Friday 22 February 2008

Raindrops on roses...

I feel as if I've eaten twice my body-weight in sugar over the last couple of weeks. That may, of course, be due in no small part to the fact that I have (probably) eaten my twice my body-weight in sugar over the last couple of weeks.

Not the brightest of things to do when that little african bird is becoming a much too frequent visitor, but hey, a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. And I reserve the right to eat whatever I want under the circumstances. It's gone 11.30pm on a Friday night and I'm sitting here trying to kill two birds with one stone: firstly, to write an entertaining post (about as likely right now as my finding I do fit into my pre-baby ski trousers after all), and secondly, to import various cd's of kids' stories onto my ipod. Quite why I'm prepared to consider subjecting myself to the Lion King and Chicken Little on holiday when I do anything to avoid putting them on at home I don't know, but I'm clearly over-tired because I'm doing it.

It's probably because I've been packing for the last two days. And I still haven't checked the toys that Boy #1 self-importantly stowed in his rucksack yesterday. He tells me he has all eventualities covered. This may well be true, if 'all eventualities' include a crocodile attack, a conversation with a passing paleontologist (I know that's not spelt right - so sue me) who wants to re-enact the no doubt frequent occurrence of a fight between a t-rex and a tricerotops with scale models, or the need to find a treasure island using a secret map where not only does 'X' mark the spot, but in fact covers most of the island.

But, although it feels as if I've been packing for the last two days, in actual fact it's only been since lunchtime today - but that's because I was still shopping for the things to pack until then.

And in reality, I haven't been properly 'packing'. No, I have been in charge of sorting out what we are going to take, making sure it's clean, wearable and accessable, putting it all in one place, policing that place to make sure Boy #2 doesn't start mountaineering up the piles of neatly stacked socks, pants and gloves, rescuing various items from Boy #1 who is so over-excited about our trip that everything has to be tried on repeatedly (especially the new red hat with the dingly dangly red bobble on the end), and checking twice to make sure we have everything we need (including the kitchen sink). The actual 'packing' had, of course, to be done by a man. One sock at a time, to maximise space-efficiency. Gosh, I'm lucky to have someone else to do the hard work, don't you agree?

In addition to the pre-preparation I also needed to sort out the money for our cleaner whilst we are away, get the keys to a neighbour, check the parking restrictions on our street to make sure that our car won't be towed whilst we're gone, and - this is the killer - get the flat into a fit state for our friends who are coming to stay whilst we're gone.

It's one thing making sure that everything is in a reasonable state of repair for when you get back from a holiday. It's another thing entirely to have your home in a fit state for strangers to view it, close up and personal, whilst you're not there. Suddenly the cobwebs in the office, the crumbs under the dining table, the smears on the door jambs, and the marks on the paintwork in the hall are rather higher on your to-do list than they might otherwise have been.

But not high enough for me to actually do anything about them, of course.

And finally, I leave you with a transcript of a conversation that took place over the last couple of days between myself and my beloved.

Me: Where are we flying from?

Husband: Heathrow.

Me: Are you sure?

Husband: Think so. I'll check later. Must go off and be important now... (OK, he didn't actually say that, but you get the gist...)

Some time later:

Me: Did you check where we're flying from?

Husband: Not yet. But it's Heathrow.

Me: I just want to be sure before I book a taxi.

Husband: Well, book it.

Me: But have you checked?

Husband: No.

Me: I'll wait.

The next day....

Me: I just wondered...

Husband: No, I haven't checked. I'll do it now - but it's Heathrow.

Some time later...

Husband: It's Gatwick.

Me: Right.

Husband: So, we'll drive then. Is there petrol in the car?

Me: No. Not since I didn't realise we were using it.

Husband: heavy sigh.

And this is my fault, because...?

Don't you just love going on holiday?

Wednesday 20 February 2008

How not to...

As you know, the 'real' potty diaries (featuring wet pants, laundry, floor washing and embarassing incidents in kids playgrounds and on playdates) are temporarily suspended, due to the fact that we are - touch wood - through all that with Boy #1. Temporarily, because soon Boy #2 will reach the age when we decide to put ourselves through that hell again. Actually, who am I kidding? When I decide to put myself through that hell again, probably when he's around 18 or so....

So, for the time being, here instead is the first of a not-too frequent series of posts called 'How not to.....'

How not to....break in a new pair of ski boots

1. Leave it until only a few days before departure to remember to do anything about breaking in the brand new pair of ski boots you purchased in a moment of madness before Christmas.

2. Spend half an hour searching the cupboards for where your Husband has thoughtfully stowed them (it's so unlike him to tidy anything away that the first 10 minutes of that half hour were spent in a state of shock that he ever got round to it).

