Friday, December 31, 2010

Review of the Year: 2010

Looking back at my blog for the year:

In January I thought about the care and feeding of children, we had snow days, and a new little dancer joined her sisters. I also recorded a day in my life.

February saw Cherub's room transformed with pink cupcakes, I got stuck into the forty trash bag challenge, and learned some trombone playing lessons. And I knitted socks.

In March it was Star's turn for a room makeover, and Angel celebrated her fifteenth birthday.

During April I had a existential blogging crisis and hardly posted, but in May I decided just to ramble on as before. Cherub went through a drawing frenzy, and we went to the zoo.

June began with a trip to Brighton. I thought about how everything flows, nothing stands still and my inability to create beauty in the home. Cherub turned into a bouncing fairy for her fourth birthday.

Summer holidays in July meant a trip to Cornwall.

In August I started work as a volunteer at the county archive. We visited the zoo again, and assorted wildlife visited us. Star turned twelve and startled me by growing.

A new era began in September when Cherub started school. I was amused by her powers of imagination and moved by the visit of Pope Benedict.

When I reached a landmark birthday in OctoberI looked back over the past fifty years and looked ahead by starting the Day Zero Project. Tevye took me to the beautiful city of Budapest to celebrate.

November saw me thinking about Cherub's current schooling and Angel's sixth form plans. (We had already made decisions about Star's future schooling in October.)

In December I discovered just how much it is possible to do in five minutes, thought about blogging and Facebook, discovered I am really, truly not an early person, and did lots of Christmas knitting. The year ended as it began with more snow.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Festive Fare

Perhaps I should rename this blog The Foodworm. I have definitely done more eating than reading this year, and probably more talking about food than about books. Note to self: Rediscover Bookworm identity in 2011!

Thirteen things I have enjoyed eating over the Christmas holidays:

1. Turkey

2. Roast parsnips

3. Christmas pudding

4. Brandy butter

5. Smoked salmon bagels

6. Cheese footballs

7. Twiglets

8. Turkey soup

9. Bendicks bittermints

10. Marmite flavour cashews

11. Brie cheese

12. Marzipan fruits

13. Luxury rice pudding with Drambuie soaked dried fruit (made by Tevye's cousin, using a Delia Smith recipe)

And the Christmas 2010 booby prize goes to Thai Sweet Chilli flavour Pringles. Gross. I couldn't find anybody prepared to eat more than half of one, so they ended up in the bin.

Funny how many of those are things I could buy at other times of year, but just don't. (Does anyone buy cheese footballs at any time other than Christmas?)

Oh, and I am drinking Whittards winter spice flavour hot chocolate. Whittards hot chocolate is just the best - worth the price of ordering online.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Juice Triumph

Cherub to Angel, bouncing with delight at her achievement:

"Guess what! There was actually a time when I didn't spill my apple juice."

(Cherub has recently been banned from taking apple juice into the sitting room. Do you know how hard that stuff is to get out of a carpet? Leave the littlest bit behind and it attracts dirt like magnetic glue.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This is Cherub's princess box:

And this is what is inside:

Together with:

And so on ... fossilised shark's teeth, a couple of ammonites and assorted other small fossils.

Cherub, inspired by an episode of Charlie and Lola, decided she liked fossils. I gave her a couple in the autumn and then added a small box of cheap fossils I bought on eBay to her Christmas stocking. It didn't have a list of contents, so we have been trying to identify them as best we can (my knowledge of fossils is close to zero!).

We think we have a belemnite:

A bit of dinosaur eggshell:

A gastropod:

And amber with an ant(?) and other debris inside:

Some were more of an identification challenge, and I'm not sure whether I have them right or not. This, I think, may be a toadstone (a fossilised fish tooth):

This one puzzles me. It may be a trilobite or crinoid fragment?

And this one. Fossilised bone, perhaps?

Any help with identifiction gratefully received!

Cherub has quite a good grasp of what fossils are, but her concept of time is still a little vague, as demonstrated by this conversation.

Star: How old are fossils?

Cherub: Very, very, very, very, very old.

Star: Older than Grandma?

Cherub (confidently): Oh, yes! .... (then more hesitantly) They are, aren't they?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 27th December

Outside My Window ... the snow that fell nine days ago is finally beginning to thaw. It has been a cold, cold week. It is supposed to be rising to more normal December temperatures over the next day or so.
I am thinking ... brain is mush. Not thinking.

From the learning rooms ... Cherub seems to be in scientific mood. She is busy making "Saturns" out of pom poms and elastic.

I am thankful ... that for the first time in a week I feel as though I may be shaking off this virus.

From the kitchen ... menu planning goes to pot during the holidays. I am not thinking ahead beyond the next couple of days.
Today: Leftovers and turkey soup
Tomorrow: Baked potatoes with chicken and mushrooms or cauliflower cheese (Tevye's sister and her family are coming, and three of them are vegetarian)
I am wearing ... pink pyjamas and cosy socks.
I am creating ... second skew sock for my friend's birthday this week; sleeves on a coat-cardigan for myself I started last winter; experimenting with different needle sizes for my aran cardigan (first couple of attempts knitted up too loosely).

I am going ... to the supermarket for milk and a few things I need for tomorrow. 

I am reading ... finished the biographies I was reading last week, so I am in between books. 

I am hoping ... to soon be well enough to test out the Just Dance Wii game the girls have been enjoying.

I am hearing ... Cherub talking to J-Next-Door who has come round to colour my hair. Having a trainee hairdresser next door is very useful! I am so looking forward to her getting to the cutting hair stage. At the moment she can do colouring, blowdrying and so on, but hasn't learned cutting yet. 
Around the house ... Christmas debris. Leftovers, chocolates, gifts that are in use or haven't got put away yet.

One of my favorite things ... Christmas! 

