Monday, 15 December 2008

Mealy Mouthed

I'd love to be a restaurant critic - it would really suit me...

...firstly because I really adore eating wonderful food, but also because I do like to shout from the rooftops when I find somewhere which pleases my tummy...it might please somebody else too!

Eating in fantastic restaurants, often, and being paid for it...that would be my idea of heaven!

I would find it difficult to write nasty reviews...I rarely complain in a restaurant, unless something is utterly inedible...after all, we all can imagine what the kitchen could do to your next course - should they wish to!

We have a phrase in this house, started by BF... "It's not my favourite" - that ought to cover any unpleasant culinary experiences, without sounding like an jaded critic with a bloated sense of his own importance!

So imagine how I felt when I read the latest 'Food' magazine, they included reviews about two restaurants I have little prospect of actually eating in - Gordon Ramsey's new establishment in Royal Hospital Road, and 'Murano', the new venue for Gordon's protegee - Angela Hartnett.

And were the revues glowing, well, no! Did the pundits have anything specific to complain about vis the food...well, no!  Frankly all they complained about was the decor or the stature of the sommelier....

Talk about ungrateful! Oh, goodness, what kind of curmudgeonly old grump are you, when fed Michelin starred vittles, you whine like...well, like the Grinch.

It's not even as if these jokers actually pay the bill - they are employed for this precise purpose!
Perhaps they need to be sent somewhere to use as a 'real life' comparison...a night out at a dodgy fast food joint or a motorway service station ought to make them significantly more appreciative!

Move over Whining Winnies...this bird wants a shot at being a foodie critic...and she and her stomach would be so much more grateful!

And as for where I like to eat...should you ever be in the vicinity, I'd suggest a visit to -

The Old Bell, Malmesbury. Tom Rains cooks up real delights, Severiano, the Maitre D' charms you, and you can retire to bed afterwards!

or

The Royal Crescent, Bath. Perfect cocktails, fabulous food, chic surroundings and attentive staff...and no, they're not too tall!

...and when Michael Caines starts at The Priory in February, I will eat and be happy, regardless of how 'corporate' the dining room looks!


Sunday, 14 December 2008

E for effort.

At the risk of sounding like a total fossil, I'm wondering if I'm one of a dying breed of people who like to thank people properly.

My BF and my lovely friend P. always send a handwritten note after a supper at our house, or after being given a prezzie...and I always do the same.

Sometimes I fail to meet proper etiquette rules and don't manage to send my 'thank you' within the correct form of three days, but I do always send one. 

I don't often manage to write something erudite, but hopefully my thank you notes always sound sincere, because they are. 
Let's face it most of us do actually appreciate somebody going to the trouble of cooking supper for us, or choosing a thoughtful gift....and sending a thank you is a good way of saying - wow, that was absolutely lovely / delicious / fun...I really appreciated your effort / thoughtfulness / creativity.

Recently, after a supper party (which was big on effort due to the dietry needs of one guest) only one of the four couples wrote to say 'thank you'....and that was by TEXT!

I apologise if this sounds ungrateful, but for goodness sake, how little effort is involved in actually sending a text message?
Answer: very little indeed!

Is there a widespread problem of paper and pen allergies?

Worse still, this evening we received a 'Christmas card' from one of the husband's oldest friends...this 'card' was by email...and this is what it was -

"Seasons Greetings
In line with many of our friends this year we are trying to trim our ever growing list of Christmas Cards Recipiants, so for all those that we are in email contact with, we are using this medium to send this years Seasons Greetings!!!
We hope that you have a Happy Christmas and a Great New Year whatever you are doing.
With Much Love
XXXXXXX"


no amusing pictures sent with it, no photo of them...nothing....whatsoever...or in their case "whatever"!


Here is our reply -

"What, no card with an ickle robin perching on a frosty branch?

What, no hyperlink to a website containing your family as animated dancing elves?

What, no three page newsletter?

You little rebels!"

...Do you think that they will politely get the message? 
When they receive my carefully chosen card, with it's handwritten message, do you think they might have a pang of guilt about their missing manners...for they jolly well weren't brought up that way!

I relayed this abomination of manners to my Mother in Law, who writes a personal message in each of her Christmas cards - she thought it acceptable to send 'e cards' only as long as they were like one she recieved last year which was an animated snowman, who moved his snow-manly 'dangly bits' to shoot down snowballs...the mind boggles, but at least it was very amusing!

...and there we are, back to the crux of this subject...it's all about effort, and if you're not prepared to put in a little effort...perhaps it's better not to bother at all, rather than offend old friends by covertly saying you really can't be bothered to put pen to paper?

I write this after writing 80 cards for friends and family and another 90 for the husbands company Christmas cards...and look my fingers are still fully functioning, if a little stiff...and I've written 'Christmas' so many times it's beginning to look weirdly abstract.
But it's done for another year....and that only leaves me with a new quandry...what do I do for those lovely bloggers who I think are witty and clever...in the real world I would send them a Christmas card...but what does one do when you only have an email address...answers on a postcard please!



Sunday, 7 December 2008

Fir Fettish!

"My name's Hen and I am a Obsessive Compulsive Christmas Tree Decorator...."

(supportive clapping from other members of the OCCTD group)

....huge sigh of relief from Hen, who has been feeling really, seriously, guilty (for years) that she is unable to let her family join in the fun of decorating the family Christmas Trees!

Why should it be so very difficult you may ask?


Mmmm, well that would probably have something to do with the fact that Hen's first job (while at Art school) involved decorating hundreds of beautiful Christmas trees for a smart London store...each one had to pass the discerning eye of the Design director, each tree had to be decorated in exactly the same way, and that meant each baubel being placed in the same position on every tree!!! 
When you do this a few years on the trot, it should send you screaming, never wanting to see another baubel or tree again....ever!

But Hen was a child brought up in house where the commandant in charge strongly disapproved of Christmas Trees, well actually just Christmas in general.

So is Hen's obsession with Fir some deep seated rebellion?

No, she just loves the smell, and since she is a complete an utter magpie, the sparkly baubels just add to the attraction!

