28 December 2006


Too much christmas cake, and too many mince pies does not a happy me make. I think I might need a quiet lie-down somewhere, while I contemplate the meaning of laundry, life and why exactly I thought it was a good idea to mix champagne, red wine and dessert wine last night...

21 December 2006

Books, books and more books

Once I've started on the subject of books and kids, I can't stop, I'm afraid. Here's today's question: why are most baby books so awful?

Sadly, so many of them look like they've been thrown together at the last minute, with text that seems to have been typed by a dog in a small back room somewhere near Grimsby, and computerised illustrations that someone did with Paint after several bottles of wine. I guess it's one of those things that anyone thinks they can do - ooh, yes, let's write a book for a baby. What a doddle. Write a couple of words, put in a couple of sickly pastel pictures and away you go. Oh, and why not add a musical doo-dah while we're at it, to really annoy the parents.

In reality, because you're working with a more limited vocabulary (although Slinky Malinki manages to include the glorious phrase "rapscallion cat") you really have to make the language work twice as hard. The ones that do it best (and also seem to get the best reaction from my consumer sample of one small child) are those that string together rhymes and silly words, and match them to carefully drawn pictures. Oh, and anything with a cat in it is a winner in our house.

Here's my list of "books suitable for 15-month-olds that I enjoy reading too" (although after the tenth rendition in a row my enthusiasm might take a slight downturn).

Pants (anything that begins "small pants, big pants, giant frilly pig pants" has to be good)
Room on the Broom
Barnyard Dance and Hippos Go Berserk
Slinky Malinki
Miffy at the Gallery
Dear Zoo
The Baby's Catalogue (reminds me of my 1970s childhood)
Cheep! Cheep!

M seems to like all these too, judging by the number of times a day I am brought them from the book basket.

19 December 2006

Books ahoy!

I took M to Seven Stories today. It's a rarity amongst museums/galleries - somewhere that's for children, and yet is not remotely kiddified. There's no dumbing down of the subject matter, and they've really thought about how to get kids (and their parents) involved, and into the idea of reading books. Hurrah! And the bookshop is to die for.

At the moment there's a fantastic exhibition about Robert Westall (of Machine Gunners fame) which M loved because there was a projection of WWII aeroplane flying around the room, and which I loved because it was talking about his links with Tynemouth and Northumberland (and the plane was pretty cool too). We both liked the Blitzcat illustrations (cue much miaowing from M). And we also popped in on story time, listened (ish) to a story about a blue kangaroo, and made a christmas tree decoration. Definitely beats sitting at work staring at a computer screen...

18 December 2006

Can't see the wood for the trees

Next year, when I blithely say I'll make all my Christmas cards, somebody please remember and shoot me. 60-odd later, I've had enough of folksy-Scandi style and have progressed to Habitat-chic. I reckon that at my hourly rate, each card is costing me about a fiver...

17 December 2006

Arts Corner - The Holiday

Or Holiday from Hell, as I like to call it. Now come on Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Kate Winslet. Did any of you actually read the script? Did it not occur to you that (a) it was about two hours too long (b) full of cliches, and (c) corny as hell? What were you thinking? Or were the dollar signs rolling in front of your eyes?

Actually, it was quite fun to watch - in a 'oh my god it's so terrible it's really good' kind of way. Top tips include:
  • outstanding Telegraph product placement
  • the snowy lands of Surrey, where snow appears and disappears from shot to shot
  • Cameron Diaz running for a mile along a 'snowy' lane in stiletto heels without pausing for thought
  • Jude Law smirking in every scene
  • the old bloke who can't walk miraculously discovering that he can run up stairs
And I'm proud to say that I laughed hysterically at the bit in the car at the end when Cameron Diaz finally learns that she can cry (sorry everyone else in the cinema who was blubbing into their hankies at that point).

13 December 2006

Arts corner - tv cookery

At the time it made sense to watch some cooking while I was eating my tea. Yes, I know it's uncouth and leads to rack and ruin, but I was on my own and couldn't be bothered to sit in state in the dining room. Anyway, I'd completely forgotten how annoying Nigella Lawson can be. While I think she's a brilliant food writer, and I have several of her cookery books (How to be a Domestic Goddess is my baking bible), she doesn't half bug me when she's on the telly. I started to watch her Christmas Kitchen earlier on, but had to turn it off halfway through. It's all this pouting, swinging her hair about and delving into cream that gets me. She's just turned into a caricature. Mind, some of the others are no better (stand up Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay et al). I suspect that once you've made it on the telly, the mannerisms/enthusiasms that made you famous become ever more exaggerated, in a desperate attempt to keep/increase the numbers of viewers. There's only really ever been Delia, whose presentation skills seemed to be non-existant, who stayed the same.

So I've had it with tv cookery for the moment. What I really need is a bit of Julia Child.

12 December 2006

Pies (mince)

Here are the fabled pies that M and I made last week. They look quite fancy, don't they? There were a lot more of them originally. And no, I haven't eaten them all.

11 December 2006

If you wanna be the best, wo-oah procrastination's what you need...

I know I'm supposed to be writing Christmas cards, but I've got a classic case of procrastination, so I've been fiddling about on eBay, reading blogs and doing 101 other things in a desperate attempt to make Christmas go away. Don't get me wrong, I love the whole Christmas thang (especially buying presents for M), but it's a pain in the arse to organise.

So I'm proposing a whole new schedule for Christmas 2007, in a bid to avoid all last-minute card-writing, present-buying and mince-pie-making.

January: buy Christmas cards/presents in sales
February-July: write 10 Christmas cards per month, gazing into crystal ball to predict (a) degree of pennilessness (b) progress of diy (c) behaviour of offspring/cat/husband
August: wrap presents
September: make mincemeat/mince pies
October: eat mince pies
November: eat mince pies
December: eat mince pies

By my reckoning that gives at least three months of pastry ingestion, which can't be bad at all.

Buns (2)

No not that kind. Unless they are gorgeous George's. No, more bun cases, this time from the lovely Rice. I saw these at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and was smitten. It was a bit odd finding bakeware in the gallery's shop in amongst all the modern art books, but maybe I should get some and be an urban trendsetter.

06 December 2006

Tea and buns

Carrying on the subject of domestic-ness (as always seems to be the case round here), here's some rather fantastic bun cases. You can't go far wrong with a fairy cake, that's what I reckon. And all the better if they're dolled up in spots, stripes or even Black Watch Tartan (thanks to the lovely Vic for finding these, by the way). Although I suppose it should really be mince pies, given that it's December. I've not got round to making any yet, although my Delia mincemeat is sitting in the pantry ready and waiting. Pictures to follow when I do.

I realise that my baking exploits probably aren't wildly exciting, but there's a limit to how much excitement you can squeeze out of suburban life. I keep trying to kid myself that we're still living in the city, but once the Avon lady and the Betterware catalogue man have been round I know there's no hope.

04 December 2006

Seasons greetings

Not content with attempting to do the domestic goddess-thingy food-wise, I've taken it upon myself to make some Christmas cards. It's December 4, and I've just begun. No pressure, then.

Above, you'll see a sneak preview of this year's card. As the design afficionados among you will obviously guess, it's a Scandinavian theme (which may have something to do with the fact that the wrapping paper I'm using came from IKEA last year) using the traditional four-year-old's drawing of a Christmas tree that seems to be my default setting. I expect the orders to come rolling in at any moment...

Actually, it's rather satisfying cutting and sticking, and takes me back to being about six and making scrapbooks on that weird coloured paper. Did anyone else save sweet wrappers and cut pictures out of the Mothercare catalogue, or was that just me?