Thursday 22 December 2011

Winter Solstice

We celebrated the Winter Solstice yesterday evening with lots of candles, good food and gifts.
Frank was allowed to stay up late to play his new game and then we all went to bed at the same time, chatting quietly until we fell asleep, Frank first followed by myself and then Andrew.
These dark winter days are special to me as I love this season of introspection after such busy times outside all summer and autumn.

More knitting, reading and planning! Hooray!
In the next few days we will visit people and have people to us, exchange gifts and watch Frank's pantomime that he has been planning for a few days now.

Then it's head down and into the full-on festivities with family and friends.
I enjoy the Winter Solstice more than Christmas for its quiet sense of wonder at nature and peaceful family celebration.
I will be enjoying some screen free days this Yuletide and will be back in the middle of next week.
Peace and blessings to you all, and may the D-fairy behave itself this festive season!

Thursday 15 December 2011

In these days of long shadows

We are busy busy, busy preparing for a season of gift giving: making cards, writing gift tags, making Christmas treasure hunts, knitting, reading recipes and making choices, baking and general elving.
A few days ago Frank and I went to Frinton for fresh air and a race on the beach (he always wins, but only because I cry less at losing!) followed by fish & chips and a great score of a Scooby Doo puzzle in a charity shop.
It was blissful.
Blue, blue sky and just me and my boy on that beach.

It makes me happy, this stretch of coast. Always.

And then we stay home a lot too; making things, crafting, elving and baking.

I took this picture as a way of telling the tale of how I reached without looking for my coffee and nearly took a swig of a bowl of beads today!
They actually had to touch my lips before I realised it wasn't my drink.
Must use my eyes next time.
And more elving, preceded by a fun afternoon decorating the ginger biscuits we made in the morning.
Oh yes, we had fun with that one!

Hope you are enjoying your winter too!

And take note: these biscuits are NOT BURNT.
Neither are they strangely blue!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Recipe for charcoal cookies

Yup, I made them and they take merely four hours to bake.
Here's how you do it.
Take all your usual ingredients for really good quality chocolate chip cookies: organic butter, soft brown muscovado sugar, spelt flour, Green & Blacks dark chocolate, organic eggs and so on.
Make two batches of these cookies and then let them cool on wire racks in the kitchen whilst popping the last batch in the oven for a quick ten minutes.
And here is where you raise your game from cook to kitchen genius.
Forget this last batch and sweep yourself and your family off into Colchester for lunch.
Meet D-Mamas and friends with D for lunch as part of the support group you help run and chat merrily away.
Order coffee, order falafel and salad, have more coffee. Stroll back to the van and drive home feeling great about knowing such lovely people.
Open the front door, smell the burnt fat and think "Oh, damn, I left the oven on".
Walk slowly to the oven and look inside, still expecting to see nothing in there, because really, what kind of fool leaves cookies for four hours!?!
Find this:
Slap your forehead and know for a fact that you are the biggest muppet of a cook since the Swedish chef on the Muppet Show and spend three days trying to get the dark stains off the tiles and the smell out of the house.
Put the cookies in the bin outside, because even the compost would surely be poisoned by this travesty.

Happy eating!

Saturday 19 November 2011

Making & Hiding Out (d'you see what I did there?)

tea cosy for my sister for Christmas
Frank making golden bicycle wheels at our little class "Art Makers" at the new gallery in town : firstsite.
my tiny stash of very special material made into a little clutch bag, which I am using for small knitting projects. Note the reality of my crafting and do not for a moment imagine I have a "studio" or anything! Nope I craft right alongside the Lego and the puzzles.
updating the nature table with gnomes and gingham hearts from the Christmas decoration stash
Budd making a fabulous shed in the garden, he has worked really hard all week on this, whilst I have worked hard to keep Frank out of his way

