Friday, 26 February 2010

Research...ahem.


I found some interesting things today and thought I'd share my findings, lest you think my studies are boring. I was reading a review of a book on Royal Court politics today. I did some background reading on an author of one of the articles and by one way or another eventually found this...

http://www.phallus.is/

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country.

Phallology is an ancient science which, until recent years, has received very little attention in Iceland, except as a borderline field of study in other academic disciplines such as history, art, psychology, literature and other artistic fields like music and ballet.


Now, thanks to The Icelandic Phallological Museum, it is finally possible for individuals to undertake serious study into the field of phallology in an organized, scientific fashion.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains a collection of two hundred and nine penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland.

In the gift shop, this is what they do with the left over testicles...

 
Ballsack lamps


Fancy a holiday to Iceland anyone?

Progress?

Nope. None. Stay tuned.

Friends, Roman(ists) and Countrymen...

My foray into the world of academia makes for one hell of a tale and is probably best kept for another time, another day like this when the drizzle prevents plans being made. Along the way I've made lasting friendships and met the most awesome people. Here, I may homage to one such friend, Lucy.

Lucy is a bit mad, full of energy and shares my fetish/vice/habit (yes, fetish is the correct word) for kitchenware. Recently, Lucy and her friend from across the pond, Shannon have started a blog about their adventures with food. It makes for excellent reading and Shannon's treats are sinful.

http://www.doublethesugarblog.com/

 
Enjoy!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Dinner, oh la la...

I'm very busy at the moment so last nights meal was a simple one. It utilised an ancient and sacred recipe known only to a chosen few...

Here it is:

Brochette de poulet et le pain pitta.Premièrement, utilisez votre téléphone pour téléphoner et demander pour deux brochettes et une pizza pour l'enfant.Ensuite, sautez dans la voiture pour se rendre à la ville voisine pour ramasser les repas.Décanter le repas à partir de son récipient en plastique et en profiter. 
Bon appétit.

I crack myself up sometimes...


Sport relief again.

 

Have just checked the results of A and OH's fundraising efforts and so far they have raised a whopping £185 for sport relief from online and offline donations. We are overwhelmed and so grateful to those who have sponsored A. A is really looking forward to the run and really is getting a huge sense of achievement from the process. He initiated this himself and as cynical as I am about the world, I find such selflessness touching.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Harumph...


I intended to blog part two of the story of our big move tonight but a possible spanner in the works happened yesterday. For the last four weeks I have been harassing the officials from Midlothian council and from Edinburgh City Council about A's school transfer. I have been assured along the way that the appropriate steps had been taken, the relevant information had been passed and that everyone at all ends were trying their best to make sure that everything was in place in time for our move. So with these assurances I arranged an appointment with the headmistress of his new school. The school on which we have based our area choice for possible houses from.

I'll blog at length later but the short version is that we rock up to the new school who have no idea what A's additional support needs are. Uh oh... Midlothian have failed to pass on any of the information that the other education department need to arrange support. In addition, I approached his current school at the start of the process and spoke to his teachers about his needs, I gathered up all of the reports I could and was informing the Edinburgh bods of what I've been told A's needs are. When the headmistress of the new school found out that Midlothian hadn't passed on any of the information to Edinburgh, she then phoned the headmistress of the current school who painted a very different picture of what A's needs are (or my understanding of what they are). The A that she described isn't the one who lives in my house. This is either due to a lack of contact with the classes while she does her headmistress bit or some thing's afoot (A integrated into mainstream high school= success =funding?).

I've spent the last 12 hours on the phone trying to move mountains (and trying not to shout).

I'll keep you up to date as the drama unfolds.

In other news, B goes for her J-A-B-S tomorrow. Given that she's 14 weeks today you could be fooled into thinking that these are her last set of jabs due at 16 weeks, oh no...these are her first set of jabs, the ones she should've had when she was 8 weeks old. The reason for the delay - we had B at what was a 'popular' time to be having babies said the receptionists. Oh right, that must be because British Vogue recommended them as Winter's must have accessory.

I am also getting my post natal check up today and I can't remember when the last time I shaved my legs was...

Mumble...mumble...mumble

Monday, 22 February 2010

Blogging


To blog or not to blog...that is the question.

