Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking Stock

I haven't blogged enough to look back at posts over the past years, so I am doing a little family stock taking  instead. Littlest first.

Cherub - has had a good year. She is still loving school, maybe even more so now she is in Year 1. She likes learning and likes rules, so school is a good fit for her. She is much more confident than a year ago, though still extremely cautious about anything new and reluctant to confront anything that might be even the slightest bit scary. Reading and writing are coming along nicely. She isn't ready to read on her own yet, but I can see the skills slotting into place. Her spelling is pretty much entirely phonetic - mostly legible but entertainingly wrong.

Star - loves her new school. Long may it last! Star and school are in some ways not a natural fit (rules? what rules?) so feeling positive makes it easier for her to deal with the constraints. She has made two new close friends, as well as keeping up most of her old friendships. It's hard to believe she will be starting her GCSE courses next summer. She has to choose her options next term and is thinking of French, Art, Child Development and possibly Business Studies (in addition to compulsory English language and literature, maths and science).

Angel - this has been the year when she has become a young adult. She passed her GCSEs with creditable grades, is tackling A levels with her usual competence, loves being a sixth former and being at her new school, has proved herself working in an adult's job, and has managed to juggle school, work and a social life. Oh, and has acquired a boyfriend! She is stretching her wings and getting ready to fly, and though it is a little bittersweet to see her moving away from us into the adult world I am very proud of the capable, independent young woman she is becoming.

Tevye - mostly more of the same. Overall he has a good work-life balance which makes up for the frustrations that sometimes go along with his work, and the recession hasn't had any noticeable impact on his company. His eyes have been up and down - he has a condition affecting the cornea which is not degenerative but fluctuates in severity and gives him some vision problems. A separate pair of occupational glasses for computer work and reading has helped, and glasses with a new prescription he collected this month seem to have improved his vision significantly.

Bookworm - lots of changes for me! This time last year I was about to start my archive course and now I am already half way through. Getting a job has been a big change, but I am absolutely loving it. I find it hard to imagine anything I would enjoy more. The content of the documents I am working with is fascinating, the working conditions are good and I like the people. It has been quite hard fitting in an extra day of work each week over the last couple of months while still trying to fit in my study time, but I have enjoyed the variety of doing something different and getting to learn more about how the archive ticks. I will probably be doing it for another month or so, after which I will be back to working my usual mornings only routine - which is now going to seem beautifully easy! The other big positive from this year has been that I have managed to get into much better eating habits, which have had the nice side effect of causing me to effortlessly lose weight. I have no idea how much as I have no scales, but I am a size smaller and have had to throw out clothes that got too big. I have been eating lots of fruit and veggies, sticking to wholemeal and wholegrain as much as possible and mostly avoiding sugar and junk, which I compensate for with a couple of squares of dark chocolate and a small glass of wine most days.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My New Toy!

Look what Father Christmas - or maybe it would be more accurate to say the Hannukah Elf - brought me.

I have been coveting a Kindle for a while but couldn't quite justify it at the price. Once Amazon brought out this smaller, cheaper keyboard-less model it went to the top of my Christmas list. I have to say, I am loving it! After a conversation with my Apple loving neighbour about why I would want a Kindle when I already have an iPad I did some thinking about the reasons, wondering whether there was really a justification other than gadget mania. And yes, there are reasons. The Kindle is significantly smaller and lighter, particularly good for throwing into my bag to read on the train, but the main reason - which I think I sub-consciously expected, but only pinned down in the light of experience - is that the Kindle gets out of the way. Reading on the iPad I am always at least a little aware of the machine, thanks to the brighter, backlit screen (great for video, but not quite the right contrast for a book), and its built in distractions (too easy to flip over to Facebook, or Google something unconnected that has flashed across my brain). With the Kindle, it is easier to get lost in the book. The liquid ink screen is easy on the eyes, and the neat page turning buttons on the sides flip onto the next page at a touch. For someone like me who usually knits while reading it is a big improvement on printed books, which are not always amenable to hands-off reading and once propped in the right position are liable to dislodge themselves during page turns.

I already had about 30 Kindle books downloaded but had already read most of them on the iPad, so I have been having fun stocking the Kindle. Amazon UK has a 12 Days of Kindle promotion on throughout the 12 Days of Christmas (duh!) with a whole new batch of books added each day, mostly reduced to 99 pence. I have been taking advantage of this and now have the following stacked in my reading queue:
  •  The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff)
  • Ghosts of Spain (Giles Tremlett) - a combination of travelogue and history
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (modern translation by Simon Armitage)
  • Map of a Nation (Rachel Hewitt) - about the making of the original Ordnance Survey maps of the British Isles
  • Salt: a World History (Mark Kurlansky)
  • The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge)
  • Yesterday Morning: a Very English Childhood (Diana Athill)
  • A Darkly Hidden Truth (Donna Fletcher) - the description "a gripping modern mystery enriched by liturgy, iconography, and medieval history" sounded intriguing
  • The Magical Maze: Seeing the World Through Mathematical Eyes (Ian Stewart)
  • The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
  • The Tale of Oat Cake Crag (Susan Albert) - one of her Beatrix Potter mysteries 
So far I have finished Austenland (Shannon Hale) and I am three-quarters of the way through The Secret Life of France (Lucy Wadham). Reviews to follow. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas. Hannukah. New Year.

All tumbling over each other this year, which is why I have not posted for a while. Hannukah started on the Tuesday evening before Christmas and ended yesterday, neatly running through Christmas, and now it is December 29th and New Year is looming before I am ready to think about it!  I apologise for not wishing eveyone a Happy Christmas beforehand, but as we are still only on the fifth of the twelve days of Christmas I wish you one now. I hope you had a lovely Christmas day and are still enjoying the season!

We have had a good time here with friends and family. My mother and brother were with us for Christmas Day, then on Boxing Day we all went out for a meal. This was a change of tradition for us. For nearly twenty years our family routine has been to be all together here on Christmas Day, then to go to Mum's on Boxing Day. She used to cook a lavish lunch and provide a buffet tea, until the cooking got too much and we started just going for the afternoon and tea. For the last couple of years even this has been getting steadily harder for her and she has been relying heavily on my brother to help. This year we noticed that the local Harvester restaurant (one of the larger chains over here) was offering a two course meal plus salad buffet on Boxing Day for £10.99. We suggested this might be a good idea as everyone from the five year old to the eighty four year old likes their food and it would save Mum and my brother feeling they ought to be catering for everyone. They jumped at the idea and we all enjoyed ourselves, so I think it may become a new family tradition.