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... Tomorrow: Tevye's family coming to visit; Wednesday: hoping to be well enough to go to the archive; Thursday: a follow up hospital appointment for my Mum (I think Tevye is going to take her); Friday: playing with the brass band at a wedding, then visiting friends to see the New Year in; Saturday: bowling with our neighbours and friends from their old church, followed by a late lunch at McDonalds.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Knitting

I didn't have time to knit everything I wanted to make for Christmas, but I did get  four Christmas presents finished. My brother got sock yarn and a promise of sock knitting, and I have pink fluffy scarves in the pipeline starting with one for Cherub. 

Slipper boots for Star (love this pattern! Very fun to knit):

Bed socks for Grandma:

A hat for Tevye:

A cabled scarf for Angel (I haven't managed to take a picture of her wearing it yet, just this close up of the cable pattern, which I copied from a scarf we saw in Accessorize):

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Laissez Faire Christmas

This has been a strange Christmas. I haven't been well all week, with a flu-like virus that has thrown me for a loop. Pretty much all I have done since last Saturday is read, knit, watch TV, eat and blog. Trying to do anything else has made my head spin. I finally made it out of the house yesterday, when I went with Tevye and Cherub to do a little last minute shopping (urgent need for a new laptop power cable!), to see the Christmas decorations at a nearby shopping centre and have a treat in a cafe there (it was going to be coffee and cake, but turned into lunch). By the time we left to come home again my head was whirling round at 100mph, and that was me done for the day.

Thanks to the unplanned week out of my schedule, this has been a Christmas when whatever got done happened, whatever didn't, didn't, and there was absolutely no point in worrying about it. A laissez faire Christmas.

Stuff that didn't happen:

  • Baking - no mince pies, no apple pie, no cakes or biscuits. I had already made Christmas puddings, but everything else got bought, not make.
  • Midnight Mass - I was looking forward to going to Midnight Mass for the first time in years, but after the trip out yesterday morning it was obvious that I wasn't up to it, nor ready to to drive myself to Mass today (and probably not tomorrow either). 
  • Christmas crafts with Cherub - I had hoped to do some crafty stuff with her last week.
  • Cleaning - Tevye, bless him, did enough to stop the house looking a mess. 
Stuff that did happen:
  • Gift wrapping - almost all the presents were already bought, and some already wrapped. I did the rest in bits over the week. A pair of furry slippers for Angel are still sitting at customer services in Marks and Spencer, as I planned to collect them when I went to the archive (which obviously I didn't do). 
  • Christmas dinner - I already had an online order with Waitrose in the pipeline, and they delivered despite the traffic chaos caused by the snow. Tevye did a little top-up shopping and collected the turkey. We have cooking Christmas dinner down to a fine art, thanks to teamwork and a checklist. He picked up more of the work than usual, but I was able to do what I need to do. 
  • A relaxed, family Christmas - a good day, with time to play with new stuff and enjoy each others company. Our friends from Next Door also came over for a while this afternoon. Now I am upstairs with the laptop, enjoying a bit of peace and quiet to slow the head-whirring again.
The downside is that having me largely out of commission meant Tevye has had to pick up more of the slack than I would like. He did so willingly, but it means he has been busy when he could have done with more rest and relaxation - and it really doesn't seem fair that the Jewish member of the household has had to pick up the tab for Christmas. On the positive side, I am on the mend, albeit slower than I would like. The coughing is easing up, and I can do a bit more before my head turns to mush. And Christmas happened regardless. Watching The Nativity last week and listening to Pope Benedict on Radio 4's Thought for the Day this morning (broadcast yesterday, but I only caught up today) made up a bit for not being able to get to Church. Everyone has reached Christmas Day evening contented. And finally


to everyone who reads my blog. Thank you for bearing with my ramblings! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nativity

I didn't intend to watch the retelling of the Nativity that the BBC showed on primetime TV over the last four nights, but I stumbled onto the second episode on Tuesday and got hooked. I went back and watched the opening episode on iPlayer, and then kept up with the rest of the series. I loved it.

Now, I know re-enactments of Bible stories are very much a matter of individual taste and preference, and I know there are aspects that can be criticised from a theological perspective, but I thought the BBC did an amazingly good job at bringing the Nativity story to life in a thought-provoking but in many respects believable way. It also was remarkably clear in expressing what the Nativity really meant - the Son of God made flesh, conceived miraculously and born of a virgin for the salvation of the world.

The story had three strands. First, Mary and Joseph, and their response to her pregnancy; second, a shepherd suffering under the Roman yoke; and thirdly, three magi determined to follow an extraordinary astronomical phenomenon to its climax and very aware of its significance. I found the first strand profoundly moving as it showed the impact of Gabriel's revelation in ways I found credible, but which I had not really considered. Understanding what had happened to her, but also confused by it and unable (or unready?) to undertake the difficult task of explaining to Joseph and her parents Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. When she returned visibly pregnant, Joseph's horror - and mistaken explanations - were entirely credible.

I have never thought much about Joseph's response to Mary's miraculous pregnancy, and have glossed over Matthew's comment that Joseph planned to put her aside, somehow mentally overruling it with the dream that changed his mind. But of course, there must have been a time lag - of hours, days, weeks, or months we don't know. And how hard that time must have been for Mary. Because really, who would have believed her without divine intervention. How hard it must have been to see her parents' disappointment, Joseph's rejection, her community's scorn. The screenplay dragged out that time lag, with Gabriel appearing to Joseph only when they were on the outskirts of Bethlehem, where Mary's parents had begged him to take their daughter for safety. Even after the dream, it takes a suitably dramatic time for him to accept the truth of Mary's situation - but this is a drama, and by exaggerating the point, it makes it well, and makes the reality of a miraculous birth more apparent.

The shepherd's story was a subplot intended to make the point that the Messiah was not about violent revolution. The magi strand grabbed me more, and was used as a vehicle to explain who Jesus truly was. The magi's grasp of theology and the Jewish idea of Messiah may have been anachronistic, but again, a bit of dramatic license clarified the point of the story. The final episode ended with a classic nativity scene, with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the magi in the stable, surrounding the baby in the manger.

