Thursday, 20 December 2012

Still here.

Just popping in to confirm that I have not died of starvation due to lack of cooking facilities or been crushed to death under a tottering pile of unwashed dishes.  The kitchen/extension project is moving towards completion but is not yet............ actually.....complete.  The fault is not with our builders but with our kitchen suppliers who supplied us with a curved worktop and breakfast bar that could not actually be curved.  And since the kitchen cabinets are curved, that is a bit of a problem.  A problem we only really got to the bottom of once said worktops were cut to size and installed.

We had a frank exchange of views with the kitchen supplier.  They suggested it wasn't entirely their fault.  We disagreed, as they had (a) designed the entire kitchen, (b) suggested the curved cabinets and lovely matching worktops, and (c) supplied the whole shebang.  We eventually agreed to differ on this point but only after said supplier gave us back the entire price of all the worktops.

So that is good, but it does mean I am back to looking at pictures of worktops on and trying to decide what we want to replace the non-curvaceous surfaces we currently have.  I seem to have done nothing but read about the different options for kitchen worktops over the past few days.  I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of days ago, totally furious.  I had been dreaming that we were having a whole new house built from scratch (God forbid) and that the builders were constructing it entirely from kitchen worktop.  I was furious because they were using the wrong kind of kitchen worktop for the walls and it would scratch too easily.  My subconscious is clearly not coping with all this interior design stuff.

And now, I must go and buy some Christmas presents for my children.   Apparently, gifts on Christmas morning are not optional.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Some Christmas stuff

 It is my sister-in-law's birthday today.  She has reached the grand old mental age of 12 (she wouldn't mind me blogging this:  she cheerfully admits to not having emerged from adolescence yet, despite being a couple of years older than I am.  Pesky chronological years that is.  Not the kind that counts.)  Anyway, we put on an early Christmas-come-birthday bash for her last weekend as she is going away to sunnier climes next week and will not return to dark and dreich Scotland until well into January.

In her honour we decided to decorate the Corbies and found the perfect tree to do it with.  SIL was allowed the honour of picking her family's tree way back in the 1970s and managed to locate a particularly lurid purple tinsel number which the family were then stuck with forever.  (The fact that their other little Christmas tree had a severed head hanging from it just added to the quirky charm of the seasonal decor.)

So, here, in all its glory, is Purple Tinsel Tree Mark II.  This photo is especially for Jen who demanded photographic evidence when I described the thing to her.  Here you go, Jen.  Enjoy.

However, if you really want shiny..........look!

I might get to turn it on tomorrow.  Can hardly wait.......

Monday, 26 November 2012


We are now in our second week of living with no kitchen and, most problematically, no kitchen sink.  I know it is a very First World sort of whine - "Making a cup of tea is such a FAFF!" - after all, we have running water in the house, just not in the kitchen.  But.  But.  I reserve the right to whinge.  To make a cup of tea I have to fetch water in a jug, fill the kettle (after first finding the kettle and then finding a working socket to plug the kettle into) and carry milk into the garage to find a mug.  Then, once the tea has been consumed, said mug must be conveyed to a sink somewhere else in the house for washing.  Hardly worth the effort.

This is my kitchen at the moment.  The units are all built and lounging around in the dining area, waiting to be fitted in their proper places.  My oven is in the hall beside the downstairs loo and my cooking facilities, such as they are, are still in the garage.  We are a tad mixed up at present.  I never thought I would wistfully look forward to doing the washing up in the kitchen sink, but I do.  I really do.

On a completely, randomly different note, I was walking past a shoe shop today and noticed these alarming items in the window.  (The angle of the photo is poor but take it from me, those heels are HIGH).
Are these serious?  Are girls really wearing shoes like these?  And if so, when?  And why?  I did wonder if they are actually self-defence equipment, allowing you to perforate a potential attacker while continuing to look fabulous.  After all, what are the chances of getting through a whole night out without ripping your tights to shreds (or your friends' tights for that matter) if you were wearing these?

