Friday 30 December 2016

Flashes of pink

Random photos from a few days wanderings. I've been wearing the pink scarf I made. Quite like it after all. I shan't show you a close-up of my horrible knitting though.

The boys have been scooting and skateboarding everywhere they can. I took them to the indoor skatepark today. It's a luxury for mums I think - somewhere warm and dry and soft to sit. I looked round at all the different books being read. More luxury! Uninterrupted daytime reading time. This is almost unheard of. I'm all for activities where I can slope off and read for a bit. Despite being squashed on a sofa next to about fifteen boys with Smells Like Teen Spirit blasting out it qualified as a good time. Better than at the barber's yesterday when I forgot my book and was consigned to reading the Daily Mail. It never ceases to amaze me that people pay good money for such a thing.

I hope that you all have a good few days over the last of the Christmas break. I am very proud of myself for still having the tree up. It has a gaudy rainbow striped heart hanging right at the front of it. I tried to move it out of view really early on but the littlest boy moved it back again and I have managed to live with it. Personal growth right there.

Most of the festive food has been eaten, except for a large amount of nut roast and a few bits of fancy cheese. It just remains for me to wish you a very happy New Year. CJ xx

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Just the one stabbing this year

Aah, Christmas. Just the one stabbing this year (brothers - pencil, nothing out of the ordinary) and one minor penknife incident ("It's not a bad cut, don't worry"). Early on Christmas morning I sat down heavily on a chair that wasn't there and then mere seconds later an unmanned drone hit me in the head. Other than that it was almost uneventful. Flower sticks proved a great hit. About forty baubles and three pounds of pine needles were knocked off the tree, but otherwise an excellent idea. Next year we'll be ready for flaming flower sticks. That's where you set the ends alight. And possibly the tree if it gets a bit on the dry side.

Boxing Day is a wonderful thing is it not. All of that glorious fresh air. Down at the beach every dog in a ten mile radius was scampering about. The biggest boy spotted a duck bobbing up and down in the waves. It turned out to be a young female eider, a large sea duck. You can see a (captive) male in this post (last photo). You wouldn't normally expect to see one around here, so it was a good spot. She dealt with the crashing waves beautifully. Riding over the top until a huge one came, then diving into it and surfacing on the other side. Apparently she's been around for a couple of weeks now. The herring gulls hassled her quite a bit, but she seems unharmed. She is a first year duck, so fairly new at it all. Let's hope she survives and finds her chums. There are probably some up on the Gower coast in Wales. A short hope for such a speedy flyer.

We walked along as far as Birnbeck Pier. Opened in the mid-1800s, it's now completely derelict and incredibly spooky.

If it wasn't all collapsing into the sea it would be a great setting for a dark and twisty tale of murder. It really is a frightening place. It would be lovely to see it restored though.

Hope all have survived Christmas unscathed. Have a good week. CJ xx

Friday 23 December 2016

Pure, Harmless, Exciting, Unadulterated Fun

Almost no photos from this whirl of days. We discovered Lexicon. Love it. The littlest boy can hold his own, even wins the occasional hand, which keeps him happy. It's much easier than Scrabble. I've bought Pit as well, a really shouty card game that I remember loving when I was little. It's a vintage game, probably over a hundred years old now. The instructions say "PIT is Pure, Harmless, Exciting, Unadulterated Fun. The Jolliest Game Ever Invented For An Informal Good Time." What more could you want? Haven't got it out yet though. Did I say it's really shouty? I'm waiting for the right moment.

There's been baking of course, swimming, to use up some of that excess festive energy and scooting and skateboarding, suddenly everyone is loving scooting and skateboarding. You will recall that A&E's details are close at hand in readiness for the knives. Oh how we love the danger and excitement.

I made gingerbread biscuits. Baked them a little too long. Slapped on some chocolate to make up for it. One of the sausage dogs had a lump of dark sugar near his tail. It melted in cooking and looked like a little poop which was the cause of great hilarity. I could have taken a photo of that one but I didn't want to lower the tone. I'm hoping there is a tone to be lowered.

Plans for tomorrow include making a nut roast, more mince pies and a yule log. Then a walk round somewhere lovely when I will unashamedly look through people's windows at the gorgeous Christmas cosiness. I'm wishing you and yours a lovely time with a little pure, harmless, exciting, unadulterated fun thrown in. See you on the other side. CJ xx

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Midwinter allotments

I dragged the urchins down to the allotment this morning in search of sprouts for the Christmas lunch. It had that feel of winter decay. Everything gently returning to the earth. The sprouts weren't brilliant this year, a bit on the small side. But they'll do nicely just the same. We picked a bunch of holly and ivy for the house as well while we were there.

I also dug up the ocas, which we were given back in early March at a local seed swap. They were quite small and it took a while to wash them off one by one. We had some tonight, steamed, and they were rather lovely. But quite a lot of work for a small harvest. There were plenty of tiny tubers, so maybe they would have been happier with a longer growing season. I'll have a think about whether to grow them again. If I do I think I will try them in a big potato bucket against the warm south facing wall of the house. That might help. One point in their favour - they were in great condition, unblemished and unnibbled.

We are settling nicely into the holidays now. Getting up early, shrieking at every opportunity, snacking ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY. It makes me wonder how they survive at school with literally hours between meals. Fortunately they're quite good at having fruit and vegetable snacks. Me, not so much.

