I miss sharing my current book and knitting progress on a Wednesday. It gave me that extra encouragement to do more. I’d like to carry on, but this time, I think, I’ll include progress in other long term craft projects, or even just life in general. Life doesn’t always serve up enough time in the week to add many knitted rows, or enough awake moments to read another chapter. Some weeks I want to sew or even grow something instead.
Here I go.
I’m going to kick off with my latest book. I have finished it. A few weeks ago, Briony shared a book she had been reading. From her description, I knew I’d like it, so I ordered a copy. The day The Blackout arrived, we had a power cut for a few hours in the evening (again), so I approached this book with even more interest.
The book starts as the electricity begins to go off all over Europe, but no-one knows why. The grid is interlinked across countries. As one area loses power, there is a ripple effect across all countries. Chaos. Traffic lights stop working and cars crash. Hospitals try to cope with more casualties, without the help of power. No water. No sanitation. No power to pump petrol from the underground tanks. Soon everything grinds to a halt. No food or medicine. People start to die.
I thought it was interesting how people went from helping each other, even strangers, to looking out for themselves. As resources diminished there were still pockets of support, such as a soup kitchen and the government departments in some countries struggling on, but there were plenty more that chose to wield a gun instead and seize power.
The failed attempts to bring the electricity back on line were interesting. There were parts in the plot that had holes (what really? You really didn’t think of that? Where are your procedures?), but some of those were necessary to make the story.
It made me think. How would I survive? Water would be our main problem. Over time, I think we’d have the skills and knowledge to survive as a family. I remember reading years ago, that if such a major permanent change happened, such as no electricity, it would be those that stuck together as a community, and shared skills, that would survive. I think that’s true. They advocated building communities in readiness, which seemed to be taking it a little far. I’d hate to eat my words on that one.
The book made me realise how much people rely on electricity. An eye opener. If you read this book, be prepared to add candles and extra canned food to your next shopping list. Maybe water too and a generator.
Thought I’d include the children’s books too. They’ve all read lots this holiday and the pile of read books is even bigger.
Nine year old has resumed ploughing through the Harry Potter series, he’s on number 5.
Twelve year old was desperate to read something less depressing, so I suggested the Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. One of my favourite books when I was her age. She loves it. I can’t remember the last time I saw her so engrossed in a book. There was a film based on the story, but the book is a million miles better than the film. In the sense that the book may once have been in the same room as the script writers.
Fourteen year old is flying through books. She’s finished this one now. Her sixth book this holiday. She is enjoying the uninterrupted time to read.
Last but by no means least, our bed time story book. We popped into the Oxfam bookshop today and picked up a copy of More About Paddington. I’ll be reading a chapter a night to the Youngest, before bed. Often the others will quietly turn up to listen too. There is something rather lovely about having a book read to you, last thing in the day. Especially such delightful stories.
No knitting progress. I’ve been working on my Dear Daughter quilt. Two more squares finished. They are waiting for letters to go with them, which in turn, is waiting for me to be inspired. Sometimes thinking of the right subject, that meets the Teens approval, can be challenging. I’m sure I’ll think of something. In the meantime, I’m on my third square, with three more to go and I’m finished.
In the kitchen
With the children on holiday, my role as chief chef has been called into play more. My usual lunch of grabbing a cheese and pickle toastie is not always enough for my growing brood. I’ve been making fruit muffins each afternoon and chopping up fruit to keep in the fridge, ready for the “I’m hungry” cry.
Another big hit is so simple. It’s an old favourite that tends to be forgotten during the colder months when the ingredients are out of season. I chop up tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and red onions, then top with parsley and fennel from the garden. The children love it. Even enough to discuss whether it would make a suitable breakfast.
The difference is the use of herbs. If I add chopped chives to the top of a dish of boiled potatoes, they disappear in a flash. Without chives, I can guarantee I’ll have left overs.
This summer, my herb collection is going to get a lot more care and attention.
In the garden
I’ve been busy potting up sweetcorn and cabbages. If all goes well, we should have enough sweetcorn for plenty of meals in the garden, and some left over to freeze. Cabbage is a more distant ambition. They will be helping to add fresh food over the hungry months, after Christmas, when not much else is in season. This is planning ahead. It feels way ahead.
A generous slice of life.
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There has been an alarming increase in the height of my children recently. It always happens in the spring. They seem to shoot up, as soon as the sun hits. The Teen is near enough my height now, and her sister seems able to look me in the eye a little bit more easily, than I’d care to admit.
And as for the Boy, well he is taking on the appearance of someone who has begun to stretch. Looking just as willowy as his sisters. Watch any of them for long enough, and I swear you can see them growing.
