Monday, 31 January 2011

Last day

I have blogged for 31 days...yipppee. Pem asked if I was going to give up now, but no, that is not the plan. I may not be on here all the time, but we will see.
I wanted to show you some things that have been going on:

Firstly, I sent an email to my local MP, Nicholas Soames, about educating children about money management and how dangerous things like credit cards can be in lulling us into a false sense of economic security, because on the whole, we do not understand, or ignore the pitfalls, of living in hock! The email was generated by moneysaving, one of my fav sites and one I subscribe to. The result of the email was...

A letter from the man himself, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, but not quite the man his grandfather was! Nice to get a letter, but he can't help me, he says..

Then, the other day I saw this at one of the local charity shops:
An absolutely beautiful African woven basket. It took me back to my childhood and Big J too, remembers them from his days in Kenya. I like that we have an African connection, even if we were on opposite sides of the continent.

And finally, this is what I have been up to of late, inspired by Attic24 and against my pledge not to embark on more projects. It is a bag or could be for storage. I wanted to work in colours and as I do not have a huge range, made do with those I have. It is cheerful and great fun to work on, but what am I going to do with it? Any ideas?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Bubble baths and bubbly

What luxury. To sit in a big deep bubble bath and drink champagne. That is how we spent the afternoon. I got to chill out and J read the sports pages of the paper. The hotel was old and restful and the room huge. We ate in a Nepalese restaurant and had a very nice time.
Home today and the weather is still icy. BJ and son are sniffly and not too well. 2nd daughter stayed with friends overnight and was playing cricket on the green when we got home. How English.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Slipping away

Big J and I are off to Tunbridge Wells to stay in a boutique hotel for the night. This is a belated birthday outing for me as the original date was snowed out.
More tomorrow.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Home again

Big J is home from his trip with two blue 'eyes'. The woman who read his coffee dregs told him he needed one to protect him.
I love the colour and have one in my car from our trip to Northern Cyprus last year. BJ was told he has a big cat at home...true, that he would travel to a place where there are dolphins...(Australia?), that the illness that put him in hospital last year would return and that a wish will come true sooner than he thinks! Will keep you posted on how accurate the predictions are.

Three of us tonight and we have had the GCSE conversation. More of a chat.
It went well.

I have some photos to take to add to the blog, but it is Friday night and it has been a long day.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Mussels and Mackerel

Pem and I shared a bowl of fresh mussels tonight, she had hers with frites, and then we had a grilled mackerel each. It was a rare chance to sit across the table from each other and make a big mess over the meal. Very nice.

Han-solo has been in touch to say there is a lot of snow and that the houses are really colourful. She seems to be having a great time. At break time the kids sledge and snowboard on a slope beside the school.

I am nearing 4 weeks of temperance and am looking forward less to the odd glass of wine than to adding a bit more variety to the diet.

Icy cold here today with snowy showers. John will be home at about midnight. He had his coffee dregs read while in Turkey and says that it was interesting. He will give me the details later.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Have a look at this, if you like colour.
I sat and looked through the photos on Flickr last night and was mesmerised. Inspiring. But, I am trying to SLOW DOWN a little and not take on lots of new projects. My brain is full of ideas, but the result is a frustrated me because there is not enough time. I work, parent, taxi, blog, workout, do house things, cook, shop, am about to launch into the spring growing season, ebay and I have my HUGE Hawaiian quilt to complete. So, I have promised myself that I will work on finishing the things that need to be done, will find a bit of slow time for me and be patient. There will be time.
There will be, and sooner than I would wish for. This morning I said goodbye to Han-solo, who has gone to Norway for a week. She had loads of layers and furry boots which should keep her warm. I hate saying goodbye to them and get more anxious as the days wear on. But they have their lives to get on with and it is my job to let them do that.

It is Australia Day today, and I was going to make Lamingtons, but the pig to twig regime does not permit such things. Might have some raspberries instead!

This evening there are only two of us. Bowl-Head and me. We went to Tesco's in the nearest town and then Mama went to Body Combat and really worked it. Now back home with my littlest girl, we have chosen the meal for tomorrow night and we are going to sit down and talk about her GCSE options.

My man comes home tomorrow night. Han-solo has Facebooked me from Norway and Buffalo Clive is coming home on Friday. All is well.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


National Blog Posting Month
Confused, I thought posting daily for a month here on THIS blog counted, but it is not same. One is to sign up to write a blog on their site, and to be honest, I am not sure I can do two of them.
So I will continue here on my blog.
I once did NaNoWriMo , National NOVEL writing month!! and wrote the most amazing piece of drivel. But I did it and have 2 T-shirts for my efforts, which I deleted with a huge sense of relief and embarrassment after the event...The World Wide Web has a lot to answer for allowing so many millions of us to put our thoughts out there. Scary.

