Monday, 31 January 2011

Things I learned in January (AKA the blog clutter drawer)

Inspired by Giggling At It All's monthly roundup, I thought I'd bring you the stuff that didn't fit in anywhere else.
If you like, this is the blog equivalent of that corner of the kitchen...

There's more to a sitcom than meets the eye. My chum Debbie and I watch a filming of The Life of Riley at the BBC. Loved watching the set people painstakingly reproducing a messy house from photos. And Janey Godley, comedian, who kept us all laughing was a find.

Room by Emma Donoghue is troubling and compelling.
The story of a boy and his mother held captive, their escape and what the world makes of them. Read it and don't sleep!

Scottish Law caught up with the 21st century. As if by Tardis, the judiciary leaped centuries and allowed journalists to tweet from court. It made the sentencing of Tommy Sheridan more interesting than it already was.

I learned what my face looks like when I talk. Odd, you'd think I knew, but I didn't. I did my first Vlog this month. Rather uninspiring it was a sponsored post about hair colour. I might even do it again.

I learned that memory fades. It fades enough to allow me to enter the Moonwalk again, even though I promised never again after the last one.

There's a concert for autism coming up. Celtic Music Radio presents Folk For Autism featuring Skerryvore and Special Guests at Glasgow's Old Fruitmarket on Thursday 21st April 2011, 7.30pm. Tickets at Glasgow Concert Halls.

Photo: Boy One sang the Skyscraper Wean at his class Burns celebration.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Vejazzle: It's Lady Gardeners' Question Time

Astonished doesn't cover it. Groupon - purveyor of fine offers - has as its deal of the day a 63 per cent discount on a manicure, pedicure and a vejazzle decoration.

Now I like Groupon, it's where I got the offer on the photography course that succeeded in leaving me more bewildered by my new camera. It also has lots of tempting cut price meals, spa sessions and other treats.

But today's offer was, well, really rather racy to be loitering in my inbox on a Saturday morning.

Some of you might even be wondering what genre of music, spicy international dish or dance move a vejazzle is. Or even which 1970s TV show with domesticated witches it is. It's none of those things - it's the careful tending of one's lady garden, the be-glittering of one's precious flower, the frillification of one's fou-fou.

Not, obviously, that I have one. You only need to take a look at the lack of attention I pay to my real, outside garden to know that.

But imagine if Radio 4 caught up with a bit of Groupon's action and launched Lady Gardeners' Question Time.

Wise experts would pronounce about pruning and how to get a good bushy foliage. They would discuss the best thing to do with an uninspiring south-facing corner. And they would chortle knowingly about how to get results with tubers and root vegetables.

But the questions I'd really want answered are: What the heck? And, simply, why?

Moonwalk (Edinburgh, June 2011) becomes me... or at least I hope so

This week I have done something I hope I don't have cause to regret. I've signed up to take part in the Edinburgh Moonwalk this summer.

I've done it before so I know what I'm letting myself in for. The most recent time I did it without any training and that really wasn't very much fun at all. I said "never again", but then I've said that about other things too...

But then Lady Blah Blahs asked if I fancied doing it with her. Oddly I found I wanted to, really wanted to.

Then I remembered the good stuff.

Taking part in such a splendid - but ultimately bonkers - event with thousands of other motivated women (and a few men) is uplifting.

Walking towards the sunrise along the edge of the Forth makes my heart sing. Hard to talk about without sounding a bit blerugh but watching the dawn break is always magnificent.

All-nighters bring on the best kind of hysteria. Conversations and giggles through the dark and exhaustion are freer and funnier than normal ones.

It raises awareness and, importantly, cash for a really important cause.

I have a cast-iron excuse for going for a walk. Walking, for me, is usually a treat and therefore falls down the priority list below work and domestic do-dah.

My friend Fionaoutdoors, queen of all things fitness and empress of the training shoe, has asked me to post about my Moonwalk experience on her blog. So if you're the slightest bit interested in my blisters and what socks work best then that's where you'll learn more than you ever imagined about it.

Meantime, the sun is shining so I'd better get going.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Woolflaps - a new fashion faux pas

I happened through Glasgow's Central Station this week on my way to work, for once leaving the car behind because later the Panther of News was treating me to a night out at The Stand.

