Home Sweet Home ...

30 April 2011

I launched this blog, back in February and I can't believe it has taken until now to write a post about my eternal house move saga. I've probably unconsciously held off writing about it as I have bored friends and family to tears with it all. If you are one of those, you may be best to log off now, as you've undoubtedly heard it all before.

Is anyone still left reading this post now? Well if you are I'd better fill you in with my scenario. 
Back in 2005, when Lily was just three months old we moved from the very edge of West London to Hove. After numerous day trips down to view many abode, we fell for our now home. It stood out from what we'd become used to viewing. It's an old coach house (circa 1880) a stones throw from the sea. I immediately fell for its charm and character.

Sounds delightful doesn't it? Why do we want to move? Well, to be honest, I'm not really sure that I do some days. We've got the beach, our allotment, great neighbours and our work studio is a ten minute walk away. I've yet to really put my stamp on the house - I've only just figured out what I want to do with it to make it more 'family friendly'.
Maybe it is house-hunting fatigue. I'm becoming slightly bitter about the whole thing as I feel we are being forced to move because of the ridiculous school situation we are finding ourselves forever in the middle of. When we were viewing the area we did our homework and checked out our local schools. They were close by and in most cases very good schools. How very naive we were. Our local state school is a ten minute or so walk from our house, but we couldn't get Lily in there. Oh no, we live too far away you see.

In fact Lily doesn't go to school in Hove at all: we take the daily commute to Portslade. The only saving grace is that it is a wonderful school that Lily is very happy at. This coming November we are having to go through the stressful school admission process all over again for Junior school. The forecast is yet again grim. Too many children, not enough schools. It will be harder still this time around as Junior schools linked with Primary schools give presidence to pupils who have attended the said Primary school; which is how it ought to be. But that doesn't help us. If all the current Primary school children take up their place at their linked Junior school we'll be left with just 3 to 8 extra places to apply for, which is done on distance. If we stay here we're almost certainly looking at schooling Lily out of Hove. And that may not even be a school we like this time around.

So our house went on the market some fourteen months ago. After several broken chains and a huge down valuation on our property from our survey we're still house hunting. One plus side is that we have a very patient buyer waiting in the wings (since July!). It's a struggle and the clock is now ticking for us as far as the school admissions deadline. We've toyed with renting, but houses that near to good schools don't seem to come up for rent very often, if at all. We're going to visit the school that Lily is most likely to get into next week should we stay here - maybe that might sway us either way. The uncertainly can drag you down - but I'm still keeping everything crossed that our 'forever' house will come onto the market any day now and this drawn out stressful time will just pale into insignificance. Ironically the council are opening a brand new Primary school just up the road from us this September which Arthur is highly likely to get a place at when his time comes. However the new school won't have a Junior intake for another three years, so can't offer Lily much hope. And how can get I get two children to different schools miles apart from one another for the same time?

So option one is that we stay here in a house we're are frankly quite happy with for the time being and except the school place we given no matter the distance or quality. Option two is that we take a gamble and move, still knowing that it won't guarantee us a school place, but just 'improve' our chances. It could end up being the most expensive gamble we take for our family. The parental responsibility is overwhelming and sometimes I don't feel qualified to make such a huge decision for my children's future. Turning it all over in my mind just makes my stomach churn. But as parents, I guess we just have to make an educated bet and go with our gut feelings hoping that it will all come right in the end which ever path we choose to take our family down.

Unexpected Wedding Fever ...

29 April 2011

Today really caught me unawares. I can generally take or leave the royal family. But today I was totally consumed by our royal wedding. I was up at 6am this morning with Arthur, so turned on the radio to help wake me up. I think that's what started it. There was a definite feel of excitement and optimism in the air. I tuned in to the television coverage once it began and drank it all in. It was incredible to see so many people come together and celebrate. All the red, white and blue of the street parties stirred memories of 1981 when as a nine year old I was totally absorbed in the magic of a real life princess. Today was just as magical a fairytale. If I had known that I would have come over so patriotic I would have hung out some bunting.

Our Little Patch of Eden ...

27 April 2011

This recent spell of hot weather has worked magic down the allotment. All the seeds we tentatively sowed in recent weeks are all coming through; potatoes, carrots, spinach, beans, shallots, onions, peas, corn and cucumbers. Last years dormant herbs and our blush-pink stalked rhubarb plants have sprung back to life. It's looking promising.

