Dead Head

The Hydrangea on the terrace got the ‘Dead Heading’ of a lifetime today. No I’m not a gardener, but as John mows the lawn, the trade off is that ‘I maintain the terrace’. It’s quite a big lawn to mow and as John has found, a final end of year mow, once all of the leaves have fallen, is the seasonal roundup and the garden then goes to sleep. No raking up of the multitude of leaves – a definite winner. So yes, I maintained the terrace today, ‘Dead Heading’ the hydrangea and de leaving and pruning into shape, one of the two remaining wisterias.

‘Dead Head’… makes you think doesn’t it! Forgetting the garden now, we all go through the ups and downs in life don’t we? But what about when the downs remain, when they don’t bounce back! Month after month of sadness, festering into blind despair. Definition of sad reads what exactly. I just googled it and dictionary. Com read some thirty six definitions. I won’t list them, but a couple that I personally felt a few years ago are – sorrowful, downcast, downhearted and despondent. And all of that after such a feeling of glory and adulation after the birth of the girls in the spring of twenty thirteen. You see it was a very long eight months I spent in Mumbai. Some of you may remember, some of it, perhaps. I would go as far as to say that coming home with the girls was the end of a very long journey for me. But we did get home, didn’t we? At that time, it was difficult as I was slightly morose, maybe not comparable to shell shock, but I felt like a person who was devoid of themselves. Of course with two young babies, you just have to cope. We were still living in London at that point. We had a nanny lined up to help out, but she was not the person we had hoped for and within four weeks of our return, we asked her to leave. At that point, the wounds I still felt from my extended time in India were still there, but babies and nappies and feeding and winding just filled in my time twenty four seven. There wasn’t any time to reflect on what had happened. I considered counselling, but would that of helped and there really wasn’t the time in the day to just ‘take off’ and sit on someone’s sofa for an hour. This is quite an admission to myself, but I felt completely ‘Dead Headed’ with all that had happened, the bureaucratic nonsense from both the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, this and the corruption that I experienced, that is sadly part of Indian culture. Yes I returned a different man due to my experiences, feeling completely ‘Dead Headed’ at that time, but the love of our new family was binding, I got through the void that was there and replaced it with hope, yes hope of tomorrow and all that tomorrow will bring…

Whispers on the stairs

With age comes the growth in confidence, that we, as adults enjoy, when it comes to our place in the world. The same can be said of children in their own little microcosms. Well in our house, our little star Tara likes to think that she is the leader, this no doubt down to her sheer volume of confidence. And it is she that usually dictates how late they stay up after being put to bed and indeed how early they rise. This morning there were whispers on the stairs at 6.30am. And I can say that Tara also has the loudest whisper! After listening to them for a while, lying in bed feeling groggy with this cold that won’t go away, I spoke out saying that it was still the middle of the night and they should go back upstairs for a while. Of course, it was still dark as it is this time of year. They complied, at least for a while. But down again they all crept, some half an hour later. Then the inevitable bed invasion. It was clearly time to get up – we did and downstairs we all came. Some shouts from Aaliyah and a constant ‘Turtle, turtle, turtle’ from Amritsar, who had found her Hawaiian Turtle tee shirt stashed in one of Aaliyah’s draws. Maybe there as Sindy might think it is too small for ‘Ritzy Bits’ now, but Amritsar likes it still, as we brought it as a gift for her (two years ago) after John and I had holidayed in Maui.

Breakfast of Dadda’s Jam (last years home picked blackberry) on toasted, buttered, English muffins. Yummy for all and surprisingly easily cleaned up afterwards, unlike in the the past when Dadda’s Jams were usually a very sticky event! So much has already happened, yet so little to report on. Thor now sat alone watching Mr Tumble on the TV and the rest have gone up to their rooms to play. He is now stood besides me resembling a wartime evacuee in his new sleeveless ‘V’ neck sweater, snot oozing from his nose. Now all cleaned up, he heads back to the living room with Mi Mi being dragged alongside him. They are always together, the very best of friends. Everybody here has this really bad cold. John is the latest and final one to start to show symptoms. I have been rasping and coughing severely for at least a week now and all of the children have been a constant stream of snot and coughs. I’ve lost count of the amount of tissue we have gone through. Gracie is trying to open a door to the entrance hall in order to attack a bin liner that is sat alongside the recycle bag. She is very naughty like that. Occasionally if unnoticed, she can reap such devastation on the rubbish bag. John is now going to run it up to the outside bin area. Coughing away as he departs. This is gonna be a case of ‘Man Flu’ before the day is through…

Being Prepared

Being prepared… that pretty much relates to every single thing we do in life, doesn’t it? Even writing the previous sentence, I did not know when I started to write it, that it would end as a question, but with every word I wrote, the sentence was preparing itself, within my words, to become a question! That’s just how the sheer minutia of preparation, precedes itself. We are just built to self organise I guess. Some better at it than others I think, especially with The bigger things, but where on the scale am I? I am thoughtful, I’m sure that counts a lot, but sometimes we all just ‘throw it to the wind’, or do we. A debate could be had now, but I will move on to where all this babble was heading.

Candied melon or pastille? This is one preparation, I believe has just been ‘thrown to the wind’ as I am unsure of what will be the outcome, much like my previous sentence. As I am all jammed out and have run out of ‘Orcio jars’ for bottling, I’m taking some time out and have decided to make some sweet candies to give away for free at the girls school Christmas Fayre. Yes, I could have just purchased a ton of ‘funsize’ delicacies, but I opted to make my own sweets, starting two days ago with orangettes made with candied clementines, dipped in chocolate. My very favourite sweet in the world, ever. I think they will go down better with the parents, so I am making home made pastilles for the little ones. It is in fact the parents that I want to impress as I have taken this year off from Elfing, yes I said Elfing and I am taking a stall for the occasion and selling gift boxes of ‘Dadda’s Jam’. We’ll see how that goes and I’ll keep you informed on the day. But back to being prepared, candied melon or pastille?

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P.S. I will give you the Elf story at a later time.

‘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.