Saturday 31 March 2007

A Tea Party

Abigail got 2 tea sets for Christmas last year and one of her favourite things to do is to serve up tea for all of her cuddly toys. She makes a delicious cuppa!


Abigail loves this shirt. The hood and pocket is just the height of fashion in her 3 year old mind.

PS If you think she is wearing blue eye shadow, you are correct. She got a little girl makeup set from some friends for Christmas. On this day in particular, she put makeup on herself, Auntie Mary, and me. We were the bomb!

Gathering Wisdom

Last Sunday, Uncle John & Auntie Mary came round for some sandwiches and tea. Sebastian took the opportunity to pick up some more of life's wisdom from Uncle John. Only the two of them know what lessons were being passed on but it must have been fascinating by the look on Seb's face. Abigail clearly was soooooo not interested.

Thursday 29 March 2007

Blogging and Job Searching

Earlier I had indicated that my sister was not updating her blog alledgedly because she was afraid of the impact it might have on her job search. Here is a list of things that you should be worried about if bloggin and job searching simultaneously. The good news is none of this applies to my sister.

Question: Is googling your own name vain? Or a survival tactic for modern times?

The Other Side of the Story

This is an hysterically funny article written by AA Gill for Vanity Fair magazine about Brits in New York. For me this represents the other side of the coin told from the other shore looking back in my direction. And it made me laugh so hard I nearly peed my knickers (underpants).

My Husband is a Plumber

Sometimes it is just better if you do the job yourself.

After having Dyno rod in 3 times, a pump engineer in who then flooded our house and spending over £400 ($800), we still had a blocked drain and no bath/shower/toilet/sink at the top of the house. So my husband decided he couldn't do a worse job of it if he tried himself. So yesterday afternoon, he took all the pipe work off the back of the house and replaced it all. He found a blockage in a bend in the pipe and now the drainage is working just fine. He is very proud of himself. This makes me soooooo nervous! But I'm not complaining. At last I can have a shower!

Wednesday 28 March 2007

The Interpretation of Murder

The book group read The Intrepretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld this month. It was a bit of a strange book. The author is a bit of a strange bloke.

It seems like he knows quite a bit of stuff that doesn't quite fit together. So he decided to write a book and show off all that he knows in one story. So there's a little bit of Freud, a little bit of Shakespeare (Hamlet to be exact), a bit of Manhattan history and a lot of a murder mystery wihtout an actual murder. Sounds to me like this guy has got an attention span problem.

This is one of those murder mystery novels that solve the crime in the last 5 pages of the novel by telling you a whole bunch of stuff that they didn't tell you in the first place so you had no hope of solving the ending yourself. I prefer the old fashioned mystery novels that, if you were really clever and paid very close attention, you could actually solve the mystery yourself. The clues were craftily hidden thorughout the story. Not here. Loads of loose ends and irrelevant tangents. This book needed a better editor.

However, this book is a real page turner in that it does provide lots of information and it is imminently readable. I couldn't put it down. This is mostly due to the fact that I wanted to be challenged. Never quite got there.

I was extremely disappointed when I read the Author's Note at the end. This informs me that everything I've read is fiction despite the use of real people in real place during real events. He just messed around with the timings and locatins a bit. I think this is dangerous in the vein of The Da Vinci Code type dangerous. People read this stuff and they think that because Sigmund Freud is a real person then everything they read here is real too. You would be in serious trouble if you do that with the places and dates of the events presented here.

PS Welcome to D, a new member of our book group. We had a unique gathering last night in that the entire book group agreed on the opinions expressed above. I do not believe this has EVER happened before! Next month we have chosen A Sunday at the Pool in Kingali by Gil Ciourtmanche.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes

A few months back my book group read The Accidental by Ali Smith. I was not fond of the book. I found the whole scenario so improbable that it had no meaning to me. The idea that a stranger could arrive and be invited into your home and the communication and relationships of everyone in the family has so broken down that everyone assumes someone else in the family knows the stranger is just not happening in my version of reality. The members of the family were so horrifically flawed I found the ultimate transformation of the individuals highly unlikely and wholly unbelievable. I hated all the characters.

The Book Will Save Your Life runs along similar lines but is so much better written and so much more believable. I had a complete empathy for how this man ended up completely disassociated from society and how he made his re-entry to the human race. I loved the characters. I love how it ended. I love the events and whilst they are an amazing string of unfortunate scenarios to happen to one person, the story does take place in LA and every single one of them is believable.

I recommend this book for the sheer fun of it.

Audrey in hospital

Audrey, my niece and god daughter, is undergoing some much needed surgery today on her tonsils, adenoids and something else in the ear/nose/throat area. It is an outpatient procedure but she does have to go under a general anesthesia and we all know the risks that are involved with that. I can only imagine the anxiety that my sister, Stephanie, and her husband, Anthony, are feeling right now. The surgery started about 8 am (Mountain Standard Time - Colorado) and should be done within a few hours. I'm sure Audrey will be fine and home eating ice cream in no time! In the meantime, my thoughts are with you, Steph & Anthony. We love you and miss you. Wish we could be there holding your hand and sharing a cuppa.


Bath drain is not working again. Pump engineer out today did not fit rubber seal properly and 2nd floor has now flooded into Abigail's bedroom on 1st floor. I am having a plumbing breakdown. New plumber called and will ring us back tonight. Going to cost us a fortune. I feel my new bathroom slipping between my fingers.......

