Friday, 27 May 2011

Seasonal Linen Swap

Yesterday, after a series of stuffy nights, I decided it was time to make the seasonal swap of duvets.  We received a gorgeous cotton bedspread for Christmas and it has been staring at us for months.  We began to feel a bit guilty about keeping it in storage while we sweat under the winter duvet.  So yesterday I pulled the bedspread out of storage and hung the duvet outside to air before it goes into storage. 
And then it rained all day.  All day.  And while I didn’t discover any leaks, the house was a bit cool and damp, so when we crawled into bed I was concerned that I might have jumped the gun with the switch.  We discussed briefly and decided that our combined body heat would be enough to keep us cozy, we just had to wait a bit.  Really, this means that Pete’s body heat would keep us warm. 
Except it didn’t.  Or at least not for me.  It might have been too much to ask of him, I mean he was sleeping.  All night I was waking up, curling tighter into myself and checking that the bedspread was still covering me on all sides.  I think it is a weight issue.  The duvet has a comforting weight to it.  You know it’s still there keeping you warm.  The bedspread is so light that I kept thinking it had disappeared in the night. 
Finally, at 4, I got up and got a cheap fleece blanket from the living room, wrapped it around myself and then crawled back under the covers.  It did the trick.  Why didn’t I think of it sooner?  And this got me thinking, why is that when half-asleep you can add 9 to any number without issue, but cannot fathom how to get warmer? 
Does anyone else experience this?  During the day, I can’t add 9 to anything without discreetly counting it out on my fingers, but at 6:47 in the morning when Pete’s alarm has gone off for the fifth time, I can tell you immediately that I have until 6:56 to sleep.  It took me five hours of tossing and turning and snuggling closer to Pete and curling in on myself before I eventually got up and got another blanket.  Perhaps it has to do with physical activity verses mental activity, but I gotta tell you that my mind can keep me awake more effectively than a mid-night trip to the toilet which includes navigating stairs. 
So in the category of seasonal swapping of linens, this housewife receives a fail.  Perhaps I needed to check the weather more thoroughly or wait until we were sure that we were in summer (which can be difficult in London, I admit).  For now, the beautiful new bedspread is staying, but I am layering a Massai blanket (which is deceptively warm for its thinness) underneath in an effort to avoid last night’s dilemma and perhaps add some reassuring weight.   And just in case, I have positioned a second light throw within reach of my side of the bed. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

On storms, silicon and showing up

I have insomnia.  I’ve had it for years.  A few years ago I used to use a thunderstorm CD to help me fall asleep.  Then I joined the circus.  Thunderstorms ( and rain in general) now give me panic attacks.  I’m not joking. 
When you live in a circus you are basically living outside.  The only thing that stands between you and the elements is a bit of fibreglass, a layer of insulation and some tacky wallpaper or woodeffect wall covering.  Also, most RVs and house trailers are made to be driven on highways to a campground and parked a few times a year.  Driving an RV over almost every road condition known to man and off-roading on a daily basis and parking on unlevel and unstable surfaces is not the way to maintain the vehicle.  Also, these vehicles are meant to be in used in pleasurable weather and stored away from the elements in the not so great weather.  This is not possible when in the circus. 
In my few months on the circus, my motorhome and I experienced snow and freezing temperatures, blazing hot temperatures, high winds and tornado warnings, and lots and lots and lots of rain.  In my first weeks I woke to a sopping wet couch and carpet more than once.  I slept on my couch because my bed was wet from a new leak numerous times and on days when the rain was relentless and I was stuck in my house all day, I would exhaust entertain myself by wringing out dish towels and calculating leak rates. 
Eventually, I became a bit better at preparing for and dealing with precipitation.  After setting up each morning, it was not unusually to see me on my roof with a silicon gun patching leaking seals.  By the time I left the road, every window on my house had been re-sealed with silicon at least twice.  I became obsessed with weather forecasts  (like everyone else on the show) and finally found a practical use for all those cloud quizzes from my undergrad meteorology course.  On days which rain was predicted I took precautionary measures by levelling my house in such a way to direct water runoff toward the strongest seals and away from problem areas and positioning towels under particularly stubborn leaks.
However, no matter how prepared I was for the actual water, I could never prepare for or eliminate the sound.  For some reason, no one has yet to be able to explain it to me, rain hitting a motorhome is deafening.  The incessant sound of pounding rain would drive me crazy.  On the rare occasions that I had no leaks and could escape to a friends’ house, I would be amazed at their acoustics.  If not for the inescapable dampness, you would never had known it was raining. 
In our current flat, when it rains, it sounds like being back in the motorhome and I suddenly go into leak anxiety mode.  I race around checking for leaking windows and straining to hear the distinct plop, plop of an indoor leak.  The fact that our gutters are crap and send sheets of water flowing down the walls and windows doesn’t help.  My skin gets that weird electric feeling like before you do something terrifying (like say zip-lining when you aren’t that comfortable with heights) and I can’t relax or concentrate.  I literally pace the house continually checking. 
It’s the antidote to the romantic memories and feelings about the circus.  It’s remembering that it can be a b***h of a hard life that requires skill, endurance and commitment that is only gained through perseverance.  It’s a reminder that the show will go on despite the mud and the rain and that means you need to find a way to go on as well or get left behind. 
There is a bit of a life lesson there I think. 
I started writing this post as a pithy way to ignore the storm and my leak anxiety and pass along a little personal experience but I find it has led me to something I have been thinking about and struggling with in the last few weeks (oh who am I kidding, the last year).  Yesterday marked a year since I finished my PhD.  A year gone, with nothing much to show for it except two new titles (with accompanying paperwork) and few more recipes and a few less pounds. 
In my worst days on the circus, days when I only went a few hours without crying, days when I was wet and cold and out-of-range and truly on my own, I found the strength to keep driving and showing up every morning to a new lot and a new day knowing full well that it was going to be another day full of tears and doubt and, inevitably, mud.  I remember two days in particular that presented me with an easy opportunity to turn off the route and head back to Cleveland and a flight home.  But I didn’t.  I kept showing up and it turned into one of the best experiences of my life. 
At the risk of cueing a music swell in the background, it’s time to start showing up again. 

