Monday, 31 January 2011

The Cat's Pyjamas

Today one of my students asked me to settle a disagreement about whether a chiwawa should wear tutu or not. It did slightly catch me off guard, having been off work for some time, I don't have answers to such questions on the tip of my tongue. I felt I gave a professional and considered answer but I would have loved to have thrown it back at her and asked whether she thought cats should wear pyjamas.

I am fascinated by etymology, I like the connection between the 1920s inspired jazz age terminology "cat" and the innovative fashion of the time, "pyjamas", even better that this slang phrase was coined by a cartoonist from San Fransisco. However my favourite snippet of information relating to the origin of the phrase, was a related publicity stunt, where a flapper walked down lower 5th Avenue in yellow silk pyjamas with four cats dressed in the same attire. Perfect. I did try to find the picture from the New York Times when the story was published on 6th November 1922, but to no avail, so I had to go to this fabulous flapper picture from Time magazine.

So all I need to do is add a few activities about slang, appropriate and inappropriate language, get computer support to unblock access to Urban Dictionary and pretty much that could be my lesson plan for next week. We could even debate whether the word flapper should have a capital letter and whether it's ok to stereotype, but maybe that's another lesson completely.

Friday, 28 January 2011

All at sea

Life is unfair. Sometimes it's good and every cloud has a silver lining, but who hasn't asked the question...   "Why me?"
I'm not really sure how it works because I would certainly like to believe in Karma but then see some really lovely people having to cope with one rubbish situation after another. None is safe from the fickle finger of fate. In some way girls are luckier and tears come easier. We have each other to talk to and can share friendship, which is surely what keeps insanity at bay. Human relationships, connections and support are what makes life worth living for me. Those moments of kindness from others, are the essence of being.

Although life has been unfair, I have been so lucky to be flooded these such moments and always seem to be indebted to another. This week I tried to tip the balance back in my favour and give a little back to a person who has lifted my spirits on many occasion. I feel she should know that this gift was not offered without hours of thought, deliberation and research.

Words can stick so clearly in your memory if carefully chosen and "All at sea" is so apt when considering the overwhelming nature of life and even better if embroidered on to a vintage lace handkerchief. Therefore after much deliberation, I found the most wonderful artistic inspiration to accompany the words. After all what are words without a picture? The artist is Gillian Bates and her work is so incredible, I just copied completely, which I do hope she would consider to be a compliment, especially as this was not for my own comercial gain, but purely to decorate a hankerchief intended to wipe away the bitter sweet tears of life.

Please be kind to those who need you, never forget your support is priceless and if in doubt wear glitter.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Emma's Lentil Soup

Every Sunday I make a large pan of soup which my husband and I take for lunch on the days when I am working. It is usually made from allotment veg and any vegetables left over from Sunday lunch. Depending on the ingredients, it can last my husband the whole week and in the winter, it is so very warming, filling and healthy. Lentil soup always goes down well, although I don't really have a recipe and the ingredients vary each time. Due to the success of the celery I planted last year (which is still growing strong despite the snow), I included some of that this week. The warmer weather has caused a bit of a growth spurt. 2010 / 2011 was my first year growing celery so I'm learning as I go but it is definately worth growing.

How wonderful to see the bright green celery leaves in the middle of January

Lentil Soup Recipe (January 2011)

A couple of onions or leeks - chopped
A few stalks of celery and leaves - chopped
Small amount of oil or butter
A packet of red lentils (500g I think)
Two cans of chopped tomatoes
Some water (I didn't have any stock)
1/2 jar of Pataks curry paste    
(optional - if you want it to be curried lentil)
A few chard leaves - chopped

Cook the red lentils as specified on the packet
Place the chopped onions/leeks and celery in a large pan with the oil and cook until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, cooked lentils, water and curry paste and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the chard leaves for colour

Lentil soup always seems to taste better if you make it at least one day before eating and it will last all week if stored in the fridge. I usually make the soup quite thick if we are taking it to work as it travels better in lunch boxes and is less likely to spill. If you do make it the day before, it will thicken over night so add extra water if you don't like it thick.

