Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Is that what you call music?

I have a very clear memory of being five years old and being asked what I wanted for Christmas. I thought for a minute or two and then announced that as I was getting older now, it was probably about time I had some pop music. That Christmas I got the very first Now album, Now that's what I call music. It was a double LP, a real record. I had my grandparents old stereo as they were updating theirs.  As I got a bit older I got more records, then some tapes and at the weekend I'd listen to the top 40 on radio one and tape my favourite tracks.

Now that's what I call music

I actually had three more Now albums, I was given Now 2 (also on vinyl) and then I had Now 12 (which had such classics as Doctorin' the Tardis by the Timelords, Push it by Salt and Pepper and I think we're alone now by Tiffany) and Now 23 both on double cassette, which was a little annoying as they wouldn't fit into the tape holder thing I had. These days the Now series has moved on quite a bit and in the UK they're up to Now 89 and any number of other Now compilations, (dance, Disney and Christmas to name just a few).

Kai has never really shown much interest in music, other than mentioning if he likes or doesn't like something that I'm listening to. This Christmas though, we got him a CD player for his room. Now that he has his own room, we thought that he might like to have one, especially as he likes to listen to books on CD. I thought that he might like some music to listen to too. The obvious choice seemed to be one of the Now CDs. Here in New Zealand, they haven't got quite so high in numbers, so it was Now 46.

Is that what you call music?

I still have my Now 1, somewhere, back in the UK. I wonder in years to come if Kai will still have his first CD? I suspect that when he has children of his own, they probably won't know what CDs are any more, the same way that my children don't really know what records or even tapes are. Even so, my taste in music may have changed and developed over time, but I still look back fondly on that first taste of pop music

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Never a crossword

If someone asks me what I do in my spare time, my stock standard response is that I don't have any spare time. I have four children and run a business; how am I going to have spare time. Of course this isn't really true. I suppose I think that because I remember spare time as being hours spent lounging about, reading books, (usually when I should have been doing something else admittedly) but those days are long gone. These days, 'spare time' activities are stuffed into grabbed seconds between other tasks.

I read, a lot. I shouldn't have time to get through the amount of books I consume, but that doesn't seem to stop me. Having the ability to take a book with me anywhere helps. I can read on my kindle, and then later read a bit of the same book on my phone. I have also been known, (on quite a regular basis if I'm honest) to read a page or two while making breakfast, or packing lunches, or even on a quick loo visit. Sometimes those books you can't put down, really are books you can't put down.

These days my spare time fillers tend to be reading, writing, and watching a bit of TV. I do sew and knit, but not nearly as much as I would like or used to. I suppose that those hobbies may experience a bit of a renaissance if ever I do manage to reclaim some real spare time. A girl can always dream.

Something I do love doing though, is puzzles. I spent most of my labour with both of the boys with a pen and puzzle book in hand. The girls' were a little bit too fast for me to have much chance, but I indulged afterwards, in the hospital. I like logic puzzles, a lot, crosswords are good too. Particularly cryptic ones. Not that I'm as good at them as I'd like to be, but I am getting better. I suppose that it's all part of a love of language and words, the best cryptic clues are those that make you smile when you suddenly get them. Almost like a clever little joke that you really have to think about in order to get.

Never a cross word with a crossword

Even though I don't have a lot of time for these things, I think that it's probably important to take time to actually do something for the sake of it, just for fun and relaxation. Using your brain to solve something, or escape to another place. It's so easy to get bogged down in the day to day trudge of life, and spending some time on something that's just for you can really help, Using crosswords (and my other hobbies) helps to ensure that there are fewer cross words spoken in our house. I sometimes feel guilty if I take a few minutes for something that doesn't really matter, or achieve anything, but of course, that isn't true. It does achieve a lot, it helps me feel good and more relaxed.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Dreaming of Castles

Homesickness is a funny thing, these days, after living here for over six years, it isn't an all consuming need to be at home. Feeling homesick just makes itself known, every now and again, without interrupting my day to day life, without getting in the way of what I'm doing. Every so often, I get a sudden flash that brings up somewhere from home so vividly, just for a second. There's no real reason for it, nothing that seems to have triggered it, but for just a second I'm walking down the street in Uttoxeter, or shopping in Derby, or walking down a street in Swad. It doesn't even have to be somewhere that I know that well, in fact the place I know the best, home home, very rarely makes an appearance in this way. Other times, I find myself missing a thing, rather than a place from home. Admittedly, usually these things are usually edible, which is why the Christmas gift full of Swizzles sweets from my Brother this year, was so fantastic.

My favourite sweets from home

Then there's a different kind of homesickness, a non-specific homesickness that makes me just want to be there. I find myself missing something random, that you just don't get over here. Like castles. I really miss castles. That makes it sound a bit like I spent most of my time in one (sadly not), but even so, back home, I did spent a fair amount of time in or near them. Of course there are lots of lovely things to do over here, just the other day the kids and I had a great time on the beach, but right now, I really want to visit a castle.

