Do you wonder what the future holds for you? Are you one of those people who firmly lives in the present and doesn’t really even think about it, or are you a planner, with your whole life’s course already plotted? Maybe you’re like me: a bit inbetweeny – vaguely aware that the choices you make now will affect you in later life, but happy to leave it to some hazy future time to actually sort anything out. Recently, Aviva challenged me to have a bit more of a proper think about my future, especially how we’ll manage financially. They have an online tool called ‘Shape my Future’ (more of this later) which can give you a rough estimate of how much you’ll have to live on when you’re older. It’s been an eye opener, I can tell you.
So last time I told you about project kitchen refurb, the wall was down, but not a lot else was done. We’ve moved on a little bit, and in an effort to feel like we’ve made a little progress in all the dust and rubble, Mr E finished the dining room side and painting it a beautiful shade of blue. The kitchen is awaiting our poor kitchen fitter, who is currently stacked out, to come and fit new wooden worksurfaces, and then all it needs is a bit of tiling. Which brings me neatly on to my first wishlist item:
So recently. The Organic Trade Board challenged us to take the Thrifty Organic Challenge and switch our usual weekly shop for organic. The average grocery shopping budget for a UK family of four is £83 a week. Could I switch everything we usually buy to organic , stay on budget, and still produce yummy, healthy food for my family? Here’s how we got on.
So another thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about on the house front is having a fire. At the moment we have rather an ugly ten year old gas fire. It’s not pretty, it smells a bit funny and it’s a long way from the crackling log fire that I dream about. The question is, what to do with it? Our first plan was just to rip it out, give us a bit more room in the lounge and be done with it, but then we started looking at fireplaces and stoves and it seems we do have some options.
God this week has been mental. This one came with the added stress of it being Sam’s first A level exam week. Sunday was a bit frantic as he had to work (HOW do these kids do it? Studying and revising, learning to drive, holding down a part-time job AND attempting a decent social life too?) and didn’t feel that he’d got much revision in. The Dude was knackered after an all-nighter at a friend’s house the night before, so we’d all hit the sack pretty early.
The highlights of my week included:
Ninja attempting to eat my toe through the 13 tog duvet. Pretty painful, but a very effective alarm clock:
Being traumatised on the school run (Sam’s now insured on my car at vast expense and regularly TERRIFIES me by driving me to school):
‘Sweetheart, you need to come in a bit towards the kerb – you’re kind of in the middle of the road’
‘I DO NOT! STOP FLAPPING!’
Call from Sam: ‘erm, we got the date wrong on the calendar. The exam is tomorrow’. I guess all I can take from this is that 1) our calendar system is wildly inefficient and 2) thank goodness we got it wrong that way round and hadn’t missed it completely. Honestly, how we all function I’ll never know.
Call from school: did you know that if you type a rude word into a school computer it’s automatically screenshotted and a copy taken to send to parents? No? Neither did The Dude. The word was ‘dildo’ if you’re interested. The explanation? ‘I was trying out find and replace, so I set it to find every time in my coursework that it said ‘to’ and replace it with ‘dildo’. Ohhhh. That’s okay then.
Getting home and unloading the shopping: placing the wine in the garage fridge (a really nice bottle of rosé that has been recommended to me – Petit Rimauresq if you must know – and that I was looking forward to sharing with the Hubby) when I realised (or more accurately smelt) that I had forgotten about the mouldy cucumber that had been languishing there since Sam’s 18th and that had leaked all into the bottom of the fridge. As I turned to fetch a cloth I lost grip of the wine, tried to break its fall with my knee, then watched helplessly as it smashed all over the floor. I didn’t know whether to cry over my spilt wine or my bruised knee. Finding no carpet cleaner and, hey, as it’s only a scrappy bit in the garage, I mopped it with a bucketful of hot water to which I’d added a Bold Liquitab. There was swearing.
Another call from school: this time involving the illicit shredding of a school tie in the house office shredder. Innocent faces all round.