After watching the final episode I did a little internet digging, and was surprised to find that the scriptwriter was Tony Jordan, a former Eastenders writer (a well known UK soap), and also responsible for Life on Mars. When he started writing The Nativity he didn't believe the story; by the time he finished, he did. He stumbled into the project more or less by accident, following a slightly drunken pitch for a humorous take on the nativity story. However, once asked to write the script, according to this Daily Telegraph article he became uncomfortable:

"... the more I thought about it, the more I thought my idea would be a travesty – to take the most beautiful story in the history of the world and turn it into a cheap gag." So he began researching. The gospels weren't, he reports, much use. Two of the four don't mention the nativity at all, and the other two "very helpfully contain about 400 words on the whole subject'', which wasn't going to make much of a dent on four peak-time half-hour slots on BBC One in the immediate run-up to Christmas Day. Past attempts – reverent and controversial – to bring the story to life didn't impress him either. "I knew I wanted to put heart in it. I've never seen that done before."
Which, I think, he did. Even with extensive research, to take the short Biblical accounts and turn them into a two hour drama clearly needs imaginative extrapolation, and this was done very thoughtfully. Mary and Joseph come across as real personalities and sympathetic characters. In Catholic tradition Joseph is usually shown as an older man, but here he was younger, maybe ten years older than the sixteen year old Mary, and found this younger Joseph plausible and likeable. Mary reminded me in some ways of the Mary in this "Kissing the Face of God" picture, which is a favourite of mine - a real, living, loving girl, not a plaster saint.

In my digging, I didn't find any Catholic reviews apart from one vituperative one from someone who hadn't watched the series and clearly misunderstood a secondhand account of the plot. As I said initially, it didn't always match up with Catholic theology and tradition (for example, Mary's fiat to Gabriel was not explicit). I can understand that others might watch it and hate it, but for me it brought the Christmas story to life and left me with thoughts to ponder.

ETA: This reviewer hated it.  On the other hand, Austin Ivereigh of Catholic Voices tweeted that he loved it. I'm sure there will be more strong feelings in both directions.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Christmas Decorations

Thirteen things that are making our house look Christmassy:

1. Advent calendar. This one has / had chocolate coins in for Cherub, the older two have Cadbury's chocolate calendars.

2. Animated teddy that sings Jingle Bells. Someone gave it to Cherub when she was tiny. She was terrified of it, but now tolerates it so long as nobody switches it on!

3. Playmobil nativity set. Mary has apparently gone walkabout. Must remember to look for her tomorrow.

4. Silver spiral tree originally bought to use as a Jesse tree. This year I only remembered for the first four days, so decorated it with red and gold baubles - much more cheerful than a mostly bare, failed Jesse tree.

5. Cute snowman decoration made at school by Cherub. Very simple - two cotton pads, a paper face and hat, stuck to a small plastic milk bottle and decorated.

6. The girls' stockings are hanging from the bannisters. This snowman stocking is Cherub's.

7. An angel decoration made long ago by Angel.

8. Christmas cards stuck to the bannisters.

9. More Christmas cards displayed in the ornamental card tree I bought last year to use as a Jesse tree. This year I switched trees to accommodate larger ornaments (failed!) so it is being put to its intended use.

10. Advent wreath on the dining table. A wooden candle ring with an artificial candle wreath and pillar candle inside. It took me years to come up with an advent wreath I liked. On Christmas day I will switch the purple candles for gold ones.

11. Tiny olive wood nativity. about four inches high. Picture not great as there is a yellow tissue box behind.

12. Metallic star decorations dangling randomly from the ceiling.

13. Christmas tree - five feet tall, artificial. Star and Cherub decorated it and chose the colour scheme. It stands on a small table in front of the patio door, and the red curtains make a nice Christmassy backdrop.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Aran Cardigan

After much dithering, I think I have decided what to knit with the cream aran weight wool I was given for my birthday. Instead of going with one of the patterns pictured in this post, I am going to use this old pattern from 1976 that I found in my Mum's hoard:

The pattern is for double knitting yarn, but looking at the leaf pattern aran weight stitch numbers, I think knitting the smallest size on larger needles (4mm/5mm instead of 3.25mm/4mm) should give me the size I want - a similar fit to the picture above, which is less baggy than the leaf pattern cardigan but still with some positive ease. I'm looking forward to getting started on it once all my Christmas knitting is done and finished (nearly there!).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Newsletter

Every year we try to come up with a slightly different take on the family newsletter we send out with Christmas cards. This year we went with a culinary theme. With names changed to bloggy ones, I thought I'd share it here:



- Goulash Soup -
Bookworm and Tevye spent a weekend in Budapest in October to celebrate Bookworm’s fiftieth birthday. An amazing city, well worth a visit. We can recommend a restaurant that does the best goulash ever. (Did you know goulash is a soup? We didn’t!)
- Cornish Pasty -

We all enjoyed a summer holiday in Cornwall, staying in a converted seaman’s mission in Penzance. The big girls surfed, the little girl played on the beach, the parents ate pasties.

- Cumberland Sausage - 

Tevye and Bookworm have been very spoilt this year, with two weekends away on their own. The first was to our favourite hotel at Appleby in Cumbria. Many thanks to the kind friends, relatives and neighbours who were prepared to look after the girls for us.

- Vegetable Curry -
As made by Cherub at school, where she joined a very caring and creative Reception class in September. This term she has been going for afternoons only. Next term it will be mornings, then full time after Easter.

- College Pudding -

Lots of school visits this term, as both Angel and Star needed to decide on schools for next year - Star  is in her last year of middle school, and Angel will be starting sixth form. In the end both have decided to move to the upper school on the other side of town, which they preferred to Angel’s current school.

- Bread and Butter Pudding -
Tevye is still earning a crust writing exam questions, with Bookworm joining in to write some of her own when Tevye and company get overloaded.

- Dundee Cake -
Bookworm has decided to train for a new career as an archivist. In August she started working as a volunteer at the Buckinghamshire county archive for one day a week, which she is loving. In January she will be starting an M.Litt course in Archives and Record Management, by distance learning through the University of Dundee. As there are a couple of study schools to attend, she’ll be getting quite accustomed to the seven hour train journey to Scotland. Her first trip in November for an interview went like clockwork - hope the rail companies can keep it up!

