Thanks for checking this out...

Ta muchly for visiting. Here you will find musings, ramblings and a few statements of fact. They say women can have it all, motherhood, careers and crazy social lives. But what if we don't want it all? What if we want some of it sometimes and other bits not so often? Here I'll mix and match as the whims and energy levels take me. Your tuppence worth is always welcome!

The mask...

The mask...
Life is for loving and living no matter what it involves...

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Getting crafty

I blame Blue Peter. All those letter holders and Easter bunnies from toilet roll tubes and cotton wool got to me at an early and impressionable age. When it comes to make and do I'm your gal. If it involves a bit of sticking and painting all the better. Crafts have always been my bag; sometimes I actually make bags (see but I'll turn my hand to many things, collage, cork-boards, knitting, sewing and papermache-ing. Yup I'm the annoying woman in the shops who stands and declares "£20 for that? But I could make it myself." There are times when this is true but there are also those things that I really shouldn't bother trying; it'll only end in tears.

Cork-boards made from old corks and old picture frames look fantastic and make a lovely present.
Lately I've found that attempting crafty activities with the wee ones is also likely to end in tears. Usually when toddler girl has upended the glitter over wee boy's masterpiece thus rendering it useless and bin-bound, until I can convince him that a glittery dinosaur train driver (abstractly rendered as a greeny/purple splodge with yellow highlights) is actually quite brilliant and deserves as spot in 'the gallery'. I blame another childhood TV show for the creation of 'the gallery', Hart Beat (I think) the one with Morph anyways. Don't be misguided, the aforementioned gallery is actually just the wall by their beds but they like it and it saves on wallpaper.

Clearly despite watching too much TV in my youth I've come away with a creative ethic so it isn't all bad. With that in mind I do let the wee ones enjoy a bit of Mister Maker on cbeebies and quietly catch a bit of it for my own viewing pleasure.  Although these days I'm a tad more advanced in my handmade output there is something compelling about all that water based paint and pipe-cleaners.

It does save a fortune, making your own stuff. Take birthday cards; I've saved masses of images from magazines, fliers etc and I collage cards for friends and family. Sometimes it takes ages to find just the right thing but that's cool; I like that the card they get has been properly thought about and is utterly unique. And the wee ones like to experiment with card making too; we get out the card, glue and cut-outs and have some family fun. Okay I confess sometimes mummy does get a wee bit cross when small hands try and sabotage her work but on balance it is all good. Whether or not the cards recipients like it as much as we do is another thing! But they seem well received; then we do have very polite friends.

So it was a real treat to find this ladies blog ( with the free templates for some of her wonderful creations. Thanks to a lovely friend for passing this on as Ann Wood is a talented woman and I fully intend to have a go at those tea-cups. They'll make perfect containers for sweet treats. How glorious is that - combining two passions, cooking and crafts to produce individual gifts that will (hopefully) look amazing while costing a fraction of a shop bought version. Yup arts and crafts are sure way to beat the recession blues and have fun trying too.

If you've got a creative talent tucked away then bring it out, dust it off and share a photo in the comments box below...

Monday, 21 February 2011

From coast to coast

Big tall hubby and I dwell on the south coast; being by the sea is wonderful. Fresh air, fresh donuts at the pier and fresh faces every summer wandering around the place all astray. Funny how when you're a tourist you forget that other people live there all the time and when you live there all the time you forget that in other places you're the annoying tourist.

With both our families up north, these days we're the tourists when we go home; especially lacking the required regional accents. Hubby never had his and mine just got lost along the way; careless I know. Nothing marks you out like a stranger in strange land than your voice. But it still feels like home and makes for the perfect get away. What more affordable holiday is there than staying with friends and family? Not to mention the brilliant babysitting service it affords. We certainly made the most of that one; not having grandparents on the doorstep usually it was a treat beyond imagining to have them to lean on for a week. It was even possible to squeeze in a cinema visit (Black Swan - amazing) which we never do at home. Why waste a rare babysitter to go sit in a darkened room for a few hours ignoring each other? We may be notching up two decades together but we can still hold a conversation - given half a chance. Let's face it with wee ones around a proper conversation is as rare as roller skates on a granny. So when we had the option of babysitters for a few days in a row suddenly going to the cinema felt like a treat. The bonus of going up north is that it cost half the price of going at home, leaving plenty of spare change for some pick and mix sweeties. Oh we know how to live we do. Plus hot fresh coffee to keep us awake for the duration; problem of going away with wee ones is the disruption to sleep schedules. When they won't sleep neither can we...

Unless a generous neighbour is away for a holiday and leaves her keys for you. As an extra holiday bonus we got to spend not one but two nights all on our ownsome. We weren't just in a different room we were in a different building. Heaven. Thank crunchie for granny who embraced her 6am wake up calls without a murmur while we slept on and on. It was as good as a hotel; without room service but hey, sleep trumps breakfast on a tray any day. We actually felt like humans after our two nights of uninterrupted sleep and extended lie-ins. Well worth travelling 500 miles for make no mistake; and in the words of the proclaimers I'd travel 500 more.

A holiday without visiting a tourist attraction is like a boiled egg without the soldiers; it just isn't right. As Madagascar is the film of choice for our wee boy, with toddler girl swiftly following it seemed sensible to make the zoo our tourist destination. 'Lets go see Alex the lion' we enthused at wee boy who wasn't that keen to get back in the car. Unfortunately Scotland in winter is not the best place to see lions, tigers and bears. While we shivered in the showery cold the animals sensibly hid indoors under straw keeping warm. Apart from the penguins; it was the perfect climate for them. Our small ones didn't mind, they were too busy roaring at each other or attempting to break into enclosures. As grown ups we would have been a tad miffed at the cost of staring at nothing for half the afternoon had it not been for another generous friend providing us with free passes for the place; hard to complain at that price! The conclusion was that the zoo is best left to summer but at least we tried. It cost nothing and we lost nothing (apart from the tips of our fingers to frost bite).
Like their cartoon cousins Penguins are renown for their swift flippers when it comes to swiping goodies.
So our first family holiday of 2011 was also our first visit to family this year. It's handy having relatives half way up the country and right at the top; we can double dip into the gene pool and save on petrol costs. It wasn't quite Land's End to John O'Groats but our little coast to coast adventure was the perfect (economical) escape.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

One for the road

A road trip can be a wonderful thing. Open roads, comfy leather seats, good tunes on the stereo, junk food and lazy banter; cruising along life's highway with no rush or fuss. We've had many a happy time on four wheels; whether it be a road-trip proper or a long-haul motorway visit. That of course was BC. Yes, the days before children. Add two small ones to the mix and the romance of the long distance drive drops sharply. Tiny feet kicking at the back of your chair slightly detracts from the joy of scenery gazing; even when it is the glory of the peak district flying past the window.

Can't travel 500 miles up the country without eating though, most especially with children. Motorway services have never been a favourite but avoiding them is near impossible. Our plan has always been to scoff our own road-rubbish limiting service stops for caffeine fill-ups. With kids in tow the quality of our road-rubbish has gone up; now it even includes some of our five-a-day. Blimey. Fruit? In a car? What happened to the wotsits? But the caffeine fuel remains essential; as does the opportunity to let the kids run free. They don't take well to being strapped down for hours on end, especially toddler girl who announced 'I want to walk' in a very loud voice just hours into our mammoth drive up north. With impeccable timing she chose to drop off mere minutes before our service-stops which left her less that cheerful on the return to the car. By the time we reached Carlisle I was quite prepared to let her out for the much demanded 'walk' - all the way to Edinburgh. Thank god for strawberries. These red lovelies proved to be the saviour of our sanity. Both the wee ones happily munched them while we let the i-pod shuffle us up the motorway.

