Friday, 31 October 2008

Christmas gifts with Samaritan's Purse

Today I had my first "only eight weeks to go until Christmas!" email, written in breathless tension to imply that if I didn't shop with them right then I would be wildly behind schedule. For goodness sake, it's still October!

However, I have spent the week organising Christmas presents - but for good reason. At my son's school they have been invited to fill a shoe box with gifts to send to a child in need. As this week is half term we've been busy choosing thing and wrapping the box. It's been gratifying to see that my son has become fully involved with the idea of sending presents to children who have very little. Our box is for a boy, aged between 5 and 9, and he has become someone else in my son's life who he thinks about. As we filled the box today my five year old was saying "he'll love this!" with genuine excitement. It was great to see.

I can therefore recommend this simple scheme, run by Samaritan's Purse. To join in, make a donation or just to find out more go to

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The joy of occasional solitude

I saw a friend walking through the village this morning. She looked so different - because she wasn't pushing a buggy and didn't have any children hanging off her. She was striding, walking fast and confidently. I could tell that she was enjoying her moment of solitude and independence in the beautiful autumn sunshine. I could sense her savouring the freedom of only carrying one small bag, of not having to answer endless questions about why there were leaves all over the pavement.

We've just been through the horrible experience of losing our cat - thankfully he came back this morning. Yes, he's only a cat but he's part of the family and I've been reminded to take nothing for granted and appreciate all loved ones while they are with us. However, for a mother of three children, there's nothing as exhilarating as an excursion out of the house, anywhere, alone.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Cider making in the West Country

Recently, with the world as we know it apparently crashing around our ears, I said to my husband "I think everyone just needs to calm down and concentrate on the basics". "There's the voice of the housewife," he replied.

I don't really understand any of the complex economics but I do think that we have lived too fast; we've wanted everything quickly, cheap and now and it's not sustainable, economically or environmentally. I wonder if my world will become fashionable, a simple life where a blackberry is free and grows in the hedgerow where you can pick it and, with a bit of work, turn it into jam.

Here in the West Country it is The Goode Life. We try to grow as many of our own vegetables as we can, hard work but very satisfying. Last weekend we took it to the next level by trying to make cider.

Cider making is a tradition within my local group of friends. When we were younger and without children, the boys created "Ole Lug", a brew so strong I drank one cup and thought I'd become paralysed - I'd passed out and they'd rolled me up in a duvet to keep me warm so that when I woke up I couldn't move any limbs.

Having not made any for a while we set out to re-kindle the tradition, a challenge as most of the helpers were under five. We started by crushing the apples, pounding them in a bucket with an old fence post. This felt very rustic, but therapeutic, I thought I should be wearing a home-spun gown and be ready to churn butter next.

The apple pieces were wrapped in cloth and put in a press which one of my friends had made for his A'level CDT project. We pressed down and brown liquid ran into the plastic drum. It was very satisfying.

Sadly, I had to leave to feed the children and put the soup on for lunch. There was talk about the sterility of the apple juice but one of the boys had got bored of pummeling apples with a log and was stamping on them with his wellies so we decided the concern was misplaced.

Gallons of apple juice are now bubbling away in an outhouse. Goodness knows what it will taste like - the last stuff we drank tasted like sherry and was best suited to unblocking drains. But in a way I don't care. We've made an effort to use our produce and had lots of fun doing it. And if the financial situation gets any worse, at least we'll be able to afford to drown our sorrows.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Fat cats and fat people

Our media is swamped with doomsday reports of how we are plunging into a world of tightening our belts. I was at the supermarket this morning and decided this might not be a bad thing. You only have to look around and see how fat we are as a nation to realise we have had too much excess. We know nothing of self-restraint, only Buy One Get One Free so we can eat twice as much.

Also at the supermarket was a stooped old man with war medals on his navy blazer. Seeing him made me realise that his generation have known true hardship. We don't really know what it means to go without. We think life is tough when the satellite television signal is interrupted or we can't immediately have this week's latest model of mobile phone. How about having nothing to eat but what we've been able to grow? I think it might do some people a lot of good.

I appreciate that the state of the global economy is serious and for some people this will cause real problems but I do wish that the media would pause in its self-perpetuating talk of doom and look at potentially positive aspects of a negative situation. If we could all learn to mend something when it breaks and waste less food, we might come out of this crisis in a better state than we went into it.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Help, all common sense is lost!

Yesterday my son came home from school with a shaker he'd made, a paper plate folded in half and filled with pasta. Glued to it was a typed note: Please be aware that this shaker contains small parts. Thank you.

Is this the level of paranoia we've reached in our society? Have we become so quick to blame someone and litigate over the slightest incident that a primary school feels it necessary to put a warning on an artwork project?

Monday, 6 October 2008

Multi tasking

Until today I never believed I could multi task. My husband agreed because, unlike him, I am unable to read a magazine, work on a lap top and follow a whodunnit on TV. However, this afternoon I managed to make macaroni cheese while rocking a baby and singing Five Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day. I think I only succeeded because the baby-rocking motion corresponded with the rhythm of stirring the cheese sauce. But, as baby slept and they all ate the macaroni cheese, I think I achieved a successful multi task.