Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Little brown job, turkeys and puppy.

1. "Sort of skulking?" "Yes, and picking bits out from between the paving stones." "That's a dunnock." Another of our home birds identified.

2. My parents' neighbour has four turkeys in a pen in the woods. They are pleased to see us and come to the fence to show off their green-black plumage. One of the males fans out his tail for us.

3. He brings his great dane puppy out to meet us. Its colour makes me think of a batch of biscuits -- pale gold to soft tan. He says its spent the short afternoon testing the boundaries of his garden.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sponsored post: Shop and win a year's salary


If I happened to win £40,000 -- Paypal is calling it a year's salary, but I reckon I could make it stretch further than that, as it's way more than I could ever hope to earn in a year, even in my wildest dreams -- I would use it to stretch out my maternity leave for another year so I could hang out with Baby Badger and watch him or her discover this world full of beautiful things without worrying about paying the bills. Children grow up so quickly, and you only get one chance to enjoy each stage of their lives.

If you think you could use £40,000, just use PayPal for some on-line shopping -- Find out more.

Anyway -- with Baby Badger due any day now, and Christmas looming, there are still a few bits and pieces on my shopping lists, so I can think of lots of ways to enter this competition.

From Boots: I could do with a Grobag Night Light for those small hour feeding sessions; and the hollow-eyed new parents who visited our NCT class had one thing to say "Infacol"; I'm also yet to purchase some muslin squares (partly because I'm convinced I'll go into labour the moment I do). And a changing bag -- this Tiny Tillia looks neutral enough that Nick wouldn't mind carrying it! Finally, I'd pick up a squeaky, jingly, crinkly Sir Prance-A-Lot toy.

Lloyds Pharmacy would be the next stop for maternity gear: A TENS machine; Lansinoh is another tip from hollow-eyed new parents, likewise a nose clearing device for the inevitable colds and snuffles; Milton sterilising tablets; and prints of our favourite photos.

Superdrug is always great for little stocking fillers -- particularly as they have a three for two offer on at the mo. I particularly like these bright Naturals Bath Fizzer Trios; this Tutti Cuti purse (this might end up in MY stocking, as I have a summer outfit that matches all these colours); and this string of butterfly lights is rather appealing. I would buy this Thomas Musical handwash because it's totally daft. And finally, this Vaseline Lips Tin -- I always have one of these small tins about my person when I'm wearing new shoes, because there is nothing like Vaseline for preventing blisters.

Fragrance Direct -- I would buy this Burt's Bees Pomegranate and Cranberry Scrub as a gift for someone, but I can see it 'getting lost' and ending up in our bathroom! I've been warned by an experienced mum that a stay in hospital can be very hard on your hands, so I've vowed to treat myself to another of Burt's products: Almond Milk Beeswax handcream. One of my most enduring Christmas shopping memories is picking out Bronnley soaps for various grandmothers and great aunts -- Fragrance Direct has a good range of these, including a set of nostalgic shop tins, each containing three soaps -- I love the Post Office and the Chocolate Shop. And I'd also pick up a bottle of Rose Bath Relaxant.

Another stop in my virtual shopping trip would be Fig Leaves for some nursing bras: Midnight Grace has some pretty ones: Lilly, Rosie Posy and Bittersweet are particularly appealing; but then I would be practical and get a plain black and white two pack like Holly. And I'd also pick up a nursing chemise as a treat for myself.

Some of my best maternity wear has come from fashion giant Asos -- in the summer months, I wore these scoop neck vests as tops, and now it's colder I'm layering them. These three-quarter sleeve tops have also been great because they go under summer dresses as the weather turns colder. I'm on the look-out for a pair of black boots -- these Mango pull-ons would be lovely. And finally I can't resist this Ramones T-shirt for Baby Badger -- they do say that you get given loads of new born clothes and none for when the baby is older!

Enter now for your chance to win

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Sunday morning, warming up and tracking.

1. Nick takes me out for breakfast -- at 10am the streets are Sunday silent and the air is so cold and still that it feels as if we are watching the world through glass.

