Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Just my imagination

A lot of people ask me what I think my son will do when he graduates from university.  I mean, what do you do with a degree in Politics?  He has no aspirations to be Prime Minister nor any position in local government.  He was hoping to go on to do a PGCE and become a secondary school teacher but budget cuts at his university of choice means that it looks as if they do not have the funding to run the particular course he wanted.  Personally, I can see him going into journalism, he has a very expressive way of writing, is passionate about things that interest him and has always had a wide vocabulary, even making up words of his own.

I like to take some credit for his imagination.  When I was little, I had a friend who lived in the Wendy house at the bottom of the garden.  Her name was Zolly Watson.  Where on earth did I come up with that name?  I knew no one with the surname Watson and I don’t think anyone has ever been baptised ‘Zolly’!  But although no one else could see Zolly (which I always thought was a bit strange because she was very real to me) I loved spending time with her.  I would sneak food and drink down there to share with her – she was a particular fan of Lucozade which we drank from the little plastic cups.  The weird thing was, we went on holiday to Cornwall one summer and when we came back, Zolly had gone.  I wasn’t sad, after all, I was now at school and had other friends to share my time with. 

But when did my son start on the imagination path?  Our first sign was when he was about two.  He used to share bathtime with his sister, it wasn’t any less messy but it was quicker.  He wasn’t able to pronounce her name at this time, but he heard people refer to her as his sister so ‘Sissy’ she became.  One day he was out the bath first, wrapped in his towel, and we pulled the plug so the water could drain which hopefully would get his sister out too, she was always reluctant to start the bedtime procedure and as long as she was in the bath, she wasn’t close to going in the bed!  Suddenly, we heard shouting ‘Get out Sissy – Get OUT!!!’  The little bundle of towel covered toddler was jumping up and down and getting himself in a right state.  ‘GET OUT!’ as he pointed to the water which was going down the plughole.  ‘Whatever is the matter?’ we asked – to which he replied ‘MAGAMALLY is down there!’  Who or what was Magamally we never found out but he clearly thought the noise from the drain was some kind of monster.

Fast forward to when the kids were about this size

img010We’re on holiday and on the beach in Mallorca.  The little cutie on the left is busy digging a hole to make a car out of sand, and constructing a wonderful array of sandcastles around it.  ‘Sissy’ has now developed into ‘Atchel’ and she is having a lovely time, dancing in and out of the sea, jumping waves and doing handstands at the waters edge.  She notices her brother absorbed in his construction, she skips across the sand to where we are – and pirouettes her way through all her brother’s hard work.  He was incensed.  He was very cross.  He was speechless with anger. ‘You … you …. you … IMBEGUNIOR BOO BOO’ he yelled at the top of his voice. 

This was the same holiday where on a more peaceful afternoon at the beach, they were playing beautifully together, mixing up sand and sea water into ‘ice creams’ that they were serving in little paper cups.  Ordinary flavours were soon discarded as they made up new concoctions of their own ‘I think I’ll have a fish finger and ketchup one please’ and ‘have you got any bolognese flavour left?’ but after a while of mixing and serving and careful contemplation, our son decided that his absolute favourite was ‘Malinger Malanger’. 

So if he does go into journalism, I just hope he has a good spell checker on his computer!

Monday, 28 March 2011

The times they are a'changin

It's all a bit odd over here in Deb's World.  I feel like a whirlwind is blowing through our lives, sucking us up and throwing us back out again, shaken and a bit bemused.  Shimelle's prompt today was about documenting journeys or projects and we are definitely about to start on different paths in our household.
I'll get the bad stuff out the way first and say that after about 5 years of uncertainty and false alarms, my husband will no longer have a job after Friday.  April Fools Day - is that an omen do you think?!  He's survived 2 bouts of redundancies and last time they made a new position in order to keep him on but that comes to an end on Friday.  He's been with the same company for about 25 years so it will be very strange.  Whilst obviously he needs to seek employment elsewhere, we have decided that he needs to take some time out to regroup his thoughts and decide what to do next.  Too young for retirement, but he's had 30+ years of commuting into London and ideally he needs to find something closer to home.  He's a Chartered Building Surveyor but he's seriously thinking of changing direction totally if he can.  So another chapter begins.
The other big change is that our daughter is moving out to share a flat with her boyfriend.  She's lived away from home before - three years at university - but that seemed different as we knew she would be coming back.  Whilst we are obviously thrilled that she has found someone to share her life with, it seems very strange to think of her setting up home.  It's still local, which is nice and at 24 it really is time for this particular chick to leave the nest.  And then just as we get used to it being just the two of us rattling around the place, it will be time for our son to return from Uni ....
 You know the old saying 'The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change'?  Certainly seems to be true around here!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

