Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Stay of execution!

Finally, the quails have laid!

I have just found two eggs! I was so excited that I had to run round and tell my neighbour as the FH has had to go out for the day. My neighbour is an ex-chef and had promised quail recipes if I needed them - I don't now...the only thing is that of course, we don't know which bird(s) laid these eggs, so we hope that there will be more in the days to come.

Gold medal winner

Sorry to have been away again - practising and preparations for the gymnastics competition at the weekend took over.

The competition took place on Sunday in Peterborough. It was a very early start as we were there at 8.30am, and it was the morning after we changed the clocks forward so we got an hour's less sleep anyway. We did try to go to bed early but the YFG was just so excited that she couldn't sleep, and declared on Sunday that she hadn't "had a wink of sleep all night" (but she had!). She leapt up and was ready and raring to go!

It was an Eastern Region competition at Level 1 and 2, and Level 2 Open. Last year the YFG was just beginning to compete so was at Level 1, but having won three medals, had to move up to Level 2 this year. This is a bit more demanding, and she coped well. The club took along 19 gymnasts, although there were three sessions across the day so they weren't all there at the same time.

When the medals were announced for the YFG's age group, we were on tenterhooks. She had vaulted well, and the choreographer had been pleased with her bench and floor routines, and then the HC thought her bars had gone well, so we were hopeful of something. Her face said it all though, as medal after medal was announced and other girls' names called out to receive them. Then, finally, the very last medal to be announced, Gold medal on the Floor - and it was hers!!!!! The relief on her face was clear - and I was so proud, and relieved too that she had won something.

The club had a good haul of medals: we took 19 gymnasts, as I have said, and we brought home 34 medals; 11 Gold, 10 Silver and 13 Bronze. 17 of the children won at least one medal, and several won a collection - the two boys I had been coaching in particular collected 7 - and that included 3 Golds! The club also took the hat-trick of medals in two age groups for the floor routine, so we are very pleased with that result.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Clearout day!

Amazing! Look - there is a clear table where a family can eat together! I am ashamed to admit that this poor table had been buried under a mountain of clutter for nearly two months, forcing us to eat from plates on our laps. Not what I wanted for our family. However, I spent most of Monday clearing this table, and we have eaten meals on it ever since. The challenge is now to keep it clear. I recently resurrected the utility room from under a pile of junk and I am managing to keep that generally tidy and usable. The trouble with that room is that the family has got used to coming in the back door and just dumping things there - coats, shoes, dirty clothes for the washer, eggs, garden produce, etc and it just got overwhelmed! The room also does duty as my pantry storage area, so it is actually quite important to keep it clean.

Having rescued the dining table and the utility room, I am off to sort out the airing cupboard this afternoon.......I will be back.....

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Now the day is over

Nearly over. It has been a good day - the girls brought me cards, plants for the garden and a lovely pair of earrings.

Church was a thoughtful service, and everyone was given a flower, and then after church, my neighbour brought me a small posy of flowers from her church too.

My uncle came and shared lunch with us - chicken and leek pie - and my dad arrived before my uncle left so we all had a cup of tea together.

Tonight I have washed the FGs' hair and they are watching the final of the ice dancing show right now before heading off to bed, and I am planning to turn the pc off and go and do the ironing whilst I watch the No1 Ladies Detective Agency programme at 9pm.

Motherhood is indeed a privilege.

Is being busy a virtue?

Is it good to be busy all the time? Is it to be admired in someone that they are too busy to do something? How do we feel about busy people? Are busy people better in some way than someone who has more free time?

I admit that there is always a long list of things which I want to accomplish on any given day. Does that make me "busy"? I don't know. I don't feel like a busy person, but I do feel like someone who has lots to do. The EFG noticed that I don't sit down an awful lot unless I am at the computer! Most of the things which I do are of my own choosing - cooking and baking from scratch most days, gardening, looking after the chickens, coaching gymnastics, school governing, etc - a lot of those things are occupations which I could choose not to do, but I do them because I like to, and they benefit me and my family in one way or another. Unfortunately, there are other things which I don't choose to do quite as often as I should, like decluttering, which would also be of benefit to my family and I would be happier if I did more often........I'll fling a few things this afternoon! Guess what? Those are the things which I like doing less! I know that I rarely turn anyone down if they ask me to do something. That could be seen as weakness, an inability to say, "No" but on the other hand, I know that I can ask for help or time off when I need to - I didn't coach gym on Saturday mornings last summer term as I didn't feel up to it, and the HC was fine about it. He was understanding and let me have the time out.