On Tuesday we switched back from Christmas to Hannukah and held our usual Hannakah party for ourselves and our neighbours. This year we also added in Cherub's Little Friend N (whose poor mother was also supposed to come, but couldn't as she wasn't well). I cooked a mountain of latkes (fried potato cakes) which disappeared rapidly) and bought a matching mountain of doughnuts from Tesco. Hannukah recalls lights of theTemple in Jerusalem continuing to burn miraculously for eight days despite being on the last dregs of oil, so is celebrated with food fried in oil. Jewish food does not do low calorie! After Hannukah food for twelve on Tuesday, Tevye's sister and family and a couple of family friends came for the day yesterday which meant providing lunch and tea for thirteen. I cooked a mountain of baked potatoes, chicken and mushroom casserole, cauliflower cheese for those who don't eat meat (or in the case of Tevye's nephew's fiancee, non-kosher meat), various veggies, and a couple of apple pies using the pastry recipe from Linds' mince pies (delicious!).

If I had any sense today would be a restful, chilling out sort of day, but no - I am heading off to London on the train with four teenagers to hit the post-Christmas sales at the Westfield Centre in Shepherd's Bush. Eek! Tomorrow, I chill!

Advent Books: Week 4

Late, but posting this anyway for the record, our final batch of books for Advent. There were a couple of others I wanted that I ordered from the library, but they didn't arrive on time - if I could have got them I would have added in The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett and Bethlehem by Fiona French.

Sunday: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

Monday: The Nutcracker (Usborne Picture Book)

Tuesday: My First Hannukah board book (enough content for this not to be a baby book)

Wednesday: Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson

Thursday: Light the Lights: A Story about Celebrating Hannukah and Christmas by Margaret Moorman

Friday: The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie de Paola (more of an Epiphany book, but the library let me down and I had to fill a gap!)

Saturday: Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve? by Jan Brett

Her favourite from week three was Tomie de Paola's The Clown of God, and from week four Light the Lights ... but really we fizzled out rather towards the end (or life got busier in the evenings) and a number of the books from the last two weeks didn't get read at all. We did read all of The Story of Holly and Ivy, which she loved. I am still trying to nail down the different editions of this. Amazon UK has three: a picture book illustrated by Barbara Cooney, which at 31 pages long must be either heavily abridged or a retelling; a version illustrated by Christian Birmingham with 64 pages - this is the one I have in the Kindle edition, with the town name changed, which I am sure is abridged; and an old Young Puffin editon with 80 pages, which I think is a reprint of the 1958 original, although I am sure the copy I borrowed from the library for Star several years ago had a different cover. I am slightly frustrated that I don't know what is missing from the Kindle book, but I am sure something is.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Books: Week 3

I wrote this on the train during the week, but needed to tweak the pictures and only just remembered!

This week's books:

Christmas by Jan Piemkowski

A Flower Fairy Christmas

Saint Lucy by Silvia Vecchini

The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola

Tod and the Clock Angel by Andrew Matthews and Christian Birmingham

The Night the Stars Danced for Joy by Bob Hartman

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola

Alongside those we are reading Chrissie the Wish Fairy (having made it to the end of Holly the Christmas Fairy. Oh joy!) and A Street Through Time by Anne Millard and Steve Noon, one of a series of gorgeous illustrated history books published some years ago by Dorling Kindersley, mostly out of print and getting hard to find at a reasonable price. Cherub adores this book. We look at one double page spread each night, and she tries to find the various small illustrations around the page in the main picture. Last night we added in The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, which also seems to out of print except in a Kindle version which I downloaded last night. I am slightly irritated as I think this many be an abridged version, and the town name has been changed form the original Aylesbury (real, local and name familiar to Cherub) to Appleton (fictional). Why?

As for last week's books, Cherub's favourites were Brian Wildsmith's A Christmas Story, the pop-up version of the Nutcracker, and Jan Brett's Christmas Trolls (an all time family favourite, this one).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Advent Books: Week 2

The books for advent have been a huge hit so far (with the exception of Saint Andrew which she took against). This weeks selection is:

Sunday: A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith

Monday: Nutcracker (very pretty pop-up / lift the flap version)


Tuesday: Saint Nicholas by Mary Joslin

Wednesday: Country Angel Christmas by Tomie de Paola

Thursday: Mary by Brian Wildsmith

Friday: Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett

Saturday: The New Star by Taffy Davis

Highlights for Cherub from last week were The Story of Christmas by Jane Ray, which Cherub has wanted read every day. Apparently it was also their storybook at school one day, which delighted her. I love Jane Ray's style of illustration, the text is traditional and flows well, and I noticed for the first time that in a couple of the pictures Mary is discreetly nursing baby Jesus (a nice touch, I thought). Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr is an old favourite, but Cherub now gets the humorous touches that went over her head last year. Another one we are both loving is Jan Brett's The Twelve Days of Christmas, which I am expected to sing in its entirety. We both love the little vignettes at the side of each page showing a family finding, cutting and decorating their Christmas tree. Jan Brett's pictures within pictures are always a delight.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Stravinsky's Firebird Suite

... finally makes sense! It probably always made sense to listen to, but until last night too many bits were just a jumble of notes when I tried to play it. At last night's orchestra it finally came together, which is just as well as we are playing it in a concert on Saturday. Not that I can play every note, but at least I now have a handle on where they are meant to be! And it sounded wonderful with a full orchestra (lower brass and percussion usually come just for the last couple of rehearsals). Very dramatic!

After being slightly resentful that this concert and rehearsals were a time squeeze I could have done without at the moment I'm now glad I didn't decide to drop out as I realised last night how much I like the programme. As well as the Firebird Suite there is a Beethoven piano concerto, a pretty bit of Mozart for wind, and Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis for double string orchestra, which is just beautiful. If you like classical music but don't know it I highly recommend you download it, sit back and relax, and just let it flow over you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Week: 29th November 2011

The weather ... A nasty, wet morning, after a frosty start yesterday. It still feels more like autumn than winter.

I am wearing ... black jeans, black vest top, black sweater, pink cardigan, pink plimsolls, pink coat and scarf. Plenty of layers as I am working in the stack room today. It is cold up there when sitting on the computer, but if it is busy the physical exercise can make it warm. Also have to dress for climbing steps and lugging boxes around.

I am reading
.... The English Poor Laws 1700-1930 by Anthony Brundage and Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy. I don't like Hardy - too depressing for my taste - but downloaded a free Kindle version after reading a review (which I will try to link to later - too fiddly right now as I am on the train with an erratic 3G internet connection). I finished The Secret Life of Bletchley Park.

I am creating
... boot socks for my brother, socks for my Mum and mittens for Angel. Angel's snood is blocked but still a bit inclined to want to curl up.

