Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Food fit for a queen

Our wholefood order arrived the other day and along with it came a tub of bee pollen, just as I had ordered.

I'm not sure if you have come across this stuff before. We eat a lot of honey and regularly take propolis but hadn't tried pollen before now. A quick search on Google brings up lots of claims to include; people who take it become less nervous, more optimistic, are more eager to work, helps with the ability to perform the sexual act, makes fats burn faster and increases the rate of burned calories, contains every nutrient required to sustain and support life in a pure, raw and unaltered form, has natural rejuvenating powers, aids beauty, boosts energy, extends life span etc. Well, having read all that who could resist giving it a try for £4.99 per tub?

It's rather strange looking little granules which taste a bit odd but are fine if sprinkled on a spoon with honey on. The children love them and oddly enough seem to have much more 'buzzy' energy than usual - you know, that kind of here there and everywhere, mischievous sort of energy.

I'm not sure where I'm going wrong. I'm absolutely exhausted still. Perhaps I need to take a fistful from the tub each time I pass.

Craig suffers very badly with hay fever and uses this as an excuse to avoid camping trips. He is going to take a pollen grain a day and see if it has any effect upon his hay fever this year. It's worth a try (although the first time he took some was a bit scary as you have to be careful with pollen if you have allergies). I'll let you know at the end of the summer if it makes any difference at all.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Date cancelled

No, it wasn't with Robbie Williams, Barry Manilow or the Laundry Technician - it was with Craig!

Last week we decided that we rarely spend much time together. We spend lots of time with the children, together with friends and off doing our own respective stuff - all of which is absolutely wonderful but doesn't leave a lot of time for chatting just the two of us.

We decided to make a date and go out for dinner this evening. I have been ever so excited about it and hoped we might get to stroll along the river bank before or after dinner too. Trouble is I've been so busy for the last week I feel I could scarcely drag myself off the sofa this evening never mind wash my hair, find my lippy and dash out to a restaurant.

There's a new date in the diary and we'll try again next week. In the meanwhile though, what do you think about these women who claim to be all things to all people? Do they really exist or do they just pretend to be in order to make women like me feel lacking?

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Riding the railroads and stuff

Oh, what a weekend we have had! I couldn't possibly describe it all before my chardonnay has started to warm and my chocolate has started to melt, so here are the highlights.

As well as winds and rain we also had the most amazing blue skies.

Hermione played a short but very impressive clarinet solo in her music academy concert. I wasn't sure how she would feel about performing solo in front of an audience of about sixty or so people but she was fine. Took it completely in her stride.

I held my first Hen Keeping Workshop. It went well - more of an information sharing, hen stroking, cake scoffing, tea drinking, casual kind of time with nice people. Very pleasant.

We spent a whole afternoon riding the railroad in a rickety old steam train with great folk and great grub. An afternoon we will all treasure for a long time I think.

Hermione hosted her first formal (ish) dinner party in honour of Earth Hour and a great time was had by all.

Finding woodland treasures.

Pausing to enjoy a hug.

Admiring the new shoots in Miles' indoor garden.

Marvelling at a big bridge and little bridge - and the amazingly clear and babbling river running beneath them both.

Creating crochet pots stiffened with sugar and water.

Uh oh, Hermione trying to escape a cloud of midges. I hope it's not going to be a bad midge year.

On top of all this my greenhouse is almost complete, I've planted lots more seeds and I'm even going out on a date soon!

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Friday, 27 March 2009

Hey nonny nonny

This post is best read whilst humming Greensleeves and other such hey nonny nonny tunes.

We went on a home ed group trip to Segedunum yesterday for a Tudor experience. The children were assigned characters - here's one of my little characters aka Margaret Weardale Heiress of Houses.

This was the Learning Officer who got ten out of ten for her costume and also for her ability to convey lots of information to the children in a really fun and informative manner.

Making pomanders to try to keep vile maladies and miasmas at bay.

