Monday, 28 March 2011

Now we are sixteen

Ready for the ballet exam I washed the ballet uniform, cleaned the ballet shoes, and washed and ironed the silk scarf. On the day I made her favorite lunch, glued her hair into the required bun and got her to the exam venue in good time. Then I left her to it, picking her up two hours later. She seemed calm.

When Eldest started out on this lark I’d have done all that, but I’d also have helped her dress, checked and double checked that we’d got everything she needed for the exam, stayed with her while she was prettified and unified with her exam companions (they always do exams in small groups because they have to dance together as well as doing individual choreographed dances, so they have to look the same but be distinguishable by different coloured ribbons: think rows of swans!), and kept her company while she waited for her turn. ‘We’ must have done Pre-Primary when she was 4 or 5. Not all schools do it as they only ‘fail’ if they refuse to dance, but her school felt it got them used to the drama of the thing. Since then there’s been Primary and Grades 1 to 7, Pre-Inter and Intermediate ballet exams and a footful of tap exams.
Yesterday, aged 16, she took Grade 8. She says it was OK but she won’t have got a distinction…

From my point of view (apart from getting used to her growing independence) this means that Eldest will be dropping two classes a week: there’s still tap and Advanced 1, but that’s 3 lessons on two nights instead of 5 classes on 4 nights. However proud I am of her dedication, it will be nice not to have to do so many ballet runs!
Just a note of caution: I'd rather do the taxi service than sit at home while she drives, but it's only a matter of time. (Head in hands at very thought of my baby driving.)

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Froggy Love

There was a neglected corner in our garden.
 Husband designed a pond, some men built it, and I planted it up. All this happened in 2008. It has been a joy and a focus point in the garden. We imported a bucketful of water from a friend’s pond to introduce some bugs, as recommended in the gardening books.

We bought some plants from a garden centre, and were given some oxygenating plants from the pond mentioned before. The plants and creatures have thrived. Then later we imported some frogspawn from the same pond (before we heard on The Today Programme that this wasn’t recommended.

Two summers ago we watched in horror as the tadpoles were picked off by the diving beetle larvae. They were so greedy we feared there’d never be any frogs.

Last year, we saw frogs in our pond, sunbathing on the pebbles or hanging out amongst the marginals and disappearing into the Hornwort if they noticed us. But on Sunday we suddenly realised that they were not only in evidence, but hanging out in a very amorous fashion: there is a positive orgy going on outside my window! There is frogspawn! We will have an added reason to pop into the garden or gaze out of the window: there will be new life developing in our pond.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Carrot Cake

High time I gave you a recipe! This is a carrot cake given to me by a gardening buddy.

These quantities will make  a 23cm by 30cm baking tray’s worth .

220g grated carrot
300g plain flour (I mixed white and wholemeal)
400g sugar (I mixed white and brown)
1 tbsp baking powder
170ml cooking oil
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
4 eggs
432g tin of crushed pineapple, drained

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add in the eggs and oil. Mix well (but with a spoon will do, you don't need a whizzy machine). Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Bake in greased tins at 180°C for 45-60 minutes until cooked through and springy.
Spread with cream cheese icing made using 100g butter to 200g cream cheese to 300g icing sugar beaten together until smooth.
Because it is a damp sponge it doesn’t keep particularly well, but, un-iced it freezes brilliantly.

Eldest doesn’t like conventional fruit cake, and Youngest doesn’t eat fruit or vegetables except in conventional fruitcake… unexpectedly they both like this!

Try and remember to share it with your family. It wasn't just me, honest!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


You will remember that the family computer and Husband’s camera have been failing to speak to one another with the resultant lack of pictures on my blog of late, but as you can see I have news! No, it’s not that the new computer is up and running and that I am now the sole owner of the old one, but that my camera (a gift from Father) thought it would interface, and waiting for my computer seemed endless. So, herewith a quick catch-up:

The present state of the upholstery project:
Corfe Castle, our half-term walk’s end, and Youngest’s idea of heaven:

Graduating success:

We’ve just had a weekend visiting family in London. A walk on Hampstead Heath with their new and exuberant dog, a wander around Camden Lock soaking up the atmosphere (with grumpy teens who “haven’t any money”) and the British Museum. We all found something to enjoy:
A shop that seemed to be more of a style statement! They were shooing people away who tried to take photos, the shop assistants/bouncers had their faces made up as cybermen (think modern Dr.Who)… I wonder if the BBC knows?
Eldest and I loved the jewelry and cigarette boxes, these are diamond and ruby buttons - what's not to like?
Husband loved the Elgin marbles (they’re not called that, presumably in the hope that all the foreign visitors won’t notice, though reading about them you wonder if they’d exist at all if he, Elgin, hadn’t ‘pinched’ them).

