Another beautiful blogger...

posted on: Thursday, 29 April 2010

I was very surprised/pleased to be awarded another Beautiful Blogger award, this time from Tania, who writes, along with her co-writer Sarah Vine, 'Backwards in High Heels'. Quite flushed with pride that Tania described my blog as charming and aesthetically pleasing. In addition, Tania is a proper writer and has published a proper book, so the fact that she follows little ole me is great.

As I posted on one of these lovely awards a few weeks ago, I wondered if you were all that interested in another seven things about me and some more blogs that I like...then I assumed '...yes, I suppose so!' It would be positively ungracious of me not to accept my award, so here we go:

Number One
My husband and I renewed our wedding vows in Las Vegas. It was at the Graceland chapel, we took the Elvis and Priscilla vows, officiated by a fake Elvis. We were with our two best men and their lovely wives. My favourite all-time Elvis song is 'Suspicious Minds' but that seemed somewhat inappropriate for nuptials so Elvis sang 'Hunk of Burning Love' instead! Anyone who has seem my husband's rugby-playing physique will grasp how apt that song choice is! My friend L, who was one of my bridesmaids in our 'first' wedding has a big thing for this is for you!

Number Two
One of my best ever films is 'Beautiful Girls'. It's little-known, subtle, charming. I could watch it over and over (which should be the measure of a great film). Natalie Portman plays a young girl called Marty and she is just enchanting - an old soul. The score is also haunting and nostalgic.

Number Three
I didn't learn to cook until recent years, so when I first left home I lived on Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and rye bread with Danish Blue cheese. Not the ideal diet. Later, as my husband did all the cooking I never needed to. Then he got busier and was home less and we had kids who obviously needed feeding, I eventually learned. Now I am quite good, much to the surprise of anyone who knew me when...

Number Four
I am ever so slightly obsessed with John Updike novels. I re-read them most years. Sometimes the maleness of his point of view frustrates me wildly. However, I think he writes some of the most accurate modern depictions of human emotion ever.

Number Five
We have a cat. I insisted on getting him the year my husband and I started living together. He has used up far too many of his nine lives. He has been run over by cars three times, he had been reconstructed by vets and special cat neurosurgeons. He has lost his meow. He is generally grumpy. But Boo still loves him.

Number Six
When I was at University, in those idle hours my housemates and I used to fill between lectures, we used to muse that I could be hand model 'when I grew up'. This was my fall-back plan in case the heady career I was anticipating from my oh-so-useful English literature degree didn't materialise. We even took test shots of my hands! I have these ridiculously long fingers...spindly I have always thought. Alas no, these are not them...but I love her nail varnish.

Number Seven
You might not have guessed it but I am abit of a thinker. Shock! Some very good advice I was given by my friend N who I work with, is simply to breathe...and it works!

Now I need to nominate some other blogs that I think are beautiful. As I so recently did this, I will limit it to three.

For beautiful writing...Mackin ink
For sheer prettiness...The Pink Pen Word Studio
For lovely quirkiness...My Guide to surviving and enjoying life's mundane

Good enough...a pensive post

How do we decide when anything is good enough? This largely female pursuit of wondering ' I good enough?' fascinates me. It applies to every inch of my life and I ponder when exactly did it become a conscious decision? At what point did I insert that feeling that I could have done better?

I observe my daughter doing her homework and she does exactly what is required; no more, no less. I say '...why don't you explore that extra topic or why don't you draw another picture or read another page, do another sum?' She looks at me as if I am nuts and says ' doesn't say I have to do more, so why would I?' Good point. What is it in me that I always think the more I do, the better?

A good enough mother? Well, don't get me started...a dose of working-mother guilt, those very rare occasions where I find myself shouting at the Boos, times when I would rather be doing something else than making train tracks/plaiting Barbie's hair and my mind wanders and I think - shouldn't I be more committed and content to just play with them all the time?

A good enough wife? Ten years of marriage and it's all very good (we got the love), but at times I think, do I listen enough? Do I blame or force my own agenda? Do I make enough time for him?

