‘He, it’s just a pronoun’

Oh bugger! I today, have the worry, in the back of my mind, that I am not and never will be a competent writer! A blog is only just a blog. It’s a voice into the ether isn’t it? One has to question if it’s worth it’s salt. Just a handful of my Facebook friends are following me. So I have to question, is it worth it. My education in English language that was taught back in ‘the day’ was completely incompetent. It left me with such misunderstanding! So, what is a noun, a verb, let alone a pronoun! The educational system I received, was somehow at fault. I went to a grammar school, in fact the final year of state sponsored Grammar Schools. But the idiots in Westminster at that time completely took out the indoctrination of the English language and the essential grammar attached by their inarticulate and inconceivable curriculum.? I was left feeling as good as illiterate. And they think state schooling is so buggered nowadays! I can only continue this with hope. Hope that our tomorrow is an improvement on our yesterday’s.

Chips’n’Choices

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Once again, not a card game, rather dinnertime with my ‘not so famous five’. Another model day, no big dramas and Sindy took all five to the park after they picked up the girls from school. In they all barged asking what was for dinner and I replied, Chips’n’Choices. I’ve told you about this one before haven’t I? Everyone gets chips and a choice of the leftovers in the fridge. We had ratatouille, cooked chicken breast and green beans or spaghetti bolognese. And of course they all opted for the pasta option. So okay, I decided to make real chips using the deep fat fryer. Their first time for real chips made at home (and with a sprinkling of salt). It’s always oven chips or home made wedges. They all had the same, equating to a bit of everything. Funny to watch them really as they all ate a different thing first. Tara went for the chips, asking if we could have them every night. Just the chips she asked, with lots of salt. I flatly replied no! Thor unusually went for the courgette in the ratatouille. He used to moan and groan all the time about not liking courgette. Funny boy. And Caleb devoured all of his pasta first. Anyhow, the chit chat at the table was about their school day, then it progressed on to Caleb wearing a dress. And how he liked to be like Tara. What then transpired, was news to me and that was that on occasion, he slips off his nappy and puts on one of Tara’s pairs of nickers! He likes to parade around the room, it would seem. They all laughed, especially Caleb. Hopefully just a phase, like any other. I think the thing is to not make such a big deal about it. But again, I do worry. Lots of kiss and hugs and they have just headed upstairs for their shower and a bedtime story. I’ve been quite productive today and produced a large quantity of clementine ‘Orangettes’ for dipping in chocolate. They’re still drying out on greaseproof paper, sat on the chest freezer. Once fully dry, a dusting of castor sugar and an airtight tin, waiting to be chocolate coated for the Xmas season that is rapidly approaching. I also managed to make some apple and orange pastil. To be chopped up also and chocolate coated when the time is right. Enough of thoughts on Christmas. But it is creeping up slowly…

Special Fried Rice

Yes the title of this chapter would indicate the children’s dinner tonight. A dish they have always enjoyed since babyhood. Though in the early days with the little ones, there was always an element of ‘pebble dashing’… Can I also give some advise to parents with under fives in tow? Do not be drawn in by the commercials selling you aqua beads, kinetic sand and magic mosaics. If you have small children, (you know where I’m going with this), they have the rare ability to scatter the smallest projectiles to the winds. I will leave the bit about glitter and stickers to another time. But back to today’s dinner of special fried rice, just like you might order from the local Chinese takeaway, thankfully it all remained 100% on their plates. And I must add that they all finished and a dessert of chocolate chip cake bars was the reward for such good behaviour and increasingly improved table manners. The three hour cleanup after the kinetic sand incident (all five were guilty) was remembered in situ with an earlier moment when the smaller twins used to try to articulate their spoons filled with rice and the attempts to raise their said spoons to their mouths. We ended up with a dust pan and brush on more than one occasion on evenings where rice dishes were involved. But the children still love Dadda’s special fried rice. And we still enjoy a variety of international cuisine accompanied by rice. The method for perfect rice will follow. Everyone should have the competence to cook such a basic food like rice. My method will guarantee a perfect result! So please heed the very basic steps that follow.

