For the love of blogging

This week I nearly thought it was a good idea to stop blogging. Later this year I am hoping to start something new. A commitment on top of work, on top of my blog, and on top of the pursuit of being the best mum ever. This week I got an email saying I wasn’t being considered for an opportunity because my page views and follower numbers were too low. It really hurt. But it wasn’t news. I started blogging to record memories. I carry on, well, for the love of blogging. But the email made me think about stopping.

Rejection is a really weird thing. Because there was nothing incorrect about the email. It’s just usually I avoid opportunities where someone’s looking for x of this or x of that. I am fortunate that a lot of opportunities which suit my blog come via email, because my blog fits. This one was just a ‘drop this person an email’ sort, and I just felt a bit unhappy as a result.

But when I came to reflect on whether September should realistically see me stop blogging, that hurt too. I live in my perfect world, that like when you have another child and your heart grows a bit bigger, that taking on a commitment that I have aspired to will simply mean my day grows a bit longer. Aaaaahhhh. Delusional.

The thing about blogging is this. Yes, my family have been afforded some of the most wonderful opportunities. My previous blog saw us working with Butlins as an Ambassador for two consecutive years, with Graco and Quinny on opportunities which helped us with ‘stuff’ for the boys. This new, more me, blog has seen us work with Chessington, and our favourite theatres, and so many opportunities we have loved.

But more so, so much more. I have met the most wonderful people.

And when I think about what I would give up if I gave up blogging, it’s the opportunity to meet inspiring people, and to be fortunate to call some friends.

I know there’s so many more than the few I’ll mention.BloggingBut there’s Sarah. I met Sarah because of the Graco thing. But that was just the start. Since then Sarah has been a rock. Always there when there’s a bad moment. Always there to share. Sarah’s kindness of spirit astounds me. Especially as a new mum of three- she did the whole pregnancy thing THREE times! And she still was better at keeping in touch with me than I am with friends.BloggingThen there’s Sara-Jayne. Sara-Jayne and I met as randoms, only missing the red carnation. Sara-Jayne has effortless style. And she’s generous with it. She has instinctive style. I can aspire but it will never be anything other than learned. Sara-Jayne has patience beyond mine, perhaps that’s the ex-teacher thing, but it feels like nothing is rushed, everything is as is, and everything is wonderful. One day I tell you, that will be me. But just to be in her company, well I’m sure the fairy dust will eventually rub off.BloggingAnd there’s Sian. Sian is wiser than her years but so much cooler than half her years. I met Sian at Cybher. And Sian has such generosity that she overlooks my neediness and lets me be nearly as cool as her. Sian amazes me with her past, the strength which is so intrinsic to her. And I hope she might ask of me as easily as I ask of her. 

I know a good friend as someone who doesn’t judge my driving. I once reversed into a parking space to which one of my passengers asked if I had recently passed my driving test. Yes. About. Twenty. Years. Ago. Oddly I had know the person since I was 16. Subtle.
Conversely, Alina coped with me driving to Hereford and back. And didn’t react when I missed the turn she advised me to take. I love Alina because even after that incident she recently suggested car-sharing.Blogging Photography with Sara-Jayne JonesI’m not really sure how I met Alina, other than me being her stalker. I think it’s between Blog Camp and our mutual love of the Sherman. Alina has the belief and inspiration to make you know she can achieve anything she puts her mind to. And if you want to see what belief can achieve just check out what she’s doing to her home.

And this is what blogging does.

When you’re like me and have a job which doesn’t have an office. When you don’t get to see people regularly and converse about life and the universe. Blogging just works. You get to meet the most wonderful people.
And hope that one day you might get to call one of them a friend.

Disclosure: I’ve only just realised this, but all four of these amazing women have had to put up with sharing a room with me. That must really make them the best women the world has on offer.

Photography Weekend with Sara-Jayne Jones

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a Photography Weekend hosted and run by Sara-Jayne Jones from Keep Up With The Jones Family blog.

I truly believe life places people in your path. I met Sara-Jayne some years ago at a blog conference, Cybher. I don’t really know how we came to be chatting beforehand. For some reason I thought she was Welsh, she’s not- although she studies in Wales and I believe her when she tells me she’s an awesome rugby player.

In similar circumstances, I met Ali from We Made This Life, I think at Blog Camp in Birmingham, Ali isn’t Welsh either, but she’s lucky enough to live here.

And along with two others, we all came together in Herefordshire in a beautiful home, to learn about how to use a camera in manual.

I went with low expectations, over the years many have tried and failed, I have accepted my brain copes with two considerations, but with three, it’s lost.Keep Up With The Jones Family Photography WorkshopBut alongside a complete love of Sara-Jayne’s photography, I was willing to take the risk in her confidence in me. In her previous life Sara-Jayne was a primary school teacher, and she studied law- so making false promises is not in her nature, along with having her feet heavily in the reality of learning.

