Monday, 30 September 2013

being a kid: 7 things I learned

1. Families are great sources of stories

When I was a girl I had a voracious appetite for stories. I would often fall asleep with a book on my face. But I would always bug my mum for family stories too. Mum has a marvellous meandering way of telling a story. You get sucked in and follow it along, and it's only when the story is over that you realise you never did find out what happened to Beryl.

My Great Aunt Mamie.
Fabulous.
I was lucky to have a family with plenty of stories. My favourites were of the rich Russians who fled the country. We had a photo of my Great Aunt Mamie which made me yearn to better understand her world. But the one that really wormed its way into my mind was the tale of my Grandmothers missing mother. What on earth had happened to Rachel?

Did you have good family stories too?  What's your favourite?

2. I do not like peas

There seemed to be a theory when I was young, that children should be given food, and then sit at the table until they had eaten it all. There was no possibility of preference or dislikes.
I did not like peas, and peas were like a food group all their own. We would have peas nearly every day, at school, where I would sit at the bad eaters table until I either ate my peas, or managed to convince the dinner lady I was going to be sick. When I went home, I would again have peas.
I still don't like peas, and I swear it was all the fussing about eating them which meant I never did. My youngest doesn't like peas either, so she has sweetcorn.

Did you have tyrannical dinner ladies?  Were you on the bad eaters table?

This picture is awesome and totally out of character.  This
must have been taken by my Grandma on my Dad's camera,
 because there's no way my parents would have gone for it in
 this red, white and blue style without her being there!
3. Families can break

When I was a child, my parents separated for a while, and then they divorced.  Nobody was happy about this, but it was the right thing for them to do.  Of course, I had hoped that it wouldn't happen, and dreamed of them getting back together, but I knew it wouldn't happen really.  Both of them moved on, and so did I.  I think the blow was made easier by the fact that a lot of my friends were going through the same thing - it seemed like divorce was catching in my parents social circle.  There's reasons for that, of course, and families still function afterwards.  Sometimes you even manage to get new siblings.  I don't think I'd have had a baby sister if my parents had stayed together.  I did learn a lot about how you need to ensure you're singing from the same song sheet before you get into marriage from this experience, but I still keep my fingers crossed and hope that it doesn't happen to my family.

Did your family manage to stay together?  Or did you end up with a blended family you wouldn't be without?

4. Owning up is silly


Let me first put the caveat on this that owning up if you're caught bang to rights is completely the right thing to do, indeed, if it looks like you're likely to be found out, you're best to get in there straight away.  However, if there's a chance of getting away with it, then owning up is a ridiculous thing to do.  Not only will it get you into trouble, but you didn't need to get into trouble in the first place!  Quite often, nobody will know anything happened, unless you own up, and sometimes your little brother will have done nothing, but will get the blame anyway, and let's face it, that is not a bad result.



Now for an example... When I was at secondary school (I don't know why they call it that in a tertiary system, which was what I was in.  In America they call it High School), if you were late arriving, you were supposed to go to the office and sign the late book.  I did this.  After a certain number of times you were compelled to attend detention.  Where I had to write out 100 times that 'punctuality is the soul of efficiency'.  What did I learn from this?  Not to sign the late book.  You'll be glad to hear that I never signed it again.

Mind you, I don't think I ever managed to get away with anything truly spectacular.  What about you?

5. If you try, you might succeed


I loved writing when I was a kid, and when I heard on the radio that there was a competition for children to write a radio play to air on Radio 4, I entered... and I was one of the winners!  I cannot remember anything about that radio play now, and we didn't record it or anything crazy like that, but it did teach me that you can often get things if you put your mind to it.  I've used that a lot.  I always applied for scholarships and bursaries, and I always got them.  On the other hand, I suck at raffles.  My brother is your man on that front. 



6. You will get more out of your parents if you are hopeless

Prepare for a serious dose of hard-done-by here.  If you diligently save your pocket money, in order to buy the new Sindy, that was you.  However, if you took your pocket money, spent it all on the puggies, and then mithered your parents enough, you would get more, hypothetically.  Similarly, as an adult.  If you were saving to get a place of your own then you'd need to pay rent.  Alternatively, if you spent all your earnings down the pub, no rent, and all the home-cooked food you could wish for.  My family are very used to my being grumpy about this, and I know I should get over it, but it rankles.  Similarly, in America, there was a scheme whereby recovering crack addicts would get cinema vouchers and the like for staying clean.  People who'd never taken crack asked what did they get for staying clean ALL THEIR LIVES.  It ain't fair.  Still, giving recovering crack addicts cinema vouchers, if it works, is a lot cheaper than having them not recover.



