Friday, 31 December 2010

Thank You

I am a stickler for thank you notes and have always insisted that the girls write theirs promptly, by hand and with due consideration.

Having been ill for days (I'm still a coughing, wheezing wreck), I haven't supervised the writing of their letters but they have made a start.

No matter how much they love their presents, no matter how grateful they are to the recipient, there comes a time when writing multitudinous 'thank you' letters become a chore for children.  And the longer they leave it, the more of a chore it becomes.  So, I was grateful that today Lucy received a delightful thank you letter in the post.  Lucy was thrilled and now she really understands why we send them and can't wait to write her own.

Monday, 27 December 2010

So this is Twixtmas

As everyone knows, the period in between ConsumerFest and New Year is called Twixtmas.  It is billed as being 'five days to change your world' so how could I resist taking part!

Day 1 (December 27th) is designated as the day to 'Do Something Selfish'. 

I very selfishly was ill today.  The cough which has been bothering me for days has developed into a tightness in my chest.  I feel really, really awful.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Ho Ho Ho...Hee Hee Hee

Christmas began at the agreed time of 8.25 when the girls began opening their presents.  

My pressies included a Tiffin tin*, soan papdi (Indian halwa-like sweets), bangles, charm bracelet, necklaces, candles, ring*, gardening gloves*, a new stapler, lip balm, chocolate* decorative birds, and the wonderful fabric deer Nigel bought at Wooden Tree's stall in the Magpie Market.  (*fair trade!)

My sister and brother-in-law arrived in the morning to exchange gifts and it turned out that Laura and I had unknowingly bought each other Asking For Trouble's Make Your Own Bookmarks!  (Perhaps not such a coincidence when you consider we both like the cutesy designs of Marceline Smith).
We all received an array of lovely, thoughtful gifts.  At the risk of sounding like an awful ingrate, I was very relieved not to be given the huge amount of presents we have in previous years.  

I was determined to have a scaled-down ConsumerFest this year and tried to keep to my handmade/vintage/recycled/ethical rule. I bought most of my presents from The Small World, Cox and Cox, Frugal Cool's ReMade Shop, Muji, Rupali, We Are What We Do, Pedlars and Musselburgh charity shops.  Virtual presents came from Oxfam and The Woodland Trust, and I also made a couple of prezzies. 

The day followed the traditional pattern:
  • lunch (nice and relatively stress free but it was disappointing that the children didn't eat more)
  • making jigsaws (I am a bit of a genius when it comes to 64 piece jigsaws)
  • watching Doctor Who (rubbish!), Coronation Street (the Fishwick/Stape thingy is ridiculous) and Eastenders (as expected)
Nigel and watched Mira Nair's brilliantly uplifting documentary - The Laughing Club of India.  I haven't laughed so much in a very long time.

There are Laughter Yoga sessions in the UK and (with training courses to set up your own laughing club).

If you can't get to a laughter club there is a telephone laughter club weekdays at 0700hrs (cost 5p per minute)! 

Date: Monday-Friday
Time: 7:00am - 7:10am BST (GMT+1)
Phone: +44 (0)800-1214-136 - dial the number and wait to enter conference ID (59021950) followed by # and start laughing!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Hampers, Hello & "Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes"

I'm delighted that 2011 is to be the National Year of Communication.

With two of my three children attending speech therapy sessions I really appreciate the work done by The Communication Trust who work in partnership with 35 organisations  (i.e. it's a coalition that works).

One of the communication partners is ICAN which we have supported over the years with their Chatterbox Challenge.  Next year they are hosting a Be a Guinness World Record™ breaker  - why not join them in a mass singing of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes at 11am on 1st March 2011.

Each month of 2011 is going to be themed.  You can keep up to date with the various activities (and download communication resources) by signing up at Hello - the official National Year of Communication site or following @Hello_2011 on Twitter.

This morning a fabulous M&S hamper arrived from our best man Christopher.  It is packed with festive favourites like mulled wine, brandy butter, cake, pudding, tea, chutney, jam, biscuits and chocolate - What a treat! 

Are you under 27? Here's a Christmas invitation...

A Christmas Invitation
This Tory-led government has launched an unprecedented assault on our young people, kicking away the ladders of opportunity for our next generation.

As you are under 27, you can speak out today – by joining the Labour Party now for just a penny.

This government have already trebled tuition fees, and now they plan to abolish EMAs and the Future Jobs Fund - yet another kick in the teeth for us.

Please do join us in building a movement against this out of touch government.

Thank you

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


It snowed on our wedding day and it snowed on our anniversary.

I'm not sure what the 'official' gift is for 8 years but I think it should be snow (or maybe rock salt).