What do you reckon - does anyone out there fancy a pair for the Christmas party season?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Theft by housebreaking

When I left home to go to work on Friday, my kitchen looked like it did in the last post.  When I came home, it looked like this:

The rest of it is in a skip in our driveway.  What I sadly failed to take a photograph of was the lovely graffiti applied to the dining room wall by the boys the night before the wall came down.  I'm sure the builders were not at all disconcerted when they arrived to find "They're watching you!" and "BEHIND YOU!!!"  scrawled in blood red marker pen on the wall.

Whilst the kitchen is currently rocking the (very) minimalist look, my garage currently looks like this:

In estate agent-speak, our garage is now a "storage facility come laundry with built-in bijou kitchen annexe".  The kitchen annexe being the microwave and toaster you can see there sitting on top of a trunk full of books and beneath my husband's grandmother's old jelly pan.  On a completely (almost) different tack, as my new hob will be an electric induction one, that jelly pan will no longer work for me.  Anyone know a sneaky technique for conning an induction hob into believing a pan is ferrous when it isn't?

New kitchen arrives on Wednesday and is due to be fitted by the end of next week.  I foresee a week of toast, soup and takeaways.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Exhausted by junk

I am officially very, very tired.  The great renovation project is proceeding apace. Sort of.  No actual work has been done this week (by the builders at least).  I, on the other hand, have cleared every single item out of our dining room and kitchen and stashed it in our garage.    The cupboard under our stairs is now holding about 30% more stuff than it was ever designed to hold.  I can hear it groaning from here. 

But getting the dining room stuff into the cupboard was nothing compared to attacking the kitchen.  Have you ever cleared out your kitchen?  It's like entering the Twilight Zone.  Every time you empty a drawer of a couple of hundred bits of plastic clips and old pastry cutters, it fills up again when you turn your back.  I must have filled half a dozen cardboard boxes with cake tins, spatulas and a strange contraption intended to ensure that you cut perfectly straight slices of bread (which it doesn't).  I started out rationally, sorting,tidying and discarding as I went.  Eventually though I ran out of time and patience and just started throwing things randomly into boxes and then stashing them in the garage.  Hence we may, in twenty years time, stumble on a cardboard time capsule, cowering on the very top shelf and containing a Swiss Army knife, a bag of farm animal shaped cookie cutters, nine packets of paper napkins and some batteries.  And we'll wonder why the heck we bothered to keep those for all those years.

Anyway, in the interests of the documentary aspect of this here blog, I took some "before" pictures for posterity:

Of course, these aren't genuine "before" pictures because the kitchen is empty and therefore tidy.  Which normally, it isn't.  Oh, and there was once a window in the gap beside the washing machine in that last photo - it was removed last week, ready for blocking up.  Now am I off to the garage to make myself a cup of tea and try to remember which box I put the biscuits in.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Psychic powers

Tail end of ongoing bickering between First and Second Born this morning, overheard as they got their bags out of the car:

FB:  SHUT UP!!!!!!!

SB:  I didn't say anything!

FB:  Okay, but I know what you were thinking.

Friday, 2 November 2012

It's a room! Sort of!

Work on the house is proceeding.  It feels like it is going slowly but then you look out of the window and it looks like this. 

And the inside looks like this.  You can sort of see that it is going to be a room.
I tried to get a photo of the cat climbing around on the roof timbers before the roof cladding went on but he is not terribly well disposed towards me at the moment.  He disapproves of all the noise and disruption, he DEEPLY dislikes the nail gun the joiners were using and most of all he hates being expected to eat and sleep in the playhouse when we are not around.  A fully carpeted playhouse, I might add.  Even though I had a catflap installed specially for him.  And put a chair in there,  And a basket.  And his favourite blanket.  And food and drink.  I suspect if he had opposable thumbs he would be packing up his belongings into a spotted hankie on a stick and leaving home to look for more caring owners. 

