Sunday, 29 June 2014

Fancy a cuppa? Ooh, yes please!

I wouldn't describe myself as a tea-drinker - I'm more of a double espresso kind of gal - but sometimes, nothing else will do! A cup of tea, a nice piece of cake and chance for a catch-up with friends. What more could a girl ask for? 

Earlier this week I was invited for a cuppa with Pip Lincolne, my blogging teacher and all-round lovely person. However, since she's on the other side of the world, a virtual cuppa is as good as it will get for now. Maybe one day we'll get back to Melbourne... Hmm, she drifts off into thought & memories...

So, back to reality, tea and that catch-up. What did you get up to this week? What did I get up to this week??

As usual it's been a busy one but has been filled with good stuff. Mostly this week I've been loving these things:

Silly Shopping
It started out so friend needed - yes, needed! - a petticoat like this one, so off we went to Deadly is the Female in Frome. What an amazing shop! It's filled with gorgeous new 'vintage' clothes. AND Nigella has shopped there too! What's not to love?! The immaculately dressed sales woman was in her element as she selected dresses and petticoats and shoes and scarves for my friend to try. The purchasing of a new frock and new petticoat for my friend's imminent 40th birthday party (more on that in due course) must have pushed us over the edge, for pretty much everything from then on resulted in a fit of giggles. I'd try to explain but I think you might just have to trust me on this one. It was an amazing shopping experience, to say the least!!

Family Meals
I love when we all get to eat together as a family. But what with after-school clubs, early evening meetings or my husband travelling home from a far-flung city, those family meals usually only happen at weekends. Mid week dinner for grown-ups is often overlooked or cobbled together from leftovers or store cupboard ingredients (beans on toast, anyone?!). This week, though, we had an unexpected visit from our grown-up soon-to-graduate niece. And since her older brother lives nearby, we managed a Thursday night Fajita Feast (something like this). Yum and fun!!

Memory-making Music 
I was listening to Desert Island Discs this morning and Judy Murray (mother of Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray) was talking with Kirsty Young. Her first music choice was this song and I was instantly transported back to my own pre-school days. As my mum had rheumatoid arthritis & needed help at home, we had a lovely lady come in to clean. She gave me a Bay City Rollers LP for a Christmas present one year and I was hooked. My littlest has an unswaying love for Mike Wasowski from Monsters Inc and University - it's been over a year now since she first 'met' him and still it's ALL about Mikey!! I've been surprised that someone so small could have such a longstanding 'thing' going on but then, when I heard this song, I realised that whatever grabs you, does just that and there's nothing you can do to get rid of it. I hear this music & find myself transported back to a time of tartan trousers & scarves tied around my wrist! It makes me feel warm & fuzzy for those childhood days. I hope my kids will have the same feelings for their childhood when they're my age...

Being kind to myself
It's a rare occasion that I actually put myself on my 'to do' list. My daily list is always almost as long as my arm & I am almost never on it. 

But this week I treated myself to a bit of sewing. I bought some gorgeous rainbow fabric on Monday (at this fabulous shop) with the intention of making myself a frock using my new pattern from gather. But my girls literally swooned when they saw it and begged me to make something for them too...and since I'm a sucker for that kind of thing, and since it's SO much easier to sew for the girls, I opted to make myself a skirt instead! 

I am VERY pleased with the result and think I'll be making several more. Don't worry I've got some other fabric I'm planning to use for my Mortmain.

Looking forward
Em, my grown-up niece has just finished Uni & is starting her summer job whilst considering her future. There's been a lot of talk this week about what she might - or might not - do. There's a whole world out there and nothing to stop you exploring it. I'm not sure I had any great life plans at her age, but I'm pretty happy with the way my life turned out, if I'm honest. Who'd have thought when I was 21, all those hundreds of years ago, that I'd be doing what I'm doing now? Life is what you make it, I guess, but it really is all out there, if you want it.

