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Category Archives: domestic bliss

home, hearth, cooking, sofa-loafing, telly, books, snoozing


In families, everything is a false dichotomy.

You are the clever one, your brother is the caring one.

He’s the practical one while you pale at the sight of blood.

You have a butterfly mind, you take things too personally.

“You ran here? You?!”

You absolutely, definitely cannot cook.

Yes, yes and flippin’ well no to all of  it!

You become Mrs Prickle-ooh-Touchy, as you serve your four course Michelin starred gourmet meal while bandaging up the finger which got caught under the steak knife. There will be a raised eyebrow, an appreciative murmur. But you’re still a terrible cook and you still nearly fainted when you were 12.

I sulk at this. I close off. I am Mrs Touchy-pants.

But I do it back. I tease my mum about her headmistress glare, my dad about his terrible puns, my brother about his awful shorts.  I don’t like it when my mum goes into custody suites to check prisoners aren’t being mistreated – I thought she wanted to throw away the key! I thought she was campaigning to bring back the workhouse!

It’s such a huge anchor – in our family, at least – the set in stone “funny one, academic one, rebellious one”, even if only to take the opposing path (“she used to be quite shy, now she never shuts up”… I was only shy in Church when you told me to ‘shh’ when I was 5. I haven’t been shy in 30 years…)

Your family know how to press your buttons, they say, because they sewed them on.




chocolate chili cake

My bro made this for me a couple of weeks ago. Delicious!

Preheat the oven to 180 and grease a cake tin.

Melt 115g butter and 85g dark choc.

Beat in 2 large eggs. Add 225g granulated sugar to the choc mix.

Sift 55g self raising flour and add a finely chopped red chili.

Mix it all in and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Serve cool with cream.

(Not tried making it myself yet, so blame my brother if it doesn’t work).

crafty business

J has no qualms telling me he didn’t marry me for my cooking. Something always used to go wrong when I did cookery at school (things would burn, or just taste plain odd). Not much has changed.

Yesterday was my idea of hell. An acquaintance and her friend were stopping by for lunch in the middle of a huge bike ride. We sort of knew her and had politely asked her to drop by thinking she wouldn’t. They then texted to say that there would, in fact, be six people arriving (none of whom we knew apart from this one lady).

Cue mad dash to T*sco. I hate T*sco and never shop there but the shops in town were all closed for the Bank Holiday. Gargh! But it’s obviously where the world goes on Bank Holidays, so my quick dash became a blood-pressure raising, soul-destroying Dodgems game.

Fortunately, our cyclists turned up thirsty and late and were so hungry that my modest pasta/salad/unexciting spread was praised to the high heavens. Phew. My new strategy is to wear out guests so much their taste buds are too exhausted to notice things.

In defence of my culinary shortcomings, I did make a simnel cake for Easter which J scofffed very enthusiastically and went as far as to offer to another friend who’d never come across simnel cake before (neither had I, as it happens, until I married J). Which proves it can’t have been too bad.

My other food failing is a tendency to shop only for the next two meals and reject buying too much ready made stuff or storecupboard staples on the basis that ‘you can make it yourself’ (and this from someone who can’t cook) and ‘it’s expensive’ (forgetting that food is fundamentally essential to survival). So, while I can live on a permanent diet of Matzos with some cheese on top,  poor J is scrabbling around in the fridge for real food with some meat in it.

Hope everyone else’s Easter was as sunny and chilled. I made a couple of peg bags from old children’s clothes (that’s the clothes that are ageing, not the children). This one’s for my mum and the other (not pictured, it’s on the line) with a cartoon cat on is for me (of course. You didn’t think I’d post an entry without a cat reference, did you?).

spring zen

I was working like mad yesterday to finish a deadline. I got up early and galloped along in fifth gear to get it done in time. It was an interesting project, but so dense and relentless it was like wading through treacle.

The reward was a stroll along the river to the pub. Even at 8 o’clock, it was just about warm enough to sit outside (for the first five minutes at least). The view – I wish this photo did it justice – was beautiful.

I had declined more freelance work, as Wednesday used to be my volunteer day. I’ve posted before about how I was struggling with it. I overcame that but I did find myself a bit frustrated because it was a bit of a paper pushing job.

I wondered why I was choosing to turn down paid work  just to sit in an office all morning for no pay! My freelance work fluctuates quite a bit, and while it’s been quiet the voluntary work has been a pleasure to do. But now that the paid work has picked up I’ve become ruthless about what I’m turning it down for.

So I resigned from my voluntary role and now I’ve been in contact with a local cat charity about helping with trapping or home visits and also with a horse charity, so I can learn build up my knowledge and confidence around horses.  Well, they say find the thing you love and do that! (Sadly, I’ve yet to find the job that just involves ‘pottering about a bit.’)

What’s more, one day when J’s work slows down I’ll probably have to get a steady full-time job rather than continue with the erratic freelance work. And that’ll probably be inside, in an office somewhere. So in the meantime, being out and about and maybe getting experience that might lead to a paid job with animals seems the way to go.

Picture of Pippin sticking his tongue out from the safety of the apple tree.

legs, legs!

I went to my riding lesson feeling a little trepidatious this afternoon. This was because I was a bit concerned that my legs wouldn’t function properly, having walked round the entire county of Suffolk at the weekend.

My brother-in-law, his wife and friends came to visit and they’re all keen walkers. One in particular. Very keen.

