Thursday, 26 August 2010

Exciting Holiday

We have booked the holiday, tomorrow evening the Hubster leaves the office behind for a week and I'll try to control my twitter habit for the duration. We have our plans for loads of things to do, the Pickle is so excited I have to scoop her off the ceiling.

We have a great deal, and it is all so convenient. Door to door it takes negligible time to get there and it is a beautiful cottage with all the mod cons. It even has a well stocked larder so I don't need to go through the usual holiday cottage rigmarole of decanting bottles of oil and buying extra boxes of detergent only to forget my toothbrush.

The cottage is within easy reach of Legoland, London, loads of parks and we even know some out of the way cafes and pubs in the area. The Hubster is most excited by going swimming every day and has booked a special week pass at the local pool for just £7 per person - bargain!

We know from past experience that the cottage has bump free mattresses, soft cotton bedlinen and piles of soft pillows. There are loving touches around the cottage to remind you that is filled to the brim with love. While the floors and bath are clean and the rooms generally tidy somebody could tell the owner that she should de-clutter, and maybe the toys in the main reception room could be kept a little under control. But, at least if the dog comes in muddy I know I will not get any complaints.

The best thing about this place is that it has access to so many places and things that we would never do in our usual day-to-day lives but it is such good value! At the end of the week I will not even need to pack everything up to take home, because that is where it will already be.

Yes, we are having a staycation and I can't wait. I'll tell you all about it soon!

Monday, 23 August 2010

The last taboo

So many things are described as the last taboo. I remember at college having to help an actor on stage who wearing nothing but a straight jacket and a ghetto blaster on a skate board attached to his only unencumbered appendage (ahem) - all in the name of tackling taboos. Well, this weekend I read another article called Miscarriage: A mother's last taboo and wondered, is it really?

I had a couple of early miscarriages last year and it was strange that while it knocked me sideways I could not always say why I was exhausted / under the weather / emotional. As you may have guessed by the way I write I don't mind challenging convention - and I will talk about almost anything to any one - but utter the word miscarriage and people recoil. It is as if mentioning the M word is a social faux pas.

If you have the flu you mention it and get sympathy, but if you have a miscarriage you are a fruit loop for mentioning it. I exaggerate a little, but people are not comfortable hearing about miscarriage?

They say that 50 years ago cancer was never discussed, it was not considered to be appropriate and it was viewed with disdain, even prejudice. Similarly, when miscarriage is so common, up to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, why do people feel uncomfortable hearing about it. I won't burst into tears on you, I will share in your joy if you are blessed with a baby and it is not contageous, so why don't you feel comfortable hearing about my miscarriage? Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that I was offering news of my miscarriage as a random conversation opener, but was not adverse to being honest about it if asked or if it was pertinent to a discussion. I just think that if we found it easier to confront it as a subject it would make it easier to recover.

On a positive note, part of the reason I want to have another babe is to give the Pickle a sibling around her age (I have two lovely, but much older step children). I love my relationship with my big Bro! We are SO different with totally different politics / friends / jobs and outlooks, but as we both admit that on the real matters in life we agree. He has been a real strength when I have been low, I know that it can not be an easy subject for a confirmed bachelor, but he has just been the best big bro ever, knowing the right thing to say and do to make me feel better. Here's still hoping that the Pickle gets a sibling as great as my big Bro!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Trouble with Lidl

We have been watching it for months, from a hole in the ground the building has gone up. Loads of fascinating machines have been used and they have even been kind enough liven the facade with splashes of yellow. The Pickle has been asking daily when the new shop would open.

Today was the day. I have never seen so many men in badly fitting - rushing about slapping themselves on the back. The best thing, obviously, was the yellow helium balloons that enticed us in.

I looked hard for British produce, anything organic or even free range. It seems ridiculous to import so much of the produce when it is in season in Blighty. Does that make me a middle class yummy Mummy?