I'm tired. I've been trying to post all day but B has been fussy and grizzly. She's left a long trail of baby slime everywhere, has been constantly stuffing her fists in her mouth and has rosy cheeks. Does this mean the start of teething? A started teething early but didn't get his first tooth until he was five months so anything is possible. Also today I was reminded that I never used Pampers nappies for A and why. Unlike most other brands it lacks the little bit of elastic at the back of the nappy which supposedly keep things snug so when you have a BF baby, poo tends to shoot up said baby's back. Yes, all day and several changes of clothes later I am now wondering what to do with the 80 odd Pampers I have left (they were on offer!). I suppose they could come in handy for major spills and might get excited if the BBC weather men announce flood warnings for the Lothians. We will be safe behind a wall of  Pampers so feel free to camp at our house.

Have been madly organising things for the big move and spent the entire day emailing and phoning people. Tomorrow, we will be visiting A's new school for a tour of the school and to meet the headmistress. The weekend was spent organising and clearing out things for the move. I spent the majority of the weekend in A's room which was a disgrace and I didn't realise that we had shares in Toys R Us but hey... On Saturday we went to my folks for dinner  (a regular occurrence) and on Sunday A had pasta with pesto, broad beans and asparagus, Me and OH had polenta with mushrooms. Not sure if you're interested in the recipes but if you are...
 

Ingredients

  1. 1 litre vegetable stock
  2. 250g instant polenta
  3. 50g butter
  4. 25g grated Parmesan
  5. 8 portobello mushrooms
  6. 2 tbsp olive oil
  7. 2 shallots, finely chopped
  8. 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  9. 150ml white wine
  10. 150g garlic and herb soft cheese
  11. 2 tbsp milk

Method

  1. 1. Bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a pan. Tip in instant polenta and simmer gently, stirring, until thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in butter and Parmesan. Cover and set aside.
  2. 2. Preheat the grill, then place the portobello mushrooms on a baking sheet, rounded side up, drizzle with olive oil and grill for 5 minutes. Turn over and grill for a further minute.
  3. 3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat and cook shallots, and 2 garlic cloves. Add white wine and simmer rapidly until reduced by half. Add soft cheese and melt to form a creamy sauce. Thin the sauce with milk.
  4. 4. Spoon the polenta into shallow bowls and top each with 2 mushrooms, then spoon over the sauce.

Tonight I started to boil up a ham hough for soup stock and for a lentil recipe tomorrow night but then a phone call found me en-route to my folks to roast the half cow my father had been conned into buying from the butcher at the weekend. Here's the lentil recipe in case I don't get a chance to blog tomorrow.
 

Ingredients

  1. 1.35kg ham hock, soaked overnight in cold water
  2. 1 leek, roughly chopped
  3. 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  4. 2 celery sticks, cut into pieces
  5. 1.2 litres ham or chicken stock
  6. 600ml apple juice
  7. Few sprigs of fresh thyme
  8. Few fresh parsley stalks, plus 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, to serve
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 6 peppercorns
  11. 400g dried green lentils
  12. 3 tbsp crème fraîche, plus extra to serve
  13. Grated zest of 1 lemon

Method

1. Place the ham hock in a pan with the vegetables, liquids, herbs and peppercorns and season well. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 1½ hours or until the meat is really tender. Remove the hock from the liquid and set aside. 

2. Remove the aromatics with a slotted spoon. Add the green lentils to the pan and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until tender.  

3. Meanwhile, skin the ham hock and shred the meat from the bones. Stir the crème fraîche and lemon zest into the lentils and return the ham to the pan and reheat. 

4. Serve with the parsley scattered over and an extra blob of crème fraîche if you like.


    Night y'all.

    Is the grass really greener on the other side? Part 1


    I used to think that I was a sort of fly by the seat of your pants (or breeks) kind of woman. I suppose I held this opinion because in sharp contrast to the OH who is infinitely more cautious, I seem like a bit of a rogue. My "Come on! Let's do this" in reference to another plan I had hatched or activity to be taken up or place to be explored, would then be met with a tipping of the eyebrows and a "Hmmmmm..." Always keen to listen to reason, the OH would eventually be convinced that the idea (my idea) was a good idea and we would embark on our endeavour with varying degrees of success/failure/enjoyment. We always enjoy it, whether it's a food festival in the pouring rain, a drive in the country without a map or toilet roll, wandering in a fashionable part of the city only to find that we've acquired a parking ticket. I exaggerate, of course, and highlight for you possibly the only near disasters we've ever had. Everything works out in the end in a slightly slapstick fashion and we have a laugh which I'm sure the OH would agree is one of our main priorities in life. Our house is always full of laughter. I am starting to panic though, at the thought of our next big adventure and I'm worrying that I've corrupted the OH with my impetuousness...