The boy - his words of wisdom?
Be nice to people or they will cry,
like babies

Well, this post is called SEVEN things I learned, and so far I've got six.  I got a bit stuck, I must confess, so I turned to my son for inspiration.  What did he think he was learning as a kid, which he would use when he was a grown up.  He was a bit befuddled, but then said that he learned to be nice to people, because if you're not nice to people they cry.  Like babies.  You are wise, my son.

I know why he was befuddled though, because as a kid you sometimes seem to do nothing but learn.  A lot of people argue that you don't need to know lots of the things you learn at school, and that may be true (although I don't think it is), but my point is, the most important thing I learned as a kid was (drumroll please)...

7. How to learn

Learning how read, write, and do maths, are great building blocks, but learning ways to satisfy our curiosity (and thereby feed it) are awesome.  I love reading.  I do it constantly.  The idea of being in a country where the signs are all completely unintelligible fills me full of dread.  I love finding out stuff too, and helping my children to do that, getting them to check their sources, and see if they are robust.  Little Billy told you you were fat?  Was he right?  Is there a chance that Little Billy was just being stupid?  Even if Little Billy was right, what does that mean?  Does it matter?  Why?  Question marks breed question marks, and it's all pretty awesome.

When I was doing my undergraduate degree, a lecturer introduced us to Social Sciences by saying that he bet we thought we were all pretty smart, that we knew a lot of stuff.  But that the more we learned, the more we would realise we didn't know.  I'm always interested to find stuff out, but it's ok that there's lots I don't know.

Which makes me wonder, what was your absolute favourite thing you ever learned in school?  Mine was Enclosure in History - thanks to the marvel that was Mr Selena.


Posts in this series

This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's list of 50 things to blog about if you'd like to take a look at the others, you can find them here.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

deciding

Over on Fat Mum Slim's blog, a wee while ago, Chantelle was kind enough to suggest 50 things to blog about.  At no point did she say we should work our way through the list, but I started doing just that, so I'm determined to finish!

I've got as far as topic 15, which I'm a bit stuck on, but I'm going to go for it anyway, so here it is.

The most difficult decision I've ever made

I've got a problem here.  I've made decisions.  Lots of them.  But none that I would really call difficult.  

My old workplace.  Bye then!  Pic from here
Even giving up my career was really a no-brainer when it came to it.  My husband could earn as much and more as the two of us put together, but it would involve moving far away.  I wouldn't be able to go back to work, and all the networking I'd done, with a view to moving on would be for naught.  But, my husband would be earning more than enough money, and I would be able to be a full time Mum.  The place we'd need to move to looked good, and, truth be told, although there were lots of things I had liked about my career (I was a Government Researcher at the time), the stress was making me sick, and I absolutely hated the presenteeism culture.  I couldn't fathom how that could work alongside my spending time with my family.  I concluded it couldn't, and I had the chance to not do it.  Thanks be.  I resigned.

Three children - great decision (although my
body is not convinced of this)
The fact is that most of my major decisions have either been made for me, or have been so clearly the right thing to do that it's not been difficult to make them.  Apart from maybe having three children.  I don't know why I wanted three, but I wouldn't be without them.  Three is a magic number, but it's blooming awkward in a world that seems to be built for two.

In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg says that one of the most important business decisions a woman can make is in her life partner.  If you choose right, you've both got support to do what you want to do in life, so it shouldn't be done lightly.  I have no desire to work the kind of hours she works, or have a job like hers, however, I do believe that she's totally right about choosing a life partner.

When I got fed up of dating frogs while looking for my prince, I decided to get more proactive.  Now this was quite a while ago.  I think that if I were doing it now I would join a dating agency, but back then I just had a good think about what I wanted.

I wanted a man with a PhD, I didn't mind what topic it was in, but I'd rather he got it at a good university.  He also had to be funny, articulate, kind, SINGLE, and able to put up with me!  To meet someone like this it was pointless going to my local pub, so I made a decision to go to the pubs near the best local universtiy instead.  Luckily I worked there at the time.  I quickly found the pubs where lecturers and PhD students went, and hung out there.  I quickly found drinking buddies, and met lots of potential suitors.  With the help of colleagues at work, and the internet (don't you just love a bit of light stalking), I whittled down the possibilities, and whittled and was left with nothing... but I kept looking.


