Monday, 25 February 2008

My version of Better Homes and Gardens: Handy Hints

The following are the top five most useful excuses and logical reasons for escaping horrible, horrible housework.

1. Leave things to "soak." Not only does this get you out of scrubbing stubborn burnt-on food, it's also a legitimate way to clean something. Score! Bonus points if you manage to leave it "soaking" for more than a week.

2. Incorporating a long, complicated chain of if-then scenarios into your cleaning in a way that prevents you from getting most, if not all, housework done. For example, we are (still) redecorating our bathroom. It also needs a good clean and sort-out. I really can't get it cleaned until the painting is done, and I really can't get the painting done until the borders are finished. I can't do the borders until the tiles are scraped, and I also need to locate a low-tack masking tape that won't peel three layers of paint off the walls when it's pulled off the wall (sigh). You see why I couldn't possibly get round to cleaning the bath or the sink, right? Exactly.

3. Destructive children. There is really no point in folding a mountain of clean laundry if your toddler is going to pull it all on top of herself and squeal with glee. However, this is a catch-all excuse, and while accurate, you don't get many points for creativity.

4. Substandard equipment. I don't iron clothes very often, and it's mostly because I'm lazy. But also? Our ironing board is very old and no longer straight. For some reason, it is covered in hills and valleys, making it frustrating to iron anything. It sits there in the cupboard, silently accusing me with its well-pressed stare, but I'm adept at ignoring it. Which brings us to number five...

5. "I didn't notice it!" This is my husband's favourite, and it's a real doozy. Sometimes he can get away with allowing destruction and mayhem to occur mere feet away from him, but because he was watching tv, he gets a pass on being responsible for the resulting mess. Nothing beats my friend's husband, though, whose daughter got into the makeup bag and annointed her entire body with mascara while sitting in her daddy's lap. He was watching Star Wars at the time, so of course he felt he should have been absolved of all responsibility.

There you have it. A short but useful list of time-honoured methods in escaping any and all housework or chores. Please feel free to add to the list. I'm always on the look-out for more ways to procrastinate. Even now, instead of making dinner, I'm waiting for the meat to defrost. Another hour of time sucking internet surfing, here I come!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Tell me what you think this is.

If you guessed tamarind, you would be right! For the un-edumacated, tamarind fruit is defined by Wikipedia as follows:
The fruit pulp is edible and popular. It is used as a spice in both Asian and Latin American cuisines, and is also an important ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce and the Jamaican-produced Pickapeppa sauce. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is very tart and acidic and is most often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is sweeter, yet still distinctively sour, and can be used in desserts and sweetened drinks, or as a snack. In Thailand, there is a carefully cultivated sweet variety with little to no tartness grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit.

The bit where it says it's edible can be debated. Apparently, it's been made into a horrific, gut-wrenching candy called the Pulp of Tamarind. It does not sound appealing. How can something like that even be considered food, let alone a treat or candy? I think that somewhere along the line, there was a mistranslation:

In temples, especially in Asian countries, the pulp is used to clean brass shrine furniture, removing dulling and the greenish patina that forms.

Ah, I see. The words "candy" and "furniture polish" must be very similar in these unidentified Asian countries, and that's where the confusion resulted. Pulp of Tamarind is meant to shine your brass, not tickle your tastebuds.

I wonder, though, why anyone even thought that this "fruit" would be good for even tasting in the first place, let alone trying in recipes or manufacturing on a large scale. It looks like turds. That picture, up top there? That's the one that my friend handed to me this morning, as a little gift. I was very nonplussed. Why would she give me fake poo? As a little joke? Was it a subtle dig at my housekeeping skills? Is she going kind of loopy in her old age?

When she told me it was tamarind, and that she was giving them out to everyone at our church, I was slightly mollified. But I had heard of tamarind before, and the pulp is sold at my local grocery store, so I didn't think much of the gift. How can you be truly appreciative of a foodstuff that looks like poo and tastes like burning?

I admit, the picture below of the fruit on a tree doesn't look so bad. But after careful inspection, it started looking a little....phallic. Lovely. Phallic poo fruit.

I'll take a pass on that gastronomic experience, thanks. Any takers?

Sunday, 17 February 2008

2 1/2 weeks.

