Sunday, 25 September 2011

An empty nest !

It's a strange old day.For once there's no blaring music assaulting my tender eardrums, the fridge hasn't been raided, and there are no hugs and "love you mum" to brighten up my morning. And I really don't like this strange old day much! Why's that? You may well ask. Well, yesturday marked the day when son number 2 flew the nest and made the big leap into becoming a university student. I've been there before when son number 1 did the same thing two years ago. That was hard, but my nest then wasn't quite empty with his brother still here to keep me in mummy mode. However, this time it's doubley worse, as although I'll always be a mum, I feel as though my hands on motherly duties are no longer needed and I'm missing them just being around. It's just far too quiet!
 My chicks have flown!

But I can sit back and give myself a little pat on the back. They have both left home keen to be independant and anxious to set off on a new adventure. I've always encouraged them to be adventurous, make their own decisions and learn to stand on their own two feet. Me and their dad have and will always be there to help them and support them if things get tough, but to be independant young men they also need to learn by their own mistakes. If they ever forgot to do their homework or left a PE kit at home, well, that was no fault but their own and they had to face what ever punishment that was dealt them. But I am the first to admit that I am a real old softy of a mum and  failed to teach them basic skills such as washing up, making a simple sandwich or hanging up a coat because it was easier for me to do it for them. Would it have been different if I had had daughters and not sons? Would they have had everything done for them? I didn't want my sons growing up thinking that there was such a thing as "woman's work" and "man's work" like generations before them. But what did they ever see me doing? Washing,cooking,cleaning,ironing etc. And what did they see their dad doing? DIY, washing the car,mowing the grass etc. Oops! So much for good intentions!
 A mother's role?

I've been sitting here pouring over old family photos and reminiscing about times gone by. Marvelling about the fact that the boys are so different than one another. My eldest is out going, a party animal, daredevil, lazy, a bit of a clown, totally unorganized, creative ,untidy, adventerous. And the youngest is reserved, brainy, neat, organized, affectionate, witty, methodical, a worrier. Hard to believe that they have the same parents !
 Like chalk and cheese!

I'm remembering the time when son number I dressed up as a ballerina for a talent show and had everyone in stitches.The day he decided to strip off in a field of sheep at two years old. When he played Scrooge and got tangled up in his too long nightshirt but still delivered his lines whilst rolling around the floor! There was the time when he took it upon himself to try out the zipwire in France which, because he wasn't heavy enough to keep it going,  he stopped halfway over a lake. His dad then had to wade into the shallow water and catch him. The time I lost him in Waitrose because he hid behind the toilet rolls! His first day at grammer school looking splendid in his new uniform.

My very own Billy Elliot!

And as for son number 2? The time he refused to join in the infants piece for the Christmas show and told the audience to stop laughing at him. The rendition of a Shirley Bassey number at a school talent show that was truely terrible. Being totally besides myself when he went missing one afternoon.The day I had to pick him up from school, battered and brused from being bullied.Being so proud of his fantastic exam results.
 My very own Shirley Bassey!

Two different personalities. Two handsome, loving, bright and wonderful sons. It's so hard to see them leave home but it's time, and I have no doubts that they both have a fantastic future ahead for them, even if sometimes things don't always go right. If ever they read this and can stop themselves from cringing with embarassment, I just want you to know that I'm so proud of both of you and love you to bits. Ok, you can now carry on cringing!
My boys.

Meanwhile I sit here in a house that's too quiet and miss them both terribly.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Let's talk scary numbers!

I have said all along that I really don't want to be a Weeble wobbling down the aisle on my wedding day and I don't want to be a bride who insists that I'm only photographed from my neck up because she can't bare to see herself in photos with all her flabby bits on show! You might well say that it doesn't matter and that Mr R is marrying you for who you are, flabby bits or no flabby bits, but it really matters to me that I look and feel my very best, so rather than carry on sitting on my more than ample posterior, I need to actually do something about it!
 Do I really want to be a Weeble?

