Thursday, 30 May 2013

Eating our tea

I just had a thought... calling this post 'eating our tea' probably tells you lots of things about my social class and where I'm from, doesn't it? I could have said 'supper' or 'dinner', we all laugh at Kenny for calling it 'lunch' by accident. I'm sticking with 'tea'. What do you call your evening meal? And what does 'tea' say about me?
Anyway, you'll never guess what happened when I gave the family their tea tonight (spaghetti bolognaise BTW). There were yummy noises! My children said thank you! People asked for seconds! The boy ate it, even though it had red bits in it. The big girl ate it all and asked for seconds! It was amazing. This is the sort of reaction I get for maybe Scotch pancakes, but never anything savoury, not from children, anyway.
And this on a day when I reversed our people carrier car out of a very tricky space, with a random bus in the way, while being watched by a class of university PE students, all wondering how I was going to do it. In fact reversing so successfully I got a round of applause from the little girl in the back seat.
I'm feeling pretty good about my abilities today. Don't worry, this is a transient thing!
So what's made you feel good today? And what savoury dishes can you whip up to elicit yummy noises?

Monday, 27 May 2013

In the breakfast club

Did you ever watch The Breakfast Club? I did, a lot (although not as much as Dead Poets Society or Rocky Horror). I wanted to be Ally Sheedy, and give Molly Ringwald a makeover. I wanted to go out with Judd Nielson... Or just get locked up with him.
Anyway, tonight, after a lovely but tiring long weekend, Kenny suggested we watch The Faculty, which is written by the guy who wrote the Scream movies, and is similarly film studies students a go go.
Basically The Faculty involves putting The Breakfast Club into Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It is a bit formulaic, but it's fabulous, and well worth a watch if you've not seen I it already.
Obviously different people now play the parts, but they still are the same characters, with the addition of the new girl, balancing the genders nicely. Once again, the cool Ally Sheedy character gets together with the jock and starts wearing colour, which is rubbish. I wish she didn't. I wish she just had sex with him and moved on. In both films. But this time the nasty Molly Ringwald character got together with the nerd (although he was Elijah Wood), leaving the Judd Nielsen character free to avoid her, thank goodness, and get together with the woman he clearly has a crush on. Fabulous.
Sorry for the spoilers, but they're not integral to the plot. Go watch The Faculty, or The Breakfast Club, or both.
If you already did, who did you want to be/befriend/date? What films did you watch over and over in your teens?

Sunday, 26 May 2013

at the wedding

Loch Ness
Well it finally happened.  Ladies and Gentlemen we have a new Mr and Mrs Thomson!

Caledonian canal

It was a beautiful day, in a gorgeous setting, everybody scrubbed up fabulously, and the food was to die for.  The dancing would make you die laughing, and a good time was had by all (Hallelujah!).
The Thomson family.  Congratulations!
The wedding took place at the Lovat Hotel in beautiful Fort Augustus, where the Caledonian canal meets Loch Ness.

Everyone was in their finest, and the wedding was lovely.  Not a dry eye in the house.

The wedding breakfast was AMAZING, and has forced me to upload a picture of food!  I try not to generally, but this stuff was gorgeous, to look at and to eat.

Amazing food


We had a fab time.  But I was very glad to get home to see the kids today.  I got the best cuddle ever off the little girl.  But tomorrow's set to rain!  Thanks for a super weekend Mr & Mrs Thomson.

Thanks too to Lynn for making my fascinator.  Everyone thought it was fab.

Dr & Mrs McKee

I thought Kenny looked gorgeous and it was great to have a chance to be together without the children, and do some of our trademark bad dancing (although not as bad as the Gay Gordons with Jacques!), and sing-along-a-80s.  It'll be our 10th anniversary next year, and I'd do it again in a hearbeat.  I love being Mrs McKee.  Love you K.

It was great to catch up with people we hadn't seen for ages, like Jacques, Nick and Helena (I wasn't trying to bug you, honest!), Stuart (and the lovely Ana), and of course, Margaret.  Hope to see you all again soon.