    When we decided to have another baby we knew that everything would change (for the better, of course) and the logistics of adding another bod into our house would mean that we would have to rethink things a bit. Our house is fab, I spent a fortune and a serious amount of time decorating it and it is sufficient for our needs now and for the future but the layout has always bugged me. It has two good sized bedrooms and while the living space isn't cramped in the slightest, a bit of architectural manipulation (I suspect to make the living space bigger) means that the central axis of the house is a very very narrow hallway. So narrow, that despite the size of the rooms, one can quite comfortably sit in the living room and have a conversation with someone in the bathroom or in the master bedroom. If you open up the cupboard door in the hall it touches the furthest away wall (Get the picture?). So we knew that we would have to move sooner or later.

    We knew that everything was changing around us. Pregnant with B, A seemed to be getting awfully big and going through another testosterone charged growth spurt as we embarked on the usual frenzied back to school expedition for the appropriate equipment. When the assistant in Russell and Bromley informed me that my ten year old son's feet were now bigger than mine, I felt slightly queasy. While we were noting that A was growing and growing like the Grandma from George's Marvellous Medicine, we had to pop into his school to discuss the coming school year. To explain the significance of the meeting, A started out Primary school in a special class for Autistic children which was an absolute god send. While he was at nursery we were living in Edinburgh and at that time there was no provision for him in Edinburgh so we had to move out into Midlothian where a brand new class was being set up to cater for the needs of children with Autism better than a main school could provide. Living in Midlothian would guarantee us the place for A and if we didn't he wouldn't get it. We moved out into the county and he started school. From the beginning of his schooling he progressed steadily and performed better than his peers in the support class. The school then started an inclusion programme for him to work his way into the mainstream class. Unfortunately, it took a little time to do this so A was a bit behind his peer group in terms of reading and maths and was at the lower ability of the year below him but he was enjoying it and wasn't having too many problems. The jist of all of this (to cut a very long story short) is that he did so well that this year he is in a class with his peer group  and now has no connection with the support class, just one to one support as he needs it. Go Alfie!

    Because of his placement at the school we go along at the start of the year and discuss his IEP (Individual Learning Programme) which included A's own personal and academic targets for the next term. Everything was going swimmingly until the teacher mentioned high school. What? That was a whole two years away and he's just a baby (distressed mothering moment ensues). Alright, he's ten but we really didn't expect to have to deal with this so soon. What the conversation boiled down into was that the Education Division at Midlothian Council would be meeting soon to decide whether A would be able to attend a mainstream high school with support or would have to go to a specialist high school if they deemed his needs too severe for mainstream. As it was very unlikely that he would be put into anything other than mainstream, this then sparked a whole load of questions and possibilities we hadn't accounted for yet. One of the drawbacks of having a disabled child (drawback? is that the correct word? more like conditions, really) is that you can't plan for the future either that or you don't dare plan for the future. Everything is so uncertain that you take each day as it comes and deal with whatever gets thrown at you next. Here was someone talking about an event two years away in the future! It kind of throws you a bit. If we didn't have to live in Midlothian, would our next move be within the county or out with? If I actually had a choice of where to send A for his high school education, would I send him to a local high school? In short, the answer would be no. I went to two of the high schools in the area, I know some of the teachers who currently work in these schools. Given that high school will always be hard for A both socially and academically, would I want to send him to one that wasn't great in the first place. If the kids in these schools who don't have additional needs fail to achieve their potential what hope would such a place hold for A?

    I like the village, I don't love it and I don't hate it. I grew up here so I consider myself suitably equipped to pass opinions on the state of the place and the people in it. But I also left the place as soon as I could when I was a teenager. Village life has never suited me, I don't drink in the local pubs, shop in the local shops (or lack thereof now), I don't stand around the school gates and gossip, I don't have pets, I don't particularly like wide open spaces and/or fields. You get out of a community what you put into it and we've invested nothing here at all as we haven't really had the time. All of our friends live in Edinburgh, we both study and work in Edinburgh and at the weekends we spend all of our time in Edinburgh engaged in some activity or other or simply wandering about the place.  A isn't the outdoorsy type and prefers the city (well, eating in it at least, he's visited more eateries than Jay Rayner). What we've essentially created over the last six years is a microcosm within the four walls of our house.with the occasional venture to the local shop for a pint of milk. The only saving grace of being in the village is that it is near my parents (2 minute drive, 10 minute walk). Our abode might be situated within the village but we certainly don't *live* here...