On a more positive note, I have discovered that if you want to gently discourage guisers at Halloween (if, say, for the sake of argument, you don't mind guisers coming round and you really  meant to get organised but due to various stuff going on you had completely forgotten to get any treats in to hand out) then you could do a lot worse than filling your driveway and front garden with a skip, several large bags of cement and multiple piles of wood.  And mud.  Lots of mud. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Best laid plans, Vol 9

Well, the plan to blog devotedly and regularly sort of slid a little.  Partly due to a bout of particularly wet weather which led to rather dreich photos of the back garden (or The Somme, as we called it) which I did not feel very enthusiastic about posting and partly by the half term holiday.

We had a rather nice week off down at the cottage where we were joined by my mum and dad for a few days.  The weather was reasonably kind and we were able to potter around a bit and spend a day at Beamish. My mum had always wanted to go to Beamish so we thought we would have a family day out.  It's a brilliant place and I heartily recommend it.  I should warn you that if you are over, say, 60 years of age, you will spend the day like my parents going "I remember that soap! My granny used that soap!"  and "A white fiver!  Haven't seen one of those for years!"  And if you have any children with you, you will require a crowbar to get them out of the old fashioned sweetie shop.  Especially if the grandparents have said "Of course you can have some sweeties! Pick whatever you want!........"

We got to ride on trams, and go down a coal mine and eat fish and chips cooked in a coal fired range.  Fish and chips cooked in beef dripping.  I am salivating at the memory, even as my arteries harden. 

We came home on Saturday and the work in the back garden has progressed.  We now have a sort of  third-class gazebo affair but you can at least see where we are going with this now.

The cat remains unsure of his feelings about the whole project.  On the one hand, he has to jump about two feet to get through the cat flat and he likes to complain about this loudly and frequently.  And he is permanently covered in mud.  Perhaps because he insists on doing this sort of thing.

On the other hand, the perching opportunities are really quite splendid.

I see you bird, entering my airspace.  You have been warned.
Husband is away on business for a few days at present so I took the opportunity of a quiet evening yesterday to go out on the Internet and play with our credit card.  I bought an oven and a hob for the new kitchen.  It was rather exciting.  Next: wall tiles.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Still here

A momentous post this: first blog post done from our cottage.  We have broadband now, thanks to a community DIY broadband project (none of the big companies had any interest in cabling our out of the way little village, it seems) and that means laptops at the weekends.  In some ways I am sad about this as I kind of liked the freedom from technology but there is no getting away from the fact that it is handy.  Being able to check the tide tables for Holy Island before you set out for the causeway is useful, for example.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that anyone out there was still aware of my existence so, in the spirit of public service, your questions are answered as follows:

Cassi:  I don't drive that car much in Edinburgh.  We tend to save it for the long drive down to the Borders at weekends, stacked full of people and stuff.  I am terrified that I might scratch it if I have to drive in traffic!  As far as your remodelling project goes, can you tell me your scary story next year?  Around February/March maybe when it will be less likely to make me crawl trembling into a cupboard to hide?

Jen:  Yes, the late tree was indeed a culinary bay (didn't know those were called bay laurel - see what you learn on the internet?).  It is now in the bottom of a skip under most of the rest of our garden.  Which now looks, after days 2 and 3, like this:

 And this:
Bellus is not impressed.  There used to be foliage here where he could hide before leaping out to terrorise the local wildlife.  He is expressing his displeasure by tracking mud all over the kitchen cupboards.  And the top of the washing machine.  And the fridge.

To cheer you up after the photo of sulking cat, I give you a sample of the kind of e-mail my husband gets all the time.  Today's best example:   

Am Engr william philip.I hail from lancaster UK,I attended oxford university,where i studied marine engineering,Am 47 years old single and work as a marine engineer in the submarine section. Am elegant,vibrant,vigorous and full of life I was opporturned to glance through your page and personnality profle.You seem to be the woman of my choice.You scarlet lips,ebong hair,well biult physique charming face,sedycing eyes are of great intersest to me.In fact,your entirety commands my variety of interest

Funny, he comments on Husband's scarlet lips and ebong hair and entirely fails to mention the beard.  

