Sunday, 31 May 2015

A look back at the May Challenge

May 2015 blog challengeAs you may remember, at the beginning of the month I started a month long blog challenge. One post a day for the whole month of May. Well, here we are at the end of May, and here is the end of the challenge. So how have I done?

Well, the first and most obvious thing is that I've managed to do a whole month of blog posts, one a day for the month. I did cheat a little bit in the middle, while we were away, and had to catch up because I missed a few days. But I don't think that really matters, I did them all in the end. 

Was it worth doing though? Did I enjoy it? Yes and yes. It hasn't always been easy to come up with new post ideas every day, I'm not sure if I would have written on all of these topics had I not needed to come up with something new every day, but it's been a good way to get the creative juices flowing and actually commit to putting something down in writing. (I was going to say put pen to paper, but clearly that's not the case these days.)

I would like to think that I can keep this up, although the idea of having to come up with a new blog topic every day for the rest of the year seems a bit much. If I can keep writing more regularly though, that would be a good thing. I usually try for once a week, but maybe two or three times a week. Writing the book review will certainly help with that.

It might even help me actually write something else, this book that I keep starting and not really getting much further with. If I could write some of that every day, even just a little, I might even find that I manage, over time to write the whole thing.

Either way, it's been fun doing this May blog challenge, I may try another one some time in the future, watch this space...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Moving stress

Moving stress
There are few things more stressful than moving house, I should know, I've done it enough in the last ten years or so. 

A couple of years ago now, I worked out that we'd moved about ten times in the previous ten years. 

Fortunately, since then we've stayed put, and in the last three years we've not gone anywhere. I dislike moving so much, that I've said that's it, I'm not moving again.

Unfortunately I'm not completely missing out on the stress of dealing with house sales though, We've currently got our little house on the market. Back when we first moved to New Zealand, we moved into a tiny two bedroom (although the second bedroom is so small that it doesn't really count) by the time we'd got three children, it was clearly far too small for us.  For a while we rented it out and then did it up read to sell.

It's taken a bit of time, but a few weeks ago, we finally got to a position where we could put it on the market. Yay. So now we have to wait and see what will happen, it's not the greatest time of year for selling houses, being so cold and all, but hopefully...

With any luck we can finally start doing the things we want to do to our own house, getting it done how we want. Phase one, the new fire has just been done, but there's quite a way to go yet...

Friday, 29 May 2015

In the midst of life - Roger Silverwood

I have read a lot of crime and murder mystery books, they are one of my favourite genre of books, and if I want some kind of relaxing entertainment then I often turn to a murder mystery either in book form or on the tv. 

They come in many different styles and are written with varying degrees of success. I have to start by saying, that for me, this was not one of the better ones.

The lead detective, Inspector Michael Angel just didn't ring true. The book was apparently written about ten years ago, it mentioned mobile phones, computers, modern forensic techniques, but he seemed of a different age.

There was quite a bit of talk about his wife being away and his cats needing milk, but it didn't add to the character or the story and just seemed pointless.

The writing struggled to flow in parts and I really struggled with some of the dialogue, it didn't really sound natural or lifelike enough. There was far too much grunting of things too.

As for the mystery itself, which is of course why you read these things, it didn't really do it for me. There weren't the little clues hidden along the way to help you solve it all, although our detective seems to have worked it all out himself (although we're never told how and the secret behind the solution isn't really shared with us). Some of the relationships between principal suspects are never explained, and there is a whole section about a video tape which really makes no sense. (Surely the police would watch a piece of evidence like that, not just keep it in a draw?) 

When the final 'big reveal' came about, I'd actually didn't really care who had done it or why. I don't think I'll be reading any more in this series, it just wasn't for me.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Waiting for the post

They say that a watched pot never boils, the same could be said for a letter box, it never boils either.It also doesn't receive the post that you want it to. Why is it, when you're waiting for something specific, it seems to take forever to arrive?

On Monday I paid some customs charges on a parcel that I've been sent from America. It's been in the country since last week, which is longer than it took to reach New Zealand from the US. As yet though, no sign of it arriving here.

Back home in the UK, most post, letters at least, are pushed through the slot in the door (which is still called a letter box, even though it's not a box). For most houses in New Zealand, it's a case of walking to the letter box that sits at the end of your driveway. It's not a long walk, but when you're waiting for a delivery, it's a bit annoying to keep going and checking. 

Not that my parcel will be arriving there, but it's the same when you are waiting for something small to arrive. 

I remember when I was a teenager, waiting and waiting for something I'd ordered. It took weeks, when I eventually managed to get to the bottom of it all it had actually been lost on route and another had to be sent out. I really hope that hasn't happened this time.

Come on Mr Post man, where are you? 

With look the post box will boil tomorrow, I'll just try to stop looking at it first.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Saving Grace - Sandy James

Saving Grace - Sandy James
The other day, when I wrote about how I hate the star rating system that Amazon and Goodreads use, I could have been talking about this book. I certainly was talking about books like this one. I gave this book a five star review on both, but it wasn't perfect, it certainly deserved more than most four star books though, so five stars it was.

I really enjoyed the story line, unlike some romance books, there was far more going on here than the usual boy meets girl. Of course there was that element too, which is what you want from a romance really. 

