Thursday, 24 June 2010

A culinary challenge

It is a well known fact that I haven’t a creative bone in my body.  I can’t draw for toffee and anything arty just intimidates me because I just can’t do it.  I even struggle with the paint your own pottery places because anything I do could be bettered by a five year old.

So here’s the thing.  The school have thrown down a challenge and I need your help.  The children have gone and got green-fingered and have successfully grown things in the school garden.  So far the produce list looks like this:

  • Potatoes
  • Red Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Broad beans
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Beetroot
  • Rocket

Having grown this they teachers are obviously thinking “Now what?” and have passed the buck onto parents.  They have devised a competition.  Now I’ve read the rules over and over and nowhere does it say I can’t cheat which is why it’s perfectly acceptable for me to invite you to participate.

I (we) must create a starter and main course from the above ingredients using a maximum of five extra ingredients.  We must write down our two course menu (with recipes) and supply a drawing of what our dishes would look like.

With enough Googling I might be able to find recipes but drawing them is way beyond my capabilities.

Anyway if you fancy having a go, please, please do.  Recipes can be added as comments here and if you can submit a drawing then scanning and loading onto Picasa or Flickr with a link in comments below should work.

It may be worth pointing out here that there is no prize unless having your menu announced in assembly next Tuesday is a proud honour that you consider prize enough.  Suggestions need to be added by Sunday evening to count.

I’m counting on you.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A new approach to speeding

Every now and again I encounter a little bit of genius, and when I do, I try and share it. 

This comes from a friend of a friend’s daughter and it’s something that she experienced today.

This little girl, Abi, and her friends have been outside school today with their police force monitoring traffic speed.  If motorists were doing over 30mph they were pulled over by the police and the children were allowed to tell them how dangerous it is to speed and tell them also about the damage they could do to them or one of their friends by travelling over the speed limit.

Abi said all the drivers were really apologetic and also told the police that it really hit home having the children ask them to slow down.

Imagine how fantastic this would be if you were one of the children.  You’d get to tell grown ups off.  What a perfect day at school and what a brilliant lesson that the children would hopefully take with them into adulthood.

I think that this is truly brilliant.  And I shall be suggesting it to the local schools immediately.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The art of marriage

Amazon made a delivery today.

I love Amazon.  I could, and do, spend a fortune on the site.  Most of the time I’m buying a gadget, something to enhance my life or make my life easier.  It’s usually a purchase that will move me along the technology timeline.

Today's delivery was different though.  I bought something secretly because I knew my husband would not approve.

I bought a lawnmower, but not just any lawnmower.

You see we have a lawnmower.  It’s a Flymo something and it’s rubbish.  It gets clogged with wet grass, the blades refuse to stay sharp, the grass collector lid failed within a month of delivery, one of the power handles has snapped off, it is too heavy to be used by the children and it only has about four cutting height settings.

So I visited Amazon and found this.


It’s a Qualcast Panther 30 and it doesn’t have a plug, or a petrol tank.  It’s the ultimate green lawnmower because it’s powered by you.

Advantages as far as I’m concerned are:

  • It cuts rather than tears grass
  • I don’t have to faff around with extension leads
  • I don’t have to worry about mowing the power lead and thus dying from electrocution
  • It’s probably safe enough to be used by the children
  • It has infinitely variable cutting height
  • It doesn’t cost anything to run
  • It takes up hardly any space when stored
  • It’s beautifully simple
  • It’s cheap
  • It’s easy to maintain
  • It’s quiet to operate

Dave, on the other hand, holds a different view.  He thinks:

  • It doesn’t cut dandelions and tough grass stalks
  • It’s too dangerous to be used by the children
  • We now have two lawnmowers to store instead of just one
  • It’s a waste of money

But that’s what marriage is all about; putting up with one another even though you don’t agree.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Race for Life

This year, on a whim, I agreed to participate in the Cancer Research Race for Life.  I didn’t plan to train and right from the start I told people I would be walking the course.  And everyone told me that was fine because it isn’t a race, it’s an event to raise money.

I did some fund-raising and when the day arrived I did feel bad that I wouldn’t be running, partly because my friends would be running and I’d like to have run with them.

