Monday, 31 December 2007

Living Off The Hump

Between Christmas and New Year we 'live off the hump'.*
*I would like to give full credit to my Mother-in-Law for this bizarre family expression.

This usually means inventive dishes with leftover turkey,
perhaps some ice-cream made with Christmas Pudding
and lots of clementines.

This year we have a glut of Hot Chocolate.
I am not sure how it has happened
but we are threatened by a tidal wave of chocolate milk.

MissM tells me that her preferred brand is Green & Black's
but that Hotel Chocolat 'Kiss Mix' has a delicious caramel taste
ideal for special occasions.

White Hot Chocolate is the Lovely MissE's favourite
so we MUST have that in the cupboard.
The Galaxy mix was just a phase and
Cadbury is everyday Hot Chocolate
suitable for the gardener (if we had one).

I feel like King Canute standing at the sea edge
and raising my hand against the oncoming surge.
Drowning in the foamy stuff seems an ignominious way to go.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

School Shoes for MissM

This post is for DottyCookie
because she is shopping for school shoes today
and she needs to know
that it doesn't get any easier.


The School Rules are very straightforward:

"plain black polished leather
low-heeled shoes of sensible shape and weight"

Clearly, they are not describing these little party numbers

What about these?
They are a sensible shape.
Admittedly, they are orange.

These are black (and white)
but they are suede.
So that it no good.

These are a sober colour
and would be ideal for summer uniform.
They are even lace-up.

I think we might have found the answer.
Black shoes with buckles.
Please note the ankle support - a special medical feature.

Oh no!
MissM says that patent leather is not allowed.
Back to square one.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Remote Control Wars

When MasterM is in charge of the remote control
our TV viewing reaches parts of the satellite channels
that we did not know existed.

Viking - Family Edition

A Japanese game show that makes 'It's A Knockout'
look like an offshoot of 'University Challenge'.

In Search of the Killer Viper

Austin Stevens is a snake wrangler with a death wish.

Ross Kemp on Gangs - Polish edition

It would not be festive without violence in Krakow.


This was the hit of the week.
The discovery that there is a whole world of men
competing with axes
was a revelation which has enriched our family life.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The River

My parents live in a mill house beside a river at the bottom of a steep-sided valley. In front of the house there is a bridge across the river and we sit on the flat slates of the pillars and watch the water flow around the small island in the middle. Upstream, geese swim in the shallows beside the meadow.

In the summer, the water level is low and my children have flipped stones, paddled and built dams. In winter, the river can become a raging torrent and the Mill House has been flooded a number of times.

The noise of the river is inescapable - a constant tumbling sound that is the last thing you hear at night and the first thing you are aware of in the morning.

Today, we walked beside the river to the weir where the flow is divided. On one side the water flows along the leat channel to the back of the Mill. Once it powered the wheel that ground the flour for the neighbourhood. Some of the original machinery is still in the barn next to the house.

On the other side the water tumbles over the weir edge. It falls past a little wood of wild daffodils and a meadow of butterflies. Otters hunt salmon in this river.

We are very privileged to be able to visit such a wonderful place and grateful to my parents for making us so welcome whenever we drive down that steep hill and into the yard in front of the mill house.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Coming Up For Air

No more cooking...

I feel as though I have been inside for days.

I need some fresh air.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Pudding Charms

Coin of Fortune, Wishbone, Bachelor's Button,
Bell of Betrothal, Lucky Horseshoe, Thimble of Blessedness.

MrM found the Coin of Fortune in his pudding
which bodes well for 2008.
MasterM found the Bachelor's Button which worried him
but as he also got it last year it must be a reverse psychology thing
i.e. get this and your days of bachelorhood are over.
I was not quite so happy that MissM found the Bell of Betrothal
I am hoping that there was a mistake
and she was supposed to get the Thimble of Blessedness
because 16 is too young to get married.

I found the Wishbone
but just at that moment I couldn't think of anything to wish for
because I had everything,
everything that I wanted.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Day

Creamy white bread sauce

Pale green brussels sprouts

Bright orange carrots

Ruby cranberry sauce

Golden turkey

A feast for the eyes.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas Eve

Outside the air is cold and still.

MrM and MissM have done their last minute shopping.
MasterM has returned from his travels.

The spicy smell of red cabbage fills the kitchen.

There are boxes of chocolates,
trays of clementines and a bowl of nuts.
All special treats for Christmas feasts.

And now, somehow, we have to persuade
MasterM (18) and MissM (16) to go to bed.

Father Christmas
won't be visiting

Sunday, 23 December 2007

C'mon You Irish!!

I sometimes wonder
if we did something wrong in a past life.

It must have been bad
if the punishment was to support London Irish in this life.

London Irish specialise in turning victory into defeat
as their fans look on in disbelief.

Today the fog is so bad
that we cannot see the other side of the pitch
but this does not stop MrM complaining:


"Forward Pass"

"That throw is not STRAIGHT"

"What is the touch judge THINKING??"

