Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Thoughts about Life in the Little House on the Prairie

 One of my favourite books during my own childhood was the Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 I've recently revisited it and am struck by the resilience of the children. During one episode, the two older girls are left by themselves, aged 8 and 9, as their parents and baby sister travel to town a few miles away. They are completely isolated, no phones, no neighbours, no electricity. They must fetch wood and water for their needs and their only companion is their large dog.

My own girls are older than Laura and Mary and have been through some extremely tough times in their short lives so far. I'm proud of them, the way they have coped and matured into two well balanced individuals. I'm proud of their thoughtful inquisitive minds, their sensitivity to others and the planet and I harbour the hope and belief that they will be able to safely negotiate the teenage years to become two very lovely women.

It makes me wonder if we underestimate children. Perhaps they are all as capable as Laura and Mary Ingalls were but we have been brainwashed into forgetting how determined and inventive most humans really are and at a very young age.

What do you think? How were you as a child?

Monday, 12 October 2015

A visit to Harry Potter Studios

Are there any children in the UK above five years old who have not heard of Harry Potter and dreamed of enrolling at Hogwarts?  I doubt it!  J.K.Rowling captured the hearts and imaginations of thousands with her book series and the films are probably destined as classics. So a trip to Harry Potter studios comes quite high on the wish list in our little family. Not that long ago for someone's birthday treat we made the journey to the edge of London to make the tour.

The entrance, with it's large canvas photographs of the main characters lining the walls, is large and impressive. There are masses of people milling around but the tours are fairly well regulated as you have a time slot so the numbers are not too excessive and the wait is bearable. The suspense grows in the crowd especially among the smaller visitors, some of whom are dressed in their best cloaks.

First we were shown into a small cinema and saw a short film of some of the background of the film and short interviews of the stars. Afterwards the birthday girl got to push open the great gates into the big hall of Hogwarts. After that you are free to wander around as you see fit and read or look at which ever exhibit interests you the most.

My children whizzed around fairly speedily and whilst somethings intrigued them, not all did so. We didn't ride on the broomsticks and pay £16 for a photograph because they didn't want to queue and (whisper here - you don't really fly!)

At the end of the tour you have no choice but to exit through the gift shop and if there is another more exorbitantly overpriced place I hope I never get to see it! The cheapest thing in the whole place was a small chocolate frog, and from memory it was priced at about £8. Plastic wands (made in china) retailed at £25, mugs from £12...well you get the picture. I was not a happy bunny as we had taken a friend of the birthday girl who had been given £50 to spend by her overindulgent mother and there was no way I could match it for my two even if I had wanted too. (That buys us a huge amount of groceries from Aldi!).

Was it worth it? Well, it ticked a box and was interesting but we wouldn't go again. Was it value for money? Not unless you are on a fairly high income. My advice to the families not so blessed is take your own food and have a picnic near the bus and place blindfolds around your children as you exit the place. Good luck!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Silence has ended!

It's been a while since I posted. Life can be difficult and for legal reasons I cannot post on here some of the reasons I have been so quiet. Still, after today and certainly by October 19th, things may be more sorted and our lives considerably more peaceful. Back to normal service very shortly!

Thank you XXX

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Remember the Time

The 11 year old adores Michael Jackson and on a recent browse around Waterstones, she spotted this book. Always anxious to encourage reading, I purchased it for her.

She loved it and was so enthusiastic that I borrowed it afterwards. Prior to the 11 year old I had not taken much notice of Mr Jackson but now am familiar with much of his work. Last year we got tickets for Thriller whilst it was on tour. Have to say it was the best show I have ever seen and if it ever comes this way again we shall be there.

This book is written by a professional writer to bring together the stories of two body guards employed by Mr Jackson in his later days. At first I was cynical, believing it was just another money making scheme. I take it all back. The love for Mr Jackson and his three children just oozes through the pages. The story is poignant, frustrating and moving. There are so many "if only" moments. I particularly appreciated how the story was told and then the two men each gave their perspective on it. They come across as wonderfully loyal and dedicated to their work.

I'm not going to say too much and spoil anyone's enjoyment but this gets a huge thumbs up from us and even if you are not a fan it really is a very good read.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Two by Two

New Trailer, Poster & Promo For Animated Comedy TWO BY TWO

Today whilst the big girl went to her first summer school adventure the little one and I had a few spare hours to while away before collection time.

"What shall we do?"  I asked

"Let's go and see a film" said my 10 year old who is partial to the cinema. So we drove to our local one so fond out what was showing. Luckily for us one was about to start and it was one of the movies for juniors so was only £1.75 per ticket.

The friendly assistant recommended Two by Two saying it was very funny. We purchased our drinks as we opted for this one.

It was ok. No it wasn't. It was quite boring and very predictable. Half way through I noticed the daughter was stirring but she didn't look at me or I would have suggested we leave. Afterwards she said she wanted to go but thought it was a bit rude to walk out. (Love this child, she is so polite).
Maybe the younger children will enjoy it but for us it tried too hard to tick all the boxes;
Fluffy heros with enormous eyes,
Independent loner learns about friendship,
Awkward social misfit creates a team of misfit loyal buddies,
Evil pair get their comeuppance,
Rescue happens at the last minute,
Emotional music indicates how to react

Well you get the picture...

The best bit was the trailer before the film. Horrible Histories doing William Shakespeare, coming out on August 21st. Now that does look very good!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

School appeals

Because of where we live we were allocated a school nearly 9 miles away from home instead of the school which is 4 miles in the other direction and in the same town as I work and the primary school both girls attended. This effectively meant the 11 year old would not know a single person as all her class mates succeeded on securing places in the local town.

I bought a book on school appeals, as recommended by the primary Headteacher, who also gave me a few pointers. I read that book so often I could have taken an exam on it! I followed all the advice and spent hours researching the statistics on all three schools in the local town. I knew the number of teachers, support staff, the number of  pupils needing special help. I knew the sizes of classrooms and the minimum government requirements. I wrote my appeals and sent them off in time.

I attended 2 of the appeals which are similar to a court experience. At the first, only one other parent asked questions apart from myself although 20 parents were there. The first Headteacher was pompous, sarcastic and vain. It was the first time I had seen him and my first impressions were not good (can you tell?). When it came to my interview with the panel I found it emotional and difficult. After all this really matters to you and your child and if you get it wrong or make a mistake then it is only you and your child who suffer.

There were 22 appeals for the first school. They accepted 2 extra pupils but we were not one of them.

The following week the next appeal was held. This time it was not as daunting and more parents spoke up at the first meeting. The Headteacher of this school is delightful and is one of the reasons his school is now outstanding and oversubscribed by 30 places. I enjoyed my interview but as I spent time with a distraught lady whose interview was just prior to mine I felt her case was far more needy than ours. My daughter will do well wherever she ends up (I hope!) but this lady's son had real needs to be at this school. I volunteered our prospective place to her when I began my interview. They said it did me credit but they still wanted to hear our case.

We didn't get in.

At the end of the school year we found that the school we are going to has plummeted into special measures. I went to the meeting and was dismayed by the lack of attendance by future year 7 parents. Out of 240 pupils there were probably only 50 at the maximum. I rang the school admissions and found we were still in 13th place at 2 schools but they could offer us another place at a 3rd school where most of the year 6 primary school were going to. The problem is getting to it as traffic is grid locked everyday and it would be a horrible, difficult journey. We turned it down.

Resigned to our fate we have made the best of it. Then yesterday I received a letter telling us there had been a review and we have a place at our first choice after all! (The one with the nice Headteacher). How did that happen? I have no idea how we have queue jumped but we are very happy.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Little travelers

August 13th already. Where are the summer holidays going?  The youngest cousin is over from Vancouver, Canada for a short visit. She is a delightful girl and every time she speaks I want to smile as it is like being with a Disney character. That cute little accent. Her mother, who is as English as can be, has lived out in Canada for years yet still sounds (and looks) like Emma Thompson the actress.