3. Locate said boots. Spend another couple of minutes wondering why you went for an oh-so-subtle grey and black colour-way when what you really wanted was the burnt orange. Remember that bright colours only really work on skiers who are any good. Which you aren't.

4. Start to put the boots on. Then realise that probably your normal socks are not going to be quite what you are going to wear on the slopes, so spend half an hour searching for your ski socks. This involves a night-time raid on Boy #2's bedroom to get the crate containing the ski gear off the top of one of the cupboards in his room, in the dark, from the top of a rather rickety step ladder.

5. Ponder the irony of breaking a limb falling from a step ladder before you even reach the mountains.

6. Take crate to your bedroom, where you discover it is empty of socks. Finally remember they never made it back into the crate after last year's trip, and locate them at the back of your chest of drawers. No ladder required.

7. Put ski socks on. Spend a good minute or so thinking "Aaahhh. I'd forgotten how comfortable these are. Why do I always complain skiing hurts my feet?"

8. Start to put ski boots on. Then remember that, apart from in your bedroom, you have wooden floors. Not a good idea to skid around the flat in ski boots unless you want to wake both Boys and break ankle. (Who knew skiing was so hazardous before you even leave the house?). Wonder where you are going to sit /stand, and what on, as of course you are going to have them on for a good hour.

9. Decide that in front of the computer is probably the best idea as at least your time can be spent productively (ha!).

10. Fetch the mat from just inside front door to place in front of chair in office to save the wooden floor.

11. Realise that cleaner forgot to hoover said door mat, as assorted debris forms a trail of crumbs in a Hansel & Gretel style from the front door to the office. Oh well. She'll be back next week. What's a few crumbs?

12. Give in to OCD tendancies and sweep up debris.

13. Settle self at desk, and start to pull on first boot. Lean forward to do this. Smash bridge of nose on edge of desk.

14. Recover. Do up straps of first boot. A bit tight. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Not so bad...

15. Pull on second boot. Also a bit tight.

16. Wait 2 minutes. Realise you are losing feeling in your toes.

17. Wait 30 seconds more. Realise the bones across the top of your foot are cracking under the intense deep-sea trench pressure.

18. Fxck, that hurts.


20. Aaahhh, that's better. Wiggle toes in your oh-so-comfortable ski socks. Realise you may well be skiing only in them. Either that, or there will be frequent vin chaud stops to dull the pain. Rejoice, as finally, you have a reason for all the frequent vin chaud stops.

Stay tuned for more invaluable 'How not to... tips'.

Monday 18 February 2008


The Barbarians are at the Gate

A couple of posts ago I fancifully described a confrontation with Boy #2 in the style of a war report. Well, that will teach me. It seems the Boys have worked out there is safety in numbers and have combined forces. Guess who's winning? You be the judge...

Boy #2 is obsessed with what goes on in the kitchen. Every time I start sorting out breakfast, lunch or dinner for the pair of them, he wants to pull a chair up to counter, stand precariously on it, and watch what I'm doing, reaching for safe play objects like the knife block or a recently boiled kettle the moment my head is turned. So when he decides to indulge in a little role play away from the danger zone - namely, in his plastic play kitchen - I go with it.

This afternoon, he was bringing me pretend stuff to eat. As he got close, I would grab his grubby little paw and pretend to gobble it up - resulting in much hilarity. In fact, it was so much fun that Boy #1, normally far too grown up for that sort of thing, decided to get in on the act. He made a couple of feints, bringing me pretend chocolate ice-cream (my favourite), and pretend spaghetti carbonara (what else?), before he judged I was softened up enough.

The third trip he made from the play-kitchen, I noticed a look of 4-year old devilment in his eyes. Just as I grabbed his hand and bought it to my mouth, some guardian angel gave me a nudge, and I asked "What delicacy is it this time?"

Unable to contain himself at his own cleverness, he shouted "A bogey!"

It was.

A real one.

Which I just - just - managed to not put in my mouth.

I swear they planned the whole thing between them....


Dutch Treat

A couple of weeks back Iota at 'Not Wrong, Just Different', spotted a comment I made somewhere that mentioned I am married to a Dutchman. Tell us more, she said. I promised to, but then forgot in a rush of posts about awards, memes, the Boys and birthdays. But, a promise it was, so here goes; some Top Tips about spending time with the Dutch...

(Apologies to Sweet Irene if she should read this; as usual, I'm exaggerating for effect...)

1. Do expect men to open doors, pull back chairs, pay for dinner. I didn't, having only dated Brits previously, so all this chivalry was a little unsettling for little old feminist me. Don't worry though - I soon got used to it. (And then of course we married, and it stopped. Plus ca change...)

