Thursday 31 January 2008

Laundry Fairy

I have a laundry fairy. Do you have a laundry fairy?

What is a laundry fairy?

The laundry fairy puts all folded clothes away in drawers and hangs it up on hangers.

Whilst my husband will occasionally help out by folding a few pairs of underpants and a couples of his t-shirts he really has no idea how all of these items make into into the drawers and closets. He will, if asked super nicely, carry the laundry basket upstairs.

But that is as far as it will go. He has never ever hang up any of the children's clothing. And the only reason he knows where anything goes is because he gets them dressed in the morning after I've left for work.

So the laundry fairy swoops in and rescues us. She (and it would be a she) puts it all away in the allocated drawers and ensures the nice clean clothing doesn't get any wrinkles.

Isn't that nice of her? I'll bet you wish you had a laundry fairy.

Tuesday 29 January 2008


I received a gorgeous satin blue LeCrueset oval casserole for my birthday last year. these babies are cast iron and I have yearned and yearned for one, especially since I have an Aga.

I was afraid to use it. I know just how expensive they are and I just loved looking at it. I was afraid that my sometimes careless (I say creative) cooking style could quite possibly send this exquisite piece of kitchen finery to the rubbish bin. I just couldn't live with myself if that happened.

So this beautiful piece of cookware has sat pride of place in my kitchen but remained unused. Until a few weeks ago. I had an opportunity to use it for a beef stew out of that fabulous cookbook I keep going on about, Apples for Jam.

With much fear and trepidation I got it out and gave it a great big hug. I figured if I ruined it I wanted it to know I loved it. And I wouldn't want to hug it if it was a melted, black, smoldering hunk of metal , would I?

I put it down on the Aga and got busy. It performed exquisitely. The beef stew was gorgeous which I attribute wholeheartedly to the combination of the cookbook and cookware.

And then the cleanup.....ah, the cleanup. After simmering a beef stew for 4 hours I expected I was going to have to put in a substantial amount of elbow grease into the cleaning. And I doubted that my beautiful pan would ever been restored to its new condition.

Ah, but I would be wrong! It practically wiped clean and looks just like it did when I took it out of its box all those 9 months ago.

I have now used it 6 times in 2 weeks. I'm scouring recipe books for recipes that require the use of my pan. I'm even thinking I could make up recipes for it.

My advice to everyone is drop what you are doing and go get yourself one of these exquisite workhorses.

Oh my god, what have I become? I am waxing lyrical about a bloomin' pan. I need to get out more! Maybe karaoke.....

Sunday 27 January 2008

You Know You're a Redneck When.... and your family drive to the nearest town (40 miles or so) and check into the nearest motel with cable television to catch the Bull Riding Championships LIVE from Las Vegas, Nevada. And you take an ice cooler on wheels filled with beer.

OK, so I admit it. I'm a redneck. Or at least I used to be. Once a redneck, always a redneck? At the very least all my family are rednecks.

I came to this realisation one day when this exact scenario unfolded in front of me. And I was a willing and able participant.

This is how the story goes:

My sister and I were visiting my father and his wife in Ford City, Missouri. This is the back of beyond and a wee bit further than that. He didn't have television. Where he lives out in the boondocks ya gotta have satellite and he didn't have satellite so he hadn't even bothered to buy a television. Makes sense but can be a bit unsettling if you aren't expecting it.

Our cousins, Kim and Brenda, and their daughters, Brooke & Mary, also turned up for a visit from the neighbouring state of Nebraska (only a drive of a couple hundred miles or so).

Now all of us are fairly big rodeo fans and I ain't afraid to admit it. If you've never seen a rodeo you need to be doing that before you die. And the bull riding part of a rodeo is just about as excitin' as it gets. Maybe I ain't sellin' this so good.

Anyway, we were all distraught when we realised that my fathers refusal to get connected with that modern invention called the television was going to cost us the viewing of the longest 3 seconds a man has ever seen. for the uninitiated 3 seconds is how long you gotta stay on a bull for the ride to get scored.

So we all packed ourselves into the various vehicles and set off for St Joseph, Missouri to see if we could find ourselves a Motel 8 with cable television. We did.

Not entirely sure what that motel owner thought when 2 grown men, 4 grown women and 3 children checked into 1 room with a king size bed for just a couple hours but quite frankly, we didn't care.

We had filled up our cooler on wheels with beer (and just a bit of fruit juice for the younguns and drivers) and brought along some munchies and sat down to watch ourselves a rodeo.

We had one of the best times ever! We knew we were rednecks. We didn't care. We wear that stereotype with pride and honour.

Mobile Tyre Fitting Specialist

If you are not in the UK, please disregard this post.

If you are in the UK, boy, have I got a deal for you!

I don't often recommend services using my blog. I even feel a wee bit uncomfortable recommending local restaurants. But I think if you have found something that is great service for a great price that everyone needs, well, I might as well share the wealth!

If you are looking for a mobile tyre fitting specialist, look no further!

