Friday, 26 April 2013

Someone buy that boy a brain, please!

Number 1 son went on a trip to Brussels this week, as part of his A level Politics course.
The trip was scheduled to leave his school in Norwich (half an hour from home) at 3am on Thursday, not a time I'm usually driving about the city - not these days anyway! I agreed to take him and a friend's daughter and she was to pick them up on their return, around 8pm Friday (today)

I decided to stay awake just in case, I have history about holidays and trips as you may already know, see here , here-and here! If something can go wrong it generally goes wrong to us! I checked and triple checked his passport/wallet/Euros/phone etc. I had asked him the day before if he had credit on his mobile - he's responsible for that himself. If you want a phone you pay for it yourself in this house. He informed me on the Wednesday that he did have credit - 5p!! On this occasion I bought him a small top up voucher and ensured he had my friends daughter's number on his phone in case of emergencies.

He has a memory the size of a pea (exactly the same as me at that age but don't tell him that!) So when I woke him at 2am we checked everything again - in his grumpy 17 year old way he assured me he had everything covered. Drop off went smoothly and I got to bed at 4am, the builder did the school run for the other 2. I slept until 9am and then dashed out for an eyebrow tint (I'm now looking ever so slightly like a clown - don't ask!)
After that I checked my 'phone - 3 messages from number 1 son - oh dear! The first one sent at 6am read "have I left my wallet at home.?.." At that point he was barely out of Norfolk! The second sent at 6.10am read " Oh b***** I have haven't I, I've lost it! I have no money, sorry" and finally the third message sent at 9.15am (after he'd worried and stewed for 3 hours)
read "don't worry I've found it in my bag"
I heard nothing more despite my texts to him, clearly he's lost his 'phone I thought! Until Friday evening, when he was on the way home, it reads "had a brilliant time, I bought you some special Belgian chocolate, but have left it in a bag at the train station......Sorry"

I did at that point tell him to check he'd got his passport/wallet/phone etc., but I also told him about the time I left a bag hanging on a luggage trolley at Gatwick airport (probably causing a bomb scare in my wake) which contained his very bestest dinosaur, never to be seen again!!
Oh please can someone buy that boy a brain.......??

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A book review, of sorts

Last week it was my turn to host our reading group, this comes around about once a year as there are 10 members of the group and we have 10 meetings a year. We meet once a month but chose early on to have a longer break in the Summer and just have a messy night out at Christmas; where, if we do talk about the book, no one can remember what was said anyway!

I hadn't made the last meeting due to all 3 men being at a cricket practice session and Little Miss being too young to stay home alone. At this time of the year the group know I'm battling against the tide to get out of the house!

Anyway they'd had a good meeting in March and the chosen book was delivered to me.
 It was this.....

