Saturday, 4 October 2008

Spider-Man in training: A Birthday Party

I just survived my son's fourth birthday party, and it was a big success. I thought I'd share a few tips and explain what I did, so other people can get ideas.

Because Spider-Man is red and blue, I just bought a lot of decorations in those colours -- streamers, balloons, plates, napkins and cutlery. I bought Spider-Man themed cups, party bags, masks and a banner. The banner will be moved to Middle Child's room so he can admire it the whole year round. Doing it this way saved a lot of money on branded party-ware, but still kept to the theme and everything looked quite nice.

The party itself was held in our home, and 11 children under the age of 6 were in attendance. Luckily, the mothers of the children stayed, so that helped me in executing the games.

While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, I put out colouring pages (printed from the net) of Spider-Man for the kids to colour. They were all very interested in this, and I had a hard time getting them ready for the games!

Once I sat them down, I told them, "This is not a party. This is a super hero training camp, and you are here to learn how to be super heroes just like Spider-Man. You need to be strong, brave, and you need to prove it! You will be tested and those of you who win will get to wear THIS mask!" (a paper spider-man mask was modeled by me)

We played follow the leader, tiptoeing around the room in a line, because super heroes need to be quiet to sneak up on the bad guys.

Next up was "pin the spider on the web", wherein the children exercised their "spidey sense" and proved who was the most dexterous.

We also played pass the parcel, and each layer had either a sticker prize or a forfeit; little notes with tasks to prove your bravery or strength as a super hero. These included jumping on one foot, running around the room while clucking like a chicken, and singing a song in front of everyone. I probably should have used more forfeits, because the kids loved doing them!

The last game before graduating to super heroes was a spider hunt. I hid little spider pictures around the room and the kids had to find them all. This was to prove that they can find bad guys that are even hiding.

After they received their masks and were all congratulated on their super hero status, I gave them a few light-weight plastic balls each, and told them to fight the bad guy in the room wearing a red shirt. (My husband...) They all pelted each other with balls while I sorted out the food, and had a blast.

I spread a blanket on the floor and the kids ate their party food picnic-style. They had sausages, sandwiches cut into different shapes (jam, ham, and cheese with marmite), pineapples, chicken ball thingies, assorted cracker shapes, yogurt in tubes ("Frubes"), and juice.

The cake was banana loaf, covered in lemon curd and then red icing. Marzipan type stuff? I don't know what it's called - the kind that you roll out. I made it myself, and tried to make a spiderweb on top, but it isn't particularly good. Middle Child loved it though, and when I put his Spider-Man toy on top, he thought it was wonderful.

Party bags included pipe-cleaner spiders (made by me), ring bubble pots, paper & markers, stickers and a small rubber animal. Mostly frogs, because those were all I had in the bag-o-animals.

The party went on for about 20 minutes too long -- we opted to show an episode of the 90s cartoon version of Spider-Man, and the kids were antsy. They could have easily left before then and been happy, but you live and learn with this party stuff. They all thoroughly enjoyed themselves, so that's the main thing. Middle Child was very happy, as evidenced by this photograph:

Whew. Over for another year. Except that Eldest Child's birthday is in six months. Ack!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Dr Horrible -- Available until Sunday night at Midnight!

Go watch it now. Seriously, right now. All three acts are online, but only for one more day.

You won't regret it.

Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

It is one of the funniest things on the net I've ever, ever seen.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera

Sometimes I feel like I live in a circus, and one that is aptly narrated by my small children. A few gems from Eldest child these past few days include:

Mum, when you call my name and I just don't care and don't talk to you, then you talk louder and I still don't care and then you get a little bit cross and then I say, 'Huh?'

I would laugh, but it's a depressingly accurate portrayal of how our interactions go and I'm slightly scared of her thought processes. To wit, a self-composed song by hers truly:

Don't drink my blood, I neeeeed it! Don't drink my blood, there's not much left! Don't drink my blood, OH NO, I'm dead!

I have no idea where that came from, and she feigns ignorance whenever I mention her 'blood song.' I'm certain she sang it. I wrote it down as she was singing it.

My husband took the day off work on Friday, and we drove to a Pick Your Own farm. We picked our own strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, beets, broad beans and potatoes. It was a perfect day -- beautiful weather, small crowds, and relatively behaved children. It was so fun to pick our own food, and the kids participated by eating everything they picked while we tried to hide their berry-stained faces when we paid for the food. "What children? Whose children? Oh, no, we're not responsible for those children who have obviously eaten half the strawberries in the fields without paying. Tsk tsk."

We snuck them into the car on our way out.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

It's not just in the Who-niverse....

The bee populations in the world are diminishing. Albert Einstein predicted, "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left."

This article, written last year, talks about bee populations in the United States diminishing by up to 70 percent in some areas.

Most bee keepers in the US travel around the country with their hives, pollinating farmers' crops. The article goes on to talk about growers of GM crops getting very angry at these bee keepers for allowing their bees to cross-pollinate with their crops.

Is it that far of a stretch to consider that the manufacturers of genetically modified crops would try to find a way to prevent bees from destroying their products?
This BBC article from earlier this year explains that there is a combination of factors involved in the bee decline. One of the major problems is the varroa mite:

The mite, which latches onto bees and sucks their "blood", arrived in the UK in 1992. Within a few years it had spread throughout the country and took the wild honey bee population to the brink of annihilation. Managed hives were also hit hard.

But having long been kept under control using chemical treatments, there is now a new problem.

"The mites are becoming resistant, there are no good alternatives for treatment," says Carreck.

And as well as varroa, the devil that beekeepers know, there is another cloud on the horizon. Across the Atlantic US honey bees are being wiped out in vast numbers by a mysterious condition that leaves hives deserted.

Colony Collapse Disorder is affecting the nomadic beekeepers, possibly because the bees are stressed and less resistant to disease, but they don't know the exact causes.

This German article (translated) basically comes to the conclusion that the combination of pesticides and GM crops have destroyed bees' immune systems; the bees in one study had up to six different bee infections in their bodies, including fungal infections.

The bee experts maintain that these kinds of deaths have never been found in nature before.

The natural world seems to be self destructing, and it's a scary thought.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

My new blog

30 Cakes in 30 Days is my new blog, chronicling my efforts in baking one cake every day for a month. Well, not a true calendar month, but 30 consecutive days, anyway!

The entries are on a time-lag, so I've already baked 7 cakes so far but the first post will be up by Monday.

Hope you like it.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The Weather

Yesterday was a Bank Holiday, and as is usually the case on such days, there was a car boot sale down the road from me.

I woke early, thanks to a certain small person that decided it would be fabulously entertaining to wake up at 5.30 am in full-on scream mode. After settling her back to sleep, my mind started whirring too much to go to sleep myself. At that insanity-inducing hour, I decided to get all our household crap together to sell off to unsuspecting townsfolk.

Cue Weather Watch (tm). Every few minutes, I would glance out the window, and try to assess my chances of making it outside that morning. There was a very strong wind, which was a bit deceptive actually, because it would sometimes blow all the clouds out of the way and everything seemed bright and sunny for a few minutes. I would then rush around, digging useless junk out of hidey-holes and crevices, preparing to Turn My Trash into Cash!

