Archive for the ‘Tuesday Ten’ Category

Well, I haven’t managed to do a Tuesday 10 for a while since I restarted, but here I am again.

My garden is a work in progress – long term readers will remember that we started re-landscaping last year. Since then, we were overtaken by work, pregnancy and needing to replace all the pipes in the house because water was coming through the ceilings. So the garden is, to put it mildly, not what I hoped for. The flower beds are either overgrown or dug over and covered to await replanting. The veg beds are no more – we removed the last lot and didn’t manage to build more. Hey ho. But despite that, there are still some signs of spring.

The primulas are out – including the ones I transplanted from the bed that was dug up. They have survived being transplanted at completely the wrong time of year and look marvellous:

And there are primroses everywhere – they’ve even spread into the lawn, which makes me very happy. I’m not someone who longs for an immaculate lawn (which is probably a good thing, all things considered…)

The daisies are up and out and being ruthlessly picked by Miss S&S the Elder:

There are lots of new leaves:

And lots of new lambs:

And my herb pots by the back door are showing signs of life – my parsley:

And my mint:

I shamefully ignored my strawberry plants last year. They’ve sat outside in all weathers, but I have a few flowers, which is more than I deserve!

The marvellous magnolia stellata is going over now, but here’s a picture I took a week or so ago:

And the cherry blossom is out in force:

Plenty to gladden the heart even without the flowerbeds … but next year will be better!

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As previously mentioned, Littlest S&S is a hungry wee girl, and likes to eat a lot. She also likes being cuddled a lot, and will frequently wake up and scream if she’s put down, and need to be fed to relieve the trauma. So, I have been more adept at finding things I can do while feeding that aren’t reading and watching DVDs. I’m doing quite a bit of both of those, but the attraction fades after a while – yes, I can have too much reading time! Who’d have thought? I do find it frustrating sometimes, as having another person attached to you is quite limiting. My house is not at all how I’d like it, the garden is running rampant and I’ve not a seed sown, the children are watching more TV than I usually allow and my husband is usurping my role as cake baker (he’s annoyingly good at cakes already), so in true ‘counting my blessings’ style, here’s a list of the things I can do:

1. Daydreaming. I do a lot of this, especially during night feeds when it’s dark. So not really daydreaming, but still. At first it was frustrating to have to think rather than do, but after 4 weeks I have elevated daydreaming to an art form.

2. Talking on the phone. I now schedule my chats with my mum and my friends for the times I’m going to be feeding, as it feels like a waste of non-feeding time otherwise.

3. Crocheting. I can’t knit, but I’ve discovered that I can crochet. Reasonably quickly if Madam is dining on the left, more slowly if she’s eating on the right. I’ll show you what I’m crocheting later.

4. Reading to the older children. I can’t really play with them much, but I can read to them – as long as they fetch the books. And turn the pages.

Thanks to the sling (a babycarrier), there are some other things I can do – the sling gives me both hands free and allows me to move about, but I can’t do anything that involves a lot of leaning forward (so no hanging laundry or doing the dishwasher). But I can:

5. Vacuuming. I can’t sweep or mop, as bringing both hands across my body squishes the baby and causes protests, but can push the vacuum with one hand.This has the added bonus of being white noise, which the baby finds very soothing.

6. Walking the dog. The dog appreciates this, and getting out of the house for fresh air is very good for me, too.

7. Typing. I’m not actually feeding as I type, but I could!

8. Eating a meal sitting at the table. This is very useful as we’re trying to keep our routines and family meals are very important to us, and the sling means we can all eat together.

9. Important self maintenance: I can go to the loo and make a cup of tea, for example, or get some food. When the baby is 90 minutes into a 4 hour milk-bender, this is very important.

10. Nothing. I’m usually pretty keen to be doing something, so I’m surprised by how much time I spend doing nothing. Apart from gazing at my baby and stroking her petal-soft cheeks and nuzzling her silky hair. Sometimes she seems to know I’m looking and opens one eye. She really is alarmingly cute, and although the long feeds can be frustrating and exhausting, I look at my older children and it is clear how short this phase really is. Someone once said that when you have small children, the years are short and the days are long – and it is very, very true.

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We’ve had a somewhat unseasonal cold snap lately – a village near us was the coldest place in the UK one night – at minus 18 degrees C. Brrrr! The snow started falling a week past Friday, and it’s still there. We haven’t had any post since … a week past Thursday, and it has made the logistics a bit difficult. I am dreading the fuel bills, too.

But it is terribly pretty, so here are some pictures.

These were hanging outside the bathroom window:

And it’s not just outside. I saw some very pretty snowflake window stickers in a catalogue, but being too much of a skinflint thrifty to spend what they were asking, I made some snowflakes out of paper (you remember, the sort you make by folding paper and snipping it) and hung them in the window on lengths of cotton. I have done the living room and kitchen windows, and as they look so pretty from the outside, I plan to do the whole house in time for Christmas. I love the way they turn in the air currents – it gives a nice ‘snowfall’ effect.

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Last week, I sent a big set of proofs back to the publisher and breathed a sigh of relief. The job was done and I had a whole week with no work booked in. I started thinking of all the things I would be able to do. And then, not two hours after the proofs had gone to the post office, the phone rang. Would I do a big web edit, starting next week?

I hate turning down work, especially big, well paid jobs. So, I’m working. I know, I know, I should be glad of the work, glad of the money in the run up to Christmas, all that. But I am still mourning my week ‘off’.

So, here’s what I’d rather be doing.

1. Sorting out the boxes of stuff in the store-room that are causing me guilt and heartsink, and which I suspect contain a few things I’ve been looking for.
2. Having some serious guilt-free knitting time.
3. Moving my office into the outbuilding so I have space to work properly.
4. Taking really long walks with the camera and the dog, rather than the quick ‘down the lane and back’ gallops.
5. Attacking the paperwork mountain in the kitchen.
6. Experimenting with some new wheat-free cake recipes.
7. Clearing the horror that is my flower bed.
8. Reading one of the proper ‘literary’ novels on the pile rather than the froth I read when I’ve been working all day.
9. Reading one of those novels in bed, in the afternoon, while the children are at nursery.
10. Making Christmas shopping lists. I love making lists, I love giving presents. Present lists are the very best.

Ah well. Another time.

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It’s getting to that time of year again. We don’t have broadcast TV Chez Sowandsew – we have a set and a DVD player, though, and it’s during the colder months that it gets most use. So I have found myself thinking about curling up with a good film of an evening. Here are ten films that I could happily watch over and over again. They’re far from being the best films ever made (well, most of them are) and they’re possibly not all films I would pick if I were only allowed ten films for the rest of my life (although some of them are). They’re just films which I love, know almost backwards, and am always happy to watch. With one exception, they’re quite cosy films, like a warm jumper or a snuggly blanket. So, in no particular order:

Kind Hearts and Coronets
Because it’s clever and silly and touching and completely mental. Which is not something one can often say about a film concerned with serial murder, but there you are.

Dirty Dancing
Yes, it’s a cliche that all girls like Dirty Dancing. I don’t know if they do – but I do. Terrible script aside, it’s just brilliant. The music! The dancing! The villainous villain! The dramatic-yet-romantic denoument! Great stuff.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen this film. I love it. I love the ideas behind it, the attention to detail, the fact that it deals with real human truths yet takes itself not at all seriously. Also, it’s funny. And the kiss at the end is one of my favourites in all of cinema.

Galaxy Quest
I took some persuasion to see this as it looks like a sci-fi film and sci-fi isn’t really my thing. But Mr Sowandsew was convinced I’d like it and tried every tack. ‘It’s not really sci-fi!’. ‘You’ll like it, honestly!’ ‘Look, it’s got Alan Rickman in it!’ So I watched it. It’s very good, very funny, and yes, it has Alan Rickman in it and he steals the show. If you haven’t seen it, please watch it. It’s not really sci-fi. And it’s got Alan Rickman in it.

Need I explain? ‘We’ll always have Paris…’

Brief Encounter
Oh my Lord, Brief Encounter. I’m misting up just thinking about it. ‘I’ve been so foolish. I’ve fallen in love. I’m an ordinary woman. I didn’t think such violent things could happen to ordinary people.’ Sniffwailsob. So heartbreaking – high drama but so very, very English.

V for Vendetta
The odd one out – it’s not cosy or comforting. It’s dark and violent and dystopian and occasionally very nasty indeed. But it’s really clever and thought provoking and brilliantly written, and I’ll never get tired of it.

Strictly Ballroom
Oh, this is fabulous. The acting is wobbly in places and the chemistry between the two leads is almost non-existent, but it’s still wonderful fun. Something is rotten at the heart of Australian Ballroom Dancing. Hilarious costumes, brilliant one-liners and some fantastic set-piece characters. And flashy, crowd-pleasing moves, of course.

OK, lots of the reason I like this is because I want to be Juliette Binoche and I wouldn’t turn Johnny Depp down. (Um, I mean, if I were still single, of course…) But it’s a lovely film. It has toned down a lot of the sting of the book, which makes it that bit fluffier, but also cosier and rainy-Sunday-afternoon-ish.

The Princess Bride
Pure silliness, but I defy anyone not to love this fairy tale. Brilliant cameos (including my favourite by Peter Cook) and eminently quotable lines.

I’m now really looking forward to snuggling down with a DVD one evening…

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I started doing Pilates when my daughter was six weeks old. I actually had my six week check and my first Pilates class on the same day! My friend D had rhapsodised about Pilates and how good it was, and I loved it from the first class. So, as I approach my third Pilates anniversary, here are ten things about my experience of Pilates.

