Sunday, 28 June 2009

Very close...

Some interesting guesses there, folks. I think I have to award the honour of being closest to XUP who thought it was a cannon cake. Whilst it is in fact papier mache and therefore inedible (unless you are four) it is indeed a cannon. Mons Meg to be precise. If you grew up anywhere near Edinburgh you will have at some point been on a visit to Edinburgh Castle and you will, almost certainly, have stuck your head in Meg. It is almost compulsory. Second Born recently participated in this age-old ritual and then along with the rest of his class, made a model of Meg which he gifted to Husband.

What the photograph fails to adequately capture is can I put this?......."Ann Summers S&M Catalogue" quality of the model. From certain angles, it is really quite disturbing. Husband and I tried very hard not to catch each other's eye when SB was handing it over. It is now sitting in pride of place on top of the radio in our bedroom where I'm kind of hoping it freaks out the window cleaner next time he comes round. I can't imagine what 25 of the things looked like all drying in rows together in SB's classroom at school. His teacher deserves a medal.

Today has been uneventful, full of laundry (who knew we had so many clothes?) and trying to find sandals for FB. He appears to now be too big for children's shops to stock his size but too small for adult ranges. Where exactly do I go to find sandals for an eleven year old in size 5? I am hoping the answer to that is Canada given that we leave tomorrow.

XUP was also kind enough to try to cajole me into dumping my family and jumping on a flight to Ottawa to stay with her and Alison (I am not sure if she asked Alison first if this was okay, especially given the well-documented Toast Issues between the three of us). If my children's enthusiastic renditions of AC/DC tracks get too much for me, I will give that definite consideration, okay?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Only 3 more sleeps....

I finished work on Thursday. Not permanently, you understand, just for our summer holiday. And the whole getting-ready-to-go-on-holiday thing served to remind me again just how different the job I have now is to my old one. When I was a litigation solicitor, I had to start preparing for annual leave about a month in advance - making sure that no court hearings were going to be fixed for the period when I was away, moving the ones I could and trying to anticipate what might happen in one of the 80 or so cases I might be handling at the time. Then I wrote pages and pages of holiday notes summarising what was happening in each case just on the off-chance that one of them might blow up in my absence. I worked late and frantic, trying to make sure as much was done as possible before I left. And then I gave contact details - email and mobile phone - to my staff so they could get hold of me if anything really important happened while I was away.

I didn't have to do any of that this time. True I had to put my phone (on which I receive about 3 calls a week) on "annual leave" mode, put an appropriate "away on annual leave" message on my e-mail and complete my time recording in advance. But then, I just ........left. I had to work very hard not to say "If anything crops up while I am away, you can get hold of me by e-mail at......." because nothing is going to happen that will need anyone's attention while I am gone. And that is quite a nice feeling. A bit weird, but nice.

This morning was the last day of term for the boys, and consisted purely of the Junior School prizegiving. Second Born was the recipient of a merit prize and Husband and I duly clapped like loons when he climbed onto the stage to pick up his award. Granny and Grandad were in the audience too. We then had to spend another 20 minutes clapping an assortment of other children picking up an assortment of other prizes - lots for sports stuff, pipe band, sportsmanship, musical instruments, handwriting and elocution amongst others.

Husband and I wondered how much it would cost to endow one of these prizes (they are all called things like "The Oswald Potterington Prize for Good Citizenship and Spelling"). We fancied doing one to be won by a pupil who had managed to get to Primary 7 without ever winning anything else: The Loth Prize for Minor Under-Achievement. Has a certain ring to it.

The rest of the day was spent (after dropping Husband off at work) pottering about the house, doing laundry (me, not the boys) and eating pies for lunch. I have made a batch of rum truffles because (a) Husband loves them and (b) Husband's sister loves them and since she will be looking after The World's Mangiest Cat for us while we are away, I thought she deserved a wee treat. Husband is still at work finishing off the stuff he has to do which includes printing off all our flight details, itinerary and so on for going to Canada.

We fly down to London on Monday and then to Halifax on Tuesday. We'll be in Canada for Canada Day. Woo hoo! I do however still have to pack for everyone, so I had better start thinking about doing that. In the meantime, to give you something to keep you out of trouble, here's a little quiz. Husband recently received this as a present:

So, what is it? Guesses in the comments. Keep them clean (as far as you can)

Monday, 22 June 2009

Progress (real this time)

The grass is cut! Hurray! I can imagine the cheers (and mutterings of "About time too") rippling out across the internet. The whole family girded its collective loins at the weekend and attacked the grass that was threatening to engulf Edinburgh our estate the house. The children were bribed with a shiny pound coin each but Husband and I tackled the job out of pure embarassment enthusiasm.

I reckon we looked like a family of middle European peasants from some Breughel painting. I went in front with the strimmer, scything the long grass to more manageable levels. Small children followed behind, bickering, getting distracted and occasionally picking up the loose grass. Husband brought up the rear with the mower, cutting the grass down to what could almost pass for a lawn. Although, as we surveyed the results (it took us 2 days to do both front and back and we have a typically miniscule city garden) Husband did comment that it looked more ploughed than manicured. Whatever. We are no longer in danger of imminently losing the cat.

