Thursday, 30 September 2010

Shoes

In common with many women, I love shoes.

My first husband was just about the same height as me so I never wore heels because it felt wrong for me to be taller than him. I did begin my love affair with Doc Marten's during this marriage. I love how comfortable they are and how oddly feminine they can be.

My husband now is 6'5'' which means a whole world of gorgeous shoes has opened up to me. He likes me to be closer to his height and bought me the most gorgeous pair of Italian leather killer heels near the start of our relationship. I confess I have never worn them outside of the house - not really the sort of thing to totter around Morrisons in for my weekly grocery shop (!) - but just owning them has enriched my life in a very out of character girlie sort of way.

My collection of heels grows every time I see a sale in a shoe shop. I really have more impractical footwear than I know what to do with.

I used my wedding as an excuse to buy a pair of shoes to rival my much loved original killer heels. As soon as I saw the Iron Fist Zombie Stompers I knew that I had to walk down the aisle in them.

Today, I am taking part in a competition to win shoes! To enter, you had to take a look at the Schuh website and choose the shoes you would like to win. Then you had to post a link to your chosen shoes on the Schuh Facebook page along with an explanation as to why you deserve them. Winners are chosen every hour from 8am to 8pm with the option to submit a different entry for each hour. Now I have no idea whether the winners are selected randomly or if each entry is considered on merit but I have thoroughly enjoyed a) selecting shoes I would love to win and b) creating photo and slogan entries that I hope will stand out.

Looking at the Schuh website was a dangerous game - so many beautiful shoes. I wouldn't be at all surprised if at least one pair found its way onto my Christmas list (which I imagine is the competition promoters intention!).

Setting up the photos to attach to my entries was fun - it is surprisingly challenging to face paint your own feet and then find the right angle to capture your image with legs in the way! - and as I think I have already stressed, as long as the taking part is fun, the winning is merely a bonus. But what a bonus it would be to have a shiny new pair of Doc Martens...

I've had my eye on a new pair of Doc Martens!

Tired feet deserve a treat

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Competitions and more competitions.

Would you believe it?! As soon as I execute my plan B for the 'stripping in the rain' project, the heavens open in a glorious downpour. However, given the fact that we are all battling colds and have a very good reason to be healthy this week, it probably remains a wise choice to have opted for the 'dry' version.

My sister has received her 'camera pack' and work on the pre-party filming has commenced. It is quite difficult to strike the right balance between talking to the camera and just acting 'natural'. I have put natural 
in inverted commas there because it is SO unbelievably difficult to be yourself when the camera is pointing at you. My poor sister seems to loose the power of speech and turns into either a super-efficient automaton or a gibbering wreck. Luckily for us, my teenage niece is pretty handy at using the camera and has worked out how to delete our extreme embarrassments!

Today, my parents are visiting and the Volkswagon car is being delivered to the Wendy House for us to use in a 'high profile' fashion to help with the party preparations and chauffeuring 'Superpops' around. Plenty of filming opportunities! We might even end up getting good at it.

I submitted a photograph of Taylor face painted as Shenzi, the hyena from Lion King, to a magazine competition. The competition asked for a photo of 'Your best ever fancy dress party'. I love this photograph and I was very proud of the face painting which I really took my time over. Poor Taylor actually fainted on the first attempt from standing in one position for too long.


The magazine people obviously liked the photo because they emailed me asking if they could use it in their magazine. When I explained that this picture was from some years ago, they asked if I had had any other fancy dress parties. Parties, fancy dress and otherwise, are something that are not in short supply in our lives. I offered them a Murder Mystery party that was set during the French Resistance of World War II and featured such marvellous characters as Phil Le Girthe, Mimi Anjou and Frank Le Awful. I can remember a lot more about it now than I could during a telephone interview with the story writer yesterday, but hopefully I gave them enough to work on and create a usable story, for which I would receive a small monetary thank you.

Even if my story doesn't make it as far as the printing press, I found out today that I was the winner of  the competition and should shortly be in possession of a box of dressing up things for hallowe'en valued at £60. Not quite the car that my sister is a contender for, but it made me smile!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

12 Second Stripping

Since I have been waiting for a good downpour in order to video myself stripping from winter to summer clothes in 12seconds in the rain, the best the clouds have offered is a pathetic drizzle. As I am rapidly running out of time for this project, I decided a plan B was in order.