There were a number of elements to the story here, I don't want to give everything away, but I'll give you a basic outline of the storyline. The story starts with a woman turning up on the doorstep of a ranch, she collapses and is nursed back to health by the owner and his daughter.

The two 'main' characters fall in love, although there is clearly much in Grace's (the female lead's) past that she is keeping hidden. Much of the story line revolves around her past and what she is running from, as well as the love that's developing between Grace and Adam. There's also a lovely love interest between two secondary characters, Victoria (Adam's grown up daughter) and Matthew (Grace's brother).

The only thing that really let the story down, was that because there was so much happening, the characters and their growing relationships and interactions weren't fully developed, there could have been much more written and said about all of this. It would have made the book much longer, but I for one, wouldn't have complained about that.

It was a lovely story, which reached a good conclusion at the end, where both we, and the characters in the book found out all that had been hidden as the story progressed. There are two more in this series which I'll be reading, particularly as I got this as a three book bundle for my kindle for only 99p. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Sports time

I have to admit that I've never been particularly good at sports. I spent most of my PE lessons
avoiding getting too involved and I was always one of the last ones to be picked for teams.

I had two major obstacles when it comes to playing sports, I tend to do day dream ("Quick, catch the ball! The ball!") and even if I am trying to catch said ball, my hand eye co-ordination isn't the best. I enjoyed swimming, I was even quite good at that, but other sports, I struggled with.

I enjoyed playing badminton and tennis, but I wasn't very good, my racket tended to develop a huge, invisible hole. Hockey I didn't mind, if it wasn't too cold, (which it usually was) but netball I hated with a passion.

Now that L is at school, she's been introduced to sports for the first time really and tonight she had her first go at hockey. I have to admit, she's not a natural, although given her mother, that's hardly a shock. But, what she lacks in natural ability she make up for in enthusiasm, and as she's only five, there's plenty of time to learn and maybe get quite good.

I hope that she continues to remain keen and enjoy it. It would be good if she got quite good. I'll certainly encourage her to give it a good go and get involved in any case.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Snow time like today

Snow time like todayAs I sit here typing this, my fingers are freezing, I can hardly feel them. I'm also wearing two pairs of trousers. Not in some bizarre fashion statement kind of way, but just because it's so flipping cold. It's cold outside, we had snow this morning, and it has kept snowing for most of the day. I'm really cold though because we don't have a fire at the moment.

Tomorrow the new fire is getting fitted, so of course the cold weather and snow arrived today. Isn't that always the way? I have got heating, electric heaters, on in the lounge and the bedroom, but as I'm cooking tea, I'm in the kitchen. I'm hoping that the heat from the oven will start warming this room a bit more soon.

Of course come about Thursday, when our new fire will be with luck, fully operational, we'll probably have a heatwave, not that I'd be disappointed about that of course. Just warning those of you in the South Island of New Zealand that this weather may well be on the way out.

I had hoped to get a few photos of the lovely snow covered hills this morning. Sadly by the time I got around to it, much of the snow had melted. I took a few anyway. It has continued to snow for most of the day, but it hasn't been settling, so much of what we have left is just slush, we are coastal after all, I'm amazed that we get as much as we do.

I'm not sure what the weather is like for tomorrow, I just hope that it doesn't stop the man installing our fire from making it round here. Brrr. What's the weather been like for you today?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Real books v kindle

When kindles and the like first came out, I couldn't imagine that I'd ever want an ereader, what would be the point. I love books, I love the smell of them, the feel of them, pretty much everything about them. Then I got a kindle, and I was hooked. I tend to use my kindle more these days, but still read quite a few real books, so I thought I'd do a bit of a comparison, real books v kindle.

Real booksReal books

  • Look good on the book shelf
  • Can be shared with friends
  • Can be read in the bath without worrying about the water stopping them working
  • Can be bought second hand
  • Don't smash if you drop them
  • Don't need charging
  • Feel nice in your hands
  • Smell nice
  • Need nice book marks
  • Can be given as gifts

Kindle and other ereaders

KindleIs lightweight

  • Can go everywhere with you.
  • Can carry hundreds of books on one device (great for holidays)
  • It's really easy to add new titles, as the touch of a button
  • Is easier to read a page or two when you only have a few seconds
  • Keeps your place for you
  • Can read the same book on your phone, tablet and ereader
  • Has lots of free and cheap books
  • Makes finding new authors easy
  • Is easy on the eyes when you're tired.

They both have advantages and disadvantages, so for now I think I'll stick with both. Using the kindle for everything that I can download without costing me a fortune, and real books from the library, when I get them as gifts and when I make second hand purchases. What do you prefer, real books or an ereader, like the kindle?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Happy hens

Happy hensI've always quite liked the idea of keeping hens, having fresh eggs on hand every day and the like, but
I wasn't that bothered. Just over six months ago though, we were given three for the boys birthday. One each for the boys and a family hen. I soon discovered that they are mad as mad can be and not all that intelligent either. 

Our hens are called Matilda, Kakapo-Zombie (both named by the kids) and Tegal, (which might not mean much if you don't live in NZ, but it's a name of a brand of chicken that you eat, poor thing). I don't think that they actually know their names in any case, so it does't really matter.