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother & not some other mom?
1. We're related
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make a t least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is. But only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between moms & dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home & dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pay s bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet, you know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

Monday 26 March 2007

Encouraging my Sister

When my sister was a little girl, I used to offer to curl her hair with a curling iron. For the first few times, she agreed. And each time I burned her forehead when doing her bangs (aka fringe in the UK). She wore a permanent scab on her forehead. Luckily, because she had fringe you couldn't see it.

Unfortunately, she became not so keen on letting me continue to do her hair. But she would always forget and after I would promise not to do it again, she would agree. And then despite my best efforts, I would slip and do it again. This still happens. I don't know but I think her forehead has a curling iron magnet on it. Or she is winding me up and bending into the curling iron just to make me feel bad. My torture of her forehead is not intentional.

This is, however. Despite my verbal encouragement, my sister has failed to update the blog for nearly 2 months.

My sister started a blog back in January. She got off to a pretty good start and the layout looked good. Pictures were impressive. Her posts were witty and enjoyable to read. But therein lies the rub. After just a few (less than 10) posts she abandoned her efforts.

She cited the fact that she had read it wasn't a good idea to post to a blog when looking for a job. We never did quite uncover why in the world this would be a bad idea. Given I haven't lived in the USA for over 10 years, I thought it best to trust her judgement. I now believe her job search has ended and she should now be free to blog uninhibited.

I once read a horrible statistic that most blogs out there have 1-4 posts and are then abandoned. Please, Stephanie, do NOT abandon your blog. Your writing is clever and funny. And peole are interested in what you have to say, about yourself and your family.

At the very least please please please change the last post you made way back in February so it is not the last post you made. If you do not I will post your email address on this blog and encourage everyone who reads it to spam you!

In the meantime, please post a comment to this blog and show my sister how much you would like her to update her blog. If you've never been to her blog go check it out - Woodhouse Family.

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood

I loved this book. I loved this book. I loved this book. I loved this book.

I now know why I can't possibly ever be a book critic. I wrote the line above and then froze. It's difficult to tell you why I loved the book. It is a book by a woman for women. But it is not sappy. It is sad in the most horrifying way, the way every mother fears. However, the women never descend into self pity.

The book tells the personal tragedies of the members of a knitting circle. Each woman's life bears scars of sadness, disappointment, grief, fear. Using the language of knitting, the story shows how grand gestures aren't required for the heart to mend. Sometimes just knitting with a group of wonderfully strong, witty, and flawed women is enough to eventually get you through just about anything. Even your worst nightmare.

Sunday 25 March 2007

Our Weekends

I feel like we spend our weekends lurching from chore to chore, meerly recovering from the week behind and preparing for the week ahead. Laundry, DIY, grocery shopping, and "other" shopping (lamps, book shelves, birthday presents), mowing the lawn, hoovering the lounge, weeding the flower beds, cleaning the garage......etc. The list is endless

Last month, our neighbour, Gill, sensing that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, offered to look after the children after they had gone to bed so that Marc and I could go out to dinner (just the 2 of us) . We were to discuss ways that we could reclaim some of our weekend time and dedicate more of it to fun.

We went to Wagamama's. This is one of our favourite chains of restaurants and a new one has just opened in Windsor. My mother will be very excited! It wasn't very crowded and it was missing the buzz that other Wagamama's have but this could be because it has only just opened and the building it is housed in is covered in scaffolding.

Back to the point......We sat over our noodles and tried to come up with a plan. Would hiring someone else to do our ironing leave us with more time to have fun on the weekends? Could we pave over our back garden thus eliminating the need for gardening? Would the resulting impact to global warning be too much for my conscious to bear? Maybe the cleaner could come back on Friday mornings to hoover.....Maybe we could all wear dirty clothes.

Clearly our brainstorming session had some practical solutions (all mine) and some far fetched no chance in h*** ideas (all Marc's). Some we've implemented. Some we haven't and won't......EVER!

I think the solution is that rather than just wait for fun to happen, we have to plan it in. On Saturday between 3-5 pm, we will schedule to have some fun. And then just let everything else go. I mean, why should fun be the lowest on the list of priorities?

Saturday 24 March 2007

6 Things About Me

1. I am always cold. I hate being cold. I build a raging fire in the fireplace almost everynight from September through March (April, if I can get away with it). My husband is always hot. He hates the fire. Even in the summer on the hottest day of the year, I use a duvet overnight.

2. I love slippers and pajamas. If I could wear them all the time I would. They're comfortable and easy to take on and off. I take my slippers with me when I visit friends. I wish I could wear slippers in the office.

3. I love baseball and (besides my family) it is the only thing I truly madly deeply miss about living in the USA.

4. If I won the lottery, I would quit my job. In a heart beat. I have no shortage of ideas about what I could spend my spare time doing. But suffice it to say, it does not include what I currently do to pay the mortgage. Sorry, to all my co-workers....but I'm sure they'd say the same! PS I don't play the lottery, so the chances of this happening are, well, nill!

