Monday, August 6, 2012

For better, for worse, but sand it down first...

My daughter and I were assembling a contraption above her bed, with no specific purpose in

mind except decoration. You know, one of those ideas that appear in your head as if in a

magazine, completed and having turned out beautifully, being gazed at breathlessly by

admiring friends and family. One of those ideas that invariably turn out nothing like that

picture you imagined, due to a failure to actually think it through.

Obviously we'd waited until spouse was on a business trip. Years of experience has led him

to either forbid these schemes, (often before the first sentence has left my lips), or at

least demand that every potential step be discussed fully in advance. "Detail" I shrug,

waving his concerns away with my hand, "don't bog me down with detail".

This time, it was going better than I'd dared hope. We were almost holding our breath,

unable to believe that what we'd thought would work might actually work. Then daughter

looked at me...

Daughter: "Why are you hesitating?

Me: "Well, I want to put this screw in about here, next to this power point, and I'm

worried there might be a live wire behind it."

Daughter: "That's okay. I don't really use that power point anyway."

Me: "No- the point is that if I touch it with a metal screw, it might blow me across the

room or kill me instantly."

Daughter: "Ah."

There was a few minutes silence.

Daughter: "What do you think we should do?"

Me: "I think I might just go for it."

Daughter: "Yeah. I'm sure it'll be alright."

I wondered afterwards what made me throw caution to the wind with this particular risk. I

don't consider myself a risk taker, particularly. I always wear a seat belt. I usually wear

a cycle helmet (except, perversely, when I am cycling to the pub and have just done my hair.

Yes, I am aware that I am much more likely to fall off when cycling home from the pub than

when working out on my bike but, as I mentioned, I've just done my hair). I make the kids

wear sun tops at the pool and the beach. I am scared of gambling. Oh, and I have a bizarre,

superstitious ritual about getting into bed which can never be disrupted, and would keep a

therapist busy for months.

This brought me back to an old theory of mine which is that everyone has married, or should

marry, their "decorating opposite". It's a simple theory which, I believe, highlights the

fundamental personality differences essential for compatibility. These differences are

apparent from the moment the decorating idea is decided upon. Spouse recommends researching

colours, washing down the walls with expensive potions, trying several different shades of

the exact same colour and, unbelievably, waiting until daylight. I want to pick one, drive

to the shop now to buy it and see how much we can get done before morning. Spouse is

happiest sanding things down before using the potions, and then using primer and all sorts

of fuss. My idea of preparation is to spit on my sleeve and rub it on the bit I'm about to


We had a nasty moment in our marriage whilst decorating the stairs in our house in England,

when spouse decided the balustrades (the fiddly spindles that support the bannister)

required two coats of white gloss. I'm not really a two-coat kind of person, but was

willing to concede on this point, until it became clear that he expected me to sand them

down between coats. I was open-mouthed. You can't be serious? Why would I sand down paint,

on twiddly bits, that I had just applied, spend more time wiping it clean again and why

didn't I know this about him before the wedding?

A liquid wipe-on, wipe-off sander came to rescue us from our standoff, but the whole

episode has left me much more wary of sharing my plans. Flush from my success, I have an

idea forming in my head for something very big and very high for daughter's window. I have

also seen something else in a magazine to hang things on in the boys' room, which I'm sure

I could copy without reading the instructions. Then, our bedroom is to be adorned with a

useful jewelry display system that will have to be kept strictly secret until completed.

What? No, I'm sure it'll be alright.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What the fork?

What The Fork Is That On My Wrist?

The problem with being the messiest person I know is that I'm also scared of spiders.

 Left to my own devices I would happily live surrounded by piles of stuff. In my youth, I would move enough stuff off the bed at night to enable me to get in, and clear a path through the stuff to enable me to move from room to room. Where this fell down, is when I saw a spider of significant size, and was forced to call for help (significant -to me- being larger than an earring). I had enough social conscience to then be ashamed.

 The emergency spider rescuer entering the house used to be staggered as to how I managed to spot the spider in amongst the piles of stuff. (This is ridiculous, as anyone who is a true arachnophobe will tell you that we have a built-in spider radar that alerts us to the slightest spiderish movement. A friend spent an 'amusing' fifteen minutes one day at college throwing the top green bit of a tomato at me, amazed that my spider sense would not let me stop flinching.)

 There is a wonderful passage in "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole", where Adrian's father is giving him some advice. Don't think of marrying a girl until you have shared a bedroom with her, is the regretful sigh. If she leaves her knickers on the floor for more than three days running, forget it. Thankfully, for my spouse, since I married and had children I have strived mightily to overcome my natural 'relaxed' attitude to organisation. I was clearing up, again, the other day and marvelling at how my daughter passes the pile on the stairs ten times a day without touching it, and how my sons are able to get out of the bath and literally just walk away, wet. Then I realised; it's genetic. I may have been watching too much "Downton Abbey", but I see it clearly. The only cure is servants.

In 17th Century England, when a servant of a house wished to become betrothed, it was difficult, nay t'was impossible, for them to find a appropriate ring for their suitor. (No, I've finished talking like this, now. I was setting the scene).

In a canny stroke of genius, they would steal a small, silver spoon from the house and make it into a ring, which would still bear the decoration from the handle of the spoon. (To my mind, this is where the genius falls down. Can't really deny the theft if your wife has the family's unique silver pattern on her finger, can you? I know- I'm being too literal; go with the romance).

I'm quite grateful we didn't know Danielle, of db designs, when I got engaged ( I'm sure my spouse would have found an old tea strainer in the cutlery drawer), but I have a bracelet which she made from a fork with which I am a little bit obsessed at the moment. (Danielle is a little distracted if you go to dinner with her, true, and it's best to check her handbag afterwards, but she does make these seemingly mundane items into beautiful pieces of jewelry.) As families sell their silver sets, a lot of old, unique patterns are being melted down and lost. This jewelry, then (especially my fork) is cool, historic, ethical, ecologically sound, and I've only touched on the possibilities of the fun you could have with the 'fork- look at that! word play.

If only I could find it....

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Domestic Bliss, Shiny Silver, and Killer T-shirts!

A few years ago, I bumped into a friend who lived a couple of doors along the street. She had a new baby and, as I hadn't seen her around for a few weeks, I was anxious to see how she was getting on.

"Well', she said, "the other night on the sofa, the baby was on my chest, semi-feeding/semi-sleeping. My husband was dozing with his head on my shoulder, and the cat was curled up on my feet."

Wow, I thought, she's painting a picture of domestic bliss early on, for a new mum...

She continued, "...and I thought to myself, - why can't they all just piss off?!"

Sometimes, though, having your kids hanging round your neck can be okay. Db designs make it stylish. One of the pieces I wear most often by db designs is a beautiful little silver disc, with my children's names engraved on it. They come in a variety of styles and can be customized in different ways. Obviously you have your own children's names on it. Don't be silly.
Custom Name Pendants

 I wear mine for weeks at a time; as it is made of sterling silver, it polishes up beautifully after the beach, pool or just being sweaty. (Beautiful weather can throw us all into a quandary-  yes I do fancy a day at the beach, but what about my silver jewelry! Ha!)

I also wear it a lot because it goes well with T shirts. I am a sucker for amusing T shirt slogans. (One which I like and sadly will never be qualified to wear reads  "To err is human; to forgive, divine". On the back it states " Neither is Marine Corps policy"  One I might wear more often, "The meek shall inherit the earth. Just keep them off the rugby pitch"). My kids bought me a fantastic T -shirt for Christmas. It is a grown-up understated brown colour and, in artistic font, it reads "Miss Scarlett, in the hall, with the revolver". I wandered up to the deli counter at the shop the other day, and the lady said "I like your T-shirt". I preened, "Thanks". She left a long pause and then added "My daughter's a teacher". 

It took me a long time to work out how she could have possibly thought her comment relevant. "?" "Miss Scarlet, in the hall, with.....NO!" Have you never played 'Clue' (Cluedo in the UK)? Why would they make a shirt about a teacher in the hall with a gun?Why would anybody think I would wear anything in that vein? Good grief! I am in the middle of a complicated green card application process! I clutched my packages to my chest and almost backed out of the shop. 

 For anyone looking to send presents abroad, then, the little silver discs are probably perfect, being light, easily shipped, and unlikely to cause a problem with the authorities. I would send one to my friend. But, then again, I have a really good T-shirt slogan in mind for her.....

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Time Travel On The Radio

The year was 1985 on Saturday. 

One of the joys of being an ex-pat in these technological days is that many things I would otherwise miss, like radio programs, can be streamed into my kitchen via the internet. Often, I'm embarrassed to admit, I am childishly pleased when I fortuitously start the playback of the breakfast show, (which begins at 6.30am), at 6.30am and, even though it was aired five hours earlier (the time difference to the UK), I can pretend it's current. This is especially important if my mother has come to stay, as hearing the 8 o'clock news at 9.15 is something I physically cannot explain again. (Along with the wonders of e-mail.."But how can I check my email on your computer?" I am resigned to this, now, and smile, "You're right. You can't. Silly me.")

So imagine my delight when I tune into (well, play back via iplayer) the "Pick of the Pops" program, as is my Saturday morning ritual, and find the featured year is 1985!

I immediately insisted on complete silence and the seriousness of the situation was evidently apparent as, for once, a reverent hush descended. I was left to unload the dishwasher, make and clear away breakfast and then, frankly, invent things to do while I sashayed around the kitchen in wide-eyed surprise, chanting long-forgotten lyrics with a stupid, goofy grin across my face. The middle 'rap' bit to "Candy Girl"? Word for word! (Don't make me prove it...)

Why? Why am I still able to reproduce every word, ooh and ah of songs I didn't even like at the time (it was a gift, that record, honest) and yet lose track of the 'funds available' figure in the joint account by the time I get to the shop?  

I tried to explain to my daughter what was happening inside my suddenly-thirteen-turning-fourteen year old soul. (The songs were from this same week in 1985, and it was my birthday on Monday - Yes! I knew I'd be able to mention it somewhere!). Imagine, I said, that in thirty years, you turn the radio on, and Taylor Swift is playing. You will still know all the words! You know you will! (And I hope your children stare at you in disbelief and embarrassment as well). Music has this power, and you are NEVER FREE. You will run faster if songs like these, the songs you haven't heard in years, are played while you're out jogging! You will lose track of what someone is saying at a party because you are secretly straining to see if the song is what you think it is and wish you could ask them to hush! You will drive around the block because you want to do the guitar solo! (Daughter asked if we could go home the long way the other day, because she wanted to hear the solo on "Walk This Way". NEVER been so proud!) You will find yourself humming something, wonder how it got there, and spend a long time working back to locate it! (It'll be "Dock of the Bay, because you will just have got out of an elevator with the word "OTIS" at the back of it). You will find your kids singing bits of songs they have got from you (try and keep them appropriate) which you didn't know you ever even hummed in front of them! You will be physically unable to stop yourself from doing things when you hear a certain song (the little claps in "I don't like Mondays"), even if it's under the desk! There will be songs that you associate with people, songs that you associate with events and probably, weirdly, songs that people associate with you (don't ask about these- they might disturb you). 

There will be many, many, tracks that you will know so well that you will be able to tell a cover version from the original, however closely they stick to it, just because. Ah, if only it were a marketable skill.

Spouse has a theory that when the Alzheimer's hits (and the joint account incident has only made firmer his conviction that it will) I'll go straight back to 1984. I counter with the argument that there are worse places to go. And, if that happens, at least I'll be word perfect.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Real Women Use Handbags


Real Women Use Handbags

Joan Collins and bags

One of my oldest friends came to visit me last week (no, it wasn't Joan Collins- don't be silly).
She left her three children in the UK with a variety of painstakingly-briefed family members, and all was well-planned, and well documented. I think, (after last year when she returned to find the neighbours had set up their own schedule to braid the little girls' hair), there was even a chart. 

"I'm bringing a handbag" She said, when we were at the very excited how-shall-we-smuggle-frozen-margaritas-poolside stage.

Well yes. I didn't really see the relevance of this statement. I'm sure you are, honey. I, too, have handbags. Seems a funny thing to alert me about. Then I realised what she meant.

She was ONLY bringing a handbag.

It's obviously not a tiny handbag, but I was momentarily speechless (yes, since you ask, that very rarely happens). Also I was, let's say, more than skeptical. At first, as she's only a small person, I had visions of my friend being assisted through the gate behind an enormous handbag, with only hair visible, but as she talked me through it, I began to see the logic. She planned to wear one pair of shoes, and cram flip flops into the handbag. Her bikinis take up no room (well, the tops take up more room than mine, but that's just jealousy). A change of clothes, nominal make up and essentials would easily fit, apparently.

