Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Not sure if all is still well today!

The only thing actually wrong is that my car needs a new alternator. Not being mechanically-minded, I am not sure exactly what one of those looks like, or even does, but I do realise that it is fairly essential to have one in working order and that it is something to do with the battery. Now my car is pretty ancient, and I have had it for ten years - and it was second-hand when we got it! It has served us fantastically well and I would be very sorry to see it put to rest, and so if it needs a new alternator, it shall have one. I would like to keep it going for another year or so at least as it is so useful for hauling chicken feed, shopping, books, straw bales, etc. I don't want to add more metal to the scrapheap either, and I certainly don't "need" a new car for cosmetic reasons. If you know me, you will know that I don't "go a bundle" on what things look like, and as long as they are functional and do the job, I am usually happy. I do need a reliable car, as travelling from here to the nearest towns is 8 miles in either direction, and I dread breaking down on lonely roads. Enough said, or I will talk it into collapsing! It will be fine later in the week.

On another, more cheery note, I have received two more birthday gifts today - one from a friend through the post - a lovely Mulberry scented candle, and a plant from a friend at gym. He gave me one last year, and it is still alive, so I am hoping to keep this one alive too - the FH jokes that my plants have to be drought-resistant to live long here.

The FH and I have been practising our instruments today - he with more success than I but I will persevere. I keep collapsing in fits of giggles at the strange shapes I am supposed to be making with my mouth, but I will get used to it soon and then it won't seem so strange!

I have also been looking for some fleece material to make some more throws for the sofas and beds for the winter. The cheapest I have found it on the internet is £4.25 a metre, so I will keep looking for a day or two, but that isn't a bad price. I'd probably have to look at buying about 10m, so I really want to find a good price, and there is only one shop around here that sells fabric. To be fair, I haven't checked their price, but I doubt it will be as cheap as that, as they are a shop with overheads to cover, but the side of me which wants to support local shops is telling me that I should at least go in there and check out what they have. So that will be a job for Saturday afternoon.

I have sourced some much cheaper chicken feed from Bearts of Stowbridge, near Downham Market, and they are so much cheaper than what I have been paying that I am kicking myself that I didn't check wholesale delivered prices before. Sure, I have to buy 25 bags, but with the laying hens, the grower flock, the little chicks and the quail, we have a lot to feed! I have to order by Friday and they will deliver early the next week, which sounds great to me.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Sleeping the day away!

Well, almost! I got the FGs off to school, sorted the poultry, did some basic tidying and then I went back to bed....I was so tired after the Macmillan preparations and not having the chance to catch up on my sleep over the weekend, that I just had to give in and sleep today. I got up again at about 2pm in time to have a snack and get myself in gear before it was time to pick up the YFG from school.

We have been to band tonight, and not only did the FH sign up for the trombone, but I got roped in too! I started off with the flugelhorn but that wasn't working terribly well, so I moved across to the euphonium, with which I got on much better, and managed to play some of the C-scale, so I was very pleased with myself!

So, there isn't much to report today since I was asleep for a lot of it, but all is well.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

My, how they grow!

These are the chicks photographed today - they are beginning to get their wing feathers, and continue to eat voraciously. They weren't too happy with the camera today, and that is why they were all huddling at the back of the pen - I had disturbed them from their nap! When they sleep, their heads are most often laid out on the ground in front of them. I was not used to seeing chicks asleep, as those we had had previously had all had "mother hens" and so when they slept, they were under the mother. The first time I saw them sleeping in this position, I had a terrible urge to go and find tiny pillows for them to rest their heads on - so soppy and silly, but unfortunately true...

We were at church this morning, and then home to continue the birthday celebrations - well, I relaxed with the newspaper and a cup of tea for an hour or two before I cooked the lunch, and then had another relaxing snooze until about 3! Then I had to do some work, so I got changed and started on the chickens and a little bit of digging. It was only a little bit, and I have spent some time watching the chickens - the addition of extra hens to the laying flock has meant some rearrangement of the pecking order. They will take a few days to sort themselves out, and then I hope that the newer birds will start to think about laying some eggs!

I have had some lovely cards from friends and family, as well as some cute earrings from my sister, and Turkish Delight and a couple of new books from the FGs. The FH has done all the ironing this weekend, which has been great!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Exhausted but pleased!

The Macmillan coffee morning was a success - we raised about £180 and odd pence. There was a steady trickle of people coming and going all morning and the baking I had done went down very well. I'll have to make more lemon sponge next year as that all went first. There was a raffle and a tombola which were very keenly supported, and the stalls all did some business. With a cancer charity, most people's lives have been touched in one way or another, and so people are usually quite generous in their support, so I felt that for a small village, we had done well. I took the leftover chocolate traybake and some lemon buns to gymnastics last night and the mums soon made donations to take some home with them - and that raised a little more, although most of them were having to dredge their pockets for loose change as they had not known we would have cakes there, so had not all brought purses. It added another pound or two to the total.

This morning was gym again, and then a little shopping, then home to the garden. The YFG cut the back lawn and I did the front one, and the EFG and FH had already been clearing the veg plants out of the beds as most of them have finished producing now. The girls have both got friends round playing now, and one little girl is here to tea (same girl as last weekend!) and to sleepover tonight.

