Friday, 30 April 2010

Darling, are you sure you want to come home?

I’ve decided to vent my frustrations…you can’t escape my Darling Husband ‘cos I know you’re going to log in and guess what…
Hopefully he'll see this as HE is in London having a great night in with his Bro probably eating something fantastic in a seriously chic designer penthouse apartment in Clerkenwell. He’ll be able to sample delicious wines, watch the unber cool go about their business in a trendy up town bar then curl up in a sumptuous bed with 400  thread count and fall into blissful undisturbed sleep.
Me? I’ve had the same as I had at lunch - orange-coloured risotto without the onions because I forgot to put them in and it tastes foul. I’m not sure if it was pumpkin or butternut squash as I’m useless at labelling anything going in the freezer.
This has caused serious problems in the past, as I can never tell if I’m getting out chicken stock or poached pears. But whatever I do get out I always maintain a strict code of determination – whatever it is - it was meant to come out.
Like last night I will no doubt be called to rouse myself either to get the Bog Boy some water, or his blankie or just cuddle him because he had a bad dream then I will have to put the Boy back in bed for one of a number of reasons: Needs a poo, needs a wee, needs some food, needs a drink, needs to know why I am in Bog Boy's room! All of these of course will take place in the dead hours.
If that were not bad enough I am sure the three whippets will start their war of attrition as to who is going to get the most space in the bed. Nothing is as painful as straight-legged whippets under the duvet. For such little, spindly dogs they are very strong especially when it comes to ‘basket room’.
To round it off the cats will stage an escape and yell at me from some far off corner of the house not usually visited in even daylight hours. It will be a cold hunt at about 3am possibly five minutes after forcing the whippets back into a smaller part of the bed and just two minutes before one of the children demands my attention.
Of course this will put me on great form for the morning, which will gently be brought to the boil by tomorrow night – Darling are you sure you want to come home????

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Something is lurking out there and nothng is safe....

Nothing is safe neither furred, feathered nor finned. There lurks a danger in the moat and not even the frogs are safe. What can it be?
At first we thought it was a bird doing the killing perhaps the Sparrowhawk or one of the Owls. All we would find would be piles of fluff, or feathers and then we found the scales, the remains of a Crucian Carp. But nothing else.
Then we started to find the bodies - a half eaten carcass here and a half devoured moorhen chick there. Nests were suddenly empty or abandoned. Where were the water voles? Where were the ducklings? There was even a strange lack of rabbits around.
In the space of two weeks this little haven has become like the Marie Celeste – nothing is safe and it won’t be long before my chickens are the next course and it’s NOT going to happen.
A fox or two I can deal with; they kill but not like this.
We have mink.
Unlike most wild animals, mink will kill even when they are not hungry. Rabbits, ducks, water voles, shrews, fish, frogs, crayfish, eels, moorhens, rats, birds and eggs are all taken by the mink.
And now whenever I hear a flurry of wing beats and a harsh call from the ducks in the middle of the night I will know it’s out there getting closer to my chickens and how do I protect them? Something that can run down a water vole will look at my pathetic attempts to secure the chooks and laugh - it will be an open invitation. There might as well be a red neon light flashing above the coop saying “Finger Lickin’ Chicken Here!” “Free!” and “For Limited Time Only!” and I though all I had to be frightened of was Bird Flu!!!!
So what do I do now? Call in the Cavalry I suppose – get Ferry to do the dirty. It’ll be right up his street why are young men so blood thirsty? He was such an angelic looking boy when we first met him…but that’s another story.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

And now for something completely different courtesy of the wickedest whippet!

I have just caught the EBJ doing something extraordinary and I don't have a camera to prove it. She is not a dog she's a cat in dog clothing. I have just found her on top of the Welsh Dresser her front feet up on the second shelf , her head inside the chicken bowl which is full of stale bread for their breakfast - well it was, but actually now it's all over the kitchen and I have decided on reflection that possibly I shouldn't have barked at her.
She had no idea I was there and I just could not resist, so I barked.
She hit her head on the bottom of the shelf above, her back feet skiddered on the top of the dresser bottom (keep up) knocking a glass and a couple of plastic tumblers onto the floor and sort of twisted and jumped landing feet first on the floor where she should have been in the first place. She then licked her lips went all silly and submissive while thumping her tail against my leg like a demented Labrador.
It's at times like these that I question her breeding.
So as well as being able to jump onto the dresser she now climbs its shelves to help herself to food. She's as bad as Bog Boy who also has a robust disregard to Health & Safety manuals in his quest for sustenance first thing in the morning.
She's not much better at Dog Training. All the others are making "Soopah" progress but the EBJ aka Sassy my year old black whippet...well let's just say she's a "right little character".
Every week we have to walk round all the other dogs, sitting just in front of them then moving off at heel. Every week without fail Sassy manages to get her head stuck in someone's pocket or else in someone's dog treat pouch. It's got to the stage where all the other owners glare at me while  firmly clamping their dog treat bags or pockest firmly shut while standing poker straight with their poor dogs practically strangled by their leads at their sides. When it first happened I just didn't know what to do with myself as I tried very hard not to laugh. Sassy seeing that poor Mr E was giving treats to his Labrador out of his very capacious trouser pockets just stuck her head right in and helped herself. Her head was right inside the man's pocket rummaging around for the tidbits and for a moment Mr E had no idea what was going on. It seemed like an age before she took her head out. By common consent no one said a thing and we carried on the lesson, me crossing fingers this was a one off.
But the EBJ is not a stupid dog and she knows you know!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Bringing up boys: The sum of all my fears... simply this, that somehow I will damage my children beyond my capability to repair with mere hugs and kisses.
I live in a world where every time, and I mean every time, I lose my temper and land up shouting I am racked with guilt. Sometimes this means my poor sons have on the one hand a serious bollocking and on the other a sobbing woman who keeps apologising. I don’t know how a normal mother works. That obviously presupposes that I no longer think of myself as normal.
And that I fear is the crux of the matter, for it is only when I am in an episode that I am not normal, so to speak, but the problem is, I don’t necessarily notice when I am going into an episode so I don’t know how long I have not been normal for – are you with me?
During a course of a year I may have one or two major episodes and perhaps several minor episodes, a minor episode lasting a few days while a major one can last a few weeks’ maybe months. At present I am in a major episode, one that is exceedingly deep and I am struggling. In fact, on Friday I called in the BIG guns, something I have not had to do since I had PND four years ago. I stabilised over the weekend and Dad has been stood down and is now on Amber Alert, bags packed ready for my call.
It sounds silly but having Mum and or Dad with me while I go through this gives me the confidence to go about my daily life and more importantly acts as a brake on my temper when I am so tired. I can safely leave my boys in their capable hands while I go to the bottom of the garden or else hide in the Holly by the moat and silently scream.
Imagine always dreading the morning, I do. I dread it because I don’t know how I will feel, will I wake up refreshed enough to cope with the demands my children throw at me from not finding clean pants to helping them put on their socks, from persuading them to wash their teeth to eating their breakfast. It is the smallest of things that can set me off and I cannot control it, or at least feel that I can’t, and all I want to do is run away.
Other days I cope fine, I presume these are normal days but my memory is shot and I forget how many of those I have - the joyful peculiarity of depression being that I tend to focus on the crap days rather than the normal ones and forget that I probably have more normal than not.
Whatever happens in the day I always manage to say goodnight to the boys with a huggie and a kiss to each, hoping that somehow this makes up for it all.
For them to have this mother who one minute is like the sun, the next like a storm must be bewildering in the extreme. I know sometimes it scares them. How will they turn out? How will they deal with it? How do they deal with it? For them, I am told, this is normal, they know no better. My job is to tell them that this is NOT normal and to always always apologise for my bad behavior. It seems to work for my youngest, but his ego rivals the world. For my eldest, I save my biggest fear - what happens if he is like me?

