Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Getting Ready to Go

We are about to embark on the annual family holiday. The Man of the Place and I have been very busy organising things to make sure that things tick over nicely while we're gone for two weeks. Henry has been in charge of money, tickets, diving equipment and the hotel and parking stuff at the airport. I have been in charge of the domestic side of things like laundry, giving the grass that last cut before we go (I deserve great praise because I am a hayfever sufferer and this is HIGH pollen season) organizing a very good friend (gem of a friend bordering on saintly) to come and feed and water the chickens (eggs in return for this service) feed and water Jasper the rabbit and feed the cat. This good friend will also water all the stuff in the greenhouse. I am confident that she will handle all of these things with great competence.

When I return, I will not be greeted as I was one year by crispy hanging baskets. Once a few years ago I had conveniently placed all the containers of flowers and hanging baskets in the large greenhouse so that the person who was tending them only had to turn on the hose and spray it in one greenhouse once a day. Everything was lovely as we reversed out of the drive. Two weeks later, relaxed and fat from our time in Brittany we drove back in. The first thing I saw was the greenhouse full of brown and crispy hanging baskets. It was ALL dead. How could my careful instructions been messed up to that degree? Nothing had been watered, not even once. Two weeks in a sealed greenhouse with no water would even kill cacti. Well, nothing could be done except throw it all into the bin. . . . . This isn't going to happen this time. It will all be flourishing when we get back.

I have purchased over a month's worth of rabbit food, two month's worth of chicken feed and cat food. It is all in easy to access areas and there should be no problems.

The strawberries are looking fat and pink. Not red enough to eat, so the locum Lazy Gardener will get those. I have also said that if the sweet peas start to bloom to please pick them. They always smell so great and if they're picked then I know they will continue to blossom.

I'm up late at the moment because I am waiting for the wash to finish in the machine. I can then swap another load in and then go to bed.

I am going to try to continue the bloggy fun while I'm away, but I can't promise. If I find a cyber cafe that works and I can use our camera's little card in their machine, we'll be in business. I'll post diving photos too, but those will naturally be in the diving blog.

I've got my one small case all packed up. It weighs less than 8 kilos. It is a bit heavier than I normally carry but all in all, not bad for a two week vacation.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Boys and Frogs

I think it is wonderful that 12 year old boys can waste hours tormenting pond life. George and our friend Asen who is fresh over from Italy were sent over to the pond to clear some of the duck weed by hand. They were immediately distracted from the job as Asen got a newt in his first scoop.
Then we discovered that the tadpoles have completely changed into weeny little frogs. This wasn't noticed by us as the duckweed had taken over. We usually keep on top of the duck weed but the two sieves we had are gone now. The first one rusted (a sieve with a hole in the middle is no use at all) and Polly chewed up the plastic one. I'll try to remember to buy a couple of sieves when I go to the supermarket. If I get two then I will get to have one in the kitchen for a while.

Knee High by the 4th of July

I heard that saying countless times while growing up. It relates to the height of the corn and its likelihood of getting a corn crop at the end of the summer. . . in Iowa. I am sure they have the same saying in other states.

Here are some facts; The 4th of July is next week. The approximate measurement of the distance from the ground to my knee is 19 inches. The corn is this high . . . At a stretch, it is 9 inches and that is the tall one! A very poor showing by Iowa standards. I thought that perhaps the bit of warm weather we had a short while ago would have helped. I guess we need MORE sun and MORE heat. Think we'll get it? I think I am going to have to sew this corn much earlier in the greenhouse. I've used a super early variety (name escapes me for the moment).
Here is another plant that isn't showing much promise. I bought it at the new garden centre outside Carlisle. The new garden centre is pretty, has lots of parking but it seems to be more of a lifestyle shop with plants than a proper garden centre. This place is not where you would go to find a bargain either.

I bought the above plant at the new garden centre and it was labelled pumpkin. It now looks like it is actually a courgette (zucchini). If it was a pumpkin, I'd be trying to manage the vines at this point. I wanted a pumpkin but I'm okay with a courgette. We can eat that. I was thinking about planting them when I was planning this year's stuff but skipped it in the end. Two years ago I bought a packet of courgette seeds and planted up three little pots with two seeds per pot. The object was to cull the weaker of the seedlings after the seeds germinated. The hitch with this plan was that I had to kill off a little seedling. In the end, I planted up six courgette plants. Towards the end of July, The Man of the Place held up his fork during dinner and stated that this (this being a chunk of courgette at the end of his fork) was the last bite of courgette he was going to be eating. After that, I thought I'd give courgettes a miss for a couple of years.

