Thursday 29 July 2010

Two Days in Mersea

This week has seen Frank and I spending two days on Mersea Island.
Cloudy beach days are my favourite as I just wilt in the sun and burn fairly easily.
Tuesday was, as you can see, wonderfully cloudy. The island is well known for its seafood, oysters in particular, hence the shells glittering in the sand.
This didn't stop us from making a sandcastle and decorating it with shells and one of the many feathers Frank seems to be finding these days.
My friend Clare has a beach hut here and we met her and an old friend of hers along with his daughter (who are now based in Oregon) for lunch and beach fun.
For anyone not from the UK these huts are fairly typical English seaside beach huts.
All different, rather ramshackle and in some towns hugely expensive.

There is Frank with his new friend Eloise up on the deck.

And then yesterday saw us visiting a friend of mine from my Knit & Natter group and her dog. She lives just up the road from a great Pick Your Own farm, which Frank and I hit with a vengeance after our tea and muffins with Teresa.

Here comes the Master Picker!

Who does this when asked to "Smile, Frank!"
He looks like he's about to sneeze.

And here is the Master Quality Controller in action.
Two lovely, lovely Summer days (aside from the hypo and consequent rebound that saw him at 25.1 and me in tears that such a great day can be almost stolen by THAT BASTARD DIABETES - ahem, excuse me - however, I rally these days rather well and dealt with it quickly)
So, as I write Frank is spending his last ever day at pre-school (more about this in another post).
The house is filled with the smell of strawberry jam (we picked £12 of strawberries! Blimey!)
and I am contemplating my sewing machine, which seems to be calling me, much in the same way as ice-cream does from the freezer.
It's saying:: "Jules, you don't want to clear out the summerhouse, you want to sew something'll NEVER have the time again 'cos Frank will ALWAYS be around and he can never let you get on with anything without being on your lap or shoving toys in your face/up your nose/down your top/in your ear ... forget the housework...come to know you want to...
I can make you happy .. trust me ..."
But I am strong.
Get thee behind me sewing machine!
Where have you been learning to speak like Ben & Jerry??
OK, I'm off to the summerhouse.
Might just pop via the freezer though ...

Sunday 25 July 2010

Sunday lunch and a breakthrough!

We had a lovely hang around at home, dig the garden, bake cakes, hang out washing, build Lego and do some watercolour painting kind of day.
Just lovely.
Friends came by in the afternoon for cake (date slices, yum! warm from the oven, double yum!) and Frank learnt to shell peas.

We had an amazing chunk of Stilton with our lunch and I treated us all to some organic grapes to go with it all (and nearly had to sell a kidney to afford them!).

One of our many dinosaurs joined us at the table.

My boy loves eating peas, raw, that he has shelled himself. He has been really into this recently and will eat loads of them. I encourage this as he avoids green things other than peas and celery at the moment.

Then after this stonking lunch we had a hypo of 3.1 a couple of hours later.
But in an amazing breakthrough Frank actually told us.
He said "My tummy feels funny, I think you need to test me".
Major cuddles and Brownie points for that one.
I was so proud of him.
Some juice and a date slice and he was good to go.

And so are we, battling each low and dealing with each high and trying to be good parents.
Trying to make our boy proud to be diabetic and to stand among so many amazing children and their families.

Friday 23 July 2010

Yoga Mat Bag

I had planned to make a wall hanging.
I decided to make a yoga mat bag.
I have only been going to yoga for three weeks but am really enjoying it.
My yoga mat is one that Mr Muffinmoon bought when he did a class a couple of years ago. It is bubble gum pink, as was the bag it came in.
I fancied something less strident.
Enter this.
The material was an off-cut from the Knit and Stitch Show last September at Alexandra Palace in London and I am really happy to have found a good fate for it!
The handle is an old jeans belt of mine from some jeans that fell apart.
It feels good to be sewing again...

Have a good weekend.
I'll be back next week.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Yes, this is England!

Today saw us in Frinton on the East coast of East Anglia.
A lovely place.
The sea was calm and we had a fantastic day paddling, building sandcastles and running around.
When England gets weather like this, it is sublime.
Frank had a great time and was textilfrei (German euphemism for stark naked!) for most of the time so I don't have many pictures of him that I can share.

Except this cute T-Rex one.

Anne and I are in our third decade of friendship. We have seen each other through a lot.
She has always tanned better than me!
(Guess who the D-Mum is? Look at the size of the bag I carry!!)

I am looking forward to more days like these (maybe minus the startling pre-lunch reading of 2.7 that had me bewildered as Frank had just eaten a cake and had a biscuit too; what is with that?!)
So good for body and soul these days outside as nature sings her Summer songs.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Days of Plenty

Guess what we did today? Guess who had a full basket and who only had around a dozen raspberries in his basket, after an hour of picking, but a decidedly sticky, smeary face?
Guess how many seconds it took for all these raspberries to start to turn to mush and be fit only for jam?

Guess who is spending this humid, sticky evening boiling and preserving?

Guess who didn't even notice the sharps bin in this shot until it was uploaded?

Today made me smile.
I have been reading these books and this blog and am channelling them all with my home made jammin' whilst listening to this.

What is making you smile today?

Sunday 18 July 2010

A Good Day

You know it's been a good day for a little guy when this is what you find at the end of the day whilst watering the garden.
We have been digging up some of the lawn to extend the patio and put a pergola up and the pile of earth has become Frank's favourite spot.
He digs and hides treasure.
He stands up there at the top of it and looks off into the distance as I imagine our ancestors did many moons ago.
All his clothes have to go in the wash at the end of a day like this.
He leaves a tide mark around the bath.
The best kind of day.
Thank you for all your good wishes for Frank's birthday last week.
It was such a special time.

Sunday 11 July 2010

Four : The Party!

Frank's party went swimmingly today.
We decorated the garden with bunting and a pirate flag. We also got out all Frank's garden toys and his rocking horse for all the children to play with.
We had pass the parcel, with healthy prizes. Such as Panda liquorice and dried fruit swirls.
We all took turns cuddling the babies that came along, all of whom were most well-behaved and hugely chubby and cuddly.

Sev wore vintage as only she can, and looked stunning.
I put up the tent that I made from the old dining room curtains and the children used it as a reading tent to escape the madness of full-on party mode and to get out of the heat.

Beautiful Kaija was there.

And the chocolate beetroot cake received its coating of chocolate ganache (melt around 4 tablespoons double cream with 100g of dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, beat until smooth and pour onto cake. Top this with berries galore. Apply to face!)

The children loved it!

Frank took the "apply to face" bit rather seriously.

We also enjoyed jam doughnut muffins and Sev's courgette, lime and raspberry sponge with mascarpone cream.

Frank was so excited by this special day that once I got him to bed at nine and rushed downstairs to catch the end of the World Cup he came padding down and watched it with us, feeling so grown up now he's four.

Thank you for all your good wishes for his birthday.

He had the best time.

Friday 9 July 2010


Happy Birthday, my love!

Tuesday 6 July 2010

A kind of vertigo?

Is that what this is?
When in high places I can feel myself falling and hear the scream, it's all kind of playing out inside my head and generally distracting me from being safe and calm.
It is not dissimilar to the late evening glucose test.
Every evening, and I mean EVERY BLOODY EVENING (caps for those of you reading without diabetic children; the rest of you just live it), I trundle upstairs to check Frank's BG before hitting bed myself and as I do this I do the following:
  1. see myself calling the ambulance from the bedroom
  2. see myself racing for the glucogel
  3. see myself holding my boy and hoping for him to come round
  4. See myself crying hysterically and calling out for Andrew

then I

  1. pee, in case I have to call an ambulance and don't get time to do it or in case he's already dead in which case I am pretty sure I will just do it anyway and be a real mess
  2. take several deep breaths at his door
  3. stand over him waiting for signs of life (and I can't tell you how freakily quietly he sleeps)
  4. put his light on and quietly tell him I am going to test his finger
  5. test his finger
  6. wait an interminable five seconds for a result
  7. breathe out, realising I have been holding my breath in true free diving style
  8. go to the bathroom and stare a little at my new D-Mom face
  9. go to bed and try to read something light or challenging but always diverting
  10. turn out the light, reach for Andrew's hand, squeeze it and hope the next day will be as good as this one; tired, never able to really rest but also never complaining really anymore, just accepting.

So, what is this phenomenon?

Diabetes vertigo? Madness? The Method?

I think it is that moment at the end of the day when I have kept him alive another day but know that I will soon be unconscious myself and unable to look at him and observe how he is. That's the time I find it hard to let go and to fall into the arms of sleep in any trusting way. That is the most cruel side of this condition: even when you do it right you can never take your eye off the beast with the thrashing tail.

I am fine today! I've had a great day! But sometimes I want to write about this, with no photos of the cute boy and no chocolate cake!

Sometimes I just need to be really heard and really seen, cake and tortoises aside.

I'll be back soon with how to make your own pretty feather boa using a live chicken and a stick of glue! (Not really).

Love to all of you who do the same dance every night.

Monday 5 July 2010

Beetroot Chocolate Fudge Cake

So, here it is.
This is a rather sophisticated cake but Frank does love it too (and he is most emphatically NOT sophisticated in his tastes!).
I made it last summer for Andrew's birthday and told my Dad I'd give him ten pounds if he could guess the mystery ingredient.
He didn't.

