Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Thankfulness is a choice - me thinks

 Warning, potentially a sickly sweet, overtly sugary post coming up...if you are looking for realism please stop reading. If you like a bit of fairy dust on your morning porridge, read on.

The last couple of weeks I have had an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. I have so much to be thankful about and so much to look forward to in the next year. Amazing husband, lovely son, wonderful family, great friends, job I love and so on.

Yet, it is far too easy to focus on what we haven't got. Compare our short comings to the person next to us. Very quickly we become ungrateful for what we have as someone else will always have much better job/bigger house/more polite kids/nicer holidays/better attitude than we do. Grass is always greener on the other side but the best way to deal with that is to make sure we keep our own patch of lawn well watered - the other side doesn't belong to us anyway so why give two hoots about it?

I have no great pearls of wisdom to offer but I do think thankfulness is actually a choice we make. It is not how we feel but an attitude we consciously choose to have. Pollyanna was one of my favourite books growing up. In the book, she plays a glad game, finding something to be happy about in every situation. People who view the world through rose tinted glasses get often accused of being unrealistic, living with their head in the clouds, being naive. Oh well, I rather be that than a miserable grump any day :)

Focusing on the silver lining, does not change the situation you are in but it does change how you view it. Back to the old half empty/half full debate then! Yes, and the good news is - you are the one who decides how much water is in your cup.

Can't think of any more cheesy metaphors to use so here's what to do: make sure you look after your grass, find the silver lining and keep your cup half full this Christmas!What's the worst that could happen...

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two memories that I hope not to forget

There are two little snippets from our time in Kenya that will stay with me for a long time.

First one is the dump site experience. Many of the children come to the home from here and Sammy is involved in setting up co-operatives for the people living there to give them some hope of a future.

Arriving there in our minivans with cameras around our necks, standing around, trying to ignore the smell of rotting rubbish all around us, is not an experience I am in a hurry to repeat. I felt so conspicuous - a voyeuristic white, ignorant western tourist. People we met, made us feel welcome and Sammy assured us that they were pleased to have us there yet, I felt extremely uncomfortable.

Visiting the dump was difficult. But, what brought me to tears was, when back at Sure24, a handful of the little girls came to ask me if we'd visited the dump site. Did I have any photos from there because they wanted to see their mummies?

Couple of them told me their stories which followed similar patterns of illness, death of a carer, drinking, spiraling cycle of poverty.  The girls appear very happy where they are and they get to see their families occasionally. Yet, like children everywhere they had a deep seated love and desire for 'my mummy'.

The second was having lunch in the classroom with the children. Young sir and I spent the morning in class 2 (7/8 year olds). At break time we had 'cocoa', which the kids gulped down in seconds but Young sir struggled to finish it as it didn't match his expectations of cocoa.

At lunch time, we were brought portions of ugali and cabbage. Ugali is stable part of the diet in Kenya. It's polenta like in texture, made with maize flour and water. I was very conscious of not wanting to waste to food as for some of the children that is their main meal of the day. But I was defeated about half way through my plate, I could not swallow another bite of ugali. Young sir ate the cabbage and after one bite decided that ugali was not for him. The teacher had been given an enormous portion too and had tiny bit left over. When she realised that young sir and I were not going to empty our plates, she scraped all the left overs to one plate, the children crowded quietly and orderly around her with their hands cupped and she divided the left over between them.

So simple, there was no fuzz, no waste. I will not forget the image of teacher surrounded by the kids with hands forward expecting the tiniest morsel of extra food that was spooned directly to their open hands.

Out of all the things we experienced over our time in Kenya, these two stopped me. They challenged me. They tugged my heart strings. I don't think I really know why these two events stood out for me. Why they affected me the way they did? But I will do my best not to forget them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Amazing but surreal

We are home after a week in Kenya visiting Sure24 in Nakuru. Sammy, the guy with a big vision and even bigger heart, has created a safe haven for a hundred+ children which is more than just a children's home, a primary school, a church or a feeding programme.

Yesterday at work, people were asking 'how was it'? What did you do? Did I have a good time?

