This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  Have a wonderful weekend.

See other wonderful moments at Soule Mama.

Making Ourselves at Home

The weekend has finally arrived.  It is time for a new look here at ‘Not Working’… As I mentioned earlier in the week, on Monday I enter the potentially crazy world of workinginsideandoutsidethehome.  I am shying away from saying I am going back to work, since it is abundantly clear to me…and most people who think about it for a few minutes…that there are all kinds of work done in our world – and not all are remunerated.  But from Monday, I shall be remunerated for some tasks I do, and I will be remunerating someone else to do the many happy tasks I have been doing with Kazuo for the past two years.

Akira and I will be renegotiating the roles we play in keeping the home running, though we have managed to develop a fairly smooth routine, so I am hopeful that there will not be too many teething problems there.  Kazuo will make perhaps the biggest adjustment – as he settles into a life of full time nursery school.

As I reflect back on what I have felt about ‘working’ over the past few years – and look forward to more time here in the blog (yayy for lunchbreaks!) I came to the conclusion that I was working hard to make us all feel at home, wherever we happened to be.  So even while I return to the paid workforce, this need to feel at home…and help my family and our critters feel at home…is perhaps the guiding narrative of our life together. (See more on this on the Where I Find Myself Page.)

This weekend I have bustled about trying to get our house in order to weather the changes ahead.  I finally managed to find some secondhand cubbies for the entrance hall, and managed to wrestle some control over the chaos that had developed in that little vestibule.  Now the coats hang in the corner, the boots have a space, and the wee guy can sit down for wellies/shoes/slippers and not stand up caked in mud (or latterly, chicken poop – ewwww!):

We’ve planted a tiny row of garlic in our little plot – and now to wait for the spring for the other plantings:

And we installed a compost bin and made a trip to the recycling centre – showing the little one the delights of separating out our waste:

Here we are then…making ourselves at home.  I hope you will too.

Eggs!

Our girls survived the night and a really frosty, sleety morning.  We are making constant modifications to their world and ours to accomodate them and we hope that poor little Naynaynay Number Four will last the distance, she is looking very much the bottom of the newly established pecking order.

But the big news this morning was: Eggs!  Here is Kazuo proudly displaying the first one that we found after breakfast:

He’d never held an egg before, so sadly, it came to a bit of a sorry end at the close of this photo shoot.

But by the time I returned from the shopping at lunchtime, there was another warm little brown egg in the nest box.  Well done girls!

Our Girls

Today we brought our rescued ex-battery hens home from the farm on which they spent the first few intensive-laying months of their lives.  We found them through the wonderful work of the British Hen Welfare Trust.

These are their first few moments being settled into their new house Akira assembled for them a couple of weeks ago:

They are scrawny girls who have never walked anywhere in their little lives, so they will mostly stay in and around the coop for a couple of weeks while they get strong on the special feed we are giving them.  Hopefully they will also re-feather fairly soon too. Although we will be away on a daily basis, we are aiming to let them learn to roam about the yard as often as possible. One poor chook is very much on the plucked-chicken side of things, and seems blind in one eye – so we hope she will manage to thrive under our novice husbandry.

Kazuo has been SOOO excited about the ‘ex-battery-clucks’ for some weeks now – so it was fantastic to give him some soon-to-be-cuddly new friends.   Since dogs and cats and hamsters and gerbils are off the agenda due to allergies, these are our pets.  They will be known as Mrs Cluck, Feathery Frou Frou, Henny Hen Hen and Naynaynay Number Four.  Hopefully they will also reward us with a few eggy treats in the weeks to come.

Kazuo had trouble containing his enthusiasm once the chicks were in their run.  It may take some time for him to realise that they are a little wary of his happy interrogations.  But two brave  girls ventured out of the run not long after their arrival (they were more sturdy than I expected, which was quite amazing given their previous lifestyle) and although one was soon scared back inside by Kaz, the other had a curious little exploration of the yard before bedtime.

Welcome girls, we are glad you have come!

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Our driveway – like many others in these parts –  has turned into an ice rink, and so the treacherous journey to the road is perhaps the worst part of any outing at the moment.  This did slow our efforts to bring Christmas to the house this year…we set out and abandoned the tree-purchasing venture a couple of times in the past weekend.  But Sunday morning, we managed to find a flat-access farm shop with some real trees still for sale.  Amazingly, it bundled neatly into the back of the Honda, and Kazuo poked at the needles all the way home.

It was good that we avoided the tree issue last year when he was just getting walking (Christmas with the O’Connors in London mitigated the need for a tree at home) and this year he was totally excited about the project.  He helped Mama choose places for decorations and was quite interested in the little lights and the sparkly tinsel.

He is not a big fan of anything with a human face right now (dolls are COMPLETELY out).  So having a few little angel decorations in strategic places, combined with his discovery in the car that pine needles “make you go ouch”, has meant he is pretty much in love with the tree, but not that keen to get too close!

