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Mothballs

Time to put the blog officially on ice.

Apologies for the many breaks in service over the last couple of years. Rather than limp on I will say farewell and hope to pick up later when life has calmed down a bit. The heir and the spare are doing well but leave little time for writing. Any time I do get is spent on my beloved podcast, 4amcab. Please do click on the link and explore past and present episodes, I’d love to hear what you think.

Thank you for reading, linking and commenting. I’m sure there’ll be another blog at some stage and you’ll be the first to know about it.

Lots of love to you all,

Rachel

Knees

They really are everywhere. I know I mentioned this before, but it is astonishing given that it is now, *checks watch* December 11th*.

The builders don’t have much choice, mind. Their boss, a no-nonsense Kiwi who took half a meter off our bathroom when England beat the All Blacks 38-21, has told them in no uncertain terms that ‘long pants’ are a sign of weakness, and that anyone wearing them will be sent home to change. So I see knees wherever I go. Knees climbing past my living room window, knees dangling at eye level as I duck into the kitchen… knees, knees, knees. Slightly shivering knees now, it has to be said, but they show no sign of wavering on this one. I wonder whether the depths of Winter will inspire a change of heart.

The builders on top of the knees are very pleasant, convivial types who swear like dockers but bellow ‘language’ at each other whenever they think I might be in earshot. One of them even says ‘pardon’ which I thought had entirely slipped out of general usage.

Anyway, the good news is that the loft is nearly finished, and we should soon be free of dust, more dust and not being able to find a teaspoon for love or money, which seems to be a daily occurrence at the moment.

The boys are enjoying the chaos, thrilled that we’re building them a naughty step and have ramped up the behaviour accordingly. In case this is my last post before Christmas, wishing you all a very merry festive season and all the best for 2013.

*Must write Christmas cards.

New projects

Greetings, loyal and frustrated readers. Apologies for the chasm in between this and the last post. Things have been busy here and I’ve fallen off the wagon with the gardening and cooking lately. However, two new and exciting projects are in the offing. Firstly our loft conversion is finally going ahead, the flat is covered in scaffolding and there are builders’ knees just, everywhere. They are brilliant and it’s all happening mighty quickly. More news on that soon.

Secondly I have been helping to write a comedy podcast called 4amcab. It features sketches set in the small hours of the morning, which have become frighteningly familiar over the last few years what with getting up at 4am to go to work, tend to the baby, the other baby etc… it’s a strange time of night and the podcast reflects the weirdness of nocturnal activities. Anyone with small children, insomnia or shift work to contend with will know what I mean.

The 6 shows we’ve made for the first series are up on our website at www.4amcab.com, and then rather wonderfully Mike Kelley has made one of my sketches into a cartoon.

4amcab has been nominated for a European Podcast Award, so please click through and vote for us if you have a second. Thank you!

All the boys are doing well and we’re doing our best to keep all the plates spinning whilst our roof is taken off and everything descends into complete chaos. I hope the gap between this and the next won’t be quite so wide.

Hope you’re all well.

The Old Manor

On a recent visit to a friend’s house, Him Indoors and I thought we’d swing by a place we used to rent in Battersea. We were curious to see whether the fruit trees we planted in the front garden had survived.

I say front garden. A strip of earth a metre by 30cm barely constitutes a window box, but still. Undeterred, we had planted a couple of apple trees, knowing that they would probably outgrow the space. To our astonishment they were still there, carefully pruned and trained by the current tenants.

“I wonder if Connor still lives here,” I muttered to Him Indoors. Connor must have been 5 or 6 years old back then. He spent his days tearing up the neighbourhood on a three-wheeled scooter, only to be occasionally apprehended by his mother. She would slam an uncompromising hand on the young man’s shoulder as he hurtled past, spitting expletives at the residents, to shout, “Connor! Stop being so f***ing rude!” Or, at a slightly further distance (multiply the matriarchal decibels by a factor of 50), “Connorrr! Get out of that f***ing tree!”

“He’s probably old enough to go twocking by now,” sighed Him Indoors darkly as we parked nearby. Twocking, for the uninitiated, is a slightly mangled acronym of ‘Taking Without Owner’s Consent.’ Essentially car theft, of which there is a fair amount in south London. Luckily, the car survived the evening and we saw neither hide nor hair of young Connor. Perhaps he was inside. His house, or possibly prison, we just don’t know.

It’s difficult to disassociate names from the named. A bad experience can put you right off, leaving an unshakeable conviction that you will never, ever name your child Alison because of that awful girl you went to school with (names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Consequently, choosing a name for a baby tends to result in going through those of everyone you’ve ever met and avoiding most of them.

