Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A bucket list of Things to do...



I've been writing the ultimate to-do list - a bucket list, if you will. Nothing in particular has prompted it and the last few days of 2010, my 43rd year, aren't especially auspicious. It's just that time is passing and, if I'm going to get Things done, I'd really better get cracking. The past 12 months have seen me gone from thanking my lucky stars and clinging to metaphorical wreckage to actually considering being able to plot a course. Of course, you can't have a course without a destination.

So in no particular order:

See the aurora borealis. A long-held ambition that even defied a trip to Iceland.

Fly a seaplane to some fabulous Scottish West Coast island hideaway.

Become comfortable with public speaking, maybe even enjoy it.

Climb Kilimanjaro.

Visit the Australian rellies, in Australia.

See my sons all settled in homes, jobs and lives that make them happy.

Learn to salsa dance.

Get a novel published.

Go on a yoga retreat.

Fit back into all those clothes.

Work less.

Ski more.

Get a non-fiction book published.

Conquer the clutter (or at least make peace with it). Picture shows today's step in that direction.

Have a lovely garden.

Learn to take good pictures with my lovely new camera.

To be the kind of confident freelancer who can pick and choose.

Visit Russia.

Visit India.

Stay in an ice hotel.

Visit New Orleans.

Learn to say no without feeling bad.

Go fire walking.

Travel on the Orient Express.

Spend a night in New York.

Learn to paint, and I don't mean emulsion.

Continue to share daily conversations with my lovely husband.

Continue to spend memorable times with my fabulous family.

Finish the Times crossword.

See the RSC at Stratford.

Climb more mountains.

Go back to live in Cumbria.

Cook more food for more people more often.

Don't leave a day unseized.

So there you have it, the List as it stands. I expect there will be additions and amendments.
What's on yours?

Friday, 24 December 2010

Jingle, jingle, ho ho ho and mince pies

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!


So there we are, it's too late for any more preparation, the big fellow's on his way, so if you've forgotten anything vital then, as they say, your goose (or other big bird) will be cooked.

There's just time for me to wish you a very happy Christmas and to share a few of the things I've learned in the past few weeks.

Your present to self won't stay shiny for long.
Own up, you all do it: sixteen things for them and one for me. Mine this year was a new pair of winter boots. I'd had them on for around three hours and only taken enough outside steps to get to the bin when Boy Three vomited in them.

Catalogues are, apparently, great reading. Normally Boys One and Two show little interest in what the postperson brings unless a birthday looms. Lately though they've been falling over themselves to snatch the avalanche of catalogues off the door mat. Then they'll thumb through them and, in Boy Two's case, mark them with complex multicoloured notes.

Glitter is tenacious. Once you allow it into your house it will not leave. Instead, it moves, like magic. Today I found some in my eyebrow.

Cuddles, smiles and togetherness are yukky.
Boy One was keen to know what was on my Santa list. Particularly if I had made the tricky choice between things Doctor Who and things Harry Potter and "you can't say you want kisses or lover or any of that yukky stuff".

So, in spite of what Boy One says (and I'm sure he doesn't mean it, partial, as he is, to a cuddle), I wish everyone a very yukky Christmas and a glittery new year.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Living in the Boy Zone


A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a BBC Radio Scotland programme about living with boys. It's presented by Anne Diamond and all about bringing up boys. I'm telling you about it because I was interviewed for a tiny bit of it at the beginning. But the rest of it is very interesting.
You can listen on the iPlayer for another couple of days or hear it on BBC Radio Scotland at 10.30am on Sunday.
Living in the Boy Zone.

Monday, 13 December 2010

All I want for Christmas is Christmas


A penny suddenly dropped for me today.

I've spent quite a lot of effort over the past few weeks hunting around looking for my festive spirit, my fa-la-la and my jingle. However hard I tried though I only seemed to turn up some tatty tinsel, a squashed sprout and a mild hangover.

