Monthly Archives: April 2015

Once upon a time there lived a stressed-out mummy…

Standard

Has anyone ever checked into the Priory with birthday-planning-induced-stress? No!? Then I’m intrigued to know how other parents juggle everything amidst their other daily responsibilities. And PS, by “other parents” I actually mean mums; dads are far more detached from the whole party-bag organising, pass-the-parcel wrapping, perfect-cake ordering ordeal!

It’s my baby girl’s birthday this Friday and she will be 3. With three other older children who have collectively enjoyed 25 birthdays between them, it’s reasonable to assume that I would have picked up a trick or two when it comes to planning birthdays. But in my case experience counts for nothing. I’ve left things far too late and am now having sleepless nights as to whether or not the much-hoped for Princess Elsa dress will arrive on time.

Feeling smug sometime ago, I extensively researched my options online. I shopped around for the best price, I subtly took measurements from her other prized princess-themed costumes and I preordered the perfect dress from an online fancy dress stockist earlier this month. My order arrived last week and as lovely as the dress turned out to be, it’s about four sizes too big. Damn those confusing European measurements!! I should not be left unsupervised with a tape measure in such detail-dependent circumstances again.

I’ve since contacted the retailer but an exchange for a smaller size would have taken too long to arrange so I’ve had to place a new order for the smaller size (and will return the enormous dress for a refund as soon as I find time in my life to get a post office…how retro!) 

Thinking myself clever, I arranged for the second dress to be delivered to Argos using their free collection service and thereby sidestepping the risk of getting one of those ‘sorry we missed you’ cards through the letterbox. But little did I realise that the Argos delivery service takes longer to process (yadda, yadda) and the expected collection date for my order is now three days after the big day. Cue mild to moderate heart palpitations and a series of frantic emails to the retailer. No my order can’t be fast tracked as its already in the system! 

In desperation I order a third dress to be delivered to my home address using the Express Delivery/expensive delivery courier service. Estimated delivery date…Thursday, t-minus 24 hours to B-Day.

All the while my little lady-in-waiting (literally) keeps chattering excitedly about the prospect of finally getting her very own “dress like Frozen“. This week her conversations have been peppered with affirmations like “if I be a good girl, I will have a frozen dress on my party” and “for my present it will be a princess dress if I be good“.

After relaying my fears and frustrations to my other half, we decided we needed a backup plan/dress in case one of the three dresses I’d already ordered doesn’t arrive in time. My earlier consumer research stood true; Amazon and Toys R Us did not have the right dress in the right size. The Disney Store sees it fit to charge £40 for their ‘official’ version but as my toddler is yet to become label savvy, and because I thoroughly object to spending that kind of money on a dress she will wear for dog walks and Tesco trips, the Disney dress was designated Plan D (to be bought in desperation on Thursday evening if all else fails). Talking of Tesco, they currently only have Elsa-style dresses for 7-8 year olds (God help us if she’s still bonkers about ballgowns at that age!) Our hopes were raised when I rang Matalan and a woman named Mandy went to check stock. I held my breath expectantly, as if I was waiting to secure Glastonbury tickets or hear exam results. “Sorry, we don’t have the Elsie dress at all. Only the Anna one in 5 to 6years“. Aaaaaaaargh!! It’s Elsa! It’s Aah-na! It can’t be this hard!

So although I can congratulate myself on having booked the hall, sent out the invitations, ordered the cake, bought the party bags, haggled with the bouncy castle companies and planned the menu, I may just fall at the final hurdle of giving my daughter the one and only thing she associates with and hopes for on her birthday. First world problems, right!

So it may be time to start seriously considering Plan C – telling our little princess that her birthday isn’t actually until Saturday. This would give us an extra 24 hours to get our act together and to receive one of the many deliveries that should surely arrive by then. After all, she’s only 3. She can’t read the newspaper, she’s not on Facebook, she doesn’t have a calendar, she won’t bloody know! And besides, the date never bothered her anyway….

Now, if only we can convince her three brothers to stick to the story, then everyone will live happily ever after.

 

Advertisements

Why so weary? 

Standard

My beloved running shoes that literally have my name written all over them but that I’m struggling to get into

I’m in a running rut. This has happened to me before but this time round I’m beginning to panic as I’m signed up to do the Hackney Half Marathon in less than 4 weeks time (and I really don’t want to pull out of my second race of the year….hashtag-sadface).

I blame New York. It’s all New York’s fault. Although we walked our asses off (28,000 steps on one day alone you know!) and I was very happy to take a break from my weekly running regime, I’ve struggled to put my trainers on and my heart into it since we got back. And ordinarily it really wouldn’t matter much as I could ease back into regular running in the same way as I’ve had to ease back into my regular post-holiday routine. But with the Hackney Half hanging over me, and with a handful of my super-fit runner friends preparing for the run themselves, I can’t escape this (largely self-inflicted) pressure to get race-ready. 

