Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Monthly Munch: September 2015

This month we have had to adjust to being parents of an actual school student!  The amount of new information has been almost as bewildering for us as for him, but we are starting to get our heads around the mysteries of phonics, online communication and what to take for show and tell.

September sunflowers

We've enjoyed plenty of warm sunny days, so the boys have been getting lots of outdoor play.  At this time of year you feel like you want to soak up every last minute of sunlight before the cold and dark close in.  I've been painting the fence.

Toby

- started primary school!  We've had some tears and fears, but gradually the worries are dying down and the enjoyment is creeping up.  He's already won a certificate for an excellent picture of his house.

Walking to school, first day.

OBE: Our Best Ever

- got to sit in the driver's seat of a winning racecar at Donington racetrack


-achieved a childhood rite of passage by falling off his bike into stinging nettles.  He got stung all up one arm, poor kid, but recovered fairly quickly.


- is really good at swinging himself on the swing.  With just a little push to get started, he can get himself going high.

Theo

- walked all the way to the "big" playground, about 1/3 of a mile - with detours to splash in every puddle, stomp on every drain cover and eat every blackberry.

Beware!  Boy with big stick!


- is into personal grooming.  He points at his toothbrush and says "teee", and tries to comb his own hair.  He still hates having his face wiped, though.

- is great friends with the little girl next door.  He calls her "Pappa" (for Poppy) and runs to give her a hug every time he sees her.

At Stowe Gardens (not a temple)

Thankful for:

- our new car.  The Renault we acquired in a rush when we got back to the UK had lasted far longer than we ever expected (which was about 6 months, quite frankly), but it was at its last gasp.  Graham found a very well-maintained Rover 75 for a great price, which has taken its place next to the MG to give us a pair of classic British cars.

- my great husband, who I can trust to handle all this car-buying stuff.  He does all the research and I try to make intelligent noises when he tells me about engine sizes and fuel economy.  Plus he saved us a ton of money on the insurance, so he's definitely earned his keep this month!

- getting to see the lunar eclipse, even if it did result in remarkably little sleep that night.


Recipe of the Month: Chocolate fruit & nut flapjack


I had the flavours of a Cadburys Fruit & Nut bar in mind - milk chocolate, currants and hazelnuts.  It's actually the second time I've made it now, but the first time it vanished before I could photograph it.  Doesn't look so good when you're taking a picture of a few crumbs...


4 oz golden syrup
8 oz sugar
12 oz hard margarine or butter
1 lb rolled porridge oats
4 oz currants
4 oz hazelnuts, roughly bashed or chopped
4 oz milk or dark chocolate chips

Grease and line an 8"x13" baking tin.  Melt the margarine in a large bowl (2 minutes in the microwave), then add the syrup and sugar and heat for another 2-3 minutes.  Or you can put all three ingredients in a large saucepan and melt them together that way.  Then add the oats and mix really well.  If you're using a wooden spoon it'll definitely make your arm ache, but keep going until it's all coming together in a cohesive lump.  It makes the texture much better, I promise you.  If you're fortunate enough to have a stand mixer, don't give it longer than 5 minutes or it will get too airy.

I admit to going metric with the additions, because chocolate chips come in 100g packets, which is actually about 3.5 oz.  But the main flapjack recipe is so neat in Imperial and converts to annoying half-grams in metric.  So there you go.  Measure out 100g or 3 or 3.5 or 4 oz, or figure it out in cups, or toss in a couple of handfuls.  The important thing is, DON'T PUT THE CHOCOLATE IN YET!  Mix in the currants and nuts first.  The chocolate melts really quickly in the warm mixture, so chuck it in last, give it one quick stir to distribute the chips, and get it in the tin quick.  Give it a good smooth out - it won't spread by itself in the oven, so make sure you squish it into the corners and make it nice and flat.  Put it in the oven at 180C/350F and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Leave to cool before removing from the tin and cutting.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Templa Quam Delecta: Stowe Gardens

I was puzzled.  Why temples?  Temples to friendship, ancient virtue, concord and victory - all wonderful things, to be sure, but why fill your garden with temples to them?  Was it merely that ancient Greece happened to be in vogue?  Did they make useful places to sit down as you roamed the many landscaped acres?  Or was there some other reason?

As I scanned the Wikipedia article, (which, by the way, has more information than you'll ever want to know about Stowe), this line caught my eye: "...below which is the Temple family motto TEMPLA QUAM DELECTA (How Beautiful are thy Temples)."

The Temple family.  Aha.  Light dawned.





We had stopped at Stowe Gardens on the way back from my parents' house.  It is only a short distance from our usual route, and moreover, owned by the National Trust, so our membership entitled us to free entry.  A quick lunch break on a sunny bench fueled us up for the half-mile walk to the gardens.  Toby and Theo raced each other on the gravel path, and paused to investigate berries, sticks and duckweed-smothered ponds.  We passed the ha-ha and entered the world of temples.




Stowe House was certainly built for grand effect.  The south front is a great pile of steps, columns, urns, balustrades and general neoclassical glory, all overlooking a sweep of striped lawn sloping down to a reed-fringed lake.  The grounds were designed to walk around; as you circle the lakes temples pop out of the trees, and views open up before you.  There are plenty of bridges to hang over, nooks to explore, and arches to pose in front of.




The house is now a school.  The founder was of the opinion that boys responded well to being educated in beautiful surroundings - which, once you get past the inverse-snobbery of, "Who has enough money to send their child to a place like this?", is probably quite true.  If only every student had the opportunity.  The Stowe House Trust offers tours of the house, although we decided against it on this occasion.  Toby was sorely disappointed; I appreciated (with some frustration) the irony of my four-year-old crying because we were not touring a stately home.





He was comforted by finding "the biggest pumpkin ever" in the kitchen garden next to the New Inn, now the National Trust visitor centre.  On that more homely note, we left the grandness of Stowe and its temples, and headed back to our more humble residence. 


Sunday, 13 September 2015

No one could blame you.

On Friday 11 September, British Members of Parliament discussed an Assisted Dying Bill, which would enable doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to patients with less than six months to live, if the patient requested it.

No one could blame you.
Save six months of pricey meds.
Free up one of those hospice beds.
One less mouth that must be fed.
No one could blame...

No one could blame you.
Save your family from the shame.
Free them from the waiting game.
You won't even know their name.
No one could...

No one could blame you.
Save yourself from all the pain.
Freedom from that endless strain.
Wouldn't it be more humane?
No one...

No one could blame you.
Save yourself with one small pill.
Freedom comes when all is still.
All it takes is your free will.
No.

The bill was rejected, with 118 in favour and 330 against.