2. Hot chocolate with a peak of foam on top and flecks of chocolate melting into it.

3. He calls down from the attic: "Darling wife, I can track our pizza on-line!"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Foodie, still waiting and squirrel.

1. After breakfast, Nick sits up in bed with the magical recipe book sent to us by Joe in Vegas. It's a stout and hefty volume specialising in west coast food. There's an entire section -- with trouble-shooting tips -- on cheesecake, which is Nick's absolute favourite thing in the world.

2. In the shop where we buy our dried fruit, the lady at the till says: "Haven't you had that baby yet? You've been pregnant for ages."

3. A squirrel sits high in a tree, tail curled over its head, chattering to itself -- possibly complaining about the problems it's been having digging beech mast out of the frozen soil. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seeds, tax return and melting.

1. To throw down a handful of birdseed.

2. To send off my tax return -- it's another item crossed off the list of things I must do before Baby Badger comes.

3. Grated parmesan curls writhe on the hot surface of a shepherd's pie.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Snuggly, biscuits and night feeds.

Katie has posted a picture of the blanket she made for my increasingly spoilt baby.

1. No-one is getting much sleep at the moment -- I can't turn over in my sleep any more, and I can't sleep in one position for very long. I whisper my apologies to Nick as I make another awkward turn to get back into his arms. He says: "You're not being annoying -- you're being snuggly."

2. There are malted milks on the biscuit plate at yoga.

3. My beautician tells me to treasure the night feeds -- "When the moon is shining through the window, and it's just the two of you, and they open their eyes and look up... It's so, so special."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Meeting for coffee, Christmas shopping and shift.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, all you USA people. Today, I'm thankful for a trouble-free pregnancy.

1. A bunch of yellow roses, a toy giraffe for Baby Badger and someone else's baby sitting on my knee and grabbing my nose.

2. The delivery man puts a large parcel in my hands.

3. The midwife says that Baby Badger has shifted over to a better position -- just hoping it can keep up the good work until the big day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Long morning, us next and sleep.

1. I am so glad we have an 11am start.

2. After the class, we tell each other how amazed we are at the visiting mother's ease and confidence with her eight-week-old son. We are all wondering how we are ever going to get that stage.

3. To wrap myself up in the duvet and sleep until Nick gets home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tea, thinking of Christmas and Katie's parcel.

1. A mug of licorice tea.

2. The mother buys for us a wooden Christmas tree to decorate with those little German ornaments I like so much. I'm thinking fondly of December 1 when we can open the Christmas boxes and start getting out a few decorations, and maybe our collection of Christmas books.

3. We come home from an NCT gathering and find a plump parcel on the doorstep -- Katie has dropped round a knitted blanket in heathery colours and a baby-grow ("The force is strong in this one").

Monday, November 22, 2010

Late bee, taking tea and winter duvet.

There's a new edition of Sarah Salway's extraordinary book Something Beginning With... It's a love story written in alphabetical order, and Neil Gaiman is a fan.

1. A bumble bee out late in the year works at the lemon yellow berberis bells.

2. Tea for two in front of a log fire, with a waiter who kept telling us "There's no hurry. You've got as long as you want." In between sandwiches, scones and cakes, we look over our wedding photographs.

3. We put the winter duvet on the bed and snuggle underneath it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flowers, stretching and red on white.

Today is our first wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe it's been a year already. I don't think I've ever been more content in my life. We'll be returning to the hotel where we tied the knot later on today for afternoon tea.

Nick and I have been so touched by all the love and support we've had from the people close to us, and from people who haven't met us face-to-face. I love this picture because when I saw it, it brought home how much effort people made to come to our wedding, and also the fact that they cared enough about the memory of it that they wanted to take pictures.

1. The anniversary itself is on Sunday, but we've sort of stretched out the celebrations across the whole weekend. Nick brings flowers back from town. He says he picked this bunch "because the white ones reminded me of the white roses in your wedding bouquet." The white ones turn out to be ornamental cabbages -- creamy white, flushed mauve in the centre with tiny beads of green on the edge of each petal.