Monday, 24 January 2011

At home with the girls

Big J is in Turkey and A is in Hove, so it is just me and the girls at home. Tonight is for domestic activities and chores. To make the place look a bit more tidy and touch base with the girls.

It has been a week of reunions. Now a dear, dear friend, who has moved from Japan to London has been in touch. Tomorrow we talk to see what we can arrange. Really looking forward to seeing her.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

London Mystery History Walk

Today a group of Med Secs

went to London for a History Mystery walk lead by Juliet, (former - dammit) Team Leader, currently a Walk Leader and soon to be a Book Club Leader.
At this point only the bits I remember will get a mention as London is still new to me in parts and it gets to be a blur. So; Drury Lane, Covent Garden, Somerset House, (where it was the last day of the ice-skating, a very pretty sight.) We went into bowels of the building here and saw an exhition of photos of the band Joy Division. In most of the spots that we stopped to 'hear' the history read from the book, there was a ghost or two resident. Dan Leno was the most appealing in that he is/was the most appalling! Click on the link and see his story. We ended up on the embankment before Cleopatra's needle, a fine erection of great historic note. Bit worried that I might be infringing copyright by adding the last link, so if anyone know that I am, do let me know. The last spot on the walk was the York watergate where the Thames used to come up to. It is 150m from the bank of the river now.
Once off the walk we visited the National Gallery to see the artist Ben Johnson work on his huge painting of London and to see how it is put together. It is the effort of a team and involves drawing, CAD, stencils and air brushing. He has been working on it since last year and anyone could pop in to chat and watch. Today was the last day, and a small area in the bottom right corner was yet to be completed.
Lunch in Wagamama followed. Great food and a lot of fun considering the restraint shown by some on the alcohol front....sigh.
Last culture stop was the incredible Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. We all enjoyed this and it is well worth a visit.
The trains were a bit of a bore in that we could not get directly from Victoria to home, so the return journey was a long one.
And now here is a picture of me losing my head!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Rites of passage

There are many rites of passage in life, some major and some quite small, but no less significant at the time. One for 1st daughter today.

Han-solo wanted contact lenses although we made her wait until she was 16. The first fitting today ended with a torn lense and half still in her eye, so she is going back next week to try again. She has pretty poor eyesight, so was actually delighted to have the lenses in and to be able to see her own face without glasses on. It was when she was practising putting them in and taking them out herself that the lense split. The optomotrist had to remove it.

She and Em (aka Bowl Head, thanks to big brother... I much prefer Pems.) and I were in Tunbridge Wells today. Mainly to use some of the gift vouchers they got for Christmas. I like shopping with them, although I usually end up saying something is nice to moans of 'Mu---um, it's disgusting....'

As we were driving there I was thinking how glad I am to have had them with me all their lives. Admittedly, I have always worked, so have missed out on some events, but at least they are with us, and not in boarding school. I was at school from the age of 9 until I went to uni and so in fact, really never lived full time with my parents again from a very young age. School was great on many levels and at one point I thought it was best for all kids. I feel so differently now. These two will be leaving one day and I want to enjoy having them here while I can.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Facebook and Family

A cousin I have not seen since I was about 11 or 12 has been in touch, initially through Facebook. She has lived/worked around the world but now is in England, not too far away. I am thrilled to hear from her and can't wait to see her. Also, thankful for FB. But I am not a fan. I joined to see if I could link up with family on this side of the globe and in the end ran out of reasons to log in once I knew their contact details. I found it irritating to read at times and wondered at some of the things that people felt they should put up on their walls. (Pot calling kettle black here?...I do blog after all). It is nice to know that friends are fine, but email is better, phone calls better still and the best of all is a get together to talk.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


2nd daughter is about to choose her GCSE subjects. This is a big step. She is keen on art and cooking, will take French and Japanese, this much we think is clear. Tonight the school hosts the first of many sessions that allow parents and students to get their heads around all the options available.

In a few short months she will leave lower school and I will have two senior high school daughters! They grow up too fast.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New people - new places

Big J's friend is awesome. That is a good word for her. Heavily involved in charity work, fluent in Japanese, actively promoting all things Japanese in the UK and now looking to work in India on a long term project that will involve microfinance. It is always a priviledge to meet people who are simply doing what they do and getting on with it. Inspiring.
From a delicious meal, we, BJ and I went walking. I love to do it in London. I feel there is so, so much of the city that I am ignorant of. Today we went to Covent Garden. A first for me and it was fabulous.

I met this lady, Penny Burdett, at her stall selling the most stunning knitted scarves, fingerless gloves and hats. The scarves are on her website.

A trip to a restaurant supply shop netted us a new spatula!, and one to 'Arigato', a Japanese supermarket, resulted in NATTO, miso soup bowls and some miso soup for home. Natto is fermented, sticky soya beans. A bit pongy and old cheesy in smell and taste, but a bit favourite with the girls.

We also went to the Curzon Cinema in Soho, one of BJ's favourite haunts, and it is really a great place to have a break when in town.

A lovely day and home before tea.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

London Calling

Off to the city tomorrow for a Japanese meal with friend's of Big J's. Looking forward to the break and the food.

Today a cousin contacted me through FB and I have not seen her for nearly 40 years....we were small when we last met. I have not responded as yet. Need to take it slowly and not rush.

A very good ebay day for moi as well. I can just see that little holiday house now!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Don't believe everything you hear!

Monday 17 January 2011 is/was meant to be the gloomiest day of the year.
Credit card bills arriving, revealing in harsh black and white how much we all actually spent over the holidays and how little we have left to show for it. NY resolutions abandoned, diets drowned in chocolate and wine and here, where we are, RAIN.....
The only thing that applied to me in that list was the rain. Lots of heavy rain.
Work was a bit stressy, but GA and I went to Rumba - the new teacher is not as dynamic as the previous one. Both of us wanted to shake more booty, but it did get the heart going.
We are looking at BODY COMBAT as something to try out next. Mmmmm

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Eyore's cloud

There are times when a cloud of gloom develops inside me and unfortunately it lingers there, unwelcome and disturbing until it fades away. Not often and not for long, but this morning there was a grim little cloud lurking and it was not easy to shift. I always think of Eyore in Winnie the Pooh, he had his own little cloud above him, making him gloomy. That's how I felt today.

Lots of nice things happened today. Big J and I went to TWO garden centres. We got some seed potatoes, some seeds, including celeriac, some wooden borders for me to make my first, long wished for, raised bed in the vegetable patch. All jolly. Big J and I differ on most things and this was not good at first. Now we realise that we just have to muddle along and listen to each other and low! and behold, we tend to find away.

I cooked an amazing roast chicken. I talked to my youngest and had a laugh and am bouyed by the fact that she has been so cheerful all day and is getting along with her sister.

Han-solo and I went for a walk. We had hoped to borrow Poppy from across the road to take her for a walk. She is an affenpinscher (see picture) and we love her, but today she was already out, so we walked together.

It is a good chance to talk when one walks with children, although Han is no child. She is a very thoughtful young woman. She is trying to work out how she can study in Japan at uni level and whether that is really the path to take. Lots of research, lots of planning and lots of angst lie ahead. But for now, she is with us and that is good. Her younger sister harbours the same dream, infact she wants to move back and live there.

The walk did me good, I have a wonderful family. I have so much. More than enough to fade away the clouds.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Celebrate celariac

Tonight we try mashed celariac, the knobbly root of the vegetable world. With a name which sounds sinisterly close to "celery", most in this family shuddered at the thought.
It smells like a combination of parsnip, turnip and celery. Lovely! Will let
you know how it goes.

Big J and I may go and see the film 'Burlesque' tonight if we can get tickets. I love the idea of burlesque, the clothes, the dancing, the look...that pre-war hair and make-up and those elegant if severely cut clothes.

ONE DAY, when I get my sewing machine I want to make some vintage vogue dresses. I have one already, which I wore to my wedding. It is gorgeous.

Forgot to mention that house cat Bosley has been in another fight and has bloody cheeks and a scabby matted forehead. We bathed his wounds and he purred the whole time...he loves attention, even when it hurts!

Friday, 14 January 2011

The weekend begins...

With a trip to the gym straight from work with GA who is such fun to be with. Some cross-training, good for burning calories and hard on the thighs. Some weights for our arms and a brisk power walk. It is so nice to be at the gym WITH someone. For years I went in Japan and while people would nod at me, there was never any interaction.

Home to Big J and the girls. He has been working hard and Han-Solo was off sick, so he kept an eye on her too. He also managed to make a protein intense meal for us all.

