Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Space Invaders

I've been struggling to write any posts just lately. I have a serious case of blogger's block; he's 5'11" and goes by the name of 't'husband'! I don't know why it is but I am unable to write anything in his presence. He knows that I blog and he doesn't mind my devoting so much time to online activities so long as I feed him every now and again. He might have even read a post or two in his time, although he thinks that my blog is mainly a platform to slag him off, as if I'd do that, *cough* but I just feel really weird about actually writing something whilst he is in the vicinity. This is something that is going to have to be worked through however because the fishing season has finished and he is going to be in my space (ie home) for the next 3 months. Yep, 3 long, cold months.

I have tried various tactics this morning to get him to sod off leave the room/house for a bit. These included, in no particular order:

Enquiring as to when the Ashes highlights were on, was he not missing them? Apparently the first test has finished and the next doesn't start until Friday!

Did he need to do some maintenance on his boat? "It's raining" came the reply. Well fair enough I'll let him off with that one.

Didn't he need to pop round to our friends' house to get our house keys back? Erm no, we are apparently inviting them for dinner at the weekend.

Had he fixed the out-house door yet? It was still raining!

Did he fancy going to buy a new tyre for my car?  I was clutching at straws with this one and unsurprisingly was given a look which told me, in no uncertain terms, what I could go and do to myself!

Finally, help came from an unexpected source.  I accidentally brushed past the wine rack en route to the kitchen, hearing the clink of the bottles t'husband looked up momentarily from the Leeds United website and spun around; "there's not much wine in is there?" he mumbled, "better nip out and buy some".


And so here I am with a few minutes to spare whilst t'husband is replenishing our wine stock down the local Eroski.  He's not a bad sort after all.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Roasted

Check me out!  Eddie Bluelights over at Clouds and Silvery Linings has honoured me with a spit roasting. A real grilling of my mind.   Go and check it out if only to see two very dodgy photos of the lady behind the infamous donkey.  Whilst your there have a good look around Eddie's blog.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chivalry is Dead, Unless You're Polish it Seems

Whilst on route to the supermarket today I had a tyre blow-out. Seriously, they just don't make good tyres over here (nothing at all to do with the fact that despite being in my seventh year in this country, I cannot get my spatial awareness around driving on the right when it comes to parking, thus continually weakening my tyre walls when mounting kerbs).  I was aware of a bizarre noise and having been through a tyre or two in my time (as I said, rubbish tyres), I knew immediately what the problem was so I pulled over to inspect the damage. The tyre was severely mangled and smoking!  I cursed my luck and then looked for my phone to ring t'husband. Obviously the phone was not in my bag, it was on the kitchen counter re-charging.  Bollocks, I was going to have to tackle this alone!

I set about slowly dragging all the crap important stuff out of the boot in order to reach the spare tyre and tools, all the time hoping that I would be spotted by a passing motorist who happened to live in my village, or better still a fellow ex-pat also on their way to or from the supermarket. Someone, anyone, who would find it in their hearts to help a fair maiden.  As I slipped into my fetching bright yellow safety waistcoat, (required to be worn by law in such an event), I realised that several cars had passed and none had even slowed down, let alone stop.  They'd just driven around me, ignoring my hazard lights and swerving around the debris I'd laid in the road.

After some time I'd managed to locate the jack, the spanner, and the fold-out safety triangle in all the hidden compartments in my VW, taken off the wheel rim and sufficiently smothered myself in dirt and grease.  I was going in!

Some 25 minutes later I'd finally figured how to work the jack and had risen the car enough to attempt to lever off the bolts.  I tried but to no avail.  I pushed and pulled and kicked the spanner with my foot, but they were stuck fast. Still no-one had even looked like they might stop and lend a hand, not surprising really given the spanner-wielding, wild-woman look I was emanating. I debated briefly with myself whether or not to cry, but decided against it and did what I probably should have done an hour before; I flagged down the next car and asked to use their mobile phone.

The phone call to t'husband was not, as it turns out, an instant solution, his van being at our guest house and he would need someone to pick him up, and even then he wouldn't be able to come until after Joseph had finished school.  He would be an hour, at least. Resisting the overwhelming urge to swear profusely at t'husband's immediate unhelpfulness, I handed the phone back. The lovely lady in her sixties whose phone I had borrowed sensing my annoyance, shared one of her own 'bad husband' anecdotes, where her own husband had once left her stranded up in Tarragona. She got back into her car and drove off, I attempted to budge the nuts again on the wheel.

Finally I gave up and decided to just wait it out, perched in my open boot I watched the cars whizz by.   All of a sudden a car came around the roundabout, instead of moving into the middle of the road to overtake, it sharply pulled in. I glanced briefly at the number plate and noticed it had Polish plates on and I thought for a moment the car belonged to another Mum at Joseph's school who is Polish.  I was just about to thank her for stopping and tell her that t'husband was on his way when two handsome young gentlemen leapt out of the car.

Gallantly, one of them strolled over, took from my hands the spanner that I was idly twiddling and set about relinquishing the nuts from their overly tight bolts.  With a stamp of his Croc-ed foot (this detail may have to be erased from my memory) each nut eased and he worked with expert speed to relieve all 5 in record time. Next he turned his attention to the jack, he looked up at me and smiled coyly, the sunlight bouncing off his Colin Firth style soft brown curls and creating a brilliant aura around him, an angel started to sing and a harp started playing softly in the distance.  His less charming companion informed me that the jack was upside down and then muttered something to Mr Darcyowski in Polish, probably something along the lines of 'bloody women!' but I ignored him, too busy was I, lusting, slack-jawed, over my dashing hero who by now was jacking the car up with one hand and twiddling the bolts free with his other. My mind wandered feverishly as our fingertips touched as I passed him the spare tyre.

