Friday, 29 February 2008

Honey honey

This morning after preparing toast for the children, my attention turned to the honey.

Yesterday it was apparent that the clear, runny honey wasn't anymore; it wasn't clear or runny.

The child-friendly container that enabled squeezy dispensing was rendered redundant.

Yesterday I boiled a jug full of water and allowed the honey to sit there until, finally, some semblance of liquidity returned. Today that level of patience deserted me.

I decided that microwaves were invented for such a purpose. Microwaves, on the whole, frighten me. I don't understand them. Well I understand how they work but judging exactly what power level and time to use is still an art that is beyond me (excepting heating a mug of coffee that has been left to get cold as I do that numerous times a day).

So I reduced the power level and opted for a minute. As usual I was doing several other things while the microwave was whirring and I only gave it some attention when it beeped at me.

I opened the door to success and failure. The honey had melted - success But so had the child-friendly container which wasn't even adult-friendly anymore - failure.


Thursday, 28 February 2008

I won't tell you

I watched a show today in which someone wanted to learn the finer points of childbirth.

She was finding it difficult to get any women to divulge the exact details of the birth. There's a good reason for this - species survival.

The human race would not last very long if every woman was fully informed about childbirth before falling pregnant. Many women might actually be prepared to share the information but something funny happens to women after baby makes an appearance; they lose the ability to recall details of the event.

Anyway the show was actually the best guide to childbirth I've seen and I've attended quite a few ante natal classes in my time. It was called Dawn gets a Baby and it's still available to watch both on BBC Three and on the BBC iPlayer.

Promise me though you'll only watch it if you've had a baby.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The end is nigh

I know it's inevitable. Ethan will start school in September.

This means that in the autumn I won't have my precious Thursdays and Fridays when, for most of the day, it's just the two of us.

I know this marks the end of a stage of my life and I don't want it to end. It makes me sad to think we only have a few months left.

I will lose the time gradually because, for his first term at school, he'll do afternoons only but in January that's it; full time school.

If I spend too much time thinking about it I become quite morose and I have been thinking about it quite a bit. So if I look glum, this may be the reason.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The drugs do work

OK, I know everyone and their dog today has been reporting the fact that the drugs don't work, but they're wrong.

Prozac or, to give it the name that is likely to be on the packaging when you pick up your prescription, fluoxetine, does work.

Patients given this drug do see an improvement in their symptoms of depression and, for many, it is a helpful stepping stone out of depression.

The headlines should not be "Prozac doesn't work" but more "Placebos do work." Amazingly a little sugar pill will work just as effectively to cure depression as most cases.

I've used Prozac. Despite the reports today I still believe that Prozac helped me. I think placebos may also have helped me but I believe Prozac would have proved more effective in my case.

I believe my depression was caused by a sudden hormonal change. I think I suffered a severe drop in oxytocin. Oxytocin can be described as the love hormone and it generates a feeling of well-being. If one imagines being on this "drug" for over a year, then sudden withdrawal could have a negative effect on mood, especially if this coincided with a stressful life.

Taking a mood enhancing drug until I felt I was back in control of my life helped me. I reached a point where I felt I didn't need the drug anymore.

It could be that I needed a prop. Maybe a placebo could have been the crutch that I needed. I think a placebo would have done half the job, but Prozac did the extra half that made my recovery that much more effective. But maybe that's the thing. And to test whether a placebo would have been fully effective for me, we'd have to wind the clock back a few years and take me to a place I'd rather not revisit.

I'll stick with the little green pills thank you.

Monday, 25 February 2008

I blame my boss

My boss went to work in South Africa.

Within a couple of months South Africa decided to resume elephant culling.

I don't know the rights or wrongs of the controversy. But it just seems wrong.

It makes me sad to think about it.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Kids are easy

We did it. Our mad day worked as planned. Well sort of.

London Underground decided that today was the day for engineering work which covered a section of the Central line which was central to our plans.

My plan for getting from Waterloo or Westminster to the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green and then on to Stratford was quite simple; Jubilee to Stratford, Central to Bethnal Green tube, Central to Stratford.

Instead we chose the number 11 from Downing Street to Liverpool Street, One Metro to Bethnal Green rail, Shank's Pony to the museum, number 8 to Liverpool Street and then One Railway to Stratford.

Anyway transport played a key part in the day's activities. All of which explains Ethan's response when asked "What was the best part of your day?". "Travelling on the train" he replied with a satisfied smile.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Competitive parenting

Dave's gone skiing and the children are less than impressed. I've commenced the competitive parenting.

