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JustClaire the beginning…

So this is it I’ve finally set up the page to host my bits of art. I’ve been collecting ‘things’ from beaches and lagoons across the world for years and years and never really knew why.  Then one day I started playing with them and making designs…. popped a frame on and amazingly others quite liked them.

A bit of encouragement later and JustClaire was born, please have a browse through my bits and bobs and if anything takes your fancy please let me know. Alternatively if you would rather I created something specific let me know the remit, i.e. Anniversary, birthday, birth, wedding, graduation….or just family and I’ll send you pictures of mock ups until we get to something you really like.

I use shells, driftwood, twigs, pebbles, sea glass. seafans, amongst many other items I’ve found. I mix it up so a picture could have coral from Belize, sea burger from Cayman, wood from the New Forest, glass from Miami…whatever looks nice.

I can usually have the piece ready in a couple of days so happy to work to urgent orders too.

I hope you like JustClaire and find something that perfectly suits your needs!

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A great Christmas idea in theory!!

This time of year, for me, is all about wrapping gifts…..and trying to do it in secret.  I used to love wrapping as a teenager, full of the excitement of making the little I could afford look impressive.  Now, like packing, I dread it.  Trying to fit it in, remembering to keep santa’s paper different to mummy’s wrapping paper.  Making sure both boys have the same amount, not going overboard, but looking impressive enough on Christmas morning to retain the magic.

This year, (Friday in fact), my dear friend and neighbour and I decided to do it together over a few Christmas cocktails. As kind of a support network for wrapping Mums….! She arrived at mine (having walked across the road) with about 6 bags of goodies to wrap, and a box full of festive paper, tags and tassels.  As the boys were still awake, we put all her bags in the front room, and cracked on with a Christmas cocktail

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Two very large ones (each), and a bottle of prosecco later, the boys were put to bed.  We had a bit of dinner, grabbed a bottle of white and moved into the front room to tackle the wrapping….

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What a complete disaster!!  We were smashed….There was little piling, grouping or planning, no ribbons, or even labels.  The wrapped, un-named gifts were piling up, and the wine was still going down.  At one point panic set in and a massive, black, whiteboard marker came out to initial each package….Does santa do big Ns and Ts on his gifts?  I think he does now!!

We got there in the end, but I’ll be honest, I’ve not a clue what I have wrapped.  The boys gifts have definitely been mixed up and I’m sure they’ll be getting nanny’s bed socks, and daddy’s wallet…. There was unexplained blood all over the lounge carpet from a mysterious cut on my foot, and a few empty bottles….

We managed it, it eventually looked tidy again, and so once the gifts were safely hidden in the cupboard under the stairs, we went back to finish the wine…..and then I fell asleep, and my lovely friend had to let herself out – epic fail all around!

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It’s not all a complete car crash though…..The one gift I know I have wrapped is the winner of the best gift ever prize.  We lost the youngest’s “blankie” in Preston in October.  Pure and utter sadness hit the whole household (and many of our friends) when the news really hit home – Blankie had been bought in Arizona from Walmart by my mum, ten years ago, and had been the biggest part of our babies’ lives.  It was incredibly unlikely I would every be able to buy another.

I had chased up everyone I could think of to try to find the old one but nothing.  After MUCH searching, I did finally find an identical “blankie” on ebay. I ordered it from a random woman in America, cost me a fortune, but it arrived, and I know I wrapped it on Friday. I am just not sure which pile it ended up in!!

No one believes “Blankie” will ever be seen again, so I’m hoping this little package will rejuvenate the magic only Father Christmas can bring on Christmas morning….the rest is anyone’s guess!!

I’ll let you know how it goes…! It was a great idea in theory….and with a little tweaking will become an annual tradition!!

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Nativity Nightmare!

It’s that week, again, you know the one that you long for all you.  The one you see your little cherubs playing some cute, expressive, singing nativity character.  You long for Mary or Joseph, of even a speaking part, but every year it ends in disappointment….

This year the youngest apparently ‘chose’ to be a shepherd.  He came home with a note explaining how I needed to find a long striped shirt and a tea towel, I have 3 weeks notice, sounds easy enough.  Sadly all the long shirts in our house drowned him and made him look more like Wee Willy Winkie, into the loft rummaging for the ‘clothes he’ll grow into’ bag.  Finally having located an old shirt of the eldest’s, I thought the tea towel bit would be a breeze… not so.

I suddenly realised how hic a state my tea towels were in.  Now, I’m not a messy person, a dirty person, I clean up frequently, but it appears the stained, ripped state of my (our) tea towels has bypassed my observations.  What must people think when they come around!! Not that I get them to dry up, but still!  Hoping there was a least one clean, stripy useable tea towelorrif

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The environment to “Mindflick”, pig wrestle and fly…

This past week I travelled 3hrs north to a little place called Hathersage just outside of Sheffield. I worked with Dr Mark Bawden of Mindflick (www.mindflick.co.uk) wrestling pigs. I have referenced this in the past as I read the book this summer and have worked briefly with Mark before, but what happened Wednesday was incredible.

The day job as you know, can be exhausting and I often find the whole pace of life excessive; commuting daily, running a department, being a mum, wife…finding time for myself, but thought that this was just life, for now. Mark has shown me how wrong I was.

Mark met me at the little village station and two minutes later we were in the ‘Barn’. A converted farm, Mindflick’s hub was the top of the barn with huge windows showing off the Derbyshire hills.