The Hall of Residence
Then a chance came up to move into Halls of Residence as a Warden.  I'd be in a Hall with about 20 other wardens.  The interviewer warned me that most of them would be men doing PhDs.  Oh what a shame.  I was in!

There were four women and about 18 men.  Most of them were pretty hopeless, but one of them was lovely.  He was taken of course, but I hoped that I would be able to find someone like him if I hung out with him and his friends for long enough.  I developed some great friends during my two years at the Hall, and I'm really glad I decided to move in there.  It was pretty full on being a warden, but the relationships really made up for it.  And the lovely guy who was taken?  His girlfriend dumped him, and, after a suitable period, and a lot of alcohol, I moved in for the kill romantic relationship.
available in a store near you!


I still think he's lovely, although both of us are grumpy sods.  By the way, I asked him what the hardest decision he's ever made was.  "Hmm" he said, "there was this one time when I had to choose between Nice n Spicy and Scampi flavoured Nik Naks..."

What about you?  What was the most difficult decision you've ever made?  And how did you decide who to choose for your life partner?

Posts in this series

This post is one in a series, inspired by Fat Mum Slim's list of 50 things to blog about. If you'd like to take a look, you can find the rest of them here.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

blogging

What was I thinking on the day I started blogging?

Our old home in rainy town, on the day we
moved out.  Pic from my old blog here
I started at the beginning of the year, this year.  I'd read lots of things saying that if you want your writing to improve you need to write every day, and I figured the only way I could make sure I did that was to do it publicly.  

At the time I was stressed out about moving house, so I decided to do a daily blog, solely on the topic of moving.  It was called 'looks like we're moving', and you can find it here.  I didn't have a lot of readers, but I did write every day, and the people who read it got to hear all about the stresses and strains of our move, and the fun and games we had moving across Scotland in the snow.


Once we'd finished getting our stuff moved in, it seemed silly to stick with 'looks like we're moving', and we'd moved to live beside the seaside, so I started up a new blog.  This one.  In case you don't know, it's named 'oh we do love to be...' after the song, which actually goes 'Oh I do like to be beside the seaside'



I really like the name 'oh we do love to be...'  Because of the parenthesis I am forced to make my blog titles positive, which helps influence the content.  I can't just moan about dog poo (although I do).  'Oh we do...' started off as a blog about turning our new house into a home, and I still sometimes talk about things we're doing in the house, but our settling in here is more about us than the house, so I still talk about how we're getting on, settling in to seaside town (like this post on my littlest starting nursery).  But it is also a 'Mummy blog', so I do reviews of days out (like this one on Northumberland), and talk about parenting stuff.  My most popular post ever (so far) is on recovering from birth.

But to be honest, it's the random stuff that I enjoy writing the most.  The things inspired by what I've seen, heard, and read elsewhere.  Lots (even this) is inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim, who is just generally inspirational - it's what she does.  And there's plenty of feminist-type posts.  My second most read ever is on the reserve army of labour.  I really liked that one.


I don't think my blog is ever going to be a phenomenon, like Fat Mum Slim's, or Mrs Woog's, but I enjoy writing, and I enjoy discussing it with other people, and I still need to practice, so I intend to keep on doing it.


Do you have a blog?  What's it called?  What's it about?  And can we have a url please?  What started you writing?


If you don't have a blog, but you're thinking of setting one up it's ridiculously easy, and you can just do it to send virtual letters to your family if that's all you want.  I use Blogger, which is a Google thing.  The app is rubbish, but the website is great.  It's incredibly easy to use.  Why not give it a go?  Alternatively, I welcome guest bloggers here.  Let me know if you'd like a go.


Hmm, I've just noticed that my two favourite blogs have mottoes.  Fat Mum Slim's is 'living life inspired', and Mrs Woog's is 'making the most of the mundane'.  They're both good, and hint at what lies inside.  Any ideas for what my motto could be?



A picture of seaside town from the sea, taken by me, and first used in this blog post
Posts in this series

This is one of a series of posts inspired by Fat Mum Slim's list of 50 things to blog about.  If you'd like to take a look at the rest, you can find them here.

Friday, 27 September 2013

remembering first 'love'

In between opening drawers in the library and being 16 I met my first 'love'.  I thought it was love at the time.  Looking back, it was perhaps rather, infatuation.  

Today, in another post delving back to my teens, and inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim, I'm telling the story of my first love, and first kiss with him (we'll gloss over the other first kiss).  The idea of doing this is making me cringe a little, because there's something not quite right in this story.  But then, when are relationships ever perfect?