At work, because I do a job where I am very experienced in a very niche field, I know, most of the time that I am good enough. But that feeling, in a corporate world, is a temporary luxury. Tomorrow I might not be good enough...they like to call it 'raising the bar'.

I went to the doctors yesterday as I have tonsillitis - boohoo its just not my week! I get this once a year, like clockwork. It's a little reminder that I am running too fast. The doctor said I must try to slow down. I said that's difficult, my life runs on rails and the pace is fast. She said derail, try harder! So I have to try harder at that too!

Even blogging. At what point do we press the 'publish' button in the knowledge that it is good enough? I post it, then go back and look at it, tweak it, re-post it and worse of all when it posts by accident because I pressed 'enter' too soon! Heaven forbid! Something went out into the internet ether and it was not good enough! I am stickler for spelling and grammar, which comes from my time in publishing where if there was a mistake, it was so my problem. So I confess I spent a good few hours agonizing about apostrophes in the word 'Boo'. Yep, really. Is it Boo's, Boos, Boos'...I think I need some booze...

I think that is why I am enjoying blogging so much, because ultimately it gives me validation. When people comment they are saying, in a round-about way, 'you are good enough!' and I like that :-)


posted on: Tuesday, 27 April 2010

My Mum has exquisite taste. In her house there are always posies of pretty flowers picked from her garden on the mantle. She always has piles of magazines just haphazardly left in whicker baskets, soft throws draped just so. It always looks elegant, homely, stylish. It was the same in her mother's house. Always something interesting and quirky to see...

I so love my Mum. Its not Mother's Day or anything...but sometimes there is a need for an unprompted show of mother-love. I realise I am blessed to have such a good relationship with her. I can honestly say she is amongst my absolute best of friends. We see each other every couple of days, she is my right-hand-(wo)man with my children. I could not be the mother I am without my mother.

Whilst we are very close, we are not demonstrably so. But she means so much to me, every day I am thankful for her, even if I don't show it enough. The grace with which she raised my brother and I, on her own, in circumstances that were far from easy, is awe-inspiring. She is and has always been the strongest woman I know. She can make everything alright. She can tell just from the first words I utter on the telephone if I am OK or not.

Even if I propose something that is slightly unhinged - she still supports me, knowing that I will work my way through it, if its right or if its wrong. She has that uncanny mother quality, that now, even though I am 36 years old, its still as if I were a child.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her daughter...

Why shoes?

posted on: Saturday, 24 April 2010

I was one of those girls who, as a child, would get a new pair of shiny mary-janes and would go to sleep with them, pretty much, on my pillow. Shoes and I? We have always been close as close can be. Nothing like new shoes.

Not much has changed now that I am grown - still love shiny shoes, still keep them in my sight when they are brand new; you know, just loitering around the bedroom in case I need to catch a glimpse. I have many - far too many I'm sure. I did toy with the idea of getting all of my shoes out and taking a photo, just to see the scale things, but then I thought better of it. Did I need to provide my husband/conscience with photographic evidence of my addiction the next time we have one of those 'stop shopping' talks?

However this makes it sound as if all I do is buy shoes and really, honestly I don't. I am a very selective shoe shopper (the same can be said for handbags; still having the guilt sweats over last week's frivolous red, patent, boutique purchase). I covet shoes. I lust after them. I have them feature in mini-movies in my mind's eye, where they guest-star with certain outfits. Shoes are the best supporting actress. 

In reality, with my lifestyle, I live in flats - ballet shoes in summer and riding-style boots in winter. But that doesn't stop the adoration for others of a more exotic variety. And at work, especially if I have a big meeting, I will bring out the heels. I am constantly on the look-out for the perfect pair of red ballet shoes, the perfect brown boot, the perfect incandescent strappy heel, the perfect black court and so it goes...

So when there are no shoes...I get shoe blues... ;-)

Dinner parties...

posted on: Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dinner parties. A slightly middle-aged pursuit, I always thought. When my husband and I first lived together, I recall having dinner parties which felt entirely like playing grown-ups. We even bought a fondue set, which now strikes me as a bizarre dinner to serve; here is plate of raw meat, cook it yourself. Or to take the Alpine variety; have cheese and bread as your main course.