I am listening ... two rather snarky sounding schoolgirls in the seat in front grumbling at each other ("you gave me the wrong number you dodo!")

I am watching ... Garrows Law, not much else. I'm reslly not that big on TV and if time is short, which it is at the moment, TV watching is one of the first things to go.

I am enjoying ... Poached eggs. I seem to have finally mastered cooking the perfect poached egg!

I am planning
... just working on sticking to the plan! Essential as there is so much to do over then next month.

Learning notes ... Angel is off to London today. Her product design teacher is taking her class to a study day at London University.

Cherub ... is now a camel in her Christmas concert. I think she was just hoping to be an angel before the parts got allocated. As she is a few inches shorter than the other camels, she is going to be a baby camel!

On the menu
Monday: I went out for dinner with a friend, and shamelessly lt the rest of the family to eat instant meals from the freezer.
Tuesday: cod, chips and peas
Wednesday: chicken with butternut squash wedges and broccoli
Thursday: pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce
Friday: ??
Saturday: baked potatoes
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: flu vaccination
Saturday: orchestra rehearsal and concert
Sunday: playing carols with the brass band

A picture from last week ... actually another zoo picture from the previous week.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Not So Mad After All?

Back in August I bought a (very cheap!) set of 42 Rainbow Magic books for Cherub and complained that it was madness. Quite how the publishers and the several authors writing under the pseudonym of Daisy Meadows have managed to churn out over one hundred books with essentially the same plot (two girls help assorted fairies to thwart Jack Frost and his nasty goblins) is beyond me. Still, I have gritted my teeth and we have just finished book eighteen (plus a few outliers borrowed from the library by a gleeful Cherub - the highlight being her namesake Naomi the Netball Fairy).

And now? Cherub has made a huge jump in the level of the books she wants me to read to her. For the last three weeks we have been chugging slowly through H.E.Marshall's Kings and Things, a slighter retelling of British history than Our Island Story written for younger children, but still running to 400 pages and with a fair amount of unfamiliar historical vocabulary - I dug it out to read about Guy Fawkes for Bonfire Night, but she insisted we should read the rest of the book. She has started wanting me to read poems to her, thanks to the gift of a poetry book from Grandma, and tonight we launched, full of enthusiasm, into Letters from Father Christmas (yay! Tolkien!) and The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean. She wants to read, and discuss, and look in detail at pictures, in a way she didn't three months ago when we started the fairy marathon. Tonight it dawned on me that all that listening to chapter books, albeit simple and repetitive ones, has stretched her comprehension and ability to focus, in the same way that becoming engrossed in an easy reader series often kick starts a child into reading more complex material. And yes, the fairies are still top of her bedtime storytime pile, but the pile is now growing in both quantity and quality.

Now the dilemna. The Book People have 21 more Rainbow Magic books on offer, including Naomi the Netball Fairy. Christmas? Should I?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Picture Books for Advent

Last year I wrapped a book a day for Cherub during Advent. Some she loved, others she refused to have anything to do with. This year I think she is more likely to be prepared to give unfamiliar books a go, so I'm going to do the same again. I am only going to wrap one week at a time though. Wrapping 28 books in one go is a marathon I'd sooner avoid, and this way I can tweak as I go and can pick up extra books from the library as I need them.

I am using books with a mix of religious and secular themes, with some saints' stories thrown in on their feast days and a couple of Hannukah books. For the first week I have wrapped:

Sunday: The Story of Christmas (Jane Ray)
Monday: Mog's Christmas (Judith Kerr)
Tuesday: Christmas in Grandma's Day (Faye Gardner)
Wednesday: Saint Andrew (Lois Rock)
Thursday: The Twelve Days of Christmas (Jan Brett)
Friday: An African Christmas (Ifeoma Onyefulu)
Saturday: Angelina's Christmas (Katherine Holabird)

Cherub has been perusing the pile of wrapped books and is excited, not to mention a bit peeved that we couldn't start today. We also have some longer books lined up to start tomorrow - Holly the Christmas Fairy (yet another of the Rainbow Magic series, which she adores despite every book appearing to have the same plot), Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas (which I love and am hoping she is ready for), and I think I will give Grraldine McCaughrean's Jesse Tree book ago. We also have to carry on with H.E.Marshall's Kings and Things, which I thought would be over Cherub's head, but she is insisting on having read every night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Week: 22nd November 2011

The weather ... more of the same, mostly grey and damp, though still warmer than usual for November. It is supposed to be getting colder as the week goes on.

I am wearing ... black long sleeved T-shirt, purple cardigan, new black jeans. Smaller black jeans!

I am reading .... The English Poor Laws 1700-1930 by Anthony Brundage and The Secret Life of Bletchley Park. Getting towards the end of both.

I am creating ... boot socks for my brother and mittens for Angel. Two three-quarters done cardigans of my own are on hold while I knit Christmas presents. Angel's snood is done but needs blocking as it is curling up on itself.

I am listening ... to the dishwasher. Apart from that there is a brief space of silence.

I am watching ... still Garrows Law and Junior Apprentice.

am enjoying ... dark chocolate (Tesco's 74% cocoa bars)

I am planning ... how to fit everything in that needs to be done between now and Christmas. I have to get end of module assignments done by January 6th, but as I don't want to have them hanging over me all through the Christmas break I am hoping to get them done before Christmas.

Learning notes ... Star has recently become enthusiastic about French. The French department at her school was rated outstanding after a recent inspection. Judging from Star's attitude, they are certainly doing something right!

Cherub ... is excited about being an angel in her school Christmas concert.

On the menu ...
Monday: chicken in BBQ sauce with rice or baked potatoes and green veg (which I finally managed to cook!)
Tuesday: chicken in breadcrumbs, chips and peas
Wednesday: beef stew and dumplings
Thursday: pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce
Friday: salmon?
Saturday: beefburgers
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Thursday: medical appointment for me (asthma review), and Star is having two teeth extracted before she gets braces (then another two next week. Ugh!)
Saturday: possibly playing Christmas carols with the brass band - it will depend how many people they need

A picture from last week ... from a trip to the zoo with Cherub on Saturday. She earned it by getting 20 stars on her sleeping-through-the-night chart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Week: 15th November 2011

The weather ... still very, very Novemberish. Grey and damp, occasional sun peaking through, not particularly cold.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas

I am reading .... The English Poor Laws 1700-1930 by Anthony Brundage. The Secret Life of Bletchley Park is temporarily on hold.

I am creating ... Angel's snood. A quick knit but the first attempt came out shorter than she wanted so I am knitting a longer version. Still have boot socks for my brother and my multi-coloured cardigan on the go.

