Thursday, 19 June 2014

Sneaky Sweets

Our local greengrocer also sells old fashioned sweets by the quarter at a very reasonable 70p, so sometimes Izzy takes her pocket money and buys some.

On Saturday I told her that we needed to go to the greengrocers so she needed to hurry up and get dressed.

A few mintues later she appeared wearing her City shirt.

"Odd", I thought, "City aren't playing today"

and we set off.

When we got to the greengrocer's I realised that the owner is a City fan himself, and what did he say when weighing out Izzy's sweets?

"While you're a City fan, you can have a few extra"

and added a few more to the scales free of charge.

She's all there with her cough drops my daughter!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Cake Catastrophe

Tomorrow is my mum's 65th birthday.

My dad decided that we would have a family barbecue to celebrate.

I offered to make a cake, but dad said he would order a professional one because I'm so busy.

 So three weeks ago he ordered one.

On Monday of this week the cake lady still hadn't got back to him with any designs.

On Tuesday she still hadn't.

At this point my dad was really worried there would be no cake.

"Just leave a message cancelling the cake, dad", I said, "and I'll make one."

So dad cancelled the cake.

Not only that, he then went to a sugarcraft shop and bought what he thought I needed.............

................ to create the orginal cake he wanted.

I was just going to do a white cake with butterflies and flowers.

Oh no, my dad wants an atlas cake surrounded by edible pictures of places mum has been to.

A cake that a professional cake maker could make.

Not a working mum.

Oh, and it has to be big enough to feed 50 people.

He dropped the stuff at my house, along with butter, sugar and eggs and left me to it.


So I snuck out of work yesterday to go to my favourite sugarcraft shop to buy what I really needed and to get some much needed advice from the owner.

So, after six hours over three evenings, this is what I've done:

 He'd better be impressed!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Competitive Dad

Whilst at Centre Parcs we played some family games like Ludo, Cards, Mini Golf and Ten Pin Bowling.  As usual hubby played agressively and won all the time. 

He always wins.  

Every time.

(As an aside, I don't have a competitive bone in my body when it comes to sports or games.  I just don't care.  We had to stop playing badminton together years ago after hubby started to smash the shuttlecock at my body in frustration when I didn't care if I hit it back.  I kid you not.)

So, when we had played our first game of Bowling (and he had won) I said to him, "Let Izzy win the next one"

"Why?" he asked, incredulously.

"Because you always win.  It doesn't bother me, but for her it's very demoralising.  She always loses. She's only 10, let her win for once."

So he picked up his ball, bowled and picked off one pin on the left hand side.


Then he picked up his second ball and ..............

............ smashed the other nine.


Izzy got up to bowl in a deep depression.

Hubby sat down next to me.

"What happened?" I asked, "I thought you were going to let her win".

"I couldn't, " he said, "I just couldn't.  My competitve gene kicked in."

Good grief!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Evil Parents

We've just returned from "Butlins for the Middle Classes", sorry, Centre Parcs, which I booked for the Bank Holiday Weekend instead of going to Rome (see earlier post, I won't go on about it).

We didn't tell daughter that we had booked Centre Parcs, we just told her we were going to the Lake District.

She spent most of last week moaning that she would be dragged up mountains and have to walk all day every day.

She didn't suspect a thing.

Even when we loaded the bikes onto the car.

After turning off the M6 away from the Lake District along the A66 she still didn't suspect.

As we turned into the Centre Parc entrance she said,

"Ooo, Centre Parcs"

closely followed by,

"Oh, but we're not going there"

"Are we not?"  asked hubby.

"We've just turned into the entrance", I said.

After bouncing up and down in the back of the seat, she finally said,

"You two are evil ........................... but epic!"

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Mindfulness - Part 2

Now, when I was nearly half way through the Mindfulness course, I started to have difficulties. 

You see, I don't easily take things on faith, I need to know how and why they work (witness my A Level in Physics).  I couldn't believe in mindfulness unless I knew why it works.

I needed to know the science bit.

The neuroscience bit.

Luckily, at about that time I heard an interview with Ruby Wax on the radio.

She had the same questions that I had, but, as she herself says, she has the drive of a rottweiler, so she went in search of Professor Mark Williams, found him and enrolled on a Masters Degree in MCBT at Oxford University with the Professor himself.  She's now written a book about the brain stuff that I wanted to know, so I don't need to do the MSc to find out.

I just got her book:

and things started to make sense.

I know now how and why mindfulness works.

If you want a quicker version (about half an hour) which explains the neuroscience, in layman's terms with a sense of humour, watch this:

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mindfulness - Part 1

You may have heard of Mindfulness, it's been in the news a bit recently, but what is it?

