Saturday 31 December 2011

That's it ...

... no more sale shopping for me. But I'm very happy with my lovely goodies that I bought today.
These were too pretty to resist.

Can't stand all those Special Purchase buys they have in the stores although I did succumb to a set of towels from John Lewis but only because ours are threadbare. Oh ... and there's one more thing arriving in the post soon - a very gorgeous half price dress from my favourite label Avoca. If only they had stores in the UK. Almost worth a trip to Dublin ... now there's an idea .


Friday 30 December 2011

Holidaying with a teenage boy

My top tip - don't

I've just dragged our 17 year old away with us , possibly ( hopefully ) for the last family holiday - only 2 nights away - not too much to ask ?

I have some advice for those considering the same ...

1. Expect to have at least a week of "Do I have to come?" Ignore their pleas to be left at home - the house will be trashed when you return or razed to the ground.

2. Don't expect to be able to leave before midday

3. If he claims he'll be able to pack, ignore him and pack underwear at least on his behalf. Their idea of packing includes headphones and mobile and precious little else.

4. Do NOT plan any activities - they are allergic to the word activity.

5. If siblings are involved, anticipate bickering for the entire duration of the journey.

6. Do NOT under any circumstances ask if they are looking forward to it. You have been warned.

7. Expect no thanks

8. Don't expect them to emerge for breakfast even if you still have to pay for it.

9. Bring emergency sugar / chocolate rations to avoid dangerous blood sugar drops . The Pot Noodle that they ate the night before will not keep them going for more than 6 hours.

10. Inure yourself to swearing.

That's about it .


I like to turn the music up , he likes to turn it down

I like to shop 'til I drop , he'd rather not shop at all

I like to cook , he'd prefer take-away

I like to stand up , he'd rather sit down

I like to have the windows open, he'd rather close them

I like to chat, he likes it quiet

I like to drive fast, he'd rather slow down

I like to let it all out , he'd rather keep it all in

I like to tell  the world , he'd rather keep it to himself

 I like to live a little

So what does it all add up to ? Are we compatible or do we compliment each-other ... discuss .

Thursday 1 December 2011

No More Bah Humbug

I might have given the impression that I was fed up with the whole Christmas malarkey in my last post . Who am I kidding ? I LOVE it .

Kitten Jack helped me wrap the boys presents today.

... and I had my first turkey sandwich, the first of many I hope. Oh and I've decided what I'd like ( or rather need) for Christmas ... gift vouchers for my dentists ! Managed to break a tooth last night and so my dentist ( who's lovely really ) relieved me of a large wodge of cash today . Having said that I'm eternally grateful to him for fixing it up this afternoon, albeit temporarily, as I can now glug down a few gingerbread lattes without wincing.

More Christmas shopping tomorrow which hopefully will include a trip to Jo Malone's if I have anything to do with it.  So if  you're reading this dearly beloved, anything from these shops please and not the electrical department of  B & Q.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Christmas in Advance

Never one to do things in a orderly fashion, I think I'm going for a different approach this year. I'll be celebrating the festive season in advance.

That means I get to drink all the BOGOF bottles of plonk now instead of waiting for the so-called BIG day , much better to pace myself. Mince pies - why wait ? I'll be sated with the little currant infested lard pastries by the second week of December in any event so might as well enjoy them in advance whilst the brandy butter is still fresh in the jar and not tasting like a rancid oil slick.

Presents. Hmm , judging by husband's previous record there's nothing more dispiriting than opening another kitchen utensil on Christmas morning so best to stock up on self purchased Jo Malone and Thorntons special toffee this week whilst the affordable gift sets are still in stock . I suppose there is one benefit to the male ritual of the 5pm on Christmas Eve shopping trip though. The reasonably priced gifts have gone by then so they have to opt for the all singing, all dancing, break the bank option and throw money at it, as my friend pointed out the other day and she should know as she now owns Anya Hindmarsh handbags by the dozen.

I could dole out the children's gifts now . Saves schlepping up to the attic to hide them and now they know where the pokey tool for the loft hatch is , they can go take a look between now and the 25th anyway - and usually do. No need to wrap either.

So that just leaves carol concert, annual bun fight for the perfect turkey at Waitrose at 6am on the 23rd with no-where to store it for the next 48 hours and up to my elbows in pork sausage-meat and chopped onion late into Christmas Eve when I should be watching White Christmas on the telly. I have an answer to all of these dilemmas.

