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.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Blowing stuff up

winter reading
I've been struggling to find photos lately. We didn't do anything blogworthy at the weekend (trainer shopping and football - nearly lost the will to live in the shoe shop) and there is nothing pretty at home to be photographed. How I envy the bloggers with a little something lovely to snap. A divine candlestick, a sprig of winter blossom, lace draped artfully across some exquisite calligraphy. Here it is all piles of papers, empty jam jars, PE kit and nerf bullets. If you could only catch the scent of damp football boots on the chill night air you would understand. This is not a house of alluring vignettes.

Even my favourite mug has been broken and has been relegated to the role of pen holder.

Fear not, I am hot on the heels of a sunny replacement. Oh how I am looking forward to the day when I get to show it to you. I shall pop it on the table with a little ivy trailing past and a casually crumbled artisan biscuit at its side.

I am aiming to read some short stories this year in between novels, hence Annie Proulx and Joanne Harris above. I'm also a bit obsessed with the idea of fermenting vegetables. You may recall I tried it before. I popped a bit of garlic in and honestly it smelt so strongly through the glass jar that it had to be banished to the garage. I am armed with a handbook this time, there will be no stopping me. Apparently not only are the bacteria all probiotically good, but the vitamins and minerals are more easily available as well. And none of them are lost through cooking as there isn't any. All you need is a knife, a chopping board, jars, weights, salt and some vegetables. I'm hoping nothing explodes. I understand there will be a build up of gas. Watch this space.

On the subject of explosions, the littlest boy had a whole set of Boom Explosions for Christmas. When he wrote his thank you letter he put, "I am pleading mum and dad to do the Boom Explosions". Nothing like a bit of parental guilt to get things moving, so at the weekend we broke out the box and blew the whole lot up. Fizzings and burstings and at one point masses of shiny sharp confetti ALL OVER the kitchen.

Another of his thank you letters made me smile. "Thank you for the penknife. I am doing whittling and I have already cut myself." As if this was a sign of good progress. His auntie will be happy to know it's going so well.

The only other photo I have for you is of my knitting.

Sigh. Yes, it's black. One or two people did warn me about the perils of knitting in black. But if when it's finished black will be a good thing, all the better to disguise the dodgy bits. In the meantime it is driving me slightly mad. Plus I don't have faith that the jumper will actually fit me. Now I have shown it to you all I shall have to finish it though. It's this one, which looks lovely in cream on the slim model. Wait 'til I've finished with it though.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Christmas has been firmly stuffed back in the box and locked away in a deep dark recess. The tree put up a good fight. It was a particularly fat one and wrestling it out through the doors and into the green waste bin was not an elegant moment. I put the bin out in the street first, in readiness for collection. As I tried to stuff it in the bin shot out sideways and attacked a passerby. He kindly helped me wedge it in as far as it would go. There was a trail of destruction left in its wake. I hoovered for an hour or two. Of course every time I go into a room there is a pine needle on the floor right in the middle. It makes me wonder if someone has a secret stash of them and is quietly trying to drive me insane.

Now January is biting it is time for a resolution or two. I daren't look back and see what I resolved last year. Obviously I have achieved none of it. I have high hopes for 2017 though. This will be the one! I shall be pressing on with the writing, and I want to try a little fiction writing too. And all the usual healthier stuff. More exercise is something that will benefit me a lot I think. I don't always sleep well, but it makes a big difference if I'm physically tired. I've heard it gives you more energy too. Definitely could use that. I have a list with different headings. As I type that I can hear how ridiculous it is. What can I say, I am eternal optimist. Any dreams you're daring to dream this year?

(Photos from our first walk of 2017.)