This is in answer to a question posed on British Mummy Bloggers by Deer Baby about how depression can affect children.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Bringing up boys: how quickly we can turn on those we hold dear...

This post first appreared on my Cage without a key blog but I felt it was part of an answer to a question posed on British Mummy Bloggers by Deer Baby about how  depression can affect children. In my next post I'll write about what fears I have for my family because of my depression ...

Both my boys are in bed. There’s nothing unusual in that as the clock strikes a quarter to the hour this evening. What is different is that there is an eerie silence. This follows an almighty outburst by me and the breaking of Bog Boy’s melamine Elmer Plate. I am as usual not proud.

Today has been a particularly stressful day but there is still no excuse - rather an explanation of events and how easily things can go very, very, pear-shaped and how easily you can lash out at those most dear.

Everything should have been fine today even though Charlie was back at work but right from the outset it was just going to be one of those days. Firstly his car would not start and that meant he had to get me up to take him to the station at 5.45am. No worries I used the time on my return to have a lovely quiet breakfast as I let the boys sleep in a little.

I asked them both what they wanted and let them watch TV until breakfast was ready. Bad move. Never, ever let your kids watch telly until they have had breakfast as you’ll not get them to the table without a fight even if only moments before they were telling you how hungry they were.

Trying to get cereal, toast and bacon and eggs eaten in the few ad breaks before Dinosaur King is bound to be a hiding to nothing.

Suffice to say Bog Boy got the short straw as once he ate his cereal he was off only to return a moment later asking for bacon. Problem was as he’d told me he did not want to eat a cooked breakfast; I ate the last piece of bacon in the house moments before. There was a lot of sulking and stamping of feet and how much he hated me.

Top tip: No use trying to reason with a three/nearly four year old…

So feeling I was not exactly heading for the Mother of the Year Award, next on my agenda was to let the chickens out or not as the case maybe.

It’s a long story but suffice to say neighbourly disputes especially when they get nasty are hardly pleasant and it’s not very nice when you are the one in the middle. Before 9am this morning apart from being told what a horrid mummy I was I was also accused of being a thief, a liar, an hysterical woman and that I was pitied because I was married to Charlie – who basically was the devil incarnate.


I always find it edifying knowing that I am some sort of buffer zone between warring factions. A bit like Poland during WWII and like that poor beleaguered country I got well and truly invaded.

I don’t like it when I am shouted at and intimidated or when someone is overtly aggressive. (Yeah I know I did it to my kids this evening – add hypocrite to my list of crimes…)

Anyway, I did not let my chickens out; I arranged for the builders, to turn their hands to building a massive hen pen so that my chooks would not be able to trespass onto my neighbours land – but hey that didn’t work. Well it did, in that I now have an amazing all singing, all dancing, hen pen, but my neighbour was still not pacified.

I have a feeling he did not want to be and he went ahead with his threat to take his goats across my land because my chickens invaded his even though they had not. The chickens he was referring to were chicken that had adopted his wife and were on his land all the time anyway but in the middle of a dispute you're not going to be interested in semantics especially if you have a point to prove.

I spent all day in a state of heightened anxiety sometimes fine, sometimes crying, mostly agitated and worrying. Not looking forward to telling Charlie then not looking forward to the inevitable showdown that would follow.

I made the boys supper and as they were eating it I went to call Charlie to find out when he was coming home. That was when the boys decided to have a fight. I could not hear clearly and just when I thought I had got through the line switched to ansamachine. I called again, the noise the boys were making made it difficult for me to hear. I told them to shut up.

Having failed to ascertain when my husband would return I watched as the sun started to go down, any minute now and the second part of my neighbours threat would start, he bringing his goats back across the garden from the field where they had been grazing all day. Added to that I was not too sure how much attention would be spent on preventing the goats from having the inevitable nibble here, and quick bite there, of hubbies precious Populus nigra.

I brusquely told the boys to pipe down and didn’t pay them attention much but the whining was increasing and the calls on my attention were getting more persistent.

