Monday, 5 December 2011

Back to normal. Ish.

Things are slowly returning to normal here at Schloss Loth. Last week was a bit weird, what with Husband's sudden and unexpected flirtation with the NHS in all its forms and Second Born being away from home all week on a school trip to London. SB is home again and seems to have had a great time. So good that it was minutes, MINUTES after getting off the bus before he started bickering with FB.

Given the itinerary for the trip, I am surprised SB didn't sleep round the clock on his return. The group left by train on Monday morning and were back in Edinburgh by 4pm on Friday. In between they managed to cover the Science Museum, a tour of London by World War II amphibious landing vehicle (it drives on the streets and then drives into the Thames), the Tower of London, backstage at The Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern, Houses of Parliament, Imperial War Museum, a trip on the London Eye and Madame Tussaud's. Oh, and a visit to the West End production of "The Wizard of Oz". I kind of wish I had been allowed to go too, to be honest.

The weekend was spent lazing around and recharging various batteries. Second Born did manage to disconnect himself from the XBox and laptop long enough to make soup for us all. Carrot and coriander, and very nice it was too. He even borrowed my favourite pinny for the occasion. Here he is in all his chef-y glory.
I like to wear that pinny while drinking tea from my Tim Horton's mug, for I am strange that way.

And now it is Monday. Husband is back at work, both children are back at school and the cat is still a bit confused by finding all the humans back interfering with his choice of snoozing spot. So no change there.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Well, THAT was fun

This weekend started well and sort of went off the rails slightly towards the end. We spent Saturday and the first half of Sunday at the Corbies with a friend of First Born's in tow. We lazed around a lot and I took the boys swimming in the afternoon - it was a bit too windy to do anything outdoors that didn't involve simply grabbing onto something solid and holding on tight and if I borrow someone else's child for the weekend, I usually want to make sure I can hand them back safely again at the end. Also, going swimming meant a brief interruption in the non-stop stream of chat between FB and his pal. Do you know how long two 13 year old boys can spend doing nothing but trading insults? ("Mole snogger." "Bin licker." "Toenail fancier" etc, etc) Hours. Hours and hours and hours. Long enough to make your ears bleed.

Anyway, we came home on Sunday early enough to get Second Born packed for a school trip to London which required him to be deposited at Waverley Station at 7am on Monday morning. All was going well until Husband's cold/cough/chest infection which he had been carefully nurturing for some days decided to stage a takeover bid. And this resulted in Husband and I spending the hours between 8.30pm on Sunday and 3:30am on Monday in the delightful surroundings of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary A&E department.

That period of time was interesting: the clientele changed over the hours from kids with breathing difficulties and University hockey teams bringing in their pal with a broken ankle to weepy/agressive individuals either stagering around clutching their paper mache vomit bowls or passed out cold on trolleys to sleep it off.

Husband and I spent a long time - a LONG time - sitting around waiting to be seen and this gave us the opportunity to chat about all sorts of important things. Like how your children never tell you anything when you ask them what happened at school today. According to our kids, nothing happens at school. Ever. We make them get out of bed, dress them in stupid uniforms and then drop them in front of a building where they sit for 6 hours doing absolutely nothing before we let them come home again.

As a result, Husband and I reckon there is a gap in the market for an add-on to all the Xbox and online games out there: there should be a parental lock on all such games which, when the child tries to log on, requires said child to provide full details of three interesting things that happened at school today. The system then e-mails or texts this to the parent for approval. If the parent is happy with the information provided, he or she texts back an authorisation code and the game is unlocked. If not, no "Minecraft" access for your poor offspring. (If you don't know what Minecraft is, then you should be happy about that. Clearly you do not share your house with teen or pre-teen boys.)

Fortunately after a multitude of tests, Husband was allowed to come home with a shedload of medication to fight the alien life-form trying to colonise his lungs and we got to bed about 4am. I was up again at 6am to make sure that Second Born was successfully packed off to London for the week and First Born was dropped off at school. And then I came home and climbed back into bed for a few hours.

And that is what I did with my St Andrew's day public holiday. Not that much worse than spending it in Ikea really.

Monday, 14 November 2011

What I did on my holidays

I have received a perfectly polite and well-mannered, but nonetheless firm, slap on the wrist from Isabelle for not posting. And she is quite correct (she used to teach, you know. She is always correct.) As I said to her in my mumbled apology, the muse has been somewhat absent of late but that is no excuse for spending far too much time on Facebook and not enough time churning out deathless prose. Or something like that. Tonight I find myself alone in the living room (oh the luxury!) as Husband is pottering in his music room, First Born has gone to bed nursing a cough (which could well be The Typhus, such is his air of resigned suffering) and Second Born is doing some work on his recent maths challenge problems. I do not understand the questions in said challenge, so am of limited use in providing any solutions. I therefore have no excuse not to sit down and blog. And here I am.

I seem to remember having promised you an update on the doings of Clan Loth over the past few weeks and, given the passage of time, this will have to be in the form of bullet points.
  • We spent the half term holiday at the Corbies. And it was great fun. We went to Holy Island for the day and went to York on a different day (and should have been awarded some sort of Museum Endurance Medal for managing to cram the National Railway Museum, York Minster and two Jorvik exhibitions into one day)
  • With the aid of Sister-in-law we systematically stripped the surrounding countryside of elderberries. We collected bags and bags and bags of them. Fortunately the weather was kind and we were able to sit outside for the fiddly task of getting the wee berries off the twigs and into bowls (the easiest way is to use a fork and sort of tease them off) Doing this outside is advisable as the berries are small, round and prone to escaping. And when squished, they release deep red juice which is very difficult to shift once it has stained its surroundings. The family production line resulted in a bumper crop of berries which I then spent some hours converting into this.
  • Second Born went to school dressed as Winston Churchill - their year was having a VE day celebration as part of their topic of The Home Front in WWII. I wish I had a photo of that for you, but sadly I don't.
  • Last weekend we were back down at the Corbies, this time with my mum and dad in tow. We had a wonderfully laid back Saturday, including a wander around the town of Eyemouth (FB was delighted: there is a good ice-cream shop there). We climbed up onto the Coastal Path from where the views were lovely in the unseasonal sunshine
  • We ended up walking around the little harbour where this little pub is located - the name just tickled me for some reason.
  • And we also spotted this on one of the fishing boats in the harbour: Makes one wonder how they might spell "fish"!
And now I must go and load the dishwasher and make sure all the lunches are ready for tomorrow before I head off to bed.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hi! I'm back!

I have actually been away this time, rather than just too lazy to blog. Half-term holiday was last week and we spent it away from home. I will fill in the details when I can be bothered I have time, promise. There will be photos and everything.

In the meantime, courtesy of First Born we have "The Weird Dream I Had Last Night" (I promise, by the way, that not only do I have FB's permission to blog about this, he actually begged me to. The question of how and to what extent I am warping my children with blog posts is one for another day, thank you.) Anyway, FB's dream went thusly:

"I dreamt that every year in the autumn, anything made of tin and all fresh spinach mutated and joined together to form spider-like creatures about the size of dustbin lids. These tin/spinach tarantulas would run around for a while and then, when it got cold enough, they would all migrate south for the winter (Ed: leaving us with nothing to keep our baked beans in, I presume). They migrated via the pipes in your house. They were harmless unless you bothered them and if you did that, they got very aggressive and dragged you down into the pipes with them. I dreamt that I dropped a shoe on one (Ed: Highly credible. Shoes are only one of the many items dropped on a daily basis by FB.) and it got angry and it and its friends tried to drag me down the pipes. I woke up really scared they were going to get me and had to sleep right against the wall for the rest of the night just in case."

All I can read into that one is that FB has a highly-developed fear of green leafy vegetables. Unless anyone else fancies having a go at interpreting this one?

Monday, 10 October 2011

It's a worry

The problem with having a young teen and a practising-really-hard-to-be-a-teen around the place is that they have a tendency to hog the laptop. Even worse is when their slightly dodgy friends come round and hog the laptop.

