Monday, December 31, 2012

Blogging to keep sane

I was sitting here a year ago today having a look at my blog statistics for the previous six years and I noticed I had been blogging on average every two days for the previous two years. I knew blogging every day was impossible given how much life takes over but I wondered if I could actually average a post a day over a month-long period. I decided to try over 2012 to blog the correct number of times monthly to reach a final target of 366 by today. As it was unlikely that I'd manage it, I decided to keep my little challenge to myself. Given this is my 31st post of December and 366th of the year, I will finally reveal to my husband (and others) what I was trying to achieve! And then I'll pat myself on the head for managing it, despite 2012 being the hardest year of my life so far...

I guess at times ranting or musing on here has represented the tiny corner of sanity and normality in a year that has seen several trips to hell and back. Being able to retreat here has brought calm and making myself do so has given me the strength to get up in the morning on days I would rather have hidden under the duvet. I know it is a trivial pursuit but if it saves you in some way, it has its merits.

2012 started with more of dad's terminal illness (which had been ongoing since Summer 2010). The joy of his still being with us was mixed with the daily dread that it would be finite. January quickly brought  a downturn in relations with my ex as he embarked on another divorce and an affair with a new woman. The on-off nature of that left the kids jumpy and confused, as they didn't know what they'd be going to on his weekends. I withdrew custody and had to put up with a lot of email ranting. Easter saw dad's hospitalization and May brought his sudden death and all the fall-out that goes with that. (To be honest, I haven't even started to skim the surface of that. I will blog it when I am ready but I am still not ready). Later in May my father-in-law injured his foot (on the way to his brother's funeral (which meant suddenly having to get eight of us to Tuscany at a few weeks' notice). The first three quarters of the year was characterized by erratic (to say the least) job extremes - from times of no work to trying to fit in 40 hour weeks with all five kids at home on holiday. Summer saw the complete breakdown in my kids' relationship with their father and a legal battle to stabilize that. Shockingly it also saw my ex's mother, brother and sister disown my kids, who love them dearly in favour of their father's twisted view of reality. That isn't something any mother ever wants to see their children go through, especially a few short months after losing their other grandparent. Autumn brought the sudden death of a dear university friend (the emotional ups and downs that go with helping her mother to clear out her house, and left the rest of the uni group clinging to each other lost in disbelief). I seem to have been ill on and off all winter (I guess life has run me down this year). December saw Marcel knock himself out the very night before his exams were due to start. Oh and as if that wasn't enough someone thought jury duty would be a wee added bonus to the week before Xmas - I didn't need that, I really didn't! Have I missed anything? Probably... To end on a positive note, there have been tiny glimmers in the dark... We added a new baby to the family in the shape of Catriona Angela. Also the schism in my ex's family allowed my nieces, my old brother-in-law and sister-in-law to break their seven year silence and allow me back into their lives. Talking to them daily, especially to my niece Isabelle who has sent me daily photos of her daughter for ten months now, has given me joy and peace.

As I sit listening to the radio hearing how 2012 has been an outstanding year with DJs gibbering on about Jubilees, Olympics, and Andy Murray I feel I am in a different dimension. 2012 has been miles from an outstanding year. I know most of the disasters of 2012 in my life have been very personal, but the media doesn't even seem aware of the recession (I guess that's London for you).

I have a sneaking suspicion 2013 isn't going to bring a major upturn, but hopefully it'll be quieter from a personal perspective... As long as I have my rock (Thomas) and my five babies, I'll survive another year.

Reading skills

She may only have turned five last week but she's definitely mastered all the phonetics of English already, reading all the signs she sees and asking (somewhat tellingly) the other day why every second shop in Glasgow had a 'to let' sign outside.

But what I love most are her own little notes and stories written exactly how she thinks something should be spelled. Just yesterday I noticed on a shopping list she'd written that she wanted to buy 'ham and mushroom peetsus'. In a Scottish accent, that really is spot-on, if completely incomprehensible to anyone Italian!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Guinness surger

I was shopping months ago in Makro when Thomas spied a pile of Guinness surgers beside the cases of Guinness at the back of the shop. He got very excited, insisting not only that I buy one for Derek for Xmas but also promising that if I bought him one he'd forget about it again and act surprised on Xmas day. Not being much of a drinker, I felt a little silly asking what it actually did, so I simply bought it.

On Xmas day Derek got very excited about it. (Either that or he's extremely tactful!) In fact I'd go as far as to say I have never offered him a gift in all his 41 years that has made him look as thrilled! We tried it on every beer in the house and people were even questioning how it might affect Irn Bru as I was going to bed! Being allowed to press the button was apparently a great privilege!

Yesterday Linda, another beer-loving friend, was round. She too started acting like a five year old in a sweetie shop when shown it.

I must be missing something, I guess.