What's brought this on? Someone said to me this morning that she was too busy to make jam. That, to me, is laughable and sounded like an excuse. If you like making jam, you find time. If you don't like doing it, you buy it or do without.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Mother's Day tomorrow

Tinged with joy at being a mother, tinged with sorrow at the absence of my own mother.

I haven't been able to share a Mothering Sunday (she always called it that) with her since 1997 as she passed away early in 1998 and it still hurts. The fact that I have had my own two pink bundles of joy means that I still get to celebrate the day, but being what we describe as the oldest blood female in our particular line makes me the matriarch at 36 - and I really shouldn't be. Ideally the two generations before me would still be here, but my grandmother was 98 when she died in 2002; she was in her mid thirties when she had my mother, who was also in her mid thirties when she had me, so they both left it relatively late for their eras to have their children. I, on the other hand, was a young mother at 23 in this day and age when more women are leaving it later to have their children. That last Mothering Sunday in 1997 when we were all four generations alive (I can't say "and well" but alive was an achievement for my mother) was a day to have been remembered.

And so, motherhood - the "holiest" of occupations, I read recently. The greatest gift I have ever been given, and the most awesome responsibility. The scariest thing, and most wonderful, children have brought me amazing joy as well as terrible fear. The FH wonders often what the world will be like for them as they grow older - but he is older and has seen more change in his lifetime - he can remember life before televisions, let alone pre-computers!

Tomorrow, we are going to church first of all, then my uncle is coming over for lunch. My dad might also visit during the afternoon, so I think that I will be doing a little baking after church so that we have some cake ready for tea! Simnel cake was traditionally made for Mothering Sunday before it got taken over by Easter, but marzipan is not a great favourite here so I won't be making one of those! One of the chickens is going in the slow cooker overnight and then will become a chicken pie for tomorrow's lunch - a family favourite.

Friday, 20 March 2009

I did warn you!

The numbers came up for three of the cockerels yesterday afternoon - so we have two in the freezer and one waiting to be roasted at the weekend! The FH spent a couple of hours plucking and dressing the birds and brought me the finished, oven-ready product. The giblets were donated to the ferrets that live over the road.

Today I am still suffering from this cold so I haven't done much - I have made some cookies which I have yet to sandwich together for the snack at gymnastics, and I have pottered around a bit. I need to go and tidy upstairs and have a shower, so I had better get going as I am on "slow" today - even the cold remedy which has a caffeine ingredient hasn't got me going!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Striped Pyjamas

I bought the DVD of "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" through Amazon this week and it just arrived the other day. Since the YFG took a sickie today (she has the head cold which I am also suffering from), we watched it this afternoon when I got home from working. I had read the book and she had had it read to her at school, so we both knew the story - but the film is, in our opinion, brilliant. The young Bruno is excellently acted, and the whole thing plays around his ignorance of the work camp/death camp situation in WW2 Germany. There is just so much he doesn't understand, which we as 2009 viewers know, and the terrible ending is harrowing. The YFG said she "very nearly" cried, and I certainly felt very sad. There is very little in the film about the life inside the camp, because it is mostly about Bruno, of course, so I suggested that we might watch "Schindler's List" at the weekend. I also have the book, "Schindler's Ark", which I read quite often.

Of course, Oskar Schindler is played by Liam Neeson in the film, which brings me to the tragic death last night of his wife, Natasha Richardson. We most recently saw her in "The Parent Trap" which was on several times just around and after Christmas - at least three times, I think, on various channels! She was just 45, and her two sons are 12 and 13 - the EFG is 12 so that really made me feel for those two boys.

All things considered, then, we have a lot to be thankful for, not least our liberty and our health here tonight.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Picture festival

Finally, some photos!

