'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

My Special Rich Fabulous Icecream

 (Very easy to make)

2 eggs, whites separated from yolks
1/2 cup sugar
300 ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon hot water
1.  Beat egg whites until stiff,  Add half of the sugar and beat very well until shiny and smooth.
2.  Beat the egg yolks with the hot water and the remaining sugar until very stiff and pale.  (10 minutes possibly).
3.  Beat the cream until it makes peaks but not to the lumpy stage.
4.  Blend all the ingredients together by folding in (cutting, lifting and turning - gently but thoroughly).  Fold in flavourings (below).
5.  Freeze.  (You don't need to get it out half way through and mix - this ice cream is so rich and soft, it doesn't form big crystals).

Flavouring suggestions:
• Coffee and chicory essence  • cold fruit pulp (almost any kind)  • raisins soaked overnight in a little dark rum  • real vanilla essence  •  cocoa powder mixed with a little orange juice plus chocolate chips  • peppermint essence  • Guinness beer (reduced to about 1/3 its volume by simmering about 15 minutes then cooling)...

Wednesday, 26 March 2008


I was talking to my son last night and he made a passing comment about a previous landlord being rather well-off, although only in his early thirties.  Unmarried, has a lucrative business, and owns about three houses plus the one he lives in.  I reminded him of some other less positive comments he had made about this man, and he replied "That's probably why."

Many of the 'you can do it' type books - specifically the ones that say anyone can be rich - refer to 'goal visualisation', 'cultivating relationships', 'working hard', 'single-mindedness' and so on.  

I agree with them.  I believe they work.  Anyone can be rich.  You just have to focus on it to the exclusion of anything else.  Like, being kind?

I think the need to be rich is almost always replaced by something else far more important, long before you get there.  

I hope so, anyway.

Like on a warm autumn day, packing up the car with buckets and children and going blackberry-picking, then coming home and baking a pie with them and eating it with home-made ice cream.


"Let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence."
- Plato


I once moved into a new home.  The previous owners had had a ten year old nephew staying with them.  I heard he had 'gone off the rails' in some unspecified way.  When I opened up the garage, a large board nailed to the far end revealed itself.  On it were chalked in a childish hand the words "TO LOVE AND BE LOVED."  I was struck to the spot, and overcome by a wave of huge sadness to think what kind of experiences a child of ten could have had that would plummet him to such depths of despair and profundity.

That was thirty years ago.  In the interim, I have lived a bit of life, and learnt a few things.  
And I've found out it's true.  They are the two essential requirements and motivators of our lives:  
The need to have someone to love; and to be loved back.  

To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.
- David Viscott How to Live with Another person.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Terry Pratchett

Photo from BBC website

Time for a plug.  I've restrained myself up until now but cannot any longer.  My favourite author.

I'm reading another of his books at the moment.  It's ostensibly a children's book, but, like the best children's books, this one is for adults too.  
It's by Terry Pratchett and is entitled Wintersmith.  It features a young girl who could be a role model for us all.  Tiffany Aching is kind, sensible, moral and has many practical skills.  (She makes wonderful cheeses and is very good at lambing time "small hands can get inside and untangle things.")  She is able to stick up for herself, yet happy to learn and take advice when needed, listening carefully and then making up her own mind.  She is philosophical about her own and others' limitations.  She is only thirteen yet does not slavishly follow fashions, preferring dark green to her peer's black clothing.  She can be firmly assertive if she feels she is being manipulated, yet persuasive and helpful to those in need.  She likes reading and keeps a dictionary to look up unknown words.

She is also a trainee witch, the god of winter is in love with her, and she is followed around by a bunch of brave, tough, tattooed Scottish pictsies called the Nac Mac Feegle who have sworn to protect her.

Terry Pratchett is one of the most clever, funny and readable writers ever.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Putting it off

A couple of years ago my teenage daughter and I went to Europe.  We spent 3 months together, all day every day, traveling, sharing experiences and often even sleeping in the same bed at night.  We became very close and shared a lot of laughs and had a memorable time.  Took a lot of photos too!  (How could anyone pass by this Firenze shop window?) 
In the final week we rented a villa in the south of France and had nothing much to do but relax, rest and think about going back home.  We found ourselves making resolutions. They involved exercise, healthy diet and, most of all, about doing things before they were overdue.  House maintenance rather than repairs.  Homework handed in before it was due.  Planning the meals and shopping for the week ahead.  That sort of thing.  And we made a pact to support each other.  We even signed the contract.  We were full of that zeal and determination that follows.
But since then we have realised we 'make cakes'.  That is, we sometimes do something else instead of what we should be doing.  Something that is usually more fun (we both enjoy cooking), has a fast reward (you get the heavenly aroma, then eat your cake too), and we also receive a positive response from others ("What's that wonderful smell?")
These cakes can be actual or metaphorical.  Tidying your room instead of doing homework is a common one.  Weeding the garden.  Visiting an old friend or grandparent you hadn't seen for ages.  These aren't of themselves wasting time, but they were not what you should be doing.  In fact, they are usually disguised as Very Useful Or Important Things.  But what you should be doing then ends up being done a. at the last minute b. poorly, or c. not at all.
These days my daughter and I still support each other, but often have to challenge the other "Is this what you are meant to be doing, or are you just baking a cake?"