Monthly Archives: July 2017

How to tidy – in 13 steps

As a mum of three boys – oh, oops – two boys and one husband – all I seem to do is tidy up their mess.

Despite daily reminders, the clothes are always in a pile by the bath, the packaging is always on the counter, not in the bin and the toys… I mean I’m drowning in rainbow plastic.

If, like me, the summer holidays have meant more children and more mess for you, then hopefully this will help – how to tidy in 13 steps.

Step 1 – Open all the curtains and make all the beds. This way you can see what you’re doing and you have a flat surface in each room to pile shit on.

Step 2 – Empty all the bins. You’re going to need somewhere to put all the shit.

Step 3 – Do a laundry audit. Where are you in the process? (Yes, boys, laundry is a four stage process. Shoving some pants in the washing machine does NOT mean you’ve “done the washing”.) Take the dry stuff off the clothes horse/radiator/back of the chairs – or tumble dryer if you’ve thrown money at the problem – and chuck it all on the biggest bed you made, then work backwards. Hang up wet stuff, throw in a new load of dirty clothes – cos let’s face it, that laundry basket is never empty.

Step 4 – Clear the draining board and empty the dishwasher. Now you have somewhere to put the dirty stuff.

Step 5 – Gather all the dirty stuff – the glasses from the bedsides, the cups from the tables, the random spoons from the floors/garden/toybox and dump them in rough size order near the sink/dishwasher.

Step 6 – Do a sweep of downstairs and pile all the stuff that should be on the floor above, on the stairs.

Step 7 – Tackle the living room. Tidy it, plump the cushions etc and then, if there are no little people around (hurray!) light a scented candle. This will be your sanctuary while you tackle the rest of this dull-as-shit process.

Step 8 – Tidy the rest of downstairs but not the kitchen. If you have a downstairs loo, clean it. Take a quick run upstairs with that pile you made and dump it on another bed.

NOW STOP. Sit in your sanctuary with a cup of tea – or something stronger – and decide how arsed you can be with the rest of the house. Technically, you’ve done the most important bits. This is all that visitors will see – unless you have one of those fabulous open plan kitchen living diners – in which case karma has got you and you’ll need to tackle that kitchen before you call it a day.

Step 9 – The kitchen – take a box or nice paper gift bag with you for all the paperwork I know you’ll find there. Start in one corner and work in a circle, putting stuff in cupboards or toys on the stairs or dirty stuff in the sink. If in doubt, bin it.  Put the dishwasher on or wash the stuff by hand. Dump the bag or box of paperwork in a drawer, at least it’s all together, you can handle that later. Clean the surfaces then open a window.

Step 10 –  The bathroom. Do a towel audit, fold the clean ones and get your marigolds on for some scrubbing. I insist on the rubber gloves – your hands will always give away your age and your nails will thank you for them too.STOP AGAIN. You’ve done very well. You can totally delegate the last bit – except we both know it won’t get done, or will get done in a haphazard, substandard way, which you will pay for when you try to dress your children the next day… So take a deep breath, you’re almost done.

Step 11 – The bedrooms. Start with those clothes and stuff you dumped on the bed earlier. Once they’ve all been put away, tidy the rest and clean the surfaces. (I don’t believe in ironing piles – I iron as little as I can get away with, approx five minutes before I wear it.)

Step 12 – Get the Hoover out. Except no one has a hoover any more do they? Get the Dyson or whatever and sook up all the shit on the carpets.

Step 13 – Fill your sink or bucket with the pink Flash (smells so good) and mop. You may have a smug smile on your face at this time, for mopping means you’ve made it.

Step back and admire your tidy, sweet smelling haven, with toys relegated to boxes and cupboards, clothes hanging and cutlery sparkling. Savour it, for in no time at all you’ll be back in your pigsty. If anyone knows how to train small boys (and a big one) how to tidy up after themselves please God tell me how.

 

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Mogabout on Arran

I took a deep breath, stilled my mind and rubbed my right thumb and forefinger together as I stepped forward. I paced slowly and deliberately to the end of the cairn, then turned and walked back. Were my fingers sticking? Was there a force emanating from the rock?

No.

Sadly I felt not a thing, despite standing on a ‘ley line’ on a 6000 year old burial ground.

“I didn’t think you would, it’s too rainy,” the guide, Alex, told me.

I smirked, thinking about how else we might ‘feel the energy’.

“I’m not getting naked,” I stated.

The rest of the group laughed. We were standing on the Giants’ Graveyard at the south end of Arran, observing the remaining stones and trying to imagine what the structure used to look like before the land owner commanded the peasants to remove them to construct a wall 200 years previously.

mogabout

“They almost made it to present day,” Alex said, forlornly. His tales of the Highland Clearances had been sobering – 86 locals forcibly removed and shipped to Canada so that sheep could move in, only for the duke to die and his hard-up wife to sell the land to the Forestry Commission.

Interestingly my kids hadn’t hung around. They hadn’t been the slightest bit interested in climbing the stones – had they felt something? Or did they just want to get back to play in the Unimog?

We were spending the afternoon on a forest safari, exploring the island on a 4×4 adapted truck called “Mogabout”, which meant we could go off-road and handle inclines of up to 45 degrees.

Despite holidaying on the island for nearly 30 years, I’d never seen it from this perspective, nor learned the nuggets of information imparted by our horticulturalist/fireman/entrepreneur/ranger guide. Two of the group were from New Jersey and I enjoyed seeing Arran through their eyes. “It’s so wild and beautiful – maybe we should move here and escape Trump,” they said.

mogabout

Just when we thought the boys were getting too restless to carry on, we stopped at the top of a forest track with an uninterrupted view across to Holy Isle and the Ayrshire coast. Alex produced two enormous thermos flasks, one with coffee and one with tea, a carton of milk, a box of biscuits and an huge tub of Swizzles sweets. When we’d finished he even let the boys ride up front.

mogabout

On the way back down the hills, he shared some local folklore, about the boy with an illicit whisky still who went “away with the fairies” and didn’t return for a year and a day, and the locals who’d carry food if they were ever out at night and found themselves near water, so they could make an offering and keep the fairies from causing them harm.

