The collective noun for Christmas decorations isn’t ‘sh*t’

Apparently I am not allowed to use ‘sh*t’ as the collective noun for Christmas decorations etc, seemingly it’s not festive to be so negative.

I am renowned in my family for being The Grinch when it comes to Christmas. There is many a photo of me in a shop where the husband is looking well excited about all of the decorations and me, well, less so….

The Christmas shop in Bloomingdales in New York
The Christmas shop in Bloomingdales in New York

To be honest, until I met the husband, I wasn’t Christmas-phobic – but he is soooooo Christmas obsessed, I feel that I need to off set this somehow.

A couple of years ago there was a serious injury in the erection of the Christmas decorations in the Price household.  The husband managed, whilst cutting a tunnel through a mountainside for the Christmas village, to sever a vein in his arm that required stitches (3 times, because it kept bursting underneath the stitches – grim!)

Injured arm

and so that year they were literally ‘bloody Christmas decorations’.

This year, when I popped back from the office on Friday, I found that reinforcements had been called in – there were 3 company vans on the drive having delivered 2 carpenters, 2 painters and a contract supervisor to assist with Christmas – and some sort of sleigh with reindeer on the patio outside:

Christmas vans Christmas sleigh

I then went out for the evening with some of the local Mums – and when I staggered in at 1.30am it appeared that someone had vomited Christmas all over the house all evening……….

photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 4 photo 1

And the Christmas village isn’t even finished yet!  Here’s am amazing photo of it last year taken by my talented photographer friend Bee.

Christmas village

Apparently there are some electrical works that need completing before this year’s is ready to be viewed (my sister was overheard yesterday complaining that the one in her local garden centre is nowhere near up to our standards!!)

So today – we spiced up the festive cheer with a trip to the German market in the centre of Birmingham.  Admittedly some of it remains traditionally German – but the ‘do you want 4 doughnuts for a fiver, bab?’ is pretty Brummie!!  The gluhwein was ridiculously pricey (given what you can buy a bottle for from Aldi / Lidl / your sister’s local shop in Munich) – and this year we DIDN’T KEEP THE MUGS (there are only so many small rubbish mugs one family can house!)  But the kids had fun – mostly due to the carousel and expensive Olaf and Hello Kitty balloons that almost strangled half of New Street on the walk back to the car.

Christmas carousel

 

So when I was given this present by my sister via my parents this afternoon – it pretty much summed up the next month for me:

12 days of Christmas

 

Although I did watch the Strictly results show with Rudolph tonight………

Reindeer

 

 

I’m re-posting this to link in with The Sticky Fingers Blog for The Photo Gallery week 212 where the theme is Christmas – as this is our Christmas!!! Do pop across and see what Christmas is like for other bloggers………….

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery
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Practically Pointless!

A few years ago my Mum and I applied to be on the fabulous quiz show Pointless. If you haven’t seen it (or if you have seen it but still don’t get it – like my husband!) then you need to answer the question correctly – but with the most obscure answer you can think of – so that of the 100 people asked the question before you, the least number of people would also have said that particular answer. The objective is to answer with something no one else at all has said – thus ‘Pointless’.

To be honest, that description is hard work – just go and watch it (and why haven’t you already – it’s brilliant!)

It was my viewing of choice when breast feeding – I would Sky+ it – and then watch it at random times of the day and night. I’ve missed the regularity of viewing since weaning my youngest – but not enough to have a 5th child!

Anyway – back to the application. I thought it was brilliant – it showed how fabulous we were, and our diverse skill sets to cover lots of different topics.  But we were never contacted again – boo. At the time I was devastated – as if you could still write to a bloke to fix stuff for you (dodgy ground I know) then meeting Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman would be high on my list!

But I wasn’t so devastated I gave up watching #addicted

Well – for the last couple of years one of my friends has arranged a Pointless-esque quiz for his work’s annual party – and I have had the privilege of being one of his 100 people. To be honest, I don’t think he does 100, he does a few and extrapolates it – but shhhhhhh. This morning was this year’s question time (spookily Timehop shows that 27 November is a popular day for it).

Anyway – as with previous years I was RUBBISH under pressure (and so it’s probably a good thing that Mum and I never made it on to TV for humiliation in front of millions). Obviously I can’t reveal this year’s topics (full of my own self importance that people who work for the finance department of AGCO might actually read my blog?!) but I can reveal that my revision of:

  • People who’ve ever sung in any Band Aid single (knowing the names of all the One Direction members was my banker for 5 points here!)
  • African countries (there is usually something geographical)
  • Robin Williams films (picking famous person who’d died this year and their output)
  • Elvis Presley singles (we’ve had Beatles and Michael Jackson in prior years)
  • Previous Soviet republics (as above)

was all completely ‘pointless’!!