2. Doing a few cat stretches to help BB get into position. I'll be considered full term on Tuesday.

3. Deep red cayenne pepper scattered over white cauliflower cheese.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter window, not going out and in capable hands.

1. The florists who did our wedding have the most fantastic winter window display -- glass round-bottomed flasks, each containing a single white exotic flower, suspended on fishing line and surrounded by fake snow and silver glitter.

2. Using the internet to cut a swathe through the Christmas shopping.

3. Nick takes over supper, turning sausages and mashing potatoes and carrots while I catch up with my emails.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spindle, better and sound effects.

1. A spindle tree with the orange seeds just bursting out of the pink cases cheers me up as I struggle up the hill across the park.

2. "I feel so much better for that," I tell my yoga teacher at the end of the class.

3. By chance I come across an old friend on Radio 4 -- a thriller adapted from Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book. It is beautifully done in terms of sound effects and voice acting. The Empress, in particular, is astonishing  -- refined and restrained and authoritative all at once.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Filling, fluff and fathers.

1. To find a spoonful of dulce de leche in the middle of my banana muffin.

2. She sleeps on under hair like dandelion fluff.

3. Some NCT graduates have been invited to bring their babies to our class. We pepper them with questions about hospital bags and nappies. "Did you cry?" challenges one of the dads. "Yes," says the other.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Outdoors, roll and washing.

1. This is a day for people who work outdoors. One of the groundsmen is taking a break from chasing leaves around -- sprawled on a sunny bench enjoying the unexpected sun.

2. An unevenness in the floor makes the exercise ball gently nudge the back of my chair -- you'd be better off sitting on me: think of your posture.

3. Piles of folded washing waiting on the stairs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Certificate, bitter and dads.

1. Nick has a certificate from work praising his diligent and tenacious work on a project -- and there is a small bonus attached.

2. Amaretti for elevenses.

3. At the antenatal class I like catching the other dads patting their partners' bumps.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scarlet suit, pork and science fiction.

1. Katherine (who took our wedding pictures) brings us a beautiful scarlet snow suit to bundle our baby in.

2. The butcher was right -- we didn't need to do anything (except keep the joint dry) to get good crackling.

3. We watch Mark Gatiss' First Men in the Moon -- his naive Cavor was excellent, and I loved the schoolboyish glee at their first steps on the moon. I've also been having some fun getting my head round cavorite and its possible applications.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not nothing, sit down and supper.

1. I pick up from the library What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing which I have seen recommended over and over again on parenting sites. I am hoping it will help me lay to rest some of the haunting remarks I've heard from my friends about empty days spent doing "nothing".

2. Baby Badger has been feeling very heavy lately, and really going for it with the Braxton Hicks contractions. It's so good to sit down for a few minutes, and whenever we are out, I'm constantly looking round for a bench!

3. Nick makes a huge pie -- we eat very late, but it's very good, full of tasty steak and kidney and juicy mushrooms.

Day off, robin and midwife.

Two more new 3BTers today -- Africa, My Africa (a teacher working in Uganda) and Crazy Thoughts from Slovenia. I've added them both to the Roll of Honour -- please email me and let me know if you should be on the roll but aren't.

1. Nick takes a day off work -- he has holiday to use up before Christmas, and we are very aware that time for the two of us will be in short supply very soon.

2. While we are eating lunch a robin comes down to inspect the back yard. There was a robin who joined a sea eagle warden in his study on Autumn Watch earlier this week, and I've always been a little envious of my parents' robin, too.

3. We go to another antenatal class -- this time with independent midwife Anja Metzner. She is very refreshingly direct, excusing lines such as "Midwives get very excited about poo" and "When talk about sex to get labour going, I really mean lovemaking" with "I'm sorry, I am German". I feel very privileged to have a share of her passion and wisdom, and at the end, I overhear Nick telling someone: "I think I'm ready for it now."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Silence, trim and not isolated.