We have a pretty good camera built into the Mac which has the advantage of showing what you are recording on the monitor as you go. When you are being your own cameraman, this is worth considering. I decided to just go for it and see what happened.

My first strip actually took over 20seconds. Now if I had been doing that in the rain, I would have had to re-dress in wet clothes and try again, faster. It started to all feel like a much more sensible option to be doing it in the warmth and comfort (and dryness!) of our study.

Several strips later I had the 12 second requirement pretty much sorted - but I have to say it was much more of an energetic undertaking than I had imagined. By the time I had finished, I felt as though I had done a good workout.

The 12 seconds of footage that I finally committed to YouTube are not in any way a contender for the prize on offer. Other strips that I have viewed on the competition webpage have been far more worthy. So why then did I bother to submit it all? The answer to that is for the sheer pleasure of taking part.

video

Monday, 27 September 2010

The 'In-House' Band

Our family came to be given a piano well over 20 years ago, before I had even had my first child. The mother of the stepfather of my then husband, a gentile lady residing in the Lake District, had bought herself a new electric piano to replace her traditional upright Monington and Weston. The reason behind this was that she did not want to disturb the neighbours with her playing and the electric piano came with a volume control. I confess I never heard her play but it seemed a bit overly considerate to me. However, it did mean that there was a perfectly good piano (perfectly good apart from the fact that the soft pedal had worn out from her attempts to mute the volume) up for grabs. Such was the generosity of my ex-step-grandmother- in-law, she even paid to have the instrument shipped to our home in Somerset.

I loved having a piano but despite my ex-husband's claims that he could play and in fact had passed examinations, I never saw any evidence of that. I had learned to play the clarinet at school and could play a few chords on the guitar but having to use two hands independently and reading two staves of music at the same time, the treble and the bass, was quite simply beyond any music prowess I could lay claim to. So in between various attempts to teach myself, the piano remained largely decorative.

After the first of my children were born, the piano took on a new role as a musical toy. They did love to explore the sounds they could make from pressing and banging the keys. The piano had a lovely tone which made the disharmonic sounds actually quite bearable.

The piano had moved house with us three times before my two oldest girls began actual piano lessons. We had a lovely piano teacher come to our house to give the girls tuition. She was young and blonde and fun and the girls loved her. She placed a strong emphasis on creativity and would give them 'homework' challenges to write their own compositions. The girls progressed very quickly and soon took their first exam which they both passed.

Two more house moves, a new teacher and several exams later, I have four daughters who are all competent musicians. When my first husband and I divorced, I kept the piano in the settlement. We also have an electric piano, a selection of guitars and a drum kit.

I am immensely proud of my 'in-house' band. I love that they all bring something different to the mix. I love that they do cover versions that I prefer to the originals. I love that they shake things up by switching instruments and vocalists. But most of all I love that they are fearless.


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With collaboration from their immensely talented cousin, they provided the entertainment at my wedding earlier this year. When they got a new set together to perform at a party I held just before giving birth to my latest baby, I was amazed at how much they had all grown in confidence and performance skills. And now they have been given their greatest challenge to date.

The final stage of the Superhero competition is nearly upon us. We have to video document preparations for a surprise party on Saturday culminating in a film crew taking a fly on the wall look at last minute preparations and the big surprise reveal. The organisers are keen for the band to feature but because of copyright regulations, no cover versions are permitted - not even 'Happy Birthday'. The girls have had to come up with some completely original new material.

We have totally rearranged our house to accommodate the band set up in our living room and the girls got together yesterday to brainstorm. It was such an honour to witness their creativity taking on a life of its own. By the close of business, they had come up with a four song set of sheer genius. The opening song 'Life is Just a Movie' was recycled from their Summer Musical project, but it was so apt it would have been criminal not to use it. Plus it has a vey jolly tune which puts you in a party mood - perfect. The second and third songs on the playlist are intrinsic to the 'surprise' element so I will leave them with a veil of secrecy. The final song was penned by Liberty.

Liberty was always a prolific songwriter. As I was going through the difficult breakdown of my marriage and my re-emergence into a new happy relationship, Liberty wrote songs that exactly reflected my life and my emotions. It was quite uncanny how she seemed to get inside my head and my heart. The song that she wrote for the party was very much holding a mirror up to her own life. It was beautiful - honest and poignant. It was amazing to watch the process of putting the lyrics to music and then bringing in the arrangement. The finished song was superb.

