Saturday, 26 February 2011


Ugh... just re-read last night's post and realised there are a ton of typos! That's what comes of trying to beat the expensive wifi deadline. Hope it was possible to make sense of it!

Got back from Leicester at 8pm tonight and think I am packed and ready for big trip tomorrow now. I am a bit rubbish at this bit - touch of OCD tendencies makes me convinced I will have forgotten something vital and I know I will go through the passport, boarding pass, money etc etc routine several more times before I leave in the morning! Once I get past the 'point of no return' I'm fine - after all, the rational part of me knows that most of the Stuff we take away is not essential and I can get by (as long as I've got the passport, boarding pass, money etc...)

Feels a bit odd leaving the troops for a whole week but I know I badly need to get away for a bit and to be honest, it might do them all good to be a bit more self-sufficient for a while.

Cheerio for a week!


Friday, 25 February 2011

beyond excitement...!

Today has been a bit of a mad day and I feel I have lots to say and not much time to say it in!

This evening we have driven 120m miles across the country to Leicester for uni open day tomorrow for son 3 and I am currently sitting in bed in one of a well known chain of budget  trying to get all the online things done in an hour because the wifi isn't free! (Grrr!) This visiting universities lark is no cheap affair! Petrol, somewhere to stay, food... it had better be worth it!

On the plus side... I get to spend a day with youngest son and apart from the fact that he is permanently attached to his mobile phone, it means we get to have some quality time doing something a bit 'different' from the usual.

Anyway, on to 'things I've been doing'...

Kathy from Postcards from the P.P. has had the fun idea of a monthly photo scavenger hunt and is inviting people to post their pics on flickr. This month's list included:
  • a big lorry/truck
  • a big round clock face
  • a bridge
  • a musical instrument
  • a newspaper headline
  • a park bench
  • a postbox
  • eyes
  • something heartshaped
  • something red
  • something with stripes
  • your shoes
 Now I haven't had time to suss outr the whole flickr thing but quite liked the idea of the challenge so here is my rather feeble attempt at collecting the required photos...

This proved much more difficult than I thoought - and I suspect I might not join in next month because although I liked the idea, I've ended up giving myself a deadline to get it done! I had to remind myself today that it really doesn't matter if I complete it or not! And I really don't need any more deadlines!!! That said I did have fun looking out for things!

As you might have spotted - I do have some gaps! Didn't manage a bridge - I live near the Norfolk Broads so there is a lot of water and quite a few bridges but somehow never had the camera ready at an appropriate moment. Similarly, the lorry defeated me - we live in the middle of nowhere and the only lorries I see on a regular basis are sugar beet lorries or the dustmen! Of course, I do see lots of lorries day to day but same problem - never when I have camera in hand.

Otherwise - 'something with stripes' - I have an old fashioned roller towel on the back of the kitchen door (sooo useful!) which had a very bring beige towel originally, then I spotted these very cheap stripy hand towels in a discount store near us, so bought a couple and stitched them together and hey presto! A much jazzier replacement!
'musical instrument' - sons guitar (amongst his bedroom toot!)
My blue shoes - I don't own many heels but I do love these shoes!
Isolated park bench in a tiny village near us - oddly, I always think, with that lovely view behind and facing the road!
Clock in Norwich Arcade.
Cheating at 'something heart shaped' when I was baking!
Postbox in the same little village.
Cats eyes!
My red bag which my younger sister gave me and which keeps all my scarves in one place.
Headline - we rarely buy a newspaper these days and the only one I could lkay my hands on was last weekends local rag - not renowned for the most outstanding headlines but I though the Egyptians' succesful demonstartion of the power of collective action was worth noting. There are times when I think as a culture we are too passive and apathetic - we tend to complain but not stand together in order to make our concerns heard.

Photos a bit badly put together - I blame it on trying to rush with R at my elbow tutting that he needed to use the computer. One of these days (ha ha!) I will have my own computer that I won't have to queue for!

Anyway thanks to Kathy for the idea - will look out for next months list and see what I think...

My other main excitement today is this!!!!

I've been packing for my trip away! Day after tomorrow - can't wait!! Even did a bit of holiday shopping today - which for me means a bargain waterproof coat and a new Tshirt from Primark! But considering I have barely had time to think about going away at all today was the day I started to get that pre-trip buzz! This feels like the most exotic place I have ever been to! Look out for future photos! 

