Showing posts from 2007

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

A video camera. Ho Ho Ho.
What a Christmas present! We had been talking about replacing our old camera for a few months, but I thought had pretty much decided that waiting until the sales after Christmas was the sensible thing to do. I am so chuffed to be able to say that my present for Christmas.... my surprise present for Christmas (as opposed to the ones that I either bought, dropped heavy hints about or charged to his Amazon account) was a hard drive video camera. And how I love it! (Not as much as I love the children.... but a lot!)
And, yes, I have taken a lot of video since.
Which I can store on the 'puter.
When I get an external hard drive as backup.
And learn how to download it.
Oh, happy days lie ahead!

The Countdown Continues....

Don't forget to scroll down for the latest entry!

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

My true love gave to me a quiet and peaceful Christmas Eve. God bless & wishing you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and a very happy and prosperous 2008!

On the tenth day of Christmas...

My true love gave to me a visit to see St Nick.

We went to Park Hall Farm Park which is in Shropshire and had a fine time. They offer parents mince pies and mulled wine, have a little snow-themed waiting room amd a very happy fellow inside. We went last year and really loved it, so hence this year we went again. And the best bit is, you don't have to book! (as we used to book for The Santa Specials at a nearby railway each year and ended up with at least one sickie for 4 out of the six years, not booking but still having a good time is an important feature for us)

The rest of the farm park is fun, too. There are mini 4x4 cars to drive, animals to look at and even times to hold the small animals. As a sign up on the wall read 'Rabbits for Christmas, £20' I suppose I should be glad we got out without an extra passenger this year (although as I said to DH, it doesn't say whether they're to keep or eat....)

On the sixth day of Christmas..

My true love gave to me a dated decoration.

Since 1999 I have bought/ made a decoration and dated it. The first year I only had one child and just put the date on. By the following year the fever struck, I had two children and therefore needed to name and date the decorations and when you do it for two, you may as well do it for more... so I began to name and date decorations for all my nieces and nephews (only 7) as well.

I enjoy the idea that in twenty or so years time there will be at least 60 decorations on my tree that record the passage of time.

Mind you, in 20 years time they will probably all have vanished along with the 'children' to grace some other tree (possibly real fir) and be added to by grandchildren and great nieces and nephews. Woo, I feel like the ghost of Christmas Future, and I never did suit black and foggy.

On the fifth day of Christmas....

My true love gave to me a Christmas tree!
Well, actually, it was about 13 years ago and I bought it myself.
The first year we were married I got a rooted tree. The idea was that we would use it, plant it out and re-pot it each year until it grew too big to bring in. I think it lasted just two weeks. There is a reason why my favourite plants are all found in the desert.
And the pine needles were everywhere! I hoovered everyday and still they kept on coming... six months later they were still in the carpet and when we finally moved house 10 years after that we moved the bookcase to find.... dessicated pine needles. No more real trees for me.
The following year I trogged off to B&Q and invested less than £100 in the biggest & best tree I could at that time afford. It's about 6 foot, has a spread of 3 1/2 foot and is now looking a little battered after 13 years use, but it works as a tree and I like the fact that it is beginning to earn its green credentials as a tree that doesn&…

On the 4th Day of Christmas my true love sent to me...

The double edition of the Radio Times (Santa? No Santa? Naff Photo or cutesy illustration? Why did they say the 8th when everywhere only starts putting it out on the 11th? These questions have haunted me all week!)
One of my traditions from literate and numerate age is to be the keeper of the Radio Times. We buy it every week because as well as all the listings it is actually a really good read without being soap obsessed (we don't do soaps) and hey, it's useful to have something somewhere to look up what time that programme you watch that nobody else does is on. And I come into my element especially at Christmas. I know when the double edition is out, I haunt newsstands to find it and snap up a copy as soon as I can. I am happier now that one magazine does all instead of my early days as the TV Chronicler when I needed two separate books for the BBC and ITV. But as soon as the magazines came out I used to move into megamotivated mode.
A cup of decent coffee, a highlighter pen a…

On the second day of Christmas....

I got all my craft stuff together and made presents for the family.