It is hard to put into words how it moves me when my beautiful, talented, accomplished daughters (and not forgetting niece) perform - the goosebumps and the tears speak far more eloquently.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Atchoo!

I don't know if it was just the thought of stripping in the rain that has invited the cold germs in but I am definitely suffering from headache, sore throat and violent outbursts of sneezing. Our poor little two year old is running uncontrollably from eyes and nose and feeling a bit sorry for herself and the baby's wonderful night routine is rapidly becoming just a distant memory. All in all, it's exactly what you don't need at the start of a hectic week of party planning and filming.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Sm-OO-ch!

I am a morning blogger. I enjoy collecting my thoughts and committing them to virtual paper over my first cup of coffee of the day. Today was different. Today my husband and Taylor had to be at their sailing club by 9am. As I was going to be dropping them off and then going on to my mum's with the rest of the kids for Sunday lunch (I know technically it's Saturday lunch but you get the gist) it didn't leave any time for my usual routine. So evening blogging it is!

On the way to the sailing club, we were delayed by a slow moving tractor on a narrow road with little chance to overtake. There is nothing unusual about this where we live. What was unusual and slightly disturbing was that the tractor had a bucket loader with a dead cow in it. Four dead cow legs pointing skyward and wobbling about with each bump and turn. I suppose it's only normal that some cattle will die of causes other than slaughtering and how would you move a half tonne cow corpse other than with the aid of a bucket loader? But it was still an odd thing to witness this sunny Saturday morning.

Lunch was a delight, especially the home made apple and pear pie served for dessert. Mum and dad were still buzzing about the whole Superhero competition so I got them to do a video for another competition for Typhoo tea. I will let their effort to OO-along to the Coronation Street theme tune speak for itself below while I put my two very tired babies to bed.

video

Friday, 24 September 2010

Watching and Waiting

Give your two year old a stale crust of bread for her lunch and she will look at you like you have completely lost the plot. However, give your two year old a stale crust of bread to throw out for the birds and she will happily sit there and devour the lot, much to the chagrin of our feathered friends who thought they were going to get some easy sustenance.

It's mostly wood pigeons that come to feast on the offerings on our lawn. They are not the most graceful species within the Avian class, they build untidy stick nests and the one we rescued from our chimney some time ago was a sorry specimen but I do have a bit of a soft spot for them.

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The Great Pigeon Rescue


One morning as I was at my kitchen sink gazing out into the garden I saw a very elegant collared dove had come to feed. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a sparrow-hawk swooped down onto the unsuspecting breakfaster. Now that sparrow-hawk was the doberman of garden birds - all power and pointy bits. The dove flapped about a bit beneath the talons in a frenzy of fluffy white feathers but it didn't stand a chance. I can't help thinking that one of my pigeons would have put up more of a fight. It was all over very quickly and I felt extremely privileged to have borne witness to such a primitive and violent spectacle. Unfortunately, the most sensitive of my daughters also happened to be looking out of the window. Her eyes welled with tears as she sobbed the words "I feel sorry for the one underneath". It is hard to explain to a distraught child about natural order.

I spent a good deal of time gazing out of the window yesterday, not at birds but at clouds. I am plucking up the courage to enter a competition that requires you to send in a video of you stripping from winter clothes down to summer skimpies in 12 seconds. Trying to find an angle that would make my video stand out against other entries was tricky. I don't have a fantastic toned body nor do I have a potentially comedic bad one. It's just sort of  average. I don't have any spectacular clothes or props or the possibility of choosing an outstanding location. My only thought was to strip in the rain. 

It seemed like the perfect day - pleasantly mild, bright sunshine but ominous black clouds hovering. I watched those clouds edging closer - my excitement and apprehension building - then disappearing to reveal blue sky. It was so frustrating. It did eventually begin to rain. When my daughter arrived home from school she was absolutely drenched. However, in the time it took me to dress myself in my carefully chosen, easy to remove layers over black tankini (slightly on the small side!) any downpour had diminished to an unimpressive drizzle. As this was going to be a strictly one-take project, I waited for the perfect moment, carefully monitoring those ever present, slightly distant heavy grey clouds. The monsoon I was waiting for never materialised. Eventually, as the light began to fail, I gave up. 

The video camera is still set up, the outfit is in a neat pile by my bedroom mirror and it looks like today there will no shortage of the wet stuff. However, it is blowing a gale and is decidedly on the chilly side - not exactly conducive to whipping your kit off. I suppose it would make my video stand out though! 

