Tuesday 31 December 2013

… is there a better way

… of teaching fraction than using chocolate ?

I don't think so.

I bought a chocolate bar lookalike phone case for my youngest's stocking but sadly it didn't fit. Rather than return it , I've pressed it into service as a teaching resource. Managed to print off lots of bars of chocolate which I then cut into constituent fraction parts , halves , quarters , thirds , tenths etc , all of which fit neatly inside the is cute little zip up chocolate case . I can now whip it out in an instant whilst teaching fractions and use the power of chocolate . Not only that , but inside was a bonus bar of mobile phone shaped chocolate .. as if my students would need any further incentive. Genius.

Thursday 19 December 2013

10 Things I always forget about Christmas

  • That husbands view it differently . worthy of a blog post all of its own.
  • That Away in A Manger will always make me cry.
  • That just when I think everything is in hand someone throws a spanner in the works.
  • That the fridge will empty itself daily.
  • That you suddenly realise that you all own too many clothes because the laundry takes forever.
  • That whatever you buy a month before Christmas will be suddenly slashed to half price the week before.
  • That a 14 lb turkey will cost an arm and a ( turkey) leg
  • That 'best intentions' quickly turn into 'damage limitation'
  • That when the children break up from school / college , even though they're old enough to entertain themselves , you will get nothing done
  • That it is just one day

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Talking Turkey

Just ordered my 15 pounder and I was reminded of past turkey disasters which make me laugh now although didn't at the time . In no particular order as Dermot would say …

Disaster 1 : Nigella's special turkey in brine recipe involved dunking your bird into a whopping great trough full of salted water overnight . We left ours in the garden on a table covered with foil and hoped for the best. The foxes didn't get it , but when we drained the liquor off on Christmas morning the inside of the trough was lined with slugs … all in their last death throes due to the salt of course but seemingly alive and , well if not kicking, sliming their way around our turkey . We still ate it … just didn't tell the boys.,

Disaster 2 ; I'd gone home to my parents new home for Christmas after my first term at university - they'd just downsized and hadn't quite mastered the new gas oven . My mother , bless her , was no cook, so presumably she hadn't even used it. We couldn't get it to turn on to cook the turkey on Christmas morning so ended up hacking great chunks off the breast and wedging it under a separate wall mounted grill to cook.  The gas board wouldn't come out to fix it on Christmas day ( hadn't expected them to but worth a try ) and we later realised that it was just the timer which was programmed to come on later which is why we couldn't get it to light . My father was a very practical and resourceful sort , so if the grill hadn't worked he doubtless would have lit a fire in the garden and torched it that way.

Disaster 3 ; Not so much a disaster but a pain in the neck . Husband had been working on The Good Food Show on TV that night and had arrived home with a massive 25lb Black Norfolk turkey that they'd been reviewing on the show ( along with a dozen others ) strapped to the back of his motorbike, the trouble was , as it had been under the studio lights all day , we had to cook it there and then so the oven went on at midnight and I had to set an alarm every 2 hours to baste the ruddy thing . Think I may have slumped and fallen asleep in my brussel sprouts the following day having had no sleep the night previous ( pre kids so we still had the luxury of being able to sleep whenever we liked luckily. )

This year , I'm ordering from the farm shop where they serve a magnificent hog roast for lunch whilst you collect on the 23rd . Hopefully I'll get a full night's sleep, be slug free and have sussed our cooker so we may actually get to enjoy it.

Friday 6 December 2013

Inspired or what ?

A year's sub to Car Nonsense Mag or an item from M&S's Blue Harbour range which aims to make men look as if they live an outdoorsy kind of life ?

Neither - a voucher for the Waitrose Cookery School for my cookery averse husband. It took 1 minute to find the website, 5 happy minutes to peruse the choice of courses and less than a nanosecond to click the BUY button.

The voucher is now printed and I'm sitting back and licking my lips at the prospect of a gourmet fish supper, an East /West fusion banquet or just an expertly executed Sunday roast at some stage in 2014.

I'm hoping this is met with more relish than the Red Letter day voucher for a trial flying lesson purchased ( Christmas 92 me to him - unused ) and the bread bin ( Christmas 08 him to me ) - yes that's what I unwrapped that Christmas morning , surpassed only by the year we went away and so I chose, bought, wrapped and bagged up all my own presents for him to pop in the car … which he forgot. That was the year he bought me an emergency, last - minute pair of wooden salad servers. I still use them to this day, only not for salad , I'll let you guess what I did with them.

Saturday 9 November 2013

A Hatblog

I've just coined a new phrase - a hatblog or maybe it should be blogtrick . Three blog posts in a row.

Blogfest 2013

I'm supposed to be attending this today but I'm not . It was all too complicated to get from here to Kings Cross in the pouring rain with a couple of crutches . I would have scoffed the buffet lunch by now and had at least 3 chocolate brownies from the Primrose Hill Bakery between sessions. I'd have laughed at Jo Brand , marvelled at Lionel Shriver's writing genius and made a few good friends along the way .

But instead I'm sat at home feeling sorry for myself and wondering why I don't just do the blogging rather than spend the day talking about it , in a grumpy fug. So here we are - my own Blogfest blog post which is just as OK as if I'd schlepped all the way to Central London and learnt how to be a better blogger. Oh and I've saved myself a fortune in cab fares, train tickets or car parking depending on which ever mode of transport I'd have chosen, which I'd already spent online by 10am on fripperies and nonsense but it did feel good and I can look forward to my parcels arriving next week. Incidentally , have you tried Amazon Prime yet ? Do yourself a fortune and don't. It will save you from near certain bankruptcy.

The Black Dog

Those who suffer with it will know what this means. It's not good . It descends like a black mist or the analogy I like to use is a drop of black black ink ( gone a bit Dylan Thomas there ) in a glass of water.

So, if I'm going to have to live with my own black dog I might as well give it a name. I'm thinking of Shaggy ( too Scooby Doo ? ) or Baldrick or maybe something human like Percy , yes Percy is good - slightly silly, slightly squiffy a bit toff like.