Finally, when I committed myself by digging all the crap out from behind the couch and the kids spread it across the house in a thin layer and were happily fighting each other to the death over dusty broken toys and bits of old cookie crumbs, I conceded defeat. Gale force winds were blowing clouds across the sky and bending trees into unnatural positions, fat raindrops were splatting against the windows, and there I was with a huge pile of stuff that no longer had a home because I rearranged the living room and cleaned all the hiding places.

For the rest of the week, the BBC is forecasting rainy, windy and cold days. For the rest of the week, I have my kids at home because school is out for half term break. For the rest of the week, I will go gradually more insane.

English summer is a contradiction in terms. Sigh.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

I coulda been a... furniture mover?

I am insane. Barking. Mental.

I got it into my head that I could move one of our (massive) armchairs upstairs into Middle Child's room. First, it got stuck in the living room door, into the (narrow) hallway. I didn't take that as a bad sign, oh no. I figured out how to get it into the hallway, and then pushed it up the stairs. It got stuck several times, while I got progressively weaker. Jiggle, push, heave, rest, repeat. Thinking I had it home free when I got past the door frame, I failed to take into account the moulding around the bottom of the upstairs hall banisters. I was four steps away from victory, and didn't think I could make it.

My notorious stubborn streak kicked in (Oh, you thought it was stubbornness carrying me on before now? You don't know how far madness can take you in life, my friend.) and I refused to be defeated so close to my goal. After several more jiggles and pushes, I made it.

Middle Child's room now has a comfy, over-large armchair and our living room has a bit more space in it.

If we ever move, that chair is NOT coming with us.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Dear Blog.

I'm sorry. I've been writing somewhere else. It's not even with the same provider.

I know I've been neglecting you recently. I know that we haven't been seeing each other much. It's just that my interests are taking me elsewhere. It's not YOU, it's ME.

I'll still write you. We'll still hang out; I just can't make a daily commitment. I thought I could do this NaNoWriMo for May, but I can't. I've got other stuff going on, too, family stuff and sunny days spent in the garden. It's not that I'm purposely ignoring just you. I promise.

Anyway. I just wanted you to know. I'll be around, but I guess we'll just have to be friends for now. I hope you can understand, and I'll see you soon.


Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Happy International No Diet Day!

Council on Size and Weight Discrimination’s list of the top ten reasons not to diet.

10. DIETS DON’T WORK. Even if you lose weight, you will probably gain it all back, and you might gain back more than you lost.

9. DIETS ARE EXPENSIVE. If you didn’t buy special diet products, you could save enough to get new clothes, which would improve your outlook right now.

8. DIETS ARE BORING. People on diets talk and think about food and practically nothing else. There’s a lot more to life.

7. DIETS DON’T NECESSARILY IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH. Like the weight loss, health improvement is temporary. Dieting can actually cause health problems.

6. DIETS DON’T MAKE YOU BEAUTIFUL. Very few people will ever look like models. Glamour is a look, not a size. You don’t have to be thin to be attractive.

5. DIETS ARE NOT SEXY. If you want to be more attractive, take care of your body and your appearance. Feeling healthy makes you look your best.

4. DIETS CAN TURN INTO EATING DISORDERS. The obsession to be thin can lead to anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, and compulsive exercising.

3. DIETS CAN MAKE YOU AFRAID OF FOOD. Food nourishes and comforts us, and gives us pleasure. Dieting can make food seem like your enemy, and can deprive you of all the positive things about food.

2. DIETS CAN ROB YOU OF ENERGY. If you want to lead a full and active life, you need good nutrition, and enough food to meet your body’s needs.

And the number one reason to give up dieting:

1. Learning to love and accept yourself just as you are will give you self-confidence, better health, and a sense of wellbeing that will last a lifetime.

I can't really improve on that!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Friday, 2 May 2008

So maybe not so much Voices as it is Accents.

Being a stranger in a strange land, I've got an interest in accents. It's not something I'm passionate about, but I do find the varying accents in this small little island to be astonishingly diverse.

So, my game starts today. Is this my real accent, or am I faking it? (Or as the locals like to say, "blagging it.")

Those of you who know me for realz need not answer. You know who you are, all one of you!

Thursday, 1 May 2008


So I joined this month's NaBloPoMo theme of "Voices," and I decided to play a little game.

As you may know, I am American-born, living in the UK. I've lived here for nearly a decade, and the subject of accents comes up regularly in my conversations with people.

The game is this. I will record my voice over the course of a few days... or is it my voice? Guess which one is me, and you win a prize. Um, I'll work on that one.

Starting tomorrow, you can play: Guess My Voice! *cannedapplause*

See you soon.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Why do I do this to myself?

I wouldn't say my aversion to dolls is a phobia or anything. Most of the time the don't bug me. By now, Baby Child has developed a keen fondness for little baby dolls of her own, so we have several. They often get strewn around the house like any other toy. They aren't real babies or anything. It's no big deal.

Except when I walk into my hallway and see this:

Ignore the mess and take a closer look at the far right corner:

There, that's it. A doll, casually tossed aside and in a very odd position on the floor. Seeing it made me do a double take, with that sort of heart in the mouth feeling that I get whenever I see a young child in trouble (Usually on tv shows that I've seen recently like House or Battlestar Galactica. I need to stop watching stuff like that.) and then I realise that it's "just a doll."

Which should, you know, in theory, make me feel better. Somehow it doesn't, so instead of walking towards this tiny, helpless, inanimate object and put it away where it belongs, I leave it there. I rush quickly past, on more important errands. And it stays there, waiting to startle me the next time I walk past -- which I do -- and the cycle continues.

I am reminded of when I was still pregnant with Baby Child, and we had our bedroom set up with a lovely little bassinet for the new baby-to-be. Eldest Child used it as a doll bed for a while, so every single time I walked into my bedroom and saw that blasted doll in the bassinet, I thought it was a newborn. I felt a little shock every time. I'm such a maroon.

So, no, I don't think it's a phobia, and not a single one of their dolls have turned into this creature, but I'm still suspicious. And I still don't like them.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Filled to the brim with girlish glee.

This past week I performed The Mikado at a local community theatre. It was probably the most fun I have had in years! I was in the chorus, dressed as a school girl, and spent my time on stage either dancing and singing like a loon, or giggling my head off. The advantage of being in the chorus was that I could often do both! This was especially useful if I messed up a dance move or sang off-key. It looked like I did it on purpose -- score!

I have always been interested in drama. When I was in highschool, however, I never got involved in musicals. The theatrical department was split into Plays and Musicals, and nary the twain would meet, really. I would have had to take singing classes in order to even be allowed to audition for the musicals, and it didn't fit into my schedule. Boo! Instead, I focused on plays, and after a few years of bit parts I was cast as Penny in You Can't Take it With You. That was one of the highlights of my entire highschool experience.

After moving to England, I went to a college and took my A-Levels. During that time, I managed to get involved in a school production of Fame! but it was horrifyingly bad. The teacher couldn't get a band together to play the musical numbers, so we were forced to sing over the soundtrack CD. Ugh. I am embarrassed just thinking about it; I really don't know how I managed to go on stage and sing in that show!

That was my last experience in drama for a very long time. I was in a few skits here and there, but nothing major. I auditioned for a part in The Importance of Being Earnest, but wasn't cast. I like to think it was my accent that failed me, and not my acting skills. Wishful thinking, perhaps! I auditioned for The Mikado in December last year, and wasn't given a speaking role, either, but my singing voice wasn't particularly phenomenal. It's gotten much better after being in the show, however. I have been able to reach much higher notes than I ever thought possible! Fab.