This guy came to our home and replaced all the tyres on our BMW for a VERY reasonable price quickly and efficiently. It don't get much better than that!

Call him on 07790 885 492. You will NOT regret it!

PS I have not been compensated for this in anyway!

Saturday 26 January 2008

Death in the Family

Toby, our beloved goldfish, passed away last night peacefully in his sleep.

There was no evidence of foul play and no previous history of alcohol or drug abuse. Toby had no medical records and we have no idea if there was a history of aquatic illness in the family.

There will be a private burial in our back garden tomorrow morning.

In lieu of flowers please send us cash.


Abigail bit Sebastian this morning.

Biting is common in young children. It stems from the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively and all that emotion just bubbles over and they lash out. I get that. There are a couple people at the office I wish I could bite.

So I was going to get them talking.

I sat the two of them down on their respective beanbags in the middle of the playroom and made them look at each other for 2 hours. During that time they could do nothing but talk to each other.

No TV, no crayons, no books, no computer, no games, nothing. Just each other.

I asked them to tell the other how they felt about each other.

And then I left them to it.

When I returned (having snuck a peek or two to make sure they hadn't killed each other) I was ecstatic to find that at the end of the time Sebastian was giving Abigail a foot massage and telling her about how much fun it is when they go camping together.

A parenting success.

Friday 25 January 2008

I Have A Date

....with my husband!

We are going to the cinema to see Charlie Wilson's War (I'm working on that Oscar list). Wahooooo!

I am soooo excited....what am I going to wear? Should I take a shower?

Academy Awards

I am a huge movie fan. But with the announcement of the Oscar nominations I am feeling a bit out of touch.

I went to fill out my cool interactive Oscar ballot and realised that I've only seen 1 of the films nominated. I had only heard of one of the directors and the one actress nominated in a film I had seen was actually not that good of a film and seriously over acted by Cate Blanchett.

I am going to blame this all on my children. Going to the cinema before children was a relatively cheap way to spend the evening. But the cost of a babysitter is more expensive then the cinema tickets.

Of course, it is not entirely the children's fault. Film times don't help either. On Friday and Saturday nights the films either start before 7 or after 9. Before 7 is not an option because I would hate to saddle our babysitters with the bath and bed routine. And by 9 I just want to cuddle up in bed.

I must be getting old.

Consider the Lily by Elizabeth Buchan

Our former neighbour, Gill, was an expert gardener. This woman can make rocks grow.

She gave me this book to read and whilst it is not my usual style and I would not have bought it myself, it does a mind good to step out of the usual comfort zone and try something new.

Set in southern England just after the first World War it follows the fortunes of several families whose lives are intertwined in the London society. It is a story of heartbreak; of decisions made for all the wrong reasons leading to catastrophic events and how the lives of those who came before us shape the lives we chose to lead.

Kit is a man whose families has suffered numerous tragedies and whose financial fortune including the stately home which has been in his family for decades is threatened with a difficult decision between the woman he loves and the woman who has the money. Without the money the home and the way of life he is accustomed to will disintegrate.

Matty, the woman with the money, loves Kit although she knows she shouldn't and that he can never return her feelings.

Daisy, the woman he loves, cannot give Kit the future he desires. And so he chooses to marry Matty.

Matty cannot have the child she so desperately longs for and the marriage is rocked with infidelities. After restoring the home to its former glory, Matty turns her attention to restoring the to surrounding gardens.

I liked Matty as a character. She was sympathetic and I understood her plight. Kit did what he thought he had to do out of duty which at that point in time was a powerful motivator. I only lost sympathy with him when he kept returning to Daisy time and time again.

Daisy was the only character I was repulsed by. I found her manipulative and shallow. Other than lust I think Kit would have been bored stiff if he had followed his desire to marry her.

I can't say that the ending was a surprise and since I am not such a keen gardener (although I wish I was) I found bits of the book dull and felt quite a bit should have been edited out given its 574 pages of tiny print.

I also tend to have a rather vivid imagination and can usually conjure up the scenes in my mind's eye. I found it a challenge to do this. It is perhaps my lack of botanical knowledge that hampered my efforts in this area.

I enjoyed the book and it was a relaxing read although not exactly a thought provoking challenge.

Thursday 24 January 2008

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This was the Dec/Jan selection for my book group. I have always wanted to read it and in fact the book had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years but never quite made it to the top spot.

Oprah listed the novel as one of her top 10 books and one book that has had the most impact on her. Janell highly recommended the book and encouraged my reading of it.

I wish I could say it moved me as much as it did these other women of note. But it just didn't.

The story is compelling but extraordinarily simplistic and full of superficial characterizations. The main character Francie Nolan lives in Brooklyn and is born into poverty. Her father, an Irishman, is a drunk (stereotype 1). Her mother loved him once but now finds little time for love in her long hard days of working to keep food on the table for the family. She is not always successful. Francie's older brother, Neeley, is hardly developed as a character at all except when it comes time for Francie to go to high school and her mother picks him to go even though he doesn't want to rather than Francie who is desperate to go. Francie starts working full time at the age of 14 after the early death of her father at the age of 34 in a flower shop. Eventually she finds a better job in the city of Manhattan. She gets her heart broken by a young man heading off to war. She ultimately meets a sweetheart and goes to get her high school diploma and college education. Her mother remarries a nice Irish man who is a retired police officer. All live happily ever after. I'm not entirely sure what happens to Neeley.

