretty biscuits from her Fairy Cooking book.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas, blue dressing gown.

I am creating ... a Bitterroot shawl for my Mum in pale green, and matching socks. The shawl is almost done (about twenty rows to go), and I have knitted the leg of the first sock. Doubt I will finish them before her birthday next week, so may have to wrap a single sock on account!

I am going ... nowhere in particular this week. Just the usual stuff.

I am reading ... Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.

I am hoping ... I can keep up my good start with exercise. Hoping to do more swimming this week.

I am hearing ... Charlie and Lola on TV (sometimes I think Cherub is Lola!).

Around the house ... a beautifully tidy desk, and less clutter in the dining room. Hoping to make a little more progress this week.

One of my favorite things ... Cherub and Star lying in bed next to me, holding hands.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... usual school and dance routine for girls; record office, band and orchestra for me; Yom Kippur for Tevye on Saturday; 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, September 12, 2010

The Power of Imagination

Love the power of a four year old's imagination.

Playing in an empty play house in John Lewis' toy department yesterday ...

Cherub: "Mummy, would you like a drink?"
Me: "Yes, please!"
Cherub: "What would you like?"
Me: "Ooh! Coffee would be nice."
Cherub: "Sorry, we don't have coffee."
Me: "What do you have?"
Cherub: "Just water and apple juice."

Why would she have imaginary juice and water, but no imaginary coffee?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 10th September

1. This morning I wrestled with a moral dilemna. Should I post a Thursday meme on Friday, offending my sense of the rightness of Thursday being Thursday and not Friday, or should I cheat and alter the posting date to Thursday? I settled for uncomfortably untidy honesty.

2. Turns out I didn't finish this post yesterday, and now here I am untidily posting a Friday meme on Saturday - which also happens to be 11th September. (Ack! Should I go back and change the date in the title? Or not?)  And I don't just know what to say about this day, except to send my love to my American friends.

3. As a trivial aside: hearing this date described as "nine-eleven" always brings home to me one of those quirky differences between American English and British English. In the US, the month comes first, and in the UK, it comes after the day. "Nine-eleven" has become part of the language in its own right, but in other more favourable circumstances the American 9/11 would normally be the British 11/9. Cherub's birthday is 8/6 here, but would be 6/8 there, and so on. I wonder when and why this difference arose?
4. While on the subject of language, my word of the week is "pightle". I keep coming across fields named "Pightle", or "The Pightle" in the transcribing I'm doing at the record office. With my farming background, most of the words that crop up in field names are familiar, but this one wasn't. In the end curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up. A pightle is a small, enclosed area of land. Maybe not the most useful of words, but it has a certain charm!

5. Two firsts for Cherub this week. Not only did she start school, but she also started ballet classes. Much excitement, and delight that she gets to be a snowflake in the dance school show in December. She will also be a tap dancing mouse. Or more accurately, a mouse skipping around in tap shoes. To describe it as tap dancing is stretching a point.

6. Walking to school on her third day last week, Cherub informed me very solemnly: "School can be a bit worrying when you first start, but it soon stops being frightening." Before she started she articulated one specific worry - that she would not be able to find her peg again at the end of the day. Once this had been resolved by a mix of reassurance and realising that her peg was actually very easy to find, all was well. Now she is taking herself into the classroom and sorting herself out, while the majority of the other children still want mum or dad to go in with them. Typical Cherub ... she is either very confident or very timid, with nothing much in between.

7. While Cherub was starting new things last week, the rest of us were getting back into old things. I exercised various muscles that had become lazy. I have been in an exercise slump for longer than I care to think about,  and I am determined to pull myself out of it. I haven't been swimming for exercise in years, but this week I went twice. I ached for twenty four hours after the first session. Mercifully, the second was better. I also got my musical muscles back into shape after summer breaks from band and orchestra. Two tough rehearsals kicked me back into gear - lots of long, loud, lip-busting stuff at band, and sight reading through Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony with the orchestra.

Visit Conversion Diary  for more quick takes

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday Thirteen

I haven't done one of these for a long time, but here, short and sweet, is the starting school edition. Thirteen things Little Cherub has done at school this week.