Alas, my fast working knight in shining leisurewear had the spare tyre on and all the bolts tightened up again all too quickly and with a sparkling smile he declared his job done and strode masterfully back to his car, rolling over the bonnet in the process (OK, I made that last bit up), I was still stood there grinning like an insane Cheshire Cat who'd just discovered the cream as they sped away never to be seen again. This whole process took less than 5 minutes, but I have a feeling I might remember it for a lot longer.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Donkey Goes Stateside - Part 1.

The family Very Bored are fresh back from their two week vacation in the Sunshine State.  Actually, that is a bit of a lie, the jet lag kicked in for us all at about 1.00am this morning so fresh isn't really the correct adjective here;  knackered would be more accurate.  Thank you to everyone who guest posted for me, I hope you enjoyed reading their posts and that you're now following their blogs as well.

I had a lot of preconceived ideas about how our holiday was going to pan out and I wasn't particularly wrong, I felt that the first week that we were based in Islamorada on the Florida Keys, I would spend a lot of the time feeling bored.  It was a busman's holiday for sure, a warm country where I wait around all day for t'husband to finish fishing and then make dinner, have about an hour's company before t'husband declared himself knackered and needed to go to bed because he had an early start in the morning.  A familiar story for sure. I was thankful that our holiday home had WiFi, although the connection was dodgy and sadly at 9pm in Florida it was 2am in the UK so not many people to play with on Twitter.

It wasn't all bad though, the house we'd rented was in a beautiful location, our bedroom window looking out to the little jetty for the boat and the Gulf of Mexico beyond, the decor was tastefully done in a Harbour Master theme and brightly striped hammocks hung from swaying palm trees.  You cannot grumble too much about life when you have this on your doorstep:

The View from Bedroom Window

Whilst the menfolk spent their mornings and afternoons out on the boat, their rods waiting patiently for the somewhat elusive tarpon to attach themselves, the women spent a considerable amount of time in the local Winn Dixie supermarket, seven people get through a lot of food quite quickly!  I was in awe of the fish counter, in particular the range of shrimps, crabs and lobsters on offer.  A few of them found their way onto our BBQ along with some grouper that the boys had caught one day and some yellow tailed snapper and Mahi Mahi fish bought from the local fish traders. Without a doubt, the best fish I have ever tasted.

We did get out for an afternoon session on the boat, sadly we didn't catch anything but we were treated to a show from a family of 4 dolphins.  Dolphins featured quite heavily in the holiday and all the staged shows  couldn't compete with seeing them out in their natural habitat, but the nearby Theater of the Sea did put on a small and intimate show which Joseph loved.  Personally, I preferred the sea lion show with Wilbur and his mum Mimi, which for me was far better than the pantoesque affair we were subjected to at Sea World the following week.  They also had some rescued turtles who'd been injured in boating accidents or had birth defects that meant that they wouldn't have survived out in the wild.  One of which had a floatation device strapped to it's back as it wasn't able to float on its own.

The highlight of the week for me was our day trip to Key West.  This is definitely my kind of town.   A two hour drive away taking in the Seven Mile Bridge, which did exactly what it said on the tin.  A bridge spanning 7 miles, the Gulf of Mexico one side and the Atlantic Ocean the other, tootling along in our giant Surburban was quite breathtaking.  Key West is a colourful and vibrant place with colonial building painted in bright pastel colours.  A flamboyant gay scene mixing easily with retirees and a heavy military presence makes Key West an incredibly diverse town, I wish we'd been based there for the week but alas the location was not the best for the fishing (and it was a fishing holiday primarily that we'd tagged along on). The day we visited was Veteran's Days so there was a parade of US Navy past and present, a chapter of  Harley Davidson Riders and lots of classic cars decorated with ribbons and the ubiquitous Stars & Stripes - pure Americana in abundance.

An ex-Marine Harley Rider

The only downside to our road trip to Key West was that it was also the day the boys saw a manatee at the jetty, they'd just finished their morning fishing session and it was just bobbing about where they were trying to tie up the boat.    The boys never did manage to hook themselves a tarpon but they did catch a few nurse, reef and hammerhead sharks so a good trip for them.

More of our Florida trip later in the week.



Monday, November 22, 2010

Guest Post - 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle

My final guest post is the lovely Aussie traveller Shamozal from 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle.


So here I am in Spain, the land of delicious paella, bronzed bottoms and drinks with umbrellas. It’s nice here isn’t it?!

Do you ever wonder why our Wendy is so bored in Catalunya? Maybe she’s bored of the sunscreen application, tired of fishing the umbrellas out of her drinks? Taking the tails off those pesky prawns? Okay, perhaps a little far from the truth. I was joking Wendy! I can see her boarding the plane now armed with a massive fishing rod.

So how did I get here? I’m visiting from Doha, Qatar. I, like Wendy am an expat but of the Aussie variety. I started my expat journey ten years ago when we landed in Jakarta, which coincided with the birth of our first little traveler. We then went on to Kuala Lumpur, birthplace of our second little traveler; little traveler 3 came along whilst living in Libya but we’d moved to Canada by the time we had little traveler number 4…thankfully no more little travelers arrived while we were in the States but we did manage to pick up a beagle. You still with me?

It all sounds rather messy doesn’t it? When something turns a little pear shaped in Australia we call it a “Shamozal”.  That’s me, my life’s a constant Shamozal.

So here I am in Doha, with my 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle, writing about our daily hiccups and adventures. I’ve talked about my front bottom, explained how you make a sex sandwich and wandered through the Doha film festival. It’s been a mixed bag. Come see me some time after you’ve snacked on your paella and finished that little drink with an umbrella.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review - Kloo Language Card Game

I don’t, as a rule, do many reviews, but from time to time something comes along that tickles my fancy and I think I can do some justice to as an honest reviewer. When I spied this new language learning aid that is coming onto the market, I knew it would be up my street. Or mí calle if you like. As a British expat living in Spain I am ashamed to say that my Spanish isn’t anywhere near as good as it needs to be, so I am constantly on the lookout for learning tools that can help improve my language skills. Learning a language, especially when doing it on your own, can be very boring, so I am all up for trying new ways of learning that don’t involve text books and CD’s.