The plot is supported by peripheral characters including her mother's sisters who are characterised as mere contrasting stereotypes of women as if to show the reader the vast choices available. The novel is set in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. Brooklyn is rough today and was even rougher then.

I was fascinated by the descriptions of the tenements and the sense of community.

I was utterly dismayed when I read the quote on the front page informing me that the book was written in the tradition of Angela's Ashes. That book was written a good 60 years after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Wasn't Angela's Ashes therefore written in the tradition of ATGiB?

This is a good book but I don't believe it is worth a spot in the top literary events of the last century.

Book Group Verdict: Ok, I finished this book back at the end of December in anticipation of our 12 January meeting which was postponed until 31 January. Want to get this published NOW!


Not to be confused with Fargo, North Dakota, Farco is a dice game. My family has been known to play Farco for 6 straight hours without stopping. Well, there are pauses for food and toilet. but you better do it when it is not your turn. Heaven help you if you are caught holding up the game.
The was a game that we played endlessly at the table of my nanny's house. I miss playing it! So I want to spread the word. Let's get everyone playing Farco. Well, at least everyone reading my blog.

What you need:
  • 6 dice
  • paper & pen
  • more than 1 person (you can not play this alone)

How you play:

Played with 6 dice. Player rolls until they don't have a valid score from above, or they decide to stop. To continue rolling, one must have one or more of the above scoring options. 500 points is required to get on the board. Once a player reaches 10,000 pts, each player get one last turn to accumulate as many points as possible.

How you score:

1= 100 pts
5= 50 pts
3 – 1‘s= 300 pts
3 – 2‘s= 200 pts
3 – 3‘s= 300 pts
3 – 4‘s= 400 pts
3 – 5‘s= 500 pts
3 – 6‘s= 600 pts
4 of a kind= 1000 pts
5 of a kind= 1500 pts
6 of a kind= 2000 pts
Straight 1-6= 1500 pts
3 sets of doubles= 1000 pts
2 sets of triples= 2500 pts

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Heath Ledger

Normally I avoid the whole celebrity gossip thing. It is poison and unproductive. It adds no value to anyone's life.

But yesterday's death of Heath Ledger was a bit of a shocker.

Brokeback Mountain is one of my top 10 favourite films of all time. Heath Ledger's performance was nothing short of brilliant. I swear I dated men like him whilst I was growing up in Colorado.

A young life is cut short and we are robbed of future acts of brilliance. How do so many actor's fall into this destructive downward spiral of drug/alcohol abuse? Why? What is the industry doing to stop it? Should we as consumers demand drug testing for film and TV stars like we do of our professional athletes?

The real tragedy here is that his very young daughter will live a life without her father in it. We knew the movie star and have his films to remember his characters.

What has been saved for her of her father's life without the camera? She is so young that her memory will be vague at best.

Our sympathy goes out to her and his family who will no doubt have a lifetime's work to ensure his memory lives on in her.

Rock Star

I am not really into the whole music video scene. I mean when I was younger and MTV had just been invented (yeah, no wise cracks about my age) I would spend hours watching music videos. But who's got time for that now?

And Nickleback? Are you kidding me? Who likes Nickleback? OK, I do. Now.

Song's great. Video's great. Haven't had this much fun since Thriller. (Remember that? Now your age is showing!)

Editor's Note: Big thanks to Si next door for opening my eyes!

Local Celebrities

These two dads from school were moaning at me about how they have never been featured on my blog. I did try to point out to them that they hadn't really done anything worthy of being featured on this blog but they seemed genuinely hurt.

So here it is boys. That would be Mark on the left and Rob on the right. Say hi everybody!

Civic's Lesson

WARNING: There is mild profanity at the end of this. If you are offended you might want to visit another blog today.

Lil' Johnny goes to his dad and asks, "What is politics?"

Dad says, "Well son, let me try to explain it this way. I'm the breadwinner of the family, so let's call me Capitalism. Mommy is the administrator of the money, so we'll call her the Government. We're here to take care of your needs, so we'll call you The People. The nanny, well, consider her The Working Class. Your baby brother, we'll call him The Future. Now go think about this and see if it makes sense."

So the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what Dad has said. Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying and runs to his room only to find that his diapers are very soiled. So the little boy goes to his parents' room. Mom is sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room. Finding the door locked, he looks through the peephole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. He gives up and goes back to bed.

The next morning, the little boy says to his father, "Dad, I think I understand what politics is now."

"Good son, tell me in your own words then what politics are."

The little boy replies, "Well, while Capitalism is screwing the Working Class, the Government is sound asleep, the People are being ignored and the Future is in deep shit."

