Friday, 28 July 2006

it's hard being me

Every Friday at work, we get cakes - and when I say "cakes", I mean an assortment of things ranging from muffins to sausage rolls. Every Friday morning, I try to think about which cake I'd like. Do I want something sweet today? Savoury? A spinach pastry thingy or a croissant? Pain au chocolat or half a Cornish pasty? I try to decide before the cakes arrive because a) I will be able to make a beeline right for the cake box and nab the one I want before some other person takes the last one (this is especially important this time of year when we have hungry student interns) and b) it makes me feel like a dork when I stand there not knowing what to have. My brain locks up and I cannot decide what I want, leading to great confusion and the possibility that I'll grab some random cake, and it'll end up being one of those godawful rum balls.

Crap. The cakes are here.

Thursday, 27 July 2006

rush hour

I've been really, really busy lately and I'm terribly behind in my blog reading. If any of you have been up to anything particularly exciting/traumatic/interesting, could you please leave a comment and let me know what you've been up to? That way, all the highlights will arrive in my inbox, which is far more convenient for me. If you could also summarise what's been happening on Big Brother over the past four days, that would be grand. Oh, and can someone please let my husband know that he needs to pick up some hamburger rolls tonight? Thanks.*

In the meantime, Melanie has two new arrivals at her online bead shop: this (a cute little teddy) and this (pigs can fly!)

*(I'm joking. Well, not about being behind in my blog reading and being busy. That bit's true.)

Friday, 21 July 2006

zen and the art of fine dining

3/5 of our girly group (Julie was busy and Heather abandoned us for New Zealand last year. I mean honestly, beautiful and scenic NZ over us?! The woman has no sense of priorities.) went out for a meal at the Peking Restaurant in Cambridge, and it was fantastic. If you ever go, don't let the prices scare you (e.g. £11 for fried noodles) - three of us shared one plate and still went home with leftovers. If you know us, then you are aware that the word "leftovers" doesn't usually apply to our meals. "Seconds", yes. "Leftovers", one of us must have the flu.

What made this a terrific experience for me was not only the food, but also the service. The Happiest Man in Cambridge served us and, going by some of the things he told us, is part of a family-run business. We hesitated over what to order and he asked if he could make some suggestions. One of the dishes suggested was created by his father for his sister and himself, and he went through an array of other dishes and rated them according to spiciness. He laughed and joked with us, he was a man who obviously enjoys his food. As we left, I said that I wanted to "hug him and squeeze him and call him George". I was only half joking.

We talked about how service can affect a dining experience and that on the most part, bad service can completely ruin a perfectly prepared meal. I did, however, think of one exception: Kam Shing restaurant in Montreal. Kam Shing is notorious for having the surliest waiters in the northern hemisphere. They look at you like you've just walked into their homes during suppertime, trying to sell them low cost telephone packages. When my friends and I used to go there, we usually got the same waiter, who never really acknowledged us despite the fact that we were there on a fairly regular basis. He'd shuffle over to our table, staring down at his pencil and pad, and we would have this exchange every single time:
Friend: "I'll have the chicken chow mein."
Waiter: [eyes narrowing with an expression of mild loathing] "That's with bean sprouts, you know."
Friend: "Um...yes, I know. That's okay."
Waiter: [scribbles furiously]

Every. Single. Time. But the food was amazing and they always had lines out the door, even in the dead of a Montreal winter. I cannot think of another exception to this rule; the food has to be pretty spectacular to overshadow bad service.

No soup for you.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

the working mother's guide to guilt, chapter 1

Crazy thoughts run through my head on a fairly regular basis. I tend to chalk them up to sleep deprivation, hormones, or a combination of the two. For example, I was watching a report on obesity in Britain and I remembered my recurring fear of seeing my wobbly abdomen in one of those incidental shots of fat people they always show in reports like this. "Today, British people are gaining at an alarming rate." [shot of obese person in a crop top and tracksuit bottoms, man with an exposed beer belly, and me shopping unawares in Tesco wearing a particularly unflattering pair of skinny jeans.]

What was I on about? Right, crazy thoughts. Anyway, so this morning I noticed that Jack was slightly grubby but we were running so late that I couldn't give him a bath. Then I wondered if the workers at the nursery would notice and if they would think I'm a bit of a Bad Mum for letting my child get grubby. Not that the other children there are pristine, mind you; most of them have permanently runny noses. Still, I sometimes wonder if my intermittent laziness is detectable by others.

