Thursday, December 31, 2009

My favourite things 2009 (Julie Andrews style)

Babies born quickly on white wintry mornings
Finally snoozing just as the sun's dawning
Extra large sweaters and stretch marks that zing
These are a few of my favourite things

Feeding the baby while stirring a meat stew
Unraveled loo rolls and chewing on soft shoes
Waiting for winter to turn into Spring
These are a few of my favourite things

Day trips to beaches and car entertainment
Keys left in door locks and and sleepless derangement
Babies that wriggle and giggle and sing
These are a few of my favourite things

When the dog barks
When the baby cries
When I'm feeling incredibly crap
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel so bad
~
Brothers discovering friendships and clashes
Dog hair that stays on my nose and eye lashes
Friends who bring lattes and cookies and hugs
These are a few of my favorite things


Chatterbox toddlers who mix up their phrases
Tricking and treating for chocolatey faces
Taking a walk through the gold autumn leaves
These are a few of my favorite things


When the baby bites
When the garbage overflows
When I'm feeling bloody awful
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

~

WISHING YOU A HAPPY 2010!

~

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cold magic.

We bundled the kids up in their winter jackets and snow suits, and headed out in the moonlight.

"Where we going mama?" Matthew asked as I buckled him into his car seat.
"To the zoo sweetie! To see some special lights."
"Wights!"

Never mind that it was minus ten degrees and already past their bedtime. This is Calgary. This is what we do here.

The zoo was flooded with coloured lights shaped like monkeys dangling from trees, lions, dinosaurs, pink flamingos. Strings of green and white wrapped around trees, twinkling magically. The colours bounced off the snowy ground, spreading shades of blue and yellow and pink everywhere.



We shuffled along with crowds of people shivering and red-nosed. On the lookout for hot chocolate, too cold to stop and queue.

I cuddled Oliver close, imagining what impression an exhibit like this might have had on me as a child.


Matthew darted ahead of us from one place to the next, captivated by the lights, pointing out each animal, examining the shapes and colours.


Then back in the car he sobbed. "Mama my hands! Cold!" Because he'd refused to wear his gloves the entire time. But all was miraculously forgotten when a lollipop was handed to him. Now that's magic.




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Monday, December 28, 2009

Turkey curry and other holiday baggage.

If there's one thing I love about leftover turkey, it's leftover turkey curry. The sight of the onions, potatoes and meat turning yellow in the pan and the aroma of the spices literally makes me happy.


(What we ate for dinner last night)

As I was paying for my groceries yesterday, the cashier asked me,
"Do you like Indian food?"
I watched her pass my naan bread, papadums, curry paste, coconut milk and lime pickle over the scanner.
"Um. Yes, of course!" I said. Because, well, duh.
The young girl peered at me curiously.
"I'm English." I explained. My explanation was lost on her.

English people love Indian food. In fact, I think curry is the nation's most popular dish. Or it was when I lived there. Chicken Tikka Massala, to be more specific - a dish originally adapted to English tastes by adding tomato soup to a dry chicken dish, to make it more gravy-ish. The English like their gravies.

Image from spicesofindia.co.uk

The truth is, I could eat curry every single day. I even dream about visiting India, basically so that I could fill myself with delicious spicy food. I like the really hot stuff. The my mouth is filled with a thousand firecrackers and my head is about to explode kind of spicy.

And on the subject of leftovers, the copious chocolates and cookies still loitering around my house are not helping the extra holiday weight situation. So, I'm thinking very hard about purging all the sweet stuff in a couple of days (note how unspecific that is).

What are your favourite holiday leftovers?

Remember Bridget Jones' Mum's turkey curry buffet? Oh I'd so be there!

Image from recipezaar.com


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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Little less stuff, little more contemplation please.

Happy Holidays dear readers! Hope your celebrations have been filled with turkey and ham and chocolate and wine and cookies and sex and fun (oh yes I did just say cookies and sex and fun).

On Christmas morning a small miracle took place when we slept (almost uninterrupted) until 9 am. Because that hasn't happened in forever. I woke feeling so unusually refreshed I practically leaped out of bed to see what Santa had brought me.

The day began with the boys tearing into their presents and Matthew exclaiming wow! and woah! and wook mama! before swiftly moving onto the next one.

I cooked a large breakfast - toasted English muffins with bacon and eggs, and we drank coffee and watched the kids ripping paper off present after present. I watched the living room fill up with frantically discarded wrapping paper, ribbons and cardboard boxes. As Matthew moved from one gift to another, I wondered if he'd even remember the first toy he opened or if it was already forgotten.

By the end of the day, filled with goodies and sugary treats and turkey and stuffing, and after a few over-stimulated, sugar-induced meltdowns, the boys retreated to their favourite toy - a large cardboard box with holes carved for windows.


And as I took in all the new stuff swimming around our house, I felt like the excess of the day was a metaphor for the year. It's been a year of tearing through thing after thing, just getting through - moving onto the next moment, without really savouring the present.

Really, there's been a lot. The most jam packed year of my life.

A second son. Two big renovations. Losing someone very dear. Making new friends. Happy times. Coping and struggling. Loving being a family of four - contemplating being a family of five. Missing loved ones far away. Spending money on stuff for the house, the kids, ourselves.

So now I feel like it's time to stop for a while, to not simply move onto the next thing, but to take some time and let everything sink in for a while. I don't want to be the person that's always looking ahead to what's next, never content with what they have.

The first thing I need to cut? The food! Bloody hell. Because damn those tight fitting jeans - I knew it would happen - they're laughing at me from the wardrobe right now, mocking me for being so optimistic right before the holidays.

Bugger.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remember sleep?

I have a vague memory of a time, long ago, when there were weekend mornings of lying in bed past nine o'clock and just, like, sleeping. And nights that were free of interruption and filled only with the sounds of breathing and snoring and sheets being tugged (J is an outrageous sheet hog).

I'm pretty sure I spent about 28 years doing the consistent nightly sleeping thing. That's over 80% of my life. So why can I hardly remember it?

At around nine months we had finally convinced Oliver to sleep through the night - that was last month. It was like a break in the clouds. A gift I'd been saving up for. A long-awaited, long-deserved prize. It lasted a blissful four weeks. And then it ended abruptly.