Fresh eggs
They are rather stupid, if two of them are outside in the run, and the other is inside when you give them food. Then the one inside will run up and down the inside of the cage trying to get out, rather than actually coming out of the house and into the run where the food is. If you give them three different bits of bread, then they all try and eat the same one, rather than taking one each.

So far we've had a few escapees, we clipped their wings to stop them flying off, but they still manage to get out sometimes.

To begin with the eggs were really small, which was quite cute, but now that they're all into the swing of laying, we're getting three good size eggs nearly every day.

Having three hens in the family is lots of fun.

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Southern Star - Anya Forrest

Often when I finish a book I sigh, it's usually because I didn't want it to end, or because the ending was so good. This time, sadly, it was because it just didn't quite get there.

I really really wanted to like this book. A kiwi author, in the South Island, and even visiting Dunedin at one point. It should have been all there. But somehow it just fell a bit short.

It didn't really help that I didn't like either of the main characters to begin with. We meet them both in the opening chapter on a ferry crossing to Stewart Island. She's as wet as a soggy stack of newspaper that's been left out in the rain. He's domineering, overbearing and arrogant. 

I know that the charge taking, alpha male, is a stock 'hero' of many romance books. But he needs to have a balance to his character. He does develop this later in the book, but in the open stages, he demands to know things about her, cancels her food order and seems to get angry over nothing. She worries that she's upset him by not sharing things. But honestly, if this were real life, I'd get out of there now love, controlling, abusive relationship alert.

He does get better, in parts, but the rush into his needing to know everything, before they've in any way got to know one another seems forced. I did keep reading, and I did want to know how it was going to turn out. (Yes I know, it's a romance, you know where it's going really, but still). 

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but I struggled with much of their relationship, and felt that the not talking about some of the issues was a bit forced. There were a few other things that just didn't do it for me. Once or twice we were told that one of them made a comment or said something that the other one reacted to, but not what it was. Very very odd, it certainly didn't help the flow of the story. Other aspects of the story line and people's assumptions were introduced in a way that didn't feel natural and didn't really flow.

I was also irritated by a section of the story that dealt with child birth. Despite being in New Zealand, the whole thing was handled by a doctor, which, unless there are serious issues, is pretty much unheard of over here. It seemed to be based entirely on tv shows, and ones set somewhere else at that.

I really did want to enjoy this, but didn't. It was almost there, but not quite. With a bit of polishing it could probably be much better. The author, Anya Forrest has another book out and another on the way. I may give them a go, just to see if with a bit of experience they pick up, as I really would like to 'like' this Kiwi author.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

10 Years On

Today is my tenth wedding anniversary, so rather than a big 'wordy' blog post, I just thought I'd share some photos. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton

I got this for Christmas, over the past few years I've ended up reading many of the booker prize winners and am yet to find one I haven't enjoyed. Being set in New Zealand, this seemed to be even more of a draw than usual. 

It's taken until now to get around to reading it. Not because I didn't want to start it, but more because I had a couple of false starts. The chapters in the beginning of this book are very long, the first two times I tried to start it, I was tired and couldn't make it to a good place to stop before needing to get to sleep. I need to find a good stopping point when I'm reading, particularly in those first few pages.

I had a few nights where I was heading to bed early to read, so it seemed a good time to give the Luminaries a proper go. So I dived in. Although it is mostly set in Hokitika on the West Coast, I will admit that I was quite excited to find quite a few references to Port Chalmers. (I know, sad to admit that I'd find that exciting, but there you go.)

The story is mostly set in the West Coast gold rush of the 1800's and much of the action revolves around a number of characters who have gone to Hokitika to find their fortune. There is a lot going on in this book. Keeping track of the interweaving story lines isn't easy, and I wasn't sure at all where it was going for much of the time. 

I don't want to go dropping spoilers into this, in fact, were I to try to, we'd probably be here all week, there was so much going on in this book. It perhaps meant that there was no real lead or leads, with so many people taking the main role at one time or another in the book. Would it have been better if there had? Possibly, I would have liked to know more about one or two of those who started out in a strong leading role and then faded into the background later.

I did enjoy it, really enjoy it, but it was far from a favourite. There were still questions left to be answered by the end of the book. Or perhaps I lost them in the circular narrative. I'm not sure. It was a very good book technically, well told but just missing that final spark to make it truly fantastic.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Book Reviews

You may have already noticed, I'm a bit of a book lover. I read. A lot. I keep meaning to write reviews good reads, but so far I haven't, though I've done the odd one on amazon.

I always leave the 'stars' on both amazon and good reads, but I always find myself agonising over how many stars to mark a book. How can you possibly decide if a book is worth out of only five stars? Often I love a book, but is it really worth the 'perfect' five? If it's not, does that mean that books that are good, but not as good as the great ones don't deserve the four stars that it seems obvious to give them. 

On amazon you have to leave at least one star, which surely some books don't deserve. If they're really bad. 

Recently I've been quite  generous on the star front. If I really enjoy a book then it gets five, even if it's not perfect. If I enjoy it then it's usually a four. If it's not so good then a three will do. I don't like to give up on rubbish books, but then I've only read one recently that only deserved a two.

