Saturday, September 29, 2007

Moving on

Thank you so much for the positive thoughts which headed over our way on Friday. I cannot tell you how glad I am to have last week over and begin to move forward again.

Sooz wrote a post a few weeks back that really resonated with me. If you missed it, I urge you to go and read the original. She was saying she thought children were born pretty much whole, with personalities, preferences, desires and dislikes. They have strengths, they have weaknesses. They have imperfections. And she felt that children should essentially be left alone to become who they are, unencumbered by the pressures and expectations of their parents and their community to be things they are not.

I can’t think of a better way to sum up my feelings at the end of this grueling assessment process. My beautiful son is exactly the same person he was before this began and my challenges as a parent remain. I may have a couple of additional tactics in my maternal toolkit and a few new phrases to describe who he is, but fundamentally nothing has altered.

It feels really good to have the reins back again.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Autumn wonder

"In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf." Eric Carle

Thank you so much Jo for this piece of Autumn wonder. A hand felted leaf brooch of great delicacy and beauty. I am a newcomer to 'The Knitted Blog' but I get the feeling I'm going to be hanging around there for quite a while.

Mark's case conference is this afternoon - it will be fine, it will be fine, it will be fine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Officially autumn

Okay, I give in.

It's officially Autumn. Tomorrow, we're putting socks on.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Smile in a jiffy bag

All packages are a fundamentally good thing. Even if they contain nothing more exciting than a replacement for the cracked shelf in the fridge or hubby's contact lens solution. But sometimes a parcel so awesomely wonderful arrives that it turns the whole atmosphere of a day around. Louise told me that her package would cheer me up. She even showed me a sneak peek, but I still wasn't prepared.

Oh, the anticipation...

The joy...

A truly beautifully crafted satchel in brown linen, with owl embroidery, lined in orange 'Katie Jump Rope' spots. My photo doesn't even come close to doing it justice.

The attention to detail...

Inside, the satchel's perfectly proportioned inner pockets were filled with colour co-ordinated notebooks, stationery, and yummies. And another mystery pouch.

The co-incidence

This really made me marvel at the crazy co-incidences in this crafty world. Because I made a very similar pouch, with rather similar embroidery, featuring orange, for my partner and the organizer of this swap, Heidi. How spooky is that! Almost as spooky as being assigned Louise as a swap partner in the first place. I met her through the miniswap 2 that our offspring did and begged and pleaded with her to start blogging. I'm nothing if not persuasive!

The challenge...

The pouch held a lovely knitted cotton dish with a school house motif and yarn, needles and patterns to have a go at making one of my own. I love hand knit dishcloths and I'm so excited to give my one a try. Do you ever save a little project up for yourself as a treat? Well, this is going to be mine. Just wait until I've got the village craft fair out of the way.

I can tell you're getting envious now, so I won't show you the Sprout Design fabric or amazing woven sort of ric rack. I'm still grinning from ear to ear. Well, wouldn't you be? It's the crafty equivalent of Prozac.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Distraction by chocolate

It's hard when your big brother is off carousing and gorging on sugar at a party to which you aren't invited. Johnny was all set for a sad afternoon, until I remembered DottyCookie's Magic Monkey Bananas. The perfect activity.

Peel banana, break in half. Insert lolly stick (or in our case, stolen wooden coffee stirrer in one half and disposable chopstick in the other). Slather in molten chocolate (dark - my kids have carefully cultivated very good taste in chocolate) and sprinkle on sprinkles. Bung them in the freezer on some greaseproof paper for an hour for the chocolate to set and the banana to freeze into something which tastes like ice-cream, but is healthily virtuous.

And given that Mark cannot stand even the smell of bananas, I don't feel he's been deprived. Thanks Val, you saved our afternoon!

I've come to the conclusion that when the going gets tough, I blog about food. I suppose it's preferable to opening the fridge and eating food. But only marginally. Are you bored? Sorry.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Tonight my back is aching - the body's way of rebelling against a couple of weeks that are containing a little more angst and activity than I would like.

