Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The photo shown here is the result of Dawn's baking soda picture, an idea I got from A Magical Childhood. 
I get so many creative science ideas from this blog, it's always worth a glance if you have a handful of children and nothing to do! We didn't have any pipettes, so we used a child's medicine syringe and a handful of straws.

For breakfast today I had some really yummy rice pudding, which was relatively quick and very easy to make. I almost always use recipes when cooking, but every now and then I combine a couple of recipes, and then butcher them both so much that it turns into my own. This is one such occasion, and here is my recipe!

2 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup rice
1/4 cup jaggery powder*
tinned or fresh pineapple

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a pan, boil, and reduce to a simmer. Stir frequently for 20-30 minutes (good opportunity to do some housework or mess about on facebook while you're waiting) until it's the right consistency, then add chopped pineapple to taste.

*Jaggery is a form of cane sugar, not quite as virtuous as Rapadura, but still far more nutritious than most sugars on the shelves, and unlike Rapadura, they actually sell it in a shop in my town! At £1 for a 350g packet I can't even complain about the price. It gives the rice pudding a mild caramel taste.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012



Well, who'da thunk? The groundhog claimed we'd have another few weeks of winter yet, as did a couple of old English poems regarding sun on Candlemas, but it appears they were wrong, because spring has well and truly sprung. (Cue sudden freak snowstorm...)

I've been out in the garden, with my spade, turning the ground over and thinking about what I might or might not do with it. This is the first year the garden has been solely mine, and it's about twelve times larger than the tiny yard I failed to maintain in my old house! I have more time at home now than I did then, and two little helpers, so there is hope. But I think I'll start small, with the existing plants, and see how I go, before embarking on any major smallholding projects!

We have been contemplating the idea of having chickens next year. I very much want to in theory, but there are obstacles. The first is that before we can have chickens, we need fences, and fences are expensive! The close runner-up is that we have badgers, and they don't generally pay too much attention to fences. This can also prove expensive.

Anyway, for now, I have chosen a small and simple garden project: compost. Or so I thought. Who knew that composting was so complicated? I've spent hours researching it, only to discover that it all looks too much for me! I have bought a Green Cone for my food waste, but grass clippings and so on will still have to go on a conventional compost heap. That's OK though, my main aim was to keep my household waste bin as clean and empty as possible, especially as in our area they only collect it once a fortnight, and in the hotter months that leads to bad smells and maggots.

The Green Cone itself has provided much entertainment and little bin-relief so far. First there were the "self-tapping screws" which, according to the instructions, do not need a pre-drilled hole. Hm. Well, I put those screws next to the bit of firm plastic I wanted them to go through, and I waited, coaxed, threatened, begged... But they did not tap themselves in! So I had to call my husband, who brought his drill and solved the problem. Maybe husband-drilled holes are different from pre-drilled ones.

Then I had to find a spot in my garden which receives lots of sunlight, is accessible for emptying rubbish into, and which is not between two beautiful and very delicate rosebushes. Having possibly succeeded (why did I not measure the precise amount of sunlight throughout the garden on a grid system in December?) I started to dig. Oh my goodness, that was hard! Forty minutes, a couple of blisters, and a new-found respect for the men who used to dig the earth before they invented JCBs later, I had a hole of roughly the desired size. I tipped a bucket of water into it to make sure the drainage was sufficient. I stood and regarded my new pond. I visited my new pond several more times, before admitting I was going to have to break my back some more, dig deeper and improve the drainage situation with gravel.

Here is my temporary solution to the problem.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Camping in a corner

This is another variation on the Camping-At-Home experience. This one isn't quite so much fun, and isn't so easy to tidy up once the kids are in bed. Yes, that is a piano under all the food. My singing group will not be meeting here this week. This is the week we've been waiting for, when our kitchen is reborn.

