Thursday, 29 July 2010


Everyone else is winding down for the summer; I am chasing my tail. This is a really busy time at work, and then we have the inconvenience of having to take a holiday in the middle of it.

I've barely seen the Lattes since school ended. They've been in holiday club. But don't worry about them - they get to eat pizza in front of High School Musical in 3D, and 'Troy and Gabriella come RIGHT OUT OF THE SCREEN and into the glasses, apparently. Much better than I could manage.

(In the spirit of at least thinking about taking a break, I went to the AV library to borrow some music for the car on holiday. Sadly bits of the AV library ceiling were falling down, and the whole thing was closed off except for one small pile of recently returned CDs, featuring gems including as Lee Meads and Cradle of Filth.)

So, basically, no time to blog. So I'll be off for now, and leave you with two lovely things - a little house necklace made specially for me by Silverpebble, and won in her recent Pass the Book giveaway (apologies for the bad photography):

And a lovely thing I came across at work - an online magazine of new fairy tales - free, but an opportunity to donate to charity. Enjoy.


Thursday, 22 July 2010

My new thing for today is - vlogging. Though who really knows what that is.

So I got given this Flip Video Camera at the John Lewis thing the other week. It's a dinky little camcorder - very simple to use, very easy to carry. It attaches to a computer with an integral USB that flips out of the top. It's clearly designed to rest on a desk next to a laptop, because plugging it into a desktop tower just leaves it hovering uneasily in mid-air. I had to make a teetering pile of books for the camera to sit on. Call me old-fashioned, but I do like a proper tangled wire.

At first I was sad that it didn't take pictures too, but then I found that you can choose a snapshot from a video. If you're serious about photography, that probably won't  be enough, but I'm no photographer. And there are times - Sports Day, for example - when I want to take a video, but I want a picture too. Now I can do both at once - for me that's one of its biggest advantages.

I thought the best way to demonstrate it would be by preparing a short, inexpertly made film using its integral software which shows the parched reality of life in our part of the country under the punishing hosepipe ban. Mr Coffee warns that 'there is too much sky in it', but I would like to point out that the film contains footage of all the sunny sky we have had in the last month, and I wanted to record every single last second of it.

As you can see, the quality is very good: the only thing lacking here is talent.

Untitled from Coffee Lady on Vimeo.

The music, by the way, is a free download from The Hoosiers (available here). Their first album was the soundtrack to our holiday last year: we liked it, the children got to shout 'COPS AND ROBBERS' a lot at the tops of their voices - everyone wins. Sadly they are bringing their new album out after we go on holiday this year. Couldn't they have rung us and checked? I can't stand a full week of Hannah Montana. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Anyway, since I subjected you to my wobbly film, you should get something nice to watch as well. This is the latest video from The Hoosiers.  It's got Bill Murray, Jackie Chan (okay, not really, but they're there in spirit) and a pretty young man in a tux. What's not to like?


Sunday, 18 July 2010

My weekend - from the sublime to the ridiculous

1 - The Sublime.

We went to the Super Duper Fair in Blackpool, mainly to have a peer at Jax and her letterpress. Mr Coffee had found her blog when he was buying a letterpress recently; she was very helpful, and since then we have been watching new things appear in her Folksy shop with growing covetousness. It was great to meet her, and we came home with lovely new things to dot around the Coffee House. This was her stall:

(I also loved the Memo stall, but was too alarmed to buy anything. This picture, next to this? This ship-in-a-bottle thing is getting a bit freaky now.)

2 - The Ridiculous

I was reading at the kitchen table when Littlest dropped a note onto the pages of my book. It was in Eldest's handwriting, which can take a bit of effort to decipher. This time it seemed to make no sense at all.

Gradually I realised that Littlest was emitting little whining and struggling sounds. I looked up: she had her dress on backwards, and one of her arms was trapped inside the fabric. I glanced back at the note, which now quite clearly read "Littlest has her dress on backwards. Love Eldest."

Then I was chosen as British Mummy Blogger of the Week because of my crafting. My crafting! Mr Coffee nearly spat out his tea. Which only goes to show that you can give people totally the wrong impression of you by blogging. Next week, I'm going to pretend to be a rocket scientist, and see how many people I fool.

In other news, I have added a new commenting system below, because I got frustrated with comments I couldn't respond to when Blogger gave me no return email address. I have no idea how these new comments work, though, so they may not last long. Please let me know if you hate them.


Thursday, 15 July 2010

It's a gift, that you didn't really ask for

So a strange thing happened, which necessitated a post about ships in bottles. On my way down to London last week, I was reading Scarlett Thomas's new book Our Tragic Universe (and very good it is too. You should read that) on the train. In it the narrator, Meg, finds a ship in a bottle washed up at her feet which is exactly the same as one she admired in childhood. It is a book where strange connections, coincidences and cosmic ordering are treated with both suspicion and intellectual curiosity.

So imagine how weird it was to walk towards Trafalgar Square and find this massive thing displayed on a plinth.

