Monday, 9 November 2015

Hello from number 24

It's been nearly three weeks since we moved and whilst we're still surrounded by a mountain of boxes, albeit an ever diminishing mountain, we couldn't feel more at home.

I love it more than I can express.  Daily I have moments of incredulity that we live here....that we own it.  I spin around the kitchen singing Disney songs (sometimes not even with the boys...ok, a lot of the time.)  

After a week of contemplating putting them on Ebay (never move just before half term...or just generally with children) the boys have settled in and feel truly at home here.  They are playing so nicely together.  All three of them.  They have enough space that they don't feel on top of each other and can either play together or alongside each other without a problem.  What's more....I can have some space away if I need to (the perils of open plan living meaning I couldn't in our old house); I can take Rupert away when the older two are playing something complicated and intricate; and I can use the threat of putting them in the cellar if they're naughty (I'm joking....don't call social services).  There's a park right outside our house.  Perfect for three small boys and a frazzled mummy.

We've had more guests (well, more varied guests) over in three weeks than in 3 years in our old house.  I'm not embarrassed by the state of it.  Everyone is welcome....not just the select few who know us enough to not care what state my house is in.  No quick last minute clean up before people arrive (although, early days, early days...)

The kitchen.....oh the kitchen....let's just say that it's already been used to it's full potential for both baking and cooking.

The neighbours have been so lovely.  We've already had some over for a glass of wine (or three.....when I then went to have a look around their house and embarrassingly didn't realise they had three steps up to their door so fell flat on my bum....great impression...totes awkward and balance based, not vino based....promise!  It was the second time in three days I'd ended up on the floor before I realised...).  We've been brought over a cake as a welcome to the neighbourhood.  We've had our bins brought back in and the promise of a cup of tea after thanking them.  Our old neighbourhood was incredibly close knit and I know I've made friends for life there (you know who you are).

We just fit here.  Our furniture....our's just us.

So yes, we're happy....which is good because I can't imagine the stress of moving ever again.  So happy.  Major, major thanks to my know why.  We're extremely lucky and I know it.  I can think of the future with a smile on my face with the knowledge that my boys will get to grow up in a house that I can think of as being our "Family house"....not just a house our family are living in.

Also huge thanks to Susie B for being proactive and taking the majority of these pictures and for OUR gingerbread house.  That's actually our gingerbread!!  Thank you to everyone who's kept the boys amused whilst we have doggedly gone through box after box.  Thank you for our guests and the lovely flowers I'm trying to keep alive.  Thank you for the well wishes.  Thank you for the people on Facebook for putting up with inane "I'm so happy" posts.  Just thank you....!

....and everyone is welcome for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Friday, 16 October 2015


Whether you say houmous, hummus, hummous or any of the many different derivatives (all are correct, I checked) doesn't matter.  Houmous is practically a mealtime god, as far as I'm concerned.  

I've resigned myself to the fact that there are only two ways to get the humble chickpea into my family, and that's through falafel and houmous, and when they eat it and ask for seconds I feel like a food ninja.  

Mwahaha, small people, I've tricked you with my devious ways of preparing food.  In your face!
....*ahem*...sorry, let me adult...

I'm very glad you like it darling.  Shall we have it more often?

This is my "no measure" recipe (partly because I'm lazy, partly because who really likes measuring?  Ok, mostly because I'm lazy.)

  • 1 can chickpeas (Keep the water to one side.  Yes, it looks horrible)
  • A glug of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp(ish) tahini
  • The juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1tsp(ish) ground cumin
  • 1tsp(ish) ground coriander
  • 1tsp(ish) smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves and stalks

Chuck everything into the food processor (or use a hand blender) until it's all blended.  As you go add some of the chickpea water as you go to make it the consistency you want.

Chop up some veggies, toast some pitta and you're good to go.   Or you could add it to a falafel wrap with spinach and tzatziki.  ....Hugo has been known to eat it with, I have no idea why.

Lots of recipes I read up on use so much oil, but I've found it really isn't necessary, as is using too much tahini.  Plus....fewer calories isn't a bad thing.  Also.....don't do as I did the first time I made it and add 3 cloves of garlic.  Remember it is raw, and whilst you may generally add way more than other recipes suggest, it being raw is a different ball game.
It's one of the only meat free meals (the other is dhal) where I don't get asked "Where's the meat?" or "Is this vegetarian?" with a disappointed look, by Mr B.  

The only problem is you'll never be able to eat shop bought houmous again without being mildly disappointed.  But is that really a down point?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

It's a school knock out

I don't know what I was expecting when I had a letter from Oliver's school about their "It's a knock out" inter house competition, with proceeds going towards the Syrian refugees.

See, I've never watched It's a Knock out.  I had no idea what it would entail (although hopefully not children boxing).  Oliver couldn't help enlighten me either.  When I asked what they'd be doing he said that he had no idea but his team was the best because it was a Phoenix banner.   ...Glad we cleared that one up. 

(Spoiler alert....they lost)

They had a very impressive banner though.

