Monday, June 30, 2008

Meet and greet: family through the eyes of a 3 year old

I was feeling like a kindly sort of auntie when I let my three year old great-nephew have a go with my new (yes, NEW) camera. What kind of a nut am I?

You see, he asked so sweetly. And I do think small boys need encouragement with sweetness. Before you know it, they've been rough and tumbled into right little toughies. So until he shows signs of taking electrical goods apart, I'm going to carry on letting him use the camera.

Of course, I was never more than an arms length away from Paparazzi Boy. That might have been asking for trouble.

Nearly all the photos were perfectly composed. In fact, just like this one. Meet the Wonder Dog. This is my sister in law's long haired dachsund. Initially a bit jumpy around the mass of children, but soon exhausted by their boundless energy.

What a snuffly cutie she is. I know what you are thinking. How does my sister in law let her dog on the sofa and still keep it pristine in its creamy beigeness? Sorry - haven't a clue. Must be something called 'cleaning', but I wasn't paying that much attention to the detail.

Next up, a photo of my other sister in law (doesn't she look uptight? don't worry, looks are very decieving) and my eight year old great-nephew. I think Paparazzi boy was quite taken with Donald.
Next, was an irresistable shot of Great Neice V's dress. This shot makes me wonder what sort of photos children with attention deficit disorders or autism might choose take...
How could I not show you this photo of my brother in law. Is Paparazzi Boy transfixed by the beard, d'yuh think?
Finally, Paparazzi Boy's big sister FAB got hold of the camera. Aged five, she too took many shots but she had a great muse. Great Neice V likes to pose and she knows how to make herself look very fabulous.
Oops sorry. Did that make you jump?

For more meet and greets, go to Natural Mummy - sorry it's a bit late for Monday!

Sings like an angel

I'm listening to Working Mum singing on BBC4.

Amazing Grace. Beautiful.


This week saw the inaugural Hutstock take place. All of 5o yards from the house and organised by Recaro's neice this was not a party to miss. Peaches was going to hang out with her West Country cousins and we were going to listen to acoustic music.

One of the advantages of being with a small child, is that you can sit very close to the action.
Her cousin, FAB, has a thing for salted snacks. In fact if any packets of crisps weren't properly supervised, she'd find them and appropriate them for her own use. She took Peaches under her wing and enlightened her to the joys of cream chees Pringles. Fortunately people wised up to FAB's ways pretty quickly so the supply wasn't too free flowing.
The main event was Nirvanarama. Recaro's niece is the blondie on the left. This was so much fun. This bunch of mothers made familiar songs all their own. I'll post some videos on youtube when I get the chance so that you can hear them for yourself.
Here's the view from the Hutstock main event stage.
There are plans to make Hutstock an annual event. Woohoo. Evening events close to home are what I like.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Daring Bakers: for my bro

Here's a slice of this month's Daring Baker's challenge; apple and gooseberry danish. This post is dedicated to my brother who thinks that I lie when I say I can't bake. He could have a point.

It was quite a challenge. The pastry had to be rolled, folded and turned like puff pastry, before being finally rolled and cut ready for braiding...

After prooving, it puffed up into a massive plait - with enough spare to make pain au raisin.
So tasty, only four pain au raisins survived for the photo.
Here's the braid straight out of the oven. This time I used the fan setting properly, not just fan assisted. The oven baked the braid evenly. I felt quite professional.
Finally some icing - because that's how I like my danish. You'll notice only three pain au raisins by now.
This was a huge challenge - yet again, I wouldn't have attempted it without the Daring Bakers. Thanks guys.

Here come the rellies - just in time for dessert. Yummitty.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Window shopping: Bond Street and Bruton Street

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

We've not been shopping for a while. So hold on to your hats, grab your wallet and lets go. There's even a sale along the way. By the way, this post is dedicated to my ever-so stylish sister-in-law in Melbourne.

Stella McCartney
I like to imagine that Stella is bonkers, but I can't deny that she sells lovely clothes. And she always gives good window display. Daytime through to evening and with such pretty shoes. (I think lots of shoes are pretty, even if I wouldn't/couldn't wear them myself.

