Thursday 29 December 2011

Great things about blogging #979

It allows you to record moments like this which would otherwise be lost in the post-Christmas haze...

This evening, my sister (the erstwhile blogger 'Footballer's Knees'; far funnier than me, in case you were wondering, but also far busier -which is why she is no longer blogging), and I happened to be in the same room at our parent's house when an Irish jig popped up amongst the medly of Christmas songs on the cd player.

Imagine it; the music seamlessly segued from Mr Crosby's dulcet-toned 'White Christmas' to the sort of thing you would expect to hear at your school assembly on St Patrick's Day. Or at least, what you would expect to hear if you went to a Roman Catholic primary school, as FK and I did.

Reader, you would be pleased to know that, despite our lack of immediate Irish heritage (oh, it's there, alright, but you need to go back a few generations through Lancastrians determined to hide it before you get there, and frankly, find me an English Catholic without it), FK and I lined up and immediately assumed the stiff-backed, knees up to our chins, feet going crazy, heel-tapping, tippy-toed leapage that we all know and love from River Dance. Well, not exactly like River Dance, perhaps. But close enough, begorrah.

We cantered sideways across the (very small) dining room, straight arms linked to each other's shoulders, before repeating the exercise in the other direction, and then forward and backwards in perfect (PERFECT, I tell you) synchronicity with each other.

My older son and nephew had no idea what the hell we were doing, but were obviously incredibly impressed by our display.

Although I think the chances of either of them wanting to take Irish dancing lessons may just have been blown to smithereens by the sight of us.

Sorry, great great great great grandmammy...

Wednesday 28 December 2011

I didn't get where I am today without knowing my own mind...

My grandmother is 98 years old. She is a feisty lady, who knows what she wants in life - as evidenced by this recent conversation with my mother during the run up to the festive season...

Nana: "Now. Your Christmas cake, this year..."

Note: My mother is a goddess in the kitchen. A goddess, I tell you; a living legend in all things culinary, and her Christmas cake is no exception. There is just one teeny little issue, and that is that - delicious, tasty and moist as her cake is - we (as in 'the family') are generally too stuffed by the time we reach the cake to do it full justice. As a result, over the last 20 or so years Mum has got into the habit of giving a good 1/3 to 1/2 of the cake to Nana to take home with her at the end of the Christmas break. And Nana, as we shall see, has got into the habit of taking it.

So, back to the conversation in hand.

Nana: "Now. Your Christmas cake, this year..."

Mum: "Yeesss..."

Nana: "You don't need to bother to ice it. I don't really like the icing. Too hard, and too sweet."

Mum: "But I always ice the cake. We all eat it, and we all like it iced."

Nana: "Well, you don't need to this year."

I suppose that you don't reach the age of 98 without learning how to speak your own mind. Or, indeed, without putting yourself first.

(Needless to say, Mum did ice the cake...

Friday 16 December 2011

How not to give yourself a manicure...

So which one of you jokers out there knew that cutting up a pumpkin would give me brown stained fingers and palms, and chose not to tell me?


Because it was all oh-so-funny when I was mugging it up for the Boys as they ate their dinner, girding my loins with an apron for an epic battle with this 5 kilo monster squash, attacking it with my sharpest knife and asking my enthralled audience if they wanted to see it's intestines. And before you call me ghoulish, to be fair the stringy stuff inside did rather look like something's insides, especially if you're a 5 or an 8 year old boy (or a 44 year old mother with an over-active imagination).

It may not have been wise, however, to wave the sectioned and vanquished vegetable (fruit? vegetable? Fruit? It does have seeds, after all) over my head in triumph at this point. It might even perhaps have been a rather a silly thing to do, since the pumpkin spitefully proved to take what I thought at the time was it's last revenge, showering my newly cut hair with seeds in retaliation for the inconvenience of being cut up, but I was on a roll, my sons were laughing hysterically by this time, and it seemed like a good idea at the time Your Honour...

