Friday, 26 September 2014

The artist

Sometimes, she disappears for hours and I know that I am not to disturb. The creative juices are flowing and this child who usually bounces about, runs from adventure to adventure, and is the loudest kid on the block (which means I usually hear her if I can't see her) cannot be heard or seen. If I get too close to the door it's a panicky "mummy DON'T look" that greets me. Of course I don't because I know when she wants to be left alone until her project is entirely finished. It's a big secret and a work in progress is never shared with anyone.

Her favourite book ever is Hoglet the Spineless Hedgehog, which according to her is absolutely amazing ("Mami, it's so so so good that story")

And she is a self declared artist. She loves the fancy paints, like acrylics on canvas.

Next up she creates houses for cats, with built in toys.

After this, she's back to her usual bouncy self, like a switch that's been turned one way and then the other.

 It's not an easy task keeping up with this kind of energy!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


I have downsized.

As of next month, I've reduced my working hours to effectively 3 days a week term time only. It may be temporary, but there's no guarantee, so I've good and proper taken the plunge. I'd wanted to do this for ages, but alas, it wasn't possible - there were targets not achievable on 3 days, a restructure, more targets and now finally an opportunity to at least spend a bit more time with Snowflake in the last year before she starts school. Oh and the summer holiday: This past summer was so incredibly wonderful, there was so much on and I was stuck in an office without much work to do (which was a first to be fair), a lot of time to think and reassess what is important to me and to allow for my priorities to shift. Realising that due to the restructure, my work had changed to an extent that there was a real chance of getting a request for reduction of hours approved, the idea grew and grew, and I finally had the courage to ask for the biggest reduction to my hours I'm comfortable with. I now also have the summer to spend with the girls which is the real biggy - not just will I save on particularly expensive childcare, but actually be able to do stuff with them that I really want them to experience, as good as our local holiday club offerings are, I don't want them cooped in the same place they spend their school days and after school hours.

For as long as I can think, I've been working hard and playing little. Even as a teenager I worked after school and in the holidays, and every conceivable opportunity to make money to finance my travels was grasped.

Later I was ambitious, not hugely so but I kind of wanted to move up a bit on the career ladder. Having reached the motherhood glass ceiling or something like that, or failing to identify where that career ladder people talk about actually is, I don't see this happening any time soon. So it made sense to just let go of ambition and enjoy this moment, right here, right now, the last year of freedom for Snowflake, and who knows what will be after that.

I'm full of excitement and full of plans for this extra free day and the summer. I have to hold myself back not to fill it up straight away with all the things that I haven't been able to do because of lack of time and actually focus on the stuff I really want to do. So much to do - get back into growing, sewing, studying, volunteering - but above all just being with my children, reconnecting and being able to say yes more often, being able to follow their pace instead of the rat race's pace.

I might even find the time to blog again, whoop.

Both Snowflake and Cubling did a little dance by the way, which is kind of good, just imagine they'd have responded with "oh no mum, I'd really rather go to after school care/ forest kindergarten". 

All the while I am happily humming Chris Wood's song:

Monday, 1 September 2014

Plums, glorious plums

This year has been a bumper harvest of my little Victoria plum tree, the one that is happy to grow in our north facing blip of a garden, in the heaviest clay soil you'll ever have seen.

Last year there were 14 plums. This year... Too many to count. So what to do with them all? Well, while I consider, I harvest as they get ripe, halve them and put them in small freezer bags to keep my options open. I like plum cake, and the portion size is sufficient for a nice big cake.

But I think we may have more than we need for cake, so this year I'm planning to dig out a nice German recipe for Pflaumenmus (plum compote.. well sort of, it doesn't translate well, I've seen it translated as plum cheese, but there's nothing cheesy about it). In fact, there's plenty of German plum recipes, I'm sure plum/damson cake is omnipresent in German bakeries, with the fair accompaniment of wasps who seem to like plums as much as we do.

Plum compote is a bit like jam, just with less sugar and longer boiling at lower temperature, and the addition of spices which make it perfect for winter days.

3 kg plums
500 g jam sugar
1 unwaxed lemon, cut the rind into strips
2 cinnamon sticks
ground ginger, cloves or all spice to taste

Wash, halve and remove stones. Put into a casserole dish and sprinkle with spices (cinnamon, cloves etc). Add sugar and stir. Put into preheated oven at 175 degrees C for at least 1.5 hours (stir after every half hour), and put a wooden spoon in the oven door to allow the water to evaporate. The mousse is done when the plums have disintegrated, the water evaporated and the compote is nice and dark. You may need to extend the time in the oven up to 2.5 hours. Fill into sterilised jars and close.

(How to sterilise jars: wash them in hot water, and put the wet jars into the oven for 15 minutes at about 100-150 degrees. You can also boil them in a large saucepan for 10 minutes, or use a baby bottle steriliser if you have one. Sterilising reduces the likelihood of mould developing).

You can use the mouse just like jam, or bake with it or...



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