“Kloo – Words Stick Together Like Glue!”

The Kloo game comprises 2 decks of cards which can be used alone or together. Included are instructions for 3 games, 1 that can be played with 2-4 players and the other two to be played alone. More games can be downloaded for free from their website.  I enlisted the help of t’husband for the multi-player game. Basically, we had to deal out hands of 7 cards each and then using the cards, which are a mixture of nouns, present tense verbs and adjectives, attempt to construct as long a sentence as you could manage and be able to translate all the words in the sentence. Each card also has a different word along the side of it with the translation; this word is for another card found in the pack, so as you play you are discovering new words to build your vocabulary. Every card used in the sentence earned a point and a correct translation of the word earned another. The game was relatively fast paced and neither of us came across a word we didn’t know, but then considering our Spanish is at a more advanced level than the game is aiming at, it wasn’t surprising. We had fun though, making rather contrived and somewhat tenuous sentences about ‘important beer’ and ‘interesting cheese’.

T'husband hasn't got a Kloo

Of the two games aimed at solo players, I found one better than the other. The instructions for all the games I felt were slightly confusing and indeed one the solo games I still don’t really understand the end objective. However, you could just use the deck to try and construct sentences without trying to follow the rules of either game.

The downfalls were that with only 128 cards it wouldn’t take very long for the game to get boring, it certainly wouldn’t take you very long to learn all the words in the two packs, but there are another 2 decks of cards available. With a learning game such as this, there isn’t anyone to correct any mispronunciations. There is a written pronunciation under each word, but you would need to understand some basic rules of the language to know where to place the stresses, which are all important in the Spanish language. For this reason I‘m not convinced this game would be good on its own for an absolute beginner. Also, the first two packs only deal with ‘I’ or ‘We’ verbs which would make for a very one-sided conversation should you be wanting to put what you’ve learnt into practice.  The full set of 4 decks only deals with the present tense so will only take you so far with the language.

I felt that the game would be of assistance to someone beginning to learn the language, as used alongside conventional methods it would make a welcome change from text books and audio tapes/CD’s. It would also be great for those whose language knowledge has lapsed and are wanting a tool to help refresh their memories. I also feel that it would be a good piece of kit for teachers of Spanish to have as a fun learning session for their students; I would certainly have appreciated the game as a pleasant alternative in my own lessons. Kloo says that it is for players aged 8-100, but in all fairness if your child has a good reading ability then I don’t see why they couldn’t play a little younger.

To get your own Kloo cards or just to find out more info go to www.kloogame.com.  Kloo is also available in French.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Post - London City Mum

Today post comes from that old bint London City Mum, for your delectation:

I am a technophobe. No, really, I am. Not insofar as being unable to work a remote control (I can, just), getting to grips with a new mobile phone (RTFM), or logging on to the internet using WiFi (no plug needed – I figured that out).

No, what I really mean is that I abhor gadgets. The type that require a PhD in advanced pure mathematics just to switch the thing on, let alone work out how to get any benefit from it.

Example number one: the iPod touch. I gave this as a (very generous) present to my Other Half last year.
He. Loves. It.
I. Haven’t. A. Flippin’. Clue.
And not for lack of trying either. It just seems that my brain cannot link the screen touching thingy with the lack of a keyboard, and the rest just gets, well, lost in translation.

Example number two: the TV and DVD player. Granted, OH has set up a most complex web of functionality here, what with the CD player and the amplifier also being linked to the surround-sound system which works if you press this button and click that remote control (choice of four, mind you) and remember to turn the correct power on behind the unit (I just flick all the switches) and then ditch the surplus hand-held things in favour of just one which only works if you press another button somewhere else first and then if you want to change channel you have to ensure the setting on the knob on the box under the DVD player is turned to tuner and… and… and… Is it any surprise I do not watch much TV?

Example number three: the stop-watch, foot pod and HRM. That’s heart rate monitor for those of you unfamiliar with sporty terms.

Now, I have one of these. The very basic version. The one where I can push one button which starts the stopwatch, and the same again to stop it. Fabulous. I have also learnt how to synch it with my foot pod (to measure pace and distance covered) and my HRM. Sometimes I am successful in getting these all to work simultaneously, other times not. Recently it has been beeping quite a lot during training and no matter how many buttons I pushed, this continued throughout any swimming/cycling/running session.
Until I consulted the manual (again, as you do) and realised that I had inadvertently set lower and higher limits for my heart rate. Fall outside of these and the damn watch beeps away like a loon.

Which has its other uses as well. Now whenever I am confronted with technology that contrives to send me to gadget hell, OH can monitor my frustration by the number of beeps emanating from my person and rapidly remove said item from my hands and fix it.

So maybe gadgets do have a purpose after all. To get others to do the hard work.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Post - Note From Lapland

Today's post comes from my old blogging and fellow exiled mucker Heather from Note From Lapland.

Dogs Or Cats - The Great Debate

My friend is cat person. I don't mean she's actually half cat half human or that she wears a silly mask and spends her evenings stealing diamonds, I mean she's on team feline. Cats rule and dogs drool, and all that. Apparently we are all either a dog or cat person in life, team 'stinky ass breath' or team 'ass looks like a tea towel holder'.

Which team am I on? Well I've got both cats and dogs and they both annoy the fucking shit out of me.

Cats Rule.

Yes. Yes, they do. Or at least they think they do. They are so full of their own self importance it's like living with Naomi bloody Campbell. If my cat could throw mobile phones I'd be getting them lobbed at me on a daily basis.

They are also constantly shoving their puckered ass-holes in your face, trying to trip you up by winding themselves around your legs when you are carrying something hot and sitting just in your line of sight, giving you that 'fuck you' look and then extending a leg and licking their butt.

Dogs Drool

But dogs are no better, they do indeed, drool. Constantly. On everything. You only have to say the word sausage and suddenly there is a slimy puddle appearing on your floor, being wiped over the arm of your sofa, trouser leg or children.