Especially for Emma Jane
with love x

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Cliftonville Lido, Margate

There are times that you can look back on and remember how truly happy you were at particular stages in your life. One of these such times has been on my mind recently and prompted a visit to Margate this afternoon.
On a really rather warm sunny day in June 2002, I convinced my husband that it wasn't that far to walk from Herne Bay to Margate along the coast and we spent the day, walking, making plans for our future and celebrating our second anniversary. I was so excited about going to Margate and so sad to discover what a sorry looking place it had become. The magnificent buildings were still there but no longer in all their splendor as they crumbled and clearly reflected the neglect they had endured. The rust stained paint work, exasperated by the salty air gave the impression of being tear stained, longing for the days when the town was loved and a British seaside institution. We ate in a pub which had old photos of Margate all over the walls. It was on this day that we planned to move to Kent, which we did in July 2004.

The first summer we lived in Kent, I discovered the derelict Cliftonville Lido, which for some reason stuck in my mind.  Perhaps I could just imagine how beautiful it must have once been. I love the postcards that can be found on the  Thanet Coastal Life Blog and could only dream of swimming there on a glorious British summer day.

Sadly today it is looking quite desolate. Following a storm in January 1978, the Lido was damaged and left to rot along with the pier that disappeared altogether. I think the Lido may well be beyond repair now, but there is still hope for Margate. The The Turner Contemporary  is due to open in April 2011 and work has already began on the 1920's cinema, as part of Save Dreamland Campaign.

The plans my husband and I made on our first visit to Margate have all come to light so I do hope that Margate claims back some of that glory it deserves.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The signs of Spring

For the past couple of weeks the weather has been quite mild and on some days has appeared almost spring like. I have been hanging my laundry in the garden, although not always a great success and have opened the windows more than once to let the fresh air in. The plants also seem to be under the impression that the spring is on its way and there are little green shoots all over the garden. This is of course an awe inspiring sight but also a little worrying. For the first time ever, I have successfully germinated some sweet peas that I planted in the autumn from seed I collected at the end of the growing season.

They are doing brilliantly in my mini greenhouse but I'm not sure that they will enjoy any future cold snaps but I shall dream a little and imagine that they all survive and I grow some more in the spring and have so many sweet peas that I am able to give them away by the jam jar full. Nothing smells more like summer than a sweet pea.

The daffodils are on their way.

The bluebells have started to grow.

There are little clumps of chives popping up all over the herb patch.

And green shoots on the trees....

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Old photos from Great Auntie Nen

 Inspired by the antique fair yesterday and a bit of time to spare this afternoon, I finally scanned some old family photos that my Uncle lent me last April and it really was the most pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon in my newly renamed sewing room. As a child we lived around the corner from my Grandparents and I would see them several times a week. I loved looking at their old photo albums and knew every picture and the story behind each. I think my Uncle has those albums, but the one he had lent me was my Great Auntie Nen's. I also knew that album very well, from staying at her house on several occasions and also as my Grandma's sister, a number of the photos were the same.

This photo was taken in the garden of The Three Horseshoes pub in Seer Green, where my Great Grandmother was the landlady during the 1920s. This photo was taken in 1923, my Grandma is on the right and my Great Auntie Nen on the left. I love everything about this picture: my Grandma's fashionable 1920s bobbed hairstyle, Auntie Nen's romantic curls, their knitted dresses and woolen socks, the chair that came from the bar and the bandage of my Grandma's knee. Both ladies always told me how the used to be allowed to drink bottles of pop in the pub garden and sing songs with the soldiers. I grew up around the corner from this pub and still visit once in a while, the most recent being in the summer of 2009 for a school reunion.

The photo above though is my favourite from my Auntie's collection. It is of Caversham Park, near Reading where my Auntie worked for the BBC Monitoring Service from 1943 - 1956. The photo is beautiful but it is more the memories of the fantastic stories my Auntie told about when she worked there that take me right back to my childhood, sitting in her front room, drinking tea from her best china (girls always got the best china in her house) and looking through her albums. I adored her stories about Caversham Park, in my mind she was a secret agent and I could just imagine with typing on her glorious black Imperial typewriter, looking out the window over the stunning gardens. It all seemed so wildly romantic in my young imagination and this picture completely encapsulates those dreamy thoughts, but through the mists of time, so many of the details have become hazy. I would love to call round to her immaculate 1930s house for tea and a chat about the photos......

Old photos from Great Auntie Nen

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Antique fairs

My Mum and Dad always used to go to antique fairs when I was growing up and I found them totally fascinating. I liked the jewellery, fancy boxes and antique textiles. The other thing I liked is how you could find something pocket money priced next to something hugely expensive. I think I prefer old things to anything else now and I like the people who are selling them as they always have a story to tell about each piece. Today Josie and I almost walked passed one but I couldn't resist going in. I like to imagine what the original owners were like and how different their world was.