I hardly knew how to describe the experience. I have never felt so humbled, so out of place, so encouraged, so welcome and so challenged, all at the same time. Surreal but amazing just about sums up the emotions I felt.

Surreal because I knew that next week, I would be back by my desk, in my relatively well paid job, living in my comfy house with electricity, heating and hot water, with enough money to buy all the food that I need and most of the luxuries that I want. With no real worries or concerns. Yet there I was, surrounded by children who had nothing. Children who came from the most hopeless of backgrounds.

Amazing because these children were happy. On one of the days I played a game with a group of girls, they had a ball made out of old plastic bag stuffed with sand and tied in a knot and some metal pop bottle tops for counters. Nothing really in our eyes, but they were so chuffed to have it. Amazing because of all the people there who had dedicated their lives to loving these kids. And not the least because of the beauty of the scenery around us - maybe I am ignorant but I had expected some huts in a dusty fields instead I got the stunning Rift Valley scenery with the mountains and valleys.

I loved it but I was really challenged by being at Sure24. What did I think I could offer these children? What did my contribution really mean?

Not sure, is the answer...but the one thing I do know, is that if there is anything I can do to help Sammy and his lovely wife Millie to get to make their amazing dream a reality, I would like to do it and not just watch from the sidelines.

Friday, September 19, 2014

It's a man's world

Due to my commute to work, I am now the main user of the car clocking up more miles than I like to think about going up and down the A19.

Before this, I was vaguely aware of all the things that went with having a car but they seemed to just magically take care of themselves. Ignorance is a bliss. I never filled it up with petrol - yet, it never run out. The last time I checked the tyre pressure was in 2005 (when we still had the tank*) I was on my way to a conference and the usual maintenance crew had not had time to fill up the car or check the tyres so I was given explicit orders to do that before going. I still remember by colleague giggling in the car at my vain attempts to get some air into the tyres. The tank guzzled oil (one of its many quirks), yet I don't think I ever topped it up or checked it...MOTs just magically happened too!

Alas, this has all changed. Now, I fill up the car weekly. I check the tyres with the alien machine that makes funny noises and beeps at me. I have even washed the car - twice. My accomplishment this week was going and getting some new tyres. I thought I sounded quite knowledgeable in the tyre shop - repeating all the things I'd been told to ask talking about nearside rear tyre and wheel lock nut like I knew what I was talking about.

So all in all, I have become quite a dap hand at all of these car things...or so I thought until I had to call hubby this week to ask how to open an oil bottle - what I thought to be some weird child safety thing turned out to be a funnel! Oh well, you can't know everything.

I think cars are one of the reasons (in addition to having grown up in a country with one of smallest gender gaps in the world and being completely oblivious to the fact that feminism existed or that there was a need  for such a thing as feminism) why I would never make a good feminist - I am very happy not to take care of the car. I want it to remain a man's world. With no hesitation or guilt I am reinforcing outdated gender stereotypes  to young sir, daddy does cars, I don't.

*sadly I have not written an ode to the tank as I should have done, it was the best car ever, it served us faithfully until it clocked at 265,000+ miles, you can see a glimpse of it here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Holiday a'la young sir

We've had two sunny weeks in Finland, visiting family and not doing much apart from enjoying the weather and eating ice cream. Glorious. Young sir has taken ownership of our old digital camera and has been snapping away for the last couple of months. He wanted to take the camera on holiday and we thought why not - the worst that could happen is that he would break or lose it - not a great loss as -it is a decade old and we never use it!

So here are few pics of the holiday as captured by young sir:

Up, up and away

Young sir's first camp experience - four nights and five days of fun. He wants to go back next year!

 Many of his photos were of vehicles - here is a ferry

Seagull in Suomenlinna

 A boat in Suomenlinna

 Tuomiokirkko - The Cathedral in Helsinki

The Senate Square, the view from the steps of the Cathedral

 Icebreaker behind a fence

 In Linnanmaki amusement park

 Auntie Paivi, mummy and auntie Hellu having a well earned break after a busy morning of moving boxes

Uncle Benny's map that stayed behind for the new tenants

 A metro selfie

 A view from great granny's place

 On our way to the cottage - gravel roads - fun, fun, fun :)

The woodshed and the puu-cee (old fashioned composting loo)

The view from the cottage door

 Experimenting with a tripod and timer - hours of amusement!

