Storytime: Mr Nosey and the Big Surprise

noseysurpriseYear: 1998
Author: Roger Hargreaves
Illustrator: Roger Hargreaves

Mr Nosey is the sort of person who does not mind his own business.

He minds everyone else’s business!

He is as nosey as his nose is long.

If there is a keyhole to look through or a letter box to listen at you’ll find Mr Nosey there looking or listening, and probably both.

One day while Mr Nosey was taking a walk through the wood on the other side of Tiddletown he heard a door shut.

‘That’s odd,’ he said to himself.

Buy to find out more!

Music Monday: Scout Paré-Phillips

I love it when my usual music sites ( mostly, but not exclusively) point me towards artists I know nothing about. It feels like all the fruitless trawling that can go on forever is finally worth something. Scout Paré-Phillips is one of those artists. I know nothing about her; I’m only beginning to explore her site, but I’ve just got to listen to Heed the Call (2015), and I like mightily what I heard. I’ve seen it labelled ‘neofolk’ or ‘dark folk’, but in my mind, this is what goth sounds like in 2015. So here’s a very timely taster (that would otherwise have to wait for next week). Let’s give the woman some publicity!

Aware and Awake

awakeawareWe tend to associate the energy of intent with complicated or profoundly meaningful actions that require our full attention and effort in order to succeed. For example, walking a tightrope, taking a test, and taking a vow are all tasks that call us to be fully present and single-minded. However, intent can also be applied to everyday events, like eating breakfast or going to work. In fact, everything we do benefits from the presence of intent, which has the power to transform seemingly mundane tasks into profound experiences. You only have to try it to find out.

Intent is one of the cornerstones of the Zen tradition of Buddhism in which monks work for years to develop the stillness and sharpness of mind to do only one thing at a time. Most of the time we are doing one thing and thinking of something else, or even doing three things at the same time, such as talking on the phone, doing dishes, and boiling water for tea. There is nothing inherently wrong with multitasking, which seems necessary at times, especially in the midst of family life. However, balancing this with a healthy dose of intentional activity can provide valuable insight into the benefits of doing one thing at a time, being fully present with whatever the task at hand happens to be.

From the moment we wake up, we can apply intent to our situation by simply saying to ourselves, “I am aware that I am now awake.” We can use this simple tool throughout our day, saying, “I am aware that I am driving to work.” “I am aware that I am making dinner.” Or even, “I am aware that I am breathing.” As we acknowledge what we are doing in these moments, we come alive to our bodies and to the world, owning our actions instead of habitually performing them. We may realize how often we act without intention and how this disengages us from reality. Applying the energy of intent to even one task a day has the power to transform our lives. Just imagine what would happen if we were able to apply that power to our entire day.


Selfish Saturday: Square two, maybe

roughroadI haven’t posted in this slot at all this year. There has been nothing to post about. This series is supposed to be about recovery from a long period of subclinical depression, together with tackling the physical issues that developed over that time. The last three or so months were as if everything in my life has been conspiring to set me back, in every possible way. It largely succeeded. The effort to reverse the trend right now feels like having to dig myself out of my own grave.

Things had been going downhill for a while. The mister’s four-and-a-half years of temp work came to an end in the summer, when he was offered a permanent position he was very happy to accept. Immediately, everything about the place seemed to start going wrong. First our car died, then things started breaking down about the house at an alarming rate. We have a leaking overflow, another leak from the bathroom that could potentially need the entire suite replaced (we shower standing in a washtub and tip the water down the toilet once done), the boiler is playing up and it’s anyone’s guess if we will have heating on any given day. Our plumber never returned my calls, and getting hold of another was an almost desperate venture. We have had to replace the tumble dryer, then the microwave. Every load of laundry I put in could be the washing machine’s last. Just the other day the bank informed us that, since our finances had stabilised, they would begin getting back the two mortgage payments we are in arrears for… by charging us an extra £300 a month. We had just managed to secure a new car (new, in this context, meaning ancient but road-worthy) and were beginning to budget for a trip to Athens, which will have to be put off yet again, till goodness knows when. I haven’t seen my mother, or any of my family and friends back home, since New Year’s 2011, and I won’t be seeing them until we stop bleeding money for emergencies with lousy timing. I miss the place and the people so badly I can almost taste it.

Naturally, I haven’t been in a good place at all over those months, even before the physical issues started. I’ve been convinced, for a long time now, that my lot in life will always involve suffering disproportionate amounts of physical pain for trivial reasons. The first month of 2015 served me three rounds of tummy bugs (in as many weeks) and a cold. The second month saw a resurgence of the cold, with a tickly cough that wouldn’t quit tacked on, a dodgy knee (the beginnings of osteoarthritis; don’t congratulate me on being officially middle-aged) and shin splints on the other leg, which took exception to having to compensate for the bad one. All in all, a combination that made my daily 4-mile school run a matter of torture, and shot any chances I had to return to a regular yoga practice.

It hasn’t been all bad – after all, we do have wheels, so I don’t have to do all the grocery runs on foot (even though I did have to do them when it was still bitterly cold), and the mister and I decided, at the beginning of February, to go on the 5-2 diet, which seems to be suiting us both; I have lost 3 kilos in 4 weeks, even with my limited mobility, and I can look forward to a few more months of good progress, at the very least.

I don’t know if my spirits will lift any with spring creeping closer; I’m a cold weather person by nature, and I’m not looking forward to a spate of allergies to add to the rest of the objective physical issues I’ve been having. But all I can do is look forward and try my best, because it beats the alternative.

Foodie Friday: Lamb Steaks with Pesto Butterbeans

Lamb_pesto_butterbeans(Serves 4)

270g tomatoes on the vine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained and rinsed
300ml chicken or lamb stock
75ml crème fraîche
2 tbsp lighter green pesto
450g lamb rump steaks
200g spring greens, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 4. Put the tomatoes on a baking tray and top with 1.5 tbsp of the olive oil and the oregano. Roast for 15 minutes.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of the remaining oil in a pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes; add the garlic for the last minute. Stir in the butter beans, stock, crème fraîche and pesto. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Brush the lamb steaks with the remaining oil and season with black pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, add the steaks and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow to rest. Add the spring greens to the pan and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
4. Serve the lamb steaks on top of the pesto butterbeans and spring greens, with the roasted tomatoes on top.

Month at a Glance

March 2015
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