Monday, 27 August 2012

Bank Holiday

I had to go and hide away from my family a bit earlier, so went up to the grandly entitled Craft Room and had a bit of a stash sort.  I've unearthed two projects that were supposed to be "next" about three years ago, and have brought them downstairs, therefore making them a bit more of a visible reality.  One of them is a very fancy hat that I am convinced will make me look wonderful but in reality will probably make me look like an idiot, but time will tell.  I have the needles, I have the yarn, I have the patience and I have friends who will suit it very well if needs be.

I do love Bank Holidays. Even on a Bank Holiday like this one where we really couldn't be bothered to do very much as a family, bad parents.  Saturday was a bike ride for Simon and his friend, us playing around and not going to the Farmers' Market or foraging, as I'd planned owning to some spectacularly bad behaviour from Lucy, and then a birthday party in the afternoon.  Sunday was spent prostrate in the house on my own, recovering from the horrible tummy bug and then going out in the evening to discover that I hadn't recovered at all.  Joy and jubilation.  I think I'm a bit better today, although I thought that yesterday and was wrong, so I'm not celebrating just yet.

Today we've spent in the house doing as little as possible - the girls have been threading beads, watching television, painting and other amusing things.  Harriet is currently in the middle of painting a banner for Lucy's birthday; she is not aware of it, but I think that it will work out.  This is the joy of Pinterest; I saw a "We love You Daddy" banner for Fathers' Day, made of cut out letters from scribblings/painting, and I'm now adapting for the grand 4 year old party that will be happening in two weekends time.

Tomorrow we are going to the New Forest, just me and the girls.  Which will be fun. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


I was a bit concerned by how tired I was last night considering that I hadn't really done much except sit on a train and go for a short walk, so I was (not at all) relieved to find out that in fact that I had a bit of a tummy bug and spent quite a lot of last night clammy, cold and sweaty and shivery.  Hurrah.  At least I'm feeling a whole lot better today and am not so tired that I have to lie down and cry.

Today's big adventure was a trip to Northampton to see Karen and her lovely little girls.  The big one is the same age as Lucy and they get on like a house on fire, screaming and laughing and running and shouting at us and doing what passes as playing nicely when you are almost four.  The little one is a tiny baby and as such is of great interest to Harriet who prodded her and lay on her and gave her lots of hugs and kisses and squashed her a lot, which is, I suppose, playing nicely with the baby when you are not quite two.

We drove up this time, up the M40 and the three dozen round-abouts that the local authority see fit to put on the road to slow us all down to a reasonable 50mph.  I do not like driving at 50mph when I have two noisy so and sos in the back shouting and demanding more crisps and mini cheddars. Still, we got there in plenty of time - two hours including a pit-stop at Oxford services; refuelling with even more than usually over priced pain au chocolat and pain au raisin.  Honestly, after a week of driving in motorways in France, I'm most disappointed by the services in the UK.  France is so much more civilised - not every stop is an expensive shopping experience, some places are just picnic areas with a loo.  I suppose the weather being that bit better in France means that people are happy to stop and have a picnic, and don't really like shovelling food into their faces in supermarkets.

I have finally put the photos on the other computer, but not yet onto the internet, they will come when I am feeling stronger.  I'm sure that's what everyone is waiting for - 70 odd photos of odd people in La Carneille. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


I'm becoming somewhat of a stuck record.  I am utterly shredded today, following a very lovely day out visiting a friend who has moved out of Ealing to lovely semi-rural Horsham.  Being a glutton for punishment, I went by train from Victoria.

This was before the massive tantrum, which brought me to my knees.

I really thought I had this travelling with children thing sorted out, a massive changing bag full of snacks, books, pencils, pens, papers, colouring in and songs, but Lucy defeated me when she wanted crawl under all the seats, and I felt that that wasn't the thing to do.  Then she hit me.  I was very restrained.

Anyway, we had a lovely day, and her ladyship had her first Fab lolly, and Hattie enjoyed a Mr Men mini milk type thing after shouting "me, Me, ME!" while I was buying ice creams for the children.

Horsham has the most wonderful park in the middle of it, and we spent a long time there being very active and running around - Lucy's dear friend Michael is an active boy with a very competitive older brother, and she manages to keep up with both of them for a while, stopping for a cuddle and a hand hold every now and then.

The way back was super easy and we really had a good trip, despite arriving at Victoria in the middle of rush hour - 5:20, what a gorgeous time of day.  The girls amused a District Line carriage of commuters by pole dancing and running around sitting on people's laps and shoes; another thing I really hope they will grow out of soon.