Beaches are fun, but they're not castles.

Part of this castle love comes down to the fact that I am a historian, at least that's what my degree was in, and I still love history in all it's many forms. I've always been a medievalist at heart, and just love the middle ages, which is of course serious castle time. Of course, sadly, most castles now are in ruins, but the chance to wander around them and dream about what was once there, what happened there, and the way life was...... Actually, if I'm honest, I find castle ruins far more interesting than ones that are more complete.

I grew up to a number of different castles, the one a Tutbury being hugely important at one time or another for various reasons, was one that I have visited many many times, and always been a favourite. Then of course, other than the local ones, were the many that we visited when on holidays, all around England, a bit of Scotland and of course Wales, which has heaps of castles. In fact I actually started making a board on pinterest of some of my favourite castles. (As you do.)

I do miss them though, I'd love to go and spend an hour or so with the kids exploring the ruins of a castle, climbing the tower and seeing the view, imagining the people who lived there. Looking for secret tunnels and passage ways, pepping out through the cross-shaped windows that are cut deep in to the walls. It's not going to happen though, at least at the moment, because I live in a country that doesn't have castles (and before anyone says Larnach, it might call itself a castle, but it isn't, at all, although it's a nice place to visit). So in the mean time I'll have to keep dreaming of castles and maybe building my own on the beach out of sand.

Dreaming of castles

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Not planning to fail

When it comes to writing, planning has never been my forte. At least formal, write it down before you start planning hasn't. With my writing goals for this year, I'm really going to have to address that, as I'm sure that the chances of writing something even vaguely coherent without a proper plan are next to zero.

It's not that I don't have a plan, what tends to happen when I'm writing here is that I have a detailed plan with interesting little phrases and pieces of information all fully formed. Sadly it's always in my head and usually comes to me when I'm not really in a position to write. For example, the out line for this particular blog post occurred to me the night before last while I was getting ready for bed, more specifically while I was on the loo. I usually work on these plans for a little while, give them a little polish and then as soon as I am able, write it up. Usually a day or so later, by which time of course, my little plan has got all confused and I come up with something slightly garbled and a good deal less cohesive. What I really really need to do, is start making notes and commit the planning process to paper so that I can keep track of it later, when I can write.

If you fail to plan, plan to fail

At school one of my English teachers was fond of saying "If you fail to plan, plan to fail." We were encouraged to write plans for all of our essays, and even told that if we ran out of time in an exam, but had an essay plan, they might even give us credit for it. My essay plans tended to look like this:

Intro - current plan - school plan - why need to plan - conclusion

I very much doubt that anyone would have given me any kind of credit for that. It served its purpose in the sense that I knew what I wanted to write about in each paragraph, but I doubt anyone else could have gained anything from it. I continued in the same way at University and, to a greater or lesser degree, it worked. Of course, the reason for that, may have simply been that the real plan, the one in my head, was committed to paper, in the form of the essay, before I could loose track of it. I suspect that I used something a little more sophisticated for my dissertation, but I honestly can't remember.

From here on in, if I really am going to give this book writing lark a go, I will have to start planning. A story needs a structure and direction to get it from the start, through the various plot twists and turns to the end. I need to map out my route and try not to wander off too much into random tracks and lanes that lead away from my destination. It might take me some time to get to grips with that.

My plan is to start making myself plan even smaller things, like this blog. I'm not sure that it will make much difference with something small like this, and I may still ramble on for some time, but hopefully it will get me into the habit of planning. After all, I'm not planning to fail.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

That was the year that was

It's nearly the end of 2014 and so it seems fitting to have a bit of a look back at the year, or at least my experience of it. What happened, what didn't happen and possibly what I'd like to achieve next year.

The children, who of course play the biggest role in my life, got bigger, and older and grew so much. The two boys are flying through school at an alarming rate, with Mahe just finishing year one, and Kai at the end of year three. Of course this time next year I'll have three at school and one at daycare, but I don't want to think about that. Having four children can be stressful and tiring and busy, but most of all it's so much fun, I love every second and it's more than worth it.

That was the year that was

Work wise I took on another business (minkylicious) at the beginning of the year, and continued to work on the two that I already had (ecobots and nappyneedz) so now not only am I doing lots with cloth nappies, but I've got fabric and nappy making supplies too.  I wouldn't say I'm ready to buy the second house in the Caribbean yet, or the yacht, but it's keeping me out of trouble. With any luck (and yet more had work) I'm hoping that it's going to be even bigger an better this year.

minkylicious goodness

The last few months, I've been doing battle with food baby and I've even started to wear a few clothes that I didn't for a while. Things haven't gone completely, but I'm feeling a lot happier about it all, so that's got to be a good thing. I just need to make sure that next year I don't fall back into bad habits, and try and keep up with the yoga. That helps in all kinds of ways, not just with dealing with the bulge.

