Tag Archives: love

Snails, slippers and impromptu haircuts

Even grey mornings have their special charm when seen through the eyes of a three-year old with new wellies. Mab bless her for keeping the cheeriness quota up in the house.

The weather this year seems to have prompted a snail and slug population boom. Luckily my total lack of garden lovin’ ensures there is plenty of weedy greenery to go round.

This pleases Ida immensely and her garden investigating in between showers involves collecting the various hues and sizes of shelled molluscs. That and woodlouse herding, marigold petal picking and making secret paths in the grass which is nearly as high as her.

Other news from this place here include the successful antibiotic choice to see off the infection in my less bad hip (in that there’s still a socket) AND cortisone injections – very successful and welcome. Whoo hoo.

My mood is taking a while to bounce back up. I’m biding my time as experience tells me it’ll eventually get back on board. Until then my world has shrunk to the bare basics. I’m still spotting BT’s but the whole system feels a bit forced and creaky… still in action though.

Fathers day was  happy, Steve worked but opened cards and presents before he left and came home to a feast of jerk chicken, plantains, dirty rice, festivals and mango salsa.

It’s a pleasure cooking with Zeph now – he’s a genuine help, in fact he made the festivals and the mango salsa completely solo. Ida watches, stirs and chops herbs and a mushroom which didn’t really get used but occupied her for at least 30 mins. All we need now is a bigger kitchen…

We had a pleasurable couple of afternoons beforehand painting cards and sewing slippers; 

 

We bought the plain cheap slippers and decorated them ourselves with various beloved mini beasts including, of course:

Yesterday I did a hack job on my hair. Never a good idea – I just got incredibly cross when brushing out the dreadlocky knots I’d let build up and cut off my pony tail with the sewing scissors. Luckily Ida was elsewhere as this is NOT an example I should set her as I’m constantly finding little golden locks where she’s been unable to resist the swishing sounds she loves so much.

I did neaten it up but judging from the hair on the floor I reckon I cut off about two-thirds of the length and did anyone (including my nearest and dearest) notice?

Did they bleeding heck. Which leads me to conclude that no-one sees me.

Of course it could be because I mostly wear it scraped back and twisted up so no bugger has any idea what it looks like down anyway.

I suppose I should just be glad we don’t have any clippers in the house as it could have been so much worse.

Making easy Baklava with children (helping, not IN them)

I loved this post from Round the World in Eighty Bakes and am still in awe at Lauren for making filo pastry from SCRATCH.  We’ve made this cheatin’baklava before and it’s the closest to actual mud pie cooking with kids I’ve come across.

There were a few barriers to the smooth running I was hoping for but we soldiered on, dripping in butter, stuck up with syrup, pistachios adorning our eyebrows.

I could have sworn I had a bag of shelled pistachio nuts… well I didn’t so Zeph kindly set to shelling. My poor old (about 15 yrs) food processor choked at the grinding. A bit of experimentation showed it could manage about 10 nuts a time…so some of the prep took slightly longer than I expected.

We took about 400 g of nuts. We chose walnuts, almonds and pistachios. We left some out, whole and some chopped for decoration and to vary the texture.  

75g of sugar

25g butter

couple of cardamom seeds, crushed.

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

I usually put half the nuts and all the rest and whizz until it’s really really fine then add the rest of the nuts and grind until they’re rubble. This is much easier when your processor works. We also did just the walnuts and almonds first and made the flat baklava then did the pistachios after and added them to the rest of the mix so we could get different tastes. This is the mud pie element as you can mix it up and experiment to your heart content. I usually put out the big bowl of nut mix then some smaller plastic bowls for the addition of; rose syrup, orange oil, citrus zest dried cranberries, whole nuts, vanilla extract, stem ginger, ginger wine,rum – the moon’s your limit…

 We used two packets of ready rolled filo pastry with six sheets in each packet. The first packet got entirely used up in the flat cakes. I simply cut the six sheets in half which fitted my square tin and put six layers on the bottom – all liberally daubed with a mixture of melted butter and sunflower oil by my willing helper, I did put a square of substantial parchment paper on the bottom, mainly to aid with extraction

 

Then we pressed a generous layer of the walnut and almond mixture all over it and topped with another six layers of filo.  I carefully cut into squares before popping into a medium oven for  30/40 minutes. (Until golden brown)

 Secure in the knowledge that there was a tray of delicious cakes already cooking the next pastry packet was given over to experimentation. Much butter was spread, drops added, shapes rolled, pinched and packaged then sliced and adorned with nuts and fruit. Some methods work better than others – the very best I think was the cylinder/sausage roll approach but everything was ultimately edible… 

 

When this tray went into the oven I put the syrup on to cook. To make the dark syrup that looks best you need to caramelise some sugar first. For my own peace of mind this bit is utterly child free. Hot sugar is  a fearsome thing but not particularly difficult.