Both my girls have been lucky enough to go out to Canada to stay with their Auntie and the eldest has decided she will live out there when she is an adult. When asked why, instead of talking about the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the people there she replies, "it's the pancakes, they're so good". Why else would you emigrate?

We have another cousin preparing to travel. Their older cousin is flying to Australia with a friend in October. They plan to buy a camper van and work their way around the county as they both have good trades. One is a carpenter and the other a mechanic. What a wonderful experience, don't you agree?

Where would you go if you had no responsibilities and six months to spare?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Marrow rum part 2

  Well the marrow rum is now in a demijohn and bubbling away nicely. When I first put it in there it seemed nothing was happening and I was a bit concerned. Next morning however it was fizzing like a bath bomb and overflowing through the air lock. Whoops!  It has settled down now and continuing to gurgle away quite happy to itself.

Inspired by this we cracked open two bottles of ginger beer. Well the first one popped like a champagne cork but luckily I had a good grip on the top and managed to hold the lid in place until the froth quietened down. It is like a sparkling lemonade texture and is a pleasant refreshing drink. The 11 year old would prefer not to have any lemon bits floating in it so I will have to sieve hers next time. Will I make it again?  Yes. It has 10 teaspoons of sugar spread out over 12 bottles so much less than some commercial drinks. It makes a change from water or milk for the girls and it is fun to open!
It is also very cheap now I have the equipment so helps with our frugal lifestyle.

We had a sip of cherry brandy and it is very nice already. The cherries strong flavour is lovely. I don't like brandy but this is fine.

Our Summer holidays are racing along. In less than four weeks they are back at school. I hope the girls remember a happy time. they have not been bored and I think they have enjoyed the rest.

Thank you for reading, I do appreciate it.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Thought for the day


                The Parable of the Talents

This has been on my mind today as I pondered its meaning more fully. Yes I've known the story for years, after all I went to a Church of England primary school where pretty much all we did was learn Bible stories and have nature walks. Bit of a shock when I got to senior school!

Why now? Well I've been re-reading one of my favourite books, The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success by Dr Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab. They talk about this particular parable in one of the earlier chapters linked in with one of Andy's anecdotes on the harsh selection process into the SAS.

Today it struck gold as I realised the meaning of it. (Duh, how long has that taken). There will always be someone with more talent / aptitude / wealth / beauty or whatever it may be. This does not concern you because you have to start with where YOU are and with whatever talents ect you have been dished out with.

Suddenly I've realised it is fine to stop comparing and instead make the best of what I am NOW and get on with. Most of my life I have believed I was not good enough and so quietly withdrew from many opportunities. Shame maybe but in the spirit of my new found wisdom, I can shrug my shoulders, it is done, and start right this second to make the best of what I've been given. This could well be one of those small changes that has a big impact. Time will tell.

Thank you for reading, I do appreciate your time. X

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Play station blues

I worry sometimes, ok quite a lot, that the 11 year old spends too much time on the playstation. I hear her chortling away to herself and her online friends. I hear some arguments at times and I'm quite impressed with her maturity in dealing with these spats. She has a microphone so can hear the other player which I find reassuring as then it is easier to judge the age of the faceless one.

She is happy and being creative, designing costumes and chats about what she is up to. So why do I worry? Because I remember a childhood being outside more than in. A long rope swing suspended from a tall tree on top of a hill, far more exciting than any tiny municipal park one. We had animals, a herd of goats, chickens, cats and dogs all running wild with us.

So is my daughter missing out? It is a different world now and I'm told by other parents that their children are the same. I can see she is happy and she is communicating with friends although not physically present. I spend much time on the internet myself, dipping and browsing and it's a wonderful tool and great entertainment. We do not watch television because of our internet fix.

I know she is happy. I know this for sure and she wants to be a professional gamer as a career. Last week it was an artist or a model. Childhood is short and already she is on the cusp of teenage changes. So I've decided to let her be, not nag and today it paid off. She voluntarily accompanied me whilst her sister was at dance and we had a lovely time. Browsing in my favourite bookshop, then looking at art materials for her. Walking and chatting and I thought then, I think she is going to be just fine, a lovely well balanced young woman.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

And GOD said


               AND God said to Man
               Be not afraid for I give you Woman
               and she will love you and support you
               to every corner of this world.

               And God created the Earth
               And it was round

               And God laughed and laughed and                          laughed

                             and so did I when I saw this saying propped up inside someones window.
                             Have a good day
                             Much Love

                             HonestlyMum X

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Rhubarb wine recipe

So another liquid concoction is simmering away in the under stairs cupboard. I've got high hopes of this one as it looks really pretty already and smells divine. I'm only at the second stage and it is not in a demijohn yet. So do you want the recipe? There are loads on the internet and this is sort of an amalgamation of them and I have no guarantees as yet!

Stage 1

Rhubarb -  3lb of stalks
Sugar         2.5 lb (approx)

Clean and chop the rhubarb into small chunks and with all the sugar place into a spotlessly clean bucket, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 3/4 days somewhere out of the way.

Stage 2

Strong black tea
Wine yeast
Yeast nutrient

Boil the kettle a couple of times, make a pot of tea and pour the water and tea over the rhubarb/sugar mix until covered. Leave to cool until tepid.
Strain off the pulp and keep the liquid! I simply fished out the rhubarb with a large slatted spoon and placed it into a jelly bad to sieve it.
Top up the liquid until you have a gallon and a half (about half way up your bucket)
Once this is done add your yeast and yeast nutrient to the liquid. Don't do what I just did and stir it too early. Leave for a week.

Stage 3

Simply siphon the liquid into a demijohn and fit an airlock. I didn't know what this was but it is a clear "bubbly" plastic attachment that you fit into a bung with a ready made hole. I bought 2 bung, 2 bubblies, a sachet of yeast and a jar of nutrient. Altogether it came to £4.20 which I thought was pretty good.
Now you simply let it ferment and you know this is happening by bubbles popping up to the surface.
After a month you can rack it into another demijohn to clarify it. This means you siphon it off and leave the dregs in the bottom of the old demijohn. You can do this again in another month if you want to.
The fermentation should continue and this will gradually cease over time and it will then be ready to bottle when all bubbles have stopped or you can leave it in the demijohn until you wish to drink it as I've been told it improves the flavour to be kept in bulk. The longer you can bear to keep it, the better the flavour although it can be consumed once the fermentation stage is finished.

Your good health!...hic...

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Marrow Rum

At the risk of sounding like a prospective alcoholic, this is the fate of some of my marrows (which were delicious courgettes but now have expanded to magnificent monsters). I hauled one of these beasts over to Jim and Brenda and it was they who suggested making rum. Apparently it was a country custom to cut off the top of the marrow, de-seed it and fill the gap with brown sugar. Some recipes also suggest adding a handful of raisins, lemon juice, an orange and the rind, wine yeast and yeast nutrient to the mix. Once filled, the top is replaced and the marrow hung from the ceiling, (in a pair of tights!), and every other day or so, checked and the sugar topped up until the level no longer goes down. After about 2 weeks the marrow feels squidgy (do you like the technical terms?) at which point you grab a clean bucket or two and a knitting needle. Stab the bottom of the marrow and all the juice pours out. Then it is sieved through muslin or a jelly bag into a jar and left for 7 to 8 months before drinking.
It comes with a warning. Only drink one very small glass otherwise when you stand up, you will but your legs won't!