My first love/kiss, not skipping the awkward details


It took months from my starting to read RAW magazine, and dyeing everything black, through a starvation diet and too much exercise, before an incredibly shy me was willing to talk to anyone who might be, just a little bit, rock.  My break came one lunch time at school.  I came out of the library (still with straggly hair, but it's black now, and still with my librarian badge on) to see the new girl, who was definitely rock, picking up her stuff where it had been knocked on the floor.  I went to help, and we got chatting, and I made a friend for life.  She was called Deborah, and she was into T Rex and
Napalm Death.  Deborah was new in town, and she wanted someone to go with her to the rock disco at the Methodist church.  I was so scared to go, but I figured it'd be OK with Deborah, so I agreed.  It took forever to decide what to wear, but I managed to dress eventually.  I looked very Goth.  Deborah was a rocker.  She would end up being a Glammy, but she could rock jeans and a lumberjack shirt, which I'm pretty sure is what she wore that night.
If you too wish to smell like you use
perfume instead of washing your
trousers you can buy
Spiritual Sky White Musk here

We went in.  We paid our £1.  We hung out (which is incredibly boring).  Then someone wanted a fag, so we all trooped out with them.  I was making lots more important friends, and learning a whole new addiction...   Outside, leaning on the wall, and not smoking (so I'm really not sure what he was doing there) was a man.  Not a boy.  Definitely not.  But a man.  His trousers were VERY tight, and very decorated, his T-shirt was covered in tassles, which used up most of the fabric, his long hair was purple and blue, he was wearing makeup, and he smelled strongly of Spiritual Sky Musk.

I was desperate to stare at him, but I couldn't.  I needed to pay attention to learning to smoke.  So it was a while before I went back into the church hall.  But when I went in, the smoke machine had been on, green and yellow lights were flashing, Aerosmith was playing, and there was only one person on that dance floor.  That dude did look like a lady, and I had the whole song to stare at him.  I really, really, really wanted to go out with him.

Well I got to know him a bit more over the next few weeks, and it turned out he was very Christian (I am very not, but I made an effort, because he said he would only go out with Christians), he didn't smoke, which was pretty rare, he was living with a friend of his (the DJ), and he was 11 years older than me.  Now at the time, my main concern was how to convince him that I was a Christian (I did it by playing God in a church play), but looking back on it I'm wondering what on earth had happened in his life that he was back to hanging out with teenagers.  Whatever it was, I am glad he was a Christian, so sex was not in the equation. 

He was clearly a bit damaged, and a bit strange.  And he was wildly exciting.  It would take months before he was willing to go out with me, and by then I had moved on, but those months we spent a lot of time together.  He introduced me to cider, and lots of cool poetry, and kissing on benches.  Also, the boy could dance (in fact, when my friend Deborah got married, he taught my darling husband a few moves).  Ah, but I've missed the first kiss, and I promised it, didn't I?


One Saturday night a friend's parents were out of town, and there was to be a party at her house.  Deborah and I went to glam-man's house to get ready, and go to the party together.  She and I were talking about just how ridiculous spandex trousers looked when he came out of the bathroom wearing pink spandex, and I changed my mind.  I'm really sorry I don't have any pictures of him (do any of my friends have any pictures?).  Anyway, we all went to the party, we drank lots of cider, cried in the kitchen, talked someone out of suicide (cue my first kiss, which we're glossing over), and all fell asleep wherever we could find.  I tried to 'fall asleep' as close to glam man as possible, and when it seemed that everyone else was actually asleep, or otherwise engaged I started to trace the lines of his makeup on his face.  And then he held on to me, and kissed me!  And we kept on kissing.  Unfortunately at this point I hadn't discovered the wonders of Lipcote, so I looked a mess, and so did he, but it didn't matter.  That was me hooked, and I would stay that way until I came to my senses about 9 months later on summer holidays.

Considering it was 9 months I have no idea why I have no photos, although I suspect it was because I was too shy to ask!

So, what's the story of your first love?  First kiss?  I hope it was fun.  I hope you didn't look as much of a mess as I did!

By the way, that first 'love' of mine was falling in love himself while we were together.  Unfortunately it was to someone else.  The two of them are happily married now and still as bonkers as ever.  Christ is still important to them. Kudos.

Posts in this series

This is one of a series of posts inspired by Fat Mum Slim's list of 50 things to blog about.  If you'd like to take a look at the rest, you can find them here.

making friends with our parents

I know one should never apologise, and never explain (who said that?), but I'm sorry I've been away for a while.  I've had computer issues, the lurgie, and I also got sucked into playing The Sims.  I love playing the Sims.

I think I was also avoiding writing this post.

As you may know, I've been writing a series of posts inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim, who has created a list of 50 things to blog about.  Number 12 on that list is a how-to on something you know nothing about.  For some reason I decided that this would be on how to make friends with your parents.  But then it was just too hard.  How can I do this without causing offence?  Am I saying I'm not friends with my parents?  Would we want to be?  It all got a bit hairy.

But once I've decided something, that's the way it's going to be, so here goes.

How to make friends with your parents


AC Grayling.  Picture from The Guardian (here)
His house looks like my Dads house.
The philosopher, AC Grayling, has recently puplished a book entitled Friendship.  He was talking about it on the radio the other day, and it made me think.

As we grow up, our relationships with our friends become more important, and that is necessary and useful.  Eventually, we have strong enough relationships outside the family that we've got a good support network when we leave the nest.  Maybe we might be able to built a good enough friendship that we can make a family of our own.  But when we are all grown up, it's still good to have your parents in your life.  I know that friends of mine, who don't have good relationships with their parents are sad about that.  But we can't keep on being our parent's children.  It is too stifling, and there comes a point when we know better than they about what should be happening in our lives.  We need to shift the relationship, from parents to friends.

So, what's a friend?

I have made my best friends when I've had the time and leisure to just hang out with people for a long time, and I've certainly been able to do that with my parents.  However, familiarity can also breed contempt, and it can be hard to put aside arguments and squabbles.  Parents can find it hard to recognise that their children are grown, and capable, and adult children can be over-sensitive to criticism.


Photograph of Oscar Wilde in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony
Oscar Wilde said that "a good friend will always stab you in the front".  I have always found this to be true.  Who but your friends will betray you?  Who but your friends will tell you uncomfortable truths?  Who but your friends will put the kettle on when it's needed?  Well, your parents aren't likely to betray you, and you might not want to pour your heart out about your ailing love life to them, but I turn to my Mum if I've got a health worry, and both my Mum and my Dad are always willing to tell me when I've gained a few pounds, or they don't think I'm parenting right.

I might not appreciate that.  In fact, let's face it, I don't appreciate that, but I'm beginning to think I'm already friends with my parents.  Perhaps the thing I need to do is not to develop the relationship (although that sometimes does need to happen, if you want it to), but to forgive them for being parents, and therefore inevitably doing everything wrong... because that's what parents do.  As Philip Larkin said "They fuck you up, your mum and dad..."  Although they must have done something right, eh?


My Mum and I.  Photo from my brother.  Ta UE
There are things about my parents I would like to change - for instance, I wish my Mum didn't smoke.  But they are who they are, and my childishly willing it otherwise will not make it so.  So I am going to try, really hard, to recognise that my parents are people I like, because I do, and to stop worrying about the things that annoy me.  To be honest, there are things that I don't like about my friends too - mainly that most of them are far away.  But rarely anything worth losing a friend over, and thank goodness for that, because I am far from perfect too.  'Emma' is not the only one of my friends who has forgiven my bad behaviour.

Would you say that you were friends with your parents?  How does it work for you?


Posts in this series

This is one of a series of posts inspired by Fat Mum Slim's list of 50 things to blog about.  If you'd like to take a look at the rest, you can find them here.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

making Lydia's cake

We've had a couple of birthday's in the family of late.  The big girl wanted a shop bought cake, but the boy wanted me to make him a birthday cake.  Both of them agreed that the cake is the best thing I cook.  The bar is set pretty low on this, because the children say that the other good things I cook are scrambled eggs, and cereal.  

However, the cake is rather yummy, so I thought I would share the recipe with you, in case you fancy making one at home.  This recipe was handed down from my Grandma (Lydia), to my Mum, to me.  I'm guessing it was a wartime recipe as it has little fat and no eggs in it, but I don't know.  It is a good recipe if you need to make a cake for people with allergies.  If you are wanting a really special birthday cake you'd need to go to someone who was blooming good at this, like Moore than Cakes in Ilkley, or Viking Cupcakes in Largs.  There are lots of other good local cake bakers, so please do let people know about them in the comments below.


Here goes (all photos by me btw)!  Please note that this post was amended on 22nd September in light of advice from Mary at Moore than Cakes.  Thank you Mary.  It was like Grandma had baked it!


Lydia's birthday cake


Ingredients
The main cake ingredients.  Other makes are fine


(my apologies for the Imperial measurements - it's all I've got!)