The ‘office‘ itself was spectacular but simple. Three distinct areas, the main being a huge worn leather sofa, and two matching armchairs separated by a small but very stylish coffee table and of course that view.

To my left was a tall, long white table surrounded by white boards on the wall, and to my right was a long rustic dining table, a bench and some lovely Eames chairs, and just the one computer.

There were little references to pig wrestling everywhere; from the solid brass pig paperweight to the framed pig pictures drawn by Mark’s children.

The warmth of welcome and homely feel to this workplace blew me away. There was music gently playing in the background and a little coffee maker to feed my city-base caffeine requirements. The lack of technology was a dream.

Mark sat me down in a large leather chair with a hot coffee, hobnobs and a view of the rolling countryside hills and so we talked and then started to wrestle my pig.

There was nothing technologically advanced in what Mark did, just simple mind unravelling. We started with my perceived problem at work and ‘cleaned’ it. Needless to say the problem evolved into something entirely different by the end of the day, but this ‘different’ problem was one I could easily see how to solve. First rule of pig wrestling (see previous blogs for link) is never to resurrect the pig, so I’ll leave it there, but I’ll tell you honestly, the day was an eye opener for so many fabulous reasons.

The environment we worked in really stuck with me. My head felt completely clear and free, and my vision for the future energised. All the plans I had for my team, I could now clearly see happening, thinking outside the box, releasing the bungee cords that for 12 months had restrained my thinking.

I left Mark at 5:30pm and travelled the long way back down south. I got home late and crawled into bed. I then had the worst nights sleep ever….. Waking at 2am full of ideas, bursting with opportunities. I got up, scrawled as much as I could then tried to get back to sleep.

The next day I had planned to work from home, to be free of the office hum of computers, phones, and general noise. I couldn’t face the office after such a mind freeing day. I needed it to continue.

(Not my office but not far off!)

It was freezing outside, so I lit the log burner, donned my leggings, a baggy jumper and my slippers, poured a massive coffee, lit a Christmas candle and put on my new favourite chill out album…Islands by Ludovico Einaudi….. I had found peace. (If you want to sample it Islands by Einaudi)

I managed to sit, plan, explore and prepare for the ‘day-job’ moving into 2018, for virtually a whole day. My mind was racing with ideas and the lack of emails and instant messages popping up, meant I could really focus and let my energy fly…. you should try it.

If you’ve a problem you have tried everything to fix you need to wrestle it. By escaping the noise I achieved more in two days than I ever thought possible.

So this Christmas think about your environment, make sure it suits you and brings out the best in you, give yourself a setting and surrounding that makes you happy.

Finally, thank you Mark you are amazing!

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Tips for the unconventional family Christmas…

Every year Christmas is more stressful, exciting, over-rated, expensive, commercial, magical, loving, celebratory, indulgent and exhausting, and I love it…so long as I am prepared and people keep happy.

Being a mum of two small boys and two older step-kids we’ve never had a conventional family Christmas. My own family are scattered across the world, so rarely spend it together. The hubby’s dad is no longer with us and his mum is in a home, so it’s us and the kids most of the time.

The first Christmas as a possible future step mum was quiet; his first without the very young children from his marriage, me without my party loving friends in the Caribbean. Both trying to make it special, but actually it was just odd. That was 15 years ago, I think we’ve almost nailed it now, so here are a few of my tips for any of you who may be divorced, step parenting, sharing your children or just for a little insight into keeping an unconventional Christmas normal….it’s not rocket science, and I’m not asking for a Nobel prize, this just works for us….

  • Respect each other. Relationships end for many reasons, but if you were in the wrong or made the choices, you don’t get first dabs over your children’s Christmas arrangements. It is just a single day of the year and you need to respect the person who didn’t want it all to end. At least in the beginning. If it was mutual that’s different, but either way do not stress, it is one day. We have never had my husband’s children on Christmas Day, but we have made it work…

  • Christmas can be any day. For the past 14 years we have held a second Christmas Day on Boxing Day. This is when we have my husband’s two over and we make it as close to Christmas Day as possible… yes even another turkey. It has worked wonders for us and takes all the pressure off sharing time with each parent. The kids (not such kids now) could wake up with their mum, spend all Christmas day and night there with her, then their Dad would collect them on boxing day morning. Bubbles out, turkey in…..bosh round two!!
  • Don’t replicate, ‘create’. Christmas with children will have had some sort of routine or tradition. Don’t force something that once was, when one or more people are missing from the equation. Make up your own, new traditions. If you are single now and couldn’t put tinsel up before, do it now (you’ll soon get over it!). Take the kids on a Santa steam train or to a Christmas market to buy a new ‘annual’ decoration. Take them to buy the tree. Include them in your Christmas regardless of what the other parent is doing.
  • Do not over indulge with guilt. Separations happen more and more these days. whether right or wrong shit happens and kids need to know shit will happen their whole life, you cannot change that. You can only change how they respond to it. There will be times they will miss the other parent and times you miss them, but don’t make up for it with gifts. Make up for it with time and explanation, trust and security and most of all positivity for the future. So long as Mum and Dad say it’ll be ok, it will…
  • Teach them to give. If you have time with them before Christmas, help them make something for the other parent. A photo book, mulled cider, rocky road, anything that they as children can make and hide for a John Lewis moment at their other home. As a single parent it’s tough to encourage your kids to give you something at Christmas but it is a valuable lesson they need to learn. Nothing big or expensive, but the effort and thought for others is what it should be about.
  • Talk about big gifts! If you are planning an iPad, mobile, Xbox , car delivery (!!) in the big man’s sack, speak to the other parent about it if you can. It would be great to share the cost or even just the ‘agreement’ to give, but mostly it can prevent getting into a bidding war over into giving the best gifts. This is not a competition you are raising children to be adults, make sure they are nice ones…
  • Be alone or don’t? If the plans work out that you are going to be alone on Christmas Day, think about whether you can handle that or not. If you can’t, ask someone if they fancy dinner out on Christmas Day, or simply tell them you’re alone, they will be sure to invite you. But if not pop into a soup kitchen and make the most of your free Christmas, do not sit at home alone crying! Crisis Christmas have amazing schemes you can help out with.
  • Do not show sadness. Never show the children you are sad or lonely when they are not around. They do not need to carry any guilt or worry about you, you’re a grown up handle it. Tell them you’ll miss them but you’ve got so much to do, the time will fly by and then you’ll see them again for some real fun. This ensures when they are with the other parent they relax and enjoy that time WITH the other parent, that is only fair.
  • Step-parents back off. You are an adult, Christmas is not for you when there are step-children involved. Let them have quality time with their parent, make the day magical for the right reasons and don’t get wrapped up in bickering, jealously or the fact no one helps in the kitchen.
  • Be kind. Even if there is tension and stress in the mix with separated or divorced families, I’ll repeat, it is ONE day. This day for whatever reason has become a fantasy, magical day for children, make sure you remember that and make how ever and, when ever they spend it with you memorable for the right reasons.