And then I spotted these in the front garden...

The little patch in the gravel is not really meant to be there! They are on one side of the drive - no idea how they got there but they are pretty aren't they?!
And the purple one is so pretty don't you think?

Don't think I'll get to post again til I get back from my til next time... masalaama! (I'm practising arabic!!)


PS Thanks very much to those who have left comments - it is lovely to hear from you. I haven't entirely worked out how to reply so apologies if I don't get back to you promptly!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

not quite to plan...

Why is it that if you have a definite plan for the day, something scuppers it...guaranteed!

Having been at work all weekend, and with just today off before I'm back tomorrow, I went to bed last night with a list of 'intentions' for today:

  • Catch up with the washing (where does it all come from!!!?)
  • Tidy and clean the house (don't get me wrong, I'm not a housework fanatic but I cannot bear the muddle to go on mounting up and masculine eyes - of which I have a houseful - seem quite oblivious to the bleedin' obvious as far as the hoover and washing machine are concerned, and clearly the bath and toilet are self cleaning...aren't they?!!)
  • Food shopping (partly because the fridge was beginning to look a bit sparse and partly to ease my (slight) sense of guilt that I am swanning off on holiday - on my own!!! - at the weekend)
  • Bake some cakes (more about the guilt thing...)
  • Do some uni work

Now, I look back at this - its made me laugh, this is my day off!!!

Anyway - instead, I woke up this morning after a rubbish night's sleep (even more than usual) and a migraine that refused to go (in spite of every type painkiller I could find in the house) until about 3pm. I have had migraines on and off for years and I am pretty sure that they are worse when my terrible sleep pattern is particularly bad - which it has been of late - but I still get caught out by how debilitating they can be. For me, its not so much the headache - although this morning I did feel as though something was trying to explode behind my right eye - but its the accompanying nausea that gets me, I feel as though I cannot move without waves of nausea washing over me. Really horrible.

The trouble today was that I felt so fed up that I tried to plod on - got up, sorted washing, first 2 loads on, went to supermarket... then, lost the plot. Took me 2 hours to do an inefficient load of shopping - couldn't think straight and came home without several things I went for! Not entirely sure how I drove home (I don't know what happens to other people but I get this overwhelming compulsion to shut my eyes - not ideal in the car!) but then had to crash for a couple of hours on the sofa.

Such a waste of a day!

I'm sure there is something therapeutic about baking though, I definitely felt less cross with myself after making these...

Flapjacks - with a difference - I threw in a few seeds and some leftover Christmas mincemeat I found lurking at the back of the cupboard. Haven't tried them yet, but they smelt yummy.

Then I thought time to do something with the bananas that no one was ever going to eat...

I love these old scales. I've had them for forever. They did get relegated to the cupboard at one stage when the boys got me a natty little electric scale - I think it was when they were cooking at school and had to measure everything in grammes. The thing is, I don't really go in much for precise measuring - I'm more of a 'looks about right' kind of girl - so I was never too bothered about getting spot on 150g or whatever. And when the natty electric scales died, back came my old Salter ones. I have got metric weights as well as 'old' ones but I think in pounds and ounces as far as baking is concerned!

I never think banana bread looks that promising before baking, but when it comes out of the oven...!

Plus a tea loaf in the background. Not bad for a late start I thought! And should keep the snackers going for a bit.

I thought I'd earned a quick cuppa... my Christmas CK mug. Am currently enjoying redbush tea - lovely and refreshing. Can't help thinking my teapot could do with one of Alice's gorgeous tea cosies - she has some fabulous designs on her blog, might have to have a go at one of these at some point...

Re-energised I ploughed on - quick hoover round and look what I found upstairs...

...Jemima and Basil trying to be inconspicuous on son 1's bed. Sorry about the poor photo quality - it has been such a grey day again today and I didn't want to startle them with the flash. Note to self, must let B know to turn his pillow over!

I know not everyone is enamoured with cats - and there are certainly times when they drive me nuts (you would not believe the amount of fur these two leave on my navy sofa!) - but how could you not fall for this cute boy? He had caught wind of dinner cooking and was somewhat optimistically giving me the 'anything for me?' look!

His sister is a bit more difficult to capture...

Several goes later tis was the best I could manage - she just hardly stays still! (I promise my kitchen floor is really not that orange!)