    Sunday, 21 February 2010

    Egg Sunday



    We have a little tradition in our house called 'Egg Sunday'. The title being somewhat self-explanatory means that every Sunday the boys decide what type of egg dish they would like for brunch. Sadly, I cannot participate in this egg-extravaganza as I'm allergic and instead I get to indulge in some dish that the boys don't like (usually involving smelly cheese or olives).Amidst the packing chaos, A has decided that he would like huevos rancheros and that my scrambled eggs are boring. Luckily our remote location means that I can fob him off with the explanation that we don't have all the ingredients in the house so boring old scrambled eggs it will have to be. I wonder what will happen when he figures out that the new flat is a ten minute walk from Lupe Pintos....

    We've made a dent in the packing and have only had a few panic attacks between us so far...


    Saturday, 20 February 2010

    Saturday Mornings

    Pyjama Time
     

    Ah...the weekend! My favourite time of the week as OH only works Monday to Friday and A isn't at school so we are all together for breakfast and usually planning a big adventure. Not this weekend or the next or the next... as we're moving house.

    There! I've said it WE'RE MOVING HOUSE! For the last couple of weeks I've been busy planning a postgraduate conference at the University so my mind hasn't really been on the big move at all. One quick glance into each of the rooms here and I'm in despair! Why do we have so much stuff? Where are we going to put it? Who is going to move it? I feel a migraine coming on...

    Friday, 19 February 2010

    Food Glorious Food

    Another thing I intend to regularly blog about is food. I'm an accomplished cook and my favourite past time next to eating and watching TV programmes about food and the cooking of it, is to cook. I thought you might be interested in what I cook on special occasions and on a more mundane day to day basis. I often plan our meals for the week and do an online shop to cover this and have a kind of pot luck weekend usually involving a restaurant or two...

    My reasons for this are not motivated by a "look I can cook" kind of attitude. Living in this village I've learnt to cook some fantastic meals using (sometimes very) basic ingredients that are cheap and available anywhere. Also I used to be as guilty as anyone for trying new recipes and buying strange things that would then sit at the back of the cupboard.  In this day and age we all have to think about economising and wasting food and I can be pretty creative at times whilst still producing quality food. I love watching TV chefs/cooks like Nigella Lawson, Hugh Fernley-whathisface etc but then their leftovers either come from Harrod's foodhall or from farmer friends who 'donate' half a lamb for their deep freeze. I doubt that they've had to look in the cupboard at the end of a month and had to create a meal out of cous cous, tomatoes and some past their best veg...

    Tonight's menu features one of our comfort dishes: Chicken and Asparagus Salad with Parmesan. We love to eat this when the asparagus season starts back up and although asparagus is becoming more available out of season there is a huge difference in taste. Try this recipe with the finest ingredients you can afford and try it with cheaper ingredients and I guarantee you can taste the difference.
     
    For three hungry people (or four civilised ones)
    Stage one: take
    4 chicken breasts marinade in
    1 lemon juiced
    3tbsp olive oil
    2 cloves of garlic crushed for at least 30 mins.
    Drizzle some asparagus spears on oil and griddle for 3 mins a side and set aside.
    Make pesto: grind a bunch of basil, 3 tbsps of toasted pine nuts with one garlic clove, 2 tbsps of grated parmesan and enough oil to loosen up the mix.
    Grab watercress, rocket and spinach and mix, spread on three plates.
    Griddle chicken for 10 minutes a side until cooked and slice and scatter over the salad, top with pine nuts, asparagus and parmesan shavings. Take pesto and mix with 1tbsp or sherry or white wine vinegar and drizzle over entire thing. If you lack the self control that I do, put more parmesan over entire thing and serve with warm sourdough bread to mop up the cheese and dressing.

    High Jinks #5675765765765

    Right...what follows here is a fairly typical event and/or happening in the daily life of me and my clan.

    I need to go to the bank. Whilst this seems straightforward let me explain that I live in a village. This village does not have a bank of its own so in order to visit a bank I have to gather up my children, jump on a bus, travel through three further villages into the next town, proceed through the town until I reach the bank. This has to be repeated in the reverse in order to get home again. My son A likes to eat so when he hears that we will be going out, he is hatching a plan of how to get something to eat out of the whole experience. Now A is not the kind of kid who will settle for a sweetie purchased at the till, he's a two course plus the possibility of a pudding kind of lad and he had heard from his Anti-Social (my sister and Aunt to my two kids) that a new Subway had opened up in the nearest town.