Good luck and I hope you manage a very merry unconventional Christmas!🎄🎄

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Just a grown up child…

In the UK, you become an adult at 18 years old, it is even younger in other countries.  Who decided that, and when?  I’ll tell you, adulthood was reduced from 21yrs in 1971.  So let us just think about 21yr olds in 1971…..

Most would have been working full time for maybe 5 years already, or finishing off university.  Many would be engaged to be married, possibly already parents, and there would be a maturity that comes with helping to support your family as soon as you leave school and ‘mucking in’ with running and financially supporting the household.  I can see why they would have thought the legal age should be reduced to 18, makes perfect sense.

Let us now think of 18yr olds today. I’ll warn you I’m generalising here…..

Most have never worked a single shift in their life, mainly due to the fact you cannot legally be employed for many hours until you are 16 (but they could work). After 16 they are not allowed to leave education so continue on the “not working” trajectory for another two years.

Many are fairly inept at having an awkward conversation with a human as they are so confident that “texting” declines, cancellations or bad news is an acceptable method of communicating. Try asking them to actually use a phone to speak to someone….funny!

I would hazard a guess that very few contribute to the household chores let alone finances, how could they, they don’t earn? One 18 yr old I know was told by his mother not to worry about paying rent until he was earning £12k per year, how nice!  I have friends on little more than that, who manage to pay their own mortgage, food, insurance, and all their grown up living expenses.

‘Generation Z’, the ‘Millennials’ are being raised by very different parents, than in the past….Generation X. Gen X are fiercely independent, having been raised in the 60s, 70s and 80s and so predominantly grew up quicker than previous generations.  Most of their mums may have worked but would not have been the breadwinners, (housekeeping money). University was more accessible to the Xs and part time work, was a must if you wanted to buy clothes, shoes, a car, petrol or even a drink. They didn’t have mobile phones so still had to develop communication skills and kids tv was non-existent but for an hour or two a day. God remember the monotony of a Sunday!!!

This forced maturity has made Gen X, strong minded, independent and successful in achievements but has also encouraged a deeper need for a quality, work life balance.

Take modern working mums for example. Most women I meet these days work at least part time, if not full time, and some like me run small (or even large) businesses on the side. Many of us are breadwinners and most if not all are in a position where our income is critical to the financial stability of the family. That cannot be said of all our mothers.

However, I feel that maybe because of this absence from daily full time parenting, we allow our children to be children for longer…. and I don’t mean in the playing with toys sense.

I’m not suggesting we pack them off to earn their keep at 14, but learning to contribute should not make us feel guilty.

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It starts young with little chores; clearing the table, sorting the laundry, tidying up etc. As they get older, washing the car, mowing the lawn, popping out to get milk….ah now we get stuck…

Many households these days, for convenience, have their car washed, have someone to mow the lawn and have their shopping delivered… When you can have your whole lawn mowed for £15 and you spend £10 on a nice gin and tonic, it seems a no brainier. But this, I promise you is not helping our children.

Birthdays too!  Crikey my 9 year old collected £265 from various family and friends this last birthday (thank you btw).  However, that works out at over £5 per week pocket money.  He would have a mountain of chores to do to earn that… but now he doesn’t need to. To be fair he’s not materialistic so doesn’t want for anything, but that doesn’t help either, now I cannot think of a single reward to entice him.

I know some parents give pocket money as reward for doing homework, reading or making beds, but these are essentials in a child’s life not optionals.  If like my son, they have £265 in their wallet and don’t feel like earning any more, doing their reading or homework would be the first money earner dropped!

I also think that as we all have such crazy, full on lives that when we do spend time with our children we want all of us to enjoy it, so we ‘spend’ sufficiently to have a quality event that we will all appreciate.

My stepson finally realised this this year, when his 18th birthday money was spent on a boy’s trip to Malia.  When he acknowledged that his hotel room was one and the same as in the Inbetweeners movie, he understood that to date, he had been a very lucky boy.  Suddenly he appreciated the efforts awarded to him with our annual two weeks in Mallorca.  2018 is going to be the first time we are not flying him out with us. He now has a job and doesn’t know if he’ll get time off…. I’d put money on it that he does and we fund the last minute ticket.

