Things I like (parts 106-110) by Claire

106. The countryside! Feels good to get away from London (even if I am missing my badger!)

107. Learning about Charlotte Mason and investigating this site, among others.

108. Time to read and time to sleep.

109. Not having a cold anymore. Ah, the joy of breathing normally. :-)

110. Not having to dress smartly for a whole week. I'm as fond of skirts and heels as the next girl, but yay for joggers!

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Things I like (parts 101-105) by Claire

101. Watching Toddlers & Tiaras with Lou. Such an insane show!

102. Uno. My class have recently discovered a passion for this card game and it's cracking me up!

103. Half-term break. In twenty-seven hours from now (well not from now as I'm scheduling this post, but from now as in according to when this post goes up!) it will be be break time. I so need to get away and recharge....I love my job and I love London, but I am ready to escape both!

104. The book Googled....really riveting stuff!

105. Talking in a West Country accent while reading poetry to my class. Always makes them giggle!

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Five Minute Friday...On Forgetting

Link up with Lisa-Jo for this great series. Taking five minutes (and five minutes only) to just write.

This week's title....

On Forgetting


So much of life is about remembering. We remember good times, great friends, triumphs, happy memories. But each of us has things we'd like to forget too, I think.

Times when we've fallen short. When we've let people down. When we've let ourselves down. Those times when we've taken the path of least resistance, rather than staying strong or standing up for ourselves. The times we've made the easy choice, rather than the right choice.

I think it's good that we don't forget, though.

That instead these moments linger, to remind us, so we don't make the same mistake again and again.

So that next time someone smashes an ornament, we take a deep breath before losing our temper, and instead think before we speak.

So that instead of going home and crying when a colleague embarasses us in front of a staff room full of cronies, the next time this happens we stand up for ourselves, rather than letting them belittle us.

So that the next time that girl (you know, the gossip) says something mean about a friend, we don't just stay silent, but instead we stand up for our friend.

Thank heavens for our mistakes. Let's never forget them.


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Show Us Your Life....desserts!

Or as I would call them, puddings!

I really shouldn't indulge in puddings, but when I do, here are a few of my favourite recipes:

The Pioneer Woman's brownies: Oh. My. Days.

Banoffee pie: Om nom nom.

The Pioneer Woman's red velvet cake: Worth mastering.

Rhubarb Crumble: With lashings of custard, please.

The Pioneer Woman's apple pie: Yes, I am mildly obsessed with the Pioneer Woman's site.

A scoop or two of Phish Food....always satisfying :-)

I fear this SUYL may be bad for my hips....

Thank you as ever, Kelly, for hosting this link up!

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Revision week

The summer term in a prep school is always busy. And I mean crazy, where is my coffee cup / folder / mind, what am I teaching? / who am I teaching? / where am I teaching?, busy. The big focus is on the exams, which are looming on the horizon like dark foreboding hills. The boys are super prepped and bound to do well (I have such bright students - I am a lucky girl!) but still, the preparation and revision is hard work. Especially for my eight year olds!

Luckily, next week is half-term break, where we all have a week off school. I cannot wait. My classroom feels claustrophobic just now and I'm working twelve- to fourteen- to sixteen- hour days just to get everything marked and prepped and copied and doublechecked. I do love teaching, but at this point in the year (with exams and reports both incoming) the stress levels can ramp up along with the paperwork! It will be good to get away and to come back refreshed and ready to rock the last portion of the school year!

I'm going away for almost the whole of the half-term, which is going to be a treat (even if I will miss Matthew like crazy :(). I've booked myself into a nice spa/health farm/yoga retreat and will be spending a week walking in the countryside, reading, napping (always time for napping), working out, detoxing and recharging. It will be a huge change, but a blissful one, I'm hoping....

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Pictures that make me smile...5

The awesome rush of warm fuzzies as I lopped a foot of my hair to donate to charity. Good times. April 2009.

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A Pinterest Post....Clothing Loves

Some recent additions to my 'Clothing Loves' board. I need to shop soon - I am sorely lacking some summertime cuteness in my wardrobe!

These heels would be perfect for towering over our ever growing Year 8s!


