Monday, 30 January 2012

Gym Bunny

The weather has been kind the last few days and despite the dour warnings of the met office that we could expect at least a foot of snow, none of the white stuff has materialised. It has been cold, cold enough that we've actually been running the heating and that's something we just do not do without real provocation. Extra jumper and thicker socks, that's our mantra. The sun, however, has kept shining, so it's mostly been a pleasure to get out and about.

Our weekend walks tend to be longer, out across the fields, over stiles (and through mud holes if Monty has his way!) and the small person has been coping well with her latest excursions. A new hat - splendid in purple - was purchased on behalf of her ears, and a pink fluffy snowsuit keeps the rest of her cosy. Once Mummy or Daddy is harnessed up for walking, we set off.

One of the highlights for the canine members of the family, is rabbits! Ted is a born hunter, I'm afraid, and even though he is usually on the lead he is unstinting in his efforts to seek out the furry foe. Being part spaniel, he is nose driven and motors about at a frantic pace, head down, bum up, tail wagging when he catches the scent. As today's 'Ted shot' shows, he never fails to follow his quarry into the undergrowth, no matter how prickly and down any hole no matter how small. If he wasn't on the lead, I am sure we would have been stood for hours today while he invited himself further into the bunny abode.

The bunnies have been less apparent in the colder weather, mostly tucked up warm below ground, but we did spot a few today much to the delight of both dogs. Monty gave chase, bless him, as best he could. Despite being the son of a field trial champion, Monty has none of the smarts of his forbears. His main tactic, as far as we can see, is to hope that his chosen bunny will suffer a cardiac arrest en route back to it's hole. In effect, he is providing a service to the bunnies; whittling out the unfit and giving the others free cardio workouts in the process. He always seems happy with the thrill of the chase though, coming back with a big grin on his face. The only thing Monty has ever actually 'caught' was a pigeon he found sitting in a hedge....he duly 'retrieved' it for us only to panic when it flapped it's wings whereupon he immediately released it with look of pure horror that the thing he had thought was dead was in fact alive and what should he do now??!

So, walking and lots of it has been my main activity over the last few days. I seem to be managing with that part of the to-do list. Now I must turn my attention to the next part whilst keeping up the walking bit. Time to juggle with an extra ball, so to speak! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

If You're Happy and You Know it...

Just to prove that I have not been idle this week, some photographic evidence of activity! Not the stunning action shots I may have hoped for but the best I could manage in a windswept field, with a weighty bundle of baby strapped to my chest and an excitable spaniel on a flexi-lead attached to one arm!

In fact, our walk on Monday proved even more challenging as said bundle of baby became distinctly unimpressed half way around our field of choice and began to make her lack of satisfaction known. Loudly. So, for about half a mile, we walked on headed back toward the car accompanied by my desperately determined renditions of 'The Wheels on the Bus' and 'If You're Happy and You Know It'....this seemed to appease the small person as long as I did not stop singing. An entertaining sight we would have made, had anyone been unlucky enough to bear witness, and another reason to be grateful that, where possible. we walk in deserted fields far from the general populace. It's in the best interests of the populace, trust me.

So, progress is being made. The three bears and I have been getting out and about. And how did the biggest bear show his appreciation? Why, by coating himself in the fresh scented deposits of another species, of course! Thanks, Monty.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Competitive Thrift

My chores for the day are all done and while the rest of the house sleeps and I await the midnight feed (not mine, the small person's) I have some time to think. My 'chores' today were not too taxing, a nice walk out through the fields with my two favourite people and my two favourite dogs cannot be called a chore. What can be called a chore is the long overdue clean out of the fish tank, long overdue for exactly the reason that it is no-one's idea of a fun task. It always takes longer than you think it will, it's messy, and the holder of the shortest straw (there's only two possible candidates and I'm one so the odds are never great) has to suck the syphon to pump out the dirty water. Today I held that straw and today, therefore, did suck. Still, as I watched the fish darting happily about in their fresh, shiny tank, I like to think I saw gratitude in the glints of their eyes and the flash of colourful fins.

Anyway, what I have been thinking about over the last couple of days is thrift. An old-fashioned word that seems very much back in vogue. To be honest in our house, the concept has never been out of vogue but now so many others seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. Every magazine I look at in the supermarket (I don't buy them, obviously!) has suggestions for budget recipes, bargain-buys and nifty DIY ideas. As a family, even before we were a family when we were just a twosome, we embrace thrift...e-Bay is my first port of call for nearly all non-food purchases, charity shops are my favourite retailers and if me or him can do it ourselves then we do, often with hilarious consequences but what the hell.

