The British Tag!

The British Tag – 12 questions

Thanks to Cate over at Me Add Three for the tag – 12 questions originally created by Sammi from Beauty Crush all about the best culture in the world – the culture of Great Britain.

Of course this is an interesting time for me to be answering these questions with the Scottish independence referendum only two days away.  Do I consider myself British or Scottish?  The truthful answer is both.  If we are abroad on holiday and someone asks me where I am from, I would say Scotland.  But I have a British passport, if I’m asked to fill in my nationality on a form I would write British….  Take from that what you will!
 Anyway, here goes with the questions!
1. How many cups of tea do you have a day? How many sugars?
I don’t tend to drink tea very often, I’m more of a coffee girl.  Usually limit myself to 2 cups a day though, or I’d be bouncing off the walls.  Particularly as I always add two sugars!
2. Favourite part of your roast?
Yorkshire puds!
3. Favourite dunking biscuit?
Chocolate digestive – so the chocolate goes a bit melty 🙂
4. Favourite quintessentially British pastime?
Has to be afternoon tea!
5. Favourite word?
Ramshackle.  As in “B, your hair is looking a bit ramshackle this morning”.
6. Cockney rhyme slang?
Wrong end of the country for that I’m afraid!  How about a bit of Doric instead?  “Fit like i’day?  I’m fair puggled, that nickum has had me up a’ night.  He’s some loon.”
7. Favourite sweet?
A quarter of sherbet lemons!
8. What would your pub be called?
Having barely touched the booze since before I was pregnant with A, I think I’d be better off running a coffee shop, called A Fine Piece and A Blether (took me long enough to think of the blog name, so I’m going to milk it!!).
9. No.1 British person?
Ermmm, Gary Barlow!!
10. Favourite shop / Restaurant?
 I have loads of favourite restaurants, but me and hubby are due a visit to Yorokobi (so not British.  Or Scottish!).
11. What British song pops into your head?
British music always makes me think Brit Pop – the days of the Blur v Oasis battle!  Yes, I know I’m showing my age…!
12. Marmite?

Oh no, makes me cowk!

Next up

I tag Jetta at Mischievous Mummy, Leigh at Nervous PND Surviver and the lovely Running Mama 2 if they want to take part 🙂

Summer Reads

After hardly getting a chance to read at all in June, the past few weeks have seen me get through quite a few books to my ‘to be read’ pile.  And with the holidays almost over up here in Scotland, I thought I would share with you what I’ve been reading this summer.

Fly Away Home – Jennifer Weiner

Sylvie Woodruff is married to senator Richard, and has spent most of her adult life being the perfect senator’s wife.  When Richard makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Sylvie takes herself off to her family’s beach house in Connecticut to consider her future.  The book also follows the stories of Sylvie and Richard’s daughters Diana (an ER doctor with her own family problems) and Lizzie (a recovering addict), and looks at their relationship as sisters and their relationship with their mother.  I really enjoyed the way the story was told from the perspective of the different characters, and I thought the characters themselves were believable, particularly Sylvie who doesn’t really remember who she is apart from a politician’s wife.  Chick lit with a twist, would recommend!

The Girl Under The Olive Tree – Leah Fleming

My mum gave me this book and I have to say it didn’t immediately jump off the shelf at me – historical fiction is not something I read very often.  However, once I started reading I could not put it down.  Set mostly in Crete during the Second World War, it tells the story of Penelope, a British woman who, against her family’s wishes, becomes a Red Cross nurse and remains in Greece under the occupation of the Nazis.  She then returns to Crete 60 years later, and has to face her past and some of the secrets she thought she had left behind.  It is clearly a very well researched book, with lots of historical detail, and very descriptive.  It is such a compelling story, and you not only get a feel for the atrocities that went on in Greece during that time, but also the sense of friendship and kindness found among strangers.  The only criticism I had was at the start I felt it was a bit jumpy between the past and the present day, but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment at all.  Definitely a five star read!