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Comping Convert

The reality is setting in. My sister's attempt to win a car is involving the whole family. Yesterday two freelance photographers from London came and turned my conservatory into a photographic studio and took a multitude of pictures of my parents in various heroic poses. My mum usually shies away from the camera but she was in fantastic form hiding behind the role of a Superhero.

The photographers (both called Tom) were lovely - professional but personable - and one of the Toms in particular was more than a little bit yummy. Why is it that when my husband's jeans slide down his hips exposing boxers and bum crack I shout at him to "for God's sake pull your bloody trousers up" whereas Tom's low slung jeans exposing the perfect amount of his Calvin Kleins was just a total tantalising tease. Don't get me wrong, I adore my husband but I do enjoy admiring a fine specimen.

Photos done - the next step is to plan the party that will be attended by a filmcrew. My sister and I are getting our party planning heads on. The lovely lady who made my wedding cake, Lisa, is on board so we can guarantee that we will have a focal point in cake form that is as delicious as it is stunning. Our in-house band are getting their ideas together for music, which is more of a challenge than usual because they would be in breach of copyright if they were to perform any cover versions. They have plenty of original material in embryonic form. The challenge will be to see if they can get it up to performance standard with a very limited amount of rehearsal time. My ever willing husband is primed and ready to do whatever furniture shifting we need to turn our home into a party venue. And me, I am feeling the urge to write lists.

I love lists. Lists crystallise my thoughts and provide a conduit from idea into reality. They create an illusion of order from chaos and begin to instil a sense of pace and momentum as the 'ticking' off process commences. Sometimes a mental list will suffice but it does not match up to the satisfaction of putting pen to paper (or wipe board marker to wipe board!). For this party project, I think I will need to employ the ultimate listmaker's accessory - the clipboard. Once I have that in my hands, the party will virtually plan itself.

My sister's success with her competition entry has inspired lots of people to have a go. Taylor is working on an idea to try and win a signed guitar from her favourite pop star. This involves making a video of herself miming to a particular song (the fact that she doesn't actually know all the words yet is a bit of an obstacle!). I have discovered 'stickies' on the Mac and am exploring this new medium for my beloved lists to keep track of links to various competitions that my sister tips me off about. I am mostly interested in the ones that need you to make a video or take a photograph because it gives me a reason to get creative. If you have fun entering, the winning doesn't actually matter that much (although it would be a huge bonus!) I am definitely becoming a 'comping' convert.

Back to the party planning - I think it's time to dig out that clipboard...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Epilation

One of the down sides of breastfeeding is that the amount of time spent in close proximity to the top of your baby's head means it is impossible to avoid noticing the horrible waxy, scaly stuff that is cradle cap - also known as infantile or neonatal seborrhoeic dermatitis, crusta lactea, milk crust or honeycomb disease. Such poetic names for a scabby head! I am a consummate picker - I cannot resist attacking my baby's scalp with my fingernails when the poor little fellow is just trying to have a nice peaceful, comforting feed. I feel terribly guilty when his skin goes red - but it doesn't stop me. Last night I gave him a warm moisturising bath and a good old head massage which seems to have worked wonders - and he enjoyed it  a lot more than my usual method! I also noticed that his skin was quite dry and scaly between his eyebrows. I am hoping this is not indicative of future monobrow development, otherwise I will have to introduce my little man to the wonderful world of epilation.


I would never criticise anyone for going au naturale when it comes to body hair but the hairy look is not for me. Plucking works a treat but it is a bit slow to be considered an effective method on anything much more than eyebrows. I am not a fan of shaving because of the bristly regrowth and I can't bear the smell and mess of depilatory creams. Waxing is too sticky and sugaring just sounds weird. So my preferred method is my trusty epilator. I have been epilating my legs for years now with reasonably good results. When I first started it felt like I was ripping the flesh away from my bones. It was toe curling, cringe inducing agony. But it is true that you can get used to anything and the more I did it, the easier it became. I must have forgotten just how excruciatingly painful it was that first time when I made the decision to epilate my armpits.


It was some months before my wedding and despite using a whole variety of different razors, I could never get my armpits as smooth as I would like to feel completely confident about wearing a sleeveless wedding dress. It was a brave moment when I first put epilator to armpit and it was an even braver moment to make the decision to persevere with it. The toe curling agony was back with a vengeance. It took me four sessions to complete my preliminary epilation - half an armpit worth of pain was enough for one day. By the time the bleeding had stopped and the swelling had gone down (!) the result was pretty good. Good enough to know I was doing the right thing. Regrowth was slow and patchy and each time I repeated the procedure, it was considerably easier.