- Brighton Rock -
In May we spent a weekend in Brighton at Angel and Star’s request - shopping, strolling along the sea front, enjoying the fun fair on the pier, and generally doing sea-sidey things.

- Gatorade -

To fuel Angel and Star’s whirl of physical activity. Both girls have been spending three evenings a week at dance classes, and one evening at gym, though Angel has decided to stop dancing after Christmas - partly to give her more time to study for her GCSEs, and partly because she has gained her first gymnastics coaching qualification and now has a part time job at the gym. She is going out on a high with the dance school show just before Christmas. This will be Cherub’s first show, as a super cute snowflake ballerina and a tap-dancing mouse.

- Snowball -

Lots of those around this year. The coldest winter for many years meant plenty of snow days off school for the girls, and this winter looks to be heading the same way. Cherub loved the snow, but after watching The Snowman decided nobody was allowed to make one in case it came to life and got into the house.

- Champagne -

For the toast ... Here’s to a very happy Christmas to all our friends, and best wishes for a wonderful year in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 20th December

Outside My Window ... six inches of snow, which came down on Saturday. The matinee performance of the girls' dance show went ahead, but the evening show and Sunday's matinee were postponed until January. My band concert for Saturday and carol playing on Sunday were also cancelled, so we had an unexpectedly quiet weekend. The forecast is for another ten days of freezing temperatures, with a strong possibility of more snow.
I am thinking ...that this year I must print out all my daybook entries and file them to make a journal of the year.

From the learning rooms ... school holidays. Just as well, given the weather.

I am thankful ... that we don't have to go anywhere in this weather. With impeccable logic, the highways agency are telling people to stay home and keep off the roads, so that they can keep them open. Isn't that missing the point, somewhere?

From the kitchen ... 
Today: Oven chips (fries) and chicken kiev
Tomorrow: Chicken in bbq sauce with rice
Wednesday: Tevye's office Christmas meal (weather permitting)
Thursday: Burgers, maybe?
Friday: Soup and crusty bread
Saturday: Traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, roast potatoes and all the trimmings
Sunday: Leftovers, followed by a buffet tea at my Mum's
I am wearing ... jeans, blue long sleeved t-shirt, red cowl necked sweater, hand knitted socks
I am creating ... blue socks and prairie boot slippers finished; one skew sock to go; nearly finished a doll's dress for Cherub, and hoping to add a couple more dolly items before Christmas.

I am going ... nowhere! 

I am reading ... a biography of Boris Johnson, a biography of the founder of Puffin books (the children's imprint of Penguin - anyone remember Puffins and the Puffin Club?), and my archive textbook.

I am hoping ... the nasty throaty-chesty bug I have goes away quickly. Meanwhile I'm trying to get as much rest as possible. It is probably just as well everything was cancelled yesterday.

I am hearing ... Angel talking to Cherub downstairs.

Around the house ... rooms in desperate need of a bit of TLC and a good clean. With all the busyness of the last week or so things have slipped from barely keeping my head above water to complete failure.

One of my favorite things ... hot chocolate in cold weather.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... not such a crazy week this week. I was hoping to go to the archive tomorrow, but doubt I will be well enough, so may go for part of Thursday instead. On Wednesday I am taking Mum for a doctor's appointment (if her road is clear enough to get the car down to collect her), then going out with Tevye to his office Christmas meal in the evening. On Christmas Eve we will go to the local large shopping centre to see the Christmas displays and have a treat of some kind in the John Lewis cafe. I also still have quite a number of gifts to wrap and some baking to do. 

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Letter From Jamaica

I have been meaning to tell this story for a while, and I hope I can still remember it accurately - I think I can, as it is pretty memorable. Among the documents in boxes of assorted "stuff" I am listing at the archive, was a letter sent by an English expatriate living in Jamaica in the 1780s. At some point a typed transcription had been made, which I read through. I forget the name of the correspondent, so I'll call him Mr. Smith. The letter told his life story over the previous several years, beginning when he was living in Philadelphia. Here is the gist of it:

The letter began by asking the recipient to pass on news of him to his mother, should she still be alive. Mr. Smith had had no contact with her for many years, having "taken umbrage" at her refusal to allow a certain Miss Polly Topping to join him in Philadephia. As an Englishman he naturally supported the British during the War of Independence (and wanted it known that he would do the same again, whatever the cost!). When the American army reached Philadelphia he was evacuated with no notice, leaving most of his property behind - though he did manage to take a fair amount of cash and valuables. From Philadelphia he went to New York, where he set up in business as a store owner, with considerable success thanks to an affluent patron.

Yet again, as an Englishman and supporter of the British, Mr. Smith found himself on the wrong end of the war, and left by boat for Newfoundland, Canada. After a hair-raising journey, duirng which the captain was killed standing next to him, and which ended with a near shipwreck and the passengers clinging to the sides of the boat in various states of undress, he started up in business again. He found Newfoundland too cold, however, and moved on again, this time to the more congenial climate of Jamaica - he waxed lyrical about this and about the fruits that grew on the island. Yet again, he got a successful business going, and chartered a boat to collect his family and goods from the other side of the island. Unfortunately a tremendous hurricane arrived along with the boat, and though the captain had tried to wait out the storm some miles from shore, the boat was wrecked along with dozens of others, drowning most of those on board. He listed some of the passengers, including a "good negro woman" and his nine year old natural son, and describes searching through the dead bodies on the shore, but it isn't clear if the woman and boy are among those who died.

The letter ends on a slightly querulous note, telling the recipient not to speak harshly about the illegitimate child, as "for every ten men here that lives with a woman, one does not" (in other words, everybody does it!).

Doesn't it read like a potential film script?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cherub World

1. Cherub world is a very girly place, heavily influenced by teen and nearly teen sisters. Cherub's response to a conversation about going bowling on New Year's day (a family tradition) ... "what should I wear to go bowling?" I think I managed to convince her that her best pink party dress was perhaps not the most suitable choice.

