Sunday, January 31, 2010

The past several days and nights have been beautifully clear, with almost no clouds in the sky. Cold, of course, but the snow is completely gone, thank goodness. I took this picture of the moon above the trees last night; I adjusted the levels of light on my computer (using to distinguish the trees from the dark sky behind. It might be possible to adjust the light meter manually on the camera--I may have to look into it.

I asked Partner if my last post was inflammatory but he said no. Granted, he had a migraine when I asked him...

As it's the last day of January, I have only today to finish my goals for the month. I did manage to crochet a full baby blanket, and am nearly finished piecing together a second. I'm so disappointed I did not have the opportunity to knit a pair of socks. But I've been really good about walking the dog (pretty much five days a week), have submitted both assignments, and sat down to the piano regularly. And I swear I will organize my kitchen cupboards tonight. Right after I finish cooking Sunday lunch, make more granola, and do the laundry. I've promised myself to take weekends off, and not do any studying or housewife-y stuff. Yeah. Like that's going to happen.

Partner asked if we could have some ready-made food in the fridge--things to snack on that are filling and tasty. I think what he wants (and what I'd prefer) are cold deli foods like quiche, pasta salad, potato salad, deviled eggs, etc. The only restriction on these items are that they must be home-made. Two reasons for this: a)it's cheaper, and b)it's a far superior quality. Therefore I'm looking for ideas of deli foods I can make that aren't too time-consuming. This week I made both a huge Greek-style pasta salad (the kind with fresh vegetables, olives, and vinaigrette), and a broccoli and cheese quiche. Much as we both have enjoyed eating these, I can't very well make the same thing time and time again. Any ideas?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making a home

I enjoy making little things, like this gift tag, using my scrapbooking skills. I'm not actually a scrapbooker--more like a cardmaker really. Scrapbooks can be really nice, of course, and though we almost never get printed photos now, I was thinking I might make a sort of scrapbook journal for the baby. Maybe. I could simply do a plain written journal. Any new hobby I might pick up would only encroach on my other hobbies; I just may not have enough time to start scrapbooking.

I'm trying to take my responsibilities as a (probably temporary) stay-at-home wife and mother-to-be seriously. I actually think one of the best ways to show your spouse your love is to have dinner ready when he/she gets home from work. When I was still working, if Partner got home first he'd cook for me, or if I was home I'd cook for him. I always really appreciated having something hot and home-cooked waiting for me when I got home; I know he appreciates it, too. There was once a time I was only cooking two meals a week--my two days off. These days it's mostly five days a week, though I do sometimes cook on Partner's days off too.

I think having a clean and tidy house shows respect for the people you live with. When we had a lodger I felt more obligated to change the sheets regularly, vacuum, dust, wash the dishes, etc. But really, we should do these things out of love, not duty (I say we because I'm not the only one who lives in this house!). I certainly feel more calm and relaxed in a clean and tidy home than a messy one.

In fact, I would say it's the responsibility of living with another person: when one lives alone, one is free to be as messy or tidy as one pleases. When one lives with another person, both must operate to the wishes of the person with the highest standards--or there could be unpleasant repercussions like resentment and arguments. Not to go too deeply into gender politics, but I don't think many men realize this responsibility, hence the tendency of women to do more household chores than men. As I'm home full-time for the present, naturally I can and will do most of the chores. In this particular case, the person who is not home full-time can contribute to the housework by not making it harder! For example: not dropping dirty laundry on the floor but putting it in the basket, or replacing items to their proper place when finished using them: in general this means cleaning up after oneself, not leaving it for the "maid" or "elves."