Wearing the sleeveless dress at my wedding was no problem and the pain endurance was good practice for the day I gave birth to my lovely little son! 


There is something about having smooth hair-free armpits that makes me feel ready for anything, which is just as well because news in from the Wendy House is that my sister has made it into the final three in her Superhero competition to win a car. Photographers will be arriving at my house this afternoon to do a photo shoot of my 'Superhero' parents and we need to have our party planning machine on full throttle to be ready to throw a big bash next weekend. It's all starting to feel like just another day in the life of a QWERTY Mum!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Superheroes

My sister in her Wendy House is trying to win a car. The first stage of this involved saying who is a Superhero in your family. She does have a lovely way with words and once she has her angle, she can be pretty unstoppable. Her angle was this:
  • nan and grandad are the superheroes in our family
  • both in their seventies, grandad has arthritic knees but still very involved in family life
  • 13 grandchildren ranging in age from 3months to 23years (just remembering their names is superheroic!)
  • happily married for 55years 
  • to celebrate their wedding anniversary, they are taking the whole family away for a long weekend in a manor house
I actually think my mum is a superhero because if you give her a bag of rotten old windfalls, she will take them away and come back next time with a delicious apple pie. My sister did not use this fact but she obviously impressed the judges because they asked her to submit a video giving a flavour of a typical family gathering. This is where I came in.

For the last five summers, Taylor has taken it upon herself to make a movie with her sisters and cousins. The whole process from script writing to scheduling to filming to editing, is all their own work. It has become something of a family tradition to support their efforts in whatever way possible, including the occasional acting role, and to hold a Premiere just before the new school term starts. 

The first movie, Time Spy, featured hapless special agent Jake Bullet and his scientist friend, Professor Geiger, who invents a time gun. The following year, Time Spy 2 took a closer look at Jake's nemesis, Black-Eye Bill. Year 3 saw a departure from this genre into horror with Call of the Corpses contrasted a year later with Once Upon a Fairy Tale, complete with animated opening sequence. Finally, this year's project, Deadline, was a musical with five original songs. 

As they learned from their mistakes and ambition grew, Taylor found the limitations of her editing software  increasingly frustrating. So in the spirit of 'supporting their efforts in whatever way possible', my husband purchased a second-hand Apple Mac computer and Taylor bought Final Cut Po to use with it. She has a lot still to learn about the capabilities of the new software but it is opening up a world of possibilities. 

And a world of possibilities has opened for me too with the access I now have to iMovie. For a long time, in fact since I had my very first video camera some 14 years ago, I have wanted try my hand at editing, and now I can - very easily. Which takes me back to my sister's attempt to win a car and her need for a video to substantiate her claim that our parents are superheroes.

We were having a big get together anyway to welcome back our gorgeous nephew, Tom, who had been in America for the last few months working in a Summer Camp for disabled adults.  We shot some fairly random footage which I then happily cut together to tell a story. I was really pleased with the result which elicited quite an emotional response from mum and dad when I showed it to them.

The judges liked what they saw too. The Wendy House received a phone call interview to find out more about the whole family, various attributes and how we spend our time. Should we progress to the next level, we will have to throw a party under the watchful gaze of a film crew! 

My sister may or may not ultimately win her car but for me, I'm enjoying the ride ...


video

Monday, 20 September 2010

Can I Have This Dance?

When my wedding planning was in the very early stages - all fairytale and romance rather than difficult decision making and parting with large amounts of money - I had a little fantasy about our first dance. I imagined myself twirling gracefully around the dance floor in the loving arms of my new husband, Cinderella style. In order to avoid the reality of an awkward 3 minute shuffle, I suggested that we took dancing lessons. My lovely in-laws, keen sequence dancers themselves, funded some private lessons as a birthday gift for me to get us started. We weren't exactly twirling gracefully but we were learning a few basic steps and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

Our dance teacher is actually a dog trainer by profession. Sometimes her people skills can be a bit lacking. You do feel that if you get through a particularly tricky combination of steps without mishap, she'll be waiting to reward you with a Good Boy Choc Drop and a pat on the head. And when she shouts "HEEL!' in reference to your badly executed footwork, you do feel an overwhelming urge to go running to her side, panting and looking up expectantly! But we were learning.