I heard from a lovely friend in the States today, who said she was happy I
was back at the blogging. I am so thrilled. I will do my best to make it good!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Long road

Pig to twig is the goal and I have just read that 'one only sees obstacles if they take their eyes off the goal'....mmmm
Not fun living on eggs and fish and meat. Something caveman about it, and I am not even following it to the letter. Am convinced nothing is happening but do not want to add butter, cream and other things to the menu. Find it really hard to believe that they will do me no harm. (That is what Daleks said before 'EXTERMINATE'). Anyway I ramble. 10 more days of this and we will then decide how to move forward.
Tired because of the diet? Normal.

Water levels are dropping in Brisbane and that is good.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Fairs and fish

The antiques fair was worth the trip in the mist and fog and I got to wear my aubergine coloured Hunters! (Wellington boots, but posh ones). Lots to see and to admire, lots more to wonder at.....had a few Kirsty Allsop inspired moments when I thought I could make something from what I was looking at. Came away with two pieces of paste that will make earrings and a long string of freshwater pearls...not antique, but I love pearls. I also bought a nice little cheese knife as we have been without one for a long time. I forgot to take my camera, very silly for a blogger!

For dinner I got 4 fat sleek makeral and we had a very Japanese meal. Bowl-Head (my lovely 2nd daughter!) made HORENSO NO GOMA AE....wilted spinach, soya sauce, toasted sesame seeds and a tiny bit of bonito stock, mirin and a pinch of brown sugar. All with steamed rice and seaweed sprinkles!
Big news is that we have booked the hotel and tickets for ROME.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Water rising

All day I have been flicking to news about the flooding in Queensland and am concerned now that parts of Brisbane are threatened. I was in Toowoomba in 1974 when the Brisbane River flooded and the aftermath was terrible. School was closed for a week, although some of us borders who had arrived back from New Guinea made it and were there alone. Then there was a major outbreak of 'flu and I was in sick bay for a week.
We all have good friends in Toowoomba and Brisbane, and Gympie, the rural town where my parents shop is also flooded.

On a brighter note, see if you can see this YouTube link. Han-solo and her friend perform a song!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Sweet 16 and ZUMBA

Han-solo is 16 today. She is lovely to look at, a delightful young woman and has many talents. We have had a low key day for her though. A Chinese takeaway tonight and she went to her volunteering job after school as usual.

Friends at school made her this amazing cake:

I had my first ZUMBA lesson, a sort of latino dance/aerobics form of exercise. Loads of fun and shaking of booty and hard, hard work. I have attempted to add a YOUTUBE link to this blog entry to show you, sort of, what it is like.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Crisp and even

The sun shone this morning and there was a heavy frost overnight so everything sparkled. One of those days when it is easy to think that winter is on its way out and we are in for warm weather. John and I set off for walk past the Gullage at Imberhorne Farm. We saw four squirrels, (not red ones), dozens of birds and some very mucky dogs out with their owners. We want a little dog, we talk about it all the time, but we have Bosley and it would be unfair to him to introduce a rival.
Sadly, John's calf problems worsened, he has been in a lot of pain and cannot walk on it for too long. He went home and I carried on and completed the walk alone.
Winter is not over yet, we have a while to go, but today was a lovely respite.

My parents called tonight. They are in Queensland, south of the major floods, but they too are now flooded in to their small village. They say it has rained since November. Grim.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Girl Friends

Leaving Japan meant leaving behind my dearest friend. She was with me through thick and thin, she used to make me tonjiru (pork and tofu soup - it is heavenly) and rhubarb crumble when I stopped eating, which was my reaction to severe stress and was a meal she made more than once for me when my marriage ended. She listens like no-one else and is an absolute hoot to hang around with.
This morning I walked into town to have coffee with two of the women I have made friends with since being at the hospital; one whose marriage has ended recently in a particularly painful way, (all endings are different, and there are some I would not want to have). It is a girl thing, rallying when one is down and being there for the hard parts and meaning it when we say that they can call anytime and we will do what we can to be there. It is good to be able to be there for someone else.

Big J and I have a date tonight, we are off to see The King's Speech. Mmmmm, that Colin Firth is ok!