But, alas, the show is over. Last night was our last performance, and although it was an unqualified success (73% attendance -- we only needed 33% to break even!) and I had such a good time, I am rather relieved to be putting it aside. It has been a huge time commitment in the lead up to the performance -- several nights a week rehearsing, and last week I was out every night from Monday to Saturday, either rehearsing or performing. Saturday we had a matinee, so I was gone from about 1.30 to 10.30. Whew!

As The Husband says, I don't get paid for this. In fact, I pay for the privilege of performing; there is a yearly society fee, and a show fee for every production you perform in. Unfortunately, the arts are rather neglected (aren't they always?) so charging their members is really the only way they can keep the society afloat. I don't mind.

I'm keen to join a new show, now! There is another society in a nearby village that will be putting on Iolanthe, and I plan to audition for that in a few weeks' time. All the women in the show are fairies, and I think Eldest Child will probably faint with delight when she sees me prancing around on stage with fairy wings. I can't wait!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The baby hedgehog has arrived!

She's 8 days old, and she'll be paired up with Charlie to make little baby hedgehogs of our own! Eldest has already decided that she will be called Rosie. What do you think? Does she look like a Rosie to you?

I've started down the slippery slope of pet-dom. For years I ascertained that I would not have pets and that I shovel enough poop, thankyouverymuch. But Charlie is a breeze to care for, and another one isn't going to be much extra work. This is dangerous thinking, though. Before I realise it, 10 years from now we'll have six cats, three rats, a dog and a pony out back. Noooooo! I put my foot down at the pony.

Okay, well, it depends on if we have enough land for it, but until then....

Monday, 25 February 2008

My version of Better Homes and Gardens: Handy Hints

The following are the top five most useful excuses and logical reasons for escaping horrible, horrible housework.

1. Leave things to "soak." Not only does this get you out of scrubbing stubborn burnt-on food, it's also a legitimate way to clean something. Score! Bonus points if you manage to leave it "soaking" for more than a week.

2. Incorporating a long, complicated chain of if-then scenarios into your cleaning in a way that prevents you from getting most, if not all, housework done. For example, we are (still) redecorating our bathroom. It also needs a good clean and sort-out. I really can't get it cleaned until the painting is done, and I really can't get the painting done until the borders are finished. I can't do the borders until the tiles are scraped, and I also need to locate a low-tack masking tape that won't peel three layers of paint off the walls when it's pulled off the wall (sigh). You see why I couldn't possibly get round to cleaning the bath or the sink, right? Exactly.

3. Destructive children. There is really no point in folding a mountain of clean laundry if your toddler is going to pull it all on top of herself and squeal with glee. However, this is a catch-all excuse, and while accurate, you don't get many points for creativity.

4. Substandard equipment. I don't iron clothes very often, and it's mostly because I'm lazy. But also? Our ironing board is very old and no longer straight. For some reason, it is covered in hills and valleys, making it frustrating to iron anything. It sits there in the cupboard, silently accusing me with its well-pressed stare, but I'm adept at ignoring it. Which brings us to number five...

5. "I didn't notice it!" This is my husband's favourite, and it's a real doozy. Sometimes he can get away with allowing destruction and mayhem to occur mere feet away from him, but because he was watching tv, he gets a pass on being responsible for the resulting mess. Nothing beats my friend's husband, though, whose daughter got into the makeup bag and annointed her entire body with mascara while sitting in her daddy's lap. He was watching Star Wars at the time, so of course he felt he should have been absolved of all responsibility.

There you have it. A short but useful list of time-honoured methods in escaping any and all housework or chores. Please feel free to add to the list. I'm always on the look-out for more ways to procrastinate. Even now, instead of making dinner, I'm waiting for the meat to defrost. Another hour of time sucking internet surfing, here I come!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Tell me what you think this is.

If you guessed tamarind, you would be right! For the un-edumacated, tamarind fruit is defined by Wikipedia as follows:
The fruit pulp is edible and popular. It is used as a spice in both Asian and Latin American cuisines, and is also an important ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce and the Jamaican-produced Pickapeppa sauce. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is very tart and acidic and is most often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is sweeter, yet still distinctively sour, and can be used in desserts and sweetened drinks, or as a snack. In Thailand, there is a carefully cultivated sweet variety with little to no tartness grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit.

The bit where it says it's edible can be debated. Apparently, it's been made into a horrific, gut-wrenching candy called the Pulp of Tamarind. It does not sound appealing. How can something like that even be considered food, let alone a treat or candy? I think that somewhere along the line, there was a mistranslation:

In temples, especially in Asian countries, the pulp is used to clean brass shrine furniture, removing dulling and the greenish patina that forms.

Ah, I see. The words "candy" and "furniture polish" must be very similar in these unidentified Asian countries, and that's where the confusion resulted. Pulp of Tamarind is meant to shine your brass, not tickle your tastebuds.

I wonder, though, why anyone even thought that this "fruit" would be good for even tasting in the first place, let alone trying in recipes or manufacturing on a large scale. It looks like turds. That picture, up top there? That's the one that my friend handed to me this morning, as a little gift. I was very nonplussed. Why would she give me fake poo? As a little joke? Was it a subtle dig at my housekeeping skills? Is she going kind of loopy in her old age?

When she told me it was tamarind, and that she was giving them out to everyone at our church, I was slightly mollified. But I had heard of tamarind before, and the pulp is sold at my local grocery store, so I didn't think much of the gift. How can you be truly appreciative of a foodstuff that looks like poo and tastes like burning?

I admit, the picture below of the fruit on a tree doesn't look so bad. But after careful inspection, it started looking a little....phallic. Lovely. Phallic poo fruit.

I'll take a pass on that gastronomic experience, thanks. Any takers?

Sunday, 17 February 2008

2 1/2 weeks.

We have been playing round robin with a Monster Cold these past few weeks. Eldest was off school for an entire week, just before half term. Once she got better, Baby got it. Luckily the baby got a shortened version of the disease, so she got better just in time for me to catch it. Looooovely. The Husband is currently suffering, and hopefully Middle Child will escape its clutches. He is surprisingly resilient to many infections, considering how vitamin deficient he must be. (anything resembling a vegetable is summarily dismissed as being defective and inferior "food")

I've been climbing the walls in boredom and frustration. At first, it was nice to just chill out all day in our jammies, watching tv as and when we felt like it, and eating cereal for dinner. It was a novelty. I was going crazy after day 3, though. We couldn't go out -- someone was always ill -- but everyone else was bored stiff. I wasn't up to entertaining them very much, and that is a major drawback in my character these days.

I'll confess. Kiddie games are boring. All they want to do is play mummies and babies, whether it's with their dolls, cars, or bits of sticks and dirt. I live mummies and babies every day, so no thanks. This is why our Sims game sits on the shelf collecting dust. Once I realised that I was changing nappies and feeding children in my down time, I stopped playing that "game" really quick. I love watching the kids play, and listening to their little pretend world, but I really don't have the desire to join in. I like doing stuff with them, like gardening or baking or shopping, but the sitting around and playing games with them is just not my thing.