House Rules – Jodi Picoult

I know Jodi Picoult is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoy her books.  They always leave you with a lot to think about and House Rules is no different.  Jacob Hunt is an 18yo boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Although he has a higher than average IQ, he struggles to relate to human emotion, and if his daily routine is thrown off kilter he is prone to (sometimes violent) outbursts.  When his social skills tutor goes missing and is then found dead, Jacob finds himself accused of her murder.  The story is told from the perspective of various different characters, including Jacob, his mum Emma, brother Theo and Jacob’s lawyer, and it is interesting to see all these characters developing.  A lot of research clearly went in to not just the character of Jacob as the person with AS, but also how it affects those closest to him.  I have to say though, I was fairly sure I knew “whodunnit” very early on, although this didn’t spoil the story at all as I wanted to make sure I was right! 

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

I received this as part of a #BringBackPaper book swap run by Jocelyn over the The Reading Residence.  I’d heard all about it and have seen the film trailer but had never bought myself a copy.  For anyone who doesn’t know the storyline, it’s about terminally ill Hazel, whose life changes dramatically when she meets the gorgeous Augustus at a teenage cancer support group.  I know, cheery stuff, right?  I think the subject matter and the hype around it were what put me off actually going out and getting it for myself.  It is a beautifully written book, of that there is no question, although some of the dialogue I found a bit unlikely for two 17yo kids.  Having said that, they are not “normal” teenagers – Hazel has known she is going to die for quite some time, and Augustus lost a leg to cancer, so maybe they would speak in that way.  Did I cry?  Honestly?  Not as much as I thought I would.  There is lots of humour to break up the sadness/melancholy, and there are definitely some touching moments between the two main characters, but I wasn’t the blubbering wreck I thought I would be.  Overall, I thought it was a good book, a 3 and a half out of 5, and I want to see the movie, but for me it didn’t quite live up to its hype. (*runs off and hides from all the John Green fans*)

The Honey Trap – Thea Wolff

This has been sitting on my shelf for ages, and I picked it up because I wanted something light hearted after House Rules and The Fault in Our Stars.  Issy is a single mum making ends meet by working at The Honey Trap – an agency that tests men’s fidelity for suspicious wives and girlfriends.  Her life starts getting complicated when her son finds a severed finger in their back garden, and then she breaks the golden rule of the agency by sleeping with one of the clients.  I couldn’t get into this at all unfortunately – the story was very odd and I wasn’t keen on the writing style.  Give it a miss!!

Would love to know what others have been reading over the summer.  Any recommendations?!

This Month I Read – May

I’m finally getting a chance to link up with the lovely Muttering Mummy‘s #ThisMonthIRead – now that A is in his own room I am getting a bit more of a chance to read in the evenings again (especially now Masterchef is finished!!).  So here’s what I read this month:

Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth

This is the second of three books that the Call The Midwife TV series is based on.  I love the programme and read the first book last year, then hubby bought me book number 3 for Christmas, so I treated myself to this so I could read them in order!  This book has fewer babies being born than the first book, and concentrates more on some of the characters in the East End of London that Jennifer Worth came across while working in Poplar, and how living in the workhouses of the early 1900s shaped their lives.  The writing is very descriptive, and even the stories and characters I knew from the TV series took on an extra dimension.  While there are tales of terrible hardship and tragedy, there are also heartwarming moments of triumph and love.  I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading the third one soon!