Friday, 24 May 2013

In a beautiful country

We drove up to the Highlands yesterday, on a glorious sunny day. It was fantastic to get a tour of this beautiful country, and to have a day without rain to see it. I know, Scotland isn't a big country in terms of area. Australian and American types must think it's tiny (and may indeed conflate it with England). Scotland is a little country with beauty like this, which makes the world seem bigger and better.
Scotland is a little country with poverty, drink problems, health problems, a lot of rain and council houses, and a great attitude.
Scotland exports smart people, funny people, and people with big ideas. It keeps some too, but not enough yet imho. Scotland is a country with lots of big ideas.
Scotland's main big idea at the moment is to break away from the union. They say the Tories in London don't represent them, and they're right. They say they could do better without the Union, and they might be right there, I don't know.
But just as Scotland isn't just beautiful scenery, that inspires stories of fearsome princesses and monsters, and it isn't just junkies in Leith (or Civil Servants in Leith either), or shopping in Glasgow, or Edinburgh festival, or neds drinking Bucky; the Union isn't just with London. The Tories don't represent more than half of the people who could be bothered to vote, but they'll have even greater power in England and Wales if Scotland leaves.
I'm only Scottish by marriage, and to many Scots that doesn't count. By birth I am Yorkshire (so I'm used to incredibly beautiful places), and I'm begging you Scotland, please don't leave the Union... But, if you must, could you maybe take the North of England with you?
What do you think about Scottish independence? English types, if you could vote, what would you choose? English Northerners, if you could pick a country to join would you stay English or join the Scots? What are you thinking?

going a funny colour

You'll no doubt recall that Kenny and I are going to a friend's wedding this weekend.

I've got the dress, the shoes, and the jewellery  but I thought it might be a good plan to get a fake tan, and get my nails done.

I'm not a big frequenter of beauty salons (shut it), so I had never had a fake tan before, and I was scared.  What would it be like?  Would the tanner be horrified at what I looked like?  Will I end up looking like a satsuma?

I did Sociology at University and I was particularly taken with Erving Goffman, who did a lot of work on the sociology of every day life, and how we present ourselves.  He talks about how we prepare ourselves backstage for social performances onstage.  I like this idea.  I've always thought that beauty salons are an organised backstage area, and I don't know about you, but I've always found social interactions in these areas to be uncomfortable.  Perhaps it's because I haven't built up camaraderie with the other players backstage.  I suspect the fault is mine.  I feel like I'm in with the cool girls, but that they're just tolerating me because I'm paying them!  So I guess it makes sense that I was a bit stressed.

I asked on Facebook if anyone could recommend somewhere to go for a fake tan, and lots of people recommended Be Glamazing in Largs (01475 648481).  I looked at some photos and felt a bit scared because Sarah, the owner, is impossibly glamorous, but I made an appointment, and that appointment was last night.
Sparkly nails

So, I washed off all traces of deodorant and anything else, and exfoliated (as I'd been instructed by Sarah), and put on baggy clothes and slip on shoes.  I drove down to the salon where I was greeted by Sarah, looking impossibly glamourous, but really friendly.  She offered me a seat, but I wasn't waiting long before I got my nails done, by Sarah herself.  The salon was quietly busy, with a great atmosphere.  It did feel like I was in with the cool girls, but I was being included.  If they were laughing over shared history they explained the back story.  It's a good place to be.  For the first time I felt comfortable in a salon.  My nails are black and glittery, so I'm still a bit Goth, but a bit glam too.  

during (this morning)
The tanning lady was great at putting me at ease too.  She chatted and laughed, and told me what to do, and she didn't give even a vague suggestion that she was going to run away screaming when she saw me in just pants.  It is an incredibly funny thing to do to get a fake tan.  You get virtually naked and then glue pads onto your feet and stand in a tent striking silly poses while somebody concentrates on spray-painting you inch by inch.  She wasn't interested in stretch marks or wobbly bits, she was focused on colouring me in.  

