Sunday, 31 May 2009


Me and my husband have just been to the cinema on our own, alone! Yes, my mother-in-law has the children and we went to see Star Trek on the big screen. And wow! Firstly, I'd forgotten how much I enjoy going to the cinema - the big screen, the slightly-too-loud volume, the rustling with smuggled-in food in your lap, and the sheer spectacle of the whole thing.
Secondly, the expense! When the cashier told me how much it was for our 2 tickets I almost said 'but surely, my good man you have made a mistake, I merely want to see the film, not buy the whole cinema'. Thankfully, I managed to bite my tongue so only the merest squeak escaped.
And thirdly, what a good film. I really, thoroughly enjoyed it. Zachary Quinto was a fantastic Spock, much better than I'd imagined he would be. Spock has always been my favourite Star Trek character anyway, and this film showed his more human side, and his youthful impetuosity. I loved all the nods to previous films in it, and thought the cast had captured the spirit of the original characters whilst also enabling the whole franchise to move on.
Once upon a time I used to go to the cinema a lot, nowadays, I don't get the time, and we certainly don't have the money, but I'm not going to forget how much I enjoy it. Roll on July when the next Harry Potter film is released and I shall be pressing my mother-in-law into service once more (not that any pressing is actually required as she loves having the kids and they love going to her), and dusting off our credit card.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Rainy Days & Wednesdays

What a day! I'll never understand why the kids are so awful on dull, rainy days. Of course, I am also very much affected by the weather but even as a child I was happy to curl up cosily indoors with a book or my toys on rainy days. This morning we had tears, tantrums, shouting and fighting before 9am, and even on a sunny day we wouldn't have gone out before that anyway, so why should this morning have been any different?
On Wednesdays, my parents come over for the day which the children always look forward too, but it's been awful today - both children are being very demanding, upsettable, tantrum-y, intolerant and over-reactive, and despite the combined and very patient efforts of me and my mum, it's been just awful. After lunch (which usually cheers everyone up!), things deteriorated even more so we went for the fall-back option in dire circumstances - a walk. It was pouring down but this isn't usually a problem, in fact I often try to restrain the kids slightly from going out in the pouring rain. Of course, today, there was a chorus of crying and screaming 'we hate the rain!' and my daughter grumpily insisted on going out with bare legs and sandals. That'll punish me. We dragged them on a favourite walk for 45 minutes, and it does seem to have worked slightly. At least they're bickering more quietly now and the adults now have a cup of tea. My parents will be leaving in about an hour and I think we might actually survive once they've gone now.
I hate these days, they make me doubt everything - my way of parenting, the basic sweetness of my children, our method of education, my decision to be a stay-at-home mum - everything. Let's hope for better weather.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Recipes wanted!

Has anyone got any recipes for making crackers (or can point me to some online, UK not US measurements) - all kinds - cream crackers, butter puffs as well as posh ones with seeds and garlic and stuff in. The kids are really into crackers right now and I want to make my own, but I just can't find any recipes!

Also, does anyone know how to make rich tea biscuits? The only recipes for rich teas I can find online are referring to a more traditional cakey-style of rich tea, not the hard kind you get in shops which is what I'm after.


Back from holiday

Holidays are funny things, I always come back in an odd mood. Even before having the children I found holidays a rather 2 edged sword. They're supposed to be the most relaxing and fun thing ever but I've always found them also unsettling and stressful. I'm not a good traveller and the best holidays I've had have been close to home. Adding children to the mix gives them a whole new dimension. My daughter also finds holidays equally as stressful as exciting and managing her moods and needs is a full-time job in itself. However, my mum and dad did sterling work in having the kids in their caravan quite a bit, as well as helping us dig extensive earthworks on the beach, so we did manage some relaxation and couple alone time.
Even on a self-catering holiday there many compromises to make - we were unable to compost any food waste which felt really unnatural and wasteful; the kitchen was fully equipped with expensive coffe machines and smoothie makers but lacked many really basic items such as roasting tins, cake tins, mixing bowls etc which made it impossible to make bread or cakes, or things such as yorkshire puddings and even roast potatoes. This limited our food choices quite drastically and felt quite stressful as I tried to make healthy and ethical choices for meals for us all, and still ended up with chips more often than we'd had in the previous whole month put together. On the other hand, as it was a small village, we were able to shop for fresh food from local greengrocers and bakeries each day.
The weather was changeable but the children enjoyed digging on the beach every day whether it was in swimming costumes or cagoules. I watched as they played endless digging and building games, with my parents also totally absorbed and thought, yes, this is how I want things to be.
And, as always, I've come up with a list of things to change when we got back - some to help preserve that more relaxing holiday mood, and some which getting a bit of distance from our everyday life helped me to see:
  • get steel water canteens rather than re-using plastic bottles (already ordered).
  • stop feeling I have to rush everywhere.
  • look into making my own crackers.
  • get veg and fruit from the farmer's market every month.
  • properly throw myself into organising our home ed group.
  • tend the allotment more often.
  • stop stressing about money so much and trust things will work out.
  • take the children to stay with my parents more often.
  • look into camping weekends.
  • stop feeling guilty about everything!
  • de-clutter.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Off on holiday!

