Blackberry and Crumble are the dogs, not a comment on baking. These are, as we always tell people, great names for dogs until you have to stand in a field shouting them, and then you just sound like a bit of a wally...

Welcome to my thoughts, ponderings and crafty adventures.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

productive procrastination

Purely from a food point of view, you understand we are going to shake things up a little here. 

I am in the process of transcribing the interviews for my dissertation and while the data is fascinating the process of creating the transcript is KICK ME IN THE HEAD JUST TO GIVE ME SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT BORING which gives me what I now like to think of as opportunities for productive procrastination. The washing is up to date, the dishwasher is empty, fountain pens full of ink, toilet rolls in all the toilets, cushions plumped, new crochet blanket on the hook (previous  one not finished – I’d love to be a completer finisher but I’m not, unless its gin).

My most useful bit of procrastination so far has been the time spent yesterday making a list of 31 different meals that we like as a family. We will use this list to decide what we eat for the next month and no dish will be repeated… tonight’s tea is a mystery defrosted tub of green from the freezer – possibly thai curry but possibly not (note to self – label, label) but from tomorrow Nigel, Nigella, Jamie watch your selves we are eating better and more exciting food. 

Thursdays are HWMBO(I)’s responsibility and Bob is choosing two meals a week (from the pre ordained list – I’m all for offering children choice but am retaining some control, at least until the hormones kick in proper) so tomorrow we are having roast chicken with gem lettuce, peas and new potatoes (cooked lettuce, really I hear you cry… yes really its very nice, or maybe you are a good deal more sophisticated than me and you know about this and are over it) from which I will make stock, followed by chicken laksa on Monday, Indian rice and seafood soup on Tuesday, lamb tagine (thank you carrot crush) on Wednesday, spag bol on Thursday and home made macaroni cheese on Friday. I’m actually quite looking forward to it. HWMBO(I) will do the hunter gathering in Sainsburys tomorrow morning and I will cook it. Can’t remember looking forward to the nightly cooking for a while. Hoorah. 

What do you do when you are procrastinating? I may need some new ideas…

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

what's for tea?

What are you having for tea tonight? Do other people find deciding what to feed themselves and other people so excruciating?

I love cooking, baking, pottering about in the kitchen, I love nothing more than having a big group of people round the kitchen table but the day to day decisions about what to eat... meh.

We eat well in this house and good food is important, we don't go out all that much, we don't smoke or drink (not really, although previous Gin posts may present a different picture) but we do like to eat nice food when we are at home. We generally eat the same 7 or 8 things on rotation and IT IS SO BORING. Most of the time it needs to be quick, easy and nutritious because we have been out at work, we are late back, we have to go out again... but even bearing this in mind we are stuck in a culinary rut.

I try and be really organised so that we only need to shop once a week, buying ingredients to make all the meals that we will eat over the next 7 days,  but this doesn't half take the spontaneity out of food.

We are lucky in that Bob is an adventurous sort of a chap and will eat pretty much anything we put in front of him (although, if asked his favourite food is Heinz macaroni cheese, cold), so I don't need to worry about hiding veg in sauces or making something separate for him but still - meh.

This weeks menu of salmon satay wraps, breakfast for dinner (somehow along the way we have acquired a tradition of having a fry up for our anniversary tea), falafal, pasta and sauce, jacket potatoes and salad, really good fish finger sandwiches*, seems ok on the surface, until I stop and think that really we have eaten the same thing on rotation for about three weeks. I'd like to challenge myself to make something different for tea every night for a month but the thought exhausts me, and some nights I'd rather just have cornflakes.

Somehow I think food is easier in the winter - chuck something in the slow cooker, leave it and then its warm and comforting at tea time. Its the slightly frantic half hour in the warmer (ha, for warmer read just not snowing) months when I'm trying to get something on every ones plates when we are all tired and hungry that makes food lose its sparkle.

I have an array of cookbooks and the Internet at my disposal and I can cook. I get how to put ingredients together and have the resources available to me - both in terms of equipment and ingredients but even so - meh.

I'd like to give my food budget to someone else, just for a week and get them to buy the ingredients and decide what we eat - I'd happily cook it, I just don't want to make the decision about what...