And on my way, rushing through the Goths and pigeons, I suddenly spotted a new trend. It's a trend inasmuch as there's a lot of it about but being a trend doesn't make it a good thing.

It's what happens when the ubiquitous comfy and flattering Drapey Cardi meets the only garments suitable for a Scottish winter, warm coats. Drapey Cardis are marvellous things - the wearer instantly believes her spare tyres to have vanished and the long pointy bits to be creating the illusion of willowy elegance. I should know I own a few.

The DC has equally uplifting cousins, the Drapey Top and the Drapey Waistcoat - same job, different configuration of sleeve and fastening/no fastening. I own a few of these too.

However, apparently unbeknown to most wearers, the pointy corner bits of the DC are longer than the hem of most coats warm enough for these climes and they dangle. They loiter and hang somewhere between hem and boot-top on either side of the body. Once you spot it, you'll see they are everywhere.

Don't despair though, the solution doesn't need to lie in a new - and much longer - winter coat. There is a chance of rehabilitation, the DC ends, instead of being an embarrassment could become the beginning of something special.

But first they need a name. I asked the wise women of the Twitter coven and they delivered. @JaneyGodley suggested Angular Danglers, @jax2000 offered cardi-yardage, @mumsgoneto got very excited and said cardi-valance and then (because the ends are fin-like) card-i-shark, but the prize, if there was one which there isn't, would go to @foodiejools for hipfrays and, my favourite, woolflaps.

So, I hear you cry, can the woolflaps be brought back to the mainstream?

I believe so. In evidence I offer:

G-strings visible over waistbands - now trollop pants are decorated in anticipation.

Their male equivalent, the pants over fally-down jeans(can someone please explain what holds them up?)

Orange ears, necks and palms from a Tango tan.

Bra straps - formerly always hidden are now blingged up for display.

I'm sure I could think of others if it wasn't nearly supper time. Meantime, I'm calling on DC knitters (or whatever) to come up with some answers: baubles to decorate them, little clips to tie them up, chains to attach them to the top of an Ugg(ly) boot? Over to you...

Pic: an illustration of the woolflap with a two-tone DT under a slightly crumpled M&S mac.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Totally Tartan, a thank you post

My mate Julie makes these fantastic cushions, blankets, door stops and draft excluders. Her business is called Totally Tartan. She also has two little boys - slightly bigger than my Boy Three yet smaller than Boys One and Two.

When Boy One was born she made him a funky fleece blanket with his name on it. And she also started bringing her sons' cast offs - bags and bags of them.

You see, after Boy Two was born I wasn't going to have any more children so I got rid of all the clothes as he grew out of them. Although even if I hadn't done a reproductive U-turn, with a seven year age gap there would have been too many clothes to keep.

But Julie has saved me from having to buy it all again. Regularly she turns up with huge bags of gear for my little chap to wear.

I've been wondering how to properly thank Julie and the best thing I could think of was to blog about how lovely her Totally Tartan merchandise is. And it is.

PS If you can't face more scratchy pants, overpriced roses or nasty perfume, there's still time to get an order in for Valentine's Day. Start hinting now.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Hi ho, hi ho, here's seven things you didn't know..

If you thought that heading was rotten, don't get your hopes up for an improvement.

I was tagged in a blog by the lovely Qwerty mum to come up with seven things you don't know about me. So, in the interests of work avoidance, I picked up the bloggy baton and thought of a few. (Once I streaked at a test match.)

But goodness me, what a mundane collection of facts I've amassed. Hum and drum don't come anywhere near covering it. I did consider making some up.... (I used to be an olympic weight lifter)

The idea is that I charm and fascinate with my list, then suggest a few other bloggers who might like to pick up the baton/cudgels or whatever. (My favourite food is pickled egg, I eat it twice a day)

Here are my sorry seven:

1 My big toe cracks loudly when I walk in flat shoes. See I told you you'd be thrilled.

2. The word 'lunch' makes me shudder - it's the 'nch' bit at the end so the same goes for munch and bunch - while "mackerel' makes me smile.