I've spent a lot of time this year reading, which is nothing new, I always do. I've devoured all kinds of books at a great rate, (thank goodness for my kindle) I don't want to stop doing that next year, although I might get a little more selective about what I download. I've gone through quite a few free or 77p (as I buy off the UK Amazon site) books, I have to admit that I've found some great new authors that way, but there's a lot of rubbish too. Life is too short for crap books, so I'm going to only bother reading those that are well written and have a good story. Which leads me onto something else, for many many years I've said I'm going to attempt to write something myself. Really give it a good go, not the random scribblings that don't really go beyond the first chapter or initial idea. I think it's time I stopped saying one day, and started saying today, now. I'm not saying it will be any good, I'm not saying that I'll ever feel it's good enough to show other people, but if I don't try at some point, then I'll come to regret it I'm sure. So, next year I'm going to give it a really good go, and at the very least start my book. Watch this space, I may have more to say on this later in the year......

Reading reading reading, always reading

I'm sure that there was much more that happened this year, but right now, sitting here, nothing really springs to mind. For now, it will have to do; 2014 that was the year that was.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Party Season

It's that time of year again, which means that not only is town full of people madly shopping for last minute gifts, but party season (for the children at least) is upon us.  It's nearly Christmas.  We managed to have two parties just this last weekend, which is probably slightly bad timing, it might have been slightly better to spread them over two weekends, but at least they weren't on the same day, which is what nearly happened.

Christmas party season

First up was the fire brigade family party, I'm not sure if I've mentioned before or not, by my husband is a local volunteer fire fighter, so we get to go to the Christmas party with all of the other families who are involved.  This year it was an evening do with a barbecue and I may (or may not) have had quite a bit of wine to drink, seeing as I wasn't driving. It was lots of fun, and the children loved it, especially as there was face painting involved, the three who decided to get their face painted went all out festive and chose a butterfly (for both of the girls) and a zombie (obviously).

butterfly facepaintbutterflyZombie boy
Second up was a Saturday afternoon party at playcentre; another barbecue and visit from Santa, and fun was had by all.  This time there was a little letter box to write a letter to Santa in.  All of the parents were discreetly checking out what their children were asking for, just to make sure that there weren't any unexpected requests.

Meeting Santa at the Christmas party

The chance to meet Santa (twice) and all get together is fantastic, but it also always seems to remind me how the children's expectations are so often much lower than we expect.  It's so easy to spend a fortune at Christmas and go overboard. This year though, Lena was a little upset.  I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she'd asked for some earrings, and was given a jigsaw instead.  She soon cheered up when I explained that this was just a little present from Santa, and she'd be getting something else when it was actually Christmas.  I think that she thought that this was it; Christmas, and had she got her earrings (clip on, by the way, we've not had that battle yet) she'd have probably been completely content with that.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Cheap and cheerful Christmas gifts

Christmas is such an expensive time of year, and it's easy to get carried away with the amount that you spend on Christmas gifts.  Although it's lovely to give people something for Christmas, it needn't cost the earth, and with a bit of thought you can get some great gifts really cheaply.  Here are five ideas for cheap and cheerful Christmas gifts for children:

1. Dressing up clothes

My children love to dress up, but there's no need to spend a fortune on lots of proper outfits.  A few years ago I got a big box and filled it with old hats, bags, shoes and head squares that I found at a local second hand shop.  The children loved playing with them and dressing up, and I only spent about $25 on a huge box of things that gets played with lots.

Dressing up clothes make a great cheap and cheerful Christmas gifts

2.Dollar shop fun

There's a lot of tat and rubbish to be found in dollar shops, but there are also bargains to be had.  Have a look at what's on offer next time you pass, the cheaper building blocks that are lego compatible are often great value for money, and you can get some fantastic sets for very little money. Smaller items like footballs, kites and skipping ropes are often cheaper from dollar shops and still great quality.

3.Books, books, books

My kids love to have stories, but new books can be really expensive.  You can pick up pre-loved children's books from second hand book shops, as well as op-shops and charity stores, sometimes for as little as 50 cents.  A book doesn't have to be brand new to make a great gift.

Books always make good gifts

4. Days out

Days out with the family don't have to cost the earth, lots of trips are free or very reasonably priced. Think about giving the children a voucher for a trip to the beach, or to the local museum.  A picnic can be fairly reasonable and lots of fun.

5.Pre-loved toys

Christmas gifts don't have to come in their original packaging, and there's no reason why you cant give pre-loved toys as cheap and cheerful Christmas gifts.  One of the best Christmas gifts we gave our boys when they were younger was a whole tub filled with second hand duplo that we got for $15 off trademe.  They still play with it today.

Pre-loved toys can be a Christmas hit

So there you have it, a few ideas for cheap and cheerful Christmas gifts, what do you do to avoid spending a fortune at this time of year.