I know I've complained that Partner doesn't appear to notice the need for housework, and that if I want a tidy, clean house I either have to ask him when I want something done (in which case he's doing me a favor rather than taking equal responsibility) or just do it myself. I'm trying to get across that it IS a responsibility, not just for the person who cares about it, but the person who cares about that person.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cupcakes for birthdays

We celebrated Partner's birthday this week. My birthday last month was pretty lousy, and I don't want to go into it, but Partner's was good: well, mostly; he still had to work, and then our childbirth class was scheduled for that evening, so we spent two hours at the hospital as well. Afterwards, however, we walked up the hill to a nice Indian restaurant. In addition, I made some cupcakes (they are called fairy cakes in this country) from our favorite recipe, which I would like to share--be warned, you will need a set of scales:

Genoise Cupcakes

-4 ounces (weight) sugar
-4 eggs
-1/2 tsp vanilla
-4 ounces (weight) self-raising flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted)
-Pinch of salt

1)Preheat the oven to 375F. Depending on the size of your cupcake tins, this will make about 12-15 cupcakes; have muffin cups ready in the tins, or if not using muffin cups, grease and coat the cupcake tins with sugar. 2)Using an electric mixer, whisk the sugar, eggs, and vanilla for 10 minutes. The mixture will be tripled in volume, nearly white, and form soft peaks. 3)Very gently, sift the flour and salt into the egg mixture in three batches, folding each batch in. It is important not to overmix at this point. 4)Divide the batter into the cupcake tins, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the tops are light gold, springy, and a toothpick comes out clean. 5)Let cool in the tins for about 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

And if you wish a very quick, tasty frosting here is enough to cover the above recipe:

Butter Frosting

-3 ounces (weight) butter
-6 ounces (weight) icing/powdered sugar
-1/4 tsp vanilla
-1 or 2 Tbsp milk
-2 or 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (optional--leave out if you want vanilla frosting)

1)Beat the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. 2)Add the vanilla and enough milk to make the frosting spreadable. 3)Add the cocoa powder if desired, and blend in completely. Use immediately--do not refrigerate.

I've had a bad case of the blahs this weekend. I think it's the hormones. I'm so tired all the time--as in I want to sleep all day--and I feel like an alien spawn is ready to burst out of my skin. I'm still working on my schoolwork and my current crochet projects so even though I'm seriously demotivated, at least I don't feel like a complete failure on top of it. If I may share a tip for helping cope with the blahs: eat lots of fruit. I don't know what it is, but about half an hour after eating an apple and an orange, I usually have a bit more drive to sit down to the piano or wash the dishes or whatever.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On being a loner

This is a scanned image of a badly printed photo from my work's New Year's Eve party. I think the original image is floating about on facebook somewhere, but as I'm not on facebook (I seriously cannot be bothered, even though I like keeping in contact with people) I don't have access to that image. Partner's on facebook. I'm sure he could find it if he wanted. But I think he spends far far too much time on it. The amount of time he spends (cough*wastes*cough) on it is what makes me not want to sign up.

So I was still able to fit into my Christmas dress, but only just. I have a feeling I wouldn't be able to squeeze into it now without readjusting the fit. I also wore my movie star coat--it's actually a man's coat, so it normally fits me very loosely. But not any more! I can also barely wrap it around me. And Partner wore a brand new bow tie I made for him. It was a costumed event, so we told people we were Richard Whiteley and Carol Vordeman (two British game show personalities--think Pat Sajack/Vanna White). We didn't actually dress up as them; we were merely in our party clothes. I had worked the breakfast shift that morning; I got up at 5.50AM, so by the time 11PM rolled around I was ready to curl up on a bar stool and sleep. But I made it to midnight, did the countdown, pretended to sing the song (does anyone actually know the words to "Auld Lang Syne"?), then at 12.02 sleepwalked out and drove home. I had originally said to Partner that I would try to stay till 1AM, but just couldn't do it.

On my last shift at work, nearly all of my coworkers stopped by to wish me well and remind me that they want to see the baby when he's born. Probably their appearance was coincidental, but I appreciated it all the same. They also got me a big bouquet of flowers. I was very touched. I enjoyed working there (for the most part) because the people were friendly and it was good to go into work and have a chat. Now I'm at home most of the time and don't see many people during the day. I have made an effort to chat with random strangers I've been thrown together with, for example, waiting for the bus, or in childbirth class, to satisfy my socializing needs. I may even pop over to the neighbors' across the street if I get too lonely.