Matthew Williamson
I think he and Stella have a competitive window thing going. Creatively at least this week, he's winning. I'm a bit concerned however that the king of summer dresses is only good for skinny young girls.
I don't like fascinators, but it's a pretty dress. She should really clean up those fridge magnets though. They are taking over the house.

Dolce and Gabbana
It's an interesting trick. The window looks busy and exciting. But pause a moment and look at the clothes. Pretty ordinary. Not so special this week.

Miu Miu
Has an uncanny knack for cute items. There's something strangely desirable about the fluffy pink jacket even if I know in my heart that it would not look quite so lush on me.
Emporio Armani
He he. Peach satin on the sale rail. Hardly a surprise there.

So jolly, so Wimbledon. I love their window displays - they really make the most of their wind machine to get the skirts fluttering. On a very positive note, this is the most affordable shop of them all.

There you go - that's your lot. Now you know what all the yummy mummies in Mayfair will be wearing this season; peachy little summer dresses with pink fluffy jackets fluttering in the wind.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday thirteen: favourite things in no particular order

  1. Pony tails
  2. New shoes
  3. Slightly older blonde girls like cousin V and the fabulous Sophie
  4. Stickers
  5. Teletubbies
  6. Jaffa cakes
  7. Satsumas
  8. Sitting on Recaro's side of the bed
  9. Wet wipes
  10. Wellington boots
  11. Ice cream
  12. Pink duck
  13. Jabbing a finger into a pot of Vaseline

How do you solve a problem like Mugabe?

Two serious posts in a row. I don't know what's come over me, but I'm on my soapbox and noone is getting between me and the 'publish post' button.

First of all Zimbabwe;

In my cosy western life, I sit by and do nothing while people are being beaten up, raped, attacked, turfed out of their homes and starved. I sit on my sofa (comfy), watch the news (wide screen) and read the internet (broadband) and feel as in touch or not as I like with world affairs. If I get cross at my country's politicians, I can use my vote. Or not. It doesn't matter too much - no one will beat me up, sue me, try me for treason, maim or molest me for it.

Meanwhile, Mugabe and his henchmen get up to all sorts of nasty shit and there's very little it seems anyone can do to touch him. Sanctions don't affect him - they are just more grist to his anti-colonialist mill. Instead sanctions just makes life so much harder for his countrymen.

Before Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the election run-off, I've been staggered at reports I've heard of Zimbabweans being beaten up, but still determined to vote for the MDC - because that's the only way they had left to change their lives. Now they don't even have that.

Not to say that I blame Tsvangirai for pulling out. He's probably saved a lot of lives and limbs by doing that. Without a meaningful number of UN observers across the country, it would have been a truly bloody election campaign.

What this post is about is not staying silent and not accepting. I want to find ways to challenge the UK's politicians to find other ways to pressure Mugabe into stepping down or holding free and fair elections. I'm also trying to find which charities are active in Zimbabwe and finding out what can usefully be done to support them.

I want to form an opinion on sanctions - if they really aren't working, is there any value in overturning them and ploughing food, products and other resources into the country so as to improve the lives of as many people as possible. Would this send a message of support to the Zimbabwe people and support them in demanding free and fair elections?

If you've got any useful links in this respect, please pass them on.

Second - a very exciting update on equality in the UK;

Sarah over at Your daughter is obsessed with meat and produce is cross at Nancy Pelosi for acknowledging but failing to challenge sexual discrimination. Hilary faced sexual discrimination from the press during her campaign but that 'comes with the territory'. It is disappointing when influential women fail to challenge the discrimination they see around them.

So let's hear a big round of applause for ... Harriet Harman.

Today the Equality Minister unveiled details of the new Equalities Bill which would demand that public sector organisations and the private sector businesses that supply them, publish details of the gender pay gap.

By lifting the lid on the pay gap, it will become clear just where women are being undervalued and give them the opportunityt to challenge inequalities where they find them.

Wow. Wow. And wow again. This is the stuff of Icelandic dreams. It is the kind of legislation that actually tackles institutionalised discrimination.

There's other stuff in the bill about tackling ageism and positive discrimination for women and minorities which businesses can choose in invoke if they wish to change the profile of their otherwise white/male workforce or board rooms.