This is the other worrying thing in the garden this morning. A critter hole! If whatever dug this hole stays there until harvest time, it will be most conveniently placed to eat a large portion of the runner bean harvest. It is most likely a field vole. The place is crawling with them. Wouldn't it be nice if Flossy (see previous post) started going after the voles rather than stalking the birds?

I am also noticing a worrying amount of weed at the end of that bean row. Now that it is not raining today, I can tackle that. Grass will get mowed too.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Here birdy birdy birdy!

This is the reason the bird seed isn't getting eaten very quickly.

She is looking quite sinister. Tired of picking out chicks from the nests in the hedge (Bad kitty!) she has gone to the source. Thankfully this feeder is way out in the open and all the birds can see her coming so that it hasn't become a cat feeding station.

The really annoying thing is that we have signs of mice in the extension. Why can't she just go in there to satisfy her blood lust?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

An ounce of prevention

My vegetable garden is small this year, so the stuff I have in it gets much more attention and has more importance to me.

When I have a vegetable garden that includes cabbage, the plants have to be covered in the summer with agricultural fleece before the Cabbage White butterflies discover the garden. The caterpillars of this butterfly once they hatch will reduce my cabbages and any member of the mustard plant group to skeletons in a few short days. A physical barrier is the best way to keep them off. I won't spray the vegetables with chemicals. I feel it defeats the point of growing your own vegetables.
I haven't seen the dreaded white butterfly just yet. They really don't fly until July. They will show up while we're away so today I have covered the lot.
This is the purple sprouting broccoli. It's lookin good!
These are the cabbages - starting to form their centres.

Warning to all slugs: I will kill you if you sneak under the fleece and try to eat these cabbages.
This is the cabbages and broccoli now safe from the butterflies under a gentle cloud of agricultural fleece. Aren't the sweet peas to the right of the fleece looking vigorous? The flower buds are already forming. Garden peas to the left of the fleece are looking a bit anaemic. Let's hope they perk up.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Did you know?

I have an aquarium in my kitchen. Not everyone can say that. It was a Christmas present from The Man of the Place about 8 or 9 years ago.

You can see the knife block to the right of the fishies that proves that this aquarium is sited in a kitchen. Well, now that I think about it, it doesn't prove that the aquarium is in the kitchen it only proves that when this photo was taken, a knife block was in the shot. However, if you look back at older photos that were taken in the kitchen, you will see that all kitchen based photograpsh have the same faux granite work surfaces. I just realized that you can sort of see my reflection in the aquarium glass. I am wearing my blue cloud and stars pyjamas. (early morning blogging going on here)

I gave the glass a wipe yesterday. I can see my little fish much better now. I also cleaned out the filter and changed a bit of the water. Change the water in thirds and it improves the water quality (nitrogen content) and doesn't shock the fish with all new water.

I have about nine Cardinal Tetras and two little catfish. If you want to take a photo of your fish and they prefer to hide in the luxuriant plant growth, I suggest that you add a little food into the aquarium. They will abandon the comforts of the plants and come out to eat.

I got these particular fish, the Cardinal Tetra as they are pretty and non-agressive. I have had other fish but had problems with big fish eating the smaller ones. So I gave away the big mean fish only to discover that the smaller ones were breeding too often (Guppies). It was all a horrid mess.

Now I've come to a nice balance. No fish eat the others and they're not breeding themselves into overcrowded conditions.

I have always liked having an aquarium. I can't remember what year I got my first one, but I sure remember its arrival. Christmas morning 197?. We were living in NE Minneapolis and I got this big 20 gallon beauty. I filled it with everything my little bits of pocket money could afford. I learned how to treat common diseases by putting in drops that turn the water blue. No, it wasn't food colouring. I even learned the latin names for the aquarium plants.