2. Do not expect 'a couple' of beers to mean just two. A Dutch 'couple' means anything between 2 and 6. If you go out for 'a couple of beers' with a Dutch mate, you may come home sober as a judge, or you may be 3 sheets to the wind. It's more likely to be the latter.

3. Do expect them to smoke - cigarettes. This has improved hugely in the last 10 years or so, but still expect most restaurants to be rather smokier than you might be used to, and not to be able to see across the bar. The Dutch are the worst chain smokers I have ever met... (This though will have to change this summer as I understand they are introducing the same anti-smoking laws we now have in the UK).

4. Do not expect them to smoke - drugs. They tend to leave this kind of behaviour to the tourists, so they can look down on them and feel as naturally superior as they believe themselves to be.

Which leads me neatly on to...

5. Do expect the Dutch to be arrogant. In the nicest possible way, of course. Despite their country's relatively small size, the Dutch have been at the centre of world trading operations for the last 6 or 7 centuries. They have fingers in every pie. They know people everywhere (well, in a nation of only 16 million people who it seems are all extremely good at networking, a person can expect to know a fair proportion of their compatriots). There is a strong belief in the Netherlands that whilst the Americans - poor fools - think they run the world, the Dutch know they do.

As a result, they are extremely well-informed about current affairs the world over, and see themselves as big players on the world stage. It often comes as a nasty shock when they realise a large proportion of the world's population not only don't know who their prime minister is, but can't actually name their queen (they have a queen?), or even place their country on the map.

6. Their men's fashion taste can be... interesting. Exhibit One: Red Trousers. Oh yes. Red trousers. In public. OK, so quite a few of them used to be in the army (they didn't stop conscription until 1994, and one in 4 had to join up for a year - Husband included), but really. Red trousers?

7. Do expect them to complain. Loudly. About just about anything. The prices of food, the distance between tube stops, the constant rain they assume falls in Britain, the fact that there has been no rain since they arrived in Britain (in fact the weather is usually worse in Holland than here, but they will never accept this). Complaining is a national past-time - and means very little. It's just something they do - don't take it personally.

8. Do not expect them to assume they will be understood by the locals when speaking Dutch to each other. This explains why Dutch tourists the world over will make loud deprecating comments about the country they are visiting at the top of their voices across a crowded bus / railway carriage / bar, and be astonished if you understand them. Husband once had an amusing experience on a tube in London when a couple of Dutch girls were discussing him, loudly. He wished them good day - in Dutch - as he got off the train. You can imagine their faces....

9. Do expect to be asked personal and intensly private questions within, oh, about an hour of having met someone for the first time. I'm English, so this came as a bit of a shock. The first time I met my (now ex) Sister-in-law, she asked if I like children. A harmless enough question, you might think. Unless you're English, of course. If you're English, you know that the subtext is; "I know you only met my brother-in-law a few weeks ago, and that you're clearly not in any position to have a serious relationship given the distances involved (at the time Husband was working in Russia), but let's cut to the chase here: do you want to marry him and have his babies or what?"

Wow. Never knew that five little words 'So, do you like children?' could mean so much, did you? Flummoxed, and English, I gave the only answer I could. "Well, yes I do. But I couldn't eat a whole one."

And now, having no doubt got myself into loads of trouble, I will just make this disclaimer:

All of the above observations are based on a very limited sample, and of course my beloved Husband in no way displays any of these traits (with the exception of posessing both chivalry and a pair of red trousers); he is an angel in human form and I love him dearly.


Did I get away with it?

Saturday 16 February 2008

Life in the fast lane...

Question: What's the difference between a mother with 'help', and a mother without?

Answer: The mummies with 'help' can sit and make phone calls or send texts during the witching hour of 5.00 - 7.30pm. The mummies without - ignore them.

Or: The mothers with help get to go to the loo with the door shut (an old theme of mine, I know, but it looms large...). The mothers without have panic attacks that their son's earliest memories will involve their mum and the toilet...

Or: The mothers with help get to go out in the evenings looking cool, calm, sophisticated and 'finished'. The mothers without throw on a change of clothes 5 minutes before the dinner reservation starts, arriving flustered, late, with no make-up and probably with their clean pants on inside out.

It was my birthday yesterday. Can you tell?

No. Neither could I...

I'm exaggerating, of course. I did have a lovely day - but lovely in a 'rather like any other Friday' fashion than in a lovely 'whisked away to a child-free pampering day in spa followed by leisurely drinks on the terrace and a relaxed saunter to the restaurant' fashion...