I couldn't resist a 'Mad Men' image...

Over the years though, dinner parties have become the primary source of weekend entertainment. Without us even noticing. We go out to restaurants for dinner, we go out for a drink, sometimes someone has a party or better still, my all time favourite: a wedding. But on the whole, its dinner parties where we catch up with friends.

It started almost imperceptibly when we had babies. We were not free to go out, so taking the baby, in a carry-cot was a way to rejoin the human race, to feel social, without having to commit to going to  public place - what if the baby cries?! When I was pregnant with Boo 1 we stayed in Boston with friends and went to a restaurant there called 'Olives'. There was a couple at the next table who had a newborn and when it stirred and murmured, the mother very discreetly got the infant out of the car seat that she had placed at her feet. She proceeded to breastfeed it effortlessly and quietly, concealing it under a cashmere pashmina. I remember turning to my husband and saying '...this is how it will be, we will be just like we are now, but with a scrumptious, tiny addition'. Ummmm? Not quite!

We have some great friends with whom we can be utterly ourselves, so a dinner with them is easy, happy, non-stressful. We book one in every month or so just to keep ourselves sane. But we now also enter the time of proper, grown-up (as we are no longer playing at it; this is for real), get-your-best-china-out dinner parties. This can even involve tactical invitations to couples who will mix and match. And so it is. My husband cooks, he is the trophy chef; he does the dinner party cooking and I flit around making the house look pretty and topping up drinks. Being an effortless hostess is a gift, I am not sure I have it. Some of my friends can entertain for twelve or fourteen without a hitch, for me its not quite that easy.

When I do it though, I enjoy it and wonder why I don't do it more...not least because we put on our best front, the house looks its best and we all scrub up for a social show.

Working mother...

posted on: Monday, 19 April 2010

The lovely Natalia Vodianova and her son.

For the first time for a very long time, last week I had a week off work and we did not go anywhere. We had a 'staycation' or a 'home-a-day'. We did try to get a last-minute trip away; we wanted to get some sun in Florida, but could not find a flight out of the UK when we checked about a month ago. Even if we had found a flight we would have been going nowhere due to the volcanic ash! Strange how it goes...

So no work for a week. I was a full time Mummy for a week. Different kind of work. It was lovely. In more of the best laid plans my husband had the week off too so we were going to gad around together with the children, trips out and family time. As it happened he got an attack of Gout; he gets this periodically. I know, its the affliction of kings from the Middle Ages, but in reality its ridiculously painful and completely debilitating. So he was laid up. Oh to have a crystal ball to have seen those two things coming!

The funny thing about not working was how easily the corporate life just slipped out of mind, without a trace. The ease with which I morphed into Mummy-life surprised me and has made me wonder - why do I work? Or let me re-phrase: why do I work so hard at working? Of course there is financial necessity (handbags don't come for free) but on a wider point, was the joy of this release from work something I should consider more deeply?

I have always been a working mother, part time, but always working. I love my job, but in the same breath, the logistics of working and being a Mummy can be crippling and exhausting. I do genuinely wonder if the head space that it all occupies could be better used?

My working has always been tied up with lots of other stuff, like the fact that when I am alone too much I think too much, I like being good at my job, I get a 'shopping fund', I don't instead of working, by default, spend all my time cleaning my house (you know I would...), it usually 'works' for us as a family. I can balance it.

If I didn't work what would life be like? Its a big unknown for me and - truthfully - probably a hypothetical. But this last week has been thought-provoking, for sure. In true piscean fashion - I am undecided. This is likely just be a little waver...but the thing is, I have remembered that it is a choice.

Meanwhile on the topic of motherhood, I found out from a commenter that I have been nominated for a national blog award - The MADs (The Mummy and Daddy Blog Awards)! How novel, I have no idea who nominated me, but I am up for 'best new blog' and 'best looking blog'! I have never been nominated for the best looking anything...its quite exciting... :-)


Good day...

posted on: Saturday, 17 April 2010

I am sure there are many people who are utterly suffering because of the volcanic ash issue that has grounded all flights to and from here. But I am secretly, just for today, delighted. My best friend and the Boo's Godmother D is stranded here, unable to return to Holland. Instead she was able to spend an extra day. Secret 'yey' as although I know her beau is wishing she was home; for us - its a big, unexpected bonus! There's just nothing like old friends.  After a Friday night curry, reading the birthday boy a bedtime story of 'Owl Babies' and watching a trashy film, my husband retired to bed and left us girls chatting into the early hours.

