Wednesday 31 July 2013

My Month in Numbers

Joining in with Julie's Month in Numbers again

Let's start with something that caused great excitement and eager anticipation of the arrival of handsome firemen in a (scavenger hunt) fire engine - Over 800 students and 80 staff evacuated from the school and registered at the hockey fields in under 12 minutes following a 'proper' fire alarm activation.
3 guilty looking workmen who forgot to turn off the heat/smoke sensors in the PE block while they were doing some work to the dance studio.

3 Crafty Ladies going down a slide in a children's playground.

Photo taken at lunchtime at the crop where I made a layout using 16 handmade flowers

1 Awards Evening at school.  70 books given out as School Prizes and 62 Silver Cups/Glass Awards for 'special' prizes. Organising 132 photos to be taken after awards were presented.  2 school secretaries feeling totally frazzled having organised the whole thing, then watching the teachers swan around with a glass of Cava mingling with parents.

2 birthdays which involved 37 candles.  Celebrating the younger generation this month!  And therefore single-handedly conserving the dwindling wax supplies of the country.

1 MOT. 1 new tyre. £125 bill.

5 meals out.  - going round the world in food from Spanish Paella to Indian Curry, American barbecue steak, British afternoon tea and Asian Dim Sum.

1 graduation. 2 very proud parents.
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Now, this month Julie has asked us to join in a communal count and the subject this month is items in your handbag.  Oh the shame.  I'm not a competitive person at all (could this be why no one ever wanted me on their team at sports day at school?) but I do fear that I may win this one.  I have a large handbag. 

And in that handbag I have a 'Bag Mate'.  It's a canvas 'inner' that has lots of different compartments and the idea is that when you change handbags, you just pick the Bag Mate out of one bag and into another.   All items moved in one fell swoop. So it is easy for me to count.  Here we go:

  • 2 purses.  And before you think 'that woman has so much money she can't get it all in one purse' let me explain that I was given a lovely little purse for Christmas but I didn't have the heart to stop using 'old faithful' which is the perfect size for holding coins, notes and cards.  So I am using the new purse for coins and one of my credit cards and everything else stays in the other one.
  • A small bottle of Hand Hygiene Gel.  Because public toilets don't always have soap in them.  And sometimes you just want to freshen up.
  • A little slim torch.  Something I bought at the counter of Marks and Spencer once for £1.  'That'll be handy' I thought.  One day.  Who knows when? 
  • A pen and a pencil.
  • A little pack of tissues and a bottle of Rescue Remedy. I don't know if it is mind over matter or not, but if you find yourself in a stressful situation, this stuff helps you calm down. 
  • A handbag mirror.
  • A nail file
  • Some plasters.  Because I am a mum. And mums always have emergency supplies in their handbag. And even though my kids are now almost 27 and 23, you never know when someone may fall over. In fact last time I came into Good Samaritan mode with my plasters was at Faro airport last year.  A lady fell on the escalator  on the way to the departure gate and took a chunk of flesh out of her shin. Blood dripping down her leg in a steady stream.  Officials begging her to go to the First Aid room despite the fact that doing so would make her miss the flight.  And who was the only one nearby with an emergency plaster?  Got it in one.  She was so grateful.  So if you don't have a pack of plasters in YOUR handbag, go and get some now.  Go on.  Now. 
  • A couple of boxes of various medications.  Because you never know when a headache may strike.  Or an insect may bite or hay fever kick in. Actually now I see it written down I sound like a walking chemist. 
  • A phone. 
  • Receipts.  Please don't make me count them.  I save them all safely and then every now and again I get them out and shred them. 
  • Keys
  • My glasses
  • Lipstick
We're up to 18 things.  19 if you count the Bag Mate.  Blimey, I remember when all I needed was a purse and some lipstick. And a much smaller handbag.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Con-grad-ulations to Jon!

From the moment we sat down in the hall and saw the musicians setting up for the opening of the ceremony, it was obvious that this was going to be different to the other graduations that we had been to.  Jon's masters had been taken at SOAS - a truly multi-cultural centre which is famous for its degrees which specialise in the areas that its name suggest - Oriental and African Studies.  Jon's fascination with the politics of Africa was born while studying for his Politics degree in Sheffield. A tutor from Africa inspired him and his thirst for knowledge would not be quenched until he had studied in more depth. 
Whilst I loved the fact that SOAS was in London, and therefore within commuting distance from home which meant he was living at home for the year of studying, I also knew that a visit to Africa was inevitable!  A volunteer trip was booked and his time in Tanzania was a life changing experience.  It was also the longest 6 weeks of my life - tough being a mum sometimes.
So yesterday was his graduation ceremony and how proud we were when we saw him dressed in his cap and gown.  Official photos taken, we went outside to take less formal pictures.  Jon, being Jon, naturally had to pose with a statue of the Tamil philosopher Thiruva'l'luvar which is outside SOAS.

and kept his shades on for a family picture

We walked to Russell Square and as he sat on a bench in the sunshine, I realised I had found my ultimate 'outdoor bench' for the Scavenger hunt!