I had to have a lie down when we got home.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Back home

I started writing this last night after we got back, but I was, according to my husband, "too tired from knitting all the way from La Carneille to West Ealing".  Being in a house with 4 children under 5 is somewhat exhausting, as they always seemed to be either shouting or running or screaming or laughing or something that was far louder than anything any of the adults wanted to do.  At least it's almost completely put me off the idea of having any more children.

Fortunately, it was a bit too hot to do much bicycling in the Suisse Normande, and after a 12km cycle up hill, the cycling was mostly done by Lucy on the back of her Daddy's bike, and I just enjoyed cleaning and tidying my euphemistically called "beau-pere"'s house.  He has many admirable qualities but cleaning is not one, and having a huge, hairy dog in tow doesn't help matters.

I got a lot of knitting done as well, which is always a good thing.  The Olympics project is almost completely finished - I just have to do the thumb on the right one, but it's just too hot to contemplate working on a mitten.  So I am making an afghan blanket for Lucy instead, in pure wool.  It's in squares, and now I only have 4 left to make, then a whole load of crochet, and then lining the damn thing.

We took out with us when we went bat hunting in the park round the back of the house, and Lucy loves it already, which is gratifying.  It's lovely and warm, and just the thing for when the sun goes down and you're only wearing a vest.

I wanted to write a whole lot about the holiday, about the book I read (Julie and Julia - surprisingly good), about the seaside and the trip to Mont St Michel, but I've got to take the photos off the camera, and not use the nerd computer for that, so it must wait for another day.

We had a lovely time, and now have a fridge that honks of Pont l'Eveque and unpasteurised Camembert, and I highly recommend the Suisse Normande for a short cycling break, especially if you have Sir Chris Hoy-esque thighs of steel.

Friday, 10 August 2012


We are going on holiday tomorrow.  For some reason, I appear to have agreed to go bicycling around the Suisse Normande, so called because it is apparently the only part of Normandy that goes up.  So I will be spending an internet free week holed up in rural France, pulling that blasted tag-a-long up hills in the rain.

Mind you, as holidays go, it should be great fun.  We are going with friends of ours who have children who are slightly younger than Lucy and Hattie, and the girls absolutely adore them, so the four of them will be occupied.  We will have other people to talk to and cook for and be cooked for, so that will be less of a chore and more fun, and the house we're staying in belongs to my father in law, so there won't be a massive bill at the end of it all.  Plus we're going to go to Paris for a day trip - well, the outskirts anyway, visiting my grandmother, which should be good fun.  I might even finish the hippo mittens.

I might even be able to upload some photographs when I get back, and might even have some to show of me collapsed at the top of a slight rise with Lucy laughing at me.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Tourist Trip around my own city

In the summer holidays, I generally enjoy taking the children around London, showing them things and going to the National Gallery and just pottering about.  This year, having been warned to expect 1000 million people, I decided to give it a miss, and took them in briefly before the Olympics started.  Everyone else seems to have felt the same way, and the West End and Central London are not exactly deserted, but certainly less busy than I would have expected for the time of year.

The couple of million that was spent tarting up Leicester Square was money well spent in our opinion, as the fountains are wonderful and we spent about thirty minutes jumping up and down in the water, and getting absolutely soaking.  Hattie ended up only wearing her vest for the rest of the day - a real advertisement for my parenting skills, I must say.  Lucy tucked her dress into the front of her knickers, and looked, well, ridiculous frankly.

Gosh, I love Instagram.  I've found a new way of getting it onto my computer and off the itoy, and I'm very pleased with it, which is why there are a mass of photos in my post. 

We also went to the National Gallery and saw the Sunflowers, the Water Lilies, the Tiger and the Little Girl who Looks a bit like Lucy, which is all we ever go to see; both of them seem to enjoy the trip and can recognise some paintings now - well, Lucy can, Hattie just shouts "Raaa" at the Tiger (Surprised) and marches around shouting at tourists gazing seriously at the ART.

According to The Middle Class Handbook, Costa is at the bottom of the coffee shop pyramid, and it isn't that great, but it suits us - cheap, child-friendly, free WiFi and full of things that the children will actually eat.  This one is right on Wardour Street, so we walked through Chinatown and practised our Mandarin, courtesy of The Lingo Show, on the locals. 

I quite enjoyed being a bit of a tourist, and we will do it again later in the Summer.  Shame we can't have the Olympics every year, it makes for a delightfully peaceful capital.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Knitting Olympics

My goodness, but I'm excited about the Olympics.  Last week, I was entranced by the shooting - can you believe how precise their shots are? - and this week it's lovely Laura Trott and her cycling.  On Super Saturday, when we were holed up in Hay on Wye, eating chocolate orange as the kitchen stopped serving pudding shortly before we wished to order pudding, I fell head over heels in love with her and her infectious giggle.