Me, making a golden bicycle wheel, taken by Frank

It has been busy around here with us making, building, creating ...
I finished the tea cosy for my sister for Christmas and am now making very few things for gifts. I made loads last year and it stressed me too much. Crafting and creating is something I do a fair amount of but I want it to kind of unfold naturally. I don't want to be handing over a gift that is only going to receive a lukewarm reception (it happens A LOT!) after I have sat up late trying to complete it. So this winter it's just a tie for Budd, a cowl for Frank and a couple of other gifts before I just knit for pleasure alone.
And next year I have already declared the year of knitting for ME!
That is going to be fun.
This week Frank and I enjoyed our second art class at the fantastic new gallery in Colchester: firstsite.
And Andrew has been spending the week building a shed in the garden; leaping out of bed once it is light and beavering away until it's dark.
He has done an amazing job.
And onto the hiding out.
I have kind of been ignoring Diabetes Awareness month and not blogging about diabetes.
I think I have reached one of those phases of burnout and am just going with the flow.
In planing what to say here today I wondered if I should admit this.
A great deal of awe is felt here by me when I read other blogs, especially this month.
My stamina seems to have gone AWOL for November!
And, guess what, I wish it hadn't but I feel absolutely no guilt about it.
If I have learnt anything from this carousel of parenting a child with Type 1 Diabetes it is to trust my feelings and emotions and gut reactions to life and my moods.
I appear to have needed a quiet blogging month.
It certainly isn't all tea cosies and soup over here.
We have too many hypos and some ratios that have needed tweaking.
But the nights have been comfortingly predictable (for the first time in about nine months, I realised the other day! Jinkies! No wonder I look 93!).
And this much I know:
Even when I lapse in regularity in my blogging.
Even when I am a bit lightweight with my post contents.
Even when I can barely function of an evening.
I feel the energy of all the other D-parents and D-friends out there.
Not in a weird way, just in a supportive way.
And I know that should I need to reach out, even after an absence, everyone is still there.
Just as I am.
Still here. Still there. Still reading.
Still Frank's Mama.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

That Stonking Soup Recipe

Autumn is just wonderful here in England; a time I look forward to when I am shade-hopping in the heat of summer.
It is soup season and I am very grateful this Autumn to have discovered the recipes, both online and in books, of Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.
The cauliflower soup that follows has become one of my favourites ever. It's up there with the Cranks Armenian Soup that I love so much.
This soup is creamy and comforting and so very yummy with the mustardy croutons, and yes, I do make the croutons every time, they work so well and then I don't feel obliged to inhale lots of bread on the side (I have form on this one!).

Cauliflower Soup

170g chunk artisan wholemeal bread, torn into chunks, about 3 cups in total
2tbsp butter
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt
2tbsp butter
2 shallots, chopped(I never have these around & so add another half a white onion)
1 white onion, chopped
sea salt
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 1/2 cups veggie broth/stock
340g cauliflower, cut up into florets (I just use a whole small/medium cauli)
2/3 cup grated strong Cheddar for soup plus extra for topping
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
First make the croutons by melting the butter in a small pan. Off the heat add the olive oil, salt and mustard.
Tip the chunks of break into the pan and stir to coat.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and crisp, turning them during baking as necessary.

To make the soup melt the butter in a pan and saute the onions with a big pinch of salt for 5 minutes.
Add the spuds and saute another 4 or 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and the veg stock and stir.
Cook for 2 minutes then add the cauliflower.
Cook until the cauliflower is just tender, 5 minutes more.
Off the heat blend with an immersion blender.
Stir in half the Cheddar and the Dijon mustard, taste and add more salt if necessary.

Serve with more grated Cheddar, the croutons and a drizzle of olive oil.

And eat, ideally with a small boy that refuses not to be in the picture and pouts as he says "soup, soup, soup" over and over again!
Enjoy and I hope it's stonking enough for you all.

Monday 24 October 2011

ships & seaside

Ah, Frinton beach on a bright October day.
Looks idyllic eh?
Certainly did from the windscreen of the camper van as I parked and then I couldn't open the door to get out as the wind was an Easterly and was a flippin' strong one!
I pushed with my shoulder and it slammed right back in my face.
But, I am British, we love a romp on the beach in such weather; the sky was blue, the waves were, um, choppy and we were anyway meeting with my friend Emily and her two boys Halim and Zakir.
We all braved the wind and walked from Frinton to Walton pier and back before picnicking in a shelter.
The running around did me good.
The wind in my face was such a tonic.
And I was able to wear, for the first time and for its inaugural visit to Frinton, my just-completed and much swooned over (only by me to be honest; it can be lonely being the only yarn botherer in the house!) ships & seaside cowl.
I have but recently discovered Stephanie Dosen's knitting patterns and just love the charm of them. She does admittedly look a bit more serene and dainty in her cowl than I do at 5'10" and windswept but the great thing about this cowl is it felt beautiful and was absolutely ideal in the strong East of England (the wind blew Emily's youngest Zakir, at barely three and quite petite anyway, clean off his feet and onto the sand!).
And here I am sooooo happily wearing it, along with many other layers and a real frozen smile!
And lastly, a picture of my boy, the one my heart beats for.
Every day.

