Friday 31 May 2013

My month in numbers

I would like to start this post by assuring you that there was nothing untoward going on between me and the caretaker.  Just wanted to make sure everyone was clear on that.  More of that later.

Now where was I?  Are yes, looking back over what happened in May.  When I think of May I remember being little and wanting to wear a summer dress to school without a vest underneath.(When I say little, I mean younger, about 7.  Because I'm still little and I no longer seek permission to wear my dresses with or without vests on underneath.  And let's face it, vests nowadays are quite different to the ones I wore in the olden days of 1965 anyway, my mum said I had to keep my vest on because you 'must not cast a clout 'till May is out'.  I wasn't casting or clouting, I just didn't want to wear that pesky vest.  She then puzzled me even more by saying 'do they mean the month, or the flower? After all May is also the name of a flower.'  Didn't matter much because neither month was over nor flower was out, I had to wear that itchy, scratchy, 'makes me sweat all over', 'no one else is wearing one' vest.  But before I can finally 'cast my clout' let me walk you through May.

We started off the month with 1 new carpet in our conservatory.  Woe betide anyone who doesn't take their shoes off or wipe their paws before coming in there now.
I went to 1 crop where I made 1 layout and a minibook with 14 photos in it. I also ate 2 cupcakes.  It was International Scrapbooking Day.  Which has no numerical significance except it's the 2nd time I've been at the EK crop on an International Scrapbooking Day.
That night we had 2 other couples over for an Indian meal.
We had 2 Bank Holiday Monday's in May. 
My brother in law, my sister and my god daughter all had birthdays this month.  132 candles would have been used up.  And as little Sophie is only 3, it doesn't take a mathematician to work out that the other two are much, much older.  I'm sure my sister wouldn't want me to divulge her age.  But hey, I'm a little sister, embarrassing our big sisters is what we do best.  63.  She's a LOT older than me. He he he
4 Dog training classes.  Which gives Coco 4 opportunities to make me look like a liar and behave like a little angel.  "She pulls on the lead when we're out for a walk".  "Show me what happens"  Cue the perfect puppy walking obediently by my side looking up at me with a sly look as if to say 'who's she going to believe?  You or me?' "She won't come back when she's called."  "Coco, come" and there she is immediately at my feet with a knowing grin on her face. 
3 meals out with work mates.
My daughter ran 10k in Race for Life
1 meal out with friends to Le Belgique for Bapas.  The Belgian equivalent of tapas.  10 different dishes to share.  1st time I've ever tried horsemeat, and I was pleasantly surprised.
2 visits to the vets. Coco seems to have developed indigestion in the mornings.  I have a sneaky suspicion that this is Princess Puppy trying hard to have freshly cooked chicken breast and rice cooked every day.
48 squares of the most beautiful fabric ordered for the 1st ever machine made patchwork quilt.  Once each square is cut into quarters I am going to have fun working out the 100 squares I need.
3 pairs of raised eyebrows from the ladies in the Finance Office as I walked out of the ladies toilet with the caretaker.  (see above)  You see, this is exams time at school and the corridor leading to the main staff toilets is out of bounds as it is next to the exam hall, so our nearest one is the disabled toilet next to the finance office.  One lunchtime last week, I went down there and before I could even close the door I noticed that there was no paper on the roll.  So I came back out and bumped into the new caretaker and asked him if he knew where the spare rolls were stored.  With a wry smile, he beckoned me back in there and pointed upwards.  On the top of the cupboard was a box and in it was spare rolls.  Which is fine if you are tall but if a little person like me tried to stand on her tippy toes and reach up to get it, well it's a recipe for disaster and reminds me of the incident with the pasta on the top shelf of the supermarket.  Spillage in aisle five ... So he reached up and took a roll out and then insisted on fitting it in the holder for me.  By which time of course the door had closed behind us.  So when the door reopened a few minutes later, there were 3 very curious ladies wondering why we were both in there together. Doesn't take much to start a rumour ..... 