On the way home from gym today, we went on a back road for a change, and saw the most glorious sight - a field full of bright orange pumpkins! It was a beautiful sight, and I was so sorry that I hadn't got the camera in the car. I was similarly regretful that I hadn't got it when a beautiful hot air balloon skimmed the rooftops this afternoon - the children were on the trampoline with their friends and they were waving to the balloonist, who was waving back! The weather today has been typically autumnal: thick fog this morning giving way to bright blue skies, crisp sunshine and a fresh touch to the air.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I share it with some wonderful females whom I have met at various stages of my life - Becky who I sat next to in GCSE Maths classes, Zoe from A level Geography (both of them actually share the same birth date in the same year - and we were all born in the same city!) and Ailidh, who is much younger, but I was her childminder when she was small. We'll see if it brings any surprises - today already brought a card from my dad - the card encourages me to do all I can to stay young looking, because if I look young, my dad should too! Leaving it until you are 40 odd to have me was not a good plan for looking young when I am turning 36!!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Preparation day

Big day tomorrow - the Macmillan coffee morning is tomorrow! It seems to have come round really quickly, and all of a sudden there was a huge list of things to get done! I have set the room up, been shopping for last minute bits and bobs, done a load of baking tonight, and there is still more to do in the morning, so I am going to go to bed now and set the alarm to wake me up at 5. Will probably not post the results until Saturday as I have gymnastics tomorrow afternoon, so that will keep me occupied tomorrow. Had both the FGs at home today with sore throats, coughs and colds, but have dosed them up with honey and lemon and they will be back at school tomorrow!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Catching up

Monday night's dinner was superb! The chicken was lovely - it tasted of old-fashioned, honest chicken - like chickens really used to taste. The YFG said it tasted, "really chickeny", and it was even better cold. We are really pleased at how it turned out. There was enough for four roast dinners, and some left over for sandwiches or picking at, as the case may be.
Yesterday was a hectic day as I got an urgent phone call to go to show some books to a group of teachers with only an hour or so's notice, so I had to abandon the day's plans and hare off to that. It ran on, and I ended up going straight to gymnastics from there, having no lunch and having to grab a packet of crisps and an apple to keep me going until I got home at 8.30pm. The book meeting went well, but gymnastics got a bit hairy as all of a sudden, there were 29 girls in the first class, where there had been about 21 the last time I was there - I missed last Tuesday due to illness. 29 kids, 2 coaches, a choreographer and a parent helper - we could have done with more help! And about 7 of the kids were relatively new, so we were trying to get their names straight, and explain stuff to them, which is important but takes time, so the whole class passed in a bit of a blur, and I was glad to get to the second where there were only 13 girls, and only one of them "new".
Today I have had a bike ride to take the YFG to school, picked some runner beans and prepped them for the freezer (I love the smell of fresh runner beans) and the FH has been out with his friend to bring more horse manure home to put in the raised beds to improve the soil over the winter ready for the spring planting. I am also taking advantage of the breezy weather to do my washing and try to get it all dry.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Early posting tonight whilst the folks are out. The FH has taken the FGs to band practice tonight, telling them that he is going to sign up to learn the trombone - it will have to be seen to be believed, but I wouldn't be surprised at anything!! The YFG and I cycled to school this morning and then I went back to pick her up at 3 so I have done four miles today, two of them into a head wind, so I should sleep well tonight.

I am cooking the tea whilst they are gone, and I do hope that it is a good meal - it is the first cockerel. We are slightly disappointed with the size of him as once he was "oven-ready" he only weighed about three and a half pounds. That made us decide to grow the rest of the flock on longer - we'll try another one in about three weeks' time and see whether they are heavier, perhaps. We might also reduce the size of the run that they have as they are perhaps exercising too much - although I don't want to make it too small as to be cruel. I am not sure about that - I would rather try to give them more in the way of kitchen scraps and food to fatten them up a bit!

I have had a sort-out in my book stock room this afternoon so that I have tidied the books up and put them all back on the shelves. This makes it a lot easier to see what I have and what I need to order. I had a small order from the school this morning, which cheered me up no end. On the other hand, the pet bantam seems to have spent the night in the room by accident, and I have had to remove several of her deposits from the carpet. That wasn't so good! She seems to get everywhere, but she is so tame that she follows the FH around the garden and is very much loved.
Dilemmas - I have been asked to help with a once-a-week afterschool club at the church. I have never actually been to this club before as the FGs haven't been to it, and I don't really understand at this point what would be expected of me. Trouble is, I have a hard time saying no to anything people ask me to do. BUT it is going to eat into the only day we don't have an after-school activity: Monday is band, Tuesday is gymnastics, Wednesday the EFG is doing a fitness course for 8 weeks, Thursday is free but would be this activity, Friday is gymnastics. We then have gymnastics again Saturday mornings and church of course on Sunday mornings. The FH could do the Monday and Wednesday taxi-duties, as that is really all they are, which would help. I could cook that night's dinner in the slow-cooker, so that wouldn't be a huge problem: I am talking myself into this! I guess that just now I need to ask more questions about it and make it clear that I can be a helper but not a leader as I don't have time to do much preparation for anything in advance.
I had better go and check on the chicken!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A Special Sunday

It has been a long day in the sense that we seem to have done a lot! The FGs and I were at church bright and early, then we had to go on a quick shopping trip. It was the kind of trip that I hate to make - one caused by my own lack of organisation and foresight - we were having roast lamb for lunch and had no mint sauce and lamb without mint sauce is unthinkable, so I had to go to the local shops and get some, along with some other bits and bobs! Another reason not to do that kind of shopping. We live and learn. My uncle came to share lunch with us and celebrate his recent birthday, which was lovely. During the afternoon, I made him a cake and we had that at teatime.

This is a picture of the YFG and her friend who came back again today. They had a great afternoon, painting their faces, playing on Nintendos, on the trampoline and in this fab den that they made adjoining a rabbit run! You can just see that they are in there, comfortably set up with rugs, blankets and their sandwiches. The rabbit out there with them is the mother of these two:

It is hard to see the colours in this picture, but one is black/white and the other is grey/white. They are SO cute. They are the two that are remaining from the litter of four she had recently. They appear to be well and healthy, and are now eating solid food and drinking from the water bottle. We put the mother out on the grass so she could have a break from them and also so that she could have the opportunity to eat some grass.

Tess of the D'Urbevilles has just finished on the TV - the second part of four and I am now wondering if I can find a copy of the book and catch up before next week. I did read some Thomas Hardy at school but not this, and it is addictive - I need to know what is going to happen. The costumes and settings in the series are fantastic - but I can't comment on the closeness of the filming to the original book until I have read it.

We are now getting ready to prepare the first two cockerels for the table - we have been advised that it is best if they have their last food about 12 hours before they are killed, so the two that we have chosen have been separated from the flock, so that they didn't eat the second feeding today. I am confident that they have had the best life that we could give them, which has been miles better than that of the intensively reared "2 for £6" kind of chicken found in the supermarkets. We are hoping that they taste good and are keen to know how much they weigh once they are at the "oven-ready" stage, so that we can compare what they have cost us with how much a similar bird from a shop would have cost if we had chosen to buy one reared in a "happy" environment. We'll let you know later.

Saturday, 20 September 2008


This is the enormous egg that one of my hens laid yesterday, pictured above next to a more normal sized egg from one of her companions. I was going to say that I could not imagine laying that, but having had two children, I am afraid I can!!! I scrambled it for the EFG's breakfast this morning, and it had two yolks inside. The shell was quite thin, so I am thinking that this probably indicates that this particular hen is coming to the end of her laying life, but since I don't know which hen that is, she'll continue to be part of the flock for now.

The new chicks and the quail are all eating well and seem to have settled in. The FH is going to create a proper pen for the quail later but for now they are doing fine scurrying around in an oversized rabbit hutch. They do jump up as if trying to take flight, but they don't seem to hurt their heads too much on the wire, thank goodness!

After gymnastics today, I continued the energetic theme to the day by digging over one of my vegetable beds. The FH keeps reminding me that he wants to plant over-wintering broad beans, but that is pretty much all he mutters - I knew that what he was really saying was that I should prepare the ground so that he could plant them! So, the ground is now ready, and hopefully he will get them planted soon whilst the soil is warm from the sunshine we are enjoying this weekend. The YFG took great pleasure from cutting the back lawn for me, closely supervised. I will have to do the front again soon.

The YFG had a friend round to play for a couple of hours this evening, and once again, I had to stretch a meal for four to feed five, but it worked OK, and no one went hungry. Ironing beckons yet again, so that is it for today.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Quick post tonight

I am SO tired that I have to head for bed very soon! Busy morning with various things to do, hanging washing, caring for all the various birds now in residence, tidying up and a bit more baking! Had a break after a late lunch then off to pick up the YFG from school and head to the gym to get the equipment out and set up for the first class. Two and a half classes and a trip to the supermarket later, we were coming home for our supper. Watched Wire in the Blood as it was the second of a two parter, and now I am fading fast! Have got a super picture of some eggs to show you tomorrow but no energy to sort it out tonight....

Thursday, 18 September 2008

New residents!

These are the next batch of Sasso chicks - there are 22 of them and they hatched early this morning, we are told! I don't know why we didn't get the ones that hatched on Sunday, as we had been told we were getting. However, they are gorgeous and we hope that they grow up to be as big as the ones we have already - who are now at the other end of their lifespan. I think that it has been good for the girls to see how these chicks live, grow and then have a useful ending. They have had a good life and been well loved!

These are the other newcomers today - 11 Japanese/coturnix quail. They have come from a breeder out in Norfolk, and we are not sure (apparently, neither was he!) how many males and females we have here; I ordered 10 point of lay hens, but he has sent 11, and told the FH that the extra one was because he thought that one might have been a cock bird. The FH forgot to ask exactly how old they are, so we are not sure when they may start to lay, so we'll just see how they get on!

So, the FH had a day out with his mate from round the corner, visiting the breeder and the hatchery to pick these up for me. He also had to get some chick crumbs, and deliver an order of books into the centre of Cambridge for me to one of the schools which regularly buys my books for their library. Coincidentally, the FH knows their Bursar from years ago so he called in for a quick chat with him too. What with going north into Norfolk and then into Cambridge, he certainly clocked up the miles today, but it was more efficient to do that than to do a lot of separate journeys. He stopped near an airfield and they ate their sandwiches whilst watching the planes come and go.

I have had a good day today - the YFG and I cycled her to school so I did two miles this morning for my exercise, several loads of washing went out on the line, the YFG's bed was changed as she was ready for the winter flannelette sheets to be put on, I made 5 dozen biscuits, cooked a new recipe for tea which went down well, tidied up the dining room a bit, and had a rest too! Recipes to follow:

Bacon potato pie - this is a concoction of mine!

I took some instant potato and made up about 2 portions, and used that to line a shallow Pyrex pie dish. I fried 2 chopped onions in a little oil and then put the onion in to the potato casing. Then I grated a little cheese (and it was a Little! about 3 oz) over the onion. I grilled 2 rashers of bacon and cut them up and put them over the cheese, whisked up four eggs and poured them over the lot and put it in the oven for about half an hour. The smell coming from the oven was glorious, the top went golden and crispy and everyone wanted seconds! I served this with carrots and steamed broccoli.

The biscuit recipe comes from a friend called Jane. She calls them "Oaten Biscuits".

You need 4 oz self-raising flour, 4 oz margerine, 3 oz sugar, 2 oz oats, 1 teaspoon golden syrup, 3 tsp boiling water, and a splash of vanilla essence. These amounts make about 16, but I quadrupled it and made 60. They freeze well in bags of a dozen and come out to thaw overnight before going into lunchboxes. I add a packet of chocolate chips to the recipe to make chocolate cookies - I don't add four when I scale up the recipe! Two bags is enough.

