Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Surprise snow

This was how my car looked last night just before 11pm when I went to collect my son from work. I hadn't looked out of the window during the evening so this was a total surprise.

I don't ever remember snow this early in the year. According to the news it is the first time that it has snowed in London in October since 1934.

It was cold last night so the snow was still here when we woke up this morning. It was a bright sunny day and the countryside looked beautiful.

When it snows in winter the trees look pretty with their bare branches outlined in snow. Now the trees are still in leaf so there is a strange mixture of autumn colour and snow. This beech tree looked stunning in the sunshine.

The leaves of the oak trees were all frozen, I expect they will fall quickly now.

In the bright sunlight the icicles on the twigs were melting rapidly but the shade temperatures were cold today and there is still quite a covering of snow in the garden.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Playing with my camera

My camera is a very simple "point and shoot" camera and most of the time that is exactly how I use it.

It has lots of different settings in the menu which until now I have completely ignored. I decided to have a little play and these are the first experimental shots using the colour accent feature.

These pictures have been quite fun to do although I expect I will keep the camera back on a more "normal"setting most of the time.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Catching up

I know haven't posted for over a week. Last weekend was a busy one, juggling lots of activities, taking and picking up older son from work and younger son to and from a Lacrosse match as well as spending some time with my husband who returned from two weeks away in the States.

Then I had to work on Monday and on Tuesday I hurt my back. It is stiff and sore and all I did was bend down to get a tray out from a cupboard. I am very cross with myself, I don't suppose I could have helped it, but it is very annoying not being able to sit or move comfortably. Still today it is definitely getting better.

Back to last weekend and I got this,

Ginny and Alice's book. I went to Waterstones in Farnham where they were doing a book signing and met them both. I have been following Ginny's blog almost since she started blogging so it was great to meet her in person. She and Alice were very friendly and it was lovely to chat and to see some of their finished articles.

The book is full of ideas and inspiration. Although I used to sew and make clothes, recently the only time I've used my sewing machine is to make curtains. I have been flicking through the pages and have earmarked a couple of things to try.

Now though its time to try and do some housework without bending my back. I will be able to dust window sills and the mantelpiece but anything higher or lower will have to wait!

Friday, 17 October 2008


I have never made chutney before but this year an excess of green tomatoes prompted me to have a go.

I put some music on and spend a pleasant time in the kitchen peeling and chopping, turning this

into this

which simmered down to this

and was then put into jars.

I used this recipe. The apples, tomatoes and onions (I used onions instead of shallots) were from the allotment and garden.
I tasted some from the odd half jar that you always seem to get left over when you preserve stuff and although it was quite nice it had quite a strong vinegar flavour. I know that chutneys are supposed to be left for a couple of months before eating so I'm hoping that the flavour will mellow a bit during storage.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A day in my life

We are half-way through another month and its time for me to record a day in my life.

The alarm went off at 6:10 this morning and I checked that eldest son who was working 7am - 3pm today was awake. I made my morning tea and took it back to bed and looked at my notebook and to-do lists. Today was an at home day perfect for catching up with housework and chores.

By 6:30 I was dressed in lots of layers, its a bit chilly in the mornings here and it was time to wake younger son. Wondering whether to do any washing to day, I peered through the steamed up windows at the still dark sky to try to see what the weather would be like. As I dry my washing outside all year round, I like to check the weather before I start, but at this time of year I want to get the washing out in the garden as early as possible, so in the winter I am often trying to predict the weather from a pitch black sky. The sky looked clear so I decided to go ahead.

Time then to put on gloves and scarf to drive eldest son to work. I have started making my gloves from left over sock yarn as they wear so much longer than pure wool ones and today by coincidence my gloves and socks matched - how very co-ordinated for that time in the morning!

Back home just after seven and just time to let the chickens out of their house and into their run. As the day lightened I was pleased that the sky did indeed look clear - a good day for washing.

At 7:10 I was in the car again taking youngest son down to the station and then by half past seven I was back in the house on my own and the morning rush was over. I put porridge ingredients together on a low heat on the stove and made myself coffee, time for a short break at the computer before starting the day.

Next, hanging the washing on the line, letting the chickens out into the garden and putting dinner in the slow cooker. Tuesday evenings can be a bit busy especially when I am on my own so the crock pot is perfect, whatever crops up I know that at least dinner is sorted. Tonight's was lamb hotpot, everything in together so extra easy.

The next few hours were spent doing housework which seems to take forever. I took a couple of breaks for cups of tea, and then back on the computer to send a "good morning" email to my husband who is working in Boston for a couple of weeks.

After a salad lunch I went out into the garden for an hour. My tomato plants which up to now had escaped blight were just beginning to show signs so I decided to pick the tomatoes and get rid of the plants. As always the chickens showed great interest in my activities.

I also pruned a pyracantha which had got out of hand. I had been putting it off because they are such prickly bushes to deal with but today wearing thick leather gloves I cut it down to size. Gardening was stopped by a short shower which also meant a scrabble to take in the washing which was still quite damp. This in between season is always the worst for drying washing, summer is obviously best but cold crisp winter days also dry well, the still damp days of autumn don't really have much drying power. I will have to hang the laundry on the clothes airer but as we don't have the heating on yet it will take a while to dry.