Mustn't forget to mention that this is part of a series run by Julie at Notes on Paper -make sure you pop over there and see what she's been up to this month!

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Cate's Bloggy Baby Shower

So I was sitting in the pub with Deb, Carrie, Karen, Alison and Denise (whoever would have thought I would be able to start a blog post like that!) and Deb had a 'lightbulb' moment and suggested planning a bloggy baby shower for Cate.  Now, I've never been to a baby shower - they're a new fangled American idea which wasn't around in the olden days when I had my children - so this is very exciting for me! 
The idea is for us to design and make a page or two to put in an album and leave space for Cate to add a photo once her new little girl arrives.  So I have chosen to make a page based on the rhyme 'what are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy dog tails.  What are little girls made of?  Sugar and spice and all things nice.'

Cate is known as Purple Crazy Mum so there are a few purple pieces on the layout. A couple of flowers and some glass beads. Oh, and I inked around the edges of the pages with a purple ink.
Cate already has twice as many children as me so I don't think there's any advice I can give that she doesn't already know! However, the first thing people associated with new babies is sleep - or lack of it. My daughter was awful at going off to sleep, my son could fall asleep easily and for long periods of time.  Maybe he was just a sleepy baby, or maybe I learnt from my mistakes first thing round!  One of the best bits of advice I was given was not to rock your baby to sleep in your arms and then lay them down to sleep in their cot.  Because even the most drowsy baby will wake up when you make that move, no matter how careful you are.  I read somewhere that it would be like us falling asleep in a soft, comfortable, warm bed with someone we love close to us, and then waking up and finding yourself alone and asleep in a totally different room.  We wouldn't like it would we?  And neither do babies so if you can get to a routine of putting them to bed, slightly awake in their cot from the early days they get used to that routine and if they wake in the night, you only need to go and comfort them without picking them up.  They learn that their cot is their safe place.

So, that's my one bit of advice and will now share a story of my babyhood.   See, when I was born in 1958, Dads didn't share the whole birthing scenario.  You took your wife to hospital, then waited for a nurse to tell you that your baby was born and you went back to visit.  Babies didn't stay in the ward with their mums either, they were looked after in a nursery and brought to their mum when they needed feeding.  So, apparently Dad had the call to say I had been born and he drove to the hospital with my big sister to come and meet me.  They gave their names to the nurse, along with another dad who arrived at the same time.  The nurse went off to the nursery to fetch the babies and returned with a baby cradled in each arm.  'Urgh, I hope ours isn't the ginger one.' said my sister.  Sigh.  Not the best introduction to the newest member of the family eh?  I do hope that Cate's children are more welcoming to their new sister!

Well, much as it's been great to have you visit, I think it's time to head on over to Deb's blog to see who else in joining in ... (although due to the time difference it may be a little early, so if there is nothing showing up please do return later!)

Monday 27 May 2013

Let's sit and have a cup of tea

Well hello!  Have you come here after visiting Abi?  She had a great idea to have a cuppa and a catch up once a month so here I am with news of what the last month has brought.  Well it's such a glorious day, shall we take our drinks out into the garden?  I made some buttermilk scones yesterday, can I tempt you?  With or without strawberry jam?
OK so now we are settled I would tell you how this week has finally seen the end of a very hard chapter in my daughter's life.  You see this phrase has been excruciatingly true for her