Less funny however were the 10 minutes I had to spend with a pumice stone removing the dried up and brown-stained skin on my hands afterwards. Turned out that in fact the seeds on my head were only a foretaste of retaliation, since the pumpkin's last act was to use it's juice to give me hands that looked as if I worked in a tannery or on a tobacco farm and which felt like I had spent the afternoon moisturising with Cif.

I had the last laugh over-all, though. The soup that I turned my victim into is delicious...

This post was brought to you by a rainy Friday night in Moscow with no new dvd's to watch. Normal service should be resumed shortly.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Lost: One Friend

I lost a friend. Not today, not yesterday, and not in the eternal sense; as far as I know, she's still out there, somewhere. Scratch that: she's not 'somewhere' - I know exactly where she is. It's just that wherever she is, it's not in my life, not any more.

I don't know why she doesn't want to be in contact. I've turned it over and over in my mind, and am no closer to a real answer. Maybe it was when I did this. Perhaps it was when I said that. It was probably the time I didn't do the other thing. Possibly I wasn't forgiving enough of whatever, or understanding enough of 'that' situation. Or did she just finally lose patience with my attitude to something I didn't even realise was an issue for her? Was I so self-involved that I couldn't see her drowning / moving on / washing her hands of me when she needed me to?

I know friendships are often cyclical. People come into our lives and go out of them when the seasons change; as an expat I see that happen now with alarming regularity. But there are some friends that you imagine will always be present in your life; whether you see them weekly, monthly, yearly or once every 4 years, there's still that bond. The time in between your meetings doesn't matter when you finally get your feet under the same table with a bottle of wine or a cup of tea in your hands, and this friend was one of those.

I have others, of course, some as close and who know me as well as she did. Friends who've also been there for the mountainous highs and the lows so deep that walking into the kitchen cupboard, turning the light off, and closing the door behind me to shut out the static seemed the only viable option.

Thank god, they are still there. But for whatever reason, she's not. And it turns out that some friendships will stay with you, whether they are are active or not. So I think of her, maybe when I'm listening to a piece of music that reminds me of a shared memory (I'm listening to Adele's '21' as I write this and I just know she would bloody love it), and wonder what is happening in her world. I wonder whether it was a conscious act to cut me out of her life, or if that's simply how it turned out, and that I'm just not relevant to her situation any more. I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that question, actually.

From time to time, I wonder if she ever thinks of me & mine. I wonder if she reads this blog. I wonder if she's reading this post. But mostly, I just miss her friendship.

I've been thinking about this post for a while but was inspired to write it today by this piece over at Jane Alexander's Diary of a Desperate Exmoor Woman

Wednesday 14 December 2011

You can leave your hat on...

No, please. Let me. Leave my hat on, that is. Because 'that' time of year has arrived — The Time Of The Eternal Hat.

I've never had an easy relationship with head-gear. Throughout my childhood I managed to avoid them as a rule. Sure, there was my uneasy truce with a dun bobble-hat when I was in the Brownies, and then the airline stewardess look-alike cap I had as a Girl Guide — the things I did for Queen and Country — but overall, I was always aware that generally, hats were not for me.

I'm not sure why that was. Oh, alright, I know exactly why that was. I have a big head and fine hair, a disastrous combination for any aspiring hat-wearer, and one that invariably tends to leaves me either looking like I borrowed my younger sibling's titfer (hat on), or (once I've taken it off) with hair so lank, straight, and flat against my head that I might as well have tipped a vat of cooking oil over myself. Not, I am sure you will agree, desirable outcomes in either case.

But, here I am in Moscow. Where the temperature for, oh, I don't know, five or six months of the year is so inclement that only a fool would venture outside without 'protection.' At times, it gets so cold here that if you are silly enough to set foot on the street without a hat, you will be accosted by well-meaning but more than a little scary babushkas berating you for your idiocy and prophesying doom in the form of cold, pneumonia and imminent death if you don't immediately put the woolly bobble hat your mum knitted for you back on. (Mind you, they make the same pronouncements about drinking beverages with ice in them, so...)

But this s the start of my third winter here, and having spent the previous two in an adequately warm but frankly unstylish wool confection from (name deleted to protect the innocent), I was determined that this year, THIS YEAR, I would find the perfect hat.

