You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2008.

I went looking for a picture of crocuses (croci?) which was shown on the BBC Look North weather slot yesterday. I couldn’t find it, but did come across these excellent landscape and weather pics which locals send in to the Beeb. There’s a whole gallery to flick through. And when I came to the pic below it triggered lovely memories; of catching and tacking up our winter hairy ponies and glorious rides through the snow:

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Many thanks for a fabulous picture to its creator, Alison Seymour.

We have a sunny day today, albeit a frosty morning, rain tomorrow, then two days of cloud, and then SNOW is forecast for Sunday – the day I was planning to help my sister plant her new hedge around the field. Should be fun.

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I went Googling for images as I wanted to put up something different today and I came across this artist, Piers Browne. I particularly enjoyed the way he portrays light and the sea, especially in this picture.

I’d post them here, but I’d probably get the proportions wrong. I’d love to be able to paint or draw (my dad and my sister, plus my eldest son, all have the knack, but not me). So here’s the closest I can get; a photo of the sun coming out (finally!) in the Rectory Park in Thornhill last week. Underfoot was incredibly soggy, and at that point we still hadn’t had the heavy rain and floodwater of this week, but when the sun shone it brought out the very best of the green grass. The models are firstborn son and Sparky:

rectoryjacksparky.jpg

 And here’s firstborn son on his own:

rectoryjack.jpg

Today’s picture: My brother and his son on Withernsea beach on new year’s day:

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When my boys were little we spent a lot of time walking round the park at Oakwell Hall so earlier this week I took Sparky for a walk there. It has been raining all week – flood warnings galore on most rivers in West Yorkshire – so the ground was sodden and I was very glad of my wellies and hat, but there are always some pretty spots around Oakwell.

This is the hall:

Oakwell Hall

 And the doorway:

 Oakwell doorway

Sparky has a worried moment by the stone ram on the lawn:

Sparky and ram

The hall has an arboretum (I would love to have an arboretum) and here’s a gorgeous holly and a very striking silver birch:

Oakwell holly

 Oakwell birch

And a sign of spring (even though it’s only January) – lambs’ tails on the hazel trees down by the stream:

Oakwell stream

This post was going to be titled ‘Rain, rain, go away…’ because that’s how I’m feeling but the rain just won’t stop. So I’m working hard on thinking about happy things, which most definitely includes hanging out with the Glindas, ie fellow members of this writing group I’m on, in Cincinnati. I don’t write, but they tolerate me, as I help out with the critiques and occasionally have a go at the writing exercises. I can now do 500 words before I collapse with writing exhaustion – when I first started I could only manage 200.

 So here’s a few of us, all modelling creations by the House of Crusie, starting with Molly:

Molly and hat

And Brooke:

Brooke and hat

Kim:

kimhat.jpg

 And here’s Molly, Chandra, me, Sue and Brooke:

glindahats.jpg

My resolution is not going well. Although I still have The Cold… or maybe I should just stop making excuses and amend it to ‘I will post a picture several times a week’?

I was chatting with friends on a private blog about aspirations for 2008, and I was hard pushed to come up with any other than ‘earn more money’. Everything feels like a real grind at the moment, possibly made worse by the unrelenting greyness of the January sky and the slippy, sliding mud under foot. So I freed a space in my head for thinking about something good I would like to achieve. Something that would stretch me out of my comfort zone.

What I have come up with is doing a Challenge Ride. I’ve thought about this before, but it wasn’t an overwhelming urge and so it went on the back burner. However, this Christmas my sister has had a bad MS attack. She doesn’t like being fussed over, or even talking about it particularly, which doesn’t calm my feelings of wanting to do something, anything, to be helpful. So I’m thinking that if I booked the Challenge Ride (which would actually take place in 2009) I could do that to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the National Childbirth Trust (that’s the charity I teach antenatal classes for).

The challenge for me, strangely, wouldn’t be the riding, but the fundraising required. I hate asking people for money, and I have absolutely no faith in my ability to raise it. I’m also not very confident about getting fit,  and definitely not confident about losing enough weight so that I can be properly horsed. I will have to lose at least three stones (42lb).

Wish me luck. I am off to find if a few other friends want to join me, but if not I’m booking to go on my own. In the meantime, here’s a lovely summery picture; me and Duke at the Dales Pony Society summer show at Barnard Castle, Northumberland, a couple of years ago. Note the beautiful blue sky and the soft green grass!

Duke, summer show

I was flicking through various photo files – actually trying to find the pic my husband took for a new avatar – when I found the pics I took on my trip to the US in October.

 Here’s the view from my hotel room:

Ohio view daytime

It looked even lovelier at night, and in the early morning, but those pics are rather fuzzy. Not sure what I did wrong:

Ohio view night

I seem to have spent all day fiddling with cake and getting frustrated with cream cheese. Not an intellectually challenging day then, obviously.