 

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes

Set in both the 1960s and 2003, two women’s lives become connected by a series of love letters written in the 60s.  The prologue is set in 2003, but then the book tells the tale of Jennifer Stirling, married to a wealthy industrialist but in love with another man.  I was so engrossed in this love story that by the time I got to Part 3, which returns to 2003 (about 300 pages in!), I had forgotten that was how the book had started!  But the way the author brings the two stories together work really well, and I was desperate for two happy endings!  It is a wonderfully written book, a real tear jerker and so compelling.  Each chapter is interspersed with real life ‘last letters’ (or text messages!) which will tug at your heart strings and make you laugh in equal measure!  Most definitely my read of the month  🙂

 

Green Man Running – Georgina Hammick

Green Man Running tells the tale of 40 something Dexter, his two sons, and his live-in girlfriend Moy, who Dexter wants to marry.  Their lives are complicated by Dexter’s ex-wife, his struggles with debt, his mother’s farm and Moy’s schizophrenic brother.  To be honest I struggled with this one a wee bit.  The book starts with a serious accident that happened during Dexter’s childhood, and I kept waiting for that to be revisited, or for some ’cause and effect’ that shaped Dexter’s adult life, but it was never really mentioned again.  If it had some major significance, then it was lost on me!!  I felt there were a lot of storylines and characters that could have been developed more to make it more engaging, but even by the end I found myself not really caring one way or the other what happened!

 

And that’s my lot for this month – will hopefully be back next month with more!

 

 

 

Family frustrations!

I’ve mentioned before that my mum (and dad, but particularly my mum) does a lot for us as a family.  Since I went back to work, they keep B one day a week, meaning I get paid for three days of work but only have to pay for two days of childcare.  They are the only babysitters B has ever been left with, not just to let me and hubby go out for the evening but to let me get my hair cut, go to the doctor or the dentist, or even go to the supermarket in peace!  In the almost three years I was back at work before going on maternity leave last year, I never once had to take a day off because B was poorly – mum and dad would always step in and look after her.  Since A was born, they have helped me out with bathtime and bedtime when hubby has been out or away, they’ve popped round and taken B out for an hour when we’ve been having one of ‘those’ days.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, my mum has done our ironing since I fell pregnant with A!!

I suppose as a result of all the extra help they give us, I do sometimes bite my tongue about some of the things they do with B.  Nothing major, just too much “treaty” food, too many new toys/comics/colouring books etc, and especially recently when her behaviour has been very challenging, they sometimes undermine what I’m trying to do at home.  But that’s what grandparents are for, right?!

However, I think me and my mum might be about to clash a little bit.  A is not sleeping very well, after being brilliant as a newborn he is now up sometimes every hour between midnight and 5am, at which point he usually ends up in beside us.  He only feeds once, around half past midnight or 1am – the rest of the time he tends to be awake and grumpy, but not interested in feeding.  Despite this, my mum keeps saying I should be giving him a bottle of formula at bedtime so he’ll “sleep through”.  Gah. 

Last week, she said (and I quote), “I assume you’ll start him on formula once he’s on solids?”.  Ermmm, no.  Why would I?  “When did you stop feeding B?  Wasn’t that when you weaned her?”.  Well yes it was, but she was combination fed from about 6 weeks, and by the time I stopped breastfeeding, I was only giving her the first feed in the morning.  Plus I didn’t enjoy feeding her and couldn’t wait to stop!  Mum knows that this time around I feel totally differently about bf-ing, and ultimately it’s working out for us – A is gaining plenty weight, ok he’s not sleeping but if it’s not hunger that’s waking him then formula ain’t going to help!!

The final straw was yesterday when they dropped B off after her ‘Nana Papa’ day.  We’d spoken about weaning A before and I’d mentioned my plans to do baby led weaning, so yesterday I said that before I start him on solids I would let her read some of the stuff I’ve gathered on BLW.  She looked a bit sceptical, so I explained that babies who start off on finger foods can quite often gag, and it’s important to know the difference between gagging and choking.  I then also made the mistake of saying that in the first few months it doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t eat much, as he’ll still get most of the nutrition he needs from breastmilk.  Cue various comments about how can I expect him to sleep through in that case, finished off by the statement “Well if I’m looking after him he’ll just be getting proper baby food”.

Now I’m not saying that A will not be fed anything off a spoon at all, but that’s my decision to make once we get started.  Mum’s remark is the equivalent of her saying “Well if I’m looking after him I’ll just give him a bottle of formula instead of expressed milk”.