(This years box; snowmen & women)
For years now I have always made a little something for the closest members of the family. I made quilted cushions one year, embroidered picture frames another and very often produce painted boxes. This year everything about Christmas has run away from me, and I just don't seem to have got as far ahead as I would prefer to be, given that Advent starts on Saturday and I like (usually) to be nearly finished. Perhaps it's the nebulous quality of supply that prevents me from saying to myself "This I will do today" and doing it. I wait for the call, and am either racing out the door, or ready for disappointment. Either way, I haven't got myself up to the point that I have usually achieved at this time and hence, this year, am now beginning to panic that the event will arrive in 4 weeks time with me holding no presents and feeling a right chump.

But, wait! Salvation …

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month....

I never go to a remembrance day service. I never wear a poppy in November, although I buy several.
It's not that I don't care, but rather that I care too much. From childhood I knew what the human cost of war was. My Mum and Nan told me that, often.
Nanna, born in 1915, would tell me the tale of her brother Harry's safe return from World War I in 1918, of her mother dropping whatever she held and screaming, of this stranger entering the house and hugging everyone, of how when he hugged her, she screamed. Seventy years plus later, Nan could still remember the shock at his return.
And so Armistice day was marked every year with poppies and prayers. The war was given a name, The Great War, the War to End All Wars, and life went on.

And 21 years later, War happened again. My Nan was 24 when it started and had been married for 4 years to Grandad Leslie. (His Dad, by the way, had been injured and a POW in WWI and he had had to learn to sew left handed so as to resume his career as a…

November is the month to....

Snuggle up on the sofa to watch black and white movies.

Make gingerbread men and decorate them with writing icing.

Walk around on a cold and frosty morning with a scarf, hat and gloves on (but be prepared to take them off when it gets warmer)

Go to a wool shop and stroke all the mohair yarns they have.

Buy some tactile yarn and make a scarf.

Find a new book that makes you go to bed just to read it.

Rediscover an old book that does the same.

Remember to put on hand cream and face cream everyday, especially if you have some really nice lavender flavour from L'occitane.

Find your Christmas socks and begin to wear them under your jeans so that if anyone spots them they have to ask....

Find a Countdown to Christmas calendar and start it now (47 days to go)

Just browse the decorations at the best, even if not the biggest, garden centre nearby.

Keep your Christmas organiser to hand and keep ticking off things as you buy/make/acquire them.

Buy red candles and put them in your candlesticks. Light them…

Painting and Embroidery...

Today I am going to paint a large picture for the Church's light party.
This is me painting, can't you tell?

I have always been really good at displacement activities; you know, the things you do when you have something you need to do and you aren't yet ready to settle to it. My bedroom was always neatest just before a big essay was due in, while I could always justify starting another glove/toy/book when I had to cook (BC that is... children won't let you displace for too long before yowling with pain)

So, for the past few weeks I have had a job to do; to produce a large painting to cut up as a jigsaw for the Church Light party (a Christian take on Halloween. We don't do witches, ghosts or ghouls, but we do do fairies and superheroes, with dressing up and an emphasis on Jesus as the light that saves. It's cool, because my kids get to go out on Halloween but not to trick or treat which I hate when there is a trick element to it) I have the card, I have the paint, …


So, after the stress comes the spend (my life is a little like that)

I went to Borders and got swayed by a little (!) book called 'Home'

Aside from the cute pink binding, it was the pictures that won me as much as anything.

The little girl's room.... look at the dress hanging up and the dotty suitcases for storage.

We used to do this with the Princess.... the sink was just about big enough, the bathroom was too small to fit the baby bath in, and with a 4 year old and a 2 year old to bathe too, the less stress the better.

And one of those artfully artless photographs that probably took hours to set up and look like it's permanently like that.

The book is divided into sections; Start, Live, Share, Nest, Bare and Find, but essentially runs you through the house and suggests things to do/have/live with. It's bigger on pictures than text, and the text strives for a poetic quality rather than a straight narrative approach. I actually like this, as I don't need always to be…


Thanks for the kind thoughts.... a scan in January & a follow up consultation are the result today and either "just heavy periods" or fibroids was the decision that the very nice lady doctor came to. So, roll on January, and only 2 periods to go before then. And after that, the most likely result is a coil or hormones. I'd just be glad to get them done now.

What do you mean you have homework?