You will need:
250g good-quality dark chocolate
3 medium eggs
200g light muscovado sugar (the original recipe says 250g, I ALWAYS cut recipes down even for non-diabetics as it's nice to taste something other than just sugar. You can do what suits you and your hungry hoards.)
1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons agave nectar (recipe said honey, I substituted)
40g self-raising flour
40g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
25g cocoa powder
50g ground almonds
250g raw beetroot (not the stuff cooked and in vinegar!), peeled and finely grated
30ml sunflower oil
100ml strong black coffee (I omitted this entirely as it's for kids, although one could argue that the chocolate is a stimulant and so what's a little espresso? It just felt like a step too far. Add it if you want to).
Preheat the oven to 160 C.
Using a tiny bit of sunflower oil, grease the surface of a 20cm round, loose-bottomed tin. Set aside

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs with the sugar, the scraped-out vanilla seeds, the maple syrup and the agave nectar for around three minutes until light and fluffy.

Gently fold in the flours, bicarb, salt, cocoa and ground almonds until fully incorporated.

Peel then grate the beetroot taking time to enjoy your grisly hands...

Gently pat the beetroot dry with kitchen paper and them stir it into the cake batter along with the cooled chocolate, coffee (if using) and oil.

Pour into the prepared tin and cook in the middle of the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes.
After this time cover the top of the cake with foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
Test the cake with a skewer, which should come out fairly clean although it is a very moist cake so it might look a little messy.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

I top this with mascarpone sweetened with a little maple syrup and topped with masses of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
It would be great with a fudgy topping too.
And as a last thought I really don't think cheap white icing would work that well even though I know loads of my readers have lots of it lying around!
I will post a picture of it in all its glory on Frank's birthday next week. It sits awaiting its destiny in the freezer at the moment...

Sunday 4 July 2010

And count every beautiful thing we can see

Just a quick Sunday evening thing of beauty for you all.
We love this album in my family and even Frank picks up his ukelele and plinks and plonks as we all sing along to this song.
He knows a fair bit of the first part of it by heart, just by dint of us playing it and singing along at home.
It is at once grounding and heart-breaking and uplifting.
The original on the album is just glorious but this stunning version, I think, may be a strong contender for the prize too!Today we cycled out to a grass track cycle meet and as we lay in the sun, and a bit under the shade of a tree, Andrew said to Frank "Count all the beautiful things you can see" and was immediately understood and answered with, "the sky, the trees, that pretty cloud" .

Here is the snippet we all sing to most:

What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen
In the blink of an eye and be gone from me
Soft and sweet
Let me hold it close and keep it here with me
And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see
Love to be
In the arms of all I'm keeping here with me
Wishing you all music to soothe and provide balm, whatever your need.
P.S. I return tomorrow with chocolate beetroot cake!

Saturday 3 July 2010


There are not many friends I would leave my two boys for, especially not overnight.
But having lodged with us as a Language Assistant five years ago and seen who we really are and how we live and been so damned easy to love, Severine has a special place in my heart and in the heart of my little family. There are 16 years between us and a full foot in height but these things matter not.
We both love languages, we love to bake, we love Brit Pop and we love Harry Potter.
In fact I often refer to Sev as Dobby the House Elf to my Harry Potter!
Sev and I were watching the opening scenes of Harry Potter in the cinema when I broke the news that I was expecting a baby. She had only known me a month and had been coming in from work to find me sleeping on the sofa because I was unable to stay awake. Heaven knows what she thought of this constantly dozing woman!!
She lived with us all through my pregnancy and through the first few weeks of Frank's life.
She then came back to live with us again after a three year period in Paris doing her masters in translation. She has taken Frank's diabetes on board and has seen first hand what we do every day to keep him well.
Then she goes and gets a great job on Henley-on-Thames and moves away, daring to get a life of her own.
All I could do was follow.
Two nights in Henley was in order.
The weather was great.
Henley-on-Thames is just so pretty.
And as this was my favourite book as a child I loved seeing the river so close to where it was set. We did a ten mile walk along the river.
We went into town for coffee and cake at Maison Blanc, which was tres posh and very Henley.
And did rather a lot of this...
Pimms, knitting, cheese and olives.
It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Walk The Line

Do I even need to write this post?
You all get the analogy, right?
This man is each one of us, though maybe you sport a trifle less lycra.
Then again maybe you do the school run looking like this?
(Diabetes would be the least of your kids' problems if that were the case!) So, we all do it. We walk the line.
And some days we are rewarded.
Today we were given a number at the hospital.
A number we get every three months.
We held our breath:


And breathe.
This was better, much better, than we had dared to hope recently.


P.S. The photos are from Colchester High Street last Friday evening. This man hadn't paid his bill at his local pub. This is what we do in England. It keeps people out of prison and provides an open air spectacular for the locals.
Everyone's a winner, eh?

I'm off to smile at myself in the mirror.
Today was good.