What's more I derived HUGE amounts of satisfaction from insisting that the boys complete the task to my exacting standards. "If I am paying for this, I want it done right" I smirked. I could tell they were thinking they had seriously under-negotiated their fee.

Not much else happened over the weekend. We decided that First Born is making sufficient progress in his drum lessons that he needs a drum kit of his own. I do not disagree with that for a moment (in fact I was the one who suggested it) but it does mean that this modest Edinburgh house is about to acquire its second drumkit. (Third if you count the kiddie-on electronic thingy the boys have been bashing on since they were toddlers). Our neighbours are going to hate us. (Even more than they already hate us for the whole Amazon-height grass thing).

One of the unfortunate side effects from the grass cutting episode was that my hay fever went absolutely ballistic. My nose was itchy as hell and alternately running like a tap or so blocked up it felt like I had been inhaling Blue-Tack. The net result of this was that I was a tad snorty in bed on Sunday night. By which I mean I was so congested I sounded like I was trying to drown an angry warthog. In porridge.

Poor Husband put up with it until about 3.45am before giving up and retreating to the spare bedroom. Which the children have been conscientiously coating with potato crisp crumbs and bits of popcorn for the past month or two, giving the bed an attractive crispy quality that Husband entirely failed to appreciate. If I want to stay married, think I'm going to have to make more macaroons.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

We have a winner!

Yup, trust Jaggy to know what goes into a macaroon bar: mashed potato. Cold, mashed potato mixed with a shedload of icing sugar. It shouldn't work, and yet it does. As evidenced by the lack of macaroon bars left in my house.

An honourable mention goes to Daysgoby for suggesting condensed milk because, as she quite rightly notes, you tend to find that in all really sweet things (and therefore by definition, in lots of things my Husband likes). And a sympathetic pat on the shoulder and an offer of a nice sit down goes to XUP whose outrage was almost palpable. Sorry for upsetting you so much, XUP, but you made the cardinal mistake of confusing macaroons (nice, coconut-y, melty biscuits) with macaroon bars which, as you now know, are solid bars of sugar-laced mashed tattie.

Actually, reading that back, you shouldn't be surprised that the Scots have invented a dish that combines potatoes and sugar - it was only a matter of time, really. (And on that front, and in retaliation, what the hell is North America doing putting marshmallows on top of potatoes at Thanksgiving? How is that worse than macaroon bars??? I rest my case.)

Anyway, Jaggy wins the Scottish Smartass of the Month award. Not, I suspect, for the first (or last) time.

PS: It has also just occurred to me that since potatoes are vegetables, a macaroon bar can totally count as one of your five a day! In Scotland at least. Score!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

I stand chastised

I got a gentle row from Isabelle for not having posted for a while and I looked at the blog and hey! what do you know - I haven't posted for a while! There has been a certain amount going on which has kept me busy and interfered with my posting time but not enough to constitute a genuine excuse. (The grass, for example, remains uncut, and since as I am typing this we are having rain and thunder in Edinburgh, it is likely to remain so for a while)

So, what have I been up to? Well, the gym induction went well - the trainer was nice (a bit young but I suspect that is more to do with my age than any lack of experience on his part) and very keen. He put together a couple of really good programmes for me that I am sure I will enoy doing once I have figured them all out again - he wrote down all the moves in some sort of cryptic code: "Double flies" and "Roman leg raises" and the like. Once I go through those, I will either get fit or end up exchanging information with a former KGB agent. The day after my induction my abs were aching. I think they were my abs - it was the bit buried away underneath the capacious stomach and I'm sure that's where I used to keep my abs.

Work has been busy as I have been doing a wee bit of freelance work for Husband's company and have been trying to squeeze that in around all the normal work, laundry, boy-herding and grass-growing.

What else? I had a real craving for bran scones last weekend and decided to try baking them and, well, without being unduly modest, they were FANTASTIC! Even First Born was converted. My second batch is cooling in the kitchen as I type. Since I was making traditional Scottish "fayre" (eurgh, I hate that word) I decided to make macaroon bars too. I don't actually like macaroon bars as, like most Scottish treats, they are tooth-achingly sweet, but Husband loves them and I am an obliging wife when it comes to confectionery. They turned out not too bad and since they seem to be disappearing at a fair rate, I think Husband approves, even if they are less "bars" and more "knobbly coconut-covered sort of macaroon logs".

Incidentally, do you have any idea what goes into a macaroon bar? (I am obviously talking to the Scottish readers here, as I don't think I have ever seen macaroon bars outside our fair country). The chocolate coating dipped in toasted coconut is obvious, and the aforementioned eye-watering sweetness suggests that a bucketload of sugar is a given. But do you know what else goes into that white bit in the middle? Go on, have a guess and I'll tell you next post if you are right. (No cheating and asking Google.) I spent an enjoyable half hour torturing Second Born by offering him £5 if he could guess. I swear smoke was coming out of his ears with the frustration of being unable to secure that fiver. Hee!