We bought three items:

An old coin for Charlie and a tiny Swiss Army knife pin for me, both of which were pocket money priced.

Josie set her heart on this diamante encrusted crab brooch, the moment she saw it and despite looking at everything else at the fair, there was no changing her mind. It is very beautiful and is perfect with the new red coat at I got her for Christmas. I suppose if I am going to foster a love for old things in my children, then I am going to have to be prepared to splash out a tiny bit more than pocket money prices.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Pineapple upside down cake

Charlie is always asking me whether we can buy a pineapple and I am never very keen to do so. They are not grown locally, the count is high on the food miles and they are really quite heavy to carry. I didn't want to really crush his enthusiasm for a wide and varied diet though so we decide we would make a pineapple upside down cake. It was our first attempt and I didn't have the right sized pan,the oven door seal is broken, it got a little dark in colour and didn't rise, but Josie still gave me 8/10. It was a winner all round for my assistant chef Charlie, who drank all the pineapple juice and ate some of the pineapple, dipped his fingers in the cake mix at every stage but most of all loved the glace cherries.

Recipe for pineapple upside down cake (although I might try a different recipe next time)

Slices of pineapple
55g caster sugar
Glace cherries
170g self-raising flour
2 eggs
1/4 pint milk
55g caster sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 220C 
  • Place the pineapple slices and sugar in a small, oven proof frying pan. Heat gently until the pineapple has caramelised. 
  • Whisk the flour, eggs and milk into a thick batter before stirring in the sugar.
  • Put a cherry in the centre of each pineapple slice

  • Pour the mixture over the pineapple and place the pan in the oven
  • Bake for 15 - 20 minutes
  • Turn upside down on a plate to serve

Monday, 10 January 2011

The finished bike

I really love my bike now!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Mod podge bike make over

Ever since I discovered Mod Podge, I've been reading the daily blog posts detailing all the fantastic projects that involve Mod Podge. I am really not sure how I lived without it for so long, it does make PVA seem like such a poor substitute.

I recently saw what could almost be my dream project, involving a bike, fabric and Mod Podge. A lady called Jenean Morrison had used fabric that she had designed herself to revamp a bike and it looked amazing. I had to copy the idea but just needed to find the time to do it. It was quite a tough decision deciding which fabric to choose. It's not like I have other bikes and if the fabric on this one didn't match my outfit, I could just ride a different bike and I do ride my bike everyday.

This was the cushion pad for the child seat on the back of the bike before, which was to be honest, really quite hideous.

And this is the part way through picture. I used June Bug Tea by Alexander Henry which I like so much more than the previous 80's inspired design.

This is my bike 'before' the make over and it isn't quite finished yet,  so I don't have an 'after' photo yet.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Charlie and Mummy days

Every morning Charlie wakes up and asks whether it is a work day, school day, nursery day or Charlie and Mummy day, the later being his favourite. It is so very lovely to be appreciated, however I know my days are numbered. There are two Charlie and Mummy days per week and they will come to an end in July when the summer holidays start. I am very lucky to have my little pre-schooler so long though, some mummies have to send there little ones off to school shortly (sometimes days) after their fourth birthday and Charlie and I will still be at home together until he is almost five years of age.

After we have dropped Josie at school, there is nothing much we have to do in particular until we pick her up. No timetable, no schedule, no list of urgent jobs that have to be done, our time is our own and it is golden. Even rainy days such as today are fun, as we have to play indoors all day long and Charlie delights in what we are going to do next. Of course there are still the endless list of chores around the house to do but at a much slower pace and often with Charlie's help, they almost seem fun. If you still have a small person at home with you, chatting away, making a mess, playing games and wanting to be with you, cherish every second.

Throwing sticks at ice

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New year, new tradition and new project

The first day of the new year and the new decade has been a good one and with a small amount of looking back, I am very excited about the future.

Today I had planned to cross one of the items of my "things to do before I die" list and go swimming in the sea on New year's day. I have actually done it before when I was 10 years old and on holiday in Australia but that was a very long time ago. I wasn't really well enough for a swim this afternoon after being ill over Christmas but I think a paddle in wellies was quite a good compromise. Maybe next year...

My new year's resolution is not one of great originality but inspiring all the same. I have decided to take a photo each day for the next year. At the moment I can only think of taking a picture of something special but I'm sure as the year goes on, the idea will develop. It may just be challenging enough to take a photo each day, I would never have dreamed of making any resolutions this time last year. I suppose it will be a little like promising myself to find a small piece of happiness each day and that can't be bad.