Sunday 31 March 2013

My month in numbers

Q: Why was 10 afraid?
A: Because seven ate nine and ten was next.
Yes folks, it's time for 'my month in numbers'  Even though I'm a maths-o-phobic, I like to join in with the fun over at Julie's blog
Q: Which month do soldiers hate?
A: The month of March
OK enough of that - let's see what's been happening over the last 31 days ...
First of all, a biggy. On the 14th I celebrated the 55 years that I have been on this earth.  Same day but totally different year - Michael Caine.  Not a lot of people know that ;-)  Also, same day same year, same hour practically, Prince Albert of Monaco.  When my mum turned on the radio after my arrival, the news was full of how Princess Grace had just given birth to a son.  Same day but many years earlier and with absolutely nothing else in common with me - Albert Einstein!
-7 the temperature in the Ice Bar when R took me there for my birthday treat
4 different types of sandwich, 2 types of scone, 2 desserts, 2 marshmallow toadstalls and 1 piece of cake at the Mad Hatters tea party (oh, and especially for Julie - one place setting which when placed together made up the picture of a zebra!)
23 years since I gave birth to Jon
4 different new recipes for chocolate learnt at cookery demonstration; 20 million calories if you ate all those dishes in one sitting
5 scrappers here for a mini crop, 3 I'd never met before 2 from USA and 1 from Spain
1 meerkat toy arrived to live with us, 10 days - the amount of time it took Royal Mail to transport him from Edinburgh to Hertfordshire.  REcorded delivery as well.  Tut Tut Royal Mail, stay behind after school and write out for me 100 times 'Could do better'.

Far too many - days that have been freezing cold and/or snowy
Far too low - temperatures this month. Let's face it, if you're not in an ice bar you don't want to see a minus sign in front of the temperature
How's your month in numbers been shaping up?

Thursday 28 March 2013

Reading the small print

Working as a secretary at a school, my contract of employment has a slightly ambiguous phrase at the end -  'and any other reasonable requests'.  Today was one of those days when I queried what was reasonable and what wasn't!
See, my work colleague left today and although she was born in Finland she spent most of her youth and young  adulthood in New York.  She has lived in the UK for about 25 years now but still has a distinct American accent.  We love her.  We love her attitude to life, her American expressions and her whole character.  But she's going on to pastures new, becoming a deputy head in a new school that is opening in London and today was her last day. 
Tradition dictates that on your last day, all the staff gather in the staff room and your line manager reads a speech saying how wonderful you are, gives you your farewell gift and you do a return speech.  Wine and snacks are provided - it's a nice event.  But my colleague isn't just your average person.  She's vivacious and fun and one of my fellow secretaries traditionally writes a humourous poem whenever a member of the office staff leaves.  But this time she thought it would be fun to write a song along the lines of New York, New York.  And she thought it would be 'fun' for us to sing it to her.  Right in front of the whole of the rest of the staff.  One by one we said 'no'.  Sore throats, inability to hold a tune, hating standing up in public.  And then someone said - 'but wouldn't she just love it, we ought to forget about how we feel and do it for her'.  Well of course that was it.  How could we refuse now?  So with the strains of Frank Sinatra's backing track playing softly off a phone,we stood there, with 80 pairs of eyes watching us and we sang.  And our colleague beamed with pleasure, tears in eyes - she knew we would have had to be coerced into doing this - and it was so worth it. 
However I do think it was a bit harsh when I was speaking to the Head of History later and he told me 'not to give up the day job'.  Cheek!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

I love my job. Especially when it's my day off

First of all lets celebrate temperatures above freezing for the first time in what feels like a month. Colour is out there! A bit of blue sky, a patch of green grass outside and a beautiful lilac/blue in my lovely gift from Alison indoors.

I'm sure the women I work with imagine me reclining on a sofa eating peeled grapes on my day off and they always look a bit miffed when I breeze out the door on a Tuesday with a casual "see you on Thursday".  So let me give you a glimpse of what goes on chez Debs on a Wednesday.  First of all, chores. Washing basket emptied , washing machine full followed by tumble drying followed by the dreaded ironing. Phew, now we have that out of the way let's relax a little. And when I say relax, I mean make a mess. When everyone was here on Saturday my dining table was full of papers and flowers, scissors, glitter and glue. Today I have singlehandedly filled the table again ...