Since my last allotment related post we've been down the plot quite a bit and it is good to see the old allotment community again for another season. We don't have much by way of a garden living in a city and so near to the beach, just a long courtyard and a small flat roof balcony, so we see the allotment as our green outdoor space - our own little patch of Eden.

Even this early in the growing season the plot gave us some loot to take home; vibrant stalks of rainbow chard, a couple of leeks, sage, chives and marjoram all of which made a delicious allotment flan for tea. Plus we picked some rhubarb which is now waiting patiently in the bottom of the fridge for a bit of crumble action later this week.

That holiday feeling ...

25 April 2011

Apparently today was the last unseasonably hot day. Tomorrow and the week ahead is suppose to be a little cooler as it ought to be in April. I hope the weather forecasters are wrong. But we can't complain. What a treat it was to get such amazing weather not just in April, but during the four day Easter break.

We went into Brighton for dinner yesterday and decided to take the twenty-five minute or so stroll home along the promenade. There was a glorious setting sun and a low buzz of chat and laughter from people eeking out the last of the day on the beach before heading home. People were happy, if a little sunburnt. It certainly gave me that holiday feeling, even though I was just up the road from my front door. I love this coastal city that is my home. It's been so for almost six years now, but sometimes I still have to pinch myself.

Lazy Mornings ...

Do you know one of the best things about this long weekend? Not being a slave to the clock. Our daily routine is usually governed by time - it's quite regimental (scarily so at times). But these last four days with no school and no work, we've been able to take things at a slower pace. Last week as the long weekend drew nearer and people spoke of plans about 'getting away', I had a mild rush of panic having organised absolutely nothing. But I need not have worried as we've just woken each day and seen where the day has taken us according to our mood and the weather.

Lily and Arthur still wake at the crack-of-dawn. They bolt down their cereal and then play in the living room and watch TV whilst we breakfast 'before' getting dressed, and maybe have a second cup of coffee or a slice of toast after our cereal; there is no rush so we can indulge a little in a sloth-like fashion. Once showered we prepare our kit (sun lotion, nappies, wipes, snack, water etc) for the morning ahead. At this point it is unlikely to have yet reached 9 o'clock. The flip side of early-rising children is that you can get out-and-about early and make the most of the sunny day ahead.

Siblings ...

22 April 2011

This Easter school holiday Lily and Arthur have naturally spent a lot of time together and I've really noticed the strong bond they have. Don't get me wrong they can fight and bicker with the best of them, but I've seen glimpses of the admiration and protection they have for each other which is just the best thing. Lily adores having Arthur as a playmate and loves that fact he will follow most of her instructions without argument. Arthur finds Lily funny and fascinating, copying everything she says and does. I know things won't always be so good. There will be times when they will probably fall out and it will be horrible to witness, but I hope that the unique bond they have now will weather any differences they may have in the future. After all your sibling is the person you're most likely to know for the longest in your lifetime. 

My brother is three and a half years younger than me. We got along well as children and were each others principle playmate. During teenage years it is fair to say that we clashed, but we came together again. He's now lives with his wife and daughter up North, so we don't get together nearly as much as we'd like to, but when we do we have such good times. He really is what you call 'good company'. He is relaxed, intelligent and incredibly funny. I remember times when we were younger and he'd get into all kinds of trouble and I would always find myself defending him to people, which I think in hindsight was a kind of protectiveness. Even now I'd do anything for him because he's my brother - simple.

I hope that what Lily and Arthur have now they will have for keeps. From my experience I believe that they will.

Coming up for air ...

21 April 2011

We're in the second week of the school Easter holidays. School holidays, unseasonably warm weather and blogging don't mix, well not for me anyhow. Hence the lengthy gap since my last post. With two children to entertain full-time at the moment, any spare blogging time has been snatched away. It's been fun mind. Mother Nature seems to have pressed the 'fast-forward' button and transported us into July and we've embraced every minute of it.