After a happy afternoon of decorating, the doctor and I finally got to sit down in the lounge with some proto-mince pies and a cuppa.  It is looking and sounding and smelling a lot like Christmas around here now.  The snow is set to roll in again this coming weekend though…so we hope that we will not be eating turkey alone when the actual day comes…

Winter Comes a Little Early

As predicted on Wednesday, it did take all week for real snow to fall.  Friday night we had a proper dusting, though it took until Sunday – after nearly 12 hours of blizzardy conditions – for our lawn to be completely covered, that grass is getting long!

Although we had some great snowfalls last winter in the Lou, it was often just too cold for snow.  And the wee one only really got walking by the start of February, so we stayed indoors practising that skill until the weather improved.  So this weekend was his first real taste of snow. Like the sand, he was not really sure what to make of it at first.

This confusion may have been somewhat extended by the frocliky teasing of his Dada, who celebrated the moment by tossing snowballs at his tiny progeny’s legs…

We discovered the tracks of a local fox as we trekked down the driveway to see the condition of the road.

The drive was also peppered with pheasant and partridge tracks, and we saw lots of tiny birdy feet marks around the feeder we set up last week.

Later that morning we ventured into St Andrews, which saw rather less snow, and had a wander in the courtyard of St Salvator’s Chapel. We also had a cuppa and a little play in the Byre Theatre, which is fast becoming a favourite haunt as it is wonderfully child-friendly.

On the way home I scored a teeny rattan stool for Kazuo at the local Recycling Centre…I am hoping for more freegan bargains like that as we get to know our way around the community.

The next morning,  Dada got his comeuppance while horsing about in the deeper snow of the bottom of the garden…Kaz thought Dada’s tumbles in the snow were hilarious.

Figuring out how to ambulate in knee-deep snow was another skill altogether.  Something Mama had to help with…


…though it was worth the giggles that ensued when I let go for a minute…

The snow continues on today, and probably for the rest of the week, which is very early for the UK, and perhaps the most comprehensive dumping I have ever witnessed.  It is rather beautiful, but somewhat inconvenient – driving is kinda hazardous, the car got totally stuck in the icy driveway this evening, and the exchange of the faulty gas tank that should have been happened a month ago and was delayed until today has been indefinitely cancelled…and no promise when they will be able to fill up our unusually empty tank (kept low while waiting for the tank exchange) due to the adverse weather conditions.  We are now on emergency heating and hot water rations in case it takes them more than a week!

Akira managed to chug slowly into work in the car this morning, so Kazuo and I ventured out in a break in the snow and made tiny Mr Snowman, who is nearly covered again now!

After a skype chat to Nana, we decided to make a tent in the kitchen (c0mplete with teddies, books, the new stool and some fake sandwiches) and we have had a lovely snowed-in Monday morning.  I do hope I can come up with a few new tricks to get us through what might be a long week of keeping out of the cold.

Happy Early Winter to you All…

Tasty Treats and Wild White Washing

Since we arrived in the cooler climes of North East Fife, Kazuo and I have spent rather more time indoors than usual.  This is partly climate-related, partly due to having to wait for my driving licence renewal (the tediousness of being mildly epileptic and having to rely on the doctor to say it is OK to drive, when I have been safely driving for over 20 years…)

This has probably resulted in Kazuo being a little less tiredy than he should be, and thus a little more reluctant to fall asleep for naps etc (though he still sleeps long enough when he gets there) and it has also resulted in a little more domestic goddessery on my part (though resources in that domain are still a  little limited).

Yesterday I baked some of these little darlings:

They are a slight variation on Allyson Gofton’s Fudgy Banana Muffins, I used raw sugar and added tiny white chocolate chips…and the pop and I have gobbled them all up in a couple of days, so you will probably see me searching for bigger trousers soon too!

White Choc Banana Muffins (courtesy of Allyson Gofton)

1 1/2 C Flour

1t Baking Powder

1/2t Baking Soda

1/2C Sugar

3/4C Mashed Banana

1T Golden Syrup (yes!  back in the land of golden syrup…)

1t Vanilla Essence

2 Eggs

150g Melted Butter

1/4C White Chocolate Chips (smaller the better!)

Sift dry ingredients.  Beat bananas, syrup, vanilla and eggs together.  Stir into dry ingredients and then fold in cooled melted butter and chocolate chips.

Spoon into paper cases in muffin tray, bake for 15mins (or so) at 220DegC.

Mmmmmmmmmm

Also…I have pretty much been doing a load or three of washing every day since we moved into Newbridge.  This is partly cos we are a grubby lot, and partly cos we have left our huge American washer and dryer set behind and are using a traditional British teeny front loading washer and NO dryer.  I am feeling environmentally virtuous about the dryer, but it does mean that the cloth nappies are a bit more of a challenge (enter obligatory nappy spraying activity…ugh!).