You see, she thought she had found her prince, and for the first year all was well. He looked like a prince, he spoke like a prince and he acted like a prince.  However, it was just a disguise, and last year he turned back to a tadpole. My princess nursed her broken heart and moved back home with puppy in tow and she set about removing all evidence of that slimy frog.  Which involved selling the house they had bought together.  It's been a long time coming, but the sale finally completed last Monday and I hope that this next chapter in her life story will be more plain sailing and happy. 
I would be bursting to tell you the good news about my friend who has self published her book on Kindle but until the press release comes out, my lips have to be sealed.  All I'm saying is, download it off Kindle while you still can get it at a bargain price. 
I would tell you about the dog training classes me and Coco have been going to.  How it is like stepping over the threshold into an alternative world when we pass through the door.  Coco takes on an angelic quality and I swear I see a twinkle in her eye as she does whatever she is told.
I would be asking you if you've ever made a quilt, as I have just bought some fabric.  I haven't machine made anything patchwork before, although for my A level needlework I did make a hand sewn hexagonal patchwork shell for a large turtle shaped cushion.  I'm making it for the garden bench which is just outside the shed/summer house that my husband has just built.  I think it will be perfect to have something to sit on rather than wooden slats, and can't wait for the fabric to arrive so I can get started.
And then all too soon, you would say that you had to move on and have a cuppa with someone else that is joining in today.  Coco would rouse herself from her slumber in the sunshine to say goodbye and we would look forward to seeing you again very soon.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Once upon a time in blogland

Once upon a time there was a very clever lady called Sian. She lived High in the Sky where she spent her days sitting in her craft room creating masterpieces and thinking up rather brilliant ideas. One day, she looked up from her workspace and as she glanced out the window over her kingdom she had a most brilliant thought. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could get people all over the world to put together a few lovely things in a small envelope and swap them with someone else?" And so it came to pass that a large group of blog friends looked through their collections of craftiness and sent things around the globe, spreading happiness wherever they arrived. And they all lived happily ever after.

I did have a very large smile on my face when I saw this waiting for me when I got home from work today:
Quite apart from the fact that I guessed what it contained, it reminded me of another story. You see, I work in the office of a secondary school and in our school we used to have a lovely old gentleman who would come in and teach our girls life saving in the swimming pool and give judo lessons. Now, Derek was in his late 80s and quite a character. Oh the tales he told. How he had signed up to join the army and lied about his age when he was only 15. How he didn't tell his parents until he was in uniform and about to be stationed abroad. How he knew his mum would worry about him so he told her that as he was young, they were just giving him a desk job in an office. How he was really a rear gunner in an aircraft and ended up in the midst of the greatest air battles. He would go on school trips to the Belgian Battlefields with the history department and be the one up front of the coach leading the girls in sing alongs, long after the younger,fitter teachers were fast asleep in their seats. The girls loved him, he was like a Grandfather to them and even the most cantankerous girls weakened in his presence. Every year he would go back overseas to visit places that he lost friends and help take guided tours. And every year he would remember the secretaries at the school who he would chat to, and who made him tea and coffee and made sure he had a sit down at lunchtime because trust me, he had more energy than we did. He would always send us a postcard from his travels - just addressed to 'The Lovely Ladies in the Office, Warwick Road, BS.' And every year, that postcard would reach us safely as clearly the Post Office knew where to find the lovely ladies in town! So I loved the way that Ifa had addressed my package as it made me smile and remember those postcards.
But that smile became a huge grin when I opened up the package and saw all this loveliness ...
And how thoughtful of Ifa to put in some cycling related pieces that I can use in the mini book I'm planning when I get the photos from my husband's forthcoming cycling trip in Germany. She's even sent a little button with a map showing where his trip begins - perfect! I love it all and can't wait to put some of the other pieces onto a new layout.
So two big thank yous. One to Ifa for all my goodies and one to Sian. The Queen of great ideas!


Monday 20 May 2013

Hello Monday

Hello to another dog training class. However, as there has been very little homework done this week I suspect one of us may be held back after school for a telling off.
Hello to working a day of overtime this week.  That's the trouble with not working half term holidays, the work you would have done in that week still has to be done.
Hello to the new shed moving from 6 pieces of wood on the ground to an actual structure. This involves a friend coming over to help and beer.  Which will explain any slight inaccuracies, leaky roofs or less than perfect corner joints.
Hello to trying to convince my husband that he does want to come and see The Great Gatsby with me.  Will it live up to the Robert Redford one that I loved and saw four times in the 70s?
Hello to trying out the new 'Bapas' menu at Le Belgique. The Belgian version of Tapas.  When we originally spoke about going, we had visions of sitting outside on the patio on a warm Spring evening. Somehow I think it's going to be a table for four inside near a heater.
Hello to the week before half term.  To not having to wear a sarong at all unless we have a sudden heat wave (unlikely). 