Reader, I promise you, I tried. It's not as if Moscow is short on hats. They come in every shape, size and material, and surely there must be at least one within my price range to suit? But therein lies the problem — the "within my price range" disclaimer. Certainly, I saw lots of beautiful hats. Some of them — in the right light and with half-squinted eyes — actually suited me. But amongst the ones I could afford? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. If only I could make like my sons and simply throw whatever happened to be warmest and fit me on top of my head.

Instead, I've ended up with a velour number that looks distressingly like the sort of thing your grandmother would sport on a trip to the dentist and which, whilst it fits, doesn't even keep my ears that warm. To add insult to injury, despite it's being too loose, it still manages by some Moscow static magic to glue my hair to the sides of my head by the time I take it off, leaving me with a daily dilemma: add 40 years to my age and keep my hat on inside like some misplaced Edwardian lady on sabbatical from a BBC drama, or remove the offending item and look instead like a drowned rat?

Decisions, decisions.

This post first appeared over at my other blog, 'Diaries of a Moscow Mum' , on The Moscow Times.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Guest Post: Slummy Single Mummy on the lies we tell our children

Every now and again the opportunity comes up for me to run a guest post on The Potty Diaries. I normally give an unequivocal 'no' in reply; this is my blog, I like to write the content. Call me controlling, or just come right out with out it and call me anal, I don't care; this blog is the one area of my life where what I say goes. But when Jo at Slummy Single Mummy offered to write a post for me, I deliberated for about - oh, I don't know - 10 seconds, before biting her hand off.

I love her writing. Plus, she won the undying affection of myself and some other 'veteran' bloggers at our first face-to-face meeting during the 2010 CyberMummy conference when she rocked up with a nearly full bottle of wine she'd half-inched off a pr, announcing that she had decided to share it with us because we were 'the coolest'. Since we could all give her at least 10 years and had been feeling somewhat like school prefects at 3rd form disco, you can imagine that went down quite well...


A good friend phoned me the other day.

“I’ve ruined Christmas!” she wailed, never one to underplay the drama in a situation.

“What have you done?” I asked, in a muffly I-answered-the-phone-with-a-mouthful-of-sandwich voice.

“Derek asked me straight if Father Christmas is real and I told the truth!”*

“Oh dear,” I said, trying to sound sympathetic whilst at the same time keeping half an eye on twitter. “It’s so hard isn’t it? Belle asked me to absolutely promise that I wasn’t the Tooth Fairy this week.”

“What did you do?” my friend asked.

“I lied.”


I don’t know if it was the right thing to do. Belle certainly didn’t seem happy with my response.

“Swear on my life Mummy that you’re not the Tooth Fairy,” she said.

Awkward pause.

“I swear on your life that I have never dressed up as a fairy and taken a tooth from under your pillow.”

Not very convincing.

“I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!” she shouted, folding her arms across her chest and turning away from me. “Mummy’s aren’t supposed to break promises. How will I ever trust you again?”

The questions had come on the back of a visit to see Santa in his grotto, a visit which Belle had treated with a good deal of scepticism. “How can that be the real Father Christmas,” she asked, quite reasonably I thought, “when I saw a sign earlier saying he was going to be somewhere else in town this afternoon?” It was a fair point. “Besides,” she added, “I could see the line where his beard was stuck on.”

This bit wasn’t fair at all, as his beard was real, and one of the most impressive Santa beards I have ever seen. She wouldn’t have it though, even when I zoomed right in with the camera and showed her the individual hairs growing out of his chin. (In a photo afterwards, not on the actual man).

They grow up so quickly don’t they? A couple of years ago she was completely taken in by a visit to what was genuinely a teenage girl in a Poundland quality fake beard, and yet now, faced with an elderly man with impressively bushy white facial hair, who almost had me convinced, she’s doing everything she can to pull him apart.