Why yes, that is a plush stuffed toy Face-hugger from "Alien". On my couch. Presumably updating its status on Facebook. Perfectly normal.

Monday, 26 September 2011

I'll be knitting my own yogurt next

The weekend was lovely in a bittersweet sort of way. My brother and his wife and children are home on a visit from Australia (we still think of the UK as "home" for them, even though they have been Aussie residents for 2 years now). They all came down to the Corbies on Saturday and although Brother and Sister-inLaw had to scoot off early to go socialising with friends in Glasgow, my niece and nephew stayed the night with us along with my parents.

This meant the 4 cousins could run as a feral pack for a few hours. My nephew in particular idolises First Born (they are very alike, both on the same wavelength that few other mortals can tune into) and FB for his part does not object to a little bit of hero worship coming his way. And who wouldn't enjoy a session of chucking boomerangs across the fields of the Borders?

The bittersweet part was that on Sunday morning, the cousins had to leave and my nephew had to be more or less peeled away from FB, such was his resistance to leaving. They will be back off to Sydney in a few days and we have no idea when we will see them again in the flesh. Skype is a wonderful invention, but it is no substitute for actually having your family around your dinner table, choking on their food from laughing so much. Also, Skype does not quite convey the extent to which my eight-year old niece sounds like Danni Minogue now.

We cheered ourselves up by collecting a huge bag of elderberries from the trees around our garden. Then, back in Edinburgh, Second Born, Husband and I spent quite a wee while in our garden teasing the berries off the stalks (getting very crimson fingers in the process). We ended up with quite a haul
which I then turned into this

Tastes pretty good mixed with lemonade and, according to Husband, even better with the addition of crushed ice and a dash of rum! Next step is an attempt at making apple chutney of some sort as I am in possession of a big bag of apples from a friend's trees. I have never made chutney before but am willing to have a go. Anyone have any good recipes they would like to share?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Bah humbug!

Okay, Sainsbury's, we need to have a little chat. It's bad enough that you irritate me by putting up signs like THIS


(particularly when I am not carrying a convenient red marker pen for correction purposes). (Although luckily I do have my camera phone on me for blogging purposes.)

But Christmas crackers and selection boxes in September??? Really?? That's just cruel.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Very belated roundup

I think I am affected by the low-level writer's block that seems to be affecting some other bloggers out there. Every time I sit down to write, I end up concluding that I have nothing interesting to say and playing Scrabble on Facebook instead. Which is fine, but not really a constructive way to spend the evening (especially when I am being roundly beaten by my mother. Again.) I started blogging partly as a way to record the mundane events of daily life for future reference because I thought it would be nice to be able to look back on a record of what we were doing, what the children were saying and what was going on in my head at any given time. Of course, the children are less cute than they once were - a sad by-product of the ageing process - but we still do stuff that is worth recording for me, even if it will bore the pants off anyone out there unwise enough to read it.

So, on that basis, I am going to go back to basics: record what Clan Loth has been up to and moan about stuff that bugs me. Sorry in advance.

First up: had to show you the mutant carrot we dug up at the weekend. Second Born has developed a deep fondness for scrubbing carrots (I am, needless to say, pleased about this) and demanded that I take a photo of this beauty for posterity. We actually had quite a lot of similar carrots-entwined-with-other-carrots. I put it down to the fact that my sister-in-law sneezed whenn planting the carrot seeds resulting in a rather denser planting pattern than we had planned. If they have insufficient room to spread, carrots will cuddle, it would appear.


We had a school friend of Husband's (I'll call him S) staying with us at the Corbies over the weekend, together with his Russian girlfriend. A great time was had by all. S is rather a good, if eclectic, cook and he recruited the boys as his sous-chefs on Sunday morning to produce a quite spectacular breakfast which included oatmeal puddings (heavenly!), haggis, Northumbrian sausages, french toast, courgettes, carrots, eggs and potato cakes made from leftover mash from the night before. We should have been embarassed to head out later to the local pub for Sunday lunch after that. But we weren't.

S had also spent part of Saturday making rowan jelly from rowan berries we found on our walk (to eat with our game pie for dinner) and elderberry cordial from elderberries he found at the bottom of our garden. The elderberry cordial was lovely. It was (a) drunk with lemonade by the boys, and (b) turned into a quite lethal cocktail along with some Pimms, coriander from the garden and a bottle of whisky and ginger liqueur we bought at a recent food fair. It sounds awful, it should have been revolting but it wasn't. Apart from having to sieve the bits of coriander leaf out with your teeth, it was lovely.

We had taken S and girlfriend down to the nearest village for some supplies, the nearest village being over the border in England. I have always found this sign on the outskirts of the village amusing. I love the fact that the whole country is signed, but below Ladykirk and Swinton (total combined populations of both places probably about 200)
We went for a walk up to the bridge over the Tweed which forms the border between Scotland and England and the boys amused themselves by jumping back and forward over the mid-line chanting "Tea! Irn-Bru! Tea! Irn-Bru".

We ended up having such a good time that we stayed at the Corbies on Sunday night as well. The boys had a school holiday on Monday anyway, Husband had taken the day off already and I .......played hookey. Or "dogged it" as we used to say at school. (Not that I ever playing truant at school of course. I was far too scared.) Thanks to "Work-Life Balance" (or flexi-time as it used to be known) I can get away with this by working longer hours Tuesday to Friday to make up. Which is not great fun when I have to be in the office for longer, but it was totally worth it. I'm just wondering how to break it to S that the boys would like to come and live with him, please.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

I need more recipe ideas

The first summer of vegetable-growing at the Corbies has been pretty good, all things considered. Okay, we have no cauliflowers because the rabbits ate them all. Ditto pretty much all of the peas. But the courgettes have been lovely, carrots delicious and potatoes prolific and tasty. However, what I really need is a recipe for braised sunflower.
This, as you may recall, is the mystery plant that showed up uninvited and unannounced in our veggie patch. We decided to let it be, see what it grew into and it turned into The Sunflower That Took Over the World. It is by far the biggest success story of the summer (the moral of the story apparently being "The less we do to plants, the more they thrive". I must confess I am encouraged by this.) Now if only we could figure out how to eat it.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Overheard conversation

Heard from the back seat of our car today:

".....and he said it was the worst thing he had ever smelled and he had to keep smelling it because it was on his face for AGES..........."

I didn't ask.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Sigh

My children went to bed last night with hot water bottles. In AUGUST.

Edinburgh: Not a tropical holiday destination.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Random stuff

Do you know what it means to live in Edinburgh during the Festival? It means that even in the rather anonymous suburb in which I live and even when you are just waiting in your car at the lights to go home after getting the weekly shop at Sainsbury's, this sort of thing happens.

He was just crossing the road and stopped to juggle a bit. As you do. Sadly the lights changed before he was able to pass the hat around (if that's what he was planning to do).

To avoid getting caught up in the genuine mayhem that is the centre of Edinburgh at this time (the city is just FULL) the boys and I have tended to meander around near home instead. A few days ago, during a brief lull in the ongoing torrential downpour, we walked the mile or so to our local garden centre. On the way we stopped to chat to the Highland cattle that hang out in a field nearby. A lovely old lady also stopped to chat and told us that the two young bulls in the field were called Dave and Eric. Not sure which one this is trying to hypnotise Second Born into giving him more ear scratches.
Also not sure that Dave and Eric are the right kinds of names for Highland cattle. Shouldn't they be Wallace and Bruce, or Rob and Roy or something?

Saturday, 6 August 2011

If I was a grown-up.....

..........I presume I would have some clue what "eyebrow threading" is. I was offered this the other day (on my way to buy Kilner jars and sugar - chutney doesn't make itself) by a woman lurking in my local shopping centre. I wasn't sure what it was - a new hobby? Some sort of craft? - so I smiled politely, dodged round her and fled into Sainsbury's.