I settled on a fast walk with occasional bursts of jogging.

It was a very hot and muggy day and, even at my relatively leisurely pace, it was uncomfortable.  But I completed it, and that’s the main thing.

But this blog isn’t about the walking and running, it’s about how I felt when I’d finished. 

There were so many people taking part.  So many women wearing pink or fancy dress and most with names of loved ones for whom they were running.  There were people like me who were running for people they had lost to cancer, others who were running for those who were still battling the disease and there were those who were celebrating the survivors, those who had cancer but beat it.

And I found it overwhelming and, as I sit here typing this with my aching legs, I still do.

So I recommend taking part in Race for Life.  By all means use it as a goal for keeping fit or as a means of raising funds for a valuable cause, but most of all do it to think about all those people whose lives are touched by cancer, and just pause for a minute.

And if you’d like to help support the sea of pink clad women who walked or ran today, then click here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Naughty girl

Hannah has been complaining that her room lets in too much light in the evening, especially as we’ve now got longer daylight hours.

I completely understand.  I find it difficult to sleep in a room that’s not completely dark.  Keeping me in the dark is definitely a good policy.

So it took us a while but, even though her curtains have blackout linings, we eventually got around to buying a blackout blind.

In our experience a blackout blind still doesn’t do the job properly though as light leaks around the edges.  We have a solution and it involves wood, paint and screws to build up the edge of the window frame so that the edge of the blind is encased in a frame.

I did the painting a couple of days ago and Dave completed the job today by fitting the blind and building the frame.

Hannah seemed delighted with her darker room and we were pleased that she was pleased.

An hour and a quarter after Hannah’s bedtime we could hear small sounds coming from Hannah’s room so I decided to investigate.

As I went into Hannah’s room I saw that her new blind was rolled up about 10 inches and her curtain was propped open allowing light in.

I don’t know what she was reading but it was something by Roald Dahl.

I told her in no uncertain terms that she was naughty.  I adjusted curtain and blind, she apologised and I left her to sleep, in the dark.

Secretly though, I like the fact she’s been naughty.  I like the fact she’s sneaking a read after bedtime.  Just don’t tell her.  It would ruin my tough mum image.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

I’m having a wobble.  I’m not sure, just yet, how big the wobble is but it’s disconcerting.
My wobbliness concerns education.
I went to a state school, not because I wasn’t academically capable, just because I did, and so did most of the children that grew up in the village.  There was a local-ish grammar school but it would have been two bus rides or a forty minute round trip for my working parents.
There was also a local private/public school but nobody went there.  I mean obviously some children went there but nobody in my childhood social circle.
So I’m a product of the state system.  I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about it and in fact I’m quite proud to have gone through the “Comprehensive System.”
At some point I developed an anti-private school attitude.  I’m not sure when that happened but my views probably crystallised at University.  I decided that public school was just wrong because children were being removed from their parents, and I decided that private schools were wrong because I somehow believed that those who were a product of private schools thought themselves to be better than me.
I didn’t think it was right that money could, or should, be allowed to buy privilege.
My husband went to a private school and he had an interesting experience.  There’s no doubt that his good exam results were better because of the dedication of the teachers.  But then some of the teachers' methods, were suspect.  I won’t bore you with the details but feel free to ask me about the “Dutch Oven”, “Avalanche” and “Pigs in Space.”
My husband’s experience didn’t alter my view.
And then I had children and they are currently going through the State system in a State Primary School.  But as the M&S ads used to say “This isn’t just any Primary School, this is a Church of England Primary School.” 
We’re lucky.  Our local school is a good school in a good neighbourhood with good results.  At the moment it’s all “good.”
As my children get older though my thoughts turn to secondary school.  I judge the local schools by the children I see outside school and most pupils do their school reputation a disservice.  And I remember when I walked around town with my friends and I was probably just as obnoxious, but with less make-up and fewer cigarettes.
I see the children from the local private school and they seem smarter, more polite, less loutish.  I also see the exam results.
I see that Universities are becoming stricter about entry requirements and I see State schools backed into a corner, forced to become Academies. 
I see our education system using business speak, treating children as the raw material to which value must be added.  And I wonder whether a long held principle might just be slipping from my grasp.