The Boy: Mum, Mum, MUM! I have to tell you something.....

Me: Not now Boy

The Boy: But I have to tell you!

Me: No I do not want to hear! Not now...

The Boy: But I have too...

Me: NO!!!!!!!

The Boy, carrying on regardless: Bog Boy put a bit of sausage on my plate, it’s not fair…!

I grabbed his plate, deftly scooped all the sausages, potatoes and peas and deposited them on Bog Boy’s plate them slammed down The Boy’s plate on the table. Unfortunately I was a little harder than I expected and the plate shot across the table and spun like a frizz bee across the kitchen smashing against a metal vegetable rack and splintering into four pieces before landing on the floor.

There was a deathly hush.

Then Bog Boy started to wail: ELMER!!!!! MY Elmer plate, you broke my Elmer plate!!!!

I’d like to say my response was one of a contrite mother but my brain was a little behind my actions and I snarled out: "Bugger your plate!" At the same time as my brain focussed on the fact that it really was Bog Boy’s favourite plate that I had broken. I was a little taken aback to realise it was in pieces and thought: "Blimey! I had no idea plastic could break."

By the time my brain registered that fact; I had already told the boys to get thee hence to bed and supper was over. They shot up the stairs, sniffling and sobbing and quickly got undressed ready for bed. I sat on the stairs staring out the window aware and not aware of what was going on, reflecting on the fact that I had thought myself so under control , so calm but patently I was not and once again it was my boys that bore the brunt.

As usual I apologised and explained that it was not them but that sometimes they needed to listen to Mummy and to do as they were told, not to interrupt when she is on the phone, to wait until she is ready to listen, to hear when she says she is tired and is grumpy. Hard lessons for little boys, hard lessons for any child, whatever age.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Brain cell overload...

I have just found out why men think they are better than women. Multi tasking.
Because in general women have to multitask more than men, they get in more of a muddle. Men on the other hand base their superiority on the fact that they can walk and chew gum – but face it folks, that’s it. If you asked a bloke to walk, chew gum, do the washing, pay the bills, get the children to school, let the dogs out, feed the chickens, get coffee for the builders, assess the number of bricks required for a wall, write children’s party invitations, do a little work then they would be as dippy as I am and there’s science to back it up as well! I know ‘cos I read it in the newspaper in a brief moment of calm when my poor brain only had to read and drink rooisboch tea.
Basically the report, which I read in a four day old purloined Daily Telegraph (I haven’t got round to ordering my own yet from the village shop after nine years living here so I rely on pre-loved newspapers left on trains, the ground, round today’s fish and chips), says that the brain can only deal effectively with two things at once and as soon as you add a third task (3 tasks! heck most of us have to juggle a whole lot more than that) everything goes to pot.
So the fact that I forget things on a regular basis and am considered basically unhinged is because I am over loaded and never more was this prevalent than today.
We are on Day Three of the new school and Mother has had to get up a whole our earlier everyday just to keep up with herself. The journey to the school only takes 10 minutes longer but those precious ten minutes make a whole lot of change necessary. Whereas before Mother could drop Bog Boy off at nursery before school i.e. at 8am she now has to take Bog Boy with her on the hour and a quarter round trip because Nursery doesn’t take anyone in before 8am and The Boy has to be at his new school by 8.15am a whole quarter of an hour earlier than at the last place. Thus the school run has been brought forward by 25 minutes. I can deal with that, but I don’t know the roads very well, Bog Boy complains bitterly THE WHOLE WAY and of course I as yet don’t know the new school routines. There’s also the fact that I don’t actually know anyone there anyway. I don’t know a lot do I?
Added to all that and the mild anxiety that it all engenders The Boy wants to invite all his new class to his party on Saturday. I agreed and there lies the rub by doing this one task too many I got myself into a whole load of trouble.
I delivered The Boy and his invites to the school on time and in the correct manner. I chatted to some of the Mummies and thought I had made a good impression. I wandered off in a bit of a haze thinking about getting Bog Boy to nursery and dwelling on the fact that I would shortly have to cross the A140 at rush hour in order to do so. Everything seemed to go fine and I was about to celebrate my achievements with a nice cup of tea when I noticed that I had not given The Boy his pills. The Boy has Absence Seizures (Petit Mal) and although missing the pills wouldn’t be too bad it’s also not good especially if he has to go swimming. So I returned to the school to give him the missing pills and to leave a strip just in case I forgot again with Matron.
When I got to the school I met with The Boy’s new form teacher coming out of the staff room at break time and we laughed about forgetting things and joked. Just as she turned to leave she asked if I was alright.
Me, querying: Yes
Her: Just that I had a Mummy asking after you this morning.
Me getting worried: Oh, why?
Her: Well she said that when she asked how you were doing you said not desperately well and wandered off!
Me, slapping my hand to my mouth: Oh GOD! I have no idea why I said that in fact I can’t remember saying it at all!
I really can’t remember saying it. I have no recollection at all of saying it. I now will have to go up to a virtual stranger at picking up time and apologise in front of everyone else too. OOHHH the embarrassment! The ignominy! I shall be forever marked…ah well better that than being all scary and hyper organised!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit

The EBJ whippet has her nose to the glued to the office window and is being perfectly still; there are two fat rabbits at the end of the garden totally oblivious.
There is a strong temptation to quietly open the window motivated by sheer vanity. I have some of the oldest and most beautiful roses in the Village and they are under constant attack by rabbits.
Dilemma. Should I do it or should I consider other legal ways of sorting the problem?
If I let the dog out knowing there are rabbits at the bottom of the garden I am in fact hunting with dogs and that is illegal. If I let the dog out without looking out of the window and she chases the rabbits at the bottom of the garden I am not breaking the law. However, knowing that I am likely to have rabbits at the bottom of the garden and that not just one but all of my dogs chase them do I ever let the dogs out?
These are very serious considerations not least because my office can be found on the second floor of the house and if I was to open it the whippet would be silly enough o jump out and that no doubt would necessitate a trip to the vet.
I wonder how many people break the law in the country? I’m afraid I do a lot especially when it comes to hunting with dogs. I have no intention to but dogs are dogs and I do hate keeping them on leads all the time.
I’ll never forget taking Jack Russell Biggles for a walk in Battersea Park in London. I lived just 237 paces (my father counted them) from the Park and either myself or my sister would walk the dog there once in the morning and once in the evening during the week and several times over the weekend if we had not taken him visiting.
Biggs and I were strolling around. He doing dog things i.e. sniffing at every bush and tree and cocking his leg at every given opportunity (now just how do they know how much wee they will need when they have no idea how long the walk will be?).
I came across a woman sobbing beside a very forlorn-looking black greyhound. In London you tend to ignore this type of behaviour, pretend it is not happening and pass by; but this time I could not.
Me: Are you OK?
Her still sobbing: “I’ve just been attacked.”
Me: “What! Are you OK? Do you want me to get the police?”
Her: “No, no really it’s OK. It wasn’t that type of attack and they are the one’s who are going to get the police.”
Me: “I’m sorry?”
Her: “I was walking Sooty and he was having a lovely time but he chased a squirrel and the next thing I knew two women were shouting at me and saying I was cruel and I said I couldn’t help it that Sooty sometimes did chase squirrels and they told me he should know better and now they are getting the police!”
Ah London!
I stayed with the damsel and Biggs and Sooty had a great time chasing each other round and round. The Parks Police did come, looking very uncomfortable, and Sooty’s owner and I were told we needed to keep our dogs under control. The two accuser’s left and Mr Plod took both of us to headquarters where we were given tea and the dogs had the biscuits as he told us all about the terrible squirrel problem in Battersea Park.
Needless to say I saw Sooty and his owner in the Park many times after that gambolling free of lead and occasionally chasing squirrels. In all the years I had a dog in London –seven in fact – I never once saw any of them get caught!
So back to the problems of the countryside and hunting with dogs. I can’t prevent dogs doing dog things but the rabbits usually hear them coming and it is only occasionally that I have to deal with it. Nine times out of ten it’s one with myxomatosis. I carry a knife, which is usually not needed as my whippets are far too skilled.
As for the ones at the bottom of the garden, well a sharp knock on the window sends them scurrying and despite my dog’s enthusiasm there has never been a healthy one yet caught.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Review: Chocoholics Anonymous courtesy of Green & Blacks