 The lake

 The hire car (there were about 30 pictures of the car from various angles)

 Posing with the car (tripod&timer)

 The catch

 A hedgehog trying to hide

Home sweet home, here we come.

So that was our happy holiday as seen by a six-year old.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Questions from strangers

Believe me, there are plenty of questions people feel entitled to ask when they hear the number of siblings you have. And they are surprisingly predictable. And usually people are not satisfied by just asking one, they have to ask at least couple. I am talking from years of experience here.

There is something about large families that makes people feel that are entitled to ask questions that they probably wouldn't if you were talking to someone who comes from family of two kids. A bit like strangers patting pregnant ladies tummy is fine but you would never do the same thing if the lady in question was not pregnant...

I love this video. I am usually quite sceptical about things going around and being branded hilarious or 'viral' as they are usually neither funny nor that interesting. This however is funny - if you come from a large family. I have heard most these questions over the years when the number of siblings I have comes up in any conversation. So here is to my lovely siblings and all of you from large families - enjoy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tooth fairy has a dilemma

The tooth fairy is in  trouble. She thought £1 for the first and 50p for any consequent teeth was a suitable rate payment for taking on the responsibility of disposing of the treasured teeth. Tooth one, everything went to the plan. Tooth two - fifty pence was deposited safely into the piggy bank. Tooth three, slight disaster struck and tooth fairy only had £1 coins and young sir was delighted with that.

Tooth four has been wobbly for weeks. Far too long. Long enough for the tooth fairy to fall into complacency over the amount of coins she carries in her purse. Tonight - 10 minutes after bedtime story had finished - there was a delighted shout from upstairs followed by stomp down the stairs to exhibit the tooth number four to us.

Panic. Tooth fairy only has a £2 coin in her purse. After conducting a quick assessment of the situation her logical options are:

  1.  be generous and leave £2 under the pillow - the tooth has been wobbling for ages so two quid seems only reasonable 
  2. see if she can raid young sir's piggy bank (the type you get from a bank that can only be opened by a key in the bank) and exchange the £2 into two pound coins. Tooth fairy used to be quite a dap hand at getting money out of her piggy bank without having to visit a financial establishment in her younger days so it would not be a feat beyond her capabilities
  3. walk fly to the shop around the corner and ask the nice lady to exchange the £2 coin or if that fails, buy a small chocolate bar so that she would get a £1 coin in the change
  4. leave a letter under the pillow to explain that tooth fairy had temporarily run out of money and she'd come by again tomorrow
What's a fairy to do??? Option four would break young sir's heart. Option three can be ruled out because of inherent laziness of the said fairy - also she has a cheeky midweek G&T on the go so flying is probably not an option. Which only leaves options one and two...generousity or criminal's a tough choice...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Journey to the mass and back again

On Tuesday it was time for the annual march to a mass for young sir's class. I was a good parent and volunteered to help shepherding the kids the mile and a bit walk from school to the church and back again. Last year it was a toddle, the kids had their buddies with them so there wasn't much left for the parents to do. This year, it was a different story...

The teacher paired up the kids - boy-girl of course - as we were leaving the classroom. I'm sure the extra wild kids were paired up with kids who had a parent there and those remaining were paired up making sure the trouble makers had a nice placid child as their pair.

Mile and a bit takes a while at a pace of a six year old. The sun was shining and they were happily singing the song from frozen. Again. And again. And again...

The teacher's sneaky plan was to seat the parents in mids of the kids to keep them quiet during the mass - so far for my master plan of sitting in the back of the church and following everyone else to make sure I stood up at the right time and did my crosses the right way around!

On the way home, the kids moved onto a serious discussion about relationships a'la frozen - how important it is not to get engaged to a person you've just met - you need to make sure they are your true love first. There was also some debate about whether frozen was a girl's film or a boys film - the girls believed that on account of two leading characters being princesses it must be a girls film whereas the boys were adamant it was a boy's film as the reindeer and the snowman were male...