But I did get to eat chocolate smartie-covered cake with my boys (somewhat earlier than planned due to incessant questioning as to whether it was tea time yet - that's what you get when you use cake-decorating as a filler activity in the morning and they know what's coming in the afternoon), and to go out for dinner with my Husband somewhere completely unknown to either of us in the centre of town.

Not our usual type of destination as we are now officially both old farts (well, I am, anyway), but it was fun to step out of the comfort zone of South Ken for a change. Now I'm not working, it was particularly interesting to see the post-work clientele out intent on a 'crazy' Friday night; walking through the bar to the restaurant behind it I lost count of the number of times we were checked out by black-clad wannabe-media types, all drinking caiparinha's and talking to each other with an eye permanently fixed on the door for someone more interesting. (Suffice it to say - we weren't those someones...)

After gorging ourselves on yummy Malaysia food on too-cold plates (god, I am SO spoiled), turning down pudding despite the appearance of chocolate fondant on the menu, and heading back through the freezing night into a drink-sozzled tube, we even managed to get home in time to watch Jonathon Ross.

Rock and Roll (as I said to our babysitter).

Who needs spa-breaks?

Thursday 14 February 2008

Blue and gold

London - MY London - today is grey, cold, and rather gloomy, and not a little emotional. It feels as if it might burst into tears at any moment, rather like a premenstrual teenager. As if nobody understands it. As if it stayed out too long at the weekend and it's parents have withdrawn priviledges for the rest of the month.

The many tourists are banked up on street corners, shivering as they stub their cigarettes out on the pavement, and muttering mutinously to each other "But zey told me zis was a party town! 'Ave you seen ze prix of zat pastry? And Starbucks is much too bizzy! Excuse me, madame, where is ze tube station?" "That would be the building behind you. And please don't - spit your gum out on the street. Too late, I see..." At which point they look at me uncomprehendingly and I stomp crossly off down the road.

Maybe it's not London feeling pre-menstrual. Maybe it's actually me.

But yesterday, MY London was blue and gold.

The sun shone, glinting off the windows, reflecting back from the white paintwork, and warming the light brown bricks to a pale gold colour. The sky was a washed-out wintry blue, the blue of my convent-school summer dress (the one with a rather kinky zip down the front, which always caused much amusement and hilarity amonst the grammer boys from the school up the road. We loved that, of course. We were convent school girls, after all.) There was not a cloud to be seen in the high arch of the sky.

In our garden square, following 3 days of unseasonably warm weather, the birds were welcoming an early spring, making plans for redecorating their nests, earmarking plots where they could raise their hatchlings in safety. The French Mafia were absent (their off-spring all no doubt causing mayhem on the snowy slopes of the Alps), so there were no chic wrap-around sunglass clad mummies pushing Bugaboos, sipping lattees, and ignoring their nasty older children fighting and bullying each other on the swings, and we had it blissfully all to ourselves. The Boys ran around shrieking, playing Power Rangers (or Power Aynjers, as Boy #1 insists on calling them), hide and seek and football. The football, of course, ended in tears when as usual, Boy #2 missed the point and ran away with the ball.

I bought pretend cookie after pretend hot chocolate after pretend sausage roll from the two year old shop keeper in the playhouse. Trousers were muddied, wellington boots were lost and found, and crocuses studied.

Blue and gold.

I love London.

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Despatches from the Frontline

We experienced the brother of all tantrums at dinner this evening.

Boy #2 is not often mentioned on my posts. Not because he's not cute; he is, oh he certainly is. I've lost count of the number of times complete strangers have been bowled over by his big brown eyes, giraffe-length eyelashes, cupid's bow mouth, perfect profile and cheeky grin. And not because he's always pushed into the shadows by his more verbally able sibling; he's more than capable of holding his own in brotherly spats with a look, a frown, a shove, a tug of filial hair or a well placed 'nee' (Dutch for no, in case you hadn't guessed) when required.

No, it's more that he is generally a sunny tempered, even-keeled, easy riding kind of a bloke. He just goes with the flow.

Fancy a late night? Boy #2 is fine with that. Need to kick him out of his comfortable travel cot at a friend's house for a post-dinner party trip home in the car? 'Wow, what an adventure.' An injection required? 'OW - but that chocolate sure is good Mum, got any more?' Going to drop him at nursery for the first time? 'Oh - are you still here, parent-person?'

You get the picture.

But there's one thing that is guaranteed to start his lower lip trembling. Strapping him into his high chair.