In any case, the star system is just not that good. So the time has come to not give books marks, but to share my thoughts on them on here. Some of them at least. Here's to the book reviews...

Monday, 18 May 2015

Pre-loved stuff

Hunting the second hand shopsI'm not sure exactly what it is, but there's something deeply satisfying about browsing around a
second hand shop. It doesn't really matter what kind of second hand shop either, from antiques, to junk shops to charity shops, I love them all.

On our way for our trip to Invercargill we discovered that Gore has a couple of quite large, good charity shops, or op shops as they call them over here. (I think that op is short for opportunity shop, which makes sense.) We had already stopped in Milton to have a quick look in the Mill factory shop (yay, cheap wool) and checked out the Salvation Army charity shop there.

As a general rule, I'm not looking for anything specific in these shops, although I have had a bit of a look at the jeans lately, being in need of some for both the kids and myself. Usually though, I tend to ignore the clothes and have a hunt through a few other key areas.

pre-loved heavenI generally head to the 'sewing section' first, check out what wool and fabrics they have on offer. Then it's time to look at the patterns. I already have quite a large collection of vintage knitting and sewing patterns, but I'm always on the look out for something new. The cheesier the picture or photo on the front, the better.

Next I'll move on to the kitchen stuff for a quick look around. I'm not that bothered by this kind of thing, but it's always worth a quick glance. 

I usually save the books until last. There's often just shelves of rubbish, but I can't resist a browse through second hand books. Second hand book shops are just my idea of heaven. I can spend hours browsing. The selection in a charity shop never quite matches up to it, but it's always worth a look.

Do you like having a browse through a selection of 'pre-loved' items?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Late (again)

You're late (again)More often than not, when I drop the kids off at school, I find myself hurrying through the door
apologising for being late. I never used to be like this, but these days I struggle to get to places on time.

As a child, I don't remember ever getting to school as the bell rang, or worse still, after it had gone. My children are not able to say the same thing. 

Of course, you could say, and let's face it, it wouldn't be far wrong, that much of this is down to lack of organisation. It's also down to an unwillingness to get out of bed in the morning. It's cold, I'm tired still, I don't really want to have to do breakfast, find shoes, locate keys, get everyone into the car without an argument...

Of course, having four children to get ready in the morning doesn't help things. I should really try and get up that little bit earlier, do their lunches the night before (as I sometimes do) it doesn't always work though. Have you ever found though, the more time you have in the morning, the later it makes you.

Those morning when I've been really really late, when the bell has already gone and we're rushing into the classrooms after they've sat down and already done the roll. Those are the days when I've actually had more time, been up early and organised and then something has gone wrong.

I think it's because the more time you have to do something in, the more things that you do, then you end up being late. 

Whatever it is, I think I really need to sort something out and try to be on time again.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Update on the blog challenge

Update on the blog challengeIt all started out quite well, I got to about half way through, a post had been written for every day, and
mostly on the actual day itself. But then life got in the way.

On Saturday, when I should have written this (if you happen to check the date you'll notice that I've back dated this and some of the following posts) I spent pretty much the whole day doing work and getting things sorted. Sunday was spent cleaning. Then Monday we went away for a few days. We got back Wednesday, Thursday was pretty much getting ourselves sorted again. Which brings us to today.

Need to try and get back on trackIt's Friday, a whole week has passed and I haven't got much further with this blog challenge. It's time to try and catch up. I think that I'll write today's 'real' post shortly and then fill in the missing days as and when I can to get back on track. Is that cheating though? I don't really know to be honest.

Before I went away, I had thought I could write all of my posts in advance and then just schedule them to be posted later. Obviously that didn't happen. My plan now is that if I can get to the end of the month and have it all up to date by then, with the rest of the month having a new proper post written on the day, then that's ok and I'll be back on track.

Wish me luck, I think I might need it.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Today it's raining

Today it's raining

Soak you to the skin rainToday it's raining. It's not the heavy kind of rain that's done with in a shower or two, the large fat drops soaking everything that they come into contact with, filling up puddles quickly and leaving the roads as rivers. This is the kind of rain that's so light it's barely there. The little droplets finer than sand, that whirl and swirl in a gust of wind.

It's the kind of rain that catches you by surprise. You can see that it's grey and wet. You know that the rain is there. You think that it's so fine that it won't be too bad. Seconds after stepping outside though, your drenched right through to the skin. It comes and comes, there's no let up. A wet morning becomes a wet afternoon becomes a wet night.

nice weather for ducks
It is just rain though. Nothing dangerous or sinister about the amount that we've had. Not like the parts of the country with floods or tornados, I'm not trying to drum up sympathy for a bit of wet falling from the sky.

Nice weather for ducks. That's what they always say. I'm not sure that I'd be that enamoured of the rain if I were a duck. The ones I saw early certainly weren't leaping for joy at the sudden wetness. Nice weather for frogs might be more fitting. Or fish. It's the closest to being underwater that we usually get on dry land in any case.