Now, most people get huge pleasure watching their beloved offspring make decorations, and cover their tree in tinsel....OMG....can you see the Hen's involuntary twitch? 
TINSEL??? 
Random positioning???
Out of the question!

These poor tortured firs get the OCCTD treatment, they HAVE to look perfect, and that means the positioning of the different colours and shapes, and sizes is all important!



....Oh, colour, don't get her on to that....because her trees can't be pretty harlequin trees....no,no,no....her trees must be colour co-ordinated....to within a inch of their life!

And would the Hen like to lose this affliction....yes, she would, but you see, even if she did manage a multi coloured tree....there would be the issue of size, shape......

mmmmm, this is going to need A LOT of therapy to sort this one out....

....interesting case though!

Oh, Hen's just asked me to point out that I absolutely, definitely forgot to mention tree lights...which apparently is also a terribly important issue...white, white, white light is the right light....she says!

Hen would like readers to know that she has managed to drop her associated affliction of asking other members of her family to wrap presents in matching paper and ribbon...seeing mis-matching prezzies under her tree has no affect on her whatsoever...

twitch
           twitch
                       twitch

no, really it's fine (cue hysterical laughter from her padded cell!).




There's a hole in my ear...

We've all been suffering with really vile cold / flu germs....guess what? 

The only person in the family who was graced with antibiotics was the Husband...because obviously HIS germs were far more severe, being of the 'MAN FLU' variety.

So now he feels really pretty perky....
....No 1 and I are still feeling rotten, and have nasty ear infections...to us girlies, the Dr begrudgingly gave us some ear drops - they were fantastic....
....fantastic if what you want to achieve is a perforated ear drum...
...I'm trying very hard to be stoic about it, but it hurts....ALOT.

So tomorrow I'm calling him back....and I'm going to tell him we've jolly well got 'MAN FLU' too!

The question is, will a male doctor believe that it's possible for us to have that?

And more to the point, was 'MAN FLU' dreamt up by male doctors who realise that men just have a rubbish pain threshold?

Because, let's face it - if men had to give birth, us humans would have died out a long time ago!!!

My normal upbeat take on life will be resumed shortly!!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Blog Heaven

My mobile phone died this week - I have to admit to being rather pleased...

...it's shiny new upgrade is just what the blog doctor ordered...

Steve Jobs - THANK YOU SIR! 

The iphone is my super dooper new way of always being able to access blogs..


...I'm pretty sure that wasn't his original raison d'etre...

...but, YIPPEE! anyway!

Who needs Twitter when you can have the real thing?

Now I just need to figure out how!!
x


Sunday, 23 November 2008

We don't really live in the middle of nowhere...it justs feels like it!


This email was sent today...


Dear Waitrose,

From time to time I check our postcode to see if a wondrous thing has happened...to see if Waitrose has a care for those living in the no mans land between their stores?

We live between Bath and Cirencester...yet we aren't covered by either home delivery service - if you put in our postcode into your online store this is what you get -





STROUD???? 

ABERGAVENNY??????? 

Abergavenny...that's actually in Wales...not just a different county, but a different COUNTRY!!!

Who writes this stuff? Who sits in one of your offices, and dreamt that one up? I hope they had a good laugh, I jolly well did - for it may well have said Outer Mongolia!

I really like shopping in Waitrose, but I have to say it really tests my brand loyalty. Our nearest store is Bath, but in order to shop there I have to drive a 2o mile roundtrip, then pay £2.20 to park for the half an hour it takes to do the shopping.
Over a year this means spending at least £115 - just to park...and in the years that we have lived near Bath we have spent well over a thousand pounds...just in parking fees!!

(Can you feel the steam coming out of my ears?)

It has to be the only supermarket that does this? I understand the situation in Bath (the parking is not owned by Waitrose)...but this is 2008 - and I am still astonished that there is no online facility covering the surrounding area. 
Bath only delivers in Bath - an oxymoron if ever there was one.

There are plenty of nice little villages surrounding Bath which are inhabited by Waitrose shoppers, although you are losing them - you've almost lost me a few times!

Then there's Cirencester - Ciren is a great store and they have a lovely manager who would love to deliver to our area...but isn't allowed to, and frankly Cirencester is too far away to be practicable for our weekly shop.

So, there we are - where does that leave us? Still spending lots of 'dead' money on parking...just because I really can't 'do' the other supermarkets, which always look grubby, I can't find my way round and stuffed to the rafters with 'stuff' I'm not the least bit interested in buying (like clothes made in far flung sweatshops or boring electrical lumps of plastic).

And the reason for this email....well we all had flu this week...and it made me realise more than ever, that to have home delivery would have been a saviour...so Dear Mr Tesco, he won the day....and Mr Tesco (who we call 'the dark side' in our house due to them being omnipresent  (second only to Starbucks)) is perfectly happy to drive all the way from the nether regions of Bristol....

So....like Martin Luther King...."I have a dream..."

...is it too much to hope for....I don't seriously have to drive to Stroud....do I???

Kind foodie regards,
The Hen

Maybe I still have a temperature?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Cupcakes, Magnolia Style.

I got very excited a few weeks ago...it was the day the children broke up from school for half term... they were incredibly tired, and I thought, in need of a treat. As I wandered through Bath doing my shopping I spotted a new flower shop, and my interest peaked when I saw that she had sublet to another company making very pretty cupcakes. I'm such a magpie, I couldn't resist buying the children a box!



I had dreams of NY's Magnolia Bakery and gorgeous Sarah Jessica Parker glamour...
...sadly these were more old apple than Big Apple!
Dry, flavourless sponge...I thought rather wistfully of the Magnolia legend, and hit google!

Wow! The wonders of Cyberspace, within seconds I had been transported to NY and had the precious recipe....YIPPEE!

With no food colourings in the pantry, just some leftover Christmas cake decorations, my cupcakes weren't going to look quite as pretty, but I hoped they would be light and fluffy...


HURRAH - cupcake heaven

Her recipe makes a really fluffy sponge, and the vanilla comes through really well. The frosting is desperately sweet, but the children LOVED it!