We seem to of adopted a temporary new routine. Every morning this week Lily has been going to the local pool to do an intensive 'learn-to-swim' club with her friend and life-long companion Misty. They have both taken to it like ducks to water which is a huge achievement for them both - a joy to see. It's a proper 'no parents in the pool' type class, so Misty's mum Jess and I have taken it in turns to take them. Whoever doesn't take the girls has the boys Arthur and Misty's brother Sollie. Everyday so far we've taken the boys to the beach and enjoyed the fresh air.

After swimming we all reconvene on the beach and hang out until lunchtime. Happy Days. By then Arthur is totally in need of his daily nap, so we head back home so he can get his well deserved shut eye. Lily and I then spend a few hours together playing and (for my part) doing chores at home and after tea, we might head back down to the beach and meet daddy after work. It's a nice pace - a break from the usual frantic daily schedule we put ourselves through. It's like coming up for air, but it won't be long before we're back to the school runs, playgroups and tightly-scheduled toddler naps. This provisional daily routine is certainly something we could all get used to given the chance.

Multitasking ...

13 April 2011

'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

I'm still not 100% sure. But ask Lily this question and she will come back with a resolute answer. Lately, at the rather ripe age of six years, she has been giving this question much thought and indeed planning. This is her answer:

On a Monday's I'm going to be a mummy,
On Tuesday's and Wednesday's I'm going to be a teacher,
On Thursday's and Friday I'm going to be a nurse*
On Saturday's and Sunday's I'm going to be a policewoman

* Lily want's to be a nurse who specialises in only giving injections. This came about after attending a blood donation session with me.

When I ask her 'but who will look after your children Tuesday through to Sunday?' she simply and very matter-of-factly replies with 'Arthur of course!'

A Tune for Tuesday No. 4

12 April 2011

With the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we've had of late, I felt the need to post a 'sunny' tune this week.

I've settled upon my choice. Why this song? Firstly it's a simple, happy, sunny melody. Secondly it has been categorised in my head. You see, I've had a 'book in my head' for some time now. In my head it will probably forever stay. I've yet to put pen to paper or get much beyond it's sketchy setting and vague cast of character's. But I have however decided that this tune would be the song that would play to open the first scene should my unwritten book ever be made into a film. Crazy I know.

Anyway, this week our songstress is a name that nowadays is more commonly associated with rather poor light entertainment shows. But cast those thoughts from your mind. Back when this song was a hit, this young lady was hanging out with The Beatles and wearing Biba and Mary Quant .... very credible you might agree.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Miss Cilla Black ....

Friday Evening ...

9 April 2011

I love it when I make an effort to do 'something' on a Friday evening. It always makes the weekend feel longer. Pre-children, we'd often go out after work on a Friday but these days it's all too easy to just sit on the sofa in front of the TV worn out from the busy week just gone. 

Well, last night we did do 'something'. We invited our friend's Madeleine and Dan over. It was one of those dinner invitations that had been in the pipeline for ages - long overdue. We share our work studio with Madeleine, the incredibly creative lady behind Mibo, so it was really nice to relax and enjoy each others company outside of the work environment. Plus, with them both looking forward to the arrival of their twins in a couple of months, it was nice to spoil them a bit.

We played music, chatted and enjoyed a relaxed leisurely meal. I cooked an Aubergine Involtini (a Nigella gem that never fails me) which was served with a simple green salad and local sourdough bread. For afters I made a Pistachio Cake (a River Cafe recipe, should you be wondering) served with Greek Yoghurt and Raspberries. I didn't realise until I bought the dessert out that Dan is very much a Pistachio fan. He is currently on a mission to 'better' a pistachio ice cream that he once had the pleasure of experiencing in Italy, which was apparently, an amazing taste sensation. It is great when you have those food moments that ingrain deeply and stay with you. What a task to set yourself ... to taste pistachio ice cream every time such an opportunity arises in order to seek out pure perfection. That's what I call a great pastime.

Sunny Mornings & Little Green Fingers ...

6 April 2011

There has not been much blogging action so far this week. That is because with the sun finally coming out, I’ve been spending any spare moments down our allotment. It’s difficult to blog with muddy fingers.
I’m a bit of a fair-weather gardener and this week I’ve found myself wanting to go down to the plot and ‘do a bit of work’. I’ve had an enthusiastic and willing helper this week; Arthur.

This is his first ‘season’ in which he can actually get involved. Last summer he wasn’t even walking and generally allotments (or at least our slightly wild plot) isn’t very friendly to crawling babies, so now that he is up on his trotters there is a full ten rods for him to explore.