Erin and Shopgirl (who has the most beautiful white rabbit) have both started new blogs in the last few days -- check out A Blessing A Day and Something Good in Everything.

And I've added two people who blog 3BT-style to the Roll of Honour -- Talking to Myself in Public and Musings and Confessions.

1. A muffled boom makes the yoga class jump. "What was that?" We are still on edge here in Tunbridge Wells from the bomb scare that cleared the town centre two weeks ago. "It's the eleventh of November, and 11 o' clock." We fold ourselves into child's pose to think of heroes and sacrifices.

2. Such a relief to get my hair cut short. It sits much better now, and I feel as if I am showing the respect I feel for myself.

3. I was afraid that motherhood would be an isolated business -- but this cafe is full of NCT groups jiggling prams and feeding babies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Contrast, find the baby and no trouble.

1. It's such a bright beautiful day. The woods are wearing rags of autumn colour still, and the contrast with the winter branches makes me want to look and look.

2. The midwife says: "I can feel a back here, and I think this is a bottom up here." She says that I'll get some strange feelings in the next few weeks as Baby Badger grinds its head down into my pelvis.

3. When the time comes to make my next appointment, I ask the mother (who has offered to drive me there) when would be convenient. She shakes her head -- she doesn't mind. The midwife says: "First grandchild is it? Nothing's too much trouble, is it." I'm loving all the attention you get from being pregnant.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not up yet, biscuits and next time.

1. I'm still in my dressing gown because I couldn't sleep until it was time to get up. She says: "Oh, it's because Baby Badger wanted to play." I hadn't thought of it like that... all the disrupted sleep could be my body's way of adjusting to the new hours I will be keeping.

2. Euro-biscuits -- I love those tempting multi-lingual packets in Lidl with their promises of almonds and gingerbread and chocolate.

3. Games night again -- the last one before Baby Badger. It's strange to say good bye to people and to say: "Next time we see you, we'll have a baby."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

End of autumn, woodsmoke and circles.

1. Walking through the park in the rain. Cold air. Cold sky. Warm reds and golds hang on bravely.

2. The smell of woodsmoke on a rainy day.

3. We've been walking in circles all morning, she says in a text. I assume it's a metaphor for a frustrating day. No -- walking round and round holding a couple of Mum's fingers is Ben's new favourite activity.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Changing the bed, nursery and meet you at the abbey.

I am told by a reliable source that 3BT has been mentioned in the latest issue of Writing Magazine -- so if you've come in from there, welcome.

1. To pull the sheets off the bed, rip open the duvet poppers and drag the stout pillows from their cases.

2. People keep asking if the nursery is ready. It's certainly full of stuff, but 'ready' is pushing it a bit. I roll up my sleeves and go in -- unpacking bags and boxes, checking age labels and matching like with like. We now have a box of toys, a pile of bedding for the wash and a shelf of changing kit.

3. The last Downton Abbey. Drama! Intrigue! Dresses! Revenge! We watch it live for once -- the interminable ad breaks are perfect for catching up with the quips and commentary on Twitter.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Parcel, parkin and park.

1. We've been waiting a few days for a mysterious parcel -- it turns out to be a wedding present from my aunt, who very kindly delayed her gift so that we could get something we really needed for the new house. We picked a carving set, but we'd completely forgotten. This made opening the parcel (as always beautifully wrapped) rather thrilling.

2.  The parkin that I baked last week is finally ready to eat. The recipe says it needs to mature for a week -- preferably in a wooden box. It's definitely stickier and more gingery than it was last Saturday, so I'm glad I was patient. My recipe comes from The Great British Book of Baking, which is a very welcome addition to the kitchen. It's a spin-off from the TV series The Great British Bake-Off, and speaking of which, I've been enjoying the blog of Ruth Clemens, one of the most entertaining contestants. She's really generous with her recipes, too.

3. "Are we going to church?" asks a small boy carrying a ball in a shopping bag. The two teenagers with him look bemused: "We're going to Calverley Rec."