All in all, I think I eventually got most of my list done - uni work bottom of the pile again, I'm afraid...

And now must head for bed - can't bear the thought of a repeat of the headache from hell again tomorrow!


Saturday, 19 February 2011


Well, I haven't written a whole chapter of the dissertation, as I promised myself, but I have made a bit of progress so I have allowed myself a bit of escape time. Time for a little WIP update I thought...

At least one of the usual I've got several on the go and spare time seems to be against me at the moment so not getting there fast! This daisy blanket has turned into a real 'make it up as you go along' project and I'm quite enjoying the organic nature of it actually. I decided early on that there weren't really any 'rules' with this one - other than that I have restricted myself to these 7 colours and am edging each block with that lovely summer sky blue. I have deliberately made different sizes of squares and am just fitting them together as I go in a jigsaw-like fashion. The only problem I'm finding is that its not always easy to keep a straight edge so this may not be the most even shaped blanket ever! Never mind - may have to rename it Rustic Daisy Blanket? Think 'rustic' probably means you can get away with a bit rough round the edges?!!! I'm still loving the daisies - this feels like a cheerful flower patch to me. Haven't quite decided how big to go - I'd quite like to make it big enough to cover a single bed, or the end of a double or just for good-sized snuggling... So a way to go yet!!! 

Other escapist treats this week...

Another trip to the theatre! This is a bit unusual for me - much as I love to go and see live shows (of pretty much any sort - theatre, music, comedy - all a bit more magical at a live venue) my NHS salary does not usually run to more than the odd visit. Hairspray a couple of weeks ago was a belated birthday treat from a friend and last night we went to see Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors courtesy of my Mum for son 1's birthday. I know Shakespeare is not everyone's cup of tea but I have always loved it - I love the rhythm of the words and the fact that something written so long ago can still be highly entertaining and relevant today. The stories are just that - stories - and were written for mass entertainment in the way that we watch films and TV today (only in my view much more interactive). The company we saw last night were Propeller - an all male company who are faithful to the original text but present it in a refreshing way. They are currently touring with Richard III & Comedy of Errors and it was really fantastic - I can't think of many things I could go to with my late 60's Mum, my 17 and 22 year old sons and we could all come out having laughed so much our faces were aching! If you like Shakespeare (or have never given it a go!) and Propeller come your way, give them a look - it was worth the trip out!

Sadly, back to reality with a serious thud today... ridiculously busy at work and I'm in all over the weekend but am counting the days to my week in Morocco! Off to Marrakech in 8 days time!!! Can't wait!!!

One more photo I thought I'd share - this is Basil, one of our 13 year old brother and sister pair of moggies. He's looking a bit serious in this photo but actually is the daftest cat - he loves to get up on shoulders, especially No 1 son's and will just drape himself there if he's allowed. He's had his share of 'health issues' over the years - hence the rather battle scarred nose - and has probably used a few of his lives up but seems to keep going and is impossible not to love!

Til next time then,


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

musing on motherhood...

I have the feeling that my 'mothering' responsibilities are almost done - well, not 'done' exactly - of course I will always be there for my kids - but my desire and obligation to get them safely through childhood so that they can start their adult lives as happy, confident, caring people...well that bit, I think we are nearly there.

As I think I've said before - I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. Somewhat torn between relief - after all what I absolutely want is for them all to be able to be successful, independent grown ups - and panic about where that leaves me now! It is the oddest feeling - I suppose its a bit of a transitional thing and once they are all settled it will be easier to adjust. Just now, I feel in neither one place or another.

My biggest 'baby' has turned 22 today. That hardly seems possible! How can it be so long since we came home from the hospital with this tiny child that I felt protective of but if I'm honest, didn't quite know what to do with! I was only 22 myself then! I think part of my dilemma is that by assuming such an important 'grown-up' role so early I didn't establish Me first - so now I'm having a slight crisis about what I want out of life now.

Perhaps I need to stop over-analysing everything (as R says I have a tendency to do) and just let what will be happen?

Anyway, for now - mothering duty is still required!

Not too big for birthday cake yet! This is a squidgy chocolate roulade - not a traditional birthday cake, but a bit of a favourite as it contains no flour so a good gluten free option.

And although I couldn't quite manage 22 candles, singing and candle blowing still obligatory! I wonder if he still made a wish?!

Have felt oddly emotional all day today - the memory of 22 years ago today is as clear as if it were yesterday and I do so love the person that baby has become!

Currently waiting for a summons to collect him from the pub - taxi duty still required too!!

Tried to do a bit of 'proper' academic work today - I do need to give myself a proper talking to! I am finding it so hard to keep focussed! Have resorted to copious amounts of this...

I think I would struggle to get through the day without caffeine at the moment! I love this little mug - it is a sweet old bone china one that used to belong to my mum. Its a bit faded from 'Mr Nobody' keep putting it in the dishwasher (do you have one a Mr Nobody in your house too?!!) which I'm sure it doesn't like, but I like the size and the quaintness of it. And I do like to drink out of bone china!!!!

Tomorrow, I have a day off in lieu of having to work at the weekend so I am challenging myself to get a chapter of my dissertation at least drafted - NO excuses!!! I keep promising myself little treats - if I get a good chunk done tomorrow, I will allow myself some uninterrupted hooky time in the evening!! 

And one more photo for now - time for mid-month garden picture...

I'm not sure it looks very different from January's pic from this distance - apart from the uncharacteristic bit of blue sky yesterday - but there are a few little changes happening and it will be interesting to look at the gradual changes at the end of the year.

Have just reread this post and realise it is a bit disjointed and bitty! Not functioning very well today - time to call it a day I think!!


Monday, 14 February 2011

macro madness...!

Today I have been playing with middle son's Big Camera, complete with macro lens. Now I am a complete novice as far as photography goes and I haven't really got the hang of getting the focus quite right, but I got very excited and snapped away madly!

It felt a bit like looking at everything through a magnifying glass - somehow everything was visible in super detail and textures and colours that generally go unnoticed jump out at you.

This is a long shot with my usual camera of the back garden (on what can only be described as a grey, cloudy Feb day)...

From a distance, not much life or colour out there at the moment, wouldn't you agree?

But then I took a wander round with the other camera and suddenly new life and colour present themselves...

Narcissi pushing upwards in this lovely blue pot (look at the cat hair! must be on the feline footpath!)...

...and in the flower bed.




...catkins on the hazel tree, with green buds just beginning to show...

...and the scarlet new leaves unfurling on the rhubarb.

There is something very constant and reassuring about the continuity of nature - even in my rather neglected patch of garden things come up again and again reminding us that they don't really 'die' in the winter, rather just rest dormant until there are enough warming rays to persuade them to show themselves again. And even when we can't feel it (there has been a bitter blustery wind here today!!) they are sure proof that winter is reaching an end.

Indoors the macro magic continued. I think the family thought I had finally lost the plot as I kept shooting away, but I was captivated by the possibilities of 'up close' photos! In fact, I almost called the post magical macro, then looked at the number of images I had taken and thought perhaps I had succumbed to a kind of insanity... 

In the kitchen, fresh baked bread and lovely brown eggs from our local farm (I have always loved the warmth and feel of brown eggs!)...

...and intricate cacti with their complex patterns and structures...

If I'm honest, I'm not a huge cacti fan - but these were grown from seed by the boys when they were small (at one stage we had a windowsill full of different ones!) and the tiny flowers are really beautiful, particularly up close. 

I went across to my mum's this afternoon and took the camera there too. She has a huge garden and spends much more time keeping it tidy. It was really windy by then (and the light was pretty terrible) so difficult to capture decent shots even with the powerful lens but just a taster of lovely things in her house and garden...

Gorgeous purple irises...

...zingy winter jasmine...

...I've no idea what this plant is but its sooo pretty!

Lovely blue hyacinths on the kitchen windowsill...

Pretty coloured glass on the bathroom windowsill...

...oh and small nephews...

...4 year old "photo me running!!!"

...and smallest nephew, 6 months, fast asleep.

Sigh! I am quite dizzy with the fun of playing today!!! 

Tomorrow, I really HAVE to stop "sharpening the pencils", as my mum says, and get down to the serious business of writing my more procrastinating!!!

One last pic... pie - cold weather comfort food in our house! Yum!

Hope you've enjoyed my photos as much as I enjoyed taking them!

Til next time,


Friday, 11 February 2011

a day of thinking...

Had lots of time for thinking today - not always a good thing for me as I begin to feel like my brain is fried and then I go off onto all sorts of random directions.