Seriously, let me know in the comments what you are having for tea, or even what you wish you were having for tea.

*if i say so myself, our fish finger sandwiches are something of a culinary triumph. Crusty bread, peas, a layer of mash to stop the peas from falling out...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

how did this happen...

Bob brought home his 'choosing your secondary school' pack on Friday. We have to fill it in and send it back in two weeks.

I am very much not ready to choose his secondary school. There must have been a mistake, we must have missed some years, neither he nor I can possibly be old enough for this to be happening. When I buy a chicken, a bag of sugar, rice, I still look at its weight and compare it to his birth weight... Surely that kind of lunacy should have passed before we have to think abut 'big school'.

Next door have a 20 year old, I look at her and see someone I think of as being my age. I don't know what she thinks when she looks at me but I don't suppose she sees a peer. Somethings that I do make me feel very grown up - buying 12 packs of toilet rolls, making a bottle of wine last a week, having baby wipes in the car for sticky fingers, having a utility room, but honestly I feel like any moment now someone is going to pop up, tell me to stop wearing my mums shoes and go to bed.

Some days I feel positively ancient. Things ache, I buy sensible shoes, I plan a weeks worth of meals at a time to make the most of ingredients (I am very bored of what we are eating at the moment, another post for another time), I have a cheque book (I know I do, I just don't know where I've put it - see grown up and not, both at the same time).

Friends laughingly call me the oldest 34 year old they know... I potter, I knit, I crochet, I love an afternoon nap and an early night, antiques road show and a cookery programme and in someways they are right, but really I don't know where the time has gone. It shocks me every time I have to tell someone how old I am (and I know I'm not old, I'm just biologically about 10 years older than I think I am).

In other news, it was confirmed (superbly efficiently) by A and E this afternoon that Bob (returned, wet, cold, muddy and smelling of camp fires from cub camp) does not have a broken wrist, which is nice, there is an actual thing called a gonad shield for use in xray departments, presumably for shielding gonads, and I am seriously considering putting the heating on WHICH IS RIDICULOUS and I think we might need hot water bottles at bed time.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

don't judge me, but...

I went to the supermarket at lunchtime to buy some bread, and accidentally bought Gin, tonic and a lime.

Our nearest supermarket is a Lidl, so not only did I buy Gin, I bought cheap Gin. Fortunately I have shown some restraint and have yet to open the said Gin. I thought that sitting at home, alone, writing my dissertation with a bottle of Gin would possibly lead me down a path from which I may never return. I was initially shocked at the £490.00 bill in Lidl, until the girl on the checkout realised she had charged me for 49 bottles of Gin. She laughed and said that would keep you in gin for about 5 years. I avoided eye contact and smiled as though I agreed with her.

I love a trip to Lidl, I also love a trip to Home Bargains, but at a push Lidl is my favourite. It feels European and the packaging makes me feel like I'm in France - if they would just start stocking Chipie notebooks and squared paper I would never have to visit mainland Europe again.

Other than my trip to buy 40% proof alcohol and to do the school drop off, at which I didn't get out of the car, I have yet to leave the house. I joined the meeting I had to attend via Skype from my kitchen table - this was brilliant as it meant I didn't have to drive to Liverpool (which improves most days) but, it did mean that by attending virtually I missed out on physical cake.

There was always a rumour that news casters wore a shirt and tie and then just pants below the waist. I'd like to assure any colleagues reading this that I was properly attired, and although they couldn't tell because my camera wasn't working I had even brushed my hair.

I'm popping out in half an hour to collect HWMBO(I) from the train station and Bob is out for tea, perhaps we should take advantage of this and the sunshine and nip to the pub before I become completely agoraphobic. Or maybe we should just open the Gin.

Monday, 17 June 2013

late to the party...

I can, on occasion, be a little bit slow on the uptake. (Apart from Onsies, I was an early adopter of the glorious garment, HWMBO(I) is possibly still in mourning). You can almost guarantee that, if, at the end of a TV programme HWMBO(I) and I turn to each other and say "that was great, we'll set a series record" the continuity announcer will say one of two things a) that's the last in the series, it will be back in the autumn or b) although this show was great, its been cancelled to allow more air time for Made in Chelsea.

