Wednesday, 28 February 2007

My shower is not working.

My shower is not working. I hate not being able to have a shower. I hate it.
Will my shower work tomorrow? I don't know. That depends on the plumber who is currently ripping apart my shower cubicle. It leaks, you see, and has rotted the floor underneath the shower. Yes, I know I should be thankful that the plumber is fixing my shower but

My shower is not working.

Will I smell tomorrow?
Will my friends notice?
Will my real friends care?

When my shower is fixed, I am going to wipe it down with a mixture of white vinegar and lavender oil, replace my old & daggly shower body puff and use my best shower gel for a celebratory shower. But today

My shower is not working.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Real life is what happens...

When you're making plans. Or words to that effect.
I planned so much this week. I planned to do my housework on Monday, to work any two days of Tuesday to Thursday and to pack for a short break on Friday. It's Tuesday (only) and already my plans lie, tattered and in ruins on my memory. Yesterday, I was shakey and shivery and slept 3 out of 5 child-free hours (Is this a record? No, my record is all 5 child-free hours and a couple of child-minding ones before my DH sent me to bed without tea. Not a good day, that one.) So, bang goes the housework. Never mind, I have today to do it and then I can work Wednesday and Thursday.
OK, so Borders was a treat for me... a pick-me-up, but I deserved it. And I did get the Romantic Homes magazine featuring one of my favourite bloggers, Alicia. Then I did need my hair cutting. And once hair is cut, you can see all your grey hairs so colouring it was a necessity. And then I could do my housework. I'd love to call it 'Home blessing' like the flylady does, but I just cannot bring myself to think that my attitude has reached the zen-ness needed to think of it as a blessing, either for me, the house or the kids... The kids! Must remember to pick them up, and then.... Ding Dong. No, not the Avon Lady, but the plumber, here to look at the shower that threatens to fall through the ceiling onto the hall below. He looks, says he'll be back tomorrow, it's a whole day job, he hopes, although it may take two.. and as he passes by me on the way to the bookies (our plumber never works between the hours of 3 and 5 and I reckon he goes to watch the horses somewhere everyday) I realise what he has said. No work for me this week, then. Eh bien, I shrug my shoulders as gallically as a girl of Irish descent can and pass into my living room to clear the detritus of the weekend, still lying there since clearing and cleaning are not part of the familial genetic make up and only part of mine after a transfer of DNA from Anthea. I now have two or three free days to complete my house work. The race is off, and the battle has been won by the forces of frugality. I will clean my house this week instead of charming my bank manager. I plan to spend tomorrow in my craft room organising my stuff.... but we'll see what the morning brings, eh?

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

I have a party to prepare for...

But I couldn't resist a post today. Yes, the pink party is at 4.30. Yes, I have things left to do (like wrapping a pass the parcel, drawing a pin the crown on the princess.... and a cake. Mustn't forget the cake.) But I got the camera out to check the battery and took some photos of last week's waste of time.
I got my felt out and played. You saw a set of hair bands in yesterday's post, and here are some more. The yellow and red ones still need a button in the middle, but I'm currently searching for the right ones, something small and mother-of-pearl, I think.

The little case is my pride and joy. I have a red floral Cath Kidston phone. You see, I figured if I spent money on it, I'd take care of it, right? And then I got told by my 11 year old niece that it was way cool. Well, I am chuffed to have a way cool phone, especially since her Dad has every bit of tech kit going and this is a girl who knows her chips. But my baby was not travelling well, and I did have a sleeping bag for it, a little mitten from when my real babies were small, but it was too slippy. Then I remembered Irish Craft-worker's blog about the wee felt folk book. I got my copy out and sought inspiration. Here it is. I made a little purse, used poppers for fasteners and appliqued the flowers to match the phone. It only took a couple of hours and I am well chuffed. I think I lose points for a hand-made cover with the 11 year olds, I haven't shown it her yet, but I expect it will be voted as 'dinky' which will have to do.

And that, dear friends is it for today. I'm off to finish off the pink theme by putting a pink sheet on the table. It was either that or wash my best white tablecloth with a cheap red top. Mmm.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

My brown-eyed girl is 5!!!

