Tag: featured

Spring: Is it here yet?

I don’t know about other people, but winter, especially after the Christmas madness, I tend to fold-in and turn introspective (Although I’m sure if my husband gets to read this he’ll say “but you’re always introspective Dean!)

Can you blame me?  Coming from a tropical country where it’s warm and sunny everyday, of course, we do get the grey clouds too, especially when it rains, but it never lasts unlike here in England.

The the changing of seasons, while it is beautiful, always has an affect on me.  I try to ride it and just go with the flow, mindful that the greyness and drabness isn’t permanent, that it’s only temporary.  You would think that after almost a decade of living here, I’d be an expert now.  I think though, I’m getting better, my skin is thicker.

And it isn’t really that bad really, while January is awful, here in Cornwall, even though it’s only the first day of February, I can see evidence of spring coming already.  The bulbs are slowly coming up and the days are getting longer.  We no longer drive T to her gymnastics class at 5pm in the dark.

The bright days are coming and the thought of it makes me feel giddy!  The flowers will bloom soon.  The trees will get their leaves in abundance back.  All the colours, different hues will spring everywhere.  What’s not to like?  Are you excited too?

Did Christmas Really Happen?

I know it’s only the second week of the new year and already the Christmas season seems like a thing of the past already – that is so 2016!  Already I have tulips on my mantelpiece already which really makes me happy.  In spite the dreary days and cold weather, dare I say it? I think spring might just be on its way.

Of course, I see evidence that it did happen.  I still have a Christmas tapestry given to me by my in-laws which we put in the landing upstairs, still lying on the floor, waiting to be put away in the box.  I keep forgetting!  And since the weather has been really bad lately, I’ve kept a couple of fairy lights and strung them over our bookcase in the living room.  In the late-afternoon, when it’s really depressing and I’m sitting in our lounge glaring at our fire that won’t work again, I switch the fairy lights on and it cheers me up instantly.  It’s all about the small joys people 😉

And we actually still have what T calls a “chocolate” corner, which really should be a “sweets” corner since we also have candy cane left-overs which we used to decorate the tree with and the chocolate!  There are only  a  few left now, but I sometimes wonder if it’s somehow a “magic” corner, because no matter how little there are left, and no matter how much T and the Historian eats them (they both love sweets), there’s always some left over!

January here in England is not for the faint-hearted.  I think you have to be made of sterner stuff to let it not get to you.  But my skin is getting thicker now, calloused even.  I won’t lie and say it’s not affecting me or my mood, but I’m getting better at this dealing-with-awful-winter-days.  I get on with it, or as my dear mother-in-law once told me “You just plod on”.  So here I am plodding on… get on with January!

What about you?

Are you ready for spring too?

The Story Behind some of our Christmas Decorations

I got this idea of buying a special Christmas tree decoration each year and allowing T to choose it from one of my oldest blogger friend Kate of Did That Just Happen Blog.  She did it with her son who is all grown up now and is in University.  Today she has a Christmas tree filled with wonderful memories!  I love that idea.

We started when T was three-years-old, I wish I had started when she was one.  But better late than never.

This was her first ever special decoration, we got it in a National Trust property where she also met her first Tudor Father Christmas, you can read all about it here.

In 2014, we spent Christmas with my in-laws at Woburn Sands.  While there we visited Frosts Garden centre to specifically choose a special Christmas tree ornament, luckily they were on sale.  T choose a vintage Father Christmas and Christmas Reindeer:

This is made of glass and is very delicate.  I used to decorate our kitchen in the old house, so of course, I also did it this year, especially since it’s the first room you’ll see once you step in our front-door.

I’ve decorated it with a garland and hang some of my glass baubles including the vintage Father Christmas.  Not clear on the photo is the vintage Christmas reindeer seen on the left side.

And of course, also decorated the mantel shelf above the kitchen fire.

Yes, I also have Christmas crockery, some of them were given to me by my lovely in-laws.  They know how much I love anything to do with Christmas.

And this was last year’s special choice:  Mr. and Mrs. Clause kissing.

And this year’s choice was a very sparkly penguin.  T said her Christmas rabbit needed a friend.  She bought that when we picked up our tree from the tree farm and that is why, when you have a small child, it’s impossible to have a “theme” going on in your Christmas tree.  I think all parents with young children have the “everything-and-anything-goes-theme”.