This morning there was little opportunity to fit in anything bar the normal Saturday morning activities. I did squeeze in the purchase of three pairs of children's footwear and a cafe stop with wonderful ice cream for the children.

Lunch was "DIY sandwich" which is messy but fun and this afternoon we went swimming. This is something we rarely do together but we always think is a good idea. The icing on the cake - crisps from the vending machine afterwards.

Tomorrow the children and I are off in to London, or that's the current plan. Hannah wants to go the the Florence Nightingale museum near Waterloo (whatever floats your boat) and I thought we could fit in a trip to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green too.

All of this means I'm exhausted. As well as today's activities I bought an ironing board (carrying that through the High Street was a challenge), bought an excellent Father's Day present, batch cooked a beef casserole and cleared all of the current ironing in the house as well as completing four loads in the washing machine. I think I'll be in bed at the same time as the children tomorrow night.

At least the children will have more fun without their Dad than with their Dad. That'll teach him (to bugger off and leave me for five days to cope on my own).

Friday, 22 February 2008

Obama Clinton

I thought Obama had it in the bag...but I chose him as my character in this game and he kept losing the election.

Click vote to start playing and then use your mouse aggressively to win (or in my case lose). is great for entertaining kids and isn't bad at entertaining adults too. Slight advert intrusion but not intolerable.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

I am mad

This evening my brother is arriving from Devon.

Tomorrow morning while he deals with the school run I'll exchange his car (involving a return trip to Dagenham for me).

When I get home, he drives back to Devon and I take Ethan swimming.

Then I prepare lunch for friends and their children at our house and tidy up.

Then I collect Hannah from school.

Then a friend will drop her children round for a sleepover.

Tescos will be delivering at the same time as the children will be eating tea which gives me a handy window of opportunity to put the shopping away.
Then Dave arrives home and starts packing for his ski trip while I entertain four exciteable children who will want to go to bed late.
I'll put the children to bed and do the washing up and the tidying up.
Tomorrow morning Dave will leave the house at 5am. Just after I've drifted back to sleep I'll get four children up and wash, dress and feed them breakfast.
I'll wash up and tidy up.
I'll bundle them all in the car to enable me to take Hannah to gymnastics. (I might skip this step.)
I'll take the remaining three children somewhere for 30 minutes before they get back in the car to collect Hannah from gymnastics.
Then I'll take them back to the house and keep them occupied while preparing their lunch.
Blah, blah, blah, etc. etc. etc..
It's all physically possible. It will all be OK. I'm just wondering when I'll get to play with Facebook.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Picture this

Like most of the population, we have, and use, a digital camera.

That's not strictly accurate. We have three digital cameras. As to "our" usage of the one camera that sees the most clicking, it's a bit one-sided - the usage that is, not the camera.

As I'm the handbag carrying member of the family, the camera usually travels with me. This means that I'm the one that takes most of the pictures. This means that it's Dave and the children that are usually the subject of photographs.

Hannah and I had a conversation while we were away in Madeira. I explained that when she's a lot older looking back on photos of her childhood they won't provide a complete picture. Her mum will be missing.

I hate photos of myself, so having none at the moment isn't a big deal. In 20 years time though, I think I'll mind a lot.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Live long and prosper

Horizon tonight investigated longevity within three communities with examples of life spans that exceed the norm.

So what's the secret?
  • In the first community it's healthy eating, a lot of tofu in the diet, deliberate partial starving of the body, community based activity and having the belief that everything will work out OK.
  • In the second it appears that marrying one's relatives is the key.
  • The third relies on religion to provide a stress free life where a tight-knit community supports its members.
Oh dear.
  • I don't eat tofu at all and my diet is not very healthy (not quite Glasgow levels though).
  • I didn't marry a brother or cousin or even someone from the community in which I was born or grew up.
  • I am an athiest; not even agnostic, but a card carrying athiest.
I wonder what I should consider my life expectancy to be?

Monday, 18 February 2008

Cardus corner

A long while ago (about ten years) I worked in Product Development on the development of the Ford Transit with a team based in Dearborn, Michigan.

One of my responsibilities was to be a member of the Drive Team. This group represented the customer and our job was to drive product and appraise it as a customer would. Some of the driving was done on roads and some was done on proving grounds (private tracks).

