Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For Wednesday 26 January

A day late, but work's a bit busy and I've been composing this post for the last two days!

Outside my window... it's been very grey for the last few days. Spring is on its way, I discovered snowdrops in the garden the other day and the birds are singing at dawn and dusk, but it's looking decidedly gloomy and mid-winter-ish out there.

I am thinking... what to do with my Chinese chicken soup from last night - not sure if it will freeze and I didn't intend to have leftovers, but I don't fancy eating it for the next three days either.

I am thankful for... my much warmer house! Yes, oil finally arrived on Friday, when I wasn't here - I found the delivery note on Saturday morning. It's amazing how much warmer the house stays now that I have the heating on for longer in the evening.

From the kitchen... I tried the soup that was over on Gina's blog and it was lovely. Very unusual flavouring with the zest and juice of two large oranges, but it smelt fantastic and tasted even better. A winner! I'm also a recent convert to the Dairy cookbooks. I don't think I've ever cooked so much from a cookery book as from Around Britain, and only one recipe so far has disappointed. A few months ago I bought Hearty and Healthy, which I'm now busy trying out.

I am wearing... yes, lots of layers again. Sitting still all day doesn't do your comfort any good!

I am creating... N's hat. I was struggling - the pattern calls for purling in the round, which I'd never done before (well, apart from ribbing). I found it hard on the hands, the needles were awkward to hold and the last stitch on every needle caused a ladder. So last night I ripped back and decided to cheat and just knit in the round and turn the hat inside out at the point where the decreases start. But, a couple of days ago my wrist developed a dull ache. Which got worse yesterday. I suspect it's the knitting, and deep down I know it'd be best if I didn't knit for a few days. But I have wool ordered for Susie's Reading Mitts for I., and I want to knit a hat and fingerless gloves for myself. Not sure if I'm going to be self-disciplined enough to not knit, specially since discovering 20 minutes of crafting every day!

I am going... to have a first at work tomorrow: I'll need to do an interview with a potential new member of our team. Despite having 15 years of experience as a translator, I've never interviewed anyone. Fortunately, I won't be alone, as my boss will be there too and she interviews on a daily basis.

I am reading... not that much. I don't know why but I can sleep for hours at the moment. By 10pm I can't wait to be in bed, and sometimes I'm so tired that I can't even be bothered to have my hot drink. And when the alarm goes off at 6.45 am, I think 'surely that's too early'. At the weekend, I slept straight through till 8.40 am, which is unheard of for me. Does this have anything to do with turning 40 I wonder...? ;-)

I am hoping... that the wool that I ordered for I's gloves will arrive soon. And that my wrist stops hurting soon too.

I am hearing... You and Yours on Radio 4, a programme about consumer rights.

Around the house... are lots of discarded tealights. N. feels very grown-up that occasionally I'll let him light some candles (with me nearby!). He hasn't yet learnt that you can actually put the used tealights in the bin.

One of my favourite things... is going swimming once a week with the kids. We discovered that the pool where N. has his lessons, has casual swimming for a couple of hours after we've done the weekly shop. We now go every week, we muck about for half an hour, they go down the slide 15 times or so while I do a few lengths, we go home listening to The Archers and then we have pizza as it's too late to cook anything. Simple pleasures but so enjoyable.

A few plans for the rest of the week... meeting up with a retired colleague and good friend whose daughter will be giving a concert in Cambridge in March (well worth attending if you're local!), my couple of days in the office, and a weekend without kids but hopefully sleep and plenty of time to knit.

A picture for thought I'm sharing...

The view from my front door early one morning last week. We did have a bit of sunshine then!

Instructions for the Simple Woman's Daybook can be found here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For Tuesday 18 January

Outside my window... it's very sunny. We had rain. And more rain. And more rain overnight. Normally you can't hear it in my house when it's raining, but last night it rained so hard, it woke all three of us up. Now the skies have cleared and after some early morning mist, it is now a beautifully clear winter's day.

I am thinking... that a hot bath before bed would be nice.

I am thankful for... hot water bottles...

From the kitchen... soup, lots of soup! Tried slow cooked root vegetable soup yesterday, which was a bit disappointing. For supper tonight is sweet potato and tomato soup, and just now I found lentil, ginger and orange soup over on Gina's blog, which is on the menu for next week. At least my freezer is getting well stocked, and having soup in my freezer means I don't have to eat ready-meals on days that I'm too busy or tired to cook.

I am wearing... still lots of layers - still no oil. Yesterday I got all excited when I spotted an oil delivery tanker across the road, it sat there for an hour and then disappeared! Argh! The weather's been a bit warmer recently so I managed to get away with switching the heating off, but now it's cold again. I'm looking forward to my days in the office where it is sometimes so warm, you can just wear a short-sleeved t-shirt!

