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Month: February 2011

A Comforting Thought

A Comforting Thought

As it was before, so it shall be again.

Warm days, hot days, bare feet and ice lollies.  Somehow knowing this is a little way down the line helps me to enjoy what is now, encourages me to make more of these winter months.  There are moments of joy in each season that are beyond my expectations in their beauty, in their simplicity.  That ordinary moment that catches me by surprise and makes me wonder ‘how did I get so lucky?’.  Two healthy boys, running in and out of water on a hot day.  For me that is when it all makes sense, when normal and excessively joyful mix to make a perfect moment.

Wishing all a good beginning to this winter week with thoughts of now and thoughts of what will be in equal measure.  Happy Monday!

My Old Pencil Case

My Old Pencil Case

I have this old pencil case, it is denim and it has a label on it that says Junior Miss.  I’ve had it, well, forever as far as I can remember.  My dad brought it over for me on one of his visits, still full of the felt tip pens I remember from being 8 years old.  It is like a sliver of my childhood that has jumped through a wormhole and landed on my table.  Nothing has changed, the pens are the same colour that I remember (though they are old and dry, I presume, I haven’t tried them), they make me want to reach for a colouring book or a sketch pad.

When I look at my pencil case I am transported, it is a magical time machine that takes me back to somewhere around 7 or 8 years old.  The amazing feeling of excitement still turns my tummy as I recall my Mum coming into the living room and telling me we were going to see E.T. She put on some seriously sensible shoes because it was snowing outside and I knew there had been queues around the block to see it (it had been on the news) but we went.  Mum had a plan, a theory, that the weather would keep people away and it did.  We walked straight in, it was like magic.  We both cried at the end, we always cried at the sad bits, both of us joyfully abandoning ourselves to the sorrow. And I remember the pride I felt after christmas when I showed my friends my E.T. pencil, rubber and pencil sharpener.  I was quite the star on my table that day I can tell you.

I remember learning to throw balls against the wall and practising so hard to earn my own set.  And I remember sitting on the stairs  in the darkness watching Mum ice my 7th birthday cake late into the night, her face totally focused and not showing any signs of the fatigue she must have felt.  The cake was always a suprise and this one was the best yet.  Pink and white icing, the top as smooth as an ice rink, in pride of place a model horse.  It sat on a silver board and there were silver balls around the edge, sitting inside the piped icing that curled the circumference in perfect symmetry.  It shone.  Of course no one ever bought a birthday cake, if someone had told me their cake had been bought I would have thought them a) a fantasist/rich person or b) a creature to be pitied.  I mean did their Mum not love them?  To simply buy a cake?  Suspicious behaviour in my book.

I remember Kids From Fame and my friends sitting on the front garden while we sang the songs from the previous episode.  I remember wanting to marry Bruno.  I remember pedal pushers and Mum curling the ends of my hair in Farrah Fawcett flicks that I adored.  I remember the nightdress she made for me and a matching one for my sister;  when she made me and Haitch stand at the ends of our beds for messing about and Dad making us screech with laughter with his ‘alternate endings’ for all of our stories.  Taking the bus into town and my parents telling us endless stories to keep us entertained. And the mornings when Mum would come in from her job as a cleaner at the nearby school and she would put her cold hands on our backs as we pretended to sleep.  We would scream and we would all laugh.

I remember how her hands felt, I remember her skin and the smell of her.  I remember her smile and the frown of concentration when she was working on something, knitting, sewing, making a teddy bear or planning out crafts for Brownies. When I look at this pencil case I see my Mum, clearly standing in the kitchen, looking at the counter working on something.  Maybe washing up, maybe cooking.  Then she looks up, she looks up and smiles.  And I know that she isn’t smiling at me then, she is smiling at me now.  She is looking across the years, younger than I am now.  Her hair curled and falling to her collar, her face fresh and full of life.  She looks at me and her smile says “I know baby.  I know it hurts.”

So that’s the thing I’m stuck with you see.  This pencil case, full of felt tips that no one can use.   Pens that have multiple tips with many colours that you can select as you see fit, my one time pride and joy;  frozen in time, ink dried long ago.  I can’t throw the pens away, as I probably should, give the case new life as I once would have done.  I can’t throw away this link to such vivid memories, this trigger of the sights and smells of childhood.  Today Neirin scattered all the pens and contents on the floor, I didn’t realise until Huwyl brought me a ‘treasure’ he had found.  It was a picture hook, the kind that holds a picture to a picture rail, a moment of my past reaching out to brush my face like a cobweb.   I held it like he had handed me a diamond, I rubbed my fingers on it as if a genie might pop out.  Or, more likely, as if something of my Mum would rub off on me, that it would bring her closer for a moment.

Because that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?  Perhaps if she were still here, alive and on the end of the phone, I would select a few of the pens for old times sake and chuck the rest.  For the same reason I have a jumper of Mum’s in my cupboard, unworn, the collar  unravelled and me without the skills to fix it.  Another cardigan, now taking up a hanger because the zip is broken and it is really too small but it was Mum’s so I keep it. It is silly, I tell myself, Mum wasn’t sentimental about things.  She would have said ‘Get rid of them, get yourself something new’.  But that’s the point, she isn’t here and so I can’t bring myself to abandon even one of the threads that links me to her.  And I wonder.