5. Before I moved to Germany in 1991, I had only been outside of the USA to Mexico on a couple of holidays. I didn't have a passport and other than 3 years of French in high school, I spoke no foreign languages. Since that time I've travelled to over 30 countries, learned 3 foreign languages (4 if you count UK English), another alphabet (Korean). I can order beer and count to 10 in about 10 different languages.

6. I love lobster. Brooiler or boiled. With nothing but butter and lemon juice. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Your turn.......

Thursday 22 March 2007

Bath/Shower Out of Order - AGAIN

I am still at home with a cough that is making my whole body ache. Nothing is helping. I am grumpy and fed up. Talking makes it worse. Laughing causes me to vomit.

WORSE: The drain that was broken and then fixed last week is clogged again......sounds to me like the job didn't get done right the first time. They were supposed to come round today to fix it but they haven't arrived yet which means it will be tomorrow morning. Grrrrr, I need a long hot humid soak.

How To Be Judgemental

I'm not sure if you are familiar with geriatric1927. He's a British senior citizen who took a stab at technology and started posting video diaries. Here's his latest post.

"Now what does this have to do with being judgemental?" you may be asking yourself. Bear with me and let me tell you.

Mr. geriatric1927 started these YouTube postings a while ago, mostly to see if he could use the technology and as a way of keeping himself busy. You see, he is old and alone, neither of which are desirable characteristics these days. He began posting, people began listening and then everyone began connecting. He had things to say that people wanted to hear: advice, memories of wartime, complaints about the way he is treated. And people responded. By posting video posts back or sending him email. And suddenly he wasn't quite so lonely. And being old isn't quite so bad. The press has gotten wind of this and he is now an international phenomenon.

I was telling this story to a group of people when one of the members of the group looked down her nose and said "These people clearly don't have enough to do." This sounded all too much like the morally superior lament of 20 years ago made by parents who hugged trees, "Oh we don't even own a television." This simply meant that the world was suddenly passing them by. And their children were largely unprepared for social situations outside of their own home.

I was aghast. Now I don't know what she does with her time and frankly, I don't care. It's not my place to assign value to anything she chooses to do. Nor is it her place to judge what others do with their time, particularly if it doesn't harm/injure/affect her or her family in any way, shape or form.

Quite frankly, I find a great deal of comfort that whilst this man could not find company in his neighbours, he founds friends from the net. Most importantly, these people didn't judge him for doing what he was doing. He's clearly better off on YouTube than down at the pub!

If only we spent some of that time spent judging and assessing what other people are doing and got busy with tackling our own To Do List, we might have a far more compassionate world!

Wednesday 21 March 2007

Block of the Month 2006

I have finally completed all the blocks for my 2006 quilt. Yes, I know it is March. I've been a bit busy.....This is going to be beautiful with the new sofa!

I have been doing this one with my neighbour, Jill. This is the first time she has ever quilted and I took her down the path of hand piecing. She used old nighties of her mothers which is really very sweet.

We must get the sashing and border fabric picked out and decide on a pattern for finishing.

And for all of you that have been asking to see a sample of my it is!

Bertie, May & Mrs Fish

This book joined my "Want to Read" list quite a while back but I never got round to moving it to the top of my "Must Read" list. Then Gill, our neighbour, brought it round having just finished it herself. It looked like a quick read so I thought I could fit it in this month.

I was not disappointed. It took my a while to get used to the style of writing. She uses "......." more than I do (which is a lot!) She uses it to run through dialogue but only one person's side of the dialogue. It's odd and at first I found it annoying. But then I got used to it and found it remarkable that the author could remember as much conversation as she apparently has. There is certainly an air of authenticity. I wasn't moved to tears by the last chapter as some reviewers had suggested.

It is a memoir of the Xandra Bingley's childhood in the Cotswold country of England. Don't expect Angela's Ashes. It was not a deprived childhood, ie there was no threat of starvation or physical abuse. It was a raucous life in the country with horses being born and little girls falling into thistles and sheep breaking out of the fence. Her parent's were eccentric to say the least in a way that only the English have mastered.

The book is fascinating, quick to read, and thoroughly enjoyable. Although I imagine if you don't enjoy the country life, you might find it incredibly dull. If, however, you yearn for the simpler life, you will enjoy a few moments taken to enjoy this simple tale!

PS This is a VERY English book. I would hazard a guess that most of my American friends (who have never lived in England) could attempt this book but would be unquestionably baffled by the vocabulary! Proof that these two countries most certainly do NOT speak the same language!

Tuesday 20 March 2007

IOW for Mothering Sunday

Marc's Mum, Veda, lives in Sandowne on the Isle of Wight and we went to visit her for Mothering Sunday. When we got up in the morning, the wind was blowing a hooley! I jut couldn't wait for an adventurous ferry crossing.

We left the house at 8 am with plans to catch the 10 am ferry from Portsmouth to East Cowes. All was going according to plan until I started coughing up my lungs and we needed to stop at a services station for a hot cuppa tea for me. We were back on the road in no time and my husband dutifully and safely made up the time on the motorway. We arrived at the ferry station just in time to get ourselves on to the ferry. The crossing was uneventful and Seb and Abby were excited as always with the prospect of a boat ride. They didn't notice the white caps on the Solent.

As we neared the island Marc and I realised we were seriously to the right of the dock. The ferry had apparently crossed in record time due to wind and tide so we had to wait until the ferry going to the other way had left. We bumped 4 or 5 times before the captain managed to get us landed properly. Not a fun thing to watch from the car deck.