I looked into volunteer work in our area. It looks like a lot of projects available are simply no good for me in my condition. I can't be in contact with germs, so I must stay away from sick people and the general public; I also can't do any work that might injure me, so working with animals or anything with vehicles/lifting/physical work just won't do. The other charity work I looked at which seemed safe enough (like girl scouts and meals on wheels) require a background check. I had to have one when I worked at the care home, and I already know it takes a few weeks to come back. I only have eight weeks before my due date! I think I should have planned this a while ago; it seems too late now. Maybe I'll have to join facebook after all*.

*I will never ever join facebook. Ever.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Non-gardening and survival

Last night Partner said to me in a hurt voice, "You haven't written a new post yet."


Not that anything momentous is happening. The whole garden blog thing has completely gone out the window since it began snowing a month ago. Of course, winter isn't usually the big gardening scene anyway. I think this time last year I was quite ill with a lung infection (I could have sworn it was pneumonia, but apparently not) so not much garden action then either. I guess there are a few seeds which can be planted indoors this time of year--I definitely planted snapdragons and nicotiana a few years back in January. No fresh flower arrangements either--but I've been buying cheap flowers from the grocery store. Like seriously cheap. These carnations had been reduced from £4.00 to £0.40. Last month I bought two bunches of flowers for £0.75 and they lasted two weeks.

We have not had such a prolonged cold spell since I've lived here (five years now) and I have a feeling some of my plants which normally survive the winter will not. I think the shrubs and bushes will be ok, but I'm worried about the herbaceous perennials (like snapdragons, lilies, etc). I was a conscientious gardener and dug up my dahlias, geraniums, and gladiolas after the first frost in December; they at least are safe in tubs in the garage.

The weather has also changed my outlook on survival, to some extent, on two key points: heating and food. We've heard on the news that some people are tripling their gas and electricity bills this winter because of the extreme cold. For the most part, this is just ridiculous. I guess if a family has a newborn baby, maybe they need the heat cranked up full-time, but honestly: do what I do and put on another sweater, wrap up in a blanket, whatever. I haven't changed my heating use and I haven't got frostbite yet. If we lost our gas or electricity supply, I'm sure we wouldn't freeze to death.

And food. We normally have enough food in the house for one week of good quality, fresh-made meals; or two to three weeks of rationed meals (for instance I got creative recently with some spagetti, olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, and a can of salmon--and Partner thought it was great). We generally go shopping once a week; I never realized how much this depends on us having a car and access to the roads. Last week the roads were virtually unpassable for the likes of us, so Partner took a canvas shopping bag to work two days in a row and bought some emergency supplies during his lunch hour to bring home on the train. When I saw the weather last night, I decided we had better go shopping while we still could and get plenty. I might do some research into dry food storage, for occasions like these. It's our joke that when we run out of food, at least we'll still have fish in the pond and grass on the lawn; but now both grass and pond are iced over!

Friday, January 08, 2010

The typical day

I can envision myself posting on this blog a bit more often seeing as I'm not obligated to go to work for several months. And then, I can see myself not having much time to devote once the baby's born. I don't want this blog to be a "once a month update on my kid" sort of thing. This blog is about me and my life in particular, and while my child is definitely part of my life (and is soon to be a very big part) I still want to have something of an identity apart from him. And also because I get really bored reading blogs that are only about someone else's children. It strikes me that people who write only about their kids must not have any sort of interests outside of their kids--and that sounds like a frustrating kind of life. It would be for me, anyway.

So today, a typical day of not-at-work, I got up a bit late--maybe 9.15. Mostly I'm up before nine, though I blame both Partner (woke me up at 11 last night) and the pregnancy (woke me up about five more times). I don't consider myself a lark or an owl. There have been times in the past when my schedule demanded that I stay up late, so I would therefore get up late. But I really don't have a problem going to bed early and getting up early--in fact I prefer it.

Once up I get dressed immediately and do something with my hair (French braid today) and dab on some moisturizer. I can't be bothered with makeup at the moment. Dressed, I saunter down the stairs and collect any dishes or (gasp) dirty laundry scattered about and put it in its rightful place. I open curtains and head straight for the back door to put on my wellies. They aren't particularly comfy shoes and I don't wear them in the house, but I find that putting them on before I eat keeps the dog from barking at me. Because she knows that shoes+coat=walk. And she also knows that she is not allowed in the dining room when people are sat at the table. Which is where I will be eating breakfast. A bit convoluted, I know, but the way she gets worked up over walking seriously irritates me.