Some of you have mentioned my header photo and the fact that I kept it in my blog redesign. I love this shot! This picture was taken in West Wittering, on the coast near here - really, truly one of my favourite places in the world. This is Boo...looking out to sea as we lay low in the dunes last summer.

 And best of all - today was a sunny Spring day, worthy of sunglasses and bare feet and playing in the garden.

The girls (D, Boo and I) headed off to a local boutique owned by a good friend of my sister in law. Yummy, lovely things were there. I tried to refrain (really I did) but had to have a rather delicious Orla Kiely handbag - red, patent loveliness for a sunny day.

P.S. I googled rumba pants and I am pretty sure that's the right name for them...but I did have a moment of doubt ;-)

Did you get the vibe that I am quite happy today? Its been a good day.

Body image...

posted on: Thursday, 15 April 2010

Body image - this feels like its a controversial topic amongst women. For me, I have a good one, pretty much. I have been lucky most of my life to be fairly slim...svelte...slender...whatever the word to describe comfortable in my skin, able to wear the clothes I like, no major fluctuations in weight. I have a pretty healthy relationship with food. I love it; my day revolves around it, I have nothing but good feelings for good food. I associate food with health. I eat well, I am well. The weight issue is an I absolutely admit: I am lucky.

When I had my firstborn I gained over 4 stones (56 lbs) in weight. I was young and to be honest, a little arrogant back then. I thought that I would always be slim no matter what. I genuinely thought that my body was not capable of putting on fat. Yet in those days and weeks after the birth, the realisation dawned - that I had gone post-pregnancy from a UK size 10 to a size 16. None of my clothes had a hope of fitting. I felt like my old body was gone forever and I would, forevermore, look like I had been 'dipped' in extra weight. I know, I know, a size 16 is not a bad size. I have much love for plus size models, I am not saying that size 16 is see what I mean? Controversial. I don't want to suggest anything negative...what I am saying is that the movement from slim to not so slim was such a shock to my system. For me it was very hard to come to terms with. I had never dieted. I had never thought about what I ate. I had never exercised (see previous post on why I run...). cut a long story short, I spent 6 months ruefully lamenting my lost body. That early baby stage was not exactly my happiest, I struggled with adapting to motherhood, I was just 26, most of my friends were still working on careers and finding husbands. I was working on breast feeding and washing baby clothes. Then out the blue, I contracted Salmonella food poisoning and was soooo sick. The weight dropped off in a week or two as I was just so ill! I guess from a body image perspective I was given a reprieve. I returned to some semblance of my old body and that has stayed, give or take, until today.

I do look at my daughter though and wonder what body image messages she is getting from me. I try never to talk about food/fad diets/weight in a way that will make her question the beauty of her body. I just want her to sail through life (what mother doesn't?) thinking of her body as a fantastic tool that she had been given, a gift, to do stuff from body image issues.

Order in my world...

posted on: Wednesday, 14 April 2010

There is something about these lines of lettuce that make me happy. :-) I think I crave order in life; things to be where they are meant to be. I don't do too well with upheaval and change. I am a simple soul.

I like a blank canvas...isn't this hallway image below just lovely? Makes me wonder what room it leads from and what's in the room its leading to? White-washed and fresh. My house does not much resemble this at the moment. Its week three of the Easter holidays (yep, I know Easter was ages ago...) and I am getting to the point where we have exhausted every trip, every entertainment, every game I know of to keep my children occupied. My house is full of life but also alot of plastic toys that lurk on every floor. Both my husband and I are off work this week, which I must admit has been lovely for me - a release from the corporate world and my place in it.