I’m not knocking the children at all. It is not them it is us. I’m at fault, buying the 6 yr old a Boss Hoodie ffs!! (He does love it though!!).  How many children have that gift that keeps on giving?  You know the one, the mobile phone, that you are still paying for monthly, 8 years later….

So unless you have the next Akiane Kramarik (Wikipedia Akiane Kramarik) on your hands (I don’t) let’s be a little less accommodating and a little less supportive of their every desire.  I have friends whose daughters have a different activity club every night and even more at the weekends; ballet, band, brownies, cubs, gymnastics & drama – really…?  Where are the grown ups lives?

We feel guilty for our pace of life, for the absence at homework time, for breakfast and after school clubs and missing yet another year 1 assembly.  We feel selfish for wanting down time or gym time when we do get five minutes free (it could happen), then when irritated at the youngest leaving his clothes on the floor we explode like a massive great angry bird! BOOM….!! ….and then we pick up their clothes!  Parent nil child 1…..

We let them get away with it, however much we try not to, because if it isn’t guilt, it is exhaustion!  Again its not their fault, human nature is to take full advantage of your situation, I and you would do the same.

So parents… I ask you, with xmas around the corner, let’s keep it rational. Don’t let guilt fill Santa’s sack, don’t clear the table yourself. Teach them how to change the bedding for your houseguests, unload the dishwasher, clear up after themselves.  Make them remember their own gloves and coats, and if you’re feeling really selfish, maybe even teach them how to make a nice G&T…

You want help, you want consideration, you want to bond – they want to help, we have simply forgotten or stopped asking them….So boys, this week we will mostly be learning to put clothes away, sort laundry and maybe even a little ironing… you’ll feel an enormous sense of satisfaction!

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Bloody Seagulls..?

Most people including my husband hate seagulls, but 2017 has shown me a different view of the bird, and one I’m on a mission to install in all people.

We have a Victorian house with a monster chimney stack as you can see from this picture from the early 1900’s – We are the lefthand side as you look at this.14560162_10210474435408113_1904742715150178098_oWe’ve lived here for 5 years now, and every spring we have seagulls nesting on the chimney stack.  The nesting soon turns into a home for 2 very large eggs and then the massive baby gulls hatch.  For the first 4 years my hubby would say they were a bloody nightmare.  As soon as the nest has eggs, the parents take the up the role of G4 and swoop, squawk, and dive bomb anyone that comes near the garden.    It is a 3 story house, and so we are actually miles from the nest, but gulls see it differently, parental duty on steroids.

Since we’ve lived here, every year the babies eventually fall off the roof, and rarely survive.  It is sad, but we’ve not been too close to the birds or to the disaster.  This year however was different….

The hubby was out Sunday evening, and sitting in the front room I saw a baby gull drop in front of the lounge window.  The parents went nuts and for a good 2hrs the tiny fluffy ball of gull, wove in and out of the parked cars, narrowly avoiding the cars coming down the road.  All 4 neighbours were on look out.  At one point my neighbour across the road dramatically ran out in front of a Dominos moped and screamed “Stopppppp!!!” whilst standing guard over the baby.  I went out there numerous times to save it but kept losing it in various hiding places.

The hubby came home, I told him the situation and he told me to stop worrying about it. It’ll not survive the night and the parents will get over it like the always do. But their screams from the sky didn’t say that to me….that was it, I was saving it.  So gone 9pm at night in my pjs and slippers I grabbed a tea towel and shoe box and ran around the street until I cornered the limping baby.  Once I’d brought it inside, the husband smartly asked what the plan was now – “Put it in the back garden?”, “Nope, the foxes will get it!”, “Oh bugger, I didn’t think of that….don’t know?”.

Hubby suggested zipping it into the trampoline at least the foxes couldn’t get in….worth a try!

I popped it in, with a bowl of water and zipped it up for the night.  For the next 3 days we fed it raw bacon, bread and water, and he seemed to get stronger…we were all starting to fall in love with ‘Limpy’……IMG_0182

Each morning as he saw us in the kitchen he stood up to say hello and get his bacon. The parents still squawked but soon accepted we were friend not foe.

However, three days later as the boys were changing for bed, the littlest son, naked, suddenly raced past me down the stairs screaming “Mummy there’s a seagull in the bedroom!!!”, “Oh dear” I thought, Mummy gull may be on the attack.

I ran up to the bedroom and just found another fluffy ball of gull on the bed. The second chick had rested on the open velux and simply slid into the boys room. Very confused parents nil….Foy’s two.

Wrapped in a towel, rushed down stairs and added to the trampoline nest, safe from the foxes.  Our baby Limpy was reunited with his brother ‘Steady’.   No injury occurs when you land on a bed, so we have progress.

The babies immediately squeaked to each other and you could see the joy between them of the reunion.

The parents got used to it and even learnt how to drop into the trampoline to feed them both…. The hubby started to bond with them and even nipped out to buy them a ‘happy meal’ one Saturday.

The babies became part of the family, greeting us each morning and evening. We never touched them but they would feed from us. Limpy got stronger, and Steady started to stretch his wings ready to fly. They were both growing and healthy and it was super to see.

