Friday, 15 June 2018

Peak frazzle

I've reached peak frazzle this week, somehow, despite being determined to be organised and accomplish much. It occurs to me that I might hang on to what's left of my sanity if I drafted other people in to do the odd thing as well.

The dog has done his share of pushing me to the brink. He has been naughtier than ever in the past three or four days. Not sure why. He broke his cone on Wednesday evening, so we marched him along to the vet's and got another one. I am trying to minimise plastic consumption, but Bert really isn't on message. Within 24 hours he'd broken the new one, by pelting down the garden at full speed and cranging into something. Now I know I should have been in the garden, diligently holding his lead while he gently strolled about, but see I Have No Time above.

I tried mending the cone, but he thought it was some sort of chewing game I'd invented, so I left the cone off. Overnight he pulled off a scab, so we are back to cone life again now. Sigh.

The biggest boy was off school today with the sort of illness where you're okay to sit on the sofa eating and watching the World Cup but you couldn't possibly go to school, you know the sort of thing.

I got my half-finished cross stitch out the other day. And horror of horror I found I couldn't really see it well enough. As I already wear contact lenses for short-sight it is adding insult to injury to start becoming long-sighted as well. Although if I'm short-sighted I don't think that I can be called long-sighted, because I don't have long sight, if you see what I mean. Maybe I'll just end up being classed as blind as a bat. Anyway, I've stuffed the cross stitch back in its lovely pouch and put it away to think about another day. Anyone who comes here regularly will know I'm a big fan of the head in the sand approach to life.

Cricket has overwhelmed our lives completely at the moment. It seems to be on every day except Mondays, it's dizzying. Enough to make me wish for rain.

I am tired of preparing food. Tired, tired, tired. It's unrelenting. I think it's because of all the early teas before cricket, all prepared and eaten in a tearing hurry. If I was Nigella Lawson I'd be cheerily throwing together some amazing spread whilst entertaining guests, helping children with homework and looking ravishing. As it is I'm shoving half-washed salad into bowls (the middle boy had a bit of snail poo on his the other day, much to his brothers' delight), heating up oven chips and yelling at anyone who gets in the way. All while looking like goodness knows what. But I'm not complaining really, although I should like to be the Queen for a couple of weeks and have a footman bring me a perfectly boiled egg of a morning and walk the corgis for me.

If anyone has any excellent meals that can be put together quickly I shall be very happy to hear about them. Pasta is wearing a little thin in this house. Wishing all a good weekend. CJ xx

Friday, 8 June 2018

Ten random things

Red, white and blue. But where's the blue? I hear you cry. Here. Right here.

I thought I'd join in with Leanne, who has a lovely ten random things post up at the moment.

1. Let's start with the dog. Oh, he was so sad. Which made us so sad. We apologised and regretted and loathed ourselves. He didn't understand but loved us anyway. So we loathed ourselves even more.
A maelstrom of emotion. He refused to drink. In a stroke of genius I poured some water from a tin of tuna into his water, and hey presto, he loved it. You'll find your top tips here people.

2. Like Leanne, I too have a crab spider. He is lurking on the roses, waiting patiently for a bee to pass by. I keep going out to check on progress, with a sort of horrified fascination.

3. The rose is delightful, scenting the whole corner of the garden. I am spending far too much time gazing out of the window at the moment. It's all so green, I just can't stop. It's still at the stage where it's surprising.

4. Next on my to-do list is getting to grips with GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation for those of you from far away (it's an EU thing). While I'm happy to have less annoying phone calls and emails, it's all quite tricky and annoying for website owners and freelancers. That's probably why I'm here writing this instead of doing something from The List.

5. I found out the other day that I'm a bit low in iron. It was quite a surprise, I've always thought I was fairly healthy, but somewhere along the way all the iron has disappeared. I'd like to say I'm eating lots of dark green leafy things, but in reality I'm taking iron tablets and eating dark chocolate, the kind with 85% cocoa solids and not much sugar. I've convinced myself it's good for me. I don't think it's the easily absorbed sort of iron, but we'll gloss over that.

6. I am bracing myself for the last six weeks of school before the summer hols. It's usually ridiculously frantic, requiring a huge amount of parental involvement and payment for things. Much like the summer holidays themselves in fact. I am already thinking about Things To Do. Maybe making a bench from a pallet with the littlest boy (I know this probably comes under the heading of Far Too Ambitious Things that I dream up in spring and that seem like complete madness by the time summer comes around) and a bit of linocutting and printing, which the biggest boy might enjoy as well. Did you see Robert Gillmor on Springwatch the other day? He's one of the biggest boy's favourite wildlife artists. His linocuts are fantastic.

7. I've just started reading a book by a local indie writer. I really should do this sort of thing more often instead of relying on a diet supplied by mainstream publishing houses. Self-publishing is huge these days and some really great writers are choosing it.

