Thursday, 2 December 2010

Take the red pill....

For those of you interested in a more global feel this is an article on a really cool eclectic website set up by a lovely friend of mine in Estonia.  Read, enjoy and pass on....long live the red pill option.. x
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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

When is enough, enough?

I've been reflecting over the past few weeks on things that are worthwhile fighting for.  It seems to me that in our ever increasing complex environment that we live in we are frequently demanded to leave our principles and our integrity at the door.  This is something that does not sit comfortably with me.  In my desire to move closer to nature so my desire to live an honourable life has increased.  Don't get me wrong, I frequently get it disastrously wrong.  In my home life, as a wife, a mother and a step mother, things are frequently not easy or straight forward.  However my guiding principle is always, what is the right thing to do in this situation.  Sometimes that question is asked in the moment but more often it is asked in hindsight once the events have unfolded, often with quite cataclysmic results. 

So, this month I have challenged my right to return to work with empathetic working rights, I've challenged a friend who has enjoyed the benefits of a car without honouring an agreement, and I've challenged the financial role of an absent parent.  It's been a busy month.  The work situation is trundling along an inevitable process, the car has been returned and the debt paid, which leaves the last and probably the most sensitive issue, still unfolding.

One thing I've learnt about myself is that my desire to make others happy has often meant that my own needs get left out of the picture.  For some reason this is no longer OK with me. Don't get me wrong I haven't suddenly become this battle happy vixen, more the waves of injustice have simply surfaced enough to give me momentum to get off my back side and do something about it. 

I wonder where life got so complicated?  In my parents time, life was relatively simple.  You got married and you put up with whatever life then threw at you.  Oh how times have changed.  We now demand our right to be heard, our right to be treated as an individual, our right to be taken seriously, and the list of demands gets ever longer.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against this , it's just I've started to realise that maybe the mix is off somehow.

Two weeks ago I learnt that a friend's husband had died, suddenly and without any warning.  A life taken at the tender age of 45. With so much potential still to fulfill.  My heart has struggled with this ever since my mum phoned me to tell me of the dreadful news.  Mostly for the gigantic hole this will have left in his partner's and children's lives.  But also within the wider community. This was a man who was well loved and admired amongst his peers.  He was without doubt one of the most positive people I have ever had the privilege to know.  His funeral is on Friday and I know without a shadow of doubt that it will be one of those events that is incredibly well attended.  I am not so sure that I could say the same about my own life. 

I have reflected since hearing the news, on how these things come to pass?  As a christian it is not easy to reconcile the death of a friend with the belief of a loving and forgiving father figure.  I do not understand why my friend had to have his life so prematurely shortened. But one thing I do know is that his leaving will have touched so many lives in ways I cannot begin to imagine. 

So I can't begin to talk about jam I have made or the latest foraging trip I've undertaken, as in recent weeks this has taken a back seat to life and all it's myriad of challenges.  However what I do know is this, it is defiantly worth finding the energy to push against what is unjust or unfair or just plain annoying.  Life has not been set up with a view to finding us in a perfect position all of the time, but it most definitely has put us in the driving seat of our own destinies.  So my challenge to all of  you is a simple one, in what areas of your life do you find yourself compromised?  Compromised beyond what is acceptable?  and what are you prepared to do about it? 

Also, a question...Are you prepared to engage with life beyond your own boundaries?  Are you prepared, in order to live life more fully, to step in when you experience things to be unjust or out of kilter?  how far would you go to help another?
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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

times gone by..

Our dishwasher is broken, and not for the first time.  In fact since we moved in to this house some 8 months ago it's probably spent more of it's time not working than working.  Which with the menagerie of children, baby and animals has been a pain in the backside.  I'm not exactly a fan of washing up as it is.  It feels like a complete waste of my time, something I feel is precious, even more so with an inquisitive almost backward crawling baby in my life.  In fact it would be true to say that I'm not the biggest fan of housework fall stop.  I love cooking, can light a fab fire but dusting, hoovering, cleaning and I are not exactly tremendously well acquainted.  It's not that I like a dirty untidy house, I really don't, it's more I find it difficult to motivate myself to get the hoover out when I'd much rather be sitting on the floor with my youngest playing with stack-able cups. 

