Category Archives: Uncategorized

Card die delight …or possibly addiction

rabbit dieI am very lucky.  Hattie gave me a die cutter and at the weekend we may have purchased one or two dies – in the sale I hasten to add, just in case Archie or HWIOO are reading this.  I had a lovely weekend creating paper penguins and a striking Olaf snowman.  I thought I had it all under control when I arrived home, little did I realise that rather like an infection the desire to create from card and paper was fermenting in my head.

It started mildly enough. I made gift bags for the Little Madams’ Easter presents and then I thought, “I know what.  I’ll make them each a card.” This necessitated making nine Easter bunnies from the die shown in the image in this post – six looking forwards and three with fluffy cotton tails.  So far so straight forward.

Could someone tell me why, when I needed nine bunnies I have cut and assembled twenty-four in various shades of brown, pink and cream?  It wasn’t as though I had nothing else to do.  There was paperwork for next term, paperwork for this term, six thousand words and a synopsis to write, research for the next two day schools.  There are one or two weeds in the garden, housework to be done and novels to be written.  My only consolation is that HWIOO slept through the whole thing.

I also have a very nice tin filled with various letters of the alphabet, a box labelled “Easter,” with the dies and some spare parts neatly bagged and stowed.  The utility room has a fine layer of multi-coloured confetti that I need to sweep up and I have a little list of useful things that I need to lay hands upon – like teeny-tiny googlie eyes.

Hattie, if you’re reading this, your work is done. I have been infected with die-cutting mania.  Next time you visit, HWIOO may be carried out of the house on a tsunami of hand crafted cards when he answers the front-door.


It’s been a while and Spring has arrived.

DSC_0014Where on earth has March gone?  Come to think of it where has Harvey gone?  I like to think of the handsome little harvest mouse in a meadow chatting up lady mice.  He’s certainly not in the garage anymore.  We have installed a rather large rodent irritator purchased from Maplins which will apparently irritate all the mice and rats in a small family home so should do the trick in the garage which is not the size of a house. During March the bulbs I planted in autumn made an appearance- I was delighted by the fritillary which I wasn’t convinced would appear. I ordered a greenhouse (hurrah) and fell into the sea whilst collecting sea glass. It was surprisingly warm for the time of year.


HWIOO is contemplating the exterior woodwork with a view to painting it when the weather finally warms properly and putting up my weather vane, our greenhouse arrives next week and the dog from three doors down has taken to blessing the daffodils outside our front gate every morning.  This does not endear his owner to us – nor does the owner’s habit of standing and staring into our kitchen whilst his dog is about his business.  It’s not as though I’m wafting about in flimsy nightwear but equally when a woman sits down for her first coffee of the morning she doesn’t expect an audience unless she’s a Tudor or Stuart monarch.

And that’s about it – apart from the fact that I’ve got to decorate an egg for the WI.  I have looked on line and apparently with the aid of an old stocking, a flower and rather a lot of cabbage or onion skins I can create a dyed hardboiled egg with a flower on it.  I can see the potential for that to be very exciting.  Alternatively I can use card and paper to create a hen…the latter sounds more straight forward to me as I did once accidentally blow an egg up because I left it boiling for too long…the pan took some cleaning. I may take a photograph provided the aforementioned egg looks sufficiently professional – if it looks like something that a five-year-old wouldn’t want to own up to then I shall conveniently forget the whole thing!

We also need to progress to the letter i – ice-cream, Iceland, igloos, iguanas – shame the Rheged knitting and stitching event doesn’t begin with a letter i.  As you can imagine HWIOO is delighted at the prospect of going to a knitting event and it was only because Teddie expressed an interest in the event by social media that I found out that it was on.  For £2.00 I can go and look at wools and other needle based crafts to my heart’s content.  I have suggested that HWIOO could perhaps have a full English breakfast in the cafe whilst I browse – no this is not kindness on my part, its simply to prevent him looming over my left shoulder in the event of me making a purchase. It’s amazing how off-putting a looming spouse can be if he looms for sufficiently long enough.