I'm aware that some mothers and fathers out there will probably think less of me for admitting this. I don't tell people my feelings on this subject very often, for fear of losing points among my parent friends. It's just not my thing.

Thankfully, everyone will be back to their normal schedules starting tomorrow, and we can all get back on an even keel again. Maybe we'll do something cool tomorrow, like painting the brick wall out in the back garden or transplanting our seedlings into little pots. Please, please, anything but dollies and babies again....

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Saturday Meme: You are invited to my virtual dinner.

Baked goods only. Double desserts, of course.

Lasagna. Technically this is cheating, since it's not usually found in a bakery, but I love pasta.

The perfect cherry pie. Doesn't that look fab?

Cupcakes baked inside an icecream cone, topped with a swirl of ice cream. This is a classic kiddie treat, and one I should use for Eldest's birthday party....

Happy Saturday! I hope you enjoyed your feast.

Friday, 15 February 2008

I've decided to start a Meme....

Check my sidebar to sign up for my Saturday Meme!

It's a photo scavenger hunt, and tomorrow's theme is "Perfectly Baked Goods."

Use google images to find that perfectly baked treat, whether it's a gorgeous birthday cake, golden loaf of bread, or the greasiest, fattiest sausage roll you can find. Whatever tickles your fancy, really.

Feast your eyes on some lovely baked treats tomorrow!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

People and Me.

I have never been very good at reading other people. In my younger days, I would write pages and pages of journal entries analyzing every little detail of conversations I had with people (mostly boys). It's a miracle I met and married my husband actually; I'm just rubbish at socializing and stuff. I put on a little show for people, and I make the appearance of being semi-normal, but it's mostly an act. I'm especially good at being the brash American. It's an easy facade to hide behind.

About a year after The Husband and I started dating, I spent 6 weeks living away from home in a far away city doing some volunteer work. I had a great time, learned a lot, and to my complete surprise, I had several men interested in me. It was really weird! I didn't quite know what to do or how to respond. I was in a committed relationship, so there were no reciprocated feelings, but I wasn't even sure if these guys were simply being nice, or actually flirting? How could I tell?

So, of course, my modus operandi was to write about our conversations in excruciating detail in my journal. Reading through these journals now, it's pretty blinkin' obvious that there was some flirtation going on. Like, when a guy purposely goes out of his way to talk to you in every social setting you cross paths in? Yeah. Derr.

Last night, at rehearsals, I was surprised to find that the new guy kept looking at me. Several times, he sought me out to start a small conversation. A few times, when I glanced in his direction, I accidentally caught his eye. I was nice enough to him, and it was flattering, in a way. I don't wear a wedding ring, and I didn't get a chance to casually mention "my husband" in any conversation. Heh.

I'm amused at the thought of his reaction to finding out I'm married with three kids. I've been told that I don't look old enough to have such a large family (and I love every single person who has said that). If I'm right, and this guy was trying to get to know me -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- I wonder if he'll freak out when I tell him about my family. I wonder if he'll stop trying to talk to me so much.

I could be totally wrong in my assessment, however; he might be interested in finding out about the weird American chick, and that's all. It could go either way, really. Like I said, I'm pretty bad at reading people.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Buying new glasses.

My husband broke his glasses the other night. Again. For the second time in 12 months.

I, on the other hand, am wearing frames that I've had for at least 6 years. I need new ones, and I've been ousted out of the running yet again by Sits On His Glasses over there. Le Sigh.

However! This will not stop me from browsing. And maybe, just maybe, ordering them very cheaply from an American website. Waddya think?

I love these frames. They are so girly, which is something that I don't normally go for. They are also full of personality, and I think I could look quite cool in these. They come in a few colours:

I think brown would be the best, because although I would be branching out with the frames themselves, I don't know if I can risk wearing pink glasses every day.

The other frames I am interested in are a bit more utilitarian and robust looking. I think they would stand up to life with young children better, so I could save my fancy frames for dates or work.

I most definitely wouldn't get the green frames, though. Sorry, but I just can't manage it. They come in other colours:

Quite a few colours, actually, and I don't think black would be the best option. I'm leaning towards purple and dark purple. It is my favourite colour, and it's not so in-your-face that I would have to worry about matching outfits to my frames.

Anyway. The Husband will be ordering frames from the same website, so I'll probably get these soon. Tell me what you think of them!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Meet my new baby.

Praise the heavens that I didn't give birth to him:

Eldest has decided his name is Charlie. For now. I think she may change her mind. Charlie is a fine name for a hedgehog, if you ask me.

Isn't he a cutie, though? We didn't initially want to get a hedgehog with such light colouring, but he's just lovely. His eyes aren't as red as the flash of the camera make out, but they are definitely a dark red. He is 11 months old, and has already produced a few litters with his previous owner. We want to use him for breeding, but first and foremost, he is our pet.

It's been over a decade since I've actually had a pet, and I'm really excited about it! For years I would say to people, "I clean up enough poo as it is; no pets for me!", but I've obviously softened recently. He's so small though, I'm sure he'll be no trouble.

Little Charlie has had a long day, and he's now fast asleep in his little igloo hidey-hole. When I woke him up earlier to transfer him from the carrying cage to his proper home, he snorted and snuffled at me. Awesome.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Etsy, will you marry me?

I've found a new love of my life: the world of Etsy. There are such beautiful, beautiful things on there, and I want to buy EVERYTHING.

What I've particularly fallen in love with of late is PenFelt's creations. She makes these adorable little felted rings that have candy-like baubles on the top. They look so cosy and edible at the same time, I knew that I had to have them. In fact, I've actually commissioned her to make 8 little girl rings for Eldest's birthday party. Woo! I can't wait to see them; I may not give them away, but just wear them myself on my pinky fingers and my little toes.

I'm buying something for myself, though. This flower pin is just beautiful, and I plan to wear it with very smart looking attire for when I go to work or something. Or I might just wear it with everything, even my jogging clothes, because I will never want to take it off. That's just how much I love it.

Although, I do not buy these items without pangs of guilt. Oh no. I've spent a lot of money on Eldest's birthday party this year, even after swearing to myself that I wouldn't go overboard or make it a crazy broo-haha. Ummm... I've gone overboard. Just a bit. If you count the cost of the homemade party bags, the homemade aprons (that I still haven't finished, but when I do, you shall see them), the party food (still not completely decided yet, but will include child-made pizzas and child-made fairy cakes), the party games, the napkins and plates and cups. Ack. I've still got a lot to do, and I'm getting caught up in the minutiae of getting little felt rings to go into the party bags!

Even so. They are going to be adorable.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Slightly off-putting

I suppose in theory, this sort of slogan on a baby shirt is cute:

I mean, all my kids are well loved and cherished and all that. It's a sweet sentiment. However, let's think about the phrase "made with love" in regards to a human being. How do we make babies, kids? Yes, that's right: SEX.

So, as sweet and cutesy as a shirt like the above can be, in essence, I would be plastering information about my sex life all over my young, innocent child. When you look at it that way, it's actually kind of gross and creepy. "My parents had hot, passionate love in order to make little ol' me!"

Um, let's keep that sort of thing off of t-shirts, 'kay?

Happy Bloggiversary to Me!

Well, it's been an entire year of blogging. I actually have people who read what I write, which is not something I thought I'd have when I started out. I was just typing into a void back then, trying to wrap my head around this blogging thing.

I really enjoy this little space I've created for myself. Writing about small glimpses of my daily life is challenging at times, but often rewarding. I'm embarrassed to admit that I re-read my posts several times after they've been published. I like the fact that I have total control over what gets sent to the screen, and I am ruler of this world. Mwhahahaha!

Aaaaanyway. Last week Eldest was off school sick all week. Good times. Next week, tomorrow, is the start of half term break, so we are all hanging out together for another week. At least we won't be stuck in the house this time around; I've got a fabulous trip lined up to Nottingham to pick up some second-hand hedgehog cages. They are a real bargain, even with the travel costs added to the price. I'm sure the kids will just love a long car ride, right?!?

The weather has been gorgeous lately, so I'm hoping to take them out and about next week. Maybe a bike ride will be thrown into the mix, as well. We'll make sandwiches and head out the door to wherever the wind blows us. I'll let you know how things turn out.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

The things I do for beauty. Or might do....

I am not a girly girl. I don't wear makeup very often, and I only wear dresses or skirts when required.

Recently, however, my tastes have been changing. I've been wearing jewelry lately, and I like it. Crazy, right? I even bought a charm bracelet.

And today? Well, today I joined the ranks of those salon-going women all over the world: I got my eyebrows done. To be exact, I got them threaded.

It was painful. Thank goodness it only lasted a few minutes. I think it was worth it, though; I went in there with huge, wild, bushy brows and walked out with sleek, shaped brows that look great! They only charged me a fiver, too. Bargain.

I will probably get my eyebrows threaded regularly. I am slipping into the dark, seedy underworld of "Yummy Mummies." Before long, you'll catch me in a tanning salon, getting a brazilain wax and a brown-eye bleach.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

On my side.

My life is marked by events, and I find myself judging the passage of time by referring to my personal history rather than by dates on a calendar.

Life before emigrating and after emigrating are such different entities as to be completely unrecognisable to each other. Sure, I've reached adulthood since flying across the ocean nine years ago, but I've also been formed by the culture around me in fundamental ways. My first 18 years is my "before" shot, and these subsequent years are becoming my "after" shot.

But that's not all. I further segment my life into "before" and "after" marriage, children, home moving, health issues. Breaking my life into these chunks has a way of compressing time. I always have some sort of event to look forward to -- at the moment it is a holiday to the states and Eldest's fifth birthday -- and time hurtles forward to these anticipatory moments at an astonishing rate.

I am only in my mid-twenties, but sometimes I get this worrying feeling that time is running out. I don't have as much of it as I think I have. I'm not talking about an early demise or anything so macabre; I'm just aware of the fact that one day I will wake up to a quiet, empty nest of a house, with gray hair on my head and no one to worry about but myself and my husband (and probably a dog), and not remember how I got to that point.

My life is chugging along quite merrily; it's a good life, and one that I chose freely and willingly. I just want to put the brakes on every once in a while.... slow down for a bit. It makes no difference what I want, though. I'll soon wake up with that gray head of hair, and I'll still have that feeling of confusion and vague shock.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

It's Shrove Tuesday again!

I blogged about pancake day last year, and I think I've learned a few things. This year, I made the blueberry sauce in the microwave. I actually bought maple syrup this year instead of trying to melt sugar to make a DIY syrup. I used a different recipe, so no blender was needed. We didn't have bacon, but that was just because I forgot. Mmmm... bacon....

Anyway. Here are a few pictures of our pancake experience.

The batter. This recipe has oats and whole wheat flour in it. Super healthy!

Frozen strawberries. They were okay, but fresh would have been better. (No, we did not eat them like little red ice cubes -- the microwave is a wonderful defrosting tool)

The sauces. No pancake would be complete without "Pure Canadian Maple Syrup."

All cooked, ready for dressing and eating.

All dressed up in (defrosted) strawberries and a lovely blueberry sauce.

Eating their ill-gotten gains. Okay, not ill-gotten. Just eating their ... gains ... I guess.

This one took off before I could capture an unflattering picture of her as she ate. That's her princess doll she's holding there.

Please, sir, can I have some more?

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Square Foot Gardening

We don't have a lot of space in our back garden, and what we do have is covered with paving stones or gravel. There is a small strip of earth, but it's not much.

I want to try this square foot gardening deal. It's compact, apparently easy, and something I can do with the kids.

The Husband wants to buy some fruit trees, too. Again, the trouble with the ground in the back means that we have to use pots. Really big pots.

But hey! If this works, we could be enjoying fresh apples or pears in a few years. And in a few months, we could be eating fresh vegetables. Provided, of course, that the sun comes out at some point.

We have tried growing stuff in the past. Last year it was strawberries, tomatoes and runner beans. The weather was not cooperative and we ended up with a lot of underripe tomatoes and not much else.

A few years ago, we tried to grow corn. Again with the bad weather. The two ears of corn that actually turned out were DELICIOUS, and I sometimes think back on that "crop" with a faint hope that we could do it again. We also tried to grow pumpkins, but all that we ended up with was a fast growing vine and no fruit. Seriously, pumpkin vines grow incredibly fast. It's kind of like a slow-moving horror flick; if you sit in one place for too long, your feet might get grown over!11!!

What I need to do is find some really hardy plants that don't mind the rainy and cold English summers. Preferably something other than tubers, but my hopes aren't very high.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

I finished the party bags! They turned out really cute, if I do say so myself. Next on the agenda is the aprons; I hope they turn out just as nice. I am loving making all these girly little party accessories.

Sunday, 27 January 2008


That's right. Bangers and mash! The husband bought some Cumberland sausages for dinner tonight, and they were delicious. The mashed potatoes had some sweetcorn thrown in for added interest, and they, too were good eating.

I really enjoy British food. The thick, stodgy pastry on a good meat pie; the sizzling, greasy sausages; the classic roast dinners; the bread and butter pudding; the custard slathered over everything.

British food is about stuff that sticks to your gut and keeps you warm. You need food like this, especially during the cold, dark and wet winters around here. It not only feeds the body, but it also tastes so good and is very "homey" type food that people sit around the table to eat.

As much as I enjoy British cuisine, I think my absolute favourite type of food is Italian. If I had my way, we would eat pasta two or three times a week. I try to limit it to once a week, because I don't want everyone else to get bored with my meals, but I just love garlicky tomato sauce with a bit of cheese on the top, or a gorgeous lasagna with a side of garlic bread and salad. (Um, I like garlic. Surprising, I know.) Pizza is okay, but I don't really see that as proper Italian food. That is more of a lazy dinner night, either bought in or pulled from the freezer.

There is this fabulous Italian restaurant in my town. We usually go there once a year, for my birthday meal. We don't go out to eat much, so this restaurant is kept as a Very Special Treat. I look forward to it all year, and I have never been disappointed. (Unlike that French place we went to a few years ago, when the fish came to the table with its head still on and its beady little eye staring up at me in supplication. I am still scarred by that incident.)

More than anything, however, I wish that there were more child-friendly restaurants around here. There are a few laid-back pubs that I know of, but you can only have dinner in so many pubs before it all looks the same. My children won't eat anything from McD's or BK, happily, so those kinds of places are out. I would love to expose them to more variations in food (because my skills and desire to make extravagant meals are pretty low), but for the time being we are left with baked chicken, tuna casserole, or spaghetti. Tasty in their own way, but nothing special or fancy.