Talk of princesses led couple of the little girls to quiz me on my short hair - how could I have had my princess-lenght hair cut - travesty! The explanation that it was helping someone else to be a little princess didn't really cut the ice with them.

After few more renditions of Let it go and far too many rounds of I-spy we made it back to school in one piece. It was fun to help but by the end of it I was sounding like a broken record...X walk faster...Y hold your pair's hand...Z don't hit your pair...and my personal favourite: X don't use your cardigan as a skipping rope!

Oh, I am so glad I am not a teacher!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Capturing the moment

I love this photo from my sister's wedding from year and half ago. It captures a moment. It doesn't present a perfect, smiley portrait of a family celebrating a special day - although we did get that too - but gives a snapshot into the practicalities of that day.

I think that sometimes the downside of digital photos is that you keep snapping until you have the perfect photo. It the oldern days with film cameras you had 24 shots and if none of them came out well, too bad, you were stuck with them. Now, you just keep going until you get a picture that is good enough for the world to see. And we do usually make sure that the world does see that 'perfect me' via social media. Gone are photo albums that would be brought out on special occasions or the big box where the not quite album material photos ended.

Yet the photos that capture the non-perfect side of us (i.e. the ones we wouldn't put on facebook)...the closed eyes, the crooked smile, the extra cuddles...are like friends. With a good friend, you don't have to have the perfect smile on and present the better side of you every time, you can tell how you feel, what's really going on, be grumpy, shed a few tears, have a rant. And life is actually much more fun with the realisation that 'I am not perfect'- it gives you freedom to laugh at your mistakes rather than having to worry about what others think of you.

Hmm...too many deep thoughts for this early in the morning! There was another priceless shot from the same trip to Finland of me about to strangle young sir because he refused to co-operate. That boy knows how to reduce me to tears in no time at all, I use to be patient and then he came along...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Too many bubbles...not possible

Young sir loves bubbles. Lots of bubbles. So much so that occasionally he adds some extra bubble bath in when we turn our backs. Once he accidentally got daddy's shower gel instead and tipped it all in...there was a very manly fragrance that followed him around for the next 12 hours!

Couple of days ago he discovered the secret of the ultimate bubble experience. Not bothering with the taps but filling the bath with the power shower. And a miracle happened - there were two+ inches of bubbles. For the whole length of the bath. The result was one very happy little boy.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Chores vs tooth fairy - the lure of easy money

Last week we made history. The era of pocket money began. Before pocket money, we had an unofficial two tiered taxation system. Young sir got the coppers and I got the rest of the coins. The thought of having his own money has been fascinating him for a while with the reason behind it being equally divided between being able to use it in the tuck shop at gymnastics (there's a hobby horse there but we'll keep it stabled for another day) or saving it for a lego  set.

And finally he's day had come. The first steps towards financial independence have been taken. From now on, every week there is a list of chores young sir has to do. For each chore he can earn certain amount of money up to the maximum of 'hundred pennies' which is a fortune to him.

The first week went fine. He did most of his chores eagerly and daddy allowed him to lay the table an extra time to ensure he got his 100p. This week his enthusiasm has been waining. But he has been very keen to wobble his tooth and he was very worried about whether the tooth fairy would be able to pay him if he swallowed the tooth (I did that on my 6th birthday, before eating the cake it was there...after cake - no tooth).

This morning the tooth finally came out. And so did the reason for not doing the chores - the tooth fairy pays better than mummy and daddy! And all you have to do is to wiggle your tooth rather than tidy up your room, fill the dishwasher, lay the table etc.

There are no more wobbly teeth at the moment so hopefully the excitement of the chores will return. He has got healthy mistrust of the banking system too and keeps his money underneath his piggy bank rather than puts it in it...

Saturday, May 03, 2014

I know a b-word...

Last night we sat down to have dinner after young sir's swimming lesson and had Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison playing in the background.

Mid-mouthful young sir suddenly stops and announces with glee: "He said the B-WORD!"

"What B-word?" was the bilingual simultaneous response to this.

"Bloody" came the reply continued with: "I know another B-word too. X at school told me!!!"

"Really?" was the response uttered with held breath.

"It's butty!"


Friday, May 02, 2014

Have your cake and eat it

I'm still in love with radio. It's part of my morning ritual with young sir. He comes and climbs to our bed and we dozily listen to Today on radio 4 whilst I sip my tea made by amazing hubby before he heads to work. Every now and then young sir asks a random question about what he has just heard but mainly we just listen in companionable silence.

When young sir was in nursery he went through a phase of using quite complicated words completely out of context. We wondered where he'd learnt the words until one afternoon we caught him sitting on the floor next to the radio and repeating the words he heard. One of the side effects of having a mean mother who limits his screen time excessively I guess...I'll add it to his childhood traumas list that he needs to deal with when he is a grown up!

My Tuesday commute has changed. Life scientific has been replaced by No Triumph, No Tragedy. This week a blind singer/song writer Raul Midon was being interviewed. The interview was interesting, his music was good.

What more, it got me thinking. How do blind people fall in love? There probably are plenty of studies on the topic of blindness and attraction but for once my thinking was just vaguely-pondering-type-thinking rather than I-must-find-out-and-search-through-numerous-journals-type-thinking...

For seeing people physical attraction is the first thing usually,- how-ever-much people protest and say it's about the beautiful personality and soul the other person had. If we are honest, for most of us there was something in the looks of the other person that first attracted us to them. The wonderful personality is the thing that helps us to keep loving that person year in and year out.

If you can't see someone, there must be something else that attracts people to each other, maybe sound of the other person's voice? Maybe blind people can honestly say they were attracted to the personality of the person they love - unlike us seeing people who use that line because noticing someone for their looks is considered vain.

In Finnish there is a saying 'moni kakku päältä kaunis' - (many cakes are pretty on the outside). My theory is that to be/stay happily in love you need to find a cake that you like the look of and the taste of. So the secret of a happy marriage is cake after all :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taking odd socks to the next level

I don't consider myself to be an absent minded person. Quite the opposite really if you ask me! If you ask my better half you might get a different answer.

Couple of weeks ago I found myself guilty of a serious absent minded error. I wore odd shoes. For pretty much all of the day and without realising what I had done until I was about to head home from work. Oopsy-daisy!

I've always wondered how you could do* that and now I know. It is extremely easy. All you need to do is to try to get a six year old, whose sense of urgency and punctuality is different than yours, out of the house on time in a morning when you've got thousand one one things to do AND have shoes pared up incorrectly in the hall. You pick up the first shoe, put it on, turn around to hurry the said six year old who is doodling on the steps, pick up the other shoe whilst lecturing him on how important it is not to be late and put the shoe in without looking. Voila - very easily done.

What I don't however understand is how I managed to make it all the way to the end of the day before I noticed it. I wish I could say that I was conducting some ethnographic social experiment to see people's reactions to wearing odd shoes but no such luck. Anyway, it wouldn't have been very interesting study as no one even commented on my odd footwear. (Maybe I should have been wearing a boot and a sandal to get some comments.) Everyone was either too polite or didn't notice. I am hoping the latter!

My sisters, especially my shoe loving sister couldn't believe I had done it. Not that I could believe myself that I had done it! There is a silver lining in all this - beyond the amount of laughter others have had because of this - if I ever have to play the game of three truth and a lie this will definitely be one of my truths.

*In Rilla of Ingleside - one of my favourite childhood books has an amusing account of odd shoes but I never thought it could happen in real life

Friday, April 04, 2014

World book day vintage 2014

The world book day has been and gone again. After last year's 11th hour realisation that a costume was needed the following day I was determined to be more organised this year. And I was. By about six hours. But even small progress is progress. If I was a politician I am sure it would be 'a significant change in the right direction'!

Last year, young sir was not really that bothered whether he dressed up or not. This year adamantly wanted to dress up. Not only he wanted to dress up, he wanted to be Robin Hood, inspired by one of his current favourite books. No pressure then.

I did try to escape making a costume by suggesting he'd dress up as Tatu and Patu - funny Finnish kid's books with the main characters walking around wearing goggles and stripy tops. No luck. It was Robin Hood or Robin Hood.

We had a bow from daddy's childhood days so all we needed was a costume and some arrows. My suggestion of using bright green fleece fabric for the suit was duly rejected. We rummaged through my fabric store and young sir spotted a sage green pair of old trousers that were waiting to be cut up for a braided rug and decided that it was a much better colour.

Half an hour or so and we'd managed to t be transform to old trouser legs into a passable Robin Hood outfit - complete with a hood. I proably would be laughed out of the great British sewing bee  for my seems but thankfully the quality requirements for year one costume aren't as demanding as that.

I was going to be mean and send him into school without any arrows but what is Robin Hood without arrows - so I ended up making some with kebab sticks, cardboard and feathers - I'm sure that would have been worthy of Blue Peter Badge for it's ingenuity. Young sir was pleased as punch with his arrows and no one got skewered in the course of the day so all was well.

I haven't mentioned any hobby horses for a while so here's one, just to prove that they are not wearing costumes of characters for books they've never even read - there were about five Harry Potters in young sir's class...surely the point of world book day is to encourage kids to read and aged six anything more than couple of sentences per page is beyond most of them. And I doubt that there are many parents out there who read Harry Potter as a bedtime story to that age group. Phew, that feels much better.

PS. I am contemplating putting a reminder on my phone for next year's world book day but that would be far too organised...

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

My new love...


I commute to work couple of times a week. I drop young sir to school and toodle down the A19 to Stockton. Good run takes about 45-50 minutes. Bad run, long is a piece of string?

My favourite day for spending a best part of an hour in a car is Tuesday. I have discovered that I love The Life Scientific on radio four. A lot. With Passion. Did I say how much I like it? Half an hour to listening to geeks scientists getting excited about what they have done, an absolute bliss to listen to :) I usually don't know much of the topic they are talking about but I love it anyway. It's the passion the interviewees have for their subject and how they make it to come alive that makes it for me.

Before I get to work I usually have time to listen to One to One, 15 minute in depth interview with a different guest each week. Today's guest had me in tears recounting a touching story of how her son with a genetic condition had reacted joyfully to the news that his new baby brother had the same condition. Another week they interviewed a lady from Afghanistan who rescues girls from forced marriages, a real eye opener!

If I didn't have lovely family waiting for me at home I would commute home half an hour later so that I would catch the comedy programmes on at 6.30. But as I would rather spend time with them than laugh loud out alone in a car to a radio programme I have the excitement of the PM and Six o'clock news. It's occasionally amusing but slightly on the dull side but at least I'll be knowledgeable on the current affairs.

Just before the news at 6 they play the sound of the day - a recording of a random sound thunder at listeners have sent in. There's been the sound of lego box being rummaged through, lambs bleating, thunder storm.

Maybe it's a sign of maturity...hmmm....or maybe not...but I actually really, really enjoy listening to radio. My contribution to many conversations used to be and still is  'I read about it in x' now I can say 'I heard about it on radio' :)

Monday, March 03, 2014

The politics of party bags

We are in the middle of the party season for young sir's school friends. Within a week we've had two parties. One soft play and one sports hall & entertainer-affair. Lots of fun for him and lots of sitting around and sipping lukewarm tea for me.

Kids figure out the drill for 'what a birthday party should be like' pretty quickly. Aged six, a veteran of the party season, young sir has very fixed ideas on what constitutes to a good party. Junk food, cake and party bags are the essential ingredients.

On the cake and food front anything goes. Few crisps, couple of cakes and sugary e-numbered liquid to drink and the little people are generally happy. In his party going career, never ever has young sir made a comment or complaint about the quality of food. Occasionally he might notice an impressive birthday cake but never the food. The most amazingly decorated cupcakes with delicate handmade decorations get devoured with the same enthusiasm than basic supermarket cupcakes with a minute blob of icing.

Party bags however are the thing that make or break the party. Party number one last weekend had a nice little party bag with a little puzzle book and few toys. A standard issue party bag...BUT - shock, horror, disaster - there were NO sweeties!!!

'There are NO sweeties mummy! That's not fair, that's not a party bag! They've forgotten to put the sweeties in.' 