Yesterday my oldest and I had the pleasure, thanks to a teaching inset day, or insect day as she liked to refer to it, to hang out together.  As it had been a tribe weekend there was a mountain of post Sunday lunch pots, pans, crockery and cutlery sitting on the side waiting to be washed up.  I am familiar with the theory of wash and tidy as you go, however Sunday being Halloween, we had been preoccupied post Roast Lamb with getting all four of the children face painted, through the Halloween games and packed and out the door back to their mum's for 6pm rather than tidying up the kitchen and the rest of the bomb site house.  So there we both were, me with my marigolds on and my eldest with a tea towel, standing side by side, as generations have done before us, chatting away whilst listening to Radio 1 and pondering how Justin Bieber can write an autobiography.  As my sage of a daughter said, ' can HE write an autobiography when he's only 16yrs old, how ridiculous..'..., that's my daughter.

It's not often, as my husband likes to point out with slight indignity, that I make the children help with chores, however facing such a dauntingly large pile of washing up I had offered her either to wash or dry, and in order to help she'd had to put to one side the episode of 'Vampire diaries' she'd been trawling through on the computer and rather begrudgingly come in to the kitchen.  It was this slight reluctance that set the tone for the task, and so began a conversation about the changing roles of women and mother's starting with her grandma, my mum of 84yrs.  We talked about how my mum had brought up us four children, myself being the youngest, and how her day would be spent in a constant round of washing up, hoovering, cleaning, dusting, polishing, changing bedding And keeping us children fed and entertained.  Something my eldest found mortifyingly boring as a concept and how my dad, now almost 90yrs, would come home from work and sit in front of the TV whilst my mum got tea ready and then after tea would sit back in front of the TV with the newspaper whilst mum would start the night time routine of bath, bed, story and night night kisses only seeing my dad for a goodnight kiss and sometimes on rare occasions a good night story.  We talked about how, in my mum's days, that was pretty much the woman's role, to be solely responsible for keeping a tidy house and children whilst the men went out to work.  My eldest, after several hours of drying up and one hour of keeping the youngest child entertained whilst I cleaned the rest of the kitchen surfaces and stove top, couldn't comprehend why anyone would want to do,as she put it, such a boring job and 'no wonder women wanted to go out to work'...then as often happens in our household the conversation disintegrated from intellectual discussion to talking utter rubbish... and in that moment of side by side synergy with my eldest I can truthfully say, hand on heart, that I had enjoyed myself standing at the sink washing up.  Perhaps that's the key to living simply, without a dishwasher, and facing a huge pile of washing up I had resorted to a task my mum and I would regularly do together.  It was a time, and in fact still is when I go and visit on a Sunday, for us to stand and talk together, our time away from everyone else, and I loved it.  I'm not sure my eldest would agree, the lure of Internet catch-up TV is strong, but last night heading for bed she told me she had enjoyed spending time with me, talking, and that made my heart feel full and warm.
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Thursday, 28 October 2010

sleep deprived

For the past couple of weeks I've been struggling, more than usual, with lack of sleep.  My youngest of just over 8 months seems to have become even more nocturnal, plunging new depths in the lack of sleep contest.  I worked it out today, it's been 14 mnths since I last went to bed and woke up in the morning without interruption.  Something I would have deemed impossible before his  arrival.  I've always resisted going to sleep, ahh and that might well be where he gets it from I hear you say...yet once in bed I've relished the lovely position of being warm, snug and ever so comfy with no where to go but exactly right their for several hours...I used to say I was a ten hour a night kind of girl.when it came to sleep..anything less and I felt truly sleep deprived...oh how I envy that person trying, and failing to make sense of his night time wakings I've noticed that the things I attribute his lack of sleep to seem to have three common threads; he's going through a growth spurt, he's teething or the third more frequently utilised.. I just don't know...maybe he's cold...the outside road noise or maybe my husbands snoring...none of which seems to help in the what to do when he wakes, as he's just done, with continuous crying and yet doesn't really want a feed...I mention this not as a poor me but more as a general description of what life is currently like.  The battle for sleep over the worry of trying to work out why the little man is waking.   Every fibre of my body is crying out for just a little more z time yet the smallest of the family is having none of it...when I eventually give in and head for his cot it's to find him sitting up, yes the most recent developmental stage has now occurred, and the little boy wide awake and mostly just wanting to play, blow raspberries and smile, alot.. a disarming approach I have to give him and yet one that I wish he would deploy a little less frequently.  I take solace in telling myself that this is just a stage and won't last for ever....though really on a day to day basis internally I'm just silently willing him to fall back to sleep unaided...last night my husband took the major role in settling him..getting out to his crying and plugging him back to sleep with his dummy...this all occurring with me wide awake but at least still in bed.  I then had the enviable position of watching my husband literally fall back to bed and immediately start snoring with gusto.  Enviable because not only do I find it almost impossible to go back to sleep when woken by the little man but I then have to compete with any and all noises going on, including said snoring.  I've even taken to wrapping my pillow around my head in an attempt to block out all and any residual noise...which to a lesser or greater degree works, at least enough for me to fall back into a limbo of sleep until the next wake up call, usually within the following hour and a half...and yes I've read the books on sleep training etc, none of which actually equip you for your small one crying their hearts out.  My usual stance is to give in, with a mixture of feeling like a failure in the sleep training technique and wanting to comfort the smallest of the brood so he can feel loved enough to go back to sleep. Ideally not waking in the first place.

