Thursday, 27 August 2015

Holiday, interrupted

We're not supposed to be here, but Eldest, Littlest and I are currently sitting on the sofa, binge-watching The Big Bang Theory, and occasionally yawning. It's a quarter to two in the afternoon, and we're still grazing on breakfast. We're meant to still be on holiday in Wales, but due to an unfortunate vomiting-in-the-tent incident the Lattes suddenly had nowhere to sleep, and we had to drive home at 2 in the morning.

Mr Coffee is back in Wales, gathering up the remains of our holiday. It was lovely - very low-key, with a little bit of campfire marshmallow-toasting, some surprise rock-scrambling, a bit of charity shopping action and a pasty-based picnic in the woods. Also quite a bit of cloud-watching, as the skies darkened and brightened in a completely random fashion; and driving through the most stunning views possible.

And castles. We like castles.

It's been an unplanned summer - I think The Big Bang Theory has been the strongest element. Juggling work and children over the holidays has left little time for adventure; or maybe I've just not made the time. It's easy to get caught up in busyness, in routine, in trying to stem the flow of stuff on the floor and cat poo on the lawn. There's a song we've been listening to, after seeing the singer Yvonne Lyon on holiday - Enjoy, not Endure. Click on the link and listen - it's been going round in my head for days and it has a lyric that I really need to carry with me a little more. (She also wrote The Coffee Song - how could she not be one of my favourite musicians?!)

I've done a bit of sewing recently - it's all very well to read sewing blogs, and discover how people with endless skill and seemingly endless time (and slightly less endless waistlines than mine!) run up perky dress after perky dress with smiling ease. After a bit of a sewing break, I've been trying to be more realistic. I realised that some of my fabric stash could be happily turned into a series of Heather Ross Summer Blouses, which are the things I reach for every summer day to throw on with jeans. I ran up three before the summer, and the simplicity of a summer 'uniform' made me incredibly happy.

A year or so ago, I developed a serious envy of Nancy's floral Japanese dress, and even went so far as to buy some vaguely similar Liberty print to make my own. But in my heart I knew I would never find the time for something so detailed. Then just before the holidays, when amazingly I had a rare (and I mean blue-moon, hen's teeth, sky-blue-pink-with-yellow-dots rare) child- and work-free day, I came across the Seamwork Mojave dress, which promised to be done and dusted within 2 hours. And so it was (with the addition of some back darts, to stop it looking like a nightie) that the pattern was made, and even some ric-rac was added, just to rip off Nancy even more.

I'd put it on again if I could, and take a better picture - but it's currently in Wales in our abandoned tent, ready to be rescued by my husband. I don't envy him the task of facing the horror of our tent in the full light of day, but I do wish I'd had a proper chance to say goodbye to our holiday view.

Saturday, 2 May 2015


It's raining. Which is inconvenient, because I was going to potter in the garden, and instead I'm under a quilt watching My Little Pony with Littlest. Did I say 'inconvenient'? I meant 'a good excuse'.

I'm no good at pottering. What seems to consist to other people of cushion-plumping and deadheading beautiful flowers, turns out in my case to be picking up detritus from around the house, attempting to put it in its rightful place, or fighting with dandelions.

It's a chore, pottering. Chottering? Is that a word? I think it should be. Bringing together the two constants of my life - endlessly doing chores whilst simultaneously achieving nothing - I have decided it is a word.

I chotter in the garden. I chotter in front of the sewing machine. I chotter around the kitchen. I chotter. You chotter. He chotters. They chotter. (No - scratch that. They do not chotter. If they refers to my children, they spend their lives on YouTube watching gospel singing or adults opening Kinder Eggs.)

Here is my garden. I planted a flower and grew a chair.

Here I am growing salad. On the left there, in the biggest 'V', I'm growing mizuna from seed. I don't even know what mizuna is, but it seems that I'm growing quite a lot of it.

I've been following planting plans from a book called One Magic Square, because I only have four little squares for veg, and I'm not very good at tidy rows. Below is my pea, broccoli and spinach square, planted before I realised that the mesh wotnots I'd bought to keep the cats off wouldn't go over the peas.

Behold my plastic pods. Getting back to nature is so rewarding.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Evil that is Easter

They're tricksy things, holidays. They give you Ideas. There's the Easter break, for example, which always contains at least one day of unrepeatable weather, allowing you to get out into the garden or hang the laundry up or go for a (ten-minute) walk in the woods. This Easter I've taken a couple of days annual leave either side of Good Friday and Easter Monday, and they've been a big mistake.

Having extra hours turns you into a different person. New possibilities start to settle into the spaces that are usually filled with work and driving and making sure everything gets done on time. But it's false hope, of course. False hope that caused me to order a tonne of packets of seeds for my veg patch; false hope that spurred me on as I raked lumps of moss out of the lawn; false hope that's convincing me that I can eat a salad a day - complete with edible flowers - from my abundant garden which blesses me with constant colour and health.

Deep in my heart, I know the proper truth. It's going to tip it down all summer, the veg garden will either fail to germinate or will become covered in cat poo and little grey flies and weeds, and I won't have the time to get out in the garden because every day isn't a Bank Holiday, it's full of work and stuff and other stuff, and I honestly believe that it's actually cruel to give us a few days off at Easter just to give us a glimpse of what life could really be like.

On the radio the other day, Chris Evans said we should treat each new day like a new little life. But when handed several luxurious days in which to do just that, I find that by far the most satisfying thing to do is to start planning and preparing for another, future life that seems even more luxurious, full of time and sun and edible flowers. An Easter holiday, a few Spring buds and fluffy clouds, and once again I'm a sucker for a happy Summer ending.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Remember who I am! Accept the things I cannot change! Win some headphones!

Time was, I sewed quilts and clothes and I read books. I polished the bathroom taps and I did the ironing and I dug holes in the garden and put plants in them and I read lots of books about myths. I went swimming and I made cats out of cardboard.

And every so long I would sit down and write a blog post about these things and take photos to go with it. And my life got collected up in a series of little episodes that occasionally I'd look back on and think how nice it was that it was still all there.

But then everything got too busy, too busy by far, and I'd contemplate changing my blog header to The Coffee Lady - Mother. Misery. Blue-Arsed Fly - but I'd never have time so it didn't get done.

These days, I shuttle back and forth to Eldest's school and my office and home and there is too much going on to even tell you but suffice to say it's tedious, it's busy, and not in a fun-busy way but in an another-day-of-tears-and-how-did-it-help-us way and it's nothing new and nothing exciting but all those issues I eluded to before were not helped in any way by chia seeds (which, by the way, turned out to give me incredible wind). And I'd kind of decided that I just didn't write a blog anymore and that wasn't something I even needed to berate myself about.

And then the other day I had to fill in a form and I couldn't remember even a vague date of when something happened a few years ago, and Mr Coffee said: "Did you write a blog post?" And of course I did, and I looked back and thought how nice it was that it was still all there.

So how about we forget that once I was a half-decent blogger who did things, and accept that now I'm someone with two snatched minutes and nothing to say, and let me fling bits of twaddle at the screen without any expectations? Because that's the only way I can see this thing progressing.

And because you're all so lovely, even though you haven't agreed yet, I'll come back in another few days and do a giveaway for a free pair of headphones that I was meant to give away in December but I've put them in a drawer and have to find them first. How does that sound?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Matinee Idle

I tell my children regularly that I only had babies so they would grow up into people I could take to watch films. One high point of my parenting journey was the first time I found myself in a cinema at 10.30am, drinking coffee, and watching my two little angels staring up at the huge glowing screen.

Time was we could just go to a Kids AM £1.75 screening and it would be the perfect morning. (These screenings are the film equivalent of The Works - films that are a few months old and you might have already seen, or very slight animated films you never see anywhere else.) We didn't do it a lot, but it was always the Right Thing, and everyone would be happy. They're getting a bit older, now - we have to choose films a bit carefully. Films that work for younger children, but have characters and jokes that appeal to all ages. The Lego Movie. A Monster in Paris (fantastic film).

I got the chance to review two films at home this week - the first, The Snow Queen 2, was pitched to me as a film that ''all Frozen fans would love!" I don't quite know how they worked this out. The thing with Frozen is the princesses and the singing and the love story. The Snow Queen 2 is about a troll and his grandma. Also, no singing. Sean Bean is in it - miserably briefly - and he doesn't even die.

The film had Kids AM written all over it, in my head. The Lattes enjoyed it - though I thought you laboured under a distinct disadvantage if you hadn't seen The Snow Queen 1. Still, if you had children younger than mine and you wanted a couple of hours in the dark on a tired morning, I think The Snow Queen 2, a cup of coffee and a bag of Minstrels would do it.

We liked The Nut Job much better (it's coming out on DVD about now) The colours were lovely! If I was a purple squirrel, I'm telling you, I'd find myself a mint green rat friend because they go so well together. Really! And it has Brendan Fraser and Liam Neeson in it, and they're definitely worth having around. The Lattes loved this, especially Littlest. A definite favourite for an afternoon of cuddling under quilts.

Truth is, we're just getting too old. All good things come to an end, they say, and one day very soon we won't find ourselves at the Kids AM films at all. Those Little Lattes are growing too Big. Littlest is nearly 10; Eldest is 14. Choosing a film and pleasing everyone is getting much, much harder.

A while ago I lurked on the periphery of the madness that is organised Parent Blogging. I realised I had left it far behind this week when I went to a blog event - the first in at least two years - and was presented with a goody bag which contained a sippy cup and a cuddly toy. Trolls and sippy cups - they're just like Sean Bean in a way. A really gorgeous memory, but in truth, they just don't look the same any more.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Santa's a flake. And he certainly didn't get me any headphones.

I apologise right now - there will be no correspondence with Santa in the Coffee House this year. I've enjoyed his letters, but the bitter truth is he's not coming here any more and we all just have to LIVE WITH IT.

It's fine. I mean it's fine.  Yes, it means it's all on me now, and yes, it means that the child who wrote letters to the fairies asking Santa to pass them on is now a girl in a denim jacket and sparkly nail varnish brandishing a long list of incredibly expensive and sexist Lego, and the child who once screamed in joy because Santa had brought fleece baby wipes for her doll is now a teenager who may or may not have a Christmas list but certainly can't take her earphones out of her ears for long enough to share it with me.

Did someone say earphones? I got sent some to review - Kinovo BTH220 Bluetooth headphones. And I went from someone who couldn't really see why I'd need anything other than the assorted shower of earphones left over from old phones which are scattered round the house to someone who constantly needs her new headphones because they are amazing.

I wear them when running. (I'm not going to write a running post, for the following reasons:

Like the middle-aged cliche that I am, I'm doing the Couch to 5k, and my new headphones are fantastic, connecting instantly to my phone without any faff, and crucially not shifting at all as I shuffle along. Running without using one hand  to continually shove in my inferior little earbuds is a much lovelier experience, and no wires bounce up and down. And I can answer the phone - if I can still breathe, that is.

They fold up in a little bag! And they stay charged for hours. And they don't get all tangled up.

Those people who sew whilst listening to podcasts? I bet they all have these headphones. How many times have I sat down to sew with the intention of half-watching television or listening to the radio on the tablet, and then been presented with the terrible reality - as soon as you start the machine up, all you can hear is DRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Sometimes, when the children are engaged in some worthy activity such as watching YouTube videos or playing with sexist Lego, I stick some grown-up TV on the laptop and listen whilst I'm cooking, not caring at all about any swearing or murder because I'm the only one who can hear it. The sound is very good, for all I know about sound quality. (I don't know anything about sound quality). And if a child falls over or chops off its fingers, I can still hear what's going on (Mr Coffee has some fancy noise-cancelling headphones, which means once he has them on his head he may as well be in New Zealand for all the good he is to us).

Anyway, it's quarter to eleven, I've had a brandy, so now is the traditional time for me to start looking at Christmas presents online and think of everything I need to get and have a little brandy-soaked weep. Tomorrow I have a day off, and though that would be a better day to look at the shopping, I've chosen that day to make a summer dress. Don't look at me.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Cancel the search party. Nothing to see here.

Oh, I'm so sorry. Did you think I'd turned off the Internet for A MONTH? No-one is that strong.

Our week-long screen-fast went brilliantly, though. Eldest read half a book. (This is a record). I read a whole one (a record this year). Children drew with actual pencils. Littlest only threw herself on the floor and whined once.

I didn't achieve a great deal. I'd love to say I sewed an entire wardrobe and became proficient at the saxophone (or even the mandolin, which I actually am learning), but what I did do was tidy up a bit more and read a bit more and waste less time fiddling around.

After a while, Eldest found a lo-fi way to tune the rest of us out, with the discovery of an ancient Sony CD Walkman which she plugged herself into for much of the week. You can take away the smartphone, but you can't cure a teenager of being, well, teenaged. She was allowed one birthday visit to the library to check her Facebook messages, during which she took the opportunity to leave a small online cry for help, like a message in a bottle sent from a desert island - "My mum has turned off the Internet..."

Since then, we've been playing at being a little bit stricter. We turn the screens off at 6 during the week, except Fridays and Saturdays, which are a bit of a free-for all. Sundays is completely off limits. The kids think we're evil. We don't care. Steve Jobs was super-strict about screen time. We're not even close to that.

I'm not preaching. I don't suggest you do this. If anything, it adds another layer of stress - can Eldest get her online homework done before 6? How can we possibly keep up with Strictly Come Dancing? How can I quietly pay bills online in the house on a Sunday when there are tiny angry eyes watching around every corner? It hasn't cured the children's addiction to their favourite poisons - Facebook, the Emmerdale website, Minecraft, Littlest Pet Shop videos - just given a definite shut-off time. It's easier to say 'No' than 'Just another ten minutes'. It takes less thought.

And less thought is about where I am right now. Less thought all round. That's just what I need.