They also stink and think that licking their asses with big, wet, slobbery licking sounds whilst sitting on your sofa is perfectly acceptable behaviour. And don't even get me started on their constant need for walkies where you get the pleasure of being dragged around some dog turd riddled park whilst the thing on the end of the lead tries to mate with everything else on four legs and then the joy of picking its shit up in a plastic bag (and no the fact that there is a 0.2mm thick layer of plastic between the shit and your hand does not make it any less gross) and carry it around trying to find somewhere suitable to deposit it.

But at least they do it outside. Our cat comes in to shit. Yes, that's right, it sits outside the front door making that high pitched miaowing noise designed specifically to set your teeth on edge, until you let it in where it shits in the litter tray, tries to trip you up a couple of times, shoves its ass in your face and then goes back to sitting by the door making that retched noise until you let it out again.

On balance, I think if forced to make a choice between team feline and team canine, I'm going with team 'piss me off once more and I've got a bucket of rat poison and a pack of sausages with your name written all over them, flea bag'.

What about you, are you a cat or a dog person?

Heather is an expat Brit living in Lapland with her 2 demonic children and a myriad of four legged creatures. She distracts herself from the sticky puddles, toy detritus and furniture encrusted with dried up yoghurt and suspicious brown stains that she doesn't like to think about, by blogging at Note From Lapland and talking about monkey sex on Twitter.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post - Mum's Gone to...

Today's guest post comes from my great blogging pal Trish over at Mum's Gone To... hope you enjoy it.

Top Ten Holiday Fails

Come on, admit it…. reading about other people’s wonderful holidays can be a big turn off when you’re not going away yourself. So I’m providing a new service here: a good dose of holiday schadenfreude. I have probably caused much irritation with posts on my blog about some fabulous trips abroad but I’ve had plenty of experiences over the years which would make you wonder why I don’t just stay at home and camp in the back garden. Sit back, enjoy my pain and you’ll feel a damn sight better afterwards.

1. Minorca

1974 I think it was: a holiday with the family where my brother nearly drowned in the sea trying to find his goggles and my mother fell through a deck chair, got her arse stuck, and had to be helped by a very small Frenchman who struggled gamely before inviting more chaps to join in the rescue attempt. Our tour operator then went into liquidation and the courier defected to the Germans in a neighbouring hotel, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

2. Tunisia

A month after I met my husband we jetted off on a cheap deal to Tunisia. The weather was unseasonably cold, the hotel food inedible and there were so many flies in the room Dougie spent a considerable amount of time jumping on the bed flicking them with an elastic band so that by the end of the week we had an accent wall decorated in fetching black speckles.

3. Formentera

Our honeymoon in 1990, on the gorgeous island South of Ibiza, was marred by Dougie losing his wedding ring down the plughole of the bath on the second day. On our return flight we missed crashing into an oncoming plane by 6 seconds: on the plus side our near miss made the tabloids the next morning.

4. Spain

Dougie perched himself on the edge of a glass coffee table in our apartment: the glass shattered into millions of tiny pieces. Thankfully his backside survived and we weren’t charged for the damage.

5. Italy

A fly drive around Tuscany and Umbria in 1995, in a tiny Renault Twingo, was pretty hair-raising at times, mainly due to our inability to find places to park. In Pisa we took a wrong turning down a no-entry street, drove through a cobbled marketplace and glided past the Leaning Tower, six feet to our right, to the bemusement of market traders and tourists.

6. Lanzarote

Yes we were the idiots who succumbed to the dreaded Time Share touts on a day when it was a bit cloudy and we were bored. We were driven up to some half-built apartments in the middle of nowhere, plied with some over-sweet plonk and given the hard sell. When we eventually persuaded them that we were definitely not going to hand over our credit card we were ceremoniously booted out, minus our promised free gift of a T-shirt, and had to walk miles to get back to our resort.

7. UK

A family weekend visit to Ironbridge is now affectionately remembered for the Telford Turd incident. We checked into a pretty basic hotel in Telford only to find a sizeable deposit in the loo. I was all for making a big fuss but husband told me to get over myself and just flush the bloody thing away.

8. France

A night in a campsite in the Loire Valley is to be remembered for the hurricane that hit the region one night. We were so scared we packed our cases and huddled in our mobile home wondering how the poor buggers in the tents were coping. The next morning we discovered all the plastic furniture had blown away, many tents had gone, trees had fallen down and the Kids’ Club tents had completely vanished.

9. Canada

Another fly-drive vacation which caused its fair share of domestic arguments in the car, due to the bloody SatNav. We set off along Toronto’s busiest thoroughfare waiting for directions from our GPS lady, only to discover she was talking French. She also let us down badly by taking us through a tunnel in the middle of Montreal so we lost the signal, took a wrong turn and travelled back out of the city again.

10. Iceland

A holiday which took me out of my comfort zone. I don’t usually do ‘cold’ or ‘activities’ on holidays but on this trip I endured a terrifying snow-mobiling trip, white-water rafting and glacier hiking. Having survived these adventures, plus a horse-riding gallop in the pouring rain, I suffered three hours of horrendous sea sickness on a whale-watching trip, accompanied by a bout of the runs brought on by taking laxatives the night before. Thank heavens for waterproof trousers. My motto: avoid activities with hyphens in the title!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Post - Random Rambling of a SAHM

G'day lovelies,

It's Lori here from the Random Ramblings of a SAHM. The lovely VB in C has asked me to guest post while she's on holidays. So I thought, for your reading pleasure, I'd bring you a tale of parental humiliation and a talktaive toddler. Because everyone likes one of those.

My little Chop, bless him, is almost about to turn the Big Three. Six months ago I was lamenting that he did not talk very much at all. These days...well... you just can't keep him quiet.

The stage for this particular comedy of errors was the supermarket checkout. I'm sure it's been the scene of parental humiliation, in it's various incarnations, many, many times before. And I doubt my face, with it's tomato-red shade of embarrassment, will be the last tomato-red parent face to grace the hallowed lanes of the confectionery-free checkout.