Lack of sleep or not, I had been given as a gift for my birthday an amount of money from a lovely dear friend to go out and enjoy a 'date night' with my husband.  Going out, as you might imagine has not been something that we've done much of in recent months.  So I found myself looking forward to our night out with a mixture of excitement and anticipation.  We had talked about what we would do, booked the baby sitter and the day finally came round last week.  A night that was to involve going to the movies, the last film I saw at the cinema was Sex in the City 1, I can't even recall just how long ago that was...any way...we had also planned to go for a meal, probably a curry and then maybe if we were still awake, a drink.  I'm not sure if I was excited merely at the thought of doing self centred grown up things, or by the delight of heading to the cinema to see a film or the thought of maybe drinking a few drinks in somewhere other than the back garden or living room by the fire..either way I was, without doubt excited about the event....I had looked up what films were showing in our nearest cinema and chosen, I have to admit an unadulterated Rom Com...about two people who end up being left in charge as god parents of a baby.  I had watched the trailers and even laughed out loud at the various scenarios they had posted to pre-view the movie...this was a film I could identify with and would have the right levels of love and romance, comedy and his credit my husband had managed to muster up the right level of 'ooh yes this is a movie I'd like to see too' noises that let me off the hook of feeling guilty about the rom com choice in the first place.  So having negotiated bed time with small one and waved goodbye to the baby sitter we arrive at the cinema only to discover that the one film I wanted to watch above all not on that night...any other night would have been a yes..but for some reason known only to the local cinema house...not on a Thursday!  Now I have to admit that at this point I did take on the behaviour of a very pre-pubescent teenager...I did literally throw my toys out of the pram..  My choice left to me was a couple of dodgy horror movies, one in 3D?! a cartoon and a movie about Facebook...which ordinarily I might have been interested in seeing but not on the first night out in over a year and most definitely Not on the first time at a cinema in several years...After a rather fraught ten minutes I finally agreed to watch Social Network..which, had I not been in the foulest of moods for at least three quarters of, would have been an OK a general reflection of my mood it wasn't until the last fifteen minutes of the movie that I turned to my husband and asked if the second lead character wasn't being played by Justin Timberlake.  A question my lovely husband found both amusing, endearing and down right unbelievable.  The remainder of the evening had troughs and peaks and, as  hindsight is a wonderful thing. probably could have ended an awful lot earlier. One mediocre curry and one drunken lock in later and the evening got filed as a could a should a...oh bugger it...kind of night.  Is expectation a thing to be avoided or should I just have taken more care in the planning stage?.. I still don't know and truth be told I still feel a little miffed in not seeing the film I wanted.  Then again, I now have a reason to sort another baby sitter out and attempt a second go at the movies.
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Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Well tonight it's happened, I've given in and finally switched the central heating on.  After weeks of trying to get by with just the living room fire lit, I've had to face reality, it not longer works to just add another layer to feel warm.  The internal house temperature is at an all time low of 14.1degrees.  I know this because we have a baby room thermometer in our bedroom and at the moment it's telling me 'Too cold..' that and the fact that tonight my eldest at 13, is currently walking round the house wearing three layers plus a sweatshirt, scarf, hat, bed socks and boots! 