We went to the hall where graduands and guests were sent in opposite directions; students seated first and then we went to find our seats.  I scoured the hall for a sight of Jon.  Students who had gained a Masters were to be called up last so I knew he would be towards the back.  In fact we ended up sitting about 3 rows in front of him and just across the aisle. I  saw him chatting to a friend and as he looked up, he caught my eye and waved.  I was immediately transported back to primary school shows where he would sit on stage and anxiously scour the room until he saw us in the audience, then a huge grin would spread across his face and he would wave frantically.  Where have the years gone?

Silence fell in the hall and the musicians started, a Congolese Rumba group - so uplifting and happy.  We were all swaying in our seats and tapping our feet.  After this the formal part of the proceedings began.  Speeches, introductions and congratulations - all part of the centuries old traditions.  Mid way through the ceremony, a duet came on stage, a young guy playing guitar and a female singer.  They sang Stevie Wonder's 'I Wish' which was a perfect choice, the words felt so true.
Time for Jon's group to go on stage - my camera was in position and photos were taken as he made his way to the front, ready to have his name called and walk across the stage. 
Waiting at the edge of the stage to have his name called

Camera down as soon as he stepped forward, hands clapping as loud as I possibly could.  No way I was going to miss seeing him do this.  I don't need a photo of that important handshake to remember that moment.  Better to live it and see it with my own eyes, than to see it through a view finder and have a photo I think. 

Saturday 27 July 2013

Let's sit and have a cup of tea

Actually I'm going to offer you something a bit more celebratory today.  There's a nice bottle of prosecco chilling in the fridge; let's get some glasses and relax in the sunshine.
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I hope I don't bore you with details of my son's graduation which was yesterday.  He graduated from Sheffield two years ago with a BSc degree in Politics and last year he took a Masters in African Politics at SOAS* in London.  I'll be reminiscing about this time last year when he was spending over a month in Tanzania, doing research for his final dissertation and helping by volunteering at a primary school in Arusha.  Waking each morning to the view of Kilamanjaro in the distance.  We'll 'clink' our glasses together and say 'cheers' and before we know it, those glasses will be empty and I'll be pouring a second. I'm still in the process of uploading the photos from our day but I'm such a proud mum I do need to show you this
It was such a lovely ceremony - and I feel sure a full blog post will soon follow very soon {probably tomorrow}!  Not to mention a layout or two ☺ 
*SOAS is the School of Oriental and African studies and is part of the University of London.

Being a true Brit I'll be commenting on the glorious weather we've been enjoying and wondering how much longer it will last.  I'll tell you how relieved I am that the school summer holidays are finally here and how little I have planned for the next 5 weeks except for one week's holiday in Ibiza.  I'll be asking you what plans you have for the summer.
Talk will naturally move onto the birth of the Royal baby.  The Prince of Cambridge - a city just 30 miles up the motorway!  We'll probably discuss the choice of name and  I will tell you how I smiled when I read a suggestion that they may take a name from his father's family and one from his mothers and we could end up with Prince George Michael. Well, that was half right!
We'll probably use the excuse of 'wetting the baby's head' to pour one last glass of prosecco - the bottle will be empty and I'll offer you a cup of coffee before you head on over to Abi's blog to see who else is joining in this month.
Thanks for popping in! 

Monday 22 July 2013

You wait for ages for a dinosaur ...