We arrived at Veda's home and the children served up kisses and cuddles for Granny. We distributed the Mother's Day gifts and Seb and Abby had painted some lovely pictures for display on her refrigerator. Veda said she had struggled to gt a table reserved for lunch so we were going to have to be flexible with our lunch arrangements. Somehow we ran into Marc's youngest brother in the street and he climbed into the car for the journey to the pub. We were happy to have him join us as we don't see much of him.

The first pub we went to had no tables available so we set off in search of another pub. We settled on The Eight Bells in Carrisbrook and had a plentiful and delicious lunch.

Then back to Veda's where we left from shortly for a walk down to the beach. It was chilly spring day and the wind was whipping about but the children loved running around on the sand. I have to say the cold air wreaked havoc with my coughing. We returned home after a short while with just a little time for a drink and back into the car for the return journey.

The M3 was badly congested on the way home and we were delayed a couple of times due to heavy traffic. We managed to get home by just after 8 pm. Our poor little Bailey was very happy to see us having been abandoned for the day.

Monday 19 March 2007


I'm ill. I'm coughing my lungs up. I haven't slept in days because the coughing increases when I lay down. My chest wheezes each time I breath. Doctor has no available appointments today. This is when I hate the NHS more than anything else in the world! Will stay warm and try to sleep sitting up in the lounge. Hopefully doctor will have time to see me tomorrow if I'm not better (both are equally unlikely).

Saturday 17 March 2007

To Tell or Not To Tell

I think I've said before that some responses to my blog have been nothing short of sheer horror that I share my life. With everyone. Well, all blog readers. And everyone has access if they so desired.

A group of mums from Sebastian's school were having coffee one morning. We were having a discussion about secrets. They made an observation that I must not have any secrets because I tell it all on the blog.

This is not true. I have secrets. And I plan on keeping it that way. But I am by and large an open book. Thoughts come into my head and they tend to come out my mouth. It never occurs to me that something should not be shared with other people. Happy things happen and I tell people so that they can share my joy. Don't you get all happy when you hear about good things happening to people. When someone tells someone about someone just having a baby, I get very happy. I might not even know the new parent but it fills me with joy to know that someone has just had a joyous occasion such a that.

A great place for checking out secrets is this web site Post Secrets. I don't think this voyeurism. I think it feels good to get the secret off your chest.

When bad/sad/disappointing/frustrating things happen I pretty much apply the same rule. If I share it with someone it gets it out of my head and gives it a chance to just float away. The person with whom I've shared the awful news with is generally supportive and gives me a boost. Things that sit inside me just fester and build up.

Lots of women don't tell people they are pregnant until they get past the danger zone of 12 weeks. They keep it secret. I don't adhere to that rule. And boy, am I glad I didn't! No women in my family had really lost babies during pregnancy and I didn't fully appreciate the dangers associated with the first trimester. I was so happy when we fell pregnant again and Sebastian was going to have a brother/sister. I had my little heart set on that perfect little family. I told everyone and their brother that I was having a baby when I was just about 6 weeks a long. As I said before, in my head, out my mouth. Then I miscarried.

When I returned to work I was sooooo nervous. I just wanted to bury my head in a box. I felt sick to my stomach walking into that office. Then the most miraculous thing happened throughout the day. Not only was I not alone, I was surrounded by women who had similar experiences and men who had wives that had been through similar experiences. And yet we never speak about it. These people approached me with great care and compassion. They softly told me that it had happened to them and they knew the devastation I felt. And then they walked away. Leaving me feeling less like a failure. And more like a part of a vast network of kind people who really care about each other.

A joy shared is a joy doubled. A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved. Thank goodness, I didn't keep that a secret.

Friday 16 March 2007

Senior Power

OK, so this is proof that the older generation can kick your a**!

Costa Rica Mugger Killed by American Senior Citizen

Thursday 15 March 2007

Mother's Day Assembly

Sunday is Mother's Day in the UK. (Yes, I know this is different than the USA. Don't ask me why. It just is.)

Today was the Mother's Day Assembly at Sebastian's school. All mother's were invited. The children sang songs, read a poem and told all of us mothers why they loved us.

Seb told everyone he loved his mother because she makes pancakes for him every Sunday. Afterwards, I pointed out to him that I don't do this. Daddy does. He said it didn't matter. He just wanted everyone to know he gets pancakes every Sunday.

When we got home I asked him why he did love me. He can't quite come up with a reason. He said he just does. That is good enough for me.

No Bath/Shower

In our home we have a bath and shower at the top of the house (loft conversion). On Sunday the drains clogged. On Monday, Marc attempted to fix the clog himself. This did not work. At all. On Tuesday we called out the drain specialists (who are owned by the company I work for). He informed us that he needed one of his colleagues who had the equipment he needed to unclog our drains and would return on Wednesday. On Wednesday they returned and the drains are now unclogged albeit at twice the original quoted price.

However, the anarchy that ensued during that period was immense. We have a bath/shower on the first floor of the house. This is the tub that the children use every night for their bathing ritual. The shower has never been that great and over the last 2 years the shower has ceased to work at all. The tub is very small. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday saw our morning routines thrust into sheer panic as we raced up and down the stairs trying to get clean and keep from freezing.

