Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Burnt fingers

All you dinner party experts out there, I take my hat off to you. (It's currently a woolly cream one, because my goodness it's cold.)
I realised one evening, whilst hubby and I were reminiscing about a social life before Tommy, that it had been in fact four whole years since we entertained in the evening.
Wow. For four years we'd got away with only inviting friends for lunch around the oak table, or barbecues in the garden, or engaging in a Sunday roast at lunchtime with family. How had we managed it?
The last Saturday night we invited evening guests to our establishment was way back in the polka dot home. Then, for the next four years, I guess we were careful with money/I got pregnant and was tired and envious of people drinking/had Tommy and realised we had a child who didn't sleep very well and evenings with other people would be very difficult.
But I missed it. Being a slight control and organise freak, I missed the planning and preparing, and the hosting.
I missed my friends!
We realised we had a long list of people to invite, but ever conscious of other people's lives, in particular travelling time and child care, and then admitting we don't actually get invited out anywhere, together, anymore (other than kids parties), we drew up a short list of one couple.
Step forward Georgia and Robert, you were our chosen victims, I mean guests, for the evening. You lucky so and so's!
Plus, we remembered they were the only people who'd recently invited us to theirs for a meal, thanks guys. As well as kindly extending the invite by stating, "Bring Tommy too!"
It was time to repay their generosity and warn them, "Tommy will most definitely probably still be up!" Luckily, they are great with kids and used to looking after Georgia's sister's kids, and don't mind at all kids being present. Hurrah for child friendly couples.
So. After a modern invite via text, and a date written in my new 2016 organiser (have I told you how much I love this organiser, it even has stickers for important events!), the planning and preparing begun.
For weeks I lost myself in cook books and day dreams of wowing my guests with expertly served food. Then I recalled that, although not bad at presentation and ambiance, I'm not really an expert cook.
Also, Tommy is going through another clingy stage. Therefore, it was no use cooking a fancy meal that took simply ages to prepare, as no doubt Tommy would be holding onto my legs and insisting I pick him up and play with him.
I decided on a Mexican theme. Fun, something I had created before, and wouldn't take ages to prepare, or ages to cook whilst guests were being ignored by their host.
Mexican dishes here I come!
I shopped at three different supermarkets for the occasion. The first one was the expensive one, where I bought impressive looking food but at a high price. Then it dawned on me I didn't actually have that much money - who books dinner parties in January when they've over spent at Christmas and now have to fork out for nursery fees?
Erm, me, that's who.
I progressed to the very cheap supermarket for my next ingredients, but alas they did not cater for all my needs. Although I must say the booze was a bargain.
I ended up at my usual, middle priced, supermarket, where I bought the remainder of my shopping list. Including extras such as Irish coffees, in their own individual glasses, ready to heat in microwave; pre-prepared cappuccinos, after dinner mints, a new bowl, whimsical flowers and scented candles.
I spent a fortune!
Still, it wasn't like we did it all the time, was it? That's what I kept telling myself as I threw the long receipts away and tried to cram all food and drink into any space I could find in the kitchen.
Oh did I mention that I spent the days before the evening looking at my house through guests eyes, and as a result spent days scrubbing and cleaning and trying to create extra space.
When the date finally arrived, I cleaned some more, and despite thinking I was creating an easy meal, I spent all day chopping and stirring and adding, and burning and cutting myself. And tying to prise Tommy off my legs, because he wanted me to pick him up and play with him.
When guests arrived, I must confess, I was desperately trying to act sober. We'd bought so much wine that I thought it would be rude not to start drinking some, fairly early into the evening to be honest, but it was helping me to relax in the process.
It didn't work, Georgia looked at me, laughed, and said, "How much have you had to drink?" Or something like that, I was too tiddly to remember.
Anyway, we had a smashing night thank you.
Despite panicking at one point that I hadn't made enough food. I had, we were eating it for days.
Despite the fact I felt absolutely shocking the next day, I painfully remembered why I am now pretty sensible.
And despite the fact I was frantically trying not to stress about how long it took for our little home to look normal again. We have a tiny dishwasher and it took many attempts to clean all the dishes and glasses and bowls and plates. Of course, it didn't once occur to us to actually wash up ourselves.
And despite the fact my usually cheerful Tommy was a bit grumpy the next day, due to his late, albeit fun, night.
And despite the fact I avoided my bank account for ages afterwards.
Here's to another four years!?