Editor's Note: Thanks E!

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Bad Day

Editors Note: Thanks to Emma for helping me through a bad patch. Random acts of kindness are so appreciated!

Milk Toast

When I'm feeling blue I eat milk toast. My Grandma Andersen (my mother's mother) used to make this for me all the time when I spent the night with her and I am instantly transported back to the warmth and security of my childhood when a bowl is placed in front of me.

"What is milk toast?" I hear y'all ask.

OK, so here it is: the secret to my happiness.

A bowl of warm milk with melted butter and generous salt and pepper. Add a piece of (yet more) buttered toast. Let the toast soak up the milk until it is well soggy. There will be loads of milk for (yet more) toast. Eat until feeling better. This could take a while.

I rarely have to resort to this calorific extravaganza these days since my life is so full of joy and happiness but I think I might have to have me one before work tomorrow! It might help me choose an attitude better suited to productivity than say the one I've had for the last 2 days.

Wife, Not Mother

What is it about husbands that makes them think that when you took your vows of marriage you also agreed to act as their mother?

Why do they assume that just because you make the children's dental appointments you should also make their dental appointments? And doctor appointments?

Why is it that when the loo roll is finished they leave the empty one on just like the children do?

What makes them leave rubbish on the counter tops and prevents them from throwing it away, like the security tabs from milk jugs and juice bottles? Why can't they throw away their own dirty tissues?

Why is it that when you ask them to clear the dining table they take everything off but fail to wipe it down, just like a child?

Why does the responsibility for sending their mother a birthday card suddenly fall to me once we agreed to spend the rest of our lives together in holy matrimony?

Why in the world am I the only one who cares that all the socks are matched up and definitely the only one in my entire household to throw away sock and underpants with holes in them?

Why does he expect me to buy him shoes? socks? underpants?

Why can't he throw away an empty bottle of his deodorant/shampoo/shower gel? And put that he needs a new one on the shopping list? Or buy his own?

Why am I the only one who thinks about birthday gifts for friends and our children's friends? Why am I the only one to do the Christmas shopping?

Why is meal planning my job? (OK, I know the answer to this one. Marc did it once and we didn't eat a green vegetable for about 7 days.)

But seriously, men, we are your wives, not your mothers. Just because we promised to love, honour and cherish you does not mean that we are your maid, chef, personal assistant or your mother! Take care of yourselves and we will take care of you.

Monday 21 January 2008

Blogging from a War Zone

This is an amazing post from an amazing blog giving us an intimate look into a soldier's day at war in Iraq. The photos are fabulous (wish I was that quick with a shutter) and the blow by blow is informative and fascinating. Try going to the home page to read more.

Whatever your thoughts about the war, these men are just doing their job and they are risking their lives doing. I hate my job right now but I tell you one thing for sure: no one is shooting at me whilst I try to get it done.

A Lilac Tree

When I was a small girl, our first permanent home in Lakewood had these lilac trees at the back of the garden behind the swing set. They were light and dark purple and they always smelled so beautiful. I remember smelling them as a swung back and forth.

When we came to look at our house it was in May and two huge lilac trees were in blossom in the neighbouring garden. My kitchen window looked right out on to the most beautiful huge lilac tree I had ever seen.

New neighbours bought the house in July of this year. Within weeks they had taken down the lilac tree at the bottom of the garden because they felt it blocked the sun too much in the evenings on the back of their garden.

On 2 January they set about extending the back of their house to be flush with ours (ours was extended the year before we bought it). They tore down the back wall and are in the process of rebuilding it. The builders have told them the lilac tree that my kitchen window overlooks is too big and will interfere with their new foundations.

So they took it down. I cried.

At first they suggested we put in a big fence. I don't fancy looking out my kitchen window at a big fence. I know what they say: The secret to good neighbours is good fences. But I just don't believe this. I don't think it encourages a village mentality. I think big fences isolate people from
their neighbous which I don't think is a good thing.

Not sure what our solution is but we need to come up with one. I am not fond of change!

Sunday 20 January 2008

Party Bags

I am not a fan of children's birthday party bags. My children love them. And striking a balance between these two opposing views is a constant challenge.

I remember being a child and loving party bags; all those sweets, all those pieces of worthless plastic just waiting to untidy my house. My children can hardly wait to leave a party to rip into the party bag. Oh sure, the piece of birthday cake is nice but it really just takes up room in the bag for more useless stuff.

A couple years ago after Sebastian had received his 500th piece of useless crap I vowed to give meaningful party bag contents. Ah, but that wasn't so easy.

The budget kicked in. Let's do the math. 15-25 party bags at £5/bag and you're talking £75-125 which pretty much sucks up half the party budget. And you try doing something meaningful for less than £5/bag!

So the key here is to plan and shop all year long with party bags in mind!

Yesterday, was Abigail's birthday party. Yes, I know her birthday is 24 December but you try getting people to bring their children to a party just before Christmas.