Wednesday was a crazy day. I had early morning meetings and Marc had to be in Wales for the day. Our neighbours pitched in to give us a hand. Emma kept the keys until Gill returned. Gill let the drains specialists in the house and supervised their work. She even made them a cup of tea. She EVEN took our dog for a walk. I have the best neighbours in the world!

Calm has now been restored to the household. Everyone is clean and warm. Phew!

Now at the top of the list of household chores is to get that first floor bathroom in order. Does anyone have a project plan for renovating a bathroom?

Tuesday 13 March 2007

My Son Teaches Me

Serious wake up call: The children's TV in the playroom finally died. I've owned that TV since I moved to England 11 years ago and I bought it second hand. Previous owners had the TV for 3 years before I. So all in all this TV had far outlived its useful life. The new TV had been in our bedroom for the last 3 years but was never used because we could never figure out how to turn it on and off. Besides, a TV in the bedroom is never a good idea unless you are bed ridden and we aren't (yet).

Bad news was the children knew how to turn off and on the old TV and associated cable. How in the world were they going to master the new TV. Tonight Marc went off to the shops to get some light bulbs (they are blow at once). I had a moment of panic when I realised I did not know how to work the new TV. Sebastian calmly took the remote control from my hand, pushed a series of no less than 8 buttons and voila, the TV and cable was on.

I felt like an idiot! Still do!

Why is Bad News the Only News?

One would believe reporting a reduction in drug usage would be something to scream about.....from the rooftops. Celebrate good times and all. Apparently, not. Guess this doesn't sell newspapers. Or the editors just didn't feel it had that get your attention vibe going on. Or Good News ain't news at all.

Drug Usage Drops

This is a good thing, no?

Monday 12 March 2007

A Hobby Too Far

I've got loads of hobbies, far too many hobbies for a woman with my schedule some might say. but I just can't help myself.

Reading: This is my first and foremost passion. I will read everything and anything. When I was little I wanted to be a librarian because I just thought I could read all day and never run out of reading material. Then I realised they don't make any money - ever a capitalist....or greedy. I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I was about 12. Not sure I understood it then (or now for that matter). The stacks of books either unread or half read or 3/4 read next to my side of the bed threaten to fall over every time I get up in the morning. I finish 2-3 books/month and it would be more if I didn't have to work. Blasted greed thing again!

Cooking: I read more cookbooks than I cook (an odd habit picked up from my grandmother). But I do love cooking. My husband has caught this disease and we both love to whip up a great meal, for friends, for family, for each other, for fun. In addition to my world famous Tuna Noodle Casserole (which is simply wicked - unless you are my son's mate, Jamie, who doesn't hold it in very high esteem) I make a wicked Chili con Carne which will sweat just about any cold right out of you. And baking.....desserts used to scare the daylights out of me. I took a pie making course last year (seriously) and loved it. I now feel comfortable doing pies, cookies, cakes! Marc makes the best creme brulee I've ever had! I love desserts.

Quilting: This was a hobby I picked up between having my 2 children. I lost a baby when Sebastian wasn't quite 2 years old and I felt the walls of my world crashing down around me. I would spend entire morning crying before going to work, days at the office hiding in the ladies room trying to stem the flow of tears, and evening sobbing uncontrollably on the sofa. Marc suggested I try quilting after seeing my admiration of his Aunt Mary's quilts. So I contacted Green Mountain Quilts near our home and signed up for a class. I was the youngest in the group of 4 women (by about 10 years - or more) and the class was dedicated to hand piecing which is very time intensive. I stopped crying and I've never looked back. I love quilting and always have one on the go, sitting on the side of the sofa, ready to be picked up when I get bored with whatever Marc is watching on the television (usually a program about airplanes crashing).

Blogging: Writing this blog helps me satisfy my deep seeded desire to be a writer. I used to keep journals. I kept a diary from the age of 10 until the day after my son was born. After that I struggled to fit it all in. Then I became the Newsletter Editor for the Thames Valley American Women's Club for about 18 months. But I was dependent on lots of other people doing their part. And it just simply took far too much time (more than I was willing to give). Then I started Blogging. This seems to meet my inner needs to write down everything and anything that happens to me and those around me. Strange dysfunction that! And I can fit it in around everything else I do. Not only does writing a blog count as a hobby but so does reading blogs. I love reading what others are doing and I have some favourites that I must visit everyday.

Gardening: OK, not so much gardening as vegetabling (I know that is not a word but....). I love growing my own vegetables. I love the experience it gives my children. They love watching the seeds they bury under the dirt break through. They love seeing the veg grow. They love eating the veg. It's a great way to get them eat their 5/day. It's a great way for them to appreciate that food is grown not just magically appears in a supermarket. I save money and I get a real sense of accomplishment when I can put something on the dinner table and know precisely where it came from. I do not like weeding the garden and wish it could water itself but the end result of a carefully nutured vegetable plot is well worth the investment.

Knitting: OK, not exactly a hobby yet insomuch as I don't know how to do it. I have all the stuff and I pull it out occasionally to try try again. I am a pitiful failure but I sure like trying.