Love this colour! I may save up and splurge on this for all the upcoming weddings!


Love these Roman numerals!


Cute white shoes are a must for summer!

It's payday tomorrow....I feel some shopping coming on!

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Things I like (parts 96-100) by Claire

96. Old and fraying grey penguin pyjamas when you're feeling ill and need to rest.

97. Super-hoover, as I have named our turbo-powered Vax!

98. French toast bites with cinnamon and vanilla. Nom nom nom.

99. Glee. I am so excited for the season finale!

100. This list hitting triple figures!

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Pictures that make me smile...4

It's hard to believe the tiny baby boy I'm cuddling here is now my great big six foot little brother, Peter! This picture never fails to make me smile when it pops up in my digital photoframe or I see it in an album. I'm lucky enough to have fallen madly in love with both my siblings when I first met them, and this picture serves to remind me just how blessed I am to have siblings like Sian and Peter. March 1987.

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PS Oi, Peter - email your big big sis soon, please? Love you!

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A Pinterest Post....

A few posts ago I mentioned Pinterest, and a few of you were wondering what it is. Pinterest is a site where you can 'pin' images you find inspiring / amusing / fun, and share with other users / collect for a project / keep to look at on a grey Tuesday evening when the laundry is piling, the books need marking, and the dishes are languishing in the sink. You can find the images online, or 'repin' images others have found.

I started using it a few weeks ago and quickly became slightly addicted! I have boards for all sorts of things, from home decor to fashion to badgers, and every so often I'll be sharing some of my pinnings on here :-). If you'd like to play also you can join pinterest by clicking here.

Here are some recent favourites from my board entitled 'A Delicious Miscellany' (a.k.a. things that don't fit anywhere else!).

via: (14 layers of cake....I *have* to try this!)

via: (homemade Twixs/Twixes/Twixii - what is the plural of Twix, exactly?)

If you are on Pinterest or if you join, let me know, I'd love to buddy up. I'm on there as cmclaire.

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Pictures that make me smile...3

This photo was taken during my first term at my current school (I'm now in my sixth). This was during open homework week, where the boys do projects on a theme word - this time around it was red, hence the tomato soup! I love that I have a job I enjoy so much - yes, it can be very stressful at times, but I wouldn't swap my adventures with the badgers for anything! October 2009.

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Show us Your Life....Main courses

This week, Kelly is having us share all about our favourite main courses. I do most of the cooking in our household, and I love it. Matthew is very patient too - I've taught myself most of the things I make and he is very understanding if and when things do go awry!

One of my favourite things to cook is our spin on bolognese sauce. I think everyone has their own recipe for this, and this is how we cook it in the badger sett. It's got extra veggies in and is very adaptable - add jalapenos and chilli powder for a Mexican kind of mince, and kidney beans and chillies for chili con carne, take the mince out and use cubes of chicken or steak for a different feel, omit any sort of meat for a veggie friendly sauce... It's not the most glam of meals but it's a great standby, can be cooked for two or twenty, freezes and reheats beautifully. You can eat it over pasta, rice, potatoes....or even enjoy it in a mug with a little parmesan if all that seems too much!

The (very rough) recipe:

Badger Bolognese

1 lb lean beef mince (the leanest you can find)
3 bell peppers
3 red onions
1 decent sized bottle of passata
Tomato puree
Olive oil
Brown sugar
Red wine / herbs / beef stock if/as desired

1. In a decent sized pan, heat the olive oil. Crumble in the beef mince and brown the meat, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the garlic and chillies, both finely chopped. Stir.

3. After a couple of minutes, add the peppers and onions, both roughly chopped. Stir these through, mixing with the meat, garlic and chillies. Add any fresh or dried herbs you may like to use at this time, also any stock.

4. Once the vegetables have tenderised, mix in the passata and a dash of red wine. If your sauce is a little watery, add some tomato paste to thicken.

5. Turn the heat down and simmer for as long as you would like (if you need it this tastes good after simmering for ten minutes, but as with all tomato based sauces it tastes even better after a good long warm through. This sauce does very well as a slow cooker recipe also - just throw everything in on low for eight to ten hours and ignore it steadfastly!).