3. I like Gardeners' Question Time, yet I hate gardening.

4. Weather is one of my favourite things. I like how it happens, when it changes. I even like rain and used to crave it when I lived on Gran Canaria.

5. I'd never been to Linlithgow before this week.

6. I grind my teeth... a lot. So much so, that I've had to have the grooves in my front teeth all filled in. Good to know some bit of me is groovy.

7. I'd generally rather be up before everyone else than have a lie in. Watching the sun come up is a daily miracle, not to mention a metaphor. Although a lie in once in a while is lovely, if you're listing Panther.

How dull was that? (I once went on a date with Burt Reynolds.) (I often go to bed wearing nothing but a leather collar and a squirt of Pledge)

The bloggers to whom I pass this task are:

Lady Blah Blahs
Misssy M
Totally Tartan
Caron's Musings
Lakes Single Mum

If you can't come up with seven more interesting facts that I don't know, I'll eat my supper.. twice. (I had a pet snake that I trained to only the sound of my voice, but I had to get rid of it when my voice broke. But that was before I was a woman)

Pic: Linlithgow on a frosty morning. Walking Thursdays with Super Sister are a fine innovation. (I once made a life-size Venus De Milo out of matches and egg boxes.)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

What will they say about me when I'm dead?

This year I've already been to two funerals and I sincerely hope that the almost one a week pace is not going to continue.

Both of the funerals were for people around my age who leave dozens and dozens of bereft family and friends.

For both there was music - Pearl's A Singer and Tom Wait's (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night (I'm listening to Tom now) - laughter and stories about what kind of a person had just gone.

There were tales from childhood, early freedom escapades, careers, loves and passions. It's the strangest thing: assembling the achievements, friendships, quirks and hobbies that comprise a life. And we only do it when the life is over.

Even those closest to the deceased - chief mourners, a hard-earned rank - don't know all the parts that make the sum of their person.

While these deaths are the saddest of the sad, it's not my intention to jerk further tears. There have been enough.

Instead, what I wonder will they say about me, hopefully a very long time from now, when it's my turn?

Even taking into account the automatic upgrading that dead people get in their rankings, I'm going to start now grabbing a little more and leaving things slightly better than they were.

I wrote about the task of finding positives in the face of more exits than entrances recently and one reply, from Michelloui struck me.

She said: "After a bout of similar episodes 25 years ago when I was too young to process them effectively I spent years worrying and full of anxiety. Then someone said to me 'Picture yourself as a very old woman. How would that old woman advise you to live your life?' It was an epiphany. Now I too seize the day, I don't want to look back at years of wasting my life worrying!"

So today's mission is to give the eulogy writers something to go on and to make sure that old woman looks more tired than disappointed.

Pic: life being a bowl of metaphoric cherries, in case you wondered

Friday, 14 January 2011

Put the lid on the toothpaste tube... just once

One of the things from the - seemingly endless - list of things they don't tell you when you become a parent, is there will be some things your children will not learn, no matter what.

Instead, you will repeat requests for the apparently simple tasks to be done again and again. You will also rant, yell, mutter and threat. But nothing will change.

It starts to feel like a conspiracy. Maybe the Boys - perhaps with the Panther on side too - get together and say: "How's Operation Driver Her Loopy going? Keep up the good work with ignoring her." Nah. That'd be paranoid, wouldn't it?

So how come these bright lads - who can recite all of the Skyscraper Wean, know their way around the periodic table and who can, almost, beat me at the Big Brain Academy card game - can't remember to perform a series of mundane tasks?

There isn't another explanation; it has to be an evil plot to keep me in my place. I wonder how long before they recruit Boy Three to their sinister scheme?

I could spend hours looking for the secret meeting notes to confirm my suspicions, but I don't need to. Their agenda of aggravation would include:

Never put the top on the toothpaste tube.

Never put the light off in the bathroom.

Never turn shirts the right way out or remove pants from inside trousers.

Never replace an exhausted toilet roll.

Never return shoes to appropriate shoe storage site.

Never turn head to gain view of clock when there is a mother there to tell the time for you.

Always return empty tins, jars and cartons to cupboard, shelf and fridge.