Or something.

Anyway. Allow me to set the scene- me, on the last leg of my shopping expedition. A trolley packed with all manner of groceries, from bread to milk to mini M &am M's, all being rapidly squashed and trodden on by my toddler. Have I mentioned I have two kids with me? No, I haven't. Well, I have two kids with me. The Bump, who's just turned one, riding shotgun in the trolley seat- the allocated place for small children to be. And the Chop (he's almost three, remember?) standing in the trolley itself. Squashing my groceries. (Potentially unsafe, I know, but slightly safer than having him run hell for leather from the pet food aisle to the toy aisle and back again, no...?).

So the three of us are the checkout, piling out stuff onto the belt. The checkout chick, in this instance, is not so much of a 'chick', but more of a matronly, I-used-be-a-full-time-mum-but-now-I'm-an-empty-nester kind of bird.

I'm almost against these type of women working the checkouts in major supermarkets chains. If I have to buy tampons or condoms or something like that, I don't want to purchase it off someone who looks like my mum. I feel like I'm getting disapproving stares. Even when I'm not. And I used work checkouts, I know what goes through people's heads when you see someone buying condoms.

You see where this is going, right...?

An innocent tube of lubricant*. As innocent as a tube of lubricant can be, anyway. Tucked away within the pile of groceries, hidden under the cat food, barbecue sauce and tinned tomatoes. And of course it was the the innocent tube of lubricant that my toddler picked up, and waved around, while calling out,

"What's this, mummy, what's this?!"

Oh my. The disapproving look on the checkout woman's face. The snigger from the mum behind me. Ground, swallow me whole, now.

It was really so very tempting, given the circumstances, to smile brightly and say,

"Why, darling, that's called 'lubricant'!"

But, of course, I simply do not have the balls for that. So I cringed, and blushed, and muttered something like,

"Baby, that's toothpaste, Put it down now, please",

...and tried to pretend the whole thing never happened.

If toddlers weren't put on the earth to thoroughly humiliate their parents at every conceivable opportunity, then I'm actually not sure what their purpose is.

*Yep, I said "lubricant". Nothing kinky. Open gutter, remove mind. And if you really must know why I needed to include that particular item in this weeks grocery shopping, you'll just have to read this post here.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest Post - Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip

Today's fabulously funny (if not a tad scary, don't worry she doesn't have my telephone number) offering is from the utterly brilliant Naomi from Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip


Pick-up Lines for Playdates

I’m a friend whore. I’ll admit it. I love my friends. And I want more of them—always.

Upon becoming a mom for the first time, I realized that I had only a few close friends who were also mommies. I mean, seriously, I was going through a radical change in my life and I needed to share it with people who understood what the heck I was talking about.

I wanted to live and bleed motherhood. Together. Forever.

I don’t want to sound Fatal Attraction or anything, but I was probably that mom at the play area who was checking you out and trying to come up with the right pick-up line to start talking to you. You see, I noticed that we had the same diaper bag and I just knew that we would be buying each other BFF bracelets within the week, if only I could find a way to meet you that didn’t make you think I was a complete and total stalker.

“Um hi ….” (Awkward silence.) “I, um, noticed that we have the, um, very same diaper bag and I thought you might want to come to my best friends forever party?”

Nope. Not quite right.

“Hi there! You’re really pretty. I noticed you the minute I walked into the play area. Do you want to be friends with me? And come home with me? And have playdates and girl time and show each other our stretch marks and ravished belly buttons and talk about the contents of our babies diapers over decaf lattes?”

Mmmmm … might sound a little too excited. And possibly creepy and stalkerish.

“Hey, I noticed that you are still wearing maternity pants even though your baby is already at least six months old. Me too!! Wanna hang out?”

Definitely not. Could be construed as offensive.

“I’m having a very tasteful placenta burial ceremony later today with just a few close friends and family. Would you be interested in joining us?”

No. That’s not right. What if she thinks placentas are icky and gross?

What was I to do? I couldn’t come up with anything that didn't make me sound like a complete psycho or a total loser. I finally gave up on trying to approach you directly and decided to become friends with your kid first.

This worked famously until you caught me offering him a lollipop. That’s when you called Mall Security and I got hauled away. I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong, I promise! It was organic. I bought it at Whole Foods. No preservatives or red dye #5 or anything! No kidding!

Hey! Don’t walk away. Please!!!

Do you still want to be friends with me? I promise not to act like Stranger Danger with your kid anymore until you say so. I’m really very nice! And not even a real stalker or anything.

Pleeeeeeeease, don’t gooooooo. Come on. Let me at least give you this matching BFF rhinestone bracelet I got for you.

See? Don’t you just love it? Look. I have one on just like it already.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guest Post - Bloggertropolis

Today's offering comes from Steve who blogs over at Bloggertropolis (which for some reason I always have difficulty typing).  Apparently this is not an original piece (tut tut) but it is a classic.  So enjoy.


Double Acts

Two workmen engaged on a job will get it completed in half the time, right?


I know this for a fact because, in my normal line of duty, I have had copious experience of dealing with both the lone contractor and the contractor who brings his mate along to help.

The lone contractor is your friend. Fact. He’s on his own, he wants to get the job done as quickly as possible and get out of your hair with the minimum of fuss and mess. Which is exactly what you want too. Perfect. I feel an inordinate sense of relief when a lone contractor turns up.

Not so when “the comedy duo” turn up.

You see a workman and a workman’s mate will always see themselves as a comedy double act. A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, Baddiel and Skinner, Morecombe and Wise if they’re both of the older generation. Never French and Saunders for some reason – but maybe that’s a gender thing.

And they will see it as their sole purpose in life to entertain you and whoever is hanging around in the office for the duration of their visit. The job will take twice as long to complete because they will inevitably distract each other. They can’t help it.