Perusing the many Tudor artefacts on display.

Much fun and merriment was had by all. We even learned how to greet royalty, show reverence (without messing up by exposing the nits in your cap and risking the Tower) and dance Tudor evening dance.

Got to dash. Hermione is loose in the kitchen making chocolate truffles for her dinner guests tomorrow night. Don't forget it's Earth Hour. Get out your candles - perhaps you may even like to follow Hermione's lead and invite a couple of your favourite locals round for a candle lit dinner - three courses with truffles to follow as I understand it.

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Thursday, 26 March 2009


The smell of hyacinths transports me to a space in time when my life was very different to now. It's one of the many smells of my father. Pleasant memories of him.

I've a big pot of hyacinths on the kitchen table right now. They are so full and heavy that the stems are breaking. Tomorrow I'm going to reclaim a tiny tin bucket from the mud of the garden and place them in there so that I can enjoy the scent till the very end.

Do you have a flower that takes you somewhere?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Sprouting, a daisy, an angel and more..

Thank you everyone for your kind comments and emails about our fish. I'm pleased to say that all is well again. Miles and I popped out to the pet shop to collect Sweet from his holiday and he is now back swimming happily with Nuzzle. I hope it is true that white lies don't count.

Hermione and Nana went to see The Calculating Mr One, a maths production for children. You can read about the theatre company here and find out about their itinerary. Hermione thought it was fun and came home with a real buzz about rounding numbers up or down - that bit had really floated her boat!

We discovered the first daisy of the year in the garden.

Can you remember ages ago when I told you I was going to wrap apricot pits in wet kitchen roll and keep them in my fridge for a while? Well here's one of the pits that has started to sprout this week. I'm going to give it to my mate Jenny - assuming she would like me to plant it in her garden that is.

Went to the dentist and all got a clean bill of health. That's always a bit of relief. On the way back we drove up close to the Angel of the North. This is how I saw her.

Hermione is still very fired up about Shakespeare. We're both learning lots. We were comparing and contrasting the differences between what is thought to be the true historical tale of Macbeth with that of Shakespeare's play. Did you know that Macbeth actually ruled for seventeen years and also that Lady Macbeth just disappeared?

Here is part of a leaflet she is making about Shakespeare. I'm pleased with the content as she's researching it herself from books we have lying around the house. Think we need to have another chat about full stops though *grin*.

Thank you ever so much to Clare too who has given me this award.

“This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.”

Right, got to fly - so much to do, so little time. I can't believe how busy life is these days. By and large all good stuff though so I can't complain. I hope you're all smiling too right now.

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Monday, 23 March 2009

To end a life?

One of our goldfishes has been ill for over a week. It lies on it's side at the top of the tank blowing bubbles. We've taken advice and have treated it accordingly. Apparently it's swim bladder may have 'gone' and the likelihood is it will not pull through.

I hate seeing it like this but can't quite bring myself to kill it. How do you kill a goldfish humanely?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Break Dancing

What a bizarre day I’m having.

I returned home from a lovely evening with friends last night and suddenly felt an overwhelming sadness. I felt ever so preoccupied with Jade Goody and spent a long time thinking of great mothers I have lost to cancer - my maternal grandmother who died on a Mothers Day and also my mother in law – women who have had a profound effect upon my life and taught me a lot about courage and positivity.

This afternoon I took Hermione to a four hour Break Dancing workshop. It was great. I thoroughly enjoyed watching a group of Irish blokes spinning their muscular stuff, and it was also quite pleasant to watch Hermione dance while sitting on the sidelines preparing notes for our study of the Tudors.