I’m not really too sure how to address this.  In a lot of ways it’s probably not even worth bringing it up again at the moment – we’re still a few weeks away from weaning, and I don’t have any plans to leave A with my folks for any length of time in the immediate future.  But at the same time, I feel like I need to make it clear that all these things are my decisions – how long I breastfeed for, how we move on to solids – and I need support, not someone questioning my choices, however well intentioned it is.

I suppose part of it comes from an increased confidence on my part – as a first time mum I constantly asked my own mum for advice and for her opinion on what we were doing with B.  Maybe Mum is feeling less needed this time around.  Maybe I need to make more of an effort to involve her with our day to day routine with A, and she’ll come to appreciate my point of view on the bigger decisions.

I shall keep you posted!

#TMI

photo-37
1. What are you wearing?
Black skinny jeans, pink top
2. Ever been in love?
Yep
3. Ever had a terrible breakup?
Errmmm, terrible at the time as in I had my heart broken? Yes, twice.
4. How tall are you?
About 5ft 4 in my heels!
5. How much do you weigh?
8st 4 – I got the scales out especially to check!
6. Any tattoos?
A dolphin on my back. B always asks why the paint on my back hasn’t washed off!!
7. Any piercings?
Just my ears
8. OTP?

According to Google this stands for One True Pairing or One Time Password. I’m not telling you my passwords!!!  So I’ll say Scott and Charlene from Neighbours (showing my age!!!!)
9. Favourite show?
Masterchef, X Factor, Big Brother, One Born, Call the Midwife, Homeland

10. Favourite bands?

All time favourite is Take That, currently loving The Vamps.  Basically anything with a few good looking young pups singing pop songs!!!
11. Something you miss?
Long lies!
12. Favourite song?
Rule the World by Take That
13. How old are you?
35
14. Zodiac sign?
Capricorn
15. Quality you look for in a partner?
Someone who can make me laugh, someone who shares the same values
16. Favourite Quote?
“Nothing lasts forever so live it up, drink it down, laugh it off, avoid the bullshit, take chances and never have regrets, because at one point everything you did was exactly what you wanted” – Marilyn Monroe
17. Favourite actor?
Ryan Gosling. Purely for his acting skills you understand….!!
18. Favourite colour?
Purple or turquoise
19. Loud music or soft?
Depends on my mood.  Although I do like singing along in the car at the top of my voice!
 20. Where do you go when you’re sad?
My mum’s
21. How long does it take you to shower?
Could easily spend half an hour in the shower, but not much chance of that with 2 little people around!
22. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
Anything from 10 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on previously mentioned little people!!
23. Ever been in a physical fight?
No, I’d be rubbish
24. Turn on?
Nice eyes, nice shoes!
25. Turn off?
Arrogance
26. The reason I started blogging?
I was enjoying reading lots of blogs, and I enjoy writing (it’s one of the few things I miss about my job!) so thought I’d give it a bash
27. Fears?
Snakes
28. Last thing that made you cry?
Miserable day yesterday with A teething, combined with headache and lack of sleep 😦
29. Last time you said you loved someone?
To B when she left to go to Nana’s for a sleepover (along with warnings to behave!!)
30. Meaning behind your blog name?
Two of my favourite things – a fine piece is a cake and a blether is a chat!
31. Last book you read?
The Believers by Zoe Heller
32. The book you’re currently reading?
Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
33. Last show you watched?

