Thursday, 25 March 2010

Time and motion mum

I have been thinking lot lately about how much time I do and do not get to myself during the day, where time goes, and how I should prioritise it. I do not give a fig for a tidy home, luckily, but I do need a hygienic one. I do not relish playing the stupid dinosaur game a million times in a row, but I know it is beneficial for the kids. I absolutely detest playdough ("here's another sausage mummy, look, look, LOOK" "You know what? Make something else") but I like it better than cleaning the loo and finding son's weird boy wee has corroded the fittings AGAIN. I am stuggling, in short, to balance the hygiene/ dutiful mother equation, as well as feeding them where necessary. And husband, of course. He gets the 30 minutes at the end of the day. Unless I have an episode of "Flashforward" to watch, now "Being Human" is ended.

So here, in the manner of the original time and motion pioneers, is my last 24 hours. They measured the units of time and motion in therbligs, the creation of Frank and Lilian Gilbreth, the original Industrial psychologists. I like that it is their surname backwards, with the TH treated as one letter. Maybe they were more fun than they sounded. Either way, you probably know them from "Cheaper by the Dozen" , made into a film. They were the parents with 12 children, who ran their house on industrially efficient means.

11.45: go to son's room, his "feet are peeking out" the duvet, a terrible thing he cannot rectify himself, apparently. Sleep.
12.50: Daughter needs me to fish dummy out from under the bed. (SEARCH)
1am: locate it. Spend 10 minutes persuading her it IS the ruddy yellow one. (FIND)
2.30am: Son is "all shivery" and needs some juice. Take temperature, sense he is bluffing post-illness the other day, and tell him to sleep. Listen to dramatic sighing of son from my room. (INSPECT)4am: Daughter is trapped with a leg through her headboard. Extricate her, sleep, sort of. (POSITION)
6am: Kids get up. I moan. 6-8 is a rush of feeding, dressing, washing, getting out appropriate toys for kids to distract them while I shower. Wave to husband as he gleefully leaves for work. (ASSEMBLE)
8-8.10 I shower, quickly, before entering son's room to confiscate toys which have now become weapons. Dry myself and dress haphazardly with whatever is to hand. (Normally, on a playgroup day I leave the house at 8.30 to get to playgroup, drop son off, take daughter to Toddler group, then pick him up and home for 12.30.)
8.10-9 I make a cup of tea and leave it to go cold while I deal with getting shoes on daughter who likes to say "no, I do it" when she manifestly cannot. Simple tasks take ages. Engage in debate with son as to hat wearing. Yes, it is sunnier but it is also cold. Put in a wash, sort out airing cupboard airing wash from yesterday into piles. Son, daughter, me, him, note: no ironing pile. (POSITION ASSEMBLE)
9-9.30 Kids go mental in garden. Daughter, who needs to get in, refuses the buggy. Son, who should walk, wants it. Long, pointless debate only solved by happy appearance of rubbish trucks which provide distraction. (TRANSPORT LOADED)
9.30-11: I visit post-office, grocers and bank for stuff to fill in, cook, and cry over. Kids buy bits of tat for 10p from charity shops, then lose them instantly. I retrace steps to get tat. Visit bakers, walk slowly home with both kids out the buggy, admiring every woodlouse, ladybird, and twig, and exclaiming "Mind that, it's dog-poo". (PRE_POSITION FOR NEXT OPERATION)
11-11.45: hang out washing. Cook kids lunch. We all watch the terrible "Go Diego Go" whilst eating. Brief silence. (RELEASE LOAD)
11.45-12.15: deal with the inevitable poo aftermath of lunch. Realise I too need the loo. do this with an audience of 2. "Do you need the paper yet mummy?" (RELEASE LOAD 2)
12.15- 12.45: wash up, chop veg for tea, hoover downstairs and mop up milk from floor, real culprit unknown, as both kids now have the talent to lie. (GRASP<>
12.45-1.15: relative peace, if mind numbing boredom, of reading the ladybird "Jack and the beanstalk" 4 times. No, I do not know how many real giants there were. No, Jack probably didn't kill them all. No, adults are tall, not giants. (UNAVOIDABLE DELAY)
1.15-2.30 Quality play with kids. This means playing with the toy cars and stupid fairy boot house. (UNAVOIDABLE DELAY)
2.30-3.45 (yes, that long) taking son round and round the local paths on his bike (recent aquistion, newly learned) pushing daughter on trike and saying "steer as well as pedal! No look out!" (GRASP HOLD POSITION)
3.45-4.30: cook kids tea, and husbands for later, and cake. (GRASP HOLD ASSEMBLE UNAVOIDABLE DELAY)
4.30-5: eating. Pleading to eat the vegetables. (UNAVOIDABLE DELAY)
5-6: chilling out playing games on pc, reading and playing terribly boring dinosaur board game and drawing. INSPECT
6-6.30 Pre bath, get in washing. Whilst kids are running around in the nude, fold and put washing in airing cupboard. Put away set of washing from the airing cupboard. Curse washing. Bath two kids. Argue for 15 mins about hair washing. I win by dint of being taller and armed with a bottle of water. SEARCH FIND SELECT GRASP POSITION INSPECT
6.30-7.15: thankfully dump kids in front of Cbeebies and wash up dinner stuff. Eye wine in fridge. PRE-POSITION FOR NEXT OPERATION
7.15-7.45: bedtime stories and plea bargaining. GRASP HOLD POSITION TRANSPORT UNLOADED
7.46: glass of wine and sewing. REST TO OVERCOME FATIGUE
Husband not in yet, likely to arrive home 30 mins before I go to bed tipsy at 10pm having unpicked the last bit of quilt.