So anyway. Here I am in my wellies sat down at the table eating my (homemade) granola and (homemade) yogurt, with a book open. I also generally go for a glass of juice but it appears we're out today. Once the breakfast is in the tummy, I quietly put on my coat and try not to get too exasperated at the dog bouncing up and down. Dog goes straight on leash, we go out. No barking today, at least. She is responding to the hush training, by the way. Sporadically.

We walk through the still-heavy snow (got another dusting last night) to the wildlife area, and decide to go the full way around instead of just the half-way which we have been doing recently. Reason for this is that the snow is so thick, walking through it much more of a work-out, so I get tired quicker. Dog goes off the leash and I pretend I don't know her if she does something impolite in front of someone else (no embarrassments today).

Once home, the dog goes back inside to have a drink and get warmed up, but I grab the patio broom from the garage and sweep off the snow from the driveway. I already shoveled the main snowfall off several days ago, but have been sweeping it off every day to keep it from getting icy. We're the only house on the street (probably the only house in the village!) that has a clear driveway. I don't think anyone else shoveled that first day when we got a good six inches, and the result is that it iced over and can't really be shoveled now: just chipped at.

So. My drive and paths to front and back doors are again clear. I go back inside for my drink and warming-up. Once inside I check emails and reply to one or two (I try to get back to people within a week), get slightly distracted reading various blogs, make the bed, call Partner at work to ask him to bring home milk and dishsoap, and generally just sit around. After a lunch of leftover casserole, I watch the news to see the weather report--more ice and snow. Then I read a chapter for my class with a throw blanket around me because it's COLD.

Which brings me up to date. Now I shall go into the kitchen to make more granola, put away clean dishes from last night, and possibly have something else to eat. Later I will work on a crocheted baby blanket and when the heating comes on I will practice piano for a bit (fingers too numb now). Partner is making dinner tonight, despite the fact that he is getting home from work a bit late. But we're having his favorite and specialty: fish and chips.

That's it then: my typical day.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Not much, just snow

So it's not a big deal to my high-elevation dwelling readers, and yet it's completely dominated my life for the past two weeks or so. The snow, of course. And it's not just me. It's the whole country. Today we've had maybe five inches. So far. Because it's still snowing and has been since 6.30AM. When I left for work this morning, it hadn't snowed. Well, there was still about half an inch on the ground from the last snowfall. Just as I took the turnoff into work it started and still has not stopped at 2PM. I drove back from work three hours early because at the time there was three or four inches surrounding my car and I was worried about getting out of the parking lot. Thankfully the main road was treated, the secondary road was not bad, and the road through our village was passable. It was only about two blocks on side streets that had me white-knuckled. This is my car in the driveway, after I've been home two hours. I don't think I'm going out driving again any time soon. So I may not be working tomorrow either. I may even have to cancel my dentist appointment in two days; I just watched the weather report: more heavy snow for the rest of the week.

I am due to begin my maternity leave at the beginning of next week. In some ways, I wish I was working for longer. If I were working longer, I would be getting paid longer. And I still have ten weeks to go before the due date, so I don't know how I'm going to pass the time till then. But on the positive side, I won't have to drive in snowy, icy conditions any more, or worry about getting knocked over or slipping. My next course starts at the end of this month so I will have more time to devote to my studies--time I will no doubt need as it's a moderately advanced mathematics course.

In other news, I've been writing down goals for the year. Not resolutions: goals. I was thinking about my many crafting hobbies, and how I don't have the time to indulge them all simultaneously. So I thought, maybe I should concentrate on a single crafting hobby a month. Then I thought, I don't have twelve separate hobbies. But...I could split them into six. And set project crafts for each hobby. So far I've got about four months' worth of projects. And of course I've got goals which are not craft-related. I'm even open to suggestions for my goals. Setting and keeping goals gives me a warm happy feeling. Like I'm improving myself and making the world a better place.