As a result, I’ve started philosophising why I run in the first place. I first started regularly ‘jogging’ (as the word ‘running’ is actually a generous and slightly misleading word when it comes to describing my pavement pounding, heavy panting technique) just after baby number 2 was born in 2007. My friend Anya coerced me into entering a 5K with the objective to run the entire race without stopping. We did it, and in addition to the flushed selfies we took afterwards, I have happy memories of that day. Thereafter I aimed a bit higher and entered a 10k the following year and then a half marathon a year or two after that. 

Running helped me to shift the baby bulge. Running gave me the opportunity to listen to interesting audio books or my much neglected collection of trance albums instead of Charlie & Lola stories or the Hokey Kokey. And running afforded me a little bit of status; “Oh, you’re a runner? I like to run too. Signed up to Royal Parks yet? I did that one last year…” Running was always supposed to be fun, and for the large part, it always has been.

So why can’t I snap out of this ‘reluctant-runner’ mindset? This week I’ve started to think up new ways to trick or kick myself into feeling motivated to go running. 

These have included:

  • Eating an entire Cadbury’s Easter egg in one evening – I hoped the guilt will force me into Lycra the next day. But it just made me feel sick! 
  • Buying a new sports bra – the temptation to try out my new kit did prove irresistible, for one run. Thereafter the novelty was lost.
  • Tracking my runs in miles instead of kilometres – going for a 5 mile jog somehow sounded less exhausting than going for an 8k run (it wasn’t!)
  • Finding an audio book to become obsessed with – I’ve been listening to Serial, a 12 part true crime story, in the hopes that my impatience to find out what happens next would motivate me to head out for some headphone-alone-time. But then I started cheating by listening to it on my commute to work and whilst dog walking too. Fail.
So despite my very best psychological efforts, I’m still feeling weary; it’s as if I’ve lost my running mojo. So what’s a girl/wobbly-woman-approaching-40 to do next….? Do I force myself to go the distance (quite literally!) and enter the Hackney Half to enjoy the accompanying sense of achievement and belonging, but knowing all the while that I will under perform and potentially dent my long term confidence? Or do I re-categorise myself as a fun-runner content on running the same routes and routines week in, week out but risk permanently damaging my morale and the chance to ever improve on my PBs? Dilemma!

 

#100happydays – day 48

Standard

Thursday was our chance to take one last bite out of the Big Apple before heading home. But we began the day with some hasty last minute packing. The concierge at our hotel helped me to weigh my bulging suitcase at which point I realised I’d probably bought one (or six) Gap jumpers too many and was dangerously close to my baggage weight allowance. With a remit to buy more luggage for our NYC loot, as well as some last minute souvenirs, we headed to Times Square. We’d previously found a brilliant comic book store in the Financial District that had a sister shop in Mid-Town, so we happily spent a few more dollars there. We then braved the flagship Disney Store and bought bags from the brilliantly cheap Forever 21.After walking around in the sunshine with our shopping bags, we caught the subway to the Lower East Side for lunch in what was purported to be New York City’s best deli, Katz; and it was! This is the place where Harry met Sally, where a pastrami on rye will fill you up for a week (and cost almost $30!) and where you can ‘lunch’ alongside every stereotypical New Yorker imaginable. We both ordered the pastrami along with pints of the rich and delicious Katz Dark Ale. It was a heavy meal but our visit to such a quintessential New York eatery was well worth the stomach ache. With a sense of reluctance (and a little bit of relief, after days of exhaustive sightseeing and carb loading away from our families), we finally caught a cab to the airport. There we flopped in uncomfortable bucket seats in the departure lounge and pondered exactly how aeroplanes stay in the sky and whether or not we could squeeze in one more glass of wine before takeoff.  Our trip was a fantastic break from the routines and responsibilities of every day life and I arrived home with the feeling that we’d taken full advantage of the opportunity to eat, sleep and breath this brilliant city. Since then I’ve avidly been watching Manhattan-based TV dramas hoping to spot a familiar landmark or recognise a street name or two, and I’ve been overusing the phrase “totally awesome” much to the amusement of my children. It actually all seems a little bit like a dream that never really happened. But thankfully I have a photo-stream full of pics, a wardrobe full of bargains and a hundred happy memories to keep forever from our New York City adventure.    

#100happydays – day 47

Standard

By Wednesday we’d spent three days straight exploring Lower Manhattan and had begun to feel like downtown locals, so we decided to focus our sightseeing efforts further north with renewed determination to find the uptown bus stop. It was a sunny morning so I made the optimistic decision to wear my thinner Laura Ashley wrap jacket instead of my more ample winter coat. Mistake number 1. 

Our joy at finally finding the goddam bus stop was short lived when the heated open-top tour bus was too full to take on more passengers so we instead boarded an unheated open-top bus where we were greeted by an energetic Japanese lady dressed in a mountaineering jacket and waving a microphone. Mistake number 2.

For the next hour we sat tightly huddled in our top deck seats, ducking to avoid low hanging tree branches and straining to understand the commentary. As Antonia noted, it was like having intermittent telephone reception….”something, something, something….Central Park…something, something…Woody Allen, something, condominium apartment…” And as my body temperature plummeted, I began to daydream about thick jumpers and wooly hats, rendering it impossible to concentrate on our enigmatic tour guide. By the time we reached Harlem, Antonia had turned blue and I’d lost all feeling in my bum cheeks. Our survival instinct finally kicked in (not at all inspired by the large Banana Republic Outlet store on the corner) and we hastily disembarked to buy jumpers (along with one or two other bargains). One Starbucks later and we were finally feeling thawed enough to venture back outside.