A very odd choice!
Now I love a good read and didn't see the appeal of a cookery book. I have enough of those already and cook, or more accurately bake, a lot.
I hadn't watched the TV series either so it was all a bit baffling.
Anyway the message which was delivered with the book, was that a challenge had been thrown down too. We were to browse the book, read and bake whatever we wished, but for the next meeting we should challenge ourselves to make something we'd never made before. Well once the gauntlet has been thrown down (or should that be oven glove?) I'm not one to shy away! Life is a little hectic at the moment so I flicked through on a couple of evenings for inspiration. I eventually settled on croissants, the ham and cheese variety. I thought something savoury would be a good idea as the majority of the book was sweet. I checked the ingredients and I had pretty much everything already so I waited for the morning of the meeting.
Monday last week was the appointed date, I don't work on Mondays but after the weekend, especially after the Easter break, there was a lot of tidying and cleaning to do.
Mid morning I thought I'd make a start as I assumed there would be "rising time" - it was a bready kind of recipe. However the bit I'd failed to notice was the method, halfway through I came to the bit which said "leave to stand overnight"!
Oh dear! A bit of a disaster; by this time I was very red in the face and flustered, tea towel in one hand, duster in the other - goodness knows where the broom was!
I madly flicked through the book again for anything I could make in the limited time I had left. Melting moments looked easy enough - but this is not an easy book! I mixed the required ingredients (leaving the half made croissant mix for another day) and forced it into a piping bag with twirly nozzle. I only use piping bags occasionally so just keep a stash of disposable ones, I squeezed and squeezed but no matter how hard I tried the mix was too thick to push through. The piping bag split and I was covered in goo. I tried again with a new bag and the same thing happened, three more times! I eventually removed the nozzle and made the opening a bit wider on the last piping bag.
That worked and I artistically twirled my mixture into several "dog-turd" kind of a shapes! They were baked and had to be sandwiched together with a kind of buttercream, not ordinary buttercream of course. A buttercream icing that involved making a roux, cooling and mixing. All this seemed to do was dumb down the sweetness of the icing though.
They were finished in time for me to do the ballet run (boys x 3 at cricket) and I arrived home with about 10 minutes to spare before the group arrived.
I needn't have worried about my disaster though, as each person (except 1) came through the door they all said, "oh what a day I've had" or "I must explain the disaster-on-a-plate I've brought with me"
We did however end up with a table that looked like this...
So it wasn't all bad, we had a tea party!
On the table there is a tarte au citron, battenburg cake, rum baba's, stilton, spinach and new potato quiche, wholemeal bread, rum and raison cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies 
and my melting moments. Quite a feast!
And we all agreed that this is the most talked about book for months. However not much of the talk was good, and no one wants to buy it (we had library copies). All the recipes seemed over complicated and time consuming. Everything tasted ok, not spectacular but ok. None of the recipes warranted the time they seemed to take and could probably have been made in half the time using a different recipe, and tasted just as good.
We did however, all leave the meeting a few pounds heavier!
We are now reading my choice which is....

It wasn't my first choice, in fact it was about my seventh choice! The library couldn't supply 10 copies of anything I asked for so suggested I pick something from their "recommended reads for reading groups" list - I shut my eyes and pointed! So when I collected it from the library it was a surprise to me too, I couldn't remember what I'd ordered. I'm not sure about it really, it doesn't sound like an uplifting read - I'll let you know!
Anyway have a good week, I hope you're all seeing some sunshine.
P.s.  As an update to my last post, I'm afraid despite my best efforts I saw no celebrities on the Norfolk Broads. I don't know anyone who did either,
maybe the tourist board were just having us on?!
P.p.s. I eventually got back to the croissant mix on the Thursday and finished them off - they weren't worth the wait!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Decisions, Decisions.......

A little rumour started to fly around these parts yesterday, causing a little stir amongst the ladies. Even The Sun Showbiz section carried the story (thus proving it's true!). Apparently after Kate Middleton's shopping trip to the area last week we now have Ashton Kutcher (plus Mila Kunis) holidaying a couple of miles down the road! Apparently they have picked up a boat for a stay on the Norfolk Broads, so certainly, for the time being at least, not all men in Norfolk are farmers... who knew?!

I've yet to spot them in the local McDonald's or the village shop but my eyes will be peeled for the next week or so. I did slightly veer off the road earlier today whilst driving through the village trying to spot any hint of a large broads cruiser with blacked out windows (is there even such a thing?)
Being that I am fascinated with all things celebrity I will be spending a huge amount of time "wandering around" in the next week, well you never know....
Look out for the next headline in The Sun Showbiz along the lines of "slightly deranged, middle aged, local lady seen swimming wildly in the direction of a large boat on the Norfolk Broads" - that'll be me! I'm sure I'm in with a chance after all there are so many similarities between
Demi Moore and myself; we are both brunette, a similar age
(she's slightly older - I feel that's important to point out!),
we each have 3 children and.... erm....

I have to say I'm a little torn after last years local news story that Johnny Depp had bought a house on the coast in Norfolk, I'd been planning to spend a inordinate amount of time in that village this year, just by coincidence you understand.......

Oh what is a girl to do?...Decisions, decisions......

Have a lovely weekend whatever you're doing,
I may be at cricket or on the other hand I may be on a boat.......

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Grand Day Out

Well it's the end of the Easter holidays in this neck of the woods and just about the start of the cricket season when chaos will reign (slightly more chaos than usual I should say).