Here's a demo for anyone who is as in-the-dark as I was till Tuesday.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Xmas Eve 2012

I wasn't very well on Xmas Eve - another dose of the dreaded gastritis that seems to be plaguing me at the moment. To keep the kids out of my hair Thomas suggested they make Xmas goodies for eating over the festive period...
'Make little Xmas elf hats out of marzipan' he suggested. He even gave them an Ikea leaflet as a guide. Somehow we have ended up with plates of mini elf-penises to offer all those who drop by to wish us a Merry Xmas.

Life never turns out quite the way you plan it when little kids are involved.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I thought Marcel was insane when he sneaked out of Derek's house at 8am (having gone to bed around 3am) to walk into Glasgow to meet up with four or five of his friends. He was more than pleased when he managed to get a Hollister T-shirt reduced to a tenner, some Adidas joggies for his football and another couple of things. What he forgot to mention was that as the last four of them made their way up Buchanan Street, they'd been jumped on by a reporter from the Daily Record, who'd used them in a photo shoot. So when he told me this morning he had 'made the papers' I thought he meant he hadn't slept in for his paper round despite it being a holiday. I didn't realize Euan, Duckett, Marcel and Andy had 'made the paper' this morning. Check out p9 of the Daily Record!

Amusingly Marcel has just told me two of the boys spent today taking back what they bought as it didn't fit. So I guess they got in the paper for buying nothing!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

All the little Buchanans

I imagine my parents never expected to have eight grandchildren. You probably don't when you have only two kids. But here they are, from left to right Léon (7), Marcel (15), Catriona (4mths), Gordon (6), Amaia (2), Alasdair (2), Charlotte (12) and Anna (5).

I wonder if there will be a couch big enough to hold the next generation of little Buchanans when they come along!?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Léon as Santa

Léon put this hat on on Thursday morning and has not actually taken it off since except to wash his hair, and for one photoshoot as a lion. He's worn it to bed, to school and everywhere. I get the feeling he's a tiny bit excited!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greetings Cards

Ok, I officially give up. The cards on sale in specialized shops such as Clintons and all the big supermarkets are hopelessly inappropriate and although I can find the odd one online, it is a bit late for that.

Here are the issues. Firstly, unlike with normal greetings cards, none of the shops seem to offer a 'blank for your own message' version. I know these are much less common in the UK than cards with pre-written messages but at least for most occasions, they exist, but apparently not for Xmas.

I have always bought a special card for my parents, given I don't really do cards anyway. It seemed more special than giving them one from a pack of twenty. Obviously it always said 'To Mum and Dad' on the front. Obviously I cannot buy a 'To Mum and Dad' card this year. It isn't of course the lack to 'To Mum' cards that is presenting the second issue, but the wording. 'Have a great Christmas' 'Hope your Christmas is truly magical' 'Have the best Christmas ever, as you deserve' etcetcetc. The sentiment is great but wholly inappropriate. Doesn't it occur to anyone in the card industry that people may have been recently bereaved and therefore wishing them a magical Christmas is highly insensitive?

The first time this issue occurred to me was 2010. Less than ten weeks before the Xmas cards were due to flood in, dad had been given just over three months to live. I didn't even know if he would see Xmas and yet mum and dad, my brother and I were all receiving 'Have a wonderful Christmas and hope 2011 is the best year yet' cards. When dad survived two more Christmases, again magical and jolly were out of place but I didn't blog it then as it paled into insignificance beside the true day-to-day realities of living with a terminal illness. Birthdays were the same, offering nothing but joy and happiness all year long. Now we are in the picking-up-the-pieces-and-trying-to-survive-without-my-beloved-dad stage, the cards are upsetting and I can take time out to say that. Just one person (mum's next door neighbour) managed to find a 'bereaved Christmas card' for her and she was deeply touched by it. It was covered in snowdrops and said 'Thinking of you this Christmas'. We need blank cards, or we need 'Thinking of you this difficult Christmas' cards. I have friends whose only child died in October at the age of 45 - you can't send them a 'Have a joyful Christmas' card. My mum's neighbour's daughter died in the summer - she was an old classmate of mine. She can't send them one like that either. Millions of people who are bereaved or dying or who've simply lost jobs or got divorced etc need to be catered for in the over-jolly card market, and the main high-street retailers are just not there for them.

Anyway. They've lost my custom. So I will make my mum a card this year.

Anna and Léon

Don't you just love those completely surreal discussions/arguments little kids have? Today's little gem in the car went something like this:

Anna: Before flying reindeer were discovered, Santa used to use huskie dogs.
Léon: No he didn't, Santa always had flying reindeer.
Anna: He definitely used huskies, I've seen it on the telly!
Léon: No he didn't. If Santa existed he would definitely only ever have used flying reindeer because they are cooler and otherwise, what would Rudolph do all day?
Anna: I know he is imaginary but if he wasn't he would definitely have used huskies in the olden days!!!
Léon: No he wouldn't!
Anna: Yes he would!
Anna and Léon: Muuuuuuum!!!!!