Back soon, with tales of ratio alterations : up, down, no up again, no too much down again. Sound familiar?!
And with a stonking soup recipe.
Lovely love to all and yes, I did get A LOT of oxygen at that beach and am a little high on it methinks ...

Saturday 22 October 2011

Colchester 24

~ be here now ~

I have been really pleased to be able to take part in a lovely local project called Colchester24, a town-wide photography project that was open to anyone living in Colchester.
The idea is to record twenty-four hours in the life of the town by snapping pictures of your life and what you are doing from noon on Friday 21st October to noon on Saturday 22nd October 2011.
I submitted the following photos and will be very interested in seeing the collection once it is completed.
It makes for fascinating viewing looking back at the accepted submissions from 25 years ago, which, if you're interested, can be found here.

~ waiting for his porridge to cool ~
~ never not knitting ~
~ patching the door snake ~
~ the little chef ~

A happy weekend to you all.

Monday 17 October 2011

Corners of my home - Reality Bites!

I love it when people post about the pretty little corners of their homes.
I find it inspiring and uplifting and really, honestly not at all guilt-inducing about my own home.
And on this note I couldn't resist the other day taking photos of my home in all its post-holiday glory.
I guarantee it won't induce any guilt in anyone!The kitchen counter with
  • one rubber glove; can't find its partner
  • diabetes kit open and mid-use
  • piles of books. leaflets and recharging cords
  • basket of quinces from the garden
  • tea towel flung and left

A corner near the fridge:
  • there are cars, always, all over the house, and I love these little reminders of my boy. They are painful reminders when you tread barefoot on them too!
The hob:
  • River Cottage Preserves book open to the left as I was making quince & apple sauce
  • Spuds and soup on the hob.
  • Dinosaurs on the counter; like cars there are dinos everywhere.
  • And a globe pencil sharpener. What home is complete without a globe pencil sharpener?

In choosing to photograph my home in its real state I managed to find it funny that we were living so chaotically for a while.
Things are tidier today but that might change tomorrow.
That this is just how it is, suits me just fine.

Sunday 16 October 2011

At Daymen's Hill Orchard

A few days ago Frank and I drove out towards Tiptree for a new adventure.
My friend Sue had told me of a family run fruit farm where you can pick your own apples and pears.
Moved to action by the evocative postings of some blogging friends in the US I wanted a little apple picking action of my own and in this Frank was a very willing partner.
It was just so very lovely.
The trees were groaning with the fruit and I filled a basket with pears and one with apples.
Notice Frank's stance here? He quickly adopted a defensive head-kind-of-down stance after being hit on the bonce one too many times as he pulled the fruit free.
This fruit was so very ready to fall it needed little encouragement!

Then he sloped off to eat blackberries direct from the bush whilst I paid and dreamt of all the yummy things I was going to make with all that fruit.
I so love autumn and it's days of plenty and those first signs of people lighting fires and wearing socks and scarves.

And in the D-news we were at Addenbrooke's hospital for our quarterly pump clinic and check up and came away with some new ratios and some big smiles : 7.3.
Holding steady.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

The blanket I knitted to relieve D-stress!

May I introduce you to this lovely little number?
It is a small blanket, perfect for having over your knees on a cold winter's evening or at the open air theatre in summer.
Or even for carrying around with you, Linus style, when your D-kid is ill!
The pattern is Hap Blanket by Ysolde Teague and is my first real attempt at lace knitting - Ravelry notes here.
I knitted the whole blanket on our holiday in Holland (and even made a baby hat for Frieda too!) which gives you some indication of how relaxing a holiday it was and how much I needed to keep myself quietly occupied.
Basically the centre block is garter stitch and then you pick up around the edges and knit the lace.
This is my sister's Christmas present (along with a tea cosy, which I will show you once it's finished) and these colours are very much her thing. Heather doesn't read my blog so I think I am safe in showing it off here (if you are popping by Heather, um, Happy Christmas!).