Really, it was too good to last. Having two children close together inevitably leads to years of sleeplessness brought about by teething, colds, fevers and other random reasons to be awake in the middle of the night. But every night, I told myself tonight will be better. Being ever the optimist.

That's how last night, and the night before that started, with me confidently telling J I have a feeling tonight's going to be okay.

The night before last went like this.

11 p.m. To bed.
12 am. My lamp shade mysteriously falls off my bed side table.
1 am. I get up realizing the heat is still set to 22 degrees and it's sweltering.
3 am. Oliver wakes up.
4:30 am. Oliver wakes again.
5 am. Matthew wakes up wanting milk.
6 am. Matthew is still awake and wants more milk.
6:30 am. J gets up for work.
7 am. I get up to the call of the kids.

And after such a bad night, I was once again determined that last night would be better.

No.

11 pm. To bed.
12 am. Oliver wakes crying.
12:30 am. I attempt to bring him into bed with me. This results in him flailing like a wild fish and smacking me around like a tennis ball.
12:45 am. I almost settle Oliver, when there is a power surge, a flash of light, and beeping from various electronic devices, waking him from the brink of sleep.
1 am. Matthew is woken by Oliver. Dominoes.
1:15 am. I stand between the boys' rooms listening to the simultaneous yelling, pondering my options while imagining what it must be like to sleep.
1:30 am. J brings Matthew into our bed. I console Oliver.
1:45 am. By now we have read three books with Matthew, who's wide awake and giggling merrily.
2 am. Everyone is back in their beds.
2:30 am. Oliver is asleep but Matthew is talking. Loudly. I put a pillow over my head and just hope that by some miracle I'll make it through to morning.

So... guess what my prediction for tonight is? It's going to be awful. It's going to be terrible, hideous, monstrous. So bad that by tomorrow morning I will simply have to pour the coffee beans directly into my mouth and add boiling water from the kettle.




Image from www.cartoonstock.com

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Monday, December 21, 2009

'Tis the season for Spanx

Oliver was born almost one year ago. It's taken me almost all that time to shrink most of the way back to my old size. And all of that good work is about to be undone by Christmas.

Because every year around this time I abandon any semblance of good eating habits. The holiday becomes one giant unapologizing excuse to consume almost every high-calorie, sugary, fattening treat that crosses my path.

This past weekend was the start of it. There were multiple-course dinners. Appetizers of cheese and olives, cheese and broth fondues, seafood, roasts, desserts, cookies and wine.

Cheese will seriously be the death of me. I will one day be found floating face down in a giant fondue pot.

I suppose if you're not a food lover you might be able to resist some, if not all the holiday treats. Me? Not even a little bit. I love food and this is one time that I give in to the many temptations and indulge to my heart's delight.

Unfortunately the indulging is just a precursor to the extra pounds that will taunt me in January. And the cookie-induced poundage is not helped by the fact that two weeks ago, in some kind of crazed state of madness I purchased a pair of jeans that were slightly too small.

What the hell? I know. It's a heinous fashion crime, on a par with white socks and sandals. Jeans that don't quite fit are bad bad bad. But they were the old, old size! The size before all babies. And as I pulled on the jeans over my legs and bum and fastened the zipper, I almost shrieked with joy in the fitting room. In fact I think I may have shrieked a bit.

The problem is not the legs and bum - it's the tummy. The post-baby tummy. The stubborn, wobbly bastard area of skin that's laughing at me when I pull on my jeans. Everything else is shrinking back into place. But the stomach? Forget it. It shakes a little when it laughs at me like a bowl full of jelly.

Damn it.

So now, really, there's only two ways to combat the jelly belly: Hundreds of crunches every day. Or Spanx.

The crunches will have to wait until the new year when I'm full of good intentions. Right now 'tis the season for brie and Stilton and chocolate-covered blueberries and port, and nylon body compressors.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last minute gifts for Christmas procrastinators (like me).

Eight days to Christmas. Last night as I did some (almost) final Christmas shopping, I noted the throngs of semi-panicky shoppers dashing from store to store with the frenzied look of those who leave things to the last minute.

Christmas sort of crept up on me this year. Wait, that makes me sound like I'm usually organized - let me rephrase that: Christmas creeps up on me every year. I'm totally the person scampering around in the days leading up to Christmas in a last ditch attempt to find everything on my list.

So, for those of you who, like me, are incapable of being organized enough to have already completed your holiday shopping, I've compiled a few ideas for you.

For book lovers: These new clothbound classics by Penguin are to die for and make stunning gifts.


For gadget people: The Kindle. I don't like it. But it's gadgety and new and someone you know probably will.

For babies and toddlers: As much as I love new toys, I chose a few oldies this year too. At a local store I found a spinning top and a kaleidoscope. Remember those? Simple and classic.



For kids: I bought this for my son for Christmas - Where The Wild Things Are. It's a classic. And now there are cool new soft toys to go with the book.

For game geeks: The New Rubik's cube. Except it's not a cube, it's a sphere. Looks impossible but attractive all the same.


For telly addicts: You just know you'll be singing along in the car. The Glee soundtrack.


For foodies: Not as expensive as a proper Le Creuset one, but this blue casserole pot from Ikea is delicious. Or, whatever is cooked in it will be.


Voila.


I was not compensated for mentioning any of the above products.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Minus 30 degrees: I live here.

When Dean Martin sung the lyrics "The weather outside is frightful...." I'd be willing to bet he was not talking about -30 degree weather. Because if he was, he might instead have sung "The weather outside is so painfully bad I want to wrap the wool of ten lambs around my body and roll around on hot coals for a day...". And that just doesn't have the same ring to it.

It's true though, -30 happens here. And you know what happens when the temperature plummets to levels so unfathomable that it's almost laughable in a crying kind of way?

Well, let's see...

• Your nose hairs freeze in the time it takes to walk fifteen feet from your house to your car.

• Your back door freezes shut because of the dog door and the crappy window that needs replacing and you have to kick the crap out of the damn thing to open it.

• You drive from one store to the next, even though they're only ten meters apart, and you don't care because it's too cold.

• You laugh out loud at the suggestion of leaving the house because the thought of it is on a par with going outside to the garden and making snow angels in your underwear.

