Wednesday, 31 January 2007


Nicknames are terms of endearment and whilst some nicknames may not be affectionate, most are.

Pretty much everyone in my family has a nickname. My sister was known for years as Snarfy much to her dismay. My dad is still to this day called Smitty by all of his friends and acquaintances. He even introduces himself as Smitty. My brother George was called Yorty Chong. No one is really very certain about the origins of these names. They just seem to have always been. My grandfather, Pop, was a big fan of nicknames and seemed to give one to everyone. I have a cousin who we called Buddy and I think I was in my 20s before I realised this wasn't his real name. He was actually named Glen. My cousin, Chris, is still referred to as Earl. My father and his brothers call each other Poop. This can get a bit confusing at family gatherings but they always seem to know who is speaking to whom.

My father still calls me Plum. He has since I was a wee little girl. He used to address my mail to Plum Smith, even mail that went to my office, which was a source of endless colleague teasing until I changed jobs and went elsewhere. My cards come addressed to Plum. I have some family members who are not quite sure what my real name is and at my family reunions nobody knows who LaDawn is. It used to bother me but now I quite like it. Last night my husband called me Plum.

My daughter, Abigail, seems to have developed the same affinity for nicknames. She started calling Sebastian Shake about a year ago. The name has stuck and I find myself yelling through the house "Shaaaaaaaaake!" Even the children at his school have started calling him Shake. Abigail also named her Uncle Matthew Mouse which just seems to fit. They've had a special bond since she was a baby. I hope he doesn't mind (I think he quite likes it). She calls her godfather, Simon, Shisam which is very odd indeed. Not entirely sure where she got this but Simon must sound something like Shisam in her head. Odd thing is even though her speech is improving as she gets older, the nicknames remain. She must be consciously carrying on a tradition handed down from her grandfather and great-grandfather. Good girl!

What are your nicknames?

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

A Tribute

A great woman once told me "Behind every working mother is a very fragile set of circumstances". This women went on to be my childminder, a very prestigious position which carries grave responsibilities. I knew from the moment she said this that this was the person to whom I should be entrusting the care of my children.

Jacqui Barrett is our amazing childminder and, in short, our lives just wouldn't work without her. She copes with our ever changing schedules. Nothing is ever too much trouble. She picks Abigail up at pre-school in the middle of the day. She takes Abigail to ballet classes. She throws Christmas parties at her home. She gives great birthday presents. She drops Abigail off at our house. She looks after Sebastian during school holidays. She kisses cuts and bruises. She gives encouragement. She has been a partner in the job of raising our children respecting our parental requests and style. She makes a wicked cup of tea when I've come round after a long, hard day at the office. She makes me laugh.

But first and foremost, she loves my children the same way I love them.

I don't think I say thank you enough. So, Jacqui, if your reading this, "THANK YOU!".

If you have someone helping you raise your children say thank you. Their responsibility is as great as yours and they deserve our gratitude.

Another Spelling Victory

I forgot to tell everyone about Seb's latest spelling success. He got another 10 out of 10. He will tell you that this means he "didn't miss any....didn't make a single mistake." This afternoon he asked me if I had blogged about it and I had to confess that I hadn't. The look on his face broke my heart. So now I have.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Mother Fuel

This morning I discovered an alternative fuel source: kisses and cuddles. Some may doubt the validity of this as a source of energy. I know it works for this mother. This morning, my son crawled into bed with me and announced he was glad I was still in bed. When I asked why did it matter, he replied, very matter-of-fact, that it meant he would have a great day. I expressed my surprise at this lofty proclamation. But he assured me that on days when he got lots of kisses and cuddles from me he always had a great day and had loads of energy.

I took this under advisement and decided to conduct my own experiment. I bounced out of bed, took my bath and proceeded to have a great day. I had boundless energy on the way to work and despite nearly being driven off the road by a rush hour road rally, I kept my calm and just laughed at the idiots. In the office, much to my team's amusement (and dismay) similar energy continued to display itself. No matter what happened during the day I drew on my memory of those amazing K&Cs and I felt renewed again. Before my husband arrived home this evening, I had moved laundry about, made dinner, tidied up the compost pile, taken out the rubbish, unloaded the dishwasher, folded and put away 2 loads of clothes and was still going like a speed demon. I hadn't accomplished this much in the entire preceding week.

I encourage all to draw on this source of energy. Kisses and cuddles: the energy of the future!

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Action Packed

Yesterday was an action packed day. We all walked Sebastian up to the island to resume his riding lessons. A man, a boy and their dog. Abigail wanted to ride her scooter up but after, oh about 1 minute, she decided this was far too much like hard work and Mummy ended up carrying the thing up and back.

The riding lessons are held at a horse rescue centre and his new riding instructor is named, Helen. It was a bit difficult because Caron, the owner of the stable had to go into hospital the night before and Helen had never taught Seb before but once we got the tack sorted, Sebastian got up on Mani like he hadn't missed a whole 6 weeks of riding and off he went. I've never seen such a natural and confident rider in a boy his age. He's got a very special relationship with Mani. He just loves it, and even Abigail, who is normally a little scardy cat around the ponies, decided Penny deserved some fresh hay. Look at the smile on that face. We really enjoyed meeting the infamous Lottie, the pony in the last photo. It is suspected that Lottie is over 40 years old. When she came to the rescue centre she was little more than skin and bones. And she's just about as friendly as a little puppy.

On the walk back home, I was struck by what a beautiful morning it was and how lucky I am . That's our house on the left and the view of Windsor Castle from our house below. We are having unseasonably warm weather and we saw daffodils in bloom as we drove to Coral Reef, the water park in Bracknell.

That's right. After riding we had some lunch of fresh baked bread (which Marc had started when we got up) with some cheese and ham. Then we went off to the water park. Abigail takes her ballet lessons at the Leisure Centre in Windsor and after each lesson she begs to go swimming. She holds her breath like a blow fish and swings her arms about out in front of her like she knows she destined to be an Olympic breast stroke champion. Seb still can't swim without his armbands, despite having swimming lessons every week at school for 1/2 hour. He is scared to death to jump from a standing position into the pool. Abigail on the other hand has absolutely no fear and quite happily jumps regardless of anyone being available to catch her. We had a blast!