My weight has always been an issue, ever since I was a little girl. I wasn't a chubby child. Far from it. In fact I was at times underweight. The women on my mum's side of the family were all very overweight, and my mum battled with the extra pounds too. Puddings,cakes and other goodies were a rare treat, not just because we were hard up and they were a luxury we couldn't afford, but because we were often told that they would make you fat ! I remained skinny throughout my adolescence and twenties with the exception of very podgy knees, but looking back at old diaries I see that I noted down my calorie intake on a regular basis. There was a time when I seemed to live on nothing but boil in the bag fish !
Mmm...yum !

I have always had a healthy appetite. I have loved food ever since I discovered that I wasn't half bad at cooking. I love eating out, reading about it and my idea of heaven is being let loose in a food hall such as Harrods! I don't eat badly, just lots of it. My skinny days came to an end after the birth of my boys and then I began to get bigger and bigger and soon I had become one of those big fat ladies on my mum's side of the family!
So the years of yoyo dieting began. Husband number one was very image concious when it came to body shape and it was obvious that he was more than a little disappointed that his once slim wife had become a bit of a blob.He told me often enough that I needed to do something about it, and so did my mum !
Six years ago I was at my heaviest. I felt so unattractive and had no energy. Enough was enough and I took the bull by the horns and did something about it. I joined Slimming World and a local gym and worked hard to loose the pounds. It might be something to do with working with five year olds, but I was motivated by the fact that I got a sticker for doing well, and wanted to collect more than anyone else ! Twelve months after joining I had lost an amazing four stone and boy, did I feel and look good!
But, as with all previous attempts, as soon as I stopped dieting the pounds and some more crept slowly back on. Meanwhile I had met Mr R and I was on top of the world. All thoughts of dieting went well and truly out of the window.
 Ok, so this isn't really me, but I wasn't too far off looking this fit after losing 4 stone!

So here I am now, only ten and a bit months away from our wedding. Not looking like a beached whale on our wedding day is important, but being slimmer beyond the day is what really counts. I need to think of my long term health. I am fed up with puffing and panting climbing stairs and would really love to be able to paint my toe nails again without the spare tyres getting in the way. How lovely it would be as well, to find clothes that fit, and look good. But I'm not exactly in the first flush of youth. So will the fact that I've just turned menopausal make losing weight extra difficult? And suffering from hypothyroidism isn't going to help either. However, I'm determined to shed those unwanted pounds.Dieting works short term, but to lose weight and keep it off, a change in eating habits is what's called for. I need to just eat less, make healthy food choices and get moving !
To get moving I've joined Curves ,a ladies only gym that involves 30 minutes three times a week total body workout that combines a mixture of aerobic exercise and strength training. You get measured and weighed monthly which is definately an incentive and the fact that the gym is on my way home from work means that I have no excuse for not going.I've also started to walk to work. I arrive all hot and sweaty and in need of a lie down, but those serotonin levels must be on the increase because I really do feel rather chuffed once I've done it.
 Hopefully with time, I'll lose my curves with the help of Curves!

So, now comes the moment of being totally honest and reveal some pretty scary numbers. I am 52 and 5ft tall. I last weighed in six weeks ago at 14st 6lbs. I am therefore rated as being obese. I can squeeze into a size 18...just! My total body fat percentage is just under 50%.That, I have to say was a bit of a shocker. Hard to imagine that once upon the time I auditioned for the Royal Ballet School. Today I'm less Suger Plum Fairy and more fairy elephant!
 A Sugar Plum Fairy?....only in my wildest dreams!