I am currently involved in a project at work that requires regular trips to London for meetings and today was one of Those. I don't mind it overly - although it ends up being a long day, I've always loved going on the train so I still get a bit excited about the journey.

It has to be said, not nearly as excited as the party of year 4 school children (what's that? about 9 or 10 yr olds?) that were in my carriage this morning! I think perhaps national rail should redefine 'complimentary seat reservation'!! Someone was having a laugh! I'd had this bright idea I would read some articles for my MSc on the 2 hr journey but the noise of squealing girls put paid to that! They were quite amusing though - conversation of kids that age is always a bit of an eye opener. It was very clear that quite a few of them had never been on a train before and certainly never been to London. One little girl was all ready to get off the train at Diss and had to be convinced by her rather know it all friend that this was definitely not London! And several decided to start their 'snacks' within minutes of setting off on the 7.30 train - cheese and onion crisps at that time in the morning?!!!

I was glad of my ipod and book and had a pleasant couple of hours with Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and Noah & the Whale muting the shrieking while I concentrated on my read of the moment...

I have enjoyed all of Sebastian Faulks that I have read and am engrossed in this one, bought for me for christmas by No. 1 son, which explores the development of psychiatry at the end of the 19th century, through the lives of two friend and their families.

I have struggled to make time to read of late - I think because I carry a lot of irrational guilt about 'what else' I should be doing. Somehow sitting down with a book feels like such a self indulgent thing to do when there is Stuff that should be sorted/cooked/cleaned/written... Funnily enough I had been thinking that once I have got this degree over with I might have another go at reading some of those books everyone says you 'should' read when I read todays blog post from The Girl about what defines a classic in terms of books, which made me think of it all over again. There is so much out there that I have never read and a number of books that have been on my must do list for such a long time - Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and lots more that son 1 (who is an English graduate) can't quite believe I've never read. I think I have decided that whilst I would like to read some of those books classed as 'classics' I will only do so if they captivate me and draw me in - I have to enjoy the language and the skill of the writer as I have no desire to make reading a slog instead of a pleasure. 

The meeting itself required some serious thinking... I always come away from these things feeling stimulated and driven but frustrated in equal measure as the confines of the day job make it so challenging to do the kind of developmental work that is being demanded. It is good, though, to be in an environment where people are interested and value your contributions - quite affirming as it certainly doesn't always feel like that at home! One of the tasks we were asked to do today was to consider our attitudes and beliefs and how that (and those of others around us) are affected by change and decision making. 

Of course, this made me think about my attitudes to life generally; the problem is, I then get to too much thinking about whether I should make some serious life changes to address the bits of my life that feel unfulfilled somehow. I know I have a lot to feel happy about but I can't help feeling that there must be a bit more than this? It doesn't seem right that away from home I feel as though I'm challenged to use my brain and although this means I'm often outside my comfort zone, it makes me feel 'alive' somehow. At home, a lot of the time conversation is very limited and mundane - life has just become so functional; just a process of getting through each day. Of course, there are things each day that I find uplifting, often in just some small way and it is these things I had hoped to capture on this blog, but I don't want to just plod through the remainder of my life counting my way through the working days, the meals and the loads of washing! I want to be able to look forward to each day and importantly to look forward to my at home time too.

As I said...too much thinking. I go round and round in circles because in my heart of hearts I know I am a) not brave enough to make the leap to a different life and b) not prepared to cause major disruption to everyone else that I love. Is the grass really any greener on the other side? I don't know. 

For now, I think I have to try to find my happy places, take the opportunities that I can and not become bitter about the rest.

So here's to positive thinking...


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

'you can't stop the beat!'

Just back from seeing this fabulous stage production of Hairspray - LOVED it!! Feet are still tapping and can't get the songs out of my head.

Great pick me up if you need one!


Monday, 7 February 2011

batteries recharged, I think...

Todays post is going to be a bit of a photo fest - no apologies really, these are just things I want to be able to look at again to remind me of my brief respite from the daily routine.

Got back today from weekend away with The Girls which was bliss. Don't get me wrong, I love my boys but there is something very different about living with other women. I don't doubt that for longer than a few days we might all drive each other nuts but we have been going away for these weekends, just once a year,  for so long now that the friendship is easy. Everyone feels able to relax in whichever way suits them best - some walk, some go to lots of fitness classes, some just chill out and read, some do a bit of everything. We never spend any more than the cost of the accommodation (apart from the odd sneaky bit of shopping..!) and all take one meal and cook lovely food for each other. 