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I am probably the only one reading this

Well, I sort of lost the habit of posting for a while there.  Gentle and not-so-gentle hints from the family did little to prompt me back to Blogger (which has been changed again since I last looked, dammit).  However, here I am, back recording the scintillating goings-on at Schloss Loth and I have been prodded into doing so by the latest development here.  More of that shortly.

For the sake of completeness, I should note that there has been a fair amount going on here over the summer.  We bought a new car for the express purpose of trogging up and down to the Borders.  This is it.  It is red and shiny and we love it a lot.  The cat loves it too:  when it is parked outside our house, he can sit upright underneath it and survey his domain in the dry.

 We went on holiday to France (I will show you some pictures some time if you like and if I can be bothered to upload them).  This was quite a success too as we ate a lot of very nice French food and Second Born got to speak French "in the wild".  We had dinner out one evening in a lovely restaurant where the staff did not speak English and SB sufficiently charmed Madame running the place that she gave him "20/20" for his French and kept telling him how wonderful he was.  SB coped with the adulation admirably.

But the main thing that has prompted me to recall my password for Blogger is The Great Chateau Loth Project 2012.  We have decided to extend our little house a bit to make room for (a) visitors to stay overnight if they wish, particularly my Mum and Dad, and (2) FB and SB to watch endless episodes of The Big Bang Theory without Husband's head exploding.  We are also, for we are gluttons for punishment, going to knock through the wall between our kitchen and dining room and re-do the whole room. 

I quite fancied having some sort of record of what the house was like before and after all this work and the blog here seemed to be a good place to do it.  So with that in mind, here are the Before Pictures of the back garden before the builders get their hands on it:
That tree in the middle is my very overgrown bay tree.  I shall be sorry to see it go but it has got a bit out of control.

Note the cat trying to escape before I snatch a photo of him. The new room is going right where Bellus is standing - it will be accessed from that door beside our wheely bins.

My clothes dryer (or whirlyjig as we call them here) seemed to sense its days were numbered and committed suicide a few days ago.  All 3 of its arms now point in the same direction, which makes it pretty useless as a clothes-drying apparatus.  It looks a bit like a dead daddy-long-legs.
 And now, we come to today, which is the first day on site for the builders.  Our garden path has shrunk somewhat and our doorstep has gone.  Bellus is not terribly impressed so far.  Much further for him to go in order to clamber elegantly through the catflap

It's like we are deliberately trying to piss off the cat.
I plan to document the progress of the works (perhaps not on a daily basis, for I am not that diligent, as you know) and I may even recruit anyone reading this to give their opinion on decisions still to be made.  For example, we have already bought the new kitchen units but will need to decide on flooring for the new kitchen/diner.  We are thinking tiled floor.  What do you reckon?

If I can summon up the courage, I will photograph the inside of the kitchen before work starts.  It's not pretty.

Monday, 11 June 2012

For excuses, see below

I have not posted for a while but in my defence, things have been a wee bit hectic around here recently.  Lots and lots of stuff is happening, most of it good, some of it less so:

Good Stuff That Has Happened Recently
  • We had a wonderful time at the village fair last weekend.  There was a dog show as part of it (Waggiest Tail, Cutest Veteran, Dog that looks most like its owner, that sort of thing) which meant there were lots of dogs about.  Second Born was in heaven as a result and ended up offering an informal dog creche.  Anyone who expressed the view that they would go into the village hall for a cup of tea were it not for their dog found, as if by magic, a small boy at their elbow offering to dog-sit.  He was ecstatic.  The fair organisers are thinking of making it an official service next year.
  • On the day after the village fair, the population of the village (or at least the interesting part of the population who could be bothered) turned out for a communal photograph to commemorate the Jubilee.  We all squashed together in front of the village hall and grinned like idiots.  Oh, and lots of people had their dogs with them.  This time, Second Born managed to wangle an invite to someone's house to collect their dogs.
  •  After the photo session, the residents of our little row of cottages had an impromptu street party.  It is, after all, our street, and we can close it whenever we like!  We hauled various tables outside, scoured our cupboards for suitable edibles and hung up bunting and union flags scavenged from the village fair.  It was great fun.  There was an inter-cottage egg and spoon race, which metamorphosed into an inter-cottage cherry tomato and spoon, pickled beetroot and spoon and pickled onion and spoon race.  The pickled onion won.  Flatter bottom on a pickled onion, you see.  Better adhesion to the spoon.
  • We were awakened at the cottage one morning by a swallow which flew in the gap in the open window looking for likely nesting spots and got confused by the curtains.  This started out as a Bad Thing, but turned out a Good Thing as we managed to catch it and release it completely unharmed, getting a really good close-up look at it in the process.  It seemed entirely unfazed by the experience.
  • Our new shower room has been fitted!  Mostly.
  • Second Born won a Silver Award in the Scottish Mathematical Challenge (I know, it's like he's not our child) and got to go to a cool awards ceremony to pick up his certificate.  I got to go and watch him and beam proudly.
  • We bought a new car on the internet.  (This is what happens when you combine boredom, broadband and a credit card)
  • We decided we enjoyed having the garden full of builders' rubble so much that we are going to knock down an internal wall in our house later this year.  Gluttons for punishment.
Not So Good Stuff That Has Happened Recently
  • Our plumber succumbed to an attack of gout part way through our shower refit and could not work for over a week.  Meanwhile, the remains of the old shower room sat in our front garden with the grass growing round them.  Grass is now about a foot high and we still have a toilet in front of our living room window.  Neighbours are stopping and staring as they pass our house, clearly wondering when the Clampetts moved in.  
  • Plumber's mate did a wee spot of grouting on his own, accidentally dislodged a valve on a radiator before he left and we returned from the Jubilee weekend at 8pm on Sunday evening to find evil black water dripping  through our living room ceiling onto our carpet and furniture.  
  • Second Born's Silver Maths Award certificate was on the table under the leak and is pretty much ruined.  He was quite upset.  (I have contacted the organisers to try to get a replacement.)
  • We now have to find time to accommodate a decorator to fix the ceiling and a carpet cleaner before Saturday when we have a Taiwanese exchange student coming to stay for a week.  No pressure, then.
  • Shower refit is still not finished.  The toilet does not flush (pretty essential function, in my opinion) and the pump for the shower can't be fitted yet because the plumbing for same is not where we thought it was and we are going to have to have a hatch cut in an adjoining wall to access the necessary area.  (Not doing that until after exchange student has left.) 
  • The cat is thoroughly enjoying the wilderness of long grass in our back garden caused by the short burst of hot weather followed by a more normal extended period of rain.  This is not a good thing because it makes it easier to stalk small creatures and then bring them in to dismantle them on our kitchen floor.
  • I have a cold, kindly donated by First Born who likes to share these things.  This is why I am blogging at 4.30am.  I cannot lie down without my head filling up with gunk. 
Off now to make more tea.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Oh dear.

I think Dolores is having a bad day.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Random weekend stuff

I have absolutely no coherent train of thought to share with you today.  The strain of juggling the complex morning routine made necessary by 4 people sharing one bathroom (and one of said people having VERY strong views upon the timing of morning activities) has left little brain power to spare.  So all I have is photos and random musings.

This cairn was built by my husband and Second Born, by the beach near Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island.  I thought it was really rather cool  - it looks like it is about to waddle off into the distance as soon as our backs are turned.  Other people also thought it rather splendid - a father was spotted photographing his sons through the "legs" as we left in search of lunch.  It took all of our self control not to run back and shout "We made that!!!"

This is the light fitting in our living room at The Corbies.  I have absolutely no reason for showing you this, other than that I really like it.  The individual shades look like medieval bronze Cornettos.

This sign I spotted on the door of a cubicle in a public toilet.  The toilet in question was  in the bar of quite a nice hotel where we stopped for lunch on the drive up to Skye a couple of months ago.  I took a photo because I was puzzled:  Who takes their used teabags with them into a hotel public toilet to dispose of them?  And why?
And that, as we say in Scotland, is me for now.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Oh the horror

We have an interesting take on garden design going on at the moment.  Our front garden currently contains grass (in dire need of a good mowing), a half-alive and half-dead hedge, some very confused daffodils who currently think it is autumn 2013 and a toilet.  And a sink.  And some bits of shower cabinet.  In fact, practically everything that used to constitute our en suite shower room is now in our garden.  Very classy it looks, too.  We should really take the wheels off our W reg Astra and stick it up on bricks, just to complete the effect.  (There is in fact actual moss happily growing on the window seals of the Astra which makes it a garden feature already in my book.)

Thankfully, Fraser The Gentleman Plumber and his trusty sidekick are working hard to instal a shiny new shower room for us and that should be ready in about, ooh, two weeks or so.  But in the meantime? 

We are having to share a bathroom with the boys. 


(And yes, I know, being reduced to one bathroom between four can hardly be called a hardship.  Nonetheless, there is no getting away from the fact that, much as I love my children, I can't wait to not have to share showering facilities with them.  Doubtless they feel the same, judging by the eye-rolling going on every time I point out that the cardboard centres of toilet rolls do not climb into bins unassisted.)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Delighted to see Laura being fired from The Apprentice tonight.  She uses "myself" when she means "me" and she repeatedly talks about "working smart".  Both capital offences in my book.

Monday, 7 May 2012

There is regulation in the Borders.......

..........but it's a relaxed sort of regulation.

In other news, the swallows have returned from their winter in south Africa to their nest sites in our pigsty.  It is lovely to have them back, even if we are being deafened by the unattached males advertising the prime real estate they have found and divebombed by the females checking out the premises on offer.  And as if to prove that old saying that "one swallow does not make a summer", we were treated this weekend to sunny weather hot enough for me to sustain sunburn to my scalp, quickly followed by hail and driving rain with temperatures down to 3degrees.  Never  a dull moment.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

It's just like winning the lottery

There was a raffle at the village hall last weekend in aid of hall funds, with prizes donated by local worthies.  We did not in fact win a prize, but Second Born expressed such admiration of the prize won by one of our neighbours that he kindly donated it to us.

People can be so kind.

She has taken up residence in our bathroom.  The boys have named her Dolores. I believe they are plotting to accessorise her with Action Man helmets and weaponry.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Senior moment

Here is a little puzzle for you.

These are the pots on my kitchen windowsill in which I am trying to grow sweetcorn seedlings (aiming for Oklahoma-style corn as high as an elephant's eye.  Will probably end up with corn barely covering a slug's bottom.)  Can you spot the problem?  At first I was blaming the cat for the poor performance of the pot on the end.  Bellus tends to sit on that windowsill gazing out longingly at the garden he can easily reach via the catflap and I was accusing him of shriveling my potential seedlings with his atrocious catty breath. 

But no.  Turns out I forgot to put seeds in the last pot.  I checked.  I was really hoping to find cat-breath shriveled part-germinated corpses in there rather than accept that I have been hoping to grow sweetcorn from compost and thin air. 

I will try to avoid being distracted by something shiny this weekend for long enough to put something seedy in that final pot. Chances are of course that I will then forget to bring it home so I can put it with the others and water it. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Very easily pleased


Peas! They survived the frost and sleet and are happily thriving in our bunny-proof nursery. I reckon the seedlings are about 2 inches tall now, which makes them about an inch or so taller than any of the peas we planted last year. We are now indulging in fantasies of lush, verdant pots full of pea plants groaning with pods. Drool............