Or, how life with Children is all swings and roundabouts.

At four o'clock on the last Sunday of half term, with tea to make (granted, a large pan of scouse and I know the hardest part is the peeling and then it's a matter of a quick stir now and again, but even so!) How am I supposed to help with homework and cook for ravenous hordes?

Well, once I was free to concentrate, I spent 2 hours (count them!) helping my DP write a story of his own. Chapters 1 to 5 (and a prologue) with a cliffhanger and the promise of "Oh yes, I'll sit next to you tomorrow and help with the next mission. Cool story, though. DP is my literate child who even in ordinary speech uses such beautiful narrative language that I just stand amazed. My language has simplified over the years (children do that to you, I understand) and it seems amazing that I can look forward to resuming my degree-level conversations again. My worry is that when I do have Adult children I won't be able to catch back up …

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

We have got season tickets to our local Safari Park again! (also here)
We had them up until about 6 months ago, when they ran out & we didn't bother renewing (swimming on Sundays meant we hardly got out this year) Well, swimming is now Saturday morning so we bit the bullet & went for it.
I think a person's favourite animal says such a lot about them. My youngest son loves Rhinos. He is slightly built and shy, doesn't say boo to a goose and has a thing for the biggest of everything, cars, animals, dogs. He has the biggest personality I know, such a happy smiler and I have watched him lean out of the window to stare at the rhinos for quarter of an hour at a time.
DP, he loves the monkeys. He tells stories and one of his favourite characters is a vandalistic monkey called Punkey. He loves to watch and decide which monkey is Punkey and then regale us with long and complicated stories of how Punkey breaks out of the enclosure and causes havoc wherever he goes. So far he ha…

More planning....

This time of nights out at the cinema.

Firstly, today's treat.

I really enjoyed it, but then the whole 'star fallen to Earth, wall betwixt one world and ours' premise has never been far from the surface with me. Just imagine them finding the wall at last? Who'd have thought it? Highlights of the film include when the hero drops Sienna Miller on the floor and tells her to get over herself (Yo! Go boy!), Robert De Niro acting camp... and I mean dressing for the can-can! and the race-to-save-the-girl-that-you-know-will-succeed-but-there's-always-a-chance-that-it-won't-isn't-there? moment. My niece (11 and sooooo cool) was banging her feet on the floor in excitement (Hi Roobs, you were, you know! ;) )

And then there were the previews; A few good nights ahead.

How about;

Even if I haven't particularly flipped for the books yet, this looks sumptuous and the presence of *sigh* Daniel Craig makes it eminently watchable for some of the time even if it turns out to be…

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

A notebook to write everything in.

I love lists at Christmas. I write everything down and tick it all off. For a few years my Christmas notebook was a plain red one, which is unfortunately looking rather battered and worn now. So, this year I treated myself to a new one from Paperchase. It is A5 size, lined and full of thick, good quality pages. I am a pack-rat and I don't throw out Christmas notebooks so it might as well be good quality and act as a memory book, too.

So far, it has all the lists I need each year, having spent a happy two or three nights writing them out (again).

Yes, I know I could store them on the 'puter and just print them out and stick them in, but I like something about the way a neatly written page looks enough to make it worth the effort. I have my presents list, my cards list (including addresses), the list of things to buy, make and bake, a calendar for December listing all the dates that I need to know, some of my favourite poems and quotes about Chris…

14 years; You get less for murder.

That's a family joke when it's time for an anniversary. (Two doctors, two nurses and two teachers in the same house = sick sense of humour)

And this is my own dearest darlingest man.

I have known him since I was 11. (he was 15)

I have fancied him since I was 16. (he was 20)

I have loved him since I was 22. (he was 25)

I have been married to him since I was 25. (he was 28)

I have been co-parent with him since I was 30 (he was 34)

and I have been thinking about him since 9am this morning. We (that's all 5 of us) are having spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread this evening with sparkling wine to celebrate 14 really fun years.

There was the first anniversary when his firm went bust the day before (he was an employee not a boss, so it wasn't too bad)

There was the anniversary with DP when the 'candlelit dinner for 2' didn't quite happen (imagine someone soft and cute trying to smile a very bad tempered Mother into happiness. When he patted my arm and reached over for a k…

Night Night, Garden, sleep tight.