But back to order and change. I also like this room with the neat and tidy shelves. So I like things just so. Its a shame, I wish I was more of free spirit but hey - its the way I am. With my husband's job there is always a chance that we might have to up-sticks and move to another country. This prospect thrills and petrifies me in equal measure. Its so not me. I have lived within 3 square miles of the same city for over thirty years of my life (bar going to University, but then I still travelled home to see the 'boy next door' most weekends). best friend D is coming here on Friday. She is Godmother to our children and has been my rock of friendship for years. She has upped-sticks and moved to different countries a total of three times - to America, Spain and now she has settled in Holland. So a visit from her is a treat. We call her the 'bubble lady' as she has this freaky talent of making the most amazing bubbles with her hands. It has kept the Boos entertained at bathtime many times. So this image makes me think of her...

Beautiful blogger...

posted on: Monday, 12 April 2010

I have an award, kindly given to me by In Sniff's Choos, fellow Scandinavian blogger from Norway so thank you very much :-)

Its a 'Beautiful Blogger' award - my first - and the requirement is that I list seven interesting things about myself and list seven blogs I am liking - eeek...

Here are seven 'interesting' things about me:

Number One
My first job out of University was working in a publishing house, editing and writing children's books. This is not as impressive as it sounds, hardly Booker Prize winning literature, more like 'the cat sat on the mat'. I however learned alot and stayed there for about four years before thinking there was more to life than earning not-very-much for the luxury of saying I worked in publishing and wrote for a living. So I left, sold out for the corporate dollar...and that was one of the best things I ever did!

Number Two
My husband was actually 'the boy next door'. His family moved into my road; he lived at number 4 and I lived at number 5.  After years of living in the same road, we got together once I had left the area, when I was just 18 and back from University on a study break. I have known him for nearly thirty years and I have now been with him for longer than I have been without him.

Number Three
I was convinced when we bought our house that it was haunted. Its an old farmhouse and local stories pervaded suggesting one of the bedrooms had a 'presence'. We moved in, I was spooked for months and then over time decided there was nothing there. The fact that our cat gladly took to the room that was meant to be haunted made me think: if anything was there, it was a friendly thing, as don't animals pick up on room 'vibes'?!

Number Four
Both of my children weighed exactly the same when they were born, despite one being right on time and the other being early. My body produces babies weighing 7 lbs 11 ounces regardless of stay in the womb.

Number Five
I have a very good friend P, who used to be Home Office Forensic Scientist. She is, without doubt, one of the cleverest women I know. When she was working, her job was to turn up at a murder scene and work out who did it, based on forensic evidence. The stories she has to tell make my eyes water and my toes curl. I can't even begin to imagine the sights she has seen. She is an amazing friend to have as she knows everything about everything and her instincts - well let's just say, she is pretty much always right...and lovely at the same time.

Number Six
Whilst not that interesting, its all that matters to me at the moment; I have had tooth ache for the last couple of weeks. I posted that I was 'out of sorts' - well I have figured out this is why! Something is going cosmically wrong with my teeth. I have an appointment at the dentist tomorrow...I have already been three times and he could not work out what was wrong. Tooth ache is just the worst...I can think of little else.

Number Seven
I love, love, love 'Anne of Green Gables' and grew up watching it. Gilbert Blythe, puffed sleeves, kindred spirits, Marilla and Matthew, Prince Edward Island, Anne with an 'e'. I think every girl should see it. Definitely.

Finally I list seven other Blogs that, in my humble opinion, deserve this accolade. I have chosen blogs I like, some (not all) of which are 'newer' blogs, as when you start out, its nice to get some recognition, someone saying 'I like what you do'. So for these bloggers - a Beautiful Blogger award as I like what you do:

Turning a Leaf
The Littlest Things
Pink o'clock
Brown Button
London Zest

Me and my Cousins...

posted on: Thursday, 8 April 2010

'Hip Hip Hurrah! Artists' Party, Skagen' by Danish painter Peder Severin Kroyer (1851-1909)

This weekend we go to Copenhagen for a big family party. My Uncle is turning 60 so the family are gathering to celebrate the occasion. My mother is Danish; I am half Danish. Denmark is in my blood despite never having lived there and (rather shamefully) not being able to speak the language. This resulted in much gesturing and sign-language between my Mormor (Grandma) and I, who lived til she was 94.