1. Played in the vet's surgery.

2. Petted a guinea pig.

3. Drew a monkey with a banana which she cut out and stuck on card ready to display.

4. Played a monkey game involving hanging plastic monkeys on a tree.

5. Listened to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

6. Looked at a real caterpillar.

7. Played a recycling game on the computer.

8. Played in the playground.

9. Gave a doll a bath in real water.

10. Brought home a story book of her choice.

11. Used a painting program on the computer.

12. Learned to stop what she is doing and listen when the teacher rings wind chimes,

13. Was made "special helper" for the day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

First Day of School

I was going to post some cute pictures of Cherub in her new school uniform, but she had other ideas and refused point blank to pose for the camera. All was not lost, as her teacher sent home this photo, along with a little note about her day:

She was both excited and a little nervous before she went - Little Miss Timid is not big on new things, and knew I would be leaving her there on her own - but once we got to school she settled in immediately. We discovered where to put her stuff (peg and drawer with her name on), found her name tag (they have to put their name in a basket to show they have arrived), then she spotted a play area set up as a vet's surgery. Her eyes lit up, and she shot off to play, waving goodbye as she went. This term's theme for the little ones is Pets, which she is excited about. The sticker on her dress says "special helper" - being made special helper for the day meant she got to put the register away for her teacher! By the time I collected her, she was a very happy little girl. She skipped home singing "I love school" over and over, and was on a high for the rest of the day.

So far, so good!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 6th September

Outside My Window ... early autumn morning. Pale blue sky with white clouds, and a light breeze. Heavy rain forecast tonight and tomorrow.

I am thinking ... of my dad. Today would have been his 82nd birthday. He was a kind, quiet, gentle man, who lived simply, wanted little and took pleasure in small things.

From the learning rooms ... Cherub's first day of school today. She is excited! She will be going from 12.30 to 3.30 every day this term.

Angel got her first GCSE results back last week - physics, biology, chemistry (together making one single science GCSE); health and social care (half a GCSE, to be combined with coursework she will do this year); philosophy and ethics (2 exams making up half a GCSE, with the other 2 exams to be taken next summer). I had low expectations as she has had mostly poor and disrupted teaching in science since she started school three years ago, and she had an appallingly incompetent teacher for health and social care who didn't even seem to know what the syllabus was meant to be. She got Bs for everything, all of them in the top half of the B range, and a couple just one mark below an A. We are both very happy with that.

Lots of things have been changed around at Star's school thanks to their new headteacher, and they are now being taught in sets rather than in the class groups they have been in for the last three years. Star has been put into Set 2 out of seven sets for maths and English, which I think should be just right for her - challenging but not stressful. She is a bit indignant that she is in the bottom set (out of two) for PE. Apparently her dance and gymnastics skills do not translate into prowess at team games!

I am thankful ... everyone has switched back into the getting up early term time routine so smoothly. It may not last, but I'm thankful while it does!

From the kitchen ... I have the mother of all menu plans. A four week plan, keyed to who is where when and who eats what, alongside a shopping list for a giant beginning-of-the-month shop, followed by weekly top ups as necessary. The giant shop was done over the weekend, so the fridge and kitchen cupboards are groaning. It should work like clockwork (I hope!). Chicken stir fry tonight, with an  Indian ready meal for Star who gets in late and doesn't like stir fry.

I am wearing ... pink pyjamas, blue dressing gown.

I am creating ... a Bitterroot shawl for my Mum in pale green. I scrapped the Travelling Woman shawl I started as it was coming out too long and narrow, and swapped the original blue wool for green (I have a very accommodating local yarn shop). I'm hoping I can finish the shawl and knit matching bedsocks in time for her birthday on September 21st. That might be over optimistic!

I am going ... to make the most of Cherub's mornings at home this term. This week I'm planning to do fairy things with her. I think today we will make fairy cakes.

I am reading ... Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.

I am hoping ... Cherub enjoys her Reception year at school as much as I think she will.

I am hearing ... Little Princess on TV.

Around the house ... today the push to get the house back under control starts!

One of my favorite things ... ironing. Well, OK, not one of my absolutely favourite things, but my favourite houseworky thing. I find it relaxing. Am I weird?