The main workman will be the guy actually doing the job while his mate will merely sit nearby, pass the occasional adjustable spanner and be the fall-guy for all the comedy gold that his partner is endlessly spouting.

And they’ll have a pre-prepared script. Little stock phrases that they’ll wheel out for the benefit of those who are in ear-shot. I guarantee that their performance will include some if not all of the following:

“See what I have to put up with?”

“You should see him on a bad day.”

“You can’t get the staff these days.

“It keeps him out of trouble / off the streets.”

“Feel this if you don’t believe me.”

“Swings and roundabouts, mate, swings and roundabouts.”

“His mother dropped him on his head as a baby.”

“I could do it but I can’t guarantee it’ll be a permanent fix.”

“I won’t bore you with all the technical details.”

“You don’t have to be mad to do this job [pause for a single heartbeat] but you do.”

They’ll also employ a fine selection of sharp intakes of breath that range dramatically in length, pitch and sibilance and thus allow you to gauge the cost of the repair accordingly.

Their banter is invariably worse (i.e. more intense and infinitely louder) if women with breasts are in the vicinity. A little cleavage will see their body posture attempt to emulate that of freshly waxed 1970’s muscle men whilst paradoxically deepening the amount of darkly furry bum crack that they have on show. They will also lie about in strangely contorted positions as they attempt to reach the necessary bit of pipe work / electrical conduit and allow their beer guts to roll around on the carpet like separate legless animals made out of tripe. This is naturally a vastly effective mating display and inevitably has the heavily breasted ladies of the office positively drooling into their Tipp-ex. Or possibly gagging. One of the two.

They will also trick you into making them a free cup of tea by employing a gag straight out of On The Buses or some other down-at-heel British comedy film of yore.

“What’s the name of that little thing that you put golf balls on?”

“A tee?”

“Ooh lovely, milk and two sugars in mine, please.”

Doh. How can I possibly defend myself against such forceful rapier like wit?

It strikes me that life must be fine indeed for the workman with a workman’s mate. You swan around all day thinking you’re Ronnie Barker. Curvy office ladies adore you. You get to handle the odd spanner or three and you sup all the free tea you can slosh into your voluminous belly. And you get paid vast amounts of money for taking 2 hours to do a 10 minute job.


Hmm. I need to get me a beer gut and a comedy partner all of my very own...


Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest Post - Mommy Has A Headache

The first of my guest posts whilst I am away sunning myself in Florida is from one of my favourite bloggers Emma from Mommy Has A Headache.


Chimps Have Had Their Chips

One of the biggest hurdles apart from Monica that Clinton had to mount at the tail end of his presidency were an excess of chimps. Since the mid eighties, scientists had been breeding chimps like crazy, thinking they'd be the solution to finding an AIDS vaccine. Ultimately, they found out that although chimpanzees could contract the AIDS virus, they rarely became sick from it. That meant it was hard to use the animals to test treatments or vaccines. This left hundreds of chimps with no place to go. 

Consequently, Clinton signed the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act into being - an act which vowed to take chimps that had been medically experimented on, as well as the chimps who'd been working at NASA as 'chimponauts' and put them in special chimp retirement homes. There were also some ex-showbiz chimps in the mix - because apparently after six years old chimps are totally unmanageable and difficult to control. One of the most famous federally funded chimp retirement homes is Chimp Haven in Louisiana which was founded by Dr. Brent. 

Dr. Brent said, "We'd like to see them in a place where they can use their smarts," she said. "They know how to build nests. They know how to search for termites. They know the things they need to do to live in the wild. I think we have a really unique opportunity to help the chimps become chimps again." 

And what of the chimponauts? "I've never worked with chimps more screwy, more altered, more disturbed than the chimponauts," said chimp expert, Dr. Carole Noon. "Each one came in with some kind of crazy behavior." 

Amazing what these experts know isn't it? Who would have thought that strapping a chimp into a vessel the size of a hotel fridge would cause it to go nuts?

I suppose you're wondering what a chimp retirement home might look like. Well, it's not bad, they have spacious outdoor yards and playground equipment for swinging and climbing. 

They also have TV.

"There are some that like soap operas," said Dr. Linda Brent, a behavioral researcher and director of enrichment at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio. "I knew one named Sammy. He liked to watch Barney. Sometimes, they like shows like Jerry Springer, because it looks like the people are fighting. They like the action." 

"It's a good moment for chimps, a very good moment," said Dr. Frans de Waal, a Yerkes primatologist who is on the board of Chimp Haven. "If we are not going to use them for biomedical studies, let's move them to a situation that is attractive to the chimps for retirement." 

But wait, why are the chimps, once confined to small cages with electrodes drilled into their skulls being given this luxury treatment? Why weren't the excess chimps simply euthanized?

Hmm. With their striking genetic similarity to people -- chimps and humans share the same blood types, and their DNA is more than 98 percent identical -- chimps are attractive to scientists. The vaccine for hepatitis B, for instance, was developed in chimps, and they are still used to study hepatitis C and malaria, among other diseases. 

Another chimp expert called Dr. Zola said that the scientists who mapped the human genome are now planning to do the same for chimpanzees, an effort that may make the apes even more valuable to science. "They may provide us with very important information," he said, "about what makes us human." 

In 1997, a panel of scientific experts said reducing the chimp population by euthanizing excess apes would be unethical. Citing the genetic similarities, the experts said the government had "a moral responsibility" for chimpanzees' long-term care. Thus Clinton signed the CHIMP Act in 2000.

So let's face facts. These chimps are getting the special treatment because they are very useful to us as potential scientific subjects in the future. But it could also be because deep down we are afraid that if we don't play nice that one day the chimps may get hold of a few machine guns and create a Planet of the Apes scenario where WE are strapped into spaceships the size of fridges. 