The clouds look as though they were painted across the sky in water colours, much to wet water colours. It's the grey clouds that merge all the way down to the ground that really get you down though, obscuring the view, it isn't very uplifting. Before long you could almost feel that it's never not rained. It's easy to forget that only days ago the sun was shining and all was right in the world.

It's dark now, but then the day was barely lighter. Perhaps I'll awake to something a little more cheerful tomorrow...

Thursday, 14 May 2015


When K was born and we lived in the UK, I was always saying that I'd take him to a toddler group or coffee morning for Mums and Babies. I never seemed to actually get around to it though. I think it was partially because I was busy enough anyway, I worked from when he was six months old, all be it part time, and I had plenty of family and friends around.

When we moved to New Zealand though, I was in need of something. Somewhere to get a bit of adult company, somewhere to make friends. K was that bit older too, at 2 and a bit he benefited from getting out and about and being able to do more things than I could offer at home.

I soon discovered Playcentre, which has been great for us. I've been able to meet people over here, make friends and the kids love all of the things that you can do there.

Playcentre is a little different to the similar options back home. Although it follows the NZ curriculum, it's almost entirely parent led. I've done courses through playcentre which help with both helping out there and with my own kids at home. Another great advantage of playcentre, is that the kids can get stuck into all of the fun messy play, without tracking mud, playdough, and other equally messy things through my carpet. Yay!

I love the way that it's all about the child and what their interests are. There's little structured play or activities, children can choose what they want to do and when they want to do it. All of the learning 'records' are collected in a profile book. Basically stories are written about what the children have been doing and learning, and then they are added to a book complete with photos. The great thing about that is that I now have all of these scrapbooks and folders to look back on, showing what they did when they were little. It's great.

A, who is my only playcentre child now, the others being at school, loves going each week. The older ones did too. Playcentre is great.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Me time

Sometimes you just need a bit of 'me' time. Yesterday, as I think I mentioned yesterday, I went for a massage, which is serious me time. That doesn't happen very often though, if at all, but I think we do all need a bit of me time.

My me time has always been getting lost in a story. When I was little it was more the daydreaming and inventing my own story or adventure in my head, as I got older, and started to read more myself, then I'd get lost in other peoples tales. I still did tell myself stories though and still do if I'm honest. Me time for me has often been about writing, reading or thinking a story. Escaping to a place in my head where I can live out an adventure or experience something completely different for a while.

I would think that might sound quite dull to some people, but I think we all need escapism of some kind. If you don't like reading, then perhaps a good film (or even a bad one) is enough to take yourself out of yourself for a while. What I love about reading, is that no matter how exciting or unexciting your own life is, for a brief while you can imagine yourself as someone else or somewhere else. 

The downside to getting lost in a really good book though, is that you often feel flat once it's over. I'm a self confessed greedy reader. If I'm really enjoying something, then no matter how hard I try, I can't make it last. I have to read it quickly, race to the end, and then feel sorry that it's all over. Every time I find myself getting engrossed in a book, or even series of books, I promise myself that this time I'll stretch it out, make it last. I never manage that though.

The great thing about a book, is that you can dip into it throughout the day. A few minutes reading before going to sleep at night, or in the middle of the afternoon if you get chance for a cup of tea. You can snatch little bits of the story, get lost in your own little world for a time, here and there. You don't need hours to invest in yourself and relaxation, you can just take what you can and make the most of it.

I'm sure if I'd have lived in a time when most people didn't learn to read and books weren't something that most people would ever touch, let alone own, I'd have still had stories. Stories that you shared with one another, stories that you made up yourself, random little daydreams while going about your day to day life. I'm glad that I do live in an age of reading and books, and even electronic books that you can buy at the touch of a button. I'll take my few minutes me time and enjoy the story, thank you very much.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Super chilled

Today I'm feeling super chilled. This is probably because earlier I was lucky enough to be treated to a full body massage. Right now hardly anything could annoy or irritate me.

Sunday was Mother's day and to be honest this year, it was a bit of a washout. People having to work, lack of sleep, a visit to a model train exhibition (for the kids, but not my idea of fun) and it being just another day.

I know that I shouldn't really expect Mother's day to be this wonderful, fantastic day that's just about me. But, in many ways I do. That and my birthday are the only days that I really expect to be any different to a normal day. This year just didn't work like that, just one of those things, but it was a real shame.

Fortunately today has made up for that. I'm relaxed in body and mind. I feel fantastic.

Of course it doesn't last long, but for that hour when I can just lie there and take all the pampering with no interruptions from small people and nothing else to do, it was fantastic. Now I'm feeling super chilled.

Monday, 11 May 2015

In search of sleep

Last night, was a bad night as far as sleep is concerned. I woke up at around 2 am, then couldn't get back to sleep until after 5 am. It probably wouldn't have been so bad, if A hadn't then woken at 6.30 am. Today, I am tired.

I shouldn't really complain, compared to some that's actually a good night, and these days it's the exception rather than the rule in any case. Even so, I feel done in. I think that when you're not used to broken sleep, it feels, in some ways at least, worse than when you're regularly having little sleep. I know that's easy for me to say, now that my children have reached the age that they sleep through most nights.
In search of sleep

I have been there though, for over six years I don't think I had more than one or two full nights sleep.
My oldest, K was a good sleeper, apart from the initial new born stage, when all babies wake often, he slept really well. Baby number two, M, was a completely different story. He was still waking often when baby number three L arrived. They both slept through eventually, but of course before I was getting good sleep A was on the way, pregnancy isn't a great time to sleep, and L was still waking from time to time, so yep, no good sleep then.