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t find any leaks in the house (not surprising) but wouldn’t it have been a great end to the story if I did?  Living and learning and all that?  Oh well, maybe in the movie I do.  Because, let’s be honest, we all  imagine our life could be a movie one day, right?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Today’s post is brought to you by the letter A.  A for Asparagus.
I didn’t eat Asparagus until I moved to London.  I don’t know why I agreed to eat it in the first place, I mean it looks bizarre and not at all appetizing, but I will never look back.  It is currently asparagus season and if you can get fresh asparagus it is like 5 million percent better.  Today I bring you the two ways we eat asparagus around here. 

Simple Grilled Asparagus
What you need:
Fresh asparagus, hard bottoms trimmed
A little olive oil
A stovetop grill pan
Parmesan shavings & lemon juice (for garnish)

What you do:

After trimming the asparagus, spray or gently drizzle with olive oil. (a little tip, if you oil the asparagus on the grill, or oil the grill, it will smoke you out of your kitchen)
When the grill is really hot, lay the spears out, perpendicular to the grill ridges.
Let the asparagus sit here until they start turning a richer green, then turn over so they are equally ‘marked’ by the grill.  The timing really depends on the thickness of the asparagus.  If you have a diverse range of asparagus width, I recommend putting the thicker ones on first.
When ready, gently lift the spears off the grill onto a plate.  Drizzle with a few drops of lemon juice and garnish with parmesan shavings.  Done. 
You’re welcome!

Creamy Prawn Pasta

What you need:

3 servings of raw jumbo prawns
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
Asparagus spears (at least 10, more is better, obviously), trimmed into about 1.5 inch sections
5 fl. oz. double cream
Olive oil
Pasta for 3, whatever kind you prefer (we do bowties)
Salt & pepper
Fresh basil  (optional)

What you do:

Get your water boiling and throw in your pasta (feel free to salt or oil as you prefer).  With a little olive oil, sauté up the asparagus pieces to your liking and remove to a bowl.  Turn off the heat and add a little more olive oil.  Let it cool a bit and crush the garlic directly into the olive oil, then turn the heat on (this keeps the garlic from browning too quickly in the oil).  When the garlic is a delicious golden brown throw in your prawns.  When they are nice and pink and curled in on themselves (meaning cooked), throw the asparagus back in and then pour the double cream over the mixture.  You may want to turn the heat down a little here.  Let the cream bubble away, stirring occasionally until it starts to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste.  We prefer freshly ground black pepper and Maldon sea salt flakes (they just make you feel like that much better of a cook).  Your pasta should be done at this point, so dump it out, rinse it and mix it in.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves,  if you like basil.  Pete doesn’t, so we usually leave this step out. 