Frozen turkey - why not, its half the price and gets slathered in gunky sauces anyway. I can never get enough of the stuff really so I'll be gorging on M&S turkey sandwiches for the entire month anyway and will doubtless forget to defrost the big bird in sufficient time so it'll be ready for Christmas 2012 .

Will I miss the Christmas sing song at church ? Nope, now that I've got Classic Christmas FM on speed dial, I should be suitably jaded with every Christmas hymn known to man by the 1st of December . And anyway you usually get sat next to a snotty nosed, dribbling infant who'll doubtless infect you with a dose of tonsilitis in time for the 25th so best give it a miss or just sing along at home during November and get it out of my system. And no-one likes stuffing anyway , so that means curtains for the sausage-meat and the Christmas Pud come to that whilst we're on the subject of extraneous festive food.

So there we have it. I'll have done Christmas in advance and dispensed with the rituals and the feasting in advance whilst my trousers can still be zipped up, although not for much longer.

I could never understand as a child, when asked "What's your favourite thing about Christmas Mum" by mother would always reply " Boxing Day". But I can now.

Friday 18 November 2011

Christmas Fair Season

The boys' school very sensibly hold their Christmas Fair at the end of November before the frantic silly season notches up a gear. That gives me a chance to put together some goodies without cursing at midnight that there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done, which I'd be doing if it were held mid December.

In fact I can honestly say the last few days have been a pleasure of baking, crafting and wrapping. This year I've made white chocolate drizzled cinnamon loaves, little packets of mulled wine muslin bags which youngest son helped to fill and treat bags filled with chocolate balls and candy canes. And rather lovely they all look too.

Monday 7 November 2011

Two Ways to Spend Money

Can you tell that finances are occupying a good deal of my thoughts these days ?

I have broken down spending into 2 categories :-

1. Undesirable - parking tickets, speeding fines, Customs and Excise, Inland Revenue, electricity bills, bank charges ... you get my drift.

2. Desirable - good causes , spontaneous gifts, scrap-booking stash, happy days out, chocolate, cake ... more drift getting.

This weekend ( apart from the exorbitant cost of the train fare ) I spent a good deal of time on category 2 thankfully ( of course the upside of traveling by train is no need to worry about speeding fines or parking tickets or the duty payable on fuel ) , in the company of good friends , never further than an eight second stroll to the scrap-booking shop and never 2 hours away from another feast of fabulous food ( think chocolate fountains, bacon butties, pecan pastries ) , Rhubarb and Custards, Chocolate Limes, Refresher Bars and Candy Necklaces on tap. Perfect.

I was , of course , at Sarah's Cards Retreat. Thank you girls for another wonderful weekend.

Six delectable classes , make and takes, challenges, bingo , no washing up , king sized, snore free bed, out of earshot of the "What's for tea " cry of hungry teens. I only have to wait another 20 weeks before the next retreat in March , in celebration of which I made this ....

... as my entry for one of the challenges - which was to fashion an item using only a 5" x 7" canvas and scraps leftover from the classes at the retreat. Now I can open a window for every week between now and the next retreat in March ( 20 in total ) and get myself well and truly prepared. 1st window says " Book Place" which I have now done.

Bought myself some stash lovelies too. Ironically though, my scrapping seems to be working in inverse proportion to my stash acquiring. The more I buy , the less I use on my layouts . What's that all about ? In love with simple scrapbooking at the moment - the " less is more"  school of thought. Leaves more time for chatting and eating as well, brilliant on all fronts.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Setting Light to Tenners

I love a good bonfire but urban life prevents it ( neighbours washing on the line etc ) . Therefore I succumbed to the temptations of a chiminea at the local garden centre. It's the kind of thing I'd have looked at a few years ago and thought " Who the hell would ever buy one of those ? "

So fast forward to Autumn 2011 and here we are , new proud owners of this bulbous terracotta monster ... and I have to tell you its the best fun of a chill evening. We lit our new friend last night and burned a decade's worth of bank paperwork, which felt good ... very good indeed. Quite cleansing , almost like expunging ourselves of former financial burden ... if only . So as we sat and watched the pound-signs singe and flicker into fiery life, I felt compelled to write this poem.

I'm not given to arty farty poetry writing , but I'd been to see and hear Roger McGough earlier in the week , one of my all time most favourite poets ever and so thought  -  better late than never to have a go. This is an ode to all the monies we've ever spent , as hard working tax-paying workers and I've called it .... Setting Light to Tenners.


... with apologies to Roger McGough who would probably laugh out loud ( but not in a good way ) at my feeble attempts at poetry, but he isn't that way inclined and so he may politely smile and encourage me to write some more because he's a very nice, kind man.