I only ever intended to do the bare minimum - concentrate on the waltz and choreograph a simple routine that would fool our wedding guests into thinking we knew what we were doing. However, before long we had joined a regular class, bought a Victor Silvester CD and had tickets for our first ball. The ball was a very glamorous red and black themed affair and we quite literally danced all night.

We possibly should have got some professional help with our wedding choreography but given that the venue we finally chose only had a relatively small dance floor, we decided to keep it all as simple as possible  and just use the routine we knew. My grown up daughters provided the music - a shortened, slowed down version of  High School Musical's 'Can I have this Dance'. Despite the disdain of my eldest daughter (Liberty) with regards to my song choice,  they did a wonderful job. It wasn't exactly the 'Cinderella style' of my fantasy - especially given that my youngest daughter ran onto the dance floor and tried to grab my dress mid spin turn! - but it was a lovely moment for me and now a treasured memory.

After a short break to have my son,  we are now back at our regular Sunday group class trying to master the tango and the quickstep at 'Silver' level. Liberty has managed to persuade her boyfriend to join her in the beginners class and I am so looking forward to the day when we can dance together - maybe at a glamorous ball or a wedding....?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Back to the Mothership

The baby is getting so good at sleeping through the night. The only down side is that my boobs haven't adjusted to the new routine yet. I wake up in the morning barely able to move from the weight of them. And it's not just that they've leaked a bit - the bedclothes are drenched. Such is the miracle of the human body, no doubt it will all sort itself out eventually, but in the meantime I start the day Cleopatra style with a milk bath.

Another adjustment I'm having to make is to the Ivy shaped hole in our household. Yesterday, we took her back to Northampton to begin her second year of University. Ivy was born in Northampton and my eldest daughter, Liberty, studied at Bath where, coincidentally, she was born. We don't think of their leaving for Uni as 'Flying the Nest' - more as a 'Return to the Mothership'. It remains to be seen whether Taylor will follow the same pattern which would see her studying at either Oxford or Reading as she was born at home, midway between the two.

We decided to make a day of it in Northampton, so after dropping Ivy's belongings off at her house ( did she really need all of those books/dvds/clothes etc) we drove to Salcey Forest and had lunch in the Forest Cafe. My choice of red pepper and tomato soup served with wholemeal bread seemed very healthy and in keeping with my weight loss plan, which is more than can be said for the GIANT slice of chocolate fudge cake I had on our second visit to the cafe for afternoon tea, having completed one of the forest walks. It may seem like a shocking failure to have let such a calorific indulgence pass my lips but for me it was a triumph to openly enjoy a treat (I can be a terrible secret eater) in the knowledge that the overall 'Get in Shape for November' plan can easily accommodate it. In a moment of uncertainty this morning I weighed myself and found I had lost another pound! Affirmation.




The forest walk was lovely and included a Tree Top Walk. This was a cleverly constructed wooden walkway that rose up into and above the trees to a viewing platform. Apart from the very last bit which was accessed via steps, it was all buggy friendly. My 2yr old loved it, jabbering excitedly about Tarzan and Jane (or rather 'Zhazan' and Jane), the Disney version of the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale being a current favourite.

Another favourite film of my 2yr old, I am delighted to report, is my own creation 'Psycho Potato' which she has watched too many times to count whilst cuddling 'Norman Bates' (now minus dress and knife and beginning to go a little soft!)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Psycho Potato

It only took a few moments of brainstorming with Ivy (media university student and helpful daughter) to come up with an idea for the video competition that I had been thinking about. My ideas so far for a re-enactment of a scene from a movie or television moment had been these:

  • the Susan Boyle 'Britain's Got Talent' audition featuring Susan Boyled Potato
  • a Jedward moment featuring King J-Edward Potatoes
Ivy suggested the iconic shower scene from Psycho. I failed to come up with any potato related puns for this but the creative juices began to flow!

I am already sure that Taylor's boyfriend thinks I'm insane. Did he need any more proof than to find me in the middle of building a shower set whilst cooking up some mash potato in the microwave? I absolutely loved making a miniature knife out of cardboard (as I mentioned yesterday, I have a bit of a passion for scaled down things that make me feel like a giant!) Sorting through 5Kgs of spuds to identify the perfect Norman Bates and Marion Crane was my moment as a casting director and the technical issue of a working shower head was solved when I rooted through my 2yr old's sandpit toys to find a little plastic watering can.  I was glad that my girls had persuaded me to buy them an array of Sharpie Markers as part of their 'Back to School' requirements because they were perfect for detailing the eyes of my characters and then there was the ketchup.....