(We first made this recipe with peas instead of asparagus, which is a good option if there is no asparagus to be found)

Go forth to your local farmer's market and get your asparagus on!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Head from Hades

Yesterday I thought I was dying or something. 
I usually have a dull ache headache through *this* entire week.  But this week I have had throbbing headaches.  Like hard to concentrate, throbbing headaches.  But yesterday, it turned into the headache from hades.  No joke.  I was feeling productive and wanted to get some work done so I took some ibuprofen and 30 minutes later I thought my head was going to split open from my nose to my neck.  Seriously.  I know I have the flare for the dramatic, but this was seriously the worse pain I had ever experienced.  I was stumbling around the house trying to find something to make it better.  I drank a bunch of water thinking I was dehydrated, then I hate some heavy food thinking I was hungry.  Then I started to throw up, violently.  Which did my head no favours. 
I was desperate to figure out what was wrong.  First I thought maybe it was TSS because they wouldn’t put that warning on the box if there wasn’t a chance, so I immediately executed a removal.  Of course, no difference.  Because it’s never TSS.  Then I started to get shaky.  I briefly thought about calling 999 but, as always, I wouldn’t be able to open the door and they would have to break it down and it’s a rental…
My head was splitting open (in two directions now), I was violently puking, and now I was cold.  Maybe I had a fever.  Then I thought of a second diagnosis.  All this plus the hormone spike last week, I was sure, ectopic pregnancy.  Now this is no joke.  I kept putting it out of my mind, because there was no way, but it kept sneaking in.  So I got Pete to pick up a test.  Of course, my eggo isn’t preggo (you can breathe now, Mom).  Finally, I emptied my stomach and crawled into bed with a wet washcloth and tried to empty my head and breathe evenly. 
Eventually it went back to a throbbing ache, as long as I didn’t move.  Pete came home and cleaned up the detritus, rewet my washcloth, got me some ginger ale, made me some toast and apples, and then ordered Chinese.  I got me a good man. 
So what was it?  Did I just experience my first migraine?  If so, what’s the trigger?  I was mending Pete’s new sports coat when it got called up to the show.  So was it the sports coat or was it the domesticity?  Hhhmmmmmm……….

It’s Friday!!  (and Eliza Doolittle Day) Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


I know I am late posting today.  I have no excuse except to say that I don’t have much to say today.  But here are some of the things I have been thinking about today.

I had a doctor’s appointment late in the afternoon and it was the only thing on my mind.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.  It was an appointment to ask for help.  This is something I struggle with frequently.  I have a very hard time asking for help.  This appointment was a big step for me and it was taking all my mind power.
I’m not sure where this reluctance to ask for help comes from.  Maybe a left-over from a misconstrued idea that being independent meant never asking for help.  Which is ridiculous, I think. It’s one thing to expect help, it’s another to ask for it.  And actually, I struggle with both.  In my worst ‘only-child moments’ I expect assistance whether it is warranted or not.  I know this about myself and I am trying to be more aware of these moments and nipping them in the bud.  But I am also working on asking for help.  On top of that, graciously accepting the help that is given freely.  It’s a process.

I’m enjoying getting dressed everyday.  Although, to be honest the outfit I start out with is not the one I take off at the end of the day.  Inevitably, I add a few layers and the shoes comes off in exchange for my mukkalucks.  It’s fun to get dressed but I don’t know if it is dress for success really.  I have no direction with the outfits.  It used to be that I would have a situation in mind when dressing which would direct my choices.  In school, it was a particular class (I distinctly remember picturing every outfit in Mr. Keller’s math class), in University it was the JAYWalk, now I usually think about the Underground.  Ridiculous, I know, but I am very aware what people around me in the tube are wearing and I assume others are as well.  I mean how can you not be when your face is inches from a stranger’s bottom or armpit or chest.  I particularly notice shoes since I have learned to train my line of sight to the floor or else I end up accidentally staring at someone.  Ok, it’s not accidental.  Where am I going with this? I don’t know, but right now I am just playing dress up.  Soon, hopefully I will have a bit more direction in choosing outfits.  I have thought about posting some pics of my outfits, but I’m a bit crap at posing the photos.  We’ll see.

I think I need to start limiting my online time.  I have become a bit obsessed with constantly checking blogs and facebook.  I don’t know what I am expecting.  A lot of the time I am disappointed in what I find or, worse, it makes me feel like I am failing at life.  So many of the blogs I read are filled with women that say things like, “be authentic and authenticity will come to you.”  This might inspire some people, but I find it old hat.  What these ladies rarely talk about is how hard they have worked to be able to say things like, “let money flow through you and it will come back to you.”  Are you kidding me?  Honestly, my constant checking is my version of having a quick gossip over tea or coffee during the work day.  I want giggles and gossip and maybe a fabulous sweater or beauty tip.  Perhaps I just need to change my blog list. 

All that being said, perhaps this wasn’t the best post.  But I will end it on a high note. 

We bought tickets for Royal Ascot today!!!  Talk about fabulous fashion.  And the hats!!  I can’t wait.  We are going with friends to celebrate both our one year anniversaries (two weeks apart).  I am tempted to recreate a Liza Doolittle moment but I will restrain myself.  At least in my cheering.  Although, after a day of drinking champagne I can’t make any promises.  But more importantly, this means that I am in the market for a fabulous hat.  I can’t wait!