I'll then have to buy it one of those long plastic scoop things that you a fling a ball with. They hadn't been invented in my dog-owning days , more's the pity. I'd scrunch up my blackest thoughts into a ball shape and fling into the middle distance where it would lie undiscovered for months.

Then of course you'd need the pooper scooper, the personalised dog bowl , the woollen car rug for those damp dog walk days and a squeaking rubber chicken. With that lot in tow , I couldn't help but cheer up = job done.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Recuperation and Retail Therapy

They go hand in hand like butter and toast , cheese and wine, chocolate and ... well more chocolate.

Had a bad week last week hobbling about in pain and short on sleep . I'm sure there's medication out there that could help but I decided instead to self medicate and go shopping instead. Grappling with crutches, car parks and trolleys wasn't my idea of fun so I opted to pull up a crumpet and a cuppa and stalk the aisles of some of my favourite online scrapbooking shops.

Postie has just delivered another pizza box of loveliness and my youngest brought it upstairs for me commenting " Another box for you Mum ... you must have been doing a lot of shopping " That would be a yes and why not ?

Today's haul included the following delights :

  • Some Tim Holtz texture plates which I adore and strangely didn't own already - how come these escaped my notice until now ?
  • A sheet of woodgrain paper ( can never have enough )  
  • Some October Afternoon tin pins and as I teach , they're perfect 
  • An adorable sheet of stamps which I intend to make my Christmas cards with ... how many years have you heard me say that in October ... no honest , this time I really will.
  • Some October Afternoon labels  which I plan to use in my kitchen
  • An October Afternoon Sprinkler in a colour called 'Token' ... well I have a reputation as the Farrow and Ball Queen to maintain ... LOVE those taupe neutrals.
  • A delightfully compact 5 x 7 cutting mat which will slip into my tool tote a treat for crops and in my favourite colour too.

.... and all of this for £20 - thank you Craft Emporium - you do a fine sale . Well , this little lot will aid my recovery far faster than a fistful of Tramadol.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Can there be such a thing ...

... as too much choice ? YES

I'm trying to buy a bed for youngest son. I thought I'd get him a double now that he's nearly 6' tall.

Trouble is , there are doubles and doubles - small doubles , regular doubles and large doubles . Then there are slatted bases ( wooden or metal) and divans . Then the divans have drawers - doubles or singles and the bed-base can lift up or slide out .... on the left hand side or the right hand side and you can have whatever permutation you like - single drawer , 2 drawer , 4 drawer etc.

  Then you have to buy a headboard - upholstered , button back or wooden slatted ? Don't even start me on the mattress - I have no idea whether an open coil , open sprung, continuous spring or pocket spring would be best . It's all too exhausting - I need a lie down ... now would that be on a open spring or a continuous coil ?

Thursday 17 October 2013

( Un)predictive text

I sometimes worry about what my predictive text says about me. Am I right in thinking that predictive text builds up a profile of the words you commonly use , to predict what you might be trying to type ? If so my language must be pretty extreme. I've just sent thanks to a lovely lady in Germany , thanking her for her prompt reply to a message I'd just sent.  Showing off my schooldays German , I thought I'd attempt it in her mother tongue . The intended ' Vielen Dank' for 'Many Thanks' was immediately warped into ' Violent Drunk' . The poor woman was only trying to help , she must think us Brits are a pretty torrid lot.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Day +6

That's what they call it on the 6th day after your op when you're in hospital. So far ( happily ) no-one has asked me " Have you opened you bowels yet ? This seem to be a favourite pre-occupation of all nursing staff , more so than "Are you in pain ? " or "Have you got a pulse ? "

The nursing staff were in fact absolutely angelic , to the point that , if your pulse was about to expire, you'd happily change your will and leave your entire personal wealth to the Florence Nightingale Brigade or whatever their charity is called. When you're lying in bed in excruciating pain at 2am and a small sliver of light appears from your doorway and a gentle voice calls out " Would you like some more pain relief ? you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd died and gone to heaven.

So the operation is over and I now have a brand new knee. I almost won't be believe it until I see an Xray. It is the most bizarre feeling in the world to think that there's a mechanical joint in place of the one I was born with.

I have to admit that the prospect of the operation was enough to reduce me to a whimpering wreck prior to admission. The day itself was nerve-wracking in that my operation was delayed by 6 hours. By the time they wheeled me down to theatre ( not the plush seated, red velvet-curtained stage sort ) I'd resigned myself to the thought that the surgeon would now be punch-drunk with tiredness having operated on at least a dozen others before mine , since the wee small hours of the day before and would therefore fit the wrong knee to the wrong leg.

Being wheeled, horizontal , on a hospital bed through the bowels of the building prompted me to wave at strange passers-by, as if I were being taken to the gallows and this was my last contact with humanity. They all seemed happy enough to be waved at and many waved back in a puzzled sort of way. It's that same impulse you get when standing by the riverside watching a passing boat.

The pre-op room where you are anaesthetised was clinically white and postered with dire warnings of what might happen to the patient if everyone present didn't dowse themselves in anti-bacterial goo. These stopped thankfully short of a yellow warning hazard triangle enclosing a deathbed patient in black but were nonetheless scary enough to make me check that everyone present had suitably self-sanistised themselves to within an inch of their lives.

Suddenly , you get the green light and you're pushed, feet first, into the blindingly white operating theatre itself, almost as if making a stage entrance, complete with follow spots but no applause. At this point, you have a nagging doubt that the tube from the drip that's attached to the cannula on the back of your hand has somehow become twisted and you're not receiving the precious analgesia that will guarantee a complete knock-out whilst the op is in progress. It seems churlish to ask the anaesthetist if everything is OK , as if doubting their professional competence is a mortal sin and one which will guarantee to get their back up and ensure a rough ride hereafter. I decide to say nothing.

Stranger still is the surreal conversation you inevitably strike up with the theatre team, to drown out the noise of the industrial sized, mechanical implements , fresh form the steriliser ( one hopes ) , which are being lined up bedside. As if already under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs ( maybe that tube wasn't faulty after all ) the conversation ranges from Pink Floyd to Krispy Kreme donuts, which was as good a place as any to drift off into the land of nod.

Friday 27 September 2013

What Makes Me Happy ?

Well apart from good friends, good food, good wine and good health ...

this ....

and this ...

and this ...

 and this ...

Otherwise Known as the ' Pizza box from Paradise' . Yes, just taken delivery of my new Scraptastic Monthly Scrapbook Kit and wow it's a winner. Like a small child in a sweet shop I had to get it all out and spread it across the table. Couldn't show it all in one photo properly either so thought I'd take a few. 

Can't wait to get stuck in. My postman must think I eat an awful lot of pizza .

Friday 20 September 2013

Divine at No.12

Every now and then a shop comes along that makes my heart sing. Luckier still for me, the one I discovered today is in Teddington - Divine at No. 12.

You can tell its going to be something special as you approach. The waft of fresh flowers on display is a joy matched only by the beautifully styled exterior displaying a promise of what lies inside. Close your eyes and imagine the dark, velvety loveliness of a shop filled with pretty china, luscious cushions, hand-tied bouquets and vintage delights.

Cabinets filled with hand-crafted wedding albums and be-ribboned gifts jostle for position with sweet vintage shelves displaying hand-knitted bags, snuggling alongside cashmere lavender- filled mice ( I couldn't resist) . Attention to detail and exquisite styling is the key here - and this shop oozes both.

Treat yourself and pay them a visit. You'll be hard-pressed to leave without that wonderfully uplifting feeling of having just spent half an hour of your life very wisely.

Divine at No. 12 -
12 Church Road, Teddington

Friday 13 September 2013

My Keyboard and Me

... or should that be My Keyboard and I ? To hell with grammatical correctness , I'm going with  'Me' - it sounds better.

I have a very intimate relationship with my keyboard . I caress its surface most days , often for several hours. I probably spend more time in its company than my closest family members. It knows all my little secrets and desires .

So , when I came to clean it recently ( after all , we've been together for over 5 years now ) I noticed a few interesting things. The grubbiest key was the question mark, closely followed by the exclamation mark. The number keys were also rather dirty, especially the 3 ( shift 3 gives you the pound sign ) and also the 2 ( shift 2 gives you the @ sign or the Euro ) . The Cmd key was pristine and the most used alpha key was A.

What does that say about me ? I consider keyboard usage signs to be the modern day equivalent of reading tea-leaves .

According to the evidence, my life is full of questions and exclamatory events. I love numbers ( well that figures .. no pun intended ... after all I'm a mathematician ) and I do a lot of shopping online ( £s and @s predominate so I must buy lots in the UK but nothing in Europe ). Oh and I clearly haven't mastered the art of the Apple shortcuts via the command key.

Sums me up ... literally.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

On a Roll

I don't know what got into me at the weekend. Maybe it was the fresh country air , maybe it was the wonderful company, maybe it was just a break from the everyday humdrum of life but whatever it was , I wish I could bottle it.

I managed to complete a staggering 7 layouts , mostly with my new Scraptastic kit - the first kit I've killed in a long time and boy did that feel good.

And here are a sample few ...

Thank you Emma for a wonderful weekend ... hope that tooth is feeling better !

Saturday 20 July 2013

The trouble with ...

.... Project Life is twofold .

Firstly the term 'Project' must surely strike a chord of abject fear in the heart of any mum with school age children.

That seemingly harmless slip of photocopied A4 paper that comes home, crumpled in the bottom of the school bag, with a headline that begins with the dreaded phrase .... " This term we will be studying The Tudors / The Rainforest / Metaphysics and Brain Surgery in the Nuclear Age  " ( delete as applicable ) . Weeks of misery stretch ahead as the deadline looms and the expected 30 page treatise complete with index , bibliography and copious illustrations ( no cut and paste allowed ) takes shape or rather doesn't , until the day before it's due to be handed in.

Competitive Mums will have done the homework. Intricately researched , glossily illustrated and bursting with interactive elements and pop-up pages to 'give it that edge' , their projects have been lovingly compiled , the children's input being completely eclipsed.

Slummy Mummys will have left it to their kids. A handful of hastily cut and paste, heavily plagiarised, disjointed , scrappy sheets will have been shoved in a floppy plastic wallet.

Middle ground Mums will have attempted to encourage their kids to pull out the dust laden encyclopaedia rather than hit the internet. They'll have nagged them weekly , made them do their own research and somehow been able to cobble together a respectable effort which will have a meticulously coloured-in title that may have taken longer to complete than the entire project.

Either way it's a lose-lose situation.

And then there's the second part of the term Project Life ... 'Life' .

Am I the only one that leads a humdrum kind of existence , interspersed with periods of hideous melodrama, mess and mayhem ? I never seem to be having " The Best Holiday Ever " or the " Perfect Time " or events that " Rock " . Every now and then I have a half decent holiday and the odd day that doesn't end in weary resignation . I'd like to see some Project Life cards that read " Where's the Bottle ? " or "Could Have Been a Bit Better" or maybe even " Thank God that's Over " .

I can't keep up with the American superlatives that dominate the happy clappy world of Project Lifers. This may be why my collection of " Best Day Ever " 3x4 cards are still in the box.

Any takers ?

Thursday 27 June 2013

... and the winner is .....

... not having won anything since the age of 8 ( colouring - in competition , Woman' Own magazine circa 1966 - prize - painting by numbers set of galloping horses ) , imagine my surprise when I was short-listed for a recent competition I entered at Mumsnet's recent WorkFest event . I'd had to record a 30' elevator pitch explaining what I did for a living and how this would be helped if I won the prize up for grabs -  a Honda CRV car for a year.

Not one to shirk a challenge , I scribbled a quick script and plucked up courage to enter the video booth to record my entry. So here I am , 2 weeks later and my video effort has been posted to the Mumsnet site ( along with 4 others) and the winner with the most votes by July 3rd will win !

There now follows a shamless plea for anyone reading this to go vote for me ...

Whilst I'm unlikely to win it , I feel I ought to give it my best shot,

so I'm asking all my friends to vote for my video.

Embarrassed as I am to be displaying my hopeless and cringe-worthy
attempt , I've attached a link to the Mumsnet website below where you
can see the 5 shortlisted videos and at the bottom of the screen you
can vote.