We have been playing round robin with a Monster Cold these past few weeks. Eldest was off school for an entire week, just before half term. Once she got better, Baby got it. Luckily the baby got a shortened version of the disease, so she got better just in time for me to catch it. Looooovely. The Husband is currently suffering, and hopefully Middle Child will escape its clutches. He is surprisingly resilient to many infections, considering how vitamin deficient he must be. (anything resembling a vegetable is summarily dismissed as being defective and inferior "food")

I've been climbing the walls in boredom and frustration. At first, it was nice to just chill out all day in our jammies, watching tv as and when we felt like it, and eating cereal for dinner. It was a novelty. I was going crazy after day 3, though. We couldn't go out -- someone was always ill -- but everyone else was bored stiff. I wasn't up to entertaining them very much, and that is a major drawback in my character these days.

I'll confess. Kiddie games are boring. All they want to do is play mummies and babies, whether it's with their dolls, cars, or bits of sticks and dirt. I live mummies and babies every day, so no thanks. This is why our Sims game sits on the shelf collecting dust. Once I realised that I was changing nappies and feeding children in my down time, I stopped playing that "game" really quick. I love watching the kids play, and listening to their little pretend world, but I really don't have the desire to join in. I like doing stuff with them, like gardening or baking or shopping, but the sitting around and playing games with them is just not my thing.

I'm aware that some mothers and fathers out there will probably think less of me for admitting this. I don't tell people my feelings on this subject very often, for fear of losing points among my parent friends. It's just not my thing.

Thankfully, everyone will be back to their normal schedules starting tomorrow, and we can all get back on an even keel again. Maybe we'll do something cool tomorrow, like painting the brick wall out in the back garden or transplanting our seedlings into little pots. Please, please, anything but dollies and babies again....

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Saturday Meme: You are invited to my virtual dinner.

Baked goods only. Double desserts, of course.

Lasagna. Technically this is cheating, since it's not usually found in a bakery, but I love pasta.

The perfect cherry pie. Doesn't that look fab?

Cupcakes baked inside an icecream cone, topped with a swirl of ice cream. This is a classic kiddie treat, and one I should use for Eldest's birthday party....

Happy Saturday! I hope you enjoyed your feast.

Friday, 15 February 2008

I've decided to start a Meme....

Check my sidebar to sign up for my Saturday Meme!

It's a photo scavenger hunt, and tomorrow's theme is "Perfectly Baked Goods."

Use google images to find that perfectly baked treat, whether it's a gorgeous birthday cake, golden loaf of bread, or the greasiest, fattiest sausage roll you can find. Whatever tickles your fancy, really.

Feast your eyes on some lovely baked treats tomorrow!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

People and Me.

I have never been very good at reading other people. In my younger days, I would write pages and pages of journal entries analyzing every little detail of conversations I had with people (mostly boys). It's a miracle I met and married my husband actually; I'm just rubbish at socializing and stuff. I put on a little show for people, and I make the appearance of being semi-normal, but it's mostly an act. I'm especially good at being the brash American. It's an easy facade to hide behind.

About a year after The Husband and I started dating, I spent 6 weeks living away from home in a far away city doing some volunteer work. I had a great time, learned a lot, and to my complete surprise, I had several men interested in me. It was really weird! I didn't quite know what to do or how to respond. I was in a committed relationship, so there were no reciprocated feelings, but I wasn't even sure if these guys were simply being nice, or actually flirting? How could I tell?

So, of course, my modus operandi was to write about our conversations in excruciating detail in my journal. Reading through these journals now, it's pretty blinkin' obvious that there was some flirtation going on. Like, when a guy purposely goes out of his way to talk to you in every social setting you cross paths in? Yeah. Derr.

Last night, at rehearsals, I was surprised to find that the new guy kept looking at me. Several times, he sought me out to start a small conversation. A few times, when I glanced in his direction, I accidentally caught his eye. I was nice enough to him, and it was flattering, in a way. I don't wear a wedding ring, and I didn't get a chance to casually mention "my husband" in any conversation. Heh.

I'm amused at the thought of his reaction to finding out I'm married with three kids. I've been told that I don't look old enough to have such a large family (and I love every single person who has said that). If I'm right, and this guy was trying to get to know me -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- I wonder if he'll freak out when I tell him about my family. I wonder if he'll stop trying to talk to me so much.

I could be totally wrong in my assessment, however; he might be interested in finding out about the weird American chick, and that's all. It could go either way, really. Like I said, I'm pretty bad at reading people.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Buying new glasses.

My husband broke his glasses the other night. Again. For the second time in 12 months.

I, on the other hand, am wearing frames that I've had for at least 6 years. I need new ones, and I've been ousted out of the running yet again by Sits On His Glasses over there. Le Sigh.

However! This will not stop me from browsing. And maybe, just maybe, ordering them very cheaply from an American website. Waddya think?