I put the decorations and flashing lights on. I listened to seasonal songs - and the Phineas and Ferb Christmas album, which is brilliant (thanks, Boy One), I pored over recipes and even poked around in craft fairs and markets. Nothing I did could shake off the humbugs - a slight irritation with the whole thing plus a deep-seated wish that it was January 2 and it was all done with.

Even my current inability to organise myself seemed to be conspiring with it. I'd made a note to haul the kids along to the switching on of the Christmas light. There's a jolly carol service, a bloke in a red costume dishing out cheap sweets and tea and mince pies in the Legion after. The first O Come All Ye Faithful never fails to warm the cockles. However, I'd put it down for this week not last week, so the light is lit and the faithful been and gone - or at those who wrote it on the right page of the calendar.

Shops are the absolute worst - there's no point in trying to find any ho ho ho there. I walked through Glasgow on Saturday seemingly against the flow of laden shoppers with gritted teeth and glazed eyes. It didn't look like any fun at all.

In fact, I'd been congratulating myself. I have hardly any shopping to do. Boys One and Two are off to their dad's for Christmas, leaving on the last day of term. So I'll get their presents when they get back assuming there's anything in the world they haven't already been given. Boy Three is too small to care and Fabulous Family have taken a sensible vow not to bother giving presents to grown ups. That leaves a handful of kids to get pressies for.

Because the Boys are away the Panther and I aren't bothering with the turkey business. He's threatening to eat pot noodle. Then I agreed to go to work on Christmas day for a few hours, let's face it there's not much going on at home that day anyway. The Panther has to go to his coal face on Boxing Day too.

We didn't mind. Our family gatherings at the moment have too many empty seats occupied by two many ghosts. It's easier just to carry on as if it isn't happening, by and large.

Then I realised. The reason I've got a seasonal slump is because, for various reasons, I've opted out and now I haven't got a Big Day to look forward to. No oven to switch on at the crack of dawn, no sprouts, no presents, no over-excited kids and no braised cabbage to forget all about.

So, in the interests of some yule-tide oomf I'm finding some reasons to be jolly. I've booked the big Boys and I tickets to see John Barrowman in Aladdin on Friday, we're off to see the nativity tomorrow, it's the book group Christmas pot-luck supper on Thursday and there are work dos on Saturday and Tuesday.

And when my chicks are back in the nest, I might just throw a party. It's sure to uncover my glitter and set my pudding ablaze, isn't it?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Another post that starts "snow joke... "





Snow joke being stuck at home because of the snow, but here's what we learned.

Attempts to climb a Christmas tree will be unsuccessful. Oddly though, if your tree was decorated by children, it won't look much worse for its experience.

If you put enough clothes on the baby to keep him warm, he can't move. So he had great fun in the snow for around 6.5 seconds, then he fell over and couldn't get up. It was quite noisy.

My slightly sporty car wheels are rubbish on snow. In almost all other aspects my car is lovely, but as soon as it gets icy it's just horrible.

Four days is a long time. Even the kids were getting fed up with loafing at home. They were bored of sledging and tired of watching the telly. Their hearts weren't in the objections when school re-opened.

Four days is a long time (part 2).
So long without much adult company that I even did some of my filing and allowed a salesman on the phone to sell me some wine (shhh, don't tell the Panther).

The latest slimming hope might just work.
Not such a slim hope, then! I'm trying out a Thinkingslimmer slimpod. Just download it and listen to the 10 minute recording every night for three weeks. You don't even need to stay away, which is just as well. I know what you're thinking - scoff scoff (well it'll be her going scoff scoff again). Seven days in and I've lost 2 lb during a week when I might have turned to chocolate as an alternative to adult company.

Snow days should be a bonus.
It should be a treat to romp in the snow with my children. And it was for a while, but after a couple of days it did get quite hard to practice my own lesson.

