Saturday, 29 December 2012

New Year, New Projects

I hope you've had an enjoyable Christmas. We stayed at home this year and so was just the four of us, which was really lovely. For the first time it seemed that our children (now 4 and 6) were young enough to be excited about Christmas, but old enough not to be such bloody hard work.

For the past six years, broken sleep, nappies and all the day to day slogging of looking after young children sort of takes the shine off the festive period. And being woken up after a night of too much mulled wine at sparrows fart was too much to contemplate.

But this year I sat with my excited children at 6.30am on Christmas Day as they competed to show me what Father Christmas had brought in their stockings. Oldest had been asking some awkward questions about the existence of the big man, but this year was convinced as he'd got a Hexbug Nano in his stocking which apparently showed that "I think FC really knows me, because he knew I'd like a Hexbug and I hadn't even said anything". I'm not about to mess about with icing sugar footprints or any other kind of glittery shit, but I'm glad that the belief was still there, at least for this year. I can just about remember the pant-wetting excitement of feeling a lumpy stocking at the foot of the bed and just knowing that 'he's been!'.

I had a few crafty presents among my gifts and also rather excitingly, a digital radio. This will go up in the study so that I can listen to Radio 4 as I stitch - bliss! This is traditionally the time of year to think about plans for the new year, resolutions and all that jazz. I'm planning to kick off 2013 with a bit of a crafting detox. Basically I have banned myself from buying anything new in January, any projects will have to use materials already in the house. And trust me, there's plenty in the stash to be going on with...

I have a couple of birthday presents to sort for January (I think knitted gifts may feature) and I have a box of card blanks left over from Christmas so I have no excuse not to make the cards as well. I'd also like to make a little dolly bed for Youngest and am eyeing up a handy-looking shoebox. But for now my presence is demanded at the great Lego contruction (as it is of course still raining, this being Bristol and all).

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Sparkly Things

Youngest child is back to full health, and was badgering to go to preschool this morning (thank god for that - I'm not great at sustaining patience during the 'getting better but still really whingy' stage of illness). So it was time to fight my way past the piles of Christmas presents in the study and get making. We're also hiding two bikes in there, so it was a little cramped.

I found out yesterday that I didn't get shortlisted for a job that I really wanted a shot at. I also found out that they had 170 applications for the post - talk about stiff competition! I just have to be grateful that at least we can manage on one salary, and that whilst I would love to be working at the moment, others are in a much worse position employment-wise. As a SAHP it's hard not to feel the fear that I will be financially dependent on my husband forever, but I just have to trust that we'll find our way through.

I'm also trying to see it as an opportunity, as going out to work would mean less time for other things. So I'll keep doing the worthy bit, volunteering on committees, helping out at the school etc. After all, someone has to keep the Big Society going, eh Dave? Then of course there's all that shopping, lunching and making myself purty for my man, that takes up a fair amount of my time...

Nah, not really. I'm off down the pub now to meet up with my craft group. Cheers!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Change of Plan

I had plans for this weekend, not grand plans mind, just normal ones. Go to the dentist on Saturday morning, run a few errands, bake a cake, do some sewing for the stall next week, and on the slightly more exciting front, go out on Saturday night and meet a bunch of strangers from the internet (aka a Mumsnet meet-up). But that's not actually what happened... of course not.

The run-up to the weekend had begun with the three year old being too poorly for childcare on Friday. But no matter I thought, I'm going out on Saturday night. I'll get my reward for mopping up sick and trying to force calpol into a recalcitrant preschooler, with chat about the Mumsnet scarf and Centre Parcs. And things on sticks and plenty of booze. Lovely.

On Saturday morning my daughter was no better, and my spidey senses were starting to shift from the default position of 'If you take her to the docs now they'll give you the anxious mother look' to actually being, well, an anxious mother. So off I bombed to the GP surgery before 9:00am, thinking I'd just get them to have a little listen to her chest, give me the look and send us home with instructions for clear fluids and calpol as usual. And hopefully make it to the dentist by 10:00am. My first clue that things weren't going down that route was when I turned up the surgery and the receptionist politely informed me that the surgery was only open for pre-booked appointments and that I should really go to out of hours. She then took a closer look at my slightly unkempt state and the sad child on my hip and said she would ask the GP on duty if we could be seen.

The next sign that things were really not so ok, was that the GP not only agreed to see us straight away, but then listened to my daughter's chest and started to do the serious look. And then hooked my now very pale sad child up to a nebuliser while she went to phone the children's hospital.

