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.