Thursday, October 29, 2009


Cherub has been battling valiantly with the English language this week. Here are some Cherubic-English translations ...

Hairphones = headphones

Tin oil = cling film (plastic wrap). Some confusion with foil there, I think.

Chocolate liver = chopped liver (Jewish version of liver pate)

Clock father = grandfather clock

Mattress = match (as in "you need a mattress to light the candle")

Crack! = Snap!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 26th October

Outside My Window ... night time, dark by six now the clocks have changed.

I am thinking ... of a job application for part-time tutoring I sent off today. It would be flexible and mostly working from home.

From the learning rooms ... half term.

I am thankful ... for a replacement dishwasher. The new one we got in June developed a recurring fault. I had forgotten how much more effort it takes to wash everything by hand.

From the kitchen ... pizza for a houseful of girls - both Angel and Star have friends sleeping over.

I am wearing ... dark blue jeans, striped top and hand knitted socks.

I am creating ... several things at once. I realised Christmas is only two months away if I wanted to make some knitted gifts I needed to get started.

I am going ... to take Star and her friend on a shopping expedition tomorrow. Angel is Cherub-sitting as Cherub + Shops = Chaos + Frazzled Mother

I am reading ... Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. 

I am hoping ... that if this job application comes to anything, it will be the right amount of work and not too much.

I am hearing ... Tevye watching TV. The girls are temporarily quiet.

Around the house ... autumn flowers. Yellow, orange and rust-coloured chrysanthemums.

One of my favorite things ... fresh bagels from a Jewish deli. A rare treat as Bedfordshire doesn't have Jewish delis.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a trip to buy Angel new pointe shoes, band rehearsals (Christmas music already!). Not much else on the calendar. 

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... kung fu Cherub

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, October 23, 2009

7 Quick Takes

1. Almost all my blogging lately seems to be part of one these Mr Linky memes: Simple Woman's Daybook, Corner View and these Quick Takes. Partly because they provide me with a kind of bloggy discipline of the "it's Monday, so I need to write my daybook" variety; partly because I'm short of ideas, and find it difficult to come up with more than seven thoughts in a week! I want to get back to posting more book reviews. Other than that, are there any types of post or topics that you, dear readers, would like to see more of?

2. Over the past eighteen months or so I have almost totally fallen off my ethical shopping and eating LOAF plan (local, organic, animal friendly and fairtrade). And to think that two years ago I was doing so well. Two books I read while we were away have spurred me to try to get back on the wagon - Confessions of an Eco-Shopper by Kate Lock, and Spotted Pigs and Green Tomatoes: a Year in the Life of Our Farm by Rosie Boycott. Both were random library finds, but turned out to have connected content. This week I ordered an organic vegetable box for the first time in a year. Small steps.

3. LOAFER or not, there is one eco-thing I despise with a passion. Energy-saving light bulbs. Hate 'em. I like bright light, and the wretched eco-bulbs we have are slow to warm up and don't match the light output of the old (now banned) 100w bulbs. I'm considering trying out a couple of these Ecozone Biobulbs in the lights that bug me most, but the thought of spending £10 on a single light bulb is not a happy one.

4. As the mother of three gymnastics-loving girls it was wonderful to see two British gymnasts win medals at the World Championships in London. Beth Tweddle's tumbling in her gold medal floor routine was superb. Watch it here.

5. We used to laugh at Angel and Star using instant messenger to communicate with A- and J-Next-Door on instant messenger. Now Tevye and I find ourselves chatting to A- and K-Next-Door on Facebook. Oops.

6. Cherubism of the week: one morning she was a little constipated and I explained that she hadn't been drinking enough or eating enough fruit. How many drinks and how many fruits did she need, she wanted to know. Five, I said, randomly, and thought no more about it. That evening on the way to her bath and before bed toilet trip she turned back, wanting a drink. As I gave it to her she wanted to know if she had had her five drinks for the day. Almost, I thought. She carefully counted five sips of water, then announced triumphantly "I will poo easily now!"

7. Definitive proof of my horticultural inadequacy: I caught myself looking at a bunch of artificial flowers and wondering why they were not dead yet.

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Corner View: My Dream

My dream? To live in the far west of Cornwall.

With beautiful beaches ...

A private library ...

Grey stone houses ...

And pirates ...
ETA: This was maybe a little cryptic - the area is famous for some light operatic pirates. No real ones! The pirate boat below is a gift shop, I think.

For more corner views visit Dana in Italy, who is playing host while Jane of Spain Daily is away.

Next week's theme: water.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 19th October

Outside My Window ... dark. The longer nights are my least favourite thing about autumn. There are high winds and rain forecast for the rest of the week.