Friday 16 December 2016

Mincemeat plans

Aah, the end of school. Big happy sigh. The madness has passed. Well, the school-related madness anyway. The last week is a wild blur of chocolate, partying every day, DVDs, Christmas jumpers, secret Santa gifts and more chocolate. You can imagine how it whips up the hysteria levels. I will be aiming to re-introduce some calmness and green vegetables over the next few days. Otherwise I fear we may implode.

Hardly any photos I'm afraid. Just a picture from the carol service and a couple of tree ornaments at home. All I had on my camera. Those eight hours of daylight fly by and by the time it occurs to me to take a picture or two it is all dark again. The carol service was lovely. The middle boy played his recorder and I was a bit sad because he won't be doing it any more. The recorder group played at Birmingham Symphony Hall in the summer and it was amazing. But now the better players have moved up to big school so he feels it's time to stop. There's always something a little bittersweet isn't there.

Have you been watching Ben Fogle's Lives in the Wild? I love to see how different people live. And I'm fascinated to see how people survive in different wild environments. It's great to see how every single thing is valued. No bin collection. No shops. Everything is used or saved or composted. In these days of out of control shopping it's very encouraging to see a different way.

I can completely understand the desire to escape this modern life of ours. The constant bombardment with advertisements, coming at me from everywhere. Phone calls, rubbish through the door, radios blasting in shops, in the doctor's surgery, emails, leaflets thrust at me. Everyone trying to put their message in front of me. Packaging I don't want or need, no way to avoid much of it. I'm being forced down a path I don't want to tread. How do we live a green life without completely opting out? Difficult isn't it.

I was listening to something on the radio earlier about how many Christmas presents are just rubbish that people don't want. Stupid pointless novelty garbage, or other things that they just don't like. The shops are thrilled of course. If Christmas didn't exist they'd have to invent it. Anyway, I didn't come here to rant. I do love a bit of greenery about the place, and of course I've bought gifts for the children. But I think next week I shall try and point us at the countryside and do some deep breathing.

I have barely had a mince pie yet this year (does this explain the slight humbuggery?), although I have found a nice looking recipe that I shall tweak a bit. Butter instead of suet (Mary Berry's idea, it saves hunting down vegetarian suet), orange zest and juice, maybe some cherries. I'd like apricots and cranberries in it but someone doesn't like apricots and someone else doesn't like cranberries. Someone doesn't even like mince pies. I can't remember who. Is it just me, or does anyone else have trouble remembering who likes what? I am always getting it wrong. Maybe I shall just put everything in and eat it all myself. The mincemeat is made by soaking the fruit overnight in orange juice and Cointreau and then putting it in a really low oven for 3 hours. Nice and easy. I'll let you know how it goes. Wishing all a good weekend. CJ xx

Friday 9 December 2016

December blue

Blue sky, not a blue me, happily. And some lovely blue doors with pretty festive wreaths.

We're having a few internet hiccups here at the moment. Probably nothing to be done about it all, you know how it is. I look at blog posts and half the pictures haven't appeared. I try to load photos onto my blog and some of them don't come up. Small problems, can't be bothered to worry about it really. But things do tend to grind to a halt in the evening when I want to write a little post. Anyway, here now.

Despite trying to avoid festive madness, it is somehow getting me in its grip. I went to the Post Office today and realised I had left the parcel at home. Went back for it and found thirteen people in front of me in the queue. Had to leave it until tomorow. The children have all sorts of things to make and donate here there and everywhere. The middle boy has to organise crafts for the younger children at school. I had all sorts of fantastic wreath ideas using natural materials, but in reality colouring in and Pin The Tail On The Reindeer might be a little less stressful.

He also has to make (another) Anderson shelter. I could get carried away with that too. A little knitted blanket for the bed maybe, or a teeny tiny quilt. A vegetable garden outside. An orchard with chickens and bees... I am restraining myself.

Christmas shopping is under way. My friend is buying the littlest boy his very own penknife. He will be absolutely thrilled, he loves to sit and whittle things. I have stuck the local A&E details back on the kitchen cupboard in readiness. The middle boy is getting a fishing catapult and the biggest boy is also having a knife. As you can see, we will all be armed to the teeth. Anything headed your way that's making you nervous? Other than Christmas itself of course.

Friday 2 December 2016

Sunlight on marmalade

Hasn't the weather been amazing. Glorious winter sun and the longest of long shadows. I made jam tarts, one of the littlest boy's best things, and put lemon and lime marmalade in some of them. Winter sun shining through a lemon and lime marmalade tart is a very fine thing. There's little more than eight hours between sunrise and sunset here at the moment. I do love closing the curtains early. The other morning there was a long tube of mist above the river and a soft pink sky. Pretty.

Succulents have (mostly) been rescued from the garden before the frost struck. I left one of them out there as it had some sort of insect attack. I did take a few cuttings though. Just as well as the original plant has been well and truly frosted.

I'm on the home stretch of a big quilt. Just the binding to do. That's my favourite bit. Taking the pins out one by one as I hand sew it on to be left with a neat (hopefully) finished edge.

I 'm trying a Jodi Picoult book to see what all the fuss is about. Apparently she is the most read author in this country or something like that. Also flicking through one or two cookery books. I found gingerbread sausage dogs. Yes, yes, yes. A couple of years ago we made a big gingerbread house which was delicious but really far too much gingerbread when you consider the mince pies, Christmas cake, yule log etc. etc. etc. that had to be got through too. But a few little sausage dogs will be just the job. Maybe we'll make them a kennel.

Wishing all a good weekend. Do we have the festive season in hand? I'm holding my nerve and not panicking yet. And aiming for as green a time as possible. Not for us the inflatable PVC Santa or a load of straight-to-landfill plastic from China. Just need to tell the children...