Kenny doesn't like it, and the boy thinks I look old (because the only person he knows who's always tanned is my Mum).  Last night I was a funny colour, and not supposed to get wet (a bit like a Gremlin) for at least six hours, but this morning I showered and...

I'm still a funny colour, and a bit blotchy too.  You  can see that I got a few drops of water on my arms when I was washing my hands last night.  I personally feel that I look like I've been rubbed down with a tea bag, but I am used to being pretty pale.  However, from a bit of a distance it looks absolutely fine, and my arms and legs look like they're actually a tanned persons!  I'm not sure that fake tanning is for me, but I would completely recommend the Be Glamazing experience.

Have you had a fake tan?  How did you get on?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

doing the garden

We have finally been having some Spring weather lately, for which I am truly grateful... although a little bit of warmth wouldn't hurt, weather gods, if you're listening?

Anyway, the children have been playing out, the washing has been on the line, and it's been fabulous.  The only problem is our new-house-garden.  Do all new house gardens suck?  Ours is grassy, which apparently is a bonus.  It was turfed shortly before we moved in, and the grass is doing well.  It's also not a bad size.  But it is just grass, and fence, oh, and a beech hedge at the front.

So I already told you about our playhouse going in.  The roof is now fixed on that, and it's looking awesome.  Many thanks to Kenny for that.  We also have plans to make the back garden more useful.  At the moment it's a slope, but we're hoping to get somewhere to sit out and eat, drink and be merry.  Something that looks a little bit like this one by 3D Garden Design.  We're just waiting to get some quotes for doing that.  I hope it doesn't take too long.  Can anyone recommend any landscape gardeners in the Largs area?

The playhouse, picnics and climbing plants...
we're not sure if they're going to climb

Little flowers under the Beech hedge in the front
While we're waiting we've been having picnics and planting a few things to make the place look better.  We've planted climbing plants against the back fence (although the ground is so boggy at the top of the hill (we do not know why water is fighting gravity in our garden), we're not sure if they'll live), and little flowers under the wee hedge at the front.  We're waiting to hear from the builders if there's going to be something done about the drainage, because it's a problem for lots of us.  I want to do more, but I don't really know where to start... maybe with landscape gardeners, but I've been thinking it might be nice to get a tree for the front garden - just a little one, with pretty colours.  Any ideas?  Also maybe plant some stuff around the edge of the garden to give it some definition   Basically I'm a bit thick when it comes to gardening.  Have you got any tips or ideas?  And any suggestions about getting landscape gardeners to get back to us?  I'm sure it's going to be roasting next month, and we need to get set up for outside breakfasts!  You don't think so eh?  

Sigh.  Maybe we should all move to France.

While you're advising me, can you tell me what to do about the monoblock at the front?  The builders say it is a kind that doesn't need sharp sand, but if that's the case how do we avoid getting stuff growing out of it?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

taking our photos

Hello all, well, sadly today has been pretty miserable, but we did have a break in the rain for the school Spring Fayre (why not a Fair?) this morning, so that was good.  After the Fayre we all went down into town to get our photos taken for our passports.  We haven't left the country since 2003, so we all need to get them sorted!  It is an incredibly palarver applying for passports, but I guess it needs to be.  But I'm not convinced it needs to cost so much money!  Getting our photos taken today cost £20 (and that was with a discount!), although the man did a very good job (and the results are A LOT better than we'd get in a photo booth).

Now the children are just naturally gorgeous, so there was no problem with them.  The big girl wasn't too happy to be separated from her glasses, the boy is looking a bit fluffy, and the little girl looks rather glum, but they're all fine.  In my opinion anyway!  They'll get new ones in five years.  It does seem a bit wierd that they take photos of wee babies to last five years, but I think my children will probably still be recognisable from the photos in five years.

I, of course, was another kettle of fish.  I mean, it's just a photo.  you have to look like yourself.  But I didn't want to look like myself.  I'm going to have to use this photo for ten years!  I want to look like the last photo on my passport (which was taken in 1997 so it's unlikely).  So this morning I set to work with my makeup bag and a trowel, and marched downstairs to be confronted by the little girl:  "what have you got on your face Mummy?"  Sigh.