So, for the price of a couple Bath cupcakes....we made 24!

A word of caution...I suspect the little silver balls would take out a loose filling!

Now excited at the prospect of being a cupcake diva, I have spent the GDP of some distant foreign state ordering a Wilton wire cupcake stand...and lots of the pretty decorations...BF has also found where to find the butterflies.....where would we be without Googledom?

I wonder how many calories might reside within a Magnolia cupcake? 
Mmm, on second thoughts, perhaps it's better to eat in ignorance!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Rare Birds


On my last post I received comments from some  'regular' commenters I am terribly fond of...there are quite a few of them that I would love to meet in the 'real world', but I also received a comment from a new (to me) blogger...lovely to see a fresh face, fresh ideas...so I toddled over to her blog to take a peek.

There Polly was talking about spending time with old friends vs strangers, and whether the Old Friends always win over.
I have to say, I think she's right, the friends we have through all our life's little ups and downs (sometimes big ups and downs) know us the best, and there is real comfort in being close to our special friends.

Though while we are on the subject, good girl friends are jolly hard to find - not all women make good friends, and sometimes through my life I have discovered that some friends do not have your best interests at heart. Perhaps as we age (it's got to be the only upside) we learn how to sort the wheat from the Chav?

In my life now there are two women who I think of as my dearest friends, you know, the ones you could ring in a crisis, the ones you trust to keep a secret, the ones who will give you their honest opinions and bring you back down to earth if you are being too princessy!
This special sort of friend is a very rare bird indeed... even rarer if they are the kind you can have a spat with, get over it, and resume normal service again afterwards.

My BF, there's lots I could tell you about her. I ought to hate her - blonde, tall, intelligent, witty, glamorous and exceptionally thoughtful...but she really is impossible to dislike. 
We share our highs and lows, we console each other about our children's misdemeanours (and discover all children are the same). We have the occasional whinge about our lovely Husbands (we do appreciate them really!). We compare notes on life's little challenges...most of all we get laughter, huge compassion and support...unconditionally.
I do wish BF was the sister I never had... she's a gem.

Then there's my dear friend P, how she manages to sync being spiritual, beautiful and incredibly funny I don't know? 
She is one of those people who radiates loveliness and calm...I would like to be more like her...but often my behavior is less admirable!

Sadly this is the real world, and rare birds like BF and my lovely friend P are endangered species! 
Too many women are spiky to other women, or gain perverse pleasure, by putting the cat amongst the pigeons.
Why they get a kick from this is a good question...and without too much psychoanalysis I think the answer lies in their own confidence - so does that mean that our best friends have to have chutzpah?
Perhaps the answer lies with my Mother in Law's favourite phrase...she always says with a grin "I am growing old disgracefully!" She doesn't care about her age, she just wants to have fun, and be close to those around her - she genuinely wants to make them happy too.

So thank you, lovely rare bird bloggers, for there are a good few of you out there in blogworld who are 'virtually' friends! It never ceases to amaze and delight me that so much empathy and support is spread across the oceans via cyberspace. You are fun and insightful...and as I said at the top - I would love to meet a good many of you in real life, for I suspect you are the kind of women who make really fabulous friends.
Although I do wonder - does not meeting in real life make it easier to be a good friend, and if so how much of that is as a result of writing? 
Perhaps thinking about what you are writing to someone, as opposed to opening ones mouth and engaging brain afterwards (a trick done too often by me) is a easier way of having friends?

Whichever way - I am a lucky old bird.

BF, P and pals, and all you fabulous cyber-gals...thank you for being you!
Hen
xxxx


Thursday, 30 October 2008

Alter Snogging and Cold Chicken



OOOPs - this blogging absenteeism is feeble I know, but it's been a busy month...becoming 40 is high maintenance I've decided!

For my actual Birthday I snuck off with my Bestest Friend (BF) to a fabulous spa for a couple of days of pampering...and an attempt to make me look a little less ancient (BF doesn't have this problem).
The hotel was lovely, firstly because it didn't look like an hotel at all, and secondly because everything was pretty perfect (which is saying something, as I'm famously fussy). 
Thankfully it was the kind of establishment which echews cabbage leaves for supper, and we ate very well indeed, a gorgeous Autumn menu with black truffle pasta, venison and pigeon...we modestly shared a pud - our tummies being quite full of game, champagne, French Martini and Vino. 
We wandered back to our room, laughing at how our children have had thousands of sleepovers together, yet this was our first! 
Our lovely husbands were 'home alone' with the children...while we sat in our beds drinking delicious vintage champagne (she is a fabulous best friend) and watching "Sex in the City" on the most enormous plasma screen telly!

The next day after a delicious breakkie and another round of primping and pummling we returned to reality...but not too quickly. My lovely Godson had given me the treat of meeting Michel Roux, a literary lunch and his new book "Pastry" (a fav personal subject of mine).
I was rather slow to come back to earth after a fab massage, so unfortunately  we were rather late for the ladies literary lunch, and we racked up at the end a little bit flustered and hungry...Best Friend whisked the remains of the MOST delicious tomato tart away from the exiting waitress, and we queued up to meet M. Roux.  
The Maestro is in his 70's and looks a little fragile, but don't be fooled, he had all us Wives of Bath drooling at his fab French accent, huge charisma and fantastic food, when we reached the head of the queue he looked perky, sitting in front of the Alter (this church having previously had Nigella 'preach'!)
Well, we had just spent two days being primped and pummled into utter gorgeousness...so what could a red blooded Frenchman do but take the opportunity of snogging and squeezing two of his youngest fans? 
The older tweed clad ladies behind us got extremely shirty about not getting snogged, one demanded "What if I say it's my Birthday, do I get a kiss?" The King of Pastry replied with a dismissive gaelic shrug and twinkly eye - what could he do? "We are in a church" he reminded her.
We were a smidge late picking up our offspring from the playground...as I raced in, the other Mothers were filtering out...THREE of them asked me if I'd had Botox?!!!!! I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or an insult - hopefully it's the former?! Or was it an inditement of how ropey I looked before? Mmmmm.