We spent the day picking up the cake and the balloons and putting the party bags together. We took brown paper bags (imported all the way from America), stamped the child's name on each individual one and decorated them with stickers. We put in a book and a cookie cutter (to make the parent's happy) and bubbles and sweets (to make the children happy). We had a near disaster when we realised we had left one child off but we quickly put it together.

The party was great! I hope the children enjoyed themselves. I hope they found joy inside their party bags. I hope their mother's didn't mind the sugar buzz. I know Abigail had a great time which ultimately is all that really matters.

Saturday 19 January 2008

Library of Congress

I'm a big Library of Congress fan. I'm a big Flickr fan.

These two have come together and provided brilliant access to some of the photography collections held by the library. Check this out.

Before you go make sure you've got a bit of time to waste because you will be there for hours. Trust me.

Friday 18 January 2008

Not Exactly

Yesterday was a big quarterly event at work.

The management team that I work in sponsored the first event of the year with the intent of congratulating everyone on a job well done last year, setting our what we want to achieve this year and just having a bit of fun and getting to know each other.

The day went brilliantly. My colleagues are some of the best and the brightest and my team is the best in our company (I would say that, wouldn't I?).

I agreed to present FISH. Not the smelly kind. The inspirational kind.

If you don't know what I'm talking about click here.

I love the FISH! Philosophy. It goes hand in hand with my high energy, playful nature. But this isn't every one's style and it would be fair to say some of my more conservative, less American colleagues were cynical and suspicious!

I was nervous and scared to death. Please refer to the before or after posts for one of my previous speaking engagements. I am not naturally at ease in front of an audience. Fortunately, no one notices that I am shaking in my mind and I can act well enough to convince them this is a piece of cake.

I got right into it. At the end the audience was enthused and excited and engaged.

AHA! Mission Accomplished! I just wanted them to hear what I had to say and take it on board.

It's pretty simple. FISH has 4 Principles.
1. Play
2. Be There
3. Make Their Day (no firearms required)
4. Choose Your Attitude
That's it.

But the impact these very simple messages made was fabulous. Everyone took it on board whole heartedly. I was thrilled to bits. I thought success would look like 4 or 5 people thinking that yeah, this might be workable. But loads of people came up and said that it really had an impact on their way of thinking.

What I hadn't anticipated was a co worker taking it to heart so much that she has decided that she just can't do this job any more. She ain't having fun. She ain't enjoying it.

So today she decided that she needs to go and do something else. Some might think this is a failure. I don't think so.

You gotta do what you are passionate about. You might not love every minute of it but you gotta have passion, enthusiasm, drive. You gotta have enough to want to get out of bed every day and decide to do your very best, have a great day, and infect everyone around you with your buzz. Otherwise, why bother getting out of bed?

This colleague realised she just couldn't quite muster it. I applaud her courage to recognise this and to take the steps which will give her the opportunity to do something where she can find that enthusiasm. Hopefully, she's going to go on and find something that really lights her fire.

OK, so not exactly the result I was expecting but a good result nonetheless.

Now everyone else get fishing!

Up Up Up

OK, so I've got my new attitude on. I've taken my vitamins and I've had a clementine for breakfast. Much more to eat and I get sick to my stomach this early in the morning.

I've got to take the children to school this morning as Marc has got some early meetings in London. I've got a busy day at the office.

Feel the energy coursing through my veins.

I am woman. Hear me roar!

Phew, I need some more coffee!

Thursday 17 January 2008


Some days you just run out of fuel. I am out of fuel.

I gave an emotionally exhausting presentation at work today and I want to crawl into bed and sleep for the next few days. My feet are killing me from the higher than normal high heels I thought would look great for the presentation. I need a massage.

I am certain I will regain my boundless enthusiasm for life tomorrow morning but right now I want to crawl under a duvet and crawl up with a good book and a hot cuppa tea until I fall sound asleep.

Grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner then Sebastian off to swimming lessons whilst Abigail and I have a girlie night in.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Get Ready

We are coming to the good ol US of A!

This summer!!!!!

I am so excited!

My family reunion is held every year in the heartland of Nebraska and we have missed the last couple years due to diary conflicts. But not this year!

We'll spend the week before the reunion in Missouri with my Dad and Stepmother. The children are begging me to make sure Popa (that would be my Dad) takes them fishing!

Then the week after the reunion we will stay with my sister and her family in Lakewood, Colorado (just west of Denver) and visit my brothers and their families, my Mother and Stepfather, and hopefully, I'll be able to hook up with a few more friends than I've done the last couple times.

If I'm really lucky I'll even get to catch a baseball game (or two)!

Oh, I can hardly wait!

Monday 14 January 2008

Sting Like a Bee

Abigail has really been struggling with the Wii.

Sebastian has mastered the tennis, bowling and golf.

Abigail tried the tennis but can be a bit hit and miss. She's a bit better with the bowling although she can never quite figure out when to let go. And the golf is an unmitigated disaster.

But the boxing is her game. She is better at the boxing than Marc, me or Sebastian.

