Saturday, 22 September 2012

Keeping it Simple

We are a family that don't really fit the mold.  
We are older parents.  
We homeschool.    
We don't desire more, more, more.
We try to be as natural as we can, whilst living in suburbia and needing synthetic insulin to keep one of us alive, and thus the rest of us sane.
And yet every single one of these decisions sits well with me.  
I've always felt like a square peg surrounded by round holes, so making some of these life decisions have taken no time at all.  
No soul searching.  More a kind of gut-searching, really.
Does this sit well with me?  
Yep.  OK then moving on , what's for dinner?
Nope. OK then let's not do it/stop doing it, shall we have pancakes for breakfast?
I believe in keeping life simple;  both for my child and for myself.
Routines sit well with us.  
Time at home just pottering around the garden or drawing or watching a bit of TV sit well with us.
There are many activities on offer for us and Frank as homeschoolers in our town and yet we have taken part in very few of them over the past couple of years.  Frank has shown a desire for lots and lots of down time at home.  Time to play Lego, draw, paint, dig the garden, make chalk art on the paths, wrestle and, my favourite, roll around on the floor kind of aimlessly, often under the table or a chair!
Or even, as below, pretend to be a statue with his teeny tiny toy seal (Snuggly).

These past two weeks have been unusually busy for us.  Frank turned six in July and has been expressing an interest in seeing his friends more often.   We catch up with other homeschooling friends fairly often and regularly take part in Craft Swaps and play dates.
Formal lessons have not happened yet but something in the changes in Frank over the past few months made me feel confident in booking him a place on a trampolining course at the local Leisure Centre.  
So, after some quiet chat about how it's good to try new things and how he likes bouncing on the bed and how his friends love the trampolining class and the teacher, Frank was ready to give it a shot.


He loved it!  
Maria, the teacher, is wonderful with the children; encouraging and funny and kind.
Then two days later, we hosted a pottery class here at home for Frank and six other children.
He loved it!
And the following day we took part in the introductory session for an Arts Award being offered to homeschoolers here in town.
He loved it!
So, three new sessions on top of two play dates this week and we are all in need of a little reflection:
did it sit well with us?
If all these activities were on every week then I can honestly say it would not sit well with me.  
However, with the pottery only being once a month and the art every two weeks, we can take the trampolining on board weekly and still enjoy our much-needed simple times at home.

Simplicity is always on my radar but more so than ever this week as I have signed up for a Simplicity Parenting e.course with Kathy over at Bliss Beyond Naptime.
And with a delicious serendipity the course starts on Monday 1st October, the day after I return from two days away at a yoga retreat in Suffolk (my first ever retreat of any kind, and I'm not even that great at yoga, I'm kind of nervous but soooooo need it).
So, here's to keeping it simple.
And breathe ...

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ryan's sunset

Not wanting to let the beautiful sunset of Ryan's Festival go without being officially blogged.
A week ago today this was it:
the sunset over Prettygate in Colchester, England on the day that Ryan Schuhmacher was celebrated far far away in California.

Chocolate Gingerbread ~ Oh, my!

This is the second time I have made this gingerbread and it does go down rather well.  
I recommend cutting it into fairly small squares as it is rich and dark.  Kids don't always go for it  but adults seem to love it!  
It is very sweet and I am sorry I don't have a carb factor or count for it as Frank won't eat it, so I don't have to do it!!
The recipe is from Nigella Lawson's "Feast", which is a cracker of a book.  
She does seem to use shed-loads of sugar in her recipes, so I don't make them often.
However, for a potluck or, as was the case for the gingerbread above, for a "Not Back To School Party" it's ideal.
People did approach me with slabs of it in their hands and mumble "Did you make this?", spraying crumbs as they did so and rolling their eyes in ecstasy.  
I took this as a good sign!