Last night was not a good sleep night and I'm feeling the effects today. You know how it is. Grumpy, short tempered and snappy. I only need four more and I'd have the full set of dwarfs. I hope that tonight is a better go, or come tomorrow I'll be on my knees.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A nice cup of tea

I love a good cup of tea. I know that's a bit of a cliché, me being English and all, but I do, I really do. There are few things that a good cup of tea won't fix, in fact one of the only things I can think of that it won't fix is when you wake up in the morning and find you've run out of tea bags, and that's only because it can't fix that. Obviously.

Of course there are good cups of tea and bad cups of tea. The latter are often served in polystyrene cups, with the tea bag left it, and usually involve UHT milk. (What's that about?) There are also those bad cups of tea, made by people who clearly don't understand tea, and put in far too much or too little of one of the key ingredients, one of which is of course love of the tea.

A nice cup of teaNot all bad cups of tea, actually are bad cups of tea though. Four times in my life, I have had the most
amazing cups, but all four times they've been in the said polystyrene cups, and not completely 'right.' The timing though has been spot on. If you've not a woman, and/or have never had children, then you won't know about this. The best cups of tea on the planet, are the ones that you get after giving birth, usually served with slightly cold toast spread with some kind of yellow spread, not real butter and dodgy, not really fruit jam. The toast is also one of the most fantastic meals on the planet and it comes either just before or just after one of the best showers you will ever have. It is of course, one of those situations where context is everything.

Tea starts my day and on most days ends it too. I usually have only one or two cups during the day though. I learnt my lesson while at Uni on that one. A tea break every half hour or so of study, leads to caffeine withdrawal when you re-enter the real world. 

I love tea, it's great. Can't imagine not having a nice cup of tea or two every day.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Children need good stories

A good part of the last eight years or so have been spend reading children's stories. A good part of my own childhood was spent reading or having children's stories read to me. All of this is good, children need to have stories read to them, I enjoying reading to them, but not all children's stories are good.

Some are completely fantastic, so good that you really don't mind re-reading for the squillionth time. So good that you don't fall apart when they pick up that same book, night after night. So good that you don't develop a facial tic when you discover that you can recite the whole book word for word without looking at the book once.

Others are not good at all. In fact they are an insult to children (and parents who read to them) everywhere. Some are so bad that I have been known to hide them, or loose them conveniently, when no one else was looking.

The problem is that some printers, or shops, or publishers, or whoever it is has made the decision to make the book, think that it doesn't actually matter how good a story for children is. Of these really rubbish books don't feature an author, just some 'cute' (perhaps to some people) pictures and a vague attempt at a story, but which really doesn't entertain or thrill children at all.

Often these books are directed at small children, ones who don't really know the difference between a good or bad book. You might think that it doesn't matter. But it does. While they haven't yet realised that what you're reading them is actually complete rubbish, soon they will. Worse still, if that's all they have access too, then perhaps they won't, but perhaps also they weren't learn to appreciate good stories and develop a love of books.

Children deserve and need good stories. Parents who read to their children also deserve good stories. If you're buying a book for a child, particularly a picture book, take a second to take a look at it. Is it a good story, does it make you laugh,or cry, or feel excited? Of is it just a nothing? Don't fall into the trap of thinking 'well, it's just a kids book' pick the good books. They're the ones worth buying, children (and parents) will thank you for it.

Children need good stories

Friday, 8 May 2015

Finding the photos

I'm on day eight of this month long blog challenge, I still seem to be going fairly strong, the hardest part of it though, is finding photos. Actually that seems to be the hardest part of any blog writing that I do. Somehow finding the right pictures to go with a post is really, really, hard.

Does it really matter? Do I have to post photos with a blog post? I'm not today, but most of the time I need them. If it's to illustrate a point of back up what I'm saying, then it's a bit easier, I at least know what the photos should be. Of course then I have to take them, or get them from somewhere. At other times, it just makes it look more interesting, is easier on the eye, if there are photos to break things up. Perhaps I should be constantly taking photos just so that I have them to hand in case I need to use them in a blog at some point, my own personal image catalogue.

The alternative of course is to use stock photos, there are a few of downsides to that though:

  • Everyone can use them: Have you see that photo of a baby in a blanket? I've seen it on that many different websites. It's a cute photo, but who wants to use the same image everyone else has?
  • You often have to pay: For a personal, non-business blog I can't afford to go spending money on pictures for it. There are some good free options, but they are still stock photos and possibly even more likely to be used by other people.
  • Most are too random: There is a stock photo to illustrate just about every point you could wish to make and there would be still more to go around. I only hope these poor people doing odd things were well paid.
That's not to say that I've never used stock photos, after all, where else would I get a photo of high heels from? I could have managed without the photo I suppose, but it does make the post look better. 

Sadly today's is photo free, I thought that no photos was perhaps the best way to illustrate the difficulty of finding photos.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

You really have to wonder...