We bought a chiminea
and half filled it with sand.
It weighed a flipping ton
So eldest gave a hand.

We shoved it on the patio
and waited until dark,
matches at the ready
this should be quite a lark.

Husband fetched some paper
scrunched and tore and shred.
Lit the match and poked it in
Just like instructions said.

A satisfying flame
took hold, the paper burned.
Bills, receipts and statements
All our money ever earned.

School fees, mortgage , council tax,
it all went up in smoke
If only life were like that
for us ordinary tax-paying folk.

Monday 24 October 2011

Fright Night

It's that time of year agin, love it or loathe it ( and I fall in the former camp) , Halloween is upon us.

I'm thinking that maybe the days of the novelty latex mask and the bag full of hideous sweets are numbered and therefore I'm making the most of it this year. Youngest is inviting some friends over for a 'Fright Night' evening of calorific overload. We cycled home from Sainsburys today laden with litre bottles of blood coloured pop and a plastic cauldron to serve it in ...a tin of peeled lychees will suffice for lookalike eyeballs that should float nicely.

The walls of the playroom will be transformed into a dungeon and kitten Jack may even oblige us with a toad or two , captured from next door's pond. Cobwebs will hang from the ceiling and neon skeletons will dangle from above.

Meanwhile DH and I will hide upstairs until it's all over - teenage boys , takeaway pizza and a bucketful of fizzy drink will be too much to handle at our age.

Had great fun making the invites - the splattered blood is courtesy of a bottle of Cosmic Shimmer and the Cricut has been working overtime.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Bruises and breakages

I'm dyspraxic , so are my boys. At least I know where and who they got it from.

I didn't realise until they were diagnosed although it was staring me in the face. I hadn't put 2 and 2 together when I thought back to my schooldays' nickname of Clumsy Clobbers.

Many broken plates, bottles and minor mishaps later , it dawned on me that there was a name for it. It now has me in stitches , literally ( we're regulars at A&E ).

So today , whilst shopping in John Lewis , I was reminded yet again of what its like to be so clumsy. I'd treated myself to a quick sneak peek of the Christmas goodies ( yes I know , still 2 months to go and all that but what the hell)  and had just picked up a delightful gift box to have a closer look. What then unfolded was a piece of pure slapstick. Somehow, I managed to lose my grip and in a desperate attempt to regain my hold, managed to bat the thing , ping pong style,  across the shopping aisle, but not before a sort of slow motion juggle first. If this wasn't bad enough, once I'd retrieved it and replaced it on its shelf , I then managed to do the whole thing all over again with a thankfully slightly smaller box. It was farce. There was a fellow shopper within a yard of me who watched with disbelief. You honestly couldn't make it up . A few years ago I might have blushed and moved swiftly on but these days I usually have to laugh out loud.

At about the same time as this comedy was taking place there was an almighty crash followed by the sound of breaking glass. It sounded expensive. I looked up to see an elderly gent standing alongside a pricey lamp that was now missing its glass shade. The price ticket was clearly visible to all - £199. He had my sympathy vote already . The poor man then had to go through the pretense of pretending to be interested in the cabinet it had been standing on, going as far as to enquire whether it was in stock. I felt his pain and shame. That could have been me.

The price tag for my shopping breakages to date has been relatively slight all thing considered. I knew my youngest took after me when we managed to shatter a glass topped coffee table in M&S some time ago , although I suspect it was cracked already. It was enough to put him off furniture shopping with Mum for life although I suspect this was just a rouse to get out of ever having to go to Ikea ( must take after his Dad on second thoughts). I'm a constant embarrassment to the boys although I do consider this to be part of my job description as Mum.

There are a few rules I now have to follow:

  • Never try to get car keys out of my handbag whilst standing over a drain in the road ( that's how my youngest first learnt the F*** word.

  • Avoid carrying cans of paint whilst lids are slightly ajar

  • Do not attempt to place tray containing hot drinks onto table whilst handbag strap is sliding off shoulder with a jolt

  • Greasy hands and glasses don't mix

  • Avoid old fashioned milk bottles with foil tops, screw caps are the only safe option.

I could go on but then I'd be here for some time. Mealtimes are hysterical in our house to which the kitchen table bears testament. Glassfulls of water are usually horizontal within seconds and bottles of sauce with indelible ink staining properties have re-coloured our kitchen floor over the years. If you want to know what dye they put in something called Ass Kicking Hot sauce , check out our floorboards ... and its not one you'd find in the Farrow and Ball palette.
I was considering replacing our table a while ago but decided to preserve the memories of a lifetime of food serving disasters for a while longer. Besides, the table I'd set my heart on was made of glass. Enough said.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

A Place for Everything ...