1oz margarine (or butter if you want)

2oz sugar (normal is fine)
2 tbsp syrup (golden)
6oz self raising flour
1oz cocoa
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 pt warm water

You'll want to decorate the cake too.  For a birthday cake I make a chocolate butter icing for the top, and use chocolate spread inside (this is the recipe I describe below).  For this you will need (prepare for absolutely no measurements)

margarine or butter

icing sugar
cocoa
water
chocolate spread
also some sweets or chocolate sprinkles, because sometimes more is more.

This cake is also rather awesome as Lydia made it.  She had a sprinkling of icing sugar on the top and pristine white butter-icing (if you want white butter icing, you're in for a lot of whisking) in the middle.  To make the butter icing you need icing sugar, butter or margarine, and a whole lot of whisking.  I'd recommend a bit of vanilla essence too.


How to make it



I feel obliged to sieve the dry ingredients in
but you could just be a daredevil and put them
straight in there.
First of all stick the oven on at 160C.

Get your cake tin and line it with greaseproof paper or baking parchment, and grease.


Whizz up the margarine, sugar and syrup.  Then add the flour, cocoa and salt.  Mix well.


Dissolve the soda in the water and add to the mixture, mixing well again.



The mixture, pre cooking.  Please make sure you
lick the spoon.  My greaseprrof paper comes
up pretty high in this pic, but that's only because
I didn't bother to check the right size when I was
cutting it.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until done.  My oven is quite hot.  Lydia's recipe says about 30 minutes.  You'll know your own oven... or if you don't you can always poke it every so often.


It should be springy but firm to the touch when it's done.  It may well develop cracks - don't worry, they're character lines.


When it's done, take it out and leave to cool.



Prepare your butter icing, if you're making it.  To do this, I mix up a good dollop of margarine with a load of icing sugar, some cocoa and splashes of water as required, until I have something that looks like this (below).  Gooey, slightly pale, and chocolatey.


The icing - always best to make
it up as you go along I feel.
When the cake has cooled, slice it, if you want to, and put icing or chocolate spread through the middle.  Then daub the chocolate butter icing all over it.  I like to add stuff on top of this.  This time I went for chocolate sprinkles, but my absolute favourite is Refreshers.  If you are going to use Refreshers do eat it quickly though.  Yummy.

I'm afraid you're going to have to get on with eating the cake once made, as it won't last as well as eggy cakes.  We don't usually find eating it within a couple of days or so a problem.


The cake - Lydia style
This should serve 10-12 happily.

The cake is much more sophisticated as Lydia made it (pictured here with the blue background because blue was her favourite colour).  To make it really yummy I'd add a wee bit of vanilla essence to the butter icing, but it was very yummy without.


I'm happy to hear that my cousin will be using this recipe for her son's birthday (because her son has allergies).  I'm sure Lydia would be thrilled to be useful.


Don't mind if I do


What's your favourite recipe for birthday cake?

The next birthday in our family is going to be mine.  I don't want a chocolate cake.  I'm thinking that I love lemon meringue pie, but no-one else in the family does.  They all like lemon drizzle cake though.  So is there a way I could make a more lemon meringuey lemon drizzle do you think?



Posts in this series


This post is one of a series I'm doing inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim's suggestions of 50 things to blog about.  If you're interested, here's links to all the ones I've done so far.









Monday, 16 September 2013

hosting imaginary dinner parties

Whom would you invite if you could invite any celebrity you liked to a dinner party?

My brother and I. Pic from my sister (thanks sis)
When I think of who I'd love to break bread with, I think of my brother, because he makes me laugh like a drain and because, thank goodness, he's still here. I think of Aaron, who has been through so much and come out of it a lovely, warm, wise, hippy. I think of my friends Annabel, Emma, and their families whom I haven't seen in ages.

But I guess the whole point of a celebrity dinner party is that it's not going to happen. Not even if I pull my finger out. So, who to invite?

Well my friends of course.

This might sound a bit stalky, but I would want to invite the people I've been listening to, watching, and reading, and feel like I know. People like Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim, Cristen of Stuff Mom Never Told You, Josh and Chuck from Stuff You Should Know, Steven and Stephen from Freakonomics, and Jane Garvie and Jenny Murray of Woman's Hour. These are all people I listen to, watch, and read on an almost daily basis. Hmm, it's getting pretty crowded around here.  Maybe a buffet?