A search through the internet found lots of these recipes but also discovered one on here http://www.selfsufficientish.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3112 on page 5 by MKM (thank you!)
This is the one Jim and I are both trying out with little adaptations of our own. Jim is mixing his sugars (mainly because he hasn't got enough brown sugar) and I've omitted the orange and added more raisins although I may add orange in later. Seems straight forward enough anyway. I was going to tease Jim and tell him he needed 15 marrows but he told me to "bu**ar off"! The marrow I gave him weighs 9lbs (4kg+) so it is twice as big as he needs. He is totally blaming me for his renewed interest in home wine making. Come Christmas I'm thinking stick strictly to coffee when going to each others homes.

I've also started off some Rhubarb wine...

Do let me know if you're trying any of these. :o)

Monday, 3 August 2015

Doggy doings

She may look cute but don't be fooled. There I am, sat at the kitchen table, working on the laptop and every so often something makes me sniff the air. What can it be? Eventually I recognise a distinctive whiff. I look underneath my shoe. No. I look under daughter's shoes. No. Maybe I am imagining it. Carry on working. Sniff. I look to my right where the dog has a bed. No! There in her bed is a big smelly pooh! She is nowhere to be seen and as I remove offending bed and its contents outside there she is looking very guilty. Rolling on her back looking submissive.

Moral of the story? Don't get a pet!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Ginger Beer

Look at these beauties all bottled and stored ready for drinking in August. I have my doubts that my children will like it but Jim, my lovely 80 year old neighbour, remembers his three children loving Ginger Beer when they were young.

So he came over yesterday to make sure it was all done properly. The bottles and syphon kit were purchased from The Range, costing £9.99 and £3.49 respectively and then 6 juicy lemons bought from Aldi. Oh and a new plastic bucket from B&Q which cost a £1. Add to this the cost of a bag of sugar, and ginger spice and this first batch of 12 bottles has cost about £19 so each one is approx £1.05 each. If I make another batch, and the original plant is already off and running again, I am only needing the food ingredients which will be £3.20 if I shop at Aldi, for another 12 bottles so each one is coming in at under 27 pence each.

So do you want to try it out for yourself?

The recipe

The plant:
One clean empty jar (large enough for 2 pints of water)
1 pint of fresh cold water
1 tsp of ground ginger
1 heaped tsp of sugar (white or brown, your choice but drink will colour accordingly)
1 tsp of yeast (I used some of a sachet of fast acting bread yeast)

Place all ingredients in a jar, shut the lid and give a good shake. Now open the lid, leave it open and place some clean kitchen towel paper over the top to stop anything getting in. Put the jar somewhere warm, where you will see it, otherwise if you are like me you will forget to feed it.

Feed it once a day, for the next 10 days, with 1 tsp of ginger and 1 tsp of sugar. You should notice a soft sediment forming on the bottom of the jar and the liquid going cloudy. This is good!

On the 11th day do not feed and leave at least 12 hours after the final feed before you take the next step.

Fill your bucket with 1 and 1/2 gallons of water. Mark the level of water on the outside of the bucket with a permanent marker or a piece of tape, whichever is easier. Empty the water onto your garden and dry off the bucket.

Take the very clean bucket and pour in a full kettle of boiling water. Add 1 and 1/2 lbs of sugar to the hot water and stir until dissolved. (This is for 1 and 1/2 gallons). Add a pint of cold water to cool it down. Feel the outside of the bucket. It needs to be warm not hot so add more water if you need to.

Juice your lemons and remove all pips as they will taint the taste of the ginger beer. Lemon bits are fine to leave in the juice. Leave the juice in a dish.

Now carefully bring your plant onto a table and place the bucket of sugar water on the floor nearby. Let the plant settle for a moment so the sediment remains undisturbed. When all is well, use the syphon to take off the ginger liquid from the plant into the bucket. Leave about a 1/2 inch of ginger liquid above the sediment in the plant jar, so to be clear, you are only taking the top liquid from the plant and not any of the sediment. You have to suck up the tube of the syphon to start the liquid coming into the bucket on the floor. Quite fun but tricky and easier with two people so you can hold everything in place.

Now add the lemon juice to the bucket and use a clean jug to add cold water up to the 1 and 1/2 gallon mark you made earlier. Congratulations you've made ginger beer.

Fun part next. Grab a jug and a funnel small enough to put into the neck of your clean empty bottles and start filling them one by one with the ginger beer from the bucket. *IMPORTANT*  Only fill up to the shoulder of the bottles, this stuff needs expansion room so at least a clear 2 inches from the top. Clip the tops on and wipe the outside of the bottles in case any residue leaked, and store them out of the way for now. Mine are going in the garden shed. Leave for a minimum of 10 days and the longer the better, so Jim says.

With the original plant, keep it and add a teaspoon of yeast, a heaped teaspoon each of sugar and ginger and 1 pint of clean cold water and restart the process if you want to make more.

When ready to open a bottle, an ADULT must take it outside and hold the top down firmly as you open it very slowly. If you have seen those guys spraying champagne when they have won a motor car race this will give you an idea of what can happen!  Enjoy a refreshing home made non alcoholic drink because you deserve it.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Crocky Trail

Crocky Trail

Today we went to the Crocky Trail which is near Chester. We regularly make a trip in the holidays and usually take along someone else's child as the more friends, the more fun to be had.

It's hard to describe this place and each time we go something has been added or changed. You'll find nothing like it anywhere else. Basically it is the genius idea of a farmer who believes children need rough and tumble adventures in the freedom of outdoors. It appeals to all ages, (and dogs) who can try the variety of ex farm machinery games. Then there is the trail itself with the variety of rickety bridges, rope swings and obstacles alongside a stream. I've seen groups of teenagers whooping along absolutely caked in mud.

Recently they have introduced the dungeon and a small interactive film show for the more intrepid visitor. Trust me these are genuinely scary and don't take in a sensitive child or adult. They do an adult Halloween in October but I've not been brave enough for that one!

If you go, then pack a picnic, spare clothes which you can leave in your car and collect when/if needed. When you go around the trail do carry drinks as half way round your child will be red faced and thirsty. Do only wear old tatty clothes as everyone gets black and filthy and be prepared for bumps and bruises. Keep legs and elbows covered if you can.

This place comes highly recommended by us and in the years we've been going I've not had a single child come away unhappy. Usually they and their families become regulars too and the great thing is older children love it as well. Actually, usually as I'm driving out of the place the children fall asleep as they are absolutely worn out!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Musing and pottering

It's been a funny couple of days. I'm finding it strange not working at the moment, Odd how when I am there is so much I want to do but when I actually have some time I can't remember what it was.
The girls haven't wanted to do much really and apart from some games of badminton and chess with the youngest we've all pretty much done our own thing. What happened before the internet?

I've been time wasting on Mumsnet and browsing through the relationships section. Oh my there are some sad stories on there. Some are almost identical to my own so I can relate to them. It does make me cynical about marriage, which is a shame as I'm sure (am I?) that there must be some happy ones out there. Good luck to you if you are in one!

For some relief I turned to the wonderful thread on weird internet dating on the same page. Well I laughed until tears rolled down my face. Really? If only half of these are true I'm certainly not trying online dating. Some of the posters tell it really well and it does make for entertainment but away from it I find it all a little sad. Are men and women so very different? It would appear so from these threads...

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Gooseberry muffins

Well it's been another rainy day so a bit of baking was in order. Plus we were waiting for a delivery man and couldn't go out. First came the "Glut Pies" which were made in the muffin tin. Shortcrust pastry, blind baked for 10 minutes then filled with a mashed up mix of lightly fried courgette, carrot, spinach, garlic and potato. Added some grated cheese then popped back in the oven. They were yum but a bit spicy for the girls as I had used a chili that was lurking in the fridge.

Next came these beauties. "Glut Pies" used up some of the veg from the garden but what to do with 6 raspberries, 10 blackcurrants and a handful of dessert gooseberries? Muffins of course, why not?