Interestingly, the comments on the BBC website are all very anti this Bill. They seem to persist in missing the point about tackling entrenched discriminatory attitudes. Also they think that the Bill would enable a white male to be passed over in favour of a less able women or minority candidate. That's not the idea. Best candidates should be chosen, it's only when there are equally good candidates could an employer consider choosing a candidate so as to improve the diversity of its workforce.

Listening to the Today programme this morning, it was great to hear the following exchange;

presenter: The Daily Mail reports this Bill makes women more equal than men.
Harriet: Ha ha. Chance would be a fine thing.

There's been progress made in equal opportunities since the second world war, but how refreshing to see that there's a committment to doing even more.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We are all worth it

News that women in Malaysia are being advised to not wear lipstick or 'noisy' - that is high heeled - shoes so as to avoid rape is the kind of story that really makes me cross.

Where's the outrage that some men think it's okay and acceptable to bully, harass and demean women? By men - I mean the men that came up with the ridiculous assumption that wearing lipstick or high heels makes rape any more likely.

Perhaps there should be a campaign challenging men to think about whether their late night walks are really necessary. Or whether it's appropriate for them to approach women they don't know. Or whether a woman really did mean 'would you like a coffee?' instead of 'hey, let's have wild monkey sex because we've known each other for years/five minutes*'. After all, this could be construed as aggressive behaviour and they will put themselves at risk of being confused with every other rapist out there. *delete as applicable.

In the event anyone is incorrectly accused of harrassing or attacking women, they could be told, 'He was asking for it. He was behaving in an unusually aggressive and lewd manner. I've no idea what he thought he was doing walking about so late at night, but it certainly seemed suspicious.'

Of course, you might think I'm being overly harsh on all those decent men out there. There are a lot of them.

But don't you see? These stupid, stupid lipstick bans and assumptions that what women might wear mean that 'she was asking for it' demean every woman and girl. We mustn't blame the victims and we mustn't let abusers and potential abusers think that their actions are anyone else's responsibility but their own.

Grrr. Today I shall be wearing Diva by Mac and my shoes shall go clickety clack.

Silent... but hands free

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In the good old days...

Can you imagine how much it easier it might be to take toddlers to a place of worship if they all had family pews like this?

This is Graveney church and it still has the original, boxed pews in place. So you could pack your whole family in, shut the door and stop them from rushing up and down the aisles and round the back of the altar.
Of course, there's nothing to stop your child from screaming blue murder during the service, but at least noone could be entirely sure if its your child making the noise. I'd enjoy saying things in a loud whisper, like 'How terrible. I hope all that noise doesn't upset our darling, quiet Peaches.'

This church is in the countryside between Whitstable and Faversham. We took Peaches and our great-niece V along to its open day last Saturday. V was also very taken with the pews, but she saw them as an opportunity for nap more than a play.

After getting all the joy possible out of the boxed pews, we settled the girls at a couple of old school desks. While Peaches scribbled, V wrote a story. It was fantastic - all about Peaches being a clever little girl who could 'walk, tork (sic) and run', who went to a 'cherch' with her friend V and then went home. 'The end'.I was very impressed with the story telling. Would you have pointed out the mistakes? I felt it was more appropriate to be encouraging. If it was Peaches and we were at home, I might have said something, but I didn't want to rain on V's very fabulous parade.

Then we went for a romp around the graveyard. Indulge me while I point out Peaches' knitted smock - made by her babysitter, Lindiloo. I love it. A very groovy colour and in a chunky, but silky yarn. There's also a rounded patch pocket on the left hand side. Very handy for distracting Peaches with pebbles and bits and pieces, especially when she'd otherwise be trying to run out on to a road.
Later that afternoon, Recaro gave Peaches a strawberry ice cream. I've now got a major handwash challenge ahead of me since most of that went down her top. Ah well, summers are made for ice cream.

Finally, this churchyard is so traditional there really are graves where the dead are pushing up the daisies.

This is exactly the kind of shot I wanted to take when I got my new camera. I have a feeling you'll see a lot of flower photos from now on.

Week Seven: will it be bikini heaven or hell?

Week one *** Week two *** Week three *** Week four***Week five***Week six

Two weeks till my fantastic Greek holiday and I've still not selected the bikini. This is a mistake. Two years ago I left the choice of bikini until the airport. Did I say 'choice'? Ha. Those shops are just waiting for suckers like me to arrive in a panic and grab the nearest misfitting, grossly coloured 'kini left on the rail.