Sailing: Marc was a sailor when I met him and one of the reasons I agreed to a second date was so that he could teach me how to sail. He did and I loved it from day one! Not bad for a girl from Colorado - a land locked state! It was one of the few things I've done in my life that allowed my brain to go blank and focus solely on the task at hand. I couldn't think about 100 things at once (like I normally do). If I did, we got wet. But if I focused and Marc focused we sailed rather well and we had loads of fun! We sailed Catamarans - Dart 18s - every weekend until we had children. It is not exactly a child friendly hobby. We know people who continued to sail post-children but they have family close by and dropped them off for the weekend which isn't exactly my idea of family life. So we gave up least until the children got older. Now they are that much older and we have managed 1 sailing trip with the children which was great fun. More are planned for the future and I expect this hobby to rise to the top of the pile.

Running: Hard to believe by looking at me but I really love running. It allows me some quiet time to mentally take stock. I can run to music and really get the heart rate going or I can run to the thoughts in my head and well....really get the heart rate going. I just wish I had more time for this hobby. This hobby always ends up at the bottom of the pile because I have leave the house to do it and without on demand childcare, I find this extremely difficult.

What are your hobbies?

Sunday 11 March 2007

Vista Upgrade

In the spirit of trying to be an early adopter of new technology and avoid being labelled an old fuddy duddy, same trick dog kind of person, I gave my husband the green light to upgrading our home PC from Windows XP to Vista. This sounded like a good idea at the time. Hasn't quite worked out 100% as planned/hoped. To be fair, my complaints are miniscule compared to my complaints about my Mac. (Sorry, Glyn, still struggling with that technology.) This blog pretty much articulates all the reasons for switching but I still just don't get it. I'm slow though and I will not give in or give up. The Mac Will Not Win!

Back to the Microsoft upgrade: During the upgrade to Vista, I clossed my eyes and held my breath. When I opened my eyes (I'd had to start breathing. the upgrade took hours and hours to complete), I'd lost all my favourites and links. Not good when you are a blog addict like me. GOOD: I found Technorati before I upgraded. BAD: I didn't add them all to Technorati before I migrated.

I had to upgrade all the software that I work with. AOL for Vista isn't quite up to scratch and somehow someway somewhere some of my addresses hve gone mysteriously missing. Marc is working on reloading but this cuts into my blogging time.

Scanning software is not compatible with Vista so scanner sits on counter tops and takes up space. No plan for remedy.

This is one man's take on the whole upgrade journey. But honestly, I'm not one of those Configuration Freaks that want control of everything. I have no desire to configure my own computer to death. I want to turn it on and I want it to work. Not very high expectations but it works for me. Well it did before Vista. It looks good but the substance behind the form doesn't feel much like an upgrade.

My advice: oh just do it and get it over with.....make sure you have everything backed up and plan to transfer everything over.

Saturday 10 March 2007

Horse vs Man

Watch this Horse Race.

A Book Finished

Phew - I have at last finished reading that epic, My Name is Red. The last 30 pages took me over a week. I normally read twice that in a night. I'm still not entirely sure what it was all about and I need some time to digest before I decide if I liked it. Roughly, it was a murder mystery set in 1590 Turkey as art was moving away from the tradition of the miniaturists (everyone painted according to a style/standard as dictated by those in conversation with Allah, Master Miniaturists) to the European style of painting what you see, open to individual interpretation and style.

Friday 9 March 2007

The Cost of Success

I haven't reported previously on Sebastian's spelling successes. This is largely due to the fact that he is simply a spelling genius. He has had 7 spelling tests and in all but one he has scored a perfect 10 out of 10. The only week he missed this perfect score was the week he cracked his head open and we spent Monday evening in the A&E which had a knock on affect for the remainder of the week. Although I have to say it proved a point about proper preparation leading to excellent performance. What a nightmare mother I am!!!

This afternoon's success somehow got tarnished.....Seb informed me of his spelling success. We did our usual celebration and I gave my usual speech about how proud I was of him and how his hard work all week paid off yet again - blah blah blah! Then he informed me that I owed him £1. I asked him what for. He said for the perfect score on his spelling test. I replied that I had never paid him for his previous perfect performances. He said that I owed him £1 for each of those as well. I said we don't pay retrospectively. He said you do now (not sure he understood the term retrospective). I said that we don't pay for school work. And then came the kicker. He started his negotiation with the fact that one of his mate's mother's is paying her son (his mate) to do well on the test. I quickly changed the subject and started talking about the fish and chips he had for lunch. OK, I ask you, what is my negotiating position?

Thursday 8 March 2007

Definitely Art

You have got to watch this!

Then think about what Digg does.

Then do Digg!

Art or Not

Is this art?

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Digg for Dummies

Do you know what this is? Do you care? I'm trying this out....may abandon it all together. Consider this an experiment and you all are my giuinea pigs.

If you don't have a digg account, go to Digg and get one. Whilst you are there have a look around at what other people are finding interesting on the net. Then you can digg things you think are groovy. Or you can bury things you find exceedingly dull. Most importantly (to me anyway) you can submit my blog posts to digg and tell what online world you digg my posts. Since you won't comment maybe you will digg.

If you have a digg account, ignore everything I just said and you just read and get busy diggin' on me!

Progression of my Disease

I am afraid to report that my disease, far from being cured, has actually progressed. I'm afraid it might be terminal.