I left to pick up my eldest son from work just before 3pm. I thought I might get nice long days without interruptions once the children got older but now my son is working different shifts I seem to have to keep my eye on the clock more than ever. The lack of transport in country areas was not a factor I considered when we decided to move here seventeen years ago. Village life was great when the children were small but as a mother of teenagers I do find that I spend a lot of time in the car.

Back home and time for a cup of tea with my son before sorting the rest of the tomatoes. I have about 4lb of green tomatoes.

At 4pm I left to pick up younger son from the station. Back home again I googled recipes for green tomato chutney. I think I will try this one although possibly with less chili. I've not made chutney before but ten chillies in four jars of chutney seems quite a lot to me.

More general tidying before an early dinner. Tuesday night is Lacrosse training for younger son and we eat early so he is not running around full of dinner! The slow cooker made a lovely hotpot as always.

After dinner I quickly washed up, shut the chickens safely away for the night before leaving for lacrosse training with one boy while the other waited for friends who were coming round to watch a film.
Training is in town about nine miles away and lasts two hours. To try to be a bit more environmentally friendly I stay there rather than driving home. There is a Waitrose nearby so I did my weekly shop before it closed and then I sat in the car park at the sports centre and knitted. I always take two knitting projects with me, if I can park near some of the floodlights I can do any knitting because there is enough light to see if I need to but if I find myself in a dark part of the car park then I only do simple knitting like dishcloths! Today I found a good space and spent an hour knitting my top down jumper.
We arrived home at 9:30pm and I unpacked the shopping. I could hear the mumble of chat and laughter coming from the living room, its lovely to hear a group of friends enjoying themselves.
Now I'm upstairs finishing this post. My husband has just phoned to say good night though of course it is still at afternoon in the States.
So that was my day today, fairly typical of my non-working days. This series of posts will be a good record of how I spend my time and I'm sure I will find them interesting to look back on. I've never been much good at keeping a diary but I enjoy recording my activities one day a month.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The television is back

Last month, September, we tried a television free month. The television spent a month at the bottom of our wardrobe upstairs but now in October, it has returned to the living room.
After our TV free time we discussed whether to have the television back. I was the only one who wanted to stay without so I was well and truly out-voted! My husband seemed to be the one who missed it most. He rarely reads and watching TV has always been his way of relaxing after work. The boys both read a lot and seemed to be able to fill their time but both wanted the television back although my eldest son is watching less.
I have to admit to being very disappointed that we brought it back. I don't watch much and had expected to enjoy being without the box. In reality it was even better than I expected. Not only did everyone have more time but our evening schedules did not revolve around programme timings. We spent longer over our evening meal and chatted a lot more during the rest of the evening. I had more help with the chores as no-one was rushing to watch a programme. I would have liked to extend the time so that everyone had a longer time to find other activities and get used to the quiet evenings but the deal was that we would have a vote at the end of the month and so that is what we did.
Maybe after a little while I'll see if everybody would be willing to try another month!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Little boxes

This little box has sat on a shelf in our hallway for years. It is a carton from a Camembert Cheese. I always think it is a shame to just throw these away so I covered the top of one with a piece of felt. It contains spare keys, the key thing for the electricity and gas meters and a few one pound coins ( the coins because children only ever tell you that they need a pound for something at school when you are literally just going out the door and when you have no change other than a handful of pennies!).

Last week my older son decided he needed a box of his own for his loose change and keys so I made another one. This time I embroidered a random "doodle" pattern.

So now we have two boxes on the shelf but as things often look better in groups of three, I might just make another one.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Changing times

As the autumn days pass there are small changes in the colour of the leaves on the trees, a reduction in the number of hours of daylight and cooler temperatures, especially during the night and in the early morning. Each individual change is small, sometimes barely noticeable from one day to the next, but they all add together to make the big change from one season to the next.

I think this mirrors the way changes often occur at different stages in our lives. Sometimes change is very definite and marked, getting married, having a child or losing a loved one. Then it is easy to pinpoint the moment of change. Many changes though happen very gradually and although the difference from day to day is small, after a while it becomes apparent that a shift in the pattern of life has occurred.

We are going through a series a small changes here, which in the future when I look back, I think I will see as part of a larger change. Family life is a mixture of the personalities and activities of all the individual members and as time passes the balance within the family group is altered.

Now that our eldest son has a job, the hours that he spends at home are different from the regular hours of the school day. No longer having to cope with homework and study, he spends more time with friends away from home.

My husbands job also entails more time away from home, often abroad and so the routine of family life is less structured and has to become more flexible.

Each individual change has a small effect on our routines but all put together the pattern of our time together has changed even when compared to just a year ago.

Going through a period of change always involves looking forward as well as back and this is where I find myself this autumn. As family members spend more time on their own, away from the family, I wonder how my role will change over the coming years. Since having the children I have either not worked or worked part time. I wonder what I will do now or in a year or two, continue part time or work longer hours? stay in my current job or consider doing something else?

The changing season seems to have brought up lots of questions this year. No answers or ideas yet, just lots of thoughts and questions flitting through my mind.