Thursday 23 October 2014

Big A's Culinary Adventures

This is another post from my sis on fb.  It just made me spit tea all over the keyboard, so wanting to bask in the reflection of her glory (yet again), I have nicked it for your reading pleasure.

A bit of background: my sister (the former blogger known as Footballer's Knees) lives with her husband Big A, and 18 year old son, J.  Once a week she spends the night away from home on business - no prizes for guessing which day that is...

Big A's food baby is hanging around, despite frequent grym visits, so his personal trainer has suggested that he keeps a Food Diary for a week. Here follows my imagining of that diary:

This is the food what I have eaten this week, by Big A:
Dear Diary, tonight we had super noodles and potato waffles and crispy pancakes cos it was Boys Teas. Mmmn, lush, brill. J said he wished we could eat that every night and I said yep but we wouldn't be allowed because of the bad fat. And then we were sad until Defiance came on. Style.
Dear Diary, today the grown up was back so I had to eat boring healthy food, yuck. I said that it made me a bit sick in my mouth and she got cross so I had to stay at the table and miss New Girl.
Dear Diary, tonight it was Lamb Tagine and something called Cush Cush which tasted like tiny ants' brains. Diary, I tried to eat it but it was totally disgusting and I had to keep it in my mouth and then go to the toilet and spit it out. J saw me and I had to pay for his petrol so he wouldn't tell.
DD, tea tonight was so lush, we got a curry. And poppadoms. And naan. And beer. And special rice. I was a bit tired afterwards and I fell asleep in front of Suburgatory and then got told off for farting and laughing at it. Tomorrow we're going out for teas, I wonder what we'll eat?
DD, last night I drank a lot of beer. Today I was quite tired. I ate a bacon sandwich, a grab bag of Wotsits, a Ginster's pasty, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, treacle tart, a ham sandwich, a bag of Maltesers and a bowl of Cheerios. And an apple. Pie.
The End.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Inspirational Quotes. Or not...

I love a good inspirational quote.  In fact, I have to admit that there are couple which I have even copied out into the front of my notebook to refer to in times of need.  What would Edmund Burke* say about this, I ask myself as I ponder whether giving the kids shop-bought pizza for the 2nd night running makes me a bad mother.  What would Marcus Aurelius** say?

(Just kidding.)


Is it just me, or are we currently drowning in a sea of facile truisms being spread through the internet by social meeja? Most are so superficial that it seems to me that almost anyone could come up with them.

So, based on some of my own deep and meaningful recent life experiences I've given it a go myself. I've even added extra exclamation marks and the odd emoticon instruction so that you can experience them to their full potential.

(I expect Hallmark to be in touch shortly to discuss royalty fees before they start the presses running on the first of a series of Potty Diaries Inspirational Quotes, coming to you on mugs and greetings cards soon...)

Life is Short; Eat Dessert First.  (OK, I didn't come up with that one myself, and have no idea who did.  It was probably Hallmark, now I come to think of it.  But it is one of my favourites...)

Life:  too short to eat bad chocolate / drink bad wine / eat low fat spread / knit your own pasta (delete as appropriate)

Leave that blocked pore ALONE!  (Insert stop sign)

If you can't leave the blocked pore alone, a good beautician can work wonders!!!

You can never have too many scarves (to hide the damage from the badly handled blocked pore, if nothing else).  Smiley face smiley face

Taking down your kids' trampoline before the temperatures drop below freezing is good use of a spare hour!!

Taking down your kids' trampoline after the temperatures have dropped below freezing will remind you to do it earlier next year!!  (Insert smiley face here)

Freshly varnished nails and taking down your kids' trampoline are mutually exclusive concepts. (insert sad face and advert for intensive treatment hand and nail moisturising lotion)

Do you have any inspirational quotes of your own to add?

And now, the real McCoy...

*"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

** "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be.  Be one."  (Marcus Aurelius)

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Writes of passage

Today, I had to do something unexpectedly difficult.

Regular readers may have picked up on the fact that sometime in the next year there's a strong possibility we'll move on from Russia.  In an effort to minimise the fuss when / if that actually happens, I am slowly but surely trying to empty the house of 'stuff' that we won't want to take with us (for which read; pay to move from one country to another), which we have accumulated during the last 5 years.

Mostly, this 'stuff' is associated in some shape or form with the Boys.  Toys, books, outgrown clothes, skates and shoes. You know; all the things that you curse when they stop you closing a cupboard door or the lid of a toy box, or which form an unsightly heap in the corner of your children's bedroom.  Things that you want to pass on that aren't quite good enough to give to friends, but which are too good to just throw out.

There are no Oxfams here, you see.  No handy shops on the high street that will be happy to pass your kids' pre-loved snowpants on to less fortunate children.  Certainly, there are charitable organisations that will do a similar job, but you have to know where they are and then - in this traffic-congested city - get the 'stuff' you want to donate to them delivered.

Catering to an expat population constantly in motion, the Boys' school does a good job of taking some of the strain; there's a thriving exchange for slightly worn unwanted school uniform items, there's a second-hand library where you can sell or replace books that are no longer relevant with ones that your kids might actually read, and there's a yearly 'skate swap' that takes some of the financial pain away, but there are still some things that there just isn't much call for.

Like, dressing up clothes.

My two boys have, in their time, loved dressing up.  Boy #1 is mostly past that now (sadly), but Boy #2 less so - the knights' outfit, the cuddly lion, the Power Ranger and the wizard still surface from time to time.  Unfortunately, however, there were a plethora of other dress-up outfits that whilst still much loved, don't fit anymore.  That'll happen when the label says '4 - 5 years' and your youngest child is going on 9...

So this morning, I took 13 - yes, THIRTEEN - dressing up outfits to the school, for the pre-Halloween costume swap.  As I stood there handing them over one at a time and explaining what they were, I was struck by an almost overpowering impulse to stuff them all back into my blue Ikea hold-all and run away with them.  All of a sudden it seemed as if I was giving away my children's memories rather than just random pieces of material.

I know, I can't keep them.  That would be ridiculous.  I already have a basket containing various small items of clothing that I can't bring myself to part with; a baby-grow, a blanket, that lovely shirt they both wore one after the other when they reached 4 years old, those cute baby socks.  That revolting sweater that was part of Boy #1's school uniform in London, the faded over-sized t-shirt they consecutively wore on beach holidays to keep them out of the sun.

Yes; keeping their dress up clothes as well is out of the question.  And it's certainly not necessary from their point of view; they were completely unconcerned when I suggested we get rid of the Bob the Builder / Fireman Sam outfit (reversible and oh-so-handy), the skeleton, chef, vet and doctor outfits, the 3 sets of pirate garb in varying sizes, the princes cloaks, the fireman kit, and police uniforms still with matching hats.

It's me who has the problem.

I think it's because this is such tangible evidence of the fact that Boys #1 and #2 are growing up.  This morning I felt not as if I was simply handing over brightly coloured pieces of material.  I felt rather that I was saying goodbye to the two small boys who used to race about the house chasing each other with pirate swords, or stopping traffic on the floor of the playroom, or helping me in the kitchen dressed in a floppy chef's hat.  As if I was bidding farewell to the sensation of a small warm hand in mine during the walk home from school, and the feeling of the embrace of a hot sleepy pre-schooler's arms around my neck when they were too tired to walk up the stairs to go to bed.

You would have been proud of me, though.  Instead of snatching it all back and wailing 'I don't want to!  I'm not ready!  Give them back!', I smiled, watched the other mums with kids younger than mine get excited about what we'd donated, and walked on to the next stage.

Because that's what mums do.

(Mind you, god knows what I'm going to do with 13 swap tickets.  I would say there is every chance that come Saturday, when the swap actually takes place, I may actually find myself buying half of the costumes back...)

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Today's 'Through The Looking Glass' moment is brought to you courtesy of...

... Auchan supermarket.

When I first began to visit Russia in the mid 1990's there was what seemed to me to be an antiquated payment system in place in many retail outlets.  It worked as follows:

1.  The customer selected their item.

2.  They would inform the shop assistant of their choice (it was usually stored out of reach, often behind glass).

3.  The shop assistant would then remove the item from the shelf but instead of taking payment and handing over the purchase, they would put it to one side, hand-write a sales ticket, and send the customer to the caisse (or payment till).  Often this would be on the other side of the shop floor.

4.  The customer would take their ticket to the caisse, where they paid and were given a receipt as proof of purchase.

5.  They would then return with proof of purchase to the original desk where they had selected  their item.

6.  At this point they would present the new receipt to the shop assistant, and only then would they take possession of their purchase.

Now it may be that this is a system in wide-spread global use, but in my life up until that point I had never encountered it outside of the UK tv series 'Are You Being Served?'.  (A sitcom about an outdated department store).

Consequently I was somewhat relieved when we moved to Moscow at the beginning of 2010 to find that this system had mostly been abandoned and paying for goods was now a lot more straightforward.

Today, however, I wondered as if I might have fallen through a crack in the time/space continuum (yes, I HAVE been watching the new series of 'Dr Who') when I encountered this at Auchan.

There are still cashiers (and queues, which I suppose is not suprising since both staff and customers are like rabbits in headlights when faced with this new system), who run all the items through the till as usual.  However, payment is made by taking the receipt that the cashier gives you to a machine sited a few metres behind the till, scanning the receipt, and paying the machine directly.  Once you've done that, the machine prints out another receipt, which you need to scan to get through a security gate (complete with security guard) to exit the till area.

Tell me, please, that time isn't slipping backwards?

Now, for persevering through that bit of a moan, here's your reward: an excerpt from the episode 'Are You Being Served' where the staff are learning to ballroom dance.  I particularly liked Captain Peacock's and Mr Humphrey's demonstration with the fishtail....