Wicked Wednesday – 26 November 2014

A friend was perusing a gardening catalogue and found a plant called ‘Eve Price’ – the same name as my 3rd child.

This is me trying to get a photo of her posing with her new namesake plant.  The plant looks more impressed than the small child …….

Eve Price plant

This is my entry for this week’s Wicked Wednesday – do pop across and see what other people have posted!

brummymummyof2

Blogging with Heart?!

I don’t often have to drive far in rush hour nowadays (having relocated our company’s offices to 15 minutes from our house a couple of years ago – ‘yay’ to being the boss!)  But I had a seminar in Central Birmingham early doors today so had to brave the commute. Obviously the radio was tuned to Heart West Midlands and Ed and Rachel with whom I do like to share my morning if possible!

Today they were asking if anyone had plans between now and Chrimbo (whilst Rachel has her graduation to look forward to,  Ed has a total wasteland between now and then) – so I called up with news of my exciting trip to Chicago next week with 2 of my friends.  Girls weekend to visit a friend who lives across the Atlantic – as you do!  I am very excited about the whole thing (and will no doubt bore you all to tears about it across all social media!)

But when I posted on Facebook that I’d been on the radio this morning – my sister and husband both commented ‘not again’ – which got me to thinking – am I practically blogging on the radio?!?!

Now this is clearly not true – as I’ve only been on a handful of times – but it has been almost every time I’ve texted in!!  Now either I am hilarious (obvs!), or not that many people text in (possibly – it’s a frantic time of day in most houses – so for me it’s only when I’m stuck in traffic that I have chance to text!) or that my points of reference are relevant due to being a similar age to Ed and Rach?!

So far I’ve discussed:

  • Girls’ weekend in Chicago;
  • Always buying 2 pairs of knickers for every bra so you can wear the bra for 2 days;
  • Taking in board games to school at the end of term;
  • The ‘Next’ delivery driver touching my heavily pregnant bump (don’t miss the p – that would be a very different tale!);
  • The first world disaster of not having any white wine that’s cold; and
  • Something to do with gin – but I can’t remember exactly what – possibly due to too much gin?!?

Pretty diverse really!  Wonder what it will be next…………..

Book Review – The Vintage Summer Wedding by Jenny Oliver

A few weeks back I read my first (although her third!) Jenny Oliver book, The Little Christmas Kitchen, and thoroughly enjoyed it

So here is the second one from her back catalogue (although I now realise this is a sequel to her first and I’ve read them in totally the wrong order – but never mind!) – and this time I steered away from festive Christmas fare with The Vintage Summer Wedding.

The Vintage Summer Wedding

Here is what Amazon have to say about it:

“A Vera Wang dress, the reception at a sophisticated London venue, and a guest list that reads like a society gossip column are all the ingredients of Anna Whitehall’s perfect wedding that never was…
Spending the summer uncovering hidden treasures in a vintage shop, Anna can still vividly remember both her childhood dreams; the first was that she’d become a Prima Ballerina, and dance on stage resplendent in a jewel-encrusted tutu. The second was that at her wedding she would walk down the aisle wearing a collective-gasp-from-the-congregation dress.
Years ago Anna pirouetted out of her cosy hometown village in a whirl of ambition…but when both of those fairy-tale dreams came crashing down around her ballet shoes, she and fiancée Seb find themselves back in Nettleton, their wedding and careers postponed indefinitely…
Don’t they say that you can never go home again? Sometimes they don’t get it right… This one summer is showing Anna that your dreams have to grow up with you. And sometimes what you think you wanted is just the opposite of what makes you happy……..”

 

And again I really enjoyed it!  Totally different setting – and totally different feel to it  involving English countryside / amazing food descriptions / casual use of everyday bad language / antiques / Britain’s Got Talent / Bagpuss (my secret phobia!) / bike riding and my absolutely favourite reference ever – the lift from Dirty Dancing!  How can you not love a book with the lift from Dirty Dancing in it?!?  (I should point out that my husband and I *almost* managed to re-enact the lift at my 40th birthday party!  This is shocking for a number of reasons a) he managed to lift me – admittedly on to his shoulder and not above his head, but still pretty good going and b) that my boobs stayed inside my dress and corset – and here’s proof (mine are the boobs on the right) as to why that is shocking.  Sadly there is no photographic evidence of the actual lift …………)

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But back to The Vintage Summer Wedding!  It’s a lovely, easy, quick read which I really enjoyed.  Now I need to read the book before (and I’m guessing which characters it involves already).  Here’s hoping to more in the Nettleton saga going forward.

Like this Price, the customer is usually right??