Me, hardly touched up at all...
The man in the shop showed me a mirror before he took my photo, although there wasn't much I could do.  I hate having my photo taken where I'm not smiling - need something to make me look like I've got bone structure, rather than just a beige balloon with a wig on.  So he took the photo, and it's not actually that terrible, but I hate it (of course), so you're not getting to see it.

Talking to the boy later, he reckoned I look silly with makeup on, and compared it to facepaint.  He thinks we shouldn't be allowed to wear makeup in our passport photos if we're not allowed glasses, and he's got a point.  However makeup helps me feel like I've at least made an effort.

There's a fab video from Stuff Mom Never Told You about why women wear makeup.  Cristen talks about 'the beauty premium': check out the video, but basically, women do better at work, and are better thought of if they wear makeup.  So they wear makeup.  I work as a full time Mum, so my career prospects aren't affected by makeup, but my confidence definitely is (although I must say that Cristen (who is gorgeous anyway) imho looks much lovelier without makeup).

Lynn modelling her fabulous whatsit
Thinking this through I thought that I should challenge myself to put a photo of me just as I was when I was writing the blog - no makeup touch ups... and I did!  But, I did the whole looking sideways thing (supposed to make you look thinner apparently).  I took four photos before getting one I was happy with, and then I doctored it - not massively, just a filter, a vignette, and a frame, before releasing it.  I hadn't realised I don't tend to wear my glasses in photos - only realised when I got comments on them!  Thanks everyone, I love my glasses, but I can't usually find them!

This time next week I'll be at a friend's wedding.  I've been stressing about what I'm going to look like for ages.  I will definitely be wearing makeup.  I will probably have crimped hair (if makeup is my armour crimped hair is my shield), a fabulous whatsit created by Lynn.  There will no doubt be lots of photos, but hopefully I shan't be in many of them!

If you wear makeup, what does it help you do?  What do you do for a sartorial confidence boost?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

seeing lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

The little girl is very excited
Hello all, you may recall, a while ago we were celebrating having success with potties.  Following our initial success we had a period of constant bugging, and a sticker chart, and in an incredibly short period of time the little girl has cracked it!  She had been told that her reward for completing potty training would be a day trip or her choice, and she decided she'd like to see a lion.

Well it's been raining for ages (although we did have sun last Tuesday), but we checked the weather forecast for Blair Drummond (a Safari Park near Stirling) today and it said it would be cloudy but unlikely to rain, so off we set!

The rain poncho.
She posted one through floorboards,
and hid the other in a maze
It rained constantly.  We had to buy a rain poncho for the little girl... although she did her best to ditch it.

We thought we'd start off with the safari bit, in the hopes that the rain would stop.  The kids loved seeing the animals close up, and the little girl got to see a lion.

Camels posing.
After that we went to see the sea lion show, which was great fun.  I know some people don't like them, and see them as exploitative, and I guess they are.  But it was a great way for the kids to learn about sea lions.  And they had a great time.

Loving the sea lion show

After that we were cold and hungry, so headed over to the restaurant with everyone else in Blair Drummond that day.  The queue was very long, but there seemed to be enough tables to go around, and the food was fine (although obviously lacking in vegetables), and not too expensive.  They also have lots of picnic areas and places to cook barbecues, so you don't have to use the restaurant.

a busy lunchtime
After lunch we sought shelter from the rain in the fabulous adventure play castle.  There are absolutely amazing play facilities at Blair Drummond, and we managed to have lots of fun even though it was raining.  We have been before on a sunny day, and we could have stayed there all day.

My kids especially enjoy digging for treasure by the pirate ship.  However, both times we've been we've had a lot of trouble finding doubloons.  Last time we were unlucky until they closed the ship play area for a while, and then there were millions of the things.  This time we spent a good half hour digging and only found one!  The big girl found it, but was good enough to share her bounty (you swap your doubloon for a lucky dip prize - she got animal shaped rubber bands).

