Thursday, 31 December 2009
It’s all over for another year!
The midnight was something we hadn’t done in years so was a bit of a treat in terms of a lie in on Christmas morning. Father Christmas had visited and we took it in turns to draw items from our stockings until we’d all run out. Very satisfying! Drinks with the neighbours were bubbly. Lunch went well despite the slightly fraught cook, and I managed to get the pudding properly alight for the first time ever (it needs much more alcohol than I thought necessary). The cracker jokes were even more dreadful than usual. We managed a few pressies before the Queen, and the rest with The Incredibles. We only drank tea, and couldn’t manage more than a few nibbles for supper.
Parents went home on the 27th saying they’d enjoyed themselves, and the in-laws started arriving. Another family tradition: 5 siblings with their 5 spouses and 2 children each, plus the patriarch and his wife. A healthy 22 to feed! A planned leftover turkey was turned into a Thai- and an Indian-style salad with various side dishes including the required vegetarian pastry for the veggie family. The dodgy Pavlova disappeared, as did half the brownies, but the mincemeat tart is loitering in the fridge. Tea was enjoyed by 16 of us after the others had departed. I later discovered that the youngest visitor (amongst those who missed tea) had managed to eat yet another cake under the table apparently noticed only by Eldest. Too much of her mother has clearly rubbed off as she remarked that his behaviour had been matched only by his parents’ inability to provide any form of discipline! He ate nothing but cake on the previous evening when 3 families sat down to bangers/cheese and baked potatoes with baked beans followed by fruit and had left the table before gingerbread muffins were produced. He came back for two. Eldest wondered why anyone would eat anything but cake if they were allowed to eat it without eating any of the other offerings. At least we were prepared for the non-partaking of the first course, followed by two puddings. Eldest didn’t mention the under the table incident until she caught me muttering about people who dropped cake papers on my cream carpet.
But we’re all done. It won’t be our turn to host for three years (don’t ask, I can’t do the maths either).
Now we look forward to dinner this evening, a different sort of entertaining. Happy New Year!
(The photo is of Eldests gift from her knitting grandmother.)
Monday, 21 December 2009
We sang carols in church yesterday evening and it snowed over night so we're ready to be Christmasy. Cards are now all written so just need delivering. We’ve agreed the decorations can go up today so now we just need to agree who is going to do what. It was much simpler when it was assumed I would do it, now everyone wants a turn. I wonder if I can trust the girls to be kind to one another as they decorate the tree while I hide in the kitchen with the as yet unfinished Christmas cake?
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
The lists remain long:
25 more cards
Birthday cake for Youngest
Soup for visiting vegetarians’ lunch on Saturday
Party tea for Saturday evening at swimming pool party including (another) cake for an unknown quantity of (pre)teens.*
Only after the ongoing celebrations can I think about decorations, cake icing, present wrapping…
*In fact the list of unknowns is great: school friends at secondary school are unknown, there parents more so. I have no means of contact except through the birthday girl, and no way of knowing whether the invitations were ever shown to a parent. From “They're all coming” to “No one’s coming” in a couple of weeks. No doubt somewhere between lies the number of girls attending. It is impossible to protect children from learning that giving a party is almost never stress free!
Thursday, 10 December 2009
I am in the throws of making the Christmas cards and have even written a few. (But I haven't cleaned the windows so there are shadows on my photo, in case you wondered.) Most presents are bought and some must be wrapped this weekend so they can be taken away by visitors attending Youngest’s birthday lunch on Sunday. This meal is the next on my list of to do’s and is slightly complicated by the wish to be gluten and dairy free for Great Friend to feel included. It’s not difficult, it just means I must think a bit harder about what to make or what not to add – Pavlova for instance can be produced in component parts so that only those who like cream need have some, and it’s one of Youngest’s favourite puddings… and it will use some of the excess of raspberries I have in the freezer courtesy of the allotment. (I had a plan to fill the freezer with meals for the holidays as instructed by all the magazines at this time of year, but had no room in it to do so even if I’d managed to be that organised!)