Don’t use the hob – that is your memory of the last overcooked rice dish you want to avoid! Use your microwave please. It’s good for a couple of things and rice is one of them. Don’t use the usual big brands of long grain – easy cook blah de blah. Just buy regular basmati rice. Use a ceramic or Pyrex dish with a lid. I always Place two sheets of kitchen towel on the revolving plate within the microwave in case of some spillage. Fill your dish with a little under 40% of dry rice. Over 50% will be a big problem. Fill the rice filled dish with water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Swish with your fingers and empty, then cover again with cold water. Swish, empty and fill again with hot water. Don’t weigh it, just fill with water that looks about twice the height of the pre soaked rice and add a good amount of salt. Cover with a lid, or a plate to seal and microwave the hell out of it for fourteen, maybe seventeen minutes, depending on being 750 or 850 wattage. After said time, remove with oven gloves and turn out onto a roasting tray or large dish. It will look like a block of solid rice. Don’t be fooled… use a fork and gently break apart and move the clumps away from the central mass and kind of break up into smaller grains with the fork. Perfect cooked rice, never over cooked or under cooked, always flakey grains of perfectly cooked, quality rice. Cook as much as your dish will allow. Use maybe half for your meal and spoon the remaining half into a freezer bag. Seal and once cold, use your fingers to break up any remaining clumps of rice and freeze. Your next rice meal will be as simple as a defrost and a three minute microwave and it will produce a second, even simpler dish of perfect, flaky rice that is cooked to perfection. Tonights special fried rice was indeed a case of defrosting a per frozen bag of pre cooked basmati rice. Too easily achieved and such an astounding result. Good appetite and good nite nite.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Today is a happy and relaxed day with our not so famous five. Tara and Amritsar are on a school trip to Hampton Court Palace and Sindy has just left with the little ones to collect them from school as their coach has just returned. More on this later. Okay, Aaliyah has been so much better behaved today and Thor has been a quiet and laid back little boy. There’s always ups and downs I know, with parenthood. Today is going well. As for Caleb, for the last few days his behaviour has altered. He seems much happier and is constantly holding his arms open to me for a hug. Not just any hug, but he wants a kiss as well. All of our children like a kiss and hug, but the kiss is usually on the forehead or cheek. Caleb on the other hand is insistent on a kiss on the mouth. It’s very sweet really. You see sadly, Caleb and I weren’t the best of friends in the past. I always tend to be ‘Bad Cop’ and John enjoys the mantle of being ‘Good Cop’ as he only gets to be with the children at the weekends and every second Thursday. With Aaliyah and Caleb in particular, they have only ever thought of me as the bad cop, so I guess our bond and love has taken a bit longer to establish itself. John used to find it impossible to be the bad cop. That has now changed and in history, I think the two little ones only remember me saying NO to ‘uppies’ all of the time. As babies I hugged and hugged them so much, but they don’t remember that far back do they! It did get quite bad when they were toddlers and I was more adamant that we picked them up less and less. John on the other hand only saw them part time and wanted them in his arms as much as possible. I get it, but there is a time that your baby becomes a toddler and with that comes more and more independence. The last nanny we had would pick them both up constantly, just to counter me saying that we should pick them up less. She was very young and a bit spiteful come to think of it. We are so much happier with Sindy, now with us for the last eighteen months. We still enjoy plenty of ‘uppies’, just not all of the time. And with John occasionally playing bad cop now, it allows me to be good cop with our two youngest some of the time. Hence, my relationship and friendship with Aaliyah and Caleb has come on in leaps and bounds of recent. We are all a lot happier.

We’re Jammin’

Yes, in Bob Marley’s immortal words, we certainly have been. Spring, Summer and Autumn, the provisions cupboard is bursting at the seams. ‘Dadda’s Jams’ have always been a big hit with the children and the relatives at Yule tide. This year however, with a more than competent nanny and the children either at school or preschool, I have a lot more time on my hands than I used to. And as for next year, they will all be at school from 9am until 3.15pm. I will definitely need a full time occupation. It would have to be from home of course. As babies, there wasn’t really a free moment to spare from dawn till dusk (and then some more). I only found the time to start ‘The Art of Preserves’ as a hobby in very rare, spare moments really. So here we go!

The heat is on!