6. A minute or so before serving, add a dessertspoonful of brown sugar and stir through...This always seems to do something to tomato sauces -something good :-)

I'm sure everyone has their own spin on this recipe, but this is the one we enjoy!

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The madness of May

Is anyone else finding this month exhausting?

Maybe it's the shorter half-term, maybe it's the marathon, maybe it's hayfever season, but I just feel completely overstretched right now. Life is a whirl of paperwork and deadlines and things to do, and everything just feels rather difficult to get on top of!

I'm determined to do so, however.

This plan has several stages...

1. Matthew and I had got *so* good at getting to bed early, eating a decent breakfast, spending an evening or two a week together just hanging out, but over the last fortnight that has slipped entirely. I need to get back on track with this.

2. Doing housework little and often...I've been so tired in these few days since the Moonwalk that I've let homemaking slide...with the net result that our flat now looks an utter state - ironing out of sync, piles of laundry, mess in every room. Tonight starts the revolution....a little bit of housework each night should hopefully clear the backlog in a week or so.

3. Exercise! Now the muscles are finally healing, it's time to get my butt back to the gym. Pilates and spinning and swimming, oh my! I'm really looking forward to my half-term trip away, which should be any awful lot of fun, with loads of working out and relaxing too. :-)

4. Reading and writing. After the great reading adventures of Easter, I've fallen into a reading funk. Just like housework, I need to make time for this! Ditto on the writing front, I have soooo many letters to write!

5. Spending time with loved ones. I need to fill up the diary!

In addition to this, I need to keep up with everything here at school too.

I'm really glad extra sleep was part of point 1!

How are you guys doing?

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Pictures that make me smile...2

Primrose Hill, a summer's evening, the skyscrapers of the city beyond peeking over the horizon.

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Pictures that make me smile...1

As I was writing down some things I like the other day, I realised that there are many photos which make me smile too. Photos are such a part of memory, of good times, of people we love.

So starts a series of my favourite pictures, which will ping up if and I find them.

This picture is from October 2009, and was taken on the wedding day of my sweet friends Jenna and Chris. Each time I see this picture it makes my heart sing - the whole day was fantastic, just the most beautiful celebration of two marvelous people and the love they found with one another. I miss Jenna terribly now she's a Texan and all, but pictures like this remind me not only how lucky I am to have a friend like Jenna, but also how grateful I am that she has found her soulmate in Chris. Love you crazy kids...

Do any of you have a favourite photo?

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Sunday Self Portrait, Sunday 15th May

(Yes, I know it's Tuesday)

(But I wanted to get back into my Sunday self potraits)

(And on Sunday I wanted to write about the Moonwalk)

(So I took this Sunday evening)

(But am posting now)

(Parentheses FTW!)

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PS This was Sunday at 10.30, the evening after the Moonwalk. I was shattered!

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Things I Like (parts 91 - 95) by Claire

91. Knowing that from now on, I'll be walking to get somewhere, not training, training, training.

92. Icing sore muscles.

93. Looking forward to going to Paperchase to buy stationery soon.

94. This song...

95. Playing on Pinterest. Are you using it?

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Moonwalk 2011

It's done!

26.2 miles through London in the middle of the night, and genuinely one of the most challenging things I've ever done. My entire body is rebelling....

Managed to get round, despite the pasta they gave us before setting off *really* disagreeing with me and meaning that I slowed down more and more as the hours wore on and I limped to the next set of loos.

I feel ouchy, proud, happy, and ouchy.

I feel lucky to have been a part of something special raising money for such a great cause.

I have learned that I have reserves of strength I've only peeked before. I learned that even when exhausted, sore and close to tears, I can always muster a cheery good morning. I learned that after several hours of walking alone, I talk to myself in a way that's a little bit coach, a little bit shrink, and a little bit stand up comedian.

Photos of the event can be seen here on my multitalented friend Jason's flickr. Big shout out to Jason for also bringing Buck Fizz and sausage sandwiches to the finish line.