Now for my favourite Christmas tree ornaments:

I have a thing for glass Christmas ornaments, especially baubles.  I blame my mother for this, yes, she loves them too.  I couldn’t sleep last night, so I had the iPad in bed and was browsing through M&S’ website and was drooling over their Christmas decors which were on sale.  I told my husband about it this morning and he laughed and teased me and called it “Dean’s Christmas Porn” and then told me to just buy the blimming baubles, so I went online to purchase them and of course, they’re all gone.  Story of my life.

And I adore this little breakable Father Christmas, also vintage-looking.

I also love this angel ornament which I bought when we visited St. Michael’s mount in Penzance more than a few years ago.  I have this feeling though that it isn’t really a Christmas decoration, but is actually the Archangel Michael who supposedly appeared before local fishermen on the mount in the 5th century.  I don’t really care, I love seeing it up there on our tree.

And then there’s this tacky Christmas fire-guard my husband bought in Trelawney, a garden centre nearby.  There’s a little story attached to this one.  The Historian bought this fireguard not for this house, but for another house which had an open-fire and two wood-burning stoves.  We were supposed to move into it early this year.  We were all packed and about to exchange when the house-sale fell through.  If you’ve been following me for some time now, you  may have just read about the whole fiasco in past posts.

When we moved in our present home, my husband looked at our gas-fire and said, I’m still using that blimming Christmas fire guard  even if you all point and laugh.  To be fair, nobody is pointing and laughing, but yep it’s out and is staying there all through out the Christmas season, whether I have a say or not.

What about you?

Do you do this tradition?  Or have one of your own?

A Country Kid’s Post: Searching for that Special Christmas Tree

For the past five years or so, we’ve been going to one particular Christmas tree farm that’s a bit of a drive away from where we live.  When T wasn’t in school yet, it was easy to go to, since we had all the time in the world to drive to it.  But it’s not so easy now that she’s in school, so when close friends of ours (whom we always go with when picking out a tree) suggested that we go to one that’s within easy drive to us, we readily said yes of course, although admittedly a small part of me was a bit saddened that we weren’t going to our usual place.  When you’re pressed for time, you don’t have much choice do you?

Last Thursday, after picking-up T and her friend from school, two families went to a Christmas tree farm in search of that special Christmas tree.

 It was getting dark, so we had very little time to choose.  In the end though, we chose a slimmer and tall tree.  I wanted something more fuller, but we were losing light, so we had to decide fast.

While this Christmas tree farm was conveniently closer to where we lived, it wasn’t as big as the other one and they also didn’t label their trees.  It was easier to find the kind of Christmas tree you wanted in the old one, where they purposely planted the same kind whether you wanted a Blue Spruce, or a Nordman Fir.  They also had information about each tree up in signs.  As the Cornish would say “a proper job!”.

We couldn’t wait of course and started decorating as soon as we got in.

And here it is, standing tall in our conservatory.  I’m not that pleased with the shape of this tree, I think our most perfect shaped Christmas tree was the one we had last year.

It’s definitely Christmas in our house!  Is it in yours?

A Country Mouse in London

The last time we were in London was two years ago, when we watched The Snowman in December.  We used to go regularly, especially before T started school, but now that she’s in school, it can get a bit tricky to find the time to visit the capital.  This year though, we made it a point to go, it’s been far too long.

The Historian keeping T preoccupied while waiting for our train to London from Exeter.

It’s a two-hour journey from Exeter to London and when travelling with a young child, all parents know that you should come prepared with snacks and other paraphernalia to keep the young ones occupied and hopefully a whinge-less journey.

When T got tired of watching the world go by, she occupied herself with her Doodle a day Chris Riddell book.  When that bored her, she turned to the iPad.  To be fair though, she’s used to travelling and knows how to entertain herself without any complains.

We arrived early and so had time to have a little rest at the AirBnb where we were staying (sorry no photos).  It was a small studio flat that had everything you needed for a few days stay.  There was nothing fantastic about the place apart from the very central location.  This was precisely the reason why we chose it.  While I knew that it was a stone’s throw away from the British Museum, I wasn’t expecting it to be also a short distance to the theatre.  Was pleasantly surprised when it took less than ten minutes to get there.

And since we were doing good-time, we managed to have a long leisurely dinner at Belgos, one of our favourite restaurants in London.  If only they had a branch nearer to us.

Little T waiting for us to get seated.

After our meal, we still had loads of time to mooch around the Seven Dials.

And here’s little T doing a Matilda pose.

Matilda was fabulous.  T really enjoyed it.  We were lucky to be able to get tickets since we booked it really late, although we didn’t really have the luxury to choose our seats.