Less fuss, less stress should be my motto if I was even slightly sensible, instead I shall no doubt continue to rush about trying to get everything done. Better go and make another list.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
They are silk trees, made a few years apart, the first, with its red pot, made for Husband when he was away in Northern Ireland. His tree, as a one off, was filled with a variety of silly or luxurious things to cheer him while away from home for his daughter's first Christmas. He was away the next year too, but by then the advent calendar had been commandeered for Eldest. Mind, in those days a balloon was the height of excitement as a pocket gift. I haven't tried that lately!
Must be time to start on the Christmas cards.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Inevitably the 5 boys in the school were particularly noticeable: four of them doing a Russian dance were an absolute scream as the two little ones made a terrific stab at doing the leaps of Leading Boy14 and Leading Boy15. Wonderful! And their presence meant we were treated to pas de deux by both the Sugar Plum and her Prince, and Clara and the Nutcracker. They’re boys not men so their role was supportive rather that any sort of lifting or ‘real’ help, but what fun!
Now she is back down to earth with sore feet and a worry that it will be her last show – in three years time she will have left school.
We await the hideously expensive DVD.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
As a result it doesn’t matter how much I love all the folksy stuff in the shops right now I feel quite unable to buy it: I could make it myself! The problem, as Eldest points out regularly, is that I don’t! So I’m working on revising her view…
To that end I’ve had a lovely time cutting out squares and am in the throws of producing cushions and hearts for my girls: Santa’s Little Helpers are very busy!
It remains to be seen if this is a sensible use of my time. Past experience tells me that people are not always appreciative of things you make as presents. The year I gave our siblings home made hampers that included my chutney, mincemeat and fudge there were one or two distinctly underwhelmed thank-yous. It is hard to believe that someone else’s ‘home made’ produce would have been more appropriate, but I would have spent money (instead of time)…
To be fair the girls are usually pleased with homemade items. In their time they’ve received clothing, dressing-up clothes, curtains, quilts, cushions and bags. Husband has been given a waistcoat, cummerbund, bow tie and a tiny teddy all made by his wife. And he’s worn them! I have made wedding and bridesmaid dresses for several friends and relations; my labour being their wedding present. These are labours of love that people have been pleased with, but it is not always so!
An early gift of a garage for my younger brothers, suitable for their matchbox cars, and made in secret from a Weetabix box and a great deal of Copydex was, perhaps deservedly, looked upon with derision, although my kind mother made them thank me. I have no idea what the uncles did with their polystyrene boats, made the same year. Blue Peter has a lot to answer for.
Friday, 6 November 2009
I was born in a British Military Hospital in Münster when my parents were in Germany with the Royal Artillery (the Gunners). At the time they were living in a caravan because they were considered too young to be married (they were 22) and so the Army wouldn’t provide them with a married quarter. My imminent arrival resulted in two house-sitting arrangements until a quarter could be found. We later moved to Hanover and then Hildesheim, before moving to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain in time for me to go to school. We moved again as Father’s career took him through further training at Staff College, first at Shrivenham, then Camberley and on to Barton Stacey. I went to 4 schools before becoming a boarder in Kent when I was 10. I stayed at that school for 6 years, moving to another for the 6th form. My parents and ‘home’ continued to move, including another posting to Germany and one to Northern Ireland. By the time my parents bought a home of their own I had lived in 15 quarters, 2 schools (at 4 addresses) and 4 student addresses in London and Leeds. I was 21. This is not unusual in the services.
Husband was a soldier for 30 years; he left the Army last month. We were married as the first of the recent Gulf Wars came to an end in 1991; I was very glad he was in a desk job, as he has been during the current conflicts. We were separated soon after Eldest was born when he did a tour in Northern Ireland, and again when he served in Bosnia (he missed her first two Christmases). As a 'dependant' you have to expect this, it is their job after all, but none of us like it. Lucky Youngest has never been without him. Since we married we have lived at 9 addresses and this we plan will be our last.