This post also inspired the marvelous cartoonist NotKeith to put pen to paper (see above). NotKeith does illustrations based on blog posts that have inspired him. To see if you can be his next inspiration go here.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Pictures of Children On The Internet

There has been much furore this week over the Next Model Baby competition with mothers the length & breadth of the British Isles screaming foul play and "watch out, there's a paedophile about".  I've chuckled heartily along to a couple of posts at the comments and wondered what possesses people to get so hysterical.  I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of the actual competition or share with you my views on entering baby 'beauty' contests but I will share with you my thoughts on having pictures of your children on your blog.

I personally hold the view that having pictures of my son on my blog and indeed naming him, poses no actual danger to him in any shape or form, if I thought there were even the most minuscule of threat I wouldn't do it, no way.  To be fair I don't post many pictures of him but that's because this blog isn't really about him, being the egotistical person I am, this is mainly about me. However, I fully appreciate other people's decisions to either not show their children's faces or to call them by a nickname, but I do wonder what they think might happen.

The Next competition suddenly became the centre of controversy when somebody suggested that the whole set up was fraudulent and there was really a paedophile ring behind it.  Now, surely if Next were not behind it then the competition would have been closed down by now, Next are a reputable company (or at least they were before all of this) and would have made sure the whole thing had vanished.  The fact that it's still up and running must mean that it's legitimate.

Whilst I don't claim to know much about paedophiles, I'm going to bet that a sweet picture of your bubba with a little bow in her hair is not going to fire their loins.  Sadly there are plenty of  dedicated internet sites out there that carry much more depraved pictures of interest to these sick people.  If they really got their rocks off on this stuff there would be no baby used in adverts on television or in print and the Mothercare catalogue would be considered pornographic.  To this end, I don't think that adding images of your children to your blog is going to have them under threat of being stolen and used for paedophilia websites. So long as they are dressed of course.

The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Another concern people have is calling their children by their correct names.  Again, I'm not sure why they feel they can't.  Whilst I don't use my surname on my blog it wouldn't take anyone much longer than 5 minutes maximum to find out what it was.  Does this then put my boy in mortal danger?  No, it just means everyone knows his name.  He's too young for a credit card or bank account so I don't feel he's in danger of being targeted for identity theft, which is one of the reasons that I am cautious about using my surname, and as yet he has done nothing in the world worthy of Googling, unless you count shouting 'testicles' in public.

Respect for privacy is another reason used for not showing their children's faces or using their names. I understand this if the children are of a certain age and don't want to be talked about.  But I could equally argue that if you feel that way then you shouldn't be talking about them at all unless you yourself are completely anonymous.

Not giving away your exact location makes perfect sense, but in my case I have blogged things about my village and whilst I haven't actually named it, anyone who knew the area well could deduce exactly where it is. This is where I wonder if I have put Joseph at risk, then I tell myself not to be so over-cautious.  I live in a village/small town of 3,500 people, there is only one village school.  There is only one 4 year old boy with bright ginger hair called Joseph.  It would take about 0.5 seconds of entering the village to find out where we lived, being the only English who actually live in the centre of the village as opposed to out in the campo (countryside).  Surely this puts him at risk?  I firmly believe not.  I would estimate that less than 1% of my readership would be in the position to know where my village is and even less in the locale to visit it.  Of that <1% how many of those are would-be paedophiles, child stealers, small people smugglers?  I am going to go all out here and say zero.  And even if there were one, "because that's all it takes" you're saying, just when are they going to have the opportunity to steal my child, he's either with me or his Father or at school, he's never unattended to steal?

The only real danger I can see of putting my boy's face out there for the world to see, is that someone may steal the image of him and pass him off as their own on their blog or website.  I know this happens, I've witnessed it with my own eyes twice.  However, it tends to be people who are suffering with Munchausen by Internet and they tend to use images of sick or dead babies to pass off as their own.  This is terrible and my heart goes out to any parent that this has happened to but again it's so very rare and, touch wood, unlikely to occur in my circumstances.  Even if someone did use pictures of my boy, would I really be that upset, I would no doubt think the person who stole them had some mental health issues but other than that I wouldn't consider my boy to be in any danger for all the reasons I've already listed.  There are much more tangible risks everyday to my boy, childhood diseases, fatal injury, etc.

What are you thoughts about using images of your children.  Am I being over blasé, do you think I am putting my child at risk?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When Holiday Preparations Don't Go Well

There are only couple of days before we go off on our holidays and like most women I have attempted to take the time to pamper and preen, to buff and polish myself in a way that only a holiday necessitates.  This year though I have had to really up the stakes.  You see we are not travelling alone, oh no, we are going with the in-laws and also t'husband's best friend from university and his wife.  His younger, slimmer, more attractive than me wife.  Bugger!

In a bid to not look like the fat, old, haggard friend I comprised a holiday beautifying check-list:
  • Lose a stone
  • Get hair cut
  • Buy new underwear
  • Dye hair
  • Sort out bikini line
  • Re-shape eyebrows

The losing a stone thing?  Well, I did try and it started promisingly but then fell woefully by the wayside, the upshot of this being that I weigh exactly the same as I did when I started trying to lose weight - that'll be a big fat fail.

Getting my hair cut?   I only get my hair cut when back in England, this isn't because I am over precious about my tresses and only allow the top stylist from Toni & Guy to work on my locks.  No, it's because practically every woman who lives in my village looks like they've had their hair cut using a knife and fork. God forbid I should ever want some high or low notes put in my hair as the on-trend look around here is to look as though you've just been paint-balling, such is the randomness of the splodges of colour.  My last haircut was, let me think... May. Haircut fail.

Buy new underwear - I have a confession to make, until fairly recently my everyday knicker drawer contents ranged from circa 2003 M&S multi-pack tangas to maternity size 14 big knickers.  And yes they all got worn, yes some had holes in and no, none of them were the original shade they were as new.  On one of my visits back to the UK this year I decided to invest in some much needed pantage, however being a tight-arse (in monetary terms, sadly not anatomically) I felt it prudent in these tougher economical times to buy from Primark instead of Marks & Spencer's. T'husband's oft trotted out saying of 'buy cheap, buy twice' was never truer (seriously girls, never marry a Yorkshireman) and indeed none survived their first wash with the elastic still intact (don't you hate it when they're right?).  Have I left myself enough time for a dash up to Tarragona, a 45 minute each way trip in a 3 hour window to buy new kecks?  Have I heck as like!  Knicker fail.

