Monday, 9 September 2013


The above pic shows my relatively dust free kitchen minus it's seventies serving hatch before the sledgehammer got to work...

Bang! Oh and yes we did take the wall cupboards down first! We are knocking through to what used to be the dining room. The existing kitchen is very small and just not practical for a family of four, a cat, a dog and anyone else who happens to be passing through (we are pretty generous with the sleepovers).

It's been a long time since I could choose a kitchen from scratch. As with our previous knock through and renovations, things will just happen organically, and most likely will take a lot longer than M predicts. eg. He says three months and it turns out to be three years! (the bathroom).

There will be issues of budget and buying as and when funds allow. The kids have been back at school for three days and we have already issued numerous cheques for various trips. One of these days I will take them up on the 'this cost is optional, however, if insufficient funds are raised the trip may not go ahead'.

We will certainly make do with our current half working oven until M finds the oven of his dreams. He fancies himself as a Rick Stein or Jamie Oliver. See, this is the difference between men and women. Women just get on with it, but men, or maybe just my man, faffs about for hours with hundreds of ingredients and then of course expects a fanfare and round of applause! Not that I'm complaining. Oh no, I really don't enjoy cooking. My job is to clear up and I'd rather do that than cook a meal. I will let you into a little secret though... they all think that fish fingers and waffles is all I'm capable of. Wrong! I can do fish fingers and oven chips too! No, joking apart I can actually cook. I just prefer to keep quiet about it.

We haven't actually chosen our new kitchen yet. We pretty much have all the cupboards we need so it's just a question of fitting new doors, and worktops. A new sink. A new oven. A new cooker hood. Sounds kinda expensive doesn't it? I'm hoping for a sort of urban rustic look. M doesn't know what that means so I'm going to dig out some images for him. He usually goes with my creative input!

In the meantime I have the less than glamorous job of dealing with he rubble tomorrow while M is at work. Fun.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Batsman of the year...

At the end of last summer we faced a tough decision. Should J carry on being a member of our local village cricket club or should we go elsewhere. The advantages of staying put were considerable; training, home matches and presentation evenings would all be walking distance from where we live. The village has a strong team and tend to win leagues. J has made some good friends over the years.

However, when we put the bare facts on the table, so to speak, we concluded that of the four matches he played for his age group he was only allowed to bowl a maximum of two overs per game for two of the matches, bowled one over after protest from us and didn't bowl at all in one match because he was deemed too fast for the opposition.

Call me old fashioned but aren't the pads and helmets designed to protect the batsman? Not to mention the bat.

The membership fee would not have been worth paying if he had only played his own age group (call it nearly a tenner per over). For reasons we still don't understand or accept he was never chosen to play in the next age up; the under 13s which presumably would mean he could bowl full pace and not be held back. Apparently this team was full. As luck would have it our under 15s manager thought J was good enough to bowl in his team and so J did play more than 4 matches last year, but as an eleven year old in a fifteens team he rarely got a chance to bat.

I'm sure these are familiar issues to a lot of families. Through the county circuit we've met quite a few people that have similar problems. It seems that you can't please all of the poeple all of the time. We have the rule book and nowhere does it say that a bowler can't bowl if he's too fast!

So, J decided himself that he would like to try another club and thankfully he had some good friends at an independent cricket academy he goes to that suggested somewhere. Early in in the season, with his new team he had to face his previous club in an away match. J was made captain which surprised some of the bully boys we left behind. J's team lost but it was the verbal stuff that upset him, it seems that if you leave a cricket club you are a traitor! He came in for the same rubbish at the home match too which they lost but only by a small margin. When J went into bat at number 3 (much higher than he'd ever played before) he batted like I've never seen him bat before. We're talking huge shots that were nearly sixes, safe fours. He got to his retirement stage (they have to retire at 25 runs) in no time at all. I think he surprised them all.

Later I asked him where the heck that had come from and he said that they were still going on about him being a traitor and he got a little bit mad. That is clearly what he needs to do before he goes out to bat... get a little bit mad!

As it happens he got the batting award this year, 147 runs in six matches, makes his average 70 something. He was rather pleased to get this one as he is really a bowler. He pointed out that he would never have got it at his old club because he always played low down the batting order. I think he has enjoyed the new club for other reasons too. Not least having a Notts player presenting his trophy.

So today he has to, once again, bat and bowl for his life. Well it seems that way to his Dad. They are at the county trials. While I have tea in bed Jake has to impress the selection committee enough to get in the team again. Goodness knows how many boys go each year, and only 18 get chosen to go to the training. After the training four get dropped and the squad of 14 remain. It's a tough procedure, especially for the four who get dropped because by then they will have forked out £150 for winter training and probably about the same again for the training kit. I'm keeping my fingers crossed because it's a great supplement to J's club cricket. As far as J is concerned, the more cricket the better!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

easy peasy plum jam...

It was supposed to be the last of the sunshine the other day so I took heed and picked some plums for jam. Actually, to tell the truth it was the cat that gave me the incentive I needed. She has a habit of running like a mad thing through the house, and on one such mad moment she knocked a whole bowl of very ripe plums over. Half of them were mouldy too so the mess was quite something. M harvests far too many at one time so they tend to sit around in bowls. Having only made one batch of jam this year I didn't want to miss the opportunity to make enough to see us through the year and our friends and family too.

So I balanced on a railway sleeper for extra height and picked the amount I thought I'd need, being careful not to annoy the wasps. (M managed to get stung three times last year!) There were a few left over which I managed to (pig out on) eat while making the jam.