More Birthday spoiling followed, with the prettiest cake...


(BF is utter Domestic Goddess) and tea party...when the Husband appeared, at her house, I did think it was a tad suspicious....she took my offspring, and he took me off for a night of passion at our favourite local hotel (I know who got the better end of that deal...I owe her a very big favour indeed!)
More fab food later (there's a theme here!) which was utterly spoiling I was very happy, but what made me feel very pampered indeed was how much BF and Husband had made the treats just go on and on...no mid life crisis here -being 40 is fabulous...and one more gorgeous treat to come!

Of course this is the real world, so it was back to reality with a very large BUMP...a phonecall from school on the way home to report No 2 child is playing up, and not doing her homework....could we go in and discuss?...grrrrrr, just when you think all is fluffy bunnies and heavenly - why is that?

Anyhow, now it really is business as usual, back to school runs and chickens....speaking of which they aren't laying very well (they are moulting),  one is very bald indeed...so much so that this morning I had to fashion a 'jumper' out of an old pair of knitted tights, it should keep her warm - it's a polo neck affair in fushia pink. Hopefully she'll be as happy a Hen as I!



So 'Thank you' BF for being such a wonderful one, and 'Thank you' Husband for being so spoily...I'm a very lucky 'old bag' indeed!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Divination

It's been a long time since I last blogged - the combination of the children on summer holiday and our literal washout of a summer conspired to tie me 'to the kitchen sink'.

AAAAAAHHHH, it's jolly good to be back!

Speaking of water (there were no hosepipe bans this summer!!!) we had an interesting afternoon recently...

When we finally get round to refurbing this horrible pile, we are going to heat it with an open loop ground source heat pump. Smart Americans have been using these for yonks, but they are just beginning to become popular here.

In order to see if our site is suitable for an open loop bore hole we recently had a visit from a water diviner to check our ground! 

A rotund chap, he bore an uncanny resemblance to Jim Royle, which didn't do a great deal to quell my misgivings about whether divining is 'for real' or whether it's really a case of the Emperors new clothes....with us in the lead role of naked monarchs!

'Jim' marched around our garden with his bits of bent coat hanger, I have to confess I was having to try very hard to keep a straight face. This English upper lip was far from stiff!

I might have been able to have believed in 'it', had it not been for stage two of the divining process.

Once 'Jim' had selected his most favoured spot, under a tree (!) he proceeded to do further 'tests'...

Please don't pee yourself, but I will try to describe his antics...

'Jim' stood clasping one coathanger to his barrel chest, then bent over and touched his toes, exposing a vast area of wobbly white back crack. He straightened up, a Yogic like movement then followed, raising his free hand over his head and expelling air while he lowered his hand past his face, neck and then chest. 
"Ah, yes" he murmered "Yes, the water is   240' down."

He repeated his 'Yoga' move again....and declared "Yes!... and I would say you have about 58 gallons per minute there!"

The Husband and I exchanged micro expressions, which included covert raised eyebrows.

How much faith would you have in Jim Royle standing in your back garden making such outlandish claims?  Sorry 'Jimbo' I was struggling to believe in something which looked so comical.

After we had parted with 200 quid.....(was that worth the performance art?) he drove off to another wannabe naked monarch.

And the proof of the pudding......will be in the drilling, though given the amount of blasted water which has fallen out of the sky this summer....maybe we don't need to drill a hole after all?

For those of you who don't know Jim...this was my favourite clip - ever!

Update - we are so absorbed in this house project....we've forgotten that everyone else might not have read all those green building books...so here's a little explanation! 
A ground source heat pump is a way of using heat from the ground to heat your home, it can be done in a few different ways, one of which is a 'slinky' buried under football pitch sized piece of garden, which uses viscous glycol in it's tubes - hard to pump and can cause cooling to the ground over time. 
The other way is open loop - a very deep narrow 'well'  from which you pump up the ground  water, take out the heat and put the water back in the ground. True greenies don't like GSHP's because they use an electric pump for a few hours a day....sadly modern demands make living 'off grid' pretty impossible for most families....and having a hot bath once a week won't work for me!!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Incy Problem

Of late, the beautiful, sleek, German that shares our house has been having a little problem, she sits on the drive and wails, the Husband who is terribly fond of her, can't work out what is causing the problem, and it's been troubling him greatly.

Funnily enough this has only been happening since the Husband started cycling to work, perhaps Helga misses being taken to the office everyday? Temper, temper Helga!

Anyhow the wife and children were dispatched the other day to take Helga to a doctor ....obviously she had to see the best....but which one....the main dealership half an hour from home, that we usually use? No! Let's send everyone on a 'day out' and ask them to take Helga up the motorway for a hour to.....(wait for it).....SWINDON 
(deep intake of breath).

Swindon is quite a special place - not for it's beauty, but for the incredible fact that every part of it looks exactly the same, and it is utterly overpopulated by roundabouts....which again, all look exactly the same...even Helga's sat nav got confused.

After a lot of driving around in circles, and saying unrepeatable things about the husband, we were at the point of abandoning this trip and heading for home, when we spotted Helga's saviour, we handed her over to the men in white coats.
We sat for over a hour while she was examined, tested and monitored...

...the girls were very good, they played with the drinks machines, and made the whole showroom hot chocolate, which I am certain the staff appreciated (ha,ha,ha)!

Eventually, our expert appeared, to give his analysis of the situation...he looked grave...

"Well, Mrs Hen," he said, "we've run every test we can, and she's not showing any problems, I suspect that it could be...."

We didn't let him finish, for us girls had been suspecting the reason for Helga's symptoms for weeks......
...."Is a spider setting off the alarm?"

"Most likely" replied the expert, looking relieved at our reaction.

We rolled around the showroom floor clutching our stomachs and not even attempting to conceal our snorts of laughter (we did think it was funny even after the terrible journey).

"The best thing to do..." suggested the expert, concealing a smirk......"is hoover the car!"