One of the things on my to-do list is to eat more healthily and to eat more ethically. Well, healthily is one thing since fruit and veg are not hard to come by and we do in fact have an allotment (that's another to-do story!). 'Ethically' is the tricky part. We are happy meat-eaters, him with more gusto and variety than me but we do munch our way through a chicken every week, pizza night means bacon to go with the mushroom, and who can say no to a good sausage? However, more and more our thoughts have been turning to the plight of the critters who provide our tasty repasts and finally we have reached the conclusion that even if it means paying more and eating less we should put our money where our mouths, quite literally are. In with the free range chicken and out with the previous hypocrisy of buying a cheap chicken but free range eggs. The fact is that free range, organic anything is more expensive but surely we can make a bit of a sacrifice in return for the hard work and commitment shown by the ingredients!

So, how far can we make our free range chicken go? Well, now it's been expertly carved by him into it's constituent parts, quite a long way; one breast was last night's stir fry, the other will be rolled in a slice of ethical bacon and roasted mid-week, the legs are waiting in the freezer to become a coq-au-vin, and the carcass was boiled for stock and stripped of all the last bits of decent meat for a tasty moroccan inspired couscous dish tonight. Oh yes, and all the other less decent bits went into Monty's bowl. Not Ted's since he already gets high grade special diet for health reasons. I think that ticks off thrift, ethics and health all in one fowl swoop. Sorry couldn't resist!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

To the Park and Beyond

Apart from being a mummy to a small person, I am in fact a wearer of several other hats. Obviously, being mummy to a small person is my most important hat at present and I have to say that it does at times feel like I am neglecting my other hats in that one's favour. Over Christmas, the small person reached the great milestone of six months old....bigger clothes, self-propelled motion and real food being just a few of the benefits that come with or shortly after this wonderful point. This made me think. I know, I've been doing a lot of that lately! Perhaps, I thought, maybe, now would be a good time to get back to some of the other aspects of life that I have been letting slide or abdicating to other people. 

The main thing that I think I really must pick up again and start running with (literally, at times!) are my dogs. There are two of them. Monty, a Golden Retriever and Ted, an intriguing cross between a Corgi and a Springer Spaniel. I adore them, even when they are naughty and I am afraid that Ted in particular can be very naughty when he chooses. They are a happy-go-lucky duo, not best friends (which was the intention when we decided to add a second dog) but always there to back each other up, snuffle in each other's holes and try to steal each other's treats. Being a dog owner is something I take very seriously and it has taught me volumes about dogs, myself, human nature and actual nature. Probably lots of other topics too but those are the ones that spring to mind. One of my greatest pleasures is walking my dogs and enjoying the outdoors with them. Even while I was pregnant, I still got out with them and toured the local fields, just at a more sedate pace and with an even greater need for a good sit-down afterwards.

Since the advent of the small person, I have had to abdicate a lot of the walking to my partner. Not all but certainly most. I have really missed it and one thing that is on the to-do list is to get back to it. It sounds simple, how hard can it be to get out and walk the dogs? Well, when one of the dogs (Ted) is extremely anti all other dogs except Monty and when you have a pram or pushchair to deal with too, it really can be quite tricky. Our favourite walking has always been to go out across fields, hills and forests ( lucky for us these are all within easy reach ) but we do also have a nice park right outside our front door. Off-roading with a pushchair is not easy, regardless of the flashy suspension and the extravagant claims of the makers of said pushchair. A baby-carrier (BabyBjorn) was purchased and is very good, giving me hands-free capability and as long as the small person is mounted on my front I can manage the loading and unloading process alone. The drawback being that the 'small' person is now weighing in at almost 20 pounds - that's a pretty hefty person when they're strapped to your chest and you are walking across country!

Anyway, it is one of those things that has been sent to try me and I shall ( I have decided, so there) rise to the challenge. Once more, I shall don the muddy boots and set off to find new pastures, woodland, and if Monty has his way as much swampy nastiness to paddle through as we can. The small person shall extend her acquaintance with the outdoors whether she likes it or not. It's not only on the to-do list, I have started doing it with walks in the park and across fields already achieved and more planned. Hopefully exciting action photos will soon adorn these pages. For now I leave you with the after-walk pictures....

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Baby Club

Thursday means one thing in my life at the moment - Baby Club. One of the things that prompted my recent focus on the to-do list is parenthood. In July last year, after a brief visit to the local hospital, I returned home with  a baby...I was slightly shocked that the midwives at said hospital believed me suitable, able and trustworthy enough to care for such a tiny, delicate scrap of a new human and some days I still wonder if they made a mistake. But there it is. A decision made in 2010 that we (me and him) were ready to create life resulted in an actual person being born in 2011! Still haven't got over that either. Anyway, I digress.