And guess what...NOBODY has to be asked to help clear up! So it all gets done really quickly and no-one has to bang pots and pans in a generally grumpy bad tempered way! Whereas at home, it has to be said that I may occasionally be prone to a bit of harrumphing and crashing in the kitchen whilst the menfolk are beached in front of the TV - I have tried soooo hard to encourage my sons to be considerate helpful men, and they are lovely kind boys, BUT they don't seem to be able to intuitively Get On with what needs doing and have to be asked and sometimes that is just so wearing. 

Anyway, I did come back feeling recharged - only slightly tainted by the fact that I returned to a house that had 'blokes alone' written all over it. I'm not a perfectionist as far as the house is concerned (far from it!!!) but having to spend 2 hrs cleaning the remainders of the Sat night party from the bathroom, downstairs toilet and kitchen did threaten to undo 3 days of good!

However, I've just sat and played with putting together photos from the weekend and could feel myself unwinding again as I relived those little captured moments. Heather from Little Tin Bird wrote about her feelings about blogging on her post yesterday and for me it is as much about having a place for me to look back at and enjoy as anything else. Life is far from perfect - but I think this is helping me to put the things that make me unhappy into perspective with the things that do bring me joy. I am conscious I am only a month into the whole blogging Thing but at the moment I am enjoying the opportunity to say what I want, when I want and to go back and look over those little frozen in time moments and thoughts.  Whether I will feel the same in a few months, or whether I will keep this up... who knows? 

So... having said this is a photo fest, I should stop going on and get on with the photos!

Elveden in early February was surprisingly mild. Blowy and a bit grey but lovely to just get out and walk in the forest - catkins and red berries, tall, tall pine trees and lots and lots of cones underfoot of varying shapes and sizes. I walked for a good hour each day, just for the sake of walking, sometimes with company, sometimes on my own - lovely.

The forest is just full of creatures and they are so used to people that you see them all the time. I know I've said it before but I sooo want a better camera! It was impossible to capture the detail of the birds and animals. From the bird hides today we saw pretty little yellow-green and black siskins, bossy chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, coal tits and long-tailed tits, a striking red-faced goldfinch and a brambling, which you can just make out with the chaffinches in the top left photo. I had never seen one of these before and wouldn't have spotted it had it not been for the very knowledgeable gentleman birdwatcher who pointed it out. In day to day life I forget to appreciate the beauty and variety of things like the birds that visit the garden. Made me think I must have another go with niger seed to attract the finches!

The little muntjac deer and the squirrel were daily visitors to the villa and these pictures were taken through the window, which they came within just a couple of feet. I know grey squirrels are considered a pest (and having seen red squirrels years ago, they are definitely the bolshy big cousin) but they were entertaining, with one carefully burying food and another digging it up as fast!

Essentials for Girls Weekend Away... crochet (progress on the daisy blanket!), a little drop of something to drink (!!!), gorgeous candles on the shop shelves, chocolates, magazines, lovely hand creams and flowers (only a group of girls would think it necessary to take a bunch of daffs on holiday!), coffee & nibbles and a whole shelf full of CK goodies. LUSH!

And these are the 'girls'! As you can see, girls might be pushing the descriptive barriers a bit but we are all young at heart and had such a great time! Shower caps for the hot tub were the de rigueur item for this year, taken on spectacularly by the more extravert among us!!!

All in all it was a fab weekend - we laughed a lot, ate too much, watched films, drank more than we would usually and generally 'escaped' from the mundane. Definitely to be recommended! 

Something else to be recommended was the therapeutic massage I treated myself to yesterday - it was not gentle (she gave my shoulders a thorough pummeling!) but I felt as though my neck and back had been freed up and last night I slept for 6 1/2 hrs!!! (This is unheard of for me! 3 hrs is usually a good night - I have been a chronic poor sleeper for years and years) I am trying to work out if I can justify the regular expenditure on health grounds of massage more than at center parcs once a year!

Mm...have just reread this and seems it has turned into a bit of an epic post! Just one more set of pics...