I am creating... just about to cast on for N's hat. My dishcloth is finished and will go in the mail today. And then I. surprised (and delighted) me by asking if I'd knit her some fingerless gloves. I'd like to make a hat and gloves for myself too before we go to Lyme Regis next month.

I am going... to sit down on the sofa in a minute and treat myself to an hour of knitting, even though I should be clearing up the kitchen and folding a mountain of laundry.

I am reading... several things at the moment, thanks to our library visit last week. A portrait of Britain by David Dimbleby, Make do and Mend, a cookbook with recipes from Sicily and a book about ecological architecture (lovely photos!).

I am hoping... that by the time I write my next Daybook, I'll be sitting in a toasty warm house!

I am hearing... birds singing in the garden. I think they can feel Spring is coming.

Around the house... it desperately needs hoovering. The Christmas tree dropped soooo many needles and although I hoovered straight after we cleared everything away, we keep trampling them around the house.

One of my favourite things... is the Lyme Regis webcam. Every year in February my dad, the kids and I spend a week in Lyme Regis. I already knew Lyme Regis but went with dad and the kids for the first time when N. was not even 2 - we have a photo of him eating a chocolate icecream and sitting in his push-chair completely covered in brown icecream... We have had several holiday cottages by now but the one we have at the moment is by far our favourite - right at the top of the hill, but still only a couple of minutes' walk to the beach. Every year we do much the same things, but every year at the end of the week we ask each other if we want to go again and every year everybody says yes. The Marine Theatre webcam is pretty special in that it streams a live view. It's just missing the sounds of the seagulls and the smell of the sea!

A few plans for the rest of the week... again nothing out of the ordinary - N. finally doesn't have afterschool activities on Wednesdays so tomorrow we'll have a quiet afternoon at home, and this weekend it's our Saturday together, which I'm very much looking forward to.

A picture for thought I'm sharing...

We went to Aldeburgh last weekend as B. had to do a site visit nearby. We both knew about the scallop sculpture by Maggi Hambling and went to see it out of curiosity more than anything else. But it's lovely, it sits very well in its surroundings, the material is beautiful - we both liked it very much.

Instructions for the Simple Woman's Daybook can be found here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook

It's been a while since my last Daybook, but I just haven't had the time to sit down and really think about it. Things are slowly returning to normal now - kids back at school, me back at work, normal routine really. So here goes!

For Tuesday 11 January

Outside my window... it's looking gloomy. Not quite getting dark yet, as the afternoons are beginning to lengthen a tiny bit - started to notice it this weekend. But it's been wet and windy, everything's muddy. We've lost the dark days before Christmas, but there is no real hint of Spring yet. Gloomy.

I am thinking... that I want to get started on my daily weather photo again. I started this over a year ago and kept it up for about 2 months and really enjoyed it. Like so many photographic projects, I forgot one day, then another, and before you know it, you've stopped altogether. But I may just go and pick up I. from the bus stop in a bit to take an afternoon photo.

I am thankful for... B. helping me clear up bits of the garden, which has been terribly overgrown and frankly, a mess, for a long time. I manage to keep the house tidy, feed the kids, make sure we have clean laundry, that sort of thing, but anything on the outside just feels daunting. It's just so much easier when someone else helps.

From the kitchen... are lots of homecooked meals again. I went back to WeightWatchers on Thursday and although the Christmas damage wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, there is still a little that needs to come off again. Besides, I had been eating badly since the beginning of December, possibly earlier even, and not exercising, and we just went from one cold and flu to the next during the holidays. So, today I had chorizo and tomato soup from the slow cooker (unfortunately with a bit more than a hint of cayenne pepper, so it was a touch on the spicy side!) and tonight we're having pasta marinara.

I am wearing... lots and lots of layers. I am low on heating oil and although I've ordered a full tank, it could take the oil company till 3 February to deliver. They're normally faster than they say, but in the meantime I'm being quite economical with the heating, not having it on when the kids aren't here. It also means that the house is never really very warm (and it's such a hard house to heat as it is), we only just take the edge off the cold. The kids are quite resilient, N. doesn't really feel the cold much and I. just goes around in lots of layers. At the moment I'm wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, a tunic, a thin ski fleece, a very thick woollen sweater and my green bodywarmer. You sit still all day, you get cold!

