Wednesday 31 December 2008

In the last few hours of 2008

I did it.

My best boy got his quilt a whole hour and a half before midnight stuck.

Happy New Year everybody!

Saturday 20 December 2008

Christmas time

The holidays have at last arrived for all of us.

They began well with french toast and strong coffee early this morning.

The Christmas cards are tacked up all along the hallway.

A Christmas tree and its carefully wrapped decorations were retreived from the loft. There were a few curses (from me) and much patience (from G - he has incredible amounts of patience, more than anyone else I know) as the lights went up.
I decided we all needed emergency rations of fruit cake and Wensleydale to keep us going.
But at last, the tree, lights and decorations are where they should be, and our holidays have begun.
Happy Christmas everybody.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Super clean clothes pegs

Here are all the things I have inadvertently put through the washing machine in the past week.
  • Swimming goggles – 2 pairs.
  • An entire pocket sized packet of tissues, still in their wrapper.
  • Three lipbalms; one of which, disastrously, went through the tumble dryer as well.
  • Two clothes pegs (why? Have not hung washing outside since October).
  • A chocolate wrapper
  • Enough loose change to pay for one child’s school meals this week
  • One plastic catapult which came free with the Beano
  • A marble
  • Five hairclips
  • One slipper

There is now a sign up next to the washing machine.

Sunday 14 December 2008


I so want to get this quilt finished by Christmas. I'm near the end but there's still a great deal to do. I'm not sure how that works, but it's true. I want C to be able to sleep under it on Christmas Eve and potter round the house with it wrapped around his shoulders at some ungodly hour of the morning on Christmas Day. And I want to be able to photograph it in some nice, bright winter sunshine please.

I can't neglect everyone else though. I've been sewing for my sister, my niece and my nephew, and there are secret somethings for my sister-in-law and for G still to do. I feel as though I am hibernating under a half-sewn quilt, with my sewing machine and my box of hand sewing bits that moves around the house with me. I think maybe I will emerge, blinking, into the sunlight on Christmas Day like a mole coming out of its hole: 'Oooh, hello everybody! Is it Christmas now?'

A seasonal parcel has found it way into my burrow. My Holiday Traditions package arrived from Christie yesterday. I am now listening to some cracking Christmas tunes (Frosty the Snowman - so cool!), dreaming of ginger snaps and sugar plums, and cleaning the remains of candy canes from my children's hands.

But most of all, I am in AWE at this lady's embroidery skills. I now realise I have some way to go before I can say I do embroidery.


Thank you Christie, for such a thoughtful, exciting and Christmassy parcel! It is making my last-minute winter hibernation much more festive.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Variations on a theme

I’ve taught C how to make porridge, and he now cooks it every morning for himself and O. At weekends, G and I sometimes have it as well. Eating something your child has cooked for you is right up there as one of life’s greatest treats.

He’s tall enough to stand at the stove safely and climb up to where the oats are kept without sending other packages tumbling. He’s no longer freaked out at the process of lighting the gas, and he can measure the ingredients accurately. In fact he can now cook the whole thing semi-asleep and without any fuss at all.

There are only two things you need to know in order to cook porridge:
  1. The volume of liquid must be one and a half times the volume of the oats
  2. Keep stirring

In its most basic form, the ingredients are oats and milk, but even that is not set in stone. There are many variations.

The oats can be traditional Scottish porridge oats or jumbo oats or ground oatmeal. The milk can be swapped for other liquids: apple juice, half milk and half cream, half milk and half water. Even 100% water should you be feeling particularly puritanical.

If he’s making two child’s portions, C tips oats into the measuring cup up to the 20ml mark. Then he measures out one and a half times the volume of liquid – 30ml here. It all goes into a small pan over a medium heat and he stirs until it is thickened to his liking and then spooned, steaming, into bowls. C actually prefers his porridge really quite runny, but I think that’s more to do with impatience to get eating rather than any kind of gourmet preference.

When it comes to additions and toppings to the porridge, C’s creative side comes out.

Favourite additions to porridge – these are added to the pan with the oats and liquid at the beginning of the cooking.

