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28th Apr 2007

Evening watering

With all the summery days we've been having, I've been fantasising about bowls of freshly picked strawberries, raspberries and currants.

I always grow raspberries and currants in the garden, but have never yet ventured to try strawberries - until this year, when I thought why not give them a go? Carla and I planted a neat row of strawberry plants along the inside of our fruit cage - three different varieties so that we could do a tasting session later on in the season. Planting over, we then spent a happy hour watering not only the newly bedded-in strawberries but also the rest of the garden with Mike and Joe joining us as the chill of the evening rolled in.

Hosepipe bans aside, I have never been a great waterer of gardens. Hanging baskets die on me and my cut-and-come-again salad only survives because of the mini automatic irrigation system running between the pots. But that evening with the whole family joining in, you could feel that watering wasn't too much of a chore after all. Though I'd really rather have some summer rain.



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17th Apr 2007

The PG monkey

At my school we have lots of crazes and the one this term is the PG Monkey which comes with special boxes of PG Tips teabags. It comes wearing a PG T-shirt but we make clothes for them using socks and other scrap materials.

Each week we have fashion shows and the week before the Easter holidays it was any old style of clothes so I made a skirt and a top and a handbag, most of it out of denim. The first week back it's going to be 'under water', so I'm making a bikini and a mermaid's tail.



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16th Apr 2007

Sunshine and Giraffes

During an unexpectedly warm spring lunchtime I wandered out of my office without a coat. Walking around town people kept smiling at me. Smiling back, I did a desperate mental audit to try and remember which part of my life they fitted into or where I’d met them before – but failed to place them. Back in the office, I was telling my work colleagues what a difference a bit of sunshine makes to people’s moods. Or, they pointed out, it could be that I was wearing giraffes…


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13th Apr 2007

Family Faces

Five days after Easter and I'm looking at a heck of a lot of chocolate and I want to do something with it (apart from eating it) before Carla has a chance of demolishing it.

So Tamsin suggests a family faces competition. Sounds cool huh? So this is what it is; first we got four of our chocolate eggs (one each) then decorated them as each other with coloured icing, easy.

My hair, nicknamed The Bush (thanks dad) was made by dipping the icing in Demerara sugar (brown stuff). They look good and it's something different to do with your chocolate eggs (before eating them of course).


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9th Apr 2007

Curtis and Kids

Curtis Stigers is a well-known jazz singer and friend of my mum's friends Carol and Alan, and yesterday we went to see him play in Perth Concert Hall.

The other members of the band were Matthew Fries, Keith Hall, and Phil Palombi, and we met them all backstage before the concert. They offered us juice, milk or water and some fruit. We had a brief chat before taking our seats in the theatre. Curtis not only sang, but also played the saxophone! The other members of the band played piano, bass and drums. Keith played the drums, and did an amazingly fast drum solo, Matthew played the piano, and he did some very complicated, fast notes. And Phil played the bass, and his fingers moved like lightning across the strings.

Curtis has a seven-year-old daughter called Ruby, whom he adores. Also Keith has three daughters, one of whom is two months old. They are on tour for weeks and are missing their kids so much that they wanted a big hug from Edie and me. We really enjoyed the night, and got a signed copy of his new album. Also, we didn't get to bed until 12.15 in the morning.



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8th Apr 2007

The Best-Ever Present

To Scotland on the train with the kids for the Easter hols. We were staying with friends who live in Carnoustie, the small coastal town where this year's Open golf championship is happening and a few miles from St Andrews where I spent four happy (ish) years at university.

The last and only time I dragged the family to my alma mater, I was running round pointing out the places I lived ('Yes, Mum, it's a house, not a terribly nice one either'), the cafe where I drank hot chocolate between morning lectures ('Great, can we have a flapjack now?'), the open-air swimming pool where we used to dive into icy Scottish seawater (Oops, now developed over) to industrial-sized indifference.

But back to Carnoustie. On Saturday a bunch of us went out for an Italian dinner to celebrate Carolynda's big decade birthday. After the meal, her friend Greg handed her a tiny folded piece of paper. She looked quizzical, opened it, and almost fell off her chair. On the piece of paper was written Greg had built artist Carolynda her own website as a showcase for her flower paintings, with moving blocks of colour and Flash images.