It was with my interest in my aquarium that I had my first experience of talking about something that other people didn't understand. I was babysitting for somebody one Friday night. I have long since forgotten who they were. The parents were talking to me and giving me my instructions before they went out and I was going on and on about my aquarium, interjecting the names of the plants and names of the fish. I was excited because the babysitting money I was going to earn that night was going to fund some new gadget or better specimen of fish. It dawned on me as I was rattling on that they didn't know what I was talking about and I was being humoured. It was there in that NE Minneapolis living room that I learned that not everybody is interested in the same things.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Don't look the artist in the eye

When it comes to the behaviour of "celebrities", I am astounded by what they can get away with.

One of my dirty little secrets (no longer a secret as it is now in a blog) is my love of gossip magazines. I don't know why. I really don't actually care about these people in the magazines, but I have a morbid curiosity about what they get up to. Perhaps it is because I can go around feeling superior because I don't behave like a diva and wouldn't if I had that sort of fame and fortune. Who knows, maybe I would if I thought I would get away with it. . . No, I don't think I would. I hate being the cause of anybody feeling bad or even feeling small. I think it is the Midwestern upbringing in me. Being "not nice" was a terrible thing and was just about the worst thing one could say about you when I lived in Iowa.

So, in these magazines I hear second hand information about how movie stars and singers demand room temperature Pellegrino water, masseuse on call, luxury trailers, ad nauseum. Then if they're on a set or back stage, the extras or crew are not allowed to speak to the artist or they are not allowed to look the artist in the eye. Now if I have this wrong, then I am relieved. But if not, why oh why do people get away with demanding stuff like that? Why can't the artist just say, "don't bug me". Maybe they are tired of saying "don't bug me" because it makes them feel mean and this ridiculous clause helps them not to have to say it anymore. I don't begrudge the luxuries. They've made the millions by being talented and or beautiful, enjoy it. But throwing your weight around because you can get away with it is really creepy. Sheesh!

I'd like somebody to write to me and defend this behaviour. Give me a logical reason why somebody can demand that other people not look them in they eye.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I'm so vain!

We're leaving on our annual family vacation at the end of next week and I've already started preparations. We're going to a HOT country at the hottest time of the year. The thing is, I'll be bringing my non-hot country skin along with me. Over here the normal colour of my skin can be compared with the underside of a trout. A pale bluey white. It will take me a week of middle east sun to get from blue to white and then the second week to get from white to a pinky colour.

The above photo illustrates the colour of my true skin after a Scottish winter.

In the past I have actually spent money on going to a tanning salon and cooking my skin for 15 minutes at a time so as to have a bit of a starter tan when I arrive at our holiday destination.

However years of speaking to doctors every day has had an affect. They have convinced me that these tanning beds are really not good for me. That combined with an acceleration of the aging process has changed my stubborn mind about them. There is one nice thing about tanning beds though and it will be the reason I will miss them. Tanning beds are warm and quiet. You get a nice peaceful 15 minutes a couple of times a week (I used to fall asleep) and I will miss that part of it.

So, no tanning beds then. I can't get a bit of sun on my skin the normal way, with the sun because the last time I checked, it was raining. . . . pause to look out the window . . . . yup, still raining. I have reverted to fake tan products.

After experimenting with different brands, different shades running from clementine to Malibu perfection and different methods of application with varying success with streakiness, I have found one that suits me best. The trouble is, I can't get my back. I am a lone woman in this house of men and its not the sort thing they'd be good at. If I force George to do it, he'll be scarred for life I'll figure out a way. A small paint roller might do.

That is the malibu perfection I am aiming for.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Moth Fest 06

It was a rainy night last night and so I purposely left the outside back light on. I knew that if it stayed cloudy, the back wall of our place would have some good moths in the morning. There were a lot of moths this morning, but they were almost all one variety. The Buff Ermine. I counted 16 of the fluffy things. This is the most magnificent of the ones that grace our north wall.

With the rain that we had yesterday and this morning, I expect some good growth out of the vegetables over the next few days.
I was looking at the strawberries. From what I can see, the bulk of the strawberries will come ripe while we're away on holiday. The countdown is 10 days to go. This means that Helen, who will be tending the tubs and containers as well as seeing to the rabbit and chickens while we're gone will have the benefit of the bulk of the strawberry harvest. We'll get one or two before we leave (I can see one turning pink) and there may be a few left when we get back . . . .

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Blitzkreig Bop

Happy Father's Day to my Dad - One great guy - and to Henry aka The Man of The Place - one in a million!