So, the method I use is to put all the dry ingredients into a bowl, with the choc chips, and then melt the margerine in a pan on the stove. I add the syrup, vanilla essence and the water to the pan and warm it all through. Then I mix the melted stuff into the dry ingredients. Sure, the choc chips melt somewhat, but that doesn't matter. Then I take spoonfuls of the mixture and put well-spaced on baking trays and cook for 10 minutes at about 170C. Ten minutes is enough, but they will be soggy when you bring them out - you need to put them on cooling racks until they are cold and then you will find that they have crisped up nicely. Lift them over carefully with a fish slice.

Rhonda has some excellent links for home-made Christmas gifts that I have been looking at today. I do have a stash of material so I think I will be going through it soon to see if there is anything that I can use to make a few gifts. I would also like to make myself a few new aprons, so I need to use a favourite apron to make a pattern. I will also have to get out the sewing machine and see if I can make it work...

Heading off to finish tidying the kitchen, fold the dry laundry and then take a bath.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A slow but steady day

I am still feeling the effects of being ill yesterday so what I did today was done slowly and with rest periods in between. I was up early, and got the FGs off to school, and then did my household stuff steadily, things like making beds, tidying, hoovering and polishing,etc. I had to go to take the YFG to see our doctor late in the morning as she has been having a lot of headaches; the doctor thinks that it might be something to do with the glare off the interactive whiteboard that is used in her classroom. Since the YFG sits near to the white board, it is quite bright for her, so we had a chat with her teacher and he will be moving her to the back of the room tomorrow - good result. Hopefully this will help the headaches, but also keeping her well hydrated and rested is also important, so she is having some early nights.

I had thought that I would cut the back lawn today but thinking about it was enough, and I haven't done it yet. I admit to sitting and watching the news for quite some time today as we are interested in the HBOS problems - we used to have a mortgage with the Halifax when it was just the Halifax, and we have a small number of shares that we were given when it converted to a bank. The share price dipped so low today that I thought that they were going to lose all their value - it went as low as 88p at one time, and then the announcement of take-over talks with Lloyds TSB meant that the shares bounced a little bit higher and recovered most of the day's losses. I am glad that we no longer have a mortgage, but these problems are affecting us all in one way or another.

When the EYG came home from school, we were straight out the door again as she was going to the local sports centre to try out a gym course. This is not gymnastics but using fitness equipment to get fitter, and have fun along the way. It is a special pregramme for 11-13 year olds, and today was a free taster session - but she liked it so we signed up for the full eight week course, which begins October 8th.

On the way home, I did a bit of weightlifting as a friend had gifted me two huge sacks of wheat for my chickens and I had to call round and pick them up - and they were Heavy! It was very generous of him to give us them, and will have saved me well over £20 off next month's feed bill.

Tomorrow the FH is going to pick up the next batch of chicks - we have ordered them today and there are some ready to leave the hatchery already! They hatched out on Sunday so they are already a few days old - I will be taking LOTS of photos this time so that we can all see them grow. The existing flock are now being fed only wheat in preparation for killing at the weekend. Well, some of them will be killed, we'll have to see how we go with the room in the freezer!

I am keenly watching Rhonda's blog to see what ideas she has for home made Christmas gifts but I am hoping that they don't all involve sewing or knitting as I am sure that I couldn't produce anything gift-able made in either of those media. Cooked gifts I can do, but not those! You can check out her blog at http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com - it is great, and I am learning so much from reading it.

Well, that is it for today. I know I have one reader, so I am sending love to Ohio, and goodnight!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Busy and then not so busy!

The day got off to a great start - the FGs went off to school and I set to on the household chores and looking after the chickens. I had bought some mince to make into meals for the freezer and cooked that up in two big batches, finished all the ironing and even put it away, talked to a local shopkeeper about a stall at the coffee morning, organised a couple of posters being put up and an announcement at the Women's Section of the Royal British Legion in the village as publicity, and then I walked all round the little estate where I live and put flyers through the doors so that people know - the more people who come, hopefully the more we will raise for Macmillan. And that was that - I then got ill with an upset stomach and felt really cold and tired, so I went to bed for a couple of hours. The FH had to take the YFG to gymnastics tonight, and the EFG pampered me with a cup of tea, and then brought me downstairs and tucked me up under a duvet to watch "The Full Monty" on video. I am feeling OK now, but I am hoping for an early night!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Meetings and musings

Well, I spent the whole morning at a school meeting and came home exhausted from having to use my brain quite so much! There were only four of us at the meeting and so a significant amount of brain power was required but we did achieve a successful outcome! Instead of doing anything too active this afternoon, I ate my lunch (I was starving as I stupidly forgot to eat any breakfast!) and then worked on some flyers for the school children to take home about the coffee morning next Friday. I crossed my fingers that the my printer had enough ink left in it to do 110 copies, and left it to churn them out whilst I went to the local shop to ask if they would like to donate some tea bags or coffee. The lady in the shop kindly gave me a big box of tea bags, but I was given the coffee as well by a neighbour. God says "Ask, and you will receive," but I am not sure miracles extend to cakes to go with the coffee - let's just hope He gives me the energy to do some baking on Thursday and blesses the event with a lot of people coming along and spending money so that the charity does well out of it. I'd be satisfied with that.

Satisfied. That is a good word. I have been reading a Bible study about it today, and it seems that NOT being satisfied is a big problem in this world in which we live. There are too many people whose physical hunger and thirst is not satisfied because of circumstances beyond their control such as drought, famine and disasters such as civil wars - these things especially are happening in Africa. Unfortunately there is a "satisfaction" problem in the developed world as we who have so much want more, and therein lies the root of the problems of debt, and divorce, to name just two examples. I knew a very wise woman in Scotland years ago who struggled with five children, a very small house, and a husband who was of a philanthropic turn of mind who didn't really earn enough to support his family, let alone be generous towards others. She asked God to make her content with where she was in her life, and thanked Him for his gifts to her; she always had an air of serenity that was surprising in a woman with so many challenges in her life. She was grateful for anything that anyone did for her - the FH acquired a small length of kitchen work surface for her from a mutual friend and installed it in her kitchen where she had only had a piece of rough wood previously, and one would have thought he had given her the world, so pleased with it was she. It did make her life easier as it gave her a more hygienic place to knead her bread, and prepare food.

