Monday, 29 December 2014

Frosty business

Well the festivities are (mostly) over. The ABO managed a swap and didn't have to go back to work until the 27th, which was lucky due the snow! even so the journey the next day took ages...I really dislike the M62! Hopefully this will be his last out of base for a while... 

I've been trying to assimilate the new toys into the house so that I'm not stepping on it (duplo/lego), pushing it out of the way of an almost 2 year old (playmobil) or finding it stuck to me (mosaic jewels).

The days have been cold and crisp. We stayed at home yesterday not leaving the house. The roads hadn't been gritted and I couldn't face slip sliding with BigR and a buggy! e didn't need to go out. It was cosy. We made loom band bracelets whilst LittleR napped. The girls played without too much refereeing. I didn't even have to rely on my faithful cbeebies baby sitter. Today we went out and did a few little errands. It was such a lovely day but it did take more than 15 minutes to de-ice the car.

Tomorrow we go to collect the ABO and then we start our holiday. I've got an extra week off after BigR goes back to school. We're planning some nice days but I think we'll end up doing some house maintenance stuff too. So it's likely to be a little bit quiet around here over the next couple of weeks. Then LittleR is 2. Time really does fly. Especially when you're having fun.

Thanks for visiting my blog in 2014. Wishing everyone health and happiness in 2015.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Precious things (4)

Although this is a physical object the precious thing contained within is not. I love all types of glass. This is not really very useful with two small children around the house. We should invest in some very high up shelves, especially now LittleR is perfecting her skills as a mountaineer.

That aside, I still love glass. This glass bottle was sent to me by a very close friend. She moved to New Zealand 10 years ago. I have no idea where all that time has gone. In the most recent of times our phone calls have dwindled. It’s hard to keep that connection when there’s a 13 hour time difference and you have so much happening in your life; me managing family and work  and she managing building her own home.

Our friendship is more than phone calls though. I know that if I needed her at any moment to listen or to vent to, she’d be there. Contained within that bottle is our distilled friendship. Last month, Sarah talked of transient treasures, which made me think. This precious thing cannot be seen but is there. She’s often in my thoughts and every time I pass the front door, in or out of the house, I see the bottle and think of her and her friendship.

You can see others’ precious things here:
Sarah at Mitenska
Leanne at Today’s Stuff

Monday, 8 December 2014

Festivities and such like

I've felt a little lacklustre the last week or so, poor sleep and the start of a cold (which fortunately didn't materialise into anything more) coupled with my busiest teaching time and other work pressures has meant I've not been able to spend more time at the computer. I've been reading your blogs on my phone but it’s a real pain to comment via my phone so I've felt more absent. And of course there’s that thing about getting out of the habit. I’m hoping blogging is like riding a bike in that respect.

So…here we go. In no particular order.

:: I’m feeling Christmassy. Is that a word? Perhaps festive is more accurate. I think it’s having 2 small children that has done it to me. And the fact that I’ll be finished with work from next Weds until well into the New Year. We've been counting sleeps until Father Christmas makes his visits. This year we also all have an advent calendar thanks to Grandma and Grandad. Typically the big one has a Frozen one! There's nothing that has missed the marketing drive!

:: The tree went up just prior to the 1st December – far too early for my liking but it was one way to bribe, ahem, reward  a small child for staying in bed past 6am! The ABO was on earlies so there I was at 5am sticking the branches in.

:: I have been able to buy some new decorations…mostly child choices but this enamelled tree is one of my favourites. It’s made by a local artist, Shelley Lodge. We have a picture of the four seasons she’s done too.

:: We've made some gingerbread biscuits…in festive shapes. I like the Christmas trees….BigR likes the snowmen. LittleR just likes to eat them! Next stop mince pies...only the ABO likes them so we'll have to make some jam tarts too.

:: The girls have visited Father Christmas as the school fair last week. BigR wasn't entirely convinced. Not that she’s not a believer, she most definitely is, but Father Christmas wasn't wearing his big black boots and so there was obviously an imposter there. We decided it must be an elf pretending as the real FC is far too busy at the moment. LittleR was ‘ho ho ho’-ing on repeat.

:: I've been trying to make some decorations for the house/tree/gifts. I've sewn some buttons on some felt and that’s as far as this bag of goodies has gone. The ABO is on lates and then away with work next week so I’m hoping to crack on with it…or wait until Christmas 2015. If I make anything I’ll share it here.

:: Most of our present buying is done. We’re a very small family so it’s quite an easy task. Plus I couldn't take the bun fight that toy shops would be. We won’t be travelling the length and breadth of the country at this time of year so we’re focussing on it just being the 4 of us. My parents (G&G) are visiting this weekend and Grandad (G- the ABO’s Dad) is coming just before Christmas. The ABO goes back to work on Boxing day. There’s really only the food purchases to make now and they’re the ones I like the best (especially choosing the ABO a chocolate treat….maybe Hotel Chocolat this year?).  I just have one more gift to buy for a friend. I’ve even been able to be smug and make the last posting for New Zealand.

:: Having said that I went to the supermarket on Black Friday (this was a new one on me!!) and was stunned to see police sorting out the queue. Who wants a big TV/ child's wendyhouse or  a scooter that much you could be trampled in a crush?

:: We took the girls to the Thackray Medical Museum. You can go back as many times as you like through the year on one entry price. We've been a few times but there’s always a new button to press or thing to see. There’s a great exhibition of how Leeds was in the mid 19th Century. Including the smells:  fascinating and horrific.

:: I've had my hair cut. This might not seem like an event but from having almost waist length hair it's now just on the shoulder. I did tell the hairdresser (who I've known for over 10 years) to cut it all off but he didn't go quite that far. My very fine hair now feels thick again. I should’ve cut it ages ago.

:: We've been rearranging some storage areas. We’ve gotten rid of our CD cabinets and put the CDs into wallets. Most of our music is on the computer and can be played wirelessly through phones/ipad/ the tv(so I’m told!) so we still have the originals but they’re not on show anymore. This area has been replaced with a book case for my ever growing cookbook (and burgeoning craft book) collection. And yes I've asked for two for Christmas.

:: I ‘need’ a new phone. I had a middle class disaster and dropped my phone onto the dishwasher and the screen now has a big crack in it. It’s been like that for over a month now but I am due an upgrade.  Shall we see if it takes me as long to replace my phone as it did to get my hair cut?!

:: I treated myself to a solo breakfast in town. I had a paper to mark for work and could do that and eat so I did. It was very yum. (Yes I had started before I thought to take a pic!!)

:: BigR has been learning her lines for the reception school concert. She knows everyone else's parts too. A girl after my own heart. I was pleased that I only had to provide Christmas clothes (I did have to ask for clarification!) and a Santa hat as a costume. Apparently there are lots of sheep. My mind boggles.

:: I met a friend, who I used to work with, for coffee. She's getting married next year. That's just such fabulous news.

:: I have been loving the sky at various times. We've had plenty of rain and dreich weather but some beautiful, cold, clear crisp days.

:: Two friends are almost back from maternity leave. They're doing 'keeping in touch' days until January. I've really missed them and their work camaraderie over the last year.

:: There are still roses flowering in the garden. Although we had a 5 minute snow flurry today so not for much longer. 

:: I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone's happenings and seeing everyone's news in the run up to the end of 2014,

The year in books :: December

Once again I’m joining in with Laura for her year in books. This link up has really helped me get back into reading after having my second child and given me lots of ideas for new authors to read, as well as reminding me of old favourites.
So in November I read:
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
A really wonderful read with lots of interesting ideas. I was and wasn't surprised by the story and the way she linked all the elements. Intriguing. 

The Murder Bag – Tony Parsons
I've really enjoyed a few of Tony Parson’s novels and this is his first foray into crime. I do like a crime thriller and this was really good…just on the right side of graphic without being too extreme it kept me guessing. I liked the characters he developed in this one and hope to see them again in  new books in the future.

Football Manager Stole My Life – Iain Macintosh
A very quick read about the intricacies of playing football manager and the people around them. 'Nuff said.

So my choices for December are:
  • In The Woods – Tana French - An author suggested by Jennifer. I've started this and it’s looking very promising!
  • Instructions For A Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Apologist – Jay Rayner

Not very festive reads but hopefully good nonetheless!

Here’s to more reading in 2015!!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Precious things (3)

Once upon a time I went through a period of illness. It was a very long time ago. Even now though, moments of that experience stay with me and very occasionally I think back to that time and how it partly moulded me into the person I am now.