My uncle and one of my brothers both missed our wedding as they were in the Gulf, one an RAF navigator and the other a Gunner, like Husband. Father did three tours in Northern Ireland in the 1970s when I was away at boarding school. I got all my friends to write to him!
Paternal Grandfather was in the Army Education Corps. He and his family were in Singapore when the Japanese attacked in WW2, and his wife and children were evacuated on the last ship out. He died in Changi. On my mother’s side, Great-Grandfather, commanded the 1st Battalion The Black Watch and was killed in early September 1914 at the Battle of The Aisne. He left a wife and four children. His only son was also in The Black Watch, and was killed in France in 1940.
I will count my blessings on Remembrance Sunday once again.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Not as easy a trick as I might have hoped. Youngest considered the fabric 'so lush' she wanted something made for her, but it came from Miss Danceteacher with a request for circular skirts for the Liquorish Allsorts. Eldest is performing in The Nutcracker with her dance school and I had offered my sewing skills once more. Miss Danceteacher's mother had already made 6 and had lost the will to live, so would I finish the job? Polyester satin that will look stunning on the modern dancing Allsorts with matching leggings and black T-shirts, but the fabric was thin and slippery making level hems frankly impossible. They do not bear any sort of inspection but should hold together and look great on stage!
Monday, 2 November 2009
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Thursday, 15 October 2009
According to the blogosphere today is the day to take action and write about climate change. To do this properly you have to sign up with e-mails and passwords and things. Since this space at the bottom of the bottom drawer in the filing cabinet belongs to me I didn’t want to sign, and I couldn’t make them give me a badge. I’m just not techi enough.
Thought I could think about what we do and don’t do all on my lonesome; I can confess without fear of ridicule.
It used to be that only hippies and earth mothers were into growing their own food and making things for themselves. Now the allotments have waiting lists, crafts (particularly knitting) are the thing to be seen to do, and the whole recycling movement is the fashion for all. The march away from free plastic bags has brought a revolution in alternative bags. So, in our bid to be fashionable, and maybe save the planet from climate change while we’re at it, this is what our family is doing:
- Husband has an allotment and grows more and more of the family’s food. I use his produce for our meals but am also getting better at finding ways to prolong our use of those gluts. Lots of pickle, jelly and jam, but also best ways to freeze things for later.
- We choose local in goods and services when possible, then Wiltshire, then England and so on.
- We re-use plastic bags when we get them, and carry a hessian bag in order to turn down the offer of plastic as much as possible.
- The girls go to and from school on a bus. Our rural idyll means my taxi service for after school clubs is busy most nights, but I try to save other errands to be done on the same outing. Sainsburys deliver my weekly groceries.
- As they’ve needed replacing we’ve swapped to low energy light bulbs - despite their size and poor ambient light.
- I’ve made a portion of my own clothes since I was eleven, and I mend too. I keep looking at the Re-Fashion and Make pledge and will investigate again.
- I line dry in summer and tumble in poor weather. Love the smell of line dried laundry but get complaints from the family about softness. Tumble drying means I don’t need to use fabric softener, and I console myself that I rarely iron anything. Washing is sorted by colour and temperature and only washed when there is a full load.
- We ought to save more water. There’s only one water butt, and though I save washing-up water, vegetable cleaning water and the condenser tumble dryer water for the garden in dry weather I haven’t yet found a use for grey water otherwise… Most of us bath or shower daily and we have no plans to stop. The water is softened so at least we don’t use much product to get things clean.
- Wiltshire collects our paper, glass, clothes, shoes and tins. We compost food waste, cardboard and garden waste. We can’t fill our ordinary wheely bin. But we fail to save and recycle plastic. Could do better.
- We save envelopes, cards, postage stamps, wrapping paper, string and ribbons and anything else we think might prove useful. I haven't yet turned into my grandmother: a clever woman of slender means and thrifty habits it was perfectly normal to receive on your birthday the front half of a used card with her greeting on the back sent in a re-used envelope that the postman must have enjoyed deciphering!
I'm off to see what other people have been writing about in the hope that someone will have succeeded in being funny. It may be important, but the post is dull!