It’s a tricky one, because actually I still really want to believe in Father Christmas myself, and I want to keep the magic of things like the Tooth Fairy alive as long as I possibly can. Pretending that you believe is surely almost as fun, so isn’t it OK to try to keep up the pretence? Or should you be honest with your children, even if perhaps they don’t really want to hear it?

When did your children stop believing?

*Not his real name. Seriously, who would call a kid Derek??

You can find Jo blogging over Slummy Single Mummy, amongst other places...

Monday 12 December 2011

Potski Mumski gets all domestic with Apple & Raisin Chutney

I am addicted to cheese.

There, I've said it. I love cheese. Loveitloveitloveit. Soft, hard, creamy, nutty, tangy, smooth; I love it all. I'm not quite as bad as one ex-colleague who claimed that there is no dish in the world - sweet or savoury - that doesn't benefit from the addition of a little of the stuff (her favourite combination was curry and cheddar, which goes a little too far even for me), but I have to say that cheese does feature more often than it healthily should in my diet.

However. Cheese on it's own? All well and good. But cheese with a little bit of pickle or chutney? Culinary heaven. And in my opinion, there is no condiment in existence as well suited to a cheese sarnie as the Apple and Raisin Chutney that my mother makes, and which she has done for as long as I can remember.

Of course, there's a problem with this; I live in Moscow. Getting my hands on an extra-large jar of Mum's chutney is no longer as easy as it used to be, so I've been forced to take desperate measures. Yes, aged 44, I have become that cliche; I now make my own. And not only is it incredibly easy to do, but it's ruddy delicious if I do say so myself.

I happened to mention this on a previous post and as a result have been asked for the recipe. I can't remember the name of the 40 year old cook book my mother pulled this out of for me, so I will just call it West Country Apple & Raisin Chutney. And please note; this chutney does not only go well with cheese; it's perfect for that Christmas night turkey or ham sandwich as well...

West Country Apple & Raisin Chutney


  • 1.75kg (4lb) cooking apples; peeled, cored and chopped (please note; I have also used eating apples from the garden and it tastes fantastic - even sweeter and tangier if possible)
  • 4 medium sized onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 900ml (1 1/2 pints) white (preserving) vinegar
  • 450g (1 lb) raisins
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 kg (2 lbs 2 oz) soft brown sugar (I used dark brown muscavado and it gives a gorgeous dark brown colour, but light brown will do too)


  • Place the apples, onions, garlic, lemon juice, mustard seeds and 600ml (1 pint) of the vinegar in preserving pan (any large heavy bottomed pan will do).
  • Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour until the mixture is soft.
  • Add the raisins, ground ginger, salt, sugar and remaining vinegar and simmer, stirring frequently until the chutney is thick. (This bit can take up to 20 minutes or so; don't lose your nerve and go too early, but likewise don't expect it to set or to be much thicker than a loose apple sauce. It will thicken up as it cools).
  • Put into sterilised jars*, seal with a waxed paper disk and lid, and label with the date. The yield is approximately 3.2kg (7lbs)
  • This is ready to eat as soon as it's cold, but tastes even better a week or so after you've jarred it. Store in a cool dark place. Attack with a spoon when you fancy a sandwich. Or a salad. Or pretty much anything savoury, actually...

* To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids thoroughly in warm soapy water, rinse, and then heat the jars (not the lids) in a moderate oven (180degC) for 5 minutes on a clean baking tray. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before using. Or, you can do as Expat Mum suggests in the comments for this post and run clean jars through the dishwasher to be ready to use just as your chutney is ready...

Friday 9 December 2011

Is it just me, or...?

Is it just me, or is this equipment slightly over the top for recording your child's Christmas concert?

Or am I just being a grinch?

(I probably wouldn't have minded, but she was blocking my view of Boy #1 with all her paraphernalia, stopping me extending my paparazzi telescopic lens all the way out, the selfish witch...)

Wednesday 7 December 2011

The Gallery Wk 84: My Awesome Photo

This post is for Week 84 of Tara's Gallery. Click here to see all the other awesome photos...