I would feel a little overwhelmed I'm sure, by some 'proper' writers, but I'd like to invite them anyway.  George RR Martin, because the man is a god of writing, and I would like to see if any of his skill was infectious. Michel Faber because I love the second person narrative, and the language he uses in the book of his I'm reading at the moment - The Crimson Petal and the White. Also Hillary Mantel, because I loved the piece she wrote on Diana.  I'd invite Philippa Gregory (might keep her and Hillary in separate rooms), because I could never learn enough about the Cousins War, and Margaret Atwood, so I could steal some of her ideas.

I got this pic of Aneurin Barnard from
this blog , although I'm not sure where he got it.
Nobody I think is sexy could come I'm afraid. It would be too distracting, and embarrassing, and besides I'm a married woman (which I'm sure would be the only thing holding them back - not). Sorry Jonny and Rufus. Sorry Francois and Aneurin.

What will we eat? I've been thinking about this and have come to the conclusion that I don't like any celebrity chef enough to invite them round. My friend Anthony is a mighty fine chef. However, I've decided to go for a pot luck dinner, purely because I'm hoping Chantelle will bring her tim tam tart (apparently Brits can substitute Penguins). I'm hoping that Philippa will let me look at the photos of Aneurin she's got on her phone too. Way to change a nations opinion of a King, Philippa!

I think this could work.  What about you?  Have you decided who you'd like for your celebrity dinner party yet?


Posts in this series


This post is one of a series I'm doing inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim's suggestions of 50 things to blog about.  If you're interested, here's links to all the ones I've done so far.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

writing to 16 year old me

Dear Cara

So much has changed for you in the last year or so. You've been through so much, and I know that it is all sometimes hard to deal with. Your friends are very important to you, and that is good, but you  know you shouldn't follow them blindly.

Thanks to my brother for this pic

I know you feel torn about leaving school. You want to do things your way, you want to get out of the school environment, and I don't blame you, but sixth form is different.  Remember that all the thick people are about to leave. It won't stay this hard. Give it a go. Push yourself, because you enjoy being smart, you enjoy thinking. Other people are staying. You won't be alone. Also there's a boy in the year below you you might want to meet.

You will get a letter soon, from your boyfriend, telling you he wants to marry you. You've been expecting it. You are both tempted and scared. The fact that you've been seeing someone else should tell you that you're not ready for this commitment. I know you'll do what you see fit, despite my advice, so I shan't tell you what to do, but I'd ask you to think hard about what you want your life to look like before you decide anything.

I wouldn't go back to feeling as you feel now for anything. I've often thought that if it could be induced it would be an excellent punishment. However, I promise that things will get better. Meanwhile do try to be kinder to yourself. You are not bad for enjoying your life and your body, indeed, it would not hurt you to go further. You only get one chance you know. Live it. Let's face it, the stories people tell about you have no relation to reality anyway.

Oh and I know you feel very unhappy about how you look, and you won't believe me, but you are actually stunning. I love your new look. Stay fierce and fabulous. 

With lots of love

Cara (aged 39)


If you could write a letter to your 16 year old self what would you say?... And would you have listened?

Posts in this series

This post is one of a series I'm doing inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim's suggestions of 50 things to blog about.  If you're interested, here's links to all the ones I've done so far.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

celebrating a birthday

Today we're celebrating the boy's 8th birthday with a couple of his friends.  Inspired by Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim I've documented the day with a photo from every hour (all taken by me on my 'phone)... I feel this may be too much information, but on the other hand, I tried to take a photo as near to the hour as possible, so some of it is interestingly random (I hope it's interesting for you too).  What did you do today?

Celebrating a birthday - a day in photos


7am and I've been awake for 45 minutes.  The boy wakes early every morning but is not allowed to bug us until 6.30am.  This morning he's brought in his ninja claws, which he's learnt how to make using this tutorial on You Tube.  There are lots of tutorials on there.

8am, and while the kids are still busy playing upstairs I have succumbed to the demands of the cat and fed him.  Breakfast is now prepared.  We have cereal nearly every day.  I love our colourful stuff, but can't seem to find any good colourful glasses.  Any suggestions?


9am.  Getting washed and dressed at the weekend seems to take an inordinate amount of time.  9am found me finally managing to brush etc my own teeth, having got the children ready.  I hate how much of a palarver brushing teeth is now.  Wish someone could invent something which would negate the need for all this stuff.  I especially hate the scrapy interdental brush (goosebumps, just like earthenware), and the horribly mouth-burning mouthwash.  I was going to say that I wouldn't need all this stuff if I had dentures, but then there's a whole load of other faffing, and it's not a look I'd cherish.  Meh.