I hope to do better tomorrow.  Feel free to pose questions or suggest topics.  I'm all ears.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

to the Maxx

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  An occasional  meditation on fitness goals, successes and failures. 

There was a lot of concern after my post on Friday.  Thank you all.  It was a demon day and I am better.  By Friday evening I was fine.  I went out for my run and got dressed up for a new friend’s birthday dinner.  Saturday was a great day.  We headed out to our local farmer’s market-our usual meat and scone guys weren’t there which was a bummer, but we did pick up some fabulous asparagus.  We returned home and noticed the ‘Rockers’ were making their rounds.  They were at the end of the block and moving fast.  We dashed inside, pee-ed, and dashed back out.  We were headed to T.K.Maxx.  I wanted to get a new baking tin and we are constantly on the look-out for a nice salt pig (or is it pit?)
Still no pig, but I did find a baking tin, a pair of brown lace-ups, corn-holders in the shape of wiener dogs (hilarious!!), a new carry-on bag, a sport coat for Pete (90% off) and a Calvin Klein suit for me.   I have never owned a suit, and have never wanted to, but this was very cute.  I’m still working on my ‘dress for success’ adventure (made it almost all the way through last week. ACHIEVEMENT!) so I decided to try it on, why not. I got into the changing room and realized the suit was a size I have vehemently refused to believe exists.   D*MN!!!  I was already undressed so I figured, what the hell, live on the edge!  It was a risk considering my Demon Thursday, but I took a deep breath and pulled at the zipper.  I kept pulling and before I knew it, it was up.  I was in.  No wiggling, no twisting, no sucking in.  I was in a size stupid pencil skirt with no weird bulges. 
I walked out to where Pete was waiting and a big smile spread across his face and then mine too.  Needless to say, the suit is now residing in my closet.  Let’s hope I get the chance to break it out soon.
Let me be clear.  I never believed in these low digit sizes and never wanted to be this size.  I was aiming for a mid-single digit, the size I was when I met Pete.  Seriously.  I didn’t think a low-digit was possible in the Ariel world, and to be honest, it scares me a little.  I think I might be at the maintaining stage.  As of last night’s weigh-in, I’m about 5 pounds from my goal weight.  I don’t know if that five pounds will make a difference in sizing, but I think I am ready to start maintaining.  I don’t want to jump the gun.  I’m waiting to go jeans shopping.  That is the true measure of size for me.  Finding a great pair of jeans.  I have to tell you, I am dying to get to the maintenance stage.  I am dying to snack on something other than fruit again.  Although that could be a slippery slope.  However, we had tacos last night.  We haven’t had tacos since January.  It’s was time.  And delicious. Although, in a fit of health-awareness, we did use turkey mince instead of beef.  To be honest, no real difference, still awesome.

In other fit-day news, I run 5K twice a week and have done for about three weeks now.  And everytime has been under 40 minutes.  ACHIEVEMENT! It is still really hard, but I am keeping at it.  Add to that, I am running in shorts.  Shorts!!  Here’s something I didn’t know; it’s easier to run in shorts than to walk in them.  Why is this? Am I the only one to experience this?    
We went swimming at our gym on Sunday.  It was exhausting.  Again, why is that?  Swimming for 30 minutes only earns me 2 activity points whereas running for the same amount of time earns me 6.  I was more exhausted on Sunday (and for longer) than I am after running.  Surely that deserves more activity points?  Whatever.  I’m feeling good and that’s the point. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Rejection, thy name is Banana Cake