I am listening ... Tevye explaining his idea for our Christmas newsletter this year. We always try spice it up a little with an original theme.

I am watching ... Garrows Law and Junior Apprentice. And the X Factor in a half-hearted sort of way.

am enjoying ... seeing Angel settle into her job. She is enjoying it and her manager is impressed with the speed she has picked it up. I always knew that girl would thrive in a working environment, and it is nice to have that confirmed.

I am planning ... a shopping expedition for new jeans and trousers. I have been eating healthily and every pair I own has got too loose. It seems I must have lost some weight! As I don't possess any scales I have no idea how much.

Learning notes ... I am busy learning about the 19th century poor laws and workhouses as part of my course. Interesting stuff.

Cherub ... is leaning over my shoulder reading this blog! Slowly, and a bit hit and miss, but definitely reading. I'm sure she couldn't have done that even a week ago!

On the menu ...
Monday: chicken and spinach casserole, potato rosti, broccoli
Tuesday: fishcakes, chips and peas
Wednesday: chicken in BBQ sauce with rice and green veg (has been on the list for a couple of weeks but not happened for some reason)
Thursday: spaghetti bolognese (Star is cooking this at school)
Friday: haddock, potato croquettes, veg
Saturday: leek and potato soup (also didn't happen last week
Sunday: roast beef

On the calendar ...
Thursday: consultation with Star's school tutor
Sunday: dance school choreography competition and display. At the last minute Star has decided to take part.

A picture from last week ... another Bonfire night photo

Saturday, November 12, 2011

That Parrot is Dead

Sorry, can't mention parrots without thinking Monty Python.

A recent conversation with Star:

Star (all excited): I know what I want for Christmas!
Me: What?
Star: A parrot!
Me: NO!!!!!
Star: Why not?
Me: Don't even go there! And anyway, have you any idea how much parrots cost?
Star: Well, how about a budgie then?
Me: NO!!!!!
Star: Why not?
Me: Don't even go there!
Star: But I want a budgie! I'm going to call it Keith.
Me: NO!!!!!
Star: But why not?
Me (floundering): Because any bird that comes into this house will be cooked and eaten.
Star: What does budgie taste like?

Place Marker

I keep thinking of things I want to blog about, then never get around to writing. Maybe if I post a list here as a place marker it will give me a nudge and stop everything slipping past me.

Blog posts that may - or may not? - happen:

  • Bletchley Park
  • eating well
  • yoga
  • history for five year olds
  • books for Advent
  • time management
  • housekeeping failures
  • knitting
  • all the wonderful stuff I keep finding at work (though that will soon have its own blog)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

This Week: 7th November 2011

The weather ... November. Ugh. Yesterday was so grey it felt as though it never got properly light.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas

I am reading .... The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair Mackay. Next up is a book on the development of the Poor Laws in England - I need to read it for my course, but it interests me anyway.

I am creating ... boot socks for my brother on the train, and a chunky multi-coloured cardigan for myself that I started nearly two years ago. Angel wants me to knit her a snood and I have a couple of Christmas projects planned, so lots of knitting to do!

I am listening ... Tevye running the shower. Nobody else is awake yet.

I am watching ... I was watching Downton Abbey but the series finished on Sunday. Ridiculous, credibility stretching melodrama at times, but still very enjoyable to watch.

am enjoying ... warm boots. I bought a pair of Ugg-style boots from Clarks in the sale last spring for a third of their original price and they are a bit of warm and snuggly compensation for nasty late autumn weather.

I am planning ... no planning, just surviving an overload of work commitments in this household. Angel is now working as a Christmas temp for a department store, which is going to make the next couple of months a major challenge for her as she tries to juggle work and school. Add that to my extra hours and course work there are a lot of balls up in the air here!

Learning notes ... Cherub has decided her favourite subject is history. Long may that last! Surely one daughter out of three who likes history isn't too much to ask?

Cherub ... really hates loud noise. We went to a local firework display on Saturday, and despite ear muffs to deaden the sound she found all the bangs too much. We went back to our friends' house and they let off some more fireworks in the garden which she loved as the noise was not so overwhelming.

On the menu ...
Monday: cottage pie with root vegetables and green beans
Tuesday: chicken steaks, chips and peas
Wednesday: beef stew and dumplings
Thursday: chicken in BBQ sauce with rice and green veg
Friday: fish in sauce that I bought by accident thinking it was plain frozen fish!
Saturday: Leek and potato soup
Sunday: Roast chicken

On the calendar ... work, work and more work

A picture from last week ... Cherub enjoying Bonfire Night

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Rethinking Halloween

For a long time I have been ambivalent about Halloween. When I was a child, Halloween was a very minor date on the calendar. I remember bobbing for apples and maybe playing a couple of other games. I don't remember whether we ever made Jack o'Lanterns - I think maybe we did, but not every year? Whatever, Halloween was hugely overshadowed by Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes) which was a huge deal. We made a Guy, collected wood for a giant bonfire, and went shopping for fireworks - we would be given a certain amount to spend, and in those days that meant selecting individual fireworks and weighing up their relative excitement value. Should it be one giant rocket, or three small ones? The excitement built for weeks.

Since I have had children of my own I have dithered over Halloween, which has become a bigger deal year on year. I don't have any objection to celebrating Halloween in principle. From my perspective as a Catholic All Hallows Eve is part of a package with All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. My problem is how to celebrate it. Every year since the girls were little the amount of Halloween paraphenalia on sale has multiplied, and trick or treating has got more popular. Some people love it, others hate it. When Angel and Star were younger we sometimes had a small scale Halloween party, but didn't trick or treat, partly because it felt rather alien and partly because we felt that the cons (disturbing people who may not want to be bothered by kids knocking on the door, feeling that it is something that has been imposed on us by the media) outweighed the pros (fun! sweets!). I was also wary of the whole spooky side of Halloween, which is more of a British thing - Halloween costumes are always ghosts, skeletons, witches and things of that type, and telling ghost stories is something else I remember being part of Halloween when I was young.

This year I decided I was warming to the whole thing. Catholic tradition holds that this is this is the time of year to especially remember and pray for the dead, and I presume that somehow the ultimate origin of the spooks and skeletons at Halloween ties in with that tradition. As for trick or treating, I noticed that people have started to leave lit pumpkins outside their doors as an indication that they are happy to be visited by trick or treaters, and that it has become much more of a family event, with lots of families and small groups of children out and about enjoying the atmosphere. We decided to let Star take Cherub, who just managed to let excitement win out over fear - she is Little Miss Timid, and I would have bet against her making it out of the door into a dark night full of people dressed in scary costumes. She set out with great trepidation, but returned with a haul of sweets and the satisfaction of having faced her fear and overcome it.