Clearly I need to ask for help. Where did you last buy one of those miracle bikinis that turned you into a windsurfing, rock Goddess? You know, one of those two piece confections that hid the cellulite, exposed womanly curves, beautifully supported your breasts and revealed a somehow flatter tighter tummy? If it could possibly give me glossy smooth hair too, that would be just dandy.
Pre-Peaches holiday mode. Mind you, bikini still didn't fit right.

On the other hand, can you direct me to any swimwear websites selling bikinis with proper cup sizes? So far I've found Lands End... but wanted something a little sassier.

At this point you may be wondering what's happening with the Strangely Lush Fitness Plan. It's on the final countdown. I'm still intending to;
  • run (just got back from my 25 minute lunchtime run. Yay.)

  • drink more water (am drinking some now. Double yay.)

  • keep doing evening yoga (huh?)

  • avoid Peaches' snacks (double huh?)

  • eat slower (am putting sarnie down between bites. Yay again.)

  • avoid using the car (much assisted by the credit crunch.)
Since doing the Race for Life, I'm feeling worthy, but a little less motivated. To keep me going to my holiday, perhaps you would also remind me what it feels like to be on a beach surrounded by nubile lasses who've not yet had a babe and have no idea (and don't care) what havoc pregnancy and breastfeeding can wreck on a 37 year old body.

Monday, June 23, 2008

One strangely lush runner: the photos

WARNING: This post is going to ramble off in several directions, but if you can stick with it, I promise you some embarrassing photos at the end...

The weekend was action packed.

Almost every weekend is action packed because I begin with the premise that weekends are about doing nothing apart from watching old movies, eating chocolate and sipping from an elegant glass of wine.

Back in the real world, I make a great to do out of the little moments of fun.

Such as getting up early to go to church after a late night spent celebrating our friends' wedding on midsummer night.

What would seem like a drag to many, we turned into a triumph of get up and go energy. We will squeeze an adventure into every moment of the day, even if Recaro is slightly hungover.

It had been Peaches' first wedding and I'm proud to say she could have danced all night apart from when she fell asleep at 10 o'clock.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed (Peaches' at least) we ran around on Tankerton Slopes for a while. Recaro sat down, hiding tired eyes behind his sunglasses.

I had no idea until I down loaded the photos that the sky had looked so ominous.

We (Peaches and me, that is) were having a great time running in and out of the beach huts. The huts are on quite a steep slope. Now and then the small girl would run out of control. Very little house on the prairie.

After a light breakfast for me and a cooked breakfast for Recaro at Tea & Times, we raced off to Planet Thanet - as that little corner of England is desparagingly known - to the charity race.

Peaches had already had her breakfast in church - it's the foolproof way of getting her through the service. Some of you might think 'eating is cheating' but until all churches are like Graveney (see future post...) this is the way forward.

At the race, there was supposed to be a warm up. But the wind blew the sound the wrong way and the music cut out every few minutes. Since the music was provided by Invicta FM, the local radio station, I thought that was a wee bit embarrassing.

Talking of embarrassing, I'm now getting round to showing you the race photos.

Here's the before...

And here's where I get going. Don't you love that ponytail flying out behind me. Makes me look super fast.

This is me on the home straight. Yes, my trousers are a little too tight so on this occasion, I believe it's true that my bum does make my bum look big. And you might also notice that my feet aren't kicking quite so high off the ground as they were at the beginning.
Naturally, I was delighted to have finished. At least I didn't need dragging away from the finishing line like the lady behind me. She looks wrecked.
On that cheery note, we all went off for lunch at my mother in laws. (Yes I did shower and change. I'm house-trained like that). And in the afternoon, Recaro and I sunbathed and chatted in the back garden while Peaches slept for several hours.

It was an early night for everyone. I think a 5km run and lunch with one's mother-in-law is an exhausting combination.

Does my bum look big in this?

How do you like my new look? I like to think of it as fresh and classic - while bringing a whole new column into play. I was hoping to find something I liked in blue, but they didn't have my size and if the cut's not right... well, it just doesn't get to leave the house.

It's going to take a little while to see if this what effect this might have on my blog. It's a freebie outfit and like all bargains - it might not work out to be as good value as I originally hoped.