Gooseberry muffins
8oz self raising flour
4oz butter
3 or 4oz sugar (depending on tartness of fruit add more if needed)
1 egg
splash of milk
gooseberries (and 6 raspberries and 10 blackcurrants!)

Cream butter and sugar together in bowl. Add beaten egg and flour gradually to mix. Use a splash of milk if needed then add fruit and mix until just combined. No need to overdo it.

Put into paper cases in your muffin tin and bake in hot oven 190 C. These took about 15 minutes but my oven only works on the top and is hotter at the back so your oven may do it in a shorter time.

These were lovely and it is taking all my will power not to pig out on them. As we also made jam tarts and chocolate cookies it has been a gluttonous day.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Odd jobs

Time off with the children is a wonderful experience and I am grateful for the opportunity. Many working parents must juggle childcare and work commitments throughout the long school holidays. We are mostly pottering and I'm getting some of those niggly jobs done. The photo above shows the chair revamped for the 10 year old. Like me she adores patchwork and colour and this is what she wanted her chair to look like.

Originally this was a battered old chair which was gifted to us. Hey we're not proud and could give it a new home. Firstly the wood was rubbed down with some fine sandpaper, cleaned and then painted a soft duck egg blue using the Dulux brand. I've tried cheaper paints but trust me in the end they are just not worth it, Often to get a good coverage a cheap paint needs extra coats which is time and labour and the finish is never as neat as with the more expensive types. My favourite is Crown simply because I've found it the most consistent for good results.

Next the 10 year old wanted the seat cover changed from the dull beige of the original. It was in good condition so I sewed the patchwork directly onto it by hand. Luckily for us we had acquired a pretty patchwork skirt in a charity shop and simply used this. It has also been used as a lampshade cover, again simply sewing it onto an original cover. I think it works well and looks feminine and the 10 year old is very happy. She has decided she now wants patchwork curtains but we'll have to find some other material for them at a later date.

Oh, she has a thing about owls...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Rainy Sunday

Rain. rain and yet more rain on this Sunday but luckily we had things planned. First we went to a photo shoot no less which was a Christmas present form my lovely brother. After some awkwardness and quite a lot of acting because the girls had to pretend to like each other, the photographer was done. Next was a trip to Starbucks as the 11 year old thinks this is a cool place to be seen. Afterwards we went to the cinema and saw "Inside Out" which was an unusual film but we all laughed so I think it was a success.

Home, and the 11 year old disappeared to her bedroom and technology and the 10 year old pinched the laptop so I got the sewing machine out and attempted to fix it. Oh Yeah! Did it and made a pillow case with some material I've had for ages. I like my home made pillow cases. :0)

So easy to make and plenty of tutorials on the internet although just use one you have as a rough guide, cut out material, with seam allowances, make one side longer for the envelope that is tucked inside, hem both short ends, fold over the envelope part (I like to make mine quite long) and sew up the two sides and the bottom. That more or less is it and it is so easy to do I don't think I will ever buy any again.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Another ghostly event

Look at these beauties picked today. I'm so glad we planted young fruit trees in the garden as it is paying off this year. These have already found a home in one of the demijohns along with some sugar and a bottle of brandy from Lidl. I don't particularly like brandy but we'll see what cherry brandy is like and it will make nice Christmas presents hopefully. The trying something new everyday is going quite well although it has mostly involved homemade brewing and recipes. I did sell my wedding ring in a pawn shop last week which was definitely a first time thing. I got £32 for it and the girls split the money and spent it in Claires Accesories on girly fripperies.

I mentioned seeing Mr Bartlett, my resident ghost, in yesterday's post. Well he was not the first time I've seen one. When I was 18, my grandmother on my mother's side died and we were all very upset. Three days later, I was playing my piano and having a little private cry when suddenly she was there stood besides me. It was midday and she was smiling at me, a beautiful wide smile. Her hair was in soft dark grey curls, she was wearing a yellowish cardigan and dark trousers. She told me not to be upset as she was fine and so happy and there was nothing to worry about. I didn't hear the words but they came as the clearest thoughts. I went and told my Mum and I didn't cry anymore for my grandmother. I smile when I think of her and am so grateful she took the time to come back.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Bumps in the night

I wish I had her energy! Today has been rainy and glum so a wall has been repainted white, an oak beam has been sealed and varnished and another beam is being stripped of old manky paint, years old with lots of bumpy dust bits stuck underneath the paint. I think preparation was not something this little old home ever saw much of. According to Jim. my neighbour, who popped over earlier with two gorgeous mini cupcakes for the girls. there has been a history of interesting tenants.

 The one before last used to display a 10 foot high inflatable Elvis in the garden frightening many an unsuspecting driver. This guy also was a bit of a rogue and fell out with many people including his landlord. His revenge as he was evicted was to leave a Shetland pony and a large dog in the house whilst he was away wheeling and dealing. There are still teeth marks in two of the doors today.

When this cottage first came on the market I missed it as I wasn't quite ready to purchase. My funds were limited and I was beginning to despair of finding anything I liked. Then this one came back on as the first buyer mysteriously disappeared. I went along and instantly fell in love. It was in dire need of modernisation but with every step I took I knew it was the home for us. Even the bedrooms were all an equal size not like the modern homes where bedroom 3 is the size of a coffin. It took 7 months because the Co-op were the sellers and they would not accept offers but made everyone put in a sealed bid and a written statement of personal circumstances. Each stage went through several board meetings and I knew when we were in the last three that our luck might finally be in. It was and I still love this place and most visitors comment on the feel of it. In spite of it's age I don't think it is haunted, certainly not by an unhappy spirit.

 One place I lived in had a very cross ghost. I saw him standing at the end of my bed glaring at me. He was so put out with me being there. He was short, brown eyed, dumpy and dressed in brown tweeds and wore a cap. I still remember it well although in sheer fright I pulled the duvet over my head and must have fallen asleep eventually, I moved my bed the next morning into another room and moved out shortly afterwards. The girl who moved in after me was a policewoman and she only managed a month. I wonder if he is still there! If you sat downstairs sometimes you would hear his footsteps in the room above you even during the daytime. That was a little cottage in Devon just down the hill from the Lympstone Royal Marine training camp,

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Paint and punches

The 10 year old has chosen her colours along with a homemade patchwork cover for her seat. I think it reflects her very well. She loves to live in colourful chaos and a tidy room makes her feel uncomfortable and sad. She is one of those people who likes to spread her things out everywhere.
The 11 year old is the opposite and cannot bear untidiness although she does not ever offer to clean up so as you can imagine there are many clashes between these two.

I hope as they get older they may become friends but seriously have my doubts. After all why do we expect siblings to get along? They can be so different and there is always an undercurrent of rivalry no matter how fair the parent strives to be. I am often accused of preferring one daughter to the other which is untrue but I can see why she might believe it so. I am sometimes too quick to assume the eldest has punched her sister without provocation and I know that this is not always the case. Sometimes I read or hear other parents talking about how well their children get along and how they never argue or fight but sweetly share everything. Do you know what? I'll whisper it in your ear, just between us, I don't believe them...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Sweetness and gin

Well we have bottled up the strawberry gin and it is sweet and tasty. Perhaps a little on the sweet side but we will let it stand for a few months and have some more sips. When I say we, I mean me of course although I know the 11 year old would like some!