I am creating... another dishcloth for my swap, a crochet one this time. Plus a little present for my baby cousin-several-times-removed who has her 1st birthday next month, but not sure if anybody on that side of the family reads my blog, so better not say too much! Have just ordered some wool to knit a new hat for N., and ordered enough to make him some gloves and possibly a scarf.

I am going... to make a pot of tea in 20 minutes, so I. and I can have a catch-up when she comes home from school.

I am reading... nothing much at the moment. I was reading Stephen Fry's autobiography which I got given as a birthday present, but am struggling with it. Some bits are very good, some bits are incomprehensible, some bits are just plain weird. I like Stephen Fry and think that if I finish his book, I may not like him as much. So I'll probably give up.

I am hoping... that the sun will reappear some time soon.

I am hearing... Radio 4, but not even sure what's on at the moment!

Around the house... all the Christmas stuff has gone. The tree was dropping needles very very badly, causing me to wonder if I should get a fake one next year (and I really, really don't like fake Christmas trees). I think I've got over that now - we have far too many Christmas decorations to fit in a fake tree. I'm missing all the little decorations though, the stars, the trees, but it does look tidier in here and a bit more spacious.

One of my favourite things... is watching the birds in my apple tree. I have hung up lots of fat balls and nets with seeds, and it is a constant coming and going. They even seem to queue in order to feed. I could watch them for hours.

A few plans for the rest of the week... nothing out of the ordinary - we have our regular library visit tomorrow, I'm going to the office later this week, back to WeightWatchers on Thursday, and a child-free weekend (which I don't really enjoy).

A picture for thought I'm sharing...

This is I. with her baby cousin, who is one of the smiliest babies I've ever seen. In another few years, those two are going to be trouble.

Instructions for the Simple Woman's Daybook can be found here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nanna 1917-2010

To Nanna

We first met over 20 years ago, when I was 19. I had just met J. and it was clear to me very quickly that he was very close to his grandparents and to his aunt, uncle and two cousins who lived close by. From the very first time we met, you and Grandad always made me feel so welcome. I had lost all my grandparents by the time I was 12 and suddenly it felt like I had a whole new set of grandparents. We used to go and see you very often, you'd make us fantastic meals and always bake cakes - I have yet to meet someone who makes a chocolate cake as good as yours was.
I always liked to think that even if we had met purely by coincidence, we would have got on just as well. Grandad was always there quietly in the background, but you and I would chat for hours like women can. A 50 year age difference didn't seem to matter at all.
Sadly Grandad and you couldn't make it to our wedding as Grandad was very ill by that stage and 6 weeks after we got married, he passed away. I'll never forget how guilty you felt when he was moved to a hospice as you couldn't look after him anymore.
By the time I. came along, you were living with your friend in the house you'd spent so many years in, and you were both obviously very proud of this new little person - your first great grandchild. She would toddle in the garden, in the sunshine, building memories of that happy place the same way as I had done.
Then slowly but surely it became obvious you were getting older. You found it more difficult to prepare a whole lunch for us if we came down for the day, so we started bringing picnic food. We made sure not to stay too long in order not to tire you out. But you still enjoyed having a chat and a cup of tea, and always, always there was that tin of biscuits and you'd tell us 'just have another one, just one more'.
When J. and I split up, I was worried that it would mean the end of my relationship with you too. But despite everything that happened in those months, you never judged me, you were still pleased to hear from me, you were very supportive. For reasons I'll never know or understand, J. decided he didn't want to be in touch with you anymore, but I felt that I. and N. were your great-grandchildren and you had a right to see them, and besides, I missed seeing you too, so I started visiting you on my own, with the children.
Not long after that, it was obvious you would be more comfortable in a retirement home, with more help nearby. It was very odd visiting you the first time, in a different place but with all your familiar belongings. We discovered that friends of ours lived a few streets away from you, which meant we could stay with them and just pop in to see you, without wearing you out. And every time we left you, I would wish you lived nearer and that we could see you more often. But every time we left you, you were always so well that I never even considered it could be the last time we saw you.
Last month I received a phonecall from your daughter saying that you seemed confused and that she and her husband were travelling up from Cornwall to see how you were. The following day your son-in-law rang me to say things weren't looking good, you had stopped eating and drinking and were in bed. And I knew then that we wouldn't see you again. You passed away that same night.

Nanna, I wish we had seen more of you the last few years. I think probably everybody thinks that when a loved one dies, but it hurts nonetheless. There is so much I still wanted to talk to you about - big things, little things. It still feels odd to think that when we travel down to see our friends, we will not go to the retirement home to see you. I will miss you, more than you'd ever think. But I am so glad that you were part of my life. You were a very special lady, and I am glad we knew each other.

Bye bye Nanna xxx