I was going to write a self-indulgent little rant here, telling you how much I hate the churning feeling in my stomach when I feel out of control - lurching from one spot of fire-fighting to the next. But instead I did my weekend's grocery shopping on-line. Smashing.

May the force be with you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nigella's Apple and Butterscotch Tart

In the excitement of the first English apples of the season I got carried away and bought more than we could munch 'au naturel' so it was time to hit the books for a recipe to use them up. Nigella Lawson's Apple and Butterscotch Tart seemed to fit the bill, in that I already had all the ingredients. There's nothing more frustrating than deciding to make something, then finding out you need to go shopping first for a missing essential.

Basically, the tart is a shortcrust pastry base, covered with peeled cored apples (Nigella says cooking apples, but I needed to use my yummy eating sort) and topped with a mixture of 150g light muscovado sugar, 4 tbsp plain flour 2 eggs and 4 tbsp cream. Whisk the bits together and pour over the apples. Bake at 210 C for 10 mins and then reduce heat to 180 C and cook for another 20 minutes or so.

Do you remember Gypsy Tart from school dinners of yesteryear? The butterscotch reminded me of that. It sort of souffles round the apples. Delish. And my resident tasting panel agreed.

Although the obligatory jam tarts made from pastry trimmings won the 'fun' award.

I googled the recipe to see if it was on-line for you, and came across 'New Nigella' the blog of a woman whose aim is to cook every recipe from all of Nigella’s books, in A-Z order. Wow, I thought I was a fan, but that's a whole new level of dedication.

Great to see so many lovely folks jumping aboard the blogging meme - I've been fascinated reading them all. If you haven't done it yet, go on, you know you want to!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Now tell me about your blog...

Recently I had the rare pleasure of coming across a meme full of nosey questions that I REALLY REALLY want to put to other people. So much so, that I have taken it on, despite not being named and shamed, via Charlotte's Web.

1. Do you promote your blog?

I am uncharacteristically shy about telling real-life people that I blog. To many non-bloggers I suspect it sounds ridiculously self-indulgent and a total waste of time. We, the enlightened, know differently of course, but I don't often feel like defending the benefits of blogging.
My husband, on the other hand, has an annoying habit of 'outing' me to people. My in-laws, his work colleagues, goodness only knows who else.
Other than that, my Flickr photos often link back to my blog, but I'm not part of any blog rings or suchlike.

2. How often do you check hits?

More often than I care to admit. I'm obsessed with knowing where people come to visit me from. Some of the google search criteria that lead to me are understandable (too many cobwebs in house), some are tenuous (bad bunny pics) and some are downright bizarre (alpaca cbc chem profile). In my imagination, there is some poor student of veterinary medicine still scratching his head over that one.

3. Do you stick to one topic?

Me me me me me me. Isn't that the core of any blog? No, but seriously, domesticity I guess. For me that's a bit of craft, a bit of cooking, and a slice of family life.

4. Who knows that you have a blog?

A few friends, my family, the folks at my local bookshop and in my book group and all of you of course. Sadly, no people wanting to do magazine spreads on my home, ask my advice on cooking or give me free review copies of craft books seem to have noticed yet.

5. How many blogs do you read?

Far far far too many. I'm trying to cut down, but I'm plagued with guilt about removing a blog from my bloglines subscription (currently standing at 283 feeds). I remember the first time I noticed that the number of subscribers to mine had gone down. I was mortified - what had I said? Was I offensive or just plain dull and untalented? Cue extreme paranoia. So now I fudge the issue by putting blogs I'm not loving quite so much into a 'sacrificed' folder which I try very hard not to read. I am also implementing a little rule of thumb which says that for each new blog I subscribe to an older subscription has to be sacrificed. It's hard - I'm not naturally ruthless.