Eek, I think I've packed the right things. Anyway, ready or not, we're off tomorrow for nice simple bucket-and-spade holiday at the seaside, back in a week. I'll respond to any messages and emails then (especially yours Laura, deserves a good long reply!).

Sunday, 10 May 2009

22 Pieces of Me

Don't normally do these meme things, but having been tagged by Cave Mother I thought I would do this one:

1. What are your current obsessions?
Working out how much money we've got and if it's enough to live on!

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Black trousers.

3. Last dream you had?
Last night I had a very confusing dream, all I can remember is that I was living in a tent and an old schoolfriend I haven't seen or thought of for years was there and we were talking about children. I dream a lot, very vividly and often remember my dreams.

4. Last thing you bought?
A Cadbury's Creme egg (oh the shame!). I usually only buy fairtrade chocolate, but this was an emergency.

5. What are you listening to?
My children blithering on about how they'd arrange the school they're going to run when they're older. Which would be interesting as they're home educated themselves.

6. If you were a god/goddess who would you be?
Hestia - goddess of hearth and home.

7. Favourite holiday spots?
Cornwall, Sussex, New Forest.

8. Reading right now?
I'm re-reading The Children Of The New Forest by Captain Marryat which I haven't read since I was a child.

9. Four words to describe yourself.
Intense, passionate, idealistic, organised.

10. Guilty pleasure?

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?
Being silly with my husband.

12. Favourite spring thing to do?
Climbing a hill and seeing the green view.

13. When you die, what would you like people to say about you at your funeral?
“She made a real difference to me."

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
Some baby plum tomatoes from our local Farmer's Market. They were gorgeous, like a tomato should really taste.

15. When did you last go for a night out?
Hmm, a night out, not since January 2003. But I often go out during the day.

16. Favourite ever film?
I can't ever choose just one favourite film, book or whatever - there are so many and it depends on my mood. I like light, amusing films.

17. Care to share some wisdom?
People, not things.

18. Song you can’t get out of your head?
Lily Allen's latest is plaguing me recently. I hate it though.

19. Thing you are looking forward to?
Going on holiday next week.

20. Favourite vegetable?

21. What is your most irrational fear?
Being sick.

22. Anything you regret?
My first marriage.


Ooh, I got an award from Sue and I would like to display the award image but I can't seem to make it work. Thank you very much anyway, it's nice to know people are reading!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Keep calm and carry on

The government have been reviving various wartime slogans to deal with the various crises currently underway, such as 'coughs and sneezes spread diseases' but my favourite has to be 'keep calm and carry on'. What a fantastic slogan! It covers pretty much every eventuality and I can't think of one situation where it wouldn't be applicable or helpful. And the best bit is, if you have a load of spare cash (does anyone?), you can now buy a load of products bearing this helpful reminder from here. Every home should have one of the posters around somewhere, probably on the kitchen wall - that's where I'm apt to lose my cool the most. All together everyone - keep calm and carry on. Can't you just imagine a clipped, BBC accented, wartime bloke saying it? Don't you feel better already?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Is home education on the rise?