This is my standard method of dealing with those awkward situations, the ones which make me acutely aware that I barely qualify as a grown-up woman. I use it, for example, to get through those intimidating perfume/make-up halls one finds at the entrance to Jenners and Harvey Nicks and John Lewis. Actually, I am guessing about Harvey Nicks. I think I am the only woman left in Edinburgh who has never been in there. Anyway, those places scare the life out of me. They are a sort of over-fragranced minefield one must traverse to reach the good bits of the store (in my case, usually the cookshop). Following that analogy to its logical conclusion, that would make those daunting, immaculately made-up young women in scary white uniforms the ravenous alsatians. They fill me with that level of fear and trepidation. I know if I have to speak to them for any length of time, they will figure out that I Am Not A Real Grown Up and I will be sentenced to wear a bag on my head for all eternity.

I am almost ashamed to say, aged 44, that I don't wear make-up. Ever. Oh, I have been known to put on a bit of mascara and lipstick if forced to get dressed up for some business dinner or other but we hardly ever do that sort of thing these days. And since Jen told me that it is not in fact a good idea to keep using that one ancient tube of mascara I have had since before First Born arrived (it is not electric blue, but given its vintage, it could have been) I am even less likely to do so now. Jen reckons that mascara only keeps for about 6 months, tops, and since we only go out to something that might require a bit of slap about once every 2 years, that means buying a new mascara every time I need to wear it. That's just not going to happen.

I wonder if perhaps I am missing some sort of critical female gene - for example, I hate clothes shopping and shoe shopping in particular. More likely I am just too darn lazy, but for whatever reason, I never got into the make-up habit and doubt I will now.

And since I am in confessional mode here, I must also confess to not using skin care products either. I once went for a spa day with my mother to Stobo Castle - it was a gift for her and I reluctantly agreed to tag along. We both had a French facial (I have no idea what made it French rather than, say, Hungarian, but that's what it said on the itinerary) and as part of the process, the efficient young woman in the lab coat asked me what my skin care routine was.

"I wash it" I mumbled. "In the shower. With shower gel."

I could tell by the angle of her eyebrow that was the wrong answer. After the facial I was presented with a lengthy prescription for precisely the sort of cleansers, toners, moisurisers and little pots of magic I should be applying daily to my criminally under-maintained face. Needless to say, I binned it. Not only would buying that stuff mean interacting with the scary Perfume Droid Girls, but the price of it was astonishing. I couldn't help calculating how many books I could buy for the price of a teeny tiny little pot of Eye Bag Unguent and it frankly didn't seem worth it.

So I am afraid I am going to stick to my shower gel skin care regimen. I am going to wash my hair in whatever shampoo was on offer in the supermarket when I did my weekly shop and if I run out of shampoo, I will probably not be afraid to use washing-up liquid. Again. And I will enjoy my books and console myself with the thought that I am probably more the sort of Earth-mother-y, unglamourous sort of female who may never have plucked an eyebrow, but who can not only bake cookies, but make chutney. Hopefully.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Gardens are great!

Back at the Corbies over the weekend and we were stopped in our tracks by the garden. There is stuff growing! All over the place! The potatoes have gone completely mad - these are about waist high and flowering fit to burst. The flowers are surprisingly pretty - I'm not sure I expected tattie flowers to look nice but these are vivid purple with bright yellow centres and really quite flashy.

The plants in the photo were part of the second wave of planting. The first wave have already lost their flowers so we gave in to temptation and dug some up to have with dinner. Thankfully our neighbour had warned us that fresh spuds cook more quickly than the ones you buy in Sainsbury's and she was not wrong. They took no longer than the wee pan of frozen peas I was cooking. And they tasted absolutely wonderful, with a little bit of butter and some mint from the garden. I could have eaten an entire plate of those potatoes for dinner with nothing else. I now find myself fantasising about digging up more on our next visit....

What has also been fun with this garden is discovering the stuff hiding in there from before we bought the house. There was a tangled mass of vegetation in one corner of the little flower bed under the kitchen window which we found as we stripped out the mint which had run riot in there. We didn't know what it was but it looked like it had tendril-y things like a climber. So we stuck up some trellis, pulled the triffid off the ground and attached it. Then we forgot about it. When we arrived this weekend, it looked like this:
I still don't know what it is exactly (Isabelle?) but isn't it gorgeous? (Please ignore the dandelions either side. I pulled them out later. Honest.)

And finally, when we dug over one of the vegetable plots and planted our courgettes and rocket and so on, we found a seedling growing that we didn't recognise. It wasn't anything we planted but it didn't look exactly weed-y either. So we decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and let it grow, see what it turned into. It turned into this:

It's a sunflower! Knowledgeable Neighbour tells us that the birds often drop the seeds from feeders and they grow where they fall. It's not interfering with the courgettes and stuff so we are happy to let it do its thing. Amazing that something so tall and sturdy can grown from a seed so small we didn't even see it when we dug the bed over!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Has it really been a week?

End of the first week back at work after the holiday. It wasn't too bad, actually - particularly as I am now a part-time slacker. I find that you can cope with even the most boring of jobs if you know you are leaving at lunchtime. The post-Canada withdrawal symptoms are manageable for the most part. Although I did see a car drive up to our little corner shop over the road this morning with a Canadian flag sticking out of the window. I pined, slightly.

The boys for their part are enjoying some heavy-duty slobbing. They have re-established their love affair with their XBox and, inexplicably, with watching the odd episode of "Judge Judy" on TV while eating porridge in the morning. Bizarre.

I meant to say before that one of the best parts of this year's holiday was taking the boys to Hennigar's in Greenwich for ice cream. Now, we have been going to Hennigar's for ice cream for years but this is the first year that First Born has been able to truly participate. His dairy allergy is on the retreat now to such an extent that he can eat ice cream. And (on this holiday alone) cheese, pizza, whipped cream from a can, yogurt, chocolate mousse and frozen chocolate mousse (we all had a taste of that when he ordered it and frankly he is lucky the rest of us didn't wrestle him to the ground, sit on him and eat his dessert while ignoring his pleas for mercy. It was THAT GOOD). Oh, and donuts in Tim Hortons.

The joy of being able to take FB into any restaurant we like (except one that serves vegetables, obviously - he still has standards) and let him order whatever he wants off the menu without having to cross examine the staff on the ingredients - it was wonderful. Of course, it means he also wants to try EVERYTHING now and no food in my possession is safe. I used to be able to protect things I wanted to keep to myself by claiming they "may" have milk in them and I wouldn't want him to be ill. But no more. Now if he sees it, he wants to try it. Unless it is green and leafy. Anyone have a recipe for spinach ice cream?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Did you miss me?

Just back from the wonders of Canada. We had the usual grind of having to negotiate Gatwick and London on our way back so will take a day or two to recover from that (hurry up someone, and reinstate direct flights to Nova Scotia from Glasgow - this is getting tiresome). That said, I would go through a great deal to get to the Maritimes for our annual break. Staying in a cottage with a view like this from its deck is priceless
Those two not-so-little blobs on the beach are First Born and Second Born off to frolic in the surf. I was on the deck coating myself in SPF 60 sunblock and snapped a photo before I left.

Also, wonder of wonders, my curse is broken! I am no longer known as "The Whale Repellant" We went whalewatching from Brier Island and.......I SAW WHALES!!! We encountered a female humpback whale and her calf and they stayed and played around the boat for over an hour. (In fact the captain of the boat tried repeatedly to leave but was thwarted by the whales playing and rolling around the boat - he couldn't start up the engines without risking their injury and they wouldn't leave!!) These photos don't really do justice to how wonderful the whales were and how close they were - we got thoroughly sprayed from their blow-holes every time they surfaced ("Aargh! Whale snot!!!" yelled my children, much to their own amusement.)
More soon once brain is functioning. Meantime, congratulations to Isabelle and K on becoming a grandmother and mother respectively. Pop over to Isabelle's blog for some lovely pictures to coo over.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

You know........

............. that it's Midsummer in Edinburgh when it has been raining without cease for a week, the tourists all look like they want to cry and you have just taken the winter weight duvet out of the cupboard and put it back on your bed.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Oh, hi. You're still there?