However, I have been without access to an outdoor line for over ten years now…so you may not begin to appreciate just how MUCH this image makes me happy , but it is a marvellous joy to be able to hang laundry out in the wild wind and find it nearly dry at the end of the day.  Shirley Hughes has a lovely poem in her book Out and About that ends… wild white washing waves at the sky/the birds are busy and so am I…and I am so happy to be busy with wild white washing right now!

Settling into a Northern Kingdom

What a transition the past few weeks have been.  We have finally made ourselves at home in the Kingdom of Fife. After more than twenty four hours of taxis, airports and flights, we arrived to a very warm Scottish welcome in the tiny village of Kingsbarns.  Enroute, Kazuo finally made the acquaintance of his great-grandmother in Dublin. He was a tired little boy (and still in his PJ top after sleeping until touch-down on the trans-Atlantic flight) and understandably a little bemused, but he talked about ‘grey-ganma’ for the remainder of the week. The next morning we tried all we could to rouse our little tiredy-pop, but he snoozed on for more than thirteen hours and pretty much reset his little circadian rhythms to within a couple of hours of the local time. After picking up the keys to our new house and spending much of the day in St Andrews getting essential items like mobile phones, we finally made it down to the lovely beach at Kingsbarns in the dying light. Kazuo, who had never seen the sea before, finally got a feel for the beach.  He was not much taken with the sand in his sandals, and could not be persuaded to touch the seaweed – but he was really happy to see the sea. Akira returned on the weekend with grandpa and our dispersed belongings and we set about making ourselves at home in our new house.  We took a blustery morning outing to St Andrews where we showed grandpa the sights and gave Kazuo another shot at the long sands of the West Sands beach. The day before Akira started his new job we ventured south to the charming villages of the East Neuk.  A thick fog covered the land near Anstruther, but Crail was sunny and beautiful… …complete with a rusty but very serviceable playground for the wee tot. We headed back to the Best Fish and Chip Shop in Scotland in Anstruther for lunch – we are still making up for two and a half years without a local chippie! The following weekend gave us a chance to collect our new/old Honda in Dundee and although the weather was rather rainy and variable, a trip to the local farm shop yielded some tasty treats on Sunday, and the afternoon was perfect for another trip to the beach at East Sands.  Kazuo has discovered that wellies are a great innovation and that the waves are loads of fun. While the playgrounds here might not have the variety of well-cared for equipment we had become accustomed to in the Lou, how many in Missouri could boast this ancient and moody backdrop? Kazuo and I stayed at home for most of Akira’s first week at work while I waited for confirmation that my driver’s licence was being renewed.  The long walk down the drive gives Kaz lots of opportunity for diversion – berries, sticks, stones, bugs, mushrooms – and we are enjoying the daily delights of our new rural outlook. This past weekend was cooler and blustery, but we made some happy outings, including Kazuo’s first encounter with ancient monuments at St Andrews’ Cathedral. Well…a long-winded catch-up from me, but it has been an eventful few weeks and although we still have a little fine tuning (like getting me a paid job…) and we are feeling the solitude of being in a remote area where we are yet to make friends…having left a wonderful community behind us…I have a sense that we have ‘come home’ and it is a very happy feeling.

Working?

This week I got my work permit in the post.  A month early – arrggh.  Now I have to look for paid work.  Yesterday I applied for a job running an after school programme in North City – quite the poorest part of the county and probably not even a real vacancy anymore (seems the non-profit website I used is a little unreliable)…but it made me dust off the CV and get my head around some letter writing skills again.  I am off to try my hand at applying online for some Med School research assistant jobs now.

I am looking for part-of-the-time-paid-work as we have a part time place for Kazuo at a daycare centre nearby that will be quite suitable.  I am not planning to go back to teaching here as I only want to engage in paid work for the social contact and to gather together a little fund for relocation expenses.

I think that the rest-of-the-time-unpaid-work takes up enough of my energy and enthusiasm.  Working outside the house again will be a challenge.  Frankly I am not sure how the super-moms do it…and I guess I have discovered that I need our family life to be my main priority for a few years yet, so paid employment that involves passion and take-home enthusiasm/activity might just be beyond my own personal remit.

At the same time, Akira has embarked on job-seeking and is getting some good responses…so we shall see how that impacts our future plans soon I guess.  All change again!

I am feeling a little wistful already about my days with my little man…and nervous about how his sensitive little soul will cope with daycare as he has lately become (predictably for his age) very wary of others, very clingy to Mama and Dada and very shy of other children.  Sigh…if only it was possible to stay home all the time, but alas, our lifestyle does not really allow for such luxuries these days.  Not working, with all the social strangeness that comes with it, is still quite an attractive option right now.

But on with the serious job of finding some other work…and on with the happy job of looking out for this one: