Monday, 20 July 2009

Sing Aloud

Oh my goodness - we're famous! Those who've followed my blog for a while might know that I love to sing. I'm not exactly a keen performer but put me in a pew or in a row in a concert hall with a choir and I belt it out "just like a throstle" as my dad has always said.
As a teenager I travelled far and wide with my youngest sister singing in the county youth choir and with school too. Traditional music, hymns, madrigals and all that sort of thing that really makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and sends a shiver down my spine
But oh dear, its been ages and ages since I've warbled along to anything more than the radio so it took a lot of nerve to pluck up the courage and join our church choir last summer.
Well I did and gosh am I glad I did! Apart from a break in February/March when I, then the rest of the household were laid low with lurgy (and I was either coughing my head off or attending to my nursing duties), I've been to regular services and weekly Thursday night practices at our lovely church.
We're very lucky to have a special stone building, The Choir House, for rehearsing in the churchyard, with a lovely old piano, space for all the hymn books, cassocks and gowns and the sort of wonderfully polished floor that reminds me of the school gym at primary school.
Some services there can be 24 of us, but on average there's about 18 basses, tenors, altos and sopranos singing our praises at St Edward's. They're a lovely friendly bunch of villagers, a few from further afield and some wonderful voices as well as our impossibly talented and extremely young organist (19!) and choir master who keeps us on course. We've had some lovely meals out together, barbeque's at the vicarage and we have some great fun too.
Well, a couple of weeks ago Choir House was abuzz with exciting news that we were going to be doing a proper recording!

Its 100 years since local silk magnate and eminent Victorian Sir Thomas Wardle died and his life, connections to William Morris and the achievements of the Silk Embroiderers Guild he and his wife patroned are being celebrated across town this summer. Sir Thomas was also a churchwarden at St Edward's and wrote some wonderful church music during his time which our choir as now recorded to be played for visitors to the special exhibition at the Institute in town and inside church too.
And yesterday we went global (sort of!) as BBC Radio Stoke played our recordings as part of their weekly programmes and for the next week it can be heard here if you click on the link for the Current Service on the BBC page, then Listen Now (if you fancy it!)

So hardly showbiz but I was so very excited to be part of a wonderful project and to sing some truly beautiful music. Oh and there's going to be a CD - but don't worry I won't be getting an agent just yet!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Well the weather might be rubbish again but our little allotment is bringing a huge amount of colour and sunshine into our house in the form of baskets and baskets of deliciousness.
Now I must own up and confess that I can't really take credit for all these lovely crops, whoever had the plot before us planted row upon row of raspberry canes which are now a sort of raspberry jungle, although an incredibly pretty and tasty jungle at that. And we can't move for strawberries either, they just keep coming! The freezer is already full to the gunnels with frozen berries so looks like we'll be handing some around the relatives and neighbours too.
These though really are all my own work - radishes, broccoli and broad beans. Never grown broad beans before but they're ridiculously easy and now are a firm favourite in our house, even with my adorable but very cautious no.1 son who to be honest baulks at pretty much anything that isn't a boiled egg & toast.
This is truly the biggest miracle of our allotment because this summer B has troughed his way through the soft fruit, broad beans are declared yummy when yanked straight off the plant as soon as we reach our plot and apparently he just can't wait to try our courgettes and the giant pumpkin!

Phew - the relief is immense let me tell you. Being the only person in our house who really is addicted to food is a bit weird. Woody is truly a food is fuel sort of chap and despite best efforts our little chaps haven't yet fallen in love with grub to be honest.

Food has definitely been my biggest challenge as a mum, which having breastfed both our boys past a year old, is a hard thing to accept. When I was pregnant I watched every morsel that went into my mouth and while I was feeding to give them a great start in life - only to see my eldest become a borderline food refuser from 2! Horrid but hopefully nearly conquered
(free roses planted on our allotment long before us)
Things are definitely getting better and we manage a pretty good variety of things over the week. There's not a lot of junk (unless you count fish fingers and spaghetti hoops!) and I'm lucky that they do seem to enjoy fruit, veg and especially eggs but we struggle to get more than minced beef (spag bol, chilli, shepherd's pie - are there any more versions?!) and the odd bit of tuna past them.

I hate the idea of mealtimes becoming traumatic so there's a definite softly, softly catchy monkey policy at work. A combination of things got us into this situation, lots of scary gagging when we weaned the boys that made me a bit over cautious with the pureeing, having to go back to work part time and with a 1 1/2 hour journey home I often wasn't back for tea, plus some bad experiences of mealtimes on Woody's part in days gone by.
Together though we've made loads of effort and employed coaxing and a bit of bribery and now most evenings we all eat together, more or less eating the same thing and mealtimes are usually the fun, happy times I remember from my childhood.
I want our kitchen table to be the real heart of our home and we're getting there. I read an article in The Times today about how to parent teenagers (a phase I'm already dreading) and a lot of the tips centred on sharing meals and conversation at tea time. Will they really be eating me out of house and home one day? We'll see. Better make sure we keep it stocked up with broad beans I think!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Reading Room

A few squishy cushions, a comfy sofa, some interesting old books and an inspiring magazine to contemplate. Perfect ingredients for a bit of quiet, peaceful relaxing in what may appear to be a quiet study, contemplative conservatory or elegant corner of my home...

...until I zoom out and show you this!
Aha, a typical Wednesday afternoon at No.25. The books and magazines are there from the night before - untouched since. I wanted to remember this moment because little Arch will be off to nursery in September (in uniform; hmmm, I'm struggling with that a bit - he'll only be just 3!) and ours will no longer be the home of tiny children. Something I'm not exactly in mourning over because what comes next will bring even more exciting times for our boys, but these are little memories and scenes from everyday life I don't ever want to forget.
The earlier part of Wednesday, my playmate and I spent in town on our usual weekly ritual of sweets, newspapers, charity shop browsing and market shopping, and here's what we found on our travels.
~ I wanted to live in a toadstool when I was little - I blame this book! At 60p this little money box was absolutely coming home with us
~ One of my earliest memories is of running about in a union jack hat at the village party on Silver Jubilee day and this lovely cross-stitch is a charming little reminder.
~ I'm head over heels in love with this super new basket, a friend to keep my red one company; such delicious summery colours, and I'm ever so tempted to take my lunch to work in it tomorrow!

~ Oh this is such a treat for 50p - the pictures are just beautiful and are so similar to a book my dad had when he was small and used to read to my sisters and I when we were little.

Now that I'm a big girl I rather fancy living here instead of in the toadstool please. Wonder if there's room in there for a reading room?