1. I like the fact that you go at your own pace. The teacher demonstrates the sequence, does the first set with us and then we’re able to work our way through it at our own pace and speed. This means I can really focus on what I’m doing as I don’t need to watch anyone else.

2. It really is cumulative. Some exercises seem impossible the first time you do them, but eventually they become manageable, and then finally quite straightforward. And the brilliant thing is, the exercises all link together. So you will do exercise A and it’ll be really hard. Then you may not do it again for a few weeks, but then you do exercise A again and it’s easier, because exercises B, C, D and E have made the muscles you need stronger.

3. I carried on going to class until I was 36 weeks pregnant with the Little Boy. Obviously, by the end I couldn’t do anything that involved lying on my front or my back, and I took everything very gently, but it was still brilliant to do the stretches and the standing and side lying exercises. I have no way of knowing whether the fact that I had an 80 minute labour and phenomenally quick recovery had anything to do with the Pilates, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

4. It’s fantastic for my back – this is one of the big plusses of Pilates. Strengthening the core muscles protects your back. It also dovetails well with osteopathy: for a long time I’d get early warning in class that things were stiffening up and it was time to see the osteopath, but a few months ago, my osteopath could tell I’d missed some Pilates classes just from the state of my back.

5. Although she’s very nice, I think our Pilates teacher has a small sadistic streak. ‘I expect you’d like this to be your last set, wouldn’t you?’ ‘Eight more, because I know how much you love these…’ She’ll count to eight for your planks and then initiate conversation between five and six until somebody howls, ‘Nobody talk to her!’ When I had the Little Boy, the girls from my class sent me a card. She wrote, ‘Congratulations! Zip up! Love Lucy xx’

6. It’s really easy to work to your level and within what your body can do. All exercises can be adapted to make them easier or more challenging. Our class has young dance teachers, people with injuries and women in their seventies, all tailoring the same exercises.

7. On the two days after a class I can usually feel the effects somewhere. Often it’s the abdominals (although less so as I’ve done it for longer) but the bottom, the thighs and the backs of the shoulders are other common hit points. If I’ve missed a few classes then after the first one back the ‘after effects’ are more noticeable – and often involve creaking and groaning.

8. I used to hate my upper arms. I don’t any more.

9. Our teacher always jokes about how we can practice at home, but recently I have started doing just that. Not big sessions, but five or ten minutes here or there. It’s quite a good way to see if I can manage a harder version before trying it out in class…

10. Even though I frequently feel like I’m dying during class, and ache for a couple of days afterwards, I do everything I can to avoid missing classes. I really love what Pilates does for me, what I find I can make my body do – and having an hour to concentrate on doing it. I can’t imagine ever giving it up.

Any other Pilates fans out there? Or do you love another form of exercise?

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So, last week’s Tuesday Ten was a list of things I wanted to do other than work, and I’m sure you’re all desperate to find out how I did, so here are ten things I did since last Tuesday.

1. Clear out the polytunnel – yes, achieved. I have cleared and composted and pruned and it’s now looking much better, plus the plants are all in the right places. The vine has had a good year (and now a haircut) and we have oodles of grapes.

The hot spring followed by lots of rain means that the fruit is plump and sweet. They are having to be rationed, not because of a shortage, but because of the effect excess grape consumption has on nappies…

2. Pot on my young trees – done. The silver birch was almost audibly sighing with relief.

3. Plant my Christmas bulbs – yes, all done. The cellar steps are now covered with pots of hyacinths, crocuses and anemones.

I was hunting around for suitable containers in the end, but found enough, and come Christmas we should, all being well, have lots of scented loveliness to cheer the house and to give away. The amaryllis and narcissus will be done in a few weeks – time to start scouring charity shops for bowls…

4. A box of oddments went to the nursery today and was greeted with rapture.

5. Finish reading ‘Wolf Hall’. Well, I hit a snag here. I went to renew my books (online) and found that one of them had been requested, so I had until Friday to read it. So I did. It was People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, and I heartily recommend it. So I am only two-thirds of the way through Wolf Hall. Half marks for that, I think!

6. I have my tax paperwork ready for my accountant. It was quite time consuming but I did feel virtuous – and also rewarded as I found that one of my invoices hadn’t been paid and chased it up.

7. I got out and took some photographs of the autumn colour:

8. I made not one cake, but two. One was an apple and cinnamon cake, the other a lemon drizzle (I use Mary Berry’s recipe – in as much as I follow any recipe without tweaking; I use far more lemon than she suggests – and it’s gorgeous). Yum yum.

9. I picked up the cardigan, and true to my prediction, I didn’t finish it. But I did finish the other front panel, joined the fronts to the back and have done a third of the collar. So that’s pretty good going and takes me closer to finishing.

10. Order has been restored to the bathroom cupboard – and I’ve found some things I thought had gone forever. And discovered that I shan’t need to buy soap for years.

9 and a half out of 10, I think!

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