... then four come along at once.
Having already found the 1000 dinosaur sticker book and the dinosaur floor tile, I went to a garden party yesterday where there were dinosaur biscuits for the children
 And a dinosaur toy in a pushchair
And I must thank Rinda for the fact that I am now known as the 'strange woman with the odd dinosaur obsession'.  Having rushed to the food table to take a photo when I overheard a mum say to her son 'Look at the lovely biscuits in the shape of a stegosauros'  Later I then saw the same child pushing a soft toy around in a push chair.  'Is that Peppa pig?' I asked. 
He looked at me with disdain.  Stupid adult woman.  Peppa Pig?  Of course it's not Peppa Pig it's George Pig.  
'what's that George has got under his arm?'
He gave me a withering look, the kind of look a 3 year old gives a grown up when they say something totally 'stoopid'.  'It's his dinosaur'. 
'Can I take the dinosaur's photo?'
Well I considered explaining. Would a 3 year old know what a scavenger hunt was?  Probably not.  So I just said 'I like dinosaurs'.  The little boy's mum sees her little son talking to a strange woman and comes over.  'Lady wants to take George's photo mum'.  I grab my phone and try to take a picture of the toy.  All I get is the little boy's elbow as he dances around with George and his dinosaur determined not to let me take a photo.  Then a blurred shot as he holds it close to me and then whips it away at the last minute.  People are now watching. Inspiration strikes.  'There's not many of those biscuits left now, why don't you go and get another one?'  and with that George is discarded on the grass and I take advantage of getting my shot.  I hastily put the toy in a pushchair and get my photo. 
My reputation is in tatters but at least I've got a good dinosaur shot.  

Saturday 20 July 2013

Hot and bothered and needing more washi tape

The sign of a true Brit is the ability to find something to say about any kind of weather.  It's part of our heritage; it means we never have nothing to say when we meet someone new.  It's either too cold, too wet, too windy, or, in the case of the last couple of weeks - too hot. Boy we've had some high temperatures - up in the 30s and whilst that is lovely if you are relaxing by a pool on holiday or lazing on a beach with a gentle breeze keeping you cool, it's not so nice if you are sweltering in the office.  We don't have air conditioning in our homes or local offices - because for 51 weeks of the year we wouldn't need it.  But it would have been handy recently.  The school I work in has been unbearable and the demand for fans in classrooms has outstripped the amount the caretaker has in store.  If you find a fan, you don't dare leave your desk for long as when you come back, someone will have 'borrowed' it 'just for a minute'. Come to think of it, that's how I 'obtained' the one I've been using ;-)

To be honest, when I've been at home, I haven't ventured into the garden much until the evenings because it's been too hot, but this has meant that I have a perfect excuse for getting a bit of crafting done.  {It's also been the perfect excuse for not doing the ironing, hoovering or cooking many hot meals.}  Now I'm not a great card maker, but I always admire cards that other people make.  I follow Sarah on Pinterest and Twitter and she finds some fabulous cards and there is one design that involved using washi tape that I particularly liked so when we were invited to the 30th birthday of the daughter of a friend of ours, I decided to have a go myself.
I can see this design working for all manner of occasions and I may be tempted to do it again.  I may just need some more washi-tape ... (any excuse)

I've found a few more scavenger hunt pictures recently and have updated my flickr album which you can find here.  Having searched for a dinosaur, I found a book featuring 1000 dinosaur stickers and then saw that the local supermarket has a treasure trail for children where you have to find various stickers.  I'm not sure who was most excited when I saw this one, me or the 4 year old standing next to me.  But I was the only one who pulled out their phone to take a photo!

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Simply a {hot} moment in July

Written in conjunction with a series of monthly posts organised by Alexa.

The sun is streaming in through the window and although it is barely 10am, the temperature is already almost 30 degrees.  The window is open but there is no breeze coming in, just a shaft of sunlight across the whole right side of my desk.  The school building is over 100 years old and not built for extremes of temperature, we freeze in the winter and bake in the summer. 
I look at the Publisher file on my computer.  It's time for the last school newsletter of the academic year.  Due out on Friday.  Deadline for articles to be sent to me for inclusion was last Thursday, yet when I opened my emails first thing this morning I was greeted by at least another ten items that need to go in.  I sigh.  I've sighed a lot this morning!
The drama faculty are doing their final rehearsals in the hall for the school production of 'Cabaret' which starts tomorrow evening.  Full dress rehearsal - and every now and again you catch a glimpse of a cast member running through reception in full makeup and costume.  They are practising 'Willkomen' again and again and I find myself subconsciously singing along in my head 'Willkomen, bienvenue, welcome ...'
A group of new teachers who will be joining us in September are brought round to be introduced to the secretarial staff.  They look so young - or am I just getting old?!  They look fresh and eager and ready to start their new career with us.  I fear that next to them we look slightly old and jaded!  They leave to go to the Finance office and I turn back to my newsletter.  And as I do so, another email pings into my inbox 'I'm really sorry Debbie, I know it's late but this really needs to go in the next newsletter, can you fit it in?'  Sigh. 