But there is one service stop that is a shining beacon of joy for harassed parents on the road; in fact it is a stopping-delight for anyone on wheels who happens to be up in the Lake District. Some know it as Tebay, others as West Morland, either name the place is the same. Why all service stops can't be like this I don't know. It is restful, the seats are comfy, it has ambiance (I know), it has a lake - with ducks, and a farm shop that sells snacks which although rather pricey does actually involve food and not cardboard or sawdust. What is more it has a children's play area that puts the sad little corners most services offer to shame. Hand crafted from real solid wood, beautifully decorated and ingeniously designed to allow maximum run about for wee legs in a small area the jewel in this play-zone crown is the CCTV that feeds directly to the tables and chairs in the adjacent parent zone (which also comes with kiddy sized tables and chairs so the wee ones can sit by you and pretend to be grown ups). Mummy and Daddy can upload on the coffee safe in the knowledge that the small ones are playing nicely.
The kid-zone is a treat for tiny sore legs and eyes
Even toddler girl didn't mind being woken up when she saw this place. And ever conscious of the spending - you get a second cup of coffee free if you take your empty cup up. Nice touch. I heart this place big time. Service station of the century I say. If you are going up north then schedule this place in - you will not regret it. On a budget it ticks every box; reasonable priced coffee and pleasant facilities. If you have the cash to splash then there are so many goodies on offer here you will pop with spending pleasure.
The gorgeous Tebay Services; makes the rest look amateur
As for the rest of the services; blah and double blah. Drink up and get out quick the car is way preferable. And so hot tips for in-car munchies on a budget include: the ubiquitous sandwich (cut into dinky squares), cheese chunks, strawberries (oh yes), bananas, little sausages and mini donuts (way less mess that biscuits). This finger food is easy to make, quick to scoff and very handy for passing to backseat passengers too wee to be trusted with their own nibbles. All that food combined with the coffee stops and a good soundtrack, why it was almost like a car trip BC. Keep that motor running...

Monday, 7 February 2011

In praise of tea

The more simple the pleasure the greater a pleasure it is. Nothing quite beats a cup of tea when it comes to the perfect 'ah' moment. And very few things are cheaper than a cuppa these days, unless you're buying it in a Parisian street cafe where you may as well buy a beer for half the price and double the fun. Perhaps appreciation of a Good Cup of Tea is a British thing? Although I'm being rude there and ignoring the glorious Chinese and Indian teas. For shame, not very multi-cultural of me at all. So I'll take that back. Many nations enjoy a good cup of tea and there is ritual and satisfaction in it the world over. Ah, balance restored.

Right there with that word I've pinpointed the joy of a cuppa, the ritual. Even the atheists amongst us need a ritual in life here and there; gives a day focus like nothing else. And if that ritual is no more complicated than dunking a tea-bag, adding a splash of milk and plopping into your favourite chair then so much the better. With biscuit or without biscuit - the choice is yours. But why stop with a biscuit?

In my recent hunt for Victoriana I stumbled across a glorious cake-stand. You know the ones that grannies brought out for Sunday brunch, 3 tiers of naughty taste-ticklers to tempt you, that's the one. A small family tradition growing up was to take afternoon tea once in a while at a splendidly grand establishment, my dad wanted me to grow up feeling comfortable in these places. Well he achieved that no problem; luxury hotel stay? Yes please. However, as budgets do not allow for a cheeky stop over at The Dorchester these days I have come up with the next best thing (almost, minus the service and chance to celebrity spot and the amazing comfort factor). I said next best didn't I?

What is this alternative - I'll tell you. Afternoon tea at home. That cake stand works like magic, worth every penny of the £1.50 it cost me. Set the table, bring out the tea service, cake stand in proud full view laden with home made goodies and a plate of little sandwich triangles with the crusts removed. Oh yes. With one friend or four friends (can't hold enough cakes for more), it is an afternoon of indulgent fun. For at least five minutes we are ladies who lunch and not harassed mummies about to pop. Perhaps I have seen one Merchant Ivory film too many but pouring tea from a tea pot into a proper tea cup & saucer feels like the ultimate in elegance and sophistication. Such a ladylike activity can't help but feel indulgent - even if it is self service.

But tea doesn't have to be all pomp and ceremony to be brilliant. Morning does not officially start until the first cup of the day has been consumed. Both toddler girl and wee boy know mummy won't be serving breakfast until that mug is empty. And it has to be a mug in the morning; that tea has hard work to do dragging me from knackered to shattered in twenty sips. 'Time for a cuppa' is a phrase guaranteed to diffuse any toddler generated craziness; it transports one to a comfort zone out of place and time. I know every out of reach landing space in every room we own for my tea-vessel thus saving small ones from a scalding. This ensures every tea-break is an oasis of 'me-time'. And there isn't a mummy (or daddy) on the planet who doesn't need a daily dose of that.

Luxurious loveliness that doesn't cost the earth

Should tea not be your cup of tea (like big tall hubby - I have failed to convert him despite years of trying) then there is always coffee. If it is hot and hits the spot then let us raise a cup and shout hurrah. Top up? Oh go on then...