All that fabulous german technology....and it's the good old hoover that saves the day!

We drove home, laughing like drains....and couldn't wait to tell the Husband about Helga's Incy Wincy problem!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Fridge confidential

Matron Mary had an 'open fridge' yesterday....and asked us to join in the expose....revealing through our fridges what we are really like! 
Quick! wipe off the sticky marks, chuck out the stuff with fur on it, remove traces of mouldy cheese....phew!

OK, Happy to oblige Matron...


Bit empty, I haven't been shopping for a few days...


just the basics...


which or course means plenty of gin...



proper meat lurks in the freezer...

veggies from the garden...

from this it is possible to deduce we are not in party mode, or about to receive guests...
...shame, that's when I'm happiest!

I suspect this says more about us...



In other news, I must thank Blackbird for her camping post...No 1 child read it over my shoulder... and cried...."ooh, I'm doing that too."....ten minutes later they had created this -





The cat doesn't look very impressed by the idea of a night under canvas!

However, the grown ups loved the idea!!!!

Family Portraits

Created today, our latest round of family portraits...

Mummy

Daddy

No 1

No 2

MMM...perhaps not the most flattering of likenesses!

How quickly did you guess that these were composed by No 2....

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Still Standing

Only the English could sit in torrential rain...





....and be as happy as happy can be!

Thank you Captain Fantastic....you rocked!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Prize day

Three hours of sitting through junior prize giving today left me feeling a wee bit gloomy and cynical...the way our prize day is structured means that my offspring have zero chance of winning anything.
Every year I watch on while the same ones win effort prizes (mmm, since mine see it as their mission in life to do the bare minimum, and spend the rest of the time having fun - little chance there then!). 
Then there are the ones who excell in sport, and win armfuls of huge silver cups.... mine will never get those either!
No 2's end of term report was a classic -
P.E and Games:
No 2 made a good start to P.E. this year, although she often forgets her kit 
(for this read deliberately hides it behind the changing room radiator) and cannot compete competiitively without this. 
She lacks confidence in hockey and netball, and at times can be easily distracted by others, which often results in missing key information....
(translation: No 2 is a total gossip who ignores all my lectures on the joys of netball).
By Miss England Sports Team Jolly Hockeysticks Teacher.

Shame they don't give out prizes for being a bookworm ...or for chutzpah!
The schools favourite way of describing her is 'lively' - this is teacher speak for a fidgit who talks too much!

Anyhow, now it's me that's 'off task', what I was driving at was that it's been one of 'those' days...
Today was only lightened so far by karma dealing a blow to the snooty mother who gave me a smug look when I 'skipped' my little car....at the end of prize-giving the Headmaster announced that somebody had illegally parked their huge, black, posh, four wheel drive...
...it had been towed away, and taken to the Police pound!!!! 
She really would have been better off parking the car in a skip like I did!

So it really was extra specially lovely to receive this from Green Girl -


THANK YOU! That was the perfect warm and fuzzy feeling that I needed this afternoon!!

This award is to be continued around the glorious world of bloggydom....what an easy task...

  1. Mary Alice - I can always rely on a stream of love and wisdom from the frontlines.
  2. Jen - she juggles her life with such good humor and such a huge capacity for caring for others.
  3. Suburban Correspondent - the ultimate mother....10 months of blogging and I now can't manage my children without her lists!
  4. Life as I Know It - gentle and funny.
  5. The Mom Bomb - I have to give her this.....or she'll blow!
  6. Mary - the rocking Matron...what would we do without her wayward, work shy students, dramatic children, scary journeys and impossible weather!
  7. Alice Band - for services to motherhood, kitten breeding, shopping and flirting with foreign dignitaries.
  8. TXPoppet - for fabulous canned laughter and gorgeously retro graphics.
  9. Clare Grant for making me grateful, and seeing 3BT everyday.
  10. Vlashka - at Mr B's...this is her first award - and out does the 'Nibby' by  an awfully long way! (just joking Nic!)

Thank you all for making my day so many times over, for making me laugh so hard my stomach aches, for making me cry, for being able to see that everyone is dealing with the same things, for the ace suggestions in childcare....and for always looking on the bright side...this is for you!
xxxxxHenxxxxx

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Would you? Could You?

I'd love to...but fear there isn't a novel lurking within....what about you?

Click on the image for a larger view

Does this apply to blogging too?


With a big hugs to 'Stanley' for letting me reproduce this gorgeously ironic gem from-

'The Catacombs Of Terror' by Stanley Donwood
Published by Hedonist Books
ISBN: 0 9541782 2 x


Never rains, but it pours

The weather for tomorrow has officially been forecast as...

"Absolutely dreadful"

...they said so on the telly!

Is 'absolutely dreadful' a technical term?

What does it mean?

Is it a tornado, a hurricane, a drop of rain or a dull day with clouds?

I'm guessing it means MORE rain!

Because the English aren't obsessed with the weather are they?!!!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Accessories for boys.


"The only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys."


I don't know who originally said it...but they must have been female...and they must have a Husband just like mine!

The Husband loves his toys - the most impressive was the sports car which he built himself, sadly it had to be sold when No 2 child arrived and we needed a car with 4 seats :-( .

Like most men he loves a gadget, he and friends discuss them (!) and love knowing who has got the biggest strimmer / mower / circular saw - bless! 
They are wired so differently from us!

The Husbands latest 'thing' is cycling to work....brought on when he moved jobs, and went into an office full of fitness supremos - within a fortnight he too, had joined the high vis' jacket crowd!

Yesterday he purchased some new cycling shorts and some special gloves with gel padding (such soft hands)...all went unnoticed until this morning, when he emerged wearing the new gear.
From downstairs, I could hear raucous laughter and hoots of derision from the girls....not normally given to laughing that early in the day. The cause of this humour....seeing their lycra clad father dressed in what have now been nicknamed "Susannah and Trinny magic knickers". However, the loudest squeals were a result of seeing the packaging for the gloves.

As you all know, men love techno speak...so not only do the new gloves have ' 3mm gel padding under chamude palm pads', 'articulated palms' and "airprene cuffs'....they also have a built in terry towelling NOSE WIPE....





