Saturday, 18 February 2017

I have it nailed

We've practically lived at various skateparks this half term. The biggest boy has a skateboard and the other two have scooters, and right now they're quite obsessed. I can either watch  from the car or, even better, from a heated cafe. Oh the luxury. As you know, many of the things they like involve me standing out in the freezing cold and the mud somewhere. This week has been such a delicious novelty. Warmth AND a sit down. Well, hours and hours and hours of sitting down in fact. I could maybe have done with a little more exercise. But picture this: me, car, hot drink, cookie, good book, no interruptions. I have parenting absolutely nailed.

I spent some time watching as well as reading. Some skateboarders and scooterers can do some seriously impressive tricks. The prize for the most dangerous thing goes to those stunt bikes I think. I saw two really nasty falls from them. No ambulance needed, but a serious amount of pain and no doubt some very impressive bruises.

One of the skateparks was near a library, so I made a quick foray inside. One of the librarians normally works at my local library and recognised me. I am slightly embarrassed at how often I go to the library and at how many books we borrow. And now I've been seen at another library, so they will know that I go there as well. But oh the books, the books. Can't help myself. I picked out a mountain of things for the children to read and tried to walk past nonchalantly, but really, it looked as though I was ransacking the place. They do get through a lot though. Quite often they have finished one between the time we get home and when I get the tea on the table. We are book people! I tell myself it is good for the library statistics in these times of cuts.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sugar and ... more sugar

The seedheads have been picked clean and the birds are flocking round feeders wherever they find them. Lots of energy used in these cold February days. I can attest to that having spent my share of hours outside. I'm always extra hungry after a morning in the chilly wind. Load up on fat where you can find it, that's my motto.

The middle boy's birthday is approaching this week. Eleven already. He is such a sweet quiet chap. No trouble at all. Well, almost none. We spent the morning at home together today while the others were out. Honestly, there was silence almost the whole time. We are the quiet people!

We're also absolutely terrible at making our minds up about things. We have to weigh up ALL of the possibilities, think it out thoroughly. We cannot be rushed. Even the tiny decisions. It all has to be thought through and agonised over. We have to get it right. Some other people don't understand this. But we do. Anyway, in a triumph of decisiveness he has actually chosen his birthday cake in advance. Normally we would still be weighing up the merits of carrot cake versus Victoria sponge at this point.

He has chosen Nigella's ice-cream cake. It's a hell of a recipe. Take a tub of ice-cream and throw in all sorts of naughtiness. I feel a bit peculiar just thinking about it. But it really is rather good, and I'm not even a great lover of ice-cream (it's too cold - I have been known to warm mine up in the microwave). This has hot chocolate sauce poured over it. I know, I know, but it's only once a year.

I'm already planning what to give up for lent. Sugar, soya and I'm thinking gluten. I've toyed with giving up gluten before but it seems like it might be a tricky thing. I eat lots of oats and bread and things. But I'm curious to know whether I'd feel different. So I think I shall give it a go. Corn tortillas, rye* sourdough and rice noodles might be the way to go. I'm looking forward to it, in a masochistic sort of way. But please don't remind me that I said that when I only last until lunchtime on day 1. I have form.

How are things with you? Any big cakes planned? Or are you all about the vegetables?

* Oops, apparently not gluten free. A little research needed first I think.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Dog days of winter

I'm enjoying these last days of winter before the spring madness begins. Eating up last year's harvests from the freezer and planning what to grow next year.

I found an inspiring allotment book at the library, all about a group of villagers in Devon who found their own piece of land and started an allotment group. It's in a sublime position, looking out over the sea. They've worked so hard and created some really gorgeous productive plots.

The seed order arrived from the allotment association. I tried very hard not to go overboard. I still have a box full of things, and no doubt I'll go to the seed swap too. I'll probably sow tomatoes later on this month, and then it will all begin again.

In the meantime I'm sticking close to home though, avoiding the wind and rain when I can and writing and doing the usual busy things. I always wonder in the winter how there is ever time to tend a garden in spring and summer, but somehow I always seem to make a few hours here and there. I do love having a break from it all though.

