Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Castleton & Food

It's unusually sunny today, so we packed our walking boots and sticks to visit Castleton, a little quaint village in the High Peak, Derbyshire. The temperature is about 4 degrees lower than from where I live, which means that today, it's about 0 degree. Christmas trees are already out on the streets and the sound system in the public toilet is still playing classical music. It's weird for a public toilet to have music but there you go, odd village as it is.

This is a typical English cottage facing a graveyard and a castle ruin is on top of the hill next to it. It looks beautiful but I don't know how I'd feel if I live in there seeing all the graves everytime I wake up in the morning.

Salmon & Dill Fishcake

English Sausage & Mash

Being a touristy village though, a lot of cafes offer good food. Rose Cottage Cafe is fabulous. The tourist centre suggested this to us, and because we enjoyed the food, we dropped £1 in their box. It's the 'economic downturn', according to the Americans, so a pound is just right for a donation.

Cream Tea

As I am posting photos of food now, I might as well include my favourite Cream Tea. This one is from the only cafe in the Peak Village, a shopping outlet near Matlock in Derbyshire. This tastes nice but nothing can beat the Austrian cafe in a village called Bakewell which serves the best cream tea and bratwurst sausages.

The Peak District is beautiful. I have considered joining a rambling club but seeing that most members are pensioners who spend their time walking (rambling) about instead of knitting socks for their grandchildren, I might as well wait for a little bit. Indeed I do a bit of walking around, but only because I enjoy collapsing into a cafe afterwards, to say I deserve some cholesterol-laden cream tea.

More photos here.

Friday, 21 November 2008

drama out of a crisis

'Well, in front of William was Hannah. Hannah is a girl. She is long and thin. William fell down, hit his face on the concrete and blood went everywhere. It was a good job William was a school counsellor. Because he is injured, I am now the new school counsellor. And because blood was everywhere, the school called the nurse, the nurse called the surgery, the surgery called the hospital, the hospital called the fire engine, the fire engine called the ambulance!'

This is a bit of what I heard from my 6-year-old while he was chatting with his daddy. There is so much in there to analyse. It's funny bordering on fanciful and I don't know which bit is real or made up. I have to remind him of Pinnochio as a reality check sometimes. What strikes me is that if his story involves boys, he only mentions the names, but if girls are involved, they are described as to their appearance, in detail, with an additional reminder that the person he is on about is a different species: a GIRL.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Best Nanay

Girlie passed on to me this award. This made me think. What kind of a mother am I? Am I really best for my children? Also, I've never been 'best' in anything! My cooking is rubbish. My home is not always spic and span. So in a way, there's a little feeling of guilt to be called 'Best Mom' when I don't even cook for my children!

Probably, the 'best' I have given my children is 'time'. I don't want to enumerate what sort of 'time' I have spent with them but I am confident to say that it was both quantity and quality time. I only work a few hours a week, after Lewis turned 1, just to get me out of the house and smell something else other than dirty nappies and milk. I'm glad to say I enjoy every minute of motherhood. One day, when Lewis is in school full time, I could refocus on my career and be financially independent. When the boys are both grown up and living their own lives, I could hold my head up and tell myself, 'I looked after them myself!'

But I don't want to gloat. There are mothers out there who have to work full time and leave their babies to nannies or childminders so they could help feed the family. Maybe I am just lucky that I don't have to and that I have a husband who doesn't mind. There are lots of frustrations in not being able to work full time and earn good money. But this is my choice and the downsides are only for me to swallow. The latest It-bag could wait. My old jeans would still do. But my babies grow and before I know it, they're gone. I just can't afford to lose out on them.

I would like to pass this on to Analyse and Aileen. Great mothers and fantastic career women who know how to balance family life without ending up pathetic like me. I just wish I had their energy!

Thursday, 13 November 2008


Out of the blue, the boys came rushing from the kitchen on their tractor to deliver plates, knives, forks on to our dining table. The soysauce was declared champagne and the roasted chicken, vegetables and roasted potatoes became CHRISTMAS DINNER! K came out with all the drinks and played Christmas songs on CD. We all got excited. We sat down to eat, big smiles on our faces, thrilled. Wow! Christmas dinner in November!

We closed the blinds and pretended it was snowing outside. The excitement and the chatter made the delicious meal a christmas dinner in every way. Except of course that it was 13 November and not 25 December.