He excitedly told me that there was a parents race and asked if I'd do it.

So naturally I laughed in his face, then got uncomfortable and mumbled something about having Rupert with me and that I was sure no one could possibly hold him for me whilst I raced.  I'd noticed that there was a baking competition a'la country shows, so promised a cake in lieu of my sporting prowess.

I arrived, boy strapped to my back (there was no way I was going to give anyone an excuse to get me embroiled in the parents race.) and cursed myself for not bringing sunglasses, a coat or umbrella.  The weather was so changeable that it was bright sunshine one moment and pouring rain the next.  One thing it was consistent on was that it was bloody freezing.

I put my cake on a table full of cakes with quiet confidence that I was totally going to win this thing.    Sure, it was a bit rough around the edges but taste wise, I was on the money.  After all...what sick and twisted judge wouldn't like lemon cake?  I gave my £5 entry fee and slowly the horror dawned that no, this was not the quaint competition I was promised......I'd just paid for sticky children to sell my cake at 50p a slice.....the cake I had in the oven before I'd started my morning coffee....It was worth at least 70p a slice.  There would be no giant silver cup with my name engraved medal or honour.

So being terrifically English, I smiled at them and walked away, quietly crying inside.

There were some absolutely fantastic cakes brought in.  Our house team's table was definitely filled with the most (and best) cakes.  It even had one emblazoned with the house initial.  They take their house teams very seriously.

 I was confused from the very beginning.  It started with cheerleaders from the house teams.  There wasn't much coordination, but who doesn't love animal onesies, boys in skirts and stockings, cartwheels and jumping, all brought together by shaking it off to Taylor swift. .......FOUR times.  The teachers had just as much fun with the fancy dress box and face paint.

The races confused me even more.  I was expecting it to be akin to sports day, but no sports day I've ever been to has involved balloons filled with water, having to put on 387 items of clothing, shaving foam on the head, brazen cheating and no one knowing what on earth they were meant to be doing.

There were twelve races, but the ones I had the slightest inkling of what was going on are as follows. 

  • Passing a balloon from under your chin to the next person, using your hands when you're sure no one is looking, and then realising you're losing and giving up, letting your balloon float away.
  • Taking an item of clothing to a person, them having to put it on....and repeat until they can't move, when they have to wriggle about, not knowing which direction to go.
  • Throwing balloons filled with water to (NOT AT) the next team mate, up a line of people.  When you realise that the person you're throwing to is a terrible catch you end up running with the balloon to the next person...when they still drop the balloon with that method you throw all caution to the wind and lob it to the end of the line, soaking everyone when they unreasonably didn't realise they were meant to catch it.
  • A three legged race (now that's one that I've heard of).  It was male/female parings for the most part and there seemed to be an unwritten rule that you were meant to act like magnets and had to be as far away from your partner as possible whilst still being attached at the ankle.
  • Something involving tennis balls.  ....No idea...
  • Plank walking (no not into a shark infested pit of water, although that might have been fun to watch).  Most teams seemed to adopt the tactic of, when they realised that half of them knew their lefts and rights, so they were going nowhere, that taking your feet off the planks and pretending was a much more efficient system.
  • Shaving foam was squirted on the head of the first runner, they ran to the opposite side and had to take the shaving foam off their head and onto the next person's head.  That person's head was then topped up with shaving foam because carrying shaving foam on your head is an inefficient method of passing it from person to person and they ran to the next person.

Then there was the parents race.  There they were, trainers and active wear, limbering up with stretches and star jumps.  I'm pretty sure someone was wearing spiked trainers for extra grip (or to tackle another parent if they were winning).  I was asked if I was going to take part.  "Oh what a shame, I have Rupert wrapped to me and I have temporarily forgotten how to untie it.  I'll have to sit this one out".  Also, I'd seen the buckets of water......Nope, nope, nopity nope!!   

There was a hockey stick and two buckets full of water for each team.  They had to carry the buckets like a milk maid and run with it.  They got points for how much water they had left and how many "passes" they managed.  There were two full tilt and get soaked, losing all the water with the first couple of people, but managing more passes, or going slower, keeping more water, but meaning everyone in the team got wet. (For reference, I'd have gone with the second way I'm taking it for the team when it was that cold outside).

And with that, a double rainbow appeared and it was all over (I'm not sure if that part was orchestrated by the school, but if it was then I'm incredibly impressed...)

As I was walking up to collect an exhausted, sticky, cold and wet boy from his classroom I heard it described as organised chaos.  I'd say it was more like your bog standard, regular chaos, but there's no denying that it was, as another parent described it, jolly good fun.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The passage of time

Time passes and life goes on.

Such a simple, obvious statement, but I think it takes all of us by surprise at one time or another.  

It's been the best part of a year since I posted but I think I've needed a year to get over last year and everything it threw at us.  At times I've felt like someone's been playing a cruel game of "Buckeroo" with me but slowly, over time, I've been able to put those weights and burdens down.  I woke up one day and I felt lighter.  There comes a point where feeling sorry for yourself and like the universe is out to get you get's more tiring than what has actually happened.  I needed to accept it and move on rather than wallow in self pity....but I needed time to wallow in order to accept erm...yeah...