My man

For the first time ever today I was seriously disappointed that my man isn't really (how should I put it?) one for pyjamas! You see I walked into ASDA and came face to face with adult male onesies which would have been perfect. They were royal blue and covered in little saltires! Dad would probably have liked one too, if he'd been a pyjama guy, which he wasn't either.

As a political joke, I guess I could send Rob one for Xmas, if I'm really desperate to find a home for one! ;-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Birthday sweet Anna!

Having a birthday Xmas week is far from ideal but it doesn't seem to have upset Anna. She got to star in her p1 nativity twice on her birthday (as the inn keeper) so that made it a day to remember. And she was more than pleased with the lovely cake daddy made for her.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


You know me, I like to rant and I haven't had a good rant about the school uniform for at least a month! ;-)

I keep hearing, from those who chose it, how much smarter it is than the old casual uniform. Well, I don't know about you, but have you seen the cuffs on the shirts after even four months? They aren't going to look overly smart to me unless I stay up all night with a scrubbing brush and a bottle of bleach!

I still miss the blue uniform.

Big Baws

Where was the person in charge of market research, when weetabix came up with this for sale in the Scottish market? The mind truly boggles!

We really do live in two very different countries!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Lussekatter by hepp
Lussekatter, a photo by hepp on Flickr.
I recently tried Swedish saffron and raisin buns for the first time ever. They are so delicious I am considering trying to make some myself, which is good for someone who doesn't really bake!

I found this recipe that I might try, though maybe I would be better with something Scandinavian - though almost everything I can find on the Internet is in Norwegian rather than Swedish.

Worse than bad

I've never had a mobile phone with a decent camera. I would never use a phone instead of a camera - they don't quite live up to my Sonys or Nikons but I have recently had a feeling my phone seemed to be getting even worse than I remembered, which was seriously annoying me.

Then I suddenly realized the decline in quality coincided with my buying a protective case so my touch screen didn't degenerate before the end of my two year contract! I took it off to test my theory, and what do you know! Bingo. It seems the thickness of the case is blocking some of the light from entering my camera lens.

How annoying.

Santa Lucia and Ikea

When we were in Ikea about a month ago they had some flyers lying about.

Having studied Swedish (and Abba!) in my youth, I knew about Santa Lucia and how the Swedes were daft about it. Thomas had mentioned it too, being Scandinavian, though it isn't as big a thing in Denmark, so we decided if we'd nothing else on we'd drop in an see what was going on, figuring the kids would enjoy a night out. It came Thursday night and Thomas suggested we go over for the start of play in case it got sold out. We booked online at £5 each for Thomas, Marcel and I and £4-50 for the others. On arrival, we saw the first great bargain, though I knew about it having been told by my doctor last week: if you buy a quality, real Xmas tree at £25, they give you a £20 Ikea voucher to spend in-store. I know where we'll be buying our tree next year!

Upstairs we were greeted by two very friendly workers with complimentary gingerbread biscuits, chocolates and fizzy organic apple and pear juice. We noticed that an unexpected percentage of the people are around were speaking in Scandinavian accents - they, like us, had assumed that you needed to get there on time before everything was eaten. They hadn't reckoned with Glaswegians not knowing Lucia and therefore not turning up at all! I did pass a few Scots on their mobiles, shouting excitedly 'I'm in Ikea, they're having some kind of Xmas party with free refills of food!'

Anyway, it wasn't just meatballs, chips and lingonberry jam, although you could have unlimited portions of that. (I think Marcel managed thirty meatballs and two portions of chips, and Lots had twenty). The starters included hundreds of fresh crayfish - which the kids all had fun trying, herring in three different sauces, smoked Norwegian salmon, rye bread, rye crackers, potato salad, coleslaw, vegetables, salad, and ham. For your main course you could have unlimited meatballs, chips, boiled potatoes, barbecued chicken pieces, smoked sausages, breaded chicken, fried potatoes, stir-fried vegetables, red cabbage, have I forgotten anything? For afters, if you had any space, you could have a kind of mint cheese cake, diam cake, apple cake, cream, saffron buns, coconut cakes and marzipan cakes, or if you didn't have a sweet tooth, Swedish cheese and biscuits! Of course with all this you got unlimited free lingonberry juice, coke, fanta or fizzy apple, tea, coffee and hot chocolate!

While we were munching away on one of our courses, having pulled all the complimentary crackers and put on the free party hats, another cheery worker came over and offered free Swedish Schnapps to anyone who wasn't driving and while Thomas was downing his, pointed out that there was kids' entertainment provided free too if we wanted to chat uninterrupted over our coffees. He showed  Anna to the giant Connect Four.