Party number two however fulfilled all the expectations of a party bag - it was nothing but sweeties. The heavenly delight of inspecting the contents was tangible. The party bag became a prized possession that had to be hidden in the glove compartment, away from prowling eyes of potential party bag thieves on a quick post party stop to supermarket to buy some milk.

Never mind trying to teach the offspring the value of thankfulness and helping them to understand that there is no obligation for the party giver to send their guests home with party bags. If you are 6 years old party = party bags AND party bags = sweets. There is a strong positive correlation between quality of the party and quantity of sweets in the party bags and unlike crime rate and ice cream sales it is a causal relationship. 

My top tip for anyone throwing a party for under tens - put sweets in the party bag. And if you want to give a party to remember but nothing but sweeties in the party bag. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mummy, can I have a hamster?

Last weekend, a question that I have been dreading finally surfaced...

'Mummy, can I have a hamster?'

And my foolish answer was: 'We'll think about it'...hoping that young sir would quickly forget about this desire to share his room with a small rodent. For the rest of the weekend, every couple of hours he came and checked: 'mummy, are you thinking about it?' Whatever  happened to 'least said, soonest mended' - that obviously didn't work!

Few days later young sir told grandpa all about wanting a hamster and his sensible reply was:
'What about the cat, the cat would eat it, it would not be fair on the hamster'.

The bottom lip wobbled a few times and then young sir's face lit up...

'I will close my bedroom door'
'But the cat could open the door' (and she can too, one acrobatic jump is all it takes)

Two seconds was all it took for him to think of a new solution:
'I'll leave food for the cat all around the house so she'll eat that instead'

Determination is his middle name.

The talks are on-going. I am not too keen on the idea of finding cat food at random locations in the house...Possibility of the hamster as a birthday present has been mentioned with the standard get-out clause that he is the one who'll have to feed it and take care of it or it will go. I am hoping there will be an amazing lego model being brought out few weeks before his birthday that would be more alluring than a squeaky fur ball...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Things you learn from radio

I had a jolly half term trip to the skip with young sir this morning. We've got couple of bamboos in the back garden and they were on a mission to take over the world so I decided to deter their world domination by digging up most of them.

On the way we listened to radio four. In the course of the programme the word swearing was mentioned and my little co-pilot piped up:

'Mummy, what's swearing?'
'It's a naughty word.'

A little silence.

'Like stupid?'

I'm sure in due course he'll discover that the whole colourful range of swear words but it is quite sweet that for now stupid is the worst word he can think of. Bless.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why that post about dating & being married got under my skin

Little while ago there was a blog post that came up again and again on facebook - you probably saw it too - it would have been difficult to miss it with it's tabloid worthy catchy title about dating even though being married (written by Jarrid Wilson).

Now, here's the confession. The first time I read it, I thought it was kind of cute. For my sins, I read it again some days later when it popped up on my facebook wall again and this time it annoyed me. A lot. So much so that I thought I'd blog about it. Months later. So here's my well brewed annoyance for you all to read...

Only the problem is, it's difficult to define what annoyed me. In a way I agreed with  the idea of what he was saying - you shouldn't stop having fun together after you get married. Only he called it pursuing each other - maybe it was the lingo he was using that got under my skin.

"Nobody wants to be with someone who doesn’t want to pursue them whole-heartedly." No, I want to be with someone who loves me even when I get out of the bed on the wrong side - especially if the someone brings me a cup of tea! I want him to love me whole-heartedly but at times if I am grumpy it is probably safer for him not to pursue me but to let me find my fun on my own accord!

"Wake up each day and pursue your spouse as if you are still on your first few dates. You will see a drastic change for the better in your relationship." It would actually be nice to wake up, rather than be woken up by the little tap, tap on the shoulder accompanied by a whisper of 'aiti' (mummy). Plus I don't know why you would want to change the sense of oneness that comes from years together to the insecurity of the first few dates! The only drastic change in our relationship following the last date we had was extreme tiredness caused by watching a film (on a school night) at the cinema that finished past our usual bedtime...