I have slowly been collecting proper kitchenware.  I used to have a thing for office supplies.  Now I get excited about mixing bowls and lemon zesters.  Mostly this has just meant swapping out my plastic IKEA kitchen starter set bowls with nice ceramic LeCreuset items (it’s not as expensive as it sounds.  T.K. Maxx is awesome for these deals) and acquiring non-stick pans.  I find that cooking is just so much more satisfying when you have proper grown-up tools. 
My last two purchases have been specifically for one particular recipe; Banana Cake. 
This is usually Pete’s recipe.  He was the cook when we got together.  I could barely make rice.  This cake is suppose to be a tiny layer cake, but Pete always makes it in a loaf tin. It still works but just takes longer to cook and tends to get a crispy crust.  Always lovely.  The two times I have attempted the cake it has gone horribly wrong.  I then gave up and left it to Pete. 
As I have slowly taken over the majority of our culinary life, I refuse to let this simple recipe get the better of me.  It only has five ingredients and three directions.  I was going to make this cake. After the disaster of the flourless cake last weekend, I went out and got a hand mixer (the better to cream the sugar and butter of this recipe) and a proper round cake tin.
Today, after I got a personal rejection for the job I have been daydreaming about, I decided it was the perfect time to bake a cake.  (You’ll be happy to hear I took the rejection well. No tears, no wobbly chin or voice. I even managed a smile.)  I took off my jewelery and got stuck in. 
Out came the mixer, the new tin and the new bowls.  I haven’t used a hand mixer since I was a kid helping my mom.  And then I think all I really did was lick the cage-looking things that do the actual work.  I dumped the butter and sugar in a bowl and started up the mixer. 
Clumps of butter and sugar went spinning out the bowl.  I wiped my face off (good thing I had an apron on), tied my hair back and tried again.  I finally got the hang of the creaming situation and continued on.  I needed sifted flour.  I don’t have a sifter so I propped my IKEA wire strainer over a bowl and gave it a little shake.  It was all coming together.  I folded in and gently stirred and poured the yellow batter into the cake pan and into the oven it went. 
As I was washing up I noticed I had somehow managed to get batter on my trouser leg.  Didn’t feel so great about getting properly dressed  this morning at that moment.  I didn’t even get through the day without dropping something on myself.  Typical. (Stay tuned for more on this adventure later in the week.) 
25 minutes later, the timer went off and I peered into the oven expecting an unrisen mess.  But low and behold, there was a beautiful golden brown cake that ‘sprung back when lightly pressed.’ 
Rejection, thy name is no longer banana cake.


4 oz. butter
4 oz. caster sugar
2 eggs
4 oz. self raising flour, sifted
2 bananas, mashed
Icing sugar, to dust

Grease a 9inch cake tin and pre-heat oven to 180 (350)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with the second egg.  Fold in the remaining flour with the mashed banana.

Pour batter into greased tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Turn out on a wire rack to cool.  Dust with icing sugar.

Friday, 13 May 2011

It was ten years ago today...*

It’s Friday!!  (the 13th no less) Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

There is a lot to talk about today, some of which I really don’t want to talk about (mostly because I’m pretty sure my parents and in-laws read this) but I would like to think that you come here to read about the exploits of someone that is definitely (it always auto-corrects to ‘defiantly’ and today maybe that would work) imperfect and is able to laugh at herself.  So here it goes. I’m trying to laugh about my relatively-privileged navel-gazing angst.  (I have to say I blame my hippy-parents for this endless soul-searching. Pete is blissfully un-bothered existentially and just gets down to it, a product of his straight-forward ‘take care of your family’ upbringing instead of my ‘follow your bliss’ upbringing.  To each their own.  I’m hoping we don’t screw up our kids too much.)
It was 10 years ago (almost to the day) that I graduated from University.  My friends and I thought we were bad-ass and would take over the world.  Fast forward and some of them have come damn close.  I have not.  I have become someone I used to feel sorry for, a kept woman with nothing of her own.  Yesterday was a very bad day.  I wasn’t aware of the anniversary, at least not consciously, but somewhere a switch flipped and I was inconsolably sad.  I wanted to run away from my life and realized that I couldn’t because I have no friends to run to and no money of my own to run with.  I tried to see the positive side, my husband is doing great and has demanded that I take this time to figure out what I want.  But, to me it feels like when your mom demanded that you go to the bathroom before you leave and even though you were bursting, you can’t squeeze out a drop on command. 
So I have been playing with maybe being a writer.  I go through phases where I am reading a book and I think, ‘WOW, I can write better than this.’ And then I read something else and think, ‘I am not as smart as this person and could never reference Nietzsche and Cosby in the same paragraph.’ And then I think, ‘I’m not that old, I have barely experienced life, and what I have experienced is fairly privileged, all things considered (I mean I am by no means rich, but I have never been hungry and always relatively healthy), and no-one wants to read about a thirty-something navel-gazing.’ But I always come back to, ‘There are some pretty crap books and journalists out there.’ I mean one ride on the Tube during rush-hour and a quick survey gives you at least five horrific daily newspapers, the journalists of which can barely string a sentence together that doesn’t include some embarrassing pun, numerous copies of three different chick-lit covers from some ‘best-selling’ author that specializes in shopping and cheating husband story-lines, throw in the obligatory ‘Twilight’ covers and whatever book has just been made into a movie, this week its ‘Water for Elephants (which I highly recommend, the book, not so much the movie (although the clothes and art are gorgeous, if not as gritty as they should be),’ and there is always one person slaving over a Russian classic.  I wonder about this person.  I mean those are no small books and toting around an extra five pounds in your bag all day for a few minutes of uncomfortable reading (because this person never gets a seat for some reason) isn’t really the way to go about reading these classics.  I would recommend wrapping yourself in numerous layers and a duvet and sitting in your garden shed in the dead of winter reading by the light of a flickering candle, to really get the feel of the thing, but that’s just me.
What was I talking about?
Oh right, what to do with all this free time?  Just as I can’t pee on demand, I can’t write on demand.  It’s like the thesis, I always feel like I should have done more research, I should take some more time to think, I need to experience more, I need to practice more.  (Remember that dictionary entry about procrastination with my name pencilled in?)
But I’m not.  I’m playing dress-up or chef or dressed up chef.  I’m getting worked up over the neighbour kid dumping his recycling in our bin instead of his own and how fast the limescale is building up in the shower.  I mean, the US government (or at least the more devilish-side, and not in a good way, of it) is systematically stripping women of their rights and persecuting any organization that actually cares about humankind, which is something that the me from 10 years ago (or even five) would be taking to the streets over, and I’m worried about the best way to rid myself of limescale and plotting revenge on my noisy and inconsiderate neighbours.
I need to get out more.  Or maybe I’m just PMS-ing.  Which, based on the ‘personalized’ coupons generated by our grocery till that feels it’s time for me to stock up on feminine products, may very well be the case.
So there it is.  10 years later and I have become a desperate housewife, without the collagen or fake tan.  I think I will be skipping the reunion.