• When you really have to go out, you bundle your toddler up in his winter coat, snow pants, snow boots, hat, scarf and mittens. Then you do the same for your baby. Then you struggle out the back door - which you must first kick the crap out of to open - all of you resembling the Michelin man - to the car. Then you wonder what the hell was worth going out for.

• You mention the weather while on the phone to your parents and they proceed to laugh and shake their heads at the idea that you moved to a place where temperatures reach such depths.

• You eat too many Christmas cookies and chocolates and general comfort foods because you're stuck indoors and subconsciously building up extra body fat in case of an emergency.

Get the picture?

So here's the thing. I was thinking about the first people to settle in Alberta. What they were thinking when they arrived here and decided to stay? Here's how I picture the scene.


What's the weather like by you?
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

My floor got a face-lift.

I need to start by selfishly asking for a favour. If you ever, I repeat EVER, read on this blog that I am thinking about renovating anything, anywhere even remotely near Christmas, could you please send me a virtual slap on the head? Because, you know, clearly I need to be reminded that only an insane person with two kids under the age of 3 would do something this daft.

The new floors only took a week to complete, but all the furniture moving, dust and rubble, staying away from the house, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, etc., made this week-long project feel more like a month.

And now, with all the complaining out of my system, it was worth it. And it was me, after all, who pushed for the floors, who argued my case and convinced J to do it. And also, now, I really, truly appreciate being able to stay at home whenever I want, with my food, my movies, my books, my blankets, my central heating.


The floors have transformed the house. The old gray carpet had endured years of abuse from dog hair, wine spills, food stains, muddy foot prints and crumbs.


The new floors are dark and shiny. They create a feeling of space in the house.


I didn't love my house when we bought it five years ago. I could see the potential, but it needed work. It was dated, boring, and hideously old-fashioned. Now, slowly, we're making it into a home we'll enjoy for years to come.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little copy cats.

"What's the teddy bear doing Matthew?"
"He in the spaceship. And there the moon."
"Yes. And you know what they're doing? They're having a picnic!"
"A pic-a-nic!"
"Yup."
"Oh no mama! Look! It's mess! It's mess!"
"Oh. Is it?"
"Yes mama! Ooooh noooo! What mess!"

Since Matthew started talking I've discovered certain things about myself through the things he says, or rather, repeats. Like the fact that I'm a bit of a neat freak. My verbal complaints about mess have evidently found their way into his brain and now he's repeating my silly habit.

Shi-oot.

When someone coughs or sneezes he asks "you okay?" with concern. I guess because, being an overly cautious mum, I ask the question of him, often.

He's even caught onto a little trick I devised to get the dog to go outside. A few times when he was in my way I'd say "Bongo! There's a cat outside! A cat!" very convincingly and the dog would belt out the dog door in search of the imaginary feline.

But Matthew caught on to my little trick, and began copying. "Go cat! Go cat!" he yells every day now, cackling to himself as the poor dog unquestioningly follows his command, then returns confused. No cat. And then again "Go cat! Go cat!".

Sometimes it's easy to forget that every word that leaves my mouth, every tone, every action, is being absorbed and saved by the little eyes and ears that are with me every day.

What have you learned about yourself through your kids?
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Uncool

I once posed for a fashion student friend under the arches of a bridge in Waterloo, London, in the freezing winter weather, wearing jeans, a bra and the corset she had designed and sewed. Unable to fasten the too-tight corset around my waist, we stopped a stranger to ask if he had a knife (thankfully he was not Jack the Ripper) in order to cut the corset open to fit me. As I stood for the shot and she snapped me on her semi-pro camera, passers by looked on curiously - it was the middle of a cold day under a bridge after all.

Back then, I seemed to know what was cool - more because of my hip friends than my own instincts. They mentored me in the ways of the hottest fashion, the newest music and the best bars and clubs.

Fast forward ten years and a different life later, I feel about as far from young and cool as I've ever felt. Far, far away from those young people with the cool stuff. (Notice I said "young people"? I've seriously had it.)

There are certain signs that have pointed toward this mysterious aging of late.

When I hear pop music on the radio I feel a sudden urge to reach into the car stereo and strangle the DJ. I hear myself saying, over and over, "What is this crap?". I even once heard myself say the dreaded words "Music these days is far worse than the stuff I grew up with." It's true though! I'd take The Cure and Semisonic over the new radio crap any day.

And the other day I made a snide remark about a girl walking down the street with a ridiculously short skirt. Then, straight away I remembered I once wore a skirt that short - a skirt my Dad claimed was actually a belt and promptly made me change out of. Which I did, then changed back into the belt-skirt when I was out of sight.

And then the other night me and J were eating at a restaurant when J nodded toward the next table. "What is that?" He asked, motioning toward the black bandage-y-thing on the young man's arm. "A bandage." I said plainly. "Oh." He said. "I thought it might be some kind of fashion statement or something."

And then I snorted and laughed so loud that wine almost flew from my nose and the couple next to us actually looked at me.

"Oh honey." I said. "We're getting old."
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Anniversary Sweetie

To J,

It feels as though there've been few moments to stop and think and breathe in the nine years we've been together, six married. Moving flats every six months in London. Getting married. Moving to Canada. Two babies. A dog. A lot.

And yet still we can talk about the banalest of every day things, and listen to each other's complaints, and laugh at what might otherwise drive a person to insanity.

Your first words to me, back in 2000 at university, were something to do with informing me I was mounting my presentation poster the wrong way up. And honestly? I thought to myself, arrogant. But hot. I never imagined I'd be spending my life with you, all the way over here on the other side of the world, with our own little family.

You make me happy.

And yes, we both suck for forgetting our anniversary this morning until I opened a card my Mum had sent in the mail. That's okay.

Love you.

p.s. I'm pregnant again. Just kidding. Ha.


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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sometimes, out of survival comes creativity.

Last week I had to stay out of the house all day, every day, for a week. And packing enough gear for an entire day with two not-potty-trained children is like packing for a backpacker heading out to Nepal for three months.

Each morning it took me three or four trips to the car as it heated up in the snow, to wedge bags, toys and various things in between strollers and bags of pea gravel (cold people know what this is for). For me, this is about fifty miles outside my comfort zone - my house, where all my comfort things are.