Own up now. Don’t be shy. We’ve all done it, we’ve all been there. My name’s Tattie Weasle and I’m a chocoholic.
I’ve lied, cheated and stolen for my addiction and yes, I did eat some of my children’s Easter eggs without telling them. In fact, I am ashamed to admit some Easter eggs never actually arrived at their destination. Well, come on! The Boy got three Cadbury’s Mini Egg Easter Eggs and he’d have been sick if he had had them all! I was doing my motherly duty and saving him from himself…it’s true!
My addiction is so bad that when there is chocolate in the house I cannot sit still until I have eaten it. All of it. Only at that point can I relax.
With most other things I am a sharing sort of person but with chocolate that is not the case. Dear Charlie has been known to ask me if there is any chocolate in the house so he can have a bit with his tea just before bedtime. I have responded with the no I am sorry excuse, at the same time as stuffing my face with the last few pieces.
It’s not that I don’t love my husband, it’s just that, well, I obviously love chocolate more. So imagine my consternation when my husband was the one who opened a huge packet addressed to me only to find 11 bars of chocolate in it courtesy of Green & Blacks! There was no way I could hide the evidence and surreptitiously eat it at my leisure in the dead of night when the rest of the family was sleeping. Now I had to share.
Deciding that my best bet was to save myself from myself, I virtuously announced that as there was so much chocolate we’d all do the taste test that Green & Blacks had so kindly suggested. I had already noted that they had said each person should restrict themselves to only a couple of squares of each chocolate and I calculated that between the four of us technically only eight squares of each bar would be eaten leaving the rest, well available for future reference…
I think I was a little to obvious in my greed for Dear Charlie suggested very firmly that we should invite a whole load of friends over for a tasting the following Friday. OK. All well and good, but the following Friday was a week away and how on earth was I going to prevent myself from eating the chocolate before then? For every packet would have to be pristine on the night. I couldn’t just break it into bits in bowls because Dear Charlie would know that I had been at it.
It was a difficult week. It was an expensive week. For there was no way I could not eat the chocolate and every night the chocolate was checked to make sure it was all there an accounted for. Basically what happened was that he’d leave for work at 6am and by 7am the chocolate would have been opened and a few chunks devoured. The bar would then be hastily removed upstairs to my bedroom where it would be secreted in a little hidey hole in my wardrobe form whence I could snatch a couple of chunks throughout the day just to keep me going. I would then have to replace the bar with a new one bought from the local supermarket. Unfortunately for me some days did not work out so well. Like the time I took the Cherry one – I don’t like cherries and trying to buy a replacement saw me travel from Stowmarket to Bury St Edmunds in a desperate race against time one late afternoon to get the another back in the draw before he returned from London.
By the time Friday came round I was slightly manic and to be honest not really looking forward to an evening of chocolate. I think it was the guilt.
As well as eating chocolate I had also been given cooking chocolate. The whole meal was going to be based on chocolate. If it’s pudding you are after then Green & Blacks have some amazing recipes but if you want to have savoury dishes then, that is a little trickier.
However, as I said I’m a chocoholic and I now give you, the until now, heavily guarded secret of my gravy, my rich meat pies, the je ne sais quois of my hot pots; for years I have been using dark chocolate in a host of dishes, the best of which, is of course, Chilli Con Carne.
If you want to make your meat sauces just that little bit richer add a few cubes of dark chocolate the higher the cocoa content the better though for many an 85% will be a bit bitter. A good 70% will do perfectly and the nice thing I found out about Green & Blacks is that even at its highest cocoa content it is never bitter.
The evening was brilliant and we all followed the Green & Blacks Chocolate Tasting Rules and had a total blast. I will admit I have not had such fun in ages and I would be quite willing to share my chocolate again, perhaps, sometime in the future…maybe…