B&W - Something old and something new(ish)

Something a bit different for the black and white page of my blog this week:

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Same old, same old

Today's prompt from Shimelle was to blog about something mundane and ordinary and I must admit I'm struggling to think of what to write about.  I've been at work all day today, I'm a secretary in a school and my duties are many and varied.  Schools run very much on a termly basis and the jobs I do in the Autumn term are very different to the Summer etc etc.  I work mostly in the main school office but do 7 hours a week with the Exams Officer.  Needless to say, the pressure of work in that office will be rising in the next few months as we prepare for GCSE, AS and A levels!
But today I was in the front office and one of my main jobs for this term is helping to organise work experience for our Year 10 girls.  Some schools outsource this job to agencies who get various placements and then they try and match a child to a job but we do the organising ourselves and pride ourselves in the personal touch trying very hard to make sure that the girls get to do work experience in a place that is their first choice wherever possible.  We have 160 girls in the year group and that's a lot of work placements!  Our girls have varied interests and some are more challenging to arrange than others.  There seem to be trends in interests, this year we had about 10 girls wanting to work in a bridal shop.  Bearing in mind there are only two shops selling wedding dresses in our town, you can imagine that this has posed a few problems!  Another popular area is always working with animals and while there are more opportunities in this area we do struggle.  Lots of horse riding stables around here, no problem there.  A few vets who are happy to take our A* science girls - sorted.  We did have a little 'blip' a few years ago when an animal rescue centre that had always taken at least two girls suddenly became involved in a scheme that helped young offenders do community service.  We had to ring the parents of the girls going there to forewarn them that they would be mixing with people who were repaying their debt to society!
Today we placed a girl who was interested in missile technology at a laboratory and we wondered how our troops would feel if there were a sign on one of the weapons saying 'made by a 14 year old student on work experience'! 
To be honest, the more tricky the request, the more satisfaction in getting it sorted.  Who'd have thought that we would have a girl interested in learning how to make violins? More to the point, who'd have thought there was a violin making company within 15 miles of school?  We have a couple of girls interested in photography going to an ethical modelling agency who deal only with 'normal' sized girls, no size zero there!  A girl who loves acting and was interested in working with disabled children - turns out we have a drama group in town who specialise in drama workshops with Down's Syndrome children. 
We sometimes have to be imaginative in thinking outside the box.  We had a girl whose first choice was proving to be impossible to organise but we noticed from her outside interests that she was a keen member of a brass band.  The Royal Artillery Band have a work experience programme that is residential in London and we offered her that - she had a brilliant week.
So if you have a teenage child, and if it's coming up for Work Experience time, please, please give a moment's thought to the lady in the office who may have to beg on their behalf to get a placement for them!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Raindrops on roses ....

... whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens ....  Sorry Julie Andrews but none of these are my favourite things!  So today's prompt from Shimelle suggested doing a list of 'things' and so on a whim, I shall share a few of the things that make me smile: {all photos except the last courtesy of Google images}
Chocolate!
Especially chocolate from Hotel Chocolat .  It's expensive but sooooooo worth the money.  This is real special occasion chocolate and I cannot walk past their shops without visiting as they are usually handing out samples of their latest ranges ... yum!

So sit me down on a sofa with a box of gorgeous chocolates, turn on the tv and let me watch Grey's Anatomy.  One of my all time favourite series,  I love, love, love it!
We all need a little sunshine in our lives and gerberas are just the most sunshiney flowers going, their lovely bright colours guarantee to put a smile on your face.
but if you want to feel real sunshine on your face, hop on a plane to Faro, drive 45 mins down the motorway to Praia da Luz  in the Algarve, Portugal.  Such a lovely place, and I am so lucky because my sister has a holiday home there so we usually manage to get over there every year. 