The fierce look and concentration must be the secret to her success.

Sebastian Quotes - Edition 4

In the car on the way home from school today he tells me:

"I have this vision in my head that all the girls in the whole entire school are chasing me trying to kiss me and they keep telling me how cute I am."

Isn't this every man's fantasy?

Should I be worried?

Saturday 12 January 2008

Cookie Dough

I can never figure out what happens to my cookie dough. The recipe says make 20-24 cookies depending on size but I am lucky to eek out 18.

Then I wonder why Abigail doesn't eat any of the ones that have come out of the oven.

It is at this point I solve the mystery of the evaporating cookie dough. Abigail is eating the cookie dough before it ever hits the cookie sheet.

I reckon she's got nearly 1/2 dozen in her belly raw.

And now she tells me that the cookies taste better before I put them in the oven.


I'm not entirely sure what parents have done to do deserve it but clearly we have offended.

The Recorder.

My son and his school are conspiring to accelerate my nervous breakdown by sending him home with the most outrageous sounding musical instrument in the world. OK, not quite; that would be the bagpipes and hopefully there are no plans on the curriculum for one of those to come home.

But the recorder is not far behind.

Seb clearly thinks he's hit pay dirt. A piano and a recorder all in the space of a few weeks. He reckons he's a musical genius and wants to play all the time. My ears betray the truth. This boy requires lessons for a long long long time.

Bless his persistence. Bless his tenacity. Bless his tone deafness.

Anyone got a good pair of ear plugs?

Thursday 10 January 2008

A Little Late

OK, I'm a little late finding this. I did think about waiting a year until Christmas next year before sharing this gem with you but it is just too good to let languish in my draft box. So enjoy!

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Unplanned Cleaning

In IT (or IS - whatever you want to call all the computers) we have two kinds of outages.

Planned outages are those that are, uh, planned. We know we have to bring something down to do something. We plan these for weeks, months, sometimes (if we are not so good at it) we may plan for years. We tell everyone about the outage so they can make alternative arrangements like taking along lunch or finding a new job. We take all the steps we possibly can to ensure that the outage is for the shortest time possible and we can return to normal operating procedure as quickly as possible.

Unplanned outages are those that just happen either with no or very little warning. These are bad. Uh, very bad. After these, some people have to find new jobs.

Now cast your mind back to my previous post about my New Year cleaning frenzy (or just click here). I have been on a manic spree but careful and bit systematic in my approach. I started with the kitchen, moved into the living room, then the dining room (I have lots of crystal and glassware that I rarely use). Next week I start on the bedrooms.

The one spot in my kitchen that I didn't quite attack was under the fridge.

I love my fridge. It's one of those American double doored water and ice cubes in the door style fridges. You Americans should not take your humongous fridges for granted. We Brits put up with the tiniest, useless wee little bitty fridges you have ever seen in your entire life and it used to drive me crazy. Then I bought a big house with a big kitchen and I bought myself a big fridge!

I've read that you should never move a fridge until you move house. And even then you just might want to sell the fridge with the house cause you can bet your bottom dollar that after you move the fridge it will break. Has something to do with mixing up the chemicals and all that - blah blah blah. And sure enough the last time we moved, we moved our fridge in and it didn't last 2 months and we had to go and get ourselves a new fridge. Course, that's when we got this big American fridge so you didn't hear me complaining too loudly.

Now I am super duper careful with this fridge. So I decided that I could skip the area under the fridge.

But I had an unplanned event which led to my unplanned cleaning.

My beloved husband is a little bit clumsy. Oh who am I foolin'? This man is like a bull in a china closet. He trips over his own feet several times a day and it's not like he's got on new shoes. He regularly breaks glasses and plates when unloading the dishwasher and I get extremely nervous when we go to other people's homes for dinner and they've set out the good china.

Here I was quietly typing up my last blog post. I had just hit the publish button and -wack splatter- my husband had knocked something out of the fridge reaching for a beer. I looked round to see an entire jug of single cream had hit the floor and was spreading all over the place.

My clumsy husband is not exactly a man of action either. He just stood there watching the disaster get worse. Finally he blinked (and no, I didn't yell at him) and got busy with a bucket and a cutting board and a scraper - not exactly the tools a woman would assemble for the job but I thought ok, let's see how he does this.

I watched long enough to realise that wasn't going to work or if it was it was going to take all night and still wouldn't be clean. So I suggested he take the cream soaked rug down to the laundry in an attempt to get rid of him.

I got everything I could see cleaned up but then the moment of truth arrived. I had to get under the fridge.

Husband proved his usefulness by moving the fridge and my worst nightmare came true. Dust, dirt, pet hair, dog food, cat food, fridge magnets, pet toys, baby toys, bouncing balls, and various other unidentifiable objects appeared. GROSS!

It took a broom, a hoover, and 10 floor wipes to get the floor clean and my husband's strength to replace the fridge back to its rightful position. It took every ounce of self control I possess not to yell at my husband or deck him when he smiled and proclaimed "Never a dull moment!" when it was all over.