I put 100g of white sugar and 50ml of water in my very best thick bottomed pan and put it on high heat. DO NOT STIR (I have no reason for this but my granny’s advice…I think it makes it grainy) Do not do anything else, surrender a few minutes for this, it doesn’t take long but does need your attention. It will boil ferociously, wait for it to turn a gorgeous reddish brown and to smell of fairgrounds then add CAREFULLY 300ml of cold water (make some of the 300ml up with some lemon juice for a citrusy twist) and another 100 ml of sugar and a generous swirl of honey. Again do NOT stir and wait for the lump of caramel to dissolve into the boiling mass.

As the pastries come out of the oven spoon the hot syrup over and leave to soak up.

Serve with strong coffee and an insulin producing pancreas.

Hot Spell

The last few nights have been just too hot to bear. My fine figure is far more suited to Inuit nights, I absolutely blubberly-rock cold weather but am disadvantaged in balmier climes.

The children are both the same. I try to soothe them to sleep with tepid baths, open windows and a pj and bedclothes ban which usually gets broken due to the fact they NEED some kind of covering to clutch as they drift off.

 Checking on them in the early hours I peel sheets away and smooth sweaty curls off their faces.

Sometime in the  grey hours there’s a changing tide as night seeps away with the wash of the new-day coolness creeping welcome fingers through the mostly sleeping house. It barely registers in my restless fever-troubled dozing. About now my night-time painkiller is wearing off and I’m waiting for the mornings welcome fix. Stupid fluid on crumbling near non-existent hip-joint . Foul misbegotten infection. Unwelcome prickly hot fever.

Lying on threadbare sheets, every worn spring sticking into me, I hover just outside proper rest. Tiredness and misery stain my thoughts. I resent the heat and flinch if anyone tries to touch me. The idea of a shower makes me actually dry retch. I want to no-go zone every inch of my skin.

I lie listening to everyone else even breathing and the whirr of one solitary fan stirring the treacly hot air around. Mentally I run through the tenets of pain clinic. The need to own and control my pain. The fact that my own experience has taught me this is true doesn’t help in these spare stranded hours. Recently all our lives are tainted with my salty sweaty scent of self-pity  and general all over misery. We’re all waiting for the tide to turn.

Days narrow down to basic goals. Clothes on, food of some kind provided, one child got school and collected, other child nursemaided by Cbeebies, buckets of water and hulahoops. Coaxed into considering a pile of leaflets to be cut into ribbons with the fascinating usually out-of-bounds orange scissors a worthy afternoons occupation. What feels like never-ending hospital trips chasing the seemingly holy grail goal of pinpointing the correct antibiotic cure for my own filthy internal plague. Petri dishes seeded from the mysterious putrid fluid drawn from my very bones offer up grown auguries of success.

I have grown to mistrust them.

Everything seems worse in the night. While my toes dip in the sea of sleep the pain balloons and swells unreasonably. Irrationally I doubt my ability to last til morning, I dread the next day packed full of small failures, I weep about my loss of humour and ability to celebrate the small things. Bitterly I resent all the sleeping going on around me and the card dealing performance of fate.

I’m chasing something in my troubled half dreams. Vaguely I think it’s a cure or an AI disguised as a steer in some grotesque urban forest. The pain in my pelvis is because I’ve been pierced with a poisoned arrow. Defeated I lie down on some broken glass and wait.

Slowly I can feel some warmth seeping through from behind me. Somehow I’ve become cold and bask in the slow flush of heat as comforting and calming. There’s a goddess behind me casting a healing scorching spell. I stretch my toes and snuggle into the glow. Without noticing I drift deeper into sleep, taking a millisecond to register the spell as a possible threshold for change. We’re on the up I mentally murmur as I dive deeper.