Sunday 19 May 2013

Race for Life

This morning thousands of women will be congregating at Harlow town park to run or walk either 10k or 5k in the Cancer Research Race for Life.  There will be people who have cancer, people who have survived cancer or people who have lost family or friends to this awful disease.   

Thousands of women, all touched by this in some part of their life.  I took part three times in the past and it is such an emotional event when you look at that sea of people, all of whom have one thing in common - A personal reason to raise some money and find a cure.  I only ever jogged/walked the 5k route, but this year my daughter is running the 10k in memory of my lovely mum who died in December 1997. 

Good luck, my gorgeous girl 

Friday 17 May 2013

And any other duties you may be requested to do

That's the final point on my job description.  As a school secretary you assume it may mean filing, ringing up parents, consoling upset students - maybe even looking after a stray dog that turns up on the premises.  All of which I have done.  But the other duty that I unenthusiastically take on is to assist in the final work experience  briefing to Year 10 students. 
For this is the one where we discuss the nitty gritty of work experience, what to expect, how to act and what to wear.  In previous years we just said 'suitable smart office clothing' (unless they are going to work in a stables or an animal rescue centre where clearly this would not be sensible!) Then came the fateful year of 2011 when a young lady doing work experience at the local Catholic Primary School turned up wearing a leopard print bra top underneath a skimpy 'playsuit' which comprised of a very short pair of shorts. Oh yes, someone's mother saw their daughter go out the door wearing that and thought 'ah, doesn't she look smart for her first day of work experience.' Needless to say, the headteacher took one look, sent her home to change and we realised that we needed to be a little more specific. 
So my friend who is in overall control of work experience decided it would be fun (?) for us to take the final briefing assembly dressed inappropriately.  Her in her poshest evening dress with gold bolero top and very elaborate jewellery (well we ask for smart!) and me in sarong, flip flops, sunglasses and this year, a floppy sun hat (we tell them to be comfortable and in clothes suitable for a warm sunny day).  I suggested that this year we swap roles and I do the posh outfit but she pulled rank on me and that was that.
So, today's the day.  I thought I had got out of it as the Headteacher wanted me involved in a meeting with the Senior Leadership team at the time the assembly was.  But it was agreed that as I was such an integral part of the assembly (clearly no one else rocks the sarong look like me) I could take part in the first half and then leave when it got to the part where it is mainly powerpoint presentation and the Comic Relief Catherine Tate/Tony Blair sketch.  Providing everything ran to time, I could divert into the loo and get changed before joining the great and the good in the Head's office. 
10 minutes before we started, I tiptoed down the corridor to the Ladies so that I could get changed.  I don't always tiptoe in school (because that would just be silly) but it's exam time and we have to be silent outside the hall. So like Wonderwoman spinning in a phone box, I entered the Ladies in smart black trousers, high heels and a top and came out in a multi-coloured sarong and flip flops. Looked left and right, no one around, I could escape to the main office without anyone seeing me.  Tiptoe past the hall and as I almost make it to the swing doors of reception I see the Head of Drama heading towards me.  He's kind of new to the school, only ever knows me as the part time lady in the office, his jaw literally dropped, a frown appeared on his brow and his lips made the silent shape of 'What????'.  Shortly before they changed into a large grin of 'what DO you look like?!'  
Anyhow, as I said, if all went to plan, I could make my change back comfortably and take my place in the meeting.  Only it didn't run to time, did it?  The Head of Year took forever to register the girls and we ended up starting about 10 minutes late.
Which is how I ended up taking part in an important meeting with the Head wearing just a sarong and flip flops.
Next year I'm insisting on the posh dress.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Simply a moment in May