Chocolate Gingerbread
For the cake : 
175g unsalted butter
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle or molasses
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp warm water
2 eggs
250ml milk
275g plain flour
40g cocoa
175g chocolate chips

For the icing:
250g icing sugar
30g unsalted butter
1 tbsp cocoa
60ml ginger ale

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 / 170C. 
 Line a roasting tin of approx 30x20x5cm deep (I used two smaller tins) with baking parchment.
In a decent-sized saucepan, melt the butter along with the sugars, golden syrup, molasses/treacle, cloves, cinnamon and ground ginger.  
In a cup dissolve the bicarb in the warm water.
Take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the eggs, milk and bicarb in its water.
Stir in the flour and cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon to mix.
Fold in the chocolate chips, pour into the lined tin and bake for about 45 minutes until firm and risen.  
it will be slightly damp underneath the set top and that's a good thing.
Remove to a wire rack and let cool in the tin.
Once cool, make the icing.
Sieve the icing sugar.  In a heavy-based saucepan heat the butter, cocoa and ginger ale.  
Once the butter is melted, whisk in the icing sugar.
Lift the chocolate gingerbread out of the tin and unwrap the paper.  Pour over the icing just to cover the top and cut into "fat slabs" (Nigella's words, isn't she wonderful!!).

Ahem ...  I ate this piece purely out of concern for quality control.
Indeed I am always here for you all at times like that ...

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Barely six months ago I posted about my dear friend Meri's husband Ryan being diagnosed with cancer.  Let's make it clear, I have never met Meri but her name and those of her family, and indeed dog, are mentioned in my home as though they live just down the street.
In terms of the DOC (Diabetes on-line Community) they do live just down the street.
They have four boys, the three youngest of whom have Type 1 diabetes.  
And last Sunday morning Ryan passed away.  
The impossible happened.  
The unimaginable.
And what do I write?  
Where is the Hallmark card for this one? 
Today Meri and her boys and extended family laid Ryan to rest and celebrated the lovely family man that he was.
In every word she ever wrote about him Meri loved him so dearly.  
They were together twenty years.
So, my default when stuck for words is to look to the words of my six year old boy.  
To Frank, whom Meri knows and whose sweet face she often mentions.
Frank calls funerals "festivals" and this is where I choose to go:
Today was the Festival of Ryan. 

A man remembered with such love and joy.  
A man never to be forgotten by those who adored him.  
This evening as I put Frank to bed we stopped to take in the beautiful pink and blue of this early autumn sunset and I thought of Ryan and the joyful heavens.

And of Meri and her four boys, who need much love and support as they step forward along the fork in the road they had never expected to walk.
May the road rise up to meet them.

Friday, 7 September 2012

a milestone

This week saw Frank pass a childhood milestone by losing the first of his milk teeth.
We had been told by the dentist at least three months ago that the two middle teeth on the bottom row were already wobbly.  We felt them and could feel no difference.
But, lo and behold, Mr Dentist was right!
About two weeks ago Frank burst into tears during our evening stories at bedtime and told me his "tooth has broken in half".  After a good peek in his mouth I explained that he just had a wobbly tooth, just like the dentist had predicted.  He cried for a bit then relaxed and got on with being engrossed by the exploits of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third.
Life continued on and the tooth stayed loose but in place. 
Then  en route to my beloved Cafe Knit in Lavenham, to buy Granny Lily a birthday gift, Frank suddenly began crying again as his tooth felt really, really loose and he was a bit panicked about it coming out and bleeding.  
Inside the lovely, lovely cafe the sweet women working there were very kind to him and chatted to him about losing a tooth being really exciting.  He cheered up and enjoyed his juice but declined cake as it might take his tooth out!
The picture below as the tooth in Cafe Knit!  Sooooo close to out, I cannot believe his ability not to wiggle it out!

 And then the following day he was eating his evening apple before bed and passed me a couple of "hard bits in my apple, Mummy", which I threw in the compost.  
About a minute later my friend, Anne, shrieked that his tooth was out!  She was visiting for the evening for a chat and a green tea and was there for this momentous occasion.
We then went through looking for the tooth on the floor and recalled the hard bits in the apple!
I found the tooth in the compost, a teen tiny thing that is now on the mantelpiece until I find a permanent home for it.
Any ideas?  Where does one keep such an amazing thing?
And here he is, Mr Gappy!

 And laughing as I dried his feet after his bath!
 My beautiful boy, passing this big milestone with a smile and a fresh new £1 coin to go towards his Lego empire ...
Back soon with a recipe for Chocolate Gingerbread!