And Amaia to the mega-sized Jenga pieces which she used to build a 'princess castle'!

Behind that staff were helping kids to decorate Xmas trees, make Xmas cards and do arts and crafts using Ikea vases and mirrors with glue and sticky shapes. Many adults were making their own mirrors too! 
Finally the three wee ones danced off their twenty plus meatballs on the dance floor to 'Rocking around the Xmas tree', 'Santa Claus is coming to town' and the likes! Had Marcel not had a Spanish exam on Friday, we'd happily have stayed until closing time.

All in all not a bad night's entertainment for less than £35 for seven. The kids were absolutely thrilled and I must say crayfish and salmon and the rest were great value. The first thing I did when I got home was put it in my google calendar for 13-12-13 (with a note to bring a decent camera rather than my phone!)! In fact I have been concerned about blogging it here in case it becomes so popular we can't get in next year, but it's probably safe - my blog doesn't exactly have the same following as the Guardian!

George square

Wandering around George square with my camera last Sunday, I happened to notice I was the only member of my family who hadn't been transfixed by loonies on the big swings! I thought it made a good photo.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ice marbles

I came across this on Facebook last month and thought it'd be cool to try if we get a cold winter like two years ago.

Given we've had a bit of a cold snap now for two weeks, the kids put two balloons out just to give it a go. Despite it having been around -4°C every morning when I left for school they hadn't completely frozen. Then yesterday it was -8°C in the morning, so finally our balloons were ready. Unfortunately it hasn't snowed yet so they didn't look quite as impressive against the grass as they would have on snow but they are striking enough that we'll definitely make a bigger batch next time we get snow!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Photoshopping is a great idea. You can get rid of those ever-so-annoying red eyes. If there's a lamp post coming out of someone's head, it can become sky. If you've taken a family photo to send to your great auntie in Australia, you don't need to retake it when you notice some chocolate biscuit crumbs around your child's mouth, or worse protruding from their nose!

But I don't understand why advertisers have started photoshopping pictures instead of just taking them!

For example if they wanted to sell these dresses, why didn't they simply take a photo of a model wearing them instead of altering  the model afterwards? Maybe they are trying to cut the models' fees, but if that's the case, I wonder why they photoshop things like this Panettone I had for breakfast last week! Presumably its hourly rate for modelling isn't exceptionally high! Look at it carefully - there is no way the raisins and sultanas were this regular on the real cake when it was photographed, so presumably someone has been paid to move raisins around on the picture to make it look perfect! We live in a crazy world. I don't know about you but I'd buy a Panettone even with asymmetrical dried fruit!

A bad hair day

I was whiling away my time last night in Primark waiting for Léon to finish a Beavers outing to the Xscape ski slope. Looking for a fleece nightie for want of something better to do (well, it was -8°C) Charlotte and I had a great laugh at the effect the fleece dressing gowns had on both Anna and Amaia's hair. I am not sure which of them was most impressive!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A new family name

Things can be complicated in a family with four different surnames. I'm Buchanan, Thomas is Widmann, the wee two are Buchanan-Widmanns (or is that Buchanan-Widmen?) and the three biggies are Gautiers. The younger ones in particular long for the simplicity of one family surname. I hate my kids not having the same name and it always seems ironic to me that three of my kids share a name with someone they have no contact with and who has no influence over their upbringing. 

It's annoying (to say the least) when I get called Mrs Gautier, odder still when Thomas gets Mr Gautier. I guess I don't mind being Mrs Widmann, as technically I am Mrs Widmann, I just didn't change my name. I also often get Phyllis Buchanan-Widmann, which isn't my name either but many people infer that from my kids' names. And even in the 21st century I do get vibes from the more conservative members of society, that there is a mild sense of disapproval that I didn't change my name on marriage!

Marcel has been contemplating changing his name when he turns 16 and it is also something Lots has been looking into. So family dinners often degenerate into jokes about name-changing and whether we should simply invent one family surname for all of us. And then this week Anna came up with it!

You see there are two Annas in Anna's class, so they have to put their initial on all their work to differentiate between them. So the other Anna signs her homework AnnaR and our Anna signs hers AnnaB-W. I remember it from Marcel's day too - there were several Caras in his class and the kids all referred to them as  Cara Cee and Cara Tee, as if that was their given name. They are in p1 so they only know the phonetic version of the alphabet, therefore the other Anna gets called Anna Ri and our Anna (given the kids don't know the word hyphen) gets called Anna Bi Line Wi! 

So there you have it - we could change our family name to Bilinewi (bɪˈlaenwɪ)! Cool?! We'd be unique!


