Friday, 24 October 2014

The end of the affair

The last of the pears, huge, heavy (fourteen ounces!) and for the moment, hard.  They will ripen in the kitchen to juicy perfection.  The last of the little Sungold tomatoes too, ripening so slowly in the cold wet garden.  Everything is reaching the end of the line now.  The daylight is waning and plants are ready for a rest.  I'm enjoying eggs from a local farm while they're still available.  In winter there are far fewer, sometimes we have to go without, and have supermarket ones.  Always free range though.

I tidied the garden up a bit yesterday morning while it was dry.  There are still a few flowers in the two older boys' raised beds, so I left them.  Cornflowers, cosmos and some other things I can't name.  The littlest boy's bed had run its course so I cleared it.  Over the half term I'll help him to plant some garlic there.  He will grow the things he loves.  Garlic, which he'll happily eat raw, French sorrel, which he declares to be his favourite vegetable, sugar snap peas, some more of that popping corn that was destroyed by the badgers at the allotment this year - no badgers in the garden - some onions which he also likes raw and maybe some spinach.

The little figs need removing from the fig tree.  It's a job to be done with gloves on, as the white sap is a real irritant to skin.  Ask me how I know.  How funny that the same tree can produce something so delicious, as well as something so painful.  Nature never fails to astound.

I've picked the last of the flowers from the allotment.  Pink roses and aromatic yellow fennel.  And some of the last courgettes and cucumbers.  There are one or two left, but not many.  I went to look at the shed today because there have been more break-ins and more damage.  Fortunately my plot seems unscathed.  Some people are targeted repeatedly, it's so frustrating.

I made a pear flan with some of the pears, with orange zest in the pasty.  I left the pastry thicker than normal in case it was delicious.   I use an old Linda McCartney recipe that has ground nuts, sugar and cinnamon underneath the pears.

We're happy to have reached half term.  No specific plans, just a little pottering at home and out and about.  The littlest boy has another football match on Sunday.  We shall all go and cheer him on.  I'm looking forward to not having to rush off on the school run in the mornings.  And those afternoons when we get home at about 4 o'clock and it's gloomy and everyone curls up with a book, and I make myself a rare cup of tea and sit down too.

Wishing you a lovely weekend.  CJ xx

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A little taste of the big city

I took the biggest boy to London on Saturday.  It was his first visit, and apparently he was the only person in his class who had never been there.  He's quite often "the only person in the class who...".  Anyway, we had a clear itinerary.  Natural History Museum (Stuffed Birds Department), Stanley Gibbons (three million stamps) and a little bit of the iconic stuff.

How gorgeous are dodos?  (Or should it be dodoes, like tomatoes?)  It's a tragedy that we don't have these beautiful creatures any more.  Look at those wonderful tail feathers.  Of course it probably didn't help that people were capturing them and stuffing them.  Look at that face.  There's nothing even remotely like a dodo now.

We flew through an area about capturing images.  It was wonderful, I could have spent longer there, but the stamp shop was beckoning.

Look at these beautiful botanical journals.  Exquisite.

Outside there's a small wildlife garden.  Sheep and moorhens in the middle of London.

We ate our sandwiches sat on a bench overlooking the grass at the front of the museum, then set off on a trek.

I absolutely love this building covered in plants.  It's so lush and tropical looking.  I'm not quite sure how it's all done, but it's clever and I wish there were more like it.  It reminds me a little of a balcony near where I used to live in Bristol.  I always like to see plants squeezed into unlikely places.  Gardens created where before there were none.  Greenery for those in the middle of a city.  Love it.

It just so happened that there was a TUC march and rally in London on Saturday.  It meant that lots of the roads were closed.  It was great to be able to walk down the middle of huge roads that are normally so busy.

We only took one tube, and spent the rest of the day walking, walking, walking.  After the stamp shop on the Strand we headed for Trafalgar Square.  The biggest boy climbed up Nelson's Column a little and we took touristy photos and ate cookies by the fountains.

Then we went to look at the river.

We found more wildlife - a cormorant, enjoying the late afternoon light.

The sun came out and everything was just right for some pictures.

We found the London Eye (hard to miss!) which the biggest boy was happy to see.  We read The London Eye Mystery recently and really enjoyed it, so it was exciting to see the actual Eye.  We counted the pods and looked for the red VIP one.

We wandered down to the Houses of Parliament to end our trip.

I'd forgotten how beautiful and thrilling and tiring London is.  So much to see, it's hard to know where to start, which bits I needed to show him, which things are too wonderful to miss.  The architecture is stunning.  Left to my own devices I could spend days wandering the streets, taking photos of the amazing buildings.  Every type, every style, every period.

Another day I'll take the others, but this was just for the biggest boy.  A little treat to maybe make up just a little for missing his school camp because of his broken kneecap.  I bought him some stamps and an ice-cream and he declared the day to be pretty excellent.

