Murder On The Orient Express

We don’t very often get out in the evening at all, let alone together, so last night was a lovely treat. Jessica went for a sleepover at her Nanny’s house so we took the opportunity to have an outing to the cinema together.

The evening started with a little mistake on my part…I presented myself at preschool for parents’ evening only to discover I was a week early!

After dinner we headed out into the dark to the cinema. We are lucky enough to have an Everyman cinema near us, and even luckier to have won vouchers so it was free! The Everyman has double sofas instead of chairs to sit in, and they deliver all manner of treats to the table next to your sofa. You do have to pay a lot for the privilege though, and had we not had our voucher, two tickets, a tea, a g&t and two tubs of chocolate would have cost us nearly £50!

One tiny disappointment…in the magazine and in lots of posters, in the trailers, they made a big thing about how they are partnered with Godiva chocolates and on Wednesday everyone is given a complimentary box of two Godivs chocolates. We asked about them when we ordered our drinks and were told you get them after the film. We asked after the film and were told we should have had them on the way in to the film, and they had run out. They gave us some chocolate buttons which was kind, but not Godiva…

Now the film. I love Agatha Christie so of course knew the story already, but it did not spoil things. I do envy a little bit people for whom the ending was a surprise though! The costumes and sets were beautiful, and the scenery is just breathaking.

I was a little worried about seeing someone other than David Suchet in the role of Poirot, but Kenneth Brannagh did a really good job. I wasn’t sure about the tiny patch of beard, but the voice, the mannerisms, they were so Poirot.

As I knew it would, it left me with a wish for a lovely long train journey. I’ve always wanted to travel on a sleeper train, and while I don’t think it will be the luxury of the Orient Express for us, I think it is something I will try and work into next year.

A few years ago they were planning to make Miss Marple for the big screen, but they were planning to change her charactwr to that of a young woman…although I would love to see Marple on the big screen, I am glad they didn’t make a modernised version.

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WI

And so I spent a dark November evening in the light and warmth of my WI sisters, and it was the kind of evening which is medicine for the soul.

On my table were some of my favourite people, and each of us had a shiny red metal bucket. The middle of the table was taken up with an abundance of foliage and sprays of holly berrys.

We were given simpe instructions and left to play and create. It was so soothing, choosing foliage, stripping the bottom third of leaves, then poking into the soaked oasis just so. Talking, drinking tea, creating. When we were happy with our foilage we could wire and add baubles, pinecones and dried orange slices. I have left a gap in the middle of mine as I want to add a candle.

This is the kind of craft I have seen in books and magazines and always dismissed as ‘too hard’…but it was so easy and so incredibly satisfying. There must have been something approaching 200 ladies there last night, and it was such a good atmosphere to be in.

Here is my pot, waiting for the candle.

I also won the competition last night! The theme was ‘Work In Progress’ and I wrote a short piece about being our own works in progress individually and as part of our WI, and our WI evolving and changing as our members do. It was a privilege to win as it was a piece written straight from the heart.

Work in Progress

Oh the irony for a post called Work In Progress…I was midway through writing it when my wretched iPad crashed and lost the lot…

It is not yet five o’clock and yet it is already quite dark outside and feels like later in the evening than it is. I am in my spot at the bottom of the stairs taking a few minutes quiet with a cup of tea. I love it here, betwixt and between, apart and at the heart all at the same time.

I can hear a creak, creak, creaking from the living room and I know without looking that a Jessica has climbed up into the rocking chair for a gentle rock. She knows that it is WI this evening and Daddy is doing bath time. I shall be setting out with my scissors wrapped in my apron for my favourite meeting of the year – Christmas Crafts. We are making floral table decorations this year.

Our competition is called ‘Work In Progress’ and it got me thinking that life could be described as such. No more clearly is it seen than in my Jessica. Her body, her habits, her character is growing and evolving before my very eyes. Sometimes I get a glimpse of the sleepy toddler who lurks beneath the surface, but she is such a big girl now. New words find their way into her mouth, and she learns to pronounce correctly ones which made my heart smile the way she used to say them. I am an a-dough-t and she is a chole-dren.

If I find time I want to write a little piece about being our own Works In Progress for the competition. We shall see if time is kind or not.

I am knitting a tea cosy at the minute, lovely green wool to make a Christmas tree effect. It is destined to be a gift, but I may make another just for us. I am reading Jane and the Waterloo Map which is a library book and needs finishing as there is a reader waiting. I am planning the cooking of my first Christmas dinner, and trying to find inspiration for designing my Christmas cards this year.