Wow. Almost a month appears to have passed since I last blogged. This is partly due to a certain amount of stuff that was going on that I couldn't really blog about and partly (mostly) due to my laziness/devotion to playing Scrabble with my Mum on Facebook. And now there is so much to talk about that I am reduced to bullet points. So: Stuff That Has Happened Since I last Posted
  • I turned 44. It wasn't too bad.
  • We discovered that bunnies and not slugs are munching all our vegetables down at the cottage.
  • We discovered you cannot buy Bunny Pellets at the garden centre.
  • Noted that Internet recommends scattering human and/or dog hair all over your garden to discourage the furry munch-monsters without actually harming them. Wondering (a) how much hair will I get if I shave the children? or alternatively, (b) where can I lay my hands on supplies of dog hair without upsetting my dog-owning neighbours?
  • Went into mourning as our friendly neighbourhood butcher over the road retired and went off to play golf instead of slicing bacon and making steak pies for our delectation. His shop has been taken over by a dog grooming business. Oh, wait.......
  • Covered a very hilly 6 miles in 1 hour 45 minutes with my Mum as we participated in the Race for Life last Sunday. Enjoyed embarrassing my Mum on Facebook as I told everyone how she left me with the bags after we crossed the finish line and went off to use the loos, and how she then got lost on her way back to me and had to go and ask the nice man on the stage to put a call out for me on the PA to come and get her. Said nice man then announced to the assembled masses (the 5k race was just getting ready to start) that Mum had been claimed by her daughter and suggested I should either put a leash on her next time or get one of those chips put in her ear.
  • Realised we leave for the annual Loth Family Canadia Jamboree in about a fortnight. That sound you can hear is the entire whale population of the north Atlantic getting ready to decamp the minute I set foot on a whalewatching ship. I don't care! I still can't wait!

Monday, 23 May 2011

I've remembered my name again

Husband has finally got around to setting up our family e-mail using a groovy domain name he bought a couple of years ago (I presume if you are married to a plumber then your house may be full of cool taps and nice showers. We have cool e-mail addresses.) This has necessitated lots of headscratching on my part as I realise quite how many things (Facebook, Google Reader, Gmail, Blogger....) I run using my e-mail address and which therefore require a bit of tweaking if we are going to start using the new one. It's been like a test on how much I really understand the internet and social networking sites. I suspect I may have failed.

Incidentally, I am told by Husband that he has set up the whole email gubbins using Google Apps. No, I have no idea what that means or how it works. I just know that I can still get my email from the old account even when I log into the new one. It's like alchemy.

I did however forget about Blogger to begin with and then when I remembered and went to log in, I had forgotten which email address I used to access it and which password and then I got distracted by a bit of fluff on the carpet and days passed. However, as you can see, I have now remembered it. Haven't figured out how to move the account over to the new email address but I am going to not think about that for a while because having to remember and manage more than one address is beginning to make my teeth hurt.

On a more positive (if no less mundane) note, I am getting my hair cut tomorrow for the first time in about.......ooooh.............11 months (if you don't count the times I cut my own fringe with nail scissors because it was annoying me). I have for years had a very distinct streak in my hair - an area where all my grey hairs have gathered together, and fortunately it usually lurks underneath the brown hair and is not visible to the casual observer. However as I approach my mid-40s, the grey is spreading slightly and making its presence more obvious. I am therefore considering letting my hairdresser have her wicked way with my wee streak. She has been threatening to dye it for years and Second Born has given me permission to let her. SB is suggesting bright purple. What do you reckon?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

How did that happen?

First Born has exams next week. At school. Something I gave birth to will be sitting proper exams in English and Chinese in just a few days. I spent this afternoon passing on my wisdom about revision schedules and exam techniques. To my baby.

I'm getting old.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Well thank you for that help with the tree identification. Especially you, Katney. Don't know what I would do without you. No, really.

In other exciting news, some new energy saving lights have been fitted in the quasi-government-y office where I work. They turn themselves off when no-one is around and then turn on when they sense your presence. My office is at the end of a long, long corridor full of said lights, so every morning as I walk down there the lights gradually turn on as I pass them. My question is this: is it okay that I hum myself a little fanfare crescendo as the lights come on? Or is that a bit sad?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

More advice needed, please

Another wonderful weekend at the Corbies. Mum and Dad brought the boys down and we had a lovely couple of days wandering around, drinking beer (not the boys), having barbeques and doing a bit of gardening. The weather was most untypical for Scotland - warm, sunny and lovely. The swallows have returned to the cottage too and are intent on nest-building. We therefore spend any time outdoors with those beautiful birds swooping around our heads as they invade the pig sty with its lovely dark corners, so perfect for raising a family in.

I think we have broken the back of the garden and it is now starting to look a little more respectable.
We spent a lot of time digging and weeding the borders and beds (with much help from my parents) and they are looking pretty good now, even if I do say so myself. Now we just need to decide what to plant in them!


And this is where you talented gardening-type people out there come in. (I know you have nothing better to do than answer my inane questions!) We have lots of lovely plants and trees but no idea of what most of them are. So I have prepared a quiz for you: Identify if you can the following trees from our little Borders garden:

1) From the patio - beautiful deep pink blossom

2) Also from the patio - not in blossom yet, but with little trailing "cat tails" which look like they might become flowers soon

3) From our deck - pretty pale lilac flowers

Apologies for the rotten picture quality - you can click the photies to enlarge if that helps!

We are planning to return to the Corbies to escape the wall-to-wall wedding coverage this Friday (no TV there - what joy!) and hopefully to plant some stuff in those waiting beds. Just have to decide what to plant.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

I'm back again

Back home again, facing a return to work tomorrow after what feels like a really long holiday, even though I've only been away from the office for 7 days.

Prague was lovely. It is always nice but the weather was surprisingly clement, with sunshine and gentle warmth, ideal for wandering about streets and climbing hills. And gazing at light-up yellow plastic penguins.First Born was very enamoured of the penguins. He navigated Prague entirely by reference to where we were in relation to said penguins.

We walked and walked and walked some more, climbed Petrin Hill up to the top and then, when we got there, decided we were too footsore to climb up the replica Eiffel Tower so we sat on a bench drinking Pepsi and telling silly stories instead. We took the boys to our favourite cafe for hot chocolate and soy milk lattes, and to our favourite bar where we ate far more pork than was good for us. We visited the church where Czech resistance fighters were pinned down by Nazi soldiers after the assasination of Reinhard Heydrich and the crypt where they died after being betrayed by one of their own. We visited the zoo and watched tigers having lunch. They have marginally better table manners than our sons, I reckon.
Second Born took that photograph. He is both braver and more determined than I am!

Second Born also celebrated his 11th birthday on our last day in Prague by eating a small vat of Nutella at breakfast and buying himself a couple of puppets with some of his birthday money. Puppets are very popular in Prague and one of his purchases is a traditional marionette, albeit in the form of a chimpanzee. The other one.......defies description. I will try to persuade SB to let me photograph it for a later post. You'll thank me, I promise.

We came home from Prague and almost immediately set off for the Corbies for a few days. We had a few little jobs to do around there and one large one: the freezing cold and very windy winter had not been kind to the roof of our summerhouse. (The bricks are there to stop the felt ripping further!)

Now, Husband and I and Husband's sister are not what you would call handy. We have never re-roofed a shed before, but we decided to have a go. And I think that, given it was done by two lawyers and a training consultant, the result wasn't half bad.

Poor sister-in-law got the job of climbing onto the roof to rip off the old felt and then stick down the new (the roof isn't strong enough to support more than one person at a time). We basically shoved her up there at about 2pm and didn't let her down again until 7pm. She required a lot of beer and mini chocolate rolls to recover. As did we.

Next job: getting the barbecue ready so we can start really enjoying ourselves down there! My mum and dad are having the boys to stay with them at the end of next week and then bringing them down to the Corbies for Easter Weekend. Can't wait.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Ski cake!