The room is completely dark, except for one slim slice of moonlight creeping through the gap between blind and windowsill.  I try to guess the time.  It must be later than midnight as the depth of the darkness shows that no streetlights are on.  It feels as if I have not slept at all, despite coming to bed at 10.45, reading a little until about 11 and then switching off the light.
I can hear the rhythmic snoring of P laying beside me.  I envy him his sleeping.  I am not aware of any issues playing on my mind which would keep me from falling asleep, yet who knows what the subconscious may be dwelling upon.  I try to clear my mind. The more I try to think of nothing, the more random thoughts appear.  The relaxation techniques learnt at ante natal classes many years ago make me feel relaxed but still sleep evades me.  I reach out to the clock to give it a brief tap.  The illuminated figures 12.45 shine out at me.  I try to recall the winding down exercises that end any exercise class.  Control my breathing.  The silence of the house encompasses me.  The daytime sounds of heating and water pipes and the comfort they bring are missing.  I sigh deeply, trying to make my body feel as heavy as possible.  Warm, heavy, relaxed.  Something, somewhere has worked.  Next time I open my eyes, the room is light, the heating is on, cars are driving past outside the window and birds are singing.
This post is written in conjunction with an idea from Alexa   A monthly moment in time.

Monday 13 May 2013

Hello Monday

Hello , it's been many a Monday since I joined in with this
Hello to the 2nd dog training class. I hope we have done enough homework
Hello to the pieces of the new shed arriving. My husband has been preparing and clearing the end of the garden for this for weeks. What is it about men and sheds?
Hello to 2 meals out with friends this week
Hello to sending off my package for The Big Swap of Very Small Things
Hello to having to stand on stage wearing a sarong in front of 160 fifteen year old girls in Friday ( best you don't ask)

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Sub zero

Of course, having just had the hottest two days of the year so far, it's totally inappropriate to have a blog post entitled Sub Zero, but having made a layout for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, it was only right and proper that I should make a layout to show the other part of my surprise day out in London with Rachel.  She had arranged for us to have cocktails at the Ice Bar in London and I had lots of photos to choose from.  I knew that this was an ideal project to do in the morning at the crop on Saturday when we are free to work on our own layouts before the class in the afternoon.  I chose 3 photos and browsed the internet for layouts using a trio of pictures.  Then I gathered all the papers etc that I wanted to use and promptly forgot to print off any of the sketches I had found.  It wasn't the only thing I forgot that day.  I managed to leave my cutting board and guillotine at home too.  Yes, they are kind of important parts of a scrapbooking day - funny how the obvious things somehow get overlooked.  Maybe I was just overexcited about the thoughts of those cupcakes ...
Anyhow this is the layout I came up with
One of the snowflakes may, or may not, be covering up a tiny bit of cupcake icing that accidentally got dropped on the cardstock. 
Whilst there I got to see the start of Karen's contribution to Cate's Baby Shower that Deb is hosting at the end of this month.  Needless to say that having seen how beautifully hers is already, it is making me seriously reconsider what I was planning to do! 
Coco and I are off to a one-to-one dog training class tomorrow where I am being trained to be brave enough to let her off the lead.  She's a bit of an escape artist if anyone leaves the front door open and I need to know how to get her to come back - quickly and reliably.  It seems to be a family trait, my son used to be one of those kids who would head for the hills as soon as you let go of his hand.  I sat him down one day and said to him 'now what would you do if you got so far ahead of me that when you stopped and turned round, you couldn't find me?  Wouldn't you be worried?' to which he replied 'I don't have to worry Mum, you love me so much you would always come and find me'  There was no answer to that was there? 