We’ve been down two mornings this week. It’s a tight schedule as I have to get down there early enough to get some work done but get back home for his late morning nap. Arthur generously gives me a two hour window, so long as I provide an array of snacks for him. There is lots to take in order to keep him occupied; wellies, full waterproofs, breadsticks, sandwiches, bananas and the odd biscuit. Plus water, milk, tissues, nappies, wipes and various toys. It is like packing for a fortnights holiday But once we are down the plot with wellies on it seems worth it. So far this week we’ve got our new potatoes in the ground, carrots  and spinach sown and we’ve planted a rose bush. I see us having many happy times ahead on our plot while the sun shines.

Memories: Mother's Day ...

3 April 2011

I'd like to think that I have always appreciated my mum. However, since becoming a mother myself my appreciation has gone up a level or ten. My mum gave up work to look after my brother and I in the early years. Her life as a mother was in many cases, give or take, much like mine is now. My mum would cook lovely dinners, bake amazing cakes and make us homemade ginger beer. She would take us to the park, prepare us picnics and put up my wendy house for me in the garden when the weather was good. She made me dresses and fancy dress costumes. When I wanted my straight hair curly, she would painstakingly plait my damp hair into masses of tiny braids before bed so that I could wake up with wavy hair. Mothering seemed to come natural to my mum. It was the kind of mothering that made you feel happy, safe and warm. If I can be half the mother to my children that my mum was to me, I will consider it a job well done.

At quite a young age I can remember sometimes catching a glimpse of my mum (and dad) in another light: as a young couple. Before I came along my mum was a Biba wearing girl who hung out at the Station Hotel in Richmond watching the Rolling Stones in their early days. I can't beat that for pre-parenting coolness.  I have memories of rare occasions (probably anniversaries, birthday's or work do's) when they would go out for the evening. Someone, usually my grandparents or a neighbour, would come round to babysit my brother and I. My mum would go upstairs to get ready and come down looking stunning. She'd look so lovely, I almost didn't want her to go out - I wanted to spend the evening looking at her. She'd be wearing a special dress, high heels and her 'going-out-for-the-evening' coat. When she left there would be a lingering smell of perfume in the room. I'm not a perfume wearing person - no particular reason other than I don't think to wear it. But on the odd occasion that I do splash on a bit of scent, at the age of thirty-nine, feel 'very grown up'. My childhood home had a number of pictures on the wall including 'La Loge' (Box at the Opera) by Renoir. As a child I would always think that the woman in the painting looked like my mum when she was 'going out for the evening'. It must have been the hair or something as she certainly didn't have gowns quite as full-on as the one in the painting. Even now that picture still gives me that warm glow inside.

Happy Mother's Day ...

With today being Mother's Day, I had to do a post. I was treated to a lie-in followed by four beautifully homemade cards (yes, I am only a mother of two, but they love a bit of card making), some beautiful flowers, a voucher for a spa treatment and Sunshine Eggs on Toast. Lily made the Sunshine Eggs on Toast herself. She was very proud of her creation which featured toast with shapes punched out the middle into which an egg was fried. So impressed with the dish, she and Arthur decided to keep me company in bed and we shared the breakfast three ways. The perfect start to the day.

Party Time - Part Five: The Cake

1 April 2011

Well, as the week draws to a close, so do my posts on Lily's 6th Birthday Party. I'm going to finish with a must-have part of any birthday (whatever your age), The Birthday Cake.

I'm known for my loving of an excuse to bake a cake and get a little creative with it. Lily wanted a surprise cake, so I appreciated the free-reign I had on it. Due to all the party prep, it needed to be simple to make and quick to decorate.

Well, after considerable time browsing my cookbooks and magazines I went for a classic chocolate cake layered with a chocolate ganache. The recipe was taken from my latest purchase of Olive Magazine. In fact the recipe stars on the front cover and quite rightly too as it was an absolutely divine 'melt-in-your-mouth' cake - I recommend it to anyone!

Well, in order to make my life easier, I made the decorations 'earlier'. The bunting was easily constructed using the small pieces of left-over fabric from the fabric party hats and the ribbon gave the pink factor that was sure to make the cake a hit with Lily, which I am pleased to report it was.