2. Sometimes the Englsh language goes out of its way to trip up four year olds. I asked Cherub what she thought she would like to learn about at school when she was older. "Fairies!" was the response. I said she probably wouldn't be learning about fairies, but would learn geography, history and science, which - inevitably - caused her to look very puzzled. I started to explain that geography meant learning about the world and different countries. "Oh!" she said, baffled, "I thought it meant taking pictures". Oops! Slight confusion between geography and photography.

Friday, December 17, 2010


No time for seven quick takes today, so you are just getting one.

Our library currently has a selection of biographies on display, and I happened to spot Boris: the Rise of Boris Johnson (Andrew Gimson). Tevye likes political biographies, and I like biographies in general and find Boris highly entertaining, so I picked it up. (Note for those outside the UK: Boris Johnson is a Conservative politician and the current mayor of London, whose political style is rather individual.)  Inspired by the book, I did a bit of Googling for Boris quotes to share. I should add that I don't have strong feelings either for or against Boris politically - indeed, beyond knowing that he is Conservative, I couldn't tell you where on that spectrum he falls. I just enjoy watching someone rampage through the political world with a bit of joie de vivre and a razor sharp mind hidden under a bumbling exterior.

Some favourite Boris-isms ...

"He's lost the plot, people tell me. He's drifting rudderless in the wide Sargasso Sea of New Labour's ideological vacuum." (On Tony Blair)

"If Amsterdam or Leningrad vie for the title of Venice of the North, then Venice - what compliment is high enough? Venice, with all her civilisation and ancient beauty, Venice with her addiction to curious aquatic means of transport, yes, my friends, Venice is the Henley of the South."

"My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters."

"My chances of being Prime Minister are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive."

And for your delectation and delight, Boris on why London deserved the 2012 Olympics ("Other nations, the French, looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner. We looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to play wiff waff. That is why London is the sporting capital of the world.")

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday 13: Microchip Memory Lane

I'm not sure what got me pondering the various computers and electronic games devices we have had over the years, but once I started thinking about them it turned into a list. So, does anyone remember any of these?

1. Pong ... yes, two little paddles and a ball, bouncing around the TV screen. The height of electronic excitement in its day.

2. Sinclair ZX Spectrum ... (this was Tevye's, but I'm shamelessly including it in my list to make up the numbers!). One of the very first home computers, that required programming to make it do anything. Tevye and programming do not go together, so the Spectrum was not a success. He doesn't remember ever buying any software for it, so the poor thing sat unloved and unused.

3. Amstrad 1512 ... my first ever computer, bought when I started a degree course in 1989. The 512 figure was to indicate the whopping 512k of RAM. These machines revolutionised the home computer market in the UK, because they were genuinely usable. I wrote all my essays for three years on my Amstrad, using a cheap word processing program.

4. 286 Computer ... I think 286 was the processor speed? (386 and 486 machines were bigger and better). If I remember rightly this one was not a Windows machine, but it did run Word Perfect. Again, it did the job - I wrote my doctoral thesis on it - and I think it was the first computer I used online, paying £10 a month to an ISP for 10 hours of internet time.

5. Olivetti Quaderno ... I loved this machine. So much so, that I still have it. Although the keyboard is shot, I can't bring myself to throw it away. The Quaderno was a tiny computer, way ahead of its time - so much so that it never really found a niche in the market and I bought mine half-price around the time I started as a doctoral student. It had 20Mb of storage (I think), ran Word Perfect, had a full keyboard, synced with my desktop computer, and had four hours battery life. With a spare battery pack, I could work all day in a library or archive taking notes. It was small enough and light enough to fit in a handbag - not much bigger than my iPad. This at a time when laptops were large, clunky, and expensive.

6. A.N.Other Computer ... about which I can remember nothing, except that it was my first Windows machine, running Windows 95.

7. Sega Gamegear ... given to Angel by my brother, who acquired it from a friend who bought it in the States. Probably out of date by the time we got it, as no new games were available in the UK. Still, it kept Angel happy with the handful of games that came with it.

8. Handspring Visor PDA ... similar to a Palm, and something I used a lot for a while to keep track of my life. Ideal for a list lover! Angel like mine so much she bought herself a used one on eBay.

9. Handspring Treo  ... a PDA upgrade, mine was the only Treo model that was not also a phone. I chose it because it had a small but usable QWERTY keyboard. I still have a strong preference for little QWERTY keyboards over standard phone keypads.

10. Compaq Presario ... this desktop computer ran Windows Millenium and I was happy with it for quite some time, until it got too slooooowwwwww.

11. Playstation2 ... we are not big gamers here, but we enjoyed our Playstation and it still gets plugged in occasionally if Angel fancies playing one of her old games.

12. Creative Zen MP3 player ... did what it said on the tin. Played MP3s.

13. Assorted laptops ... when the old Presario reached the point of driving us crackers, we decided to switch from a desktop to a laptop. We learned the hard way that cheap laptops do not cope well with heavy use from four people. Within 18 months we had returned three laptops that developed faults while still under warranty - one Compaq, one Toshiba and one HP. After that we gave up and switched to Macs.

These days we have an iMac, a MacBook (both 2006 models, but swinging along nicely since their memory boosts and software upgrades, apart from a thin blue line down the iMac screen and some insulating tape holding the laptop charger lead together), an iPad, assorted iPods - I have a first generation iTouch, Angel has a Nano, and Star a shuffle - and a Wii.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day Zero Project: Five Minutes Early

Well, that was an education! I just about managed to check off "be five minutes early for everything for a week", and to my surprise - poor Tevye is not going to like this - I hated it. I thought that after a couple of days of cold-turkey earlyness, I would begin to get into the swing of it and see benefits, with less stress and rushing around. I didn't. It made things worse. Maybe it was the artificial self-imposed deadline, but I found it more stressful than my normal last minute dash. I am not often late (at least, not by more than a couple of minutes), but I am definitely an on time by the skin of my teeth person. Hurtling around doing six things simultaneously before rushing out the door at the last minute is my normal modus operandi. Somehow I seem to need the extra push that tight timing gives me. If I start getting ready five, or ten, or thirty minutes earlier than usual, I just can't get into gear and still end up with the last minute rush. Last week I discovered that doing the manic dash five minutes early doesn't make it any less of a manic dash. It just makes it more irritating because it feels unnecessary and unnatural. And once I have rushed, chances are I then have a frustrating wait for someone who isn't ready, or have to hang around in a freezing cold school playground or dance school because I am too early. Thanks, but no thanks.