I've spent the holidays trying to juggle all of the things that needed doing as well as pop into work a few times. Number 2 son has had 3 weeks off but mostly spent the first week catching up on sleep and generally dossing around. Number 1 and Little Miss started their two week break after number 2 had already been off for a week but Little Miss had 4 mornings of gymnastics in that first week, 3 hours a day, as well as her 2 evening sessions; she did a total of 15 hours and was understandably shattered! We gave her the option of giving up the two evening sessions but no way, she has a steely determination that girl!

The second week saw number 2 son on a course at the University, training to be a cricket coach of all things! That was 10am til 4pm each day and I found myself doing 60+ miles each day just dropping off and picking up. Still he passed the course and as long as he gets the first aid and safeguarding children courses done he's qualified. I'm sure it does no harm to add another string to his bow. (or maybe that's the first string, I'm not sure)

A very willing apprentice!
amazing what you can do with left over roof battens!

We'd managed to get a few other jobs done too, I always get a bit twitchy at this time of year as I'm conscious of the fact nothing will get done over the next few months it will be cricket, cricket, cricket! At last the guinea pigs were given an outside home, they've lived indoors since Little Miss got them; only 18 months ago! And a toilet seat was fitted in the new shower room which had been finished (loose use of the word finished!) before Christmas.

So on Friday a family day out was called for, I used the vouchers we'd bought for the boys for Christmas and off we went to Lee Valley in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. Lee Valley White Water Centre was built for the UK Olympics last year and is now being converted into an education, training and activity centre. The weather didn't look good as we drove along the motorway, such a shame after a few days of sunshine. Little Miss wasn't too happy as she was too young to take part, because of this we only booked the boys onto the course and not ourselves.

All the children think Dad was a daredevil and not me in our younger days so were quite surprised to hear I'd actually ridden the rapids myself, for around 5 hours down a raging river, on our honeymoon. (Such a romantic day out!) It was probably one of the best experiences of my life (the rafting not the honeymoon) and I'd do it again tomorrow. We got slightly conned on our trip as the guide knew we were on honeymoon and got us to raft a couple of waterfalls on our own - the end result was the two of us upside down at the back of the boat ever so slightly dazed and confused! I'd love to post a photo here just to prove the point but I can't find them - I did do it honest!
Anyway the session was for 2 hours and the weather was not helping, drizzly and bitterly cold - especially in the water. But what fun they had, I was very envious and we will go back at some point and book all of us on to a session. The guides were terrific and made it very exciting, the boys were a bit blue when they eventually met us (in the coffee bar - well what else would you do?) We'd all highly recommend it for outdoorsy fun if that's your thing.
black rain cloud hovering above

Our two were at the front of the boat for most of the time.
To round the day off (and to stop a little bit of whinging coming from the smallest member of our party) we headed back to Norwich for a game of 10 pin bowling and a meal out. It was an expensive day but we don't have family days out in the summer like most people, every minute is spent driving to, driving from, watching, catering for, washing kit, for cricket.
So all in all I think we all had a good day out.
The boys (all 3 of them) had to dash home to catch up on their cricket fantasy league on the
Indian Premier League - it's getting very competitive, apparently.

I hope you all enjoyed the Easter break and saw a little bit of sunshine in the end.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Transformation of the bathroom

I've mentioned before that our cottage renovations and improvements have been going on for some time; approximately 22 years I believe! So I thought I'd show what we did to the main family bathroom over this time - I hope this isn't a boring post - I love to read house renovation and decoration blog posts.

When we first bought our house it was 2 cottages, I suppose semi-detached best describes them downstairs it was two separate houses but upstairs all one. One side was lived in and one side derelict. It was debateable whether one side was actually habitable but an elderly lady certainly did live there.

We had to wait over a year for all the necessary permissions covering the work we wanted to do and for the first few months we camped out in the house. I didn't use any of the cupboards and lived out of suitcases until we decided a caravan in the garden was a better option.

