Gratitude and the Insurance Man.

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When we moved to Perugia a year and a half ago, all was new, we knew no one. Then slowly slowly we got to know people. Our first proper invite out to dinner in to Perugia was from our insurance man. A big man, full of laughter who turned up at our house wearing a black ACDC t.shirt, I love that about Italy people come to your house to do business. I love even more that our insurance man was wearing an ACDC t.shirt, I was half expecting him to air guitar… He laughed a lot, I liked him.

He invited us one evening to his very full house, he showed us great photographs that he had taken. He was a brilliant photographer. Whilst he was showing us around the garden a mini helicopter landed expertly in to his hands, his son and my son’s beaming faces were smiling and they were leaning out of the first floor window of his house. We met his wife and his parents, who lived downstairs below them. Our kids played with their kids. His daughter banged hard in to a tree, she sat at the dinner table with an egg protruding out of her head. He wiped it with antiseptic and smoothed away her tears.

We talked about photography, he loved photography. He showed me an art magazine, I knew someone in the magazine, I didn’t say anything. I felt a bit shy. His wife made great food, they were generous and warm.

On the way home from their house we talked about when we would see them and that we must invite them over, weeks passed. We didn’t, we kept saying we would. One evening a few weeks later it was mid-winter and on the way back from a dinner, his car slipped on the ice at a turn off from the motorway, he died two hours later in hospital. His big, vibrant, expansive life seemingly snatched from him and his family in an instant.

I am grateful for that dinner he gave us, I am grateful for my life and everything in it. It is so unbelievably precious.

Loving Yourself…

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This morning as I put on a dress my daughter said to me ‘Mummy, my friend thinks you are fat, she says you look pregnant’…

At said point a quick flash of rage flew up inside me. Wow here it starts, the scripting, the judging, the female need to be thin entering my 10 year old twin daughters ear and them having to deal with it. The story ‘Thin is good fat is bad, slim is better, chubbier is not’. I went for a walk.

I have a tummy, it sticks out, I am a women in her forties with bits that wobble. Then whilst looking at the Kickstarter website this morning I bumped into this…

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/embrace/embrace-the-documentary-that-will-create-global-ch?ref=home_popular

And a huge cheer went up in me. A woman who has been on a journey around her own body image and is trying to be part of social change to do something positive about it. I have been a ‘ripped-ish’ Zumba teacher and I felt old in my face as I felt too thin and skinny, I have been a chubby Mamma and felt wobbly and like I had eaten too much, learning to love my shape as a woman has been a journey, especially after having three kids. The initial scripting for me, is the important bit, the bit that needs to change. Being told thin is good. I don’t want this to continue in to my young daughter’s lives, the constant assessing and judging of shape. May they grow up to be accepting of all shapes.

So a big cheer to this wonderful woman Taryn Brumfett for doing something so positive about it. And a big cheer to all the beautiful women out there, what ever shape you are and to what ever srories that are written on your body, scars, lost boobs, tummies and all. It is all part of who we beautifully are.

Does Anyone Ever Sleep Whilst Camping?

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I recently went camping with my family and our new camping gear.

We were packed to the gunnels, you name it, it was in the car.

Having arrived safely at our site, we pitched our tents. There was no shade, the ground was hard, my daughter came down with flue on day one and there were mosquitos.

Night one, noisy, 4.30am LOUD BIRDS. I woke up, having abandoned my watch thinking it was about 6am. My fluey daughter and I roamed around as the sun rose. I did check the clock it was 4.30 am!

Night two, 4.30am LOUD BIRDS, I woke up at 6am, walked around with my son, we went away from the ‘camp’ as not to wake the others, we walked and collected bamboo for an hour in the morning heat.