We had a fab lunch at the Pitstop Cafe in the Pennypit Centre.  It is the second year we have gone there for Christmas lunch (last year Georgie was with us).

We both had prawn and avocado starter (perfect) with East Lothian turkey and all the trimmings.  Nigel opted for the Christmas pudding while I had an orange and winter spice cheesecake.

The staff were cheery and attentive as always.  There was a lovely atmosphere and it was a really, really nice lunch.

Earlier in the day I went to Emily's school to watch the Christmas performance which is always fun.  I was surprised the morning's show wasn't better attended but perhaps most people prefer to go in the evening.  In any event, I was one of the lucky ones as the evening performance had to be cancelled - there will be a lot of disappointed parents.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Friends, angels, cakes and puddles

This morning fellow greenie and ethical trader, Barbara, visited Eltbus Towers.  She brought with her a beautful arrangement she had made which included cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices, sprigs of rosemary from her garden and nuts in an earthenware pot decorated with raffia. What a beautiful and thoughtful gift.

We chatted about the challenges of low budget gardening, funding applications and promoting fair trade over a cup of coffee (fair trade obv) and some wonderul cake Barbara had picked up from Falko konditormeister in Gullane.

This afternoon I went to the Nativity at the infant school.  It was lots of fun.  I especially liked the carols, my favourite being Hallelujah, Sing Hallelujah.  This evening, Lucy and Georgie returned to school with Nigel for a second performance.

I was glad to have a quiet evening with Emily who was feeling a bit sorry for herself after being travel sick on the way back from the panto.

We talked and I read to her some of the confidence booster tips in The Green Parent:

  1. Stand Tall - As you walk down the street, remember to stand tall and take in a deep breath. Imagine you are breathing in confidence!
  2. Smile - Try and look for little things to smile about and smile at strangers. Just the act of smiling releases endorphins into your bloodstream.
  3. Accept Compliments - Every time someone pays you a compliment, accept their words graciously and really own that compliment rather than just laughing it of.
  4. Journal - Keep a diary and try to note down all all your successes. Really celebrate and reward yourself for each of your achievements!
  5. Friends - Surround yourself with positive and confident people who make you feel good about yourself. Do activities that encourage you to get out in nature and exercise. You might like create a 'dream team' - a group of people who support and motivate you and share your dreams.
  6. Mirror - Look into a mirror and say 'I love you' Remind yourself of what makes you special. This is a hard one to start with, but will get easier with time.
  7. List Achievements - Make a book of your achievements, talents and qualities. List all your successes and things that you are proud of. List all the things that makes you the special person that you are and include all the things that you have done to others and how you have made others happy. You might like to put them in a book and refer to it when you are feeling low.
  8. Self Talk - As much as possible talk to yourself in a kind and positive way. If you notice you talk to yourself in a negative way with put downs, try to stop and change your self talk.
  9. Use Affirmations - Each day, repeat one positive statement or affirmation. You might say 'I am positive and everything that happens is good' or 'I am special and I make a difference' You might even like to theme your day as a positive, happy, confident, joyful or special day and do things that make you feel that way. 
  10. Relax and Visualise - Close your eyes and imagine you are standing in front of a mirror. See yourself standing tall, smiling and looking great. Notice how you feel. Let the positive and confident feelings wash all over you.

It's hard being 10.  Everything is so much simpler at Georgie's age.  Georgie's best friend is a little girl called G.  Today Georgie tried to be a good friend to G:

Georgie: "G was crying today because her great-granny has gone to heaven"
Me: "Oh, that's a shame, poor G"
Georgie: "I told her not to worry because God would look after her"
Me: "That was a kind thing to say.  Did it make her feel better?"
Georgie: "No.  But what did make her feel better was jumping over puddles".

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A frugal and cool day in Musselburgh

This morning I took a long overdue trip to Musselburgh.

The charity shops have lots of beautiful party outfits on display but I needed some everyday garb so I bought myself some East trousers (that I reckon would have been about £70 new) and a Per Una jumper in the Salvation Army shop. 

I went into the Hearing Dogs for the Deaf shop where they have a 'fill a bag of children's books, clothes and toys for £1' offer.  I filled a bag with an assortment of books and the game Uno. 

There were some lovely old books and one of them contained vintage scraps - what a find!  While there, I bought several little heart-shaped tins.  I'm not sure what I will do with them but they were sweet. 

My other purchase was a copy of Green Parent magazine.  What a fabby publication!  The issue included great articles (the woodland special included bushcraft and outdoor classrooms).  It was packed with useful information.  Also, the advertising was far more relevant to our lifestyle than other magazines and included beautiful and funky kids clothes for ethical retailers - a far cry from the awful M&Co with its horribly precocious outfits. 