I had planned on making my grandmother's famous fried chicken for dinner but by this time we were a bit pressed for time. We ended up doing tacos.....well, not exactly. I left the taco shells warming up in the oven too long and burned them. This was a bit of karma for me because the last time we had tacos Marc did the same thing and I gave him a really hard time about it. Being the wonderful husband that he is, he didn't say a thing. We just used flour tortillas, so sort of tacuritos (1/2 taco, 1/2 burrito).

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Nice Things

I don't have nice things. Not like I used to. I don't wear nice clothes anymore. I don't travel to exotic locations 3 times a year anymore. I don't have expensive makeup or beauty products. My home is furnished with washable, stain proof fabrics. My BMW has been traded in for a Renault Megane.

No, I have a husband, 2 children, a cat and a dog all of which are capable of leaving a trail of destruction longer and wider than an Oklahoma tornado. My sofa has been peed on, pooped on, drawn on, spilt on, vomited on and generally destroyed. My clothes have suffered a similar fate. My husband (with all the best intentions in the world) has washed my cashmere and wool sweaters on hot. Then tumble dried them. My dog has eaten all of the wood trim and cupboards in the kitchen. My carpets need to be fumigated. My cat has scratched and pulled at the edges. My son ran a key down the side of my car over and over before we caught him "drawing a picture". My daughter has decorated the walls with the marking of crayons and markers, using only the non-water soluble ones. I have just let all of this wash over me. But I just about burst this morning.

I am on occasion given nice things. One thing in particular was a gift from my brother-in-law, Matthew for Christmas 2005. It was the Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries. This is a beautiful cookbook. Beautiful to touch, beautiful to look at, beautiful to cook from. It is organised by day, month, season using ingredients that are fresh at that time of year and whatever is in the cupboard. It doesn't have a lot of fancy recipes that you struggle to find the ingredients for. I usually have what I need in the pantry. The recipes are easy, don't take long and taste scrumptious! I've yet to make one I didn't just love. And that goes for the children as well - not an easy audience.

This one last bastion of "nice thing" was destroyed this morning by my dog. Now you might think, "Don't get so upset, just go get yourself another book". But a cookbook that has lived with you collects that living. Like my grandmother, I make notes and notations about the recipes right on the pages: what worked, what didn't alterations to the measurements, who loved it, who came to dinner and ate it. It collects stains. There is one recipe for Pommes Dauphinoise (in another cookbook, thank God!) that has been made over and over and over and over. The page shows this: the plops of butter, the spills of cream, the stains of potatoes. The dog ate the book!


I remember visiting my sister and her family once. Her dogs destroyed one pair of my shoes and ate the top layer of my wedding cake. I had convinced myself that my dog wouldn't do this. Who was I kidding?

New York Times ONLINE

One of my favourite things to do used to be to pick up the NY Times at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, CO USA on a Sunday morning, get my weekly workout carrying it home and spend the next week catching up on all the news in all the world (and dream of the day when I could live in NYC and the lifestyle I would have). The website for the bookstore is not as appealing as the store with its big overstuffed chairs and more books than the public library. This bookstore was the model on which all the new Barnes & Noble were designed and they still fell short. It felt like your own living room only bigger. I would curl up in chair, take off my shoes, and browse the books I'd collected.

But one of the things I missed most when I moved to the UK wasn't the bookstore. It was the NY Times. I couldn't quite get to grips with the newspapers in the UK and there was very little news about the USA unless it was presidential news. I tried to get it delivered to my home but gave up once I found out it wouldn't be delivered until Monday and it was going to cost me an arm and a leg. In the aftermath of 9/11, the NY Times was offered online at a subscription fee. But the technology let me down and neither my dial up connection or the subscription software worked reliably and I struggled to read the paper more than once/month.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that you can now get the paper on line NYTimes. OK, this isn't the same as hefting the huge paper, sifting through all the inserts, lounging about on the sofa, getting black ink on your fingers but I can dismiss almost all of those objections with the justification that it is certainly better for the environment. And I can afford it! And I can read it every day! If I can find the time......

Friday, 26 January 2007

Famous for my Disease

The symptoms have spiralled out of control and I'm now afraid of losing consciousness. My blog has been quoted in a blog "expert" area (of sorts), Blog Herald

The post it refers to is Blog Disease.

I started seeing dots. I was starving myself of oxygen. I was yelling at my husband, "I'm famous! I'm famous!" I'm now trying to figure out how to get more advertisers on my site so I can retire. My husband is seriously concerned. I just told the whole blorld (blog world) about the holes in his socks! That's his problem.....they got my name wrong! My name is LaDawn! My last name is Clare-Panton!

Holes in Socks

My husband wears socks with holes in them. We can afford to buy new socks but he has his "comfy" socks and refuses to stop wearing them just because they have a few holes in them. The holes aren't just in the toes. Holes appear in the heel and across the top but he persists. He insists that he can't buy his favourite socks in the UK so we must go to the USA which makes the socks a bit more expensive than if he would just go to M&S (Marks & Spencer). I can't seem to get him to see that surely socks with no holes would be more comfortable (and warmer) than socks with holes no matter where he purchases them. He disagrees.

Now you might think this doesn't matter. I might be the only one in the whole wide world who sees his socks but this just isn't true. Inevitably, we go round to people's homes and when we arrive we remove our shoes. And, taaadaaa! There are Marc's toes. I find this embarrassing. He doesn't. Of course, he is an adult and I should let his toes speak for themselves. But somehow this makes me feel like I'm not a very good wife and I'm not taking care of my husband making sure he has whole socks rather than holey socks. I've tried throwing the socks out. He gets them out of the rubbish. One Christmas he received 16 pairs of socks. He was not happy. So now I leave the sock buying to him. Which simply means it doesn't happen! Grrrrrrrrrr!
I wish I had the technical ability and tools to set up an online survey. I would ask:
1) Does your husband wear socks with holes?
2) Do you care?

Thursday, 25 January 2007


Be careful what you wish sister is in Denver which is buried under 4 feet of snow, literally! Her blog has pictures to prove it. I commented on her blog that I would trade my rain for her snow. The next morning (yesterday) we had snow! OK, so it was less 1/4 inch of snow. Ask and ye shall receive! Gosh, I wonder if this works with money?