The idea of being pursued makes me think of a haunted animal running for their life and being cornered with no escape. I think my school of marriage is more of the be-yourself-and-relax kind of variety. Doing all the fun dating stuff will not bring you closer to your other half unless you are willing to be vulnerable and open.

And actually dating and pursuing your partner are not synonymous unlike the blog seemed to suggest, but that's getting a bit too academic argument so we'll leave it at that.

A very hypocritical part of me felt that he was a bit out of place giving marriage advice after being married less than a year ;) Which is slightly comical as I get annoyed when people don't think my parenting advice is valid because I 'only have one child'. Hey ho. The rant is over.

I'd be interested to hear what you thought when you read the original blog.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mice invasion

Young sir has a rather wonderful litte cookery book that he often reads at bedtime, dreaming of all the lovely sweet things he would have if his parents were less vigilant about his intake of sugary treats. We had a dedication at church on Sunday which always means a feast afterwards. It was a perfect reason to try couple of the recipes. Young sir opted for sweethearts (only we had sweetflowers as we didn't have heart shaped cutters of the right size) and coconut mice.

Young sir made the sweethearts with his own fair hands, he'll be a good catch one day with his culinary skills ;) The mice we made 'together' - after the first few my little helper realised how time consuming it was to but eyes and tails on and disappeared to play with lego. He occasionally appeared back in the kitchen to perform quality control on the ears and tails, just to make sure they tasted like the other ones obviously. 

I remember decorating biscuits together with my mum and she made a comment about how children like to choose from lots of different ones. On that occasion I'd just been slapping icing on and making them all look the same (fast, efficient and completely devoid of imagination) whereas hers were all different and amazing. The comment has stayed with me and I think she is so right - there is something fun about having lots of different lovely things and being able to choose the one that you like the most. 

So following my mother's wisdom, all the mice were different. Different sizes. Different coloured ears. Different coloured eyes. Different lenght tails. All different and all very cute.

They were a doddle to make if a bit time consuming.

Here's the recipe:

250gr icing sugar
200gr condensed milk
175 gr desiccated coconut
food colouring (any colour you fancy)

sweets for ears
small cake decorating balls for eyes
liquorice laces for tails

 Mix the sugar, coconut, colouring and condensed milk together. Shape mouse like shapes with spoon, dipping it in water before putting it in the mixture helps to stop it from sticking. Put on eyes, ears and tails. A coctail stick was handy for making holes for the tails to go into. Leave to harden before putting in a tin.

The mixture makes quite a few mice and I got tired of making them so I spread the left over mixture on a baking paper, melted some white chocolate on top and sprinkled with pink and white sprinkles...mmmmm.....delicious!

 I got a lovely new cake stand for Christmas so it was good excuse to try it :)

The sweethearts that we shaped like flowers were simple to make. You'll need:
50gr icing sugar
50gr caster sugar
100gr ground almonds
100gr condensed milk
food colouring

Mix everything together and dye half of the mixture different colour. Leave to rest in fridge for 30 minutes, roll out as thick or thin as you like and cut shapes. Use a smaller cutter to middles and swap the middles with the cut otus of the different coloured mixture. Leave to dry/harden overnight.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Dreamming of summer

My sister posted some pictures on facebook couple of days ago. One of them was of me and young sir marching together along the Hadrian's wall. In the sunshine. I looked at the photo and wanted it to be summer. NOW.

Usually, I like all the seasons. Each one of them has their own appeal. Some people call themselves summer people and feel that they are only really alive in the summer when the sun shines and all is rosy. I love sunshine and summer but I also love crisp autumn mornings, rainy winter days (or snow but that doesn't happen too often), emerging spring flowers.

When I first moved to England I was adamant that there were only three seasons here. Since then I have learnt not to define winter purely by the depth of the snow cover - even though my ideal winter would still be snowy...

When I saw this photo I really, really wished it was summer. There was something so inviting about the fluffy clouds and sunshine. For couple of minutes I was a summer person...and then it was back to reality. It is January. I have sinusitis and am drinking gallons of hot black currant squash in the hope that it will alleviate the suffering slightly.  Hey ho...time to boil the kettle again :)