The problem of rogue walking frames

My mother-in-law has been sprung from hospital where she’s been since Christmas.  She’s had a number of falls mainly because she refuses to use her walking stick or her walking frame. She doesn’t like the necklace that’ll summon help either – she dangles it over her bedside lamp where its neither use nor ornament. The falls in turn led to her taking to her bed and not taking her various medications – “Well I don’t need them, do I?  I’m in my night dress.”

“Yes, Mam you do.”

“But I only take my tablets during the day.”

“It’s day time whether you’re dressed or not. Remember what the nurse said?”

“Humph.  To full of her own importance that one.   And another thing.  You can take that dratted noise away.”


“That phone.  I don’t like it ringing and its too complicated, all those buttons.”

“But if you’re in your bedroom you won’t be able to answer the phone when it rings in the living room.”

This was met by silence.

“Mam, we get ever so worried when you don’t pick up the phone.  Anything could have happened.”

“I’ll be perfectly alright.”

“But we don’t know that do we?”

“I will.”

As there is no answer to that we let the conversation drop but forgot to remove the phone when we left having got things organised for her post hospital life, not that it’ll make any difference.  She won’t answer it.

So the carers are in place…again.  My sister-in-law is going to meet them on Tuesday.  There’s food in the fridge for the carers to prepare in date order from left to right across the fridge and there’s a walking stick in every room – holding the walls up.  For some reason best known to themselves the hospital which doesn’t offer chiropody to its elderly patients even when its clear that its required (that’s a whole different saga) has chosen to send another walker and another one appears to have arrived to form a herd of the things – so that’s three frames neatly located in three different rooms gathering dust – “These frames are too wide.  Besides they make furrows in the carpet.  Just like rotators they are.”

I think she meant rotivators.  Oddly enough I haven’t noticed any frame users ploughing up the pavements let alone the Axminster but what do I know?  “Mam, the doctors said that you needed to use the frame  or stick to help you keep your balance.”

“He was on work experience,” My mother-in-law waved a regal hand, “He wasn’t old enough to be a real doctor but I’ll say this for him he had very nice manners.  Besides I shall be staying in bed.”

“You can’t do that.  The doctors said you’ve got to keep moving.  Remember what they said about thrombosis and bed sores.  That nurse said there was no reason why we shouldn’t take you out for a drive and a nice cup of tea if you were well wrapped up.  Wouldn’t you like to go out, even for a little while?”

“No.  And as for wasting money drinking from public cups – I don’t know what they teach them these days.”

“I think, generally speaking, that cafes wash their cups between customers and I think we can run to a cup of tea and a slice of cake.”

“I can’t eat cake.  I’m diabetic.”

Best not to mention the large tin of chocolate Tunnock bars I found in the kitchen then.





There’re scales for sleep!

DSCF2106Yesterday I stacked logs in the newly built log store, didn’t get rejected by any literary agents and discovered that I have finished by Christmas shopping – which definitely fits me into the domestic goddess category albeit on a temporary basis.  Then I remembered that I hadn’t handed over the hula hoop that the Littlest Madam has specifically asked for on her Christmas list to the Pottermeister and I’m not sure when we’re seeing them again, so immediately fell off my perch of serenity.

Given that the goal is to ensure HWIOO doesn’t require afternoon naps I have been nominated to do some wider reading.  HWIOO couldn’t use a computer for a long time and he still finds that the words do dances and shimmies all of their own devising if he spends too long looking at the screen.

Turns out there’re such things as sleeping scales. Who would have known?  There’s the Chalder Fatigue Scale (CFQ) and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS).  Don’t you just love all those acronyms.  Basically the Chalder Fatigue Scale is the questionnaire that newly diagnosed CFS patients are asked to fill in assessing their levels of tiredness in order to work out how day-to-day life is going.  Apparently the questions are benign and non threatening…you should try telling that to a man with brain fog like the fog you get when you’re actually inside a cloud. One of the questions actually is “Do you have difficulty concentrating?” There are four columns and you simply select the most appropriate from ‘Better than usual’, ‘No worse than usual’, ‘Worse than usual’ and ‘Much worse than usual’ – which is fine if you can remember what usual actually might be.  The ticks are then scored from 0-3 and mathematical alchemy is applied to determine how fatigued the respondent is.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is also based on a questionnaire and just like the CFQ it comes in the pack of papers that voyagers along the treacle path covered, fog filled road of CFS are required to fill in – just at the point where answering daft questions is the last thing they want to do.  So, where are we now…other than knowing what all that paperwork was for?

