Friday, 12 December 2014

Hate hosting? Ten liberating tips to help you chill out.

Christmas Scrooge alert: I hate hosting. There, I've said it.

So now you know the truth behind the smile that greets you at the door should you ever turn up at mine - it's a grimace.

'Come in, let me take your coat,' I say. Or we could just hover on the doorstep. That's fine too.

'Cup of tea?' To go?

It's nothing personal. I'm just not an 'all back to mine' 'door's always open' type, no matter how much I want to be. I need a booking policy and a last orders bell. I live in fear of people 'popping in' unexpectedly and settling in for the night. Please don't bring your slippers, they give me palpitations.

I know I sound miserable but it's not you, it's me. Honest.

I'm a nervous host. Are you sitting comfortably? Probably not cos I'm fussing about whether you're too hot, cold, want a softer seat or if your elbows are sticking to the table cos I forgot to wipe up before you came.

The stress means my chat stinks - I'm too busy digging out the posh mugs and cursing my shabby tray for anything as trivial as conversation. And please don't tell me you take sugar. It's solidified into a massive lump and chiselling it in front of you is a cringe too far.

I hate having to explain my quirky house. Yes, the oven always sounds like it's taking off. The tap will drip unless you tweak it just so. But if you pee in the dark to save me the phaff of standing on a chair to reach the broken light pull in the downstairs loo, I'll love you forever.

Luckily my kids don't share any of my neurosis. Watching them P.A.R.T.Y at the two year old's birthday at the weekend was liberating.... In hindsight...

Here's what I learned.

  • No need to dress for the occasion. Party clothes, hell, clothes in general, only slow you down.
  • And if you want to wear your dressing gown over your party dress, that's your prerogative.
  • Expect - nay, demand - visitors hand-over gifts before being allowed in, but feel no obligation to appreciate them.
  • Conversation a bit stilted? Just shout louder.
  • Don't be precious about decorations - balloons are for popping. Christmas Trees are for climbing. Christmas lights are for electrocuting. 
  • Not enough seats? Guests go on the floor. Besides, sitting down is for light-weights. A party isn't a party unless the sofa gets trashed and the table gets danced on.
  • Food; no need to share or hold back. Hog it all, steal off your guest's plate and throw it over your shoulder when done.
  • Music; sound tracks are overrated. Except Gangman Style on loop, obvs. 
  • Over it already? Guests boring you off? Don't let them keep you up. 
  • And finally, always remember, it's your party. You can cry if you want to. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The most heartbreaking thing you will hear this Christmas

What are you doing for Christmas? Few glasses of wine? Turkey? Snooze on the sofa?

Mike from New Cross is doing nothing. For him, buying batteries for his radio is 'an extravagance'.  

''I’ll just shut the door and listen to the radio... ...I’m living off a tin of spaghetti a day, or a tin of beans,' he told James O'Brien in an emotional phone call to LBC radio yesterday. Mike was clearly desperate.

'People have no idea. Look, I’m a 35-year-old man, bawling my eyes out on a call-in show, desperate for people to know what it’s like." Mike has a degree in Broadcast Journalism but has been unable to find a job since being made redundant. He has resorted to searching through supermarket bins for food.

But when O'Brien responded by offering money, Mike was too proud to accept.

"Absolutely not. I will not take charity."

Please listen to his conversation here and donate to a food bank if you can.

Yesterday a damning cross-party inquiry 'Feeding Britain' called for significant changes in handling welfare, and revealed that 4.3 million tonnes of surplus food is being thrown away in Britain every year. But people like Mike need food NOW. We can't allow them to slip through the cracks this Christmas while we sit back and stuff ourselves.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

My Dishwasher is a Diva.

Never mind the kids, my house has a new diva. Enter The Dishwasher. So blimin' high maintenance.

'Salt me, rinse aid me, empty my filter,' every two seconds. And much like the kids, the dishwasher will tantrum over the smallest of details.

'Washing, you say? Oh no, I won't be doing any of that, not unless you rinse everything front and back, stack the cutlery basket like a flower arrangement and use very expensive products. Yes, I can tell the difference.'

Wine glasses and oven tins? No chance.

Perhaps the dishwasher has been taking tips from the oven. Such a bad influence.

'Looking to wind up the owners I see?' it groans. 'What you need is a funny noise, my friend. Nothing OTT, a low-level unidentifiable clank should do it. The key is persistence. And cranking it up towards Christmas - nothing scares them more than a Christmas without us.

'Oi, what about me?' pipes up the fridge. 'I busted a hinge scaring them stupid the other day. Mwah, ha ha! Now my door only opens on a wonk and very. very. slowly. Good luck squeezing a turkey in there, suckers.'

If only the kitchen appliances could be a more like ye old fire. So reliable. God knows, we haven't swept the chimney since we moved in 7 years ago but still it crackles merrily, making the house all Christmasy, never bothering the carbon monoxide monitor or smoke alarm.