It may seem odd to have Facebook under my favourites but is such a good way to keep tabs on keep in contact with my son while he's at uni.  He's one of those who updates his status on a regular basis so I love it when I log on in the morning and see what he's changed it to that day.  I can also almost guarantee a reply to a message on Facebook whereas text messages often get forgotten!
So 'when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad - I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don't feel so bad'!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Publicity

Today Shimelle has drawn our attention to how public our blogs are.  When I started my blog, I was really of the opinion that it was just something for me to do, I mean, come on, who was going to be interested in reading my ramblings?  It was just something I set up because I had to have a blog in order to take part in an online class.  But then I noticed people were commenting on my blog, just as I commented on theirs and as the time has passed I have met so many fabulous people that I really do consider to be friends.  This weekend's webcam chat proved how far blog friendships can develop!
I work in a secondary school and our girls are taught right from Year 7 that you need to be very careful on the Internet.  There are people out there pretending to be someone they aren't and there are people out there waiting to discover enough about you to use it to their advantage.  Staff are warned of the dangers of putting too much out there into the ether and we are certainly warned about the dangers of befriending students on Facebook or posting anything personal on there that a student may discover.  So I am well aware of not divulging too much whilst still sharing little bits of my life.  My children are all grown up now so if I post a photo of them on here, it is certainly no worse than they post themselves on Facebook!  But I think if they were younger I would be a little more cautious about what I published.
I like the idea of hidden journalling on pages so you can show the photo but keep the story behind it safe for your eyes only, by way of a tag slipped behind a photo or leaving the photo 'hinged' so you can lift it like a flap and have the story behind.  There are some photos that I have that I would like to make into a layout but they hold bittersweet memories and are best kept private.  I do have a photo in mind to illustrate this, and am going to use this prompt as a gentle 'nudge' in the right direction to put photo to cardstock and record the memory for posterity. Watch this space ....

 

Monday, 21 March 2011

Greetings from the igloo

Actually, I think an igloo may be warmer than my house at the moment, but the good news is that there are two men in my house with copper piping, saws, and most importantly A NEW BOILER!  It won't all be done today, but tomorrow should see us back in the land of central heating.  But I am the kind of person who tries to make a positive out of a negative so ... not being able to go into work and not being able to do housework as every room I go in, the plumber needs to be doing something in, means a perfect opportunity to get a layout done.  And that coincides nicely with the first day of Shimelle's re-run of Blogging for Scrapbookers which I intend to follow again as I enjoyed it so much last time, not to mention the lovely people I met first time around (see earlier post for more info!)
I took this photo at February's Eclectic Keepsakes' crop.  It shows my friends Denise and Jane.  These two always come up with humorous or appropriate titles on their pages and when I seem to be struggling to come up with something new and not quite so predictable, they just get on with peeling off alphabet stickers and producing something lovely.  Well ladies, I am about to reveal the explanation for this ... they both have a book of word combinations, quotes and comments for just about every situation you may wish to make a layout on.  I discovered this while bemoaning to Denise that I just couldn't think of a good title for my page and she had just come up with something perfect {so perfect I couldn't 'borrow' it without it being obviously copied}. While she sheepishly said that she had a dictionary type book of quotes, I noticed Jane riffling through her bag and lo and behold - she produced exactly the same book!  It had to become a layout didn't it?

Girls on Film

I know I won’t be the only one to post a picture like this in the next day or so

web cam

The lovely Deb over at Paper Turtle organised for a group of us that were available at 3pm GMT yesterday to all get together on Skype.  You can see her in top left picture with her daughter Carrie .  Next we have Ruth , then Rhona , Mel (aka Tim Hotlz greatest fan) of IspeakMelsh, Karen, and then me and Denise.  It was so great to ‘see’ everyone and chat to people who I feel as if I already know so well through their blogs. 

A big thank you to Deb for organising it and I do hope that it will not be a one off and that we may get together again in the near future – I’ve even already ordered my own webcam so I don’t have to muscle in on Denise’s space next time!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Black and White

I've been a bit absent with blog posting and blog watching this week; the absence of heating in the house has meant that we are trying to use as few rooms in the house as possible and the study (where the computer is) isn't one of them!  Yesterday was a glorious day and in fact it was warmer outside than it was in the house so the husband and I went for a nice long walk.  We passed this house on our travels and I thought it may make a good black and white picture for this week. However, I didn't have my camera with me and I had to take it on my phone, email it to myself and then do a save-as on the computer.  My excuse for the quality being poor ;-)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Doing something funny ....