'Hunny! Life is what you make it!' my husband said as I savoured the wonderful 'christmas dinner' surprise.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Crispy Bites

Crispy Bites, originally uploaded by Soyy.

I am not a dessert or a biscuit person. Normally, when I am offered snacks or after-meal bites, I refuse. I don't mind drinks. I would even happily sit in a competition on who could drink the most tea without milk and sugar. At six in the morning. But McBurgers at mid-morning? Oh no. Oh no.

But it was also mid-morning when a friend handed this Crispy Bites to me and K as we sat in her settee. Before she even finished making a cup of tea, K already munched about a dozen of these peanut brittle-like cookies. My husband is normally a rich tea biscuit type of person, but this morning? He was abnormally munching it like he's just discovered his teeth and now enjoying the pleasures of solid food.

This bag of crispy bites by the way can be bought from the shop with the slogan, 'Spend a little, save a lot'. We're on our way their tomorrow to grab a trolley of this.

homework madness

As soon as we got home from school, I sat down with Zak to do his homework. There is something about homeworks that get to my nerves. He is only 6 years old and for him to do 3 subjects almost every night is too much. I try as much as I can to make it a funny activity rather than a chore and I always wish that the next homework would be all about numbers so that I could copy from the internet the mathematical formulae of the quantum mechanics of chaos and let Zak submit it to his teachers.

This afternoon, we did spelling. Ten words. After the third word, he started acting up. GIRL was spelt as GERL. I would say the word again, stretching my mouth sideways, to emphasize letter I, but he would pretend to be dozing off and unable to concentrate. So I used the words in sentences to make sense. 'Next word is GIRL. Zak is a GIRL!' He jumped up and yelled, 'I'm not a girl! I'm a boy!' So I laughed out loud and told him to write the word GIRL, as it should be. 'Next word is MOST. Mummy is the MOST beautiful of all the mothers in the world.' He smiled and wrote down the word. 'Next word is BLUE. Mummy's BLUE eyes are the most striking ever!' He stared at my eyes, shook his head and wrote down, BROWN.

The Literacy subject was the easiest for him. He had to write 2 sentences that make sense and two that don't. He explored a lot of silly statements and decided to write about defecating with sheeps and urinating with cows. We laughed our heads off before writing the sentences that make sense, which was about him and his daddy going to space taking photos.

I like supervising him with his homework. I am lucky in the sense that I have the luxury of time to devote to them. My job is not demanding and I can always have time off when necessary, like attending school plays, parents' evenings, etc. On the other hand, I don't like the pressure of school work. He is too young to worry about passing tests and finishing homeworks on time. It is not surprising that British school children are more stressed compared to their Scandinavian counterparts. There is too much politics in the school system that the best the parents could do is to be there for their children, help them out and make homework more fun and interesting.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Random and some B* stuff

QUANTUM OF SOLACE. I went to the cinema Tuesday MORNING to watch this picture. There were only about 6 of us who dragged our beds to Cineworld to watch high octane James Bond. It certainly woke us up but if I had my way, I would really have liked the action scenes to slow down a bit so I could catch up and understand how people killed one another. Yes, I'm that slow in the morning I need to be told if it was a gun or a knife being used! And how blood got there or why there was no blood at all. And that tabletop touchscreen computer? Wow. I think I'd like to have one of those! And it would be a fab bonus to have Daniel Craig as well. To touch, at least. Ha! Shiver my timbers!

I am ever so glad he that he won. I enjoy his oratory skills. When he pauses mid-sentence, it is like he is not sure what he is going to say next but what comes out of his mouth is pure brilliance. His economic and health care policies convince me even if I am not in America and would certainly not enjoy the tax cuts. At the moment though, I think I'm just about pissed off with all the 'first black president' stuff on the news. He's half-white as well, goodness! And when he campaigned for presidency, it wasn't because of his colour but because he believed he could do the job! Oh well, over to you Americans.

I took Lewis to a new playgroup in my area. It's totally different from what he's used to and the toys are a lot gentler (no tractors and JCBs). And the kids are mostly girls. And most of them seem spoilt! Lewis was a bit shocked when the girls a lot younger than him started screaming and thrashing about with their little pink toys. Another little girl came up to him to play with his teapot and cups. He was a bit miffed that the girl couldn't stop dropping off the cup and that he had to pick it up for her! He stared at her as if saying, 'what's the matter with this little pinky creature?'