Thank God, cause I think the radiators are in cahoots with the boiler. (The original go-to drama queen of every house.) Every year they gang up on us at the first sign of a white Christmas.

'Bleed me, balance me, reset me!' they moan, only to give us the cold shoulder for days, heating up a miserable amount at the bottom just to tease us.

Upstairs is less demanding, except the curtain rail in our bedroom. Such an attention seeker. Been refusing to close without Prima-Donna levels of coaxing for months, before pinging off the wall and going totally AWOL last week. Probably gone looking for the Sky remote.

Household appliances. Who do they think they are? And is it just mine, or do they all throw their weight around even more at Christmas, just when we need them most?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Everyone Knows Your Stern Voice is a Fraud, and other Parenting Paranoia

Call me paranoid but sometimes I feel like the world is conspiring against me, just waiting to implode at the least inconvenient moment. Ever feel the same? Here's my list of the top parenting paranoia...

TV Paranoia
  • Mr Tumble is plotting world domination. The fact his game on the Cbeebies Ap is IMPOSSIBLE to exit is the only evidence you need.
  • CBeebies Bed Time Hour gets longer every night. You swear.
Discipline Paranoia
  • Tweet: Everyone knows your stern voice is a fraud
  • While you're wrestling a child into the car seat - that old biddy in the neighbouring spot is calling the NSPCC
  • No you're not imagining it - that cuddly toy is looking at you funny when you try to be serious 
Food Paranoia
  • Supermarkets have been specifically designed to make it impossible to avoid the bakery, biscuits and sweets aisles 
  • Everyone knows your kids have fish fingers and beans for tea 4 times a week
  • Cheerios are indestructible; they're the cockroaches of the cereal world - just waiting for an apocalypse to re-populate the planet.
Cheerios: the cockroaches of the cereal world

Sleep Paranoia
  • Sleeping children aren't really sleeping. They're lying with their eyes closed waiting for you to get comfy in front of Homeland so they can lose their dummy/ fall out of bed/ have a bad dream
  • Speaking of dummies - you're convinced they grow legs and hatch escape plots. How else can you explain how they AWOL every two seconds?
  • On a good night, you're convinced the monitor isn't working
  • After a bad night, the kids can smell your tiredness. And it triggers infant insomnia.
Noise Paranoia
  • The neighbours have the council on speed dial and are reporting you for noise pollution. AGAIN.
  • Silence. There's something very sinister about it.
Health and Safety Paranoia
  • Your baby's learning-to-walk bruises are bigger and brighter than everyone else's
  • The kids wait till your partner is away to get sick.
  • A rash of any form is the stuff of A&E. You don't care what the G.P says.
And The Big One - not directly parenting-related but this one transcends boundaries.
Happy obsessing all!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Going hell for pleather....

Oh my, blog-readers. What has become of me? Those of you who saw me at Blogfest on Saturday will know I've ventured into the murky world of....pleather.

I'm blaming it on the change of season.
I'm blaming it on my magnetic attraction to wipe clean fabrics.
I'm blaming it on my birthday resolution to get out of my wardrobe rut.

Anything but the brutal possibility that this might be the first whispers of an impending mid-life crisis...

I don't know about you but since having kids my fashion compass is out of whack. When it comes to shopping I don't know where I'm going, what I'm looking for when I get there and - most worryingly - what I'll look like when I stagger out, crazed with changing-room rage and already doubting I can pull off my panic purchase.

I'm desperately seeking a shop I can relate to. Just one haven where I can walk in, arm-sweep the rails and instantly pull together an outfit that makes me feel like a fashion-forward yet in no way try-hard version of 'me'. Not much to ask, is it?

Topshop used to be my destination shop but these days high fashion leaves me feeling low. Check out this horrific fashion ad I came across earlier this year.

I mean, Is this where we're at people? #deathwarmedup

The mummy uniform of Fatface, Whitestuff and Boden look great on other people but makes me feel frumpy. And I'm still not ready to 'invest' in 'capsule classics'. Yawn. No, fashion designers, calling your clothes 'pieces' and wrapping them in tissue paper at the checkout doesn't make it OK to charge £70 for a plain cotton T shirt. Likewise, calling neon a 'pop of colour' doesn't make it any more wearable

Which is why I've found myself in a clothing no-woman's-land, lurking in imitation fabrics cos I'm not sure of the real me. I can't commit to a new 'look.' I don't have a signature style. Until I find one I'll be slumming it in a mish-mash of charity vintage finds and calling it eclectic...

And so, the big question. Do earthmothers wear pleather? I'm desperately trying to channel my inner rock chick but all I can think about is that friends episode. 'People like Ross don't wear leather pants.'

And another thing, Ross isn't wrong. I'm a total hot-ass in these pants. Not always in a good way....

