In some ways Little Miss C is a very girly girl. She loves playing in her little play kitchen and one of the Christmas gifts that she loved most was a tea set that we bought her. We often have pretend tea parties together and I don't think it's coincidence that two of her first words were "cake" and "tea".
The tea parties aren't all make belive though. Most mornings after a good play session or a quick trip out I do try to make sure that we stop and sit down for a spot of elevenses together. By that stage of the day I need a cup of tea (normally Earl Grey these days) and a slice of cake for both of us makes that last bit of the morning much easier to deal with. We try and make it a bit of an occassion too - sitting at the table together and talking about what we've been up to that morning and our plans for the rest of the day. If we're out and about then we still try and make time for that morning pause and we've found quite a few local cafes where I know LMC likes their cake and we can get a high chair for her.
Years ago when I worked in a very old fashioned bit of the civil service it was almost compulsory to have elevenses! Anyone who didn't step away from their desk when the kettle went on was seriously frowned upon by our boss. The whole team sat down together and chatted over a cup of tea and a tea cake from the work shop. It worked a treat though and really did make the working day so much easier to get to the end of - sadly I've not seen it anywhere else, but I definitely think we should try to make it happen. Those lovely people at Anchor Butter are hoping to change all that with their campaign to bring back elevenses - definietly something that I will support.
When it comes to what to eat with your elevenses cuppa in our house the firm favourite with LMC is my Matilda cake (recipe here from when I last blogged about it). It always gives me a bit of a boost and the mixed fruit in it makes me think that there is at least a little bit of something healthy in there! I've no idea where the recipe originally came from, but I do know that it was in my mum's recipe book so I'm guessing from either a relative or family friend.
Anchor Butter are campaigning to bring back Elevenses and this blog post is part of their promotion. You can join Anchor either on their Facebook page or via Twitter. If you use the Twitter hashtag #AnchorElevenses you might also be in with a chance of winning some great Anchor memorabilia too!
During the week Little Miss C and I like to get out and about a bit. We mix trips into town and to the local park with playing in the garden and play dates with friends. We also do a couple of classes a week locally. There's one music group that we've been going to since LMC was very small and several others that we go to on a drop in basis.
We generally have great fun at these and both LMC and I have met some lovely people at these. Sadly there is a bit of a sour note though - some of the other mums. At nearly every class we go to there seem to be at least a couple of mums who just sit there and chat all the way through. I can understand the need for parents to talk to their kids a bit, especially if they need a bit of encouragement to join in, but I really can't see the need for the mums to chat as if they were gossiping over a cuppa. If that's what they want to do then there's a cafe just next door.
All this is of course going on whilst someone is trying to run a class and engage with the children and other parents. I've been to some classes where the noise of the mums gossiping is so great that I can't hear the teacher over it, and I'm sure LMC can't either. Even requests from the person running the class for them to be quiet seems to fall on deaf ears (if you excuse the pun).
It often seems that the same mums also are quite happy to let their children run riot somewhat in the venue where the class is taking place. I've seen kids go and happily hit other children in the room, pul curtains off rails and in one case start jumping up and down on a teachers guitar case - all whilst the mums carried on chatting. In most cases the parents have paid to attend these classes with their little ones - and I'm left wondering why some of them bothered.
I took LMC to a new trial music class today - a free trial I should add. As usual there was a couple of mums in attendance who obviously knew each other already and they sat down next to each other and the chatting soon began. Twice the woman running the class asked them to keep it down. The fact that she had to do it a second time speaks volumes. Their kids (a boy and a girl) were left roaming the room for most of the 45 minute class picking up things and not really following what was going on. On several occasions the woman in charge asked the kids to go back to their mums so that they could do something with them - this was ignored by the mums. At one point the little girl decided she'd had enough so she ran over to the door, opened it and ran out into the corridor. Unsurprisingly the mum didn't notice for a good minute and only then it was when another mum pointed it out.
I'm at a complete loss as to why these parents bother to come along with their children. Why not take them to a soft play place where they could run off some energy whilst they mums chat over a cuppa? What makes these mums think that it is acceptable to disrupt the class for other people. It's rude towards the others that have paid to be there and also to the person running the class. Do these same people talk through work meetings? Most of them claim to be professional women yet I sincerely hope they don't behave the same in the workplace.
