Thursday 29 December 2011
Wednesday 28 December 2011
Sunday 18 December 2011
Friday 16 December 2011
Thursday 15 December 2011
Wednesday 14 December 2011
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?
This post first appeared over at my other blog, 'Diaries of a Moscow Mum' , on The Moscow Times.
Tuesday 13 December 2011
“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-
“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 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.
“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??
Monday 12 December 2011
- 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...