Saturday, 19 November 2011

A week of learning...

It's been quite a week. I've been kayaking with Olympic Gold medalist Tim Brabants twice (well, okay, he kayaked and I stood on the bank - well, come on - the water is about 10 degrees. I'm not that dedicated) - once at Dorney Lake and once at Teddington. Dorney Lake is absolutely beautiful - if you've got tickets for next year's rowing, you're a lucky person.

Courtesy: Dorney Lake

Going kayaking (okay, okay, watching) with the best person in the world is certainly an eye opener. This is what I've learnt:

1. The kayak itself is absolutely bloody tiny. Well, it's almost five and a half foot long, but it's so narrow. Seriously, I doubt that I could fit in it with my hips. It's literally razor thin.
2. As a result of its narrowness (not sure if that's a word), it's almost impossible to balance  in. You can see what happened to someone who tried it here. Unless you're an Olympic athlete, in which case you've spent a lot of time practising, and then you're so good, you can stand on it. While it's in the water. Showing off? Maybe.
3. Most of your body is actually not in the kayak. Interesting.
4. The water in the Thames is cold. And not very appealing. And you can tell this just by standing next to it and looking. Believe me.
5. If you want to sport impressive core muscles, the trick is to learn to balance on a swiss ball. Standing up. And then, just to set yourself another challenge, throw a medicine ball about with a friend who is also standing on a swiss ball. And then repeat the whole exercise. Frequently.

I'm beginning to realise why I'm not an Olympic kayaker. To be fair, a distinct lack of talent might also have something to do with it. But I'm focusing on the dislike of cold water. For the time beginning. 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Happy Halloween! (How very American of me)

I honestly cannot believe it's Halloween already. Where did 2011 go? Here at Martini Towers we really have go into the Halloween spirit (which I know goes against everything it should do here, but really, I think it's just a bit of harmless fun). Now that we live in the sticks, where the neighbours are friendly and the children actually come knocking for a chocolate bar, rather than to throw eggs at you, we've gone the whole hog and put carved pumpkins out in the front garden. Yes really. If any of the neighbours have spoken to Mr. Martini, no doubt now they'll assume he definitely is American (as opposed to Canadian). 

Elder Martini and I baked some Halloween cakes this morning. Okay, they are just fairy cakes, with rather scary icing and chocolate buttons. I'll be surprised if any last until tomorrow. But, we are rather proud of our efforts:

(That's orange glitter by the way. Can't go wrong with a bit of glitter.) In other news, you'll be pleased to know that the Christmas shopping is coming along nicely. But, I'm sure this organisation can't last for long...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

New home, new beginnings

Moving house is undeniably hard. Dealing with the seller, the purchaser (love the chain system that is so successful in England), the solicitors and the estate agents is nothing but fun, fun, fun. But, after the contracts are signed, the removal people have gone and you've made your first cup of tea, apparently the real work begins. And I haven't done this with children before (Mr. Martini doesn't count), so I was totally unprepared for how difficult it would be to  unpack and organise stuff. On that note, where did all this stuff come from? How come we all ready fill a four bedroom house, complete with loft and garage, when we came from a three bedroom flat with no storage? How does that work? Maybe the removals people accidentally unloaded an extra truck at our house? We wouldn't know, because I haven't got to the end of the boxes yet.

Living in the provinces is turning out to be quite fun. Admittedly, the commute isn't exactly a dream (I think I can walk faster than a good number of South West trains) but the lifestyle  more than compensates. We have a ten foot trampoline (courtesy of Martini grandparents on the US side) in the garden for goodness sake. Who could ask for more? Certainly not elder Martini, who plays on it everyday. I think he'd sleep out there if he could. 

There is more to write, but unfortunately the Martini children are in the process of killing each other over a jigsaw puzzle. I will return. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Moving on...

Well, it's been a long time coming, but we finally have a move date. 23 August to be exact. It hasn't been easy. To be honest, I think I've aged 32 years, but that's another story. We exchange next week - at which point, the bottle of Verve Cliquot that's currently on ice (and has been since about the end of May) will be opened and inhaled. Obviously we'll wait until the children are in bed. 

In other exciting news, I've discovered that I'll be attending this year's BOA Ball. This is often referred to as the Oscars of the Olympics - last year, Prince Harry was there don't you know. This year, no royalty has yet been confirmed, but Tom Jones is headlining. Which can be no bad thing. Only concern is that I'll have to find a red carpet dress to wear. Any suggestions accepted. I'll even be able to reuse it at the PR Week awards (yes, we've been nominated. Thank God. I put my neck on the line convincing the firm to pay up the £150 entry fee - hilarious, when you consider they randomly spend hundreds of thousands on random websites that don't work, but that's another story) so I can halve the cost by calculating cost per wear. But, probably still Coast here I come. A trip to Westfield is definitely in order.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's official - moving house is hell

Whoever said money is the root of all evil had clearly never moved house. (Although, to be fair, money is causing it's fair share of problems during this move - so maybe not wrong, just misguided.)