The Princess of the Beautiful Dawn celebrated her birthday yesterday with a frenzy of present opening, sweets at school and the smallest dinkiest birthday cake we've ever made. She is also having a pink party tomorrow, so she won't feel cheated of a proper sized cake,a s she's getting a bigger one then.

My baby is 5! I know, I know, the other mothers told me the time flies by and enjoy every minute, they're the best years of your life, etc etc. Did I listen? Did I listen? And did I hear what they said to me?

Yes, I darned well did. I stayed at home until nursery hit, I passed my days in play until the house looked like a nursery itself, all toys, painting and play dough. I let part of me slide because there wasn't the time, space or inclination to be 'me' in that way. And now, God bless her, she's 5, at school, a well-balanced and happy girl. And I am free to be 'me' again.

And guilt free, too. I can concentrate on getting the shadow of a career again. I can make things and enjoy the experience without the niggling feeling I have to change a nappy/ collect from nursery/ put another video on. I even, for goodness sake, have a clean sink every so often!

My beautiful princess and her princeling brothers are still my favourite waste of time. I love to make things for her (hence the hairbands; nostalgia flooded over me as I made them, they are so like the ones my mother made for me at her age) and I can still spend lots of time playing house with her, but I treasure these moments. It won't be long before this time, too shall pass. But I'll think about that.... sometime.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Seth Lakeman; He looked pretty cute.

I was watching Breakfast TV last week, drinking my Earl Grey... I was only finishing breakfast before I started work, honest.... and they had Seth Lakeman on. He looked pretty cute, it was one of those music videos with the water pouring poetically all over the singer... you can imagine the rest. Like I say, he looked pretty cute and, boy, the boy could sing.
Now, I've never cottoned onto folk music, never could knit aran properly or put my finger far enough into my ear, but I actually enjoyed his songs... well, to be truthful, I enjoyed them so much I ordered his CD from Amazon (second home & recipient of much hard-earned cash) I'm hoping my faith in a good Dartmoor lad will be justified. He sings ballads, story songs and I like a good story. I love Dartmoor, having stayed nearby on holiday for most of my formative years, and I like Capercaille and Runrig... yes, I thought, if I like Scottish folksy music, why not give a good English boy a chance?
My problem is, you see, I don't know whether to mention this sudden impulse to my second brother. He is the self-appointed arbiter of musical good taste in the family. He likes a lot of the music I like, and introduces me to stuff I probably wouldn't be able to hear elsewhere (he's a doctor, large disposable income and a musical wife. I have an inferiority complex near them, but only about music) If I could be sure he wouldn't take the mickey out of me, I'd be OK, but he has always known the right buttons to press to reduce me to a quivering, insecure mess. I don't even think he does it on purpose, and he doesn't manage it often now, I'm a little more secure in my likes/dislikes but.... there are still times when my inner self is that little 9 year old reduced to tears by a 12 year old.
How often when we are older do we let our past rule our present? How often is a scene so familiar to us because we've been there a million times and always vow this will be the last? I have a tempestuous relationship with food, somedays I love it, some days it's my worst enemy, and I know I need to change that, to gain a more stable approach to the whole area of eating or I stand to influence my caughter's attitude, too. Yet, on the days when I'm "dieting", food is a burden, whilst the days when I'm not it is a pleasure. I hate that feeling and I know it comes from my past.
And Seth Lakeman? I like the music; he tells stories in song, he plays a mean fiddle, he looks good on the album and, what the hell, I will tell my brother about him and face the cosequences.... but I won't cry, I promise.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?

I hope that's translatable without the double entendre, as well. We had a busy weekend and are having a quiet rather than hectic week so far. With a family birthday party on Saturday, we celebrated 4 birthdays (both my parents and two of my children have February birthdays!) and had two cakes.