Today in the UK is election day, I'm not really going to go on about that, but if you are in the UK and reading this, please vote. It doesn't matter who for, you can even go and spoil your paper if you really want, but do it, it is important and it does matter. I have gone on about this before though, so I won't today.

I have already voted, being out of the country I got to experience a postal vote for the first time, I only hope that it didn't get re-directed on the way back via somewhere random and then not arrive in time. Voting by post was a bit of an experience. I had a normal voting slip which went in an envelope with a window, but turned round so you couldn't see who'd I'd voted for. Then there was a declaration to sign, and the whole thing went into another envelope with a window. What amused me more than anything was the extra bit of paper. A green slip of paper, that did admittedly have a number or two printed on the back, but on the front was this important warning:

You really have to wonder...

This is not a ballot paper. Please remove and destroy this section.

Thank you so much for those words of wisdom, despite the lack of anything else printed on it, I'm sure that I could have easily become confused and thought that it was a ballot paper. I might have even gone as far as putting an 'x' on it and voting for...well no one actually. I'm not sure what the point of the paper was, but even if it had some strange purpose, I'm sure that it didn't need that warning on there, any more than a bag of peanuts needs to warn you that it contains nuts.

I'm sure that it was in there with the aim of clarifying things, to make them less confusing, but like many things that try to do this, if they don't make them simpler, then it doesn't make it less confusing. The more instructions that you give, the more confusing and complicated it becomes. Either way, I think I did it right, because I didn't try and use this piece of paper to vote. Having said that, I haven't destroyed it yet either, hope I'm not going to get in trouble for that...

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Dear future me

Have you done all of those things that I keep putting off at the moment? Have you done any of them yet? Most importantly though, how's the book going. I say the book, but I'm hoping that I'm meaning the current book and you've actually written a few. I'd like to think that they were finished and published too, although it doesn't matter if they're not, just actually started, and finished, would be good.

Have you managed to do more sewing and making things for the kids? Now that they're all at school, have you put that time to good use and used it to make the things that I don't seem to have time for today. I hope that you're not wasting time doing nothing extra, that would be a shame. Unless of course the business is keeping you too busy, I suppose I couldn't really complain about that.

Are you swimming and walking regularly like you promised that you would? How's the yoga going? Managing to keep it up? Did you ever fit back into those jeans like you hoped you would. Either way, I hope that you've finally cleared out your wardrobe, there's really no need to keep hoarding those clothes you'll never wear.

How are the kids doing? Are you coping with older children and teenagers, or is it as scary as you thought it would be? Try not to stress about them too much, they grow so fast, and even though the teen years may be angst ridden, before long they'll be even older and leaving home. It was only five minutes ago they were small after all. I thought I'd include this photo of A I took yesterday, thought it might make you smile to remember how crazy she was when she was little.

Are you and M less stressed? Did you finally get on top of things, is life easier once all the projects were finished? (Please tell me you finished them finally!) Where are you living now? Are you happy there? Is it home?

Is there anything you'd like to tell me now, I hope that I'm not missing out on things or doing something that you regret. I hope that I'm making the most of life today so that you look back and smile. 

Most of all, I hope that you're happy and healthy, all of you. 

Take care

Today's me.

What would you write in a letter to your future self?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

I must confess...

It's funny isn't it. You often think that you know yourself. But it's so very easy to suddenly discover something new that you hadn't really realised before. It's not usually something major, but it can be quite a surprise to find out something about yourself that you hadn't known before. 

I have recently discovered, and I am going to say this quietly, as it's a bit of a guilty pleasure, that I actually quite like romance novels. I don't suppose that it should be a guilty pleasure, but romance novels don't have a great reputation. The thing is, I like reading, I like reading lots of things, but I've always had quite a dismissive attitude to romance. I'll happily read murder mystery like they're going out of fashion, but turned my nose up at the idea of a romance book.

The really crazy thing, is that lots of my favourite books are really romance, or at least contain a
heavy dose of romance. I love all of Jane Austin's books for example, but of course they're much more than that. As I suppose are all other books that I really like.

I don't like all romance books though, they can't be too cheesy and they must be well written with a bit more going on than man meets woman. Actually the best ones have far more going on, but have a nice bit of romance to add that feel good factor. 

Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, next thing you know I'll be enjoying romantic comedy films too. Surely not?!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Being a parent is...

Yesterday I came across one of those lists you see on line, this one was about what parenting is really like. It caught my eye because the first one said something along the lines of 'parenting is mostly shouting where are your shoes, find your shoes you're all ready late.' I seem to spend a great deal of time saying this to my children. I don't know what it is about shoes, for some reason between the time that they are taken off at night, and the time they need to be put on again in the morning, they go for a wander all by themselves. Even on the days when I make sure that they've been put away in the cupboard where they live, they still seem to have gone on an adventure by the time morning comes around.

For someone who is often late getting out of the door, this is little short of a disaster. Yet again I'm going to be rushing the children into the classroom as the bell sounds calling out sorry-we're-late-couldn't-find-the-shoes/keys/my-marbles in a fast out of breath jumble as I race to the cloak room to hang up their school bags. I never used to be like this I'm sure, prior to children I was organised, generally on time, and certainly didn't spend half my life looking for shoes.