This is a photo, taken a few years ago in Ireland of my dear father. Such a handsome rogue!

This is a photo of Henry and George, doing the Blitzkreig Bop tonight in the front room.

Then we all had some cake! It was a Simpsons cake that says that Dads Rock! (they do!)

In addition I'd like to send a Happy Father's Day to all the pals of mine who have achieved the rank of Daddy: Jay, Al, Davey, Tom, Joe, Innes, Kev, Raymond, Peter and Chris. I think you are all great Dads and I hope you had a nice day.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gardening in a moraine

It was wondering why, every time I hoe the vegetable garden, I come up with stones the size of potatoes. I have long since learned to ignore smaller ones. When I come up with these larger stones, I throw them underneath the hawthorn hedge on the eastern border of the garden. Actually, I throw all stones that annoy me when gardening under the hedge.

The soil here at Whitelees is quite good. In fact, I bet you would envy me if you saw the black, loamy richness of this soil. It is well drained, slightly acid and very black and lovely. Anything will grow in this soil. Don't leave your spade or garden fork stuck in the ground for to long . . . .
HOWEVER, we have an inordinate number of stones.

It dawned on me the other day and I don't know why it hadn't come to me before. Knowing just enough about the geology of the area to be dangerous I have come to the conclusion that the reason we have so many small stones here in the Whitelees garden is that I am gardening on a moraine. I haven't figured out what sort of moraine it might be, probably a terminal moraine. But that's what it is.

It means that even though I've got a generally good soil structure, it is full of stinkin rocks! It only really bothers me when I am weeding and I am running into the peak weeding season now.

If you're even remotely interested, we lit a fire in our new wood burning stove today. Get a look at the whole story over on The Extension blog.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Reasons I like the World Cup

I'm not really a football fan. That would be soccer to the US people or as Joe said, "metric football". The Man of The Place is a football fan as is the boy. In fact, they have just applied for next season's season tickets for Sunderland.

Even though I am not a big fan of the sport, I am football tolerant. This means that I can be called from another room to watch re-plays, I will be interested in the score, I know who some of the player are and most importantly I know the offside rule. I learned a lot of stuff about football that I didn't realize I knew. The information just sort of seeps in by osmosis. It means that I can do something other than look blank when a football conversation is forced upon me.

The football World Cup is on at the moment. This means that after work, The Man of The Place will be in the front room, watching a game.

The World Cup is being hosted in Germany this time around. This means that the times of the games won't be too far off for UK fans. There were many more bleary eyed fans when it was being held in Brazil.

Benefits of not being a big World Cup fan:
Traffic in town is greatly reduced during games
Can get an appointment at the salon on a Saturday (game day) AND there will be parking
You don't have to have flags flying from your car

Some folk really go over the top and are not satisfied with just wearing the shirt. In case you didn't know, only England has qualified for the World Cup. Scotland isn't in it this time, neither is Wales.

I have the rest of the house to myself during a game. This means that even at home I can be getting on with other things like weeding/watering the garden, collecting eggs from the chickens or even writing in the blog in peace.

For those who don't understand the hype, just leave the folks who are big fans be. This only comes around every four years. Its a big deal to them and it leaves the rest of the planet free for the rest of us to get on with other things.

If you are at all interested, it is worth watching the Brazil team play as their player, Ronaldinho who when not playing for his country, plays for Barcelona FC and he is the most gifted football player you may ever see. See this video clip: Ronaldinho

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Looks like somebody cares about the place

We finally got that wood stacked. It wasn't as hot today as it was yesterday. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was a perfect Sunday sort of day.

After the wood pile was shifted first by myself and then later after I went off to do something else Henry, George and neighbour boy, Laurence. H and I raked up all the woodchips and put them in an old sack and stored somewhere dry to be used to start our fires next winter. Then the grass was mowed.

Looks better now, doesn't it?

Polly has been spending a lot of time, lying in the dust in the sun. This has brought out more of her brindle markings. I like to refer to the brindle markings as her "highlights". Do other non-brindle dogs envy her and secretly want to be taken to the groomers to have these highlights put in?

While pottering about in the garden and spraying some very persistent weeds with a glyphosate based weed killer, I was summoned to the extension where Henry has been tidying up. He found this magnificent moth on the stud wall near where a work lamp had been on all night.

