The World According to Izzie

Mum of twin daughters - nothing else scares me

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Keep Calm and Hold on to Your Seat

Mr A and myself bumped into a friend in the pub earlier this week. He has twin daughters of his own and we were eager for news of how they were getting on. 'Oh, they're seventeen now, and learning to drive,' he said. Having experienced this with our own daughters, we exchanged sympathetic looks and he asked for tips on how to get through survive.

To be fair I probably wasn't the best instructor for my daughters, I'm a nervous passenger even with an experienced driver and this made driving practice rather challenging. That didn't stop me from giving it my best shot though - I even blogged about it earlier this year; you can read this here if you wish. I guess it's just one of those things you endure as a parent in the knowledge that your offspring will eventually get better and master yet another of life's valuable skills.

Our friend revealed that his wife had no intention of taking the girls out driving and that the responsibility was entirely his.

'Well I did most of it,' said Mr A, helpfully.

'No you bloody well didn't,' I added. 'I was the one who endured the endless practice on school runs, ballet lessons, rowing and Japanese classes and you just did some polishing at the end when my nerves were worn to a frazzle.' Realising I was miffed, Mr A and our friend exchanged knowing glances.

The trouble is that I'd rather drive than be driven and that means I'm not a great passenger. This has only gotten worse since a car accident last year. I can't help it and try to keep my thoughts to myself, but sometimes I fail. Admitting to this was my first mistake... our friend turned to Mr A and said, 'Does Izz do that thing where she's always commenting on your driving?'

'She does.' I could tell he was going to add so much more, but remembered that I was stood there and stopped just in time.

'Hannah does this all the time and I have this great trick.' Whenever we go out in the car I guess how many times she'll comment on my driving. So if we're going on a reasonably long journey, I'll go for say, a fifteen, and if we're just popping into town, maybe I'll just go for a five.' He then counts up from one, each time an observation is made. After a couple of pints, Mr A thought that this was hilarious and vowed to do the same.

The two of them went on to compile a list of comments they get to hear from their wives during a typical car journey...

'Ooh, I'd have gone then.'

'Don't forget to indicate.'

'Go faster or slow down.'

'Braaaaaake.'

'Have you seen that cyclist, speed camera, pedestrian? '

'Don't get so close.'

'Stay away from that car... they're driving erratically.'

This list is by no means exhaustive.

'Haha, so very funny,' I said. 'Maybe Hannah and I would feel safer if we simply drove ourselves in future.' I may have been plotting my revenge the entire way home. 

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Monday, 27 July 2015

No Matter What...

The weather was horrid yesterday and so we abandoned our original plans to visit Blenheim Palace and walked into town for breakfast and a paper instead. On the way, I stopped off at Sophia's former rowing club with a batch of cakes for the crew to share and then stood in the rain to watch practise. This took me back to umpteen mornings watching Sophia row in all kinds of weather, and made me realise just how much I miss the little things about life with my daughters. Things that I didn't think I loved at the time.

As we arrived at the cafe, rain had set in for the day. We'd just ordered our food, when a dad wandered in with his own teen daughter. Both dad and daughter were soaked through. The girl reminded me of my daughters and of the many times when a parent just can't seem to diffuse the mood and every word uttered serves only to infuriate them even more. I guess there are no words for these moments; it doesn't mean that we don't try.

'Do you want something to eat?' her dad asked, thinking maybe that sustenance might improve his daughter's mood.

'No,'she replied.

'Are you sure?' he added, hoping that she would change her mind after asking for the second time. This infuriated her even more.

She sat sulking in the corner and was eventually cajoled into ordering hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows, while her dad ordered an Americano coffee and a full-English. The girl moped as her dad pulled out all the stops and tried to cheer her up. Once breakfast arrived, he fed her scrambled egg and bacon. She finally cracked a smile and started to chat.

I've lost count of the number of times I've attempted similar feats with my own children. I was never convinced that this was the best course of action, but seeing my daughters unhappy always tugged at my emotions and awakened a need to make everything better. Foolish, I know.

And someday they all have to figure this out for themselves, but when they're caught somewhere between adult and childhood, it's important to remind yourself that you're the grown-up, while they're still in training. They will get there in the end and turn out to be remarkable young adults.

I miss my daughters more than they'll ever know and the house feels empty with the two of them away for the summer. Later this week I plan on borrowing my twelve year-old nephew and taking him out for the day. He turns thirteen soon and I smile as I watch my sister interact with her son. It's not easy being the parent of a teen. There are days when it feels like nothing's going as it should and you feel like throwing in the towel and helping yourself to a lunchtime G&T. But what's important is going to watch practise in the rain, being there for your child no matter what, and realising that these are the most important things of all.

I'd wondered why my sister was thinking of getting a dog; the quote from Nora Ephron that I found to accompany the post answers that question really rather well.         

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Friday, 24 July 2015

Dream Room Competition



I don't know about you, but I'm always plotting projects in the home. There's nothing I love more than designing beautiful rooms and creating the ideal living space for my nearest and dearest. And so, when I was invited to design a 'dream room' in a competition hosted by Dear Designer, in association with Good to be Home and Laura Ashley, I was inspired to get creative. 

Home should be a sanctuary and a place to escape from the mayhem of modern life. With that in mind, I think that a living room should be a tranquil space to unwind after a crazy day. It's also where we enjoy time together as a family and for that reason, a living room has multiple roles.

For this design, I was drawn to the timeless quality of grey, beige and white as an overall theme. I've also used accents of pink and blue to inject bursts of colour into the room.

Let's start with the basics, and this beautiful Isobel Sofa in Knightly Dove Grey from Laura Ashley (£1216). Opting for a neutral sofa and items of furniture means that I get to update the living room for a fraction of the cost, should I decide to freshen the look with new accessories, such as cushions and throws.

Next, I'm adding a stylish Ripple Rocker Chair from Dwell (£199) and a Lundy Stone Grey Bookcase from The Cotswold Company (£149). Reading is a favourite pastime in our house, and I love the idea of a little corner of the lounge being dedicated to time away from the TV.
And now, I'm thinking cushions. I love the way that these three merge from shades of hot pink into raspberry, lagoon and navy blue. 



 From left to right...
Clarissa Hulse Mimosa Cushion £55.00), Harlequin Amazilia Cushion (£75.00) and Clarissa Hulse Pipevine Cushion (£55.00) - all John Lewis.

I've also added a throw for when the weather's not quite so temperate later on in the year. I'm drawn to this simple, but gorgeous Madison Throw (£24) from Dwell and think it would make the perfect addition to the sofa.
Continuing on from the bookcase selected earlier, I've chosen a Lundy Stone Coffee Table (£249) and a matching Lamp Table (£99) from The Cotswold Company. I think the range is simple, but elegant. The drawers in the coffee table will (obviously) come in very useful for hiding accumulated junk quickly when we have visitors.
For downstairs rooms, I adore wooden flooring as it's easy to keep clean and ideal for our cat (who loves to destroy carpet). I've chosen Sun Bleached Oak from Amtico, prices from £37.50 as it reminds me of time at the beach.


I'd also add a rug and have chosen this Ombre Stripe Rug from Next (£150) as I think it complements the wooden flooring perfectly.

On the walls I'd choose Biscuit Matt Emulsion (£31.36) and for the skirting and doors I'd go for Cotton White Eggshell (£10.08) to stay with the neutral theme of the room. Both paint options are available from Laura Ashley.




And for the lighting...
I've chosen the Fantasia Cluster Pendant (£105) from Linea, as I love the simplicity of its smokey grey shades cascading in a spiral effect. And for the reading area, I've gone for a stylish floor lamp with a curved frame: Linea Arc Floor Lamp (£105). Both House of Fraser.





I've chosen this soothing Van Gogh Almond Blossom print (£175) from John Lewis for over the mantlepiece...


And finally, I'd add a liberal sprinkling of quirky and unusual decorative items to add character to the room...
I'm drawn to this cute pair of Turquoise Ceramic Koi Fish (£35) and set of Two Glass Cloche Candles 
(£33) from Culture Vulture Direct. 



The first prize is an Anglian door featuring Laura Ashley etched glass worth £1000. Five runners up will also win £100 to spend at Laura Ashley.





Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

”Designer

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Monday, 20 July 2015

Beachcombing and Other Magical Things...

The beach has held a lifelong fascination for me, as I come from the landlocked Midlands and live more than 100 miles from the coast.