During that time when I thought all the things that I have subsequently achieved were unlikely to happen I was given a stone…a small piece of green adventurine by a good friend who’d just gone to Uni. I carried that stone me with for ages and collected a few more along the way. In theory, adventurine is a stone that brings good luck – I guess it did for me. Every type of stone has a meaning – you can see what they mean here.
I chose most of mine for their colours and the way they felt in my hand rather than for their meaning.

Interestingly, when I was pregnant with both my girls I felt drawn to seek out my stones again and carried a piece of rose quartz in my bag. Rose quartz is a stone of unconditional love.

Every now and again I seek out my stones, for me they are a precious thing.

You can see others’ precious things here:
Sarah at Mitenska
Leanne at Today’s Stuff

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

I am trying

Yes I know I am trying in all senses of the word.

:: I am trying to Get. Stuff. Done. I’ve written and rewritten my do list today and I am getting through it. I just had to put a couple of items on the list that I’d already completed just to give me more impetus.

:: I am trying to be patient when hearing my child read. Give me my due, for the most part I am. Unless she’s making no effort and then I feel really annoyed. She doesn’t know this yet. I guess you have to get her at the ‘right’ moment. And me at the right moment too.

:: I am trying not to be too disappointed it’s raining. Again.

:: I am trying to get bulbs into the garden in the few moments that LittleR is asleep. She loves to be outside but has to constantly monitored leaving no room for bulb digging.

:: I am trying to look forward to a few days off.

:: I am trying to believe that these all won’t be 5.30am get up times.

:: I am trying not to wish my children’s lives away but really do hope they start getting up after 6am! That seems far more civilised.

:: I am trying to be more prepared for that thing that happens as the same time every year in December. 

:: I am trying to hold off on buying a new notebook to prepare for that thing that happens in December.

:: I am trying to think of some more personal gifts for friends. I’ve had an idea of embroidered decorations…we’ll see…watch this space.

:: I am trying not to be too cross with a school that gives 2 days’ notice for a costume on the theme of ‘a hero’.  Yes, she does want to go dressed as Elsa.

:: I am trying to read a very dull academic paper and failing.

:: I am trying to look for solutions to the CD/DVD explosion we have in the corner of our living room. I’m thinking of recycling the cases and using an big CD/DVD envelope. We hardly play CDs now as they’re all on the computer. That means more space for cookery books!

:: I am trying to remember that in amongst all the trivial things, I am trying and that’s something.

(Don't you think the pink primrose at the back looks like she's waving and shouting 'I'm over here!')

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Miscellaneous and happiness and random thoughts

Sarah over at Mitenska has had posts on miscellaneous things in her week. Gillian writes about her weekly happies. I'm going to do a combination of these two things. I not usually such a join-er in-er (is that a word/phrase??) but I can't not join in with these.

We survived our first half term. It was a whirlwind of getting stuff done, reading, trips out, family visiting, eating lots, treats, cinema visits (Daddy and daughter day)  and catching up on sleep. It has (almost) been a relief to get back into a routine and back to work/school - although I'm pleased this is my last working day of the week....

We had a fabulous day out in Whitby. The sun shone and the weather was warm (for the end of October). We made collections of stones (and brought a few home), played crazy golf, ate fish and chips and ice cream. It was a very good day. We all slept well after the sea air!

I traversed the entirety of Leeds to get a pumpkin on Halloween. A trip to big Tesco resulted in no pumpkin (but nappies - the real reason for going) but BigR did see Tesco staff members dressed up for Halloween, and from no where (when the music started) run into the centre of the store and start dancing (in time) to Thriller. Very random but very good. This resulted in much YouTube after to see MJ in action. She wasn't sure if he was brilliant or not.

I did eventually get a couple of pumpkins in our local veg shop. One was very anaemic....scary :) they're still sat on plates in our kitchen and going slightly fusty now so I'll have to spirit them into the bin later tonight (under the cover of darkness) so there are no protestations.

I made a ginger cake following this recipe. Yum. It's gone now.

I ironed and ironed and ironed to X factor. I think the ironing made X factor better. I finished all the ironing and gloried in that moment where there was no more ironing. Sadly, there's now more ironing. who though uniforms and being smart was a good idea?

I finished knitting my hat. It's blue and green not purple. It's a bit big. Maybe I should've made the biggest child's size? It looks a bit wonky here too but 'in real life' it isn't. I will be wearing it. Maybe I'll even model it?

I took more pictures of roses in the garden. Still yet more appear and flower (don't look at the black spot on the leaves) and it's November. Just beautiful.