Well, while Craig and the children are off playing happily in the garden I’m going to soak in a chamomile bath and try to get my head around the coming week. There’s lots to do. As well as being a very busy time on the gardening front we also have a few home ed group and social commitments, a theatre trip, dental check ups and more going on this week. I’m giving my first ever workshop in hen keeping later this week so I’ve lots to do there in the way of hand outs and stuff. I’m also hoping to fit in attendance at a talk about permaculture. Busy, busy busy…

I just thought, perhaps it’s time I started dropping hints about someone switching on the oven if I am ever to have that big roast dinner I went out and bought. I’ll be even more cross than Thursday evening if I end up cooking it myself…

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Snails, faeries and waxy watercolours

Watercolours and wax by Miles.

Woollen snail.

Faerie peg folk waiting for seeds to sprout.

Hermione came third in a regional St John's Ambulance competition today Yay!!!!

Friday, 20 March 2009

Flip flops n socks and other musings

Craig - You're not going out in your flip flops are you?
Me - Yes, it's okay, I've got my socks on.
Craig - That's not okay, it's worse.
Me - Hmm, yes there's three holes in one and one hole in the other.
Craig - *rolls eyes*

Yes, I have to say I did proceed to go out in my flip flops and socks. Well, they're not really flip flops, more of a grubby lilac suede open toed mule, and I wasn't going far.

I've pondered this flip flop incident today. It happened earlier yesterday evening - before the crisp incident. What's worse, having a husband who thinks opening a packet of crisps constitutes making dinner or having a wife who will nip out to meditation (a bare foot event anyway) in socks and flip flops?

I've concluded that the crisps are by far the worst. I've had many dress codes in life from doc marten boots and baggy jumpers to court gown and tabs. The flip flops just represent where I'm at right now, it'll change again no doubt. However, Craig has always been crap on the kitchen front and always will be.

So, what else have I done today other than ponder crisps and flip flops?

I've restored order in the playroom. A thankless task which I won't be evident at all by the end of the weekend. On the plus side it does mean that children with dust allergies can once again come to play.

I've taken all of the art work down from one 'board' ready to fill it up with exciting educational things. Not done this in a while and the big empty space is looking quite menacing right now.

While I was busy in the playroom Hermione made a victoria sponge cake herself from scratch. I didn't have to help with the scales or oven. She's now independent in the cake stakes. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Interesting decor I thought.

Work started on the raised beds at my shared patch today. I'm ever so excited. Need to start giving more thought as to what to get in them. I'm thinking peas for starters - partly because I have loads germinating at the moment plus I've heard they do well in raised beds. Also thinking about a fair patch of perpetual spinach - I love that stuff - the way you just keep cutting it down and it just keeps coming right on back at you!

Miles made an indoor spring garden today. It's not looking at it's finest here. It's basically a big clod of grass that I dug out of the flower border *sigh* on top of a frisby, adorned with sticks, stones and empty egg shells filled with compost and grass seed. Miles will enjoy watching the seeds sprout away - and once they have perhaps we can draw a face on the egg shells and he can play barber shops with them- cut and come again hair!

Density has been high on the agenda. Miles has been discovering what things sink and float whilst almost flooding the kitchen. Hermione has been considering the density of differing liquids and spent a long while trying to blend oil and water in a jar and then watching disappointedly as it once again separated.

We wandered out to buy a cookery magazine as Hermione has invited a couple of family friends over for candlelit dinner (sounds ever so Hyacinth Bucket don't you think?) to celebrate Earth Hour and she's in charge of the menu. That should keep her busy planning for a while.

Oh well, must dash. I need to sort out out the wholefood co-op. I kind of co-ordinate a group wholesale order of foods which is great but it can be a bit of a pain checking VAT and stuff - particularly when you can't find you calculator! I can recommend it though as a way of bulk buying organic wholefoods. I also have the urge to make some spring faeries out of clothes pegs tonight so really must fly.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Cross??? Me???

Please tell me I am not the only one who has a partner who defines 'making dinner' to be rustling up a crisp sandwich (good day) or even just opening a packet of crisps (not so good day)???
All these dreams I have of Gordon Ramsay have nothing whatsoever to do with his size fourteen feet, I just like the idea of men who know how to switch on the oven. Honest.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Cardamon tea, seeds and stuff

If I thought the weather was glorious yesterday then that was because I'd not yet experienced today!