And so it goes on really… next will be better right? RIGHT?
Last week was strange and sad.
It started relatively well, but then on Wednesday, we received news that Charlie’s martial arts school was closed for the week. Charlie was disappointed: he’s mad into kickboxing and as many of you know is very proud to have received his yellow belt quite recently.
Friday, the school emailed to tell us that the reason they’d closed was because of the death of Charlie’s Sensei, or teacher, a lovely young man named Henry. Henry was only in his early twenties. He was a huge role model to Charlie, who often jabbered on about how cool Henry was and how he was hoping to emulate him by achieving his black belt by the time he was 21. Without thinking, I rang Charlie, who was out with friends, and told him the bad news. With hindsight, I should have done it in person. He was devastated.
We’re not sure what happened, but it’s a tragedy. This young man had a huge impact on the life of my son. Kickboxing is very strict about etiquette, manners and respect. It’s changed him in lots of ways, not just physically – he’s calmer and more confident too.
As a parent, I think we’re sometimes a bit full of our own self importance, and often forget the enormous effect other people can have on the lives of our children. I’m so grateful to Henry for being such a fabulous role model, and frankly to everyone at the Martial Arts School for the care, attention and effort they put in with other people’s children.
Charlie will go on kickboxing, but I’m not sure it will ever be quite the same. Rest in peace, Henry.
So AS level results day yesterday. For those of who haven’t reached this milestone yet, AS is the first year of A levels, A2 being the second year. To be honest, our Mad Professor, Sam, knew that he’d not done brilliantly. After breezing through his GCSEs, the workload was a bit of a shock, and the first term he knows he really didn’t do enough. The school insist that they take three subjects, and he was struggling with the huge workload, struggling understanding the physics, and obviously missing the first hour of his biology exam didn’t exactly help, even with a B in his first module. He ended up just scraping through in two of them with an E and failing the physics. Ungraded. After all that hard work and revision…
The school have told him that he can’t retake. They’ve told him he can come back and do three completely different subjects at AS level, just not the ones he’s just done. I don’t understand. Its something to do with funding.
After initially being devastated, he’s a bit more philosophical now. He’s got his Royal Navy fitness test next but, bar a disaster in that, is looking forward to a career in the Navy. BUT he needs at least two A levels for what he wants to do, so if the school really won’t have him back to do the same subjects, he’ll have to pick three new ones, or he’ll have to go on to a sixth form college and repeat his A levels there, away from his friends and the teachers that he likes so much…
Ah well. As his Grandad said to me this morning: ‘a kick up the arse propels you forward’.
Recently it seems that everything’s been ‘up in the air’. I’m not good with change, and I don’t handle chaos very well either. I like calm, with the occasional nice thing to look forward to (and cake. Lots of cake). So these have been quite difficult times.
As it turns out, after the sheer panic of being told that we’ve got to move, and several weeks of fruitless searching for something suitable, a bit of lateral thinking (and, admittedly, some begging) has meant that we can stay. I’m heaving a huge sigh of relief and doing a bit of nesting at the same time, resettling myself into this house, which I love (though, it seems it took the threat of leaving to make me realise): cleaning up, clearing out, and wandering round my little garden in the long-awaited sunshine, grass tickling my toes, smelling the roses and tending the tomatoes. But that’s for another post.
Family-wise we’re battling on. I think one of the hardest things about parenting teens is letting go. And during the letting go process, there are the inevitable crises and mistakes that need to be handled. I’m not good with that either. I’m a worrier – a ‘worst case scenario’ kind of girl.