8. I'm still working on fiction writing. I know I don't mention it much, but I am. Pretty much every evening. Time is always a problem, as it is for most of us. But I am carving out a little time each day. Slowly, slowly.

9. I've grown a wisteria up the back of the house, so now when I look out, the view is partly framed by leaves. I'm convinced that looking at green things is good for me. I saw a dusky pink one when I was out earlier and in the interests of being thrifty I didn't buy it. Now I'm wishing I did. But can I trust the label???

10. I am anticipating a quiet weekend. People have cricket to go to and there's a local ecology meeting, but other than that with the dog on minimal exercise I don't imagine I'll be required to go far. I am often envious of people who have lovely relaxing weekends, when I'm off here, there and everywhere, marching across the countryside and standing at the edge of football pitches. I'm hopeful I shall at some stage this weekend join the ranks of those relaxing at home. Although there's gardening to be done, writing to be written and GDPR to be comprehended and complied with. I shall no doubt be found looking out of the window with a blank look on my face. Wishing all a good couple of days. CJ xx

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Will he still love me tomorrow?

A mystery moth. But very pretty, all fluffy cream body and beautiful pale colouring. Anyone know what it is?

The littlest boy's birthday is done. Oh the excitement. He had a pogo stick, but to be honest he really doesn't need one, he bounces up and down all day long as it is. I had to stop him pogo-ing off of a wall earlier on. Sigh. Pogo is not enough, it has to be extreme pogo.

Friends came round for football and pizza and I filled them full of sugar in the time-honoured tradition. It was an INSET day, so no school and no brothers either. Doesn't get much better than that. I made Nigella's ice-cream cake, which is an homage to sugar. Did we care?

We took the pup down to the river first thing for a sprint with his whippet friend. A bit of a last hurrah for a while, as he is scheduled to have the Operation this week and then he'll be limited to gentle strolling for a while. I am very conflicted about it, but probably overthinking it all. Here is his dear little face, which will be all sad very soon.

I am absolutely beastly, I know it.

The middle boy has exams this week and has done zero revision, which makes me anxious. He's only in Year 7, so he has a while to get it together before the serious stuff, but I still worry, what if he can't ever be bothered??? None of them really show much inclination to study. I feel I should be doing more. And maybe teaching them to cook and other useful stuff while I'm about it. What if they get to adulthood and I suddenly realise I haven't done it all properly? I wake up in a cold sweat. It's all very well being able to do extreme pogo, but how will they survive in the big wide world? And will the dog still love me tomorrow? Oh, questions, questions. I am a wreck.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Close shaves

It's been a tricky day for Bert. He had a close shave this morning. Literally. The groomer took him all the way back to velvet undercoat. Oh he's so soft. Like he's made of chenille. Then I took his old basket away and replaced it with a new one. The old one was full of holes and he was constantly pulling the stuffing out.

He found the new one very disconcerting. Once he'd dragged it round the room a few times and jumped on it he settled down with it upside down and rested his chin on it. It reminded me of a book that I used to read to the children, 'Schnitzel von Krumm's Basketwork' by Lynley Dodd. Schnitzel's family get rid of his stinky, scruffy, messy basket, but Schnitzel is not happy. He spends almost the whole book trying to find somewhere new to sleep, but nowhere is just right. In the end he gets his old basket back. We're trying to avoid that here.

By the end of the day Bertie was learning to love it. We are all waiting to see what colour the stuffing is. No doubt we'll find out soon.

The trickiest part of the day was when he went out for a walk with the middle boy and came home on his own. He was deep in disgrace. The middle boy handled it well, enlisting a couple of passersby to help in the search. Bertie stayed home and ate his tea while we went to rescue the middle boy. I hope Bert doesn't make a habit of it, especially as it involved crossing a road. It doesn't bear thinking about. Do dogs have nine lives? I'm hoping they do.

The garden is full of salad things suddenly, but I'm a bit behind on planting other stuff. No doubt it will all come together in the end. I'm looking forward to a couple of days of not doing anything much, although other people may have other plans involving me Going Places and Doing Stuff. Hoping all have a good weekend whichever way it goes for you. Thunder is forecast here. The middle boy is scheduled to spend some time in a tent. A proper English bank holiday. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Swinging from trees

The woods are utterly magical right now. We went to one maintained by the National Trust at the weekend, somewhere cool for the one with the thick fur coat.

The littlest boy swung on a vine which snapped. He landed literally flat on his back with all of the oomph knocked out of him. He was back up in a trice though, and minutes later swinging on another one. I asked him if he'd learned anything from the falling off moment. He said he didn't think so.

We swung around on a rope swing for a bit and just generally soaked up all the oxygen. I was still decompressing from all the royal wedding television the day before. Honestly, I don't think tv agrees with me, I almost need to detox afterwards.