Four days after the concussion episode Marcel's head seems to have turned a spectacular colour of yellow but at least his headaches and visual disturbances seem to be subsiding in time for week two of the exams.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Marcel's mishap

Maybe I shouldn't have told Marcel to hurry home after school yesterday to study! His prelims were due to start today - English Int 2 first of course so he left school by the back door and made his way down the back stairs to the bus stop at the main road. It was -5°C and the ground frost hadn't melted all day. As he crossed the playing field, he said the last thing he remembered seeing was his leg as it came towards his face as he slipped. Next thing he remembers was standing on the grass with his friends holding him. They said he's been unconscious for a couple of minutes. He'd slipped and knocked his head on the frozen pavement. Then the silly boy decided that getting on the bus home was somehow a better option than phoning me to come and get him.

At home Charlotte walked in at 4-10 as usual. Marcel didn't follow and she said he hadn't been on the bus. I wasn't overly worried as he sometimes hangs about with friends and comes home half an hour later. When he did show up he walked passed the room I was sitting in without a hello. He didn't switch on the cappuccino machine either, which he usually does before taking off his blazer. This was out of character. Then he walked in with what at that point looked like a full hard-boiled egg-sized lump on his temple and recounted the story. He was grey and shaking and sat holding a bucket saying he felt sick. He started to close his eyes and was falling asleep in his bucket. I phoned NHS 24 who told me to take him to casualty. We got in at 5-45. They had faxed our details ahead. They looked severely harassed, four of them were huddled round the computer pointing and scratching their heads. 'We got a new computer system installed today', they ventured. It was going to be a long night - Lucky us!

We sat by the open door in subzero conditions, occasionally having the entrance curtained off as badly injured people were brought in - presumably after car crashes and likes, and bumped up the queue. In the first three hours no one was seen or even sent to triage! A computing hiccough, I suspect. Everyone was starting to grumble and groan. Eventually a nurse came out with a pencil and clipboard and did it the old fashioned way! By quarter to ten Marcel was seeing straight enough to offer in a loud voice to go in and sort their computer for them - the four  fifty-something admin ladies were still apologizing and scratching their heads! Finally, just as the first of the drunk was starting to piss everybody off and the police were being called over Marcel's name was called and he was diagnosed with concussion. The nice doctor told him he'd probably have a headache for three days so to stay home from school! When I mentioned his prelims started this morning he looked appalled at the timing and wrote Marcel a 'To whom it may concern' letter. He then told me to take him home and check on him during the night every three  hours with strict instructions to bring him back if he should become confused.

I put him on the living room futon and checked him at midnight, 3-30am and then had to get up at seven anyway to drive him round his paper round - I wasn't taking any risks sending him out on the ice again before the exam! At one point he was gibbering nonsense but it sounded more like sleep talking than confusion so I left him to sleep.

Anyway, he seems ok today though his year head looked quite concerned on reading the hospital letter. It will be interesting to see whether he did ok in his exam or wrote complete nonsense. He claims it was ok but if he was confused, he'd be the last to know I guess!

I am seriously considering offering my blog accounts of our life this year to a national soap as a plot line. We seem to be living under the motto - What can go wrong will!


Amaia has taken to wearing this big bow in her hair every day - it's all her own idea. I must say it helps, given she still has such fine, wispy baby hair. It makes her look like a wee girl at last instead of a baby.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Inside the head of a 7 year old boy...

Inside the head of a seven year old boy must be a rather odd place. This morning's parting shot before leaving for school:

Mum, is there a way to get into the fridge? I mean could we take out the food and shelves maybe?
Léon! It's cold enough! Why do you want to get into the fridge?
I don't. I just want to see if that wee light that is on when you open to door goes out or stays on when you close the door!

Life's mysteries are simple, if wacky, at seven!


While I am advertising Lidl any way, may I add...

I was in Asda the other day looking for screen wash that doesn't freeze. They had stuff capable of -5°C! Talk about an English-based chain! B&Q went one better with -7°C, but that's not overly helpful in Scotland either. Lidl on the other hand caters for the central and northern European market so I can thoroughly recommend there for screen wash. Their stuff is a couple of quid dearer but is guaranteed to -40°C, or if you want to dilute it 1:1 can still do -20°C. Much more sensible!

Monday, December 03, 2012


Léon has a new obsession and I'm sure it is one that is going to lead to disappointment! A few months ago he got it into his head that he wanted a pet owl... preferably a snowy owl (bloody Hedwig has a lot to answer for) but a barn owl is equally acceptable given its white front. He even put it on his Xmas list. 

In all my stupidity I noticed at the weekend that there was a free owl display in Eastwood park so I thought taking him down for a look, a wee hold and a cuddle would suffice and perhaps get it out of his system. Alas, I seem to have turned the owl lover into a fanatical owl-obsessed loony. He knows there's no Santa so I can't even blame him when he doesn't get one for Xmas. Over and over he suggests that since it is on his wish list there is a chance (however slim) that Granny, Farmor and Großvater, Derek and Amanda or even one of his siblings buys him an owl! I have tried explaining that an owl would possibly be miserable living in a cage in his bedroom in a boring Glasgow suburb with his sisters but he's having none of it! He talks about nothing else, constantly asking what exactly it is I have against a pet owl (though not listening to my answer for one minute.) 

It's going to be a long month!


Today Anna decided it was time she had her own make-up and started to put it on all by herself! This is a whole new experience for me, given Lots has never tried make-up! I'm not sure where she's getting it from as I tend to be fairly subtle on the make-up front myself. Anyway I found her an old box of eye-shadow, blusher and a lipstick which she promptly completely overdid but was absolutely delighted with the results! She was later heard to moan though that the box of make-up was too big for her handbag so she might need something more compact, perhaps as a birthday present! Give me strength!

Not content with plastering it over herself she of course tried a full indoctrination programme on her little sister too.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Charlotte's gloves

I keep seeing these flip-top gloves in all the shops. They're like finger-less gloves with mitten tops you can put over the finger-less bits. I thought they were a bit odd-looking till the penny dropped. They're what teenagers need to be able to use their touch-screen phones on the bus in the cold!

Maybe I need a pair too so I can check my email at the school gate!

Lidl Bretzeln

I recently noticed on Facebook that one of my friends had mentioned their local Lidl had put in an on-site bakery. Given they live on the other side of the country, we put it on our to-do list to drop into ours to check if the west coast Lidls were doing the same.

Bingo! Darnley Lidl now has its own bakery - everything smells lovely baking there under your nose and better still, once it comes out and gets put on the shelf it is less than half the price of Tesco's in-store bakery when it comes to pretzels, croissants and similar.

Those with German ancestry in my family (ie everyone but me) were more than thrilled to taste their native (or rather half and quarter-native) fare and I'm not averse to it either. I think we'll be visiting Lidl a lot more often now that's been installed.

Goodbye moustache

Yippee! A tiny nagging fear that he might continue his moustache extravaganza through to Xmas has proved unfounded! Relief!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hideous moustache month!

I've been living with a cross between Salvador Dalí and Hercule Poirot for the last thirty days. I'm hoping tomorrow will see the return of my sexy husband! ;-)

Lots adores Amaia

After a hard day at school, there is nothing Lots loves more than to curl up on the couch with her tiniest sister and watch so TV, their bodies so entwined you find it hard to see where one stops and the other begins. I sometimes think there can be no better age gap between kids than ten years and seven days. I truly believe Amaia is Charlotte's favourite person in the whole world. Unlike all her other siblings who she adores but who can annoy her at times, nothing Amaia does ever seems to get under her skin. She's just her perfect little sister.

A school tie idea

To celebrate the school's fiftieth birthday last year they decided to run a competition amongst the kids to design a new school tie and blazer badge to replace the old one. Pale blue and navy was eventually replaced by navy with four bright stripes in red, yellow, green and royal blue. The existing pupils were given new ties as a gift but any new kids, ie Anna had to buy a new one from the school office at a cost of about a fiver I seem to recall. Recently while Xmas shopping on ebay I noticed, because Léon had put it on his wish list, that you could buy a proper Harry Potter Gryffindor tie for just £3-49. If only I had discovered it earlier I could have suggested to the parent council that voting to bring in Harry Potter ties was actually a cheaper option than having new school ones made - how popular a mum would that have made me?!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

An amusing little cock-up

The primary school has changed over the last two years from taking the boring, old-fashioned school groups like they did when I was a child - here I am in 1972, if you can find me(!), to the more modern Vista type print.

They look great fun. And as you can tell if you look closer, they actually take them in groups of four or five and stitch them together afterwards. The advantage of that is that by concentrating on four or five kids at a time instead of twenty-five, you can get their attention, their smiles and better capture their personalities. So Anna brought hers home yesterday, unfortunately stamped all over with copyright threats, the reason I have not uploaded it (well that and the fact it doesn't fit in the scanner!) Do have a look at it on my wall next time you are round!

I don't know many of the kids in Anna's class yet, given she's p1 so I sat her down and asked who was who... she happily listed them... That's me beside Miss Cuthbert and beside me is Inishka and Haroon, that's my friend Alice and there's Maisie, Archie, Ruaridh etc etc - then she points at a wee girl with bunchies beside the other class teacher (they have two to keep the teacher pupil ratio down to 1 to 14) and tells me that's Magdalena. She moves along the line by about five kids and says that's Magdalena again. There are two Magdalenas in one class? I didn't think it was the commonest of names, then on closer examination it appears Magdalena and Magdalena are identical twins no less! Suddenly the penny drops - she has been photographed in two separate groups! Hahaha - now there's a silly cock-up if ever I saw one! I wonder if her family has bought it figuring they are getting twice as much for their money, or if they would find that a tad too odd on the wall!

It might be a bit like that shot I made of Anna and Léon a year or so ago that totally confused them!

Baking and biscuit-making

How is anyone supposed to try to stay thin with a husband who has all the kids start baking their own batches of Xmas biscuits as early as November 24th?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A silly start to the day

Our tumble drier broke down ten days ago. November in Scotland is not the optimal time to have your tumble drier kick the bucket. It's particularly poor timing when you are all just recovering from a violent vomiting bug, but we'll not go there!

We tried four or five days without one. We discovered the contents of one load in the machine took up the whole clothes horse which then needed to be put in front of the living room radiator, another six to eight coat hangers of shirts were hung in the downstairs hall and all jeans thrown over four of the doors off the internal hallway. Clothes then took about forty-eight hours to dry. And of course the mess that generated meant you could have no one round to visit and the entire house degenerated into chaos with everyone dropping everything at their backside because the scale of the disarray didn't inspire anyone to tidy anything up. In the meantime, Thomas, who is slightly asthmatic, had to swap his normal brown inhaler for a blue one because of the humidity levels. Anyway we quickly worked out that drying things around the house meant a maximum seven loads could be done per fortnight and we usually do closer the fifteen loads a fortnight so we shook out the remaining pennies in the family piggy bank and ordered a new one.

Things took a turn for the better when Appliances Online rang to explain they couldn't supply the one we'd ordered so would we accept a free upgrade with the same delivery slot? That's the kind of luck that has recently been bypassing our family so we were well pleased.

On Monday night Thomas told me we'd had a text saying we'd be notified the next day when it would arrive. The phone rang on my side of the bed just before 7am. When you've had a terminally ill relative in your family for nearly two years and another who had a stroke in the middle of the night last year, phones ringing at 7am are never quite the same again. I went from sound asleep to cold panic in an instant. In pitch darkness, so I couldn't tell if it was 7am or indeed 4am, I grabbed for it thinking 'Who?' 'What?' 'OMG'. There was a click and that silent pause that meant a machine was about to talk to me. It got out the words  'We have important information about...' before I slammed it down indignantly. 'Cold calling in the middle of the night, what the fuck!? This is outrageous! I can't believe they'd do that to people at this time! Where can I complain???' Slowly coming round, Thomas looked at me like I had two heads. 'So when is it being delivered?' he tentatively inquired. 'When's what being... oh shit!?' I replied sheepishly, realizing I'd just hung up on the tumble drier people who we were actually expecting to call. 

Oops! What a silly start to the day!


I like Facebook. It has helped me get back in touch with many old friends. Working from home can be quite isolating too. Facebook is like a virtual office to me, of people I can chat to before I begin the day's editing, or whatever. It allows me to chat on a daily basis with friends and family who live all over the world. These are people I would never get round to ringing on a daily basis but who are important to me so we remain in each others' lives. I see photos of foreign family members I haven't seen in a while and get to watch their kids grow. They get to see mine. It is invaluable in that way.

For example, at university six of us formed an inseparable group and although we have found ourselves living in different countries we know everything going on in each others' lives because we bump into each other every other day on Facebook - that never happened before we joined - we'd meet up once or twice a year for a catch-up and that wasn't nearly as satisfactory. In fact of that group only one stubbornly remains on the outside (you know who you are!!!!) and we frustratingly only get to see her two or three times a year. These meet-ups are now often spent trying to get her on board. I hope we manage one day because we miss her!

I imagine that the team behind Facebook's invention and implementation however are late twenties or early thirties. They belong to that idyllic era of one's life before friends and family of your own generation begin to die of natural causes. I say that because they have not found a way to deal with death on Facebook. I have four dead friends and family members now in my friends group. You don't unfriend them because they are your friend, still in your thoughts and heart daily. Sometimes you can even draw comfort from clicking onto their page, looking at old photos and seeing things they wrote. You don't want their account closed down because that would be a bit like tossing their letters to you and their diary into the bin. But Facebook generates suggestions that are inappropriate because the people are not marked in any way differently from those who are alive. Last week I was asked if I wanted to ask Sheina to play 'Bejeweled Blitz' (a facebook game) against me, this week I was asked to send her friend suggestions as she had fewer contacts than many of my friends. I think as time goes on and more and more users die, they will be forced to come up with a more satisfactory model, but I'm not sure what form that will or should take...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


November has always been my least favourite month of the year. I should have had some kids in November just to brighten it up. It's a real nothing month - winter is upon you, darkness comes, as does the cold and wet but there are no celebrations and no end in sight to the doom and gloom. Into the bargain, this year the family (including me) has been sick for the entire month - first vomiting, then chest infections etc So nothing could make November worse, could it? ... Then somehow the growing Movember movement caught Thomas's imagination! Just what I needed! (Seventy-eight hours and fourteen minutes to go!)


I love this photo of Amaia. It really captures her personality... quite feminine, a little shy, but full of nonsense with a great sense of humour. She's such a delightful little person. She lights up all our lives with her love and hugs. Marcel and Charlotte are both completely charmed by her in a way that no one else on the planet seems to manage. Anna and Léon treat her as an equal now, unaware she is just little - and she can hold her own in most games already - clever girl!

Tomorrow she has her settling-in visit at Hazeldene. I know she'll love it (just as her older siblings did before her) and she's in great hands, given it is one of very few nurseries in Scotland to achieve a full house of excellents in its HMI report but I can't imagine having no kids at home every morning, even if it does finally give me time to work more humane hours, rather than fitting everything I do into the evenings.

But she'll always be my baby, however big and independent she gets!

Raisin and banana loaf

I'll never remember how I made this as I kind of made it up as I went along, so for my future reference: 

1 loaf

  • 115g butter
  • 115g dark sugar
  • 4 bananas (3 mashed, 1 chopped)
  • 150g raisins
  • 230g Self Raising Flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinammon

Chuck everything in a bowl, blend together, put in a greased loaf tin and bake at 180°C for 55 mins.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Xmas presents

How much does it cost to make a two year old happy? Here's Léon at two, thrilled with a £2.99 tractor from Woolies. 

I recently went to Toys R Us to pick up a Xmas present for Anna from my mother. As it was only reserved, not paid for on the Internet you still had to take it through the check-out. In front of me in the queue was a couple with a sleeping toddler in a buggy. He looked to be the same size as Amaia, maybe two and a half, definitely under three. They were discussing how pleased they were that he had not woken up to see what they were buying him. Their trolley contained, amongst other things - several leapfrog reading devices and books, everything ever made branded Fireman Sam (dressing-up costumes, a beanbag, one metre tall cuddly toys, fire hats, tools etc), a scooter, a quad bike, a plastic ride-on motorbike, some drawing materials, a Tonka-type truck, Bob the Builder tools and trucks, a ball, etc. The final bill came to £481. The cherub continued to snooze while his parents (who I might add looked more like they'd come in a rusty old Ford than their own personal Porsche) continued to congratulate themselves on how pleased wee Lewis would be on Xmas morning. I don't know but I felt poor wee Lewis would possibly be lost, trapped or even potentially suffocated under this pile on Xmas morning and if his parents were going to try to better this every year or with any subsequent siblings, they looked like they'd need to rob a bank.

When I told Thomas about it, he summed it up with 'If you're starting to spend too much money, then you are starting to get it wrong.' Personally, I intend to spend less than a quarter of Lewis's haul on all five of my kids, there's a recession on, but they will be happy, feel loved and special because I will put a great deal of thought and love into everything I choose for them. And better still they will not be overwhelmed and ungrateful at the end of the day.

Rooster potato recipes

Chili and sea salt rooster potato wedges

This recipe used to be on the rooster potato website but it looks like it's been deleted so I'll note it down in case I forget it..

  • 6 Rooster Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 12 basil leaves
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C 
  1. Clean the potatoes and cut into 8 even wedges.
  2. Simmer gently for approximately 10 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly.
  3. Place on a oiled baking tray, brush with olive oil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy.
  1. Make dressing by blending the garlic, basil, oil, salt and chili until smooth.
  2. Drizzle over potatoes.
Given how nice this is I must try some of the other potato recipes on there.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scotch bonnets

Scotch bonnets must be one of the most photogenic foods I know :-) I could never tire of photographing them - sad, I know.

Sleeping angel

Can you imagine anything more angelic than that? Amaia is such a wee soul. Whenever she feels tired she disappears to the nearest bed and climbs in, putting herself down for a nap. Today she made herself a bed at the wrong end of her own bunk, using a cushion from the chair. She looked the perfect angel.

Of course, the same can't always be said of the conscious version. When awake, she can also show her autonomous personality, as she did a few days ago when she found the pack of eighteen doughnuts I had bought for the kids coming home from school!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Léon's logic

I decided to print out some old photos of the kids for the wall. I found this sweet one of Marcel and Charlotte taken in the summer of 2002. Léon saw it when I was putting it up and came out with the kind of logic only he could come up with 'So that's Marcel and Lots? Wow, I never knew they used to be twins before they were brother and sister!' They do look quite alike in it now he comes to mention it, and because they're legs are cut off you can't see Marcel is sitting and Charlotte standing, but I'm not sure how he thought they changed in age difference over time.