I'm going to record what I've (hopefully) lost here on my blog. Maybe that way  I'll keep on the straight and narrow! It's a bit of a tall order thinking that I can lose another four stone, but who knows, with lots of will power and a goal in sight I might just get close! Please keep your toes and fingers well and truly crossed for me!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

What every bride needs.....A Little Wedding Helper

To me there has always been three important elements to our wedding. The first is obviously the ceremony itself. Making meaningful and personal vows to each other and becoming husband and wife. The second is having family and friends there to celebrate with us and have a jolly good time with plenty of good food,wine,music and a chance to kick their shoes off and dance the night away. Lastly, I want the chance to add a little "wow" factor to our wedding by making our already lovely venue look amazing. Paris, as you know, holds a special place in our hearts as it is where we got engaged and it's a city we have fallen in love with. We are both pretty ancient, so it made perfect sense to style our wedding with little touches of vintage Paris and personalise it with photos,mementos and little anecdotes.
But one thing worried me about creating a gorgeous setting for our big day. How on earth were we going to be able to transform ourl venue into a little corner of  Paris and who was going to do it? I'll be a little bit preoccupied trying to turn myself into a blushing bride. Friends and family don't want the responsibility and Mr R ,bless him, wouldn't know where to start. What I needed was my very own fairy godmother who understood exactly my vision for the day, who could wave her magic wand and create that wow factor, leaving me to worry about nothing other than will I be able to walk in heels without falling flat on my face!
Through the power of Twitter I knew from a very early stage of our planning exactly who that fairy godmother should be. So many people connected to the wedding business speaks highly of her on Twitter, and it was obvious that she was not only a very talented lady who loved what she did, but  was a lovely person too. You can't believe how excited I was when Mr R agreed that we really needed her help and to go ahead and email Kirsten, aka The Little Wedding Helper.
Kirsten isn't a wedding planner, but will style and decorate your venue, taking the stress of trying to do it yourself  away from  you so that you can relax and enjoy a bit of pampering whilst getting ready on The Day. She is full of ideas, inspiration and suggestions and has an amazing eye for detail and those personal little touches.She loves talking wedding and it's obvious that she is committed to helping couples turn dreams into reality.
A meeting was arranged and we met a couple of weeks ago at our venue, Goldbrick House .I really thought that Mr R would just say hello and scarper, but he stayed and nodded in the right places, but afterwards admitted that most things went wooosh...straight over his head! Kirsten really is as lovely as everyone says. She's a great listener and came up with ideas I would never have dreamt of. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I would feel more than happy leaving our venue styling in her capable hands knowing that she will do a far better job than I could ever hope to achieve.You don't only find fairy godmothers in fairy stories. There's a real life one down the M4 from us in Bristol. And I feel like a very lucky fifty something bride to have her there to wave that magic wand of hers on July 7th for us.

Here is a little taster of what ideas we have to add a little "vieux francais" on our big day. Oh and apologies for my rubbish french!!
Our colours will be aqua and pink. We are having long tables and hope to have glass bottles of various sizes and shapes filled with peonies running down the centre of the tables, along with candles and vintage cups and saucers.
I love Mason jars filled with flowes or used as candle holders. Don't you just love these lace doillies decorated jars and the aqua tinted ones.
We hope to display little vignettes
And pretties that say "vintage Paris"

We intend to use postcards in an imaginative way!!
And a little flurry of bunting
And dotted around will be beautiful black and white photos
We love the idea of using a vintage suitcase for cards
And photos of  family weddings
Who knows, you may even spy the odd Eiffel Tower or two !
Now all I need to do is start collecting. Ooh, let the fun begin!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

J'adore Paris part deux

Sitting here in my little study looking out onto a mass of  identical new build homes on a drizzly Sunday morning has me thinking back to a week ago when the view from my hotel window in Paris was oh so different. The sun was shining, and in place of  my neighbours semis, I was watching the odd car rumble over the cobbles of a grand boulevard on it's way to dice with death around the scariest roundabout ever that is Etoile, otherwise known as the road the circles around the glorious Arc de Triomphe.

In Swindon we have....
In Paris, they have...
Erm....which would I rather have?