Night three, woke up 4.30am LOUD BIRDS, went back to sleep woke up at 7am HURRAH! Boiling hot, husband looked at me and said ‘Day Three, Camping…’ he could hardly walk

Night four, no birds (they knew it was about to rain and went quiet) 5am THUNDER and torrential rain, tried to pack up camp, whilst ordering the kids around, one daughter got covered in mud, she couldn’t cope in her now mud strewn tent. My husband back gave way, I like a pack horse packed up the tent with my husband limping around trying his to do his best with a really bad back.

We were so glad to be home. But I think we are trying it again next week, we are going to a lake, in which I will do some serious floating…

Thoughts on camping?

Dancing, Chocolate, Coffee and all good things…

 

 

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In the morning I am quite seemingly ok but I hit 10.30am and I drop like a fly from one of those electric blue neon things, I hit the floor, in my head, if that makes sense.

 

Low blood sugar? Post caffeine droop? Not sure am trying to figure it out.

 

Then I wonder if everyone droops at that time around 10.30am and at 4pm? In Italy they say those are ‘mirenda’ times, time for a snack, is it really that simple? Almonds, in the pocket, all day is meant to be a goody, well not just in your pocket you have to eat them! And now my sister has told me it is about not eating sugar…to be further researched. (I recently totally cut out coffee and fell asleep all over the place and was a miserable jibbering wreck.)

 

Ok back to things that help me.

1. Positive words on the wall, it may seem corny but I think it works.

(I watched a documentary and there was a test with identical twins. They gave one of the twins negative words to look at and sad music to listen to. She was then told her to go shopping, she was a mess, had lost confidence, was very sad and if I remember rightly she bought nothing and was very grumpy and teary. Then the other twin was given positive words to look at and upbeat music to listen to, she had a great day, felt confident in herself had a good old shop! They later met up and it was clear that they had both had opposite experiences.)

 

2. Upbeat music. (see above, re twins and music) ok so I have to shelve my penchant for melancholically wallowing in the music of Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and go for upbeat songs. My latest is Tous Le Meme, by Stromae which sort of instantly makes me smile, although it is in French and am not 100% sure how up beat the words really are…

 

3. Dance, see above picture. I dance with my kids these days. There was a point in my life when I danced without children clinging to me, that was nice. But now my moves are a little inhibited when I have an 8 year old clinging to my waist, or my 10 year old girls saying ‘Mummy, look, can you do this?’ But generally dancing is good, if you like dancing.

 

4. Eat well.

 

 

Tips from my clever sister –

Avocadoes, nuts, exercise, sleep and chocolate… (the latter she says is bad but a real short term mood lifter.)

 

There are a few more which I will go on to write when I get more confident about blogging and start to give less of a monkies…I feel that day is fast approaching.

 

What do you do to pep yourselves up?

 

Oh and here is a little Stromae if you feel in the mood…

https://www.google.it/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=tous+le+meme

Cook With Love and Passion

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I slightly annoy myself when I look at that picture, as I feel like I am lying… as in truth I rarely cook with love and passion as I am so knackered.

In fact in order for it to happen I need a good night’s sleep, a fridge full of the right ingredients, no children around my feet (unlike now as my son is talking to me as I write this) and the inspiration to make something lovely. Or else I need to be transported back in time to my twenties or thirties, when I seemed to have had endless hours and I would ponder over cookbooks and generally spend alot of time making yummy food…

There are days when I really do manage to whiz up some passion and on those days the food tastes good, there are many days when I don’t and on those days the food is passable or sometimes possibly verging on dreadful but no one says anything.

However on the days when I think about that lady in the picture, I think it is based on the better me,  not the one that groans at the fridge and feels her feet dragging through the floor, not the one who has had a long day and is falling at the last hurdle.

So if you can ‘Cook with Love and Passion’ fantastic, invite me over! And if you can’t, love who you are when you are cooking that is the most important thing!

Enjoy the Rain…is it possible?