Because tomorrow a work colleague leaves.  I am dreading it as I know I will not manage her farewell speech without the aid of a box of tissues.  She is such a lovely lady, we will miss her so much.  She was adamant that she did not want gifts - any money raised in her farewell collection is going to our sister school in Uganda where she visited two years ago.  But I couldn't let her leaving pass without giving her something.  Part of my job is to help her with compiling references for our Year 11 girls who are leaving to go to another Sixth Form.  We ask the staff to tick boxes on a sheet to give us an idea of what kind of student they are.  Things like conscientious, willing, honest, helpful, hard working for example.  And for those who aren't completely working at their optimum effort, under achiever, struggles to manage her behaviour (we are sure that when *** finds a subject that she enjoys, she will work hard and thrive.  We've tried teaching her 10 subjects and she hasn't worked hard on any of ours yet but who knows, maybe a new school will find something that holds her interest.  An A level in  texting, Facebook or Twitter may be just the ticket) ...  oh yes, we have a great reputation in and around our County but not every H&E girl is a studious little angel.  So, I've compiled a reference (of nice things!) for my colleague, printed it out on nice paper and made it into a kind of certificate.  Plus made a tag to go on it, and prettied up her goodbye card.  This day off business is hard work ...

Then off to Costa Coffee for a latte and cheese and ham toastie to put the world to rights with a friend.  2 hours later, news caught up on, I return home to start cooking a casserole using one of the recipes from the cookery demonstration I went to last month.  Now the kitchen's as messy as the dining room.  I'm sure there was something else I planned to do - oh yes, a phone call to Denise for a full debrief on the meeting up in London on Sunday.  It's tiring doing all this non-working stuff!   What a good job I only have to work until 1.30pm tomorrow and then we are on Easter break until April 16th.  There aren't many perks to working in a school but the holidays are definitely one of them! 

Sunday 24 March 2013

International blogging

"What are you doing this weekend,Deb?" They asked as I switched my computer off at the end of work on Friday. "I've got some friends coming over on Saturday to do some Scrapbooking. It's going to be great to meet them in person." Raised eyebrows and a look that says "you've invited people over and you haven't met them? She's a strange one, that Deb." but of course they don't understand that in the world of scrapbooky blogs, you don't have to have met to feel a friendship. When I told them that 2 people had flown in from Arizona and 1 from Spain they were even more bemused. I fear their eyebrows raised so high they may have to have them surgically lowered!
So we woke on Saturday to see snow on the ground and a steady snowfall still coming down. Luckily we had someone to monitor the situation

And luckily roads stayed clear and British Rail kept running and our guests arrived (if you are friends with any of us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram, you may have already seen this photo!)
So the background to this story is that Denise,who I've known for about 35 years introduced me to Scrapbooking. She told tales of glitter and pretty paper and photos and flowers and the rest is history! She then introduced me to online classes, which led to me doing one of Shimelle's classes. She then introduced me to blogging. "You've got to have a blog Deb" "a blog? Why on earth? What would I write? Who would read it?. She then introduced me to crops. "I've found this great crop Deb. You need to come next month." "A crop? What? All day? How would I find enough to do for a whole day?" "There'll be home made cupcakes" "give me the address, I'll be there." And so I met Karen, who, along with rather delicious cupcakes also runs exceedingly good crops.
And tales of these crops and cupcakes spread through blog land to all corners of the earth. And in deepest Arizona a lovely lady called Deb said , "that looks fun, I wish I could join in one time" and the fickle fingers of fate gradually put the pieces together. When we heard that Deb and Carrie were on their way to Britain, we tried to find a way to show them what our crops were like. And we agreed that if they could get to my house we could host a mini crop there. And wouldn't it be great if we could get Alison over from Spain to join in too. And so it happened. Right here, yesterday. I still can't really believe it! And yes,there were cupcakes
We taught Deb and Carrie that although American and British sound the same - we have lots of words that don't mean the same over there as they do here!

Karen and Denise had provided a selection of lovely papers and embellishments, we took a group photo and printed it off so we all had the same 'ingredients' of a layout,and we set to work.
So to round off the day we went to our local pub where Deb discovered the delights of fish and chips with mushy peas, and Carrie discovered draught cider! And all too soon we were hugging goodbye and returning Alison,Deb and Carrie to the station for their return trip to London. It was SO good to meet the three of them properly and I really feel that we have all strengthened our friendships . I know that more people are meeting up today in London, although I can't make that meeting. And so the European adventure continues! Hurry back soon!

Sunday 17 March 2013

Simply a Moment - March

The temperature is minus 7. I know this because before we went in through the security doors, the doorman told us. And yet, I'm not cold. The metallic blue cape sits comfortably around my body, the fur of the hood is snug against my head. My hands are protected by the thermal gloves that are attached to the side of the cape.