Then as with all things in nature one morning reality hit. The hubby came up from making the morning tea and announced the babies had gone. I ran down stairs and yep the trampoline was empty, there was a little hole in the back of the net where they used to sleep together and beneath the hole in the grass were feathers… we had taunted the neighbourhood foxes too long. I was devastated. Not sure whether to tell the boys the truth or not we decided to be honest and leave things as we had found them.

Death not being common in our family, meant that the youngest, upon finding out, simply wailed.  Much like a pilgrim at the wailing wall.  He threw his whole body against the back door, “Why…why, why!!”.  He “wailed” so much, that as sad as Noah and I were, we couldn’t stop laughing… cruel I know.

That evening upon further inspection we noticed that the zip of the trampoline was right up, the hubby’s conspiracy theory began….. “a fox cannot move a zip….we both zipped it fully at 10pm the night before …..Someone let the fox in or let the babies out….!”

Again his theory not mine, I think the fox was pretty clever and after 4 weeks, had learnt how to get them.

We got over our loss. My gorgeous friend bought the boys two baby bird teddies, and once the trampoline was cleaned we started to get back to normal. As a family, we were much more aware of the brown, spotty baby gulls around town, and watched their progress across the rooftops on our way to school each day.

All the time we are learning more, and more about the wonderful creatures in the world.  Those same creatures we once thought stupid.

Seagulls for example mate for life, totally monogamous and their social structure is such that their children and children’s children (and so on) are all protected by the social group, up to 100 other gulls in some cases. They have developed glands to desalinate salt water for drinking and they frequently use tools to open food, clams etc. So why do people hate them so much….they are very intelligent and well evolved birds.

I was reminded of our baby gulls once again this week on the way to school.  Whilst at a red light, a large white gull was standing at the side of the road staring across to the other side. He was intent, focused and silent. When I looked to my right I saw his mate on the other side of the road.  It had just been hit by a car, and had not survived, his silent stare was heartbreaking.

The image stuck with me all day.  Imagine trying year after year to successfully breed and raise babies only to lose them to freak accidents. The only thing keeping you sane would be your other half, then you lose them too.

So my ask of you this weekend is to remember, that whilst we humans appear to be at the top of the food chain, we must respect all levels. We are intelligent and so are the creatures we live amongst. We may not all understand them, but that is our ignorance and judgment and not theirs.

The hubby still hates seagulls and pigeons, I probably need to adopt a few pigeons before I love them, but I’m open to it….

Think of that fabulous clown fish in Blue Planet 2, moving the coconut shell for his missus to lay her eggs.  Then, consider all those ‘Nemos’ circling in tanks, purely for our enjoyment…. I’ve done it too, but I don’t think I would again.

Anyone want a couple bearded dragons…?

So I’ll leave you with one of my favourite pictures which just about sums this all up.  Have a good weekend and be nice to the seagulls please they are little families too.

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A spa a day takes the noise away

Wow! I feel restored, refreshed, relaxed….why haven’t I understood the whole spa thing before?? This weekend was the much anticipated weekend away with my lovely girlfriends for their birthdays. We booked a night and a few treatments at The Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells, http://www.spahotel.co.uk.

We left our respective children with a variety of parents, grandparents and friends, swung by Sainsbury’s to pick up some bubbles and headed over there for an 11am start.

Getting totally lost on the way to Tunbridge Wells from Ashford, I could hear the husband in my head ‘telling me he told me so’ as the sat nav failed dramatically and repeatedly, where was his A3 paper road map when you needed it!

Thank god for iPhone maps, which got us there eventually albeit 7 mins past my first session!

Whisked quickly from stressful car ride to serene frankincense infused, darken room and I could feel the head noise disappearing instantly… A full body de-stress massage followed by a facial, I had died and gone to heaven.  It took a good 25 mins into the muscle crunching, back agony, with the blocked nose that comes with lying face down, for me to start to relax. Flipped over onto my back and the eyes started to get heavy….gone.

An hour an a half later, I was oiled, relaxed, calm, and I had another whole 24 hours ahead of me in this place without children, housework, day job…I even put the phone on silent.

A bit of a steam room moment before 10 mins in, a chatty young soul came in and didn’t stop yapping.  Bless him, after I had heard about his divorced parents, his 36 year old friends still living with their parents, him being kicked out of home at 16…..I had to leave…

Into the sauna, happily alone, until two men walked in.  They gave me very wary looks as they sat quite close, it was only when I left 5 mins later I realised I was in the male sauna…oh well I hope it spiced up their spa!

Bit of gym, swim, relaxation room and a very large gin….ahhh.

Why don’t I do this all the time? To be fair, it’s not cheap but bugger me I feel like I’ve had a week in the caribbean.

Up to the room for bubbles, nibbles, and a few more home administered treatments.

I checked in with the family back home – bloody Daddy Cool!! He’s only whisked them off to London, McDonalds for lunch, watched Paddington 2, Lego store then TGI Fridays….FFS!! There’s no homework, reading, or thank you cards when Daddy Cool is in charge….!

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However, parental jealousy aside, I pushed on.  Yesterday morning I woke relaxed and rejuvenated in my kingsize boutique bed all alone.  I popped to the gym for a gentle burn, a quick steam then out to Tunbridge Wells for a super brunch of Eggs Benedict – the sort you only have without children!

My gym view…

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My amazing breakfast….

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I told the hubby I’d be home by midday, but then changed my mind, relaxed, rejuvenated and having some quality time with one of my best friends, I realised I needed to make the most of the time I had…..anyway the hubby told me to stay away –  more time to be Daddy Cool!!