I was late to the blogging party - I registered for a blog back in the day, but it was in the period of my life when Bob was training for the puke Olympics and any blogging time I may have had available to me was taken up with chipping baby vomit / weetabix off belongings. I still don't have time to blog, but procrastination is a wonderful motivator.

I was late in accepting my inner geek. My inner geek and I are very happy together now, but for years I tried to be one of the cool kids... hoorah for geeks.

I was late to accepting that I am intrinsically a home bird.

I was late to owning dogs - they are, without a doubt the best pet ever and knock gold fish, stick insects and goats (really, pet goat) into a cocked hat.

I hope that one day I will say, I really love running, how did I leave it so long to find out but it seems unlikely.

I discovered this morning that it is WORLD GIN DAY. I only have one source of information and I can't remember which blog it was now but really someone, somewhere said it was WORLD GIN DAY. (Actually, I've just googled it and I'm even later to the party than I thought. It was the day before yesterday, but still, I've started so I'll finish)

WORLD GIN DAY needs better PR. Apparently Gin is undergoing a massive revival. Gin is cool again. I like Gin. It makes me feel like a grown-up.

I like Hendricks Gin with a slice of cucumber and lots of ice. I love the Hendricks bottle. I poured boiling water into an empty Hendricks bottle to sterilise it and use as a vase, the bottle did not survive).

I like a Gordons Gin with elderflower. I love the label of the Gordons bottle. I like roast lamb with Juniper because it tastes a bit like Gin. I have several Gin based recipes I'd like to try - Rose Petal Gin, Raspberry Gin, Gin and Tonic lemon cake, Gin and Tonic Sorbet, Cucumber Gin, Lemon Gin. I just don't have any Gin.

I like a Red Snapper - which is a Bloody Mary made with Gin instead of Vodka (although, and I say this from experience, take care when going to the bar to order your second (third) to get its name right - shouting 'I WANT A RED SLAPPER' at the staff in a noisy bar gets you a funny look.)

I like that under UV light and G and T glows. I loved that at the pub after my Grandmothers funeral I was people watching in the bar and the cantankerous old chap I was watching (no relation) sent his G and T back to the bar, because (and I quote) he couldn't taste the G (it was a double, thankfully he already had a stick for balance)

If we ever actually have any more summer, I want to sit on the balcony with a G and T in one hand, some really straightforward crochet in the other (so any Gin induced slip ups are not too significant) and a plate of lovely nibbles, not sure what, I'll have to think about it.

Thinking it through though, I might not have enough hands - Gin in a sippy cup...

Saturday, 15 June 2013

normal service will be resumed...

I am officially a little bit dim. I went to Suffolk (which is a very long way from Yorkshire) for two days and left my mobile phone at home. I would love to report how I found this to be freeing, how it gave me the opportunity to engage fully with my surroundings etc. It did not. It was isolating, frustrating and incredibly inconvenient. I was in Suffolk sans Bob or HWMBO(I) and not being able to check in with the odd text drove me batty - or at least it did until my lovely Dad bought me a pay as you go mobile phone....       
I was in Suffolk for my Grandmothers funeral and service of thanksgiving. We met as a family to remember her and celebrate her life. I hope we did her proud. I stayed in her house for the night before and after the service; the lovely vintage sheets, the green cups and saucers, the bars of soap where the little bit of the previous bar was stuck on the top, tea made with tea leaves, toby jugs, portmerion china. My Grandparents called each other Wez. They always said it was their secret and we would never know why. They were right.

I am the eldest of 14 Grandchildren. We are conditioned to line up in age order at least once during family gatherings to have our photo taken. We only see each other, really, for Weddings, Christenings and Funerals. My eldest girl cousin and I are thinking of holding a Wez Fest next summer... I'm thinking bunting, numbered tshirts, raseberry jam sandwiches and a really long photograph with the 14 Grandchildren, 7 Grandchildren in law and, by then 8 great  Grandchildren.            


 Not having my phone, means that I also did not have my camera so I have no photos of my Grandmothers beautiful garden, the magnificent Bury St Edmunds Cathedral where we were privilaged to hold the service of thanksgiving, or the comedy Suffolk place names.