Monday, 12 October 2009
Monday, 5 October 2009
Part of the fun for me is finding something I didn't know I'd find interresting, or didn't know I had an opinion upon and being set running in an unexpected direction. I think I need a google search tool for 'domestic life' or 'have a cuppa and a chat'. Lovely to find that there's always someone to connect with - even if what you should really be doing is that pile of mending that is in danger of falling over or vacuuming the house - not to mention any of those maintenance jobs that I gather are something I should consider... Does anyone else clean out their kitchen drawers unless they're moving house? Me neither. Along with cleaning the windows I'm afraid this hausfrau is failing in her duties.
Friday, 2 October 2009
8 ounces softened butter
7 fluid ounces caster sugar
20 fluid ounces plain flour
4 ounces chocolate chips
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in the flour and then the chocolate. Then (and here's the clever bit) put into a plastic bag and roll out to about 1/4 an inch thick and then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. When you're ready, heat the oven to 180c and break open the bag. Cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch squares and bake for 15- 20 minutes until pale but not golden. I've made 15 using half the dough and put the rest back in the fridge for another day. Very pleased with the result though I might try adding a little vanilla or even branch out and purchase some espresso powder since that was what was originally called for and I didn't reckon freeze dried granules would do.
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Actually, as a student in Leeds, where I had an electric oven in my room, and a metre to feed with coins (15p for a bathful of hot water), I reduced suppers to a helping of cottage cheese with mango chutney, and a portion of uncooked flapjack (why wait?), followed by fruit, a glass of milk and plenty of chocolate. I seemed to survive!
These days I prepare family meals. This is yet another new phase. It is true that life with children doesn't get easier, just different. I no longer make a separate meal for two little people who cannot wait until Husband gets home. In those days my freezer was full of fish fingers which was pretty much all Eldest ate from when she was about 3 until secondary school. At a meeting with a doctor inspecting her health aged about 4 I was told that while her diet might be boring, it was perfectly balanced and I wasn't to worry about it. I didn't, but it reduced the offer I was prepared to make to Youngest because there's a limit to how many evening meals I was going to make. But they're older now, and can wait for Husband's appearance on week nights. We're only gradually broadening the range of food that Youngest will try - she's very partial to a bowl of pasta with grated cheese, so it is possible to feed her simply when she refuses point blank to eat a roasted vegetable lasagne/veggie chilli/ fish pie or whatever.
It remains true that Youngest likes a roast dinner and no vegetables, Eldest likes fish and chips and lots of fruit, and Husband likes joined up meat. I like most things but won't cook things I don't like (prawns), and I'm not keen to make 4 different meals!
I haven't resolved whether we will actually eat the Quorn. Eldest is taking GCSE Home Economics and is doing a project on Textured Vegetable Protein. She is to make a balanced meal incorporating TVP in school on Thursday, and that means for homework she needs to make sure the cobbled together recipe works in the pie dish that I must buy specially - apparently those I own won't do. I didn't do HE so it's a bit of a learning curve for me too: every dish she makes has to include a psycho motor skill, which basically means anything they make must include pastry, bread (in an hour and a half long lesson), a 'proper' sauce or cake making. This makes savoury dishes quite difficult! So a Quorn savoury pie with a cheese crust is to be produced. They also have to present everything so she'll be designing a menu card, looking for suitable table cloth, napkin, vase and flowers and any other prop she thinks might help. Getting to school on Thursdays on the school bus can be a challenge.
The practice session is tonight so I'd better go and buy that pie dish.
Friday, 25 September 2009
We have been to our last military 'do'. Husband leaves the army today after 30 years, 19 of which I have been with him. The end of an era as they say. Most of his uniform has been returned, and what is left he paid for and can thus keep but never wear. Apparently they have to return the uniform because ex-soldiers were going out on the streets begging in their uniforms giving the state a bad name! In the beautiful mess kit hinted at in my photo there's no chance anyone would put money in a begging bowl! The green is a Thai silk long frock made using a Vogue pattern to go to a dinner night in Dartmouth last year and with which I have been very pleased (despite the plunging neckline).
This parting meal was not a grand occasion by military standards, but we drank cocktails in one of the Mess bars, ate 3 courses served in the dining-room surrounded by portraits of military alumni and silver, drank the Queen's health in port, and ate cheese and biscuits and drank coffee back in the bar afterwards. He was one of 3 leaving the organisation and the boss gave a fluent and supportive speech to say farewell to them all. They each gave a short reply. A pleasant evening rather than a blast, but very kind of them to mark the 'end'.
Next week Husband becomes a student: a year in which he talks of growing his hair, living in casual clothes and perfecting his allotment. We'll see! Life looks like it may be very different.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Friday, 18 September 2009
I've been surfing to see who else might be out there and was amused to find a kuche full of hausfraus! I've added the two I enjoyed most to my list of blogs to follow. Also went to look for seamstresses, but almost everyone seemed to embroider or knit. I've had my moments - embroidery as part of my O and A level Needlework, and a bit for pleasure, and knitting with everyone else when we went through a phase at school - but my ability doesn't really lie in that direction. I like the speed with which a garment can be produced from ready made fabric and am too lazy to knit the bits first.
The blog I fell in love with when I was following my nose is Gluten-Free Girl. Her writing style is lovely and I've decided to send her book to my wheat intolerant friend on the strength of her blog. Will let you know. I may have to loose one of the hausfraus as I was horrified to read that she had made coconut macaroons with chocolate ganache. It sounds just too sweet to me, I can't think why you'd make anything other than the classic almond mixture with just an almond on top. On that note I'm off to make an apricot and almond cake full of gluten and completely delicious!
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
I've been having a very stitchy summer - and if I was cleverer I'd be adding lovely photos - but you will have to imagine for the moment! I made a pair of curtains for Youngest from an old short pair trimmed with a duvet cover and am now engaged playing with matching scraps to make cushions for her bed. Then I created a curtain to cover a shelf of shoes, cushions, laundry bag and heart for H to go in her new student room in Cardiff in a beautiful grey/blue spotty classic cotton. Next I produced yet more curtains and cushions (baby blue with white spots) for the girls' 'playroom' which I have newly painted in a classic cream in a successful attempt to lighten their north facing room with dark blue carpet. Decorating with hearts and squares from co-ordinating scraps so very little money spent.
Have also done some mending for a friend for which I was paid actual money- not going to make my fortune, but enough to more than cover the cost of the girls' fabric. Two pairs of suit trousers shortened for her husband, and two skirts shortened for her so she might actually wear them!
My lovely hairdresser came yesterday and brought my hair under control. Turns out she has decided to marry her partner and father of her impending offspring, so I dropped in the fact that I might be able to help. She got all excited and insisted on seeing my wedding dress and then went through my scrap book of makes... She's on a tight budget, but that wouldn't necessarily be a problem if it got me some business would it?!
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
I'm not entirely sure, but it's partly about wanting to write something, anything, and partly a place to put ideas and think about whether they're any good. Like everyone I hope there's a book in me somewhere, but I've never got beyond a short story or two. I originally thought I could write something interesting about the life of an old fashioned sort of stay at home wife, but I find that I can't offer tips about housewifely chores because they're not something I get around to much. Not convinced about cooking tips either, though friends have suggested I could give chutney and jam lessons. Apparently there is the possibility of earning some money doing this? Or, more appealing to me (in that I at least have some qualifications in it), sewing lessons.
The next big thing, now that we're all growing our own food, ought to be making our own clothes, or at least mending the ones we've got. Make do and Mend. How to use your sewing machine. Mending for beginners.
I wonder where you would start? Business plan I guess...
Friday, 17 July 2009
It's not that I don't do any work! We have a house, garden and alotment to maintain. I am not particularly house proud, but I do try to keep on top of the worst of the family's mess and to do minor repairs or organise to get a man in when neccessary. The alotments is Husband's project really, but produce doesn't know he can only do weekends, so when things are growing they need regular picking too, and that means me. Gardening is one of my favorite activities, but it is a guilty pleasure in that I have always preferred it to housework. Our two children get themselves to school and back on a bus, but they both have a number of after school clubs and commitments that require a taxi service 4 nights a week. Clearly it is my job to keep everyone in clean and mended clothes, and to know where everything they lose is. In my spare time I'm a school governor and I've been Chair for 2 years. I am on call throughout the week for the Headteacher, or anyone else with a school issue. I wonder how the world will continue to run when all the people who volunteer for things have proper jobs instead?
And I'm giving that one up: I've collected too many t-shirts and am getting more and more annoyed by the ammount of work the goverment thinks it can put in the way of schools. But I'm not going to ruin my mood by going there! I was just wondering what I'll say now to provide a suitable answer to the dreaded question...
Thursday, 9 July 2009
They're busy rehearsing in the primary schools so I'm off to sports day this afternoon. (Why is it sports day when it's generally just an afternoon?) And again tomorrow. Luckily parents aren't required to attend the equivalent event in the girls' secondary school. I am dutiful but not engaged! I will go to the dress rehearsals of the primary schools' plays, and this year I can support Youngest in her school play. They seem to always do a musical, and it is so popular that they end up having a huge gang of 'extra' children providing entertainment pre show, in the interval and then joining in with the finale. She seems pleased, but it sounds like an awful lot of hanging around to me. By Friday night she'll be exhausted - I picked her up when the show finished at 10pm last night...
Still got to get through my last governors meeting, and get our Financial Management in Schools forms into County, and write a last governors' newsletter; but I'm definitely counting down now! Thoughts are turning to how to entertain Eldest on her 15th birthday at the end of the month, and what on earth to give her - apparently she doesn't actually 'need' anything and therefore can't produce a list of things she might realistically expect anyone to get her!
Husband is back tonight so some tidying and cooking are in order to provide both a welcome home and evidence that I haven't idled away the last few days....
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
That fete seems to be occupying everyone. I suspect we put too much work into it, but since that may be why it turns out to be a pretty good party I guess we'll have to keep it up. Everyone did brilliantly this year, and we did indeed break that record of 2 years ago, but then it was only just more! (And ,no we didn't put the entry prices up John.) I was put in charge of trinkets 5 years ago, (and it was a huge honour after being alowed to guess the number of sweets in the jar and name the chicks my first year), and I'd confess to a buzz when selling my collection each year, but sometimes I hanker after something more glamorous like cakes (which sells out early), or Pimms (which probably has other benefits) or even plants (which may also be grubby, but in a more earthy way). Trinkets is slightly less grubby than White Elephant, even in our lovely village and these greener times.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
It's all about negotiation. Whether it's governing the village primary school, sitting on the church fete committee or just organising the family.
Half term is over and my life can return to normal. Both girls are now at the secondary school so at least their timings and days off coincide, and the bus deals with the journey so I don't even need to get dressed until they've gone - in fact it's a strategy I recommend to avoid the call to take them into school in the car.
Eldest has been ballet dancing throughout the holiday and then performing on stage. She loved it, and would do it all over again tomorrow, but it was tough on the rest of us: weekends committed to getting her to and from 6 hour days of lessons and rehearsals, and then ditto during half-term. Not much fun for Youngest, 'though she seemed to enjoy 'just chilling': largely prone in front of the telly. We also sorted her room and did a bit of cooking, but it was hardly holidaying in style.
In case you wondered the show was great fun: Coppelia, with a large cast of children - mostly girls - and 4 professional dancers to keep them in line. Colourful and humerous with hummable music... I saw it twice. Difficult to spot my apparently grown up daughter amongst the 3o on stage with her all in the same costumes!
Governing continues to take up quite alot of my time, and could take it all if I let it. It doesn't seem to matter how much time you give it because it is never enough and there's always more we should have done. And getting people on side seems to take up so much of the time that moving forward always takes longer than you expect (and my targets are pretty low to start with).
And we've had our first church fete committee meeting of the year, so that's another area of negotiation and gently gently don't upset anyone plans set in motion. I wonder if I dare abandon my planned stall and set to sorting out a different one...