Everything looked so beautiful. Abigail thought it was Christmas! Sebastian was major bummed when he came home from school to find the snow had melted as he had quite high hopes of building a snowman. The forecast was for more snow overnight so I assured him there would be other opportunities. BIG MISTAKE!

The forecast snow never materialised. Now Abby and Seb want to just hop on a plane and go to Colorado. The practicalities (and financing) of this escape my 5 1/2 and 3 year old! Maybe I could hire a snow machine.....ah, the things mothers do!

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

The Accidental

Let me introduce you to my book group. Some of them don't think this whole blogging thing is such a good idea and would prefer to remain anonymous. To respect this I will use only their initials and not reveal any personal details (although apologies if what I think is personal differs from what you think is personal).

My book group is a group of mums having diverse opinions about what makes good reading and willing to stretch their boundaries to include what others find interesting. In other words, we'll have a go at just about anything. Although, we did once let one of the husbands select our book. He chose The Fight by Norman Mailer. We don't let our husbands choose any of our books anymore.

This month we read The Accidental by Ali Smith. The novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 and the praise on the book jacket was impressive.

Hmmmmm, then I started to get a bit worried. I went off and googled a reading group guide. This always helps us talk about the book. Well, you see we are female and we all have children and lots of challenges every single day so we could quite easily spend the 2-3 hours meant to be discussing the book talking about everything else. We have done this on a couple of occasions and then had to rush the book in the last 15 minutes just so we could justify our time out to our husbands. I even tried emailing Meg Critch at Boston College who said they were having a discussion about the book but in the tradition of learned literary academia didn't need to use reading guides. Boy, did I feel dim?

Premise of the book centre's around the Smart family's lacklustre holiday in Norwich which is turned upside down when a beguiling stranger called Amber appears, bringing with her love, joy, pain and upheaval. The Smarts try to make sense of their bewildering emotions as Amber tramples over family boundaries and forces them to think about their world and themselves in an entirely new way.

It was a divided night. KH & B really enjoyed the book. SS & I found it a bit more heavy going. KR & M were a bit more down the middle. I thought the book got a good discussion despite not having any questions. We explored all of the characters and tried to understand why they did what they did. We definitely had differing opinions about the literary merits of the work.

What I say (since it is my blog): The first 70 pages or so were excruciatingly painful. The remaining 230 (or so) were only slightly less so. I don't recommend reading it and doubt I would have forced myself to finish it if I didn't feel the responsibility to the book group. I found the whole plot implausible and maybe that is my problem. I struggle to enjoy books which I just can't believe in. That's why sci-fi or fantasy literature rarely hits by reading list (one exception being anything by Margaret Atwood). The good news is through the discussion with the group I gained an insight and an appreciation I didn't have prior to the discussion. And that's what it is all about!

Next month's selection is My Name is Red by Ohran Pamuk. Have had a quick look round for a reading group guide. Oh, noooooo.....there isn't one!

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

I Hate Tuesdays

Up at 6:30 am. Children ready with ballet kit (both of them have ballet on Tuesdays). Off to work by 7:30. Go to a whole bunch of meetings. Feel like I've accomplished nothing. Pick up Abigail. Change her into her ballet costume (which is not as easy as it would seem) given that she is practicing dancing as I'm changing her. Drop her off. Wait for 1/2 hour. Take her home. Marc picks up Seb at same time. Get home. Make dinner. Do homework with Seb. Light fire in fireplace as it is below freezing and the house of freezing. Get ready for book group. Go to book group. Come home. go to sleep to start all over again. Oooops, forgot to breathe (and pee)!

Monday, 22 January 2007

A step too far?

I subscribe to a newsletter called Executive Momorandum from It based in New York and therefore has limited relevance to me but I love reading about what they are getting up to across the pond and it gives me loads of ideas for balancing the demands of working and being a mother. I wish somebody would start one over here in the UK based in London. I suspect though that the Brits would not see the advantage in the networking and support opportunities. (tell me if I am wrong about this and I will go and start one up right now!) I had a hard enough time keeping a mom's support group going at my workplace.

Recently I got an email advertising a service for helping mothers:

Let me get this straight: we all are working very hard to make more money to pay people to do things for us which we don't have time to do because we are all working so hard to make more money to pay other people to do things for us......vicious circle!

But is this a step too far? I can see the value in the "phone book", ie the contacts and numbers of all the people and places (check out the services page) but I just don't get the end-to-end service (check out the prices page). I would really miss out if I didn't arrange my daughter's birthday party or plan our own holidays. Isn't this absconding all parenting responsibilities?

Although $150 for a yearly rate, they do everything for you......hmmmmm, the temptation! Right now this is only available for New Yorkers. If anyone thinks there is a market for this in the UK (London area), let me know. Another smashing business idea although not sure how profitable this would be! I feel a business plan coming on.

Quickly, yesterday went just as planned: R & R. I even took a nap! I added loads of information to my family tree on and still have loads of info pouring in to add. Let's hope they get some of the bugs worked out and improve the performance. Right now I'm spending lots of time waiting for the tree to come back to me!

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Saturday DIY

The list of things for my husband to do around the house had grown to a nearly unmanageable size and the urgency of some items on the list meant that he could no longer put anything at a higher priority. This was the upside of the wind damage done last week. The trellis simply had to be fixed otherwise we (or any visitors to our home) could not get up the path to our door. Other items on the list included

1. The seat on the loo downstairs had come loose. Every time someone sat down the seat slid to the right and the was a very real possibility you could fall off the toilet. Not good.
2. The flush on the loo upstairs didn't work unless you had a wiggle on the handle which is not good since this is the loo the children use and children are not so good at handle jiggling.
3. There is a telephone cord that goes up the stairs (legacy from the days before wireless phones) and the children had pulled it loose during their "timeouts" on the stairs. this presented a real hazard to anyone going up or down the stairs that they would catch their feet in the cord and fall.
4. Abigail got a cool disco ball for Christmas that didn't even last the full day of Christmas as it got tripped over and feel.
5. Aforementioned trellis fallen over blocking path to house and threatening car damage as well as annihilation of honeysuckle.
6. Kitchen cupboard under sink had fallen off hinges providing access to household poisons and ample unsavoury chewing opportunities to dog.

To fix all of this required (except the disco ball which was the one casualty) only 2 trips to the hardware store. Disco Ball had to be thrown away. but in my humble opinion that's a pretty good list of DONES!

I managed to find Sebastian a new riding instructor because, Lucy, his previous instructor, completely flaked on us. She stopped showing up for lessons and wouldn't return any phone or text messages. I rang the horse rescue centre and they have a new instructor which will start with Sebastian next week. He's very excited!

I finally finished the thank you cards for Christmas after a small mix up about who got what from whom. I had obviously left the room for a moment (probably to fall off the loose loo seat), and the unwrapping had not stopped. This meant I didn't get a chance to write down some gifts! Auntie Mary was able to help me fill in the blanks and the cards got finished. I've still a couple to write from Abigail's birthday party but should get to that today.

Last night we went over to the Cook's home. We have been researching various options for going to Lapland before Christmas 2007. We've gathered a couple brochures and thought we would let the children play, put the children to bed, get a curry in and make a decision on where we would go. What happened was that we are more confused now that we were when we started. The web provided us with no guidance and actually only served to confuse us further. One brochure looked really good but we need to find out if we can do only 4 days and not 10. One seemed OK but we had heard mixed reviews. If anyone reading this has any suggestions for a magical trip to Lapland, please comment on this blog and give us a hand!

Last night the wind kicked up again and we lost a big branch off one of the trees in our lane but it was quickly and easily moved this morning. Today looks like a day to relax....

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Spelling Test Excellence

Yesterday was Sebastian's first spelling test at school. As you can see, he scored a perfect 10 our of 10. He was so proud of himself!

Thursday his mate Ben came round to play and Abigail thought he was her friend. The 3 of them are trying to master the Nintendo here. Ben ate 2 huge helpings of my spag bol! We loved having him round and hope he will come round again soon! Next time he will have to bring his sister, Grace (who will be in Abigail's Nursery class in September 2007).

Yesterday after school, Sebastian had a birthday party to go to (Ben & Mattie's) and Abigail was fairly upset that she didn't get to go. So she got to go to her favourite restaurant (McDonald's) with Daddy and spend some quality bonding time! Everyone was fed except me. I ate crackers for dinner. Boo hoo, poor me!

Friday, 19 January 2007

Family Tree Builder

I have found a new job. OK, not exactly. I mean I don't get paid for it so I won't be leaving my other job any time soon but I found this web site This is a super cool website for building family trees. I've been told the guy who runs it is trying to build a family tree of the entire world. Uh, good luck since most of the world doesn't have access to computers. Anyway my sister and I were on Skype having a chat and I started building our family tree and invited her to join in. So here we both were adding names and details and photos and all of a sudden the whole site crashes. Oops, the sister beta test team strikes! Does this mean that the site can't support 2 people on opposite sides of the world updating the same tree at the same time? Uh, isn't that the point? They need to sort this one out if it is going to work!

Blog Disease

I have crossed that invisible line into blogtal illness (or maybe not so invisible depending on your physical proximity to me). This disease is caused by the descent into madness caused by blogging. The symptoms of this disease should be monitored closely and are as follows:

1. You are excited when anyone visits your blog.
2. You visit random blogs hoping to get tips on how to make the blog more interesting to just about anyone.
3. You are excited when your blog visits enter double digits/day.
4. You are excited when people you don't know visit your blog.
5. You are excited when your monthly traffic hits triple digits after only 2 months and grows each month.
6. You are excited when someone leaves a comment on your blog.
7. You are sooooo excited you giggle when someone else's blog (my sister) links to your blog. Stephanie
8. You are soooooooo excited you dance around the kitchen when someone else's blog (that you don't even know) links to your blog in their text and even thanks you for leaving a comment. Barry

Anyone who knows me will tell you I can talk for days. I don't care if anyone is listening. I'm quite happy talking to walls and could keep myself entertained in a cardboard box with conversation alone. One of my best friends, Kerry, and I met on a flight from London (Heathrow) to Melbourne (Australia). We didn't stop talking for the entire 12 hour flight and at one point the flight attendant had to ask us to move as we were keeping other passengers awake. We've been friends for over 7 years and haven't stopped talking.

So basically, I would have been happy just throwing the words out. God knows, I've got a lot of words to throw. Now I'm even happier to know someone is reading them!

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Pictures of Damage

More wind damage in the Queen's Home Park (near Windsor Castle). Marc came across this fallen tree whilst taking Bailey for a walk. That's Bailey surveying the damage.

Good news is the crew from the sinking ship have all been safely rescued and returned to shore.

More pictures of the weather chaos.....BBC Pictures

Wind Damage - so far

Wind like I've never seen

The wind is blowing.....and I mean howling blowing!. It is scaring the daylights out of me. On the lane to our home, tress have fallen and are partially blocking he orad. My thanks goes out to whoever had taken it upon themselves to chop the trees in half and move them to the side of the road making a small path through so that I could get home with the children. Our trellis with my beloved honeysuckle is over resting on the upturned rubbish bin and composting bin and god only knows where the recycling bins have ended up. I spoke to the local policeman (bobby on the beat) who was bravely walking his bicycle down the road. He said Old Windsor is doing ok with no power cuts or gas leaks or flooding. The power is out in parts of Maidenhead.....oh my god, the lights are flickering.

According to the BBC, a ship is sinking some 40 miles off the Lizard coast in Cornwall with 26 people on board. The rescue operation is under way this afternoon, which strong winds will hamper. A woman has also been killed by a falling wall in Berkshire (which is where we live). Flights in and out of Heathrow have been suspended.

My house is over 110 years old. It stands in a terrace with 3 others. It is strong and feels strudy. The wind is howling through the house. It has now started to rain. What I wouldn't give for a little light snow about now!

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Email Accounts

I've got 3 email addresses. One at work that is JUST for work! No personal email goes to work EVER! I can't control the actions of people I don't know and sometimes I get email from people I don't know. Another is my AOL account for personal email which is from friends and family with whom I have a close personal relationship or emails which I have specifically requested and consider to be of utmost importance. If you've got my AOL email, you are one lucky individual. The other one is hotmail. I use this account for everything else. So whenever I go to a web site and I need to register I give them this address. Or if I subscribe to newsletters I give them this address. I do get loads of email I don't want but hotmail makes it very easy to delete masses of email quickly without even opening it. I find this all works very well for me.

