Monday, 26 January 2009

Bon Appetit!

Today we began using something which I am hoping will revolutionise our packed lunch routine. Some time ago I read about bento lunchboxes. Both the girls and I were excited by them and last week I ordered them one each. As you can see, they are plastic versions of the traditional Japanese bento boxes. Inside the case there are five containers (two with lids) and a fork and spoon. The idea is that you fill each container with different food to make up a balanced meal. You could, of course, carry several separate plastic boxes to school but the bento box is much more compact - and leak proof.

I have grown to hate packing lunches. I get bored of sandwiches, no matter how many changes I ring with various breads and fillings. Then there's the waste. Sandwiches need wrapped, biscuits and cakes need to be protected against crumbling and fruit against squashing. Yoghurts and crisps come in individual packaging, invariably plastic. I'm hoping that these boxes will help me pack more exciting lunches and cut down on waste at the same time.

Today the girls had pasta with tuna and sweetcorn, grated carrot with vinaigrette, a crunch jumble (biscuit) and an apple.

Who knows what they will find in their boxes tomorrow!

PS If you would like to find out more about these boxes, including idea on what to pack them with, go to Laptop Lunches.

Happy Birthday Rabbbie

Yesterday being the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's most famous poet, we celebrated by inviting a few friends round for dinner. We ate cock-a-leekie soup, haggis, neeps and tatties and cranachan and partook of a wee dram o' the hard stuff. I'm not so keen on the whisky but I love haggis.

I think it's important to celebrate occasions with family and friends, but I don't do nearly enough of it.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Sing Up

This afternoon I attended my first rehearsal at the Gasworks Choir . I've been on the waiting list for so many years that the phone call a fortnight ago offering me a place caught me off guard. Did I still want to sing in a community choir? Was I up to it? Could I spare the time? I took a few minutes to think about it before phoning back to say I'd be delighted to accept the offer.

I had, in fact, been offered a place on two previous occasions but, when I confessed that this Gareth is a woman and not a man, I was put back on the waiting list!

Well, I enjoyed my first outing. There was a goodly crowd, with a fair number of beginners like myself. We began with a warm up which involved making some extremely silly faces. Then on to the songs, three of them this week - one from South Africa, one from Scotland and one from the States. It's a a cappella choir - four or five part harmonies with no music, and printed words for only one of the songs. Ali and Dee sing the part to us and we sing it back. Simple as that! There was a brief moment of panic but the atmosphere was so relaxed and friendly that it soon disappeared and I had a lovely time. I even managed to join in when we were invited to walk about during the first song, though I did stick close to someone who looked like she knew what she was doing. I'm already looking forward to my next practice.

49 before 50

This summer I'll be 50. Although I don't feel it, and hope I don't look it, I shall nonetheless reach my half century later this year. So, in anticpation of this momentous day, I have devised a list of 49 things I would like to do before I'm 50. Phew, I'm going to be busy!
  1. Catch the ferry to Bees Tea Gardens
  2. Bake a brioche
  3. Watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one day
  4. Knit myself a scarf
  5. Teach my daughters how to knit
  6. Make a Cornish pasty
  7. Walk to Bath along the cycle path
  8. Make my will
  9. Make a year's supply of marmalade
  10. Sort through my photographs
  11. Have our Amsterdam poster framed
  12. Grow half a dozen vegetables in our back garden
  13. Paint the front door
  14. Make a birthday card from recycled materials
  15. Work my way through my piano book
  16. Make tablet
  17. Watch a Bollywood movie with my daughters
  18. Make a note of all my friends' birthdays
  19. Read a French novel
  20. Buy an address book and make a note of all my friends' addresses
  21. Reduce my BMI to 20
  22. Write to all the people who sent us Christmas cards
  23. Reduce our landfill waste to 100g or less per week
  24. Write one letter a month for Amnesty
  25. Read at least one book a month
  26. See at least one film a month
  27. Phone my sister once a week
  28. Clear out my wardrobe
  29. Book tickets for Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory
  30. Make Pashka at Easter
  31. Give up something for Lent
  32. Take up something for Lent
  33. Bake Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
  34. Remember to use the shrink wrap egg decorations at Easter
  35. Follow the longest trail in Leigh Woods
  36. Take a picnic (and some friends) to Brandon Hill
  37. Visit the Georgian House
  38. Make butter
  39. Learn to crochet
  40. Make my daughers something for their birthdays
  41. Cook a special Valentine's dinner
  42. Preserve lemons
  43. Have the piano tuned
  44. Devise a 4 week menu
  45. Attend evensong at the Cathedral
  46. Arrange our classical CD collection
  47. Book tickets for the BBC Proms
  48. Grow giant sunflowers in our front garden
  49. Organise a 50th birthday celebration
To record my progress I have started a new blog called (wait for it!) 49before50 which also give me the opportunity to try out blogging on Wordpress.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A Nation's Hope

This afternoon I rushed home from work to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama. It was an impressive ceremony and, judging by the numbers who turned out to witness it, a significant moment in their lives.