Cherub, incidentally, was probably the only child in town not wearing anything black or spooky. She was determined that she was going to do it her way. And her way was to dress up as a ballerina with bunny ears. Halloween Cherub style is pink and fluffy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

This Week: 31st October 2011

The weather ... an autumnal mix of sun, cloud, wind and rain, but warmer than average for late October.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas

I am reading .... The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair Mackay. The story of Bletchley Park, the codebreaking centre during World War II, fascinates me.

I am creating ... boot socks for my brother on the train, and a chunky multi-coloured cardigan for myself that I started nearly two years ago.

I am listening ... to silence! Tevye has already left for work. Nobody else is awake yet.

I am watching ... Downton Abbey. Only one more episode of this series.

am enjoying ... work! I really like my job. The subject matter is fascinating and the atmosphere relaxed.

I am planning ... no particular plans on my mind at the moment.

Learning notes ... Angel has been slogging away at product design work over her half term break. Product design is definitely the course with the highest work load of the four she is taking.

Cherub ... has spent a lot of time over the past few days playing with a neighbour girl who moved in recently. E is just eight, but she and Cherub enjoy the same type of activities - imaginative play, particularly with small figures like Playmobil and Sylvanian Families, and lots of drawing and colouring.

On the menu ...
Monday: Baked potatoes and chilli with broccoli
Tuesday: Fish cakes or scampi with chips and peas
Wednesday: Beefburgers with mushrooms and roasted veggies
Thursday: Chicken in BBQ sauce with rice and green veg
Friday: Salmon?
Saturday: Leek and potato soup
Sunday: Roast chicken

On the calendar ... absolutely nothing beyond the normal routine this week. Can it be true?

A picture from last week ... I took Star to Covent Garden on Saturday afternoon on impulse - she was bored and I decided to take advantage of being near to London and being able to get discount rail tickets thanks to my annual season ticket. Covent Garden used to be the main fruit and vegetable market for London but was redeveloped after the market moved in the 1970s, and now has a mix of shops, stalls and street entertainment. We spent some time watching this Charlie Chaplinesque.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Photos from the South

I did a nice photo blog from our day in Chichester last week, which caused my phone to blow a 3G (mobile data) gasket when I tried to upload it. Should have waited until I was home with wi-fi. Now my Blogpress app refuses to show me any saved entries, so the post has disappeared without trace. Reproducing it would be too demoralising, so I am just going to post a batch of random pictures from our trip away.

Cherub enjoying the autumn leaves

Chichester Guildhall - originally a priory church, which became the town hall (Guildhall) after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. Now a museum.

The world's largest liturgical book in Chichester cathedral. Nobody knows exactly where it came from or when it was made - 17th century Mexico / Latin America seems to be the most likely origin. The size was so that the book could be seen simultaneously by a number of people.

The ceiling of Chichester cathedral. I have a thing for Gothic ceilings.

The Isle of Wight has a small railway line that runs from the ferry landing at Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin in the south-east. The trains are cast offs from the London Underground.

Shanklin Old Village. Very pretty, even on a grey autumn day.

Shanklin beach - grey sea and grey sky!

Another Gothic roof, this time at Winchester Cathedral. Beautiful fan vaulting.

A medieval wooden carving on the end of one of the choir stalls at Winchester.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quick Thoughts

1. Too late for 7 Quick Takes this week, and I'm not sure I can come up with seven things to say, so this is just a random number of quick thoughts. I keep having ideas for things I want to write about here, but then I forget what they were. I have just got so out of the habit of blogging. There always seem to be so many other things to do when I am online at home. I thought maybe I could blog on the train, but that is my main reading time and I don't want to lose that. Meanwhile, this poor blog gets sadly neglected. Maybe 2012 will be my Year of the Blog!

2. Angel went for a job interview on Wednesday for temporary work over the Christmas period for one of the big department store chains (the one with the dark green and white logo that has a sister chain of supermarkets). She may or may not get the job - she won't hear until next week - but I am hugely proud of how capable and independent she is, and how confidently she tackled a group interview / assessment where most of the other applicants were much older than her.

3. A lovely moment from our trip away earlier this week.
Tevye [to Cherub]: Are you enjoying your holiday?
Cherub: Yes!
Tevye: What's been the best thing about it?
Cherub: Being with you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This Week: 24 October 2011

The weather ... all over the place - sun, wind and rain in quick succession.

I am wearing ... pyjamas and fluffy dressing gown.

I am reading .... A 1960s Childhood by Paul Feeney. I was in the mood for a bit of nostalgia, but I'm finding it rather disappointing.

I am creating ... the last inch of the Revival sweater - it is knitted in the round from the top down, and I decided it was a bit short so I am adding an extra few inches at the bottom. I finished Star's socks, and I'm not working on a pair of thick warm boot socks for my brother for Christmas.

I am listening ... to the TV.

I am watching ... a programme about young women becoming nuns (multitasking here). When that finishes I will catch up with Sunday's episode of Downton Abbey. I am waiting up for Star, who is due back from her school trip to France in the small hours.

I am enjoying have enjoyed ... three days away with Tevye and Cherub. It was strange to be a family of three for a while - it is such a long time since we last went away with just the two of us plus one little one. I think Cherub is going to be the most easy going of the three girls, and she was at her cutest and sweetest. She was ecstatic at having us all to herself for so long, though she also missed her sisters. We took advantage of a cheap Travelodge (motel) deal and stayed between Chichester and Portsmouth. The first day we explored Chichester, yesterday we took a day trip to the Isle of Wight, and today we visited an aquarium in Portsmouth and stopped off at Winchester on the way home.

I am planning ... Christmas knitting. I have various gift projects in mind.

Learning notes ... half term this week, so all three girls are off school. Tevye is taking the whole week off work, and I am only working Thursday and Friday mornings. It's nice for us all to have a bit of downtime.

Cherub ... is back in a drawing and colouring phase. As soon as she gets up in the morning she sits at her little table, pencil in hand, and the same when she gets in from school in the afternoon.

On the menu ... playing it by ear this week, as everyone is likely out and about unpredictably.

On the calendar ...
Wednesday - Angel has an interview for a shop assistant job over the Christmas period.
Friday - Tevye and I are going out for dinner with some friends.
Saturday - maybe a trip to the zoo with Little Friend N, but he hasn't been well this week so it may not come off.

A picture from last week ... the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth

Monday, October 17, 2011

This Week: 17th October

Oh dear! Where did last week go? Bad blogger!

The weather ... still a warm and pleasant early autumn, but supposed to be getting cooler and more changeable this week

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas.

I am reading .... finished Selling Sparrows, and back to a book about the 80s I have been ploughing through slowly over the past couple of months.

I am creating ... the Revival sweater is almost done, but proceedings have been interrupted for me to need an emergency pair of fluffy, snuggly socks for Star to take on her trip to France.

I am listening ... to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams. We are playing this in my next orchestra concert - loved it before, but love it even more now I have the insight that playing and rehearsing a piece of music brings. I had no idea that it was written for two string orchestras - a small second orchestra plays alongside the main one.

I am watching ... last week I watched Downton Abbey, the X Factor, the Hotel Inspector and Who Do You Think You Are (last episode). I am not a big TV watcher, so for me that is quite a lot in one week!

I am enjoying ... Sanex shower and bath gels. Or rather, I am enjoying the fact that this stuff works so well on the dry itchy skin to which three members of this family are prone (not me!). It is cheap and cheerful, but seems to work just as well as far more expensive prescription grade shower gels and bath oils for dry skin and mild eczema. Cherub doesn't spend half the night scratching itchy skin any more.

I am planning ... how to fit an extra day into the week. An extra day's work that is. I am going to be doing some overtime to help out over the next three months or so while the archive is a staff member down.

Learning notes ... glowing reports on Cherub from her teacher last week - she has settled into Year 1 very smoothly, is responsible and helpful, eager to learn, and gets enthusiastically envolved in both teacher-led and independent learning activities. None of which surprised us as that is very much what we see at home, and she seems very happy with school so there was no reason to think there would be any issues. Angel spent a day here on Friday at a photography workshop, and has just come home with details of a product design study day at London University for next month. Star has been contemplating GCSE choices for next year and is thinking she will opt for triple science (separate physics, chemistry and biology GCSEs rather than a scaled down combined science version), art, business studies, French and child development. Plenty of time before she has to make a final decision though.

Cherub ... was Pupil of the Week for her class last week, which meant she had to collect a certificate, badge and trophy (which she gets to keep for the week) in front of the whole school during assembly. This was scary and she had to be brave, she tells me. She is also very proud of herself.

On the menu ...
Monday: chicken stir fry
Tuesday: chicken and broccoli crisp bakes, chips (fries) from the fish and chip van
Wednesday: minced beef with mashed butternut and sweet potato topping
Thursday: honey mustard chicken and pasta
Friday: salmon
Saturday: leek and potato soup
Sunday: [out]

On the calendar ...
Monday: modern dance exam for Star; Angel wants to try out the adult gymnastics class at the gym where she coaches
Tuesday: tap dance exam for Star; full day working for me
Thursday: Star leaves for six days of intensive French theme parks; Sixth form information evening for parents and students with Angel

A picture from last week ... a rare picture of me with Cherub from our meal out on Saturday

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Week: 10th October

The weather ... Indian summer over and into autumn, although this week the forecast is for warmer than usual temperatures again - nothing like the scorching heat of a couple of weeks ago though, and with a fair amount of cloud and wind.

I am wearing ... dark grey trousers, pink sweater, black boots, beige coat.

I am reading .... almost finished Selling Sprarrows.

I am creating ... the second sleeve of a Revival sweater - stocking stitch with an unusual top down construction - which had been hibernating for a couple of months. The skew socks are still on the go for knitting on the train, and I finished my Jordan vest yesterday. I liked the idea of a lace vest but wasn't at all sure about the construction (basically a tube with two rectangles sewn on to make the bodice and sleeves) or whether the finished product would be something I would wear. Finishing it was one of those ta-da moments when it all miraculously came together into something I really like, though I'll have to wait until next summer to wear it.

I am listening ... to nothing in particular over the last few days.

I am watching ... all caught up on Downton Abbey. I discovered recently that Maggie Smith (the dowager Duchess of Grantham and Professor McGonigall in the Harry Potter films, among many illustrious roles) is a former pupil of my old school. A bit before my time though!

I am enjoying ... fresh figs. They have been on offer at the supermarket recently. I hadn't eaten fresh figs on years and quite forgot I liked them until I bought some on impulse.

I am planning ... Christmas shopping. I like to shop well ahead so that I don't lose December to a last minute rush.

Learning notes ... Meeting Cherub's teachers tomorrow to hear how she is settling into Year 1. She is happy so I am not expecting any issues.

Cherub ... is definitely the most introverted of the three girls. From what she says she seems to like to spend quite a bit of her playtime at school on her own, just watching what is going on. She will join in with the others when she is in the mood, but likes her space.

On the menu ...
Monday: chicken pie, mashed potato, veg
Tuesday: steak or chicken, butternut squash wedges, green veg
Wednesday: burgers, sweet orn
Thursday: lazy chicken
Friday: fish, chips, peas
Saturday: leek and potato soup
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: parent teacher meeting for Cherub, hairdresser for Star
Thursday: eye hospital appointment for Tevye
Friday: Angel on a field trip here for a photography workshop
Sunday: playing with the brass band in a nearby village

A picture from last week ... last week's weather - sunshine, rain and rainbows

Thursday, October 06, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

I am writing this on my iPhone on the train, thanks to Apple. Smartphones existed before iPhone, but it was iPhone that made everyone (ok Tevye, almost everyone!) want one. Same with tablets - iPad turned tablet computers from a tiny niche market to a mainstream product. The iPod changed the way we listen to music forever. iMacs made computers a thing of beauty. Steve Jobs, quite literally, changed the world. Whether or not you own an Apple product, you almost certainly communicate and use computers differently because of the technology that Apple developed or popularised.

I am a huge fan of Apple. Partly because their product design is so immaculate; partly because everything "just works". Who would have thought a decade or so ago when Microsoft appeared to be taking over the computing world that Apple computers would ever become more than a niche product, if the company managed to survive at all? Reenter Steve Jobs for his second stint as head of Apple. And today Apple is ... what? ... the second largest company in the world? (I don't have time to check!). I also heard on the radio the other day that a survey reckoned it the second most iconic brand in the world. Quite some combination that!

So RIP Steve Jobs. Your legacy lives on.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile

Finding a stuffed animal takeover on the stairs when I got home from work


Meeting a blogging friend for lunch at Ikea and turning into real life friends. Thank you Linds! And do read this post where she talks about the importance of friendship far more eloquently than I could.


The prospect of iCloud being available from next week, which (I think!) will mean that I can take photos like the one above on my iPhone and they will be effortlessly synced with my laptop and iPhone.


This thought which turned up on my Facebook feed yesterday.