10am  The lovely Kenny is taking the kids out for a bike ride.  The big girl needs practice to get better on her bike.  She's only just taken her stabilisers off, and she hasn't quite got the hang of it yet.  I say hasn't.  I mean hadn't.  She got it today.  She absolutely cracked it.  We're dead proud of her.  Thinking maybe she needs a bigger bike now.

11am (below).  While everyone was out I donned my headphones and listened to Stuff You Should Know (it was about breast implants) while having a tidy up in preparation for the party.  I like my Dyson (thanks for passing it to me Mum), but it's getting old.  If this blog had more readers I would suggest to Dyson that they could give me a new one, and I'd review it for them.  Hey, I'm happy to do that anyway.  Do you think I'll have any luck?





12 noon and the lunch is on the table.  Just a pick at lunch today because later on will be packed with junk-food.  However, the cycle ride has gone on too long, so no-one is here to eat it!  Still, it is awesome that the big girl cracked her cycling, and it all worked out well in the end.  Result.


1pm and the boy's friends are arriving, with presents.  He is a lucky boy.  He's made some lovely friends here.

2pm (below) We are on our way to the cinema.  The little girl and I are relegated to the back seats due to car sickness issues, but she's happy with her headphones on (btw, they're not actually plugged into anything, she just sings along with imaginary music).




3pm saw us in the cinema, watching Justin and the Knights of Valour.  I say watching... I must admit I cheated on this one and took the pic just before the film started.  I did nod off for a bit during the film, which I would rate as a firm OK, although it would not pass the Bechdel test, which is a bit rubbish imho.  I mean, it does have two well-developed female characters in, although one of them is a horrible pink princess, but they don't have a conversation, probably because for some reason they are love rivals for the dorky hero.  Hmm.  The boys enjoyed it anyway, which may have had something to do with lots of sweets.


4pm was when the film ended, and we headed, blinking, out into the light (which reminds me of the days of drinking on a Saturday afternoon in the Phono - were you there too?  Or somewhere similar?), to head over to MacDonalds *shudder* where the kids had a great time in the wee soft play while we read papers and waited for them to develop an appetite.  We didn't need to wait long.


5pm tea at MacDonalds with rubbish little Smurf toys (my children are agreed, they don't like Smurfs, and these toys are pants compared to the Despicable Me ones).  The children are happy, although they mainly don't like the over-salted chips.  Why do MacDonalds do that?  They are really unpleasant.  Mind you, most of the food is.  Not one person in the group had a burger.  I did have one once.  It was awful.  Do you eat them?


6pm and we're heading home.  Moshi Monsters are playing on the car stereo, and everyone's pretending to go to sleep, apart from the little girl (pictured here, so tired she's willing to have a hair clip in), who actually does fall asleep.  One of the boy's friends says 'well that was a really good day'.  He's right.  The children have behaved beautifully, and the way the boys have looked out for the younger girls has been awesome.

7pm  At home the children all busy themselves playing happily together.  Still, not a cross word is spoken.  I cannot believe how well this is going!

8pm and I call bedtime.  The boy's room is all set up and ready.  The children are all delighted to have visitors staying and get ready for bed with no fuss at all (although only the big girl sticks around while the tidying up is going on).  When all the children are ready we do a story (the Night Pirates - fabulous book) in the boys room, and then read some stuff from a children's encyclopaedia about something they're interested in.  Today it's volcanoes, and the children have some really cool things to say about volcanoes.  Did you know that Edinburgh and Stirling castles are built on extinct volcanoes?  Also, I have it on good authority that if you were to jump into a volcano you would get to a church.  Hmm.  We were then wondering how hot the sun was.  Turns out it's pretty hot.  One child wondered how god could have made it without getting burnt.  The idea that god would have made the sun foxed me, but luckily Kenny came up with the idea that if god was smart enough to make suns then he'd be smart enough not to get burnt.  Result.


9pm and the children are in bed, although not asleep.  I'm watching a bit of The Borgias, and checking on them from time to time while I wait for Kenny to hand over my computer.  He's doing something important with his new Nook, which he's bought after breaking his Kindle.  The cat is cuddled up next to him in his favourite position.

10pm sees the children asleep.  I've taken a picture of the little girl as she's gone to sleep with her light on and I don't want to be using a flash.  Time for a glass of wine, and to get this post written!


11pm I'm still up.  Still writing.  Once I get started I am driven to finish, which is not conducive to sleep.  Still nearly there!  There had better not be a midnight picture.

What did you do today?




Posts in this series


This post is one of a series I'm doing inspired by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim's suggestions of 50 things to blog about.  If you're interested, here's links to all the ones I've done so far.