But during the week I became creative to cope with being away from the house.

~ Entertainment was found in unusual places. We looked at road maps, watched traffic lights change colour, pointed flashlights at the ceiling, studied shadows, counted cars, trucks, trains. My favourite form of entertainment was driving round and around the park to kill time. We drove very slowly and looked at the snow, the mountains in the distance and people in winter coats. Round and around and around while I sipped my drive-through coffee and enjoyed the silence with everyone fastened into their seats. Ha.

~ Last week was freezing cold - literally. One morning it was -20 degrees when we left the house. Getting from the car to a store / house / play centre was painfully slow with both kids in tow. So I created a running game. Every time I wanted out of the cold fast (because of the snow) I would tell my toddler it was time to run! Run! Run! And then we'd go for it - Matthew squealing with delight all the way.

~ I kept the car stocked with coats, hats, extra food, wipes, toys, books, paper and pens and spare plastic bags. The car was also cold enough to store some food and drink overnight. The only problem was the dire state of the interior by the end of the week - a veritable bomb site of cheerios, banana loaf crumbs and stale milk bottles.Nice.

~ We ate meals on the go. There were picnics in the car, snacks at restaurants and play centres, meals at Grandma's house, and of course - drive through. The front pocket of my diaper bag became designated for emergency treats. The mere rattle of a treat bag would stop the beginnings of a whine in its tracks.

~ The play pen saved my life on a number of occasions - it was used as a crib for naps, a place to contain Oliver at other peoples' houses, somewhere to change diapers and a place to put him among the rubble once we arrived home. Whoever invented that thing, I send you a virtual kiss.

~ Inevitably some things were left at home and items had to be improvised: Oliver wore Matthew's toddler-sized diaper when I ran out of smaller ones; Sippy cups and bottles were shared; Pants, t-shirts, socks and hats were swapped as needed.
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Friday, December 4, 2009

Just to prove I'm still alive. And some pictures.

Several times this week I sat down to write a post and failed to stay awake long enough to write anything remotely readable. And after another long day, I'm exhausted again tonight. So here's a brief summary of the best parts of this week.

I'm not sure which I liked the most...

The part where our kitchen was torn up and turned into a pile of jagged concrete rubble that filled the house with dust...


Or the part where we lugged our belongings downstairs and crammed them into every free space...


Or the part where I arrived home at 6 o'clock each night after a very, very - I repeat very long day with the boys, to find random tools, bits of floor, bits of carpet, bits of garbage, everywhere...


Or the evenings where we put the kids to bed and then continued moving furniture, ripping out carpet and baseboards and clearing up until finally collapsing onto a mattress on the floor...

Or this morning, when the snow began trickling from the Alberta sky like delicate white sprinkles and within thirty minutes turned to a full-on ohmygodwereallgoingtodie blizzard that we spent most of the day avoiding.


I promise to be back to normal next week, with pictures of the new floor.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's my birthday and I'll brag if I want to.

So tomorrow is my birthday. The day I usually spend protesting that everyone is horribly misinformed - that I'm at least two years younger than my real age until I'm blue in the face.

Except this year I'm not going to pretend I'm 25, or even 29. I'm going to shrug my shoulders and say, whatever dudes, I'm thirty one.

You know why I'm not going to pretend I'm 29 this year? Because though life is not, by any stretch perfect, I have a lot to be happy about. I'm not wealthy. I don't have the biggest house in my neighbourhood or the fanciest car. I am not a Victoria's Secret model (yes that's right I turned them down). I don't have a wine cellar. But damn I'd like one. (J, if you're reading, there's still time to build me one before tomorrow morning if you start now...)

What I do have are two healthy, beautiful children, a wonderful husband, a great family, a roof over my head, amazing friends, and my freedom. I really do have a lot.

The old ideals slipped off my radar sometime in between having my first son and now. I'm much less preoccupied with the desire to be defined by status and wealth. Career is more about fulfillment than monetary gain. Money is about affording a comfortable lifestyle and providing for my family than excess. Health is about balance.

And.

It feels like just yesterday I was this little girl sitting at my father's piano, tapping out the sounds of the notes.


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Monday, November 30, 2009

Lovely day for pulling staples out the floor.

1 - litres of coca cola consumed by yours truly today.

1.5 - bars of chocolate eaten (so far).

2 - splinters in my hand that I'm too tired to remove.

3 - times I thought about opening the wine in the fridge and realized it wasn't even 2 pm. yet.

4 - mentions to J that there will be no more renovations ever again. Ever.

5 - unsuccessful attempts at sitting down. Haha. Yeah, no.

6 - times I tried to open the fridge and was instead swiping the air because it wasn't there.

7 - times I tried to open the dishwasher and was instead swiping the air because it wasn't there.

8 - desperate efforts to remove dust particles by vacuuming the air.

9 - occasions I discovered Oliver trying to eat things off the floor in the nick of time.

10 - hours until we start all over again.

12 - times I tripped over the dog who made it his goal to always be in my path today.

15 - drawers I personally removed and carried downstairs.

68 - staples I pulled from the floor. Yeah that's a nice job.

0 - number of times I plan on renovating again in the near future.


Someone please tell me something nice that happened to them today?
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

If you don't hear from me for a few days...

It's because I've been ensconced in the pile of rubble and dust that used to be my kitchen floor.

Hey hon, I've changed my mind, can we keep the tile after all?

Or because I've been taken in for questioning about unusual activity in my bank account (it's not my fault - I have to do something when I'm forced out of the house all day).

Or because the really attractive face mask I was wearing earlier to clear the rubble has become permanently attached to my face with dust and sweat and I'm having it surgically removed.

Or because I've had it with renovations and decided it would just be easier to move.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The renovations just go on and on and on.

There's something about the threat of change that makes me a little giddy. Not that having new floor installed is really that big a change. And I do want so badly to be rid of the carpet that has suffered years of assault from kids and dogs and spills and stains.

Maybe it's the still-fresh memories of our last renovations that have put me in this temporary trance. Whatever it is, I'm not loving the sight of these forty or so boxes of wood in my living room right now.


Because in the next five days, everything has to come out of the house so that the floor can be laid. Every little thing.