Worse was to come, I had told the Pickle that she could choose her own supper. Serious negotiation had to take place as they cleverly position the biscuits to be at toddler eye view (and I was not going to pay a quid for a shopping trolley, so now I am a tight, middle class yummy Mummy). We finally agreed on a lasagne verde, it seemed the easiest way to get out of the hell hole. Opening day at the supermarket is not my idea of a glamorous soiree!

I got back home and the Pickle said that she loved the lasagne. She was most emphatic that she lived it, but in reality she only had about 4 mouthfuls. I checked the back of the pack for the nutritional content (paranoid, tight, middle class...) and all them seem to include was the same basic information in about seven languages (where was this stuff made?). No information about nutrition, so goodness knows how much salt and general cack was squeezed into it.

The Hubster came home from work and went for his usual early evening hoover - and said that it tasted fishy. Fishy? It allegedly was pork.

Will I go again? Will the my Scrooge like tendencies over power the yummy Mummy? I can't resist a bargain but when my whole family only manage a third of a lasagne, it may be cheap but that is not value.

So I made up for it by making a delicious veggy moussaka that everyone loved, from the remainders last week's veg box.
Left over Quorn mince with chopped roast peppers (I frazzle them over the naked flame, very satisfying for a would be pyromaniac); I microwaved the last dregs of the 1/2 fat creme fraiche with chopped cheddar then poured over; layer on some cooked thin sliced aubergine and top with Mozzarella (left over from the weekend's home made pizza) and a little Partisan cheese. Pop in the oven, finishing under the grill (as I was too hungry to wait for it to oven cook). Yummy, a meal from left overs! No e-numbers, limited salt and even cheaper than Lidl as it was cook or compost time for most of the ingredients.

The Lucky Gene

I did not marry for money, but maybe the lucky gene helped our relationship. You can't buy it, it is not for sale, it is a Sprite family heirloom passed down through to the most fortunate of the generation. Yes, Matt is the beneficiary of the family luck gene.

He warned me about it when we first met and about the Sprite rule number one: be happy. It seemed so uncool. After all I was chasing an artistic career and we all seemed to have far higher aspirations that just to be content. In fact, his whole approach to life seemed a little different: he did not find wild private views in the East End cool, he found them a little dull; he thought critical appraisal was people being pretentious and was baffled that there was never any agreement and shock, horror, he was not ashamed by being part of a mass market.

Maybe it was the luck gene, but I stuck around and he even learnt to be a fair (if to the point) theatre critic. It is strange, but his life did seem charmed. He was not rich, had a dive for a house and his car was clapped out - but he was happy. Being around him everything seemed so simple. I did not want to, I did not mean to, but I was falling in love.

He was nothing like the mythical man of my dreams. My ex was an actor/writer/poet and he was (don't hyperventilate) an engineer and worse, he did not read. But, I was falling in love.

So, over ten years later and we are happily married. My pad in central London has gone and I live in this tumbledown cottage but things are working out. I think of the lucky gene, and I think it has rubbed off on me.

Has life been a bed of roses? Well, maybe, considering how my roses lacerate my arms when I prune them. We have had ups and downs, family illness and deaths, redundancy, debt and infertility - but that lucky gene has always pulled us through.

The lucky gene is not a double headed coin, it is no panacea but it is a lens through which to see life. Like the Sprite rule number 1 - be happy. Shit happens, but it isn't about to get me down. Now that is what I call a lucky life!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Perfect Day

We had the perfect day today, the Pickle and I. We did not do much but it was perfect. I cleaned the floors while we also played. We met Daddy for lunch at the Global Cafe then spent a ridiculous amount of time shopping for a few bits and pieces - but we chatted and giggled and agreed that the Pickle could not buy everything that was coloured pink. I had to do some food shopping and managed to get stuck in traffic and then get lost on a short cut, but we were busy singing "Baa, Baa Black sheep 'Have you and wool?' No sir, no sir....' and other random songs. We could not find what we wanted and had no food in the house and arrived home late for supper. We were then late into bed and still wired up with energy. But it was, as I mentioned, a perfect day, we were together.