Number one - who remembers I hate Southwark council? £156 for a pre-assignment pack that takes almost three weeks to materialise. As you can imagine, my expectations for this pack were high. Such cost, such a long time to prepare - surely, it will be a masterpiece. Almost the work of a genius. Alas, not so. It's approximately (and I am summarising here) four pages long, and I'm fairly sure all they had to do was run a report and hit print. What I really love about Southwark is what you get back from the exorbitant service charges and council tax. To be honest, I'll be glad to be rid of them. 

Number two - solicitors. Ours isn't bad, exactly, although I think she could be chasing things a bit more. But the whole mammoth process is slowed down by a combination of our solicitor, their solicitors and estate agents - nothing is quick. I'm almost tempted to become a conveyancor myself. It would certainly be quicker to train and do my own sale and purchase, as opposed to wait for the other parties to come to the table. 

Number three - tenants. Now, I have nothing against tenants per se, but these particular tenants need to get out of our new home so we can exchange contracts. I appreciate that in effect we're kicking you out and all that, but chop chop. I want to have some summer in the new place.

Finally, number four - removals companies. What's all that about? How can it only be a few hundred extra pounds to come in and pack up all my stuff, as well as remove it? Surely that distribution of cost is wrong? But, that said, carry on. If you're willing to pack up our whole house for about £300, you crack on. I hate packing so it will save me a job. I'll be too busy sending multiple letters to Southwark announcing my departure. You probably won't miss me, but let me assure you, I won't miss you one jot.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A slightly pox-ridden Martini Mummy Towers could be moving...

MM Towers is not the best place to be in the world right now. My darling daughter (who, may I remind you is just seven months) has caught the chicken pox. Mini Martini (my two year old son) had it a couple of weeks ago, and that wasn't exactly a walk in the park, but at least we could dose him up with piriton syrup (definitely recommended). Baby Martini, however, is not quite so fortunate (it's not suitable for children under two). All she can make do with is calamine cream, baby calpol and bicarbonate of soda in her bath (yuk - but it is helping). Fingers crossed we're now through the worst, but it is heart breaking to see her suffer so much. If I have any more kids, I'm definitely getting them immunised.

However, in far more exciting news, we've sold our house. Well, I say sold, but of course, this being the English system of selling houses, what that actually means is we've accepted an offer and our crossing our fingers nothing buggers it up. The survey was done last week, so hopefully we should find out if we've passed that test next week. But who knows? 

At the same time, we've found a new place to buy - much bigger, fab garden and a separate playroom. It's heaven. It is also, however, in the suburbs. It's probably not very cool to say this, but I'm really looking forward to it. And, in an attempt to make even the commute more bearable, I've decided I'm going to buy a scooter - a Vespa, naturally - to ride into the City, rather than get on the train. In the summer at least. I'm going to do the CBT on Saturday, which should be interesting. I've never even been on a scooter on holiday. But, how hard can it be? I ride a push bike (and a Boris one at that) around London all the time. Surely a motorised version will just be easier? Plus, I'm going to view a second hand scooter tomorrow night (thank you Gumtree). Now, where can I get one of those retro helmets?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Holiday? What holiday?

Well. That certainly was an interesting three weeks. Let me summarise:

1. This was the holiday of the phantom wedding. In other words, there was no wedding. Which meant there was no holiday in Manhattan. Instead, after hanging out in Washington (Obama was keen to say hi), we headed for the dizzy heights of Long Island. And I don't mean the Hamptons. No. I mean suburbia central. Certainly different from the plans. Now, far be it from me to criticise a non-wedding (I'm a divorcee myself, so a strong believer that if there are any doubts WHATSOEVER then you definitely should not do it). But a getaway in Manhattan this holiday was not.

2. The White House would not let me in. Bastards. They gave some excuses about being too busy, but personally, I think they are threatened by me. Their loss. I did enjoy the Capitol building though. So there.

3. Dulles Airport does not have great shops and is not an ideal place to base yourself for 12 hours with two small children. I am talking from experience. Jet Blue, however, is the airline of choice. They were brilliant. US air traffic control - not so much.

4. British Airways was extremely disappointing. Poor service, poor customer relations and a poor attitude. And yet, I seem compelled to continue flying with them. I have no idea why.

Seeing family (on both sides) was fantastic. Now it's back to business as usual. Apart from this weekend - which sees an enforced family get together of fun. We'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, the house hunt continues. West Molesey (and the Bentalls Centre in Kingston) here we come. Perhaps that suburbia central experience has rubbed off after all....

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

It's up to you, New York, New York

We leave in three weeks. There's no doubt that I'm absolutely dreading the travel (not least because I *accidentally* put the wrong date of birth in for my daughter so we could buy her a seat - why on earth there's a restriction on that I have no idea) - approximately 12 hours in airports, taxis and planes will be no fun with a toddler I am certain. But, as the plans come together, I have to admit that I'm genuinely getting excited.

Before we head to NYC, we're making a pit stop in Washington. This is very exciting. There's a plan in the works for me to take a tour of the White House - I've got a feeling it will be exactly like I'm on The West Wing - and apparently Washington at this time of year is beautiful. Then, we're getting on a train (yes, that's how we roll) and going to New York. If the babysitter can be arranged, then Mr. Martini and I will be having a romantic night out at PDT. If there's no babysitter in sight, then it will be a very quite room service meal. But no matter. We will be in a different city and that in itself will be a treat. Even if we're only looking out of the window.

Also, and it's no coincidence, we're staying at The New York Palace, which is right opposite the flagship Banana Republic (my go to shop for staples). Given that Mr. Martini gave away my entire last wardrobe, he can't even moan if I spend more time in there than I do in the hotel. Not for a minute. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Keeping up appearances

The very fabulous notSupermum recently wrote an excellent post on making the effort to put on make-up. It made me think - it is actually possible I make more of an effort now than I did before children. I wear make-up to work every day, do my hair and wear heels (although not to commute in - that would just be silly). But I didn't used to bother. Back in the agency days, trainers, jeans and a comb through the hair - I was set to go. These days, I need to look the part - holding your own with 150 partners is no mean feat. Plus, I think it makes me feel more human - and more than 'just a mum'. I am fearful that if I stayed at home, I may disappear into a heap of loungewear with Homes Under the Hammer on in the background (you can't go wrong with that programme, by the way). But I do love to come home from work, take off the suit, take out my contact lenses and feel ready for the evening. Just add wine. 

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Working Mum

Going back to work in a contract capacity has been a fantastic experience for me. I shouldn't really admit this, but it's great to be in a job, but not have to worry about internal politics or any game playing. Just do a good job and go home. It's brilliant. Plus, you always know that you're finishing (or could finish) at the drop of a hat, so if you're not happy, you can walk. If we didn't need to get a mortgage later this year, I would definitely opt to do this from now on. 

So, in an attempt to get a permanent job, I've met just about every recruitment firm in London (most of whom are absolutely bloody useless) and had a couple of interviews. One went well, one not so well and one was disastrous. This is mainly because I was a bit over confident - I felt the job was a bit too junior and the pay was below what I wanted - and unfortunately this is what came across. Not my finest hour. But what I have realised is that it's not just about getting a job; I actually want to make the right move for my career. Which is harder than I thought. I'm at second stage with a company that could be a real opportunity - it's in a new sector that's notoriously difficult to get into - but I worry that it could be damaging to go from a top flight firm to a much smaller one. I'm not going to think about this any more just yet - I haven't got the job, so it will be a nice problem to have. 

This is when I realised that I'm getting old. This was not the sort of thing I used to care about - pretty much the salary was the only thing that mattered - but now, along with things like benefits and contracted hours, it's a major consideration. I guess it's a matter of time. Things tend to work out for the best. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

My life in facts - the top ten

1. Finally, at 13 weeks, baby Martini is going through from 10.30pm until about 7am. Quick - book the baby sitter! (In fact, we've already booked the baby sitter. It's a meal out for the grown-ups on Saturday night. No high chairs, bibs or sippy cups in sight. Bliss.)

2. My short term contract finishes on Friday. I've absolutely loved working, but am also looking forward to some time off again. Nothing like having to get up in the morning that makes you realise you've taken 'Homes Under the Hammer' for granted.

3. Yesterday, on the way home on the bus, I sat next to Ashley from Michel Roux's Service. That's just the way I roll. And, if you're wondering, he really does sound like that in real life.

4. My Boris Bike key finally arrived today. Needless to say obtaining that was not a pain free experience, but I won't bore you with the details. I have to say, providing you're not relying on trying to use the terminals (a 'casual' user obviously = loser), the scheme is absolutely brilliant. 

5. Elder Martini's cough has returned. Another trip to the doctor ensued. More drugs have been prescribed. More joy for bedtime.

6. Mr. Martini and I have discovered Mad Men. That's the evenings sorted for the next month then.

7. I have discovered Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. TV gold. 

8. Plans are afoot for my sister's wedding in New York in April. I'm not sure what dress I'm going to wear yet - there are some good options in Coast. I've been more interested in the kids clothes to be honest. Plus I'm also slightly concerned about the logistics of travelling with two children. Is it really worth taking two pushchairs? Car seats? The list goes on...