Also this last week Husband's aunt sadly died. She had been ill for some time and, whilst we knew her, we weren't that close, as she and her husband lived in Northern Ireland. Husband has however had to make the necessary arrangements to get his father to the funeral which is tomorrow, and has therefore spent today travelling through to Ayrshire to pick up FIL and on to Stranraer by train to catch the ferry to Larne. He had to book tickets for the boat train, which we agreed sounded wonderfully 1930s Agatha Christie - ish. There would be a uniformed porter, we were sure, touching his cap and wishing Husband a pleasant journey.

Sadly Husband returned from Waverley Station with the news that the boat train is no more. The service is now known as "Rail and Sail". Yuck. That just conjures up over-priced and under-filled shrink-wrapped sandwiches and vending machine coffee. Sigh.

Husband therefore had to head off to Ayrshire this weekend and I took the two boys down for a planned visit to their cousins in Cumbria. It was my nephew's birthday, and his idea of the perfect celebration involves my two boys and a lot of shouting. His wish was granted. The weather in Cumbria this weekend was just lovely - sunny and breezy with enough clouds to make the sky interesting without actually raining.

We went walking at Crummock (that's where that photo of FB above was taken) and played hide-and-seek and frisbee and climbed trees (most of us) and fell out of trees (my 40 year old little brother who is old enough to know better but what can you do?) We played cricket with the kids in the back garden (number of grandads hit in the face with a tennis ball by my son:1 ; number of sons hit on the head with cricket bat by other son: 1; number of nieces hit in the stomach by tennis ball hit by nephew: 1; number of times my mum dropped the tennis cricket ball: we lost count). It was great fun. We ate too much, drank just enough and laughed a lot. I'm only sorry Husband had to miss it.

On the drive back up this morning I was puzzled to see a business by the road outside Carlisle with a big sign outside which advertised that it ran a hand car wash and also hired out hot tubs. Fair enough so far. But it also claimed to do teeth whitening. Is it just me or is that an odd selection of services? Maybe I invented it to amuse myself - both boys had fallen asleep in the car at this point and I was a bit bored of my own company.

Anyway, we are home again now and the boys are playing with the Wii Fit (which I have not had a chance to get near yet). Maybe I'll have a go after they are in bed. Or maybe I'll make a cup of tea and catch up on what you lot have been up to on your blogs.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

I thought weekends were supposed to be relaxing

I ended up yesterday with the headache from hell. I had to go to bed before my 9 and 11 year old children because I just could not stay upright. And I am convinced that this was caused by the action-packed weekend I had. Well, action-packed in my terms in that it did not involve much lazing about reading blogs and drinking tea.

On Saturday morning SB had a birthday party to go to halfway across town at 10am. 10am! Who has a party at 10am? Sheesh. So I dropped SB off with presents for his friends and spent the time usefully ie doing the weekly shopping. Which was pretty awful. Edinburgh is having a little heatwave at the moment and it seemed like the entire population of the city was in Asda buying ingredients for a barbecue. Which was, as it happens, what I was trying to do. It was like a superficially polite game of rugby with trolleys. Violent and ruthless but with a lot of apologising.

Having fought my way to the checkout, I scooped up SB and headed home where laundry awaited my attention. As did a couple of bran scones I had bought earlier (I needed some incentive after all).

Then later in the afternoon, we started to get ready for the barbecue. It was my birthday last Wednesday and my sister-in-law's partner's birthday on Saturday itself, so a joint celebration was planned involving all 4 of us, SIL and partner, and my mother-in-law and her husband. It was a lovely evening, the food seemed to go well and the boys enjoyed themselves telling their vast range of Scottish jokes (sample: Ten cows in a field, which one is a country? Coo 8.)

On Sunday morning I was up and about early to head out to Musselburgh for the Edinburgh Marathon. I was again allocated to the finish area for the relay teams and spent the day laying out 4000 medals and then helping to remove 1000 timing chips from 1000 sweaty legs. The weather was very hot by Edinburgh standards (about 24 degrees or so) and sadly many people did not finish and the first aiders and paramedics were kept very busy. Fortunately the guys from my office did well and all finished, raising about £2000 for their charities in the process. I did my bit by supplying the finishers with jelly babies. The organisers supply sports drinks, water and bananas at the finish but sometimes bananas just aren't enough and only pure sugar and food colouring will do!

I heard later that many people along the route of the race had been out in their front gardens with hoses, showering the runners as they passed - very thoughtful and very gratefully received by the runners!

I limped home after about 6 hours on my feet and we finished off the leftovers from the barbecue in the evening. By about 8.30pm I was dead on my feet and eventually wandered off to bed, only to wake up with the aforesaid headache. Fortunately that has now gone, headed off by about 18 hours of sleep!

Encouraged by all those fit people running around on Sunday I finally got around today to signing up to the new gym to which I have access as a perk of my new job. I have my induction session tomorrow. Wish me luck!