  • raisins – one handful per person
  • dried apricots, snipped into pieces with scissors
  • any other dried fruit – dried strawberries and dried mango slices have been popular with C and O
  • bran – G’s favourite addition – a small handful per person
  • a grated apple
  • chopped hazelnuts
  • all of the above!

Favourite toppings for porridge – these are added once the porridge is in your bowl.

  • golden syrup
  • honey
  • sliced banana
  • fresh raspberries
  • strawberry jam, blackberry jam, apricot jam – any kind of jam
  • soft, dark sugar
  • stewed apple – cold and tart from the fridge

Of course there are endless combinations of additions and toppings. Our favourite discovery recently is porridge cooked with apple juice as the liquid and then with blackberry jam stirred in before eating – you end up with a deliciously sweet, autumnal, blackberry-and-apple start to the day. O is a strawberry fanatic and likes her porridge cooked with dried strawberries and milk and then strawberry jam stirred in at the end.

My mother remembers my grandmother pouring a little dribble of undiluted Ribena around the edge of her porridge when she was a child in the 50s. C and O tried that yesterday and there were sighs of delight around the table. I may not repeat it too often though as the smell in the kitchen was almost horrifyingly sugary. It sounds like a post-War, sugar-rationed adaptation to me. Although is it any worse than a lake of golden syrup on top? Probably not.

This is forward thinking to a ridiculous extent, but right at the back of my mind is now a happy thought: when C leaves home at least he’ll be able to cook himself porridge and have a healthy start to each day. Yes, that’s in a decade’s time, I know, I know.

But it’s never too early to start learning survival skills and it’s never too early to give your Mum a bit of peace of mind.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Words, no pictures

So this week I've been doing things and not taking photos.
  • Sewing secret Christmas presents for special people
  • Visiting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum
  • Admiring the new paint on the stonework on the outside of our house (who knew that watching paint dry could be so satisfying?)
  • Showing C how to bake mince pies (the results were way too tasty to photograph them before eating)
  • Putting the finishing touches to Christie's Holiday Traditions parcel

So no photos means that I must tell, not show. The opposite of what I mostly like doing.

It gives me a good reason to finally get round to doing this tag that Driftwood passed on to me. What photos am I going to find to go with any of this?

7 things to do before I die

  • Go back to America. Take my children with me and show them all the places I love there. Explain to them why they were nearly called Austin and Virginia in a burst of hormonal nostalgia.
  • Walk up some Alps
  • Knit a pair of socks
  • Finish the dratted monster fence rail quilt
  • Have a holiday here
  • Have grandchildren
  • Visit Iceland

7 things I do now

  • drink far too much coffee
  • blog
  • fret about the need to move house versus the imploding economy
  • daydream about spending all my time sewing (not at all compatible with need to move house and imploding economy)
  • go for walks to clear my head
  • buy sewing books
  • get up just that little bit too late in the morning

7 things I can't do

  • be nice to anyone before I've drunk a cup of coffee
  • iron (yet mysteriously I seem able to press seams really rather well - sssshhh - don't tell G)
  • enjoy swimming - urgh, chlorine up the nose - urgh
  • argue
  • remember which way round repos and reverse repos work
  • listen to G singing without wincing. Sorry, I do try, but I can't help it. I know its mean of me, but I think its some kind of instinctive reaction.
  • stop fretting about the need to move house versus the imploding economy

7 things that I find attractive in the opposite sex

  • enthusiasm
  • working for a company that gives you free books
  • big, soulful eyes
  • the ability to iron so beautifully
  • not singing, unless its perfectly in tune and a song that I like
  • tolerence of pre-coffee grouchiness
  • nice, chunky arms

7 things I say most often

  • Have you got your lunchbox?
  • I'll do it
  • Sshhh - its the Archers
  • Lord, I need a coffee
  • Lets go for a walk
  • Don't interrupt!
  • Morning girls! Who wants some nice cabbage leaves?

7 celebrities that I admire

  • Erm....
  • Writers and cooks mostly
  • Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Clare Chambers, Sarah Waters, Shirley Hughes, Nigel Slater, Dorothy L Sayers

7 favourite foods

  • coffee
  • butter
  • toast
  • parsnips
  • pie
  • smoked salmon
  • plums

I'm off to find my camera now. I'm forgetting what it looks like.