We have also (rather cheekily) popped some more pots at the end of our garden, bordering the farmer's field. It's a nice sunny spot, as you can see, and we are hoping to bring on some more varieties of seedlings down here - cauliflower, cabbage and parsnips to start with. That twiggy tree just starting to come into leaf on the left of shot is an elder from which we hope to make gallons more elderberry cordial come autumn.

And then Husband stumbled upon a squatter lurking in the undergrowth. I must confess, I find his/her gaze rather disturbing.

I am The Master. You will obey ME!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I have a genuine excuse this time

For the past 10 days or so, I have had a lovely post composed in my head for you all. Photos and everything. And I would have had it posted last week had not the Dreaded Lurgy broken out and brought Chateau Loth to its knees. All of the menfolk were struck down, reduced to lying draped on the couches watching DVDs of classic Dr Who. And coughing. Lots of coughing. And eating soup. It appeared to be some sort of viral flu-like bug which has now, thankfully, passed on from our house and gone off to bug someone else.

Which means I can now tell you all about the weekend-before-last which I would have posted about last week had I not been fully engaged in supplying industrial quantities of iced water and liquid paracetamol to the masses.

We went down to the Corbies for the last weekend in March/first weekend in April and were rewarded with quite lovely weather. Lovely enough to allow us to sit on the patio with my favourite accompaniments:
Add a book into that photo (my Kindle is out of shot) and you pretty much have my perfect afternoon. We did venture out as well, heading down to the villages of Ford and Etal for a wander. Etal is a lovely part of the world, a little village with thatched cottages and a thatched pub and a post office that looks like this:

There is a tea room in there and we succumbed to the lure of heather honey ice cream, which is every bit as lovely as it sounds. After that, we meandered around Etal Castle and were enticed into the Castle gift shop by a stuffed toy corbie in the window. He is now called Ronald and lives on our window sill:I think you will agree that he was far too cool to leave in a shop full of souvenir pencils and keyrings. That evening, the weather stayed mild and dry enough to allow us to have dinner from the barbeque - making use of the rare native "BBQ tool rack tree" which flourishes in our garden.
We even managed to give the fire pit its first outing of the year. There is something very, very nice indeed about sitting around a fire as the sun sets, playing silly games and incinerating marshmallows. It was well after dark before we finally gave in to the cold and went indoors.

And then it was time to come home. And then the plague hit and the rest of last week was a bit of a blur. Fortunately everyone recovered in time to celebrate Second Born's twelfth birthday today. SB has confirmed that he had a good birthday, involving the receipt of many new classic Dr Who DVDs (in case we all fall ill again soon, presumably) and a steering wheel and accelerator/brake pedal kit for his XBox (no, I don't know how a steering wheel and pedals work with a games console either. Probably best I don't ask.) Oh, and we also bought him a hat he has been pestering me to buy him for months. The hat added a certain rakish je ne sais quoi to his outfit of dressing gown and slippers this morning as he tested out his new toy.

And yes, I did get his permission to post this. He's 12 now and almost as tall as I am. Best not to get on his bad side this close to the start of the teen years!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Heads up

Just to warn you all - I am taking our car in to the garage on Tuesday to have the snow tyres taken off.

Cue the blizzards.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

I don't think I qualify as Scottish any more

We ate dinner last night in the dining room with the patio doors open to let in the sunshine. (This helpfully enabled the throwing of scraps of smoked salmon to the cat. He naturally assumed it was raining food. He approves of this development.) The boys and I then went out for a walk - without scarves and jackets - at 8pm. We needed neither umbrellas nor torches.

Today, I have washing hanging out on the line (well, whirlygig technically) and it is neither getting wetter than it was when it came out of the machine nor freezing rigid. It is blowing gently in a very slight WARM breeze. This is March. In Edinburgh.

You know we will pay for this later, don't you?