Many shoppers don't venture across the bridge.  Big mistake.  As I've said in globs passim, Musselburgh's North High Street is a cool pocket of indie shops which includes ReMade - a collective of ethical designers and creators.  I bought a couple of PostCardens - mini living postable gardens!  You couldn't buy that on the other side of the bridge!

No trip to the Honest Toun is complete without a visit to the Borders Scrapstore in the Fisherrow Centre.  Today's star purchases included Christmas decos for 30p (I think they were may have been 'rejects'), some very long woollen socks (possibly samples or seconds) for £3 and of course some craft bits and bobs.


If there is one thing I'm not short of, it's opinions.
If there is one thing I'm quite keen on, it's cake.

'appen then, it seems only right 'n proper that Yorkshire Tea have sought my opinion on their new Marmalade Cake.  (That was my Yorkshire accent.  It is not obligatory, nor is a flat cap required to become a tester but, in my 'umble opinon, I think it helps).

The cake was delicious, firm yet moist.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Missed Off

Missed Connection
Today sees Scotrail's new timetables come into force.  The change on the Edinburgh - North Berwick route means that Nigel missed his connection.  Which pissed me off.

Missed the Post
I have long since adjusted to the fact that my extended family do not remember birthdays or send thank you letters.  I received a package the day before yesterday and duly wrote a letter expressing my gratitude the same day.  Today I received a phone call 'wondering if I had received it'.  Which pissed me off.

Missed a golden opportunity
The 50th anniversary of Coronation Street has been built up for months.  So far in the tram disaster/gas explosion storyline, there have been three deaths.  At no point was organ donation mentionedWhich pissed me off.

To make up for being such a grumpy pants, here's a couple of things you don't want to miss:

Leith Festival's first ever Christms Panto called A-lad-in Leith based on Aladdin.  It runs Wednesday 15th to Saturday 18th December at 7.30pm at the Cruise Liner Terminal (take first left at the Ocean Terminal round about), Leith.

Tickets cost £7 or £5 for kids and concessions. The Saturday Gala Night performance is £10 and includes a wee drink of bubbly and OJ on arrival, and drinks and nibbles during interval.  Tickets can be booked online at

Malcy Duff's exhibition "The Oil Bird Flew", a selection of original pages from his new comic 19 - 21 December 2010, 3 - 6pm.  Opening Night 18th December at 7p.m. with Usurper/Fritz Welch trio and Scrim. 32/8 Sandport Street, Edinburgh.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cool Cauld Reekie

Our day in freezing Edinburgh began with a birl on the big wheel - part of Winter Wonderland.  I can't stand heights and just watching them was nausea-inducing. 

It didn't help that Emily kept saying "Look, Georgie's leaning out".
I was much happier in the lower ground level of the City Art Centre where the In Our Own Image exhibition, on the rather broad theme of representing the human image, was taking place.  While we looked around the artworks (my faves included those by Peter Howson and Victoria Crowe), the girls created their own masterpieces in the 'activity studio' - a brilliant free, drop-in kids zone with baskets labelled 'shiny paper', 'shiny stars', 'metallic pens' and so on.

The City Cafe, run by Cater Edinburgh, is a rare find - a place with a grown-up interesting menu, that is also welcoming to kids.  The children had brownies and smoothies while the grown-ups had chocolate chilli cheesecake (and I had the best cappuccino I've had in a long time ).  Next time I'm going to try the iced chocolate and beetroot cake.

Whenever we're in the Old Town we like to go to the Potterrow supermarket to stock up on Gits Dal Vada and any spices we are running low on.  If we lived nearer I would buy a different bag of basmati each time just for the wonderful packaging.  One small sack was zipped and made of jute - it would have made a perfect bag.  Actually, it is very similar to the bag my mum bought be for my birthday - she obviously knows my tastes quite well!

From the Southside we took a walk down to the Grassmarket.  We bought a couple of things in Musafir (sparkly pens, incense sticks and a bracelet with Jesus on it).   The shopping spree continued at The Lot where the Magpie Market was in full swing.  Wooden Tree was there and having admired their fabric antlers at Made in the Shade's Summertime Hop and Springtime Jamboree, we decided to buy a set today (it's Nigel's Christmas present to me).  We had a look at Avalanche's sparkly new home and said hi to Ali (experimental weird-ass shit & new remedial noises since 1997) Robertson before having a look round the lovely things in Barnardo's Vintage.  I bought a weird plaster wall plaque depicting a man on horseback wielding a sword or a bargainous £1.39.  Other strange/ugly purchases included a collector doll wearing (possibly) Ukrainian national dress and a wooden tuskless elephant.

We warmed up with some food at the Mosque Kitchen - a nice way to end a a cool, but freezing day in the capital.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

2010 Books

No, not two thousand and ten books, but the 20 or so books (I'm not sure whether to count Billy Liar twice!) I've read this year:

I love love love Salman Rushdie so unsurprisingly enjoyed The Satanic Verses, but I also really enjoyed Middlesex which wasn't the book I was expecting at all.


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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Things Change

Along with "pick that up" and "stop doing that", one of the things I regularly tell the kids is "things change" - which I guess is a sanitized version of "shit happens - deal with it".

It's been a mantra worth bearing in mind recently as the snow has put paid to plans and we have had to be more flexible than usual.  Deliveries are now being made but the shops still haven't got much in and I'm beginning to tire of my beloved puy lentils.

For a change I went to The Filling Station (163 High Street, Prestonpans) for lunch.  I've been once before and can attest that their scones are as delicious as they are massive - i.e. very - but I get overwhelmed by choice and it always seems so busy.  Today though the choice was an obvious one: The Christmas Special.  My festive baguette contained hot roast turkey, sage & onion stuffing, chipolatas, peat smoked bacon, cranberry jelly and lashings of gravy.  Mmmm.  Delish and a very reasonable £5

Weatherwise, changes are afoot as the snow is beginning to melt and the public has been warned about the danger of icicles falling from eaves.    Health & Safety edicts drive me insane.  In yet another example of creeping infantilization, volunteers in The Small World have been advised against using the walk-in safe in case we get locked in (we have managed to avoid this fate for 25 years).

I'm thinking of changing our newspaper order.  The local papers make me really cross sometimes.  So often, the front page 'news' is little more than an exercise in mud-slinging.  One welcome piece of news however was the Council's change of heart about objecting to the construction of a gas-fired power station at Cockenzie.  If approved, the project would create 500 much needed temporary jobs.  I wasn't the only one getting het up about current affairs.  Nigel has not been able to get into work and today watched the televised tuition fee debate - getting angrier and angrier.  Yes, things change, like LibDems into Tories.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Léon, The Professional

I've just watched a really, really dumb film.  It's in the top 5 of the most annoying films I have ever watched.

As I've wasted 110 minutes of my life watching this, I don't feel inclined to offer a critique on Léon, The Professional, the story of a 12 year old girl who hooks up with a hitman.

But....I did get something positive from the experience..... searching for information about the film's location (I'm slightly obsessive about the Roosevelt Island Tramway) I found On The Set Of New York - a website devoted to films shot in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The trams have only just started operating again from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island after a nine month closure while it was upgraded.  If you take a trip to NY, be sure to include this 3 minute journey in your itinerary.

I love, love, love Roosevelt Island and often like looking at  RIOC - a website designed for residents - well, a girl can dream...

Friday, 3 December 2010


After five days of doing not too much I've got a horrible feeling that this week was a wasted opportunity.  I could have tidied the house.  I could have batched cooked.  I could have prepared lesson plans for the girls (don't laugh, I know some mums who will definately have done this).

Today's lessons included geometry, telling the time, tying bows and teamwork.  Okay, so we just made dreamcatchers but it was kinda educashional.

While we having lunch, Georgie pointed to the window and said "Look, lapwing!".  I looked at the thrush sitting in our rowan tree and said "No, that's a thrush.  I'm not actually sure what a lapwing looks like".

"No, there....waxwings!" she insisted.  Sure enough 14 waxwings had settled on a tree.  I'd make a rubbish teacher and I'm a crap housewife but I must be doing something right.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


It's still snowy. The schools are still off.  And the world hasn't come to an end.  

On the contrary, there are more people about than usual and because no-one can drive anywhere, they are forced to shop local, on foot.  For the most part, people are cheery, if a little panicky about the shortage of milk and bread.

Inevitably, some events have had to be cancelled which is disappointing but must have a tremendous financial implications for the business concerned.   The Small World is still open but some volunteers are snowed in.  Luckily our flashing LED sign arrived this week (hurrah for the posties!) and I hung it in the window today.  If the sign is on, we are in!

At home we all worked together to tidy the kids' bedrooms.  It didn't take as long as I thought - what a difference.  It hasn't been all hard work and no play though - we have had fun as well!  The girls have been using all my craft supplies to make Christmas decorations, and this afternoon I made another batch of seedbombs using the cat litter method.

I was pleased to learn that Prestonpans has its own online radio station - Prestongrange Radio. You can listen online and can send requests by email  or phone 0844 209 6998.  Please support them.