Last weekend, in an attempt to build up our winter supplies of kindling, my husband and I, the four kids plus baby in pram and dog headed to the park. During recent dog walks we'd noticed a large supply of pine cones and had talked about going back to get some for the fire, and this weekend with all the kids with us seemed an ideal time to put the plan into action.  The next few hours saw us scrabbling through hedges and foraging under trees with the occasional cry of 'found loads here...' as we gaily filled bag after bag with various sized twigs and pine cones.  I hadn't really stopped to think whether it is in fact legal to go wood collecting in a public park or indeed what we might look like strolling out of the park with the back of the buggy filled to the brim with five large bags of wood and two of pine cones and the baby snuggled up front.  I think one of the best memories from that day was rounding a bend to see my husband and all the kids, underneath a solitary tree by the side of the path, with their bums in the air, bent double, furiously picking up pine cones with not a care in the world.

Along with the wood came an unexpected foraging bonus in the form of mushrooms, or so we thought.  My husband has a couple of foraging books, the edible seashore and, handily, Edible mushrooms.  It seemed like a good idea to pick a few, for identifying back at home, with a view to returning and picking the bumper crop.  What I hadn't realised is just how similar the non-poisonous mushrooms are to the deadly poisonous ones.   Leafing through the book I could feel my confidence falling as we debated exactly which of the mushrooms we had picked were what.  Sadly after some heated discussions in the kitchen over common field mushroom versus it's deadly counterpart, the mushrooms were consigned to the bin with an agreed, 'think we need to get the help from an expert to start with'..We might have been a little braver were it not for the fact that, my foraging friends mother, herself an expert forager, had made herself extremely ill with self picked wild mushrooms.  Either that or it was the frequently labeled 'Deadly poisonous' in the book that did it.

So as I sit here with the fire burning, thanks to the pine cones, and the heating on, I find myself reflecting on the idea of keeping chickens.  We live in a Victorian terraced house and our back yard is, for the most part, paving slabs.  The exception to this is a small piece of ground just behind our down stairs shower room.  I had intended for this to become my veggie patch, however when we moved in and my husband dug it over he discovered that the soil was only a few inches deep and sits on top of a concrete slab.  This made it useless for anything much other than salad leaves.  So it's been left to grow the odd humongous stinging nettle and become the local cat and, I have to admit on occasions, our dog's litter box.  For several years I've been an avid exponent of free range chickens and eggs and with joy watched as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall brought his 'Chicken's Out' campaign to the public eye through his TV programme and online campaign.  I've been known to send out emails to my friends encouraging them to buy free range over 'battery' hens or as they are now more media savily called 'caged' birds.  I've also more recently, watched with some degree of envy as several of my friends have taken on their own chickens and stood and discussed the merits of an 'Eglu' over home made wooden hen houses and fences.  Most recently I've seen my own vision of keeping chickens realised through some friends who have turned their veggie patch into an amazing chicken pen.  In true scuttering style they've used wood they collected from a local forest and made a Robinson Crusoe style fence and five bar gate, and  have turned the middle of a carnival Chinese dragon into the chicken house with fantastic bobbly style wooden peg handles. It really is a work of art and completely plays to my love of re-use, looks fab, cool, funky and is without doubt extremely practical and I just know the chickens are going to love living in their Eco home. 

It would seem both my husband and eldest have taken themselves off to bed, one because it's bed time and one I fear because he feels he's become a blogger widow??...However this does give me some time to polish up my plan to house chickens in the back garden before presenting my case.  I might have enough time to flesh out this cunning plan, and have a glass of vino whilst catching up with my favourite programme of the moment 'The Good Wife'... before heading to bed myself, no doubt to dream of chickens and how to blend them in with four kids, one cat, one dog, one baby and a husband.  Hmm might have some work to do.
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Monday, 18 October 2010

Blogging Virginity

Well it's 11pm and the eve of my 43rd Birthday.  In the past 12 months I've got married, had my second child after a thirteen year gap, and now started a much talked about and quite a lot less planned, blog!  My aim is to share 'stuff'...

I've been a fan of the re-use, re-cycle and grow your own for quite an age now, but this year has seen me take it to an all new level with the introduction of foraging.  The utter joy I've discovered in finding a fabulous crop of Damsons, or Cherry Plums or Blackberries, all free and just begging to be picked and taken home and made into jam or something, has far exceeded my expectation.  Some of this hedgerow picking has, credit where credit is due, been inspired by the lovely Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage programmes that have inspired me to think bigger than growing just the odd tomato plant. 