There's not a lot of sitting down there, really. I sat down more teaching all day. And got to poo without an audience. What strikes me is that I am not very good at either side of the equation. The big housework has to wait for weekends, the kids never get undivided attention because a) there are two of them 15 months apart and b) I have to do maintenance cleaning almost perpetually to avoid being buried in debris and dying of disease. I do not understand how women iron as well as all this. How women managed in the days before washing machines (and well I remember my nan's twin tub and the sheer noise of it) and super hoovers I don't know. Maybe I sit and attempt to sew the kids mangled toys and quilts of an evening to show them I love them despite saying "hang on, i've just got to do this" so much. Maybe I should teach them to hoover.

Monday, 22 March 2010

meal planning, not life planning

In a bid to further hack away at our monthly expenditure, I have spent the last few months avidly borrowing recipe books from the local library and trying things out on the kids and spouse. I have been learning the art of MEAL PLANNING (for which, this book has been enormously useful). Yes, at the start of every month I look at the accounts, I look at the cupboards and the freezer, and sit down armed with recipe books to plan those meals. My method is to cook BIG 3 times a week, this leaving me with 3 portions to freeze and use as lunches or teas for me and the kids the following week or week after. The Sunday (or Saturday) roast or "big dish" provides the ingrediants for one or two dinners that week. This is a method that the fabulous Marguerite Patten (right) advocates in her book "How to cook", which despite its' age is a grat guide to eating in season and with thrift, although I have not attempted any of the older offal recipes involving brains and tripe, I have memories of my great grandmother trying to persuade me of tripe boiled in milks delicacy which have quite put me off.

There are no sweets, no extras, and all the veg comes from the old bloke down the road who has a huge veg growing back garden. Lately, in the "hungry gap", this has meant a lot of potato, leek, turnip and Urrgh swede. I have started using nowt but bicarb and essential oils to clean, and this has also helped cut costs without affecting the cleanliness of the house at all. In fact, i Think it's cleaner, and it smells less chemical. Once daughter is potty trained, I can shave more pennies off.

This weeks shop came to £45.00, which was pretty good, I thought. Here is the menu. Playgroup days I make a packed lunch of sandwiches, hummus, veg sticks and cake. This weeks cake is one-stop-apple-cake, i'll pop the recipe on at some point.

Mon: (playgroup day lunch), Leftover fish pie and veg for tea
Tues: Cheese and ham puff pastry bakes with salad for lunch, Pork fried rice and veg for tea, spiced up extra for spouse and I.
Weds: (playgroup lunch), spaghetti, spinach and squash bake (from the annoying Tana Ramsey, but a good recipe despite the godawful photos of her prancing with an apron on that make me want to slap her)
Thurs: Minestrone soup for lunch (last weeks leftovers), venison sausages, mash and caramelized onion gravy with greens for tea. Friday: (playgroup lunch) and Chicken Maryland for tea, this Jamie Oliver recipe. (left)
Saturday: Spanish Omelettes for lunch and homemade Cornish Pasties and veg for tea.
Sunday: Roast Chicken, roast veg and Eton Mess for Sunday Lunch and beans on cheesy toast for tea! (my fave, really.)I will get a chicken and leek pie out of the chicken, plus soup stock and spousal sandwiches for lunch.

All this tightness will save me money. Except that it won't, as having saved some, I will spend it on this lovely Janome, thus breaking my vow not to buy new stuff this year. But sewing machines are exempt, in a clause I just made up. So, food is organised, life is not. Childrens' illnesses continue unabated, with one wheezing and one sneezing. I need to fence the garden, sort out raised beds (i'm freecycling for building materials), plant seeds, clean all the garden toys, patch the paddling pool, and become a Lib-Dem councillor to stop them building 1,000 houses on the field at the end of my garden, but that's another blog.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

charity shops and home

I have been away from the keyboard looking after a poorly son, post Hinchingbrooke hospital visit for asthma and pneumonia. He is ok now, and the hospital were great. I, however, am still getting up all night to check he is still breathing.