It turns out that panna cotta is pretty much the same thing as a blancmange. An artisan blancmange if you will. And it has gelatine in it to boot. It turns out it is not the thing for me at all. Remember blancmange? Usually pink, sometimes pale yellow. I ate almost everything when I was little, wouldn't have dreamt of saying I didn't like something, except for broad beans, pears and grapefruit, I was allowed a free pass when it came to them. Anyway, I was never keen on blancmange, but from memory I ate mountains of the stuff. Don't intend to eat any more now, fancy Italian name or no fancy Italian name.

What I did make the other day was Nigella's hazelnut cheesecake. It's an absolute shocker, cream cheese and nutella (I used the Aldi version) and that's pretty much it. It went down a storm. Oh we're classy in this house.

The biggest boy has been playing a little adult cricket this season, which always includes an epic cricket tea. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the amount they feed him. It may be a strategy to slow them down, who knows. It's saving me a fortune in food. Once they're all in the team I'll barely have to feed them at weekends.

Hope you are enjoying the sight of me swinging about in the woods. Someone managed to make the rope spin round as well as back and forth, so that I felt quite ill by the time I got down. I am the worst traveller. Hope all is well with all. CJ xx

Saturday, 19 May 2018


Well, the royal wedding was all rather lovely wasn't it. I watched the news the evening before and the news reader was all smiles and everyone was happy. It made a change I have to say.

The biggest boy was a little dismayed at how late in the day they were getting married. If it was him he'd have got it done early and spent the rest of the day eating mango panna cotta, one of his best things and apparently something that he heard would be on the menu. The littlest boy was waiting for The Kiss. They are big on romance in his class I think. In a half horrified and half thrilled sort of way.

The middle boy went out scooting, the biggest one had cricket, so in the end it was just me and the littlest boy. He is very entertaining company, certain at one point that the bloke up the road that we see dog walking sometimes was there (it wasn't, it was Earl Spencer) and waiting with glee for a rogue horse to break free.

So it all passed in a swirl of silk and bridesmaids and exquisite flowers and the most elegant dress and a mile long silk train hand embroidered (how many hours?!) with the most beautiful bride and horses and carriages and George Clooney and the stunning setting of an ancient chapel. I had to go out and walk about a bit this afternoon to re-enter normal life.

Occasionally there was coverage from Meghan's home town in America. It intrigued me that lots of people seemed to think we would all be eating sausage rolls and custard over here. Not together, but, even so. American friends, is this true? Is this how you picture us? Although sadly I have to admit I do serve sausage rolls and custard more than mango panna cotta. In fact, let's be honest, I've never served mango panna cotta. Blast it, it's true isn't it, we are a nation of sausage roll eaters. I am off immediately to look up a recipe for mango panna cotta. I shall from now on set my sights on higher things. Hope all had a good day. CJ xx

PS. Photo below for the littlest boy and all others who like the romance and the kissy stuff.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Falling over and falling in

I've been out and about, here, there and everywhere. In the town it's the local arts festival. The biggest boy and I went to hear Simon King (wildlife cameraman and presenter) give a talk, which was pretty good.

I've taken a few sprigs of lilac from bushes down the back lane. And found a handful more lilac bushes in no mans land that I have my eye on. I do love lilacs, they have that brief moment of glory before the main flowers of summer get going. Flowers are still a miracle to be gushed over at this time of year I think, after months of mud and bare branches.

Down by the stream it is suddenly waist high with green things and cow parsley. The littlest boy fell in this evening. He was the only one to arrive at cubs dripping sludge from the knees down. By the end they are all usually pretty grubby, he just got in first.

The little community orchard has grass two feet high and a big old cider apple tree absolutely thick with blossom. I sometimes wonder why they keep the two old trees at the end of the orchard, but when I saw it in blossom I realised how spectacular it is. And I think there may be a little cider pressing done at the end of the season as well. It is cider country after all, or near enough to cider country. (For American friends, cider over here is alcoholic. If you just want apple juice, you need to ask for apple juice, otherwise you'll be falling over. If you want to be falling over, ask for rough cider. They pop a dead rat in that to get the fermentation going properly and it's pretty lethal by all accounts. I wouldn't know.)

I did the bird survey with the biggest boy down on the river yesterday evening. It was glorious there. It sometimes seems that 9/10s of the time it is freezing and deep in mud, but yesterday made up for it all. There were swallows flying overhead and a whimbrel out on the mud flats.

Over the road from us, swifts are building their nest. I could watch them for hours, swooping over the road, so fast, so agile.

This week at Cubs it was nettle soup making. The littlest boy absolutely loved it and wants it for his birthday tea. Everything at the moment is all about the Big Day, which is less than a month away now. He has asked for a pogo stick but mercifully has currently forgotten about the axe that he usually asks for. I imagine you could do a little damage with a pogo stick, but not as much as with an axe. (Although I fear he will be thinking, Challenge accepted.) Happily we don't have any large plate glass sliding doors here. So what could possibly go wrong? I'll let you know.