Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Too much to do

Oh dear, I’m much too busy. How I would love to be a stay-at-home mum. What bliss that would be. I’m very much at jam-in-the-sandwich stage, when both the offspring and the parent (not to say, to some extent, the husband) require my time and attention. This would be a lot easier if I didn’t work. Teaching is an exhausting job.

Last week featured the 23rd birthday of our youngest, the son. (Hence the chocolate of the previous post.) This makes him a near twin of Thimbleanna’s son. Twenty-three years! How time flies (and similar astonished comments). By the time he arrived, we already had two daughters. Somehow I didn’t think I could produce a son, and we were so pleased with our daughters that we would have been happy to have another. I didn’t think I knew how to do boys. However, he’s a pet: clever, kind and funny. And sometimes his room is even tidy.
This photo makes him look cheeky, but he never was. All his teachers used to say how quiet he was - though in fact, he was always good fun.
So we had various birthday celebrations with (my) mother and aunt and (his) girlfriend. To add to the busyness, I had my book group for dinner on Saturday. We take it in turn to host the evening, but when we started the group, we just had drinks and nibbles . Then one member invited us for a meal when it was his turn, which then became the norm.

Personally I’m not at all interested in cooking, though I do it reasonably efficiently. There are ten in the group, and my fellow-members are quite foody people. They watch television chefs, and tend to say things like, “Ah, is this from Nigella’s latest book? That lemon grass gives it a very subtle flavour, doesn’t it? ” So I did a Delia main course this time. It was an all-in-one-dish thing which I thought would be easy, but of course it had ingredients I don’t have in the cupboard such as saffron stalks and fresh coriander, or that I’ve had lurking there for some time with sell-by dates of November 1996 – can’t feed guests on those.

The dish was easy once it was in the oven, but frankly, preparing it was a bit of a footer, as we say in Scotland. A fiddle. I don’t spend much of my life toasting cumin and coriander seeds and then pounding them with a mortar and pestle. Indeed, I don’t possess a mortar and pestle and had to substitute the end of a rolling pin and a bowl. It worked well enough. I reached the end of my patience, however, when Delia instructed me to strip coriander leaves from the stalks. I had imagined this could be done in one swift movement, but no: coriander is a delicate plant, so each leaf had to be removed separately from the fairly large bunch. At this point I dragooned Daughter 2 and her aspiring actor boyfriend to assist. Delia seems to assume that my life might be full of long, lazy afternoons, when I could sit under a tree in the garden delicately picking leaves and placing them in a silver dish…

I bet Delia doesn’t have classes to prepare, marking to do, an elderly parent to spend time with, bathrooms to clean. Kittens to retrieve from under beds.

It seemed to go down well, though. And the group liked my puddings: both the pavlova (very easy) and the lemon cheesecake (another slight footer, though not so much as the coriander leaves nonsense).

When I’m a lonely old woman, I’m going to live on toasted cheese, frozen sweetcorn and bananas. With the odd bit of chocolate.


  1. I don't own a mortar and pestle either. If I did, it would be home to spiders in the back of the cupboard.
    Those adorable children, so well looked after. So lovely. I think you seem to be a splendid homemaker, mother AND teacher which is the equivalent of having three careers. Or three lives in one.
    I am pretty ordinary at all those things, which is why there are numerous spiders in all my cupboards and truth be known, probably in my children's HAIR as well.

  2. I do own a mortar and pestle, but it weighs a ton and lives at the very back of a tall cupboard. I never use it. Good on you for doing the foodie meal; I'd be like you, getting very irritated with the process.

  3. I love reading about your pleasant life, where children are agreeable, kittens retrievable, book club members feedable,and blog friends insatiable for more.....

  4. And don't forget to "wear purple" [when you're an old woman]"and learn to spit..."

  5. I use my mortar and pestle. Sometimes. When the recipe tells me to.

    Nice photos, they are nice looking kids! The daughter on the left hasn't changed much at all!

  6. I have great aspirations too, but in the end, I think I would also be happy to live on toasted cheese etc. And wear the purple.

  7. Toasted cheese, frozen sweetcorn and bananas? Do you have a bit of a thing for yellow food?

    (PS...the Chocolate Cake a la Irvine Welsh recipe author is English - and believe me, the recipe was not pretty!)

  8. I think that if you were a stay-at-home mum you'd still be busy Isabelle. With all your interests you'd find something else to take up those precious spare moments of the day.

    I love the photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  9. Ah Isabelle ... lovely, funny post.

    Molly beat me to it ... but of course, you probably know already, that when you become an old lady, it is absolutely VITAL that you have perfected the art of spitting and own NOTHING that is not purple.

    So, a purple wearing, sputum spitting Isabelle hauling 2 recalcitrant tigers, concocting culinary extravaganza for Mr. Life ...

    Will you still be blogging?

  10. Another great post Isabelle! Alas, our twin boys must part their similarities at "tidy room" -- I only find a tidy room with my younger son. The oldest is away for a few days attempting to solidify his twin-ness -- he's on the first of his interviews. Your culinary story made me laugh. And for a book group! What timing for your post -- I'm about to share your experience, as this is my month to host my book group. (Ugh.) Our book group sounds just like yours (although we're only female) -- we started out with just appetizers and visiting, but it's gone to full blown meals. I've been a hold out , being almost the only one to work full-time -- doing a big meal after work didn't sound fun. I might give-in this year and actually feed them though, as I'm tired of thinking of new appetizers after 15 years. I'm completely "with you" on the staying at home -- wouldn't it be nice to have more time for all our loved ones?

  11. Mum, I not only own a mortar and pestle - I used it today. Though I wouldn't say I use it daily.

  12. I love to cook, but I never quite understood watching other people cook (as in Nigella or Rachel Ray, and their ilk). It sounds rather boring to me!

    Not only do I not own a mortar and pestle, but I am too lazy to use fresh herbs. I almost always substitute dried basil and the like when fresh is called for.

  13. I don't own a mortar & pestle either.
    Your children are just beautiful. I know they are now beautiful adults.
    You mentioned the first book club member to cook a full meal was male? Did he cook it, or does he have a wife who cooked?
    I did enjoy your post!

  14. Our bookgroup meets at a local bar, where the staff cook for us! I wouldn't swap that for anything.

    (My mortar and pestle doesn't see much use either. I think it is home to the collection of stickytape rolls these days).

  15. No, sorry. Don't like purple except in flowers. And I'm certainly not going to spit. I do already wear non-matching socks from time to time, though not startlingly so (eg black and navy). Will this be rebellious enough, together with my yellow-food diet?

  16. Oh, he's so sweet. I had two girls then a boy (then another girl 7 years after that). The girls were great but he was pretty special - still is at 32.

    Do you think Delia would come and prepare your toasted cheese, etc. or would she just eat all your chocolates?

  17. Mortar and pestle? For goodness sake, this is the 21st century - chuck your herbs in the blender!
    Hey. Where are our kitties? No photos for AT LEAST a week. Not good enough!

  18. Hmph. I'm getting twisted around; I don't remember what I have and haven't looked at anymore.

    What a great-looking crop of children you have, both then and now. I don't think your son looks a bit cheeky, just like a very bright, nice young man.

    I do admire your toasted cheese and sweetcorn menu.