Today I put the garden to bed. I cut the grass for (hopefully) the last time this year, I brushed up all the fallen leaves so far and collected all the kids toys into boxes and plastic baskets ready to go inside the little house and stay there all winter. Although the children go out and play, usually they like playing running games rather than sitting and drinking pretend tea, so they don't need the teaset or little chairs. I put away the washing line, tucked the chairs and table against the wall . I put the barely used parasol into the garage. Hopefully no mice will find it and chew it. And then I sat on my blue bench and drank a glass of cool water and sat down to enjoy the low afternoon sunshine. I know I'll need a warm bath later, but for now the knowledge that my garden is fit for 4 or 5 months will keep me warm.

Handkerchiefs at Two...

After a Friday morning spent taking the Princess to speech therapy (we now have 'cats' instead of 'tats' and real 'cake', not 'take') we went to Morrisons, where for the princely sum of £2.50 I got one of my favourite films of all time on DVD. I said I never would buy all my best videos on DVD, but the quality of picture and sound is so immeasurably superior that, as long as they fit within my £5.00 treat budget I don't see why a little judicious replacement is bad. So, armed with some chocolate and a drink, I settled down, alone, this afternoon to watch it.

I think, sometimes, that my Ma knew what she was doing giving me 3 first names.... Joanne Elizabeth Mary. No good when you're 5 and some clever dick asks you to write them all, but wonderful when you're 13 and seeking a true identity. In my time I have been Elizabeth, Joanne, JoJo and Jem, but the name I come back to again and again is Jo. It is the name I give people when they ask what I…

The Diary of A Domestic Competent.

I thought of the name, I'm darned well going to use it so, for those of you in shock and wondering where Angel Jem is... it's still me, just a new improved (I hope) and little sexier me. Domestic Competency. Just good enough, the mantra of my life. Some people strive for excellence, me I strive to be good enough.

And I fully expect a TV series to follow. A combination of Anthea and Nigella, with the decent cooking taken out but plenty of finger licking, a white glove test, but only on one perfectly polished table, and a lot of scenes of gratuitous sleeping. Just good enough.

Post script; I didn't like it; I prefer to be Angel Jem. She is me and I am her. Good to be back. The DomCom was too bossy!

Fairy cakes? Or cupcakes?Not by Mr Kipling, actually.

I made some more cakes with lurid green icing. It's very therapeutic, with measuring, mixing and a time of patience. I like the alchemy of cooking when you take flour, eggs and sugar and change them into fluffy gold balls of fun. So do my children, a plateful never lasts more than a day.

Making cakes (whatever you call them; unhappily, 'fairy' has overtones nowadays that I am sure would have horrified Fanny Craddock so that the simple epithet has the power to elicit a nasty giggle off older children. Perhaps the magic of life truly has disappeared for them) is such a simple activity, yet it is one of those activities that Others seem to regard as 'odd'. Why would you want to bake cakes, they seem to say, when you can buy them for pennies? It's the same argument as when I tell them I'm crocheting a blanket, or making a bag, making clothes for myself or a child, planning to make seat covers, re-painting a desk or rescuing something that someone else has deemed…

when your mind is away....

am knackered today, can't think straighet and my fingwers are runnins skightly wonkey. 4 hours is not enough sleep fir anuone an dseepecially not on a day when She is going to Rainbows and ha spesetered me since 4 for a thinh tha startrs at 6!!!!!!

For sale or loan; pretty princess, one careful owner. Tendency to run slightly fast but good service history. Would prefer something silent.

Or a decent nights sleep.

When life gives you lemons....

You make lemonade.
When you have a little girl off, you make a dolly.

It wasn't until after the Princess had put a jacket on her new friend that I realised that the colours were the same as The Book's cover. The colours of Tuesday; turquoise blue and cerise pink. Cute.

Mind you, she wasn't staying still.....

My little one is ill...

She has a cold and is feeling dismal. I, too, am not exactly brimful of life. This is my third child off in three weeks. Work is a distant memory and, with Christmas under 11 weeks away, my budget is assuming supermodel thin proportions. Oh, that I could sell my ideas or buy presents with the honesty currency of my childhood... alas, nobody pays for my thoughts and I have dismally forgotten to plant any money plants in my back garden. Next year I'll remember.