Well, after the last term (in which I nearly fell over the verge, never mind being on it) a colleague and friend recommended I try it.  It had been recommended to her by her GP who said the only way she would come off beta blockers was mindfulness and she was trying it.

Being the sceptic that I am, I wanted more information before I plunged in, so I discovered that MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) had been developed by a Professor Mark Williams at Oxford University.  Well, Oxford Uni is good enough for me.

I also discovered that mindfulness is endorsed by NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, as being equally effective as medication for stress, anxiety and depression.  It can also be used for pain management.  Recommendation by the medical profession - tick.

I looked up courses, but they were about £200 and would take up most of my Sunday afternoons (I don't have the time, wait, that's the problem!)

So I bought the Professor's book:

An eight week course using Mindful Meditation to tame the mind for only £8.

I guess you have to be self motivated to do it from a book and CD, but I was desparate so I've stuck to it, I'm on week 6 and already feeling the benefits.  I can't believe how much calmer I feel, how I'm taking things in my stride and can even manage the pain of my tendonitis!

btw as a bonus, Professor Mark Williams has the most melifluous voice, which is perfect for meditation. (I couldn't have stuck a Californian accent on a CD)

I can't really explain what MCBT is, but the man himself can.

If you've got time, listen to this talk, it may change your life, I think it's changing mine:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Behind Every Great Man .....

I sometimes wonder how hubby has got to the Senior Management position he is in.  

Obviously, it is because I enable him to be a "bigwig" by organising the rest of his life.  On the odd occasion he participates in the running of this family he demonstrates a complete lack of organisation, so I really do wonder how he manages to be so successful at work.

Take this example:

Months ago I suggested that we go away during Whit half term week.  I have wanted to take daughter to Rome for ages and thought this would be a good time to go.

Hubby said, "I've got a standardising meeting in the middle of that week"

So Rome was out.

A couple of months later I suggested booking a cottage in England, one with WiFi, since he just needs to be on-line to do the standardising.

"Well, I'll be busy from that meeting onward, so no point booking a cottage for a week"

So, this week, I mooted the idea of Centre Parcs, in the Lake District, for the Bank Holiday weekend, returning two days before his meeting.

"Yeah, great, book it", he said.

So I did.

This morning he looked at his diary.

 "Oh, I made a mistake", he said, "My standardising meeting isn't in half term, it's next week"

"So we could have gone to Rome?" I asked.


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

These Boots are made for Walking

Let me tell you something, I have fair weather walking boots.  

Comfortable, cosy and light, fair weather boots.  

And I've had them for 20 years.

I thought that possessing fair weather boots would mean that I would only walk in fair weather.

Hubby has other ideas.

Every walk he takes me on seems to feature walking through a stream or a bog until my feet are soaking wet.

Despite my protests that I own FAIR WEATHER BOOTS!

In an effort to make me buy some waterproof boots, hubby gave me some money towards some for my birthday present (last September) and has nagged me to buy some since.

So, on Saturday, I succumbed and bought these:

and yesterday we went for a walk on Alderley Edge to break them in.

As we were walking along the paths and through the woods I was carefully walking around the mud and puddles as usual.

"What are you doing?" asked hubby, "You've got waterproof boots now, you can walk through puddles"

"Oh no, " I said, "I don't want to get my new boots dirty"!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Meditation is no match for a 10 year old

I'm trying to meditate.

Honestly, I am.

However, the Buddhists didn't allow for my daughter.

Last night she came home and announced

"I need a superhero costume for tomorrow"


When will the costumes stop?

So, while she was at Brownies I came up with black leggings, black shirt, black gloves and I made a cat mask out of funky foam - voila, Catwoman (I know, not strictly a superhero, but the best I could do at a few hours notice).

Ok, meditate.


Then, this morning I was brushing her hair when she asked

"Mummy, what do you  know about the Caribbean?"


"Because I need five facts for homework"

"When for?"



Meditate, meditate.

Driving to school she started telling me about a rounders match she had after school today, she won't be back until 5pm, etc, etc.

"Hang on," I said, "Have you got your trainers?"


"You came home in your trainers last night, have you brought them today?"




Turn round car, meditate, meditate.

Go home, collect trainers.

Get to school (10 miles and 25 min ride away from home)

"Where's the catwoman mask?" I asked

Frantic looking in car.

"Left it at home"


Even the Dalai Lama would give up.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Double Figures!!

Tomorrow daughter will be 10!

Yes, 10!

Where did that decade go?