Ah, who am I kidding -- anything special or fancy just gets thrown to the floor anyway. It's like some sort of inverse mathematical law: the longer I take preparing a meal, the faster it hits the floor when presented to my children. Slap some peanut butter and jam on two slices of bread? They will ask for thirds.

Fancy eating is not on the cards for this family. I guess we'll just stick to our bangers and mash until the kids get a bit older.

Friday, 25 January 2008

It's the little things in life. Friday Fluff Time!

I got a pack of new socks yesterday, and these are my favourites. You can't beat spotty socks!

Socks seem to go missing at an alarming rate in my house, so I've resorted to just buying new ones whenever I see them on sale. I bought the Husband some new socks yesterday, too. His were a pack of 6 for £2.00, and mine were a pack of 4 for £2.00. Why is women's clothing always more expensive? It's really annoying.

Anyway, that's it for today. I'm wearing spotty socks and I'm happy about it.

Also, it's Friday! Woo!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Behold, my creative POWAH.

Eldest isn't having her birthday party until April, but I've started getting things ready. At the moment, I've nearly finished making the party bags. They are actually more like boxes, made of felt with a bit of frou-frou at the top.

I'm really enjoying making these. I've only got two more to go, and I'm fast enough now to sew it all together in an hour or so.

Next on the agenda is sewing a bunch of aprons for the party goers. I am putting together a baking themed party, so the girls will have their very own aprons to decorate before getting stuck into making their own pizzas and decorating fairy cakes. I haven't decided if I'm going to make chef hats yet or not; I have a feeling I will be fed up with sewing before too long!

But, at the moment, things are going well and I haven't lost steam yet. I need to get back to knitting as well.... I've been knitting a scarf for Eldest, making it up as I go along, and it's kind of odd. I started making it far too wide for a little kid, so I reduced my stitches too quickly and the end now looks like a weird bulbous bell of some sort. I'm just going to pretend that I made it that way on purpose.

Friday, 18 January 2008

That is one big millstone.

About two years ago, I bought a used piano. It didn't cost very much, and I was excited to start playing again.

That makes me sound like someone who actually knows how to play, right? Heh. I had a few lessons when I was 10 years old, but I didn't stick at it. I've regretted my lack of piano playing skills for a long time now, so this inexpensive piano looked like a great opportunity!

Armed with Piano For Dummies, I got stuck in. Oh, except the piano sounded HORRIBLE! It hadn't been tuned in years, so I paid for a man to fix it up for me.

He did a good job, but told me that the piano itself is basically pretty-looking kindling. The pins are knackered, and the cost of replacing them would be roughly the same as buying a new upright piano. Well.

I played it for a while, until the twanging got to be more than I could bear. And now it sits in my living room, collecting junk and dust, as a testament to my ill-advised impulsive purchase habits.

The trouble is, I need to get rid of it, but I feel guilty about getting rid of it. It was going to be a centerpiece in our home! We were going to have sing-a-longs around this piano. I was going to force my kids to take piano lessons and everything. We were going to be a Musical Family.

I've got someone from Freecycle interested in it. Hopefully he will be able to take it off my hands and give it a good home. Otherwise, I'm not sure what I'll do with it. Maybe I'll set it out on the sidewalk with a "Free to a good home" sign. If that doesn't work, I might have to pay to get it taken away to the dump. Failing that, bonfire at the Cookie residence!

I feel like a traitor to all pianists out there for even suggesting the destruction of such a delicate instrument. Oh well, there's always the lime green clarinet sitting on the bookshelf.

Why yes, my house is the place where all unwanted musical instruments go to die.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Eat to Save Your Life

Since when have scare tactics ever worked with people? Cigarette packaging has huge warning labels plastered all over it. Well, whoop-dee-doo. My in-laws still smoke a pack a day, and I'm sure by now they don't even notice the words anymore.

Or what about fake speed cameras? Everyone I know is happy to tell me which cameras are real or fake on any given stretch of road. So that doesn't work.

Here are some more commonly used scare tactics:

"If you don't finish your homework you won't get a good grade. Then you won't be able to get into the college you want. You will end up cleaning toilets for a living."

"If we allow them to build that incinerator we will soon be seeing two headed babies."

"If you go out without your coat you'll catch pneumonia and die."

I didn't go to college, and funnily enough I don't clean toilets for a living. I live near an incinerator and (so far) my babies have one head, and even though I often go out without my coat on, I haven't caught pneumonia yet.

I think most people see these statements as manipulative, fear-mongering attempts to strong-arm someone into a certain way of thinking or behaving.

So why do we accept statements from so-called "celebrities" as gospel? Why is Jamie Oliver allowed to stir up hatred and fear in the name of science?

Frankly, the entire premise of the show disgusts me. Not because they are showing the inner workings of the human body, but because this nameless man is being ridiculed and vilified beyond the grave. Did he sign a form allowing these people to desecrate his body in this manner? Did he know that an entire nation of people would be watching his body be cut apart and paraded around as some sort of grotesque circus side-show?

This televised dissection is nothing more than a ratings bid. It is another chance for Jamie Oliver to get into the headlines. Junkfood Science says it best:

No, this is not science or a documentary. This is theatre. There is no evidence that shock theatre and repulsing people by cutting up dead bodies will in any way send a “positive message,” not to mention a credible one. It will, however, pile on to the discriminatory beliefs about fat people and add to the fears and angst people already feel about their food and bodies.

I'm so tired of being told that I should live my life in fear; I'm tired of the constant messages of not being "good" enough or "healthy" enough or "beautiful" enough. I'm especially tired of the message of "Fat = Early Grave, you stupid Fattie Fatso". I have a close family member who is overweight (whatever that ambiguous statement actually means) and is suffering from a heart problem. No, the heart problem has nothing to do with her weight. She has perfect cholesterol levels, her heart muscles are in great shape; she's very healthy overall, it's just that her heart misfires electrical signals and therefore it doesn't beat regularly. She seems to have a genetic propensity for this problem and it was triggered by stress. Not her weight, and not because she has a candy bar once in a while.

Jamie Oliver cooks food. He is not a nutritionist, he is not a scientist, he is not a doctor. He is a chef with a pretty face who lucked into a TV programme a few years ago and is now doing everything he can to keep his celebrity status. He is a con, and so is this show.

And just to change the subject slightly, I'm also annoyed that diabetes is always equated with "OMG!! Soooo FAT AND UNHEALTHY!!". My husband has diabetes, and it was in no way his fault nor was it preventable. It was a fluke situation wherein his immune system attacked his pancreas before he even turned 30 years old. There is so much misinformation out there, all in the name of "science", "education", or "documentaries."

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Seriously people: SCARY.

I'm not a big fan of life-like dolls. My girls have several dollies, and one closes its eyes when it lays down. Oh, except for that left eye, that only partially closes...? Yikes. It's just not natural. Baby Child adores these dolls, though, and walks around cuddling them and patting their backs like a little momma. That is sweet. It's also sweet to see the older kids "feeding" them and pushing them around in a buggy.

But they are all under the age of five. I expect and encourage this kind of pretend play. The key words in that sentence are pretend play. When I watched the Channel Four documentary, "My Fake Baby," I was saddened and a little bit horrified. These are dolls that women dress up. These women pretend that their designer dolls are actual babies. They order the dolls to look just like their newborn children or grandchildren. They push the dolls around in buggies. They spend hundreds of pounds on clothing.

If you haven't seen this yet, have a look. It's on YouTube in five parts, so it's rather lengthy, but I'm willing to bet that you'll watch all five parts. It's hard to stop.

Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

Part Four.

Part Five.

There are no words.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The Reality of the Situation.

Before I had kids, I imagined a cozy scenario: Children, all clean from the bath and in soft jammies, snuggled up on my lap while they are enthralled by my fabulous story-telling skills before toddling off to bed.

The reality of the situation is slightly different. Oh, sure, the kids are in their pyjamas and I -- of course -- do an awesome rendition of Green Eggs and Ham, but they aren't necessarily snuggled up on my lap....

Tonight, for instance, Eldest Child and Middle Child were engaged in a pushing war, fighting over the prime territory of my legs. Baby Child noticed the action and literally dove into the fray. Cue more shoving with a bit of screaming thrown in.

The trouble is, Middle Child likes to hold his face two centimeters away from the book. Eldest Child likes to point at each word to read along (while Middle Child talks over her efforts by saying "Okayokayokayokay!!"), and Baby Child likes to blow raspberries onto each picture. You can see the difficulty, right? There just isn't enough room for everyone. They love story time, though. I have to yell over the fracas, hold the book away at arms length (and sometimes even weave it back and forth to avoid Grabby McGrabberson GrabHands), negotiate who gets to turn the pages and/or flip the flaps.

The kids race to the bookshelf for more books when the story ends. They moan and complain when I tell them story time is finished. The reality is, my kids love reading with me and I'm happy to oblige.

...Just give me a minute to catch my breath.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Okay, So.

It all started last October, when some people on a forum I frequent started gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I wasn't up to writing a novel at that time (and I will likely remain in that state for many years to come), but then someone mentioned NaBloPoMo, and I thought "Hey, I could do that."

And so I joined the site and started blogging. After a while, people started leaving comments; I was no longer typing into the cavernous abyss of the internet. That was cool! I was very excited to see comments, for sure.

Then, one day, I came across Technorati. It turns out that the lovely Aphra Behn came across my blog in the NaNoBloMo Randomizer, and wrote a flattering review of my blog. I've gotta say, I was absolutely floored. Suddenly, I had a fan. Someone admired my writing style. That is big. Really big.

So after that, I started brushing up on my blogging skills and the best way to get my name out there on the internet. I registered with a website that tracks the number of visitors I receive each day, and if you subtract about 4 from the sum total of daily traffic (because for some reason I perpetually click onto my own blog throughout the day, as if something new might have shown up in between my own posts...), it would appear that I have about 10 visitors every day. Nice!

Then the realisation hit me. I have to start writing for my audience. I really aught to think of interesting things to talk about, so people (1) come back for more and (2) get a good impression of me. Because -- and I'm being very honest with you right now -- this blog is an exercise in narcissism. I don't write for you, dear readers, even though every good writer should write for her audience, right? (Yeah, don't read that sentence out loud.)

I write for myself. I write because if I didn't have somewhere to turn the stressful, inane moments of my day into humourous stories or interesting musings, I might go a little doo-lally. Well, a little more doo-lally. I write because I got married and had kids at a young age, didn't go to university, and really want to do something with my mind that is creative and clever so that I can say to myself, "See! You aren't all about nappies and bedtimes and snotty noses! There's more to you than 'Wife and Mother', and that's a Good Thing!"

So, after realising that I have a few readers and a few admirers, I became shy. I've become embarrassed about the fact that once I hit "Publish Post" my words fly away from me and are read and interpreted by virtual strangers. It's almost like I take a little piece of myself, give it a spit polish, and present it to you whilst blind-folded and wearing a hopeful smile.

I thank you all for accepting my gifts with grace and kindness, even if they are still a little rough around the edges.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

My accent.

There is a discussion on Shapely Prose about English accents and how cute they are on little children.

As you may know, I'm an American living in the UK. The Husband is an Englishman, but he's from Bristol and has a very different accent from your classic Queen's English; he's got a farmer's accent and if you've ever heard that song about a combine 'arvester, you'll know exactly what I mean. As a result, our kids have picked up my accent with ease, and not much of our friends' or neighbours'. Now that Eldest Child is going to school, she her accent is starting to morph a bit. She is saying "caHn't" instead of "can't", "paHnts" instead of "pants", and so on.

I think its incredibly cute, of course, but I'm a little sad to see my influence on her so obviously slip away. Yes, I know my job as a parent is to teach my kids to grow up and fly the nest, so independence is inevitable. But. The time will come when she will probably consciously decide to change her accent to match with her friends, and may even be embarrassed of my accent. (Shock! Horrors! A kid who is ashamed of her parents!) That will be weird for me.

For the moment, my accent is a stronger influence than the Husband's. It's a losing battle, though. Eldest Child is starting to say "tomaHto" without realising it.....

This quiz was spot on for me (sadly, it only words for Americans):

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Speaking of shelves.

I put together a new shelving unit today. It's in our bedroom, and is Very Big.

Check out my profile picture. See that mess of a bookshelf? Imagine that mess a year later, doubled in size. I've now redistributed the clutter onto a bigger bookshelf and the smaller bookshelf will be moved to the top of the computer desk.

But for the time being, the entire house is a gigantic mess. Apparently -- and really, who knew -- if I don't clean up after my children, no one else will. Shocking discovery, right?

Because I was so busy today putting this bookshelf together, weaving in and out of children underfoot, letting Middle Child "help" me, I wasn't able to keep up on the basic maintainence of toy tidying and dish washing. I don't think there is a spot on the floor free from toys, clothes, shoes or rubbish that is bigger than a few square inches.

I also have a mountain of laundry to wash, dry and put away (yes, a mountain for every category). I don't know how it happens, I really don't. I go to bed with the house in a reasonable condition, and before we head out the door for the school run the next morning, I find myself navigating a minefield.

So the attempt at de-cluttering continues. Next on the agenda is finding some poor sucker to take this clapped out piano off my hands. Here's a word of advice: don't ever be fooled into thinking a £50 piano is a bargain. It's not a bargain, it's a money pit. And also, it's a hot spot for clutter collection. Don't know where to put that doo-dad or thingamabob? Set it on top of the piano somewhere!

Such is my life. The name of this blog fits me all too well.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Before and ... well... we'll just stick with before for now, shall we?

The Cookies family has lived in this house for a little over two years now, and we've decided to start redecorating a bit. I painted the entrance hallway about a year and a half ago, and I totally lost steam when I noticed that the kids had coloured all over the wall. I guess it made sense to them -- Mum was colouring on the wall too, right? Sigh.

Over the Christmas break, the Husband went out shopping on his own. This is dangerous. He came back with several litres of paint, and decided to get cracking. Our bathroom needs a lot of work, because the dampness is seeping into the walls and growing mold -- whoopee! But I digress.

The colour he chose is rather bold. A bit crazy. I think I like it, but I'm not particularly imaginative with decor. Here is the bathroom after my efforts today:

The horrible dirty unpainted spot on the wall is from removing this monstrosity:

Not the toilet, but the black thing with mirror attached. I've got nowhere else to put it, so for the time being I've got front row seats to my own potty time. Fabulous. The Husband wants to get rid of it and get something else with a mirror and shelf for our toothbrushes, but we haven't started shopping around yet.