I was pretty chuffed to have been shortlisted , but mortified at the
prospect of having to shamelessly plug my entry ! Drinks are on me when
I next see you ... and apologies in advance for asking you to endure
the video - thankfully it's only 30 seconds long ... and feel free to
laugh out loud at my Honda plug at the end - needs must and all that !
Oh ... one other thing - you have to be a registered Mumsnet user to
vote so here's the link to where you can register . They'll ask you for
your email , a username and a password ... but you can always delete
these afterwards .


The videos can be viewed here

...and the voting bit is at the bottom of the page .- deadline next
Wednesday 3rd July and you'll also be entered for a draw to win a £100
John Lewis Gift Voucher. Here's hoping you win too.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Compare and Contrast

Yesterday I went to a conference at Bafta for working Mums - an opportunity to mingle amongst  intelligent women with energy, passion and enthusiasm for their professions and businesses. It was a chance to converse with like-minded mums , eager to advance their careers after maternity leave or pursue new business opportunities, having taken a career break to raise their families.

I met talented and creative women, some whom, co-incidentally, I'd met professionally in my former TV career. We re-lived hilarious tales of glass ceilings, chauvinistic alpha males and incompetent men. The sessions were upbeat, optimistic and thought-provoking and I left feeling energised and motivated, ready to take my so-called career to the next level and tackle whatever challenges may lay ahead.

Today I started teaching at 08.30, worked flat out without a break until well past lunchtime , schlepped to Sainsburys to fill our empty fridge, returned to find all of the alpha males in our house having taken themselves off for lunch without me, hoovered the house from top to bottom whilst they all sat downstairs watching non-stop sport on TV and am now preparing to taxi them all to a restaurant of my husband's choosing so that he can relax on Father's Day.

I'm exhausted just writing this.

Friday 7 June 2013

Now that's what I call service

On a whim, I ordered some scrap-booking supplies from The Craftz Boutique yesterday afternoon. After placing the order I remembered that I'd wanted something else , emailed Denise the owner and asked if she could possibly add the item. No problem was her reply .
This morning they arrived , less than 24 hours after placing my order, beautifully gift-wrapped with a  gift tag bearing my name.

Now that's what I call service.

Let's hear it for the British Scrapbooking shops who have been having a difficult time these last couple of years. I'll be ordering from the UK from now on ... not that I didn't always ... but I also used to buy a kit from a certain US supplier whose customer service and general demeanour in recent weeks leaves much to be desired. They could learn a thing or two from The Craftz Boutique and our other wonderful Brit suppliers.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

A Male Lexicon

Irony : noun ( pl. - nies )
   Painstakingly putting away 8 carrier bags full of supermarket shopping whilst husband     stands watching, telling you about a work colleague who doesn't pull his weight.

Compromise : noun
    An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by the female partner agreeing to do whatever is required whilst the male partner continues regardless.

Housework : noun
    No definition found. error .. sp?


Monday 20 May 2013

What's in a brand name ?

Some brands stand out head and shoulders above others and Faber Castell is one such brand. Everything they make just works, looks good and does what it says on the tin.
I treated myself to a Mix and Match Gelatos Mist Maker kit last week. You get a palette knife, 2 misting bottles a drip dropper ( sorry left that out of the photo for some reason) and a Gelato stick - this one was a gorgeous metallic coral pink - one of my favourite colours at the moment. The photo below doesn't do it justice - it has a delicate glimmering sheen.

You chop off a small piece of the Gelato stick, smoosh it with the palette knife having added some warn water , then slurp it up using the dropper into one of the two misting bottles provided and Bob's your uncle - in less than a minute - perfect mist in a shimmering colour. You can use the dropper to splatter it on your pages too if you like that look - which I do. They're great fun, acid-free, calorie -free ( no I don't eat them but they do look good enough to eat ) and come in lots of different colours and have many uses besides this.  Once you've bough the kit you can use your own Gelatos which cost about £2.50 each and change the hue by mixing in black or white. A darned sight cheaper that commercial brands of mixing inks too. What's not to like ?

Saturday 18 May 2013

Wood Veneers

I love using these on my layouts but when I recently ordered some heart shaped wood veneers from Studio Calico and received a tiny pack of rather shabby shapes which must have weighed less than an ounce , I realised what a rip-off they were. So I've set about making my own. I managed to buy a small pack of wood veneer off- cuts intended for model makers - I bought them from an amazing art shop called Cass Art but I'm sure you can get them online too.

There are about 10 pieces of various wood veneers and it cost all of £2 . I then tried experimenting with my various punches. Woodware punches worked the best and fairly solid shapes without too much detail worked well. Make sure your wood veneer sheets are thin and the larger and chunkier the shape the more success you'll have. I punched out the following stars with ease - they're about 1.5 cm in width and I'm planning on punching some more hearts and stars in various sizes. Won't be having to order any more over-priced commercially produced wood veneers from now on - very chuffed !

Here are the results ...

Friday 10 May 2013


We all do it , to some degree or other. It's only when it gets out of hand and start to affect our families and relationships that it becomes a bizarre spectacle and none stranger than on the TV last night. Going under the title of Extreme Hoarders, or some such, we were given a tragic insight into the lives of 2 extreme hoarders whose lives had become overtaken by the sheer volume of 'stuff' which they felt incapable of discarding. It's difficult to understand until you realise that both of these individuals had suffered such immense pain in their lives, that their only coping strategy was to replace that with something else as extreme , which enabled them to blot out the real gaping hole in their lives.

I urge you to watch it if only as an opportunity to guard against the level of consumerism that blights our lives these days. I'm not suggesting that you fill your lives with bin bags of old newspapers and decade-old rusting jars of foodstuffs, but it was a heart-felt piece, presented by a sympathetic and clearly intelligent reporter whose own mother had suffered from the same debilitating inability to throw things, past their useful life, away.

We've all been there ( haven't we ? ) teetering in the bathroom with a plastic container in one hand over whether to chuck out a dozen headbands past their prime and enough hotel toiletries to keep us clean for  lifetime. Do I really need 8 spare toothbrushes and haven't flannels gone out of fashion ? Will I ever have that beach holiday when I'll need these threadbare towels in gaudy colours and why on earth did I buy a battery operated nail buffer.