Outside it is sodden but I can see a few buds beginning to swell. It won't be long now before things are moving. This is the month that the swans head back to Siberia. The natural world can feel the world turning back towards the sun. But for now I'm quite happy inside, just for a bit longer.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Pressing on regardless

Photos from a quick walk in the park on Saturday afternoon while the boys scooted/birdwatched. I ventured into the woods with my camera. It was steep and sticky. I could just see a path at the bottom though, so I started making my way down. There was a bit that was really slidey that I knew I wouldn't be able to go down without falling. And yet, there was that path at the bottom. I eased a foot out a little way. Then another one and then bam, it was all over. Straight down on my arse in thick mud. Mud on my camera, mud on my coat, mud up inside my skirt and a lovely deep wodge of mud scooped neatly up by my watch strap. Oh the satisfaction of being right, I knew it was too steep and slippy for me. I also knew I would do it anyway. What is wrong with me?

I slithered the rest of the way to the bottom holding on to thorny things and ridiculously thin twigs. But I made it! All the way to the ... wait a minute ... oh ... it's not a path after all, it's a miniature railway track that is fenced in and I need to climb all the way back up. Sigh. It was a lovely sunny day though.

I've been enjoying these last days of January. Cold, dark, damp. I love an excuse to hunker down at home. Eyeing the pile of books waiting to be read. Knitting round and round and round on the Black Thing. Eating scrumptious things. Repeatedly making rice pudding with double cream in it.

The boys are waiting for drier days to do the scooty/skateboardey things more I think. They have been watching instructional Youtube videos on my laptop. The other day I turned it on and there was one entitled, "HUGE Scooter Drop Off Highway Bridge!" Should I be worried?

The older two are pressing on with the magic. The middle boy is after a paper shredder. Apparently he knows a trick involving six envelopes, a shredder and a ten pound note. It won't be my ten pound note, I can tell you that.

Hope all are well and pushing on regardless.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Seen it all before mate

Still no photos to show you. I've been quite busy during the day, and really there's not much going on round here to photograph. Even the sauerkraut, which has been SO exciting to watch as it occasionally releases a bubble of gas, doesn't translate well into a picture. It's hard to capture the thrill of that moment when the bubble escapes and jiggles its way to the surface. I know you'd love it if you could see it. Sometimes I just stand in the kitchen watching it. And no, I do not need to get out more, I am happy all alone watching the sauerkraut fermenting, it's just the way I am.

So anyway, I have a giraffe for you. I didn't feel I could do a post without a picture. I do love the expression on the face of a giraffe. They've seen it all before I think.

It's been a quiet evening here this evening. The bigger boys are deeply into all things magic at the moment. You can't enter a room without someone going "Pick a card, any card, pick a card". The tricks have varying degrees of impressiveness, but the middle boy did manage some actual baffling magic the other day. The littlest boy spent the evening curled up on a cushion and a sheepskin with a hotwater bottle and a pile of Roald Dahl books. He read two and a bit of them and didn't make a peep for the entire evening. He has a heavy cold, it's slowed him down a bit. But oh how sweet he was.

I've been spending my days plugging away at being a writer. Bits of this, bits of that. We shall see where it goes.

This weekend we shall no doubt be doing the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. We don't have the best garden for birds here, not enough trees, but we get quite a few on and off. There are always plenty of blackbirds around, picking through the fallen leaves for the juicy things underneath and taking grapes from the bird table. We have a wren and robins too, also blue tits and great tits. From time to time a group of long-tailed tits will pass through. And on occasion we've seen black caps, a coal tit and redwings. Magpies, pigeons, starlings and gulls are always about as well. Not a bad list now that I've written it down.

The biggest boy came home from his football training earlier. You may recall he's really tall. Well, he came home crammed into a tiny skintight hoody with someone else's initials emblazoned on the front. It barely came down over his body and the sleeves didn't get anywhere near his wrists. He had no idea it was not his. How is that even possible. Sigh. I'm always suspecting my jeans have been swapped with those belonging to a smaller person, I'm constantly on the lookout for it. Maybe he just thought he'd grown.