One of the friends I met while working on the project sent me this e-mail today:

I was in Dearbon a couple of weeks ago……

I had reason to go to Michigan Proving Grounds for a drive and on the precision steering route, the guy who was driving referred to something called 'Cardus Corner'.

I pi55ed myself laughing and asked him what that was (like I didn't know!). And he said it was a corner where 'some girl once crashed' but he didn't know who you were or what vehicle it was or when it was…

I think it's great that you actually have your own corner but no-one knows why…….

I wouldn't have called it a crash...more of a crash barrier nudge. And is it sad that I'm quite proud that some corner of an American proving ground bears my name, informally at least?

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Domestically dreaming

We had a date today. Maybe that's over-calling it. We had arranged to meet friends for a walk in the park followed by lunch at their place. It was sort of a reciprocal thing as we'd hosted the same thing a few weeks ago.

I don't want you to think we're talking about high cuisine; we're not. Jacket spuds though are the perfect warming food following a walk in the countryside. Nonetheless it seemed appropriate to take an offering to add to the meal.

Yesterday evening I started to think about this. I thought I could bake something this morning. I reasoned that we didn't have to leave the house until about ten fifteen which would give me plenty of time.

I have a muffin recipe book which produces excellent results but I can appear to be a one trick pony by churning these out whenever something is required. And muffins are OK, but sometimes a cake is nicer.

A friend has recommended a chocolate brownie recipe but I've not tried the recipe myself. (If I do I'll happily share.) So I decided that a chocolate cake would be just lovely (and feasible).

I woke up soon after nine o'clock. There was a mad part of me that still considered baking something but my attention soon turned to finding the time for a speedy diversion to Sainsbury en route to pick up something suitable.

For reference, Gu do a good line in brownies.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Buy now while stocks last

I had mentioned we'd bought some luggage. Well judging from the reaction it received on our little trip...if you want some, I'd say "buy now while stocks last."

The kids still love their Trunki's but so, it seems, does everyone else. The kids rode on them, were pulled along on them, towed them and sat on them.

Our Portuguese bus driver wanted to know where we'd got them. Other people mentioned they'd seen them on Dragon's Den just recently. For others they were just so taken by the idea, and the fun they provided, that it was a conversation starter. They certainly generated more smiles than I can recall.

Who'd have thought a piece of luggage could still elicit excitement from a child who'd endured a three hour plus flight and had just arrived into Gatwick past midnight. In this particular instance it was rolling downhill that generated giggles aplenty.

I wonder if they still need investors.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Can I recommend?

I know I'm on holiday and I should be staying away from technology and relaxing...blah, blah, blah. But you know what I'm like and I didn't talk to you yesterday (more down to circumstance and opportunity than anything else) so here I am.

The weather in Madeira is notoriously changeable. (To avoid confusion I should explain I'm in Madeira.) I looked out this morning to see a chink of light under a heavy blanket of cloud in the distance. The next time I looked out I couldn't see anything because I was in the cloud. Well it might have been rain. I'm never sure how one knows.

We took a pre-booked bus cursing our poor timing, arranging an excursion to travel on a cable car when the weather was so awful. We were dropped off in Funchal harbour and walked, in the rain, towards the cable car. We dragged our feet and diverted via the old town to avoid the inevitable trip up in altitude which we were sure would be enveloped by cloud.

We were very wrong. The sun came out and the cloud retreated.

My lunch at the top was an amazing chicken soup (bones and all) and we followed it up with a trip to Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

OK, I know the botanical gardens are better known but this place was fantastic. An unexpected little treasure.

The rain did catch up with us but only as we were making our way back to the cable car and when we reached the seafront we were bathed in sunshine once more, and the sun only left us when it dropped below the horizon.

Monday, 11 February 2008


I'm on holiday.

Did you catch that?

I'm on holiday!

Did you hear what I'm saying?



Sunday, 10 February 2008

Harbouring the enemy

After our walk in the park and ladybird encounter I did a little bit of ladybird research.

I read about the Harlequin ladybird, the most invasive ladybird on Earth. Not long after finding out about this evil little Harmonia axyridis, which isn't actually little at all, I find I am harbouring this enemy of our native ladybirds.

Our bathroom seems to be the perfect hideout. Here they are:

And it seems our house is almost at the epicentre of this destructive beast's attack as illustrated by this map of sightings.

I know I should kill the wee beasties but I can't. Any volunteers?
If you want to report these evil little critters to the appropriate authorities, then you here.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Size matters

I had an embarassing incident at work this week. I know you're thinking "but surely everyday must be embarassing"

Just after a (very informal) meeting this week I was asked by a manager (not mine) if I'd had a boob job. A fairly unconventional question and very un-work-related.

For the record, my answer was "No!"

But this did prompt me today to go and have a bra fitting session with the ever reliable, ever British, Marks and Spencer.

You see I'd always considered myself to be average boob-wise. And actually if one were to compare my bra size with the average British female bra size then I would be right. But I have something in common with the average British female - I'm wearing the wrong size of bra.

Having been measured today I will be searching for a different size the next time I'm purchasing lingerie.

Friday, 8 February 2008

The future is orange

A couple of years ago I used a product P20 for protection from the sun. It's a strange product that is applied once at the beginning of the day and doesn't need reapplying. It smells funny, feels funny and stains clothes, but apart from that it works quite well.

One day I was feeling a bit pale. I'd applied P20 and spent some time in the sun but was still my usual pasty white. I decided I needed browner legs so I applied some moisturiser with a built-in self tan. As with most self tans it took a while to 'develop'. By the time I reached my friend's house I had orange legs. I'd used P20 before and it hadn't resulted in orange legs. I'd used this self tan before and it hadn't resulted in orange legs. It was the combination of the two that had this undesirable result. (And if anyone needs to know - baby wipes, vigorously applied, are very good if ever one needs to remedy this situation and avoid further embarassment.)

Last week I was looking pale and very uninteresting. I often use a tinted moisturiser (instead of foundation) but this particular morning I needed more colour. I grabbed another brand of tinted moisturiser that I hadn't used for a while and pepped up my complexion. During the school run one of the mums remarked "you look healthy." After a bit of a friendly exchange about self tan and tinted moisturisers she said I looked glowing and I said "you mean orange?" and she smiled a knowing smile.

For a long time Tracey has been telling me I should colour my hair. My natural hair colour is dull and drab and I resort a hairdresser's chemicals to give me a bit of a lift. This takes ages and I don't have the time to waste a hairdresser. Yesterday I took the plunge and coloured my hair myself. I looked in the mirror and my face fell. My hair had turned old lady orange. I texted Tracey and she gave me a strategy.

I did nothing and faced the school run, and nobody noticed a thing.

I picked Hannah up and Dave came home and, even with prompting, they noticed nothing.

I saw friends the next morning and they noticed nothing.

The future is bright.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Am I weird?

I was told last week that I'm uber-organised. I disagreed, or agreed to the extent that the areas of my life that are organised are through necessity.

I cook in bulk and freeze. How else do I have a meal ready prepared so that when I walk in through the door at 6:00pm there's something for Hannah to eat? My solution is simple...a meal extracted from the freezer in the morning and put in a timer set oven.

I file, alphabetically in an expanding file, some of the brochures and catalogues that come through the door. Well before I did that they just ended up in different places all over the house and I could never find what I wanted. Plus if I threw them all away I could never remember which company was selling what. What do other people do? Admittedly I hardly ever buy anything this way but that's not the point.

I label the kids toy storage. OK hands up that's sad, but that has nothing to do with being organised. I wanted a label maker for ages and one day I cracked and bought one and just labelled the whole house. :-)

We have box files that are labelled Ann's Essential Docs, Dave's Essential Docs, Kids Essential Docs. Where else would one store birth certificates, wedding certificates, passports, driving licence?

Do you see what I'm saying? I'm not weird am I?

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Unexpected benefits

I had a meeting today with someone who wanted an update on a particular aspect of my current project.

I think they came to the meeting with the view that we would have paid lip service to their area of interest. When they left there were phrases such as "centre of excellence", "example to other areas" and "we should tell people about this in our advertising." In case you're unsure about how to interpret this reaction, it was exceptionally positive.

I'd love to take the credit but actually it's all down to the hard work of other folk on the team. Anyway, all of this doesn't explain the unexpected benefits.

We had been having problems on another part of the project, problems that are now partly resolved but we're still reeling from the impact. We were experiencing a blockage (sounds very gastro I know, sorry) and there didn't seem to be very effective lines of communication.

I think this communication blockage may just have cleared. The gentleman who was so impressed by our efforts has a personal reason to be interested in our work. He also happens to be the perfect contact to resolve these issues. He is the ideal project laxative, in the nicest possible way.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Oh botheration!

It's Shrove Tuesday. Pancake Day. It's the start of Lent.