Green & Blacks Tasting Rules
In preparation…
• Ensure your chocolate is at room temperature.
• Limit yourself to around six different chocolate varieties. Allow roughly two squares per person. Any more will give you tasting fatigue.
• Start with the lightest variety, e.g. White, and finish with the darkest, e.g. Dark 85%
As you taste…
• Observe the appearance of the chocolate as chocolates vary in colour. Like wine, intensity of colour does not necessarily indicate intensity of flavour.
• Smell the chocolate. Take a small piece and let it melt between your thumb and forefinger. It is only then that you experience the aromas that we usually describe as flavours.
• Taste the chocolate. Put the first piece in your mouth and pinch your nose. Pinching your nose lets your tongue and mouth truly experience the tastes and other sensations perceived in the mouth, as opposed to flavour, which is perceived by the olfactory gland in the nasal canal. The tastes your tongue can detect are salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (a savoury taste); and the sensations and textures your mouth can detect include astringency and the cooling effect of the cocoa butter.
• Stop pinching your nose and breathe in deeply. You will immediately sense the aromas or flavours of the chocolate. This is because all these volatiles are already surrounding the olfactory gland. The deep breath of air just allows it to work properly.
• After you've tasted like this once, you can continue in this vein or taste in a more traditional way. By allowing the chocolate to melt slowly on the tongue one experiences the change and development of flavours as the cocoa butter melts and releases the volatiles.
• Give your guests water between samples to cleanse the palate.
We're all unique, so your tasting experience will be uniquely your own. Have fun comparing and contrasting your discoveries with others.

What we tasted:
White – Good vanilla tones, slightly salty
Creamy Milk- seemed almost burnt and milk powdery (to some but of course delicious to me!)
Buttersctoch – Better than a crunchy. Great choclately taste
Almond - almonds were amazing but the chocolate in comparison seemed bland and irrelevant
Ginger – to die for!
Cherry – the cherries were deliciously juicy (not what I thought but I was out voted) just like a Black Forest gateaux
Dark 70% - as dark chocolate should be!
Dark 85% - seriously strong but surprisingly smooth

Finally my recipe for Chill Con Carne (this is a bastardised version of the Waitrose one!)
Serves about 8
2lbs fully leaded minced beef none of this lean stuff
1 large onion, chopped
2/4 garlic cloves, chopped (some like it strong others don’t)
2 red chillis deseeded and all chopped up. Seriously try and avoid the seeds as they tend to be hot and bitter to the taste and rather unpleasant.
2 tsp hot chilli powder and a good pinch of coriander, ginger, cumin and cinnamon
Eight squares of dark chocolate, broken up as it melts better if you do that.
a big tin chopped tomatoes
A large dollop of tomato puree
2 ordinary tins of red kidney beans
Seasoning to taste

Put some oil in a big pan and fry off the onion and garlic being careful not to burn add the mince and keep going until it is all browned. Add the chilli and spices and tomato puree and cook until well flavoured then add everything else except the tinned tomatoes and kidney beans. I add the chocolate chunk by chunk and make sure it does not touch the bottom of the pan as it can burn if you are not careful.
Finally add the beans. Some people drain all the juices off the meat and add the beans then reduce the juice and re add it just before serving. I am far too lazy and just keep going with the cooking until it looks about right. I think this is because I don’t add stock with the tomatoes.

The salsa courtesy of Waitrose!
2 large, ripe avocados, roughly diced
4 large tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and diced
4 limes, juiced, and zest grated from 2
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
1 large green chilli, halved, deseeded and chopped
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
1 large red chilli, halved, deseeded and chopped

Chop all of it up, squeeze in the limes and hey presto seemples!!!!