It is a Poplar Hawk Moth. I've never seen one like it before. It is really beautiful. We get a lot of good moths around here but this one is a real trophy moth. We've been known to leave the porch light on over night so that in the morning, we can inspect the back wall with our guide to British Butterflies and Moths in one hand and a mug of morning coffee in the other.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Every family has them, those silly mispronounced words that a child said once and it was so cute that the whole family keeps on mispronouncing it that way for years. Sometimes the family just incorporates the new word so completely into their vocabulary, that it doesn't dawn on the children that something isn't right until they get to school and are teased mercilessly by their peers. Years later the family-ism will pop up at embarrassing moments for the child who originated the word.

For example, quite a few English speaking families say b'sketti for spaghetti because a toddler couldn't get his mouth around the word.

Here are a few of our family's family-isms:

Mecidin= medicine
The origin of this family-ism goes back to the 60's when I, and my sisters were very small.

The origin of this one is probably Ian in the early 80's

Al Pacino coffee = cappuccino coffee
A Sean family-ism dating from 1992 and an early morning in London and we popped into a cafe for breakfast before hitting the museums. Sean was reading the menu and said excitedly, "Oh, they have Al Pacino coffee!".

gift vulture = gift voucher
Another classic one from Sean circa 1992 when he got book tokens from his primary school for winning something in English class.

A brilliant family-ism from my niece Annie who used to get mixited in place of excited.

A George original. Wouldn't you rather consplode things instead of seeing them exploded?

If you would like to submit one of your favourite family-isms, I'll post it here.

From J-Funk: My friend Uncle KT is actually a girl whose nephew keeps calling her
'Uncle KT' for some reason - the name stuck and now she has that as her
blog name - there's a link to her on my blog.

From Cousin Helen: When Andrew was a toddler he made the "s" sound of "snow" by breathing through his nose. Also, he and his cousin Aaron could not pronounce "elephant." One said "odden" and the other said "onkenkonk."
- Helen

We're havin a heat wave!

It got up to 30 C today (according to the thermometer on my car) That's about 86 F. I can't remember it being this warm in a long long time! It may be ten years since we had weather this nice. In any case, I'm NOT complaining. It is lovely. We've had a good breeze all day so it doesn't seem too warm.

I got up early and watered everything in the greenhouses and poly-tunnel before the sun got too hot. I watered the garden too. It is very easy to weed when it is warm and dry. I'm hoping to keep on top of things this year.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I AM a lazy gardener!

I just thought I'd put a rumour to rest. I have been accused of being an active gardener. Not so! I have only chosen to show the best bits and draw a veil over the stuff that should be finished off. Here is the gravel path in the front of the house. Not only does it look nothing like a gravel path, it has a picnic table in the middle of it. The picnic table should, be somewhere else. I just haven't moved it yet. I have sprayed the weeds, which is why they're dead. I just haven't pulled them out of the gravel just yet. Bottom right of the photo is the chimney pot that has yet to have its potted geranium put in it.In the back of the house is that log pile. The logs were delivered last week and still haven't been stacked yet. The thing with stacking the logs is that we can't decide where they should be stored. It would have been good to figure this out before the logs were delivered. On top of that, the grass that the logs are on really needs to be mowed. To top it all off, I have only washed half of one of the two greenhouses. I kept cutting myself on the edges of the glass trying to get it cleaned. When I got the second deep cut, I stopped. You can see exactly where I got to when I cut myself.

A side note about this last photo. You can see through the glass the Poached Egg Flower (limanathes douglasii). It marks the place where blackcurrant bushes used to grow. We couldn't move for blackcurrant bushes when we first moved here. We had four behind the greenhouse and about 30 bushes in the front (where the lawn is now). The reason the flowers are there is that I had read in a book on companion planting that the lovely Poached Egg Flower was good for attacting hover fly which would be beneficial to the blackcurrant bushes, eating aphids and such like. The bushes are gone, but the flowers still self-seed. I leave them as I think they're pretty.

Progress Report 6-6-6

As it is such an unusual day, numerically speaking, I thought I'd just mark the day with some shots of what the progress is in the old Whitelees garden.

Here is a shot of my dog, Polly being mental on the grass in front of the compost bins (black plastic barrel thingies) The white rope stuff is the new line for when the oil tank gets installed. The new oil tank is going to go behind the compost bins.