The house had been fixed up over a period of time by the owners late husband, one of the improvements was the electric pump to bring water from the well into a tank in the eaves space. She explained that the pipe had a filter on it and we should switch on the pump every day for a short time to fill up the tank. The switch in the kitchen activated the pump but had been installed upside down; so when it said on it was off and when it said off it was on! There was no cut off for when the tank was full but when water started to drip down the kitchen window you knew the tank was overflowing! One day I ran a bath only to find it full of dirty water and some small twigs - it appeared the filter had broken. The builder went to investigate the filter - what type was it? Would we easily be able to get another? Not a problem as the "filter" was an old pair of tights!

The houses had obviously been built without a bathroom but Mr DIY had added one some years ago; it was a wooden shed attached to the side of the house and knocked through! A little chilly to say the least. It only housed the bath though, the loo and basin were in another cupboard like room just off the kitchen (ex coal hole probably)

The loo had a window which didn't shut and I had my worst moment when going to clean my teeth one morning I found a snail on my toothbrush! I wanted to cry right then, the journey to get permission to renovate the house was a long one and then we had to tackle the build! I don't really think we knew what was in store for us (just as well) and we were on a very tight budget.

The new bathroom and an en-suite at a later date were to be situated in the eaves spaces, once the roof had been lifted to allow head height. Personally it just didn't seem possible to me when it looked like this....
The afore mentioned eaves space is behind the fetching red curtain! And my lovely Timothy (or Timmy Titten as he was fondly known) was not at all impressed by his new home
 (he did like the mice though)
Sorry about the awful pictures but they are old and have been scanned in.
Well the bathroom took shape eventually and we were able to afford to fit out one of them, we were only a family of two then so that was fine for the time being. Money was in short supply as The Builder had given up work to spend all hours on our house, I worked full time and we cashed in everything we had - including our car!
the dividing wall between bathroom (far side) and en suite - almost built. Me peeping through from the far end!
 The first incarnation of the bathroom was very "early 90's" and brightly coloured. In those days we had no need for a long soak in a relaxing environment, we had no children to escape from! We couldn't afford the free standing bath I'd set my heart on and we regretted the pine panelling almost as soon as it was done! Panelling it horizontally was a nightmare as any drips and runs of water left marks no matter how we sealed the wood.
post baby - note the bath toys!
The bathroom ceiling sloped down to just above the tiles so head height was still a bit restrictive.
I had been itching to redo the bathroom from day one and got my chance when two things happened. First we decided to add a bedroom above our kitchen which in itself was not too difficult but meant we had to create a hall through our bedroom and lose the en-suite. In doing this we could raise the ceiling of the bathroom and enlarge it slightly. However The Builder would no doubt have bodged together an almost matching extension to the tiles etc if I hadn't have inadvertently turned the water back on one night after he turned it off. I didn't realise it was off for a reason! The whole room flooded and as you step down into the bathroom it didn't creep onto the landing but the water went straight down; and flooded the hall below!
 It now became a much bigger job and we had to strip it right back to basics, hooray!
We were able to add a shower and retile and re-do the floor.
It is now my sanctuary and I love it - still a few too many kids things around but we've recently regained an en-suite so I'll be moving in there soon.

The bath is re-panelled and painted antique white, there are pale beige tiles and limed wood-look lino on the floor. I really like the flooring, it was really expensive but our insurance was new for old when we flooded so we could have almost anything.
The ceiling candle holder was made by a blacksmith from a metal beer barrel ring (not sure what the proper name for them is)
There is a feature wall at the end painted a coffee colour, the room can't take too much colour as it only has one tiny window.
 I should also point out that during the renovations (2nd time around) we're removed all the skirting boards as they just never seemed right with the wonky walls - it's not very practical as shoes, sports & school bags and the hoover leave scuff marks all the time!
Well I hope this is ok as a post, I'm not sure if it's interesting to anyone else or not!

Monday, 1 April 2013

A chocolate overdose, some croquet and a winner!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter break? It has been surprisingly relaxed here, the calm before the storm maybe with the cricket season imminent.

As all the children are now off school (all three finished on different days!) we've managed a few lie-ins and cups of tea in bed. This coming week Little Miss has 4 mornings of gymnastics (9am start in Norwich) as well as her usual 2 evening sessions - boy she'll be worn out! And then the second week number 1 son is on a cricket course for all 5 days so it'll be a busy couple of weeks - just call me the taxi driver!