Our boiler needs water poured on its condensing outlet to keep it going. And we're not alone. There's a theory going around that when these new condenser boilers are fitted the outlets are allowed to poke out into the cold instead of being tucked away in the wall. So when it gets cold you might call the fitter who'll charge £85 to do the hot water trick.

Thawing is a bit wet.
Even after the cabin fever, the cold, the almost certain need to replace tyres and the hassle, it's still a bit miserable when it starts to thaw. Great gloomy grey puddles and lots of drips, yuk.

Something for the weekend - a Yuu Bag competition


I'm offering you, my lucky, lucky blog visitors, the once in a lunch-time chance to win a fantastic new Yuu Bag.

What's a Yuu Bag I hear you ask? I didn't know until Boy Two spotted one advertised on TV and began a campaign. It is the very latest thing in schoolbags. Cooler even than the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo.

Basically it's a backpack with lots of pockets, features and the kind of free stuff kids love. It is semi-rigid so when it's open it turns into a desk, or activity bag if you will.

"That's awesome. It means I can do my homework on the bus without my handwriting being really bad," this is the best bit, apparently.

I think I was so shocked at not being nagged into getting some high-tech game or piece of plastic nonsense that I crumbled and bought one.

Later, I'd had to deal with the girls at Yuu World (where you get Yuu bags, of course) and, as well as offering some of the best customer service I've experienced in a very long time, they asked if I'd like to host a Yuu Bag competition.

All you have to do to win a Golden Ticket (aka a voucher for a Yuu Bag - there are so many options it's easier this way) is leave a comment here and next Friday (December 17) I'll pull a name out of a hat and send you your Golden Ticket. Simples.

Oh and seeing as how you're here, it would be really nice if you went and looked at some other posts, so I didn't think you were just here for the goodies.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

You want the tooth...

From left the teeth were in apple juice, vinegar, coke, water and milk
Things we learned from our dental experiment.

No one knows what to do with their children's baby teeth. That is no one except sister-in-law A (aka Healthandsafety) who suggested we carry out an experiment on ours. What else would you do? Make jewellery out of them or keep them in the drawer forever.

Baby teeth don't last forever. In the course of discussions about our experiment, the lovely J told me she'd found what she supposed were her baby teeth in her mother's dressing table. What she found were empty twists of tissue and some dust.

Coca cola does not dissolve teeth overnight. In fact, a week of being submerged leaves teeth brown and pitted, but entirely still there. Kind of disappointing this one.

Apple juice grows a splendid mould in a week. Much more interesting than the accelerated decay of teeth was the green fur on top of the liquid. The tooth underneath was most damaged by a week's immersion. Very nasty-looking indeed (I believe that's a scientific term).

Milk does not pour well after a week. However, once removed from the solidified mess, the tooth looked pretty good. If anything, better than it started.

Vinegar starts smelling bad and doesn't really change. It does turn the tooth dark and brittle, though.

Apple juice is worse than coke for teeth, milk is better than water, which is better than vinegar. So there you have it.

An lesson isn't always communicated as intended.
Me: "So what did we learn from our experiment?"
Boy One: "Not to drink vinegar."
Boy Two: "Coke isn't as bad as you say it is."
Me: "Well. Yes. But, look, how bad is apple juice and you drink it every day. Do you think this makes you want to clean your teeth regularly to stop this happening?"
Boy One: "Not really. I'm not going to keep my teeth in apple juice for a whole week."
Boy Two: "And it'd be cool to have teeth like that. Like a pirate. Ooooh Arrrgh."

Methodology: We put the teeth into glasses of the liquids on the kitchen windowsill for a week which was as long as I could put up with them there.

Caption: from left the teeth were in apple juice, vinegar, coke, water and milk

PS There's an experiment in condensing a pink saline solution going on in the sitting room at the moment. I bet you're on tenterhooks for that report.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Humbugs at 50 paces


I know I've banged my big old drum about how important it is to keep one's blogging pecker up... about how whingeing just won't do.