When I wake up there’s a small naked person wrapped over my back. She’s all tangled hair and pouting lips. Smooth golden limbs speckled with summer bruises and scrapes are draped over me and she radiates heat like a small serene sunshine-gilded buddha.

Who knows? Maybe she is a spellcaster. I certainly noticed a very beautiful thing immediately without the aid of drugs. Goddess knows I yearn for a bit of everyday magic why not lean on a bit of placebo faith healing?

Death, distraction and dandelions

When Ida sleeps she usually flings her arms up above her head – It’s hard to describe but she has the air of a very relaxed hipster sprawled over a heap of stuffed animals like a Shoreditch dragon stretched over her hoard.

And yes – she’s back in the cot although happy enough in the lower bunk – that’s a whole other post.

I know quite a bit about her sleeping habits as I’ve taken to spending  time next to her whilst she’s sleeping. This is partly to remind myself how much I love her, easier to remember when she’s not trampling over me in her bid for world domination. Also it’s because I’m in a quite a reflective mood recently.

Steve’s dad, stepdad, passed away recently. He had Alzheimer’s and was quite frail but it happened unexpectedly after a fall and a bad reaction to general anesthetic –  and very, very – as anyone who’s sat by a similar bedside will recognise, quickly.

The death certificate says pneumonia but as we said to Zeph whilst stroking the back of his head – he was just tired and the springs had wound down.

Now I’m no stranger to the complexities of dealing with death, many of my ponderings I’ve shared here before; here and here but once again I find myself wrestling with big questions from my lovely boy.

In  a recent early morning he raged at me, pummeling and kicking in frustrated anger – demanding I promise the cancer will never come back. Which of course I can’t, especially since my particular, highly treatable, flavour is high recurrence.

I have to bear it, shoulder the anger – cup the punches and stroke his back keeping up the murmur. The I love you, it’ll be okay, even when it isn’t murmur.

I know exactly where he’s coming from. Don’t we all? The sudden overwhelming urge to gather up all the people we love and hold them still. To freeze them in this moment so they come to no harm.

So they come to nothing at all. No change, no  danger, no growth. No living – no life. Hard as it is you have to unclench that fist. Because death is not waiting for us at the end of a line – it’s traveling along with us. Being alive is moving through your days with death right next to you. The other side of the coin.

Still, it’s a big life event and as such is rippling my pond. Watching Steve dealing sensitively with Zeph while struggling with the legacy of losing his biological father at a similar age. Recognising his sadness at the loss of someone from his life and a piece of his childhood gone. Sadness for his mum and family and sadness at certain gulfs that line difficult relationships.

Remembering that his default position is to retreat and not talk and mine, after serious therapy, is to talk talk talk it out. That neither way is the right way although an ocassional meet in the middle is good for both our souls.

The funeral was last week and Zeph was very sure he wanted to go and so he came. It was a lovely service – fitting for a very quiet gentle man. At one point we listened to a recording of him singing a solo at a past christmas concert.

The poignancy of listing to his sure voice while he lay in his coffin at the front of the church was very nearly unbearable. At the end of the service Zeph and I went to sit in the churchyard to collect ourselves.

“It was my favourite bit and the worse bit” he said. I just nodded, feeling, as I do now, as I write about it, my eyes prickling painfully. Sometimes our digital age seems crudely cruel. Like magnets pushing at each other it seemed indecent to have hearing him and to never yet hear him brushing shoulders in almost physical collusion.

I try hard not to avert my eyes and talk openly to Zeph. He seems hyperaware of the frailty of life. Every day seems a balancing act of talking about it yet not obsessing about it. Making allowances and setting boundaries.

Mostly I feel not up to the task. Never has the mantra of being good enough is good enough been muttered more fervently as I spread myself ever thinner.

I also have taken to watching him in his sleep as well. Parenting sleeping children is a piece of cake. We’ve also been reading this picture book.

Death, Duck and the Tulip which I’d whole heartedly recommend.

As always most hours are filled with Beautiful Things. This weekend particularly has been lit by the most glorious sunshine. An afternoon of constructing a cardboard robot costume with Ida is hugely satisfying and baking brownies with Zeph soothing with a satisfying end result.

My peony is covered with fat buds and the garden is full of forget me nots and dandelions.

I am very fond of dandelions.

End of term and a pep talk

Easter is nearly upon us, how the hell did that come round so quickly?