It's not that he doesn't want to eat. A more robust little weeble you'ld be hard pushed to find. Compared to his brother, he is Monsieur Mange-tout. But he values his freedom. He likes to be able to get down from his Stokke high chair, trot off and fetch the car / train / comic that has caught his eye, and bring it back to the table to join in the fun. But it's not very restful for the rest of us when he takes off across the wooden floor, scattering cous-cous from a pelican bib in his wake, smearing greasy hands over the furniture and walls. (Wipe clean or not...). So when he did this for the 3rd time during dinner this evening, I decided that enough was enough, and when he came back, gave him due warning that this was not acceptable.

Hostilities commenced as follows....

Me: "The next time you get down, Boy #2, I will strap you in."

Cheeky grin in reply. Subtext; "Yeah, right."

Within 2 minutes he gets down again.

Me: "That's it, darling. I'm strapping you in."

Boy #2 laughs. At me.

Stupidly, I laugh back. I can't help it. I know this is a mistake. I should appear tough, parental, in control. But he's so damn cute! However, consistency is all - so I pick him up, sit him in his chair, and start to do up the straps.

A look of incredulous horror crosses his face. Subtext; "You've got be joking. Come on, sweetcheeks, look at this grin. Can you lock me up, really? She's locking me up, really. I can't believe it. Boy #1, look at this! I said, Look At This!"

Boy #1 concentrates on shoveling salmon and cous-cous into his mouth (inexplicably for such a normally fussy eater, this is one of his favourite meals - as long as he can fastidiously pick out the olives and avocado and surreptitiously put them on my plate, anyway), and ignores his brother, no doubt thinking; "About time the little tyrant got his come-uppance at the table. That'll teach the little show-off to eat bananas and fruit and other shxt like that."

I continue to struggle with the straps, whilst Boy #2's tantrum escalates and I start to worry whether any passing police car may hear and assume infanticide happening inside.

Me: "Come on, darling. I warned you what would happen. Now it's time to stay put."

Boy #2 struggles, screams, and flails about. You'ld think I was putting him in a hair shirt rather than just doing up some rather loose straps and fastening a tray on the front of his high chair. Tears roll down his plump rosy little cheeks. He gets louder. For some inconceivable reason I start imagining the sound of dull booms and sirens in the distance.

I watch him and can almost hear, through the rattle of gun-fire, him dictating over the telephone; "I tried everything. Stop. She wouldn't listen. Stop. No matter what I pulled out of the hat, she was immovable. Stop. Who was this dictator? Question mark. At what point did a toddler's intrinsic right to roam free during a meal get taken away by a mother's passing whim? Question mark."

Every now and then there was a momentary lull in hostilities whilst he cast sidelong glances in my direction, through spiky lashes wet with tears, to judge the impact his performance was having. I didn't budge. He ratched it up a notch. I stayed put, calmly (outwardly at least) eating my dinner. Boy #1 handled the pressure well, although was forced to put down his fork and spoon at regular intervals to put his hands over his ears when the shelling got too much.

Note : for those of a nervous and sensitive disposition, at no point was I forcing Boy #2 to eat. My concern was simply that he should understand that meal times are for sitting at the table, not wreaking havoc around it.

Eventually he started to calm. Maybe his ammo was out, I don't know. More likely, it was that he saw Boy #1 and I were finishing our meals and calculated he was wasting bullets when C-beebies and Story Makers were just around the next bend in the road. In any case, the fusillade stopped.

I looked at him. He looked at me. There was a new respect in his eyes. A look that said "Oh, so you meant it then?"

Me: "Yes, I meant it. Do you have anything to say to me?"

Boy #2 uttered one of his (still relatively) few words; "Sowweee."

My heart melted, I undid the straps, and gave him a kiss. He kissed me back, and then sauntered off to the living room, empty ammo belt swinging from his hips, Bob the builder helmet jammed firmly on his head. I glanced up from clearing away the rubble as he reached the door. He turned and gave me a look that said, as clear as day:

"And I'm certainly going to learn how to run faster before breakfast."

Sunday 10 February 2008

You're a liar, and a cheat, and an unfit mother, Sue-Ellen...

(That post title has dated me somewhat, hasn't it?)

Am still feeling rather sorry for myself, so I may have to break off soon to mountaineer to the kitchen for more supplies of Kendal Mint Cake and Lempsip (no, actually, only the latter. As I can't resist it, to have the former in the house would be tantamount to Bird suicide - if you get my drift from my previous post). But Husband is off travelling again, so I have no-one to rage at and I have to get this one off my chest...