Let me start with a disclaimer – I would be rubbish working in the customer service industry where you have to be nice to people all of the time. In fact, my experience of a Saturday job working in WHSmiths (chatted to Billy Idol about that #rockandroll) where I told one man, who’d been browsing magazines (not ‘those’ magazines!!) for half an hour that we weren’t a library. Or when the person asked where the pens were, and I said ‘”you see the big sign on the wall that says ‘pens’, well, they’re there”…. Or in the bar at Uni where I refused to serve Murphys as it took too long to pour and made people wait to be served by another member of staff – all kind of prove a customer facing role wasn’t really for me!!! Therefore the choice of being an accountant, where I can bury myself in numbers, accounts and computer screens was much better for the world at large.

However, as a consumer, and a regular consumer of lots of nice things, I recognise the importance of customer service by those who’ve chosen that career path.

This week I experienced good and bad customer service within hours of each other. As I’ve mentioned (a lot – I am REALLY milking this!) I was 40 earlier this year. On the day the husband and I celebrated at a brilliant Bistro in Brum. The staff were attentive, the cocktails exquisite, the wine list excellent, the food amazing – and yes, they even wrote Happy 40th Birthday in chocolate on a plate – what more could a girl want on her big birthday!! Perfect customer service.

40th birthday

Well, this week we’d booked a table at supposedly one of THE restaurants in central Birmingham (co-incidentally the posher sibling of the one we went to on the actual day) as my staff had bought me a substantial voucher as a 40th gift. I was VERY excited about the whole thing. Husband and I decided to make a night of it and booked a room at a nearby hotel so we could both enjoy the tasting menu and accompanying wines.

However, when we got to the restaurant we were told they were fully booked and they didn’t have our booking. Whether it was the front of house member of staff’s youth, or the fact that English was not his first language I don’t know – but his manner was rude and offhand and made me feel like something he’d scraped off his shoe! He asked if I’d got confused and actually booked the bistro? Or bought a Living Social voucher rather than booking a table with them? All the time being very superior (I thought my new faux fur coat was well classy – but it appeared he thought I was local ‘celeb’ White Dee from Benefits Street or one of her mates). I offered to go back to the hotel to get the printout of our confirmation –  to which he agreed.  Obviously on the walk back I had a slight panic that my usually efficient self had booked the wrong date or restaurant and I’d decided if that was the case I’d phone the husband and get him to walk out rather than me having the shame of going back in!  But no – I was vindicated and had made the booking correctly! But  when the staff member saw it there was no apology, just ‘well, our system doesn’t agree’ and ‘you need to book 3 months in advance for a table here’ like I’d been fabricating the print out in the 5 minutes it had taken me to return to the hotel to get it from my bag.

I should probably put in a second disclaimer here – my period had just started – but at this point I cried.

I’d been soooo looking forward to this meal, tweeted about it in the afternoon, and I was being made to feel like I didn’t deserve to have set foot in a Michelin starred restaurant and didn’t understand how it worked.  At this point the manager was LOVELY – and offered to try and sort stuff out, but it was too late, I’d been made to feel like ‘a piece of sh*t’ in my exact words (later to be thrown back at me by the eponymous owner on Twitter as swearing at his staff was ‘not cool’).  The manager wanted us to stay (although not sure where as they were fully booked), but I felt rubbish – all because that first customer facing front of house person, who has clearly chosen a customer service career path, got it so totally wrong.  No apology, no ‘let me see what I can do’ – just – you’re wrong, there is no space here, and the computer says no. The lovely manager gave me the funds for my voucher, and we went across the road and had a great meal at a restaurant we’ve been to many times before.  The owner of the first restaurant did call and leave a message on my mobile to see if he could sort the problem out – but we’d already ordered at the new venue.  Then a slight Twitter spat ensued – admittedly correcting his grammar on Twitter was probably a little petty (and he could correct my cooking skills indefinitely) but it all left a rather sour taste in the mouth.  This is my bad customer service experience.

Now – the hotel we stayed in was brilliant!  I’d booked directly rather than through a broker website (as I read on a hotel insider’s blog somewhere that this usually results in the best rooms being allocated!) Sure enough this worked – and we were given a fabulous. enormous corner room on the first floor. But – this is Central Birmingham in the run up to Christmas – so there were revelers outside the window until the early hours – and we also appeared to be on a route for skip lorries to a 24 building site in town so the noise was not great and not much sleep was had.  I mentioned this – in a factual not moany way – at check out, and said if we stayed again we’d book a room on a higher floor.  And the lovely man on reception (interestingly also young and with English not as his first language) offered to deduct the cost of the mini bar wine we’d had the night before by way of compensation!  The noise was not the hotel’s fault at all – but this small gesture of excellent customer service left me with a warm feeling about the whole experience.