As a child, annual holidays to Wales were anticipated with much enthusiasm and perfect for as long as I was left to my own devices to wander alone on the beach. This was the 70s and 80s and such behaviour was acceptable back then! I developed a passion for rock pooling and loved to catch shrimp and teeny-tiny fish and imprison them in my bucket, before setting them free and observing intently as they found new crevices in which to hide.

I was happiest while foraging for treasure along the shoreline and would leave only, when my pockets were bulging with shells and shimmering sea glass. Who'd have thought that broken bits of old bottles and jars worn down by the sea until buffed and smooth could be too tempting to leave behind?

The simple pleasure of spending time at the beach has lost none of its thrill now that I'm an adult. Add to the mix an occasional break for ice-cream and dipping toes in (and out) of the sea for a paddle, (in what feels like sub-zero temperatures) and is there any lovelier way to spend a summer's day? I really can't think of anything at all.

On our recent holiday I extracted a fishing net from the back of the shed, located a bucket that once belonged to my daughters and plotted my escape to the beach whenever I could manage. Olivia was unimpressed. And while she's happy to forage for shells, her mother's love of the rock pool appears to have bypassed an entire generation.

This time around, I added to my extensive collection of multi-coloured sea glass and someday, I'll create a set of faux-lights with sparkly shards strung together with wire, and put them on the driftwood Christmas tree that Mr A's going to make.

And it's a fact that any pebble or sea glass that's even remotely heart-shaped has to be treasured even more. Here's a recent find from Olivia...


We also collected sea snail shells in an array of gorgeous colours...


And elusive cowrie shells, spotted only after many hours of  foraging...


A random selection of stunning finds from the beach...


And here's the entire haul from the holiday, taking pride of place on a candle plate in the living room...



Whatever you're up to this summer, I hope that there's sunshine and making lots of memories that will last a lifetime. Have a brillliant time whatever you're up to x

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton



 


  
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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Durgan and Glendurgan - The Best of Both Worlds


I've been meaning to visit Glendurgan Garden for some time and during a recent trip to Cornwall I tentatively braved the Cornish lanes and somehow managed to arrive in one piece. Fortunately, the gardens were breathtaking and the journey soon forgotten as I headed off into the valleys along with my camera.

History

Glendurgan is a National Trust garden located above the hamlet of Durgan on the Helford River, not far from Falmouth in Cornwall. Originally laid out in the 1820s and 1830s by Alfred Fox, his vision was to provide fruit and vegetables for the family and space for all twelve of his children to explore. Acquired by the National Trust in the 1960s, descendants of Alfred Fox still live in the house and the family continue to play an active role.
 
The garden has three valleys and features a selection of subtropical species and a bewildering cherry laurel maze that took me some time to fathom out. Words to the wise: take a bottle of water if you plan on attempting this on a sunny day.

The Cherry Laurel Maze

The Old School House

Cala lily and Irises
 
Under the palm







Monkey Puzzle Tree

Leaving the garden, it was time for the unspoilt hamlet of Durgan and making the most of the beach. The opportunity to visit a garden and end up at a beach isn't something that happens all that often and for that reason, it was the best of both worlds.






  

Highlights

Chance of a cream tea from The Tea House: 100%
Dipping toes in the sea: Yes, if you're feeling brave.
Getting hopelessly lost in the maze: If you have no sense of direction then yes, you will get lost. It's all good fun though.
Plant spotting opportunities:  Too many to list. I'm only sorry that I don't know more of the names.


Conclusions

I'm left wondering why life isn't like this more often and why Tuesdays can't be more magical every week of the year. Here's to the great British summer and finding plenty of opportunities to get out and explore.


Glendurgan Garden Info

Glendurgan Garden website

Opening times: July, September and October 2015: Open Tuesday - Sunday from 10:30 - 17:30.
August: open every day from 10:30 - 17:30.

Admission:  National Trust members: Free, Adults: £8, Children £4, Under 5s: Free, Parking: £2 (all-day). Dogs are not allowed into the gardens.

Address: Glendurgan Garden, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, TR11 5JZ

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 13 July 2015

Us by David Nicholls - Book review

It's not often that I'm compelled to write a book review on the blog. In fact, I've mentioned books only a couple of times previously in a cheats guide to my top five reads (how can anyone pick so few?) and a review of Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair.

I spied a review of Us back in November's Good Housekeeping and quickly added it to my reading list. I bought a copy just before we were due to leave for a recent holiday and thought it would make a perfect read - I wasn't wrong.

The follow-up to One Day - I have no idea how I missed all the hype as well as the film - but somehow I just did. I plan on reading this next and seeing the film very soon.

Us tackles the concerns of parenthood, middle age and what it means to stay in a harmonious relationship after so many years. It was a surprising choice for the Man Booker prize longlist in 2014, but failed to make the shortlist. 

Narrated throughout by Douglas Petersen, master of the killer one-liner and on such a different wavelength to the rest of his family that he often feels like an outsider. His wife, Connie is a flamboyant artist and their relationship is based upon the theory that 'opposites attract.' Only child, Albie, takes after his mum with artistic tendencies and plans to study photography at university. Before he leaves though, a Grand Tour of Europe is planned as a final holiday together as a family. Just before they're due to go, Connie reveals that she intends to leave Douglas shortly after the holiday. This throws Douglas into turmoil and he plots to make amends with his wife during the trip and save his marriage.

I identified completely with the character of Douglas as I used to be a biochemist in a previous career and scientists are renowned for their practicality, slight eccentricity and humour in its wackiest form. Hilarious descriptions of a pet drosophila (fruit fly) and the culinary 'delights' of his sister's tuna pasta bake were particularly memorable and deserving of some funny looks as I couldn't help laughing out loud while reading at the beach.

Connie, on the other hand, infuriated me at times as she came across as self-indulgent. I couldn't fathom how she and Albie failed to see Douglas's point of view on so many occasions. As I live with three family members with artistic temperaments it did make me wonder whether some of our miscommunications occur as a result of my completely different take on the world. It was therefore, very insightful.

The observations of a long-term relationship were astute and filled with pathos as well as humour. I willed for Douglas and Connie's marriage to survive as they'd endured several setbacks over the years and emerged from the chaos. Did they make it? I guess you'll just have to read for yourself.

One of those books you'd rather not finish as it's a pleasure to pick up and the chapters are so short that it's hard to find an excuse to put the book down. I didn't want this subtle, but soulful book to ever end.

Rating 5/5.

Until next time... 

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Friday, 10 July 2015

A Cautionary Tale for the Uninitiated - Part Two

Earlier this week I blogged about moving our daughter and a friend out of student digs and into our holiday apartment for the week. You can read this here if you missed it.

Part two picks up exactly where I left off...

Unable to locate C after lunch, I ask Olivia about food preferences, 'Oh, it's OK,' she says, 'C eats everything.' I hastily scribble a list and leave for the supermarket, plotting a Moroccan mezze themed dinner, followed by strawberries and cream.

After serving dinner, it turns out that C isn't fussed on Moroccan.

And I've since discovered that C eats everything apart from... cereal, apple pie, yogurt, bananas, lemon meringue, Moroccan (obviously) and anything that's spicy. I have no problem with any of it, I only wish she'd enlighten me when I ask as I don't want the poor girl to starve.

On Tuesday, as their former landlady requests they return to finish tidying up the house, Mr A and myself let out a silent whoop of joy and escape for the entire day. By the time we arrive home, the girls are dozing after a 'hectic' day and we've run out of milk, biscuits and orange juice.

We also discover that the Pimms has been drained, a bag of chocolates with two choccies left and a pretzel packet discarded on the coffee table - sans pretzels.
  
Now I hadn't seen a single episode of  The Big Bang Theory before last week and to be fair, under normal circumstances I'd have found it mildly amusing. After the umpteenth box set and multiple hints that other television programs were available however, my humour was starting to wane. 'Isn't Celebrity MasterChef on tonight?' I said hopefully on Thursday evening. 'No, I don't think so,' said my daughter. It was just as well we had company. My hormones had created a mix of murderous thoughts and the tide was in, so there was no escape to the beach.

Instead, I open a bottle of wine, down a single glass and return for a second, only to discover that the girls have polished it off. There is no more wine. I snarl (inwardly) and disappear into the bedroom with a book.

We'd hoped that the girls would want to sample the nightlife and venture out alone some of the time. Not so. As luck would have it, the days are so long at this time of year that Mr A and myself peek out of the window late evening and escape to the beach if the tide is out, or make the short walk into town in search of a bar and solitude. This backfires as C and Olivia can get ready like lightning whenever they feel like it and insist on keeping us company. And though we enjoyed their company, the restaurant and bar bills are greeted with gasps and warrant frequent use of the credit card.

After requesting that Olivia email her new landlord as I was hyperventilating at the thought of moving the pair of them out of our accommodation and into new digs before 10 am on Saturday, I am treated to one of those looks that says, 'Yes, I acknowledge what you've said, but as I don't want to do it, I'm going to ignore you.' Naturally it's me that caves and trawls through the ocean of emails to locate the landlord's details. I fire off a quick message and am delighted with a speedy response. The girls' stuff is dropped off late on Friday afternoon and I'd have dished out another hug, but he didn't look the type to have appreciated it and his wife was up to her eyes with the cleaning.
 
On Saturday morning after moving out of the apartment and delivering the girls to their new home, we sneak into the local gin palace like a couple of fugitives. We briefly consider downing one of the 57 varieties available before coming to our senses and the reality of the 250 mile schlep all the way home. We settle for pots of tea and treacle tart and promise that next time around we're going to try quite a few.



Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton














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Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Cautionary Tale for the Uninitiated Parent - Part One

When both daughters left for university, I imagined that our parenting conundrums would be over. Surely our daughters would discover new found wisdom and fathom out the minutiae of life in the real world with only minimal input from their parents once they'd left home?

With our role as full-time parents drawing to a close, we filed our memories under, 'Nice while it lasted, but now they're all grown, I guess it's time for us to move on.'

I continued to miss my daughters more than they'll ever know, and often found myself in their bedrooms contemplating what it means to be a mum with young adults for children.

The honeymoon period was delightful, but after only several weeks, one daughter required assistance. Naturally, we dropped everything to help her.

Although our services are called upon less frequently, an entirely different set of skills is required. This often results in advanced problem solving, brain ache and the need for several bottles of wine that you tell yourself are entirely medicinal.

                                                        ***


We are just back from moving beloved daughter no. 1 into new digs. As there was an entire week before moving out of her old house and into the new, we booked an apartment overlooking the sea and thought we'd enjoy a holiday at the same time.

It started with an innocent enough, 'Mum, C has nowhere to stay.' We'd met C on several occasions during previous trips to see our daughter and she is truly lovely. And so, our automatic response was to say, 'Yes,' and help out, obviously. Someday it might be your daughter who's in need of assistance; you'd like to think that someone would come to her aid.

On day one, filled with enthusiasm, we were ready for the off by 5:30 am. After a fabulous journey with minimal traffic, we're on the beach by 10 am, making the most of a hearty breakfast in the beach cafe and feeling very smug indeed.

We arrive at our daughter's accommodation and discover mounds of belongings heaped in the lounge, hall, kitchen and both bedrooms. Nothing is packed. And somehow, the realisation that these mounds have to be moved today, into our gorgeous apartment hits like a not-so-subtle brick.

After checking in and emptying the car of our tiny suitcases, we make a further three journeys to round up their errant stuff and move in.

In doing so, we hog the lift for a very long time and intermittently, a load arrives at level two along with a complete stranger who is too polite to do anything but help and reminisce about similar experiences with their own offspring. I am grateful for their patience and the realisation that there are people who are benevolent and generous with their words and time.

After lugging the stuff down the corridor, the apartment looks as though it's been ransacked. I vow to make it look gorgeous again just as soon as I can summon the energy.

Saturday's dinner is a very delicious fish and chips overlooking the harbour, followed by falling asleep over a large glass of (medicinal) Pimms and the earliest night I've had in ages.

We're up early on Sunday morning and off to the beach in search of cowrie shells, shrimp and solitude. Is there anything more lovely than time at the beach I wonder?

After a busy morning beachcombing, we head back. Only, we can't get into the apartment as we're locked out. Between the four of us, we have three pairs of shoes, an assortment of shells and sea glass, some loose change and no phone. Weighing up our options, we discover that none of the neighbours are in. Our daughter gets the giggles and we are both cross with her. Only we keep our thoughts to ourselves as we don't want C to think we are horrid.

There are images of calling a locksmith and having to gain permission from the owner and the rental company. Obviously, we'll have to foot the bill. To add further insult, we're all ravenous and I could really do with a wee.

Out of the window I spy a car pull up and an unsuspecting neighbour returns to her apartment. I ask for a hug after she announces that she has a spare key and buy our saviour the biggest bunch of flowers I can find the very next day....

Part two is posted. You can read it here.

Until next time...


Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
Image credit: Pixabay
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