Thursday, 20 August 2015
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
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!
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.
Strong black tea
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.
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
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
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
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?
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.