Eggs collected from the nests in my apron - aprons have a lot more uses than one might think!

Strawberry plants sending up new leaves for this year's growth - some promise of the fruit to come in the summer.

This is Goldenberg, one of our favourite Orpington-type hens.

And here are some of the heavy, bred-for-table birds. We haven't eaten any lately, but the FH's fingers are itching to get plucking again, so one of their numbers will be up soon!

And here, amidst the chickens, is the turkey. Looking more and more like a vulture these days, we all have a soft spot for the turkey!

And here is the one who thinks he's the Boss of the hen house! He is a fine bird, and we think he is a Silver Sussex. He makes an efficient alarm clock these lighter mornings...
This is Goldenberg again!

The closer two garden beds are the ones which I have recently dug over, and the furthest one has the broad beans which were planted last Autumn. The tubs in the background, recently weeded, are home to the fruit trees. They are all in bud, which is a positive sign!

And this is Shadow, the cat who came to stay. She loves the sunshine and luxuriates in the warmth of the sun - she is often to be found under the verandah on a bed of hay or straw.

And finally, a Dutch bantam having a dust bath!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tuesday comes around again

A lot of today was spent packing books for customers as the deliveries arrived from the book fairs. Each child's book had to be bagged up and their name and class written on each bag, so this took quite some time. The FH helped me, thank goodness. The local school in the village will get theirs tomorrow and the other school's will be dropped off on Thursday.

I did a little housework this morning too, and caught up with two of my neighbours, but I have to admit that a lot of the time was spent sipping hot lemon juice mixed with honey in a bid to shake off this cold before it really takes hold! I did also make a flying visit into the town to pick up some Sponsored Read forms from a primary school and bank the children's money which they had raised. After telephone negotiations with the Headmistress of the school, we have sorted them out to choose £800 worth of books, so they are well pleased as each class teacher in the school will get £100 to spend on books for their class.

The weather was disappointing today - I had been hoping for another bright and sunny day like yesterday, but instead we had a cloudy and overcast, chilly day. It was dry, so we have to be grateful for that, I suppose, but I missed the sunshine. Tomorrow, if there is some sun, I hope to be able to get out in to the garden and get the third raised bed dug over. The Head Coach at gym was telling me tonight about all the seeds which he has already sown on his allotment, so I am beginning to feel that I am getting behind!

Another sunny day

It was another lovely spring day yesterday and I took full advantage of it. Three loads of washing billowed on the line in the breeze, I walked to school to fetch the YFG home at 3pm, and I made lemon madeira cakes with fresh duck eggs. Three parcels were posted off to various parts of the country to people who had successfully bid for Duplo bits on ebay, and one of the cakes was delivered to the elderly neighbour who gave me the duck eggs. The rich yellow yolks really enhanced the colour of the cake and made it appear even more lemony than it was!

The FGs went to band practice last night but the FH was not well enough to go so I took them and nipped off to Tesco to buy more baking sugar (caster, I mean) and have a browse for secret presents to stash away for their birthdays. I treated myself to a DVD of Love Actually for £3 as we had only got the video version - and our video player is no longer working.

Today I have woken up with a cold and a sore throat so I am drinking honey and hot lemon drinks and keeping warm. The weather promises to be good again today, so I think I may spend some time in the garden, although I have the heap of ironing to do and I need to visit a school in town today to sort some paperwork out for them. And we have gymnastics tonight - I'll need to take my honey and lemon juice along with me to keep my voice going through the evening, I think!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

A glorious Sunday

Although it didn't get off to a very early start as I slept in until 11am, I seem to have got a lot of things done today. The YFG was at a friend's house for a sleepover - I dropped her off there yesterday at about 3pm and she was returned tonight at 7pm so it was quite a long visit. However, it was just at the other end of the village, and the friend's mother promised to bring her home at any time if she wanted to be brought!

The sleep in was the result of a busy week and a lot of interrupted nights as the FH has a bad chesty cough at the moment and is having problems sleeping. Between his coughing and his TV watching in the night, I am getting woken up a lot. I slept the majority of last night in the YFG's vacant bed, so I did get a good start on the night!