Olive, one of the hoarders, had led a lonely life as an only child, pre-deceased by the fiance she couldn't marry who'd been killed in WWII . Unable to get over her grief she had replaced her heartbreak with an urgent need to re-cycle old tin cans and accumulate anything that might have a future value. The resulting stockpile of detritus had taken over her life and home to the point of being unable to reach her bed at night without climbing over a mountain of debris which blocked every room in the house. Her story was tragic and we might never have learnt about it , like those of so many of our senior citizens.

This morning I sat in a hospital waiting room with my youngest son, waiting with so many others, for a precious few minutes with the over-stretched consultant who was running an hour behind schedule. An elderly gentleman in a wheelchair was wheeled into the waiting room by a couple of ambulance porters and deposited without ceremony in the midst of the out-patient strangers sitting on vinyl chairs in the corridor of the out-patients department. When told that their 'patient' would not be seen for another hour they left without so much as a courtesy question as to whether he might need the toilet or a glass of water. As they dis-appeared from view to satisfy their own needs in the hospital canteen I felt a pang of sorrow for the lonely looking chap who sat opposite us, uncomplaining and compliant.

The least I could do was offer him a magazine to flick through whilst he waited alone and abandoned. He cheerfully accepted the offer and I leafed through the dog eared copies of Golf Monthly and Waterfowl Weekly to find something of interest. I managed to come up with a magazine about the wildlife in Richmond Park which sparked his interest as he told me he had been taken there on an outing only last month. We talked about the London Parks and  Hampton Court and one thing led to another.

Before long, he was re-counting the days of his youth when he had worked at a local boatyard on torpedo boats. He had been there when the little boats from Teddington Lock, under the leadership of his employer , had been deployed to evacuate the troops from the beaches of Dunkerque . And all of that from one, all too brief, conversation. I would loved to have known more.

I doubt that the slapdash hospital porters knew anything about this man with a wealth of memories stored up in his still lucid mind. They were probably still stuffing themselves in the canteen - their loss.

Sunday 5 May 2013

I've cracked it

I love when you find a cheaper alternative and it works. So I managed to resist the ludicrously priced set of neon Mr Huey inks which would have cost a fortune and went looking for something which would do the job, I ordered  set of fluorescent marbling inks for about £3 from ebay which were great fun to experiment with but wouldn't work on scrapbook pages as hey left an oily ring around each splatter but we had great fun making marbled papers with them which look very funky .

Well, today I picked up a cheap set of highlighter pens from Asda ( the brand name was Zebra - they come in packs of 3 - pink orange and yellow ) . I chose them because the pens looked like cartridge pens and you could see the fluorescent ink sploshing around inside the barrel. Got them home, poked a small hole in the end with my pokey tool and hey presto - perfect neon splatters of wild colours . I've got them stored end-up in a pen pot and can't wait to use them again . I realise they're probably not everyone's cup of tea but I've always been drawn to neon - there's a kind of magical allure .

 Best part ? Saved myself a fortune ... which I can now go spend on something else instead .

Thursday 25 April 2013

Has anyone noticed ...

( ... or am I just slow to catch on ) that whatever you've been looking at buying online shows up in a scrolling bar over on the right hand side of your screen ... well it does on mine as I'm with AOL and they like to reveal all my dirty little secrets ..... like the fact that I've been looking at summer sandals and White Stuff handbags for an unfeasibly long time this morning. So , just in case anyone's going to check out my shopping preferences as they glance at my screen, I'm off to go look up running shoes, gym memberships and health foods.

You learn something new every day

I've been hankering after the new neon Mr. Huey sprays over at Studio Calico but at $25 plus postage from the US, the price was ridiculous for something that I may not even like.

With a few minutes to spare , I had a hunt on amazon for some supplies which I could use to make my own. I've just discovered the world of Tattoo ink . Wow , what an eye opener.  But just in case my eldest son gets the wrong idea and thinks I'm pro tattoos, I've opted for a much cheaper option . For less than a fiver I've managed to pick up a set of 6 fluorescent marbling inks. I'll have a play and report back when I've got something to show. Watch this space.

And inevitably ... as one thing leads to another, there's a whole neon world out there I didn't even know existed . I'm off to buy some neon bingo daubers now to polka dot some designs.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Is this the excuse I've been looking for ...

... to buy yet more washi tape ? I think it may be.

I like to staple my student's assignments together along one edge but the rough side of the staples are always snagging against things, so I hit upon the idea of covering the stapled edge with washi tape. The possibilities are endless .... I can colour code by topic or subject ( especially useful for my dyspraxic children ) , brighten up their day , work my way through my washi stash ... which only means one thing .... I get to go and buy some more ! As they say ( somewhere) you can never have enough washi tape.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Latest Layouts

Loving grey at the moment.

This last one is made with my latest Studio Calico kit - Neverland with the addition of some Crate Paper photo frames from their recent DIY Shop range - can't get enough of them . In fact I've just used up the last of my pack which never usually happens . Also managed to squeeze in a few sequins from www.sequinworld.co.uk - love these matt star gunmetal grey ones especially.

Beautiful but ...

..... if I had a blue book and not a red or a green one , would I be allowed to put it in this cupboard ?

I can also see all of the carpet either side . Would this happen in real life ? It's made me realise why I don't buy interiors magazines anymore - I can't aspire to the perfection in them.
Having said that , it is very lovely and it has cheered me up and .... oh wait .... I see something yellow pinned to the inside of the door . Is that allowed ?

Wednesday 10 April 2013


As I sit at my desk catching up on a day's worth of emails and messages , I can hear my youngest son upstairs laughing out loud with his friends on his X Box. They aren't in the room with him but are scattered around the world on the end of a set of headphones , courtesy of XBox Live ( as if I even knew what that means ). Say what you like about these gaming console things , but there has to be something going for a device that brings relatively harmless fun ( they're in the middle of a virtual football match ) within reach on a dreary rainy midweek night.

They're singing now and there's much hilarity going on . I'm not in on the joke but there's a fair amount of competitive banter going on which is making me laugh . In fact he's just appeared in the doorway telling me that he's off to bed now. I haven't had to wrench him , goggle eyed , from in front of the screen . We've spent the evening eating together round the table and enjoying a few laughs about the day's events. Even my eldest son eats with us every evening and enjoys the chat at the end of the day , a chance to catch up with his family.

Being the mother of two teenage sons is not the easiest role in the world and I'm not going to pretend its been plain sailing. But we seem to have survived ... so far ... and I realise that it's got a lot to do with talking, keeping an open mind, laying down some strict boundaries and 'catching them' being good. I read about this somewhere a while ago and it instantly struck a chord. It's easy to be on their case the whole time, and believe me I often am, but every now and then I delight in being able to tell them that something I've noticed about their behaviour or attitude to life has really impressed me.

The funny thing is , I've just about got the hang of this parenting lark and before long they'll have flown the nest. I suppose better late than never.

Saturday 30 March 2013

LIttle Bags of Loveliness

A BIG shout our for sequins.  They've suddenly become uber trendy just when I wasn't looking ( although I may have Leanne to thank for bringing my attention to them ) .

Anyway, for about the price of a posh coffee , I ordered 5 bags of them, which arrived this morning and brightened up a dreary grey day beyond belief. Isn't it funny how, if you wait long enough, these things come around again in scrap-booking ? But let's hope that doesn't apply to holographic peel-offs, although watch this space. I've got a bead tin full of an assortment of the little beauties in various colours that I must have had knocking around for years. There were 5 empty little tins inside waiting for some new occupants and now I can tell you that my olive rain cups, matte gold stars , mother of pearl flats ( yes they all have intriguing descriptions too ) , crystal clear stars and chocolate satin cup sequins are now jostling for position amongst the star-spangled loveliness .

I'm off to order some more now ( I have my eye on some teal and some lobster coloured ones) from a lady called  Ann Chambers at Sequin World , who must have one of the most cheerfully satisfying jobs imaginable - spreading sparkly joy to customers around the world .

Check out her shop at www.sequinworld.co.uk and make sure you look at the limited edition section. With names like apple pearl and crystal rain , I defy anyone to resist temptation .

Every Now and Then ...

... I feel the need to sing it from the rooftops - that spelling is not a measure of intelligence.

At this point , most newspaper articles would point out that Richard Branson and Einstein were both dyslexic and couldn't spell but I avoid that comparison because then the dyslexic child reaises that not only can they not spell but that they then have to live up to the giddy heights of intellectual and entrepreneurial brilliance of two of the world's brainiest men. More pressure.

Whilst clearing out a bookshelf this weekend ( that's a whole other story ) I came across my youngest son's spelling book from Year 4. I remember the time and patience it took to practice the weekly list of not 10 but 20 impossible words at the tender age of 8. It would take us twice as long as any non dyslexic because nothing came naturally and being dyspraxic too , his hand would become painful and cramped after a few minutes as he struggled to form the words with his fountain pen. Pencils weren't allowed, so mistakes were painfully and unreasonably obvious for all to see. I used to think they might introduce quill pens at any moment just to increase the torture.

For the non dyslexic child , the weekly spelling nightmare would be a breeze. They may not even have to practice and they certainly wouldn't be found at the breakfast table on the morning of the dreaded spelling test having just one more go.

At the end of the school day, the yellow spelling book ( or rather yellow peril as it came to be known in our house ) would return in the schoolbag for the whole ghastly experience to begin again.

Fast forward 5 years and I'm happy to report that , whilst spelling is still held up as a false yardstick of intellect, my son is now resigned to the fact that :

  • he will never win a spelling bee
  • but at least he will never have to sit another spelling test which mercifully disappear in senior school
  • that he will never have the ignominy of coming last in said test every week
  • that sadly, for some inexplicable reason, for every exam he sits , if allowed to use a laptop, the spell-check facility will be disabled in case he dare to rely on technology -- why ????? 
It is a miracle that he survived, self confidence intact ( albeit dented ) and lives to tell the tale. Looking through the pages of that yellow peril, I almost cried when I read solitary and disparaging comments at the bottom of each page such as 'miserable attempt ' and 'Are you sure you learnt your spellings ? '

Yes he's very sure he learnt his spellings Miss , but have you learnt to be a more enlightened teacher ? Sadly, I think not.

Friday 29 March 2013

Crayon Heaven

Next time my husband asks me what I'd like for my Birthday , I think I 'll just show him this .

Sunday 24 March 2013

Bunny Basket

Bunny is a great word isn't it ? If I looked at a rabbit now , for the very first time and didn't know what it was called , I think I'd still come up with the word ' bunny ' . No co-incidence that it rhymes with funny and honey , two more great words .

I've made some Easter carrots for my pupils - filled with Cadbury's mini eggs. Easy peasy to make - just cut up orange card-stock or paper into 4" x 6" rectangles - you can get 6 from a 12" x 12" sheet of card-stock. Using double sided tape , seal up the base and the top at right angles to each other ( think tetra pack construction ) then add some green card-stock , cut into leaf-like greenery ( I used my Cameo but you can do this free-style) to the top to make the carrot tops. Fill with mini eggs before you seal up the top. My only problem now is making sure I don't eat them all before I give them away. I made 6 as a trial run , so I'll need to make another dozen - guess what I'll be doing tonight ?

Happy Easter.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Loving Sequins at the moment

At the risk of sounding like a closet ballroom dancer , I've fallen in love with these delightful little circles of loveliness. I've always had a fascination for them but never really used them on my layouts ... until now. I still don't like the holographic or iridescent ones but they now make them in a luscious satin finish which makes them look so much classier. So here are a couple of layouts that I made last weekend using satin gold and silver sequins.

Apologies for the rubbish photos but I've just photographed them in the gloom of a dreary early evening ... should have waited until daylight , not that it would have made much difference at the moment - it is so dull and grey and cold out there .

How cute is kitten Jack in this photo ?