I once heard of a style of interior decorating called "Early Marriage". I doubt that it will ever catch on as being very fashionable - but it should! It involves accepting anything that you are given and making use of it, buying things secondhand and being creative. It is probably supposed to only go on until the couple get themselves established, but some of us have gone on with it longer than others!! My children laughed when I told them that our first TV stand was a cardboard box turned upside down and covered in a cloth! It did the job, though!

I think that most of us, myself included, would be better for being more content or satisfied with what we have and who we are now, rather than striving to be someone else, or to acquire material goods. There is no way that we are going to take it all with us when we die, so there is little to be gained by being miserable in the pursuit of riches, especially if it means that our lives are less than they could be. We live on what, for this country, is a relatively low income, but whilst I would love cash available for upgraded cars, holidays abroad, seasonal new clothes, it is more important to me that we have a thankful heart for what we do have - a loving family, a comfortable house to live in, a safe neighbourhood, friends, enough food to eat, and time to share in the community. I have a degree and could probably get a job that would allow us to have more material things, but I worry that we would lose some of the other things - would I have time to spend with the FGs and FH, would I be able to continue with the voluntary work that I enjoy, would we have to move house? We are a long way from being perfect in this, and I have two girls who constantly aspire to have things that their friends have, and the FH and I talk about things that we would like to do or have, so we have to work on this more ourselves. I hope that this has made you think about being satisfied a little the way the book made me think this afternoon.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Decisions, decisions!

I phoned a Helpline to ask questions about the HPV vaccine on Friday, and I didn't really get any answers. All I got was the feeling that someone is getting paid handsomely somewhere to convince more people to have the jab, and I am not so easily convinced.

The EFG has had an illness when she was about 5, going on 6, called Henoch-Schonlein Purpura. It is a kind of vasculitis where blotches appear on the arms and legs, which, when pressed with a glass, do not go away. This is a serious illness, and she saw a consultant at our local hospital about it. Kidneys are also affected, and all sorts of other weird symptoms which are hard to explain to a 5/6 year old - her ankle swelled up, she had a lot of stomach ache, she was tired a lot and we had to keep getting her urine checked - for weeks afterwards. The other distressing thing for her was that just when one lot of the blotches had faded, a new batch would appear. Now, we do not know categorically what caused HSP in the EFG but she had had an amalgam filling shortly before, and there are some studies which link the two - although I admit that there are plenty which don't. The point is that we just don't know, and since we understand that if it happens again, it may affect her in a more serious way, we obviously want to avoid that. SO, I asked about contra-indications and whether this vaccine was OK to give to children who have had HSP, and they really didn't know. I was advised to go and look on the internet!!!!!!! The only slightly useful thing that I was told was that in children who have had an auto-immune disease, the vaccine may not provide as good protection as it does in other children.

That leaves me with weighing up the situation for myself - do I allow her to have the vaccine, knowing that the protection it gives may not be worth the risk, and there are other risks as well as those posed by HSP. Or do I not allow the vaccine, and pray hard that she never succumbs to the 2 kinds of cervical cancer from which it might have protected her (bearing in mind that there are a lot more than 2 kinds, and she may still fall prey to one of the others even if she had the vaccine)?

I asked about getting the vaccine later, as I also think that it is not necessary to give the EFG the vaccine right now, but apparently GPs are not going to be able to give this vaccine, and should we want to buy it privately, it will cost upwards of £400. The person I spoke to seemed to think that 6 years' of work on this vaccine was enough, and it is safe and we should just toe the line and do it. If you know me, you know I am not like that! I always ask questions, and even then, we often don't "do" whatever it is that we are supposed to do. I am definitely not a herd animal. We didn't do MMR and I don't think that we will do this.......but I am not sure....

Aprt from that, we had another birthday celebration at church this morning, for a seven-year old, to whom we gave the "bumps" - she just squealed with delight and said, "Again!!". The FH has taken the FGs out for the afternoon, visiting relatives and a local show. They'll be back in time for tea. I have had an hour watching a DVD of a favourite TV show from a few years ago, and now I am going to continue to tidy my room - there are clothes all over the bed so the FH will complain if he can't get in there tonight. I am having a bit of a clear out as well so there are a few bin bags up there - one for the rubbish and one for the donations for the charity shop.

I have finished the week in skirts, and even rode my bicycle to church this morning wearing one, although the EFG warned me at one stage that it looked as if it was going to get caught in the wheel. It is a beautiful day here again and the washing is blowing on the line so there will be freshly-smelling laundry to iron tonight - I love the smell of line-dried laundry!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Friday whizzed past!

And here we are on Saturday already. Yesterday was a very worrying day as the YFG had a big wobble about going to school after her sick day and I am still not 100% sure if that is OK now. She came home for lunch and then returned to school in the afternoon, and when I got home from gymnastics last night, she was happily doing her homework.

The other concerning thing was my dad being sent into hospital by his GP as his ECG results had shown that his heart was racing far too fast. I spent a few hours worrying about him, and hoping that the hospital would be able to resolve the problem. Again, I spoke to him last night when he rang to say that the hospital had let him out and he has to take Warfarin to thin his blood now. But he is OK.

I had some rushing around to do yesterday morning as my usual feed merchant had no growers pellets in stock for the young chickens, and unfortunately, he wouldn't have any in until next Thursday - they would have been starving by then! So I had to find another local supplier, and since her shop is on the same route as the supermarket, I went there as well, which made the car rather heavily laden by the time I got home. All the shopping got put away eventually.

The food prices were worth noting at the supermarket yesterday - I was shocked to see that a 3kg bag of conchigle pasta that I usually buy had gone up from £2.97 to £3.97! Strangely though, the fusili and penne in the 3kg bags were still £2.97 so I got one of each of those. That will keep us going for some months. Another price change I noticed (and this is something we all use, I think!) was the loo roll - the own brand pack of 12 which had been about £4.69 had leapt to over £5. That is a lot to pay for stuff that gets flushed, so I found Andrex 4 roll packs at £1.50 on offer and bought three of those instead, saving at least 50p. Small savings, yes, but they all add up, and making small savings often can save more in the long run than making big savings less often , if you see what I mean! Prices are definitely on the up, but I think that there are still bargains to be had if you know your prices, and make some changes to your expectations - I chose chicken pieces yesterday over a whole chicken as the supermarket had only got expensive, large chickens in stock and FH wanted roast chicken tomorrow. He's still going to get the taste of roasted chicken, but it will be in portions instead of whole.

Off to gymnastics again this morning so I had better get going!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

A sick day

for one of the FGs - the YFG has had a swollen throat today and stayed at home, snuggled under a duvet for most of the day. She watched some TV, played games on the internet and read some books and generally had a rest, so I think that she will be fit to go to school tomorrow although probably not to gymnastics tomorrow afternoon. She can take a break from that and go on Saturday.

I have made bread as usual today, spoken to my dad about his health (he has to have an ECG tomorrow), taken delivery of lots of books, and generally looked after the YFG. I have sent some "fishing" emails for work, and organised a venue and a couple of stalls for the Macmillan coffee morning at the end of the month, so that is a start!

Hopefully, I will get more done tomorrow, but it has been nice to have a slow day for a change, and do things at a more restful pace! I have also taken time to look through lots of the new books that I have for selling.

This week I am having an experimental "skirt week" wearing skirts every day. I usually wear trousers nearly all the time, but I am beginning to feel that I should wear skirts more often. There are passages in the Bible that indicate that women should not wear men's clothing and that we should be different. I feel smarter and more feminine in skirts and I have to say that I have done all the things that I usually do, just wearing a skirt - gardening, cleaning rabbit hutches out, wading through the mud in the chicken run in my wellies, carrying wood around the yard, all wearing a skirt. It hasn't caused any problems, and I have felt that when I have needed to pop out to pick up the YFG from school or nip to the Post Office, I have been smarter than running up there in yoga pants from Mackays and plastic clogs - I am beginning to actively feel scruffy when dressed like that. Do people treat me differently wearing a skirt? Not sure that I have noticed that yet, so will have to persevere and see how it goes. I think that I will continue, but in the winter, if I get that far, I am going to have to find some much thicker skirts, probably in the charity shops, or some kind of leggings to wear under the skirts for warmth. I do wear very long skirts so no one would know! I have to wear a tracksuit for gym and I will continue to do that for the sake of practicality, but that is about the only time when I have to wear trousers.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Internet wobbles

I have had some trouble with my internet connection or my router lately, and so my ability to post yesterday was hit and miss - and when I had time to post last night, I had no connection!

Anyway, we are watching the Paralympics and being so proud of all the fantastic althetes who are taking part - I was going to say, "winning medals" but they are all doing wonderfully well, medals or not!

The FGs had both heard that the world was going to end today without understanding anything about the massive experiment beginning today in Switzerland. I hadn't heard about it last night, but got up to speed this morning by watching Breakfast on BBC. Obviously, the world hasn't ended if you are still reading this, and I did reassure them this morning that the experiment would not have been allowed if there was a big risk (well, I hope not anyway!!)

The EFG came home yesterday from school with a form to be completed for her to receive the new cervical cancer vaccine - or the vaccine for HPV which should reduce the risk of cervical cancer. I have some reservations about her having this right now - she is only 12, and I do not think it is necessary to give it so young, and perhaps there has not been enough research into the safety of the vaccine yet. She seems to want to have it done, so I must look into it a little more. I am puzzled by the leaflet which says that the decision is legally hers.......really? Why do I have to sign consent forms for her medical treatment, then? We'll see. I'll let you know what we decide, as the injections aren't due to be given at the school until the 8th October so we have a little time.

The YFG is going to play with her friend after school so I have been released from the rigours of the school run this afternoon - although I have the EFG going to a group tonight in the village, and a school meeting tonight so small mercies, eh?

The chickens are happy, the veg are growing, the greenhouse has plants in residence, in short. BUT two of the baby rabbit have died, so there are just two remaining, but they are looking healthy and rounded. This is not a shock for us, as unfortunately Rosie does not have a good history of having a second litter in a year. Perhaps we should bear that in mind and not let her have a second litter next year. However, if these two live, and I think that they will, it will be a better outcome than last year, when all but one died and we had to hand rear him. Also on the rabbit news was the discovery of a wild brown rabbit in the garden this morning. The EFG was excited at seeing it when she was feeding the others, and came in to tell us how enchanting it looked, but the FH and I were not so happy as we are concerned about the transfer of disease to our domestic pets. We have had a good look at the fences but can't find where it got in.

Monday, 8 September 2008

No rain today - hurray!

Yes - a whole day with no rain! I was so pleased. Managed to get the grass cut out the front of the house so that looks a bit tidier, to keep the neighbours happy, and me, I suppose. The inside of the house may be lacking in that department, but it is relatively easy to cut the grass once a week - at least no one leaves clutter all over it. The YFG did some tidying yesterday, including my desk and then put up a big notice saying "Do not mess up!" so I have to be on my best behaviour. She did a good job, though.

Today has been a good day in many ways - I got a lot of Usborne work done, made some bread, spoke to a few people I needed to catch up with, arranged with a friend to organise a coffee morning for Macmillan at the end of the month if we can find a venue, arranged a play-date for YFG with her friend from school, etc. We also did our good deed for the day at school - there is an after school dance club that YFG was going to do to keep her friend company, except that she got a place and her friend didn't, so she realised that it wouldn't be as much fun if her friend wasn't there and didn't want to go. Another little girl from her class was in tears in the playground because she didn't get a place, so we marched into the office and asked that this little girl have YFG's place as we didn't want it any more - so that little one and her mum were pleased.

I have got the headstone arranged for Mum today - I rang the stonemason and spoke with them about the queries we had, and the lady I spoke to was very helpful, so I had to check with my Dad that he agreed with what we had done, filled the order form in and got it into the post this afternoon, along with the claim for the glass from the greenhouse people.

The FGs went to band practice tonight, I nipped into the supermarket and then we all came home to tea which the FH had prepared. Now I just have some ironing to do when the FGs are in bed, which should be very soon!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sunday again....

the time is flying past! Church at 9.30 this morning, with a birthday cake as one of the girls was turning 13 today, so it was lovely to share the celebration with the church family and the FGs and I were pleased to be included. We all sang Happy Birthday and since the EFG knows the girl from school, we took a card along for her too.

Home to the garden and bean and tomato harvesting in between some very heavy showers. The FH went out for a couple of hours to see a friend, so I gave the FGs some tuna sandwiches and banana cake for their lunch and postponed the hot meal until later. Spent half an hour on the phone with another friend of mine, and then had a quick chat with my dad - he had been for a walk to fetch a paper this morning and got absolutely drenched to the skin and was feeling a little the worse for wear, poor chap. My sister popped in for a cup of tea and a chat as we are organising a headstone for my mum's grave and needed to decide on an inscription and choose a stone. These things take time and we eventually sorted that out so I have to ring the stonemason tomorrow to ask a couple of questions, and then have him send my dad the bill! The FGs went out riding their bikes for some time, and then went on the trampoline. Unfortunately, the trampoline was very wet from all the showers, so they ended up soaked and decided to have an early bath and put on their PJs, which was fine as it saved me chasing them into the bath tonight. They have been watching TV, playing games and bickering for most of the evening!

After eating, the YFG wanted to be my assistant whilst I did some baking, and we made several things - brownies, and two kinds of oat biscuits. Two recipes that I use frequently came from the excellent ladies (and gentlemen!) on the Forums at www.moneysavingexpert.com - I use the Weetabix brownie recipe, and Twink's Hobnobs. Well worth a look, so head over there and scout around the Old Style board. We also rang a friend to ask for her recipe for choc chip cookies, which we then made. So the cake and biscuit tins are replenished for the week ahead and the lunchbox dilemmas solved for a few days - and the Twink's Hobnobs are in the freezer so that they last until the end of the week or else the gannets that live here would have eaten the lot by Wednesday. I did manage to grab a photo before they started on them!

Don't they look delicious?! You have to watch them very carefully in the oven as you want them the right side of golden brown, and not too dark. We had planned to do a little more baking as the YFG wanted to make some muffins but I ran out of sugar, so that will have to be postponed, although I may make some cheese scones tomorrow.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Glass, gym and straw

were the highlights of my day! I picked up horticultural glass from the glazier for the greenhouse, went to gymnastics for three and a half hours, fetched straw and then went home, chucked a bale of straw into the chicken run and had a quick shower before my friend came round to cut my hair at 3pm. I was very glad to sit and let her do her thing for half an hour and just catch up with myself!

I am very pleased with the haircuts that R did for YFG and myself - YFG's hair is very fine and the way that R has cut it means that it is beginning to look a bit thicker and the ends have been tidied up brilliantly so that it no longer looks straggly. Mine is short and I love it!

The grower chickens were in a sea of mud after all the rain that we have had this week, and covering their run in a layer of straw was about the only thing that would remedy the situation - they thought it was great this afternoon and spent hours scratching happily! I gave the laying hens some as well as they looked as if they were jealous of the growers having all the fun. They are laying well at the moment, although our favourite, called "Goldenburg" (don't ask why cos I don't know!) seems to think that she would like to have another brood of chicks as she is sitting on the nest and has been for days! It is too late in the season now, so she will have to be persuaded to get back to normal - she must have enjoyed life in the maternity wing!

Friday, 5 September 2008

It is STILL raining...

and if we were still home-educating the FGs, we would be doing a monsoon/weather project by now. We had been hoping for a bit of sunshine when the FGs went back to school, but this is a disappointment. The garden needs rain, but not this much! I have beans out there needing to get picked and I don't want to get soaked doing it, so haven't harvested them yet - I am praying that the sun promised for Monday actually materialises!

YFG and I are getting our hair cut tomorrow by a friend so YFG has been trying to decide how she wants hers done. Mine is less of a problem - it is going short! I have a cycle where I grow it quite long, beyond my shoulders, and then I have it dramatically all cut off into a very short style. Some hairdressers are apprehensive of cutting so much off at once, but this will be about the fourth or fifth time I have done it, and it is no problem to me - I enjoy the change. It takes about 2 years to get back to the length it is now, so come 2010, I know I'll have long hair again.

Busy day again tomorrow so I am off for an early night.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Rain, rain and more rain!

We have had so much rain in the last few days! Driving home from gym on Tuesday evening, the YFG and I were caught in a thunderstorm, and it was scary - the lightening was just ferocious, lighting up the whole sky, and the rain was coming down so hard that I had to creep along the road as it was so difficult to see where I was going - the windscreen wipers just couldn't keep up with the amount of rain falling. The YFG was quite scared. We got home safely, thank goodness.

It is raining again today, although less dramatically. Unfortunately, that has put a stop to the harvesting of the veg for now, so I have to concentrate on inside jobs today. The 8.30 meeting this morning was very successful, and the books are now chosen, ready at the school and someone has the job of putting bookplates in them before they are given to the children on Monday.

I tried to buy the glass to finish the greenhouse this morning but the glazier had only got one piece of horticultural glass in stock - not much good when you need four pieces - so I will have to try again at the weekend as he promised that there would be a delivery by then. Yesterday the FH sowed some seeds in the greenhouse - lettuce, cabbage, and broccoli, so that they can grow in there over the winter and be planted outside in the spring, ready for a head-start on later-planted veg. The freezers are getting very full, and I am getting worried about where we will freeze the chickens that will be killed in October - it would be counter-productive to have to find and run another freezer just for them!

The EFG starts Spanish at school today. She has had a year of French, and now has to add Spanish to the mix, so I hope that she doesn't get confused. I have learned French, German, Latin, Russian, Biblical Hebrew and Ancient Greek in my time, but never Spanish, so I am not going to be much help to her with that, although I do help her out with the French occasionally. We mums have to be helpful - she came home on the first day with science homework - find out what the name of the process is in which a solid becomes a gas (without becoming a liquid)? She had no idea, but I got out the trusty Usborne Science Dictionary and had the answer in seconds - sublimation - so the thing to do is not necessarily know all the answers, but to know where to find them!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Buns for tea, but not at three!

Sorry that photo is a bit out of focus! The joys of the storecupboard were brought home to me again this afternoon when YFG asked if her friend could come home to play for the rest of the afternoon, and I jokingly said, "Only if she likes turkey stew!" as that was what I had prepped for tea. Her poor friend's face fell as she said, quite reluctantly, "I don't like turkey!" I had to think quickly, pat her gently on the shoulder and tell her that that was OK really as there was plenty of pizza in the freezer that I could pull out. I had made a spare one last week and so that was their tea sorted, but there was still no pudding - little girls need pudding when they have guests for tea, so I quickly whipped up a batch of buns, popped them in the oven before the pizza went in and iced them pink when they had cooled. Job done and three happy girls.

I have had a good day at "work" today as I had a call from a school wanting to buy 90 books as gifts for their children (I am an Usborne bookseller) but the only snag is that they need them to give to the kids on Monday! Our order turnaround is fast, but not that fast, so I am going to meet with the Head at 8.30 tomorrow morning, and hopefully he will be able to choose the books for the children from a selection that I am going to take with me - he certainly won't be able to have any that would need to be ordered. I do business with this school regularly so I am pleased to be able to help them out, and it is a great start to September! I don't "work" as much as I used to at Usborne, and I pick and choose the work that I do with the books more carefully than I used to - I was obsessed at one time, and now I have taken a back seat and don't go looking for the work as much; I have been lucky in that enough business comes my way to keep me ticking over, but the Christmas season is approaching and I know that it will be busy!

Gymnastics started up again last night and the other coaches and I had forgotten how much physical work it is for us as well as for the girls - we all felt the strain last night!

Early to bed tonight as I have to travel to that 8.30 meeting tomorrow so I'll have to be up with the birds in the morning.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

They've gone back to school

and it is so quiet without them!!!! I'm sure I will soon get used to it and the FH is still around, so it is not that quiet. He has just popped out to see a friend so the sound of the chickens in the garden is all the noise there is at the moment - both breadmakers are on, too, though they are both in the rising part of the cycle so no sounds there either. Will have to go and make some myself in a minute with the hoover.

I took the picture of the greenhouse so that I could show the almost-finished product. I am pleased with it, and looking forward to growing things in it!

Both of the FGs went off to school quite happily this morning, with no worries and no backward glances, so I count myself blessed that they are content! The EFG found it strange to put a tie back on after so long without, though. She'll soon be used to it again.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Playing a waiting game

The FGs must have asked me the time every half hour this morning! We got up earlier than we have been doing as a practice run for school starting back tomorrow. That meant that all the animals jobs were done early and they were twiddling their thumbs by 10 am - wish I had been! The ironing baskets were overflowing last night so I had some left to finish this morning, which I did whilst watching a gymnastics training DVD ready for the new term starting at gym tomorrow as well. A Bulgarian master coach has made a really good DVD about using ballet strength and flexibility training to help gymnasts. Some of the postures and stretches looked really painful - I am glad that I only have to teach and not demonstrate!!

This afternoon, the girls' patience was rewarded and we went to a stamping studio for a couple of hours and they made Christmas cards whilst I was making a scrapbook page and a couple of cards, under expert instruction. Jackie has a blog too and I will have to get a link in here when I get the address.

An hour at the Junior Band tonight, practising their cornets, and then home to toad in the hole for tea. There has been an air of excitement coupled with some apprehension today as both the FGs go back to school tomorrow after the holidays - the YFG into year 5 at the village primary school and the EFG into year 8 at the local community college. The YFG has a male teacher this year, but he is a good teacher, in my opinion, and I think that she will have a good year with him. It will be her second year at school, and she is loving it, so I really hope that this year builds on and develops the progress she made last year. The EFG will have some new teachers and a new form tutor, so we will have to see what happens tomorrow. All is ready tonight and we have the alarms set for an early start in the morning.

The greenhouse now has a bench for potting and storing stuff on - my fuschia, Delta's Sarah, has already taken up residence and is looking better for the warmth. I think that it will not be long before the cat sneaks in there for a snooze, too, and the FH has made sure that the path is wide enough that he can fit a deck chair in there for his 40 winks!

We have been watching the news and were pleased to see that the flooding of Katrine 3 years ago has so far not been repeated in New Orleans. The hurricane has also been downgraded to a category 2, so we are praying that there will be less losses this time, although it was disturbing to hear that there are a few other hurricanes developing in that part of the world. We will be continuing to pray for their safety.