Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Slipping through my fingers

My eldest has departed to start the final year of his Ph.d. He will be doing lots of writing.  He has done the research and now is the time to put the words on the paper. Something that I have some experience with. The time went so quickly. It seemed like for weeks we were waiting for him to arrive. He did and now he is gone.
The house feels quieter. It always takes me a little while to get used to it. However, I don't have long to savour as my daughter will be returning for an indefinite stay while she gets to grips with job applications and figuring what she is doing with her life.
I am very grateful to a wise friend  who said to make sure to give them six months as finding a job is hard work. I know I felt tremendous pressure to take the first job when I was first out of university. I want my children to take  the job which seems right for them, knowing that it can (and most likely will) change through out their life span. One person can have many careers.
My time as an active hands on parent has ended. I am an active hands on carer for my father in law. I am an author who is in the midst of changing her focus.  I am about to start something different to take me out of my comfort zone. At the moment the key is to write something which I am happy with and which has a clearly definable market. Anyway I  am enjoying exploring the options and thinking about to write next. The real writing starts after I return from my holiday in Spain on the 28th. Right now, it is about thinking (this always makes me ancy).
My eldest gave me a long lecture on how I had to be focused and not give into the temptations of Facebook or the internet in general. He ALWAYS has the internet off when he writes (the arrogance of youth!)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Today is always the best day to start eating healthy

One thing I have noticed is people who intend to diet/lose weight always seem to have a reason why today is not the right day.
I have seen it time and again and indeed I used to do it.
Looking at my calendar, I would see upcoming events and think -- no, I wait until after such and such. One of my big mindshift changes was to start thinking of Special Occasions and deciding that I could be more liberal on my eating. Ordinary days/meals mean that I eat my ordinary food.
I found my body craves nutrients. If I get the nutrients into my body, my appetite decreases. If I don't and stuff my body full of junk, my appetite increases because I wasn't giving my body the appropriate fuel.
I found I had to take a step back from sugar and processed foods. If I eat too many, my tastebuds become dull and I think that I am craving more junk food, when in fact my body really wants the fruit and veg and high quality protein. Once the sugar etc had decreased in my bloodstream, I discovered that I do like beetroot.(When I first started to lose my weight I wouldn't touch it) In fact I like most vegetables.
So it doesn't matter what is up and coming, it matters what you are putting into your mouth today.
It is fine to have planned *falling off the wagons* but when you do, you just get back on at the next opportunity.

Today's breakfast: Victoria plum/banana/Greek yogurt smoothie. The banana provides enough sweetness to cut the intense sharpness of the plums without any extra sweetners being added.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Honey Harvesting

Yesterday for the first time since 2008, we actually harvested our own honey.
Frames of honey, honey extractor all ready
In 2009, we had an attack of mice which destroyed the hives. (Mouseguards not on.) We acquired another hive BUT the cold winter was no good for them. Then 2011 had a cold Spring and 2012 was another cold Spring. I had nearly given up when we decided one last time in 2014 and got some bees. We didn't take off any honey.
BUT this year, we have honey! Hooray. About 40 lbs worth.
I put the Porter bee escapes on on Friday to clear the supers where the honey is stored. Then early, early on Saturday morning before the bees were up, I  went out and retrieved the supers.
One or two bees remained in the supers and were easily brushed off.
At that time in the morning, the bees are not flying. This makes it so much easier and likelihood of getting stung is much decreased.
Then I set up the honey extractor -- which is hand cranked. The wax cappings are taken off to reveal the honey and the frame is put in the extractor. Then the frames are spun round and round. Centrifugal force gets the honey out.
Honey from the extractor pours into the filter
It works well except if there is a high proportion of heather honey. Heather honey is like jelly and very hard to extract. The best way I have found is to crush the frames and melt them -- releasing the honey. The honey melts at a lower temp than the wax. Thankfully though my youngest son has strong arms and the honey was all spun out.
This year's honey is relatively pale. Heather honey also tends to be more amber/caramel in colour. I suspect there is fuchsia. I know there is thistle in there. It tastes absolutely wonderful.
After being extracted, the honey gets filtered to get rid of the wax/dead bees etc. I also put the cappings in and allow them to drain.
Once filtered the honey is bottled.
Heathcliff inspects the jars of honey
Other than bottling  a couple of bottles for my youngest son to take back to uni with him, I am just waiting for the honey to drip through.
The spun supers are put back on the hives so that the bees can clean them out. The bees hate wasting any honey. They will clean everything. It is sort of amazing.
The bees still have time to forage and rebuild their stores. I will give them some Apiguard as a tonic/guard against varroa. And then they will be shut up for the winter.
In Feb time they will be fed on fondant and the cycle will be gin again.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Aviva Tour of Britain prep for 10 Sept