It does mean that I can prioritise the order in which I check my email. If I'm working, I'm checking work. I don't check either AOL or hotmail from the office as that would give my employer access to my personal emails. Not that I get up to anything inappropriate but you never know what your friends are sending you. And god only knows what spam might be received into my hotmail account, although to be honest, I never get offers for appendage enlargement or prescription medication sent directly to my home. I must successfully steer clear of sights which offer up their subscriber list to these businesses.

If I'm busy (most of the time) I can go into the hotmail account and mass delete the majority of the email. If I have time I can linger. I check my AOL account every day. These emails are from people who are important to me and to whom (I imagine) I am important to. I want to read what they send!

Basically, what I'm saying is that with a little bit of discipline this works. I just don't get what all the fuss is about too much email. I did nearly die under the weight of the email when I was doing the Thames Valley American Women's Club newsletter but that is the subject of another post.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Music, soooooo not cool

My husband and I have never never ever had the same taste in music. I mean, my husband's favourite song of all time is Tiffany's, I think we're alone now and he is finding immense pleasure in the Girl's Aloud remake currently in the charts, as if this proves what a great song it is.

My friends, Sean & Helen (mostly Helen), find great pleasure in ridiculing my taste in music. When they were around on New Years Eve (and the collective 4 children were safely tucked into bed and we had safely tucked away several bottles of wine - each), we were watching the Jools Holland count down the New Years Eve. This is one of those strange things that English people do, comparable to that strange American thing of watching Dick Clark. What is that all about? But here we were watching musicians, young and old, of all genres playing all different types of music. If they were old British artists I didn't recognise them because, well, I didn't live here then. If they were new British artists I didn't recognise them because, well, I don't know why. Helen suggested this is because I don't listen to BBC Radio 1. Fair call. I don't' listen to BBC Radio 1 because the music is crap or the DJ is crap or both. Last night, as I was going to pick up Sebastian at his mate's house, I decided to heed Helen's advise and tuned into Radio 1. And there was a DJ talking. This is supposed to be advert free radio but it ends up being just a lot of noise coming out of this woman's mouth. She has horrible elocution and pronunciation and I can't understand a word she is saying....not because I can't understand but because the words she is using to string together a sentence don't make sense. It's like being from a land-locked state/country and listening to the shipping forecast for the very first time. Or in my case: ever! I still can't understand the shipping forecast although I do love trying. Nor can I understand the traffic report unless I concentrate real hard. This is one of the strangest things to learn when you move to a new country is how to decipher the language of the traffic report.

Ah, but I digress.....Sara Cox is a rubbish DJ and Radio 1 never did play a good song during my entire journey. OK, so the journey was only 10 minutes each way but that is ample time for some cool tunes and instead all I got were the mumblings of a DJ and a song that drove me round the bend and nearly drove my car into a wall. No more Radio 1, well at least not on a Monday night at 6:18 pm.

Now I used to be really into the music/clubbing scene before the whole children/ mortgage/ school fees/ life responsibility thing sucked the energy out of me.....I mean I altered priorities to more meaningful pursuits. My music taste are diverse. Just check out my iPod Library. You might think I was schizophrenic or something, which I might be but there I go digressing again. My friend, Scottish Mike, approves of my taste in music. So there! Rock on Ramones!

Monday, 15 January 2007

Brownie Order

I miss brownie cookies. It's these little things that make me miss the good ole US of A. My niece is a Brownie and this time of year finds her hawking her wares. Now there is no way I can make a purchase. The cost of shipping those to me make it prohibitively expensive. But if anyone reading this is travelling from Denver to London in the next month or so, please leave me a comment and be my delivery person!

Party Season Official End

The Party Season has now officially ended with the celebration of Abigail's brithday with all of her mates. We went to Cheeky Charlie's in Maidenhead and the children really enjoyed themselves. To be honest, so did the adults. It was a small enough group of children (and most of them were siblings) so there were only a few parents and we all got to chat while the children played, ate, and made the most amazing party hats. Abigail is now convinced that her birthday lasts for about 4 weeks and she has requested presents everyday! Thanks to the mums who were there and gave a helping hand. It was all so easy. Phew!
Now I get to rest. No parties until June!

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Party Paranoia

Today is Abigail's Official Birthday, ie the day we throw a party for her friends since not many friends want to come to a birthday party on Christmas Eve. The Royal Mail and Sebastian have conspired against her. Sebastian lost the invites I sent to the school and I didn't discover this until Thrusday last week. the royal mail didn't deliver any of the invitations until Friday this week giving raather short notice. Some people are just back from holiday and live too far away. So a party which I had planned for 20 children will be a party for 6.....if I'd known I would have hosted it at the house. Instead I have rented out an entire play area for 6 children. With any luck, they will all get lost! At least everyone will get a prize in the pass the parcel game! I have less than 4 minutes to write this blog before the mayhem begins. Pictures to follow.....unless of course I am too exhausted, the camera battery runs out, I loose the camera, no one shows up. God, I hate throwing parties, even children's parties!

I thought this whole blog thing was kinda odd. But the more I read (other's blogs) the cooler I think the blogging thing is. Seriously, try the Next Blog tab at the top and see what pops up. OK, so you will zoom past some but others are fascinating.....ok, not so fascinating as interesting. Well, perhaps a bit more interesting than mine so maybe not a good idea to recommend my readers go elsewhere. Nevermind, forget I wrote that!

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Auf Wiedershen

Last night was a Ladies Night Out to say goodbye to Monica who is moving to Germany. Monica and her family lived 2 doors down from us when we lived in Windsor. Her little boy, Lorenzo was just 4 months old when we moved in and I was pregnant with Sebastian. Monica and her family moved to another part of Windsor not long after we moved in and we lost touch. We ran into each other a few years later only to realise that our sons would be going to the same school and they even ended up in the same class. Lorenzo, who is not such a little boy anymore, and Sebastian are great friends and play dates were frequent. Lorenzo will be missed and Sebastian is already missing him. Monica and her family will be missed but we hope to stay in touch. I have a business trip to Berlin in February so will get to see her then. The Ladies Night Out was fun and I met loads of Monica's friends. We had a great time although I did pass on the nightclubbing! Best of luck to Monica and her family as they make this change!

Friday, 12 January 2007

Firefox Magic

Live and learn.....and seek the advice of colleagues. If you've been reading this you will know that I've been struggling with the whole Mac experience. First, the dog ate through the cable which allowed me to switch between the 2 machines. Then Safari (the Mac web browser) wasn't supported by blogger (the service I use to publish my blog). Needless to say this left me all a bit disillusioned, disappointed and well, just dissed. Ah, but I know have this seriously cool switch which at the cool touch of my finger tip (not even a switch really) I can painlessly switch between the two.

As far as the dog damage goes, we have now procured a crate.....a very very very large crate to put the dog in when he is unsupervised so the damage he can do to my computer (and the kitchen) should now be minimised/eliminated. Of course, the crate is sooooo large (because I didn't want to be mean) we can't actually cook in the kitchen. Minor detail which I have delegated to my husband to sort out. He gets all the really hard problems.

On the advice of a colleague I have downloaded Firefox which is another browser for Macs. This browser is compatible with blogger and is what I am using now to publish this post. Hurrah!

Next hurdle is uploading photos......any of you enjoying this half as much as I am? Geek alert!

This is my third post in 1 day: not good.....not good at all.....

*****Blog Alert*****

Blogging is contagious and I have proof. My sister, Stephanie, inspired by my amateur attempts, has started her very own family blog and will no doubt outshine me as she got all the arty farty genes in the family. Just read her first post and you will meet a woman who clearly has her priorities straight and is an inspiration to me every day. Link on left or add to your favourites.

Dog Destroyer

He looks sweet and innocent. He is not. He destroyed the doggie bed we bought him and is now sleeping on the remnant of fabric with very little stuffing and a very hard tiled floor (as seen in photo). He has chewed all corners of the skirting board in the kitchen. Yesterday he decided my kitchen towels were fair game and flung them to all corner of the kitchen, ripping and tearing as he went. Today the crate arrives and he will be duly "locked up" during periods of unsupervision. He is growing so quickly I can hardly remember what a small little puppy he was. the fear is he is going to grow into an enormous dog bigger than everyone in the house except Marc. The good news is he has developed quite a gentle nature around Abigail and Seb and he are best mates.

Sebastian is finding the return to school exhausting. He is struggling to do his homework in under a couple of hours which eats into my time for other household duties/chores. Hopefully, next week will get easier as his brain is retrained. I can't even imagine the battle his teachers are having at school but as always they never complain. I have never met such a group of dedicated educators.

Abigial has loved her first week at pre-school although just like Sebastian, I can't out of her what she actually got up to. If she is to be believed they all just stood around and looked at each other. Strange how children can remember nothing (or refuse to tell you) what they did all day. Of course, she must have been run off her feet because like Sebastian she has been requesting to go to bed at 7 pm (instead of the normal 8). Good for mummy and daddy though!

Abigail is home with me today as her child minder had an operation yesterday. We send Jacqui
get well wishes and hope she is back on her feet and fit as a fiddle in no time.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Rat Race

It's official. I've missed my 1st day of posting since I started the blog. Yesterday was one of those whirlwind days where I barely stopped to breath.....Work was meeting after meeting, long brain intensive meetings. We did respect a moment of silence to remember 7 of our colleagues who died in a helicopter crash between 2 of our gas platforms up in Morecambe Bay on 27 December. I just can't imagine how difficult this must be for their families. I stood there in silence thinking how lucky I am to do a job where I don't put my life on the line day in day out.

Then the chaos began. I met Jacqui at the Leisure Centre and took Abigail for her ballet class. It was a busy day for her as she also went to pre-school that morning. Abigail misbehaved the entire class and wouldn't do anything as asked. she jumped around in the middle and completely disrupted the class. Can she be expelled from ballet?

Marc picked up Sebastian at Ballet and then picked up one of Seb's mates, Lorenzo (who is moving to Germany on Sunday), and brought him round to play. Lorezo is not starting school here and his mother said he's driving her crazy as he is bored stiff. The cleaner left the door to the dining room open and Bailey ate some oven mits and tea towels (grrrrr!). Started dinner for the 5 of us. Went through the post, read the school notices. Did Sebastian's homework with him. Children went off to bath and bed and I fell asleep on the sofa before 9 pm.

I had one of those nights where I had a whole series of vivd dreams that I remember! When I woke from the first set of dreams it was only just after midnight and I could have sworn I had been dreaming for hours. Then this morning I woke to realise I had another set of vivid dreams. What a strange night!

Must get back into the swing and routine of it all!

Monday, 8 January 2007

Household Accidents

Big thanks go out to Trevor and Joy Cook who had us round for Sunday dinner yesterday. Jamie, their son, goes to school with Sebastian and we spent a relaxing afternoon enjoying their culinary delights (especially the bread and butter pudding) and a few glasses of wine. The children were having a great time playing (Seb & Jamie are computer whizzes already)........right up until the point when....wait for it....Jamie fell chasing a remote controlled helicopter (don't ask) around the lounge and his eye had a collision with a glass topped table. Off to A&E (ER for you Americans) for some glue and strips. Table 1 Jamie 0. What's a Sunday afternoon without a trip to A&E? I knew our school holidays just were not complete. Not enough excitement, that's what I say!

Then I couldn't all....Marc got The West Wing (Series 7) for Christmas (which inexplicably we missed a lot of) and we watched a few episodes then off to bed. I was up reading until 3 am with loads of trips to the toilet and looking out the window. For some reason I had convinced myself that someone was breaking into the house. Now my husband did try to convince me that this was a wee bit irrational given that we live down a lane, there were no unidentified cars parked outside, it was raining cats and dogs and blowing a gale, and the dog was not making any noise. This was all beside the point as far as I was concerned at 2 am. I finally put the book down and convinced myself that they could take it all if they had to but I had to get to work so I needed to sleep. Finally, dozed off somewhere about the time that it was time for me to get up. Perfect!

My mother's Christmas box finally arrived today ! We loved having a second Christmas! Odd thing is my brother, George's box has never arrived and he sent his before my mother sent hers. Who can understand the mysteries of the postal service? We got loads of Colorado jumpers which are the perfect antidote to this horrible weather (all cotton and thick and soft and warm).