As soon as I was ready and the 'actors' were impaled on skewers, it was just a matter of persuading my long suffering daughters to come and help. Daughter number 4 is generally my most willing accomplice and she didn't let me down. I made her watch the clip of the original 1960 shower scene on YouTube despite her reservations (she is the jumpiest person I know and hates horror films). It was 4minutes of hell for her but she stoically endured it for the sake of the project. She really drew the short straw as Ivy 'called dibs' on operating Norman (it was all her idea anyway!). It was unavoidable that Marion's puppeteer would get water poured all over their hand and arm - and we hadn't had the foresight to use warm water! To make matters worse, I acted on a piece of information that my dad had shared. He said that when 'Singing in the Rain' was made, the 'rain' did not show up very well on camera so milk was added to the water. If it was good enough fore Gene Kelly, it was good enough for me. So freezing cold, slightly milky water poured half way up your arm - would that be anybody's idea of fun?

By the end of the project, the whole family had got involved in one way or another. 'Psycho Potato' is destined to become part of our family folklore. Even the 2yr old now runs around making the famous Psycho stabbing sound effect!

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Friday, 17 September 2010

Trap Door

I breastfeed my baby on demand - and he can be very demanding! - especially in the evening. It paid off last night when he slept from 9pm right through till 5am then continued to sleep  until 7am after a quick top-up. As if that wasn't luxury enough, I then had a lovely lie-in until 8am while he cuddled up with my 2yr old who had joined us in bed for a few episodes of the wonderful 'claymation' series Trap Door. I dozed to the soothing voice of the late great Willie Rushton (educated at Shrewsbury School where my husband used to work and I attended many an eye-opening function!) and the occasional thunderclap.

By 8am I was well and truly ready for my toast and coffee. I am two weeks into a 'Get in Shape for November' program. The target date of November is when the whole extended family are going away for a long weekend to celebrate my parents 55th wedding anniversary. I want to buy some gorgeous new clothes for this but recent attempts to shop have left me in a state of despair (those well lit changing cubicles with their full length mirrors are so unforgiving). I find it very easy to eat far too much and reasonably easy to starve myself but to eat a healthy, balanced diet.... why is that so difficult? I am actually doing really well at the moment with the support of my fantastic husband who has provided intriguing packages for me to unwrap as I reach certain milestones. The first package contained a lovely pair of silver earrings and a voucher for a 'Deluxe Pedicure' (actually not at all sure about letting anyone touch my feet but that's a story for another day). It isn't so much the desire to see what my next treat is that keeps me from the biscuit tin, it is more that he has put so much effort into supporting me that I would feel ungrateful if I were to give up or fail - some interesting psychology that is seeing the numbers on my digital scales steadily decreasing.

Last night I cooked pasta for the kids. One reason why my husband and I are compatible is that neither of us like pasta. I've always been a bit embarrassed to make a stand and say "I don't like pasta" because what's not to like? It's just pasta. It's a vehicle for all those wonderful sauces. But you know what - I don't like pasta. My husband says that it is a waste of good carbs and I'm with him. Why bother with pasta in a world where rice, potato and fresh crusty bread exist? So while the kids tucked into their fusilli, we indulged in one of my favourite meals - baked camembert with french stick and caramelised red onion chutney. As this is neither low calorie or well balanced, I could only justify it by having a small portion. Served with a tiny bottle of red wine (I love scaled down things that make you feel like a giant) which equated to half a small glass each - it was a little bit of heaven.

I am trying to get my creative head in gear today. My sister has told me about a competition that involves videoing a re-enactment of a scene from a movie or television moment using potatoes as actors. I can't resist a challenge like that and hope that starting my day with Trap Door will give me the inspiration I need. If you can make plasticine act that well, how hard can it be with a tuberous root?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Piranha 3D

Last week I was lucky enough to win two tickets to see any film on any day at CineWorld in Shrewsbury. It was just the incentive I needed to do what my second eldest daughter (Ivy) and I have been threatening to do since we first heard about it - go and see Piranha 3D.