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This could be a real eye roller for some people, the page you skip and move swiftly on from, as the rain lashes down on your window pane. Or you just tried to get the shopping in and got soaked, were zipping up the kids coats and the zip broke, or it is your wedding day… I lived in South Africa and when it rained people would say ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day?’ and my thoughts were always, ‘No, it is raining…’ but it is a question of perspectives as I am from the U.K, where it rains, alot.

When I was younger I used to look at the rain on the windows in the back of the car, whilst we drove on endless car journies. Watching the drops and that thing they do when the wind pressure hits them, the fact that they sometimes go up and sideways, not down. Then in my twenties, at one really low point I was in East Finchley and going to sign on and I turned a corner and the rain and wind hit my face so hard that it really hurt. In that moment my dramatic self said ‘life will never be as bad as this again’ it wasn’t that bad in the scheme of things but I was twenty, unemployed and broke and for me it was bleak. I hated rain and I felt that the bad weather had conspired to aim itself at my face.

The truth is I live in Italy where it doesn’t rain as much, well in fact it rains more where I am right now than it does in Devon. It comes in massive downpours, which in a way is much more forgiving than constant drizzle. The other day I looked out of the window and I saw a huge black cloud on the horizon, I gathered up the kids and took them up the hill. I knew that at some point the cloud would burst overhead about halfway through our walk. We had a brolley and I told them not to put it up as there was lightening as well and I am paranoid about lightening. It poured, we got soaked, they looked at me confused and then they laughed, a lot.

So what I am wondering is… can one choose to enjoy the rain, to step past the grey misery and monotony of it and find acceptance with it? When it seems to be is lashing you in the face, driving you nuts and creeping in seemingly everywhere, can you enjoy it?

In all honestly the jury is out for me on this one when faced with months and months of drizzle but when I imagine myself out there in just a pair of colourful pants and a bra with my umbrella upside down and it does at least makes me laugh.

 

 

The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women is available from

 http://www.bookdepository.com/Lovely-Book-for-Wonderful-Women/9781780661605

The Lovely Book and how it all started…

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I was living in South Africa and had written and illustrated ‘The South African Illustrated Cookbook’ prior to meeting my husband, Ant. Shortly after we were together, I was pregnant with twins. Then when they were 18 months old I was pregnant again, with a boy. We lived on a fruit farm at that time. The hours slowed down when we were in baby mode, it was beautiful but gruelling at the same time. The kids weren’t sleepers, so neither were we. Time stretched. I used to bump into my husband in the middle of the night we would both have a baby on our chests and we would be jiggling. As the girls were identical twins, sometimes I had no idea which one I was holding. 

Once the kids were around 4 and 6 I wanted to do another book, I had previously written and illustrated a South African cookbook. At the time I had help with the kids so I had the luxury to escape for a few hours in the morning, to a space which was a big glassy shed in the garden of a house. It was a haven really at that point. I sat and sat thinking of writing a kids book, nothing came…I went blank.

Then I asked the deeper question ‘What do I need to write?’ and from there the idea was a book for myself and other women, to make them laugh and positively reflect on the good stuff. I decided to write to friends and asked them the basic question ’What makes you happy?’ and answers started pouring in, then I asked the friends to ask their friends and more e mails came in. It was uplifting and lovely to hear other women’s thoughts on what made them happy. The responses were always very similar and simple and heart-warming. So from the answers that were sent to me and from my own thoughts came The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women. It was first self-published in South Africa and has now been published in the UK. The reason it came in to existence in the UK is also due to the fact that a lovely woman named Kicki had it in her bag when she went to a meeting at the publishers Pinter and Martin. She magically brought it out and blew my trumpet for me. I had only met her once before! Talk about generosity of spirit. Thank you generous warm hearted Kicki.

 

I think that all over the world women do a lot. I wanted to write and illustrate a book that could make a woman stop, pause and relax, even if just for a moment. I really hope I have achieved that.

 

And for those of you that have the book I hope it inspires you to do something for yourself, even if it is to dress up as a bee, float in the bath or go out in the rain in your underwear…