Harlem felt like a world away from the skyscrapers and designer stores of Mid Town. Groups of people were gathered on street corners and ladies pushed shopping trolleys piled high with clothes, plastic bags and cool boxes, presumably full of food (??). The further we walked away from the main stretch of shops, the more backwards glances we got from passers by. And the idea of using a selfie stick or even a map in Harlem felt a tad foolhardy. We bought Cap’tn Crunch cereal and squeezey cheese from a local supermarket and Antonia came to the aid of a fairly scary woman with a nose bleed, before we felt it best to catch the subway downtown to a more central spot on the Upper West Side. There we stopped for pizza slices and sodas in Famiglia (a favourite hangout of Sarah Palin’s, if the pictures on the wall were to be believed) before walking through Central Park and along Museum Mile. The park, as with the High Line, felt a little unloved. Overgrown pathways, unruly hedges and brown grass did little for its idolised image but the dramatic backdrop of the New York City skyline and the impressive architecture of the Guggenheim and Met museums were photo-worthy sights to see.   By this point, our shopping bags were cutting off the blood circulation to our hands so after a whistle stop to buy the kids candy from the far too sweet-scented and psychedelic Dylan’s Candy Store, we checked our bags into the Bloomingdales’ cloak room. We then spent the next hour exploring the retail Mecca of Manhattan and sipping prosecco in the Flip bar.

Later on, after a shower and short recharge at the hotel, we hailed a taxi to a restaurant in the Meatpacking District, recommended by Antonia’s New York-savvy spouse. We finished the day with an overpriced bottle of red (why is it so hard to find affordable wine in New York??) and burgers held together with toothpicks. Too many Manhattan happy moments to count!  

#100happydays – day 46

Standard

(Writing retrospectively as bubbles replaced blogging for the remainder of our trip…)

Day 3 in the big city began with birthday cards and a bit of a lie-in. We were finally on New York time and Antonia was catching up with me in birthday candle quotas (Happy Birthday darling gal!)

We started the day by walking (since we were so good at it!) through Gramercy and the Garment District to the fabulously authentic Empire Diner in Chelsea. There we ordered our own body weight in carbs and revelled in the company of purple-clad ‘Ray Charles’ who sat sipping cwoffee at the counter. The granola parfait was delish, the buttermilk pancakes purely sinful and the Hungry Bear breakfast was a heart attack waiting to happen, but we committed to the cause and ploughed our way through one of the the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. 

Continuing our week long theme of walking, we then explored the much hyped High Line park, built on a disused train track running north through Chelsea to the Garment District. Underwhelmed by all of the concrete and barren trees, we did however enjoy the birds’ eye street views and the pop art print stalls along the route. As Londoners used to picnicking in palatial greenery all year round, our visit to the High Line forced us to concede that we are in fact ‘park snobs’.

Our walking tour continued with a trip to Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop (it was mostly under tarpaulin with all the glam gone!) and the Friends’ apartment building (where we joined a mini queue of European tourists all vying for the same photo). The rain then made its debut appearance in our New York adventure and forced us to seek shelter (and more carbs) in the Magnolia Bakery. 

Having exhausted our enthusiasm for the West Village we then hailed a taxi to Pier 78 (much to the confusion of our taxi driver…I’m guessing very few of his fares take a boat ride in the rain) and boarded the City Sights Boat Tour. Feeling soggy, we did most of our sightseeing from the lower deck but did brave the choppy winds and downpour when we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge and circled the Statue of Liberty. Iconic landmarks with wind swept hairdos do NOT for good selfies make, but we tried our best nonetheless!  Back on dry land (but not feeling particularly dry!) we caught the shuttle bus to Times Square with the intention of doing the Upper Manhattan bus tour. But, as was typical of our experience of navigating our way around the city, the lack of clear signage and the blank expressions on New Yorkers’ faces when quizzed for directions, made finding the right bus stop impossible. So once again, despite protests from our swollen feet, we ended up walking to the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. There we snapped shots of the most significant filming locations from the Ben Stiller movie franchise, all the while looking for our next cup of tea. 

After an exhausting day out west, we decided to head back to the twinkling lights and trendy bars of the Financial District. It took a while (and the help of a friendly local) for us to buy the correct subway fare but sparing our blisters and avoiding the Manhattan traffic felt like mini victories. After a quick detour down Wall Street to rub the bull’s balls for luck (as is customary!) we found an inviting bar that served appetising appetisers and good quality Kiwi wine. Sorted! There we got quite tipsy; tipsy enough to later think that limboing under the subway barrier was acceptable behaviour. 

Back in Mid Town and in a bid to maximise full value from our NYC sightseeing pass, we headed (lightheaded!) to the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observation deck. By this time it was almost midnight and the alcohol coursing through our veins did very little to warm us up at that height. But even with the low cloud cover, the views were spectacular. Another huge tick in the box for us and for NYC!