The first half of this year were very hard and at times I wasn't sure how anything was going to end...or, indeed if it ever would end.  When everything seems so dark, when you feel lost and you have no idea how to explain what's going on in your head, it's hard to write anything I didn't.  The second half of this year (after I pulled myself together) has been full of eager anticipation and uncertainty...well, I guess the whole year has been fraught with uncertainty...but uncertain in a hopeful way.  I've been too busy with three mental exuberant children to bother writing a blog post...I started a few but never finished them. ...and then there was the mental barrier of coming back after so long not posting.  Stupid really, as I write this for me, so who am I embarrassed to....oh..that would be me.  Whoops.

But time has passed and life has gone on, seasons change, cake is eaten...boys have got taller...and life is quite exciting for us right now.

We're months...and months into the process of moving house.  If I never have to talk to another solicitor or estate agent again, after this is all over, then I'll be a happy bunny.  But today is an exciting day.  We hopefully will finally exchange, which means a week today we're going to be the proud owners of a new house.  A house that we will stay in at least until our children have grown and left home.  It's a complete curve ball.  We're country people at heart and envisaged moving somewhere more rural, but here we are, moving into the centre of a little Suffolk town.  Both Mr B and I have lived there before, separately and is the only town I think I could live in.  It's only 5 minutes down the road from where we are now, so we're still surrounded by family.

It has bay windows, a kitchen I could literally swing a cat in (watch out Catsby), a basement to lock the kids in  convert into a play room and enough space for us to not constantly be under each other's feet.

So yes.  There is much excitement at the prospect of a fresh start.
...and after last year, I really think we deserve one...

It'll always be Howard's House.  No matter where we are.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


I've been putting my head in the sand about writing this post.

As the name of my blog suggests, Howard is such a huge part of our lives.  He was the dog that couldn't just be next to you, but had to be on you, even when it was obvious that he wasn't comfortable.   He was Oli's best friend and the proud protector of Hugo.  He was daft……I mean REALLY daft.  A lot of the time he was my only company. 

He was who I hugged when I felt down.  Who's fur I cried into.  He's who I greeted when I came in the door.  

He was Howard.

…and how much we love him makes it all the harder that we had to say goodbye.

Howard was ill in November.  He went off his food and then started being sick.  After a couple of weeks of tests (many, many tests) which ended up with them opening him up as they'd run out of options, they found that he had very advanced intestinal cancer and had no choice but to put him to sleep.  He was only three years old.

...I say it was hard to say goodbye but in all honesty I hadn't actually said it.  I took him in for extra fluids and for a scan, told him that I loved him and to be good, and then that was it.  I left.  They called after his scan asking to open him up.  Twenty minutes later I got a call.  As soon as I answered I knew that it had to be terrible news.  You can't do an operation in 20 minutes, let alone close him back up and bring him around.  All through him being ill, when I asked for the best case senario and the worst case senario, I was told "but it won't be cancer.  He's far too young for cancer."  I felt like a complete hypochondriac, as if I was infuriating these vets by daring to think that it could be the worst.  That by me brining him back, time and time again I was telling them that they were wrong.

But they hadn't had the year that I had.

Part of me knew that yet another shitty thing was happening.

Part of me knew I was going to lose my best friend.
…and that's a terrible thought.  The number of times I'd be sitting there with him, his head in my lap, and I'd hate myself for thinking that he might not make it.  As if it was me thinking that, that made him get worse.  Almost like I was killing him through the dread…

…and I know it wasn't me.  Of course I do.  But that knowledge doesn't help…

He's still gone.

A few months have passed and every time I sat here, at my computer to write it down I've had a complete block.  I couldn't work my fingers.  I wondered if I should just skip past this post, as it's so incredibly hard to write, but that would be an injustice to Howard.  

Now I've bitten the bullet and written down all this word vomit I feel better.  I know I'm not the most fluent writer (hell, I'm not even a writer).  I write as I speak, and I'm probably rather boring but Howard got me into this blog, and I love writing it, even if I am just talking to myself.  I could bury my head in the sand and run away, the grief is still so strong, but instead I'm going to click "publish" on this post and tomorrow will write another.  Not everyone will remember Howard, but this little piece of cyber space is going to keep his memory alive.

Not everyone understood Howard, but that didn't matter because I understood him (then again I'm not sure everyone understands me so perhaps we made a good pair).  Whether he was in his battlements (behind Tom's legs on the sofa) or barking through the window at next doors' cat…he was my Pickle.  He was a happy, loving dog…and we miss him.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Olive and Sundried tomato loaf

Since the embarrassing realisation that my yeast was rather dead there has been nothing that can stop me with this bread making malarky.  I like nothing better than to make a loaf in the morning, ready for lunch. 

There is also nothing I like better than olives.

This was the first loaf I made alone….and it was quite the success.

A completely homegrown/made lunch?  

Don't mind if I do.

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