It seems that that is not the only way in which some of these women want to be rude though. I sat down at a music class the other week next to a woman with a young gir who looked a similar age to Little Miss C. I smiled and said hello as we sat down and was just met with a frosty look. It was a Monday morning and I know not everyone is a morning person so I didn't worry about this too much. As I took LMC's coat off I saw the little girl next to us get excited and start pointing at LMC. LMC was wearing a cardigan with Lola on it from the children's TV series Charlie and Lola which she loves. It seems this girl next to us also liked it as she started shouting "Lola Lola!". For some reason the mum apologised for this and trying to still be friendly I responded with "no problem, my daughter's a big Lola fan too". I'm not too sure why this was the wrong thing to say, but it seems it might have been. Her response left me gobsmacked: "My daughter's a Lola fan, but I certainly wouldn't let her wear something with her on it". What??? I wouldn't say that to a friend, let along to another mum who I was going to be sat next to for the next 45 minutes. It just seemed completely unnecessary and very very rude.
So where do these mums leave their manners? Did something happen at the birth of their child which makes them think that they can now be rude to other people?
Sunday evenings have been prety damn good TV evenings recently. With Sherlock and Downtown (which I still haven't seen!) loads of people have been talking about what they're watching at the end of the weekend. For me though the last couple of weeks have been a particular highlight as BBC has been showing Call the Midwife, based on based on Jennifer Worth's memoirs of the same name.
Jennifer Worth was a midwife in the east end of London in the 1950s and I understand that she worthed with the BBC production team on the TV adaptation before her death last year. I have to admit that I've not read her memoirs but I am completely gripped by the TV programme. The role of the midwife is really well portrayed and the level of detail shown really makes you understand just how difficult their job was and also how hard things were for the mothers of the east end.
The cast are fantastic, with notable household names like Pam Ferris and Jenny Agutter as two of the Sisters, but for me a special mention has to go to Miranda Hart who plays newly qualified midwife Chummy. Whilst we're used to seeing Miranda and her very physical brand of humour in her sitcom of the same name, this programme allows her to show off the rest of her acting talent with some very moving scenes beautifully done.
If you've not discovered this wonderful programme yet then the good news is that the first two episodes are still available on the BBC iPlayer and there are also still four more episodes to look forward to.
Stephen Fry is probably responsible for a lot of things in life. I think he was the first person I heard talking about twitter on TV and to be honest I didn't really "get it" then. Something that's like writing a blog, but only in 140 characters. What's the point I thought - put it all in a blog post in as many characters as you want. Oh how wrong I was!
When you're new to twitter it can be a bit tricky to see how it all works. You start off following Stephen Fry and wondering why the world seems to be going on about how great this new thing is and instead you're just notified that he's stuck in a lift with some bloke that he's just taken a photograph of. I didn't tweet myself then - why would I when I couldn't see the point. Then I started following a few more people and found myself chuckling away at some of what they had to say. I realised that news organisations and papers had accounts and sent out links to articles and other news stories. I discovered that most of the BBC F1 team are on there telling you about what is going on in the F1 world between races. Then I found some locals on there and boy did things take off from there!
For once I saw people say things that I actually wanted to respond to. People asking questions that I could answer usefully. Little by little I started talking to these people and some of them even started talking directly to me. Suddenly I got it.
There's a fab article been published today in the Herts Advertiser about the Twitterati of St Albans - a group that I'm actually quite proud to be a member of - and it describes twitter as being "a bit like having all your favourite people: authors, sports stars, celebrities and if it suits your fancy, politicians, all in your very own private pub" and I don't think I could sum it up better than Laura Roberts has. You can choose exactly who is in your pub and bar those you don't want in. You can talk to who you want and the pub's open 24 hours a day.
Twitter is my starting point for many things online. I hear about more world events first via there then from television or radio and I understand I'm not alone in that. News spreads fast via twitter and although some of it is false, if you know which sources to trust you can often find out about major things like the plane that landed in the Hudson or the recent Concordia disaster before the news agencies publish their first stories.
As a stay at home mum one of the most important things to me is the local network that I've become part of. St Albans has a huge number of twitter users and I have to say that they are some of the lovliest, friendliest and varied people that I've ever had the pleasure to meet. I've met other local mums who have become genuine "real-life" friends, local business people where I've become one of their customers and loads of people who just know loads about everything. I even managed to find one local mum who is actually married to someone Mr C went to school with!