All around the village --  red and yellow painted bicycles have appeared. At  first it was a bit disconcerting, particularly the one at the entrance to the village, chained to a signpost. But it rapidly all became clear -- it is in celebration of the Aviva Tour of Britain which is passing through the village on 10 September. The red and gold are the colours of the Northumberland flag.
On Church Street, the lampposts are festooned with banners and the bunting is up. Further up the North Bank someone who was big into cycling in his youth has painted his front gate red and gold.
And the bicycles are everywhere.
My eldest who is up visiting from Cambridge was not so impressed with the bicycles as he is used to seeing them chained to every possible post there. Personally I think they look cheerful.
On the day, people are supposed to decorate their house etc.
It is a nice idea but I think we will just go out and cheer the racers on. This section is part of the King  of the Mountain timed stretch. And I know how hard it can be to climb the North Bank. The Collies however will be staying inside. I suspect they will be annoyed that they were not consulted about people congregating outside their house and garden.
I suspect most of the visitors will be down in the village. The church is running a pop up cafe (when did they stop being called a coffee morning?) serving teas, coffees and cakes.
The road will be closed for two hours and people living on the route have to ensure their cars are off the road.
 My eldest who experienced the Tour de France last year in Cambridge says that the cyclists flash past and it is all over in a matter of minutes.
Still it will be fun and it is not very often that something like this comes past the front gate.
Afterwards, people will be allowed to cycle up the North Bank without fear of cars for about an hour. (I always see lots of people pushing their bikes when they reach us)
Fingers crossed for a fine day.
It is being shown live on ITV4 in the UK with a highlight edition at 8 pm every day, plus it is also being shown around the world in a number of countries (including in the US)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Life Lessons from being an author

Recently I had a conversation with my eldest who is about to start writing his PhD thesis. He said -- people have said it is impossible to write 80k before Christmas.
I had to bite my tongue. Although I write in a different genre than he does, I know it if it is August, and you have done all your research, it is indeed possible to write 80k of a first draft. You have to be determined, disciplined and have the desire to get it done. You also have to persevere. You need to be focused.
But then I am a woman who once wrote 80k in 3 weeks because I had a deadline and had thrown out the previous storyline as being unworkable. Actually I have done it twice. Luckily once I got over a hurdle, the words did flow and it became oddly enjoyable (but not something I'd really care to repeat)
My job is writing. My current manuscript is 112k (give or take). Over the years, I have learnt that I can write 5k every so often but my brain implodes if I try to do it on a regular basis. I am far better somewhere between 1.5k -3k. It means when I go back and edit, I don't have to change as much.
It also means that I am less sympathetic when my children be moan writing several thousand words.
It is about the discipline of getting the words down.
I am confident that my eldest will achieve his goal. He has the skill to do it and really less than 1k a day when it is your main task should be achievable. But the ability to be ruthlessly focused has be maintained.

And there is my daughter who had a mini meltdown about her Masters dissertation. I know next to nothing about karst hydrology. But I was able to draw on my experiences of brain storming with various over the years and what worked for me. Generally making considering noises and allowing me to find the logical solution works. I found that if certain editors had too much input early on, I went into editor-pleasing mode and often the story didn't work as well as I'd hoped.
And I now understand why sometimes editors -- say oh just get me something, even if the author knows it will be rubbish. The act of getting the words on paper and sending things off (plus writing and rewriting a synopsis) can really help.
It was great to use a skill that I didn't know I have. And I am thankful for all the editors who talked me back from various ledges.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The current Cultural Iconoclasm

What is happening to Palmyra makes my soul ache. It is a place I had always wanted to visit (once the situation calmed down). My husband went years ago when he did an overland expedition in the mid 1970s. It all seems so senseless as what have the stones done to the so-called Islamic State.
I had a short conversation with an archaeologist friend and he had said -- we have been here before. Think about the Reformation for instance. The destruction of monasteries. Or going further back, when Christianity really took hold and various pagan temples were destroyed. Think the Library of Alexandria's destruction.
And I thought. Sometimes history can really hold up a dark mirror to today.
 And then there is the monastery of St Catherine's in the Sinai which I visited a few years ago. Its library has been the source of many books, books and icons which survived the Byzantine iconoclasm by sheer virtue of its remoteness. It is now surrounded by fundamentalist Islamists. \i fear it won't survive.
This is not something new and only Islamic. But rather a peculiar madness which infects people, particularly people of a fundamentalist religious bent. A fury. And while it is happening, it destroys everything in its path.It becomes a whirlwind. And hopefully after a few years, it blows itself out but society is changed forever.  From the dissolution of the monasteries to the Restoration when knowledge and reason were once to the forefront took over a hundred years though. A blip in humanity but generations of humans.
I don't know the answer. Wholesale cultural destruction is never right.  All I know is that I still weep for  the Library of Alexandria and all the knowledge which was destroyed there. I now weep for Palmyra.