This must be one of those 'best-ever' presents, personal, thoughtful and taking much time, effort and inspiration to create. It was also completely unexpected. I've never heard of anyone giving (or getting) a website before and it struck me as the perfect gift for the woman who has everything. Now including her own bit of cyberspace.


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7th Apr 2007

Easter Egg Tree

This Easter, we had the family over and everyone from the age of three to three score and ten painted a blown egg to go on the Easter tree. I sprayed the decorated eggs with gloss varnish which looks better than last year's unvarnished ones.

When the tree comes down, I wrap the blown eggs in tissue paper and place them in a shoebox so that next year I can open it up and bring back the memories of past Easters. It doesn't have to only be Christmas that evokes memories of family gatherings, after all.


This year, like many before, there was a big meal that everyone helped to make and with the weather so good we could eat and drink outside without shivering. Well, without shivering too much anyway. Then to warm us up and to help digestion we got out the family silver and divided ourselves into teams for several egg and spoon races. My nephew, who is only three, was given a net for his egg and he soon got into the competitive spirit. It felt like the start of longer, lighter days when we can relax, enjoy and not think about work or school or what we have to do tomorrow. Not yet, anyway. Next week there's time for that. Hope yours was as enjoyable.


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4th Apr 2007

Egg Camouflage

We did our Easter Egg Hunt this morning using tiny, sparkly foil-wrapped eggs so the ants didn't get to the chocolate before the children did.

We put blue eggs in the hyacinths silvery green ones in the woodpile, and red ones in the stems of the dogwood bush.

Purple eggs nestled among the mauve flowers of ground-hugging violets, and a golden copper-coloured egg was perched on the curved branch of a horse chestnut bud.

Wandering round the garden picking out camouflage spots and trompe l'oeil opportunities in the bright April sun provided much amusement for the grown-ups. Almost as much as finding (or eating?) the eggs gave the kids.


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3rd Apr 2007

Eiffel Eggs

You can successfully smash eggs indoors, though it takes more brainpower than brawn.

We have been playing Eiffel Eggs, a construction challenge that gets good and messy. Every member of the family has to build a tower that will support a raw egg from just two sheets of A4, a pencil and sticky tape. Joe put on some loud music - Costello Music by The Fratellis - to get our creative juices flowing and it seemed to work. The kids came up with some freethinking solutions that temporarily defied the laws of physics: an egg tower held up by thick wodges of sticky tape (eat your heart out, Richard Rogers), a tower with skinny but strong rolled legs and an egg basket at the top; and a high-rise three-legged boat, which quickly tilted over sending the egg to a sticky end.

If you have an engineer in the family, they will be horribly competitive, bandying around terms like 'compressive strength', 'creep' and 'moment of inertia'. We have one, and he built a tower of such height, strength and other tensile superlatives that it dwarfed our wobbly (but picturesque) efforts.

Can anyone reading this build a tower that is higher than this 62cm tour de force (which, the engineer would like us to point out, was constructed using only a single piece of A4 paper). Actually, Carla's beat it at 72cm, but her tube skyscraper was stuck to the table with guy ropes made of sticky tape, which is probably against the rules (if we had written any). We timed how long the tower could hold the egg; if you reach ten seconds, you're doing well.


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2nd Apr 2007

Smashing Eggs

At Easter we get through a lot of eggs (chocolate and otherwise). Ten per person at least, especially since we dicovered how satisfying egg smashing games are. The current favourite is egg catapulting , a 'Just William' take on medieval siege warfare that goes down very well in our households. You can make your own three-main catapult by sewing a canvas pouch and slipping the edges on to two circles of strong elasticated rope (available from hardware/sailing shops).

Or we can recommend the Waterbomb catapult (from, £14.95) which sent our dyed and decorated eggs soaring 80ft or more.  But the best SPLAT! of the day came when we got out the mammoth goose eggs. Treat this as if you're playing golf: make sure no humans or animals are in sight before launching and shout 'Fore' just in case.) The landing was gruesomely yucky, with lots of eggy bits to clean up, a triumph of squelch.

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