There’s no reason why naming a child after an old nemesis would make you love them any less. It might even redeem that name for you in the future. Connor however was a pretty pervasive influence. Two couples I know have named their first-born after him, and I eye these lovable infants with utter suspicion against my better judgement. For those awaiting the news of number two next week (hello Mother), I can tell you one name that is definitely off the list.

How did you choose the names of your children/pets?  Did you avoid the names of old nemesises (nemisi?)

Putting food on the table

Most evenings around 8pm, Him Indoors and I embark down a well-trodden conversational cul-de-sac. He removes his head briefly from the Guardian comment threads to ask, “What’s for tea?”

An innocent enough question, you might think. My heart sinks. Luckily my brain rises to the occasion – racing through the full range of options suggested by the contents of the fridge. James Martin would be proud of me.

“Pasta and hummus?” No response.
“Spinach and milk?” Nothing.
“Egg – lette?” One eyebrow imperceptibly rises half an inch.
“What do you want to eat?” I ask, hoping to brilliantly volley the dilemma back into his court (and that the answer will require only eggs, hummus, pasta and milk to make.)
“Tapas.”
“That’s like saying you’d like a buffet.”
“Ooh, I WOULD like a buffet.”
“Soup?”
“That’s a drink.”
“With bread?”
“Still a drink.”

A brief discussion follows about my taking the question “What’s for tea?” too personally, and we go our separate ways. I to write a blog post about my inability to produce a basic meal, he to pore mournfully through the freezer. By now he will have discovered that that particular cupboard is also bare.

Who are these people who keep a freezer full of past triumphs anyway? Who has the foresight to cook for their kitchen appliances? Should I make the toaster a portion while I’m at it? Even assuming I had the organisational skills, I just don’t have the vision to look at a lump of frozen guano and see the chicken casserole I made last Wednesday.

My excuse, and I’m sticking to it, is that the freezer is full. Full of peas, ice, croissants, mince and fish fingers. The idea of shoe-horning a couple of lasagnes in there as well is laughable. Perhaps Alpha Mums have a chest freezer in the garage? Not that I’d be any better prepared if we did have the outbuilding required for such a thing. In that scenario the food would be there, but I’d lack the emotional resolve to reconstitute it.

Thank heavens for Tooting, the curry nirvana of the Western world. I couldn’t possibly move to the actual countryside, we’d surely starve.

Blueberry pancakes

I have to thank my cousin Laura and her husband for the inspiration for these.  They made them for us on a recent family get together and they’re just the best pancakes ever.

The blueberries add a sweetness and juiciness which takes them to another level.  Add a couple of rashers of crispy bacon and a generous drizzle of maple syrup for breakfast nirvana.  Very popular with two year olds!

Blueberry pancakes

Makes 12 or so

Dry ingredients

150g / 6oz plain flour
40g / 1.5 oz vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients

1/2 pint buttermilk
50g / 2oz melted butter
1 egg

and…

a small punnet of blueberries

1. Mix the wet and the dry ingredients in separate bowls.

2. Pour half of the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well.  Then stir the remaining dry ingredients in.

3. Heat a pan to medium heat and dollop on a couple of spoonfuls of mixture.

4. Add three or four blueberries to the top of each pancake.

5. Turn when browned and bubbles appear, which should take around 90 seconds.  In another 90 seconds or so they will be perfectly cooked.

6. Serve with butter, maple syrup and crispy rashers of bacon (plus sausages and a poached egg according to Him Indoors.)

Tractor!

The big news is that we’ve given the garden an overhaul.  We’ve ditched the veg beds, the worms have been released into the wild and the compost heaps dismantled.  The small boy needs a football pitch!  Whilst it’s sad to see it all go, we haven’t entirely given up on growing our own.  I hope to be back into it before too long, but the small patch of earth is to be used for sitting about and kicking a ball around for the foreseeable whilst we do more baby wrangling (number two due early May.)

There are four small fruit trees in blossom at the moment, so the garden is not quite barren.  Two apples, a cherry and a plum are all budding away and we hope for some home-grown fruit this summer.  The boy is a fruit fiend and loved the apples last year – fingers crossed we get a good crop.  The raspberries also went in the overhaul, but it might be possible to plant some in pots on our new patio (does that mean I’m finally a grown up, having a patio?)

The most exciting discovery for the small boy was to find that we have a ‘Tractor!’ in the shed.  I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s just a lawnmower.  He was very excited about pushing it up and down, we may have a useful garden helper before long.  No doubt though by the time he’s strong enough to push it around on his own the novelty will have worn off.

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