I couldn't help being reminded of 2 May 1997 and Tony Blair's triumphal arrival in Downing Street ...

Monday, 12 January 2009

Turkish Delight

On Saturday we had our kitchen and bathroom floor tiles laid. It meant that we could not use either room until the following morning. Fortunately we have a second bathroom, which left only the lack of cooking and washing up facilities to cope with. We ate sandwiches for lunch and cadged an afternoon cup of tea from our neighbours but decided to eat out in the evening. We owed ourselves a wedding anniversary from way back in November and this seemed as good a time as any.

When we moved to Bedminster 18 years ago there was nowhere to eat locally, and for a while nothing much changed. However, within the last 10 years or so, a rash of pubs, cafes and restaurants has sprung up all over the area, almost too fast for us to keep up with.

So this was our first visit to Caffe Sazz (or at least it was for Alan and girls)*. It's a Turkish restaurant specialising in mezze and impromptu belly dancing! The decor is authentic -bright mosaic lampshades, colourful costumes hanging on the walls and a large TV screen behind the bar showing snapshots of Turkish life.

The food was tasty and plentiful and the service was helpful. My only criticism was that, instead of the fresh mint tea in an exquisite glass I was expecting, I had to make do with a teabag in a cup and saucer. Ah well!

However, the best bit was that after paying the bill, and sighing with relief that we had escaped being prevailed upon to indulge in a spot of inevitably embarassing gyrations, we only had a short walk home. Eating, as well as shopping, local has much to commend it.
* My first visit was on the occasion of last year's reading group night out. We go out once a year in January because it's so hard to agree on a date in December. Besides which we need something to cheer us up after the festive season is over.

Book at Bedtime

A few years ago a couple of friends and I decided to start a reading group. As mums of young children we recognised our need for the occasional evening of intelligent adult conversation (complete with red wine and nibbles!) and a reading group seemed to fit the bill. As a teenager I was a voracious reader, mainly of classical novels, but having to read set texts at university had put me off books of any kind and when the girls arrived I persuaded myself I didn't have the time, or the energy. I hoped that committing myself to a deadline would provide the necessary motivation. And, happily, it has.

We meet every 6 weeks or so in one or other of our houses. Books used to be chosen by consensus, but we have recently swapped to alphabetical order by surname. I don't know how many books we have read over the past years. One of us once had a list but it hasn't been kept up to date. What I do know is that it has encouraged me to read a wider variety of books than I would otherwise have attempted. There have been some truly dreadful books, but many more enjoyable ones. Funnily enough, it's usually the least popular books that have generated the longest and fiercest discussions.

Last Friday we discussed 'Prodigal Summer' by Barbara Kingsolver. I didn't care for it very much but listening to us dissect it persuaded one member, who hadn't managed to read it, to borrow a copy to take home with her.

While I wait for the next person on the list to choose our next book, I have started 'The Remains of the Day' by Katsuo Ishiguro, so that I can discuss it with my elder daughter who is studying it at AS level. I'll need to read at least one book in between reading book titles if I'm to achieve my target minimum of 20 books this year.

Any recommendations will be warmly received.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Good Hair Day!

Not being someone who lays very much importance on my appearance, I don't have my hair cut very often. The last time I visited the salon (on my account, because I have accompanied the girls on a couple of occasions) was way back on the 7th of April last year, when I blogged on my dread of hairdressers.

So today was a pleasant surprise. After I'd given her an outline of what I wanted, my hairdresser took over and did the rest. And, to my relief, she didn't even ask me what I was doing at the weekend! I shall ask for her next time I make an appointment which, on previous form, should be sometime in October!

The self photo does not afford you an appreciation of the graduated cut on the back of my head, but I have been assured that it looks lovely!
Actually, it doesn't look very different from the last time I had it done. Oh well, plus ca change ...