6. Are you a fast reader?

Yes, thank goodness, given the 283 feed situation. So one of my pet peeves is the folks who have set their feeds up so I only get the first few lines of a post. I then have to click over to the blog to read the post. I hate this, it wastes time. Time I really need to read all my bloody feeds. So have a heart peeps and don't do it!

7. Do you customise your blog or do anything technical?

I can just about manage to crop a photo, make a button work or do a manual link. But I just use a standard template. I figure there are a lot of folks much better at this stuff than I am, so why not take advantage of their expertise! I have wondered about changing my template to something else though. Do you hate the dots? Be honest.

8. Do you blog anonymously?

No. Real name, photos of the kids, the lot. I'm really not worried about child snatchers. If they took Mark, they'd be on the doorstep within the hour begging me to take him back! But in all seriousness, I feel that there is no more danger from my blog than there is from some nutter watching my the boys in the playground. Perhaps if something negative happened to my photos, I'd feel differently, but for now, open it is.

9. To what extent do you censor yourself?

Hugely!! I try to follow the 'If you can't say anything nice...' principle. So consequently, there is plenty I don't say. I'm not sure crafty blogland is really the place to be controversial (although I am intrigued by the soap opera quality of the occasional spats I have followed elsewhere).
I do find though, that purposefully concealing something big from my blog leaves me feeling very uncomfortable. If the blog is not a fairly honest reflection of my life, it feels a bit of a sham. So you do get the 'ugly' sometimes, even if I only tell you to give you a laugh.

10. The best thing about blogging?

There are so many great things: finding like minded chums, always finding someone who can answer a little question I might have, inspiration, making me appreciate the small things more, the fact that I have a record of the last couple of years of my little family's life. But the best is the fact that I watch a lot less crap telly than I used to.

I am uncharacteristically keen to tag people for this. I really really want to know the answers to these questions. Whenever I have had the pleasure of meeting a fellow blogger in real life, these topics always seem to come up in conversation. So, Alicia, Manda, Lynn, Laura, Zoe, Angela, Beki, Simmy, Sally and any other blogger I have ever read (all 283 of you) - I am fascinated to know, so go on, indulge my curiosity.

Swap has landed

Phew, the Back To School swap parcel for Heidi at Friday Prize has landed! So finally I get to blab about the contents. It's the hardest part of swapping for me - keeping a lid on it so as not to spoil the surprise.

But as usual, I neglected to take a decent picture of the contents all together. I am always so excited to get my parcels sent off that I forget all about that part. Hopeless.

The thing I had most fun with was the artsy clutch from Bend the Rules Sewing. I did some sashiko style ripples and embroidered goldfish on the outside and found a ripple effect cotton for the lining. I was so so pleased with how it turned out that I think I need to make another one. Pure fun.

Have a great weekend - we're off to the Newbury Show. They have the JCB Dancing Diggers. How could we not?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mutant Men at twelve o'clock

What was I thinking? I'm not sure if it was playground competitiveness, an attempt to earn my 'good mummy' badge or plain old fashioned lunacy. Whatever you chose to attribute it to, the urge struck me yesterday. The boys must have little men shaped rolls in their lunchboxes.

See, Lucie made them and hers looked really really cute. It seemed like such a wonderful idea. The dough came together smoothly, the cutting out (with big gingerbread cookie cutter) was fine. But the end result was nothing short of mutant horror. The Pillsbury Dough Boy gone bad.

It was the only bread I had, so they've gone to school with the mutant men. Hope there is no screaming at the lunch table. I may have traumatized an entire class of preschoolers. Never mind cheesy dreams, those rolls are the stuff of nightmares.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Catwalk crisis

Taking a half way reasonable photo of an apron, without a body to put it on, is really really difficult.

I've been working on Lotta Jansdotter's Reversible Apron pattern for my friend Sarah's birthday. Decided to do a little sashiko-inspired embroidery on the plain side. It's meant to echo the flowers on the reverse - hope she gets the reference.

My modelling crisis was averted by Mark's return from school. Poor little guy looks wiped out doesn't he? Guess that term-time thing is catching up with us.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Brown Windsor Soup from Jamie Oliver

Have you ever come across a less appealing name for a dish - Brown Windsor Soup? A marketing man's nightmare. But if you can get past the name, it is really good. Very winter warmer-ish. I can see us eating this from mugs outside at Halloween or Bonfire Night.

It was a Jamie Oliver recipe from Sainsbury's freebie magazine, as is the photo - love those cups. But I can't find it anywhere on line - probably due to it's unappealing moniker. But it is tasty, although I have to warn you, it features Marmite, a love it or hate it ingredient. Hubby loathes the stuff, but failed to detect it in the soup - it just gives a background savoury hit. Here's the recipe:

Melt a big knob of butter and a little olive oil in a big saucepan and brown about 500g diced stewing beef. Add a tablespoon of Marmite and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. A fair amount of liquid will be released, but don't panic, just keep stirring until it has evaporated. Throw in a couple of sprigs of rosemary, a bay leaf, 1 red onion (peeled and chopped) 2 carrots (peeled and chopped) and 3 sticks of celery (trimmed and chopped). Sweat gently with a lid on until the veggies are softened.
Stir in a tablespoon of flour and then pour in 2 litres of beef stock (actually I used a bit less, but topped up the water level as I cooked the soup). Season and bring to the simmer. Add 150g of pearl barley and cook gently for about an hour. Discard rosemary and bay leaf. You can whizz the soup for a couple of seconds with a hand blender to thicken it a bit, but we liked ours left chunky.

Jamie Oliver is on the receiving end of a lot of stick this week as British schoolchildren are eating fewer of the 'healthy' school meals which are now on offer thanks to his intervention. We manage school meals twice a week, but this Jamie recipe will be appearing in the food flask of a lunchbox near us very soon.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Speech and language assessment went really well today (thanks for all your well wishes). Partly I'm sure because Mark is totally in love with the unit at the hospital. It has a sensory room, with a padded floor, disco ball lighting, fibre optics you can make change colour and a bubble tube thingummy that also lights up. We could have lay in there and chilled all day long - it beats a flotation tank hands down for relaxation in my book.

The speech therapist emerged after about an hour, looking ever so slightly shell shocked and said 'He's very verbal isn't he?'. Oh yes, that's my boy! She'll report her findings when we have the remainder of the assessment in a few weeks time. But she did let me in on one particular gem.

He was shown a photo of a boy holding a teddy bear and the therapist asked him 'What's the boy feeling?'. Well, there's only one answer to that really, at least in Mark's world: 'The teddy'.

Here's to seeing the world from a different point of view. Happy weekend everyone.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sometimes I wonder if I bore my real life friends rigid when I 'talk crafty', but I think they have been listening (with their eyes closed), because one of them returned from holiday with this. Hooray!

I have fallen in love with the appliqued dahlias on this apron.

Although I'm not sure why she is in the kitchen with her wellies on. Perhaps she's been in the garden harvesting her tomatoes. If she was in our house, the rattle of hand on doorknob would have triggered a bellow of 'Have you taken your shoes off?'.

I found the gas man, who had come to service the boiler, padding around in his socks once. I had shouted at him from another room, thinking he was one of the kids.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Very quiet

You spend all Summer shooing them out from underfoot and then suddenly poof, they're gone. I have naked cupcakes ready for decorating when they return. A little gesture to sweeten the first day back at school.

Well, I had to do something. I'll be used to it by next week, but today it's just too quiet round here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Recycled notebook

There's something very therapeutic about the 'position swish remove' cycle of my little paper trimmer. This weekend I've put it to good use recycling odds and ends for a little handmade notebook.

It's got some redundant computer print out, reversed kiddy scribbles, yellow legal pad, hotel notelets, envelope interiors and anything else suitable I laid hands on as I sorted through our paperwork this weekend.

Cover is a vintage effect postcard from Northlight and know-how is courtesy of a great tutorial over at Five and a Half.
Lists could be a great deal more fun round here for a while.