Very kind people I initially met online have bought me drinks in the pub, given me clothes their children have grown out of for LMC, lent LMC toys and books, given me discounts in local shops and play centres and shared laughter and tears over tea and cake. I have met so many of them in the flesh and really feel like I am part of a local community as a result. I am amazed at how many times people on there ask local questions and get instant responses from people nearby. From questions like why the Abbey flag was flying at half mast one day to what time the local tip was opening. There's always someone who knows the answer and wants to share that with you. We managed to get rid of our old broken washing machine to a local guy who wanted to use the drum to create a fire pit on his allotment site after a quick tweet and I even sorted out the lack of delivery of our local free paper after an online exchange with the editor. A request to find an accordian teacher so I could arrange lessons for Mr C as a Christmas present gave me a name and phone number within 45 minutes of asking.
Years ago people used to talk about being part of a community. People knew their neighbours, the local shop keepers and other families where they live. With people moving away from their hometowns due to work or family reasons and longer working hours these communities died off in many areas, but here in St Albans it is back thanks to twitter. I know more locals now than ever before and whenever I need to find out something it's my first port of call.
I guess I've got a lot to thank Stephen Fry for after all...
If you're on Twitter then you can find me at @BeingMrsC.
Don't worry this isn't going to be a post about whether or not you'd sell your body for money or anything like that, but I am wanting to hear what jobs people are prepared to do to get some extra money.
As everyone knows economic times are tough here in the UK and there are plenty of people who have recently been made redundant. It is hard to find a new job, especially if you want to work in a specific sector or on certain days of the week to fit in with childcare. I realise that things will differ widely across the country and that here in Hertfordshire we're fortunate to live in a fairly affluent place which hasn't overall been hit too badly by unemployment, but I'm still noticing a surprising amount of work out there for people if they're just prepared to do certain things.
One of the reasons why this blog has been so quiet for the last couple of weeks is that I've been using my one day when Little Miss C goes to nursery to do a bit of work. It's not a job that I went out looking for, but a friend needed some basic gardening work done and despite asking around for a local teenager who wanted some extra money none came forward. Wanting to both help out a friend and help pay December's credit card bill I happily dug out my gardening gloves and woolly hat and spent a couple of afternoons getting slightly grubby whilst clearing leaves, weeding and chopping things down. It's been really invigorating being out in the fresh air and as I've driven home I've had a real sense of achievement at doing something productive with my time.
Talking to the friend in question and other local people it seems like there is a need for people locally to do gardening jobs like this, or cleaning jobs, yet those people that do the jobs already seem to be so busy that they can't fit in new customers. The going rate of pay is pretty good - admittedly not if you were paying childcare for multiple children, but if kids were already at school or could stay with a relative that wouldn't be a problem - so why don't more people offer themselves up for this kind of thing? Surely if people really need the money then a job is a job and you shouldn't be fussy about what you do? Or are there some people who just won't clean a toilet no matter what? I realise that people who have degrees under their belt might not have planned a job like this when they were sat doing their university finals, but needs must and all that.
So here's my question - assuming you're physically fit enough - would you be prepared to get your hands dirty in order to earn some money? Or, have I just got the wrong impression about what people are, and are not, prepared to do to make ends meet? Are there variations around the country meaning that in some places people are already filling all these roles? You her some news stories of 600 applicants for one bar job and others in which peole can't fill some roles at all - I'm intrigued to know what it's really like.
Whilst being paid cash for this particular bit of gardening work I should state that I am registered as self-employed so I will be paying tax on this income at the end of the financial year. I'm also not on any kind of Governement benefits that would be affected by this income. Just in case the tax man is reading...
Looking at the heavy frost we've had these last few nights here in Hertfordshire it's hard to believe that spring is on its way, but it is. One very clear sign - the annual Homemade Life seed swap has started!
Whenever Little Miss C goes out into the back garden, one of the first things she does is try to get into the shed to get one of her many watering can. Once she's got it she then marches straight over to the water butt where she can be heard chanting "fill it, fill it" until the watering can has been filled with water. After that she goes straight over to the veg plot and makes sure that all the plants get a drink.
Sometimes the water even comes out of the spout of the watering can!