I'm afraid I'm one of those sad cases who buys supermarket magazines. Not just any mag, I hasten to add; the Daddy. The Sainsbury's Magazine. I know, shocking when there are so many better quality reads out there that I never get round to - The Spectator (see Reluctant Memsahib for a summary of what this provides), The Economist (see Dulwich Mum), National Geographic (anyone want to put their hands up to this one?) , The Ecologist (I have my suspicions about Nunhead Mum of One), and Grazia (Frog in the Field and Mya, obviously) - but I'm just a sucker for the pretty pictures in The Sainsbury's Mag.

Of food.

I love food.


Now, it's a rare day that I actually get to cook my way through an issue, in fact, more often than not I never get round to a single recipe, but it's nice to know that I could. I'm not a bad cook, to tell the truth. Not in the realms of Pig in the Kitchen (gosh, this is turning into a name-drop-fest of a post, isn't it?), but pretty OK. An invitation for dinner or lunch at our house is usually accepted pdq.

So, I like cooking. Husband and I rarely eat a take-away or a ready meal, my Boys eat well - that is, I cook 'proper' food for them, no turkey twizzlers here - and on occasion I have been known to turn my hand to home-made shortbread and biscuits for them to nibble on. (But not that often since, as I've mentioned before, I can resist anything but temptation. A biscuit is not safe if it isn't nailed down when I'm peckish...) I've even been asked at Boy #1's birthday parties where we bought the cake (Nigella's chocolate - it never fails).

So when I bought the Sainsbury Magazine yesterday, I was interested to see on the front cover that Delia Smith - 'the guvnor', as Jamie Oliver calls her - is featured in an article about her new series and book on 'cheating' in the kitchen. No, not that kind of cheating. Just the foodie make-believe kind. And all sorts of culinary luminaries are quoted.

I read it.

And apparantly, I am a sham. A cheat, of the first order, m'lud.

I had been expecting all sorts of interesting ways of cheating with food. I don't know, like, like buying a pot of ready mashed potato at Waitrose, decanting it into a tureen and talking loudly of how the King Edward's are so easy to peel this year. Or maybe buying a pre-cooked chicken and stuffing and serving it up with lofty claims of having picked the chicken yourself at your local free-range butcher and following their cooking instructions to the letter. You know, outright lies.

We've all told them, right?

Or even useful cheats like putting a banana in the same paper bag as wood-hard pear to speed up the latter's ripening time, or cutting an onion vertically crossways not quite to the root in both directions (so it looks like a chess board from above), so that when you slice it horizontally you end up with pre-chopped pieces.

But no. Just look at the list of things that proper chefs see as 'cheats'. All this time you thought were cooking 'properly' for your family or yourself. You have been living a lie. You are great big fat cheater if you use any of the following;

  • Stock cubes. I'm sorry, have you TRIED making this stuff yourself? I have, and it isn't pretty. Husband threatened to leave home on a number of instances when post-baby madness convinced me that boiling up a chicken carcass with vegetables, scraping the fat off the top, cooling, then decanting into freezer bags was a good use of my time. Life is too short
  • Ketchup. KETCHUP? IS A CHEAT? Sod it, I don't care
  • Hellmann's Mayo. Anyone who thinks throwing ketchup and mayo together to make a sauce for prawn cocktail is a cheat is just to itsy for words
  • Colman's Mustard. Good grief. Does that mean that if you go to the trouble of making your own Shrewsbury sauce and use Colman's Mustard, then it isn't the real McCoy?
  • A TIN OF TOMATOES. Yep. A TIN OF TOMATOES. That did it for me. Are you telling me that whenever I want to make a pasta sauce, shepherd's pie, lasagne, chili, etc etc, I have to source freshly grown tomatoes and peel them myself? In England? In February?
  • Frozen peas. Give me strength.

And to cap it all, one chef - who I shan't name, for fear that sensible women might be tempted to roll up at his restaurant and plaster him in the stuff he comments on - even had the audicity to comment that he allows his wife to cheat occasionally at home: 'I let Tracy use gravy browning!' The exclamation mark is his (or the magazine's), not mine.

Well, isn't that big of him.

I'm off now to start grinding my own flour and milking my own cow.

Or, at the very least, to start growing my own lemons, making my own paracetomol, and distilling my own whiskey. (What? You don't have whiskey with your lemsip?)

Friday 8 February 2008

It's got me!

The dreaded lurgy has struck, so this is going to be a short post. I won't bore you with details of how the week started with a little bird driving me crazy (damn those thrush's), how normal medicine has - yet again - failed to send the pesky critter packing, or how I got sucked in to the Organic Pharmacy in an attempt to find an 'alternative' remedy and came out £85 lighter (they definitely saw me coming).