I have not been back to Denmark for 5 years. I owe my absence to having children! They do make travel can I say? Cumbersome.

So we have a big family there - I have 10 cousins and a handful of second cousins with whom I grew up. Every family holiday was spent there in pure, clean, Scandinavian loveliness, we had quite simply, the best time. My parents split when I was 8 so my Danish family provided the thread that kept that fabric of familyness together for me.

Back then all my Danish cousins looked something like this...

...or this...

My family live on the outskirts of Copenhagen, my aunt and uncle's house sits on a lake where they can canoe in summer and skate in winter. Everything in Denmark, from my recollection as a child, is beautiful and calm. Everything has been designed as a 'thing of beauty' - fit for its life purpose.

My cousins and I; we climbed trees together as children, we got drunk together as teenagers and as adults, sadly its tailed off abit as we were all reproducing! There are now, as well as the first generation cousins, 8 new babies for me to meet!

This is the Danish Royal family - how chilled out do they look? I mean can you see our Queen Elizabeth sitting on the steps to Buckingham Palace with her grandchildren frolicking in front?

The weather will still be cold in Copenhagen - but it will be a breath of spring air nevertheless to see my family again...

Pushing a boulder up a hill...

posted on: Monday, 5 April 2010

I often feel like this image represents one element of my life. It is Sisyphus - who, in Greek mythology, was punished. His punishment: he had to push a boulder up a hill and then watch it roll down again, over and over for all eternity. My Sisyphean equivalent is house cleaning. My boulder is the toil associated with my house.

I know this sounds crazy as I have testified in recent posts - I love my house. Love it with a passion. But what is it about my little family, that they insist on messing it up all the time? In an endless cycle: I clean it up, they mess it up. And again, and again.

I so wish I was one of those mothers who just let it go. Does a messy house = happy kids?

What I find deeply ironic is that most of us do want to have beautiful houses - look at half the housey/interior/'a slice of beauty' blogs we follow - that are almost impossible to emulate in real life. In those houses, where is all the kiddy plastic? Where are the 15 pairs of muddy shoes in the hall? Where are the mismatched Barbie and Polly Pocket outfits? Where is the polyester Batman costume belt and the Superman cape? These are the questions...

I worry that my kids will think back on their childhoods with memories of me rushing around after them tidying up like a maniac. I really try (honest I do) to let it go. To just live in squalor and filth and be content. But I am afraid there is something in me - something deeply rooted, that yearns for images like this...

Mental note: got to get a blackboard somewhere in my house...

Playrooms with only wooden toys....I did once mandate one Christmas that the children should only have wooden toys - let's just say Father Christmas wasn't that popular that year!

Right - I am off to tidy up... ;-)


posted on: Thursday, 1 April 2010

I like the 60s. I know, its odd, I wasn't there, but I have a fascination with it as an era. In 1963 my parents got married, and ask anyone who was alive then the question: 'where were you when Kennedy was shot?' and most will recall in minute detail.

One of my favourite ever books is 'Couples' by John Updike, which is set in 1963. I have read this book over and over; this book I love. The subject matter however is dark, its about adultery in suburban New England. Its such an intimate view of a listless marriage, its almost painful to read at times but the way he writes, the accuracy of human emotion, is well...its amazing.

This image appeared in Vogue in 1963...and the Vogue cover below it...what is with that headscarf? And that is some 'do' underneath...

Under Parasols at the Beach photographed by Louise Dahl-Wolfe- Vogue 1963

I have a first edition of the book...I saw it in an antique book shop, just there alone on a shelf - I could not believe my luck!

Here is John Updike, who died in 2009. He was a genius...

Christine Keeler in 1963 when the Profumo scandal iconic image with the Arne Jacobsen chair...

Lewis Morley Portrait of Christine Keeler 1963

John F Kennedy in another iconic White House picture...he was assassinated in November 1963.

JFK painting by Aaron Shikler

Jackie Kennedy looking radiant...

'Mad Men' is set in 1963...the styling on that programme is a dream. The dresses! These shots appeared in Vanity Fair and capture completely the sentiment of John Updike's 'Couples' novel..

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