The three girls were so over-joyed and excited to have won, and, despite not giving a bugger about cycling competitively, or indeed by any sport, I was entranced by them and the whole 6 gold medals in one evening thing.  Hurrah for us Brits, says the half South African, quarter French woman.

And now it looks as if we have surpassed Beijing, and produced 21 gold medals, which is extraordinary.  I am inspired to push one or both of my daughters to the peak of human endurance and encourage them to be Olympians in 2028; Lucy is already showing great promise in the cycling, she greatly enjoys being pulled along by me on the tag-a-long, and Harriet is a keen swimmer, flinging herself around in the water like a baby seal, entirely without any concern for her or my wellbeing.  Their mother, alas, was always the least competitive, least bothered of all Miss Chambers' pupils, and it is too late for me in all events, except, of course, in knitting.

I may have mentioned knitting before, and the knitting Olympics in particular, or Ravellenic Games as the lawyers would have it.  (spoilsports)  I have chosen a particularly easy discipline, the Mitten Medley.  My mitten is this one, which is easier than it looks but going slower than I'd hoped.  I should have finished the first one by the end of tonight, and then I have four days to make the other in order to win a gold.

The problem I have is that I am too easily distracted and keep on wanting to do other things, like watch canoeing at Eton Dorney or sit in the car, where I can knit, but can't do colourwork as it involves looking down and concentrating too hard, and of course, my baby gro empire is growing fast, so I have to sew like mad most evenings.  Also, ironically enough, the Olympics is so exciting that I really have to WATCH, rather than watch and knit; normally I can multitask in front of the television, but not at the moment.

Oh and news just in - Chris Hoye has just won his sixth gold, so now we're on 22 golds, which is extraordinarily exciting, even for a non-competitive, non-goal focussed, lazy sod like me.

Monday, 6 August 2012

5 years

Five years ago, this happened.

This weekend, we went to Hay on Wye to celebrate the fact that we haven't managed to kill each other in that time, despite bike related arguments and other traumas, and two adorable if rather exhausting small girls.  We've had a lovely five years, and I hope that we'll have many more.  It doesn't really seem fair that we can marry and celebrate being husband and wife when other people don't have that right.  My friend Jon wrote this about equal marriage and Scotland calling civil partnerships, marriages. 

Does what happened to me 5 years ago count for less if two men can get married and call each other husband?  Is my marriage any less stable and happy if two women can marry each other in a registry office or a church?  Of course it isn't, and anyone who says that it is being ridiculous.  The church in which we were married is fairly liberal and accepting - one of the church wardens is in a long partnership with another man and the curate's son is gay.  I haven't yet asked the vicar about the his views, but I'm pretty sure that they are not in line with the hierarchy; I know he has mellowed greatly during the last 20 years or so as Rector of Hanwell. 

In any case, marriage is a deep and meaningful thing, and why should I be allowed to marry when others aren't?  It's not just for the procreation of children, it's not just about promoting faith, it's about two people's public declaration of a private intention.

So happy anniversary darling, and here's to the next 5 years.


Food crush #2

As well as making a wonderful pea soup on Thursday, I had my father's birthday meal to cook.  It was his actual birthday on the 2nd, then I was semi-expecting my brother and his wife to come round on Friday and for us to celebrate then, with him having the meal of his choosing.  So I'd planned to make something interesting and new on the Thursday after the Olympic heroes had returned from the top of the billing Russia vs Tunisia volleyball match at Earls' Court.

My second food crush is the rather wonderful Esther Walker who is the wife of Giles Coren and writes very amusingly about food and motherhood and other trivial matters like that.  One of her recipes from ages ago was for Quinoa Risotto, and I thought that making that would be a delicious surprise for everyone.  The moaning!  The complaining!  The sulking!  The back-tracking when they tasted it and realised that it was utterly, utterly delicious!  The apologies!

It's a really easy recipe and much quicker than a normal risotto, and the only problem I have with it was that Esther Walker is considerably less greedy than my husband and family as they felt distinctly short changed by the portion size.  I felt that it was a perfect amount personally.  Have a look and have a go at it, all the ingredients are available from Waitrose.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Pea soup

Pea soup
Originally uploaded by JuliaCroyden

Well, this appears to be the only way to share the poor quality photograph, so there we go. You can see the pea pods and all sorts. Smells wonderful, hopefully tastes the same.

Cooking the perfect pea soup

Harriet is definitely NOT WELL, and is sleeping peacefully in her bedroom, and the double trap shooting is too tense for words, so I've popped into the kitchen to do some cooking.  I picked up some lovely (cut price) peas in their pods from Waitrose earlier, and I'm trying out Felicity Cloake's Perfect Pea Soup. 