Drinking cardamon tea and planting lots more seeds.

Watching Hermione beaver away at her books in the sunshine.

The strawberries are showing. This is the first time I've grown strawberries from seed and am surprised at how long they have taken to germinate and how tiny they are.

Peas have made an appearance too.

The spring decor continues to grow. I think Miles has done ever so well with his door hanging - even big sis is suitably impressed!

Something else that made me feel joyful today was receiving an email from a friend which I have copied and pasted below.

In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older.And, there on television, she said it was 'exciting.' Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every day... like her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which one will reach her waist first.

The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words!

Maya Angelou said this:

'I've learned that no matter what happens,

or how bad it seems today,

life does go on,

and it will be better tomorrow.'
I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.'
'I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life .

''I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life.

''I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.'


'I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands;

you need to be able to throw some things back.' ~
'I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart,

I usually make the right decision.'

'I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.'


'I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.

People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.'


'I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.'


'I've learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'

Oh, almost forgot to add this guy. I know I''ve posted him elsewhere today but I think he deserves much public acclaim for his obvious commitment and dedication to his hobby!

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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Full of frolics and fiddle-de-dees

Oh what a glorious day. The sun has shone relentlessly and we have all had fun.
Hermione and Nana spent the morning at The National Glass Centre making glass mosaics. They will be fired and can be collected next week. I'm looking forward to seeing them.
Miles and I have pottered about at home. We inspected our seedlings. The leeks and beetroot are doing ever so well. They are fairly hardy now too having been outdoors for days.
My first sowing of broad beans are now about three inches high and the second few are showing too now. Some first early potatoes and a handful of jerusalem artichokes are in. I love this time of year in the garden - so much potential, hope and excitement. I really enjoy checking each day to see what is showing.
Hermione is still ploughing on with her maths and language work. A lot of the time I don't even have to mention it now. I tend to wander into the kitchen at some point and she's just doing it - which is fabulous. She comes and gets me if she needs help and I always look over what she has done, but otherwise this aspect of her education seems to be getting along just nicely with very little input from me.
Nana is off to finish reading Sula by Lavinia Derwent. It is this months Book Club text but we have so been so busy that Hermione hasn't got round to reading it, consequently nana is reading it so she can tell her all about it. How lucky are we?
I do feel so happy today that I am seriously questioning whether or not to watch Horizon tonight. They are focusing on what they perceive to be the best educational methods and I really don't want to end up throwing things at the screen...

Monday, 16 March 2009

Birthday gifts

Goodness, I can't believe how many of Hermione and Miles' friends have birthdays in March and April. We are certainly into double figures now. Like many things in life, I've now decided to make our own birthday gifts for friends too. Here is a lemon grass and geranium sachet with matching draw string bag full of die cut butterflies and dragonflies ready to go to a little girl who will turn another year older this week. I hope she likes them.
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Saturday, 14 March 2009

Spring mantle

Possibly a little earlier than usual but the spring mantle is almost complete.

I know it's not the Equinox till next week and not Easter till next month but we were due for a change. I may be bored with them within a week or two but right now I'm loving the bunnies in a woodland glade. Come to think of it I'm already pondering woolly snails....watch this mantle *grin*.

'Stand n Tan' and stoned to death

One night this week I went to see Stand n Tan performed by Open Clasp Theatre Company. I came across this theatre group years ago when I worked with women's groups. They perform their own material to highlight important social issues in a way which leaves people thinking. It's certainly not all doom and gloom though. By and large the shows are what you would consider to be a comedy. It's very clever the way in which they effectively tackle thorny issues while at the same time giving everyone a rip roaring laugh.

Anyway, one of the major issues tackled in Stand n Tan was asylum seekers. The asylum seeker in the play was a lady from Iran and she spoke of women being stoned to death for adultery. I decided to have a Google and see if this had happened recently or was about to happen. Right now eight women are at risk of being stoned to death in Iran. I'm shocked and appalled. You can read more about these women here and you can email the Iranian government about it here.