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... Testing out the new dance class schedule I worked out with my friend yesterday (who would take and collect which children and when - she has daughters the same age as Angel and Star who take many of the same classes); Hoping to go swimming at least twice; Spending Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the record office; Band restarts after a three week break; Orchestra may be starting too - need to check this!; Tevye has two days off work for Yom Kippur, so we are planning to go out for lunch while Cherub is at school on Friday; a cousin of Tevye's is visiting on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... Cherub's favourite bit of Legoland

 Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, September 03, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 3rd September

1. When it comes to performing tasks, some people are goal oriented and some are process oriented. Cherub is clearly one of the former. Playing mini golf yesterday, her goal was to get the ball into the hole as quickly as possible despite very limited skills with an over sized putter. She achieved it very efficiently by simply skipping the obstacles and starting with the ball twelve inches away from the hole. Who needs the process when they can just cut to the end game!
2. I was efficient and double-checked on Wednesday that Star had everything she needed for school on Thursday. No school jumper. After rushing out to buy a replacement, only to find her size was out of stock, the missing jumper turned up at a friend's house where she had abandoned it on the last day of the summer term.

3. My inner proof reader is struggling with my work at the record office. I am transcribing tithe records, and having to faithfully copy random capitalisation without correcting it is torture!

4. Hearing plaintive squawks from the bathroom, Star went to investigate. She found Cherub had somehow tangled the toilet roll with the toilet brush. She laughed. Cherub's aggrieved response ... "it's not funny, it's a disaster!"

5.  Favourite quote of the week (HT: Mrs Wookie):

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ~C.S. Lewis

6. Angel, holding out a hand in my direction: "Mum, can you pull my arm?" ... baffled, I obliged. Turned out what she really wanted was for me to stretch the sleeve on her school jumper!

7. And now, Cherub and I are off to Legoland for the day as a special treat before she starts school on Monday.

Visit Conversion Diary  for more quick takes

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Random Dozen: September 2nd

Humph. Late again.

1. What insect are you most afraid of? Feel free to post a picture.
None. I actually like insects. We are lucky that in the UK there isn't anything too scary. I do prefer they stay in the right place - ants in the garden, not the house, and wasps not too close to whatever I am eating.

2. What is the greenest/most organic thing about you or that you do?
I'm reasonably efficient at recycling.

3. Tell me about a recurring dream that haunts you.
I have had spells of recurring dreams, but none of them particularly unpleasant. I used to get dreams about missing trains. Self-inflicted, as I was commuting at the time and made a habit of missing trains or catching them by the skin of my teeth!

4. Have you ever missed a flight? What were the circumstances?

5. What do you consider your best feature?

Cheerfulness and positive outlook. Usually.

6. What was the last concert you went to?
An orchestra concert I performed in at the beginning of July. We played Brahms' Academic Festival Overture, Dvorak's 8th Symphony, and a Beethoven Piano Concerto. I was tucked away in my favourite spot at the back of the first violins.

7. Describe the most embarrassing church moment you ever experienced.
The time I forgot to turn my mobile phone off when I went to Confession. Tevye sent me a text, and my text ringtone was set to the Can-Can to make sure I heard it. So did everyone else in the Church. Mortifying.

8. Are you a whistler, hummer or singer?

Singer. Badly.

9. George Washington Carver said, "I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." What is God saying to you through nature today, or this very minute?

Reminding me of his attention to detail and his infinite variety. I took Cherub to the local open farm today - rabbits with supersoft fur, alpacas, a week old calf, ducks head down and tails up, a hare sitting in a quiet corner of a field, a rich crop of hawthorn berries for the birds, baby guinea pigs, a shire horse next to a shetland pony, pygmy goats, fat sows ...

10. On September, 1, 1752, the Liberty Bell arrived in Philadelphia. What memorable event will take place in your life on September 1, 2010?
Oops! I missed it.

11. Taco Bell or the Liberty Bell? (You must choose.)
Both are outside my experience, but I like tacos, so I'll go for Taco Bell.

12. Do you believe men and women can have purely platonic friendships? 

For more Random Dozens, visit  2nd Cup of Coffee.