Masterchef on catch up
34. Last person you talked to?
Last person I talked to was A, last person I talked to that can talk back was my mum!
35. The relationship between you and the person you last texted?
Hubby
36. Favourite food?
Jaffa cakes and smoked salmon.  Although not usually together.
37. Place you want to visit?
Would love to go back to New York
38. Last place you were?
The park
39. Do you have a crush?
I’ve had a crush on Mark Owen from Take That since I was 12
40. Last time you kissed someone?
A when I tucked him up in bed
41. Last time you were insulted?
Ermmm, can’t think! Oh, we had a friend from B’s nursery over to play in Feb and both kids and mums had a fab time, well I thought so anyway, lots of “Oh we must do this again”! But the invitation has never been returned. So I suppose I am mildly insulted by that!!
42. Favourite flavour of sweet?
Cola bottles
43. What instruments do you play?
Played the violin and the flute as a kid, doubt I could get much of a tune out of either nowadays!
44. Favourite piece of jewellery?
My engagement ring
 45. Last sport you played?
Sport, don’t make me laugh!!!
46. Last song you sang?
Do You Want to Build a Snowman (from Frozen)
47. Favourite chat up line?
LOL, been a long time since I’ve been chatted up!
48. Have you ever used it?
Ha, see above!
49. Last time you hung out with anyone?
What, other than kids/hubby/my mum?? We went to friends on Tuesday so the kids could play, does that count as hanging out?!?
50. Who should answer these questions next?

Forgotten passions (no, not that kind!!)

Today, Aberdeen Football Club won their first bit of silverware since 1995. “So what?!” I hear you cry.  Please bear with me, even if you don’t like football!

If I’d started this blog five years ago, one of the first things I would have mentioned in my bio or intro was the fact that I had a season ticket for AFC. An actual season ticket.  As in I went to pretty much every home game, and the odd away game too.  Not quite a die hard fan, but I sat through far too many 0-0 draws in the peeing rain and howling gales in the middle of winter to be called a fair weather fan.  And I went for years.  I got my first season ticket at the age of 11 – to start with my dad took me and my younger brother (under sufferance it has to be said, we definitely didn’t get the bug from him!), then as we got older we went just the two of us.  My brother would regularly get told off for using bad language in the family stand, so we moved where he could swear without anyone batting an eyelid!!  I suppose looking back it’s amazing that he never wanted to ditch his older sister to go with his mates instead, but we carried on going together even once I’d moved out of my parents’ house, although I remember he did once accuse me of only going so I could talk to boys about football…..!! 

So I was at Hampden in 1995 when The Dons won their last trophy.  I was also there the last time we reached a cup final, in 2000 (our goalkeeper was injured a few minutes into the match.  We didn’t have a goalie on the bench.  Didn’t end well).

I gave up my season ticket for a couple of years in my early 20s, largely because my boyfriend at the time didn’t like me going (I know…..), but I always kept up my interest with the club and would go to the odd game here and there.  Then I met my hubby, who despite not being from Aberdeen was a massive fan and had had a season ticket since he moved here for uni.  It was immediate common ground, and probably one of the things that cemented our friendship initially, and then our relationship.  I ended up getting a season ticket again, and our Saturdays often involved a pub lunch, watching the early kick off on TV then heading to Pittodrie.

Yet now, football doesn’t even get a mention in my bio, because all that changed when B was born in 2009.  She was due in the November, so I didn’t renew my season ticket in August.  Hubby did (by this time another friend was sitting with us, so he wasn’t going on his lonesome!).  Of course with a new baby we couldn’t both disappear for two hours every other weekend – a couple of people suggested to me that we should take turn about going to games, but there was no way hubby was going to agree to that!!  So he continued going, in fact he went to a game the day after I got home from hospital with B, having had an emergency section three days previously….(my midwife was appalled!!).  And I stopped going, and because I wasn’t going to games, I gradually lost interest.  I didn’t know any of the players, I wasn’t really interested in hubby’s post match analysis on a Saturday evening.  In fact it became the cause of a bit of resentment, as he disappeared off for a minimum of 3 hours every other Saturday, leaving me at home with a baby then a toddler, then a three year old and a big bump, and most recently a stroppy 4 year old and a newborn.  Even today, knowing how excited he was, part of me was thinking “Oh yes, off you go, leaving at 9am for a game that starts at half 2, leaving me to manage all day AND do bathtime and bedtime on my own AGAIN”!!!