... and everything in its place. Forgotten who said this originally but I'm getting close to achieving it. A brand spanking new Expedit arrived yesterday along with a new desk and a couple of whizzy chairs for my scraproom which I'd recently raided to kit out my tutor room.

In record time they were all assembled and so my scrap room has now been resurrected courtesy of Ikea. Loving the new storage and now I can start filling those shelves. It's still a little messy around the messages but I'll soon find a place for everything.

The best part is that I can now have my Cricut and sewing machine out permanently and ready to use at the drop of a hat. Off to Ikea again next Monday to buy some more storage boxes and accessories to kit it out properly. Watch this space.

Friday 30 September 2011

Wordsworth got it wrong

Spring's OK but I've never been a big fan of yellow or daffodils come to that but Autumn's where it's really at. Azure blue skies, crisp mornings, conkers, that musky smell of fungi in the park, blackberries the size of plums ... need I go on ?

Incidentally how do cats know when you've had your carpets cleaned and why do they choose the week after to throw up ? Sixth sense or are they just downright cussed ?

At the risk of turning everyone green with envy , I've just had the perfect weekend. I generally hate those smug Sunday paper articles about the subject but as it only happens once in a blue moon I feel justified in bragging.

In no particular order , here's what last weekend involved :
Birthday, friends, a lot of laughing, chocolate, gin and tonic, red wine, curry, shopping, scrapbooking, cake, scones, more laughing ... you get the picture.

I have Sandra to thank for the following quote from a fabulous book she gave me ....
" The best sort of husband is healthy and absent " So true.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Rug Doctoring

That's what I've spent my day of rest doing. Sounds vaguely like money laundering , only not quite so lucrative.

For those of you familiar with this little miracle device that you can hire from Homebase, for the price of a takeaway curry, you'll know that my arms now ache and yet I'm left with a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

Three smelly carpets have been transformed from grubby to , well if not spanking clean , then at least refreshed. The water which I tipped from the last gazillionth tank was light brown as opposed to the colour of treacle and I have culled enough cat hairs to knit a large jumper and possibly a scarf to boot.

DH was perturbed that I might disrupt his planned viewing of Downton Abbey tonight , should the telly room carpet not dry in time. He informed me of this from his sick bed as he's currently suffering from flu aka the common cold. Maybe I should have glugged some Night Nurse into the cleaning tank instead of the carpet shampoo and he would have cleared both nostrils and hopefully nodded off to sleep from the medicated fumes.

Aside from the irritation of having a man down in Team Fader all weekend, the thing I hate most about other halves being ill is the hourly update on symptoms. I will know precisely the exact nature of each and every ache and pain by the middle of next week as doubtless he'll be passing on his germs to me as I write.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Feeling Very Blessed

At the risk of sounding cheesy , I'm feeling very blessed right now at having found what it is I really want to do in life.

I'm 2 weeks into term and I'm loving every minute. I see 12 pupils a week of various abilities, ages and stages and help them to understand what the hell Maths is all about. It never fails to amaze me how many people tell me that they HATE maths. Usually its because they were taught badly, sometimes its because they missed a vital stage at school and fell behind and sometimes its because their brains just aren't wired to deal with it. Occasionally, sadly, it's because their teachers humiliated them at school and left them feeling at best intimidated and at worst downright scared.

Fear is a funny thing. It can paralyse you. If you are always telling yourself that you can't do something, or worse , someone else is telling you you're not able to do something then unsurprisingly, eventually you'll believe it.

Anyway , doing what I now do , tutoring youngsters in maths, I have the golden opportunity to put things right. Nothing beats that moment when they smile wryly and say " Oh, I get it ! ".

Having spent a year in the classroom last year, hide bound by the ridiculous rules that now govern state education, NOTHING in the world would induce to get behind a desk in front of a class again. Having the freedom to teach instinctively is liberating. As the old Chinese proverb says " Tell me and I'll forget. show me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand". So true.

Sometimes, it  takes an awfully long time but we get there in the end and boy does it feel good.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Defrosting the Fridge

Not the kind of headline grabbing title that might inspire you to read but the I like to blog about the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

It's Sunday . Eldest son upstairs with girlfriend, youngest glued to the X Box having done 'bear minimum' homework. I'm mid defrost and have just discovered a dead wasp and a mini Mars bar  on the bottom shelf. Not sure how either got there.