Well, HWIOO isn’t sleepy, he’s fatigued.  They’re not the same thing. The afternoon nap is a way of controlling feelings of exhaustion which in turn means that HWIOO is able to get on with doing every day things. It follows that if HWIOO doesn’t have an afternoon nap he will continue to feel exhausted and won’t be able to function much beyond three thirty and if he continues not napping he’ll have a relapse – we’re definitely getting better at not reaching those points.

And that’s as far as I’ve got in my reading.  The next step is to dig out the notes that HWIOO was given by his consultant and check that we’re still doing all the things we’re supposed to be doing.

Oh yes – and H is going to be holly.  It’s the right time of the year after all.

Great Aunt Gladys

DSCF2216Great Aunt Gladys is something of a legend in HWIOO’s family – or possibly a nightmare.  HWIOO has vivid memories of going to tea with Great Aunt Gladys along with his mother and sister.  They were escorted into the living room for their afternoon tea whilst HWIOO who thinks he was about five was left standing in the kitchen on account of the fact that boys were nasty dirty little creatures who made crumbs.  He wasn’t offered a chair let alone a biscuit.

As time when on Great Aunt Gladys decided that HWIOO needed taking in hand so was invited around for tea on his own from about the age of eight onwards he thinks.  His weekly job was to wash the windows of her bungalow. Then he was issued with tea. This was his cue for weekly torment. Great Aunt Gladys watched him eat.  She observed and corrected.  Elbows off table; plate half an inch in from the edge of the table, sitting up straight with nose over plate; one bite from the sandwich then return sandwich to plate.  Looking back HWIOO thinks Great Aunt G may have been more than slightly mad.

However, the Little Madams are enthralled with the trials and tribulations of HWIOO not to mention Great Aunt G’s savage school of table manners.

“I bet Great Aunt Gladys wouldn’t have liked this?” said the Right Little Madam sticking her tongue out at her sister.

“Or this,” the Little Madam said putting an entire fairy cake into her mouth.

“Probably not.” I agreed.  “I can’t say I’m wildly enthusiastic about the performance either.”

The last couple of weeks have seen demands for tales of Great Aunt Gladys at every meal from breakfast, through morning snacks to dinner.  That is until this week when the Little Madam was seen in a cafe having cleared her plate of chips, wiping it with her fingers to get the very last residue of chippiness off the plate.

“I don’t think Great Aunt Gladys would approve,” said HWIOO.

The Little Madam paused, licked her fingers, “I don’t think,” she said very seriously, “that you should worry about Great Aunt Gladys.” She paused, raised an eyebrow. “She’s dead.”

“Does that make you sad?” enquired the Right Little Madam looking anxiously HWIOO.

“I don’t see why Granddad would be sad,” the Little Madam sniffed. “She was horrid.”

I’m not entirely sure that was the lesson HWIOO was striving for when the shade of Great Aunt Gladys appeared at our meal times but, hey ho, at least we know that the Little Madam has a way, albeit a fairly brutal one, with words.

Dawn chorus

img003The Little Madams needed to be out of bed and up with the larks this morning.  Instead they slumbered like a pair of small grizzly bears holed up for winter.

Drastic measures were required.  Over the years I’ve collected a wide selection of music guaranteed to get the youth moving from their beds.  Old Man River or Flannigan and Alan were favourites if we needed to shift the Number-One-Son during his adolescence.  It was just a question of setting the music up outside his bedroom door. By the first few bars of ‘Underneath the arches’ he was usually begging for mercy.  The Little Madam proved to be made of sterner stuff.  She hummed along with her eyes tightly closed.

We progressed to Meatloaf.  Nothing doing apart from the placing of her pillow over her head.


As a consequence I was found doing my best rock chick impersonation singing along to Bonnie Tyler and ‘Holding out for a hero,’ on the landing.  Its not a pretty sound but it makes me happy.