I am thinking ... of a list of things I want to accomplish today: a walk; a trip into town to post a parcel (hopefully it will beat the postal strike scheduled for the end of the week); a good long session reading to Cherub (we have got out of the habit lately); baking with Cherub; clearing out the boxes in the hall that hold Cherub's shoes and a jumble of scarves, gloves, rainwear, umbrellas and miscellaneous clutter.

From the learning rooms ... a couple of belated subject reports for Star from last year (both teachers were absent for a time), including a very complimentary one from her art teacher. Catch up GCSE work for Angel after our week away.

I am thankful ... for my car. After fourteen years of only having a car for a couple of days a week it is such a luxury to be able to hop into the car and go whenever I want.

From the kitchen ... chicken pie and root vegetable mash for dinner, and I'm planning to make these banana and chocolate buns with Cherub this afternoon.

I am wearing ... silly pink pyjamas.

I am creating ... a little turquoise dress for Cherub, for which I have a sneaky feeling I am not going to have enough yarn. Ack!

I am going ... to try to get into the habit of going for a walk every day.

I am reading ... nothing. I just finished Confessions of an Eco-Shopper by Kate Lock (holiday reading), and haven't started anything else yet.

I am hoping ... that by planning a list of three to five specific things I want to achieve each day I will accomplish more.

I am hearing ... silence. Tevye has left for work and the girls are all still sleeping. One advantage of darker mornings is that Cherub sleeps longer.

Around the house ... the inevitable post-holiday laundry backlog.

One of my favorite things ... Costa Coffee's gingerbread latte.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a routine week, a shopping trip with Angel on Saturday, and a trip down to Essex to visit Tevye's parents' graves on Sunday (we try to go once a year).

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I have been taking part in my first knitting swap, with a "Something Blue" theme - everyone taking part had to knit something in blue for the person below them on the swap list, and make up a parcel with some extra treats (maximum spend including yarn to be £10). This is what was in the lovely package I received from my swap partner. The little beaded things in the corner are stitch markers, and the scarf has silver thread running through it that doesn't show up in the picture.

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Corner View: Typical Souvenir

This week's subject is "a typical souvenir of your city", which is a tricky one. Our medium sized market town doesn't do souvenirs, unless you count the handful of postcards available at the library. It isn't famous for anything in particular, and doesn't have any major tourist attractions ... but after a little thought I found two souvenirs for you.

(1) The Borrowers by Mary Norton, written in and based on a house in the town (now a middle school)

(2) Some traditional canal art ... the Grand Union Canal runs through the town, and there is an annual canal festival in August.

Visit Spain Daily for more corner views. Next week's topic: love.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 5th October

Outside My Window ... grey and damp. Looks more like November than October.

I am thinking ... about stuff I need to organise before we leave on Saturday for the free holiday Angel and Star won at Easter.

From the learning rooms ... forgetfulness. Forgotten lunches, forgotten PE kit forgotten dancewear, forgotten sicknotes, forgotten homework. There isn't much they haven't managed to forget this term.

I am thankful ... for central heating. I'm old enough to remember just how cold houses were without it!

From the kitchen ... shipwreck stew. And disasters. Burned honey cake and burned soup last week. It takes talent to burn soup.

I am wearing ... dark grey cord trousers, light grey jumper, warm hiking socks, crocs.

I am creating ... a sweater for myself, knitted top down and in one piece, so no seams to sew. I'm also procrastinating over sewing up a cardigan for Cherub and a sweater for my brother. This is why I need to master knitting without seams.

I am going ... yarn shopping for lots of this. It is warm and soft and cheap, and I want to knit a long cardigan for me, shawls for myself and my Mum, and another sweater for my brother.

I am reading ... Ripping Things To Do: the Best Games and Ideas from Children's Books by Jane Brocket.

I am hoping ... my sore throat goes away and my voice comes back.

I am hearing ... the TV. I'm taking advantage of Cherub's morning at playgroup and sitting with my feet up watching the remake of The Parent Trap that one of the girls recorded at the weekend. Also blogging and knitting (not simultaneously!)

Around the house ... tidiness! Angel and Star blitzed their bedrooms at the weekend. If they keep them tidy, they can redecorate. Will that be enough incentive?

One of my favorite things ... giggles and laughter as the older girls play with Cherub.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a routine week, until we leave on Saturday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...  Weymouth harbour

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, October 02, 2009

7 Quick Takes

1. First, a question. If you could visit anywhere you wanted in England, where would you choose to go? A dear friend is coming over from the US next year, and Tevye is going to hold the fort here for a few days while we take a road trip. We have ideas, but what would be your "don't miss" destination? 