I know what some of you may be thinking. Hair products/applainces. Last time my friend visited, she diligently straightened her hair, and left the house for an evening out, looking very marvellous. As we walked to the bar (let's not even pretend there was going to be anyone in a condition to drive), she seemed to literally blow up. The humidity took a relentless, firm hold. Whenever I looked up from my drink, or returned from the bathroom, her hair seemed to have increased three fold in volume in my absence. As I am a person who has long, coarse-but-obedient hair, I found this by far the more amusing of the two of us. (I haven't laughed so much since my spouse accidentally touched the lego 'Alien mother pod' with his foot whilst on a conference call, and had to run from the abduction noises).

Following that incident, she bought a pair of industrial performance hair straighteners and, due to the plug differences, has had to leave them here. 

"And then just gifts" she finished triumphantly. 

Small pair of earrings for my daughter, perhaps? No. She brought "The Wind in the Willows" by Graham Greene for my children. Ok. She wins. If you can pack for a week, in a handbag, and still have room for a book, then it IS the most awesome thing I've ever heard of.

She arrived, with handbag, in style and blowing raspberries in the face of jet lag. The handbag option is not one to be taken lightly, however, as apparently the lack of luggage led to suspicion on the part of every official she encountered, and was swiftly followed by a 'Can you step this way please, Madam' type search. 

Great week. And, so far as I know, she didn't have to cut the curls out of her girls' hair on her return.

I'm probably off to the UK for a week or so this autumn. I'm taking one suitcase for sweaters alone.
 It's just not a level playing field, is it?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I'm Sure There Was Something...

I'm sure there was something I was supposed to be doing today, rather than embarking on a new blog.....

No matter. I'm sure it'll come to me.

I am a Brit, currently living in the USA, and have been here for three and a half years. I have met many new friends, most of them interesting and amusing (a prerequisite among friends) and one of these is Danielle, who makes jewelry under the name db designs. 

She needed someone to help with her social media sites and thought a mouthy Brit might be just the thing. When she explained what social media site managing actually was, I agreed. I play on facebook with the best of them and blogging sounds like it was invented as a name for my ramblings. Scary stuff, though, this first one.

It's funny how, although I am never short of things to say (I married my husband partly because he was the first man to quietly say 'Shush, now" to me, when we all knew it needed saying), getting started on this brings a whole new level of excitement. I hope to be blogging about all sorts of inconsequential things- random ponderings, and day-to-day hassles (I have three kids who will be 8, 9 and 10 next week. Not all at once- I mean the youngest will turn 8. Keep up.) From time to time, however, I will be highlighting my favourite pieces of Danielle's jewelry. She is ethically aware, donating 10% of gross profits to charities, committed to fair trade, ecologically sound (using eco-friendly chemicals), and most importantly makes beautiful, affordable and unique pieces that I am constantly amazed by, and proud to wear. Now, for example, I have a fork on my wrist. No, really. But that's a story for another blog...
I would like to apologise now for the inconsistencies in the grammar and spelling you will encounter. Mostly I intend to write and spell as comes naturally (which will mean that you'll have to live with words like colour, I'm afraid, no matter how much the little red line shouts at me). Sometimes, though, you may find that American phrases have seeped into my everyday language (too much time with the kids in the car and the windows shut), and they just pop out without being recognised as odd by me. What can I say? A friend once paraphrased to me that adaptability is a sign of intelligence. Maybe coupled with the obstinacy in my spelling, it just reaffirms the gemini in me.
The exception to this rule, is that I shall always spell 'jewelry' thus. I feel it only polite as this is, after all, a blog from a jewelry business. (Yes, I know, I'd almost forgotten too). 
So, thank you for reading. I have a feeling this may turn into another all-encompassing, child-neglect-inducing way of making my time evaporate, like watching Grey's Anatomy or Facebooking/ Tweeting (Oh yes! We're on there too!). Something that I become absorbed by and takes over most of my waking moments, when I should be attending to the kids or cooking something delicious.

Oh. Or sorting laundry.