However this Easter weekend has been lovely, the weather not too bad for us in the
 East of England. The odd flake of snow coming down but mostly sunny; it has been bitterly cold towards the end of the day though.

On Sunday we went to friends for the annual Easter Egg hunt which is a fantastic event for lots of people, all of whom take lorry loads of chocolate! Number 1 son chose not to join us mainly because he was having trouble actually removing his dressing gown and putting one foot in front of the other! (Lazy-itis at it's best!) We contributed four eggs (we're a bit tight!) and then the children were locked in a darkened room while the adults scattered the eggs far and wide. Little Miss had a plan this year as the eggs are often hidden in the same places year after year so her main aim was to climb the rope up to a high branch where there is usually a golden Lindt bunny.
However what we did not know was that this year they had added a treasure hunt for the older kids and
Little Miss managed to almost scupper the whole hunt! She scrambled up the rope, right to the top but was a bit puzzled to find an envelope and not a chocolate bunny - she had to scramble back up and replace the clue before the teenagers were released!
We did find lots of chocolate though, collected in straw hats issued at the start, some were in trees, some under leaves, a few stuffed into molehills!

We also ate a few on the way around the fields!

Some furry alpaca watching the egg hunt!
As described last year there were the usual assortment of eccentric people gathered for the hunt - it makes people watching a bundle of laughs! The lady who always greets me like a long lost sister was there, she threw her arms around me and said how lovely it was to see me, she also greeted my husband by name; we still have no idea who she is!
The man who in previous years had arrived wearing a ladies fox fur was noticeably absent but the pianist who has a nervous twitch was there once again.

After the egg hunt and obligatory football match we played "crazy croquet" but by that time (6pm) it was pretty chilly and our fingers froze to the mallets! The crazy bit was that the lawn was lumpy and bumpy with added fir cones and rabbit holes - good fun though!

Our haul for 2013!

But now onto the giveaway I promised to mark my 1st anniversary as a blogger. Thank you for all the comments, all names were put into the Easter bonnet to be drawn by Little Miss.
The prizes I chose to giveaway may not suit everyone but they reflect a bit of me (because I love to read) and a little bit of my family - with a connection to cricket. The first book is this

I read this a few years ago after finding it at a jumble sale. It looked interesting and quite funny, I was attracted to it as the author was Harry Thompson who created the TV shows "Have I Got News For You" and "Never Mind The Buzzcocks" amongst others. But I loved it. A super read and you only need to know the tiniest amount about cricket (I know virtually nothing!) it involves a cricket team who endeavour to play in every continent of the world, something I'm sure my family would love to do - imagine I'd have to watch cricket in Australia, the West Indies, India, oh how difficult that would be! The writing is superb and I even bought it on audio book for us all to listen to in the car! It made me roar with laughter more than once and also cry more than once, it's so well written. I was reading it one day at a junior cricket match when the Mum sitting next to me, who at the time was studying the match with a rule book on her lap, leant over to ask me a question. I suppose she knew I had spent most of my life at cricket matches and she could see I was reading a book about cricket so she assumed I knew something about the game! She said "I'm sorry to appear stupid but would you mind telling me if the boy over there is standing at silly mid on or square leg?" Unfortunately she was not impressed by my reply of
 "hmmmm, I think he's a fielder"
She never asked me a question again so at least some good came of it!
The second part of the giveaway is this

A children's book by Tom Blofeld. Tom lives not far from us and, along with a friend, has developed a children's outdoor adventure park where the characters in his book live. Bewilderwood is a great place for a fun day out and we can walk to it! The vague crickety connection is that Tom's Uncle Henry is a famous cricket commentator on BBC radio, known as Blowers.

So I hope this makes a giveaway the winner will be happy with, I have added a couple of other things too, please feel free to pass the books on if they're not your cup of tea!
So without further ado I will announce that the winner is Justine!
I must go now there are several Cadbury Caramel eggs with my name on.... but don't tell the kids!