Other foraging credits I feel I must mention have been through two fabulous women I've had the great privilege to get to know through my becoming a mum again.  Both of these women inspire me to grander ways to do things, both in parenting and in life style choices.  With them has come much laughter, chaos and sheer joy.  With three babies, one pre-schooler and three dogs between us it's made for some fabulously mad times.  I've been by a river bank with our three babies on a blanket whilst we metaphorically rolled our sleeves up and picked Damsons with gay abandonment.  A small note to would be foragers, there is a kind of foraging madness that takes over where the delight in finding a bumper crop gets taken over with a zealous kind of 'ooh must just keep picking...soo many and all free..and all Mine!!! have been warned...if you do find yourself having picked 10lbs of sloe's just remember that's an awful lot of gin you're going to have to buy...

Not all of my recent foraging has been a success I have to admit.  I've been watching a particularly fine Pear Tree for several weeks and about two weeks ago decided to go back and check out the bumper looking crop that just needed to ripen a little.  Imagine my joy when I got to the tree and could see lovely red ripe looking pears just hanging there waiting to be picked by ME...on this occasion, as it was a weekend, I had also got my husband and, between us five children ,with me...oh and the dog...not wishing to be perturbed by the fact that there had been several nights of strong wind and rain that had shaken off most of the lower branches of fruit, we set to work. Those too small to climb up into the tree were given bags and tasked with picking up the best of the wind blown fruits whilst the older children were gleefully climbing up in to the tree to pick.  The location of this tree happened to be in the village where one of those two foraging women live.  So feeling morally obliged under my filial foraging duty I pulled out my phone and called her to say..hey crop is ripe and ready and we're busy picking....soo come on which she let out a most definite OH!...yes I was there last week and 'have you tasted any of them yet?...' Well let me tell you a foraging high is nothing to a foraging disappointment...the fruit were awful...biting into one of the pear was a fury pulpy tasteless mess...horrid texture and truly disappointing.  The bags got emptied, some of the pears became a game of who could throw them furthest and who could hit a tree that was in the middle of the field.  I just felt cheated..all that visual promise, all that planning and waiting..for nothing..well at least for no edible delight...the afternoon  however was not completely a waste as walking home the kids and I played catch me if you can...which largely consisted of me trying to sneakily run up to them without them seeing me, I failed of course in the task but how we laughed and laughed at my pathetic attempts...No fruit but good times.

Things I've made from my foraging trips;
Damson jam, or as it's now become fondly known as, Damson was my first attempt at jam making and whilst de-stoning the damsons I let it reduce down too much, resulting in extremely thick sticky jam.
Cherry Plum and Apple Jam, much better consistency but boy are those Cherry Plums a pain to de-stone. Oh and this jam I decided to make on the day of my husbands youngest, 6th Birthday.  I must admit that it took a lot longer than I had imagined it would to get the extremely small and stubborn stones out from the fruit.  So there I was laboriously picking over spoonfuls of jam attempting to fish out the stubborn stones whilst the rest of the family were taking photo's and eating cake and ooh ing and aarhing over present openings...that jam was definitely a labour of love...
Sloe Gin...I'll have to let you know what this tastes like as it's currently doing it's thing in the kitchen cupboard.  Hopefully ready to be consumed for Christmas.  So far I've done two batches of sloes. The first following various Internet suggestions and my fab women friends advice, which included not pricking the skins of the sloes before hand but freezing them and then bashing them with a rolling pin before putting them in the bottle.  The second batch getting my husband to generously prick each one of the sloes before putting them in.  At the moment I have to say, just going on looks, that the second batch is looking like a better mix...needless to say I won't hear the end of it if this proves to be the case.  As I'm fairly sure my husband will remind me that it was through his personal endeavours that led that particular gin to be sooo good.

And finally I have some blackberries in the freezer just waiting to be jammed together with some apples the kids and I picked.  I'd been waiting until I'd collected enough jam jar donations, from lovely friends, to start.  The jars are now gathered and I think at some point tomorrow I might have to make my 43rd Birthday day a jam making day...
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