As you may recall, two of my sons have their birthdays today. Firstborn requested a chocolate Guinness cake, which I have made before so seemingly no problems there. Youngest son wanted something with layers, possibly chocolate-y. I flipped through some books and pointed out the butterscotch layer cake in Nigella Lawson’s ‘How Not to be a Domestic Goddess’ and he said “Ooooooh!” So that was that.

I made the Guinness cake yesterday, leaving today to ice it and make and ice the butterscotch cake. Everything was going swimmingly, even the homemade caramel sauce which I have never made before, until it came to knocking up the cream cheese icing which creates a frothy, white topping akin to that on a pint of Guinness. Instead of combining with the icing sugar to create a stiff icing, it turned into slop. I added more icing sugar – no change in sloppiness. My husband came home and added more icing sugar – still no change. I had another bowl of cream cheese on the worktop waiting for the addition of my homemade caramel, but I was very wary of going any further as I did not want the truly delicious caramel to be wasted if that also turned to goo.

After some debate the only thing we could come up with was that I had used supermarket own brand cream cheese rather than Philadelphia – maybe the cheaper stuff was made using a different process? Fat content seemed to be about the same. I trotted off to the supermarket (again – third time in two days!) and returned with Philadelphia, then carefully combined ingredients yet again. The resulting icing wasn’t as thick as I had expected, but neither was it the gloop of first time around, so rather than fiddling (and tasting) any longer I slapped it on the cake and left it at that.

Both looked mighty fine, if I say so myself. M’husband says he will use the goo to make Polish vanilla cheese pancakes. Personally, I am full to the gills with cream cheese icing (and caramel) and have no desire to taste any more for the next six months.

Pics will follow. Honest. In the meantime, here’s a decent sized pic of the cakes I made for my friend Ruth back in June:

 cakes

Well, so much for the ‘post a picture every day’ new year’s resolution. In my defence, I have had a rotten cold for the past three days and I still sound like Coughing Henry of Ankh-Morpork the minute I start to laugh, speak too loudly or exert myself.

Today was my first real test of the trials of dog ownership, for my boys were getting ready for school, it was dark and raining, m’husband had gone to work, and Sparky desperately needed to spend a penny. She won’t wee in the garden, so I had to dig out my wellies and trudge round to the playing fields on the other side of the main road. We had to stand for several minutes waiting for a gap in the rush hour traffic then brave the winds and rain whipping across the fields. I was wearing my peaked hat with the ear and neck flap, which I pulled my coat’s hood over. I also zipped and velcro-d every available gap to stop the wind sneaking inside, and if a mass murderer had crept up behind me I wouldn’t have had a clue as I couldn’t hear a thing. I wouldn’t have seen him coming either, as what with flaps, peaks and hood I had a very limited field of vision. However it was nice to look over to the east and see the sky lightening and the wind and rain did a good job of freshening up my poor suffering sinuses.

Today’s to do list:

Take Sparky on a longer walk. Alternatively, take Sparky for a short walk, find a bench to sit down and then throw her ball for about 30 minutes.

Phone the hairdresser – I’ve had enough of growing my hair and fancy a short bob.

Go the supermarket to buy birthday cake ingredients – first and youngest sons have birthdays tomorrow. I did offer to buy them cakes but they said they’d rather have homemade. Which is nice of them. I think.

Read up on the psychology of attribution – I have a new research project for my MSc which my supervisor is very excited about. I think this may be the key point for really supportive supervision: do a topic which your chosen supervisor really really wants you to do.

And here’s a photo from the family album:

Grandad and pram

On the left is my Nana, and the man with the pushchair is my Grandad who died last year. Auntie Margaret is holding Nana’s hand and I think the boy in the pushchair must be my Uncle Stuart. I think this might have been a Whit Walk round the village in the 1950s, which means my dad is probably either 300 yards in front or half a mile behind, chatting with his mates.

Another blogger, Yankee Belle, has a new year’s resolution of putting a pic on her blog every day, which sounds like an excellent idea to me. I am also inspired by my friend Brooke’s blog as she has acquired a sewing machine and some lovely fabric and posted pics of her many new skirts.

 This Christmas we added a new member to our family – a four-year-old Jack Russell/ whippet dog called Sparky. So she should be my first picture:

Sparky

 She is adorable and very well behaved. My sister has also acquired a dog, a Parson Russell terrier called Willis, who is also adorable but not so well behaved as he is only five months old and has spent his short life in breeding kennels. They visited us on Christmas Day and he pooped in the hall, then we returned the visit on Boxing Day and Willis started chomping on Christmas tree baubles and a set of golf clubs. Here he is with my firstborn son:

 Jack and Willis

 And here with Sparky, son, and my brother’s Border Terrier, Willy:

Sparky, Willis and Willy

 More pictures and resolutions to follow….