But onwards...I made a pledge to myself to be thrifty this year. (Hence the slowly evolving scrap quilt, right,which is the first and LAST I will ever sew completely by hand).This weeks' meal plan got three meals and a stock from a chicken, and the suet is coming out for those filling puddings. In part this is due to utter necessity, with spouse cutting down to 4 days a week and the general economic future looking less than shiny. But it's also down to a feeling that now we live in the back of beyond, with nary a posh shop in sight, it should be easier to cut back on unecessary spending and impulse buys, and live a tad more sustainably. To that end, I made a vow to try to buy all my clothing secondhand wherever possible, and to make do and mend in every possible circumstance. I also promised that I wouldn't buy anything that wasn't needed. This is made infinitely easier by not having a credit card or a card that works on the internet, necessitating a request to borrow spouses card if I want to buy anything. Asking "Can I have your card to buy myself this glittery frippery?" tends to keep one in check.

I hadn't counted on "needing" fripperies, but I do. Spouse and kids and I lived in rented houses for years that came with all the plates, knives etc, plus furniture. So when we moved into our own house, we purchased the sofa and entirely necessary stuff, but nothing flippant. We had no knick knacks, no ornaments. Aside from books and the usual crap kids make. And, I want some. But I promised not to buy any.

Except I modified my promise, and it now reads "except for a fiver a week at charity shops". I am blessed and cursed in equal measure in that Chatteris has no shops to browse in apart from charity shops, unless you count the newsagents. This is my booty thus far....
1950's Butlins moneybox. Probably the best find, I am tempted to sell it as I ebayed it and one came up for £25.00, but I like it too much I think. 90p from the shop.

Weird vase made of palm or something? and two glass receptacles that spouse says look like urinary sample bottles but I like, because in the morning they throw nice colours on the walls. 25p vase, quid the 2 bottles. Cambridge Ware vase and bowl, approx 1950's, 2 quid. I love these, they are of an age with our house and all wood is good, I think. You can see Ely cathedral from this window.
Portmeirion "Totem" coffee cups and saucers, X 12! For the princely sum of 3 quid the lot. Worth about 5-20 pounds each. Gosh! I am selling half, keeping half because they really are very nice things to have, I like to sip black coffee from them whilst surrounded by screaming children and feel a little bit 1960's. A Codd Bottle, probable 1850-ish, 10p. In negotiation with buyers of these things for some quite good money, any ebay funds will go to Hinchingbrooke hospital as a thanks for saving my blue-tinged boy.
A little pot for holding ailing parsley, 25p

Monday, 1 March 2010

pancake haters

It IS late to be wittering about pancakes, but this post comes belatedly for 2 reasons. Firstly, we have been more or less flooded in, hemmed in in our house, and with two small kids this has meant much shouting, much mess, and no time to write anything other than "help" on bits of paper I released out of the window, hopefully. Secondly, my two children detest pancakes and so there is not much point wittering about them.

Until, that is, the weekends sodden traipsing around the metropolis that is Chatteris and it's myriad charity shops threw up some old Ladybird "Well- loved Tales" series 606, in other words, the ones we had as kids. A quick browse on ebay shows that these are now in the grip of one serious nostalgia price hike. A copy of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty in good nick will cost you upwards of £40.00 now, and even my modest, less popular finds are worth about £15.00. I rooted out, for the princely sum of 20p the lot, "The Billy Goats Gruff", "The Enormous Turnip" and "The Big Pancake", hence the blog. I had forgotten just how weird the illustrations are. The Big Pancake in particular is quite grotesque. Here are the family of "seven hungry boys" and their mother (no father mentioned). The mother is clearly desperate to shut them up and makes them a big pancake. The boys amuse me, as they all seem to be more or less a similar age. Possibly Quintuplets and twins? But then, on second glance, either the family gene pool contains a lot of material or this woman has had offspring with several different fathers, very rapidly. Ginger, brown, black, and yes, even a prematurely grey haired child, this woman has the full range. And a natty selection of coloured bow ties to dress them in. Anyway, I am sure you know the story. The pancake does not want to be eaten, and runs away. This utterly disturbed son whose dislike of pancakes is ow compounded by the fact that they might rise up and speak to him. The whole of what looks like Bremen chases after it, failing to catch it, in an immensely repetative manner, until it is tricked, thankfully, to it's doom by an intelligent pig. the reader thanks the Lord they can stop reading. Charming, and i'm ebaying it.

I also found this fabulous recipe book for 10p. I can't wait to try out these pancakes.
Or this brussel sprout mousse.
Look at the spread here. No wonder there's a bottle of wine open (Leibfraumilch, naturally), drunk is the only way you could eat it.
And so, struck with inspiration, I abandoned the pancakes and instead opened 2 tins of cling peaches, one of the only fruits my lot will eat at the mo, and made a clafoutis instead. I didn't take pictures, I just ate it, and so did they.
Measured in cups. I have a measuring cup set and find it so useful.

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk full fat
3 eggs
vanilla extract
2/3 cup flour
Blend it all up, bar the fruit till it's a nice batter. Put half of it in a shallow dish, then the fruit, then the batter, then bung in oven at 350 for about 45-55 mins. Eat with ice-cream, or by yourself secretly before anyone else gets it.