If you are up here in the chilly north I would urge you to look out for Stand n Tan at a theatre near you. I think they are going to South Shields at the end of this month and this play is billed as suitable from age thirteen and upwards. In my view it's very educational and provides an excellent talking point for asylum seeking, immigration, prejudices, homosexuality, dangers of smoking and more.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Quick catch up

We've been soaking and planting peas. Apparently soaking overnight in cold water increases the germination rate.

Hermione has been refining her candle making technique and generally causing mayhem in the kitchen. She's moved on from tealights to moulded tarts and a rather cute tutti fruity pillar.

Two dozen vegan chocolate muffins were transformed into £10.63 in aid of Comic Relief. Not a bad return eh? Huge thanks to friends, neighbours and the people who work with Craig. Hermione is understandably well chuffed. No pictures as they flew out so fast.

Also been spending quite a bit of time on here which I know I have raved about before but we do like it a lot.

Right time to go - I can smell smoke coming out of the kitchen...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Culture vultures cast adrift on speed hump

After a morning of pottering in the garden and reading Macbeth we set off this afternoon to hear a gamelan concert.

What culture vultures we are I thought in another one of those smug home ed moments. That was before we went over a speed hump and started to make an incredibly loud noise. Not to miss out on our cultural experience I decided to carry on but was forced to pull in when I noticed sparks as well as loud noises coming from the front of the vehicle. Pedestrians looked alarmed as we passed. I could see something hanging right down to the ground and decided to call Craig who had to leave work to come and rescue us. He sorted us out in all of about ninety seconds. The speed hump had dislodged a big plastic guard thing which Craig pulled off and will replace later. Knowing that I would get to sit down and have a cup of tea at the concert we continued on our way and enjoyed a thoroughly pleasant afternoon!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Quitting, giving up, throwing the towel in - call it what you like it all amounts to the same thing. I like to think this is something I do rarely and never without good cause, however, Hermione is very hasty in jumping to this decision.

A few weeks ago she was specially selected by her leader at Badgers (St John's Ambulance Youth) to be put forward for a competition. She didn't have to do it, she was given the choice and chose to do it. Since then her Badger leader has given up her time to fit in extra practice sessions, pretend casualties have given up their time to be practised upon and Craig has given up time to take her to the extra sessions.

This morning over tea and toast she announced that she wouldn't be entering the competition. Apparently she doesn't want to do it because she may make some mistakes and she may not know all of her casualties.

In the past I possibly would have just gone with her wishes, but I really think she is coming of an age now where she is capable of understanding about inconveniencing other people and the need to take responsibility for the decisions we make in life. Obviously were there a huge issue and she were loosing sleep it would be differed but to be honest the whole situation smacks of 'it's getting a bit tricky now so I'd rather not be ar$ed'.

There has been talk on a local list recently about parental ambition and whether or not it is right to ever 'push' your child. Can you push your child and still love them unconditionally? In pushing your child are you living your life through them? All of these issues have been raised.

Not sure what I think in the wider scheme of it but for now have decided that if she really doesn't want to do it then that is fine but she must contact her Badger Leader and explain for herself - after all she required no involvement from anyone else to arrange being in the competition! She has since decided she may not call and may stay in the competition instead.

Oh, grumble grumble....

On a brighter note it's been ever so sunny today. We have started digging over the patch, have planted some shallots and another half a dozen broad beans out, sewed some chard and perpetual spinach under plastic and sewed leeks and gourds in pots indoors. Incidentally, can you remember when I told you about our ornamental gourds from Thompson and Morgan? Well, if you were thinking about buying them then don't! The sales literature is very misleading about the number of seeds you actually receive. Oh, more grumble grumble...

Well, I'm off now to finish making crochet cupcakes for an order I hope to dispatch tomorrow.