I know: nappies, sleepless nights, mountains of washing, bottles, weaning, swimming lessons, starting school,  homework, Rainbows, endless birthday parties, riding lessons, piano lessons, choir practice, Brownies, the list goes on.

However, this weekend we celebrate 10 years of "trouble".

As usual, there is a cake.

This year daugther ordered a two tier chocolate cake, covered in chocolate ganache and decorated with hundreds of flowers (I think she's watched too much Great British Bake Off!).

Being a Working Mum, this took some organising.  So, last weekend I made the sponges (plus a dozen chocolate cupcakes which will match the main cake and can be taken away by her friends after the party) and froze them.

Every evening this week I have been making hundreds of flowers and leaves to decorate the cake (despite working yet another Parents' Evening on Wednesday).

On Thursday I made the butter cream for the filling.

Tonight I made the ganache, assembled the cake and decorated the cupcakes.

Et voila!

A cake fit for a 10 year old!

Thursday, 24 April 2014


At Easter we managed to book a few days in a Milennium Hotel near Windsor and, armed with Tesco vouchers for Legoland and various restaurants, we set off.

On the way we made good use of our National Trust Membership and the good weather and had a picnic at Cliveden.  The weather was lovely so we sat by the Thames for a bit while daughter made daisy chains:

The next day we ventured into Legoland.  Daughter loved it, but let me tell you, 75 mins is too long to wait for a 5 minute ride.  Multiply it by 6 and that was our day at Legoland.  At least the weather was great again and daughter got to play in the water area:

(she's in there somewhere!)

I loved the things made of lego all over the place, lego just makes me smile:

In the end it was just a theme park (and Disney do it so much better), but for free with Tesco vouchers it was worth taking daughter.

The next day was Windsor Castle:

I hadn't been since I was 11 so I was looking forward to seeing it again.  The State Apartments were magnificent and St George's Chapel was still impressive (the warden even unlocked the Queen's quire seat and let daughter sit where the Queen sits, which made a great impression on her!)  Daughter found it quite interesting and was relating parts of it to a BBC4 series we had watched together recently on the Plantagenets (and, of course, Horrible Histories).

We were lucky enough to be walking along the road when it was the changing of the guard:

We were hoping to see the Queen (she was staying there at the time) but she didn't make an appearance.

Maybe next time!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Manchester Chorale - keeping Working Mum sane

As I say in my side bar, the Manchester Chorale keeps me sane and that's been so true these last few months.  Singing and being with friends doing something positive and collaborative has been a lifeline.

We performed some lovely concerts last term, all quite different, but enjoyable.

We sang a pretty challenging programme in Oldham in a charity concert for a local hospice, then we sang in an Organ Gala at the Bridgewater Hall which only involved our singing three pieces, so we were able to listen to the organ and the orchestra for the rest of the time, then we did an intimate concert (that's code for "small audience"), again for a local charity, in Didsbury.  All very enjoyable.

This term sounds like it will be even better; we've a concert in Cawthorne, Yorkshire in June, then we're doing one of the "Music for a Summer Evening" Concerts in Hawkshead in the Lake District in July and finally, a concert in Manchester before we break up for summer.

Next term we've been asked to sing in one of the Celebration of Karl Jenkins' 70th Birthday Concerts at the Bridgewater Hall.  This is the third time we'll have worked with Karl Jenkins in three years, so I guess he must like us.  We've also a variety of Christmas concerts lined up including two more appearances at the Bridgewater Hall.  Lots to look forward to.

There's a real eclectic mix of music in our repertoire at the moment (from Taverner and Whitacre to Cole Porter) and one I'm really enjoying singing is this one:

I sing the part of the woman on the far left, but in English, not Swedish!

Listen and see what you think!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Back to Blogging

Where have I been since Christmas?

Well, I've had a pretty rubbish term on one front and another so I didn't feel like blogging about it.

In a nutshell: hubby is working ridiculous hours in his new role, he's exhausted and we've hardly seen each other, work has been stressful to say the least and my parents are driving me up the wall.

By the end of March I was not coping and I could feel myself starting to think irrationally.

Something had to be done.

It was medication, resignation or meditation.

I opted for the latter.

Luckily, the Easter holiday came along, hubby and I managed to have a few days off together and he booked us into a hotel in Windsor to take daughter to Legoland and visit Windsor Castle. (More later)

With the recent sunshine I've been out gardening which has made me feel better (and made the garden look better) and I'm thinking of trying yoga to bring some perspective and balance back into my life.

I think it's time to blog again, focus on the positives and find the funny side of things.

Working Mum is back!