So we had a rather too eventful morning in A&E with more nebulisers, oxygen masks and chest x-rays, before being admitted to the short stay ward for observation, and nurses started muttering things about an overnight stay. I can tell when my children are properly ill, by the way that they lose all their fight, and submit to people doing necessary but rather unpleasant medical procedures with only a sad little whimper. Plenty of that this weekend.

There's been a fair amount of media coverage recently about compassion and caring in nursing, and whether it's missing. Speaking from my recent experience I'd have to say not. I was incredibly impressed by the care that my daughter received, and the attitude of the staff towards her. Sure, there was one slightly brusque antipodean nurse, but I think they're obligatory. And her main concern was to get the children better so they could get out of there, something that all of us would agree with.

But of course the main thing about our hospital visit is that for us it was a rarity. Barring the odd visit to check out possible broken limbs or swollen appendices (they weren't), we've had minimal contact with hospitals. So I didn't take offence at being referred to as 'mum' by all healthcare professionals. Because if you're at hospital with your children long enough for the nurses to learn your name, then you've got bigger things to worry about....

I'll stop now as I've gone on too long already. I don't even have a lovely picture to cheer up this post either. Back to cupcakes and bunting soon I promise.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Chutney Time

Behold the golden goodness of a jar of homemade spiced carrot chutney. There's plenty more where that came from too... It's fairly garlicky, with a little hit of chilli, just right with cheese and biscuits.

I was given this recipe by my lovely friend Jo, I checked with her and she is more than happy to share the love, so the recipe is below. Just a few words of warning before you start, especially if you haven't made chutney before.

Firstly, you will need a REALLY big pan, as this is quite a lot of chutney that we're dealing with here. If your pan is a bit on the small side, stirring will be tricky (and messy). I was lucky enough to be given a Maslin pan for my birthday last year which does make things easier.

Secondly, your house will reek of vinegar while you're cooking this, and possibly for days afterwards, sorry. Best to keep kitchen doors shut and open a window if possible.

Finally, and most important, do make sure that you sterilise your jars and lids properly. You don't want to spend hours over a hot chutney pan to discover mouldiness when you check your chutney stash later on. I give my jars a good scrub with hot soapy water and then put them into a low oven (about 110) for 30 mins. Fill the jars while they're still hot from the oven.

Ingredients
(makes about 10 x 454g jars)

1.8kg carrots (grated)
110g fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 litre cider vinegar
8 dried red chillies
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp coarsely crushed coriander seeds
2 star anise
60g coarse sea salt
3 heads of garlic
500ml water
1.5kg granulated sugar

How to make
1. Put carrots in a bowl with ginger, vinegar, spices and salt, mix together and cover with a tea towel and leave overnight.
2. Next day separate heads of garlic and peel all the cloves.
3. Put carrot mixture in a big pan and add garlic and water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins.
4. Stir in the sugar and bring back to the boil, stirring occasionally, until the chutney is thick and jammy. 
5. Remove the larger items (cinnamon sticks/star anise and its up to you re: chillies) but leave the garlic in.
6 Let it settle off the heat for 3 mins before ladling into sterile jars and screwing the lid on tightly.

You can eat this straight away, or it's even better if you leave it for a few weeks. Still time to make some for Christmas - and good for a gift too, especially if you pair it up with a nice piece of cheese and some crackers.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Fabric Advent Calendar

Fabric Advent Calendar
It's done! I have made my children a fabric advent calendar in time for the start of advent. And despite the grumbles about lack of chocolate or Moshi Monsters, they seem fairly pleased with it. Of course it's not really finished, as I've only made the little decorations up to about day seventeen... But the remaining pieces are all cut and I've embroidered most of the numbers. Now just a case of sewing them all up.

We celebrated the first day of December yesterday by watching our Snowman/Father Christmas DVD straight after breakfast. Now I love Raymond Briggs (we have the Father Christmas books too), but this particular DVD did get watched rather a lot last year. By  February I was begging for relief so did tactically 'lose' it for a while until they'd forgotten about it. There's also the fact that my sensitive six year old bursts into tears at the end of The Snowman. Every. Single. Time. My hard-hearted three year old couldn't care less.

Husband was also despatched yesterday to buy a Christmas tree, and returned with a dinky little pot-grown one. I like to have one with roots as we tend to get a couple of year's use out of a tree like this, it goes out into the garden in a gert big pot in between Christmasses.

Hopefully now I can get on with making a few more bits and pieces to sell, as I've booked a stall at the Ematingz Christmas market on 15 December. I have a lovely bundle of retro style fabrics from Seamstar that is just begging to be fashioned into some patchwork stockings. If you're in Bristol that weekend, do pop over to Easton Community Centre.

Update - I've just added this post to the Mumsnet Craft Round-up. Check out this link for more festive craft ideas.