Having a baby meant total change for me. Self-employment had to stop, for the time being at least, since it wasn't the kind of employment that allows for caring for a small person and it didn't pay enough (and I didn't really want it to) for someone else to be paid to care for the small person. So, these days I am at home being a mummy and anyone who has done that will tell you that small trips out are a) a challenge and b) essential to maintain sanity. Which brings me back to Baby Club, my Thursday trip out. Actually it's a two minute walk up the road to the local Children's Centre. Baby Club is great (and, no, I am not about to break the first rule!). Two hours of gurgling, wriggling and playing surrounded by other people who also find gurgling, wriggling and playing interesting. The bonus is a tired baby so when I get home a nap is usually on the cards!

Today was no different. The small person engaged in all the activities on offer with enthusiasm - gurgling and rolling about on the floor being favourite with a brief pause for artwork in the middle. We returned home ready for lunch and a nap. While the small person devotes some time to studying the insides of her eyelids, I devote some time to thinking about the to-do list....slow progress so far. However, some thing important is afoot so hopefully some news soon. In the meantime, I'll stop for now and get on with the tidying which is also on the List.

The Good Life

I despise New Year's Resolutions. In fact, I barely acknowledge the New Year in any way. However, I have been feeling a bit stuck in a rut lately and, as with this blog, wondered if the New Year wasn't a good a time to do something about it. My objections to Resolutions are mainly due to the clich├ęd nature of them....'I will give up...whatever it is that I enjoy but feel guilty about' seems to be what's expected. Well, give me a rule and I like to disagree with it and tell me not to do something and you will probably find me soon afterwards doing it.

So, my non-Resolution is more positive. I have resolved to change my way of approaching the things in my life that I am dissatisfied with. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, I will try to be positive. Anyone who knows me will tell you that focusing on being positive is most unlike me, I generally take great pleasure in negatives. I started yesterday, as promised, by sitting down and making my 'To-Do List' (all great endeavours should begin with a list!). 

I won't bore you by publishing the list...it would take too long anyway. Suffice it to say that the 'to-dos' are many. Some are short-term, others longer-term but all have one thing in common and that is to move me and mine closer to The Good Life. One of my favourite TV programmes, enjoyed many years ago as a child and now once again thanks to the great God of box-sets. Since today is Wikipedia-free, I will briefly explain that The Good Life was a popular Seventies sitcom about a middle class suburban couple who change their lives completely and set out to try and achieve self-sufficiency, right down to weaving their own cloth for clothes and running an effluence digester in the basement to generate their own power. Well, no, before you ask, I am not about to enrol in evening classes to achieve my dream of turning effluence into free-electricity. Although, with the way the household bills are going, it is tempting. Most of my to-dos are in fact far more simple like ' I will try to eat more ethically produced food' and 'I will tidy up the garage'. It is the long range to-do that is more important but I hope the little ones will get me closer to it; 

To live more self-sufficiently, on my own land.

 How will tidying the garage make this possible? Well, watch this space. 

And, no I haven't forgotten that I said something about explaining the bears. I'll get there in the end. Bear with me.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Here Goes Nothing

January....a month of cold weather, dark nights and nothing to look forward to since Christmas festivities are over and all the decent leftovers have been scoffed. Any leftovers that have not been scoffed obviously aren't that appetising so you have a cupboard/fridge containing items that you don't want but feel bad about throwing away. In my case, and please don't be too shocked, there resides at the back of the fridge a pot of brandy butter purchased in the post Christmas reductions in January 2007!! It is well travelled, having moved house with us in April 2007. Every so often, it has been opened and looked at closely to check for signs of decay....it has passed every inspection and has been triumphant in retaining it's title as 'Oldest Item in the Fridge'. So long has it been in the fridge, that I would not even contemplate moving it to the bin without having at least tried it...so we did. This Christmas (2011), it was ceremoniously opened and served to the visitors with their mince pies. Please be assured that no deception was undertaken and all who partook of the impressively long-lived butter were under no illusions as to it's age or provenance. "Tastes fine to me" was the pronouncement of my partner's father, the first to dip his toe in the metaphorical waters and give it a try. Well then, if tastes ok to him (and he's clearly not died some instant and horrifying death and has all his faculties intact) why not? And so, most of the dangerously vintage butter was consumed along with mince pies and Christmas pudding.....but still, even after this triumph over the forces of common sense, there are now leftovers of the leftover.

So how does this adventure in food safety spawn a blog about bears? Well, it made me think about the other things I had been putting off in recent times that were probably far less risky than eating five year old festive butter. Knowing myself quite well, I recognise that I am someone who will willingly and unfailingly put off 'til tomorrow anything that does not have to be done today, in fact if possible, I'll put things off 'til....well, as long as I can really. So a blog is my solution. A record of my progress in achieving (or more likely not but trying is half the point of anything, surely) the things I have been putting off doing and hopefully adding more 'to-dos' along the way. I will make the writing of the To Do List tomorrow's to-do (see how the blog is helping already?!).

Oh, and what about the bears? Well, maybe I'll explain that tomorrow as well.

Nicky (aka MummyBear)