Jim is telling me to pickle my beetroot and let my courgettes become marrows to make wine. He wants to come damson picking with us in the autumn and make more wine. His wife says it is like a brewery in her house. Whenever she opens a cupboard door or the airing cupboard there is a demijohn or a jar or something gurgling away. Jim blames me, saying  I have started him off again on an old hobby. Either way I think we must seem like a pair of alcoholics. I have the best neighbours,

I'm still cogitating over yesterdays events with the angry lady trying to get credit out of my brother. I feel a little sad and wonder why it is people do seem to think they can take advantage of us as a family. The 11 year old is Miss Feisty Pants so I know she will probably be smart enough to do well in life but the 10 year old has victim written all over her. She is just so nice. So gentle and sensitive and generous. She reminds me of my Mum. I wish they were both tougher with some of the folk who take advantage of their kind natures. It's a worry isn't it seeing those you love most getting hurt.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Chess moves

I'm playing chess, without my queen, against my youngest daughter who intends to compete in next terms Chess club at school. When she has beaten me three times in a row I'll reintroduce the most powerful piece on my team. Strange isn't it, that in such an ancient game, the King is weak and needs protecting and the true power lies with the queen.

If life is like chess then today I sacrificed a pawn. Those are the small guys, the cannon fodder if you like. A mum I chat to sometimes and whose daughter is friends with my youngest is no longer speaking to me and therefore preventing her daughter from associating with mine. I find this sad, and rather immature of the lady, but luckily my daughter does not seem overly concerned. My crime is to be related to a garage owner. The lady in the story, I cannot really call her a heroine, has recently become unhappy with service at another garage, one whose owners we know rather well. She organised for her vehicle to be towed from them to my brother's garage and lied to the first owner about the price my brother would charge her as she and I were friends. Naturally the owner rang my brother who knew nothing about this lady or her vehicle nor had he given a quote for the work involved.

Now this would not necessarily have been a problem, however the work was done and the lady turned up to collect the repaired vehicle and asked how much she could pay off the debt weekly. The bill was over £500. I was not there but my brother, having been warned this lady still owed money to the first garage refused her credit as 1) he does not know her and 2) he is not a bank, so he refused to let her drive off without paying in full. She did so but is now saying she has been totally humiliated and does not want me or my daughter in her life. As I also know both she and her husband work, have only one child and like to spend heavily on drink, fast food restaurants and good times I think she is being unfair. Her daughter came with us to Harry Potter World, (I bought the tickets and paid for everything as my daughter's birthday treat) and this child had brought £50 to spend in the gift shop which I thought was unbelievably extortionate and she still tried to ask me to buy things for her on top of this.

So a pawn has gone out of our lives. I told the lady, life is too short for grudges and I thought we should show our girls how relationships can work through difficulties and how the important thing was the possible impact on the girls' happiness. She was having none of it and so my daughter knows she is excluded from this particular friendship. Oh dear. What would you have done?

Monday, 20 July 2015


This book was bought on impulse as I had a rare chance to pass by Waterstones on Thursday evening after dropping off the 10 year old with friends at an Italian restaurant and on route to rejoin the 11 year old and her friends at Pizza Express. 5 minutes of pure bliss, a sneaky browse by myself and a chance to look through the books I like rather than the children section. There is something about the smell and feel of a new book, the excitement of all those unexplored ideas and stories waiting to be discovered. I was short of time, bought one book and as I was paying saw this one on the counter. Half price the lovely assistant said helpfully and we only put special books on show, new ones with good reviews. So I added it and rushed off.

I started it last night and finished it this morning and have passed it onto my Mum who is a voracious reader. It is beautifully expressive, well written and flows so well I just wanted to keep going. The author is a Doctor and his thoughtfulness, intelligence and compassion shine through his words. It was not the book I was expecting and it makes for uncomfortable reading. He describes the deaths and ending of life of some of his patients and his own family. His contention is Medicine is missing a vital part in the success of extending life by not necessarily adding to the quality of our final years. He also describes pioneers seeking to rectify some of the horrors and the benefits of hospice care.

The subject matter is almost unbearable as it confronts our own deaths to come and those of our loved ones. It is so poignant and I almost wish I had not read it but I am so glad I did. I now have to be clear sighted about what I want in my life, my ambitions, the way I interact with my family and loved ones and to stop wasting time on the trivial unimportant details. It is a sharp reminder to analyse what matters and exactly what is quality of life right now and what compromises I will make now and in the future. This is a life changing read and an unforgettable book.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Absences and leavers

 Dear all, sorry for not posting the last three nights. We had social events which is a major novelty for me at least! Some of the year 6 leavers organised a meal for the girls and their mums on Thursday which was lovely. Seeing all the children dressed up and seated at their own table was beautiful except they don't look so young any more. Still the grown up veneer slipped when during courses they nipped outside into the gardens for an impromptu game of tag.

Friday I was invited to a grown up drinks party by a lady from school. The children had their own thing going on in the basement with PlayStation set ups and a games room with loads of snacks. The conversation was interesting, varied and I enjoyed myself although normally a room full of strangers making small talk is enough to have me running for the hills. I wish I was the gregarious type.

Do you like the home grown vegetables? Excuse the smudge of a fingerprint on the camera. They tasted delicious and I know people bang on about how there is nothing like fresh produce picked and on the plate within 20 minutes but it is really true. They taste so different.

Enjoy your Sunday whatever you have planned. X

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Tears of a Teacher

Today was "Leavers Assembly" for the Year 6. It was funny, alright, imaginative and poignant depending on the children involved. The quieter individuals surprised the parental audience with some beautifully performed sketches quite surpassing the usual group of "in your face" pupils. It must have been good as the wonderful Head Teacher started crying (he's 6 foot 4 and built like a rugby player) which made several parents become watery eyed and some of the children then sobbed. Mine performed a Miranda sketch which was a first for the school and a quiet boy stole the show singing like an angel whilst performing the cup song.

Thinking that was quite enough emotion for one day and then heading for the special meeting called by the new Secondary School I witnessed another Headteacher burst into tears. His were ones of frustration, shame and real upset at his school going into special measures. I'm still not sure what to think of him, he talks too much and his answers are not clear but then he is under tremendous pressure. They did claim Ofsted had been too harsh but they would say that. On the positive note the new Chair of Governors seems very alert and competent. I liked him and got the chance for a private chat afterwards and I believe he may prove to be a big part in turning things around for the school. We'll see. In the meantime the 11 year old is now crying and saying she doesn't want to go to a new school, it's too hard and why can't she stay at home and I teach her? Oh dear it's going to be a long summer holiday...

PS mine are the blondes on the left. I think they are really pretty!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Silent Brass

This instrument was once my most treasured possession and I used to practice an hour a day and attend Band practice twice a week. I had a lot of fun and a lot of upset too. The competitive side of Brass Band contesting is addictive, exhilarating and highly stressful depending on your personality. I was the nervous type cast against my introverted nature and had to perform solos at concerts and sometimes in contest pieces. I always did it but ended up taking beta blockers on the day of the performance so I got through it. I wasn't alone as many players do. What a silly hobby eh?

Three years ago the children and I moved back to my home county of Shropshire for the support of family and I haven't played the flugel since. Now I don't miss it or indeed have the time but for sentimental reasons, I suppose, I've kept the instrument just in case. Well no longer. Decision made and Ebayland here it comes. My other instrument went last year and a fine cornet player off to the Royal School of Music bought it. He was a far better player than I ever was and it was lovely to hear the sound he made. Hopefully this one will also be enjoyed again rather than stored on a cupboard under the stairs.

Do you hang onto things long past their usefulness to you?