Saturday, November 06, 2010

No coat, flowers and fizzy wine.

1. It's wet and windy, but I only have to walk about 50 paces to work. I don't even bother putting on a coat.

2. Nick brings me  flowers -- they are the colour of broken orange pekoe tea with no milk. He says there is one extra in the bunch: the florist had a leftover from making a floral spaniel for someone's birthday.

3. I have been craving fizzy wine for weeks -- imagine waking up at 3am and wanting it so much you can feel the stem of the glass in your hand. I give in and have a glass with my supper (toast and gooseberry jam).

Friday, November 05, 2010

Put together, tasting notes and the party continues.

1. I am really appreciating my freezer -- I don't so much make a moussaka for supper as assemble it.

2. Tina brings a bottle of wine -- she says she selected it for the tasting notes on the label, which list its charms as black cherries, toasted wood and vanilla. I take a sip of Nick's and find the cherries, and the vanilla. I think the wood needs more time.

3. I go off to bed, and lie there dozing and reading poetry and listening to Nick and Tina laughing downstairs.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Cake, guest bed and parent talk.

Susan emailed to let me know that she'd posted her 'how I found 3BT' story on her blog, Notes from Innisfree. It was mentioned in a sermon at her church -- so thank you to that pastor, whoever you are!

And I had another message this morning: Sandy wanted to tell me about the 1,000 Crane Mission -- a project to release 1,000 paper cranes, each inscribed with a positive word, into the wild. I really love these projects that reach out, hoping to touch the lives of random strangers.

1. My mother appears, and she has some cake.

2. We have guest staying tomorrow night. I hunt down the bag of visitor's linen and make up the bed in the attic. 

3. We have our first NCT class. They separate the mums from the dads to help us mix. We're talking about how we've found our pregnancies. We can hear the dads roaring with laughter next door. "They're just talking about beer and football," someone says. When we are alone again, I ask Nick what they said. "We talked about when it came real for us. I told them about Baby Badger kicking me in the back."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Learning a lot, huntress and inevitable.

1. Caroline calls me out to coffee on the Pantiles with some of her NCT friends. As always, I learn a lot from talking with mothers and babies.

2. Maggie sitting on my knee looks thoughtfully at my poppy, and then kills it and tries to eat it.

3. I get stuck in to my tax return -- and find that I've been carefully filing the papers I need together under T (possibly for 'tax').

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Next generation, like sand and communication.

Lynne Hackles wrote about her Golden Notebook habit in a comment yesterday. She writes about her notebook (and more generally about being a writer in her blog -- I Should Be Writing.

1. A red-headed boy carrying a copy of the Financial Times is taking long steps to keep up with his father.

2. I am learning to love the process of rubbing fat into flour.

3. Nick comes home with his first mobile -- which is sad in the same way that a child starting school is sad, or asking you not to hold his hand any more. But with BB on the way, I'm glad I can communicate with him when he's not in the office or at home. I was having visions of ringing South Eastern to ask if they would put an announcement out at the London terminus: "Would Mr Nicholas Law please go home as his wife is in labour."

Monday, November 01, 2010

Changing times, local paper and nasturtium.

1. The clocks go back today -- which means we'll get up in daylight again on work days. We're looking forward to our lie-in tomorrow.

2. One of the books I dug up recently was The Framley Examiner. It's based on a website offering archives of a lovingly realised fictional local paper. If you've ever worked for a local paper, you'll recognise the characters -- the local politician with a strange obsession; the local businessmen pushing a doomed product; reporters unhinged, incompetent and arrogant; and village news correspondents who email 8MB bitmap scans of their minutes. You'll recognise the errors caused by woolly thinking, careless subs, burnt-out contributors and editors desperate to fill the space.
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3. A self-seeded nasturtium sprouted late this summer in one of my pots. I think the seed must have been buried quite deep, and the shoot was late because it was working its way up. It's put out orange flowers, which are still going strong and bringing a welcome splash of clear, living colour -- as opposed to the dying reds and suffering yellows of autumn.