Sunday 14 July 2013

Don't believe all you read in the papers

Yesterday my daughter went with a friend to the Wireless festival at the Olympic Park.  They had a brilliant day, watching bands, wandering around in the sunshine and celebrity spotting.  They are huge fans of The Only Way is Essex.  (We live literally on the Hertfordshire/Essex border) So when they saw one of the stars near the VIP section, they made a bee line over there to see if they could meet him.  Not only did they meet him but, when asked if they could have their photo taken with him, he put his arms round them and then briefly kissed R's friend on the lips.  Moment over, they walked off and continued on their way.
So later in the evening, a friend of theirs sent a 'tweet' to tell them they were 'all over' the Daily Mail website.  According to that, this guy had pursued R's friend before planting a passionate kiss on the lips 'of a mystery brunette' while her blonde friend (we all know who that would be then) watched on.
So a brief 5 seconds of 'hey we recognise him - can we have a photo' becomes headline news and two very large photos of R and her friend end up plastered on the internet.  Hilarious!

So, in other news ...
I've made the little mini book to show off the photos from my husband's cycle trip to Germany. Using a design that Sandie taught at an EK crop and embellishments from the lovely pack of goodies that I received from Ifa in Sian's Big Swap of Small Things.

Which means that I can spend today out in the garden enjoying the sunshine! Can't believe that the good weather is lasting so long - let's make the most of it while it's here.

Monday 8 July 2013

Fantastic floristry

It was the EK crop on Saturday and I was SO looking forward to a day of cupcakes crafting.  It was a smaller group than normal which meant that there were TWO cupcakes each - yay!  Salted caramel with fudge cubes on top.  Yum. Yum. Yum.
Karen had designed a beautiful layout with a variety of hand made flowers as an embellishment.  Karen has a rule regarding layouts, if you can hold the page in one hand and it still lays flat and doesn't bow down at the edges, it doesn't have enough embellishment on it!  But when I opened my pack and saw the raw ingredients for about 40 flowers - my little heart sank, until Karen told us that she had run off as many cut outs as she could get out of the paper and they wouldn't all be needed! 
I must just draw your attention to the larger flowers with the fancy middle.  How gorgeous are they?  So lovely! All achieved with a bit of clever folding.  I almost had to have another cupcake to boost my sugar levels when I saw the one that looked like a rosebud that you fold around in a spiral.  We had done these in a previous class in vellum and things did not go according to plan!  However, either I have grown more dexterous in my old age or it's easier to do with paper, because they rolled and bloomed and stuck brilliantly.  It's so lovely to see a flat piece of paper transform into something so pretty. 
Another truly successful part of the day was Karen, Denise and I all managing to tick off another scavenger hunt photo.  Something or someone out of place.
There's a children's playground outside the hall we use for the crop so we pushed all the toddlers off the play equipment (not really) and raced to the smallest slide we could find.  So - three scrapbookers going down a slide, I think we fit that category (even if we didn't fit the slide!)

Sunday 7 July 2013

Picking my July Precious

Now when I show you a picture of my precious this month, you are likely to raise your eyebrows in a quizzical way and mentally think 'Really?'  Oh yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
So let me take you on a journey down memory lane.  It's the early 80s and we're newly weds.  We decide that we want to do something different to celebrate the New Year and so we have a word with our dear friends, Denise and 'himself', and arrange to stay at a hotel in Bournemouth for New Year's Eve.  We chose to go to Langtry Manor, historically the home of Lily Langtry, the mistress of King Edward VII.  It was an amazing place and they held a seven course banquet for New Year's Eve.  We had a brilliant time there and whilst exploring the area the following day, we popped into a craft shop where I bought this mug.

Now I'm not quite sure what appealed to me about it because it clearly wasn't the prettiest mug in the shop but let me tell you this, this mug makes the best cup of coffee in the world.  Not tea.  It's not a tea mug, that would have to be white china, it is most definitely a coffee mug.  And if ordinary coffee tastes very good in it, I can tell you that milky coffee tastes AMAZING.  It is the perfect size for holding between both hands and it keeps the drink hot for ages.  When I am feeling poorly and fancy something comforting - this is the mug that has to be used.  And no one else uses this mug.  No one.  The handle is too small for manly hands and for some reason it has always been known as 'Mum's Mug'.  It's the one I instantly pick when I come home from work, and the favourite one for mid morning coffee.   My daughter asked me a very scary and thought provoking question the other day: 'Whatever will you do if you ever break that mug Mum? Eeek!!