The fog gets worse.
We cannot see the middle of the pitch.

And then, incredibly, we win.
How did that happen?
Apparently, Sailosi Tagicakibau scored a try.

MrM turns to his friend.
"Never in Doubt"
they agree.

I think it is time for a pint of Guinness.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Merry Christmas from ChezMagpie

Today is the first day of the holidays.

The wreath is on the door and the champagne is the fridge.

Thank you so much for your friendship this year.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Decorating the Tree

This is what decorating the tree is like in ChezMagpie.

MrM's favourite - the obligatory train.


goes to shed to find Red Bucket
which should have been washed and polished last January.
He removes all the wrapping from the outside tap and washes the Red Bucket.
Because it wasn’t done in January.
Carefully lays Financial Times on carpet.
Places Red Bucket on top.
Skillfully arranges bricks inside bucket
so that the tree does not fall over.
Here ends MrM’s involvement.

MasterM's favourite - an action toy, of course.


goes through box of decorations like tornado.
Tosses tissue paper and bubble wrap over entire room.
Picks out favourite decorations.
Places on tree on Principal Branches.
Here ends MasterM’s involvement.

MissM's favourite - purple is SO stylish


meticulously goes through remaining decorations
And places on tree on Secondary Branches.
Gets photo-evidence to resolve important garland issue:
“Is Bead Garland draped vertically or horizontally?”
Here ends MissM’s involvement.

The Lovely MissE's favourite - apparently it's cute.


Arranges lights,
Arranges garlands,
Repacks tissue paper,
Checks for lost decorations,
Reallocates decorations
so that some of MissM’s are on Principal Branches,
Sweeps up needles,
Replaces wrapping on outside tap.

This contains a babysitting voucher from Great Aunt Janet.

As you see, I get all the fun bits.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Cooking with MissM

Tonight MissM is cooking Chicken and Noodle Stir Fry
assisted only by her loyal kitchen slave, Poppy.
First she chops the chicken.

Then she mixes the orange and honey glaze.
This has hand grated organic ginger in.
It is not ordinary stir fry glaze.

Then she arranges the spinach
into a photogenic sieve ready for wilting.

So far. So good.
This looks absolutely delicious, MissM.

Oh dear, a bit of an issue with portion control here.

I think we might need some lessons in noodle management.

Monday, 17 December 2007

A Cautionary Tale.

This is a true story that does not reflect well on the FamilyM
but is told to prevent you from making a similar mistake.

Several years ago MasterM discovered spoof writing
and decided to write a spoof Christmas letter.

"This year we went to China to learn about the local culture.
The first 10 days of our holiday we spent in a mud hut
eating little more than a bowl of rice a day.
We cleaned elephants and helped spread Christianity.
Sadly, MrM sat inside the hut typing away at his keyboard -
after all, the wheels of industry must keep turning -
but he did organise the locals into a small but profitable business
making pallets out of recycled chopsticks.
The rest of our holiday was spent watching
famous plays from Chinese literature
and observing rock structures in the Great Wall of China.
Fortunately, MasterM managed to teach himself Chinese
during half term and so he was able to translate for us."

And so on....

It finished:

"We hope that you will have been inspired by our news
to lead a more fulfilled life in the New Year."

It made us laugh a lot
and MrsM thought that it would be amusing
to include it with the family Christmas Card.
It made most of our friends laugh
and there was also a small number who phoned us up
to find out why we had not let them know
our new address in China.
Which made us laugh even more.

And then we got our comeuppance.

On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas)
we visited my parents-in-law.
Grandpa is a Canon of the Church of England.
He receives cards from all over the world.
It is fun to read the messages inside.
The very first card that I picked up had a letter
and I started to read it...

"This year we are in China
where we are attached to a Anglican mission.
We feel privileged to be able to spread the word of God.
There is so much to be done because we are surrounded by great poverty
but we still find time to enjoy ourselves.
We recently had the opportunity to help with a Panda rescue project... "

There was more
Lots more.
It was identical to our letter.
I felt as though my stomach was going to fall out
through the soles of my feet.

And the moral of the story is:
don't be a Smartypants with your Christmas letter
because someone, somewhere
will be living that life for real.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Christmas Cards

I love Christmas Cards.

Card 2006

I spend a lot of time choosing exactly the right one.

Card 2003

As MissM so perceptively said:
'They are important for our Family Image'

Card 2004

The picture and shape must be Just So.
And of course they must support a Worthwhile Charity.

Card 2005

This year they came from Peter Jones in Sloane Square.
Very Smart.

Card 2007

All of which makes you wonder why
I am so disorganised about writing them.

This year I can't even find my address book.


A Seasonal Snapshot.

MasterM and the Lovely MissE are coming for lunch.
We are having Lemon Meringue Pie.
Then we are going to decorate the tree together.
We hope that MissM will return from her party in time to help.
Poppy knows that today is going to be a good day...
A walk in the sunshine, lots of attention
and scrapes.