I also won't tell you how my body has now added insult to injury by allowing me to pick up Boy #2's recent cold and transmuted that into Mummy Flu. That is, you feel really rough, have a temperature, can't speak, but can still muster up enough energy to do the laundry so everyone thinks you're OK. This is as opposed to Man Flu - which results in Husband lying prostrate in bed, sniffling loudly, saying "I might be OK if I could just watch the match this evening / the latest Jean-Claude van Damme monstrosity on 5 / etc etc.

So, I will just say tell this joke (in an Iota styley), in an attempt to cheer myself up as much as anything else. Remember The Wombles? I think this came from them around 30 years ago, but who knows through the fog in my Lempsip-soaked brain...:

Womble 1: I say I say I say. My dog has no nose.

Womble 2: Your dog has no nose? How does it smell?

Womble 1: Terrible!

I thank you.

PS - if this post is too UK / London-centric, apologies - I have put links on the things that may not translate outside South Kensington. Now let me sleep! (As if...)

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Reality TV Bites

So, more rubbish tv at the gym this morning. But something took my eye on the text at the bottom of one of the screens whilst I was pounding away on the treadmill, glowing prettily.

(OK, I was sweating like, like, a very sweaty thing, but I was always taught that ladies glow, gentlemen perspire, and horses sweat. Old fashioned, I know, but then so was walking around the room with a book on my head saying 'Faaahthers caaah's a Jaaaaguaaah, and Paaaa drives raaaaahther faaaast. Caaaahstles, faaahms and draaaaaughty baaaahns, we go chaaaaahging paaaahst' during my speech and drama lessons. What can I say? It was a convent school in Gloucestershire during the 1980's...)

Anyway, one of the programmes that the BBC kindly spend the license fee on (£135 at the last reckoning, so not chicken feed) is a gem called 'A New Life Down Under', or something. If you don't know it, I'm sure you have something similar where you are: a family who have professed the wish to make a new start in Australia are given the chance to spend a week there (at the expense of the programme, which, consequently, means; you and me if you live in the UK) to see if they are prepared to put their money where their mouth is. Reality tv. Yuck. Give me rose coloured spectacles through which to view my fellow Brits any day.

So this morning a rather (sorry, raaaahther) unattractive family of 3 - mum, dad, 11 year old girl - were the subject of the programme. As is normal for most families, the parents were constantly reiterating how their prime concern was their daughter's happiness, that they wouldn't make the move if she wasn't happy with it, etc etc.

Must admit that I wasn't really watching since I was concentrating on not falling over, having reached the milestone of continual movement for - oh, 10 minutes or so - but I suddenly realised that the mum had just admitted that she and her partner weren't actually married - any more. They had been, but had split up for a few months when their daughter was very young, and got divorced. They then got back together, but had never bothered to remarry. As the mum said "We've never been happier than we are now. Why go to all the expense of a big wedding?" (Well, she didn't use those actual words. I paraphrased to cut out all the um's, aaah's and other prevarications). A good point though, however she put it. I have no personal axe to grind with people who don't think a piece of paper is that important, it's their choice, none of my business.


But then the camera panned round to the daughter, and they asked her how she felt about this. And it came out that she hadn't known until very recently that her parents weren't actually married, and that for her this was a very big issue. She felt that they weren't a 'proper' family, that it was all a bit makeshift, and and as a result, since she had found out, had felt very insecure. And she wanted them to get remarried - so much so that she was prepared to hold them to ransom and not support them on the move to Australia move unless they did.

I know what I think about this.

What about you?

(And by the way - I don't know what their final decision was, as I finished my workout and NOTHING was going to keep me on that instrument of torture any longer....)

Saturday 2 February 2008

I would like to thank my mum, my dad, my sister, my nursery school teacher....

It is clearly the weekend - because the television is SO rubbish that there is no way I'm prepared to sit in front of it this evening, and have resorted to brain-dumping (such a charming expression, a hangover from my corporate days I'm afraid) on my blog again...

Here are some interesting facts:

Did you know that woolly mammoths, far from trumpeting like modern elephants, made calls that resembled nothing so much as a howling timber wolf with a blocked nose? And that they had two trunks not one, which they would use interchangeably? Or that quite frequently they travelled in pairs, with one of them riding a Thomas the Tank Engine push-along truck? And I bet you weren't aware for a moment that a mother's toes are fair game for train-riding mammoths, whilst she stands unawares in the kitchen waiting to get some milk out of the microwave in an attempt to calm down the pesky creatures before bed-time?

Neither was I. But I found it all out this evening, without even switching on the Discovery channel...