2. For some reason I can't manage to do my seven takes in the right order, starting at one and working down to seven. I have to zap them in randomly. One take may look like a Number 4, another a Number 7. There is, so far as I can see, no logic to this. Today I have ended up with a gap at Number 2. I'm sure I had seven thoughts when I started, but I seem to have lost one ... and the only replacement thought I can find is to wonder what this inability to write consecutive points says about me.

3. Angel glanced up at a cosmetics advert on TV and announced that the model's flawless complexion was "so fake!" She has been playing with Photoshop recently and has discovered just how easy it is to airbrush blemishes, lengthen eyelashes, camouflage bulges and so on. I don't think I need to worry that she might get any ideas that real girls should look like models.

4. Yesterday's little piece of drama ... I parked up at the library, glanced at the back of the car and noticed a flat tyre. I hate it when things like that happen. But I have to admit, if I was going to get a flat, I couldn't have timed it better. I was less than five minutes away from the tyre place we usually use, Tevye was home and met me there, and Angel was there to watch Cherub. In less than an hour the tyre was fixed and we were home. Phew!

5. This morning Cherub informed K-next-door that she has spare underwear in the bag she takes to playgroup "in case she wants to wear a different colour". K suggested that maybe it was in case of accidents, but Cherub was adamant that this was bunkum and it was all a matter of sartorial choice. After all, a girl never knows when she might feel the need to wear pink pants with a bow instead of green ones with a picture of Upsy-Daisy. It's best to be prepared.

6. Google and You Tube have led me into a frenzy of discovering new knitting techniques in the last few weeks ... continental style vs. British, russian joins, magic loops, two sleeves on one circular needle. I'll be standing on my head knitting with my feet next. I wonder if they have that one on You Tube?

7. My Friday morning was brightened by discovering a beautiful new (to me) blog at Attic24. All this gorgeous, colourful crochet is enough to distract me from knitting. Almost.

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Holiday Reading: Reviews

I got through almost the entire pile of books I took with me to Greece - such luxury, to have lots of time to read. The reviews, however, have sat half-written in my drafts folder. Here they are, finally, a month late!

Baking Cakes in Kigali (Gaile Parkin) ... one of my favourites from the holiday pile. Reminiscent of Alexander McCall's Number One Ladies Detective Agency in the picture it paints of life in Rwanda, but with more bite. As Tanzanian expat Angel takes orders for her spectacularly decorated cakes, she becomes involved in the lives of her clients - many touched either by the Rwandan holocaust or the scourge of Aids. Humour and optimism outweigh the tragic element. An easy but satisfying read.

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett by Colleen McCullough ... more second rate blockbuster than Jane Austen. The author borrows her characters from Pride and Prejudice but (mercifully?) makes no attempt to copy Austen's style. After the death of her mother the middle Bennett daughter Mary launches herself into independence in a somewhat headstrong manner. Cue a thoroughly ridiculous, blockbusting plot involving romance, highwaymen, underground imprisonment and the reformation of Mr Darcy. Kind of entertaining as poolside reading, but Austen it is not.

Ithaka (Adele Geras) ... a young adult romance set in Ancient Greece. I just couldn't get into it so gave up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K.Rowling) ... I decided it was time for a reread after seeing Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. You either like Harry or you don't. I do.

Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi) ... reading this book made me long to go crazy with nail varnish, just because I can. The author's account of life as a woman in Iran after the Islamic revolutions left me hugely grateful for the freedoms we enjoy - little things like feeling the breeze in our hair and the sun on our skin. Not to mention being able to wear as much and as garish nail varnish as we like. In public. The structure of the book is based around literature the author read with a select group of women students after resigning her university post because of the constraints of the system. Well worth reading.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Paul Torday) ... daft premise, equally daft book. A fisheries scientist is instructed by the British government to help a wealthy sheik to establish a salmon run in the Yemen. Lots about this book irritated me. On the positive side (?) I now know more about salmon and salmon fishing than I did.

The Amulet of Samarkand (Jonathan Stroud) ... first of a fantasy trilogy aimed at older children. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced magical adventure. A young magician's apprentice summons a djinni to take revenge on a magician who insulted him, only to find the consequences of his actions spiral out of control. I thought the story had a slightly Nesbit-ish feel - more modern and for older readers, but with a touch of sand fairy in the anarchic djinni. A word of warning: the magicians, with the exception of the young hero, are largely amoral, interested only in success and power. I want to read the rest of the trilogy and see how it pans out.

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon ... historical fiction set during the Crimean war. I was quite enjoying this, but lost impetus when I got home and it is still sitting half read on my bedside table. The plot revolves around a decorous young Victorian woman, happy at home with her needle, her doctor fiance, and her cousin, a determinedly independent young woman who follows Florence Nightingale to the Crimea to nurse wounded soldiers. I like the main character better than the other two, but overall a cautious thumbs up so far.