These - with the exception of the fir cones - are back at home this afternoon when I had my ritual wander round the garden looking for signs of spring (oh, not the daffs! They were in a vase!). Found the first few crocuses pushing their way through (couldn't show you any wider a shot - the weeds are spectacular already! Work to do there!) The others are a shrub I have in a pot on the patio (I think its called viburnum but can't quite remember just now...) - it has lovely shiny evergreen leaves and clusters of tiny red buds that turn into pale pink flowers, and (sorry!) more snowdrop pictures. It was so blustery that they were flapping backwards and forwards in the wind and it seems amazing that such fragile looking blooms stay on their stems. I can't tell you how it excites me to see this little patch of white flowers - it seems we have finally cracked the duff performances of the past umpteen years!

So...back to reality in full glory tomorrow when I go back to work - must go now and get myself organised!

Til next time,


Friday, 4 February 2011

when all else fails...bake!

I always think there is something very therapeutic about baking. 

Maybe it's the lovely smells that emanate from the oven...I think it is just about impossible not to have a happy feeling when your kitchen smells of warm, buttery cake! 

Maybe it's to do with that primitive urge to feed the family - there is something very satisfying about providing and although I love to cook pretty much anything, presenting golden, delicious baking probably wins over most things in terms of how it is received. It's funny how, however often you make the old favourites, they never become boring!

And I did need a bit of distraction therapy yesterday! Our boiler stopped working first thing Tuesday morning leaving us with no hot water or heating - its amazing how quickly your house gets sooo cold. By yesterday evening, several hours in to the Fixing Man trying to work out what the problem was, a spot of baking seemed essential!!!

All good...until the point at which he rather tentatively asked if he could turn all the power off!

Fortunately, I had not quite got to putting cake in the oven but had to finish mixing and putting in the tins by candlelight! We seriously take for granted our ready electricity supply, don't we?

Eventually, at about 8.30pm, normality was restored - I have never been so glad to hear the roar of the boiler kicking in! It transpires a part of the wiring in the circuit that the electric programmer is attached to had been subject to some kind of surge which had caused the fuse in the circuit board to melt - hence no power to the boiler at all. I didn't know whether to be relieved that it wasn't a problem with the boiler itself (which was a very expensive replacement just 18 months ago) or horrified that our electrical system is so dodgy. Over the years we have been here, we have discovered numerous 'little issues' with work that was done by the previous owners and I suspect really the wiring should have a complete overhaul. But we are assured that it is not lethal and we are certainly not in a position to spend that sort of money at the moment so I cross my fingers and carry on, hoping that we never have a major blow out that causes a fire.

If we ever win the lottery... (unlikely, given that we do it once in a blue moon!)

Power restored - flapjacks and buttery crumble cake made the world seem a better place! Wish you could smell them - the house smelt gorgeous!

I hadn't made this simple cake for some time - it is a base of vanilla flavoured buttery sponge topped with a layer of crumble and is truly delicious. Not one for using margarine though - definitely has to be butter!!! I make it in a small roasting tin; suspect it should be in a slightly smaller one and would come out a bit deeper. I gained this recipe from a friend when our kids were in reception and it has always involved a little bit of guesswork as crucial bits like tin size and baking time got missed out! My lot like the crumbly topping so slightly flatter cake with higher proportion topping goes down ok!

Seems odd to think those kids are now all learning to drive age - and that was the other reason for baking. Son 3 failed his driving test yesterday and although I was able to tell him he was in good company (both R and I had to take it twice many years ago) he was seriously in need of cheering up. There are times when I think it is particularly hard to be the youngest - when both your brothers have sailed through all the milestones there is a certain amount of self-imposed pressure to do the same. And at 17, I do remember it feels the Worst thing to not get through the test and a retest seems a lifetime away! No amount of me saying that in the scheme of things he will soon get there was going to help! I have to confess to a secret sense of relief as, unlike the other two, I wasn't convinced he was ready to be let loose on the roads on his own (and in my car!!!) - he is still quite tentative and anxious about driving anywhere other than empty country roads. So, not that I would say to him, I am quite glad he has a bit more time to practice and hope that in the next few weeks his confidence will increase. He seemed revived by cake and a chat with his lovely mates!

One more photo...gratuitous flower shot...

These tulips have lasted really well and I am loving the colours!

Off to center parcs tomorrow for girlie weekend! Intending to come back recharged - will let you know!