Some people, when faced with a big task, dive in right away. Like J, he's a diver. Other people (ahem) become lethargic at the prospect of the mountain of work and instead of facing it, wander off in search of any other distraction.

J is good at this. I'm not.

When we were getting ready to move from England to Canada, he became project manager extraordinaire, sorting out our belongings, selling things, giving things away, packing up the rest to bring. He filled out all the paperwork. He organized the shipping of our possessions, even ordering the boxes to pack everything in.

I'm sure I helped somehow...

And then there were the basement renovations last year. I don't even want to replay that nightmare in my head.

But anyway. It has to be done. And it'll be nice. Wish me luck...
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Should have stayed in bed kind of a day

Today was one of those days - the crap on a stick kind of day that makes me wish I'd stayed in bed away from the world. The kind of day where I'm glad I have a blog to pour out my rantings and where you will wish I didn't.

I woke up, got the kids dressed and fed and we headed out to the weekly play program both boys are enrolled in. The session was rolling along nicely - as nicely as a room with fifteen kids under the age of four can be - until it was time to sit together to sing wind-down songs. Oliver decided this would be a perfect opportunity to lurch at me like a flying goblin and take a bite at my boob.

Like, imagine a baby alligator coming at you and wrapping his teeth around your areola. It took all my motherly might not to yell something profane in the middle of "the wheels on the bus...". And then I actually looked down my top to check my nipple was still there.

It was.

Back at home I answered a call from the company delivering our new flooring. The driver informed me he was on his way. Thirty minutes later he pulled up outside and began unloading box after massive box onto my kitchen floor.

As I stood watching the boxes pile up, I realized useful things like the cooker and dishwasher were being obscured. For a second I envisaged take out and paper plates for the next week and a half. Which would be okay in theory if we didn't have two kids.

"Um. Is there any chance you could take these boxes downstairs?" I asked.

The guy, breathless from lugging boxes that I later discovered weighed about a thousand pounds each, looked at me somewhat bewildered and I could tell he was thinking about strangling me with his bare hands.

"No." He panted. "It's just me. And there's another forty of these boxes to bring in."

"Forty! Oh!"

"Yeah."

And then I started to get in a bit of a flap, because I'm super helpful and practical in these situations. The guy helped me figure out where to put the boxes so they wouldn't ruin my life for the next week.

While the boxes were being unloaded my mother-in-law called to offer to watch the kids while I took my car to get its winter tires fitted. Which I needed to do. Because driving in this city in winter without winter tires is kind of like jumping off a bridge and hoping you don't die.

I called the mechanic to ask if they could fit me in.

"Not a problem. We can fit you in now if you come right away."

Great. I rushed down there.

"Yeah, we can see you in a few hours."

"I just spoke to someone who said you could see me right away?"

"Tsk tsk tsk." Tutted the man, shaking his head disapprovingly. "They should not have told you that. No no. That's naughty."

"Okay well please can you just do it as soon as possible?"

"We'll do what we can ma'am." He said not looking confident.

Fine. It needed to be done. I wandered off for a few hours. Luckily there was a Chapters and a Starbucks within walking distance.

Two hours later, unable to reach the center to find out the status of the tires, I wandered back in the dark.

"Hello?" I said over the counter. "Is my car ready?"

"Um. Not quite."

Sigh. Sigh. Long sigh.

Thirty minutes later I watched a mechanic who looked about thirteen, drive, or rather skid my car out of the garage and park it within an inch of its life. I was out of there with my winter tires.

Done. Done. Done.

The only consolation at the end of a day like today? Wine. And chocolate.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Conversations of an ordinary day.

~

Me: Hi. I'm expecting my flooring to be delivered today. Is it still happening?
Flooring man: Um. Let me check... Uh. No.
Me: Shi-oot. Really?
Flooring man: It's scheduled for tomorrow.
Me: Um, but I was told today. I canceled my plans to be here. All day.
Flooring man: Yeah. Sorry. No. Tomorrow morning.
Me: But I'm not here tomorrow morning. That's why I scheduled it for Monday.
Flooring man: Oh. Um.
Me: Yeah.
Flooring man: Hmm.
Me: Hmm?
Flooring man: Hmm. Well. When can you be there?
Me: Tomorrow afternoon.
Flooring man: Um. Uh. Hmm. Um. Tomorrow afternoon... tomorrow afternoon.... Um... Errr... Dum, dum, de dum, dum, de dum.... Let's see.... Tomorrow afternoon.... Um... Yeah.
Me: Yeah?
Flooring man: Yeah...

~

UPS delivery woman:
Knocks on door.
Dog: Bark Bark Bark BARK! BARK! BARK!
Me: Shut up Bongo!
Matthew: Shuddup Bongo!
Me: Matthew don't say that!
Matthew: Okay.
Me: Hello! Sorry, it's okay he's friendly.
UPS delivery woman: Um. Okay. Drops parcel and runs.

~

Me: Hello?
Silence... Silence... Silence
Me: Hello? Hello?
Call center person with thick accent:
Hellooo. My name is Sandra McLaferty. I am calling from XYZ Mobility. I would like to tell you about a new plan we're offering....
Me: Excuse me. Is this a sales call?
Call center person with thick accent: Well, I'm just calling to let you know about this new...
Oliver, in my other arm, starts screaming.
Call center person with thick accent: ...and for a short time you can...
Me: I CAN'T HEAR YOU. MY BABY IS SCREAMING.
Call center person with thick accent: It would reduce your phone bills by....
Me: I'M SORRY BUT WHATEVER IT IS I DON'T WANT IT.
Call center person with thick accent: Oh, well, but I also wanted to let you know about...
Me: OKAY. GOODBYE.
Click.

~

Me: Oliver, let go of my leg please.
Oliver: Maa!
Me: Oliver, don't bite my leg.
Oliver: Baa!
Me: Oliver, please don't bite my - OUCH! For the love of.... AGH!
Oliver: Haaa! Haaa!
Me: Oliver, don't climb up my leg. Please don't climb.
Oliver: Heee! Heee!
Me: Oliver, what do you want from me?
Oliver: Hooo. Heee. Haaa!

~
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Community

A few years ago when I was pregnant with Matthew and thousands of miles from home, I realized I had no real community around me. Aside from the occasional chat with a neighbour and a few work colleagues, I had no friends in the city. I decided something had to change.