Marc and I severed our franchise agreement with Auditel today after 4 years and 8 months of operation. We never lost money but we never hit our targets either. When the mobile and energy markets changed so dramatically we knew we were never going to hit the sales targets and it was costing us much more than we were earning over the last year to maintain the agreement. So we are now wholly dependent on the computer services business. Just as well not to have the franchise distraction (and financial commitment)! it has been slow during the

Marc is making a killer lasagne for dinner, Seb starts back to school and Abigail goes off to pre-school and her new ballet class tomorrow . I am shattered and want to go to bed. The holiday is over and the rat race begins.....get ready, get set.......

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Strange Traffic

When I first started this blog one piece of advice that I was given (or read) was that ensure regular traffic to the site I must blog about something that everyone wants to read. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to blog about something my target audience wanted to read. Who is my target audience?" you may ask yourself. The answer is simply my friends and family that are scattered all over the world. I know who they are. They know who they are. I know where they live and I can usually tell who has visited my site based on the results of my sitemeter. The odd thing is I'm getting traffic to my site from Greece, Japan, Israel, Turkey and all other sorts of places and I don't think I know anyone living in those places. So unless my friends and family are visiting those places and my blog has become more essential to their existence than time away from technology, then I am definitely reaching my target audience. However, I find this highly unlikely. I know where most of my friends and family are when they go on holiday and it is not Israel (nice place to visit, I'm sure) but not on my top 10 list (or anyone else I know). So this means I'm getting traffic from an unintended audience. Is this a bad thing? My advertiser (singular) would say no. I'm not so sure. What are they doing here? Why are they here? What do they think of the blog? If you are one of these interlopes, please leave a comment and tell me how you got here and why? Oh, and what do you think?

Yesterday was a day of accomplishments of sorts. Got the grocery shopping done, made a dent in the laundry, no one vomitted, no one had earaches. I played games with my children and generally enjoyed the day. My daughter is spinning herself round and round and then stands there swaying saying "Abby dizzy". Does she understand the consequence of her actions? Does she care? Wouldn't it be great to find joy in spinning yourself round and round and being awed by the resulting dizziness?

Saturday, 6 January 2007

UK vs US or US vs UK

Despite having lived outside of the USA for 1/2 the time I lived inside, I am often asked by people within the UK why I chose to move to the UK and not stay in the US. (I think my accent gives me away but speak to someone from the US and they think I have an English accent.) A taxi cab driver from Pakistan asked me just the other night "Why in the world with all the people wanting to move to the US did you move to the UK?. I didn't have an answer. This is just where I landed. My Nanny once told me (after I had met my English husband here) that I was here so that I could find him. Thank God, I did!

I suppose moving to England was easier than say moving to China. I was here for one thing. For another, at least I speak basically the same language although the differences can be quite amusing and have more to do with vocabulary and pronunciation. It is rare that I can't quite get myself understood and there is the rare occasion I can't understand what is being said (but that usually involves someone from Scotland) The British, however, are always quick to point out that they invented the language. My witty reply is that yes they did but the Americans perfected it.

The other difference is usually in what I say. I have a tendency to speak my mind and get straight to the point. The English on the other hand can speak for 20 minutes and not quite get to the point. Saying "no" is a particularly difficult thing for them to do and disagreeing with you is an altogether different matter.

The other day I was reading a blog at Speaking British. Go to the 18 December entry. Now whilst the content is fascinating (and one of my favourite topics), the part that really got me was when she referred to a person speaking "in British". What is this woman on? I am sure she meant that the man was speaking with a British accent but the whole reference is very offensive to the Brits. Does she say that Americans speak American? And what do the Irish speak? And the Australians?

Abigail has made a full recovery and Seb has had no setbacks. I am congested and coughing but muddling through. Our health is definitely improving. Not a great start to the year!

Last night, we went to a birthday party for Taryn, a little girl who lives down the road from us. She turned 4 and all the children came to party in fancy dress. It is magical to see all the children dressed up in their costumes! Seb went dressed as a Power Ranger but the costume was so restrictive he took it off the minute we went through the door. Abigail went as a Fairy in her new fairy costume. We had a bit of panic before we left the house as we couldn't find her magic wand and dress up shoes. You would have thought the world was ending. Alas mummy found them. Then she lost her fairy head band in the climbing apparatus (although we did eventually find it).

I love this picture of Seb and Abby. They were getting ready for the big group photo. Abigail was struggling just a bit because she had ended up at the top with the big boys (following her big brother, no doubt). Seb got up right next to her, helped her stand, and then put his arm around her and I snapped the photo. What a great big brother!

Today the plan is for all the Christmas decorations to come down, and laundry and shopping to get done. Quite frankly, I don't have much energy and would rather spend the day reading my book. I've just finished The Secret River by Kate Grenville which is a rather interesting story about the colonisation of Australia. It is deeply disturbing. Now on to The Accidental by Ali Smith which is our book group book this month. Better get a move on.....I think we meet in the next week or so!

Friday, 5 January 2007

Unexplained Vomiting

Sebastian is on the road of recovery. His coughing has nearly stopped altogether. His temperature is back to normal. His earaches have abated. His nose is dripping but manageable.

Abigail is not so lucky. When we put her to bed she was very unhappy with Marc because he had put her in pajamas that were not her "Dora" pajamas. We explained that she could wear those tomorrow night but that didn't make her unhappy. She reluctantly went to bed unhappy with her lack of control over her pj situation. At around midnight, Abigail appeared at our bedside crying with a dark sticky substance all over her pjs and hair. We got her jammies off of her, got her teeth brushed and hair cleaned and went downstairs to her bedroom to discover carnage. Vomit was all over her blanket, sheet, dolly, and pillow. I got new jammies on her (the "Dora" pjs she wanted to wear in the first place) and Marc changed the sheets and put the blanket and dolly in the washing. Abigail was ever so slightly warmer than she should have been but I would be too if I had just vomited copious quantities. She was very upset with herself and kept saying sorry but was very happy with herself for managing to get her "Dora pajamas" put on her. Poor little girl. We tucked her back into bed after explaining that there was nothing to be upset about. And she went off to sleep. This morning she seems fine. I can't help but think it was all an elaborate ruse to get her "Dora pjs" on.