Hope all are keeping warm in this chilly weather. I have commandeered the hot water bottle and I'm off to curl up on the sofa now. Bliss.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Stand well back, I'm fermenting

And so here we are. Things are changing, here and across the pond. I have cut back on news consumption a bit. Don't need to know every tiny detail of it all. For my mental health. I went for a run this morning. It was dark and there was frost but it was good. I'm not a particularly regular runner, but I do feel so much better when I run. I sleep better, I feel more positive. Someone left a comment a while back saying that exercise does everything that the pills say they will. It stuck with me, and it's something I think is very true. Please don't imagine some slick, Lycra-clad swiftness. I am so slow the children can keep up with me just by walking, and all I have is an old pair of running shoes. I don't let that put me off though.

When the sun came up the sky was clear the whole day was gloriously sunny. My desert rose basked in it. I'm not sure it's completely happy at the moment, it might need a bit of a repot or something. Maybe it would rather be living in the desert. A sunny south-facing windowsill is as good as it gets around here.

I cracked open the book on fermenting vegetables this morning and had a go at sauerkraut, which is one of the most basic recipes.

Just a matter of finely shredding the cabbage, rubbing in salt for a while until the juice is released, then packing tightly into a jar making sure there is no air trapped within the leaves.

The cabbage all needs to be pushed down under the brine level (the brine is the juice from the cabbage, no added water needed). Then I topped it with a folded cabbage leaf and a bag of water to weigh it all down and keep it under the brine.

The natural bacteria should get to work and give off carbon dioxide and turn the mixture sour in the manner of a pickle. In a few days the book suggests trying it, although it might take somewhat longer for the flavours to develop. The bacteria are probiotics and very good for the gut apparently. And the fermenting releases more vitamins and minerals than you would get from just eating raw fresh cabbage. I have high hopes it will work and I will pretty much turn into Wonder Woman.

Next I shall give kimchi a try. Chinese cabbage, radish, spring onions, garlic, chilli and carrots from memory. I've tasted some and it's utterly delicious. The fermentation breaks the vegetables down just the right amount for me. This is the book I've been using.

You'll see I have a jar with a little vent in the lid, to allow the gas to escape. This isn't essential, you can just leave the lid a bit loose. Don't put it on tightly because of the build-up of gas. Oh how I love that phrase. Comedy and danger all rolled into one. I shall let you know how it all goes. If it works you can bet I'll be fermenting everything in sight.

Hope everyone has a very good, calm, relaxing Sunday with a bit of reading time and absolutely nothing annoying. I shall be out watching football most of the day I think. By sundown I shall be frozen solid.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

In search of inspiration

Still a dearth of photos around here. A shot of the river at high tide taken on Saturday when I took the biggest boy to look for birds. And the castle in the January gloom. I love the beech hedge at this time of year. Well, at any time of year actually, beech is one of my favourites. The middle boy likes it too, I think it's something to do with his survival book which says you can eat the leaves fried in butter. (Don't try it, I might be wrong and I'd hate to poison anyone. I sometimes only half listen to things people are telling me. Quite often I'm somewhere else entirely inside my head.) Obviously if you were starving and trying to survive you might skip the frying in butter part.

The middle boy lost a tooth the other day. It was painful, so after tea I gave him the last of the ice-cream. The littlest boy was incensed. I told him if he put a molar on the table he could have half. He did of course give it his very best shot.

I've been searching for inspiration on these fresh new days of 2017. My list of resolutions and things to accomplish sits neglected in a Word document. These past few days I am missing my oomph. I think I might be fighting off some virus or other. Only thing I can think. Today I couldn't even muster up the energy to cook anything decent. Although the evening meal is often a trial I think. That need to feed people something, ticking all those nutrition boxes, every single day. Nigel Slater makes it all sound so easy. He just picks up some exquisite cheese and pairs it with, well, a pear or something, and everyone raves about the marvellousness of it all. If I threw a handful of walnuts and blue cheese into the pasta people would want to know where the rest of it was and what was for main course.

Anyway, in my slump I have come across various inspirational people. Not necessarily famous ones. Just ordinary people putting the effort in. Fitting their dreams in around day jobs and children and homes and keeping it all together. That's who I want to be. Tomorrow. Well, today, but I just haven't got the energy for it today. Today I'm just eating a little dish of chilli peanuts. So tomorrow, it will be tomorrow. Keep me to it.