Today is the last day of term which means a 2pm pick up. Now I have never actually forgotten to pick him up. Although I’ve had a couple of oh christ – I nearly forgot – quick!  out the door and run moments. For some reason these memories make me jumpy and I keep checking my watch and skipping from task to task making more muddles.

This morning we watched the screening of the Bollywood film Zeph and his year group have been working on all term. All their teachers had dressed up, they had chairs set out like a cinema and cups of popcorn. At the end they gave out Oscars. It was not without technical hitches but loud, exciting and joyful. Exactly how I think school should be. I came away hugely cheered and Ida hopped and jigged all the way home.

She can’t wait to go to school and I have to retrieve her from the going in line in the mornings. Very different to my school experience and long may it last.

Unsurprisingly the morning back here has been a bit flat – especially since I’ve tried to impose a little order. Not something you would glean from a quick glance. I’ve been reading a friends flylady progress and feeling the need to return to some of those structures. I’ve talked about my attitude to chores and tidying many times before and without being picky I can see the need for a bit of decluttering and imposing some system scaffolds in my jumbled corners.

I need to stop procrastinating and start a bit of doing. I managed to pull my arm out of its socket recently so am waiting for a bit of healing and keep telling myself that after that I’m going to GET DOWN TO IT!

Steve’s got some time off over easter so you’d think it’d be the perfect time but it’s so tempting to play hooky. We’re going to see a friend as well and do some big city stuff and that’s all MUCH more appealing. Although I know some DIYing and order solutions would have a much bigger day-to-day impact on my life.

It’s too easy to let the small inner voice tell you you’re lazy. Often I feel like an observer in my life instead of actually inhabiting my body. In these gray leaden days I anchor myself with the children. Playing, reading to them, cuddling in bed – singing songs and idly spinning stories. Everything else loses focus and importance.

As I feel less miserable and more hopeful I think I’m too quick to write all that stuff off. It seems like time-wasting when I could have done work that left a physical mark. Finally feeling clear-sighted enough to look around at what needs doing – it’s far too easy to slip back into the habit of castigating myself for doing nothing.

Bolstered my Rachel (my therapist and she has a certificate so is surely worth listening to?) I decide to be a bit kinder to myself.

Getting through the days is hard work. Remaining emotionally connected is hard work. Well done Laura, bloody well done to all of us who get to school, cook tea, do bathtime and bedtime or even leave the house whilst wrapped in a soul numbing blanket of misery. Fecking brilliant people who manage everyday fighting a rushing tide of physical pain. Two fingers up to anyone who thinks you haven’t accomplished much in your day. You’re still breathing at the end of the day aren’t you? Then it’s a SUCCESS. Whoop whoop and maracas, flash of gold and a big flourish. Well done all of us broken vessels.

Just the easy stuff to do now.

This and that.

So Mothers day has come and gone. It’s pretty low-key in this house but very happy and loving which is just the way I prefer it.

I had two mysterious homemade cards – Ida’s was full of her impenetrable writing which she importantly read out to me sitting on my chest at about 7am. It was full of have a loverleee day and I love my mumma but also a short discourse on woodlice and sausages. Zeph’s was in the shape of a butterfly, (that’s passed through a jet engine,) and although easier to read seemed to be congratulating me on having a son like Zeph. His logic had led him to the conclusion since his arrival had made me a mother it was in fact him who deserved recognition and thanks.

I genuinely fear for him, as a political career seems more and more likely.

I also got a pile of books and an opportunity to read some as all meal responsibility was removed from me for the day…(leftovers for lunch and a takeaway for tea – excellent kitchen action guys.)

During the course of a standard chaotic and haphazard sunday several things drifted through my mind, hasn’t the commercial emphasis on the day stepped up over recent years? Surely it puts lots of extra pressure on children missing a mum in their family set up and everyone who’s lost their mum – and all the mums mourning a child and the many women desperately trying to become mothers.

In the face of all this heavy emotion it seems painfully flippant that when Steve asked if I’d like to do anything for Mothers day the first thing that sprang to mind was some time on my own. Sans children for a few hours.

Oh the irony.

Part of my living in the moment plans include speaking my feelings more often and I feel reminded to do that – everyday and not just one a year.

I’m not sure either Zeph or Ida need encouragement to speak their feelings. To be honest at the end of every long day I wonder how it would be to hear a bit less of them .