By the time we left the sun had set and the lights were on on Chelsea Bridge.  It was a perfect ending.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

This week

I'm trying really hard to like autumn, but honestly sometimes it's a struggle.  The cold, the damp, the piles of rotting leaves everywhere.  People seem to stop picking up after their dogs.  Do they think there's so much stuff on the ground anyway it doesn't matter?  Makes me VERY cross.

I know some of you live in hot places where autumn is a delicious breath of fresh cool air.  But here I'm closing all the windows and living with piles of damp washing.  I'm missing the warmth and the sunshine and I just don't much like all of the dying plants.  I know it's part of the eternal cycle, and of course an important part, but right now I'm in that adjustment phase.  I do love winter, once everything is cleared away.  The cleansing cold, everything pared down and stark.  Maybe it's the messiness I don't get along with.  I like to pick things up when they drop on the ground, not leave them to rot.  I'll be okay in a week or two when I've acclimatised.

On Monday I dragged the children to the mall to buy a few essential winter things.  It was looking ever so slightly sparkly.

I treated myself to a new bread knife.  I know how to live.

The old one was so blunt that it was a major effort every day to slice the bread.  I always make my own in a bread machine, so a bread knife is something I use all the time.  The old one didn't even scratch my skin when I rubbed it on my hand.  When I pressed my thumb onto the new blade, it sank straight in.  Honestly, it's scarily sharp, it flies through the bread, even the crusty bits.  I've got a cut on my thumb now.  And also a few bruises from falling over in spectacular fashion on the Tesco petrol forecourt on the way home.  One minute I was walking up to the car, the next minute I slipped on some greasy tiles and vanished from view, much to the boys' surprise.

I gave in and bought apples today.  I've been trying to make everyone eat pears from the garden, but they tend to go without instead.  So I gave in and filled up the fruit bowl.  They're all mad apple eaters, this lot won't last long.

I've just dyed a rather blue jumper dark red (Burlesque Red as it happens), and now I have a deep purple jumper.  Much better.  Unfortunately I didn't realise there was a stray beige linen napkin and a pale honey coloured face flannel in the washing machine when I gave it a post-dyeing wash.  So now I have a mauve napkin that doesn't match the others and a face flannel ditto.  Never mind, it's no biggie.  Although it did make me wonder if I should avoid things that stain other things purple, I'm starting to sense a pattern emerging.

I'm enjoying the dark evenings, if not the sodden days.  A good book (recommended by Leanne when I met her in the summer) and a little sparkly knitting.

Okay, autumn might have its good points.  If you can think of any more, please feel free to share.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Typing, baking, rats

A little post waiting to be opened.  Yesterday was the day, the biggest boy's eleventh birthday.  We bought him a stamp album with some bird stamps and a typewriter.  All things that he'd asked for.  He was thrilled.  I'm always happy when the boys are grateful for their gifts, when their friends have i-pads and Kindles and smart phones and all sorts of everything.  No doubt the time for a laptop is not far away, but we're not quite there yet.

I found the rose being blown about madly in the garden and rescued it to be enjoyed inside.  Hasn't the weather been wild and autumnal?  Not much outsideyness this week.  The lighthouse belongs to the middle boy.  He saved all of his pennies for ages, and bought it at Lizard in Cornwall in the summer.  He spent ages deciding to buy one and then choosing the right one.  He's a lot like me, even the simplest decisions (what do you want in your sandwich?) have to be carefully considered for ages.  Anyway, I'm glad he chose something that he can keep for a long time, rather than a bit of plastic.  It's made of a type of serpentine rock, which I think is unique to that area.

I've been in the kitchen more this week.  A reaction to all of that wind and rain.  I made these with coconut, cashews and dates.  I decided they were a health food and it is therefore acceptable to eat them two at a time.

The biggest boy requested a chocolate tart for his birthday tea.

I forgot that the pastry shell was in the oven for a while, but it was still okay.  And no soggy bottom.  I made little jam tarts with the leftover pastry and filled them with the windfall jelly.

There was a dead rat at school yesterday at pick-up time.  The corner of the playground was ineffectively screened off with six traffic cones.  The littlest boy told me I didn't want to know what was there.  I said I did.  He said I really didn't.  I said I really did.  He told me with quite a lot of relish that it was a dead rat.  We tiptoed into the danger zone to check it out, along with several other breathless small boys.  It was.  Under a bush at the edge of the playground.  He was a bit thrilled that flies were starting to gather.  I was a bit mystified that someone had gone to the effort of finding traffic cones and setting them out instead of just popping the rat into a bag and into a bin.

There's been something furry behind the shed at the allotment.  I might have mentioned it before.  He shot out when I was rearranging the stuff there and dodged into the compost heap.  He was a bit big to be a mouse.  I like to think of him as a passing water vole.

Wishing you all a fab weekend.  The sun is shining here, the homework out and no-one has been reduced to tears yet.  It's looking good.