I know that much of the media is convinced that home education is on the rise and I'm starting to wonder if, for a change, what they say might actually be true. These last few weeks in particular I ahve had so many asking me about home education with a view to doing it themselves. We've had various new people at our local Home Ed group but I didn't think too much of it - most of them were already home educating but had only just found the group. But now I've spoken to at least 4 families in the last month alone who either have children at school or preschool who they are considering home educating instead, or who are deciding on the educational method for children under school age.
It's heartening for me, because the more home educators there are in the area, the more potential we have to become a vibrant area for home educated children, with a variety of skills and experience to offer and hopefully enough people to make up lots of different social and educational groups, meetings and outings. It really does say something about the complete loss of confidence so many parents have in our school system that even here in a very conventional and traditional area, so many parents are taking what can often seem like such a bold step. I shall be watching this space eagerly over the next few years.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

What Mothers Do

Having been to a La Leche League meeting today in which people were kind enough to compliment my mothering skills and my children, and remembering from What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing how easy it is to underestimate all the stuff you do as a parent, I thought I'd revisit the goals I set for our family life in January and see how we're doing.
  • Succeeding at making at least 80% of the family's bread, cakes, biscuits and other such products.
  • Succeeding in keeping the Home Education Group I helped set up last summer going from strength to strength.
  • Succeeding in keeping on top of our allotment plot and garden - and have in fact planted 3 varieties of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroots, leeks and Jerusalem Artichokes at the allotment, and strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, herbs, apples, pears, cobnuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and French beans at home.
  • Succeeding in keeping my part-time work going and contributing a useful amount to the household income.
  • Succeeding in supporting my husband through his career change and re-training.
  • Still attempting to decide on what I want to re-train as.
  • Currently sorting out some submissions to agents of my recently-completed novel.
  • My daughter is now reading fluently, my son starting to read and we're keeping up making special times of the day to read longer books to them both.
  • Succeeding in branching out in our day-trips out to further afield and longer days - even though my son is slightly struggling with this as it really tires him out.
  • Succeeding in cutting the food and household budget while still providing nutritious meals mainly cooked from scratch.
The trouble is that as soon as you achieve a goal it becomes the normal thing you do, so you end up doing more and more without realising how much you do, and then wonder why you feel tired, have no spare time, and haven't added any new goals in a while. So this is a totally boastful post to remind myself of how much I actually do! Hurray for mum everywhere!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Socialism and mid-life crises

Well, only one mid-life crisis and thankfully not mine but comedian, socialist and general political pundit, Mark Steel's in his new book What's Going On?: The Meanderings of a Comic Mind in Confusion which I have just finished reading. It was a weird read - some parts of it I utterly related to, such as Steel's confusion about how the world has changed so that people think you're mad, naive and a bit stupid if you suggest that things could ever be run on any other basis than profit. It really brought home to me how insidious this mind-set is, as he reminded us how things used to be run differently and how many other ways of doing things there actually are.
It was also terribly sad to hear of the gradual disintegration of his relationship with the mother of his children and how this coincided with him turning 40 and questioning so much of his life up until that point. It made me very glad that I am not having to deal with that at least.
Unlike Steel, I'd never joined a political party or believed that party politics was remotely helpful - maybe this is because I'm that little bit younger than Steel, as he discusses in the book how anyone younger than 30 (I'm not that young!) genuinely doesn't understand the entire concept of socialism. Steel charts the rise of protest, not organised by specific political parties but on an issue-by-issue basis, and how people are reluctant to join an actual party as they distrust the apparatus of party politics, and how this maybe dilutes the opposition to the current government. He also admits that protest and dissent has changed, that the internet plays a bigger role than he ever thought possible.
Some parts of it clanged with me though - ironically, right about the time that Steel was decrying all the splits, schisms and in-fighting amongst the Left, he was still propagating this himself in his little digs against those of us whose preoccupation is green issues rather than trade unions, or who choose to live in rural or small towns rather than in cities. His implication seemed to be that wanting to eat fresh local food was a very middle class desire with no place in Left-leaning politics, which is a shame. I really think that if the remnants of the Left got together with the Greens, it could be rather interesting. Again it was particularly ironic as Steel also pointed out how the role of class has changed with regard to Left politics, and how definitions of class have themselves changed. I can understand that if you were a 1980s striking miner, organic food might seem to be a rather lah-di-dah concept, but this is ignoring the fact that organics and permaculture and many other green movements which are now much more mainstream were developing amongst the same counterculture as the union-dominated Left of that time.
However, that criticism apart, Mark Steel is a hugely knowledgeable and vastly entertaining writer and speaker and even though this book has you chuckling at least every other line, it also feels like you're being educated. It's a bit like a discussion with an older and wiser friend, it has you laughing and nodding and generally feeling validated. Well, it did for me anyway, if you were a supporter of Margaret Thatcher, you may not enjoy it quite so much. I can't help but think Mark Steel would be a fun person to go down the pub with.