I can never have too much of  Paris. As soon as I step out of the Eurostar in the Gare du Nord I feel that joie de vivre feeling kicking in and an excitement spreading from the tips of my fingers down to my toes. If it weren't for the fact that I'm lugging a far too heavy suitcase, I would be skipping down the platform, probably much to the bemusement of my fellow travellers!

The city is beautiful, no arguement there. From the splendour of amazing palaces, boulevards,The Seine and grand churches, down to the characteristic road signs and house numbers to the beautiful art nouveau metro station entrances.Look up and even the roof tops are something to behold. Paris isn't just about the stuff of glossy guidebooks.Walk down the little back streets and experience everyday Paris. I love watching the locals lingering over a cafe in a small neighbourhood cafe, catching up with each other's news whilst queuing in the boulongerie, meticulously picking out the best produce in the greengrocers, just going about their everyday life and trying to ignore the silly anglaise woman who keeps on staring at them with a silly gormless grin on her face.

So what does Paris mean to me.....

I have to say that everytime I visit I feel just a little envious of how chic and stylish your average Parisian, male or female,young or old seems to be. They could throw on a sack and still look good. What do they do that sets them leagues above the rest of us us...namely me....in the world of style and chicness? I gaze longingly in the windows of the boutiques wondering if a snazzy little jupe or blouson might give me a certain little je ne sais pas in the style stakes, but looking at the prices kept me firlmly in the realms of frumpyness and an obvious devotee to the world of M&S!
 There's chic and stylish madame, and then there's....

Me!


Everyone knows that the french love their food from the humblest baguette to a full blown gourmet feast a la Alain Ducasse. Nobody I imagine goes to Paris expecting to live off the odd MacDonald and Starbuck's frappucino, unless of course you really, really are on a very limited budget or if like my mother many moons ago was very worried about asking for anything in her non existant french and lived off of picnic food bought in the Paris branch of M&S, which sadly for her, is no more! The only trouble with Paris that it's just sooo expensive. Don't even think about ordering a cafe au lait on the Champs Elysees without taking out a second mortgage first. Even if you order one off the beaten track you will have to hand over several euros.If the coffee looks cheap it's because it's un cafe. In other words the french equivelent of an expresso. One gulp and it's gone! If you want to experience a meal out, which of course you do, make it a dejeuner rather than a diner and choose from le menu and not la carte. It's much cheaper. We ate out every evening on our holiday and easily spent 100 euros for the two of us and that was in little out of the way bistros. A word of advice. Steer clear of the cafes around the touristy areas if you want to eat. You'll spend a bomb on mediocre food. Best to use them for a leisurely drink and watch the world and his wife stroll by. I'm really disappointed that we never got to Laduree this year. I was so looking forward to one of their ,oh so pretty, macarons and a cup of the most delicious hot chocolate. Oh well, another time.
Macarons and hot chocolate at the Laduree salon de the. Not to be missed
.Yum!

If we had eaten breakfast in our hotel, it would have set us back 15 euros each. That's roughly £24 a day. Just for breakfast!! No way were we going to cough up that much for a continental breakfast, so we discovered a little sandwich bar on the next boulevard to ours. Think a cross between Starbucks and Subway, but much much better and, of course french.We ate baguettes freshly made to order stuffed with the yummiest goodies.Drank great coffee and looked longingly at the pastries, whilst sitting alfresco at little bistro tables .Service was always with a smile and I have never seen a place kept spotless to within an inch of it's life as that little sandwich bar. Just goes to show that you don't always have to stick with the traditional cafes.
Our brunch stop.Cheap and tasty. Great for people watching.

Sadly my trip to Paris was marred by a nasty case of blisters due to walking too much on the first day. This put a dampner on the rest of the week as every footstep was painful. So, we didn't do half the things that we wanted to. But do you know what that must mean? Of course...we really must go again....soon!

And finally, this just has to be our favourite holiday photo. Where else would you find the coolest policeman just checking his texts on his iphone ?