Thursday, 28 March 2013


I am an avid reader. I would like to say that I read a wide variety of books, but that wouldn't be strictly truthful. I love a good who-dunnit, much to DH's consternation! Occasionally I force myself to read a non-fiction book with some vague idea it might prevent my brain turning to mush. It was with this slightly ambivalent "must eat your greens" attitude that I approached "Quiet" by Susan Cain.

Image from
"Quiet" is sub-titled "The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" which just about sums it up. It's main thesis is that the world is set up for extroverts, who form the majority. Introverts are sometimes seen as slightly lacking or strange, but actually play a very useful part in society as they come up with the best ideas. If you are unsure whether you are an introvert or an extrovert then there is a good test here.

I chose to read it because DH is a dyed in the wool introvert. He is practically off the scale. He beavers away in his office in the loft very happily, with just the occasional interaction with the outside world. I am mildly introverted. I enjoy getting together with small groups of friends but I avoid large parties like the plague. I need periods of time alone with only a book for company.

This is the first non-fiction book that I honestly could not put down. I am not going to attempt a serious book review; I am not qualified and I would bore you rigid, but these were the highlights for me.

It follows the development of (American) society from a place where introversion was accepted as normal to a time when it was almost seen as a social disorder. I recognise this because last year the (British) school my son attends had concerns about him as he preferred to play by himself rather than with large groups of boisterous boys. I wasn't worried, but he obviously didn't conform to some norm and that made them uncomfortable.

A very interesting section for me was the section on church services. This was from an American perspective, which I have no experience of, but I can comment a little on the British church scene. Some churches can be very difficult for introverts to cope with. They are constantly upbeat, with little or no time for reflection. If you are going through a difficult time you are expected to exhibit the "joy of the Lord". The "talk to someone you don't know" section can be torture!

Schools can also be tricky places for introverts. In primary school desks are set up for group work and a lot of work is supposed to be carried out in groups or pairs. Teachers expect children to speak out in class. Every single teacher DD has ever had has commented that she is too quiet. She is nearly 13 so that is a fair few now! She is her father's daughter and speaking out in class is anathema to her. I love my daughter the way she is; she has a close group of friends and has a kind, gentle nature. My greatest desire for her is that she is happy with who she is, and doesn't try to become someone else.

There is a long section on the possible causes and origin of introversion. I enjoy science so I liked this part, but others might find it a little tough going.

In summary, I loved this book because it validates who I am. I recognised myself or DH on every page. It is OK not to like parties, it is fine to take time for myself occasionally, I don't have to have a ready riposte for every question. Definitely worth a read!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Lentil and Potato Dhal

A few weeks ago I wrote a post asking for help with ideas for vegetarian meals. I have really appreciated all the replies, and will be trying out the ideas. I love the support in Blogland! Lily from Gingham and Daisies very kindly sent me some recipes using lentils. I have cooked with lentils before, but I have never made them taste good! I was a little unsure how the kids would take to them, but I was determined to have a go. One of Lily's recipes was for Lentil and Potato Dhal. It was a spiced up version of a Delia Smith recipe, available here.

Lily's version included chilli flakes and fresh chillies as well as the Madras curry powder. We split along gender lines in our house; DD and I like our food spicy while DH and DS are a little more cautious. In the end I went for a more gentle curry, and served it with some rice (and trepidation).

I was really surprised at the family's reaction. Everyone loved it and cleared their plates! DH didn't even realise he was eating lentils. I am feeling a lot more confident about cooking pulses now, and I may be trying lentil moussaka this week. I am definitely going to be including vegetarian food in the meal plan at least once a week. Thank you Lily for the inspiration!

Monday, 18 March 2013

A Real Easter Egg

I like chocolate, and I am also very fond of eggs, fluffy bunnies and baby chicks. However, as a Christian, I am not happy about the way the meaning of Easter is  being lost in favour of a general festival of "new life" and Spring. (And yes, I am aware that Christians hijacked a pagan festival!) So I was pleasantly surprised to find this in T*sco this morning:

It has the story of Easter on the back, is made of Fairtrade chocolate and includes a charity donation in the price. From my point of view it ticks a lot of boxes. I was very impressed to find it in a major supermarket. It is made by the Meaningful Chocolate Company who combine ethical trading with faith. T*sco has slightly fewer in stock now!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Hosiery Owl

One day towards the end of last week DD was in a very mysterious mood when she got home from school. Did I have any odd socks? As there is either a sock-gobbling monster lurking in the washing machine, or there is a worm-hole in the space-time continuum starting in the laundry basket, I have a drawer dedicated to odd socks. (Maybe not just the socks are odd!) Where do I keep the toy stuffing? Could I let her have some wool? What about felt? Could I please not ask any questions?! Very strange, but as I suspected would happen, all was revealed on Mother's Day:

A mummy owl to add to my collection! I was very impressed with this as it was her own design, executed with no help whatsoever from anyone else. I am constantly amazed at my daughter's creativity! I can follow a pattern, but she dreams up her own ideas.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Vegetarian food - help!

Slightly alarmed by the report that eating too much processed meat has been linked to early death, DH has decided that we are going to eat more vegetarian food. He announced this as we tucked into sausage casserole! We have this about once a week, and we probably use a packet of bacon a week between us, so all in all I don't think we overdo the processed meat. However, I can see the health benefits of eating more veggies and I am willing to have a go at a weekly vegetarian dish. After all, I was vegetarian myself for three years when I was a student.

There are a few issues; DH is lactose intolerant so we can't have too much cheese. Bang go macaroni and cauliflower cheese! He also dislikes too much tomato, no one apart from me will eat courgettes, and I struggle to get DD to eat more than peas and sweetcorn on the vegetable front. Help! Does anyone have any good ideas?!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Spring sunshine

It was a rather cold and grey February in our corner of the world, so when the sun appeared to be in danger of breaking out today we all got ridiculously over-excited. Sandwiches were made, sausage rolls cooked and the picnic hamper was unearthed. The first picnic of the year! We headed out to Sheffield Park Gardens, one of our favourite spots. We are not totally mad; we ate the picnic in the car before enjoying our walk.

It is a very picturesque place that is based around a series of lakes.

No sign of spring leaves just yet!

Lots of snowdrops though.

The light was amazing; a real tonic after the recent gloom.

DS took this one!
Up tails all!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Going further for Fairtrade

Since my last post/rant I have been thinking some more about Fairtrade and how to get involved further. Then a friend pointed out the Fairtrade Foundation's latest campaign to support smallholder farmers. This infographic from their website explains it a whole lot better than I could!

I have never been on a demo, (I am far too boring), but I like the idea of sending a mini-me to go in my place! If you are interested the website is here. This video is fun too!