In the usual attempt to beat back the madness we’ve been making stuff; cakes, 

parrots,

 

They are the fault of this,

Bane of my life.

Mind, it’s a great book. We’ve got several different types and I’m always glad when they turn up in wrapping paper and generally – pleased in the theory of them.

My problem comes when I try to convince the kids they’re a starting off point to making something and that it doesn’t matter when, due to material differences or lack of skill on my part or, swinging the other way, over-enthusiasm in a certain area, means the finished result doesn’t look a lot like the picture.

It enrages them. They feel cheated and let down. It leads to rancour. As though we needed any more of that.

It’s also the school spring fair this weekend and being a bit early for seedlings for the plant stall we’ve made these plant pots instead. Ida helped me transplant our plants into them today and there is still compost everywhere. It was only as we finished I wondered why we hadn’t done it outside. Ah well.

The finished pots look very cheerful in the colours of sugared almonds. Here’s hoping someone shows up to buy them. The last one wasn’t hugely well attended. I’m always impressed by the teachers ability to keep forging on enthusiastically in the face of apathy. I’ve done my part in begging my Mum and Dad to bring the kids while I man a stall so they’ll probably account for a big part of the take being totally unable to withstand the pleading eyes of the kids.

Do you know I started writing this on Tuesday and it is now, although only barely ten minutes in, Saturday. What has happened to my umph?

In other breaking news I’m flexing my embracing change muscles by trying a new toothpaste.

It’s salty. And brownish red. Every morning it reminds me of a slug. To be honest it’s not going well. Toothpaste shouldn’t be salty – should it?

Spreading the word for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Ninety words.

One of my favourite blog reads is over at Kate on Thin Ice. I think her Groovy Mums is …well… groovy and I appreciate her proactive approach to charities and what blogging can do to spread important messages. Which is why I have meant for ages to join in with this blog hop.

Queen of the procrastinaters I am, I am. Since I managed to carve a bit of me-time out on this Valentines day to scrub some mould off the bathroom ceiling, (steady.) I really think I should pull my finger out.

Basically she’s looking for 90 bloggers to write 90 words about an important woman in their life and include the following information about the Breakthrough Breast Cancer campaign.

“Pink Ribbon Bingo have pledged to support Breakthrough Breast Cancer all year round with 15% of the gross revenue accrued through online play on the site being donated to the charity. Visitors also have the opportunity to donate a percentage of their winnings directly to the charity. Along with the fundraising element, Pink Ribbon Bingo and The Daily Mail online will be helping the charity to raise awareness by promoting their vital health messages such as TLC (Touch, Look, Check).

“Celebrity supporter videos on the Pink Ribbon Bingo website including Jessie J, Melanie C, Tom Ellis, Macy Gray, Sharon Corr and Kelly Hoopen – http://www.pinkribbonbingo.com/ .

If you click on these YouTube links, you can hear Kate Thornton and Tamzin Outwaite’s support.

Kate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brz793lgb_g&feature=youtu.be

Tamzin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCh671wnj2o“

I’m lucky to have lots of inspiring, supporting women in my life. Since I read Kate’s blog I’ve turned over in my mind who I’d like to write about.

And I’ve settled on my very beautiful three-year old daughter, Ida.

She changes so much just by her existence. From the minute she took her first resolute breath, flailing her arms firmly in the air – fixing me in her passionate gaze she began her work.

With her in my arms and my hopes, dreams and fears for her in my mind I look at my mother with new understanding. The bridge begun with Zeph’s birth is now complete between us. Unassailable.

I look back down the years to little Laura and I forgive her and start to learn to love and help her. She deserves exactly what my daughter does. Safety, understanding, love and freedom.

Sadly most people’s lives are touched by cancer. Lets keep campaiging for research for a cure and better treatments and spread the word about what we can do to look after ourselves.

I’ll be teaching my daughter for sure.

It’s all Swings and Roundabouts.

perfecting her regal wave...

It is seductively easy to only blog about the happier bits of the day.

As I’ve seen discussed, many times, on billions of better sites than mine – to edit your life so it’s shinier, smoother…happier.

I’m conscious that this sometimes applies to me. Especially as I doggedly attempt to record my Beautiful Things every time. 

I’d like to reassure everyone that the mould continues in its inexorable creep across my daily landscape. That this morning my daughter stepped out of the front door and shouted Piss Off Rain into the sky, startling a passing schoolward bound family (not my school, thank Ganesha, but I suspect they may already have my measure there..) That mid cooking today, while I was putting a baking tray in the oven, Ida attempted to egg wash the living room.

When I went to retrieve her from the time-out-step-of-doom she admitted she knew I’d be cross when she finished the rolling-pin. When I asked why she didn’t stop there instead of carrying on to the table and piano stool, she shrugged insouciantly and said, “you were already cross…”

It doesn’t bode well for the future.

I have made no progress on the pressing DIY tasks surrounding us. Defunct fridges, collapsing cupboards, the mould on the bathroom ceiling, the chainless bathplug that breaks a nail every time I need to pry it out, the kitchen light that constantly requires a sharp blow with a wooden spoon to knock wires back into connection. The woodchip in the hallway.

Believe me when I say I could go on.

I suppose I want to notice the wonderful without concealing the awful. It’s pretty easy for me to celebrate the stuff I think is amazing and wonderful and ignore what I’ve judged unimportant.  Like hygienic standards and bacteria free floors.  Though I want to stress I’m not laying down rules. Just because it’s not crucial to me doesn’t mean it’s not important to others.

Recently as I’ve floundered through my days I’ve heard a lot of how could they?s and my own internal examinations remind me how much I value tolerance. Whether its toddler ear-piercing, spitting in the street, fruit shoots, sleep training, sheet washing, organic carrots there’s a lot of my-way-is-the-best-way-ism.

Not that I’m advocating no opinions on these subjects. Just that I think they should come with a I think.. or a for us the best thing is.. prefix. Is that wishy-washy woolly liberal of me?

There were many beautiful things today. Despite eggwashgate, cooking with Ida was absorbing and gratifying. Watching her knock knock knock with an egg and then crack it expertly into a bowl is truly a thing of beauty. Tea with friends was soul nourishing while the kids whooped, screamed and enacted lord of the flies scenarios up and down the stairs and on the landings.

Sat here now, in the quiet dim of my home, I notice how very homely it feels. Not very stylish, not as clean or as organised as I hope for but very cosy. It feels safe to me. I’ve just been upstairs to fetch something and looked in on the kids who are both angelicly sleeping. All rosy cheeks and stray curls. Ida clutching one of her Wellington boots and Zeph’s finger keeping the place in his current bedtime book.

Very beautiful. You barely notice Zeph’s floor seems to be carpeted with ALL his clothes and Ida has written her name on the bedroom wall over her cot in red marker pen.

Have yourself a very merry Christmas…

  

Possibly one of my favourite things ever.

Our Christmas tree. Every year I see-saw over the price and the general non-greenness. Worries which I assuage by making a more environmental friendly, locally gown choice which ups the price but I usually capitulate to my inner child.

It’s probably our biggest christmas expenditure and it makes me so overwhelmingly happy. On a very skint year I can substitute a big bundle of branches or the bay tree in a pot from the garden but really, look – isn’t it toe-curlingly beautiful?

The smell is heavenly though I openly yearn for the Victorian candle clips I remember from my Nannie’s tree as a very small child which add a heady mix of toasted pine resin, bees-wax and candle smoke.

So far I haven’t convinced Steve who, although far from a health and safety enthusiast, says he has to draw the line somewhere. We have a happy mix of eclectic decorations though. Many homemade, a couple by me as a child. Some were gifts from my parent’s collection when I left home and we try to buy or make a new one every year.

This one is my very favourite;

 Bought on Zeph’s first birthday it’s the one I always look for first in the mass of tissue paper all our precious baubless are wrapped in. We managed to dress the tree on Steve’s day off this year so we all got to squabble over the lopsided robin, christmas robot and the sparkly pig and tell the story of each purchase and battered handcrafted effort.

We started with the Nightmare Before Christmas on in the background which Zeph watched obsessively as a toddler but swapped to The Snowman when Ida took against Sally in a big way.

This is Ida and I at the front of the bus on the way to see Jack and the Beanstalk. Steve’s lovely sister gave us a family ticket for christmas which was a brilliant present. Apart from Ida now having a giant phobia which causes trouble at night when she wakes up confused from a nightmare and mistakes Steve for the giant, (it’s the beard.) 