Customer facing staff are so important – and you never get a second chance to make a first impression………

 

 

Book Review – The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

I don’t even need to read the reviews for Liane Moriarty books now – having loved her back catalogue, including both Little Lies and The Hypnotist’s Love Story, I buy them ready to magically appear on my Kindle on publication date – and that’s what I did for The Last Anniversary.

The Last Anniversary

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“From Liane Moriarty, million copy selling author of The Husband’s Secret, comes The Last Anniversary, a captivating story laced with mystery.
‘This is your last chance to change your mind, Rose. After today we can’t go back. Ever.’
Seventy-three years have passed since sisters Rose and Connie found an abandoned baby in the only other house on their little island, Scribbly Gum. With both parents vanished without a trace, Rose and Connie made the decision to take the baby in as their own. And since then the ‘Munro Baby Mystery’ has brought them fame and fortune.
But now, with Connie dead and outsider Sophie Honeywell inheriting her home, Rose begins to wonder if they made the right decision all those years ago. With the anniversary looming, and people still trying to solve the mystery, how much longer can they cover up the lie that has sustained their little community for four generations? And what other secrets are about to be revealed?”

As with all Ms Moriarty’s books – there are lots of intertwined plots throughout the book – that all culminate in the final few chapters pulling all the loose ends together.  The island of Scribbly Gum seems almost Famous Five-esque, and the main character – Sophie – is very nearly 40 – so all immediately great points of reference for me.  Throw in new babies, nut allergies, children’s books, dressing up, painting and decorating – and that’s all good too!  As ever, it was a really good read – and I pretended the kids hadn’t gone to sleep for an extra 15 minutes last night so I could finish it!!

Having said all of the loose ends are pulled together – I would still really like to know what happens next to lots of the characters………

Being a Parent – The Photo Gallery week 209

The prompt for The Gallery this week over on Sticky Fingers is ‘Being a Parent’ – and given I’m doing that, four times over, there should be plenty of scope for pictures.

But what to photograph?

Tantrums or cuddles?
Births or birthdays?
Complete carnage with cooking or the pride on their faces after helping bake something to all share?
Everyday family life at home or day trips somewhere special together?
Nagging or celebrating?
A schoolday parent or a holiday parent?
The children fighting with each other or playing beautifully together?
The pride in my husband being an amazing father or him being my biggest child?!
Toddlers or pre-teens?

So in the end I plumped for a photo of my 40th birthday earlier this year. I had A LOT of celebrations (in fact they’re still ongoing – I’m milking this one for all it’s worth!) including a big black tie party for lots of family and friends – but this sums up being a parent for me – a fabulous banner painted by my kids and their smiling proud faces – makes it all worth it!

P1000880

(I should point out it was also, randomly,  ‘Where’s Wally’ day at school on my 40th birthday – the oldest two don’t always dress like that!!!)

This is my entry to The Photo Gallery this week – do have a look at how other people have interpreted being a parent……

 

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

 

Book Review – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Again – this is a recommendation from a friend (I love that I have so many book loving – I’m not going to put geeky, because we’re far too cool for that, but actually we are – friends!)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

The Amazon blurb is brief:

“By the author of worldwide bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club: you can’t choose your family, but they can make choices for you. Big, life-defining choices.”

Although there are lots of Amazon reviews praising this beneath the blurb. It was also nominated for the Man Booker Prize, and the blurb on there is slightly longer:

“As a child, Rosemary used to talk all the time. So much so that her parents used to tell her to start in the middle if she wanted to tell a story. Now Rosemary has just started college and she barely talks at all. And she definitely doesn’t talk about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourself what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. But there’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. So now she’s telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.”

Basically – there is a massive important factor to this book 25% in (can you tell I read it on my Kindle – otherwise it would have been ‘about a quarter of the way through’!) and not giving this away I think is fundamental to the book. The friend who recommended it had been told by her mother about what this twist was – and she thinks therefore made the book less enjoyable for her – hence me not revealing it. (As people who know me in real life will attest – such self restraint is amazing!!)

It is beautifully written, different, believable and keeps you engaged throughout. I could not put this in a specific ‘genre’ – but would definitely recommend you read it!

Wicked Wednesdays – 19th November 2014

Last week I took my youngest (the only one not tied to school holidays yet!) to spend a few days with my sister and her children near Munich.

We found these fab family toilets in the shopping centre we went to…

IMG_2117

Which in itself could almost be a Wicked Wednesdays picture – but then we used them……

IMG_2118

This is my entry for a Wicked Wednesdays over on BrummyMummyof2s blog – do pop over and see what other people have posted!

 

brummymummyof2