But back to the colour. What he thought would be a calming oceanic blue has turned out to be a very vibrant turquoise. I think it works with the black and white tiles, but I'm not sure. I don't know if our small bathroom could cope with such a strong colour. Perhaps if I get some bathroom-themed black and white prints for the walls....

Any thoughts, O people of the internetz?

Sunday, 6 January 2008

You can't tell me that this isn't cute. You just can't!

The Husband and I have agreed. We will be getting a pet, and it will be a hedgehog. They are pretty expensive, but that's irrelevant because they are absolutely gorgeous and will be a lot of fun. The main advantages are their small size, their prickles (thus preventing the kids from "accidentally" over-cuddling the poor creature), and they are nocturnal. Once the kids are in bed, we will be able to play with our little pet with no interruptions!

I think this is going to be a great pet for us. We won't be getting it until I come back from America in four months (woo!), so until then I will be squirrelling away some money and sewing fleece hidey-holes for the little prickler. I'm so excited!

And thus, I present you with the cuteness:

And finally, some live action brought to you by YouTube:

Saturday, 5 January 2008

It is finished.


I finally finished knitting my daughter's Christmas present. Yes, I am aware that it's January. We'll call it her "Twelfth Night" present instead. Yeah, that's the ticket....

Anyway. The yarn I used was originally just to practice on, but the darned thing took me so long to make that I just soldiered on and finished the dress with it. It's probably the ugliest yarn in the world, and Eldest has made her feelings on the subject clear.

"I don't LIKE this colour! I want her dress to be the same colour as her scarf!", she shouted. She then accentuated her dislike by hurling the doll across the room, as if that would make the dress magically change colours.

Funnily enough, it didn't. Gratitude schmatitude, hrmph!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Hats and Honey Pots.

A lot of thoughts have been whirling through my head recently, with regards to New Year's resolutions and dieting, accepting oneself regardless of appearance, and why all this is so important.

One of the many songs that my children and I sing together is from the Winnie the Pooh movies:

When I up, down and touch the ground
It puts me in the mood,
Up, down and touch the ground
In the mood for food

I am stout, round and I have found
Speaking poundage wise
I improve my appetite
When I exercise

I am short, fat and proud of that
And so, with all my might
I up, down and up, down to
My appetite's delight

While I up, down and touch the ground
I think of things to chew, like honey, milk and chocolate!
With a hefty happy appetite
I'm a hefty happy Pooh

With a hefty happy appetite
He's a hefty happy Pooh

I have fun singing this song with my kids. We jump up and down, proudly pat our bellies and eat pretend food with great relish. For us, it's a song about enjoying our bodies: we enjoy moving them, we enjoy their appearance, and we enjoy the food that fuels them.

The way I see it, we all have a role in our lives. In the stories, Winnie the Pooh's main purpose of existence was to eat honey (and other things). He's a bear. That's what bears do.

What do I do? What is the purpose of my existence? Is it to worry about my weight all the time? Is it to stress over a number -- whether it's on a scale or the back of my dress? Is it to ignore my body's needs and view it as an enemy? NO.

I wear many hats in my life: woman, daughter, mother, wife, manager, employee, nurse, organiser-of-the-troops, teacher, church-goer, chauffeur, the list goes on. I refuse to allow myself to slip on the hat of self-loathing or perpetual dieter. I've been doing pretty good lately.

So, as we stand on the cusp of a new year full of promise and many good things, I wish for us all to be more like Winnie the Pooh, do a few star jumps, and enjoy that pot of honey.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

I'm a hardened criminal, I am.

But more to the point, I'm a pretty dumb criminal. I had a few errands to run in town today, one of which was to transfer some funds from the Husband's account with The Annoying Bank and into our joint account with The Pretty Good Bank.

The Annoying Bank wanted to charge me twenty-five smackers for a simple bank transfer for a relatively low sum of money, so instead I just withdrew the cash and toodled back over to The Pretty Good Bank and deposited the money into our account myself.

Sounds simple, you might say. Where did it all go wrong?

Firstly, in my defense, I have to point out that I had forgotten that the Husband's account with The Annoying Bank was only in his name. I have been using that account recently, and since I know the pin number, I was just taking cash out every once in a while for a specific purpose (like buying stuff for meeeeee! ahem. ssshhhh).

When I was halfway through the transaction with the teller, I remembered that the account wasn't in my name. But I really needed to sort out the money today, and couldn't withdraw that much from the cashpoint.

I panicked a bit. I hoped very hard that she wouldn't notice the missing 's' from MR COOKIES plastered across the front of the card. She didn't. She counted out the money, and handed me a little slip of paper to sign.

At this point, I could feel my face going red, my hands starting to shake, and my stomach preparing to flip-flop its way to a gold medal. What should I do? Should I sign it, risking the teller checking the signature on the back of the card against my own signed name? Should I forge my husband's signature, and hope that they matched up well enough?

I didn't know what to do, so I silently freaked out and chose the stupider of the stupid options: I signed Husband's name. This was the especially stupid option because I'm obviously not MR COOKIES and even if my gender appeared ambiguous, my attempt at forging his signature was absolutely dire.

The teller didn't even look. She didn't check my signature, she didn't compare it against the card, nothing. She handed me the cash and I walked out of the bank. I felt like I was going to be pounced by a security guard as I walked away, but I wasn't. I worried that there would be a squad of police cars sitting in front of my house when I got home, but there wasn't.

I called the Husband to admit my crime, and he laughed at me. Of course. We'll see how much laughing he does when I'm locked away in the slammer.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Starting the New Year with a bit of sappiness

I'm starting 2008 off the way every year should be: lazing around the house in my dressing gown, watching tv, messing around on the computer, and reading a book. My kids have slowly shed all their clothing, so now they are running around the house in the nude; the husband is still asleep, and the baby is taking a nap. We are on our second viewing of Bob the Builder (but no one is watching it by now) and the house is a mess.

Ah, the holidays. As much as I was looking forward to this time off from real life, I'm now looking forward to our schedules getting back on track. Tomorrow we'll have more visitors -- my brother and new sister-in-law -- so that should be fun. But school starts up again on Thursday, and routines will slowly get back into place, and that is nothing to scoff at.

Yes, it's a pain to get everyone ready in the morning. I generally run around like a headless chicken and screech like a banshee trying to herd everyone into the car to get Eldest to school on time. I find it stressful, and I feel like time falls through my fingers like so much sand. These holidays have lolled along, not requiring much, and it's been enjoyable. I've been able to just chill out with the kids, without that little nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I simply MUST get such-and-such done before thisthatortheother happens.

Without that nagging voice, though, nothing gets done. Dishes are spread around the house like a thin film of dust (and yes, there is dust spread around the house, too), the pile-up of laundry is reaching epic proportions, and Eldest's school things need to be collected, ironed, and hung up ready to go. I have to start packing lunches again.

So, goodbye, holidays. Goodbye, 2007. We've had a good time, and we've all grown up a little bit. I've seen my children start school, learn to use the toilet independently, and grow from a slip of a human to a walking, joking, fabulous little person. They are my joy, these three. Oh, and my husband of course. He's my rock, and I look forward to 2008 with him at my side and my kids walking before us.