I don't normally give anything up for Lent and I don't intend to this year either.

But I was wondering whether I ought to try something and I decided on swearing.

I cannot promise not to swear but I will try to refrain, for Lent.

I'm not perfect and, about five minutes after deciding this was my plan, Dave annoyed me and I swore. Admittedly under my breath, but it still counts. So, this is an attempt to modify behaviour, not a promise of abstinence.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Perception and reality

You know I've had my fair share of car issues.

Well Dave has just picked up his new car - a Freelander. And I love it.

I know it's environmentally irresponsible, I know it's bigger than we need but actually, that's where I'm wrong. Well environmentally maybe it is a bit naughty, but from a size perspective it's tiny.

Yes it's tall and yes it looks big but, open the boot and ... it's tiny. If we go away for the weekend or on a driving holiday anywhere then the Mondeo will win everytime.

But it just goes to show that perception has nothing to do with reality. Stowable luggage for the Mondeo is 528 litres, for the Freelander is 755 litres.

So why does the Freelander seem so small? I think it's because the volume of luggage measured in the Freelander includes space up to the roof. In reality one is unlikely to use all of this space. There's nothing to stop items moving forward into the passenger area so luggage is likely to be stacked to head restraint height and no higher.

With the Mondeo, on the other hand, one has a boot that one can stuff and stuff and stuff and the luggage will easily use all of the available space plus there's the squish factor. The hatchback boot lands on top of the luggage and will push down what lies beneath.

So maybe perception is reality after all.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

A voyage of discovery

OK, it's probably an overstatement to call it a voyage of discovery given that it was just a walk in the park but I did learn a couple of things.

Firstly I saw these, which are orange ladybirds with 16 cream coloured spots (latin name Halyzia 16-guttata). I don't think I've seen them before, and if I have I've never seen so many in one place.

And secondly I found goats. I had known there were goats kept in the park because I remember seeing the hoohar in the local paper about where they should be kept. I think they're Cheviot goats. My quick Google results indicate a small number were donated in 2000 by the Parish of Lynton and Lynmouth. The trouble is they seem to have donated four females and two female kids. The lack of males makes it difficult to explain why there were 20 plus there today. Maybe they joined an existing trip of Cheviot or other goats. Anyway they seemed to be quite impressive beasts.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Driving me mad

This morning Dave took Hannah to gymnastics and then went on to Sainsbury with Ethan in tow. The idea was that I would collect Hannah unless Dave called to say he'd finished shopping in time for him to get there.

Once Dave left the house I had an hour to tidy and clean the house and get myself ready to leave the house. I wiped things down, cleaned things out, washed up, sorted, ironed, arranged, and, with five minutes before I needed to leave the house, contemplated how quickly I can slap on some make-up, fix my hair and get dressed.

With perfect timing I got into the car and pressed the power button.

The engine turned over slowly. I tried again, and again, and again until the engine didn't bat a headlamp and had the nerve to advise me that it was immobilised. Well, frankly, that was obvious. The bloody thing wasn't going anywhere.

The words of Essex Ford were ringing in my ear from when the car had been returned to me the last time I'd booked it in after a flat battery incident - "No fault found."

My mind was racing. In nine minutes time Hannah would be expecting a parent to collect her, and I was that parent.

I phoned Dave. I phoned Dave again, and again and again. My first message explained the situation and told him he needed to go and get Hannah and if he was in the middle of Sainsbury I'd walk up to the store and find the trolley. My second message said something like "AND TURN YOUR PHONE ON!" Not that I was at all stressed.

Realising telephony wasn't going to help me, I started running. I needed to find Dave so he could get in his car to fetch Hannah. I called the gymnastics coach and explained we'd be late.

As I walked into Sainsbury I spotted Dave who had just cleared the checkout with Ethan in tow. We swapped. I took Ethan to the cafe to wait and Dave rushed to collect Hannah.

Later that day after we'd jump started the offending motor Dave mentioned he thought the power steering was sounding dodgy again too. When I arrived at Service Reception I think my exact words were "The biggest bag of crap is outside parked in an MOT bay."

Friday, 1 February 2008

How does he do it?

Everytime I see Derren Brown I am amazed. I mean I know he explains how he does stuff but I'm always one of the idiots that's there thinking "How does he do that?"

If there's anyone out there that fancies going to see him live then I am up for this experience this year.

I had planned to see him this year but it just didn't happen. I don't want to miss it again.