Woke up leisurely the next day and took our time to walk to the British Museum where T wanted to see the Egyptian mummies and where we were also meeting some close family friends for a catch-up.

I don’t even remember the last time we visited.  All I know is that, there wasn’t any security measures at all.  Now you’ll have to queue to go to a tent where they separate people who have bags so they can check before going in.  To be fair though, it was a fast-moving line, thank goodness for that.

I don’t know exactly when T became interested in Egyptian mummies.  All I know is that at a very young age, she used to like looking at her dad’s old National Geographic issues especially the ones with Egyptian mummies.  We promised her that the next time we’re in London, we’d take her to see them.

The Historian and I, took turns on taking her around while the others had a chance to talk and catch-up.  She was one happy bunny.

After reluctantly saying goodbye to our friends, it was time to catch the train back to the sticks where we live. The country mice were home sweet home.  While I do miss city life, it’s nice to come back home to our quiet little bubble in small hill cottage.

A Country Kid’s Post: Beachcombing on an Autumn Day

It was a beautiful late autumn day, not wanting to waste it, our little family decided to head for the beach in Polzeath after little T’s ballet a few Saturdays ago.

When we arrived, there were people getting ready to go in the water in their wet suits, there were dog-walkers around, and people, who were like us, not wanting to waste the lovely day indoors. Here, let me share some photos with you:

It was a lovely day of walking on the beach and just breathing in the cold autumn air.  T and the Historian had fun doing a bit of beach combing and exploring the few caves dotted around the cliffs of Polzeath.  We ended the visit with ice-cream – as it should always be.

A breath of fresh air on the beach, with lovely weather, ending it with ice-cream, what more can we ask?  Bring it on winter, we’re ready for you!

Have you visited the beach lately?

Here’s a little shortie of what the day was like…

A Winter Warmer Recipe: Creamy Sweetcorn Soup

The last time I did a food post, the end result looked like turd.  And that made me stay-away from doing any more posts about food or cooking,  even though my husband and I do a lot of it, home-cooked meals is our thing.

While I’m not a big fan of the cold weather, I do enjoy winter warmer recipes, they are such a comfort and when the days are short and the nights are long, homemade soup is a must.  After all, isn’t there an old belief that said “Soup can cure any hurt or illness in this world”  If that’s true, then I better start cooking!

Our favourite is this squash recipe, which I cook a lot in the “er” months, and especially after the new year.  I actually made a big pot of it which we took over to our neighbours on bonfire night.  I’m pleased to say, it was a big hit.

And so since my theme for this winter is all about small joys (although to be fair, that’s always been a big theme in my life: to always focus on the small joys), I’ve been on the look-out for new soup recipes to try.  I’m sharing with you lovely folks, my latest find:

Creamy Sweetcorn Soup

I love sweetcorn, whether it’s in a can or a cob and I’m a big fan of corn soup.  It takes me back to my childhood where our cook made such delicious corn soup, it would make you want to keep asking for more.  I should really ask the recipe from her.

What you will need:

2 TBSP olive oil

50 g unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, chopped.

1 finely chopped onion

150g potato cut in very small pieces

200g sweet corn

600ml vegetable stock

50ml double cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tsp fresh chives.

This is a very easy recipe to make:

  • All you need to do is heat the olive oil with the butter and once it has melted, fry garlic, onion and potato, until softened.
  • Toss the sweetcorn in and cook for a further two more minutes.  Add the stock, reduce heat when it starts boiling for about five minutes or until the potato is cooked through.
  • Stir in cream and season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Pour in food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of chives.

Click here for recipe source.

Every time I try out a new recipe, I always ask my little family whether it is a keeper or not, and this was definitely one.  Try it and you’ll know why.

Do you have any favourite soup recipes?

Do share.

Moments

Our lives, our memories are made up of little moments …

***

Just as I was about to strap T in the car to go trick or treating with her friends last Monday, she bent forward and vomited all over her lovely La Muerte dress.  It looked like liquid chocolate on her black dress, which spilled into her orange pumpkin bag.  Her little friend who came over for a play date exclaimed “Oh T, you’ve got the bug now!”  And my little girl burst into tears, just as the afternoon was fading and the night was creeping in.

***

It was our wedding anniversary last Sunday and in the car, on our way to Truro, I turned to my husband who was driving and said “Guess how much I love you?”  How much?  he asked, humouring me.  I replied “more than infinite!”.