Now, I get called a domestic goddess around these places (when my friends aren't calling me a sex-guru) because I make my kids birthday cakes, but I don't think I deserve such applause. The simple truth is I'm too tight to pay £7.00 for something that looks good but is actually virtually inedible. I don't see why Tesco's or Sainsbury's should be paid for something I don't like. So, a couple of years ago (when I didn't have the money for a birthday cake anyway) I made one, basic football sponge, you know the 4-4-4-2 style, and decorated it with that month's current obsesion. I think it was Thunderbirds. It went down a bomb, and since then I've been chief cake-maker in the house. This year was no exception. DP wanted Batman, to go with the Lego, and the Princess of the Beautiful Dawn (PBD) wanted a princess. And I obliged.

Both these cakes cost me less than half the price of a shop-bought birthday cake, but both were just what the child wanted and an expression of love from me to them.

The point is, that we often cite time or skill as a reason nowadays for just buying something off the shelf rather than making or sourcing it elsewhere. That's all well and good for some things where it would be difficult or impossible to substitute for the mass-marketed stuff, but there are whole realms of our lives that we have passed across to the shop-keepers and just let go of our control of. Cakes being a very moot point. It took 10 minutes of mixing, 30 minutes of cooking time and a further 15 minutes of decorating time to make something no other child has. Where else could I take my not-from-the-shop principle and apply it? I make soft toys, can make soft-furnishings, have made clothes both for me and my children, haven't bought a card from a shop for ages (and that's not because I'm a tight-fisted git, but because I prefer the hand-crafted cards and refuse to pay £4.00 for them) and very often make stupid things like cheese or pasta sauce from scratch. All these little things add up to a whole lot of lovin' and I like it. I hope my children grow up without a heavy reliance on the mass-market, but given the current ad-heaven that is the world today, I doubt it. At least at home I can do my bit to encourage them to think outside the box and hopefully when they're older they will cotton on to the world of crafters and creators that I have met through blogging.

And the title of todays post? Well, after bedtime last night, we heard blooming big mouse-steps over the landing and when we went to look, the three of them had planned a sleepover.... just look at those grins!

Friday, 9 February 2007

Happy Birthday, DP!

Well, here he is this morning opening his Batman Lego, and I know this weekend my living room will be covered in Lego as he and JW make a batmobile, batcave and everything else batman needs. And think of me tonight as I feed 7 excited boys (no longer little, I'm afraid!) pizza and coke before going to the cinema and watching Arthur and the Invisibles. Family party tomorrow (my speciality, spag bol is cooking in my slow cooker as we speak) and a whole week off next week! I'll do my best to post, but I might (!) be a little busy.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Fun In the .... Snow?

Hi again! Couldn't resist posting these pictures of my little angels; the big one, DP, is 9 tomorrow! I can't believe it's 9 years since he arrived.

JW, the middle one, is 6 1/2 and the voice of sanity while Princess Zerlina (and that's her real name) is 5 a week on Monday. Count back nine months from February.... and remember I'm a Gemini!

Actually, did I say JW was the voice of sanity... not in snow, of course!

They are my pride and joy and the reason why I love my life so much.... and my hubby, of course! But we function more as a unit at the moment. When he says "Who do you love most in the world?" he expects me to answer, "Them, of course" because he knows we function as one. I love him beyond all things, and I treasure the time we have together, but since the sprogs came it's like we have this private joke. Everyone else thinks their children are special but we know ours are the mostsest special of all. And that's just how it should be.

The weather outside is frightful...

But I don't have a real fire. well, I have a living flame gas-fire but it's covered in pinecones, my daughter's autumn obsession, and the amaryllis are in front of it and the central heating is quite warm enough, thank you and I'm rambling (who said again? You are a cheeky lot!)
First of all, congratulations to any who managed to get it to snow enough to cancel everything and settle down for the day. Fire on, feet up, coffee, chocolate or Earl Grey to hand, I hope. It is snowing here & sticking, I hope, so come 3.30 I shall go and collect 3 very excited children, wrap them up as warm as I can and get out there for snowmen and snowballs. It is bath-night, thank goodness, so I think early baths will be in order for all and then.... Mmm I can smell it now, roast chicken. I cook it in advance and then I can do the roasties nearer to the mealtime. Heavenly.
I didn't post yesterday, no time with clearing/ visiting/ stroking new windows. Yes! They finished and I now have windows that close out the draughts and the sound... did you know that double glazed windows can eliminate traffic noise? Amazing! And the picture shows you the mess that they make.. all gone now!
I did get out to the shops yesterday and indulged in a little thrifting. I was looking for cheap bookshelves before I resign myself to the 7th circle of Dante's hell otherwise known as Ikea, but I didn't find any. I have my eye on an old fashioned bureau that would look lovely painted white with pink flowers, but the money tree only bloomed today. I may go back for that tomorrow or next week.... after I've been to hell and back, of course.
"But Joanna," I hear you call, "What did you get?"
I got books. Of course. Childrens' books for 50p each (Three Harry Potter for JW and DP, a Naughty Little Sister book for Princess Zerlina and ... for me... a compilation of Goodhousekeeping from the 20's and 30's nicely edited for me by Brian Braithewaite and Noelle Walsh. It's a gem, containing advice on keeping an efficient home (like 'draw up a timetable for the domestic' and 'telephone your order through to the grocer at least every other day' Love it!) and adverts from the times. My scanner is out or I would show you inside. The photos can't do it justice. I also got King Solomon's Mines which, to my regret I have never read yet and a book on Colette, her of the Gigi fame. a few hours worth of perusal, I fear.

And today, well, I braved the thin layer of snow this morning to raid Mr Sainsbury's provisions store, brought it home, packed it away and settled down to a day inside. I am still in the small store room (did you know the carpet there was blue? Apparently so!) and to spend a few idle minutes with my cyber-companions. Hope your day is as calm and peaceful, hope the weather has all the best attributes and none of the drawbacks and you can settle in and 'Do' snow properly. Have a hot chocolate on me, and the daffodils at the top are a reminder that spring will be here sometime, it's just got slightly delayed.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Today Is Going To Be The Day...

That I get my windows done.

And this happens.

And I think, "Whoah!"

Not that they can't fit the windows, because they can. It's not that bad.

But because it means I'm sitting here with the front door open, the back patio window ripped off and two down stairs windows slowly being removed from their frames. It is chilly. Well, I say chilly, it's more like cold. Well, I say cold, it's actually b****y freezing.

And my inner Pollyanna thinks, "At least my computer's sound is now working and I can sit here in my little (cold) study and type away whilst listening to some music." (Sometimes I hate my inner Pollyanna) Which brings me to the point of my post today.

There are certain pieces of music that are inextricably linked with people and places I love. Con Te Partiro, for example, otherwise known as Time to say Goodbye takes me back to Paris two years ago. Every where we went for our 'alone time' weekend that year, it was playing. I love it, it makes me cry sometimes, but they are tears of joy as I remember a beautiful time, two people in love in the city of romance.

Livin la Vida Loca is Ireland and a family reunion some seven years ago; my family and those of my three brothers all went across to a meeting of the clan. Ricky was big that year and my nieces were big into him. Imagine four little girls aged from 10 to 2 all dancing and wiggling along in a landrover and you'll see why I giggle at the song. Foreigner's I want to know what love is was playing the day I heard about my No. 1 brother's disabled son. It played a few times in the ten days that Tim lived. I can't even listen to it now without crying, and my eyes are filling up now at the thought.

It always surprises me that anyone can choose just ten tracks for Desert Island Discs. I've tried and the lowest I get is 39. I bought an MP3 player this year, and filled it in two days, after which I had another half of my collection still to go. Music is what provides the colour to my life. Happy? I need dancing music. Sad? I allow myself to wallow in love songs. Time for romance? I've had the time of my life, with or without Patrick Swayze gets me going. It was, you see, our first dance at our wedding. I have driving music like Robbie Williams or, in faster moments, Queen. Just sitting? I like a good bit of quasi-classical, G4 or Il Divo. Housework? The Puppini Sisters or Bryan Adams, although there I have to be careful not to cry at Summer of 69, which always reminds me of ...... but there are so many memories. What music makes you tick? Which records can you not imagine living without? And how loud can I play my music to drown out the workmen?........