Now, I need to say a big thankyou. When I started blogging, back in the mists of July 2007, it was because I had inadvertently come across Pig in the Kitchen whilst searching for some nut free recipes to feed the Boys. I read the most current post. Then I read a few more. And whilst I was wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, I started to think; maybe I could do that. Well, not that, exactly. I can't cook like she can, write recipes like she can, or photograph the results like she can. So actually, not really like that at all. But something like it. As in putting words down on a page. And after thinking about it some more I took the plunge and set up my own blog.

For the first few weeks I posted and commented, and found there were a few blogs that I kept coming back to. Now it's more than a few, but at the time I was more restrained. Less addicted, you might say. And back then one of those blogs was Omega Mum's at 3kidsnojob. So for her to pass this award on to me - without getting too effusive about it, I am English after all - is a big deal.

I am well chuffed.

She writes that this award originated with a Canadian blogger, who stated:

'I love being a part of the blogging community and part of all the friendships that I've formed, so I wanted to give a blog award for all of you out there that have Excellent Blogs. By accepting this Excellent Blog Award, you have to award it to 10 more people whose blogs you find Excellent Award worthy. You can give it to as many people as you want but please award at least 10.'

So, in no particular order, here are the first 10 people I would like to pass this on to. Deep breath...

Dulwich Mum (black and white goes with Everything, don't you think?), Big Blue Barn, Pig in the Kitchen (assuming she doesn't have it already), Tattie Weasle (when she finishes her tax returns), Reluctant Memsahib, Nunhead Mum of One, Expat Mum (new on the block since January and great), Rebecca James (although her blog-holiday to the middle of January seems to be getting a little out of hand), Debio at The Land of Sand, GuineaPig Mum, and last but by no means least Mya at Missing you Already...

That wasn't so hard now, was it? Of course the fun starts here since I need to get in touch with them to let them know to come and take a look.... Still, like I said at the beginning of the post, there's nothing on tv anyway...

Friday 1 February 2008

Not in front of the children...

It's Friday night - again. I'm sitting here on my lonesome - again. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't resent my beloved for taking yet another weekend out, this time with his oldest friend. They've been trying to get some 'bloke time' together for the last year, but events have conspired against them, and they were unable to do so until now. And before some smart alec out there suggests they just get together for a drink, Husband's best mate lives in Holland. So 'male bonding time' is not quite as simple to achieve as it would be if he lived down the road. Or even in the same country...

But I do resent him for something. Namely, for leaving me alone to deal with 'The Question'.

Which Boy #1 asked me today. The answer to this question is fraught with difficulty, and if I get it wrong in any way, I could scar him for life. And that question?

"Mama, where do babies come from?"

I thought I had a headache before this one popped out in the middle of the supermarket. To buy time, I set a sharp course for the ice-cream cabinet and a subsequent discussion of the merits of vanilla vs chocolate, whilst I cast my mind back to my own childhood. I remember my sister and I had a similar talk with my parents, but not until my mother was around 6 months pregnant with my younger brother and we started to get curious about her burgeoning stomach.

Just to put this in context, sis and I are 7 and 9 years older respectively than our younger brother. I know, I know. I can only think we got that far without being interested in this thorny subject because my parents were (and still are) staunch Catholics and any nonsense in that department was usually dismissed by a stern "That will do!" from my father. At the time he was so open on the subject of sex that if a semi-clad person was shown on television he would get up (this was pre-remote controls, so all the more impressive for it) and switch channels. It must have been exhausting for him as we got older and were allowed to stay up past the 9.00pm watershed...

Anyway, realising the questions regarding her stomach were not going to go away, my mother went out and bought my sister and I a book on the subject. Bearing in mind this was the mid 1970's, it was actually quite descriptive. I can remember the cartoons showing cross sections of people making babies, even now. The man had very curly black hair, a beard and glasses. (He was clearly very short sighted because he kept them on ALL the time). Funny how men with beards were never on the menu for me...

But apparantly the book didn't do the trick in terms of filling our knowledge gap, because - and I remember this very clearly - one evening mum decided, at bath time, to go through the whole thing again with my sister and I. (Perhaps she was getting fed-up of fielding questions in supermarkets, who knows?).

She told us more or less the same thing the book had, but coming from her rather than being in print, it had more impact. Or so she thought.

"Right" she said when she had finished. "Do you understand? Have you got any questions?"

"Yes" replied my 7 year old sister. "I have a question."

Can't you just imagine my mother's heart sinking? "Yes?" she said.

"I would like to know...." began my sister, spinning it out in the style of radio host announcing a competition winner.

"Yes?" said my mother, encouragingly, no doubt thinking in the same way I did this morning, I must tread carefully here, one mis-step could lead to all kinds of trouble...

"I would like to know... how do gliders stay up in the air?"

Breathing a sigh of relief, my mother said "Ask your father."