So, lesson learned. My last minute system - if I can dignify something so apparently chaotic by calling it a system - works for me. I just need to find some way of making it less exasperating for the early birds in the family (sorry Tevye!).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To Snow? or Not To Snow?

It may be a white Christmas, but then again, it may not. We may get snow this week, but we may not. The reason the British obsess on the weather is that we often don't know from one day to the next - or even one hour to the next - what it is going to do. To give you an idea of just how unpredictable British weather is, here is an extract from the BBC's online monthly outlook forecast (which comes from the Meteorological Office. If they don't know, nobody does):

"Confidence is rising that on Thursday night significant snow will fall in eastern England and during Friday significant snow is possible in Northern Ireland Wales and western England. If confidence lowers then please unread the last paragraph."

Apparently the BBC decided this was too vague, or too ungrammatical, as the last sentence was later deleted, but I thought it summed up the impossibility of British weather forecasting.

While I had weather on my mind, I browsed some weather quotes. Some were negative:
"The weather is like the government, always in the wrong." (Jerome K. Jerome)

But this one was refreshingly cheerful:
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” (John Ruskin)

And putting my blog firmly in its place:
“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” (Oscar Wilde)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 13th December

Outside My Window ... warmer than a week ago, though still pretty chilly. We have even had a couple of days on which I haven't had to defrost the car, and it looks as though this morning may be another.

I am thinking ... about using iCal. I have used Google Calendar for a while, but haven't been keeping it up-to-date, as we also have a real, paper family planner that is our definitive calendar. Now my iPad, iPod and computers can all talk to each other, I'm thinking it would be useful to double the planner in iCal, together with the extras I use Google Calendar for (particularly menu planning).

From the learning rooms ... Cherub's final Christmas concert performances today and tomorrow, then a Christmas party and a carol service to finish the term on Thursday and Friday. Star's school have changed their homework policy to longer cross-curricular tasks to complete over a three week period. The first task has been to write a short speech on any topic, with visual aids and a fact file poster to go alongside. Star chose to do hers on airbrushing, and surprised me by getting it completed two days early.

I am thankful ... that Mum is well enough to go home today. She made it round the supermarket on Saturday, noticeably faster than she could before the operation.

From the kitchen ... the end of the week is just too chaotic to plan! I think there will probably be some takeaways in there.
Today: Turkey steaks and potato wedges / pasta and sauce (for Angel and Star who will be eating late)
Tomorrow: Cottage pie
Wednesday: Something instant from the freezer (everyone in and out at different times, no time to cook)
Thursday: Lazy chicken and potatoes (didn't get made last week)
Friday: ????
Saturday: ????
Sunday: Roast beef?
I am wearing ... mismatched pyjamas. Pink top, black and white trousers.
I am creating ... still prairie boot slippers for Star, skew socks and blue socks. One of each finished so far.

I am going ... to spend the afternoon with my feet up, recharging batteries for the crazy week ahead.

I am reading ... my first archives textbook has arrived, so I am going to try to start reading through that this week.

I am hoping ... to keep up my run of daily blogging, despite a crazy schedule this week (see below).

I am hearing ... blissful silence apart from my fingers tapping the keys. Really should go and wake the girls up.

Around the house ... beginning to look Christmassy. We have the tree up - thanks to Star and Cherub, who did everything but the lights between them - and Star has hung some decorations from the living room ceiling.

One of my favorite things ...being up when everyone else is asleep and the house is quiet.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... oh my! What a week coming up! Me: Cherub's school Christmas concert, four band concerts / carol playing sessions, two evenings chaperoning dressing rooms for the girls' dance show, watching the dance show on Saturday. No archive as it is closed this week for stocktaking. Just as well! Angel and Star: one (long) final run through; one (long) tech rehearsal; four dance shows. Cherub: two school Christmas concerts; one school Christmas party, one school carol service, one (short) tech rehearsal, four dance shows. Eek. At least she gets some down time on Wednesday, when the whole school has a trip to the pantomine. Cherub does not do pantomimes - too scary - so is having the day off instead.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Four Candles

People in the UK over a certain age have a slight problem with Advent wreaths. We cannot take the phrase "four candles" seriously. Even in Church. Father was talking about the Advent wreath at Mass this morning, and when he mentioned the candles there was a suppressed but audible snigger from the congregation. Why? Because when we hear "four candles", we think "fork handles". Here are Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in a classic TV comedy sketch from the 1970s:

Hope that gave you a little extra joy for Gaudete Sunday.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day Zero Project: 101 Achievements

Another item from my Day Zero Project list - write a list of 101 things I've achieved. I found this very difficult to do, but got there in the end - though I took the definition of achievement pretty loosely.

1. Got married
2. Given birth to 3 daughters
3. Learned to talk
4. Learned to walk
5. Passed 10 O levels
6. Passed 3 A levels
7. Learned to play violin and viola
8. Learned to play piano
9. Learned to play the organ
10. Converted to Catholicism
11. Completed a 120 mile sponsored walk
12. Earned a 1st class degree
13. Passed my Ph.D
14. Sung in a choir at the Royal Albert Hall
15. Learned to play the flute
15. Learned to play the trombone
16. Had two articles published
17. Learned to read French
18. Learned to drive
19. Been to an FA Cup Final
20. Been swimming in the Aegean
21. Visited the Acropolis
22. Climbed Mount Snowdon
23. Had tea at the Ritz
24. Visited Jerusalem
25. Been to Lands End
26. Dyed my hair red
27. Had my ears pierced
28. Passed my driving test
29. Crocheted a blanket
30. Bought a house
31. Driven across Europe
32. Taught at university
33. Been awarded an academic Fellowship
34. Learned to ride a bike
35. Played in a symphony orchestra
36. Played in a chamber orchestra
37. Sung a solo in Church
38. Cooked Christmas dinner
39. Been a witness in court
40. Hung wallpaper
41. Sat on a rooftop
42. Driven a tractor
43. Driven a car at 100mph
44. Been to EuroDisney
45. Seen the Sistine Chapel in Rome
46. Kept a blog for five years
47. Mended a puncture
48. Changed a wheel
49. Seen the Mona Lisa
50. Pitched a tent
51. Taught my daughters to read
52. Learned Latin
53. Ridden a motorbike
54. Flown in a hot air balloon
55. Volunteered for a charity
56. Swum a mile
57. Had tea at the House of Lords
58. Earned my own living
59. Passed professional insurance exams
60. Nursed my husband through two operations
61. Played in a brass band
62. Baked my own bread
63. Run a business
64. Hand reared a lamb
65. Spent the night on a train
66. Drunk champagne
67. Driven through a snow storm
68. Walked the pilgrim's mile at Walsingham barefoot
69. Climbed a mountain.
70. Seen a performance by the Royal Ballet
71. Seen the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford
72. Read War and Peace
73. Been through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin
74. Stayed up all night
75. Seen in the New Year in Trafalgar Square
76. Knitted socks
77. Worked in the old British Library Reading Room
78. Given a paper at an academic conference.
79. Given lectures
80. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
81. Island hopped in Greece
82. Learned to cross stitch
83. Taken part in fantasy role play games
84. Organised birthday parties
85. Played Santa
86. Hiked through a Scottish mountain pass
87. Read aloud to my children
88. Camped in the wild
89. Visited Anne Frank's house
90. Seen the River Danube
91. Been offered a place at Cambridge University
92. Been offered a place on a masters course
93. Ridden on a camel
94. Swum in the Dead Sea
95. Been up a mountain on a cable car
96. Nursed my babies into toddlerhood
97. Laughed a lot
98. Fallen in love
99. Made many friends
100. Never seriously fallen out with a friend
101. Lived a full life for 50 years

Friday, December 10, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 10th December

1. My ongoing battle trying to keep essential pieces of equipment working continues (see Around the House). The toilet flush mechanism is still in its disastrous state, and one of the fixings from the shower door has detached itself, making the door liable to collapse on whoever is using the shower. On the plus side, Tevye has booked an electrician to replace the kitchen light next week, and I have replaced the toilet seat in the shower room, which means you no longer take your life in your hands slithering around on a seat with broken fixings that was - literally - clinging on by a thread. Overall, honours this week are about even.

2. When it comes to electronics, this was definitely a winning week with both computers now brought firmly into 2010. I added extra RAM to them recently so that I could upgrade their operating systems (for Mac people, they were still running Tiger) and add the most recent versions of iLife and iWork. I managed to load the new software onto the desktop machine, but failed on the MacBook, which has a decidedly dodgy DVD drive and refused to read the disks. On Wednesday I took it into the Apple Store, and two hours later had a nice up-to-date laptop returned to me. Job done!

3. A sad news report this week that the Glastonbury thorn has been chopped down - possibly by people seeking revenge on the landowner, rather than as an anti-Christian act. The original thorn bush was believed to have grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, who travelled to Britain after the Crucifixion. It was destroyed during the Civil War, but cuttings from the roots were used to grow more trees around the town of Glastonbury, one of which was planted on the site of the original fifty years go. The existence of other trees fortunately means that the damaged thorn is replaceable. (HT: MacBeth on Facebook)

4. Glastonbury these days is a rather strange place - or at least it was the last time I went there several years ago. On the one had it is supposed to be the ancient cradle of British Christianity, and is still a focus of pilgrimages. On the other, it is very dominated by a hippy, new age culture. An odd mix. It is also the home of the biggest, most spectacular, and muddiest music festival in Britain.

5. Cherub is slightly less worried about Father Christmas this year than last, when she decided that she would really rather not have any presents, thank you. This year he is allowed to visit, so long as she can leave her stocking safely downstairs. The local Round Table has a Santa float that visits different parts of the town during the couple of weeks before Christmas. When it came down our road tonight, I suggested she might like to just peak through the window. No way! (Not that she was scared, mind you ... just tired, and needed her bath NOW.)

6. Christmas countdown ... shopping done, newsletter written, online supermarket order done. Still to do ... wrapping, card writing, decorating and putting up the tree, making Christmas puddings and mince pies, knitted gifts to finish.

7. Got to go ... too much knitting, too little time!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thursday 13: Childhood Christmasses

Thirteen things I remember about Christmas during my childhood:

1. The Christmas tree. We had what today would be a small artificial tree (in the sixties that meant bright green tinsel) which sat on the broad windowsill of our living room. I think the tree usually went up a couple of weeks before Christmas, and was a cause of big excitement.

2. The tree excitement was as but nothing compared to the excitement when the other decorations went up. We lived in an old beamed farmhouse, and a few days before Christmas my parents would hang crepe paper streamers from the beams, criss-crossing the ceiling of the living room, while we were in bed asleep. The next morning we would make the thrilling discovery that the house had magically (or so it seemed) been decorated, and Christmas must be just round the corner.

3. Christmas stockings were filled overnight by Father Christmas. Not the big, decorated Christmas stockings my girls have, but our own everyday long socks. My brother and I were allowed to open our stockings (stuffed with small gifts) whenever we woke, so long as we didn't wake our parents!

4. Downstairs we would find a present each, and a joint gift, usually a game. Everything else had to wait until the afternoon.

5. Church in the morning, about which I remember very little except that we went and there were carols - this was to the village Methodist Church, of which my parents were members, and which was dominated by my dad's extended family. I don't think the service was any more child / family oriented than usual for a Sunday.

6. Christmas dinner (which is what we called lunch, English terminology for meals being erratic and confusing!). Earlier or later depending on where Auntie and Uncle (my mother's adopted parents) had to drive from. Uncle was a Methodist minister, so couldn't leave until after his morning service. When they lived in Norfolk, we would wait for them to arrive and eat later; when they lived in Cornwall, they didn't arrive until the evening so we ate without them earlier.