Monday, 19 March 2012

Much gratitude

Thank you all for so kindly participating in First Born's e-reader survey. I agree, there were many more options for responses that could have been provided, but (1) it's FB's survey, not mine and I know when to butt out, and (2) it is going to be challenging enough for this poor middle-aged wifie to assist in analysing the data as it is. More options = more headaches = more gin required and that is not an example I necessarily wish to set.

Seriously, thank you all very much. You are all lovely and ought to be allowed to laze around and eat chocolate all day every day. Speaking of which.....

It was Mothers' Day (Mother's Day?) on Sunday and, along with a cup of tea and some toasted fruit loaf (prepared and served as it should be prepared ie COLD) I received this

That right there is a bespoke box of Thornton's chocolates with a picture of The Corbies garden on the lid. A box of Alpini chocolates, to be precise. My favourite. Or, more accurately, mostly Alpini. I suspect Husband had a hand in the selection. He is rather fond of the Viennese Truffles. Can you tell?

Each layer comes pre-loaded with a chocolate specially placed for Husband to steal! It's a good job I'm fond of him.

So, between receiving my favourite chocolates, tea and cold toast in bed and a morning spent lazing around in the spring sunshine here (spot the Kindle poised and ready) was one of the nicer Sundays I have ever spent.

Also, you may notice our whisky barrels perched proudly on the pigsty roof. This is Husband's experiment to try to stop the local bunny population from munching our peas. He reckons if we plant them up there, the pesky varmints won't manage to get onto the roof and then into the barrels so we should in theory be able to manage a decent crop of peas this year. Whether he is hoping for whisky-infused peas, I am not sure. I'll keep you posted.

PS If you have any friends who wouldn't mind doing FB's survey, it will be up for about another day. I'm just saying. No pressure.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Begging letter

So, where was I? Oh yes, it was 2011 and I sort of didn't blog for a little while.....

Despite several very polite but insistent prods from Isabelle, I just haven't managed to get round to posting for quite some time. There has been stuff going on - Christmas and Hogmanay for example, were rather fun with the new year seen in in style in the village hall near our cottage in the Borders. The fireworks at midnight were provided courtesy of one of the locals who used to be in the Royal Artillery. What they lacked in size compared to the Edinburgh display, they made up for by virtually parting your hair as they whizzed (not very far) overhead.

First Born turned 14 and insists on continuing to grow. He is now almost as tall as I am. This is somewhat disconcerting. It won't be long before I have to stand on a stool to nag him.

We have also just gone through the trial by bureaucracy that is selecting his subject options for S3. Rather fortunately he has been given an exemption from the school's policy that all pupils must take one science but it took a while for us to be told this - a couple of weeks of us encouraging him that studying Biology would be fine and his difficulties with maths would not necessarily prevent him from managing it. He has decided to do Latin instead and we are quite relieved.

What else? Husband and I celebrated our 25th year together by depositing the boys with Granny and Grandad and scampering off to this place for a couple of days. It was blissful. I thoroughly recommend it. Any place that encourages you to check in from the depths of an enormous squashy sofa whilst drinking a welcoming glass of champagne with is fine by me. The weather could have been better but since we spent a frankly ridiculous amount of time on more squashy couches reading, drinking tea and eating smoked salmon sandwiches, we didn't really mind.

There must be more to talk about but I will need to have a think about what that is. In the meantime, despite having sinfully neglected you all for months, I am going to beg a favour. First Born is doing an economics project at school in terms of which he has to pick an economic-y question and then do some original research of his own in trying to answer it. He has decided to look at the impact of e-readers on traditional publishing and his original research is a survey of attitudes to e-readers and here is where you come in, o lovely, intelligent and worthy readers. If you wouldn't mind taking FB's wee survey, he would be very grateful. It is very, very short and should take less than a minute to complete. Click on the wee link to go. And while you are off doing that, I will try to get back into a more bloggy sort of a frame of mind.

Click here to take survey

Thank you!