And so, this post is of course me eating humble pie (along with some deliciously edible Nila Holden cookies which were so photogenic!). It’s true that after less than 48 hours in Sara-Jayne’s company I haven’t turned my camera back to ‘Auto’.Keep Up With The Jones Family Photography WorkshopSara-Jayne has an unassuming way, an ability to handle any learner (especially me, who uses all kinds of tactics to detract from taking things seriously), and a way of bringing us together, keeping a pace of learning without anyone getting behind or bored by the pace. She also carefully challenges you, making sure you understand, making you aware of how to create a good photo (think scuffed shoes, dirty knees and elbows!).

Over the two days on the course there was a pace which allowed learning to be understood, practised,  and somehow absorbed into a norm. Bringing each element to life, I wasn’t aware of having to consider the three factors, more to focus on the photo I wanted to create.Keep Up With The Jones Family Photography WorkshopAnd I’m not there yet, by any stretch of the imagination- I know I’m not considering the direction of the light enough in my photos, but I am loving the photos I have taken- I never imagined I would be able to take them and feeling a sense of pride in the photo.Keep Up With The Jones Family Photography WorkshopWe were also placed under no illusion about the benefit of a good edit to any photo, and fortunately with a little pleading from Ali and me, we’re all set to return in the Autumn for a bit more of Sara-Jayne’s tutelage, as we get to grips with Photoshop (in my head my use of PicMonkey is probably the equivalent of using a DSLR on Automatic!).

I’m writing this post because I’ve been out again today with my camera, and as much as I’d like to take all the credit for the photographs I’ve produced, well, my conscience has the better of me… but you’ll have to wait until the 15th for my Siblings post to understand my warm glow!

Afternoon Tea at Park House, Cardiff

Park House, Cardiff is a wonderful property on Park Place, probably one of my favourite areas of Cardiff, the civic centre and where I went to university.
Park House was built in 1874 by the Marquess of Bute and designed by William Burges, the architect of the renewed Castell Coch, the building is now Grade 1 listed and described by Cadw as ‘perhaps the most important 19th century house in Wales.’

Now renowned for its Michelin-star consultant, a perfect wedding venue, a member-style restaurant, our afternoon tea started with the “should we/ shouldn’t we” dilemma when faced with a sign reading “ring this bell”. The venue is the perfect ‘treat’ offering a personal experience. The House is split across a number of floors offering something special, and a little different, on each.

We went up to the second floor where we had been second guessed and given two very comfortable sofas to enjoy our afternoon tea. Perfect because, whilst we love the ritual of the tea, it is of course the perfect excuse for us each to commit to leaving home and work to have a proper catch up.

We chose Park House simply because of an offer found on Amazon Local, coincidence would have it that some very exciting news in the meanwhile meant this very special location was the perfect venue to celebrate an engagement and begin interrogating wedding plans.
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffWhilst there is the real chance that the good mood tinted impressions I might bravely say this Afternoon Tea was the best I’ve ever enjoyed. Usually I don’t manage to make it through the entire selection but this time the pace and almost lightness of the scones and sweets meant the task was accomplished.

The tea was a more limited selection than others offer, and I was a little disappointed that there was no citrus or fruit infused tea but going with the recommendation of Lapsang was a great surprise. As smoky as the description it was really enjoyable and has taken me off my beaten track which can only be a good thing.

The sandwiches included cucumber, roast ham, smoked salmon and cheese & chutney. Obviously I am sure they had much better descriptors but oddly the website does not have this season’s menu on so you’ll have to believe me when I say they were good.

It was however the cakes which were something to write home about.
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffThe scones were deliciously light and the perfect ‘middle course’.
Where to begin with the sweet treats!
Well, you will need to tolerate my lack of memory as to what they were but…
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffWow!
That little puff pastry with cream. So the most deceptive thing on the plate. I started with it as it looked a bit boring.
Potentially my descriptions will now likely contain an overuse of the word ‘lush’.
It was lush.
A vanilla infused sweetness with a thin pastry which just oodled deliciousness.
My favourite would be the macaroon with a raspberry overtone but the most perfect hint of rose-water to make it something special.
My least favourite (but only because the others were too lush) was the pistachio based slice, it was good and lovely to admire but overall the base overwhelmed it for me.
And the perfect pick-me-up was the coffee, chocolate and cream slice. Perfectly balanced in flavours, the kick of coffee gave it an extra something.
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffBeing blissfully ignorant where fine dining is concerned, the balance and variety of flavours were absolutely perfect.
And maybe it was the glass of bubbles which had to accompany our Afternoon Tea (purely for celebratory purposes), the laughter and good company, but I didn’t really want to leave.
Park House is now on my list of places to return, definitely for Afternoon Tea but also to explore the other floors and menus on offer.

Them Girls

We are still  young enough to remember.

Of clubs which would end with taking to the dance floor for ‘Oh, what a night!’,

The journey home would take in City Road for a take away, sending messages to pagers in unsober tones.

To nights where a trip to the pub would offer as much enjoyment.

A snapshot forever ingrained.

And the odd raucous night, as celebrations determined.

The best of nights could always be found where least expected.

It seems we hold moments close,

And yet now,

Any evening is greeted with excitement, 

And so, to evenings in.