No, not a catchy tune from a classic eighties movie, rather the sound of the fuel pump and the heat radiating through this previously very chilly old house. It feels like a home again. Though I did enjoy the exuberance of the open log fire these last few weeks, it just feels great to have warmth and constant hot water. Bathing in the sink with the kettle, a thing of the past. Bring on a nice hot shower. The ‘Old Boy’ who fleeced us last weekend, should be ashamed, what with making unnecessary work for his standard hourly rate and not actually fixing the problem that was at hand. I won’t go into details, I’m just happy that things are looking up again.

Our nanny Sindy has just arrived back from her midday break and the little ones are getting motivated upstairs. Breakfast and the school run was as per normal except the shouting and screaming of Aaliyah. She returned home from preschool, a model child. Their midday nap was a quiet one. Backtracking now as to why Aaliyah was screaming with discontent on the school run – she had viciously grabbed Amritsar’s nicely brushed pony tail and pulled it a number of times with a certain ferocity. It was all rather cruel and poor Amritsar wept in grief. What brought it on was next to nothing. I didn’t even really pick up on it, just a split second my back was turned, it wasn’t clear what provoked it, but it was nothing that a seconds behaviour would deserve. I picked her up underarm and sat her in the thinking chair. I did raise my voice – perhaps too loudly. I shouted a bit and mentioned ‘Mrs Snodgrass’. It got the desired response, but there was still little remorse for what she had done. I reaffirm what I said yesterday in that the little ones have a massive step to take in growing up before they join the minions of school children in reception year.

For me the morning was devoted to standing over the Aga stirring a rather large pot of ‘Tomato Chutney’ every few minutes or so, to be sure it didn’t catch and burn. It would seem that ‘Dadda’s Jams’ have gone savoury this month. The glass jars of ruby red relish with little flecks of mustard seed peaking through the glass have been thoroughly sterilised and are now labelled and stacked besides the spice pumpkin jam that was made over the weekend with defrosted pumpkin pulp made with the remains of ‘Mr Pumpkin Head’, our door sentry guarding us over ‘All Hallows Eve’. I want to do something with the glut of pears I have. Any ideas out there? I’m thinking of a combination of pears and vanilla. More to follow later.

Musical Statues

We have just rounded off the day with a session of musical statues to ‘The Lighting Seeds’ (various) and ‘Mmmbop’ by the legendary Hanson. At which time, Thor was back on ‘The Thinking Chair’. His third time today in fact. The first time was 10.58 this morning, he shouted throughout the two minutes silence, and as for the other two little ones with their muttering, giggling and whispering. Our two older girls got it! They have been looking at war and remembrance at school. I really am worried that the three little ones will not be ready for primary school next year – they just seem a complete world away from Amritsar and Tara, completely chaotic and discombobulated. It’s gonna have to be a hop, skip and jump of a year for them to be prepared for the big step next September. Anyhow, lunch was Spaghetti puttanesca and later. cheese, ham and pickle sandwiches at dinnertime. With the heating system still playing up and the six hundred pounds spent last weekend to fix it and the old boy who did or didn’t do the work not answering frantic texts and voicemails, we are still without heat and hot water. I’m so sick that these cowboys still exist. Damn him, we have five small children and all I can smell is heating oil around the outside boiler and tank. Giving thanks to the open fire we are now embracing. Don’t worry, I am told that heating oil is not ignited by the fumes in an open environment and there is no smell in the house or living room.

A very quick mention regarding Gracie. She was absent from lolling about with Remus, besides the open log fire for some time after the children had eaten their sandwiches, or rather not eaten. The four or five sandwich quarters that lay towards the top of the push top ‘Brabantia’ bin in the kitchen had been scoffed. She had managed to push the top of the bin and nozzled in her snout to devour the contents. Not the first time a bin liner had been ravaged by her, but certainly the first bin hacking in this house. Naughty Gracie.

The children are all upstairs in bed now after a particularly traumatic nappy, teeth and jimjam session. But all is quiet up there and a couple of hours of sanity is to be had now by these two, relatively beleaguered parents. Though this blog is not attempting to be political! Last thoughts are with ‘Remembrance Sunday’ and the remarkable people who went before and gave so much in very difficult times. We thank you! Goodnight…