Monday, 13 July 2015

I want a Wizard

To be honest I'm in need of a good wizard at the moment. All three of us don't feel that well and at the moment there is quite a lot of stress flying around in our lives. It would be just lovely to have Professor Snape here and on our side, Ah well...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Summer painting

Today was beautiful but apart from picking some courgettes, beetroot and a bunch of sweet peas for Jim and Brenda I didn't get to spend any time in the garden. No, the 10 year old wanted her bedroom painted and well. a promise is a promise so I set too. Luckily as it was only painted last year after the speediest renovations possible before we moved in, the walls didn't need too much attention or filler. There has been some movement and a few cracks but very minor. So the first wall was blue. The next was green and we linked it by painting the join as a jigsaw shape. It worked quite well. The last wall is pink but I didn't finish as I needed a new clean roller head so only had a little brush which takes ages. I offered the 10 year old my bedroom but she has happily gone to sleep with her bed in the middle of the room and no curtains. She has announced she wants patchwork curtains now. Last year we made 2 hexagon patched cushions out of their old outgrown clothes and she loves the higgledy piggledy look. So do I. We spotted an amazing patchwork sofa in the Range of all places on Saturday and both fell in love with it. Out of our price range though so our comfortable shabby second hand one will be staying for a long while yet. Perhaps we may decorate it...

The 11 year old just made me laugh. She announced she wants her own blog and is going to to an advice column for teenagers!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Colour craziness

So the 10 year old has decided it is time to decorate her bedroom in her own style. The pottery above, painted by her, gives you a fair idea of her choice of colour mixes. This child is always decorating her room by scattering every piece of jewelry she owns on every available surface. She does not feel comfortable with a minimalist room and needs stuff all around her. Sometimes I cannot bear to go into her room because it is so cluttered but any tidying up sessions are speedily reversed so I tend to use avoidance tactics.

Anyway she has chosen to do three walls in colour, easy peasy green, palm springs blue and cherry lush pink. Heaven knows what it will look like but I trust her judgement as she seems to have the knack of pulling diverse things together in an artistic individual way. I'm useless so I ask her advice sometimes. I have no idea about fashion or style and readily admit to no interest either. I watched a TED talk recently and the guy on it said "don't follow fashion...because you can never catch up...you are always following..." I like that.

Friday, 10 July 2015

A school in trouble

Oh the dilemma. What do I do? Last night the 11 year old worked herself up into dramatic tears worrying about the bus journey to the school she is due to attend in September. She successfully negotiated 3 days of bus catching during Transition week so I know she can do it. She does not like the other children on the bus so of course now hates the school. Some of this is probably partly the emotions most Year 6 children feel at the end of their time at Primary School.

She cannot go to a school in our local nearest town with all her classmates because our home falls into another local authority area and she must travel 8 miles in the other direction. I went through the school appeal system but there were too many others doing the same and we did not stand a chance. This is not necessarily a real problem with friendship groups as she has not bonded with anyone in particular at her current school although she did in her previous one.

The problem now is the new school has been put into special measures this week. It's last Ofsted was good but now it is in real trouble in all four areas of inspection. There is an emergency meeting for all new parents next week at the school presumably to reassure us all that action will be taken to resolve the identified weaknesses. The Chair of Governors has been replaced already. In December the school is moving into a beautiful £18,000,000 new building.

 Today I checked our position on the waiting lists for the schools we appealed for; still 13th place for the top 2 so no chance. I rang a private all girls school in desperation. Did they have an available bursary? Unlikely but they are going to check for me and have invited us to go and sit the entrance exam next week and to go and meet them. I got home to find the admission people have offered us a place at the 3rd school we looked at but turned down previously as it will be a nightmare to get to because of the daily traffic jams. The nearest town is small and this school is the other side of it from us. However it is a good school, overcrowded but most of her classmates will attend there. She didn't want to go there and tonight when I told her said she would think about it.

What do I do? I spoke to the deputy Head teacher at her current school and she said special measures can be a positive thing as external help and funding are poured in and things are closely monitored. She also said my daughter will do well where ever she goes which was nice to hear. Oh dear oh dear...

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Cherry Ripe and Rudeness

This is our version of "summertime cherry-basil bruschetta" from the wonderful The Oh She Glows Cookbook. (Beware imitations - notsodeliciouslyyouknowwho). This was not something we have ever tried before but there were cherries on the tree, strawberries, basil and mint in the garden and a baguette from Lidl in the kitchen. It was very nice. You marinate the fruit, herbs and a chopped red onion in balsamic vinegar for 15 minutes. Slice the bread on an angle and cook it for 10 minutes in a very hot oven until golden. Spread on the marinade and enjoy. Easy peasy although a little too new and radical for the resident fusspots. So far every recipe from the book has worked very well. Loud applause for Angela Liddon please.

I've been thinking  a lot about introducing a daily new experience or change into my life. It is so easy to become repetitive, days melting into weeks and before you know it life is nearly over.

 Today at work a customer was unnecessarily rude and grumpy. He is known for it but it does make me wonder why people have to be ill tempered and nasty. It is like online trolling. Why do some people feel the need to make spiteful comments? Surely life is far too precious to waste in this way? Yesterday I unexpectedly met a woman whom I went to school with and although we have both gone on to experience much in our lives, our conversation mostly revolved around memories of a very spiteful teacher. Miss C. was an ex-nun and was vicious, mean and jealous of the young girls. She was also rubbish at teaching, perhaps because we all hated her. Yet one of my most fond memories is of the history teacher in my first year who left me with a life long enjoyment of the subject which even the evil one could not completely destroy. Miss Digby, if only all teachers were like you the world would be a happier place...

Who was your favourite teacher and why?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Out with the old

Today I've been thinking about trying something new as day 3 of my new resolution dawns. I got to drive a Volkswagen Beetle car which was fun and not something I've done before but it seemed a little lame.  I drive all the time and am really not into cars. As long as I can get in and the thing starts well the rest doesn't matter to me. My only preference is a small vehicle as they are easier to park. (Why doesn't someone invent wheels that turn sideways?)

So why the picture of an old woodburner? Well my lovely Mum (who spoils me) treated us to a new one a couple of months ago. She was worried because the old one is badly cracked on the top. We went to Ludlow in Shropshire and wandered around the beautiful Dinham house and chose one of the locally made burners. http://www.clearviewstoves.com//   Unfortunately because there already was an old second hand burner installed only last year, their fitters would not do the new one without putting in everything fresh. Not much point as all the flue was new. The very nice salesman said it was an easy job to change the burners over and I would be able to do it.

 Right. These are VERY heavy. So I've been waiting for someone to come and help. It's not going to happen is it! So tonight I did get the old one out all by myself using leverage and luck. That is something I've definitely not done before. I've painted the fireplace while it is empty so that's a good reason not to try and wrestle the new one in place. Maybe tomorrow but looking at the weeds in the path I think there is yet another job lined up...

Monday, 6 July 2015

A Happy Day

Go-carting is on the list for something new by request from the 10 year old who has done it a few times already. Her sister and I have not so no doubt we will be whooped by little Miss Speedy. I'll save up and we will have a go in the Summer holidays. We don't have any holiday booked as finances are a little elastic (made to stretch but liable to snap if pulled too hard). We will have odd days here and there and fill our time quite happily.

The new thing for today was quite lame. I cooked a Thai curry for tea which was fine but not exceptional and we probably won't bother again. This is more a reflection on my catering skill than Thai food by the way

Today has been a good day. The school reports are out and forgive the crowing but both girls had amazing ones full of "delight"..."pleasure to teach"..."outstanding"..."well done"..."exceptional talent"...  Wow I'm so pleased for both of them. They do work hard and deserve their moments of glory. Toy Chica, the yellow doll won her owner 3 A*s and pride of place in the year six open evening and luckily the year five display featured a papier mache Spitfire (of all things!) made earlier this year as part of a World War 2 project by the 10 year old.

All this happiness made me think. If I am the opposite of depressed does this mean I'm pressed? If pressed means squashed or flattened surely de-pressed should mean not flattened but buoyant? So in this case wouldn't it mean happy? (Sorry - too much time spent with young inquisitive minds!).