However, as the season of Goodwill To All Men (and the very few women who aren't frantically trying to Get Organised) inches ever closer, I feel the need to bend my own rule.

It's the Christmas thing. It should be wonderful, twinkly and exciting, but sometimes I just find it ever so slightly challenging.

This weekend I launched Operation Get Festive in a bid to find my missing ho ho ho. It's going rather well... as I sit here I can hear the occasional bauble dropping off the tree.

But I have a fundamental problem with the decorations thing. I've mentioned once or twice that I have a bit of a problem with clutter. I spend a lot of time and energy on the futile job of keeping it at bay. Therefore, it's a struggle to actually go out and invite more of it in. And not just invite it in, but pay for the privilege.

And then it shouldn't be any old tinselly tat... 'what's your theme this year?' asks the style editors of magazines and papers. What? Is what was in the battered box from the loft heaped unevenly on the tree by children not a theme then? Apparently not.

Add to that the fact that Boy Three considers the tree to be his own personal toy storage system with an added water feature at the bottom. It's just as well he's quite cute because if he wasn't no one would be very patient with his little job creation schemes. Normally he will contentedly empty bins, cupboards, laundry baskets and drawers, just to watch us sigh and return everything to order. Today though he watched his brothers dressing the tree, waited for them to finish before he diligently began undressing it.

Then if we're supposed to be saving energy, reducing consumption and generally reducing getting greener. How come we're supposed to forget all of that from mid-November? As far as I can see the only green thing about the festivities are Brussels sprouts as, after a week or so, there's no chance of the tree still being with needles.

Phew. Thanks for listening, I feel a bit better for that. Maybe a little mulled wine will hit the spot before I do the first pine needle vacuuming of the season...


PS A big blog cheer to the group of Brighter Bridge of Weir volunteers who are making the village look jollier. That's some of their work in the picture.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Snow is cold and head teachers should run the treasury


Things I've learned from my children

The coldness of snow never ceases to surprise. Shortly after this picture was taken, Boy Two complained he was cold and wet. No?

School fayres are economic genius. I just paid £2 for my own wooden spoon which has painted brown and disguised as a reindeer.

You can take good manners too far. Boy Three has learned "bye" which he says to every scrap of food before he dispatches it off his high chair tray.

Miracles can happen.
Housework half hour is catching on. Tonight Boys One, Two and I tidied up, put away laundry, hoovered the stairs, cleaned two bathrooms and watered the plants. Result. Boy One even allowed the half-hour to overrun as he was so into getting the taps shiny.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Decking the halls and looking for my fa-la-la-la laa


I don't mean to be a humbug but December brings me out in panic attacks. Maybe I'm allergic to Slade.

For me Christmas is wonderful, but only in sort of snapshots.

I love the smell of mulled wine and pine sap, with the crackle of open fires.
The big sigh when the tree is declared done.
Children whispering: "He's been."
Belting out carols in the local church and trying not to cry.
When a Boy spots us and waves from the nativity stage.
Putting a hand up the foot of a 'stocking' for the last treasure.
The bit of the meal where you use roast potato to mop up a gravy/cranberry sauce mixture.
Drinking something fizzy with breakfast.
Being properly surprised by a pressie that's just perfect - it's a surprise to be surprised these days.
Laughing with family and friends.

But sometimes a whole other set of snapshots get mixed in the album.

I don't like the fug of over-heated shops with slush-dampened cardboard on the floor.
The flotsam of broken baubles, pine needles and other bits that escape the decorations box and the tree.
The sound of narky children who were up in the very wee smalls to see if he'd been.
The Boys only enduring the carols and the ceremony of the light switching on (it's a small village) to get a sweetie from Santa.
Getting cross with parents who don't have the manners to sit through the whole Christmas show and instead leave when their kid's bit is over.
Shops and the people in them.

Every year it takes an effort of will to Get Festive. I'm on the job now - the decorations have been got down...

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, ev - ry where you go... "
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