Hair Dying - a much battered box was retrieved from the back of the bathroom cabinet.  I reckoned that it was at least 5 years old, hey ho, it would either make my hair go green or the usual colour that pretty much any shade of brown makes my hair - mousey with a red tinge.  I figured I could multi-task here, obviously the hair downstairs needed to be bikini-fied and after all, any drips would go some way to ensuring that collars and cuffs matched.

The wax strips are also found in the bathroom cupboard, not one, not two but three boxes of them, hmm clearly it's been a while since I last put myself through this torture.  The one leg on the toilet seat stance was assumed, the wax strip pasted down and sharp intake of breath. 1, 2, 3 and... uhh. Again, c'mon now, be brave...1, 2, 3 and AGGGHH, strip pulled off.  Hairs attached - about 5, hairs still left in region - too many to count.   Again...1, 2, 3... breathe, gah. 1, 2, 3.... AGGGGH!  Fuck! Shit! Bastard!  Hairs on strip - 3, broken skin and spots of blood - 7. Onwards and upwards, another strip slapped into place. 1, 2, 3, breathe in.... oh fuck this, where's the Immac cream (or Veet or whatever it's bloody called these days)? No Immac!  Clearly the last time I decided this was a good idea I used the last of it. Bikini line fail!

Back to the hair dyeing, SHIT, I forgot to time it!  What time is it now?  Oh bugger I must have gone over 10 minutes!  A mad dash to remove the supermarket plastic bag that I'd tied around my head had me relieved that my hair was actually still attached to my head.  After washing and drying my hair looked lovely and shiny and I was sure a shade or so lighter than before.  Hair Dye success.  Well it was until t'husband came home and asked firstly "what's that burnt chemical smell?"  Closely followed by "what is that big black splodge on your forehead, oh and the ones behind your ears?".  "Umm, hair dye." I murmured in reply.  "You've dyed your hair? It doesn't look any different" came the devastating reply.  That'll be hair dye fail then.

Just one thing left to do then, the eyebrows needed taming.  I have to confess I am a fully fledged wuss, hence me not getting a professional bikini wax and not being brave enough to get an eyebrow thread.  Although when you read things like this it's hardly surprising I have The Fear.  Anyway, I've been plucking my own eyebrows since I was 13 and first realised that boys, and indeed girls, were likely to take the piss out of you if your eyebrows met in the middle.  I'd done a bit of research, knew that my brows needed to be mostly the same thickness throughout and straight across to shorten my long face.  I set about my somewhat overgrown caterpillars with a pair of rusty Asda Smartprice £2 tweezers and half an hour later peering through my tear stained eyes I felt quite satisfied with the results.  Later that evening whilst eating dinner, t'husband actually put down his knife and fork and stopped mid mouthful to examine my face.  After what seemed like an eternity he asked "have you done something to your eyebrows?"  "Erm yes" I replied nervously. "I like!" came the food muffled reply.  Eyebrow success.

Oh well, one of out six isn't bad, is it? 



Monday, November 1, 2010

More Catalonia On A Plate

Way back in August I wrote a post called Catalonia On A Plate, I listed some of my favourite starters and tapas that can be found on menus in Catalonia (and indeed the rest of Spain's) restaurants. Now I want to share with you some of the main courses of this marvellous cuisine that I have grown to love.

I must start with paella.  There are two versions, the traditional Valencian, from whence it came, and the Catalan.  The Valencian version is more meat based and will often have rabbit and chorizo in it along with chicken, pork and prawns.  The Catalan version is (well at least in my neck of the woods) solely a seafood affair, taking the rice from the fields of my area, mixing it with the cockles and mussels farmed along the coast and adorned with the prawns from that day's Mediterranean catch, as local and fresh a dish as I could possibly find.

Other variations on paella are Arròs Negre which is rice flavoured and coloured with squid ink, and Fideuá which uses pasta noodles instead of rice.


Next up and staying with the fish theme is Zarzuela or a Catalan Fish Stew, wonderfully tomato & paprika flavoured and thickened using ground almonds, this is a fabulous meals and quite an easy one to tackle at home. I've used this recipe a few times when we've had non meat-eating friends around for dinner.

Esqueixada is a lovely simple, clean salad comprising of torn pieces of bacalao (salt cod), onions, tomatoes, olives and drizzled with olive oil.  Bacalao features quite heavily on most Catalan menus, if you're in the area you must try some, it's delicious.

Menus in this region will have a variety of grilled meats on offer, pork, small lamb or kid chops and steaks are standard fayre as the much loved pork fillet, occasionally you'll get lucky and wild boar will be on the menu. What makes these meats uniquely Catalan are the sauces; sofregit - an onion and tomato sauce, samfeina - which is similar to ratatouille with red peppers and aubergine, picada - a garlic base with hazlenuts, almonds and breadcrumbs used to thicken stews  and of course the romesco and allioli I spoke of last time.

Last but not least, the humble sausage or botifarra as it's called around these parts, and to be honest there is nothing humble about it.  The pork sausages are spiced and usually quite heavily peppered but are lovely.  Blood sausages are a must if you're a fan of British black pudding, the botifarra negre over here are either mixed with onion or rice, from personal experience the ones with rice hold together better on the BBQ, the others have a tendency to explode and disintegrate. 

Of course one cannot talk about sausages and not mention the world famous chorizo.  OK, I know it's not Catalan but it is on every menu.  A wonderfully orange sausage spiced with smoked paprika, this sausage is not one for those dieting but it is an integral part of the Spanish cuisine.  From the BBQ to adding to paellas, stews, casseroles, pasta, pizza, you name it - this is the king of sausages.

So, until the next time when I share more Catalan food delights with you.