Life, the universe and everything

Collage Hello friends! To paraphrase one of my favourite Robert Lowell poems*, I’m back, after three months away.

So, why the long pause?

Well, I am tempted to give the usual excuses. You know, I was heavily pregnant, I had a baby, life was a bit more tiring with three kids, Christmas came along etc etc. All perfectly true, to a certain extent. But, of course, if you really want to do something, you manage to find the time to do it, no matter what else is going on.

And, I think the real reason for the extended absence, was that last year I rather got sucked into an amateur pro bloggers vortex, if you know what I mean.

I don’t have any desires to make any money from this blog. (A brief foray into paid links, of which eagle eyed readers might have spotted two in the past two years, convinced me that it was a pretty tiring way to make money. For me at least.) But I did want my blog to rank alongside professional blogs. To be just as worth reading as those by bloggers who do use it as a way of making a living. So I was often reading lots of other blogs and seeing all the other articles out there similar to mine and, of course, almost every article ever has already been written, so I wondered what was the point of adding mine to the mix. I started to feel like yet another person photographing the wreath on their front door for Instagram at Christmas time…

I got a serious case of blogging fatigue. And Instagram fatigue as well, for that matter. It all just started to seem a little bit… …pointless.

So what’s changed? Why am I back again?

Last week, we went to buy fireplaces for our new house. We were wandering round the shop, which is full of antique and reproduction fireplaces . And we wanted one that was exactly the same as the one in our old house. We’d assumed we’d easily spot it out on the display, but there wasn’t a similar one out. Then I remembered that I’d photographed out mantelpiece for this blog a few times in 2015 and that there was likely a photograph of the whole fireplace in there somewhere. Lo and behold, there was! (This one.)

I was delighted to have the photo to show the shop manager, but also, more importantly, for posterity of the house that we renovated and no longer lived in. Of the display on the mantelpiece that marked that point in time in our lives. And which I would have never ever photographed were it not for the blog.

So I remembered that crucial thing that had been missing for me last year: this blog is, primarily, for me.

To record moments in our lives, things I’ve made, recipes I love. A place I can look back to find the details that get forgotten over time.

And if anyone else wants to read it too. Well, really, that’s just a bonus!

So, this year I will, I hope, be back for a bit more of the same. If you’re reading along, hello! Thank you! And I hope I won’t disappear for so long again.

And for now, a very brief catch up.

I had the baby! Woo-hoo. She was 10 days late, which I hadn’t anticipated, and arrived in the middle of November. She is very adorable and – though life is inevitably a little more stressful with three children rather than two – she makes our little family better in every way.

The boys are besotted with her and love to do nothing better than plant never-ending kisses on her cheeks and tell her how much they love her. When she smiles at them, they are delighted. Then they go off and beat the crap out of each other, ha ha.

When she was ten days old, she got bronchiolitis and was in the paediatric ICU for ten days, unable to breathe on her own with a collapsed lung. It was a terrifying time and brought back a lot of memories from when my first son died. It also made me think a lot about grief and children and life and expectations and, really, all sorts of things. I have been mulling over a blog post about some of that for a while, which may or may not come later. But, the most important thing, she made a full recovery and, apart from a weak chest for a few years, should be perfectly fine.

I handed in my very final garden design assignments last week. I really loved doing the course, but boy was it a lot of work. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how it is possible to make any money being a garden designer, unless you’re totally at the top of your game. Though I was pleased with what I managed to produce, I’m not convinced that it’s a career for me. I think I love learning about and working with all the plants a lot more than I enjoy wondering how you would construct a retaining wall. So the latest plan… …take another course! Ha ha, I do hope my Mum isn’t reading this as she would despair of my incessant course-taking. But there is a diploma 3 level horticulture course that is just crying out to me that I could take later in the year. And then I’ve found a really rather awesome looking masters in plant diversity. Does any of this earn money, erm, no, and therein lies the rub. We shall see.

What else? The hubby is still on shared parental leave, which is great. Our new house is still undergoing building work and will be for the next three months minimum, which is really not great. And, other than that, life continues as before.

Thank you to all loyal readers who’ve made it to the end of this page! High five for your persistence. And apologies that this is illustrated only with photos from Instagram. I haven’t got my big camera out at all in the past few months.

So, what have I missed with all of you? Hope life has been good…

* Home after three months away which you can read here if you’re so inclined.

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Five on Friday

Berry topped Victoria sponge cake
This was deeeelicous!

Cake bunting

Toddlers watching YouTube
Agog at the laptop

Well what a week!

