Red Sky at Night

Red sky at night, a phenomena I have not seen in some time! But the largely sunny, yet cold skies of yesterday, lead way to a colourful sunset of mottled cumulus clouds, radiating a pink to red hue. Today has been a clear and sunny day here in the Shires, if not a tad chilly. Living in the countryside does have its bonuses. I am no ‘Birder’, but I do appreciate the abundance of summertime bird song. This last springtime on our terrace, gave rise to not just the robins nest, but one built by blackbirds and a song thrush pair nested in the ivy behind the grapevine. Lots of chirping and melodic birdsong. All much quieter now with winter on our doorstep. Do you go with meteorological (1st December) or astronomical (21st December) Winter? I like to go with the astronomical one, on the winter solstice. So for me, the first day of real winter starts on 21st December, the day before Thor’s Birthday. He was born around 11am in Bangkok, seven hours ahead of us, here in the U.K. so (do the maths) he was four hours late of the Winters Solstice. With a name like Thor, trust him to be running a little bit late. Think about the lighting and then the wait on the crash of thunder! Our time in Thailand saw many a thunder storm, especially in the latter months before coming home. I do miss our nanny Ameena. She was very good to us and loved Thor unconditionally. Did I say he was a very loud baby? Well, to settle him, she would walk around the apartment with him in her arms and play that tune ‘little donkey’ on her phone. That would usually do the job, but running water was the other option to getting him to sleep. Just eleven days to go before his fourth birthday. Doesn’t time fly? Mind you, it sucks to have a birthday so close to Xmas. We’ve hired the village hall and a magician to entertain the twenty or so that have been invited. Four is a good age and his sense of reason has come on a lot in recent months. Mind you, there’s not been a day as yet that hasn’t involved at least one major breakdown! Beware the might of Thor! Lol

The Smell of Branston

This smell has been with me now since four o’clock this afternoon. I googled for ‘Branston Pickle recipe’ and found one that said it was as close as I would find! Okay, I read the ingredients on the side of my Branston Pickle jar in the fridge and yes, this recipe seemed close enough. Of course I tweaked it, as I always do. Things were made simpler as we only buy ‘small chunk’ in this house, with the little ones only liking the less chunky consistency. So chopping all of the vegetables in the food processor made light work of it. I decided that I would make my own, partly due to the fact that our nanny, Sindy isn’t a big jam consumer, so there will be a new chutney to add to ‘Dadda’s Jams and Pickles’ range, so she can also enjoy something, lovingly hand crafted, along side her main gift! The other reason why I made ‘Branston Pickle’ was the fact that Thor absolutely loves cheese and pickle sandwiches. His all time favourite ‘combo sammy’. That is, until yesterday lunchtime when he screamed that he hated cheese and pickle sandwiches. I know that children just love to rub you up the wrong way, but Thor was adamant and ended up spending time on the ‘Thinking Chair’ before returning to the table and asking to eat his sandwiches. A similar thing happened with Aaliyah’s lunchtime today. Pate on toast – she loves it, but the tantrums were paramount to world war three. Enough of this and back to the heady aroma of pickle. I’m not going to list the ingredients, just look at the side of your jar at home, in the fridge. But there was over two and a half hours of actual cooking time. So I was marooned I the kitchen for a while, as you have to stir, every now and then. Being out of jam jars, I froze two thirds of the mixture in two one kilogram freezer bags and bottled three 12oz (318g) jam jars.

We had a very simple dinner of thin French fries and burgers in seeded baps. Some of Dadda’s tomato chutney beneath the burger and salad with mayonnaise on top. The girls enjoyed a whole, mega burger and I cut one in half to accommodate Aaliyah and Caleb. I asked Thor if half would be okay with half, as I was looking forward to munching on the surplus half myself. They were very large burgers. No he screamed, M’Want a whole one. I asked again if he was sure and yes – a whole one was the reply. He got a whole one and then proceeded to eat only the French Fries. He picked at the burger, I helped him take a number of bites, but it was clear that it would end up in the bin. Thank you, I exclaimed. I would have really enjoyed half of the burger. He laughed uncaringly, so I fed the burger to the dogs, he screamed and was sent to ‘The Thinking Chair’. He didn’t care, but finally said ‘Sorry Dadda’. As hungry as he may be the next time we do mega burgers, he will only be offered a half portion, as are the other little ones. I’m about to serve up homemade pork mini meatballs (in tomato sauce) and spaghetti for John, but all I can think about is cheese and pickle sandwiches… I wonder why!

The Sunday Roast

Tonight’s update is a very positive one. We all ate a ‘Sunday Roast Chicken Dinner’ together at 5.30pm this evening. Oh dear lord (I’m not at all religious). Not a morsel remained. The hounds were most unimpressed, just a few gravy licks as I was loading up the dishwasher. I believe it’s called ‘the pre-wash’ in households with dogs. The good eating might have been down to the promise of chocolate cake for dessert! Aaliyah was a bit screamy to begin with, but like an Olympic Tri Athlete, she went for gold (with the help from daddy), cutting up her chicken, potatoes and glazed carrots. It is true that I have not served boiled carrots throughout my entire adult life. Many moons ago, as a young man, I considered ‘what must I know, to improve myself in life’ and qualifying as a chef was at the top of the list. So I did so, back in the day (when celebrity cheffing was not really an option as a career) and since then I have chosen to eat well in life and share the outcomes with the people I care for! I believe this aspect is one of the reasons that John and I stayed together as a couple through thick and thin over the years. I did give up cheffing a lifetime or two ago in favour of design. Catering wise, I ended up in catering management and that was the end of being an underpaid, overworked idiot. The majority of my life was spent in the fields of designing clothing, accessories and jewellery. My degree was actually in silversmithing, but I guess it’s like ‘Fine Art’, your passion and persuasions find you. Let’s not get too conceptual here and I’m not going to drop the word ‘juxtaposed’ into the conversation. I’m smiling at the memory of certain, condescending, empty headed (or big headed) college lecturers at the moment! Anyhow, we ate roast chicken, roast potatoes, glazed carrots (please note the last paragraph), steamed Savoy cabbage, cooked in its own juices and crushed garden peas (everything well seasoned) – so much easier than regular peas with the little ones still fumbling with peas and a fork. We all ate well and I think we are at a point that the experience of a Sunday roast is a lot less stressful than in the past. A more regular event then. Just like curry nights. And the children used to hate the word ‘Spice’, yet now love their vegan curries and the the various accompaniments that make an authentic Indian meal. Regarding ‘Glazed Carrots’ I have to share something with you. Stop cooking carrots if you aren’t available to the idea of glazing then. They taste crap when just boiled and eating vegetables should not be a chore. I used to follow the traditional recipe for Glazed Carrots’ but bugger that. Just steam them until soft but still with a bite. Stop them cooking by drenching with the cold water tap. Once chilled, put them in a bowl and in the fridge. Now just before service, in a frying pan, a slug of stock or water, a punch of salt, teaspoon of sugar and a knob of butter – melt and reduce until a syrupy consistency is reached, then toss your chilled carrots in the syrup until hot, steamy and glazed. Delicious, tasty and a big goodbye to boring old boiled carrots. A thing of the past. So back to tonight, there was bath time and bedtime and now, almost mine, so more to follow tomorrow, so I bid you farewell.

The New Tent

You know how little ones love it when there are deliveries that come in large boxes! The hours of fun they have playing with the box(s) and the packaging. In this house, bubble wrap utopia to be found and five little pairs of hands pop, pop, pop into oblivion. When the chest freezer arrived a year ago, the massive box became their house for two weeks. We cut out a door and windows for them, but you know how cardboard becomes more and more ragged as the days progress. Well, we now have a permanent residence in the form of a pretty indestructible tent. We can thank Auntie Sara for it as she sent it over from Dublin a couple of years ago when Amritsar and Tara were little. When we moved to the Shires three years ago, the tent was left behind in London. John brought it back from London yesterday, at my request and the hours of fun that have thus far, produced five very happy children. I was taken aback last night when I looked up and even Remus had snuck into the tent, sat there looking as happy as Larry. He was soon ‘hounded out’ and the children regained permanent residence. At present Aaliyah, Thor and Caleb are sat in there selling ice creams, though it has been a castle and a boat also this morning. On another matter, I’m going to make a family ‘Roast Chicken Dinner’ later, so I will add to the diary, if it went well or that I swear that I’m never going through all the grief, ever again. Watch this space!

Poetry

Does poetry still remain in our combined social consciousness? It’s alright, i’m just having a moment to contemplate! A thousand possible diary entries were conceived today, but my mind has filtered away the all consuming daily riot to find clarity in music, our poetry of modern life. It’s not the beat or the rhythm, but the words that are delivered. The children did a late night invasion, just as I was serving up John and my ‘rack of lamb with dauphinois potatoes, asparagus and green beans. After a late night yesterday, when they finally got to sleep at 9.30on, tonight at 9pm, they stormed down the stairs thinking that their ballistic behaviour was acceptable! Yes, they were marched back up the stairs and all is now quiet.

I always thought that, like Benny and Bjorn, of ABBA fame, that writing the lyrics were a much better option than merely singing them. Now, I have not written poetry since my school days, but what are the lyrics of a song, if not poetry to the ears?

Tara always seemed like our most likely candidate to be a writer of her thoughts, but they are still a few years away from producing rhythmic structures for words, wreaking of sentiment. Now, even I am finding that writing a mere diary entry and delivering it on a platter for you, hard enough going, but I’ve just listened to a country and western song, a chalice of what I imagine the poetry of the soul to be. I will enlighten you now!

There ain’t no stars in faded Gloryville. We’ve chased your dreams into the ground. If disillusioned  has some hope to kill. Here nobody wears a crown.

