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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