  1. The big news is that we did get our mortgage valuation approved last week, so we’re (theoretically) good to buy our new house. Hurrahs all round. On a slightly less exciting note, we’re now involved in protracted wranglings with a six-person chain about a moving date. Five of the six have agreed on a date, but the bottom of the chain keep making ludicrous demands and changing their minds every few minutes about when they can / can’t complete. It’s been exhausting. We’re supposed to be exchanging today but we’ll wait and see if they can jump on board with everyone else date-wise. Never, ever let me move house again!
  2. I’ve also been trotting round our neighbourhood looking for a rental property we can take on for six months while we do building work to the new house. Man, I had forgotten how utterly dingy rental property can be. I looked round a house yesterday where the ceiling of the bathroom was flaking off and covered in mould. The second bedroom ceiling had huge chunks of plaster missing. The estate agent said that they were going to re-do the ceilings and was utterly certain we’d be fine to move in within a few weeks. Hmmm. Anyway, I think I have found somewhere now, I’m just waiting to hear if they will take us as tenants!
  3. On a calmer note (sort of) the sproglet’s fourth birthday party went off swimmingly last weekend. Thanks to all who left comments wishing him a good one! The pictures above are of the cake and the cake banner I made — his name, of course, is not Sadie, that was for his friend, but in my vague attempt to keep his private info off the internet, I didn’t photograph the one with his name on too… I made two cakes, this berry-topped Victoria sponge, and then a whole selection of bug-shaped cupcakes in chocolate and carrot. They were a huge hit. As was the bug hunt we organised (hidden bug toys around the park, and magnifying glasses for all the kids to go off and search for them) and the “pin the tail on the ladybird” that my friend organised for them all. A great party, where we had too much fun to take any pictures.
  4. The boys are obsessed with watching kids music videos on YouTube. I’ve been shattered this week, so a lot of time has been spent with them in the positions above, while I lie on the sofa with my eyes shut trying to gather the energy to sit up. This was happening yesterday when a nighttime song came on (along the lines of, “sleep tight, night night, I love you very much”…) when the oldest suddenly burst into tears and came running over to me sobbing, “That song makes me so sad, Mummy.” I hugged him, asked why it made him sad and, between huge sobs, he replied, “Sometimes music just does…” An artistic soul.
  5. Instagram stories. Have you seen? I don’t get it. I think the whole mini video revolution has entirely passed me by. (YouTube is used only for the children and the odd knitting tutorial in this house…) But honestly, I find most of the “stories” I’ve looked at overwhelmingly boring – someone I don’t know’s view out of a car window as they drive past somewhere or other, or a talking head saying good morning to me is just not what I want to spend my time watching. Am I alone here?

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Five on Friday

White allium | Wolves in London

1.

We’re a household of germs and lurgies this morning. I’ve lost my voice (and feel as if I’ve lost all muscles from my entire body, the amount of work it seems to walk up the stairs), the sproglet has a level of grouchiness that is usually associated with some form of illness, and the hubby is off work with a vomiting bug. Only the littlest has escaped, and remains cheerful, bumbling around the house singing songs to us and occasionally stopping to tell me, with a huge grin on his face, “I grumpy, Mummy, I so grumpy”…

2.

So I’m writing this, curled up on the sofa under a blanket, PJs still on and a roll of loo paper by my side for the constant nose wiping. Actually, if I’m making this all sound miserable, it’s really quite pleasant. The sprogs have just gone off to nursery and the hubby is now having a sleep upstairs and I have that rare moment of quiet and peace in the house, with the companionship of knowing someone else is in.

3.

Apart from all the bugs, work has been on my mind almost constantly this week. Work, or rather, the lack thereof. The sproglet turns four in just over month, marking four years in which I haven’t really done anything that could reasonably be called working. The lack of money, not to mention the lack of identity, has been grating on me these past months. When we applied for additional borrowing on our mortgage for our imminent house move, we were told that we could be lent more if I was taken off the mortgage, and it was in my husband’s name only. We’ve had to do so, house prices round us being so crazy that we couldn’t afford to move otherwise, but it was a real dent to my sense of being an independent, functioning, valuable member of society. And a feminist. Anyway, I could rant for hours about all this (and have done to numerous friends over the past few weeks) but the short result is that it’s made me really want to step up my plans for my own company and push ahead a little faster than I had originally thought.

4.

Luckily, two lovely family members have agreed to hire me to mastermind garden overhauls. I registered my own company last year, but have only done a few (very) small jobs since then, but now I’m ready to crack on with something a bit bigger. For my sister, I’m drawing up a planting plan to bring some colour into her garden (at the moment, she has huge swathes of grass and privet hedging, but not much flora). And my Mum has commissioned me to completely re-design her entire plot, which will be exciting, albeit a challenging task. I’m off to my Mum’s house at the weekend, to carry out a site survey and discuss initial plans with her. Garden design company is go!

5.

Though political, I really hate to discuss politics normally (I’ve spent too many evenings, pressed back against a wall in a gloomy pub with some half-inebriated uni friend aggressively shouting their beliefs at me for hours, oblivious to the fact I’ve said, six hundred times already, that I completely agree with them…) But next week, of course, is a pretty big deal, so I feel compelled to mention that I am, naturally, voting to stay in Europe, for all the reasons that everyone else has said before. The thought of leaving is pretty terrifying to me, but I remain hopeful that, on the day, a general sense of inclusiveness being better than alienation will win out. This time next week, we’ll know for sure.

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday