Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why I am not a fashion and beauty blogger.

It looks loads of fun being a fashion and beauty blogger.  It seems to involve testing out lots of nice smelling face gloop and pretty make-up and being photographed looking gorgeous and wearing nice clothes, many of which you have been sent for free.  Surely even a lazy hot mess housewife like me could get on board with that?  But no.  No no no no no, I can't.  Here's why:

1. Apparently, it's all down to how you accessorize.
I don't even know what that means.  I think it has something to do with putting your shoes on.  I put shoes on every day.  But apparently, a pair of muddy, battered trainers with holes in the soles or the flip flops that half the decorative buttons have fallen off or any other footwear item that is destined only for the bin doesn't count.  Alas.

2. My beauty product reviews would all read like this:
"This moisturiser smells mildly of socks and seems to be bringing me out in a bit of a rash, but I'm still going to use it until it runs out because I can't afford to buy another one yet.  Until then, please squint slightly in my presence so as to give a pleasant, blurred effect to my skin, and try not to inhale through your nose when close to my face."

3. I have no clothes.
Well, obviously I have some clothes.  But since I chucked in my full time job to look after the Small One, I've had no money to spend on clothes.  My wardrobe has got progressively smaller and more comedic over the last 5 years as items have worn out beyond repair and been thrown away.  I am now down to a pair of jeans that are a bit too tight for comfort, several tops, all of which require a different sort of bra underneath to the ones I have left, a few summer dresses and skirts in various states of disrepair and a Very Nice Coat, which makes me look like a tramp who's robbed the cloakroom at Claridge's because I was cold.

4. There are simply not enough bohemian looking walls for me to be photographed against in my area.
Disappointingly, most of the walls in my town are bog standard, which just doesn't cut it in the world of fashion blogging.  There is a row of garages around the corner from my house, which are covered in some pleasingly distressed paint in a very on trend shade of teal.  I have had to pose against this wall for a magazine article I wrote in the past and felt like a right tit with people gawping at me and the photographer.  But anyway, is one bohemian wall really enough?  I think not.  I'd constantly have to Photoshop it to make it a different colour.  And while we're on the subject of Photoshop, I certainly can't be arsed with using it to erase my dark circles or to fake a thigh gap.  Since when was a thigh gap even a thing anyway?  Having one sounds like absolutely no fun and certainly wouldn't tie in with my deep interest in ordering curries and eating muffins.

My one and only foray into hipster wall posing

5. I have terrible hair.
My hair is something to behold.  It manages to combine being very thin with a lot of frizziness.  It will not go straight, but nor will it curl in a sensible fashion.  It basically looks as though someone has sprinkled a bag of pubic hairs over my head and run off laughing.  Picture the reviews:
"Tried new shampoo.  Hair still looks like pubes."
"Was sent sample of conditioner.  Pube-like quality of hair slightly less wiry than usual."
"Serum fail - hair now like moist, oily pubes."
"Wore hat. SCORE."

6. Accidentally dressing like a character from a 1980s sitcom:
One morning, feeling the need to look a bit more put together than usual, I abandoned my jeans and my husband's hoodie for this nice, classic skirt and, I don't know, some sort of plain top, I would assume:

So far so good.

I had to go into town to pick up a couple of things.  It looked a bit breezy outside, so I threw on a nice red mac and a hat and went on my way.

Half way to town, I realized that my hat was a beret, and with the skirt and the red coat, I was possibly looking a tiny bit too French.  And not French in a chic, well groomed sort of way.  More in the stereotypical onion seller sense.  Felt a bit self conscious and embarrassed, but it was too chilly to remove the coat or the beret, so I carried bravely on my way, brazenly ignoring all funny looks directed my way.  I was utterly convinced that I could style it out until I remembered that I needed to buy a baguette.  A fucking baguette.  Walked home brandishing my baguette, dressed like a character from 'Allo 'Allo.

"Pssst.  It is I, LeClerc," said some joker, as I crept past.  Everyone's a bloody comedian these days, aren't they?

So that is why I'm not a fashion and beauty blogger.  Essentially, I'd be crap at it and a complete embarrassment to myself.  Or maybe it would be inspirational for everyone else who's as hopeless at getting dressed as me.  Maybe I should actually set up a blog for it so we can all have a good old laugh at my expense and feel better about ourselves and our bad hair and bog standard walls.  Who's up for it?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Fun Games for Siblings to Play

I've been inspired by this post from Mumsnet about how siblings torture each other this week.  It made me remember my childhood with my little brother, Rob.  It also made me very glad that my son is an only child.

My brother dropped into my happy, civilized world like a scud missile when I was just short of four years old.  Unimpressed is an understatement.  I immediately set about finding ways to be mean to him that might just sneak under my parents radar.  Reading on, you might be forgiven for assuming that I was a troubled, malevolent child, but I wasn't.  I was just a pissed off big sister, and from what I can work out, it was typical sibling behaviour.  Here's some of my best games (and some of my friends best games) to play with a younger sibling.  Enjoy:

1. Spelling - Step 1: Discover that 'shit' is a naughty word that you must never ever say.  Step 2: Immediately spell it out with your one year old brother's alphabet blocks and leave it for your parents to find.  Step 3:  Blame him.  Step 4: Get massive bollocking from parents who, funnily enough, do not believe that their baby is a sweary infant prodigy.  Step 5: Cry in room and write 'Robert is a bum shit' on a bit of paper in teeny, tiny writing and hide it under the carpet, safe in the knowledge that you have still won.

2. Dares - Do this on the first day of the summer holidays while your mum's getting showered and dressed and you're supposed to be watching Why Don't You in your pyjamas.  Start small - "I dare you to put an ice cube in your pants" and the like.  Remember that you are quite safe here as younger brother is only 6 and therefore can't come up with any good dares at all.  Progress to daring him to run outside and wiggle his bare arse at next door.  Then dare him to eat a spoonful of Marmite.  He is 6 and your bitch, so he does it.  Then he vomits copiously.  Half dressed mum is apoplectic with rage and you have to stay indoors all day even though it's sunny out as punishment.

3. Jungle Torture - This one was actually my best friend's sister's game.  She used to use it to torture us when I came round for tea - probably because we were the most irritating pair of children ever to live.  It would involve us walking slowly up the stairs while she gave a running commentary and did bad stuff to us: "It is night time in the jungle," she would say as she turned the lights out.  "look out for the TROPICAL STORM" she shrieked as she emptied jugs of water over our heads.  "The giant spiders want to catch you and eat you..." (cunningly set out sellotape trap in style of cobwebs) And, "YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE ATTACKED BY WILD ANIMALS" she yelled, as she threw armfuls of teddies at us, cackling madly.  Don't know why we didn't just stay downstairs, to be honest.

4. Walkie Talkies - My parents bought Rob and I a walkie talkie set for Christmas one year in the hopes that it might foster a loving sibling bond.  I mainly used mine to inform him that he was a wanker from various hiding places.

5. Car Wars - "MUUUU-UUUUUM, HE'S ON MY SIDE." Surely anyone with more than one child must be familiar with this back seat battle cry on long car journeys?  I took to taking my school ruler with me in the car and measuring out an equal space for each of us, then using it to mark out the dividing line between the spaces.  If his elbow accidentally ventured into my territory, I kneecapped him with the ruler.  Simple concept.  Fun for all.

6. Bike stunts - This one's from my husband:  "Yeah, there was the game where we all used to make our little brothers lie down in the middle of the Close and then we'd try and jump over them on our bikes..."  He also told  me about another game, but it's unprintable.

7. Knightmare - Inspired by the amazing kids TV show of the same name, this is how Robert and I spent many a summer evening:  I'd blindfold him and put a bucket on his head (bucket essential for authenticity) and direct him around the garden.  "Walk forward...sidestep to your left...and again...and again...walk forward...bit more...bit more...(evil grin)...bit more..." until he walked straight into a thorny bush and got all tangled up in it.  Ah, the 1980s.  Such an innocent time.

I do hope you've all been inspired.  Do feel free to leave a comment with your sibling torture games below.  I'll be seeing Rob at Christmas and I'm sure he'd love to play them with me...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Shiny and New

This week, I've been challenged to come up with a list of things that make me feel brand new.  If you know me well, you'll know that I usually feel that old beats new every time.  I love things with history - houses, clothes, decorative bits and pieces - I like my things second hand, a bit battered and full of links to the past.  But I have to admit that sometimes there are occasions when new beats old.  On with the list:

1. New socks and pants.  Is there a better day in the calendar than New Socks and Pants day?  There is not.  Throwing out all substandard underwear and replacing it with shiny, new stuff is somehow extremely satisfying.  If only every day could be a New Pants Day.

2. A new coat of paint.  Whether it's on your walls or your furniture, it makes a massive difference.  sometimes you want a bold colour change, other times you just want to cover up what has become known as 'child ectoplasm marks' in this house (the tidemark of grubbiness that trails all the way along the wall at child hand height on the stairs).  I finally finished re-painting our kitchen chest of drawers yesterday after a month of paint stripping, sanding and swearing.  Now my friends can enter my kitchen without wondering which filthy squat I sourced my furniture from.  So that's something.

3. New bottle of wine.  Pull out the cork and savour the sound of the first "glug glug glug" as you pour it into your glass.  Need I say more?

3. A new school year.
 There's something about September that's so full of possibilities.  New uniforms, new bookbags, new teachers.  My son has a very promising looking teacher this year.  He's young, male and seems to be a lot of fun from what I've seen, so I have high hopes.  I'm also mildly apprehensive, as my husband and I have discussed at length whether we fancy him or not.  I have visions of Rory turning up on the first day and announcing that "MUMMY SAYS YOU'RE NOT HER TYPE, BUT DADDY RECKONS HE'D BE UP FOR IT IF HE WAS A WOMAN."  This will be karma as I used to get loads of these comments when I was a teacher; "MY DAD RECKONS YOUR BOOBS AREN'T REAL. WHAT DOES HE ACTUALLY MEAN?" possibly being the least appropriate.

4. New stationery.  This goes hand in hand with the new school year.  Who remembers making special trips into town at the end of the summer holidays to buy a new pencil case and a geometry set that you never used?  Better still was the year I did my PGCE.  I needed to buy ten ringbinders as a matter of necessity.  Ten.  Imagine the satisfaction.  Rory is just starting to appreciate the joys of new stationery as he's completely fixated on colouring in at the moment and has got a shiny new set of felt tips, which he's obsessed with keeping in the correct colour order in the packet.

If you are similarly afflicted with a love of new stationery, head over to the brand new Ryman Stationery website to feed your obsession, or tell them what makes you feel #brandnew.

Sponsored Post 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

How to do the summer holidays when you're skint.

It's the last day of the school year today.  I told myself that I'd spend today doing all the little jobs and bits of housework that I won't be able to get done for the next 6 weeks.  Yeah.  Or, I could fanny about on the internet with This Morning on in the background.  I'll leave you to make your own mind up about which option I've gone for.

Now, all over Pinterest and those genuinely good parent blogs with ideas and recipes and nicely groomed children, I've been seeing summer holiday bucket lists for the last few weeks.  They're crammed full of wonderful, fun things to do and places to go to with your kids.  I say that's all very well if you a) have some money and b) you can drive.  I can't drive and a quick check of my bank account reveals that I have approx 50p to get me through to August, and the situation isn't going to improve much after that, lets be honest.  So here's how the boy and I will be spending the summer holidays:

1. Doing housework.  Kid's so bored most of the time that he thinks this is fun.  Or maybe he considers it a novelty because I do so little of it.  Anyway, he likes nothing better than whipping around the furniture with the Mr Sheen and a duster, so he can crack on with that while I make headway with the Pimms.  Yesterday, he followed me outside while I was hanging out the washing.  "If you're a really good boy, I'll show you how to peg out the washing on your own during the summer holidays", I said.  He actually hugged me.  Parenting: I have nailed it.

2. Hanging around various local parks like a pair of hobos.  "I don't care if it's raining. Get on that swing and don't get down until you've enjoyed yourself.  IT'S FREE."

3. Ditto the library.  We will be there, borrowing all the books and scouting for colouring sheets.  And thanking God that the boy is now too old for Rhyme Time, because, lets face it, Rhyme Time is shit.