I used a Studio Calico mask that I'd ordered with my last kit and hadn't realised , until I opened the packaging , that you could move the designs from within the pebble shapes around - how clever is that ? AS they didn't stand out that well as I'd used a plae grey mist , I outlined them with a very fine black pen to give them a little more definition. It's not that clear from the photo but the shapes underneath the photo were cut into pebble shapes from white cardstock painted with some of the new Distress Paint Dabbers - loving the washed out shades ( even if I did manage to spill half a bottle on my trousers in the process ) .

For those of you now suffering from sequin envy , you can spend a happy half hour on a site called www.sequinworld.co.uk choosing sequins to your hearts content . They have every conceivable shape , size and finish. I've just bought some more matte ones which I prefer to the rather garish holographic ones ... oh and there's no postage . 

Tuesday 5 March 2013


That's 'badge' not 'badger' which is what it looked like after I'd typed it , although I do have a thing for badgers too come to think of it .

What is it about these round shiny little things that's so appealing ? I managed a sharp intake of breath in Paperchase today when I saw this....

And even better ... it's full of these .....

So, for the same price as a couple of coffees , I came skipping out of the shop with my package of loveliness . There are 2 of each letter , so 52 in total which makes them about 12p each. Now if Paperchase can offer them at that price , why are those packets of 6 you see on scarp booking sites so ridiculously expensive - around $4-5 ?

I'll be using mine as a teaching resource and one or two may well make it onto my scrapbook pages.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Who is this Mr Huey ?

I've never met him but I'm well acquainted with his fabulous palette of sprayable mists.
I have a few ... well quite a few actually but you can never have enough I say . The trouble is , I can never remember which ones I have when I'm out and about and sometimes end up buying a duplicate, then kicking myself when I get home.

Problem solved. I've devised a colour chart which I've printed onto white card, trimmed and added sample squirts , through a rectangular mask, of the ones I already own. I think it's the full list unless they've brought out some more in the last 5 minutes ... you never know , so just in case , I've added a few rows at the end for new additions.  If any of you eagle-eyed archivists spot any errors or omissions , please let me know. I've counted 68 in total but I think I may have duplicated on the whites - they all seemed to be called something different depending on what site your looking on.

It's in alphabetical order which works best for me , although you can always re-arrange it into colour families. Frustratingly , I think a few are now discontinued , I'd have been intrigued to have seem what 'Lunch tray' looked like .

If you had the chance to name a brand new Mr Huey - what would you call it ? Suggestions please ... I'll send a prize to the best answer. If you'd like a PDF of the chart , just leave your details below and I'll forward. I can't believe I've only got 2 of the colours on the first page ... and excuse to buy more perhaps ? Happy shopping ( or as Jackie would say ... enabling ! )

Yes , I know , I should get out more but I'm procrastinating about having to go upstairs
and do the teenagers' bedrooms deep-clean which I've been putting off for days... so now you understand .

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Wood Veneers

I’m not sure I’ve ever actually used one of those wood veneer shapes on a scrapbook layout but it hasn’t stopped me acquiring a few packs because they are just so collectable. One day I will find the perfect use for them but until then I’ve been having fun wondering how to store them. Prompted by a thread over on Studio Calico, I started to browse the web for vintage fishing tackle boxes, then hit upon the idea of using an artist’s wooden box intended for paints and brushes and found this on ebay for £6.99. It measures about 8" x 14" and has a lovely sliding lid and 5 subdivided interior compartments. I think the wood is birch and it even has beautiful dovetail joints in the corners. Altogether a lovely little item.

It came lined with nasty yellowing foam sheets which were easy to remove. After a quick rub down with some sand-paper and the addition of a few remnants of patterned paper , I had managed to turn it into the perfect storage box.

Very pleased with the end result especially as it’s made from wood and so it seemed rather apt. It also reminds me of an old pencil box I used to have as a child that held Reeves pastels, so a bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure. I now have the perfect excuse to buy a few more packs as it’s looking a little empty !

Oh and just for a bit of maverick, I couldn't resist putting the cats in with the birdies !

Friday 15 February 2013

GCSE English

I'm sitting an English GCSE , not because I need to but because I wanted to immerse myself in the experience. I needed to understand what students go through from start to finish when they embark upon this exam ; How they learn, or sometimes don't learn, what they understand about the process , how they approach each task, what they get from it, or don't and whether it enriches their understanding of the English language.

My youngest son will be sitting  this exam in just over 2 years time. He is dyspraxic and dyslexic and struggles with exams in general. I wanted to understand the labyrinthine workings of the exam system and the hurdles he'd have to encounter and how these would affect his chances of getting a good grade.

I feel like an undercover spy but the government now offer free GCSE courses in English and Maths to adult learners , so it was too good a gift horse to ignore and it's all in the interests of the learning process.

Good grief  has it been an eye opener ! As a parent , If your child has no learning difficulty , you may never need to know any of this aside from the odd bit of nagging around exam time and a couple of parents' evenings at school where they'll tell you their predicted grade. Lucky you. If your child is at a good school you can leave it all to them. If neither of these apply then you're in the lap of the gods.

I'm not sure where to start . Deep breath I guess.

Firstly , if you know which exam board will be setting your exam and the correct syllabus code, you can go online and check out the specification. If you have several hours to spare , you'll be guided through a 40 page booklet ( at which point does a booklet become a book I wonder ? ) of  edu-speak with a vocabulary all of its own - you'll encounter words and phrases like ... moderation procedure, consortium arrangements, internal standardisation, terminal rule, multi modal submission, Electronic Data Interchange ... I could go on.

If this isn't enough to confuse you then wait until you get to the AOs ( Assessment Objectives).  They range from AO1 ( sophisticated / Impressive) - AO4 ( Limited -  as will there success outcome in life be  ) . Life is cruel, exams are crueler.

There's a nifty decision tree to navigate , varying permutations of units, then there's a plethora of Controlled Assessments to get your head round, a variety of texts to read , skills to master and make sure you sharpen up your memory skills .You'll know essay titles in advance which means you'll have written a draft before you sit the Controlled exam so if you can memorise what you've written before you'll get the same grade as you achieved for your draft. What's the point ? Isn't this supposed to be an English exam not a memory test ?

... and where is all the literature buried in all of this ? If you can't spell, struggle with reading , have weak processing speed and a compromised memory , the whole process must be a nightmare and you don't even get to enjoy the book !