Monday, October 03, 2011

This Week: 3rd October 2011

The weather ... The last day of a six day heatwave of glorious, hot Indian summer weather, including the highest October temperature ever recorded in England on Saturday. The weather may be all tipsy turvey, but it has made for a wonderful morale boosting bonus between the coldest summer in 18 years and the short, cold and (typically) wet days of late autumn and winter.

I am wearing ... summer clothes. Black linen trousers, monochrome butterfly print top, black cardigan (still a bit cool while waiting for the train at 7.40am) and black sandals.

I am reading ... still Selling Sparrows by Judy Wright

I am creating ... Jordan vest (almost finished) and the second of my third pair of Skew Socks. The Dangerous Socks for Boys are finished.

I am listening ... Billy Connolly's Welly Boot Song (see learning notes below - this started a train of association in my head).

I am watching ... after two busy weekends I am getting behind on Downton Abbey. Hoping to catch up this week.

I am enjoying ... the weather!

I am planning ... nothing new that I can think of.

Learning notes ... Cherub has "Welly Week" at school - they are going to be doing welly themed activities based on a poem about - you guessed it - wellies. (Wellies = Wellington boots = rubber rain boots.)

Cherub ... has gone into a drawing frenzy, mainly creating detailed pictures of birthday parties.

On the calendar ... Tuesday: lunch with Linds; a meeting at Star's school in the evening about her trip to France later this month; Thursday: orthodontist's appointment for Star; Saturday: band concert

On the menu ...
Monday: sesame beef stir fry
Tuesday: salmon fishcakes and salad
Wednesday: baked potatoes, upside down chicken kiev, and stir fried leeks
Thursday: shipwreck stew and corn on the cob
Friday: chicken pie, mashed potatoes and carrots
Saturday: fried fish
Sunday: roast beef

A picture from last week ... our next-door-but-one neighbours' new kitten - a four month old silver tabby

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Heart Quilt

Linds at Rocking Chair Reflections held a giveaway ... and I won!

Look what arrived in the post yesterday:

Isn't it beautiful! It looks even better in real life then in the photo. Linds is a very talented lady. And look how well it goes with my red curtains:

Cherub is also very taken with the quilt and has found her own use for it. Magic carpet. The blur is Cherub in flight.

And the icing on the cake is that Linds and I are going to meet for lunch next week.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Changing Seasons

I am trying to record the changing seasons by taking a picture of the same patch of countryside each month - one of my Day Zero Project ideas. Here are three months of a cornfield (wheat) I pass on the train, all taken on sunny days.




Monday, September 26, 2011

This Week: 26th September

The weather ... the forecast is for an autumn heateave this week so I made the mistake of wearing sandals and not bothering with a coat this morning. It rained and I now have wet toes.

I am wearing ... dark grey trousers, purple t-shirt, purple cardigan and black sandals.

I am reading ... Selling Sparrows by Judy Wright, a local history book I picked up in the library on Saturday. Utterly fascinating as it puts flesh on the bones of the type of records I see at work everyday - it is an account of the prosecution of three local men in 1849 for poaching and wounding a police constable, which became something of a cause celebre at the time, and their subsequent transportation to Australia. Very thoroughly researched, with lots of background detail.

I am creating ... still the Dangerous Socks for Boys (almost done) and Jordan vest.

I am listening ... to Breakfast at Tiffanys by Deep Blue Something (which I discovered through Shazam - clever iPhone app that "tags" music playing in the vicinity and identifies it for you), and The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky which I am trying to get head round musically as it is on the programme for my next orchestra concert.

I am watching ... Downtown Abbey, Who Do You Think You Are, Dragon's Den, Outnumbered. Have got behind with Doctor Who

I am enjoying ... eating more healthily. I have cut right down on sugar and refined starches, and bumped the amount of fruit and veg I eat right up.

I am planning schedules to fit all my coursework in for this term.

Learning notes ... Angel seems to be handling the adjustment to the significantly heavier workload for Sixth Form well so far. She had to give a PowerPoint presentation on art deco this morning as part of her product design coursework, which took a lot of preparation over the weekend.

Cherub ... Is into doing autumny things. See picture below.

On the calendar ... Tuesday: grade 4 ballet exam for Star; Thursday: Jewish New Year;Saturday: going out for dinner to celebrate our next door but one neighbours' thirtieth wedding anniversary; Sunday: a three hour band practice (yikes!), and various neighbours are coming for tea to welcome our new next door but one neighbours (the other side!). I love that we live in such a friendly road.

On the menu ...
Monday: honey mustard chicken and pasta
Tuesday: grilled lamb steaks with roasted root veggies
Wednesday: mince and sweet potato pie
Thursday: crockpot BBQ chicken with rice and green veg
Friday: fish??
Saturday: eating out. Probably pizza for the girls
Sunday: roast chicken

A picture from last week ... An autumn picture created by Cherub and my brother yesterday. A bit difficult to display with the weight of all those conkers!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

7 Quick Takes: September 23rd

1. I think I have a solution to my want to blog / not much time to blog dilemna - blogging on the train using Blogpress. It's a nice app which does what it says on the tin - let's you post quickly and easily from a phone or iPad to a Blogger blog.

2. The new routine is working out. Everyone manages to be in the right place at the right time. One minor hiccup is that due to a timetabling glitch Angel can't get the bus home from school on alternate Thursdays so one of us has to drive over and collect her.

3. Angel loves the independence of Sixth Form. So long as they are there for lessons, they can come and go as they please - not that it makes much difference to her as she relies on the bus so can't arrive late or leave early, but she likes knowing that she is allowed the extra freedom. She also likes being able to wander out to the local shop in her free time (most days she has at least one free hour on her timetable).

4. Another thing I like about Blogpress is that it lets me save drafts either offline or online, so when I don't finish a post on the train I can pick it up again on the laptop later. Or in this case, the next day.

5. Facebook. Lots and lots of kerfuffle on Facebook about all the changes. My view so far is that I don't like Facebook deciding on "top stories" for me - why would it think that I want to see myself wishing a friend a happy birthday as my top story for the next few hours? - but Lissa taught me how to detopstorify, along with coining a new word. I found seeing everything my friends liked or commented on in my feed a bit overwhelming, but with a bit of judicious editing of settings I think I have that fixed. The ticker that has been getting people excited hasn't appeared on my Facebook page yet. So far I can live with the changes. I was happy with the way things were before and can see nothing in the new order than benefits me, but after a bit of initial inconvenience I don't think it will bother me much.

6. Cherub was hugely excited this afternoon to discover that all she had to do to move text on the iMac screen up and down was stroke her fingers along the mouse in the direction she wanted it to go. Love technology!