Thursday, 3 March 2011

World Book Day or What are you reading?

I am grateful to Wikipedia for the following information: The connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Spain as a way to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes who died on that day. This became a part of the celebrations of Saint George's Day (also 23 April) in Catalonia, where it has been traditional since the medieval era for men to give roses to their lovers and since 1925 for the woman to give a book in exchange.
In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, World Book Day is held annually on the first Thursday in March. Although it might be argued that this makes it more a 'UK and Ireland Book Day' than a World Book Day as such, it was decided to avoid the established international 23 April date due to clashes with Easter school holidays. World Book Day UK began in 1998, launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair. In 2011 it will be held on Thursday 3rd March.

I thought I’d look at what I was reading in 1998 (because even I don’t go back as far as 1923).
In 1998 I read 17 books and four of those recorded were read aloud to Eldest (she’d have been four). To myself I read Leslie Thomas, Terry Pratchett, Nick Hornby, Helen Fielding, Arabella Weir, P.D.James, A.A.Milne, Philippa Gregory and Georgette Heyer. Largely light and funny novels, but also Libby Purves’ How Not to Raise a Perfect Child which was both tongue in cheek and helpful! To Eldest I read Dodie Smith (her two delightful Dalmatian stories), P.L.Travers’ Mary Poppins, and an odd little book called The Log of the Ark, a retelling of Noah’s Ark. At this time the girls shared bunk beds and Youngest got a story book of her choice first and then fell asleep while I read a chapter of a ‘proper’ book to her big sister.
Over the years we worked our way through the Puffins lurking on my bookshelf since childhood and added in some more recent authors. J.K.Rowling and Eoin Colfer are family favourites: we’ve read them individually, aloud and listened to them on tape and then CD!
Today I am reading Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble, my tenth book of the year. It’s not a competition, but I am amused to see that as the girls have got older, so that I rarely now read to them, I have found more time to read to myself, often while waiting for them to complete a ballet/swimming lesson. The three of us always have a book on the go. Husband also reads, but it’s more likely to be The Economist, military history or a Maths book.
What are you reading?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Twenty and happy

I have been married twenty years today. We met in April the year before and became pretty much inseparable (circumstances allowing). We had a couple of years living in different counties for work purposes so started up with a fairly even distribution of household chores and breadwinning. There is certainly an argument to be made for us both continuing to work. We’d probably have been materially richer, but we would have needed major childcare help and would have spent a greater part of our married life apart.

We lead a quiet, homey sort of life that suits us. We discovered early on that neither of us was good at a fight: we both sulk in a childish fashion. So while we have our disagreements we are usually able to see one another’s viewpoint and come to a compromise of some sort. (Our most famous row took place whilst driving down the M1 as to the pros and cons of Radio 1 versus Radio 3 – pop vs. classical for those of you without access – which resulted in us listening to Radio 4 (talk in many varieties). Husband still tunes into 3 when not listening to 5 Sport, but 4 is my permanent companion.)
When we met we earned similar salaries and had similar ambitions – I had intended to remain a career girl and had little interest in children. But I chose a guy in the Army, and I had picked an industry that was going to struggle to allow for the amount of movement we would have to tolerate for Husband’s career, and we both wanted children. As you know I am a hausfrau! It wasn’t what I planned, but both Mother and Grandmother set a fine example of supportive, fulfilled wife.
It can be a tough job! It can be lonely, you can feel unappreciated, particularly by your children, and the simple fact of the repetitive, never-endingness of housework can be tedious, BUT… I know that Husband could not get through life without me, that the girls are capable when necessary and present a polite and charming face to the world (and we love each other most of the time), and that housework can always wait - so long as there are clean clothes somewhere, and food in the fridge!

So, today I have flowers and a card, Husband will make scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for supper, there is a bottle of champagne in the fridge, the girls will eat pizza, and I’m off to find a recipe for some sort of puddingy chocolate cake that we can all enjoy. It might take me all day, or I might make some more marmalade, or play with my upholstery, or curl up with my wedding album; and I will do almost no chores!