Friday, 7 January 2011

From pig to twig

The 'Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet'...From Pig to Twig book arrived today. Yeah. Boy do I need some motivating and I love the way India Knight writes, so it should be a good read if anything.
No gym tonight as I am on taxi call and only Em is at home, so we are going to watch some pre-recorded TV, I will crochet (probably fingerless gloves as I am at a loss for ideas and do not want to start any new big projects just yet), and we will chill until the 'come and get me please' phone calls start coming in.
Did walk into town and back at lunch time with a friend which got a bit of blood pumping. It all counts.
Still waiting to hear from Artist Sister....want to book our tickets to ROMA!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Chocolate dog

Have made a green Thai curry and been to the gym since work ended (early) today. Reacquainted myself with the rowing machine, not a happy reunion. Managed only a few minutes before I was huffing and puffing like an old hippo. This was after 40 mins of power walking so it is not end of the world stuff.

Someone wrote a comment on the blog and I was thrilled. I am off to the Ardingly Antiques Fair next week with a friend and am quite excited. I am on the lookout for something for the hallway and of course for my ebay sales. I am now also on the lookout for a woman called Polly and a chocolate (coloured) dog. Have a look at her blog. What a fabulous way to live!

Jamie Oliver has let us down today. The mango icecream I made tasted fishy! All that went into it was honey, yoghurt and frozen mango pieces with some lime juice....mmmmm. The blender is not fishy, so what could it be? Something I did?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Fiddling around

This, my day off has been productive. Firstly I have been fiddling with the blog. To make it nicer to look at and hopefully more interesting. Not easy but worth perservering with. The blogs I follow are so beautiful to look at, always inspiring.
The fish (now called Gaspar after years of being nameless) has cloudy water and that worried me. The local fish shop is well known and they gave me some good advice when I raced down there this morning. The fish may not rejoice as much, as his food is to be limited for some time!
Another Jamie Oliver recipe for tonight, a meeting at the school for the upcoming trip to my day a trip from Toowoomba to Brisbane was just amazing and that was by bus, returning the same day!
Then a little browse/shop planned in the wool shop this afternoon to use up my gift vouchers. My crochet hook has been calling me.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

new work year

Back at work today with a nifty packed lunch of brown rice and black beans, astuyaki tamago (rolled Japanese omelette) veg, olives and fruit and yoghurt. Lovely to see all the crowd and everyone is being very positive about the January detox! Managed about 45 minutes at the gym during lunch hour, slow going, but it is a First Step.

Have heard from Artist Sister who arrived in Rome yesterday. This is her site:
She is a scholar at The British School at Rome ( until the end of March, having won an award from the National Art School in Australia. We plan to descend on her in the next half term. I am incredibly proud of her.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance

This formula is one that I read about over the holidays. It is not new but it works as a guide on how to do something about those things that are always in the back of my mind that remain undone and unchanged.
My problem is that I am always doing new things as well as looking for new things to do and there are times when I feel swamped. There is no end to what I want to be doing, but simulateously I want to be able to slow down and enjoy life more and the things that I do in my life!!
Even getting started on living by the formula is not easy. Big J and I talked about it alot. My solution was to keep a book of lists and ideas. Daily jot down things that must be done or I would like to do. Then work through the lists and get on with whatever is acheivable that day. So far so good. As long as the list is not a measure of things not done and a guide for organising and prioritising, it might work. Watch this space.
Done today from the list:
Christmas decorations etc put away. Living room dusted and vacuumed.
Rice and beans done for tomorrow's meal...
Lunch box ready to be filled. (I hate this one, but think how nice it will be to have a ready made lunch in the morning...yippee)

Now to order school sports socks and find out the dates for the first antique fair at Ardingly this year!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Big J

Big J is 52 today. A year ago he left his 30 year career to branch out on his own. It has been a very good first year, which he deserves. The man works seven days a week and every night after dinner. This year there are some big changes ahead, things may be more challenging. He will rise to them and we are all behind him.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Time for change

It is awful not to blog when there is one waiting for posts. It is like starting a diary at the beginning of a new year and then letting it slide...all that guilt! Not only that, but the sad knowledge that things have been missed and not recorded. Bearing in mind that the recording is for the writer more than the reader...readers, if there are any left, may not care so much...
The fact is I have missed blogging and am about to have another go at it.

It just happens to be New Years Day 2011, but that is less important than the fact it is a holiday and I am relaxed and at home and have TIME to write.

This is an odd time of year and for the most part, while I enjoy certain aspects of it, it is stressful and fraught. I am a natural Scrooge and do not like that Christmas seems to be about excessive spending and splurging when in reality few of us need more in our cluttered lives. My favourite part is the planning of the meals, the cooking and the eating together. A happy group around a table eating and drinking makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Tonight is no different, when we all sit down to eat it will be for a fabulous leek and turkey pie with a chestnut pastry crust. It is a Jamie Oliver recipe and much loved in this house. See for yourselves at this link