Chips and Choices

What might I be talking about tonight? Chips and choices. Am I referring to a secret gambling problem?

Nah – dinner menu of course. We’re really excited about our Devon weekend break to see Alistaire and Lorna. The children’s bags are now packed all except for their swimming togs and armbands. Pretty sure they were stashed away in a bag now residing in the eves. We hid them away after our summer holiday in Le Rouret in the Cote d’Azur. Sindy will have to do a ‘recky’ in the morning. However the provisions bag is packed, including all those things I said they would have to wait until they were at least seven years old to enjoy. At this point, I have to laugh. We don’t do sweets, but crisps and chocolate were unavoidable. They get given sweets in their party bags occasionally (from the multitude of birthday parties) and that is ample. It’s like they have all grown up, once weened off of their diet of milk, on to juice and squash. I am happy now though as if they want a second drink at mealtimes, they are always given ice cold water. A thing they now actually even request. Right, we are all ready for the road trip tomorrow as soon as the girls have finished school. They are all sleeping well so far tonight. I think Sindy must have had words to persuade them not to stay up for two hours on a bedroom rampage.

Okay back to the dinner choices. Clearly I had a few things to clear out of the fridge pre weekend away. Chips were offered to all. Yes, oven chips – I am not an abuser of that deep fat fryer. High days and Holidays me thinks. I’m looking forward to a second usage though. But we had a few things in the fridge to clear out. One portion of lasagne, one portion of Kiddies Cassoulet, one portion of roast pork and Savoy cabbage sautéd in butter and Pea curry (mutter) with chapatti were on offer on our ‘Chips and Choices’ night. Amritsar has helped make chapatti with me before, so she chose the very mild pea curry, Tara the lasagne, then Caleb the pork of all things and Thor and Aaliyah the mutter with chapatti. All was well for thirty seconds until Caleb starts screaming ‘ no, no, no – I eat pea curry’! I said you asked for pork, Sindy said, you asked for pork, but he still screamed. ‘Second choice then Caleb’ I decided, knowing full well that the mutter and chapatti was off the menu for me tonight. I shared out the sausage from the Cassoulet. All were happy. John is back from Dublin but staying in London as he is at a function. I am not cooking for him, so I knew with the children’s dinner choices , I would be enjoying the leftovers.  So I have just microwaved a plate of pork, cabbage, the remaining pea curry and oven chips. I’ve never eaten microwaved oven chips before, but in their favour I have to conclude, not actually that bad…

Thor’s (Thurs)day and the dogs dinner

Well a different day today as every Thursday, the little ones attend another preschool and the hours are 9am – 3pm. Their usual weekday hours are 8.30 – 11.30am. They take in a packed lunch today, so I am pretty much redundant after breakfast until the mid afternoon. I sometimes get to escape the house, but today I have been waiting for our Plummer Nick to arrive to assess the cisterns of two of our four toilets. Exciting day for me then. It is almost 2pm and he’s just left with his assessment and will come back to do the work at a later date.

The dogs are very full on, so it’s not really a day off for me. They follow me around from room to room, as they do. But I’m so used to it after ten years of the practice. They used to get fed once daily at 4pm but they seem to live on a twenty three and a half hour cycle. Remus starts to whine an hour of so before his dinner and as a result, I constantly give in a little earlier. Over the past few years 4pm became 3.30pm, then that became 3pm and so on… I now feed them at 1.30pm and that’s soon to become 1pm.

Back to Thor’s day, sorry, Thursday, the not so famous five haven’t broken their crowns made at yesterday’s breakfast quite yet. Though Caleb’s is looking a bit bent and squashed. Thor insisted on wearing his on the school run. The rest happily left there’s on the radiator beside the kitchen table. He and his sister are still at school. But Caleb came home just before midday as he seemingly bumped the back of his head. Now sending a little one home if he was physically sick (vomiting), I get it, but for a bumped head, what’s that all about? He came in with Sindy full of smiles, she left and he finished his packed lunch at the table and I continued to sterilise some jam jars that I had just made. All jam makers know that the latest project needs to be immersed in boiling water for at least fifteen minutes to insure it will stay perfect for the upcoming year (or two) in the cupboard. I’m still not won over by ‘Nigella’s’ just turning them upside down for a few minutes. I finished and then lead Caleb upstairs for his nap. In the absence of Aaliyah and Thor to start playing with, he went down immediately and a kiss and hug later I descended the top flight of stairs. How was The rest of this Thor’s (Thurs)day? I’ll let you know later.

Raven Squawk

Stood on the terrace, I see some commotion going on in the trees of a neighbours garden. There is a local colony of Ravens. Maybe there are thirty of so in number. The mass of them seem to badgering two or three of their number. They are mid flight and the victims have just flown out of sight! There is a lot of squawking and their numbers seem to be flying from tree to tree in an uneasy manner. I heard that ravens live in highly organised communities and their intelligence is on a par with dogs! Looking at them, they are certainly acting as silly as our two dogs at very least. The three ravens being badgered have re-emerged and are now sitting on the bare branches of our oak tree. Still together, I guess they must be family members. We stick together, through thick and thin, don’t we, families?