It's not just the shoe hunting that's unexpected though, you find yourself saying the most bizarre things that you would never have dreamt would come out of your mouth in a million years. 
"Bat man, please don't hit your sister with a light sabre, she doesn't like it."

"You can play with the rabbit again tomorrow, right now it's bed time"

"No, you can't take the bike to bed with you"

There are many many more. I can't say I ever expected to say any of them, but say them you do, it's all part of being a parent. It is of course, all good fun, but it's nothing like I expected. Nothing at all. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Hamster life

Ever have those days, or even weeks and months where you seem to do the same things over and over again. I'm feeling a bit like that at the moment, like it's a hamster life. It doesn't help that I have so much on at the moment of course, but I feel a bit like I'm drowning under the housework.

I think that we've already established that cake decorating isn't really my thing, despite my best efforts, but it has to be said that house work really really isn't my thing. Unlike cake decorating, I don't really put my best effort into it either. It's not that I like living in a state of mess either, I actually really really don't, but I also don't like dealing with it. At the moment things have reached crisis point. My lounge looks a little as though life has exploded across it. It's not normally that bad, but with party organising, a LOT of washing to sort and put away, and children who seem to think that their only purpose in life is to make a mess, well, it's not good.

Much of the problem is that it seems to be never ending, no matter how clean and tidy you get a room, turn around, count to five, and suddenly it looks as though some kind of natural disaster has struck. Last week, the house was looking quite good, I was on top of it all, and feeling good about it. A day or so later and a casual observer would assume that I haven't actually lifted a finger in about a year. It's never ending, just like that hamster wheel. You'll notice that there are no photos, I'm really quite ashamed about the state of it, so I won't be sharing those!

At the moment I have two choices; put up with the mess, or just get on and deal with it. Stop moaning either way. I can't quite bring myself to do nothing (apart from anything else, I can't find anything that I need at the moment!) so I'd better get on and deal with it... wish me luck!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Birthday madness

Turing five is a big deal, it's a big deal anyway, but when you live in New Zealand, and you start school on your fifth birthday, then it's a really big deal. Last week was L's 5th birthday, and for the last two weeks of so, live has been manic. First of all we had last days at daycare to contend with, then it was the birthday and first day at school, and then this week it's been party time.

She took to starting school like a duck to water, I hadn't really got any concerns that she wouldn't, she's been keen to go for so long. Really the only one that's been struggling in any way has been me, mostly because I've been flat out busy and supposed to have been organising a birthday party for today. In true, flying by the seat of your pants fashion, I managed to invite everyone who was supposed to be invited before the big day (but only just phew!) and managed to arrange a cake and other party goodies.

Sadly my cake decorating skills never quite match up to the visions I have in my head, having said that, this time it was a case of asking L last night, would she prefer a crown or castle shaped cake. (The unicorn, fairy and rainbow creation that she mentioned a few weeks ago being well beyond my capabilities.) So this morning I knocked up a pink castle cake, I was quite pleased with my chocolate cross windows and drawbridge that I made with melted chocolate on a plate that I'd cooled in the freezer. The fact that my children were not convinced that castles have cross shaped windows is besides the point (even though I explained why they had them, they still weren't having it.) So, here it is my pink bunny fairy castle cake:

Fairy castle cake

Slightly more impressive, even if I do say so myself, was my attempt at a piñata. I had forgotten, until yesterday, that L had specifically asked for one for her birthday. After discovering that a bought one was going to cost me around $30 (and it's not like I could re-use it) I decided that I could make one myself. I have tried this before, with limited success, but this time I decided to do a bit of googling and found this paper bag piñata. Armed with a paper bag, crepe paper streamers, some scissors and glue, I thought my end result wasn't bad. It actually got knocked off the string before it broke open, but I'm yet to see one that doesn't do that. Either way, the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Birthday madness paper bag pinata

The party is done and dusted, the children all seemed to have a good time and got sent home full of sugar and high spirits, all that really remains is for me to collapse go to bed. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

A month of blogs

A few weeks ago there was a discussion in a blog group that I'm part of about doing a blog challenge in May. Basically the idea was that we'd all do a post a day for the whole month, great, I thought, count me in. But I forgot a few things. The beginning of May is a bit busy, Lena has just turned five and started school, I've got a birthday part to organise and it's the middle of cloth nappy week, which is one of my busiest times in terms of the business. (I've done nothing but send parcels out for the last few days.) So, yes, it sounded great at the time, but now I'm not so sure.

Today's entry is going to be just a quick intro and then we'll get into the proper posts. I am cheating a little as I write this, May 1st was such a manic day, that I'm writing this on the second and changing the date to yesterday. Then in a second I'll write today's entry. 

The idea behind the blog challenge, is that it gets me into the swing of posting slightly more often. I had been doing it pretty much weekly, but then fell behind over the last few weeks or so. Hopefully this will give me the boost I need to get back on top of things again. There is a list of suggested topics, but they are only suggestions, and as I have a few things going on at the minute that I might like to write about, I probably won't dip into the suggestions just yet. So, here we go, blog challenge time...

A month of blogs