However, to brighten my darkness the courier brought this....

three days early and just before lunchtime. I have read five pages, scanned the rest and I pronounce it acceptable. As a Domestic Competent, I salute the Artist! Thank you, Jane, for a read suitable for my Earl Grey tea.... and I have to go compile my Christmas present wishlist... just how many Persephone books can one girl have?

Cherry Choc Chip cookies

No, I don't usually do recipes, but these proved such a hit with the children, as well as being so virtuously Domestic Goddess/Artist/Competent to serve with cold milk after a day at home that I had to share it with you.

My trio of hungry mouths love cookies and one of their favourite weekend breakfasts (the time of the week when healthy eating means they haven't got a cold, rather than a meal that would fit onto any food triangle I've ever seen) is a cookie. Tesco and Sainsbury's cookies are well over £1.00 for a bag of 5.... these were pennies, literally (less if you leave out the cherries, but life is too short)

You will need;
100g butter or margarine, room temperature
175g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoons of golden syrup
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
50 to 75 g glace cherries
55g chocolate chips, or smarties, M&M's or other small sweets. I understand Milky Way Stars are lovely, but I have to try…

See, look what you're missing....

See, chocolate cupcakes with mint green icing...

Homemade cookies with chocolate chips and cherries....

Mamma's best meatloaf with baked potatoes, gravy and carrots....

A ripple blanket that's a bare 6 or 10 rows away from completion (and then there's only the ends to fix in and a single border to do....)

My fireplace cleared of the summer stones and shells and surmounted by red candles ready for a chilly evening when I need to pretend my fire really works an dto knit by candlelight....

Casino Royale, my treat for being a good Mummy this week...

No, don't scroll any further, there aren't any photos today because He is still off and I can only get to the 'puter long enough to post (barely) let alone upload photos (and I do want to show you them, I do, I do.....

Lightening never strikes twice in the same place....

Ha! Doesn't it? You try telling that to DP

Who has broken his arm in the same way and same part as the Princess, meaning he has to have a plaster for 5 weeks and, since he only has a back slab plaster for a week, he needs to have a whole week off school with me!

Literacy (we went to Borders and treated him to a book), mathematics (we got on the lego website and compiled a wishlist, then added up the amount. Cripes!), and history (he showed me the websites he has been browsing at school. Add to that engendering a love of the classics (we watched part one of The Two Towers) and we have had a good day without really feeling like work. I have told him that next week it is Times Tables. He'll be glad to get back after that. (and I will miss him!)

So, it's a good job I didn't do anything with the plastic cover that I invested in for the Princess. Best £7 I spent this year.

And, before anybody asks, I have already told JW (No. 2 son) that he is banned from going anywhere or doing…

"Twenty years hence my eyes may grow.....

If not quite dim, then rather so."
Poetry for October, "Twenty Years Hence" by Walter Savage Landor. Couldn't resist it.
I love poetry, don't read a lot of it (who does, nowadays?) but I did do an English degree and studied a lot of nineteenth century poets. There is something so fantastic about being able to quote a whole poem at need. My mother, raised in post-war austerity, is of the generation when schools made you learn poetry and she can reel off whole poems word perfect (sometimes better than she remembers what day it is!) while my brief foray into organised literary criticism got me no further than remembering Blake's Oh Rose (8 incredibly short lines that I once spent a 1 1/2 hour lesson deconstructing. You have to love literature to do that!)

I have bought the 'poem a day' books and read them (not every day, but often) and I do like to read poetry when I can.... but I still fail dismally at knowing a poem. Wish I could learn at least one. Fanc…

And the Winner is....

Kari at Just Livin Large.
Well, who else could Christmas Stockings go to? I swear, I wrote the names out, pulled one out and it was the Christmas Queen herself who won! Now tell me there ain't a God?
And, Kari, if you send me the details I shall send you the prize (even though I really love your Christmas signature and want one too. I'm not jealous, Granny Skywalker. Oh no, not me) (not much, anyway)
Congratulations & look forward to hearing from you soon!

And to everyone else who entered, I am sorry, and better luck next time. Thanks for entering!