My heartfelt thanks to all of you helpful types out there who assisted with the translation of an unusual Canadian cake recipe into Scottish. I had never made it before, it required an odd sort of method and the aforementioned translation of ingredients and measures, but Second Born had requested Ski Cake for his birthday and Ski Cake he would have. I am of course biased, but I think the results were okay:


(If you want to see what the original looks like, Google "Saltscapes" and "Ski Cake".) The cake went down quite well, with First Born and Second Born both having seconds. Second Born's friend who was with us for the birthday celebrations at the cottage scoffed his one slice but declined a second. I choose to believe that he is just well brought up and disinclined to stuff his face at any opportunity (like my two) rather than that he didn't like it much.

I then outdid myself, of course, when I left the remains of the cake (more than half!!) in the fridge when we left the cottage on Sunday. It is still there now, quietly going stale all on its own. Second Born went into mourning when he found out and was inconsolable until I promised him I would make him another one when we get back from Prague. After all, I speak fluent Canadian Cake Recipe now!

Monday, 28 March 2011

?

I was idly texting my husband today while I sat in the car and waited for First Born to appear from school (Second Born is away at school camp, charging around in the vicinity of Culloden pretending to be a Jacobite. The house is eerily peaceful.) Anyway, I was texting with Husband and I wanted to type/text/enter/whatever the word "scones".

(Yes, Husband and I have scintillatingly important text conversations about cheese scones. We are just that groovy.)

Anyway, the predictive text thingy was doing its .......thing, and instead of "scones" it insisted that I wanted to say "scoods". It was really quite emphatic about it, to the extent that it was claiming never to have heard of the word "scones" at all. I eventually had to spell it out for the dratted thing.

I have no idea what "scoods" are and am too sensible/scared to Google it*, but I am left shaking my head and wondering: who on earth programmed a phone which knows what "scoods" are but which has never heard of scones? Civilisation is crumbling before our eyes, I tell you.

*Also now slightly worried that "scoods" will turn out to be a very dodgy word indeed andthat I am going to get some very strange hits on the blog for a couple of weeks.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Momentous movements and a cry for help

It's Husband's birthday today, but since birthdays on Mondays are no fun, we celebrated it over the weekend at the Corbies instead. His present from us was a "Make yourself at home at The Corbies kit" - gift bags containing an espresso maker, tin of good coffee, bottle of malt whisky, whisky glasses, box of ice cube bags and a Lindt gold chocolate bunny. He was quite happy. He also got to have game pie from our local (to The Corbies) butcher for his dinner which went down very nicely. Tonight he has had a beef curry for dinner (made by me in the slow cooker) and he has bitten the head off his Lindt bunny, so not bad as Monday birthdays go.

On Sunday when we got back to Edinburgh, I helped Second Born finish his move into the former spare bedroom. The boys have shared a bedroom since Second Born was about 4 or 5 months old but it has become increasingly clear over the past few months that the time for separate rooms was upon us. We could no longer put up with the constant arguments over which episode of "Just a Minute" should be playing on the iPod dock.

I offered to paint the spare room prior to the move, and Second Born chose a paint colour which goes by the name "Orange Squash". Those of you who live in Edinburgh and who have been wondering what that strange glow in the sky to the south is need ponder no more: it's just the glow from my son's new bedroom walls. They are a little bit bright.

First Born has served notice that he intends to have the original bedroom painted Lime Green when his time comes. (This may be a good while yet: he has about 700 stickers to peel off the walls before I can paint them and I doubt he has the patience.)

So the boys are now in separate rooms. First Born has his beloved drum kit in his room with him and Second Born, for the time being, has the TV and XBox in with him. Until I can figure out a way for the boys to have access to their electronic entertainments without giving up on my declared "No TVs in bedrooms" stance. Any suggestions gratefully received.

And on the subject of suggestions, I could do with some help from the North American contingent out there: we subscribe to a magazine called Saltscapes which is based in and all about Atlantic Canada (did I ever mention we are fond of Atlantic Canada? No?) Anyway, a recent edition had lots of reader recipes in it, one of which was for a cake called a "ski cake". Second Born has seen this and decided that he wants his birthday cake this year to be a ski cake. Which is fine, I am happy to do that - anything has to be better than producing flaming skull or suicidal bunny cakes. But I do need some help with some recipe conversion details, namely:
  1. What exactly is semi-sweet chocolate in English? Milk chocolate? Plain? 75% cocoa? Or some other form I have not heard of?
  2. And what measure is "3 squares" of said chocolate? I presume there must be a standard measurement that is a "square" - any idea how much that is in weight terms?
  3. And if a recipe says 125ml of butter, how much is that in grammes? Or 500ml flour? (I know I could look that one up pretty easily, but I'm feeling lazy)
Any help very gratefully received. If you're lucky, I'll post a photo of the result, good or bad.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Culture and all that

I meant to post about this earlier but, you know, stuff happened and I got distracted when I went online. Mostly spent my laptop time getting free advice from Croila about gardening, to be honest. That and playing stupid Ravenwood Fair on Facebook.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that last week I took my Mum to her first ever ballet. When I learned she had never been I promised her I would find something suitable and we'd make a night of it. I saw that Romeo and Juliet was on, with the wonderful Prokofiev score, so I got tickets for my Mum and myself and for L, a friend of mine I used to work with and with whom I used to go to the ballet quite a lot. Mum was delighted and immediately started fretting over the classic first-time ballet-goer question: What should I wear?

She was reassured to find that jeans and a jumper was fine and no ball gowns would be required.

The ballet itself was.......interesting. A sort of modern-ish take on Romeo and Juliet. Lots of big alien-style headdresses on the Capulet ladies and then a slightly Bucks Fizz moment during the ball scene when they all shed their frocks to reveal virtually painted-on leotards beneath.

Oh, and an odd sub-plot which had Tybalt and Lady Capulet plainly engaged in quite a steamy affair. (There were a couple of holds during their dances that had you asking "Does he realise where his hand is?????") Tybalt ended up killing Mercutio because Mercutio and his mate dressed up as Tybalt and Lady C and did a (very funny) mickey-taking dance in the square. Now, that wasn't in the original play, was it? Or did I miss that in 3rd year English class?

We thoroughly enjoyed it anyway, including the half-time ice creams. The lady sitting next to us had brought her little girl along - she was about 4 years old and clearly a ballet fan, dressed in a sparkly ballerina dress and ballet shoes. My friend L engaged the wee one in conversation during intermission and learned that yes, the ballerina dress was pretty, but the undies that were part of the ensemble were a bit tight and tended to get stuck in one's .......erm......... undercarriage. So that was interesting.

I'm not sure that Romeo & Juliet was a great choice for a 4 year old, as in the final scene, as Juliet went mad with grief over Romeo's body and prepared to stab herself, a tremulous little voice was plainly heard over the silent auditorium: "Mummy, what's she going to do with that knife???" She can't have been too upset by it though, as we saw her performing her own interpretation of the show to the queue for the ladies loos as we left.

A good night was had by all (I frankly consider any night where I am out of the house after dark a success as long as it does not involve Sainsbury's) and we plan to repeat the experience soon. Looking out for tickets for a nice, classical, floaty ballet next. Swan Lake or Giselle maybe.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Before and after

We had another nice weekend down at the Corbies - much easier to decamp down there now that we have beds and furniture and such like. Sister-in-law donated some pots and pans she was getting rid of (due to having purchased a groovy new induction hob for her house that doesn't work with some of her old pans) and some plates she had found in a charity shop. Slowly but surely we are completing our kitchen.....

We went down on Friday night so on Saturday morning we were able to make a quick trip over the border to England for provisions. There is a wonderful butcher in the nearest village over the border so we had their fabulous bacon and home-made wild boar sausages for breakfast. With rolls from the local bakery. Yummmm! Our neighbours at the cottage tell us that the game pies from that butcher are so good that when they go to visit relatives in Edinburgh, they aren't allowed in unless they are also bearing one of said pies.