9. I accidentally discovered, in an email I fished out of my junk mail, the reading list for my MSc course that starts in September. Not a very studious start. I'd also forgotten that text books apparently need to cost £70 for no reason whatsoever. Let's hope that LSE has a second hand book shop.

10. Did I mention that Baby Martini is sleeping through the night?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Are we nearly there yet? And by there, I mean Friday

So, we're over the hump of the week. Thank goodness. It's only been three days, but I'm not finding full-time work, coupled with two children under two particularly easy. It'll be the lack of sleep that's the main problem. Baby Martini only tends to wake up once between about 11pm (I'm just waiting to do that feed now) and 7am - but that one feed does really make all the difference - it means no more than four hours in any one stretch. And I actually need about ten. I am actually slightly worried that I may be scaring my co-workers - although they are still too polite to say anything - which is at least one bonus to freelancing. 

It is, in all honesty, slightly weird to be back in the workplace. My brain actually did hurt on Monday - it's been quite a while since I had to look at stats or write a press release. Plus, I missed Homes Under The Hammer. But, having a nanny is absolute bliss. As well as the necessary caring for the baby (good), she cleans (without asking), she does the washing and, joy of joys, she sterilises the bottles and prepares the feeds. That is my least favourite job and is worth the money right there. I'll be sad when the day comes that BM is old enough to attend nursery.

So, three days down, two to go. Roll on Friday. Mr. Martini and I might go for a quick drink at the local (if I'm still awake). Then it will be home for a takeaway to see in the weekend. Rock and roll. 

Friday, 14 January 2011

Big Hair - big success

Normally, I am absolutely useless at doing my own hair. Make-up isn't a problem but for some reason, I've never been able to fully get the hang of trying to blow dry my own hair - far too tricky to get to the back - I need another pair of hands and ideally eyes in the back of my head. Until now. I saw the Babyliss Big Hair advertised just before Christmas and wanted to get one, but it was out of stock everywhere. But earlier this week, I went to the tiny Boots on the Walworth Road, and there one was. 

My expectations weren't that high - I've pretty much tried every gadget going and they don't usually live up to the advert. This, however, is bloody brilliant. Easy to use - even the first time, although it does get better with practice - and the results are excellent. I would highly recommend it. Buy it - you won't regret it. 

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Happy New Year and all that

Well, that's Christmas done for another year. I've packed up the decorations (and sorted them all properly - now we have the storage unit, we finally have enough space to pack properly) and the house has returned to some state of normalness (well, ish). Apart from the fact that we look remarkably like a small branch of the Early Learning Centre, you'd never know it was here at all. And in a way, I quite like that, because you have it all to look forward to again. I'm certainly not one of those that gets sad when it's time to finish Christmas - that's what makes it so much fun.

Less fun is the fact I've been sick over the past few days. And not just a cold, but properly bed-ridden. Awful. And the worst of it is, I missed my personal shopping appointment at John Lewis. Which reminds me, I must call them to rebook. 

Now the new year is here, I feel it's time to crack on. Get a new job, lose the baby weight and possibly even move house. I don't really do new year resolutions, but if I did, those would be my three. (Fourth could be 'rebuy my entire wardrobe' - with Mr. Martini footing the bill. Obviously.)

I realised today that I have not exercised for almost six months. This is very bad news. I am completely unfit. I arrived at this conclusion five minutes into the Davina Body Buff workout, which is embarrassing in itself. Usually, I would laugh in the face of such fitness dvds. But, with two children I have unwillingly admitted that the only other type of exercise open to me is running or biking - and for that, Mr. Martini has to be at home to babysit. Which means I can either exercise at some ridiculous time in the morning (why bother going to bed?), in the evening (which, let's face it, is never going to happen) or at the weekends. And my body needs more than twice a week, I assure you. So, after some thorough web research, it seemed like the latest Davina dvd was a good enough choice. 

I've never really done one of these dvds before, but I do recommend this one. I don't know if it actually what it promises (a buff body, I assume) but it certainly got my heart going, which can only be a good thing. Yes, I have to keep the curtains closed and the neighbours are probably wondering what's going on, but worth it when it's raining and cold. Sure, it's no substitute for proper exercise, but surely better than nothing. 

In an attempt not to completely kill myself, I only did the cardio and abs workout today. There are others - legs, some boxing thing and some I can't remember - I'll report back on how good they are. And, whilst I'm a far way off sharing my weight with you, I'll also try and report on how successful they are. Fingers crossed. Probably would help if I cut down on the cake intake too. One step at a time.