The beautiful and fitting ending to the eye-opening tour was the rain melting away and a perfect rainbow forming over the burial site.

Now that made me feel something.

 

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Mindfulness on Arran

I didn’t take my phone with me when we walked to Kings Cross point.

When we reached the bench at the top of the hill I sat down and let Rod and the boys carry on down to the beach.

I’ve been sitting on this bench since I was six years old. I considered this as I gazed out over the bay, across to Lamlash and up to Goatfell. It was so quiet. The only sounds were the insects zipping past my ears or hovering in the gorse behind me. Occasionally I’d hear a seagull down at the shore or the engine of a far off boat.

It was really hot today, I was in a vest top and shorts and could feel the warmth of the sun on my left side. It was almost completely still, only a light breeze made the leaves nod vaguely.

I was completely in the moment, but the worn wooden slats of the bench were hard and rough, so I stood up and followed the grassy path between the ferns to the beach, enjoying the relief of the dappled shade. I heard animals scurrying in the undergrowth and then laughter as I turned a corner to spy Rod and the Wee Man ankle deep in the sea. The tide was in and KD was asleep in his buggy in the shade of a gnarled tree.

I watched them for a moment, smiling, then picked my way across the stones to join them. I realised Rod had a beer in his hand and shook my head. I slipped off my trainers and stepped into the Firth of Clyde. It was catch-your-breath cold so I stayed in the shallows, scanning the sand for hermit crabs. The sea snails had left long tracks behind them and the cockles clung to the smooth stones – I could see every detail because the water was so clear. My eyes suddenly fell upon three bottles of Corona nestled in the rocks, keeping cool.

“You’re nothing if not resourceful,” I called to Rod.

“I’ve got a bottle opener in my pocket,” he called.

“Of course you do, “ I replied, selecting one. He popped it open for me and I took a slug. The rim of the bottle was salty. I stepped out of the water and selected a flat rock on the beach to sit on, listening to the dry popping of the seaweed around me. The tide was going out. The sun beat down and KD slept on.

Two women and four dogs appeared. We knew them, of course. They stripped to their swimsuits and waded in for a swim, shrieking that it never used to be this cold and beckoning their dogs, who sat resolutely on the sand. I listened to their chatter and watched Rod and the Wee Man play football with a rainbow ball and thought, “I’ll remember this moment as clearly as I can, so that when I’m old and lonely, I’ll feel happy.”

 

 

 

 

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The Kitchen Cafe radio appearance

It’s been a while since I’ve been on the radio – yet I was nearly on twice today.

Kitchen Cafe radio

If I’d known we were going to take quite so many pictures I would have done something with my hair. IT’S RADIO!

I was just parking outside the New Town Cook School when an unknown number flashed up.

“Hi this is Leslie from BBC Radio Scotland…”

“Hi, I’m just parking I’ll be two minutes!”

“Oh, I was calling to see if you were free to comment on a show at 11.45…”

I mean how weird is that? Has someone been doing some secret SEO on my blog? Why have I suddenly become a spokesmum? Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted – today was so much fun!

For a start I was recording an episode of The Kitchen Cafe, which is a really cool cookery show on BBC Radio Scotland – and I love to cook. For another thing I was doing it with my pal Lisa, over at Palompo PR and – perhaps the best bit – I got to meet Gill Sims, the genius behind Peter and Jane, the blogger who makes me laugh out loud each evening with her Facebook updates.

Kitchen Cafe radio

Neil and Gill

The subject of this show was ‘back to school’ – transmission is August 17th at 1.30pm. Chef Neil Forbes was showing us quick and easy meals for those days the kids come crashing in from school demanding food NOW.

He was kind enough to make the first one gluten free – as both the Wee Man and Rod can’t digest it. The second was spaghetti with pancetta fried in garlic oil and parsley. “I’ll sell that as Shrek spaghetti,” I announced, which wasn’t as weird as it sounds considering Lisa had just told us she needs to call quesadillas “Daddy sandwiches” if she’s going to get her kids to touch them.

The format of the show is really conversational, with chef Neil doing that amazing multi-tasking of cooking, questioning and keeping the show on track. The producer Phil was brilliant – as it was pre-recorded he would stop us occasionally and remind us to describe what we were seeing and smelling.

kitchen cafe radio

Chick peas with red onion, red pepper, courgette, tinned tomatoes, chorizo and paprika

Kitchen cafe radio

garlic oil and pasta simmering

I think some of my favourite lines were ,”I can’t put soft fruit like strawberries inside my son’s lunchbox as he uses it as a football” from Gill.

“My children would have spaghetti bolognese for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I’d let them,” from Lisa and “Of course, there is a rumour a child went to school with egg and chips in their lunchbox. Not my child, I promise,” from Neil.

I’m definitely going to use the tips in my kitchen and change up the Wee Man’s gluten free lunchbox a bit too. Also, I’m pleased how well the conversation flowed and that we didn’t all talk at once. Three women in a kitchen could have been noisy – but Neil kept us on track and threw in our names pretty frequently to avoid confusion.

I think it’s going to be a fun show to listen to, once Phil has worked his magic in the editing suite. Make sure you listen –  August 17th, 1.30pm, BBC Radio Scotland 🙂

Kitchen Cafe radio

What’s cooking good looking?

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