Friday, 15 January 2016

The next chapter

Finally, Tommy was asleep in his fire engine bed.
I slowly crept out his bedroom (mindful not to step on and set off any noisy toys in the process), silently closed the door, and rushed down the stairs to prepare.
I hoped he was dreaming of fire engines and chocolate cake (his two favourite things), blissfully unaware of the big day ahead.
Meanwhile, I carefully wrote his name in his red gloves, scarf and hat, and his new blue and red coat. Not forgetting his fur-lined boots and his monkey shaped rucksack.
Next I rolled up his spare clothes, cursing myself for falling for the monkey bag and not buying a practical, spacious, carrier.
It was a tight squeeze, but I managed to cram it all in. Phew.
I gazed at the email from the nursery, checking all was present and complete, and tried to imagine him playing in his new surroundings.
It was finally the night before the big day ahead. I was apprehensive but excited for him.
Tommy is now two and Mark and I both agreed it would be beneficial for him to interactive with other children, plus release my mum two mornings a week.
A near by nursery was recommended by a friend, the premises were inspected by the three of us, and a joining date was booked in the diary.
And I can confirm, Tommy's first two days were a success. He made cakes, danced to music whilst ringing a bell, played in the pretend kitchen, and kicked a ball in the garden. I booked the mornings off work to supervise and settle him.
On the second day I was brave and left him alone for an hour, well I watched him on CTV camera in the staff room.
I proudly watched my little boy laughing and smiling with the other children and pushing the fire engine around the wooden floor. How could he not be happy when there was a new fire engine to play with?!
My mum collected us on both days, as will be the norm from now on, and a very tired Tommy climbed in my mum's car. On the first day, he was so exhausted that he slept on my mum's sofa for three hours! Probably dreaming about fire engines and chocolate cake.
Welcome to the next chapter of your life, little Tommy T. I May yours days be full of joy and adventure.

In the nursery garden with car.

He made a friend by the shed.

Merrily pushing along.

Friday, 8 January 2016

The Olive Branch

Right, I'm going to go back into time.
"Oh goody," you may be thinking. For you may be a lover of time travel and nostalgia.
Perhaps you would like me to whizz this post to the swinging 60's, or the groovy 70's?
Or would you rather go way back into the last century, where the world was an entirely different place?
Your era preference may be long ago England. When horses replaced motor cars, the poor were very poor and the wealthy dressed to impress, with servants at their side.
Well I hate to disappoint you, if the above was indeed what you had in mind.
I'm going back to...last month. The merry month of December. My mother's birthday weekend to be precise. We visited the Cotswolds and I have yet to write about it.
Mark and I decided to treat my mum, and dad (and ourselves in the process!) to a night at cosy guest house in a beautiful part of the country. We wanted her to know how much we appreciate all she does for us and Tommy.
And we knew just the place.

The Olive Branch.

Situated in the charming village of Broadway.

After browsing around the village, we visited its neighbour, Burlington. And stopped for a hot chocolate and toasted tea cake.

We stocked up on Christmas presents.

Admired the quaint shops.

Tommy had great fun walking with daddy.

Then we headed back to our room, to freshen up for dinner.

Dinner was at local country pub.

Tommy couldn't decide whether to have fish fingers or sausages.

I had burger and chips.

After a very enjoyable night, we retired to our rooms to watch telly in bed. Until our alarms reminded us it was time for breakfast. In adorable breakfast room.

What a glorious start to the day.

Then off we popped to Burton-on-the-water, another pretty village. We fed the ducks and ambled around until it was time to say goodbye to the Cotswolds. Hopefully we will come back soon.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

What I didn't find in my wardrobe

Once, I stepped inside my bedroom wardrobe and tried to visit another land.
And I remember how disappointed I was that, despite my enthusiastic attempts, there was no secret passageway. No matter how hard I banged my fist on the wall and wished to be transported to a magical forest, it didn't happen.
I was left sitting in a pile of my crumpled clothes, thinking it wasn't fair that I couldn't fulfill my adventurous imagination. I was still in my bedroom and soon my mother would be calling me to inform me dinner was ready.
Obviously this was quite a while ago. I no longer live with my mother. Or believe such places exist.
It was the Christmas holidays and I had finished watching The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I was fascinated that a whole new Kingdom could exist beyond fur coats. Talking animals, and always winter, but never Christmas. I must admit I wasn't keen on the last bit, imagine winter without Christmas! If I had my own way it would be Christmas every third week.
I remember eating my dinner during that evening and wondering if perhaps I tried again, I could still visit this fantastical place? Maybe next time I would be allowed access. It could be a simple case of saying the magic password? But I don't think I ever tried again. I must have got distracted with my Barbie Star Traveller or another Christmas film.
Funny all the things you believe when you are young and life is still fresh and fascinating. Although believe me, I still have days when I'd like to disappear in my wardrobe!
Well, on New Year's Eve 2015 my sister-in-law made this all possible. Okay it was more of a clothes rail than a wardrobe, but at 42 years of age, I'll take that as a substitute.
There was also a lamp post, a lion, and half men, half beasts.
And I, ladies and gentlemen, was the witch witch.
Happy new year to you all! Let's make it a good 'un.

Through the wardrobe.

Welcome to Narnia.

The hosts.

Look who we met by the lamp post.

Aslam. (Looking after our food.)

Mark and I. Incidentally, I won the prize for the best dressed, a box of sweets. Unfortunately I left it behind. Don't you hate it when that happens.

Tommy and Bella thinking about entering the wardrobe. I know the feeling, Tommy!

He's gone.

And he's back. I wonder if he visited another time and place? Alas, he's too young to tell. I like to think that he did.