Monday, 24 March 2014

The blogger's weapon of choice

'This blog isn't secret, but it doesn't need to be.  Yes, I expose a lot about me and my life here but I'm OK with that.  Typing it here takes it out of my brain where there is limited capacity.  I can store thoughts on the interweb thus expanding my brain capacity virtually.

So why do people do secret blogs?  Well there is the infamous Belle de Jour blog where the blogger had a very good reason for hiding her identity.  The Secret Footballer is by his very nature, secret.  And there was also Fleet Street Fox who is now exposed but was once a secret journalist blogging from within the industry.  I'm sure there are many whistle blowing type blogs where secrecy is essential.

I think I've found another where secrecy is optional, and lack of secrecy can be used as a weapon.

Ethan lied to me last week and told me he'd done his maths homework.  Since then he claims he lost his homework over the weekend (but he hadn't done it before he lost it).  He could have asked for another copy today at school and still had time to do the homework this evening before the deadline tomorrow.  Tonight was when he chose to tell me he'd lost the homework and I launched Operation Find Homework (which failed dismally).  We didn't find the homework but we did find lots of disorganisation, lots of mess and lots of junk.

The thing that really annoyed me, other than the complete disgrace of a messy school bag, was the stuff I'd given Ethan for the school Mothers' Day sale.  It has been carried to and from school for about a month without actually making it into school.

I honestly don't know how to improve Ethan's organisation, tidiness and memory.  I've tried a lot of things, but I now have a secret weapon - the blog.  I took embarrassing pictures of Ethan's messy life and created a blog, just for him.

If his attitude towards his life improves measurably then the blog can stay a secret.  If not then it will be published on Facebook and Twitter and his messiness will be exposed to all of his friends' mums and naturally filtered down to his friends.  I'm hoping that the threat of public humiliation might just be the turning point I've been hoping for.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

How very dare you?

We're thinking of selling the house.  Well when I say thinking I mean we might have had a casual conversation about it and the next thing I know I'm booking valuations with three estate agents.

And there's the thing, I booked the appointments.  Dave wasn't involved at all.  I might have mentioned it in passing to him after I'd booked them but it was me that sorted it.

A couple of the estate agents asked about who else lived at the property and asked for and took Dave's details.

These two estate agents confirmed the appointment in writing.  And the letters were addressed to my husband and me.

They thanked my husband and me for giving them the opportunity to provide us with an up to date valuation.  Why are they thanking my husband?  It wasn't his idea and, when booked, he knew nothing about it.

They looked forward to meeting us.  Well they'll only be meeting me because I'M THE ONE THAT MADE THE APPOINTMENT!!!

They said if we had any questions we should get in touch and they'd be happy to help.  Well I've got a question "WHY THE HELL DO YOU FEEL IT'S NECESSARY TO WRITE TO MY HUSBAND WHEN I'M YOUR CUSTOMER RIGHT NOW???"

I'm a tad annoyed.  Their copy books are already blotted and there had better be a significant improvement in attitude or they'll never see a penny of commission, if we sell, which we don't really want to.

How very dare they?

Monday, 17 March 2014

Parenting advice needed

Today was not a good day for Ethan.

On the plus side he remembered his football kit this morning.  That doesn't always happen.  He also tells me he learned something at school today.  This never happens.

The downsides started just before nine o'clock when I received a call from Sarah. (Thanks Sarah)

Apparently our garage door was open and the keys were in the lock.  The keys on the keyring could open the garage, the shed, and the back door of the house.  Sarah kindly offered to lock the garage and pop the keys through the letterbox.  (Thanks again Sarah)  

These keys were left there overnight and this morning until Sarah spotted them.  Ethan left them there.

When Ethan was in the house after school I tried to get him to think about what he might have forgotten to do.  He didn't figure it out so I told him I was disappointed with him and I explained why.  I also told him about the potential consequences of his behaviour: the shed contents could have been stolen, the garage contents could have been stolen, the house contents could have been stolen, we could have been murdered in our beds.

None of this happened.  But that isn't the point.

So after explaining what he had forgotten to do I had expected an apology.  Nothing was forthcoming.  Nothing at all, just silence.

If the worst didn't happen then was I right to be disappointed?

Then in a chance conversation with Nyree (Thanks Nyree) I discovered that parents' evening is next week.  I should have received a note asking when we would like to meet Ethan's teachers.  The note had been languishing in Ethan's school bag for a fortnight.  I was completely unaware.

The form for parents' evening was due back last Wednesday. 

I once again explained my disappointment and this time there was an apology.

These are not isolated incidents.  Ethan has history.

I need advice from more experienced parents.  What the hell should I do because I'm all out of tether?

Friday, 14 March 2014

I'm on a bus

I'm actually on a bus. And it's one of those quaint ones run by a private company outside of London. It's a very different experience to the TFL red bus experience.

To find out which buses run from one place to another use  This site also tells you when they run and which particular bus stop you need.

This bus company running the local 21 service doesn't have a website (how very retro). The franchise switched operators recently and either the new operator is SM Coaches or the new operator bought vehicles from the previous operator who was SM Coaches.