Eventually a small tousled head emerged. “You’re making a racket Granny.  It’s giving me a head ache.”  She retreated with wounded dignity to the bathroom. ”

By the time she emerged, HWIOO was at the bottom of the stairs issuing helpful information, “We’ve got to leave in quarter of an hour.  You need to have breakfast.”

She appeared at the top of the stairs like a small dowager duchess in full sail. “There’s no need to shout.”

At which point HWIOO and I had two choices. We could have gone for crossness re backchat. We opted instead for a complete lack of grown upness. I started to hum the Darth-Vader theme tune as she came down the stairs whilst HWIOO began to whistle it.

Needless to say it did not go down very well. A small eye-brow was raised, “That’s not funny, you know.”  There was a pause. “Who told you that you could sing Granny? They were wrong.”

So that’s us told and a hint of teenageness to come.  Good job I have a large selection of hideously old-fashioned cds to choose from and a wide repertoire of songs.  The right notes are there, just not necessarily in the correct order. Da..da…da…de..dum….

Apricot jam

DSCF2337.JPGJam making is a vice that creeps up on you unawares.  One minute you’re quite happily purchasing jars of jam from your nearest purveyor of confiture and the next thing you know you’ve got homemade jams, compots and coulis lurking in every available cupboard space; are asking your friends and family to keep empty jars and are handing over jewel like filled jars with warnings such as – “I didn’t get all the stones out I’m afraid,” or “it’s a bit runny.”  Odd the way you never see labels on shop bought jam with that kind of information.

This week I made apricot jam.  They were selling apricots a pound for a pound on the market.  Home I cam with excitement in my heart.  For every pound of fruit you need a pound of sugar.  Did I have enough in the cupboard?  Of course I did.  Next to the great jam mountain there’s also sufficient sugar to withstand a siege.  I work on the principle that its better to buy it whilst its on special offer rather than to find yourself running short. My cupboards look like I might take twenty teaspoons of sugar in every mug of tea that I drink.   I also keep a large bottle of lemon juice lurking in the fridge as most jams that require additional pectin also specify lemon.

DSCF2338.JPGHaving halved the apricots and removed the stones I was left with two and half pounds of fruit which I covered with granulated sugar and four tablespoons of lemon juice.  I then covered the whole lot up and went away to worry  for fifteen minutes about the fact that one recipe specified the addition of water whilst the one I’d opted for didn’t.

DSCF2340Having made sure all the fruit was coated in sugar I put my pan over a low heat and began to dissolve the sugar.  Once the sugar  dissolved- which it isn’t so long as the potion has a whitish hue- it was a question of reaching the magic 219 degrees Fahrenheit (I have an antique thermometer) whilst stirring all the time.  An hour later I was still squinting at the red line on the thermometer willing the temperature to rise by another degree so that the jam would set and so that I could stop dodging sitting fruit/sugar mixture.

DSCF2342There is a kind of magic in watching fruit and sugar turn into jam.  There may also be a hint of masochism.  You can buy the stuff at your supermarket for a very reasonable price without running the risk of burning yourself, feeling as though you’re in the middle of a hot flush or having to wash up a rather sticky jam pan.

But there’s nothing to beat the moment when you know you have jam  and our it into its jars or indeed the moment when you take that first mouth full and know you got it right.

I do now know why the other recipe suggested water.  I have quite a firm set.  Its not overdone it’s just somewhat solid.  Next time I’ll try the other recipe.


Even as I whirling my jam in a figure eight stirring motion and then sweeping the thermometer through the whole concoction Stan and Tatiana were applying themselves to seedless raspberry jam – there having been a bumper crop this year.  There’s more jam makers out there than you realise.  Tatiana watched Stan struggling with his wooden spoon trying to push the raspberry mixture through muslin to deseed it and concluded that a more solid dome shaped tool would be helpful which is why Stan found himself using a darning mushroom for a purpose which its manufacturer never intended. It did the job rather nicely I am told.  Now, I’ve never darned the socks of HWIOO but I do have a darning mushroom.  I’m moving it from my workbox into the kitchen so that when I spot raspberries on the market I’m prepared for seedless raspberry jam.