Very little achieved today - other than a long nap on the sofa under a quilt which I very much enjoyed and a trip to a deli where we bought cheese and then came home and ate cheese. I love cheese.

 Bob marched with his band, in a summer Gala. He got drenched and had to be warmed on his return with noodles, some time under the quilt and a few episodes of 'come dine with me' (television gold, if for no other reason that the comedy voice over).

Dogs walked - photos to prove it...


Monday, 10 June 2013

the wrong clothes....

I've had the wrong clothes on now for months - I've been too hot or too cold and inappropriately attired since about October. I even got it wrong today, because I got dressed for the weather we'd had yesterday (hot)  and it's been cold today - apart for the 10 minutes I stood in the school playground surrounded by other parents who are able to responsibly dress themselves in their summer frocks as I boiled in jeans, a cardi and my cowboy boots. In my defence, I had been sat at my desk all day faffing with my literature review and trying to persuade reticent midwives that what they really want to do with a spare half hour is come and talk to me about.... and when I dashed out of the house to do the school run the heat hit me and I sweltered and boiled, got home, got changed and the sun went in. I apologise for the changeable weather, I think it's probably all my fault.

We spent yesterday sitting in the sun with lovely friends on their lovely deck eating an enormous amount of meat from the barbecue (delighted that my conversion from vegetarianism has coincided with barbecue season). We then spent yesterday evening with lovely new neighbours eating curry and drinking wine. I ate more food and drank more wine than was sensible and had a superb time doing it.

Bob and I painted some rocks, which was more fun than it sounds. They work well for weighing down the corners of the paper when reading outside and have so far survived being left outside in the wet. I like the free form swirly ones. Bob does not. He has surprisingly strong views on modern art for a ten year old boy. 

In preparation for the food feast that was yesterday, and much to Bobs disdain, I joined HWMBO(I) on the dog walk yesterday morning (my going meant that Bob had to come too, despite his protests that at ten he is perfectly able to stay at home on his own) and just look at the loveliness that was on the moor (glossing over, it the interest of bloggy idealism that I had stomped up there like a teenager (it's too hard, I can't do it, if you loved me you wouldn't make me do this etc etc. HWMBO(I) manfully resisted pointing out that it was my bloody idea in the first place and that if I had chosen not to come he would be enjoying the peace. He's sensible like that)

Saturday, 8 June 2013

all by myself....

Bob and HWMBO(I) have been out for the day... other than my sewing lesson I have been by myself all day. I am really ready for them to come back now. I quite enjoy my own company but there comes a point that I don't know what to do with myself anymore. I work from home most of the week and while I am quite happy in my own company, I do like having people around me.

Not a lot  to report on the sewing lesson... I've cut out a pattern, used an over locker, made bias binding and piping, covered buttons and sewn the main parts together but its not quite finished. Another lesson has been booked for two weeks time where the top / dress will be finished and you shall be wowed (or not, but polite and encouraging!)

I could write about how I did my literature search for my dissertation, or started writing an assignment or updated my portfolio but I can't imagine for a moment that makes for interesting reading.

I sat on the balcony, in the sunshine with a cup of tea and hooked away happily to myself...

Purples, blues, pinks, bit a aqua. Colours that Bob claims the girl cousin will love (feels a bit like Chinese whispers but with yarn colour choices).  Rows and rows of trebles and just changing colours when I feel like it... lovely.

The weather is glorious here - after what feels like months and months of snow and ice. I walked Blackberry and Crumble yesterday on the moor across from Bobs school. I wore a tshirt, no coat and trainers instead of the boots that have been a permanent feature since October and it felt so good. I love standing up here and trying to spot our house... It's down there somewhere. (Sorry, the photos aren't brilliant, they were only taken on my phone.)

I continued to be wowed by comments and love following the links to where they came from, and having a nosey around other peoples Internet spaces. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

I have another hour on my own, in which I shall run around and do things like emptying the dishwasher, putting a load of washing on and generally trying to make it appear as though I have in someway been domestic while the boys have been out...and then there is a cold lager in the fridge and a spot in the sun with my name on it...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

you've got to accentuate the positives...

but not be in total denial about the negatives.