That's my unplanned cleaning session for the day sorted.

Tumble Dryer

On 26 December, the heating element on the tumble dryer broke. I thought no big deal. We can hang our clothes up and air dry them. We'll save some electricity costs and save a wee bit of the planet (maybe offset the climate impact of all those Christmas cards I sent). After all, I line dry all the clothes in the summer. How difficult can this be? I toyed with the idea that maybe I don't even need a tumble dryer. How wrong was I?

We ordered the new part on 27 December and were told that in 3-5 days a new heating element would be delivered. Now those are working days and around the holiday season a working day is hard to find. The day of placing the order doesn't actually count and date of delivery isn't what they meant; date of dispatch from their warehouse is what they meant.

It was ok for the first couple days. We wore those socks at the bottom of the drawer. We wore those T-shirts that never seem to make it to the top of the pile. We discovered underwear under the bed.

Then Sebastian ran out of underpants. Then Marc ran out of socks. Then Abigail ran out of pajamas. And I ran out of trousers. The sheets needed to be changed and my house resembled a Chinese laundry.

We had clothes hanging from clothes horses and radiators all over the place. I build a huge fire in the fireplace and turned the Aga to high and it still took about 10 hours to dry a load of laundry.

I was reaching the end of my tether when I received a text from my dear husband at mid morning announcing the part had at last arrived. And he had installed it. And the tumble dryer was working once again.

Oh thank god for small miracles! Don't think I'll be retiring my tumble dryer anytime soon. I learned my lesson.

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Back to School

Today was the first day back to school after the school holidays for Christmas.

It was chaos. You would have thought we had never taken our children to school before. We couldn't find the book bags (or the books).

It was complicated by the fact that Abigail started ballet class today. Since she only attends half days this means that the whole school run is doubled.

Marc drops her off (at the same time as Sebastian in the morning). The child minder picks her up at midday (3x/week and me the other 2x). Now the child minder will meet me back at the school with Abigail already kitted out in her ballet leotard.

I'll have to wait for her to finish. Then Sebastian does his ballet.

Luckily another mother brings Sebastian home for me or I would have to wait around the school for another 40 minutes.

I would never get dinner on the table, help Sebastian with his homework and get him off to Beaver Scouts.

Ug, I hate Tuesdays especially when it is also the first day back at school!

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo

I tried and failed.

I was so impressed with the first book of his that I read. The second was trite and simplistic. The third was unbearable.

I read half of it, skimmed half of the second half, and refuse to finish the rest.

I won't be reading another of his.

Sunday 6 January 2008

I Don't Do Resolutions

I am not a fan of New Year's resolutions. They're ok for some but for me they just simply don't serve any purpose.

They force people to focus on all the things they don't do or do wrong or need to do or should have been doing all along. quite frankly, I don't need that kind of pressure. I'm hard enough on myself all year long.

I think New Year should be a time to focus on our strengths; a time to give ourselves a big high five and congratulate the fact that we've made it through another year.

Life is good but life is tough. If it was easy it wouldn't be worth doing. But I don't need a New Year's resolution telling me that I've been doing it all wrong and that next year new year I will look back and I realise I still am doing it wrong.

So instead I celebrate the year I survived and the year that I have yet to face.

overlooking my life so far in my life i had accumulated many things in my head...too many things! memories, tunes, facts, fears, visions, loves...etc many as possible in a fertile mind such thing will interbreed, mongrel visions are born...hybrid memories...inbred, idiot gets very confusing i decided it was time for a good cleanup so i emptied it all out of my head and pushed it up in a big heap to sort it our there it was...everything that was me, all in a big jumbled heap, I walked around it. what a mess..! then suddenly i saw it in silhouette and realised what it was a heap...a simple heap! you don't sort it climb climb it because it is there... excitedly i clambered to the summit and raised a flag. i was now looking beyond everything that i knew. the view was simply magnificent

NOTE: I wish I knew who wrote this. I have kept it as a book mark for over 20 years. I have tried to google it but cannot find the author.

Search Findings

Check this out.

How odd it is that someone is talking about me and I didn't even know it. Wish I could read Japanese.

Saturday 5 January 2008

The Schizophrenic Kiss

I find it difficult to relieve my mind
Of the thoughts that keep distracting my attention
As you schizophrenic kisses
Even from my memory
Demonstrate their power
And dictate who I am to think on.

And I remember how they started
With your lips just slightly chilled
By the cool November weather
Kisses sweet and so tender.

Then flushed with blood
They became warm and inviting
Increasing the heat of my own
As the snowflakes watched in fear
And tried avoiding our embrace.

Then suddenly your kisses warm
Became frenzied and impassioned
And I felt as if I would lay down
Right there on the cold street
To satisfy your any wish
If that would be your desire.

Then kisses taunting and teasing
Manipulating me as they chose to
Returning to sweet and tender
Leaving me speechless and dazed
With an incessant smile on my face
Wanting only to begin again
Hypnotized and fascinated
By every aspect, of the personalities
Of your kiss.