If she was so unsentimental how is it that my pencil case is here, untouched, as it was when I presumably cast it aside some years ago and forgot about it?  How is it that the bag of my Brownie and Guide badges sits upstairs waiting for me to find a way to use them?  Little mementos of my childhood, keep tucked away despite the clear outs, the moves, overseas and back again.  The march outs, the march ins, the departures of children into the adult world. So I’ll put it away for another day, perhaps I’ll get round to it this week, maybe next.  On this Imbolc day when I should be planning for the future but find myself caught in the past, contemplating who I was and how it made me who I am.  Looking at my children and seeing the echoes of my childhood in them.  Maybe I should seize the day and clear out old clutter, old memories.  But not today;  for now I’ll keep it in my cupboard, my own Aladdin’s lamp but instead of wishes is holds only memories.  And instead of a lamp I have my old pencil case.

(I) Heart Cookies

(I) Heart Cookies

I promise that I am not actually stalking Jean at The Artful Parent (though should I take it up she’ll be on my list) but while I was perusing her blog I noticed this delicious looking recipe for Cranberry Oat Cookies.  Perfect for a spot of afternoon baking I thought to myself and I couldn’t have been more right.

Huwyl and I worked together mixing and rolling and cutting.  But those details hardly seem important now.  Now that I’ve actually tasted the cookies.  What can I say?

Sweet, crumbly, delicious.  Oaty, cranberry goodness with a shortbread quality that made me eat 6 in a row one with a cup of tea.  I did tweak the recipe as I’m not a fan of cinnamon and don’t have any nutmeg in my baking cupboard (yes heap culinary shame upon my brow) but I did have the fabulous idea of adding white chocolate chips because…well, I don’t really have to explain that one do I?

Here is my slightly tweaked recipe based almost entirely on Jean’s Aunt Polly’s recipe:

Cranberry White Choc Chip Oaty Hearts

1/2 cup cranberries

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 Tbsp water

2 cups rolled oats

In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda.  Then mix butter, sugar, egg, and water, I did this in my stand mixer. Stir in flour mixture and then the oats, cranberries and chocolate chips.

Roll out on floured surface to 1/4 inch. Cut with cutter of choice. Sprinkle with with sugar. Bake on baking sheets covered in baking parchment at 375 F for 10 minutes.  If possible wait until the biscuits are less then mouth blisteringly hot before devouring, the delicious smell might make this impossible so have a drink on standby.

This is the perfect biscuit for Valentine’s day as it will inspire true love in the heart of anyone you give it to.  Nom, nom, nom.





From Seurat to Pollock

From Seurat to Pollock

So I posted the other day about our Q-tip Pointillism fun; well there is a part two to that story, a cautionary tale if you will, that I would like to share with you.  Our painting session had gone exactly as described, q-tips, paint, innocent fun, or so I thought.   I then unwisely gave Huwyl a second piece of paper.  That was mistake number 1.  Mistake number 2 came when I left the room for about 30 seconds to pour hot water over a tea bag.  I know, what kind of negligent crazy homeschooling loon attempts to have a hot drink in the middle of the day?  Insanity reigns.

Anyhoo, I went into the kitchen to pour hot water onto my teabag and returned to find…well let’s just say Jackson Pollock would be exceptionally proud.  Every wall, the ceiling and some items of furniture were covered in tiny spots of paint.  Aside from feeling as though I had been ensnared in some kind of time loop and that I had been gone for about half an hour, the only thought that ran through my mind was “But this is a rental house”.  Which explains why the walls are white, yes white, the most unsuitable colour for a home with small children in.

The first words out of my mouth were ‘What did you do?!” but instantly saw from Huwyl’s expression, as he looked up from his masterpiece on the table, that he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  Eyes wide he said “What did  I do?”,  I pointed mutely at the wall behind him and almost laughed when he jumped off his chair in surprise as he saw it covered in paint.  Both of us regarded the spattered walls with amazement, wondering if some other power had somehow intervened to create this cataclysm.

At this moment Neirin walked up to us, his hands covered in paint and, with comedy seriousness and a sincere desire to be involved, planted them firmly on the spattered wall.  Time slowed down as Huwyl and I watched him reach out his chubby, paint soaked fingers and press them against the now not so pristine white wall.  It speeded up again pretty quickly.  I am a parent, I recognised a ‘think fast act faster’ situation and went into Mum Mode.  I snatched up Neirin to stop him making things worse, made some reassuring comments to Huwyl to stop him melting down and screaming (Stephen was upstairs, asleep due to a nasty case of Strep) and raced to the bathroom.  Neirin was washed, paint things were speedily removed from the table and Huwyl and I got to work washing the walls before the paint dried.

The whole time Huwyl and I scrubbed at the walls I kept thinking ‘Don’t laugh, they’ll do it again’ but I couldn’t help myself.  Though I wouldn’t say I rolled about on the floor I did keep bursting out laughing and then saying “It’s not really funny you know” or something equally ridiculous.  It was truly a classic Mum moment.  I now have the motto Never leave the room when the paints are out, scalded on my brain and will refrain from being lulled into a false sense of security and attempting a hot cup of tea mid-crafting for at least 5 years.

So there you have it, from Seurat to Pollock in one afternoon.  I’m going to file that under ‘Art History’ and call it educational.

Huwyl and Neirin 2011