*Editor's note: It was brought to my attention that this post comes across as though my husband is standing over me demanding I find a vocation or else, or that I have been forcibly stripped of my independence.  Let me be clear, this post was written following a particularly bad day.  Those of you who know me in real life know that I am usually deliriously happy with my life and my decisions and that my hubby is the most caring, supportive and encouraging man in the world.  However, I do suffer from depression, and while I have had it under control mostly, one day this week, I didn't.  When you're overly happy for too long sometimes the pressure just has to be released and the demons come out to play and remind you that they are still there.  Thursday was a demon day for me.  Please do not think ill of my husband or feel too saddened by my ramblings.  To mis-quote Carrie Bradshaw, "Don't worry, I have a very lovely life."

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The eyes have it

During one of our Bank Holidays I decided to mop the floor.  I sweep and DustBust fairly regularly, but as we had the time, I decided to give the floor a proper scrub. 
It was a good thing I did too.  The floor was revealed to be pretty grubby.  The layers of oil and grime in the kitchen had built up so slowly I didn’t notice that the cream tiles had turned a lovely shade of tan.  So I mopped and mopped and mopped.  But it wasn’t really making a difference.  Then I realized that the ‘scrub strip’ on my sponge mop was at the top of the mop which require me to flip the mop around in order to get at particularly difficult spots, but the mop wasn’t built for this flip (as I discovered when the flip resulted in a horrible scrapping sound with no cleaning benefit) and I went into a rant about why the manufacturer would make such a stupid design.  It was at that point that I realized that I was the manufacturer of this particular design flaw.  It turns out, that in my previous zeal to mop (a good two seasons ago now) I assembled the mop incorrectly.  Sheepishly, I attempted to right the problem.  Turns out, it’s not the best idea to attempt to change the mop head on a sponge mop when it, and you, are soaking wet.  In fact, it leads to almost giving yourself a black eye when you lose grip of the stupid thing mid-tug. 
Speaking of eye conditions.  I have been having quite a few in the recent months.  In March, I spent the first week of our cruise nursing my eyeballs from redness and weeping to unexplained dilation, to impossible itching.  I put it down to some bizarre reaction to complete relaxation and the refreshing sea air.  When I finally allowed myself to go with the flow of doing nothing on a beach instead of seeking out every point of interest, the eyes mysteriously fixed themselves. 
In April, I spent a week feeling as if I did have a black eye until one morning I woke up to find my right eye crushed shut.  When I finally released my eyelashes and investigated I found a huge sty inside my lower eyelid.  Disgusting, yes? Pete agrees.  I left it for a few days thinking that it would sort itself out, but it just got bigger and more painful.  Then, one Sunday night, it came to me;  a cup of tea.  I remembered that a warm teabag held to the eye would help draw out the yuck that was the sty.  But which teabag? I found myself with five boxes of tea lined up on the counter trying to decide which would best serve.  Do I go for flavour? If so, maybe a gentle camomile or Madagascar vanilla.  Or perhaps the shape of the teabag was more important.  In that case, maybe the Moroccan Apple or Red berry as they have bags shaped like mini pyramids which seem to lend themselves to better stability when placed on the closed eye.  But the round pillow-shaped bags of the Chai might be a smarter choice as it would better suit the shape of the eye.  It took me so long to decide that I had to re-boil the kettle.  In the end I settled for camomile.  I can’t tell you exactly why except that it had got so late that I was going to be heading to bed in an hour so I figured I might as well try and kill two birds with one stone; sty and insomnia.  All I got was a slightly scorched eye socket and few too many night trips to the toilet.  Sty and insomnia: 1, Ariel and camomile: 0
This month is eye-concern free thus far. 
*wink wink*
*or maybe my-contact-is-waging-war-against-my-eye-twitch*