The road can break you coming down a hill, but going up is always fun. And here we are in faded Gloryville
The victory is never won. And I will not forget the good old days.
When I was driven by my will and I won’t give back all the dues I’ve paid – Here in faded glory Ville.

Lindi Ortega

Now Where Was I

Okay, a couple of nights away for me (no diary entries for two days) and now back to ‘Family Life in the Shires’. John has coped very well with our nanny off Christmas shopping in London and back with us on Monday. Even before I left here on Wednesday, there were dramas to be had. Caleb has removed his nappy and smeared its reeking contents around his bed, teddies, toys, books, face and hands. I won’t go into any further details, but all the boy could do was laugh. I am ever so slightly worried as this is certainly not the first time. Anyhow, I arrived back today from my time away and spent two hours ‘picking up’ the multitude of disarray. John tends to have a different focus on how the house looks than I. Did I say earlier, that I am tired of the continual ‘picking up’! With John off to London tonight for his works Christmas party at some belly dancing (North African) restaurant, he is sure to be exhausted on his return. I am already exhausted after having put the not so famous five up to bed with five ‘Kiss and hugs’ and another mass array of ‘picking up’. On another matter, Thor seems to have five duvets on his bed now. I took two of them, not even his, to put in the wash. The two fluffy blankets in question, are in fact Amritsar and Tara’s baby blankets. I’m going to have to stash them, once dry, to be squirrelled away for inclusion in ‘The Baby Box Project’. Yes, I said ‘Baby Box’. We’ve talked about them for a couple of years now and I think that we are about ready to put them together with the stashed baby memories, at present residing in black bin liners in our walk in closet. The bags are occasionally raided, but I manage to corral back in the said, stolen objects. I believe these two baby blankets were misappropriated by Thor and he now has to sleep with just the three duvets. Another time for the ‘Baby Box’ diary entry and a quiet night now for me and the hounds. More from ‘The Diary of a Gay Dad’ tomorrow.

Manning the Fort

(Well done Caleb)

I am finally sat down besides the rapscallion pair, that are Remus and Gracie, our beloved Dalmatian hounds. Gracie is nestling on Remus’s hip. A good sign that they are friends again, after their quarrel of forty eight hours ago. I’ve not really had time to sit down today as there was just me ‘Manning the Fort’. Our nanny Sindy was off today and one of the mums from school, picked up the girls (and dropped them back). I don’t drive, so the little ones did not get to preschool, rather they stayed home with me for the day. This happens every now and then, but we cope well, as long as another parent can help out ferrying the girls to school. Our morning was filled with some TV, colouring in, drawing and a bit of general play. That is, play that involved some shouting and laughing and thankfully, not too much screaming. Cheese and ham sandwiches for lunch, plus they each had an apple. We always have a full fruit bowl and the not so famous five indulge in the consumption of most fruits to their hearts content. Mind you, I am the biggest indulger, as I often raid it in order to ‘get Jammin’. I cook a lot too, you know! I make a vast array of quick and simple soups, though have not made too many of late! I think we did an asparagus and a potato and watercress in recent weeks. My favourite has to be pea and ham. Just the four ingredients really. Pea, ham, potato (don’t bother peeling) and onion, plus a couple of stock cubes, water and seasoning (there’s zero fat and loads of protein and fibre) I never liquidise this one, just pummel with a potato masher when the ingredients seem to be tender. Always check again for seasoning before serving. Best served with buttered baguette, or a cheese sandwich. Yum. Right, back to this afternoon. Everyone pretty much behaving! No nap after lunch, just ‘hanging out’ really. It’s so much nicer when there are no big dramas. At the three years old mark, they are happy to talk about what they are doing or thinking, so much a move on from the the ‘Terrible Twos’. And play starts to make a lot more sense. Thor was running an ice cream van from the back doorway. He made me purchase two flake 99’s and a zoom ice lolly. Caleb did well with his ‘talking’. I know this coming year will make him. We are getting on much better and today was only full of smiles. He’s getting there isn’t he? We didn’t get the girls first steps on video, or Thor’s come to think of it, but I decided to go out of my way to capture Aaliyah and Caleb, as they took their first, momentous stumbles. I decided from the moment that they did two steps, I would be there with my iPhone to film each and every moment that they looked as if they were going to take the plunge. I’ll include Caleb’s video in this diary entry. I am sure it will make you giggle! The girls arrived home safely, after a good day at school. We had fun, playing leap frog, had penne Bolognese with a sand storm of Parmesan followed by Greek yoghurt, topped with Dadda’s homemade grape jelly from the grapes we grew on our terrace. A lot tastier than plain old honey (sorry bees)! Okay all in bed now. John about to arrive home and I’m thinking of pasta on our dinner plates too. Oh so easy, with some chopped up mushrooms and bacon, herb and garlic Boursin and spaghetti – topped with a second sand storm of parmesan. Nite nite.