It does bring back memories of my time spent on the roof top of the world, Nepal. I spent much of my time there back in mid to late 2015, just post the big earthquake had dominated much of the world news at the time. We lived in an apartment in an area known as Lazimpat, a fairly central suburb of Kathmandu. We had a balcony and lived on the fourth floor. The view was quite special. The city is in the foothills of the great Himalayan mountains. Well, our view on clear days stretched over the city with the craggy mountains, sometimes dancing with the thin, low clouds as a backdrop. Every evening at dusk, without fail, the skies would fill with thousands upon thousands of ravens. Over a forty five minute period, the sky would darken and this black mass of feathered foul would fly in one particular direction. There was clearly a roosting area that they would nightly invade. I guessed one of the now defunct palace gardens, perhaps further afield. Aaliyah and Caleb were just very small babies then! Friends (and nannies) Bharti and Rekha had joined me, flying up from Bombay! They were interesting times…

No John tonight

I am relaxing beside the TV and thought I would end the day with a little update. Johns mum has not been well of recent, so he is over in Dublin for the night. He saw his mum earlier as she had returned home from hospital. He is staying with his sister. I hope that his mum is comfortable. Sending lots of love. He just called and said Sara (his sister) was doing Indian tonight! I had to smile, she had taken from the freezer what she thought were onion bahji’s and they turned out to be meatballs. Me, sat at home on the other hand, have just downed a meal of chapatti and the vegetarian leftovers of Sunday’s curry, mutter (pea) and channa (chick pea). And ironically home made onion bahji’s. I believe Sara is having the meatballs tomorrow. I sympathise as I am so freezer focussed with cooking in bulk and portioning etc, but I’m a bit rubbish with labelling.

The children ate ‘Kiddies Cassoulet’, a favourite of mine and theirs. It’s really posh beans on toast. Easily made and scrummy too. Eight Irish sausages (cut up), one tin of Branston Baked Beans. Sorry for the defection Heinz, but yours taste too sweet (please drop the sugar content). A tin of chopped tomatoes, some seasoning and lots of freshly made breadcrumbs on top.

Since they went to bed, I have only been up three times now to quieten them down – they are now finally silent. They must have crashed with sheer exhaustion.

Gracie escaped the garden earlier and I finally found her after twenty minutes when I heard the snarls of a dog fight. She had slipped through the yew hedge and headed for a neighbours garden where she was sounding off at their Jack Russel. Naughty Gracie.

More tomorrow nite nite

The Grape Harvest (Remembered)

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Juicing grapes is a slow process. The first year I attempted to juice our first crop of grapes, in my pure ignorance, I spent two hours trying to pass them through a muslin bag. Or a white pillow case actually. It took hours to release the juice. This years bumper crop of grapes would have taken a couple of days. Anyhow, this year I cropped the vine in 4 stages. The total weight of grapes was in excess of twelve kilograms. Anyhow without child labour this year, I washed the black grapes and filled the very large saucepan I use for jamming then squeezed like mad with my hands. Once juice is released I kept topping up the pan until seventy percent full then to help release more juice I heat until boiling. Now with my trusty new sieve, I’ve gone through three so far this year, I start scooping out the pith and seeds and press firmly on the mixture with a spoon and the final juice is released. I discard the pith. Once boiled and the scum is skimmed, you have pasteurised juice that is fit to make perfect ‘Grape Jelly’.

I thought back to last September, we harvested early. It was a weekend and the weather was mild. Not sure how sunny it was, but I remember John and I had a Pims and lemonade poured. All five little ones had their swimming costumes on. We had been playing ‘The water slide’! Don’t mix up ‘water sliding’ with ‘water boarding’ now. We put down a ten metre strip of black tarpaulin and someone holds the hosepipe at the top of the children’s green slide. The kids love it, so much screaming and shouting and above all sliding. And it’s competitive too. I’ve gone off focus, back to the grape vine. Secateurs in hand and the children’s small paddling pool besides me, I’m pruning away and throwing the bunches of grapes directly into the pool. It’s not long before Tara comes running up screaming ‘Aaliyah hit me, Aaliyah hit me’, then she sees what i am doing. The vine is fifty percent done and the pool is filling up slowly. Tara doesn’t give it a second though. She jumps in and starts squishing with her feet shouting out ‘Ritza, Ritza’ to Amritsar ‘come here it’s fun’. Within minutes the others are over to investigate. First Amritsar and then Thor joins Tara in the paddling pool, both also jumping up and down laughing and screaming. ‘It’s squishy Dadda it’s squishy’ Thor screams and fists clenched tight he stamps harder, one foot after the other. Aaliyah and Caleb were bemused, sat with Daddy at the table on the terrace, under the parasol. Daddy raised his Pims and lemonade and said ‘cheers’. I continued pruning and throwing in the bunches…

A Right Royal Breakfast

So this morning we finished off the ‘Bear Bear Boulders’ and ‘Cheerios’ (we don’t have a pet name for those! I saw the scissors on the counter as I had just used them to open a frozen block of ratatouille. I don’t know why but I started cutting the flaps off each box and then both boxes into three even strips width wise. Then one by one I cut zig zags along one side of each strip. And low and behold, we had six very regal looking crowns. Needless to say the not so famous five all went off to school thinking they were princes and princesses.

The three little ones back for their lunch from preschool had elevated themselves to two Kings and a Queen. And unlike Yesterday’s fiasco, they all three of them ate all of their crunchy toast and salami. No more ‘camp run a muck’ please. Both Sindy and I had a serious word with all three of them and they are now sleeping soundly. All is quiet upstairs.

Leaf Fall

Yes it certainly is Autumnal. The mornings are dark and it is as dark as Remus’s inky black spots when the children march up the stairs at bedtime . The house has a partial view, out on to woodland. There is even a spill over into the bottom of the garden. One of these trees is a very old oak tree. It is very large, so I guess it is really quite ancient. It’s leaves turn an amazing burnt orange in early to mid September. It really is quite beautiful. It’s leaves have all shed at this point. All of the other trees are just starting their preparations for leaf fall. The vast pallet of greens are yellowing slowly, a few hints of orange, but none look as magnificent as the oak tree at the bottom of the garden…