At the corner of my eye, I saw the T’s facial expression change.  She was hurt.  The look of betrayal was all over her.  This is our thing.  Every night just as I tuck her in, we go through our dialogues:

“On the day you were born”.  She replies with “It was the happiest day of your life”.  Followed with a “Guess how much I love you?”  Her answer is always “More than infinite!”.

“You know I love you more than infinite too, just like your dad, right?”  I said to her as I reached out and held her hand in mine. She nodded her little head and the hurt was gone.

“She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond”,
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.”
– Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason

 The Reading Residence

A Country Kid’s Post: Autumn Fun in the Garden

Our garden is carpeted in leaves.  We had absolutely lovely sunshine weather a few days ago, the kind that’s best spent outside, so T and I decided to hunt for a rake and do a little bit of tidying up in our lawn.

We couldn’t find one, what my husband found instead was his nan’s old small garden pea-rake.  “Yep, that will do!” I said to him as I grabbed it and handed it to little T who seemed really excited about it.  I promised that she could jump up and down in leafy piles after.

raking_1

Hard at work with her great-grandmother’s small pea-rake.

raking2raking3raking4raking5

And once she had a good pile of raked-leaves, she decided that it was a great burial ground for her baby.

t_doll

 I warned her though that children’s services would take the her baby away if they found out. That stopped her. She took Ella away from the pile and started raking again, till she had a good amount of leaves to jump in.

jumping

Don’t you just love watching them have fun in even the simplest ways?

I do.

PS

My husband is right.  We do need a leaf-vac.

An Afternoon with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell

Isn’t it just great when a person you really admire and enjoy both his works as an author and artist turn out to be a genuinely nice person?  I don’t know about you, but I always imagine authors and artists to be a bit of a “stiff-neck”?  So imagine our delight when Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell turned out to be the complete opposite.  I can never say it enough, he really is a lovely man.  And I have no doubt, little T felt that too upon meeting and listening to him talk at the Bath Literary Festival last Saturday.

chris_live_doodling

We sat there for about an hour just listening to his anecdotes, while answering questions and live doodling and me laughing away.  At one point, I became conscious that I was laughing too hard and had to restrain myself.

doodle1

He was already on the stage when we came in, mindlessly doodling as people settled in their seats.

I also found myself sitting on the edge, not even resting my back, because I wanted to make sure that I heard every word.  I can’t remember the last time I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

doodle2

And here he is drawing his Children’s Laureate medal and telling us about the time his wife’s daughter’s friend who happens to be German rushed to him excitedly and said “Chris!  Are you really a Children’s Laundrette?  Apparently to his close friends, he is known as just that 🙂

I actually have to remind myself that while I like him, it’s actually little T, my six-year-old daughter who is a big fan of Chris Riddell.

doodle4

Drawing Mr. Munroe (one of T’s favourite characters from the books Ottoline) and explaining that he apparently based him on his daughter Katy, who as a young girl, liked to come down at night with her hair in front of her face and always gave him a “judging daughter look” – “Really Dad”” with her arms folded like in the drawing.

doodle5

When asked, what is your favourite book?  He drew The Hobbit.

doodle6

Before the forum started, we were given postcards where the audience could write their questions to Chris Riddell.  T didn’t want to ask any questions.  But the lucky ones who did and whose questions were picked from a huge pile, went home with his drawings.  Lucky bunch!

After the Q & A there was a long queue of children with their parents lining up to get their books signed and of course, little T was among them.

queueing

Patiently waiting for her turn.

givingbookback

T shyly accepting her signed book from her favourite author. ” He is the best mum!”  She said to me as she clutched her signed book excitedly and I definitely agree with her.

chris_with_t

Mummy!  I met Chris Riddell!

happyt

Isn’t it obvious that she’s a happy little bunny for meeting her favourite author?

Driving all the way from Cornwall for the day was definitely so worth it.  I was really pleased and proud of little T for sitting quietly during the long Q & A session and waiting patiently for her turn to get her book signed in spite suddenly developing a slight temperature during the trip.

Thank you Chris Riddell for making a little girl happy.  And most of all, thank you for being a genuinely lovely person.

If your child hasn’t read any of his books yet, I do suggest that you add it on your Christmas list for them, especially if you have a little girl like T.  Ottoline (from the Ottoline books) and Ada Goth (from the Goth Girl books) are both feisty, strong-willed and independent little girls.  His books are nothing like  the usual books for children, that’s why we love them

Have you heard of Chris Riddell?

Do share.