The manager of the nursery rang me today and wanted to know when Jack last had a poo. The funny thing is, I don't even flinch at stuff like this anymore. I knew where she was going with this because he was straining with all his toddler might yesterday and today. So then I started feeling bad for sending my son to nursery when he's in a constipated state, and then I started feeling bad for not being there to hold his little sweaty head in my arms. I abandoned my slightly muddy, scrambled egg-covered, poo-filled son for work. Bad Mother.

For all the posts I write about my dispair with the "Yummy Mummy Syndrome" (i.e. the inability of society to accept the fact that most of us are fat, tired, and not at all interested in Stella McCartney's latest line of thigh-high vegetarian boots), I often fall victim to my own feelings of guilt. Because being a mother, if anything else, is mostly about guilt: either experiencing it yourself or inflicting it on your children at a later date.

So here I sit, waiting for a phone call from someone to let me know if Jack managed to squeeze out a poo or if I need to take him to see the doctor. If anyone thinks the life of a working mum is glamorous, they are sorely mistaken. Yummy Mummy, my arse.

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

news i need to know

So what is the difference between Diet Coke and this new Coke Zero nonsense? Seriously, I need to know. It was bad enough when Pepsi came out with Pepsi Max (I still don't understand how it differs from Diet Pepsi), Coke didn't need to follow suit.

Were marketing people bored that day?

Sunday, 16 July 2006


This year, I decided to grow vegetables. This is no mean feat; I've never attempted to grow anything edible before. Well, unless you count herbs - dead herbs, at that. As some of you may remember, I am excellent at killing off most forms of plant life so this gardening attempt is quite harrowing. We've got low fence panels on both sides at the end of our garden, and the veggie patch is visible to the neighbours on both sides. I get regular comments like "Ooh your tomatoes are doing well" and "What are you growing in that pot? Are you sure it's not dead?", and I'm telling you, the pressure is enormous. We've even got duelling vegetables as one of our neighbours is growing runner beans and various other things. I've also got green-thumbed in-laws who have already harvested several cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes. Me, I was excited by the 23 peas I managed to squeeze out of a dozen petite pois plants a few weeks ago.

So here is our garden as it currently stands, along with my potato harvest so far. Now to be fair, I don't have a greenhouse, I have a tub of potatoes still growing, and I have no bleedin' idea what I'm doing. Just to have green things remaining green and leafy is a huge accomplishment for me. I briefly considered getting chickens, lured by the attraction of fresh eggs at my disposal, but we don't have the space for it and birds scare me.

I grew up in the city. Does it show?

Friday, 7 July 2006

a good time was had by all, eh?

Some bits from Saturday's Canada Day BBQ festivities. Incidentally, if you ever want to get Sleemans (and other decent Canadian beer) in the UK, you can order it from Beers of Europe. Next day delivery too, which is nice.

The infamous and absolutely brilliant beaver pinata, handcrafted by the lovely Caroline. It made Chris giggle like a loon.

Sugar pie, which is a bit like a treacle tart to you British types. It was met with a similar reaction as my pumpkin pie a few Thanksgivings ago, varying from "Mmm. Interesting" to a small polite bite and leaving the rest on the plate to "Oh my god, that is amazing" from a couple of people. Maybe it was just Paul and I with the latter reaction, come to think of it. I keep forgetting how sweet the North American palette is compared to the English, and this pie was not for the fainthearted.

And here's proof that my son is indeed half Canadian. Obviously if he was fully Canadian, he wouldn't have gone for the Stella.

Thursday, 6 July 2006

for pete's sake

It is with heavy heart that I announce the departure of my esteemed colleague Pete (don't worry, he hasn't dropped dead; he just finished working here). I have many fond memories of Pete, some of which appeared on this site over the years. For example:
Yesterday, a workmate (we'll call him "Pete") grabbed hold of another (female) workmate's PC and sent a message simply stating "I love you" - to another female workmate. So in keeping with that theme, I suggested that Pete send "I love you" messages to random people today. So far, he's sent love-themed emails to three men: two of whom have responded (one rather gracefully), and the third has yet to reply.

This is latest one Pete sent:
"What part of South Africa is it you come from? Jo'burg? Don't you think the sunrises there are wonderfully romantic? Just makes you want to snuggle up with someone on top of some hill and just watch it come up...I'm so bored down here... I'd love some company from a South African."

Pete has created some sort of Turner Prize award winning sculpture in our room. It really does defy description - needless to say, it involves office furniture in a creative arrangement. It's sort of like that scene in "Poltergeist" when the mother turns her back for a second, turns back round, and her kitchen table and chairs have been stacked in a bizarre formation...except Pete took a few minutes to do this and we were all watching him. "Polterpete"? "Petergeist"?