The original 1978 Piranha movie was a favourite of my childhood. Last Christmas, daughter number 3 (Taylor) gave me a DVD boxset of Piranha, Lake Placid and (the particularly awful) Frogs. What a treat that was, sharing the iconic images of my childhood with a generation brought up on special effects a tad more sophisticated than what we now affectionately refer to as 'fish on sticks'.

I hardly ever go to the cinema - usually I am happy to wait for the movies that interest me to make their way onto SKY or I go to "Wendy's Lending Library" (my sister still buys the important ones when they are released on DVD) - so  a trip to the cinema is still a bit of a novelty to me. The last movie that inspired me to get off my sofa and embrace the big screen was the 3D screening of the last in the fabulous Final Destination series. Absolutely LOVED it. And the 3D technology has made such a huge leap since the green/red cellophane in cardboard spec frames that I was seriously impressed with it all.
So all in all, Piranha + cinema trip + 3D + free tickets  was enough to tip the balance of the scales in their favour against general apathy + genuine anxiety about leaving the baby for the first time for longer than an hour or so (he is only 11 weeks).

It was a 9.15 screening. I spent longer than usual feeding the baby before handing him over to his dad (we don't even own any bottles so I had to make sure that he had enough milk to keep him happy - and hopefully asleep - until my return) and then we set off. Singing along to the Glee CD in the car kept my baby separation anxiety at bay.

As is often the case with free tickets or discount vouchers, the cashier at CineWorld had no idea how to process mine. I started to feel guilty about having won, the agitation of the people queueing behind me building as the minutes ticked by. Eventually, all was sorted and we were comfortably seated, 3D specs in place appreciating  the opening sequence which was a tribute to Jaws with the lovely Richard Dreyfuss. I knew from that moment that I was going to love this film.

I don't know if it's just my age but those 3D glasses did make my eyes ache after a while. However, it was worth the minor inconvenience because the film did not disappoint. It was a total gore fest with just the right amount of jumpy moments, comedy and amazing special effects.

There was only one bit of the film that I really did not like and found quite disturbing (and it wasn't the part where drunk girl 3D vomits right at you). A panicked tourist tries to flee the scene of terror by ploughing a motor boat through the mass of swimmers being attacked by killer fish. I think the bumping of motorised vehicle into vulnerable living flesh affects me on a fairly deep level because of an experience I had some years ago.

I was driving home from visiting a friend in Manchester. It was late, I was nearly home, it was very dark as I lived out in the country and there was no street lighting. It all happened so quickly. I saw something flash before me out of nowhere and before I even had time to react I felt the sickening bump of something substantial against my front wing. I thought it was a deer but it turned out to be a greyhound. I will never forget wandering around in the pitch black, hearing the laboured breathing of the dying animal and not even knowing where (or what) it was. I managed, eventually, to locate the owner (a farmer) who came out with a powerful torch and hessian sack to put the body in.

Incidentally, my baby feeding efforts before leaving for my cinema trip were totally successful. He slept for 7hours and I swear he is noticeably bigger, heavier and longer this morning!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

My first blog post!

It's a rare moment in my household. The big kids are either at school, college or work, my toddler is having an afternoon nap and the baby, looking thoroughly dopey after a big feed (I don't know where he puts it all!) is snoozing contentedly in his pram. So it's just me ... and blissful peace ... which I am sure I would describe as aching silence if it happened too often.

I really should be using this time to get on with some uninterrupted housework, or prepare tonight's dinner or better yet give myself a good workout on the Wii fit (still having a bit more than a stone of 'baby' weight to shift and a target of a bit more than 10weeks in which to shift it) but having decided to create this blog, the lure of sitting here tapping at my keyboard is simply too powerful.

So here I am!

As a teenager, I kept a diary. The volumes have long since been reduced to ash in an angst fuelled ritualistic bonfire but from my memory, the entries were a daily chore which sometimes built up into a bigger, weekly chore trying desperately hard to recall something meaningful that I could write about. I am determined that this blog should not follow the same path (apart from anything else, an 'angst fuelled' hitting of a delete button wouldn't be nearly as satisfying or hypnotic as watching those long ago dancing flames consuming the inadequate pages that failed to chronicle my journey towards adulthood)..

I am not at all sure which direction this blog will take but I do promise that it shall be heartfelt and honest and if I ever struggle for something to write about I will take it as a warning that I am not making the most of the miracle of the Life I have been blessed with. Already my blog is finding its own way - becoming like  a miner's canary - wasn't expecting that. This could get interesting.
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