The decorations we going up around town, and the christmas spirit was starting to get under my skin.  I realised that honestly, I’m a better wife, parent, daughter, sister, friend and boss if I take time to re-energise.  It feels selfish to be away from the kids and ‘home’ for even one night of peace, but yesterday afternoon when I got home I actually I felt kinder, calmer and all round a nicer person.

So boys & men, out there, with Christmas around the corner I would love you to treat your wife or partner to one of my pebble pictures, but if not, buy her a night away at a spa  hotel – Groupon do some great vouchers check here…Spa Days!  Force her to find her head space, make her leave you to cope alone, encourage her to stop for just a day – it is worth every moment, and she’ll love you for it in the end.

The last time I did a proper spa day, it was with my beautiful friend Heidi before she died.  I didn’t have children at the time, it was 10 years ago and didn’t get the whole spa thing – Oh my, I do now!!

Yesterday the quality time away had ensured my head was clear enough to pop into an art gallery and choose my new must have…..

Stuart McAlpine Millar‘s Faded Memories….I’m totally smitten!!   (Crowd funding maybe!!)  https://www.castlegalleries.com/art/faded-memories

 

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Both Hands Baby!!

I cannot tell you what has happened to me between writing the last blog and his one, but I am feeling remarkably back in control.  I had a serious word with myself, stopped wallowing and made some changes to the routine.

Since September, the day job has been 1000mph, the Just Claire pebble art took off quicker than I expected and I started Life Coaching again, both boys had their birthdays and my mum has been trying to buy a house down the road.  We’ve been to Chesington Zoo, Liverpool, Preston, Blackpool, and as a result, I’ve gained a couple of midriffs rolls, not been sleeping well, eaten terribly, and most certainly have been drinking too much.

Last week’s revelation about my boss has taken a while to digest, but it also helped slap me in the face with a massive wake up call.  I suddenly realised, I was back to letting life fly by without ever having time to ‘stop and smell the flowers’ .

I had an epiphany moment recently.  Up until this point, I had convinced myself that I did not have enough time to fit everything  in, and that I just needed more time.  However the logical side of me questioned this.  If I was given a free hour every day, would that help?  If I had an extra week every month, would it help?  In fact, let’s be generous and chuck in an extra hour a day, an extra week a month and an extra month a year…..does it help?  Does it heck….

I would fill the time, and so would you, we all would.  Time is not going quicker for me than anyone else – not really.  24 hours for a sloth in a tree takes the same amount of time as it does for me, but the sloth and the tree both sit solidly in peace and gentle content, whereas I perform like the road runner!

So my problem is not lack of time.  In fact, I have all the time in the world.  My problem is how I spend my time.  The result I am looking to achieve is of course time; a bit of down time for me and the family, time to exercise, time to make pictures, time to see friends and family….

I am great at coaching and planning for others, but never allow myself the luxury.  Time for me to grab it back with both hands!

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I recently experienced the benefit of sitting in a room without a computer, planned from my head, with just paper & pens – I removed the technology and it gave incredible clarity and silence to the brain…

Calendar, budget, exercise, meal plan – to do list – a massive one.  Just achieving one job a day makes a difference, just a 1 degree change required.  I’ve finally hired a cleaner (she starts Monday – lets see…), I’ve sorted a window cleaner, ordered the logs, changed my dentist appointment, finished the boys thank you cards, found mum a house to buy, planned the boy’s christmas gifts, …it’s going well, but I’m not quite there, the day job still has issues.

I have a Pig Wrestling session (read the book here it’s super), planned for the first week in December, and I cannot wait.  I’m spending a whole day with a fabulous guy (Dr Mark Bawden) in rural Derbyshire, cleaning pigs (read “work problems which need solving!”), watch this space. I have already started working with him, and it’s really providing super clarity to me.

So with all this planning in mind, and clarity of thought, my creative brain woke up and a few Christmas pebble mock ups popped into the head….what do you think?

Oh, I have also found my new home in Barbados, spare £300k anyone?? I wonder if they can hold on a few years….check it out…but don’t buy it, it’s mine….!!

Seamoss Barbados

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Be That Man…!

I need to apologise for being offline for the past week, in all honestly this “Birdwas well and truly knocked off her perch. I had some news that completely side swept me, and hit me harder than you could have predicted.

Anyone who knows me, knows I battle with the rat race. Everything I do at present is in planning for a calmer life back in the Caribbean of my childhood. The rushed commute to work, the 1000mph day job and rushed commute home… all for the future. Some days I love my job, but others I loathe the whole concept of what I do with my days. Last year in particular I really struggled with the point, but then out of nowhere things changed.

I took over the team I worked in and started working for the most fabulous boss I have ever had. He was everything you need, authentic, honest, loyal, supportive, but hands off, trusting, funny and more importantly kind. I genuinely didn’t think these people existed in the financial industry but he did.

He was my direct line to the CEO and he promoted my worth at every opportunity. Over the past year when people have said through winced eyes “How’s the job?” I could honestly reply “Its great, I have a super boss, and that makes it all worth while”.

Don’t get me wrong, this has been the most stressful year of my career, but having his support made it all manageable.

So when just last week I found out he was leaving the business, I simply burst into tears. We’ve had a long chat and I realise that whilst he did not want to leave, there were changes he could not fully support. For days I couldn’t look at him or think about it without crying. What is wrong with me!!?

I’m sure the husband was getting anxious as I talked continuously about how much I loved this man and what he did for my morale.

I haven’t been blogging, simply because I couldn’t say anything, but it’s all I wanted to talk about. So the news is being published today, not the full message, but the corporate one… it’s public. I’m just grateful I have had time to digest.

My boss is my very own August Landmesser. A man that stands up for what he knows is right and will not follow the crowd.

Normal business will resume at work and at JustClaire, of course life goes on. However, when he leaves, which is very soon, I know he will be fine because the universe will take care of things for him. He is definitely one of the good guys. It’s those he leaves behind that will miss him the most.

People ask me where the idea for Be That Bird came from and it was this picture of August Landmesser defying Hitler because of his love of a Jewish woman. Sadly it killed him in the end, but I bet he died a proud man with the love and support of many. So Be That Bird was about standing up for you and your individuality.

Fortunately, my boss doesn’t live in that time when disagreeing with the party line gets you killed, but I will feel I have suffered a huge loss when he’s not around and I doubt it will be replaced easily.

So Be That Man or Bird, stay true to your beliefs, your instinct and your pride….and you will have all the good people on your side., which has got to be what counts in the end.

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Sorry I was on a “break”…!

I say this with the irony only a working parent understands when half-term is thrust upon you. Our school decided to be good to parents this October and provide our children with two whole weeks off school. Their thinking being that we could book our two week holiday in this time and out of sync with other schools and so cheaper to go away… sadly for us by the time we knew we’d already booked our ‘two week holiday’…. the thought was there….

This left me with the dilemma of having two boys off school, for a full week before any local holiday clubs opened….awesome!

Some of you will remember I had an incredible au-pair for all of 3 weeks over the summer, but she was a game changer. Not only did she have the kindest soul, she was organised, tidy, polite, strict but also so much fun, the boys adored her, like a Spanish Mary Poppins….practically perfect in every way.

Not so lucky this half-term. Fortunately, my stepson having left school in June had not yet secured a job so he was free. Unfortunately, the husband agreed to pay him more than we had paid the au-pair, and the service was not quite the same.

I worked from home one day as I had a hospital appointment, but I advised the 3 of them to pretend I didn’t exist, and to get on with their day as normal. Normal was apparently the boys rising at 6am followed by the stepson at 10:45. Followed by 6hrs of television, before I lost it and threw them in the garden. I was better in the office.

A friend had offered to have the boys on the first Thursday as she knew I was struggling. What she perhaps didn’t anticipate was that we needed to drop the boys at hers for 7am and that as the stepson couldn’t drive I would have to collect them at 7:15pm…. thank you! You know who you are, invaluable!

First week over and it was Holiday club #routine for the next 4 day’s. Packed lunches, swimming kits, but opening hours of only 8:15-5pm. Hardly commuter friendly…

Friday I took the day ‘off’ so we could have a family holiday weekend…. this is ‘off’ in our home….

4:15am alarm, 5am in the car, 8:15 stop for breakfast (McDonalds), 10:30 arrive in Preston, 10:35 decide to go to Liverpool, 11:40 wander around Liverpool, 11:50 enter The Cavern Club

12midday sit beside a distant relative who was there the day before!

ODD!

1:30 lunch (Five Guys, healthy follow up to breakfast!)

2pm back in car to Preston, 3:45 still stuck on M6. 4pm check into B&B, 5 go to friends house, drink copious amounts or catch up bubbles, 11. Taxi back to B&B, shower eldest who was allergic to cat, bed midnight….Seriously!!

This pace carried on for the next two days. We were shown the delights of Blackpool….(sic)

The beach was nice, just really windy!!! We nearly lost all four kids to the tide as they ran in hysterics away from us into the wind. The hubbies had to do a panic rescue chase after them. All good exercise.

The amusement arcade, was not amusing and the hoards of people that descend on Blackpool at half-term should be avoided at all costs!

Preston saved the day, it’s beauty embracing us after the reality of daytime Blackpool, and we managed to squeeze 10 2-for-1 cocktails into an hour….

Racing the 5.5hrs back to Kent first thing on the Sunday, shattered and hungover only to establish we had lost the youngest’s “blankie” somewhere along the weekend.

“Blankie” has been in the family 9 yrs and I think I’m more devastated than the youngest. We have half of Preston looking for it, but as yet no joy.

As we arrived home to three un-carved pumpkins, a halfterm trashed house and a mountain of washing, I realised the youngest had a birthday party on the Monday, and it was Halloween Tuesday….oh boy, when will it stop?

Party gift sorted, boys off to school (love routine!!) and Halloween supplies brought down from the loft we got back to work…. exhausted!

That’s how we do 3 day’s off… we are not mad, we are utterly stupid!

Halloween yesterday was saved by my incredible friend and neighbour who offered to collect the boys early from school, take them trick or treating with her boys and deliver them back to me once I’d come home from work. Amazingly in the 10 mins before they came home I managed to chuck a few cobwebs about the place, light some candles and stick a screaming witch on the door!

Pumpkins still un-carved, but there’s always pumpkin soup!!

And so to sleep…! Thank god October is over, just got a 9yr old birthday party at the weekend, and I’m back to a little JustClaire R&R!

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Sleeping well, but the youngest has become Kurdish!

I’ve not been sleeping well of late, probably like all of you. A combination of work loads, JustClaire pebble art design ideas, a bad chair when working from home, and occasionally the dry mouth from evening vinos.

However, I have either discovered the cure to get me through the night or I have toned down all of the above….either way it’s working!