I remember at my old work chatting to a colleague who was also a Mum. I said in an unguarded moment that we had had a perfect day and asked if she knew what I meant. She looked at me with mild loathing and said she had never had a perfect day. Motherhood seemed to be one long trauma for her, she loved her kids but that did not make her happy.

Sometimes when I am chatting to friends I have to remember to not go on about feeling happy. Don't get me wrong, I have shit days, the Pickle still plays havoc with my sleep (coming in for a cuddle in the middle of night) and sometimes the red mist can rise. BUT I love being a Mum!

I don't want to whinge about my other half, I don't want to complain that I feel tired (okay maybe) I realise that being skint and being happy are not correlated. I don't want to think about the pile of laundry or reduction in my social life. I want to smile about my happy, simple life.

Have you had one of those days when you know that you ought to go to the supermarket, post office and endless other chores? Of course you have, if you are a Mum. The day starts to go pear shaped when the toddler wants one more book, refuses to put on her shoes and generally is making you late. The moment you realise that half the jobs can be postponed and you slow down to toddler speed the day starts to get better. An issue is only a problem when you make it one, change your perspective it can be an opportunity.

What I really mean is I do have my ups and downs, but I always go to sleep with a smile and wake up with a smile and a cuddle. Whatever else is going on in life that may be shit, who cares because I LOVE BEING A MUM! I really hope that we share the same perspective. xx

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Rules...

Every year around about the Pickle's birthday she starts to forget her usual manners and test the boundaries. I am not sure why it happens yearly, but it does and as she is now 4 it is definitely a pattern.

She is normally so easy going and responsive I have never had to institute a 'naughty step' instead the power of three has always been enough to strike fear into her. Yes, counting to 3, I have never got beyond 2 and I am not sure what I would do if I did. She was once reduced to a soggy mess when one of our friends did not realise the rules and counted fast and flipantly, actually getting to 3.

This year we needed further amunition. She started to lash out when she got cross and she responded to any request with 'I'm just....' if she responded at all. So we created THE RULES:

1. Loads of smiles
2. No hitting or hurting
3. Loads of cuddles
4. Do whatever Mummy says, when she says it.

The combination of tough and fun rules works a treat. A week or so in and we have had no tantrums just a marked improvement in behaviour. I got my Pickle back. Hooray!

Party, Party

Sorry, I have been stuck in party world for too long while. There has been a lot to organise. Firstly we had our 90th Birthday. Matt is 50 and I am 40 this year so we had to celebrate, and we have not had a party for a while. My mind had been really made up when I decided on a theme, a vintage (1940s/1950s) Garden Party. It was Pimms, marquees and a new frock for me (glam or what?).

I love a good project and trying to organise a stylish party for 100 on a very tight budget was a challenge. It was complicated as I decided it would start at 2.30 (after lunch) and would go on as long as anyone was standing. I saw happy tides of people drifting in and out through out the day. I found really cheap florists ribbons and almost got RSI making endless bunting and cross costed and budgeted feverishly.

Printed invitations were out but if we were going to email /facebook it had to be done with style. With a free copy of GIMP (the open source photoshop type software) I played around to get the picture you can see.

It is amazing what you can find online - without the online resources I would have had no idea of quantities for catering etc. there was even a great site that collated all the supermarket wine review - essential if you want to serve rose for under £4 and for it not to taste like a student party. As you can tell, I love organising parties and I could go on too long.

Just about everybody we wanted to come could, with loads of long lost friends making star appearances. Yes, it was a party not This is Your Life but there was parallels (minus the saccharine).

As soon as that was over and it was onto the Pickle's 4th Birthday party. We booked loads of toys from the toy library and our usual format. Play, pass the parcel, tea, a treasure trail then parcel them off home. Everything had to be Peppa pig - but then when you can get personalised icing toppers for cakes from ebay it was achieved with minimal effort. It all passed off without a glitch, 12 toddlers, perfect manners and loads of giggles.

The thing I loved most was that the Pickle loved her party, but owned up to having even more fun the day before on her real birthday. The two of us had a quite 'Mummy Day' playing together and going to her fave restaurant for lunch (a toastie at the local coffee shop). If only life was always so simple!