Polly is trying to roll over and eat grass at the same time. She's a good natured dog, but sometimes I don't think she's very bright.

This is an over all shot of the vegetable plot. It is small, but then I don't have much space to play with at the moment.

From front to back the order goes like this: Strawberries (under net) green beans, runner or pole beans, sweet peas and a lone pumpkin plant, broccoli, cabbage, peas, 2 rows of lettuce, more peas and then sweet corn.

These are the bean frames. I've weighted down some black plastic under the frames to inhibit weeds (and work). The first year I planted lettuce under the frames as the lettuce is fast growing and would be harvested before the beans grew enough to shade the area under the frames. However, the songbird population needed to perch on the bean frames and there were too many bird droppings on the lettuces for my taste. Blue Lake green beans on the right and Fergie runner beans on the left.

Frost damage on the beans - the reason why you should never plant out early in Scotland. End of May means END of May and not the 30th. Sheesh!

This is where the sweet peas grow. They're not vegetables, but I have them in the garden every year. The sole pumpkin plant is behind the two sweet pea constructions. Trust me, it's there.

Next up is the two rows of purple sprouting broccoli and the cabbages. They would be bigger if the chickens hadn't pecked them. Chickens are the most destructive things in a vegetable garden right after herd of cows!

Next, the peas. I love garden peas. Again, there are gaps in the rows courtesy of those pesky chickens. I have replanted the gaps. I have short (1.5 foot) plastic fencing held up with garden canes to support the peas as they grow.

I won't really give the lettuces their own photo. They haven't even germinated yet. I only planted them on the weekend.

This is the sweet corn. I know it looks weedy, but I have a plan with those particular weeds. That is the bindweed and it is terrible. The weeds were under plastic and didn't have the grace to die. When I removed the black plastic ground cover to plant the corn and discovered this still living weed life, I sprayed it. As it is a systemic weed killer and will take 14 days to work, I decided that it would be perfectly okay to plant the corn amongst the doomed weeds. See how lovingly the garden has been watered?

On to the greenhouse -

To greet us at the door of the small greenhouse is my dear little bit of rosemary. Rosemary can sometimes live through the winter here, but mine never did until I put it in a frost resistant pot and over wintered it inside the unheated greenhouse.

This is the first of the tomato plants, variety Red Robin. I discovered too late to start again that this is a miniature plant. It is too wee for my tastes.

This beauty is a plum tomato, a great "cooker" and not bad to eat either.

Here is the coriander/cilantro. It seems to be quite vigorous already. I bet by the time we get back from our vacation it will have bolted and gone to seed. It seems that one end of the grow bag is a bit thin on the coriander. I bet it was watered too fiercely and the seed was washed to the other side of the grow bag.

This is the basil - or as I like to think of it, the pesto-to-be. Remember when the dog walked through the grow bag? I had to rearrange the basil seedlings to sort out the disarray.

Just in case you were wondering, the other herbs I use in the Whitelees kitchen grow here on the south side of the house. Flat leafed parsely self-seeds here. The thyme seems to have been swamped by marjoram and purple sage. The rest of this bed has been taken over by mint. Mint is a real thug of a plant and must be yanked up all the time. Pulling it up is easy and very fresh smelling.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Full Day

I started early by making blueberry muffins because we were expecting a builder to show up early. You know what? He showed up.

Our pal Kevin got the new fireplace cemented in today. We can't put the new wood burning stove into this lovely new fireplace until the cement has set. See the progression here.

I got the two greenhouses tidied up a bit. They still need to have the glass cleaned, but they're tidier than they were at the start of the day.

The corn got planted. I had enough corn seedlings for three rows so there is a nice little block of corn going at the back of the vegetable plot. I got the support up for another row of peas and there is space for a couple rows of lettuce. This will go in tomorrow if I am up to it.

Out in the front garden, I got some perennial flowers planted. Three different colours of bearded iris. I now have visions of Monet's Giverny. Also planted today were heliopsis, coreopsis, and pink and red peonies. The colours should all clash splendidly.

Remember I mentioned the frost earlier in the week. I had previously said that we had escaped. Well, we didn't. The beans and some other plants are showing distinct signs that we had a light frost.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Countdown

We are going to Egypt this year on our annual family vacation. I think I mentioned this a while back, didn't I? We're staying in Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai peninsula and spending two whole weeks diving.