We are in a compact room in which the walls are made entirely of ice. The bar is made of ice, the seats are made of ice, the tables are made of ice and there are ice sculptures.  There is an electric blue tinge to the lighting and there is upbeat music coming from the speakers. Loud enough to add a funky atmosphere but not too loud to affect conversations. We are part of a small group of people allowed in. Only 30 at a time. There are constant small flashes of lights as people take photos of themselves in such an unusual location.

My hands are holding a rectangular block of ice which has had its inner core drilled out to make a drinking receptacle. It contains a Galactic Frontier. A mix of blueberry infused Tanquaray gin with cranberry, pomegranate and lychee. It is delicious! The edge of the block has a slight indentation in it where the warmth of my lips has slightly melted the corner as I have sipped my drink.

I can slightly feel the cold of the floor through the soles of my boots. This being a surprise visit as part of my daughter's birthday gift to me, I had been unaware that I would be spending time in sub-zero temperatures! Had I known, maybe I would have chosen differently! But it's just a slight feeling of chilliness, not uncomfortable or unpleasant. My daughter is handing her phone over to a couple of girls who are standing near us at edge of the room. She asks them if they will take our picture and in return she will do the same for them.

We stand a little closer together, mother and daughter sharing a fun and unusual experience. Only she would think of taking me to a place like this. Truly a unique, loving moment - literally frozen in time.

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Friday 15 March 2013

Wearing something funny for money

Now I do realise that many people who see my ramblings have no idea what I look like from the shoulders down. Self portraits are normally head and shoulders, right?  ! I look a very ordinary kind of a gal, right? Very conservative in my dress.  So when we were told to wear something red for Red Nose Day nobody was really expecting me to turn up for work with these on my legs

and before anyone asks, no they weren't something I usually wear.  Or are they?  You'll never know.  do I normally look a bit like Alice in Wonderland?  Curiouser and curiouser.
But they lead me on quite nicely to my next news.  My daughter likes to arrange special outings instead of presents (she excelled herself one Christmas when she bought me tickets to go and see George Michael in concert!) so her birthday gift to me is a trip up to London tomorrow to go with her to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party.  How exciting!  We're going to The Sanderson Hotel please do check out the link and click on the info as it sounds amazing.  I have already warned her that I am going to be the most embarrassing person in there by photographing non stop.  Just so long as I don't wear my stripey socks .... 

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Today ...

... is 13-3-13.  Now even for someone who is totally a non-mathsy kind of person such as myself, that seems an interesting date.  Of course in America it's even better- 3.13.13

... I learnt that the best way to get the stone out of the middle of an avocado is not to cut it in half, hold the half with the stone in in your left hand while you try and stab the stone with a sharp knife in your right hand.  The blade will deflect off the shiny stone, the avocado will slide out of your hand and you will end up stabbing yourself in the palm of the hand.  Messy.

... we have had bright sunshine, drizzly rain, snow, wind and sleet.  The sky has been pure blue, covered in fluffy white clouds, grey and greeny-grey-there's going to be a storm'.   The English weather can never be called boring, no wonder we talk about it so much.

... our local Waitrose supermarket has a scheme where every time you pay, you pick up a token and post it through a collection box for their chosen charities for the month.  The amount of money given to each charity is determined by the number of tokens donated to each one.  So there is a man and his young daughter in front of me.  The boxes for the charities this month are either for the local animal rescue centre or the local Women's Institute.  'Who do you want to get your money?' dad asks daughter.  'What are the choices?' she asks.  'Well, either the home that lost or unwanted bunny rabbits, kittens or little puppies go to be looked after until someone comes along to adopt them,  or um, old ladies to have a cup of tea.'  The old ladies never stood a chance did they?

... is my day off work.  Allegedly.  I'm up to date on washing, ironing, dusting and hoovering.  That's not a true day off is it?

... I've eaten healthily with a lunch of blood stained avocado, low fat mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and salad and then gone off the rails totally with a huge generous medium sized slice of my mother's day lemon curd and mascarpone cake warmed in the microwave.  I think I needed something sweet to get over the shock of the avocado incident.  Which may explain the Aero dessert I've just eaten too.  Time to step away from the fridge I think!


Monday 11 March 2013

Hello Monday

Monday?  What are you doing here again?  You really have to slow down a bit, you're coming round far too fast and furious with every week that passes.

Hello to a birthday this week.  It seems like only 11 months and 4 weeks since I had the last one. Farewell fifty four and hello fifty five.

Hello Marks & Spencer Phizzy Pig Tails - I am addicted to you and all your fabulous and fantastic fizziness. 

Hello new manicure - I am loving the new Shellac colour I've had put on and will be flashing and flaunting my fingertips to all and sundry to show you off.