I’m feeling remarkably festive. Yesterday was my dad’s sixtieth birthday and we had a tea party. It was a perfect get together and I feel loved and loving as I always do after time with my family.

Tomorrow we have more visitors and I’m baking a ham which means the house smells of treacle and cloves and I feel bountiful on the food front. It’s raining heavily outside but I don’t think we need to leave the house now for the next couple of days and I have a deliciously cosy feeling of having pulled up the drawbridge fully provisioned and surrounded by my best-loved people.

With everything made, finished and wrapped I’m turning my mind to the end of the year and the start of the new. Although I haven’t kept up my post-a-day momentum from the beginning of my blog it is still a big and vital part of my life.

I have *met* the most fantastic people through it and had wonderful comments which have healed me and sustained me in a way I’m sure the givers have no idea of. I logged on today to post this and found a lovely blog award from Sharyn at The Kale Chronicles which I can’t wait to post about.

More than that it’s opened a space up in my head and helped me carve out time for my writing habit. I’ve been inspired by so many people to grow, cook, sketch, do things with my children – to notice the world around me – and I feel immensely blessed and full of hope and cheer.

So I just wanted to wish you all the Christmas you want, be it sparkly, festive, peaceful, spiritual or reflective. The sun is returning, the babe is reborn – let’s be full of love and hold back the dark and the cold together.

Merry Christmas!

Wandering thoughts

I was obviously paying more attention to the television than I thought last night.

 It was on at one end of the room while I was sewing at the other. I woke up from a very specific dream about the Worcester sauce factory where there’d been a terrible industrial accident which had killed four people. Recounting the bizarreness to Steve, as we stumbled into clothes and attempted to dress Ida, I was laughing about the fact only those four people knew what went into the sauce so the recipe had been lost forever.

“Yes – that’s right.” he said tersely. “It was on Jamie’s cooking thing last night – only four people can add the ingredients – I think there’s only forty odd people working there all together…”

Really? I expect it’s written down somewhere though eh? I like to think of it in a chest at the end of some kind of Temple of Doom style labyrinth. Or a scroll sealed in a lead box then  hidden in the bottom of a barrel of fermenting anchovies.

What amuses me is how much goes in unnoticed. It’s also a bit alarming, especially when I bend my mind to subliminal advertising…

Lots of the trees around us are very near to leafless. I love the patterns the branches make against the blank skies. We are also loving all the secret bird nests that have been revealed. We walk through a sheltered housing courtyard on the way to school and the landscapers have recently been there pruning back all the hedges and bushes. One shrub’s haircut has revealed a tiny delicate nest near the top. If I lift Ida up we can peer in to the meticulous woven lining. Every time she checks  that a little bird made it, “with his beak and his toes?” and I say yes again, in the proper tones of wonder and respect. Today on the five minutes further walk home she told me a story about an Ida bird who had fallen out of her nest and a monster and a Daddy bird who lifts her up safely.

I’m still reeling from it. A whole proper story that started, once upon a time and ended with hurray and a triumphant jump in the air. For someone clinging to the idea she’s living in the moment, observing the everyday, how did I miss this? My beautiful golden baby walking around conducting invisible worlds. Of course I did know, because that’s what imaginary games are, children swimming through a landscape they’re constructing from behind those clever eyes.

But I’m still blown away by the recital. It has to be my favourite beautiful thing so far today. Although it’s vying with the careful setting by of two cashew nuts from Ida’s morning snack bowl. “In case we meet a squirrel..” The kitchen smells overwhelmingly fragrant as I’m cooking persian chicken for tea (marinated in garlic, sumac, allspice and paprika and stuffed with bulgar wheat and lamb mince studded with almonds,pine nuts and pistachios.)

Zeph was immensely cheered by the prospect of M&D coming for tea tonight as it means a “proper” meal and not rice soup or sardines on toast. Wednesdays really have become our version of sunday roast with the post meals constructed from left overs and the pre ones from stock cupboard staples.  

The yellow snail on the front gate and the smell of paint from a house being renovated we passed on the way home spring to mind as well. I love the smell of paint – it seems so hopeful to me.  

Ida is humming as she’s colouring and I’m about to do a bit of patchwork bag piecing which is my favourite bit. I feel pretty content and make the most of it – like when you get tired into a clean bed and stretch your toes out luxuriously.