Monday, 9 May 2011

of Cats and Cakes

My dad always says he wants to come back (in his next life) as one of Mum’s housecats.  While this always elicits a nod and chuckle, this weekend I decided I am on board with that statement.  Sunday was a very lazy day for us.  It was cloudy and windy and we declared it a ‘duvet’ day.  Meaning it was the kind of day where you just want to lounge around in bed or on the couch and won’t feel guilty about missing out on good weather. 
Then, the sun came out.  At this point we were well into duvet mode.  In the late afternoon our front room becomes a bit like a conservatory (or glassed-in porch for those readers not in the UK), lovely and sunny and cosy.  Pete and I were pretty entrenched on the couch, I was reading and he was mastering a game on the iPhone.  In the process we curled together, turned our faces to the sun and fell into a blissful nap-basically temporarily becoming my mum’s housecats.  It was a lovely hour spent napping and basking.  I could definitely do that for a lifetime.  However, I would require a Pete-cat companion, occasional string battles and bouts of laser-pointer chasing.
When we shook ourselves awake, we were feeling a bit restless.  It was too late to go for one of our walks and we were a little munchies but not ready for dinner just yet.  Then, in another episode of deliciously decadent domesticity, we opened my new Nigella cookbook and discovered we had all the ingredients for a flourless chocolate lime cake.  Done. 
Down to the kitchen we went and started pulling out the needed supplies.  The one thing we didn’t have was a mixer.  I was hesitant, but Pete declared he would take care of the whisking, no problem.  I started in on the other elements.  10 minutes later my bits were ready to go and Pete was still whisking.  We spent an entire Jack Johnson CD taking turns hand whisking together eggs and sugar into a ‘yellow mousse.’  We weren’t sure what constituted a mousse-consistency and after the mixture doubled in size, we declared we were there.  Actually we had a very good idea of the proper consistency but after 30 minutes of tag-team whisking we called it done.  I’m sure we were only moments away from glorious mousse peaks, but we convinced ourselves it would be fine.  We carefully ‘folded’ in the rest of the ingredients (which was more like gentle mixing as we never got to the mousse stage), poured the whole thing into our never-been-used springform and popped it into the oven. 
The result could have been great, but as we knew would happen (but were really hoping wouldn’t) all the cocoa covered crushed almonds and lime zest settled to the bottom of the mixture (because we didn’t have the mousse consistency, I assume).  We didn’t know this until about three hours after we took it out of the oven.  We had left it to cool with a tea towel covering it, as instructed, it looked like the photo on the outside.  We innocently believed that we had beat the system, and then I cut into the cake.  The perfect outside literally disintegrated as the knife touched it revealing a perfectly shaped, barely cooked, chocolate-lime interior.  It’s safe to say that our neighbours won’t be getting the usual care package that comes with my baking. 
So now we have a mass of uncooked chocolate-lime on our counter in an air-tight container.  I’m not usually one to turn down chocolate in any form, but I have to say I’m having a hard time with this one.  I’m thinking a few seconds in the microwave and a little ice cream on the side might make it doable.  At least it won’t be raw. 
It might be time to get a hand-whisk.  And perhaps a laser pointer for periodic exercise since once I get the whisk, I will be making a lot of flourless chocolate cakes. 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Song & Dance