One of the implications was that I had to recreate my widgets. It sounds painful, but it wasn't as difficult as I feared.

Aside from any new creative ideas I have under consideration, I need to update my blogroll. This is something of an opportunity for any stalkers or new visitors. I'm going to be refreshing my list and adding a few new blogs that I've been reading lately. If you'd like me to add you to the list, please delurk and direct me to your words of wit, charm and wisdom.

If you could let me know what you think that would be great. I'd hate to think that this new look would scare the horses or that I'm walking about with my skirt tucked into the back of my knickers.

One strangely lush runner is pink with pride

The news in brief, is that I ran 5km in about half an hour. I am a very happy as well as strangely lush runner.

I found the experience very inspiring. It's good to know that I can run among a crowd of people - though I'm sure at the starting line, women are less pushy than a mixed or male group of runners.

Plenty of people stopped and started, walked and strolled. I kept to my pace and ran the whole way round. The route was pretty flat, though by the end of the run my eyes were really itchy. A touch of hayfever wasn't helped by the rural route.

There will be photos - I started loading these at home, but left the house without remembering to hit the 'Done' button. Don't worry though - you WILL get to see how pink I went. I did think about you guys as I ran around, thank you for all your encouragement.

Oh - and if in doubt, I'm still happy to receive donations. I've got a few more coming in from work (off-line) so who knows, I might yet make that target.

See that? I made the target... and still counting. The company sponsored me £30 and other colleagues are chipping in. Very heartwarming.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mad bad graffiti

Strange knitted graffiti has started showing up around town.

I blame these people.

I hope it doesn't start happening where you live. Those knitters are dangerous subversives and should be stopped.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Head to head

Oh Mommy at Classy Chaos put out a photo challenge for a photo over the top of your child's head. This is Peaches with her oldest friend, Son of Guru.

Moments later, Peaches was grabbing the crayons off of Son of Guru and he was snatching at the paper. But I was the winner, after all I captured the moment of peaceful companionship and they can't take that away from me...

Friday's French fringe

Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

It being a frugal kind of Friday we have already swopped Recaro's Daily Torygraph voucher for a Guardian newspaper. There aren't many newsagents that'll do this - so we treasure the one that will accept the vouchers and swop them for the paper I prefer to read.

I've also had our incredibly busy, multi-tasking, knitting, babysitting neighbour cut Peaches' hair. She does this as a freebie partly because we pay for her to knit funky little girl dresses and to babysit, but mostly because she thinks Peaches' is a funny and sweet little girl. I didn't exactly have to beg for her to do the deed.

The cut was all about a sassy little French fringe at the front and lots of baby curls at the back. This would get her ready for our holiday in a couple of weeks' time.

My new camera doesn't make it any easier to take a photo of the girl when she's on the move. Nearly all the shots were out of focus - I imagine it's hard for any camera to deal with refocusing when the subject is rushing straight towards the lens.

Downloading just out of focus photos isn't only disappointing, it's a little unsettling. I still feel a bit blurry.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Does street art make my local boozer strangely fashionable?

If I went to a groovy bar, would that make me groovy? Well, duh, no. I'm your regular, slightly square, always geeky, wishes-she-were-trendy mum. I'm so geeky I use the word trendy.

However, I am street enough to go to The Fountain. My first experience of this bar was to walk past its open door, only to see a bar stool being thrown the full length of the room.

Then it changed hands. It got hip and cool, in a back street bar kind of way. It has a whole back story courtesy of The Tankerton Arms - but you don't need to know how unutterably fantastic that place was. For a start it's now a block of flats... too sad.

The Fountain is a bit grungy, but it's always good for a laugh and a chat. It's got graffiti on the walls.
It has lots of people wearing flip flops. Some with dirty toes, some with HUGE spaces between their toes and some are just pretty with gold nail varnish.
Then there's more graffiti on the walls.
And Recaro loves it. See him sitting in the VIP area with all his mates. He's having the best time. This is where he likes to go at 4pm on Saturday afternoons. I can hardly object - it's obvious why it means so much to him.

Much as I may mock, this place is the main reason I book babysitters. How many blogs do you read that flit between champagne bars and backstreet boozers? Oh sorry. You weren't looking for that kind of mum-blog, were you?