Whilst one has finished formal education, another is about to begin it. My littlest, Isabel, starts school in September and this week has been all about that - Parents Evening, finding out who her new teacher will be (apparently it was inevitable for Isabel!), Story Time in her new class, visiting the class during time at pre-school, buying book bags & new school shirts. She is SO excited! It's really lovely to see. Right now, she's playing schools with her big sister!! It's going to be a long summer....

D'you know, it's been lovely chatting with you this morning. Now it's time to get on with getting lunch organised. 

Let's do this again soon!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Where would my life be without books??

I confess, I'm a book-lover! My house is definitely testimony to that - bookshelves in every room (except the toilet these days since it's now a wet room!!) and a not so small pile beside my bed of those books I'm either reading or would like to read.

The books beside my bed.
The box is full of books too!
But it goes beyond the physical book in my hand. When I was a child my dad worked at a printer's - the then famous Purnell's - and would often bring home books for us. I didn't realise until much later the reason they all had little squares cut out of the title page (to establish the exact paper weight when estimating costs), I just thought some books had this!

One of the series I remember most were 'Thomas' books. No, not the Tank Engine, but a little line drawn boy, Swedish, I think. There were several books & even then I appreciated the simplicity of the design, the mix of colour & black & white. It makes me feel warm inside just thinking about these books. I still have a couple & read them with my children. Both are the source of discussion for different reasons, but it's the same discussion EVERY has been scribbled in (not by me I must add) and the other shows Thomas' boy bits when he jumps in the bath! Both are of concern & hilarity!!

School of course brought many a book, but the one that stands out is 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee. I think I first read it when I was 14 or 15, then 
again when I was 18. I hadn't realised until I read it again in my mid-thirties, quite how much this book had influenced my sense of social responsibility. It is definitely one of my 'go-to' books when I need a good read.

After finishing my degree & travelling the world for almost a year, I decided to do a Printing & Publishing course at the London College of Printing. And so began my own career in books. I ended up specialising in Children's Books & worked in that industry for almost 20 years before stepping out to be at home with my children. 

I have heard said many a time that everyone has a book in them. I've always doubted that since I've always thought of that book as a novel and, whilst I can sort-of write, I get so carried away I think the readers would lose the plot completely! But, d'you know, I think 'they' might be right!! Mine is definitely not a novel but a craft book for little kids. It's what I do every week at Little Me (a toddler group for 0-5's) but in book form. Fingers crossed something might happen with that.

But, the most important thing to come out of my love of books is the Book Club I'm in. We meet once a month in one of our houses and share an evening of discussion & laughter - sometimes about the book we've read, sometimes not. These women are phenomenal and beautiful and I don't know where I'd be without them. It's like a therapy session with nibbles, wine and a book! What more could you ask for?

We began some ten years ago & were all dubiously linked through the book trade - writers, illustrators, designers, creators. We used to meet at the pub or at parties but with the introduction of children in our lives, we didn't seem to get together quite so regularly. But books and a Book Club we could justify! And so began one of the greatest things in my life. Some have come & gone but still Book Club remains an important and integral part of my life. The third Thursday of the month is sacred and I will rearrange anything and everything not to miss it!

This month we'll be reading 'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer. Anyone read it yet?

Friday, 13 June 2014

So, what do you do?

I've been asked this question several times in the last couple of weeks and each time I've responded with a different answer! Which, unsurprisingly has had me thinking...what DO I do?

These days 'multi-tasking' is my middle name! In amongst being chef extraordinaire (catering for all types of food likes & dislikes), running a fantastic laundry service (bring me your washing - or rather put it in the washing basket, don't leave it in the floor - and it will be returned, washed, dried, sometimes ironed but always folded), being a travel agent (bespoke foreign holidays are my current speciality), a financial whizz (to be fair, I'm much better at spending it, but hey!), gift finder (who buys the presents around here?), post-girl (someone has to mail those presents!), events planner (mostly of the kids party variety but grown-up ones too), creative oik, I'm frequently something of a UN diplomat or perhaps an FBI negotiator... Have you guessed what I 'do' yet? Yes, I'm a mum!