Always return empty coathanger to wardrobe.

Always pile laundry near laundry basket, never actually in it.

Always look surprised when homework is suggested, despite having some to do around 120 days of the year.

Always blame your brother for trouble.

Always remember to utter the code phrase "do I have to?" when asked to do a chore.

Always show interest in magazine/book/paper of mother's by reading over her shoulder.

Maybe it's time to admit defeat. Boys, you win, you have driven me loopy, well done. Now, please, do as I ask, just once.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Finding positivity in the face of more exits than entrances

Generally, in both blogland and the real world, I try to adopt a position of merciless positivity. I am convinced there is a silver lining under every cloud even if it's of the what-doesn't-bust-you.. variety.

Lately, though, we seem to have been surrounded by more cruel coincidences than seems right by anyone's measure. I hasten to add the courtiers at the Palace of Bundance and their nearest and dearest are all, as far as I know, in the pink.

Firstly there was word that a former colleague's wife had slipped away on Christmas day after a brave fight against a rare form of cancer. Her funeral was a true celebration of a life well lived and sorely mourned.

She was laid to rest a year to the day that my mother-in-law was buried. Firsts and anniversaries start to scatter the path tripping up the unwary.

Then Nigel fell off the roof at Lower Loxley. As many commentators agree, not as flashy a 'big' episode as a public transport disaster, but probably far more affecting all the same. Elizabeth's pain is really hard to listen to.

Later I got word that a man I'd known of most of my life had decided to end his. He was the same age as me. I just hope that where ever he is he can see how much his loss is felt. Not so he'll regret his decision, but that he understands how much he was loved.

Elsewhere, friends and acquaintances are getting to grips with what seems like a great many losses at the moment.

My own calendar is scattered with memorial walks, visits to cairns and days set aside for a ponder.

Now, where's the positive in all of this? Sometimes I don't know. What I do know is that, and I know this is going to sound a tad pompous, there is a time for everything - we don't pick the time, but we might as well accept it.

I suppose we just need to hang on a little tighter while we have the chance and don't leave anything too late if we can help it. That's why, for me, is all about seizing the day. Not a novel motto, but one that works for me.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Slimpod - fat chance or a step in the right direction

It's that time of year again. It's the time of year when the couragous take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and decide that Something Has To Change. Resolutions made all over the place: I'll get back into those clothes, lose the baby bulge before he goes to school and, in my case, see my feet without leaning over so far. Some former colleagues even gave tabloid readers something of a shock with their efforts this morning.

Actually this year I'm setting off from a position of advantage. I'm a whole kilo lighter than I was a month ago. It's kilos for me for the same reason I prefer shopping in dollars or euros - it's not real currency. And when you think that over the festives I made free with the Panther's jelly babies (no that's not a euphemism) and discovered a bit of a passion for a certain alcoholic ginger beer (oh, I say!) it's really very good news.

"How has this miracle been achieved?" I hear you yell. By the wonder that is the Thinking Slimmer Slimpod. Oooh. Those of you who think that hypnotherapy is bunk, can amuse themselves here.

With a promise of "no guilt and no calories, no diet and no stress", all you have to do is listen to a CD or MP3 file that lasts 10 minutes just before you go to sleep. Listen to it every night for three weeks and you'll start to know what your body wants you to eat. Oddly my body still wants me to eat Green and Black's Maya Gold and toast slathered with butter, however, it doesn't want me to eat quite so much of it.

I'm going to have another bout of listening to the chap, just to make sure, but it certainly feels like I'm going in the right direction and soon I won't have to tip quite so far forward to see my toes.

And, yes, this isn't the first time I've dabbled in what some might say is tenuous at best (One friend called it "hocus pocus, hippy nonsense", actually they didn't use the word nonsense...). I had a virtual gastric band by hypnotherapy last year. Logically, it took a few goes of hypnotherapy to finally give up smoking so it's not surprising giving up pigging out isn't going to happen over night.

So, tonight, I'm going to bed to have a nice man murmur in my ear again and with a bit of luck the result will be there's rather less of me as the days go by.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Reasons to be cheerful - a blog hop, skip and jump

I love New Year. Not the actually night, but the fact it is passed and we've been given a whole 12 months to have a go at. I'm also a great believer in positive blogging - thinking happy, if you will.