1. My first response to events in my life (big or small) is "I can blog about this." I tend to say it out loud.
2. My second response is where is the camera. I need a photo to post on the blog.
3. My draft blogs (waiting to be published) are now in double digits.
4. My friends/family start conversations with "Are you going to blog about this?"
5. Instead of saying "Tell it to the hand" my husband says "Tell it to the blog."
6. I start mentally composing everything I see/do/hear/feel/smell/taste into a post.
7. I check my sitemeter in the morning before coffee. Nothing ever came before coffee until blogging.
8. I've asked friends to write guest posts since they won't start a blog of their own but something interesting has happened to them that I want to post on my blog. Not quite right taking credit for it though, or is it?
9. I'm offering Blogging courses to friends and colleagues.
10. My husband and I now argue over blogging time, ie who's blog gets higher priority for computer time. My argument is I have a bigger and better established audience who is depending on me for posts. His argument is he is new and is trying to establish his blog in the blogsphere. His is clearly the weaker argument.
11. I check Technorati daily to see how many blogs have linked to mine. Before Dec 2006, I had never even heard of Technorati. If you haven't either and you love reading blogs, go to, get an account and enter your blog URLs to your favourites. What magic!

What is the cure? Do I want to be cured? Can I learn to live with my disease? How will I cope? How will my friends and family cope? Do I care? Blog On!

Tuesday 6 March 2007

American Idol

OK, OK, OK.....I have a confession to make. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. I am addicted to American Idol. If you don't want to be my friend anymore, I understand.

Monday 5 March 2007

Husband Banned at Video Store

If you recall, my last trip to the video store ended in disaster. That might be a strong statement given the results of Marc's latest trip to the video store. He got Borat which I thought would be good. I'd read all the reviews and thought this would be funny. It wasn't. It was mean, unneccessarily so. Coren (aka Borat) treated people disrespectfully and then tried to make them look bad. In the end, he just looked like a bully. We won't be supporting Coren's future film endeavours.

The second film Marc got was Snakes on a Plane, a strange choice from any perspective. I'm afraid to fly and not so keen on snakes. So I skipped watching it and sat in the corner reading it. When I asked marc what it was about he replied "Well, there's this plane.....and there are some snakes on it." Duh!

OK, so Marc can't go to the video store unsupervised either. This means we will now have to send our children in. They couldn't possibly do any worse than we've done!

Pancake Sunday

Every Sunday Marc makes pancakes for the family. He makes the best pancakes in the world. He has tried loads of different recipes and through trial and error has perfected his own recipe. They are divine. Abigail likes bananas in her pancakes. Seb and I don't. Seb and Abby like maple syrup on their pancakes. I like mine with just butter. Seb eats 3 pancakes. Abby eats 2. I eat 1. Marc gets all the rest. Yesterday morning's pancakes were a cut above. They were supreme. A great way to start a Sunday.......Thanks, honey!

Sunday 4 March 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

My dad was a jockey. How cool is that? I used to be embarassed by this because it meant we were all short. But then I learned that short was cute and cute was good. My dad is short and cute.

Then someone once told me that him being a jockey also meant that he used to be a professional athlete. Now that is seriously cool. Especially to a child. This boast brought me lots of street cred.

He was a good jockey. He was the leading apprentice jockey and I've seen some of his trophies and awards. I've read the newspaper articles out of the sports sections extolling his genius. (I already know that - don't need a newspaper to point out my father is a genius.) I've seen the photographs of him in the winner's circle. I'm even in a couple of those photos usually wearing matching outfits with my proud mom (complete with hats, gloves and matching shoes). This was the 60s.

I once asked my dad if he ever got hurt riding. He said yeah. Then I asked if he had ever broken any bones. He said yeah. Then I asked which one. He said "Pretty much all of them."

That's when I realised this is a dangerous sport. Not like football, basketball, or baseball. I mean really dangerous. A very small person (the smallest you can find) gets up on a large powerful beast. This person then encourages this beast to run as fast as it possibly can around a whole bunch of other people encouraging their beast to do the same. This is madness.

He once fell off the leading horse and just rolled up into a ball hoping that none of the horses behind him run on top of him. Luckily, he escaped without any serious, permanent injuries.

Riding was a good living. Dad was real proud of the fact that he bought a brand new car with cash at 21 years old.

He stopped riding when I was about 6, I think. Riding is a hard life. You have to travel from race course to race course. Not an easy thing to do and still raise a family. He had friends who stayed in the business. One of his best friends, Brad Rollins, just recently passed away. He had stopped riding but was still training horses.

When asked if he had always wanted to be a jockey he would tell you "No, it's just that I was good at it and I was so small no one would hire me to do anything else."

Dad decided to try his hand at owning and training once. We bought a horse called Tommy Rock. He was a bum horse but he was beautiful. Couldn't run to save his life. Dad did try real hard. We sold him on and I think he became a successful show horse (like I said - he was beautiful).

My son Sebastian is a natural in the saddle and today if you ask him what he wants to be he'll tell you a jockey. We watched a film called "Dreamer" about "Sonador" a filly with a broken leg who went on to win the Breeder's Cup. Here is the true story. At the end of the film, Sebastian announced "That was a fabulous film. I bet I'll ride like that some day." I know his popa did!

Saturday 3 March 2007

UK Cost of Living

Other than the weather, I rarely complain about living in England. I just found this on digg and thought it was so true it made me cry. Read it and weep!