P.S. It looks like there'll be more snow. Bummer. I need to go to the shops, as well. We're not used to it here. I should move to New England. I like snow.

Monday, 5 February 2007

It's a love/hate thing; Housekeeping and Holidays.

I love to have people over, especially if, as in the case of my ex-next door neighbour, I haven't seen them for a while. Now, for some people issuing an invitation is an easy job, you say "Come on over this weekend", they say "Yes", they come over and a good time is had by all.

On Planet Angel it is never quite that simple. I say "Come on over this weekend", they say "Yes" and then.....

I have to tidy the living room, dining room, kitchen and downstairs loo. Depending on work/ children's actions the week before, this can be a simple 2 hour job or a whole day marathon. I am not a dedicated housekeeper, much though I dream of it. So, yesterday found me collecting piles of 'stuff' from one room and burying them in another (they won't see my bedroom/ the bathroom/ the cupboard under the stairs, will

Frantic hoovering, much polishing with the gorgeously scented orange-glo wood cleaner (I love the scent of oranges in a clean room) and a little primping of cushions, setting of tables and preparing a wonderful roast leg of lamb, and I was ready for their arrival. I didn't know when the phone rang whether to hope it was them ringing to cancel because I was so shattered or be devastated if it was.

They came. It was lovely to see them. We moved away from them 5 years ago, but they are still friends. Life being how it is, we haven't seen them often enough and I'd forgotten how much fun they can be. They are Professional Holidayers, you see, and a meal with them is like a travellog, with tales of Jordan, China, Peru (this year), Australia, the West Indies and other points of the compass that make our Llyn Penninsula, Durham and Cheltenham (same three holidays for the past 4 years, and quite happy with three kids, thank you) seem really pedestrian. And before any of you sympathetic people say, "Well, it's different with kids"... they do it with two children under ten!
Like everything else in life, it goes to show that everyone is different. We made a conscious decision when we had DP that our holidays would stay in Britain. The thought of packing and lugging the amount of kit I would have felt necessary abroad filled us with dread. Also, I like the idea that our children know about their own country, and that when we do venture abroad, a time I feel is drawing steadily closer, they will be able to appreciate and enjoy the differences between home and wherever we go. And because our decision was a matter of choice rather than a measure forced on us by circumstance, I can sit and enjoy the traveller's tales without envy, and with a huge degree of respect for my ex-next friends. Bravo to their bravery, and bon voyage!

Oh, and now, the day after, I have a clean and tidy house to enjoy for a week, or at least until 4pm tonight when we arrive home from school..... Lego makes such a big mess, doesn't it, and I have two sons who love it....

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Money or Time?

On Friday I had a terrible choice. I could sign off work, go out with my Mum and visit M&s for some recreational shopping. They have some lovely red & white undies I'm interested it, so I could have looked at them & given in to temptation....

Or I could work for money and fun at a local (very nice) school.

I chose the money.

The reasoning is this; next week is half term & the money I make this week will pay for me and my children to go out. Previous holidays BC (before cash) have been quiet affairs, a visit to Ma, a trip to the park have done, or the holiday has thrown me & my (very kind) bank- manager into disagreement. This time I actually will have the cash to say, "Let's go to the cinema!" and not have to search down the side of the sofa for the popcorn money. We can go to the lovely museum, which is free, and they can have £2.50 each to spend in the shop, instead of the 50p school-trip money we usually have. And a full-family trip to Borders with coffee (soya milk, sugarfree vanilla decaf, please) juice and cakes can be followed by a "Yes kids, pick a book, please". It will be freedom.


I also recognise that the money is not the only thing I want to give my kids next week. I want to spend time with them , too. I want to get the three t-shirts and transfer a drawing of each on to them so that they have their own shirt for the summer. I want to get out the paints and the clay so that they can make more artwork for my (overstocked) house. And I want to go to the park with them and walk around the duck pond shouting "Pancakes and plum sauce!" until we fall silently into a fit of the giggles. It's the modern problem, the reason why Mum's guilt is issued free; Money or Time; which do children need?

Well, when they're at school, I work. When they're off, my time is, and hopefully shall always be, theirs.