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Strawberry Gin

The 10 year old has been asking to go strawberry picking for a few weeks so today we visited a local farm near our home. It was small but the fruit and vegetables were beautiful. We were given our punnets and happily spent an hour filling them with only a few being munched as we worked.
We picked too many but that's fine as we are going to try strawberry gin as the damson variety is so tasty. None of us are big jam lovers.

2lb of strawberries
2lb of sugar
1 bottle of gin 70cl.

Hulled the strawberries and had to chop them to fit into the narrow mouth of the demijohn. All ingredients placed inside, a rubber stop in the top and a good shake. Let's see what happens.

I took a big bowl of strawberries and a bottle of damson gin across the road to Jim and Brenda. Hopefully they will enjoy them as I know Jim will tell me exactly what he thinks! Jim has made gallons of wine and beer throughout the years and has some old recipe books. He suggests I try parsnip wine next as it is easy and quick.

I've promised myself to try something new everyday even if it is a tiny change. Blogging is like a public promise so now it is in words I'll have to follow through. Day 1 - Strawberry Gin making.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Gin and talk in the park

Excuse the blurry photograph but we bottled some of the damson gin that has been quietly brewing in the under stairs cupboard. It tastes beautiful but I'm thinking it must be pretty potent because I've sipped a small glass and can definitely feel the effects already! I'll give Jim, my neighbour, a bottle tomorrow and see what he and Brenda think of it.

Today was mostly spend ferrying the 10 year old to dance class then a party. Afterwards some of us headed to the Quarry in Shrewsbury where there is a play park. I listened to a dear friend opening up about her past marriage. I'm glad she talked. She suffered years of emotional abuse and trauma and three years on is still coming to terms with things. I wish there was a way of connecting with young girls to say "no, it is not your fault, it is not you but please leave anyone who treats you badly". If I can leave my girls with just one thing, it will be to value themselves and so never be in a position to put up with any kind of abuse.

What is the one thing you would pass on to your child?

Friday, 3 July 2015

Solar farm in my backyard?

My neighbour came over for a cup of tea tonight as he hadn't seen us all week and later I returned to his house with him for more chat with him and his wife. They are perturbed by a local plan for a solar farm in our village and are speculating that it is to be built in the field next to my home. This is our current view. They wanted to know my opinion which was difficult as I haven't seen the plans so don't know where it is proposed to build.

I respect and am fond of my neighbours but they do get excited by village gossip. Last time they were all speculating that there were 200 new houses going to be built on this field and the access lane was the one by me that leads to our house and one either side of us. Luckily I was able to point out that I actually own this small lane so that rumour was not true!

There is a new solar farm just outside Shrewsbury and it is invisible to the town and not close to any residential homes. I don't believe planners would site another one so close to homes especially as there are three other fields further away shielded by woodland and away from the few houses that make up this little village. Personally I'm in favour as solar has to be the way to go but hopefully it will be sited in the far away fields. We'll see...

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Toy Chica fnaf

Well this is the reason I didn't post last night.  Toy Chica was ready to go, then the 11 year old changed her mind and wanted rigid legs and decided she was not smooth enough. Oh we had tears and much wailing. How she was going to fail, end up on the red traffic light and generally be a complete loser for the rest of her life.

At 9pm I insisted she went to bed and promised I would finish it. I did toy with being a firm parent and sanctimoniously preach about how less time on the play station and more on her homework might have been a good idea. I thought about it. Whether it was a lesson she needed. But she was so upset and I hope (although doubt) next time will be different. Why did I help? Because I love her and because she is like me. I finished a degree (hons) with the Open University last year and I think that bar one, all assignments were submitted during the very last minutes. The final one I worked right through the night and sent it at 5am. Sadly the 11 year old has inherited the last minute dot com gene. I'm not proud but there you have it, like mother like daughter.

This morning there were happy smiles and lots of decorating going on. The doll is so wet with paint and varnish she cannot be moved and I dare not clean up the mess around her just in case she gets knocked. Hopefully she will have dried out enough to make her debut at school tomorrow. If anything falls off during transit I think the 11 year old will faint!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Reflections on regrets of the Dying

It has been a memorable week for our little family. Transition week for the 11 year old to senior school. the 10 year old away on adventures with her school. I've seen photos on the school blog of her rock climbing and swinging off high wires so all is well there then! Add to that indoor sky diving and western horse riding we've been pretty active. So why the reflective mood?

Partly because we could have lost my nephew on Sunday. It is not uncommon for young men to die on the race tracks. Several are killed or maimed every year. He's not bothered but I am. Add to that the souls shot on the beach in Tunisia and imagining how it must feel to lose a loved one so suddenly and unexpectedly.

This little book is adorable. The author, Bronnie Ware, comes over as so gentle, loving and delightful. I won't spoil it for you if you have not read it but I do recommend it. I often have purges and de-clutter my books but this one is a keeper. It is moving and thought provoking. It is so easy to forget to live amidst the daily hustle of work and the things our days are filled with. So easy to forget to be mindful. I think I need to read more about Gandhi.

Who do you most love in your life and what would you regret most at your own end of life?

5 regrets of the dying

Monday, 29 June 2015

Dangerous sports

My nephew loves motorbikes. He is a talented trials bike rider and has recently branched into the racing world. This weekend, at Anglesey, in Wales he came off his bike at 130 mph. He survived with cuts and bruises and is very stiff today although working as normal. He will race next weekend and the fall bothers him not one bit, he regards it as just part of the sport.

It made me think how I would feel if anything happened to either of my children, yet this weekend they tried indoor sky diving and rode a strange horse without a bit. coached by a cowboy they had not met before. This morning the 11 year old left for her new big school on a public bus for the very first time by herself. She was so nervous but made it and managed to find her way safely home after school. Her self confidence has rocketed. She fears change and new situations. In contrast her younger sister left for a residential school trip this morning with a casual wave and plans for a midnight feast with her friends. She happily travels anywhere and is always first to try anything physical yet is very shy, very sensitive and easily hurt. I cannot protect them from everything and the gradual withdrawal from me to their own adult lives is a natural and welcome progression and in truth I would have it no other way.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Horse whisperer and Simon

Today we tried Western horse riding for the first time. It is so different from the classic English way. All three of us rode one at a time on a beautiful ex stallion called Simon. He was only made a gelding at the age of 10 so still acts the way he did in his stud days and adores females both equine and human!

The first thing that was unnerving was riding without a bit, just with a head collar styled piece of equipment. The saddle felt strange too although comfortable and your legs are straighter and longer than normal. We quickly learnt how to ask Simon to walk, jog (trot) but not lope (canter) although the 11 year old was treated to a few paces when Simon saw we had a camera. (sorry the photos are on her phone and there is no internet service to download and show you). Apparently he is a big show off and loves having his photo taken.

When it was my turn I learnt "rein back" and then a sideways movement like English Dressage. This was mostly because Simon didn't want to walk on properly. He was a real gentleman although feisty. Ray, the horse whisperer, says Simon will not perform any moves unless he is confident his rider is secure.

We loved it. It feels like a real partnership between horse and human, more of a friendship. You have to trust each other and work in harmony. Without a bit it felt as though the horse was enjoying himself and happy in what he was doing because if he didn't then there isn't much you can do about it!  I'll save up and we will go again. This session was a gift from Ray to introduce us to his way of riding.  Ray was patient, calm and very kind but then as he said, he has to be in his job of calming nervous upset horses. If we were lucky enough to own our own horse then this is the way we would want to ride. Converted!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Scary Doll

This scary lady is a work in progress. School project for the 11 year old is to make a toy. Other girls are making sweet dolls houses in shoe boxes. Not my child. She is making a character from Friday Nights at Freddie's, an internet craze of the moment. The thing above is Toy Chica and the pretty one of the bunch of monsters. I like that she has massive thighs and is not built like a stick insect. quite the positive role model for such a horror story.