They also make amazing steak and kidney pies and that is what we bought for dinner on Saturday night. I actually cooked dinner (well, heated up the pies, cooked the peas and mashed the tatties) in the cottage kitchen. Woo hoo! Feeling like a home from home at last.

We also have headboards on the beds now, so you don't spend half the night fishing your pillows up off the floor. And Husband and kind neighbour spent an hour or so and much MUCH sweat disposing of a large pile of debris left behind in our garden by the damp proof contractors. We didn't realise they had done this for some time due to the snow - the garden and drive were covered in huge piles of snow, and the pile of bags of broken plaster was masquerading as a snowdrift. Only realised what it was after the thaw!

And although I forgot to take the camera with me (again), I did have my phone AND I have figured out how to get photos off my phone and onto the Interweb. So here you go - The Corbies: Before and After. First the before.....

This is the alcove in our sitting room

And this is the other side of the sitting room, nicely set off by the icy chill of winter daylight.


And the kitchen. Note the feature "radiators left piled against the wall instead of actually installed and heating the house during the coldest winter since records began". Not every house has that, you know.And now the nice bit! The sitting room, decorated by our own fair hands! (Note the laptop. We don't even have broadband yet, but laptops follow us wherever we go.)

That there is the couch that we had to bend the laws of physics to get through the cottage door. I swear there was witchcraft of some sort involved in that process. And finally the kitchen, with the world's most tasteless dishwasher lovingly installed.

And the flagstone floor which I love, but which I will accept is rather cold on the toes when I stop every morning to look out of the kitchen window after visiting the bathroom. But it is worth it when the sort of thing you can see out of the window is this:

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Peace at last

It has been kind of busy around Casa Loth recently and this is the first time I have had a quiet moment to come on and post. Husband is out - he has a staff meeting this evening and his staff meetings tend to involve beer and pizza, so I may not see him for a while. Bet you wish you worked for my husband, don't you?

The boys are painting Warhammer figures (they are NOT toy soldiers, don't call them that!!!!) in the dining room and miraculously they are not arguing. I have made myself an enormous bowl of bulgur wheat salad which I am eating from a tray in my lap while I blog. The large pile of First Born's new trousers, purchased at the weekend, are eyeing me from the corner of the room as they wait to have their hems taken up but I am ignoring them for now and refusing to feel guilty. FB certainly doesn't care - that boy would wear a bin bag if you told him to. As long as it wasn't pink.

Speaking of FB, he has made the transition to teenager-dom with ease and is showing no Kevin-like tendencies so far. He basically remains the same boy he was when he was 7, just in a bigger body. With smellier feet. Which means that, while he is still perfectly happy to give you spontaneous hugs, you don't always appreciate them as much as you once did.

Tomorrow is Founder's Day at the boys' school which means that SB, who is in the junior school, has the whole day off. However FB, who is now in the Senior School, does not. Nor does he have a normal school day. He has to be in school for 10.20am in time for the remembrance service and then he will be dismissed at 12 noon. I would like to find the genius who decided to present working parents with that little logistical puzzle and shake him warmly by the throat. Fortunately my job is flexible enough these days that I can just work a couple of hours tomorrow and I can do those from home, but I feel sorry for those in more rigid jobs - I certainly would have been struggling back in the days when I was a full-time court solicitor.

In other news, we have finalised our plans for this year's Maritime Canada Extravaganza - all Nova Scotia this year. And I know the following information will mean NOTHING to most of you but I want to write it out anyway and savour the anticipation.......

We are going to spend a couple of days in lovely Liverpool, followed by a week in a cottage on Silver Crescent beach in Lockeport. And I mean on the beach - you step off the deck of the house onto the sand. I am picturing lazy days reading on the deck with a cold drink while the boys run around like maniacs. We may rouse ourselves for a day out in Keji if we feel up to it.

After that, we are going to Brier Island for a bit of whale watching (or if my whale repelling skills are still working, fruitless whale chasing) and staying the night in Westport. After that we are having one night in a B&B in Bear River before heading along the Annapolis Valley to Port Williams and Mary's B&B where we have stayed during every trip to NS since 1996. Hoping to fit a visit to the drive-in cinema in while we are in the neighbourhood of Kentville, Jess, if that is still a possibility?

And to add to all that, we have our little trip to Prague at Easter with the boys. Oh! Oh! And finally, finally - FB is pleased to report that he tasted Cadbury's Dairy Milk buttons for the first time at the weekend, and liked them! And he didn't turn funny colours, swell up or vomit! For the boy who has been allergic to milk in all its myriad forms since he was born, this is a major breakthrough. He really seems to be growing out of his allergy, which is just wonderful. So he now has his beady eyes fixed on ice cream..........

Remind me next time to tell you about the story of my neighbour and the hedgehog in the carrier bag.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Things I wish I had not done

I do not wish that I had decided not to visit the charity shop yesterday, as I found 6 quite groovy side plates for £1.40 - score!

I do however wish that I had not decided that I could do with some exercise and that I should therefore get the bus home which leaves me about a mile or so to walk back to the house from the stop.

I do wish I hadn't worn boots with heels, resulting in very sore feet after the aforementioned walk.

I do wish I had not been so keen to get out of those damn boots that I pulled them off in the kitchen before I started to make myself some lunch.

I do wish I hadn't forgotten to take them upstairs when I went up to change. Or on any of the many later occasions when I left the kitchen to go upstairs (shifting laundry, chasing boys into showers etc).

In short, I wish I hadn't left my boots lying on the kitchen floor all afternoon and evening. With the cat. Who was behaving in a suspicious and jumpy manner.

Because then I would not have had to spend the five minutes before bedtime last night emptying a terrified (and surprisingly large) mouse out of my boot into the back garden.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Nearly there....

Back from our longest stint yet at The Corbies - 4 whole days and nights. The cottage is nearly finished now - we have carpets, furniture and even beds. No plates and pots to speak of yet, but that's the next thing on the list. When I have more time, I will regale you with tales of how we got a couch that measures a minimum of 30" in each direction through several doorways that measure only 28" wide. (It involved my sister-in-law having to crawl into the house UNDER the couch as three of us held it at an interesting angle). I tell you, if you ever want to move large furniture into an awkwardly small cottage, let me know and I'll ask SIL to lend you her partner. The man is a spatial reasoning genius.

Anyway, more updates and some photos soon. Promise.

PS Found a deep shiny purple toaster in the Argos catalogue. Am seriously tempted.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

New stuff!

Having bought new beds for at least some rooms of the cottage, Husband and Sister-In-Law surpassed themselves by going on to buy a groovy wee dishwasher (Husband hates washing dishes and I am not complaining). It's a fantastic bargain, delivery is so cheap as to be virtually free and there is a perfect little corner of the kitchen where it will fit.

Did I mention it's also bright yellow? I mean BRIGHT YELLLOW!!!!!! We may not win any interior design awards, but no-one will be able to accuse us of being dull.

Now we just need to find a luminous pink toaster.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

We have carpets!

Another trip down to the Corbies this weekend, mainly to check if the carpet fitter had been. He had and the downstairs of the cottage is now looking distinctly habitable. We hoovered, dusted and did a little repair work on the paint finish in the living room where it had gone a bit "odd" over the new plaster.

We also did a LOT of measuring as we are now at the stage of being able to move actual furniture into the house - only 5 months or so after we got the keys - and wanted to do a quick check that the various bits and pieces we want to bring down would actually fit! A large van has been booked for next Friday, beds have been both sourced and purchased and a sofa excavated from the depths of my sister-in-law's garage. My father has kindly agreed to drive the van for us, which is helpful as none of the rest of us felt capable of doing so. Dad used to work in container shipping and in his time has driven everything from brand new Rolls Royces destined for Arab princes to straddle carriers used for picking up and shifting entire cargo containers. A Luton van should hold no fears for him. He has agreed to be paid in bacon butties and hero-worship from his grandsons.

So hopefully by Friday night we will not only have proper beds to sleep in, but also proper chairs to sit on. Next task: acquiring plates, pots, pans and other kitchen gubbins.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

In which I feel my age. And then some.

I have a love/hate relationship with mobile phones. I love being in touch with those I want to be in touch with and the convenience of them (and amusing myself by playing Texas Hold 'Em on the bus in the days before My Baby arrived). On the other hand, I kind of hate mobile phones themselves. And the whole mysterious sub-culture surrounding them.

My mobile phone recently began to play up in an exceedingly annoying fashion (not sure what non-annoying playing up would be, mind you). When it needed charging, I would dutifully plug it in and it would ignore the charger. Simply refuse to acknowledge its presence. At first, I could coax it a little, bring it round by wiggling the plug a bit. Then that stopped working and getting power into the thing was a much more hit-and-miss affair. Sometimes it would taunt me by obediently starting to charge the minute I plugged in, only to change its mind the moment I did something it disapproved of. Like putting it down on the worktop and walking away. I would come back hours later to find a smugly still-uncharged phone whistling nonchalantly in the kitchen. (I might have imagined the whistling. I did not imagine the smug.)

I did eventually go into the mobile phone shop for advice, although it took me a while as I HATE those places. I feel several decades too old to be taken seriously and I genuinely do not understand about 60% of what is said in there. Its an environment which makes me nervous. I finally went in one day with my Mum - not because I thought she could help (she is worse than I am when it comes to mobile technology) - but just for moral support.

I approached the 15 year old work experience chap behind the counter and explained that my phone wouldn't charge, described the symptoms and then braced myself for the inevitable assumptions of idiocy I knew were heading my way. First of all, he tried plugging it in and naturally, the little blighter started to charge.

Him: It seems to be charging fine........

Me: It does that. It's like when you have a headache for a fortnight and it disappears the minute you go to the doctor. It normally doesn't. Honestly. (He looks unconvinced.)

Him: Are you sure it's not the charger?

Me: (Thinks to myself "Well that's sort of WHY I AM HERE!!!") Yes, I'm pretty sure the charger is okay. I can hear it working (for I am not yet deaf, young man) but presumably you can check that for me? (He does so. It is fine.)

Him: Are you plugging the charger into the right socket on the phone?

Me: *ungritting teeth slightly* Ye-e-e-s, I have had that phone for over two years now. During that time I have figured out where the charge-y bit goes. I am not plugging the charger into the headphone jack, promise.

Him: (jovially) Are you sure you've paid your electricity bill?!!!

I smile faintly. I need his assistance, so poking him in the eyes won't help. Meantime my mum is refusing to make eye contact with me in case she dissolves into hysterics.

Him: Oh look! It's stopped charging!

Me: TA-DAH!!!!! (Well I didn't actually say that, but I thought it really loudly.)

Him: Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. I think there's a fault with your phone.

Me: REALLY??????

Him: We'd need to send it away to the manufacturer for repair. Usually takes about 28 days or so.

Me: I'll think about it.

And I did. Inertia took over and I did nothing for a while, except wheedle Husband into working his magic with a can of Servisol every time I needed to charge my phone. Until it finally died - it ran out of power entirely and nothing I did could persuade it to charge.

So now I have a new phone. The phone call to Orange to arrange said new phone was a painful experience as, again, I only understood about 40% of what was said. I eventually managed to get my really important technical questions asked, namely: (1) Can I keep the same number? (yes) and (2) Can I have a less fulsome talk plan as I am no longer a full-time court lawyer and just don't need that many minutes any more? (also yes). I was also assured they could courier the phone to me the next day. At this news, my mind went into Organisation Mode (Can I be in for a courier tomorrow? Do I have any appointments? Do the boys have music lessons tomorrow? Are my neighbours in so they could take a package if I miss it?... etc etc)

Meanwhile the boy on the phone was in full flow about the recommended phone and the package he was offering specially to me because I am such a valued customer. I wasn't really listening as I was still trying to work out whether it would be okay for a courier to stick my new phone in my wheelie bin pending my arrival home. He mistook my middle-aged dithering for hard-headed haggling and promptly knocked £6 per month off the proposed contract price. So humming and hawing comes in useful sometimes. Who knew?

Anyway, my new phone arrived safely and I even managed to get the SIM card in by myself. Only took me 13 minutes, a new personal best. I don't understand how to use it yet (it has a touch screen which keeps surprising me by whizzing around as I try to figure out how to set the time correctly) and it has just occurred to me that I don't know what the ringtone sounds like so may have been ignoring calls for the past 24 hours, but I am sure that I will be a complete genius with it by the time its battery dies or I accidentally drop it into the sink.

One plea for help though: if you know me in real life, could you e-mail your phone number to me? Old Phone had the last laugh: it died with all my numbers in its wizened, bitter little memory and I can't get them out.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Free time? I remember that

I have (belatedly) realised that one thing that does seriously interfere with one's blogging capabilities is spending weekends in a cottage with no internet connection of any kind. And no laptop. (No TV for that matter. Or comfy seats. Or proper beds. Or pots and pans. I could go on.)

On the plus side, the living room is now painted in the cottage and the carpets are going back down this week courtesy of a local carpet fitter from the next village. We briefly considered relaying the carpets ourselves, but having stared at the solid concrete floor for a while, and then having pondered how one goes about nailing gripper rod to concrete, and having reached no satisfactory conclusion, we decided to call in an expert. Know your limitations, that's my motto. Next stop: furniture! And plates! We are planning to hire a van during half term in February and basically empty the houses of various friends and relatives of any and all unwanted stuff. Those of you who know me in real life - you have been warned.

Last week was a bit hectic all round, even leaving aside the Corbies decorating session. Second Born has graciously consented to take keyboard lessons (NOT piano lessons, KEYBOARD lessons. We are aiming for Focus organ solos, not Chopin. SB will glare at you if you call them piano lessons.) Unfortunately, the only slot available was on Tuesdays at 4.30 on the other side of town from where we live. And Tuesday is the day when First Born has his after-school social and communications skills group (which he still thinks is his Free Snack and Warhammer discussion forum, which is fine by me) and that doesn't finish until 4.15pm, giving me nowhere near enough time to pick up both boys and take them to the piano keyboard lesson.

A plan was therefore hatched: FB would go to his club and then take the bus, all by himself, down to Husband's office in the city centre. I would pick up SB from school, take him to his lesson and then swoop into town, scoop up Husband and SB and take everyone home.

Monday afternoon therefore involved a dry run on the bus to show FB where to get on and off and how to walk to Husband's office from the bus stop. Which went well, but pretty much accounted for Monday.

Tuesday came and the plan outlined above worked well. FB managed the trip perfectly (he was very pleased with himself, despite being a bit apprehensive beforehand) and the first keyboard lesson went swimmingly (I got a slight fright when the teacher turned out to be a former client of mine from a few years back. This is always a worry as not all clients come out of litigation happy, but he tells me that I sorted out his building dispute to his satisfaction. Fortunately. Otherwise that would have been one very awkward half hour.) Afterwards, I fought my way through rush hour traffic and picked up Husband and FB.

Did I mention that there was also a parents' night at school for FB that night? Well there was, so we headed up to the school to attempt the impossible feat of trying to see all 14 of FB's teachers in the 45 minutes or so available. Yeah, turns out we had to miss some out. We saw the main ones though, and were very pleased to hear how well FB seems to be coping with high school. We worried about this A LOT before he started, but he is managing to find his classrooms and remember where he is supposed to be and when (all those laminated timetables were worth the effort!) and keep up with everything, so that's really good.

Unsurprisingly, we were a bit tired after Tuesday. Wednesday was spent catching up on homework etc from Monday and Tuesday. Thursday is the day SB gets dropped with Husband so I can take FB to drum lessons and then I pick them all up and take them home.

On Friday I picked everyone up straight after the boys got out of school and we headed for the Corbies, paintbrushes in hands. Which is where we came in.

All this is a very long, roundabout way of saying "Sorry for the lack of posting. Again. I sort of have an excuse. Again. Will try harder. (Really this time.)"

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Whoops! So much for "More blogging in 2011"!

I really am getting worse at posting over here, am I not? Must try harder.

So, the boys are back at school and seem reasonably happy so to be. I have got over my initial dismay at having to return to making packed lunches and nagging boys repeatedly to pack their bags and track down their games kits and Second Born, for Pete's sake ROUND UP YOUR SOCKS!

On the plus side, we have been able to get back down to the Corbies a few times and make a start on addressing the after effects of some pretty full-on damp work. We have fresh, bare plaster on most of the walls on the ground floor up to a height of about 1.2m and above that we have an enticing mixture of nasty old wallpaper, odd textured paint and crumbly old plaster. As a result, we spent last weekend stripping the remaining wallpaper in the dining-room-soon-to-become-another-bedroom and trying not to pull all the plaster off in the process. My aunt had lent us one of those steam-powered wallpaper strippers and whilst it is undoubtedly effective, it is also one of the scariest pieces of equipment I have ever tried to use! It is basically a huge kettle attached to a hose with a square of plastic at the end and it steams and bubbles and drips scalding water all over the place (at one point, memorably, it managed to spray the ceiling!). Second Born was so alarmed, he refused to remain in the room with it. Sensible boy, that one.

This weekend we managed to paint the walls in that room and, if you ignore the dodgy, lumpy old plaster on the top half of the walls, it looks really rather good. Next week: painting the weird scratchy textured walls in the living room.

We have also discovered a really good use for the Kindle: if you once wrote a whole load of stories with your then very young children, and if you saved those stories on your laptop, then you can load those stories onto your Kindle AND you can then make the Kindle's strange alien-like computer voice read them out to you. Judging by reactions around here, this is the funniest thing anyone has EVER done. I recommend it. (Husband tells me it may be possible to create a sound file of one or two of these stories and upload it. You have been warned.)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Should I be worried, do you think?

The boys are fortunate enough to still be lazing around at home while we return to work, as they don't go back to school until next week. I get them to phone me when they get up in the morning, just so we can check in. The call with Second Born this morning went like this:

SB: Hi, I'm phoning like you said. We're up.

Me: Okay. Did you sleep well? Everything okay?

SB: Uh-huh.

Me. So, you going to have some breakfast?

SB: Uh-huh.

Me: Then what? Are you planning to watch that film we recorded for you yesterday?

SB: Yeah. Or we might play some roulette.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Oh no!

Mick Karn died today. The biggest crush of my teenage years (hey, I never claimed to be normal), his was the face that covered one whole wall of my bedroom - and since not that many people shared my enthusiasm, finding photos with which to do the said covering was a pretty full-time task. I joined his fan club and my membership number was 003. I am not kidding.

Mick could also claim part of the credit for Husband and I getting together: at university, I wanted a copy of an album Husband owned, and since Husband was VERY particular about the equipment on which his precious discs were played (this was the time of vinyl, remember) he offered to record it for me if I gave him a blank tape. So I gave him a tape on one side of which I had already recorded Mick Karn's first solo album - a largely instrumental work heavily featuring boingy fretless bass and lots of oboe. Husband couldn't resist a nosey listen and was sufficiently perplexed by what he heard that he had to ask me about it when he returned the tape. He confessed that he was slightly surprised by my musical tastes since they were not the usual suspects found in our little group - mainly Talking Heads and Paul Simon. He was intrigued, I tell you.

After that it was only a matter of........well, quite a lot of months, actually, before Husband and I were an item. So as well as being the focus of the majority of my difficult teenage years, Mick Karn contributed to getting Husband and I together. I am really rather sad he is gone.

(I was also sad to see that Gerry Rafferty has died too, but I didn't fancy him nearly as much.)

Monday, 3 January 2011

Filling in the gaps

As you know, Husband and I got His 'n' Hers Kindles for Christmas and we have had a great deal of pleasure from our new toys. Our children laugh at us as we sit, happily drinking tea and reading our respective Kindles.

Husband has filled his with all sorts of strange stuff. As well as the aforementioned "Memoirs of the Anglo-Boer War" and some fascinating reports on the economic implications of new TLDs in the domain name space, he has stuff like copies of original court reports from the 1500s - trials of people charged with hamesucken and the like.

He has also downloaded Ambrose Bierce's "Write it Right"- a witheringly unforgiving guide to correct English usage which both of us are enjoying greatly (even as we discover that our own use of English is apparently woefully inappropriate).

I, on the other hand, am much more mundane in my tastes. I have been using the Kindle initially to trawl Amazon and the like for books that are free to download and which fill the glaring gaps in my reading history. For example, I have finally got round to reading the original "Frankenstein" (the boys were bored rigid when I read excerpts to them out loud). I have been meaning to read that for ages.

I have read a fair bit of Dickens in my time, but never "Nicholas Nickleby", which is what I am reading now (and wishing, as I tend to do with Dickens, that I could slap half of his female characters, so irritating are they - especially the ones he doesn't mean to be irritating).

Waiting in the wings (or rather in an enticing list on my Kindle's home page) are the Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy novels that I have missed so far. I must confess to never having read "Kidnapped" before, for example. In my defence, it is one of those books that you sort of assume you must have read because you are so familiar with it from other sources - like "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde".

I am almost giddy at the prospect of being able to access so much reading material whenever I want for NO MONEY! It will be interesting to see how long it takes before I feel the need to actually pay for books. (And whether the Kindle will have paid for itself by then!)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Oh wow, it's 2011

Happy New Year everyone! We had possibly the least organised Hogmanay in Scotland yesterday. It was really rather enjoyable. We had, at one point, hoped to be down at The Corbies for Hogmanay but late and therefore still drying plaster repairs, no floorcoverings and all the furniture being trapped in the summerhouse behind a six foot high frozen solid snowdrift sort of put a stop to that idea.

So instead, we vegetated at home. Second Born spent his enormous wodge of Christmas cash on an Xbox, an extra controller and a game, all in the sales, for he is smart that way. He had lost hope of it arriving in 2010 but lo! the delivery man from Amazon arrived at lunchtime on 31st bearing computer generated Nirvana. We have barely seen either of our children since. We know they are still living here, though, as I can hear them whooping from here.

I braved the supermarket to buy some odds and ends to keep us fed and happy and then Husband and I spent the day reading, watching some non-boy suitable stuff on TV and drinking tea. We drank a LOT of tea.

The boys emerged to eat and watch some classy TV (Harry Hill, You've Been Framed and an old Christmas episode of The Good Life - which we were pleased to discover the boys really enjoyed!) and then went back to annihilating aliens. (I am assuming that if we let them gorge themselves on computer-generated mayhem for a day or two, they will then be happy enough to cut back on their screen time. That will work, right?)

We headed out at about 11.45pm to a point on the hill upon which we live from where you can see most of the other hills on which Edinburgh is built, and that means you can see the fireworks at midnight without being trampled underfoot by 80,000 slightly tipsy tourists. The boys enjoyed the fireworks (First Born even managed to watch most of them without his ear defenders on - his sensitivity to noise is slowly improving) and we then came home and let Second Born first foot the house. We told him he was being nominated as traditionally it is supposed to be a tall, dark, handsome man who does the honours, but as we didn't have one of those, we would make do with small, dark and stinky instead. He took it surprisingly well.

I told the boys and Husband about Sara's family tradition of having a big book in which to record the memories and high points of the year just gone together with predictions for the new year ahead and they loved the idea. With your permission, Sara, we will be stealing this one (I only wish we had known about it years ago!)

Today we are again doing nothing, and doing it rather well, even if I do say so myself. I got up early-ish and set a beef hotpot going in the slow cooker before going back to bed with tea, shortbread and my Kindle. And Husband. And his Kindle. We then had "Happy New Year!" calls with various relatives from beneath the duvet. Very decadent. The hotpot will be ready in another couple of hours or so. I wonder what I could do to fill in a couple of hours?........