NOTE: This was written for me by an old boyfriend. Sure wish I could remember his name but then I didn't feel this way about the way he kissed me.

Friday 4 January 2008

New Year Cleaning

Some people do spring cleaning. I do new year cleaning.

I go to the depths of the drawers, cupboards, closets, and handbags and throw away ruthlessly. OK, I'm not exactly as ruthless as my mother but nearly.

In the depth of one of my drawers I found a stack of clippings that I used to carry around with me in my handbag. In order to reduce the extravagant weight of my handbag I had taken out things that weren't essential. I think I need to put this one small piece of paper back in my handbag.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On" has solves and always will solve the problems of the human race.

-Calvin Coolidge

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Everyone really liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I didn't.

The book group read it and they all really enjoyed the book. I didn't.

I thought maybe I had missed something and after having read Mr Haddon's second book it is entirely possible that I have.

A Spot of Bother is about a family in and around London who has more than their fair share of problems. Jean, the wife and mother, is having a protracted love affair with one of her husband's former work colleagues. George, her husband, has recently retired and is having a crisis as he faces his mortality and feels very much alone. Jamie, their homosexual son is struggling to find what and who he wants in a relationship and Katie, their daughter, is getting ready to marry a man she doesn't think she loves but who provides a stable and financially secure lifestyle to her and her son. She doesn't want to risk it all by not marrying him.

These are not all problems that couldn't be worked through. But this family doesn't talk and when they do talk it seems to be constricted by the British stiff upper lip and not wanting to intrude. Maintaining one's own privacy leads them nowhere and contributes to a very serious breakdown of the family.

Mr Haddon writes with a sharp wit and ugly grit. The novel is addictive and I couldn't put it down. It is a very quick read (finished in 3 days) and enjoyable.

OK, the ending is a bit tidy and happily ever after (which given the high dysfunction of the characters I find highly improbable). I also shudder to think that there are families out there who are so polite to one another that they could tumble to such a degree. I suppose its possible. I've seen just how far down a deep dark hole politeness can take you.

I am a big fan of saying what's on my mind. This novel validates that approach so as you can imagine, I loved it!

Maybe I should reread Curious Incident.......nah!

Thursday 3 January 2008

Office Prayer

I return to work tomorrow after 3 weeks off. Please bow your heads and think of me as I head off into the stress bowl of work.

Lord grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I cannot accept,
And the wisdom
To hide the bodies of those people
I had to kill today because they pissed me off.
And also,
Help me to be careful
Of the toes I step on today as they
May be connected to the ass
That I might have to kiss tomorrow.

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Go by Simon Lewis

Upon finishing a book I need time to let the atmosphere of one book leave me before I start another particularly if the book is an emotional investment. The trouble with this is I sometimes finish a book before I want to stop reading.

When this happens I have a stack of books which are easy simple reads I can just dive into and require little if any investment.

Go was just such a book. On loan to me from a friend, Helen, I wanted to give it back to her before we left her home after the New Year's bash.

The book was reminiscent of The Beach by Alex Garland which is one of my favourite brain easy books. The structure of the novel was clever and the writing was humorous. 3 people whose lives in England are a waste of time go travelling hoping to escape the trouble of their lives at home. Their paths intersect as they travel the globe at various locations. Eventually they return to the UK and the ultimate outcome of their lives remains largely unchanged as a result of their adventures. Hmmmm, not very satisfying.

It took me less than a couple of hours to read the book. I didn't care about the outcome and in fact found the ending pointless. I didn't care about the characters and in fact didn't understand their motivation at all. Ultimately the book served its purpose of clearing the atmosphere left in my mind by A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which was the December selection for my book group. Look for that book review coming soon to this blog!

Standard Operating Mode

January 2 is a return to standard operating mode. All the Christmas decorations come down. Furniture is moved back into its normal place. The illusion is shattered and the cluttered coziness is by now getting on my nerves. Way too much food has been eaten and too much alcohol drank. We've stayed up well past our bedtime nearly every evening since 2 December.

January 2 is the day it all returns to normal in anticipation for a glorious year!

Tuesday 1 January 2008

A Year of Blogging

In December 2006, I finished the month with 231 visits to my blog. I was thrilled. I had just climbed aboard the blogging ride and didn't quite know what to expect or where I wanted to go with it.

December 2007 I finished the month off with 990 visits. 2007 saw more than 12,000 visits in total. Holey Moley!

Whatcha y'all doin' here?

Blogging has proved to be a weird and wonderful ride. It has captured moments of joy and moments of sadness in the life and me and my family. It has captured all the chaos that surrounds and the peaceful moments I find in the eye of the storm.

Mostly it has shared this roller coaster ride of the life of me and my family with everyone out there in cyber space. I've offended some which a respected journalist and blogger informs me is inevitable. I've entertained some which the same journalist tells me is much more rare.

I don't plan on going anywhere and I hope you don't either. Bring your friends.

Happy New Year!