It’s Friday!!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

I have been thinking a lot about routine lately.  For awhile now (and I mean, like years) I have been telling myself that I need to get into a routine; with work, writing, exercise, sleeping, socializing, personal grooming, eating, cleaning, etc.  I continually believe that getting into a routine that I think I should have will solve all my problems of non-productivity.  It works for a few days and then it disappears. 
But here is what I realize. 
I have a routine already.  In fact, I have a few routines that I rotate depending on the circumstances.  On regular housewife-y days when no activities or meetings or errands are scheduled- I get up late, make my coffee, take out dinner’s meat offer to defrost, sit in the darkened lounge and catch up on email, blogs, papers while watching crap TV, sometimes I might do some yoga.  Eventually I get in the shower and start the laundry and try to decide what to do with my day.  On days when I have something to get done, say a thesis or book edits, I get up when Pete leaves and shower, take out the evening’s meat to defrost, and have my coffee in the kitchen with Radio 4, catch up on emails or the paper, change the music and begin work, take a lunch break, go back to work, go for a run, make dinner.  Okay, so maybe I only have two routines. 
It isn’t that I don’t have a routine, it’s that I am not happy with the non-work routine.  That’s not to say that there isn’t work to be done; I have a list of writing assignments and proposals and general to-dos, I’m just not motivated to work on any of these items.  I keep thinking if I could just make my ‘work’ routine, my ‘everyday’ routine *things* would be better, meaning I wouldn’t feel so worthless, in terms of contributing to society, etc. 
It’s not that I am incapable of maintaining a routine.  My short-stint in the circus was one long repeating routine of driving, unpacking, packing, driving, etc.  If the circus taught me anything it was that routine can save your sanity.  Of course, there the routine was of the forced kind (you don’t run with it and you are literally left behind) and it took me awhile to get into the flow.  But the circus also taught me that you need to be able to change that routine at a moment’s notice in order to adapt. 
With that in mind, perhaps it is more helpful to think about how to adapt the routine instead of trying to change it completely.  That makes it a bit easier somehow.  It’s not that I am incapable of creating a productive routine, I have one and use it semi-regularly in order to be productive (when forced), it’s that I am not motivated (forced) to maintain that particular routine on a regular basis. 
So then the problem isn’t routine, it is motivation.  Hmmm, seems I haven’t really solved the overall problem, but just identified a more difficult one. 
We’ll just put a pin in that for a moment (we may have found the culprit), and move on to why I started thinking about all this in the first place.  I have been having daydreams about getting this job I recently applied for and have actually been a bit worried about being able to maintain a work schedule.  I have been working on this ‘non-work’ routine (and perfecting it’s more sloth-like elements) for almost five years now.  The adrenaline kick of a new job will probably keep me going for a few weeks and then I have a feeling I will crash. 
I can’t wait, actually. 
And that brings us back to the pin. Motivation.  I have a bit more of it lately.  I have started to try and act as if I am a productive member of society.  I get properly dressed in proper outfits (no PJs here), do my hair and make-up and generally try to be prepared to leave the house at a moment’s notice.  This makes me feel a bit more productive and maybe like I actually ‘work from home.’  In the interest of full disclosure, sometimes I don’t manage it until around 1 in the afternoon, but it’s progress and I’ll take it.
If nothing else, I am getting a better handle on my wardrobe and accessories.  I have some great stuff in there!  I also have made numerous donations to the charity shops (and an extensive ‘must-buy’ list, we’ll save that for when I get the job.  *Thinking positive,* while also expecting to still be sitting here in a few months). 
As I tell PhD students struggling to feel ‘academic:’  Fake it ‘till you make it!
With my theatrical background and general character, that is a routine I can totally pull off.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


We emerge from our second four-day weekend a little heavier, but perhaps a little lighter as well.  Four days off in glorious weather seems to make the ‘real’ world a little easier to face.  These two weekends were like a mini rebirth for me.  Not in any great world-shifting ways, but in little victories way.  I ran another 5K and didn’t feel like puking at the end. I felt great, actually.  That is a bit world-shifting actually.  The jeans I wore in Africa when I met Pete were my second skin all weekend.  I finally mopped the floor (which was much worse than I thought, embarrassing). I hosted a post-Royal Wedding impromptu party. I finished my job assignment a day early instead of just shy of the deadline.  But most importantly, I applied for a job that I am really excited about, not one that I felt obligated to want. 
The job might be a long shot, but it taught me something.  I found it the same day I got an announcement for two academic jobs.  I have yet to apply for those.  Teaching Geography is a passion of mine, but limiting that teaching and research to fellow geographers, is not.  That’s the thing about academia that I didn’t know when I started on the PhD path.  A lot of academics don’t like teaching undergraduates.  They find their interaction with the students outside the lecture hall, tiresome.  I know.  Shocking.  Don’t get me wrong, there are also a lot (hopefully more) academics that really enjoy teaching, but in the world I found myself , not having to deal with undergraduates is listed as a benefit to a job and having to hold office hours a regrettable necessary evil.  That doesn’t work for me. 
I will leave it there for now.  I don’t want to jinx this application, so I have sent it out there and am hoping for the best, at least an interview.  Chances are good, I think.  My magic 8-ball app tells me that “it is decidedly so.”  It hasn’t been wrong yet.

In other news, Osama bin Laden is dead.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  I can’t really bring myself to celebrate, but I do have a lingering feeling of…I don’t know what.  Ten years we have been at war. Ten years we have thrown the world into turmoil and all it took was an elite military group.  All those lives destroyed and all it took was a secret mission.  I know it is more complicated than that, but it just feels like an anti-climax.  I can’t help but feel that this death isn’t going to do any good in the climate of hate and fear nurtured over these last ten years.  Things have gone too far and got too out of control for this one death to make a difference or bring any sense of ‘justice.’  It definitely doesn’t make me feel lighter.