My so called life...

posted on: Thursday, 17 October 2013

The acid test for how motivated I am feeling seems inextricably linked to whether I can be bothered to sort out my house. I wake most mornings now - with my new found freedom - and this thought goes through my head: get something done. All the possibilities of the day stretch ahead and all the best intentions are there. My days used to be peppered with conference calls and the need to develop and plan and lobby in an unforgiving corporate environment, now it's about what I can get done on the home front. That, and dog walks and school pick ups.

A seasoned stay at home mother once said to me: '...there are only so many times you can clean your own house.' and I am starting to understand what she meant. It used to be that there were fewer days in which to regain control over the siege of post and laundry and unmade beds. Now there is time, but, I realise this means repetition and the dark spectre of the mundane! One should find joy in the little things in life, but when you've folded socks and wiped down surfaces for the ga-billionth time, it gets dull. So I subscribe to the view that the house can get messy. All work and no play makes Lou a dull girl.

Meanwhile the cook fest continues - nightly my daughter texts me from the way home from school asking tentatively 'what is for dinner?' Her reply when I told her last night was 'Oh God'...I texted back saying I thought she meant 'Oh GOOD'!! I made this version of Pad Thai; get me. It rocked. My kitchen looked like the crazy chefs from 'The Muppets' had come to stay (see above on messy houses). I sometimes wonder whether it's fair to subject my family to these culinary experiments, should I play safe? But then I figure if they are hungry enough, they'll eat it. And if they don't; there's always cereal before bed. For the record, they did eat it.

On the daily dressing front, I am in a re-visit of my 90's wardrobe. Without me intending it, I have found myself reaching for buttoned shirts and boyish boots, even my husband pointed out this morning that I dressed like this 20 years ago. Funny! All I need now is for Nirvana to play on the radio and to watch re-runs of 'My So Called Life'. I quite like that I look the same but older. I was a gangly, unsure girl in the 90's; I am no longer that girl.

via hello and goodbye
We may finally finally move into the 'next door' part of our house this weekend. We keep referring to it as 'the cottage' which is crazy now as it is now just a selection of rooms at that end of the house; not a separate cottage anymore. New carpets today - nothing like new carpets - the smell of fresh and new.

I go from once a week posts to once a day. Wooooahhhh. I get this occasionally, where I have stuff to say and it's therapy to get it captured. I sense I am also processing some life stuff (as my husband would say: no shit, Sherlock) and so you are the first to hear it. Hope you don't mind ;-)

Foie-gras parenting...

posted on: Wednesday, 16 October 2013

With the highs, must come the lows - although not deep, trough-like lows; more like a dip in the algorithm of life. Once, someone accused me of requiring life to run on one smooth single line, never deviating up nor down. When in reality, life should shift and change, your daily mood can (in fact should?) go from up to down and that's OK. I tend to panic when it's down as I love the ups so much more. This week has been characterised by parenting challenges. I am finding this territory new and unlike the baby/toddler stage, I can't reach for a parenting manual to see what to do!

via the glow
In the genius selection of essays by Nora Ephron in 'I Feel Bad about my Neck' (which, may I just say is one of the most well-observed pieces of writing I have ever read; I go back to it time after time) she says:

'Parenting was not simply about raising a child, it was about transforming a child, force-feeding it like a foie gras goose, altering, modifying, modulating, manipulating, smoothing out, improving.'

I read this and dare I admit - recognise myself, my parenting actions - see my instincts to make everything the best version of itself. But there is also a strong part of me that wants to let it be, see what happens, be less instrumental in my children's upbringing. It's the ancient nature/nurture concept and it has well and truly reared its head this week. The issue is around sport and how much of it a child should do. But it could equivalently be academics or drama or music. When do you know whether they do it because they like it, or because they feel they should? Is participation in sport all about the 'taking part' or really do we all want our children to be superstar players and be selected for the best teams? Is our parenting on this point triggered and informed by our own sporting experiences? The middle-aged version of making good when we were the last to be picked for the netball team circa 1987? I don't know the answers to these questions but they are wholly relevant to me right now.

via the glow
My friends and I often mull this over and conclude (as with everything in the arena of parenting) that it is a personal choice and each family will forge its own way. Yet we stand by and observe each other, feeling on occasion secretly incredulous over decisions made or routes taken with our children. Each to their own.

This is the everyday; the quiet thoughts as I go about my day. At the end of the week, my son breaks up for half term, which feels like it has come just in time as this term has been punishing. I just want to spend some time with him, to listen to the inane but often very insightful eight year old chatter that he spouts and for there to be no demands on his little brain. That and get his haircut - his blonde curls rather are unruly now... ;-)

Clear the mind...

posted on: Tuesday, 8 October 2013

It's as if ten year's worth of little, neglected home-related jobs are now conspiring to keep me busy every minute of the day. I note the irony of this as I used to write that I was so busy with work and now I am busy with home and suspect the common thread is: I get busy. I still can't quite get over the expanse of time that stretches out ahead of me and how wonderful it is that each day I can chose what I want to do. I also realise that I am in that sweet spot of having school-aged children, so I have hours in the day to get stuff done, and then I collect them and the evenings are a warm flurry of kid-related food and homework. I find myself saying to people, when they ask how I am finding my new non-working life, that I can't recall a time I have been this happy. Except I know that the last time I was this happy was when I was on sabbatical, so there you see: another common thread. Not working suits me. I do acknowledge how very lucky I am to be able to take this time out, and to spend my days doing yoga classes and clearing cupboards. Having time is a gift.


I have that seasonal urge to cut my hair off.

I revisited a favourite - 'The Breakfast Club' and despite knowing every word to the script, I loved it. And I still saw something new in it.

I secured tickets to see Boo's dream band next summer (again).

I heard about loss - the kind that makes you grateful that your brood are home, safe and sound.

I chose lace-up black ankle boots, that I predict will be my winter staple.

I gained a gazillion new Pinterest followers that arrived, like, overnight. Odd, but quite nice that they seem to like my curation.

I had a coffee morning with mothers who drink coffee. An art-form in itself; I came away wondering if I'd been too...too much... 'me'?

I noticed a preponderance of Autumnal Daddy Long Legs - they are everywhere!

I pondered the merits of how much advantage my children have in their reach. I'm acutely aware that they have opportunities that I never did and feel simultaneously excited and intimidated by this.

I felt the weight of needing to catch up with old friends. Something about this time of year takes me back to University days - and the five girls with whom I shared houses, life and loves (and books and essays written on old word processors and meals of casseroled sausage). I soooo miss them.

We are still not moved in to the new rooms of our house...hopefully by the weekend. Everything, presently, rests on the arrival of a plumber tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed.

I am secretly wanting it to get colder, I have wool to wear.

Gradually and rather pain-stakingly I am going through every drawer and shelf that has accumulated STUFF in or on it. I seem to trail around the house with a bin liner in my hand, filling it with STUFF. What is with all the STUFF??

I rue the fact that I a crap administrator and wish that I filed things when they arrived and wonder if I will ever be one of those organised people? Despite holding down a big job for years, I now see just how much the running of the home suffered in my mental absence!

There have been developments with L'Apothecary - but that's a whole other post...

And I kinda wanna do a blog makeover. This space needs clearing too. More to come.

all images via a well travelled woman


posted on: Tuesday, 1 October 2013

So encumbered have I become by my own belongings, I secretly fantasise about emptying my entire house of possessions and ditching half of them. I rather shame-facedly admit that; for in this age of constant acquisition of 'stuff' I have to come clean that I have too much. I bought too much. There, I said it. So what follows is a relentless trawl through every room, every shelf, every cupboard, every nook and cranny (what is a nook and cranny?!) to clear it of clutter. I like this process. I want to look at each item and think, in the words of William Morris: is it beautiful and is it useful?

This is long overdue - for years I have flirted with a full scale de-clutter; I have shirked around the edges of it, always overtaken by events, by work, by having something else to do. And in the meantime the house keeps filling and filling; an overrun tap of donations and purchases that we don't need! So ironically it started with the prospect of having more space - as we extend our house - I could simply just continue to fill it. But the thought of that is no good, so instead I am culling. Unless I love it; it goes.

via crush cul de sac
The slight exception are clothes. So I admit (I really am in a confessional here: forgive me I have sinned) I sometimes covet and buy too many clothes. And shoes. I am a perfection hunter when it comes to shopping, so I scour around, the web is like a playground to me, always looking for that ideal item. Usually incarnations of the classic, elegant wardrobe piece - the right knit (I have found some of that in gorgeous cashmere form here), the right brogue, the right heel, the right buttons, the right belt, and so it goes. Don't even get me started on the right boot. ;-) Can't help myself and I was ever thus.

I am also fiercely brand-loyal and whilst I don't exactly follow fashion per se, I do follow the new season offerings from my favourite brands. All of this adds up to a Louise-who-is-in-danger-of-having-too-much. I have taken a really hard look at all of my clothes (with the exception of items that fall into the 'saving for Boo' category; evening dresses for example) and have GOT RID. Re-jigged, repaired, dry cleaned. And what I am left with, in some kind of back-to-school readiness is a new wardrobe. Love that feeling.

Meanwhile, I have also been repainting rooms. We've knocked through to next door, the walls have been made good and last week I tackled a room with white paint. Top to bottom. There is not much more cleansing than white-washing a room. Particularly in such an old house as ours, where the walls have layers and layers and you feel in an empty room the presence of previous owners. Some parts of the house are hundreds of years old, and if I let myself think too much about it, I can get freaked out at how people have lived and died here. I am told the cottages that now make up our house stood derelict for some time. There were four, then there were two and now we have made it all one. Walking from one end of the house to the other feels like quite a luxury and I realise what a thin veneer of wall separated us from our tenants until now. It's funny; when you scrape back the surface of houses, and see what's underneath, it always surprises me.

So that's how it is right now - refreshed and re-started.

via la tartine gourmonde