I haven't worked since my smallest was almost 2. I think I should rephrase that... I haven't done any paid work since my youngest was almost 2. My current job might just be the hardest one I will ever have!

The hours are appalling - I'm on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - the pay even worse (we Brits don't tend to discuss salaries!). The payback is great though - the hugs & kisses, smiles & giggles, holding hands and singing together, the list is long and is certainly what makes my job all the more delightful.

But still I ponder that question - What do I do? How do I define myself these days? I find that a response of 'stay-at-home mum' is something of a conversation-killer. The person asking the question isn't quite sure of his/her next question. My husband is an architect and I can imagine his answer can easily lead to further conversation & interesting discussion. My response seems to need further explanation of what I did before this job. Or the need to justify why I stopped work. Or is that just me?

So, what do I do? Do I look back at what I used to do & have that as my answer? It was a massive & very important part of my life after all. I used to run a small book packaging company specialising in creating & selling novelty children's books for the under fives with customers around the world, dealing with all types of projects at various stages (& locations), I organised exhibitions & considered budgets, built databases, saw fabulous products through from concept to delivery, built amazing relationships with colleagues, customers and suppliers alike. But I don't do that now & I'm not planning on going back to it....

Hmmmm, I'm still trying to find the right answer! One that will satisfy the person asking! Now?? 

I have resurrected a love of fabric & will sew at any and every given opportunity, often finding that I have to sew NOW as every detail of the project in my head has been worked out and MUST be executed before I go mad! I love that my eldest daughter has such faith in me - she flippantly asks "mum, can you make me a....?" without thought that that might not be something other daughters ask their mums or doubt that I can do it. I really love that!!

In terms of 'work' and aside from my 'proper' job as a mum, I help run a toddler group at my church with 2 others. I organise a craft every week for the littles. Since they're aged between 0 and 5 it needs to cover all abilities. Perhaps you'll do one project in 2 minutes flat, perhaps you'll take longer or perhaps you'll do at least 5 over the course of the morning! I like everything to be prepared in advance so they can get creative without adult help. Of course parents and carers are encouraged to help - or do their own! - but essentially it is the child's own creation and gorgeous they all are too.

But that's unpaid, so does that count??

For the last 18 months I have been Chair of Governors at our local Infant School. My eldest daughter has been through the school & my littlest is currently at their pre-school, starting Reception in September. I have a vested interest! But I also have a desire to help improve the school for the benefit not only of my children but of their friends & our neighbours. I was blessed with the skills and feel that I 'should' use them although I do feel that our Government is taking advantage of a vast unpaid workforce. But that's another story!! It's a good way to keep my brain active, to learn new skills & to encourage others along the way. It's hard work, especially when my other 'work' gives little free time and I'm new to Education per se (even though I've been through the system myself it was quite a while ago and when you're the student, you have no idea of the behind the scenes stuff). And it also takes a lot of my time with meetings, discussions, training etc. But still it's unpaid, so does that count?

I'm hatching plans for a new business, something I can do from home in time that doesn't interfere with taking the girls to & from school or to their after-school clubs and, most importantly, just being here for them. Maybe then I'll feel more confident in telling people what I do. 

Maybe it's just me, maybe I need to get a clearer handle on what I do? Maybe I need to quash my assumption that people only want to hear about paid work? Or maybe it's okay to 'tailor' my response depending on who I'm talking to.... 

I suppose because my norm has been to do paid work & be able to clearly explain that work, this current way of life is quite novel for me - the scope is huge (see paragraph two!) and I need to stop underestimating its value. 

Unpaid in monetary terms it may be, but in 'real' terms, it's the best job ever!!

Now, if only I could get a bit more sleep....but that's another story...