I turned up at the bus stop early so I wouldn't miss the bus. Right on cue a number 71 approached. I hesitated. From a distance a seven can look like a two without a bottom. I let it pass.

I waited. My bus was late.

I looked around the bus stop for clues that my internet research was correct. There was nothing. No timetable or any kind of bus information. It could just as easily be a resting place for a weary as it could be a bus stop, apart from the sign that said "bus stop".

Six minutes late, my bus arrived. And I found a new way to get from my house to Ongar. 

One of the reasons for taking the bus was to check the route worked, and it does. And I had a little adventure along the way.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Ann's tarty lemon tart

I've tried several recipes and this is my own recipe based on having a 25cm flan tin and needing a recipe that works for that.

Serves about eight with very generous helpings. This recipe needs a 25cm non stick flan tin with removable base.


For sweet pastry shell

  • 180g plain flour
  • 120g cold unsalted butter chopped into smallish pieces
  • 20g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg

For filling

  • 6 large eggs
  • 150ml double cream
  • 260g caster sugar
  • finely grated zest and juice of 5 medium lemons


  • Put flour and butter in a food processor and blitz until it resembles sand.
  • Add egg and blitz until the starts to come together as a dough.  Pop in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for half an hour or longer.  You can freeze the dough at this stage for use another day.  Chilling the dough makes it a little easier to handle.
  • Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured piece of baking parchment with a lightly floured rolling pin.
  • Carefully lift the pastry into the tart tin - balancing it on a rolling pin can help.  If the pastry breaks, don't worry.  You can patch any broken pieces together quite easily.
  • Make sure the pastry is gently pushed into the tart tin.  The outside of the middle section of your index finger will do this perfectly.  It needs to be pushed gently into the fluting of the tin edges. No matter how I try to do this properly this section always expands when baked resulting in thicker pastry than I'd like.  It's not a disaster but I'm not quite sure what the fix is.
  • Excess pastry hanging over the side of the tin is fine at this stage.
IMG 9430
  • Pop the tart case in the fridge for at least 30 mins.  You can freeze the tart case at this point if you want to get ahead.
  • Heat oven to 180˚C (for fan oven).
  • Prick tart base with a fork - this prevents the tart case from "puffing up" later.  Keep a small amount of dough to one side just in case you need to do emergency patching halfway through the case baking.
  • Line tart case with baking parchment and baking beans. (Baking parchment can be made more pliable if you wash it and dry it or scrunch it up and unravel.)
  • Place on baking tray and cook for 15 mins.
  • Take out of oven. 
IMG 9431
  • Carefully trim excess pastry from the top edge of the tart tin (not easy) and remove the baking beans and baking parchment and pop back in the oven for a further 15 mins.
IMG 9432
  • Your tart tin should now be fully cooked and needs to be cooled ready for the lemony bit.
  • If you've turned the oven off while the tart case cooled, then turn it back on again - 180˚C (for fan oven).
  • Whisk the eggs and then add the remaining ingredients and whisk again.  You're not trying to whisk it to add air at this point, just to mix it until well combined.
  • Once combined, pop into a jug.  
  • The best way to add the lemony bit to the case is to pour it into the case while the tart tin is sitting on a baking sheet in the oven.  This isn't easy.  My oven shelf, when half pulled out is not horizontal; it's on a slight slope.  Ideally you want your tart case horizontal as you will want to fill it with as much filling as possible.  What you want avoid is the filling spilling over the edge of the tart tin so take care.  I end up pouring with my right hand and propping up the oven shelf with the other hand.
  • Bake for 30-35 mins.  The centre should have a wobble when it's taken out of the oven as the tart continues to cook after it's removed from the oven.  If you cook it for too long it'll crack as it cools.
  • Cool and then pop in the fridge.
IMG 9436
  • Dust delicately with icing sugar just before serving.



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

My reply to John

Hi John

Your prospect database needs updating.  I’m not the droid you’re looking for.

Kind Regards,

Ann Cardus

Hi Ann,

I’ve noticed some of the online ads associated with Ford, and I wanted to reach out because I think 
XXXXX can help you improve performance and lower costs at the same time.

XXXXX can transform your static display methodology into a robust data driven dynamic program that will increase the performance of your campaigns and allow for a more efficient use of your media dollars.

Here are a few strategies and objectives we have supported for our client's:

-          Message / Performance Testing.  We offer a simple A/B test to determine what types of headlines or offers work best, multivariate testing for message refinement
or we can use our flexible taxonomy to define any test you like.
-          Best Match. This is where we can connect with your DMP to target ads based on behavior or different audience segments.
-          Media Agnostic. Client's use us for Mobile / and Web ads. We support HTML Ad Rendering and Flash Rendering when needed.
-          Performance Lift. We help clients raise performance by identifying underperforming ads sooner allowing a more efficient use of media dollars.
-          Reduce ad production costs. XXXXX can drastically cut ad production costs, in some cases by millions.  Having real time update capabilities also cuts down on trafficking time.

Would you have some time for a brief introductory call to see if we can help with your display ad program? 

Thank you and I look forward to speaking soon.