....darlings, it's the latest thing I tell you....!  How yukky?

It might be lucky to have your glove picked up for you if you drop it....just somebody remind me - never pick up cycling gloves - you'll know what's on them!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Silly

Mrs G, mentor and all round good egg wrote today about a silly youthful moment she once had, and asked us to confess our silliest moments....there have been quite a few - where to begin?

At 16 I went to stay with an old friend of mine in Dorset - the lucky thing had been given a flat by her parents - so staying with her always felt so grown up!
This time, I arrived and was introduced to her new beau -  a bit of a 'Rupert' but polite enough!
After a late supper my friend (she was the first to call me Hen) and I decided it might be fun to go to a club..."No" said the young Tory boyfriend....he detested nightclubs....instead he made the suggestion of....
....dressing up as Roundheads and Cavaliers and driving to Corfe Castle for a walk....wouldn't that be amusing?




MMM, wasn't I glad he wasn't MY boyfriend?

Apparently, this was what he did at weekends (being a member of the Sealed Knot) - it was two against one (she was still in the first flush of love with him, and eager to please)....so I joined in (still thinking the club would have been much more fun).

She, He & Me..and the dog got in the car, and drove off to the castle!

The ruins of Corfe Castle look pretty creepy during the day - I have to tell you they look like something out of a horror movie at midnight!

We walked half way round the castle mount...when my friend and I both noticed a really strong smell of lemon! At the same time the dog started barking ferociously. She and I scrabbled around in the undergrowth trying to find the source of the smell - wherever we walked the smell appeared to follow us, but could not be found.

After a while, and being unable to console the dog, 'Rupert' began to wonder if he knew the source of this scent...."Hmmm" he pondered in all seriousness...."I believe this is the Castle ghost".....quicker than you can say 'grease lighting' us girls ran for our lives...and the silly boyfriend followed - his sword clanking against his armour as we made a dash for the car park.

Running through Corfe village dressed as Cavaliers at midnight - we must have made a bizarre sight, and all was well until a car full of drunken locals spotted us, and gave chase!

I can tell you, while we hid in a doorway gasping for breath, I did think it was just about the silliest thing I had ever done...

until the next time I made a bad decision!

As a postcript - the boyfriend turned out to be much creepier than the ghost!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Skipping

Lest any of you gorgeous bloggers out there suspect my life of being too full of bliss, let me share what happened last month....it's taken that long to sort it all out!

I feel I can share my shame after reading Suburban Correspondants blog....mmm, the blogosphere - are we just all members of one huge AA group? - Pardon the pun!
(the AA in the UK is a car breakdown and rescue organisation)
Firstly, I will try to persuade you that there were mitigating circumstances to my error of judgement!
I made lunch for someone I hadn't seen in ages...she spilled out her relationship woes....I listened, mopped tears....did tea and sympathy.

Then immediately afterwards I had to jump in the car to collect the children from school....I drove carefully enough (although my mind was racing about what she had been through)...the problems started when I went to park.

As I was running a smidgy bit late, the road was really crowded .
Aha - bliss - I spotted a really good sized space a little further along the road, just the other side of a skip (dumpster)



It was one of those moments you shout a little "hurrah" - someone kind is looking down on you!
As I drove towards the said skip, another car wizzed towards me from the opposite direction - thinking she was going to 'ding' my car, I shimmied into the space, and out of her way....

Well, that's what was supposed to happen - except I ended up scrunching up my own bodywork.

Did you know skips have really sharp corners?

I caught the back passenger door on the corner of the skip - I knew this, because there was a gut wrenching sound of metal ripping metal!

Now, being stuck hanging inelegantly off the corner of a bright yellow skip isn't a very comfortable position to be in....especially when you are outside school - and all the Yummy Mummies happen to be watching your skipping antics from their Pork Cayennes.

I tried to think quickly how best to unhook myself -
Should I drive forward?
Should I drive backwards?

Girls, I have to tell you - I did BOTH....
Both resulted in even more metallic crunching noises, and wincing from the Yummy Mummies - they almost registered horror (far too much Botox to actually register real horror).

My girls surveyed the damage - there was much eyeball rolling, and muttering about what 'Daddy' would say.

Once safely home, I rang my insurance company....after answering a zillion questions the best one they came up with was -
"And did the skip suffer any damage?"

I bit my lip hard - what I wanted to say was - "It was a naffing great big metal skip - it's fine - it's my car that's scarred".....but I had already spotted the deliberate mistake -
it was a huge great naffing yellow skip - so how the hell did I manage to hit it

Senior moment or school girl error - neither a good option!

The Insurance company sorted everything out, except that because it was my fault they wouldn't loan me a nice little German car while my nice little German car was in the garage......
Perhaps because I am the stupid woman who parked in a skip, and can't be trusted!
No, instead I get to borrow the dreaded garage loan car.....dah, dah, dahhhhh - yes, you've guessed it - a tin can on wheels.

The chirpy chappy from the garage said - "Ahh, we have a loan car for you - it's a Renault Clio Campus"....I will translate - a car for poor students - fabulous - I remain unconvinced that there actually was an engine beneath the bonnet, and pulling out at junctions was like playing chicken, since you were never quite sure if it would make it across the road.
I know I should have been grateful...and I was...it's just...

As if having the Yummy Mummies watch my antics wasn't punishment enough!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Four Rooms And A View.

Mrs G wanted to see our favourite spaces - happy to oblige Mrs G, here are mine -
Until 18 months ago, we lived in a beautiful little Georgian house - it didn't have much garden, but the house was really pretty - mainly as a result of us working on it for 12 years....but I loved every room.






I have to show you those - where we live now is a dump - work in progress...and will be for a while - I just hope not 12 years, like last time....so I'll stay outside - the view is better!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Bad Karma?

I had never actually killed anything....well apart from the odd spider...oh, and an awful lot of wasps (can't stand wasps) 
(obviously this doesn't include W.A.S.P.s - certainly never swatted any of them!).

I suppose living in the country it was inevitable, that at some point something would have to be despatched.

We've had an ongoing problem with squirrels (not the adorable, rare red variety, but grotty grey squirrels) and as friends of ours had their house totally flambe'd by squirrels, munching through electric cables in their roof, we are more than a little anxious about the damage these pests can do.

The Husband often does a little target practice on these beasts, but they are wiley creatures and avoid his best efforts (possibly his aim is a little off - but the opportunities inevitably arise when he has just got out of the shower, and he isn't exactly prepared for a hunting expedition.) Taking aim from the bedroom window whilst clinging to your bath towel probably isn't ideal. 
I certainly never imagined I would have to take on that mantle.

This afternoon I took some scraps to our hens, I took some time out to fuss one of our Easter babies - now a full sized rooster! 
While I sat on the grass tickling the rooster's tummy (he likes it) I spotted a squirrel on the other side of the electric fence. I growled at it and when it didn't move, I chased it away. I didn't imagine for a minute that it would reappear two minutes later giving me a squirrel version of the 'v' sign.
Other than throwing eggs at it (what a waste) I wasn't prepared for dealing with squirrels - so I shouted for the Hound.

The Hound's quarry is usually limited to tennis balls (she has a fetish for them), initially she was a bit slow to react. Thankfully she soon caught on to the concept of a new target and went for the 'tree rat'. 
What then followed was a surprise - The dog went for the squirrel, withdrew,  then the squirrel went for the dog, then played dead...only to launch another attack on the dog...then once again play dead. 
This battle was vile - with me feeling increasingly desperate, hating every horrible second - if the husband had been at home he would have dealt with the situation. 
My top concern was that the squirrel should be cleanly dispatched, and as the Hound was making a rather of a saga of it, someone else was going to have to do the deed....worst of all.... 
.....I suspected this person was me
Not wanting to be the pathetic 'girlie wuss' I tried to think what he would do, so I ran and got his gun....ahh - problem - I didn't actually know what to DO with it! 

Ugh, ghastly this was definitely not on my list of pleasurable summer afternoon activities. What to do? But call the Husband at work....
....of course his work colleagues thought it completely hysterical that his (obviously) loopy wife was calling him at the office to get operating instructions on firearms....especially funny that the aforementioned wife couldn't even work  out if said gun was actually loaded 
(WELL, I've never picked one up before).

Thankfully my first attempt was clean, quick - and the squirrel was no more.
Girlie wuss I might not be, but this hunting lark really isn't going to catch on with me - goodness only knows how much bad karma you get from polishing off a squirrel on behalf of a Hound who can only cope with chasing tennis balls?

Eating for England

Five days of clearing up vomit...and I'm the only one that hasn't actually thrown up! I have felt pretty awful, but did the starvation thing to kill of any bugs lurking in my stomach. So without the up chuck, but with all the other symptoms I have taken it easy the last few days.
My way of coping has been to don a big cashmere sweater, drink lots of water and read something light....reading when you are ill is a big thing for me - I actually have a little selection of books which are my 'ill' books - ones I turn to when I need cheering up!

This time I tried a new book - Nigel Slater's "Eating For England".



Wrapped up, with the book balanced on a pillow, I read his descriptions of 'English' food - it brought back so many memories - what is it about food which does that?

It got me thinking...what food memories I had from my childhood...

I grew up with a mother who despised cooking, she majored in reheating things - mostly from Marks and Spencer, with additions from Birds Eye - fish fingers with their luminous breadcrumbs, or beef burgers, which my mother thought were good quality because it said 100 % beef (oh, dear god - what parts of the cow?).

Pudding was equally awful, again things out of packets dished up without any love or care - Arctic Roll being one of the most disappointing - so dry it stuck to your tooth enamel. The other pud she bought was packets of Butterscotch Angel Delight - which I would make, I loved this - it tasted strongly of chemicals, but there was something soothing about the texture - comfort food!


Food was seen as a chore in our house, eating it bore no enjoyment, the biggest fuss being who cleared up afterwards - there wasn't a dishwasher in the early days.

The only light in this foodie hell, was the weekly visit from my Aunt, this saviour loved cooking - not, I suspect because she particularly loved cooking itself - but I realised from a very young age that she cooked as an act of love. Every week she would cook Shepherds pie, every week she would cook the potato and before topping off the pie, she would make a saucer of buttery mash for me to eat while the rest of the pie cooked.
This mash is one of my abiding memories of childhood and of her!

When I left home, I had no culinary skills (other than making Angel Delight or toast), I worked really long hours, came home tired....and repeated what I knew - microwaving more vile packets of ready prepped 'food'. It was only when we moved out of London and had children I began to question our eating habits, and gradually began to learn how to cook!

The microwave was lost a good ten years ago - it's only purpose for it's last few years was making poppadoms!

In Nigel's book he trys to describe different cooks - I fall between two - the 'grow your own cook' and the 'cool modern shopper cook' - perhaps because after 13 years I'm still 'in training'!

I'm an Aga (I would never have anything else now) cook, who has a penchant for buying cookery books - they sit on the kitchen window sill - good job it's a wide window, as there are now 72 of them! I follow recipes, and don't have the confidence to make things up. I swear by certain books, but can't bear Delia!

I shop at the local farm shop - and get a nervous twitch if I forget my canvas bags - plastic is a no-no!
I like heavy cookware, catering quality equipment, I get a perverse pleasure from saving leftovers and turning them into something else, I get a kick out of putting homemade things in the freezer!
I love 'wild' food - Elderflowers from the garden transform into ice cream and cordial, blackberries turn into Bramble jelly -then the summer pleasure of home grown veg from the garden. OK, so it's not rocket science, but sometimes it is the simple stuff that makes people happy!

Now my cooking is about LOVE, it is about the ingredients, what is in season. Not to pick the most expensive 'in thing', but to pick things that will comfort and please.

Nigel Slater's Aparagus and Lemon Risotto.

The Italians have it right - they cook with love and care - it is an expression of affection for their family and friends - I might have missed this when I was little, but I'm making up for it now.