... for money
Today is Red Nose Day in England (aka Comic Relief)  Working in a school, this means that we have a non-uniform day and everyone donates £1 to the charity to either wear their own clothes to school or wear fancy dress.  One of my crazy colleagues decided it would be fun for all the secretaries to dress in black and wear red tutus and deeley boppers.  We kind of looked like mad ladybirds from a distance!  So may I introduce you to the silly secretaries of a certain secondary school in Hertfordshire (and a random drama teacher, see if you can spot her ....)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Sweet surprises

 Although I'm not Irish, nor do I have any Irish blood in me, (although I did go to Dublin for the weekend once) I thought I would wish you a Happy St Patrick's Day!  Bear with me, there is another Irish connection to finish this post ....

Today I was really looking forward to going into work.  Even left home early to get there as soon as I could.  Now this doesn't happen too often and it's not as if I had anything particularly exciting to do when I got there.  The big attraction was - warmth.  Warm air.  The ability to sit in a room in only one layer of clothing.  Because we certainly can't do that at home.  Yesterday I went into the utility room to find that there was a steady stream of water flowing down the side of our boiler.  Now I don't know too much about central heating equipment but the thought of water mixing with gas and electricity was enough to send me into 'headless chicken' mode.  I turned off the boiler at the controls in the kitchen and then rang the plumber.  He could come and turn off the water but didn't 'do' boilers.  I rang the guy who services the boiler.  He services them but doesn't fit them.  Husband is in the car half way to London and he never has his phone switched on in the car.  The plumber gave me a number of someone he knew who fitted boilers.  No reply.  The service guy gave me a number of someone else.  Answerphone.  I went back to the boiler, put buckets under it and turned off the gas, and turned off a switch that seemed to be connected to the electricity supply to it.  It felt safer!  I rang the answer phone again and managed to speak to someone who very kindly came round and made it all safe, drained down the system but now we are in the process of deciding what to replace it with.  My husband, being a surveyor by profession, insists on researching and investigating before making a decision which needless to say results in delays so goodness knows how long we will be without heat.  We have an immersion heater so hot water isn't a problem, and we have a gas fire we can put on in the lounge.  But it's cold.  Then I got to thinking that this is how I grew up.  My parents never had central heating - mum insisted it was 'unhealthy' and that fresh air was good for you .... brrrr...... We had a very warm kitchen as mum was a keen cook and we had an open fire in the lounge.  And a hot water bottle soon warmed up your bed!  Then I watched the news and thought that all those people in Japan would love just to have a roof over their head, lack of heating suddenly gets put into perspective.
But I got home from work tonight and it was COLD.  Cold and empty.  And then I found a package that the postman had put through the letter box -
A selection of St Patricks' Day goodies all the way from Sian! I am going to make a cup of tea and make a start on those Irish Oatmeal biscuits, that'll warm me up!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Black and White - Photostrip

With all the excitement of the weekend, I forgot to take a black and white photo (I knew I wouldn't keep up to date for long!)  so instead I am going to use some photos that were taken of me in one of those old fashioned photo booths that seem to be coming back into fashion now.
My mum used to love me to wear a hat in the winter time, I hope it was a fashion statement and not just because I had ginger hair .....

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Temptation

We have an increasing number of Support Staff at the school where I work and historically, everyone brought cakes in on their birthdays.  Now this came to mean that not a week went past without cakes being brought it, and on some weeks – cakes on two days running.  Not that there is a problem with that but we were having to cater for up to 20 people which is a lot of baking!  So we decided that once a half term we would get together in groups of 4 people with birthdays in the same month and all bring in something.  The idea was that a) it would be cheaper for the birthday girl and b) we wouldn’t have such expanding waistlines. 

So today was the turn on the March birthdays.  We had to get in quick as one of us observes Lent and after today won’t be eating cakes, sweets or chocolates until Easter.   We had a selection of goodies, banoffee pie, lemon cheesecake, toffee and pecan roulade, fruits of the forest cheesecake, rasperry flan, chocolate tart and muffins.  Seems we forgot to include anything healthy like fruit …  My Snicker bar muffins went down a treat so I thought I would share the recipe which is so easy and can be changed to include many different things.  Luckily I kept one muffin back at home, just for quality control purposes you know ;-) 

muffin

Basic muffin mix

140g/5oz caster sugar (or light soft brown)

250g/9oz self raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

85g/3oz butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs beaten

200ml/7fl oz milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Your choice of ‘chunks’ – see below …

Heat oven to 200/180 fan/gas 6.  Line muffin tin with 12 muffin cases

In a bowl mix dry ingredients together.  Mix butter, eggs, milk and vanilla in a jug.  Pour into dry ingredients until just combined.  Don’t over mix or muffins will be tough.  The mixture doesn’t have to be completely smooth.   Fold in ‘chunks’, about 3/4 into the mixture and then 1/4 to put on the top of the muffins.  Pour into muffin cases and back for 15 – 18 minutes until golden and firm.  DON’T OVERCOOK!

Now the ‘chunks’ can range from 150g blueberries (healthy) to 2 chopped up Snickers bars (not quite so healthy although I think the nuts are a bit of goodness) Mars bars work just as well for those of us who can’t eat nuts – just play around and if you find something yummy let me know!  I substituted soft brown sugar for caster when I did mine and that was lovely.  You can soak dried apricots in 1 tbs amaretto and use that for the chunks and sprinkle flaked almonds on top too. 

Today BT are upgrading our broadband network.  They say it will improve performance and speed.  I say it will probably never be the same again.  They say it will happen sometime before 6pm.  I say it hasn’t happened yet and there’s only an hour to go.  They say it make take a while for the ‘line to settle down’ afterwards.  ‘Your broadband might slow down or even stop now and again, that’s normal.’  I say that doesn’t sound normal at all, it sounds like they don’t expect it to work properly for a while.  Not that I don’t trust them or anything …..

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Layouts are a bit like buses …

… you wait for ages for one and then three turn up at once!

It was the Eclectic Keepsakes crop yesterday and it was a special one too, the official 1st birthday.  So not only did we have cupcakes 

Cupcake

But it wouldn’t be a birthday without birthday cake

cake Excuse the odd angle of the photo, the paparrazi were out in force and being only 5’ 1” I got pushed to the back of the crowd.  What you can’t see in this photo is the wonderful top of the cake which had the official Eclectic Keepsakes logo printed on it.

There were also presents

P1020335

Karen gave us all a little package all wrapped in tissue paper and in it was a stamp to use on anything we make at the crop.  How cute is that?!

I must have eaten and chatted less than I normally do as I managed to get three (yes you read that correctly, THREE) layouts done.  First of all one that will be used for this month’s ‘6x4 Photo Love’ over at Shimelle.com

twenty one As yesterday was my son’s real 21st birthday it seemed appropriate to use his photos for a layout made on 5th March.  It was lucky that this month’s kit from Sarah’s Cards included a key and a lock which is just made for a ‘Coming of Age’ layout isn’t it?  Papers are from the same kit and how much do I love that fabric rose ribbon?  Then, every crop has it’s sketch challenge and so for that I did this layout

daughter

By now it was lunchtime and then we had the main event…. Denise’s class!  It was a fab layout and it was amazing to see how different it looked by people using different pictures.  It really was a layout that you could adapt in so many ways.  I used colour photos but it worked really well with black and whites too and some people had used one large landscape photo instead of 2 portrait and that looked really good too.  By the end of the class I was covered in glitter from the papers but I figure that going home covered in glitter and glue is the sign of a good day scrapbooking eh?  So here is the final layout -

italy It really was a brilliant crop.  Happy 1st  Birthday Eclectic Keepsakes and may there be many more!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Distractions

Tomorrow is the March crop at Eclectic Keepsakes.   It’s going to be a good one.  For a start, Karen has promised us special goodies as it is the birthday crop.  It’s been going a year!  So I suspect that the cupcakes are going to be even more gorgeous than normal!  But it’s also going to be pretty special as my dear friend Denise is this month’s guest designer.  It’s the first time she’s done anything like this and I’m guessing she may be a little bit nervous.  She certainly won’t want any distractions by anyone turning up with a photo like this to use on their layout will she?

http://www.arbitrage.com/2009/11/moustache-monday-tom-selleck/Only joking!  I won’t be using it for my layout, but I may have a copy of it somewhere on my desk just to make her smile!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Hello March

I like March.
The nights don't get dark quite so early.
Easter is just around the corner.
My son was born in March.
It's my birthday in March as well.
Seems like Spring is not too far away.
And sometimes, the sun is shining and you see little clumps of snowdrops like this:

Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!" ~Robin Williams