Then I got caught up in a little bit of the excitement, on FB and Twitter, and listening to the local radio.  It seemed like it was all anyone was talking about!!  B had said she wanted to watch the match, but I knew the reality of it would be that she would watch ten minutes then get bored, and I’d have to find something else to entertain her.  So we went off out for the afternoon, and I’d planned to get home so we could see the last ten minutes of the game, and see AFC lifting the cup if they won.  Best laid plans and all that, we didn’t get home until 4.15pm, just at the end of the 90 minutes.  However, it was 0-0 which meant extra time – as suspected, B wasn’t really interested once she discovered she could see daddy on the TV, but she was happy colouring while I fed A and watched.  After another half hour, it was still 0-0, so on to the dreaded penalties.  By now I could feel the nerves and adrenalin I used to get at a match, and even B was caught up in it, standing at the TV shouting “Get it in there min”!!!  First penalty to Caley Thistle – saved by our keepr!!!!  First penalty for the Dons – scored!!  Then Caley Thistle missed their second!!  Our second went in, so did Caley’s third.  If our third goes in we’ve done it, we’ve won the cup…..  Yaaaaassssssss!!  And suddenly I’m leaping around the living room with A, B’s jumping up and down and I have to confess I had a tear in my eye.  Hubby phoned absolutely ecstatic (possibly crying, I couldn’t tell), and B’s shouting down the phone “I know Daddy, I’m watching the football programme”!!!

Ten minutes later, normal life was resumed and I started cooking tea, but with a wee grin on my face.  I’d forgotten the passion I used to have for football – when you support Aberdeen there are more lows than highs, but the highs….  Bloody brilliant!!!

So while I might not be signing up for a season ticket any time soon, the next time I get the chance to go to a match, I might just see if we can line up a babysitter!!

Hello? Is there anybody there?!?

Hello. Well, this is all a bit nerve wracking. My very first blog post. I’m not sure which is more scary – thinking that people will read my random musings or the prospect that actually nobody will!!

Firstly let me introduce myself.  I’m Alison, I’m 35 (I only realised the other day that this most definitely puts me in my mid 30s!!), and I live in Aberdeen.  I’m mummy to a 4yo little girl (B) and a wee boy (A) who was 4 months old yesterday!

So why a blog, and why now?  I suppose I first started toying with the idea when I got really into Twitter and started following lots of mummy bloggers and reading their blogs.  My hubby is always telling me I should write a book, although he might change his mind when he realises how much of it would be about him!!  😉  Also writing is one of the few things I miss about my job (PR & Comms for an oil company) while on maternity leave – well, that and proof reading other people’s writing, I miss my red pen!!!  As for the timing, I nearly started a blog at the beginning of last year as a diary of my pregnancy, but we sadly lost the baby, and while writing about how I was feeling was definitely therapeutic, it felt too private to share (and probably not the cheeriest way to start off in the blogging world!).  We were very lucky and I fell pregnant again very quickly, but I was too scared of jinxing things to share the pregnancy so publicly (silly I know).  So I’ve now been faffing about on WordPress for a few weeks, trying to pluck up the courage to post and also to work out how on earth it all works, and I figured the best way to get started is just to write, and worry about making it look pretty later!  I also had lots of encouragement from some of my Twitter friends – I have no idea how to link to their blogs at the moment but they know who they are!

I suspect most of my posts will be about the kids and family life, with some baking (food in general actually!), lovely shoes, books, trashy TV and my addiction to boy bands (yes, I know, at 35 I should know better!) thrown in for good measure.

As for the blog name, here in the North East of Scotland, a ‘fine piece’ is a cake, biscuit or other sweet treat.  I am very partial to cakes and biscuits.  I’m also very partial to a ‘blether’ – a chinwag, a natter, a good old catch up!  In fact the two go very well together.  Nothing better than meeting up with a friend for a coffee, cake and a chat.  And hopefully that’s what this blog will become – firstly for me, a place to witter on to my heart’s content as though I’m chatting to a friend, and also for any regular readers who decide to join me.

So thank you for reading.  Please come back soon and join me for a fine piece and a blether!