So Mr Slater if you were to pigeon hole me - I'd like to be referred to as the "Trainee Italian Mama", and certainly not a "Cookery Hen"! ....Thank you for cheering me up!

If you would like a trip down the memory lane of pear drops, tapioca and crumpets buy "Eating for England".

Other rather good books by Nigel Slater on my window sill -
Real Food
Real Cooking
The Kitchen Diaries

also read - Toast (his biography)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Micro Blog

After 48 hours of No 2 being sick, and me scraping vomit off bedclothes at 3am....we are back in the world of the well.
I normally post a photo....perhaps not this time.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Ringing alarm bells

Yesterday on the breakfast news there was a report from Aldeburgh in Suffolk - to give you some background - Aldeburgh used to be a sleepy town of artists and fishermen.


In recent years it has become a rather 'popular' place to move to.

Aldeburgh is rightly proud of it's heritage, including the 500 year old church, and the rather wonderful bells.



Church bells may be silenced after residents have complained about the noise!

The Aldeburgh Festival, in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, was launched 60 years ago by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears and features the peal of the church bells, but 20 residents have complained that they disturb Sunday peace and amount to a statutory nuisance under environmental laws.

The Rev Nigel Hartley, the Vicar of St Peter and St Paul's Church, Aldeburgh, said: 'Our tower has stood here since the 14th century and its bells have been rung for at least 500 years. They have called the faithful to worship and reminded the less faithful of their heritage.'



Rev Hartley said that one of the petitioners had bought a house next to the church. 'What would happen,' he asked, 'if someone bought a house close to Ipswich Town football stadium? Would they, on the same grounds of finding it a nuisance, be able to silence the crowds at every home game?'

A council spokesman confirmed that there had been a complaint, although said that a formal petition had not yet been received.



It's interesting that the local council say that they have not received a petition - so it appears that this is only one individual - who obviously doesn't understand how to live in the country - or what a part of our heritage she is trying to lose.

Until 2007, we lived for 13 years in a village with an 800 year old church - complete with bells - every wednesday night the bell ringers practiced hard.....all evening.
It's a shame they weren't terribly good at it - but even so, the sound of the bells ringing was a pleasure - and an important part of our community.

I have to say it really irritates me, when people move next to a school, then complain about mothers parking and dropping off, or buy a property on a busy road, and then complain about traffic noise...
...buy a house next to a church, and hello! what on earth did you expect to hear from a church tower? heavy rock music, yodelling, elephants trumpeting?

If you really can't bear the natural noises which are part of everyday life in the country - then be a hermit, go live in a cave up a mountain - just be careful you don't get annoyed by bird song or the sound of wind blowing trees in a breeze - 
I suspect the Revd Hartley is far too nice to say this!

Keep Ringing! 
Ring loud and ring proud - we are too quick in this green and pleasant land to throw away our culture and heritage.


images courtesy of Google

Drunk

What is it about us Brits? 
With the Scottish parliament discussing banning shop sales of booze to anyone under 21 on a Friday or Saturday night, UK towns are full of drunken louts starting fights and clogging up our already overstretched hospitals, I suspect we don't have a healthy relationship with booze.

No other language has so many different words or phrases for being drunk - 141 to be precise!

drunk,• adj, euphemisms include:

Ankled (Bristol)

Badgered, Banjaxed, Battered, Befuggered, Bernard Langered, Bladdered, Blasted, Blathered, Bleezin, Blitzed, Blootered, Blottoed, Bluttered, Boogaloo, Brahms & Liszt, Buckled, Burlin

Cabbaged, Chevy Chased, Clobbered

Decimated, Dot Cottoned, Druck-steaming, Drunk as a Lord, Drunk as a skunk

Etched

Fecked, Fleemered (Germany), Four to the floor

Gatted, Goosed, Got my beer goggles on, Guttered (Inverness)

Had a couple of shickers, Hammer-blowed, Hammered, Hanging, Having the whirlygigs, Howling

Inebriated, Intoxicated

Jahalered, Jaiked up (West of Scotland), Jan'd - abbrev for Jan Hammered, Jaxied, Jeremied, Jolly

Kaned

Lagged up, Lamped, Langered (Ireland) [also langers, langerated], Laroped, or alt. larrupt, Lashed, Leathered, Legless, Liquored up (South Carolina), Locked, Locked out of your mind (Ireland), Loo la

Mad wey it, Mandoo-ed, Mangled, Manky, Mashed, Meff'd, Merl Haggard, Merry, Minced, Ming-ho, Minging, Moired, Monged, Monkey-full, Mottled, Mullered

Newcastled, Nicely irrigated with horizontal lubricant

Off me pickle, Off me trolley, On a campaign, Out of it, Out yer tree

Paggered, Palintoshed, Paraletic, Peelywally, Peevied, Pickled, Pie-eyed, Pished, Plastered, Poleaxed, Pollatic

Rat-legged (Stockport), Ratted, Ravaged, Razzled, Reek-ho, Rendered, Rosy glow, Rubbered, Ruined

Saying hello to Mr Armitage, Scattered, Schindlers, Screwed, Scuttered (Dublin), Shedded [as in " My shed has collapsed taking most of the fence with it"], Slaughtered, Sloshed, Smashed, Snatered (Ireland), Snobbled (Wales), Sozzled, Spangled, Spannered, Spiffed, Spongelled, Squiffy, Steamin, Steampigged, Stocious, Stonkin

Tanked, Tashered, Tipsy, Trashed, Trollied, Troubled, Trousered, Twisted

Warped, Wasted, Wellied, With the fairies, Wrecked

Zombied

So how is the binge drinking situation avoided? 
I was brought up drinking small amounts of wine at supper, in fact long before I was allowed to drink black coffee, I was given wine! 
I think I've got a healthy attitude to drink - I enjoy it, but don't overdo it - is that nature or nurture? 
I'm repeating the same attitude with our children - one hates wine, one loves it (worryingly) - and where will that take them - will they be drink aware? 
How are you guiding yours?

141 versions of drunk - from the bbc