I'm sweating it out in the name of fashion but what do you reckon readers? It's time for a Pleather Poll. Are my pants...

a) Going to hell for pleather?


b) All pleather, no pain?

You decide...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

'Blogic' - an insight into bloggers' logic.

Bloggers; we don't think like other peeps. Here's an insight into bloggers logic, or 'Blogic' as I call it.

We write, therefore we are
If a mother talks to herself at home and nobody hears, did she really say anything?
Motherhood can be a lonely business. No work-place banter. No water-cooler moments. No office Christmas party. Just after my daughter was born, I found myself snowed-in with no company for days. Mr Tumble got a lot of back chat that week. I was one step away from joining a This Morning phone-in, just for the chat. No more! Blogging has given me a voice.

Denial you say? No, we're just re-writing history
OK, so the camping trip was a disaster. Bouncing Boy burnt his mouth on a toasted marshmallow, got claustrophobic in the tent and had the mother-of-all tantrums in the portaloo, but the photos I posted afterwards were rose-tinted and it all sounded funny in retrospect. I'm feeling nostalgic about that portaloo already. I don't know a blogger out there who, when weathering a disaster, doesn't think 'there's a post in that.'

Blogging has the power to bend time
Yes, I'm busy. Yes, I only have one hour to myself in 24. But I'm never too busy to blog, even if that means typing into the night, carving out a post when I should be sleeping - hell, I won't sleep if I don't. Likewise, time spent on Twitter is not real time - which is it why it's OK that life often goes on hold for 140 characters. We're not just bloggers, we're time travellers, goddamnit.

Writing like no one's reading. Not.
If I'm dithering around, wondering whether to press 'publish' on a controversial post, I tell myself no one's reading anyway. It's just lil' old me, muttering into the middle-distance, right? No risk of causing offence at all...
Conversely, if I've crafted my best post ever, I'm convinced the whole world is waiting with baited breath. I'm 100% sure this is the post that'll make me go viral and propel me towards the book deal of my dreams.
Yes, we all blog for different reasons, but I'll bet my bloggers-bottom we ALL wonder who's reading when we hit publish. Which leads me onto my next bit of 'blogic'.

Blog Stats - the only stats that really matter
Motherhood plays havoc with our vital statistics. It stole inches from my boobs and stuck them to my arse. It trashed my IQ and obliterated my bank balance, but who cares? Every mummy-blogger knows, the only stats that really matter are readership stats. A popular post can have us standing tall and feeling like a genius. It might even bring in a few quid. Yes, we tell ourselves stats don't matter - like we tell ourselves a woman can not be measured by 36-24-36 and inches and ages and numbers, by all the things that don't ever add up to who she is on the inside - but I don't know a blogger out there who doesn't love a spike in her google analytics.

Yes, blogic is all a bit werid, but it makes sense to me. #wouldn'thaveitanyotherway. Anyone who thinks otherwise can blog off.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

I've been eating yoghurt wrong my whole life. Have you?

I've had a tough day. But that's OK, I've got a yoghurt in the fridge. Nothing like a pot of curdled dairy to lift the spirits. So decadent!

No seriously, it's like science, innit? A bit of Bifidus Regular Activearse will make everything better. Said no doctor, ever. (Yes I did just make that spelling up but the yoghurt peeps are making up whole words so touchĂ©.) 

Still, if Gok says it'll make me feel 'gorgeous' then it must be true. And luckily, when I'm out shopping with my multi-racial friendship group, there nothing at all inconvenient about eating a yoghurt that makes me what to poo.

Thing is, sometimes I worry I've been eating yoghurt wrong my whole life. Maybe I should be eating it with my eyes closed, in the back of cabs, like Nicole Shitsinger? Extra ecstasy points for getting a blob on my nose if we stop unexpectedly. 

Or maybe I should be eating it in the bath. With a fireman. And a hose. Who needs porn when we've got yoghurt ads?

muller advert cum

If that doesn't cheer me up, perhaps I should make like Amanda Holden and serve my yoghurt with a side order of half-naked man. I just love how Danone are subverting age-old gender roles by enslaving men in this ad. So post-modern. (Now I think about it, perhaps that's why all yoghurt ads aimed at women. Real men can't handle dairy)

Or perhaps I should be doing it with friends like the Perle De Get-Laid gang. I'll have to stifle my disappointment when my friend reveals her much-speculated secret beauty tip is - Ta Da! - yoghurt, but it'll be worth it for the post-coital glow of satisfaction I'll have afterwards, non? If only I can work out what they are actually doing with said yoghurt to make themselves so damn beautiful. Smearing it on their faces a la Nicole, peut-ĂȘtre?

But what if my friends don't like yoghurt? Thank goodness there's always Ryvita. Oh, those Ryvita girls, living the dream, one calorie at a time. Who knew crackers could crack us girls up so much? I'll be cracking my cardboard smile in no time.