I've never made any other type of jam but plums seem to be very straight forward. One kg of fruit to one kg of jam sugar. Remove the pips from the fruit and boil (which releases enough juice to boil in). Add the sugar, stirring constantly so as not to stick on the bottom. (It works perfectly fine in a large saucepan). Then do the 'wrinkle' test, which means drizzling a little on a cold saucer, leaving for thirty seconds and if it wrinkles when you push the surface, then it's ready to pour into jars.

Last year we gave a jar to our neighbours who enter their home grown produce in the local village fair. They were very impressed and said we would win if we enetered a jar. I know it's the glamour of winning and not the 50p prize money but I fear I wouldn't be able to take it seriously, unlike our neighbours (who have since moved down the road). The husband took it extremely seriously and invested a large portion of every day tending to his prized vegetables. I do miss being on the receiving end of all his 'rejects'; courgettes, carrots, tomatoes, rhubarb etc. We probably got the better end of the deal because all we had to offer was cooking apples, plums and plum jam! What's more he used to mow our side of the riverbank! Unfortunately our new neighbours don't. Boo. The riverbank is now sporting the 'wild flower meadow' look since our petrol strimmer stopped working.

I did wax disks and fabric lids last year but to be honest these are much easier when it comes to using the jam. Next on the list is the cooking apples. I never do much with them but this year I will try and do better. Maybe some gluten free apple pies and some apple sauce for Christmas.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

eight hours of calm...

First day back at school! Hooray! Well that's not exactly what the children were saying this morning. I refrained from looking too pleased. It's easy to push the wrong buttons these days, but oh, eight hours of glorious peace and quiet!

Not only that but I have two excuses to put my feet up. A pulled thigh muscle and even better... the Hoover has blown up! You know, it takes a while to research the various options for replacement. I think I should take my time. Mind you, with a cat and a dog and two children I won't hold out too long.

I've had to give the hard floors a sweep with my fab besom broom this morning. I love it but it isn't as thorough as a Hoover.

Meanwhile... I've been doodling with wool and a crochet hook. Mindless pieces just for the hell of it. The small flowers are from a magazine. The large central motif is from the book of 200 crochet blocks, as is the star motif. The two daisy motifs in a square I made up, each is slightly different. The multi coloured strip is from an old book called 'Patchwork Crochet'. It involves doing trebles into the row below, quite simple but effective. I think I might use this pattern for wrist warmers as the overlapping stitches make up a nice thick fabric.

I think that's probably what I was hoping would happen... doodle away until a project jumped out at me, and you can never have too many wrist warmers eh?!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Out of action...

I am sitting outside on our area of decking, making the most of what feels like it will be the last of the warm summer sunshine. I love autumn but I will miss throwing the double doors open and having that fresh air smell... here that sometimes means whiffy fertiliser from the fields, but more pleasantly the smell of freshly mown grass and the feint waft of freshly cut wheat.

If only life was that simple. We have teenage woes and other issues to contend with at the moment, mainly of the Father and Daughter battleground variety. That ugly 'you're not my Father anyway' sentence has reared it's ugly head again. It's a great shame because we have more common ground than ever these days. You'd think that cricket would have united us all. Three of us now play and the remaining one remains, well, obsessed with the game.

I played my last game of the season last night, along with Ella. I wish I had plucked up the courage earlier in the year but at least I have next year to look forward to. Unfortunately the game ended in pain, probably the worst pain I've had since breaking my foot two years ago. It wasn't completely down to cricket. I had bravely tackled the hell hole that was Jake's bedroom yesterday and slightly pulled a muscle whilst reaching under the bed with the Hoover nozzle. It hurt at the time but soon eased off and I managed a practice batting session with only a slight twinge or two. During our warm up session I reached forward to catch a short ball and it just gave way. Ouch. Drat that hurt. If I'd known then what I know now about pulled muscles I would have pulled out. We batted first and I hobbled in, whacked a four on my first ball, knocked a single too but then had to keep running singles and bys, which was getting more and more painful. Luckily I whacked a ball straight in the air for a catch and I hopped off. Despite the pain I wasn't aiming for a catch, I was trying to knock it way over their heads but it didn't come off (not as strong in the arms as I used to be!).

I couldn't run during fielding but stayed on in case a catch came my way. By the time we left I was in severe pain. Ice packs helped a lot and I slept like a log but today it feels like its wound taut and that it has been kicked by a large horse. Nothing for it but to make a large mug of tea and sit down with some crochet!

I have to laugh at my cricket debut (after 29 years). I have ended up with a finger that still won't fully bend, a swollen ankle (hasn't gone down after a week), a large graze on my chin from a bouncer during practice session, an aching jaw from the same bouncer and now a pulled thigh muscle. I remain determined not to write myself off as too old (43) especially as a woman has just completed her Cuba to Florida swim on the fifth attempt at the age of 64. Roll on next year!!

So, I'm bored with all my current wips. Jake's blanket is now something I wish I had planned more carefully. Up and down, up and down. Yawn. I'm nearly done with the front section of a knitting project but heck, knitting hurts, so that's on the back burner. I'm just toying with some random block designs today, trying to think of something that will use up all the shades of grey that I bought for mouse making (three mice was enough repetition thank you). As it happens I love grey but I don't love lots of colour changes and weaving in ends. Tempting to make a blanket with all the ends loose on the back. Yeah I know, that's just lazy.

Talking of which, I think it is time I showed Jake how to make a cup of tea for his ol' Mum!