It's a sad, sad loss for Citrix. The sane/insane scale has now tipped ever so slighty to the "sane" side, which brings me great sorrow. Pete, you will never be forotten. We wish you the best of luck in your new career as a rodeo clown at the Calgary Stampede. Bon voyage, mon ami!

(So gutted about leaving us that he showed up in his pyjamas on his last day. Poor lad.)

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

it's that time of year again

I will never, ever cease to giggle at pictures of people playing tennis.


Tuesday, 4 July 2006

newsflash: real pregnant women get fat

So I was flipping through my weekly supply of high brow popular literature and came across an article about Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice). Accolades were given for Geri's fabulous post-baby body, a mere four weeks after giving birth! She's in her size 8 (that's a US size 6, kids) skinny jeans already. Nancy wossername who's married to Vic Reeves is also incredibly thin after giving birth days ago to - wait for it - twins! And apparently Katie Holmes has hired a personal trainer in a desperate bid to return to her pre-pregnancy figure for her wedding. Aren't they fabulous?


For the love of water retention and fat stores for breastfeeding, please stop publishing articles like this. Women have a distorted sense of body image as it is; we don't need the media to tell us that fat is bad even after just giving birth. What normal woman has a perfectly flat tummy less than a month after giving birth, particularly after a c-section? Where are our priorities when our biggest concern as a new mother is getting back into skinny jeans?

There's been a recent magazine spread showing a certain celebrity in all her pregnant glory, but she's been airbrushed within an inch of her life. Surely even she must have stretchmarks (especially as this is her second child in less than a year) and rolls of fat. Instead she looks like she's been modelled out of styrofoam and sprayed with a fine mist of bronzing powder. You can't even see her c-section scar, despite the shot of her in nothing but a strategically placed sheepskin. They've erased all evidence of a previous birth and edited out any signs of a current pregnancy, except for the bump. It's like pregnancy in the movies (or my personal favourite, the gravity-defying bump in "Lost") where perfect bodies strap on a prosthetic belly, and remain fashionable and gorgeous.

In reality, pregnancy is like filling your body with lumpy cottage cheese and 50 litres of olive oil, drawing a relief map of the Himalayas with a purple marker pen on 90% of your body, blowdrying your hair until it resembles burnt grass, using those comedy binoculars that leave black rings around your eyes, planting hair follicles in strange and surprising locations, inflating your hands/feet/face with a bicycle pump like a Peking duck, and boobs that skim the surface of your navel. With a bump.

I would pay big money to see that celebrity picture.

Monday, 3 July 2006

thanks giving

Yesterday, I woke up feeling like hell. Tired, hungover, and irritable in the sweltering heat - and not at all enthused about having to go into Cambridge and plod around the greens at 1:30 in the afternoon. I felt guilty because I hadn't trained very much (although I did have valid reasons for not doing so), and could have kicked myself for claiming that I would run the whole thing. What was I smoking that day? So many people sponsored me, and now I would have to let the runners go ahead of me and start with the walkers. I imagined small children and people missing limbs dashing ahead of me, while I hid under dark glasses and a baseball cap, mentally writing my apology to those who gave money expecting me to run.

And then I thought: sod it. I'm going to run as much as I can and if I do this in anything under 45 minutes, I'll be ecstatic. I've never finished the race in under an hour before, so anything less would be an improvement. I walked, then I ran, and walked, and ran again until my legs felt wobbly and my lungs started to burn. Marshalls applauded and shouted out words of encouragement and good lord almighty, I was actually passing people! A lot of people! Many women were walk/running the race, and I found my motivation in trying to keep up with these women. I passed the 2k mark and I felt great. As I trotted past each marker, I felt more exhilarated. It took every last ounce of energy to run the final 1k, and as my internal organs were on the verge of imploding, I passed the finish line...I did the course in 40 minutes.

I know that to any runner (even a beginner), doing 5k in 40 minutes isn't exactly something to brag about but for me, it was a huge accomplishment. I was cheered on by my husband, son, in-laws, brother-in-law and sister-in-law (and Jasper), which really meant the world to me. As an added bonus, I was bloody relieved to have made it without paying the consequences for the previous day's beer consumption and overeating. Today, every single fibre of my being hurts. But as the cliche goes, the pain is worth it.

I did this to honour the memory of my grandma who died from ovarian cancer in 1991; someone I miss with all my heart. We all ran with banners on our backs with the names of those who are missed and the victors we celebrate. It's impossible not to be moved by an event like this, but what touches me even more is knowing there are so many kind souls in the world. Friends, workmates, family, and strangers who only know me through this site helped me raise £1,100 for Cancer Research UK.

I can't even come up with the appropriate words to express how much this means, so I simply have to say thank you.

Now you see me...

Now you don't!