I love these frames. They are so girly, which is something that I don't normally go for. They are also full of personality, and I think I could look quite cool in these. They come in a few colours:

I think brown would be the best, because although I would be branching out with the frames themselves, I don't know if I can risk wearing pink glasses every day.

The other frames I am interested in are a bit more utilitarian and robust looking. I think they would stand up to life with young children better, so I could save my fancy frames for dates or work.

I most definitely wouldn't get the green frames, though. Sorry, but I just can't manage it. They come in other colours:

Quite a few colours, actually, and I don't think black would be the best option. I'm leaning towards purple and dark purple. It is my favourite colour, and it's not so in-your-face that I would have to worry about matching outfits to my frames.

Anyway. The Husband will be ordering frames from the same website, so I'll probably get these soon. Tell me what you think of them!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Meet my new baby.

Praise the heavens that I didn't give birth to him:

Eldest has decided his name is Charlie. For now. I think she may change her mind. Charlie is a fine name for a hedgehog, if you ask me.

Isn't he a cutie, though? We didn't initially want to get a hedgehog with such light colouring, but he's just lovely. His eyes aren't as red as the flash of the camera make out, but they are definitely a dark red. He is 11 months old, and has already produced a few litters with his previous owner. We want to use him for breeding, but first and foremost, he is our pet.

It's been over a decade since I've actually had a pet, and I'm really excited about it! For years I would say to people, "I clean up enough poo as it is; no pets for me!", but I've obviously softened recently. He's so small though, I'm sure he'll be no trouble.

Little Charlie has had a long day, and he's now fast asleep in his little igloo hidey-hole. When I woke him up earlier to transfer him from the carrying cage to his proper home, he snorted and snuffled at me. Awesome.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Etsy, will you marry me?

I've found a new love of my life: the world of Etsy. There are such beautiful, beautiful things on there, and I want to buy EVERYTHING.

What I've particularly fallen in love with of late is PenFelt's creations. She makes these adorable little felted rings that have candy-like baubles on the top. They look so cosy and edible at the same time, I knew that I had to have them. In fact, I've actually commissioned her to make 8 little girl rings for Eldest's birthday party. Woo! I can't wait to see them; I may not give them away, but just wear them myself on my pinky fingers and my little toes.

I'm buying something for myself, though. This flower pin is just beautiful, and I plan to wear it with very smart looking attire for when I go to work or something. Or I might just wear it with everything, even my jogging clothes, because I will never want to take it off. That's just how much I love it.

Although, I do not buy these items without pangs of guilt. Oh no. I've spent a lot of money on Eldest's birthday party this year, even after swearing to myself that I wouldn't go overboard or make it a crazy broo-haha. Ummm... I've gone overboard. Just a bit. If you count the cost of the homemade party bags, the homemade aprons (that I still haven't finished, but when I do, you shall see them), the party food (still not completely decided yet, but will include child-made pizzas and child-made fairy cakes), the party games, the napkins and plates and cups. Ack. I've still got a lot to do, and I'm getting caught up in the minutiae of getting little felt rings to go into the party bags!

Even so. They are going to be adorable.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Slightly off-putting

I suppose in theory, this sort of slogan on a baby shirt is cute:

I mean, all my kids are well loved and cherished and all that. It's a sweet sentiment. However, let's think about the phrase "made with love" in regards to a human being. How do we make babies, kids? Yes, that's right: SEX.

So, as sweet and cutesy as a shirt like the above can be, in essence, I would be plastering information about my sex life all over my young, innocent child. When you look at it that way, it's actually kind of gross and creepy. "My parents had hot, passionate love in order to make little ol' me!"

Um, let's keep that sort of thing off of t-shirts, 'kay?

Happy Bloggiversary to Me!

Well, it's been an entire year of blogging. I actually have people who read what I write, which is not something I thought I'd have when I started out. I was just typing into a void back then, trying to wrap my head around this blogging thing.

I really enjoy this little space I've created for myself. Writing about small glimpses of my daily life is challenging at times, but often rewarding. I'm embarrassed to admit that I re-read my posts several times after they've been published. I like the fact that I have total control over what gets sent to the screen, and I am ruler of this world. Mwhahahaha!

Aaaaanyway. Last week Eldest was off school sick all week. Good times. Next week, tomorrow, is the start of half term break, so we are all hanging out together for another week. At least we won't be stuck in the house this time around; I've got a fabulous trip lined up to Nottingham to pick up some second-hand hedgehog cages. They are a real bargain, even with the travel costs added to the price. I'm sure the kids will just love a long car ride, right?!?