Now, they are not managing this on meal times alone.
The most likely form of extra nourishment, are the homemade goodies I make. The theory is that if I make them, I can keep the snacks on the healthy side. Also there is a limit to how much I can bake/grate/chop.
A big favourite at the moment is raspberry and chocolate chip muffins. Each muffin is practically half raspberries, half muffin. Not overly sweet. Rather yummy, if I say so myself. Our supply of homegrown raspberries has long since run out, so I often find “frozen raspberries” written on my shopping list. Not in my handwriting. A subtle hint to make more.
The good news is that they are incredibly quick to make and bake. I have my muffin making kit piled up ready in the cupboard. I use a cup measure as it’s so much quicker to scoop the ingredients. Speed is of the essence. Especially when you have three children who take it in turns to check if the muffins are ready yet. (Seriously, do they have a rota for who goes in next to scout for muffins?)
Apart from the milk and raspberries, the rest of the ingredients are near by in another cupboard. I reckon I can have these muffins ready to eat within 20 minutes, if not less. I win “best Mama” points if they can smell them baking as they walk up the drive after school. You cannot beat a warm muffin after a hard day
chatting with your friends studying.
So here’s how we make them (when I say we, I mean me):
In first bowl, mix the:
2 cups of self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1 cup of frozen raspberries
1/2 cup of semi-sweetened chocolate chips
In second bowl, mix the:
2 tsp of vanilla essence or lemon extract
Also need a muffin tin, lined with 12 paper muffin cases
What to do:
1. Pour the contents of the second bowl into the first, until it is just mixed. Do not over mix.
2. Divide the combined mixture between the 12 muffin cases.
3. For a 2 oven Aga, bake on the third shelf down in the top oven, for about 12-15 minutes, turning the muffin tray around halfway through. For other ovens, bake at 200°c/400°f/ Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes. The muffins are ready when they are golden brown and risen.
4. Take out of the oven. Move the muffins from the tray onto a wire rack to cool.
These muffins never make it beyond the day they are made. I live in hope of putting a batch in the freezer for another day. In all fairness, they are so quick to make, that it’s not a big problem.
More of a challenge is having enough raspberries available, which explains the added request for frozen raspberries to my shopping lists.
My solution is to plant more raspberry canes. I’m aiming to have a row of raspberries this summer. I miss my fruit cage and may have to make a new one. When the Teen was a toddler she used to
be pushed disappear in there, after meals, and feast on all the soft fruit. No need to serve up a pudding. Nothing beats fruit straight from the plant.
Yes. I need to work on my raspberry production.
Grow little raspberry plant. Grow. I have three children waiting for muffins.
Do you ever have one of those weeks where nothing seems to have happened? Uneventful.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been busy. I spent the first two days of the week fully focused on work. Barely looking up. Meeting deadlines.
Pancake day, which involved making pancakes in the morning ready for the school pancake race, plus pancakes in the evening for everyone else.
In the general run of the week, I cooked from scratch and used up supplies. I’m trying not to shop one week a month, to force myself to use up those products that I buy just in case. The ones lurking at the back of the cupboard that were a good idea at the time. Reaching in the back of the fridge, to finish off the last one of different foods. I’m talking about you, last, lonely garlic clove. And don’t think I haven’t spotted you, pepper, hiding behind the ketchup. Your days are numbered.
Bizarrely, I’m good at putting ingredients together. No recipe book needed. Adding the right flavours together. Blending sauces, all from scratch. Meals are varied, which the family loves. I can’t imagine cooking the same thing over and over again.
I have absorbed recipes and tips for decades. Still am. Methods picked up over the years. Cherry picking it all, for the meal in hand. It feels a natural way to cook.
There was a costume to put together for World Book Day. Klaus Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Using things we had, a charity shop jacket and homemade spectacles (two plastic cups and scrap fabric)
The Teen went to Brownies as a volunteer. She is working towards her DofE award. She loved it and is looking forward to going back. I could never persuade her to go when she was younger, so I’m glad she is enjoying it now. I dropped her off and picked her up as my role of parent taxi.
The Teen and I also attended a briefing meeting about her upcoming school trip. No surprises. This will be her third overseas trip.
So why does the week seem uneventful? I certainly was kept busy. I think it is because nothing unusual happened. I wasn’t pushed out of my comfort zone. All these events happen each year. It is part of our yearly rhythm. I’ve made costumes. I’ve cooked. I’ve dropped children off at events.
I don’t think it is a bad thing. A week of no surprises. A time to breathe and take everything in my stride. I’m sure it won’t be long before a challenge rears it’s head, so I’m happy for an uneventful week.