There are lots of animals to see on foot, and the little girl loved feeding the animals (although the donkey managed to cover her in mud).  The boy liked the marmosets, which get to run around the place.

They also have a selection of fairground rides, which were all well maintained, and not too much to ride on.  The little girl loved going on the gallopers, and the boy and Kenny had a great time on the dodgems.

We did go over to see the lemurs, but they were all in one big ball, frozen and dripping, and we didn't fancy the boat to see the monkeys and get poo thrown at you.  To be honest, we were all tired out.  So we got everyone in the car, did a quick tour of the safari animals again, and headed down the road.

Kenny managed to stay awake, but he was the only one!  It was a great day out, and I would highly recommend it.

Last time we went to Blair Drummond we managed to find discount vouchers, and do look out for them, because it is a really expensive entry fee (although worth it).  Sadly you can't use your Tesco Rewards here.  We did get 10% off by buying the tickets in advance online, but watch out, these tickets are only valid for a month.

a good day out
Blair Drummond is near Stirling, and is easy to get to if you live anywhere near the Central Belt.  As we went by Stirling Castle I told the kids about the windows they'd cut low down in the walls for a toddler Queen Mary to see out, but they weren't bothered... so I'll maybe leave it a while before we go there.

Have you been to Blair Drummond?  What did you think?  Where do you think we should go next?  

Friday, 10 May 2013

staying together

Do you remember a little while ago I did a blog post about women being a reserve army of labour, and how I'm glad to be a full time Mum?

I love this photo of me with my parents... it's so Goth,
even though it was taken in the '70s!
I got lots and lots of feedback from that post.  It really caught the imagination of the good women at Mothers at Home Matter, which was great.  My Dad also read it.  He was glad that I enjoyed being a full time Mum, but, being my Dad he's obliged to worry about me.  He wondered if I shouldn't work, just to keep my hand in, just in case, you know.  What he was skipping around was the word 'divorce', and he would be worried about it, because it happened to him.  So it happened to me too.

When I was nine, my parent's marriage, which had been faltering, finally ended.  We moved so they could live in different houses, with a lot less money.  My parents had shared custody, which was unusual at the time, but is what the Government is angling for happening all the time now.  My parents did the best they could, and I think my brother and I turned out alright, but I still concluded I never wanted that to happen to me...

My Mum remarried.  Here she is with her three
children and five grandchildren (so far - no pressure)
Well, it turns out that marriage is not easy, especially when you have small children.  It's difficult to remember why you're together when there are chores coming out of your ears, people are screaming at you, and you've had nowhere near enough sleep.  Sometimes there are days when you maybe do stay because you can't afford not to.  Or because you don't have the time to arrange anything else.  And that truly sucks, but you can get through it.  There are lots of things you can do to get through it, most of which involve cutting each other some slack and trying to have some fun (this is a great source of some ideas).

But even then (yay, stats coming) 40% (ish) of marriages will end in divorce.  Some people are more at risk than others.  You're more at risk if:
  • this is a teenage marriage
  • you're between your 4th and 8th wedding anniversary (is this a children bump do you think?)
  • you're working class
  • you're childless and from different backgrounds
  • you work separately from your partner for long periods of time 
Our friends Iain and Babs will get married later this month!
But the great news is that the divorce rate is going down.  Maybe it's because people are getting married older, or because it's OK to cohabit now, or because we can't afford to get divorced, or a mixture of all three.  Whatever, it's great news because divorce is horrible and it hurts like hell.  It is totally necessary sometimes though.  I'm going to keep hoping it doesn't become necessary for me, and I'm not going to take action now expecting something horrible to happen (apart from getting life insurance and critical illness cover).  Instead I will keep trying to make our marriage, and our family a good place to be for all of us, and thank our lucky stars we've been able to move to seaside town where we get to see much more of Kenny.

Wish us luck (and right back at you)!  What are your top tips for keeping a marriage together (keep it clean please people)?