I needed people.

With a little effort I was lucky enough to meet a group of women at just the right time - all of us pregnant with our first children. We quickly became close friends, meeting every week with our new babies and our under-eye bags and our stories.

Seriously, God knows what I would have done without them these past few years.

I've never been good at asking for things. I'm still not. I like to project an I-don't-need-any-help-I-can-do-it-on-my-own-thank-you-very-much image. It wasn't until I was forced to admit I needed help that I finally did.

Even then, I was all... no no I'll be okay, I can still drive across the city, pick up groceries and make dinner for everyone despite not having slept for two weeks...

Then someone smacked me upside the head and said Sarah, guess what? You're not Superwoman!

When I gave birth to Oliver 19 months later, having a community around me became even more important. I needed people even more this time. I needed favours. I needed friends to talk to on the phone when I was having a really bad day. I couldn't do it alone.

Despite my natural desire to be self-reliant, I gave in to needing people, to needing a community. And when I needed them, they were there, dropping off dinners, bringing coffee, watching the kids so I could nap, helping me out in whatever way they could.

I was overwhelmed by their kindness. And it changed me.

I realized that being this independent, disconnected person wasn't as great as I'd imagined.

Then earlier this year I stumbled into another community - the blogging community. If I'd known there were so many great connections and friends to be made I would have been here years ago.

(Only problem with the blogging friends I've made is, they live too bloody far away from me! One day, with luck, I'll meet some of you for a coffee or a martini.)

Last week I witnessed scores of bloggers pull together for Anissa Mayhew. I've never met Anissa, but over the last week I've come to know her through all of the wonderful posts, tweets and messages people have written about her.

Isn't it amazing? I don't know Anissa, and it doesn't matter. Technology has allowed me to sit at home in my pajamas and think about some small way I might be able to help her family - even if it's just a prayer to start with.

Friends of Anissa, and people that don't even know her, are coming together to help, because that's what communities do.

If this year has taught me one thing, it's that community is so, so important. Because people need people. And because there's nothing like the feeling of being able to help someone else when they need it most. And because if I can pass on this lesson to my kids, then they too will grow up being part of something good.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Teenage Toddler

Remember when you were a teenager and your parents would try to be cool or funny and say things like "groovy!" and "snazzy!" and you would look at them with that blank stare that teenagers are so good at and roll your eyes, hoping no one else was there to witness your embarrassment?

Remember that?

Well apparently we're not waiting for the teen years here. We're starting. Right. Now. Toddler style. With a side of slouch and sarcasm.

I noticed this new teen toddler behaviour the other day when I was singing to Avril Levigne in the car. We were going through downtown and I was belting out "Keeeeep Hooolding Oo-oo-oon. Cus you know we'll make it through we'll make it through..."

When I heard a somber little voice from the back of the car.

"Mama."

I carried on since I was driving.

"Juuuuust staa-aay stro-oo-oong"

Then I heard it again as we pulled up to the lights.

"Mama." His voice was quite serious.

I turned to look at him. His deadpan expression told me he was not impressed with my singing.

"No Mama." He said very seriously and then turned to look out the window.

I laughed to myself. It was kind of cute and amusing to see him expressing his distaste. And then, pushing my luck, I continued, a little louder.

"Nothin' you can do. Nothin' you can say. There's no other way-"

And simultaneously he began barking his orders.

"Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! No Mama! No Mama!"

As I pulled into a parking spot I caught sight of Matthew giggling to himself despite his sincerity.

That's when I realized, I'm so going to be an embarrassing mum. I just hope he can still laugh about it when he's fourteen.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This meme is going to be so good you'll want to eat it.

@PartyMummy said if I didn't do her meme she was going to spread nasty rumors about me. So okay alright then.

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you. Gianni Versace and Maria Callas. Stylish and talented people were born on that day.

2. Where was your first kiss? In Italy. I was 14 and the Italian boy I was making "friends" with launched himself at me without warning and tried to suck my tongue from my head. My Dad proceeded to chase him around the vineyard with a stick.

3. Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else's property? What the hell kind of question is that? I'm a laydee.

4. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex? I once lobbed a hairbrush at an ex-boyfriend when I was mad. It missed him and dented the wall. Lucky for him he was fast.

5. Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people? Yes. Too many times.

6. What's the first thing you notice about your preferred sex? Their mood.

7. What really turns you off? Long toenails.

8. What do you order at Starbucks? A non-fat latte, a kid's milk and a piece of banana loaf.

9. What is your biggest mistake? Not consuming enough chocolate and wine.

10. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose? Does having a baby count?

11. Say something totally random about yourself. I would rather cut off my hair than be stuck on a desert island without lip balm.

12. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity? Sophie Ellis-Baxter and Martine McCutcheon (I think they wanted something from me).

13. Do you still watch kiddie movies or TV shows? I like Disney Pixar movies. But don't put Max & Ruby near me for the love of God.

14. Did you have braces? No.

15. Are you comfortable with your height? Yes. I'm 5'8".

16. What is the most romantic thing someone of the preferred sex has done for you? My husband is pretty cool. He'll let me lie in at the weekend and has driven to restaurants at unreasonable times of the night to satisfy my pregnancy cravings. Awww.

17. When do you know it's love? When your partner listens to you talking seductive pirate talk for too long at bedtime and doesn't make you sleep on the sofa or try to muffle you with a pillow.

18. Do you speak any other languages? French pas tres bien zut alors.

19. Have you ever been to tanning salon? Yes. Once years ago. I lay there thinking, what the hell am I doing? Then got up and never went back.

20. Have you ever ridden in a limo? No. It's not an ambition of mine.

21. What's something that really annoys you? Victoria's Secret ads.

22. What's something you really like? Winning the lottery.

23. Can you dance? No.

24. Have you ever been rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room? No.

25. Tag 5 people!

@MetropolitanMum
@SeattleDad
Mwa
@ewiller
@maternaltales
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

10 reasons not to wait until you're thinner to buy new clothes.

I was at a playgroup this morning, chatting with a bunch of mums. One of them commented that she wore the same thing all the time because she still had baby weight to loose and didn't want to waste money on new clothes until the weight was gone. We all - every single one of us in the room - laughed understandingly. We've all been in that situation.