Thank you to all of you who sponsored me, and also all those who sent messages, texts, tweets and fb messages - they spurred me on more than you know. Huge thank yous to my darling Matthew badger too, who not only came to meet me at the end, but who also looked after me all day yesterday as I prepared for the walk, stayed on alert all night while I was walking, and has spoilt me rotten today (fish & chips & champagne - definitely a new favourite!). Love you!

Huge congratulations to all the Moonwalkers, and to all at Walk the Walk!

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The big day (or should that be night?) is here! It's time to Moonwalk!

I head to Hyde Park in an hour or so, and we start walking at midnight. All love, prayers, vibes and texts most gratefully received....

See you on the other side.

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Things I Like (parts 86 - 90) by Claire

86. The little robin who keeps singing to me as I pass his patch each day.

87. The view from the top of Primrose Hill.

88. Good chats with good friends.

89. Washing up (yeah, really ;)), and that great feeling when everything's all glistening.

90. Daydreaming of houses and babies and Agas and making jam...*

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* Don't worry honey, not for right now!

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Things I Like (parts 81 - 85) by Claire

81. This song. Forever and always.

82. The fact that I can see half-term break and it's restfulness peeking around the corner (two weeks on Friday!).

83. Nautical print clothes.

84. Waking up to sunshine.

85. Beans on toast, with a sprinkling of mature cheddar.

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Ask Me Anything Answers...a belated addendum!

The lovely Erin asked me some really good questions on my recent 'Ask Me Anything' posts...and I totally neglected to answer them. My apologies, sweetie! So without further ado:

If you could hop on a plane right now and go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I've always wanted to visit Hawaii, so that would have to feature as an option. More than that, however, I'd love to hope over the Atlantic and see some of my US/Canada based lovelies. Even though I've seen some of them pretty recently, what can I say? I love me some buddy time. I really miss them all - right now in particular I could so do barbecue with Jenna, beer with Jamie, tea with Caroline, cocktails with Ash, Starbucks with Christielli, raucousness with Riot Kitty and a mighty long catch up with Amber. And that's just for starters. I *heart* my friends so much.

What is your favorite children's book?

This changes a lot (perils of teaching young folk), but the four constants would have to be Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Ballet Shoes and Matilda. I also have some mad love for Harry Potter and Mallory Towers.

What is your favorite sweet?

Sweet as in the British pudding: I love creme brulee, strawberries and cream, rhubarb crumble....

Sweet as in candy: I am a sucker for Lindor truffles, Cadbury's fudge bars, the rot-your-teeth awesome of Scots tablet, and strawberry bootlaces.

None of which are any good for me. Le sigh.

Thanks so much for the questions, sweetie!

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Things I like (parts 76-80) by Claire

76. Tomato soup, baguette and butter.

77. Glee. Particularly this song, which is powering me through many a powerwalk...

78. My lovely, supportive, inspiring pupils.

79. Being in love with my best friend (love you, badger!).

80. Great things happening for so many of my friends - engagements and weddings and babies and new jobs!

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This is the latest blog award doing its round across the blogosphere, and the gorgeous Riot Kitty was kind enough to choose me as one of her selections. Here's what she had to say about my blog:

"8. Claire @ The Country Mouse Tales. Visiting your blog, I'd think you've never had a bad day! Truth is, you inspire me with your ability to turn negative into positive and, of course, the badgers."

Hee. Thank you, lovely. I try to keep it cheerful. And badgertastic.
For this award, the idea is when it's given, you then pass it on to ten bloggers of your own who inspire you. I couldn't possible whittle it down using any proper rule as all my blog buddies inspire me in someone, so I settled for picking the first ten of the many inspirational bloggers who popped into my head. If you'd like to pass on the goodwill, feel free - if not just enjoy basking in a rosy glow!

1. Shannon @Curled Up With a Good Book And A Cup Of Tea. Shannon is an utter doll, and this is her book review blog. She writes so well about her passion and is constantly giving me great book tips. Shannon inspires me to read more!

2. Sara @Gitzen Girl. Sara is such an inspiration! She is homebound and has so much to wrestle with, and yet daily she chooses joy and the embracing of wonder. Reading her blog I always feel inspired and humbled - her writing is poetry.

3. Vixie @Matin Lapin. Vixie and I have been friends in real life for over three years now, and she is just one of the warmest, sweetest, kindest, funniest and most talented women I know. She has recently taken to blogging in a major (and very Vixie) way and I am loving her posts on art, Eurovision, tea, and everything else.

4. Riot Kitty @Riot Kitty. Oh yeah, I have to pass this one back. RK pulls off the magnificent one-two of being generous, kind, witty, funny and charming (plus a girl with a killer recipe for hummus) while also being able to be cutting, dark and dirty when it's called for. Whattagal! I adore her blog and its combo of moving writing, comedy gold, and LOLcats.

5. Siobhán @Siobhan-Claude Van Damme. Siobhán is another IRL firend who has made the jump into blogging, and I love reading her perspective on things. She's very witty and a total muso, and her different take on things is refreshing. She's also just announced some big news, so feel free to go congratulate her :).

6. Miss A @Something's Gotta Give. Such a funny, sweet girl, with an amazing knack for storytelling. Her adventures often make me howl with laughter, but she does serious and thoughtful just as well.

7. Wiwille @One Bad Apple. I've been reading Wiwille for years now, and his blog is one of my must checks, every single time. Whether he's talking politics, being risqué, being open and honest or making a big announcement (Congrats on the news to you and your lovely wife, sweetie!) his posts are full of wit, intelligence, and make-you-think moments.

8. Jaime @Rhayne. Stunning photographs, beautiful words. Jaime's posts are like therapy or a good cup of and full of wonder.

9. Christielli @Permanent Title Currently Under Construction. Christy is consistently one of may favourite bloggers (and one of my favourite people, too!). She writes with humour, passion and insight and inspires me greatly.

10. You, probably! As well as these nine, there are so many others who make me smile, make me think, and inspire me. Whether it's Simon with his posts full of mullets, photos and politics; Kelly
and her beautiful blog all about her beautiful life; Lisa with her loveliness and artistry; or Lisa-Jo with her talent for words and love of story; or one of the many others I read several times a week, I feel oh-so-blessed to be part of what blogging is, and for what we can inspire and encourage in one another.

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Show Us Your Life: Vacation Spots

This week on 'Show Us Your Life', the theme is vacation spots.

When I was younger, I never really went on holiday. Bar cub camps and music weekends, the only real visit away I can remember was a funfilled drive up to Denmark when I was twelve and we lived in Germany. It was a four day break and we went to Legoland, and I really enjoyed it. That's about all my twelve year old brain could drag up!

Since then I've been lucky enough to go on a few holidays and visits, and while I've had great times visiting beautiful places and hanging out with friends (Chapel Hill, Madrid, Toronto, Paris), there are two places that stick out -one a city and one a more relaxed, sunny break.

The more relaxed place would have to be Puerto de Mogán, where Matthew and I spent a very happy week earlier this year. It's on the island of Gran Canaria, off the west coast of Africa. Beautiful sunny weather (in February), blue skies, superbly clean. Close enough to touristy things (like minigolf!) should you desire them, but quiet and sedate with plenty of cute little restaurants and bars if that's what you desire. For a couple or for young families I would thoroughly recommend this place - certainly, all the littles I saw were having a ball!

Gorgeous view 1

Gorgeous view 2 (all the way to Tenerife!)

Gorgeous view 3

Favourite city would have to be Edinburgh. Everything you could want from a city, really - culture, history, nightlife, banter, all in breathtaking surroundings. Big enough to have excitement, but small enough to feel you can get to and through it safely and fairly quickly. Matthew and I are heading back up there in August for the Fringe festival (hopefully with Lou, too!) and I cannot wait. Edinburgh, as well as being an amazing city, is also the place where I met Matthew, so it's always going to be a special place for me. I wonder if I might live there one day?

There are so many great pubs and cafes in Edinburgh, my advice would truly be just to follow your feet and see where they take you. The city is also great for dancing, has many awesome spas, and has a castle atop a hunk of volcanic rock right smack in the middle of it. The sea is a short trip away, and a couple of hours by train will take you to the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Awesome.

Being silly in Edinburgh.

Looking forward to reading lots of other vacation tales. Thank you for hosting as ever, Kelly!
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