This is the reason that the three of us have worked on getting up to the level of Advanced Open Water Diver over this past winter/spring. A lot of the dives in the Red Sea require that the diver be trained to this level. There will be some odd currents and wrecks at depth and it is better to have the training and be safe. We are also hoping to see a shark or two. Well, I am hoping.

One of the places we will be visiting is the Ras Mohammed National Park. It appeals to the nature lover in me so much. I will get to add so many new birds to my life list and, if I'm lucky see some of the native mammals and reptiles while I'm at it.

I sent my mother the link to this place and she had a bit of a freak out when she saw that a couple of the dive sites have names like Shark Reef and Shark Observatory. Mom, it will be just fine. As I said before, the most dangerous part of a dive in the Red Sea is the drive to the port.

As for photos, we bought the underwater housing for our digital camera and if all goes well, we'll be taking some award winning underwater photos with this new bit of kit.

Anyway, we're all pretty excited. A while ago, not long after we booked the holiday, I took some post-it notes that I had from work and did a little daily count down. Starting at the front and working back, I numbered the pages. Each day that passes, we get to take another number off. We're now at day . . . .

Since returning from Spain in October, we've been steadily acquiring our own dive gear. It isn't cheap so we've mostly been getting second hand stuff on E-bay and then getting it serviced. We've actually saved quite a bit of money this way and we all have very nice dive gear. The wet suits however, are all new. Henry and I gave each other 5mm full wetsuits to each other for Christmas. I also got some snazzy new fins.

All our luggage allowance will be eaten up by our dive gear. Thankfully we won't need much in the way of clothing as it is hot in Egypt in July. Just our swimming suits, a few pairs of shorts and a couple of clean t-shirts.

I'm so excited I can barely breathe when I think about it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jamaican breakfast

I am eating one of the best breakfasts. It became a family favourite years ago when we stumbled into Bradford very early one morning. Cornmeal porridge & banana. It's great! Fine cornmeal or polenta cooked up with milk and mashed banana added in. We discovered it at a Jamaican cafe that was next to an afro-carribbean hairdressers.

First husband was a black man, so our boys are beautiful brown people. We split up and then my ex died. To cut out a long story, the boys then grew up with little to no black culture in their lives. We would try, but really in this part of Scotland, there is very little in the way of Afro-Carribbean or Afro-American culture.

One day a few years ago Sean, my middle boy who has beautiful curls, expressed an interest in having dreadlocks put in his hair. I didn't know the first thing about how to go about this and neither did any barbers near us. We also checked to see if we could find a black hairdresser in Glasgow or Edinburgh and we couldn't find one there either. We decided to look south to the Bradford/Leeds area, well known for its Asian and Caribbean communities and it was there that we found somebody who could help us.

I have forgotten the name of this hairdresser in Bradford, but she had a woman in her shop who specialized in dreadlocks. The dread specialist only worked on Wednesdays. Hmm. We explained our situation. Our poor mixed race child stuck up in the north where white meets bread and nobody to help him with his desire for dreads. She arranged for a special appointment on a Saturday morning for Sean.

So, very very early on a Saturday morning, the family piled in the car and drove the three hours south to Bradford and this very accommodating hairdresser. We had to be there just as she opened as what Sean wanted done took hours to complete.

We got to Bradford just before nine and got Sean handed over to these beautiful, loud and vivacious Jamaican women. Trouble was, what do WE do for all this time. We're very far from home. We've never been to Bradford before and despite the plan to have a curry in Bradford's famous curry mile before we drive back, we were at a bit of a loose end.

As nobody had eaten breakfast yet, we decided that was the first thing to do. Luckily there was a cafe one or two doors down from the hairdressers. A small and unassuming place, this cafe seemed to be the centre of this Jamaican community that we had blundered into.

It was still very early and the cafe was still waking up, but there was steam on the windows and great smells rolling from the kitchen. We all ordered cornmeal porridge with banana and mugs of strong tea. This cornmeal and banana porridge leapt into one of the top breakfasts of all time. The beauty of it was that it was simple and I could make it at home!

Sean kept those dreadlocks for over a year. He really looked striking. He shaved them off when he tired of them but from time to time, we will still have, like this morning, cornmeal and banana for breakfast.