I've been reading lots too....recipe books mostly. In bed.

Today I've been embracing The Smiths. Spurred by this post from Leanne. This isn't my favourite Smiths song but it's got very good jangly guitars. I love Johnny Marr.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The year in books - November

Another good month on the reading front.

I finished the first of the Cazalet series and loved it, Whats not to like about real family drama. I'm planning to download the rest but I'm going to have a rest from them in November.

I found out there was a sequel to a book I read (and loved) earlier in the year, The Rosie Project. I read about in the comments of someone else's a year in books post...but I can't remember where and now can't find it!!

Anyway, 'The Rosie Effect' was my second book of October. I really enjoyed this book too, although it felt more rushed than the first book. I read an interview with Graeme Simsion who said the first book took him more than a year to perfect and get Don's voice right and the second book came much more quickly. In some ways it showed. There were some really good moments in this book but I found Rosie's character a little stilted (and not the woman she was in the first novel which can't just be explained away by her pregnancy) and the plot a little more obvious. In some ways this shouldn't be a great surprise we know the formula for this sort of story. In spite of these actually very minor complaints, I'll be reading the third book which is surely going to happen.

I'm still reading Stephen Fry's autobiography. It's a little (a lot) self indulgent and although I usually find his writing style fluent and very readable, I'm just not into it this month. I'll be continuing with this in November.

Also in November I'll be reading "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" Karen Joy Fowler.

Joining in with Laura.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Monday Happies


Once again I’m joining in with the very lovely Gillian.

I’ve finally cast on some new knitting. This time it’s a hat for me. I received the pattern and the wool as a gift last Christmas and then, of course, by the time I’d finished the dog for LittleR it was way too warm to even consider making a hat for winter. It’s an easy knit and is coming along apace. So much so I can already see the finishing line. Maybe I should’ve taken another picture of progress so far? Although it may be too warm for a hat. Although I’ve dredged the boots out of the wardrobe, I’ve actually been coatless today. Outside. In Leeds. At the end of October. The weather is unseasonably warm.

I used a birthday voucher for a trip to Bettys Cookery School last week. It was brilliant. Not only did I make some delicious dishes to take home I was well fed and watered during the day with lots of Betty’s cakes and biscuits. It was a smaller course than normal and I chose the ‘One Pot Wonders’ day – although there were so many tempting courses to choose from. I thought it would be better to try out some things I might actually cook again rather than a patisserie day or elegant entertaining – both brilliant but the former is too much faff for a school day and the latter unlikely to happen until my children leave home.
We ate like Kings for the next 3 days as the ABO and I tucked into; Lancashire hotpot, Steak and Mushroom Pudding (thanks to an IG cry out Sue saved me from a steaming faux pas) and a chicken, chorizo and bean stew. There were also Autumn fruit charlottes. And we didn’t have 2 each. With ice-cream on the same night. No not at all.

I’ve already recreated the Lancashire hotpot – well what I mean is as is often my way I’ve changed it completely but just used the potato topping with what I had in the freezer!! This time it was a hotpot with beef and veggies in the pot.

All this savoury cooking has meant I’ve needed some sweet treats to go with it. The ABO saw an interview with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall somewhere and was hankering after some of his ultra choc brownies (available in his new book). I resisted the book for about a week (I loved Everyday veg but wasn’t so keen on Three Good Things) but it has some interesting recipes in it and lots that can be adapted or are specifically for various ‘free’ diets (e.g. gluten free). 

The recipe for these brownies is gluten free but my supermarket didn’t have any rice flour or gluten free flour and as that isn’t a necessity in our house I just used regular flour. It didn’t seem to make a difference to the outcome. They were (please note use of past tense) very, very chocolatey. The recipe is available online here

The garden continues to surprise me. There are still roses about to bloom.

The blueberry leaves have turned the most gorgeous red.

And the chillies continue to ripen (until LittleR picks them and attempt to chop on one…fortunately she stopped before she bit into it!).

I’ve been browsing some seed catalogues and bulb seller websites and getting totally carried away.

Although I’m not usually a fan of the actual day (or the days after) the clocks change (one of my children thinks 4am is a newly acceptable time to put the lights on!), I’m trying to embrace it this year with more coffee opportunities and extra time awake to chat to BigR and read or knit especially as the ABO is on an early shift. Hopefully normal (by that I mean post 5am!) service will be resumed shortly.