Tonight the hands were completed and the 11 year old has carefully made all the fingers. The doll, for that is what it is. is made from papier mache and has moving parts. The arms are jointed. She made a hole through the shoulders, threaded string through the hole and this forms the bones of the arms. More papier mache is then moulded around the string and it seems to be working well.

She started the legs tonight and left it to dry but unfortunately the doll fell over and one leg fell off so I've just taken the liberty of quietly mending it and hopefully no-one will be any the wiser. For something made from paper and flour glue (just mix flour and water) Chica is surprisingly heavy. It's not the best photograph but I'll do another when she is finished. Well I hope she is completed soon as the remnants of all this creativity are waiting for me to tidy away (again...).

Friday, 26 June 2015

Indoor Skydiving fun!

                                                 Airkix Photo Galler

We are just back from Manchester after experiencing our first indoor skydiving.  Wow!  It is amazing and I don't think I've ever seen the girls (and my Mum!) grin so much. The girls had two extra turns and we all did the high-fly which is when the instructor grabs you and you both spin right up to the top. (The photo is one borrowed from the company website)

We drove to Manchester which was quite a trek and the traffic was awful but we arrived with one minute to spare. I used up all my adrenaline trying to get there on time. We signed consent forms and they ask about any shoulder injuries or heart problems and yes, we all weigh less than 18 stones. (Oh yes!)
Then we watched a short video and learnt four hand signals so the instructor could communicate with us in the noisy chamber. Next we were all given a suit, helmet, goggles and ear plugs and sat waiting our turn. When you watch the time seems short but once inside, trust me it is plenty long enough. It is nerve racking but brilliant fun and I'm so glad we did it. The 11 year old proved to be a natural at it and the instructor told her afterwards she was the best which she loved.

This company has three UK venues, Manchester, Basingstoke and Milton Keynes. As a memory maker and very special treat I recommend it.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Big School

First day at senior school for the 11 year old today. She seems to have coped well although our day did not start well. After driving 7 miles to drop the 10 year old off to join her school friends we set off back home to make the 8 mile journey from there to the new big school. All going well until we catch up with a huge lorry crawling along the winding country lanes. All the way to our destination. I could have screamed with frustration but what good would it do?  So we were late. On her very first day. Luckily no one minded and they were all very kind.

I joined the new parents, who were all having coffee, in a slightly dilapidated hall to hear about our little ones time here. This school invites all the year 6 primary school children, who are due to join the school in September, to experience a week at big school so they can gradually get used to the transition. This school is enjoying a transition of its own as there is a brand new school being finished for January 2016. The children are delighted to be having an extra 2 weeks holiday at Christmas as all the equipment is moved across.

The 11 year old is a feisty character so when an older boy made a sarcastic comment about her school uniform (she chose a bright yellow hoodie as her primary school leavers jumper and looks like a canary) she speedily put him in his place. I think she is going to be alright...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Michael Jackson doll

I was reading one of my favourite bloggers last night, (meanqueen). She was showing some of her handmade wares and ideas for presents and it reminded me of this chap who appeared last Christmas for the 11 year old.
 The 11 year old adores Michael Jackson and reminded me it is the anniversary of his death on Thursday. She was a bit taken aback when she saw the doll but I know she likes him as he is a permanent fixture in her room and is positioned where she can see him. Do you like him? He is about 18 inches tall and very flexible meaning he can Moon-dance whenever you ask him too.

I adapted a pattern from a lovely book by Jan Horrox (Jan Horrox). Her dolls are exquisite and her patterns are well constructed and easy to follow.  I straightened up the body shape to make a boy rather than the hourglass figure but more or less followed the instructions from there on. Both my girls laughed with an uneasy fascination when they first saw him although I'm quite proud that no-one has needed to ask who he is! They are at an age when the unusual tends to embarrass but hopefully one day they will appreciate the effort that Mum made...We'll see on that one...

I'm not especially skilled, nor am I incredibly patient so if I can do it so can you. There is something special about making a present for someone you really love even if it doesn't turn out exactly as you hope. And my 11 year old did tell me, offhandedly, that yeah,, she was keeping Michael forever as he is precious to her.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Peas and Beans

Just come inside after doing a late planting of peas. Next to our cottage is some waste land which once belonged to this place but during the sale of this and the farmland and some other cottages nearby, this land remained forgotten and neglected. It was all part of a large estate once upon a time before being taken over by the Co-op group. Most of the properties are very old and in need of love and repair work. Last year the nettles and thistles were chest high so this year I've started to clear it and plant some vegetables so the place is less of an eyesore. If I'd known just how much rubble, bricks and glass there was I might have left well alone! It's getting dark but you can see the beans I've planted for my neighbour. He's decided he is too old to bother growing them this year so I'm doing it for him.

Gardening is hard work and I'm no expert, nor am I that dedicated to it. When we came here we planted young fruit trees around the border so that everything here is both functional and pretty. Sometimes it feels as if I've taken on too much. (Thank heavens for my Mum who helps out and has done wonders with the flowers and lawn). Still when I see the children rushing out to nab the juiciest strawberries and pottering in their own flower patches I know it's probably worth it and it is satisfying when you get to harvest what the rabbits, pigeons and other creatures have missed...

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Margaret's Damson Gin recipe

Margaret is a wonderful, kind and intelligent lady.  My mother helps her by doing some gardening and occasional decorating as Margaret is almost blind with a degenerative eye disease. This in no way impacts on her enjoyment of shopping and lunches out and no one would know how poor her eyesight really is as this lady is proudly independent and hides it well.

Anyway, she gave me a small bottle of her damson gin as a gift a while ago. I'm not a gin drinker or even a particularly big wine drinker either. I also hate the taste of beer and lager so I wasn't sure what to expect but one day I was tempted to try this gin. It was gorgeous. It was perfectly sweet but not too much and tasted like the delicious innards of one of those very expensive chocolates you sometimes get given at Christmas. My 11 year old sneaked a crafty swig and adored it too which was a bit of a worry! So Margaret gave us the recipe and a demijohn to get started and I've since collected 3 more jars through Freecycle.

2lbs Damsons
2lbs Sugar
1 bottle of gin 70cl

Remove any leaves or stems from the damsons but do not wash them. Place all ingredients in the airtight glass jar and leave in a dark corner. (Ours is out to be photographed). Shake the jar 2 or 3 times a week and leave for about 3 months. Do an occasional taste and add any one of the 3 ingredients to suit your taste buds. This is a bit of a hit or miss affair says Margaret. After 3 months sieve through a muslin cloth and bottle it. Give as gifts or drink and enjoy it.

Our first try at this will be ready in July. In the meantime I'd better find a use for the other demijohns.
Strawberry picking season starts this week, I wonder what strawberry gin or vodka would be like?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Fathers Day

 As tomorrow is Father's day I am going to share a post I made on Facebook yesterday. It's not for sympathy or out of self pity but just to express that there are many stories to be told within families, some good, some not so. Wishing you a happy day tomorrow.
Much Love XXX

Father's Day.
I read your posts of missing your father, how great he was, loving and supportive. How sad you are and how you wish he were still here. Then I wonder what it could have been like, to have a father like yours. You see I didn't. Mine was vicious, mean, cruel and incredibly emotionally abusive. I don't remember a single cuddle, kiss or a kind word. Not once. He died a while back. I don't even remember the date or the year. Only 2 of his 4 children went to his funeral and in truth I only went to support my brother. So now my grieving is over. I did that while he was alive. For the father I never had. And I read your posts and am sorry for your pain as mine is over now but I remember it well. So celebrate your good fortune if your dad was and is wonderful and if he is no longer here then be grateful for what you had.
Love to you all X