This morning, both Marc and I are decidedly worse for wear. It took me hours to get back to sleep because I kept listening for her to be sick again. Now my cough is increasing in its severity and frequency. I feel like I am getting a temperature. We need someone to come in and fumigate the house. I've tried opening windows and wiping all surfaces with a disinfectant. My father blames our dog. (OK, so that doesn't make any sense.....he just doesn't like dogs in the house.) Marc has been surprisingly resilient to it all. He has had no cough, no fever, no sick; just lack of sleep from taking care of the invalids in his family. Good man!

If you are bored with all this talk of illness........imagine how we feel! I feel like I am blogging about the weather! Of course, this will all be better once it is time to get back to school.

I managed a full day back at work in the office yesterday. I work with some really amazing people. I met with my team leads and and man who stood in for me whilst I was off on annual leave. No catastrophes whilst I was away. The team was ever so nice and said it was good to have me back. It was strange being off work for so long but after yesterday I feel like I am back in the swing.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Windsor Restaurant Recommendation

When Cafe Puccina in Windsor Royal Station closed a few years back, mothers in Berkshire cried a few tears. It was a very child friendly place with great nappy changing facilities and the menu catered to young and old. The space has been empty since they moved out until just recently. A new restaurant called Agora has just opened up in the space and Marc and I tried it out when we were finishing up our Christmas shopping. It was fantastic and is NOT a chain. I had the calamari starter with a green salad and the calamari was probably the best I've ever had. Marc had a steak sandwich with chips and it was also good (although there was a bit of gristle in the steak, although not enough to spoil the meal). The teas and coffees were nice enough to warm our toes. Although the children were not with us that day and the decor doesn't scream child friendly, the menu did cater for the younger members of our population and we do intend on taking Seb and Abby. If you just happen to be in Windsor, (with or without children) I recommend you give it a go. It's across from Bar HaHa.

Seb's cough and ear ache has spiralled out of control and I finally put him on antibiotics on Tuesday. He has stayed home from the child minder's the last 2 days and I have had to work from home. It's hard to get back into the swing of things when trying to care for a sick child. Today the pain has subsided although he is still coughing up his lungs every so often.

It is 7 am and still dark outside. January & February are the darkest of dark days in England. The wind is blowing a gale and rain comes and goes. Hope the weather and our health improves as we haven't had such a great start to the new year.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Goodbye President Ford

It is so strange the way memory works. Yesterday, I was called home from work because Sebastian's earache has taken a rather turn for the worse and was driving the childminder up the wall with his howling. I don't pay her enough to listen to that noise. I, on the other hand, don't get paid enough either but I have to do it.

Anyway, as I was stroking Seb's head (he wouldn't let me out of his reach), I had live coverage of the late President Gerald R Ford's funeral on the television. Pictures from the past were flashed across the screen and memories of my childhood came flooding back. He is the very first president I really remember. I remember watching him be sworn in after the resignation of Nixon. I remember those suits. I remember my mother ranting about Ford pardoning Nixon. And I remember him losing the next election without any understanding of why. I have first hand memory of so many of the historical events during his presidency and what makes it even more potent is that these are some of my earliest childhood memories.

I was saddened by Ford's death much more so than I was by Reagan's despite the fact that I actually voted for Reagan (2nd term). Gerald Ford seemed to be honest, trustworthy, dependable, and not really a politician. When I was a girl I liked thinking this man was also a father. I didn't find any comfort in thinking this about Clinton. In fact that thought still scares the hell out of me. And he was trustworthy. You believed what he said. This is not a feeling I experience with any aspect of the Bush (the 2nd) administration or the man.

I was really saddened by the sight of Betty Ford. She looked like her heart had been broken in a million little pieces. I can't imagine how you wake up to the next day after 58 years of marriage and find your companion, friend, husband is no longer there. I was also simultaneously inspired though by the way her children held her up. Their grief was palpable.

I suppose as I age these events will continue with increasing frequency. It makes me sad to feel my age.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007


I have uploaded a load of photos taken over the Christmas/New Year holiday on You can use the link on this page or go to flickr and do a search on ladawncp and you should be able to view them. Here's a small sample.


For Christmas, my darling husband decided to give me a Mac. Now he did not come to this conclusion on his own and to be fair I tried to convince him that he really wanted one so that I could actually use it. So when I opened up the boxes Christmas morning I was super duper excited. Now (1 week after) not so much. Marc has gotten it all set up. In theory I should be able to run both computers and switch between the two with just the switch of a button. The reality is far off that. The button doesn't work for some reason and my wise hubby can't quite figure it out. It is bad when he can't figure something out.

To make matters worse my beloved puppy is eating the cables. that's right, first he ate the cable that goes between the 2 computers and now he has eaten through the cable to the microphone. Grrrrrrr!

Blogger Beta doesn't seem to work so well with Macs. I have no rich text editor and uploading pictures is a real test of my html skills and as you can probably tell from a couple of my previous posts I am failing that test. Who would have thought that I could learn a new trick? OK, so am still learning but getting there.....Think I will have to spend some time messing about with the Mac to get to know it and return to using the Windows machine for the time being. The trouble is I learn by doing so if I can't force myself to use it I won't. If anyone wants to give me some hands on lessons, I will more than happily sign up! Any Mac experts out there?

I'm struggling to download photos and edit them (although this is supposed to be one area that Macs do so much better than Windows. Now I hear Macs are great with movies.....well I've given You Tube a go so will see how this works with Macs. Will advise!

PS I am back to work and sifting through the rather large stack of email (although not as bad as it could have been given my Blackberry).

Monday, 1 January 2007


Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope everyone's celebrations were fabulous (and everyone made it home safely). Did you see those London fireworks? They were spectacular even on television. I can't imagine what they were like if one was actually there. Must add that to the list of things to do! Maybe in a few years.....

Our friends, Sean & Helen, with their 2 children, Sam and Lottie, came to visit yesterday and brought in the new year with us. We had lunch and then withstood the weather to go for a walk around the Great Park in the drizzle and grey skies threatening overhead. We tired out the children, the dogs and ourselves and came home just in time for the skies to open up.

Marc was left to bbq ribs in the pouring rain. The children are close in age so they really enjoyed turning our house upside down and playing with everything simultaneously. The adults managed to empty copious quantities of alcohol, eat gluttunous quantities of food, play games and chit chat the new year in!

Today we are clearing up the mess from yesterday and resting for work tomorrow. Did you make any new year resolutions?