But just now there is a little girl I am going to sit on my knee and snuggle with, and read another story. Because I was walking in the dark the other evening, and I realise that no matter how many hundreds of stories I read to her, no matter how many thousands of cuddles I give her, at the end of my life I know I will always wish there was time for just one more.

A melancholy note to end on perhaps, but my thoughts have been straying that way of late. A few weeks ago we were overjoyed to fin out that after losing two babies, we were expecting another. The very next day it all started to go wrong, and a week later we found that we now have three angel babies waiting for us in heaven. There is no comfort anywhere when you have lost babies, but the only thing I can think is that at least when I do come to the end of my days, although I will always wish for one more day with Carl and Jessica, I will have three little babies that I can cuddle at last.

A Rainy Day Breakfast

I’ve said it before, and this won’t be the last time I say it, but this little cotage was just made for rainy days. You can hear the particular noise the caes make on wet roads, and hear the rain pattering against the glass of the windows, and the occasional splosh down the chimney. The house seems to snuggle down somehow, determined to keep us all cosy.

I wish we didn’t have to venture out today, and we do have Friday mornings free, so usually we could stay at home. But I booked us on to ‘Friday Fives’ at the museum which is only a 20 minute walk away from home. It will be our first session and we are looking forward to it. They run it monthly, and theme each session around a nursery rhyme, and get out artefacts which are related for the children to explore.

So a rainy day when you know you are going out calls for a warming breakfast. This is what I would have chosen for myself but Jessica asked for it first. Sorry if I have shared this recently already…my brain has been a little scrambled of late.

Pear Chocolate Chip Baked Oats

Wrap your dressing gown a little more closely around you, and set your oven to 200 (mine is a fan).

In a little ovenprood dish, measure 30g oats and 50ml milk. Stir together with an egg and some cinnamon. Add a chopped pear and some dark chocolate chips (our favourites are the tiddly pots from Hotel Chocolat). Stir together and bake for 20 minutes. Serve drizzled with just a little honey and a steaming mug of tea.

Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November

Our fifth of November was very much a day of two halves. We decided to go to the park for fresh air and a play in the morning, and have breakfast in the cafe at the park. Oh it was a wretched morning. We left later than planned, and although Jessica had had a snack she was very grumpy. We hadn’t taken the pushchair as she loves walking and running and dancing and skipping…but she decided she didn’t want to walk and shouted and screamed her disapproval at us. Brunch was disappointing, the caterers have lost the contract to run the park cafe and half the menu wasn’t on and what was available was served gracelessly and without care. We had to cut play in the park short as Jessica got more and more hysterically grumpy. Back home and her head hit the pillow and she was asleep. She rarely naps these days, but oh, how she needed this one.

And when she awoke, she was a different child. We took no risks though, and when we ventured out for fireworks, we took the pushchair! We bundled ourselves up and took a flask of tea and set out for Barleylands. We have managed to get tickets the last three years running (they sell out by April!) and hope to go again next year. The display starts nice and early, you can arrive from 4:30 to see the animals, and the fireworks are beautiful but not noisy. Oh and there is a proper bonfire too. I always feel disappointed when there are fireworks without a bonfire.

I love fireworks (the quiet ones) and love smelling first the cold, then the smoke from the fire, and then the faint metallic smell of the fireworks. Seeing Jessica watch them was wonderful. Her eyes were like saucers, and she was making little firework shapes with her fingers a d whispering ‘wow’.

We had some sparklers when we got home, but Jessica did not like the crackliness of them.

There always seems something magical about bonfire night. Maybe it is because the clocks have so recently changed, but going out it always seems later than it really is. Being in the dark, new batteries in our torches, a flask of tea, hats, scarves and gloves….

When I was little I hated the bangs, and Mum used to have to stand behind me with her hands over my ears. Happy little memories.

A Sweet And Simple Christmas Cake

Jessicaa is three now, and certainly has her little moments. Because she is so bright and articulate, it is easy to forget just how little she is, and how her brain is just not able to cope with life at times. So yesterday saw her roaring and screaming at us because she did not want to walk. But we had no pushchair with us, it was five minutes from car to cafe…but oh how long it took, and how loud and crosspatchy the journey was.

These moments are more than compensated for by seeing her wonder, joy and excitement at life. It is infectious, and every pleasure is doubled at seeing her pleasure in it.

I’ve been reading the most wonderful book, Mitten Strings For God and am participating in the read-along over at the By Sun and Candlelight blog. It isn’t religious at all, instead it is a book about parenting in todays workd when you yearn to keep things simple for your children. In one chapter that I have just read, the author talks about how easy it ia to take on too much, set the bar too high for ourselves, and in trying to give our children the best of everything and offering them every experience, we burn ourselves out.

So today when we made our Christmas cake (a cake for Father Christmas Mummy! I’m so excited! Will he share it with us?) instead of my first instinct, making the recipe from Nigel Slater’s new book, I kept in mind the short attention span of three year olds, and decided not to ovwrcomplicate it.

We bought a box kit, and customized it by adding in some glace cherries. You beat the butter, added the flour/sugar/spice mix, beat in three eggs, added the packets of dried fruit and our glace cherries, and baked.

Just interesting enough to be fun, but not complicated. Jessica sat at her little table and stirred and tasted and helped. I wasn’t tired out and stressed so I was able to be the kind of Mummy I like to be, rather than straying into snappy Mummy territory.

A lesson for me to remember, keep it simple, keep it fun.

I hope Jessica will remember these days of ours together when she is older. A warm kitchen, the fading light of a November afternoon, stirring a cake mixture bright with promises of a Merry Christmas yet to come. Happy, simple days.

A Happy Halloween

I was a little apprehensive about Halloween this year, because it was the first year anniversary of finding out I was pregnant with the little pumpkin seed baby I would go on to lose in November. I wouldn’t go as far as to say time heals, or that as so many well meaning people say ‘at least you have one already’ helps…but having a very excited three year old.is a welcome distraction and her joy is a balm for the heart.

When I was little, Halloween was of course a much smaller affair than now. Some of the childrens tv shows would have Halloween themed episodes, and we would dress up at home after school. Mum made us these witch dresses out of black stretchy fabric which grew with us! I remember a green paper mache mask too. Mum had a pottery casserole dish which looked like a cauldron…she would fill it with popcorn and a few sweetis, and had some plastic grasshoppers and the like which she stuck to the outside. Having a dip in The Cauldron was very special indeed. There was always a carved pumpkin, and one year Mum did a wonderful Halloween dinner which she coloured with food colouring and made it look so scary none of us would eat it!

One year, Woolworths ran a competition where you had to write down as many words as you could make out of ‘Halloween’ and if you took your list in, you could have a dip in their lucky dip.

I remember the magical Halloween night I came home from school and spotted a hedgehog scuttling up a garden path, and was convinced it was a witch in disguise!

With those happy memories in mind, that is the simple and sweet kind of Halloween I wanted to create for Jessica…and I think I succeeded this year.

When she came downstairs yesterday morning, she found the cadron from her Room On The Broom story sack on her little table with a chocolate pumpkin from Hotel Chocolat inside…I decided quality over quantity was the way to go!

Then when she changed our calendar blocks, and opened her little box to take out the coloured peg doll for the day (Tuesdays are red) she found a little peg doll witch I had made for her.

Then it was off to preschool for the morning. Usually it is a whole day on Tuesday, but I picked her up after lunch and we hopped on the bus to see Mum. Mum lives in the little town where I was born, and is in a cul-de-sac with lovely neighbours, and always has a steady stream of really nice trick-or-treaters.

Jessica changed into her skeleton costume and then sat and helped make the sweetie bundles for the children. Mum had cut squares of orange tissue paper (we couldn’t find crepe this year) and lengths of string, and we set Jessica up with thosw and a bag of marshmallow ghosts, a tub of ‘Roses’ style chocolates and a tub of fizzy and gummy haribo. She counted out one of each into the middle of a piece of tissue then gave it to me for tying. She took such care counting and choosing, and then did a specially nice bundle for her Daddy.

I assumed she might lose interest after a while, or just want to eat all the sweeties but I was so wrong! She asked before she tried the sweeties and kept going until all the marshmallow ghosts were used up, and she had made 60 bundles! (And spookily enough, we had 60 trick-or-treaters!)

We piled the bundles into a plastic cauldron and Jessica changed into her witches costume, and waited for the first knock at the door.

She was so excited. Every time she gave each trick-or-treater a bundle saying ‘sweeties for you, sweeties for you, open them when you get home, happy Hallowbeen!’. She was dancing with excitement at each knock, and it was just lovely to be around.

I changed her into her pyjamas before we left for home, and I wasn’t surprised when she was asleep before we turned out onto the main road.

Her fourth Halloween already, it hardly seems possible. But hopefully we are planting seeds of beautiful happy memories for her.

I hope you had a lovely Halloween too!

(Poor Carl wasn’t forgotten…he had to work so we put a satsuma decorated with a pumpkin face in his lunchbox, and gave him a pumpkin bathbomb from Lush…..not the glittery one as that would have been more trick than treat for him!)

(Icing a bakewell tart with Grandma)

With Grandma in the kitchen.

One tired out little Witchy…