As a consequence of the extra sleep, we missed church this morning. I got up and made a cup of tea and was able to sit in the back garden in my pajamas to drink it in the sunshine. After getting dressed, I organised the lunch and then fetched the lawnmower and cut the front lawn. The chickens were happy to recieve the clippings in to the run to scratch about with and generally peck at. After lunch, I loaded up the dishwasher and moved the lawnmower to the back garden. Cutting the back lawn was much harder work as the grass was longer! It made many more trips to empty the grass collecting basket, and took me about an hour. Another pleasant hour was spent in the sun, digging over one of the raised beds, with some of the chickens happily foraging for the worms which I was bringing to the surface with every turn of the spade. The chickens are not meant to be ranging around the garden but some of the lighter pure breed chickens are able to fly out! A few of them are always out and about in the garden, and whilst it is pleasant to have them keeping you company right now, they will do untold damage to the seeds when I get to sowing time. We must work out exactly how they are getting out and put a stop to it very soon!

The chickens are laying between 8 and 13 eggs each day now, so I have to wash and date the eggs each day so that I make sure that they are sold or used in the correct order. They are of a variety of sizes and colours and make for an interesting collection in an egg box - so much nicer than the average supermarket box of eggs as I can explain to the people buying the eggs that a Barnvelder laid that darker one, a Dutch bantam laid that tiny one and that lighter coloured egg is probably from one of the white hens.

This evening I have ironed my way through quite a heap of laundry whilst watching half of Africa on the TV. First we saw "Wild at Heart" on ITV although we had to miss the last 15 minutes so that we could turn over to BBC1 to see the brand new series made from the books of Alexander McCall Smith - The No1 Ladies Detective Agency - perfectly set in Botswana. I have read the first 6 of the books and love them, and having seen the film which was made from the first book last year, I have been looking forward to this series ever since I heard it was being made - and it has not disappointed me! It was lovely and I am already looking forward to the next episode. We'll have to catch the end of "Wild At Heart" on the itvplayer.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Gone but not forgotten

Today would have been Charlotte's birthday - Charlotte was a lovely girl whom I had the privilege and honour of coaching at gymnastics. She died last February in an accident on a Fen road which ended in one of the local "drains" - one of the drainage channels used to keep the Fens dry.

Here is a link to her memorial site: http://charlotte-elise-walker.gonetoosoon.org/memorial/
if you would like to read about her. I can wholeheartedly endorse everything that is said about her - she was a very special young lady who is missed at gymnastics. She had been working for a competition with the other girls, and the weekend after her funeral, which I attended with my daughter and the Head Coach, we took the other girls to the competition. The organisers kindly held a minute's silence for her, and presented us with an engraved medal, which I took to her parents soon afterwards. Her parents remain in our thoughts and prayers.

Friday, 13 March 2009

I was back - then gone again!

This week has been nearly as hectic as last week, evidenced by my absence from here. I am getting the basic things done in my day, but the time has not been there for the extra, more fun things like this. The priorities have to be the day-to-day living tasks, like trying to keep the house running, feeding the family, etc.

I fell down this week on feeding the family - Tuesday night was gym and so the FH had to cook and then Wednesday, I had to be at a school meeting from 5.30 and just wasn't prepared, so the girls made themselves beans on toast, and made gingerbread biscuits for dessert. Although the FH and I were out all day yesterday, I got my brain in gear and took a lamb joint out of the freezer so I popped that in the oven at 3.30 and we all sat down to a lovely roast dinner at 5pm - veggies and everything. It was lovely. Tonight is gym again and the FH is on the cooking rota so he is making steak and kidney pie. I can't eat that so I'll be having some salmon with veggies when I get home.

We have realised (yes - we are a bit late) that the quail are not likely to lay eggs now, as we have had them six months and they are still not laying, so we think that we have been conned and they are probably all males. They are lovely, plump birds though, so I will be looking for some quail recipes soon!

Head over to Rhonda's blog at www.down---to---earth.blogspot.com and read what she says about getting through the recession by going back to basics and really appreciating the Home-maker's role in all of this. She is so right, and I applaud her for bringing this to the forefront. More articles like this help us all.

Have to go now but I am hoping to have more time to come back at the weekend.

Monday, 9 March 2009

I'm back!

Yes, last week was busy, but we got through by working together. Briefly, Monday was spent in preparation, Tuesday was the first book fair, Wednesday was recover and regroup, Thursday was the second, and Friday the third. The Tuesday/Thursday ones were at the same school, so 150 children and their parents had quite a few hours to look at the books and make orders as I was there in the afternoon and for the Parents' Evening meetings but on Friday, at another school, 300 children had just an hour after school to drag their parents in to the book fair and make their orders - and so it was a frantic hour, with parents queuing up to pay! I took the FH along to help me on Friday, and my lovely neighbour looked after the girls.

The third school which I have been working with has done a Sponsored Read, so my involvement has been minimal so far, just dealing with paperwork and getting it all set up - the work will start next week when I have to count the money and sort out all the sponsor sheets!

We didn't get to gymnastics on Tuesday, but we made it on Friday and Saturday. On Wednesday evening there was a meeting in the village about trying to start up a Brownie group which we went to because the YFG was interested. She soon lost her interest when she saw that most of the other girls who had gone to find out more were all about 7. We'll see - it probably won't start until September when she'll have turned 10, and she'll be old enough to go the Guide group instead if she wants to. Thursday I attended a small meeting about starting a LETS group in the Fen area - Local Exchange Trading System for anyone who hasn't heard of it before - it's a slightly more sophisticated bartering scheme. We were members of one when we were in Fife and found it an excellent way to meet people and get things done.

On Sunday, we had a congregation-led Sunday service as there was no preacher available to come along and do the honours. The other family with children were responsible for the music and readings and we took care of the prayers - it worked well. We all sat in a circle and had a good time. The FH came along to support us as well, which was lovely. The circuit Superintendent will be in charge next week for Holy Communion so we'll be in safe hands!

Today, I have been dealing with the laundry which had built up, washing eggs, and doing more preparation for this week's work. I'm not sure how busy this week will be - I know I have to go out delivering all day on Thursday, but apart from that, I am taking my time recovering from last week. I know that I have a Governors' meeting and training night on Wednesday from 5.30pm and then there is another LETS meeting on Thursday but I may have to bow out of that as I won't be up to going out every night of the week, and the Gov meeting is more important this week.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Books, too many books!

Just here briefly to say that I probably won't be here this week as the bookfairs are taking over my life! Will be back at the weekend when it will all be over, bar the deliveries.

Waves to those across the sea.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Church bells

At gymnastics yesterday morning, we could hear church bells ringing out - and then when I had to nip over the road to get some milk for the tea, I could hear them in all their glory. It was a lovely spring day, bright and sunny with a fresh breeze, and the bells were pealing out across the town - it was wonderful, and put me in a good mood!

Today being the 1st March is the start of another financial challenge for us. I did not curb spending in February and we spent as normal, which is reasonably frugal, and certainly not lavish, but this month we are going back to the "essentials only" kind of spending, which clears out the stock cupboard and makes menu planning interesting. I have had a delivery of staple items from Asda today (with a voucher code for free delivery) and that came to £74.50 so I am allowing myself £125.50 for the rest of the month for groceries or anything edible - so that includes things like a school dinner on World Book Day for the YFG and it also includes anything that I buy for the garden like fruit bushes or seeds, which are used for the production of food! That is the maximum I want to spend, and I would like to spend less. We are well stocked up on everything else, non-food wise, like cleaning items, hygiene items and all that sort of thing! I'll let you know each week how we are getting on, and what we are eating. In the months to come, I would like to reduce the amount we spend in these months, as well as the amount we spend in a "normal" month, but I think that the best way to go about it is slowly!

A busy evening is ahead, wrapping parcels from the sales on ebay, so after tea (casseroled lamb shanks with vegetables), I have to get the FGs' hair wash session over, and get myself set up to watch "Wild At Heart" whilst I wrap, and wrap, and wrap.......It shoudn't take that long, I hope. I also hope to get the other items listed tonight as well, ready for next week. Sorry about the photos I promised yesterday: the camera has gone AWOL but when I find it, I'll put them up.