Sometimes, sticking on a happy face and telling the world that, things are marvellous and ticking along nicely is absolutely the thing you have to do. We compare ourselves with others and think, well they are managing so I should too... I usually, very much take the fake it till you make it approach to life. I don't like to admit defeat and nor do I like others to think that things aren't going well.

Two things happened today that made me rethink this, slightly skewed, philosophy.

One: I went to a meeting... I am 20ish percent of the way through a training programme that was hugely competitive to get on and incredibly demanding. A masters in a year, rotating placements, competencies to sign off coming out of our ears and it is really hard (in the interest of balance, its also a huge privilege and exciting), and honestly, I am struggling. 

I sat in a room today with a group of people at varying levels of seniority on the training scheme and looked around at my colleagues and thought, I am the only one struggling with this, and if I tell anyone they will all think that I am rubbish. Well, one of them, over lunch put their hand on mine, and very perceptively asked if I was OK, and bugger it if it turns out that I am a rubbish liar. What followed was a lovely lunchtime where I was encouraged and supported, people were honest about how they were feeling too and were kind and generous in telling me where my strengths lie. We do ourselves and those around us a massive disservice by pretending that things are OK when they are not...

Two: Dad sent me a quote: "asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness" Steve Peters, Consultant Psychiatrist.

Number two just being a shorter and pithier way of saying number one.

Writing this blog and focusing on the positives is fab, reflection is good for the soul and all that and 95% of the time, life is marvellous. I'm happy, healthy, I have family and friends who love me, a job I enjoy (largely) , a nice home etc etc, but I feel really strongly that I owe it to myself and, perhaps even more so, others to be honest and when things are pants, stop, deal with the pants and then get on. Sometimes another person needs to hear that you are struggling, as much as you need to tell them, so they can take a deep breath and say, "you know what, I'm having a really rubbish day too".

That's all, back to the happy...

I blogged about tea. On a whim I tweeted Yorkshire Tea about it and look - free tea bags (future posts on my deep and abiding love for gin, chocolate and leather handbags? Or maybe just more tea!) Sorry about the rubbish photo, I was taking it on my phone in the car so I could send it to HWMBO(I). I was very excited. 

Beautiful day today (it wasn't even raining in Manchester... this is amazing, although some sights were not for the faint hearted... think thoughts along the lines of "dear me, I have more fabric in my pyjamas, what was she / he thinking... that kind of thing)

I've been off looking at the blogs of people who have visited me here (you are a talented, creative and generous bunch, thank you) and I have a head full of crafty lovely that I would like to make.. but it doesn't all need doing straight away. 

Thank you for visiting, commenting and coming back - I wonder if the excitement will wear off?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Caitlin Moran wrote, in How to be a woman that “When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today”. 

This really resonated with me. I, along with many women, hate shopping for clothes and in recent years have bought clothes mainly as part of the supermarket shop. (I went jeans shopping while procrastinating over revision for an exam recently – a largely depressing experience – incredibly difficult to buy a pair of jeans that are just plain, mid blue denim that don’t look like you have been in an acid related accident and  / or cost less than £100)

I have a really clear image in my mind of how I would like to look and have a pinboard full of images on pinterest of the sorts of things I would like to wear – artfully layered outfits, colourful and coordinated but I inevitably end up in jeans and a tunic, looking pretty much like every other woman of my age who is wearing jeans and a tunic… The artful layering looks lovely but it must generate a huge amount of ironing.

There are days when I am a student – I can dress for these. Jeans, tshirt, kickers or converse.

There are days when I am at work – these are harder. I’d like to wear shift dresses and shirts, high heels. I love a high heel but my balance is appalling and any elegance acquired via the shift dress is negated by the wobbly walking. 

The days when I am at home, and just being me, I don’t know what to wear. In response, I have decided that the course of action is to make something. I have never made clothes. I can sew and cut fabric but I’ve never followed a pattern. 

