Meet Jemima

30 October 2011

We have a new member of our family; Jemima. She's rather cute isn't she? Regular readers may recall a post I wrote a few months back about our children's campaign for a pet. Well after ruling out cats, dogs and rabbits, a hamster seemed the obvious and best option. It was while on holiday in August that we finally relented and promised Lily a hamster come the autumn half term holidays. She has been counting down to 'hamster day' since then.

I can't help but feel rather short changed with the hours that Jemima is, or rather isn't, putting in. Yeah, I know that hamsters are nocturnal, but Jemima is proving to be a rather elusive during the children's waking hours. I've had a few hamsters some years back and although they did a lot of sleeping in the day, they would make some brief appearances to stock up on food or have a quick run in their wheel. Maybe Jemima will alter her sleep pattern a little once she has settled in, or maybe, unbeknown to me at the time, I previously had hamsters that suffered from insomnia.

What a Beautiful Wedding

25 October 2011

Any long-term readers of the blog may recall a post I wrote back in March about the engagement of David's niece Lucy to her fiance Dom. Well, this weekend was the wedding. I can't believe how quickly it came around. 

It was a beautiful day in every way; crisp autumn bright blue skies, lovely guests, great food and great fun. My duty was to make the wedding cake. The end result was much admired and enjoyed. After much research, thought and consideration I went for the three-tier red velvet cake by Lorraine Pascale. I cut out the red food dye by quite a bit as I'm a little uneasy with sponges that are too red. The result was more of a devils food cake; a good dense fudgy sponge. I thoroughly recommend the recipe to anyone who has been asked to bake such a celebration cake.

It was a big day for Lily too; she was one of the bridesmaids. She had been building up to her 'big day' for weeks and was so excited. She took her role very seriously, reading her much thumbed 'how to be a bridemaid' book on the car journey that morning. The day lived up to all her expectations and more. She wore the most beautiful dress that made her feel 'just like a princess', enjoyed a 'grown-up' dinner and after such a busy day still had enough energy for some past-bedtime dancing late into the evening.

A Pumpkin & Chocolate Chip Tea Loaf

19 October 2011

It's been a very busy week and it's not over yet. Not wanting to totally neglect the blog, I'm posting a recipe to tide you over until normality is resumed next week (hopefully). I had bought home a pumpkin from the allotment. It generously gave itself for a few meals, but I needed to find a good use for the remaining wedge that lingered in the fridge. So earlier this week I made a Pumpkin & Chocolate Chip Tea Loaf. It was an all round winner with kids and adults alike. Only one slice now remains tightly wrapped in tin foil on the kitchen worktop. I think it's days are numbered.

Preheat the oven to 170C/ GM 3. Lightly grease a loaf tin about 10 x 20cm, and line with baking paper.

Using an electric whisk, beat 200g of muscovado sugar (I used dark, but light would do) and 4 egg yolks (save the whites) together for 2 - 3 minutes until pale and creamy. Lightly stir in 200g of finely grated pumpkin flesh, the zest and juice of a lemon, 100g of chocolate chips and 100g of ground almonds. Then sift in 200g of self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp of cinnamon and a good grating of nutmeg, folding it into the mixture using a large metal spoon.

In a separate bowl, beat the 4 reserved egg whites until they form soft peaks. Stir in a heaped tablespoon of the egg white into the cake mixture. Once combined, fold in the rest of the egg whites as carefully as you can.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin ensuring the surface is level. Bake for about 1 hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Once done, remove from the oven and leave the cake in the tin for 10mins to cool a little. Then remove the loaf and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Does Having Children Affect Your Memory?

14 October 2011

Early(ish) next year I have one of those landmark birthdays. I'm still deciding whether to fully embrace it, go into hiding or just deny it completely. I've still a few more months to go so there is no pressure quite yet. However with this day looming, I find myself looking back at my former years. The other day I tried to think how I spent my last landmark birthdays ... my 30th, my 21st ... I can't remember either. It wasn't that I partied so hard they both ended in a drunken haze. No, I simply don't recall them.

My memory is patchy at best. I remember useless information: what I ate at a restaurant seven years ago; a dress my mum wore in 1979; the pattern of a wallpaper we had at home in the early eighties. When I look back through Lily and Arthur's baby albums I see babies snapped by the camera to record landmark times: first ever Christmas, first birthdays and such like, yet I struggle to recall any key elements of 'that day or time' ... they just all roll into one in my mind.

Try and take my memory back to life before kids and it really does struggle. Now, to remember when it was just myself and David is strange and surreal. The fact that we moved to a new city, where we knew just one person when Lily was just a few months old makes the line between 'before kids' and 'after kids' all the more definite; quite otherworldly. Yet children have only been part of our life for six and a half years. It's no time at all. My winter coat is older than that.

As any parent knows, it's a 24/7 job. Work, school and other commitments create a tight schedule that your days, weeks and years are organised around. I think it is just 'that' that highjacks your memory. As a busy parent your memory is called upon to store all the immediate and often random stuff you need to draw on frequently.

Take this coming weekend for instance, I need to ensure that Lily's swimming kit, ballet kit and school uniform is all washed ready for next week; I must buy two presents for two birthday parties that Lily is attending this weekend; I've got to pop to the florist to order flowers for a wedding cake I am making; I've a couple of work documents that I need to work on; I need to prep for a meeting with a possible intern for the business; I need to buy a new TV, a hamster cage and ribbon to edge the cake-boards of the forementioned wedding cake; then there are dinners to plan and food to shop for; an untold list of household chores to get through; the balcony needs clearing of summer plants that have died off; there is an Amazon order to return; and I really could do with getting down the allotment. I could go on. I live by lists - it's the only way. The amazing thing is I rarely forget to do any of this stuff.

But then I remember a conversation Lily and I had on the walk to school earlier this week. She asked me what my first teacher was called. It came to me in an instant. She then asked me who my teacher was the next year. It just rolled off my tongue. I ended up naming every teacher I ever had whilst at school. I surprised myself. So maybe it is all still lurking there at the back of my memory, ready to resurface at its own free will, when I least at all expect it.

A Tune for Tuesday No. 11

11 October 2011

Video: You Tube

It's been a while since I last did a 'Tune for Tuesday', so I thought it would be nice to have one today.   This week it's a song from one of my favourite ever artists George Harrison. There has been lots of talk on the radio in the last week about the new Martin Scorsese film Living in the Material World; a film that I will watch for sure. Also, this weekend just gone marked what would have been John Lennon's 71st birthday. 

So this weeks tune, I think is quite fitting. The song All Those Years Ago featured all three remaining Beatles (George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney), though this was expressly a Harrison single. It is one of only a few non-Beatles songs to feature three members of the group. Harrison and Starr recorded the song at Harrison's Friar Park studio in November 1980. After Lennon's death the following month, Harrison removed Starr's vocals (but left Starr's drumming track) and recorded his own vocals with rewritten lyrics honouring Lennon. McCartney, his wife Linda and their Wings bandmate Denny Laine visited Friar Park to record backing vocals.


An Autumn Weekend

10 October 2011

It looks like autumn is well and truly here. Only the weekend before the one just gone we were sitting on a sunny beach; just over a week on and it's coats, scarves and a craving for porridge in the mornings. I love autumn; crisp days, the scent of bonfires in the air, a new wave of seasonal foods from soups and stews to proper puddings with custard, winter clothes (so much more forgiving to wear), log fires, Sunday roasts and the excitement that Christmas is not so far away.

This weekend we firmly marked autumn's arrival by 'putting the central heating on'. It's a big thing in our house, flicking that switch. House rules state that the central heating can be turned on no earlier than October 1st and must be off by April 1st. Modern climate change has yet to be taken into account with this rule. This is David's rule, of course not mine. Growing up, my dad had a similar one; must be some kind of 'man' thing about not wanting to 'give in too early' to the heating.

The first thing David said to me in my slumber on Friday wasn't 'good morning my love, did you sleep soundly / can I get you a cuppa?', no it was 'the central heating has come on!' His voice had an element of panic to it. If the house gets cold enough, below a certain temperature, the central heating will automatically click on. Good old central heating. I stuck my leg out from under the duvet and touched the radiator with my toes; it was only tepid, but on all the same which made me smile. I love central heating you see. I was in for further delight when I took my morning shower. The towel on the radiator was warm and toasty. Simple stuff but it made me happy. So without too much reluctance it was officially turned on at the weekend. Toasty days are ahead.
On Sunday we went with the kids for walk in Hove Park. It looked really stunning in all its autumn glory. I've attached some of the pictures I took to this post. Don't you think the trees look beautiful? All in all our first proper autumn weekend.

12 Years Ago

7 October 2011

Tomorrow David and I have been married twelve years. I tend not to put posts up on a weekend, so it feels fitting to mark it today, blog wise. It still feels quite grown-up to have a 'wedding anniversary.' It's what your parents and grandparents had when you were younger; it's cards adorned with flowers and scroll type fonts.
When people ask how long we've been married, I can't just give a straight answer. I have to add the fact that we were together for ten and a half years before we finally got around to making it official. So yes, we've been 'married' for twelve years, but 'together' for twenty-two and a half years. Twelve years is good going, but twenty-two and a half years is long-term hard-core stuff for a couple of our age. It's a statistic that makes me feel really old; old enough for wedding anniversaries even.

Twelve years ago I'd say we were different people. In 1999 we were living in the first house we bought together (a very grown up family house); we were both 'employed' rather than 'self-employed'; we hung out with friends; frequented pubs and restaurants; went to more than our fair share of gigs and music festivals; had the weekend papers delivered and had lie-in's every weekend we wanted them. Oh how different life has become. All that free-time to ourselves: we'd walk over hot coals just for a fraction of that care-free time now.

Our wedding day was wonderful, as every wedding day should be. But it was just 'a day' ten and a half years down the line to legally seal our commitment to one another. It was a beautiful day spent with our families and closest friends all under one roof - a line up never to be repeated. We had a lovely civil ceremony at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park and stayed there for the reception. We were the last to leave the party - it was that good.

But it's the normal days, good and bad, that make a marriage. There have been amazing up times like the arrival of out two beautiful children who are the epicentre of our existence and there was relocating and setting up our family-life in Hove which has moved us into new circles of friends who have become very much loved and valued. There have been down times too, really down times; but we've had each other and that is a powerful thing during uncertain times in life. There has been stressful times; the business, moving home (or not), schools and finding our way as a new parents. Twelve  years ago today, on the eve of our wedding we were excited about the prospect of setting out on the path of married life: a new chapter. Back then we were carefree with ideas, dreams and ambitions. Did any of it come to fruit?

Well, we might not (yet) be living in our dream house as we approach our middle life years and holidaying in exotic places has yet to come our way, neither has a dream car (actually neither of us care a toot about cars, hence we own a Skoda) and we don't have piles of money sitting in the bank beckoning an early retirement. However, we're comfortable, have no major life regrets and we're happy. We've worked hard together to build our business, we live by the sea in a city we love and we have two of the most amazing children you're ever likely to meet. Not a bad outcome for the last twelve years all considered don't you think?

Today happens to be my mum and dad's wedding anniversary. They have clocked up an amazing fourty-four years. That's a big number. I ponder as to how that must feel. I imagine it must feel quite unreal; how can you have been married so many years in what feels such a short space of time? Where did the time go. As they say, time is what goes by when your busy living your life.


3 October 2011

I pretty much walk everywhere. I like it as a mode of transport, which is just as well as I don't drive. Since Lily has changed schools I now walk her to and from school; it's a brisk 25 minute walk each way. Fellow parents congratulate me on it. When I walk down the road neighbours remark how much I walk.

I really don't see the amount of walking I do as that excessive. A typical day starts with walking Lily to school (25mins), then I walk from school to work (25mins). After my morning at work, I walk from work to playschool to collect Arthur (15mins) and then back home (10mins) for lunch. Then come 3 p.m. we off again to collect Lily fro school (a 50 min round trip). I also make frequent trips and detours into town for the supermarket or the library. Add that up and on a good day I may spend 3.5 hours walking somewhere or other. It adds up doesn't it? I guess one of the reasons people drive is the time it saves. I am always strapped for time.

But if I did drive, think of what I'd miss. What kind of shape would my legs be without all that walking? Would I notice the changing of seasons quite so much? Would I have noticed the beautiful Peonies that flower every summer in a garden I pass on my way into town? Would I have as many opportunities to exchange pleasantries with my neighbours? No, I wouldn't. 

Walking is good for the kids too. They've never known any different and gladly walk for miles. The school run is mine and Lily's time to chat about this n' that. Arthur knows the various points on our walking routes where he might expect to meet a cat too; there are a couple of friendly felines that can often be found outside the music shop that we pass, as well as in the gardens of some of the houses we go by on our route. He's also starting to point out house numbers. Number '8' is his current favourite.

Run this blog post by me in the depths of winter and I'll probably be making noises about wishing I could drive. But I'm happier on the pavement. Walking gives me time, a chance to breath, think and get my mind in order for the next part of the day.