7.  I have a cold. It has spent the entire week morphing from a sore throat with a slight cough to a nasty cough with a slight sore throat. It is getting irritating.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

School Reunion

On Sunday I went to a school reunion, the first in thirty three years. I went to a selective, highly academic girls' school, which in those days was funded under the direct grant system - somewhere between a private and a state school, in that the fees payable were based on income, with about 10-15% having their places fully paid by the government. These days it is a fully fee paying school, still selective and geared to high academic achievement.

About half the members of our year made it to the reunion, and it was fascinating hearing what people had done since they left school. Two things particularly struck us. Firstly, that most of us had changed direction one or more times, with varied careers that often bore little relation to what we set out to do when we left school - careers which included motherhood for the great majority of us, for which our schooling gave us no preparation whatsoever. Secondly, it brought home to us how academically snobbish the school was (and I imagine still is) and how many people had their self esteem severely knocked by being judged as "not university material". I think all of these had subsequently proved the school wrong by acquiring degrees and discovering they were far more capable than the school had given them credit for, but there was clearly far too much pigeonholing of girls by the school's perception of ability (often inaccurate). I think for a number of people the reunion was an opportunity to confront and put to bed some not too happy memories.

Something else I realised was how narrow our social circles tended to be. Only one of my close friends was at the reunion, and I found myself having interesting conversations with people I don't remember ever speaking to in seven years at that school. With hindsight I am surprised I didn't have more contact with people outside my immediate friendship group. I get the impression that Angel and Star have much wider social circles than we did.

Overall the reunion brought back a mixed set of memories and made me glad that Angel and Star are at a very different type of school - one that aims to help its students achieve the very best they can, whatever their ability, rather than one that sets an extremely high bar and then dismisses as failures those who don't reach it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This Week: 19th September

The weather ... average September weather. Not too hot, not too cold. Some sun, some rain.

I am wearing ... work clothes. Grey trousers, purple top, purple cardigan, black and silver flower necklace (bought for £2 in Boots), black boots (new for this autumn / winter, bought for rather more than £2 in Marks and Spencer - good buy though, as
they are super comfy and will get lots of wear), and a lightweight beige coat.

I am reading ... No Such Thing as Society by Andy McSmith, about Britain in the 1980s. I am on a modern history kick at the moment.

I am creating ... half way through my second Dangerous Sock, and almost done with the Jordan vest top (which I won't be likely to wear until next summer anyway). Next I need to get focused on finishing two cardigans and a sweater that are all three-quarters done but have been hibernating for some time. Mistress of the art of the almost-finished project, I am.

I am hearing ... school kids chattering on the train.

I am watching ... Downtown Abbey. The new series started on Sunday.

I am enjoying ... the new term time routine.

I am planning ... a short trip to the south coast at half term.

Learning notes ... my latest archive course module started yesterday. This is on sources and skills for local and family history. This is much more familiar territory for me than the first two modules, and I am looking forward to it.

Cherub ... is loving her new class at school. It is a bit more structured than last year's Reception Class, and the balance of structured activities and play seems just right for her so far.

On the calendar ... extra pre-exam dance classes for Star (she has a ballet exam next week and modern and tap exams in October); an information evening at Star's school tonight (Tuesday) which we may not be able to make due to a ballet class; a trip out for a family meal to celebrate my mother's 84th birthday tomorrow; going to London with Tevye to visit his parents' grave on Sunday - paying respects to the dead around the time of the New Year is a Jewish tradition - which we will combine with dropping in to see an old friend.

On the menu ...
Tuesday: burgers and corn on the cob
Wednesday: eating out
Thursday: beef stew with crusty bread
Friday: fish of some sort
Saturday: vegetable soup
Sunday: roast chicken

A picture from last week ... (actually from Dundee the week before)

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Week: 12th September 2011

The weather... high winds as the remnants of Hurricane Katia hits the UK. Not a hurricane any more, but enough to bring down a large tree branch in the office car park this morning.

I am wearing... black jeans, pink v-neck sweater

I am reading... back to finishing off The Forever Young Diet and Lifestyle by James and Joan O'Keefe, after reading The Tale of Applebeck Orchard by Susan Witteg Albert on the train to and from Dundee last week.

I am creating... skew socks, light green Jordan vest top, and dangerous socks for boys for my brother's birthday. I am kind of irritated with myself for finishing one skew sock and then starting a completely different pair instead of knitting the second.

I am hearing... Dragons Den on TV.

I am watching... Who Do You Think You Are?, Doctor Who, Outnumbered and Dragons Den. I am not a big TV watcher and it is unusual for me to be watching so many series.

I am enjoying ... 74% cocoa chocolate and red wine. As recommended by The Forever Young Diet and Lifestyle. Those are the sort of recommendations I am happy to follow. I am also generally managing to eat a healthier diet, so I am not just cherry picking the best bits.

I am planning ... I think I have the new routines more or less sorted, but still have a bit more menu planning to finish.

Learning notes ... happiness all round. I loved the study school last week and am looking forward to starting my next archives module next week (with just a little trepidation about work load!). All three girls are very happy with their new schools and classes. Angel is delighted with her A level choices so far, even though she had to spend 12 hours yesterday finishing her summer task for product design ready to hand in today (a 1500 word essay on the Bauhaus movement and two design tasks requiring 3 A3 design sheets for each). Star has settled in quickly at her new school, and Cherub is loving Year One.

Cherub ... came home today thrilled that she did SCIENCE (experimenting to see whether things dissolved in water or not) and LITERACY ("weading" and "witing" - apparently Cherub does the 3 Ws not the 3 Rs!). The capitals represent the importance with which she announced this.

On the calendar ... a normal week! Usual work / school / dancing / swimming / music rehearsals. Busy, but good. I hope. We may have a cousin of Tevye's from South Africa visiting later in the week, and on Sunday I am going to London for a school reunion, the first for my year since we left school 33 years ago.

On the menu...
Monday - baked potatoes and chilli
Tuesday - lime and thyme chicken with sweet potatoes and green veg
Wednesday - burgers, corn on the cob and vegetable kebabs
Thursday - lazy chicken and potatoes, green veg
Friday - tuna fish cakes, salad
Saturday - leek and potato soup
Sunday - roast beef

A picture from last week...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Some pictures of Tarragona in Spain - originally the Roman port of Tarraco, with Roman remains designated a world heritage site.

The cathedral - undergoing restoration so we couldn't go inside

Part of the medieval market place

The Roman forum

Typical street in the old city

Roman city wall

Statue of a human tower (a famous feature of the fiesta in Tarragona)

Being given a little help by Tevye