For a start, I don't have streaky bacon, just back bacon, so I'm using that.  I also have a mixture of chicken stock and garlic olive oil that I used to cook little gem lettuces (a novel idea, but it works, look in this book), and Ms Cloake recommends plain water or vegetable stock.  Even perfection can be improved on, however, so in they go and now the soup is boiling away behind me, ignored like my children's whines.  It smells wonderful, and is a delicious green colour.  Unfortunately, the cheap peas were cheap for a reason; they are really quite large and there weren't that many of them, so I have had to add a large quantity of frozen petit pois to the soup, and of course they have cooked very quickly and are now done and ready to be blended.

Live blogging cooking soup is the most exciting thing I'm doing today.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Courgette jumble

Of course, the first thing my husband asks in the morning is always "What about dinner?", and, as usual, I ignored him this morning.  Even though we don't have the ingredients for a proper meal in the fridge, and I haven't bothered defrosting anything useful like mince or salmon, I know I can make a meal in a matter of minutes.

Hence, courgette jumble.  Courgettes, onions, garlic, roughly chopped and fried with bacon and chilli, adding toasted pine nuts half way through cooking.  When I made it on Friday for mine and Hattie's suppers I used pesto and raisins, and cooked some penne, which was all Hat would eat, along with all the raisins and discarding the courgettes and everything that wasn't bacon.  This evening's accompaniment will be spaghetti, and if Simon doesn't like it, I will punch him.  He turned his nose up at adding raisins to a savoury dish - evidently he is not entirely on board with my South African heritage, where fruit and meat are frequently paired.

I currently have a foodie crush on the rather marvellous Esther Walker, and as she is shortly to be publishing a "Best of" blog, I am reading through her back posts, and have found this rather wonderful sounding recipe for quinoa risotto, which again, his nibs has turned his nose up at, although he will be having it for supper on Sunday.  I have SPOKEN. 

My other foodie crush is on Felicity Cloake, and tomorrow I will have a bash at making her Perfect Pea Soup, but with normal bacon, not streaky, as that is what I have in the fridge.  Yum.

Gosh, a blog post about cooking rather than knitting or sewing.  Anyone would think I was some sort of non-criminal Martha Stewart type.

Ravelry, Olympics, Opening Ceremonies and other topical things

We are desperately trying to leave the house today; yesterday was spent inside watching CBeebies all day long, and I am slowly going berserk.  Hattie has bronchiolitis again - well, it's a holiday, what else is she going to do, and Lucy technically has chicken pox, although I think as her spots have faded, and were never that bad really, it was a very mild dose.  Today, however, I have decided that we are going out - to Hobbycraft, to Costa, to Ealing Town Hall, to the library, to the garden centre and to somewhere else desperately exciting like Sainsburys.  Unfortunately, my plans have been derailed by Mr Tumble, who is our current hero, but at least it means I get 10 minutes to myself to witter on about the Olympics.

I watched the Opening Ceremony, half expecting it to be, well, a bit rubbish.  And bits of it were, especially the whole green and pleasant land nostalgia for something that never existed anyway at the beginning.  Then Ken as Brunel, portraying him as a fat cat industrialist, when he was more that annoyed me.  But then the rings were forged and rose in the air, and I decided that this was generally a great experience and I was going to stop huffing and enjoy it.  Of course, Daniel Craig, the Queen, blah blah, sense of humour and all that, Gawd bless yer NHS, GOSH, and I could have done without the commentary, but by the time I worked out how to turn it off, it was the athletes parade and I needed it for that. 

Interesting what they chose to celebrate - I think Danny Boyle's vision was the way that the left would like to portray Britishness - diverse, interesting, tolerant and religious in a non-specific way.  There was a lot of God in the ceremony, what with Jerusalem, Bread of Heaven and Abide with Me, but it wasn't specifically the Christian God, just "God", someone who everyone could relate to; this non-denominational faith based approach is rare, unfortunately.  I think the majority of the country has some form of faith, and we should celebrate it sometimes; it should unite us more than tear us apart.

Well, what with all that deep thought and provocative tweeting and twitter reading, I managed to cast on 64 stitches for my mitten three times, each time getting a different number.  The Ravellenic Games are taking place along with the other Olympics, and I am making a pair of mittens with tiny blue hippos on.  So far, so good, although I found the ribbing tedious, and I need to make the mittens longer than lovely Spilly Jane's teeny hands.

The arrival of my children indicates that Mr Tumble has gone back to Tumbleland, so I'd better go and be a mummy properly.  *sigh*

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