The prompt for this week's Gallery is 'My Awesome Photo'. Before I started to write this post, I decided to go over to Tara's blog and check out some of the other entries. Big mistake. One might almost say 'awesome' mistake. There are some (no, am not going to use the 'a' word again - 4 times in the first two paragraphs would be too much, even for me) fantastic, incredible photos on there.

I can't compete, clearly. I mean, I could compete, but only if I was prepared to show you photos of my family, which is not possible, however much I want it to be. (If I'm honest, my natural competitiveness might have won out if unchecked, and I have would picked one of many 'awesome' photos of my sons, but since Husband reads this blog occasionally and I have faithfully promised him I would never cross that line, no dice.)

So then I thought, which photo to choose? There are a number of contenders, most of which have appeared on this blog before, but I decided to go with one that hasn't. It's not deep and meaningful, with a sense of the brooding menace that one often finds here - like this one - or visually interesting - like this one. It's simply an image that I took whilst on holiday in Croatia this summer, which I think works. I hope you like it, too.

Sunday 4 December 2011

It's not Christmas...

...not yet, anyway. But check on this blog and you might be forgiven for thinking that it is, because today, instead of joining in with Silent Sunday as I usually do (but can't because the weather has been so gloomy I haven't been inspired to take a single photo this week), I'm taking my cue - again - from Tara and answering her question about which is my favourite Christmas song.

It's almost impossible for me to answer this question. I have so many 'favourites'. But Husband and I watched 'Elf' on Friday for the first time, so I decided that the following clip, of Zooey Deschanel in that movie, singing two of my Top 10, would do nicely, thankyou very much...

And then, because for me nothing brings in Christmas like the performance The Messiah at St Martins in the Fields on Trafalgar Square, here's a flash mob performing the Hallelujah Chorus on a food court back in 2010. I think I've featured it before; I KNOW I've watched it before. But every time I do, it makes me cry. I suggest that if you're at all soppy, you have tissues handy.

Friday 2 December 2011

The Twelve Days of a Parent's Christmas

This post was inspired by Hot Cross Mum and Expat Mum, following a Twitter conversation about boys, loos, and needing to clean the bathroom floor more often than we might like. I'll leave you to join the dots together yourself on the subject... At any rate Hot Cross Mum took that start point and created her own version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' - and challenged us (in my 'oh, I'm not competitive at all' head, anyway) to do the same.

Obviously she's already mined the rich seam that is boys and the loo, so I was forced to look elsewhere - to something else that is currently at the forefront of my experience - and have re-written The Twelve Days of Christmas to a children's illness theme...

To be sung - in your head only, please - to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas, my children gave to me: a headache and a high temperature.

On the second day of Christmas, my children gave to me; 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the third day of Christmas, my children gave to me; 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my children gave to me; 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my children gave to me: 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the sixth day of Christmas my children gave to me: 6 concerned grandparent messages, 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my children gave me to me; 7 hours internet shopping, 6 concerned grandparent messages, 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the 8th day of Christmas, my children gave me to me; 8 days missed homework, 7 hours internet shopping, 6 concerned grandparent messages, 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the 9th day of Christmas, my children gave to me; 9 doctor's notes, 8 days missed homework, 7 hours internet shopping, 6 concerned grandparent messages, 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my children gave to me; 10 messed up bedrooms, 9 doctor's notes, 8 days missed homework, 7 hours internet shopping, 6 concerned grandparent messages, 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my children gave to me; 11 sweaty pj's, 10 messed up bedrooms, 9 doctor's notes, 8 days missed homework, 7 hours internet shopping, 6 concerned grandparent messages, 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my children gave to me; 12 'I'm so boo-oo-red's, 11 sweaty pj's, 10 messed up bedrooms, 9 doctor's notes, 8 days missed homework, 7 hours internet shopping, 6 concerned grandparent messages, 5 broken nights.... 4 missed appointments, 3 hits of Calpol, 2 snotty tissues, and a headache and a high temperature.


Nappy Valley Girl has jumped on board with this one too - click here for a link - and so has Iota at Not Wrong Just Different. If you're inspired to do like wise, leave a comment telling me where to check and I'll add yours here too...