Thing is, I have always had a lingering regret which centres around ships in bottles. In my early twenties I worked for a few months in the press office for National Museums Liverpool, a group of six museums and galleries. Whilst meeting some press people in the Merseyside Maritime Museum, I watched a craftsman place a ship in a bottle to an audience of open-mouthed children. I loved his ships in bottles, and would peer at them gleefully every time I went there.

When I left, I harboured (harboured! get it?) a secret desire that my leaving present would be a ship in a bottle. Sadly, I had not communicated anything of the sort to anybody. I had limited confidence at the time, and had barely spoken to the woman who was my boss all the time I was there for fear that I would snap in two (there was nothing remotely wrong with her). Unsurprisingly, my ship-in-a-bottle wish was not granted, and my gift was a very small cup (I do not favour small cups) printed with a picture from the Walker Art Gallery which I wasn't particularly bothered about.

Especially when they had The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which would have made a much better cup, in my opinion.

Last year when I was in our local Maritime Museum I saw this obituary pinned onto the noticeboard. It made me sad, even though I'd never even spoken to the man. Because, you know, of the lack of social skills.

Long-term readers of this blog (that's just Alice) may remember the story of the woman who bought herself a case of champagne for Christmas every year because she knew her presents would be disappointing. When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought it was for you. But it's actually a present to me, a gift of ships in bottles with a bit of Arthurian magic thrown in. It's making up for past regrets, for things not said, and tiny cups. I'm enjoying it, whether you are or not.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Dear Santa. We need to talk.

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas. Obviously, because of my last post. But also as part of this Happiness Project thing I'm doing, which necessitates decluttering. Getting rid of the stuff your house is stuffed with is one of the ways to enlightenment, or something.

We've been crafting, insanely. I don't believe that any of us have enjoyed it. The rule has been to use as much damn tissue paper and glitter as you can throw at anything, and then not cry when it goes into the bin.

(How did we end up with all this stuff? Especially when my children's hobbies consist largely of watching television and jumping on the furniture.)

Going through the shelves was mind-boggling. Why have I been saving yogurt pots? We never use yogurt pots. Why haven't we done this Wooden Spoon puppet kit? Maybe because you have to have a degree in engineering to get the things to stay together?

I know Santa reads my blog. You know how close we are. So there are some things I need to bring to Santa's attention. Not that I'm ungrateful, or anything. But he needs to know.

Firstly, about this Felting Machine. By inserting a felt shape and a piece of clothing into the felting machine, and pressing the button up and down 250,000 times, you can loosely attach the shape to the clothing in order to transform it into something called a 'catwalk creation'. A slight side-effect is that the clothing ends up with little holes in it. I'd like to take a poll of people who have one of these, and find out just how many ended up using fabric glue instead.

Next up - the Hannah Montana Cut and Create. Because toys are so much better with pictures of Miley Cyrus on them. With the battery-powered Cut and Create, you use the wand like a pen to make perforations in paper, which can then be torn along to create a cut. Not unlike a pair of scissors, in fact.

Glue and scissors take up a considerably smaller amount of space.

Finally we come to the large box which contains the Nick Baker Pond and Rock Pool Kit. This isn't as easy. It's an educational toy. It demands respect.

This week we booked our summer holiday, the main criteria for which was going somewhere with rock pools. We have honestly organised our holiday around the Nick Baker Pond and Rock Pool Kit.  So if you're on the Welsh coast this summer, and you see a family with clothes covered in glitter and felt shapes, who are carrying a rock pool kit, that would be us. Please wave.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Doing the right thing

So this week I went to London. Because John Lewis asked me to. And I owe them a debt of gratitude because, several years ago when I was considering ordering ostrich feather dusters with alarming purple bits from the Flylady, I found demure, reasonably priced feather dusters in John Lewis. And they have turned my life around.

So, you know, I owed them one. And for that I suffered the terrible inconvenience of going to London, being plied with food, given gifts, and showed around beautiful room sets, before having time to wander idly round the National Gallery and have dinner with a friend. I went through all that, for them, because they helped me with my dusting.

Oh, the things I saw. Fashion. How I wished that the other members of The Changing Room had been there (we're up and running again for summer, if you're up for it). Wouldn't they just have loved the themed areas: Grace Kelly, English Eccentrics, Celia Birtwell, Military Look, Equestrian? Would they, like me, have spent several minutes staring adoringly at brown leather buckle boots?

Oh, the loveliness. 

And see, see, the beautiful colours.

(Ha! Fooled you! That last picture is of children's clothes! And if you've ever spent time ploughing sadly through High School Musical themed racks of clothes and things with horrifying slogans on them, they're a welcome relief.)

I saw cushions.

I saw sewing things. There were things there that were in danger of sparking a recurrence of my obsessive behaviour towards felt.

According to John Lewis, it was Christmas. They even blew snow at us. It was a little bit much to take in for me, a woman who hasn't even sorted out a summer holiday yet.

So how about I come back, a bit nearer the time, with some pictures of gifts and Christmas decorations? Besides, I'm waiting on a special picture that John Lewis have promised to send me - a picture that could end Mr Coffee's year-long search for the perfect slippers.

It'll be worth the wait.