Well. I say enough of this silliness.

Enough waiting for the left-over baby weight to disappear. Enough imagining you'll wake up two sizes slimmer in the morning. And let's face it - the holidays are coming. And who the hell looses weight over the holidays? Not me. I usually gain three pounds from all the cookies and plum pudding with brandy butter.

My friends might confirm that I'm rather persuasive. If I'm shopping with you, I will find 101 reasons why you should definitely buy the thing you've got your eye on. Honestly, I'm relentless.

So, here are my 10 reasons why you should stop waiting and buy yourself a new outfit this week.

1. The idea that you're wasting money buying clothes because you're going to loose weight is silly (unless you honestly are). Be realistic - how long is it going to take you to reach your ideal weight? Me? Well, let's see... ideally I'd like to be my pre-baby weight again (10 lbs less) and then another 10 lbs would be nice. So that would be, um, about a year? Am I going to wait a whole miserable year to buy myself something? Nope.

2. Oh yes you do deserve it! I often feel like I'll deserve new clothes when I've lost weight. No! No no no. You deserve them now.

3. Never mind that those old stores you used to shop in make you look like a stuffed potato. Sod them and their skinny bitch clothes. Find another store with proper sizes.

4. Shopping is also time off for you. Tell your family you will need a couple of hours to go shopping alone, then, as well as the treats, you'll get a little time to yourself, which is almost as good as the treat itself.

5. Shopping needn't cost a fortune. Like the woman in my playgroup this morning, I don't like spending a lot on something temporary. But these days there are lots of places to buy clothes inexpensively - outlets, concessions stores and even superstores. You just need to do a little hunting around.

6. Starbucks. Because obviously you can't make a coherent choice without a latte.

7. If you really really insist on not buying new clothes, accessories work too. And accessories will fit you whatever size you are. And who doesn't love bags, scarves, shoes, sunglasses, brooches, bracelets, hats, etc?

8. You'll be doing a great service to charities that need clothes when you hand over your garments that no longer fit in a year's time.

9. The thrill. You know - the feeling you get when you pay for that pretty thing and walk away with it in your bag? Don't deprive yourself just because of a few lousy pounds.

10. And most importantly. New clothes are good for your health. It's true I tell you! (but don't quote me on that) When I wear new clothes, I feel better about myself, and therefore I start taking better care of myself - what I eat, drink, etc., and eventually this good cycle begins to start to rub off on my overall health. No really!


Image from www.everydaypeoplecartoons.com


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

When companies masquerade as friends.

Lots of us proudly display the Blog With Integrity badge on our blogs. And we've seen the new FTC regulations. And as a parent blogger, or mum blogger, or whatever you want to call me (I'm not fussy), I've a pretty good sense of what's acceptable content for my blog and what's not.

I don't gush about a product and fail to mention I've been paid to do so. I don't rave about something that truthfully sucks because I'm being compensated. I don't lie to my readers. (oh, um, except maybe sometimes regarding age and weight... forgive me?)

It's quite clear to me how to blog with integrity.

But for some there is still concern that the lines between honest blogging and advertising are blurry. Especially when it comes to companies plying bloggers with fancy trips and free stuff in the hopes they'll share positive product reviews with their thousands of followers.

As the LA Times article noted yesterday, this type of marketing is shrewd, yes. It's advertising in a nontraditional sense.

But I for one don't find it confusing.

The bloggers who attended the Nestlé event told us they were going and why. And therefore I wasn't surprised when I saw tweets and blog posts about the event and about Nestlé products.

For the record I don't like Nestle. I decided years ago not to buy their products after reading about the company's shady operations with regard to infant formula in the third world. You know the story by now if you didn't before.

But anyway, my point is, I didn't find it confusing. I knew the bloggers were attending an event intended to promote a brand.

And quite frankly if Cadbury's invited me to a weekend of chocolate eating, fancy hotels and naked slaves... oh wait that's my fantasy, what was I saying? and wonderful alone time, do you think I'd say no because I blog with integrity? Hell no. I'd tell you folks about it, and then I'd hop on that plane and head for the chocolate. Obviously.

I don't find it confusing when companies ask influential bloggers to attend lavish events in the hopes they'll tell their followers about it.

Nor do I find it confusing when bloggers talk about the details of an event they're attending or a product they're reviewing.

You know what I DO find confusing?

Companies that masquerade as people, or worse - friends.

Recently I watched a company use Twitter to infiltrate the mum blogging community as "one of us". The tweeter in question acted like a friend, an individual, not like a company.

She expertly gathered a large following on Twitter, building camaraderie by talking about common parenting problems and asking for advice. The marketing was so subtle it was barely noticeable.

I'm referring to the tweeter who's goal was to promote a film about a mom blogger...

The film's overall marketing campaign was very creative, enlisting popular mom bloggers to help promote the movie. The bloggers involved were open and honest about their participation and I respect them for that. I have no issue with this aspect of the movie's marketing strategy.

When the film came out in late October, and the job promoting it on Twitter was done, the tweeter - the brand - vanished. Friend and tweeter no more. Adios amigos.

You see, this is confusing, to me. Blurry.

Why?

Because when I cannot differentiate between a company marketing a product, and a friend, I have an issue.

I've seen other brands use social media to market to their audience in a more direct manner. They'll present special offers, discounts, sneak previews, reviews, contests. To me there's a big difference between this kind of open, honest advertising and the kind that involves pretending to be pals over tweets.

Something about it just doesn't sit right - the sneakiness of it, the dishonesty of behaving like a friend, holding real conversations about people's families, building fake relationships. All in the name of profit, not friendship.

I guess for me, advertising and friendship are two things that can never be combined.

But that's just my opinion. What do you think?
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Facebook for Pirates

I've discovered a new way to enjoy Facebook. A way that stops me from gouging my eyes out when I read so-and-so person I was friends with fifteen years ago's status update that says something like "Fifi is going to the mall to look for some curtain hangers and then might have a sandwich at the mall and then is going to drive home and have a cup of tea and hopefully it won't rain today because she wants to hang her laundry out and also...". Cut.

Yes dudes, I know there's a way of blocking people, or their updates or whatever, but honestly I don't have the energy or inclination to work it out. So, usually I just hold my breath and scroll through the rubbish to get to my actual friends' updates, which I like. Because they're my actual fiends.

Anyway. The other day, I found a way to like Facebook. It happened by accident. Our computer malfunctioned and when I logged on to Facebook, everything was written in Pirate talk.

My profile said. Th' saucy wench Sarah be usin' Ye olde Facebook with the tongue o' English Pirate.

I knew immediately I was going to prefer this way to the old way.

What be troublin' ye? It asked me.

I be findin' this 'ere Facebook mighty vexin' like a son of a biscuit eater... I replied.

What be troublin' ye?
It asked again.

I been a swashbucklin' with wenches all day and still there be no booty to see
...

What be troublin' ye?

I done run out o' things pirate to say to ye now so get ye to the plank ye rascal scallywag.

Then it told me 15 shots o' rum ago, Cap'n Simon has had one too many.

This be pleasin' to my eye!
I clicked in approval.

35 shots o' rum ago, Lady Brenda... likes her husband's meatballs.

Arrr! I clicked.

Thar be more... It said.

It asked me if I wanted to Scrawl upon 'er plank in reference to a long lost colleague. Much better than poking her.


Image from timtim.com


Unfortunately I'm incapable of letting go of things I'm amused by, and so continued my pirate renditions at bedtime. There was at least twenty minutes of smutty pirate jokes. Which apparently was a painfully long time. J told me my pirate accent was not a turn on because I sounded kind of like an English farmer from the West Country. Which - what the hell?


To turn Pirate English on, go to the bottom left of your Facebook page, click English (US or UK), and switch to English (Pirate).
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lady Mama's Résumé

It's been a long time since I've looked at my résumé. About five years. When I finally retrieved it from my hard drive the other day, I chuckled at the ambitious words I used to describe myself, the long list of skills and achievements, the many many jobs, the blow by blow account of my education. Really fascinating stuff.

Then I tried to re-write it, to bring it up to date. This is what I really wanted to write.

*************************************************************

Lady Mama's Résumé

Background

Started as corporate ladder climber, schmoozing clients (getting them drunk), wowing bosses with amazing business-winning talents (cleavage), strutting around with important looking documents (gossip rags wrapped in fax paper).

Then took short hiatus in career to raise children. Expanded vocabulary to include words to Dora The Explorer, developed amazing strength in upper arms from carrying babies and toddlers around all day, grew extra pair of eyes in back of head to catch children trying to pour nail varnish over dog - very useful for paying close attention to detail.

Skills

Fast worker: I can change a diaper in thirty seconds flat. Beat that.

Multi-tasker:
I can cook dinner, wipe down surfaces, vacuum, hold a baby, talk on the phone, drink wine and email all at the same time. Impressive huh?

Efficient:
I have honed my domestic skills to that of a 1950's housewife. Dinner on the table, house cleaned, slick of lipstick, children sweet and happy and ready to welcome daddy home. Yeah that one was a lie.

Not deterred by hard work:
I have been up to my elbows in poo and pee and remained as steadfast as a soldier. Also, I have gone for months with no more than three hours of sleep at a time and still been able to recite the words to all the songs from The Sound of Music (my husband loves when I do that).

Positive attitude:
I am as bright and breezy as a sunshiny day every morning when my kids force me to get up out of bed at 7 a.m. with their yelling.

Strategic thinker:
I've devised a number of mummy-needs-quiet-time hiding places around my house: in the bathroom, in my closet, behind the couch, or in the laundry hamper if I curl up really small and don't move.

Salary expectation


If you give me a quiet office, an endless supply of coffee, a lunch break, and pay for childcare, I'll do it for near free.

References

Matthew or Oliver.

*************************************************************




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Remembering them

I love these old photographs of my grandparents, taken during the war (WWII).

My Grandfather. Unfortunately I never met him, but I've heard
he was a wonderful man. I just know that I would have loved him lots.


Nana and Granddad on their wedding day.
I still miss you and think of you every day Nana. x


My Grandfather in Italy, 1946.


Marching Wrens (where my Nana served).



Today I remember those I knew and those I did not and those who died sacrificing their lives for our freedom.

You are not and never will be forgotten.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Domestically Deceptive

When it comes to household chores, I like short cuts. I detest housework and would rather spend my spare minutes emailing, blogging, twittering or googling things like "can I train my dog to make coffee?". And though I love taking the time to cook a proper dinner, it's sometimes too much work at the end of a long day.

So I thought I'd share some of my short cuts with you.


Pimp your food: Montreal steak seasoning.

Image from www.simplyorganicfoods.com

This product has saved dinner time from a drab death on a number of occasions this year. When I have lacked energy or inspiration, I've used steak seasoning on almost everything - chicken, beef, fish, vegetables. Add a side and, done.

I spent all day making this: Pasta sauce in a jar.



I always, without fail, have a bottled tomato sauce in my cupboard. If all else fails, I dump the jar over some pasta, make a quick salad and whamerelli - dinner.

It's-a not so bad, it's-a nice-a place: Frozen pizza.
Image from www.oetker.ca

Frozen pizza. So lazy and naughty, and yet so easy and tasty. That's why I figure that pizza with spinach, really, is a winner all round. It has spinach on it for gawd sake. Enough said.

Pong be gone: Lemons.

Image from beautifullyused.com

I always have lemons in my fridge. If I've been handling raw fish, I squeeze some lemons straight onto my hands, or straight onto any surface or even into the garbage and the smell is gone. Shazaa.

Grease your parts: Olive Oil.

Image from www.plomaricity.gr

I hate dry skin and am obsessed with always having hand cream and lip balm nearby. Especially in the kitchen where I'm washing my hands every other minute. My husband thinks I'm OCD but that's another story. If neither cream or balm are available, I use olive oil and it works very well.

Are you staring at those deodorant marks on my top? Baby wipes.

Image from www.greenbeginnings.co.uk

There's a reason to lug baby wipes around in your bag, other than bottom/face/hand wiping. Baby wipes miraculously remove those bastard little white streaks that appear on your clothes when you're frantically trying to get dressed before your deodorant has had time to dry because your kids are attempting to murder each other and the dog.


None of the pimping of products in this post was paid for in any way, shape or form.
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