I got a book by Dr Miriam Stoppard called 'Questions children ask and how to answer them'. There is a suggested answer if a 4-6 year old asks, 'How are babies made?' or 'Did a stork bring me?' or 'How does the baby get in there?' which goes like this:

You weren't brought by a stork - that's just a story. Like all
babies, you were made from a seed from Daddy and an egg from Mummy. Daddy's seed and Mummy's egg joined together in Mummy's tummy to make you, so you're very special - and a lovely mixture of Daddy and Mummy.

With this answer, I could already imagine Zak exclaiming, 'You have an egg?! Then why do you need to buy eggs from the shop?!'

I also got James Bruges' Big Earth Book - Ideas and solutions for a planet in crisis. It's not a stuck-up-in-the-arse kind of book and it explains about money in very simple terms, which appeals to me very much indeed. Two reasons: I don't have a lot of money and I don't understand numbers. And these two reasons are interlinked as well, I suppose.

My third new book at the moment is called Quantum by Manjit Kumar. lt's very heavy (448 pages, hardback). Heavy to digest as well. I don't understand a word in it, actually. But I got it because it says in the flap, 'Quantum theory looks at the very building blocks of our world, the particles and processes without which it could not exist...' Hmm. Sounds very important. I'm sure though that once I finish reading it and someone would ask me what it's all about, I'd be like, 'Umm, Quantum is like... you know, like quantum physics? Erm, quantum leap? Yeah, that sort of thing.'

And oh, the last sentence in its flap jacket reads: 'Quantum is the essential read for anyone fascinated by this complex and thrilling story and by the band of brilliant men at its heart.'


Yes, I hear you. It's definitely boring* stuff.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

He is 6

Happy. More photos at here.

After his birthday tea, we settled into our pajamas at 7pm relieved from all the tidying up but overwhelmed by the extra pizzas and sandwiches that could last us another week.

Instead of story time, we talked about how Zak was born. The questions mainly came from him, i.e. how many patients were in the hospital when he was born (erm...i didn't have the chance to ask - I was giving birth, remember?), how many doctors (two), what did daddy do during that time (holding my hand while trying not to faint), and so on.

He laughed when I told him that the 'bed' in the delivery room wasn't really a bed. It was a piece of wood with green vinyl on it, about 6 inches in width. Two pieces of covered wood also extended on the sides to support my arms. It was in the shape of a cross, except that a real cross is a lot better. The delivery bed I was in only supported the middle of my body up to the bottom of my spine. My whole bum was left dangling while my feet were supported by stirrups. If Jesus died on the cross to save my sins, I thought at that moment that he was in a better position that me. And it wasn't even a state hospital in the Philippines. It happened to be the 'best' hospital in the city.

I told him that it was indeed a difficult birth. That awful bed made it so damn difficult I thought it was meant to deter women from giving birth. It was also hospital policy to NOT allow the husband to be at his wife's side during the birth in case the wife becomes pathetic and complains about the pain. My husband had to be smuggled in by our doctor.

What freaked my husband out was when one of the nurses started to bath the baby. The kettle where she boiled the water was rusty. The little bathtub/basin was hygienically suspicious. And the cot was rusty as well. When he sent the photos to his parents here in England, they were so shocked at the site of the rusty cot. But the baby was fine, they were assured.

A few hours after Zak was born.

This is the most interesting story in the family, and until now, it still fascinates Zak and his grandparents. But this also sends shivers down my husband's spine. But I tell this to Zak, and probably in every birthday celebrations he has, because this is his story. The next time we go back to the Philippines, the hospital might have improved a lot, and hopefully have thrown away that bed and refurbished the delivery suite. I might not even recognise the hospital anymore.

In Zak's mind, his birth is the most fascinating story.

Before he went to sleep, he asked one last question: how did he get to live in my belly? I thought, there now, that will be another fascinating experience for you one day. But we settled for the simplest answer: Daddy put you inside mummy's belly. And the follow-up question of: But how? was shushed with a quiet whisper: 'time for bed, birthday boy...' while I lingered in his warm, cozy, and comfy bed.

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