So we extended our daily amble along the river to a seven mile round trip with a stop for lunch in the pub.

It was easy flat walking (ahem, this is Suffolk) and bright and beautiful (I got sunburnt. I do whenever the rays poke through the clouds).

One of the party was technically a giant and I took three strides to his one (not hard, I’m only about five feet tall). This meant the pace was just that little bit too fast for my comfort. But I wasn’t going to show myself up by asking them to slow down – oh, no – particularly as they all live in Cambridge and have huge brains. Besides, I’m trying to get fit for this horse riding lark.

I spent most of the afternoon whispering, ‘Ooh! Legs’ to J when no one was looking. (Actually they all got blisters and fell asleep in the tiramisu, so it wasn’t just me).

The next day we decide to go for it all over again with a walk round Aldeburgh. (Packed. Where was everyone last November?)

Well, my legs recovered speedily, which was good because my riding instructor is keen that I use them effectively as aids to move around horses. (Actually, it was hands she wanted me to use this week. And shoulders. And back. But I’m getting there).

Fortunately, a large group of school children had nabbed all the solid, dopey, chunky horses (Fergus and Bertie), leaving me with Duke. Yes, you can tell a lot from a name.Duke was enormous and I got vertigo at first. But he had the advantage of being really sensitive to any aids. Unlike the safe, slow horses, he responds to slight pressure of the leg rather than requiring several ungainly kicks.

The disadvantage – other than his height – was that he was more likely to spook easily and bolt (Fergus just stops). He didn’t, and I felt happy being on a horse that would normally be ridden by an experienced rider because I totally trust Karen, my instructor.

It was like having a go in a Ferrari, before you’ve actually passed your test. You know it’s beyond you, but it’s motivating.

On the way back I stopped off to check out the cattery Pippin will be spending our summer hols in. More horses! Hundreds of cats! Kittens! I would’ve sneaked one of the kittens out in my pocket, if it weren’t for Pips carrying the cat flu virus which he could pass on.

Anyway, today horses and cats are the things I’d add to the Action For Happiness website.  I love the concept. It’s crashed now due to too much interest, ironically making people cross and frustrated rather than happy.

I’d also add being outside in the sunshine, matzos with cheese, builder’s tea in the afternoon, finishing my freelance work way before the deadline andhaving a huge supply of library books on the table. J’s away doing exciting radio production work in London, which makes me sad, but there’s the anticipation of his coming home, plus I can watch back to back episodes of Shameless all evening while he’s not here.







pre-spring blues

I went a bit stir crazy this Winter, too many snow-ins and dark afternoons. I don’t usually get like that, but Winter in the countryside is more full on than it was in London.

Today the sun’s colouring everything green rather than grey. I planted some gladioli bulbs (residual homage to Morrissey – sad, I know) and tried not to tramp on too many crocuses. (Croci?)

I’ve also been procrastinating, my favourite energy draining, pointless hobby. Admittedly, the boiler man had to be made a cup of tea (I’m definitely putting off  addressing the idea of a new boiler – £600?? surely not??!). And the car had to be dropped off to the garage before the exhaust fell off.  Plus I had e-mails to reply to and Verboticisms to create.

All this patching up of domestic equipment that’s been worn out by Winter is fuel for my creative writing prompt (to write about a home) for my local writer’s group. I managed to write a three page piece which was all over the place in tone and had a strong sense of place, but lacked insight into the character. I loved writing it, but it needs a re-write before I’d take it to read out to the group.

If any other ex-Open University students (or other budding writers) are reading this, I’d love to read your take on that exercise.  And I’ll post mine (when I’ve written something I’m happy with).

Why I think Toy Story 3 deserves more Oscars than The King’s Speech

Alright, I’ll admit I’ve only actually seen three of the films on the Oscar nomination list. And I didn’t much like Alice in Wonderland.

But Toy Story 3 was far, far better than TKS.



  • Toy Story made me laugh and cry. TKS didn’t.


  • Toy Story moved along at a cracking pace, was witty and energetic.
    TKS could have ended half an hour earlier than it did.


  • Woody and his friends are far more rounded characters than any in TKS.


  • TS3 was original (a cowboy, robot and pig have to make terrible choices, escape a kids’ day centre and survive a rubbish incinerator). TKS’s theme of two very different people connecting and building a relationship wasn’t.


  • TS3 deals with universal, grand themes like loss, separation, growing up, friendship and sacrifice.
    In a perfect Hollywood world, it’s brilliant that our hero is allowed to have a stammer.
    But TKS sent the message that if only you make an effort, you can overcome your ‘weakness.’ I’m not a speech therapist so I hesitate to make judgements on something so important. But I think speech defects and language disorders are probably a combination of physical, cognitive and psychological factors; not something that can be fixed by overcoming your prejudices and fears and going along with an eccentric, fake doctor.


  • The actors in TS3 were invisible in a good way. The actors in TKS all delivered brilliant performances – but in an almost self-conscious way.


  • TS3 entertained kids and adults. TKS’s main appeal (in the cinema I was in, at least) seemed to be as an outlet for people who don’t usually swear to safely laugh at an onslaught of four letter words from Colin Firth.


So. I think TS3 had a heart, and that TKS was admirable in its technical details (costumes, period detail) and wasn’t a bad film, but it didn’t move me. The Oscar nominations and ticket sales have proved me wrong, I think, but I wonder if I’m alone?