So when Mummy From The Heart started Reasons To Be Cheerful, 1, 2, 3 I was delighted to join in. She's got one of those linky things if you fancy it.

Here are my Reasons To Be Cheerful, 1, 2, 3

It's 2011. A new year and a whole load of possibilities. 12 months to do all the things on the list and (quiet voice, fingers crossed) for us nothing has gone wrong yet. There are 358 days yet to seize.

My Boys like to communicate. But each in their own way. Boy One - once taciturn - now chats to me, himself and anyone else, and, furthermore, sometimes listens to the answers. Boy Two has a new phone. His first text to me read: "I want sum lunch." Things have improved. Boy Three is shaping up as a child who can get his message across. "Mine", "toast", "stuck." and "out" are pretty effective while "reen" (tangerine), "Daisy" (Upsy Daisy) and "no" (snow) are just plain cute.

I'm a pound lighter than I was a month ago. Might not sound much, but all things considered is a result. There was even an unseemly evening spent in very intimate proximity to the Panther's Christmas jelly bean box, usually a disastrous situation. Now, thanks to a Thinking Slimmer slimpod - I don't have the usual January bulge to battle. So the march back into most of my clothes continues and I'm determined to get there before they are deemed vintage.

Friday, 7 January 2011

What are your daily essentials?

We all know we're supposed to have five portions of fruit and veg every day. Most of us don't and manage to mosey along without too much difficulty.

I wrote a post yesterday for Ready for Ten about the prospect of libraries closing and how tragic that will be for our children - and their children. In it, I talked about libraries being a supply of free nutrition for kids' brains.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that I was right. Libraries - books - provide essential elements for a growing, and healthy, mind. Access to them should be a right, enshrined in law like shelter, education, and health care.

For me reading is a daily essential. A few pages or a chapter at night time help me to switch off. I can't imagine a public transport journey without printed matter. Without written words, my existence - and that of my family - would feel malnourished.

My other daily essentials include coffee - proper, not instant.

Radio is pretty much a must-have. How could I pass a car journey, get dressed or make a meal without it?

A chat with my husband is important to us - probably less so to anyone else, although I'm sure he'd be happy to co-operate if you fancy a parley with the Panther...

Food every few hours, I'm very bad at hungry. That's probably more for the benefit of those around me, though. oh. And a few minutes that belong to me alone.. just a few..

That's it. See, I'm quite low-maintenance really - five a day and something to read. What's on your list of essentials?

Thursday, 6 January 2011

First footing - with the coal, a few useful nuggets

Finally, I'm back at my desk after what seems like a very long break. I feel I need to crack my mental knuckles before I get on with 2011 so here's what I learned over New Year.

A currant of Christmas Puddings keeps on flowing. This year we got given three. Two the Panther brought home from work and one came from a family visitor. I gave one to a friend who had family to feed. The one the visitor brought us, probably came from her dad who seemingly had been given several. So our pudding flow account for 2010 shows two at cupboard and our forward pudding plan has an outline recipe for Christmas pudding ice cream.

Alison Moyet needs to get into the diet business.
For those of you with better things to do than watch Jools Holland's Hootinanay let me explain. Alison Moyet, formerly half of Yazoo with Vince Clark, has the voice of an angel but was also was somewhat statuesque. Her TV appearance on Friday night revealed a stunning new figure.

Theatre can be magical.
Granny treated Boys One and Two (obviously I had to go too) to seats in a box for a performance of Tom's Midnight Garden at Keswick's Theatre By The Lake. Three generations were mesmerised by the spectacular production. Just goes to show the power of well-written lines and a bit of imagination.

Rock piles last ages. Supersister, Mum and I had a refreshing stride up Arnison Crag and were delighted to add to the cairn there. Climbing even a small mountain lifts the spirits.

Snot funny after a while. It seems as though gallons of goop have dripped or sneezed out of my family's noses this past week or so. Nostrils were red and the sniffing got really tedious. Enough now, it's time for us all to feel better, so just bogie off.
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