If you ever want to know how much oil one tiny jar of pesto contains, try dropping one on a hardwood kitchen floor. The house now smells like an Italian restaurant ( no bad thing ) and also on the up-side , I may never ned to wax that floor again. How many bottle of chilli sauce does one fridge need and why are they all in the fridge anyway? Aren't these thing so choc full of preservative that they'd last a lifetime and beyond ? The rest of the contents reads like a diary of my life. There are un-drunk cartons of Cambridge Diet banana milk, a dozen condiments from last Winter's Sunday roasts, for some reason at least 5 packs of pepperoni, ancient vegetables that have almost taken root, assorted sizes of egg and of course David's beers.

Nothing that would actually constitute a meal unless one whipped up a chill sauce omelet, deep fried in beer batter with mint sauce and horseradish on the side. Which is probably why I've just eaten a mini mars bar for my lunch. I stopped short at the wasp.

If anyone has a recipe for something that requires 5 different types of mustard, most of which are past the sell by date, please let me know.

So new fridge rules ...

One type of mustard only , it has to be Colmans.

Vegetables to be composted before they take root.

Orange juice only , who needs pomegranate and mango.

You can have enough tubs of Philadelphia Extra Light , it's probably only whipped air in any event.

Buy new parmesan grating tub - enough grated parmesan spilled on the fridge floor to keep a pizzeria n business for a year.

Stockpile mini Mars bars , they come in very handy for lunch.

Saturday 10 September 2011

How would you like to be contacted ?

I had to fill in a form this week  I'm starting a course at my local Adult Education College next week.  Funny isn't it how learning is a joy in older age - if only we could convince our children of that.

About 8 pages in , I came across a lengthy list of contact preferences. How would I like to be contacted in the event of ...

The options were endless , I could be contacted by post, email , telephone, presumably carrier pigeon if so desired. The circumstances under which they may wish to contact me were equally lengthy but the one that entertained me the most read ....

' How would you like to be contacted in the event of .... death.' I'm not sure I'd care by that stage but the maverick in me made my insert the words 'ouija board' .

On the form went relentlessly. The section about my employment status was equally entertaining. Apparently I could describe myself as unemployed intentionally, unintentionally, by choice, by circumstance or a squillion other options. there wasn't a column for just plain old 'Mum' or 'stuck at home doing ironing and cleaning' so I opted instead for 'economically inactive'.

Trouble is,  that's a slight misnomer I'm actually rather active in the economy . Trouble is the flow of money is mostly out and not in.

So next week I'll be going back into a classroom with a new pencil case and a banana for break. Can't wait for that heady scent of disinfectant and pencil shavings that will transport me back in time.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

From this ...

... to this ...

... in just a weekend. Mind you, I can hardly move today as my back is aching but it was worth it. 

I've evicted DH from his office, if you can call it that, and replaced all the dusty cupboards, junk and ancient paperwork with some (ancient but still serviceable) Ikea storage cubes and the old desk from my scrap room. This is my new 'Tutor Room' as I now like to call it, ready and waiting for my pupils to arrive for the new Autumn term.

I absolutely adore it and it has the best view in the house. I can "yoo- hoo" down to postie when he arrives with a pizza box shaped parcel of scrapbooking stash. It looks out onto trees and the goings on in the road at the front of our house.

The best bit about it is that it's all sourced from furniture culled from just about every room in the house so it hasn't cost a penny. The Ikea storage cubes were probably the forerunner to the ubiquitous Expedit cabinets. I think they count as 'vintage' Ikea - no doubt they'll be appearing on ebay and year now marked up as "rare' ... then again maybe not. These seem to have stood the test of time, unlike a lot of other Ikea stuff that seems to have a built-in obsolescence factor of about 5 years.

The desk is also ancient Ikea and almost fills the room which is tiny but it works perfectly. From my ( also ancient Ikea ) swivel chair I can spin round and access all of my teaching resources that are now neatly stashed away in labelled storage boxes, or reach up and access all of my books and paperwork on the 2 shelves above. The carpet is pretty shot but then you can hardly see any of it underfoot as the furniture covers almost every available square inch ( you can tell I'm old school ) .

The walls are painted in my favourite Farrow and Ball hue called Bone and the lamps make it really cosy. Haven't filled up the shelves yet as you can see from the photos but that won't take long.

I had my first pupil in this morning and the room worked a treat. 

Of course the best news is that I can now go splurge on a replacement desk for my scrap room. I'm planning on having a raised height bench, almost like a kitchen work-top as I like to scrap standing up. My poor old scrap room looks like a tip now and DH is now squeezed into an even smaller box room upstairs but as he only needed room for a small desk and a filing cabinet, he's happy enough. 

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Swiss Trip 2012

The thing I love most about our trip to Switzerland every year is that nothing ever changes . Well the Alps and the Bernese Oberland wouldn't but then nor do the delightfully old fashioned tea rooms, still decorated in their 70's brown and orange hues with rafia lampshades. There's something rather re-assuring about a place that doesn't feel the need to re-invent itself every decade in the name of 'progress'.

The hotel we stay at is family run and friendly and looks like it would have done 20 years ago, even the staff are there for life, which makes it all the lovelier. The view from our balcony overlooking Lake Thun never fails to make my heart sing and the cool mountain air is the perfect antidote to everything that's stressful in modern day life. And if all of that fails to impress then I can eat my own body weight in cheese and chocolate every single day. What's not to like about a country that is clean, decent, old fashioned , polite and beautiful to look at ?
Oh and then there's the stationery shops brimming with art supplies and coloured pencils and every shape, colour and size of pen, pencil or pencil case. Don't start me.

So here's a few pictures to show you what I mean.

Cycling down from the Niederhorn with the Eiger in the distance.

A quiet backwater in Interlaken 

The hillside in Sigriswil adjoining our hotel apartment

The local Baren Fest ( Bear Festival) where you buy a carrot and if you pick a lucky one you win a delightful bear ... but if you don't at least you get to eat the carrot !

Most bakeries have a sign like this outside . I love to take photos of them all .

The view of Lake Thun from the top of the Niederhorn. Can't get enough of this view nor the turquoise of the water.

The Swiss take real pride in homemade crafts. I bought this table runner with a matching bread cloth for when we have fondues at home at a local craft fair. It's beautifully hand embroidered and cost next to nothing.

Just a few buttons to add to my collection bought from a local garage sale... you can never have enough buttons.

Thrilled to discover an exhibition of the craft of Scherenschnitt - a traditional hand papercutting art which has to be seen to be believed. The detail and intricacy of design is phenomenal.

Meet Susanne Schlapfer who kindly allowed me to photograph her at work.

The organiser's car - how beautiful is that ?

Braving the heart-stopping icy lake waters - those are Max's feet in the air ! Nothing beats swimming in freshwater Swiss lakes fed with water from the surrounding mountains. Even better when followed by a snooze in the sauna. That look on my face is a mixture of pain and pleasure.

Cruising the chocolate aisles at the local supermarket - spoilt for choice.

Views from Oberhofen castle.

Filling up the water bottles from mountain waterfalls.

I only have to wait another 364 days before we're back again.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Calico Cat

Every month, something REALLY exciting happens. It starts with a ring on the doorbell where I'll find my lovely postie standing with a large brown box in his hands.

If I can make it down the hallway without ripping the tape from it's sides in order to spill its luscious contents, by the time I reach the kitchen table , I'm already gasping with delight at the prospect of revealing what lies inside.

Yes its D for delivery Day for my monthly Studio Calico kit.

By the time I've carefully eased the pretty sticker that seals the brown paper bag and stroked each and every piece of paper, I usually find there's an interloper on the scene. His name is Jack and he knows he's in for a treat. I swear he can smell that box a mile away . I'm convinced the lovely packers at Studio Calico must slip in some catnip on the sly.

We've tried a number of comfy, plushy, squishy, furry, padded, quilted cat bed things but to no avail. He knows his place. Not for him the luxury of designer comfort. He prefers the solid, honest, integrity of a brown cardboard box. But I must credit him with great taste . If you're going to curl up for a nap , you might as well surround yourself with the beauty of a Studio Calico kit.

Way to go Jack.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

This cake contains ....

... 1 large bar of the finest 70% cocoa solids chocolate, 2 Crunchies, 1 large box of Maltesers, 1 large bag of mini marshmallows, unsalted butter, golden caster sugar, golden syrup, 1 packet of crushed biscuits , 1 large pack of M & M's , 12 candles and about 5 squillion calories.

We'll be injecting it into our arteries after we've polished off a burger and fries at Byron's Burgers, washed down with a vanilla milkshake for youngest son's 12th birthday tonight.

If I'm not back by midnight, call an ambulance.

Happy Birthday Son !

Sunday 10 July 2011

Been Busy

Bought one of those printers trays from 7 Gypsies and I've filled it with loveliness for Max's 12th birthday this week. Rather pleased with how its turned out. There's a message for him in the envelope in the top right corner. It was great fun picking through my stash and finding just the right bits and bobs to fit the spaces. Love these trays.

Sunday 3 July 2011

What the hell are weekends all about ?

You read stories in the weekend sections of the broadsheets , you know the sort , "My ideal weekend' . They always begin with exquisite breakfasts comprising freshly percolated coffee accompanied by pastries from their local artisan bakery and usually end with al fresco dining washed down with a few bottles of Rioja.

Mine are never going to live up to those standards. For a start , I'm usually on Mum's taxi duty, so Fridays are alcohol deprived. By Saturday I'm usually dealing with a couple of sleep deprived, hormonally stroppy teens. The situation normally deteriorates by the early evening because DH has spent the bulk of the day achieving nothing , rounded off by some inane TV sports marathon.

Saturday is my binge drinking opportunity and I make a point of maxing out on cheap plonk. Sunday rolls around all too quickly, beginning with a dehydrated hangover and is usually peppered with family duty visits, homework which usually includes the tail end of some hideous project on which we're usually 3 weeks behind schedule and a couple of sports bags full of stinky, sweaty trainers and T shirts.

There's usually the arbitrary row about how dull our lives have become and a spot of self flagellation about the number of unticked tasks on the To Do list.

Meanwhile the rest of the world appear to be having happy, cheerful, sun kissed family meals al fresco or a spot of pampering at the local spa, rounded off with cocktails or some such with wildly witty mates.

Maybe the grass is always greener. One of these days, I hope to find myself in their shoes. If only.

Saturday 25 June 2011


Just spent a happy hour down at The Landmark in Teddington's Midsummer Art Fair. Never fails to amaze me just how creative and clever artists can be. I always come away bursting with inspiration.

Here's a little peek at my favourites. Do check out  their websites, I guarantee you'll be enthralled.

Joseph Silcott - each bird, heart or butterfly has been painstakingly cut by hand.

The Birds


Little Black Dress

A Map of the Heart

Wirework artist Helaina Sharpley - these images don't really do her work justice. The play of light on their 3 dimensionality casts lovely shadows against the blacks they're mounted on.


Glyn Walton - Life in miniature. these exquisite domes are only a couple of inches high. I adore the way that rabbit is poking his head above the corn.



And my favourite ...
Kate Newington

Kate is not just a talented collage artist but an extremely nice person. I commissioned her to do a collage of the boys for my husband's 50th and it now has pride of place in our kitchen where I spend most of my time. There isn't a day goes by when it doesn't give me pleasure just looking at it.

It captures the very essence of the boys at a time in their lives in a way that fills my heart with joy. Isn't that what art is all about ? The picture incorporates everything the boys were wild about at that time... for Theo it was dinosaurs, Pokemon, purple Starburst sweets and a video he loved called Baby Mozart. For Max it was wind chimes, the lullaby I used to sing to him at night and even the smear of lipstick on his forehead that I'd leave behind on my way out to work. Beautiful.

Friday 24 June 2011


Love a bargain. This beautiful piece of cotton lace cost me 50p from a charity shop. Can't bear to think of all the work that's gone into it and then it ends up in the bargain bin. Still, its ended up in a good home.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Just finished this layout

I have a little suitcase and inside that suitcase is a little trinket box and inside that little trinket box is a selection of treasured finds ... which I raided to complete this layout. I'm loving gold at the moment . The tape down the right had side is actually a roll of decorative masking tape with gold labels. I've filled each one with a little treasure. There's a little secret message to my son on the card inside the glassine paper envelope and I've managed to sneak a few birds and butterflies in there too. Quite liking the A4 format these days too. More pleasing on the eye somehow. Oh ... and the man in the moon stamp is from the latest Studio Calico kit as my son always tells me how much he loves me in terms of trips to and from the moon.
Isn't it funny how you don't notice things about a layout until after you've photographed and uploaded it .. like the fact that he has a birds nest sat on top of his head and that the gem in the top right corner is wonky ... oh and that I forgot to attach the strip of gold German scrap to the frame. Ah well.

Dontcha just love it ...

... when you're out shopping for mundane items like shoelaces and something for tea and you come across little beauties like these ....

... and this...

The badges came from Habitat and the little birdie photo holder came from Bentalls. Now you may wonder why I'm in either Habitat or Bentalls when all I need is spag bol and a pair of medium black laces .... well you see , my route to Sainsburys is quite circuitous and takes me right past Habitat's front door and Bentalls ... well I have to walk right through the stationery department to get to the multi story car park. Sort of makes grocery shopping almost bearable.

Incidentally the photo is one of my favourites of my eldest knee deep in mud in the garden when he was 4 years old. That was the summer his baby brother was born and his best friends in the world were a plastic beach spade and the garden hose. Who needs Centre Parks ?

Tell me what you're listening to at the moment . I've just downloaded Ralph Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending and I'm still dumbfounded, since the day I first heard this,  wondering how on earth a human being can produce such an extraordinarily beautiful sound to almost rival nature if that were even possible.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Choosing to Die - Terry Pratchett

I'm feeling overwhelmed having just watched this documentary on iPlayer.

I cannot get the image of Peter Smedley and Andrew Colgan  out of my mind, all the crueler for the latter given his young age. And then there were their nearest and dearest , Peter's wife and Andrew's mother -  stoic to the last.

What struck me most was the surreal and yet at the same time the ordinariness of it. A total juxtaposition which left me reeling with emotion.  A cup of tea , a choice of meticulously wrapped neapolitan chocolates with which to mollify the bitter taste of the poison.

Reading the reviews I see that the usual 'against most religions' argument has been wheeled out again as a reason to condemn the taking of one's own life, as if it is anyone's business other than your own.

This might well have been called Whose Life is it Anyway . Who on earth has the right to judge whether it is right or proper for a human to choose whether and when to die and the manner of their own death.

All the sadder for this last trembling act  to have to be played out on foreign land in a foreign language in a small, blue, rather impersonal house, ghettoised onto an industrial estate for fear of upsetting nearby residents, with a couple of kindly and compassionate 'hosts' ready with the Kleenex.

I was touched by the irony of the yellow and black chevron safety tape adhered to the front door step , a nod to health and safety , as if the potential of a grazed knee caused by a stumble upon entering can even begin to compare to what is about to happen inside.

I can barely begin to imagine how this must feel for those in the precarious position of finding themselves trapped in a body or mind that has deteriorated to the extent that 'normal' life, whatever that is, no longer seems possible.

The documentary was compassionately edited , sensitively filmed and possibly the most haunting piece of television I have ever watched. One can only hope that the debate will now be widened to allow those with a real say in the matter to decide for themselves. Those whose lives are theirs to relinquish without the overbearing voice of moral jurors breathing down their neck ( as if they were even entitled to have an opinion ) bearing judgement on the actions of a desperate and dying , yet dignified soul .

The Deed is Done...

... I have just submitted my application to become Lord Sugar's next Apprentice. These youngsters haven't got a clue. Move over there's an 'oldie' coming through.

   You're Hired !

Monday 30 May 2011

At Last ...

.. I've finally found an excuse to buy some of those wonderful little bottles of Windsor and Newton's inks. I've always lusted after them in art shops but wondered how I might put them to good use. Well yesterday I was in one of the world's greatest stationery and art shops ( Coleman's - if you haven't been then go - they're a chain in the Midlands and the last word in personal service , I can't fault them ).

There they were , all lined up tantalisingly and the  polar bear on the bottle of white ink seemed to be imploring me to take him home ... so I did along with a quill pen - cheap and cheerful - extra fine nib which you can store inside the handle thereby avoiding the risk of poking your eye out in transit.

The perfect marriage . Beautifully drawn fine white lines . Beats my Uniball Signo white pen hands down and I thought that was unbeatable.

The only problem is , the inks come in a range of about 20 colours with lovely names and even lovelier packaging. I feel a new collection coming on but then at just over £2 a bottle it's cheaper than wine which I'm not drinking at the moment.

The little birdy is one of Marianne's Creatables. I'm not sure who Marianne is but thank you anyway wherever you are Marianne - your dies are delightful.

Friday 27 May 2011

Bargain Flip Flops

Amazing what a trip to the Supermarket can lead to . Bought these rather plain flip flops for the bargain price of £1.50 ( £2 originally with 25% off at Sainsburys) .

Loathe to pay the exorbitant prices of Accessorize's decorated flip flops ( £20 and upwards ) I set to with my glue gun and an assortment of buttons and brads and pimped them as follows ....

Whether any of it stays glued remains to be seen .. me and glue don't go very well together.

I'm sat here dabbling in my scrap room when I really should be at Sports Day. It was the black cloud/monsoon icon on this mornings weather forecast that persuaded me to stay home and now I'm paying the price ... Mummy Guilt ! Nothing that a home baked cake won't resolve ... why is food the solution to everything ?