The weather has been gorgeous lately, so I'm hoping to take them out and about next week. Maybe a bike ride will be thrown into the mix, as well. We'll make sandwiches and head out the door to wherever the wind blows us. I'll let you know how things turn out.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

The things I do for beauty. Or might do....

I am not a girly girl. I don't wear makeup very often, and I only wear dresses or skirts when required.

Recently, however, my tastes have been changing. I've been wearing jewelry lately, and I like it. Crazy, right? I even bought a charm bracelet.

And today? Well, today I joined the ranks of those salon-going women all over the world: I got my eyebrows done. To be exact, I got them threaded.

It was painful. Thank goodness it only lasted a few minutes. I think it was worth it, though; I went in there with huge, wild, bushy brows and walked out with sleek, shaped brows that look great! They only charged me a fiver, too. Bargain.

I will probably get my eyebrows threaded regularly. I am slipping into the dark, seedy underworld of "Yummy Mummies." Before long, you'll catch me in a tanning salon, getting a brazilain wax and a brown-eye bleach.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

On my side.

My life is marked by events, and I find myself judging the passage of time by referring to my personal history rather than by dates on a calendar.

Life before emigrating and after emigrating are such different entities as to be completely unrecognisable to each other. Sure, I've reached adulthood since flying across the ocean nine years ago, but I've also been formed by the culture around me in fundamental ways. My first 18 years is my "before" shot, and these subsequent years are becoming my "after" shot.

But that's not all. I further segment my life into "before" and "after" marriage, children, home moving, health issues. Breaking my life into these chunks has a way of compressing time. I always have some sort of event to look forward to -- at the moment it is a holiday to the states and Eldest's fifth birthday -- and time hurtles forward to these anticipatory moments at an astonishing rate.

I am only in my mid-twenties, but sometimes I get this worrying feeling that time is running out. I don't have as much of it as I think I have. I'm not talking about an early demise or anything so macabre; I'm just aware of the fact that one day I will wake up to a quiet, empty nest of a house, with gray hair on my head and no one to worry about but myself and my husband (and probably a dog), and not remember how I got to that point.

My life is chugging along quite merrily; it's a good life, and one that I chose freely and willingly. I just want to put the brakes on every once in a while.... slow down for a bit. It makes no difference what I want, though. I'll soon wake up with that gray head of hair, and I'll still have that feeling of confusion and vague shock.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

It's Shrove Tuesday again!

I blogged about pancake day last year, and I think I've learned a few things. This year, I made the blueberry sauce in the microwave. I actually bought maple syrup this year instead of trying to melt sugar to make a DIY syrup. I used a different recipe, so no blender was needed. We didn't have bacon, but that was just because I forgot. Mmmm... bacon....

Anyway. Here are a few pictures of our pancake experience.

The batter. This recipe has oats and whole wheat flour in it. Super healthy!

Frozen strawberries. They were okay, but fresh would have been better. (No, we did not eat them like little red ice cubes -- the microwave is a wonderful defrosting tool)

The sauces. No pancake would be complete without "Pure Canadian Maple Syrup."

All cooked, ready for dressing and eating.

All dressed up in (defrosted) strawberries and a lovely blueberry sauce.

Eating their ill-gotten gains. Okay, not ill-gotten. Just eating their ... gains ... I guess.

This one took off before I could capture an unflattering picture of her as she ate. That's her princess doll she's holding there.

Please, sir, can I have some more?

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Square Foot Gardening

We don't have a lot of space in our back garden, and what we do have is covered with paving stones or gravel. There is a small strip of earth, but it's not much.

I want to try this square foot gardening deal. It's compact, apparently easy, and something I can do with the kids.

The Husband wants to buy some fruit trees, too. Again, the trouble with the ground in the back means that we have to use pots. Really big pots.

But hey! If this works, we could be enjoying fresh apples or pears in a few years. And in a few months, we could be eating fresh vegetables. Provided, of course, that the sun comes out at some point.

We have tried growing stuff in the past. Last year it was strawberries, tomatoes and runner beans. The weather was not cooperative and we ended up with a lot of underripe tomatoes and not much else.

A few years ago, we tried to grow corn. Again with the bad weather. The two ears of corn that actually turned out were DELICIOUS, and I sometimes think back on that "crop" with a faint hope that we could do it again. We also tried to grow pumpkins, but all that we ended up with was a fast growing vine and no fruit. Seriously, pumpkin vines grow incredibly fast. It's kind of like a slow-moving horror flick; if you sit in one place for too long, your feet might get grown over!11!!

What I need to do is find some really hardy plants that don't mind the rainy and cold English summers. Preferably something other than tubers, but my hopes aren't very high.