Monday 6 May 2013

Cupcakes and Minibooks

There are many good parts to going to a EK crop.  First, the obvious.  Lovely ladies to chat with.  Second, equally obvious - cupcakes.  As this month's crop was on International Scrapbooking Day, Karen had made commemorative cupcakes.  Yummy with a capital Yum! 

oh dear, one's gone already!

Thirdly, the opportunity to learn new things.  This month Sandie took the class and she had designed a little mini book for us.  When the requirement list was sent out it called for about 14 photos.  The last time I'd been out and taken a lot of photos was my birthday and I've already done a few layouts using those.  14 photos, hmmm what could I use?  Then I remembered the photos that the rest of the family took on their 3 Peaks challenge - what a perfect way to use those.  It turned out that they were an ideal theme for the book as Sandie had brought some totally appropriate stamps along with her with the theme of journeys.
I spent Sunday afternoon putting the finishing touches to the mini book and I'm really pleased with how it turned out, I think it's a great thing to have learnt and I will definitely have a go at making another one.  {Might need to get Sandie's phone number on speed dial in case I've forgotten something crucial!} 

The book has a boxy cover with a concertina of pages inside.  I really like it, although it's not that easy to show it off to it's full advantage!  I've done my best and hope you get the idea.  The thing that is clever about it is that there is plenty of scope for hidden journaling or adding more pictures under various flaps. 

Actually, my husband and 2 friends are going on a cycling holiday to Germany next month.  Maybe I'll use this technique to display any photos they take. They fly out to Frankfurt and follow the river, every day they stay in the next town/village along the route and the holiday company transport their luggage to the next destination.  Three middle aged men on bikes, cycling along the riverside in June - it just begs for the title 'Last of the Summer Rhein'! {This pun may not be obvious to anyone outside of UK tv}

Sunday 5 May 2013

Pick your precious - May

Earlier this week - So it's coming up for sharing something precious for Sian's monthly series of Pick your Precious.  What on earth am I going to choose this month?  Oh, it's lovely driving into work on a sunny day.  Driving down the attractively named 'Pig Lane', past the riding stables, horses gently grazing in the fields, trees just coming out in leaf.  The gardens of the cottages are looking lovely as the first bursts of colour appear in the flower beds. 
Concentrate Deb, you're supposed to be thinking of something precious to share.  Singing along to the music on the cd.  My goodness I'm tuneful today, my version of No Doubt's 'Don't Speak' has never sounded so good.  I could probably audition for The Voice.  But then which team should I join because clearly all four would turn round.  Tom's a bit old, even for me, and whilst I do like Jessie J, I don't think I'm 'street' enough for her.  So, it's between and Danny. You know what?  I think I'm going to go for The song moves on to Maroon 5 as I join the main road for the final part of my journey.  Need to think of something precious.  Pull into parking spot.  Turn off engine.  Remove disc from CD player.  And realise I have found my Precious.
So this month my precious is a compilation cd that my children made me for Mother's Day years ago.  I asked Rachel what year it was and we think it was about 2002.  It's a mix of songs that were in the charts at that time that I loved, some oldies that are classics and some whose titles were appropriate.  It's absolutely priceless to me and guarantees to put a smile on my face and a tune on my lips.  They put a lot of thought and time into getting it absolutely right and it's worth more to me than all my other cds put together.
They shared the design of the case.  Jon did the inside
 And the cover

 Rachel was given the job of the contents list.  I'll just take a photo of that too.  I've set up a backdrop on the bed to take the photo against.  Get off the bed Coco, I'm trying to take a photo.  Yes I know it looks interesting but I just need you to stay with all four paws on the floor for just a moment.  Off.  Get off.  How many times do I have to tell you?  The sooner you get off the bed, the sooner my photo will be taken and you can get back up there. Good Girl.  Now just stay there while I set the cd case in place again.  That's it, balanced perfectly, now let me pick up my camera again.  Hang on a minute, where's that dog gone?