The house I currently own belonged to my parents for 29 years before I bought it. This is the house I grew up in, and now Ali and I are working to turn it into our family home. My father is both frugal and handy: when something broke, he'd fix it. Otherwise he'd leave it alone. Or occasionally paint it pink. This is how our kitchen came to look like this:

 It's a lovely kitchen - large and light with space to dine. But beware of turning on the cold tap. Not only does it spray out viciously and soak you, but you can't turn it off once you've removed it, which happens far more frequently than you'd expect. Now, to be fair, I don't think my parents like tiger-pattern cupboard doors, that's just what unvarnished '80s pine looks like after twenty years of grease. 

 Check out the pink handles on those doors. They were to match the (then) pink wall.

Watch this space. It's going to have a breakfast bar in it.

Yes, you saw that right. Our cupboards slant. For those of you not old enough to remember this phenomenon, there are nice examples in The Tiger Who Came To Tea (you have to scroll down for the picture I'm thinking of).

And here is a nice view inside the larder-cupboard. I have to admit, this cupboard is the one thing I'm going to miss. I feel doubtful that any modern cupboard is going to be quite as lardery and cupboardy as this pink and blue vinyl-laden beauty.

Our utility room is also going to have some work done. This is what it currently looks like. See that? That's the new kitchen. (Some of it, anyway. The rest of it is in the part of the living-room not occupied by all the things that belong in the kitchen.)

Friday, 3 February 2012

The day after Candlemas

Before I begin, I apologise in advance if I don't always explain myself properly. I am bound to baffle some Christians with Pagan references and vice versa. Well, sorry, but I'm not going to attempt to explain what Candlemas is here. There are plenty of websites for that already. I'm just going to attempt to describe my thoughts and how I came to them, and hope you get the idea.

I intended to write a post on Candlemas, entitled, "Candlemas". But I was too busy celebrating Candlemas, so today will have to do. Anyway, I was very uncertain about when I was meant to be celebrating - Imbolc is the 1st, 2nd or 4th of this month, depending on which web page you're looking at. But seeing as the Christian festival's name holds more relevance for me (no ewe's milk here!) and most of our celebrations this year revolved around candles, I plumped for February 2nd, because unlike Imbolc, Candlemas doesn't keep moving around.

This is the first year that I have properly bothered with Candlemas/Imbolc. To be honest, it never really attracted me because I couldn't really see the point. Pagans will generally give some wishy-washy statement about the first signs of spring and ancient Irish sheep giving birth, which is true, but in a place where it's usually either pouring with rain or trying to snow in February, I'd rather wait and do spring properly at Easter. And many Christians haven't even heard of it, so explanations are less than abundant there. But this festival is Brigid's festival, and I am Brigid's pilgrim, so it seemed appropriate for me to make the effort this year.

You may have noticed I've been hiding in my shell for the last month or so. I've been very busy with the house, with my children, and with my own quiet thoughts. In my free time I have been reading a lot about nuns. That came about after a recommendation of the film No Greater Love, which brought up a lot of questions for me about the whats and whys of a contemplative, devotional life.

Now, a recent conversation I had with Granny Green about Imbolc being when we start looking outward again after a period of introspection, and a memory of something Ember said about winter being a Quaker lady in a grey cloak, got me to thinking that maybe the time between Christmas and Candlemas is my nun-time. As the land sleeps under its blanket of snow (symbolic snow this is, represented in the literal world by mud) and waits for the warmth to return, and as Mary waits her forty days before being purified after the birth of Jesus, we can spend some time sitting quietly with ourselves, cleaning out the rubbish that's cluttered up in Brigid's well. And then Candlemas comes, the Light of the World is presented at the temple, Brigid's flame of creativity is lit, clear water springs forth from the well (and from my bath, having spent a good twenty minutes with the plunger this morning :-\), and we can pull our wellies on and get out there to turn over the soil. Or, in my case, start blogging again. I'm not literally going outside. After all, the Groundhog said we've got another six weeks of winter to go.