7. Dinner was always traditional - turkey and all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding made according to Auntie's recipe.

8. The turkey was delivered several days before Christmas and, this being before the days of freezers or fridges large enough for a big bird, was stored in the cellar - hung up I imagine, otherwise the mice would have got it. There was one year when a mouse got into the pantry and nibbled the Christmas cake that was waiting to be iced.

9. No after dinner drinks at Christmas or any other time - we never had alcohol at home, being a good Methodist family. In later years my dad might have the occasional glass of beer and my mum a very rare glass of wine or sherry (until she discovered she was allergic to red wine) but both my parents were always more or less teetotal.

10. Serious present opening after lunch. As we had very few relatives to give us gifts, my mum always bought us quite a lot of low value presents so we would have the fun of lots of unwrapping. I carried on this tradition with my daughters - I enjoy shopping and wrapping, and they enjoy opening.

11. We never put presents under the tree. They were stacked up on the sofa in what we called the "end room". Our house was long, with a large farmhouse kitchen, our family living room, and the end room on the ground floor. The end room was what I guess in earlier days might have been called the "best parlour" or some such. We only used it if we had visitors, on special occasions, and for music practice (the piano was in that room). At Christmas it was warm and cosy with an open fire. The presents magically appeared on the sofa overnight, delivered by Father Christmas. We knew that they were gifts from our parents, grandparents and so on, but I think we must have imagined Father Christmas to be some kind of cosmic postman. Peeking through the door to see the sofa piled high on Christmas morning was another big thrill.

12. Playing games. As a family we enjoyed board games, and there was always at least one new game to keep us busy at Christmas.

13. Tea time meant turkey left overs, salad and bread rolls (always bridge rolls, I think), followed by mince pies and Christmas cake, homemade with marzipan, icing and our usual cake decorations. I remember a Santa on a sleigh, some little fir trees, and a Merry Christmas greeting. After tea more playing with new toys and games, then tired and happy to bed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

2010 Status Collage

A rather neat Facebook app creates a collage of status posts from 2010. Neatly blurring the lines between Facebook and blog, here is mine (click to see larger version):

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"BBC" Top 100 Book List

I have seen this meme on both Facebook and the internet recently. Melanie has done a bit of research and established that the list is an urban legend, but never one to miss a good book meme, I'm going to play anyway ...

The BBC claims (supposedly!) that most people haven't read more than six books on the list. How many of these have you read?

Instructions: Bold those books you've read in their entirety. Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. (I skipped the tagging bit - play if you want to play!)

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10.Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens 
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere 
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Monday, December 06, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 6th December

Outside My Window ... another deep frost this morning after a thaw over the weekend. Trees and bushes looking ethereally beautiful in the early morning fog. 

I am thinking ... about how to overcome my inability to get anywhere early. I am not really a late person, more a skin-of-my-teeth one. I usually get places either bang on time or a couple of minutes late, but only after a last minute rush. 

From the learning rooms ... Cherub is practicing for her school Christmas concert, which they have to perform four times, three to accommodate all the parents, and once for elderly folk from the local community. The Reception class are doing a version of the nativity. Cherub is one of a group of stars singing a song about the three kings. 

I am thankful ... for Advent, which always feels like a new beginning to me. I do so much better with Advent than Lent.

From the kitchen ... 
Today: Beef stew and dumplings (cold weather comfort food)
Tomorrow: Chicken and chips
Wednesday: Baked potatoes and chilli
Thursday: Pasta with tomato pesto and creme fraiche
Friday: Lazy chicken and potatoes
Saturday: Vegetable soup
Sunday: Roast beef or lamb
I am wearing ... black jeans; black long sleeved t-shirt; baggy black, grey and cream striped loose-knit sweater bought from Tesco a couple of weeks ago - not the best looking item of clothing, but incredibly comfy and cosy in cold weather; black and white handknitted socks that are wearing thin at the heels and need darning.

I am creating ... these prairie boot slippers for Star (absolutely love this pattern, well worth the cost of downloading it); skew socks for a friend; blue socks for Mum; long chunky cardigan for myself. Finished the super chunky wrist warmers and Angel's scarf.

I am going ... to try to be five minutes early for everything this week (one of my Day Zero project goals). It may be impossible. I already failed at the first hurdle - how is it possible to start 15 minutes earlier and still end up exactly the usual amount late? Will pick myself up and start again.

I am reading ... Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (stalled since last week); Good Housekeeping on the iPad (I wanted to see what the experience of reading a magazine on it was like). 

I am hoping ... to get at least most of the Christmas presents wrapped this week. Virtually all the shopping is done - just a few oddments left. I tend to buy the girls quite a lot of low value presents as we all love the fun of unwrapping. Apparently the average amount that will be spent on children aged between 11 and 18 in the UK this Christmas is £201. We will be spending considerably less than that. (And I know exactly how much I have spent on gifts as it is all on a spreadsheet. Geek moment.)

I am hearing ... Cherub crunching an apple.

Around the house ... the toilet flush disaster has intensified. Something detached itself inside and yes, you guessed it, flushed away. It now only works by pushing and pulling bits within the works. I trip to the plumbing store to replace the various flushed-away bits is becoming urgent. If (when?) that fails, it will be time for a plumber. We already need an electrician to replace the kitchen light, which has worked loose and is now taped to the ceiling with black duck tape. Very elegant addition to the decor, that! As we hate that light with a passion - the bulbs keep blowing and are an utter pain to replace - it is time for it to go.

One of my favorite things ... central heating. Having grown up in a house with only coal fires and small electric heaters I don't take it for granted.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... usual archive visits; trip to the Apple store to get the software updated on my MacBook (think my DVD drive may be faulty and and I can't get it to install from a disk) and band practice on Wednesday; carol playing on Saturday and Sunday; Christmas lunch for Cherub on Wednesday and school concerts on Thursday and Friday; dance show dress rehearsal for all the girls on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... actually from last year, but could have been taken last week

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman