Sunday, 31 August 2008

Small Talk

Today we took the children shopping for school shoes. It's always daunting. Too many parents leaving it until the last minute and too much money being exchanged. Why do shoes for children cost so much!?

But the heavy mood was lightened as Samuel and Eleanor retreated into their wonderful little minds and, as befitting all small chilldren, totally forgot about social etiquette and just happily chattered away.

Sam's offering - singing quite loudly - 'I love my Mummy, 'cos she's got boobies'. Followed by infinite amounts of giggles.

Eleanor's offering - 'When I get married I'm going to have a big fat tummy for all my babies. I'm going to marry Euan.' When asked if she'd kissed Euan I was met with a disgusted nose wrinkling, 'Ewwww, no! I'm not kissing him! But I will snog him when I'm married. Married people snog. I know they do because you and Daddy do because you're married. You snog. All married people snog, that's what they do. So I'll snog Euan when I marry him.'

You might have gathered, she likes the word 'snog'.

So do I actually.

Gifts From A Friend

Erica has tagged me and bestowed upon me my second blog award - for which I am mightily grateful!

Usually awards come with tagging rules but I don't like to tag on my blog, so Erica, please forgive me for not passing it on but thanks for the award and thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer the questions.

Get a move on coming across the Pond will ya!!! There are just too many miles....and I love you too (and your blog ;0) !!

1. Where is your cell phone? Study
2. Where is your significant other? Lounge
3. Your hair color? Brown
4. Your mother? Home
5. Your father? Home
6. Your favorite thing? Cuddles
7. Your dream last night? Unmemorable
8. Your dream/goal? Unattainable
9. The room you're in? Haven
10. Your hobby? Creativity
11. Your fear? Spiders
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Happy
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. What you're not? Vindictive
15. One of your wish-list items? Watch
16. Where you grew up? Suburbs
17. The last thing you did? IM
18. What are you wearing? Clothes
19. Your TV? Old
20. Your pet? Furry
21. Your computer? On
22. Your mood? Reflective
23. Missing someone? Yes
24. Your car? Negotiable.
25. Something you're not wearing? Shoes
26. Favorite store? John Lewis
27. Your summer? Questionable.
28. Love someone? Yes
29. Your favorite color? Purple
30. When is the last time you laughed? Tonight
31. Last time you cried? Yesterday

Friday, 29 August 2008


Timbertown is a unique event that takes place every August Bank Holiday in my home town. Tickets for the weekend are sold for one morning only and they are sold out every year. Last year Joshua took part and thoroughly enjoyed himself. This year he returned, along with Maddie, and myself as an adult volunteer helper.

August Bank Holidays will now be our family Timbertown weekend for as long as the event runs. With this year being their 25th anniversary, silver was the main theme and over the course of four days over 300 children, along with their teenage and adult helpers constructed various huts of differing design, size and decor.

In a world that is now suppressing children's creativity and leaving parents in a constant quandry about whether to allow their children to have freedom, Timbertown is an oddity, but the comraderie between the teams and friendly rivalry bring out qualities in the children that reflect the true nature of who they are - creative, funny, wonderful little people.

My team were fantastic. We hammered, we sawed, we nailed and we painted. We helped each other lift things, we nursed sore thumbs, we pulled out splinters and we played together. We had fun, we laughed and we became good friends.

Next year I'll be taking Eleanor along. It's an opportunity for her not to miss. The chance to be expressive and creative, but most of all, free. Free to do the things she would not normally be given the chance to do. The chance to use real tools, run around with complete strangers and have endless, limitless fun with 320 other playmates!





Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Tidy Desk - Tidy Mind

I am a bit alarmed that I may have a case of Bloggers Block. I simply can't find anything useful to write about. I've been busy lately, met lots of people and done lots of things but my ability to write about it all at the moment seems to have left me bereft of all literary musings.

I do notice a pattern with this. A pattern I've lived with since childhood. My state of mind is in symbiosis to my surroundings. If everywhere around me is a mess - I'm a mess. For me, visual order = mental order.

The house is a mess. The children are home from school. I can't expect them to keep it tidy, but I do have trouble coping with keeping an even keel when I'm tripping over lego bricks, stepping over hospital beds made up on the sofa with duvets and pillows and picking up bits of play-dough pancake from the kitchen floor.

I need a retreat.

The retreat is my study. Usually a nice, organised, orderly adult area. I relate to the tidy desk, tidy mind theory. This morning it looked like this. Not only did the desk look like a car had crashed into it, but the entire room.

I feared my head might just cave in at this point.

But cleaning for me is not a swift task. I'm not a tidy up, shove it in one corner, wipe a duster over it kind of woman. It's deep clean or nothing.

And this deep clean took me 3 hours.

But amongst the piles of papers I found the children's school reports and whilst talking to an old friend on the phone found myself comparing notes and exchanging well dones as she read off the reports for her children. I found receipts that needed to be spiked for when I do the household accounts each week, scraps of paper with e-mail addresses for Joshua's friends that he claims to have lost, photographs of me as a toddler and my own school reports.

So, not only did a good clear-up of my study make me feel better in that it left me a virtual zone of peace and tranquility, it also brought back memories of old.

But I'm happier now. My zone is clear, my retreat is mine again and try as I might to make promises never to let it clutter up again, I know it will end up the same in about a month and then the whole process will start again.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Party Mood

Sometimes when we're getting ready to go out we're sensible about it.

And other times, we're not.

Because We Can

Pay the bills, sort out the diary for the week, cook the dinner and make the phone calls.

All at the same time.

Women - Masters of Multi-tasking.

We simply rock.

Friday, 15 August 2008

This Won't Make Sense To Anybody But Me

And this post is for me. I will share it, but I won't explain it.

I'm in one of my periods of deep thought and it gets complex and it's a part of me nobody reaches. Not because they can't, but because they haven't found out how. And I have my theory on that as well.


A footprint in concrete is captured forever. It's solid and unmouldable. It never moves, it never sways and it never changes and is an instant capture of one moment. It is constant, but can never be softened. It is harsh. But the dependency of it always being there affords it its placement.

A footprint in the sand is temporary and is gently washed away. The same foot can create another footprint, and although at first appearance it appears to be identical, it's slightly altered, but the comfort of creating it is as exciting as the first footprint. And the presence of the sand footprint, although infinitely and continually exposed to the inevitability of its own destruction, within its vulnerability, offers more perceived stability than the concrete one.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Gerberas - The Only Flower For Me


Monday, 11 August 2008

A Strange Taste In My Mouth

In the office today a colleague asked if I wanted to have a jar of champagne marmite - she bought it for her husband and he didn't like it. This resulted in me and another colleague using our plastic coffee stirrers to dip in and taste the new marmite concoction to give our verdicts. After mucking around pretending to be Jilly Gould, basking in the aromatic sensation of yeast extract and essence of Moet Chandon wafting through our nostrils from the glass smoked vessel we came to the conclusion it actually tasted quite good.

Then the conversation ensued as to whether I was going to try it on toast with jam - which is how I ALWAYS eat my Marmite. (Unless it's sandwiched in ryvita with slices of cucumber). When I tell people this, they balk at it and say it's gross - but then they admit they haven't actually tried it. I get the same reaction when I suggest that peanut butter on a digestive biscuit topped with a sliced banana is actually quite tasty too and drinking black coffee after eating an extra strong mint is a pleasant taste-bud sensation. And did you know, that if you bite the top off a banana and stick your finger in the top, it naturally splits three ways?

So, dare I mention here the times I've dipped breadsticks into chocolate spread, lavished lime marmalade over a ryvita, dipped cold sausages in apple sauce and eaten numerous bowls of cornflakes topped with cold Ambrosia rice pudding straight from the tin?

I love my little culinary idiosyncracies ... well they may not be conventional, I may not have a science lab kitchen like Heston Blumenthal, but I know what I like. Try some of them, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

No Words, Just Pictures

The Regression of Free Play

Thinking back yesterday to my post about spending time with the children doing crafts, I was reminded of the post I submitted on an old blog some time back.

It bothers me that I have never let me children wander off to play freely when we've been outside. I've never allowed my son to get on his bike and just cycle off to a friend's house and I've never given permission for the children to play freely outside the front of my house.

I can't really add anymore to what I wrote then. I wish time had evolved differently for our children, and I hope as they get older, they'll understand and forgive me for suppressing their freedom.

Here's what I wrote. Maybe your views are different. How much of a free reign do you give your children and are you comfortable with it?

"Maybe I'm just getting old, but the summer holidays aren't what they were like when I was a child. A recent news article hit the headlines indicating that parents these days were too frightened to let their children out to play and that this restrictiveness was harming their childhood. I'm inclined to agree but it's not easy to find the balance between letting your child have freedom to play outside your sphere of viewing and being downright neglectful by not knowing where they are and who they're with.

Thinking back to my childhood my mother had no idea where I was most of the time. I lived on a housing estate that was home to about 40 children between the ages of 6 and 16. We'd all form into our little clusters and spend the day playing games like Kick-The-Can, British Bulldog, Red Rover, The Wild Game and Pom-Pom. Games that took hours as it involved having to run around the entire estate finding each other, or being outside on the front green en-masse playing until the sun set. I was never over-weight and I was NEVER bored.

On really hot days there used to be a superb outside swimming pool in the town centre. It cost 50p to get in. Can you imagine ANYTHING costing just 50p now for the whole day? I'd be up at the crack of dawn, make my sandwiches, fill up my Mum's leftover lemonade bottle with orange squash, grab my swimming cossie and towel and get on the bus. By about 9.00am there would be at least a dozen friends of mine who'd travelled in from a five mile radius and we would spend all day there. The place was incredibly popular and you had to be early to get a good spot. It was the kind of place you parked your towel and bags and nobody moved them - there was a sense of sacredness to the place you picked and nobody violated it, no matter how much they were squashed around the edges or squished into the hedge on the perimeter.

The days at the pool were the only days my Mum really knew where I was. But then the scary thing is, my Mum had absolutely no idea of my ability to swim, which at the age of 12 was very, very weak self-taught breaststroke. With this 'expertise' at my disposal I thought nothing of jumping off the top diving board into the deep end. I still remember now kicking furiously to break the surface of the water, having run out of breath, struggling desperately as my chest started to hurt from running out of oxygen supply. My friends and I would lark around dunking each other under water and throwing each other in from the sides just as we'd got dried. Sometimes we'd thrown in each other's towels too. It was good whole hearted, FUN. Kids that behave like that now are accused of being irresponsible.

So, if my Mum was OK with me going off all day and playing outside with my friends and OK with me going to an outdoor swimming pool, why can't I let my children play outside the front of the house on their bikes? Because I'm frightened they'll fall off and hurt themselves or brake too late and dent the neighbour's car. When I was a kid you fell off, wiped the blood with a handful of grass from the verge next to you and you never did actually crash into that car.

Why is it that years ago you could find huge lumps of chalk in your garden soil to draw hopscotch squares on the pavement and use pebbles as counters? I've not got a single lump of chalk in my garden and the children can't use the pavement because everyone's mounted their cars on it.

Why can't I let my children play Hide and Seek and Pom Pom? Because if I can't find them I panic, thinking some crazed nutter has taken them for a perverse half hour before throttling their little necks.

Why can't my children go to the swimming pool on their own? Because of Health and Safety Regulations citing that children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult and fear stories published in the press about toddlers drowning in 2 inches of water in the garden paddling pool when Mum went inside to go to the toilet.

I miss the freedom of my childhood. Not for me, but for my children. I would love them to have the open spirit I had, the lack of fear, the open space and fresh air and for their only worry to be getting home on time for tea.

Only to gobble it down double quick in order to head out for more fun before it was time to come in for bed before it got dark."

Saturday, 9 August 2008

What To Do On A Rainy Day

Three hours of sticking and crafting. It's good to forget about work and spend time with the children instead.

It's A Woman Thing.. Or Is It?

Before I go ahead with this post I am putting forth my disclaimer that this is meant in a totally lighthearted fashion and is in no way an opening round of mysognists verses misandrists. If you are sensitive about the roles of men and women, log off. If you like a laugh about your own gender and that of the loveable opposite, read on.

It's a long established fact that women do certain things and men do certain things. Sometimes it's nature doing it's wonderful job and other times it's each other expecting the other to do what nature intended to be the other's job.

You with me?

From my point of view I believe that in a co-habiting household (so don't shoot at me if you're on your own holding down a home and bringing up children - to me you are worthy of an Olympic gold), women are quite OK to do the following jobs without compromising their position of equality on the planet (a notion I actually think is complete rubbish as I am a bit of a traditionist and think women are women and should act so and men are men, and equally act so).

I digress.

Women and what we're better at:

Dusting and ironing (simply because men take too long and are no good at it).
Food shopping (because men put extras in the trolley and quadruple the original food bill, women budget better. Shoes and lipsticks are exempt from the budget).
Buy presents and cards for family and friends (because men simply don't remember those things and it's no point us trying to nag them, it's an X dominated chromosome thing).
Interior decorating (men are functional when it comes to decor and women are homely).

Men and what they're better at:

Mowing the lawn (because mowers are heavy and awkward to handle and because men are stronger, they're better at it. Plus there's something quite sexy about a man's muscley toned forearm pushing a mower.)
Putting out the bins (because bins smell - nuff said).
Fixing the car (as a woman I consider even checking out the oil pokey thing a tad too messy so greasing up with barrier cream before diving into an oily dirty engine - no way!)
Making a cup of tea in the morning (I've only added this because Andy has, without fail for the whole of our 11 year marriage, with the exception of the odd Christmas, his birthday and few Sunday mornings - made me a cup of tea in the morning.)
Driving (I know some women will hate me for this, but I speak purely for myself - I'm dire at it. I have zero sense of direction and I admit to even phoning Andy from the NEC to ask if I really should be heading towards the M6 or would the M42 be a better option? And yes, I really did drive around the roundabout three times reading the signs out to him just to make sure.)

Now, while I've been posting this, my children have got in on the act too and these little gems are purely their own words.

Maddie's contribution: Men can only cook bread - women can cook anything.

Joshua's contribution: Women can't resist changing the furniture around every two months.

Make of it all what you will people If I've missed anything off that you feel worthy of a mention, put your case forward.

Yes, I Know I'm Anal ...

... because I fold my carrier bags. I can't help myself, I've done it for years. I assure you it's so they fit in the drawer neater rather than being scrunched up in an untidy heap.

... because I face up my cans in the larder and keep all the rice and pasta on one shelf and the cans on another and line up the cereal boxes in size order and face them out so you can read what the boxes are.

... because I can't bear to stack the Wii games with the names upside down.

... because I have to fold the towels the same way and stack them up neatly in the airing cupboard and also fold the mattress sheet inside the duvet cover and put in the pillowcases too. What's wrong with that? It's a whole bedset inside the duvet cover so you don't have to go hunting around for the other bedding. I think it's pretty ingenious myself.

... because I had four children and all because I thought the car looked odd with three children in the back.

Nah, only kidding on the last one - I always wanted four children.

Am I the only one here bordering on OCD? Do any of you have any quirks you'd like to share?

Not Just Any Old Badge


Upon opening the post this week, Joshua discovered he'd earned his first Blue Peter badge. It was that long ago he'd gone online and submitted his short story to them, he'd forgotten all about it.

I wish I'd saved his story now to share with you, but it was called The Land of Chocolate and involved a young boy somehow eating an entire town (made of chocolate, of course), then being woken up by his mother at the end and telling her he couldn't manage breakfast as he was full, or something like that anyway.

Joshua's usually a pretty cool and reserved boy when it comes to showing excitement so to catch him beaming like this is rare and that's why it's all the more heartwarming.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Jam Returns

Following my near disastrous attempt at jam-making and my accompanying embarrassment at botching something so simple as jam-making, I donned my apron of salvation and saved the jam.

Not with pectin though as the major supermarket chain I assumed would have pectin on its shelves near the preserving sugar and just about every other artefact of confectionary creation, didn't.

What did I use to set the jam instead? Jelly cubes.

I can't believe I'm excited about jam - I'll be joining the WI next. Well ... maybe not eh?

Sunday, 3 August 2008

The Jam That Never Was

That's what my blackberry and apple 'jam' has turned into. 2½kg handpicked blackberries, 12 cooking apples and 2½kg preserving sugar all contributed to a jam pan of sugary, fruity slop.

All because my youngest two would not go out of the kitchen after being asked NUMEROUS times to leave me alone while I boiled down some fruit prior to putting sugar in. I don't often ask them to leave me alone, only when I'm cooking boiling hot fruit that could spit up and burn them.

I was so distracted I forgot to boil the fruits down first before adding the sugar and put the whole lot in together, so I couldn't measure the fruit afterwards to work out the correct amount of sugar to put in.

I'm chilling it now to see if it will set. If not, I'll add more pectin tomorrow and boil it up again. If it does set, I'll have to give most of it away as it won't keep for long.

I suppose I could ladle it into pots and freeze it, taking out what I need and use it as a compote or make some pastry and use it as a pie filling, or bake it with a crumble topping, or puree it down and freeze to make an ice-cream sauce ..... hmmm, maybe it is salvageable after all. I didn't spend a year of my evenings on a cooking course for nothing you know!