As we realise where we are,

Gone are those teens, those twenties,

Now, we join together,

More individual than ever,

Now, brought together by more than our history,

The absolute laughter,

The reassurance,

The celebration,

Sometimes, you just need something more,

Beyond work, parenting, and yes, the mundane,

Sometimes it is amazing to reflect,

Such individuals, as our paths reflect,

Amazed by how much time has passed.

Our lives, the less entertaining side of Jeremy Kyle (or, given our age, surely Jerry Springer?), but we still manage to create those jaw-dropping moments.

I have lived my life, since meeting my husband, with the ‘memo to self’:

‘Life has a habit of working itself out’

And as I look at us, I know it is true.

And as I write ‘us’ I wonder who that refers to,

And I think it refers to all of us, of families.

Life has a habit of working itself out.

Each of us have the happiness to ride the storms.

Each have the families to support us through it all.

And each of us have the happiness to greet each day.

I am fortunate to get to greet these wonderful women and hug them, and call them my friends.

Friendship

I love being back in Cardiff.
I never imagined that would happen ten years ago.

And yet, we all are,
Now a lovely mix of English and Welsh.

But still us.

And now, as always, so much more.

Life is good.

Back where we belong.

Word of the Week #WotW

There could only be one word for this week.

A word which lead to a combination of decorating and packing last weekend.

And to escape this week.

To spend a lot more time with my little people.

Falling in love with each of them a lot more.

Getting to spend time with them.

Getting to listen to them.

Getting to watch them.

They really are my favourite waste of time.

Word of the Week

The Reading Residence

Your child becomes a girl

Life is difficult, and it doesn’t help when you have been through it.

CM is 6. When friendships mean the earth. When the drop of a pin will make or break them.

Each day a different consideration to be lodged.

Each week a different friendship circle to be aware of.

As a mummy, it’s rubbish.

You naturally lean towards certain friends, because the friends seem reasonable, because their parents seem *normal*.

But there is no sway in the mind of a six year old. They will follow their own path.

And you are left.

Trying, and failing, to find the logic in the friendships lost.

CM

Encouraging the friendships gained.

Trying to keep your child the fresh innocent.

Accepting that you want to keep that, perhaps with the compromise of them being *popular*.

 

I cwtch into my son, crying in his sleep.

And I wonder if I am better off not knowing the traumas which face my sons.

The friendship circles of girls are all too complex, too selfish, too illogical.

I am no longer a friend to my daughter, I hold true my place of confidante.

I will be the person she can tell all to, I will be the person who she knows no fear with, I will be the person to whom she can reveal all.

I will nod, I will empathise, I will not judge, I will just be there.

I will be her mum.

New mumForever.

 

Word of the Week #WotW

It’s been a lovely week, if you take the more matter of work out of the equation, but despite saying that, there’s even been a lot of laughter at work. “How’s your week been?” “Hysterical” “As in really funny?” “No, as in, there’s been a lot of hysteria.” Two financial claims in one month, due in on the same day. Not pleasant. And then the usual, random sloping shoulders emails, where people synchronize delegation with exercising muscles in their fingers. I digress.

My graduated bob of last year is a thing of the past. Typically, as has happened in every radical thing I’ve done with my hair since I was 18, I couldn’t maintain it, and by “couldn’t” read “couldn’t be bothered”. It’s back to being the same as it’s always been, albeit it’s also very, very red. The wonder of one of your besties being the hairdresser who’s taken care of you on and off since you were 18. She just knows. She knows not to ask whether I want a fringe. I do. But within a few hours I’m brushing it off my face. She knows I need to be able to tie it back, even though I say I won’t. And she knew as she cut the graduated bob what the outcome would be (it was around the same point she was telling me how much I like to tie it back). Dying my hair means we get longer to chat, to fall into the pitter-patter of conversation, the fact that we can interrupt each other with excitement and eagerness, whereas my husband still can’t get past interrupting him being rude.

On Tuesday I caught up with a colleague from my time in Manchester. I guess now more a friend than a colleague, it’s probably coming up ten years since we worked together, and whilst we kept in contact on work related stuff, like most things it’s optional. I was so rubbish last year, I cancelled on him at the last-minute, with everything going on, my ability to relax in company beyond my immediate circle had disappeared, now that it’s all over, things are falling back into place. And it’s people who know, know so much has happened, and just listen, without question, and as always, like so many, they’ve been through it or worse, and it’s ok, it seems optimism keeps us going. That, and a headstrong belief in karma.

The Other Room

And then there was Thursday, a night out at The Other Room. It seems I have discovered the flaw with pub theatre, when you’re in a good mood, and the theatre is fantastic, and there is a pub, the alcohol seems to go to my head a lot quicker (this may have also been linked to me seeing how much water I could drink during the day). It was a wonderful night out with the fairy godmother. Absolutely surreal to me, I compared it to a busman’s holiday for her.

But even so, I reflect on the week, and it’s amazing to have such people to intersperse the more difficult bits. Yes, of course, my wonderful little people keep me absolutely in check. Keeping me in check. For that I remain grateful. But this week, I’ve realised, the girls who’ve kept me going since I was 17, the people who I’ve met since I’ve worked, who seem to always be around when I need them. My life is richer because of the people around me.

Word of the Week

The Reading Residence