This knitting was just what I needed after the week before the holiday when Frank was ill.
I am aware that I am not writing about the D much at present.
Believe me it's always there and has been challenging recently.
I was completely wrung out before the trip to Holland as Frank had had a fever for three days and then diahorrea for four days and continued to be low on energy and not really eating when we packed the van and headed off to the ferry port.
I had been in two minds about whether to go or not but we had discussed it and felt that he was on the mend and they have hospitals and doctors and medicine in Holland after all!
So, we went and after a couple of days he perked up, started eating like mad and was fine.
Again, it comes back to the idea of getting out and just going for it and yet this is such uneven ground.
We were not taking a regular healthy child away, we were taking a child WITH DIABETES away and it was scary.
We are three years in to this bloody game (anniversary if diagnosis next Monday, in fact) and it does not get easier to make decisions like this one.
In all honesty though, I did make this decision knowing, absolutely knowing, that I would be able to make better calls regarding Frank's health than pretty much any other health professional and that I wasn't afraid to tell people what to do, should it come to it!
I am D-Mum, hear me roar!

Saturday 1 October 2011

Holland and a nod to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee, Holland?
Let me count the ways:

I love that you gave Frank a really great hot chocolate experience after a long cycle one day.I love that you let Sarah and James rest and enjoy a mellow week with me and my boys.
I love that you have a mad, mad clock in the centre of Alkmaar that rings , elaborately, every quarter of an hour ( and was just across the square from our flat).
Some nights I found this so amusing, others really not so much!

I love your cycle paths that are bigger than Cornish roads and make cycling such an unadulterated pleasure.
I love your canals and the lovely homes right next to them.
Yes! Real people live in places like this.

I love the soft September sand in my toes and, indeed, everywhere after Frank decided we needed to "romp" on the beach and we both got covered in the stuff rolling around and wrestling for ages (whilst Andrew stood near by and pretended he didn't know the giggling maniacs on the sand in front of him!).

I love how happy you make my family with cycles to the beach through pretty villages and pine forests.
I love the flat you provided for us in Alkmaar, right on the canal and across the road from the cheese market and the beer museum; above a toy shop and next to a chip shop.
You were showing off in this instance, dear Holland.
I love that you gave us space to hang out, in harmony, all five of us.
I love, oh how I love, your bicycles.
So cool, so stylish and so practical.

And I love your cheese. Mature Gouda was the best. Gouda with cumin seeds was fab too. Goats' Gouda was , um, interesting.

This land is often unsung. Just not mentioned but I love its gentle way of life, its adherence to quality in life and not quantity.
The Netherlands are only a few hours from my home. Half an hour drive to the port, an overnight ferry and lo! The Promised Land.

I am already checking out return trips and ferry prices.
This was the best holiday we've had in ages (much better than that soggy week in Devon with all the dead crows and stuff).
And the cheese museum? Mmmmmmmmmmmmm ...

Friday 30 September 2011

{ this moment }

A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

~ inspired by Amanda at Soulemama

Harvesting our small grapevine.
We juice the grapes and are enjoying four bottles of Chateau Budd this year.
It's vintage enough for us, drunk at breakfast and within a week!
(Photo credit ~ Mr Frank)

P.S. I am well as are the boys. Back tomorrow with tales of falling off the vegan wagon in spectacular style (it was Holland, so think cheese, chocolate and more cheese ... mmmmmm), of why Holland really is the promised land, of knitting a whole blanket whilst on holiday, of apple picking at Daymen's Farm and of the reality of corners of my home.
I am loving, just loving, reading all your posts since I was away but am refraining from commenting or else I may have some kind of blog-induced breakdown!
Big cheesy love to all.

Monday 5 September 2011

Lookin' Good Mr. Ruben!

May I introduce my friend Sue's little man, Ruben?
This season Ruben turns one and will be sporting a fabulous new vest with a little owl cable down the front and knitted by his Mummy's friends Jules.
And he wears it well, doesn't he?!


Not much blogging this week as Frank has gone down with a fever and I find it hard to be upbeat and bloggy at times like this.
He is off his food and we are keeping a close eye on him.
I am knitting lots whilst he sleeps and we have been doing some colouring and watercolour painting and watching of The Blue Planet when he's awake.
Back soon. Love to all.