Months ago, a friend made her daughter a great top – really simple, crossed over at the back, no buttons, no zips and best of all patch pockets. Everything is better with pockets (and bunting, but not together, but actually, maybe big bunting with pockets for a childs bedroom, but I digress). I've bought the fabric... (spotty bias binding, if I were a squealing sort, I may actually squeal at the thought)

I’ve taken the bull by the horns and booked a two hour sewing lesson. A very nice, and possibly overly ambitious lady, thinks that is those two hours we will cut out and piece the top and, most excitingly, make bias binding from some lovely spotted fabric. The plan is for spotty pockets too… If this works, I can see one in a mid denim colour with a crocheted edge. 

I’m hoping that this will become my signature top, you know, in the way that Ina Garten wears the same shirt it lots of different colours because she knows it suits her… And also,  that it will be really easy to iron. 

Sunday, 2 June 2013


I have had a truly lovely weekend. Bob is back, the sun is shining and HWMBO(I) and I have made a joint attempt on the ironing pile, and while there is still some left, it is no longer a risk to any passing small children. I've started a new crochet blanket for my niece and am embracing the pink. We had a bar-b-que yesterday (burnt the first lot of sausages and had to drive, hell for leather, to the nearest supermarket to replace them, but we will gloss over that.. and the ending of my recent foray into vegetarianism) and Bob picked me some bluebells (private land and accompanied by the daughter of a policeman, I don't think they broke any by-laws.) Oh, and the neighbours came home and their rabbit (who we were looking after) had neither escaped or died. These are all good things.

I have no photos of the weekends activity, but here is a picture of the wrap I am making for my lovely cousins wedding in Septemer... (the black, top left is Backberry's tail, I dont know how to crop a photo yet...)

I am LOVING this blogging lark and have pottered around and read beautiful writing, funny writing, tender writing and have been welcomed into a community of intelligent and entertaining women. I've experimented with the stats and have added a new counter which give slightly more realistic figures and I didn't advertise my last post on face book straight away to check that all the people reading this were not just my Dad. And people are reading this, and commenting and it's SO exciting.

Is there a plan b, wrote about friendship  and referred to her friend. Reading both their posts, it struck me that I am so very lucky to have the friends I have (and not to have to sieve grobblies out of my flour), and that these relationships take care and nurture. Beginning new friendships, as a child or adult, can be really tough and I count myself as privileged to have old friends and new. Old friends who I don't always make enough effort to keep up with, but when I do see them, or speak it's so easy to slip back into our old patterns.

I've recently been lucky enough to make a number of new friends, following a house move and a new job and am so grateful to these women for the part they play in my life. I am historically awful at playground chatting and I forced myself to try harder and the rewards have been wonderful. Telling someone that you like them and consider them a friend is always scary but hearing it back and knowing that they value you back is really rather brilliant.

oh, and in a quick update, the dettol + baby oil is not really working... its needs thought.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

baby oil and dettol

It takes a brave man to walk into the kitchen on his return from a dog walk to find his wife with a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a bottle of dettol in the other and not bat an eyelid.

I was experimenting you see. There are lovely 'recipes' out there for home fragrances - simmer a pot of water on the stove with lemon and rosemary, that sort of thing and I thought I'd have ago at concocting something myself. I recently went through a phase of buying the extortionately expensive reed diffuser room scents. These smelt lovely but then evaporated faster than fast and I am left with a number of empty jars and their associated sticks. I really like the smell of dettol - it's clean and comforting and they don't make a scented candle - I know, I've looked (it's also difficult to find a leather scented candle and if you take my advice you won't try a google search - or at least, if you do, do it after the children have gone to bed). So I have taken a bit of baby oil and a glug of dettol and filled a diffuser. I can't imagine I've stumbled across anything to worry Jo Malone but it's pleased me no end.

I finished the wobbly edge on the baby blanket at 5.30 this morning (couldn't sleep, best part of the day etc) and have sent a photo to the parents to be instructing them that this blanket is to be forced on the baby as soon as it arrives until it loves it and takes it everywhere. If this blanket does not become the toy that they as parents are terrified of losing there will be trouble...

Here it is (and if you don't look too closely you won't notice that I've laid it out and photographed it before weaving in the ends). It looks a bit like baby twister and I should have blocked the circles and then the squares but I'm new to this and didn't know any better, but I'm quite pleased with it..

In other news Bob has returned, he's taller, he's not worn as many pairs of pants and socks as he should have in the time he's been away and blimey he talks a lot but it is very nice to have him back.