Hello to trying to keep to low salt foods.  The doc is keeping an eye on my blood pressure and recommending that I increase potassium high foods (hello to more bananas and avacados) and decrease salty ones. (goodby salted caramel sauce and peanuts)

Hello to the nutritional info on the back of the Phizzy Pig Tail bag - I love the fact that you have less than 0.1g of salt - you are my most favourite nutritional list ever.  Phew!

And on Thursday - hello ipad!  SO excited. 

Tuesday 5 March 2013

23 years ago today ...

... our family was blessed with this young man
He never got to meet my dad as he had died the year before, but in memory of him we named him Jonathan, as Dad's middle name was John.
Life with J has been eventful to say the least, and I can't believe that my baby is now 23! 
  • This boy who was too shy to stand up in assembly at school can now stand in front of a conference of Trade Union members to deliver a speech
  • This boy who was tearful at the thought of going on his first residential holiday with the school to the Isle of Wight went on to go out to Tanzania last summer - on his own - to do volunteer work in an African school.
  • This boy who wanted to be a Power Ranger when he grew up is now working for a charity helping disabled/disadvantaged and autistic adults find employment and support them in the workplace.
  • This boy who wanted to support Man U because his favourite Power Ranger was the red one and Man U play in red, was shown the error of his ways by his dad who convinced him that Spurs were the team to support!
  • This boy who didn't even want to play the tamborine at school in concerts went on to play guitar, start his own band and perform in concerts
  • This boy who had the greatest love of reading from about the age of five, still has a bookcase full of books and now writes articles himself for magazines
  • This boy managed to embarrass me completely when being found fast asleep in a field having drunk too much cider at a music concert in town.  The St John's Ambulance person who rang me to collect him was also an invigilator at the school in which I work
  • This boy who was so squeamish at the sight of blood managed to slice off the whole underside of his big toe whilst playing barefoot football.  3 days before he was due to go out to Spain on holiday with a group of friends. 
  • This boy holds a very special place in my heart.  That's one thing that will never change!

Sunday 3 March 2013

My Precious - March

Anybody that knows me will know for sure that my son is home this weekend, and how happy that makes me!
He moved up to Bonnie Scotland a wee while ago and will be a resident of Edinburgh for at least 2 years while his girlfriend studies for her Masters up there.  So visits home are going to be few and far between.  It's his birthday on Tuesday so his trip happily coincides with being able to take birthday presents back with him. 
I didn't think I was going to be joining in with Storytelling Sunday this month as I had been so preoccupied with stocking up the fridge and cupboards with all his favourite things and baking all things that he likes that I hadn't found anything to talk about.  Until I remembered these:
They may not look much to you, but to me they are absolutely priceless.  If anyone dares to say out loud 'looks like an old bit of cot blanket and a satin ribbon stitched onto a piece of muslin' I will not be happy.  But I can't get too cross because um, well, ahem, that's what they are.  These were the things that comforted my kids when they were tiny, the things that they cuddled hard when they were upset, stroked while they went off to sleep and helped take away aches and pains when they were ill. 
Ribby was 'born' after I bought our daughter a dress with a pink ribbon tied in a bow on the front.  She took to sucking her thumb and running the end of the ribbon across her top lip.  Even when she wasn't wearing the dress, she would get it out of the washing basket or improvise with the silky washing machine label sewn into the side of any other dress.  So I figured it was easier to design a piece of fabric which was easily washable and easy to carry around, got a square of muslin and sewed a piece of ribbon to it.  One happy girly.
The other 'precious' is Patnie.  Patnie started life as a small pram blanket with a wide strip of ribbon across the top.  My son loved to scrunch up the satin in his fist as he went to sleep and it moved into his cot with him when he was too big for the carry cot and then into his first bed when he moved from his cot.  We didn't realise how precious it was until one night when it was on the floor of his bedroom he just stood at the side of the cot sobbing and calling out 'Patnie' and pointing at the blanket.  Patnie grew smaller and smaller as it got older and ended up being cut into halves and then quarters to try and preserve it as long as possible.  A tiny part of Patnie also found its way into the pocket of his big boy school trousers when he had his first day of school, just in case he felt he needed it at all, no one knew it was there, but he could put his hand in his pocket and know that Patnie wasn't far away.
The kids gradually grew out of needing them, but I could never - EVER - throw them away.  Too many memories!   
So you know when they ask you what you would save in the case of fire, flood or pestilance?  These two little precious things would be top of my list!
Now, pop over to Sian's and see what other Precious Possessions people are sharing.  Right now I need to go downstairs and rustle up a favourite sunday lunch before my other precious heads back to the airport for his flight home.