When they were little it was about whether they had their bike helmet on tight enough, and whether they’d fall off the wall they were climbing (with Charlie, he inevitably did). Now it’s about whether they’re strong enough to follow the right path, pick the right friends and be sensible enough to make the right decisions. I have to learn that I can’t do this for them, but hope that I’ve given them the right tools along the way. We’ve provided a ‘get out of jail free’ card, which means that they can ring, anytime, anywhere, no questions asked, if they feel things are getting out of control. This has made me feel better. The waiting up until 1am never gets easier, though. Having friends really helps – sometimes just hearing someone say ‘don’t worry’ or ‘we went through that too’ is everything you need to hear. And now the holidays have started, I’m grabbing my ‘taxi’ hat and preparing myself for six weeks of duty, along with the inevitable six weeks of trade offs and bargaining ‘yes you can go, but you can’t stay late’… ‘I’ll take you but I can’t pick you up too’ type conversations.
My lovely friend Lulu recently wrote a post about her own domestic situation, and about how she’s learning to embrace the chaos and stop beating herself up about not being perfect. I think I need to do this a bit more too.
So I’m counting my blessings – something I often write about but forget to do – baking biscuits, giving big, huge hugs, putting up whacky new curtains and – for once – enjoying the sunshine.
So that’s me, then. How are you?
So I’ve had ups and downs with my first year of vegetable patch ownership. For example, the sweet peas went completely mental but didn’t give me a single bloody flower, the pumpkins, coriander and basil all died (too cold? we didn’t really have any sunshine) and the cucumber covered the whole plot in huge leaves and spidery tentrils, but no cucumbers (well how was I to know it was a climber). On the upside, there are two or three courgettes ready to go, the dwarf french beans have given us a sizeable crop; the fennel, parsley, mint and thyme are all huge and the carrots are surviving . In the greenhouse, the tomatoes have been fruiting like wild things, but all the fruit is green and the weather is definitely on the turn here (our morning walk was both rainy AND cold – Bert was not impressed). The aubergine has a tiny fruit but again it might all be too late.
The rhubarb absolutely excelled itself, growing to triffid-like proportions while I scoured local garden centres for one of those terracotta things to ‘force it’. My kitchen gardening guru, Mr Titchmarsh, says that by the end of summer, the rhubarb will be too tough to eat, but ours has been amazing. Sunday, then, saw us tucking into the biggest, juiciest steaks ever, complete with home grown french beans, garlic-roasted butternut squash and some very pleasant home made potato wedges (four or five medium sized potatoes, cut in half, then into four wedges lengthways, blanched in boiling salted water for ten minutes, then tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and baked in a 200 degree oven until golden brown and crispy), followed by a huge rhubarb crumble with cream.
For the crumble, then:
Four or five big fat stems of rhubarb
Big splosh of apple juice or water (say 100ml?)
Sugar for sprinkling
6 oz plain flour
Generous teaspoon ground ginger
4 oz butter
4 oz sugar
1 oz porridge oats
Handful of sliced almonds
So preheat the oven to 200 degrees. I’ve been poaching my rhubarb first as I’ve been freezing some of it, so weigh out your ingredients, then, and wash the rhubarb, chopping into inch-long chunks. Pop them in a saucepan with your splosh of apple juice and a generous amount of sugar (to taste, but remember it’s sour!). Let the rhubarb poach gently with a lid on until it’s just tender but not mushy. Mine took about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, rub your butter and flour together (not too fine – a lumpy texture is better), then stir in your ginger, sugar and porridge oats. Spoon the rhubarb into an oven-proof dish, cover it with the crumble mixture and finally, sprinkle over the sliced almonds. All you’re doing is cooking the top so it should only take about 15 minutes to come out all golden and bubbling.
There you have it, then: good, fresh food, quickly prepared and happily scoffed. I had the leftovers with yoghurt for breakfast then next day too. Mr Atkins wouldn’t like it but hey, them’s the breaks.
- A salted caramel layer cake for my lovely Dad July 25, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: the summer kitchen roundup July 22, 2017
- The positive life plan: self July 20, 2017
- News from D23 Expo: what’s coming up at Walt Disney World, Florida July 18, 2017
- Top activities for adrenaline junkies July 17, 2017