Serve with all the accompaniments you like including cheese, sour cream and of course tortilla chips!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Bringing up Boys: Imps and Angels

When one is good the other is bad and vice versa until I have no idea which way to turn. They drive me nuts! I know I should be deeply flattered but to be the object of their internecine war is not something I relish!
I find it difficult to keep a straight face sometimes and of course I must not ever be seen as partisan. Give any emotion away especially one of mild amusement and it is used to its fullest against the other with a blatancy that takes your breath away.
One will be sulking at table, swinging his legs in the hope of catching the other sharply on the knee, bottom lip out and eyebrows somewhere in the middle; the other will be beaming beatifically at me saying something along the lines of: “I love you Mummy! You are the best Mummy in the world!” and casting surreptitious gloat filled glances at his brother.
It’s right out of Horrid Henry but the thing is I don’t get the benefits of having a Perfect Peter round the house.
However, the thing I love the best, although it's not until afterwards that I can appreciate it, is when I tell one off for some misdemeanor and set about organising a punishment to fit the crime: usually banishment.
Then  it is surprising how often they will stick up for each other united against an evil foe. They will accompany each other in banishment even if the reason for the banishment is that one or the other punched, kicked, or even bit the other enought to make them come running to me for help in the first place.
If I ask one to say sorry then the other responds with sorry too even if they are not in the wrong. It makes me wonder if I am needed at all! Oh the dark looks I am given as they stalk off into the play room firmly shutting me out following an arbitration.
It is the one thing I always longed for as my sister an I did not have it, that bond, that ever lasting ( I hope) friendship.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Bringing up Boys: You treat me just like a slave!

“Your treat me just like a slave!” stormed my eldest as he stomped into the bathroom where I had retreated for a bit for R&R amid the heady smell of Cath Kidson’s Wild Rose.
I peered at him myopically over the top of my novel and said nothing.
Him: You DO
Me: I do?
Him: You ALL do!
Me: What even Bog Boy?
Him: Yes even him. He’s the worst. He’s ALWAYS getting me to do things for him.
The Boy plonks himself down on the loo seat arms folded and glares at me challengingly. I note that his eyebrows nearly met in the middle when he scowls - just like his fathers’. I reluctantly lay my novel on the chair by the bath. This will take some sorting out and it looks like I am to be on arbitration duty.
Me: So what’s happened?
Him: Do YOU know I have to do EVERYTHING? I have to lay the table and put things away and everything and he doesn’t and it happens all the time and I am just like a slave!
Ah here’s the rub Bog Boy isn’t doing his share. I am reminded that in the little world in which my children live there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. I feel I have to hedge my bets on what has happened, though I have a pretty good idea. However, I know I am not being told the whole truth merely a watered down version.
Me: Why don’t you go down stairs and help Daddy. Once you’re done as he’s asked it will be all over and you can do what you like.
Him: But it will take forever and it’s not fair Bog Boy doesn’t have to do anything and anyway you’re always telling me what to do I can never do what I want to do. You’re all horrid and meanies…
The Boy flings himself out of the bathroom leaving the door open and letting in a waft of freezing air.
Me, shouting after him as I dive beneath the rapidly cooling bath water: Shut the door!
Him yelling back over his shoulder: SEE you’re always telling me what to do!!!!
Sassy, the EBJ (evil black job) whippet pokes her head round the door to check on all the fuss.
Me: Well, that went well didn’t it?
Sassy gives me a look as if to say what do you expect and disappears to do further nepherious things to the Antique Eiderdown in the spare room.
As I haul myself out of the bath I remember how I used to rant at my Mum about how unfair it all was and how she could do just about anything she wanted whenever she wanted and how mean she was to send me to school and how even if I lived to be 100 I would have been incarcerated in THAT place for a tenth of my life.
As I skitter down the corridor wrapping my towel more tightly around me I make a promise to myself to hug The Boy more closely. For if we are all honest with ourselves being a kid is pretty horrid sometimes…

Go on you know you want to...


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