If I were Michael Gove,  this is what I'd recommend :

Shakespeare - complimentary access to stage productions of the chosen text. Role playing ( in full costume and make-up) for a couple of chosen scenes, a trip to Stratford.

Poetry - every student gets to choose their own poems - they're all free online. If your child has a semantic pragmatic disorder , poetry may well be a closed book. Find some accessible contemporary poets, Carol Ann Duffy, Roger McGough , Adrian Mitchell , arrange a visit from a local poet - they'd be only too pleased to come in and talk to the students about their writing process and thoughts - pay them of course.

Literary texts - same old , same old. I'm not saying Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird aren't exemplary must-reads but maybe when they're good and ready. There's a wealth of hidden contemporary gems out there ready to be discovered and the children will have a far greater connection with them than something that happened in another continent in another lifetime. You never know they might even enjoy reading them. What a bonus. Cover the literary greats but let them watch the film adaptations as well .

Creative Writing - it should be just that. Let them find their 'voice' . Blogging should be made compulsory.

Spelling - This is the 21st century . We are not living in the time of pointy dunce's hats and standing on stools in the corner of the classroom. Spelling is NOT an indication of intelligence. Some of the brightest minds can't spell for toffeee ( that's a joke) . Their minds are much better employed creating new ideas and exploring the universe. For goodness sake, let children who struggle to spell use spell check . It's a bit like inventing the wheel and then saying that bicycles must operate without them. Yes I know it would be great if they could learn how to spell everything correctly but why punish them if they can't remember all of the ridiculous spelling rules in the English language - and anyway there are more exceptions to the rule than rules themselves so could we concentrate on the content instead please ? In 50 years time , we will look back on our current system and think - weren't we cruel to punish for such a ridiculous thing.

Exams - banned . Their teachers will know whether they've reached the 'required' standard. Rather than battle through the administrative nightmare of controlled assessments, assessment objectives , grade boundaries and the like, let each teacher write an individual report on each student based on practical observation and discussion. Youngsters will have a lot more respect for education and literature and the exam inspectors would be mightily impressed with their opinions and how much better they're able to express them when they're not under the cosh.

There endeth my rant, for now.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Been busy ...

... making Valentine's Day cards . Yes I know it's a all a load of commercial nonsense to get us to spend money in the depths of the bleakest month of the year ... but not if you make your own. Any excuse for a celebration I say and the boys don't seem to mind being bombarded with chocolate hearts and truffles.

The Silhouette Cameo was made for celebrations and it was a snip to make these - having said that I'm only just clearing my desk after a frenetic cutting session that's made my carpet look as if there's been a wedding's worth of confetti thrown about the place. Hey ho , what price love and all that.

Now I don't usually do 'cute' but there's 'cute' and there's cute and this ted bears a striking resemblance to my youngest's teddy so I couldn't resist.

This is what the insides look like

and these are some boxes I cut and filled with the boys' favourite bubble gum . They'll go in their Valentine's goody bags which are still a work in progress .

Better go get the hoover.

Thursday 7 February 2013

owt for nowt

I've gone all Yorkshire in celebration of their local dialect . There a teacher somewhere oop North that thinks that children should leave their local dialect out of their written exam papers, fearing that they'll be marked down and fail. I have some sympathy with her anxiety in this educationally competitive world . Who wouldn't want their students to get the best marks possible in order to maximise their employment chances ? But it's sad that regional differences should make the potential difference between a pass and a fail.

I'm wondering what the hell any examiner would have made of my essays back in the sixties when I was living in Scotland and sounding like a guttural Glaswegian ? Would  "I didney ken yah wee hen" * have cut the mustard with Miss Jean Brodie ? I think not.  And I can't imagine Rabby Burns being asked to re-word his  "sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beatie"   so that the Southern softies could understand it.

Sadly my mother sent me off to elocution lessons when we moved to England to knock the Scottish out of me. I don't blame her. It was an act of kindness as I spent the first few weeks at my new school sobbing in the corner of the playground as the other kids said they couldn't understand a word I was saying.

It reminded me of the hilarious Stanley Baxter sketches "Parliamo Glasgow" - all the funnier because my parents had bought the original vinyl LPs " Parliamo Italiano" in their quest to master a foreign language at a time when Freddie Laker and Clarksons were taking to the air with the first wave of package holidays to sunny European destinations. He really was a comedy genius and way ahead of his time. Thanks to You Tube , I have just laughed my wee socks off at one of the original sketches.

As I'd once have said  "ye cannae whack'em "

The gremlins won't let me upload the You Tube video but if you got a few minutes to spare and fancy a laugh , just google Parliamo Glasgow. Time well spent

* Translation - " I don't know my dear "

Friday 1 February 2013

Notebook Nirvana

What makes your heart leap when you're out and about shopping - not the supermarket kind but the heavenly sort , in pursuit of a thing of beauty ? For some it's handbags, maybe shoes but the world is awash with a plethora of strappy, little, leather numbers . Who could possible need more ?

But stationery ... well that's another matter. That's the stuff of heaven. You can never have enough notebooks ready and waiting to be filled with earnest notes and jottings, heartfelt sentiments , the odd quote here or a calculation there. The permutations of cover and contents are infinite, combining to provide a tactile object of desire.

Every now and then I come across a shop that makes my heart skip a beat. Whilst browsing online I stumbled upon just such a place called Present and Correct. Page after page of loveliness and not just notebooks - every item that your desk or workspace could possibly ever covet . As pictures paint a thousand words , less verbal from me ... just feast your eyes on this tiny selection of what they have to offer ... in fact I hardly know where to start . These people have clearly scoured the earth for an eclectic selection of well-made, functional, simple and yet beautiful products and I have to compliment them on the photographs - every one a gallery still life. When you've finished lusting after the eye candy go check out the shop here and feast your eyes on what else they have to offer. You won't be disappointed.

Who wouldn't want to make pie charts with this lot ?

Ingenious. I'll be writing all my titles from now on in a circle and underlining them with this.

And I leave you this duo of shop bags "Guten Einkauf " or " Good Buy "