    So it transpires that if I wanted to go to the bank, we would have to visit the brand new MSG laden Subway branch or else. "Fine with me", "whatever" I say as I change B's clothes for the third time today. When I come back from changing B, it now turns out that A has phoned my father (his Papa) and asked him if he would like to tag along. I was quite glad about this as this meant no buses and consequently no 'bus people' would be involved in this expedition. Half way through fuelling up B for the journey, my father appears with my sister (the aforementioned Anti-Social) and they announce that they would like to visit the nearby retail park in order to buy a dress for a social event. So now the plan is to visit Kinnaird park, go to the Subway there (for A) and some clothes shop (for Anti-Social) and then home. But wait, didn't I need to go to the bank?

    In my haste to get two kids, my father and my sister and her iphone out of the door, I have completely forgotten all about the bank. Anti-Social abruptly announces that I've (!!) taken too long to get out of the door and that if she is to get to the pub at a early hour we now cannot go to the retail park and she must go home. After dropping her off, A then resumes plan A, to go to the dreaded Subway. As I keep B amused in the back of the car the men then decide that we should go to the local Gastropub for lunch (It's now 2:30PM) and seeing as this is better than Subway I do not argue. Once inside said Gastropub and after having hit three people with my buggy and one with my handbag, the waiter announces that our first course will be with us in 45 minutes. Exit stage left....

    In a bid to stay away from Subway my Dad suggests that we go somewhere 'different' for lunch (now 3PM and B is due a feed at 4). He muses that there is a little known place only ten minutes drive away where he once had a delicious steak, nay, the BEST steak in the whole of Scotland. We did indeed drive for ten minutes until we arrived at the back of a restaurant that I've passed many times in my life time and never given a second thought. The car park was deserted but then we were now eating at a time that was nowhere near lunch time so I thought nothing more of it. When we arrived at our table (underneath a stuffed pheasant, next to some horse brasses and within spitting distance of the fag machine) I sense that all is not well. My father then announces that it's 'been a while since he was last here' and mentions the names of the people he last visited the place with at which point I've realised that 'a while' was over twenty years ago!

    The staff were very friendly and the place only slightly smelled of urinal cakes so I considered the menu and chose the breaded mushrooms for nostalgia's sake and a cheese toastie to follow because (a) the first is deep-fried and so possible salmonella could be avoided and (b) because there are very few things you can do to a cheese toastie to make it unpalatable. I also ordered a coffee that came out of a machine already white. I held my breath while A ordered the prawn cocktail to start and fish and chips to follow and my Dad, a gammon steak (fried foods = happy Dad). Halfway through our meal B filled her nappy and the event was complete!

    The upshot of all of this was that we took a wrong turn on the new section of the bypass and ended up in town and I got to the bank before it closed...

    Dramatis personæ

    About us:
    Me Oh Mammy (the least photogenic of us all)...






















    I used to look like this...

                                                          


    Oh Daddy (the Other Half)

    Oh Daddy looking handsome...
    Oh Daddy being silly...
    Child A


    Who used to look like this...
     
     
    And will look like this...
     
    Child B, who used to look like this...
    And now looks like this. 

    Sport relief

    Our A has, in a moment of pure selflessness, (most unlike his ten year old self) decided to run the Edinburgh Mile in aid of Sport Relief. Accompanied by the OH and with B and I waiting at the finish line, he will be running around Arthur's Seat on the 21st of March 2010 at 11AM. Please come and join us on the day for celebratory hot drinks after the race. You can sponsor him either through the official giving page via the above link or if you're unlucky enough to be accosted by him and his sponsor sheet, look into his big blue eyes and give generously.

    He made me buy the official socks and water bottle from Sainsbury's yesterday so he will have toasty ankles and will be properly hydrated for the event.

    Welcome

     
    Hello one and all...
    Welcome to my blog ὦ μάμμη (pronounced Oh Mammy or Mam-Meh).
    I hope this will be interesting or at least give someone a good laugh. I want to share my three big passions, children (especially my own), Classics (more ancient history than literature) and cooking (nom, nom, nom). There will be random posts, mutterings, musings and general rubbish that I find interesting so I expect others to as well. I also hope I can convince my friends to add things to this page because they are awesome and the more people know how awesome they are the better.
    Lots of love
    Fran xxxx
    μάμμ-η ,  child's word for
    A. mother, “ μάμμηPherecr.70, cf. Men. Sam.28; “Σισύφου μ.AP11.67 (Myrin.), cf. Epicur.Fr.176.
    II. mother's breast, Arr.Epict.2.16.43.
    III. later, grandmother, POxy.1644.12 (i B. C.), Ph.2.301, Plu.Agis4, LXX 4 Ma.16.9, SIG 844 B 5 (Chaeronea, iii A. D.), etc.
     Just in case you were wondering....