4. Being in the back garden.  STOP THE PRESS: We have finally had our hazardous patio fixed.  This means that in order to get our moneys worth (because I banned Mr Disgrace from doing it after he ballsed it up last time, and paid someone to do it instead), we are going to be sitting on that fudger until November.

5. Going on nature walks. Why doesn't my child ever want to go on a nature walk?  Why?  I want to do a nature treasure hunt and make a picture out of the stuff we find and complete a tick list of insects and birds and all that jazz.  Whereas Rory's one ambition is to walk to the One Stop Shop and buy a Wham bar and an overpriced Spiderman magazine.  FFS.

6. Walking to the One Stop Shop to buy a Wham bar.  Every Day.

7. Filling in a holiday diary.  In a fit of ill-judged enthusiasm, I spent 2 quid on a scrapbook the other day, so that the small one could record all the wonderful things we're going to do over the summer (such as cleaning the toilet and walking to the One Stop).  This is only going to lead to entries such as this one in his school writing book from October half term:

Translation: "I went to Wetherspoons with Evie."  Because he did go to Wetherspoons with me and his mate, Evie and her mum (for breakfast - it was nice actually).  He also went to the theatre and an art gallery during that half term, but obviously they slipped his mind when writing up his holiday news at school.  And why not?  I mean, is there a more appropriate place to take a child than a budget pub?  Christ.  Add this piece of writing to the various other bits he wrote about me over the year ("my mummy is lovely, she has lipstick", "my mummy lets me wear her make-up" etc) and his teacher obviously has me down as a vapid, looks-obsessed trollop who doesn't let her kid stand in the way of a trip to the pub.  Would not mind but I only own ONE lipstick and it's down to the point where you have to scrape it out with your fingernail to smear it on.

8. Going to Wetherspoons.  Hey, it was such a hit last time, lets do it again.

9. Making stuff from Mister Maker's Giant Box-O-Crap.  None of which will even slightly resemble anything that Mister Maker has ever made.  In fact, most of it will look like a cereal box with one pom pom and a pipecleaner sellotaped on top.  And I will not be allowed to throw any of it out, ever.  Which is great, because what my rubbish house really needs is a load of falling apart yoghurt pot creations strewn all over it.  It will set off the shabby chic theme a treat.

10. Colouring in.  Thank God for colouring in.  Rory's obsessed with it at the moment, and I'm counting on it to get us through the rainy days.  I've been joining in too, and I tell you what - it's saving me a fortune on therapy bills.

Now, just before I go, can I please get a "HELL, YEAH" and a fist bump from the internet?  Because I've made it through the whole of the first school year without my child being late once.  Amazing.  Truly.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

THE TRUTH IS A LEMON MERINGUE: Celebrating Children's Book Week with Heinz

It's Children's Book Week this week, which we're only too happy to celebrate in the Disgrace household.  Mr Disgrace and I love reading and, fortunately, Small Disgrace seems to have inherited our book addiction and is often to be found whizzing through his school reading books or begging for a story.  He's had a bedtime story since he was a baby, and we've been through all the classics from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, through Thomas the Tank Engine (oh, that phase seemed to go on forever. I would happily have dropped a bomb on Tidmouth Sheds by the time it was over) and everything that Julia Donaldson has ever written.  He turned 5 last month and is currently very into Roald Dahl, Michael Rosen and his most recent obsession; the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton.

We gave him the first book for his birthday and ever since then, not a day goes past without him shouting "THE TRUTH IS A LEMON MERINGUE" at every opportunity.  I only hope his teacher has read the books too, or she's going to think he's a bit strange.

Now, Heinz and Tots100 teamed up to hold a competition for Children's Book Week.  You have to use a tin of Alphabetti Spaghetti to spell out your favourite childrens book quote and photograph it.  Small decided immediately that we would have to spell out 'the truth is a lemon meringue'.  And then he informed me very indignantly that he'd never tried lemon meringue pie, and what was I going to do about this?  This is very remiss of me, as lemon meringue pie was a Sunday pudding staple in my house in the early 80s, so we set out to rectify this immediately.  Aprons on and into the kitchen...

An hour and a half and a lot of stickiness later, we had a perfect lemon meringue pie (thank you very much, flying ants, for holding off while we were baking this masterpiece).  Rory tried a piece and announced that the truth definitely is a lemon meringue.  Just as I suspected.

Then it was time to get elbow deep in Alphabetti Spaghetti while we dug out the letters to make our quote.  Here's what we came up with - what do you think?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

This month I have been mainly...drinking wine, killing ants and dieting. In the rain.

Another summer month down, another step closer to the horrors of autumn and all the viral illnesses that it brings.  Here's what's been going down this month:

1. Going to Britmums Live in London, where I drank the Lindemans stand dry, learnt lots of new blog tricks, none of which I have put into practice because I am lame, and met some fab women.  My new blogger mate, Tanya over at Muma Leary is fabulous.  Check out her blog - she's almost as crap as me and was my partner in wine drinking.  She's one of us.

2. Slaughtering ants.  Still.  STILL THEY COME.  I was moaning about this at work last week and all of my colleagues were bemoaning their ant related issues too.  Then one of them said: "Mind you, *name of town I live in* is well known for its ant problem."

Well, that's just brilliant, isn't it?  Obviously not well known enough to stop me from moving here.  When my husband got a new job 6 years ago, he made me relocate from a town that was well known for its outstanding beauty and being a lovely place to live to...somewhere that's famous for having an ant problem.  Ace.  Marital relations are rather frosty at the moment.

3. Refurbishing a chest of drawers.  ALL MONTH.  Lesson: If you look at an item of furniture in your house and think "ooh, that could do with a bit of a spruce up, I'll just give it a quick sand down and slap a bit of paint on it", do yourself a favour and don't bother.  You will lose an entire month of your life and several nails to sanding and picking paint off it, and it will still look a bit shit when you've finished.  Embrace Scandinavian style and go to Ikea.

4. Attending various school events.  I'm a proper parent now I've been to sports day and a summer fair in the rain.  The small one did me proud and came first in one of his races and second in the other two.  I can only assume that he's been on the old anabolic steroids, as he is not generally known for his sporting ability, and the one time I saw him do some gymnastics after he attended an ill advised extra curricular activity for 6 weeks, I thought I was going to rupture something from laughing.

5. Dieting.  Again.  Because I have all the impulse control of a toddler in a paddling pool filled with pick and mix.  And not the sort of toddler whose mum swears he only eats wholefoods and thinks raisins are sweets.  A normal toddler with a slack mother.  Sigh.  Wine is basically grapes, right?

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Joys and Pitfalls of Having an Only Child

Until I had my son, I'd always assumed that I'd have three children - maybe four if I turned out to be really really good at it.  I was supposed to be infertile, so I'd be adopting them.  Two of them would most likely be twins, because I could totally have handled twins, you know - what with me being a primary school teacher and everything.  Piece of piss.  I would certainly not be having an only child.  No way.  That would be an incredibly selfish thing to do, and it would be one of those spoiled only child brats that you see, or a total weirdo.  Earth mother - that's me.

Then I had Rory, and every single part of the pregnancy, birth and baby phase was so unrelentingly horrible that the thought of doing it all again made me want to whack on a chastity belt.  My body clearly does not like being pregnant or giving birth, and it turns out that even if you've got a PGCE and years of experience of working with children, you can still be a crap parent to a baby.  Especially if the baby doesn't ever knobbing well sleep and decides that it wants to be mobile and climbing things at 5 months old.  My son has ruined babies for me for life; beautiful and hilarious though he was, he was a massive pain in the arse.  And it doesn't matter that everyone tells me that you never get two babies the same - a) I probably would - this is me after all, and b) if I get an angelic baby next time, that probably means that it will be an unholy terror from the age of two.  And my horror baby hit 18 months old and suddenly transformed into a charming, well behaved and entirely reasonable (albeit eccentric) child.  I have no desire to find out what it's like to parent a 'normal' toddler.  No way.  No more babies for me.

Nothing to see here. Just a far too busy and mobile 7 month old baby hell bent on running his mother down with a fire engine.

That makes him an only child.  More than one person has actually sucked in their breath through their teeth like a boiler engineer who's about to tell you that your whole heating system needs replacing when I've mentioned that he's the only one.  How rude.  And also, how presumptuous.  Lets have a quick look at the myths about having an only child.  And lets not forget that I once believed these myths to be true myself:

1. Only children are spoilt.  Mine isn't.  When you just have one child, you can't help but spoil them with love, but he doesn't get bought everything his heart desires, we don't let him do what he wants all the time and we've always made sure that he gets left to his own devices sometimes so he can entertain himself.  He also knows that when my husband and I are talking, he can't just barge in and interrupt.  I've met a lot of spoilt only children (many of whom were still spoilt as adults), but it doesn't have to be that way.  You choose how to parent your child.

2. Only children are rude.  Nope.  Mine is extremely polite and well mannered.  Partly because we've always taught him to have good manners, and partly as a side effect from being the only child in polite adult company most of the time.

3. Only children don't know how to share.  Actually, he's very good at sharing and always offers to share his sweets (or whatever) with my husband and I or his friends.  My theory behind this is that he's never had to fight over anything because he doesn't have any brothers or sisters, so therefore, sharing is a novelty and feels like a nice thing to do rather than something he's resentful of because his siblings are always taking his toys.

4. Only children are lonely.  I think it comes down to personality.  All the adult only children I know who complain that they were lonely as children are natural extroverts and love company.  My husband and I are fairly introverted and both very happy in our own company and don't need to be around other people.  We both have younger brothers and although we love them very much and would never change our upbringings, we both feel that we'd have been perfectly happy as only children as we were very self sufficient and preferred to play by ourselves.  As for Rory, he's begged us not to give him any brothers or sisters ever since he was old enough to vocalise it.  He loves that we're a team of 3.  To quote: "I just love hanging out with you guys".  He has no trouble making friends and socialising, although he's always ready to come home after having a lovely time with his friends because he needs his peace and quiet.  I can relate to that.  

3 is a magic number

Now, I would never ever criticise anybody for having more than one child.  Your family is right for you, whether you choose to have one child or ten, and there are many benefits of having siblings, just as there are many benefits of having none.  Plus there are also a few things about having one child that bother me a little: I do wonder what another child of ours would be like, and I especially grieve a little for the daughter that I'll never have.  Fortunately, a very good friend of mine has an awesome little girl who is now 6 and a total bookworm.  I'm loving buying her all the books that I loved to read when I was her age - the ones that I can tell that Rory isn't going to be interested in - and seeing her discover them.  That helps.  I also feel for him a bit at Christmas time and on holiday (well, I would if we could actually afford to go on holiday) as there are no siblings or other children for him to play with or get over excited with.  He still seems to have a great time, though.  I worry about him being left with all the responsibility for Rich and I when we're old, ill or dying.  And most of all, I worry that something will happen to him and we'll be left as childless parents.  I'm going to have to move along from that one quite swiftly, though, as I start obsessing if I think about it for too long.

And, of course, there is a particular scenario that we would happily do without every weekend.  He's perfectly happy to play by himself up to a point.  And then this happens:

"Can you play He-Man with me, Daddy?"
"Not at the moment, dude."
"But you said you'd play He-Man with me later, and now it's later."
"Yeah.  I'm just doing some work, though.  Go and do some colouring or something."
"But I want to play He-Man."
"Play it by yourself."
"I can't, because who would be Skeletor?  I can't do the Skeletor laugh.  And I need Mummy to be Ram Man."
"Mummy's busy.  She doesn't want to be Ram Man."
"Well, she can be the annoying one, then."
"Yeah, him."
"Mate, we're too busy right now."
"Sigh." *wanders off*
"Er, what?"
"I might stick this Spiderman sticker up my bum."
"Very funny."
"Right up it."
"We probably wouldn't."
"For sticker removal?"
"Yep.  And he'd say 'how did that sticker get there?' and I'd say 'because nobody wanted to play He-Man with me and I was sad', and then he'd tell you off."
"Very creative."
"So, think on."
Mate, I am not playing He-Man at the moment."
"I'm removing my trousers......."

Yeah.  Swings and roundabouts.