I think I should consider a move back to the motherland.....then again the cost of healthcare keeps me put.

Why do I read magazines?

Is there some kind of intellectual faux pas I am committing by reading magazines? Why do people seem a bit disappointed when they find out I read about 12-15 magazines/month?

I don't read just magazines. I also read books. I read 2-3 of those/month. I must confess I rarely read newspapers. Rarely is defined as once/month max. With the single exception of the local village paper (which is free), I buy a newspaper for the sole purpose of using it to light the fire in the fireplace. All my daily news I get on the Internet. I can get the news that interests me without getting my hands dirty (although RSI can be an unpleasant side effect).

Why would I buy a paper? The ink gets all over my fingers and furniture. There's no convenient place to read a broadsheet. Ever tried reading a paper on a train or in a car? The ink spreading gets even worse when you have to fold and refold it to get it into position to read. Then I realise I'm not actually interested in anything on that page and the folding exercise begins again.

Quite often, particularly if I buy a Sunday paper, large sections go unread for weeks and stack up in the corner of the lounge. Inevitably, I try to read them but find myself skimming them more than reading, as if to give the impression that I have read them. This eases my conscious of the guilt I feel for buying and then not reading. So then I just throw them away (or burn them, depending on seasonal requirements).

Magazines are different. Very rarely does what a magazine have to say go out of date. They can give stories much more in-depth coverage and provide multiple points of view. They can compile all the facts and give a comprehensive account of the event/person/place/thing. And the pictures are so much better!

Do you read newspapers?

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." --Thomas Jefferson

Friday 2 March 2007

A Penguin & A Masked Pop Star

Sebastian is a penguin (from Happy Feet) in honour of World Book Day today - although he does look a bit more like a duck but don't tell him that! Abigail is the next pop sensation! Don't you just love her Dora nightie?!?!? And the microphone isn't actually plugged into anything.....she doesn't care!

My Husband is a Mad Scientist

Marc has become obsessed with the idea of making his own bio-diesel. I now know why he wanted to buy the BMW estate. It is a diesel. He can make his own fuel.

The idea of him making his own fuel is just an opportunity he can't pass up. This appeals to his very primal urges to really be a scientist instead of an IT professional. He would much prefer doing experiments in the garage, especially experiments that have the potential to blow things up, than just about anything else.

Last evening I bore witness to him using my kitchen utensils including a roasting tin and the cutlery (forks/spoons/knives) to cleanse (with boiling water) and then cook (in our oven) some sand. He then taped my prized kitchen funnel to the top of a thin cooper pipe and poured the sand into the pipe. He then coiled the pipe around a can and these coils are now sitting on my kitchen counter.

I am afraid......very afraid. Stay tuned. Unless we have to call the fire brigade. The number is 999 in the UK.

PS Link to his blog here

Thursday 1 March 2007

What is IKEA?

How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you tell someone who has never heard of IKEA what IKEA is?

I got a comment from Janell on a previous post asking me what is IKEA? Janell lives in the Heartland of America that is also known as Nebraska: lots of corn fields, I mean LOTS! And NO IKEAs for miles and miles and miles (we're talking thousands). She doesn't know what IKEA is.

I thought answering this question would be as simple as a return email which stated that it was a low priced but good value furniture store. But it is, oh, so much more! It's a lifestyle!

The company originated in Sweden. All the furniture is flat packed and you have to assemble it at home. It is a bit like Legos for adults except it is more expensive, the instructions aren't always easy to understand (and the pictures can make it worse rather than better) and sometimes parts are missing. They do have an easy return policy if you can be bothered to drive back there and stand in the queue again.

The stores are huge and you walk through rooms designed using all IKEA products which demonstrate the art of the possible (and the what were they thinking?) in big and small spaces. Neither of which generally represent any space that I've ever lived in. They use a lot of colour and imagination. The stores are crowded and the car parks are impossible especially on weekends.

But it is very easy and some of it is very good. Marc and I furnished our first home with all IKEA furniture. Both of my children are sleeping in expandable IKEA beds with IKEA sheets. Book shelves are what they do best and we've got loads of IKEA book shelves scattered about the house. I've got blankets from IKEA and cushions and blinds and curtains. My kitchen has glasses and pots and plates. All my children's dishes, cups and cutlery are from IKEA.

One of the best things about IKEA oddly is the cafeteria and their Swedish meatballs with sauce. My children love them and I love them. The restaurant is very very very child friendly.

One of the worse things about IKEA is that no matter when I go there or what I go there for I end up walking out of the store with loads of things I didn't really need but felt compelled to buy and felt like I was missing out if I didn't just snatch it up.

This last visit was a case in point. Found nothing there that was actually on my list. Somehow still spent £200. How did that happen? What did I buy? Why didn't I know I needed it before I got there?

So Janell, what is IKEA? An incredibly useful and useless shop all rolled into one. Go check out the web page: and be amazed


For my convenience and peace of mind, I get through these horrible, grey, dreary English winters by focusing on the arrival of March! March means springtime which is brilliantly beautiful in England.

Spring has sprung,
the grass has riz,
I wonder where all the birdies iz....

Not exactly ee cummings but I like it!

The sun is shining, there are no grey clouds in the sky and I'm hoping my day at the office will be better than the last 2 days!