Firstly, I’ll be buying a new desk chair for home the current one looked trendy at the time, battered now, but more importantly I need one that works, at my age your back is sometimes all that holds you up!

I’ve also tried to quell the weekday drinking, half a bottle a night isn’t excessive in my eyes (just my GP and all other medical professions), but it does help add pounds to the muffin top. So at least 3 days a week without a vino is the aim and will result in 1000 less calories to count each week.

I’m gradually catching up on the day job work to do list. Crazy period is still on, but I had time yesterday to review next weeks calendar and decline unnecessary meetings – must do that more often!!

I am also nearly caught up on my Pebble Art orders, nearly all designs are out for approval and believe it or not that’s the hard part….

So we’re getting there mentally and a little beach time Sunday helped.

I still however wake occasionally at 3 and the mind starts…..Be it a song (Earworm – look it up!), an item on that list I’ve forgotten, or sometimes I even find myself thinking of things to think about!! It beggars belief!!

However…. I have discovered Neals Yard Night Time remedy essence!!

Roll the remedy, (which is organic lavender oil amongst lots of other fab things) on each wrist before bed and bosh you’re out!!

Not kidding, I bought it Monday and have slept solidly for 3 nights!! Get it, (link above) it’s amazing, it’s like drug, I honestly never knew nature was that immediately helpful!

I will admit a slight exaggeration, it has been more like 2 and a bit solid nights sleep…. I did wake 2ish this morning, as my mind was questioning my parenting skills from the night before.

I took the boys to a barbers after holiday club last night, the husband took them there last time and said it was amazing. He said to ask for a grade 2 back and sides and a long cut on top, for both boys….

I did, I promise….but by the time I realised what was happening to the youngest I was a bit too late!

The boy is now rocking a ‘Kurdishcut’, as the gentlemen barber called it 😬, I think he was trying to adopt him, he was very pleased with his work!

<<<<<< est immediately said, “Wow that is so short it looks like you have no hair, I can see right through to your head!”, my response to which was to kick him and deliver the death stare! Anyone who knows my youngest knows his hair is his pride and joy, so I told him he looked quite incredible and very handsome, which helped a bit.... until the husband came home and exclaimed, “Bloody hell, what did you ask for? He’s nothing left!!!” To this his little face dropped, I thought for a moment we’d have tears, but he just looked up confidently at his dad and said, “I really like it Dad, I think it’s cool!”, then beamed from bald ear to bald ear! The little man owned the Kurdish Cut – Love that! He has never cared what others thought of him, and I am delighted, with all the pressures of the world you don’t need to worry about other people’s opinions of you too.

It’s all just him, I don’t think you can teach that, wish you could!

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Beach combing to replenish the mind and stones…

The pebble art orders have been flying in at a super steady pace, so thank you to all of you who keep supporting me and sharing. I really didn’t think 3 months ago this business would take off like it has, and I am delighted with its success so far… However, I’m running out of supplies!!!

Whilst putting together a family of 5 picture I realised I am very low on heads!! It may seem silly to those not in the know, but pebble heads have to be a certain shape and size and need look right with the pebble bodies. Likewise bodies need to match heads and have their own particular shapes, short on both. (You see I do put a fair amount of effort in before construction!).

Then, after completing another 3 Be That Birds last week, I noticed I am nearly out of Birds!!! A bird pebble has to be white, small and bird shaped, and you thought I just threw this stuff together.

On top of that, the orders for pictures with driftwood are so popular, I am out of driftwood!!!

Clearly this is a JustClaire pebble art disaster, and with Christmas around the corner I need to replenish stock… v quickly! Sadly I have no holidays planned this side of April, and therefore hours wandering sunny warm beaches with the boys is not an option.

My mother has suggested the internet, where I could probably buy anything I wanted, however the whole reason I started JustClaire was because I dreamt of earning money from something I loved…. and that is beach combing not eBay!!

I did however jump onto Google and research the best pebble beaches near me… a lovely selection ranging from 7 miles away to 28, (which is perhaps too far for a Sunday jaunt).

Hythe beach it is then…. (Hythe Beach TripAdvisor)

3pm Sunday, I wrapped up my two employees, grabbed 3 ziplocks and headed off to Hythe. During the car journey we had our pre-brief.

“Boys, I need heads, bodies, birds and driftwood. Heads need to be small and round, Birds need to be white and small, bodies long and just any driftwood you can find”. The eldest then reminds us all, “and if you see sea glass, always collect it”. He is of course correct.

Mission set we arrived and got out the car.

The beach was almost empty, the wind was blowing, the waves were crashing and suddenly I was left all alone as my two young employees raced off to the sea…

I can’t blame them really. It’s not until you get back to the sea, that you are reminded how free the feeling is. How it can clear the cobwebs and free the mind. It was lovely to be there, hearing the waves crashing and watching the boys try to avoid the wet. The eldest failed dramatically and was soaked to his thighs within moments……ffs!

The smallest then decided to come and help me. Sadly he forgot the requirements and we ended up with any dead creature Hythe had to offer!!

We were very successful though, after a regrouping, and remembering the remit we thoroughly replenished the stock but also the mind.

Driftwood galore!

Thank you Hythe beach you were perfect!

The best mind replenishing was on the way home though, when refreshed and rejuvenated the smallest started telling jokes. I’ll leave you with his absolute best, created of course by himself, most likely in the spot…..

“What do you get if you join a F, I and a shhhh?”

Now surely you don’t need the punchline….